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I Was Arrested Long Before PFT And Dave Made It Cool

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This is a story about a night that changed my life forever.

Growing up in Maine, I was a straight-edge kid. I didn’t drink, smoke, dip, huff, litter, or do butt stuff—either as a recipient or a donor. It didn’t matter if it was her birthday or the day she passed her driver’s ed test; I stayed in the front of girls’ pants. My purity was easily maintained until my 16th year, when the children around me succumbed to the pressures of older students and the new “cool.” Where once my peers valued athletic and academic dominance, they now heralded the apathetic burnouts who played hooky and clattered their skateboards across sidewalks clearly marked with “NO SKATEBOARDING” signs. My drive and chastity alienated me. I was pushed to the margins, mocked for my motivation, and shunned for taking AP French as a sophomore. In one year, I joined the chamber choir and landed the lead role in the spring play. That same year, I got so little pussy that Smokey the Bear issued a fire warning around the dry, dusty shrubbery of my orange pubic garden.

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I had a choice: endure the jibes of stoned bullies half my size, or join the ranks of those law-breaking ruffians who, for their crimes, were chewing nips weekly. I folded like an origami swan.

In the summer after my sophomore year, I went to France to play soccer in Bordeaux (lol, classic Barstool). Once the camp ended, I took the train up to Paris to hang out with a French kid named Julien. We’d been connected as pen pals, but we’d never met. As it turned out, Julien was a huge pothead. I’m fairly sure he was knee-deep in other shit too, but he kept that locked away for fear that I was a narc. Up to this point, I had never smoked weed or had more than a few sips of beer. But something about being in Paris as a 16-year-old caused me to relax my guard and jettison my code into the Seine. Over the next week, Julien versed me in the ways of getting fucked up. We even went to a wedding and smoked a joint in the woods. I ate so much of the wedding cake that the DJ called me an asshole. I told him that his parents must be really proud that he was a wedding DJ. He told me his parents were dead, which made me laugh so hard I spit out the cake. A week later, when I stepped off the plane in Boston, I was a new man.

I couldn’t wait for September and the start of school. I wanted to show everyone how much pot I could inhale. I was a junior now, and the local paper cooked up a huge spread on me as Maine’s “player to watch” for the upcoming soccer season. Everyone thought I was still the golden boy from last year, but I was ready to burn their houses to the ground with the cherried embers of my bowls.

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Two weeks into our season, I was the leading scorer and running out of condoms. Clipboard-toting college coaches were showing up at our games to witness Yarmouth’s “Lebron Flames.” Thanks to my newfound edge, my off-field hours saw me spelunking through cleavage on basement futons as her stupid parents assumed we were watching a 2PM movie. The world was my oyster, and my hands smelled like one too.

But on a fateful Friday night, everything went up in smoke. Our coach had scheduled an early Saturday morning practice as a way of deterring our guys from the weekend mischief that plagues athletic programs of small towns across America. I lived twenty minutes from school, so I asked a teammate if I could spend the night at his place since we had to be up early. We met up with a few of our friends and decided, unsurprisingly, to get some weed. I’m fairly sure I was the architect of this plan, given how badly I wanted people to know that I did drugs.

“You know what we should do? Let’s smoke some weed. You guys wanna smoke?”

“Not really.”

“Man, I do. So badly. It’s so chill.”

“Cool man…”

“Great. I know a guy. Does everyone have six dollars?”

We drove into Portland, bought a quarter that was handed to me in a paper sandwich bag, and returned to Yarmouth to rebel against the system. The only question was, where to toke up? We decided on “the Landing”—a long, dark, dirt road into the woods that ended in a small roundabout. One way in, one way out. The perfect place to clam bake my 1996 Volvo 850 with no escape route.

We sat in the dark car, passing the bowl around until a pea soup fog blanketed everything but our laughter. We couldn’t see or feel our hands. My friend Adam was dating a freshman because he’s a genius, and we decided to call her on speakerphone to show her how high and cool we were. I hoped she was with her friends so that they would spread the word about the new Mayor of Nugville.

As soon as I saw the headlights, I knew we were fucked. The cruiser came slowly, its lights bouncing around the woods due to the uneven road, in no hurry given that there was nowhere for us to go. To this day, I contend that there is no worse combination than being helpless and high. We knew immediately that it was a cop because we could see the outline of his overhead lights even through our haze. When he pulled into our roundabout, I started my car. In response, he turned on the flashing lights, and I cut the engine in defeat.

“Evening, boys,” he said coolly. He stood above my window, weed smoke pouring into his face. The hint of a smile tugged at the corners of his mustache as his flashlight scanned from one set of bloodshot eyes to the next. “Have you boys been smoking the reefer?”

“No sir,” I replied, trying to keep my voice level.

“Come on guys. I’ve been doing this for twenty years. Your entire car is filled with smoke.”

“Yes sir,” I said immediately. I wanted to be on record for telling the truth first. All my aspirations of being the stoner soccer star, up to his shinguards in clitoral sheaths, were draining out the window on a magic carpet of smoke. Reality was setting in quick.

He asked for our licenses. One-by-one, we crossed to his car to call our parents from the back seat. That was the worst part. It was probably past 11PM, so I woke my parents with a call that started with “I have some bad news.”

“Are you ok?” my mom asked, alarmed.

“Uhmmm kinda. I’m in a police car. We got caught smoking weed.”

Christ. Even writing this now is making me feel like shit. The shame was crushing. I thought my world had ended. Not to mention, I was desperately, insanely thirsty. I could barely summon  the saliva to separate my lips as I told my parents where to come pick me up. Ever the comedian, I decided to lighten the mood with a joke:

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“My mouth feels dryer than the Mohavi.”

Literal crickets. You could hear their mating calls buzzing outside. I assumed that I’d used the wrong desert in my punchline. People are more familiar with the Sahara. Truth is, it was the wrong time and place. (I actually told this joke, in the back of a cop car, sitting between two kids who were openly weeping as a police officer radioed his precinct up front).

In short order, all the parents arrived. We stood in a circle as the cop opened the brown bag of shwag. All the parents peered in. I’m pretty sure my dad took a sniff. The officer explained that we had behaved very well, and that he was only concerned by the amount of weed we had. A quarter is no joke in high school, but it was so cheap and we figured it would last us a while.

“As far as I’m concerned, you can punish the boys as you see fit. I don’t think it needs to go beyond that,” he said. At the time, it didn’t register how generous this was. He could easily have hit us with a possession charge, but he decided to let our families deal with it. Something tells me he probably smoked the weed himself. Officer, if you’re reading this, we should smoke together. I buy way better shit now.

The next morning, we all confessed to our coach at practice. Because of this, I was suspended from games for two weeks. The recruiting letters dried up, and as a result, I ended up playing lacrosse in college instead. As for my remaining high school years, I wouldn’t touch alcohol or weed until I was safely unpacked at Harvard. The bad guy was dead.

PS: I realize that I wasn’t technically “arrested,” but neither were Dave and PFT. Sometimes, all it takes is a slap on the wrist to change the course of your life. Thanks for reading!