November 28, 2010

No Picnic

It wasn’t important that in reality my parents were forcing me upon my older half sister for the afternoon in some sort of last minute babysitter maneuver. The end result was that I was in fact going to spend the afternoon with my someone I rarely saw and thought was incredibly cool. She didn’t live at home anymore and like anyone who was older and had the freedom to do whatever, whenever, with adult privileges like a driving license... she was utter magic to me. Before the age of ten adulthood seemed far away and impossible; a nearly unattainable status and I looked at basically anyone over the age of 18 as if they were royalty. I couldn’t tell the difference yet between a stoner fuck up of a sibling or a legit responsible parent so in my eyes if you didn’t have a bed time and could pick out your own clothes, you might very well be God.

My sister’s plan for us would be a picnic in the woods; just us girls taking to the highway and driving about 20 minutes north to a state park for a day of fun in the Autumn fun. With equal bliss I imagined us in the car with the windows down and the radio up loud. Unlike my parents who enjoyed music at a pleasant low level one could easily talk over, a ride with a sibling would include music played at an unreasonable volume or at least this is what the television and the movies had told me. From a young age I loved music and loved the idea of traveling anywhere with it turned up to such a volume that you couldn’t possibly talk over it. Music would be like a noisy passenger in the car owning all conversation and to a kid who dug music in a big way, this kind of a loud ride was an intoxicating notion. Maybe even more exciting to me than a day trip without my Mom or Dad.

It never once really occurred to me that we were ill prepared for this picnic. I didn’t think to ask where the food was or the blanket for us to sit upon and I certainly didn’t feel it was my place to question her choice when she realized we were without food and opted to pick up our meal at a gas station. Items from an Exxon station surely counted as picnic food, didn’t it? Feasibly to the free spirited college age youth Slim Jims, gum, and soda was real food. I was in the passenger side of the front seat of a car with someone who wasn’t my parents or someone else’s parents and I felt the definition of cool. Teenager cool.

Not even when my sister pulled over on the side of Route 17 North where it stopped looking like we were on the cusp of a town and it started to look more like unpopulated nature, did I question her choice. I knew this was not a park nor was it a typical picnic location but again, who was I as a 7 or 8 year old to argue what was official picnic territory? We climbed up the side of the steep highway hill until we could no longer see cars whizzing by, only hear them. She calmly tossed down her jacket and sat upon it momentarily to show me that this was all perfectly normal and just just as I followed suite she promptly stood up, dusted herself, and said she would be right back.

What? You are leaving me? Some 30 years later I don’t recall if I said that out loud or not. It was at that moment that I realized how unwanted I was and that she was doing something so adult in nature that she needed to step away from her kid sister. We weren’t two girls on the go about to adventure out into the wilderness, I was still just her stupid little sister, an unwelcomed addition to her daytime plans being told to sit and stay like a puppy. In about 15 minutes time my status had nosedived from fellow human being to pet.

It wasn’t until today, at age 39 as passenger along a wooded highway that this memory came flooding back to me along with what she was actually doing that warm Thanksgiving weekend in the late ‘70s. My parents had pushed me off on her when her plan for the day was originally to smoke pot and then meet her dealer for more pot who happened to work at the state park. No half pint nuisance AKA me was going to change this plan so what else could my desperate to get high sibling do but leave me on the side of the highway tucked away in the woods as she lit and she did eventually returned back to me,  smelling funny and looking like a wide eyed glassy eyed woodland creature. It was at that instant that our 10 minute “picnic” was over. I couldn’t fathom why we were still heading to the park if the main event of our plans had just taken place but I was too hurt and confused to argue.

Our adventure to the state park was equally disappointing because A) There were no more snack or drinks to consume and B) we never actually ventured into the park. There was only a great deal of waiting in dusty gravel bed of the parking lot and finally the feeling of utter embarrassment because her “friend” who worked in the park seemed very angry that there was a little sister hanging around while the mystery package exchanged hands for money. They argued about my presence which needless to dropped my social status even father to something lower than a pet who by the way were welcomed at this park according to the sign where we turned in.

Worst of all there was no music. Apparently my very stoned sister didn’t like to drive to music so our travel companion for the day wasn’t Boston or The Ramones, it was uncomfortable silence. I didn’t really understand what pot was at this point in my life. I knew people smoked it but I looked at all smoke as stinky and gross, never once in my sheltered existence understanding that pot smoke was any different or more evil that cigar or cigarette smoke. From this experience all I could gather was that skunky substance made my sister into a paranoid drag in need of quiet where at least my parents had The Beatles or the Stones in the car to fill up the space between us.

There are so many things I learned that day. Highway picnics catered by a gas station suck. Traveling without music is freakish and wrong. People who prefer silence make me nervous. When a trip to somewhere is promised, make sure it doesn’t just mean the parking lot. Not all adults are mature, trust worthy, or hero material. When your parents ask how your big day out with your sister went, you do not mention drug deals, you show them the pack of gum left as a souvenir along with the leaf that had freeloaded on the back of your jacket you sat upon as your sister got high. And lastly, this is one of the many reasons why I have never been a pot smoker. I associate pot smoking with lies, sneaking around, poor taste in food, boredom, and the inability to enjoy rock and roll.

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