I’ve never done an illegal drug in my life.
No pot, tea, weed, Mary Jane…
No uppers, downers, bennies, dexies, black beauties, yellow jackets……
No crack, boom, ice, POW…..
I haven’t even done coke…….
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why people do drugs. Usually they want to alter their reality, even if it is just for a little while. To forget about their job, the bills, bad break-ups, missed opportunities, children who never call them, parents who never loved them, shame, disappointment, war, or the cancer that is slowly eating their body up from the inside out.
My abstention in this area is not due to a pious desire to take some sort of moral high ground; looking down and judging those of “lesser character.” In fact I myself have been known to take proactive steps to alter my reality from time to time, the only difference being that a magical mixture of hops, barley, and artisanal spring water constitute the vice of my choice. No, I have failed to “partake” in these substances that I feel should be legalized and regulated for two simple reasons; one based on fear and one based on pragmatism.
In my early 20’s it seemed like everyone I knew had snorted a line at some point, usually off a stripper’s ass in Vegas. Now believe me, I have nothing against strippers, but my fear was that I would snort my first ever line, ass based or not, and immediately do a “Len Bias.”
My second fear was that I would like it. Like it a whole bunch. I don’t have an addictive personality, but at times I can get hyper-focused on certain things. Sometimes those things are good and sometimes those things are bad; or let’s just say, not productive. The idea that my life would begin to revolve around figuring out how and where to get my next “bump” seemed like a real and terrifying possibility to me. It’s the same reason I never got into computer gaming or knitting. Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t have experience with drugs.
On three separate occasions I have I have journeyed into that Valhalla of drugs known as Amsterdam. One of those times didn’t count as I was with my wife who doesn’t even drink (lucky me, huh?). But on two other occasions I was there with friends who liked to dip their toes into some of the substances that the town is famous for.
On the first occasion I traveled there with my ganga-loving friend who was on a quest to find the best pot the town could offer. He wasn’t intimidated in the least, having dual citizenship in two of the best growing areas of the world; California and Hawaii. He smoked skunk like other people smoked cigarettes and on his twice yearly trips to the islands would always return with exotic sounding strains like Maui Wowie, Kona Gold, or Pakalolo, any of which would place him into a “chill session,” as he liked to refer to it, when smoked.
As we scurried down the back streets and alleyways searching for what was rumored to be the best “brown cafe” in the city, a tattered copy of “Lonely Planet Amsterdam” as our only guide, I could hear the excitement building in his voice as he kept asking at each successive storefront, “is it this one? Is it this one?” When we finally found our desired location, we entered and waded through the crowd of locals, navigating the smoky haze until we reached the “bar” at the back of the room. Even a novice like me knew that the menu, the scale, and the microscope on the counter meant this place was the real deal.
Two library style oak filing cabinets stood behind the counter; each drawer filled with different types of pot, all nicely categorized and bundled up in plastic bags. It was clear from the glazed look on my buddy’s face that he judged himself to have found the mother-lode of bud-dom, a virtual cornucopia of weed. If there was a Disneyland for stoners, this was it.
“And you are sure this is all legal?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” I replied, and it was “game on.”
Two hours later I found him curled up in the corner of a porn shop in the middle of the red light district.
“They’re after me man, THEY…..ARE…. AFTER…..ME!”
“Who’s after you?” I asked.
“The cops! The Dutch cops! Two of them followed me down the street. They had machine guns and they were coming up right behind me. They almost got me but I ducked in here and lost them.”
By this time the matronly looking middle-aged lady who ran the shop had come over to see what all the commotion was about. As she spied my glassy-eyed friend huddled between the bestiality videos and the inflatable vaginas, furtively trying to suck the last bits of life out of a now fully extinguished joint, she gave me a look that I’m pretty sure translated to “great, another Yank who can’t handle his drugs!”
My friend who was normally cool, and chill, and oh so laid back when he smoked was now a sweaty paranoid mess. His reality had definitely been “altered.”
My second visit to the land of windmills and wooden shoes was with another friend, this one less into the “organic” types of recreational products, but more so the “chemical” based ones. Which made it even more surprising to me when he decided that he had to try mushrooms.
After leaving the “Shroom Shop” (yes, that was the name of the place), with a small baggy, the contents of which had been hand selected by the shop’s owner and guaranteed to “make him see colors,” we sat down at an outdoor cafe. I ordered a rather high-capacity glass of beer but my buddy opted for a screwdriver, explaining to me using what I can best describe as “druggie science” how the acids in the orange juice would break down the mushrooms more completely, giving him a longer and more intense trip. Yeah……Woodstock man!
In Bill Cosby’s famous comedy special “Himself” he talks about asking a cocaine user what it is about the drug that is so great. The response is that it “intensifies your personality.” To which Cosby asks, “but what if you are an asshole?” My friend was not an asshole, but not unlike me, he has that gear in reserve if he ever needs to pull it out. The shrooms, along with the effects of the orange juice I was led to believe, now began intensifying that part of his personality, much to the chagrin of a way too sober moi.
Everything suddenly became super important and deep to him. The street signs, the pebbles in the road, the sound of a passing car’s motor, or the way I was breathing weren’t just normal everyday objects, sounds, or actions; no, instead they were complex and multi-leveled, necessitating a penetrating and probing intellect, of which he apparently felt he currently possessed, in order to decipher their hidden and mystical meaning.
This went on for the rest of the day and well into the night. At one point we decided to go to one of those avant-garde euro discos that Amsterdam is famous for, and upon entering were confronted with artistic renditions of headless and skinless cow torsos hanging from the ceiling high above the dance floor. My still tripping and now intensely annoying friend stared straight up at them and then stunned, turned his beady eyes to mine and said in a shaky voice….
“Dude, I am freaking out. I’m seeing bloody cow bodies coming out of the ceiling.”
In my forty-five years on this planet it is a rare occasion where I have missed out on an opportunity to gently shiv or turn the screws on someone who though I love them, deserved at that moment to be fucked with. This, to my eternal regret, was one of those moments. The reactionary nice-guy-buddy-pal inside of me without thinking responded….
“Hey man relax. There ARE bloody cow bodies coming out of the ceiling!”
Perhaps even after his extended run of “assholishness” I just felt that his reality had already been altered enough for one day.
In the world of trading we are constantly bombarded with things that have the potential to alter our reality. Breaking news, earnings reports, company calls, analysts comments, macro politics, fundamentals, P/E ratios and any number of financial “drugs” are there for the taking. Each one in their own subtle way has the ability to change our perception, manage our expectations, lower our discipline, and send us down the path to financial ruin.
Because the only reality that there is in the markets is price. Price doesn’t exist in different strains, it has no “colors” associated with it, and drinking orange juice won’t change it. Price is that objective antithesis to all the Carlos Castaneda cum Don Juan type subjectivity that surrounds you each day. Price tells you to sell a stock even though the company’s CEO is on CNBC bragging about forward earnings and how his company is “poised for tremendous growth.”
Life requires us to temporarily alter our reality at times. The act in itself is a necessity, a survival tactic if you will. Sometimes all it takes is a good book, a great meal, or the embrace of a child to get to that better place, that altered state. Or sometimes it’s a darker, more intense course of action that you need to take as Sam Kinison famously illustrated when he said to his annoying, soon to be ex-girlfriend, “I come home at night and have to drink a six-pack of Heineken to keep from cutting your fucking head off and sticking it in the camera bag.”
But either way, the market allows for no such luxury. All mental bongs, lines, and shrooms have to be done away with. There is no debate, no philosophical differences, nor any moral issues to weigh. Price is the only reality and you must obey it dogmatically any time you have money at risk.
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