Lost In OC: How High Will You Be When the Big One Hits?

Courtesy Orange County Archives

Even if you haven’t been in California long enough to experience one of our deluxe earthquakes, you’re already shook, I suspect. As a human, below our conscious minds, we have oodles of neurons devoted to the flee-or-fight instincts we relied upon during the epochs before we had iPhones and Jiffy Pop to sustain us. So here in our California paradise, there is a twitchy part of you that’s always on edge, aware that we basically live in a tarted-up desert and that tectonic nonsense going on beneath our feet is ready to shake us off like water droplets on a wet dog.

With less warning than a sneeze, you could be in the middle of a major earthquake. You might also be in the middle of a big, fat spliff when that happens, and you should consider this: Just how high do you want to be when the big one hits? And what do you want to be high on?

To address the latter question, I asked a medicinals distributor friend, who goes by Henry J., what he recommends. “If it’s the big one and there’s nothing you can do but ride it out and probably die, I’d just want to be relaxed and happy,” he says. “So I would definitely go with an indica—and not some trendy hybrid, but old-school like Master Kush.”

I could see that, but there isn’t a Rotten Tomatoes you can check for earthquakes: You don’t know if you’re getting a Russ Meyer one or an Irwin Allen one. What if it’s a hellacious earthquake, but one you think maybe you can survive and help others to survive . . . if you use your wits, act decisively, change your name to the Rock and steal a helicopter?

“Well, then, you’d want a lively sativa,” Henry says, “in this case, probably a modern hybrid. I’d recommend Green Crack. It’s tension-relieving, but you’re wide awake and present.”

There you have it. Green Crack: your earthquake-friendly bud. But keep Master Kush in reserve, in case you see a tsunami soup of palm trees, SUVs and frozen-banana shacks coming your way.

Should you be high at all? Can you cope with peril on weed? Probably. The original Persian assassins of 1,000 years ago reputedly got their name from the hashish they used. The U.S. Congress in the 1930s believed that reefer inspired black men to become proficient axe murderers, making racism a large part of why Congress made marijuana illegal.

In 1970, U.S. Army Sergeant Peter Charles Lemon, in a 2 a.m. firefight in Tay Ninh Province in Vietnam, fought off enemy troops with a machine gun, a rifle, grenades and his bare hands; dragged an injured comrade to safety; was injured himself by grenade fragments and bullets; and continued to fight until he finally passed out from his wounds. After Lemon was given the USA’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, he admitted he’d been high on weed during the attack.

So there’s that, as well as unbloodied attestations of the human propensity to function at a high level on weed. Consider Louis Armstrong—arguably the greatest American artist of the last century—who said he was grateful every day of his life for weed. Then there are the Beatles and uncounted other artists who did great work on the stuff.

Then there is freestyle skier and X Games gold medalist Tanner Hall, who said he was on “chron” during each of his numerous medal wins. And there is slalom racer Ross Rebagliati, who won Olympic gold in 1998 with THC in his bloodstream. And there is pot-smoking Michael Phelps, who only has more Olympic gold medals than anyone on Earth.

But then there is me, who was pretty damn high when an earthquake jolted the Newport-Inglewood fault on April 7, 1989. I was in my Costa Mesa music room, had plugged in a Telecaster I’d just bought, hit a chord and WHAM!, the entire house lurched 5 inches.

My first thought was, “What a guitar!” My second was that the house must have been hit by a truck. Unlike the up-down roll of most earthquakes, the Newport quake was a sudden side-to-side jolt. It was only after ascertaining there wasn’t a pickup truck stuck to my house that I realized it was a quake.

And it was only after I got a frantic phone call that I remembered I had a girlfriend a block away whose well-being I should have been concerned about.

So, on weed, one’s propensity for decisive action might be outmatched by a propensity for vegetative action. I usually function pretty well on the stuff, but when you’re that proverbial one toke over the line, you might as well be a beanbag chair soaked in cough syrup.

The ’89 quake chiefly only damaged ceiling tiles and knickknacks, but the Newport-Inglewood fault also caused the Long Beach earthquake on March 4, 1933, which killed 127 people and leveled buildings throughout the Southland.

My late friend John Crean was 7 when that quake flattened his hometown of Compton. In its aftermath, he’d recalled, “You could stand on Main Street, look in any direction and have an unobstructed view over the roofs of the collapsed buildings.”

In Crean’s autobiography, The Wheel & I, he said the quake also shattered his happy-go-lucky take on life:

I was by the kitchen sink fixing myself a sandwich when this homebrew my dad had in bottles under the sink started flying out of the cabinet, and the whole house was shaking. My first thought was the homebrew exploded because it could do that.
I headed for the front door but was knocked on my ass three times, the floor was shaking so bad. We had an upright piano against one wall, and it got knocked over to the opposite wall.
No one knew what was going on because all the radio stations went off the air. Some official came along, telling everyone to stay out of their houses because with broken gas pipes, you could asphyxiate or go up in flames. We pulled mattresses from the house and slept in a tent for a week while the aftershocks continued.
Sometimes I couldn’t tell if it was the ground shaking or me. My mom was a nervous wreck, and she wasn’t alone. All night long, you could hear women in the neighborhood screaming or praying in hysterical voices. I’d had it in my head that adults had everything under control and nothing bad was ever going to happen to me, so the out-of-control sound in their voices really scared me.

We’ve had 85 years of technological, societal and infrastructure advances since then, and you know what? Earthquakes don’t give a fuck. They’ll humble us just the same and leave you under a pancaked building begging for mercy. It could be 10 years from now or before you’re done reading this.

My advice? If you have kids, don’t get too high, ever. The musician Arlo Guthrie, who was smoking quality weed before most of you were born, said he quit after being at a picnic and stopping to wonder, “Who’s watching the baby?” It’s supposed to be you.

For the rest of us, lay in the Green Crack or Kush, as well as maybe some water, protein bars, all-weather clothing, sleeping bags, a first-aid kit, a yurt in the yard and whatever else you deem necessary to maintain your buzz until your budtender digs herself out of the rubble.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *