I remember when most of my friends believed in the power of drugs.
I still have a few friends who do.
But back in the late 1970s, it seemed like everyone did.
There were the movies you had to see—and then there were movies you had to see high.
There were things you didn’t want to do unless you’d smoked a joint. Like kick back and dig some jazz.
That’s what my friend KD was saying while he lit a J on the floor of his one room bungalow apartment off the alley behind Rose Avenue in Venice. He passed it to me and dropped John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things on his turntable and cued the stylus.
It was the first time I'd ever heard it.
KD and I sat in our cannabis cloud and listened, watching the Atlantic Records label twirl and the lush KLM speakers bump slightly with each pluck on Jimmy Garrison’s bass. McCoy Tyner’s oceanic cords, Trane’s smooth sensual soprano over Garrison’s steady strut and Elvin's cymbolism. Taking Mary Poppins into the minor mode and then up to the stratosphere.
McCoy Tyner’s patiently meditative solo, rocking those cords, asking questions his right-handed improvisation answered.
I sat on a wooden chair, toking KD’s weed, moving my head to the music, feeling it in a new way. A sound exploration. A melody reinventing itself, weaving its way through my mind and attaching itself to memories it had nothing to do with.
Trane came back in, like he was just going to end the tune, but after one bar of the melody he went off—and pushed that tune into the upper register and wound and unwound it until I thought my head was spinning. My heart forgot its own beat and started keeping time with Jimmy and Elvin.
When it was over, KD and I stood in our intoxication and slapped five and then spontaneously busted out of that bungalow. We ran two blocks to the ocean and kicked off our shoes and got our feet wet. We chased after some stray girls and got two of them to talk to us for a while and tried to get them to come back to the bungalow.
They wouldn’t come—and when we got back KD’s stereo was gone. So was his weed. The Coltrane album was tossed on the floor.
KD threw open his front door and cussed out at the night. Then he ran to his car. I went with him. We drove down the alleys as if we would find the thieves still carrying the sound system and the baggie. In the fourth alley, near Oakwood, we got jumped by a mob of cholos.
They kicked us through the open windows of KD’s Jensen Healy and broke bottles against the car as we screeched off. We sped around the corner and back down Pacific. Silence in the car and still silent back in the bungalow. We and sat there sadly. I didn’t know if I’d ever enjoy another bar of music. Not without Kevin’s system—or his weed.
A few weeks after that I heard Trane’s My Favorite Things on the radio in my father’s car.
I hadn’t smoked anything.
The radio was a cheap Pontiac factory AM/FM.
Of course it didn’t matter.
Coltrane was the sound system.
Coltrane was the mind altering drug.