If you need an example of my inexperience with drugs, look no further than the image of me, sitting at a Café Rio in Grand Junction, Colorado, typing "weed" into Yelp.
My wife and I are on the sixth hour of our road trip. We still have three more until we hit our destination, Georgetown, where my little brother will be married in the upcoming days. We eat bland burritos, thankful that the alternative radio pumped through the speakers is way too loud to accommodate conversation.
The thought of Colorado's legal marijuana has been in the back of my mind since we left, but now that we had crossed the state line, it's all I can think about. I'm pretty sure my brain's proximity-activated, like how I don't ever think about gambling until I'm in Vegas, or have a desire to drive like an asshole until I'm in L.A.
I pull out my phone, open the Yelp app, and type "weed." My wife asks what I'm doing. "Looking for drugs," I say.
"What?" she asks, unable to hear above the awful music.
I scroll through a bunch of gardening listings before I give up. "Never mind."
* * *
Georgetown is an idyllic mountain town off I-70, about 15 miles away from where the highway takes you above the tree line and across the continental divide. It's the type of place that still advertises its population on the welcome sign (pop. 1,028). I don't expect it to be the type of place that has a dispensary, but we roll past Sergeant Greenleaf and all my big-city preconceptions are put to rest.
Sergeant Greenleaf, which is painted the color of a ninja turtle's shell and adheres to none of Georgetown's color schemes, is the town's "wellness center." The store sign is a military man saluting you with one giant, green arm. To be honest, the Sarge is kind of intimidating. "Drop and give me 20!" he appears to be saying.
Or, I think, Drop and give me 420!
I laugh. Lightheaded. Jesus, at this altitude, I don't even need drugs to find myself hilarious.
Before entering, we both agree that my wife should do all the talking, because I'm winded from the thin air and hyperventilating like a goddamn nutcase. The woman helping us gives a brief rundown of the flavors and encourages us to sniff them. "Nice," I say, after sniffing one. She says the gummies are the best bang for the buck, but gummy anything: gross. We buy a pack of cookies (which reminds me of a pog case, but I would never say that aloud in front of the weed lady) and two pre-rolled joints. I know it's not something you're supposed to think when you buy mind-altering substances, but I can't help but think how cute all these things look in their little containers.
I don't know if it was a conscious decision to get my mom high, or if it was just a given—some sort of natural trajectory brought upon by the gleeful reminder that you and your parents are both adults and finally, 15 years into adulthood, you are both in a circumstance where you can do adult things.
My wife shakes me from a nap and says, "Open your mouth." She shoves a weed cookie in. "We just did a cookie, cheers," she says, referring to her, my mom and my sister-in-law, literally pressing cookies together before eating them. The cookie tastes like the boring, unfrosted cookies in those Circus Animal variety packs, but uh... danker? (Don't mind me fellow potheads, just trying out some slang.)
We sit down for dinner. Conversation is sparse as we wait for the cookies to kick in. The anticipation is exciting. I'm loving the spaghetti on my plate, but I always love spaghetti, but do I always love it this much? I look over at my sister-in-law, and she gives me a huge thumbs-up.
After dinner, my wife and I retreat into our hoods and watch everyone clean the dishes. My brother asks for hot pads to move something, and my mom holds a cutting board out to him for what seems like forever. "Oops!" she says, realizing her mistake, and I can't stop repeating it in my mind like a punch line: Oops! I look to my wife and say, "Oops!" but she doesn't think it's as funny as me.
We venture into the outside world. I'm sure a family walking down a small-town road, silently, with their hoodies pulled tight over their heads is not conspicuous at all. We walk past the venue where my little brother will be married. I look in the window and say, "What if we saw him and his fiancé in there right now?"
"And they were dancing to Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time,' slowed down 100 percent," my older brother says.
"And then he turns around and he's a skeleton," I say. The image of my little brother as a skeleton is so funny that I laugh until my lungs hurt.
We return to our rental house and bust out the mint ice cream and cinnamon graham crackers. My wife insists that she has invented this snack, and at the moment, it seems plausible. We eat in silence. For some reason, we're listening to "Gangnam Style" on repeat.
My mom disappears; my wife falls asleep on the couch. Me and my sister-in-law stay up and emulate fart sounds with our mouths.
The next morning, everyone feels fantastic. No hangovers, just knowing smiles.
"I fell asleep watching a Jack Ryan movie," my mom says. "I can't remember the name of it, but it was great."
Ryan is the author of Horror Business. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford