© 2020

Heroin

By Eric Anthony Kallins

One drug I swore I’d never use was heroin. I was aware of its addictive qualities, and beside I saw no romance in sticking a needle in my arm to get high. When I first moved to Santa Cruz, a few of the hippies I knew were doing it, but I looked down on them. They told me that after shooting up, you had to throw up, but then you settled into a high which “you didn’t care about a thing in the world.” I found both those concepts unattractive. So I just continued to smoke pot, the stronger the better, and that satisfied me in my hippy life.

A few years later I moved up to Marin (county) and got in a band called Steamin’ Freeman on keyboards. Our biggest gig was in Berkeley at a large club on University Avenue, right next to the campus. We were opening for The Garcia/Saunders band: Yes, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Meryl Saunders – It was a side band Garcia put together with Meryl. After our opening set, we went to the band/dressing room and Jerry Garcia was smoking a joint.

I always heard that he had the best pot, and as he was finishing a joint I asked for a toke. I remember he seemed to sneer at me for asking, like I was mooching off his smoke, but he reluctantly handed it over to me, and I took a toke off the roach. Only with my recent revelation, I realized why he seemed reluctant to hand over his smoke. I knew immediately that I was so stoned I couldn’t have gone up on stage, and was grateful (excuse the pun) that I had finished my set. I was also amazed the Jerry Garcia was getting ready to go up and start his set. How could anyone play when that stoned? But maybe he was used to it, and The Dead culture was wrapped around getting high.

I ran into Mr. Garcia about a year later, at a softball game in Fairfax. My band team was playing another team, and The Grateful Dead’s team was about to play the Billy Graham Presents team after we finished our game. It was a brutally hot that day in West Marin, easily over 100 degrees. Once again I found myself sitting, on the dugout bench, next to the famous Jerry Garcia, and again he was finishing up a joint. Like previously at the rock club, I asked for a toke; again his body language spoke reluctance to share his preciously good pot with this commoner; it seemed like he sneered at me again.*

I was up to bat, and the only way I made it to home plate was clinging to the backstop. On unsure footing, I staggered to the plate, and when the first pitch came over, I spun around three times and fell.

Everyone knows that Jerry had a drug problem: he was addicted to heroin. He died while at a recovery center in West Marin. It was only this year (2020) that I read how the Grateful Dead guitarist ingested his smack: he smoked it in heroin-infused pot. *So he wasn’t sneering at me, his reluctance, momentarily, to pass his joint over to me was concern giving me heroin without me knowing it. But he couldn’t tell me at both of the above times, because he would have been outing his possession of that hard drug. It’s only now that I realize I had tried heroin, twice, and you know, I hated it both times.