Although I grew up in bad neighborhoods, I had managed to avoid drugs because I was a shy, quiet, ‘get in my face and I’ll bust your chops’ loner. Even the black kids avoided me.

By the time that i was ten years old, I had worked out a pattern of picking out the kid with the toughest reputation and busting his chops. HIS i did not pick fights with girls. Doing so gave notice whenever we moved to a new area that the other kids were to leave me alone.

When I was eleven, I picked the wrong kid. His name was Danny. He was quiet and had nothing to do with the other kids. That should have sent some alarm bells going off in my head, but at eleven, you usually notice those things afterwards. I attacked and was sent tumbling across the dirt. I tried three times to land a punch and each time I ended up tumbling in another direction. He was a year older than I was, and he stood there with a bemused grin and an easy stance. Five years of judo training will do that for you.

Two days later, I lured him across the street and hit him with a stick. That made an impression. He stood there rubbing his head and asked me why I did it. We sat down on my front porch and had a long talk about it. Afterwards, I became the only kid in the neighborhood that played with Danny. If someone wanted to get rough with me, they had to go through Danny and no one in that area wanted to mess with Danny.

Two years later, we moved again and that was the last I saw of him. But it had been a good two years. That was 1968.

* * *

That was the kind of thing that had kept me insulated from the drug culture of the 60s.

H smoked pot — he chain smoked it like other people do cigarettes. i kept waiting and expecting it to make him crazy, like alcohol sometimes did Papa. It didn’t happen. I became more comfortable and eventually tried it.  H was ten years older than I am and had been heavy in the drug culture, including the Haight Ashbury scene.

I hated pot. it made me sleepy and odd feeling. So i never got into it.