Nine High Schools
Without a Diploma. Chris rolling a Bhangi joint on rooftop of Nairobi Hilton, 1972.
I attended nine High Schools while I was a teenager refusing to grow up. I was living in Uganda with my parents when I was enrolled in the eighth grade at the local American/International School called the Lincoln School.
Idi Amin Dada was in power and my father was making attempts to close the American Embassy because of the threatening and unpredictable behavior of the self-appointed President for Life, Idi Amin Dada.
By this time I was addicted to cigarettes and Bhangi, as the locally grown powerful hallucinogen Marijuana was called in Uganda. Our future was uncertain and I took advantage of this fact. The original plan was that I was going to attend the Lincoln School for ninth grade.
But because of Idi Amin’s antics that made our continuing in Uganda problematic, after spending a summer in Greece on R&R (Rest and Recuperation) I was enrolled in the American Community School (ACS) in Athens for the start of ninth grade, while expecting to return at some point to Uganda where my father was stationed.
Idi Amin was making all kinds of crazy declarations and threats against Asians, Israelis, President Nixon, women in short skirts, men with beards, and accusing our Peace Corp Volunteers of being CIA mercenaries. My chances of returning to Kampala were diminishing.
After two weeks of my being a delinquent at the school in Athens it was decided that I would enroll in a boarding school in the United States. Two years earlier I had blown up a water fountain at the same school in Athens while enrolled in the sixth grade. I had accidentally destroyed the water fountain from not knowing the power of three M-80’s or some kind of bootleg firecracker that my friend Eric brought back from a holiday in Mexico.
My father had a friend from his childhood who was now the Headmaster of a prominent boarding school in Massachusetts called Northfield Mount Hermon. Based on this personal connection and the crisis we were in as the fall semester had already started,
I was accepted sight unseen and without any transcripts. I flew with my mother from Athens to Boston with only my summer clothes and a large stash of Marijuana from Uganda, as I was addicted to the gills and couldn’t leave home without it.
Boston was hosting some kind of Democratic National Convention, and it was quite festive and exciting. We took a taxi to the school the next morning, and I was enrolled as a boarder. I was going through culture shock from having lived the diplomatic life with a dozen servants, and now suddenly thrust into this huge boarding school with rules and curfews.
Once again I didn’t fit in. I didn’t even have a winter coat, and my mother spent some of her life savings to outfit me with the proper clothing, which was not cool for me because it was all too preppy and I was bordering on Hippie.
I had a stereo system in my room, my stash of African weed, cartons of cigarettes, spending money, and a Venezuelan roommate who loved Santana. I was playing the Jefferson Airplane, Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, the Dead, CCR, Steppenwolf, Traffic, CSN, and Young. By Christmas break I was verging on probation. I was caught stealing food from the cafeteria and like an idiot I had stolen the wallet of the dormitory proctor. I was caught red-handed. I went to Uganda for Christmas vacation and planned to smuggle back lots of Marijuana.
My mother discovered my stash the day I was leaving and confiscated it without saying a word to me. I was in shock. A friend offered me half of hers but that wasn’t enough for me. So I went to the golf course and found the head caddie, who carried this large reed bag of weed around with him. I bought everything he had. When we eventually left Uganda for good I gave him my golf clubs. This friend smuggled her weed in Tampax tubes and I just had mine on myself and in my shoes and luggage.
While I was away on vacation the authorities at Northfield Mount Hermon discovered a Hash pipe in a carved out Bible. I thought this ploy was very clever, because at that school we had to take a religion class. They also discovered some other contraband. I was shocked and felt personally violated that they would search one’s room while one was away on vacation. Academically I was doing horrendously.
I was put on probation and about a month later I was busted by the very Headmaster who had admitted me based on friendship with my father. Some of us had constructed a lean-to in the woods made out of pine trees to have a secluded place to smoke weed in. The Headmaster was a cross-country skier and by chance discovered our lean-to while we were using it. About ten of us fled in all directions and the Headmaster recognized me right away in my Army coat even though I escaped any dialogue with him. I was expelled the next few days to great embarrassment on my part and that of my parents of course.
I was then sent to Princeton, New Jersey to finish my freshman year at Princeton High School. At that school I managed to find the freaks, or potheads, and became quite popular. I was selling Marijuana to the older kids in school. I had a group of about five friends and we would party.
There was Chuckie AKA Bozo who had a huge orange Afro, and Peter, and a few others whose names have eluded me. We would party in the Unitarian Church woods every evening and on Saturdays, hang out and go bowling. I had also been at Princeton Junior High for seventh grade and was getting high back then too. I managed to finish the ninth grade at Princeton High School, but just three days before I was to go for R&R in Greece that summer I got busted by some detectives.
Some juvenile delinquents who were American Indian runaways were being followed by some New Jersey narcotics police officers. I was always jealous of these Native American kids because they could get away with murder in school. Exceptions were made regarding their attendance in school.
They never seemed to get in any trouble, or suffer any consequences for the trouble they did get into. So we made this big deal with approximately two pounds of Mexican weed, real cheap. We all pooled our money, about eight of us, and we included these delinquents who were coming to the Unitarian woods for some partying.
I was sitting in a rubber tire and had a water pipe next to me. The bales of weed were also next to me and about five other kids. We were all sitting in a circle. The Narcs followed the Indian delinquents, who were lackadaisically coming to join us. All of a sudden two of the Narcs pull out their guns and say, Freeze you’re under arrest. It was like a bad dream.
I had already taken my share of weed home and was just back in the woods for the party. None of the weed discovered was mine, but because I was sitting in the tire the Narcs assumed I was the kingpin.
I guess they thought I was sitting in the throne because my seat in the woods was the most comfortable one. We were all rounded up and booked. The police interrogation room smelled like weed that had been burned, meaning it smelled like they were smoking our weed. My trip to Greece was postponed and I had to go to court in Trenton, New Jersey, held responsible for one fifth of the weed.
I was sent to stay with my uncle, who was retired and lived near Princeton. When I went to court in Trenton I had a quarter pound of weed on me because I never knew where I was going to end up. This Marijuana weed survived the bust and was never discovered by my caretakers. I had to be stoned all the time because I couldn’t face life without being high.
On our way to the courthouse in my uncle’s jeep we were pulled over for speeding. My uncle reeked of brandy and I reeked of weed. My knees were shaking because I had the weed wrapped around my skinnyass waist. The state trooper only gave my uncle a warning, after my uncle informed him that we were hurrying on our way to court to deal with my Marijuana charge, of which I was innocent, my uncle insisted. I corroborated my uncle’s statement to the trooper that he had only had one brandy at lunch. In court I received a $25 fine and six months probation.
The next day I was traveling to Greece to meet my parents for R&R and summer vacation. The education plan was that I would take correspondence courses for the tenth grade. This was a disaster because I couldn’t be trusted to study on my own. I would attend the Lincoln School, which had diminished from 50 students to about 10, with myself being the oldest student doing correspondence courses. Another student, the daughter of a CIA officer, was doing the same correspondence course for the ninth grade.
I would bring weed to school and we would get high together. I had smoking privileges at the school and we would smoke on the balcony at the school. I copied her essays word for word and this was soon discovered by the correspondence school. Her father got pissed, punished Cathy, and put her on probation. He then discovered some Marijuana plants that she had their gardener growing for her. He shipped her straight back to the United States, leaving me hanging, because she helped me with all my schoolwork. I was too stoned out of my gourd to focus on anything.
We were then evacuated from Uganda and I spent the next four to six weeks at the New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. I had my own hotel room and I set up my stereo system in my room. I would have parties in my room with some American kids stationed in Nairobi. We all had motorbikes and would terrorize the city. We would hang out in all the hotels out of boredom and smoke cigarettes. We would get high on the rooftops of all the luxurious hotels in Nairobi.
That covers the first half of my tenth grade, a total loss. I remember meeting my first Heroin addict, a boy who looked like Jesus Christ. I observed Roland drinking 18 shots of Vodka at the Golf Range Disco. When I hung with him, I was really scared about losing my life to drugs. I wanted an American blue jean jacket like his. There was another completely wasted kid named Jay, a scraggly bleached blonde kid with black-rimmed glasses.
He was always dressed in an army surplus coat. His parents were missionaries. He was pathetically stoned and carried a huge brown paper bag of weed around with him. He had bundles. He was fearful that the bag would get confiscated, so he always carried huge amounts around with him. His memory was horrendous and you could tell that the African weed had destroyed his brain. Jay was afraid his parents were going to ship him off to reform school or, worse, to a military boot camp.
The second half of tenth grade I ended up in Washington DC, where I was born. I enrolled in the Wilson High School. It was pathetically boring. It was a large school and I was able to get by without much effort. A big problem was my next-door neighbor had tons of opiated black Hashish. He was teaching at a school before going to MIT. I never understood how these guys could make straight A’s and be stoned the whole time.
After about two months in school I dropped out and would head straight next door instead of going to school. A beautiful girl had a crush on me, and I abandoned her by never returning to the school. I couldn’t tell her that I too was attracted to her, because of my shyness.
The vice principal, Mr. Duroso, called my mother the last day of school to inform her that I hadn’t been in school for the past sixty days. She was shocked. My parents had investigated boarding schools for me for the next year, asking a friend of mine’s father about where they sent their son who had also been kicked out of Northfield Mount Hermon and eventually expelled from India. Paul became my idol and friend. I adored and imitated him.
He was as hippie as you could get, with hair down to his waist, wearing a motorcycle jacket. He also wore a jean jacket emblazed with the words Holiday Camp on the back. His father recommended a small art school in New York State that had virtually no rules. It was almost like living in a family with fifty students. No locks on the doors and very small classes.
I was accepted by the school called Barlow, but my failing grades at Wilson jeopardized all that, so for the summer I had to attend a diploma factory school called Emerson Preparatory School located half a block from Dupont Circle.
I had to make up three classes in order to pass on to the eleventh grade and continue to Barlow in the fall. Emerson allowed any student to complete four years in two. It was amazing because it was fully accredited and respectable. We would smoke Dope in the basement and drink beers at Dupont Circle during our breaks. The only requirement was to attend classes and do the homework. I managed to get three C’s and was successful in transferring to the Barlow School in the fall.
I basically grew up at Barlow, but my Alcoholism progressed to that of a full blown Alcoholic. Prior to that I was a severe chronic Marijuana addict though I couldn’t get weed as I had in Africa. I also couldn’t sell weed as I had in my previous high schools. This was a tiny school and it was like living in a fish bowl. If you had weed, a fourth of the school would be at your door before you could get out of bed. It was virtually impossible to get expelled from that school, but I managed to get not asked back for my senior year, which was devastating to me.
I had no idea that I was in that much trouble to get even not asked back. A few friends did get expelled, and I may have been considered to be part of what the headmaster called the Black Cloud of the school. My parents picked me up on the last day of school, also shocked that I was not returning. I couldn’t give them any answers because I was in shock too.
I was so sneaky that I got away with most of my crimes, and as I said it was like living in a fishbowl. A girl named Becky, who was a student from the previous year, came back for graduation. I picked her up in a drunken stupor. I fell in love, and she was in my bed when my parents came to collect me to take me home.
I was so obsessed with Becky that I spent the whole summer trying to track her down. It had been a one-night stand and she did visit me in Washington, but I think I was too drugged out for her. She went on to become a Ph.D. I, however, was pursuing Pills, Hash, and Dope.
For my senior year I ended up at the Sandy Spring Friends School in Olney, Maryland. I lived at home. Again at this private boarding school where I was a day student, I was never fitting in, feeling completely out of place. I was stoned, withdrawn, and didn’t make very many friends, but I did sell a lot of Marijuana, Bi-Phetamine, Acid (LSD), Schrooms as we called them (Psilocybin), Plexiglas bongs, and toward the very end Cocaine.
I would drink a quart or two of beer, on the back country roads of Olney, Maryland, driving drunk alone on my lunch breaks. During any free breaks I would slip off into the woods and get high. My carpool wouldn’t drive with me, because I was a terror on the roads, driving ninety miles an hour on the back roads. It was all a big haze. I was selling drugs and my dealer lived in Rockville. One day I made a big deal, actually setting him up with a Cocaine supply connection, and I was given a large amount of Cocaine. I hadn’t slept for a week and a half from all the Bi-Phetamine pills I was swallowing. I ended up in the hospital from a Cocaine induced psychotic episode.
I have no recollection of the events to this day, other than not wearing any clothes and running around in the woods at school declaring that school year is over and it’s springtime. I never made High School graduation. It took me two months before I could escape from the locked psychiatric ward of PHIPPS West, the fifth floor of the Johns Hopkins psychiatric hospital.
I felt like a prisoner and my non-stop daily record of maintaining a Marijuana buzz was broken. Three years earlier, while living in Uganda, our motto at New Year’s was Smoke more Dope. Our resolutions were to always be prepared and to maintain, to get as high as possible and stay high forever, daily.
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