Earlier this week Theodore Christ, whose last name rhymes with Wrist, called me to remind me of a commitment I’d made long ago, that when recreational marijuana became legal, I would smoke some with him. “Ted, I know they passed the law,” I said, “but it’s my understanding that the law doesn’t take effect until sometime between election day and March.” Theodore replied that he would check on the certification and get back to me. Within the hour he sent me this text message, verbatim: “It’s legal let me know when you want to come over.” The time had come.
We settled on Saturday, December 5, 1 PM. Ted offered to pick me up but I thought using public transportation to thread through the McDowell Mountains, then walking the remaining mile-and-a-half or so to get to his abode, would be a fine prelude for my first getting-high jaunt in more than 25 years. (November 1994. Funeral of a friend.)
So yesterday, in the early afternoon, while I used a sanitizing towelette on the stem of an odd-looking pipe, Ted took some herb from a jar marked “Trainwreck” and ground it with a hand-held apparatus. Then he packed the bowl of the pipe and handed it to me, had me put my finger over the hole in the side of the pipe bowl, and lit it with a disposable lighter, and I drew breath…
and when the harsh smoke hit my lungs I coughed paroxysmatically, just as I had when I drew my first marijuana-laced breath at 16.
Ted said he had an ingestible gummy with about ten milliliters of magic in it, but I soldiered on with the pipe, and about six lungloads later the inkling of a buzz settled in.
Meanwhile I had become pals with Theodore’s dogs Buddy and Linus, and Ted had started weaving an extraordinary tale, starting with his dad Gus, a Marine martial-arts champion who was sent to China for some months to learn from their finest. Then it was Ted at five teaching the new kid on the block, one Robin Williams, who was ashamed of his first name because it sounded like a girl’s, how to defend himself in a fight the local bully wanted to have with him because he was the new kid. Young Theodore, who had been taught and toughened by his dad, told Robin not to rely on punches but to fake for the head and go for the feet, and this strategy helped Robin get the bully down and pinned and helpless while the future Mork from Ork rained blows on him and then leapt up in triumph.
But that wasn’t Theodore’s only brush with greatness. As my headfog slowly amped, Ted told me of standing outside a school building in the fifth grade, poetically riffing on this and that with rhyming words, and as he thrust out his arms in declamation, a drop of moisture splashed on the palm of his hand, but it was not rain, it was the teardrop of a fourth-grade Black girl who had been listening to him from an upstairs window–a girl who turned out to be none other than Oprah Winfrey.
And some years later Theodore was at a Rolling Stones concert, in the mosh pit, and Mick Jagger hstandinga cherry-picker to get directly above Ted, and the same palm that received Oprah’s teardrop had a drop of Mick’s sweat splash down on it.
I was unmistakably high by this time, and Ted was too, smoking a joint down to the bone while he talked. And now the Brush with Greatness was with John Belushi, who visited Ted’s Greek Orthodox Church on vacation and with Ted and two other altar boys polished off an entire bottle of sacramental wine.
Boy, was I buzzed. “Theodore,” I said, “you are the Forrest Gump of Valley poets, with all these encounters with…ah…famous.” (I had briefly forgotten the word “celebrities.”)
Ted beamed. (Reader, have you noticed that sometimes I refer to him as Theodore, and somerimes Ted? He prefers Theodore, but his brother called him Teddy, and most of the poetry community knows him as Ted. In my own mind he is a poet in the Quantum Multiverse, arbitrarily shifting from Ted to Theodore and back again.)
(And speaking of names, he says the family last name was changed at Ellis Island to preserve anonymity. Many Greeks did that to avoid paying taxes from their country of origin. Women would take their middle names as a last name and men would take the first name of their father as their last name. Christ is the short version of “Christopher,” not “Chris,” which where they came from would be short for “Christina.”)
Ted had other celebrity connections, thanks to his church and thanks to the “Greek Mafia” for whom his dad Gus ran numbers as a child. Ted mentioned specifically Bob Costas, Marilu Henner, and Aristotle Onassis,,,father of Christina…one of the most unhappy people on Earth…
I’m afraid I was too befogged at that point to retain much detail of the conversation, though I’d stopped drawing on the pipe foe some time. At 3 o’clock we attended a poetry open mic, at which Ted performed but I did not. Here’s Theodore doing one of his famous improvisional poems, composed on the spot after audience members provide him with topics. In this pic, “Love” and “Compassion” were two of the topics. I forget the third.
Then we went to Denny’s where Theodore had a deli sandwich with fries, and I had salmon with broccoli and mashed potato, and we both had lava cake, which was supposed to have fudge but they were out of fudge. And then Ted dropped me off at the QT close to my apartment. He thanked me for dinner and I thanked him for an extraordinary experience. He grinned and said, “Anytime you want to do it again, just come on by.”
I appeciated that. But now, with the fog completely lifted, I’m inclined to think that future such episodes ought to be somewhere between infrequent and rare. Pleasant as the feeling is, the high of marijuana always turns me stupid.
But I am thrilled, not regretful, that Ted and J had a brotherly smoke together. He is a fearless poet, a passionate advocate for worthy causes, and a raconteur whose reality is a bit “not of this world.” DID all the things Ted described actually happen? I believe that to him they did, therefore in the Theodore Christ multiverse, they happened to him.