The Meat Puppets were between record labels in the summer or 1990. Our relationship with SST was effectively over, but our Polygram deal was still in the negotiation stages. Hence, we spun our wheels, unable to record, unable to tour, just barely making ends meet by doing local shows a couple times a month. We were as broke as we’d ever been.
We managed to catch a bone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who took us to Texas for a week. But that tour just barely broke even. I remember sitting with Cris in the van we’d rented for the trip. He was getting ready to drop it off at U-Haul, along with the last of our earnings. And he turned to me and said, “You got any buds? I’m all out.”
It felt like a crushing weight bearing down on me. As bright as our future seemed, as on the verge as we were of becoming a major label force, with full access to the kind of resources a Presley or a Springsteen might enjoy, we were also trapped in a vicious web of self-medication. The procuring and ingesting of marijuana seemed to be the main glue of our lives. It defined who we were as artists, as people, and as friends. It imposed strict limits on our time, on our energy, on what we could accomplish and on who we could associate with. Not to mention our health and our pocketbooks.
It started to bother me, but the brothers couldn’t understand what I was so worried about. They revelled in their substance abuse. It was part of what made them special. Back then, we liked a saying attributed to Hunter Thompson: “without drugs, I’d have the mind of a fifth-rate accountant.” But to me, it felt increasingly like I was mortgaging my future.
So I quit. I gave away my stash and all my pipes, pulled up a chair and prepared for some long nights. I didn’t sleep for a week. Outside, temperatures in Phoenix reached 123 degrees. I stayed indoors and tried to keep comfortable. I took a lot of cold baths. When sleep returned, I had dreadful nightmares. Freed from the hallucinatory grip of the drugs, my real emotions roared up at me. I bounced around for a couple of months, working my way through guilt, fear, rage, depression and whatever else I’d been suppressing in the decade and a half since I had first taken up the 24-7 wake-and-bake lifestyle.
As it turns out — surprise! — Hunter Thompson was wrong. My mind was never sharper. No longer afraid of arrest every time I left my house, I lost my second-class citizen status. My self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds and I began to get some actual traction in my life. You might say I began to resemble an actual human being!
To this day, I still feel that getting straight is the single most important thing I have ever done. That said, drug abuse is not without its rewards, at least if these droll little comics are any indication. And if a certain condescending sarcasm crept into my post-dependency contributions to the series — well, it wasn’t too high a price to pay.
Anyway, here’s the second batch of Pot Comics: