I smoked pot with David Brooks

Please note: What follows here is satire of the Juvenalian variety. I thought I embedded enough tipoffs, but then again I forgot how much stranger than fiction truth can be. So to those who thought it was real and suffered pain as a result, I apologize.


Now that he’s gone and outed himself, I guess I’m free to tell the secret. I smoked pot with David Brooks. I was one of that “clique” with whom he had “those moments of uninhibited frolic.” There were seven of us. We all know what happened to Dave. The rest: a surgeon (rich), a dentist (gay), two lawyers (one dead already), one teacher and one househusband/artist (that’s me). I never spoke up before because I figured if I threw mud at someone whose whole career rests on being squeaky clean, well, that’s just mean. And it’s mostly irrelevant now. I mean, like he said, we’ve “aged out” and “left marijuana behind.”

Well, all except me. I still get high from time to time. It helps me deal with the kids, makes me more playful and my knees ache less when I get on the floor with them. Dave would probably say I delayed having them until so late because I was too busy getting stoned, and maybe he’s right, although I like to think I was waiting for the right woman and the right time. Anyway, I gather he doesn’t have any problem with my once a week toking, even if it’s “not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged.” So even if social scientists have proved smoking doesn’t really make me more creative (although I could swear it does, and I’ve heard others say the same, but what do we know?), and even if it makes it impossible for me to “graduate to more satisfying pleasures”–although marriage, kids, reading, music, conversations with friends, I used to think those were pretty satisfying– I guess I’m okay in his book.

Funny thing. I didn’t know before this morning that I was the “full-on stoner” who was one of the four  reasons Dave gave up weed. Sorry as I am to hear that our frolics are now his shameful 4 a.m. memories, after all these years of silence, it’s nice to know I mattered to him, that I was a significant part of the moral life of someone so important and with such a strong “sense of satisfaction and accomplishment”—an achievement I guess I made possible by teaching him that “one sort of life you might choose is better than another sort of life.”

And here all along I thought he quit because of that time we got pulled over by the Radnor cops in senior year right after we’d clambaked his Mom’s Vista Cruiser, and first thing the cop does after the smoke clears is look him right in his red, red eyes, and said, “I don’t suppose it would go over so good if I went over to 632 Haverford Road and told Mr and Mrs Brooks their boy was out here with his clique smoking pot.” I was so impressed with the way Dave pulled himself together then. He didn’t beg for mercy or fight with the cop. Somehow he knew exactly how to go all bar mitzvah boy, how to talk to authority, how to flatter and impress and toady, even stoned to the gills, like his inner Eddie Haskell was deeper down than the pot could get. And it worked. The cop let us go, told us we were lucky he knew Dave and that we were white kids from Radnor, and later on, at the pizza house taking care of our munchies, chattering and cackling over our good luck and trying to figure out how Dave and the cop knew each other, busting on him for being a narc, Dave was quiet and pale and barely touched his hoagie, and I think that was the last time he smoked pot, at least with us.

But before that, did we have some uninhibited frolic! He wrote in his column about the time he got high during lunch and then “stumbled through” a presentation in English class. Too bad he didn’t go into the details. But I remember it pretty well. It was senior year. We all had to give a 10-minute talk about one of the leitmotifs in Lord Jim. We’d both chosen “one of us,” an idea that was totally DAve’s. He’d gotten after we smoked some insane Thai stick and went into Philly to see “Freaks” at the TLA. We’d figured out our talks on the train back home. Mine was going to be about how Conrad was being ironic, and the “us” weren’t exactly people you wanted to be one of. His was going to be about the way Jim’s “selfishness of a higher order” was a model for Hamiltonian government. Mine went off without a hitch, even though I was as stoned as he was. (But I was probably already the full-on stoner, so maybe I had a tolerance.)

But when Dave got up there, I think he was trying to be literary or casual or something, and he started in by saying that the idea had come to him watching Freaks, and he got totally sidetracked, the way you do when you’re good and high. “Oh, man, you shoulda seen it,” he said. “These, like, total freakazoids. This one? Prince something or other? No arms or legs, but he could roll a cigarette and then light it—with his mouth, man! He’d fit right in here at Radnor Get High…” and here he started giggling uncontrollably, and all he could say was “One of us, one of us, gobble gobble gobble” until Mr. Sedgwick had to tell him to sit down. (Later Dave told us he told Sedge he’d never done it before and he was really sorry and Sedge said he wouldn’t call his parents, but he (Dave) was such a good boy he knew he wouldn’t do that again.)

The other part he didn’t tell was about how we got high at lunch. This was back when you could smoke at school. Cigarettes, I mean, but naturally that wasn’t all we smoked. Smokers had to go to an area set up outside the cafeteria, hemmed in by the other wings of the building, sort of like a cell block. Architects must have been stoned or something, or maybe that was back when we didn’t care so much about smoking, but anyway they put the air intake for the second floor in a corner of the cell block. So we were smoking this joint of Jamaican over in that corner and Dave got the bright idea to blow the smoke into the register. “That’ll make everyone up there one of us!” he said. And sure enough when we went up to class the whole floor stank and the vice-principal was hustling up and down the hallway, wrinkling his nose like a bloodhound trying to figure out where the smell was coming from, and then he went into the boys’ room and dragged out one of the only two black boys at Radnor High, yelling at him for smoking pot in school.

I remember the guilty look on Dave’s face when he saw Mr. Santangelo with the kid by the collar. Later on, he told me that he was tempted to confess, but he also happened to know that that boy did smoke pot, that he was a full-on stoner, so if he got in a little trouble, it might be good for him.  When I read today that Dave thinks that “not smoking, or only smoking sporadically gave you a better shot at becoming a little more integrated and interesting,” while “smoking all the time seemed likely to cumulatively fragment a person’s deep center,” I thought about that boy and wondered if getting kicked out of school had helped him hold together his deep center, and if his going to juvy was the kind of subtle discouragement that Dave thinks governments should engage in when it comes to the “lesser pleasures.” I suppose he thought he was doing the kid a favor by letting him take the rap.

There were other frolics, of course. Not with girls—Dave wasn’t much for the girls, all fumbly and mumbly and the pot just supersized his nerdiness. But culture and politics, those great interminable debates. Beatles or Stones, pipes or papers, negotiate over the hostages or send in the troops. Dave had a way of starting off all reasonable, usually talking about how both sides were equally bad. But the stoneder he got, the more opinionated he became, and his opinions—well, let’s just say that when Dave wrote this morning that in a healthy society “government subtly encourages the highest pleasures” I remembered a time we were parked out at French Creek and he stood up on top of the Vista Cruiser and gave a speech to us about what Jefferson really meant by the “pursuit of happiness,” and how a government should uphold our right to get as high as possible, and how George Washington grew pot and old Edmund Burke must have smoked it, and I wondered if Dave was sending his old posse a secret message. I wondered if, especially now that he’s past fifty and divorced and all that, he’s getting a little tired of maturity, of  being harnessed to “the powers of reason, temperance, and self-control,” not to mention to the New York Times, he wanted us to come take him out and apply some subtle peer group pressure to his “moral ecology.”

Which we’d be glad to do. I just found the other guys on facebook. Flights to Denver are cheap. Pot tourism is already happening, we can buy a cheap package, maybe even find a Vista Cruiser to rent or an air register to blow our smoke into, bake a whole floor of the hotel. If you’re reading this, Dave, consider it an invitation. Let’s go encourage our lesser pleasures, relive those days before we aged out and got all inhibited and gray, give ourselves some new embarrassing memories to wake up to at 4 a.m. Because there’s only one thing worse than waking up in the wee hours reminded of what an idiot you can be, and that’s having nothing at all to trouble you, just the smooth satisfaction of success.

106 Responses to “I smoked pot with David Brooks”

  1. Larry says:

    This, sir, is flat out brilliant as a stand alone piece of writing, but hoisting prince dbag by his own petard is priceless.

  2. chris says:

    Let’s all take a toke on a brilliant piece.

  3. […] white guy pot-smoking is a treasure that makes me want to frolic uninhibitedly. But the Gary Greenberg response to his column makes me want to huff some Krylon Posh Pink Glitter Blast and run around in a circle […]

  4. John Hulme says:

    Thank u for just making my day.

  5. […] If you’re looking for more on this story, I highly recommend this brilliantly written, almost definitely satirical piece by Gary Greenberg, who outs himself as the one member of Brooks’ high school “clique” who […]

  6. Tim Dilworth says:

    Good olé Radnor High. Class of 78 here. I vote for you to represent RHS not Brooks. There is no way he hit the prime party scene. We would have thrown his ass in the deep end of the pool. And if a greaser from Garrett Hill crashed his party Brooks would have called 911. Thanks, Tim

  7. Maezeppa says:

    Brilliant. I personally despise pot but not as much as I am irritated by David Brooks.

  8. Dikaios Logos says:

    When David Brooks says Social Scientists have ‘proved’ something, your B.S. meters should go into overdrive. Good scientists never claim to have proved something. Proof is the domain of mathematicians, who prove things that aren’t describable to the average person and probably only exist in mathematicians’ own imaginations. But in David’s world, proving something makes sense.

    I see David a lot these days. He is often in search of other highs. When I see his squat, swarthy, hairy frame running up Connecticut or Massachusetts Avenues, I always say “there goes the King…of the Middlebrows!”

  9. Jeff says:


  10. Eden Elieff says:

    What a thorough take-down of that sanctimonious, dishonest, and self-serving column. You must be fuming at the revisionist history. Well done, and thanks for the riposte.

  11. David Broida says:

    Did you catch that Mr. Brooks ended a sentence with a
    Preposition (“for”)? Maybe wrote this piece while stoned.

  12. lkjb says:

    Well, I personally despise horseradish. But I’m glad to live in a country where people can buy it, even if it means I bite into a ruined roast beef sandwich once in a while.

    David Brooks in fine form. His hypocrisy is galling and his complacency about the fate of non-preppie children is unconscionable. But the complacency and hypocrisy that define his old-guard conservatism are made to look appealing compared to the lobotomized nihilism of the new breed.

  13. […] 1. I Smoked Pot with David Brooks […]

  14. Pnut says:

    Funny stuff, good satire

  15. Joshua Graciano says:

    From your description, at my school Brooks would have been considered a prick. Anyone who could talk his way out of DUI or drug bust would become a pariah. They can easily roll on you- like letting one of the two black kids take the rap. A slick operator like Brooks could easily have said someone was smoking outside, but he couldn’t see who, “and that’s why I smell of the stuff.”

  16. kim says:

    Thank you for making me smile. The thought of that prick and his unmitigated gall, thinking he can be the arbitrator of other people’s recreation…..

    As I sit here sipping my hot toddy on this bitterly cold New England Friday evening, thinking of the people in Colorado getting their legal buzz on, warmly encouraged that this nation may, every so slightly, be tipping in the right direction, thank you again. I raise my cup to you, Gary. Sip.

  17. […] column (“Weed. Been There. Done That.”) psychotherapist and author Gary Greenberg wrote a satirical blog post inspired by Brooks’ reminiscences: “For a little while in my teenage years, my friends […]

  18. Jeff says:

    Wow, this was one great column – it was mindblowing, man.
    Ok, let me take a breath here. What part of this is satirical and what part is true? First, did Gary Greenberg really smoke grass with David Brooks in high school? Did Dave really let the kid take the rap for smoking dope in the bathroom? Did that kid really get kicked out of school? And, is this really Gary Greenberg’s blog? Where am I now?
    Thanks Gary, whoever wrote the piece that hoisted David Brooks by his own pompous petard. – Yeah!
    – Jeff

  19. Johnm says:

    David Brooks doesn’t much address it, and you shoot at an angle. If I’m blitzed on martinis, but sitting in the back seat of a car, everything is ok. But if I haven’t had a toke in days, and me, or anyone else in my car, is holding [pot/weed], I not only can be arrested, but spend some significant time in jail (and, though everyone denies that this can happen, if I’m brown or black, it’s much more likely that I’ll go through the judicial system for the [non]act.) Please – the white privilege of drowning in alcohol vs. making weed illegal has been one of the great hypocrisies of western civilization for more than seven decades, with few exceptions.

  20. JJAbramsCat says:

    There is evidence the it can promote creativity


  21. Steve Bryan says:

    It is somewhat sad that the humorous, take-no-prisoners, satires are being written about David Brooks rather than by David Brooks. Years ago he could be really entertaining writing about people like himself (“Bobos in Paradise” and others)

  22. Dante Reed says:

    Good quality rip!

  23. […] to a emanate came from Gary Greenberg, a author and psychotherapist from Connecticut who claims in a new blog post that he was partial of a category that Brooks smoked pot with in high propagandize and that he is a […]

  24. Brian Latigan says:

    Not cool, Bubba. What happens in High School should stay in HS, even if you havent heard from a guy for 35 years, even if he references the episode himself.

  25. neal r alvarez says:

    As you rich white kids got away with smoking pot, many black and Mexican-American kids are in prison. And their lives are ruined. Shame on you. If you have any decency, you should demand everyone jailed for the same things you did, be freed from prison.

  26. Chris says:

    You’re totally not a hack for trying to excuse your defamatory hoax against a windbag like Brooks as “satire”, and your half-assed, belated “apology” is certainly sufficient. On behalf of everyone who read this well-plotted piece of non-claptrap, I sincerely thank you for wasting our time.

    PS – the above is an example of actual use of “irony”.

  27. Doug Tarnopol says:

    Nice! Somewhere Juvenal is snickering. Brooks is an insufferable snob — or at least plays one on TV and in the NYT. A ridiculous neo-Victorian scold for the used-to-be-liberals his “moderate” position attracts all too often.

    This scumbag wrote this awful op-ed (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/04/opinion/a-burden-too-heavy-to-put-down.html) in which he tries to flatter the oh-so-innocent, oh-so-superior American public (ie, NYT readership) into tolerating war crimes.

    It takes Saturn-sized balls for a guy who wrote that (among many other examples) to lecture anyone on morality, let alone on something as relatively unimportant as pot use. To say nothing of the real moral issues of legalization, or at least decriminalization, which Matt Taibbi pointed out: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/yuppie-prohibition-league-denounces-pot-legalization-20140103

    Well done!

  28. M from Austin says:

    Excellent storytelling! The part with the cop was epic. The part with the kid going to juvey was very sad. You seem like a good dad and a happy person, weed and all.

  29. Lyle James says:

    I predict that years from now, internet mavens will remember exactly where they were when they read “I smoked Pot with David Brooks” choking down laughter the whole way. Your faux-confession will join the ranks of those other supposedly disposable pieces of daily journalism that have become immortal — Frank Rich’s review of “Moose Murders.” Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” It will be taught in college classes titled “Writing the Memoir.” And every week from now till the end of his pitiful, privileged life, David Brooks will have to explain to chance acquaintances that, no, he did not go to high school with Gary Greenberg and no, his mother did not drive a Vista Cruiser. That’s less punishment than Brooks deserves for a lifetime of sucking up to every powerful person who ever crossed his path. But it’s something.

  30. gary says:

    But how do you know Mrs Brooks didn’t drive a Vista Cruiser? Waht do you figure, a Country Squire

  31. Bill Moore says:

    Fucking brilliant. Thank you!

  32. Derek says:

    This post made my weekend. It had me cackling like a stoned teenager. Thank you.

  33. Robert Trenary says:

    Somebody above asked … did our Mr. Brooks *really* think that one of the black kids getting blamed for the weed was kind of ok or was that made up ?
    Because, if it is true, the column in which he apparently demeans you as some kind of loser is truly disgusting and, yes, immoral (to get into the universe Davey B. wants to claim).
    Please clarify.

  34. gary says:

    Like the disclakimer at the top of the page says, this is satire. Made up, in other words.

  35. EllenOlenska says:

    Yes, indeed, I remember hypocrites just like Brooks. They’re all in the gummint now….one of them was a judge and actually prosecuted weed smokers. Sad.

  36. Michael says:

    You ripped that guy a new asshole. Bravo!

  37. Gerry Berkowitz says:

    Weaving fabrics with the simple joy of language, wit that sears, eyes that see irony, and ‘pants-ing’ any and all: these gifts are all in Gary Greenberg’s tomes. And, for this +50 contemporary of Dr. Greenberg who grew up with the same pulls and prods, it is a wonderful pleasure to be reminded how rich it was to go to the midnight show of Pink Flamingos, stoned, with my posse and barely escaping arrest when stopped by cops and having no registration and the only documentation being an unpaid ticket.

  38. Roberta Gordon says:


  39. nikto says:

    There’s a strain out there that is simply MADE
    for David Brooks——–Bobo Kush.

  40. bookmarkjedi says:

    Great piece. I also enjoyed the following piece in Vanity Fair by Juli Weiner:

    David Brooks: Been There. Done That.

    The above triggered me to put up my own column, also referencing the Brooks op-ed:

    Twinkies Accuses Mainstream Media of Bias

  41. Recovery in Progress says:

    This satire just was so satisfying to me. I, too graduated from Radnor in 1979. I am not sure if I am offended that he wrote it or that he claims to have been “one of us”. As a serious stoner at RHS, I never ever saw Brooks very often and certainly thought of him as one of the rich kids breathing that rarified air of suburbia……….

    I no longer smoke or drink – the chaos that it created for me was simply too much and I made a personal choice, but just because i lost my privileges – carry on, the rest of you. I refuse to remain silent when some one tries to enforce their moral code on others. It is something that I find impossible to accept. Dave Brooks does not represent my generation, my town or even my school. Shame on him for taking the upper middle class white man road of admitting to a youthful indescretion, having a laugh at himself and then trying to shame the rest. THIS IS WHY I HAVE YET TO ATTEND ONE REUNION……nothing has changed – you still seem to have the depth of dime, Dave. Gary, i was probably out on the hill smoking, so i do not know you -but I think I may love you, buddy. WELL DONE

  42. Julie Sutton says:

    Agree with all points made by Brooks!! I live in an area in NC which is overrun with pot smokers and believe me there is little citing of much ambition – I’m so grateful I didn’t raise my children here!!

  43. Ethan says:

    Then again, Julie, you also live in a state which (as Deborah Gerhardt has just pointed out over at Slate) has fallen from 42th to 46th in teacher pay over the past 16 years. So maybe it isn’t ALL about the weed.

    Maybe you should try Silicon Valley? There’s no shortage of ambition out here, if that’s what you’re looking for. Granted, there’s no shortage of pot, either (and frequently within the same circles).

  44. Ethan says:

    P.S. Nice work, Mr. Greenberg.

  45. Catherine says:

    So funny. And nice to know that someone else remembers the outback at RHS.

  46. TBV says:

    Greenberg nicely exemplifies Freud’s point when Freud wrote:

    “When I set myself the task of bringing to light what human beings keep hidden within them . . . by observing what they say and what they show, I thought the task was a harder one than it really is. He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his finger tips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore. And thus the task of making conscious the most hidden recesses of the mind is one which it is quite possible to accomplish.”

    Something of the “hidden recesses” of Gary Greenberg’s mind are revealed in the fascinating fantasy of his “juvenalia” when he writes:

    “it’s nice to know I mattered to [Brooks], that I was a significant part of the moral life of someone so important . . . an achievement I guess I made possible by teaching him that ‘one sort of life you might choose is better than another sort of life.’ ”

    Greenberg ought to reread Freud’s essays “Two Lies Told By Children” (1913) and “Family Romances” (1908).

    Freud: “These lies occur under the influence of excessive feelings of love, and become momentous when they lead to a misunderstanding between the child and the person it loves.”

  47. gary says:

    I have no idea what this comment means, but I love it anyway.

  48. PST says:

    Nice piece. It reminded me of the old National Lampoon with a sort of Doug Kenney deadpan.

  49. gary says:

    I was sort of aiming for that, thinking in particular of Mrs Agnew’s Diary. Oh, those were the days!

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