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Are You Cool? Yeah, I’m Cool.

Coded Drug Language = Bullshit

Photo by 宇宙无敌 Daddy

Back in my days of drugging and drinking, I fully embraced the culture that went with being a “head.” That was the term for people who were committed to the high life.

In one sense, to be cool meant that you were a user or at least a pot smoker.

“Is he cool?” was a question that meant, is this person trustworthy regarding illegal drugs?

To be cool like that was a rite of passage. It meant you’d joined the club, the rebellion, the underground of the junior high school. What could be more badass than that?


I watched “Dazed and Confused” last week. It’s a slice-of-life movie that follows a bunch of high school and middle school kids on the last day of school in 1976. That was my era - I graduated high school in 1977.

I connected and cracked up at a lot of the behavior in the movie. A middle school kid came along with a bunch of the older dudes for a night of partying. At one point, the scene that I lived on both ends - being asked, and asking - about being cool, played out.

He said yes he was cool. And then he was handed his first toke of weed he’d ever had.

Photo by Polinach

Now, being cool meant so much more than that. Back then, there was no cool geek culture. Geeks were just geeks, and they were made fun of and largely ostracized.

It was hard to be considered cool if you were in the marching band.

Jocks could be cool, but a lot of jocks were straight-laced dorks.

Long hair, bell-bottoms, being hip to good music and going to concerts, and getting high were all signifiers of being cool.

Getting straight A’s and doing accelerated classes and getting some college credits was certainly useful, and to be admired, but it wasn’t necessarily cool.


For me, that degraded over the years. I lost my cool to alcohol and drugs as my behavior fell apart. It was due to losing self-respect and not being able to have boundaries. Getting fired from some lowly bartending jobs wasn’t cool.

Showing up hungover, not showing up, sleeping til 5 pm, blacking out and hearing about the nasty things I said the night before, losing my wallet, being short on rent money…these things, and many more, were not cool.


Eventually, I got clean and sober.

I began a journey to build self-esteem and learn about proper boundaries. I learned how to show up to where I needed to be. I learned how to be a good employee. I learned about commitments.

It was anything but a straight path. Often, I took two steps forward, three steps back, one step forward, and on and on like that.

I found a tribe of sober people.

I lived in the East Village of NYC, and I was acting and producing shows. I met musicians, writers, photographers, dancers, directors, and more, who were sober. We were happy to introduce each other as survivors who were on the artist’s path.

Many of these people were extremely cool, in the sense of being hip artists.

But I saw and learned that there is a new definition of what’s important.


Yes, I’m an artist and I’m drawn to other artists and their work and approach to creativity.

But more important is an attraction to integrity. I love people to be honest about who they are and what they’re doing.

I value emotional transparency and mutual respect for one another’s paths in life.

Giving back and helping others is one of the most beautiful things that I see and that I’ve learned to do in my life.

Most of all, carrying love in one’s heart and expressing that love to others is the coolest thing in the world.


And now I see that being smart and working hard are some of the most admirable qualities there are.

From the “head” point of view, the straight world where people studied hard and showed up for every class and never skipped school, was something to scoff at.

I had a long stretch of doing LSD and mescaline regularly. I truly thought I’d figured it out. I remember the classic thing of being on a rooftop at dawn, tripping, and looking at all the “losers” heading out to work.


“Are you cool?” “Is she cool?”

Style. Grace. Being hip and having good taste. Yeah, I like all of that. Why not?

But what’s inside? How do you approach your life?

Do you have integrity?

Do you have love to give?

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