The assignment was to write a four-page research paper on any biology topic. My son, Sebastian, is a high school freshman, and it was his first real chance to shine. I expected him to pick something like photosynthesis. He went with psychedelic drugs instead.
Let me tell you what would have happened if I had made that choice as a ninth-grader: I would have been grounded until graduation. In northeastern Pennsylvania, where I grew up, my mother worked for the county commission on drug and alcohol abuse, and she could literally smell stoned people. The breath of a pothead, she warned, as if hunting dragons, has the odorousness of burned rope.
One night she shook me awake after finding a tiny tube of Krazy Glue under the seats of her Buick Skyhawk.
“Are you sniffing this stuff to get high?” she said.
I wasn’t. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I cried.