Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Reefer Madness

When the going gets good, the unfortunate lights a spliff

Print Email

The bad news is I’ve had a good month. As the child of an ever-suffering mother and a member of an ever-suffering people, I am not merely uncomfortable with happiness, I am tortured by it. The worst thing that can happen to me is the best thing that can happen to me, and the best thing that can happen to me is the worst thing that can happen to me.

If Publishers Clearing House ever knocks on my door with an oversized check, it’ll make the worst Super Bowl commercial ever:


THEMMr. S. Auslander? 




THEMYou’ve just won a million dollars! 

Hold on ME as I look at the check and think I’m undeserving. Others need it more than I. Like my mother. Oh, her endless suffering! And what about my sister and her congregation of children? You know how much they could use the money? Then there’s Darfur, and the Holocaust, of course. Didn’t the liberators find survivors eating worms? And here I am getting a million dollars while porno downloads upstairs and my wife and son are in the den watching Thomas the Tank Engine?

THEY hand ME the check.

I take a gun and blow my head off.



VOICE-OVER:It’s all about winning! 

Then, back to the game.

No news is good news, but good news is bad news; my psychiatrist has always been far more concerned about my successes than he has been about my failures. I sat down in his office a few weeks ago, just after an unfortunate string of fortunate events. I had completed my manuscript, my editors, here and abroad, were pleased with the results, I had read essays on a number of national radio programs, I had a story published in a prominent magazine. I was a wreck.

“We’ve been through this before,” said my shrink.

“I know,” I said.

“Every time you’re happy…” he said, waiting for me to finish.

“I’m unhappy,” I said.

He nodded. I stared at my shoes.

“You could try failing more,” he said.

“Nah,” I said. “I went for pot instead.”

I haven’t smoked pot in a long time. My shrink pursed his lips, fought back a frown, took out his pen and wrote something on his chart.

Damn right, I thought.

If you’re going to go off the rails, you might as well go far enough off to warrant a troubled notation on your psychiatric chart.


* * * 

One Purim, a rabbi of mine got so drunk that another student and I had to help him stumble back home.

“Hashem created a beautiful world,” he said to us.

We nodded, trying to steer him away from the cliff at the edge of the road.

“But He made one mistake,” he continued. “One very, very bad mistake.”

I could name 20 without having to think too hard, so I wondered which one the rabbi had in mind.

“It’s not right,” he said, “that you can’t have a cigarette after cholent on Saturday afternoon.”

He shook his head sadly.

“It’s a real kasha,” he said.

A kasha is a difficult question.

I feel the same way about pot. It grows from the ground, it’s cheap, it makes me laugh and, when I watch Telemundo stoned, I’m pretty sure I understand what they’re saying. But it’s not right that everything I write while stoned isn’t, the following morning, as brilliant as it seemed to be the night before. And it isn’t right that the following afternoon I can’t write at all.

It’s a real fucking kasha.


* * * 

I’ve been setting off alarms. Everywhere I go lately, I set off security alarms—pharmacies, bookstores, groceries. It doesn’t matter what I’m carrying—it happened again this morning and I wasn’t even carrying my wallet. Maybe it was something I ate. Maybe it’s some sort of bio-magnetic something or other inside me. Maybe I’m just bad.


* * * 

“I’m being self-destructive,” I told my wife. She’s not a smoker, but sometimes we like to get a little happy and go for long hikes. She knew I hadn’t been writing, and she knew I had been smoking, she just didn’t know why.

“I had some success,” I explained. “It hasn’t been easy.”

We spoke about it for a while. For me, I explained, it’s not so much why bad things happen to good people, but why good things happen to me at all. I feel guilty when they do, and do whatever I can to make sure that they stop. I wondered if this had to do with my parents or a larger narrative—the single narrative I spent my life learning, that of a people on the outside, suffering adversity after adversity, meeting enemy after enemy. “Why me?” I wonder when joy fills my heart. “Why not them?” Maybe three generations from now, if the killing in Darfur ever comes to end, the grandchildren of those who died today will similarly feel uncomfortable with their comfort. Someone heads over to the Best Buy in downtown Geneina, gets himself a 40-inch flat-screen and spends the rest of the week feeling like crap.

“Why me?” he’ll wonder.

“Why not them?”

“And why does my shrink always wait until just after I’ve bought an eighth to convince me I need to stop?”

It’s a kasha.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

I own read ones article. It’s really helpful. We will be able to benefit significantly from the idea. Fluent producing style plus vivid terms make people readers like reading. I is going to share an individual’s opinions utilizing my friends.

Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? Ie been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

I want to say exactly how incredibly impressed We are with any speed of your shipments. I am a brand new customer, and have finally ordered two times Using USPS regarding shipping, I got my 1st package inside 4 days and nights, and almost all impressively – I ordered the other time with a Friday and even received my personal package for the following Saturday! Besides developing a great range, prices, and challenge suggestions, this includes made me a customer for daily life!!

It is the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happyI have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or suggestionsMaybe you can write next articles referring to this articleI wish to read more things about it!


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Reefer Madness

When the going gets good, the unfortunate lights a spliff

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree