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How The One Hitter (And The Beach Boys) Revamped My Mind

It doesn’t take much to revamp your mind...
By Peter Kray
Vector by Good Studio, Adobe Stock
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Vector by Good Studio, Adobe Stock

The one-hit wonder. In the world of popular music, it’s a somewhat dismissive term. It’s a slight to the bands and artists who enjoyed one hugely successful song (think “MMMbop,” “Walking on Sunshine,” or “867-5309/Jenny”), then more or less disappeared into showbiz oblivion.

Personally, I would rather have one hit instead of none. And I often can. That’s because at my house, the term “one-hit wonder” is shorthand for the cannabis cocktail hour, when, sometime around 5 or 6 p.m., I smoke one hit and instantly leave all the Zoom calls, texts, emails, pop-up schedules, news alerts and noise of the day behind.

It’s an incredibly liberating feeling. Opening the doors in my head to new ideas, suddenly solving problems to things that just an hour earlier I thought I might never quite figure out, thinking of how I really might finish writing a new book—The Ghost Hotel—this fall, or just kicking the soccer ball for my big dog, Moses, while I move the backyard hose around.

The concept of the one- hit wonder is something I discovered researching my first book, The Monster, a kind of allegory about how we might take control of the ways we confront the monsters in our personal lives—whether they be disease, mental strife, addiction, or alcoholism—by “turning a light on.”

During my research, I met a rolfer who was instrumental in helping my wife and I on the path to better health. Once, after a particularly therapeutic session, I asked him how he managed the cycle of processing all of the hurt he was healing. Or, in other words, how he made sure he wasn’t holding onto other peoples’ shit.

He said, “Every night when I get home, before I walk in the house, I smoke one hit then go hold on to an iron rod in my courtyard until I feel like it’s all gone. Then I can go be with my family for the evening.”

“One hit?” I said. “That doesn’t seem near enough for all the problems you’re solving.” But he was already back to focusing on my health— in particular, a lingering knee injury he thought was exacerbated by my reluctance to release my grief over the recent death of my dog Tobear, a barrel-chested, willful, very funny Malamute-Labrador mix we had nicknamed, “The Mighty Burrito.” The rolfer said, “You need to stop looking at your feet so much when you walk. Look where you’re going. Look at the horizon.”

Which is something I still think about when I go for a long walk. Albeit the one-hit thing is what I think about the most. At the time I was writing that book, it slowly dawned on me that I was also writing it to help myself.

It was a period in my life when I wasn’t satisfied with just one of much of anything. And cannabis—along with good beer, bourbon, and crisp reposado—was key to treating every day as part of some extremely casual long-working weekend, something Ernest Hemingway called, “the fiesta concept of life” in his final—and I think finest— book, a Moveable Feast.

The beauty of getting back to one sublime moment or lasting sensation, one perfect pint of cold IPA, one fine glass of pi- not noir with fresh pasta, or one fragrant inhale of the sweet leaf to remember the magic of each day was still a couple years down the tracks.

It’s the savoring of things, and sometimes the scarcity, that gives them meaning. It’s by being in the moment that you heighten the pleasure and increase the memory of each event. And it’s so much more enjoyable than the monotony of gluttony—of having so much of something that the only remarkable aspect is of how much you can cram in your garage or stuff in your mouth.

You know that feeling you get when you first hear a song that you know you will love forever, and every time you play it again, it takes you back to the first time you heard it? That’s what I’m talking about.

I read once that when Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys founder and architect of the California surf sound, first heard The Ronettes classic wall of sound masterpiece, “Be My Baby,” he had to pull over to the side of the road because it impacted him so much. In 2013 he told The New York Times, “In a way it wasn’t like having your mind blown, it was like having your mind revamped.” That’s the way I feel when I enjoy my one hit at the end of the day. Then I walk out onto my patio to look at the big, blue beautiful world, as I smile and wonder about it all.


Peter Kray is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Buy it here: