“What is ‘One Toke Over The Line’?” It’s a question I have been asked so many times I think it finally deserves an official explanation. So here goes!
One Toke – The Definition
One Toke Over The Line: The act of going to a place, a step beyond the point of reason, for the purpose of knowing where that point is.
Like the friend who gives you a joint and says “this is guaranteed two- toke weed.” Ever heard that one before? And after three or four tokes, it’s hard to say having just lost your spot in time and space, you come to the conclusion he was right. It is, or was, two-toke weed. That’s how you learn these kinds of things. By looking back over your shoulder and finding you have gone a step too far.
These days I think of it as a metaphor. “One Toke Over The Line” is just that extra afternoon jalapeno nacho you didn’t know came with its own virulent brand of reflux. Or the second girl you date that comes with an angry ex-boyfriend. “This time I’ll see the punch coming and duck.” Right.
One Toke – The Possibilities
Sometimes being One Toke Over is just a mistake in judgment or a simple lack of knowledge about something. At other times it is just plain arrogance. “That may be a line too far for some people, but I can handle it.” My favorite is the step you take to see what you can see. Like the bear who went over the mountain. You may find Shangrila on the other side, or you may find the place is creepy and full of bear traps. You don’t know until you get there.
I believe I’ve been doing that all my life. When I was a kid, I ran with a stick in my hand and crossed my eyes. I never put my eyes out, and they never got stuck like my mother warned.
One Toke – The Adventure
When I was in my teens, a couple of my high school friends and I decided to go to the north shore of Canada’s Lake Superior. They were finally building a road up there. Everyone said, “it’s not finished, and they’ll never let you go.” We went, they let us through, and we drove on the unpaved roadbed as far it would go. It was a glorious summer trip for a couple of kids who never did tell their parents what they had been up to. There are a lot more examples of going “over the line” but I think you have the idea.
Many years later, with Brewer and Shipley, I performed “One Toke” at Carnegie Hall. Not a time or place to be singing that kind of song, but what the hell. The audience loved it, our record company released it as a single, and it was a big hit. Who would have guessed a song we had written as a joke to make our friends laugh would become the thing that defined us over our long career. To date, 52 years and still smokin’.
One Toke – The Consequences
I remember President Nixon didn’t like it very much. His administration did their best to have it banned from the radio. Thanks to ABC radio and a couple of other brave stations, he couldn’t do it. Nixon lost, we won and were rewarded by making it onto Nixon’s famous Enemies List. An honor I hold dear to this day.
Coming after us as he did, Nixon helped make “One Toke Over The Line” part of the American lexicon. Lawrence Welk even did it on his TV show. He thought it was a gospel song. At least that is how he introduced it. It was gospel to me.
Now the phrase “One Toke Over The Line” gets used and abused in all kinds of media. When Pope John retired and continued to live in the Vatican along with the new pope, Stephen Colbert said on his show, “I guess we are One Pope Over The Line.” When John Stewart found out the Koch brothers were sponsoring The Daily Show, he grumbled that he was “One Koch Over the Line.” The list keeps getting longer as time goes by.
One Toke – The Rewards
It seems everybody liked it. Years later, after all of that trouble with the federal government, we got a call from Denver to play the Denver County Fair. Our venue… the Pot Pavillion. It is the only time in our long career that our opening act was a joint-rolling contest.
So, going “Over The Line” can turn into something wonderful. I’ve always had some of my best times going “over the line.” Oh, I’ve stepped in a bear trap or two, but that can happen to anyone just playing by the rules. As long as I know I’m not going to hurt anyone else or myself, I will continue as I have. If you’re looking for me, I will probably be somewhere, my camera, walking stick, or fly rod in hand, “One Toke Over The Line.”