PUNK: Lonesome American Memoirs

7: Sniffin’ Glue

I returned from a brief trip to England in nineteen eighty, with a red and black leather motorcycle jacket, two bondage shirts, a lot of confusion about the British, and a new trick: squeezing glue into a plastic bag, and huffing it.

It turns out that Toluol was the magic ingredient. Specifically any adhesive which contained Toluol, Methylbenzene, Phenylmethane, Toluene, TDI, Toluene Diisocyanate, or P-Nitrotoluene would do the job nicely. There were three kinds of glue highs: A Toluol high, which was rich, long lasting, and dreamy like an opiate. A Hexane, or N-Hexane high, coming mainly from rubber cement, which was very visual, and wore off fast, leaving a serious headache behind. And everything else, which didn’t seem to do too much. Nothing worth writing about anyhow.

I introduced all my friends to this inexpensive habit and it caught on fast. We could steal glue, and help ourselves to the lettuce bags at any grocery store. Then we would gather in someone’s house, and huff our brains out.

The Toluol experience was nice. A long, warm high. Where you would pass out in your glue bag, and wake up feeling sort of drunk. But you had to be thoughtful about it. Sniffing just any old glue would produce a variety of dream like states, and not all of them were good.

Rubber cement was particularly strange. The first time I tried an adhesive with Hexane as the primary toxin in it I made the terrible mistake of swallowing while my face was in the baggie. A red light appeared in my mind, and it blinked a few times. Then a sharp laser beam zapped me three times. It fucking hurt. Then a deep female voice said to me, as the words typed out in red across my mind,” Warning! Violation of protocol.” Then I was zapped three more times and the voice continued “Rule number one: Never swallow with your face in the glue bag.” At which point the floor opened below me, and I fell. I really fell, like shit your pants fall. I was half expecting it to end, or to wake up and rub my eyes thinking, “Dang! What a glue dream!” and laugh it off, but I just kept falling. I was picking up some serious speed when the sound of grinding metal began to sear my ears. I got really scared and tried to do something. But I was in flat out free-fall; there was nothing I could do. Then this green-faced person caught up with me, wrapped its cold, rough hands around my neck and introduced itself.

You fucked up!” said the creature. “I know you’re expecting to wake up any second now, but I have news for you young man. This is real, and you will fall like this forever!” Then it started to laugh in a dry and hateful sort of cackle.

I cried out, and opened my eyes. I had fallen over backwards, and my face was slathered in rubber cement. The glue bag, a little sandwich baggie, was nowhere to be found.

I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room.

“Fuck!” I said.

“What?” Someone asked.

There was no way in hell I was going to re tell that story to anyone. So just said, “That was intense.” They chuckled and agreed with me.

Now you might think that anyone having had such a waking nightmare as a free fall into Hell like that would straighten up and fly right. Or at least you might think that they’d never fucking huff rubber cement again in their goddamn lives, right? Well… knowing full well that there were other inhalants, much nicer experiences to be had quite readily. Really, in those days, at any store, and market, any hobby hut. Just five little fingers away. But rubber cement always seemed to just be there already. A common household compound, often in large tubs, just waiting to be slopped out into little plastic bags and inhaled. Somehow the invitation was so intoxicating that I couldn’t seem to say no.

The second time I huffed a Hexane based cement I was in a crawl space between the youth group room, and the chapel floor of a community church. Me, Toni and Tim had snuck in there specifically to sniff glue. We climbed up the dirt wall, and sat on top of old doors, distributed the cement into bags and started huffing.

Soon I was in dreamland again. Only this time the mistake I made was drooling. I felt the saliva leave my lower lip, and drip into the baggie and winced as the red light came into my mind, pulsing, making that terrible alarm sound. Again, the light zapped me three times, and typed out the words as the voice scolded me, Warning: A violation has been committed. The light pulsed and zapped me three more times. Rule number two: Never drool into your glue bag. And suddenly a sort of a double see saw with four little green skinned witches riding on each end began moving up and down, back and forth around me. It was accompanied by a children’s theme song that sounded like it was played on an out of tune plastic xylophone.

The music played a little while, and then stopped suddenly. The red light pulsed and the music began again, only this time with singing.

Ma-hixma Mu-halia Ma hon’t cha ma won’t cha, Mahixma Muhallia Mahoy!

What started out as innocent childish singing ended in a resounding scream of hate in my head. Now my glue witch had a name. It seemed as natural and matter of fact to me as if this were the underlying truth behind all things. Everyone had a glue witch, and Mahixma Muhallia Mahoy was mine. It made perfect sense when you thought about it.

I regained consciousness as the reverb trailed off in my head to find that Tim had become a pink, hairless monkey made out of rubber, and Toni was now a sweet little puppy. The pink monkey was wheezing, and laughing. Bouncing up and down, and then spitting off to the left. Over and over. I tried to speak but I couldn’t.

The puppy was trapped on a glass island that had broken free and was steadily headed over the waterfall. Slowly it inched toward the edge. I tried to reach out to it, and save the little puppy. But she went over the falls, and then I cried out.

Tim looked at me, and I looked at Tim. We looked over the edge of the dirt wall we’d been sitting on and there was Toni, curled in a ball, sitting on a door at the bottom of the slope.

We laughed our asses off.


“I’m sure glad that’s over. That was intense.”

We teased Toni about sliding down the wall. But I didn’t tell anyone about my glue witch’s name, or her brand of discipline.

But the glue craze didn’t stop there. We only got more interested in various compounds. At one point I had an attack of conscience about it. I felt like I was the one who introduced the idea, and so this growing group of people getting into it were in some way my responsibility. But no matter what I said, they went ahead and huffed their brains out. And I usually joined them.

We got so out of control, so many people, so often, that we started to get watched in the local Co Op grocery store when any one of us went in. There would be a guy posted in the crafts isle, keeping watch over the model glue, and another guy posted in the produce section, so none of us would be able to score a plastic bag. I’d stood outside of a lot of stores bagging anyone and everyone to please buy me some whiskey, or a case of beer. But there we were, dog collars, stained t-shirts, and ripped up jeans, standing in the parking lot of Co Op begging housewives to bring us out lettuce baggies. We even said please.

One sunny spring day my friend Damien and I ventured over to Ace Hardware and thought we’d have a look at what sort of adhesives they had unattended. We found something called Evo-stick. It was eighty seven percent Toluol. We were very excited. We grabbed a couple of bags form the corner deli, and went up to our new location beneath the fire escape steps of Dwinell Hall just off the UC Berkeley campus. We poured the glue into our baggies and began taking deep breaths. The trick with a Toluol based glue was to fill the bag with as much air as possible, so that when you passed out you didn’t stick your face to the glue.

I was completely out. It was very nice. Then I discovered that Damien wasn’t breathing. He was pale, and cold. His face was completely stuck in the baggie. The thin plastic was sucked into his nostrils, and into his open mouth. He was dead.

I did what any glue sniffing punk rocker would do. I tossed my baggie into the bushes and ran. I hit Telegraph Avenue at a dead sprint, I was screaming and crying, “He’s dead! I killed him! He’s dead!

Suddenly I felt arms around me, a strong body hugging me. I was very confused. I thought it was the police. I opened my eyes and looked into the face of William, the polka-dot man. William was a local character who would cover himself with polka dots and sit out on the corner of Durant and Telegraph and beat on a hose with a stick. He was well loved, and made pretty good money. I used to just sit with him sometimes.

“Wait, wait, wait, wait…” comforted William. “Hold on a minute.”

I realized that I was crying. “I killed him. He’s dead!” I was desperate.

“Who’s dead?”

“Damien! He’s dead. I killed him!

“How do you know he’s dead?”

“What am I gonna do?”

William wrapped his arms around me and rocked me. He kept saying that it was going to be ok. It was going to be ok.

About five minutes later Damien walked up, loaded from the glue. William looked at me like I was out of my mind and said, “Here he is. He’s alive. See?”

“What’s going on?” Asked Damien.

“Dude. I thought you were dead.”


“He’s not dead. See?” William began beating on his plastic hose again.

“Man, where’d you go?” Damien asked me.

“I had to go.”

“Yeah, you just took off man.”


After solid summer of regular glue sniffing, the Campus Police were on to us. They would watch for us in our usual spots, and keep an eye on the little markets. Seems there had been quite a run on glue and lettuce baggies that season. One afternoon Me, Damien, Johnny and Tim all decided to go for a sniff. We went to Ace for the Evo-stick, and back over to Evergreen Market for the baggies. When we got to the steps beside Dwinell Hall I realized that I’d only gotten two bags. We agreed that Johnny and Tim would start right away, and Damien and I would go back and get a couple more baggies from Fred’s Market.

So Damien and I walked up a couple blocks, got the baggies and headed back as quick as we could. Only when we got back, Tim and Johnny were gone. Their baggies were sitting right there on the ground, but there was no sign of them anywhere. We climbed the small flight of cement steps to the street level and looked around. No sign of them anywhere.

So we walked up a half a flight of stairs above our usual spot and sat there. We figured they just had to go. So I squeezed out the rest of the glue between us, and we started to huff our brains out. Before we even got started, we watched three cops come sneaking around the corner and head down the stairs. Damien and I looked at each other in total disbelief.

Through the stairs we could see the three cops crouching on the cement pad below us, but we could now also see that Johnny and Tim were hiding just below the cops, in the ditch where the water from the hedges drained out, and rainwater collected and went into the sewer. The cops inspected the glue bags. And poked around in the hedges with their sticks.

Tim poked his head up to see what was happening, and Damien and I shouted “No, Dude! No!”
The cops heard us, and came up the stairs and took a look at us. “Have you two seen a couple of guys around here sniffing glue?”

“No officer.”

“You sure they’re not friends of yours?”

“No sir” I said, just sitting there with my glue bag in my hand.

“Well, if you see anyone around here using inhalants, you let them know that we’re on to them.”
“Yes sir, we will.”

“You two stay out of trouble now.”

“Thank you officer.”

They left.

Damien and I laughed it up. Johnny and Tim came up out of the drainage ditch and climbed the stairs to see what was up. We retold the whole story and laughed about it. We liked the expression “inhalants” a lot. That was pretty funny. So Johnny and Tim went back down the stairs, reclaimed their spot on the cement pad, and began huffing again. Damien and I stayed where we were.

Two minutes later the cops were back. There were six of them this time. Silently they swooped down on the concrete pad below us. Johnny and Tim were suddenly in handcuffs, and Damien and I were shitting our pants in disbelief. We got up, tossed out baggies and headed back up to the avenue. I was fucking done with glue sniffing.

Sniffing glue was a total bust now.

Table of contents
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24
Musicology, Errata