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Nick Offerman’s Guide To Being Smart While Getting Stupid

From the mind of the man who plays Ron Swanson, a handy primer on what to drink, where to huff, and when to smoke.

Photo: Emily Shur / Corbis Outline | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013

The following is an excerpt from Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals For Delicious Living by Nick Offerman.

When the work is done, then we deserve to play. After ten sweaty hours in the woodshop, when I’m covered in sawdust, that first Corona tastes like the jizz of the Lord (which has to be the most magnificent beverage, right? The Libation of Glory?), and in my life, one of my greatest leisure-time pleasures has been smoking a bong in the living room before settling down with the new episode of Twin Peaks, or maybe a Jim Jarmusch film. Dead Man? Heaven. Or some animation or claymation. Akira? Wallace and Gromit? Sublime. Therefore, if I had to choose one god to serve, I would choose . . . Dionysus. The Greek god of wine, song, and theater. My Eucharist is found in entertaining people, receiving the bread and the wine of laughter and tears from the crowd, and being brought to catharsis by the work of others. When I take the stage, Dionysus (or Bacchus) sees and hears my ministry and he is muchly pleased. Or she. No reason to stick to the tired dogma of the patriarchy.

I like to engage in revelry. I like to celebrate the human experience through performance. I like to engender mirth. I like to abide pleasure with my body, and one way that we funny monkeys have learned to know delight is through the consumption of intoxicants. All splendid treats in the proper dosage, but, just like religion (the opiate of the masses), you can use them responsibly, and do good, or you can use them like an asshole and ruin it for the rest of us, who just want to get a little high and look at a maple leaf. Let’s have a look at our choices, shall we?

1. Wine, Beer.
The workhorses. You keep these expendables in stock, like paper towels and salt. And just like salt, you will enjoy them throughout your life, as long as you don’t overdo it. Beer, in all its infinite varieties these days, is obviously one of the staples of life. For a pint of beer, you can never beat Guinness or Old Rasputin. In the life of the theater professional, three pints a night in the local public house is simply part of one’s workday, and it’s nice work, if you can get it. My easy time was dominated by beer throughout my youth and into my twenties, because wine just didn’t have much of a foothold in my part of the Midwest. Aunt Dee would drink white wine, but then she always was a bit fancy. I never understood what all the fuss was about until my wife bought a really nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon on New Year’s Eve 2000. We were at a beautiful cabin in Santa Barbara, and we counted down the last hours of our first eight months together as we sipped this red wine that made my head and body feel like delicious candy. I’m not talking about shitty candy (which also has its place of honor), your Skittles, your Willy Wonka varietals, your PayDays. No, I’m talking about handmade, rich-people candy. This wine—fermented grape juice, mind you—tasted and felt like Edmund’s description of Turkish delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and, buddy, I signed up as, and I remain, a card-carrying member of the wine enthusiasts’ club. For, lo, it is some good shit.

2. Whisky and the Lesser Spirits.
Try to utilize the hard liquors with less frequency than you do beer. Did I spend a period of my youth chugging Jim Beam? Sure I did, as it provided a swift and complete oblivion, which is sometimes what we’re looking for in life. That was a thankfully brief stint, when I was despairing of ever finding a lady who could stand me, and one whom I could tolerate in return. Once I got my head on straight, I learned that bourbons exist to rival even the qualities of Jim Beam! Furthermore, I discovered Irish and Scotch whiskys, to which I remain devoted. And for a single-malt scotch, Lagavulin will never disappoint. It’s practically furry. I’ll be happy to further enumerate the admirable qualities of whisky consumption over a glass of the good stuff should you ever catch me out at the bar.

3. Nitrous Oxide, N2O, Laughing Gas, Whip-Its.
Ahhh, old friend. Not just at the dentist anymore. For those of you who have deprived yourselves of this brief delight, please hustle out to the store and pick up several cans of ready-to-squirt whipped cream, and let the fun begin. The cream remains in the can, fully wasted, as the propellant nitrous oxide enters your lungs, and thereby your circulatory system. You will experience a light-headed euphoria as well as auditory hallucinations, culminating in smiles of glee or laughter. If you want to consume this goodness without wasting all that yummy dairy product, go to the gourmet store and purchase a case or three of N2O cartridges and a whipped cream charger! Or buy a little twist “cracker” at your local head shop and empty your cartridge into a pretty balloon! Load up a hit, put on “Echolalia” by Dead Can Dance, and drink deep, chum. Find a nice place to recline and listen to any good noises—a freight train, a subway, a waterfall, a Wilco show. Just sit where the po-po won’t be hassling you. Good, clean fun. I’ve seen friends fall down and go boom whilst using this stuff, so maybe keep your seat.

4. Weed.
Sweet, sweet lady. Marijuana is quite possibly the finest of intoxicants. It has been scientifically proven, for decades, to be much less harmful to the body than alcohol when used on a regular basis (Google “Science”). I applaud and support all of the legalization efforts perpetually underway in our country, but I kind of doubt it’s going to make it all the way through the federal legal system until big tobacco wakes up and gets behind it. I’m calling you out, R.J.! Step right up to yo’ face and dis you, Philly Morris! You continue to cling to the legality of your carcinogenic smoking product that has been outlawed in most public spaces in America, but do you not see the potential in Marlboro Green? Own it! Regulate it! Tobacco will be going away; you know it! You have seen that writing on the wall! Turn that acreage over to cannabis, my brothas! People are constantly committing crimes whilst under the influence of, or looking for funding for, every other intoxicant besides marijuana. I am a super-sweet teddy bear, but when I drink tequila, I want to knife somebody. When a person injects heroin, I’ve read, they want to lie in bed and drool with pleasure, listening to Coltrane’s Giant Steps until the fix wears off, then they want to go out and threaten to knife somebody, to get money for more heroin, so they can get back to drooling on their pillow. When I smoke pot, I want to look at nature and laugh about everything, and eat some delicious things, and then sleep. For Willie’s sake, do the math.

5. Mushrooms.
Yes indeed. The gentle brother of the hallucinogen family. All the giggles and visuals without the chemical jaw-grinding and speedy aftereffects of big brother LSD. I remember one beautiful day in the woods of Allerton Park near Monticello, Illinois, tripping on ’shrooms with my brother Falcon Smoker, looking at leaves and trees, swimming in the river, listening to the birds and frogs and wood nymphs’ song, gulping in the sweet air and glory of living, then winding down to wait out the waves of sensory bliss so we could head home. Once we were somewhat straightened out, we set off for home, blasting Ennio Morricone’s magnificent soundtrack to The Mission, particularly track twelve, called “River.” And in the early dark on the highway, all the other taillights looked like X-wing fighters, which lent a comforting perception of nostalgia to the ride. Treat your intoxicants with respect, and they will do right by you.

6. Amyl Nitrate, or “Poppers.”
Not worth it. Small head rush, massive brain cell carnage, often followed by a splitting headache. Might as well huff PVC glue.

7. Glue.
I’ve tried some, and gotten the most profound effects from that crazy blue PVC plumbing adhesive, but it’s a very low-grade high. Your head feels dirty inside, probably from all the poison from the glue. Pass. Huffing vapors is the intoxicant of true desperation.

8. Chicharrón, Cracklins, Pork Rinds.
Not technically an intoxicant, but you couldn’t ever tell me that. My buddy Pat Roberts and I were hooked on those bubbly, crunchy skin chips, and we had it bad. The great thing about this snack food is that it’s mostly protein, and therefore much healthier than most of the garbage Frito-Lay is churning out. No offense, Frito-Lay, I love a bag of Doritos as much as the next Midwesterner, but I’ve read all of Michael Pollan’s books, so let’s just call it like it is. To place my pork-skin problem chronologically, let’s just say it went real nice with Jim Beam and Virginia blister peanuts for dessert. Keep the peanut can for loose hardware, and you’ve done your part for Mother Earth today.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals For Delicious Living is out now. 

Check out Maxim's Interview With Nick Offerman and 6 More Appropriate Names For Strippers.