Tommy Chong's joint-rolling machine, the Chong Roller, produces a fine joint: cone-style, with a filter, and perfectly symmetrical. The end product is, indeed, quite a lovely thing.
Chong would have you believe that the Chong Roller is what he uses to roll his joints. He has his reasons for that, namely that the machine bears his name and will presumably, if sales are robust enough, make him some money. ( Order now, $29.99.) But after watching him operate a Chong Roller in person, I don't actually believe that he rolls his joints with this thing.
I know I wouldn't.
Tommy Chong was running late: He'd been doing a set of radio interviews to promote the Chong Roller, and his schedule was backed up. The handlers at 1Percent—the pop-up Lower East Side gallery hosting this celebrity appearance, during which three contest winners and a smattering of press were to receive a joint-rolling lesson from the putative master himself—were operating at a low-grade panic. "Tommy will be here in five minutes," they said, maybe a half-dozen times in a half-hour. It's all good, I replied each time.
In an effort to chat me up, one of the handlers asked if I knew how to roll a joint. "I do!" I probably chirped, because I'm a pretty chirpy person, in the sense that I never totally shook off the '90s-style uptalk I developed as a teenager. I once tried to adopt a vocal fry to sound younger, but it didn't take. Uptalk is fine, though—'90s nostalgia is in.
Maybe it was the chirp—if I'm being honest, it was definitely the chirp—that set this guy off, but whatever, he got all snide with me and asked in follow-up, "Expert-level?" I replied in Italian, giving him the menzamenz hand and a noncommittal Ehhh. I had no interest in getting involved in a dick-measuring contest.
"Do you know how to roll a cross joint?" Snide. So so so so so snide.
"I haven't the foggiest."
A cross joint, as I later learned from someone else, turns out to be two joints, one inserted perpendicularly through the center of the other and then secured with the stickum part of a piece of rolling paper, like those God's Eye yarn-and-popsicle-stick crafts I used to make at summer camp. If you've seen Pineapple Express, you know that already. I have not seen Pineapple Express, though. Dickruler McSnide was incredulous.
It also turns out that there's no reason at all, beyond wanting to be a showoff, to roll a cross joint, ever. Tommy didn't teach me that, though.
The Chong Roller works like this: First, you make a filter by folding a little slip of stiff paper into an accordion formation (three folds will do ya), and then rolling the accordion into a tube. That filter is inserted into the small end of the Chong Roller, followed by some weed. The machine itself is harmonica-sized, and snaps open and closed like a ladies' clutch purse. Once the weed and filter are in place, you close up the machine and, using your thumbs, roll the conveyor-belt-style material on the sides of the machine downward on the part facing you and up on the back side. The weed begins to form into a cone shape.
Once the weed is packed, it's time to insert the rolling paper, stickum-side-up and facing you. You use the same thumb-rolling motion to roll the paper around the weed. Once the paper has been rolled entirely with the exception of the strip of stickum, you lick, do one last roll, and pop the machine open.
Or here, let Tommy show you himself, sort of.
Chong told me that when they filmed that promo spot, they did so with real weed, which he partook in, and partook in, and partook in, again and again, until finally he was too high to keep filming, and they needed someone else to step in for the last few takes. That story, in the retelling, actually makes no sense, but I'll be damned if he wasn't incredibly charming while regaling me with it.
Speaking of assistance: While the Chong Roller does indeed produce a fine joint, it isn't as easy to use as maybe it should be, and its namesake needed a little help. He got it from the man who actually ended up giving the overall demonstration. More than once I thought to myself that the machine could use a hit of WD-40. A few of my fellow guests also struggled, but they also seemed pretty chill about it. Chong definitely seemed chill about it.
The venue was offering joint-rolling classes with their joint-rolling expert, a sweet-natured Hunter College student majoring in German language and literature. He was the one who taught me what that cross joint entails, and also the one who, when I mentioned my earlier conversation with Dickruler, scoffed in solidarity with me before adding that cross joints are functionally useless and only good for showing off.
The joint-rolling expert suggested that I show him how I roll a joint. He wanted to see my technique so that he could offer some tips for upping my game. It was what I'd been hoping for from Chong himself, but I was happy to take what I could get.
It turns out, according to the joint-rolling expert at least, that I roll a pretty good joint. Mine tend to hang to one side or another, though; he suggested I go back to using a filter to help correct the listing. I agreed to try it.
I asked about papers: What size and style are best for beginners? The bigger the better, he told me. Go with king-sized papers, they're more forgiving. How about grinders—should you use one? Yes, absolutely.
So there were two more things I learned, but from the wrong guy.
I did learn two things from Chong, though, which, more accurately, are things I learned about him. The first is that he whittles his own jewelry that converts into a weed-smoking apparatus. Neat, right? I've never met a whittler I didn't love.
The second is that he has some sort of kit that allows him to turn plastic water-bottles into a single-use disposable bong, and that he prefers to smoke from that because he likes the way the clean water makes a hit taste. He doesn't care for vaporizers because he likes to taste the weed, and also "likes the fire."
He's a heckuva nice guy, Tommy Chong. But I cannot in good conscience recommend the Chong Roller. Rolling machines are a waste of money and plastic, and anyway, there's no pride to be had in a joint rolled by a machine.
Then again, I can't even roll a cross joint. What do I know?
Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume); more of her cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.
Image by Sam Woolley.
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