Dan and I are grabbing a night cap at the local watering hole. It’s crowded. Why is it crowded on a Tuesday night? Because school’s back in session and all the college kids are flush and still into going out and getting a little something-something on weekday nights, that’s why. But that’s baloney. It implies that later in the semester they’ll be studying, which they won’t. They’ll be at the bar then, too. They were just gone during the summer, yachting and interning and networking, or whatever the shit rich white kids do during the summertime.
But I’m being judgmental.
Butch is there, too. Butch and Donny. They’re drinking $1 PBR’s and eating $o.20 wings. Butch I know because he was a friend of mine’s dad–or is still and remains a dad, but the friend and I aren’t friends anymore. Whatever. Butch is Butch, and Butch is a guy who I haven’t seen in years, and Butch got arrested for drug trafficking and spent a few years in the slammer. And Butch once, famously, said, “You guys drank all my vodka on a Sunday? It’s Sunday!” and this was funny because we were 17, drunk on Butch’s vodka, and the state of Massachusetts at that time remained in the thrall of puritanical blue laws that prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sundays. So Butch would have to drive to New Hampshire (“Live Free Or Die!”) to get more vodka, which, come to think of it, I don’t remember if he did.
Butch and I give one another a hug. The How Are Yous ensue. And Butch says, “What’s your deal, what are you up to?” and I say, Oh, I’m going to California to write about Prop 19 and trim marijuana plants and hopefully have something published, and Dan is holding back laughter and Donny is covering his ears as I say this. Donny is a drug cop, Donny’s got a K-9 unit, Donny’s probably not the guy you want to be blabbing to about your plan to fly to California to engage in questionably legal activities. But I don’t know any of this yet.
I notice the big awkward. Dan says, “Donny’s a drug cop.”
Butch says, “Probably not the guy you want to be talking to about this.”
Donny takes it in stride. He pretends to have a microphone: “Here! Talk right into this,” he says pulling at the collar of his shirt. He’s drunk and he couldn’t care less about me trimming weed in California. We’re in Massachusetts.
“I’ll be out of your jurisdiction anyway, right?”
California, you enormous goddamn Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m coming to get you.
Several years ago I bumped into an old friend of mine in Portland, Oregon, and then several months after that he knocked on the door of my house while I was taking a nap, woke me up, and offered me a job that fundamentally altered the course of my life. The job was this: trimming marijuana. The pay was this: $200/pound. The fundamental altering of my life is my business, not yours.
A friend and I drove down to Mendocino county one late September day in 2007. It was raining, hard. Everything was a clusterfuck. Route 199–Grant’s Pass, Oregon to Crescent City, California–was mobbed with rock slides. I seriously thought, winding our way through a ravine in obscene weather, that we were going to die. I think I was driving. I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter. It was brake lights and hairpin turns and windshield wipers and sheer prayer, is my point.
We made it to Mendocino, ultimately. We worked on a marijuana farm, truthfully.
We called it “Weed Camp.”
And I’m going back to Weed Camp. Going back to Cali. (Cali).
At the end of the night, Dan and I decide that we should say a final adios to Butch and Donny. That’s what we do, but somehow Donny and I get to talking about me going to California, and the new decriminalized marijuana policy in Massachusetts, and him being a narc, and so on.
“It’s probably going to be legal one day,” I say. “If California, which has, like 30 million people, legalizes weed??!–that’s going to be a tough precedent for the federal government to overrule.” I am drunk. Hence the lack of intellectual rigor in the argument I deploy.
“It might one day be legal,” Donny concedes, “and that’s why I don’t think of pot and stuff like cocaine and heroin as being in the same category.” Donny is drunk, too.
“So if you pull over some kid with a dime-bag, or something–“
“Yeah, a dime-bag or a thirty-bag or whatever.”
“You don’t arrest them for it, right? I mean, personal consumption is understandable?” We’re both drunk.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll take the bag, ticket them, and tell them to split,” Donny says. “But not everybody is like that. Not every cop, anyway.”
I shake his hand when we finally leave, half-hour after we’d intended to. A karmic gesture, the handshake. A plea: That I may be at relative rest trimming fine marijuana in the redwoods. That the weather may be good, the helicopters few, the rainstorms scant and shortlived (the rain flap true). That the scene is still the scene, in short. That shit doesn’t go awry. That I find my story. Or my whatever it is I’m looking for.