28 September 2010

Morning. I woke up at 5:30, but the door to the house is locked, and so I’m frozen out of 1) coffee, and 2) taking my morning shit. Oh well. All’s not lost. It gives me time to smoke half a joint, masturbate, and write a little bit. Not necessarily in that order.

Talked to Caleb yesterday. Caleb: early 40’s, I’d guess, the build of a former juicer, even though I doubt he ever juiced. Grizzled and solid looking, is my point. Caleb is a drug runner. He moves ten-packs of fine marijuana across the country, sells them on the East Coast at inflated prices, and drives back to do it all again. We met in the afternoon. The dogs went wild and Briscoe tried to chew Caleb’s face off before being reminded that Caleb was Caleb, and that he apparently knew him. The dogs are like that, at least Briscoe and Maya: attack first, ask questions later. It’s an issue. Matt’s not happy about it. Diamond’s suggested that they opt to chop Briscoe’s balls off, that a lack of balls might invite a calmer dog. Matt’s on the fence about it.

Matt, Diamond, and I spent the day down at the river with Tyler, their baby boy. Tyler is an adorable and happy baby. Tyler spends much of his time laughing and touching things and walking around in a way that suggests some combination of bravery and recklessness. He’s a year-and-a-half, which means that when he falls down he by now sometimes forgets to cry. I’m enamored by him. He points to the beer bottles Matt and I tote and goes, “Uhhya?” and I say, “No, Ty, big boy drink, big boy drink. Twenty more years, Ty. And I know that seems like a long time, but baby it isn’t.”

As for the property—the setting, the where-I’m-coming-from—some kind of Eden. There are four houses, at least two full-fledged mini-grow-operations, a guest house with its own covered porch and hand-made croquet set and faux fireplace. Oh, and windows everywhere, in this guest house; so it’s the nicest type of guest house, really. The only thing it’s missing is a woman.


Matt and I are at Dickinson’s, or walking along the coastline as the waves crash into the shore frothy and white. Matt and I are talking about my story:

“Oh, no, I’m not worried about offending anybody,” I explain. I see on Matt’s face the first tinge of worry he’s shown so far. “My main concern is to not burn anybody. Like, I don’t want to put anyone in the line of fire.”


“I mean, it’s a very real possibility that I’ll offend somebody, and even though that’s not my goal, if it happens, it happens. My main obligation is to the truth, and to protecting—in whatever way I can—the people who show it to me.”

I’m not quite sure what Matt expected when he invited me out here, told me to stay in the Quail Shed, pretty much opened the door wide open for me to come in, sit down, take notes, and write about everything I saw. I’m not sure if he expected to be lionized or demonized, if he expected to be included in the story at all, to what extent he figured he’d figure into the whole thing. I’d like him to be my protagonist, my tragic hero, my portrait of the marijuana wholesaler as a young man. But I’d also like to keep him as a friend.

“It’s a balancing act,” I go on. Matt interrupts.

“But I don’t expect you to write something like Humboldt County”—pause here, for clarification: Humboldt County is a fictionalized account in cinematic form of the primary business and and the associated goings-on of said business in the county to our north. It is, apparently (having not seen it), sensationalistic in a way not unlike Showtime’s hit series, Weeds, which is to say that it makes much ado about nothing, really. “You can if you want, but—”

“No, no, no,” I insist. “That’s not the point at all. The point is to capture the mundane in it. You’re growing a plant. You’re only breaking the law incidentally.”

Matt nods in understanding. I take another sip from my IPA. I wonder if he’s worried.


Ultimately, of course, marijuana cultivation is mundane. It is growing a plant. For Matt, and for others like him who’ve moved beyond the unpredictable nature of the weather and moved their operations indoors, it’s not even as trying as farming. It’s simply following a strict regimen of artificial climate creation. Plant needs less light? Give it less light. More carbon dioxide? Give it more carbon dioxide. Et cetra. Unlike my first foray into California’s biggest black market economy, this time we’re into the future. Instead of sleeping in a trailer on a hill, digging holes to shit into, heating myself by sitting next to a fire, not showering for weeks at a time—instead of all that, ladies and gentlemen, the twenty-first century.

But even outdoors, even that night three autumn’s ago when the rains came in the middle of the night and Matt and Zach had to rush out to chop everything down so that it wouldn’t succumb to mold, this is still simply a matter of water, sunlight, photosynthesis, and flowers. This is growing daisies, roses, beets, carrots, lettuce, corn, dandelions. This is helping the plant do what the plant wants to do, what it would do anyway were it left to its own devices, were it not Strictly Regulated and Illegal To Grow And Possess.

It’s not rocket science, in other words, and it’s not really exciting. Being around a large marijuana grow in Mendocino County retains its air of deviousness and derring-do for about two hours, after which time (at least if you’re being honest with yourself) you realize that you’re not really doing anything that humans from time immemorial haven’t been doing. Oh, sure, it’s a different type of agriculture because of its inherent illegality; but when you’re in Northern California, and when you’re in the Emerald Triangle in particular, it doesn’t feel illegal. Everyone’s doing it. Nobody cares that everyone’s doing it. It’s pretty much par for the course.


Among other nice things: the stars. The stars here shine with the luminosity of what can only be described by language too pious for my blood. The stars here shine with a sort of intensity native to middle-of-nowhere coastal California towns—finally free of the fog, they absolutely glow. It seems like millions of years ago, when what we see of the Milky Way was actually producing the light we’re only now receiving—it seems like back then there was a plan in place, and the plan was for the Milky Way to shine especially bright when, in the middle of nowhere, Northern California, the clouds broke for the annual Indian Summer. So that the various beasts of Planet Earth could partake of the galaxy, if only from a beach chair.


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