Hotel by Tom III: Northern California (Or, Excerpts from a Journal Never Published), 2010

It might be a dispositional quirk, but for me driving as a passenger down a road called The Gauntlet doesn’t, for the most part, faze me. When I say that I don’t feel better about anything with five pounds of marijuana in the trunk, I don’t mean that I start freaking out — I simply mean that I don’t feel any better about a thing I’m pretty blase about otherwise. I tell myself that calling myself a journalist will save me, despite the fact that I have no journalistic endeavor paying me for my efforts — despite my lack of credentials — …. . But in reality, I know that that ploy must have been tried before, that it probably wouldn’t work. Everyone’s a journalist and nobody’s a journalist. Look at this: it’s a journal —

Much more to the point: to feel blase about driving five pounds of marijuana through The Gauntlet involves deploying your suspension of disbelief. You mustn’t believe that you’ll get pulled over, that you’ll be in trouble if you do get pulled over, or that such a possibility is even within the realm of narrative coherence.

You must cross your fingers, silently pray, and have faith in forces you don’t believe in. You should also try not to act sketchy.


“See that helicopter?” Nat says. But of course I see the helicopter. I may be mostly looking at the landscape and pretending there’s no weed in the car, but it’s hard to miss a fucking helicopter here, Nat.

“Yeah, I see it.”

“That’s CAMP, dude.” CAMP is the Campaign Against Marijuana Proliferation or Production or Peaceable Right To Assemble, or some such. I forget what the P stands for. “They’re pulling down someone’s grow.” He points at them, at the helicopter, and I glance over. They see me and a moment of terror passes as I realize that we’ve been outed with five pounds of marijuana in the car and also that we haven’t. Of course we haven’t. We’re pointing at a helicopter landing next to the highway with marijuana plants sticking out of it. Anyone would point at that.


Another day in Mendocino and another day of plumbing. I wish I felt more like writing.


Charlie left yesterday. My iPod provoked the incident that resulted in his departure. Charlie started giving me shit in the morning about having a password on my iPod, and I walked outside to smoke, said, “Fuck you, Charlie.” Only to see Lauren come outside crying moments later. I asked her what was wrong. “Nothing,” she said. “It’s fine.”

It wasn’t fine. She (the nicest person in the world) and Charlie butted heads for a minute before she told him, basically, to get the fuck out if he wasn’t going to be nice, which isn’t in his nature, and which I really appreciated him for.

He was gone within an hour.


I’m situated in the Northern California hills, seven miles to the Pacific Ocean as the crow flies, or so Lauren says — or rather, so her former landlord says, according to Lauren. The fog says they might be right: early morning the hills are flush with it, bobbing in and out of peaks and valleys and redwoods until midday, when the sun is out in force and it coaxes the water back up into the atmosphere. It’s all very pretty, is what I’m saying. And I go to sleep to a symphony of crickets and the starscape from Starry Night, minus the village.

More specifically I’m at the bottom of a hill, next to a pond strangled by weeds and blue-green algae. There are six tents in total, under and abutting a tiny grove of juvenile redwoods. Beside the tents are an empty greenhouse, an empty trailer, and two storage tents with various odds and ends required to run a successful marijuana grow operation. Up the hill, past the gardens and the outhouse, is the workshop and the dry room.


My cell phone has been dead for three days, but I don’t care. I only got the spottiest reception anyway, and everyone who’s important to me knows that I’m in mountain lion country. (I spent half an hour last night trying not to breathe, so convinced was I that a cougar was prowling outside; it turns out it was Miranda — girl needs to get a headlamp and stop sounding so much like a large cat.)

This morning, rain. It arrived last night, actually, but I didn’t believe it. Now I do. Now I hope the rain flap holds.


Sharing my tent with me are a fly and a daddy-long-legs. I was going to swat them or otherwise get them to leave my general habitat, but I decided that we could share.

I haven’t taken a shower in over ten days.

I’m going to die on this mountain.


Josh says “fuck” too much. Uncle John is one of my favorite people of all time. Goat calls me his nigga. Eric plays with some shit he calls “nectar.” Dina is going to celebrate her birthday today if she ever wakes up. Goose has been mastering impressions of all the trimmers for the past two months. Shaggy is being Shaggy. Trish had that seizure I told you about.

Jess had her baby — Lillianna. Lauren isn’t nice, just fake. I miss my friends. And I need to shave.


It’s Thanksgiving Day in America and I’m still stuck on this mountainside. Today Goose will deep-fry a turkey and we’ll all try to finish up what remains of the weed to be trimmed. Or, let me put it this way: this movie is about to be over, the credits are about to roll — though I doubt that anyone here deserves any credit for anything.

But it’s Thanksgiving Day in America and I’m still stuck on this mountainside. I’ll tell you what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful that I’m still alive. I’m thankful for the the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever had as a Thanksgiving backdrop. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made — for Shaggy and Goose and Uncle John and Goose again and Josh, Kimmy, Goat. I’m thankful for the fact that this shitshow is almost over. Now if I could just figure out where my home should be.

Look. Listen. I didn’t plan any of this. I’m tired. I’ve had two slugs of whiskey and I’m working on a beer. Duma escaped from Jess’s spot and is running around the property looking for people who are awake so they can pet her. I’m sitting on a lawn chair in the sun with my winter coat on, sunshine melting the ice that formed last night. My hand is horrendously bandaged from a fall I took two nights ago, stumbling high on mushrooms down the hill to get to my tent so that I could sleep everything off. Look, listen: Sometimes I wonder why we don’t all spend a whole lot more time crying. Sometimes I wonder why we’re pretending to understand what we can’t possibly understand. Sometimes I wonder things like that and then I forget them, because they’re far too depressing to think about most of the time.

And so it’s Thanksgiving Day in America, and I’m stuck on a mountainside until this shitshow is over. I leave with whoever will take me the furthest south. I am lonely and permanently heartbroken. I dread what will become of us all. I really, really do.

Happy fucking holidays.

Rating: 5/5


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