S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Assisted Living,” Park talks about the characters he’s encountered while dealing marijuana.
After twenty-five years growing pot indoors I definitely don’t miss it. By the end of that quarter century, in fact, I loathed every aspect of the cultivation process: I’d raised a hundred and fifty crops and, because there were no breaks in between, they all rolled into one. I took the occasional time off, of course, but even those trips were usually business related (i.e. Amsterdam and Vancouver, BC) and resulted in lost production back home.
Because I had to leave my buddy Doug Ramone in charge and he was a notorious fuckup. I didn’t hold that against him (I’m sure friends characterize me that way), and I certainly wasn’t paying him much. I needed someone who was trustworthy, unemployed and homeless, and Doug fit the bill perfectly.
He was also a very enigmatic fellow. I’d known him since high school, for instance, and had never seen him eat; as best I could tell he lived on books and pot.
And where he lived was anybody’s guess. I’d spotted him twice in Boregonian library photos, a hunched, shaggy presence far in the background. I knew he’d built a five by five box beneath his ex-wife’s garage years before (a half-hearted attempt at a grow room), and I suspect that’s where he slept at night.
So yeah, my place looked pretty good to him, as it had a futon and a couch. He could lay on either and watch the cable TV, and I always had the impression, when I finally returned home, that that’s pretty much all he’d done in my absence.
This was confirmed by our last phone conversation, right before I left Portland for good:
“Say, Wilson,” he said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you: have you ever smelled urine in your living room?”
I was taken aback. “You mean a sewer problem?” I asked.
“No, no,” he said, “it was me. I lie on the futon when you’re gone, and it’s too much trouble to walk to the bathroom (it was ten feet away), so I keep a milk jug on the floor to piss in. There was usually an ashtray next to it, and sometimes, when I reached for a joint, I’d knock over the jug, spilling pee on the carpet.”
“Well, okay, most of the time. I always meant to clean it up but well, you know, the crop smell masked it …”
And that right there is what I do miss about growing, the characters associated with it. This ran the gamut from narcs and fellow cultivators to customers, mostly the latter. My buddy Dolph from Utah, for instance. I don’t remember who introduced us, but he and his wife bought a half pound every two months for as long as I grew. This meant shipping their stuff UPS (he’d send me a check for two thousand first) and it went smoothly for eighteen years. Then some worker in a transfer facility connected my handwriting to the two-month cycle and stole the pot, sending the package ahead empty.
It was the perfect crime. I couldn’t complain to UPS, as I’d shipped illegal goods, and neither could Dolph, as he was on the receiving end. I liked to imagine some “Jack Mormon” puffing that primo pot with his buddies (“Look, guys! It even has labels on it!”) and laughing his ass off.
Dolph, on the other hand, was not amused. It wasn’t the money so much (he had plenty, and when I shipped weed the addressee assumed the risk), but the fact he and his wife went through an ounce a week. (They smoked cigarettes, too, even as Dolph ran marathons … I assume he came in last.) I told them we should simply end our association but no, they wanted to try again. So a couple months later I changed my phony return info, had a girlfriend fill out the label and sent it off.
It arrived empty again, as the thief recognized their Ogden address by then. (But how was it, with the thousands of packages that went through that facility every day, that he could locate mine? Much less empty it, hide the half pound and re-tape the box with all those cameras around? He must have been a Supervisor, but I’ll never know.) Anyway, I didn’t trust FedEx and the U.S. Mail was dicey, so once more I suggested an end to the partnership.
“I love you guys, and you’ve paid me a lot of money over the years,” I told Dolph, “but there’ll be no more UPS shipments.”
“Okay,” he sighed, “let me know when the next crop’s ready and I’ll drive out there.”
“Yeah. This is Mormon country, Wilson, so there’s no pot here. Plus it wouldn’t get me high, anyway … not after that toxic shit of yours.”
So (except for those rare occasions when I was headed east myself) that’s what he did every two months for the next seven years.
Now that’s a customer.
Another favorite was Larry. He was a friend of a friend originally and, like Dolph, was with me from the beginning. He bought a couple ounces each cycle and seemed like a regular (if vaguely perverse) guy for the first decade I knew him. Then one day he showed up wearing fingernail polish, and arrived in a dress, high heels and a wig the next time.
I try not to comment to friends on their appearance (except in a positive manner). I trace this to my mother, who preyed on the self-consciousness of others, particularly her sons: “What’s that on your face?” “Oooooh! There’s hairs poking from your ears.” “You have gook on your eyelids.” “Wow! Are your pimples getting worse?”
Usually with a finger jab thrown in, and every time she did it I died a small death. So that afternoon Larry gave me six hundred bucks (from his purse) for a couple ounces, then we sat around and smoked my latest creation. (I always grew at least one hybrid of my own.)
He’d been there a half hour when he suddenly leaned forward.
“Damn it, High!” he exclaimed. “Aren’t you going to ask me why I’m dressed like this?”
“Well, now that you mention it …”
“You know about Zeno, right? That Asian dominatrix I’ve been seeing? And I told you she’s married and lives in Beverly Hills?”
“Well, she wants to fuck me in their house while her husband’s around, so I’m gonna fly down and pose as her Portland girlfriend.”
I looked down at the joint: maybe that new variety was better than I thought.
“But, Larry,” I said finally, “you’ve got a full beard and mustache.”
“Oh, I’ll bleach ’em!” he said.
There’s been much hype in the news lately about pot causing mental problems, but you board the train with those. Once Larry’s weirdness was out in the open, in fact, he’d fill our bi-monthly visits with “Tales of Zeno,” his eerily strange dream woman.
He said my pot improved their sex considerably. Then he dropped dead of a heart attack in 2010: they found him in his backyard, spread eagled in a thong and panties.
Too much Zeno, I suppose. She wore a black cape and studded collar to the memorial.
“I miss her already,” she told me.
Most people I sold to were professionals who, after a long day somewhere, just wanted to melt into the couch. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, plumbers, principals … it ran the gamut and sprang from the biggest lesson I’d learned growing greenhouse pot in California, i.e. try to sell to people with a decent income, otherwise your crop is too tempting to them.
To sweeten the deal I’d hand out free brownies with every purchase. I considered them the best part of growing: if given a choice between smoking and eating pot (particularly with my old lungs) I’d opt for the latter every time. Especially those brownies: I made them directly from bud, not shake. I also warned people to start with a half but they rarely listened, making their raves later even more surprising.
Most people I sold to were professionals who, after a long day somewhere, just wanted to melt into the couch. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, plumbers, principals … it ran the gamut.
Oh, there was the rigid, 50-year-old shrink from Zurich who housesat for a customer of mine in Portland. She scrounged the “Off Limits” part of the freezer one night (my friend even had a sign on it) and discovered her brownie cache. She wolfed one down, decided it was tasty so she ate two more.
They found her in the middle of the street at midnight, stark naked and running in circles.
The other incident also involved a house-sitter, the brother of a friend who dug out the back of his freezer (who does that to begin with?) and found two brownies. He quickly microwaved and ate them.
He called 911 a couple hours later. When the EMTs arrived he said he thought he’d gone crazy, but now suspected he’d eaten marijuana brownies by mistake.
“And what do you want us to do about it?” asked the guy in charge.
“Help me!” he gasped. “There must be an antidote!”
“Yeah, buddy,” he laughed. “It’s called ‘time’.” Then they left.
Kind of makes me miss Boregon, even as my oddball clients were usually out-of-staters (Californians in particular, of course). Manic Depressive Mark, for instance (“I’m not bipolar,” as he liked to say, “I’m old school”), who showed up as different personalities and once, during a particularly manic period, wore a navy fop hat and sword, declaring he was Emperor Norton.
Again, I kept my council: I was selling the guy drugs, after all. As I did to Sadie, who for ten years after her dog died lugged his ashes around in a Snoopy backpack.
And then there was Madame X, a rich bitch in Lake Oswego that a friend convinced me to help. When she called she made it clear I was never to know her name and I’d only deal with her assistant.
“Her name is Liza. Not Lisa, but Liza. Call ahead first and she’ll meet you at the gate. And I hope you aren’t offended by my reluctance to meet you, Wilson.”
“Oh, I understand,” I said. “I’m just a piece of shit drug dealer.”
I tacked on a hundred an ounce immediately.
Or how about the buddy’s son who’d changed his name legally to Zip Haywood. Guys like him were the source of my “only sell to the moneyed” maxim. He lived a few hours north in Seattle, so he’d stay in the spare room when he visited. I generally did a harried, impatient manicuring job on the plants (I had to process forty of them by myself), and after I’d packaged the product there were always small buds strewn about the bedroom (an ounce worth at least). Before Zip I’d made my brownies from them, but during his first overnighter he stole every gram.
Did I call him on it? Nah, I had plenty of weed around, that’s why I grew it. Plus the irony intrigued me: I liked Zip and would have given him the buds if he’d asked.
Instead we played this game where he acted like that’s what I’d done, anyway. (And maybe it was.) This went on for five years, until he finally passed me so many bad checks I cut him off.
And last but not least was Miss Lucy from Mississippi … very bright, very high-strung, a trusted customer who moved a lot of product for me. She’d also stepped straight from a Southern Gothic novel (the eccentric aunt nobody talks about) and was easily the most argumentative person I’ve ever met.
She knew all my buttons and delighted in pushing them: we had epic shouting matches (about absolutely nothing) over the decades. Our last was six years ago and I haven’t spoken to her since.
But long before that, whenever she came for her pot, she’d say the same thing: “A blog, High. You oughta write a blog. The length is perfect for you and it’s something you’d really enjoy.”
Like many things she said, this grated on me (which is, of course, why she kept doing them). I’m not big on advice: as a cartoonist I’ve been getting it all my life and—well-intentioned or otherwise—it goes in one ear and out the other.
At least until Miss Lucy came along. Leave it to her to finally get it right.