S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Hitchin’ a Ride,” Park writes about seeking out his favorite edibles and picking up hitchhikers.
I’ve smoked pot every day for fifty-five years (well, aside from a short recess in the Seventies), and have eaten it regularly since 1985. My tolerance has receded along the way (much less my lung capacity), so the ten milligram edibles offered in stores suit me fine now. My favorite is a truffle offered by the Wave company and I drove across town yesterday to buy some.
It was January and we weren’t hiding behind masks yet, so when I entered the store the female bud tender greeted me with a wide, stony grin.
Check out the beaming mug and glassy eyes on her, I thought. That’s the very look I tried to hide on jobs!
I headed straight for the edibles section. Though Wave offers a dozen products I was only interested in their Double Chocolate Truffles.
I was sorry to see they were sold out: it meant other stoners were catching on.
“So,” I said to the girl, “you don’t have any Double Chocolate Truffles in stock, do you?”
“Sorry,” she said, “they’re on back order. But there’s all these other Wave selections …”
“Nah, they use multiple varieties in those: the Truffles are made from an excellent Dutch Treat hybrid. The high is very clear and eyes up.”
She looked at me like, Really, asshole? but that was all right … as a pot connoisseur I’ve been getting that since the Eighties. I thanked her and headed back to my place. Had driven a few blocks before I remembered I’m an old man with nowhere to go. There was nothing to stop me from turning around, driving the ninety minutes to Sequim and back; there’s an Indian pot store near the highway there, and they carry the Wave brand, too.
So I headed out to 101 and hadn’t gone a mile when I spotted a hitchhiker beside the road. It had been twenty years since I picked one up. (That was in Portland, and she was a whore who blew me for bud.)
In the interim (and for much of the decade before that) I simply passed them by. It was easy to justify, given America’s lack of nuthouses, its mental health generally and the preponderance of pervs and killers on the road, but I felt guilty regardless. I hitched thousands of miles in the Sixties and Seventies myself and—as an unwashed, six-six, two hundred fifty-pound derelict in rags—was lucky I wasn’t run over.
Instead there was always some kind soul who stopped. Maybe it was the typer I carried, as it was usually my sole possession. (Well, except for the change of underwear and socks inside it.) I suppose if I were driving along, saw a guy with one of those at his feet, I’d figure there was a story there, too.
Whether I’d want to hear it is a different matter, of course. Still I felt a debt to those long-ago Samaritans and thought it was time to pay it down. I pulled over, cleared the magazines from the passenger seat as the hitcher jogged up to my car.
He was a hard-looking, average-sized guy (maybe thirty-five or so). He opened the door, slid into the seat, reached across the console.
“Antonio,” he said.
“Wilson,” I replied, shaking his hand. “Where you headed?”
“The Walmart in Sequim.”
The pot store was closer, but I could go there first, then drive him into Sequim.
“I have to make a stop outside of town,” I told him, “but I’ll get you as far as the second exit in Sequim, anyway.”
He thanked me and I offered him the Dragon’s Breath joint I was smoking. That greased the skids and before long he was topping every yarn of mine with one of his own.
Except all his involved people chasing him: cops, sheriffs, Child Protection Services, ex-wives, landlords, parole officers … it was a blizzard of persecution. He claimed to live in the woods in Quilcene (a “Quillbillie” as they’re known locally) with his seven-year-old daughter, Lucy.
“Do you work?” I asked him.
“No, Lucy does,” he replied. “I taught her to play guitar and sing, so we busk in Port Townsend on weekends. I’m telling ya, man, we suck those old timers’ dry: most days we make forty an hour easy.”
Just then we passed a billboard for Dave somebody, seeking re-election as County Commissioner. Antonio pointed to it:
“See that smiley ass clown?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think I voted for him.”
“You shouldn’t. He’s sicced his dogs on my daughter and me twice now.”
Even the Commissioners were after Antonio. This was a genuine character, whether he was making it up on the fly or not. (Maybe more so if he was.)
Is this what people think of me? I wondered. That I must be bullshitting them because it’s unthinkable if I’m not?
Then the pot store loomed and I pulled off the highway, drove into the lot and parked.
“I’ve gotta run inside and pick up some edibles, Antonio,” I said. “Wanna come with me?”
“I better not,” he replied. “I was here for the Grand Opening and helped myself to the free samples.”
“Well, turns out they weren’t free or samples, based on the way they chased me.”
I burst out laughing, adding Indians to the posse. I hesitated to leave him alone in my car, then remembered the joint was the only valuable thing in there.
The store had the Truffles I was looking for and I bought six boxes so I wouldn’t run out. Saw Antonio had finished the Dragon’s Breath as I returned to the car. I tossed him one of the boxes and drove another ten minutes to the Sequim Avenue exit. Pulled off and went as far as traffic allowed.
“Okay, Antonio,” I told him. “Better jump out here.”
He shook my hand, opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk.
“Much thanks, Wilson,” he said, leaning in, “both for the dope and the ride. You did me a real solid.”
“My pleasure,” I said. “I haven’t laughed like that in ages.”
“Here’s to life on the edge, dawg!”
We bumped fists as a siren whooped across the street. I glanced over, saw a police car skid to a halt. The doors swung open and out jumped two officers.
“HEY, DEMARCO!” yelled the driver. “WE’VE BEEN LOOKING ALL OVER FOR YOU!”
Antonio flinched, then spun around and ran through a real estate parking lot, the cop and his partner in close pursuit.
Oh yeah, I thought, I’ll be pickin’ up hitchers again.
Then COVID-19 came along. I still pick ’em up, I just don’t share a joint.