S.M. Park

Risen Apes: Personal History

S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Personal History,” Park applies for a job and has an interview, his first in thirty-five years.


I applied for a job for the first time in thirty-five years last month. I hadn’t been looking for work; I had fifty full-time jobs before I was forty years old and grew marijuana for a living after that because jail—even death—was preferable to another one.

But now the criminal proceeds are running out and I just had a battery of medical tests that suggest (like my telomeres) that I’m going to be around for a long time, so if I don’t find a new income stream it’s a Bekins box for my ass.


I hadn’t been looking for work; I had fifty full-time jobs before I was forty years old and grew marijuana for a living after that because jail—even death—was preferable to another one.


Or, alternatively, I could stop visiting pot stores. I’d been a regular since it opened at Greens, the Indian pot palace in nearby Blin, Washington. So frequent a customer, in fact, that I realized a dream I never knew I had, to walk into a place where (just like in Cheers) everybody knows your name.

So I’d take one step into Greens and the clerks would stop whatever they were doing and call out:

“Hey, Mr. High!”

“How ya’ doin’, Mr. High?”

“What’s happening, Mr. High?”

This was heady stuff for a grower who’d been underground for decades.

Then they stopped carrying the edibles I liked and I never went back. Found a recreational store in Port Townsend that did and I’ve been going there since.

So I dropped by a few weeks ago, picked up six boxes of Purple Trainwreck Chocolates (along with some Gorilla Girl and Malibu Marge eighths), and when I get to the cash register there’s a Bud Tender Needed, Applications Available sign. And I thought Shee-it, I could do that. Hell! it’s probably the only thing I can do!

So I took an application home with the chocolates, ate a couple as I typed up a Work History Addendum to the application. How I’d eaten and smoked pot for fifty-five years, thirty of which I’d devoted to growing it outdoors, indoors and greenhouses, while cultivating over five hundred different varieties in the process (many of them hybrids I created myself).

As for the only recent job I listed, my twenty years as a security guard for a Portland warehouse … well, I admitted, that was just a scam, a way to keep me on the IRS and Social Security roles while growing for the black market. (The warehouse was owned by a buddy of mine and not only didn’t I guard it at night … I hardly knew where it was.)

But this is the pot industry I’m applying to, right? If I don’t get credit for being ground floor in the Drug War, what’s the point?

But then I screwed up. (Well, screwed up further, anyway.) To further elucidate my cannabis knowledge—or maybe because, after being high for a half century I don’t know what I’m doing, anyway—I mentioned that I’d had a couple memoirs published and I was giving them the second one, The Grass Is Greener, as reference.

I wrote recently about describing myself as a “psychedelic wino” on my application to Evergreen State … and that was a better idea than this one. I’d returned the application to the store (inside a signed edition of Greener) and was driving home when I suddenly thought Jesus! What did I just do? What’s actually in the first part of that book?

I’d written it years before and it’s not like you re-read your own memoirs (now that’d be narcissism), so when I got home I flipped through the first fifty pages.

The farther I read the worse it got: not only did it depict me as a drug-soaked alkie factotum (which was a given, of course, but I hoped my successful criminal career would offset that), it detailed me robbing an old blind woman when I worked in an Olympia furniture store and the two maxims I apply to all employment, namely There’s no such thing as a good job and The customer is always wrong.

I was mortified. Even if Karen, the store manager, was the forgiving type and could somehow get past all that (or hadn’t read the book at all), what had it really told her? Well, that she’d be in the next one, and given how I treated my former bosses in print … it wouldn’t be pretty!

Hell, I’m writing about her now.

Do you remember the last time you truly cringed? Did something so stupid that you literally couldn’t stand yourself? Not only did I never expect to hear from Karen again, I couldn’t imagine going back in that store.

Now where would I get my edibles?

So imagine my surprise when—a couple days later—she called to set up an interview. I was immediately suspicious. Was this a ruse? Would there be mental health professionals waiting? Should I keep the car engine running?

When we finally sat down together the first thing she asked me was: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your knowledge of cannabis?”

Huh? Not only had I given her my thirty-year growing history, but the book I wrote on pot. With me on the cover, sporting a marijuana leaf beard.

“Uhhhhh … eleven?” I said.

And that’s the last thing she asked me about cannabis. I thought my knowledge of the plant would give me an advantage but I’d forgotten where we were, how in Port Townsend—where the customers are old duffers more interested in sleep than highs—it’s superfluous. The rest of the questions concerned things like my experience in retail sales.


Also on The Big Smoke


And this is where applying for a job at seventy-four gets tricky.

“Well,” I said, “I sold sporting goods in a department store once. Had to deal with people all day long.”

“Really? And when was that?”

“Ehhh … fifty-six years ago?”

Her parents hadn’t even met yet. But all this (like much of modern life) was simply a pretext for what really mattered, namely: how good was I at cleaning things, how spiffy could I get the store?

I quickly changed the subject. “Say,” I said, “have you heard of the new pot disease?”

“Huh?” said Karen.

“Yeah. It’s called SCROMITING. Some stoners become so sensitive to marijuana that—every time they smoke or eat it—they start screaming and vomiting.”

Now, wouldn’t it be helpful for your bud tender to know stuff like that, in case a customer has an episode in your store:

“Stand back and cover your ears, people … it’s just a scromiter.”

Apparently not: Karen wasn’t amused, so I wouldn’t be buffing her display cases anytime soon. I didn’t get the job, of course, wondered afterwards why she’d even bothered to interview me, then realized I was the last person she wanted to offend.

Not only was I her best customer … it’s why I was looking for a job in the first place.


S.M. Park is the author and illustrator of his memoirs High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.


S.M. Park

S.M. Park lives two blocks from the Salish Sea in Port Townsend, Washington. His passions include walking, wondering and weed. Park, in his guise as Wilson High, has written and illustrated two memoirs, High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.

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