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Risen Apes: Odor Eater

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Risen Apes: Odor Eater

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S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Odor Eater,” Park talks about brushes with the law while illegally growing pot for 30 years in his basement.

I wrote in my last column (“Typecast”) about unearthing a box of Amsterdam souvenirs. As I worked through it further I discovered the 1989 Seed Bank Catalogue, perhaps my most cherished, thumbed-through periodical: not only did it introduce exciting new varieties like Garlic Bud, but it featured full-color photos of its offerings.

Prior to that everything had been mimeographed on newsprint; that ’89 edition became my grower’s Playboy, in effect, with a shot of the Haze X Northern Lights #5 as my pinup. I confess to staring at it for hours on end; the idea of growing Haze indoors (a famous Emerald Triangle sativa) intrigued me nearly as much as the Warning that accompanied it:

Adverse effects have been known to occur among
inexperienced smokers, particularly when combined
with alcohol. Side effects may include nausea,
dizziness, fainting and loss of bowel and bladder
control. Extreme introspective behavior is considered

Who could resist a come-on like that? If just half of it were true I’d found my dream drug.

Alas, when the seeds finally came and I grew them out the results were good but not great … I got way more mileage from the Garlic Bud females. I crossed the best of them with a male Thirteenth Floor and created the genetic basis for dozens of future hybrids, nearly all of which featured that dank garlic bouquet.

Customers loved it. When, a year later, I bred a Seed Bank Four Way with a Super Silver Haze, producing an orange-haired stepchild (Kryptonite) that smelled like cat piss, I had the stinkiest ounces in town.

Also the most malodorous front room, as it was directly above the basement grow. Rarely did anyone visit without remarking on it, as they swore they could smell the skunk from the sidewalk.

The mailman noticed quickly enough (I had to bribe him with sixty-dollar bottles of Glenlivet scotch at Christmas), and the fact the neighbors or narcs never caught on still baffles me.

There were several instances, in fact (each at the height of the flowering cycle, when the odor was strongest), when I stood at my door chatting with cops. These all occurred in the early Nineties, when the Indoor Marijuana Task Force was busting up to seven hundred grows a year. All they needed for a warrant was your electrical usage (which they still had access to at the time) and one other tell, usually the odor of cannabis emanating from the house.

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To substantiate the latter they did what were called “Knock-and-Talks” at your front door. If you answered and they smelled something suspicious (or even just claimed they did) they’d come back later to bust you, after which your house would be forfeited and (depending on the size of your crop) you’d be looking at two to five years in jail.

It was certainly scary but that’s why I was paid the big bucks to do it (otherwise half of Oregon would be growing like they are now). It was rarely on my mind during the day but caught up with me at night, when I’d often wake panicked by the safety precautions I hadn’t taken.

I’d vow to initiate them immediately, then morning would come and I’d think, Ahhhh fuck it. I rationalized this laziness in all kinds of ways (i.e. if you act like you’ve nothing to hide people will think you don’t, attitude trumps paranoia, I could barely remember I was a grower myself, etc.), but in truth I was more interested in the drawing, writing and reading time cultivation provided than protecting myself from it.

It seems foolhardy in retrospect but that’s true of most of my life and I’ve been so lucky for so long that I pretty much take it for granted. (I might be a fat Mormon pedophile next time around, but for now I’m betting on the come.)

So in the winter of ’92 I’m sitting in my front room in a corner of the couch (the same place I sat most every day for a quarter century), staring into space after a morning spent harvesting plants. There’s a dozen of them hanging on strings in the basement (doubling the skunk reek upstairs), and I’m absently rubbing the resin on my thumb and forefingers when there’s a knock at the door.

That’s not good, I thought, not when friends and customers knew better than to drop by without warning. I leaned back on the couch, peeked through the curtains and had to suppress a gasp: there on the porch were a uniformed officer and a young woman.

I’d read about this in The Boregonian just days before, how the latest Knock-and-Talk ploy was a cop showing up with a plainclothes policewoman and pretending they were searching for a dog.

And now it was my turn? I could have ignored them, pretended I wasn’t home, but I’m not much for postponing the inevitable. (They’d likely smelled the crop by then anyway, as the porch was directly above it, too.)

Which meant they’d only return later (in force or otherwise), so I might as well get it over with it. (It mirrored my highway approach, where I pull over instantly in radar traps: they’ve got you dead to rights, so why waste time and energy on evasion?)

Now … would I have preferred not being covered in resin, or feeling so spacey from the harvest? Absolutely. (THC needs to be heated for psychotropic effects but you couldn’t prove it by me, as nothing made me woozier than manicuring damp bud).

But Audacity Always! as my buddy Ned Gumbo likes to say so I fired up a Camel, walked to the door and yanked it open. The officer looked like he was fresh out of the Academy and the petite, blonde woman beside him wasn’t much older.

Slick, I thought. Even with the uniform they don’t look like cops.

“Hello, sir,” he said. “I’m Officer Bryan and this is one of your neighbors, Mrs. Tanner.”

Uh huh. I’d been walking five to ten miles a day in those neighborhoods for years and I’d never seen her.

When I didn’t offer my own name he continued, “Well, we’re out here looking for Trudy, Mrs. Tanner’s lost …”

“Black lab,” I offered.

They seemed taken aback.

“How do you know that?” she gasped.

“C’mon,” I said. “Half the dogs in Portland are black labs … it was a fifty-fifty shot.”

By then I’d been standing in that open doorway for nearly a minute and I glanced over, realized that as bad as the odor was otherwise there was a heat vent there and it was belching out a steamy Garlic cloud.

By then I’d been standing in that open doorway for nearly a minute and I glanced over, realized that as bad as the odor was otherwise there was a heat vent there and it was belching out a steamy Garlic cloud.

I knew I was fucked. Looked at Officer Bryan’s mug and was sure his nostrils flared.

But the two of them kept up the charade, even describing Trudy in detail (as if anything but her collar color would distinguish her from her brethren, or that a police officer would be canvassing neighborhoods for a pooch), and I had to admit they were a pretty slick act.

If I hadn’t read that article I might have been fooled myself. They’d even printed up Trudy fliers, and “Mrs. Tanner” handed me one as they left. I closed the door, sat down, fired up a fatty, figured the rest of the gendarmes would arrive soon. I couldn’t relocate the plants in the time remaining (besides the forty mature girls there were another sixty in the vegetative stage) even if I had anywhere to stash them. The only positive, in fact, was how I was usually broke before harvest so there was no cash around.

As for the house? Well, the cops would take that. (Hopefully they’d leave my old truck behind, figure it wasn’t worth the trouble.)

So I finished the joint, tried to prepare for what lay ahead. Told myself things like: “You think you’re a Fatalist? Now’s the chance to prove it!”; or “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” (from Baretta, that Robert Blake television series); or even my old fallback, how prison would be a breeze if I could spend it in solitary confinement.

But to my amazement that day and the next passed without incident. Then I was out on my afternoon walk and there, standing in a yard directly across from me, was Mrs. Tanner.

She had a slavering black lab beside her, waiting for someone, anyone, to throw her a ball.

Customers paid me three hundred an ounce for my pot but those moments? They’re what made growing worth it.


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.


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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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