When Two Paths Meet

I was sittin’ around the clubhouse peacefully suckin’ down a brew when the phone rang. From the way the day had been goin’, I knew that somethin’ was wrong. It had been too good of a day. It was a real nice late summer afternoon and I was just gettin’ ready to hop on my scoot and take a leisurely cruise.

I picked up the phone and almost freaked. It was my peace-lovin’ hippie cousin whom I hadn’t heard from in about two years. He had moved into the country and dropped out of sight some time ago. The last time I saw him was at his wedding. He was layin’ some shit on me about peace and love bein’ the only hope for the world and I laughed in his friggin’ face and lifted my leather to show him my piece. I told him that was the only answer for me. That, my scoot and a stray piece of ass once in a while. He had frowned and said, “well, we all have our own paths to follow, man,” and then he walked away with his hippie lady on his arm. He took to the hills while I laid back in the city and I heard through the family grapevine that he had been doing real well growin’ some sweet smokin’ cash crops up there.

He sounded awful uptight on the phone and was rappin’ some shit at me so fast that the only thing I could get out of it was that he’d run into some trouble and could I get my ass up there to help him out. Even though he was some weirded out peace freak he was still family so I packed my scoot real quick and got in the wind. It was a fine day for puttin’ but my head was buzzin’ about what was goin’ down. I didn’t figure that it was any light shit ‘cause he’d never come callin’ on me for help before. I mean, we were both into the dope scene but our lifestyles were so friggin’ far apart that he could have been a chestnut hangin’ on the family oak tree, you know what I mean. I was into fuckin’, fighting and puttin’ and not necessarily in that order and he was always into meditation, peace and farming and he was always gettin’ arrested for things like blockin’ trucks that were bringing parts into nuke plants and the like. When I got slammed down it was always because I was havin’ too good a time or bustin’ some heads, so go figure.

After a few hours of jammin’ down the highway, I hit the back roads and really was crankin’, leanin’ into the curves like nobody’s business. Suddenly I dug that I was close to my cousin’s pad. I almost laid my scoot down, as I screamed into his dirt drive but I hung on and kept my shit together. Old cousin and his hippy lady’s digs were up that drive about a half mile and I can tell you it was a hell of a change from them city streets I was used to. I pulled up and shut down my machine and the friggin’ quiet almost knocked my eardrums for a loop.

And there he was. I couldn’t believe my not-so-baby-browns when he come out of that house totin’ a double barrel on his arm. His lady kind of hung back at the door and I could see the fear radiatin’ from her pretty orbs like they was double haunted moons. I didn’t know what the hell to make of the whole scene but I knew somethin’ strange was shakin’, that’s for goddamn sure. My cousin laid the tale on me right quick. That old hippie had a way of makin’ things crystal clear. Seems like he’d been tipped that some serious dudes down city way had caught wind of that sweet crop that was real close to harvest and they were comin’ up packin’ some heavy artillery and the word was out that they didn’t want to leave any witnesses. I looked at his pretty woman standin’ in the doorway and then this cute little rug-rat came out of nowhere and was hangin’ on to her so as to keep from fallin’ and I dug the whole scene and knew that they was needin’ my help for sure.

I could tell by the way ole’ cuz was cradlin’ that shotgun that he wasn’t too familiar with it. I asked him if he’d ever shot the friggin’ thing before. He said he never had much truck with guns and he’d only held one in his hands two other times. Said he’d never shot one before today. He had blown off a few rounds earlier today and was sore as hell from the kick-back. I looked into his eyes and they had a fierce look that I never seen in ‘em before. I didn’t bother to ask why he hadn’t booked with his family. This was his place and his home for his lady and kid and he was damned determined to make a stand. These guys comin’ up probably figured, like I had before, that this longhair peace freak wasn’t goin’ to be any trouble at all but his eyes were tellin’ me somethin’ different. He looked at my scoot and then at the barn and I got the picture right away. He didn’t want to lose that element of surprise. They was just expectin’ this helpless old hippie up here alone with his old lady and the little tyke. I stashed my scoot real good in the barn and I couldn’t help admirin’ the way he had thrown the damn barn together. It was all pegged and shit. It didn’t look like he had used a goddamn nail in either the barn or the house; all old style workmanship. You could tell that he took the same pride in his country pad that me and my bro’s take in our scoots.

He walked me out to his fields and I almost shit my drawers. That sweet skunk smell hit my nose and I almost stoned right out on the scent of it. It was the finest lookin’ and smellin’ sinsemilla that I had ever seen on the hoof, so to speak. I knew I was lookin’ at over 60 K worth of mean green ‘cause the going price on that quality shit was over two grand a pound wholesale. It was all pruned and ready to go. I could see that he had put in some major time and sweat and these babies and I understood why he wasn’t goin’ to break and run. He gave me a flicker of a smile and handed me a joint. I lit it up. I sucked down on it hard and it had a sweet taste all the way down. Then it expanded like a helium-filled balloon in my lungs and suddenly I was coughin’ so hard that phlegm was flyin’ across the field. I passed the joint back to him and he told me to go easy on them hits, that it doesn’t take much. He toked real easy on it and held it in with a big friggin’ grin on his face. By the time we did that number in I didn’t know where the frig or what; I’m sure you’ve been there yourself a couple of times.

Then the blasted hippie starts talkin’ strategy to me while I’m tryin’ to navigate through all the damn colors. But when it comes to battle plans my shit is pretty together so I copped a listen and dug what he was layin’ down to me. He knew the lay of the land here and these dudes comin’ in didn’t so that was one edge we had and I figured since they didn’t know I was here, that I was the other edge. He looked at me real earnest-like and said that he didn’t want these rip-off creeps to even get close to the house. He wanted to lay for them in the woods by the drive. He figured they weren’t hip to the fact that we were expectin’ them and he was right as it turned out. They also didn’t expect him to be packin’, you know what I mean. Those hippie freaks don’t usually have no truck with violence and they thought they were gonna be in for an easy take-away. My cousin showed me a nice spot for us to lay and wait. We hunkered down and sat tight.

About two in the mornin’ these chumps pulled into the drive in their friggin’ low rider and we got down to business. My peace-lovin’ hippie cousin blew out one of their tires with one barrel and hit ‘em with a spotlight that he had wired from the farmhouse. One chump hopped out with a snub-nose .38 in his paw and I popped him right off. He slammed back against their cage with a stunned look on his face and a friggin’ hole you could slip a planet into in his chest. Cousin blew out the driver’s side window with the other barrel. I watched as the driver turned from man into meat in one second. I saw the nozzle of a mean lookin’ piece slidin’ out of the back window and I peppered that mothersucker with my magnum before he got off a shot. Only one of the slickers was left alive and he was hit. He staggered out of the cage mumblin’ some shit and my peace-lovin’ hippie freak cousin hit him with both barrels before he could even finish whatever it was he was sayin’. Suddenly it was country-quiet again except for the sound of somethin’ drippin’ into the ground. I didn’t have no doubt about what that was. I looked at my cousin and he looked back at me. He said we better run this pig food up to the house. I asked him if feedin’ those hogs meat wouldn’t make them vicious and he just smiled at me and said that once in a while it don’t hurt.

I figured that no one was gonna come lookin’ for these low-life dudes or their cage and he was inclined to agree with me. He told me that he would strip down that low-rider and use it for scrap, maybe stick the engine in one of his tractors or his truck. For a dumb hippie, he had some pretty good ideas. After we fed the pigs and cleaned up in the river, we went back into the house. His lady asked what happened and he smiled at her. He said that we scared those dudes so bad they just left their car and, last he saw, they were runnin’ lickety-split down the highway with salt-shot burnin’ up their asses. She copped a worried look on her pretty face and he checked it out and said, “don’t worry babe, they’ll never come back.” She didn’t ask any more questions, just made some coffee and we sat back and smoked some fine herb. Morning came pretty quick. I told him that I better be puttin’ back to the clubhouse. He winked at me and said for me to stop back anytime. Anytime. Me and my buddies were always welcome was what he said. I wheeled my machine out of that fine barn. He handed me a big packet of some of that sweet green and I tucked it into my saddle bag. The last thing he said to me was that we all got our own paths to follow and one might never know when they’ll cross.

I laughed and kicked over my machine. Then I got in the wind.

The Legalization of Marijuana

The legalization of marijuana has brought back many memories. Let me tell you a story about my life in 1967. I was struggling with heroin addiction and finally swore off the stuff. But back then being clean meant just not shooting heroin.

Marijuana was a nothing drug. Everyone smoked. When I kicked heroin, my parents let me move back into their house and 3 or 4 friends and I would play the stereo in my bedroom and smoke joint after joint to the music of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Leon Russell, God rest his soul, and all the psychedelic sounds that were popular in the 60’s. I had a steady job and was getting promotions.

Yeah, I remember the 6 I was there. My parents were thrilled that I had stopped shooting heroin and it was a no brainer that they could keep me safe from the police by having us smoke in my private sanctum instead of driving around in the car where we were at risk of getting arrested for narcotics.

You see, that was the strange double standard of the 60’s—they called marijuana a narcotic and it wasn’t anything close to being a narcotic. You could smoke every day for weeks and then just stop and there would be no withdrawal sickness whatsoever.

Marijuana isn’t a narcotic. Not even close.

There was a group of us who always hung out together and rode our motorcycles, danced with the strobe lights at clubs in Greenwich Village, and did we ever smoke. We’d laugh, we’d eat six donuts in fifteen minutes and we were always having fun.

No junk sickness—I was healthy and, like a racehorse, I would run 3 and ½ miles almost every day of the week. I thought all my troubles were over.

Then one day this chick that smoked with us periodically came to my house with another woman and asked me if I could sell her any pot. I laughed and told her that I wouldn’t sell her any reefer but I would roll a few joints and we could smoke up together.

But they said they had someplace to be so if I could sell them some weed, they would be very happy. I rolled up 3 joints and dropped them into her hand and told them to enjoy themselves—the reefer was on the house.

They said they couldn’t accept the joints for free—like, how much did I want for them? No, I told them to just take the joints and have a good time. It was during the dog days of August of 1967 and it was great smoking weather.

But the chicks insisted and asked how much I wanted. I just laughed and said for them to give me a dollar and we’d call it square. I didn’t want the money but they seemed to feel better if they gave it to me and I didn’t want to be a bring-down so I took the dollar.

Now, it was summertime and the days passed quickly and everyone was having a good time and the grass was always cheap. But it got us high and made the music dance and that’s all that mattered to us.

So, where am I going with this story? Autumn came and the leaves changed color and it was starting to get cold. It was election season and in two weeks people would be voting because it was the third week of October.

I was fast asleep at 5am in the morning and there was a pounding on the front door of my parent’s house. I looked out my bedroom window and the suburban street was filled with police cars and unmarked detective cars.

My father answered the door but they didn’t want him; they wanted me. It was the Sheriff of Essex County of New Jersey and they had a Sealed Indictment for my arrest for the sale of narcotics. They hustled in, picked around my bedroom a little—there was nothing there but some science fiction books—and then clamped the metal handcuffs on me and took me outside.

Flashbulbs were popping and they walked me to a shiny black unmarked Judas car and stuffed me in the back seat. Altogether, that morning, they made 13 arrests for sale of narcotics, to whit, marijuana.

It was old home week at the police station. I knew almost everyone there. My sale was for 3 joints. The biggest buy they made was 2 ounces from one of my friends. They set bail at $5,000 and those of us, like me, who couldn’t make bail were trundled down to Newark Street Jail in Newark, New Jersey.

That jail was so dirty you had to light a piece of newspaper and burn the bugs away from the toilet before you went to the bathroom. Just to let you know the nature of the justice system at that time—there were about 300 people in the jail and more than 280 were men of color. My friends and I were the minority representation but we were all in for the count of down street.

Little by little, we got bailed out. My parents hired a lawyer and he had the bail reduced to $2,500 and my parents posted Bond for me after staying in that miserable hole for 4 days. Remember, this was for 3 sticks of marijuana.

They made such a big deal out of it that we were on the front page of the Newark Star Ledger and the Livingston Tribune, which was the local newspaper in the town where I lived. They even did an editorial about it called “Where There Are Users, There Will Be Pushers.” When my boss saw that, I lost my job.

My police record was minimal before that bust so, at court I was sentenced to 2 years in prison, suspended for 2 years. I had to report to a Probation Officer once a week.

Ironically, that was when my drug use really took off. I was angry and bitter and decided that if they were going to charge me as a dealer, I was going to become one. I had to be really careful for 2 years but after my Probation period was over, I went wild.

But it wasn’t the marijuana that turned me—it was the indignity of being arrested and having to register as a Narcotics Offender back then until that law was overturned as unconstitutional.

When I walked into the voting booth this year, I knew how I was going to vote. Marijuana is legal now and it should be. That major arrest really changed my life and limited the jobs I could find because I was a drug offender. I thank God that marijuana is legal and that people won’t have to go through what I did just because of an innocuous weed. No one ever died from an overdose of marijuana.

Now marijuana and hard drugs won’t travel in the same circles. The legalization of marijuana was the one good thing that came out of this election. I’m not going to deal with the other stuff in this column. Thanks for reading and enjoy the holidays.