WEED: STORY OF A BUSINESS INTERRUPTED

To prepare for months of chemotherapy treatments I would be getting for cancer my wife Geraldine bought a bag of weed without telling me. At the time there was no medical marijuana program in New York State and knowing marijuana could be helpful in lessening the pain and nausea linked to chemo Geraldine asked her longtime hairdresser if she would mind passing along the name of her source? She knew, of course, the answer she was seeking would be forthcoming. A name was given and after an exchange of texts a young man came to our door the next day with the product Geraldine desired.

Eventually Geraldine would tell me of that baggie’s existence in our house but not its location. If I needed it, it was available. And fortunately, I wouldn’t. The side affects were never incapacitating; I was able to get through my treatments with only temporary discomfort. And with everything else going on at that time I had no desire to get stoned.

Only later, a year after the last injection of Oxaliplatin into my arm, did I find the three plastic tubes Geraldine had stored that marijuana in. They were in a kitchen cabinet behind a sewing box, some over-the-counter cold medicines and a cocktail mixer among other rarely used items. I found what I was looking for and left the tubes untouched. Telling Geraldine of my discovery I went on to relate a rather silly conversation I’d had with my mother during the winter break of my freshmen year in college.

That was many years ago and while I’m not sure what had started our discussion on the topic I recall my mother becoming adamant about the price of a bag of pot at the time. Insistent she was a nickel bag cost five cents and a dime bag ten cents.

“No, it’s five dollars and ten dollars,” I’d said.

“No it’s not. It’s five cents and ten cents. Believe me, I know what it is.” She looked at me like the naïve child I hadn’t been in quite a while.

Where she’d heard that, I didn’t ask. It might have been a speculation going round among the older employees at the book storage warehouse she worked in, that her younger colleagues didn’t bother to correct?

Whatever its source, it likely was of great benefit to my grade point average her prices weren’t the going rate. I’d been puffing the herb since high school. A little here and a little there when I could afford it. I don’t think she or my father knew I indulged and I wasn’t about to tell them. Nor would I mention it was a practice that continued into college. For a nickel, or dime, I may have never come down. Which now makes me see how certain items should be priced high if only to reduce access to them.

To this day those tubes remain untouched. I haven’t indulged since I gave the stuff up cold turkey when I was twenty-four. Before that I’d been on a year long binge, smoking a joint or two five or so days a week. That was in the 1976 when I was living in a cabin in Northwood, New Hampshire. The cabin was off Route 202, a two-lane highway in what was then a rural area. There were maple and birch trees behind it, a lake a hundred feet from the front door and a cord of wood to one side my cabin mate David and I had sawed by hand and replenished as the need arose.

There were few good jobs in that area at the time. Money was tight. David and I tried, and failed, to get a firewood delivery business going. Though failed may be the wrong adjective. Days of talking it over and making plans hadn’t led to loading up his pickup and heading out to find buyers in the spirit of free enterprise. It had been easier to talk about over beers and bowls of my vegetarian gruel than to get out and do it. And it might have been its possible success that scared us off. We were anarchists not capitalists.

Not long after we gave up on that another money-making venture popped into our brains. That one didn’t require intense physical effort. We wouldn’t have to go far to find our clients. We could sell it to anyone, friends, neighbors, like-thinking family members. It was many times more popular than firewood.

It was weed. We’d make money selling weed.

The motivation to do that came after Nardo called the cabin late one night. He was desperate. Nardo, his real name was Robert, was a high school friend of mine, a pothead and dealer. In years past I’d bought plenty of dope from Nardo. He knew where to get it. He was still in the business. Now he was a buyer. “I’ll take anything, as much as you have,” was his message. A bag. A kilo. Kilos plural. Did I have any to sell? Did I know anyone selling?

Nardo went on to tell me about the shortage in Boston. Supplies had dried up. Why? He wasn’t sure. His customers were calling him. He needed it for them. He needed it for himself. First, he needed it for himself. He was down to his last bag. Going without pot would be like going without food or sex. In fact, Nardo had a saying for dire times like those that went back to our high school days: “Pot will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no pot.”

Was it an original line? It might have been. Was he right?

“Depends on how much money he’s talking about not having,” was David’s response.

Boston’s supplies may have been drying up but as far as David and I knew there was plenty of good weed where we were at. Kilos were out of our league and need but we could get a bag when we wanted from our contact Jason. Who was Jason’s source? David and I raised that question to each other in wonder. If Nardo wanted a kilo, or several, or a dozen, and in his own words he was willing to pay a premium, maybe we could help him out. Maybe we could make some hundreds a kilo, money Nardo would easily recoup from his needy customers. Maybe we were capitalists.

Our plan was to start with one kilo, enough to get Nardo back in business and himself stoned. We’d try that, then we’d get more.

A few days later Jason got back to us: if we wanted a kilo it was available for $300.

At the wages we were working for, $300 was a lot of money to front. Nevertheless, we were serious. Nardo would go to $500. He’d come to pick it up. David and I would shave off a bag of the stuff for ourselves. We slapped five on that.

That Saturday we had the $300 and directions. David drove 30 miles up Route 16 and across the state line into Maine. Not too long after that he turned into a gravel driveway that ended at a big white house. A minute later two regular looking guys in heavy jackets and blue jeans led us to the red barn behind it.

We went past some old farm equipment and other clutter to a corner stall at the back where two piles were covered by heavy green tarps. One of the tarps was pulled away to expose a few hundred bricks of weed wrapped in heavy brown paper and so neatly stacked they might have been display items in a department store special. The pile next to it was taller and bulkier. Five hundred kilos in all, I guessed. Half a ton of the stuff. The flick of a lit cigarette might have gotten the entire county high.

The product inspection and counting of cash was done and we were on our way back to Northwood, the kilo wedged behind me in the passenger’s seat. Down in Boston Nardo was waiting for my phone call. We looked forward to his arrival with the $500 and talk of more to come.

The scream of a siren behind us put a stop to that discussion.

What the fuck?

A glance in the side mirror revealed the distorted image of a State Police car coming up fast with its lights flashing. Coming for us? There could no doubt about that. We’d had the bad luck to be at the barn the day they were casing it out.

“What do we do?” I wondered.

“What can we do?” David said.

The siren and flashing lights almost upon us, David hit the brakes and we rolled into the breakdown lane. We intended to give ourselves up. There was only that unspoken choice for us.

Then the incredible happened. We were just about at a complete stop when the police car swung around us and blew past. Watching it race away at a high speed we couldn’t believe our luck. We weren’t the perps they were after. We were free men again.

Later on at the cabin we were enjoying some of that excellent smoke when Nardo said, “Can you get me two more kilos tomorrow?”

“We can, but we won’t,” I told him.

With a tip of his head, David agreed.

And that was the end of that business venture.

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