By the time I was a senior in high school almost all of my friends had experimented with cannabis, but I held out until the night before graduation ceremony. This was not because I was scared, nor was it because I was particularly puritanical for a specific reason. Smoking pot seemed boring to me as a result of watching my parents do it as I grew up. It was always so obvious, too. We would be instructed to go play outside for an hour, and when we returned they relied on us to entertain them and make them laugh. There was never any attempt to hide it. In fact they had outright talked to us about it in order that we understood how harmless it was and were not provoked by authorities to rat them out. These were in the days of Nancy Reagan, so that was a real concern.
The most entertaining part of being audience to my parents marijuana use activities was the procurement process. These transactions always began with a phone conversation that was spoken in code, so that the nature of the request was stated in completely legal terms. Since we moved around a lot, there were different dealers with different codes. Two of them stick out most in my mind, since it involved people my whole family had grown close to, and thus I also got to be there for the pick-up.
The first was a guy who walked with a cane and owned a professional painting company. I can recall him letting me play albums on his hi-fi stereo system, most memorably Whitesnake and Deep Purple. My very first dirt bike, an older model 100cc Yamaha, was also purchased from him for a very low price as a gift. He and his wife could not have children, so his admiration and generosity were directed at other people’s kids, which I became a grateful beneficiary of. A typical phone conversation from my parents end would go something like:
“Yeah, I need to order two gallons of Desert Almond to be picked up at noon on Saturday.”
The amount of paint would indicate the quantity of weed desired, but the color was entirely arbitrary. I think it was just fun for them to make up color names, and it made the conversation sound more legit, should The Man be listening in on them. This was pretty sound subterfuge, since the guy owned a painting business and bought wholesale.
A few years later my folks were scoring from a guy who had a large collection of aquariums and fish. Naturally conversations with him on the phone were had using a subtext of marine life and aquarium supplies, since he also bought those items wholesale, and might conceivably be selling them to his fish-loving pals.
“I need a dozen feeder fish, tonight, if you got them.”
Whenever we visited him, we got to feed smaller fish to bigger fish, while he spun AC/DC records and ranted in his high energy way on whatever topic currently fascinated him. Our families became close over the years, and he turned out to be quite the character.
One of the most unusual things about him was his method of hunting deer, which I learned of late one evening when he invited us over to help him hang and gut his most recent bounty. He had hit the animal while driving home on gravel roads from his construction job, which he claimed had been entirely by accident. However when he just so happened to kill a deer the exact same way over the next few years, in the same tank of a van, it became clear that it was no mere coincidence.
As I said before he was odd and highly energetic. When he spoke he leaned in to you with his whole body, then accented his words with neck movements, as his eyes bulged comically and he talked from one side of his mouth. His entire being was sort of an act of hyperbole, but when he discovered methamphetamine it stopped being fascinating eccentricity and became frantic and scary. Soon after that my parents started buying their fish supplies elsewhere.
When I began buying cannabis for myself, I had to learn to play this game as well. My first solid dealer was a high school dropout who lived with his high school drop out brother and their mother. They were intolerable bullies, but they were also the only option I had at the time. Since they had no other business to convert the language of their activity to, it was customary just to ask if they were down to hang out. Unfortunately they expected you to actually do this, for at least an hour, and afterwards they would try to talk you into giving them a ride somewhere. They were always watching some kind of gangster movie, and would constantly commit minor acts of violence to dispel the hostility they seemed to feed on. One time they sold me violin bow rosin, claiming it was some kind of synthetic opium, and I fell for it.
Not long after I fell in with a better group of people and became good friends with a guy who could almost always acquire a number of illegal substances. He was also really into Magic: The Gathering, so that became the subtext by which phone conversations seeking to buy drugs were had.
“Hey man, got any cards for sale?”
“Sure, what are you looking for? Giant Growth? Serra Angel?”
The color of the cards he mentioned coincided roughly with the color of whatever goody you were looking for – green for pot, white for coke, blue for meth, etc.
Nowadays I buy my cannabis from a store that looks like it could sell high end electronics. It is legal, of higher quality, cheaper, and superior in pretty much every way. But despite that it sometimes feels like there has been something lost that cannot be replaced by excellence nor convenience. It just isn’t the same getting that euphoria-induced paranoia when there is nothing to actually be worried about.