Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Killer Haberdashery at the Mesa Jail

The Officer I turned myself in to eventually came to the holding cell and told me the Chandler jail was full and he was going to have to take me somewhere else. Since I seemed like a nice fella, he said he was going to take me to Mesa instead of Phoenix, because it would be more comfortable. I thanked him, and on the way to Mesa he cautioned me on how to behave when I got there. 

He said they were lazy in Mesa, and shipped people off to the Phoenix Matrix at the drop of a hat if they thought there might be hassles. He said if I had a cold or back ache or broken limb, just to keep it to myself because any malady was reason to send people into the Matrix. He told me to keep my eyes down and not speak unless spoken to. He didn't even cuff me until he was taking me out of the car in Mesa.

Once inside, he handed me over to some police academy dropouts and they deposited me in the drunk tank without ceremony or anal probe. The room was ten feet deep and twenty feet long with a full length window along the front. It was uninhabited except for a bread sack with an orange peel in it on the concrete bench along the back wall. I sat, presumably waiting to be processed into the general population. I was hungry and tired. There was no water or toilet, so I hoped not to be there long.

An eternity or an hour later, I heard voices down the hall and wondered if they were finally booking me in. by smashing the right side of my face against the glass, I thought I could see movement in the next room. Soon after, they brought in another prisoner. It was the doctor who had operated on my arm at St Luke's. Small world. He had beaten his wife.

There must've been a crime wave, because ten minutes later they brought in a couple of young Mexican guys and we could hear them yelling at another prisoner, just out of sight. Then we heard the unmistakable sound of said prisoner getting his ass kicked. It got quiet for a minute, then a guard unlocked our cage and stepped in, threatening to mace us if we didn't move to the far corner. He stepped back out and two others threw the beaten man in and slammed the door. He was a chubby little guy and his appearance didn't seem to warrant the ruckus we had been eavesdropping on. He sat on the bench and behaved. We all did.

There was another interminable wait. The smell of the orange rind had my stomach growling. I figured once their lunch rush was over, they would come process me in. There hadn't been a sound from the guard room, save an episode of the Jerry Springer Show on their black and white T.V. Before I could hear what was on next they came and got the other four and told them the wagon was there to take them to the Matrix. As the guard started to shut the cell, I sneezed and he told me I'd better come too.

They lined us up along a tall counter and frisked us, afterward conducting interviews about our general health. They handcuffed the chubby little guy to a stool in the back of the room. I was standing next to one of the Mexican kids. He was pretty fancy. He was wearing shiny pointy toed boots, a huge belt buckle, and a shirt with silver tips on the collar and about thirty pearl buttons down the front.

While the interviews were going on, a flunky walked behind us and dropped manacles, cuffs, and chains at our feet. Once he did that, he went behind the counter and got a pair of scissors and returned, obviously waiting for something. The guy sitting behind the bar called my name and told me to lift my shirt up to my chest and look away. The flunky came over, stuck four fingers of his left hand down the front of my pants and cut the button off. Then he sealed it in an evidence bag and gave it to his superior. He returned the scissors to their drawer, without mutilating anybody else's haberdashery.

How the fuck was I supposed to keep my pants up? They already took my belt in Chandler.

I remembered I wasn't supposed to ask questions, but I assumed my hay fever had already condemned me to Phoenix, if not Devil's Island. While holding my shorts up with one hand, I posited the natural query: “What was that for”? The pimply flatfoot just looked at me like I was stupid and told me my button could be fashioned into a weapon. He said if I got to the Matrix with that button I would be arrested for smuggling a deadly weapon into a penal institution. Then he turned to the set to catch the next segment of Maury Povich.

I told the Mexican guy with the fancy shirt that he was probably going to get ten years for that shit. He either didn't speak English, or had no sense of humor. It was pretty much a humorless bunch on both sides of the law in Mesa. Jails bad enough. Why not make the best of a bad situation?

The flunky ran chain under my armpits and around my chest and cuffed my hands to it. Then he manacled my ankles. Once he had done this to all but the chubby guy (Bryan), he returned us to the cell (except for Bryan) to wait for our driver to finish doing paperwork or taking a shit or whatever was holding him up.

I had to frog walk back to the cell to keep my pants from falling down, and once there, the orange smell made me hungry all over again. But it gave me an idea. I dumped the orange peels out and set about tying my front belt loops together to keep my britches on. This was harder than it sounded. My hands were trussed up to my chest like a tyrannosaurus, and I could only get within eight inches of my waist.

I had to twist the bag up as tight as I could and thread it through the loops at a distance. It was nearly impossible, and led to more than a few side cramps. Once it was through both loops, I still had to tie it tight. How the hell could I do that from eight inches away? I nearly gave up, then realized with a slipknot I could tie it within reach then pull it tight. The other criminals heckled me through this whole contortionist ordeal, warning me that I was probably going to be arrested. I reckoned I'd rather be arrested than pantless in a crowded jail cell. I hid my wonderbread belt with my shirt tail.

The flunky returned an eternity or two later and added waist chains in his bid for a B&D merit badge, linking us together with about a foot and a half of length between. Then he marched us, Cool Hand Luke style, out to our Paddy Wagon. He opened the back and we saw Bryan was already loaded up into his own private cage toward the front. They had some kind of fencing mask on him, I guess they didn't want him making faces and disrupting class.

The next acrobatic trick they had us perform was getting into the back of the truck. The first step was about a foot and a half high and we only had a foot of chain between our feet. So we had to turn and kind of hop sideways to get up there. If that sounds hard, remember I was also chained to jailbirds both in front and behind. One bad move and we were all going down in a heap. The guy in front of me started to go down and I shouldered him up and in and dove behind him onto my belly, dragging the guy behind me along for the ride. He wasn't happy, but he was all trussed up and couldn't do anything about it. At least I kept my pants on.

The ride wasn't so bad. It took forever. We stopped at several other jails and even the woman’s prison before reaching the Matrix. Everybody else was bitching about the wait, but I figured where I was going, I wasn't going to get any car rides for a couple of decades or so, so I made the best of it.

I'm a creative guy, but still haven't figured out how to make a deadly weapon from the button on a pair of cargo shorts. I just wasn't cut out for prison.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas on Big Cat Mountain.

      Christmas of 1993 found me living as Robert Weaver with my wife Laura in a travel trailer behind the South Forty restaurant at the base of Big Cat Mountain. We were Rob and Laura, a nod to The Dick Van Dyke Show. We had a potted barrel cactus, about three feet high, that we brought in and decorated for the holidays that year. Living there was a major coup for me. Lucky Tailor and I explored that mountain on our first trip to the Southwest. I tracked literary icon Joe Cordoba (Jose Luis Cordoba, also working under an alias) to that restaurant. I thought it quite fortuitous that we lived and worked there.
      Lagartija's mother told me about the legend of Big Cat Mountain, also known as Cerro del Gato, many years before on that first smuggling trip. I have heard different versions of the story since. The Arizona Star ran an article a few years ago and muddied the waters with a feature writer's blend of various legends purported to tell the story of El Gato. I prefer Senora Lagartija's tale, and will relate it as such.
      In the late 1800's, the Butterfield Stage passed through the gap between Big Cat Mountain and Little Cat Mountain. There was a bandit there who would hide and wait and rob the stagecoach, which frequently hauled gold from California or payroll for the mines. No matter how prepared they were for the attack, the bandito would appear suddenly and then disappear into the mountain, defying chase. They say he was like a cat the way he moved on the rocks, and called him El Gato. In Spanish they called it “The Hill of the Cat” Cerro del Gato. Eventually, El Gato (or some say El Tejano) was killed. But his stash of stolen loot was never found. It is said he hid it in a cave at Cat Mountain.
      I've spent thousands of hours exploring that mountain and found much more than I ever looked for. I only found one cave, and I am probably lucky to have survived it.
      A couple of weeks before Christmas, I was following a wash at the base of the north side of the mountain that had previously led me to water at an old stone cattle tank. I hoped to see Javelina there, and track their game trails to see where they would take me. Once in the wash, below desert level, I stopped for water and smoked a joint and ate a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie. I continued on, and at some point realized I wasn't in familiar territory.
      The walls of the arroyo closed in. I remembered it as being quite wide, but before long, the wash was barely ten feet across. The dirt walls were maybe ten feet high. Somehow, with the buzz, I had taken an unnoticed fork into the foothills. I am always curious about what is around the next corner, particularly when hiking washes. So regardless of knowing I was lost, I continued around the next corner, then the next.
      At one point, I had just made a ninety degree turn to the left and again about ten feet was a ninety degree turn to the right. About eye level, directly ahead in the dirt wall, was the mall entrance to a cave or dark declivity. It was about a foot and a half high in the middle and stretched to tapered ends maybe ten inches high. It was about three feet long. I approached to about two feet. That's when I saw movement in the hole.
A recent newspaper article had told me about coyote pups suffering from parvo. There was an effort from some organization, to immunize the pups by dropping meat with the parvo vaccine in the desert. I wondered if there were coyote pups in this hole.
      It was difficult to focus on the movement in the dark cave, because the sun was high above the arroyo wall. I squinted into the darkness as my eyes adjusted and the movement took shape. I was looking straight into the eyes of a mountain lion from two feet away. The puma's head filled the central opening to the cave. She squinted back at me.
      For some odd reason I wasn't scared. Continuing on didn't seem wise. I was worried I might surprise her on the return trip. I backed up to the previous turn, and slowly walked away, being careful not to act like dinner.
      But this is a story about a Christmas hike, so we will get back to that.
      Partially because of my experience with the lion, Laura and I chose to traverse the South side of the mountain to a trail head that leads to the summit, where we would celebrate the holiday in solitude far above the valley. Rather than follow the desert to the trailhead, we climbed a few hundred feet up the rock and traversed our way east. Along the way we smelled something rank, and looked around for the carcass of a dead deer. I often found skulls and antlers in the area, and that translated to tourist cash.
      We were about to search for the corpse, when my eye fell on a bush barely three feet away. There stood a young male javelina, seemingly oblivious to us. Javelina are pretty blind. They smell bad too. We edged away so's not to frighten it, and continued on our way. It was a warm day and I took off my shirt. Laura lamented that social mores did not allow her to do the same. I told her out here on Christmas day, the Javelina cared less for social mores, so she continued hiking topless. We took our pleasure then, clinging to some vertical stones (Merry Christmas), clinging for our lives somewhat frightened and high above the Sonoran floor. Such are the dangers of climbing with a topless Laura.
      Once we'd attained the apex of Big Cat, we repeated our endeavors on a long flat rock overlooking the valley, occasionally hearing a large animal moving across the gravels. We dressed hurriedly, sans T-shirts, just in time for a boy scout troop to file past along the peak. Not the large animals we expected. Two of them lingered behind a boulder for another peek. I gave them the thumbs up. They grinned and scurried away. Laura felt forced to adhere to social mores for a bit.
      We returned to our little trailer in the desert with our barrel cactus Christmas tree.She never let me nail her on a mountaintop again.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

From the Mountains to the Barrio (part 1) Fugitive Recovery

Just over a year since my exile, and I found myself living at one of my favorite places on the whole planet. Big Cat Mountain was the place I had climbed with Lucky Tailor, passing the crosses of those who did not make it along the way. It's the place where The Professor and I saw the Woolly Saber Toothed Coyote. It was also the stomping grounds of the famous bandit El Gato and his legendary treasure. On the map of places sacred to me, this one is prominent.

My wife and I had traced the travels of Casteneda to this desert, and believed we had found the restaurant where he and Gorda worked, losing their personal importance. Losing one's personal importance isn't very good for a marriage. We were thinking about doing something different. She had already had to spend a few months in Key West to escape my folly. Then I had an encounter that brought me on board to her desire to move into town and leave my beautiful desert.



We lived in a trailer behind the restaurant, along with about four other trailers, all housing employees of the restaurant and other associated businesses like the general store and video rental. There was one wealthy retiree in the very back. I was Robert then, and the trailer behind us housed a guy named Robert as well and his wife. He washed dishes at a steakhouse down the road. His wife was a waitress with my wife at the Greek place where I cooked breakfast.



I was working stone on the side back then, as a lapidary, and incorporating the stone in sculpture and jewelry. On Tuesdays, I would hike through the lower Tucson Mountains along an old stage coach route into Tucson, where I would ply my wares. I had a route through the downtown where I left things on consignment and picked up money and custom orders each week. On my way home, I would cut through the town of South Tucson and purchase my grass for the week. I would return by hitch hiking the old Ajo Highway, rather than cross the remote mountain trails, populated by all manner of rattlesnake and large cat, at night. I would have my sales cases with me, and occasionally drummed up additional business from the people who gave me rides.



One of my best accounts in town was a new age shop. I had a place near the Mexican border where I was mining Selenite crystals with muddy inclusions. I worked these into wands and stone blades with cactus wood handles and leather trim.



On a fateful Monday, My wife was working, and I took Robert for a hike up Big Cat Mountain and told him about my history there and about El Gato. To my surprise, although he had lived behind the restaurant for over a year, he had not explored the area or hiked the desert at all. He had a banner day, and expressed that to me before he went to work that night. I went in to my house and smoked a joint and watched a couple of episodes of Doug on Nick at Night.



After resting from the morning's climb, and having lunch with the wife, I strapped my machete on and headed out to find some Cholla Cactus wood for the order I had to fill for the new age shop this week. I was maybe five steps from my front door when a white pickup came thundering into the lot and stopped nearest my trailer.



At first I assumed it was somebody I had hitched a ride with, coming to check out my stock. Maybe I was going to make a sale. Neither the wife or I socialized of even had any contact with people outside of the restaurant and the five trailers behind it. Then the door opened and had an insignia on it and the words “Fugitive Recovery”. Before I could even think a dude rolled out in a crazy movie sideways somersault and came up with a big freaking gun pointed at me. “Drop the weapon!” he shouted. He was maybe fifty feet away.



This was the early days of my fugitivity, when I never went to sleep without an escape plan. I was hyper paranoid anyway, and expecting something like this. Subsequently, I never carried weapons, for fear of going down in a hail of gunfire from some overzealous bounty hunter. I was confused. I said “I don't have any weapons!”.



He told me to lose the machete. I told him it was a tool, not a weapon, as I lowered it carefully to the ground. He charged me, and with his gun to my head he rushed me the twenty feet or so to my trailer and sandwiched my head between his pistol and the front door. He said “Robert Mortimer, you are under arrest for evading prosecution (so far so good, but Mortimer? I was Robert Weaver) in Kansas on a charge of burglarizing a pharmacy.”



Well shit, I have only just passed through Kansas. I delivered a few pounds of grass and mushrooms to a motel in Topeka, but certainly had not burglarized a pharmacy. I told him this, with his gun in my temple, leaving out the part about Topeka. “And who the hell is Mortimer? I am Robert Weaver!” “You better have ID”, he replied.



I yelled in to my wife to find my ID. She, of course, told me to get it myself. Still with a gun to my temple, I explained the situation. She soon appeared with my fake swap meet ID claiming I was Robert Weaver. The officer called in my fake social security number and it came up clean. Then he noticed my trailer number was one and he was looking for trailer two. He said “I need to use your house”, and lowered his gun and hastily entered my living room.



I followed. I had left a half ounce of pot in a baggie on the coffee table. As he walked past it to the opposing window, I reached down and batted it onto the floor. Without even turning around he said “I'm not even worried about that”. Then he noticed the number two on the door of the neighboring trailer and rushed off to terrorize the other Robert's wife. She took him to Robert's job where he was arrested for the pharmacy job in Kansas.



The next day she knocked on my door and told me Robert was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. I went to her trailer and he told me the story of how he was paid to lower himself from the skylight at a Kansas pharmacy and steal Dilautids, and he left fingerprints. He said our hike was the best thing that happened to him since he fled and that ultimately it was his wife who turned him in. “It's always a woman that gets you caught” he warned me (although he didn't know how close to his situation I was). He gave me his reclining heated massage chair. I loved that chair. His wife immediately moved in with a wealthy retiree she had been cleaning house for.



I couldn't live there anymore, of course. The wife would have her way and we would eventually move back to the city.



Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Last Time I Saw Mike West

I had probably the worse job of my fugitive career at the time. I was kitchen manager for a pizza outfit with dancing mechanical apes. They knew three songs. People would put tokens in the jukebox and the apes would perform “Achey Brakey Heart” all day long.

It was probably the worse job of my life.

Ensnared in polyester, I stank of chicken grease. The sourness of the fryers associated with newly popular buffalo wings just ruined the pizza business. The singing apes didn't help much either. Old grease replaced the wholesome, bready aroma pizzerias had hitherto been associated with. The boss, one-fifth owner and a refugee from another singing monkey joint, likewise swathed in old poly blends, never swiveled from his office chair to visit my kitchen. I didn't blame him.

Beside me, was a staff of five young Latinos who let me know right away I wouldn't last if I wasn't part of their street crew. I had no idea what they were talking about. I briefly entertained the notion that they were breakdancers, but dismissed it. I still had too much Indiana Boy on me.

They were punks, and I told them that often. Their villainous exploits tormenting the homeless disgusted me. Likewise, they didn't respect my authority, and I rarely knew where to find them. It mattered little. I could better crank out our standard crap for the little Achey Breaky bastards we served without their assistance. They abandoned me to my fate and hid in the prep room and parking lot. I was well stocked, and the lot was clean. Jabba the manager, lights out with his Salem Slim Lights in his rayon office, didn't want to get involved. I didn't either. I was trying to talk the wife into letting me take a flaky art gig I had been offered, so why rock the boat.

When I saw the state of Dave and Mike's hobo camp, I was sure it was these guys.

I seethed, biding my time until I could quit and worrying about Dave and Mike and the others from the hole in the mountain. Before closing time, this kid Diego had told a story about leaning out of his buddies car and beating bums with a bat as they tried to run away.

When I clocked out, he was nowhere to be seen. I left by the back door and found Diego and pals in the shadows around the corner. Diego was leaning on a broom. I asked to see it, and took him out at the knees, continuing to beat the hell out of him as his friends stood there with their mouths open. I dropped the broom and walked to my car without looking back. I fought the urge to run for fear of acting like prey. I made sure nobody followed me home.

For some reason I went to work the next day. I fully expected to get jumped. Diego was a no show. Everybody stayed in the prep room longer than usual without carrying anything out. My nerves were shot. Finally Diego's best bud came out with trays of dough. I had a knife and bowl of flour nearby and wouldn't hesitate to use them. He smiled at me and said “Man, you really fucked old boy up! He won't be messing with you anymore”.

Just when I thought it was all okay, I got the call to go see the boss. He said he heard I hit one of his employees with a mop handle. I told him it was just a broom. He said he had filed a police report. I told him what I thought of Billy Ray Cyrus. We were on the same page regarding my career in mechanical dancing monkey pizza.

I didn't worry about the cops. I used a throwaway name to get the job. One I hadn't used anywhere else. They wouldn't look for me.

I didn't see Mike again for a year or better to learn how their camp was destroyed. By then, the wife and I, baby in tow, were blowing town in the wee hours of the morning. The Social Security people had sent letters informing us that we had ten days to explain why our names and numbers didn't match their records. Thankful for the warning, we collected our next paychecks and got in the wind to find a new town and new identities. I stopped to pick up a hitch hiker north of the city and it turned out to be Mike.

He said it was the cops who smashed their hobo village. He said a few people had gotten arrested but he and Dave lit out and moved to the Days Inn for a while. Apparently the old man in California died and his heirs weren't as tolerant to squatters. I've never felt bad about beating Diego.

Mike said Dave had gone to stay with neglected daughters in Texas and he had been attracting attention so he was moving on. We let him off in Casa Grande, where he had promise of a job. We got as far as Phoenix and the wife and baby were fussy from the car so we decided we were home.

Cleaning up the car at the motel, I found Mike West's flannel on the back seat floor with his social security card and birth certificate. He was just a little shorter than me, a little darker hair, a little older, but he had the necessary brown eyes. I just happened to be in need of a new identity and the Universe provided one. Mike West. My Quest. It was a sign that everything would be okay and I was right where I needed to be. I wondered how long it would last. I wondered how long I would be Mike. I wondered how long the wife would put up with this shit. A week? A month? A year?

We checked in to The Parkview as Mr. and Mrs. West. Within twenty four hours I was managing a downtown pizzeria. We baked our wings and wore cotton shirts and I thrived a while in the ape free atmosphere.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Day I Met Mike West

I had been checking out the mountains east of Tucson, just before Big Cat Mountain, and noticed a geological peculiarity. It looked like one of the small mountains had been quarried. The next day, I visited that mountain and met Mike West.

I parked at the bottom of a hill, and hiked up the dirt road that led to the declivity. You couldn't see what was ahead until you crested a hill and I didn't want to drive onto somebodies mine claim.

Once I popped past the incline, I saw a flat area a couple of hundred feet to a side, set at the bottom of a quarry of a black marble looking stone. I later learned the stone was quarried for a large downtown office building.

There was smoke, from the lean remnants of a central camp fire. Dotted around the fire were the coolest huts I had ever seen. They were built of fieldstone, maybe a foot thick. They were about three feet high and then a tarp over saplings made up the roof.

I didn't see any movement and so called "Haloo in camp"! I had never seen any shit so organized before and didn't want to appear the scoundrel. I might like this crew. I wanted to see what it was about.

A wizened older fella came out of the first hooch and squinted at me. The desert sun had eaten a hole in his nose. He had long whiskers and long hair. Some of the original color remained, but you'd be hard pressed to name it. He walked over and I stuck out my hand before I saw him good. "Dave! How the fuck have you been"?

I met Dave in Glenwood Springs Colorado. He was a train tramp. In that town, was a community of travelers. Dave helped show me the ropes. He moved on before I did. People got killed riding the trains back then. Probably a lot more than you know. I had worried about him in the years since we drank good stouts and smoked good ganja while hiding in the tall grass at a siding.

What a small, small, world.

He invited me into his hooch, which was remarkably cool, maybe twenty or thirty degrees, and introduced me to his roomate Mike. Mike had brown hair styled like that of a scarecrow, tufting out from under a flopped down boonie hat. We shook hands and he was just a few inches shorter, a few years older, and a few pounds lighter. He had brown eyes. Of course I wasn't thinking like that at the time
.
I bought a sack from Mike that day, and we talked at length about the Arizona Sonora Desert. They said they could get me on as a landscaper with their crew, but I told them I had my own gig. I was glad I parked the Mazda down the hill.

They told me the mountain was owned by an elderly guy in Santa Barbara. He was in a nursing home, and nobody watched his land. They said the cops never came, because it was private property.

I visited every payday, with a sack of hambourguesas, and scored a sack of sexy mexy from Mike. Dave got a hat and his nose got better. They invited me to stay. I blamed my wife for needing an indoor home. A fugitive can't take chances like that. I was jealous. I wanted to live there so bad, but eventually I would not be able to stand to the scrutiny. The mountain was too close to town not to bring prying eyes.

This continued for four or five months. Then one week I finally drove the Protege all the way up and found a scene of devastation. The hooches, down to the stone walls, were rubble. Smoke still rose from the lean remnants of a fire. The pantry was levelled. Canned goods lay stomped and squished. Nothing remained.
I left in tears, that something so beautiful had been destroyed. Were my friends safe? There were children. I had an idea who was behind this. They would pay.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Freedom. Tyranny. Reality.

We trade away our freedom daily in a multitude of ways. We elect petty tyrants to oversee our actions, sacrificing liberty.

Employers, governments, families, oil companies, banks; the list is endless. We bargain for our bread, our time, our comfort, with each of these tyrannies and love it. We hate it. The truth is, nobody has any power over us we haven't sold them.

Its unavoidable if we are going to function in this psychological construct that constitutes our society, our reality.

Freedom from these tyrants, this construct, is scary shit. Even realizing that what we call reality is just a social contract can be terrifying. This is why people have bad trips on psychedelics.

An odd thing about tyrants, the big and scary ones like world leaders and such, are much less powerful than the everyday nagging pain in the ass type. Anybody who has been in a bad relationship should recognize this.
The good news is, we are the ones calling the shots. Nobody gets a slice of our freedom unless we allow it. WE make the bargains that enslave us. Individually.

Don't want that nagging spouse? Leave. Don't like getting screwed by the banks? Don't deal with them. Don't like the alternative? Then you're scared of what freedom really is and have chosen your brand of servitude to match your aspirations.

I have a good deal of experience in this field.

Everything is ok. You have nothing to be afraid of but your self. Nobody has any power over you that you have not granted them. We need to remember this. I need to remember this.

It may be necessary to our survival.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In the Early Days

      Lucky Tailor and I couldn't find any grass, if you can believe that, but the reefer scene wasn't always what it is today. Things are better now, but we still have a ways to go. Thirty years ago we suffered dry spells in the Midwest, usually in late summer and worsening before election cycles. It wasn't classic rock then. It was just rock.
      I can remember back in the Park Layne days, going to the park in August and giving the High Sign and somebody telling me it's dry. That sinking feeling. Days of searching, looking for the friend of a friend. Sitting by the phone, sitting down the road while a friend went to check the prospects at some third-or-fourth-party's house. Pay phones and parking lots and suburban streets. Trying to look like I wasn't waiting on a drug deal.
      I remember one particular summer in Muncie, 1989, and the trials we endured looking for a bit of smoke. We went from Crawfordsville to Dayton and the story was the same. Waiting and driving and waiting some more and it never panned out. A sure thing was never a sure thing and eventually somebody would try and sell us lettuce opium. Sometimes we bought it.
      The fucked up thing is, this was how pot was a gateway drug. You know how they tell you Marijuana is bad because it leads to harder things? Well this is how.
      When it dried up, you'd ask everybody you knew where to get some pot. Eventually somebody would say “Everybody's dry now, but I know where to get some coke”. I lost friends to this every year. They'd think “Well hell, they lied to me about pot. Told me it would addict me and make me an ax wielding maniac or at the very least grow titties like a girl. Maybe they lied to me about the blow too”. Next thing you know they're selling blowjobs on Penn Street in Springfield or popping their collars and listening to Billy Ocean.     Like I said, I lost friends to this every year.
      This is why I started selling pot. It was never about the money. Selling pot for the money is like running a pizzeria for the money. The risk is greater than the reward if you do it right and don't take advantage of people. You do it for the love of it.
      In the dry spell of '89, the Connersville boys called and said they had a sure thing. A friend of a friend who lived on Jackson Street had the hookup. I picked them up and they took me to a guy's house who had us drive him to Whitely. He took our money and walked in the front door of a house and fifteen minutes later I saw him go out the back wearing a different jacket and hat.
      I was all for storming the joint, but the Connersville boys talked me down. We waited fifteen more minutes and then I went and knocked. The residents claimed a total stranger entered their house, exchanged jackets, and escaped out the back way. I knew he couldn't have made it back to Jackson Street yet by foot. I assumed he would stop for crack somewhere 
      I had the Connersville boys drive me back to his house where I kicked in his door and stole his color TV and a box of fried chicken from his freezer. I got my fifty bucks back on the TV. We ate the chicken.
      The next day they called and had another sure thing in Connersville. They had a friend holding a half ounce for me. They dragged me 46.1 miles to their “sure thing” where I waited at a railroad bridge, hunting geodes. They arrived and gave me three thin joints and thirty five bucks back. Lucky and I smoked one with them, on the 46.1 mile ride back, and dropped them back in the village where they came from.
       It was Wednesday night, so we smoked a second and went to the “Skin to Win” wet tee shirt contest at The Golden Fox. It was a good way for Ball State girls to make rent.
       I tucked the last doobie behind my ear and we returned to my place on Wheeling to smoke it. When we got there, my girlfriend who didn't live there, had locked us out. She would do that. She said she was never trying to keep me out of my own house. She just wanted to feel safe and wanted to know when I got home 
      I had ways around that.
      I had a window I liked to keep unlocked for such situations. Failing that, there was a door behind the refrigerator I could jimmy and push through. This particular night the window worked well enough. I climbed in, and opened the door for Mr. Tailor.
      Once we were safely inside and Amy not woken, I reached behind my ear for the last hardworn joint and it wasn't there. We panicked. We searched the car and the gravel and bushes outside the window and nothing. There was a rack of albums below the window I had climbed in. LP's. Vinyl records for you youngsters. Zepplin and Halen and Rush. Kansas Leftoverture and Frampton Comes Alive and Journey Escape. 
      We dumped them all out looking to see if the spliff might have fallen inside when I climbed in.
We searched the gravel and bushes again, flicking our bics until they melted down and we eventually gave up. Lucky made me promise to call him if I found it, and he was headed out the driveway in the Tercel when I ran my hands through my hair...
                                              ...and found the joint behind my OTHER ear.

(We were joyful. We might have hugged).

Let this be a lesson. ALWAYS check behind the OTHER EAR.