It’s great being thick as thieves with your little sister. She’s been my best friend for life, sometimes despite me treating her less than perfectly. She’s loving, forgiving, and a lot of fun. We take care of each other, because no one else will. Not like the special way we do.
When it comes to partying, drugs and alcohol, she’s from the “I learned it by watching you” school. We’ve enabled each other over time. In my heavy stages of alcoholism, she would go fetch beers for me, until she realized, before I did, that I was dying from it. She refused to buy me booze, a moratorium that exists today. And some days she’s the only reason I don’t guzzle half a gallon of bourbon. We are good bad examples for each other.
Weed is a different story. I kept her in weed when she was our mother’s caregiver. I would visit as often as allowed, living in the cabin and bringing stories of the big city. We developed habits, some okay, some not so good.
So when she had a cancer scare a few months back and quit drinking, I got her interested in medibles. It’s like having a drinking buddy in the house again! The best part? She hates to shop, so she hands me a wad of cash (or in this case her ATM card) and says, “You know what I like.” Then it’s up to me to cull the Leafly listings to see what the best bang for the buck would be.
It was the last of my days off, and she said, “I want something to come home to.”
I was off to the races.
After a seven-day stretch, I needed time away from work. The public was getting to me. I texted Dr T. “Would you mind some company? I have a pressing urge to smoke a joint on your balcony.”
He texted back, “Sure. Hell, we can go onto the roof!”
I’d been to the balcony, but not into Dr T’s apartment. Access to a rooftop in the Pearl?
I rolled two joints.
I told him I was traveling on ‘Rain-time,’ meaning I’d get there when I get there. But the punctual white-boy in me won’t keep people waiting, and I managed to be only an hour later than planned. Dr T assured me the only thing I was missing were South Park reruns. I enjoyed the summer sunset, and arrived as the sky started to darken.
Mrs Brady had her backpack on and was heading for the door when she stopped and said, “Oh shoot, I forgot to take out the garbage. I had better…”
“Don’t bother. Seriously, I won’t fill up a can the whole day.” There are chores we are expected to do every shift, but if the chore isn’t pressing, and the person coming on says ‘Don’t worry about it’ we usually don’t worry about it. Mrs Brady, however, has a way of turning molehills into mountains.
“It’s my job. Are you telling me not to do the trash? I don’t want anyone saying that I don’t do my job.”
“Jesus, nobody’s saying that, about you anyway. It’s no big deal either way, it’s just that those trash bags cost a buck-fifty each, and I can save five or six bags a day doing it my way. I have a system.” I attempted a a reassuring smile, but that probably looked worse.
“Is this about losing lottery tickets?” I’d told her about a stash of losing lottery tickets we kept in back for tax write-off purposes. She was convinced we had some nefarious scheme afloat, otherwise why would I be so protective of the garbage? Hell, I don’t even know. I have about three things I actually enjoy doing during my night, and she fucking does them all at 2 in the afternoon.
“It’s just that I have a system and a time and a way of doing things. If you do trash now it looks like I haven’t done my job later.” She wasn’t the only one who needs a job. My eye rolls had to have been audible.
“Well, I’m going to do trash now,. You can always do it at your regular time.”
“Whatever.” I went outside, wanting a cigarette ever so badly.
I got busy, and she left without saying goodbye. I took a deep breath and chose to put the whole stupid situation out of my mind.
At that moment my phone buzzed, a text message from Mrs Brady. “If you want to help Dr T cheat on his taxes, there’s some lottery tickets in the office garbage I forgot to tear up. You can have those.”
It’s a good thing she was blocks away. I would have punched her. I texted back, “I don’t dig through the garbage for him or anybody, but I do keep the wet and dry garbage separate IN CASE I HAVE TO. Please forget I ever mentioned garbage.” If I didn’t love my phone so much I would have hurled it into the ocean.
From downtown Portland. …
I need a distraction. It’s getting to that point of the summer when the Travellers remaining are aggressive and obnoxious. Funds for summer programs are used up, school is out, and all the festivals that bring the money downtown are done until November. It’s just you and me, kid. And you want to fight?
Will I get the lucky red bank bag? We had a red bank bag years ago, and I obsessed over it. The new one appeared a week ago, and I was its first user. I haven’t seen it since. It’s something to look forward to. God, I need something to look forward to. I’m working alone today, or so I assume. Uncle Cliffy has a helper, a dude with a comfort dog. I hope he’s done by the time I get there. The dog is afraid of me.
But it does give me an opening to tell one of my favorite cruel jokes: What does a dog with a hare-lip say? “Mark! Mark!”
My dad was an easy touch when it came to helping other people with their gardens. He’d rototill for ya, weed your garden if needed. I’m not that useful, but I do have an altruistic streak when it comes to helping friends stay comfortable. I’ve never considered myself a weed dealer, but I have facilitated a lot of transactions. Mostly because I want to take care of those I love, and want them treated the way I’d want to be treated.
When Dizzy realized I wasn’t full of shit after I took her to an eastside dispensary and she got a quarter-ounce $20 cheaper, she waits until I am working to request a hookup. (My medical card dispenses with silly limits, and I don’t have to pay 25% sales tax.) I have offered to just do it, but she says, “You need to be fuckin’ somebody to get that kind of service!” I suggested we negotiate, but negotiations have stalled.
I have a friend with a bad back, and he wanted something that would work besides pain pills. While I have benefited greatly from his transference from opiates to cannabinoids, he’s doing it for a reason. Little by little all the old-timers are being cut off. The pill sources around Portland have dried up almost completely, and it’s for the best. I need to step away from the pills, and what better way than to do it the old organic way. I’ll smoke weed!
My friend provided a healthy budget to work with. After discussing what benefits he sought, we settled on beeswax capsules for edibles, and a vapor pen with high CBD dosages. You don’t get high, but the pain in your feet magically disappear. It’s a miracle!
I knew what I wanted, so I began calling around. The perfect mix would be like what Dizzy had given me, 21% THC and 35% CBD. It was perfect for work. A little buzz, a lot of relief.
Unfortunately, the Great Opiate Crackledown has sent all the old hippies to the weed stores to scoop up all the good pain relief. Several calls netted only hopes of deliveries in a week or two. Sigh. My friend needed it before then. What to do?
I stopped by the Dispensary near the Waterfront Store. I had a loose ten-spot, a Laffy Taffy might make my thought process work better. My Hawaiian buddy was behind the counter, and it was slow. Perfect!
I told him what I wanted, and he pondered. “You know, people have been snatching up the CBD stuff as fast as it hits the shelf. We may have a delivery this week, but it’ll probably just be high THC stuff. Not that that’s a bad thing…” He grinned. Then a light went off in his head. “Be right back,” he said as he ducked into the office.
“I have a sampler model of this. It’s a straight CBD, you get a gram, with pen, battery, and recharger. With your discount, you could afford this and a gram of the high THC stuff. The cartridges are interchangeable; just unscrew the THC one and put on the CBD one if that’s what you want.” I told him of my woes, and he came back from the office once again. We’ll sneak this in on your discount. It’s a 79% THC sativa, and will work with that pen you showed me the other day. Merry Christmas, Charles.”
We bumped knuckles, and I thanked him profusely. I have never had the nerve to ask what kind of discount I’m getting. It’s a blessing, and I accept graciously. Other than giving him some private information once when I thought he was in someone’s crosshairs, he has no reason to be in my debt. But goddammit, if he’s going to give me a discount, I’m going to say thank you and be fucking grateful! Even *if* the sativa cartridge has a pink tip. Electric Virginia Slim.
I have a couple more errands to run before I drop my buddy’s package off. Who knows, the rewards from good deeds have been plentiful today, and the day’s not over.
Mrs Brady has moved up quickly in the organization, attaining full-time status and a position next to management. With that comes responsibility, which she takes seriously. I like Mrs Brady, we work well together, but I hate it when she bosses me around. A gentle education is in order.
When I stopped by for coffee at the Nightclub Store, Mrs Brady was working the register. She’s almost exclusively been working at the Waterfront Store, with occasional emergency reliefs at the Mothership. She’s competent, easy-going to a point, and not hard to look at. The past few weeks we would work together at the Waterfront on freight day. We team well.
It seemed unlikely that we would be butting heads…
As I get older, when it comes to being impatient, the phrase “your mileage may vary” seems to fit.
At work, I stare at people as they choose which sugary treat to give them that push through the rest of the afternoon. I have the same issues with the humdrum of daily life. I need that extra boost sometimes. I’ve been chugging high-sugar, high-caffeine ice coffees lately, but no matter how jacked up on caffeine I get I can’t hurry the motherfuckers up.
Extra! Make the cussed-dumber a tweaker. If the food stamps are in, they will wander the store and spend $40, mostly on gummy candies, Rockstar drinks and Little Debbies. If they shop for an hour and have forgotten their card, or it has a balance of $0.41? You better have stolen a lot of shit, because you will be remembered for a couple months, and we will make a point of watching your every twitch forevermore.
Of course I get bored. I am insistent on doing my job. Others with customer burnout just sit and read or play with their phone until quitting time, looking up only when a customer comes to the counter. This is not good! You need to make eye contact every few moments. It lets them know who’s in charge.
As I get bored, I do what I do when I get bored. I party! Well, party is overstating, but I, ahem, augment my realities to make the situation more enjoyable. I started doing that with alcohol in the late ’70s, and continued to maintain a functioning alcoholic lifestyle for about twenty years. After giving up alcohol, over numerous tries, I quit completely and switched to high-quality green bud for my get-through-the-day best friend. I have not regretted that.
But I am a respectful professional, and I can’t just wander out onto the porch, burn half a joint and butt it out the way Festus does his see-gars. Even when legal, people still frown when they smell the skunk. WHAT WILL I DO?
Now that weed’s legal, and they have vapor pens, half the people you see puffing on fruity smelling electronic devices are getting high out of their mind before going back in to analyze spread sheets. The crowd waiting for the MAX by the Waterfront Store has never been more polite or fun-loving. (“Ooh! I love your pickle scarf!”) I blame the Dispensary, not the Irish bar. It always smells skunky out there, and for once it ain’t me!
Now I have two vapor pens, the Intergalactic Crack Pipe and a stylish screw-on oil pen given to me by Dizzy. She was having trouble getting it to draw. It’s almost out of oil, but the oil in it was 21% THC, 35% CBD. Ho-lee cow! I mess with it, swirl it around, take a puff and get a half-hit that makes my head warm and my feet float for about an hour. I’m hitting it only at work until it dies.
I am okay with the public. Always have been, but the scabs on my soul are getting a bit thin. My ups and downs with pills are coming to an involuntary close, but I can see it’s for the best. I figure I will enjoy them until they are no more, and then go back to suffering through life the way everyone else does.
I love my smartphone. It was a tough sell. I can be a bit of a Luddite until technology proves itself to me. But once the hook is in, ya got me.
I particularly love how I can blog from my phone. Catch all those important thoughts. Because I can doesn’t mean I do, but I love having the option.
Mostly I use the phone for transit-tracking and text-message flirtation. (Or the occasional dope deal. 😆) Recently I reactivated an old eBay-related account, and now I get notifications when there is activity. I’m not sure if I am reassured or unnerved.
Since the Pokemon Go phenomenon started, I feel guilty walking down the street staring at my phone, thinking others will think I’m playing that stupid fucking game. Two fully-grown ladies went into the Mothership while Festus was working, madly searching for a Pokemon near the wine aisle. He figured they were just drunk.On my way to an important date? I will flirt as I travel, which tends to annoy Rain. But if I have a bag of weed for Dizzy, like I did the other day, the updates couldn’t come often enough.
As the MAX pulled into Old Town, I alerted Dizzy. I began typing “the eagle has landed,” but when I looked at the auto-fill, it had projected “the eagle has” diarrhea.
I still laugh picturing it. Since the average bird shits every fifteen minutes anyway, would diarrhea constitute a steady stream?
As Dizzy replied, “How majestic.”
I could tell by the look on her face that things weren’t right. My usually happy-go-lucky sister had been blue. If I could get her talking, I could figure out what was wrong.
There have been lots of major life obstacles and changes the past couple years. My sister, who is stoic in the worst of times, was beginning to wear down. If it’s showing, it must be bad. She and my Bro-in-law took a mini-vacation to the beach, but at the last minute the kids decided they didn’t want to go. When Bro-in-law drives, it comes with a stream-of-consciousness dialogue that sounds like stating things aloud to see if they make sense. I avoid car rides with my Bro-in-law for just such reasons. A four-hour car ride? That’s a lot of vitriol. Without the kids to soften the dialogue, I imagine it was a lot of intense psychotherapy for my sister to have to absorb.
And absorb she does. She is the one who takes all the hits for the family. She’s the last one to eat. She’s the one who gets up out of a sound sleep to fetch my niece a glass of water, because that’s just who she is. So when I asked “What’s up?” in a certain way as we stood in the hallway of our home for the past fifteen years, she started to crack.
“Remember when I almost drowned? I was about nine or so, and got taken out to sea? I was out a couple hundred yards, and thought I was a goner, then a bright light came from above. It was like God cast his eye upon me, looked down and said, ‘Hey Jackass, stop that. Your mother needs you.’ I didn’t know if it was god or Mom, but I took it as a sign, and at that moment the tide pushed me back in.”
“Mom would be proud you confused her for God, but would probably have slapped you for blasphemy.”
That got a laugh. She took a deep breath. “I haven’t drank for about six months now. I don’t want to, hate the thought, but STILL it calls to me. The last night I worked, someone left an almost-full half-gallon jug of vodka in a room. If we’d gone back to the beach that night, I’d have drank that bottle and gone for a long swim in the ocean. I just got to where I…don’t… give…a…fuck.”
By now tears were streaming down her face. “I love my life, I love my kids, I love you, I love it all, but lately I’ve been so goddamned depressed! And as I am thinking about jumping in the ocean for that final swim, the sky out the window to the backyard lit up, like the eye in the sky. God or Mom was looking down, then a hummingbird popped up in my face. It was just so random and beautiful, and just when I needed it most. It was like getting a hug from Mom.”
Mom gave spectacular hugs, and I knew better than to compare, but if anyone needed a hug at that moment, it was us. We held each other like the two scared kids we once were. The world is coming to an end, but not the way we’d been told. This wasn’t Armageddon. This was nature’s way. People and things are born, and then they die. We can only hope our time here is pleasant. I flashed back to times in hospital waiting rooms when we waited for word on mom or dad. Of course, we didn’t hug or show emotion. I was a tough Irish kid, and Sister followed my example. It’s not pussyish to cry, unless you’re in public. We sat there stone-faced and waited. We still do, in a way.
After a moment of reassurances, and about a five-minute mopdown period, we were back to normal. I think just getting it out of her system helped a lot. The look of frustration she’d been carrying is gone, and the smiles are genuine again. Bro-in-law has been in a better mood. He’s about done with vacation, and while we love him, he needs to be out of the house more. We do best when we are ships that pass in the night, but we are still there for each other, because that’s who WE are. WE are family.
And we still have Mom watching over us. Thanks for the hug, Mom. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Update: After I wrote this piece, and was walking to work, the sky parted for a minute and the sun shone down on me. It may have been a meteorological coincidence, but it felt like a hug to me. Thanks, Mom.
We should learn from all lessons, but the cheap ones bear minding. Sometimes we get off lucky.
The Fourth of July isn’t my favorite holiday, but I try to make the best of it.
I don’t care for fireworks. I like pretty lights, but the smoke, noise and PTSD from neighborhood beefs isn’t worth the payoff.
I made plans to visit Dr T and Jem for the fireworks display. They live on the edge of the Pearl, up the street from Rain. Their view from the terrace is a sight to behold. It looks over the back side of the main post office toward the whole of downtown. The fireworks would backlight the city from that angle. It sounded lovely.
We’d talked of getting together as couples, maybe a dinner out? I liked the sound of it, but questioned the likelihood. I know what it’s like to get Rain to show up for something just involving me. Before planning something grand, perhaps a small test. Would she be able to be ready and down the street by nightfall?
Short answer, no.
Plans changed, from meeting downtown at 7 PM, to come to my house, to be right there, to me on the sofa waiting. I’d timed my drugs for nightfall, so I was having fun, but getting bluer by the minute. My visit with Rain was nice enough, everything was friendly. Salty came and went, I gave him a good luck joint, which I’m sure he’s promptly lost. As 9 PM approached, I began to feel claustrophobic. The room collapsed inward when Rain said, “Well, let’s hurry this up so I can go kick it with my friend.”
I deflated. She said “friend” in a way that made my heart sink and my balls ascend. I have tried not to be jealous when she flirts or talks with other guys. I don’t get jealous of the past, at least not anymore. This particular friend is an old buddy of her ex-boyfriend’s, and has had his prostate and a lung removed, so he’s not a threat. I’m proud of Rain in a way.
But there’s my cost.
I don’t want to have to wait until I’m damn near dead to feel her love and admiration. Good old Joe was a saint and a lovely guy and she misses him and they were soul mates and shit, but she left him for me and he didn’t start getting her attention until he had six feet of real estate to call his own forever. I don’t want to spend a lot of time regretting not doing more because I was waiting for someone to come with me. And… I want someone who wants to be there with me, not just to accommodate me once in a while and claim the memories.
So I gave Rain one of the joints, and told her I had to go. “Okay… Well, Imma just gonna go over to my friend’s house then. See ya Charlie Brown!”
I closed the door behind me, feeling a lot different about Rain. I still loved her, but there was a shift in the tectonic plate. It was time to start walking away. I pulled out the other joint meant for the rooftop, and smoked it as I walked down the streets of the Pearl. I caught a trolley eventually, which dropped me on Burnside. A five-block dash got me on an eastbound Green Line MAX. I texted apologies to Dr and Mrs T. I will make other plans soon, maybe without Rain next time.
The joint relaxed me to the point of nods, I drifted in and out until suddenly it was my stop. I felt so sorry for the Belmont Goats. It was like a psychedelic war zone in Felony Flats. I had been carrying a $2 pack of day-old cookies from the Upscale Mall in my vest all day. I untied them and ate all four as I meandered home, flinching under the explosions. It sounded like cannon fire outside my house, backed by Mariachi music. Hispanic men in cowboy hats chugged Coronas, and a fat kid almost shot himself in the face with a bottle rocket. (“How does this work?”) I went inside, chugged some milk and went to bed. Fuck the world.
This morning, I wake up one step closer to freedom, just like our forefathers. I have to set free the past, and move into the future.
And I have to go now.