“Need a light?”

June 8, 2007 at 9:40 am (Waxing Nostalgic)

The Rose Festival Fun Center is in full-swing right now. The military ships are at the seawall, parade-goers are already lining up, and the carnival is open 11 AM to 10 PM. Back in 1979, I went for the first time…

It didn’t always cost $5 to get into the Fun Center. In 1979, I had just moved from the logging town of Sandy to the big bad city. (Back before Sandy looked like Beaverton.) Living on a Social Security stipend, plasma donations and the kindness of strangers, I was out to taste all of life’s delectables.

I was hanging out with my two buddies from childhood and a couple of their friends. One of these friends was mid-thirties, so we took advantage of the situation and went to the liquor store. After one bottle of Smirnoffs 100-proof vodka, we decided to get another and head to the carnival.

I’d stuffed it into my army parachute-pack, along with a bottle of orange juice. We’d rolled joints, and planned on a typical trip to Waterfront Park, which meant finding a semi-secluded spot to catch a buzz. It would be a challenge with the carnival going on.

After walking the park, feeling the growing alcohol buzz, we decided to take a smoke break. The area near the Burnside Bridge was always a good spot to party. The police considered it a ‘look the other way’ zone- be cool, and we won’t hassle you. The trick is to be cool

We pulled up a piece of lawn in front of the floating dock by the bathrooms. Seated so we could see all directions, I produced my contribution, a doobie, and we sparked up. We smoked cigarettes as we passed it around, and no one was the wiser. I chugged my screwdriver and we made small talk as the doobie burned down to a quarter-inch.

As we finished up, a migrant worker clutching a quart of cheap beer wandered up and tried to join our low-key affair. “Sorry, man. Private party.” He persisted, trying to grab the roach. After a less-polite “Fuck off!” he stumbled away. But the damage was done.

Since this was the last of my walking stash, I wanted to get the full effect. I pulled out a small wooden hash pipe, put the roach in it, and began flicking my Bic. The wind complicated matters, and I kept flicking.

“Need a light?” Another friendly voice, probably wanting a hit.

“No thanks, I think I’ve got it.” I looked to my left, and saw the blue pant leg with the contrasting blue stripe running up the side.


I handed the pipe and lighter to the officer, keeping my mouth in check. “What are we smoking today, folks?” He sniffed the pipe.

“Just a little weed, sir.” At least we got to smoke all of it first.


I pulled out my driver’s license. “Eighteen on Wednesday, huh? Happy birthday. Got any more drugs on you?”

“No sir.” I thought of the line in the Cheech and Chong movie, where Chong exhales and says ‘Not any more!’ Tick a lock…

He picked up my backpack. “Whose is this?” I raised my hand, like I was in grade school. No sense everyone getting searched. He popped it open, dug around, and found the bottle of vodka. “Is anyone here 21?”

Freewheelin’s friend looked sheepish, but acknowledged that he was. “Okay, we’re going to assume this is yours.” He said it to the friend, but looked straight at me. “Since 3.2 beer is the only thing allowed in the park, we’re going to have to pour this out.” He handed it to me, and I started pouring, albeit slowly.

At that moment, the inebriated idiot with the quart of beer that brought us all this unwanted attention got into a fight with another batch of lawn-dwellers, momentarily distracting the officers. I took a mighty big chug and got the bottle back on its side just as their gaze returned. The bottle drained, and the cop seemed satisfied.

“You, sir, are excluded from the Fun Center for the day. If I catch you here again tonight, you will be excluded for thirty days.” He looked at my friends. “You all need to find something to do besides get loaded at a family event.” They left to deal with the fight a few feet away.

What to do? What do you think? We pooled our cash and were off to the liquor store for the third time that day.

I’d like to say we were smart and stayed out of the park, but that didn’t happen. In those days, admission was free, and you could come and go without those pesky fences blocking off everything. I did wise up and make my screwdriver in a 32 oz pop cup, which made everything incognito. I cruised up and down the Fun Center numerous times. Around sunset, I spotted the officer that had busted me, and decided it was time to call it a day.

After parting with my friends, on the way home, I ran into one of my mom’s friends from church. Gulp! Busted again? Nah. She was cool, a young mother of four. She’d given me beer a couple of times when I’d come to pick up my little sister, whom she babysat. A luscious MILF, she’d let her bathrobe gap, and we could talk of things other than bible study. I’ll bet she’s still hot.

As the night wore on, I had company at my new bachelor pad from three different female friends. I felt SO studly! No kiss and tell, although there wasn’t much to tell.

These days, you won’t be getting away with a lot at the Fun Center. The $5 admission keeps most bums out, cops and security are every ten feet, and the ‘family’ atmosphere isn’t that fun of a place to get a rip on anyway.

But, if you absolutely, positively have to get stoned, make sure you have a working lighter and breeze block.

Or some guy in blue stripes might offer you a light…


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