Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Ocean Breathes Salty...

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A Day at the Beach

How a drunken Lonestoner met the Prince of Pot

It was eight-thirty in the morning. I had been up all night drinking free beers, celebrating the success of the first show of the theater I have been living in for the past couple of months.

Flux53. Horrible name, but not a bad place to pass out in, even if it is a little cold and dusty at times. It was our first official show as Flux53, a Circus Cabaret, and it went better than I had hoped to imagine considering how utterly unprepared we were. But we pulled it off somehow, and once I realized just how good it was going to be I began to drink especially heavily.

Did I mention it was eight-thirty in the morning? I had been working almost non-stop for over two days at that point but the success of the party had left me in such high spirits and combined with all the leftover beers we didn’t sell, the next thing I knew it was eight-thirty in the morning, I was rip-roaring drunk, and I had the absurd notion in my head that I needed to see the ocean. Immediately.

Nevermind the fact that I was slurring my speech, could barely walk without breaking into my patented drunken stagger, and as usual had no money. Nevermind the fact that I was supposed to be at an important political event that I had helped organize, a people’s tribunal to help spread awareness about the growing problem of police brutality in Oakland.

I needed to see the ocean. I had lived in the Bay Area for nearly two months and I had yet to look upon the Pacific Ocean. I wasn’t okay with that at all. And I felt it was time. I told my activist friend whom I’d convinced to work security that I wasn’t going to be attending the tribunal I was going to the Beach and if he didn’t like it he could fuck off. He fucked off.

I shook down the place for cash, finding three dollars in the tip jar on the bar, and fifteen in the cashbox under the desk we were using as a box office. I loaded my backpack with a couple bags of leftover chips, a quarter bottle of whiskey someone had left behind, and as many cans of Budweiser as the bag would hold.

I had an interesting conversation with a fellow all-nighter who was also headed for the BART station. We drank beer, and later had cheap coffee and cake from a Mexican bakery, as we stumbled down the street and talked about who was getting laid, who wasn’t, and why.

At the station I bid goodbye to my friend, who was headed south, and bought my first BART ticket. Four bucks to the beach, or at least as close as the train would take me, I’d have to take a bus or walk the rest of the way.

I drank beer the entire time I was on the train going across the bay. It was only when I offered the gentleman in the seat next to me a shot of whiskey that I learned there were security cameras in every car. Oh well.

I had decided to get off the BART at the Colma station and walk to the nearest beach, which I later learned is called Pacifica, but while I waiting for the bus to Pacifica I met a young kid, nineteen or twenty, and gave him a beer and a smoke. He was from the city and he said he knew not only where there was a nice unpopulated beach but also where we could score some good weed on the way.

The kid’s name was DJ and he seemed cool enough, so I changed my destination and went back into San Francisco. We jumped off the train at 17th and Mission and walked around for a couple hours while DJ tried to find some pot. Just as we were about to call off the hunt, the roommate of yet another one of DJ’s friends who wasn’t home took pity on us and tossed us down a big joint, free of charge. Waiting for the bus to the beach we ran into another friend of DJ’s who bought him a twelve pack, and we chug one and reload the depleted backpack while we wait.

The beach was well worth it. It was a beautiful afternoon, perfect weather, warm sun and sand, and those cool blue waves crashing against the shore. We find a good spot on the dunes and plop down, taking off our shoes and opening a beer. This had to be about number thirty for me by then, but I had made it to the Ocean at last, and I felt damn good.

The beach patrol cop was down by the water’s edge harassing a woman with an unleashed dog, so we had to wait a bit before sparking up our gifted joint but when we did it made the perfect day just a little nicer. DJ and I, who are almost as close as brothers by this point for some reason, start a deep discussion about true love, of all things. About the difficulty of finding the one perfect woman, and how you would know if you did.

We get stoned, and we get good and drunk, and after the sun has started to set a bit we are joined by a young woman. She told me her name twice but I’m afraid I don’t remember what it was. She was from Canada, the really French part, and her accent was a little hard to understand, especially in my inebriated condition. She wanted to smoke marijuana but all we had to offer her was alcohol at that point so she had beers and a couple shots of whiskey with us.

We walked down to the water, leaving DJ behind with our stuff, and splashed around a bit, talking and laughing and flirting awkwardly. She wanted to watch the sunset and then go to a club and party but I was really smashed and knew I’d never make it through the night even if she was buying.

She was a nice girl and I might have at least stayed to watch the sunset with her but DJ had to leave before dark, he was going across town to see a friend who was dying of gunshot wounds, and I was unsure of exactly where I was at and didn’t trust the foreign girl to get me home. I have a few friends in the city I could have called but I didn’t bring anyone’s contact info. I only wanted to see the Ocean, not friends.

So we began the trek back towards the BART, and I was drinking beers the whole way, even on the buses. Nobody cared. I am totally blitzed at this point, loudly talking shit to anyone around and probably annoying the hell out of my new friend. Getting off the bus to transfer over, I fall in the street, something I haven’t done in a very long time. I realized I might not make back to the East Bay in my current condition.

I ask DJ if I can just go crash at his place, but he’s a street kid, he doesn’t have a place. He says he knows where there is a car I can sleep in and I say what the fuck are you crazy, but he says no it’s cool, and I’m in no position to argue. I know I’ll be fine if I can sleep it off for an hour or two and a strange car is better than the street. We walk a few blocks, and he opens the door of this minivan. It’s warm and surprisingly clean so I hop in back and pass out. I don’t know if I said goodbye to DJ but I know I forgot to get my backpack from him.

I wake up to the sound of the van driving down the street. Fast. I crack an eye open and see two guys I’ve never seen before in the front seat. I’m wondering if this is how my life is going to end, if I decided to pass out in the wrong tweaker van, when the driver, an older guy about sixty or so, says, “Hey he’s awake!”

I can tell by the way he said it that he means me no harm, so I sit up and say, “Good evening gentleman, I had a little too much to drink at the beach today and DJ said it was cool for me to crash here for a little while. Is everything alright?”

“That’s cool” says the passenger, a younger guy about twenty-five or so, “we just didn’t know who you were. I was gonna kick you out but Dennis said no, you was okay.” “Yeah” says the driver, who I now assume is named Dennis, “I don’t care if people sleep in my car, that’s why I never lock the doors. What’s your name kid?”

I tell Dennis my name and a little more about how I came to be passed out in the back of his car. A minute or so later we drop off the passenger and I climb in the front seat. Dennis tells me I can sleep on one of his couches. He says I really should check out his place, he lives in a pink castle with a blacklight garden. When we park outside his building I see he wasn’t kidding, it really does look like a pink castle. We go in through a side door, into a kind living room/den area, and Dennis has me a roll a joint from his stash. It’s such high quality shit we both have to put it out less than halfway through.

He shows me around the rest of the place, a huge space with three stories spread out over two separate buildings. In between is an incredible blacklight garden, covered in psychedelic paint, with a nice hot tub midway through. The castle acts as a reasonably priced, all inclusive Bed and Breakfast. Every bedroom has a private balcony with a breathtaking view of the city below.

The whole place is decorated with pro marijuana legalization stuff; signs, banners, artwork, etc. I start to get the feeling that I know this old hippie, or at least I should. I’m looking at a framed copy of High Times magazine with my new friend on the cover when it finally hits me.

It turns out that Dennis is actually Dennis Peron, arguably the greatest marijuana rights activist of all time, and a true counterculture legend. This old man who found me sleeping in his van is one of my personal heroes. He opened the very first medical marijuana dispensary in California, and was instrumental in the passing of Prop 215. I had just smoked a joint with the Prince of Pot.

He gives me a glass of juice while we chat with his brother for awhile in the main kitchen, then, sensing my exhaustion, he shows me to a comfy couch in the living room of one of the suites. I fall asleep knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I wake up in the early afternoon and go upstairs to the kitchen. Dennis and his brother are there and we have coffee and blueberry muffins, then enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot tub. Dennis talks about his accomplishments in the movement, and about the cannabis clubs today, how they are mostly just about making money.

Feeling better and only a little hung over, I bid Dennis and his brother goodbye, thanking them for their more than generous hospitality. Dennis responds by smoking another joint, and gifting me a signed copy of his book. He invites me to come back whenever I’m in the city, an invitation I fully intend to take him up on.

As I’m walking the few blocks to the BART station, I take a look what he’s written inside the front cover;

Dear Robert,

Keep your dreams!

Stay High!

Dennis Peron

San Francisco ‘09