6am: I’m darting up the stairs to my attic flat, with the cab out front with its hazards on. As is a darn nice convenience to actually live in San Francisco where I drive, I’ve popped home to take a shit and…
Hey! (Sniff, sniff.) What’s that smell??
OH MY GOD!!!
Fifteen minutes later…
I’m rolling Fillmore towards the lower Haight with a worried mind, a furled brow, and fishing for flags.
There’s a lanky late 20’s white dude in athletic pants and a baseball cap smoking a cigarette at the bus stop between Fell and Oak. He makes eye contact with me while gesturing with his cigarette and exhaling a large cloud. I pull over. And dude comes into the street, leaning in towards my shotgun to address. And with a mellow disposition and sunken eyes, Neal speaks.
Cassaday, “I’m going out to 3rd & Army. But, can you wait for me to finish this cigarette first?”
Driver, “I don’t mind if you can smoke in the cab, if you leave the window open. Cool?”
Cassaday, “Yeah, cool. Thanks.”
Neal casually settles in back and starts staring out of his open window, all easy and aloof.
Cassaday, “I’m just not lookin’ to spend an hour on the 22 Fillmore today.” Adding the usual, “So, how’s your morning going?”
Driver, “Oh, I feel you. I haven’t taken MUNI in years. But, I remember the deal. Actually, I was just mapping my 15 year-old boy on my phone yesterday, as he was heading out to 3rd & Army on the 22 with a friend. I was amazed at how long it took them.”
Driver, moving on to Neal’s question, “But, oh man! How am I doing this morning? Funny you should ask.”
Driver expounding, “That friend of my kid’s goes back to elementary school. He’s been sleeping over for like the last week. But Johnnie’s actually 17, my older boy’s age. He moved down to Long Beach some years ago when his parents got divorced. He’s a good kid, but kind of wild. Wild in a good way, though. I’ve always been sad that my boy didn’t have any friends in town to go out and explore with, and raise good clean hell. Rite of passage stuff. None of his other friends’ families are of that ilk. All helicopter parents.
Anyway, the last time Johnnie came up to visit his dad, who’s out in Oakland, they walked down to Japantown to film themselves taking off their shirts inside the Burger King, with the purpose of getting the manager on camera yelling at them and kicking them out. Which he did. HA!
But, this morning? (Sigh.) Just before picking you up, I was at home taking a shit. And when I walked in the door, the flat REEKED of POT! (Sigh.) Yup. That check has finally arrived.
When I got to the top of the stairs, though, and started walking through the kitchen towards the bathroom, I noticed an empty baggie on the cutting board… and that the smell was coming from the OVEN! I opened the door, and there on one of my kid’s nice baking sheets, mindfully laid out in perfect flakes all spread out evenly on wax paper, was the marijuana! BAKING!
I should tell you that my kid is a very good cook. With baking, in particular. It’s a big hobby of his. And he’s very good at it. I have to say, seeing HOW he was planning to consume had me pretty conflicted. I mean, he wasn’t just planning on smoking a joint. He was being productive, experimenting, and MAKING something! Hell, with all the chemistry involved, it’s even educational!
Still, it was that moment as a parent when you find yourself in TOTAL shock, gasping, and just having NO IDEA what to do!
So, with my jaw on the floor, I stared at the pot in the oven, and then looked over at the light coming out from under his bedroom door. (Which is next to the bathroom, by the way.) Then I stared back at the pot on the baking sheet, then his door, the oven, his door, the oven, his door.
Then, I shut the oven and walked over to the bathroom to take that shit. And I left the bathroom door WIDE open and made sure to take an EXTRA LONG one, as I sat there considering what to do…
Hmm. I figured my kid and his friend HAD to be there on the other side of his bedroom door freaking out that I had come home unexpectedly and busted them. I figured they must have been waiting for me to take the pot and come banging on the door yelling and kicking Johnnie out.
Of course, that’s what any normal parent would do. But, I’ve been having “the talk” with my kid on and off for two years now. I mean, reality. Right? Given that we live in San Francisco, pot’s about to be legal in California, the boy knows I first tried it when I was 15, and after having found his mother’s live-in boyfriend’s pot on numerous occasions, this day was eventually going to come!
Anyway, “the talk” entailed being conscious of it all, about how abuse creeps up on you, your mind gets fuzzy, grades can slip, and that it’s a slippery slope into a larger drug culture. I’ve warned him about the national opioid crisis and how kids are OD’ing on Fentanyl-laced heroin in the halls of high schools. (As my older kid has told me is happening at HIS school!)
So, we came to an understanding that I do NOT condone it, however much a hypocrite. I’m NOT his friend in this regard, or THAT PARENT, who smokes with him and provides the kegs for him and his friends to have parties and get drunk at home! We came to an understanding that if I EVER found his pot, I would throw it out. Which the boy has acknowledged.
Still, now that I HAVE caught him, throwing it out strikes me as… futile. And like it might shut him out, and start some war where he throws out my beer, or wine. And the WAY I busted him somehow feels… unfair. He had no idea I was going to come home from work! And jeez, he was making a BAKING project out of it for Chrissake!
No, however confused and on the fence, I decided there on the toilet that I would just turn off the light in the kitchen as I left our apartment. I decided to just leave it be… for now. Partly as a head game, and partly in the hopes that the boy might feel some kind of guilt or apprehension about it all. Hell, maybe it would take away whatever power it had as forbidden fruit. Or, maybe leaving it would impart the sense that he was being watched. Like Poe’s ‘Tell Tale Heart’… I dunno.
Neal laughs heartily, before giving his two cents, “Man! That’s EXACTLY how MY dad handled it! I thought much later how he was really messing with me! But, you’re right. There’s not a whole lot you can do with it. Man, parents are powerless!”
Cassaday expounding, “For me? I played college ball at UC Davis. Then, one day I got a real bad back injury. My L6 vertebrae was knocked out of place and was pinching my sciatica. I was laid up in the hospital for weeks, man! When I got home to start recovering there, there was a big bottle of Oxycodone by my bed. And the whole thing of being away from playing ball did a number on me, man. It messes with your identity. I was popping pills left and right for the pain. I got totally addicted, man. Then, I moved on to other pharmaceuticals. And then heroin. I’m clean now, though.”
Driver, interjecting, “Wow! You’re like the poster child for what’s been going on nationally! This wasn’t just a slippery slope, or gateway thing from pot. You were a victim of the pharmaceutical companies out to make a buck on you!”
Cassaday, “Yeah, that’s me. At first, I had a high school friend who ended up working at a pharmacy owned by an old dude who had NO business running a pharmacy! The guy was COMPLETELY senile! Me and some friends would go in when he wasn’t looking and steal BOATLOADS of Percocet, OxyContin, Xanax, whatever we could get our hands on!
But, like I said. I’ve been clean for a while now. I still people I used to run with on the bus, though. People from my crew, from when I was a homeless addict.”
Driver, “Does seeing them act as a trigger ever? Or anything else, for that matter? How do you stay sober?”
Cassaday, “Well, AA has helped a lot. If I ever get the urge, I take a deep breath and wait. It passes.”
Driver, “Yup. This too shall pass. If you don’t mind I ask, what was your scene when you were homeless? How did you survive? I drive a lot of homeless, and I’m always curious about how they get their game on.”
Cassaday, “Oh, man. I ran with a crew. We would hit cars around Civic Center at night, and then sleep in the day on the benches there. It was safer that way, with the cops. And more productive.
Also, everyone in my crew had a different hustle. I was the Rogaine guy.”
Driver, “The Rogaine guy?”
Cassaday, “Yeah. Stealing it from Safeway. The best Safeway was the one out in the Sunset, on Taraval. They didn’t get a lot of shoplifters, so security was real lax, man. When they DID bust you, they wouldn’t call the cops, either. They’d just take the Rogaine and kick you out.”
Driver, “Wow! Rogaine. I like your style!”
Cassaday, filling out the gang, “There was this other guy in my crew, Miami. Man, he lied his ASS off to his mother! She would send him money ALL the time, from Miami, after getting this bullshit story or that.
Then, there was Maybelline. Her thing was lifting high end cosmetics from Union Square.
The leader of the crew was a guy named Bob. He called all the shots, handled the money and scored the drugs. He knew what to steal, when and where to steal it. It was a good crew. We all had each other’s backs.”
Driver, “Well, one thing I hear is that homeless people are ALWAYS getting their stuff stolen. Was that ever a problem?”
Cassaday, “Not in my crew. There was honor among thieves, man. It was the loners you had to watch out for. That guy that would be around when your phone went missing, and then pretending to help you look for it.”
Driver, “Yeah, I have to say, with all the different homeless scenes I’ve see around the city from my cab, I’ve always appreciated the Haight Street kids. It seems tribal with them. Though, I guess a lot of them are just down from Humboldt to sell pot on the street. They’re not really stealing or into hard drugs.”
Cassaday, “Well, some of them get off track. Hard drugs are frowned upon up in that scene. But, some of them go astray and get kicked out of their tribe, and end up doing crack or whatever and living on the benches down at Civic Center.
Driver, “Crazy. I didn’t realize.”
Cassaday, “Also, even though hard drugs aren’t cool in the Haight, there are two gangs up there, the Scum Fucks and the Grateful Dead Family. And the leaders of BOTH overdosed on heroin, man! So, they got THAT in common.”
Driver, “I had NO idea! Oh, hey! We’re at 3rd. Did you want me to cross over?”
Cassaday, “Yeah, I’m headed down to the Penske truck rental.”
We pull into the industrial blocks of Army on the other side of 3rd, and shortly into Penske. The meter reads $15.60.
Cassaday takes a last puff of his cigarette as he hands me up a twenty, saying to keep it. And he exits the cab, snuffing out the cigarette butt under his foot. And he as closes the door, Neal leans back into my shotgun, to part with,
“Hey, man. Good luck with your kid.”
I’m home, and ready to approach the boy about his, um, cooking experiment. I’d hit the Lucky supermarket on the way home, and he’s helped me bring up groceries and is now putting them away. He’s always helped with bringing up the groceries. But, he’s NEVER put them away!
It should be said that while checking out back at the Citizen’s Cab lot, I had asked some of the cab crew hanging out at dispatch for any advice they might have. After going on with a story about how his dad caught him in his bedroom giving a blowjob to a friend when he was 15 (emphasizing dad’s tempered response as his one shining moment as a parent) Bob Valor went on to suggest that my kid contact his current girlfriend (Bob’s bi) who runs a non-profit called Food Craft Institute. He says it’s a plugged in org geared towards helping artisan entrepreneur chefs further their business.
Bob, “You never know. She might be able to get his pot-infused baked goods into Whole Foods, bro!”
While I HAVE envisioned a future running a food truck with my kid, Son & Sack, I did NOT quite picture the fare having this type of “artisan” twist. (Though, hmm.)
It should also be said that I called best friend, band mate, and fellow cabbie, Christian, for HIS advice, which I always have to take with a grain of salt. (He can be pretty anal, and usually gives me the opposite of whatever the benefit of the doubt is.) I mean, there has to be some kind of response or consequences here, right? I really probably should have at least TAKEN the pot! UGH! I was just caught so off guard!
Christian, “Well, whatever you do, DO NOT write about it for your blog! You’ll ruin his future!”
Dad, “So… son. What about what I found in the oven this morning? Should I have thrown it out? That was our deal, right? If I ever busted you with pot, I’d throw it out?”
Son, “Yeah, uh, you should have.”
DAMN! I SHOULD HAVE!!
Son expounding, “But, it’s not what you think, dad! I’ve never used pot! I was just making cannabutter.”
Dad, “Huh?? What? For your friend, Johnnie?”
Son, “Uh, no. He doesn’t do pot, either. I mean, I’m sure he’s tried it. But I’ve never seen him do it. I’ve seen kids at my school do it, though. I see it around.”
Dad, “So, exactly WHO are you making cannabutter for, then? And what do you DO with cannabutter, anyway?”
Son, “You use it to make edibles. I was just gonna sell it, dad.”
So, anybody out there have some beachfront land for sale in the Mojave? I’m looking to buy.
Seriously though, my kid went through his lying phase a LONG time ago. And I’m pretty positive he’s past that. Besides, I’ve nurtured our relationship in such a way that he has no cause to lie to me.
Huh? You got a nice rustic cabin situated right there on the shore of Lake Mojave? For under $50K???
The cannabutter was still unused when I got home, wrapped in foil in the fridge. (And looking very professionally done, I might add.)
Should I throw it out?
Please SHARE if so inclined, folks!
Photo by Alex SacK
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