Ch. 11 – PANAMA RED, HANDPICKED BY JUAN VALDEZ
Temecula, CA – Most readers probably don't give a second wonder about how I seem to be at the heart of my share of valley and world news. Ditto that for GMO and cannabis cause news, but here's the thing. I met John Diaz [Label GMOs] at Occupy and got my recommendation a month after OLA got rolled up. I was reporting positive medical marijuana reports long before Full Value Review morphed into the Temecula Calendar, so how I did I gain “I'm with the band” status from the MMJ crowd long before I wrote Memoirs?
Amazingly enough, that question is itself answered in my first person narrative written in 2001 after quitting my 'other woman' around since I was 20, Mary Jane, who I later took back and gave the Christian last name of Green to. At that time I predicted I would need to begin my tale at the start of my association with the plant now embroiled in a conflict of greed, so people would believe that what I said will come to pass wasn't just a lucky guess.
This 20 chapter running pop culture history can be broken into three Acts as it reveals how the social, sexual, economic, cultural, and esoteric elements of cannabis, in the form of marijuana, can affect your life as an asset, not a liability. The following selection showcases four of the five aforementioned attributes about pot in the span of 72 hours and takes place approximately one month before this Calendar story but in the same river city of Davenport, IA, circa 1980.
PANAMA RED, HANDPICKED BY JUAN VALDEZ
'As I strolled down to the Smoke House’ I realized that standing up to the dilemma of Max being back in my life the way I had tried to before, mentally, was not going to work. I also knew that my psychic friend was never wrong in her predictions. I searched for an answer to the puzzle all the way down to the bar. When I walked in the front door, there was Train sitting with some people around him as usual. I walked over and sat down next to him, ordering a pitcher right off the bat and producing a big grin on Train’s face. He pushed his empty glass over to me, and said, “Thanks Cuz.”
I should say right here that there were a number of bars in the city I lived in. There were the college bars up the hill not far away from the Catholic college I had gone to. There was a big bar in an old mansion that all the chiro students went to. There were bars over in the East Village where all the financial preppies went to. There were sports bars, black bars, Mexican bars, drug bars, pimp and hooker bars, white trash bars, old redneck bars, even ma and pa bars; in short, a bar for whatever type of person you were or wanted to hang with, like in New York City.
What made the ‘Smoke House’ different and set it apart from the rest of the bars in town was that people who represented the types found in all the other kinds of bars would pass through the Smoke House. I used to tell people that the Smoke House was just like the Cantina in STAR WARS, except everyone inside the Smoke House looked human.
Some of every type of person could be found inside on any given day. Even the Grim Reapers motorcycle club would come through from time to time, taking and turning any woman wearing a dress upside down to see if she was wearing panties. The inside of the bar was neutral ground however for anyone who was drinking there, so while there were racist people who came there to drink, they left their racism at the door or risked being barred from the place. Also no pimp was allowed to beat his hooker while inside the bar. Aside from those two simple rules, anyone was welcome to come and drink, at they own risk of course, because it really had the atmosphere of the ‘Cantina’ where anything could happen. And here was where Train was ‘the Pope of New York’; as he made small talk with every patron drinking and greeted each new face that walked through the Smoke House door.
“Looks like you got somethin’ heavy on yo’ mind, Cuz,’’ Train said, as I sat down on the stool next to him at the bar.
“Yeah, I’m suffering through a paradox,” I answered.
“Well down here, we skin ‘em both and make shoes out of 'em,’’ he cracked back.
I smiled a bit and he said, “Seriously, Cuz, this ain’t a place of thinking; this here is a place of drinking, so let’s get to it,” he announced to all the people who were in the bar. We all drank down our beers and refilled our glasses as someone bought another pitcher. He then started introducing me to the people who were in the bar. Every bar has at least one or two hotties that call the bar their home. The Smoke House had three.
There was Sherrie, a girl with a beautiful face, smooth, tanned skin, long, naturally wavy dark blond hair, with a body that had just the right amount of left over baby-fat to provide the smooth curves on it. But it was her husky sexy voice with its unique tonal quality that really caught your attention. She was like a baseball calendar pinup girl. Her features looked part Native American.
There was Diane, a very outspoken chocolate-skinned beauty with a sensual aura that oozed from a boyishly built body. She had a small pouted mouth but full lips that she put the reddest lipstick on and two big bright chocolate Betty Boop eyes that could get the last dime from a beggar. Her hot pants revealed smooth shapely legs that had not an ounce of fat on them and a tight little butt which was curved rather than round. Her raspy voice, closed cropped hairstyle, and fresh thrift store kitsch rounded out her uniqueness.
And then there was Janice, another dark-skinned beauty whose ‘Grace Jones’ hairstyle complemented her ‘Grace Jones’ features. She was more muscular than the other two girls and wore mostly black, usually coming out only at night. She was older than the other two, therefore more philosophical, and she was looked upon as a big sister by both Diane and Sherrie. Her body was as shapely as Sherrie’s but her breasts were bigger.
They were the Three Musketeers and none of them took any shit, not even from the bikers when they came in. They had the individual personalities of the girls you see on the Budweiser posters, alike but different in their own fashion. On this day the three of them were in the bar and Train introduced them all to me as his ‘sisters’. I gave them all a hug, noticing Sherrie as the one who caught my eye the most. The fact that they were open about their sexually only made them more appealing.
There were other people in the bar that day and each of them had a street nickname. There was Donna, a short-haired dirty blond who would cartwheel into the bar and was known as the ‘Lude Lady’ because Quaaludes were her drug of choice. And over at a side table was a dark-haired gypsy they called ‘Kirby’. Every bar also seems to have a ‘Tiny’ who is anything but, and there was also ‘Littl’ Bit’. They all seemed nice enough as I got trashed with them over the next ten hours. It was the longest time I had ever spent in a single bar.
When I got home I crashed right out and promptly had nightmares all through the night of being chased, shot at, sliced, diced, running through alleyways from cars trying to run me down, everything except being tied to a railroad track. I woke up and figured I had to think my way out of this. Winston, as close as he was to being a brother to me, did not do well when the subject was anywhere on the paranormal playing field. All the engineering training had left him with no room to believe in anything that didn’t work in the physical plane, so I was totally on my own this time. I reached for my tray and tried to roll a joint. I was successful on my third try.
I lay back on the couch and took a big drag off the joint of Red Bud. I blew it out and said, “Damn, this stuff is tasty.”
In the mind expansion that comes from smoking really good pot, I considered all the possibilities and ran over them in my mind, one after another. It wasn’t a ‘given’ that I would ever sleep with Max, but with the way my last few relationships had started off, it didn’t seem like a real long shot either, even if it only happened once. Maybe that was the answer; maybe it could only happen once.
Then I thought to myself, if Ira was really ready to sell the farm (although I didn’t ask Max if he had gotten lucky), once wouldn’t work for me. Then I thought about my own exploits with the last three women who came into my life and said to myself, I wasn’t exactly a dud either. I knew I would never be able to tell Max no if she came back for seconds.
Hell, I needed another joint.
After I lit the second joint, I sat there enjoying the rich taste of that Red Bud, which was like a piney light spice. I was thinking that although Winston couldn’t provide me with a sounding board he was still giving me a lift in my problems, when the phone rang. It was Max and the sound of her voice made the dilemma on my mind melt away like a wax cocoon caught in the noon sun at Death Valley. Was I feeling better, good, her boyfriend was leaving town to go visit his parents up in Chicago so she’d be over as soon as he left, maybe around seven. She needed to go out and have some fun. I said ‘OK’ and we hung up. I put my mental anguish on hold.
A few minutes after seven and in the cool of the evening came the knock on the door and a loud, “Hey, anybody in there?” even though the regular door was open, the lights were on, and the screen door was the only door closed. Max was in her party mood.
“C’mon in,” I said and Max walked in through the door but not alone.
With her was a stunning blond that she introduced as Candy. They were both wearing short leather jackets and they were hot, hot, hot.
Max said, “This is my dear friend Pete. Pete, this is Candy.”
Max sat on the couch and Candy sat down on the couch arm.
“Show her some of that pot you have, what we smoked the other day.”
“Sure,” I said and reached for my stash box where the bag was.
Candy took a look inside the bag and said, “Hmm, this looks like something I smoked the other night out on the river.”
Max asked, “Is it OK if she rolls a couple of joints for us later?”
“Is the Pope Catholic?” I answered back and both girls laughed. “Roll three and we’ll have one now.”
That was something that I really liked about Max, she had good manners, was thoughtful of others, and courteous. Not all really good-looking girls were that way; many just took things for granted because they used their looks to open the doors for them. Candy seemed to be the same way as Max. I was glad that Max had a friend like that.
We started puffing the Red Bud and Candy remarked that this stuff was better than what she had smoked out on the river. Max looked at me with a hint of pride in her smile and I felt all warm and fuzzy on the inside.
The dire warnings that I had received from my psychic friend were now deep in a locked drawer in the bottom recesses of my mind. We finished the joint and headed out the door. Max said she would drive and I piled into the front seat between two of the foxiest blonds on the Iowa side of the river. I felt like the luckiest man ever to piss west of the Mississippi.
Our first stop was to the new bar that I had discovered, the Smoke House. It was a Friday night and when we walked in Train let out a loud “Hooop” and ushered us to the back booth, a table that could hold about seven people. We ordered a pitcher and of course Train joined us. The place was full except for the back table where we sat and drank our beer. Several people that Train knew came up and sat down with us like Train was holding court, but Diane was the only girl ‘regular’ that came over and said Hi.
Train bought the second pitcher but as soon as it was empty Max said we had to go and meet some people who were waiting on us. Saying our good-byes we exited gracefully but quickly out the front door and over to Max’s car.
When we got inside the car, Max said to Candy, “Did you see the way they looked at us, like you (she looked in my direction) were our pimp and we were your whores or something?”
Candy agreed. “We are never going back there again. You can have your bar, the Smoke Heap,” she said angrily.
“The ‘Smoke House’,” I corrected her then quickly added that it was ‘a little rough around the edges’.
“They don’t get many uptown girls in there,” I added.
“No wonder!” Max huffed getting the last word in, and I knew enough to let her. She peeled out from our parking space.
“We’re going to a bar that I know, where a band is playing that I know you will like. It’s my sister’s husband’s band. They’re called The Spoonbills. We’re going dancing!” Max said and away Candy and I went with Max in control.
Sometime after two am in the morning the two girls dropped me back off at my apartment. Off into the night they sped with me waving goodbye and watching their taillights disappear down the hill then turn around the corner.
I was too wide-awake to walk in and go right to bed so I rolled another number. It wasn’t that I was sober, far from it; I was just too wound-up from the night. I had met a rocking blues band, sat at the band’s table, and impressed them with the joint of Red Bud that we smoked with them. All that and the fact that it seemed like we danced almost every song they played, and drank draft beer while every so
often doing shots of peach schnapps. My jaw hurt from laughing so much. I couldn’t remember when I had had so much fun in a single night. Max said that she would talk to me one day next week.
Saturday evening I decided I would return to the Smoke House and I went down with the intention of spending a quiet couple of hours having a beer or two and then returning home. After all, Friday night had been a real blowout for me.
I walked into the bar and immediately was surrounded by several guys who were either there on Friday night or had heard about the women I came in with. I was a celebrity and this time I didn’t buy the first pitcher, in fact I didn’t buy a pitcher all night. I sat in the back booth with Train, Diane, Sherrie, Tiny, Kirby and several guys that I didn’t know but Train did.
Train asked who the girls were and said that they looked like they felt a little out of place.
Diane added that it was too bad ‘cause the Smoke House was a lot of fun once you got to know everybody.
“The place kinda grows on you,” she said hoarsely.
“Yeah,” added Train, “like a wart.”
To which Diane snapped, “Shut up Train, it was probably your funky, crazy ass that scared them off. Anyway,” she added with kindness in her voice, “tell your friends we’re not that bad and they are welcome if they want to come back down here some time. We won’t bite.”
Sherrie piped in, “I agree with Train, either you can hang or you can’t.” Then she looked over at me and said, “You fit right in.”
She smiled, “Besides you never know when you might get lucky around here,” she cooed.
“Ain’t that the truth?” Diane and Train said in unison.
Kirby said, “We’re glad you came back down tonight ‘cause this doesn’t happen often,” and she pulled out a fat joint and lit it. It went around several times and wasn’t too bad for Mexican pot.
When the next pitcher of beer came over to the table, Train said, “Well you’re not the only one around here with some pull.”
He fished a joint out from his vest pocket. He was wearing his usual tan three-piece suit. The joint was bent a little but he straightened it out. “It’s only a little bit pregnant,” he said, referring to the bulge in the middle, “like you Diane.”
“I know you better hush your mouth, Train, you muthafucker. I ain’t pregnant and don’t you start telling folks that I am. I get talked about enough around here without you starting any vicious rumors,” she chided him.
“You tell him girl. Just because we like to fuck doesn’t mean we’re looking for any babies here,” Sherrie joined in pointing down out toward her lap.
“Enough of this! Light that damn thing already,” said Kirby, brushing back her wavy thick black hair from her gypsy face. She was decked out in an off the shoulder top decorated in deep colors that contrasted nicely with her moon white skin and black bushy eyebrows. She had a handsome smile.
We smoked Train’s joint. Another pitcher came again from Kirby who was buying that night. After that pitcher and joint were gone I signaled for another pitcher.
Train looked around and said, “Damn I wish we had another joint to smoke.”
As if on cue I fished out a joint that I had rolled before I came down to the bar, concealed in my hand after we finished the last joint, and said looking at him, “Ask and ye shall receive,” and then I whipped it out from between my two fingers.
“Why, Cuz!” Train said breaking into a laugh. I handed the joint to him to light. He lit it, took a big draw, then said, “Cuzzz” as he passed it to the next person. He blew out the smoke.
“This taste like what I’ve been hearing about around town,” he noted.
As the joint went around the circle at the back table each person made a similar ‘hmmm’ sound or said ‘tasty’. Since it was Red Bud, Red became my street nickname from that day on. In gang parlance, that night I was ‘made’. The whole table of us wound up dancing to the jukebox sounds of Kool and the Gang’s classic song Celebration, Santana’s obscure hit I’m Winning, and the country rocker Elvira. There were other people in the bar drinking but the party was at the back booth that night.
Again I got home after two in the morning but this time I crawled into bed as soon as I got home, even though the walk there had sobered me up some.
Sunday I got a mid-afternoon call from Winston and I gave him directions again on how to find my place. When he got there he brought out the latest crop of Red Bud he had gotten in. We smoked two fat joints in a row that he had rolled and brought with him.
We both got ‘cotton mouth’ and he said, “Let’s go someplace for a beer.”
I suggested, where else, the Smoke House, and so that’s where we went.
Train was there but none of the women from the night before were. It was early still. I introduced Winston to Train and the two of them hit it off right away, which kind of surprised me.
We had a couple of pitchers and then Winston and I headed back to my place. Winston came in and said he wanted to ask me something.
“Sure,” I told him.
He handed me the bag of pot that we had smoked out of, which was fine with me since that weekend had taken my stash down to half of what I had on Thursday. He then asked me if I thought that I could move any weed through the bar that we just came from.
I said, “Like ‘grease through a goose’.’’
A business relationship was born that afternoon which would bring the denizens of the Smoke House the best reefer they had ever seen or smoked and make me into the legend called Panama Red, the song come to life, in every way. Of course I still had my dilemma with Max to figure out but, oy vey, such a week I was having. I was not going to sweat the small stuff.
It didn’t matter that the Smoke House was located two doors from the corner that was a half a block south from the city police station, the same ‘cop shop’ where Max’s boyfriend worked. It all went with the territory of being ‘the man’ in the Smoke House.'
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MEMOIRS of MR. PETE & MARY JANE GREEN, Amazon [hardcopy, 2012] CD Baby.com [audio book recorded by author, Strike Twelve Studios, 2014].