Bisbee, the “Queen of the Copper Camps” is an old mining town in Arizona just a stone’s throw from the line that divides Mexico from the United States. In its day, it fired on all cylinders and enjoyed full employment at the mine and all the economic benefits that came along with that industrial enterprise. Mine owners abandoned ship in the 1970s and the town has been in a population decline ever since. According to myth, lore, and a smattering of fact, wandering long hairs and brassiere rejectionists discovered the boarded up town in the late 1970s and squatted in abandoned miner shacks. Then they got busy and started selling their beads and leather goods on the wide thoroughfare known as Tombstone Canyon. After everyone turned thirty, no one knew who to trust anymore so the hippies embraced capitalism and began to trust the dollar. Shops appeared, restaurants opened, and squatters became landed gentry and started complaining about their property taxes.
Adam lived in a dwelling that had gone through several iterations and could have been one of those miner shacks now worth a quarter million dollars. The moment arrived for my return to the smoky arts. I’d never been to Adam’s and as I climbed his concrete stairs holding on to the steel rail made of plumbing pipe, it embarrassed me that drug use, not a shared meal or beverage, provided the reason for my first visit. I knocked on Adam’s door, a little ashamed with myself for architecting the moment. There I stood waiting for him to open, feeling guilty about my intentions. I was like an adolescent picking up his date for prom, cognizant that my girl’s father was all too aware of my deeper intentions that had brought me to the entrance of their home.
Adam had no daughter. But he did have weed and that’s why I was at his doorway. Once he opened, I greeted him quickly and asked for the whereabouts of the bathroom, ducking inside to collect myself and to remember my mission.
When I exited the bathroom, he sat at a small sofa and called me over. I joined him there. He had some newish Bob Dylan playing. Once I was at his side, he leaned forward to a coffee table, and opened a small tin. The dry brown kernels in the tin bore no resemblance to the fluorescent ‘Demon Green’ weed that had gotten a hold of me and my existence twenty-five years prior. I tried to contain my disappointment at the puny little sand-bur stickers.
“What kind of weed is this,” I inquired hoping my evening would not be a disappointment.
“I don’t know. It’s just pot,” he replied.
Adam was a regular, but not a heavy pot smoker. I’d known him for a year or two before I even knew he partook. He didn’t make references to the stuff. If pot ever came up in our conversation, I don’t remember Adam talking about it. When I did learn of his use, it surprised me to learn that about him. His home was no stoner’s lair. He had no expensive paraphernalia, no subscription to High Times Magazine, no pot plants growing in his kitchen windowsill.
Clearly, Adam had not made the transition from a 1970s college toker, complaining about Nixon and Vietnam, to the cannabis connoisseur conversant in hydroponics, twenty-four hour lighting, and Miracle Grow. Still, he was getting me high on his own supply and was generous to let me barge in on a Sunday night to salve my sorry wounds.
From another small box on the table, he extracted a little pipe he loaded for me. I took it into hand, lit the bowl, and not wanting a repeat seminary episode of Apocalypse Now, I drew on the pipe softly. As the smoke entered my lungs, I remembered the uncomfortable pressure weed produced inside my chest. As an asthmatic, it did dawn on me that I might not be making the healthiest choice at the moment. I returned Adam’s pipe to him and sat back against his sofa, now more pleased with myself than embarrassed and also self-congratulatory that I could pull off my first smoke outing in such a short amount of time. I was also a bit concerned that I so easily abandoned my twenty-five year pot prohibition.
My world still pretty much in tact, I asked if I could hit the pipe again. Adam smiled a coy grin, packed the bowl afresh, and handed me the dose. I repeated the machinations, this time more confident that I could handle more and inhaled deeply. The second round delivered what I had come to Adam’s to receive: I was high. My soul still attached to my body and discernible, the lightness and laughter that weed typically offers found me.
Part of pot’s appeal for me is its ability to make the ordinary absolutely unique and how it renders sacred surroundings like a friend’s home or the coolness of a star filled night. I use that word intentionally because I know of no better term to describe what happens to me when I smoke-more specifically, when I smoke moderately and don’t have an existential implosion.
It’s as if everything takes on a hue, a holy aura, and that which I haven’t noticed or have taken for granted, possess deep meaning, anchoring me to the present, fostering in me an appreciation for the the goodness of the moment. Most of my journey with weed in those six months was full-on manic, but there were moments when I calmed down long enough to be present to my surroundings in a way that I recognized the blessing with which all creation is imbued.
Weed also makes me loquacious. I began to self-disclose. I told Adam about my late entry into sex. He suggested to me that my stilted development with the intimacies explained my two admissions into psychiatric hospitals. The THC began to potentiate and I laughed until my gut hurt.
Adam tried to be a sound listening ear, but he was too engrossed in finding his photo albums. It was clear that we were not going to smoke more of his crummy pot. I accepted the terms of the evening and learned about his life via his own photo journalism. Before long, my mania began to surface. Adam probably noted this when I berated him more than once that one of his exquisite photos was not on the cover of Life Magazine.
As a young man, while on a cross-country tour, he was seated in the back of pick-up bed traveling through Colorado. He took a photo of a small boy looking at him through the cab’s sliding window. The boy rested against his father who drove, both hands on the wheel, along a narrow valley while the Rocky Mountains surged up from the flatland. The photo captured the relationship between father and son, the natural beauty of Colorado, and the simplicity of a open-air ride in a truck bed.
As soon as I laid eyes on it, I immediately wondered why it was not part of the photographic canon of Americana. Weed activates my own grandiosity (at the height of the escapades, I became convinced I could run for and be elected President) but that grandiosity also seeps into the connections I have with others and I can be too adamant, eccentric, and insane.
Adam started thinking about an exit plan for the evening.
He temporarily mollified my growing hyperactivity by providing me cheese and sausage, all of which I feverishly consumed. As we listened to his new Bob Dylan album, Adam spoke of his marriages, his parents, and his upbringing as a Christian fundamentalist. Any intoxicant, once its in my system, tends to reduce my already low resistance to self-disclosure. But my sharing of personal history tends to help others share that kind of information. A little sub par bud and we were the best of friends. I marvel how that can happen once people start to get a little loose.
Our male bonding had a limit. Adam began to have enough of me and he suggested we go outside to get some air. I was barely able to see, but I concurred with his plan and looked forward to getting out into the night.
Not wanting to wear out my welcome, but not wanting my night to end, I decided to take a chance and impose upon another Bisbee creative soul. I would call Max, the Willy Wonka of Bisbee. I knew Max not as well as I knew Adam, but I sensed he liked me and might help me remain on my mission.
Another phone call ensued.
“Max, this is Seth.”
“Good evening, Padre. What can I do for you?”
Max grew up Roman Catholic, attended Catholic school and even served as an altar boy. He had no love loss for the church, however, so I took it as an honor that he addressed me as ‘Padre.’
“Max, I’ve been smoking marijuana and Adam is ready for bed. Might I pay you a visit and sit at your fire?”
“Sure. For about an hour.”
“Thank you, Max. I’m en route momentarily. I do appreciate your kindness and willingness to host at such short notice.”
Before I took leave of Adam, we found our way down his home-made concrete stairs. The night air did me good. In my cowboy boots and Levi jacket, I liked how I looked and felt as I walked along Tombstone Canyon, Old Bisbee’s main drag.