Big Bernie pulled slowly into the weed store parking lot. Just as he found a good spot and pulled his Volvo into it, “Kashmir” by Zeppelin came on the classic rock station. Bernie turned off the ignition, but left the key in so he could listen to the song. He turned the volume up little by little until he could feel the guitar riff in the back of his neck. It felt warm and powerful, and as Plant sang “oh let the sun beat down upon my face,” Bernie started to think about when he used to buy quarter bags of brick weed from Mikey and Satan back in Akron, Ohio.
He thought of the first time he had driven twenty minutes across town to look for Mikey’s house in a residential neighborhood, walking up the porch and checking the address again to make sure. He had received Mikey’s number from a friend of a friend, at a time when he didn’t really know anyone to buy bags of herb from, and at a time, around the mid 90’s, when being a stoner also meant being a criminal. This was especially true in the Midwest, and in the southern United States. Getting arrested for Marijuana possession could seriously inconvenience your life. Getting arrested for selling pot could put you in prison for years.
Bernie only smoked occasionally. But it helped his chronic insomnia, and also sometimes he just liked to smoke a joint and read a good book, or practice guitar. It seemed to bring the colors out of things a little more. He did not understand why it was illegal, it did not make sense.
He knocked on the thick metal screen door. Bernie tensed when he heard a deep-throated barking and some large paws trying to remove the door between them. A minute later the door unlocked and opened slowly. Bernie heard Mikey’s booming voice before he saw him.
“Satan! Get the fuck away from the door or I swear to god….!!”
The barking decreased in volume and slowed down to one nervous bark every few seconds or so. The door opened enough so that Bernie could see an athletically muscled guy about 10 or 15 years older than him with a severe, black goatee and a baseball cap. He inspected Bernie in a detached way.
“Yeah?” he said after a minute.
“……uh, hey….” Bernie stammered, “I called a little earlier……”
Mikey looked at him for real, “Oh, right, you’re Dave’s friend?”
“Come on in.” He turned away from the door.
Bernie opened the screen door and walked into the dark house. He saw the dog now, ten feet from the door, looking uncomfortably excited by Bernie’s arrival, emitting a loud bark every once in a while. Bernie could see that it was a black pit bull. A very large pit bull. Named Satan. He closed the door slowly behind him and stood where he was. The dog barked again.
“SATAN! Shut the fuck up!” Mikey shouted. The dog winced and stopped barking for a minute as Mikey sat down at the large dining room table and picked up his bottle of Budweiser. There was a guy in a ball cap and a blank expression sitting next to him sucking on a Milwaukie’s Best and staring at the table.
“Have a seat, kid.” Mikey said and the dog barked one more nervous bark. “Satan! Shut the fuck up!” The dog cowered a little.
“Go downstairs!” he said. Satan looked at him. “NOW! GO!!” The dog slinked off to the staircase and disappeared. They still heard the occasional muffled bark.
“Pull up a seat, bro. What do you need?” Mikey said. Bernie sat down at the table as Mikey pulled out a small, green, metal box with a lock.
Bernie gave Mikey $60 for a quarter ounce of brown, smashed, brick weed riddled with seeds. According to marijuana culture at the time, Bernie stayed for about 25 minutes after making his purchase to share a joint and bong hits from a plastic purple bong, making awkward small talk. This was kind of a holdover from the beatnik and flower power days of pot buying, but was also a courtesy to the dealer, so that his neighbors would not see customers going in and immediately walking out with their purchases. The idea was that if the customer stayed a certain amount of time, anyone who might be paying attention would have to assume this was simply a social visit.
Eventually Bernie was able to make an exit with his quarter of brick weed. He went to visit Mikey and Satan once or twice a month for about 4 months, until he found someone closer to home.
“Kashmir” faded out, and Bernie came back to himself. He turned off the car and got out, and walked into the weed store.
Inside T.J.’s Organic Provisions, it was cool and comfortable. The waiting room had a natural feel, bamboo hard-wood flooring. There were wooden shelves full of plants all around, and comfortable chairs and a coffee table full of books about weed. Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” was playing on the house speakers.
“Hi!” The attractive young woman with dreadlocks behind the counter smiled at him. “How’s your day going?”
“………uh, it’s good. Thanks, how about you?” Bernie smiled, beginning to enjoy himself.
“Great, thank you! What can we do for you?” She continued to radiate friendliness.
“..umm, I’d like to make a recreational purchase.” Bernie was still waiting for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to send him the card he had applied for, but it had recently become legal to purchase cannabis for recreational use. The dready woman asked for his I.D. and typed his info into a computer.
She handed Bernie his license back. “Ari will be your budtender today.” She said. Another woman appeared from behind a door and smiled at him, and Bernie followed Ari into the room where they kept the weed.
Ari smiled and told Bernie about the special of the day, as Bernie looked wide-eyed at around 30 big jars full of different shades of green on the shelves behind her. Bernie’s mouth began to water as she let him smell the jar of the daily special, a strain called Silver Snake.
“It’s a full Sativa grown in Oregon by our friends at Skunk Trails. It’s completely organic, grown indoors, and it’s only $11 per gram today.”
“Yes, please. I’ll take an eighth of that one.”
“Perfect!” She smiled.
Bernie walked out with a smile on his face, and an additional eighth of Electric Kool Aid, a hybrid strain grown by Electric Organics. For the combined quarter-ounce of perfectly grown legal green bud, Bernie paid around $60. He left $3 in the tip jar for Ari the Budtender.
When Bernie got in and started the car, “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty was playing on the radio. He looked at the small, plastic containers that contained his two eighths of legal weed. He opened the one that contained the Silver Snake and looked at the tiny crystals and hairs on the vibrant flowers. He inhaled deeply. It had a sharp, pungent odor that made Bernie’s eyes water in a good way.
He knew that almost anything was better than buying bags of brick weed from Mikey and Satan, but at that moment, Bernie felt certain that T.J.’s Organic Provisions was the greatest weed store on the planet.
(all photos courtesy of TJ’s Organic Provisions)