Valley Of Pot


August 1972 was five years past San Francisco’s Summer of Love. A college friend from Crane’s Beach and I had hitchhiked from Boston to the West Coast in 45 hours. A mutual girlfriend, Marilyn, was hostessing topless at a Barbary Coast strip club. 3 months’ tips paid a year’s tuition.

After a few hugs and kisses, the 19 year-old nursing student gave us the address of a crash pad. She had little time for us. Her boyfriend was a biker, the VP of the Skulls. It was obvious that Marilyn wasn’t fucking either of us this trip and the biker warned us to fuck off.

Rico was actually nice about it.

Marilyn said that she would see us in September.

Peter and I aimlessly wandered around the city; the defunct Haight-Ashbury, idyllic Golden Gate Park, and the fleshpots of the Barbary Coast. The hippies had been replaced by junkies and queers. Peter was a botany major and wanted to see the redwoods.

I called Marilyn to say ‘goodbye’.

The biker answered and said, “Like she said see you in September, but if you see me, it will be in hell.”

“Not me, but I’ll be fucking Marilyn in September. Fuck you.”

It was a brave challenge over a phone, but I didn’t feel safe until a pick-up gave us a ride across the Golden gate Bridge over to Sausalito. We traveled up Route 101 through the wine counties to the redwood forest. We slept surrounded by arboreal giants more ancient than Rome. The next day we reached Arcata in the early morning. A hippie coming south warned us against hitchhiking further north on 101.

“Rednecks and no rides. Could take you a week to reach Oregon.”

His adverse advice was accompanied by the paranoia aftermath of the shared joint. Peter and I headed inland through the Trinity Alps. 299 wound through steep-sloped valleys fortresses by wilderness evergreens. Willow Creek to Burnt Ranch to Big Bar to Junction City and finally Weaverville.

The town was miles from anywhere. An unspoken prosperity had enlivened the previously moribund Gold Rush town. The cars were new and the diners filled with hungry customers, mostly long-haired men in buckskins and tea shades. The waitress was a moonchild. Her smile promised a good time.

“Pot growers.” Peter whispered with admiration. We had financed this trip by the sale of two pounds of Jamaica Red. The town smelled of weed, sinsemilla to be exact.

“This is the ideal place to grow pot.” He looked at the steep hills surrounding the town.

Several heads turned our direction.

The townies were used to being discreet. I shrugged an apology. Outside of the street Peter and I discussed pooling our money to set up a marijuana plantation. $500 could grow into $1000. Next year maybe $100,000. I almost walked back inside the diner to ask the dealers for a job, but a roar of motorcycles shattered the town’s serenity.

A pack of Harleys rolled up to the diner. The hippie bon vivants greeted the leathered bikers as long-lost brothers. They looked like heavier versions of Rico. Only five years ago the Hell’s Angels had killed off the Age of Aquarius with the murder at Altamont Speedway during the Rolling Stones’ SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL. Weed growers and bikers glared at Peter and me with hostility.

I lifted my hand to indicate that we were leaving.

No one bothered to watch us go.

Peter and I tried out hands at dealing back in Boston. I was no good at it. Peter paid for his tuition and the following summer went out to San Francisco with Marilyn to work as a bartender in the strip club. Neither of them returned to college in the fall. I heard about them from other friends. They were living north of the Bay Area.

His one year of botany made him the Einstein of the marijuana growers. Several of his future strains were mentioned in HIGH TIMES magazine.

And I couldn’t have been prouder.

At least one of us had gotten to live the dream.

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