Thursday, October 30, 2008

For Everyone Who Has Ever Sold Me An Eighth In Golden Gate Park


I do not, as a rule, buy drugs on the street. Nor do I make exceptions for parks.

I frown on other people buying drugs, in almost all situations. This is because I have had realistic and horrid encounters with drugs of unknown origins. If I didn’t make it or know the person who did, I don’t do it.

We all make exceptions for addictions. That’s the nature of addiction. It asks for exceptions to your morals. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a problem.

I’ve bought weed over a dozen times in Golden Gate Park. I don’t live in San Francisco, I live about an hour away. On the way I think about risk management and financial stupidity, adding up the gas, toll, difference in weed price/quality/amount, and most of all my own personal, highly-paid time. On the Golden Gate Bridge I hope there isn’t an earthquake, because I’d be horrified to die plummeting into the ocean on the way to buy a shitty two gram eighth or even shittier four gram quarter.

Golden Gate Park is an exercise in spatial black marketeering.

The front of the park is often run by a group, if not a gang, of black men selling the most compressed, least scented, two gram eighths in the park – always in the cheapo plastic sandwich bags with no zipper and that horrible little flap that the shake gets caught in. The mid-section is populated by very old and very young hippies and gutter punks, who create an orbiting cloud around the few of them that actually possess and sell weed. The back section of this space, and sometimes Haight street itself, is occasionally frequented by growers from all parts of the state – desperate to sell off their harvest in eighths to make the most of it, to make rent, to make the grade. Generally these people are less aware of the market, closer to the product, and give the best deals.

In addition to these – for the “drive-thru” customers, for the “to go” market – there are the runners, young charismatic men on bicycles or skateboards who will hook you up, do the legwork for you. On some days, the mid-section of hippie hill is blanketed with blankets – people selling wares which are not, upon close inspection, of any worth, but rather a front for open marijuana sales.

Thus, the park is like a department store of weed. And Haight street has every piece of paraphernalia, every flavor of rolling paper made of trees, hemp, rice, cellulose – you name it, it’s there. The Haight and GGP are like a mall of weed…

…at least from the customer’s point of view. I’ve heard “I’ve never seen you in the park before” enough times to know that from the inside it’s a tightly knit street community – that the proudly drugged out on almost anything but stimulants, but mostly weed and mushrooms, come here to be with other people like them. Low end partiers, many of whom actually live in the park, or on the streets nearby. The regulars. On the days it doesn’t feel like a mall, it’s like an outdoor bar, and I hate bars. I go in, get it done, and get out.

The first time I bought in the park I came there with no sense of direction or neighborhood and a circle on the map drawn by a friend who had purchased weed there ten years prior. I asked a young black-clad gutter punk girl (literally sitting in the gutter) with a double zero gauge ring through her lip “Is this the kind of park I’m gonna get hit over the head and raped in?”

Golden Gate Park? Naw, it’s super-mellow” she clacked out. She then gave me directions to the best place in the park, according to her, to buy weed, hippie hill. I walked about seven feet into the park before a young half black kid smilingly informed me that the tunnel was closed. He sat with a group of other kids, all white early twenties, in my day they would have been ravers. They were clean, warm, happy.

“You looking for bud?”

“How did you know?

“Your cool clothes.”

He sold me an eighth out of a matchbox car case, the top layer of which contained actual cars, sitting in their miniature vinyl garages. I tried to pay Los Angeles prices and he reached back in his car case and eyeballed more buds into my bag. I was too stunned by his sweet innocence and honesty to a stranger to say anything. It was welcome to San Francisco, for me. “Be safe” I said, as I turned away from him for the last time. I’ve never seen him again, which doesn’t surprise me.

The next time twas from someone that tried to sell me mushrooms in a restaurant on Haight street. Though I didn’t want any mushrooms, his product looked so good I was sure he’d know where to find good smoke. He left and came back 30 minutes later with his friend, and that was the only time not in Amsterdam I’ve had weed delivered to my table. It was also the beginning of my acceptance of the Bay Area, this gentle-streeted (and parked) place with honor among thieves.

Now that I have more connections the Golden Gate Park visits become a rarer thing. It’s kind of scummy and oddly compulsive and there’s not much to love – it’s been easy to give up. I’d rather go to some other part of the park and enjoy it, play disc golf or take a run or just stroll. What I do love about the park, though – is that such a low end, unregulated, disorganized black market can exist, thrive, and sustain over decades of time. Seedy and ugly though it is – it’s what it says about the context of the park – about San Francisco and the Bay Area, that I like. We are tolerant, we prioritize celebration, we are entrepreneurial, we are free, we are stoned.

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