“You can’t stop here, Jason, it’s reserved for a shuttle bus.” My father has loads of anxiety when it comes to cars. Then my mom chimed-in, “Maybe you should turn on the hazards.” We were idling outside the Oakland Medical center in my parent’s black Kia Amanti. My father had just received a letter from his doctor approving the use of medical marijuana (the golden ticket), and I was frantically trying to load ”WeedMaps.org” on my iPhone to locate a nearby dispensary.
Until recently, my dad had been reticent to get his card for fear that he would be “put on some goddamn list.” But now that he’s been bumped to the front of “the big list” as he puts it, being on a (likely non-existent) list of legal marijuana users is of little concern.
The closest one was only a mile away and called something ridiculous, like “Green Oakland” or “Medi-Buds” — the kind of name that tries to communicate legitimacy and legality without obfuscating the fact that they TOTALLY HAVE WEED! I learned quickly that Oakland changes drastically from block to block. The first sign that we’d crossed over into Yucktown, was a man crapping on the sidewalk (that’s really the only sign you need, right?) Strike one, two, three, and four. An unprecedented four strikes for any place where people do that. Believe me, I have sympathy for the homeless, and the mentally ill, and anyone else with a reason to forego restrooms, but even wild animals tend to be a little discreet — especially when there’s company over.
The three of us — my father in his slacks and sports coat, me in a hoodie (sorry, I know I’m 40), and my mother in some kind of wind-breaker she bought at Kohl’s — made our way on foot to 94 Weber Street. En route, we passed a mysteriously opaque storefront that bellowed enough incense to mask the smell of a petting zoo. “Well, shit. There IS no number 94. The goddamn place is gone.” My dad was frustrated, but recovered quickly when he saw someone with a large box of leafy greens. “Oh, look at all the Bok Choy that Chinese woman is carrying.” “Ohhhh, neat,” my mom replied, as if encouraging a child.
“I think it might be that place we just passed.” I said. “You mean the Rasta store? That’s not the right address, Jason. I’m not going any place with the wrong address.” But as we passed the “Rasta store” on the way back to the car, a man emerged and casually asked if we were looking for medicinal marijuana. “YES” my father responded emphatically. This was indeed the place, though I found it unsettling that a dispensary could just move around randomly like the island on LOST.
He led us into a small waiting room where we sat with a few other fine gentlemen, each of whom was struggling to locate an object in his cargo shorts and/or parka. The man wearing a parka and cargo shorts was particularly confused, not only about where he put his marijuana card, but also about how different parts of his body respond to the weather. I also considered the possibility that he was simply an eccentric man who, for whatever reason, required the maximum number of pockets.
My mom was trying to appear as if she were “down with it,” but the way she held her purse tightly against her body suggested otherwise. My dad signed a contract, and then asked if I would be permitted to join him inside. Our jasmin-scented escort agreed to fetch his manager, who unfortunately insisted that without an additional caregiver document (which they could provide for $50), I would have to stay in the waiting room. It’s this kind of bureaucracy that triggers my father’s “Red Passenger.” That’s what I call the tiny consumer rights activist who comes to life any time something unfair happens. My dad said, “Well then we’ll take our business elsewhere,” and demanded the signed contract back. The manager claimed it was now property of the clinic but he would shred it. That wasn’t good enough for the Red Passenger, who reached out, and ripped off the part of the contract containing his signature, stuffed it in his blazer pocket, and stormed out.
Back in the car, my father said, “Go down to Embarcadero and take a left, I think there’s a place there.” “Do we want to get lunch first?” I asked. “NO! Just go.” And I did, for one must never question The Red Passenger.
Given the experience we just had, I found it hard to believe there would be a dispensary adjacent to a yacht club, but there it was, and I never questioned how he knew about it. There was a guard out front — nothing official — more of just a smiling dude with a clipboard who looked like he might ask if we had time for GreenPeace. When asked whether I’d be able to accompany my dad inside, he used a two-way radio to call for a manager. Ian appeared moments later, clad in a Slayer bowling shirt and a hat that was like a fedora, only not annoying. He was nice, but firm, and apologized that, though no paperwork was necessary, only one of us would be permitted to join my father as his caregiver. Before he finished his sentence my mom blurted out, “I’ll go wait in the car!”
What we experienced upon entering was something out of a science fiction movie: a planet that smelled of sweet un-torched budding marijuana, where everyone was of mixed ethnicity; the only drugs were natural and all therapies were spiritual. If they’d all been wearing white robes, I might have thought we’d died and gone to Hollywood’s version of Heaven. Life on this planet moved more slowly, people were happier, and nothing felt urgent. It was an agrarian society that used horticulture and modern technologies in unison, uncorrupted by greed or politics.
Members of this therapeutic co-op could not only purchase marijuana in all its glorious forms but also take Yoga classes, receive Reiki treatments, and just freakin’ hangout and talk about STUFF, man! We were given a tour by perhaps the most enthusiastically chill guy I’ve ever met. Imagine someone who’s excited and happy for completely pure reasons. Imagine that man made you feel talkative and joyful during a difficult time. Now imagine he looks like a male version of Soledad O’Brien and his name is Doug. Doug would take care of us and get my father whatever he needed. His voice sounded like Enya; “This is our plant nursery,” and, “Of course we have edibles”, floated from his mouth like laughter from a child. The Red Passenger had gone back into hiding. He came out later when we went to the DMV for a parking permit, but in the co-op, the angry little Ralph Nader couldn’t even breathe.
We weren’t able to buy anything that trip due to a problem confirming my dad’s paper work from Kaiser; a problem for which Ian apologized profusely. Ian will call soon and tell my dad to come back. When he does, I won’t be with him, but I’m sure Doug can guide him to the THC gummy bears that will give him a playful energy, quell his nausea, and perhaps even make CSI Miami watchable. If not, I’ll fly out and eat one with him. The panic attack it will give me is all the entertainment anyone needs.__________________________________________
My Facebook page is lively. Come like it.
Share this post