Legalized

It was a gangbusters night at the pub New Year’s Eve. Nearly 500 people made their way through the door over the course of the evening, dumping cash and guzzling down booze. When the clock struck midnight, weed became legal in the state of Illinois. As it happens, one of Chicago’s few recreational dispensaries was only a few blocks from the bar and it opened at 6am. Since I didn’t get off of work until nearly 5am (and then drank heavily for 30-45 minutes after the doors were closed), I thought myself perfectly poised to get in before the rush, grab exactly what I wanted from the selection that had yet to be depleted, then bounce the fuck out happy and high as a clam (I’m assuming clams are big smokers).

In my slightly drunken stupor, I missed the bus stop and ended up coming at the place from the north. “No line!” I thought to myself. “Nailed it!”

As I got closer, I could see the beginnings of a line hidden on the south side of the building. By then it was about 5:40am, and I made it a little over three quarters of a block before finding the tail end of the throng of folks waiting for their weed. It was probably about 25 degrees, and the fuckers at the front had been there since midnight, which shocked me because stoners aren’t known for their forethought.

I took my place in line thinking, “Well I’ll wait until the doors open, see how fast the line is moving, then bounce if I think it’s taking too long.” At first, the line went at a decent pace. They were letting people in 20 at a time, so we’d move in big chunks. I imagined that most people there that early had a fairly decent handle on what they were looking for, so they weren’t wasting their time perusing the selection. Since I come from Cali where this shit’s been around a while, I knew my order well before I got in the line – it made sense that these early birds did, too.

I passed the time shooting the shit with the middle-aged folks around me. Everyone was in good spirits despite the biting early morning Chicago cold. Many of these folks had been waiting a whole lifetime for the day they could smoke themselves silly within the comfortable confines of the law, and it was finally here. Soon, the sun started to peak over the horizon, and I could tell the line wasn’t going anywhere for a while, so I offered to go grab coffee for my new friends while they held my place.

Initially I was excited to see a local coffee shop closer than the Starbucks, but of course they didn’t open until 8am that day and it was only 6:45am. I walked the extra couple blocks to the chain store that I’m significantly less fond of, its lights were mostly off inside, but I could see two barristas doing their opening shit, so I tapped on the glass and pointed at my watchless wrist. They held up seven fingers, so I waited by the door until they unlocked it. I got the coffee and a cheese danish (the guilty pleasure that I refuse to ever give up), and enjoyed watching the colors of the sky change while I waited for the bus.

When I got back to the line, I was hopeful that my little group made it farther along. “Maybe they’re already inside!” Silly optimism. They had barely moved at all. As if he heard the sigh of disappointment, a man who had successfully made it through the line drove by in his minivan, waving his canvas tote around outside the window and shouting, “EVERY DAY! EVERY FUCKING DAY NOW!” with so much joy in his voice that you couldn’t help but get swept up in it. The line cheered and clapped for him, and was reinvigorated to continue the standing and waiting. By that time, the line wrapped around corner, then went three blocks north on the adjacent street.

It was fucking cold. I couldn’t feel my feet. Dress socks are never the right call in winter unless you know you’re going to be inside, but in my defense, I very much thought I would be. They passed around hand warmers, and I immediately shoved it to the end of my shoe. Because there were so many people in line, we only got one each, so I had to alternate which set of toes I thawed. The coffee and the alcohol got me out of line three times so I could relieve myself in the alley, which was a much more justifiable breaking of the law before the sun came up, but no less necessary even after it did.

“You could totally just leave and come back later,” cropped up in my mind from time to time, but at some point I had been there too long to not see it through. Just before 9am they moved us into a different line so that we could give our phone numbers for followup when it was our turn. Bars opened early for the special day, so me and my little contingent went to warm up at one of the nearby drinkeries. Carafes of mimosas were $14, so I got one and turned down the offer of a glass in favor of drinking straight from the source.

Across the street was a highly-rated breakfast joint, so I pushed past the line of respectable people with kids and shit, and found a seat at the bar. I shot the shit with the young man sitting next to me. His tie dye shirt made it obvious that we had some things in common. I was my usual drunken ass of a self, making the bartender make me an old fashioned with maple syrup instead demerara. It was a’ight, but I was also too drunk to know. I honestly don’t remember if I paid my tab there or just walked out, but the breakfast sandwich and the service were solid, and I was a douche, so I certainly hope I paid and tipped well.

Around 11am, when I was about to give up and go home, I got a text telling me it was time to get in yet another line, as it was nearly my turn. “If my drug dealer made me wait five minutes in the cold, I’d be like, ‘Fuck this, I’m calling somebody else.'” I joked with the people in line 3 of the day. I finally made it into the dispensary, and spent about ten minutes procuring my shit. By the time I got out I thought, “Well fuck at this point my bar’s open again!” So I walked back there to tell my tail to my coworkers and friends and have a few more half-price drinks before heading home.

The combination of weed and alcohol kept me there longer than expected. Eventually I was woken up at the bar by a close friend who lived nearby. She had had a full night of sleep, so she was ready for some fun. I drank with her for some ungodly amount of time, told and retold my story of the morning to anybody who would listen, and shared the spoils of the battle with anyone interested in partaking.

In the retelling of my evening, my coworker said that his favorite part was when I picked my head up, looked at him eyes half-mast, and said, “Man, I’m so tired right now.” He noted that I could just go home. I did not.

I walked my friend to her apartment, then struggled for probably 30 minutes to get into her computer with every possible iteration of her password. She passed out sitting on the kitchen floor with me while I typed and retyped that shit more times than I can count. She lost her phone at some point in the evening and needed to get up for work early the next morning, and an alarm on the computer seemed like the only viable option. Finally I thought, “I bet this chick has an old clock somewhere in this apartment,” and found it after only a short time of rummaging through her nightstand.

I got her off the floor and took her to bed. Apparently that woke her up, though, and when someone insistently says “Kiss my pussy!” you don’t just turn and run. What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t muster up what remaining energy I had to comply? By 9pm I was finally on my way home. Obviously, I don’t remember much about that bus ride, but I’m sure I gave the homeless folks a run for their money in terms of how haggard I looked.

I don’t regret the time I spent being a part of such a monumental occasion, but I can say with certainty that I don’t care what drug they legalize next – I’m not waiting in another fucking line ever again.

Boulder, You Beautiful Bastard

I was surprised by the long TSA line at 3:30 in the morning on a Monday at Midway. I was also (much more pleasantly) surprised that the very-airporty Irish pub was open that early and serving alcohol, meaning my airplane nap would be substance-assisted. 

The three of us sitting at the bar were all in our early 30’s, clearly single, and with varying degrees of facial hair (none were cleanly shaven). I caught the guy sitting next to me staring at me through the mirror behind the liquor bottles as he open-mouth chewed the greasy breakfast served to him on a paper plate. I grimaced at the $27 tab for a Guinness and a shot, and thought, “This scene would be an awesome painting to have on my wall.”

Not thirty minutes after landing in Colorado, I was in love with the place. My bus driver to Boulder was a spitting image of Zach Galifianakis from the movie Masterminds, complete with well-groomed facial hair and mullet. I went straight from the airport to a weed dispensary open at 9am. The lady behind the counter was bubbly, well-informed, extremely helpful, and cute to boot. “Where would you go for breakfast?” I asked her.

Her spot was only two blocks away. There was a wait when I got there, but by the time I got out of the bathroom, a seat opened up at the bar. I saddled up next to a lovely old woman who chatted with me for the better part of 15 minutes. She gave me recommendations on places to check out before I left, then I scooted her chair out when she was done because she was too tiny to get out on her own.

The bartender brought me a cinnamon role pancake appetizer for my chivalry, then I followed that up with the Benny Duo – one half steak-and-eggs and one half latka-lox. There was hip, contemporary alt rock playing over the speakers, a vibrant-but-not-overwhelming buzz to place, and it was filled with beautiful young women in combinations of hippie and hiking attire. I thought maybe the flight crashed and this was my heaven. Or maybe I was still asleep on the plane, and would eventually wake up to a sore back and the more standard gruffness I’ve become accustomed to living in larger cities. But it just kept being awesome.

One odd thing: people seemed to keep almost running into me on the sidewalk. They either walked on the left side of the walkway or haphazardly veered in my direction while making eye contact that would normally indicate their recognition of a human presence. Maybe they were all just magnetically drawn to my love of the town. Or maybe there was a glitch in the coding for these NPC’s, and we’re all in the Matrix. But whatever, I guess. Small price to pay for an otherwise-perfect experience.

I felt inspired to write there. It’d been such a long lull of forcing myself to sit down and type. I don’t know if it was Boulder, in particular, or just the experience of newness, but I grabbed emphatically at my little notepad with a fair amount of regularity. (Author’s note: I’m presently back in Chicago and forcing myself to sit and type this). 

The hostel I ended up in straddled a creek and was nestled between tree-lined, snow-covered mountains. I had my first real hit of mountain air while I was standing outside smoking a cigarette of all things. I caught the edges of it on an inhale, then purposefully sucked as much air through my nostrils as I could muster. I let the smell of dirt and snow and pine fill my awareness and my eyes rolled back into my head like I was hitting heroin. 

The combination of sleep deprivation, weed and alcohol consumption, and early sunset meant I was in bed and asleep by 6pm. True to hostel form, I was woken up intermittently by the comings and goings (and snorings and fartings) of the roommates I hadn’t met. No matter – still a solid first day.