I smelled Mendocino long before I ever visited her sylvan slopes and verdant valleys, and at a significant remove, too — roughly a thousand miles. A heady aroma it was, rich, complex, dank, earthy, evocative of damp primeval forest and base, atavistic pleasures. It was powerful and somehow nourishing, its dense, substantive mass, entering my lungs and bloodborne throughout my body, leaving tingling trails behind in its metabolic meanderings.
I took a second deep pull, sticking my nose directly in the cardboard mailing tube proffered me by one Manchester Mertz, itinerant hustler, family friend, and cannabis connoisseur. "What the hell is that?" I asked.
"That, my young friend," he said, upending the tube and extracting a bud the size of my forearm, "is a Mendocino Donkey Dick."
It was a deep green color, threaded with purple and white strands and all over sparkly and crystalline. I touched it and my finger stuck. "Whooa!" I intoned in wonder and amazement. "Duuude."
My awe stemmed from the fact that in 1977 in Colorado Springs, the grade of pot available to a 17-year-old of modest means was significantly lower. Compared to what I was seeing and smelling, it was, in a word, garbage. Sold by the "lid" and measured in fingers like Scotch whiskey, it was dry, ligneous, leafy, and liberally seeded. "Manicuring" your sack amounted to culling about half its weight in unsmokeable yard waste. What remained had a THC content necessitating the consumption of several joints to achieve any kind of decent high, which we did, gladly, rolling up bombers in double-wide fruit-flavored rolling papers and engaging in typical teenage stoner behavior, which as I recall involved a whole lot of Captain Crunch.
Mertz whacked the unfortunately named “cola” in twain and presented half to me. "Here you go. Round up the rest of the teenage werewolves, you're about to get real popular," he said.
I headed off to spend my day at the skatepark, which was my habit in those days. At sundown it was the usual practice for me and the fellas to gather in the parking lot for a post-sesh smoke sesh. Up The Wall skatepark was at the top of South 21st Street, one of the highest points in the city, and the parking lot commanded a beautiful view of the city below. We'd get baked and look at the lights while discussing skate tricks and local chicks and guitar licks. Or whatever. That night four of us assembled in my buddy Komluby's Galaxie 500 and I passed around the baggie for inspection. "Dude, it smells like graveyard fog," said Kornluby.
"No, it smells like dragon pussy," chimed in Villapondo.
"You're both wrong, it smells like a Buddha fart," said T.C.
"Well," I said, "in the words of the great Cecil B. DeMille, 'roll 'em!' But I have no idea how you might roll something like this, so I’m going to put it in a pipe."
I loaded up a bowl and we passed it around for several minutes, each of us commenting on the richness of the smoke and the power of the weed itself, immediately apparent to all of us.
Then things went quiet. Real quiet. We sat in silence for what seemed like several millenia but was probably 10 minutes or so. Gradually we began to return to life, voicing various variations on the "whoooa" and "duuuude" themes. I felt it incumbent on me as host to introduce a topic of conversation.
"Okay—astronaut babies," I said.
T.C. burst out laughing. "Baby astronauts? What the hell?"
"No, not baby astronauts, dumbass. Astronaut babies, there's a difference. You train babies to go into space. Think about it, man! They haven't been on Earth very long so they're not that used to gravity. They're small, so they don't take up much room in the capsule. And have you seen what astronauts do up there? They sit in big chairs, all strapped in, and push buttons. Just like a baby strapped into a high chair playing with a Busy Box, right? You just teach the baby which buttons to push. Snip, snap. Save billions."
Villapondo was indignant. "You can't send babies into space, man! Their mothers wouldn't stand for it!"
"Government babies," said Komluby. Use government babies, nobody'd miss 'em. Plus, they're supersmart."
"What government babies?" asked T.C.
Komluby exhaled dramatically. "The government has baby farms where they grow super-soldiers," he said with the theatrically patient air of someone explaining the patently obvious. "They're all over the South in secret military bases."
"Say, have you ever eaten a buttery battery?" I said. "Doesn't it sound delicious?" "Battery, buttery, buttery, battery," Villapondo chanted.
"Fackery, fuckery, fookery," said T.C.
And the conversation devolved from there. After giggling ourselves out and becoming aware of a ravenous hunger, the four of us got into our respective vehicles and drove—very slowly—down the hill toward home and our cereal bowls.
That was my introduction to real, grown-up, kick-ass weed and it made a deep impression me, as did "Mendocino," conceptually — a mystical, magical land of sticky purple buds. For years that bud was the standard against which all claims of "killer bud" were measured. As in: "Yeah, I guess this stuff’s okay, but you should've seen this bud I had from Mendocino. It was the size of a Yule log and possessed its own gravity field. One hit and you forgot everything you ever knew. Yeah, one day I'm going to Mendocino."
The years did their inexorable thing and I occupied them in a largely intoxicated fashion, enjoying not only many different strains of marijuana both foreign and domestic, but lots of malt and distilled beverages and a truckload or so of stimulants, spiced occasionally with the odd hypnotic or soporific or hallucinogen. They were good years, mostly, and a lot of fun, though if I had it to do over I might pay a smidge more attention to practical matters.
Cut to 2003, and I'm rolling into Ukiah on the Greyhound. I was a little disappointed when I stepped onto South State Street, and decidedly more so when I entered the Water Trough. I had a couple hours to kill before my ride from Albion could come get me, and this was the first place I found — a manifestly unmagical tavern and pretty much the antithesis of the Mendocino of my imaginings.
Where were the pot fields tended by kindly elves astride unicorns? Where the wood nymphs lounging on fluorescent mushrooms in the forest primeval? These degenerate day-drinkers had no place in the fanciful ideal I'd held in my heart all these years. Hell, you can find sots like that about anywhere, though I will say that the Water Trough variety seemed especially loathsome and distasteful.
Albion was definitely a step in the right direction and much closer to what I felt Mendocino should be.
Shortly after I arrived, my aunt and I were invited to a neighbor's home for Christmas dinner. As we sat chatting and sipping cider in the living room, a teenager named Leaf asked me if I'd like to smoke some "bubble hash." The term was unfamiliar to me but I said sure, why not. It had been some time since I'd enjoyed any cannabis at all, and I was after all in Mendocino, land of the illustrious Donkey Dick. Who knew what enchantments this "bubble" might conjure? I was in a magical land of cannabis-fueled dreams.
I took a deep hit off the pipe. It tasted sweet and slightly rough, with a bit of a tang, and expanded mightily in my lungs. As I blew out the smoke, small fireworks exploded at the periphery of my visual field. Interesting. The fireworks were then replaced by a lambent purplish glow. Very nice. So far, so good. I took another hit and felt the ocean lapping at my toes. Wait a minute, in the house? Two miles inland? Cowabunga, dude.
We finished the bowl and I sat there doing a personal inventory. I was stoned. Very stoned. Stoned like a Saudi adulteress. There did seem to be some other issues related to the bubble, however.
Perceptual anomalies I was familiar with and rarely discommoded by, but the apparent ability of this "hash" to wreak havoc on the basic Newtonian physical principles that govern our movement, now that was a whole 'nother ball of wax. I don't know how that stuff stopped the rotation of the earth and increased the local gravity field by 3 times, but I heard it grind to a halt and estimated my weight to be roughly one short ton. The earth remained motionless for several days and then, oddly enough, began skipping across the universe like a flat rock slung across a pond. It was all I could do to keep my seat — lucky thing the gravity was cranked up so high. I shut my eyes and sat back to enjoy the ride.
I was wakened, or brought around, by fingers snapping in my face. "Hello? Anyone home?" It was our host. "Would you mind getting the ham out of the oven and bringing it to the table, please?"
Hoo, boy. I guessed I could give it a shot. I made my way unsteadily into the kitchen and took the ham out of the oven. I managed to get it out of the roasting pan and onto a serving platter where it sat in a pool of slippery, sizzling grease. I picked up the platter, took two steps, and just then the planet decided to continue its unscheduled orbital aberrations and sway several degrees to the left and then right. The ham and I tipped and I compensated by dipping the other side of the platter down, but some hot ham grease dripped on my arm and I let go the platter. Ham overboard!
Just then the gravity field must've contracted to a point less than Earth standard, because that ham bounced much higher than you'd expect a pig haunch to. It bounced once, twice, three times, making a squishy boinging noise each time. This struck me as the absolute funniest thing of all time until a few seconds after the ham rolled to a stop and a mountain lion, which later turned out to be a Labrador retriever, ran into the room, grabbed the ham in its slavering jaws and ran out the door, then that was definitely the funniest thing ever. I was rendered quite helpless with laughter on the kitchen floor while the rest of the assemblage took off out the door to rescue dinner.
The ham was retrieved, cleaned, trimmed, reheated, and served. Christmas was saved! All disturbances in the cosmological matrix were gradually restored to normal and a fine time was had by all.
And those, ladies and jellyspoons, are the two stonedest times I've ever been. Only someone who's smoked of the fine fruits of Mendocino would dare to attempt a sentence like that previous one. God bless us, every one!