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An Honest Broker?

A number of companies currently producing consumer goods have, in response to a large and growing number of Americans who pretend to care about the environment, decided to also simulate an environmentally responsible stance by making their packaging less wasteful and more "earth-friendly."

As to that, I think we can all agree that the most environmentally responsible thing any large manufacturing concern can do is to cease operations immediately and compost their board of directors. They are the problem, and the ineffectual sops they employ to pacify the greens and so heartily congratulate themselves for it are an insult to the planet and people at large.

There are a lot of easy targets among the environmental criminal element, those pursuits which most visibly and drastically mar and scar Big Mama: mining, oil, chemicals, what have you, purveyors and practitioners of poison and pestilence. But I'm here to talk about an offender who's been getting a pass lo, these many years, on the strength of their status as Americana and their contribution to the language of a trade-name evolving into general descriptive noun.

The company is Johnson and Johnson and the product is Band-Aids. How in the holy hell can something as small as a Band-Aid generate so much garbage? The Band-Aid enigma urinates directly into the face of one of physics' most cherished and long-held beliefs, the conservation of mass, in that its mass doubles after you remove half of it. I personally find it easier to just go ahead and let a cut bleed itself out than to clean up all the crap left behind after applying a Band-Aid.

I mean, really. Have you ever cleaned your house and just as you're doing the final detail work, applying kangaroo wax to the toenails of your elephant's foot umbrella stand, tuning the carillon, etc., you catch a sharp edge and get a minor cut?

To the medicine cabinet you go for some first aid, but your nice clean house is now strewn with Band-Aid wrapper and adhesive backing and that accursed red thread.

How big a problem is this? Let's try to put it into perspective. How many people around the world do you suppose sustain minor lacerations and apply Band-Aids every day? Ten billion?

Sounds reasonable. According to my calculations, that would generate enough Band-Aid waste to fill the Grand Canyon. And that's not the half of it. Don't forget that all those yukky, bloody, pus-y Band-Aids must eventually come off, and those ten billion disgusting strips would be enough to cover the entire state of Arizona to a depth of a fifth of a rod.

Let's be honest, though — it's no more than Arizona deserves.

Arizona is the worst. The people are a walking, talking, cautionary example of the perils of allowing your brains to bake in the sun all day, a population of bigoted white-shoe isolationist geezers with no more sense than to take up residence in a Martian landscape. Arizona, I suggest you welcome with open arms any and all Mexicans you can manage to coax into your benighted environs, as the fact of your median age of 105 and the snakes and scorpions infesting the area pretty much guarantee no one else is coming to refresh your population.

You are, after all, the state that gave us Barry Goldwater, John McCain, and Bil Keane, perpetrator of the "Family Circus" comic panel. `Nuff said.

Or is it? The Arizonan literacy rate is only 12%, and that's among ASU graduates. Arizona was the 48th state admitted to the union, which makes it the last of the contiguous states to join the party. Right up until 1912 there was a big-ass Arizona-shaped hole in the U.S.A. I contend that Arizona owes the fact of its statehood only to considerations of symmetry and aesthetics.

You almost never run into anyone "from" Arizona, and it's not because the population is so satisfied with life there that they never leave. It's that there isn't anyone "from" Arizona — there's no breeding being done there. The population is largely either oldsters whose thermal regulatory systems are so out of whack they require 120 degree heat to function, students denied admission to DeVry or the University of Phoenix Online enjoying the relaxed educational standards of ASU and UofA, or militia types tired of not having any international borders to defend or Mexicans to shoot in their home states. The seniors are there to die, the students get jobs on cruise ships, and the militiamen eventually shoot each other out of boredom.

Nevertheless, I did meet a native Arizonan once, a young gentleman up from Mesa in search of marijuana. He struck up a conversation with me at Denny's in Ukiah and outlined his plan to acquire a pound of Mendo’s finest and take it back home where he'd be the envy of all his friends, because of course nothing grows in Arizona save for cactus and melanoma. Me being on a sick one at the time, I was a little surprised at him being so forthcoming.

(Note to those of a rectilinear persuasion (squares): "on a sick one," in the argot, describes one on an active meth bender and fully steeped in all the mischief that that entails. When I am in fact on one, I present clearly as a standard-issue tweaker, viz., the darting, shifty eyes, twitchy mien, layered clothing, felony shoes, and surfeit of accoutrements so characteristic of the breed. This plumage is Nature's way of saying "do not trust this person with your money, or anything else.")

However, this dewy naif had had the great good fortune to encounter perhaps the one meth aficionado in all the county who wouldn't strip him of all his possessions and send him back to AZ weedless and penniless. I like to help, and to subvert expectations, and to protect the innocent.

I first explained to the young man how reckless he'd been by even admitting to possessing the wherewithal to acquire an elbee of Mendo’s finest, which doesn't come cheap, to a person of my obvious inclination. "What the hell's wrong with you?” I asked. "Do you not have tweakers in Arizona?"

"You're wearing a Hello Kitty watch," he correctly pointed out, "and you're reading Murakami." Both true, although I myself might associate these things more with an eccentrically unrestrained worldview than trustworthiness. You needn't necessarily be crazy to enjoy Murakami, but it certainly doesn't hurt. And Hello Kitty, though in whatever form or incarnation an ornament to any ensemble, is not exactly Chopard Tourbillion.

We established that however he'd arrived at the conclusion, he had indeed correctly adjudged my character and we decided to move forward. I called my friend Katie, who faithful readers of this space will remember from an adventure to Garberville recently recounted here. She's a good egg and likely to give a good deal, and anyhow the only number I had dealing in that kind of weight.

After a little polite catching up I stated my business and Katie expressed sneering disbelief that a trifling small-timer like myself would be possessed of enough of the necessary funds to purchase a pound of her product. I told her about my Arizonan and she said, "Fine. If you'll vouch for him, bring him over, but if you bring a cop to my house I'll shoot you right in the head."

Mincing words is not Katie's style.

"Here's the deal," I said to Arizona when we got in the car to head to Fort Bragg. "You're coming in with me, the price I'm quoting is her price, and I won't be doing any pinching. You're trusting me, so I'm trusting you to do the right thing, are we understood?"

He assured me we were, and off we went.

As we approached Fort Bragg it began to drizzle a little, as it is wont to do pretty regularly in that area, and the desert-dweller said, "Where's that water coming from?"

"It's called rain and it falls from the sky," I said.

"Wow, weird. What's all that emptiness where the buildings stop?" "That's the ocean."


When we got to Katie's we sat down and had a beer and some bong hits while she vetted my companion. After some pointed questions about Arizona, about which Katie was apparently familiar, and which were answered to her satisfaction, she brought the stuff out and we commenced doing business. It was a beautiful bag of buds of a most excellent strain and Arizona's eyes were wide as he beheld and smelled it. Clearly satisfied with the product, he unlimbered his wallet and handed the agreed-upon amount to Katie.

"Okay," I said. "Everybody happy?"

"Hell, yeah," said Arizona.

"All good here," agreed Katie.

"Well then, excellent. So glad I could be of service in this mutually beneficial enterprise."

This was where being honest and helpful was going to pay off. This was a much better approach than scheming and skimming. Surely I was about to receive some serious appreciation.

Arizona opened up the bag, extracted a nug about the size of a mini Tootsie-Roll, handed it to me and said, "Thanks, bro. I really appreciate it. Gotta get on the road, catch you guys later." And he was gone.

I stood there for awhile, dumbfounded, looking at the little bud I held pinched in my thumb and index finger and then at the door.

"What in the fizzly fuck just happened?" I said.

"I don't think you really get how commerce works," Katie said. "Generally, people tack a couple of bills onto the price I quote them. You depend upon the kindness of strangers, you end up like Blanche Dubois."

"I guess I thought he'd appreciate my honesty."

"I’m sure he did, it just didn't translate into anything for you. I'm going to give you a hundred dollars against my better judgment, because I think this is a valuable teaching opportunity, but I did get a good price, so thank you."

"All-right! Awesome! You're the best, I love you."

"Right. Get out."

It's unfortunate that I must judge an entire state based on the selfish actions of one young sun-addled neo-hippie, but as he is the sum total of my experience with it that's the way it must be. Absent any mitigating evidence to the contrary, Arizona now tops my list of Places In Which I Wouldn't Be Caught Dead. Or alive, for that matter. I do enjoy their peach iced tea, though.

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