I was blazing home down the highway from Eureka intoxicated by a suspenseful murder mystery I was listening to when I flew by a hitchhiker, but not a normal one: here was a woman, a young woman with a bicycle, a little dog bopping around at her feet, and a big smile on her face. I kept going half a mile till I found a spot to perform an illegal U-turn, then hurried back before someone else could get her. I passed her again the other way wondering if she would think that suspicious, (later she said she didn't even notice) then swung another U-ie and pulled up in front of her. She was a friendly pixie and explained that she had hurt her knee and had to hitchhike up the hills because of the pain, she was from Brooklyn pedaling down the coast from Canada to Mexico. We put her bike and bags into the back of the truck and she got into the front with her little dog. I was only about five miles from home and as we hurtled down the Redwood Highway along the curling Eel river she told me she was behind schedule and might not make it to the Standish Hickey campground by dark.
“What do you do?” she asked?
“I grow weed,” I said. “You know, Garberville?”
“Never heard of it.”
“It's only the weed-growing center of the universe.”
“I'm a bicycle mechanic,” she said, “and I also have an office job working special events publicity at NYU.”
We traveled a couple miles, talking, and then I said,“You know, I should take you home, I have a nice guest space and you could rest up for the next day's journey.” She hesitated a beat and I said, “Well, I'm just outside of town, why don't you come check it out for a minute, it's a pretty cool space.” We buzzed through Garberville where the wannabe trimmers were actually sitting on folding chairs on the sidewalk in little groups as they laid seasonal siege on the street. South of town we drove down a mile long dirt road and she said, “Oh, this hill! How will I get up it later?”
“Oh, no problem, “I said. “I'll drive you back up.”
“Great!” She said.
We got home and I showed her the accommodations, I assume it blew her mind, not many guest houses have a basketball court in the living room. We toured her around and in the kitchen she said, “Wow, you're taller than I thought.”
“Well, you're just as short as I thought.” I pointed through the windows, “See? Those are the plants. They're pretty little, short, that's what happens when you depend on clone dealers for starts, you just never know what you will end up with. I need help staking them though they're so small it might not even matter.”
“I'll help you,” she said. “I'll just go out and tie the string to them?”
“Well actually,” I said. “Its a two person job, we get on either side of the plant, we each have a stapler, and as we pass a roll of string around we staple it to the stakes. That's great that you'll help me! I had another girl but she went off for a full-time job trimming dep up in the hills and she just comes back now and then to fit in a few hours with me. She's great, I picked her up hitchhiking last Hallowe'en and have been working her ever since to be my harvest girl, I think it might happen. Great, I'll pay you to help me stake and tie.”
“No, you don't have to,” she said. “What's 'dep'”?
“That's when you cut the light on the plants artificially forcing them to bud early. It's what has ruined this area with dep plantations, hoop houses, all over the hills trashing the land and lowering the price. Alright, let's start in fifteen minutes at 6:30.”
I went over to the main house, played a couple Scrabble moves online, put on my work clothes, and found her on the deck ready to go. I gave her a fanny pack and put mine on too, each containing rolls of string, scissors, staples, and a staple gun. “Do you want to take your dog with us?”
“No, we can leave her inside.”
We got to work. “The idea,” I told her, “is to have the string just barely touching the branch, don't pull it back against it.” As we worked we talked and I asked her a lot of questions, she had two sisters and a brother, her mom was a housewife and her father, a Marine, was dead.
“I grew up in Florida,” she said. “We had a family farm, a lot of country folks, a lot of meth—that's just what they do.”
She had recently left a failing relationship but they had a very nice apartment in Brooklyn so they lived together for another six months while she was looking for her own place, which she finally found and sublet immediately.
“So why did you break up?” I asked.
“Oh, it was just getting kind of boring,” she said.
“Well, was the sex good?”
“No, not so great, but God he was so hot, my friends could not believe I was leaving him! He was going to come along on this tour anyway, as an Ex, but then he changed his mind, that's why I have this double tent that I really don't need.”
“Well, you know what I always say, 'the hotter the lover the more shallow the relationship.'” She smiled.
“Actually I delivered weed on my bicycle in New York,” she said. “It was great, I could make, like, $400 a day.”
“Did you ever have any weird experiences?”
“No, everything was really organized and the clients, who paid cash, were vetted gradually into the system. The dispatchers weren't even in New York, I think they might've been in Florida or somewhere. I might go back and do that again, I know a lot of the delivery kids at various companies. The only thing I didn't like was I had to keep all the money overnight or even for a couple days, a few thousand dollars, that was stressful.”
“Yeah, well, its practically legal out here now,” I said. “The growers are stressing, there's a lot of uncertainty.”
“Yeah, my friends delivering it are worried about that, most of them are artists who do it part time so they can finance their creative projects.”
“This plant is Sour D.”
“Oh, we like that in New York!”
“And that one is Girl Scout Cookie and over there is OG.”
“Huh, never heard of those,”she said.
“This is funny,” I said. “From here on the farm to you delivering the finished product on your bike! We plant, water, feed, stake, harvest, dry, cure, trim, bag, sell, and then somehow it gets to New York and you deliver it to the consumer at his apartment. Man, I wish we could work something out! Wouldn't it be cool to go right from the farmer directly to the bicycle-deliverer?”
“I'd love to,” she said with a big smile. “I know lots of people, we could have our own little operation—look at all this Sour D!”
“Yeah, but it would be so hard to get it there, maybe it would be fun to just write a story as if it happened.”
“We could really do it!”
“Boy, you really want to make it happen. I wonder how they get it there, maybe in a crate buried under other crates in a semi-truck or something? You can come and get some pounds?”
“Ha! No way.”
“So I'd have to show up at your apartment in Brooklyn with a suitcase fulla weed? That's not going to happen, but it is encouraging to think about all those millions of people in New York wanting weed, maybe the industry will continue for a while more.”
“They love it there,” she said. “The market is hot.”
We continued working and talking, she told me more about her boyfriend, he was Mexican and it was interesting to go to dinners with his family—she picked up some Spanish.
“Well, I like girls too, I like 'em butch, tough, muscular, just like my men, but I don't like to be labeled bisexual,” she said. “When I came out to my Mom in high school she was cool but later when I was back into guys she said 'See, I knew it was just a phase.' God, I did a lot of DMT back then, drank like crazy, and dealt weed.”
It got dark so we quit and I went to check on the game, see how the Giants were doing although their hitting was so anemic they might not make the playoffs. I called my friend, “I've got this sweet little woman in my barn with her dog.”
“You're with dog?” he said, knowing me.
I had an idea and went across the yard to the barn and knocked on the door; she had already locked it-- I had told her earlier that though its a pretty safe neighborhood last winter some cold intruder had tried the doors in the middle of the night startling my trimmer woman awake. (The next one slept in the attic with a golf club nearby.) She answered it with her hair wet from the shower and I said, “I had an idea. If you work with me for a few more hours in the morning to finish this job I'll drive you up to the top of the Leggett mountain.”
“Yes!” she said with a big smile, “that's awesome.” We high-fived and went to bed.
In the morning I saw her out on the deck and she invited me over or a cup of coffee, she had freeze-dried coconut creamer, the kind you use when you're on tour, as she called it. I looked at her tattoos all on one leg, very nice, one was of her dog and another was a shark running up her thigh. She pulled her shorts up high so I could see its head. We sat on the couch and she told me more about her life, her days at Florida State University, her time in Ireland, then landing back to New York to be near her siblings. Then we had breakfast and got back to work.
It was an easy job, passing the roll of string around the plant but the last girl had stapled her thumb once—that hurt. I told her some wild stories, one about the young hooker who had surprised me at my door last Spring, her legs spattered with mud, while I was watching the Republican debate.
“I was a prostitute,” she said.
“Oh? What was that like? Did you have any bad experiences?”
“No, I usually had a Madame, I was a high-end call girl, most of the men were unhappy, lonely, and usually married. I made a lot of money—it was good work.” We continued working and she told me more about 'the life.'
“When I meet a man now I tell him about it before we sleep together, if he's not cool with it then that's it, I'm not interested.”
“So its a political thing?”
“Yeah, even though I'm not a prostitute anymore if they can't accept prostitutes then forget it, not for me.”
“So you're not doing that anymore?”
“Well, last Spring my old Madame got ahold of me with an offer, two guys for the weekend for $5000. They would take me out on the town, take me to restaurants and shows—I was in demand because I look so young.” I looked at her, she was petite with a pixie face, just a hint of breasts and very strong-looking legs. She was 26 but could probably pass for a teenager.
“Were they Arabs?”
“Yes, good guess!”
“So did you do it?”
“No, I ran it by my boyfriend but he didn't like the idea so I didn't.”
“Yeah, I couldn't handle that, my girlfriend fucking other men; you being with other women would be no problem, men find that kind of hot. Do you think that lead to the breakup?”
“No, I don't think so. I have a new boyfriend now, he works in the bike shop with me, when I told him I'd been a prostitute he said, 'Great! Go make a pile of money and buy me nice things!'”
I asked her a question that I'd been thinking about recently. “Do you think if a woman says she was raped then she was?”
“No, not always,” she said.
“Because there's this local woman who insists she was raped even though she never said no and she wasn't too drunk to drive home afterwards. If you're slightly inebriated and have sex, then regret it later, is that rape? Rape is all in the news now.”
“Yeah, that Stanford guy, I heard about that. I've been raped twice, once by a friend at a party.”
“Did you tell him no? Fight him off?
“Yes! But he persisted, very drunk, later he didn't remember any of it, nothing came of it. And I was raped by my father when I was fourteen, he was convicted and went to prison for seven years.”
“Damn, that is fucking intense. Shit, after all you've been through you seem pretty nice, not all messed up.”
“Yeah, it was an ordeal, he's completely out of the family now—I think he's a mechanic or something somewhere.”
We went up to the farmer's market where I was read the riot act by a vendor who I had given a flower and a story to the week before, apparently the content was too racy for her. When we got back she spent an hour or so packing and cleaning—god, how people can spread out in just a day, blows my mind! Finally we loaded up the truck and hit the road South.
“Do you know any self-defense? Have a weapon,” I asked, as we cruised along the Eel River.
“No, not really, just a little two-inch knife, that's legal.”
“Well, just be careful, if someone doesn't feel right don't take the ride.” She had my ice pack on her knee and was planning to hitchhike up the hills with her bike and dog in the little basket.
“Oh, I don't like to do that, it might piss them off if they stop and I don't take the ride.”
“Well, then that's the kind of person you don't want a ride with!”
“Yeah, you're right.”
We stopped at the drive through tree and took a couple pictures, then drove on toward the Highway One turnoff. I was only planning on taking her to the top of the Leggett mountain but we kept talking, I kept driving, and drove her all the way to the sea. “Can I give you $50 for helping me?” I said, still a bargain for me.
“No!” She said. “This was great, thank you so much! So are you going to tell your friends all about me?”
“Oh yeah! Unless you don't want me to.”
“It doesn't matter, I'll never meet them.”
We got to the glistening coast and I unloaded her bike and packs from the back of the truck. As I was getting back into the truck I shouted over at her, “Don't be afraid to refuse a ride!”
She responded affirmatively and I drove away back up the mountain.