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Hustling Hostellers?

I was seated at the dinner table contentedly shoveling spoonfuls of Pozole down my gullet. The AVA, in all its glory, unfurled in front of me. My better half leaned forward across the table and fixed her squinting gaze on a mug shot featured in the “Off The Record” section of the November 3rd edition. “Man Beater of the Week”? she asked. (Must have been Ueda’s long hair). She was referring to Shimpei Ueda, the adventurous Japanese pil­grim, gone trimmer, busted with some Mendo devil weed the week prior.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at your suggestion that accompanied Ueda’s photo: That growers within The Emerald Triangle are recruiting young, international dimwits from hostels in San Fran to help process their bounty. It does give one pause.

I retold my wife the story about my experience in La Paz, Baja California many years ago.

The bicycle that I had ridden from Cloverdale to La Paz was beginning to show some unnerving signs of wear. The rear derailleur had failed and I was down to my last tire patch. Mickey, a middle aged bloke from Alaska whom I had met at the marina in La Paz, offered me a lift to Cabo San Lucas to fetch the parts and pieces needed to get me back in the saddle. Mickey was a like­able guy but talked too much. He shouted when he spoke, and at the end of every sentence would ask, “Ya know what I mean!?” I always assured him that I did. Half way to Cabo I wondered how it was possible that so much spittle and Jerry Springer material could spew from his gob. On and on he went about his cross-dress­ing, homosexual father and his mother who left his father for another woman. “Jesus Christ,” I mumbled out the open passenger’s window, “Is this guy for real?” I was about to jump from the speeding Jeep Cherokee when he asked me a question: Would I give him a hand? Help him replace the sails on his boat when we returned to La Paz? How could I say no? He was concerned that he’d break the mast if he tried to climb to the top, something that replacing the sails required. He’d gained 80 pounds since his arrival in La Paz. The Baja shake that he’d been smoking for the past three months gave him the munch­ies but calmed his nerves.

Mickey told me about his insatiable appetite for blow and how he had to start smoking weed because of his paper-thin septum. I suggested that he smoke the blow and make brownies with the weed. He liked the idea well enough but was concerned it was too wasteful. Besides, he liked the numbing post-nasal drip from the blow.

Mickey lurched and lunged his way through the streets of Cabo all the while screaming “Cinga tu madre!” whenever someone didn’t yield to him. We found the bike shop in Cabo. I paid the shopkeeper three times what the same parts would have cost me north of the border, but was relieved and thankful to have them. Mickey, on the other hand, was incensed and balled-out the polite, unassuming repair man and called him a Mexican Jew as we walked out the door.

“You can’t be so polite to those little fuckers! If you got blue eyes and green money they’ll fuck you every time!” fumed Mickey. He blathered on about how people like me give Americans (like him?) a bad name. “Puss­ies! That’s what they think we are! Because sheepish fucks like you come down here and pay three times what something is worth!” I assured Mickey that no one would ever mistake him for a pussy and that I appreci­ated, and shared to some extent, his outrage.

Mickey had one more stop to make before we headed back to La Paz. The Cherokee made an abrupt halt at the curb in front of a zapateria. Mickey ducked inside. Moments later he emerged with two pair of cowboy boots. “New soles” he grunted as he squeezed himself behind the steering wheel. “take ‘em,” he said as he shoved the boots across the seat and into my lap. “Smell anything?” Mickey asked. “Shoe polish?” I offered. “That’s right! Shoe polish! The same fuckin’ thing the narco dogs smell when they stop me. If they stop me. That fresh shoe polish masks the scent of the blow. Dumb sons-a-bitches.” Mickey wiggled the rear view mirror out of its holder that was affixed to the windshield and dropped it in my lap. He ordered me to “lay us down some gaggers. Not too skinny. Make the lines fat and short.” I declined and told him about my past and how one snort could throw me off course. I had done more than enough during my high school years in Boonville. “Holy fuck! You’re from Boonville?!” Mickey screeched. “They grow the best bud on this planet! Are you shitting me!?”

He rubbed his bear paw across my head and told me that we needed to talk more about Boonville Bud, but that right now he had to take a shit. He steered the Cherokee to the side of the road and we came to a vio­lent and dusty broadside stop. I was thinking about how much my Boonville buddy, Bob Mabery, would have enjoyed Mickey’s driving. He jumped from the Chero­kee and squatted behind the open door. He ordered me to find him something to wipe his ass with. The only thing I could find within reach was a plastic Commercial Mexi­cana shopping bag. He wanted one of my socks but I wasn’t wearing any. He asked what kind of asshole walks around without socks on? At this, he started call­ing me Boonville. I liked the name just fine but it made me a little homesick. Through the grunting, popping and farting Mickey began a long list of things that I should and should not do (or say) at the sentry booth that we had to pass through on the outskirts of La Paz. Mickey went on to tell me that the blow that was stuffed inside the boots was destined for a youth hostel in La Paz. The Aussies were his star peddlers.

These same Aussies would hole-up for weeks at a time at the hostel while they awaited a response, any response, to the postings they left pinned-up on the marina bulletin board advertising their “sailing” prowess. Some hopefuls were signed on to luxurious motor yachts and state of the art catamarans (mainly the bronze beau­ties complete with their irresistible Down Under accents), while other trust fund babies languished in the Baja sun growing weaker and drunker by the day. The only thing in the pockets of their $100 pair of shorts was an assortment of daddy’s plastic. Some of these hos­tellers Mickey recruited to move his blow around South­ern Baja.

We passed without incident through the sentry booth. Part of me wondered how much of Mickey was pure the­atrics and how much was ADD. I could never be certain. I must admit, his maniacal nature and unpredictable out­bursts were exhilarating, like a forbidden tonic. I even imagined recreating myself in his image! After more careful consideration, however, I realized that I didn’t have the stamina or moxie to emulate Mickey. I began to feel as if Mickey had cast some sort of spell on me. Was I becoming Mickey’s apprentice?

Mickey banged on the steel garden gate of the hostel. A smiling, dark, gnomish looking woman unlocked the gate and let us in. Mickey told her how beautiful she looked and gave her a kiss on the top of her flat greasy head. Mickey cautioned me to never cross Doña; that she was the most powerful person in La Paz and that she could have my head sent to my family’s doorstep before it rotted in the box. She had her “boys” shove a pestle up the ass of a Frenchman a couple weeks ago. It seems the Frenchman returned from Carlos & Charlie’s one night, having drunk too much Pacifico, and vomited on her coveted Oaxacan tapete.

Seated at a table in the center of the courtyard were two young male hipsters. They were bedecked with kitschy local artisan jewelry and they both looked as if they were suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. The fetid stench of patchouli blasted-up my nostrils. Mickey asked me if I knew why people used patchouli? Answer: So that blind people can hate them too. Mickey laughed hysterically. I smiled. Mickey and I walked down a path that lead to the hostel rooms. One of the hipsters stood up and followed us. The physiognomy of this guy reminded me of a tropical bird somehow. We stopped in front of door #8 and let bird boy pass us. He reached forward and opened the door. The three of us stepped inside. Mickey exchanged the boots for a wad of paper money. Just like that! Bird boy never made eye contact with me. He must have assumed that I was one of Mickey’s hard guys. Mickey never introduced me to bird boy. Bird boy warbled something about going to Hotel California in Todos Santos. Somebody was waiting for him there. Just as quickly as we had arrived at the hostel we were out the front gate and back in the front seat of the Cherokee.

It took the two of us over two days to replace the sails on his boat. He was incapacitated most of the time by drink and weed. Mickey managed to drop several tools in the water where they sank to the bottom of the marina. We were down to his last grommet tool and one screwdriver when we finally finished. I later volunteered to recover the seven tools that Mickey had dropped. The depth was about 16 feet and Mickey was convinced that I’d never get to the bottom. I shrugged off his doubt and assured him that I had dove much deeper in search of abalone. “Boonville, ‘yer dumber ’an you look! You know that?!” I told him that I had my parents to thank for that. He laughed. I retrieved all seven tools, three on one dive. My recovery dives endeared me more to Mickey than anything else I said or did. He even beck­oned some of his marina cronies over to show me off. Mickey was drunk as hell by now. “Watch this crazy fucker you guys!” One by one he started hurling the tools that I had just retrieved back into the water. “Get’em, Boonville! Show these fuckers what salvage diving is all about!” I wasn’t about to become his little Sea World performer so I told him to fuck off as I climbed from the water and headed up the dock that led to the boardwalk. He bellowed after me that I was too sensitive.

I never saw Mickey again after that late afternoon in November. Carlos, a friend of mine from La Paz, calls me from time to time to ask when I’m coming down to visit. He tells me that Mickey, now in his late 60s, is up to his usual shit and that he’s always making a raucous around the Zocalo or marina. Mickey buried Doña last spring and is still enjoying the protection of the Doña hard guys.

OK, so I wasn’t camped out somewhere in the Mendo outback on a bud trimming stint, only to be arrested by some federal thugs, but I had just accompa­nied a Baja drug dealer on a major drop. Looking back on how all this happened gives me vertigo. It seems totally plausible to me that characters like Mickey (and characters much worse) would lurk around hostels in San Francisco in hopes of luring them to their grow outposts. Most of the SF Hostels are in the Theatre District. Hey, pop-in at ACT and watch their hack job on Waiting for Godot and meet Lord of The Buds all in the same night! That’d be dope bro!

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