Features // January 3, 2020 // UrbanAroma Staff

Al Green: Chapter One

Al Green: Chapter One

Every week, we'll feature a story by Al Green, a writer living and consuming cannabis in NYC. 

The IRS audit leaves me bankrupt. I get into a bar fight against two brothers, which I win, only to lose the rematch against their six friends waiting for me outside. Repeated kicks to the head cause brain trauma, rendering me depressed, unpredictable, and unemployable. Medicaid pays for therapists and psychiatrists to find new ways of getting me out of bed in the morning. The medication I was told to take seems to have failed, as Jamie left me. To give her credit, she lasted through a dark chapter in my life, only to realize I was not very pleasant in the first place. She did leave me with the couch, an armoire, and some great records, though. 

I am not sure what to do with my life, or how I am going to pay the rent. All I know is that my landlord doesn’t care if my savings were squandered, that long form journalism, and therefore my career, is dead, and I no longer have a girlfriend to split the rent with and help take care of Goof, my beast of a dog. So, my old friend Steve offers me a job working for his NYC based cannabis delivery service. I’m not much of a pot smoker, or a cyclist. All I know is that I need to get out of the house, make some dough, and out of this hole. 

I spend the initial months walking Goof throughout New York City, targeting possible pot smokers, slipping them a card with our service number on it. Most people never call back. Some look at me like I’m a crack dealer. Sometimes I get a girl’s number as opposed to giving her a card at all. My dog Goof is handsome and adept at starting conversations, but in the digital age, in-person connections are increasingly looked at with suspicion. Nonetheless, cannabis has been decriminalized in New York City since August 2019, and there are in fact people looking for a delivery service offering a free eighth of flower in return for trying a new service. Six months later, we’re doing ten calls a day, on the verge of going out of business.  

Riding a bike in the winter in NYC is treacherous. “I went to college,” I tell myself, hitting the concrete, on edge, dizzy and dazed from the lexapro withdrawal, a muddy state of mind that can only be balanced out by some cannabis. I sit on an empty bench in Washington Square Park and crack open my box. There are so many options in this pelican case stacked to the brim with glass vials of the world’s best weed to choose from. I start the day off with a spliff of Pineapple Soda and Danish tobacco. The Pineapple Soda is low in THC, but just strong enough to give me a hint of a stroll on the beach on a sunny day in the tropics, just what this hellish week of December rain calls for.

Our friend Sgt. O’Connor grows the Pineapple Soda in Mendocino County, California. He did three tours in Afghanistan, returned with PTSD, and holed up in my buddy Tony’s basement for five years, watching CNN 24/7. They gave him a little cannabis and he started functioning. Then they gave him a grow room in a trap house and sent him on a mission to grow the best weed. Evidently, Sgt. O’Connor took his orders seriously as this Pineapple Soda has me smiling, a rarity these days. 

The winter is slow. I spend my down time in between calls re-watching OZ, the prison series on HBO from the early 21st century. (Nothing like a prison series to uplift you.) I should be more focused on finding a real job, a new career, but I just can’t focus on anything other than the burner phone, waiting for it to chime. I was diagnosed with being ADHD/bipolar back in the 80’s. They had me drinking pineapple juice and eating organic peanut butter three meals a day so that I would stop playing doctor with my fellow kindergarten classmates. Currently, my doctors keep prescribing me drugs for depression, but I just keep telling them, “I’m depressed because I can’t get any work done.” I jerked off just now, and all of a sudden two days and three Seasons of OZ have passed. 

When I don’t have one eye on the TV, the other swiping chicks on Tinder, connecting, never following up, I’m making half dozen deliveries in the rain. I don’t have foul weather gear. That would involve committing to this job, or getting another job working on a lobster boat in Maine. “I’ll never use those clothes again,” I tell myself while soaking, freezing, and weaving through the fog, looking for pedestrians, pathways and lights, the obstacles that present themselves, separating myself from my bed, Oz prison stabbings, and a legit job. 

I’m riding uptown in the bike lane, day dreaming endlessly about the townhouse I'm going to buy when I start a hedge fund, when suddenly I hear this guy screaming, “fuckin stupid bitch!” This messenger is really going in on this lady. A real “pro cyclist,” he’s wearing goggles and a full spandex suit (he probably films himself doing wheelies for his YouTube channel on the weekends). The recipient of his abuse is a mid 50’s woman dressed for the weather, timidly apologizing to him for stopping short. This just fuels his rage as he continues to degrade her. “Get the fuck out the lane if you can’t ride!” he screams at her a few inches from her face as we come to the light. Whatever cycling etiquette she broke with, it can’t be deserving of this. 

Apparently, the side effects of suddenly stopping antidepressants include irritability and impulsiveness. “I am not impulsive,” I remind myself. I am carrying several ounces of marijuana, broken down into vials in my backpack. Nonetheless, I let him have it. “Life’s too short, pussy! Yellin at an old lady. Bet you won’t say that shit to me!” This gets his attention, and before you know it, we are yelling at each other, trading insults, daring each other to make a move. I’m confident that he is in fact a coward, and therefore surprised when he attempts to push me into oncoming traffic. I am quick to grab his arm with one hand, plant my feet on the ground, and with two hands gripping his arm, I come to a complete stop and pull him backwards. He flies off his bike, taking me down with him. He’s screaming, “fuck you!” and squirming underneath me on the ground. 

All that I can think about is that I better not rip my new water logged North Face jacket. I can’t afford a new jacket. I put him in a headlock and punch him in the face repeatedly. I’m unhinged, angry, the same symptoms that lead me to get on antidepressants in the first place, that are ironically heightened by trying to get off of them. Upon realizing the frozen rain drenched crowd is quite possibly not on my side, I mount my bike and remind them, “That’s what happens when you fuck with old ladies.”  I speed off, wondering if the woman was insulted. She was in fact middle age. 

I bounce out of there, zig-zagging the streets in a real rush to evade the authorities. I know that I need to get out of public view. I see an art gallery with people entering. I calmly jump off the bike and discreetly enter behind them, removing my jacket so that I will be somewhat unnoticeable if the cops are looking for me. 

A curator is standing at a podium making a speech about the Native American art market, and the collection for sale. I don’t take a seat. Instead, I go to the bathroom. My nerves are thumping.  I look in the mirror, splash my face with water. “Good! That’s not my blood!” I clean his blood off my hands. I take a hit of the Rove Pen, produced by Dr. Robb Farms, it comes in a presentable package that is good for customers, but takes up a lot of space in my box. It’s not as strong as the pens Sgt. O’Connor produces, but the customers don’t worry about dying from homemade packaging. I would rather risk it with Sgt. O’Connor’s distillate. You don’t have to suck endlessly like you do with the Rove pens (I’m never sure how much I’m inhaling). The indica pen does the trick, and I am able to catch my breath. 

I can hear the curator's voice over the microphone, describing the paintings that line the walls of the gallery. I am the only spectator walking around, looking at the paintings.  Everyone is seated, listening to the pretentious speech. I stare at the centerpiece of the collection painted by a man who lives on a reservation, eating Spam from a can, who will most likely only see a penance of the sale.  

My Lexapro withdrawal is making the paintings on the walls warp. The lights are blinking, and I need to drink some water; I take a deep sip from the fountain but my acid reflux is awoken. My lungs are frozen from the high-speed pursuit. I puke carrots and pees into the water fountain. I push and press the regurgitated chunks of what was my lunch back into the tiny, fountain holes. I wash my hands in the bathroom. 

Backpack in hand, full of marijuana, I present myself to the head of the art gallery as a prospective buyer, offering $26,000 on the painting that made me puke. “It reminds me of rodent trails in the desert before a sand storm,” I tell him. He tells me, “You really get it.”

Read Al Green: Chapter 2 here