by Seamus McKenzie
We were all hanging out in front of the sea. My buds and I, a cooler of beer, our lawn chairs tipped so the water nibbled close to our feet, smoking the chronic, and altogether now singing, “I’m waiting at the end of the world.” It’s the official day, the official hour; 4/20 at 4:20 in the afternoon..
“Isn’t it remarkable,” said Old Man Joe, who never could forget he had been a hippie turned Republican that got shot down during the housing crisis. Your past comes back to haunt you, and here he was, turned hippie all over again, his graying locks strangled under a red bandanna, making a living from odd jobs and some black market wheeling and dealing, but that’s survival for you. You take what you can get, and if it ain’t enough, why you just take what you shouldn’t be getting. “All the money that went into campaigning against marijuana. Do you know what it means? I’ll tell you what it means. It means they failed. California is going to legalize marijuana. Think of the revenue it will bring them! I’m on the gravy train. I’m buying into an operation. All the money spent on propaganda, on anti-drug laws, on drug wars, and they failed. The biggest propaganda machine failed against this!” He held up the rolled blunt he’d been bogarting entirely too long for further admiration, before inhaling deeply and passing it on. It was a trick he used to monopolize attention. He was still, at heart, a Republican.
“It don’t feel quite right,” said Big Red. “This wasn’t the way it was supposed to all come down. All at once we’re going corporate; like tobacco or beer.”
“No, man,” corrected Andy, who hadn’t said much all day, mainly looked down at his shoes, which were interesting enough, with three blow-outs in the toes and duck tape lining the seams for the soles. “Tobacco ain’t cool anymore. “That’s the next thing that will be persecuted. They’ll take the tobacco away.”
“See, that’s just what I’m saying,” said Red. “It’s never really about what’s right or wrong, or whether you should have the right. It’s always about the money. If we go corporate, we’re the same as the rest of them.”
“I didn’t say anything about going corporate,” said Andy.
“I am,” said Old Man Joe with satisfaction. “I’m buying a green house. I’m going to be ready. I had a house once. I was just this close to retirement. They took it away from me. I’m getting it back.” They were the banks. They were the decision makers. They were the enemy.
“Why do we celebrate 4/20 anyway?” Asked Andy. “It was Hitler’s birthday, for Chrissake. That’s a little bizarre.”
“It began as a black arm band day,” said Big Red, who studied these things, or maybe was a bit older than he let on. You couldn’t always tell with outdoor dudes. It might be weathering or it might be age. Big Red was the type of fellow who looked like he had been weathering since age ten. “Some people began wearing black arm bands on Hitler’s birthday to remember the worst day in history. The only problem was, the only people who were hip enough to know about this were stoners. They’d see each other pass by with their black arm bands and know right away this guy is a stoner. One thing led to another, and pretty soon, it became a custom to hold a smoke- in on Hitler’s birthday. One day a year just wasn’t getting it though, you know, so an official hour was made, as well.”
“I think you’re shittin’ me,” said Andy.
“No, no, that sounds about right,” said Old Man Joe. “You’ve got to remember stoner history isn’t like any other. I remember wearing a black arm band a few times.”
Maybe he did, but it was difficult to see Old Man Joe championing any causes except his closet growing room operation. He just didn’t seem the type, but it did feel right hanging out on the edge of the world with him, remembering the blackest day in history on a day when darkness seeped in around like bubbles nibbling at the shore.
“We’ve failed, really,” said Andy. “We’ve failed. Nothing feels real. Nobody is using any common sense. Look at today’s news. European flights want compensation from their governments for not being able to fly during Iceland’s volcanic eruption. They said they had been grounded based on a theory.”
“What theory?” Asked Old Man Joe. “That if you fly through an ash cloud, it might clog up your engines, causing you to drop out of the sky?
“I suppose since nobody got to go up there and test it, it remained just a theory.”
“Would you like to be the one to test it?”
“I’ll accept the word of the theorist,” laughed Andy
It was good to laugh at the edge of the world. Because it was all true. We were spinning farther and farther away from any real reason. We’ve been sold out, bought out, lied to and cheated. The little became smaller, shrinking until their voices were silent, while the larger grew bigger and stronger, always there, always in our faces. Teenage suicide bombers. Nothing. The left over victims of disasters. Nothing. The airlines cry for compensation and the little country that must dig its way out of the mess is forgotten. It isn’t important. It doesn’t have its numbers.
Eighty percent of America doesn’t trust the government and believe the federal bureau is too large and powerful. Eighty percent, and yet it didn’t have to be this way; it shouldn’t have been this way. Twice Obama failed the American people when he could have united them. I said as much.
“Twice?” Asked Big Red. “Twice? Okay, omit the obvious. He failed to end the war in Afghanistan, and…?” He held up two fingers and pointed emphatically to the second.
“Mandatory insurance for health care!” That abominable big M word that goes right along with money; greenbacks to push us down and keep us groveling.
Big Red suddenly became energetic. “Mandatory insurance. The guys who scalped us, who took away our rights to affordable health care don’t even get a slap on the wrist. No! The son-of-a-bitch crawls in bed with them. We all know what mandatory auto insurance has done. The sky’s the limit. They take what they want. Do you know your insurance is based on your credit report? The poorer your credit, the more you have to pay. Over half of America has fallen into debt, and he keeps pouring gravy on the insurance racket. There! I’ve said it. I feel much better now.”
So did we all, sitting out there at the edge of the world, the ocean lapping and murmuring at our feet, the seagulls circling with their manic calls. We were remembering the blackest day in history while the darkness folded in, but when you’ve reached the edge of the world, it doesn’t really matter. It was four twenty. It was time to pop another beer and light up a joint.
“We should start a cricket farm, “ said Andy. “We could fry up crickets and sell them like potato chips the way they do in some places in Mexico. I’ll bet nobody’s thought of that yet.”
“Are you going to be the cricket fryer?”
“Hell no. How about banana peels? Aren’t you supposed to be able to get high on banana peels? We could create a bootleg market.”
“Banana peels would work,” agreed Old Man Joe.
Life was good at the edge of the world. Somewhere beyond us, radios snapped and popped, a pseudo world of make believe characters, reading from scripts, more macabre than anything we’d ever imagined, reeled and danced to puppet strings. Maybe one day we would believe again. Maybe we’d join a revolution, fight for a cause, struggle for freedom, but this wasn’t the day. It was four-twenty, just a day to be remembered.