My life seems to be more and more fictional all the time. Here is another “travel story” that is also the continuation of the previous story. Actually, I’m beginning to think that I am writing a whole novel as I see a rather lengthy plot unfolding ahead. Perhaps I will serialize it upon these pages…
The Coyote Gets the Gold
The Winter Solstice (part 1); December 21, 2017.
I know it is going to happen before it happens. I shuffle the cards double… triple… Extra… to try to keep it from happening. It is the morning of the Winter Solstice. My ritual of indulgence will be later… at 11:21 am. At the moment, it is almost sunrise and I am heating water for herbal tea as I prepare to choose my medicine card. I attach special significance to today’s medicine card. In some respects, it is the card for the day, the card for the Winter season and the card for the whole year ahead. I shuffle the cards more and more but it makes no difference. Of course you know what card I turn over; the Coyote.
So, here I am, riding my bicycle over the mountain on the morning of the Winter Solstice. The temperature is hovering around 20 degrees and the wind is blowing but there is no snow.. Am I crazy; no, not exactly. Am I afraid of the coyote? Well, yes, maybe a little? Is that why I’m embarking upon such a foolish adventure? No, not really, but in a roundabout sort if way.., yes. My reasoning is, perhaps, convoluted, but my determination is profound. I am riding over the mountain in defiance of the coyote. Not because the coyote wants me to ride over the mountain but because the coyote is challenging me to ride over the mountain. I dare you he says… And so I do.
Honestly, the experience is rather thrilling. It is like a quest in an ancient epic. Frodo had to make it to Mount Doom in order to ditch the ring and I have to make it over Franklin Mountain in order to get the gold for the solstice celebration. I could have taken Ms. B.’s car. It was available. But I chose to ride. The first few miles were fairly flat and easy riding but I was passed by two big milk trucks that crowded me off the shoulder. Now I’m on the four mile long continuous uphill stretch that goes up and over the peak of the mountain. The other side is much steeper and shorter distance but harder to peddle up. This side is really not too bad. Like many things in this universe, the anticipatory thought is oppressive but the actual experience is mostly rather pleasant. The ache of exercise and the blood flow from heavy breathing excite the body. It’s more like a mid-range morning workout than some outrageous, crazy, impossible physical challenge. I’m dressed warm with long underwear and gloves so I am not uncomfortable. The cold air feels good on my lungs and the warm sweat starts to flow. The only real problem I have is with zooming cars and trucks that crowd me over to the shoulder. There seems to be lots of traffic on this road now; more than I ever remember. I guess it’s the morning rush hour. Peddle peddle push, up and over the top of the mountain.
Going down the Otown side of Franklin mountain always scares me just a little bit. It’s about two miles steep down with winding curves. On one occasion long ago, my brakes went out on the very first curve so I had to crash stop in a rocky ditch. I didn’t get seriously hurt but it scared me. And then, the other day, Mr. X. told me his bike accident story… And now, of course, there seems to be lots of traffic. Big trucks…full of fracked fucking gas no doubt… take up lots of space on the narrow road. Little me on a tiny bicycle trying to prove a point… trying to be symbolic… riding along next to them. I really must be crazy. This is dangerous… scary… I’m going too fast. I don’t peddle. I just hold on tight and let momentum move me. I have to brake to slow down… brake more on the curves. The trucks zoom past. The cold wind blows. The faster I go the colder and stronger it seems. Why do I do this shit? Is it really about the principle… Facing the fear? I don’t know. But it somehow makes me feel intensely alive…
I reach the bottom safely and the light is green so I can coast half way into town without even peddling. Oh yeah! That was fun… My friend Mr. X lives over in the student ghetto on the corner of Elm and Center. I peddle down Main Street and it seems rather lively for a cold Winter morning. I see Mr. D. and little C. in front of the coffee shop. I wave hello as I peddle past. I take a left on Ford and then a right on Center to reach the address. I used to live in the same building a long time ago but I lived upstairs and Mr. X. lives in the downstairs unit. We exchanged texts so he is expecting me. I park my bike by the door and knock. He calls out for me to enter.
Inside is fairly dark and it smells like weed… good weed. The apartment is basically a large studio with a kitchen and bath attached. Mr. X. lies in bed in the middle of it with only the television on for lighting. Books and papers are scattered everywhere and there are several computer monitors and keyboards as well. Piles of clothing take up lots of space but there is one empty chair upon which he invites me to sit.
“Welcome dude,” he says, “sorry about the mess. Believe it or not, I was in the middle of organizing and cleaning this place when my back went bad again.”
“No problemo,” I say, taking a seat. “It’s not much different than my place. So sorry to hear about your back. Total crashing drag; nothing worse than having to lay in bed all day.”
“You got that right dude,” he says. He adjusts his position slightly to raise his head a little on the pillows. “And nowadays it is the story of my life. All I ever do, is lay in bed. Before the accident, I was like you… super active… healthy and athletic…. on my bicycle all the time. But now I can’t do shit. Even when the pain subsides, I feel as fragile as a wine glass. I can’t work, I can’t play sports, I can’t even fucking fuck unless I do it gently. Can you imagine that shit… If only I could have my body back.”
“It sounds really horrible,” I say, “I can’t imagine not being able to ride.”
“Did you ride here today?” He asks.
“Yes,” I say, “I sure did. And I rode over the mountain too.”
“That is so awesome,” he says, “that’s why I love you dude. That’s why I’m giving you some of my gold. I see you riding around town all the time. I see you doing it right. Not being afraid. And it makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. You might think I’d be envious and angry because you are doing what I want and I can’t. But no sirrreee… You make me proud… like a brother or family member. We may not be technically related but we are soul brothers. On the same spirit team. Believe you me, if I could, I’d be back on a bicycle tomorrow. And I would ride over that damn mountain again the next day. What makes me envious and angry is all those who can and don’t… Not you dude… You are out there doing it.”
“Well, ah thanks,” I say, “But I’ve been slacking off lately too. I don’t ride nearly enough. I wish I had time to ride more. And I wish you, my friend, could be out there riding with me.”
“Oh well,” he says, “you gotta play the cards yer dealt. My near future is looking rather sedentary. But at least I got the gold dude. Check it out. It’s in the treasure chest on the table.”
Oddly enough, there is a small wooden treasure chest on his bedside table. It looks to be from a doll house or toy pirate ship or something. I pick it up in my hands to look closely. The details are impressive. It’s a little big for a “toy ship,” more like from some collector’s model ship for adults. There is even a tiny key that fits in the lock.
“You can keep the treasure chest too,” he says. “It’s part of the gift. Kinda cool, don’t ya think? I picked it up at a yard sale.”
“Yeah, it’s cool, very pirate like,” I say, “thanks.” I click the tiny lock and open the chest. Holy smokes. I can hardly believe it. The incredible scent wafts upward to my nostrils as the glorious gold nugget glitters before my eyes. “Wow. That’s beautiful!” It has the familiar yellowish color of real Malawi gold but there are no sticks, seeds or stems. All the gold I smoked in Malawi, was a tangle of sticks and seeds. That was half the fun… incredibly delightful buzz in a rough and tumble package. Indeed, all the gold I bought in country came wrapped up in a corn stalk and I had to pick it apart to get the goodies. The little treasure before me now has already been picked, cleaned and processed. It is a professionally grown work of art… a clustered bud a few grams in size. “But it doesn’t look like it comes from Malawi,” I say.
“Not the whole bud” says X, “just the seed it grew from. It was actually grown into its present glorious form in a greenhouse right here in Otsego county. But it’s the real deal all right. My friend who grew it, Mr. Z., he’s a world traveler dude like you. Well, maybe not quite like you… but he’s been to lots of places. And just as you pick up stories on your travels and take them home and turn them into books, he picks up seeds on his travels, takes them home and turns them into plants. He has seeds he brought back from Manali, India, that he uses to grow and make charas. He has Berber seeds from Morocco and Rasta seeds from Jamaica. He has seeds from the highlands of Laos and from the mountains of Colombia. He’s not a big time grower or anything like that. He’s more like an extreme cannabis hobbyist. He only grows maybe ten plants at a time in his secret little private greenhouse in the hills. But he grows great variety and he also likes to mix and match. He says he personally collected all the seeds himself while traveling and smuggled them back here in his flip flops. Not so sure if I believe that story, but I told him about you, and your world wandering and your book writing. I told him that you had mentioned that Malawi gold was the best weed in the world and his eyes lit up and a grin took over his face. ‘I’ve been to Malawi,’ he shouted. Then he gave me some of this and now he wants to meet you.”
“Well, he certainly sounds like my kind of guy, and this, well, this is amazing.” I can’t take my eyes off it. It is glittering with a visible helix structure and the color is like gold in a crazy cartoon. The dust is clinging to the crystals.
“Just wait until you smoke it,” says X, “it does that whole brain sparkly thing. You are going to love it.”
“It’s so beautiful, I won’t want to touch it.”
“Oh yes you will,” he says. “What time is the Solstice? About noon right?”
“The great moment will be at 11:21.”
“It’s almost 9:30 now. Are you riding back over the mountain?”
“That is my plan. But first I have to pick up some maple syrup for Ms. B.. She’s making waffles. So I don’t really have much time to hang out. I don’t want to just take the gold and run. But that’s what I have to do. Are you sure you don’t want some money for this?”
“No worries dude. I know the story. I read your books. You have an important celebration to get to. It is my great honor to provide the sacred herb for your ritual. The gold is a gift… take it and go. We will have a chance to socialize when my back gets better. I still want to visit your Buddha mountain paradise.”
“It’s called Buddha Hill and you can find it somewhere on the other side of Franklin Mountain. You have an open invite my friend. Stop by any time. And speaking of gifts, I have one for you too.” I unzip my backpack and pull out a copy of my brand new book. “It’s an advance copy so there are still a few formatting errors. But since you enjoyed my other books and you are laid up in bed, perhaps you would like something to read. Just don’t pass it around because it is not quite the final version.” I hand it over.
“Oh my god dude,” he says, “for real. An advance copy with mistakes. Can you sign it for me too? It will be worth a mint on e-bay when the published version becomes famous.”
I laugh. “You will have a long time waiting for that.”
“Not as long as you think” he says. “I’ve read your other books. I know star power when I see it. If this new one is as good as I believe, it may very well be your ticket into prime time.”
“But you haven’t even read it yet. And who says I want a ticket to the prime time.”
“What you want is not the issue my friend. I know the story. I get what’s going on. The prime time will find you because the prime time needs you…”
“The prime time needs me? Huh? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about revolution… even if it is only imaginary,” he whispers. “But in the meantime,” he says out loud, “I will set up a meet and greet with my friend Mr. Z. I have a feeling you and him will get along like peas in a pod. Maybe he will even give us a tour of his greenhouse.”
“That sounds great,” I say. I carefully put the treasure chest in the front pocket of my backpack. “I’d love to meet him and see his greenhouse.”
“And if you ever want to buy weed, remember that I can get you all different kinds. But I only sell ounces and I only sell to approved clients. You are now an approved client. My prices range from 200 to 400 per ounce depending upon variety? Today’s gift is but a tiny taste of what is possible.”
“Thanks,” I say, “no doubt I will be a happy client for many moons to come. See you next time.”
Outside, I check my text messages. Ms. B informs me that her sister (Ms. W.) and her boyfriend, the big O, are expecting me. The Big O taps his own maple trees on a small plot of land he owns near Franklin. He makes a big batch of syrup every Spring and he has extra to share all year round. They have an apartment over on the East end of town. I hop on my bicycle and peddle on over.
O is in the driveway loading stuff into his pick-up truck when I peddle up to him. “Good morning,” I say as I pull to a stop.
“There you are,” he says, “your lady called to warn us of your shenanigans. Are you crazy? Riding a bicycle over the mountain in this weather?”
“It’s no big deal. I’m saving on fossil fuels. It was actually rather fun.”
“It’s dangerous is what it is. There is lots of traffic on that road now. And you can’t afford to get hurt. You have a kid to take care of.”
“Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Facing fear is the way I roll.”
“And what were you doing that you just had to do? Buying weed no doubt? You certainly didn’t ride over the mountain just to pick up my home made maple syrup.”
“I certainly would ride over the mountain for some of your amazing syrup and I was not, as you say, “buying weed,” this morning. I was, if you want to be precise, trading a copy of my latest literary creation for a little nugget of gold.”
“Malawi gold? The real deal?”
“I think so, but I won’t know for sure until I try it.”
“And you traded a book for it? Does that mean I get the new book for my maple syrup?”
“Of course you do if you want one? But I only have a few advance copies now and they have some formatting errors.”
“That’s okay. I don’t mind formatting and I really want an advance copy.”
“I don’t have any more on me so you will have to get it next time you come by the house.”
“I’m going to your house now. Throw your bike in the back.”
“But I was going to ride over the mountain.”
“I know. You were going to ride. But your lady called and promised me waffles if I gave you a lift. I like waffles so I’m giving you a lift. Throw your bike in the back.”
“Well, okay. I didn’t really want to ride up the other side anyway. I’m so old and out of shape I probably wouldn’t make it.” I put my bike in the back and climb in the front. A bottle of the syrup is on the front seat. A few moments later, we are driving up and over the mountain and heading back to Buddha Hill in plenty of time for the solstice celebration…
To be continued…