I’ve finally finished a draft of my non-fiction opus, Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers and the Race for the Cannabis Cup. I don’t have a pub date on the book yet, but I’m guessing it’ll come out next spring from Broadway Books. I typically cut a lot of stuff out of a manuscript as I’m revising it, non-fiction is no different, but sometimes it’s scene that I really like. It’s painful, but it’s all about making the book better. Just to give you a taste of the new book, I thought I’d post one of my favorite sections that ended up on the cutting room floor.
I’ll set the scene: I was in the DNA Genetics office in Amsterdam, talking to Aaron of DNA about the basics of cannabis botany when…
Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a young dude from Gainesville, Florida who introduced himself as “Mikey”. He was tall, lean and lanky, with pale freckle-flecked skin and red hair cropped close to his head. A thin red line of beard ran along his chin like a carefully crafted pinstripe complimenting his oversized sports jersey and baggy pants cut off at the calf. A chunk of cubic zirconium gleamed from one ear and he sported a gold-plated ring on his finger the size of a doorknob. Mikey had meticulously styled himself to look like a member of G-Unit or whatever hip-hop posse du jour was all the rage.
Mikey sat down on a stool and pulled a chunk of Moroccan hash out of his pocket. He rolled it out into a thin toothpick shape and, holding it in his fingers, lit it with a lighter. He waited until one end began to glow like a stick of incense and then started sucking the smoke in.
Aaron smiled at him.
“What’s going on, Mikey?”
Mikey’s face lit up and he started flapping his hands around.
“I’m hittin’ London town, boy-ee.“
What was astonishing to me is that Mikey sounded like Snoop Dog or 50 Cent, but without the poetry. He was a skinny white kid doing a full-on, hard-core African-American gangsta without a drop of irony. Maybe it was the Sleestak, but I found it difficult to listen to him and not burst out laughing.
Aaron looked at Mikey and blinked.
“London. Get a pub job, yo.”
“A pub job?”
Mikey sucked in some smoke and then exhaled, “Yeah. I’d be down with that. Thanks, yo.”
Somehow the conversation had rotated. Aaron went from asking Mikey how he was doing to Mikey accepting a job working for Aaron in some fantasy pub in his imagination.
Aaron rolled his eyes.
“I don’t have a fucking pub, bro.”
Mikey looked at Aaron, then turned to me. I shrugged, I don’t have a pub either. I took the opportunity to point out something obvious to Mikey.
“Dude. You’re white.”
“I’m like an Oreo, only like…”
He stopped mid-sentence and took a moment to think about it, his face frozen like he was having a seizure. He held that pose for what seemed like a full minute and then, suddenly, he snapped his fingers.
“I’m like a backwards Oreo. Yo.”
As if to demonstrate, Mikey hopped up and began springing across the floor, leaping and spinning, hooting and clapping, doing a madcap crunk in the middle of the store. He spastically splayed his legs out and flapped his arms like a marionette being electrocuted.
“Like I do this dance in my window, yo. So, like, the people across the street can watch.”
Mikey began pumping his hips.
“They like it. They do.“
I looked over at Aaron, we’re both slack jawed, astonished by the performance. I am honestly at a loss for words. Aaron tried to interrupt Mikey’s dance with a question.
“Mikey? Why the UK?”
Mikey twitched, his arms spasmed out in an exaggerated shrug, and then, he collapsed in his chair like a spent James Brown. Even though he was sitting, he still grabbed his crotch in the universal gangbanger gesture of proud testicle ownership.
“I don’t like to fly, yo. That’s all. The UK’s just, like, one step closer to home.”
As he said this, I noticed how young he was. He’s probably twenty-one, maybe twenty-two, but looks even younger.
Aaron heaved a sigh and explained that he wouldn’t be able to get a job, he doesn’t have a European Union passport.
Apropos of nothing but the spider monkey in his brain, Mikey exploded out of his chair, leaping around the store, cackling with laughter. Aaron and I exchanged a look that asked, What the fuck was that?
Just as quickly, Mikey sat back down and began warming another chunk of hash. He sucked in the smoke and exhaled a stream of rap lyrics.
Despite the bizarre Brooklyn – “yo, Crooklyn. That’s where I need to be.” – accent, Mikey is amazingly likable. He’s a sweet-natured, albeit eccentric, fuck up who’s been hanging around Amsterdam for two and a half years, doing odd jobs, smoking hash, and dancing in the window of his apartment for the delight of his neighbors. He might be ridiculous looking, but he’s got heart. He means well. I think that’s why Aaron took an obvious paternal interest in him.
“Mikey. Go home. Get a job.”
Mikey nodded, sucked in smoke.
“I’m gonna get my GED, yo.”
“You don’t need a G.E.D. to get a J.O.B., bro.”
Aaron leaned forward, his eyes focussed on Mikey, his voice getting softer and more intense. He was not fucking around.
“It’s time, bro.”
“Time for what?”
“Time to get your shit together.”
Mikey nodded. “Yeah, shit be tight, yo.”
Aaron shook his head.
“That’s not what I’m talking about, bro.”
Mikey made some noises, trying to play it off, but it was too late. Aaron launched into a lecture on personal responsibility, a kind of Ten Commandments of how not to be a fuck up. I was still buzzed from the Sleestak resin, but with his baseball cap spun around backwards, his bushy goatee, and his dark eyes flashing with righteousness, Aaron looked and sounded a lot like a Rabbi in mid-sermon.