Lennie was the one who always controlled the situation. He looked to me for reinforcement of his positions, but he never openly admitted doing so. It was an implied understanding that if Lennie got out of line, I'd be the one who'd tell him. I only had to tell him once, when I found my girl and him in a very compromising position together, and that was the last time we ever saw each other. But that was a long time from now, and there was a lot of living to do between now and then.
Lennie and Robyn lived in an old two-story house with their German Shepherd, Buddha. Lennie was a kid from Pittsburgh who'd found himself in the Deep South due to Robyn, but he still had the manners of a steel mill kid. The wild kinky black bush he had growing on his head wasn't the kind of hair that suited a warmer climate, so he kept it pulled back into a tumbleweed of a ponytail most of the time. What did this kid from the mineral rich northeast have in common with a kid from Mississippi who grew up hoeing cotton? Another product of the good Earth: Marijuana.
In small towns, dealers get to know each other. The quality of the dope being peddled gets around by toke of mouth and sooner or later, the folks who care about their part-time jobs more than most wind up meeting somewhere, over some product and a couple of melting candles. Negotiations are held, names are dropped, and it becomes clear that a monopoly has been formed, right there on a summer evening at a house by the lake. I don't know why the chemistry formed like it did. Maybe it had something to do with Robyn and my old lady. They hit it off on a grand scale, and before you could say sinsemilla, the four of us were doing everything together.
Lennie was tight and wiry, a bit shorter than me but strong like bull. I was tall and lanky and a bit smarter than him. He had a window on the second story of his house where we could climb out and sit on the roof and watch the stars at night. We'd sit out there and talk that stoned talk about the universe and man's place in it and pussy and baseball and the Ancients. I actually never enjoyed getting high as much as Lennie did. It was more of a business than a hobby for me, but Lennie made me love smoking dope when I was with him. I never got to the point where I began the day with a joint, like Lennie, but I did love to fire one up when we were together. He turned me onto the Grateful Dead. I turned him onto the Allman Brothers. He and Robyn had spent a year in San Francisco during that Summer of Love period and you could see the glimmer of the acid overflow in their eyes sometimes, when the light was just right. You can say what you will about the drug culture, but you show me someone who's dropped acid a few dozen times and still functions in this world like the rest of the people do, and I'll show you a strong soul; a psyche with staying power.
That summer had the diffused lighting used for special glamor shots. One of our best customers, the beautiful blonde daughter of the basketball coach at the college, had rented a lodge outside of town with its own private drive and its own private lake. It became the dream job come true. Enough folks were invited to make it a full-fledged party every single day, and Lennie and I were the chosen distributors of the drug of choice.
So, close your eyes and take a look at this:
A stone two-story lodge with a dozen huge rooms on each floor. Another one-story house at the opposite end of the small lake which could be used for those folks needing even more privacy. In the middle of the lake, a raft which was tied down. A pier from both the main house and the guest house reaching out into the lake, from which it took about fifteen minutes to swim out to the raft. A marvelous band playing all original music (think the Byrds or the Flying Burrito Brothers or an earlier version of the Dave Matthews Band) whose lead guitarist was going with the blonde who rented the house and whose band practiced in the living room almost daily. Around 40 to 50 folks lounging around the house or swimming in the lake or sunning on the raft, all naked. No one wore clothes at this place that summer, ever. And all of them having to go find their pants or purse to get their wallet to buy their dope from Lennie and me.
When I've told this story to folks over the years who've never been in a large group of naked people, they invariably get shocked. I know what they're thinking. “All the guys would be walking around with obvious excitement, eh?" I'm sure a true nudist could explain this better than me, but all I can tell you is that it just doesn't work like that. Sure, some girls are incredibly beautiful and you'd like to lay down with them, but when everyone is naked, it's some sort of huge equalizer. Things that you'd think would matter just don't matter any more. You should try it sometime just to feel the joy of nature and watch your preconceived notions crumble right at your uncovered toes.
The shade trees around the edge of the lake were where the ducks would rest, when the boxer wasn't chasing them. I loved that dog. Her name was Brandy. She would wake up with one goal in life: To catch one of those fucking ducks and eat it. The ducks, like a good strong soul who's used to dropping acid, had learned to live with the possibility of horror striking at any minute. Brandy would sneak up (as she did every day, at least five or six times) and, just as she was about to snatch some duck steak, they would flee, en masse, into the lake. Brandy would then (just as she did every day, five or six times) bound into the lake with a massive leap and proceed to swim after the ducks. Unlike on land, the ducks were now in their element, and there they would toy with the dog. They would allow her to get just close enough to sniff their feathered asses, and then they would speed up just enough to keep her trailing back a few feet. No Olympic swimmer could match that dog for staying power. She would chase those ducks in the water for up to two hours, never putting a foot on land. Finally, she would have to swim to shore, where she would get some chow in the house, to the strains of the acoustic piano being played on "Mississippi Streams" (one of her favorites, and mine, too), and fall out from exhaustion. A couple of hours later, Brandy would wake up. The ducks would be asleep on the edge of the lake. The cycle would begin again.
Much like the cycle of the stoners coming to me or Lennie for their fix every day. It was perfect. No law enforcement folks could get into the private party. It was a redneck Club Med for hippies. We would offer them different varieties. It's important to have a wide selection of merchandise. There would be the basic Mexican for the low-rent folks. There would be the good Mexican sinsemilla for the higher echelon of users. There would be the dynamite Jamaican for the folks who wanted to pass out after they took a few tokes. And there would be at least three colors of hashish, from at least three different parts of the globe, for the more mellow crowd. No customer went away with less than their money's worth. We'd damn near gotten killed scoring some of this stuff. But in business, it is good to take care to be the best at what you do.
It's good to be smart when you're in business. And it helps you recognize intelligence in others, too. Brandy the boxer might have been the smartest one of us all. One day I was playing fetch with her. The toy was a stick about ten inches long. I'd toss it as far as I could and she'd do what dogs do. Sometimes I'd toss it in the lake and she'd dive in, almost getting distracted by the ducks, but then remember her mission and bring me the stick.
There was an overhanging porch on the second floor of the main house and I decided to be cruel to the dog and tossed the stick up on that porch. Brandy looked at me then she looked up at the porch and back at me. Then she ran inside the house, climbed the stairs to the second floor, went through the bedroom to the open double doors out onto the porch, got the stick and brought it down to me. Now, you can say what you will; but that shows a form of higher intelligence than I thought a dog could posess.
Good things happen to good businessmen. A good time at a fair price. Naked folks, lying on rubber ladies floating around the lake . . . naked folks sunning on the raft . . . a band called Ned playing the best music you can imagine all afternoon for free . . . the brilliant but wasted naked Boxer sleeping the sleep of the dead, along with the handful of naked ducks . . . naked cicadas chirping . . .
I do believe we thought life would be like that, forever.