An Inappropriate Life

Memoir by Stan Gotlieb

Scoring In Oaxaca

Winter, 1973. Exotic, mysterious Oaxaca, deep in the south of Mexico. The nine-o'clock sunshine is creeping down the adobe wall outside my room, a deep golden harbinger of the coming day.

Reaching over to my night table, I grab my last joint, rolled the night before, and in a now well-established ritual, I smoke it while I watch the sun's progress on the wall, and plan my day. When the wall has been completely illuminated, I will get out of bed, take care of my morning toilet, and wander downtown for some breakfast on the terrace in front of the Marquis del Valle hotel.

After breakfast, I will go to the campground in Colonia Reforma and score some more weed from a Canadian who lives in a school bus up there. Next, I will stop at the bakery to pick up a couple of bolillos, and then to the market for a tomato, an avacado, and an onion; bring them back; roll another joint and smoke it, have my lunch, and take a nap. A full and satisfying day ahead. Nothing too strenuous, nothing complex: just right for my second week as a stoned-out visitor.

When I get to the campground, my source is pulling out of the gate in his converted school bus, his wife and two children aboard. I wave him down and get in. When I tell him what I need he informs me that he has no more weed to sell; that he has processed all he did have into hash-oil, which is secreted deep in the bowels of the bus's body, and that he is on his way back to Canada.

I panic. I'm out, I plead. He is adament. I grovel. He relents -- sort of. Well, he opines, I can always try to get some from his partner. This is the first I have ever heard of a partner, and I ask him what the deal is. He tells me that they had scored together up in the mountains, and had subsequently had a falling out. Oh, great, I respond. I'm supposed to approach this guy I don't know (and who, more importantly, doesn't know me) and say Hi, your ex-partner, who you don't talk to or trust anymore, told me to come to you to score. He grins sheepishly (or is it impishly), and says that's the best he can do, take it or leave it. Oh, and by the way, he adds, Joe has some of the absolute best pot in Oaxaca, far superior to what you have been buying from me. Well, I say, in that case...

Having gotten detailed instructions as to how to find this guy, and after three buses, I end up on a dirt road outside a small town about ten miles from the city. After a dusty twenty-minute walk, I arrive at a large house surrounded by a high wall, with a chain-link gate. Through the gate, I see a VW van with Nebraska plates, and an elderly fellow sitting on the porch. There are two large, nervous Dobermann dogs patroling the grounds. I wave, and he approaches the gate.

I can hardly credit that someone his age might be the person whom I seek, but when I ask him his if he is Joe, he confirms that he is. He is clearly not happy to see anyone. In for a pound, I figure, and say "My name is Stan. For a few weeks now, I have been scoring weed from your ex-partner. Today when I went to the camp ground, he told me he was out, and sent me to you. I know if I were in your shoes, I would be pissed off at the intrusion, and upset that some stranger knew I was holding. I thought about that before I came here, and I probably wouldn't have come if he hadn't told me that you are holding the best weed in Oaxaca." His scowl deepens. I plunge on.

"Look,", I said, "I'm not a dealer. I just like to get high, which I have been doing for ten years by now. I don't want much, just 100 pesos' worth. If you would invite me in, we might well turn out to know some of the same people, and to have been to some of the same events. If at any time you say "walk", I will turn around and go away, and forget who you are and where you live." He shrugged his shoulders and opened the gate.

Once we were seated on the porch, he excused himself and went inside. His wife Jane came out, and while polite, was clearly unhappy to have me there. We started talking, and after a while she excused herself and returned with some iced tea and cookies. By the time he got back, she had loosened up some, having established that I was pretty much who I said I was and unlikely to be a threat to them, a sentiment which she shared with him.

He handed me a bag of weed, and I gave him 100 pesos (about 8 dollars in those days). I quickly examined the herb, which was a mess of bottom quality junk. The disappointment showed in my face. I said thanks and made to get up. Wait a minute, he said, let's talk some more.

We spent the next half hour telling each other stories. I found out that they were retired school teachers, who traveled the world in their VW bus, which was outfitted with secret compartments in which they smuggled whatever they could buy where they were that had more value where they were going. They too were processing marijuana into hash-oil, to sell to a friend in Lincoln who had a following at the University.

We are going down to the market for a bowl of soup, he said. We can drop you there. After that, we don't expect to ever see you again. Wait here a minute. When he came back out, he had another package, which he handed me. Don't open this until you get home, he said.

When I opened the package in the privacy of my room, I discovered the largest, most vibrant, most sweet-smelling buds of marijuana I had ever seen. I rolled a joint, took two tokes, and got lost for a couple of hours.

Next morning, I went back to the Marquis del Valle for breakfast. While I was sitting there, a nice, fresh-faced young couple, clearly just off the train, wandered by. Psst, I said, want to buy some pot? They did. I've got some, not the best, but good enough for starters, and its only a hundred pesos, I said. They gave me 100 pesos, I gave them the bottom weed that Joe had given me, and we all went away happy. Another day in Paradise.

More of Stan's Writing Other Oaxaca Writers and Artists

All materials copyrighted, 1994-2004 by Stan Gotlieb and