The Green Pile
My so-called life with a pot grower.
Thursday, April 19, 2001
I met him eight years ago at the Monterey Bay Blues Festival while I was passing through on business as a traveling salesperson. It was one of those rare, gorgeous Monterey summer days, and I donned a filmy, flowery frock and picked a sunny spot at the fairgrounds to lay out my blanket.
As I danced alone to the music, a flash of yellow abruptly invaded my peripheral vision. I turned my head to see the shaggy blur of a blonde head and its attached body gyrating furiously next to me. Shane later told me he was purposely dancing like a madman to get my attention. It worked.
We danced for a while, and then we sat under a tree and shared a joint. He introduced me to his pride and joy, a yield-sign yellow VW camper van still warm from a cross-country surf safari.
He was 22 years old at the time, and I was three years older. Despite his age, I was struck by Shane''s worldliness. He was a voracious reader and a prolific traveler, and he possessed an edgy wit interwoven with a well-developed sense of irony that transcended his stoner facade. He had fled the East Coast, rejecting his father''s plans to have him take over the family business. He believed vehemently that one should live expressly for the moment, and that material trappings and other people''s opinions about oneself should be flatly rejected.
I found myself drawn to his freewheeling philosophies, and his spirit permeated my thoughts from that moment on and for many years to come.
Two years after we met, I made the move to California. Intoxicated by the relaxed Left Coast lifestyle, we lived a simple life centered around Beat literature, green tea, reggae and long Big Sur hikes.
Shane proudly dubbed himself a "derelict" and a "slacker," and we endeavored to work as little as possible. To that end, the laundry room was converted into a marijuana growing room, which fed our own habits and produced a little extra to sell to friends.
After a few years, the flow of various roommates living in our rented four-bedroom house on Spaghetti Hill waned as our friends moved on to make homes of their own. Through a series of small miracles, Shane and I--both under employed in the service industry at the time--managed to purchase a two-bedroom Monterey abode. The 65-year-old house had no foundation, the roof leaked, a family of rats infested the attic, and the termite damage was obvious, but it was our dream home.
Between the two of us, we made enough to pay the mortgage and property taxes--but just barely. We lacked the cash to make needed improvements and to furnish the place.
Shane had the solution. Immediately upon moving in, he set about the task of constructing a grow room in our garage. The room consisted of two chambers: one to mature the "Trainwreck" and "Big Bud" clones imported from Humboldt County, the other to flower the adult mothers. The layout was equipped with high-pressure sodium lights purchased from garden supply stores, a timer to control the lighting, a fan to dissipate the heat produced by the lamps, and an air filter to clear the powerful, skunky odor emanating from the room.
The operation wasn''t huge, but it provided a nice influx of extra cash. The harvests supplemented his annual income by about 8,000 tax-free dollars.
Business was conducted with the utmost security. Customers were limited to friends or recommended friends of friends. The code word "CD" was used over the phone, and anyone who violated that rule and uttered the words "weed," "pot" or "bag" found themselves immediately disconnected.
Knowledge of the grow room was handed out to a handful of trusted and loyal friends on a need-to-know basis only, and all others were banned from the garage. No one was allowed through the front door while a harvest was being dried, trimmed and bagged--a three-day process that perfumed the entire house.
On good days, we would dream together. Besides the steady influx of cash provided by the grow room, our home, thanks to Silicon Valley''s exploding economy, increased tremendously in value. We could sell the house, Shane theorized, and almost pay cash for a stone farmhouse set atop a rolling New England pasture.
I could have horses, and our dog would have all the space he needed to frolic. We could have kids, and I could teach them to ride. We even named them--Chloe and Seamus. He could grow pot in the hay loft of our barn, and I could craft a novel from my writing studio.
But that dream always turned sour in my mind. I envisioned being barefoot and pregnant as the cops seized our assets, froze our bank accounts and hauled my husband off to jail.
On most days, paranoia crept in. Shane came to mistrust everyone--even me--living in constant fear that some friend would turn against him and squeal to the cops. He became abusive if his rules were not strictly followed. More than once I was verbally chastised for leaving the garage door open for more than a moment or for borrowing $20 from the stash to buy groceries.
Then the delusions of grandeur set in. Money became an obsession. Shane began to live beyond his means as a part-time bartender, taking pleasure in wining and dining me at chic restaurants and taking pricey wine country jaunts. He traded in our shared truck for a brand new SUV, and his quiver of custom-made surfboards multiplied.
Working off tips provided from his bar customers or from a Pebble Beach golf pro pal, Shane played the stock market, and his daily moods swung up and down with the NASDAQ. He began to believe that if he invested the pot money right, he could become independently wealthy within a few years.
Meanwhile, winning approval from his wealthy father--whom he had rejected by moving away--seemed to become important for the first time. It seemed like Shane was trying to prove that he also could be successful, but without playing by the rules. He often talked to his dad about the stock market, a new shared interest that Shane worked hard to cultivate. He would beam with pride when his father took a stock tip from him.
By the time I moved out, Shane was a ghost of the free, life-embracing spirit I had fallen in love with. The money from the pot, the stock market and the house itself completely consumed him in the end. I''m sure I disappointed him, too.
We sold the house for 50 percent more than we had paid for it. Shane was sorely disappointed--he wanted to double our money. Despite the fact that the house was in both our names, he threatened to drag me to court if I didn''t reimburse him for the money he had put back into the house, all of which had originated with the green plants in the basement.
In the end I acquiesced and gave him what he wanted. It killed me that our relationship had come down to squabbling over money.
As soon as we closed on the house, Shane and his new girlfriend moved back East. I hear they have horses.