I had the opportunity to go back home, to a family reunion in Indiana, a couple of weeks ago.
While I was there, I visited some of my old stomping grounds in Gary.
I really haven’t gone back there too much, but in the past few years I’ve found myself going back more often – being drawn back.
My parents have retired and moved to Atlanta. My brother and his family live near Washington, D.C. My sister lives in Atlanta with her family. So the only person I HAVE to see in Gary is Aunt Doris, my mother’s youngest sister.
If she ever found out that I was in Gary and didn’t stop by to see her, she’d probably try to take a switch to me – like the old days.
Gary, Ind., has always had a gritty reputation. Steel mills and its proximity to Chicago made it the place to be back when I grew up there. But it wasn’t until the late '80s and early '90s that the city took a nosedive, so much so that it was the nation's murder capital a couple of years running. So the Gary I remember is NOTHING like the Gary of today. And that breaks my heart.
I had some good times in Gary. But times were different then, very different.
Back in the day …
During my recent trip, I thought about the time when my best friend, Kevin, and I thought we had stumbled upon someone’s patch of marijuana growing in a wooded area near where we both lived.
What turned out to be some sort of wild foliage that only looked like cannabis got us so excited we could hardly wait to spend the money from our ill-gotten gains.
After we stumbled upon “the stash” we quickly ran back to my house (my parents were at work) to grab up as many shopping bags as we could and hightail it back to the weed.
We then dug up all the plants, put them in the bags and ran them back to my house. We had to do our dirty work at my house since there was always someone at Kevin’s. He came from a large family. At my place there weren’t so many people around.
Keep in mind we had NO idea what we were doing. None. But we hatched a plan anyway.
So we proceeded to take the leaves off the stems of these … plants, we put them on several of my mother’s cookie sheets and dried them out in the oven, which was set to its highest temperature. The plan was to dry the plants, grind up the leaves, bag the “product” in Baggies and we’d be in business. But we had to be finished “cooking” before my mother got home from work.
I don’t remember whose idea this whole thing was, but at the time it was going to be on!
As we sat watching the plants dry in the oven, we talked about what we were going to buy with the money we would make from our venture.
Converse Chuck Taylor high-tops. Matching Levi’s jeans and jacket. Imitation silk underwear. Several pairs of platform shoes. A couple of suits.
I was going to be “as clean as the board of health” when I went back to school the coming fall.
Oh, yeah. Stylin’!
After the leaves were dry, we crunched them up, bagged them and got rid of any incriminating evidence before my parents got home.
We made plans to meet back up later and divvy up the product so we could begin our venture.
First, though, we had to test the weed.
When we did, neither of us really knew what to expect – as inexperienced as we were – but we knew the headaches we had were not supposed to be part of the experience. After a couple of days and more “research,” we realized that what we had was not what we thought it was, so into the trashcan it all went. I remember purposely waiting for the right time to get rid of the stash: the night before garbage day. The city garbage pickup was at something like 7 or 8 a.m., so since I had to take our family’s two metal cans to the curb, I could get rid of the stash and all would be well.
The morning after I got rid of the stuff, after I heard the sanitation truck stop at our house, everything was back in order. Case closed.
Or so I thought.
One night a few years ago, while talking about this episode to my brother, Rudi, he surprised me by telling me that he knew all about it.
You see, Rudi grabbed the “weed” from the trashcan and proceeded to sell it to some of the neighborhood tough guys who were into smoking pot. He even made a few dollars. But when word got out that the “weed” was not weed, Rudi found himself in big trouble.
Whenever he found himself in trouble back then, Rudi would turn to me, his big brother. But this was big trouble, bigger than me. So Rudi turned to Cousin Mark, whose sister Linda had the romantic affections of one of the baddest dudes in the neighborhood, T.C. T.C. came from a family of bad dudes, and nobody messed with any of them. Mark talked to T.C., T.C. brokered a deal and Rudi got a pass … along with a stern warning: Stay out of the drug business!
Back in the day …