Some guys never seem to get it. They appear to have all the right tools, but they just don’t know how to use them. Some guys just don’t realize that you have to prove it every day. They think that life owes them something; that they have done enough, and that they should be rewarded just because of that. Unlucky for me – I’m one of those guys.
I have college degrees, state registrations and licenses, national association certifications, and a resume as long as your arm, but in reality, the only two things that I’m good at is rolling joints and screwing-up. They’re my only true talents in life.
I’m no hero. I’m no saint. I’m not the kind of guy who is likely to drop anything into the weekly collection plate at church; primarily because I’m not there. Still..I am not without some decent qualities. I’ve given away cars, and manufactured houses. Admittedly, broken down and wore out units bordering on being pieces of shit, but serviceable for anyone willing to make the effort to keep them going. If not something they truly wanted, at least something better than what they had. They took them, anyway. I strive to be no man’s enemy, but know unequivocally that I have failed in that effort.
Some guys lace them up every day and go out there and hammer away sunup to sundown. Some guys come to realize that if they have to work twice as hard to be half as good, then that is just what they are going to have to do. When you’re the runt you find other ways to internally measure your worth. In the realm of physical labor, it’s not how much you can lift, but how much you have lifted by the end of the work day.
Some guys struggle so hard to break out of their encasing eggshell of mediocrity that the struggle becomes an end in and of itself. They become so focused on it that they have no time to look at the scoreboard of life which is most definitely not tilted in their favor. Although it seems hopeless to those on the outside looking in, to some guys the solution seems to lie in never giving up. Unfortunately for them, there is no solution. And unfortunately for me, for the majority of my life, I was one of those guys.
Some guys who are screw-ups are not inherently stupid. In fact, even some smart people are screw-ups. The hardest part of being a smart screw-up is finding a way to live with yourself; for surely they think, they should be smart enough to figure out how not to be a screw-up. That rationale oftentimes makes them crazy, and most of the time makes them miserable. They can’t look to the public at large for any empathy, because here in this society there’s an undercurrent of opinion that screw-ups should suffer for being what they are. But even screw-ups have the right to enjoy life. Suffering is not a prerequisite for survival as the two are not mutually inclusive. In short, a screw-up can decide against all odds to be happy. This screw-up is one of those guys. I’m tired of beating myself up.
The first thing a screw-up learns in life is that things can go wrong. Not all screw-ups are incorrigibly hardheaded. Some can learn from their past mistakes. The only problem is that a true screw-up never stops making new mistakes. Even though not inherently dolts, the incessant parade of the dumb things they do marches on throughout their lifetimes. Like a moth to a flame, they simply can’t help themselves. Screwing-up seems to run in their blood. Remember this because it is especially true when trying to help those screw ups who are ambivalent about being helped. They’ll accept what they can get for free, but any suggestion of some effort on their part, and they will turn on those making such suggestions with a vengeance.
The other thing a screw up who desperately wants to break out of the mold learns to do is read. Eventually reading will be their only mentor, and most likely their only solace. Friends, family, teachers, associates, et al will ultimately give up on them and decrease their efforts to help them and lower their expectations of them, but a book has no idea who is glancing at its pages. A book can help anyone who is capable of comprehending what they are reading, and if not, even the very best books can’t help them. You would think that a screw-up who knows he’s a screw-up would have an easier time of it because why try if you’re only going to fail? But most screw-ups desperately don’t want to be screw-ups so they try even harder which virtually guarantees that the procession of screwing-up will continue to march in lock step with the self-loathing that accompanies it.
Some guys never seem to get their legs under them. They never seem to find themselves. As previously stated, they just don’t seem to get it; whatever it is. They encounter so much resistance in their lives that they eventually do give up and come to almost instinctively follow the path of least resistance, and in so doing some come to find that growing marijuana is fairly easy to do despite the inherent risks. It is a means to survival under the narrow parameters of the Tony Soprano School of Survival which dictates that if you’re not in pain, and not in jail, then everything must be okay. I don’t know whether or not this is good for me, but I do know that I have evolved into one of those guys.
Let me be clear from the beginning by stating that some of these marijuana growers come lately quickly descend into becoming deadbeats and lowlifes. And let me further tell you that anyone who is growing, if they’re even remotely good at it, is also selling. It’s just a matter of degree, and while the small change among them feel that small quantities really don’t matter, from law enforcement’s perspective, they all belong behind bars.
My arc on the marijuana grower’s learning curve invariably followed the arc of all my other career learning curves in the design, contracting, and writing professions. I studied and read about the subject voraciously, consulted whatever “experts” I could find, entered into the required tasks with both guns blazing, and wound up being fined approximately $10,000 for each and every mistake I made. True to my screw-up nature, I did learn from most of my mistakes, but seemed to always stumble upon new mistakes to make.
After forty years as a landscape architect, twenty-five years as a contractor, and thirty years as a writer I’ve come to the point of giving up, although I will admit that the only one who can make me stop writing is me and somehow I soldier on with it. Now, after ten years as a marijuana grower, I have become so completely worn down with it that I am seriously considering walking away. I have arrived at the question every screw-up is presented with every time life closes in on them. I am haunted by the perceived sins of my past. I find it better to entertain notions that perhaps I chose the wrong career, than to admit to myself that with any career I would now still be out of gas. So running on empty, I will continue to grow because nothing else has availed itself to me. Or perhaps, I am finally too discouraged to try anything new. So be it.
In the ten years that I’ve been growing, I have learned that the so called drug of peace and love is anything but that in the eyes of buyers. Like any other business, it’s dog eat dog, and they will deceive, grind, and even intimidate me at the slightest indication on my part that any of these behaviors will in fact work. This has caused me to become more bold and reckless in seeking out newer and hopefully better clients on such sketchy websites as Bud Trader which advertises that no illegal activity can occur there even though advertisements for all manner of hard drugs, and counterfeit cash abound along with the marijuana ads. It is truly the cyber wild west and makes me wonder what’s next – human trafficking?
In truth, I am soliciting for new clients, and let me state that I learned this in the dance bars so very long ago, that it was reaffirmed when I went out cold calling to build up my landscape architectural design business, and it was really driven home when I started sending out book proposals. Anything you put forth that’s unsolicited invites all manner of rude and demeaning behavior to be visited upon you. Those solicited take a dim view of those that they find to be unattractive solicitors and waste little time in dispatching them.
My penchant for screwing-up permeates all the other aspects of my life. At least I had the good sense to not bring any children of my own into this world, but I have tried mightily to be a useful and successful stepfather. I can say that the exercise of parenting or the lack thereof, is what molds some guys like me. They can act friendly to their step kids, but they can never truly be friends with them. Friends are supposed to forgive most, if not all transgressions, and to be understanding in the extreme. Parents quite simply are not afforded that luxury. They have to set a standard, or their kids will be rudderless. The only problem is that many coddling parents set their standards too low, and their kids are more than willing to live up to them. I tried very hard, or so I thought, to be a productive parent, but those kids had an agenda of their own. They wanted to be nothing like me, and in the area of hard work they are nothing like me. So I’ve swallowed that bitter dose of reality, licked my wounds, and have resigned myself to the solace of my marijuana garden for the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that I did my best, even though I know deep down inside that it wasn’t good enough.
Alone in my garden, the ghosts of my past frequently visit me like old acquaintances that weren’t ever my best friends, but who were not my enemies either. I’m a big believer in predestination because if the things that did happen weren’t meant to be, then why did they happen? A massive self-rationalization, I know, but just because I obsessively cling to the memory things that weren’t my fault doesn’t negate the fact that they quite simply weren’t my fault. I grapple with the mysteries of my early childhood, although I cannot remember the first five years of it, which most psychologists say are most definitely the most important ones.
The Wood Thrushes warble a song of joy early each morning. They’re the ugliest birds with the most beautiful song. The hummingbirds take over in the late afternoon gallantly dive-bombing me and then flittering up to the high wire overhead support system that tells me that my plants are over ten feet tall when the colas rise through and above them. I suppose that, to the hummers, they’re the denizens of a vast mysterious forest. My three guard dogs are about the friendliest dogs in the entire valley and would most likely quell any would-be rippers by licking them to death. After each work session I sit in an old easy chair, fast approaching total dilapidation from being out in the elements, and stroke their ears while marveling at the swelling colas that are all around me. Just for a moment I allow myself to breathe easier before stressing out about the toil of the impending harvest.
The con artists and associated scallywags will soon be visiting me with promises of huge profits, if only I were to front them some product, just enough to prime the cash pump and get them started. I’ve been through it all before. Fronts to strangers rarely work out and fronts to friends, as with Shakespeare’s Polonius’s Advice to Laertes, most often lose self and friend. And then there’s the difficulties now associated with money. It’s getting harder and harder to launder cash. The Post Office and Wal-Mart will ask questions for any money orders exceeding three thousand dollars, and Wal-Mart will ask you how you know the person you’re wiring money to as if it’s really any of their business. They say, of course, that it’s to combat fraud but I think my First Amendment rights are being stepped on just the same. Any bank will report deposits over ten thousand dollars to the Internal Revenue Service. The fact that I’m holding product that’s worth money, or money that is far more valuable, is not lost on crooks that just may succumb to their own greed and go ahead and rob me at gun point. I fear a home invasion more than I fear law enforcement itself because I know that unless I do something really stupid, they won’t go ahead and kill me. Most of all I fear I will screw something up because that’s what I do.
Some guys never expect to win. Some guys just seem to find a way to lose. Some guys are adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Some guys expect things to go wrong because their personal histories have convinced them that they always do. But, there’s always a first time for everything, and every dog has its day. For just this once, I hope and pray that I’m not one of those guys.
John C. Krieg is a bitter and contemptible old geezer who has been writing pieces with little success for over 30 years. For kicks John allows his 8-year-old granddaughter to sit on his lap and drive his decrepit car around their five acre lot located up on the high chaparral of Southern California’s interior plateau at a high rate of speed while blasting Johnny Winter on the stereo. He will not reveal the exact location because he still might be illegally growing boss-tits marijuana just to stick it to the man. FYI: We bury all our deceased dogs on site, give them festive markers, and miss the hell out of them. Late at night John visits the grave site of Luke the Legendary Bloodhound and mournfully howls in reverence to their better days together.