Sunday 26 April 2020


Jeff Higgins and I were out and about, doing what the high school-aged do in search for some way to spend time on a weekend when the Grups'd be out for the evening, when who did we happen upon hoofing in the hood but precisely one of the people our age who'd know where to go to get what would enhance the experience of the next several hours.

Paul McKaney. Or maybe McHaney, 'cause when the c hangs out long enough to grab the next syllable, y'just never know and Paul McKaney was the kind of guy I'd happen upon, not the kind of guy whose door I'd knock on or house I'd visit and hang out with in his bedroom where I'd see the spelling of his name somewhere and thereby know it's McKaney or McHaney without ever having to ask him. Though I did visit his house once a couple of years later and did hang out in his bedroom. I didn't notice any plaques on the wall. Anyway, as it turns out, Jeff Higgins and I didn't need to go too far because Paul McKaney claimed to have just what we might be looking for.

"Two for five bucks." This might not sound like much, but in the era of my high school-aged self, which'd probably be more mini-era than era because the high school mind of any era has not been around long enough to experience any more than a fraction of what reps the established terminology as it relates to where & when we find ourselves, in this case having last less than two decades, fewer than two if you could count 'em, significantly less when you consider the relative age compared to the total volume in a decade, and that we'd yet to reach two of them, let alone in consideration of the years behind someone who could tell you the price of weed in the earlier part of the century we found ourselves in.

"It's killer reefer."  Suffice it to say that at that time the prospective turnover at two-for-five was not a price that would land a Most Joints Sold plaque on your bedroom wall, at least not when your clientele was kids of Naptown not far out enough to attend county school, where if they weren't rich, they thought they were and spent accordingly, and not central enough to live in newly rehabbed Lockerbie Square, where if you're not rich, you're spending too much to buy or rent to live downtown at that time, which might be an indication that you believe you can afford to invest in a little extracurricularity.

"It'll get ye high." I cannot recall how we were expressing our skepticism save for the look of reluctance to lay out five whole bucks on a measly two joints, and pinners at that. Seriously. These were like somebody had just rolled a paper real tight around another paper. The ends were tucked in, in the style of someone who sells joints out of a baggie. Now, someone who sells joints out of a baggie is someone that doesn't have the dollars to invest in a quarter pound and break it into bags and half-bags, or doesn't know enough people who'll spend that much money.

Until quite recent to then, a bag, which was an ounce, would cost you thirty-five bucks and a half-bag exactly half that, seventeen dollars and fifty cents. It just so happens that the mini-era in which we found ourselves was undergoing a transition, as far & long as my high school mind could reckon,  wherein a bag had gone up to forty bucks and a half-bag exactly half that at twenty.

Could it be that the likes of Steve Buenagle, who despite appearances could afford to buy and break up a QP, were simply tired of dealing with the fifty centses? If he wanted to fumble with quarters he'd get a paper route and have one of those coin changers on his belt. Come to think of it, I think he had a coin changer on his belt, and I think he did have a paper route, pronounced rout, and which I think I did for him once while he was away. Buenagle was a finagler.

Or it could be that I did the route for Bobby Joe Langdon, who was doing it for him while he was away. Either way, one of us had been finagled, in that no collection of customers on any route then or since could have been, or would be, more scarce at collection time, of which Buenagle was no doubt aware. I still have this image of them, as if they're all the same customer, peeking from behind curtains, refusing to answer the door for a paper boy that wouldn't've been asking for any more than chump change were it not for their pretending not to be home for several weeks and counting. What a freak show that was.

Anyway, we'd yet to start seeing the sale of quarter ounces, whereby bags and half-bags disappeared from the scene. That was the literal divide that doubled the price, which we'd see right around the corner — like Paul McKaney literally from me, and from him Steve Buenagle, and just a few houses farther, just this side of the road that divided us from county school territory, Jeff Higgins.

"What choice do you got?" Ahhhh, yes. That, I do beg your pardon, was the coo d' grass. It never sang, 'Fuck it, you don't need it.' Still, I'm still not convinced there's anything wrong with something that'll make you sit still long enough to listen to an entire album, all the while creating an operatic accompaniment in the high school mind, with its high school setting and its high school characters real and imagined.

In an era — and I do think I've seen enough years be eclipsed by our current age to call it an era — in which, for me, lying back and listening to an entire album requires discipline, the gap in my memory during which one of us must have gotten up and flipped the record to side two is a fond one. "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends..."

Of course we bought the two for five and, if I recall correctly, ran into Ronnie Langdon on our way to burn the first one in my backyard amidst the crabapple trees and lightning bugs. If  I recall correctly, Ronnie did not partake but was merely happy to hang out to see if we'd been ripped off. Now that I think about it, it might have been Bobby Joe. Well, it either was or it wasn't, and it might have been Gock, who is never far from my mind in that or any context. The three or four of us, if it was that many, sat at the kitchen table and waited. And waited some more.

At two-for-five bucks you oughta've been suspicious. The going rate for a joint had been for so long, as long and far as I had been qualified to reckon, one dollar. If you're gonna rip someone off with something that's too good to be true, you may as well make it gooder than that. At least that's my thinking now. I'm not sure what I was thinking then, though I'm sure it was something along the lines of a McKaney's Law that says if  you can lose more, you will, or Paul's Wager which doubles down & a half.

While I'm at this, I should tell you that just getting one for two-fifty had not been an option, either because it wasn't part of the deal, or because the coo d' grass consciousness of that moment meant you better have two in case one don't do the trick.

Keep in mind that if one doobie were gonna have done the trick, based upon my high school aged experience, we'd have been able to make that assessment while we were still tokin' between the trees. We'd have at least been giggling on our way through the breezeway well before we'd taken our places at the kitchen table. Then at some point during our kitchen table conversation, there was a pause in the room as the feeling crept over me.

No sooner did I realize that I was high enough to be taking back shit I didn't even steal, which comes from a simile I credit to Darren Henley, which is an entirely different story from the soon to come quarter ounce era, Jeff Higgins breaks the silence with a deliberated double-&-a-halfed negative, mustering that vernacular as he could by saying, "Paul McKaney's not such a bad guy, after all, idn't 'e?" 

Geiger's ELP cover, spray gun on bed sheet
 by Jeff Higgins,
at the end
of an era