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On Christmas & The Sacred Herb

Here it is the middle of a heat wave and all I can think of, aside from my tomato plants, is a cold cold Christmas when I was in jail. I should have known it would end badly because I was behaving badly. Truth to tell, I don’t piss in doorways. Not anymore, but I used to. Once, on Polk Street in the City, I was so inebriated that I didn’t realize I was pissing in a doorway until a guy said to me, “Please don’t do that.” I didn’t really care one way or another where I pissed. Then I sobered up and said to myself, “Oh, what a lowlife you are!” After that pissing incident, on the day before Christmas, I was taking weed to Ralph Harvey Bey, a one-eyed, angry, epileptic, 300-pound Black Muslim who lived in a cheapo hotel in the Tenderloin, his environmental niche that he didn’t want to leave. Ralph was a wanna-be gangster who wore gold chains and a sweatshirt with a dollar sign. There were tons of gangs in the Tenderloin: black gangs, white gangs, Mexican gangs and Asian gangs, all profiting off the illegal marijuana market. 

On Christmas Eve I was on my way from Mendocino to see Mr. Bey. On Geary, I saw a Chinese cop jacking up an old Black couple. Generally speaking, Chinese people don’t like Blacks and this cop was no exception. He saw me fly by in a Toyota Corolla hatchback, came after me and jacked me up too. I knew I was going to jail. I asked the cop, “Is it true that African elephants have bigger ears than Asian elephants.” All the other cops on the scene tried to shush me when I began to talk about Prop 215 that legalized medical marijuana. That made the Chinese cop uptight. “Don’t tell me what the fuckin’ law is,” he says to me. “I the law. I vice cop 15 year.” 

I ended up in the clink at 850 Bryant— which Black Lives Matter folks are now aiming to abolish—where this white lady cop who was about to OR me, says, “Mr. Munson it looks like you are choosing marijuana over your own family.” I said, “Get away from me and take me back to my cell.” But I did get out. In court after Christmas, the DA tells the judge, “Mr. Munson has been busted in half-a-dozen counties. He’s a big shot.” My lawyer, a great fuckin’ public defender named Randall Martin, says, “all the charges against my client in all those counties have been dismissed. The evidence in this case shows that in this case and in all the others he’s always in compliance with the law.” 

Ralph Harvey Bey came to court to testify for me. The judge looked at him and then at the DA and said, “Case dismissed.” I walked out of the courtroom and a few days later, after handing my kids their Christmas present, I was able to bring Ralph his weed. I always gave him sweet deals; two hundred dollars a pound because he had principles. He wouldn’t put up with smack, I don’t know if he’s still alive, but probably not given the fact that he never took care of himself and lost a leg to diabetes.

I was reminded of him the other day when reading and thinking about George Floyd. I felt sorry for George, but his death has brought attention to the “control-fraud racket” that runs our society and that links the cops to the courts, the businesses and the politicians. I didn’t know anyone like George when I was a kid, but I grew up with Black guys when I lived in Virginia. The big divide in my high school was between the jocks and the rednecks that ran over everyone. Actually, there were the rich rednecks whose fathers owned construction companies and the poor rednecks that bummed cigarettes from the potheads in the school parking lot. There were crossovers, too, like the cheerleader who smoked weed with me, and the coolest guy was Pat Wilson, who was the only openly gay person and who would dance with the girls and threw the most amazing moves. Everyone watched him.

In those distant days I didn’t care what color your skin, who you were or what position you held in life as long as you acted right. That’s still the way I feel. I'll celebrate Christmas with almost anyone, even Assad Khan who lived in Mendocino and who was a friend of Ralph Harvey Bey. They were both unproductive, dysfunctional human beings and Muslims, who prayed together. I loved both of them. Khan was a real live Arab prince. His father owned oil fields in the Middle East and was over the top rich. Every so often he'd go back to Pakistan and return cleaned up and proper and three weeks later he reverted to his stoner ways. Assad owned three houses, each one with a different woman and each woman with a child of his. He was a devil with the ladies. Women and weed were his whole world. He claimed to smoke weed for his spiritual practice. 

He favored heavyset white women. They were his groove and they all thought he was suave and adored him. He would fall in love and have a child with a woman and then the relationship would go sour and he’d break up, theatrically. Once, I heard him screech, “You fuckin’ bitch you’re breakin’ my heart. Fuck!” Once, after a breakup, he had to go to court to show that he could and would take care of his children, financially. The judge told him, “Mr. Khan, if you want custody of your children, you have to stop smoking weed.” Assad said, “ Judge, I can’t stop smoking the sacred herb.” The judge understood and allowed him to have custody. He was a better parent than any of the mothers of his children and he had money coming out of his ears. 

Merry Christmas folks, and remember please that all my stories are hypothetically true. And good riddance to 850 Bryant.

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