On the Floor of Greens
3 - Greens Blues
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At ten till eight on a Tuesday morning I zip out of Bolinas on the way to another day at Greens and pick up a long haired long bearded threadbare hitchhiker at the end of the lagoon standing in the slanting sunlight on the edge of the coast highway.
"Bless you." My shaggy guest plops a canvas shoulder bag on the back seat and, at my urging, fastens his seat belt as I take off South.
"Where you going?" I asked glancing at him, catching his deep set intense green eyes.
"Me too. Where in particular?"
"Serendipitous - me too. Where you going there?"
"Alright. Well you're in the right car."
I introduced my self and he himself =and as John Walter and I sped onward round the curves he explained to me the purpose of his trip which was much more impressive than anything I would have imagined. John had been shuttling between the South Pacific and France, meeting with dignitaries, diplomats, even with President Mitterrand - successfully dissuading those amphibians, as he put it, from testing their nukes in the pristine South Sea waters. It had taken several years of skilful sailing, frightening standoffs, and hard negotiating, and he was tired of Greenpeace taking all the credit for getting the French to curtail their open-air nuke bomb testing. He was on his way to give them a piece of his mind and get them to acknowledge his pivotal role.
"Wow," I said, "Impressive. Thanks a lot for that. I'm so glad they stopped testing."
He pulled out a partial loaf of sour dough bread and offered me a bite. It was, I suspected, from the back of the Bolinas Bakery and looked to be the two day old they left out for waifs. I declined. He continued. He said he'd just come from Canada where he'd been with his old friend, Prime Minister Trudeau, who had presented him with that country's highest civilian honor, a medal worn around the neck which he received to a standing ovation from Parliament and which he later donated to the National Museum. He said that after he'd set Greenpeace straight he was going to fly to the Soviet Union and negotiate a reduction in their nuclear stockpiles and hang out with Michael Gorbachev. All the way to the city he told me about one noble historic deed after another that he'd been involved with.
"Someday though," he said looking towards his worn tire tread-bottomed sandals, "I'll be remembered for what I've done," and then with a tone of regret, "Someday after I'm gone."
"Gosh John," I said as we pulled into the parking lot at Fort Mason, "I'm the host at the restaurant in Fort Mason - Greens, you know it? Well, the Zen Center would like to honor you today for all you've done for all of us, for the world."
"Yes, we would. Just come over and we'll give you a free meal. It's not so much considering the scope of what you've done, but it's something. Can you make it?"
"Yeah. Sure. What time?"
"As late as two?"
I walked him over to Building C where Greenpeace was located, stopping to point to the entrance with the discreet hanging walnut sign reading Greens Restaurant. What interesting people one meets in Bolinas, I thought to myself as we walked up the steps of the old concrete army building.
During my break before starting to seat people, I went back over to the Greenpeace office to check up on the hitchhiker and to visit. I knew everyone there because they ate a lot at Greens. In fact they ate more at Greens and spent more money there and drank more wine than any of the other folks at Fort Mason. I told them it was an unconscious attraction because we both had green in the names of the places where we worked, but it could be that they received tons of money from all over the world and some of that largess was reflected in their expense accounts. There was one jovial fellow in particular who tended to get a little loud and drunk - but I'm no one to complain about that. There were a few minutes before I had to be back at Greens and was in a back room talking with a few regular Greenpeacers and John who they had somehow gotten to stuff envelopes while listening patiently to his monologue. A woman who worked there asked if anyone wanted to smoke some pot. A few people shook their heads and a few said sure.
"Nice to smell it but no way am I going to get stoned before going to work," I said.
"Makes everything better, man," she said.
"Oh well, okay."
She whipped out a joint and said as the flame from her lighter waited, "This is VERY strong pot. Don't take more than one puff." She took a drag and handed it off to me.
"Ah, I live in Bolinas," I said with pride. "The pot there is so strong I doubt this will be that challenging."
"No, really," she said. "This stuff is really very exceptionally strong."
I took a big hit and passed it on to John who didn't take any before passing it on. When it got back to her she started to pocket it, but I put my hand out for more saying, "Well if I'm going to get high before going to work, I might as well get more than a little buzz - if that's okay."
"Oh no - don't," she said, but I already had it to my lips.
"You'll see," she said, dragging out the last syllable in a higher tone.
"Well I have to get going," I said. "Thanks a lot." And then looking at John, "See you at two?"
"Good luck to you," the woman with the joint said.
Walking over to Greens I enjoyed the brightness of the day, the salty wet fishy smell of the cool Bay breeze, the blue of the sky - so blue - and such beautiful clouds. And the blue was so blue. I wanted to stay outside and go hang out on the pier but I knew I had but seconds before I had to seat the first people. It seemed to have taken so long to walk back to Greens I wondered if maybe I was late but I didn't wear a watch so I wasn't sure and it was funny, but… Jordan was out there unloading the van. "Hey, uh Jordan," I said. "It's funny how… funny how wide the street - I mean this thing here. It's not really a street - but cars drive on it. And gosh, I never really noticed how much is going on in that asphalt."
"Good lord David, are you stoned or what?"
I put my hand to my heart. "Oh my god Jordan. I am sooo stoned. I didn't even realize it. Oh no. She warned me. What time is it?"
"Time? What's that?" he laughed.
"Uh - oh no - don't play with me please."
"The hands have turned to liquid. They're pointing everywhere at once. Help, I'm being eaten by time," he continued unhelpfully.
I staggered into the back entrance. A moment later I felt like I was gasping for breath and swimming through the air taking people to their tables. I felt like everyone saw through me and were going to complain to management but then I remembered that I was management too. And I noticed that everything seemed to be going fine in retrospect. After a while people were seated and everyone was smiling and ordering. They did all seem to be looking at me suspiciously but I figured that that was just my own paranoia. It seemed to take forever. Each party was a mountain to climb - acknowledging them, getting them to the table, going back for more. Having to keep reminding myself what I was doing. I was so high that life was happening in unconnected flashes and I had to constantly reconstruct my whole world. "I'm David, a human being born on planet earth working as a maitre de in a restaurant called Greens in a city called San Francisco. I have to take people to those tables…"
"David, you're talking to yourself." It was Jordan.
"Oops. Thanks. Give me some wine."
"The police have come for you. They said that if you go peacefully they won't arrest you in front of everyone."
"Oh please don't Jordan."
He did get me some wine, asking me why I was naked as he handed it to me. After affirming that I was clothed, I discretely drank it while in the corner of my eye I caught him and Terry sticking out their tongues at me. I turned away but in a second caught them in the corner of my eye still sticking out their tongues. I waved them away seriously. They continued. I mouthed them to stop it. They continued. Then what I feared happened. I started to laugh and couldn't stop. I was on my knees on the carpet between them and the waiting diners and felt totally exposed. I could hardly breathe. But nobody cared. The customers thought it was nice. They thought we were happy Buddhists. They didn't realize that when someone put their hand on my shoulder I had to piece things together before I knew it wasn't a giant tentacle getting ready to drag me off. And they didn't realize that I was passing out from a lack of oxygen brought on by laughing so hard.
Anyway, I came down from the discombobulated too-high high with the help of wine, caffeine, desserts, and time, and stood gasping a sigh of relief to be back on earth in a more familiar way, though feeling a little tired and heavy. And one more thing aided in my reentry. As I had stood up, head throbbing and dizzy from laughing, I
"Got the chains on," I said to Terry.
"Pot's shit man," he said. "There's better stuff out there than that."
"Just give me fresh air and sunshine," I told him.
"And some snow falling from the sky."
"Or rain. I like rain - and fog," I said, not getting caught in his drift. And then, having a few seconds to spare, I went on. "I like pot if I don't smoke it much and don't have much when I do. Man - I was too too stoned today though."
"Umhum," Terry shot back without sympathy.
I continued. "I was so fucked up. That's what getting really super stoned can be like - disorienting and difficult to deal with. That's what people who don't smoke pot think it's always like. That's where the media comes from. That's what the law reflects. If it's alcohol we're considering, then we know that it effects different people differently and that there are degrees of intoxication, the lesser ones being tolerated even for driving automobiles at high speeds on two lane roads. But with pot there's only one idea. And it's…"
"Get this pothead out of my space," Terry said to Jordan who was checking the refrigerator for inventory. "He's lecturing me."
"Maybe he's on speed. I think we should take it up with the ethics committee," Jordan said.
"Back to work," I said, turning around to appraise how the situation had changed in the prior two minutes. The clock on the wall above the entrance read two which is just what I'd thought in the instant I turned to look at it. I didn't have to look at it much to know the time. I was never more than a few minutes off in the old internal works. It was a sign I was getting back to normal - whatever that is. I looked at the tables and the chart on my clipboard. We were full and on schedule.
I was breathing a sigh of relief and gratitude to be in a world I could deal with when John walked in. "Ah! Mr. Walter. We've been expecting you." Heads turned. He stood there taking in the whole scene looking not unlike that bag lady, like someone wondering if they're dreaming. "Right this way, sir," and I guided him to a window table and handed him a menu. "And how did your visit to Greenpeace go?"
"Oh fine. Very good." He sat down and looked out at the sailboats and the bay.
"Order whatever you wish. It's on us," I said. I grabbed Dan as he was sailing by and introduced him to John with brief rundown on his accomplishments and was off to seat the next party as John received his reward for saving the whole earth to which I'd just returned.