On one of the last days of summer in 2007 I left my wife and 10-year old at the haunted Parker House Hotel to help set up the High Times booth on the Boston Commons.
Each year the magazine shared prime booth space with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws at the long-standing Boston Freedom Rally. On this drizzly Saturday morning the combined crews had already taking care of the grunt work before I arrived.
The light rain would dissipate. The park was filling nicely, and the rally began precisely at High Noon. Twenty minutes later, Keith Stroup, the celebrated founder of NORML, asked me if I wanted to smoke a joint.
We stepped behind the booth that afforded no cover at all and huddled close to the kiosk as if it were a fortress. While hitting the joint we watched hundreds of ralliers beginning to arrive in the warm, angel-piss rain.
So it was me and Keith blowing clouds in the middle of the Boston Commons when a couple of younger folk floated by watching us with wistful smiles, and Keith, being Keith, offered them a toke…
Just then, like a baby hawk, an equally young undercover cop came swooping up from behind, grabbed the founder with one hand and me with the other, and said,
“Don’t move! You’re under arrest! Give me that!”
He took the joint from Keith (I think, but it happened all so fast). The cop was patting me down when I saw Keith throw a second joint in the mud. When the cop turned his attention to my accomplice I ground the joint in the mud with my foot. So the baby cop only nailed us for one-third of an unfinished joint.
“I don’t give a fuck!” the young cop said. “You think I give a fuck?”
“C’mon. Let’s go,” he barked, grabbing us gruffly. Keith said,
“You know, that’s not necessary.”
“I don’t give a fuck!” he reiterated.
The narc moved us through the thickening crowd who now sadly saw two old guys being led away. Sixty people were arrested at the Freedom Rally that year, and Keith and I were among the first and were certainly the oldest. Scores of eyes were upon us. It was a very public arrest. Looking at them looking at me, the full weight of what was happening began to sink in.
Stoners were always waiting to get busted in those days. I had been waiting for thirty-seven years, and it never happened until now. In my 53rd year old the long arm of the law on a somewhat short cop reached out and nabbed me and the founder of NORML at the Boston Freedom Rally for a measly third of a joint
Seriously, if you are going to get busted for pot, that’s the way to do it.
The uncover kid took us to a bright yellow booking tent where clutch of his kind were starting to process an increasing number of ours. The place was crawling with cops.
“Well, what have we got here?” the booking officer smiled. He sat next to another officer behind a long folding table.
“Class D possession,” said my little narc.
“You two should know better,” the booking officer cracked.
We were processed simultaneously. Two policemen asked us questions as another speck of field fuzz led a pair of sixteen-year old boys into the tent in handcuffs.
“Here’s two more,” he said.
I gave the booking officer my I.D. and he asked me what I did for a living.
I told him I was the associate publisher of High Times magazine, and he looked up from his paperwork, seemingly perplexed.
“Wait!” I promised, “It gets better!”
I turned towards Keith, clapped him on the shoulder and said “And this guy is the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws!… And my attorney!”
And I’m sure I was beaming when I directly faced my arresting officer and said, “Oh, and by the way, this is all on the record.”
“I don’t give a fuck,” baby cop blurted. Again, I took him at his word.
But the lieutenant with a thick Boston accent who was obviously in charge, said,
“You going write about this?”
We were given summons’ to appear in court and released in our own recognizance. Technically, we were ejected from the park, but the Lieutenant admitted that if we walked in through another entrance no one would stop us. When we left the tent, Keith and I were giggling like a couple of schoolboys who just got let out of detention.
We wound our way to the booth and arrived like conquering heroes. Questions and answers and slaps on the back, and my wife was waiting with a furrowed brow,
“Are you okay?”
“Oh, yeah. No big thing.”
“We just got caught smoking a joint. That’s all. Where’s Dylan?”
“She’s playing behind the booth”
“Does she know what’s going on?”
“I’m not sure,” she said.
I went to the back of the booth, not far from the spot where I was arrested, and my ten year old was playing in the dirt. She was throwing a stuffed animal up in the air and catching it again when I surprised her.
Clinging to her plush, she ran into my arms. I spun her around like a helicopter before I gently brought her in for a landing.
“Let’s go for a walk.” I said. “Tell me, what do you know?”
“Uh — Something happened.”
“I’m — I’m not sure,” she said tentatively.
“What do you think happened?” If she knew, I wanted her to say it.
“You — got – arrested?”
The last word went up in a question.
“Yeah. I got arrested.”
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Do you know what I was arrested for?”
She shook her head. She didn’t know.
I took a deep breath and said, “I got arrested for smoking marijuana.”
Then sentence fragments began tumbling from of my mouth:
“You see, I…
“Dyl, I just…”
She stopped me.
It was as if a cool breeze blew through the Commons.
Uh, yeah… Yeah, right”
I repeated the words I said in Jamaica:
“Dyl, you see all these people?”
The park was now filled to bursting with thousands of stoners.
“Everyone in this park agrees with me.”
“I know,” she said. “What’s going to happen to you?”
“Not much,” I reasoned, “I’ll come back here in few weeks and pay a fine, that’s all.”
That’s not what happened, but, at that moment, we were both satisfied with the answer.
“Come on. Let’s go find your Mom.”