After many bong hits and dab rips I took to the road with my boy, El Santo. El Santo means The Saint in English, Santo is definitely my companion through thick and thin. I brought his cozy bed to snuggle, while I drove, when he needed time to sleep and rest up, after toking on our herb. Cannabis has always been a driving force to our thoughts, mine in particular – Santo reflecting ideas and imagining with me as we live our lives. We’re headed up North, going to California, and listening to Led Zeppelin. We bought a quarter pound of cannabis, Modified Bananas, to smoke along the way. Santo reminded me to bring lots of munchies and a fair share of hydrating beverages. I didn’t bring any concentrates other than my vape pen because El Santo asked to leave behind the dabs, at least for this trip.
Green metal signs passed by, as we continued driving towards Los Angeles. We promised each other to ask my cousin and his wife if we could watch The Big Lebowski when we arrive. I’m doing eighty down the freeway, posted a safe driving speed of seventy-five. Windows are slightly cracked to allow the pouring in of fresh air. The desert landscape of saguaro cacti and tumbleweeds, occasional bushes that look dead. Then the mountains ranging in the distance. Holding the skies above they mesmerize my thoughts. The sheer drops from the cliffs, the impossibly dangerous climb to the top. Ancient and old and holding tales from long forgotten nations. But they are not forgotten completely for otherwise we would not speak of the people of old. Imagining stories of people and a time that is no longer. Santo and I stare ahead wandering in the mystical scenery and landscape.
We pull off on a side road leading to nowhere other than the desert.
“Wraps or cones?” I ask. “We got both so it’s your call”.
“Cones,” Santo says, grinning. “Let’s light up the paper this whole trip dad”.
“You got it my boy”, I say, smiling. I pet his neck then open up the cones package.
“You know why I love this Modified Banana?” Santo asks. He’s smiling as he passes the joint back to me.
“Because it’s strong and it hits – one, two, three!”
“I concur my good dog sir,” I pass the joint back to Santo. “How are you able to hold the joint my boy?”
“It’s just an optical illusion. I really have fingers and thumbs that you cannot see. It’s a spiritual thing”.
“I believe it,” I say. I begin laughing, “you’re the dog man, El Santo”.
We get back on the road with some tracks from Queens of the Stone Age. I light up another cone and begin puffing. Modified Bananas is a cross between Banana OG and GMO. This strain really does hit well. It’s an indica hybrid that allows us both to have a nice head high and body relaxation while still focusing on driving safely. The smell is dank, bananas with a slight cookie flavors. Santo didn’t complain when we picked up from the dispensary. We also picked up from a guy Santo knew. He seemed alright. Smelled nice, and was friendly.
I had a feeling there was some reason El Santo didn’t want to do dabs this time around. In all reality, now that I’m recalling past sessions, El Santo has never been one to dab much. If he does it’s a baby dab, and that’s it for him. Nothing like I used to do when I was into collecting glass and taking glob sized hits. I didn’t want to pry, or seem like I was invading his own personal decisions, but I figured if I asked with kindness maybe he wouldn’t be offended.
“So, can I ask why you didn’t want to do any dabs this trip?” I ask.
“A man has to know his limits, dad,” he says. “I just don’t really think dabs are the way for me to medicate. I don’t dislike others who dab – it’s just not for me.”
“I respect that,” I say. “Say no more my boy, we won’t worry about dab related medicating in the future. It’s really not that big of a deal to me. Flower does the job just as well I think.”
“Hell yeah dad, hell yeah,” he says, and then howls out the window. Then I start howling along with him. Me and my boy El Santo.
We make it to my cousin’s and his lady’s place in time to smoke more. I find that we are always down to smoke some ganja, some sweet dank kind bud. We’re greeted with hugs and hi fives. We laugh about how much we smell of weed – thankfully no cops stopped us. Santo chimes in by saying the no cops is because he’s a Saint, and traveling with him removes all possible danger. When we get inside my cousin suggests a dab. His lady isn’t so stoked about it but says if we want to partake then no worries. Me and Santo look at each other without speaking, then burst out laughing.
“No man, I appreciate it,” I say. “We’re good on dabs. How about smoking down a joint?”
“Yeah man, that works for me,” he says.
We put on some 3 6 Mafia and begin the blazing of bud. Santo talks about how he used to be a monk who lived in the Mountains of Mexico. We asked him what mountains in Mexico he spoke of, but he laughed and said that it wasn’t important which mountain. He told us they didn’t talk there, and yes they were dogs. Among them some cats, and some rats. But no bugs or birds. They didn’t seem to fancy all the monks had to offer. He told us of how they simply drank water and ate oatmeal provided by the local town further down the mountain. They also smoked lots of flowers and ate plenty of really good mushrooms. We all agreed, while smoking, that mushrooms were a lot of fun. Smoking for this time only, though.
We got set up for the night in sleeping bags on the floor, which we were all about. We also were able to watch The Big Lebowski.
“How many times have we watched this?” Santo asks.
“Not enough times, little guy”, I responded. “you dig this movie though, don’t you?”
“It’s by far and most easily my favorite movie to watch with you,” he said.
We slept through the night and woke up the next day. We hiked and I played fetch with Santo and my cousin and his lady’s dog. We smoked a lot. We took bong hits and focused on the flower aspect of cannabis. It was nice to not smoke dabs. My chest felt cleaner and more able to breathe in the air. We did find it fun to take a bowl out into nature and smoke and write some poetry. Santo would sing here and there and we would add beats and claps for a rhythm. We left two days later and returned home to Mesa, Arizona. Good times were had, and I even put my dab kit back on the shelf. I cleaned my bong and filled it with fresh water. I even cleaned out the bowl piece. Now, it’s time to watch another movie – maybe Lord of the Rings. Yeah, that sounds good.
I sat reading the email in the kitchen informing me my grandfather on my dad’s side had passed away. The grandfather who helped raise me when my dad (who had full-custody) wouldn’t. The guy I’d get lunch with – him and my grandmother, before she passed in twenty fifteen. It’s now twenty twenty-one. El Santo sits on the couch watching something on the TV. I think about the conversations we had, and all the good times spent with my Grampy. The times we laughed and the times we agreed that the world was a broken place. Tears began rolling down my cheeks, falling from my face to the dirty floor. Santo turned his head to me and stared.
“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
“I found out Grampy passed away yesterday”.
“Hey,” he said, gently. “Let’s go for a walk and smoke a joint”.
“Okay,” I replied, still crying. “That’s a good idea, Santo”.
When we returned from the walk, I sat down on the couch and stared blankly at the TV screen. Some reality show I didn’t recognize played in front of me. How many times had I stared at the screen, only to realize I’d gained nothing? I thought about the new Stephen King novel, Later. I turned off the tv and stood up to find it. As I walked towards my bedroom, I remembered meeting someone a week back at a cannabis event. The event was a fundraiser for homeless people and children of those on the streets. She was one of the coordinator’s for the event – she said her name was Cassie. We mostly chatted about the event after everything was winding down and the guests had left. She told me she also volunteered at the boys and girls club in downtown Phoenix. I’d mentioned that was something I myself was interested in. She gave me her number and said to give her a call sometime.
I got the book and returned to the couch. I laid the book on the armrest and looked at Santo. He nodded his head and let out a single bark. He was also wagging his tail. I lifted my phone out of my pocket and pulled up Cassie’s number. I stared at the numbers and her name for a minute, wondering if calling her would be appropriate. I realized romance isn’t always about being appropriate. I pushed the phone icon and called her. Three rings before she answered.
“Hi, Cassie. This is Dietrich.”
“Oh hey, Derek! I’m glad you called”
“Me too. Hey, I wanted to see if we could maybe get a bite to eat somewhere. Perhaps have a smoke session afterward to talk some more.”
“Sure, I’m game. When were you thinking?”
“How about this Wednesday? I’m free that day – just relaxing otherwise”.
“Yeah sounds good! How about around noon? Also, are you good with going to Casey Moore’s?”
“Sure, I’ll see you there,” I said. “Thanks Cassie.”
If you’re in Tempe, Arizona, and you’ve never been to Casey Moore’s, you should check it out. Grab some seafood and a beer. Or seafood, and water or soda. While we were at the restaurant, we talked about the cannabis industry. How there’s some many positive things happening for the community, uplifting and giving aid to patients in need. We also talked about the darker side of things. How people build fortresses founded on lying and deceit. People don’t come as advertised, always, and we agreed this was unfortunate and sad. It’s a storyteller’s job to observe, although observing everything at once isn’t advised. Seemingly, the old worn out adage of there’s a time and a place for everything still holds true.
We got back to my place and sat on the couch. She lifted her backpack to her chest, unzipping and pulling out all sorts of different medicine. She had jars of flowers, ranging from indica to sativa as well as hybrids. She also brought out concentrates, from hash rosin to shatter, sauce and sugar wax. I had all the tools and glass to smoke whatever we pleased, which isn’t always the case in these situations. After we were sufficiently medicated, I brought up my Grampy’s passing. I mentioned that I’d be driving with Santo (who hasn’t spoken english since she’s been in the house) to Nebraska for the funeral. I knew she was busy – the trip there and back would be three days max.
“I’ll check my schedule again,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I could take the time to travel with you and your pup.”
“That’s be amazing,” I said. “I’d be grateful. So would Santo.”
We were on the road by nine Friday morning. Traffic was so-so getting out of Phoenix. We ran into some stop and go traffic, bumper to bumper towards the end of the I-10. We stuck with vape pens until we were able to hit the open road. Vape pens are great because the smell doesn’t linger. Plus, they look like a vape stick because they are. I was feeling the effects and was giggling and smiling before long.
I noticed that Cassie only brought a small amount of flower for the trip. I planned to ask her why she didn’t bring more, since the journey to Omaha, Nebraska was close to twenty hours. It seemed unfair to me. I was the one who was supplying our smoking adventures. Sometimes I’m paranoid and don’t consider the other party involved. She did agree last minute to come on this road trip. Maybe she felt that was payment in itself. I was able to realize this was a sufficient reason for not bringing a lot of medicine along.
“What do you think about the industry overall?” she asked. “Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?”
I thought about this some before answering. “I think it’s good and bad. I feel there are things and events that help, fundraisers and such. But I also think it’s like the Hells Angels. They do good acts and deeds, but ultimately they’re not really good folks. Deep down they exist to party and murder.”
“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said. “I think it’s unfair to judge people based on their past or the mistakes they make in the present tense. Everyone makes mistakes. That doesn’t mean people are naturally bad.”
“Doesn’t it?”, I asked. “I mean if people have been doing harmful things before, in a past life, and continue making harmful choices, doesn’t that make them rotten apples?”
“Not necessarily. People change moment to moment. There’s always a choice,” she said.
“I guess that’s true. I do see the glass half empty when I consider my experiences with people. Perhaps I need a change in perspective.”
“I can help with that,” she said, grinning. “Gimme some time and I’ll melt the ice inside of you, honey.”
We got into Omaha without any problems. Cannabis isn’t legal in Nebraska – we decided to take our chances. Santo gave a nod of approval that we would be good. The nod of approval guaranteed that we’d be safe this time around. Hopefully, Nebraska would eventually legalize cannabis for recreational use, but for now this wasn’t the case. My great uncles and aunt didn’t use cannabis, although they didn’t have any issues with us consuming and smoking in their homes. We stayed with my Aunt Agnus. She had a spare bedroom for us all to use before leaving Sunday. Cassie went outside to make a call, giving me and El Santo some time to chat.
“Hey little guy,” I said to El. “Thanks for acting the part on the drive up.”
“It’s all good, I don’t mind not talking. Plus, I like Cassie. I think she’s a good influence in your life.”
“At first I wasn’t into her perspective, but I’m thinking she has a good way of seeing the world and everyone in it.”
“She’s not perfect, nor either are you. She’s not closed off which is something I worry about you being sometimes. You don’t give people a fair chance to prove themselves. I see Cassie is open to all, attached to nothing, as it relates to others. Not a bad way of seeing your fellow humans. I’m sure she’s been let down and hurt by others, just as you have. Probably more times then she cares to count. This doesn’t mean we stop trying to love others, to give others a fighting chance to win our trust and approval.”
“Fair enough. Now, can we blaze some of this Wookies OG?”
“Of course,” El said. “Blaze it up and pass it dad – let’s get medicated.”
Cassie came into the room as we were passing it between us. She smiled and sat down between me and Santo. She had a quizzical look on her face, seeing Santo smoking the joint. I told her I taught him to smoke as a young puppy. Giving a skeptical glance towards El Santo, she took the joint as he passed it to her.
“I don’t understand how El Santo is smoking,” she said. “Pretty radical though.”
After smoking we got ready for bed. We decided to turn on the small TV in the room and watch something for a while. Seinfeld was playing and we decided to watch the two episodes that aired back to back. Reruns of course, since the show was popular back in the nineties and early two thousands. Regardless, we all laughed, except Santo who barked occasionally. He still didn’t want to let on about being able to talk in English. I guess he figured it might be too much for Cassie to comprehend. El was good about not freaking people out. I don’t believe he would even if he wanted to. It just wasn’t in him to be a jerk, which is why he’s my best little fur friend.
The next day was the toughest part of the journey. People from town started arriving for the funeral, before heading to the cemetery. Cassie and I took edibles that morning, opting out from smoking flower for that day. We also had our pens ready to go if we needed a hit of something as the day progressed. The way I figured was, if I could step away from the group for a couple minutes I could take a toke or two of the vape pen. Cassie as well. Santo unfortunately would have to wait until later. He said he didn’t mind.
When we were at the funeral in the cemetery I gave a speech. I’ll recap the entire thing. I began by speaking about the man I knew as my Grandfather. I recalled the times we play bug army versus the school children on the floor of our living room. How my Grandmother always insisted on letting me, the school children, win. I’m sure it would have been healthy for me to lose occasionally, and there were certainly a few close calls – but I was always the victor. The good guys always won, as I believed it to be. I went on to talk about how my Grandfather was a focal point in my maturing over the years. Learning to be confident but not cocky. To have self-esteem for the accomplishments and goals I had achieved. I also mentioned how my Grandfather came to understand cannabis was a life saving medicine for me. He at first didn’t believe in it having medicinal properties. Over time, he saw how much it helped me calm down, relax and let go of things that bothered or upset me. I finished by saying life is a circle, and that somewhere in another life, my faith resides in seeing my Grandfather and Grandmother once again. I stepped down from the podium and returned to my seat. Cassie reached over and held my hand as the next speaker came to the podium to speak.
When we got back to Agnus’s house, we smoked a joint of the Wookies OG and took a nap. I remember dreaming about my time with El Santo when he was a little puppy. We’d smoke and go for walks. I had a few tiny toys for him to play with in the backyard. He’d roam the yard like he was the king of his land. I remember being so proud of my little guy. He learned to go to the bathroom outside fast. He has always been a fast learner. The times we would play on the floor, with El pretending to viciously bite me and take me down. Santo still plays with his toys and loves walking, although he’s calmed down so much we don’t play like we used to. He’s getting older himself – he’ll be eight years old this May. Makes me sad to think about him getting older. We all grow old. Sons and daughters grow up. We all age until we leave the bodies we’ve inhabited for decades. Sometimes I wish I could remain young at heart. To be like a child. But the world doesn’t work that way. And so I’ve had to grow up as well. To grow old, so to speak.
We begin traversing across the plains back to the desert late Saturday night. The plan is to make it back before sundown (or around sundown) so Cassie can get ready for work the next day. With my job I’m able to write and observe, read and report. I’ve got it made in the shade, by all standards of work. We started discussing the pros and cons in Arizona going recreational. My biggest reason I liked the new laws happened to be the growing aspect. By myself I can grow six plants. With another adult living with me, we could grow up to twelve plants. To me this was amazing to learn about. I’m not saying I’m a master grower, although the prospect of growing my own cannabis appealed to me greatly. Cassie agreed this was an amazing aspect of our new rights as cannabis patients.
One aspect neither of us cared for was the influx of new patients. We both considered recreational consumers to be patients, even without their medical card. We noticed wait times and the lines growing beyond anything we’d seen before. Nothing wrong with giving medicine to people who need it, or even want it; the only thing negative is supply and demand. With more demand for supplies, prices had gone up. Nothing too crazy, five to ten dollars in most cases. Also product supply was flying off the shelves. Again, it can’t be bad to help more people in need, with this comes larger corporations that will ultimately push out the smaller operating businesses. Everyone I knew, including myself, liked supporting the smaller businesses for several reasons. The major reason being these companies seemed to be more invested in the overall well-being of the patients. This goes a long way for a patient in need of care. Other reasons being the exclusive product on the shelves by great vendors. Finally knowing each person as if they were family makes going to the dispensary a pleasant experience. And worth the time it takes to secure some good medicine. Also, most of these owners come from generations of farming cannabis, a term coined legacies of strains created and grown. The farmer and cultivators are the most crucial part of great cannabis. Massive corporations will oust these small farmers off the map. What a shame this would be if it comes to fruition.
When we were about forty minutes away from getting back to my place, Cassie started talking about a hemp store she wanted to get off the ground. She mentioned making apparel and lotions even looking to bring in concentrated CBD when it was possible. She also envisioned having doggy CBD treats. Santo let out a howl after she said this. It was a howl of joy, based on his smile after said howl. I thought it was a great idea. Something the community could be a part of. CBD benefits range on a wide spectrum, and having a locally operated CBD store with hemp products made sense to me. I wondered and asked if she would have educational material on CBD. She stated she would have guest speakers, with proven research showing the benefits and positive healing elements of CBD. She wants to make it a thing where people are hungry for knowledge surrounding cannabis. “Make the learning fun and exciting”, she said, happily. “Easier said than done, but definitely doable,” I responded.
When we pulled in, El Santo was scratching at the door handle. “Okay, buddy, let me let you out here.” I opened the door and lifted him to the ground. He scurried off to the corner of the gate to the backyard and relieved himself. He began smiling and wagging his tail upon return.
“Thanks again, for coming with us, Cassie,” I said. “You really helped me through the processing of my Grampy passing away.”
“I’m sorry you lost your Grandfather. I could tell you both were very close, even best of friends. I know it’ll be tough living on without him. I’m here for you to get through the pain, as best as I can.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “I’ll give you a call later this week.”
“I’d like that,” she said. “Bye, Derek.”
“See ya later, alligator”.
El Santo and I sat on the couch. I stared at the photo frame of me and my grandparents. We all were smiling, and looked also to be laughing. I remember the day. We were at lunch, after my grammy finished shopping at Ross. Her Parkinsons had set in, and she moved around the store in slow motion. It didn’t matter because she enjoyed it. And so did I, for her.
I flipped on the tv and found Seinfeld playing once again. “Wanna watch some more Seinfeld?” I asked El Santo. “Let’s do it,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching Seinfeld.” “Me neither, buddy – me neither.”
Read more original short stories.
Dietrich Dash is a local to Arizona, born in September of nineteen eighty-eight, in the town of Scottsdale. He enjoys listening to the Rolling Stones, Queens of the Stone Age, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem. In his free time, you can see him at local bookstores, hiking or hanging out in public areas with his chihuahua mix and pugs. He also frequents dispensaries across the valley in search of what the valley has to offer medicinally.