by CB Bassity
I never liked him. At first
I probably couldn’t have told you why. Brian seemed likeable enough;
he had friends, a following. But I didn't like him. Which is
odd, since he was coming to visit on a regular basis—too regular.
It was deep into the winter of 1973, the third year at the commune and the winter I lived there alone. Better Farm's population changed with each season and usually thinned considerably in winter. Cricket and Sue, the other most permanent residents besides me, had left on foot that fall with all their belongings in packs on their backs and on the back of one reluctant goat. They walked about 275 miles to another commune in northeast Vermont, Earth People’s Park, where they lived for some time, still hoping to get into Canada. (The goat was determined not to go the distance with Cricket and Sue, and ran off one night as they camped, several days away from home.) They had been turned away as undesirables at the Canadian border in 1971, which is how they came to be at Better Farm in the first place, some seven miles from New York's border with Ontario; they had asked at the border are there any people like us nearby?—and within the hour we saw their old Chevy pickup lumbering up the road toward us, the back piled high with tools and the goods of barest survival and covered with a tarp.
One reason Brian came by so often was the marijuana crop Cricket and I had grown the previous summer. I had, hanging behind a false wall we’d built in the barn, several pounds of dried plants—a considerable supply. Dope-smoking was governed by certain ethics, however, foremost of which was sharing. And since we had determined not to sell any weed, due to a mixture of caution and principles, there was plenty to share.
I first met Brian, who lived in a nearby town, through a mutual friend, Johnny. I liked Johnny. He used to drive me to town on the rare occasions when I needed groceries. We smoked together all the time, and so, when Brian and his buddies came by one day with Johnny, we passed several joints around. Soon Brian and company were stopping by on their own. To these guys who had to buy their weed, my generosity was surely welcome.
As I got to know Brian, it turned out he was a dealer: pills and other stuff that I had no use for. But, for the most part, selling dope carries no stigma in the counterculture, as it does in straight society. A dealer is like a gas station, part of the scenery, a place to go when your stash runs out. Nothing wrong with a dealer, unless he happens to be lowlife besides, and some worthless characters do gravitate to the drug trade. But Brian still didn't qualify. He was civil, personable—even had a roughly handsome quality, like a Tom Selleck, with a gravely voice and carefree attitude. And the only rule we had at Better Farm was: no rules. Anyone was welcome there.
But it dawned on me that drug trade in a small town would be like anything else. Nothing goes unnoticed; it’s hard to keep secrets. So Brian seemed like a menace coming into my home. I knew from Cricket, who had done sixteen months in prison for owning several marijuana seeds, that little things can become big problems. Indeed, months later Brian and his wife got busted; their house was raided and their two young kids removed by the authorities. (What’s that like for a three- or four-year-old?) But what could I say? How would I explain don’t bring your drug-life here—as I passed a joint to him?
So, during the long, slow winter months of reading, cutting firewood, and tending to chores, a low-level irritation smoldered within me. Brian and his friends, nameless and faceless in my memory, connected to Brian like his shadow, became part of that winter's scenery. Whether I liked it or not.
CB Bassity ©1994 All Rights Reserved