It started in the slightly innocent way that young people make decisions—an impulsive kick in the ass.
I went downstairs for breakfast one morning to find two police officers in my kitchen. After the flutter of excitement ceased, I realized they barely glanced at me or my bed-headed brother Ian; instead the two youngish cops, in their freshly pressed black uniforms glared at my parents.
On the table between them was a box. Below the packaging were Starbucks coffee tins, the kind my parents drank. One was open. Beneath a thin layer of Arabica beans sat a bulging bag of weed.
Dank buds. My brother later informed me. Duh Purple he called it, though the official name on the package was blown by elves.
Mom stammered something about someone else using their address, how she heard that someone had been using the next-door neighbor’s garage to buy and sell stolen furniture and car parts. My father stared at the box. His mouth hung open. Ian later said that he looked like he couldn’t believe that much weed was going to the LAPD. Mom used excuse after excuse, trying to sway the cops’ stern faces into smiles. She even left her apron on and invited them to drink a coffee—a bad choice Ian and I later agreed as she pulled out the same type of coffee tin to make the offering.
Within the hour, my parents were in the back of a cop car. Mom begged the officers not to interrogate them in front of her children and so by the time we were supposed to leave for school, my parents were gone. The last thing mom said was, Eat breakfast before school. Dad mumbled, See you later tonight.
They still aren’t out of jail.
It turned out that mom and dad were some of the biggest drug dealers to the Midwest.
Their weed supplied pot smokers from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi. Ensuring slews of kids our age had that potent California homegrown, while also emphatically grounding Ian whenever he came home stoned.
Another notable irony is that mom and dad weren’t actually partiers. Usually by ten, they were in bed watching the gore-fest called the news. This and mom’s constant American flag apron were two reasons why their little “business” came as a surprise to our community and most of all to me. Ian informed me somewhere in the first week after their arrest—when I still visited them and they proudly introduced me to anyone who walked by—that he always stole from their stash because it was better than the Mexican dirt weed the guys at school peddled.
So it seemed I was the last in the family to know. Even Grammy wasn’t shocked. Though she did swear her son’s innocence and curse my mother for swaying him into a life of crime. It all came out in the trial. A much publicized excavation of my parents’ past. How my dad traveled to Europe to “find himself” and ended up meeting my mother, a PhD candidate, researching how gypsies were the best environmentalists in the world—a theory she often expounded, then changed once there was a rise of homeless people roaming the streets of America. Knocked up, they returned to dad’s hometown of Athens, Ohio and lived there until they got the bright idea to move to Southern California.
Supposedly they thought they were too progressive for Midwest life, though dad voted Republican and swore Reagan was the best thing to happen to politics since well, Reagan. Mom got a job teaching anthropology at a community college, trading in the big bucks for health insurance and the chance to convert young people to her theories on environmentalism and human consumption. Dad mamboed through a slew of sales jobs before opening a preschool in Alhambra. It would be redundant to say that we weren’t on the Forbes 100 list. But the prosecutor made them seem like middle-class opportunists pursuing the American Dream by diminishing the brain cells of young people. Their attorney, an old college friend of mom’s, made a strong case. It turned out my parents said they did it for us—which added to the media frenzy–for our college funds. To care for us if something happened to them. They just didn’t know we would need the money so soon.
I just couldn’t deal with mom and dad in orange jumpsuits, or the parents of mom’s students and dad’s preschoolers scowling at them. Our neighbors sitting in the back of the courthouse with arms folded over their chests. It seemed my parents took the blame for all the community’s wrongs. The thing that made me stop going to the trial was how proudly they took it. How they held hands under the wooden table. How they smiled when people they liked entered the room. How mom almost flirted with the judge, laughing at his occasional joke and even once offering him an elderberry remedy she learned from the gypsies for that cough of his.
When I heard they were sentenced to be in prison long enough for my ovaries to be considered too old to do their job, when it seemed that the only place for my brother and I to live was in Grammy’s trailer park, with the cats, the plastic trinkets decorated gravel covered lawns, and the endless trail of geriatric cheek pinchers, I packed my bags and bought a one-way ticket to London. A city that held no particular allure for me, save the facts that they speak English, I could afford the ticket after siphoning off a chunk of my bat mitzvah money I got access to the day I turned 18. Plus I had a friend from high school who would be there.
I invited Ian to come too, fearing that being stuck in the suburbs of the suburbs would send him into a depressive spiral of drugs, video games and bad TV, but he still had another year of high school, and said, Why the fuck do I want to go there? A sentiment that was common with my peers, slackers and tech-addicts, who would rather watch the world through Instagram than actually do anything.
So in a breeze of inspiration, I figured why the hell not? I mean, it is not like there was any reason to stay in LA, where my life was like Spam: it could be good, if it were something else. My tenure as a soul-less LA peon gave me plenty of time to decide that I needed some time off from school. I had been in school since I was three. That’s two locusts seasons, the average lifespan of a dog, a trio of presidents. 85% of my life—that’s a light-year in my book.
So that’s the short version of how I ended up on a 747 with a giant blue backpack, a Henry Miller book, and a pair of raggedy overalls.
Comments, See All
Travel101: go get em!
IanNeskala: I can’t believe you left me here! And hey, what’s wrong with bad TV, video games and bags of weed?
Jonahhash69: I am SO coming.