The Selected Quirks of Madjag
The Madjag Chronicles were compiled as memoirs and mental snapshots of my experiences during the 1978-1982 guerrilla growing years in Madjag Canyon and beyond. Importing weed from Mexico, lining up connections with the Colombians, and living for months in Jamaica to set up a 1/2 ton Ganja flight were some of my subsequent adventures. In recent years I have been a medical marijuana grower, a pollen chucker, and an Admin/Moderator for several online cannabis forums.
Something About Johnnie
Disclaimer: All persons mentioned herein were actual people and are either dead or have served time for their purported crimes and are no longer liable for any further criminal association or conspiracy to commit a crime. Selah.
Back in 1971 I was enticed into meeting my Arizona friends at a tiny bar (aptly named The Country Tavern) in Redway, northern California. Steve, an old Scottsdale high school buddy of my good friend George, owned the bar and had quite the knack for attracting an unusual clientele. For some reason George insisted that it would be worth my time to attend. More on Steve later and you’ll know why.
Redway is deep in the heart of the Redwoods and just above Shelter Cove, a once abandoned subdivision on an isolated portion of the Cali coastline that has since become a super stash address right along the shore of the Pacific Ocean on the “Lost Coast”. The area was well within the boundaries of California’s legendary Emerald Triangle and had its share of growers stashed in the hills and valleys of this densely wooded region. It was there that I first saw cannabis plants growing outdoors in nature. It hooked me more than I realized at the time.
My friends crammed into a nice 69 VW Westfalia van and drove from Phoenix to Redway over the course of several days. I hitchhiked because I was already traveling and would be in San Francisco shortly before they arrived, checking out the possibility of moving there. By the time I had hitched up to Garberville and entered the shady redwood realm near Redway, my friends were still far away. Since I had no way to know their approximate time of arrival I decided to carry on and find Steve and the secluded bar. My search turned out easy, though, since Redway was merely a handful of scattered residences with only one small food store and one bar in the area.
I stepped into a topsy-turvy world that day when I walked across the Redway Tavern’s threshold and asked for Steve. He stepped out of the shadows at the edge of the bar’s long counter and marched forward to meet me. “Where the hell are George and Mark anyway?”, he barked as he handed me a beer with a joint on the side. I laughed and told him that I only could say that they were supposed to roll in tonight. Steve laughed too and said, “Why don’t you hang out with Peter in the meantime”. Since I had to wait, why not?
A lot of laughing was going on, maybe a bit more than your typical bar downtown. In fact, maybe a bit more than almost any bar I had ever been in except those in college towns and near schools of “higher learning”, you know, the bars where young men make idiots out of themselves on their journey to understanding the power of alcohol. Could be the smoke being consumed discreetly, I thought, since I had been told in advance by my friends that northern Cali was like nowhere else when it came to weed being ever-present and openly consumed. Whatever the reason, I was starting to feel jolly myself as I walked behind Steve and out the back door.
Outside it was semi-dark, from the waning daylight and the massive shadows of redwoods. I found this daytime darkness a bit weird having come from sun-blasted northern Arizona and had to slowly adjust my eyes. Ten feet from the tavern’s back stairs the redwood forest shot up and there, at the base of a decent redwood giant, stood a strong looking guy smoking a tiny pin joint. Yep, this was Peter, my very own Colombian and future compadre in dozens of escapades. Man oh man, I had no idea how he was going to affect my life so intensely and propel me deeper into the way of learning that Carlos Castaneda exalted, a place where words have little meaning and actions are everything.
Time froze as I inhaled a long, difficult pull on that skinny pinner, known in places East as a “New York Needle”. I had never seen a joint so skinny and I marveled when I finally saw Peter create one. I say “create” because it sure wasn’t “rolling a dube”. He used Blanco Y Negro rolling papers, a very thin and easy-to-tear variety, and he would cut one of these lengthwise rendering it into a 2/3 wide rolling paper. He didn’t want any overlap from extra paper when he sealed it because to do so would make it run and possibly fall apart. Crumbling resiny weed into a sticky pile and loading it onto a flimsy setup like this was truly an art, one that I have never mastered. I discovered later that he did so partly to impress (and set up) those who scoffed at smoking such an anorexic joint and partly because the weed he used was so potent and rare that he wanted to conserve it.
Combining both intentions lead to a guaranteed good time, one that never failed to impress once a person sucked mightily on the pin joint and finally realized that a tsunami was on the way, regardless of how little it seemed they had inhaled. And many were swept away by this black, compressed Colombo that Peter called Candybar. It was private grower stash from an old grower in Neiva, Colombia, and was all that Peter smoked when he had the option.
Before I could sit, fall down, or express any sort of coherent response, Peter said in perfect, unaccented English, “Let’s go listen”. With that he turned and I followed. We hiked around the side of Steve’s bar and onto the narrow, paved road that snaked downhill for several miles to Shelter Cove. We hiked along the road edge for a mile or so until there were no audible sounds but nature – the forest, animals, insects, and wind. The bar with its human frivolity and any extraneous mechanical sounds were long gone. At this point Peter detoured quickly into the thick, spongy undergrowth of the forest. Humus and old, dead wood had formed an amazing layer over the forest floor and as we walked I felt that springiness as a weightless, bouncy gait. In Arizona it was all tough sand and rock, no padding at all, unless you headed into Flagstaff or other high-altitude forests that had their own compressed layers of pine duff with fresh needles on top. This redwood forest was just fantastic.
A few hundred feet from the road we stopped and sat on some old-growth stumps. Peter had said nothing during our entire hike and when we reached this spot he continued that obvious silence. I went with the quiet too because I had had few similar experiences under my belt and knew it was primo to hang out without talking and just be in the moment and absorb nature’s voice. I learned later that this was characteristic of Peter and was an integral part of his presence whether it be in a group of people or a group of trees. Not that I talked all the time or jabbered on aimlessly like most of people I knew, but still I was mesmerized by the lack of any verbal communication between us, a quiet that was about to continue quite long as well. The timeless silence had tremendous power. Could Peter actually be Castaneda and my friends were pulling a fast one on me like Don Juan did consistently to Carlos?
We sat for several hours in total silence, listening to that early evening’s shadow world. The lively daytime redwood forest gave way to measured sounds punctuated by unmeasured bursts. I was enjoying some sort of syncopated sound track that could carry me far off and suddenly pull me back just as easily, like the ebb and flow of the ocean on the beach just a few miles below us. I was totally blasted and far from fucking normal. “What is normal”, I wondered…hahaha.
When we took off, silently of course in response to Peter just standing up and moving away quickly over the springy forest floor, it was a new world of almost complete darkness, not just shadows. Once we started up the road it was a bit easier to see because the ambient light of sunset glowed through the narrow opening between the tree crowns above us and down onto the pavement. We didn’t stumble much because the hike uphill made us slow down and breathe deeply. It was like some stoned Kundalini yoga that intensified if you sped up and mellowed if you slowed down.
We stopped for one more quick toke of the Candybar and then really stepped up the pace, our air intake and exhalation even more measured. It was like a conscious breathing technique rather than just unconscious breathing. Does that make sense?
Back at the bar George and Mark had just arrived and were partying hardy. I recognized Mark’s VW bus outside the bar and gave it a once over as I slipped past it and into the chaos that was the tavern. Again, so much laughing, just too loud and exaggerated for a hippy place. It seemed odd to me but what I didn’t know was that Steve was a major LSD manufacturer and supplier for, who knows, several states? He even had his own chemist and lab tucked away not far from this house of laughter. George wasn’t just stopping in to say hi, he was there to pick up the high and take it back to Boulder.
Peter disappeared so I joined my Arizona-Colorado friends. We had all met at the University of Denver and though I had dropped out after 2 years, George and Mark were still there. As his part-time job as a drug dealer grew into a major full-time employment opportunity, George had become a regular feature on The Hill in Boulder, selling jumbo bags of pharmaceutical grade acid and making big bucks in the process. His life was changing rapidly and it looked pretty likely that he, too, would drop out soon. 1971 – It was turn on, tune in, and drop out time wasn’t it?
Hours flew by and I itched to hit the road. Peter had already departed for New York, his American homebase, and I was working on moving to San Francisco to study Aikido at the San Francisco Aiki-Kai. Our interim studies had ended for the meantime and until we gathered again I wouldn’t know who Peter really was or what he was all about. I had ideas and hallucinations of course, but until the multi-ton loads of Colombian moving into Aspen on DC-3s tied into the equation, Peter was still a mystery waiting to be solved.
His boss, Griselda, the old Colombo woman every DEA and customs officer wanted more than God himself would also remain anonymous for the time being. Peter was there, later of course, as her ambassador and spent many days hand counting the millions of dollars that paid for the loads filling the farmhouses along the highway from Basalt to Carbondale. His fingers were green and his hands were numb. What a life! I had never bumped into such a fantastic world though I had read about it for years. Peter, AKA Johnnie, actually had a cartel job.
Only two friends in Arizona and a Rasta I knew could smoke like Peter. One dear friend, Roberto, would roll 10 pure Hash (no tobacco) pin joints for the day and drive his tractor in 100F+ sun all day to make ends meet. It was his motivator and it kept him going. Like Peter, all three friends were motivated by the sacred plant and without it were like Superman exposed to Green Kryptonite: no energy. Since Colombo was the new order of the day and most of us were used to Mexican sativas, it took some time to adjust to this dense, powerful smoke. I was and still am the lightweight of the group. Two tokes in 100F heat and I was looking for a 3 hour siesta in the shade. It was literally paralyzing for me to smoke any weed in the heat of the low desert, summer day if I was outside hiking or working. I preferred it for night, for indoor activities (wink wink), or during the cold temps of fall, winter, and spring. Still, I enjoyed many a great time watching these profound puffers blasting other purported heavyweight smokers into groundlock.
Peter still wins the Gold Cup for being a the champion high-end herb chain smoker. He started smoking herb at age 9 in Colombia, what can you say? Once I saw him devour an ounce by himself in less than two days. It wasn’t Candybar grade by any means, but come on. I know some of you out there reading this can totally relate and would feel right at home with the Deviatos. What’s that you say, who were the Deviatos?