All photos courtesy of Swami Select
Editor's Note: This article is a trip down marijuana memory lane — an infused throwback Thursday, if you will — and the following story is true, according to those involved. That said, some of the names and locations have been changed to protect the anonymity of the subjects willing to share the THC-laced tale.
It happened in 2002, right around Halloween. I remember this because Swami was still wearing all orange clothing — he'd dressed as a pumpkin that year — instead of his usual white robes. I'd been trimming for a couple of weeks steady for my old friend Tim Blake, future founder of The Emerald Cup and a notorious (in a good way) figure in the community, known for his cannabis adventures. Tim was dressed as a vampire in red cape. Our young friend David, whose cocky attitude belied his naiveté, was a human basketball. I was dressed as some sort of a psychedelic alien.
From left: Nikki, Swami, Tim Blake, and David on Halloween in 2002
There certainly was nowhere to go trick or treatin' in the wilds of Mendocino county, so naturally we smoked a fatty, dressed up in costumes, and stood under the towering trees along a narrow two-lane stretch of Highway 101 to salute passing drivers. There were still a lot of lumber trucks in those days, and they all honked their horns in response. Creating your own entertainment is a necessity of life in The Emerald Triangle.
Harvest was just wrapping up and the locals were restless. It had been a tough year — lots of cops and helicopters around, rumors of feds in the area, strange trimmers with weird vibes… the paranoia was palpable. The small, one-room cabin in the hills where I had sat for days on end — at least 9 hours a day — was simple yet sufficient. For some reason, we all sat in a circle with tubs on our laps, facing one another. There were chairs for five trimmers, yet most of the time three of them were empty. So it was really just Tony and I snipping away, piling up the pounds, getting interrupted by occasional outbursts from the rest of the testosterone-filled crew.
Ever so often, the door would fly open and the young guys from the garden crew would crash in, covered in sweat, and beeline to the fridge to scarf up whatever they could find. If the other three chairs were occupied, it meant "the babes" were doing a bit of trimming, that is, until they could catch the attention of the guys and the inevitable would happen. Before long, they'd make the boys lunch, go out with them for a smoke, and return giggling two hours later. No biggie, but let's just say Tony and I were holding down the fort.
Swami praying and growing in 2002
The leader of the pack was Dana, a real toughie with attitude from The City. Tony and I figured out early on that keeping our lips zipped was the best strategy, so we just listened and trimmed. Dana was thin, had lanky dark hair, and always wore black and lots of makeup. She had a certain scurrilous charm about her, but it got old very quickly. Dana was the type that attracted trouble wherever she went, so as soon as she met Mad Mike there was bound to be some sort of combustion.
Mad Mike was an older guy in his sixties at the time, and he owned some land in the area. But he didn't really live in Mendocino. He was more likely to be found at the Hells Angels headquarters in Oakland. Word was he'd been their chief "cook" for years — and we are not talking meals, but meth. Mike had already lost half a heart to speed, yet he still had a penchant for the stuff and a nasty attitude to match. He had been our landlord when we'd all rented his house a year before. It was a great place, but it had such dark energy that even many great parties couldn't cleanse that space of its troubling vibes.
Mad Mike was not to be trusted; that was a no-brainer. But unfortunately, he hung around like a vulture, hovering nearby, waiting for something or someone, you never knew what. We didn't want to shoo him away either, as that might really piss him off. He could sense the juice of what was happening there and he wasn't leaving until he got some of it, too. When he teamed up with Dana the She-Devil, we could all immediately sense the doom in the room.
Nikki Lastreto and Tim Blake in 2002
On Halloween evening, as we put our scissors down for the day, Tony and I felt proud — only about two more days of trimming to go. We were determined to go faster to get through it and away from this decadent scene ASAP. The next morning, I was up early to get it done that day. We snipped away as fast as we could, with very little help from "the babes," and by evening over 40 pounds were proudly piled in the back closet, all neatly wrapped in turkey bags and contractor bags. Tim Blake and his sidekick David showed up to inspect that everything was done properly and to congratulate us on a job well done. We locked everything up and David settled into a funky padded chair in the corner near the door, with his big glass bong and a healthy stash of bud next to him, to spend the night as guard along with Tim.
Swami and I strolled down the road to our quarters in another house on the ranch. He'd been keeping busy doing odd jobs around the property to help out. The night was cold and the air was as crisp as a pippin apple. The last bit of a waning crescent moon dangled in a crystal clear sky. I was elated that the season was over at last. We smoked our final joint of the day and crashed out easily into deep slumbers.
Swami on Halloween in 2002
Sometime around midnight, there was a pounding at the glass door. Mad Mike was on the other side. Not a pretty sight to wake up to. "Where's Tim?" he hollered in his gruff voice. I stumbled up from the couch and yelled back though the glass, "Probably sleeping, too, at his house." I could hear him growl heavily, then watched him turn away and climb back into his oversized Dodge Ram diesel truck. Gladly, I returned to the comforts of the couch.
It must have been about two in the morning when again I was awakened by a loud pounding at the door. This time I looked up to see Tim looking very disheveled with a wild look in his eyes. I rushed to unlock the heavy glass door and slide it back. He grabbed me and said, "Come, help me get David out of the truck." Swami heard the ruckus and also came running. Together, we carefully extracted a very confused young man with a deep gash on the top of his head. Clearly, David was in shock.
Among the three of us, we managed to lug David, who is not a small person, into the living room. Swami carefully shaved his head, cleaned the wound, and bandaged the deep gash. "It was his bong," Tim explained once he was able to talk. "They crashed through the front door and clobbered David with his own bong. Should have seen what it did to the bong."
Nikki and Swami on the Medocino farm in 2002
Tim went on to explain the full story, as much as possible in his traumatized state. "There were three of them, all wearing black masks, but I think I know who one of them was — and I could hear Mad Mike's voice over their walkie-talkies. They had some big guns and they were waving them around, ordering David and me into the bathroom. They shoved David into the bathtub, then pushed me down on top of him and told us to stay put. David was pretty delirious, mumbling about something, but I was listening to the invaders, who were getting out all those pounds out of the closet and dragging all the black bags out the door. Shit Nikki! They took it all!"
Poor Tim — his eyes made it clear he was angry, bewildered, and sad all at the same time. It was also obvious he felt badly for David and was truly concerned about his injury, as we all were. Luckily, he started to come around fairly quickly. At the time, making sure no one was hurt seemed more important than figuring out who was the culprit. Besides, it seemed pretty obvious.
The next morning, Swami and I returned to the scene of the crime to clean up the blood and mess left behind. To our surprise, we must have picked up over a pound of beautiful trimmed bud off the long driveway — one of bags must have opened up. At least we had something to bring back to Tim.
We never could actually pin the robbery on anyone, and, of course, Mad Mike claimed innocence. Who had the nerve to challenge him? After all, this was well before legalization was on the horizon. Were the cops going to handle this shitshow?
This is a story about the dark side of growing cannabis. While there are many gems who cultivate the herb, there are also many shady characters with greedy hearts. Because let's face it, we live in a world of duality. There will always be the good and the evil in every situation. For every Tim Blake, there's a Mad Mike to act as a foil. And anyway, it's not about the incident, but rather how you handle the moment and the consequences. In this case, there was no revenge, only compassion and forgiveness. Not long after, Mad Mike passed away, and I have no doubt that a lot of people felt more at ease afterwards. Sure, he may have made that Halloween feel like something out of a movie, but ultimately he taught us all a lesson about reality, too.
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