Canadian, Baked In - Part Two
I was already thinking it was about time for another post about the time I spent in Canada, and since they’ve just legalised recreational cannabis I thought I’d tell the story of the first time I bought weed in Vancouver.
After spending my first couple of months in Montreal I felt my options were limited. I could take some french classes, try to learn enough to get a half decent job that would pay better. Or I could use the last of my cash to buy a Greyhound ticket to Vancouver where I could get a better job with much less hassle and spend my time bumming around and getting stoned. The bus journey was 4 and a half days of driving. It’s a whole story in itself that I’ll post another day, there were a number of fairly eccentric people.
When I got to Vancouver I stayed in the Cambie Hostel in Gastown for a few nights while I looked for somewhere to live. It had a bar attached and a communal kitchen and was pretty good for meeting people, which gave me the chance to quiz strangers about where I might be able to get something fun to smoke. This was early 2006. At that point, while weed wasn’t legal it was tolerated. (de-criminalised maybe? I don’t know what the official stance was but you could walk past the police smoking a joint and no-one seemed to give a shit, but dealing was still illegal)
Around the corner from the hostel was the New Amsterdam Cafe. They didn’t sell any grass, just paraphernalia and coffee/cakes/etc., and they had seating outside where you could smoke your own stuff with your coffee. (I’d like to be able to say it was a really cool place but I never actually went inside, they didn’t sell what I was after so I had better things to do) After a bit of asking around someone told me that there were some Hells Angels who sold grass out of a place just next door to the Amsterdam.
THIS IS THE GOOGLE STREET VIEW FROM 2007 OF THE NEW AMSTERDAM CAFE. ON THE LEFT, NEXT TO THE BLACK SANDWICH BOARD, THAT’S THE DOOR.
So off I went. The next door was a pretty sketchy looking door. I went inside and up two flights of stairs where I found an open door. There was a guy coming out as I got to the top of the stairs. I thought he looked like a similar stoner type to me, and he was leaving un-arrested. So far so good. As I walked through the open door I looked around the room. There was a desk in the far left corner, and in the far right corner was the biggest TV I’d ever seen. (it was probably only 36” or so but in my memory it was taller than I was) The screen was split into 4 and showed the feeds from 4 security cameras, one directly above me, one in the stairwell looking at the door I’d just walked through, a second in the stairwell looking down the stairs, and one outside in the street that monitored the front door. The rest of the walls were lined with a variety of large tanks with various animals inside, tarantulas, scorpions (I might have made that one up, I honestly don’t know), an iguana. There were also two very large men with shaved heads, excellently enormous beards, and leather waistcoats with nothing underneath (they might well have said Hell’s Angels on the back, but frankly I was shitting my breeks by now so who the fuck knows)
One of the men walked over to me as I looked around and asked “Hey there, what are you looking for?” I’d never been anywhere like that before, somewhere that was clearly both criminal and an organised business, so I did my best to be casual and relaxed and said “Well, I’m not really sure.” as though this was a shop that I could come in and browse around the wares. He took a step towards me, leaning down (again, not sure he was actually taller than me but if he wasn’t there was definitely a metaphorical leaning down to my eye level), getting right in my face, he very calmly and quietly told me “You better be sure.”
“Okay! I want grass. I want to buy some grass.” He smiled and stepped back, “Sure, just over there,” pointing towards the other guy next to the desk. They were really friendly after that. We had some chat about Scotland, they gave me a free bit on top of what I bought as an incentive to go back (I never did).
The Hells Angels moved across the street.