My neighbour’s a Mountie. Raymond, on the fourth floor. I run into him now and then, in the lobby or elevator and once he spotted me at the bus stop downtown and gave me a ride home. He drives a red Miata and so I cultivate his friendship in the hope that one day he’ll lend me his car. The other day we were in the elevator, he was loaded down with a big jacket and a gun in its holster. Just getting off work, it looked like.
What exactly do you do?
Oh shit, I whispered, backing into the corner.
I don’t want to know about it.
I was kidding around, of course. I haven’t indulged in illegal drugs since I got high with Sam Rivers in 1979. Even then it had been a long time and I only joined Sam because he’s one of the best jazz musicians in the world and I thought if we got high together I’d learn something new but all that happened was I waited for the effects to wear off. I have no idea why I no longer enjoy what was once a favourite pastime. So much so, in fact, that I’d planned to move to North Africa because I understood that hashish was plentiful and legal. Of course, the people that told me that were very stoned, so who knows?
Hey, whatever happened to Abe Snedenko?
Who the fuck’s Abe Snedenko?
Are you kidding me? You don’t know about Abe Snedenko? There must be a plaque with his name hanging down at headquarters. Next time you’re in the office ask one of the older guys to tell you about Abe Snedenko.
Abe Snedenko was Vancouver’s number one narc in the sixties, his name synonymous with all the forces against peace, freedom, love, nudity, and addled consciousness. He was immortalized as “Sargent Stadanko” by Cheech and Chong on their 1973 smash album, Los Cochinos. Oddly enough I had to leave Vancouver to finally run into him myself. I was spending most of the summer of 1968 at Galley Bay, up the coast about 150 miles. Accessible only by boat or float plane. No roads, no powerlines, just pure natural beauty. It started out as a small commune but by the end of that summer there were, I’m guessing, close to sixty people there at one time. Most of them high most of the time.
It was a beautiful scene. Really . . . it’s not just the hippie in me talking. We grew our own food, fished, and beachcombed for stray logs for the little money we needed. We cavorted au naturel amongst the trees and flowers and lay upon the rocky shore gazing out at the distant . . . etc. Of course they had to bust us.
There was a forty-foot ketch tied to the dock and sometimes I liked to sleep on it because the gentle rocking soothed me. In the morning I’d open my eyes and see the expanse of still water with the peaks snowcapped in the distance. Perfect in every way. But one night I had trouble getting to sleep because the dozen or so dogs that lived up there kept barking without letup. They were going nuts. I thought perhaps they’d cornered a bear but in any case I got up and dragged my sleeping bag back up to the big house.
Everybody had been rounded up and corralled into the main living room of the big house as five or six mounties asked stupid tough-guy questions and searched sleeping bags and backpacks for drugs. If you ever needed a picture of how utterly and irredeemably ridiculous society’s reaction to the phenomenon of young people having a fun life was, this was it. Singing and guitar playing kids having a good laugh while these stern, super-serious gendarmes flashlighted their stupid way around an old ramshackle house hundreds of miles from anywhere in pursuit of nothing.
The head pig was the esteemed Abe Snedanko. After a while he rounded up his Mounties and slinked off into the night on their Mountie boat, threatening to return only next time he’d find something and throw everybody on earth under the age of 18 not wearing a suit into the clink. Now, four decades later, down on the corner from here scabrous shit-stained sleazebags hang out openly dealing not just some harmless weed, but crack cocaine, crystal meth, and worse, by the 24-hour inconvenience store.
Raymond, how come you don’t bust those scumballs on the corner.
Nah . . . who gives a shit?
Man, they don’t make narcs like they use to.
By the way, just to set the record straight, I’m not now nor have I ever been a “hippie”. For one thing I’m too old. I came along more in the earlier “beat” timeframe when the term “hippy” was coined to describe young girls emulating the Joan Baez look who wanted to hang out and make the hipster scene. I knew many hippies, of course, and whenever possible enjoyed the liberated lusts of their females, although not as often as I’d have liked or as I imagined, but often enough. Amen.