On the Plaza de Santa Ana our expatriate buddies welcomed us back as heroes. Everybody was excited to sample the marijuana we had crossed the water to bring them. And one night it all came together in the home of an American beatnik who was married to a French woman. They had a nice big house and about thirty of us got together there. Everybody got a chance to smoke the kief. Most of the people had never smoked marijuana and my own experience was only two weeks old. At that time, it was not something one did continually. It was special, expensive, and not very available.
I was sitting on a couch with Ruth next to me and Harold Smith in his tweed suit on the other side of her. In the corner, Sebastiano rolled big “cubano” joints of kief and passed them around the room. Everybody was getting high, most of them for the first time, and everybody altogether at the same time! It was momentous. We were riveted to our seats by the effects of the kief, just sitting there experiencing it and wondering what was going to happen next.
Music was playing and a friendly, happy atmosphere pervaded the group. On the couch next to me Ruth was starting to giggle because on the other side of her Harold was all red in the face and projecting a salacious gleam from his eye directed at her! He would say, “Oh Ruth, Oh, Oh,” like a proper English cave man and she would giggle. But then he started touching and getting a little out of control. Finally, we both said, “You have to stop this now, Harold,” and he would demure only to rise again shortly thereafter. He was taking cover in the idea that this was all the marijuana’s fault. Within the pungent cloud of pot smoke, he was giving his libido free reign.
Eventually he pretended a mild faint and when he came out of it, he said, “Oh goodness me. I have no idea what could have possibly possessed me.” We didn’t buy that ruse but no harm was done either. No doubt, under the surface, this little Englishman was a hot porn star trapped in a tiny body wrapped in tweed.
A week or so later a stout Danish girl we knew was harassed by him in the street to such an extent that she had to beat him off with an umbrella she carried. He limped into the café with quite a lump on his head. We had begun to figure out the nature of “the difficulties” he had encountered in England.
A turning point was coming now in my life; whether to stay in Madrid or go home and go back to school in the fall. Sebastiano and Ruth wanted me to go in with them in renting an apartment. I could teach English. From home, my father was planning a big celebration for my mother’s fiftieth birthday and he wanted me to be the big surprise. I decided to go back.
In this Muslim country the women stayed in and only the men socialized outside the home. Kief was not even illegal, maybe a slight misdemeanor. It was alcohol that was the forbidden fruit.
We made our business arrangements. The next evening, I was to ride on my motorcycle out into the country with an unknown Moroccan on the passenger seat. I had the money from the movie crew and some of my own to buy two kilos of kief, almost five pounds. This was a little tense because anything could happen. I was completely vulnerable. I could disappear easily.
The appointed time came and the contact person met us. He and I got on the Triumph and slipped out of town and into the dark desert night. We travelled about half an hour into the countryside. It was cold. The desert doesn’t keep its heat. The sea breeze coming off the Mediterranean and the wind chill of the motorcycle straight on my chest made my teeth chatter. I didn’t have my motorcycle jacket on, just a light suede sport jacket.
The guy on the back, who was not much older than I, could tell I was cold and reached around and held the jacket closed around my neck so the wind wouldn’t get me there. We came to a little farmhouse and he showed me the keif laid out on the table on newspapers. I smelled it and gave him the money. He bagged it up and we stuffed it in our shirts and headed back to town.
With all our business accomplished, the plan was to travel to Tangiers the next day. That night Sebastiano and I were on our own. We sampled our kief and it was just as good as we had hoped, as good as the night before. High as two kites we got on the motorcycle and drove toward the beach through town. That evening all the shops and bazaars were open. Everywhere there was activity and the smell of cooking, and on the beach, people strolling under the stars and drinking tea, prayers being called, and the Arab music playing on many radios while street vendors sang their wares.
I was driving a motorcycle through all this and not conscious of driving at all. Somehow my Triumph took care of me. I was only aware of the colors and the sounds of the unfolding scene coming at me from all sides. After another good meal at the couscous place, we began to think about the next leg of the trip to Tangiers and back to Madrid.
Now we had five pounds of pot to think about, protect, and hide all at the same time. We had no luggage space on the motorcycle and hardly a change of clothes with us. It’s not easy to hide five pounds of bulky herb in a situation like this. Sebastiano found a shop where he bought some big manila envelopes and tape. The idea was to stuff those envelopes with kief and tape them onto our backs. What we couldn’t fit there would go into my helmet and somewhere deep in the motorcycle.
After a last uneventful night in Tangiers, we headed for the first boat to Spain in the morning. Looking back, it seems like crazy luck we were not stopped or bothered either by the Moroccans or by Spanish customs. We were so obvious and stood out so much. Possibly the motorcycle helped. All the official types of guys liked it and related to it and to the sense of adventure it suggested. And it certainly didn’t look like there was much room for any contraband.
But about half an hour outside of Algeciras, on our way back to Madrid, two motorcycle cops from the Guardia Civil stopped us. Friendly but firm, they made us get off the motorcycle while they looked it over. They even had me take off my helmet. They looked right into it and right at the bags of kief underneath the banding but for some reason they didn’t see it, or chose not to notice it. They let us go. If we had been caught then and sent to jail in Franco’s Spain, well, it’s hard to think about that.
So many times in my life I have wondered why some are spared and some are caught or die. Many times in my life, because of my own reckless impulses, bad things could have happened to me but didn’t. And this was one of those prime moments. Sebastiano didn’t get shook up about this either. His war experience, no doubt, had something to do with his immunity to fear. We just kept going and felt now that we were in the clear.