The Salinas River crawls its way through the Southern tip of Monterey County, through the outskirts of King City, avoids Greenfield completely, and heads Northwest just before hitting Soledad. It is a shallow river, filled with more will than water, which surprisingly makes it all the way to the Pacific somewhere by Monterey. This is Steinbeck Country! Of Mice and Men takes place just a few miles from my parent's current home; East of Eden starts off half a mile from where I grew up. Steinbeck’s father claimed to be the first permanent resident of King City. I knew none of this growing up. I learned these things my second year of college, when I first read Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Small towns have this effect: they yank you out of history.
And so I thought I was a-historical. That everything I did was new; that no one had lived like me before. So I did those things which can only be done once; things which could only be done by me. For instance, no one had ever figured out how to grow secret marijuana gardens in public property until I came along. First, I drew a map of places I had found along the river bank where no one had been before; next, I cleared these spots of weeds and rocks, dug some holes in the ground, and planted the tiny plants all throughout the river bank, spread out about 15 to 60 feet. My most ingenious idea was to develop an irrigation system that I didn’t have to monitor. What was genius about this idea was its simplicity: I filled plastic bottles (gallons) with water, poked a hole on the side, and tilted them against a stick near the base of the plant: drip irrigation! I restocked the water supply every 5 to 8 days. About a month into my operation, my father grew suspicious of my late afternoon hikes into the river. He asked my mom what I was doing, and she said, “ask him!” which he didn’t, but I caught him following me in his truck anyway, at which point I took a different route to get him off my tracks and once he caught up to me I pretended to be immersed in nudy-magazines, which I carried everywhere with me anyway; he was embarrassed to have witnessed me spreading out the center-fold in the afternoon air, so he never followed me again, although he never stopped suspecting me of some sort of trickery, of which I was completely guilty. A few months later the plants blossomed. If you looked closely from far away, you could see them radiating green in concentric circles all around them: they were the greenest things around. But, in those days, no one was looking closely. And, besides, I was a genius, and since no one had done this before, no one bothered to look for it. But now that they were ready for harvest I encountered a new problem: how to get them out of the river bank and into my house. My father detested drugs and everything that they stood for. He called them (drugs), “la chingadera esa.” That fucking thing. So he would say things like: “you better not be doing esa chingadera!” Or, “I don’t want you near Ramon; his uncle likes esa chingadera.” He never called weed marijuana or cocaine cocaine…so I was stuck. I was 16 years old, with thousands of dollars waiting for me, and all I had to do was figure out a way to cut it, smuggle it into my house, dry it, trim it, package it, sell it, and not get caught doing any of those things. And I couldn’t trust anyone. Thinking back, if I had put the planning and vigilance that went into this project into my studies, I would’ve been a Rhodes Scholar!