“Yeah, uh, where can I get some weed?” I asked an attractive blonde working at the Maastricht visitor center.
“You mean a coffeeshop,” she said.
“Yeah, a coffeeshop.” Two Euros later, I was looking at a map explaining how to get from where I was to where I was headed.
The spot was called Smurfs and looked shady, but I didn’t fly all the way from California to turn back now. A dude outside asked me to buy him an eighth. Something about not having his passport prevented him from making a purchase. I wanted to help, but didn’t. “Sorry dude,” I said. “I’m not from here and not sure how it goes. You understand.” He frowned, which told me he didn’t.
I entered and was greeted by an eye-level cloud of dirty brown smoke and a woman checking IDs. The weed was in the back. To get there, I passed a twenty-foot bar covered in half-torn stickers. Four men and two women sat smoking what appeared to be cigarettes. Strange, I thought. Why smoke tobacco in here when there’s weed down the hallway?
I hoped for some crazy array of strains, but found only a handful of varieties, each available at home. Slightly disappointed, I bought a gram of White Widow from a Turkish guy who handed me my shit in a see-through plastic bag.
“Papers?” I asked, surprised that pre-rolled joints weren’t on the menu.
“No.” The harshness of his deep baritone made it clear that he wasn’t in the mood to chat. I sat on a white leather couch and wondered what to do with the weed I’d just bought when a kid wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt came to the window. I could tell he was young, worried and embarrassed to be inside a dope smoking venue because he covered his frizzy blonde hair with his hood and wore sunglasses indoors on an overcast day.
“Hey, I’m Ryan.” At home I’d never talk to a stranger. Something about crossing the Atlantic changed that.
“Nice to meet you.”
“You got any papers? It’s my first time here and…”
“Mine too,” he said pulling papers from his left breast pocket. “You have a light?” I didn’t. “Maybe the bartender will let you borrow one,” hinting that I should get up and find out. “Do you have any tobacco?” I didn’t, I said getting up to track down a flame.
The bartender had a lighter, but it came with a warning. “If you lose this, I charge you five Euro on your way out.”
“Don’t lose this,” I told Simon as I held the Bic in my right hand. He began rolling a joint, but didn’t finish. Our green was laid out nicely inside a white paper. I wondered why he stopped at what is basically the first step in the joint-rolling process.
“You don’t have any tobacco?” He repeated. Again I said no. “You sure you don’t want to buy some?” Again, no. “You want to roll this entire thing with weed?” He seemed puzzled, like I was offending not only him but the whole European Union.
“Yeah, why not?” Apparently, Simon explained, Europeans smoke pot mixed with tobacco. “That’s a waste of weed.” I wasn’t kidding, but said it in a joking manner to not seem like a jerk, but I couldn’t tell if Simon caught that or not. To him, I was probably an “Animal House” –esque American who indulged in excess for fun. I’m not, but the truth is, I really do think mixing tobacco with weed is a waste of a good crop.
Simon came to terms with my lack of tobacco and put the finishing touches on a four-inch spliff. He sparked it and passed to me. While I was hitting it, he told me he hadn’t gotten high in a long time.
“Me too. How long?”
“Three years.” I was startled and told him my definition of long time was two weeks.
Two passes later, Simon was out. I tried handing the slowly deteriorating joint back, but he threw up his left palm like a traffic cop, the universal stoner sign for “I’m good.” The muscles in his face relaxed, giving his skin a melted look to it. My new friend removed his glasses and his bloodshot eyes looked like he hadn’t slept for days. He kicked his white sneakers onto the table and got comfortable. There was no mistaking it. Simon was baked.
We tried talking, but the Simon’s words sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I decided it was time to leave and together we left, walking through another cloud of brown smoke. We got outside and shook hands. Simon went left and I went right. If I wasn’t so damned stoned, I would have swapped email addresses with him and stayed in touch. But I didn’t. I was high.
RYAN RITCHIE is a 30-year-old who lives in Long Beach, but Lomita is never far from his heart. He enjoys sleeping, napping and dozing off. If you have been paying attention, you would already know that he’s been published in Vegetarian Times, High Times, OC Weekly, BlackBook and LA Weekly. He also likes vegan food and thinks you should buy him some the next time you see him.