The Land Trust was three wooded acres owned and maintained by the aging hippie population that made up the Lake Claire and Candler Park neighborhoods of Atlanta.
There were goats. There was a drum circle. Most importantly, there were infinity-and-one excellent spots to toke.
The Land Trust was where a lot of shit went down. I’m thinking of a particular Saturday. A new dealer always comes with complications.
This was 2005: watching Shaun of the Dead, Man on Fire, Dodgeball; still bumping Jeezy’s first album, Let’s Get It; forgetting to read Invisible Man for English; playing football and basketball in Candler Park. Oh yeah, and smoking every gram of purple indica we could get our hands on.
You get the picture.
So… this Saturday. Let’s call it July 16. We finish playing basketball around 5. We’re dead tired. You sweat out every ounce of water in your body in Atlanta’s summer heat.
It’s Hem, Wes, Asa, Carson, and me. We hit Mr. Lee’s for Gatorades, then head back to my house to make our plan for the night.
There are new dealers in town, supposedly from New York. They’re older; they don’t go to Grady High. Hem got introduced to one of them a few weeks back, and apparently they have better weed than anyone in the A: Jack Herer, Skywalker, you name it.
“He’s the Willy Wonka of bud, you’ll see,” says Hemingway, and everyone cracks up. “Shit, he makes me want to get in the game.” Hem is always saying dumb shit. But everyone loves it, and the nickname sticks: Willy.
We’re at my house, plotting to get half-ounces of Jack and Sour Diesel. The general consensus is that ‘Willy’ isn’t someone to be trifled with. We arranged the meet at the Land Trust because there will be other people there — neighborhood hippies, seniors from Grady, maybe even a few wild cards. It’s drum circle night, after all.
But Wes has other ideas. Of course he does. “I thought you said this Willy guy was some sort of a weirdo?”
That is how Hemingway had described him. He was known to dress in a tuxedo t-shirt, Russian fur trapper hat, and a pair of custom-made Chuck Taylors adorned with jewels.
“He might dress funny, but he’s legit,” Hemingway says. “And I set up the damn deal, so I pick the drop spot. That okay with you, Wes?”
“Man, whatever,” Wes says. Put in his place again. We all make fun of him, but only for 15 minutes. It’s time to bounce.
We get to the Land Trust around 9. The drum circle is underway, 50 people filling a small amphitheater, sitting on smoothed logs or just the dirt. At the center is a giant bonfire. The hippies hoot and holler, dance barefoot around the flames, and generally enjoy themselves. We’re standing on the outskirts, drinking cans of PBR. Wes is littering.
Then Hem gets the text. “Aight boys, it’s time.”
We leave the light of the fire and head toward the street. Through the big trees, past the goat pen. A few goats come to the fence, hoping for treats.
As we swing open the gate, we see him. The stories were true. Furry hat, tuxedo tee, and those outlandish sneakers.
He’s standing with arms crossed in front of a black Expedition with tinted windows. On either side of him are two identical massive humans, wearing Timbs, jeans, white tees, and Yankee hats.
“So these the country pumpkins that wanna buy all the good New York mota?” The jeweled Chucks gleam in the street lights.
Then the last person who should be saying anything speaks up. Wes. “Man, look at Willy. He’s wearing the fuzzy hat just like you said, Hem.” He giggles his high-pitched giggle.
“The hell did you just call me, gingerbread man?” says the guy whose name is definitely not Willy. “Fuck you, little roach. Dallas, go grab that bitch.” He motions to the guy on his left.
Dallas moves faster than his belly suggests he’s capable of and catches Wes by the collar. He engulfs my friend in his huge arms, flipping him around and putting him in a wrestling headlock. Dallas’ bicep is like a pale anaconda choking Wes.
Hemingway steps forward. “Yo, Adley, it don’t have to be this way.” So that’s his name. If only Hem had told us that four hours ago. Too late. Wes is gagging.
“The way that it is has been established. Your man is a punk. I don’t deal with punks. Unless it’s irresponsibly profitable.”
Wes keeps gasping for air. Hem sighs. He walks closer to Adley and speaks softly. “So my boy wylin’ is gonna cost me what, an extra c-note?”
Adley smiles. “Not close. It’ll cost you double.”
“Man that’s like extortation or somethin’,” Hem says. Wes is wheezing and swinging his arms violently.
“I suppose we could stand here all night,” Adley says. “Your boy, maybe not so much.” Dallas tightens the headlock.
“Fine.” Hem steps forward and counts out a large stack of money. He hands it over. “Here.” Adley motions to the other huge guy in a Yankee cap. The guy goes into the car and pulls out a brown paper bag that he tosses to Hem.
Adley snaps his fingers at Dallas. The big man lets Wes fall, and he lands on all fours, coughing and sputtering, strings of saliva escaping his mouth. We drag him to his feet and begin walking back into the Land Trust.
Suddenly, Wes runs back to the street. He reaches the SUV just as Dallas is climbing inside. At a full sprint, Wes leaps and snags the Yankee hat off Dallas’s head. We immediately start running into the woods, followed by Wes. As we’re running, Wes chucks the crisp, fitted cap into the goat pen. The goats jump all over it and begin tearing it to shreds.
“Get back here, Dallas!” we hear Adley yell. “We have business to attend to!”
“Fuck you country biscuit little bitches,” bellows Dallas. A beer bottle flies through the trees and explodes on a rock. The Expedition peels out.
We reach our favorite smoking spot, and Hem rolls up the blunt. The Jack Herer is the sweetest thing we’ve ever tasted. The smoke is smooth and gentle; we barely cough. It tastes like the big pine trees we’re leaning up against.
I can’t believe I’m friends with these fools. I can’t imagine being friends with anyone else.