Beautiful..Ye High..Ye Wide..

Haresh Shah


Bonnie and David are a cool couple. They are naturally mellow, but often made mellower by the pot induced blissfulness beaming on their faces. I run into them about a year after I arrived in Goleta at one of those shrouded-in-the-cloud-of-smoke filled parties which seemed to be a norm than an exception.

This is southern California in the mid-1970s. A typical tabloid would be, when you entered the hosts’ home, you would be greeted not only with their warm and welcoming smiles and exuberance, but also a large table overflowing with salad bowl full of fresh marijuana, surrounded by the rolling paper, matches and other pot related paraphernalia. Just like Mark and Ann, Bonnie and David too have adopted me and I often hang out with them. Bonnie is a seamstress and makes most of her own clothes. She also designs funky outfits for other people and is quite in demand with young and pretty surfer chicks. David works in incense filled book shop downtown Santa Barbara, that specializes in the counter-culture, psychedelic, transcendental and alternative pseudo spiritual literature by the East and the Western authors such as Krishnamurthy, Carlos Castaneda, J.J.R. Tolkien, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Herman Hess. Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet, Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda are standard fares. The store also sells Indian necklaces and bracelets, silk scarves, patuli and other fragrant oils, beads and a variety of knickknacks that give the subculture its identity.

They live in a small house tucked away in the thick of an orange grove. Quite secluded, a long driveway carved out of the shrubbery lead you to the house. It’s like an oasis. A serene little island on land. I have spent many afternoons and breezy evenings sitting out on their front porch drinking beer with David. Often Bonnie would cook one of her what I called a mishmash cuisine kind of dinners. No matter what she throws in together, those meals are always delicious, deserving of a bottle or two of California wines and then David and I would follow them up with equally as good cigars.

Behind their cottage is a green house, almost as large as the cottage, where Bonnie grows seasonal vegetables. But most of the green house is used to grow some unadulterated organic weed. Mostly for their own consumption, but they also generously spread the wealth and share some with close friends, and the rest would be for sale. For Bonnie and David, growing and smoking the pot is not as much an addiction as it’s a spiritual ritual. To get into a certain state of consciousness that is more meditative than merely getting high. They are reverential of their beautiful shiny green marijuana leaves, like most Hindus are of their household Tulsi plants, to which they humbly bow and worship first thing in the morning. The reason they want their good friend Haresh to experience that level of consciousness and would often try to seduce me into joining them in their smoking ritual, which I would politely decline.

Not that I am against it in principal or otherwise, just that it’s one of those things that never turned me on. Having come from India, I am not ignorant of bhang, charas and ganja. In fact once a year, every Janmaashtami – on Lord Krishna’s birthday, my father would have one of our domestic helps put the fresh green leaves of marijuana to a grinding stone, turn it into a little green ball looking like wasabi and drop it into the boiling milk already mixed with sliced pistachios and almonds, saffron and sugar and brew it into a potent potions of bhang – cooled down and served chilled, tasting like a refreshing glass of pistachio almond milkshake. I may have tried it once or twice, but mainly it was meant to be consumed by his grown up male friends, while us kids and women drank thandai, equally as tasty, albeit sans spiked with the little green ball.

I arrived in the US in 1968, at the height of the pot culture, and if not everywhere, it was still around at some of the parties I went to in Pittsburg and Chicago – my first two homes in America. Especially during the years I hung out with Karen (Abbott) watching passively her and others getting high earned me the reputation of being a square. Smoking it put me in a kind of depressive pensive haze, which I didn’t care for. Once I went to a party in Santa Barbara with Bonnie and David and gave it a real go and puffed on the specially prepared chillum by the host, containing little brown crystals of dynamic hash. I left the party with my head feeling light and fogy. While driving my date home that night, what should have been a five minutes’ ride, felt as if I were driving for an hour. Ditto, getting back home after I dropped her off. It scared me to think how one can lose the sense of time so completely. But for everyone else, that was the point, wasn’t it?


Bonnie sounds upset and disconcerted. Devastated even. And above all she sounds angry. She’s not her bubbly self, shamelessly flirting with me and me flirting back with I love you this much to my I love you thiiiis much and her coming back with I love you thiiiiiiiis much. Something we used to do with our arms stretching littler bit farther with I love yous while David would sit there shaking his head.

‘When you kids gonna grow up?’

‘Never!’ We would answer in unison.

But tonight she doesn’t sound like herself at all. I am now living in Chicago and talking to her over the phone.

‘You sound like you’re in a funky mood! Something’s the matter?’

‘Don’t ask me. Ask your friend!’ She snaps, sounding angry.

So I ask to talk with David.

‘He’s not here.’

‘Where is he?’

‘He’s in jail!’


‘Yeah. You heard it right. But you can still talk to him.’

Apparently David has indeed ended up behind the bars. Albeit in a minimum security prison from where he is allowed to check out in the morning and go to his job at the bookstore, and check back in every evening.

I call the Santa Barbara county jail at the number Bonnie has just given me.

‘What the fuck!’ I begin and pause. ‘What are you doing in the slammer?’

‘I got caught.’

‘They can’t put you away for selling bit of a pot in California.’

‘I happened to have a lot! I’m afraid.’


‘Yup. What can I say? I guess I just got greedy and lost my bearings. The bastards just don’t have sense of humor, like they used to.’

I hear a slight snicker in the background and know exactly what he is alluding to. The whole scenario of some years ago rushes through my mind in a fast running video clip.

One beautiful afternoon, having finished my chapter for the day, I climb on my Azuki and at the tail end of my bike ride, I decide to stop by for a beer at Bonnie and David. Soon as I turn the corner and their cottage zooms into the line of my vision, my bike stops in its track. Shocked, I pause to focus on what looks like two fuzzy images, like the ones in a 3D photograph looked at without the special glasses. I see the porch, and artificially imposed upon it an image of David – stretched out helplessly on an outdoor lounge chair.

Closer I get, clearer I see. His face is all bruised and patched up. His lips have turned into squashed raspberries, his eyes sunken inside their sockets and the rim around them all swollen. His arms are bandaged.

‘What the fuck!’ I don’t say it out loud, but David knows what I am thinking.

‘Those fucking mother fucking sons of bitches!!’ I don’t believe the string of expletives coming out of the gentle mouth of David. He is normally not prone to utter such profanities.

‘What happened?’

‘What happened? Just look at what they have done to our little paradise!’

The doors of the greenhouse behind their cottage are ajar, almost yanked off their hinges. Inside, it looks helter-skelter as if hit by a wild tornado. The clay pots are turned upside down, shattered into pieces, the soil pulled out of the ground, fragments of the leaves, the branches and the roots are strewn all over. I get the picture.

‘What kind of fucking brutes you have to be to do that?’ David asks. As livid as he is, he is on the verge of breaking down and cry. All that hard work and the tender loving care both of them had given to nurture their beloved garden of paradise.

‘There were four of them. They rode in on their bikes.’ That answers those wide single tire tracks I had noticed and wondered about on my way in.

One of the neighbors down the main road had seen them leaving with loud roars and the loot they carried away with them. From the descriptions of their bikes, David knew immediately who they could be. Boiling with raging fury, he calls up his brother Randy. They get into Randy’s pick up and catch up with the “fuckers”. Fortunately, Bonnie is still at work.

Their truck coming from the opposite direction blocks the bikers. The four riders jump off their bikes. David and Randy jump out of the cabin of the truck. They go at each other like wild horses let loose. Soon they hear sirens. Cops line them all up.

‘What the fuck’s going on here? You kids gone crazy or something?’

‘They ripped off my pot man!’ David is jumping up and down in his fury.

‘What pot?’

‘From our green house. My wife and I spent so much time in lovingly growing and taking care of them, and these fuckers just yanked them off. Our beautiful, beautiful plants.’

The cops look at the mangled and hastily thrown together bundles on the backs of their bikes.

‘That ain’t nothing. They have no respect for marijuana. What you see is all yanked, pulled and butchered.’

‘Looks like those babies must have been beautiful!’

‘Beautiful? You have no idea.’

‘Yeah? How?’ The cops seem to get into it.

‘Yeah. Green as can be.’ David’s hand gestures seem to be painting a large splash of bright green on a canvas and with his arms wide open and then raised, he goes, ‘ye high and ye wide, man!!’ Momentarily he has even forgotten that how beat up him and Randy and all the four kids are. Badly bruised and dripping blood and in need of some quick first aid.

As interesting and amazing the cops find the situation, one of them goes: ‘You don’t want to report this kids, do you?’ At the question, everyone realizes that irrespective of who’s in the right and who’s not, they all stand to be justifiably arrested and locked up.

But this is southern California.

‘Let’s just get you all to the emergency room and get patched up.’

No such luck this time around.

But ever optimistic, I hear David continue. He tells me how it’s not all that bad, considering they found a shit load of pot in the trunk of his Volvo. Caught red handed just before he was about to unload it. Taking into account his squeaky clean record and the fact that he held a regular job, was respectably married and otherwise was a nice guy, the judge handed out a sentence that was kind and considerate. My call had caught him mopping floors. He still had a few chores left to do. His duties also included cleaning toilets and bathrooms.

David is taking it in his strides. He knows that Bonnie is mighty pissed.

‘What can I say? I guess I fucked up really good time time around!’

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks


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