9
MARIJUANA PICKERS
At the end of August, the salmon season ended and I went
back to Japan. The regular working days had been waiting for
me. I was named to be in charge of Alaskan fish sales.
A year passed and summer came again. I was appointed
to make a second business trip to Alaska. Going to Alaska in
summer seemed to have become a routine in my career. I
went there the next year too.
On the second business trip to Alaska in 1980, I got off at
Anchorage Airport and went downtown on a taxi by myself. I
checked in at the downtown Holiday Inn. After me, an
American naval officer checked in. I had heard that there was
a navy base in Anchorage.
From the window of my room on the second floor of the
hotel, the main street of downtown was seen in the dim lights,
which gave no clues as to whether it was day or night. It was
a sight that would make you feel like a person who had just
woke up. The town looked pretty weird to me. It consisted of
pawnshops, bars and porno shops. An Eskimo with his hands
in his pockets was standing in front of a bar, watching the
streets. The streets were full of the same kind of people --
yellow, black and white -- in front of the bars. The first Eskimo
I saw went inside a bar, but soon came out. He probably was
drunk.
I wondered alone in the hotel room.
The year before, when I was in Bethel, a young worker
gave me a small piece of marijuana. I smoked it, but nothing
seemed to happen. A few minutes later, I realized that I was
feeling strange. I didn't clearly understand what the feeling
was.
Several times I'd smoked marijuana on the barge after that.
However, maybe because the marijuana was weak, I still didn't
understand what it was doing to me. I had lived, to that day,
trying to find out answers to all the things around. I wanted to
know what marijuana was about. The question as always stuck
in my head, even in Japan.
I decided to get out of the hotel to get some marijuana.
I walked around town and said "Hello," to one of the
standing-in-front-of-bar people. I had chosen a middle aged
man who looked a little bit nicer than the others. His expression
was rather vague, though. He seemed to mumble hello.
"Do you think I can buy some marijuana around here?" I
asked the man, feeling that I wasn't talking to the right man.
"Never seen them these days," the man shook his head
and said vacantly. He seemed deeply soaked into alcohol.
"Okay, I see," I said and left the place.
People around were looking at me, but I ignored them and
walked along the straight sidewalk.
I entered a bar, ordered a Budweiser, lit up a cigarette and
watched people play pool. Time just passed by. I thought I
would give up and go back to the hotel.
On my way back to the hotel, a man yelled at me from the
opposite side of the road.
It was a young man who was so fat that his stomach was
almost tearing his polo shirt. He wore glasses and looked like
a student.
"Hey! Come on here!" said the young man in a loud voice,
although covering his mouth as if whispering. I crossed the
road, watching out for the traffic coming from both sides. Large
American cars were all driving slowly: very different from
the traffic in Japan.
I went to where the man was standing. He took me beside
an entrance of a bar and picked out something from his pocket.
"Say, mister. I got some grass here for you. Wanna buy
it?" said the man to me. He looked as if he was hot and
sweating. There was a Ziploc bag with marijuana inside in
his hands.
I wondered if this man had been watching me wander
around town searching for marijuana. I always thought that
when meeting people beside Japanese, you better see their eyes.
That's the Western way, I understand. I took a look in his
eyes. The fat man must have seen that I was staying cool. He
didn't look dangerous.
I thought, that maybe he was a cop. But I thought twice
that it couldn't be the way. I didn't have much time to think
anyway. There were police cars patroling around the streets
once in a while. I asked the fat man how much the marijuana
was. I don't remember how much the price was, but I'm sure
it wasn't expensive. I bought the stuff and went back to my
hotel room in a hurry.


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