There were very few places to score any weed in the suburbs of Chappaqua, NY, in the winter of 1986. Feeling itchy and bored during my Christmas break from the School of Visual Arts, I hopped into my orange 1974 VW Super Bug on a mission to get ‘baked’ with some school buddies. My main herb connection was Jimmy, an hour drive south to New York City at my school ‘dorm’ room at the William Sloane House YMCA on 34st.
Sloane House, as it was known, was originally built as a residence for sailors during WWII, but soon after became a NYC flop house. Sloane House, in later years, also dedicated several floors to serve as makeshift dormitory quarters for several schools. School of Visual Arts, Parsons and the New School all housed students in jail-like 11’ x 7’ dorm room ‘cells’ for mopey art students, wild-eyed musicians and theater students. Rumor has it John Popper from Blues traveller lived on a floor during my time there.
Once I got near the dorm I found a parking spot just around the corner, next to the Cheyenne Diner on 33st. I had an illegal spot but figured I’d just be a minute and I could also see Jimmy’s window from the street in case there was any trouble. I took the decrepit elevator up the 9th floor and made my way to Jimmy’s room in the corner room overlooking 9th avenue where my car was parked. Jimmy was a trip; guitar gods like Randy Rhodes (from Ozzy Osbourne) and Jimmy Page covered the wall and he was always ready to get into lengthy discussions about the news of the day when I went to see him to ‘freshen up’.
After I got the goods, I took a pull on a bong and got ready to roll out. As I was getting ready to leave, I looked down to see a ‘Brownie’ had pulled up next to my car. Up until the early 90’s, the parking officials were nicknamed ‘Brownies’; they drove crappy little brown Chrysler K Cars and had drab, ill-fitting, brown uniforms. At the time, these cars and uniforms didn’t command quite the authority that the cop-like uniforms and slick cars do that they have now.
From the window I could see the officer had stepped out and was starting to write me a ticket. Once I caught wind of what was happening, I ran out of the room in a state of panic and hauled ass down the 9 flights of stairs to the street. The officer Brownie was sitting in a cocked-back seat clutching his hand-held binder filled with wads of paper and carbon copy tickets. I approached the car window, gasping for air, and leaned into the window to launch into my hardship story of needing to park to get my school books, blah blah blah. I must have stunk like weed because after I gave him my spiel, he wrinkled his nose in a sniffing-like manner and said he would rip up the ticket if I could “do something” for him.
Perplexed and high, I drew a blank as to how to proceed and what exactly “doing something” for him meant. Figuring he knew exactly what my stoned-ass was up to, I looked both ways, reached into my pocket and puled out some of my buds in a Ziploc baggy and showed him the goods. “Do you want some?” I said. He looked at me blankly, reclined in his seat, tipped his hat to the side and then nodded up and down. He indeed wanted the weed. I pulled out a nice sized nugget of herb and handed it over. In disbelief, I stood for a second, wondering if this was the right move. He took a whiff, thanked me, rolled up the window and then much to my disbelief, ripped up the ticket, waved and pulled away. Bring back the Brownies.