After checking into the hotel, Ollie insisted the first stop be to the historic Gastown district, home, of course, to several smoke shops, many of which may let you try the merchandise before you buy. Steve was slightly hesitant but decided it best to fulfill Ollie's desire and get it over with. He was really starting to wonder know if Ollie had come to visit him, or come strictly for buying paraphernalia. He was worried but not outright, and they decided to take a taxi over to 300 West Hastings, where the row of shops began its decadent drift into the city's seedy underbelly.

They stepped out onto a dank sidewalk, immediately propositioned to buy some hashish by an older, bearded man in a down jacket. He smelled extremely bad and looked as if he hadn't slept in several days. Steve wasn't impressed and immediately threw up his guard, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was sneaking up on them. It was an interesting street: symbols of the marijuana leaf on every window, every door; a string of shops like an open-air market; the purveyors of goods assembling outside each entryway, looking shifty, looking to sell; and the street people, hanging out on each corner, seeming to know everyone that passed by, offering goods to each one. Ollie seemed slightly oblivious, only interested in stepping into "BC Buds," the head shop he had read so much about in High Times magazine. He even knew the owners name. Knew part of his history. Knew his philosophy on legalization tactics.

Steve wasn't uptight. He tried to convince himself of that. He felt he shouldn't be worried about Ollie. It was just his thing. Marijuana isn't really that bad. Not nearly as bad as cigarettes or alcohol, not mention a few other legal drugs. And sure he'd smoked up before, many times. There was even the time in Amsterdam, when he, Ollie and Ski bought a gram of "Superskunk" from a cafe and smoked it on the street corner, looking over their shoulder for anyone watching. It was no big deal. But Steve certainly got paranoid for some time after that. Dreading that the random urinalysis program would call his lucky number and he'd be bounced out on the next flight to the U.S. That would sit real well with his Dad. In fact, his Dad would probably beat the crap out of him as soon as he stepped off the plane.

They walked into BC Buds and were immediately overwhelmed by the size and scope of the place. Every known edifice associated with smoking pot was on display. And back behind the long glass rows of pipes, bongs and horticulture books, several customers sat on a couch, sampling one of the 3-foot water bongs with a pile of dope that sat in front of them on a make-shift coffee table. Ollie's eyes lit up and Steve became instantly uncomfortable, even though he told himself he'd seen all this before, done all this a million times, hung around with stoners his whole life. He had to leave the shop.

"Just come find me when you're done, Ollie. I'll be out front."

Outside where the sun now bleached the stained sidewalks, he was offered yet more incredible deals, only this time on LSD, crack and speed.

"No thanks," he coolly responded each time. "Not my thing."

After what seemed like an eternity Ollie emerged from the shop, squinting, smiling that shit-eating grin he always had on display when he was conjuring something up for you. It was obvious to Steve that he had probably got a chance to sit on that couch in the corner.

"All done, man?" Steve asked. "Can we go now?"

"Yeah," Ollie responded, still smiling. "That was really cool. . .do you wanna check out what I got? It's totally cool. . .you gotta see th. . . "

"No, man. Not here. Show me at the hotel."

The Drive
American Jokes
West Hastings
Waiting Room
Homeward Bound