Of course it was raining on the drive.They didn't expect anything less. And it really didn't matter to Ollie. He knew they had the best weed in Vancouver. He also knew about the relaxed enforcement of marijuana laws in British Columbia. Being a newly found aficionado of cannabis, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a trip there and see what he could find. Living in rural Virginia, where the conservative rednecks bugged the crap out of him, he found a trip to the great Pacific Northwest to be an adventure and a chance to check out the alternative scene in Vancouver.

Riding in the passenger seat of an old Ford Ranger pickup, he was giddy; still intoxicated from the night before when he and his old military buddy, Steve Craine, painted the town of Seattle. There were definitely a few beers involved. And Ollie had his small stash that he brought from Virginia, although Steve would have no part of it. He partook anyway, and was now excited about visiting the infamous head shops he read about in "High Times," the preeminent periodical on cannabis.

Having just moved from San Francisco to Seattle, Steve had been talking to Ollie about plotting a rendezvous ever since they said goodbye four years ago on a tarmac in Germany, where they were stationed in the Army. For both men, their time in Europe and consequent time spent on the sands of Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War was a formative one. They connected with each other over the love of similar music, the love of drinking beer and staying out late, and the unique bond of admiration for one another.

Ollie was a small, wiry kid with a wandering eye. He was often written off at first glance as a misfit: a little geek who couldn't possibly succeed in anything. Not in sports, or women, or fast cars. It was terribly sad, Steve always felt, because Ollie was one of the most intriguing characters he'd ever met. He held an amazing wit, was gifted in intellect, and could coax even the most stalwart jarhead into making a total ass of himself in public. Ollie was gifted that way. He could turn situations around, change your thinking and catch you in a gaffe mid-way through your sentence. The unpredictability of his interrogations were surprising and awakening. But if you smart enough to see what he was up to, you could only admire him even more. It seemed to take away the feelings of anger that often accompanied the thrust into the embarrassment spotlight.

Steve tended to be the responsible one. Not by choice, he felt. He never wanted to be the last sober American at the pub, defending his drunken and belligerent comrades from the natives' utter disapproval. The "Ugly American" was a term he became familiar with. A term he now knew was not just coined for obese Buffalo, New York tourists in their Hawaiian shirts haggling with shop owners over trinkets. No. The nights he stayed sober while his buddies proceeded to liquefy their souls were discomforting ones. He knew at some point of the evening he would have to break up a fight, talk his friends down from doing something incredibly stupid, prevent them from public urination and make sure they all got in the right cab home to the base. He always wished he could cut loose - just once - but it never really happened. Every time he tried, he just saw Ollie and Ski and Krat start that downward spiral into drunken antagonism and he knew he had to be the one to hold it all together, to keep them out of prison that night, to keep them alive.

The Drive
American Jokes
West Hastings
Waiting Room
Homeward Bound