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Midnight Express, Part 2 (Istanbul, 2012)

One night in Istanbul, Doug and I joined our friend Tarik Bilal and his buddies at a bar in Beyoglu. Bilal is a prototypical hip Istanbul sociaite. He knew all the ins and outs of the nightlife and took us along. The bar was really divey and reminded me of San Francisco.

Doug started feeling sick and left, while I messed around in the bar with my shitty English. I talked to Doug later that night and found out: 

He asked some guy if he had weed. The guy invited him into the bathroom to smoke some hashish. The hashish extremely harsh and nasty, and Doug was scared he had to give up some sex “in exchange” for the hashish. (This may or may not have been Doug’s first gay experience. We’ll never know). I was extremely, extremely jealous of Doug for having found the elusive marihuana in Istanbul (despite Bilal’s protesting that it’s really easy to find, that was definitely not our experience). He kept saying it sucked, that the hashish sucked.

After I left Istanbul, Doug stayed for another few weeks. Apparently our other friend Kacper was good friends with a grower, so he was all set.

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Midnight Express, Pt. 1 (Istanbul, 2012)

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If there’s one movie I’m glad I didn’t see before going to Istanbul it’s Midnight Express. “The true story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.”

Doug and I went from smelling Cali Tree on every block in San Francisco to the Morrowind-esque foreign trade city of Istanbul. We missed our cali tree, so in usual space cadet fashion, we tried to get our hands on some. After spending the day exploring Old Istanbul, we were wandering around near the golden horn when a man approached us. “HASHEESH?” he grunted at us. Doug and I shared a glance and were like “yeah…”. We gestured and used our rudimentary Turkish. The man looked disgruntled and asked us to follow him.

We followed, he walked away from the main street. Told us he could get us some weed for 100 Lira, and kept raising the price. Then he told us we’d have to get into the car to go with him somewhere to get the weed from his friend. We kept getting further and further away from the main street. Ok, fuck that. Shit was getting really weird, and I hadn’t even seen Midnight Express! We turned around and started walking back.

The Man followed us and shouted at us: “WHERE IS MY WORK MONEY? WHY U FUCK ME?” I just kept power walking, and we went into some 5 star hotel to ask them for directions and escape from this crazed fool. The hoteliers could tell we was scurred, and they helped us out. Finally, we got back to the tram and booked the fuck out of there.

In conclusion: watch the fuck out when buying marijuana in Istanbul, or you’ll end up in a Turkish prison, and that does not sound fun. However, our journey to find the elusive marihuana in Istanbul does not end here…

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Skirting the Law (Huacachina, Peru, 2013)

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There’s a certain plant that has a reputation of being a traveler’s drug of choice. It’s often lovingly referred to as marihuana. Except in Peru — there’s no love involved.

Being the curious boy that I am, I set out to googling this elusive plant and how to get it in Peru. I mean, we were going to some of the most amazing, beautiful places in the world. Nature and marihuana is like peanut butter and jelly. The Internet was full of scary tales about tourists getting put into Peruvian prisons and never emerging, tourists getting caught before they got to see Macchu Picchu, tourists being dumb, tourists getting all their stuff taken by corrupt police. It was some intense shit.

When we got off our bus to Huacachina (aka planet DUNE), we took a cab to our hotel. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, but I just took a chance and asked our seedy looking cab driver if … “Sabes donde puedemos marihuana?” When he finally understood, he gave us a knowing chuckle. Told us he could get it from a friend if we paid him 150 Peruvian soles (he offered us cocaine too, but fuck that shit). We managed to haggle him down, and as he dropped us off at our place, he told us he’d back in a few hours with the goods.

It’s on.

Kenny and I surreptitiously exited our little hotel and walked up and down the street. Sr Antonio was nowhere to be soon. We walked around the neighborhood more. A cab came by and stopped near us. I went up to him (he wasn’t Antonio, but maybe a friend) and asked him if he knew Antonio. Nope. 

… and then we saw the policeman on his motorbike. Just chillin behind the taxi with his lights on. Uhhh. We just pretended to be confused tourists and kept walking. Kenny was wisely advising me that this probably isn’t a good idea, and getting manhandled in a rapey Peruvian prison would be a very shitty way to experience Peru. 

We rounded the bend to our hotel, ready to give up. The policeman was parked near a hedge with his lights on, just staring at us. At this point I’m like OK fuck this. Not worth it. So we go in our hotel, all sad.

A few minutes later, the front desk rings us up and tells us a taxi driver is here for us. Oh shit. I go outside and see that it’s Antonio. I get in his car (I’m pretty freaked out by the popo at this point) and I try to communicate to him that the police is nearby. He pulls out a magazine about Huacachina to cover what we’re doing, and shows me the weed.

I consider it a testament to my business acumen and NOT my failing common sense that at that point, in Peru, with the popo around, I negotiated Antonio down on his price. I grabbed the real shitty looked weed and waved goodbye to Antonio. 

…. whew.

And that’s how we came to enjoy the beautiful dunes of Huacachina, with the help of our friendly plant.