Chapter 1

When I was in high school, my family's house in Frederick, MD was a notorious smoking spot. On the side of my house there was a small valley where two apple and two pear trees grew amongst a lush hillside of ferns. The valley led into a side patio of stone that was just outside the glass doors that led into my basement. The effect was such that my friends and I could smoke unbeknownst to my family under these trees in Longfellow Valley, and we made sure to take full advantage of this fact at every possible opportunity.  

We were able to have the smoke and smell blown out some three stories high above my house. It was called Longfellow Valley because my cat, Fatty Q. Longfellow, perused it almost nonstop, letting anyone who dared step foot in it know (at best with a loud meow) that their presence was tolerated. A large part of his affection for this part of my yard was the fact that there was a stone slab under a small pine tree at the crest of the hill that overlooked said valley, and during the hot months of summer he perpetually lounged on this stone, cooling his regal gut while maintaining an excellent view of all his subjects.

This sense of privacy was increased fortuitously at night, and soon Longfellow Valley was adorned with its own furniture and a distinct set of rituals that came as part of any session under the shade of the apple and pear trees. The rituals, and even the furniture, have their own story for how they came into being, but I will save those for another time. I want to tell you now about the story of the Smoking Fort.  

As I mentioned, Longfellow Valley was by far the most popular spot at my house to smoke. However, there were several other locations my friends and I had hashed out throughout my yard where we liked to smoke. Each one of these locations was denoted by a Greek numeral. Longfellow Valley was Alpha, and the rest followed suit, not necessarily in numerical order.

The system worked as such: if my parents or guests were on the side patio, we would retreat to one of the many smoking spots hidden amongst the landscaping in the backyard. If they were in the back, we would move to the front and smoke on the top of Marine Mountain (my house sat on top of it), and so on. There were varying degrees of privacy in each of these locations, and I have to tell you, rotating amongst them as my family went about their normal business, while transporting all the appropriate paraphernalia-including what was at the time my bong of choice, a three-foot ribbed glass Zong-ended up being an incredibly fun adventure for any lazy summer afternoon. Imagine it much like playing hide and seek when you were a child, except with illicit substances and large pieces of precision-blown glass.  

On one particular day however, the White Rhino was on his way over to my house to smoke, and no one was home. Since this was a fairly rare occasion, and since I rarely got to smoke inside, I decided to set up shop in the attic, behind a small door in the back of my sister's room, for our impending session de marijuana.

I had convinced my sister to take this smaller room mostly because of the door and the attic access, premised by the fact that one day my parents would finish the storage space and she would have her own ice skating rink or horse farm or whatever young girl's dream of.  

The attic was adorned with all manner of boxes and other nefarious crap, including a small set of patio furniture. I set it up in the middle of the room, brought in some incense and a CD player, cleaned and packed the Zong, and waited for the Rhino to arrive.  

Upon his arrival, Rhino was delighted to hear of the exotic smoking locale, and we commenced immediately. I should probably explain that the Rhino and I smoked together quite a bit, and we had a tendency based on this level of comfort to get into what we deemed were highly philosophical discussions once under the influence of the glorious intoxicant so drably referred to as "pot."  

On this particular day however, comfortable as we were in my attic, smoking leisurely and without fear of discovery to the sound of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, we began to revel in our newfound setting. We decided, upon further review, that strategically it made sense to have a location inside the house in which to smoke, so we earmarked it Zeta.

As this idea culminated, several observations came together into what I can only haphazardly refer to as a "plan." We decided that we would attempt to construct, using the materials at hand in the attic, a fort at the far end of the room in which we could retire to in relative seclusion and still enjoy all the present comforts.  

We set about constructing a wall of crap some ten feet away from the far wall, and even though I cannot describe to you the process by which it came into being, mostly because I was high off my ass, but I can tell you once it was built it was magnificent. Looking at it from the outside you literally could not tell that it was anything other than a continuous block-like conglomeration of crap. A dresser, several boxes, and some rolled-up carpets formed the wall itself, and we wedged a fold-out lawn chair into one of the crevices such that its top half swung to and fro in a rudimentary door for our entrance.

We set up the patio furniture on the inside part of the wall along with the CD player, incense, and all other manner of smoking apparatus. The dresser drawers made for an incredibly convenient storage system, and soon it was packed with all sorts of essentials like water, snacks, and tissues. The most ingenious part of the setup, however, was the exhaust fan.  

On the far wall there was, as there typically are in attics, an exhaust fan to keep the heat down in an insulated part of the house during the long summer months. I managed to wedge a plastic fish (don't ask) into the dial and implement a switch system by which we could turn the fan on and off. This completed the setup in that we were able to turn the fan on during our sessions and have the smoke and smell blown out into the ambient air some three stories high above my house.  

Once the setup was complete, we immediately commenced a celebratory session. During the course of this celebration we began to converse over some of the key issues concerning the smoking fort's viability as an everyday smoke spot. One of the most important issues for the fort to be able to be used during the normal daily operating hours of my house was my sister's complicity. We ordained that it would be best for her to not only be in on the behavior taking place in the hideaway behind her dwelling, but to also have a direct line of communication to the perpetrators.  

Walkie-talkies were the obvious solution to this dilemma; the only problem was, we didn't have any money. Or more accurately, the money we did have could be better spent on more pot. Opportunity cost ‘n what all. We decided a plan of action needed to be hatched immediately. Meaning: we needed to smoke more. After another fine round of fatty-fatty stiff-stiffs in the glorious Zong, we started to discuss how we could procure a pair of high-quality walkie-talkies without paying for them.

Continue to The Smoke Fort, Chapter 2 »