Chapter 3: The World as a White Castle
There’s a certain surreal quality to being stoned. Depending on the quality of the weed, of course. Pete usually was pretty reliable in getting the better stuff; Jamaican Red, skunk, blue tip, and other quality ‘brands.’ And you had to watch out for that creeper weed. That stuff would hang out and wait until you think you’re just smoking oregano. Then suddenly, the phone ringing sends you into fits of stomach-grabbing laughter.
But it’s the ‘experience’ part I always enjoyed. Suddenly, the hustle and bustle of everyday life slows down a notch. You aren’t running to get everywhere (because usually you forgot where you were going, anyway). The swaying of a branch in the wind is something that catches your eye, and holds your attention. Slowing down, you pay a little more attention to what is going on around you, to appreciate the little things.
I am, of course, not recommending everyone go out and smoke themselves into a drug-induced haze. It isn’t for everyone. For example, paranoid people should probably stay away. Getting high will only wig you out. Trust me.
But standing in a White Castle, holding my Number 53, it was a glorious day to be alive. Everything was gleaming. That’s one of things. You know how colors get right before a thunderstorm? How the grass turns that unbelievable green, and the air actually looks electric blue? It has to be one of natures most beautiful tricks. Maybe it’s only because you notice everything a little bit more, but when you’re stoned, colors look like they do right before a thunderstorm. And man, is it glorious.
Now, White Castle, if you have never been to one in the North East United States, places all the employees in a fish-bowl, working behind a big Plexiglas screen that separates them from the riff-raff that usually inhabits the place. Of course, that riff-raff was myself. But the thing about this is that they fry the burgers right in front of you, laying them out on the big flat, grease-laden steaming flat metal grill.
The guy behind the grill never looked up as he took the 2 inch square patties out of the box. He probably has learned to ignore everyone around him staring at what he is doing. Little kids pointing and banging on the Plexiglas as mothers try to pull them away, screaming "But the cheese is touching my hamburger! Tell him to move it mom!" or more simply, just, "Hey! Hello! Hey! Helloooooo!"
Water vapor rose up as the semi-frozen meat met the steaming hot metal, and I could see small beads of sweat clinging to the eyebrow hairs of the guy as he continued to ignore the world. The clanking of metal against metal held a primitive beat, as the spatula came down on the grill, under the frying patties, flipping them, then slamming down next to them, scooting the sautéing onions from the side. Slam, flip, slam, scoot, slam, flip, slam, scoot.
The cute girl who took my order and money in exchange for the number ‘53’ in my hand stood next to him, her hands filled with buns. Little buns, two inches square, that she put on the flipped patties, just after the scoot. She wasn’t quite as good as he at ignoring the world around her and I caught her eye straying up to look at me.
My head was resting against the Plexiglas, my hands pressed up against it on either side of my head. Suddenly, the guy flipping burgers looked up at me. I didn’t realize it at first, but suddenly my beat of slam, flip, slam, scoot, was gone. I looked up from the grill and he was just standing there, a droplet of sweat making it’s way down the bridge of his red nose.
I smiled. I waved. I gave him the ‘thumbs up’ sign.
He shook his head and went back to flipping. But the moment was gone.
Pete was at my side, poking me with his index finger again. "Hey, is that us? Huh? Huh?"
"Umm," I looked away from the grill, looking to the plastic ticket I held. It said ‘53’.
"Yeah, man. Let’s go."
We grabbed the sacks passed to us in the exchange of plastic number for food and headed to Pete’s car.
"Hey, why did you get four Cokes?"