I stumbled across this old story and figured it would be a good read. This is re-printed exactly how I typed it way back when. I had run off to Europe in early 2000 and hung out in Paris, Barcelona and then Dublin. I was posting this to the Hooligan website at the time, and while some of it is kind of embarrassing, it’s still pretty funny. Enjoy.
Travel Journal January/February 2000
This is my travel journal. Everything in here is true. Some of it is very embarrassing. This one is all about how much of a dumbass I am. Enjoy.
It’s very important to talk about my run-ins with French authorities before I leave and isn’t as fresh in my mind.
For someone who has minimal contact with law enforcement of any country, being nailed twice in the span of a week and a half was enough to last me a lifetime.
First of all, I’ll admit it right away: I’m an idiot. And when you ask, “what we’re you thinking?” I can truthfully say, “ I don’t know.”
The morning I left Amsterdam, I headed over to the net café/bar where I had been emailing, drinking beer and smoking joints for the last three days. It was located just off the Red Light District on a little tiny street which name escapes me at this moment. This place was great though. It was Fl 2.50 for 20 minutes on the ol’ intranet. That’s about 1 dollar and 25 cents to you and me. There was a smallish yet stylish bar and two pool tables in the front. It was more of a locals hangout which I always prefer. I could sip a lovely Heineken or some good coffee while toking on a fat one, chatting with my amigos half a world away. The night before, someone emailed me and asked, “what are you doing?” I replied, “why, I’m emailing, drinking a beer and smoking a joint. What are you doing?” This was great because I knew my friend was at work.
The thing was, I rolled the rest of my pot into one huge joint the night before. I figured if I wasn’t taking any back with me, I might as well smoke it all in one big shebang. The problem was, after dicking around Amsterdam for awhile, I was running a tad late to get to my train. Like and idiot, I got a really early return ticket back to Paris. After checking my email, I dashed back across the city to check out of my shithole hotel and get my 10 guilder (five bucks) deposit back for my key. It was at this point I remembered the huge joint in my pocket.
It’s key that I tell you I remembered the joint because it was all part of the plan to forget it. You see, I decided to take that pinky sized doobie back to Paris with me. Yes, this is where you ask, “what were you thinking?”
I know, I know. Don’t bring any drugs back. It’s like camping. Only leave footprints and shit like that. But I was swept up in this kind of mania that told me, “yes, you can do this!” I’ve always been such a square, I never take any chances like this. But this was a new me, and something took over that just said, “fuck your future, bring that reefer back to Paris!” At any rate, I did it. I got on the train, the joint was in my inside pocket of my jacket and away I went to France. Goodbye Amsterdam, you’re a lot of fun. I’ll see you again someday. No problem right?
Fast forward to the train station in Paris. Gare du Nord is a huge, cold train station. It’s like a big warehouse with people and trains and pigeons. It’s just like what you’d expect from a train station in the movies. And especially from one in Paris: dirty, dusty and cold as shit. As the train pulled in to a stop, I started to go through what I’d say if someone stopped me. “Oh, I forgot it was in there!” Blah, blah, blah. I really wasn’t sweating it which is unusual. Normally in the states I’d start shaking with a joint in my pocket when I saw a cop car three blocks away. But hey, this was Europe. They don’t give a fuck. But as I grabbed my coat, I smelled it: Marijuana. Strong and obvious. I’ve you’ve ever walked into a room where someone is growing pot, this is what my jacket smelled like.
Then I went into a different mode. I wasn’t scared because I think I was too dumb to be scared. My only thought was, “if I see a dog, I’m gonna ditch this joint.” The walk from the train to the station was pretty long, so I scouted ahead to see if there were any federales or checkpoints. It looked clear so I confidently made my way toward the station. Not hurried, but definitely not slowly. Like from some prison escape movie, I could practically see the escalator that would take me down to the metro. That’s when I saw the dog. It was about halfway up the walkway and my heart jumped just a bit. It was a black labrador and it looked like it was just running around the platform. And since drug dogs are always German Shepherds and things like that, I didn’t really think anything of it. The dog disappeared behind me and to the left. A quick sigh of relief came over me and I kept on walking to my freedom. But that relief came and went really fucking quickly.
The French customs guy nailed me so fast after the dog passed, I didn’t even have a chance to be relieved. To be fair, I should say the dog is the one who actually nailed me. The customs guy rattled off something in French and I switched to dumb American mode partially out of instinct, but mostly because I got caught flat-footed. You could have driven a train through my gaping mouth.
I said, “what?” And he repeated, with his badge out, “French Customs. Do you have anything to declare?” For a split second I thought it would be hilarious to answer, “just that I’m fabulous!” But then I remembered the joint. Mind you, this was happening so quickly I really didn’t even have time to shit my pants. I would’ve been handcuffed and in the back of a squad car before I could’ve squeezed out a pebble of shit or said anything so funny. Instead, I looked at the French Customs officer with the most confused looked and said, “no…?”
Just then, my friend the black lab came over to me, jumped up, and tapped his paws on my stomach. Busted. He trotted away to nail some other pot smoker. This pot smoker was screwed royally. Thinking back on it, the whole ordeal only took about 15 seconds, and come to think of it, it passed like 15 seconds too. It was a very quick, very real nightmare. Once the dog pegged me, I started to think about how fucked I was. But I also remembered how much my coat stunk of sweet, sticky reefer.
After the dog went away, I looked up at the customs guy and said, in my most convincing voice, “I’ve just come from Amsterdam. I’ve got smells on me.” Swear to fucking God I said this. I prepared for the worst, but instead of getting the worst (handcuffed and taken to of all places, a French jail), I got the best. The customs officer just waived me past and I didn’t hesitate to take him up on his offer. I was, like they say, outta there like swimwear.
I didn’t run, I took my time. And I even paused at the end of the platform to pretend like I was looking at train times to not make myself look suspicious. A guilty person would just run as fast as possible and get on a metro. Getting on the metro, I was constantly looking around to see if the cops were on my tail. Maybe they thought I could lead them to the big score. But no, I was just a stupid, asshole American and they were glad to be rid of my dumb ass. I didn’t feel safe until I was safely inside my friend’s flat. But I still felt like I was being followed. So I did the natural thing and smoked some of the weed I smuggled and tried to put it far behind me.
That was until a week later when I got pulled over for smoking a joint in a car with three people I didn’t know.
I had gone to a skate park with three guys I had just met. One was a friend of a friend and the other two I didn’t know. Actually to be fair, I wasn’t smoking the joint. It was weed with tobacco in it. And as I’ve already stated, I don’t do the tobacco thing. On the way out, they rolled one and I tried it, but couldn’t hang with the tobacco. These guys however toked up with glee.
It was on the way back from the skate park that French police pulled us over. This was somewhat outside Paris and I guess they saw the driver, a French guy named Vincent, smoking this spliff. I had the shits really bad and I thought, “great, I have to take a shit and these cops are going to hold us up.” But then they started pulling us out of the car and my annoyance quickly turned to a bit of worry. I didn’t have my passport on me and I was with three people I didn’t know very well.
One was a Greek kid named Carlos. He was friends with my friend and I had met him the week before. The other two were French and had met them about an hour and a half before. I figured they’d help me out since they knew that “Je ne parlez pa Francais.” That’s “I don’t know any fucking French” in American. But I started to sweat it a bit. Memories of my Gare du Nord run-in with the law started flooding back. But really I felt like I was in high school again. Driving around with your buddies smoking herb and having a cop pull you over. There was nothing worse than that. This was worse however, because I was in France, and didn’t speak French. I half expected the cops to recognize me from the train station and say, “Ah-ha!”
The cops started searching everyone and I began to get really paranoid. “Do I have any shit on me?” of course I didn’t, but you know how you get when this kind of thing happens. Being a paranoid delusional, I started to freak.
“Je ne parlez pa messieur,” I said as the copper pulled me out of the Citroen Festiva. He nodded to me as if to say, “yeah, yeah, you dumbfuck American.” As the cops searched me and I emptied the contents of my pockets on the hood of the squad car, I started to wonder, “where in the fuck did the joint and the weed get off to?” It wasn’t mine so I figured these veteran French pot smokers knew what they were doing. I know what I’d do, but that’s in a different country. In America they can’t just search your car like they were doing here in France. Or can they? I don’t really know anymore.
After searching the car and everyone who was in the car, and finding nothing, I knew we were in the clear. Vincent the French guy who was driving and smoking the joint at the time expressed through his body language and how he was talking to the police that everything was cool. He was French, but definitely of a Middle Eastern or North African decent. He was very cool and even though we really couldn’t communicate to eachother, he put me at ease. I even kissed a little ass and told the French cops they were much nicer than American police. Actually they are.
We got back in the car and after much spirited talking in French, Carlos, the Greek kid told me what happened. The cops saw Vincent smoking something so they pulled us over. He told them it was a cigarette but they still wanted to have a look. Before he pulled the car over though, Vincent ate the tobacco filled joint and the rest of his stash. It wasn’t much, but enough to fuck him up a bit. He took a hit for the cause I guess and I salute him for it. As for the rest of it, I’m done with France. No one speaks English and the police are too nice. Two near busts on an otherwise clean record was too much for me. Kids, winners don’t use drugs, THEY EAT THEM!