November 9, 2009

chapter deux

Where do I go now? Without even a hint of any plan, I walk in the direction I’m already pointed. Out the bottom of the staircase I connect with another street, and I walk a stone path, and a few blocks down there’s a canal, the Limmat River. Inside the city it comes to me as a great relief. It’s something to which I can direct my attention. I can hold onto the Limmat. Surely it will take me somewhere.

I follow the river and observe swans swimming in circles, and I stop to take pictures. After that I find a smoke shop and go in for a look. But really, what I want is to find out is whether marijuana is legal, but I chicken out and don’t ask. Instead I look at all the pipes, don’t say a word, make eye contact with the shop-owner and then suddenly break it, and then leave. He probably thought I was planning on robbing him.


A few blocks down I meet the river’s source where it opens wide to Lake Zurich. The lake is massive and calm. Along its shore there runs an arboretum, what any normal person would call a park. There are a few vendors there. I have a beer and a hot dog and go to the end of a pier and let my feet hang out over the water. As I sit there the day thaws. The clouds break. I go for another beer, and then onto the grass where I take my shoes and shirt off and from my backpack I take my hacky-sack and I kick it around for a while. The air warms up. After a while I sit and pull at the grass. From the middle of that field I look around.


I need a place to sleep tonight, and this park must have something to offer. I take a look around. Small dirt paths meander like game trails through bushes and trees along the lakeshore. I find areas where I can spread out on the ground, recesses behind sculpted hedges and hideouts beneath low-lying branches. And then I see it, tucked back behind tall and wispy trees, hardly visible at all, a small concrete structure. I approach it for a closer look. It’s seven or eight feet tall, with a flat roof, probably storage space for parks maintenance. I go through the trees and stand beside the building. I pull myself on top of it, and immediately I can tell that this is where I will spend tonight. It’s hidden from sight and elevated, up and away from critters. And it isn’t far from the lake, from the sound of the water lapping at the shore.

I stow my sleeping bag in a nearby bush and set off to wander aimlessly.


For a few hours I zig-zag my way through tall buildings downtown, through an area of cafes and fancy shoe stores. There are vintage clothing shops and new-agey knick knacks for sale. I walk through the red light district. On the side of one building there are large legs crossed in fishnet stockings and stilettos, and everywhere, “X-X-X” across marquees. For lunch I have a mediocre sandwich in a ritzy part of town, and later I stop for a cup of ice cream. In the time I eat my ice cream I watch a kid in big pants and a cockeyed hat covertly sell dime bags of weed. I finish my dessert and approach him and ask if he’s got any for me. He’s just sold his last, he tells me, but I can go around the corner and buy some at the store.

Inside the store it’s dark, all brown and saffron colored. The walls are covered in Buddhist things, hanging medallions and beads. Incense burns and the smoke fills the air. There are shelves of jars filled with various roots and powders and herbs. I ask the girl at the counter, “Can I buy some weed?”

She puts a finger to her lips and goes “Shhhhhhh!!!” She whispers, “Call it tea.”

“Sorry,” I whisper back. “Can I buy some tea?”

From there I go into the hills in search of a place to smoke. I find a set of benches behind a church and roll a joint. I get super high. My mind drifts from one place to the next, to Italy, to Massachusetts, to California, and back to Switzerland.

I take to the streets again, almost always choosing to walk uphill, up and away from the city below.


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