Six years ago—good God, where does the time go—I was at a party sponsored by the mayor’s office commemorating the achievements of three gaijin living and working in the city. After making a bland speech, the mayor presented the three foreigners with letters of commendation, like a scoutmaster passing out merit badges.
I can’t for the life of me remember what I was doing there or who had invited me. I do remember, though, sitting with dé Dale on a sofa reserved for “VIP” guests—something that had us elbowing each other in the ribs and snickering. Leaning in close to my friend, I whispered: “As far as I’m concerned, the most remarkable thing any gaijinI know has done is to import magic mushrooms and sell them in the center of town right under the cops’s noses. And not get busted for it!”
Dé Dale, God love him, had been receiving bulk shipments of dried psilocybin mushrooms from a wholesaler in Holland. You name it—San Isidros, Liberty Caps, Blue Halos, Amanitas—dé Dale’s shops carried it. He also dealt in limited quantities of peyote seeds, San Pedro cactuses, as well as Ayahuasca bark from the jungles of the Amazon. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the man sitting beside me, the city’s disaffected youth were being kept in stitches, and out of their minds.
The “magic” didn’t last, though. It seldom does. A few months earlier, a popular young actor, by the name of Hideaki Itoh, had been hospitalized after a bad trip on shrooms, stirring the Japanese media into a frenzy of indignation: How on earth could such dangerous things be legal? The hosts of tabloid TV programs, called wideshows, wrung their hands and fretted. Reports reminiscent of Reefer Madness exaggerated the harmful effects of the mushrooms and concluded that something had to be done to eradicate the scourge.
In June 2002, laws would go into effect, plugging up the loopholes through which the delightful smorgasbord of natural psychedelics had been pouring in.
I knew the changes would hurt my friend’s business—he’d been doing some 10 million yen ($95,000) worth in sales a month at The Zoo, alone, not a small portion of which came from psilocybin mushrooms.
Never one to let his feathers get ruffled, dé Dale took the amendments to the law in stride. “It’s a game, Rémy. Only a game,” he said with that familiar insouciance of his. “Politicians change the rules, and think they’ve got you by the balls, but, all you have to do is to stay one step ahead of them.”
“When they try to change the rules, you change the game completely.”
A few days before the new law would come into effect in June 2002, dé Dale would get rid of his stock of psychedelic mushrooms, cacti, and Amazonian barks and leaves. And, without missing a beat, he would start selling vials of synthetic hallucinogenic drugs, instead, providing an ever expanding and nominally legal arsenal of designer drugs, with names like Speed Ball and Mellow Water. Cracking down on magic mushrooms only ensured that there would be stronger, more easily transportable drugs available to blow your mind with.
“And do you know why I always win?” dé Dale asked me that night.
“Because, my friend, I make more money and have more fun bending the rules than the cops do enforcing them.”
The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.
Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.