|All photos by Sharon Letts|
"It's not Weeds, it's Real."
By Sharon Letts
Jake hung up the phone and turned to Lewis who was busy helping take down a room. "She's raising the rent again. That's $950 a month now. Three increases in just over a year."
"So much for the great deal of $650 a month on Craig's List," Lewis said, picking up another large, black container and pulling the root ball out onto the floor. We tried to warn you, dude. Three, bedrooms just don't go for $650 a month in Humboldt."
The woman in question was a Humboldt slum lord, referred to with disdain as "Dragon Lady." She was a pot plantation belle, reigning over a pot plantation rented out by the green, or how many plants you were physically able to grow per square foot.
"She knows you can grow more," Lewis added. "She knows you will grow more. That's the unspoken deal The ad may have well said, 'Three grow rooms available, rent to be increased per season," Lewis laughed.
"I'll have to put two more lights in the laundry room," Jake thought out loud.
"The thing is, she takes advantage," Lewis continued, beginning to whine. "How much are Stephanie and Liz growing next door? They have three rooms now and the garage. And they didn't start out in the apartment, like you did."
"They've been in the neighborhood for five seasons this fall," Jake responded. "They didn't have to go into the apartments because they came highly recommended. 'Dragon lady' knew they could pull off a good season in their first year."
"I heard they are paying more than $1,500 a month in rent to her now," Lewis said.
"What's her story again... lumber?" Jake asked.
"She's fifth generation Eureka," Lewis explained. "Her family heritage was lumber, but they never danced at William Carson's wedding, that's for sure. Whatever happened to her family lineage, I don't know, but she couldn't or didn't continue the tradition. Instead she divided her land, built that apartment building, then these crappy homes, and now she charges for rooms by the pound. Get it, by the pound? Selling Humboldt by the pound!" Lewis howled.
"So much for renter's rights in Cali," Jake laughed, clearly not amused by Lewis epiphany. "At least I don't have a landlord I have to hide from. And I wouldn't mind it so much if the plumbing wasn't so bad," he added.
"I like the neighbors, you don't feel so paranoid here - at least everyone knows what everyone else is doing, right?" Lewis said, trying to find a silver lining to the situation. "At least it's better than my situation in Arcata. My landlord's a slave driver. Since limits were raised he keeps telling me to grow more. I can't sleep in the bedroom anymore, what with all the fans going on in the other rooms - you can hardly hear yourself think. It's no way to live, that's for sure. Indentured servants - that's what we are now. It's just another kind of 'the man,' right?"
"No more three thousand a pound either," Jake said, already measuring the laundry room for space, dragging supplies outside. "She can't think the green rush will last forever, can she?"
Jake began rattling off a check list... "I'll need to get a shed for the yard now," he added. "Two lights, pots, soil, fans, plywood, and wiring - another humidifier. This is going to cost me."
Outside, Lewis stopped and listened to the collective hum of the neighborhood's energy usage. In the evening mist the capacitors at the top of the electrical poles sparked and sizzled while the neighborhood's lights dimmed and lit up again in a wave, then back down again. It was a neighborhood alive with buzz and hum of electricity.
"And you are adding two more lights to this circus," he said to Jake, passing by with a load of equipment. "Sixty percent more energy usage for the average indoor grow in a residential neighborhood. That's what PG&E says it takes to run all those big lights."
"Every third house in McKinleyville," Jake countered. "That's what they say."
"How many houses does the Dragon Lady own here?" Lewis asked.
Jake stopped and put down the bundle of bamboo poles he was carrying, and looked out across the sea of rising and falling energy before him.
"Let's see, she started with that one apartment building, then the two houses next door, now this block - that's five houses and the apartment building on this block alone. Not sure how many on the next block over."
"Supply and demand gives her an edge, huh pal?" Lewis picked up the bail of poles and carried them to the yard for Jake. "You are going to need some help."