Cape Hatteras, NC, Feb. 10. Day off. 9:30A M
at the gate to the Swan Quarter/Ocracoke ferry. It's cold and sunny on the
Atlantic coast. High mare's tails of cirrus sweep the sky. The air is crystal
clear. We drive onboard the good ship "Carteret" and I cajole one of the crew
members to boil some water so I can make coffee. San Francisco's own Peet's
Guatemala at 10 AM, on deck. The crossing is serene, if cold. The sunlight on
the waves and the drone of the engines lull me into a false sense of security.
Two hours and 45 minutes of peaceful dreaming later we saddle up and pull off
the ferry, onto Ocracoke Island, NC. Leslie is driving and a state trooper
waves her over to the side of the street. He tells her to get out of the van. I
wander over and ask him what is going on. He tells me to wait. He asks Leslie
for her license and he asks who is the owner of the vehicle. I tell him I am.
He asks for my license and I give it to him, asking, again, why is he doing
this. He has flecks of dead white skin around his nostrils and mouth. Late
20's. Very white, very southern. He looks at me and Leslie and says : "We have
a report that there were some people in the van smoking marijuana on the
ferry." He asks me if I am carrying any weapons. I tell him I am not. He asks
me to empty my pockets on the trunk of his Crown Victoria, engine running. He
looks at my pocket knife and says: "That's a weapon." I say: "It is not a
weapon, it is a Swiss-Army Climber, sir." He tells me he is just kidding
around. I start to get really mad. He asks us if we were smoking marijuana. I
tell him flatly that we do not, have not and will not smoke marijuana in the
van, we are a "professional music group, signed to Atlantic Records and are on
a three month tour of the United States to support our latest album." Inside I
am hoping my vibe of mild indignation at this minor inconvenience will provide
a credible counterweight to our ragged driving-all-night-on-the-road look. This
is Bible country. I am seething. We have been compromised in public. Another
trooper arrives and everyone else has to answer the same questions, empty their
pockets and stand around while the first guy does a cursory search of the van.
Meanwhile Leslie is chatting up the second trooper. I do not become involved in
the conversation because she's doing an admirable job of charming the shit out
of him. The skin-fleck guy, overwhelmed perhaps by the massive quantities of
STUFF all over the interior of the van, finally wanders back over. Jim gives
them a couple of CD's. We get asked, one more time, if anyone was smoking
marijuana in the van. We all shake our heads. Turns out a "correctional
officer" on the ferry had reported seeing "marijuana being smoked" in our van.
The crew radioed the information to the authorities at our destination, who
then set up the roadblock. A team effort on the part of the Ocracoke Law
Enforcement Community, the North Carolina Ferry System and a regular citizen,
like you, vigilant of a dark threat to the fabric of our society. They let us
go. We drive away in silence.
We stop briefly at the Cape Hatteras
lighthouse. 208 feet tall and built in 1870, the sign says that, because of
shifting coastlines, this lighthouse may be moved. By now I have slept two of
the past 31 hours. We hit a Comfort Lodge close by the shore. Sleep, blessed
To be continued...