Baking and Entering
Why I Took Illegal Drugs and a Gun Down to City Hall on a Lovely Summer Day
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Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed a host of new regulations for clubs in Seattle. The proposed ordinance would establish the nightclub advisory board—or NAB—and institute regulations that are as onerous as they are impractical.
According to stunned club owners, the mayor's proposals would lead to the closure of every nightclub in Seattle ["Unhappy Customers," Erica C. Barnett, Aug 24]. One provision in Nickels's draft ordinance really caught my eye. In the Nightclub Operating Standards section, listed under Security Standards, you can find this gem: "Nightclubs shall prevent patrons from entering a nightclub premises with any illegal drugs."
If the mayor's proposed regulations are adopted, club owners would be required to prevent patrons from carrying drugs into their place of business—prevent. Not attempt to prevent, not do their best to prevent, but prevent—period, full stop. If drugs are found on someone inside a club, the club would be shut down.
Reading about the mayor's proposal, I wondered what they were smoking up there on the seventh floor of City Hall. Club owners can post signs telling people that drugs aren't allowed on the premises, they can instruct their bouncers and bartenders to throw out anyone caught with or using drugs, but how are they supposed to prevent drugs from being carried into their clubs? An Ecstasy tablet is easily concealed; a well-rolled joint is hard to spot tucked into a pack of cigarettes; a weekend's worth of cocaine can be hidden in a tiny plastic bag tucked in some skank's asscrack. Unless club owners strip-search every patron on the way in—and conduct full-body cavity searches, too—it would be impossible to meet these new requirements.
The mayor has to know that this is an impossible standard—an open invitation to the Seattle Police Department to shut down every last club in town.
Reading the proposed new regulations I wondered if the same rules applied at City Hall. The mayor was asking club owners to "prevent" people from entering nightclubs with drugs—okay, fine. But if the city expects a club owner to keep his place of business drug-free, surely we can expect the same of the mayor himself. So I decided to conduct a little experiment: I would attempt to enter City Hall with drugs. If I got inside, I would use drugs in City Hall. If I used drugs in City Hall, I would offer drugs to other people in City Hall.
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Before I could march down to City Hall with drugs, I had to get my hands on some, of course. If I didn't care what kind of trash I was putting into my body, I could have purchased some low-quality pot (or some adulterated cocaine, impure heroin, poisonous meth, etc.) at the open-air drug market that flourishes in the park just a block and a half from City Hall between Third and Fourth Avenues and Yesler Way and Jefferson Street. One of the provisions in the mayor's proposed club regulations requires club owners to prevent the use or sale of drugs "in the vicinity" of their businesses, something the city itself seems incapable of doing—but I care about what I put into my body.
So I skipped the open-air drug market in the vicinity of City Hall. Instead, I scored some quality pot from a quality source and turned it over to a quality baker. My buddy the baker reduced the pot in oil and then, using a box of Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie mix, whipped me up a huge batch of insanely powerful pot cookies.
Then, on a beautiful Monday afternoon, I headed down to City Hall with a box of pot-laced cookies in my bike bag—oh, and a gun, too. It wasn't a real gun (I'm afraid of real guns), but a really scary-looking prop gun. Why bring a gun? Well, the same section of the mayor's proposed nightclub regulations that requires club owners to prevent patrons from entering with drugs also requires club owners to "prevent patrons from entering a nightclub with any weapons."
If the mayor expects club owners to keep drugs and weapons out of their clubs, it seemed reasonable to expect that he would be able to keep drugs and weapons out of City Hall. Carrying drugs and packing simulated heat, I fully expected to be tackled before I could walk in the door.
I have to admit that I was a nervous wreck when I walked past a line of police cruisers on the way into City Hall—I'd had one cookie on the way downtown and I was feeling a touch paranoid as I crossed Fifth Avenue. But the police sitting outside of City Hall, and the security guards inside City Hall, apparently lack the powers of x-ray vision and clairvoyance—the same powers that our mayor expects club owners to possess—and so no one prevented me from strolling into City Hall with my pot cookies in my giant red bike bag and my "weapon" tucked into the belt of my cutoffs.
Once I was inside the building, I fished the box of pot cookies out of my bag and began munching on a second one. I strolled around the lobby, stared blissfully into the waterfalls for an incriminating few minutes, and marveled at the bright-blue glass walkway that connects the council chambers to the council offices—and to the elevators that go up to the mayor's office on the seventh floor.
* * *
The mayor's office is swank—there's a lovely little waiting area and a pair of glass doors that open onto a balcony with tables and chairs. I finished the last bit of my second pot cookie standing on the balcony, watching the late-summer sun shimmer on Elliott Bay.
Stranger news editor Josh Feit was at City Hall to pick up a public-records request from Nickels's office, and we were shown into Nickels's suite of offices by Nickels staffer Viet Shelton. While Josh chatted up Shelton, I stumbled upon Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, Nickels communications director Marianne Bichsel, and Nickels spokesperson Marty McOmber all hanging out in Bichsel's office. I announced that I was stoned, and when Ceis told me that he was headed down to Elliott Bay to take a little ride on a fireboat with the mayor, I offered him a pot cookie. I offered pot cookies to everyone in the office.
"I have a bunch in my bag," I slurred. "Really good ones. Want one?"
They all laughed, but it was clear that they didn't doubt that I had drugs on me and in me. I was obviously stoned—lingering in Bichsel's doorway for what seemed like hours for no real reason, keeping up with the banter but a beat or two behind. I offered everyone pot cookies a second time. More laughs.
Which brings us to another provision in the mayor's proposed club regulations: "Nightclub personnel shall promptly contact law-enforcement officials if they either observe or are informed of any possible violations of law occurring either on the nightclub premises..."
Hmm. So many mayoral staffers, so many phones, so many police officers close by. I had just announced that I was high, that I had drugs in my bag, and I had offered to get everyone in the mayor's office baked out of their minds. And no one called the cops. Instead I got a little tour. On the final leg of the tour, I let Nickels legal counsel Regina LaBelle know that I was stoned out of my mind. But instead of calling the cops, LaBelle, an adoptive parent, told me how much she enjoyed the book I wrote about adopting my son. I munched a third pot cookie as I was escorted to the mayor's office and allowed to take a peek at his desk.
The mayor wasn't around—which is too bad, because I wanted to offer him a pot cookie, too, and ask him this question: If it was as easy to sneak drugs into a particular club as it was to sneak them into City Hall, would he shut that club down? Probably. So what's he going to do about City Hall then? Maybe we can discuss it the next time I drop by his office with drugs in my bike bag.
Wanna check out my stash? And my piece? Pictures of the drugs and gun I carried into City Hall are up on Slog, The Stranger's blog, at www.thestranger.com/blog.