By Deems Tsutakawa For The North American Post
I originally met my old pal from my high school days, Randy Furuta, while working at the Uwajimaya store at Fifth and Main Street in the International District. It was the mid-sixties and at that time, Randy, Tommie Oiye, and I were the only stock boys other than my cousins, who owned the landmark establishment. Not only were we stocking shelves, we also did food packaging, price labeling, and grocery deliveries and loaded warehouse items like rice and soy sauce. There was garbage detail, cashier work, going to the docks for cargo containers from overseas, and food processing as well. Besides having a job, it was an education on how a family grocery business was run on a daily basis. Randy, Tommie, and I hit it off right away and would hang out on weekends playing ball, drinking, and talking philosophy — great memories for sure.
One summer day, we decided to go to a summer cabin on Hood Canal for a little getaway. Although Tommie was not able to go, my best friend from Franklin High School named Louis Beeler said he could go with us. Randy had a car with a great 8-track tape machine and told us not to worry about the food; he would take care of it. Despite his generous offer, we did pick up a barrel of fried chicken to go, with a case of beer, just to be sure. The only contraband item that traveled with us for the weekend was a bag of Mexican weed, aka marijuana. At the time, neither Louie nor I had actually smoked pot so the anticipation was high, so to speak.
Upon seeing the baggie of dried out pot, my friend Louis looked at it and declared, “This is alfalfa.”
It had seeds, stems, and leaves, and was somewhat dusty. Louis was raised on a farm and apparently, there was a similarity in appearance.
We did not possess good joint rolling skills and our marijuana cigarettes were huge, loosely packed, and full of seeds which kept popping. For the next hour, we inhaled, coughed, and tried our best to get stoned with moderate success. As you may have guessed, there was a lot of laughing too.
The next morning the case of beer was empty as was the barrel of chicken. I also remember Louis saying he didn’t remember a darn thing from the previous night. My theory is that the “alfalfa” might have played a role in his memory loss.
Editor’s note. According to Tomio Moriguchi, “The first Uwajimaya was at 424 South Main, often stated as 5th and South Main Streets, 1946-1970.” Today, it is the address of Hirabayashi Place Apartments.