This is a good memoir that touches on more than just the life of a Marijuana smuggler. It also touches on father-son dynamics, what it means to have a risk-loving personality, and about the end of an era. I never felt like I wanted to be any of those guys, or even that I necessarily admired them, but they were interesting.
Dokoupil casts the life of a marijuana smuggler in a rosy light, free wheeling loose, fun, good-times with a few bad ends for most, yeah, but one hell of a ride. This isn’t exactly a picture I disagree with. I especially loved one scene where he compares the simultaneous images of Nancy and Ronald Regan giving their impassioned speech about how drugs were destroying the youth of America, at the same time that Dokoupil Sr. is pulling of a colossal marijuana shipment. I remember the “just say no” BS that I was exposed to as a child, a pointless boondoggle, a stinky plastic cherry on the sh*t sundae that is America’s Drug War. It’s nice to have someone poke a finger in that particular eye.
At times Dokoupil depicts his father as a larger-than-life hero, and implies that’s how Tony Sr. saw himself. Look at this brave swashbuckler, bringing weed to a pot-starved youth. Dokoupil Jr. the writer, uses lavish description of the weed itself, rich metaphors, like “it looked like sunflowers that had been passed through the digestive tract of a grizzly bear” which makes me wonder if he was writing for, if not as one of marijuana’s fans.
As with other books I’ve read, this book’s greatest flaw is also it’s most marked virtue: it’s lush prose. Dokoupil Jr. may have mixed feelings for his father, but he sure seems to love a good metaphor with his entire being. Some of the metaphors, like the one above (sorry if I’ve mis-quoted) are brilliant. But, these metaphors come so fast and heavy that they also got in the way, not just in my comprehension, but also in the flow of the story and his own credibility as a non-fiction writer. For example, he writes: “My father walked into a thirty-day rehab in January 1985, feeling like a man one step ahead of the falling piano.” It’s a lovely sentence, really, but how does Dokoupil Jr. know that’s what Dokoupil Sr. felt like? After all, he lost contact with his father for years and years, not seeing Tony Sr. until this particular incident was far, far behind him. And Tony Sr. is a described as a man so addled by drugs and poverty that he literally misplaced half a million dollars and doesn’t know where. So how does he remember how he felt on one day thirty years ago?
But if you’ll forgive Dokoupil Jr.’s poetic license, and you want to know about the life of one of “the last pirates,” pick this memoir up. It’s not often that someone with as bizarre a life as Dokoupil Sr. happens to have a son with the literary talents of Dokoupil Jr.