Gummy Bears and Gorilla Glue

I’ve been to some strange stores in my lifetime … a little shop in London that sold only men’s gloves, a tiny establishment in Rome that sold only religious bookmarks and bobble head statues of the Pope, a kiosk in Moscow that sold only orange drink by the glass … the same glass used by the person ahead of me in the line. But a few days ago I visited a shop that made the others pale by comparison.

As I write this, I’m looking at some cancer surgery that may carry with it a great deal of pain and nausea including the addition of a whole new stomach. In April 2013, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.” In June 2016, the pilot program was expanded. In August 2017, Ken Bradbury entered this unique shop/clinic/grass boutique. My sister-in-law, my official caregiver, had scoped the place out after a two-month wait for our official cards to arrive. This was my first trip.

I thought I knew what I was getting into since I’d been to head shops before, but this was totally different from the land of t-shirts and incense burners. Imagine a combination of the candy department of Harrods in London and a medical clinic.

Simply getting into the place is akin to boarding a Delta flight to the Soviet Union. You must show your official grass card and another ID to get into the waiting area, show it again before you’re guided through two sets of coded doors, and you can’t even exit the locked display room without a nurse with the proper barcode around her neck. When I walked back out onto the street, I felt as if I’d been paroled.

The attendants in both the inner and outer sanctum were dressed in medical garb, each color denoting rank and degree of expertise. Even the waiting room was inviting with the History Channel on the tube instead of Fox News, while free coffee was available and pretty darned good. Then they called our names, “Ken and Carl.” Carl was a nattily tailored young African American who couldn’t be mistaken for me in my frayed pants and work shoes. They led us both in with sis-in-law Nancy, duly showing her ID (“identification,” nothing to do with Freud). After passing through a sort of holding cell, the attendant opened the door to a gleaming white showcase area. The glass cases bore not even a single fingerprint and the colors were much like those of a candy store. We first sat down for a brief consultation then were ushered to the business end of the room displaying absolutely hundreds of brightly packaged “medicines.” Oils, lotions, sprays, gels, vape pens, edible candies, gum and chocolate bars, drink mixes and potions, that all seemed to defy explanation. Even the names were exciting … Guerilla Glue, Bing-Bong, Canchew, Hempmed, Sweet Mary Jane, Revive, Dew Drops, Alien Dawg, Casey Jones, Blue Diesel, Purple Haze, Mile Higher, Maui Maui … the list went delightfully on and on. Since it’s not legal to copyright names for hemp, they can steal any brand name they wish.

And I’m not trying to be ironic when I say that this was about the happiest store I’d ever patronized. Nothing but legal smiles met up as we were passed along from interviewer to dispenser to head information guy. If my oil-changing place was this friendly, I’d drain my oil pan every 100 miles. These folks knew their stuff and with hundreds of variations possible, each used for a different malady, their store of information came pouring out in waves that even Nancy couldn’t record fast enough. Everyone was genuinely concerned about finding the right product to make me feel better should the need arise.

And I’ve seen banks that seemed less secure. In addition to the various locked doors that only opened after we’d shown on documentation, each employee wore a key fob on a lanyard around each wrist. Whenever one of the clerks wanted to get into the back room where apparently the good stuff was stored, she had to not only use her magic key but also the lanyard of another employee. Ain’t nobody going into the holy of holies without two keys.

I’d been on some wild shopping trips in my life … buying a dog collar big enough to fit a large-necked actor, purchasing 21 pair of women’s black tights for a musical and accompanying a former student to shop for artificial legs, but this place took the cake … and the cookies … and the chewing gum.

I’ve not yet dipped into the bag of goodies I brought home and with God’s help, perhaps I won’t need the stuff. It’s good to have handy but I may end up tossing it or feed it to that cat that thinks she owns my back porch. Here, kitty-kitty! Want a nice gummy bear?

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About the author

Ken Bradbury is an adjunct instructor of theatre at LLLC after retiring from Triopia. He entertains on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and is the author of over 300 published plays. Website:

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