Pssstt. I made a connection up in the Leelanau Peninsula.
Yes, I found the goodie-goodie man, met him at a drop spot, and scored some scrumptious Leelanau lobo in God’s country.
And I’m still here to tell the tale.
A little back story.
We were ensconced in a lovely cottage, which was built in the 1940s right on Lake Leelanau. Not even House and Garden could outdo this scene: a meandering forested one-track dirt path off M-22 that leads downward.
Eventually the rooftop of a wonderful old L-shaped red cottage appears. On the other side, a long sweeping lawn leads down to the lake. We pull into a wide circular driveway and park over by the boathouse.
We settle in, pinching ourselves. Is this truly real? We’ve got this for a whole month? No way.
Dinnertime rolls around, and we decide to venture out to a place nearby (which I will not name). After we settle into our table, our chatty and personable waitress mentions her son had been in the woods that morning and stumbled into a massive cache of fresh morels.
He collected several pounds, she says, and wants to sell. He’s also out of work and needs money.
Wow, we say, we’ll buy a pound. I give her my cellphone number, and we head back to our new digs.
At about 10 p.m., my cellphone rings.
“Hello, this is ‘John.’ You wanted to buy some stuff?”
“Some stuff?” I ask.
“Yes. Mushrooms. Buy some mushrooms.”
“Oh, yes, morels. Right,” I answer.
“Can you meet me?” he asks.
“Well, yes. When?”
“Now. Where are you?”
We agree to meet in 15 minutes. It’s 10:15 p.m.
So in the dark of a moonless night, I head north to a pre-arranged drop spot in a parking lot. Believe me, this is really late to be out in early May. Before the tourist season begins in earnest, everything closes down at 8 or 9.
As I’m driving I get this buzz. This is mysteriously starting to feel like my college days — a flashback to worrying about cops and risking a bust.
I pull into the meeting spot. It’s pitch black. No hidden police. Just me and the crickets.
Barely a minute goes by, when at high speed, a Toyota mini SUV makes the corner. The lights pass over me. I let him see me, and size me up. He parks ass-inward; I’m guessing he doesn’t want me to see his license plate.
A stocky man and a female companion emerge from the Toyota. No greeting. We know why we are here.
“Here it is,” he says, holding out a brown supermarket bag for me to look over and smell. Snort one maybe? It’s crammed with huge morels of a size I’ve never seen.
“No, I only wanted 1 pound,” I say, kind of junior-league sheepishly.
One pound! Man, in the old days that was a felony level bust. One pound got you time in Milan.
“That wasn’t the deal,” he says.
I know trouble when I hear it.
“OK, I’ll take it all and figure it out later,” I say.
I cough up another $20, and take the whole bag.
They’re back in the Toyota and gone before I can grab my door handle.
I plunk down with my new cache sitting in my passenger seat, feeling oddly exhilarated. I head back south into that last post-sunset shoreline glow.
I kick back my seat, crank the radio. Yes, this is my kind of “drug” deal. Pretty exciting for a guy about to turn 70.
Roll ’em tight, and light ’em up, ladies and gents?
Nah. In the safer world of my approaching old age, I’ve traded the Zig-Zags for a mushroom brush.
Just clean ’em, wash ’em, and prep ’em for a great creamed morel sauce to go on a juicy strip steak.
Now that’s living on the edge.