Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Main Street Marijuana

June 28, 2014

I grew up in the town of Vancouver, Washington, and like everybody with intellectual, artistic, or spiritual inclinations I grew up hating my hometown for stifling my aspirations. I was a big fan of the Sinclair Lewis novel Main Street because it bolstered my contempt for the small-town mindset. I read it several times. I longed to move to some great city where I would find the open, cosmopolitan mindset where everybody talked about serious, creative issues. (Interestingly, Henry Miller despised his hometown of New York City for many of the same reasons I despised Vancouver.)

Forty years ago, when I arrived in San Francisco I thought I’d finally found what I was looking for. So it’s ironic that on July 7th my old hometown is getting its first marijuana store, while here in San Francisco the locals get all uptight whenever a medical marijuana dispensary is proposed for their neighborhood. It’s especially ironic for me, deliciously ironic, that the new store is going to be located on Vancouver’s Main Street and will be called Main Street Marijuana.

I’m entirely in favor of legalizing marijuana. But, as it seems to be with nearly all issues these days, my reasons for supporting it are different than that of most people. I think legalizing it for medical reasons is fine, but I don’t like the “recreational” tag. It’s frivolous. It encourages people to approach marijuana as a party drug, which is a waste of its real value. The justification for legalization is its value as a spiritual tool.

I’m well aware that you’d never get the stuff legalized taking that approach. Today’s image of the dope smoker is that of a lazy, dull-minded space cadet, a credulous fool. Furthermore, although few of them like to talk about it, a lot of people who used to smoke it stopped because, they say, it started making them “paranoid.” Marijuana is essentially an amplifier—a benevolent one, I’d say. It increases your awareness, in the beginning at least. It depends, though, on what you want it to do. When I was playing music, some of my best performances happened while I was high. (This was not merely my subjective opinion. The audiences affirmed it for me each time.) My hearing was extraordinarily acute and I was strongly aware of the smallest details in my playing and singing. Likewise, I’ve had some fine meditations while stoned, special insights that I still remember. The thing is, you always come back down. The hope is that you learned something while you were high that you could begin to strive toward in your day-to-day unstoned mind. The problem with people who smoke it and smoke it and smoke it is they blow out their energy. That’s why you get sleepy stoners who don’t seem very bright. They’ve shot their wad. (You can always get it back. It doesn’t cause permanent damage. You just have to stop for awhile.)  I haven’t smoked any in 15 years. I’m still working on what I learned in those first 30 years of smoking. As for paranoia, the drug itself doesn’t make you paranoid. It simply shows you the paranoia that is already within you. It shows you by amplifying it. But it also amplifies love. It amplifies everything.

Anyway, that’s my take on the subject. I’m happy to discuss. My best wishes to Main Street Marijuana. May it be a successful enterprise.


A Leech on the Body Politic

September 28, 2009

I’ve had a particular image running around in my head for over a month now. This August, when Judy and I were up in the State of Washington, my home state, we passed through the town of Aberdeen. The highway passes right through the downtown area, and we got stuck there in a traffic jam caused by road work. The condition of the downtown area shocked me. There were dozens of boarded-up buildings and others that had just been left to rot. There weren’t many people hanging around, even though it was the center of downtown. Parts of it looked similar to places I’ve seen in rural Mississippi. At the edge of the blighted downtown is a river. (For those who know Aberdeen, there are actually two.) You cross the narrow river, the Wishkah, and as soon as you reach the other side, there’s a big shopping mall where the parking lots are filled with cars. It was all Wall Mart and Home Depot—all the big box stores. With no distance between the two to create an illusion of separate “ecologies,” you can see directly how the mall is a giant leech sucking the life out of the town of Aberdeen.

I know the arguments of those who defend malls and chain stores. They say that people are free to spend their money however they please, and that the decisions they make are based on their own best interests. It’s the magic of the marketplace! But something that is truly good doesn’t leave a blighted landscape. It’s considered bad form to call into question the wisdom of “the people.” But the people are the object of expensive and cynical advertising campaigns designed to convince them to buy things they don’t need and aren’t good for them. We live in a culture that encourages instant gratification, ignores long-term effects, and mocks any idea that requires labor or a subtle view. Most of the money that the people spend in those stores leaves the local area for corporate headquarters. The image of the leech sitting right across the river, right on the vein, as it were, provides a material display of that reality.