I’m getting tired of this. I mean, I enjoy writing. That’s not quite right. I love putting my thoughts in your head. That really means a lot to me. The fact that you are reading this right now totally turns me on. I want to keep you coming back for more. That’s why I go to the trouble of writing an essay every week, and then spend three or four hours stealing pictures to illustrate it. I’m happy to share what I have to offer, free of charge, but it sure isn’t easy. Believe it or not, we have no free public wifi anywhere in SoHum. There’s no wifi at the library, none at the Garberville CR campus, neither the Mateel nor KMUD nor any of the county buildings offer an open router. In order to use public wifi, in SoHum, you have to get on a bus, bound for Eureka, which costs money. I’ve done it, but working on the bus makes me nauseous. That only leaves two cafes, in all of SoHum that offer wifi. One of them makes sadistically bad coffee, and requires patrons to spend $5 an hour. At the other, I linger much too long over coffee and a cookie, and try to avoid the owner’s hairy eyeball. The staff is great, and always make me feel welcome, but both places have loud music or TVs blaring, making concentration difficult at best. Neither are good places to work. I’m really sick of it. So Hum needs a public internet connection at least as much as we need a library or a post office. I can’t even pay the sales tax I owe, as a small business owner, without an internet connection. If the government is going to require me to use the internet to pay my taxes, they damn well better provide someplace where I can get online to do it. I’ve written to my Supervisor about it, repeatedly, to no avail. I’ve even pointed her in the direction of a federal grant program to provide broadband service to rural communities. Nothing. Meanwhile, our Board of Supervisors hands out a $16,000 subsidy to local ranchers, so they don’t have to pay the full cost of their hazardous materials inspections. Just a couple weeks ago it was $67,000 a year, for the next four years for subsidized pest control, through a notoriously inhumane and environmentally destructive agency known as Wildlife Services, again for ranchers, and other rich people living in country estates. Before that, they let developers off the hook for the costs of infrastructure to serve new subdivisions, another huge giveaway for land speculators and developers. Every week, at the Board of Supervisors meetings, all of their rich rancher and developer friends whine about how hard it is to make a living on 1,600 acres in Humboldt County and why they need more subsidies, and our Board of Supervisors practically weep in sympathy for them. Meanwhile 2,000 or more Humboldt County residents sleep outside, under bridges behind stores, or anywhere they can find because they have no place to live, and the Supes want them arrested. It’s sickening. Wifi at the fucking library, that’s all I ask. I know that the library is only open four days a week. I can deal with that. Just don’t make me sit in that goddamned cafe all day. I come to town once a week, and once a week, I have work to do online. Out where I live, internet access costs about as much as I pay in rent, and half of the year, I don’t even have the electricity to use it, so an internet connection at home is out of the question for me. Allegedly, this is the birthplace of the back-to-the-land movement (don’t get me started). These hills should be full of people like me, who live simply, close to the earth, without a lot of luxuries, who need to get online from time to time, just like they need to go to the post office once in a while. I know that a lot of people need a public wifi connection in town. I see them at the cafe. I see them try in vain at the library, and I hear them complain about it. I sympathize. It sucks. I know a lot of people say we need more sheriff’s deputies. That’s bullshit. The cops around here are violent, corrupt and out-of-control. The last thing we need is more of them. Local merchants who call the cops every time they see a group of people hanging out on the sidewalk don’t want more sheriff’s deputies, they want subsidized bouncers, so they can treat Garberville like their own private country club. Now our teary-eyed Board of Supes wants to play Santa Claus to them too, and they want ME to pay for it. They want YOU to pay for it too. They want to raise the sales tax, so that every time we buy anything in Humboldt County, Lee Ulansey’s cronies on the Board of Supervisors skim the cream to finance big giveaways for rich developers and welfare ranchers, not to mention fat pensions for overpaid, crooked cops. They call it Measure Z, and they’re hoping you’ll sleep through it. Don’t! Measure Z puts Humboldt County’s richest hands, into it’s poorest’s pockets. Measure Z would make homeless alcoholics pay for utility hookups in new McMansion devos. Measure Z would make HSU students pay for that guy who kills a hundred raccoons every year for no good reason. Measure Z would make me pay someone to harass my friends on the streets of Garberville. Sales tax is a regressive form of taxation that unfairly burdens the poor. The rich have internet access at home, and can order stuff online, avoiding sales tax altogether. A lot of rich people own businesses and can buy what they need wholesale, at Costco, tax free with their merchant ID number. Poor people pay retail prices, at local shops. Poor local people will pay most of that tax. Single mothers will pay it when they shop for back-to-school supplies for their kids. Working people will pay it when they buy work clothes, shoes, furniture, and appliances. Homeless people will pay it when they buy prepared food because they have no kitchen to cook in. This new proposed sales tax will help Humboldt County’s richest and greediest suck more blood from underpaid workers, overcharged tenants, and poor families just struggling to survive. Not only that, a new sales tax will turn Humboldt County into one of those special sales tax districts. I hate those special sales tax districts. Those fucking special sales tax districts make it that much harder and take that much longer, to file my taxes, which really pisses me off when I’m trying to do it in a fucking cafe on my third cup of guilt-coffee, with teenage techno beats pounding in my ears. Well Fuck You Very Much Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.
Tag Archives: Humboldt County
Ok, I’ve had a lot of fun with the whole situation in Garberville, and I think the levity was completely in order, but a lot of people are very frustrated with the situation, and they want SOLUTIONS. So, I’m here to help, seriously, but we don’t get to solutions without doing some analysis first, and that includes taking responsibility for the disastrous consequences of our consumptive middle-class lifestyle, and it means taking responsibility for economic policies that have kept wages low, while housing, health-care, fuel and other costs soared. I don’t care whether you voted for Reagan or not, if you want solutions, take responsibility, otherwise we can just play the blame game till we’re blue in the face.
The middle-class really needs to get over their Boomer era Populuxe expectations, especially the expectation that they will be surrounded by only middle-class people. We can’t all be middle-class, and really, not that many of us should be middle-class, ecologically speaking. It takes a lot of working-class people to support a single middle-class person, so we should expect to have many more working-class people than middle-class people. Get used to it folks, there are a lot of poor people around.
On the other hand, it shouldn’t suck so much to be poor. Ever since Reagan, we’ve had this attitude that we should punish and humiliate the poor as much as possible, so that we might thereby motivate them to work harder to become middle-class. In reality, punishing the poor drives down wages and keeps housing prices high for everyone. Seeing desperately poor people on the street makes middle-class people feel less secure, and the super-rich exploit that insecurity.
This is why grown adults with full-time jobs need a roommate to afford an apartment. This is why so many salaried employees put in 60 hour weeks to meet their work load. This is why fewer Americans than ever can afford their own home. This is why so many healthy able-bodied adults have decided that the jobs they can get don’t pay enough to be worth their time. That’s how the super-rich uses the dirt poor against the middle-class.
Look at where punishing the poor has gotten us. Still we have plenty of resentment to go around. We punish the crazy, because we don’t want halfway houses in our neighborhoods. We don’t want to see them and we don’t want to pay for them. We punish the addicted for their weakness. We punish the young and adventurous because they remind us of our lost youth and we punish the lost and confused because we just don’t have time for other people. We punish them all because we see them as blemishes on our middle-class dreams, but the ones we resent the most don’t have any excuse, do they?
I’m talking about the healthy young people who have decided that the jobs they can get, don’t pay well enough to be worth their time, and that their time is better spent learning to live without a job and without a home. More and more people are making that decision, not because it looks like an attractive option, but because it looks like a better option than any of their alternatives. They would rather sleep outside in the rain and scrounge for food then work themselves to death, and kiss ass all day for a rented room, a TV and enough beer to ease the pain. These people have resentments too. Just sayin’
We all like having someone to punish. It makes us feel better about how much we punish ourselves in this stupid economy. We punish the poor, because we want poor people to suffer more than we do in our struggle to be middle-class. The struggle to be middle-class sucks so much because being middle-class is a totally unsustainable lifestyle. It has nothing to do with the poor, except that every person now struggling to be middle-class makes the whole world poorer, and helps the super-rich enslave us all. That’s what middle-class people do. It’s nothing to be proud of.
Thanks to three decades of trickle-down economics, welfare reform, and the Great Recession our population of punishable people mushroomed. Despite the economic pressure, despite the social stigma and open hostility, they have learned to live outside of mainstream society, and there are now enough of them that they have their own society. The more they talk to each other, the more they identify with each other. The more they identify with each other, the more they support each other, and the more they support each other, the more insulated from, and immune to the punishments of, the mainstream culture they become. So, we become like the Israelis and the Palestinians, or like Black and White America, two segregated societies that hate each other, living in the same place.
This problem is not going away, and it’s never going to get better without compromise, leadership, foresight and understanding. Knowing this community as I do, that means it ain’t gonna happen, and instead, things will go from bad to worse. The whole situation is very revealing. Poor people can’t afford to conceal their ugliness, and having ugly poor people around brings out the ugliness of the middle-class. We now see just how ugly and dysfunctional American society has become. The situation is so pathetic that probably the best that will come from it was the small amount of humor, and insightful analysis I was able to glean from it for this blog.
But just imagine for a moment… What if we had some thoughtful, enlightened, cultural creatives among our local gentry? What could they do to make the situation better for everyone, and to make Garberville a much better place to live?
Right now the number one need in this community is housing. We need housing more than we need ball fields, schools, parks, roads or anything else. By ignoring that need, in favor of perks for the middle-class, like ball fields, concert venues or the town square, we provide adequate reason for the homeless to despise the gentry. Everything we do to relieve that pressure, will also reduce that hostility, and pay off in better life for everyone in Garberville.
SoHum prides itself as the heart of the “back to the land” movement, where once upon a time, people bought cheap land, and built their own homes without permits. The Boomers now make sure that no one ever gets a deal on land like they got, but a lot of people would still like to build their own tiny cabin, somewhere where a landlord won’t evict them, and the cops will not come tear it down.
If you’ve been to Oregon Country Fair you’ve no doubt noticed how harmoniously hippie architecture can blend into a natural environment. It doesn’t happen by accident. OCF has volunteer building inspectors that look for genuinely dangerous or particularly ugly structures, and cites them, but mostly, people can build what they want. A lot of people would really appreciate an opportunity to build their own little home, and would have a lot of motivation to make it work. Half Habitat for Humanity, half Oregon Country Fair, part campground, part tree-fort residential subdivision, entirely innovative, entirely SoHum, we could make it happen if only someone with some land around here actually gave a fuck.
Even without building a single other structure, we could probably solve our housing problem another way.
Right now, about half of this county’s available residential housing has been converted to indoor marijuana farms. Why are half of our residential houses full of marijuana plants, while thousands of people sleep outside? That’s insane. Every grow house is a crime against humanity, and a crime against nature, and if there is any role for the cops it should be to bust every indoor grow scene in Humboldt County.
Frankly, I don’t think the cops will be much help. Cops aren’t going to solve this problem. This is a “crumbling society” problem, not a “law and order” problem. If our social problems could be solved by a pin-headed red-neck with a gun, they’d have all been solved a long time ago. These problems were created by pin-headed red-necks with guns. We need unarmed hippie solutions, the kind we used to have when pot was cheap and it all came from Mexico, before we got greedy and decided we wanted to be middle-class.
The pressure should come from the community. We should hear PSAs on KMUD about how to recognize a grow house, how much damage to the environment comes from growing marijuana indoors, and especially about how many families go homeless because greedy drug dealers have taken over our residential neighborhoods. Homes are for people! Get the pot farms out of our residential neighborhoods. This isn’t just common sense, it’s common decency.
Another common sense, absolute desperate necessity is a reasonably priced campground with bathrooms and a coin-operated shower. State campgrounds charge $35 a night for camping, which is highway robbery (Fuck You, State of California!). That’s why you only find rich retirees camping at them anymore. The county charges $15 dollars a night for their campgrounds. That’s closer to reasonable. Reasonable does not mean, “competitive,” reasonable means a price that people will actually pay, rather than take their chances finding a place where they can crash for free.
We get a lot of budget conscious tourists who are resourceful enough that they don’t ever have to pay tourist prices for camping. Currently, the only people who welcome them are the homeless. If the townsfolk welcomed them with the kinds of services they need at a price they’re willing to spend, these tourists would not so quickly identify with, and become a part of the local subculture, and local entrepreneurs would make money from them. Again, this is just common sense.
Here’s something a little more ambitious, but desperately needed, an affordable, cannabis-therapy-based treatment and recovery camp. We all know people who have beat serious addictions to alcohol, narcotics, tobacco,cocaine or speed, by using cannabis. Decades of prohibition have deeply enmeshed cannabis users and growers alike into the black-market drug trade. A large part of the money that comes into this county, comes from individuals and organizations that deal in other, more addictive substances, along with Humboldt’s finest cannabis.
Addiction is a huge problem both among SoHum’s housed community as well as the unhoused. A very rustic, drug-free, cult-like, cannabis intensive retreat, built around a culture of recovery, mutual support, mutual-sufficiency and community service has enormous potential around here. We have the rustic. We have the addicts. All we need is one good Pot Doc with cult-leader aspirations. At the very least, it would help a lot of people quit hard drugs, take a lot of pressure off of the community, and do a lot of research on cannabis and addiction.
And while we’re dreaming…. Here’s another good idea: Economic diversity, and by that I mean, make space for tiny businesses, and local artists. Support them. Celebrate them, don’t just exploit them, or force them out of town.
Eureka and Arcata both have rocking Arts Alive nights every month. Garberville could do it too, but it would take planning, and some commitment to make it happen.
Now, I expect most of the people who own land around here to think: “Why should I do anything for them?” Here’s why: Doing all of these things helps to shrink that “problem population,” and it creates the illusion that people actually give a fuck about their fellow human beings. That makes it harder for people like me to make fun of the situation, and it gives people more options, which makes it harder to take sides. In reality, it’s a diabolical strategy designed to subdue insurgents. They call it Psy-Ops.
Every time you put someone in a home, you cut the homeless population by one. Every time you get an addict off of drugs and into a cult, your problem shrinks. Every time a tourist sees an entrepreneur bending over backwards to accommodate them, the less likely it is that they will camp with the homeless, get to know them and and decide to stick around. And of course, every artist who can count on reliable local work because someone at the C of C makes Arts Alive a priority, means one sarcastic critic with a sharp pen, has something better to do.
This vein is just too rich to ignore, so today I’m mining the irony of the whole sad situation in Garberville yet again. I realize that this situation has upset many people, and I think people should be upset. In fact, people should be outraged, just not at the poor, the young and the homeless. Instead, I think we should blame it on the Baby Boomers.
Never before have so many taken so much, and yet demanded so much more as the Baby Boomer generation, and it couldn’t be truer here in SoHum. Here in SoHum, a small community of Baby Boomers bought land here dirt cheap, and took advantage of the Drug War to turn enormous profits growing black-market marijuana. Today a small community of Baby Boomers still control most of the real estate in SoHum, and they make damn sure that no one ever gets a deal like they got. They supply half of the nation with marijuana, which turns people into hippies, but the money they got for it, turned them into yuppies. Now that they have become crotchety old geezers, what do we hear them complain about?
Hippies! The Baby Boomers in Garberville are complaining about hippies!
You know what folks, what goes around, comes around, and sometimes the karma runs over the dogma. You might not be old enough to remember this, but there was a time when there were even more scuzzy, smelly, obnoxious hippies around than there are today.
Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, you wouldn’t believe how many filthy, dirty fucked-up hippies there were. They were everywhere. They took every imaginable drug, meth, heroin, cocaine, LSD, PCP, Quaaludes and anything else they could get their hands on.
They freaked-out spectacularly. They fucked-up catastrophically, and they passed-out in their own vomit. Not only were they totally “in your face” everywhere you went, they had to have their loud music blaring all the time as accompaniment.
And talk about attitude. They treated the whole world as if it belonged to them, exclusively, right from the start. They rioted, for God’s sake, big raucous riots where they turned over police cars and set fire to buildings. They’d never shut-up and sit down at music concerts, and they’d never turn their music down anywhere else. They wore faded, ripped, shabby clothing and they never took a bath. They were disgusting, repulsive, and obnoxious, and they took over every park, square and sidewalk in the whole country.
They didn’t like how anyone else did anything. They wanted a revolution so they could do everything their way, and “their way” meant “at a party and on drugs,” and they thought that that made them cultural revolutionaries. To this day, SoHum Boomers still believe they can solve all of their problems at a party and on drugs.
To be fair, the boomers did change our culture. They changed us from a culture of stilted, stiff, sexually repressed, uptight consumerism into a culture of dumbed-down, hyper-sexualized, casual, convenient consumerism. Spirituality replaced religion. Positivity replaced compassion, and self-serving non-profit organizations replaced charities.
The War on Poverty became the War on Drugs because suddenly Americans hated hippies more than they feared black people. With cocaine, they turned a rich man’s drug into a poor mans drug and annihilated a generation of inner-city youth. With marijuana, they turned a poor man’s drug into a luxury only the rich could afford, and they made income discrimination more socially acceptable than racial discrimination.
Go ahead and ask any of our local Baby boomers about the 60’s and ’70s and they’ll tell you how long their hair used to be. They’ll tell you about all of the drugs they used to take and all of the crazy shit they used to do, and they’ll tell you it was the best time of their life. My how times change.
One thing hasn’t changed however, Baby Boomers thought they owned the whole world then, and they still think the whole fucking world belongs to them. Now that they’re all shriveled-up, they don’t think anyone else deserves the opportunity to be young and irresponsible, and no one else has the right to come here and make a home in the woods without giving them a quarter-of-a-million dollars first. I guess they’ve still got some lessons to learn because it’s their bad karma that keeps bringing more hippies to Garberville, and I don’t think anyone deserves them more.
I pretended the recent Town Hall Meeting called by Humboldt County 2nd District Supervisor Estrelle Fennell to appease local drug dealers and the businesses that cater to them, who are now upset about the lack of police presence in Southern Humboldt. Unlike many community meetings I’ve attended, at this meeting, my community really impressed me with their honesty, candor and eloquence. I would like to share the highlights, just so that lygsbtd readers get a sense of how this unique community works together to solve serious problems.
By way of background: For many years now, drug related murders, disappearances, violent crimes and home invasions have been a normal part of life here in Southern Humboldt County. At least half-a-dozen people have gone missing, under suspicious circumstances, this year alone, and too many of those crimes go unsolved, but a recent event has shocked this small, remote, rural community to it’s core, and sparked a wave of outrage.
On the night of May10, 2014, an 18 year old kid from Fortuna, broke into a local head-shop and stole some bongs. As hideous as this crime is to contemplate, a skinny teenager, shimmying under the security door of a head-shop in the far back corner of an industrial park on the outskirts of town, one fact in the case horrified the community even more.
It seems that the perpetrator’s initial intrusion triggered an automatic alarm system that notified the Sheriff’s Department, but no deputies were ever dispatched to investigate the break in. Obviously noting the lack of response, the intruder went back into the store a second and third time, stealing more bongs, and leaving fingerprints as well as his image recorded on surveillance video. All together, the kid stole about $3,500 worth of overpriced dope smoking toys, which were then recovered when the kid was apprehended.
As you can understand, even though SoHum owes most of it’s prosperity to the fact that there are no cops here, this event has outraged this community. The idea of a young person, with a wanton disregard for private property, coming to SoHum and stealing from a community of underworld gangsters and drug kingpins, is terrifying enough, but the fact that the Sheriff didn’t send an officer two hours out of his way, to investigate a call from a machine, has suddenly made people feel unsafe in their own homes.
Facing a barrage of criticism, 2nd district Supervisor Estrelle Fennell called the meeting, and dragged Humboldt County Sheriff Morton Downey along, to face a gymnasium packed with angry drug dealers eager to vent their spleen.
Supervisor Fennell opened the meeting with an eloquent statement that summed up the situation beautifully. I think I can recall it verbatim:
“For two or three generations now, politicians, law enforcement and underworld criminals have worked together to perpetrate the most heinous crime against humanity to take place in North America since slavery and the genocide of the American Indians. Over the last four decades, the War on Drugs has decimated cities all over America and destroyed tens of millions of American lives.” Supervisor Fennell began.
“And it’s not like this community has been immune to the terrible consequences of these misguided policies” she continued, adding, “This community has lost lots of wonderful people, and our children are forever scarred by the trauma of the War on Drugs. Still, overall, here in Humboldt County, by working together with law enforcement, we’ve managed to turn America’s catastrophe into our little pot of gold.”
“Whether you make your living in law enforcement, as part of the prison industrial complex, in the black market as part of our vibrant marijuana industry, or in the white market, selling stuff that drug dealers want and need, we should all remember that if it weren’t for America’s tragic War on Drugs, we’d all be working at an Applebee’s somewhere.”
“Today we see that the whole country is falling apart, yet we have money, land and expensive toys. To deal with this new crisis, we need to work together with law enforcement in a new way, to keep America’s disaffected youth from coming to Southern Humboldt and attempting to reclaim their stolen future.” Supervisor Estrelle Fennell concluded, finishing with: “Now I’d like to turn the meeting over to Humboldt County Sheriff Morton Downey to talk about some of the steps the Sheriff’s Department is taking to address this new crisis.”
Next, Sheriff Morton Downey took the stage, and I liked what he had to say too.
“Thank you Supervisor Fennell. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to so many of you this evening. I realize that these are challenging times for all of us. We face budget cutbacks. You face falling marijuana prices, and we’re all facing a generation of angry kids with no money, no place to live and no future. They’re hungry, they haven’t slept well and they’re pissed off. If they weren’t so fucked up on drugs they’d probably slit our throats while we slept, so we in law enforcement do appreciate the effort that you, in the black market, have invested in reaching America’s youth.”
“We know that people hate us and the War on Drugs has given them plenty of good reasons, so we take steps to deal with the threat. Look at us! We don’t go anywhere without a flack jacket and a loaded gun, and if anyone looks at us funny, we pump them full of lead. You’d be surprised at how much more secure you feel when you’ve got a good quality Kevlar vest on and pistol on your hip”
“You guys have got guns! You know how to use ‘em!” Sheriff Downey said emphatically, adding, “I see a couple of murderers here tonight. Hey, a deal is a deal, but we get calls from bereft family members every day.
They want to know what we are doing to find their missing family member. How do you think it looks to those grieving parents when I tell them that we’re short staffed, and there’s nothing more we can do to find their missing son or daughter, and then we put out a county-wide dragnet to find a teenager with a stolen bong? Don’t you see how this puts us in a very awkward position?”
“I don’t mean to be unsympathetic, but I thought we had a deal: we leave you alone, and you don’t complain about it. Well, we’ve left you alone, and now you’re making a big stink about a silly little burglary. Burglaries like this happen every day in Eureka, despite the fact that they have their own police force, and some of the most violent cops in California.
Cops don’t prevent crime; cops create crime. The sooner you realize that, the better.”
“We’re always happy to work with the community, but we do face budget constraints, and after dealing with Gary Lee Bullock, we’d just as soon let you guys kill each other down here as haul your ass up to Eureka. I know you guys are always complaining about the transients and the homeless and the people from out of town, but every time something really tragic happens around here, it always turns out that your kids are responsible. Keep it in the family, folks, and thank your lucky stars that there aren’t more cops around.”
After that, Supervisor Fennell opened the floor for questions, and local community members really had a lot to say, but I’m afraid that it will have to wait. Tune in to lygsbtd next week for the thrilling conclusion to the Town Hall Meeting held in Redway, last Thursday.
We have a lot of free newspapers and magazines around here, and most of them are hardly worth the cover price. I pick up the North Coast Journal because they cover local arts, barely, but at least you can open the NCJ and read about a local artist, see who’s playing this week, and who is showing where for Arts Alive.
Lately, the NCJ seems to have undergone a complete talentectomy, and now appears to be written entirely by interns with the aid of the janitorial staff, so I find that fewer and fewer features in the NCJ get past my “dreck” filter.
I didn’t notice Thadeus Greenson’s piece until I was getting ready to recycle it, and I should have just sent it to the shredder, but it pissed me off that this guy would compare medical marijuana patients, sick people who need medicine, to oil company executives bent on destroying the earth to satisfy their pathological greed.
Anyway, the following letter appears in the latest edition of the NCJ
I just stumbled across Thadeus Greenson’s piece Behind the Brown Act in the May 8 edition of the NCJ. In that piece, Thadeus Greeenson compares local citizens, upset about a proposed ordinance that would prohibit them from growing their own medicine, to oil company executives bent on fracking.
In an effort to match this level of hyperbole I ask: “What If homeowners in Willow Creek were complaining about Jews, and the distinctive smell of gefilte fish, not to mention the impacts of visible Mezuzahs and Menorahs? Would the county be considering an ordinance to treat Jews like any other destructive, polluting and extractive industry?”
The ordinance in question would prohibit private citizens, living in residential neighborhoods, from producing the medicine they need. These people didn’t ask to get glaucoma, cancer, epilepsy or any number of other serious conditions. If the county won’t provide these people with free medical marijuana, the county should, at least, not bother patients who grow their own medicine, in their own yard, regardless of size.
Whether it’s lawn mower exhaust, toxic fumes from dryer vents, smoky barbecue grills, or trucks left idling in the driveway, suburban residents constantly assault each other with foul smelling clouds of toxic gas. If medical marijuana patients have to put up with their neighbor’s leaf blowers and dryer fumes, those neighbors can also tolerate the non-toxic smell of marijuana.
To stop medical marijuana patients from growing more than they need, and diverting the surplus into the black market, the obvious solution is complete legalization. Until then, we should understand why anyone involved with marijuana in any way, would be very cautious about revealing their identity, considering the long history of government persecution that marijuana users have endured, and the social prejudice against them that remains.
I hope you caught my performance in the belly dance tent on Saturday night at the Mateel’s Summer Arts and Music Festival, the weekend before last. With my partner Amy Gustin on Theremin, Patrick, who I just met earlier that day, and don’t even know his last name yet, on Djembe, and Yours Truly on electric didgeridoo, we rocked that belly dance tent! Didn’t we?
As a didgeridoo player, I often find myself playing at herb shops, tea houses and yoga retreats. I don’t get to play through a bumpin’ stereo PA, for drunk people who want to dance, nearly often enough. That was a real treat. I am grateful to the Mateel Community Center for giving me that opportunity.
The Mateel treated us really well, all weekend. The Mateel knows how to treat musicians, and they treated us right. We had a great time at the event. I especially appreciate the talent coordinator, who booked us to play both in the belly dance tent, after dark, and on the kids stage, early in the day. It’s hard to know what to do with a didgeridoo player, but they gave us a broad opportunity to connect with an audience.
We were a little surprised to discover that we were booked to perform The Big Picture on The Youth Stage, sandwiched between two clowns, and a puppet show. I’m not complaining, or even poking fun here. I appreciate the gig. It’s just that we never thought of The Big Picture as children’s entertainment.
We don’t have children ourselves, or even like them much. Entertaining children is just not something we think about. I enjoy living an R rated life. I prefer not to check my language, limit the scope of my humor, or refrain from abusing drugs, so most people know better than to let their kids anywhere near me.
As a musician, I consider it my role in life to encourage people to ingest mind-altering substances, and then to make them glad they did. I consider it noble work and I take it seriously, but even I understand that recreational drug use is not appropriate for small children.
Amy conceived of The Big Picture for her Sunday morning radio show, The Living Earth Connection which airs on KMUD at 9:30 AM on the fifth Sunday of the month. Amy’s show is usually quite intellectual, and requires a bit of concentration. It’s probably over the heads of half of the adults around here, let alone the children.
We got the idea of blending my psychedelic druggie space noise didgeridoo music, with her thought provoking ideas, after listening to one of our favorite albums: Albedo 0.39 by Vangelis. Specifically the final song on the album, coincidentally also titled Albedo 0.39.
For this song, Vangelis found a clever way of adding a vocal track to his, otherwise instrumental, synthesizer music, without having to write lyrics. On Albedo 0.39, we hear a soft spoken English gentleman, with a sonorous voice and excellent diction, recite a list of statistics about Planet Earth. These include the length of the day and year according to two different measurements, the Earth’s mass, density, diameter, distance from the sun, speed, escape velocity, etc, concluding with “Albedo 0.39.”
Albedo is the percentage of light striking a non-luminous object that gets reflected back out into space. The Earth’s albedo is 0.39, or at least it was in 1973, when Albedo 0.39 came out. In other words, 39% of the sunlight that strikes the Earth, gets reflected back out into space. With the poles melting, and the Asian Brown Cloud spreading, the Earth’s albedo may have changed in the intervening years.
Swirling around this vocal track, we hear one of Vangelis’ trippiest analog synthesizer soundscapes. I always liked that piece because it makes you glad that you got good and high before you listened to it, and even though you were totally wasted, you still learned something.
We assume that most KMUD listeners are already baked at 9:30AM on Sunday morning. We thought we might try the same approach with the radio show. We would combine something over your head, with something for your head. That was the inspiration for The Big Picture.
We thought it came out pretty well, and the audience let us know that they liked it, so we decided to take it on the road, and to perform it live. That’s how we found ourselves on The Youth Stage at Summer Arts and Music Festival, performing a piece designed for KMUD’s wake-and-bake listeners, to small children who were not stoned. I learned a lot about children’s entertainment that weekend, and I got to witness some great performances by some really talented artists:
A OK The Clown devised a great interactive game that illustrates the problem of Global Climate Change. Riding a very tall unicycle, AOK pretended to be the atmosphere, while a circle of eager children surrounding him, pelted him with rubber balls, pompoms and hula hoops that symbolized the smoke, smog, and other airborne pollution that contribute to Global Climate Change. Frantically pedaling his unicycle, A OK endured a relentless shitstorm of hurled objects that brilliantly symbolized the assault on nature waged by industrial society.
Following A OK, came Mickey The Clown, an old school circus clown who was as kindly and gentle as he was entertaining. Mickey had a great song about suburban sprawl and habitat loss, told from the perspective of a frog named Freako. Freako the Frog was so catchy that I still can’t get it our of my head.
Then came our drugged out head trip, The Big Picture, with Theremin solos. After us, the Kinetic Paranormal Society Puppet Troupe took the stage. This very talented puppet troupe included a band, great puppets and terrific voice actors. Their, very funny, production also had an environmental message as well, but we never heard the end of it because we had to go get lunch before they shut down the kitchen.
Environmental education seemed to be the overarching theme of all of the acts that performed on The Youth Stage, including The Big Picture. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I think it’s great that clowns and puppets are educating children about environmental issues while their parents are getting smashed on overpriced beer.
On the other hand, I think, “Can’t a kid throw stuff at a clown without turning it into some kind of learning experience?” Today’s children are going to have to deal with the consequences of environmental crises, that they had no part in creating, for the rest of their lives. Do they really need to be lectured about it by a sock puppet when they are four years old? The parents need lectures not the kids.
That’s why we created The Big Picture, to lecture adults about what a fucking mess they’ve made of the planet, and where we went wrong as a society. It’s a tough message, but it’s easier to take when you’re stoned. I don’t know what the kids thought of us.
I don’t really see how you can educate kids about the environment without implicating their parents. If kids today knew how stupid, crazy and wrong their parents were, and how much damage they’ve already done to the planet, those kids would run screaming back to their mother, claw their way back up her vagina and into the womb with the admonition “Fuck you! You stupid, selfish, irresponsible idiot! Now quit fucking around and clean up this mess, and I am not coming out until you do!”
That’s what happens to kids who spend any time at all around me, before long they cuss like sailors and hate their parents. We’re happy to perform The Big Picture for birthday parties, and children’s events of all kinds, for children of all ages. You provide the drugs.