Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother


38 years on this mountain, come May 31st...



Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby


Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Smell A Rat

I Smell A Rat

A wise person once advised me to never talk politics or religion with loved ones because they would not stay loved ones long. It is therefore with great trepidation that I wade into the murky waters of the political arena, boxing gloves on, to accuse Dick Cheney of treason, and write about it.

In case you have never attempted it, writing with boxing gloves on is fiendishly challenging to do, but when I hear of atrocities performed by wealthy men, in the name of capitalism, and profits made on the backs of veterans, men and women who shouldered the burden of enriching the coffers of Halliburton, I feel I have a responsibility to share my views.

I do participate in the election process, having voted in every election since I filled out my absentee ballot the first year I was eligible in 1972, from 7,000 miles away in The Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea. The 26th Amendment was passed on March 23, 1971, lowering the voting age to eighteen and I was drafted nine months later at age nineteen, the last year a draft was ever held.

In case there is any confusion, had I any choice in the matter, I would never have gone into the service. The notion repulsed me at the time and that view has never wavered. If I had possessed the necessary cajones to have avoided it, I would have fled to Canada.

I took the path of least resistance, and subjected myself to the total control of a system run by individuals who had not the least interest in my well-being. I was simply an instrument of control, educated in the art of killing.

Of course, we were taught all of the tactics employed during WWII, which the drill sergeants assured us would do us no good in Vietnam, but what’s new with that? Soldiers do not question why; there’s is but to do and die.

I mention this simply because I have earned the right to speak about my country’s status, without being lambasted by individuals who have not paid their dues. By paying their dues, I mean that they have not donated a two-year chunk of their lives, with an additional four years of having a dagger hanging over one’s head. 

This dagger came in the form of inactive duty, with the caveat being that until a total six years was up, I was subject to the whim of the US Government. If that’s six years more than you have logged in, then the best you can do in contesting what I am saying, is to state your piece and withdraw.

I respect all opinions, of course, and would never think less of someone for disagreeing with me. I simply will not expend the energy to argue my point if we are not on the same plane. You are welcome to have and state your opinion, and I am welcome to state mine.

Here’s my rant:

Succinctly, the third definition of the word “treason” at is the betrayal of a trust or confidence, breach of faith, or treachery. I posted a classic face/book blurb yesterday which stated, “I hereby nominate Dick Cheney and Halliburton to pay the unemployment benefits of the 285,000 veterans that the GOP has turned their (sic) backs on, from the 39.5 billion dollars the company made from the Iraq War.”

It was a simple black and white post, with red letters across the bottom imploring those in favor to say, “Aye.” I cannot verify the numbers; I have no idea how many veterans were involved, and how much plunder was racked up in the coffers of the perpetrators, but I know a rat when I smell it, and the stench is deafening.

I am repulsed, I am angry and I am ashamed. I demand that men and women who first donated their time (no draftees, these people), their energy and their lives to a superficial entity such as Halliburton, and then were shunted aside, be compensated out of the profits of this immoral capitalist enterprise.

I demand that those responsible for a scandal so gratuitously self-centered as to defy comprehension ($39.5 billion with a b), be held accountable for their insidious actions. These soulless vessels have betrayed the American public, besmirched our country’s reputation, filled their pockets so full with gold that it can’t be concealed any longer, and then they defiled my brothers and sisters who served as nothing more than lackeys.

Contemporarily speaking, our vets served as Halliburton’s bitches.

I cannot put it any more crudely than that and that is exactly my point. Crudeness begets crudeness, and I have lowered myself to the same level as Dick Cheney because I think to do anything else is to never get his attention. 

People like Cheney do not have the capacity to see anything but the sides of the cavernous cement septic tank in which they dwell. They have no concept of what it means to live outside that impenetrable concrete vault that houses them and their greed. 

The rest of us, the 99% of us, have no concept of what it is like to live in a septic tank and we don’t want to learn.

We just want to see a modicum of accountability for those who violate the principles upon which our country was founded, and who trample over others with impunity.

We want to see Dick Cheney brought to justice.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mr. Farmer

Mr. Farmer

When I was younger, I worried a great deal about what people thought of me, a characteristic instilled in me by my sainted mother. During the sixteen years I taught in the Laytonville School District, Annie and I certainly felt the fishbowl effect, any time we ventured out in public.

Pop into Video Outreach for weekend entertainment on a Friday afternoon? Only if you are ready to have at least two impromptu parent/teacher conferences as you try to select a film that, you know, wouldn’t raise any eyebrows of the other patrons of the store.

Oh, good Buddha. Gertrude’s mother is in the parking lot and I think she’s heading this way. Time to shift into Plan B or we’ll be here all night...

Or how about the quip both Annie and I overheard in Geiger’s one Friday afternoon, by none other than one of the labor force of the shop? Upon observing that we had included amongst the smattering of groceries deemed imperative to survive the weekend, a six-pack of MGD, this staunch paragon of virtue noted archly, 

“Hmmph. That’s nothing. Usually it’s a twelve-pack.”

Well, I’m glad we’re keeping track. Be sure and file your observations with the Mendocino County observer. Besides, if we weren’t so f**king poor, it WOULD be a twelve-pack...

For most of my career, I had little connection with cannabis, simply because I was not growing and had no loot for frivolities. When Casey waltzed off the Pacific U up near Portland, things perked up. 

The day he departed, our relationship took a significant step forward, with me accepting Casey as the adult he was. Therefore, with that new-found status, I also accepted the fact the he embraced cannabis of his own free will, the same as I had at approximately the same age. I was a senior in high school, seventeen years old, when I began my lifelong affair with the sacred herb.

The apple don’t fall far from the tree...

I didn’t know it then, though it became much clearer when I began to teach in the District, but I have had a mood spectrum disorder all my life, which emerges in the form of a benevolent mania. I go at full-speed 24/7, my mind racing so far ahead of my 62-year-old frame, it’s ridiculous. It’s like the race between the turtle and the hare, only it turns out as expected-every time.

The hare leaves the turtle in the dust, just as my brain leaves my body in a heap. With only four or five hours of sleep per night, my mind on a hamster track, my body can only sigh and try to keep up. 

I use cannabis to try and corner that skittish beast of a brain, and it helps reduce my mania from hurricane-like symptoms to simply overcast with a chance of rain. A bong rip soothes the white-water-crested waves surging about in the narrow confines of my little BB-sized brain.

I’m sorry if I do not meet the standards that you feel I should possess, but I’m not really that sorry...

When I started growing my own medicine after I retired, I still worried incessantly that there would be many who disapproved of my actions, though why I cared is still hard to pin down. As I alluded to earlier, it is a trait that I attribute to Pauline, a product of an earlier era in which reputation was of paramount importance.

I personally ascribe to a philosophy handed down from above by the Divine Bette Midler, who once stated quite eloquently, “F**k ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”

It took just seven sessions of therapy to remove my lifelong panic attack disorder, and along with it went any desire on my part to meet up to others’ expectations.

Not any more.

I have revealed much of this in the recently-complete series on Reggae on the River, but I want to climb one more rung on the ladder to my own emancipation from the criticism of others: I am proud to grow the ganja.

As with any farming endeavor, the amount of work is overwhelming, unless you are quite passionate about what you are doing. It is no secret that here on the farm, we take great pride in growing organic produce and medicinal cannabis for our community. By us, I mean the younger generation.

I do not move dirt any longer, nor till the soil with my hands. I do not even enter the picture until the girls have been in the ground for a month or so, and I can start the trellising, a three-month-plus process that never really ends until Harvest. Even at that the lads still pound the four, ten-ft-high corner t-posts in place, because I can no longer pound much of anything into the ground, except maybe a pitchfork into loose soil.

However, what I lack in quantity, I make up for in quality, and my girls are healthy, happy and burgeoning. I no longer worry that I will be perceived as some kind of degenerate hippie who “grows his own pot.”

“Now Mr. Farmer 
Please fill the earth with some good marijuana
I ned ya medicine, this herbal dr.
Now burn it up for me.
Blaze up your medicine, and it’s just fine...”

The lyrics of "Farmer" haunt me with their power.

Now, suppose one of my favorite artists on the planet just played at ROTR, 2015, and I did not know about it, though I have been perusing the lineup since last February, when I found out Stephen Marley would be there. How is that possible?

It goes like this: I recently got introduced to Fortunate Youth through Pandora, thumbing-up every one of their songs, including Mr Farmer. By recently, I mean just within the last couple of months. When I first started planning for ROTR, I did not recognize any of the artists in Thursday’s lineup, so I mentally scratched Thursday off the agenda, and focused on Friday through Sunday.

Imagine my shock-and chagrin-when I mentioned my affinity for Fortunate Youth recently to Conner, who looked confused.

“So...did you just see them?” knowing pretty well that I had not been in attendance at ROTR on Thursday.

Now it was my turn to look confused. “Where might I have seen them?”

Oh, No. Now I know where I might have seen them.

In the time it took to ask the question, the blind became enlightened, and I felt as though I had been socked in the gut. Sucker-punched by poor Conner, who probably thought I had finally slipped my mooring.

In any case I have recovered well and am pushing ever onward and upward, no pun intended. I will continue to take pride in producing that which provides such stellar relief from my own regimen of mental idiosyncrasies, as well as those of others.

Mr. Farmer say please
You grow it for the doctor
It seems they need relief.

Oh Farmer, say please, You grow it for the nation
To put their minds at ease.”

And I am proud to say that I do indeed grow it “to put their minds at ease.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Conclusion: Yikes!

If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.  However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment. 

Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.

#21: The Conclusion: Yikes!
I have never been incarcerated, unless you want to count the 21 months and three days I spent in the US Army, which I guarantee you, I did count for about forty years or so because I got drafted. I got over it, though, and now I have free VA health insurance.

Why are we talking about jail? I mentioned in yesterday’s post, “Uncle,” that we had two chores to perform on the Tuesday following the end of Reggae on the River, 2015, that required strong backs and weak brains. 

The first was to break down the two kitchens, including returning the mammoth Wolf stove/oven back to the Mateel Community Center in Redway, and the second was to haul the leftover supplies from the kitchens, to the base camp for the firefighters battling local wildfires. 

Unlike the Herculean job that moving the stove a week ago had been, today it was a breeze. Nine guys and one old jaboney scurrying around looking incredibly industrious made short work of it. If only I had had a clipboard.

These guys need me like they need powdery mildew and I’m a lot more willing to stay out of their hair, if it means I do not have to try and help move the aircraft carrier anchor.

Someone had a clipboard when it came to sorting through the huge refrigerated storage trailer, separating out what was to be donated to the firefighters, from what had other destinations, unknown to me. I only knew that by the time we had loaded up two trucks and a trailer with food, and a third truck with two pallets of cases of bottled water, there was a lot of quality free supplies being laid on the firefighters.

A funny thing happened to me and Casey, though, as we caravanned our way up to Redway, and pulled into the base camp. Instead of a welcoming CalFire insignia, the sign read, somewhat frostily in the August heat, “California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Facility.” 

Oh boy. How fun for us, though I can’t imagine anyone giving us the remotest of hard times. Famous last words and all, you know.

“Everything good under the hood?” I asked Casey, who shrugged and remained noncommittal. We followed Nate until he pulled up in front of a low, wide structure, which had a long concrete sidewalk running the length of it, to facilitate just such deliveries, I imagined.

An inmate, dressed in one of those fashionable orange jumpsuits, operated a forklift which then transported the pallets of supplies over to the front of the low building. There the pallets awaited the next step, certain to come soon because it was well over ninety degrees in that parking lot, and most everything had come out of the refrigeration unit in French’s Camp.

I had been asked by kitchen director Melody to take some pics of the whole happy transaction, hopefully with lots of personnel dressed in blue, beaming and shaking hands, gracious in their appreciation not only for the valuable supplies, but for those of us hardy enough to deliver it.

She asked the right guy at the right time and I was endeavoring to carry out her instructions, focusing on the two pallets of just-unloaded bottled water, and taking a couple photos from different angles. Out of the corner of the lens, I saw what had to be a bigwig making his way in our [my] direction, even as I included him in one of my renowned photographs.

There you go. He couldn’t help but notice that I got him in that last pic. He’ll love it. These honchos always do.

I guess he knew a good thing because he headed straight for me, apparently intent on thanking me for my work.

“Hey YOU!” and there could be no doubt as to whom he was addressing.


Here’s your sign.

He had stormed right up to me, almost landing right on top of my sandals with the toes of his polished wingtips. The way he said “photographs” he may as well have been asking if I was dropping a deuce.

That happy, huh?

Without waiting for a response from me, he asked another toughie.

“What the f**k are you doing taking pics of my correctional facility?” His nostrils flared in three-part harmony to his strident voice.

Fighting the impulse to say something mature like, “Be careful or we’ll take our food back,” I said instead, “I vass only following ze orders, Herr Commandant!” while snapping off a Heil Hitler at him.

Fine, what I actually said was, “Someone asked me to,” and waited for the inevitable backhand across the face.

“You are in a California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation Facility,” he intoned, obviously more impressed than I. “You cannot take photographs in a California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation facility.”

Really? I can’t? Well, someone has been snapping pics left and right for five minutes now, but not anyone I know...

“I was unaware that there were restrictions, your Honor. I was merely carrying out the request of the benevolent proprietor of the facility which kindly donated all of this food.”

“Damn right there are RESTRICTIONS. The next thing I know you’ll be posting pics on Face/Book.”

He’s not as stupid as he looks.

Now I had him. “Excuse me? Do I LOOK like the kind of individual who posts s**t on Face/Book?” Now it was my turn to draw out the word Face/Book as though it were some two-day-old vomit, just recovered from ROTR, as I stroked my musteard, extending almost down past my nipples, were they visible.

“You got me there,” he said and almost cracked a grin.

“Look,” I pressed on because I thought I had the advantage. “I was asked to take the pics, you’ve made it clear that it was not OK, I got the message, and we’re good.”

“Well, we better be good,” he went on victoriously, “Now put that camera away and don’t let me see it again.”

No problem General, Sir, just as soon as I post the one of your smiling face...on Face/Book, while tagging Jerry Brown.

I mean, I got it. There were rules and were any of the pics to end up in the wrong place, someone could come after Herr Commandant. I should have felt something more than I did. When all was said and done, he had reamed me a new one, and all I had done was stand there and take it.

On the flip side, he had to come back tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, and I would not be back for another year, after ROTR, 2016 was completed, and I was helping to distribute leftovers to the firefighters.

Next year I would know not to bring my camera.

If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.

If you want to go a little more in depth, then you have job security, all twenty-one installments.

Great Success!

Sunday, August 23, 2015


If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.  However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment. 

Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.

#20: Uncle

The End, except it wasn’t over. Reggae on the River, 2015, may have been finished, but we still had to return on Tuesday to break everything down. I wasn’t sure how everyone else felt about having to do this, but I was all about it. For one thing I was determined to stitch my name a little more broadly across the fabric that represented ROTR, and the best way to do that was to volunteer my time.

I would walk through a bed of hot coals to be able to duplicate next year, what I just experienced this past weekend, especially since there are going to be about ten of us to get ‘er done.

There were two main tasks to be accomplished on this, the final day of our participation: breaking down the two kitchens, and transporting a couple of tons of fresh supplies and water to the base camp for the firefighters combatting wildfires in the immediate area.

Casey and I truck-pooled back up to French’s Camp, though I was going to be retrieving my own truck from the Tosh Lot, and driving it home when the day was done. As we approached the main entrance, the inevitable volunteer was there to check wristbands, and we thrust our arms up into the air so that we could be waved on.

“Happy Reggae, Uncle,” Casey greeted him enthusiastically.

“Mornin’! You guys don’t have the right bands; where you headin’?”

“Kitchen breakdown crew,” Casey responded. “We’ll be going in and out of here all day.”

“Yeah, fine, but let me see if I can find the right wristbands so no one gives you a hard time.” He was Native and getting along in years, his long black hair tinged with gray, hanging down his shoulders, beneath his bright yellow construction helmet. He had a mustache that drooped down past the corners of his mouth, and the overall effect was to make him appear perpetually melancholy.

It just can’t be that much fun to stand out here in the heat and the dust for hours at a time. But it’s what the volunteers get paid the big bucks to do.

As he rummaged through a paper sack, looking for the correct bracelets, Casey inquired of him, “And how is your morning going, on this fine day in Paradise?”

“It’s going good, except the guy said he was going to bring me some food. That was over an hour ago and I’m hungry.”

Casey sympathized with him, saying, “No doubt. It’s hard to be happy in your work when you’re out of fuel. Here, you want sone chips?” 

He offered Uncle some of his vinegar potato chips, while at the same time I showed him the can of salted peanuts I was eating and the Baby Ruth candy bar that was on the seat beside me, but he shook his head gravely.

Sending us a lopsided grin out of a mouth that featured only a few straggling members of the original ivory lineup, he wagged his head again, intoning sadly that he was not able to chew anything hard. 

“Hard times, Uncle,” said Casey, no pun intended, I am certain. “Sure hope you get some grub soon,” and having gotten at least one wrist band, we proceeded on our way.

I hate it when I’m hungry and there is no end in sight. On the other hand, when you get to our age, you gotta plan ahead.

I felt worse for the old dude than I should have, and something kept nudging at back of my cabbage-brain, making me feel as though I were not seeing the whole picture. We cruised along towards our arena, taking in the mountains of garbage now formed at rhythmic intervals along the route, and pulled up alongside the open cement slab.

I got out of the truck and as I did so, I flashed on the little ice chest in the bed of the truck that Annie had packed and sent with us, and it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. We had six burritos that my sweetest of Apple Blossoms had assembled this morning, using some ground chicken, some left-over Spanish rice, and a whole slew of accompanying delicacies that made each of the wraps a veritable gold mine of deliciousness. 

You got something the other guy don’t got, you chair, Man...

Her intent was that any and all farm hands have something to munch on when the time came, so that included me, Lito, Conner and Rosemary, who was there but in a different part of the site. My intent was to hook Uncle up with one of those bad boys, simply because I could.

I saw that the lads had gathered in the center of the kitchen, and were conducting serious discussions about the machinations of our task. Also in attendance and being heavily utilized, was Casey’s bong.

I went over to the group and addressed Lito and Casey.

“Hey, can I borrow a truck real quick? I want to run one of our burritos out to Uncle at the gate. He’s experiencing technical difficulties ‘cause no one has brought him anything to eat.

“Sure, no problem,” replied Lito, handing me over the key to his truck. After getting a crash course on how to unlock a vehicle via the key (I know, I know) I double-timed out to his truck and got ready to unlock it when I realized I had walked halfway already to my ultimate destination.
I’m almost there already. Sit tight, Truck. You’re off the hook.

Uncle saw me coming from a ways off and by the time I was walking up to him, had connected me to the truck that had come through a few minutes earlier. He made a vague attempt to once more find a second wristband, because he figured that’s why I was there.

“It’s all good, Uncle. Here, I brought you one of Annie’s burritos,” as though he and Annie had been friends for years. “It’s soft, you see, so you can chew it.”

The light went on in the porch of his mind, and his face lit up like the stage when Collie Buddz came on.

“Oh! Let me see if I can find that wristband,” and he tripled his efforts to find the elusive strip of plastic.

“Uncle, no. I don’t need no band, but you need to eat this. Here, I’ll see you in a while when we take the stove to Redway,” and I left him, feeling the same glow that I had been experiencing all weekend.

It felt good to extend that glow a little while longer.

Tomorrow: California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation facility, Redway, California

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Not Enough Room in the Box

If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.  However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment. 

Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.

#19: Not Enough Room in the Box
The forty-minute ride home Sunday night from Reggae on the River 2015, for Casey and me, was a contrast from the vibrancy of Albarosie’s finale on stage, but we had formed a plan and we stuck to it. Farm responsibilities take a backseat to nothing and ROTR was no exception.

One thing was certain: I didn’t have to get up early in the AM, to pick and distribute the CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) shares, so I kept my trap shut. We were told afterwards that the show got better as it progressed, and that we had really missed out, but the reality is that both Casey and I felt that we had gotten our money’s worth.

I owe a lot to Casey for being clear that he would make sure I had plenty of support, without putting me in the position of feeling that I had no choice. Buddha knows, I do not respond well to being placed in a corner with no choice. 

“I’m having a hard time internalizing the whole experience,” I began, as we cruised along deserted Highway 101, both of us basking in the glow of the entire experience. 

Even an awkward moment at the very end, as we hustled down the hill of the bowl from the area behind the Beer Garden, and prepared to exit at a gate which would have been the most direct route back to camp, did not deflate our exultation.

After my last-second reunion with Shane, Sir Andrew Aguecheek from Twelfth Night in middle school, which got me even further pumped up as Casey and I were slipping out the back, I was stoked. 

This particular entry/exit point was about fifteen feet wide, enough to accommodate the hordes of revelers which flowed in and out of the venue, as artists came and went on stage. At this point in time, with Albarosie being in full swing, the entire throughway was deserted. We naturally swung to the right and headed at a fast pace out the exit.

“Hold up!” rang out the heavily-accented authoritarian voice. “This is not an exit. You will have to go around.”

Of course it’s not an exit...not until Albarosie is finished playing, But just look at all of these thousands of eager fans, jamming this entrance! Not. Why do you have to be such a dick? Oh well. I don’t have it in me to create one negative instant. I headed down the bowl.

I sensed, rather than saw, Casey’s irritation, simply because the detour added an extra five or so, hustling minutes to our exit plan. However, from resources deep within, he mustered up enough intestinal fortitude to simply shrug his shoulders and follow my rapidly-disappearing back, and we double-timed our way along the now-familiar route back to camp.

There we grabbed the last of the stuff we were taking home, while leaving tents and sleeping bags, et al behind, to be retrieved on Tuesday, and headed to the truck. We would be coming back to break it all down and return French’s Camp to its native appearance, as soon as Monday Market was out of the way.

Farm first, frivolities to follow, as is how it should be. Surprised Casey devotes as much time to ROTR as he does, but then again, not surprised. He’s been doing this since before he was in middle school, counting the money for Marbry in the WellSpring booth, because she knew he could be trusted. Besides, she knew he wouldn’t make a mistake.

At that time of night, in that venue, the same could not be said for anyone else...

“I can’t just let the whole weekend slip by without saying how much it means to me, that you were not only willing to make sure that things went well, but that also made sure that I did not feel pressured to attend.”

“It’s all about the love. Besides, I am amazed at how independent you were. That was key.” I could feel the love.

I said, “We had a plan and it worked to perfection. Knowing where every port-a-potty was, in every corner of the festival, was just one of a hundred different components that had to be in place. I can’t think of a single thing that I missed-except Annie-that is, but that will never happen and I will never address it.

Well, maybe a camp chair, even though dudes were giving me theirs, left and right. I could have brought the two red camp chairs, and put one in our camp, and one up at Robbie’s,” I finished.

“Mama not a fan, that’s for sure.” 

For so many years Annie had told me that I would hate it. And the truth is, the old me would have.

“No, and that’s all right. She was hugely supportive, once she got over being cynical.” I had been clear with her, that this was not a case of me trying to return to my youth. I was not there to party.

Return to my youth? Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh. Once was enough, thanks.

“It’s funny. We talked about you just tagging along after me, and that would have been fine, but then you just started doing your own thing, and that was even better.” 

I enjoyed hearing his words. All I could think of to say was, “We always maintain that it takes a village to raise a child...I like to think of it as the teacher will become the pupil, and the pupils will school the teacher.”

We drove along in silence for a few minutes, and then I asked him, “Will Lito be on-farm tomorrow?”

He glanced over at me, and though I could not see his face, I knew that he was grinning at me. “What do you think?”

“You’re probably right. We’ll see him on Tuesday, up at French’s Camp.”

It’s always fun to conjecture as to whether or not Lito will be where he says he will be. On the other hand, when he does roll in, he gets more done than any other two dudes put together.

“I never did make it up to Richardson Grove, where he, Sonny, Conner and the rest of them, all had their camp, but then again, I didn’t need to. That was just sort of a Plan B, in case Plan A did not pan out.”

Plan A had gone just fine, thank you very much, because of the music. So much so that I was already planning for next year.

“You did it, Pops!”

“We did it. It was all about the music and that’s what it took to pry me out of my box.”

I won’t be returning either. There’s no longer enough room in the box.

Tomorrow, the conclusion: “Uncle”

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Song Now

If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.  However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment. 

Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.

#18: My Song Now
I suffered my first full-blown panic attack at age ten, and my mom gave me the best advice she possibly could have. 

“Think of a place you really like and go there inside your head. Don’t think about the bad; just think about the good.”

She had no idea what it was I had experienced, though I had tried to explain what had happened when the girl in the pew in front of us, had fainted. Standing on the aisle, she had keeled over like a dead oak, and the sound of her head hitting the cement floor, was awful.

The sound and shock of the event seared though my brain like molten metal, causing me to start panting. The blood drained from my face and I started sweating heavily. I felt nauseous and knew that if I did not get out of that church, I would soon follow suit, and end up losing consciousness.

Going to the movies. Let’s see now, back of the theater, left-hand side, on the aisle. Not near the aisle-on the aisle. 

At the EGA gathering, Sunday morning before the last day of the Emerald Cup? Where is the nearest exit? And our seats are where? You go on. I’ll just keep an eye on things from back here... Great success!

Reggae on the River? Never. Never. Simply stated, Never.

I did the therapy back in 2010 in only seven sessions, because Dr. Jill was on her way out of Dodge. She had told me I could rid myself of Panic Attack Syndrome, if I were willing to do the work.

I was and I did.

The therapy gave me the tools to go anywhere, even if I could not necessarily enjoy myself, which is why ROTR was so different. From my ability to handle the tight quarters as far as wall-to-wall tents were concerned, to my newly-found ability to stroll through the crush of the crowd, I reveled in it.

I was in uncharted waters and content to be so, because I was there for the music. I was introduced to reggae somewhere in the early nineties, when sixth-grade Chad always had a cassette on hand for me to play any time there was free minutes, and have never looked back.

This kid has a different take on music than the rest. And I gotta say, what he plays makes my feet move a lot more enthusiastically. It’s that lilt to the music I like, the upbeat nature of it...makes me want to dance.

When Casey sailed off to Pacific University, in 2000, the first thing he did was send back to me a whole slew of new music he was picking up. He sent me a Stephen Marley CD, a Collie Buddz, an Alpha Blondy and an Albarosie. I will never forget playing “No Cocaine,” and hearing the refrain, “I love marijuana”:

“Marijuana... ganja farmer...
No coca, no coca, no coke inna mi brain
No coca and no ‘eroin can go inna mi vein
‘Cos I love marijuana
‘Cos man a real ganja farmer.”

‘Cos I love marijuana. Just hearing this artist sing these words is powerful. Knowing that in his world, ganja was the gateway to avoiding far more challenging paths by contemporaries, than that which the sacred herb provides. A twofer if ever there were one...

When I couldn’t understand the lyrics, I googled them. The message is a good one, that cannabis is a better alternative to other drugs. I would take it one more natural step forward, and chime in that using the bong is also a far better choice than alcohol.

That is a key word, choice. I choose, therefore I exist. With the maze of routes possible in life, choosing not so much the correct one, as one which works well enough to proceed, is often the difference between existence and living.

I can’t conceive of an existence comprised of being locked in a profession I hated. To spend a third of my life in an intolerable situation, is to expend a great deal of energy, better spent in other endeavors. Yet people do it all the time, with little or no choice.

It’s mind control, as Stephen sings about. There are many applications of this concept, one of them being the control the mind has over the body. This is the central message provided to me,  by Pauline, 52 years ago, when she told me to go to a place in my head, that I wanted to be.

This is also the central message from Dr. Jill, who taught me that only through a clear recognition and awareness of those specific anxiety-inducing elements in my life, could I begin to eliminate the stress. In preparing for my three-day stay at ROTR, I had planned for all exigencies.

It may have been blisteringly hot during the day (Sunday topped out at 94 degrees, twelve degrees cooler than it had been the first day when it hit 106), but it cooled off at night. In the pic of me taken on Saturday night/Sunday morning after Stephen played, I am wearing a long-sleeved heavy shirt, over a tee-shirt, and have a hoodie on top of everything. 

In long pants I look pretty bundled up, protection from the same air movement that kept us from sizzling during the day.

Funny how it works, that “refreshing breeze” during the heat of the day, becomes that fiendish wind during the chill of the night. But I am ready for action-ready for danger...ready for anything.

Casey and I headed up to Robbie’s spot behind the Beer Garden, well before the allotted time when Albarosie would appear on stage, and I proceeded to replicate my relaxation techniques of the previous night, and took a little siesta. My ability to sleep, particularly with my headphones on and the music blasting, has always served me in good stead. 

Not even Dozer’s raucous barking can penetrate the barrier, bless his pointy little head.

Having waxed on eloquently, if also somewhat repetitively, over my success at ROTR, I will once again assert that it’s all about controlling one’s mind. I believe I can do this, therefore I can. Ask any athlete how important confidence is to his game.

For me it is crucial. In snoozing prior to Albarosie coming on stage, I used my heavy, long-sleeved shirt and my hoodie, as a pillow, and they remained there on the ground as I bounced up at the intro to Albarosie. 

Can there be more electricity in the air than there is now? I should be cold-most everyone else is bundled up, just as I was last night, but what a ridiculous notion.

I had glanced earlier that day at the weather forecast so easily obtainable on my computer, and noted that the low that evening for our venue was 55, with a 7-10 MPH wind. In my world, 55 degrees is balmy, so I therefore decided that I was not cold.

The music was galvanizing and my legs kept time to the beat, surgically-repaired left knee forgetting all about that ancient history. Euphoria blanketed me in a protective bubble of self-generated heat, and it may as well have been 75 degrees. In my tank top, sandals and shorts, I was feeling no cold.

Casey asked me at one point, “Aren’t you cold?” and all I could do was grin and say, “It’s all in your head. If you think you should be cold, then you will freeze your butt off. If you know it’s not cold, and you’re enjoying yourself, then that answers that question. It’s mind control.”

“Mind control.” Stephen’s song, even if Albarosie is playing. 

But it’s my song now.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Allegory of the Cave

If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done.  However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment. 

Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.

#17: The Allegory of the Cave
A paradox exists between what we experienced at Reggae on the River, and that which the outside world saw, and it is all about the intangibles. What we experienced was the emotional high of sharing a space for the common goal of absorbing the music and culture of reggae. What the outside world viewed was a boatload of people making a huge negative environmental impact, on a sensitive ecological venue.

In attempting to convey the spirit of what was occurring on the Eel River, both for myself and for the thousands of other revelers, while also including the rest of the universe, I have found that others have faced similar daunting tasks, going back to the ancient Greeks, and that this task has been addressed before. 

Here is the briefest of attempts to put first ROTR into perspective, and then to use the same process to address what is happening in the real world, when it comes to the newly created cannabis industry, not to be confused with a bunch of outlaws in the hills, growing pot. 

Take it away, Plato...............

The “Allegory of the Cave” begins with Socrates telling Glaucon about a cave, where people live underground. They are tied up and cannot move their heads, so they can only see what is right in front of them. 

So that would be people bound to their lives and their jobs, blind to anything that interferes with keeping grub on the table, no matter how intolerable the situation.

A fire burns behind these prisoners casting shadows on the wall that looms up before them, as others in the cave pass in front of them holding objects, which are then reflected on the wall. In this way those who are confined inside the cave, learn about the outside world. These shadows are their only link.

So this is a metaphor for people who are so close to the street, that even the idea that college would help improve their lot in life, is ludicrous. Working overtime to meet one’s responsibilities, the wife trying to keep the house together and ferry the kids around, and try to keep from collapsing along the way. College? lol

Eventually, one of the prisoners in the cave is released to the outside world, where he is at first repulsed by the light. As his eyes start to adjust to the brightness, he sees the world as though he has always lived there.

Plato’s “Allegory” represents the difference between what really exists, and our perception of it. The prisoners still in the cave are as incapable of learning about the outside world, as people trapped in a treadmill existence. Only those who free themselves have a chance to see reality as it actually is.

Most people prefer to stay in their chains, for to remove them is to draw outside the lines in the coloring book of your life. Only those who are truly able to step outside the boundaries of their own existence, are going to be able to expand their horizons adequately to adopt a new perception.

First ROTR and the outside world’s perception: I took twenty or so photos of mountains of garbage left behind on-site, when the hordes returned home. They would have had to do without the use of Highway 20, shut down by wildfires, which would have doubled any inconvenience already being experienced by travelers on the road.

How happy would these travelers have been to be joined in this road-circus by all of those tired, bedraggled reggae fans? How happy are the denizens of the local community to have their home fronts invaded by an army of dreadlocked, traveling pilgrims? 

Do the pilgrims care? 

The non-participants only see the shadows of the objects they are shown, as opposed to those who live to experience that which uplifts them, at the cost of other things in life.

Now for the participants of the festival: Wall-to-wall tents, port-a-potties that are not for the faint-hearted, who unfortunately have no choice, and minimal chance at any substantial sleep are only a few of the attractive features to be found.

However, balanced for these hardy souls, is a plethora of valid, tangible and intangible reasons for putting oneself through the hassle. These justifications vary from simply liking the music or the party, to my more complex reason of wanting to overcome personal challenges, so that I could continue the renovation of my long-atrophied right-brain.

This shriveled organ began to show signs of life in 2011, and has risen to such a level of prominence, as to put old Lefty [Brain] almost out of commission. This may-or may not-have stirred things up in my neck of the woods for a while, depending on your point of view. 

Those who are freed from the cave are those who actually participate in the festival, as opposed to never understanding what is happening. 

If a composting program could be started at ROTR, 2016, similar to that used on the Black Oak Ranch, to try and reduce at least one portion of the mountains of refuse left behind, this would constitute baby steps outside the cave.

Now I want to take this whole allegory, or metaphor, and apply it to the cannabis industry.

Those in the cave see only the detritus of the raids on Island Mountain, and the negativity which has been so successfully propagandized by US Industry, and its willing partner, the US Government, which has been taken over by money and greed. If this sounds harsh, then maybe you can find a more palatable way to explain it.

Those who use the sacred herb as it has been done by humans since the beginning of time, are those who have escaped from the cave, and understand that one person’s medicine, is no one’s business but the person in question.

For those who scoff at the notion of cannabis as medicine, and assert that people only use it to feel good, I say not a thing.

Is there a point you are trying to make? Listen to yourself. You object to people feeling good by using a natural herb, but you see no problem with Dad bringing home a twenty-four pack, to try and get through the weekend. 

Better still, I point to the wine industry and how much influence it has over societal perceptions. No problem getting wasted on fermented grapes, with all of the damage Big Ag has done, but perish the thought that one would take a couple of rips off of a bong.

So because wine is on the list of “approved” societal substances, those inside the cave see only the sparkling glasses, and that luscious, deep ruby red nectar of the gods, and not the ecological atrocities committed in the name of “culture.”

It’s the same-only different, because big money begets big money, and legitimacy adds an air of entitlement, that galls thinking people immensely.

Those who are struggling to establish the Emerald Growers Association, soon to be the California Growers Association, with the intention of establishing cannabis as “connoisseur” are those who are outside the cave. By stepping forward and contributing money and their names to the ever-expanding list of fired-up folks, these folks are also beginning to win their freedom from the cave.

At the Eel River Restoration Project booth at ROTR, Casey and I spent a lot of time taking in the light with like-minded individuals, and comparing notes. It’s hard to entice people out of their comfort zones, and into the light.

Establishing the CGA, providing other cannabis farmers with examples of appropriate growing procedures, plus providing some help with the logistics of getting their water rights established, all constitute baby steps out of the cave, for others to follow.

It will take much work by many exiles from the cave, before those still mired inside will ever see the light.