PRE-ROLLED JOINTS & THE SHAKY-HANDED TWAXER

Pre-rolled joints are another of the potent varieties offered at dispensaries for both medical and recreational use. As someone with shaky hands who has a terrible time with fine motor coordination, pre-rolled joints are a welcome option. There’s something about smoking a joint that doesn’t compare to pipe or bong. It is harsher, yes, but there is a more intimate and direct connection with herb when only a thin sheet of rolling paper sits between you and it, like the skin of an apple holding all the juicy fruit within.

When I try on my own to roll joints, with a dollar bill or a roller, disaster ensues. I spill a bunch and then have to add more, only to spill again. If I use the roller, it is hard to keep the paper down, and so again, there is spillage. And even when I do succeed with the roller, the joints are rolled so tight that the only smoke you can inhale is what is emitted at the combusting end. Maybe I need to invest in a new, more technologically advanced roller, but in the interim, pre-rolled joints seem to be a better option for a perfectly rolled, potent and fast acting effect. I don’t smoke joints often, but when I do, pre-rolled joints are it.

I’ve previously written about Henry’s Original Smokes, and the potent Chemdawg sativa half gram pre-rolled joints I dialed in at the ELO show. Half gram joints were a revelation to me. Who can finish a full gram joint of potent cannabis by themselves in a single setting? Really harsh on the lungs. But a half-gram joint is manageable and in many ways the perfect portion. When I was at the local dispensary the other day, I asked about half gram pre-rolled joints and to my dismay, they had none. The kind budtendress did point out some solid full gram joints, of which the had a decent selection, and after having failed miserably the day before at trying to roll my own twaxing joint, I decided it was time to attempt twaxing with a well constructed pre-rolled joint.

Varieties of Inferno Gold Fire Sticks Pre-rolled Joints
Inferno Gold Fire Sticks Pre-rolled Joints – Are they still in business? Hope so!

I bought an Inferno Gold Fire Sticks pre-rolled joint for $18 and very happily noted that this green apple flavored blunt was an organic, hash-infused mix of flower, honey oil and kief. When the time was right to spark the spliff, the green apple flavor hit right away and was not unpleasant. I had to be careful because the joint between filter and herb seemed a little weak, and this was a hefty blunt. Soon the green apple flavor turned into a rich, thick combination of flower, oil & kief smoke. I burned about half the pre-rolled joint and experienced some relief from a few physical maladies, while the high I was beginning to experience was incredibly euphoric and creative, leaving my body feeling wrapped in a warm blanket. This was hands down the best effect I’d experienced in a while. Better than any of the edibles or concentrates. Really idyllic.

Putting the pre-rolled joint out without damaging it was a true challenge, in part because the oil likes to keep burning. After a number of gentle taps on the side of a plant pot, the smoking ember at the end fell out, a minuscule amount that didn’t really diminish the rest of the joint. If these Fire Sticks could be made in half-gram sizes, they would be perfect. The half of the joint I smoked had me seated in front of the computer, happily adding MIDI sounds and creating dubbed out sections of the drums for a project I am producing. The pre-rolled joint was a perfect match for the focused creativity in which I was engaged. Beautiful. Later in the evening, I shared most of the rest of the joint with my better half, and we made our own good use of the effects. And even then, I still have almost an inch of the pre-roll left.

Note: The next time I bought an Inferno Gold Fire Stick, it did not live up to the experience I had the first time. It really seemed like they’d forgotten to put the hash oil or kief in it and had just sold me a very overpriced plain joint. The good news is that many companies now make infused pre-rolls worthy of a toke.

SCRATCH FEELS THE CITY HEAT & HEADS FOR THE HILLS

Lee Scratch Perry’s “City Too Hot” is a song that, through music, lyrics (included at end of post) and  arrangement, situates itself in a very specific time and place and as a whole, evokes much deeper issues than the song title or chorus would suggest.

SCRATCH WAS FEELING THE HEAT

Cover art for Scratch & The Upsetters "Super Ape" LP
Super Ape by Lee Scratch Perry & The Upsetters (1976)

Scratch’s deep roots track was released in 1977 as the “A” side of a 12″ single on his Upsetter Records label, featuring another hefty cut on the back called “Bionic Rats”. The single was released on the heels of his excellent 1976 LP, Super Ape, both coming at a time of great violence and political upheaval in Jamaica. When Scratch bewails the urban heat in “City Too Hot”, he’s evoking not just the noontime scorch, but also the intensity of conflict in Kingston and elsewhere at that time. Fortunately, the self-appointed Kojak (“my name is Kojak / meet me at the track with a dubble attack” – “Kojak” from Revolution Dub, 1975) knew of a physical / spiritual / metaphorical refuge within reach, capable of alleviating the heat at all levels, providing comfort, safety, spiritual fulfillment and community.

SCRATCH’S JAMIACA IN 1977 – TWO SEVENS CLASHING

Jamaica in 1977, was at a boiling point. Not only was political violence out of control, but the Rastafarians on the island harbored extreme anxiety about the  repeating sevens in the number configuration “1977”. The Rastafarian roots group, Culture, released their debut album Two Sevens Clash, featuring a title track recalling Marcus Garvey’s grave prophesy of apocalypse to occur in that year.

Interestingly, while Lee Scratch Perry’s “City Too Hot” documents the intensity of city life in a heavy roots style with Nyabinghi drums, Culture’s “Two Sevens Clash” is sweet, melodic, pleasant and joyful. There’s a conflagration on the horizon, but Culture doesn’t seem concerned. As Jo-Ann Greene writes in All Music:

The song swept across the island like a wildfire, its power fed by the apocalyptic fever that held the island in its clutches throughout late 1976 and into 1977. (Rastafarians believed the apocalypse would begin when the two sevens clashed, with July 7, 1977, when the four sevens clashed, the most fearsome date of concern.) However, the song itself was fearless, celebrating the impending apocalypse, while simultaneously reminding listeners of a series of prophesies by Marcus Garvey and twinning them to the island’s current state. For those of true faith, the end of the world did not spell doom, but release from the misery of life into the eternal and heavenly arms of Jah. Thus, Clash is filled with a sense of joy mixed with deep spirituality, and a belief that historical injustice was soon to be righted. The music, provided by the Revolutionaries, perfectly complements the lyrics’ ultimate optimism, and is quite distinct from most dread albums of the period.

THE UK CONNECTION: THE CLASH TAKE A CUE FROM SCRATCH

Culture’s darkened view resonated across the Atlantic in London, where one of the first British punk bands took “The Clash” as their name to signify the economic and social turmoil there at the time. The Clash then doubled down on this vision, and on their identification with roots reggae, with their song, “1977”, designating the year as a sort of musical and cultural “year zero” for England’s youth (“No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones” – “1977”, B-side of “White Riot” 7″ single). The upheaval and punk genesis in the United Kingdom is a subject for another post, but it is clear that London was experiencing much “heat” that summer as well.

Not only were The Clash in sync with Scratch’s sense of sense turmoil, but they claimed a physical connection with it by recording a version of Perry’s “Police and Thieves” (originally recorded by Junior Murvin) on their debut LP, and later

worked with Scratch in the studio on their 1977 single, “Complete Control”. Perry was so intrigued by the first Clash album that he recommended it to Bob Marley, who included a reference to The Clash in his “Punky Reggae Party”.

STATE OF EMERGENCY OR CIA COUP?

Back in Jamaica, however, fear, paranoia and anxiety cast a spell over the island nation and its people. Things were so bad that Prime Minister Michael Manley declared a “state of emergency” for much of 1976 and 1977. This “state of emergency”, writes Manley in his book, Struggle in The Periphery (Third World Media, 1982), was in response to “acts of destabilization in 1976, such as unexplained fires and violence apparently designed to create panic and make the Government unpopular to get them voted out of office” (Michael Burke, Jamaica Observer, 6/15/16). An explanation offered in rebuttal to Manley’s avers, “prominent members of the Jamaica Labour Party stated that the 1976-77 State of Emergency was really a plot to rig the general election that was held on December 15, 1976, by arresting supporters of the Opposition who would stop the rigging if they were not deprived of their liberty” (Burke, 6/15/16).

Scratch would've seen this front page of Jamaican newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, July 12, 1977
State of Emergency, Jamaican Daily Gleaner, July 12, 1977

Competing claims and explanations aside, what was clear was that “there was certainly a new and unusual form of violence prior to the 1976-77 State of Emergency” (Burke, 6/15/16), and “unusual” violence lends itself to explanations beyond the ordinary. There are some who have argued that this was a false crisis wrought by the CIA in response to Jamaica’s warming relations with communist Cuba. The food shortages, violence and Trench Town fires seemed to some to come straight out of the US Army Manual of Psychological Warfare (Burke, 6/15/16). Whatever the origination of the upheaval, the effect on Jamaican’s daily lives was palpable and the anxiety and fear felt by the populace was duly expressed by the roots rockers and dub poets of the time. Yet another example is the superlative instrumental LP, State of Emergency, released by producer Joe Gibbs and his studio band, The Professionals, in 1976. It is an album The Clash would cite as an essential influence.

Scratch would have been aware of this info from from the book The Clash: Return of The Last Gang in Town
Early Reggae Influences from The Clash: Return of The Last Gang in Town

SCRATCH’S “CITY TOO HOT” IN CONTEXT

In truth, the Kingston thermostat in 1977 did not indicate a particularly scorching climate. The weather forecast in The Daily Gleaner for  July 12, 1977 was in the high 80s, suggesting Lee Perry’s heatwave was spiritual, psychological, emotional, social, etc., but not literal. And yet the musical texture of “City Too Hot” conveys all the combusting, sweaty, melty, sticky, thick, stifling, claustrophobic feelings one experiences in an urban setting at summer’s peak. The Nyabinghi drums set a plodding tempo echoing the singer’s struggle to march across his metropolis of residence under the scorch or the summer sun. The muddy, phased, warbling guitars and piano plunks evoke a blurred confusion akin to heat stroke, while the bleating horns seem to announce a determined march across the desert. The reverb-drenched echo feels like the inside of Scratch’s heat-stifled brain as he asks himself over and over, “Why?”, while the repeating percussive sounds rebound across his frontal lobe. The “Why?” is a clearly rhetorical question aimed at the senseless violence and unrest underlying the declared state of emergency, for we know that the sun is the source of literal summer heat and that it was not unduly hot in Jamaica in 1977.

“City Too Hot” is a dirge in which Scratch expresses a dire need for refuge, release and relief.  Where might a young man, so stressed and oppressed by the ongoing violence, find sanctuary? Where might Scratch go to “cool out”, to hide, to decompress? If he is a reggae singer, musician, dee jay, or fan, “I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top”, in the lush hills outside of the city where the violence has not taken hold. Scratch paints a cool, verdant picture of a breezy hilltop outside of the city, where he can go to escape the state of emergency. The hills, he confidently informs us, exist in a state of grace, where it is “fresh and clean”. None of the urban rot, killings and harsh laws that plague the Island and oppress the average citizen.

Lee Scratch Perry knows where he needs to be and who will be there to receive him, for the hills are home to the true believers in the Rastafarian faith. It is where dreadlocks and Nyabinghi meet to converse in the ancient drum language, calling and responding, evoking the rhythm of the natural world. And being passed from one dread to another in this spiritual circle is a chillum, or kutchie, filled with the mystical herb of spiritual elevation. The singer may be singing about retreating to the hill to find peace and solace in a Rasta gathering, or he may be suggesting that partaking of ganja and producing reggae music provide a worthy, meaningful escape from the stresses and pressures of the “war in town”. Scratch can’t abide the chattering teeth (“too much teeth a clap”), signifying fear, or perhaps too much talk, because clearly there is too much happening in the city (“Too much things a gwaan”). He must escape the heat, but it takes a long time, as the full song clocks in at just under nine minutes.

KINGSTON CLAMPDOWN: UNDER HEAVY MANNERS

When Prime Minister Michael Manley declared a state of emergency for Jamaica, he referred to the program as putting the citizens “under heavy manners”. Another Jamaican reggae album released in 1977 addressed this directly. The dee jay / singer, Prince Far-I, had his first major hit with his “Heavy Manners”, the featured track on the Under Heavy Manners LP.  Far-I expressed his disgust at the extreme measures, mocking the government, singing “Manners is unto a dog, discipline is what the world needs today baby, heavy, heavy discipline”. Jo-Anne Greene, again writing in All Music:

The populace awaited a new election, while rumors flew that the CIA was surreptitiously planning a coup against the government. These tales were given credence by the mysterious flood of guns onto the island, which inevitably turned up in the hands of supporters of the opposition JLP party, and seemingly confirmed by former CIA operative, James Agee, who publicly identified a number of alleged CIA agents. The US ambassador’s vigorously denials were treated with disdain by most Jamaicans who remembered all too well the fate of Chilean President Allende.

Whether or not the CIA was involved in an attempted coup is left to the reader to discern, although recent revelations in America about the extent of corruption plaguing our Intelligence Services suggests that Greene is probably correct.

If Scratch believed in the Rastas as a refuge from political turmoil in the city, Prince Far-I sought to make this clear in his “Heavy Manners”. Greene continues:

And heaviest of all, Prince Far I, prophesising “War in the east and, war in the west, war in the north, war in the south, crazy Joe get dem out, what a terrible bout.” And with that, he attempted to remove the Rastas from the fray, leaving the baldheads to fight amongst themselves. And some did indeed do just that. The more pragmatic, however, remained behind Manley, and helped the PNP sweep the elections later this year.

SCRATCH WAS NOT ALONE

In other words, Scratch wasn’t only seeking leave from a “City Too Hot”, but also seeking to join a community that existed outside of the violence-plagued population, away from the warring factions. The song is almost messianic in its vision of a community co-existing in harmony and peace. Perry had been made sick with spiritual heat stroke by the never-ending Trench Town battles, and wanted to step out, to cool out, to hide away until the heat was gone, by smoking herb, by communing with the Rastas, by leaving his oppressed state of being. With “City Too Hot”, Lee Scratch Perry proffered the roadmap to sanctuary, escape and redemption in just over eight and a half minutes, enough time to draw from the chillum and settle into a state of peaceful release, to live confidently and securely and to resume the never-ending struggle on some other day.

May Jah intercept your mission.

LYRICS

City Too Hot (Lee Scratch Perry, 1977)

Why, why, why, why
Why, why, why

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top

This city red hot
Too much things a gwaan
This city red hot
Too much teeth a clap
This city too hot
Too much things a gwaan

I’m heading for the hills
I’m heading for the hills
I’m heading for the hills
Yeah, where it fresh and clean
Fresh and clean

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top

Cah the war in town
? fight for ?
Cah the war in town
? fight for ?

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
I’m heading for the hills
I a go cool out, upon the hill top
I’m heading for the hills
I a go cool out, upon the hill top

This city too hot
I and I a go cool out, I a go cool out
This city too hot
I-a man a go cool out, I a go cool out

(..)

Too much teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
It’s like a ??

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
And, this city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
Oh

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the mountain top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top

But teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
Too much teeth a clap
Too much things a gwaan

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the mountain top

This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the hill top
This city too hot
I-man a go cool out, upon the mountain top

This city too hot
This city too hot
This city too hot
This city too hot

(..)

?? come to town
?? come to town
?? come to town
Hey

This city too hot
I a gonna cool out, I gonna cool out
This city too hot
I a gonna cool out, I gonna cool out

This city too hot..

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry lyrics are copyright by their rightful owner(s) and Swedish Flying Saucer in no way takes copyright or claims the lyrics belong to us.

TROUBLE BOYS: BOOKING THE REPLACEMENTS

Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements by Bob Mehr is an exciting, engaging, raucous (and roctus) recounting of the band’s anything-goes-while-you’re-inebriated adventures in a post-punk / pre-grunge Midwestern America.   Their struggle to succeed in spite of their own best efforts to debase or destroy nearly every opportunity they encountered is the plot line that connects all the stories, all the music, the fans, friends, guardian angels, moguls, detractors… In the long run, nothing and nobody in The Replacements’ orbit escaped their cynical, contrarian, nihilistic approach to swimming round and round in the rock and roll shark tank.

Original line up – live
Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Mehr’s tome is as much a history of the ‘Mats as 80s punk-rock-n-roll band as it is an existential case-study in primitive / garage-punk / get in the van band-life in the 1980s, and it brings that era’s Minneapolis music scene and its history to the forefront alongside all the other great music scenes of the time. We learn that The ‘Mats were fans of early LA roots-punk bands like X and The Gun Club, and that the LA bands had taken a shine to The Replacements as well (Songs like X’s “The Have Nots” or The Leaving Trains’ “A Drunker Version of You” easily could have been ‘Mats’ songs – or titles for Mehr’s book.) We also learn that REM, one of the few indie / roots bands of the era to find huge commercial success, was a major factor in the ‘Mats’ band psychology, leading to various associations, resentments, paranoias and career-breaking decisions.

In the end, Trouble Boys tells of both tragedy and triumph, as it positions the band’s depth of talent and creative ability squarely yet schizophrenically alongside its relentless penchant for self-sabotage and auto-destruction. To borrow a phrase, The Replacements “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” even while making incredible music and engaging the good-time myth of the never-ending rock and roll happy hour. Whether snickering cynically at their storied antics or lamenting the losses caused by their willful implosions, this “true story” of The ‘Mats will increase by orders of magnitude your nostalgia for the time when The Replacements drank to excess and made incredible music. And it will have you appreciating how soberly relevant and relatable their music remains today.

JEFF LYNNE’S ELO LIVE AT THE FABULOUS FORUM, LA, 8-5-18

Walking across the Forum parking lot to see ELO for the first time, it hit me that I’ve probably seen more aging rockers play shows over the years than I can remember. It is impossible to try and remember all the bands, shows, etc., I’ve seen over the past 40 years, let alone my favorites. Last night Mr. T asked me to name my 5 favorite shows of all time, and I was at a loss, because I know there would be many I wouldn’t recall.

Iggy mounts Watt’s bass amp, Coachella, 2003

As far as kicking ass goes, no sexagenarian has done it better than Iggy. I saw the reformed Stooges several times on their reunion tours in the 2000s thanks to an old friend who’d been tour managing the Iggy-less reformed Stooges ever since they’d climbed back on stage opening up for Dinosaur Jr. Iggy, Ron, and Scott

were a bit older than the Minutemen’s Mike Watt, who’d been drafted in as bassman, but the 3 original O-minds were as intense and unhinged as they’d ever been. Other stellar performances I’ve witnessed by guys in their 60s and 70s include Dylan, Sean Bonniwell (Music Machine), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), Niney The Observer, Buck Dharma/Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult), Elvin Jones, Gil Scott-Heron…there are too many to recount.

Niney The Observer, 2014
Niney the Observer w/Soul Syndicate live at the Dub Club / Echoplex, LA, 5/14/2014

It is hard to appreciate what it takes for a 70 year old to command a rock and roll stage the way he did when he was 20, or even 30, yet there are guys who get up there and still give it 1000%. Iggy was like that. Nik Turner and Niney were like that. BOC was like that, too. Last night another legendary septuagenarian took the stage, the incomparably prolific orchestral pop rock master, Jeff Lynne, and his current version of ELO. I can’t say that Lynne wholly reached the intensity of his younger days, but he was steady, solid, in great voice, and was leading a much younger backing band.

BOC LIVE OJAI
Buck Dharma, Eric Bloom & Blue Oyster Cult rocking Libbey Bowl, Ojai, CA 4/1/17

This was ELO’s first North American tour in 35 years, and while it didn’t necessarily have me seeing ELO in a new light, it definitely reinforced why I love their music and legacy. The performance successfully and potently evoked the essence of ELO in a live setting, which I’d never experienced in person. Jeff seemed a little frail, didn’t do all the singing or take all the solos as he once did, but he anchored the whole thing and made the production far more than the sum of the individual musicians. Lynne also had longtime ELO band-mate Richard Tandy on piano and moog, lending the act additional authenticity.

I had taken care to be psychically prepared to climb aboard the ELO spacecraft by eating a package of sweet and sour medicated gummies made by Sugar Stoned (300mg) during the ride to the show (T drove). I topped ‘em off with a half-gram Chemdawg pre-roll of Henry’s Original Smokes, on the walk from the car to the stadium entrance. I shared the pre-roll with Mr. T, who hit it like a cigarette and coughed up a storm. We were just in time for the opening band, who were stereotypically bland and uninteresting, so we hit the lobby and grabbed a few beers, instead. There was a crazy cross section of So Cal styles, types, age groups to ogle…any permutation of So Cal culture you can imagine was in attendance. I accompanied Mr. T out for one last cigarette (for him) and while he puffed it, added a maricap to my enhanced viewing sensibilities. We returned to our seats, which were pretty great, just as the last of the Travelling Willburys filler music faded out. Comfortably situated, we watched as…wham…the spaceship landed and the opening strains of “Evil Woman” filled the arena.

Seeing ELO live, with all the lights and video projections is like climbing aboard their Out of the Blue spacecraft and joining them on a musical journey through the ages. I was too busy digging the experience and taking pics and vids to note the complete set list, but I did find it on line. Lynne & co. played pretty much all the songs from their greatest hits collections with the exception of “Strange Magic”, one of my personal faves, particularly because of the phased guitar. But that was the only omission in an otherwise comprehensive set. The songs that stood out the most really depended on which were already your favorites. I have several ELO songs on my drum playlist and know them intimately, and it is the ones I enjoy playing drums with the most that really hit home. My favorite tracks were “Mr Blue Sky”, “Do Ya”, “10538 Overture” and “Livin’ Thing”. Why?

I’ve always dug “Livin’ Thing”. The haunting ghost vocal wailing (“I’m takin’ a dive…off the stage”), the caution from the backing singers (“Don’t you do it / Don’t you do it”) and the rest of the lyrics describing an extreme sense of hopelessness weighed against the drive to find the will to live. “Do Ya”, originally a song by Lynne’s prior band, The Move, and the early ELO pop masterpiece “10538 Overture,” were both rocking and rollicking, scream out loud anthems, both bringing a nostalgic tear to the old eye. “Mr Blue Sky” incorporated all the Beatlesisms infused in the original – have you ever noticed how much it is like the middle section of the Beatles “A Day in the Life”? – and the backing singers and strings players and keyboardists were phenomenal in evoking the orchestral beams of electric light we were witnessing. “10538” reminded me that Cheap Trick were hugely influenced by ELO and stole the opening of that song for their “Downed”.

Jeff on the Big Screen for “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”

When the show was finally over and the lights returned, Mr. T and I felt a twinge of disappointment that the show hadn’t been longer. I guess the motto about always leaving ‘em wanting more rings true…except that I’m not so sure ELO will ever be back to LA. Jeff really is looking a little weak. Lets hope he comes back and includes “Strange Magic” in the set next time. There were other highlights in the show including an incredible young drummer (Donavan Hepburn). The encore was only a single song, “Roll Over Beethoven”, played as well and as rocking as ever, but even with the powerful orchestral intro of Beethoven’s 5th, it wasn’t the encore I wanted. I wanted “Strange Magic”. They left me wanting more. If I could’ve changed anything about the show, it would’ve been to swap out “Roll Over Beethoven” for “Strange Magic”. But it is the imperfections as much as the perfections that make our experiences memorable, so I’m good with it.

Mr. T was all sobered up by the time we drove through Inglewood to get to the 105 and home. I was still feeling pretty elevated and perfectly happy about my live ELO experience. I was starving, though, as I hadn’t had any dinner, so I made myself a sandwich when I got home and remembered all the greatness of seeing Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

ELO Mothership lands in Inglewood

 

Here’s what they treated us to:

Standin’ in the Rain

Evil Woman

All Over the World

Showdown

Do Ya

When I Was a Boy

Livin’ Thing

Handle with Care (Traveling Wilburys cover)

Rockaria!

Can’t Get It Out of My Head

10538 Overture

Shine a Little Love

Wild West Hero

Sweet Talkin’ Woman

Telephone Line

Don’t Bring Me Down

Turn To Stone

Mr. Blue Sky

Encore: Roll Over Beethoven

COCONUT OIL CAPS: HOMEMADE MARIPILLS MADE EASY

Maricaps in a Filling Machine

One of the many opportunities presented by legalization is that which enables patients and recreational users to create their own “product” at home using flower, shake, trim, leaf, kief, concentrates, etc. After much experimentation with edibles and other home concoctions, I have finally found my ideal product: marijuana caps (aka maricaps, maripills).

There are many reasons to create one’s own product at home. Edibles, tinctures, concentrates, gel caps and other kinds of products can be made in one’s own kitchen at a much lower cost than those sold in dispensaries. There may be some one-time upfront costs, but they are recouped in short order. Using herb as raw material to create home cannabis products also allows the user to find the optimal combination of THC, cannabinoids, and terpenes to meet his or her specific needs.

In my search for a homemade product that didn’t require too much prep time or include a ton of extra ingredients, I recalled a Neil Young bootleg I have in which Neil talks the audience through the preparation of “honey slides.” Honey Slides are simple to make: Melt ½ tablespoon or so of butter at low heat in a small frying pan. When butter is melted and hot, add about a gram and a half of ground flower and cook for five minutes or so, maintaining the low heat. It may bubble a little bit. This is ok if only a few air bubbles are escaping, but do not let your material burn. If you see it start to turn brown, take it off the heat immediately. Color should be dark green. Turn off heat and move pan to let it cool. After a few minutes, when cool, add 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered honey, to the pan and stir. Then get a jelly jar with a tight fitting lid (if you wish to save the slide for later) or a drinking glass, and use a rubber spatula to scrape the honey-butter-cannabis concoction into said vessel. Add one more tablespoon of honey and then either seal the jar and store in a dark, cool, dry place or in the fridge or drink up. Honey slides pack an incredible punch, taste pretty good (especially if the honey has wildflower or orange blossom in it), are quick to take effect, and don’t fill you up.

But then I happened upon this great little Ed Rosenthal book called Ask Ed: Marijuana Gold – Trash to Stash and learned about homemade maricaps. Although published over 15 years ago, Ed’s book is still very relevant. Ed Rosenthal is a very interesting character and “Ask Ed” was the name of a column he wrote in the magazine he co-founded, High Times. Trash to Stash provides excellent information about concentrates, edibles, tinctures and “maripills” and how to make them at home. Ed also gives a great overview of how to prepare herb – especially trim, leaf and shake – for use a variety of products.

The most important thing I learned from “Ask Ed” is how and why to decarboxylate cannabis prior to cooking with it. Cannabis needs to be potentiated before it is ingested because there are some THC-A molecules amongst all the THC molecules that are unable to release their full THC content due to the presence of other elements. Decarboxylation corrects the defect in the THC-A molecule so that all the THC present can be infused with maximum potency into whatever product is being made. There are devices that can do this quickly and efficiently that cost at least a few hundred dollars. Or there’s the average person’s method: putting the cannabis on parchment paper on a baking sheet in an oven at 225 degrees for 50 minutes. When done, the toasted flower will yield a much more potent product.

The second most important takeaway from Trash to Stash was learning that viable, potent marijuana capsules can be made at home, and are extremely effective and cost beneficial. In my search for the ultimate retail edible, I had come across THC capsules and later RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) caps, which were convenient and fairly inexpensive, but which did not deliver the needed dosage. Ed’s recipe is fairly simple: Remove all wooden stems and pieces from your herb and break it up a little, decarboxylate your product (see above), let it cool. After cooling, put the potentiated herb in a coffee grinder and ground to the finest powder possible. Then there are a few variables, which you’ll have to determine on your own. One is the type and amount of oil to use. I use coconut because it absorbs THC better than other oils (though it is higher in cholesterol). So far I have been successful with about one-third-tablespoon of coconut oil per 3 ½ grams of powder. The main idea is to make sure the consistency of the mixture is like wet sand or only enough oil to bind the powder together. Too much oil makes it much more challenging to fill the caps and a much bigger mess, so best to start with a little less oil than you think you’ll need and then add more if necessary. You can also hold some extra powder on the side to add to the mix if too oily.

The Capsule Machine (for size 0 gelatin capsules)

Ed says to heat the oil in a small saucepan until the temp reaches 200 degrees, but even with a candy thermometer, it is hard to tell the precise temperature. Lacking a reliable thermometer, it might be better to heat the oil to a point you know is hot, put the powder in and then let it cook at low heat for about 5 minutes. It may bubble, but it shouldn’t cook. Again, the herb should end up dark green but not brown.

The oil infused powder must now cool to room temperature, after which it can be scraped into a small bowl. Next set your size “0” caps up in a handy capping machine (both are available at The Vitamin Shoppe) and begin the not too tasking job of filling them. My cap machine allows me to fill 24 at a time. You do have to scrape the oiled powder back and forth across the machine and use a tamper to make sure all the caps are filled to capacity, but it is pretty painless. Filled caps contain about one-third of a gram (about 300mg) of THC and pack a serious punch. They do take longer to kick in than most edibles, so you have to plan ahead and be patient. But when they hit, they plateau for a long time, keeping you in a consistent state of elevation for a good two to three hours (depending on how much food is in your stomach and other factors).

Caps should be stored in a dark glass jar with a tight lid, away from light and heat. Even better to keep the jar in the fridge. Experimenting will give you a better sense of how many caps you can make from different amounts of cannabis. So far I have averaged about 60 caps per ounce of flower.

HEROIN, TIED TO THE MAST

 

Different songs engage us in different ways, depending on our life experiences. Some songs look at simple, everyday experiences but present them in new ways that resonate with us even though we’ve never thought about them in those ways before. Other songs echo experiences we’ve had or corroborate conclusions we’ve drawn, reassuring and comforting us in a fraternal way. Finally, there are those songs that speak to the experiences we know await us, that instill us with fear, enliven us with anticipation, make us sad or giddy, and speak to us with other elements of expectation. These songs communicate the intensity of experiences that we’ve never had, and yet based on what we’ve read and heard about those experiences those songs nonetheless ring true. Even though we’ve not yet had these experiences, we’ve lived with the dread of or thrill for those experiences for many years of our lives. 

"Golden Brown" Stranglers picture sleeve 12"
Picture sleeve for 12″ single version of “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers

“Golden Brown” by The Stranglers conveys through words and music the experience of being on heroin. I’ve never taken heroin and never intend to, but I’ve read so many books about it, seen so many movies, heard so many songs, and have taken enough low dosage prescription opiates to get an idea. Unlike The Velvet Underground’s song, “Heroin”, which conveys all the violence, degeneration, darkness and desperation of the junkie, “Golden Brown” romanticizes the experience, using maritime imagery to portray the opiate as a calling from across the sea.

With its “texture like sun,” golden brown heroin embraces the user in a warm-blanket cruise across an ethereal ocean, to nirvana. For The Stranglers, heroin was vehicle, journey and destination, all in a single experience. There are no junkies in “Golden Brown” and no hassles trying to score. There is only the drug and the soul entering a blissful state. The title alone romanticizes the drug, and we are told that on golden brown there’s never a “need to fight” or a “frown”. All is peaceful and serene on golden brown, which takes one’s “might” away.

The user in on a voyage, and so is his heroin, gendered as a “she”, who is tied to a ship’s mast, like Odysseus. Like Odysseus, heroin is the captain of the ship, directing the voyage, and the user is here cast as the ship & crew, not wanting the captain getting carried away, wrecking the boat or going totally off course. The irony is that, in reality, the user’s will is is tied to the mast, his body the ship & crew, all lured towards rocky disaster by heroin’s mellifluous melody. The Stranglers so romanticize the drug that they cast it, rather than the user, as a victim that must be saved from external forces. The song ultimately feels like a dark lullaby, where the user’s might has been taken for the “night” so that he has no needs whatsoever (“never a frown”) as he sails to “distant lands”.  The listener is reminded of a Viking funeral, where the body is placed on a boat with all afterlife comforts stocked on the ship, and sent out to sea.

The lush arpeggiated organ that plays the song’s melody beautifully renders heroin’s warm, leavening, enveloping embrace. The minor chords convey the alone-ness of the experience, while the pumping organ sways back and forth like a ship on the ocean. The drums come in for the last verse signifying a kind of march or momentum that has picked up as heroin guides the ship off to the mythical west, where the sun sets. How beautiful to contrast golden brown’s “texture like sun” with its western destination, where the sun takes its diurnal leave.

The instrumental section in the middle features a lone guitar playing the user away on his final voyage, and that voyage is sung out to the song’s conclusion with a sort of scat singing, signaling, perhaps, the user’s loss of language, or the inability of language to further convey his experience. The song finishes with a rounding refrain of “never a frown”, and slowly fades out. The user departs without a frown. He is gone.

Golden Brown by The Stranglers
Golden brown texture like sun
Lays me down with my might she runs
Throughout the night
No need to fight
Never a frown with golden brown
Every time just like the last
On her ship tied to the mast
To distant lands
Takes both my hands
Never a frown with golden brown
Golden brown finer temptress
Through the ages she’s heading west
From far away
Stays for a day
Never a frown with golden brown
Never a frown
With golden brown
Never a frown
With golden brown
Songwriters: Brian Duffy / Dave Greenfield / Hugh Cornwell / Jean Jacques Burnel
Golden Brown lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

BAUDELAIRE: ONLY A MILD DEBAUCHEE

by Mathieu Laca

I’m currently taking a slow dive deep into the history of cannabis via Martin A. Lee’s excellent Smoke Signals, published in 2012. Although not current with the rapidly developing legal recreational industry, the history is rock solid and rich in detail. I was intrigued and not a little bemused today when reading about marijuana’s route into Romantic-era France (via colonial Egypt) and its use by those enfant terribles, the original socialist revolutionary punks, the French Romantic poets. What struck me as notable was learning about Baudelaire, the “debauchee’s debauchee“, who became a bit of a marijuana alarmist late in life.

In truth, according to Lee, Baudelaire was a sordid “syphilis-infected figure who botched a suicide attempt, an opium-addicted alcoholic whose overbearing mother, a devout Christian, was obsessed with Original Sin” (p.30). The French poet indulged in drugs, alcohol and sex like a 1970s Hollywood swinger, and yet harbored a Puritan-like fear of self-discovery (probably because he didn’t like what he saw) and a reactionary rubric of bourgeois morality. Although Baudelaire’s poetry was often inspired by opium, alcohol and later hashish, he expressed a strong ambivalence about the upsides and downsides he experienced when intoxicated, saving his most severe judgement for hashish.

At first introduction to the herb, he praised it as “like living some fantastic novel instead of reading it” (p.29). This is the rebellious, adventurous Baudelaire, an original “punk” as he was arrogated by his 20th century devotees. But Baudelaire embraced intoxicants as a means to escape his own “self-hatred” (p.30), not to unleash his rebellion upon the world. In fact, the poet recoiled from hashish with consternation over the “moral and social implications” (p. 30) of its consumption. He expressed middle-class angst about the “psychological risks” (p. 30), and “concluded that hashish is ‘nothing miraculous, absolutely nothing but an exaggeration of the natural'” (p. 30). The Poet sought escape from self, not magnification of self-perception, and he ultimately denounced cannabis as a “chaotic devil” (p. 30).

In short, the French Romantic poet, Baudelaire, feared any catalyst that might magnify his perception of his own flaws. He was terribly insecure, it seems, rather than bold and courageous. Not much of a revolutionary. His literary contemporary, Gustave Flaubert, was direct and succinct in his reaction to Baudelaire’s denigration of cannabis, writing, “I would have thought it better if you hadn’t blamed hashish and opium, but only excess” (p. 30). And yet, blaming “excess” would clearly undermine his revolutionary identity, revealing him to be a coward. Baudelaire was quite fearful, it seems, literally afraid of his own shadow.

TOUCH TONE TUNERS & DEVO D-E-V-O-T-E-E-S

Front cover

This is one of those unique artifacts from a bygone aural era, when technological innovation was ad hoc & DIY meant by any means necessary. DEVOTEES is an incredible album – an incredibly weird album – that captures a moment in time, after punk’s “year zero” yet before “new wave” became smooth and overproduced.

This album also gives a hint of what KROQ 106.7 FM was doing at the time, how free form it was and willing to take chances putting out an album like this…after running a listener contest for content submissions. Hands down, the best track on the LP is “Jocko Homo” (there are 2 versions on the LP), arranged for touch tone telephone and recorded by…The Touch Tone Tuners. In 1979 lotsa folks still had rotary telephones, and although touch tone phones were clearly the new normal, there was still a kind of novelty about it. I remember playing out “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the 9, 6 & 3 buttons.

That these guys took the time to pick out buttons on the phone to arrange the “Jocko Homo” melody is pure genius. They also aped the Mothersbaugh / Boojie Boy vocals but made them as raw an unrefined as the touch tone melody. The “doodoodoodoodoodoodoos” at the beginning and end of the song are attempts to evoke the primitive synth sounds bookending the DEVO  original.  TTT’s version sounds like it was transmitted across the galaxy on frayed telephone lines, suggesting both innovation and primitivism.  The Touch Tone Tuners’ message might be that humans crave technological innovation only to look back and appreciate simpler times.

For more info, Dangerous Minds has an excellent piece up from 3 or 4 years ago.

A SUMMER PAIRING: TOPANGA HARVEST MINIS & TIMMY NOLAN’S IRISH PUB

Downstairs bar at Timmy Nolan's
Timmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake (downstairs)

I’m always looking for new, local spots to satisfy my palate when my meds potentiate my appetite…especially around mealtime. July evenings, after the intense summer heat of the day transitions to mellow, breezy warmth is the perfect time to hit the sidewalks in a perambulatory exploration for a satisfying supper. The optimal walking weather makes it possible to medicate before stepping out for the evening meal, turning the simple quest into a fun adventure. You are probably more likely to encounter restaurants that fail to satisfy if you’re navigating blindly. Yelp is a worthy advance guide to mediate any aimless meandering, which can be devastating if the destination doesn’t meet some basic expectations. Fortunately we did consult Yelp a few nights ago and then navigated about a half mile or so to the unassuming on the outside, yet rollicking on the inside Irish pub & grill called Timmy Nolan’s, located on Riverside in Toluca Lake, CA.

Since type and quality of food is generally a higher priority than location or atmosphere, I’ll just say that Timmy Nolan’s serves delicious and satisfying comfort food with both American and Irish offerings. If you’re hungry for cold or hot sandwiches, club, melt, etc., burgers, beef, pasta, tacos…or perhaps fish and chips, bangers and mash or shepard’s pie, Timmy’s has it, and it is good.

Timmy’s is a two-story pub, with large screen sports, food and alcohol available on both floors. The upstairs is more restaurant-like, with more tables and a nice view of Universal Studios through a large front window. There are also bars upstairs and downstairs, though the downstairs is twice as large with twice as many lively customers drinking, mingling, snacking and viewing. Most of the dining is done upstairs, where there are more dedicated tables, booth and waiters. Staff folks are cheery and diligent at what they do, and there are more than enough bar, kitchen and wait staff to keep everyone happy and sated. Their menu offers lunch, happy hour, appetizer & dinner menus, all of which are similar in style.

It was fairly crowded on the first floor when we walked in, lively as heck but not rowdy or unwelcoming. We were mainly there for food so after a stop at the downstairs bar, made a beeline for the stairs and guided ourselves up to an open table. The vibe was more chill upstairs and though most tables were full, if felt a much more spacious and inviting atmosphere for eating than we found downstairs. At the bar we had picked up a few happy hour pints of deliciously sweet and heady Magners Irish cider, which complemented my medicated state really nicely.

Packages of Red Velvet Topanga minis
Topanga Minis: Red Velvet

Since different varieties and strains of cannabis can produce totally different effects, it is worth adding that I had enhanced my appetite that evening prior to our walk with some deliciously potent mini red velvet muffins (10mg ea) made by Topanga Harvest. One of the upsides of the new marijuana regs in California is that the state certified edibles are reliable in terms of dosage / potency and food quality. I’ve bought plenty of edibles in the past that didn’t live up to the potency listed on the packaging or that tasted horrible. The Topanga minis come in several flavors & varieties and pack a nice punch. The banana nut & red velvet are scrumptious; the chocolate is good but not as amazing. Other varieties include coffee cake, lemon cake, blueberry, apple cinnamon. The effects produced by these minis include a very manageable yet determined case of the munchies, which is how I felt while scanning the pub’s dinner menu.

I tried to order modestly since my eyes are always bigger than my stomach and bigger still if I’ve got the munchies. Focused restraint, I suppose. As I made my way through the sandwich offerings, I happened upon an item that in its simplicity of design and potential for tasting great would be a great test of the pub’s worth as a grill. I ordered a BLT. There are only a few steps involved in making a BLT: cook the bacon, toast the bread and stack the B, L and T between the two slices of toast with a little mayo. I consider myself a bit of a BLT expert, as one year I spent months walking the streets of San Francisco, each day looking for a new restaurant with BLT on the menu. Timmy’s BLT was fantastic – the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Bacon was crispy and flavorful and not chewy or tough. Veggies were fresh, bread perfectly toasted with the right amount of mayo. Perfection made simple. I did not taste the individual ingredients, but the delicious sandwich as a whole. Yum! There were different choices for sides, but I went with the standard fries. Timmy’s serves up seasoned steak fries, cooked to crispy glory, that go perfectly with the sandwich. The cider tied all of it together for a very pleasant palate!

The food, drink, service and atmosphere at Timmy Nolan’s were all superb, and I do plan to go back before summer’s end. Now that it is so much easier to use cannabis in California, walking is more often the best option for local transport, and it is really helpful to find good restaurants in walking distance. The reward is a more satisfying and intense experience of the food and all of its flavors and textures. Just don’t let the munchies talk you into overeating.

If the food, drinks & atmosphere sound good but you aren’t sure about the price, Timmy Nolan’s is not just good, but affordable. At Timmy’s, you can get a pint of happy hour cider and BLT with fries for under $20. Consult your local dispensary to sample the Topanga Harvest edibles, or visit their website to find out where you can get some. Abondanza!

Timmy Nolan’s is located at 10111 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake, CA 91602

 

OLD SCHOOL SHOPPING MALL DIRT BIKE RACING

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 70s and 80s, I experienced a youth culture so over-represented in entertainment media and in advertising that when I now look back, it is almost impossible to separate reality from myth. Even though I lived here throughout both decades, seeing the Valley represented in countless movies and tv shows again and again has seriously impacted my memory. It is just too easy to fill in the cognitive gaps with stock footage from, say, the original Bad News Bears or Skateboard, than it is to remember my own youthful skateboarding or dirt bike riding antics.

Diamondback Viper
The coolest kids had Diamondback BMX bikes

The Valley has provided Hollywood with back door access to teen culture for decades, and many executives, directors, producers and actors reside in the big money hills. Their kids are valley kids who constantly funnel ideas back to their parents through the clothes they wear, the music they dig and the activities in which they engage. It has been this way for decades, going back at the very least to 1959’s Gidget. The post-WWII suburban middle class explosion was without a doubt the most important factor in teens having more and more free time to fill with motion and excitement. Hollywood seized on the golden egg of Southern California youth culture straight away, and the accompanying suburban fads and trends have since been and continue to be disseminated to teens around the world.

With the dawn of the surfing era in the 1950s, Southern California’s sunny climate and burgeoning suburbs provided the perfect setting for post-war middle class kids to engage in exhilarating outdoor sports like surfing and skateboarding and dirt bike racing. Kids everywhere either participated in serious competition with great technical skill, or just had fun riding local sidewalks, streets and beaches in imitation of the more professional set. Dirt bike riding and racing had been very popular with kids my age, and there were expensive bikes for the serious racers and cheap imitations for nerdier kids like me.  As with surfing and skateboarding, BMX racing was extremely popular and really hit a commercial stride around 1980, when it was instantly mythologized in tv shows like CHiPs (in a 1979 episode called “CHP-BMX”) and in commercials. BMX racing continued to be a popular subject for movies throughout the 80s and 90s. Many movies, tv shows and commercials, but the older I get, the more I wonder: What was the reality?

It was with much glee that I one day happened upon this super 8 time-capsule from 1974, capturing one of the BMX races in the parking lot behind Fallbrook Square, the first mall that I ever “hung out” at near my childhood home in the west San Fernando Valley. It was an outdoor mall, and the area inside the perimeter of stores was open for walking and sitting, skateboarding or bike riding (if you could get away with it). I spent quite a bit of time at the Radio Shack there getting my battery card stamped and trying to learn CB radio jargon. Malls were the de facto hangout for my friends and I before we could drive, and Fallbrook was the first my parents would let me ride my bike to. I never raced there or remember any major BMX action happening, but this homemade documentary is like an implanted memory. I can imagine it all as if I were there, even though my Radio Shack days were were still 4 years or so away. And that’s the rub. I wasn’t hanging out at Fallbrook Square in 1974, but watching this short documentary leaves me feeling like I was.

Everything about this short documentary is iconic vis a vis early 1970s So Cal. The grainy, washed out quality of the super-8 image, the clothing and hair of the kids, their pre-BMX dirt bikes, the tenor of the narrator’s voice, the old fashioned signage, marquee & lettering, the classic cars …. It is so far removed from today that it is like a dream…yet a familiar one, referencing the specific place and time in which I had lived while simultaneously echoing mythologized recreations of the general setting that have appeared in television, movies, commercials, and elsewhere.

Wherever and whenever you grew up, there is something about this short piece that captivates and transports the viewer beyond the confines of memory. The reality is that the mall is still there, though very different than it was in the 70s and 80s. The parking lot is still there, but so is a Target. The Fallbrook Theater is gone; it became a Chuck E. Cheese a few decades ago. And you don’t see that many kids riding BMX bikes anymore, in the parking lot, or anywhere, unless you’re at an X Games competiton.

Video by David Puls: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkdi6kXyQIcnjPa1UIy3Qew