IMG_5586This blog is going to be short because I just spent an hour writing an entire piece about how magical Humboldt County is and while adding a few pictures to the post, my browser crashed and I lost everything I had written. Lesson learned: write everything in Microsoft Word first and then copy it to the infernal WordPress later.

Humboldt County is probably my favorite place to visit and I hope to retire there one day. Redwood trees sit on enormous hills, the Eel River is full of and surrounded by all manner of charismatic megafauna, and the people are truly unique.

The population is made up of a weird mix of old hippies, rednecks, young freaks, old families, rural oddities, outdoor enthusiasts, loggers, law enforcement officers, yogis, Bulgarian crime organizations, burnouts, entrepreneurs, and everyday Americans. It’s not unusual to see enormous diesel trucks driven by waifish girls with glitter on their faces and burly men with long hair, rough hands and turquoise jewelry.

It’s like the Deep South and 1960s counterculture California had a baby and it was raised on a commune where people like guns. It’s a truly great place. The grass is really good, too.

My wife and I just returned from the Ganjier’s Spring Kickoff. It was a work event for her and I came along for the ride because I have a bunch of friends up there.

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This was my third trip to the area. Previously I’ve been up there to attend some fairly radical behind the curtain events. I’ve seen a side of the cannabis industry most never will (until legalization occurs) and met some of the warmest and most open career criminals you’d ever want to meet.

I want to be fair here. I have an extremely biased view of the cannabis industry. I enjoy smoking a joint on many evenings and I’m very excited about the business opportunities in the industry. I think it’s a good plant and I believe when it’s legalized it will provide good jobs and people will enjoy it about as responsibly as they enjoy anything else.

For a critical view that isn’t informed by the same old bullshit Reefer Madness propaganda, I recommend checking out John Hardin’s writing in The Lost Cost Outpost I can imagine he’s not well liked by the people he calls “dope yuppies”, but he makes some good arguments about the environmental impact of bad farmers and more dangerous criminal activity from foreign cartels. It isn’t always pretty up in the hills of Humboldt.

For what it’s worth, I seem to have fallen in with a great crowd up there who are passionate about their work and take care of their land. The farms I’ve seen were clean and seemed to be in balance with their natural surroundings. This plant can be grown well and I believe most people are trying to do it the right way. As people are coming out of the shadows, they are sharing techniques and knowledge to make a safer, better product.

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I plan on writing more about Humboldt County soon. It looks like Cannabis Product News, the cannabis magazine I write for is back up and running, so I’ll be up there more often looking for stories and taking more pictures (I shot everything on this post).

If you want to know more about Humboldt County’s cannabis scene, I highly recommend reading The GanjierA lot of people I respect contribute to it and the articles are really well written. For a broader view of the area, read The Lost Coast Outpost. It covers local news and the crime reports are often hilariously unusual, especially around harvest time.

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scoots.jpgIn July and August of 2000 I rode a thirty year old scooter across the country with the young guys in this picture. It remains the most consequential thing I’ve ever done. Halfway through the trip, in San Francisco, I decided I would not be returning to New Orleans. I had about $50 and the green and silver scooter above (I’m third from the right, not wearing  a shirt for some unremembered terrible reason; though I suspect it was about a million degrees in July down in Louisiana).

I never moved back to the South and for years I lost contact with pretty much everyone in the photo. Scott (all the way on the left) , remains a friend through the power of social media as does Nate, to my left in the picture (maroon and white bike).

When I left New Orleans the headlight still wasn’t in my bike, but I had four mirrors because I thought it was funny. The front rack had an ammo box on it that to this day I keep personal papers and remembrances in. The frame on my bike was always fucked up and the front fork was from a different model, so the scooter always wobbled and swerved, especially at high speed. Eventually I took the engine out and threw it into a newer P200 model. It ran great even though it had mismatched cases. I also abused it mercilessly during the piston  break in period.

I was 22 years old at the time and completely intolerable to be around. Almost every night I was drinking to excess and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or how to be available to other people. Eventually I had a falling out of sorts with one guy in the picture. It wasn’t something I cared much about at the time and I still don’t have any strong feelings about it. I guess friendships fall apart and it can be painful when they do, but this evaporated without fanfare.

Since this picture went up on Facebook I’ve started to wonder about all these guys. Most of them have families and have settled down, whereas I’m currently up in Humboldt County on a cannabis business trip (not for my work, I’m just tagging along). I have a completely different life, just like they do. In a way the people we were and knew don’t even exist anymore.

I’m glad to have the picture, though. It marks the end of a very unhappy time in my life and the start of  becoming who I am now. If I hadn’t taken that trip, I wouldn’t have left Louisiana. I wouldn’t have met my wife. I wouldn’t have a great career. I wouldn’t own a great loft in Oakland. I wouldn’t have two dogs that look like goblins. Everything good in my life came from that trip.

So guys, wherever you guys all are, thank you for letting me ride with you all those years ago.

 

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I’ve only read one book by Harper Lee, but it was a good one. To Kill a Mockingbird is part of the canon in the United States. If you went to school here you probably have read it too.

Most people writing about Lee today will mention how important the book was for Civil Rights. I agree with all that, but the character I always related to was Boo Radley.

My grandmother raised me till I was about ten years old. She was kind of a crazy shut in, so I was kind of a crazy shut in. For years I didn’t have any real friends except my cousin (who I saw every other weekend). I hung out in a big old rural house by myself, with a lot of books and some pretty great Star Wars toys, but it was very lonely.

This isolation caused me to develop a vivid imagination, which serves me well as a writer. I never have trouble coming up with ideas. Though I do still have anxiety about going out in the world and I hate loud and crowded spaces.

Boo Radley basically saves the day by leaving his self imposed exile to help people, but he is fortunate enough to remain anonymous after the deed. I imagine in today’s world TMZ would be posted up outside his house while bloggers wrote articles about the horrible crimes of his youth.

Anyway, I’ve made this post more about myself than Harper Lee. I guess that’s the norm for blogging.

Here’s to you Harper Lee. You wrote a great book and it will bring people joy and make them think for a long time.

Ross Perot had this great quote that goes something like this: “the activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.”

I think he could’ve been more generous to the person who says the river is dirty. Many times speaking up is a very brave thing to do. I agree with the implication that the man who cleans up the river is doing the heavy lifting, though. Both are necessary, but if you have to be one of the two, be the dude who cleans up the river.

One of the infuriating things about the internet is it seems to reward people who raise their voices, but people don’t seem to like sticking around to clean the river. You don’t get as many likes on Facebook for that and it’s so hard most people “can’t even.” They become outrage peddlers when the world needs river cleaners.

I’m guilty of this just like everyone else, but I’ve decided to start holding myself accountable with action. Every time I share a divisive or anger inducing article online, I will now pick up a piece of trash. I figure since I’m basically littering the psychic lawns of my nearest and dearest, I can help my grotesquely dirty neighborhood out a little.

The reason for taking on this personal bit of low-level activism is I was inspired by something Tony Robbins just did here in the Bay Area. Some nuns were getting evicted from their soup kitchen in San Francisco’s rough and downtrodden Tenderloin neighborhood. It’s a familiar story these days: old school SF thing that people rely on gets pushed out to make way for something that pays higher rent.

Tony Robbins did came in and broke some cheddar off for the sisters (about $25K), allowing them to stay in their space short term. What I like about what else he’s doing is he’s not saying, “I’ve got this rent thing for you forever.” Part of his assistance is finding them a new place and helping them get a more viable plan for the business that supports their activities.

This isn’t Robbins’ only act of charity. He grew up super poor and a stranger bought his family Thanksgiving dinner one year. This changed him forever and after that he started trying to feed families with his own money. He started with one meal while he was still working a crappy day job, eventually building the number to just over 2 million served with his charities.

Tony Robbins always seemed a little cheesy to me, so I never read his books. In solidarity with him helping the sisters out, I decided to get one of his books, The first one I’m reading is MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.

If you don’t take control of your finances and learn how to actively manage your money, it’ll be very hard to make real money in this life. If you want to be able to do real good in the world, it helps to have some financial freedom.

Lots of preachers in the Prosperity Gospel movement (the folks who believe god wants you to be rich, but he’d be more inclined to make you rich if you helped buy the church a private jet) cite the story of the Good Samaritan. If you don’t know this one, here’s the gist: a person of a totally different religious background helps a person down on their luck. This story usually has the interpretation that you should be ready to help anyone out, no matter their background.

It also does double duty justifying the pursuit of financial stability as an act of good stewardship. If the Good Samaritan didn’t have any cash, he wouldn’t have been able to help by paying for all the doctors the person needed , and there’d be no story.

I’m kind of partial to this interpretation. You should take action in your own life to be useful to other people. If I was a billionaire I’d probably be way more useful to this world than I am now. I might spend some of that money on jet-skis and exotic firearms, but the good works I could get up to would probably justify whatever nonsense I rocked. At least I hope it would.

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My financial unhappiness can be traced back to a decision I made at the age of 15. I got a car instead of a computer. I call this the Reverse Ferris Bueller. If I had the foresight to start fooling around on the Internet in the 90s, who knows how much I would’ve been able to win and lose during the first dot-com bust?

In the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the lead character, Ferris, laments early in the film that his parents got him a computer instead of a car. The rest of the film is essentially about how he goes about getting a hot car, free time to enjoy it, and deal with the collateral damage of potentially ruining his best friend’s already tenuous relationship with his father.

Ferris is a computer hacker. He hacks right into his school’s database to change the number of absentee days on his record. He uses social engineering to bust his girlfriend out of class and get a table at a fancy restaurant. Not bad for a motivated teen heartthrob.

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We’ve seen this in an earlier Matthew Broderick film, Wargames. In this even more computer focused 1983 Cold War classic (nominated for three Academy Awards) Broderick plays David Lightman, a hacker who gets through high school by changing his grades by infiltrating his school’s computers. After impressing a girl with his mad skillz, he gets pretty close to starting World War 3 fooling around with the United States Government’s computers. The only thing that stops global annihilation is the terminal boredom of playing tic-tac-toe.

I’m not sure I would go back in time to change my choice, though. For $700 I got myself a 1986 Dodge Colt. It came with the freedom to drive girls around after curfew to late night showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was already on the path to sci-fi fandom, but this experience of midnight shenanigans with friendly women made sure I’d never be content without the company of weirdoes ever again.

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There are some spoilers for the mid-season 6 premiere in this entry. If you’re a yellow-belly whiner about that kind of thing, go watch the episode and let me know what you think of Daryl Dixon’s shocking death.

I’ve been a fan of the apocalyptic genre of fiction (and in some cases non-fiction) since I was a small child. The way I got turned onto obsessing about the END TIMES was through watching episodes of The 700 Club with my grandmother. Each episode revealed how the events of The Book of Revelations were about a week away and we had all better send money or we’d be sorry.

As a little kid I was fairly unsure I’d be raptured up into the clouds with Jesus’s teleporter. We watched a lot of televangelist programming, but never went to church. Since church attendance is typically a prerequisite for salvation in most sects, I was always worried we would all be left behind, just like those shockingly popular books.

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In my mind, the best course of action if you found yourself cursed to live in the final days was to move all of my friends and family into a guarded cul de sac and fend off demons with explosive arrows (like Rambo). This is essentially what this entire season of The Walking Dead has been about. So in a way, this season is my childhood dream come true.

Part of the joy of zombie film is imagining the type of action you would take to survive, and what your strategy would be. If I had my career to do all over again, I would’ve gone to medical school. It’s a gig that pays well when civilization is intact and it’s indispensable when the dead walk. Just having proficiency in chopping off bitten limbs could be a specialty worth pursuing.

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In a zombie apocalypse we would be forced to put aside everything except utility, at least in the short term. Eventually folks would need to get together and rebuild and soon after that, there’d be differing ideas about how to restore the world.

From Rick Grimes’ bedside speech to his now monocular son CORRAL it looks like Rick has become born again on Deanna’s vision of what Alexandria should be. Rick says, “Everything Deanna was talking about is possible. It’s all possible now.” He grabs the kid’s hand and promises, “I want to show you the new world, I want to make it a reality for you” and then the episode ends with CORRAL squeezing his hand back.

Another thing I noticed in the episode is in the scene with Glenn and Enid in the church. The camera mirrors Enid’s long gaze at a Bible verse on the wall of the church: Faith Without Works is Dead -James 2:26

Later in the episode the Preacher, who is finally pulling some amount of his weight, says, “our prayers have been answered, god will save Alexandria because god has given us the courage to save it ourselves.” He then proceeds to lead the crew of people hiding out in his church on a major undead ass kicking spree. That is some serious pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps theology that I can get behind.

You can’t send prayers or use positive thinking in the apocalypse because talk minus action equals zombie food. But that doesn’t mean faith is dispersed. For Alexandria to make it, the members have to have faith in it and take action to make that faith live. They have to believe in something more than themselves and they have to protect it.

The way I see it, that’s not much different than the world we live in now.

 

 

 

 

 

PC Bro

George Orwell’s 1984 made a big impression on me when I read it in 8th grade. I am insanely sensitive to any attempt, however well meaning, to control language.

If forced to choose a side in the war of Politically Correct language, I would proudly fight on the side of free speech at any cost. There should be no limits on what is said because you never know who will be doing the limiting one day.

While I’m not a fan of changing the world by controlling how people speak, I am a fan of changing the world by controlling how I act (I could be much better on this).

As a teenager, I met a man while walking by myself in the French Quarter one night. He was homeless and seemed to have been traveling hard for a long time. He had a piece of French bread in his hand and shortly into our conversation he stopped and said, “I found this bread in a dumpster, I don’t want to bother you by eating it.”

I asked him, “why would that bother me?” and he explained how he never meant to give offense and he would rather be hungry than cause another person grief. He then quoted the following bible verse:

Romans 14:21

It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fail.

Think about that for a second. You don’t have to be religious at all to appreciate the concern a man with nothing but a backpack and an old Bible had for a stranger’s feelings.

This doesn’t mean we should always be nice. Sometimes withholding a strong word will cause our brothers and sisters to fail. But what if we all agreed that we could say anything we wanted without fear of government enforced punishment, but practiced speech that caused people to win?