So…”Hey can you smoke here?” – an innocent question ended up sounding like an accusation – as if I was asking the young man innocently smoking his joint, if HE was allowed to smoke there, instead of asking him if I was also allowed to and it was within shelter rules. Damnit. I didn’t want to smoke right then and there, but to show I, in fact, was not accusing or busybodying and just clumsily wanted to know where the smoking area was, ended up pulling a joint out of my pocket and having a smoke with him. This man and I are from very different worlds in some ways, in some ways not. I’m white, not American born, I have been to university of not the totally mickey mouse sort, I’m in middle age, starting to sag and go to seed; my friend is black, young, American and male, and having survived the police, the street and life itself which has been doing it’s best to drag him down. We are both doing our best to survive homelessness with a family to take care of. He is a kind, strong decent man. We soon found common ground to talk about and had a good chat about police brutality, the legalities of weed, and the typical cry of the stoner everywhere, that “if people smoked weed and didn’t drink the world would be a much better place. Might not get shit done…but it would not be violent or aggressive.” Weed has you feeling like love and peace and smoke, maaaaan. Weed is harmony, everyone just wants to get stoned, from the hippies, to the jazz and blues guys, to granny and Shep the good dog with his bad hip. Drink together, and try and find such easy harmony! Booze has an inbuilt aggression, an amplification of the violence. Nobody ever hurt another soul because of weed. Booze has been the trigger and fuel for countless superman feats of human aggression and iron man violence.
This easy community is something that has been hard won for me, and is something I treasure. As difficult as things can be here at the shelter, there is also much good, much unity, and a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’, at least for the most part. It remains dangerous at times, difficult at others, but this kernel of goodness at the heart of this group of homeless families is so strong. I see people buoyed up, supported, loved, and I try to give that love and support back whenever I can. I know when my friends tease me, they are just playing a little rough, and for most of the time we understand each other, through the barriers of accents and dialects, differing experiences of life and diverse backgrounds. Sometimes it takes a little bit more, like today, two people for whom July 4th is not something we feel a part of – me through my nationality of birth not being American, and him through the oppression of the black community in the USA, sharing a smoke, experiences and a fist bump and speaking strictly for myself, actually felt like we could make a difference.
Dylan sang about having God on his side, winning battles because America is right and good and how in the horrors of McCarthy witchhunt era USA, that America might have to fight the Russians with bombs of ‘chemical dust’, and button-pushing horrors. Dylan’s youthful enthusiasm for the cause of peace, tempered only by his meditation that Jesus was betrayed by a kiss, thus foreshadowing his later Christian phase, and also giving the listener the hint that Bob’s waters might run deeper than the standard protest song fare. Bob is trustworthy on almost all matters, and by 1966 Dylan was singing Everybody Must Get Stoned instead, and you know what, I really think he was onto something big. Everyone was looking to Dylan for political answers and leadership, perhaps our wild mercury man gave it his best shot when he wrote Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone/Everybody must get stoned!
Maybe what Biden needs to do is roll a fattie, and fire one up with Putin, and see if they can see each other’s point of view, come to a solution of compassion, decency and understanding. Perhaps what world politics needs is a bit more gonzo spirit, a little more openness and freedom. Dylan sang “if God’s on our side, He will stop the next war”, but what if we can’t rely on a God who remains stubbornly silent through holocaust and tsunami, through genocides and oppression? Only us humans can stem the tide, and we won’t do it through being closed, insular, protective and sneaky. Yes, I can see it now, Biden in his wayfarers, all Presidential and pristine, flying into the Kremlin with a couple of ki’s of sweet haze, flying in a big airliner, playing Arlo Guthrie’s Coming into Los Angeles, and getting down to business. The most creative and fresh America has ever looked was in the hippy era of the 1960s and this country needs to find some of that peace, love, understanding, great music, and cultural heft! In fact I think we need a new strain for the occasion, the Vulcan Mind Meld, strong on the empathy, off the charts on the emotional quotient, high on the giggles. Biden telling Putin he looks like a meerkat and Putin putting down the aggro-spirits and smoking that peace pipe with the world. It would be grand. Russia would loosen up a bit and stop eyeing up the rest of the world like it was lunch, and Biden might find his mojo.
Come on, there have been worse ideas! Give peace a chance, or at least if that fails, give good strong far-out Californian weed the opportunity to shine. Who knows, maybe we can start exporting California green sunshine to the depths of a Russia so cold diplomatically it almost seems as if they are trying to push the limits of usual international relations and see what they can get away with! What have we got to lose? A virus that looks like it was designed in a lab and escaped wiping out millions, nuclear weapons that could destroy the world many times over, Russian cyber attacks – ok so not confirmed, but come on people, we all know where it is coming from, whether it is officially sanctioned or not – on American companies. Everybody with a thumb in the pie of world peace needs to take a huge lungful of thc and just damn well stop it, otherwise we are all toast, or at least one toke over the line, and watching two suns on the horizon, and to be frank, rather selfishly, I have survived too much to be ok with that happening. Something has to give, because I have really been looking forwards to a few better years, and at this rate it is all going to end in tears.
Remember kids, don’t Bogart that joint, pass it over to your fellow freak and see what common ground you can find. There has to be some left somewhere in all this mess…