Monday, April 17, 2017

Four and Twenty Tokin' Women for 4/20

In honor of the upcoming' holiday 4/20—and for all of those blackbirds who got "baked" in a pie—here are four and twenty newly discovered Tokin' Women.

Google "marijuana + women" and you'll get a lot of photos of scantily-clad gals hitting the bong. But our true Herstory is much more interesting.

In literature, we claim the Beat poetesses Anne Waldman and Joanne Kyger. Waldman has written eloquently about the drug experience, and Kyger mentioned it in oblique and amusing ways.

Truman Capote's character Holly Golightly tries pot in the 1958 novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (although this aspect of her character wasn't depicted in the 1971 movie). Joyce Carol Oates's heroine in her short story "High" feels "expansive? elated? excited?" after toking.

From academia, there is Harriet Martineau, the first female sociologist and ancestor to to Princess Kate Middleton, who took to the nargileh during her Middle Eastern travels. French author Simone de Beauvoir tried marijuana in 1947 during a trip to the US, just before she wrote her seminal work "The Second Sex."

"We marched, wrote polemics, started magazines, took over universities. And in between, we smoked a little pot, made a little love, and changed the world forever," wrote Janis Ian about coming of age in the 1970s. Rita Coolidge wrote of her college years, "We always had a lot of weed, which we’d decided was vital to the creative process," and recounted eating pot brownies with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and his wife before going to Disneyland.

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart came out in favor of marijuana legalization. Halsey sang, "We are the new Americana / high on legal marijuana." Jazz singer June Eckstine was smeared over marijuana in 1947, and again in 1954.

Movies and TV take the most mentions, without even getting the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie." Recently uncovered depictions of cannabis-consuming women on film include Harley Wood as Burma in "Marihuana" (1936), a Reefer Madness-style film with a more poetic ending. Leigh French of the Smothers Brothers' "Share a Little Tea with Goldie" segment shows up in the prophetic "WUSA" (1970) as a hippie pot smoker.

Helen Hunt played a woman who learns to surf and smoke pot in "Ride,"  Elizabeth Moss turned on her boyfriend with trippy consequences in "The One I Love," and Jennifer Aniston's character enlightened up in "Life of Crime." Queen Latifah played blues singer and Tokin' Woman Bessie Smith in an HBO biopic, and Kate Winslet's character in  "The Dressmaker" supplied pot brownies to a neighbor in pain. Tina Fey took her turn at the hookah in "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" and Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine) got baked in "Dough."

And finally, a Viking ship dating back to 820 AD was discovered with the remains of two women, aged 50 and 70. The pair, who may have been priestesses, were carrying a leather pouch containing cannabis seeds.

Read more in Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Joanne Kyger Wakes Up From The Dream

Poet Joanne Kyger, who according to her New York Times obituary, was "one of the few women embraced by the Beat Generation writers’ fraternity," died on March 22 at her home in Bolinas, California.

Her contemporary Anne Waldman wrote to the Times: “She lived within the most interesting alternative communities of our time. She was Buddhist; she was an environmentalist. She lived her ethos daily, modestly, below the radar, and with great attention to the natural world and the magic of the cosmos.” 

Kyger was married to fellow poet Gary Snyder and wrote about traveling with him in Japan and India in Strange Big Moon: Japan and India Journals, 1960-1964. The couple divorced in 1965, "after she had tired of playing wife and hostess to other Beat guests." She taught at Mills College in and the New School in California, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Colorado, and in the hippie haven of Bolinas. 

There she met her friend and admirer Steve Heilig, who once asked her during an interview about the women Beats. She told a story about a woman writer  who would burst into tears when criticized. "I wasn't about to let that happen to me," she said. I asked Heilig if Kyger was a "Tokin' Woman," and he replied that although "she certainly wouldn't define herself in that manner," one could find references in her work.

She read this one aloud to the great amusement of the audience:

When I came back from a trip to Europe and New York in the late ‘60s 
I found the Summer of Love 
and the Bay Area awash with psychedelic participants 

I went to visit Albert who was living in Mill Valley…. 

And then I asked him, How can I understand this new hippie culture? 
Albert said, Well, when you wake up in the morning, get stoned. 
And I mean really really stoned. 
If you do this every day 
you can eventually change your consciousness. 

About 15 years later when I saw him next 
I asked, Did you ever say 
when we were supposed to stop?

Yet she published nearly 30 collections of her poetry in her lifetime. Her poem Destruction was another crowd favorite and demonstrates her unique way of breaking a line:

First of all do you remember the way a bear goes through
a cabin when nobody is home? He goes through
the front door. I mean he really goes through it. Then
he takes the cupboard off the wall and eats a can of lard.

He eats all the apples, limes, dates, bottled decaffeinated
coffee, and 35 pounds of granola. The asparagus soup cans
fall to the floor. Yum! He chomps up Norwegian crackers
stashed for the winter. And the bouillon, salt, pepper,
paprika, garlic, onions, potatoes....

He goes down stairs and out the back wall. He keeps on going
for a long way and finds a good cave to sleep it all off.
Luckily he ate the whole medicine cabinet, including stash
of LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin, Amanita, Benzedrine, Valium
and aspirin.

“Joanne Kyger was a trailblazer, fearless and full of insight,” City Lights Publisher Elaine Katzenberger told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Her poetry has influenced generations of younger poets, and there are many in the Bay Area and beyond who will be missing her fierce humor and generous mentorship.”

“When you die,” Kyger wrote in the poem “Night Palace,” “you wake up from the dream.”

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What "The Dressmaker" Made in the Kitchen

I was so engrossed with the tale of
"The Dressmaker," a "black comedy of revenge and haute couture" now on Amazon Prime that
I nearly missed the pot plot.

Based on the book by Australian actress and author Rosalie Ham, the movie stars Kate Winslet as Tillie Dunnage, a young woman who comes home to her outback Australian hometown and transforms the place with her tenacity, courage and dressmaking skills.

One of the many colorful characters in the town is the druggist Mr. Almanac (Barry Otto of Strictly Ballroom), who refuses to treat his wife Irma's painful arthritis with drugs. "Addictive," he says. "All that's needed is God's forgiveness, a clean mind and a wholesome diet." So Tilly brings Irma some special cakes she's baked with herbs from her garden. "Unusual aroma," says Irma who is astonished to find her pain is gone after eating them. The secret herb is later revealed in the book when Tilly adds hemp to hot honey to treat her mother Molly, played by Judy Davis.

Molly gets into the act when she brings some extra-strength cakes to Irma. "Go easy on them cakes, I made them a bit stronger than she [Tilly] would have," Molly warns her. "She's young; she doesn't understand pain like we do."

Elsewhere in town, Marigold Pettyman is drugged by her husband Evan with something called Browne's Elixir. Marigold escapes from her domestic nightmare when she puts down the elixir and instead visits Tillie to order a really great dress.

The film, which features Liam Hemsworth as Tillie's love interest Teddy, adds a delightful ending to the cannabis cake episode involving the local police Sergeant, played by Hugo Weaving.

It's almost a modern The Count of Monte Cristo,  another tale of revenge that includes a stylish stranger, and hashish. As in the Spanish TV series The Time Between Seams (aka The Time In Between, now on Netflix), it's nice to watch women reclaiming their power using their traditional skills of sewing – and cooking.