Tuesday, April 26, 2022

75 Years Ago: When Simone de Beauvoir Tried Marijuana in New York City

We are approaching the 75th anniversary the day when French author and feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir was taken to a party in New York City, at her request, to experience smoking marijuana. Beauvoir’s experiences in America lead directly to her writing The Second Sexan "eight-hundred-page encyclopedia of the folklore, customs, laws, history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, literature, economic systems, and received ideas," which remains an influential feminist treatise to this day. 

Beauvoir appears in a dream to Lisa Simpson in "Smoke on the Daughter" 

Born in 1908 and educated in a Catholic convent school in Paris, Simone de Beauvoir showed a high intelligence early in life. “Simone thinks like a man,” her father would boast. 

She was greatly influenced as a child by Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and the March sisters. “They were poor and plainly dressed, just as she was. Like her, they were taught that the life of the mind was of higher value than rich food, dress and decoration," wrote Deidre Bair in Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography. George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, where the tragic heroine Maggie Tulliver is “torn between her own happiness and what she perceived as her duty to others,” was also an influence. Both Alcott and Eliot wrote stories in which hashish was mentioned, as did Rudyard Kipling, another author whose books were widely available in French translation at the time. 

Beauvoir also witnessed her school friend ZaZa so constrained by her wealthy family's expectations for her to marry well that she mutilated herself in the leg with an axe rather than face another round of staid society parties. Meanwhile, ZaZa's cousin Jacques, a suitor to Simone, was free to visit the bohemian regions of the city, introducing her to a world at a time when, "not many bookish virgins with a particle in their surname got drunk with the hookers and drug addicts at Le Styx," wrote Judith Thurman in the introduction to a 2010 translation of The Second Sex. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

"Weed's Come a Long Way, Baby" Campaign to Premiere on 4/20

"Flower by Edie Parker" is launching an ad campaign on 4/20 based on the famous "You've Come a Long Way, Baby" ads for Virginia Slims cigarettes in the late 1960s and '70s. The ads are going up in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Boston and include the brand’s nickname, Weedie Parker, and models posting with twin packs of pre-rolls called Best Buds.

“These ads were so groundbreaking—the Virginia Slims woman was stylish and independent and bold. But in 2022, she doesn’t smoke cigarettes. She smokes flower,” Brett Heyman, founder of handbag-maker-turned-cannabis-company Edie Parker told Adweek

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Yes, Women Can Be "Hysterical" (In a Good Way)

With so much emphasis on comedy and comedians in the wake of the Chris Rock and Louis C.K. flaps, I decided to watch the HBO documentary Hysterical, following a group young female stand-up comedians, with cameos from established comics. The title is doubly apt: "Hysterical" can mean "very funny" but has also been used to denigrate women as having uncontrollable emotions (the root comes from the Greek hystera meaning uterus).  

I didn't understand why Chris Rock was needed at the Oscars, since comediennes Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer were both hosts. Hysterical proves that women stand-ups can hold their on on the stage. The film is full of funny (dare I say, hysterical) stand-up moments from the women, who also tell amazing, and amusing, stories of the hurdles they still must jump to be heard. 

Filmmaker Andrea Nevins said some comics refused to appear in the documentary if a comment made by Jerry Lewis about women not being funny would be brought up. Lewis's statement, that he couldn't watch a woman "diminish her qualities" by doing stand up, is similar to arguments used to keep women out of politics, or even grant us the right to vote.

Margaret Cho for Cho-G
Nikki Glaser stood out to me in the film. She's been open about her marijuana use and how it helps her cope; she recently had a conversation about it with Chelsea Handler, also a pot fan. Margaret Cho, who loves pot so much she developed a strain called Cho-G, tells a tale in Hysterical about getting a call from the producer of her TV show telling her she was overweight. She manages to make funny the fact that she lost 30 pounds in two weeks, leading to an attack of kidney failure on the set. Crazy when you think about how it was rumored that Melissa McCarthy's sitcom was cancelled because she lost too much weight. 

Looking up Cho, I saw she has pinned a tweet about Rolling Stone putting her on their 2017 list of Top 50 Stand-Up Comedians. I checked out the list: there are only 11 women on it, and only one (Joan Rivers) in the top 30. Cho comes in at #48, with Sykes at #50, and Schumer at #43, just behind Phyllis Diller way down at #42. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Top 10 Quotes and Moments from the Oscars

1. "President Biden, bring Brittney Griner home." - Ben Proudfoot, director of The Queen of Basketball, holding up his Oscar for best short documentary film.  

2. "I'm the only sober one up here. Some things haven't changed in 30 years. You guys should have hooked me up." - Rosie Perez on her presenting reunion with White Men Can't Jump co-stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, who joked about taking bong rips in the car on the way to the show.

3. "Documentaries make you feel smart, like you read a book or something, when all you really did was get high and watch Netflix." 
- Chris Rock before handing the Best Documentary award to Questlove for Summer of Soul. But not before Will Smith thought his wife needed a Big Strong Man to defend her against one of Chris's jokes, and responded with violence and profanity (censored from the feed I watched) in the low point of the night. No wonder Smith cried through his acceptance speech; he could use more getting high, watching Netflix and chilling in his life. Apparently the ayahuasca he tried in 2021 didn't last, or wasn't properly integrated. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

"Garcia Hand Picked" Pot from Carolyn and Jerry's Daughters Goes on the Road

The daughters of cannabis queen Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia and their progeny are traveling by trailer around the country with their brand, named "Garcia Hand Picked," featuring images of their famous father (or stepfather), Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. The brand was created by the daughters Carolyn had with Jerry, Trixie and Annabelle, and her daughter Sunshine by another famous pot pioneer, Merry Prankster Ken Kesey. 

Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia
with her daughters
When Kesey was arrested for pot in 1965, Carolyn told news reporters, “I’m not weeping with remorse.” (This was a rather radical statement for the time.) Soon afterwards, she was gifted with four marijuana seeds brought back from Vietnam by a veteran, and grew them so well that the resulting buds were considered too strong by some. Trained in science and interested in the then-unknown field of organic gardening, she began growing several other cannabis strains from seed, again doing so well that she was inundated with requests to share her secrets. 

Garcia decided to write what became a seminal book on marijuana cultivation, Primo Plant:Growing Sinsemilla Marijuana, first published in 1976. The book quickly became a bestseller, selling 50,000 copies in two years’ time and helping to start the trend of quality home-grown, seedless sinsemilla among the back-to-landers of her generation. 

“It has now become like the wine or brandy industry,” Garcia told www.hemp.org in 2014. “There are a lot of very hip, smart, thoughtful people who have gotten into the production.” Among her leadership roles, she served on the advisory board to the Marijuana Policy Project, and helped shape the Women’s Visionary Council, a group that holds events across the country to highlight women’s research in entheogenics. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

RIP "Sister Bobbie" Nelson

Bobbie Nelson, Willie's older sister who played keyboards in his band for nearly 50 years, passed away on March 10 at the age of 91. 

"When it came to pot smoking, I could never match Willie—literally no one can—but I did experience the benefits," Bobbie wrote in the 2020 book she and Willie co-authored Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band. In the book, Willie writes: "Without my sister I'd never be where I am today. I've always needed her.....I would have run into ruin if it hadn't been for my first and best friend, Bobbie. If I was the sky, sister Bobbie was the earth. She grounded me. Two years older, she also protected me." 

The depression-baby siblings' parents broke up and left them with their grandparents when Bobbie was three years old and Willie only six months. After "Daddy" Nelson died when the kids were six and eight, Bobbie would take Willie and hide in the fields whenever the authorities came around, threatening to take them from their grandmother and separate them into foster homes. "Mama" Nelson traded eggs from her chickens for groceries, taught music, grew vegetables, and picked cotton and corn to support the children. The kids worked in the fields with her, and she taught them how to braid her hair. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Was The Band's "The Weight" Written For a Drug-Dealing Woman?

Cathy Smith, Inspiration for "The Weight"? 

From a woman's perspective, the dreary, draggy song has always bugged me. Who was this Annie (or Fanny) who was so weak she needed some burden taken off of her? 

Take a load off Fanny
Take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny
And you put the load right on me 

Written by The Band member Robbie Robertson, "The Weight" has cryptic and poetic lyrics with many possible interpretations, and is admittedly about characters known to members of the group. "The story told in the song is about the guilt of relationships, not being able to give what’s being asked of you," Robertson has said. "In going through these catacombs of experience. you’re trying to do what’s right, but it seems that with all the places you have to go, it’s just not possible. In the song, all this is ‘the load'." 

Route from Toronto to Nazareth, PA
When I learned that the title of the song was "The Weight," I wondered if it was also about a drug deal. "Take a load" could refer to picking up a certain weight of pot or some drug from a woman named Fanny, who apparently didn't get paid for the risk she took in the venture, since the lyrics say, "take a load for free." 

The song takes biblical overtones to many with its first lines:

I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin' about half past dead / I just need some place where I can lay my head....

However, Robertson says this was actually written about Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the home of Martin guitars. The town is a day's drive from the band's home base (Toronto, Canada) on the route to either Philadelphia or New York City. If the band was running weed to supplement their income, as so many musicians have, Nazareth might have been a stop on their trade route. In those days, it's likely they would have been carrying Mexican marijuana from the States across the border to Canada. 

"I loved The Band's music and thought 'The Weight' was a testament to the importance of underground drug dealing during that time," says NORML founder Keith Stroup. 

I picked up my bag, I went lookin' for a place to hide...