/ Survival / Semantics /
Social Reality, Semiotics
When I was a kid the line iterated over and over was that soft drugs led to hard drugs: drugs were bad, don’t start, no such thing as a harmless drug.
Unless of course the drug was developed by Bayer, was being marketed by a big German pharm, or by an American pharm: or by a big German pharm with lots of American money invested in it.
(A big pharm can kill with impunity if the right people own the stock. A big pharm can reinvent science: no honesty needed. My piece on the Constant Gardener comments on all that.)
Where do we draw the line between natural and artificial?
In Blow Johnny Depp’s version of George Jung tells the judge that he crossed an imaginary line carrying some plants. The judge laughs along with him, then turns acid: the plants he was carrying, six hundred-odd pounds of marijuana, were illegal: and the line, the judge practically screams, was Real! The line she says was real was a geo-political line, like where’s Chicago? Illinois? the United States? Which kleptocracy has jurisdiction?
(That is soo funny! What would anyone who’s put up with law school know about reality?)
How can a plant be illegal? Humans put nature in the dock? (Humans put everything in the dock.) Are the cigarettes packaged and marketed for us by Big Tobacco plants? Are they natural? (Once the extra nicotine has been added? the addictive potential maximized? Gun powder added to keep the damn thing burning?) (Real tobacco is forever going out, like pipes, and cigars.) Part of it starts natural.
Johnny’s George is from Massachusetts, he moves to California, a pot dealer there tells him there’s a huge market for pot in Boston, way under-supplied. He’s arrested and tried in Chicago.
The judge says these lines are “real.” Did God put them there?
I can understand the Atlantic coast being perceived as a “real” line: I can understand the Pacific coast being perceived as a real line. Hell, when I drive from dried out dusty Georgia into Florida where everything is in technicolor: the grass, the palms, I see a clear “line”: a collaboration between nature and an economy, a polity, a chamber of commerce. It’s the same kind of a line I saw driving from Switzerland into France: yich! all at once, everything nice disappears, poverty and grunge take over.
But this judge is no philosopher, no semanticist: she’s an imposer of Authority! Future blow dealer George flouts authority.
(Me too! But without the pot or the junk or the blow, thank you.) (And without the damn alcohol too!) (Tobacco booted long ago.)
Johnny Depp’s George Jung is funny when he’s young, and dressed nice and sporting that ridiculous Veronica Lake, eye-coving hairdo; once he’s used much of his own Colombian product, ugh, he looks like a used scum bag no matter how he’s dressed.
OK, that’s the kick off. You see I’m starting a juggle of a few balls, hope to do nice things with them, make patterns: important for defending ourselves against both things toxic and against political bloat. Try explaining “Chicago” to a cave man: a smart one, a genius cave man.
Keep It Burning
Cigarettes will spoil your life, ruin your health, and kill your baby:
Poor little innocent child.
Dave Van Ronk
Once upon a time native Americans used tobacco ritually. The men smoked, maybe well into the night. Maybe they got blotto from smoke and confinement, in a hut, a tent, I don’t know. Maybe the shaman smoked more than the brave who just passed his manhood test. But the shaman didn’t light up before breakfast on Monday as well as Sunday. The shaman didn’t suck down three packs a day.
The ritual pipe would have been lit, and relit. Hell, they were smoking around a fire: the re-lighter was right there.
Cigarettes kill partly because the diameter of the nicotine delivery system is narrow. A big fat cigar burns cool, especially if the big wrapper leaves were rubbed in a virgin’s crotch during assembly. A pipe burns cool: the smoke that goes to your lungs is much cooler than the smoke from a cigarette. The cigarette burns hot just from how skinny a cigarette is. The cigarette burns the hotter because it’s wrapped in paper, a natural fire starter. Still, the tobacco would go out unless constantly sucked on. So they add gun power.
Not only will the gun power-jazzed lit cigarette still be lit thirty seconds, a minute, two minutes, after you take your first toke; the cigarette will be burning away in the ash tray, or behind your ear, or on the lace table cloth, where you’ve forgotten about it, with the phone ringing and all. See? the cigarette will burn out, nothing but ash, with our back turned. So now you have to light another one! Now you have to buy another pack! A carton, a storeroom full of cartons!
Pot Then & Now
Want to know what I’m talking about really and truly? Read Pollan, Michael, The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. Human interference has spurred cannabis to evolve overnight into a much stronger hallucinogen than it had been just a couple of decades ago.
Once upon a time humans would have imbibed alcohol, children too, because things ferment in a world with yeasts. Brewing added some control, distilling added more control: rum is stronger than beer, this apple jack may be stronger than that apple jack. Well, pot had some hallucinogenic power when I was in college (and didn’t smoke it!); but now apparently pot is naturally as strong as stuff that used to come only from a lab.
I’m reading a slew of great books on wine in history, beer in history … I’ll jot more of beer in a minute.
Blow is very good at showing the process of manufacturing cocoa products.
No thanks, I don’t want it.
I write in a culture accustomed to alcohol and tobacco. The friend of the prince distills whiskey: so the scotsman who’s never not distilled whiskey can’t distill whiskey, he has to buy whiskey from the friend of the prince. But the prince didn’t have any friends who cultivated hash. So a good Christian can get blotto, beat his wife, brutalize his children, but he’ll go straight to hell, while he’s still alive, if he tries smoking anything funny.
George got rich real fast because he crossed lines with crossed weeds. Black markets stimulate ridiculous inflations: insane prices for cut goods. If people could smoke whatever they want, drink whatever they want, do whatever they want … Would we even have money at all? No, markets are fueled by inequalities, by hubris management: the prince, hubris from toe to tie.
When George was on the beach in California surrounded by groovy pot-mellow blonds, showing tits, ass, pussy in all directions, it seemed so nice, all those groovy chicks, love, love, love. A minute later he’s in Colombia and people are getting shot in the face with pistols while others stand guard with machine guns. And what does the Chicago judge know about that?
Did the Colombia cocaine business start with pot? with hash? or was it cocoa-based all along?
Let’s make a movie about an opium-based culture invaded by a cocoa-based culture. How would tobacco do? Or weed? Would they need machine gun guards to conduct business?
The US, the CIA, Bush and them: were those guys all heroin dealers? or cocaine too?
I’ll tell you one thing I know about the Bush’s hidden scuzz: when the fed put me in jail, when I finally got a commissary account, and was actually able to buy a thing or two for my own convenience, health, or pleasure, the couple of ounces of instant coffee I could buy for several dollars came from a never-before-heard-of company owned 100% by the Bushes. So why didn’t we save a lot of time and heartache and stay in thrall to the prince in the first place?
Then we’d likely be drinking English whiskey and smoking Virginia tobacco, opium would be strictly an export, and we would never have heard of coke.
If you’ve read much around K., particularly my modules on Addiction, on law , on semiotics, you’ll already partly know that my friends in college were only too well acquainted with cannabis, and opiates, and cocoa-based candies, along with the ubiquitous tobacco, wine, beer. Meantime I knew the latter but shunned the former. Thank goodness.
My personality is addiction-prone enough without the full deck of temptations.
Dave used to sing that tobacco spoof, someone else may have written it though.
I have to come back to comment on George Jung’s experience with a Panama bank. He deposits thirty or sixty million dollars, jokes about how all they gave him was a little red account booklet. It’s not so funny when George needs to withdraw some: so sorry, Panama has nationalized the banks, now all your money belongs to Panama!
I believe it, but got to look into it: is Panama a US puppet? or just another thief? a century ago? Now? in the 1970s?
I can’t date when I started smoking: I was six? eight? But 1961 is when I quit. Half a dozen years later I started again, but cigars, pipes: which I did not inhale. (Shit gets in your lungs anyway.) By the time I give them too up, I’d also taken to stuffing some chaw in my face on the golf course (the wind burned my AC Grenadiers up much too fast). Drinking I ceased oh say 1979.
PS Alcohol was really hard, but I did it. There’s something about nicotine though: six months later it’s still teasing you, tempting you. Chaw was the most persistent of all: it has a thousand ways to get at you, bring you back down. So I stopped chaw: in the ’80s, and in the ’90s … and in the … But now it really has been years without it.
Coffee? salt? them I’ve reduced but not ceased. Pot etc.? Never never. Or too little to count.