Tales of Mary Jane: What to Expect

I’ve been so busy trying to wring money out of people whom I esteem, that I haven’t properly acknowledged the feelings that course through me each time I open the mail to find another pledge of backing, often from someone no more capable of philanthropy than I. My humble gratitude is the most I can offer as quid pro quo until we see whether the goal is met. If it isn’t, of course, the credit card charges by Amazon payments will be withdrawn and we’ll all go on as if we dreamed the whole thing. All except me. I’ll spend some time scrawling letters on hand-painted sheets, that acknowledge my affection for you who tried to help.

I’m optimistic, still. There are three days left, and I’ll continue to nudge friends, family and strangers alike to respond to the appeal, in all its parts. Foremost of these is the fund and its intended use, in a word, “airfare”. It’s the most expensive occasional purchase we make, living where we do, the round-trip KoreaUS air ticket. One per year is the norm.

One of the ideas I toyed with in the preparation to launch this, came from a look back into history. When I was a young journalism student, I was fascinated to learn of the “Penny Papers” that appeared in 1830. A newspaper then contained news, short stories of fiction, long biographical stories and a myriad of other content that, today, comes spread among radio, TV, Internet, telephony, magazines and assorted other print materials. It cost about 6 cents then. In today’s money, several dollars. A newspaper selling for a penny, then, was an idea doomed to succeed, and for a time, while the competition hastened to adjust to the new business model, it thrived. It’s secret: sell advertisements (hence my choice of the word “doomed”). It altered the world of printed newspapers, and subsequently other types of reporting, forever. Those who advertise don’t want their pitch to appear alongside stories about the bad environmental practices of their industry, or their mistreatment of workers, or fatal results of using their products, or their violations of law in the sacrosanct name of business. You understand, I know.

So, for “Tales of Mary Jane”, my initial idea was to ask for ten dollars from each backer, and to offer each the reward of several-times-weekly windows on the world of prohibition, in real time, as I go about collecting the information that my informants have agreed to share, openly, or in confidence. Without giving away too much, I can promise there will be no follower of this trail of crumbs, if the money goal is reached, who will not hoist an eyebrow at some of these revelations of activities that have gone on, so to say, under our noses for many years. How could it be otherwise, when a switch is thrown by vote, from prohibition, to regulated permission, for this still controversial activity surrounding every aspect of cannabis in society?

If you are reading this, you may have already helped. In that case, I will always be proud to know there are such people as you, even if I don’t get to collect your backing. I’m determined not to give up trying before the last grain of sand is rolling down the talus. I’ll be asking my “friends” (quotes for FB connections i haven’t met face-to-face, but want to) one after another, to jump in for a buck, five dollars, ten. I am already amazed at the warm reception they have given the idea.

If each of them (or you) can convince one other person to do the same, as well as convince one more to follow suit and spread the word, three days is a large enough window for this animal to jump through. A little poke in ass with a sharp stick, and you may be the one to make it happen. I know one thing beyond a doubt; no person who is behind bars as the result of a marijuana violation, would not empty his or her pockets to support this project if they had a chance, especially if it might increase the chance for them to see their children again sooner.

Highest regards,



Conscience and the Law: Full Disclosure (a memoir)

This is update #1 for Tales of Mary Jane. As subscriptions go, a dollar of backing is quite a bargain, unless you hate me and/or my writing. Here we go.

I spend several hours online every day, exploring news sites I follow, or leads shared by friends in my social network who share my (some say) over-broad range of interest. I interact with many of these friends on Facebook, too.

I do email.

I research (a weasel-word for “looking shit up I’ve forgotten”).

I “like” and share.

I get lost wandering among my photographs and document files.

All of it together leads me to speculate on the condition of the world, and whether there is to be much of a human future in it.

Sometimes, as a result, I get an idea for something I might do in the hope of improving the prospects of that future, if completed, that would fit into this pattern of my daily life.

This project, The Tales of Mary Jane: the Children of Prohibition, is the latest one of those ideas. People who notice it will ask themselves what, exactly, is the axe I’m grinding with it? The answer is simple, and it’s inescapably personal.

By the time I reached the age of 30, I had lived half my life in a pattern recognized in the therapeutic sense of it, as alcoholism. I continued to deny it for half-a-dozen years after, in rare sober moments, I knew it either had to be true, or I was simply one of the great fuck-ups. An increasing tendency to get into fights while drinking finally brought me to ground; like any common bully or coward, I was afraid someone was likely to kick my ass really good one day and hurt me if I didn’t mend my ways. Deserving or not, I intended to avoid it any way I could.

I stopped drinking then, and haven’t started up again. If I said I haven’t thought about, don’t think about drinking any more, those who share the status with me would cry “Bullshit!” to the rafters; I’d be busted by it, and my already diminished credibility would vanish. It wasn’t easy to quit (and neither was tobacco); maybe the only thing that kept me from returning to the swig was the fear that, if I had, I wouldn’t be able to stop a second time. Saved, once again, by cowardice.

I can say I was a bully and a coward because the fear of getting battered led me to quit. Some explaining is required, because, after all. it’s unflattering, and It needn’t be said, so why admit it, even if true? The answer is simple enough. If I was insufficiently motivated to stop drinking as the result of losing nearly everything of importance to any normal person, aside from the ability to walk, talk and have sex, what would it take? Self-respect, concern for others, marriage, jobs, schooling, emotional stability, financial stability, belongings, all had been left in crumpled heaps behind the bent-wheeled wagon I could never quite get on.

It may seem strange to that rarest of readers with no personal experience of this kind, but bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse. While I have been jailed five times, directly or indirectly, as the result of drinking, it was never for longer than overnight. If it had happened twenty years later, when drunkenness was no longer an acceptable legal defense against prosecution for bad driving, I would have spent years behind bars, and that’s just for the times I was caught. If I had not been white, and from a “good” family, I might still be inside. If you’re not good, it’s good to be lucky.

So, I quit drinking. I’d have done it sooner but for a single fact: I had become a regular user of marijuana five years before. The combination was mellower than straight alcohol, and the trip was smoother. The weed wasn’t, like it is (I’m told) today so debilitatingly strong as to preclude being overpowered by the manic impulses unleashed by whisky, and so I could still provoke an altercation to regret upon sobering up.

Perspectives on substance abuse vary. Matters of opinion in the absence of solid research, and variations in the professional milieux of treatment and recovery are influential. I followed my own lights, and chose alcoholism from the menu of recovery options, ignoring the insistent nags, “What about those unresolved dependencies? What about honesty?” So give me an F, and boot me out of Sunday School. I never cared, and I don’t today. I’m a true believer in nothing but the power of love and kindness.

I tried once or twice to let others decide for me how to interpret what went on in my mind as a result of alterations I sent coursing through it. I came back always to the inkling that, smart as they sounded when they talked in general terms about what I was experiencing, it always came down to one conclusion, “Well, you don’t really know me, after all.” As it always among the self-indulgent, at the end of every encounter, I made it all about me, and never about those I hurt or damaged. In short, it was the way of bullies and cowards.

At this stage of my life, I can acknowledging these things, and I feel a needing to do so. It seems the most direct way for me to get to the more important, the all-important, business of making what remains of a meandering, maundering life useful to others not so lucky, in any way I can. That’s what I want to accomplish with the Tales of Mary Jane.


Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition

A year ago, I took my first step into the world of crowd funding. A success, the backing I received enabled me to present a collection of photographs I took while living in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, as a gift to the Seattle Public Library. In return for their help, I promised backers a “reward” in the form of a book with information about the images in the collection, including a narrative about the period (1966-’68), places, people and cultural context portrayed.

Today, minutes ago, I launched a second appeal titled, “Tales of Mary Jane: The Children of Prohibition”. The campaign will run for 14 days. The money goal is modest, far less than will be required to produce the best quality outcome. I may be over-optimistic in thinking the project will capture the interest of anyone who marvels, as I still do from afar, that states of Washington and Colorado (two of my favorites), have legalized recreational use of marijuana since I launched the first campaign.

This is significant because it shapes my perspective on the first Kickstarter effort (“KS1”). Some, a few dozen, of the images in the slide collection show people engaged in various activities associated with casual or habitual use of marijuana. Because this was a criminal activity then (and in most places still is today) the photographs, like the drugs, might have been considered contraband, or at the very least, evidence to support prosecution and, upon conviction, incarceration if we had been so careless as to be caught, as many have been, and are still.

In writing the story of the slide show while poring over the pages of slides in the collection for the purpose of tagging and logging them before sending them on to Seattle, a small but prominent group of images expanded in my mind. They are shots of the small children whose parents were the adults shown smoking pot. The adults were a light-hearted group then and now, and the photos suggest nothing sinister or fear inducing, contrary to the expectations of what at the time was called “straight society”, before the more explicitly sexual connotation attached to the phrase.

As I wrote, my thoughts turned more and more to those children. I wondered, what became of them? A few of them, I know today. For the most part, they grew strong, intelligent, worldly, capable, even accomplished citizens. To all appearances, they were wholly unimpaired by the conditions of their childhood. I can’t say, nor do I have any basis to speculate, what has been the fate of the others. The questions that have grown in my consciousness while writint of them are intensified by not knowing.

Is it possible to predict the mindset of one who grows up gradually more aware that those closest are, crudely put, habitual criminals? How does such knowledge shape one’s interaction with the contrastive world beyond the front door of the family home? Does it influence their choice of friends? Does it make them more or less likely to indulge in a subculture of marijuana use or other proscribed behavior themselves? Are they more sophisticated about the whole range of substances and their abuse? Do they form coteries of peer support outside the traditional systems in their communities.

I intend to gather and tell these “Tales of Mary Jane”. I will find these possessors of unique insight, elicit their stories, and share the stories with a world several generations behind them in its awareness of what, although illegal, has been pervasive. All those having deep familiarity with marijuana and its use, and effects on users are in a position to help inform those who lack it.

A majority of US citizens now agree that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. I will present the evidence I find for and against that conclusion, through the personal narratives and detailed accomplishments of those who understand the much-maligned herb better than can any other, in their way: the children of prohibition. I will need all the help I can get, to do it justice, and justice is really what it’s all about.

Cannabis is coming; can Korea catch the wave?

Korean national policy regarding the legal status of marijuana as, alternately, an intoxicant and a medication, and their future role in Korean agricultural economy, must undergo change in the near future. Legal recreational use of marijuana in the US states of Washington and Colorado is a done deal, and although attempts to roll it back continue, they appear less likely to succeed with each scintillating report of growing profits and tax yields from sales.
Simply put, the combination of growing interest in utilitarian products made of hemp fiber, and the combination of recreational and medical consumption of an ever-widening range of cannabinol (get you high drug) and cannabidiol (relieves your ailment with no high) drug products has become so robust that when the movement is fully developed, it will transform every society that embraces it.
What is Korea to do, then? The nation bought into the false picture painted by US demonizers of the plant, and lodged marijuana with those natural and pharmaceutical drug substances like opium and amphetamine and their derivatives. Once so grouped, strong legal penalties for use, and the promulgation of cultural taboos such as attach to any forbidden item, were made strong, sweeping and draconian.
Why all this fuss over a plant that over decades of prohibition, despite collecting millions of enthusiastic users, has yet to be blamed directly for the death of a single person? Compare this to the same statistic for alcohol or tobacco and any reasonable person should get a glimpse of marijuana’s future (and explanation of its past) now the facts about it become more widely known.
It’s understandable that, where so much official and press puffery and bombast have been launched against marijuana since its criminalization was urged upon other nations by the US, no Korean policymaker is likely to be the first to come forward and say, “Look, we need to talk about this.” One’s political game is motivated by the urgency of getting reelected. Giving one’s opponents ammunition, in the form of support for changes in Korean anti-drug laws, even if convinced of the wisdom of it, might still cost one the office.
Unless a public movement builds in support of public discussion about the legal status of a common plant that should never have been banned in the first place, Korea stands to miss a golden opportunity to expand its agricultural and medical sectors, and to gain a step on the inevitable global economic movement that will result from the decriminalization of cannabis. It’s economic potential is a big part of what lies at the heart of opposition to it from alcoholic beverage and pharmaceuticals industries. There is no question that legal weed will shrink their bottom lines, and that will be a good thing.
The point of origin for pressure on the Korean political community to do this is the agricultural sector. Even if marijuana continues to be banned for use by Koreans, farmers should be permitted and encouraged to start the process of creating a grow-for-export sector, with strong support for research and development. If we work openly to ensure that Korea becomes one of the earliest advanced producers of top-quality cannabis products, especially medical cannabidiol, and a robust medical research program to go with it, Koreans will benefit economically. There’s no reason for Korea to be left behind. All it will take is the political courage to kick it off.

Ways I contribute to climate change

Driving A Big Car All Over The Place By Yourself
Having LOTS Of Kids
Idling Your Car
Eating Lots Of Meat
Voting For Climate Change-Denying And Pro-Oil Representatives
Taking A Really Long Shower
Buying Things From China
Wasting Paper
Wasting Food
Eating Out Of Season
Using Lots Of Power When Your Electricity Comes From Coal
Air Conditioners
Owning Pets
Not Sealing Your House

A slide show illustrating each of fifteen “Ways I contribute to climate change” appeared online at Huffington Post, May 12, 2014. Tempted to share it on FB immediately, I was stopped by its being imbedded in another page that showed up with the “front end” for sharing, where I would include any intro snark/remark I might like to add. That gave me enough time to think a little more about the list as a whole, about some of the individual items on it, and about what I could see from what is not on it that makes of it a troubling and troublesome list, indeed.

Personally, it’s a matter of small satisfaction that it takes me all the way to China before being hooked by the barbs on the list. Mostly, though, I had to admit that the main reason I get a pass on the previous ones is because of my age. I didn’t have a lot of kids; I have two. Maybe two is the new six, like my parents had, so again, I don’t deserve a pass. Anyway, who am I to look at someone else’s kids, if they’re loved and cared for by their families, and society, and say, “You shouldn’t have!” It’s not in me.

I waste paper. Yes, I do. It isn’t easy to stop, despite a better Korean approach to recycling paper than to limiting wasteful use of it to begin with. Paper laminates, product wrappers, handbills, towels and napkins and all forms of paper products considered “contaminated” if adhered to organic residues of any kind, are not recycled often, if at all. These go into landfills or incinerators, where they degrade into pollutants of great quantity and variety. Publications and large cartons and containers make up most of the recycled content.

Flying. Ah well, I am an expatriate, living on a peninsula from which there is no land exit. To come and go from Korea is to fly. There is the sea, but ferries to China, Japan and Vladivostok are the only ones running, and they contribute to global warming, too. Ticket prices have done wonders to curtail my flying will force me to do it. It breaks my heart to tell friends and loved ones abroad that reducing my carbon footprint means I must withdraw the open invitation to visit. Although my need and desire to extend affectionate hospitality to them overwhelms in certain seasons and mental states, I feel cornered by it, having accepted that the climate science is accurate. Before scolding others about their travels, I must look too my own. That mobility is a cornerstone of our personal liberty doesn’t free us from being judged by the same standard that apply to all.

I waste comparatively little food in this phase of my life. In the main, it is a result of choosing a combination of healthy level of consumption, and a minimal amount of waste. The Korean approach to food waste, such as it is, has us paying collectors who process it into livestock feed, compost, etc., according to the weight of our discarded waste. I have speculated that some form of odorless drying devices will appear, but maybe not. Few substances are more malodorous than kimchi gone too far off. We use a key card to open a bin with an attached scales to keep track of our “contributions” of collected wet waste. I call it our “crap account”.

Eating out of season may be a category in which I am more culpable than others. Dietary changes I’ve embraced as a part of my inevitably futile attempt to live forever are the cause. The avocados from New Zealand, the factory salmon from Norway, Florida orange juice, chickpeas and lentils from the sub-continent, it’s a long list; all are seasonal, imported or both. I’m determined to learn to live without them without sacrificing the pleasure of delicious food, imaginatively prepared, but it’s harder than one thinks at first glance, to find a lot of encouragement at the market.

Of the remaining four conditions, only one applies to me. I have two small dogs. When the last one is taken by natural causes, we won’t replace them, despite our sympathy for the unfortunate creatures cared for by pet rescue services and clients. Pets are wonderfully satisfying, crucial even, to the very young and very old, but until I have reached that stage of aging where I am unable to go about on my own, I will put off adopting another animal friend to keep me company. A certain grey-to-rust colored miniature poodle may outlast me if I don’t penetrate the secret of local foods only (another item on the list), but if not, he’ll be the last pet I have for most of the time I have left.

Air conditioning, though desirable during the hottest summer months here, we have lived without it for so long that it no longer appeals, for it would mean blocking the circulation of air between inside and outside. Our location at some distance from the center of the urban metropolis that is Seoul is, on most days, more refreshing than not. There is no water shortage (yet), and a cold shower in clean, cold water three times a day is not such a bad fate in semi-tropical conditions, so that’s what we do. It’s also nice to go without most clothing whenever we can, so we do that too.

Korea is moving toward renewable energy, mostly solar, some wind, but is still too dependent on gas and nuclear generation for electricity. Coal, to the extent it is still in use, is primarily for winter “ondol” heating by burning the cylindrical briquettes called “nine-hole coal” with a boiler heats water to circulate through a grid of plastic pipes in a cement floor. The coal isn’t always necessary, but private homes will keep it as an optional way of heating the boiler. No matter how the house (apartment in our case) is heated, cold season weather sealing and insulation reduce energy costs. It’s also possible to dress more warmly indoors, and to heat only rooms of heavy use.

But there is an elephant in the room, once we accept that what we’re really talking about is decreasing human contributions to the greenhouse effect, the pollution of air and water, and environmental damage from the industries that cater to one or many of our appetites that lead to our doing these things. Presented in the form of a question, what would happen if we didn’t? The answer is why we almost certainly won’t change and stop doing them, unless their availability is curtailed by circumstances in or out of our control.

In the real world, driven by material values dictating that, to enjoy any semblance of a “lifestyle” in popular parlance, most of us have no choice but to exchange our labor for pay, which we then spend on the “things we do”, which are, technically, the “things we buy”, that is, “our shit”, as we refer to our purchases. In a nutshell, then, the algorithm of our lives becomes “no job, no shit”. That’s the problem. There are very few jobs today that can’t be connected to, or related to the Big Industries that are based on our continued embrace of these products and services. If we stop doing these things, without some clear plan for what comes after, then they, and eventually we (many of us, anyway) will cease to be. There is no time to waste on preparing such a plan, and we are wasting almost all of it.

What it would take

taken for "A Future for the Small Town in Idaho"

taken for “A Future for the Small Town in Idaho”

A familiar face turned toward him, lighting up with a smile of recognition. The old man approached behind it.

“Hey! I remember you, youngster!”

“Oh, hi. Yeah, you’re Mr. Blunt. I cut your grass. We made that deal! How’re you? Good t’ see you’re out and around.”

“Yep, I remember that deal. And I’ll be keepin’ my end. That’s what I’m doin’ here. I just registered to vote at the Clerk’s office. I been wantin’ to see you, too. I got a question.”

“Oh yeah? ‘Bout what?”

“I’s just wonderin’. Why do you care so goddam much whether I vote or not, if’n y’ don’t care who I vote fer?”

“I didn’t say I don’t care. It wouldn’t a been right to make it part of the deal. Maybe I’m wrong, but I figured once you studied it, if that’s what you did, you wouldn’t go against your own interests. I couldn’t ask ya to do that, either.”

“I don’t know why the hell not! People do all the time. What makes y’ think my interests is any different from your’n?”

“Well, I guess I don’t, but what little I’ve seen o’ you, I didn’t get an impression you’d put up with it if I tried to tell you what to think. What are we talkin’ about here, really?”

“Wa-a-l, I don’t rightly know how to put it. Say, sometime if y’ain’t busy, any chance y’d wanna stop by again? I wasn’t too friendly before. That ain’t my natural way. It was just you bein’ a stranger an’ all. Plus it was early. Or was it late? I fergit”

“I dunno, I felt pretty good about it when I left your place. I’m still a stranger, though. When were you thinkin’ you’d have me over?”

“I got nothin’ but time, so it don’t matter. Anytime that suits ya.”

“Well, I was about to go for pie and coffee at the cafe. I wouldn’t mind a little company right now. Interested? My treat?”

“Okay, let’s do it, but if that widder woman takes to hittin’ on me like she does, I won’t be stayin’ long.”

“I don’t think she’s there any more. I heard the other waitresses talkin’ the way they do, y’ know, about her one a them new fellers from up at the mine, a handsome stranger in a new pickup.”

“Y’don’t say!? Cristamitey, mebbe I was too hasty. She warn’t bad lookin’ but once she started talkin’, a county road crew couldn’t shut ‘er up. That booth by the winda okay?”

“Read m’ mind.”

They sit, order, and busy their mouths with apple pie and coffee, and with low moans of satisfaction, resume the discussion.

“Man, that’s some good pie. So tell me what’s on your mind, Mr. Blunt.”

“Well, here’s the thing. I’m havin’ a hard time seein’ where politicians from either party knows shit from Shinola about what’s really goin’ on around here, or maybe anywhere these days. It’s hard t’ believe or trust any of ’em.”

“I’m guessing there is a story here?”

“Y’know how sometimes y’listen t’ somebody talk and it just seems they’re lyin’ through their teeth, and they know you know it, but they just can’t stop t’ save their lives?”

“I can say I’ve known people like that. But I don’t think it’s universal. I hope not, anyway. What I mean is, I don’t think every single person in politics is like that.”

“Mebbe. I didn’t always feel this way, y’ know. There was a time when we all kinda knew the ones we was votin’ for, but it was years ago. I can’t even remember who the last one was. Maybe it was John Evans. Long time ago.”

“What was different then? How could you know your representatives unless they lived around you?”

“They did live here, or at least it seemed like they did. Their kids went to the school with yours, and they shopped at the store, and y’d run into ’em at the post office like you and me just did. Often as not you’d exchange a few friendly words. Nowadays, when I see one of ’em, if I even reckonize ’em enough t’ say Howdy, what I get back, often as not, is like that old song says, just a mouthful o’ “Gimme” and a handful o’ “Much obliged”, and the next thing y’ know, yer eatin’ their dust.”

“What about the other ticket? That’s what the election is for, in a way, t’ keep the wrong people out.”

(snort) “Y’ coulda fooled me! It damn sure ain’t workin’, then. I been talking about the person I normally woulda voted for. Every single goddam one a them is in the pocket of the Jolly Green Behemoth Corporation, if they ain’t owned by Pittsburgh Coalboy, or one o’ the other corporations that gets rich by keepin’ the rest of us poor. I wouldn’t vote for one o’ them jokers if he gave me a goddam pot with a live chicken layin’ eggs in it! Every time we fall for their line, right after the election is over, people’s pay gets cut, prices go up on everything, and all you hear of the bold promises they made before the vote is that these is hard times and we, not them, gotta tighten our belts! Meanwhile some o’ the people are lucky to have a pair o’ pants left, and they’s held up with balin’ wire!”

“I gotta admit I can’t disagree with a word you’re sayin’. We’ve still got a deal, though. Tell you what. Let’s ask ourselves what one man (me) can do t’ somehow improve this whole situation, even just a teeny tiny bit. Let’s think about it real hard, and sit down together again. As far as I know, it’s un-American not to have at least one piece o’ apple pie a week.”

“Tell ya what then, I’ll bake you an apple pie, and you can eat the whole goddam thing if you’ll come over and mow my weed patch of a lawn again. That neighbor o’ mine is givin’ me that same look he does, like somebody pushed a Russian thistle up inside him from behind.”


“Only reason I’d let you do it is because o’ all yer sweet-talk about votin’. I’ll be keepin’ my end o’ the bargain, though. I been lookin’ into it. I got kinda interested when I read some o’ the things that Holy Roller is sayin’ about how the schools oughtta be run the Lord’s way. ‘Less’n somebody talks me outta it, I reckon I might vote for him.”

“Aw, that’s….! I know who you’re talkin’ about. Since you put it that way, day after tomorrow be soon enough?”

“I’ll turn on the oven.”

William Falk: We’re Finished. Now What?

Let’s say Mr. Falk is overstating his case by 90% (which he’s not), how much beyond 2030 (one estimate of date after which humanity becomes extinct) what would be your best guess as to an extinction date? Facts are facts, after all. Governments aren’t even close to taking the drastic actions needed if it is to be prevented.