Being the younger brother of a marijuana activist is tough work. You wouldn’t think so, considering the nature (no pun intended) of the work, but it’s true. Most people think of potheads as disillusioned youth listening to Pink Floyd on vinyl, lazily floating though life with no sense of direction or accomplishment. All they do is wake up at 4pm, smoke weed until 4am, and repeat. For my brother, this is far from the truth. Russ smokes pot to relax, as he spends ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week working, whether it be his podcast, or his weekend radio show, or a random interview he has to get up at six am to do, or his software company that he created. Not to mention all of the reading he has to do to stay on top of politics and culture. The good news is that he gets to spend the day in pajamas to do most of his work. The bad news is that he is stuck at a computer all day, and some of the night, doing that work. And while some men might, at the end of the day, plop down in front of the TV with a frosty beer, Russ would much rather smoke a bowl. The connotations of each activity are so incredibly different to most people. Even I, who am liberal minded and pretty laid back, still have to shake that image of the lazy Dazed and Confused stoner, who giggles at everything they say and stares at you with bloodshot sleepy eyes. Alcohol, meanwhile, has two images for me: alcoholics in wifebeaters and fun party time drink. Seriously. Both images are consequences of the media, and I have a hard time shaking these stereotypes from my head.
Well, nothing could rattle my social perceptions more than NORML Con. NORML stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Their goal is to educate the populace on the reality of cannabis, that it is a harmless plant that gets people high and can, in some instances, actually help people, such as Alzheimer patients, where it has been proven that marijuana is the ONLY known substance that helps slow down the onslaught of that terrible disease. It soothes chronic pain, it relieves nausea and other afflictions from chemotherapy, and it has helped thousands of HIV and AIDS patients. Most people think it’s silly that there are still laws that prohibit the sale and manufacture of weed, and yet there are still people out there who are terrified of the stuff. I used to be, long ago. But not anymore.
Now, I’m not a pothead by any stretch of the imagination. I smoke maybe once or twice every six months. It feels good when I do it but I don’t need it medically and it usually just makes me really sleepy. It doesn’t raise my consciousness in any way, or allow me to write better songs, or anything like that. I also don’t really dig the whole pot culture scene in the first place, though I am quite aware that there are a lot of people who smoke pot and are not a part of that culture at all.
I’m already rambling. This blog is about my trip with my brother Russ to NORML Con, which was being held in Berkeley, California. Russ was asked to record the whole event, and he enlisted me for help. I said yes, for obvious reasons and for not-so obvious reasons (like I had never been to California before).
So now, I present to you, my very very long blog post about NORML Con (split into five entries), which I like to call:
I Survived NORML Con and All I Got was This Lousy Blog Post
WEDNESDAY, October 15, 2008
It’s funny how the cosmos works. For some reason things always happen on the same day, whether you intend them to occur on that day or not. Wednesday was that kind of day for me. After weeks of virtual lethargy (and maybe a slight depression from not being able to find a job), I suddenly had things to do! My first stop was the DMV, where I was to get a bona fide Oregon driver’s license, allowing me to drive across the state (and across state lines) without being hassled by a police officer. This had nothing to do with pot. I was just nervous because I had an expired Idaho license for four months and it kept me from doing awesome things.
I got up early to get to the DMV to get my license. That was relatively uneventful. I didn’t score as well on the test as I wished, but that’s okay, because standardized testing sucks. I do, however, look pretty awesome on my picture. It’s the first license I have where I’m sporting long hair. Bitchin, dude.
After getting my license I took an hour long MAX trip to Beaverton for a job interview. They have yet to call me back. Thank you, failing economy! I thought I did pretty well on the interview, too. Oh well. I took an hour trip back home after that, then packed and got ready to drive through the night. But first we watched the final presidential debate. Let me just ask this again: People are still thinking about voting for John McCain? Who are these people? Are they robots? Are they really old people who just connect with McCain because he’s old too? I don’t get it.
Bags packed, debate over, we stuffed our bodies into Russ’s Jeep and started the drive down to Berkeley. But first, we had to detour slightly east to Bend, Oregon, for reasons I’m pretty sure I can’t talk about in this blog. I dunno, maybe I can. It wasn’t anything special, but at the same time, I don’t want anyone to get in trouble for anything. So I won’t.
Okay, fine. We bought a bear. A live grizzly bear. Russ always wanted one and I thought it was a great idea. His name is Mickey and he lives in our backyard now. He’s gentle, except when he tries to maim you.
Bend added a good hour to our ten hour trip (making it … come on, you can do it … eleven hours! Yeah!), all of which was done entirely in the dark. Less traffic, smoother drive. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’re fighting sleep the entire way there. I think I did pretty well on the way there, but the way back is a whole other story entirely.
Also, I can now safely say that I’ve seen northern California only at night.