The Green Grass of SILVER BROWN

Legal Ontario Weed: A Review

On October 17th of last year (a date that literally makes me weep as I write it), a land known as Canada – just Canada, with no funky-ass long form to it like the Kingdom of Canada or the Royal Canadian Confederation or the United Canadian Terryfoxadelic Provinces, because we wouldn’t want to be that much of a bother to everyone in formal diplomatic situations – became the second sovereign state on the third stone from the sun to legalize recreational use of the genus Cannabis nationwide, with only Uruguay (of all countries) beating us to the punch. I have always been proud to be Canadian. But on that day, I was four hundred and twenty notches prouder.

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It hasn’t been without a few bumps in the road, though. Part of the reason why Canada is just Canada and nothing else is because she is a federation of ten provinces and three territories, each with its own character, regional preferences and prejudices, and in some cases, even its own language. Those provinces and territories tend not to see eye to eye on a lot of things. Which is why Canada is not the United This or the Republic of That, but just Canada. Any descriptive appellation as part of the long-form name is bound to rub at least one province the wrong way.

The aforesaid genus Cannabis and its derivative products, being one of those controversial things that not everybody agrees upon, would be something regulated by each province in accordance with its particular mores. Much like alcohol has already been regulated for as long as I can remember. Hence, the laws in Canada governing the finer points (like who can smoke and where, and how much one can possess at any one time, and all laws related to edibles) vary depending on what province you’re in, which brings us to the home province of yours truly:

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Ontario. Yours to discover. A place to stand, a place to grow, etc. Largest province in Canada in terms of population. Second largest in area. A land of contrasts. She has both farmland and tundra within her borders, and one hell of a forest. Home to boastfully cosmopolitan cities like Toronto and shamelessly racist hayseed towns like Ignace, and every flavour of community in between. Like all Canadian provinces, she has her own government. Currently made up of an unholy gaggle of doctrinaire mouthbreathers whose party affiliation shall remain unsaid for the sake of keeping the tone of this blog as apolitical as this tense political climate can possibly allow for.


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…but seriously, tell me this is not the laugh of a man who regularly eats the raw flesh of autistic mainline Protestant babies for breakfast and washes it down with the violently extracted blood of student union presidents.

It sure would be great if dispensaries were as common as liquor stores and vape lounges were as common as bars, but we haven’t reached that point in our societal evolution just yet. The mouthbreathers who sit in our provincial legislature won’t allow for such a flurry of economic activity, because The Children. It’s not just these mouthbreathers, either. The exact same excuse was used by the previous government to explain away the meagre number of stores they were proposing to open. The Children! Think of The Children! What kind of example are we setting for The Children?! None of these blasted political parties will grow a pair on this issue and implement some of that good old-fashioned common sense in their policies. Particularly not the current gang of idiots. A disproportionately influential percentage of that gang’s caucus and most ardent supporters are the type of people who believe Ontarians ought to be deeply ashamed of themselves for getting high on anything other than the love of Jesus…


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This Jesus in particular. The one who will kick your ass into next Tuesday if you casually admit to liking showtunes. Not your hippy-drippy Commie Jesus who preached all those dangerous radical ideas about loving your neighbour and giving to the poor.

London, a city of close to four hundred thousand people, is presently served by a single legal cannabis store. It didn’t open until April 1st of this year. They tell us more are coming, but not too many more, because The Children. I’m very fortunate to be living a city that even has one. Such a luxury is not afforded to residents of many other cities and towns across the province, who are forced to employ other methods to get their shit (and more often than not, the other methods so employed are the tried-and-true ones in use since long before legalization). What’s more, the one legal cannabis store in London is located on the opposite side of the city from the one I live in. It sure would be nice if there was a store right in my neighbourhood, or at least one in the next neighbourhood over, but like fuck that’s going to happen anytime soon. The Children!

Nevertheless, being the connoisseur of the herb that I am, it would only be a matter of time before I would make that trip to the other side of London to check out the store for myself, and maybe sample some of the merchandise if they have anything on offer that piques my interest. I got a kick out of the store’s address when I first googled it on my phone – 666 Wonderland Road North. A strong hunch flashed through my mind that one of the hyperreligious types who hold Doug Ford’s penis for him probably picked that address on purpose, to drive home the message that we’re smoking the devil’s cabbage. Like some caterpillar with a hookah. We should all be ashamed of ourselves. Deeply, deeply ashamed.


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Walking through that front door with a complete lack of shame, I found myself in a narrow corridor, where there’s always somebody on duty playing the part of the bouncer, checking people’s identification and ejecting anyone not legally old enough. Once the bouncer gives you his or her blessing to proceed, you walk through a second door at the end of the hall leading to the main store, whose ambiance resembles some weird hybrid of a pharmacy and a fast food joint. There’s a menu behind the main counter just like one you’d find in a typical McDonald’s, save for the fact that the Big Macs and Quarter Pounders have been replaced with sativas and indicas and hybrid strains. Or capsules, if smoking is not your thing. Staff members armed with tablets punch your order into the central computerized queue once you’ve made your decision. You then pay your money and wait a couple of minutes for a staff member to bring out your ganja. Overall, I found the ordering process to be pretty painless.

Which brings me to the ganja itself.

First impressions? Well, it’s pretty plain as day why shit purchased legally has a tendency to be pricier than shit purchased by other means. Never mind the taxes. The packaging! A simple baggie isn’t good enough for the government. They must sell us our shit in packaging like this…


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Some strains come in a box with this kind of mechanism that is apparently supposed to deter The Children…

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…and last but not least, my personal favourite…

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I’m almost tempted to blatantly encourage people to continue to get their shit from their friendly neighbourhood dealer, just because it’s clearly the more environmentally friendly option. For chrissakes, people. We’ve all heard the statistics. There will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by the ides of this century unless a major attitude adjustment happens in our world. We can hardly expect this government to spearhead such an attitude adjustment. It has to be said that environmental issues occupy a very low rung on their list of priorities. Most of the people who own Doug Ford’s testicles subscribe to the belief that Jesus Christ is coming back to earth soon, and when he does, he will repair all the environmental damage we’ve inflicted upon the earth with his magical leprechaun powers. Just like this…


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How was the high, you ask? Well, it was decent. Not exactly the most mind-blowing shit I’ve ever smoked. After all, this is Ontario and not British Columbia. But it was decent. I was inspired enough to drop some dope lyrics upon the Twitterverse…


I also had a sudden flash of insight about the book (to be elaborated on in a future blog post) while I was brewing coffee shortly after a wake n’ bake. So there’s that. Then there’s the kief. Many of these strains produced an impressive amount of it – enough for four more sessions (at least) after the main stash is ground and smoked. A word to the wise, though. Unless you’re a complete novice who will be impressed with everything, you might want to steer clear of the hybrid strains. I personally didn’t care for them. The high just felt like a nicer version of an ice cream headache. Whoever’s growing hybrids for legal distribution in this province needs to go to BC to learn how to do it right.

All in all though, I have to say I’m reluctant to get into the habit of buying legal bud with any degree of regularity, mostly because of the packaging. Specifically all the plastic involved in the making of said packaging. Can we not do something about that? Please? I fail to see why all that plastic is necessary. It takes some degree of practice to perfect one’s smoking technique – practice which we can reasonably assume the average eight-year-old hasn’t devoted one fraction of a second to. Many people don’t even feel a high when they try ganja for the first time. Yet spirituous beverages (which are demonstrably more damaging to a human body than the herb) can be readily consumed by any child who already knows how to drink milk, and I don’t see this or any other government tripping all over themselves to equip liquor bottles with child-resistant caps.


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The Zen of SILVER BROWN

The Man Of My Dreams

I roamed the Canadian wilderness for three years. In a location that’s at least a four hours’ drive from what the modern descendants of the colonists who plundered Turtle Island laughingly refer to as civilization. During that time, I gave burnt offerings to the seasonal solar energies and baptized myself weekly in waters sanctified by beaver urine, and slept under a dreamcatcher. One I created myself. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of it, because its strong cosmick aura frustrated my ability to capture it photographically in a manner that would adequately do it justice. But I do have this picture of an artifact from a makeshift temple I constructed somewhere in a nameless corner of the taiga. I had to burn Deep Woods Off for the incense and enclose it in mesh to keep out the skeeters, but it performed its function as a sanctuary…


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Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form.

Then I got bored with all that and moved to London. Not the London, though. A city in Canada, which shares its name with a certain British metropolis. You can tell they didn’t put a lot of thought into the name. They could’ve derived a really badass name that hasn’t been used yet from the native languages spoken in the area. Like Chicago did, or Winnipeg. But no, they had to be all imperialist-snoblike and name it for their beloved capital across the pond. It’s now the fifteenth-largest city in Canada, and probably stuck with the name permanently. I give you a picture of its filthiest street…


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I like to think the dreamcatcher sucked something out of me in those three years. I sensed it when I saw my student card…


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I don’t know if it was the lighting, or the particular way I had my facial hair trimmed at the time, or the fact that I spent the first six months in this unimaginatively-named city living in a Zen commune run by my fairy ganjamother (one of the sweetest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life). But there was definitely an aura in the picture. My first thought was: Holy shit! I look like a rock star! A certain rock star with vocal abilities that are either angelic or annoying depending on which critics you believe, who is well known for his pre-performance ritual of meditating in tipis with dreamcatchers. Specifically, this guy…


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The Journey of SILVER BROWN

All Hail The Queen

It was three years ago today when I lost one of my closest friends to cancer. In keeping with my personal policy of keeping the identities of all people mentioned in this blog confidential, I shall refer to her in this blog only as “The Queen”. That was not the name on her passport, of course. But it damn well should have been. In the last week of her life, she was officially proclaimed the Queen of the Punks by none other than Joe Fontana, who at the time was the mayor of London, Ontario, where the Queen was born, raised, and lived her entire life. But in the hearts and minds of London’s punk rock community and all the people across Canada and the United States and around the world who knew and loved her, she was always the Queen, and the mayor’s proclamation was a mere formality.

The Queen entered my life through the same door that almost everybody else in my life has entered it through since the turn of the twenty-first century – the Internet. In August of 2002, shortly after my twenty-eighth birthday, I stumbled across an online forum on MSN Groups called the Insane Asylum, a forum that would serve as my home on the web for the remainder of the decade. Don’t go looking for it now – it no longer exists, and hasn’t existed for some time. But during its heyday, the Asylum was in many ways ahead of its time. Unlike most online forums, it was not devoted to the discussion of any particular subject. Instead, it was simply a place for friends to get together to goof off and make each other laugh – a bona fide social network, in the days before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Once one gained the trust of the management, a new initiate into the Asylum would find himself part of a very exclusive and close-knit society of online denizens, one whose core group of regulars would regularly address each other by their real names as opposed to their online handles, and where everybody knew each other’s email addresses, phone numbers, and even home addresses, at a time when sharing such information online was considered – well, insane. And if that weren’t insane enough, once a year there would be an official Asylum Shindig, where members of the gang would organize a weekend of drunken revelry at somebody’s house (I myself was in attendance at every Asylum Shindig between 2003 and 2006, and the Queen attended every one save the first one and the 2006 get-together). Even though the Asylum itself no longer exists, many of the old Asylumites are still friends to this day (roughly about a quarter of the people on my current Facebook friends list have at least some past history of association with the old gang), and there have even been several Asylum marriages – as in people who have met their current spouse by way of the greatest little online forum on the planet.

It wasn’t all fun and games, however. The original Asylum was founded by an ex-convict and confirmed cocaine/crystal meth abuser from the St. Louis area whom we shall call Mr. Methhead. This guy was a stereotypical boneheaded far-right wing American who made himself a lot of enemies in the world of MSN Groups with his radical political views. Particularly vexing to a lot of people was his shamelessly racist and xenophobic outlook, his unwavering support for the administration of George W. Bush and the Iraq War, and his blatant advocacy of genocide. He despised all practicing Muslims and anyone who appeared to be of any kind of Middle Eastern heritage (except Israelis, of course), and believed that every single one of them – man, woman and child – must be killed in the worst way possible. I recall at one point, he laughingly attempted to enlist in the U.S. Marines, so he could, in his own words, “kill sandniggers”. I believe he actually stated this to the recruiter as his reason for wanting to become a jarhead, and needless to say, the Marines turned him down.

Mr. Methhead made no bones about the fact that he wanted to see the entire Islamic world nuked to oblivion, and would frequently air these sentiments on the messageboards (he would eventually denounce Bush in the later years of his presidency however, not because he had a change of heart about the war, but because he felt Bush wasn’t doing enough to kill “sandniggers”). Anyone who dared to openly disagree with him was declared a “terrorist sympathizer” and would be promptly banned from the group, usually immediately followed by the creation of a new thread on the boards in which Mr. Methhead would launch a whole character assassination of the person so banned (he generally had a low opinion of gays and “liberals” also). It goes without saying that he pissed a lot of people off. So much so, in fact, that several anti-Asylum groups started popping up all over MSN, started by people who were dedicated to making Mr. Methhead’s life a living hell. And for the most part, they were very successful at it. The conflict would eventually escalate into an all-out flame war – a war that all the Asylum regulars were all but obliged to take part in, lest they be declared traitors by Mr. Methhead and be banned from the group. To make a long story short, several of the other managers eventually got sick of his bullshit and elected to kick him out of his own group. But the Asylum would carry on without him in some form or another for years after his overthrow, right up until decade’s end, when Microsoft pulled the plug on its MSN Groups service. The Queen (who by that point had been promoted to manager) effortlessly filled the power vacuum that Mr. Methhead left behind, taking up the mantle of the spiritual hen-mother of the whole gang. The Asylum was a much kinder and gentler place under her reign.

The Queen was not a member of the Asylum when I first joined. She joined almost a year after I did. But upon joining, she immediately endeared herself to the other Asylumites; there was hardly anybody who didn’t like her. Mr. Methhead was known to dislike her (her political views were way too left-wing for his liking), but he dared not ban her, because he knew damn well that doing so would cause the other members of the gang to declare mutiny on his ass.

After the Queen entered my life, she would be a regular fixture in it for the next nine years. I first met her in person at the 2004 Asylum Shindig, which was held in Toronto (and would turn out to be the first and only Asylum Shindig to be held in Canada). In the weeks leading up to the big weekend, she and I would regularly converse on instant messenger, making meticulous plans to round up the others on the day everybody was scheduled to fly into the city. From those conversations, her qualities as a hen-mother and a motivator of people were apparent to me. She was the one who did the lion’s share of the organizing and co-ordination; I was merely along for the ride. When we finally met each other at the subway station we agreed to meet at, the first thing she did when she saw me was give me a big hug. It was the first time we had met each other in the flesh, but it was already well-established by that point that we were soul-siblings.

We would meet each other many times after that, even outside of Asylum-related activities. Throughout most of the noughties, I lived with my sister and her husband in Hamilton. Every year for Thanksgiving, they used to have this obnoxious habit of going to Toronto to spend Thanksgiving dinner with their friends, without so much as even thinking to invite me along. They didn’t even have the decency to bring me back any turkey; I was forced to have pork and beans (or whatever other food was available around the house) for Thanksgiving, and eat it in the dark all alone. When I logged on to the Asylum and started grumbling on the boards about how I had been forsaken by my own family, the Queen told me that I was welcome to spend Thanksgiving at her house any time. In late 2007, my brother-in-law accepted a new position in Calgary and moved out west with my sister and their growing family in tow, while I stayed behind in Ontario. The following year, I would take the Queen up on her offer. And it was the best Thanksgiving dinner I had in years. I’ve been going down to London for Turkey Day almost every year since.

Such was the Queen’s character. She was a woman of boundless compassion and love. She was an avowed agnostic, yet more Christ-like then just about every Christian I’ve ever met. If you were down on your luck and had no place to go, she would open her home to you and give you the shirt off her back, and do everything in her power to help you get back on your feet again. If you had just experienced an unspeakable tragedy, she would be the first to offer you her shoulder to cry on, and if she had to make a huge personal and/or financial sacrifice to offer you that shoulder, then so be it. Conversely, if she felt that what you needed was not sympathy but a severe kick in the groin, she would never hesitate to give that to you too. She was an ardent fan and supporter of London’s punk rock scene, always in the front row whenever some local band was performing at Call The Office or Fitzrays or some other live music venue, and practically every musician in the city knew and loved her (she was not really a musician herself – she could definitely sing, and I personally had the pleasure of hearing her perform karaoke at my old watering hole in Toronto way back in the good old days before they tore it down, but she never pursued music as a career, opting to become a hairdresser instead). And probably most importantly, she was a devoted mother to her son, who was the centre of her whole universe. She occasionally expressed disappointment in some of her son’s life choices, but there was never any doubt in my mind that her love for him was ceaseless and unconditional, and she cherished him above anybody and anything else in the world.

The last time I visited the Queen at her castle was in the summer of 2011. I went down to London to celebrate my thirty-seventh birthday with her. At the time, she seemed perfectly normal and healthy, and it never dawned on me for a second that she would be gone by the time I would celebrate my thirty-eighth. She would announce her cancer diagnosis to all her loyal subjects via Facebook the following December. The punk rock community of London came to her aid, organizing a benefit concert for her at London’s Call The Office venue on Valentine’s Day of 2012. But her cancer was a relentless bitch, and in the end, no part of her body would be left untouched by it. By the following summer, word came out of London that the Queen’s condition had gone terminal.

When she was on her deathbed, I made plans to travel to London to visit her one last time before the inevitable happened. Several other old Asylumites did the same – it would turn out to be an Asylum get-together of sorts, although it was by no means a Shindig. No one would pass out or throw up; there would be no drunken shenanigans, or pranks involving fire and urine and shower caps and bare butts. It would be the most serious Asylum get-together yet, for we were a nation bidding a tearful farewell to our beloved monarch. During the weekend we all went to visit her, her hospital room would receive an almost constant stream of visitors, like she was a rock star or something. Things eventually got so chaotic that her sister (and power of attorney) had to impose a limit of three visitors at a time. She was very visibly ill by that point and all her hair was gone, but her sense of humour was still intact, despite the fact that she was in a lot of pain. I remember her face lit up when she saw me. When it came time for me to return home to Toronto, I personally made a point of entering her hospital room to kiss her on her bald head. It was a fitting final memory of the big sister I never had, whose legacy on my heart and soul I will cherish until my dying day.

The next time I would see the Queen, she would be inside an urn. She did not have a traditional funeral, but a memorial concert and social gathering, with several local punk acts on the bill. At least two hundred people were in attendance, and there is little doubt in my mind that if instant teleportation or travel by UFO was a thing already, at least five times as many people would have showed up. I was personally blown away that one single person could touch the lives of so many people. To this day, I consider myself a lucky man to have known this remarkable woman while she walked this earth. She was the closest thing I ever met to a living Buddha.

In the three years that have passed since the Queen left us, I have taken to adopting her as one of the patron divinities of my personal religion. If she was still with us today, I know she would get a kick out of that. I can make up my own traditions since I invented my own religion and all, and one those traditions involves me getting stoned and consuming an entire package of bacon in the Queen’s honour every year around the time of the summer solstice (bacon being one of her favourite foods). This year, I begun a similar tradition for February, to commemorate her birthday (she would have turned forty-eight this year). The bacon feast day of the Queen is the second most sacred holiday to me, after 4/20.

This is going to sound crazy, but I have definitely felt the Queen working her mystical bacon bits in my world; the permanent mark she left on my heart has without question influenced the course of my life since her passing. The most bizarre thing was when I met Helen. When I first saw Helen’s profile on that cheesy dating site (I shan’t say which one), my first thought was: Holy shit! She looks just like the Queen! My mind was totally blown. I never mentioned this before in this blog, but the physical resemblance between the two of them is uncanny, and that’s not just because I was space truckin when I saw her profile either (I always make a point of doing online dating while high). So I interpreted the whole thing as an omen, and sent her a message, and she sent me one back the next day. As our courtship began in earnest, I realized that the fact that they look alike isn’t even the half of it – she also has a similar personality and sense of humour as the Queen. Her laugh even sounds like the Queen’s laugh. When she invited me to her apartment for the first time, I couldn’t help but to notice that she had an LP copy of Blondie’s Parallel Lines displayed prominently on her kitchen table, which if memory serves me correctly, was the first record that the Queen ever owned. My mind was blown clean off when I saw that album cover. It was almost as if she had returned from the dead to offer me much-needed consolation and relief from the heartbreak and devastation I was going through at the time. Helen could have definitely been an Asylumite; it’s kind of a shame that the mystical erotic adventure we went on together was short-lived, and we never got to a point in our relationship where we started introducing each other to our friends. The old gang would have loved her for sure. But she gave me exactly what I needed, just like the Queen would have done. I like to believe that the Queen heard my silent screams of insufferable agony, and responded accordingly.

There hasn’t been an Asylum get-together of any sort since the Queen passed away. You could probably chalk it up to the fact that we’re all getting older, and our bodies just can’t handle ingestion of large quantities of alcohol like they used to. But more likely, it’s because the social dynamic among the old gang has changed – we’re all still friends, but you get the sense that there’s something missing. If one of these days we ever get around to planning another Shindig, however, it’s almost a given that when we’re all sitting around that bonfire, one of those lawn chairs will be kept vacant, in loving memory.