HUMBOLDT: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier—A Book Destined to be a Classic Look at this County and Cannabis
by Kym Kemp (Courtesy LostCoastOutpost.com)
For those who have replaced copy after copy of Ray Raphael’s Cash Crop because volumes borrowed by friends never seem to be returned, you had better buy a few copies of Emily Brady’s new book, Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier. The book is destined to be a local classic—a book that you will ‘lend out’ knowing that you’ll rarely see it returned. Nonetheless, you’ll give it out with the same passion that Gideonite’s pass out Bibles—this book gets Humboldt pot culture—particularly Southern Humboldt pot culture.
That means, of course, that both people who love the culture and hate it are going to read parts—different parts, of course–and nod their head knowingly while saying, “She really nailed that.” And, both are also going to exclaim in shock–about different things, of course—”Wait, that’s not the real face of pot growing. That’s just a rare exception.”
Brady (pictured above) weaves the lives of four people into an almost story-like exploration of the marijuana culture. Each has a separate tale that reveals an important part of what this community is like. Brady introduces a seventy-year-old woman known as Mare. This woman is the smallest of growers and pats only a half dozen young plants into the ground each spring. Crockett, his pseudonym fitting the wilder aspect of Humboldt growing, is part of a million dollar operation—if he can wrangle the weed to harvest and get it sold. Brady doesn’t forget law enforcement’s role. There is Deputy Bob Hamilton who after working in the county comes to believe the War on Drugs is totally lost. And, there’s the child of the marijuana culture, Emma Worldpeace, whose stepbrother Mikal is currently awaiting trial for murder and yet, she is getting a master’s degree in social work.
Brady’s interview on KQED and her attempt to find a venue to host her book signing in Humboldt reflect the controversy this book is arousing and is likely to continue to arouse. In the San Francisco based radio interview, callers repeated castigated Brady for whitewashing growers (She doesn’t. She just doesn’t hide the good aspects) and yet in Southern Humboldt, she is accused of painting too dark of a picture of the very unique world.
Cash Crop intimately describes marijuana growing as it takes off in Emerald Triangle. Humboldt: Life on America’s Marijuana Frontier is its sequel in the best sense of the word—expanding this county’s story into current times.
Thursday, June 27 at 5 P.M., Emily Brady will be at the King Range Books in Garberville to sign and read from her book.
Friday, June 28 at 7 P.M., Emily Brady will be at the Northtown Books in Arcata to sign and read from her book.
ON-LINE COMMENTS RE SPY ROCK
• I used to live in Spy Rock 20 years ago for about 15 years. It was a lovely place with lots of nice community. There is still some good stuff about the place. The school is wonderful. But the last 10 years were really horrible. Greedy people moved in who care nothing for the land or the community. I have friends who have been run out of their own land due to Mexican mafia moving next door. Not just them are bad — bikers, Los Angeles Gangsters, New York gangsters, on and on These tough guys like to walk around with machine guns — for real. Really sad. It’s very hard core and screwed up and the nature is being ruined. A few nice people still hold out trying to make the place a community but they are losing. The place has wonderful land, fabulous views and wild nature. I miss it, but it’s just too scary. When I go see my friends up there just driving nowadays I am freaked out. I always make sure I make no eye contact with people I don't not know so they don’t notice me. It’s very dangerous, just like many dirt roads around Humboldt and Mendo.
• The community needs to take the power back and somehow take these greedy land rapists out of here without getting killed. Tough, but the second hand info that got the cops up to find this dead person is a start. Someone spoke up and that’s good. But it’s not pot, it’s greedy people who care nothing for our community. Shit, these days there are too many scary people in our community. What the hell can we do to reclaim the land?
• I remember Spy Rock in the early 80s. It was very rough, some would say scary. It had a regional rep for stuff like this — murders and disappearances. What happened between then and the 90s nice time you speak of? CAMP hammered on that place. There were many days when three helicopters were all up on Spy Rock, Registered Guest, Iron Peak, etc. Then things got nice for the nice people for awhile. I don't want to glorify CAMP because I didn't like them, I fought them, followed them with cameras to document their abuses and resented having to grow in shade on north slopes. But — People! You can't have it both ways. You can't have unpoliced wide-open growing and not expect the real criminals to show up and take over. Either you take control of your neighborhood, let the cops do it, or expect the real criminals to do so. I'd say right now we have allowed the real criminals to run wild while providing cover for them under the “it's all medical” and “weed is all good” and “growers are great people” arguments.
WILLITS POLICE are investigating the death of Danny Lawrason, 77, found dead in his home on East San Francisco Avenue last Sunday (June 16th). A press release from the police was ambiguous. It said that Lawrason suffered “gunshot wounds” — plural — but his death “is being investigated to determine whether foul play was involved.” Foul play as speculation means the old man was either murdered or he shot himself. The forensics are expected to reveal which.
AS EXPECTED, SAVE THE REDWOODS LEAGUE has announced it will bail out the ailing Skunk Railroad of Fort Bragg by paying the popular tourist attraction $300,000 for a conservation easement, which will both protect old redwoods along the line and assure public access to the trees. The Skunk has been stymied by a lack of funds to repair a tunnel cave-in at the Fort Bragg end of the popular tourist attraction. Robert Pinoli Jr., majority owner of the railroad, had been considering selling the now preserved trees to raise repair capital.
SAVE THE REDWOODS, two years ago, bought 426 acres in the Noyo Canyon in the same area traversed by train track. That acreage was the last old growth redwood stand still privately owned. Save the Redwoods sold to the Mendocino Land Trust.
PHIL ROSSETTI of San Francisco writes: “Wasn't it lovely to see Dick Cheney on TV mumbling about how 9/11 would not have happened if we had all of the privacy intrusions in place then as we have now? Funny as how we had 16 security agencies in place then with tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in budgets, and yet they somehow missed 9/11. Somehow as in Cheney deciding not to pay attention to the warnings those agencies were making. So how many more incompetent employees does Cheney recommend we hire this time around and how many more civil liberties would he like to trample?”
by Bruce Anderson
So this is civilization. It's my first experience in one. Spent a memorable day in Edinburgh, concluding that if Americans were still teachable the Scots could teach us how to manage cities. For example, and by way of contrast, the center of San Francisco — and let's call the center of our fairest city the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market — is a medieval spectacle of drunks, drug addicts, cruising criminals, lurks of all types, and the unsequestered insane. At Edinburgh's civic center, a nexus of bus, cab, train, restaurants, and coffee shops in the shadow of the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, I counted exactly four bums in as many blocks, three of whom presented neatly printed messages asking for money. With a merry hands-across-the-waters, “Here ya go, pal,” I dropped some coins onto one man's handkerchief-sized cloth, realizing too late I'd gifted him to the tune of about five bucks because I hadn't mastered the money. “I'll be fooked,” the bum exclaimed through a toothless grin. “A fookin' Yank!” There were no visible mopes of the ubiquitous type menacing the public areas of every city and town of any size in America. Of course Scotland enjoys a national health service that treats the wounded rather than freeing them to die on the streets. But a national health care system would be “socialism,” and we can't have that, can we?
As a Mendo-Frisco guy where an antiquity is a sagging wooden structure from 1850, Edinburgh, as all the towns I've seen, is aulde, as the splendid Princes Gardens in the town center bears constant reminder. “Christian worship continuously on this site for 13 centuries,” and at regular intervals are posted statues of some of Western Civ's pivotal contributors. I paused before the monument to Sir James Young Simpson, inventor of anesthesia, sending up a prayer of gratitude before moving on to Thomas de Quincey, pioneer stoner. This is a very large garden, planted heavily in rhododendrons that made me think of my late friend Vern Piver of Fort Bragg who grew prize-winning rhodos. How Vern would have loved this place where I also marveled at its ecumenism at a plinth commemorating “Friends of the International Brigade Association to honor the memory of those who went from the Lothians and Fife to serve in the war in Spain — 1936-1939.” Denounced and hounded in the US as radicals and communists — “premature anti-fascists” — the International Brigades have been written out of American history. Here, they get a place of eternal honor.
Not to the fanfare of trumpets
Nor even the shirl of the pipes
Not for the offer of a shilling
Nor to see their names up in lights
Their call was a cry of anguish
From the hearts of people of Spain
Some paid with their lives it is true
Their sacrifice was not in vain
Cities and towns end abruptly in miles of green, sheep-studded open country. Similar landscapes here in Liberty Land would be festooned with No Trespassing signs, prison-quality fencing, armed owners. In Scotland, the population walks where it might, the national assumption being that people can be trusted not to violate unimpeded access, including fishing access which is carefully parceled out in between public and private lengths of stream. You pay to fish the private, the public are public.
America being a new country, and now home to a fragged people who don't know their neighbors let alone honor anything resembling the community we once knew, ancient Selkirk is a reminder, to this American, of how much is gone. I'm old enough to remember when we had it, and now we don't. Imagine Thanksgiving, the homecoming game, the 4th of July, the county fair, a commemorative Veteran's Day honoring the fallen all the way back to the Vikings, and the American begins to grasp the significance of what community history is to Selkirk. Half of my family rose from this place, a hill town in an area called The Borders not far from England whose bandits the Scots fought off for hundreds of years. The men doing the fighting were (and are) typically described as “ferocious,” in a culture emphasizing hardiness, tenacity and courage. Twenty of us are here to celebrate all of the above.
In 1913 my grandfather, a native of Selkirk where his father had been a magistrate and the paternal side of our family goes way, way back, was standard bearer for an ongoing event commemorating both the Battle of Flodden some 400 years ago and the ancient practice of common riding.
Selkirk's warriors had joined an invasion of England under their last king, James. They met the Brits at Flodden for a thorough defeat. Only one Selkirkian, a man named Fletcher, survived.
He staggered back into town with Selkirk's battle flag, waving it in slow, sad flourishes to silently explain the catastrophe to the townspeople. And then he dropped dead.
The Common Riding was an annual mass horse patrol of the town's grazing areas to ensure that the savages the next ridge over hadn't intruded. “These hills are soaked in blood,” a local summed up the area's history, “all the way back to the Romans and before them the Vikings. The Scots have fought off invaders for thousands of years.”
It's a great honor to be selected standard bearer. The population from miles around gathers to remember the Battle of Flodden and recall the days of the Commons patrols. In 1913, my grandfather was a standard bearer representing the Colonial Society, which is not a collection of nostalgic imperialists, but an association of men and women drawn from the vast Scots diaspora. Us returnees were acknowledged as “exiles” in a large ceremony featuring some witty speeches — “I won't say why Mr. Anderson was exiled, but we are happy to have him back” — and quite moving songs celebrating the history and the beauty of the town. This year, my nephew, Robert Mailer Anderson, was standard bearer, a tense responsibility that culminates with the complicated flag ritual in which the standard bearers, in multi-step, choreographed moves set to a single bugle (I think), re-enact that surviving warrior's return from the Battle of Flodden all those centuries years ago.
The Standard Bearer performs the flag ceremony before the whole town. Thousands of people assemble in the town square, all of them this year intently focused on the American to see if he could manage the physically taxing ritual. Nephew managed in fine style to huge applause.
Earlier in the day came the Common Riding of several hundred horsemen thundering down the hill, then galloping back up the hill, a stunningly beautiful panorama of charging horses like this guy has never seen.
Selkirk takes these events quite seriously. The whole town turns out, from small children to ancient crones in wheelchairs. As a citizen of a rootless country now characterized by soul-destroying visual uniformity and demoralized people, the presence of so many young persons at the week-long series of nostalgic events struck me particularly; these young people were not only growing up in a place architecturally unchanged for centuries, their pride in their beautiful place was evident when they joined in the hearty, commemorative sing-a-longs. The work of local poets, including Walter Scott, hung from many walls of the town center which, at every turn, presents vistas of meandering stone walls, gardens, tree-lined lanes, and formidable old houses, large and small, all made of stone. And everywhere large, florid men and women. My people. My people!
I was standing outside one event when there was a burst of applause to which a passing pedestrian responded, “Must have been another lie.” He didn't laugh, but a mere visitor isn't likely to understand the variety of local sentiment. Imagine a visiting Scot stumbling upon the Mendocino List Serve! He'd think he'd wandered into a back ward of The Bin, but certainly wouldn't dare conclude he was reading prevalent American opinion.
Footnote: Flodden, battle of: In 1513 the Scots under their King James had invaded England where, on September 9th, they fought the English of Henry the 8th led by the Earl of Surrey. The English won such a decisive victory that was the end of kings and a kingdom for Scotland. Only one man from Selkirk's contingent made it home. King James himself went down fighting. Many of the Scot troops were aristocrats, as were the Brit soldiers. Those were the days that the ruling classes were at the front themselves, reinforced, one supposes, by the toughest serfs from their vast estates whose grand manor houses hold the high ground to this day. Every sweeping green expanse is still dominated by a dignified stone mansion. Property, much of it anyway, seems to remain portioned as it was when the lairds expelled the crofters, or small farmers, and packed them off to the American South to become your basic Scotch-Irish immigrant — “long, lean, and prone to violence with large broods of grubby, insolent children,” as someone described what would have been the ancestral maternal side of my family. We landed in South Carolina sometime in the 17th century after being hounded out of our Scottish motherlands.
The question I was most frequently asked had to do with the incidence of gun violence in America. I'd known in theory that the world looks on aghast, but now I was in the world and being asked what the hell's going on here? All part of the Great Unraveling, I would reply, explaining that when I was a kid only hunters kept rifles and no one except the police and a few crooks had handguns. Guns nuts, gun shows, gun worship was unknown. I almost laughed when an elderly woman warned me in a town of about twenty thousand called Hawick, “Don't go up that hill. There are rough people there.” I walked up the hill through an orderly neighborhood of basic row houses, which weren't the homes of gentry to be sure, but if they and their inhabitants constituted danger, Americans would trade them for ours no questions asked.