When I wake up,
My smile will paint a picture of our love.
When I wake up,
My eyes will burn with colors from above.
“I finally got Doug to go on the computer,” says Chad Rea as he lights a perfectly rolled joint of “The Cheese” — the second-place winner at this year’s Emerald Cup, Mendocino County’s elite contest for farmers of outdoor-grown, chemical-free cannabis held at Laytonville’s Area 101, the North County Sector’s “community center of cannabis.”
“Once he was on line, he frickin’ exploded with the 911 and the Black Hawks. He actually started using email, just a bit,” Rea notes.
“Everything’s on the computer now,” says T. Beezle, exhaling some of The Cheese while he uses a tiny knife to scrape up some honey-colored, exceedingly sticky hash oil spread thinly across the bottom of a spotless Pyrex baking dish- inserting the gooey, golden concentrate into a tiny glass vial for future vaporization.
“You can subscribe to Google Earth and look at everything live. There’s kids in the city who can see your crop from their house. No one’s shit is secret anymore, from anybody,” Beezle notes. He has driven north to a location somewhere in Anderson Valley to visit his friends and celebrate his first place finish in the Emerald Cup’s Hash Division.
“That was really something, that you got Doug on the computer,” notes Derek of the Pines, quietly.
Derek was the winner of the 2008 Emerald Cup and third place finisher in 2009.
Mendocino County’s Fifth District dominated this year’s Emerald Cup, with five of the top 10 outdoor cannabis prizes awarded to Derek and Rea. “The Cheese came in second,” notes Rea. “Derek’s In the Pines came in third, followed by his Headband in fourth place.” Derek’s Cheese to Please came in fifth and his Kracky Tobbacky was voted eighth. With Beezle tearing up the hash awards, the trio can’t help but feel they reside in Mendonesia’s cannabis sweet spot.
Both Derek and Chad are quick to credit their success to the work of one individual: longtime mutual friend Doug Bindschatel.
The mention of Doug’s name brings conversation to a brief standstill. The silence is rapidly replaced with the drone of MSNBC pundits. Sixty-inch wide images of Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow splay across a white wall in Doug Bindschatel’s living room as three of the top Emerald Cup placeholders talk shop, smoke winning entries and ponder their “grower’s grower” status.
Bindschatel’s guitars lean somewhat precariously against a couch. Hand drums and percussion instruments are scattered about, including a custom-made djembe containing an inscription to Doug and a signature by the master drum maker who constructed it. “When his family came out for the memorial, they didn’t even see the drums. To them, they were just hippie shit,” says Rea.
My tears will tell a story
Of many things my words could never say.
My angels will surround me,
With them my heart forever stays.
Doug Bindschatel, arguably one of the baddest-assed cannabis growers in the Triangle and beyond, has been dead for ten months. Personal friend of celebrated cannabis activist Jack Herer and former High Times editor and filmmaker Steve Hager, the anonymous breeder who created some of the most celebrated strains in the world died in Thailand on February 10 from complications stemming from what should have been a routine surgical procedure. Thailand, the country he loved most, the home where he dreamed of retiring, became Bindschatel’s final resting place when a post-surgical blood clot blocked his airway, leaving him brain dead for three weeks before friends and family secured special orders to have him removed from life support.
Outside on Doug’s deck, Rea unfolds a spotless burgundy Thai silk tapestry, one of Doug’s. He gently spreads and pillows the fabric on an awaiting table. Rea and Derek carry out all of Doug’s cannabis awards as well as those won by Derek in previous years and those garnered by the pair at this year’s Emerald Cup. Rea somberly, reverently arranges the priceless collection of custom glass-blown pipe-trophies, VIP passes and other award-related memorabilia.
“Wasn’t there another cup somewhere?” says Rea to Derek, as they examine the glassware. “I think the glassblower may have one broken cup,” says Derek. “I believe Doug placed in every year of the Emerald Cup, but I’m pretty sure he received only one first place.”
According to Rea, a retired union electrician, professional photographer and video documentarian, Doug was responsible for the creation of 911, Triple X, Sugar Rose, Pineapple Thai, Sugar Daddy, Pineapple Orange Sunrise, Purple Emergency, Almost Heaven, Number Nine, Stella Blue and Lacuna.
Bindschatel’s breed won first place in the Seattle Cup in 2004. He is the only person to be a three-time first place winner of the New York Cannabis Cup- in 1998, 2000 and 2001. He placed second in the 2005 Lake/Mendocino Cup and at the Emerald Cup placed first in 2006, fifth in 2007, third in 2008, and second in 2009. “These are just the awards I know about for sure,” emphasizes Rea. “I know he also went to the LA Cup several times and did well there.”
Michigan was the nexus for Rea, Bindschatel and Derek of the Pines, who all moved separately from the midwest to the Emerald Triangle. “I remember meeting Doug years ago and vaporizing with him,” says Derek. Rea met Doug while roaming the country filming every hempfest, conference, symposium, protest and cannabis-related event he could attend. It was at these events that Rea and Bindschatel connected and became friends. “It was fun to see Doug at all the different marijuana shows. He’d make goo balls- popcorn, ganja butter, caramel, granola, raisins, anything you’d want, hippie-wise. All you’d do is add the butter. You’d hear Doug say, just don’t eat too many of them,” Rea recalls.
Bindschatel moved quietly to Anderson Valley in the early 2000’s. Most neighbors would probably not recognize him. Doug didn’t mix with the community. “He was a union auto worker who came from the old-school Michigan paranoia,” says Rea. “My generation is probably the first one that’s more open,” notes T. Beezle, son of multi-generational loggers who bought land in Alexander Valley in the late 1800’s. “I’m the first in my family that isn’t logging,” he notes.
“Doug told me he was moving out here and wanted me to come and help him,” says Derek. “I wasn’t able to at the time. Three years went by, and situations changed. I came out here and stayed with Doug for a few months. Then I got my own space and I’ve been living here ever since.” Bindschatel made the transference from indoor to outdoor grower seamlessly, and quickly began to produce signature strains. Competitive by nature, he entered the Emerald Cup every year.
“Doug’s always enters contests anonymously,” says Rea, who like Derek, after nearly a year of separation from their friend, still sometimes speaks of Doug in the present tense. “Chuck was Jack Herer’s right hand man. He’d almost always accepts the awards for Doug.”
But it was Derek who accepted Bindschatel’s first place award at the 2006 Emerald Cup. “I remember bringing this award back to him. I called him that night. He said, Derek, I got me another one. He was all about being in the top three,” smiled Derek.
A breeder first and grower second, Doug’s “girls” all had preliminary names. “When he bred something, he gave each one a different name — Jill, Frances. That was just the pre-name, until you smoked it,” Derek recalls.
“He’d think about a name for a while,” Derek continued. “911 got its name because it called the cops for you,” smiles Derek. “It was an old stinky skunk.”
Doug Bindschatel bred cannabis, grew cannabis and delighted in creating the next best strain. “He wasn’t the best grower. He was the best breeder,” says Rea. “He didn’t have the ego that some growers have about their shit. Best shit ever? What’s the best shit now? Doug always knew the next best thing was coming.”
“Doug was always trying to find that one,” says Derek. “Then he’d change his mind and find something better than that. He’d say, this is it; this is the one, man. We’d really like it. Then he’d try doing something else.”
“What mattered to Doug was you’d taste it at the beginning and it would taste the same- all the way down. That was the key thing for him,” says Derek. “It was about taste and flavor as much as prettiness. He always wanted joints to burn, just keep burning. The Pineapple would always go out on him,” Derek laughs.
“His thing was getting musicians high,” says Rea, who still won’t publicly disclose the A-Listers who were Bindschatel’s regular customers. Suffice it to say the clientele are household names. “He loved to see people enjoy his medicine. That thrilled him.”
Maybe his love of music fueled his desire to provide superior cannabis to the music world. Doug’s vinyl collection reads like a classic ‘70s rock and roller’s soundtrack peppered with an appreciative heads-up to cutting edge artists. Doug loved The Who, Hendrix, Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground, The Stones, Grand Funk Railroad, Brian Eno, Peter Green, Neil Young, Devo, Prince and Lynard Skynard. “I had to pay his family $1,300 dollars for his record collection,” muses Rea.
“One thing’s for sure, Doug would have loved Lukas Nelson’s band,” says Derek, referring to the stunning performance of Nelson’s Promise of the Real, a musical headliner at the Emerald Cup.
Derek placed first at the Cup in 2008. “I was into marketing, I wasn’t into growing at all. Doug gave me a couple of his strains to grow including his Triple X. When he tried it he said, I think this one could win. Doug pushed me into entering that one,” Derek recalls. “Then, when I won, he said, see, I told you man, I told you. I’d seen Doug get called on stage so many times. I figured he was going get an award for something. He got third place and I won. I couldn’t believe it. I stood up and screamed for five minutes. It was so much fun.”
“I learned a lot from that dude,” says Derek. “I think he really wanted to teach people. By being here, I learned the way to treat a plant,” notes Derek, who has been a ganja farmer for less than five years.
Rea came to Bindschatel’s Anderson Valley home last year to help with the garden during his ill-fated trip to Thailand, never dreaming he would be assisting with the dispersal of Bindschatel’s personal effects and the grower of Doug’s final entries for this year’s Emerald Cup.
“I entered three of Doug’s favorites,” says Rea. “I put his mothers out and that’s what I turned in to the contest. They were actually his plants that he manicured.”
Winning the Cannabis Cup is not easy. A team of seasoned judges were provided over 135 samples submitted by marijuana growers from the tri-counties and beyond. Samples were identified only by number. Each entry is evaluated for appearance, taste, smell and “effects.” The first three criteria are given a potential score of ten points per category, but effects are allotted twenty points. Judges work independently and come together before the event to compare notes and select the winners.
Derek, who could have easily gotten a role as an extra in Lord of the Rings, discusses his decision to enter this year’s Cup. His long curls really do resemble spun gold, and his fey features and quick smile evoke an image of some sort of hempish elf- imbued with and bonded to some elemental essence of cannabis. “I thought the Pineapple turned out better this year than last year, but I really liked the Headband. It was really a juggle. I would hate for our best stuff not be out there,” says Derek. “It’s grown, its done. It’s up to the judges to decide whether they qualify or not.”
As this year’s judges announced the Emerald Cup winners, Rea was hefting a videocamera and inching closer to the stage, doing his part as one of several camera people grabbing footage for an in-house documentary. “I don’t get in front of the camera. I’m not a pretty person,” explains Rea, whose long black hair, scruffy salt and pepper beard and ball cap turned backwards allow him to blend, these days, into a crowd at a ball game, hobnob at a pot conference or sit alongside the producer at a television station staff meeting. “So there I am, filming the judges giving out Derek’s awards- boom, boom, boom. Then they announce my number: 92.”
When I wake up,
The eagle will forever cry my name.
When I wake up,
Your tears will shed the potions of my pain.
Rea makes no effort to hide his tears or censor his emotion.
“When I heard the judges say my number, I paused my camera, because when I edit this, that’s where I’ll put Doug’s memorial,” Rea notes, eyes brimming with tears. “This is about my friend who no one ever knew. Read about him. Learn about him.”
The days following Doug’s death are discussed. “Nobody felt right about him getting an operation that far away, because we have no control over what happens there,” says Rea.
“He had neck problems from an accident which led to severe cartilage buildup on his lower back. You gotta understand- cannabis was the only thing Doug used for his pain,” Rea notes, who talks medical marijuana the way most Europeans view global climate change. It’s way past the argument of whether climate change is real or not. It’s just about what to do next.
Rea, who suffers from chronic pain as a result of severe burn injuries has witnessed so much healing and experienced so much personal pain relief that the idea of cannabis not having medical value is beyond ludicrous. “I drove my Segue everywhere while simultaneously filming the Emerald Cup all weekend,” smiles Rea. “I know plenty of healthy people who couldn’t keep up that pace. You may have noticed I used my medicine frequently — a joint or an edible,” he winks, adding that his physician would write him prescriptions for any painkiller on the pharmacist’s shelf- but like Doug, cannabis is his medicine of choice.
“At Doug’s memorial we had a joint bar. We put out six or seven strains in bowls with rolling machines and grinders,” notes Rea. The protocol differed greatly from the house rules employed when Bindschatel was alive. “When you came to Doug’s, you were expected to roll your own joints. It wasn’t a Rasta thing or a Third World thing about being unsanitary. Doug just didn’t want to wait around,” Rea smiles.
Doug Bindschatel’s friends are beset by the necessity to move forward in their own lives while somehow absorbing the responsibility and stewardship for the legacy left behind. Along with the aroma of Cheese to Please, Doug’s living room is filled with a palpable sense of unspent grief, elation, unconditional love and stark uncertainty.
Bindschatel’s bookshelves have become a repository for small items in front and books behind- dozens of volumes on cannabis, hash and all things counterculture. Guitar strings, gloves, scraps of paper and other treasured keepsakes whose history will never be recounted sit as Doug left them on the shelves, months or even years ago.
Rea has shot a mind-numbing 2500 hours of video footage chronicling the history of cannabis activism, a collection which he hopes will someday depict an objective history of the marijuana movement. A wooden document file holds poster-sized enlargements of some of Doug’s finest strains. His legacy, his history and his strains- all will have to be attended to.
Meanwhile, the trio watch the news and the papers, trying to decipher which way the winds will blow. “I’ve been raided twice. I’ve had guns to my head twice. That’s why the 99-plant thing sounds good to me. What I understand is that the Sheriff will come up, check you out and say, ok, thanks. If the program helps keep federal drug agents away. If there’s that possibility, that’s all the better,” Rea notes.
“The people from Mendocino are getting pissed off when they get busted just over the Sonoma County Line,” notes T. Beezle. “Where’s your papers? It sounds like Nazi Germany, how they came up with zip ties and fees. They want us to pay them to do their job,” bristles Derek.
“They’re making sure the Sheriff’s covering his budget to get their jobs, which is fine. We need the protection, we need the deputies. That’s fine, but…” Derek concludes, leaving his sentence unfinished.
“A hundred and fifty people in the program are 150 people they don’t have to worry about,” stresses Rea.
“I agree the cannabis industry should help pay for roads and schools, but it’s hard to implement when the rules keep changing. I’m talking about law enforcement and how they treat people,” Derek notes.
“Cannabis has become a marketable part of the economy. Too many people depend on it. I don’t know if the feds will allow local governments to make much money off it. Rules will change again when it becomes federally legal. Maybe they’ll do the stamps again,” Derek postulates.
“Watch the history from Craver to Allman. You were once able to grow what you needed on your ranch. Then the county said we could only grow 25 plants. The whole problem of growing in the woods was increased by 9.31. That’s the reality. People moved onto their neighbor’s property to grow,” Rea notes. “The economy goes bad and you can’t grow more than 25 plants? I understand it regarding neighborhoods, but to make the ordinance 25 plants per parcel? I don’t think it’s been good for our county,” says Rea, who despite his objections will file for the 99-plant exemption next year.
My soul will shine like northern lights-
Like the way my life’s supposed to go.
My mind will play a melody
That weaves us through the web our hearts have sown.
When I wake up, I’ll start over.
When I wake up, I’ll start over.
Chad Rea displays two T-shirts which say, “The DEA took my medical marijuana away and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” T. Beezle picks up a portable vaporizing unit, created by an enterprising entrepreneur right here in Mendocino County. “What is that stuff?” Chad asks Beezle as he prepares the vaporizer for use.
“It smells good and it tastes good and it gets you real high,” laughs Beezle, applying a creme brulée torch to the tiny vial of his honey hash goo attached to the vaporizer.
“You only get one of these T-shirts if you’ve been raided. I have two of them. I earned them. Twice,” smiles Rea, sardonically.
“I don’t think I want to do the footwork on that one,” laughs Derek, exhaling, as the room fills with the sweet and pungent fragrance of his number three winner, In the Pines.
(Lyrics from The Awakening, by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. Promise of the Real’s first full-length album will be released on December 21. To hear or place an order, visit www.promiseofthereal.com.)