Andrew Struthers’s new book of marijuana stories and insights, The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed, is postponed indefinitely. We look forward to announcing a firm publication date for this hilarious and (still) timely book, but it won’t be in 2016.
To allay the rumours spread by Andrew’s Truthers that he buried the manuscript to increase its potency but then couldn’t find it, we are highly pleased to share this second excerpt (see here for part 1) from the fiendish side of the forthcoming book:
THE DEVIL’S WEED
by Andrew Struthers
I moved into the forest to live intentionally, to create a space that I could call home. That seems fatuous right now, because the next thing to go when you’re tripping Buckyballs is space itself. By the light of reason all things appear separate and discreet, which gives rise to the illusion of cause and effect; but down here in the roaring dark everything is connected to everything else. For example, in 1974 an explosion in the price of shrimp sends Jamie, a fisherman from Vancouver, on an unexpected journey to Nova Scotia, where he buys a shrimp dragger, planning to motor home through the Panama Canal, but when he reaches Jamaica he makes a stop.
At the bar in Kingston town he meets a Chinese businessman who’s also interested in shrimp. He offers Jamie a tidy sum for the dragger he just bought. Ka-ching! Jamie takes the man out on the water to show him how well the vessel works, but the net wraps around a submerged rock and grinds the gears to shrapnel, at which point the businessman bails, so Jamie ties up at the quay and waits for engine parts to ship down from Miami.
Next morning three dock rats beg him for a bread bag from the galley, twist up half an ounce of ganja in it, set it ablaze and pass it to Jamie, who draws on that crumpled foot-long ’till the cherry cracks and spits like a newly-set campfire. The torch is tended by a crew of teenage boys whose sole possession is a bubble pipe made from a coconut with a clay chillum stuck in one hole and a yard of surgical tubing in the other.
Next day on the beach each tween tosses sacrament into the bowl from stashes wrapped in paper like rolls of pennies, then they light the chillum with one of the wrappers and take three puffs apiece, exhaling every wisp to purge the “old smoke”, a rite which to a Rastasfarian is serious as Lent, and for reasons as opaque. The last lungful they hold in, in, in … then out it comes, till the air turns blue and all Jamie can see is a hand coming out of the mist, like the Lady of the Lake clutching a pipestem instead of a sword.
Now Jamie’s crew is lost on land, the bonfire of their sanity burns all day, all week, all month, and still the engine parts do not arrive. A born Celt, Jamie knows a faerie ring when he sees one and dances around in it for a month, so he wangles his way onto a bomber, flies to Miami, buys the engine parts and flies back the same day, and then a month in debt to the Time Lords — he and his crew at last escape that faraway beach.
This is the problem with the stones of summer: the story is so good you never want it to end, although clearly you can overdo peace, love and misunderstanding, a hard truth Steve discovers when he moves from Sooke to Saltspring, just fifty miles as the crow flies, yet worlds apart. Sooke is a logging town on the south tip of Vancouver Island where pot is so scarce Steve doesn’t toke until he’s ten, when some older kids with a joint of shaggy leaf smoke him up behind the video arcade on Sea Otter Road and he plays Missile Command and Donkey Kong until dark.
Two years later his dad moves the family to Saltspring, a hippie wunderland where his new best friend Corey pops out from behind a bush at the school bus stop every morning brandishing a joint, and by the time they reach the school in Ganges they’re basted, along with all the other kids, who carry bags of weed from their parents’ grow-ops, which pepper the woods for miles around. One afternoon he’s called into the office while he has an ounce of bud stashed in his crotch, and nothing happens because The Authorities just don’t care, and truth be told, pot is the least of Steve’s problems — his parents are rabid Pentecostals, so inside the house dad lays down the law like Moses, while outside it’s sex and drugs as far as the third eye can see.
The girl next door is called Sasha and her parents are nudists, so all day a dozen naked hippies bounce on the trampoline by the pool while Steve spies on them with binoculars from a tree near the fence. He’s never once seen the dad wear pants, not even the time Sasha forgets her lunch and he runs naked along the verge behind the van with his boner bouncing, shaking the little brown bag and shouting Honey! You forgot this! Honey! for a good quarter-mile, and one Sunday when his father is driving the family to church Steve spots an aged hippie woman shitting on her own vegetable garden.
That sort of thing can knock a young man back, and soon Steve’s thirst for boundaries and underpants drives him off Saltspring and into the city of Victoria, which to his bumpkin eyes burns like the last line of a Blake poem. Summer’s here and the time is right for smoking in the streets. A rooftop toke while the sun descends over a great city like New York or Charn, and you can see clear to the End of Time, and the hotter the better, unless you’re in Montreal, where the swelter holds you down and fondles you like a drunk priest.
Which is not to say that all priests are pedophiles; Kevin’s priest at St Bruno’s is a real cool cat, he lends out the church key to the local kids, and all night long they blast CHOM-FM through the organ speakers into the street. It’s 1974, so CHOM spins “Satisfaction,” “Purple Haze,” anything except “Stairway To Heaven,” which stoner kids request so often the DJs impose a quota, gleefully announcing around dusk, That’s it! No more ‘Stairway’ ’till tomorrow!
Apart from “Stairway,” anything goes, so one night when his parents go out Kevin cycles to St. Bruno’s to join the fun, then can’t ride home again because he’s too high to pedal, and as he winds on down the road the bike keeps falling sideways into hedgerows, so he pushes it all the way and arrives just as his parents pull up, then his worried dad follows him into the house asking, What’s up? and Kevin thinks for a moment then hurls onto his dad’s shoes, which are at least twelve feet away. The human body is capable of amazing things, something I learned from surfing all day and only coming ashore to eat and sleep, because as soon as I’m out there time washes away and I’m left in an eternal Now, despite the constant threat of being sledgehammered into the sea floor, a terror you have to embrace, which is probably why I’m not worried this hot tub trip will take a wrong turn despite having gobbled enough THC to kill Tusko the elephant. I’ve dropped acid till the walls turned into playing cards, but I’ve never been as blitzed as I am right now — images are tumbling from my cortex like clowns from a tiny car — but I’m safe in the knowledge that no amount of THC can kill you — unlike panic, which will do the job in a trice.