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The Ghost of Jimi Hendrix in Electric Ladyland

The Ghost of Jimi Hendrix in Electric Ladyland

Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland

I take a hard turn into the shadowed parking lot and find my spot next to the mural of bluebirds painted against the House of Pot. I call the counter-woman over the phone. She picks out three flavors: cherry pie, citrus smoothie, and jungle juice. Although I’m new to town, she hooks me up with a frequent flyer discount. 

The cannabis dispensary is open late-night for impromptu curbside and I’m hungry for new insights. Doctor Frenzy’s always a concern, so I ask the pharmacist for the best middle of the road trip, “Something Aristotelian,” I say. “More than just a once-a-month touch up on the first draft like Carlin liked to brag about.” What I really mean to say is: “I want to see the lines of the chessboard with greater clarity, the whole shebang of serious chitter-chatter by opinion makers, the gloss factory, etc.” Invigorating sativas, couch lock indicas, pine and lavender terpenes— terra incognita to the as-yet uninitiated. 

I live on the outskirts of Rain City. Eyes drooping to the staccato of these rugged urban roads, I pass a series of low stakes apartments and greasy burger joints. Amazon and Bill Gates, Google and next-generation cybersecurity are now so synonymous with this wooded, rain slick city. The great California migration that pacific northwesterners remain steaming pissed about is certainly upon us!

With no income tax and California’s notorious anti-business culture (or at least that’s the gripe from the burgeoning tech brigade dotting the Puget Sound), Seattle plays home to low-tax libertarians moonlighting as social justice warriors. Much like Portland, there’s a lot of high minded talk about racial equality. But why, then, are most African Americans still remanded, almost exclusively, to the south side of Seattle? And why are BLM signs so popular in lily white neighborhoods? Strange birds. 

The Capitol Hill Occupied Zone — the center of Antifa clashes during some of the most anxiety-inducing months of the Trump presidency — is located closer to toney neighborhoods like Queen Anne and Ballard overlooking Lake Washington. Somewhere around there you can pick up the schooner to Vashon Island’s cranberry fields. A few minutes walk from the epicenter of Capitol Hill’s graffiti scrawled attempt at building a future without coercion, perhaps you heard an occasional chopper circling late at night during the heady days of protests and smashed windows. Maybe a gas canister was fired, imperceptible like a fart in an ascetic’s dream. Maybe another tent city popped up that you just thought was part of the surge in homelessness near the Space Needle.

But near the House of Pot, sandwiched between an electric power station and a direct path to the local airport, the neighborhood I live in is a mix of working-class Asian immigrants, mostly Cambodian and Vietnamese, and long-time African American denizens. The only prophet to ever come out of this northwestern hub, Jimi Hendrix, shuffled through these parts as a latchkey kid. 

Although I rarely come across second and third-generation Hendrixes, aside from a long-distance glimpse at a woman I suspect is one of his nieces, maybe fifty, light-skinned, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the rock innovator, I can’t say I’ve got much of a sense of what the family is like. While Jimi walked this neighborhood with a broomstick in hand, fantasizing about revolutionizing an instrument he couldn’t yet afford, the next generation Hendrixes drive around in suped-up foreign cars with tinted windows. They furtively congregate on the stoop like all the other good neighbors who keep to themselves at night. Smoking a bowl through a glass crafted bong, lean and slender like a giraffe’s neck, they ignore my feckless wave. 

When their blinds are open, and I’m walking by on my way to a local field of high voltage towers, I glimpse an acrylic wall hanging from Electric Ladyland. Rolling on psilocybin, eyes shut, like he’d been touched by heaven, Jimi takes a long strain on a wail of his wha-wha pedal guitar. I’m sure I can see him sweating through his bandana. 

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan smoked cannabis. Can you imagine channeling a diet of sobriety your whole life while being presented with the most pressing problems of the universe? Abraham Lincoln was known to sit out on his back porch and roll a spliff while tooting on his Hohner harmonica. As Pulitzer winner and Nobel Laureate in Literature Monsieur Bob Dylan once remarked in an interview in that venerable if occasionally exploitative publication Playboy Magazine, “I wouldn’t advise anybody to use drugs—certainly not the hard drugs; drugs are medicine. But opium and hash and pot—now, those things aren’t drugs. They just bend your mind a little. I think everybody’s mind should be bent once in a while.”

With the whole bloody region on fire once again, I have made it a point to venture outside my neighborhood for some beneficial dips at Seward Park, a major hub for nature lovers. Under Mount Rainier’s snow- capped mountains, I’ve found my little lakeside sand trap. Occasionally I’m surprised by a nude patron taking up shop in nearby undergrowth. Generally, though, I’m left alone to submerge with the seaweed.  

It’s getting cold and the temperature is dropping. The rabbits hop along the narrow path by Lake Washington but the party boats have nearly shut down. I’m glad for this. I’ve built my own little Tiberius amidst douglas fir and tall sequoia. Pink magnolia petals have already fallen. The squirrels gather on tree branches and my mut Oscar barks at the lake’s edge. While I immerse in underwear made of cotton somewhere along the eastern seaboard of China, local coffee shops are once again requiring patrons to be masked.

As far as medical advice, I recommend a drag on Blue Dream. Unscramble the schizophrenic mess that passes for hard research into the nefarious underworld of pizza parlors! Instead of the kabbalistic effort to unseat the sultan, we get the rump trumps, uber tough patriot boys and Jews who have gone so hard to the right they’re even naming streets in northern Israel after the great Barnum & Bailey of Mar a Lago. (As I am a Jew, ipso facto I’m worried that guys in yarmulkes and Christians bursting with New Testament zeal over the prospect of mass conversion at Golgotha are in fact natural allies).

Reading Spinoza in a hot bath on a cold night, roach to mouth, certainly has its therapeutic benefits. If things get dicey in the Lower 48, I can always take the long schlepp up to Alaska through British Columbia. Or hop a flight to Hawaii (post-Delta, of course!)! In Mississippi, I’d be stewing in some dungeon for a measly gram, busted by Sheriff Tight Ass, or, more colloquially, Numnuts, Keeper of the Stupid and his brigade of obedience-minded officers of the law.

I am thinking now about Jimi bawling in the back alleyway at Temple Baron de Hirsch Sinai after getting canned by his bandmates between sets at his first paid rock gig in 1959. Performing the equivalent of Marty McFly’s Johnny B. Goode at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, Hendrix embarked on his signature style, introducing band mates with verve, shocking attendees. I can still hear his cry as I set out on the next stage of conscious living.  

I thank the tight end security guard, roll the window down, and split this joint. Breezy like the northwest wind, tailpipe chugging up hills my jalopy won’t go into gear for, I’m a pothead with purpose. I say my new daily benediction, which includes an oft-kilter version of Jimi’s Woodstock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a member of the-as-yet-to-be-inaugurated coalition-of-pro-pot-pro stay-at-home-orders-citizens of Escapia-on-the-prowl-for-a-schedule-one.

If Lincoln needed to get high to get him through his Civil War, my Mary Jane’s good as a prophylactic against MAGA-hatted trolls.

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