Suburban Development as Nightmare, Mushrooms in Attendance.

This is a stupid song. Just pretend the chorus is “Hate Suburbia” instead of “Hey Suburbia”.

Most of us live in some terrible iteration of America (and if you don’t, just wait a while). This is about mine.

Long Island is one of the temples of mid-20th century whiteness, established as a suburb back when men were men, women were shutting the fuck up, and children were incipient communists.

I’ve heard lots of places lay claim to being the most segregated in the country. Depending on the metric they might all qualify, but Long Island definitely has received some sort of medal in the racism olympics. Our realtors are dedicated to steering people into the correct neighborhood. Those pesky redlines might be gone (or at least you’d think so) but those real estate agents like their teeth to be as white as their census tracts. Smarter people than I have written plenty of things about the long, bleached and blanched history of this place. I can’t do it justice.

It’s a place where baby boomer opulence built on defense industry jobs and housing boom speculation have created an illusion of opulence and it might be the case that the illusion itself provides some cover to the less well-heeled. Any awareness that the middle class has of their lessors deriving some benefit from the speculative value of their houses is met with paroxysms of fury. Whenever faced with the possibility of someone unlike them deriving ancillary benefits comes up there’s a sort of standard response: “I want a killer lacrosse team, not a chance of upward mobility for some black kid. Don’t feed the squirrels!”

There’s an interesting thing happening in terms of class here. A lot of it is subterranean, like, physically. The economically precarious rent basement apartments and live below the footsteps and barking dogs of the middle class. It might be a galling and belittling situation but it’s better than sleeping in the woods. Tick borne illnesses are rampant here. And few cars have a backseat with enough legroom for sleeping. 33% of Nassau and Suffolk County households are considered Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (which give this miserable statistical category a cool acronym, that being ALICE), meaning that they have to choose between rent and utilities, or medical care, or food.

It’s a place that has perfected the obscuring of poverty. All the people driving Amazon trucks, cutting grass and burning themselves on fast food deep fryers can live where they please, as long as (please, please) they don’t do it in our line of sight. So they, (or we I suppose) live with relatives, or on a roulette wheel of couches and cross our fingers that we don’t rub our benefactors the wrong way.

And there are so many places where the children of the prior generation spin their wheels in their parents’ houses, saved from homelessness by the leavings of the prior generation’s class deal. We go nowhere and try not to register the guilt that we feel at being rescued from our own economic uselessness while so many other people are gasping for air after 80 hours of employment at Dunkin’ Donuts.

It’s a place born of a particular strategy of class war. The suburban developers of the 1950’s offered the white working class an opportunity to avoid talking to other human beings most of the time and they jumped on it. No more walking through society and encountering social problems that you are implicated in. No more subway. No more neighbors across the hall. The suburb was a place to prosper or suffer, mostly both, while the rest of humanity ate shit. William Levitt famously stated that “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist. He has too much to do.” He was right. This is a ‘stay off of my fucking lawn’ kind of place.

It’s a place of rigid conformity. It’s visible in the landscape. Zoning laws, lending practices, building codes… they’re all there stating in legalese that things are going to look the same, and if they miss anything then the passive aggression of neighbors will fill in the gap.

It’s a shithole, is what I’m trying to get across. Prohibitive real estate costs in two counties of sprawling suburb guarantee that anything interesting will also be ephemeral. If young people can afford to leave they do. Clearly I don’t like it, and by inference, I can’t afford to leave. I try to make the best of it. I pursue my little interests and aside from an occasional six-year old companion I pursue them on my own.

The landscape here has been destroyed threefold. Terrible Englishmen arrived here and replaced the survival strategies of the Algonquin speaking people of the landmass with shitty market oriented farming. Those fields turned towards intensive monocropping and orcharding and by the 2000’s even these things were gone, replaced by sod farms. Long Islanders apparently prefer to purchase grass that’s been beaten into submission and then resurrected with a ton of nitrogen and Roundup. If grass could join the Proud Boys this grass would.

Fishing and whaling for trade started a depletion that has resulted in the near extirpation of all marine mammals and many species of fish. I have pictures of a shitty uncle dumping a fifty gallon garbage pail full of bluefish onto my grandfather’s front lawn. It wasn’t enough to pointlessly slaughter these fish, they needed to be insulted, and this insult needed to be photographed.

I don’t know if there’s a thing one could call old growth here. I doubt it. All the trees got cut down before the Revolutionary War to build ships that would carry people who didn’t want to go places to places that didn’t want them. Or to fire cannons at those places.

Anything that was left has, for the most part, been destroyed by suburban development. There are sad little patches of woods, and the sad little deer live there and return there to die after a hazardous trip across the road. People here drive very fast, desperate to hurry up and wait- at the next light, at the drive thru, at work or home, just waiting to die. It’s not their fault they’re awful, but they do raise questions as to whether some localized plague would be a bad thing.

Apparently the truly wealthy hang out here in the Summer, but they mostly travel by helicopter, far above the heads of the pathetic taxpayers who aspire to be like them.

A thing I do with my time here is forage for mushrooms. You wouldn’t think that this would be a good place for that but it is. There are caveats to be made- It’s rare to find any of the high dollar species. For instance, the only yellow chanterelle I’ve found was solitary, growing out of someone’s front yard plantings. When I went to pick it a woman told me from her second story window that she would call the police if I didn’t- wait for it- get off her fucking lawn.

But in terms of other things it’s pretty fucking great. Like more than a family could eat, give away, and sell, at least when it comes to ‘Chicken of the Woods” (of which there are at least 3 distinct species growing here).

I have many questions about this. Science questions. Science questions that will likely never be answered because I’m not a scientist and I would be surprised if there are many trained mycologists that are very interested in 1) being in this terrible place and 2) waiting at some mushmouth’s front door, observed by one of the many devices that suburbanites use to protect themselves from those who would dare to take their most recent ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ wall hanging off of their porch, for permission to take an organism that they despise off of their oak tree.

My impressions about the abundance of the species in this genus (Laetiporous, if you’re interested) might be faulty, which is interesting in and of itself. While organisms that grow in the woods require one to look for them relatively aimlessly (and yes, this is a huge oversimplification), suburbia creates transects. We drive to the same places all the time and a lack of any obscuring trees makes it fairly easy to spot a bright orange thing on the ground. So, maybe they’re growing everywhere all the time but my ability to see them leads me to a false assumption about prevalence. The same bias might be inherent in my observations of unbearable assholes.

But if this first assumption is true, then my untestable hypotheses are as follows:

This is a place where the preferred substrate of these fungus, that being oak, proliferate. This in itself is a good enough reason to explain the prevalence of these mushrooms, but with that said, they still seem to grow in greater abundance next to roadways. Again, it could be a bias. I don’t walk in the woods as frequently as I drive to somewhere pointless.

If it’s a yes, that they do appear more frequently along roadways, then what explains this? I have thoughts. A forest is a windbreak. Moving air, so kind to fungal pathogens, doesn’t have the ability to penetrate to the same extent that it does in a place where trees serve as ornamentation. Maybe it is by virtue of exposure to air from these breezeways that host trees are exposed to both more spore and more Billy Joel. And who knows? Maybe Billy Joel piping out of car windows has depleted these trees of their will to live to the point where they’re more susceptible to infection.

It could be the case that these trees are less healthy. I’m not sure. This would be another research question that would require methods that I don’t know and couldn’t execute if I did. There’s enough drunk driving happening that people might just be banging into these oaks frequently enough that they’re more exposed to infection.

Or perhaps the waves of suburban development that have occurred create cohorts of trees that are all roughly the same age, and at this homogenous age they become more susceptible to infection. Maybe these are all baby boom trees that aren’t able to obsessively extend their lives past the sell-by like people do.

I will continue to want answers to these questions with absolutely no ability to answer them. As well, I will continue to eat things that have likely been doused in Roundup, next to roads where the weaponized dog turds and wasted food of suburbia turns to dust and blankets the most scrubbed down people I can imagine.

No Gods and Precious Few Heroes on Saint Patrick’s Day

Heroes are a strange phenomenon and we exist in a moment in which the idea has become almost meaningless. I agree with Alan Moore’s assertion that the figure of the superhero is an infantile and ugly thing.

Leaving aside the blatant use of the figures of the Marvel Comics Universe as tools for military recruitment, there is a constant and execrable lionization of institutions like the CIA.

For instance, my ability to give a shit about Black Panther was ripped to shreds when I realized that I was watching a movie in which a CIA operative aided an African monarch in the assassination of a political militant. Fucking gross. And of course the film ends with the founding of a non-profit organization, which is too fitting a parallel with our actually existing reality.

These figures give us nothing to aspire to, except maybe violence. Wasn’t it satisfying when Tony Stark drank champagne while showing off a missile system? I wouldn’t have been surprised if he turned that mountain range into a second Mount Rushmore with a caption below reading “Fuck You, Brown People”.

I grew up reading superhero comics. Predictably, Wolverine was my favorite. He teaches kids a weird lesson, because his only real superpower is an ability to endure incredible pain without acknowledging that it hurts. Because he’s so pissed off all the time. As a kid I got it: If you want to be a man, never acknowledge that anything is wrong. Just wait for your x-gene to kick in and everything will get better.

The other alluring thing about Wolverine was that he didn’t know where he came from or who he was (despite endless treatments of this subject). That sounded fucking great. Forget who I am? Yes please.

We get older, and we drift away from these things. They’re fantasy and life is not a fantasy. But I could never get free of heroism.

I was raised on traditional Irish music which celebrated martyrdom as often as it mourned tragedy and I still get all choked up explaining the historical significance of a Christy Moore song (with the listener most likely stifling a yawn).

The adults around me always had a tendency to celebrate their ethnic identification with a place that their ancestors left a long time ago. The lineage that celebrated this most fervently were descended of Irish people, sure, but also of English and Scottish forebears.

Why this fixation on Ireland? I think it has to do with all those martyrs. It’s exciting to think you’re attached, at some point in history, to people who got wronged and who fought back. But a closer examination of literally anywhere in the world would provide a similar narrative.

We’re not unique. It’s just that our music is catchy. Or rather, the people who we identify with make catchy music. I haven’t heard any of my uncles sing or play a single chord on a guitar.

All of this gets converted into a weird and pointless nationalism directed at a place where none of us have ever been. And that’s one of the problems particular to this kind of identification. The beautiful instances of internationalist heroism get lost in a stew of thoughtless nostalgia. We could have risen to the task demanded by oppression around the world and starved ourselves to death, but instead we ate corned beef and shitty bread.

It would be easy for me to assert that we’re not living in an age of heroes, but this is patently incorrect. There are struggles by colonized and oppressed people occurring around the world and there are more martyrs everyday. Indigenous activists in South and Central America endure that particular form of torture that is intended to terrify, and then they get dumped somewhere where they’re sure to be found. People like Rachel Corey get ground under the treads of construction equipment. Heather Heyer gets mowed down in Charlottesville. The Peshmerga fight a two-fronted war against two shades of fascism.

I wish I could rise to the occasion and throw my body on the right kind of bullets, but I sit here in the United States waiting for the right kind of rupture, or catastrophe, or some kind of moment. But if that moment came, I think the evil of good intentions would have someone incorporating a non-profit organization to best manage the opportunity and deposit us back in a nice, normal world.

So beware, young and incipient heroes. There are endless techniques at play to kill you, or turn you into a bureaucrat, or turn you into a monster. Sharpen your distrust, forge your cynicism into a weapon, and keep your love chambered.

Exegesis Rock Opera, Waiting to be Made

R. Crumb's vision of Philip K. Dick

A long time ago I tried to write a rock opera based on the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, which is a wild book written by a fascinating person. The guy who gave us the iconic film Bladerunner, the rotoscoped Scanner Darkly, and the serialized Man in the High Castle… his most impressive work is a seemingly endless examination of a spontaneous gnostic experience in which hidden realities of existence were revealed to him. It’s one of those towering works of troubled genius where someone puts a revelation on a table, uses whatever random tools they have to pry it apart, and then puts it back together with duct tape and spit.

Among many assertions he makes is that a new paradigm of God is overwriting existence- changing the code, and changing it for the better. He also has a ton to say about Jesus, which I am still trying to crack myself.

I was reading it during a profoundly bad time in my life, and wanted to collaborate with a friend in the creation of a rock opera that takes Dick’s postulation of an overwriting deity and presumes that it didn’t work. That this new God died, and when a God dies it is a universal, infinite death that extends through all of time and all of materiality.

This rock opera will never exist. Since one of my weekly commitments is to update this empty well and I am much more interested in working on other things at the moment, I have included a portion of the lyrical component below.

I’m not fond of poetry. So, I’m going to say that these are random lyrics from a dead project.

Do you remember where you were on the day that Zebra died? When the tao became so polluted that it caught fire? When they painted a swastika on dark matter?

We have all always felt it- a disturbance in the force. The events that are so large that they blanket time. Real subsumption, total war, we rush towards the catastrophe at the center of it all, gradually noticing that we are in a blast zone.  

It has always been too late. Too late doesn’t even apply. We are misperceiving time. 

Anders Breivik slaughters migrant children outside the gates of Auschwitz caked in the dust of the Oklahoma City bombing, bathed in the glow of a million burning cities, all somehow contained within the walls of a massive prison. 

Do you remember where you were on the day that Zebra died? 

By the television? 

By the radio?

In a nursing home? 

At work? 

In prison? 

When Zebra died by a thousand cuts, excised from the world not once but time after time. 

Where were you when Zebra died? 

You were everywhere. 

Zebra died in my arms. 

We had spent the evening together. It made beautiful music for me that reminded me of my mother. 

It showed me a cosmic serpent as it navigated time. 

Then on the television, Donald Trump talked about grabbing pussies. 

A black ichor spread through my life, spilling backwards and forwards in time. 

Zebra got sick. There was no saving it.  Over three months I watched it weaken. Then it turned to dust and blew away. 

I raged, I grieved, I mourned for years. 

The ragged hole never closed. 

Every day after the edges blew and folded, got infected and leaked hot pus. 

Backwards and forwards in time the infection spread. 

You learn to live with it until you can’t. 

And you still just live with it. 

Until  you can’t. 

And you still just live with it. 

Ad infinitum. 

If the purpose of life writ small is the production of consciousnesses, perhaps this is the truest horror.

The collection of so many sad souls, to what purpose? 

It is the child’s refrain: But why?

I saw a man, younger than me, with the markings of my subculture. 

He had been out in the rain all day. 

He had a blanket strapped to his back and nothing else. 

His eyes spoke of the institutional circuit in the language of lostness

I and my mother drove past him, a man who might be me given a few more bad turns. 

I ate dinner in front of the television as the people of Hong Kong fought a losing battle for freedom from labrynthine prisons. 

I took my walk, got stoned halfway through. 

Ahead of me was a man who lingered and lurched, very drunk and in the thick of it, carrying a bag. He pissed on the grass in front of a shopping center and then cursed at the cars that stopped for him. 

He was clean, but dressed as though he had sprinted through the aisles of a thrift store and grabbed items with his eyes closed. 

Again, I walked by this man who I could have been. 

There was a time I would have pursued these people, unmindful of and unaffected by their pain, nimble of tongue and mind, and sought an encounter. 

But this is not who I am anymore. Now I want to be invisible, to be small and hidden, to run underground. 

I am not fruiting. Conditions aren’t right. I am out of season. 

There was a fawn dead on the side of the road, still with white spots. 

I had moved past what I imagine was its mother and its sole surviving sibling on my way up the hill. 

I know that things die better than I know other things. 

I am not surprised by this

Just as I am not surprised at the tens of thousands of dead children in Yemen 

Just as I would not be surprised if I was diagnosed with skin cancer this year. 

These things happen. 

But we are saturated in the symbolism of the death of innocence, of blamelessness, of possibility. 

Zebra was to save us from this, but Zebra is dead, has always been dead, will always be dead, lying on the side of the road of history, its eyes glazed. 

I can’t determine the topography of the event that killed it. 

My perspective is insufficient. 

I believe it is trans-temporal, that there is an event somewhere in time that spills out in all directions. 

Perhaps it is best to think of it hydrologically. To imagine a flow of horror that aggregates in great pools, runs off in small rivulets and empties, eventually, somewhere in history. 

Is this event behind us (as we speak of these things) or yet to occur, or is it simply one ocean? 

Did Zebra drown? How long would that take? 

I have come to think that compassion is a virtue above all other things. 

This in the same period in which I have become less capable of fulfilling the mandates of this belief. I have renounced violence. I have not raised my voice. 

What is it like, dying? Like, what is it like for you? 

How do you feel about the fact that you’re consciousness and your body will be going their separate ways in a defined time frame? 

Are you afraid? Are you excited? 

Are you plagued by regret or filled with the satisfaction of a life well lived or merely preoccupied by what might come next? 

Or does it hurt too much for any of that to figure in? What is the pain like? Where does it take your mind? 

I am worried about what comes next. 

I think it is a sign of extreme indolence on my part.

There’s a part of me so tired of the experience of consciousness that I fear that it will persist. 

I merely want to go on a ride, go with the flow, be carried in the stream of things. I want to be a receiver. I want to be pure information. 

But perhaps you want something different. Would you live forever if you could? 

If the answer is yes, I can’t say I blame you. I mean, you can’t, but I understand why you’d want to. 

Maybe I’d feel differently about life if it never ended. 

Unlimited time to make mistakes, time to be hurt and to heal, opportunity to grieve until it no longer affects you to lose things. 

I could walk everywhere. No need to rush. 

Were you loved well enough that you’ll be missed? 

That is what keeps me here. 

I’d die without it. 

I’ve tried to kill myself in the past. 

It’s been a long time since then. 

Not killing yourself has something to do with love, but I’m not sure what exactly.

Who is it that will miss you the most? 

Will they survive your passing? 

At first one would think “Of course,” but I don’t think the outcome is so certain. 

Some people are strong enough to weather the loss of a treasured person, others are not so gifted. 

This doesn’t mean that they will die necessarily, but that they will be so torn, so altered from what they used to be when you were there that they are unrecognizable to themselves. 

There is a way of seeing in which you are a majestic dragon, your eyes are rubies, you breathe a river of fire that is made of tiny little people who remake what they touch. 

They don’t burn but overturn the physicality of the objects of your cleansing bellows, creating immanence where once there was fact. 

The person who burns in your fires is a body without organs, an infant brain, a canvass heavy with the sheer weight of historicity. You are destroyer, bringer of change.

Then there is the you that is a God in a pantheon, puissant and petty, possessed of great powers, great feats feathering your cap.  

Enmeshed in a web of relations between gods and monsters, this is the you that has wild love affairs and violent feuds, that travels to the tops of mountains and to the depths of hell. 

This one can be a trickster or a brute, depending on the moral to be imparted. 

Then there is the you that is pure light. 

You feel nothing but this light that you are, and you have the good fortune to also be a crystalline song that is somehow able to hear itself. 

Then there is the you that is a frightened person who hides inside all day. 

You don’t like to eat and would sleep forever if you could. 

You are at a stage in your relationship with meaninglessness where all the romance has gone out of it. 

This terminal fact that we live for nothing, that we are an isolated pool in the hydrology of time. 

When I was a child I was scared of it but could see it only through its horseman, death. 

Then in adolescence I flaunted it, wore it like a target for those who would be most affected by the assertion that absolutely nothing mattered. 

Now, after so many years together, I’ve become frightened of it again. Now it hectors me, speaks to me through the radio, is written in code in the newspaper coupons. 

If this is you, don’t despair. You are on your way through countless manifestations, many grand, some the mortar and pestle to which even the greatest journeys sometimes subject us. 

You may be meat now, but you will be spirit tomorrow. 

There Might be Bullshit in my Mushroom Supplements

I got really into mushrooms in my late 20’s because I like the drugs they make. 

Antidepressants fuck up many psychedelics, which is to say, they fuck up getting fucked up. It’s a problem. It’s not that you can’t get high, but that you need to take quite a bit more (and I predict that this will be a significant problem when psilocybin is used clinically). 

This is an economic issue for the consumer. You can go off antidepressants, which either hurts like hell or takes a great deal of time, or spend a lot of money. Being the intrepid renaissance man that I am, I decided to grow my own. It took a remarkable amount of time for me to do this successfully.

While I was trying and failing to grow mushrooms I grew increasingly interested in the organisms themselves. Gradually it turned into a hobby, and then an obsession. 

The desert southwest is a weird place to get into mushrooms. In the valleys there are, to the best of my knowledge, only three species that occur with any regularity: A species of Ganoderma, the genus that houses the storied reishi; Podaxis pistallaris, the desert shaggy mane; and Battarrea phalloides, the desert stalked puffball. These mushrooms are all awesome. They grow in the desert. Buy them a drink if you run into them. 

Surrounding Tucson, AZ are mountain ranges described as sky islands. Travelling from the base of the Santa Catalinas to the summit is, in terms of vegetation, the equivalent of driving from the US/Mexico Border to Canada. It’s an entirely different mushroom situation. During the Summer monsoons there’s a brief but stunning fruiting event. A few weeks later and nothing remains but woody conks. 

After a few seasons of being way more interested in mushrooms than the stuff I was supposed to be paying attention to, I decided that I would defeat the hopelessness of my academic life and my rapidly declining mental health by pursuing a career as a grower of legal mushrooms. My girlfriend at the time told me that this was a profoundly stupid idea, which was correct, and that I didn’t have sufficient knowledge of the process, which was also correct. 

I thought “I’ll show her,” and applied for an internship program with a large-scale spawn producer and manufacturer of medicinal supplements, also located in the Western US. The program was billed as ‘prestigious’ and ‘highly-competitive’. It was a hands-on learning opportunity that was hands-down the best thing a person could do with a month. I should have been skeptical when they accepted me. Nothing about my existence speaks to prestige or competition. 

So I packed up my life and I went to this place. Everything looked like shit when I got there. The offices had gross carpeting and everyone looked miserable, which is standard for offices, and I waited for the arrival of the other participants with a woman who was a retired LAPD officer, which immediately makes one eligible for permanent residency in a mass grave. 

After a while the other participants trickled in. A young guy from Iceland whose father had been a member of the Icelandic government and was prosecuted for some form of corruption; a lefty girl from the Midwest who crushed my dreams of being thought of as cool when she told me she had no idea what happened in Seattle in 1999; a Sikh woman, and a PhD as well; and a young man from Florida who was immediately and obviously living with a psychotic disorder. 

We all lived in a shitty apartment for a month and worked ten hour days at the growing facility. It was like The Real World except none of us were attractive. The work was monotonous and difficult. In addition to spawn making, which is basically doing a bunch of stuff with millet, we also made supplements. 

Supplements deserve some discussion. The way they were manufactured in this particular setting was that bags of mature mushroom spawn would be placed on baking sheets, dried in an industrial dryer, and powdered after drying. It ended up in huge barrels that would be sold on to formulators. 

During the last hour of each day the five of us would be instructed in some actually relevant aspect of mycology by a charming Eastern European man. This was the only genuine learning that occurred and I’m grateful for it. It is also in this forum that the most glaring chicanery of this company was revealed. The Sikh woman was not at all stupid and was also reasonably pissed off that she’d travelled to the United States to work on an assembly line. She aired a thorough and well-informed argument against the company’s entire product line, which was a critique of the bioavailability of the supplements being produced. 

Over the entire human history of medicinal mushrooms, never has it been the case that powdered mycelium grown on grain was considered medicinal. In every historical account and every clinical trial it was the spore producing fruits of the organism that were used. She went on to state that the mycelium-on-grain supplement being produced was very likely to have few if any bioavailable medicinal compounds, which was easily verified with a Google search. 

Mic-drop. 

Although I’d been fairly certain that the whole thing was bullshit, this was a convincer. Interestingly, depilated bear and mycological Joel Osteen Paul Stamets sells this very same snake oil.

I was also not-serious-but-serious convinced that the entire operation was a front company for the CIA. 

Yes, it’s true, I am an insane person, but I think that there was a case to be made. The three highest ranking staff were, respectively, a former engineer of nuclear submarines; a former engineer of software systems for fighter jets; and a Green Beret. And they were always travelling: Nepal; Colombia; Laos; so on. When people with security clearances routinely travel to places that are or were the sites of US counterinsurgency activities it makes sense to be skeptical of their stated reasons for doing so. And they were scummy. The CEO was lecherous, observably and by reputation. An employee told me that “the company runs out of the tip of his dick”. The other two were less shitty but profoundly weird, and not in a fun way.

When I was there the president and other upper-level staff were busily working on retconning the company into a publicly traded corporation. I could see it being publicly traded for a single pure-bred dog or a very generous gift-card, but that’s about it. In order to make the company more attractive to shareholders, the president was trying to patent all sorts of fanciful shit, the most memorable of which was using rattlesnake venom to hybridize mushrooms. 

Everything about the experience sucked, and I got through it by the power of weed. I’d purchased a large amount of hash in California and I smoked morning, day and night, which was status quo for me, except I did more of it. During breaks at the facility I would roll hash into cigarettes and get absolutely wasted before going back to work.  And I wasn’t the only one. Weed smoke drifted out of truck windows as the full-time employees got ready for the second half of a shitty day. 

The production workers were a mix of working class Latinos and Caucasians. Most were very young. Many of the Latino workers were women, while the Anglo production staff were exclusively male. Everyone was really racist and sexist which is, unfortunately, not an unusual thing in this kind of environment. And yeah, I should have said something, but I’d thrown my back out punching the ocean and I’d been told to take it easy. 

The foreman was a gigantic white guy in his late 40’s who had done a long stint in prison for running guns. Anyone in this kind of position has to be sort of intimidating and he had it down. He also made one of the more interesting statements that I heard during this time. In a conversation about drugs, he stated that he had attended a Native American Church peyote ceremony and had learned that he was not a very nice person, which is honest and no doubt true. I’d learned the same thing about myself through a similar channel.

Toward the end of my time there I asked the former avionics guy what exactly the point was in bringing a group of people to the facility every month and he said that the President thought it would be a source of cheap labor. I already knew the answer to the question, but I asked him how it was working out. His reply: Poorly. Line work is considered to be unskilled, but that’s not true. For one, you need to be able to do it psychologically. Also, you need to be ergonomically graceful lest you fall on your ass.

I had been told by the President that the company had relocated to this inland part of the American West from a coastal city because (no joke) the medicinal properties of the fungi would be enhanced. This was a patent and obvious lie and I floated this assertion by one of the staff. They said no, that wasn’t at all the case. It was that the state offered a generous subsidy to businesses willing to hire former convicts. Not that I think people who have been in prison don’t deserve to work, but still, gymnast level lying needs to be exceptional to make it to the Bullshit Olympics. 

I was ecstatic when the whole thing was over, and though nothing was going to get better after leaving I would at least be able to sleep past 5 A.M., which was another miscalculation.