Carnival of Aliens

a mongrel of fleas or invader from mars

Photo / Graphic by Roman.

3/30 — Where does a story begin? That depends on what story you intend to tell.

4/22 — I’ve been singing my death song all the live-long day.

(This is not what I meant to write when I sat down, pencil in hand, only to be confronted by a cannabis-induced* blank spot that removed the slightest trace of the original…

(Instead, I am beset by questions asking half empty / half full or questions for which “Yes” is truthful, correct yet contradictory or those where “No” does the same.

(What we learn from philosophy is that we learn nothing from philosophy.

(Oh, we are a voluble lot, those that gather here. The thoughts tumble one or another then sometimes one and another but sometimes call and response. It is sometimes dissonant but sometimes harmonic…

(Harmony? Yes, when sometimes we agree.)

It is, in sum, a carnival of aliens.


* Or maybe just a senior moment. After all, where does the story begin?

Happy New Year

by the light of a lit bong…

I’m a sucker for light and I’m a sucker for bongs as well, begging your pardon. Here is an image that combines the two. The light shining through the bong had been filtered through yet another favorite of mine, glass bricks. It has a pleasing geometry, if nothing else.

Fair warning: after a few decades of such happy new years, your lungs are likely to resemble the photo, so be aware. On the other hand, I did once almost drown and if you don’t stay out of the water, it could almost happen to you as well!

Photo / graphic by Roman.


doggerel about a cat

The catnip bird is carefully
Returned to me, who has been so
Careless as to let it fly across the room.

“Is it not good that you have a
Hunting cat, my dear and merely human?”
(he paused to lick his balls)

“Don’t bogart that ‘nip, my friend…
Let it fly again.
But never dare say fetch!”

— Yip

Graphic by Roman.

Buying Legal Weed in Illinois

Photo by Roman; panel from the 2006 Artists of the Wall

Weed is now legal in Illinois. That’s not news even if it is new. The long lines to purchase cannabis in various formulations were a spectacle. They were crazy. Unappealing. Deterring. But along came Friday, January 3rd. I had an errand at a bank several CTA Red Line stations southward… And there’s a cannabis dispensary / store just a few more stops south. Surely some of the crowds must have dissipated by now… Should I check it out?

Isn’t it amazing how reason can be enlisted to fulfill a heart’s desire?

So Noon found me walking up the street toward the dispensary, except it suddenly seemed the dispensary was across the street and a block south from where it should be. What gives? There were two security guards on the street. They confirmed: This is the line for recreational customers. Oh look, there’s only a dozen folks queued before the door. I didn’t ask the guards for the wait time.

Isn’t it amazing how blindness can be enlisted to fulfill a heart’s desire?

Well, it didn’t take but five minutes or so for the line to move indoors. That was a majorly optimistic event, but the scene inside should have argued otherwise. When you fold the queue as if it were an intestine, you can pack away quite a few people. And they don’t even complain about what they are going through.

Isn’t it amazing how “in for a penny, in for a pound” disarms sensible responses among humans? You can do almost anything to them. It’s like hypnotizing a chicken with a white line.

But truly, the dispensary had done something clever and almost wise. It was clearly not a good thing all around to have a line of customers down and around the block outside. A storefront show room was available just down the street from the dispensary. Rent this, use it to house a line that would have been otherwise seriously miserable and unsightly. The dispensary embellished this by handing out order forms with a redemption coupon that both promised a future discount and I.D.’d your order. It would be there when you finally made it to the dispensary.

Placing the order turned out to be a bit of a hassle though it was minor compared to the wait. Each clipboard with order form included a printed menu of what was in stock. The people staffing the line clearly did not trust the dispensary’s stated inventory, especially of cannabis flowers, whether prerolled or bulk. They recommended ordering a general category, e.g. sativa flowers 1 gram. And quantities were rationed.

It turns out that once you arrived at the point of sale, the check-out staff were pretty flexible, within State law, about revising your order. I suspect that it was partly that customers were going to insist on this flexibility anyway, and when you’re dealing with a long day of dealing with a huge crowd, who needs the hassle?

The wait stretched on. The line moved periodically, in quanta just large enough to subtly reward your patience. It helped, also, that most of the waiting customers were in a generally good mood, maybe some had taken a head start while at home. This was bolstered by a few security personnel who seemed both mission driven and genuinely appreciative of people. They also periodically handed out free hot dogs (including ketchup for all the out-of-state visitors), bottled water and tangerines. A magician worked the line, pulling items from noses and ears and fooling with unsuspecting decks of cards. Unfortunately, I had no thirst nor any discernible appetite. Give me access to a bathroom and I’ll be okay. Incidentally, considering the crowd, the men’s room, at least, was okay.

For my part, I’m a geezer. My time is both incredibly precious and incredibly devalued. Waste an afternoon in line? I can do that! The out-of-pocket cost is negligible but in the long run…

The crowd, come to speak of it, was largely white and male, though most ethnicities and genders were represented, only not in numbers that reflected the local population. It was possibly skewed toward youth. Certainly my fellow geezers were there, but not many and I’m not old enough for the casualty rate to be quite that high. And on that Friday afternoon, it turned out that a large percentage, though not a majority, of the waiting customers were from out of state.

If there were anything amiss with the dispensary’s strategy, it might have been in relying on a pacific crowd. There were a lot of people in that waiting room and there was only one obvious exit. (There were other exits but not obvious.) It was not a place for any sort of panic.

The final step was queuing to clear the dispensary’s identification check: driver’s license or passport. They scanned the barcodes on these, so just how much information you’re giving up by engaging in this transaction… now that is an interesting question, even though the transactions were all cash.

It was a gruelling experience. It reminded me of the time, some decades ago, when a great many AMTRAK trains had unreserved seating. I boarded a way oversold train in Springfield, Illinois, then had to stand all the way to Joliet, Illinois. It’s a long state, is Illinois. And on Friday, I finally made it home from the dispensary after 5 PM almost as exhausted as I was at my homecoming on that trip from Springfield.

I also smelt distinctly as if I had been rolling about in a barn full of harvested weed. Come to think of it, the crowd in the waiting room smelt like that, too, and none of them had been to the dispensary. One could only blame the staff, then, as the dispensary itself did smell like a harvest barn. The latest research into human biomes suggests that we shed our passenger micro-organisms (who reside in and on us in often in greater numbers than our own cells) in a way that is distinctly individual. By sampling a room, they can, for a few hours, identify previous occupants. Wow! Imagine that waiting room as a Grand Central Station for microbes. Do they have a ticket to ride?

So: was it worth the adventure? No and yes.

No: I would not willingly again spend 4 or more hours waiting in line to buy weed.

On the other hand: When the steam heat begins to sound like a chorus of castrati singing like theremins accompanied by Tuvan throat singers in complex melodies and rhythms… Well! You know you have arrived.

Photo by Roman.

High Rider

Back when I worked at a wallpaper warehouse, I often went to work like this, which is to say thoroughly stoned, though not on a skateboard but on foot then a CTA train. And yes, it was sometimes just about as weird… The commute was major entertainment.

Full screen and headphones recommended.

This was written and directed by Bradley Tangonan with cinematography by Jeremy Snell. Their respective Vimeo channels have a great many videos in common, many of them music videos or commercials, but not all.

In case you wondered, no boss ever threatened to fire me at the warehouse. Even mazed and confused by weed, I was more precise and productive than the alcohol junkies and other various refugees from life that I worked with. Arguably, this was not a terribly high standard to live up to, and even management was pretty… out there.

Kitchen Psychopharmacology

nutmeg is not a friendly drug

Nutmeg? Nutmeg?? The usual reaction to using nutmeg as an intoxicant is a combination of incredulity and pity. For the unhip, it’s as if those tomatoes atop the refrigerator began sharpening knives and studying you with sudden bloody eyes. For the hip, it’s rather like someone confessing an affection for the comic sans type font. And they are right. While nutmeg is a benign drug (it won’t kill you or enthrall you), it is not exactly a friendly drug. The trip begins by making you mildly ill. This can be panic inducing if you didn’t know it was coming and yes, people have shown up at emergency rooms for just that reason. Well okay: what part of intoxication do you not understand?

Probably the best account of the history, properties and effects of nutmeg is a post by Ibo Nagano, Do You Know About the Narcotic Effects of Nutmeg? Click on the link if you’re curious though most of you, dear readers, will be too lazy. But if you’re inclined to experiment with nutmeg, that article really is your homework.

Nutmeg is classified as a deliriant, a sub-category of hallucinogen, the other sub-categories being psychedelics and dissociatives. Unlike psychedelics, most deliriants are cheap and legal. If it’s time to feed your head and the shelf and wallet are bare, that is probably the best argument for using nutmeg as more than a flavoring.

But as I said, nutmeg is not a friendly drug. First off, a reasonable dose for someone not resembling a character from The Triplets of Belleville would be a heaping teaspoon. But if the nutmeg has been sitting on your spice rack or in a warehouse for some indefinite period of months and months and months, you may need more. Freshness matters. If you can buy the seeds to grate or grind (as is recommended for its use as a spice), you’re better off.

Now how does one consume this dose? As I said, nutmeg is not a friendly drug. Imagine a mouthful of sand. Or ground coffee. Real nice, eh? A mouthful of nutmeg is about like that. I found that placing the spoonful under the tongue, holding it there as long as practical then washing it down with a glass of water is actually palatable. But cooking with nutmeg is your best option. I modified a fairly standard recipe for corn bread to include a half cup of nutmeg and that worked just fine. Another advantage to cooking is that the main active ingredient, myristicin, is found in other foods and spices and these can be added to recipes as well. Consult Nagano’s article for more information.

Any drug orally consumed will take time to intoxicate; it’s not like inhaling. Nutmeg is slow. It may be an hour later but it could be four or five hours later. (Were you hungry when you ate it?) Taking more will not hurry things and it may make things uncomfortably weird later on. Be sure it is a free day for you. Do not operate heavy equipment. In fact, avoid heavy equipment the next day, too, as you may well be mildly incompetent for most of the next day. Need I repeat? Nutmeg is not a friendly drug but once you’ve invited it to visit, it hangs around like a needy acquaintance.

I’m not a big fan of nutmeg (though I do like comic sans) but being a penurious geezer, I partake now and then. It did occur to me to wonder if CBD would be useful in easing the onset of nutmeg intoxication.

CBD? That hemp extract that doesn’t get you high? Actually, that isn’t exactly true. It’s one of those things that is not quite a lie but maybe qualifies as sloppy journalism. Taking CBD is a bit like smoking what, back in the day, we would have called “ditch weed.” After the second joint, you’d be rather relaxed, ready for a nap perhaps. CBD is a chemical precursor to marijuana’s primary active ingredient, THC. In marijuana, CBD and a multitude of other related substances play a role in modifying the effects of THC. In its complexity, pot is pretty similar to coffee.

In experimenting with CBD, I had in mind easing the physically sour effects in the onset of nutmeg intoxication and the answer to that is… maybe. CBD seemed to abbreviate that early stage of nutmeg intoxication and the quality of the high had some weedy aspects. But how much of that is expectations? Don’t know but further experimentation by me is unlikely. CBD as an intoxicant costs a lot more than it’s worth.

It did, however, lower my blood pressure by about 15mm for two days after.*

Oh, and don’t let this stop you from using nutmeg as a flavoring. The quantities prescribed in recipes are not usually intoxicating… Or if you insist, think of it as “microdosing.” You’ll sleep and dream well tonight. Here, have some more eggnog.



* A formulation of CBD has been approved by the FDA as a drug to control seizures. It’s a pretty big dose compared to the tinctures on sale in stores. The anti-seizure qualities of CBD were noted as far back as the early 1970s, but cannabis was (and as of 2019, still is) one of those Schedule 1 forbidden fruits, making even research fraught.