Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lord Byron's Birthday: So We'll Go No More a-Roving

George Gordon, Lord Byron, born on January 22, 1788, led a dissipated life. In his day, Romantic Poets such as himself lived like rock stars -- cutting a wide swath through polite society and robbing many women and men of their innocence along the way (but giving them some good memories in the process).

He was as famous in his lifetime for his personality cult as for his poetry. He created the concept of the "Byronic hero" -- a defiant, brooding young man, tortured by some darkly mysterious, unforgivable event in his past.

"So We'll Go No More a-Roving" hangs heavy with the poignancy of parties past, memories still glowing with the recollection of youth but slowly fading away.

Only a libertine like Byron could have struck a note this elegaic and final when he was still in his thirties. He knew, even as he lived it, that his intense accelerated lifestyle would lead to an early demise.

He died at the age of 36 and left a legend -- and poetry -- that will live forever.

Happy birthday, Lord Byron!

So We'll Go No More a-Roving

So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart still be as loving,
And the moon still be as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.


When We Two Parted

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame:
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well:
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Phil Mocek 1, TSA 0: Not Guilty For Refusing To Show ID

Phil Mocek in an Albuquerque courtroom this week.
Phil Mocek in an Albuquerque courtroom this week.

An Albuquerque jury handed down a not guilty verdict for my friend Phil Mocek of Seattle, who refused to show his ID to TSA officers at the Albuquerque Sunport.

Phil was arrested in late 2009 after he wouldn't show his ID, and then used a camera to videotape an altercation with TSA officers, reports Charlie Pabst at

He was facing several charges, including failure to obey an officer and concealing his identity, but the jury found him not guilty on all four counts.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where Are You, Dean Latimer? Thanks For Everything

Back in 1977 when I started smoking marijuana, one of the first "stoner" things I did was start reading High Times magazine -- which was a lot different back in the day than it is now (more of a "lifestyle" magazine then than a grow book).

And one of the first great writers I discovered within those wonderful pages was the estimable Dean Latimer, with his street-smart attitude and hard-bitten reporter's instincts, his eternal skepticism when confronted with official pronouncements and his healthy disdain for authority.

Latimer, who started out in the late 1960s with the Screw-like Kiss magazine (this was before the rock band), made a name for himself in the early '70s at National Lampoon before moving to High Times. He had it goin' on.

"I wanna be able to write like this guy," my 17-year-old self thought.

Latimer's words refused to just sit there on the glossy pages of High Times.

They sang, in a way that words can do sometimes when they are shot through with the resonance of a life well-lived, with a rich repository of earthly experience, with a seasoned but eternally fresh viewpoint that makes no wimpy compromises, brooks no interference in its intrepid search for truth, cowers before no sacred cows, respects no undeserving authority.

When I read Dean Latimer, I believed in the possibility of knowledge winning over ignorance, of reason prevailing over silliness, of truth triumphing over deception.

Yes, Latimer -- although he never knew it -- was a major motivator for me to pursue journalism and polish up my writing chops.

And although I feel I've never scaled the heights of an on-his-game Latimer, I do credit the guy for a big chunk of the "tone" that is present in my writing to this day.

Dean has vanished, perhaps somewhat mysteriously, as far as I know. After the 1980s, his appearances in High Times became less frequent, and they never found a comparable dude to replace him.

Dean co-wrote one book, Flowers In The Blood: The Story Of Opium (1981) along with Jeff Goldberg. It is, sadly, now out of print. Amazon says he also wrote the 1999 tome How To Pass A Drug Test: High Times Guide.

The only two real examples of Latimer's writing that I was able to find online are, first of all, "Inside Dope: Raising Appalachia," a High Times piece which appears to come from June 2002, which is actually a long time after I thought he'd stopped appearing in the magazine.

Secondly, I found a great article Dean wrote for Penthouse magazine in 1974, when he was at the height of his powers. It's a real gem, and it's called "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji And Why Is He Saying All These Terrible Things About God?"
It was doomed to be so. The teenaged Guru is everywhere chaperoned by his businesslike brother, Bal Bhagwan Ji, and his formidable mother Mata Ji, and their image resembles an Oriental Osmond Family. Donny and the Guru have about the same number and intellectual quality of fans, in fact, except that the Guru's are 10 to 15 years older, and they have babies whom they name after the Holy Family. The Guru's family, in brief, is at once exotic enough in appearance and address, and yet bourgeois enough in structure, to appeal irresistibly to the spiritually insecure millions of the West. Unhappily, his commerce with his Eastern homeland is nowhere near so fortuitous.

What a rush of memory and emotion it is to read Dean's words again.

It's very sad to me that a writer the caliber of Latimer has been largely forgotten by the world in this digital age -- so much so, that I was unable to Google up a photo of him.

According to, there are seven people with the name Dean Latimer living in the United States, but none of them is anywhere near New York City, so they probably aren't the Dean I remember.

I don't even know if Latimer is still among the living, but, Dean, if you're out there, THANK YOU.

And if anyone else, anywhere, knows what became of Mr. Latimer, please let me know.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All Together Now: A Marijuana Garden Is Not A 'Lab'

In an embarrassing display of Bad Journalism, the Miami New Times, one of the sister Village Voice Media blogs of my paying gig, Toke of the Town, has called marijuana gardens "labs."

That's right. Growing God's green plants from the earth now pretty much equals cooking up meth, boys and girls!

"Oh, it's just semantics," one of my friends said. Well... when "semantics" is used to justify locking people in cages for decades (you can get a life sentence for growing pot), then "semantics" becomes a problem.

I thought it was bad enough this week when a couple of yokel media outlets in my home state of Alabama called a marijuana grow room a "lab"... but to get this kind of fathomless stupidity from a supposedly "alternative weekly" just rankles.

Deeply clueless reporter Francisco Alvarado, in "Top Five Florida 420 Busts in 2010," a December 30, 2010 story in the Miami New Times helpfully tells us:

"Marijuana production is at an all-time high in Florida and so are grow house busts. The local, state and federal law enforcement weed eradication program has seen a 50 percent spike in the number of grow labs [emphasis added] in less than four years."

And now, having unbecomingly fallen for a simple-minded yet deceptive cop turn of phrase, he digs the hole deeper:

"It's easy pickings for Johnny Law when you think about it. Growers are stoners. They concoct hair[sic]-brained schemes to build impregnable Kush farms over multiple bowls of Fruit Loops after smoking some Super Lemon Haze."

Hey Francisco, why don't you just let the cops write the story for you? Way to reinforce 1970s pot stereotypes, man. Just so you know, we stoners enjoy those about as much as you must love colorful, "witty" Hispanic slurs.

So here's my comment to Francisco, made on the page of his trashy little article:

Francisco, marijuana gardens are not "labs."

This Orwellian phrase -- which tries to turn growing plants into something sinister and dangerous -- is not only dumb, it's just bad journalism. Quoting a cop calling a marijuana grow operation a "lab" is one thing.

But doing it yourself? That makes me doubt everything in your story.

As if THAT wasn't bad enough, you helpfully tell us that "growers are stoners" and imply that means they are too stupid to avoid getting busted.

Are you aware that most growers are never caught?

Unlike sloppy journalists, who get called on their very public mistakes.

Monday, January 3, 2011