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"Light Up and Be Somebody!"

Happy Mardi Gras, everybody! I’ve just successfully completed my 30th consecutive Carnival Time in New Orleans and am now getting ready to head North by way of Oxford and Holly Springs, Miss., and Little Rock, Ark., to Chicago and then to Detroit by the end of the month to make the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor on April 2 and the Seventh Annual 4/20 Party in the D on April 20.

I’m sorry I missed the last installment of this column but my bag with my laptop and all accessories was stolen at an outdoor café on the Rambla in Barcelona, my last stop before coming to New Orleans. Otherwise I had a terrific time in Spain, introducing the Spanish translation of my book Sun Ra Interviews & Essays, published by Libertos Editorial, and performing shows in Madrid and Barcelona with Lydia Lunch and her band, Big Sexy Noise under the aegis of RUTA 66 music magazine.

Before I left Amsterdam for Barcelona, I went to see a Dutch doctor about a medical marijuana prescription, showed him my Michigan Patient Card and secured a script for 10 grams of medicinal cannabis. My friend Ben Dronkers had told me that a Dutch prescription would be honored throughout the EU, so I felt pretty secure until my prescribed stash was seized by my thief along with the other contents of my shoulder bag.

Quite happily in the breach, however, my interview with CANAMO magazine had been greased by the gift of a substantial bag of the local sacrament, and I was able to continue treating my physical and mental aches and pains for the entire week of my stay in Spain, where personal use of recreational drugs is no longer treated as a criminal matter in any case.

The city of New Orleans, too, has finally decriminalized personal use of marijuana, although Louisiana has yet to confront the question of medicinal applications. The medicine is fine here now, though I can remember when I moved from Detroit to New Orleans 20 years ago that the weed was not so great nor readily available. Today, nearly every one of my friends with whom I’ve shared medication during the Carnival season has presented first-rate smoke at every turn, and I’d like to offer particular thanks to my old-time podjo Swami Bill for helping keep things copasetic during my stay.

Now Mardi Gras is over, and I’m writing on a borrowed laptop courtesy of my compatriot in Chicago, brother Fritz Kielsmeier from StandingOvation.com, who said when I got to New Orleans and moaned over the phone about my stolen computer, “I’ll just ship you mine — I’m not using it right now,” and he did. Thanks a million, Fritz, and I’ll drop it off when I come to see you in Chicago.

Losing my computer is a serious matter for me. My life as an itinerant bard in the 21st century was — and will soon be again — centered in my MacBook and Verbatim external hard-drive that held about 450 gigabytes of recorded music and self-created Internet radio programs as well as all my poetry, writing and recording files, which is to say I can now carry my entire life’s work around the world with me in digital form in a bag over my shoulder.

Very happily I’d gotten high enough in my pad above the Hash Museum the night before I left Amsterdam that I’d heard a voice in my head very clearly instruct me to back up all my files on my matching Verbatim 640-GB external hard drive and I diligently copied everything over, finishing up the grueling task as soon as I sat down at the home of my hosts Sergio and Sarai in Spain.

The next afternoon, they took me down to the Rambla to make a radio show on location outside the Café Joan for RadioFreeAmsterdam.com. I sat my bag down in the chair next to me and opened up my newspaper to relax for a few minutes while waiting for coffee and starting to work on the radio show. Five minutes later I reached for my shoulder bag to take out the laptop and the bag was already gone.

Thus I’ve existed in a state of suspended mental animation ever since, working in an alien operating system on a borrowed machine without access to my files while trying to muster enough resources to replace my trusty Macintosh before I flip my wig completely. What I need to make this happen represents about one month’s budget for food, medicine and travel incidentals in my stripped-down existence on the road, and like they say here in New Orleans, that ain’t nothing nice.

But I’ve recovered from much worse setbacks on my long and rocky road through life and if I can fake my way through this column with none of my customarily voluminous files to draw upon, everything should be better by the time I have to write the next one at the end of the month. I’ll be back in Detroit by then, where I’ll have a chance to marshal my considerable vernacular resources and acquire a new weapon and assume my regular workload in relative peace. I’ve posted at least one new radio program, and often three or four, every week for the past seven years, but now I’m “off the air” in both Amsterdam and Detroit (DetroitLife313.com), and I’ll remain a little edgy until I get back on track. I don’t need that much to get by and do my work, but I sure need it right now!

My intention for the column I missed writing last time and this one as well was to try to delineate the concept of an America without its endless War on Drugs and an imaginary Michigan that might have refused to re-criminalize weed after the state’s marijuana laws were declared unconstitutional in March 1972. And, with a little bit of luck, that’s what you’ll get next time from me.

In closing this epistle from the Crescent City, I’d like to offer thanks and gratitude to my hosts, Dr. Prof. Barry Kaiser and Ms. Mary Moses; my daughter Celia, who’s been living here since 1987 and taking care of me every time I’m in town; my beloved Soul Lucille, who came all the way from Florence, Italy, to share the Mardi Gras with me; my guitarist and co-conspirator from Paris, M. Gilles Riberolles, who’s shooting a little film with me here; my man Frenchy the action painter and King of Oak Street who made the cover for my new album, LET’S GO GET ‘EM, recorded in Amsterdam with the International Blues Scholars; and Detroit’s own Mike Boulan, who rushed the CD into release on his new Mo-Sound label in time for its debut at the Louisiana Music Factory March 12.

My next report will come from Oxford, Miss., the Literary Center of the South and the site of the nation’s only government-funded marijuana growing operation off the campus of Ole Miss. Then I’ll be in Michigan and looking for you at the Hash Bash, the Monroe Street Fair and the traditional after-game party with the Macpodz at the Blind Pig on the first Saturday in April. In the immortal words of Mezz Mezzrow, Let’s light up and be somebody!

—New Orleans, March 10-11, 2011

JOHN SINCLAIR, founder of the White Panthers, is a poet. His latest book is It’s All Good.

This article originally ran in the Metro Times.

 

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