CANNABIS CULTURE – Some travel days are long. I was in Italy, and Italy is the nicest place; I loved my 9 days in Trieste, Venice, and Florence. In my entire European trip since mid-February I’ve stayed only in Airbnb’s for $35-$50 Canadian a night.
I had to be at the Florence airport by 7:30AM so I was up at 6AM to shower and pack. I had not slept at all. In fairness to the story, I don’t sleep well and I never get to sleep before 2:30 – 3:00AM at the earliest. So a 6AM wake-up is never welcome. But this night I heard the aggravating buzzing of mosquitoes in my ear it seemed every 5 minutes. By 6AM I had over a dozen bites, and although I didn’t think the Zika virus or any other contagion was carried by Florentine mosquitoes, there were bites on the bottom of both feet, behind one knee, on one elbow and the rest in soft fleshy places coursing no doubt with rich red blood cells.
I write this story after a hot bath and an Sweet Afghani Delicious joint from the Pota Verda cannabis club in El Prat, Spain. I point this out because the detail is important to me once I’ve gotten high, as my nature is too become even more effusive after each joint/bong hit. In fact, I just took 60 seconds and rolled another one of those SAD joints.
So I’m at the airport, kind of scratchy itchy wondering why Florence, for all its fabulous history and beauty is hospitable to mosquitoes like no other place I’ve yet visited. And I learned this, that weekend Florence was the warmest city in Europe with temperatures up to 27C (80F). It’s really humid at night when it’s warm. It’s in a valley with a major river in it. It’s not near a coast. And like every other warm, humid place in a valley with a major river or lake it has stagnant pools of water that teem with mosquitoes.
Every city I’ve been in so far on this tour was beside a sea, except the very charming Slovenian capitol of Ljubljana. It was too cold in Slovenia in March for mosquitoes. Seaside Vancouver doesn’t get mosquitoes, it’s one of the few bonuses that comes with high Vancouver rents. So I’m not psychologically ready for mosquitoes. It’s like it wasn’t on any brochure and no one warned me and it was humid and hot in this 6th floor Airbnb.
(By the way, I’m much healthier now because every place I’ve stayed in these two months was one of a 4, 5, or 6-story walk-up of 65-90 steps, 3 or 4 times a day! And you never get used to it, I was winded at the top of each of those couple hundred climbs.) So I opened the two windows to get some air in my room. I get bitten. So it goes.
I get to the airport and pass all the security and by 8AM I’m in the boarding area for my 9:45 flight. Except it says they haven’t got an available plane and the flight is delayed for two hours, so it’s leaving at noon. I’m flying to Barcelona, Spain, my jumping off point for my #PrinceofPotWorldTour, I’ve got a train to catch for Toulouse, France at 6:30PM so I’m fine for time. So I’m not in a panic like other passengers because my connection is still several hours away and the Florence to Barcelona flight is only 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Why Toulouse, France, by the way? Two words: Lonely Planet. I saw on the internet it was France’s most underrated city and it was a $78 CN train trip from Barcelona to Toulouse. Plus you can Airbnb inexpensively there or even some good hotels are on sale. I’m here now and I haven’t really done my research on this charming French city.
I go to places on whims. I tend to fly on airlines that have had a bombing recently. I know it sounds morbid, but all the best deals are on airlines like Turkish Airlines. Turkey is a prime target of several terrorists groups. In fact, a bomb went off nearby the place I was staying in Istanbul, and the beautiful plaza by the Blue Mosque and the Sophia Museum where I walked for a hour every day. I had a photo of myself on the spot where 11 German tourists were murdered by a homicide bomber two months earlier in January. So far fewer tourists are visiting Turkey and so Turkish Airlines, who have great service, offer a great price and if they have a flight going anywhere that goes through Istanbul’s two great airports, its going to be a bargain.
I was going from Barcelona to Ljubljana, Slovenia. It would have made way more sense to take a train from Barcelona to Slovenia, but Canada is so vast that taking a plane seems logical when you go three or four countries over, but it really isn’t. But my Barcelona to Ljubljana flight and return was only $477 CN. The hitch: there’s a stopover in Turkey, so I decided to stay four days in Istanbul. Why not?*
I’ll be speaking at the 4/23 Concert & Festival in Bangkok, Thailand. I got a Barcelona to Bangkok flight, and return, for $600 CN, which is $435 US, on Aeroflot, the Russian Airline. You go through Moscow, but half-way around the world and back for $600 Cn!? The next best price was like $1,000+. But you, know Aeroflot had one of their planes blown out of the sky on October 31 over the Sinai desert, and they have a history of bomb threats, so they too are always a deal. Will I think a bit about mid-air explosions while on board my bargain-priced seat? You bet. But a deal’s a deal and I’m on a budget!
So I’m in the Florence airport, content to doze away at my boarding gate, and it’s getting close to the time when we actually will board, when I see an enthusiastic German Shepherd pulling along his uniformed human handler happily salivating at the opportunity to narc on some passenger. Much to my genuine surprise, he comes by me and without stopping bumps into my computer bag. He continues on but 30 seconds later he comes back and nudges me this time. Then another uniformed man comes over and says “Sir, your documentation.”
Now, accents are heavy at times and they say this in Italian, which to me sounds like “Do you have a dog?” and I say, rather off-handedly, “No, I have cats.” To which he screws up his face in annoyance and says “Your doc-u-men-tation. A passport.” “Ah.” I hand him my passport. He draws me away from the curious crowds. “Do you have any marijuana, Mr. Emery?” “No.” I answer truthfully, relaxedly. “Because if you do, if you hand it over now, its just an administrative fine.” “No, you can check, I don’t have any marijuana.” “Did you smoke marijuana while you were here in Italy?” “Yes. Many times.” Then he said “Marijuana in Italy?! That is impossible!” and I didn’t know what to say to that so I said nothing. “You know if we search for your bag on board you will miss the flight.” “I don’t have any marijuana, you are welcome to check.”
He considers this, and the plane is already two hours late, and if he goes to get my bag out of the plane, then it’s going to hold this plane up quite a while more, so he’d have to be convinced I’m pretty hot. He hands me my passport and says “have a good flight.”
I didn’t bring any pot. Except the dogs never lie – but he didn’t stop, he circled around me, nudged me, there was something about me he smelled that was one of his targets. I wrote for Cannabis Culture about how amazing dogs are with scents, but even I was impressed.
There’s also a bit of hypocrisy to all this too. There are no overland borders in the European Union. When I went from Slovenia in the Balkans to Italy via Trieste, there’s no border. We just drove into Italy. You can bring as much weed as you like into Italy. No one will stop you. When I took the train to Toulouse, France, from Barcelona, Spain, there was no border police or inspection or even a booth or a marker. You can bring as much weed from a cannabis cultivation mecca like Spain into France, Italy or anywhere in the European union. The search dog was more likely searching for explosives but the dog’s training could have also included cannabis.
So when I got to Toulouse, France, I went through my computer bag and sure enough, the plastic baggie that did contain all the weed I smoked in Italy (one good-sized joint each of nine days), I had used it, instead of throwing it out, to hold my small glass windex spray bottle to clean my glasses so it wouldn’t spill in my computer case. Doh! What a rookie mistake I hope I won’t make again.
I actually bought a new case in Barcelona to go through Turkey, figuring Turkish customs may or may not have changed since the Billy Hayes smuggling story Midnight Express was made (1976). I isopropyl-washed down the entire surfaces of my iPhone and computer, including using q-tips on the grooves between these very keys I am pressing now. Thoroughly. I got a new bag because I figured for the previous month before I left for Turkey, my bag had sat 3-6 hours a day in the Strain Hunters Club and was simply THC soaked atmospherically. At the least, $25 for a new computer laptop carry case, why take chances? And here I was gamely wrapping my rather superfluous windex mini-spray bottle in a baggie clearly covered on the inside with trichomes that all these cheap baggies with their weak polymer-weave suck off the nugs.
In my next blog, I’ll tell you about how a hero of mine, a great Slovenian activist, got arrested only scant hours after I parted Ljubljana, Slovenia, where I learned to make and helped produce hundreds of cannabinoid suppositories.
* Besides 6 terrorist bombings in Istanbul since last July, there are in fact other reasons not to go to Turkey, which shall be covered in a travel blog soon.
See more of Marc’s photos from The Prince of Pot World Tour gallery on Flickr: