Aboard the number 19 bus for the second time that day, I looked out upon the beckoning lights of the city and the science world dome which defied the night sky descend upon it, bravely battling darkness with an ambiance of light.
I prayed a quiet prayer to Our Lady that I would not be lost in the crowd and had my seat was where I could keep an eye on the Prince and his entourage. Not lose them in the ensuing shuffle afterwards and miss all opportunity to join in any after celebrations.
Jodie had hinted they were in 7th or 8th row on the left and I had asked for same from wicked ticket master.
Sipping guiltily a politically incorrect Grande Caramel Latte from corporate Starbucks, I ran into the wife and partner of the talented Reefer Man, Russell Bennett, Ms. Gillian Stevene-Guille, outside the gilded doors of the Orpheum she was handing out flyers to their criminally funny comedy returning March 22nd and 23rd to the Fire hall Arts Center. www.TheReeferMan.com
I was able to avail upon her to try a taste of Boyer’s Northern Lights and take a break from her hawking.
Soon we were joined by Russell who greeted me warmly remembering me as “Flash” woo too appreciated a toot of sweet smoke.
Russell reported sighting Emery inside and in fact distributing leaflets with him. This news lit a fire under my ass, and regret I had not been on hand to help with the leafleting.
It was three minutes to curtain and the warm up comic had begun. I was forced to dump the latte’ and blitz by the Amazonian beauty Natrishka and her strong and protective beau in the foyer.
To my delight and answered prayers, my chosen seat was situated directly behind Emery’s row and Rhiannon.
Michelle graciously took my hand and gave it a tight squeeze as I settled into my seat. I was that! close to the Action.
The warm up guy cracked a funny about how odd it would be if indeed “walking shoes” were designed for only that, and running was not an option in them even in the case of fire.
The stage darkened and two shadowy figures took their places on either end of the three podiums center stage. There was a pause and off from right stage emerged a bearded figure that we had already guessed was the man we had all flocked to see.
“Playing Tommy Chong tonight is “Tommy Chong the Actor” Not “Tommy Chong on Probation” was the advisory broadcast as he made his humble entrance.
Marc Emery and our contingent rose to encourage a standing ovation that didn’t quite take.
The performers explained that their script was sourced by surveying and recording the statements and reactions to questions of regular pot friendly people and the common urban myths and media stereotypes that are there to be de-stigmatized.
Every joke, every line, especially those delivered in Chong’s monotone, received uproarious applause and laughter which crescendo would almost wipe out the following line, but, for the brisk way the audience would cut its self off… straining to hear Tommy’s next line… who patiently awaited his timing.
The laughter was so continuous and intense I was soon striping off layer upon layer of clothing soaked with perspiration by the hilarity of it all.
Serious questions and issues were addressed like:
“What would pot say if it could speak?.” Would it reveal?
“Your roommate pinches me when your out!” or remind us
“The Simpson’s’ are on at 730 pm!.”
There were tributes to poor bastards busted.
Like, the fry cook at KFC who came up with the bright idea to sell bud thru the drive thru window to those requesting extra biscuits.
” Like, Who would have thought so many people really do ask for extra biscuits?”
It’s ok though, we were reassured.
Now he works at Taco Bell and the code word is still “Extra Biscuits.”
“But, he’s not stupid man; at least they don’t sell biscuits at Taco Bell!”
Then there was the poor stoner, Tommy reminded us, who was taken aside at customs isolated in a room all by himself, to wait a half hour.
“Which was cool Man; it gave him a chance to get his story straight.”
The guard asked him before he searched his bags
“If he was going to find any drugs?”
“That depends…” the stoner replied…
“Depends on, if you check my socks…
Your not gonna’ check my socks are you?.”
The taboo subject of getting your cat high was raised as well.
One of the comics queried that it’s odd that so many stoners get their pets high…
“What other drugs would you feel safe enough to share with your pet?
Could you see yourself chasing your cat around the house with a syringe of heroin or supplying its crack habit?”
Tommy Chong admits that his pussy cat often seems to enjoy and get off on the second hand smoke. His cat in fact comes not to a call or a whistle but to the sound of a bong.
He knows his cat gets high because he’s seen it walk right off the edge of a chair and not land on its feet either but makes a desperate attempt to right itself by clinging to the upholstery.
The test is to fling it against the curtains, he claims, to see if it clings to it.
Unperturbed the beast returns next time the bong is lit:
“Look, Man” it pleads…
“I hardly caught a buzz the first time…I don’t know what happened. C’mon fling me against the curtain again!
I can do it! Man…”
Is marijuana a gateway drug? I suppose if we consider the fact that supposedly 90% of heroin users tried marijuana first, you might reach that conclusion.
That is, until you survey further, only to discover that 95% of heroin users had all tried peanut butter.
“Peanut Butter! That’s the True gateway drug!
Sure enough it leads to chips, Cheetos or even Sandwiches!”
Tommy had chances to toke up in jail.
“There’s more pot available in jail than the outside”, he claims.
Someone would be set up, it seemed, to offer him a toke and the Very Next day they would deliberately piss test him, so he knew, to just say :”No.”
One poor soul was sent for a year in solitary confinement in the same prison as Tommy, for allegedly ‘smoking a joint’.
Tommy spent a lot of time in jail and, thinking about it, he concluded that, perhaps smoking it is Not the ?healthiest’ process by which to consume cannabis. It occurred to him, that, infusing it in butter might be the healthiest solution, and so practical:
.”..It goes in baking and bread; you can spread it on toast and even spread it on your wife!.”
If he were to advertise the product he has already devised the perfect name and slogan:
“I Can’t Believe it’s Pot Butter!”
Pot etiquette, garnered off the Internet, was discussed and advice dispensed:
“Always compliment the person who rolls the Joint”
“That way it will become their permanent full time job…”
“If someone asks you to share a sip of your drink after a toke “Don’t be selfish …
dry mouth must be nipped in the bud lest it lead to the more serious incidence of the dreaded “Cotton Mouth.”
There did come a point during the performance when some poor jackass in the audience, who was either off his meds or fonder of drink than the sacred, healing, useful, Herb, made an attempt to heckle the aging comedian; demanding Cheech make an appearance.
He was swiftly reprimanded and told to hush by the audience of defensive and protective fans of Tommy.
“This could result in the first case of a marijuana related murder!” the witty guy on Tommy’s left quipped breaking the tension and effectively silencing the critic.
Serious interpersonal issues were also raised:
“When I meet someone and offer them a toke and they refuse or state clearly that they do not smoke pot…I feel a little sad…” related the most sensitive of the three performers on Tommy’s right.
” I feel sad because I know deep down ?we can never really be friends’ an honest and frank Truth I think that most of us can relate to.
When finally Tommy Chong and the talented dual performing on his either side bid their goodnights and adieus it was I, this time who, swiftly rose to my feet to incite a standing ovation. Marc and his entire entourage started rising as they applauded. Then, the whole theater rose, and those in the balconies as well. The ovation was thunderous and continuous for the Veteran pot head comedian and his accomplices.
Marc was kind enough before taking leave of the Orpheum, to inform me that he had reserved a place at the classic Italian Rossini’ s Restaurant where Black Jazz artist Bobby Taylor was entertaining that evening accompanied by Doug Louie on drums .
When I arrived Marc and his Agent 99 in her deep green evening gown, sat off to the side of the main entrance and awaited Tommy’s arrival having booked a table for 10 or 12.
They no doubt hoped that Tommy and his family would join our group. Joining Marc was the Hollywood paparazzi photographer Andrew Stones accompanied by his drop dead gorgeous, but absolutely normal looking, perfectly well mannered, and gracious, upstairs housemate as well and but for me, that was about it.
When Tommy entered the premises Bobby Taylor announced his presence with bubbling familiarity and warmth and the whole place turned into a chaotic free for all of Flashing bulbs and jockeying photographers. Even the owner of the premises had out his camera and I could see getting served even coffee would take a while.
Tommy had not seen Marc tucked off to the side as he enter the popular restaurant to a standing ovation and flash bulbs all around.
Chong’s party was swiftly escorted by management to a table directly in front of the stage so that he had the complete attention of Bobby Taylor, who was positively enamored by the Cannabis Great.
As it turned out they had performed together in times gone by. “Last time I saw you we was in Sacramento!”
The jazz great, belted out.
But when Bobby powerfully crooned out “People get ready”
the favorite hit of Roy Orbinson. Tommy’s eyes began to moisten.
Back in 1964, a year after my birth, Tommy, not yet a comedian but a talented musician; accompanied Bobby Taylor in backing up the legendary Ella Fitzgerald and the venue had been none other that the same ol’ grand Orpheum Theater Tommy Chong had commanded this very evening.
I don’t think anyone on any occasion would ever describe Marc Emery as shy or timid or anything like that. You would never suppose it of him presume or assume such behavior from the great man of enterprise and confidence.
Marc was hanging back in the wings, no doubt it wasn’t he was nervous or shy in the least, it must have been his gentlemanly nature and politeness, holding him at bay.
I couldn’t quite take the stress of seeing Marc looking like a duck out of water. It seemed to me for a moment that in his eye I had glimpsed his sweet inner child.
I stepped outside for a ciggy butt and Happy caught me lighting it He chastised me in his gentle way. To oblige him, I snuffed it out and lit up a jay of the Northern Lights. He hesitated at first to imbibe, but I told him to do so as ‘moral support’ to encourage me further, not to take up the other fowl weed so he complied even, going so far as to track down his incredibly funny charming wife to come out for a quick hoot and add her encouragement.
Fortified thusly, I strode past the Lookey Lous and cams, interrupted Bobby Taylor’s long conversation with Mr. Chong with the request Bobby sing “Hello Dolly” but merely replace “Dolly” with “Tommy.”
Although Bobby did not comply with my request, and looked at me as if id just disturbed him from a deep reverie, it did buy me a moment with Tommy in which I was able to extend my arm and gesture towards our leader and his escort and announce his Princely presence to the Pot Comedy King who, immediately rose from where he sat enthroned,(surrounded by his beautiful platinum blond and self assured wife Natalie and her bevy of ,equally alluring, sisters) and jolted towards Marc Emery with sincere enthusiasm, to shake his hand in greeting and accept his salutations.
The music and laughter continued. Tommy got his supper but for once Marc’s table was not the center of obsequious attention. It took great strides and effort on my part just to get coffee for Andrew’s housemate and I.
Harpy’s wife and I had the giggles trying to find her something totally vegan on the menu they could possibly eat.
I said it was fun,” like trying to do the word find or cross words in the Sunday paper”, which cracked her up. So I told her or my extreme vegan friend, who grew offended when I offered her honey for her tea in lieu of sugar, because, of course, “it comes out of an enslaved bee’s body!.”
There was no point in pursuing the menu in any event. The staff and the entire clientele were just too excited about Tommy for such petty concerns as peoples late night appetites.
A group of Malaysian students cheered Marc by asking to be photographed with him and pestered Tommy for photos as well, as practically every one present and especially I did too.
Finally, as Bobby Taylor finished crooning to Tommy and the spot light was removed, Tommy, deliberately drew a chair up to Marc’s and, the two of them, practically knocked their heads together in their deep conversation.
The two of them swapped prison stories first and Chong was in a serious mood…
Tommy Chong revealed that Prison had brought about a catharsis in him.
Marc understood completely, because he himself had reached certain “epiphanies” in prison. For Chong however it almost went even deeper.
“It was like a spiritual retreat for me” Tom confided. Somehow the whole experience validated him and put his whole life and career in perspective. He could see his role now to be one of “Raising Awareness” to use a tired term; raising consciousness.
“Excuse Mr. Chong I have to ask you but one question…” I was able to interrupt and inquire…
“Are you still undergoing piss tests as part and parcel of your probation?”
I was astounded beyond belief when he stated clearly in the affirmative that indeed he still had to endure such indignity.
“Why? Why? Are you going back to Seattle tomorrow at all Mr. Chong … I mean people are asking why you not just stay here in Canada where you can be happy and safe. Your Family is already here. We think of you as a Canadian! Hell! We think of you as a Vancouverite! It is here where your roots remain.” Tommy Chong had little patience for this line of questioning..
“I am a American Citizen” he stated flatly almost turning away at that point …
“I took an oath a vow!”
“An oath? A vow?” I could almost get what he was saying…
“What oath is it that you took Mr. Chong, if I may ask?”
“I took an oath to defend The Constitution of the United States of America” …
And that was all. That was all he need say, to make it now so perfectly clear and simple. He was a man of deeply felt convictions and what he had said in conversation with Marc earlier came into focus.
“Don’t do the crime if you won’t do the time.”
Like Marc, he wore his time in prison like a badge of honor. Like marc he felt a sense of ‘noblesse oblige’ for the blessed and privileged life he’d led; for the Hope Love and Confidence that his fans invest in him.
He had known his phone was tapped all along; he knew he was being watched, tailed and followed, but, he did not care, and did nothing differently than he would have anyhow. He made no attempt to hide, or cover his tracks; he paid taxes on his business, because he knew…
He knew and still knows, in his heart, that there is Nothing Wrong, evil or bad, about his life style, belief system, or use of cannabis.
He at no point had within his conscious, what the Greeks called ‘A guilty mind’.
Now the call which he hears is stronger… the challenge greater. He knows that he must remain “Clean” to accomplish this work. He must remain, as he said:” Squeaky Clean” to try to raise the awareness and consciousness of America.
Tommy foresees “Timmy’s telethon” like fundraising events, on a yearly basis, and uniting with other like minded celebrities like Montel Williams, to bring awareness to the dire need for Medical Marijuana for those who are truly suffering needlessly.
Again, Tommy was near mobbed as he tried to leave the restaurant. His handlers frustrated at the time it was taking to extricate him from his frantic and enamored fans, whom like me, sought Autographs and group photos. These he allowed with pleasure, before swooping off in a long white stretch limo, his beautiful and somewhat protective wife, tucking in snuggly next to him, taking pleasure in waving goodbye to those of us still milling about on the side walk our mouths still agape.
“Have the story into me for final edit and proofing by 10 am” was Marc’s final edict to me — the hour approaching midnight– as we departed.
I could not think of a more satisfying way I could have spent the hours and event of my birthday, than, performing, with great joy, my role as one of Vansterdam’s Potarazzi.
I, to be so fortunate and blessed, to really have “Matured” into someone, whose opinion is to be considered:
“Maybe, worth while.”