S.M. Park

Risen Apes: Roll Your Own

S.M. Park’s continuing column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Roll Your Own,” Park shares about traveling to Amsterdam to attend the Cannabis Cup. 


On the table in front of me are some of the eighths I’ve purchased at pot stores recently: Lemon Cheese Quake, Royal Grape, French Toast, Frosted Strawberries and Cherry Gorilla. (Only the last one tastes like its name.)

As opposed to legacy varieties like Alaskan Thunderfuck, Green Crack, Chronic, Hippie Killer or AK-47. Plus it isn’t “pot” or “weed” anymore but “cannabis,” “sativa” or “indica.” The boutique era is upon us, an effort to make marijuana more palatable to old ladies and housewives.

Which only makes sense, given the tax revenues involved; what’s surprising is how popular pre-rolled joints are. They’re the biggest sellers in the stores and that puzzles me. Are customers too lazy to roll their own, or worse … think it’s difficult to do? They’re missing out on a great marijuana ritual; I’ve probably rolled twenty thousand joints over the years.

Buzzy Jerome had a hand in that. He was the owner of the straw outfit I worked for in the early Seventies, the only guy I ever met who was more impatient than I was.

Which meant we weren’t close: he would have fired me, except my brother was the crew foreman. On the day I quit, two summers later, Buzzy and I stood toe-to-toe in a tomato field and screamed at each other until we were hoarse, detailing—in the most vile language we could summon—all the reasons we thought the other guy was a piece of shit.

We both felt better afterwards. On the June evening in question, though, we were standing outside the bunkhouse as the sun went down. Buzzy had been giving me hell about something, but that was nothing new.

Then he pulled his makings out of his pocket, poured some tobacco into a paper and rolled a one-handed cigarette.

Finally … something he knew that I could use. (Well, other than his mantra: Nothing in life is good or easy.) I stared, transfixed, as he finished in seconds, then lifted the smoke to his mouth.

“Hey!” I said. “How’d you do that?”


“Roll a cigarette one-handed.”

He looked at me like he always did, as if a hippie college was exactly where I belonged.

“Just put less in the middle, High,” he said, and stalked off.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Not only did it track my personal philosophy, but I should have figured it out on my own. Like most of my peers I’d been rolling for years (I loathed pipes) and leaving less in the center hadn’t occurred to me.


Like most of my peers I’d been rolling for years (I loathed pipes) and leaving less in the center hadn’t occurred to me.


I was humbled but not for long, going on to win numerous rolling contests in the future. (World’s Fastest Typist, maybe the World’s Fastest Joint Roller? No wasted life for me.)

It takes me back to the ’95 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. It lasted four days and when I returned to the States I copied thirty pages of sketches and reflections, then bound them in a booklet that I mailed to friends. (It’s still a hit among their children: they’ve found copies in drawers and see “Uncle Wilson” in a new light.) I thought I’d given all mine away but last month, as I was rummaging through a storage bin, I discovered the original beneath a pile of t-shirts.

Flipping through it sparked a surge of memories. I’d wanted to attend a Cup since the late Eighties, when High Times first organized them. They took place in Amsterdam (due to its pot tolerance), and I’d been visiting the city since ’91. I had an English buddy with a flat there, and he gave me free lodging while I roamed the streets, explored coffeeshops, bought seeds, whored around, etc. I usually came in the Fall, but after registering for the Cup I flew over in November.

I brought a blank journal along and the following (a quarter century later) are my ruminations:


* * * * *


As Americans fill the coffeeshops in anticipation of the Cup the first thing you notice is the coughing. Deep, dry, raspy hacks that make you cringe. My father smoked four packs of Camels a day for sixty years and sounded better than these guys.

Of course, he didn’t suck his drug through a bong.


* * * * *


As extraordinary a city as Amsterdam was before it’s even better now, as psychedelic mushrooms are packaged and sold in stores. “Liberty Caps” from Scotland (lots of cow shit there) and “Cubensis” from Holland. I need to temper my intake, but it’s hard to be prudent around psilocybin.


* * * * *


Each coffeeshop has a dope menu, with separate listings for hash and weed. A name sampling of the latter would include: Chronic, Bubblegum, Master Kush, Silver Haze, Sensi Skunk, Shiva and Orange Bud. I sampled them all in the forty-eight hours before the Cup began, trying to keep an edge on the ’shrooms.


* * * * *


The Cup registration began this morning at the Pax Party House. The lines were long as there were fifteen hundred judges from around the world, many of them Americans and most of those, as it turns out, from the West Coast. This is only fitting as we’ve grown the world’s best pot since we sprayed Mexican crops with Paraquat in ’75.

Though the idea of fifteen hundred “judges” is beyond absurd, even when that’s the good news. The bad is that the Cup is being filmed by a 60 Minutes crew. Talk about irony: I fly here to get down with other stoners and end up doing exactly that, bending over or leaving rooms when the cameras appear. My mother watches 60 Minutes religiously and I’m the tallest guy here … if she spotted me I’d never hear the end of it.


* * * * *


This event is taking place in Holland and the only Dutchman here is the guy who invented the Hash Press. It’s like the buskers (street musicians) in Amsterdam: I read that there’s five hundred of them and only two are natives.

If you live below sea level, you’d better be stiff-necked.


* * * * *


Tomorrow (Friday night) is the opening ceremony at the Melkweg (“Milky Way”), a local nightclub. In the meanwhile we had our first Judge’s Council, with everybody using different delivery devices (i.e. joints, pipes, spliffs or bongs).



I haven’t been in a room that smoky since my last AA meeting. An ex-narc stood and begged forgiveness, an ex-cop broke into tears and the guy next to me passed out.

The best moment was when an organizer tossed joints to the crowd; we were all so groggy they smacked us in the face.


* * * * *


I attended a “How to Make Hash” seminar this afternoon. It was hosted by Ed Rosenthal, the pot pioneer I most admire and whose book (Marijuana Horticulture) remains the grower’s bible.

Except he was so fucked up on ’shrooms that he sounded like Daffy Duck. I would have offered to interpret but nobody cared.


* * * * *


It’s later the same day and I’m at our second Judge’s Council. You know right away you’re at a cannabis event, because meetings are scheduled for four-twenty and the High Times staff are habitually late.

When we bitch about it one of them, Callum Francis, replies, “Relax for chrissakes … you’re a bunch of pot judges. Everything you’re doing is being erased from your memory as soon as it happens, anyway.”

And right away some joker yells, “What’d you say?”


* * * * *


At forty-eight I’m the oldest judge here and I felt like it on Opening Night, a weird extravaganza that featured the “High” Priests Gerbil and Peppy. Except for the stage there were no lights in the auditorium, and anyone who wasn’t puffing weed was smoking cigarettes, so it was no place for oxygen breathers.



I was glad I’d eaten ’shrooms earlier, though I probably should have skipped the Skunk Shake.


* * * * *


As the days go by it gets harder and harder to maintain this journal, the first hint my mental faculties are waning. Like stepping on Shawn’s cat this morning, or showering with my watch on, or buying that nasty Thai whore last night. It’s moments like these—when time becomes taffy—that the old wino in me steps to the fore:

Pacing, I tell myself, the secret is pacing.

I’d ignore it except ’shrooms are metabolized by the liver and mine is damaged enough already … I’ll stick to Space Cake today.


* * * * *


Amsterdam isn’t just the pot capital of the world, it also features numerous varieties of hash. There’s black, brown and blonde grams from Morocco, Nepal, Afghanistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, India, Pakistan and Jamaica, not to mention the locally manufactured stuff.

And I’ve no use for any of it: relative to bud it’s the difference between flying and floating.


* * * * *


As a lover of irony this Cup is a feast.

Irony No. One: For openers, we’re here to smoke and judge marijuana and we left it back in the States. It’s baffling to me how the Dutch, the world’s foremost horticulturists, can grow such mediocre weed. On a scale of one to ten (with Mexican ragweed being a “one” and Maui Wowie a “ten”), I’d give the best coffeeshop weed in Amsterdam a four. It looks okay, and smells great, but invariably the high is harsh and tepid. (Fortunately I brought my own stuff along.) I guess I assumed that, because of the Cup, and what a winning entry means in terms of recognition, that coffeeshop owners would provide us with quality bud.

Fat chance. And it makes a perverse kind of sense really, because people who mix tobacco with their weed don’t want to get high, anyway.

Irony No. Two: Nobody cares.

Irony No. Three: All the High Times speakers are pot activists. Rapid Type A characters who only smoke to keep from imploding. Any forum—which means anytime they get near a microphone—is the occasion for frenzied exhortations, whether the subject be legalization, medical marijuana, hemp or old growth forests.

Even as their audience flew halfway around the world to get senseless on drugs … it’d be easier to rally dead guys.

Irony No. Four: Me pretending I’m any different.


* * * * *


I’m sitting at the “Last Judge’s Council,” where the numerous participants will vote on the best pot they smoked. (I lost a day somewhere, but that’s two fewer than most of these characters.) My choice is Western Wind, not because it necessarily looked, tasted or smelled better than anything else (much less got me high enough) but because it was the last thing I tried. That makes as much sense as anything after a week as an ashtray.

My second choice was Bubblegum, but only because mushrooms weren’t on the ballot. The Liberty Caps from Scotland were the best thing here.


* * * * *


After the vote (White Widow won) the “The Pipe Ceremony” commenced, a final evening costume ball. It was schmaltzier than opening night and featured characters like Janet Planet and Zero Boy (who called himself, of all things, a Dutch comedian).

I brought a wino mask to wear but hardly needed it under the circumstances. When I left I paused at the exit, cast a long look back at my fellow judges. We’d gathered from across the world to sniff, squeeze and smoke a mountain of bud. What would be the legacy of the many joints and pipes we shared?


* * * * *


Well, I’ve been home a week and so far the tally includes: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, bronchitis, earaches and a temperature of 102.


S.M. Park is the author and illustrator of his memoirs High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.


S.M. Park

S.M. Park lives two blocks from the Salish Sea in Port Townsend, Washington. His passions include walking, wondering and weed. Park, in his guise as Wilson High, has written and illustrated two memoirs, High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.

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