WEED, WEED, tufts of weed. Rolling through the streets, gathering dust like in the Old West. Wyatt Earp’s weed. Doc Holiday’s ganja. The holy sacrament of Jah! Ever living, ever fearful. Bat Masterson’s dank nuggets. Wild Bill Hickok’s satchel of chronic. The fragrant stink of green. It arrives, a plenitude of stenches. It stings, it hits high and sweet and then low and pungent, heavy, somehow melancholic and sad too. It floats over the heads of Texan tourists through Times Square, hugs the indigent people with tattoos who are laughing at their own jokes, and hovers over the local New Yorkers out for a jog, and the business ladies with their manicures at the corner table on East 81st Street. On 31 March 2021, cannabis was decriminalized in New York, and its potent winds wind across avenues, down side streets, up museum steps, down kitchen basements, linger about in taxis, chase kids into 99 cent pizza parlors. The weed wraps around the shanty tents promising immediate COVID-19 testing, even same day PCR. It’s different from the New York I left behind many years ago. New York smells different nowadays.
The trains rattle in, shake along, dive under the East River. They are worn and rusty, and there is no free wireless internet. New York is not about giving things away for free. New York is about charging you two times as much, if not three, and making you feel like you somehow got a good deal, because someone else is charging ten times as much. It is worth remarking that every piece of Manhattan island has been made over and remade, sculpted, hollowed out, reconstructed, and that even the wilds of Central Park were cultivated out of earth that was moved from elsewhere to make way for an elevated train. Once upon a time, this beatific isle was unspoiled nature. There were no property rights, nor air rights. You must take a moment to let that sink in. Nobody owned the land of New York State, and there was no New York State. There was no state, no governor, no avenues, no Subway, and you could smoke anything you wanted, if you could get your hands on it, or trade for it, maybe with one of those long clay Dutch pipes of the Henry Hudson days, or maybe a local Indian one. There was no line where one man’s tract ended and another began. It was all seamless. Land rolled into land. Such was Manhattan of old.
At Madame Tussauds, I took a selfie with Donald Trump and then another with Sean Combs. At the Met, I saw Van Gogh trees and Monet seasides. Winslow Homer had a thing for bare-chested Bahamanian men. George O’Keefe had a thing for desert bones. My favorite painting was The Three Sisters by Léon Frédéric, a Belgian, anno 1896. It is interesting for sure that they dragged all of this European art, Chinese and Egyptian art, and Japanese art, and even the furnishings of hotels and palaces in France, and set it up for us to see here in New York, a city that bulldozed nature and chased remnant Algonquian culture away. New York in this sense is a funny place. It is both everywhere and nowhere. Everything is here, but everything that is here came from somewhere else. Even the name was borrowed from the North of England.
That’s why people need weed. They need it to make sense of the humidity and appropriation.