Thomas Kohnstamm penned a novel intended to preserve and remind the fast-paced tech hub we call Seattle that it was once a grimy and beloved beacon for the blue collar worker. While from a distance it appears that much of the city’s crust has been sanded via high rises and coding algorithms there remains a group who will not forget a 1971 billboard that read, “Will the last person leaving SEATTLE – TURN out the lights.”
We’re in the parking lot of Herbn Elements on the Northside of Seattle, in a gritty neighborhood hugging Lake Washington’s western beach. We’re in Lake City. It’s the inspiration for the novel bearing its name. This grungy stretch of asphalt is called the 522. Thomas Kohnstamm has just returned from the library after wrapping up a reading of “Lake City” and is slinging fresh copies of his novel from a folding table to passerby. Inside Herbn Elements’ budtenders sell packs of commemorative Saints Joints – the contents a collection of heirloom cannabis strains and the packs themselves bear the illustration of Kohnstamm’s novel. The flower purposely selected to match the strains that set the scene for Kohnstamm’s book – they are a throwback to another time and represent the strains that might have lingered on the lips of Lake City residents of another era. Excited fans make their way into the shop while the books have to stay outside. It’s illegal to sell the paperbacks inside – cannabis regulations say so.
Kohnstamm introduces his work, sharing, “It’s my twisted love letter to that point in time for Seattle’s culture, specifically Lake City.” He elaborates, “I feel like here in 2019 the idea of Seattle has become this place for tech workers and the highest degree of postgraduate education. But there was more to Seattle, there are a lot of layers to the city. It was a rough and tumble port town for years, and I wanted [this book] to represent that.”
The novel’s protagonist isn’t a cannabis consumer, but Kohnstamm strove to incorporate an authentic Seattle experience within the pages of his novel. “Pot is a key ingredient to the cultural melting pot of Seattle creatives,” Kohnstamm says, “it wasn’t always talked about in the past, but a sort of cross pollination starts to emerge as the different creative fields in Seattle start to feel comfortable about sharing their use.” As people start to feel comfortable with the changing landscape of weed we see heartwarming moments between families and strangers alike.
The narrative of Kohnstamm’s novel seems to be coming true right before our eyes as we observe the brand collaboration occurring between the pot and literary industries. “I think Thomas is looking for creative ways to get his book out there to different audiences,” Larry Perrigo from Saints iterates, “… even though the main character doesn’t smoke, he’s just a part of that culture.” Being a part of that culture, the team realized they had an extraordinary opportunity to reach a diverse market, and began to plan.
Talking more with Perrigo and Alex Prindle of Fire Bros it’s discovered the close family connections that have brought everyone together. Perrigo, Prindle and Kohnstamm have had a relationship for years and the trust and good nature that comes with years of familiarity. “I feel like partnering with a cannabis company allows you to be you as opposed to partnering with you know, other types of companies.”
“I think we’re in the initial stages of this sort of thing,” Kohnstamm notes, “and I would love to see different types of projects with cannabis partnerships. It’s a good way for companies to get their name out there, and for artists to connect with an audience of cannabis users who might otherwise never see the work,” Kohnstamm muses, then jokes, “plus you get to meet a great crowd of people as you hang out selling books in the parking lot.”