November twenty-something, star date: 1967. I was boldly going where I’d never gone before. I was headed off to a Thanksgiving Day feast at Haggis Altoona’s house. Autumn was driving her ’61 Chevy Impala. Sven was in the passenger seat rolling a joint and, as usual, I was in back. Roger’s dog sat next to me slobbering on my shoulder, leveling his hot, acrid breath down my neck. Roger, of course, was absent. He was holed up for the holiday with six bottles of J&B in a Holiday Inn on Colorado Boulevard. The motel didn’t take dogs, so it fell upon me to take care of the mutt. Roger didn’t like holidays. Neither did I. But I loved dogs.
The Great Circle
When Thanksgiving comes ’round every year I give thanks I’m still alive, able to remember myself as I once was and the way I have become. The Past is never past, even though we reside on that fine line of the present, stuck between the past and future. Native Americans understand we navigate The Great Circle, ending up where we start, only to embark outward on our inward journey following the Ouroboros. The line between past and future is blurred in the present.
Thanks for the Spill
But, as I write this, there’s little thanks for the Lakota as they deal with a 210,000-gallon oil pipeline spill in South Dakota. But what goes around comes around. There will be comeuppance for these dirty oil companies. It just hasn’t manifested itself yet. It will, as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The time will come. Get back to where you once belonged. The Beatles knew it, too.
In 1967, the world was ablaze. The Vietnam War was in high gear. Soldiers weren’t coming home in one piece, but in black body bags. Protests were mounting in the streets. The nation was in turmoil. In October of that year, antiwar protesters demonstrated in Washington D.C., 100,00 strong, marching on the Pentagon, the keeper of the world’s most powerful military machine. This act of defiance against the U.S. government would lead to further protests in the coming years, reaching a watershed when President Johnson refused to run for a second term. The rally in front of the Pentagon wasn’t the first of its kind, but it held the seeds for ones to come. An indelible photograph emerged of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of National Guardsmen as they leveled their guns at the protesters’ heads. This image became a galvanizing symbol of peace and love. A “We shall overcome” moment as the movement against the war began to pick up speed. It represented a change from mere protest to all-out resistance. Powerful indeed.
Thanksgiving would come to mean something else entirely for me the year of 1967. I was thankful I wasn’t in Vietnam, fighting some useless battle in some faraway jungled swamp. But I knew when school was over for me in a few years, I’d probably be shipped off to the fight. I was grateful to have this time. What I wasn’t thankful for was our government, running amuck over its citizens and promoting an illegal war. But we’ve come ’round again. Witness the millions about to be thrown off healthcare in the latest Republican tax giveaway scam to the wealthy, all while the military budget soars into the stratosphere. Next up, a nuclear bomb thrown by the bloated bloviator himself, Trump.
The Hell’s Angels
It was a rare treat to be invited to Haggis’s place. An oasis away from the slippery slopes of the world. He lived with a motorcycle gang called Blister Bay in Southeast Denver in a concrete house abutting the plains. Haggis introduced me to Tony and Tommy Salami, prominent members. They told me over a giant cracking joint that Blister Bay was a chapter of The Hell’s Angels. But they called themselves the Bell’s Angels. They said that every time you hear a bell (now take a good hit of this), a gang member gets his wings. And boy, did I ever hear bells-plenty of them-tolling in my head after the stuff they gave me. I had no doubt everyone was getting their wings tonight. Including me.
The house was once an old garage, constructed of cinderblock and wood, converted haphazardly into what amounted to a rambling human dwelling resembling a series of prehistoric stone huts. We were here to have a good time, smoke some great weed, take other substances and gobble down a turkey and all the trimmings, as they say.
Old Friends, New friends
I met Seldom Seen and Slim-to-Nothing at the front door, two six-foot-tall sisters, pencil thin, who didn’t talk. They handed me a tightly rolled joint the size of a needle that packed a wallop many times its size. They merged into one body, then separated and become two again, disappearing soon afterwards into a crack in the wall. I never saw them again. I met other members of the gang: Micha the Chak and the three McClintric brothers, Johnny, Jim and Jeb. They reminded me of the Furry Freak Brothers. Also in attendance were Dolly, Danni and Debbie. A month ago I had had drinks with them at the Silver Spruce Tavern with Haggis. Other assorted freaks, friends and girlfriends, none of whom I had ever seen, wandered in and out of my blurred vision.
Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair
Tony and Tommy’s grandmother, who was visiting from the Bronx, was doing all the cooking- with a little help from her friends, the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat. At least that’s what I called them: her sisters she’d brought along to help prepare the feast. All three of them were widows, dressed in black and looking as if they were verging on a hundred years old, give or take a few tokes. But they had the energy of the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, hunched over caldrons of bubbling delicacies in the hot, steaming kitchen. I knew I was in for a splendid repast. I could almost hear them chanting over the bubbling pots on the stove. Fair is foul and foul is fair: hover through the fog and filthy air. Oh yeah, I was in for it. The joint Tommy handed me at the door was working its magic. I was standing next to Macbeth on the buttress of the fortress walls, the ghosts of Scotland peering darkly over our shoulders.
The Turkey has been Smoking
Tony and Tommy brought out a 1x2x1 block of hash and laid it on the counter next to their grandmother. Tommy got a potato masher and began to mash the hash into a pile of delicious-smelling rubble. This didn’t seem to bother their grandmother. She took little nips and placed them on her tongue, smiling and laughing. A forward-looking woman, if ever I saw one. They took the heap and sprinkled it into the pan holding the stuffing. She took a wooden spoon and stirred. Stuffing stuffed with hash. When she brought out the turkey, she basted it with butter and sprinkled on some fresh pot before putting it back in the oven. Hot-buttered, potted turkey, 1967 style.
I was struck by how sparsely the place was furnished. I figured we’d be sitting in chairs with plates on our laps, but there were no chairs, no table, no nothing. When I made it into the living room-or, the room that seemed to fit that description-I found a disassembled trike, a lit candle on its seat still attached to the frame. Various wrenches, screw drivers and other tools I had no name for were scattered amongst parts of the engine, which littered the room. A giant, shallow bucket lay to one side filled with dirty oil and the crankcase inside. The whole place smelled like a gas station in overdrive. I closed my eyes and saw a mechanic in greasy overalls removing a head gasket, licking the oil off his fingers. I was as high as a kite skittering in the wind.
Old School Turkey
Dinner was announced and we went to plate our feast in the kitchen on paper plates, lining up outside the door. I brought up the rear with Sven, Autumn and Haggis. My mouth began to water as the smells of the cannabis-laden turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberry wafted toward me. Tony and Tommy’s grandmother placed the turkey on a huge bed of spaghetti marinara, seasoned, of course, with plenty of you-know-what. The only thing missing was the meatballs, but of course, they came as a side. These grannies knew how to cook an Italian bird trussed up for the holiday, and Tony and Tommy knew how to season.
Someone shoved tape of the Mothers of Invention into the 8-track. We filled our plates with the bounty of the season and followed the motley crew into the living room and sat down (where else?) around the trike. The smell of the turkey overpowered the smell of the fumes the three-legged motorcycle exuded. I forgot about the motor oil and dug in to my turkey, spaghetti and side of meatballs. A brilliant combination. I could immediately taste the overpowering flavor of the pot. Not at all like it is today. We haven’t come back around in that matter, but I’m sure we will. Give it time. Witness the November issue of DOPE Magazine, the cooking edition. Cooking with marijuana has become a truly gourmet affair, a slight taste of cannabis on the palate, infused into the ingredients masterfully. No, our 1967 edition of Thanksgiving cooked with pot was as old school as Tony and Tommy’s grandmother’s cooking-right out of the fifties, a Norman Rockwell portrait of a motorcycle gang gathered around a trike, giant turkey padded to the gills with buttered pot-stuffing. If the taste of the marijuana wasn’t overpowering, we rejected it.
Get Back to Where You Once Belonged
We ended the night hitting our stride, bombed out of our minds, huddled around a huge bonfire, eating brownies laced with cannabis and hash, the stars slamming the clear Colorado sky with their unabashed brightness. Roger’s dog sat next to me, still slobbering like a wet dream on my shoulder. Things change and don’t change; they just beg to differ with each other. Times don’t change, either. People do. Yeah, we live our lives traveling The Great Medicine Wheel. Around and around we go, and where we stop, no one knows. The moon is a balloon and the wheel is made of cheese. Thanksgiving comes ’round every year. Enjoy it while you’re here. Get back to where you once belonged.