In the beginning, God created jazz and Jack Kerouac, and He saw that it was good. He putteth them together into a garden of earthly delights and sayeth unto them: Taketh from the land and learn to read and write with impeccable grammar and play thy scales correctly and linearly. The Great One also warned: Do not smoketh from the serpent's bong.
Well, that was that: One toke over the line, Kerouac's writing turned into a mess and jazz went free. This, my friends, is where stoner culture begins. It's the reason we celebrate 420 every April. It's the reason you - if you are part of this woozy continuum - will likely be at the Neighborhood Theatre on April 20 for the 420 party, tuning in to the sounds of local hip-hop/rock band Eyes of the Elders (whose eyes will likely be bloodshot), turning on to the crazy paintings of Charlotte art collective GodCity, and dropping out afterward to grab some grub at a local diner.
But let's explore this "stoner culture."
In the 80 years since jazz singer and big-band leader Cab Calloway and his Harlemaniacs sang the praises of the "Reefer Man," our little country and globe have produced stoners of all stripes. You have your classic stoner-period stoners - your dad and granddad, who smoked dope during their hippie-activist college years, toking it up to the Rolling Stoners' "Gimme Shelter" while demonstrating against the Vietnam War. They're all slowly making their way into the old folks home, where they'll watch Jimi Hendrix burn his guitar for the zillionth time in that Woodstock DVD that's stuck on repeat. The only reason they're toking it up these days is to get a little relief for their glaucoma.
Then there are the stoners who came of age in the '70s and '80s, during which time pot-smoking expanded outward from the hippie-activist set into high school parking lots, Van Halen concerts, frat houses and sports stadiums. These are the stoners who began painting themselves up like Carolina Panthers before pro football games. (What, you thought that just kind of happened naturally?)
The '90s rolled in and Evil Marijuana had Young Republican fratboys now inexplicably following the Grateful Dead and singing along to Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up." Marijuana culture by this time was so not counterculture that even presidential candidates were admitting to lighting up (though they weren't yet prepared to say they inhaled it).
Enter Dr. Dre: By mid-decade he and Snoop Dogg realized pot culture desperately needed street cred, so they brought the ganja loudly into the West Coast hip-hop scene with super-sized blunts, a deep booming bassline, and sickeningly sweet flavored rolling papers. Just walking by a Jeep jamming "Nothin' but a 'G' Thang" would give unsuspecting victims a contact high.
Fast-forward to now: Virtually no one can honestly admit that marijuana has not in some way touched his or her little world. An entire popular TV series - Weeds - is premised on the exploits of a suburban soccer mom who sells dope to her country club friends. And yet this green leafy substance remains illegal here in the beautiful agrarian South. And that is why God - or was it that serpent? - created 420, in which lovers of marijuana celebrate its permeation into American mainstream culture every April. In honor of 420, we at green leafy Creative Loafing extend an invitation to you: Roll up this issue of CL and smoke it. But not before reading the wit and wisdom of our staff picks for the best pot-related movies, music and more.
Disclaimer: CL neither endorses nor encourages any illegal activity including (but not limited to) speeding, running red lights, having sex in a churchyard, singing off-key or using an elephant to plow your cotton fields. We merely report the news and put it in context.