From The Underground: Illuminating ‘Pot Culture’ Guide Hits Streets 4/20

Pot CultureI first met Pot Culture author/CelebStoner host Steve Bloom at, ironically enough, a first anniversary party for co-author Shirley Halperin’s now-defunct indie rag, Smug (one of my early writing gigs). It was a fortuitous night down in the Bowery at CB Gallery (an extension of illustrious dive, CBGB’s), since Bloom then hooked me up with High Times, the leading counterculture marijuana publication, a freelance job I’d only dreamt of. I took Bloom out for a bowl within minutes of meeting him, and my social life in the city, already topnotch, got elevated—more interviews with highlife celebs, better contacts and softball with High Times’ infamous Bonghitters.

Alongside Bloom, Halperin, soon-to-be MTV editor Joe D’Angelo, and prominent photographer Dennis Kleiman, we essentially owned Roseland Ballroom at its indie rock height (’93-’99), gathering at dozens of downtown shows, imbibing free drinks galore, smoking the best herb and getting the freest tix. Halperin went on to prosper at Rolling Stone, US Weekly, and Enertainment Weekly, becoming a notarized celebrity hound frequently commentating for MTV, VH1, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and E! I reminded her of a “long lost uncle.” She borrowed small amounts of cash, begged for late night rides back to Williamsburg, married renowned producer (and ex-Pernice Brothers bassist) Tom Monahan, moved to the Left Coast (boho hipster refuge, Silver Lake), and no doubt haunted Bloom to complete “joint” endeavor, Pot Culture (Abrams Image). The tidy A to Z guide “to stoner language and life,” readied for release April 20 (a.k.a. 4/20, the international time zone to toke up), is literally a Whole Earth catalog for fiendish weed demons and doobiously dawdling dabblers alike.

A fun read, Bloom and Halperin’s stony tone never directly snubs America’s antiquated marijuana laws, but indirectly encourages consenting adults to turn on, tune in and NOT drop out. Perhaps most easily palatable for skeptical dilettantes and casual readers are the purple-paged Pot Culture Picks, a nifty addendum encompassing favorite stoner movies, scenes, characters and dialogue, plus druggy dramas, comedies, sci-fi, cartoons, slogans and stony recipes—no to mention a handy section on the best pot-influenced music!

Original onscreen stoner, Dennis Hopper (starring in summer of love flick, The Trip, and ’69’s preferred Easy Rider) is said to “embody the fear and loathing inside every pothead’s heart,” a re-contextualized phrase snatched from gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s exalted beat-styled treatise. Cheech & Chong are credited as the best pot comedic duo, while Sean Penn’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High surfer dude and Carlito’s Way cocaine-inhaling mongrel afford him most famous solo pot act status.

Pot Culture should convince all but the most abstinent person to strike down ridiculously strict laws governing the friendly weed. Better yet, vote out the deadwood clogging our log-jammed congressional system. Free the weed and the mass will follow. (Download Charlie Daniels’ outspoken libertarian rally “Long Haired Country Boy” here for proper musical effect.)

For the uninitiated, “pot” unequivocally encourages and magnifies artistic ideas, enhancing all five senses. And let me add a vicious “fuck you!” to wrongheaded androids denying marijuana medication to a bulky handcuffed populace. Only the most sober individual could validate an opinion against the cursed “evil weed” since alcohol is dangerous while pot is, holy shit, probably not. Safer by a fuck-load than beer and wine, marijuana’s cautious harmlessness shames all legal drugs and habitual cigarettes. An unprocessed indigenous plant lacking negative long-term effects, marijuana guilelessly outshines alcohol, uppers, downers, nicotine and recreational cocaine-heroin. Alcohol overdose kills 5,000 yearly while pot’s psychoactive intensification stimulates brain receptors and eschews toxins. Unlike alcohol, tobacco and coke, its prenatal use does not, I insist, cause birth defects. So stuff that in your hashpipe during pregnancy!

As we indulge at former long-time High Times editor Steve Bloom’s spacious Brooklyn apartment, the Jewish redheaded Bronx-raised website publisher, movie reviewer, sports fan, Obama supporter and conversational pot icon commences, “Pot Culture was Shirley’s idea. She lived in Jersey, went to Rutgers, started Smug and came up with the stoner dictionary/encyclopedia. While I was High Times editor in ’06, she contacted me and mentioned a proposal to collaborate on the book. She was still at Us Weekly. It’d been percolating in her mind since the ’90s. Our combined experience as stoners—I represent the Baby Boomers, she reps the younger crowd—plus my professional experience as a marijuana journalist and her orientation with celebrities, combined for a tightly written Pot-o-pedia. We siphoned information and wanted an exciting book full of pictures like a magazine—full-page spreads, visual elements and sidebars. My knowledge is deeper in marijuana history, science and activism, while Shirley takes on everyday stoners and how they speak and act.”

Before joining High Times in the early ’90s, Bloom admits to being “a pretty average stoner oblivious to New York’s Washington Square Park rallies” and didn’t see himself as an activist. Coming up through the ranks, the future Central Park softball commish had broken into the biz writing for Downbeat, Soho Weekly and Rolling Stone. He credits editors Jim Henke and Peter Occiograssi with giving him a break. Fortuitously, he enjoyed funk, soul and disco, black music overshadowed by the ’77 punk explosion. He found his niche covering Kool & The Gang and Brothers Johnson (for $5) and kept the ball rolling. He interviewed James Brown for a Soho Weekly cover and became a lifetime friend of the Godfather of Soul. As video games took over local arcades, Bloom pitched an assignment, then published his first book, Video Invaders. Music editor Henke allowed him to cover the coveted New Orleans Jazz Fest, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Pretenders and Eric Clapton.

“My peak piece for Rolling Stone was a feature on Wynton Marsalis. I was into the jazz scene and wrote for Downbeat early on. Wynton was a 19-year-old, new on the scene. I pitched the story, called ‘Young Man With A Horn.’ But I could never work my way into the Byzantine world of Village Voice. I didn’t like their stridently leftist view…and I’m a lefty,” he laughs.

Soon after, he got the gig that would define his bohemian lifestyle. As a High Times news editor, he became informed about the expanding marijuana community.