the column of lasting insignificance...
At the symbolic center of the "underground" society is the practice of smoking pot. Marijuana is as old as the earth itself. It has been in the fields for centuries, ignored as a weed by generation after generation. In American, it's active life blossomed among some musicians who discovered that smoking it gave them a temporary "high". It was cheap. In fact free. Pick it up and let it dry, then drop it in a pipe and smoke it. How great it made people feel for an hour or two before the effect wore off with no after effects.
Then Harry Ainslinger arrived on the scene; a power-seeker if ever there was one. Somebody introduced him to this weed, which apart from a few 1930s hippies, was largely unknown. Innocently he was introduced to marijuana and instantly as its potential. Who needed to smoke it when he could build a career by banning it as a "dangerous drug". It's danger, of course, was that it got you high. It must be dangerous was the thin justifications for the laws that sprang up. And spread and spread. What a legacy Ainslinger could leave, the man who had discovered a 'dangerous' drugs that grew up in so many folks' gardens.
I have been a pot-smoker since the early days—an enthusiast activist in the underground press—almost sixty years ago. Pot played a big part in my life in those days, as it did with many others, and like so many people, I smoked a lot.
As the pot society grew widespread, the fuzz were jubilant. Such easy targets; such a lucrative beat. Over there, perhaps in police custody, are prisoners who got 'caught' and sentenced for something not that different than grass.
In fact marihuana, of which different variations appear in different countries, has been around since the beginning of time. There have always been a few people who 'discovered' it—in this country, mainly musicians—but nobody made a fuss about it.
Like most ambitious politicians he needed a cause and overnight, marihuana was declared to be an evil, dangerous substance that should be banned. And Ainslinger was in search of a cause of his own to enhance his reputation. It helped that most of the users of this filthy weed were Blacks.
But four countries have already seen the light, and others are serious studying whether that green stuff in the garden can actually be smoked. Not to mention that some people are ready to pay for it, no questions asked.
I'm not ashamed of being a pot smoker for almost 50 years, in fact I'm proud of being so lucky that I found it and fell in love with my first joint. Could anybody hazard a guess about the number of pot smokers there are today? Millions. Of every race, every color. (Children, in my opinion, should wait a year or two before smoking anything).
Well, you may have noticed, the tide has turned. You still can't walk into any shop and acquire your favorite smoke. But that state of affairs is only a year or two away.
Currently, having lost most of my money as the result of a stroke, I have recovered enough physically to need to resume my working life. But marihuana and it's usages are going thru peculiar times. Is pot a good thing or a bad thing? I'd venture that most people who've tried it are fans. And that now includes hundred of thousands of people who have noticed the positive change in their thinking as a result of their new life.
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National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Over the past year, my combined medical and support costs from a stroke I had in April 2014 have been more than $100,000. If you'd like to help, use the Paypal donate button, or better yet, buy my book, and thank you. —JW
- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— Dear Readers...
— John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen--The Quest for Magic: Around Europe by VW bus;
Regarding armchair travelers;
Pisa's Leaning Tower;
The magical Alhambra
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library;
In the Cannes
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine (continued)--Rip Torn on stardom… Robert Mitchum's gift; London: Julian Beck’s critique; Emmett Grogan and the Diggers; Greece: The Junta, Charlotte Rampling, and art hero Daniel Spoerri
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine--Bob Dylan in the Village, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, Richard Neville and OZ, What Does London Need Most?, The International Times
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon;
The Shinjuku Sutra
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight--Art Kunkin's LA Free Press; In LA with Hunter Thompson, Lenny Bruce; Visit by Warhol; Hakim Jamal plays god; The San Francisco 'Be-In'; Underground papers meet
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—Into the '60s--London's underground press; Jean-Jacques Lebel burns US flag; Everybody's friend: Jim Haynes; Lenny Bruce and the kitchen tapes
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--The Village Voice (continued) --Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column, ECHO and Larry Adler, Woody Allen plays classic nerd, A sample Village Square column
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
- column archives: 2006 - present
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February 12, 2015
It was the first handwritten letter I'd received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I'd never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.
By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.
Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook on amazon.com.
“A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego.”
-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner