most every town where I have performed believes it is the center of the universe. Townies are shocked that I plan to leave after my gig and return to my own poor excuse of a town. I find each town’s civic-centrism oddly endearing and yet a little embarrassing. Clearly they are unaware that Brooklyn, now massing on the borders of Manhattan, is the endlessly, tediously self-proclaimed center of the universe.
If I have the time in a town, I appreciate a good tour. Each tour guide’s particular interests shape the highlights.
In Indianapolis, my guide, a passionate animal rescuer, took me through a shelter that sends dogs to the women’s prison where women train them to be companions for people with special health needs.
In Cincinnati, my guide, a developer of low-income housing, proudly took me through many of her projects. She has made a multi-generational marvel out of a former tool and die factory.
Recently in Colorado, my friend, a fervent Boulder Booster, took me on a tour designed to lure me into moving to her fair town, the actual center of the universe. If you don’t have a tendency toward altitude sickness or an aversion to sunny days and are hankering for a pioneering move, Boulder, located at the base of the Rockies, might be just for you. Though Boulderites are politically progressive, I did sense some plains-disdain, similar to Auden’s shuddering, “Oh god, please don’t make me live there,” in his hilarious poem “Plains.”
Our tour coincided with the first day of Boulder’s Farmers’ Market and mostly white families, students, and farmers were out and fully hydrated. The range, from yoga-toned triatholoner to shabby slacker, was so unironic I thought I’d see a “Will work for gluten” sign.
We roamed through the outdoor sculpture garden at the Leaning Tree Western Art Museum. We toured the Celestial Seasonings world headquarters and factory started in the 1960s by some hippie entrepreneurs.
At the end of the factory tour, we exited through the huge, cheery gift shop. In the parking lot, bordered by fields spring-fevered with prairie dogs, my dear docent announced that our next stop was the retail marijuana store.
I was prepared for this moment. When my plane had landed in Denver, the guy next to me unclicked his seat belt and said, “Let’s go get stoned.”
I am a moderate-risk traveler. I have wiggled into small caverns in Italy, tried street food in India, and river-rafted on the Mekong.
I am not an extreme-risk traveler, so I know that going into a retail marijuana store is riskier for me than bungee-jumping off the St. Louis Arch.
When I said I would pass on the grass, my friend asked, “Aren’t you curious?” She assured me of the very ordinary medicinal nature of the shop.
A white-coated clerk would give me a numbered ticket and a clipboard with a form for my preferences and proposed usage. She would call my number, then show me options, pot-infused edibles, scientifically tested THC levels and explain possible side effects. My friend pointed out the store as we drove home. The parking lot was full.
Just as Iowa is the gateway to the rectangular states, for me a grass mart is the gateway to who knows what. Actually I do know what. It’s all about more. And never enough. Though marijuana was at first a welcomed key to unlock my Jesuitical, hyper-logical brain, by the end of my use, and on old-school low-grade grass, I was paranoid and couldn’t find anything on my computer.
I still can’t find anything on my computer, but I’m not paranoid anymore, except about the NSA.
Kate “One tour at a time” Clinton is humorist.