Monday, November 7, 2011

To be left for L.A. ...

Aechmea ‘Alegria’
Bromeliad planted around the entrances to the Westin Bonaventura

"To be left is one thing, but to be left for L.A. ..." -- Miss Elmira Gulch

If you don't know Fred Barton's wonderful one-man show, Miss Gulch Returns, you are certainly missing out. Click here for YouTube's version of Fred speaking about Miss Gulch and here to hear one of the songs from the review, Pour Me A Man. Long before Gregory Maguire started the Wicked series, Fred wrote his show about Margaret Hamilton's other character, Elmira Gulch. In a song titled "Give my best to the blonde," Miss Gulch laments that her lover Joe has left her to go find himself in L.A. Unfortunately, I could not find an on-line recording of that song, but if you click on the link at the bottom of the page, you'll be able to buy the CD and enjoy the entire show, at least aurally.

On Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011, Kevin and I boarded Delta flight 4632 headed to Los Angeles with a change of planes in Salt Lake City. We were off to the city of Fallen Angels to attend a three-day conference sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization dedicated to ending the disastrous 40-year old War on Drugs. I'll say nothing more about our flight down except to note that the Chinese restaurant located between Salt Lake's concourses E and D serves the best orange chicken I've ever had. We arrived at LA International around 4 p.m., grabbed our bags, got on the wrong shuttle, transferred to a cab, and one hour and $50 later checked into our hotel, the Westin Bonaventure in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel
Downtown Los Angeles

Now I have to say that I don't much care for Los Angeles. I grew up in San Francisco, after all, and it's a matter of faith that all things angeleno are unclean, uncouth, unwanted. I have been known to drive from San Diego to San Francisco without ever going through Los Angeles County--and that's quite a feat, believe you me. But all that Bay Area jingoism aside, I have to admit that our time in L.A. was pleasant, and with the exception of one rainy day, we had picture postcard perfect weather. Just look at the clear blue skies in the architectural photos I've added.

The Drug Policy Alliance put on a fact-filled conference, with several break out sessions designed to catch the attention of just about anyone involved in drug-related areas. I sought out those sessions specifically addressing the medical marijuana industry, and was pleased with the information imparted during the first day's sessions. I did come to the realization, and rather quickly, that while medical marijuana provides my living, it is not my life. After burning out as a gay rights activist, I am not ready to take on the world once again as a medical marijuana activist, and unfortunately, that is what is needed today. The United States declared war on drugs forty years ago, and all that has happened is that millions of dollars have been spent, thousands of lives have been ruined, the U.S. prison population is now the largest in the world, and Americans continue to use and abuse drugs.

The View from the 23rd Floor
Downtown Los Angeles

After one day of hearing more and more disheartening news, frankly I couldn't take any more. My guts were churning and the pain in my legs greater than normal, so I stayed in bed Friday morning, then took the day for myself. This allowed me to walk a bit around the downtown area, heading first down Flower Street to Wilshire Boulevard, then climbing the hill to the west, crossing over I-110, then north on S. Beaudry and back cross I-110 on 4th, returning to the Westin. I got a few good photos on my outing, and was impressed by some of the buildings I saw, and some of the people I saw on the street, but I didn't have the nerve to photograph the guy dancing in front of Walgreen's.

By Saturday, Kevin had also had enough of the conference we were supposed to be attending, so we skipped the day's sessions and caught the shuttle to the Los Angeles Convention Center where the BlogWorld conference was being held as well as the Franchise Expo. We paid to visit the exhibits at both, and came away with goody bags from both, filled with lots of handouts.

The Los Angeles Public Library

Just a block from our hotel, the Los Angeles Public Library stands behind a beautiful garden. There is a large blue banner promising that the Library is open on Mondays. I wasn't sure if the banner meant that the building was open ONLY on Mondays, or if this was a new day for the library's service. Etched in the stone over the entrance is the Latin motto: "Et quasi cursores, Vitai lampada tradunt." OK, much as I hate to admit it, my Latin isn't what it used to be, and I can't speak for your own, but the line comes from the Roman poet Lucretius, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), book II, line 79, and can be translated, "and like runners, they pass on the torch of life." The grounds around the library are planted heavily with Birds of Paradise, a tropical plant that only grows indoors in Montana, and I took advantage of the situation to capture this beautiful blossom.

Strelitzia reginae or Bird of Paradise

Returning to Missoula, we got back to work, just in time to watch while the Federales raided more Montana medical marijuana businesses, including two in Missoula. In reaction to those raids, two of our largest colleagues closed their doors before the Feds could close them. Kevin and I vowed to continue on, and accepted patients who were now unable to get their medicine due to the closures. Our vow notwithstanding, the pressure and intimidation from the Federal Government finally got to us. At 4:00 a.m., Wednesday, November 30th, I lay awake wondering how we would manage financially if we closed our shop. While I was pondering, Kevin said, "Do you really want to stay open." And I answered truthfully, "No." And that was that. We cut down all our plants, and went through four days of telling our loyal patients that we could no longer serve their needs. I have mixed feelings about this, but in truth, I'm not strong enough to fight the Feds. Of our decision, more later.

Should you be at all interested in Fred Barton's Miss Gulch, or Gregory Maguire's Wicked series, I've put links below for you to order the books/CDs from Enjoy!


redwinecarl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
redwinecarl said...

Keep me on the list, you have my email already, thanks.

Billy said...

Bryan, Here's a link to a recent Andrew Sullivan piece regarding the unnecessary overkill tactics used by the feds to scare dissidents:

Sullivan's short blurb contains a link to a longer story. Billy

redwinecarl said...

Thanks for the update, Bryan. I hope you guys will be alright with the situation. Kevin has always been a good handyman, I think. You'll be fine.