Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Last Time I Went to the Pot Parade

It was mid-May, 1999, unseasonably cool for the global warming era. The plant kingdom was in full sprout. My girlfriend and I wandered down Broadway toward Battery Park. As we reached the park, there was no indication that there would be any greater quantity of illegal drugs there than on any other day, or that anyone would be ostentatiously indulging in them.

I was sober.

We were going to see a free show by John Brown’s Body, the best white reggae band ever. I say that jokingly because they’re also one of the best reggae bands ever, irrespective of anything that pigmentation might imply. That they’re worth seeing while sober attests to how good a live band they are: you can be completely free of any pot-induced bullshit and still enjoy them because they’re not any more self-indulgent, repetitive or clichéd than, say, Bob Marley.

As we approached the stage (this was in the days when you could do that, before the Park Pigs began setting up a labyrinth of barriers worthy of the king of Minos), we could smell what people were there for. There were lots of cops, but not in anything approximating the kind of numbers you see today when they do dry runs for a post-9/11 catastrophe, massed with sirens and lights under the Williamsburg Bridge.

I approached one of them and struck up a conversation. He wasn’t stoned as far as I could tell and seemed pretty blasé about the whole thing. “What’s it like, working this thing?” I asked him. He laughed. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Eventually a small handful of the more obvious pothead kids were led away in handcuffs. Yet for the most part, the cops kept a respective distance and the revelers did the same. John Brown’s Body did a very short set, about 25 minutes. Then some guy from a popular Wetlands band – I forget the name – got up and launched into a pretty bad Shabba Ranks impression. So we wandered back in the direction we had come. It was a pleasantly mellow, predictably amusing afternoon and although it was only eight years ago, it feels like a lifetime.

As cruel an irony as this is, if you go to the parade this year, don’t bring pot.

May 2, 2007 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, New York City, Rant | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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