Checking my calendar for the week, I see it filled with medical appointments, errands, calling the cable company to fight about the bill, PT for my knees, aerobic exercise for the heart, and mental gymnastics to counter forgetfulness—“Who was, you know, what’s his name’s daughter?”

As with many of us, aging is bringing “issues” that make it tough to do things I did with ease just a few years ago.

As far back as kindergarten, I’ve been driven to shine, to achieve, win the race, be first in class, selected to give the speech or lead the dance. That drive has always been in my bones, but what to do with it now, when I often feel irrelevant? There are fewer opportunities each year to do the creative work I love.

On my last birthday (the number was, as a friend, said, “an outrage”), my sister, Terry, and I planned to spend the day together. We were in Hawaii, where she lives, and she asked if I wanted to start with a two-hour meditation led by Dr. Dean Nelson on Kailua beach–the most beautiful sweep of sand on the island.

I’d been doing spiritual practices for 40 years. I’ve gone to retreats and classes, heard wisdom from countless sources, and been blessed with friendships with spiritual teachers. But a few years ago, I decided it was time to just live it–apply the wisdom moment by moment, rather than attending more teachings. So I’d resisted Terry’s previous invitations to sit with Dr. Dean, but as this birthday loomed, I was feeling downhearted, and thought, why not? “If you don’t like it,” Terry said, “you can just walk on the beach.” Continue reading

Summer of Love REDUX

 My singing group, Spirit Voices, recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, with a concert at Nissi’s night club in Colorado. I’m the oldest member of the group, and the only one who, in 1967, spent time in both the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and New York’s Lower East Side–the twin poles of psychedelia. I was a reporter for the Boston Globe, my first job, and because I was in my early twenties, they sent me out across the country to report on what we called the counter culture.

Over the years, the hippie movement has been trivialized, but in first bloom, it carried a sense of hope, joy, wild playfulness, and the promise of a new order based on sharing, equal rights, ending war, spiritual uplift and, above all, love.  Naïve? Sure, but at the time it was sincere and we really believed we could achieve it.

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Why Microdosing Marijuana Works

In the winter of 1999, Dr. Allan Frankel, an internist who now treats people with microdoses of marijuana, suffered a viral infection of the heart. Doctors told him he had six months to live. 

He’s rarely tried marijuana, but several of his cancer and AIDS patients urged him to use it for his heart.  A year later, his heart was normal. Frankel, now 66, says he can’t be certain that cannabis healed his heart. “I’d been depressed and cannabis stopped the depression,” he says. “It gave me something to look forward to. My brain was turned on.”

In the following years, he combed the scientific literature on cannabis, and in 2006, opened a cannabis medical practice. He developed formulas for whole plant oils with different combinations of THC, the compound in pot that gets people high, and CBD, a non-psychoactive compound that’s believed to have broad healing properties.

Working with patients, he found that many could benefit from small doses. “A quarter of my patients are taking less than 3 mg of THC a day,” he says. He calls it the “correct dose. In all medicine, with all drugs, you look for the minimum effective dose. Period.”

Welcome to marijuana 2.0. With microdosing, people are getting the maximum benefit from the minimum amount, without becoming stoned, paranoid or lethargic. Some are microdsoing to relieve anxiety, boost their creativity, or enhance their workouts and yoga sessions.

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High Noon – Antidote for Trump Malaise

When in despair with the fortune of our country, I began reading High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic, by Glenn Frankel. His thesis is that Carl Foreman, the screenwriter, created High Noon as a parable about how he was abandoned by friends and community when he stood up to the House Un-American Activities Committee for what he believed in—freedom of thought and speech.

I was surprised to learn that when the Blacklist arose in the late ‘40s and ‘50s, a Democrat, Harry Truman, was President, we had a democratic Congress, and a liberal majority on the Supreme Court. Yet people were being forced to sign loyalty oaths to keep their jobs, and friends were harassed and pressured by HUAC to turn against friends, naming them as former Communists and causing them to lose their ability to work.

Foreman testifying before HUAC, 1951

Foreman at HUAC hearing, 1951

Fear that Communists would take over the U.S. was so intense that many in government and the film business were willing to trounce on the liberties of others, often to save their own jobs.

The similarity to the present is obvious. As Frankel writes, “Conservatives who had resisted the growth of the federal government…(under FDR) joined forces with embittered working-class populists who felt excluded from their share of prosperity.” They believed, Frankel continues, that “usurpers—liberals, Jews, and Communists in those days; gays, Muslims, and undocumented immigrants today—had stolen their country, and…they were determined to claw it back.”

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CBD: Truth or Hype?

Can CBD curb your appetite? Quash anxiety? Protect your heart and brain? Anecdotal evidence for these and other health benefits has created a surge, a potential tsunami of demand for CBD products. While the FDA recently declared CBD an illegal, Schedule 1 drug, it’s being sold in states where medical cannabis is legal, and some companies are shipping it across state lines.

Frankel smileI’d been hearing about the healing properties of CBD for years, but I had not heard that it cuts your appetite until I spent time with Dr. Allan Frankel, a renowned internist in Los Angeles who’s one of the country’s pioneers in “dosed cannabis medicine.”

Frankel, 66, who’s short and energetic with impressive dark eyebrows, has paid a price for cutting this path, but he’s paving the way for rigorous, professional medical treatment using cannabis.

Most of the four million medical marijuana patients in the U.S. get their license recommendations from a doctor they never see again. Continue reading

Weed, Warriors, and Women under the Influence

I read my friend the first line of Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

“Perfect,” she said. “Only we’re somewhere on the edge of the Rockies and our drugs are Synthroid and hormone replacement.”

I was heading to Denver to cover the Cannabis Cup last year, and my friend, Tina, was my 300-pound Samoan attorney. Actually, she’s small, a dynamo who lets no one get in her way when she’s creating Victorian homes, silk gardens, or erotic collages.

She was also my driver, as I was dealing with chronic vertigo that made it risky to drive. High Times, which sponsored the Cannabis Cup, during which they’d present awards for the year’s best marijuana strains and edibles, was expecting 20,000 to attend the festival. There was no parking at the site, except for VIP’s, and no disability parking, I’d been told by the media spokesman. But he said the press could enter the Denver Mart through the VIP doors, which would have shorter lines.

I guided Tina past the Denver Mart, where I saw a sign, “Parking Lot B—VIP Parking.”

“Turn here!” I said. A man in a jumpsuit was guarding the entrance, which had a chain in front of it. I opened the window and called, “We’re press.”

He looked puzzled. “Press?”

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What Pot Goes with Pork?

Sativa with fish? Indica with steak? Or is it the other way around?  Welcome to the world of pairing strains of marijuana with specific foods to enhance their flavor—the hot trend in states where marijuana is legal.

pot to be paired

Pot to be paired            photo by Maya Dooley

This is not like eating food cooked with cannabis, which people have been doing at least since Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas served their guests in Paris hashish fudge. “It should be eaten with care,” Toklas wrote in her cookbook. “Two pieces are quite sufficient.”

That’s the problem: with edibles, it’s hard to know how much THC you’re consuming until it’s too late. I went with Jeff Steingarten, the food critic for Vogue, to a dinner in Colorado where everything we put in our mouths—cocktails, gnocchi, trout, chocolate decadence—was infused with cannabis. I wound up prone in the guest bedroom before dessert was served. But with pairing, you’re offered a different strain to smoke with each course, so you know right away how high you’re getting.

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Reading Bobby, Arlene, and Jane

I found the video on YouTube:  Bobby Kennedy speaking to a rally of black people in Indianapolis in 1968, on the night Martin Luther King was shot. Bobby had been informed about King’s death by the mayor, who told him not to go to the black neighborhood because riots could break out. Bobby had replied, “Don’t tell me where I can and cannot go.”

Bobby mlkIn the darkness, standing on a flatbed truck, he spoke, unrehearsed, from his heart. “If you’re black, and you’re tempted to be filled with feelings of hatred and mistrust,” he told the crowd, “I would only say that I can also feel, in my own heart, (he pointed to his chest) the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my own family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

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Slouching Toward the Caucus in Hawaii

It’s hard to tell in Honolulu that a Presidential election is happening. The only evidence of the upcoming Democratic caucuses, on March 26th, is near the University of Hawaii and other spots, where, at rush hour, young people and a few retirees stand at intersections, grinning and waving signs for “Bernie 2016” to get drivers’ attention. Since the nineteen-twenties, Hawaii has banned billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising. Legend has it that, in 1968, Charles Campbell, a schoolteacher who was running for Honolulu’s city council, made a sign and waved it on the main street of town. The rest is history. Volunteers are taught to smile and to acknowledge drivers who honk by waving or flashing the shaka—a fist with thumb and little finger extended.

Bernie signCampaigns in Hawaii are unique, and not just in their sign-waving. It’s effectively a one-party state, where almost every elected official is a Democrat.  Presidential candidates rarely campaign here. There’s no ethnic majority, and many residents are hapa, or mixed, in their backgrounds. The state is five hours behind Washington and New York (six hours when it’s daylight-saving time), and twelve hours away by plane. At dawn in Hawaii, your inbox is already flooded with e-mails, but it goes silent after 4 P.M.

It was 5:30 A.M. Honolulu time, on February 28th, when the somnolent campaign was jolted awake by the thirty-four-year-old Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who announced on “Meet the Press” that she had resigned as a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders. A veteran of two deployments in Iraq and Kuwait, Gabbard said she wanted a Commander-in-Chief “who will not waste precious lives and money on interventionist wars of regime change.”

Tulsi blueGabbard had been warned that her action would have political consequences, but, she told me on Sunday, “it was not a hard decision. . . . It was deeply personal to me, as a soldier and veteran.” Before Gabbard resigned from her post in the D.N.C., she had tried to draw attention to what she sees as “the core issue of this Presidential election: war and peace. But that message was not being heard,” she said. “The tough questions were not being asked. I needed to resign and endorse Senator Sanders to communicate to voters that there was a clear choice—a clear difference of position—between Sanders and Clinton.”

The congresswoman fears that, if elected, Clinton “will escalate the civil war in Syria.” She pointed out that Clinton “was the head cheerleader and architect of the war to overthrow the Libyan government of Qaddafi, which has resulted in chaos, a failed state, and a stronghold for ISIS and Al Qaeda.” She said that the domestic programs the candidates are advocating—“education, infrastructure, growing our economy—are not possible if we continue throwing trillions of American taxpayer dollars . . . on these wars.”

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One Woman’s Brokeback Mountain

Every so often, I come across a human story that rivets me. Here’s one.

Nayla Tawa, a lanky brunette with large blue eyes, was an extreme snowboarder.

nayla eat snowShe flew to Kyrgyzstan to go boarding in uncharted mountains, and to make a film about villagers who were trying to create a winter sports center to bring much-needed income to their town. On the first day , however, she had a car accident that broke her back in three places and stopped the film in its tracks. Ultimately, it set the stage for a different film.

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