half calico

The first time The Maytals came to San Francisco to play Toots wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the local weed, so someone arranged to smuggle some in from Jamaica before the concert the following night.

I was in his dressing room when it arrived. He packed a small chillum to the brim, and started looking for a piece of moist cloth to wrap around the end. I had an old, but clean, folded red calico bandana I used to carry as a handkerchief. I handed it to him, but when we unfolded it, he felt it was just too large. As everyone scrambled to find a replacement, I took the bandana and tore it neatly in half, handing one piece back to him. Someome dipped it into a glass of water, and he wrapped it around the mouthpeice and applied the match. He then cupped it in both hands and puffed vigorously few times to get it burning orange and hot, copious clouds of white smoke surrounding his head. He smoked that bowl all the way down completely by himself, puffing a few times to get the fire and smoke billowing, and then inhaling a monsterous amount. This all happened moments before he went on stage.

Watching later from the wings, I felt part of that performance. Artists draw their inspiration from all of us collectively. And via fire and water forge and polish that gift, which they hand back to each and every one of us individually, intimately. From one heart to another.

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