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. Slightly startled at my bravado, he looked at me with some respect. Meanwhile, someone dipped the cloth into a glass of water, and wrung it out. He wrapped it around the mouthpeice and applied a match to the herb. He then cupped the chillum in both hands and puffed vigorously few times to get the fire burning orange and hot, copious clouds of white smoke surrounding his head. He inhaled that bowl all the way down completely by himself, puffing a few times to get the fire and smoke billowing, and then taking in a monsterous amount each time. This all happened just moments before he went on stage.

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

They had given me a small gift of that weed, and I thought I’d try a little before going to the concert the following night. I only had a couple of small tokes, felt overwhelmed and went to lay down. I woke up after midnight, the concert was well over, but my admiration for Mr. Hibbert only increased.

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