Cannabis is a flourishing industry here in Oregon. There are farms and greenhouses galore and more cannabis retail outlets than hardware stores. They provide a lot of jobs and I’ll be looking for a job soon. I thought I might take one in the business (as we referred to it back in the free-wheeling days of defying prohibition). So I applied for a permit and paid a fee and got investigated and irony of ironies was found certified safe to be employed. My hesitation has been that the business has gotten complicated. There are so many strains of cannabis available, and a panoply of edible options and one needs to be familiar with them all to praise and to pitch them. I would have to do extensive on-the-job training and I haven’t gotten high in five years and not sure I want to again.

But I thought I’d find out. Yesterday I bit the bullet. Actually, I bit the gummy. I went to a dispensary. It was surreal, perusing the multifarious manifestations of marijuana and discussing their effects with the girl behind the counter who wasn’t born yet back in the day. I purchased one gram each of two different strains of weed and ten gummies, which are like gummy bears, only not for kids. The grams were $5 each and the gummies were $24 for ten, or $2.40 per high, which lasts three to six hours. Cheap thrills. The information on the labels of the weed was meticulous: The name of the strand, the date it was harvested, the license # of the grower, the date it was tested in a lab, the percentage of active ingredients, (for example: 15.7% THC, 12.3% CBD) and the Activation Time before it kicks in (in the case of weed: immediately). I didn’t know if this was the world for me anymore but I’d know in a minute: gimme that gummy!

The verdict is in: Reefer dealing redux ain’t happening. My gummy did not take me anywhere I want to go to at this point in my life. Physically I was uncomfortable as when doing mushrooms in the early days and the head trip was neither enlightening nor recreational. If you take ten of my thoughts and toss them into a pail of water and stir the water with your finger till they are circling the bucket like minnows chasing each other’s tails, you have a picture of my usual state of mind. It’s not a state I care to stimulate.

And there’s not enough time left in my life for getting stoned. There’s too much good stuff left to be done and if getting stoned doesn’t enable me to do it all better and faster—and it won’t—I shouldn’t be getting stoned.

Nor is it compatible with my community these days. Most of the people I interact with are retired professionals—intelligent and educated and creative, but mainly straight. Nobody breaks out the pot at the meet-and-greets. I can’t be high around people who aren’t high themselves and who don’t know that I am, and I can’t avoid the community: you can’t walk your dog down the street without meeting neighbors walking their dog down the street and having a conversation (with the neighbor, not the dog, though I might prefer talking to the dog if I was high).

So I’ll set my getting-stoned days aside for now, thank you very much, and I’ll get my high at the keyboard or on the trails in the woods all around me or in the gym or back in the dojo. That said, I do have my worker’s permit and don’t rule out a paid gig harvesting or trimming which I could do without praising the virtues of a particular product as I would have to do in sales.

Alright, alright… I also don’t rule out smoking a joint around a campfire on a summer night, if ever again I’ll be sitting around a campfire and happen to have a joint…or sitting around the fireplace in the evening at home with a bowl and a few bottles of wine and having a stimulating conversation with an old crony from out of town.

May it be you if you’re passing through…






GOODREADS ASKED ME the following questions for the benefit of its readers. I thought I’d share my answers with you.


It is not a problem these days. I have amassed a vast repository of material upon which to draw. My approach to a story long or short is that I am prompted by a meaningful moment or a significant passage in my life and the explication of its meaning becomes my destination. Getting there I’m free to wander. I banish my censor and open the gates and whatever flows through me goes on the page. My first draft is right-brained and spontaneous and produces a throbbing mass. Afterward, the left-brain takes over and slices and dices and rearranges the parts. At the end of a writing session I stop when I know what I want to have happen next so I can resume the following day. And if I do get stuck, I might have a conversation with my character. I might say: Joe, help me out here! What would you like to do next?


There is no one best thing. There are many great and wonderful things. I see writing as an exercise in telepathy that transcends time and space. Images and ideas and emotions are delivered to my conscious mind from a subconscious repository of all ideas and images and emotions which I then arrange into a story and render in symbols on the page. Some time and place later—perhaps tomorrow across town, or maybe thousands of miles and hundreds of years later when I am dead and gone—some anonymous reader will scan the symbols and the story will emerge in his conscious mind just as I had conjured it in mine. It is a mystical and mind-blowing process that I am thrilled to participate in. Also, my life is the material for my stories and if I don’t tell them no one will.


How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! Master your craft. Learn the rules, then break them if you will but know that your reader must understand you. Writing is an art and you are an artist and you are free to render your private vision as long as the reader remains immersed in the vivid and continuous dream and keeps turning the page. Dare to be different. Be true to yourself. Be in touch with your inner audacity! And since you’re not likely to make a lot of money…enjoy the process!


Preparing my second novel for publication. Penitentiary Tales: a Love Story recounts the escapades of one Dean Davis, a thirty-something, educated, straight white male from the affluent community of Sausalito, in Marin County, California, who is sent to an Illinois prison dominated by a daunting, ethnically diverse population of inmates from the mean streets of Chicago. How does he do his time? What challenges does he meet? How does the experience affect his social and political consciousness? Addressing issues of race and gender from an uncommon point of view, it is at once a serious inquiry into the minds and hearts of the marginalized and the oppressed and a bit of a romp. It will appeal to adventurous and intelligent readers of all persuasions who appreciate a literary walk on the wild side. It has been written. It is being edited. Pending final revision it should launch in the spring of 2019. Concurrently, I am writing a novel tentatively titled The Trip.

It is based on a written account I kept during my first acid trip in Berkeley, California, in 1968. It is proving difficult to reenact the mental and spiritual states that characterized that era because the doors of perception have nearly closed.


I’m fortunate. I have story ideas clamoring to be let loose like a pack of frantic beasts in a cage. And I love my stories so much that I can’t wait to write them so that I can read them the next day and say: Damn, boy, you are good!


Decades ago, at the request of an Anthropology Professor, I interviewed a prison inmate about his opinion of homosexual activity in the penitentiary. He wouldn’t stay on point but incessantly praised his loving wife who waited for him faithfully and was keeping the family business afloat until after his release. I learned later that he would not be released any time soon, if ever—because he was locked up for murdering his wife! I was fascinated and disturbed by the depths of the man’s delusion and wrote a short story around it called A Day and a Wake-up. Some years and many permutations later the story became the novel Inside the Mind of Martin Mueller.