Trying to find somewhere to sit comfortably and write on this lazy Saturday afternoon, I wander up to the roof of my guesthouse (home of the infamous $4.25/night view, see above), pull up a chair at the open-air table, and start to work. I’m joined by a couple of Russians and a guy of unknown origin who offers me a cup of black coffee & whisky.
One of the Russians pulls bits of unidentifiable paraphernalia from his magically fathomless pockets, spreading them ceremoniously on the table like some sort of shaman. In lieu of vestments, this priest’s sigil is tonsorial; it might fairly be classified as a dreadlet–a dreadlock-mullet combination. (About such things I would neither hyperbolize nor jest.) He lovingly prepares a rather large quantity of marijuana for consumption, loads just enough for a single hit into a small red cylinder, and enthusiastically smokes it from a D.I.Y. waterpipe made from a plastic bottle. He then repeats this process for each of his friends and the other guy–who by now has identified himself as Portuguese. Finally he signals to me. Pointing at my computer, I decline regretfully. “Work,” I say. This is the second word anyone has spoken, after “coffee?,” though we’ve been sitting together for at least 15 minutes. They nod sympathetically and, finally, we exchange pleasantries.
Turns out they’re all here, along with some other friends, for the approaching 2013 Bandipur Music Festival (read “rave”), April 26th-29th. I’ve already heard about the event, reputed to be an engagingly non-stop trip in the shadow of the Himalayas.
As our conversation continues, the Portuguese wanders off, returning with a chunk of hashish the size of a golfball. He begins studiously breaking this into small bits and mixing it with tobacco hijacked from a standard cigarette. Shaman Dreadlet is ready for this, too. He bends over his mini-altar, producing an ornate leather pouch from which he unsheathes a chillum pipe, wooden and unadorned. I am captivated by how ritualistic the entire thing is, from the preparation of the hash to the egalitarian manner of sharing and the symbolic gestures of reverential thanksgiving (hand touching heart, pipe prayerfully placed to forehead) that pass between them as each hands the pipe onward to the next in line. As they repeatedly draw from the chillum, their heads disappear completely in a swirling cloud of thick purple smoke. The visual is indescribably cool. (I learn later without surprise that this is something imperfectly cribbed from Rastafarian Reasoning Sessions or Grounings.)
In the meantime, our party has been joined by two more Russians–one woman and another guy wearing a dreadlet (is this some new trend I’ve missed?) Everyone is smiling now, and Shaman Dreadlet continues his self-appointed priestly duties–alternating between marijuana and hashish and back again. I feel the table may be moments away from ushering in a generation of Peace and Global Harmony.
Conversations fragment, some in Russian, some in English. Comparisons are made between attitudes towards marijuana in our various countries, strengths of various strains, preferences for hash or weed, etc. They seem particularly well-versed on what’s going on in the US–positively glowing about Colorado.
One of the non-dreadlet Ruskies, who’s been gone for a while, suddenly returns with a pot of tea in a French Press. Mushroom tea, that is. In a French Press. On the communal rooftop of my guesthouse. (Where am I, again? Oh. That’s right. Pokhara. Nepal. And apparently dreaming.) Again I decline when offered, only this time not so regretfully; my only experience with ‘shrooms was 15 years ago and ended with me projectile vomiting a Jack-in-the-Box value meal into Lake Conroe in the mid-summer Texas heat and humidity.
As other folks cycle in and out (at one point there are 8 of us sitting around the table), I finally abandon all hope of working and glance at the time. With great pleasure I note that we have just passed through that infamous, annual, druidic alignment of numerology and urban legend honored by stoners worldwide: 4:20pm on 4/20 (though why it’s infamous to these 24-hour-clock Europeans, I won’t hazard a guess).
Seriously. It was 4:20–no poetic license taken. Cross my heart.
Someone breaks out the munchies: cookies, chunks of bread, and a couple of pastries. Although everyone is welcoming and gracious, I suddenly feel hopelessly old and out of place, but I do accept a cookie when it’s offered. Hard as a brick, but delicious. I imagine how good it tastes to them right now. They’ve entered the laughter phase, and I can’t help but laugh along.
[I mentioned the view earlier. The late afternoon sun is now creeping downwards toward the lake, hinting at another hazy-beautiful sunset to come. Only two weeks here and I’m already starting to take this view for granted.]
The Portuguese and Dreadlet #2 attempt to juggle six balls between them. Considering the circumstances, it goes pretty well, meaning none of the balls flies off the balcony. Another round or two of chillum and waterpipe ensue, though surely by now it must be getting superfluous?; Mr. Portugal gets lost in some New Age-y book and the Russians fall to chatting quietly amongst themselves in their mother tongue.
Sometime later, all speech has stopped.
I observe my new friends with no small envy as they stare inward into silence, and for them–if not for me–the mysteries of the universe begin to unfold.