Paris – New Tricks – D. Hamilton

Forget that lame rap about old dogs and new tricks. Mere blocks from where I scored my first cannabis product, and 40 years later, I’ve discovered a new, improved way to smoke hash. In that long ago inaugural event, an army buddy and I procured a gram of a dense dark brown substance reputed to be the real deal from an itinerant Algerian rug vendor in that mecca of debauch, the Place Pigalle. It might actually have been compressed camel dung. With extreme stealth, we returned to our zero star hotel where, in true Euro fashion, we crushed it up, mixed it with tobacco and rolled a joint using the papers of several disemboweled Lucky Strikes. At that time, I did not smoke tobacco. Regardless, said buddy encouraged me to inhale deeply and hold it as long as possible. The result was akin to severe sea sickness in a dingy room that seemed to roll on the waves of my nausea. I tried to hang my head out the window for fresh air relief, but we were several floors up and that attempted remedy only triggered my acrophobia under highly unfavorable circumstances. Somehow, with diligent practice, I was eventually able to put that early disappointment behind me.

Now, another ex-pat in France has introduced me to a personal breakthrough in hash consumption methodology, the champagne glass technique. This can be done with a water glass, but hey, this is France. The drawback to this approach is that it requires a lot of gear to pull off. You need the glass, a straight pin, a wine bottle cork, a mirror, and a straw, plus a cigarette lighter and the product to be burned. Stick the pin through the edge of the cork and into the little brown nugget, being careful not to cause it to crumble. Place this arrangement on the mirror (or other very flat glass) and light. When the flame dies and the smoke begins to rise, cover with the inverted glass and watch the smoke curl around the inside. When full, tilt the glass just enough to put the straw under the edge and inhale. Pure smoke with no paper, charred pipe or butane. It helps to drink all the wine from the bottle where you got the cork somewhere in the process. After several usages, the glass will be lined with resin. At that point, it is recommended that you wash it with a shot of vodka (tequilla in Texas) and toss that down too. We’ve yet to try the last step. It’s a minimal waste process.

Use of this method separates one from the typical Euro rabble who, to this day, prefer the old crushed shit in tobacco technique. Try to imagine the angst of a tobacco hating invererate Austin pothead arriving in Europe without stash and after a couple of weeks deprivation, someone offers you a hash laced cigarette. When this happened to us and we demured, saying we didn’t do tobacco, the 20-something Catalunian exclaimed, “oh no! Why not?” Euro smokers can’t believe we consume the unadulterated product. They call us “pure smokers”, a sobriquette I can live with.

Although I take no responsibility for this observation, there seems to be little reason for this unfortunate situation of deprivation to take place. The 3 most recent times we’ve arrived in Europe by air (Paris and Madrid) customs has either been entirely absent (try to arrive at lunch time) or highly disinterested. On our most recent arrival, a couple of young customs fellows were leaning on their little counter talking and laughing while everyone passed through the “nothing to declare” door without so much as a sideward glance at them. Despite this apparent lack of concern, France has a reputation for being the toughest country in Western Europe on drugs.

In nearly all of the surrounding countries, pot has been decriminalized and the official policy is tolerance. In Barcelona, we were told, on very good authority, that mere flagrant public use would not succeed in getting us in trouble. Not so in France. So far, I have no explanation for this deviation from the trend toward tolerance, other than that they’re control freaks. The newspaper “Liberation” reported yesterday that the Socialist Party was debating a more relaxed approach, but discussions were at an impasse over how far to go. Maybe the gendarmes are hanging on to a useful excuse to screw with the itinerant Algerians.

David Hamilton

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