The Russ Belville Show
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An epic train journey up and down the West Coast, road trips across Southern California, and various observations of the first HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup of 2013

Dave’s Not Here, Man

It was a memorable Cannabis Cup in Southern California, once we found out where it was being held. I had boarded an Amtrak train in Portland, Oregon, to Los Angeles for the second annual HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup. Last year, we had an amazing time at the LA Center Studios and we were looking forward to a second run at the location.

However, early in the week there was a problem with permitting at the LA location. At the last minute, HIGH TIMES secured the Glendale Studios. I was staying near Los Angeles with Cheryl Shuman from Rapid Fire Marketing, so I checked the maps for the distance and Glendale wasn’t far enough to feel like I was imposing for a ride.

The train trip from Portland to LA is 33 hours, so I was leaving Portland and getting online when I learned that the Glendale City Council had passed an emergency injunction on the permits for that location, effectively leaving HIGH TIMES without a place for the event. I was seriously considering disembarking at Eugene and taking the train back north to Portland. However, HIGH TIMES had soon lined up the National Orange Show Center in San Bernardino – I had been there years earlier for a Cypress Hill Smoke Out and knew the layout would be great.

But San Bernardino is a long way from Los Angeles – 82 miles from where I was staying. How was I going to get from my crash pad to the gig, two days in a row, without renting a car?

While I considered that problem, a new one emerged. The bag containing my best digital video camera was gone, taken by another passenger at an earlier stop or forgotten in my haste to board, I’m unsure. I mentioned it to an Amtrak employee who chastened me for leaving a camera bag in the open luggage area. Her concern was underwhelming.

Traveling by Amtrak is nice, if a bit long. The seats have twice the legroom you’d find on an airplane and adjustable leg rests. I prefer train travel when I can, to avoid the airport TSA lines that force me to strip, unpack seven bins worth of electronic gear, and take naked x-ray pictures of me. There’s AC power right at the seat and with my mobile broadband, I can get a lot of work done on a train (like now, riding home).

I arrive in Los Angeles at 9pm. Cheryl picks me up from Union Station with my couch-surfing roommate for the event, Simmi from Vancouver, BC. We became fast friends as I explained to her nuances and peculiarities of American culture in general (“let me explain ‘medical bankruptcy’ to you”) and 420 culture in particular (“well, ‘dabs’ are just concentrated cannabis”). She is a brand new ‘traveler of the road’, having lived most her life as someone disgusted with pot smokers and marijuana. Now she’s like an herbal acolyte, amazed at the positive difference cannabis has made in her life and dumbfounded that everyone can’t see the obvious lies about marijuana. “Simmi,” I responded, “you were that person who couldn’t see through the lies. How do we get through to the people like you were without first getting them all high?”

Fortunately the loss of my camera bag wasn’t devastating as I have extra cameras. Cheryl was incredibly gracious and lent me a 60’s-model convertible Mercedes she had collecting dust in the garage. Now I could drive myself out to San Bernardino with Simmi along for the ride. I got online and booked a hotel near the event so I could just make one trip out and back from Los Angeles. The car was small, but we packed all my gear and headed out.

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