There’s are only handful of places that I know I don’t belong: hardware stores, the zoo, prison, and a satanic chapel. This weekend I experienced a new place that isn’t exactly me – Hempfest in Seattle.
I don’t smoke. I don’t have an issue with people who do, so long as it’s not in my car or house, but personally I’ve never truly enjoyed smoking. And please don’t give me that, “But why? You’ve never smoked have you? You just need to try again,” bullshit that I get every time I turn down a joint or hookah. I don’t feel the need to explain my smoking history with people or justify my choices, calm down folks, calm down. So you can imagine how at Hempfest, a festival that literally exists to praise getting high and all of the gadgets involved, is not a place that most people picture me in – in fact, many laughed when I said where I was.
In the beginning, we were nothing but cattle being herded along the streets of downtown Seattle. The men in charge of controlling the chaos had to yell phrases like, “Bags to the left! No bags to the right!” all day long. For the most part people seemed to prefer the, I only shower once every two weeks to preserve water, look. Lots of dreads, organic loose ill-fitting garments, and tie-dye. I can’t say that it was a dashing style on anyone, but man were they ever excited. Everyone was super pumped, ready to cross that threshold into the festival so they can smoke, buy pipes, hang out with buds, and eat some serious munchies.
When standing in the long line my surroundings were what I expected. Piles and piles of dirty hippies getting high, and street merchants trying to sell “brownies” and “rice-crispies.” What I wasn’t prepared for the was the extremity of politics at the festival. Turns out that Hempfest is not just a merry place where stoners go to buy bongs, grinders (still not sure why these are necessary), and ugly hemp shirts – it’s a goldmine for politics.
When the human cattle drive was reaching an end, in the distance I saw picket signs near the entry gates. The signs said things like FEAR GOD! REPENT YOUR SINS! amongst other ‘damn you all to Hell’ language. I was fascinated and appalled. I’d never seen so many angry and delusional people, did they think they were going to touch the souls of the burnt out stoners and peace loving hippies with cries of hate and abomination? I hate Christian’s like that. I was raised Christian (my family is very religious) and while I may not consider myself devout, I still loathe when the crazies make the sane people look bad. If the sign holders would check their Bible, then they’d know that only God can see the sin in someone’s heart, making their picketing not only rude but far from Biblical – just saying.
Once passed the angry Christians there was a different type of politics. It was a liberal explosion! Everywhere I turned someone was trying to get me to sign something. People were giving passionate speeches about legalizing marijuana and anti-corporations who just want to steal money. A truck drove through the festival path (as if it wasn’t already crowded enough with humans) saying how important Hempfest is and why we should be free to smoke what we want. I must have turned down at least 40 flyers. Politics were unavoidable.
I’ve never been good at meandering, I’ve always been the, step out of my way – I’m on a mission, type. But at Hempfest I was forced to go slow, as my friends stopped at every booth that sold glass pieces. So while they shopped, I stared at the crowd. I must say, it was quite the sight. People were absolutely fearless to be themselves, and I respect that. I saw a pregnant woman with a pot leaf painted on her belly, lots of bright rainbows, fuzzy boots, belly shirts, bras, ‘I heart dope’ sunglasses, and to my surprise, children. It didn’t matter gender or age, everyone wore whatever the fuck they wanted.
Despite the police walking around people still smoked freely (apparently it’s only a problem if they use a bong, I don’t see why it makes a difference). Those that weren’t shopping sat around in circles, letting the smoke take over. I’ve never seen so many red eyes. If I smoked I guarantee I would have got more into the festival, but from my sober mentality it was the biggest street fair I’ve ever seen, the chaos stretched out for a couple of miles – and this fair had a definite target audience.
There’s one thing I’ve would have bought if I wasn’t completely broke, a handmade hula hoop.
At the third stage they played dub-step. On little side stages were dancers, but not go-go, or even slutty hippie dancers. They were hula hoop dancers, and I gotta say it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The girl who caught my attention had more of a hip-hop vibe than the other. She controlled her hoop with grace as she threw it around her effortlessly. I stared at her for about five minutes before continuing my slow walk through the festival. I’m officially obsessed and need to learn this skill.
Eventually I resumed my role amongst the cattle, walked past the picket signs, and marched up the steep streets of Seattle. But despite my out-of-placeness, it was an entertaining day.