Shroomfest features Dennis McKenna

PAONIA BOY … The 37th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival kicks off Aug. 17th this year and features a marvelously full schedule of wonderful speakers, forays, workshops, parade, etc. But the star of this year’s show will be Dennis McKenna, brother of the famed psychedelic guru Terence. Dennis has a memoir out about his relationship with his brother called The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012) which speaks about his growing up in Paonia. Dennis is a noted researcher who’s done groundbreaking work with ayahuasca and other psychotropic compounds … Check out the schedule and at least figure on dressing up like a mushroom and coming out Saturday to join us for the parade.

WRITE THE ROCKIES … I got to participate in a panel discussion at Gunnison’s Western State Colorado University last month for the 18th edition of this prestigious national literary conference run by David Rothman, who also moonlights as the current Western Slope Poet Laureate. Our topic was “Why Homer and Virgil Still Matter” … Classical scholars Frederick Turner and Tyson Hausdoerffer did a great job explicating the history of the Homeric tales as well as epics in general … As a performing poet who prizes the bardic function of poetry, arising from the storytelling tradition, which is older than recorded history, I got to focus on translation and how today many poets still practice the ancient task of telling the story of place. It was fun hearing all these different perspectives. And especially as a former Latin teacher for the Telluride Mountain School … Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit — one of my favorite Virgil quotes of all time. I still use it in certain situations. Look it up. It’s a great one.

ALLURE OF THE SEA … Fifteen years ago my late wife Mary Friedberg’s relatives gifted our young family with a sea cruise. My young son Gregorio was only 3, and remembers only a few fragments of the trip. My daughter Sara had a chance to bond with Mary’s sister Jean and brothers Bill and Bob along with their wives and children, and with her grandparents Harold and Pat, as well as our Turkish in-laws. Jean had married into the Ozler family of orchardists in Adana. Suddenly I was an uncle to nephew Ozbek and niece Deniz. Their father Ali was a very generous and cosmopolitan man. I was in awe of him, and uncertain around everyone else … As a Green hippie politician on a slim salary , I had no idea what to expect on a Royal Caribbean cruise, or what was expected of me in a traditional Catholic family. It was an adventure far outside my realm of experience, but I felt welcomed … Fast-forward to this summer. The Friedbergs decided to honor Harold on his 90th birthday with a second cruise, and gifted me and my two grown-up kids with a shipboard room. I was honored to be included as part of the extended Friedberg family. Mary had passed away five years ago. I was able to be with her at the end, singing her into the mystery. But the Friedbergs didn’t have to include me in their family. That they did was an honor. And it made this second cruise a far more meaningful experience for me … Bob treated us to an off-boat Jamaican adventure, fishing for mahi mahi (we caught two) and snorkeling a coral reef. All of the Friedbergs love good food, and Bill is a connoisseur of fine wines. Deniz had only recently married the family’s newest addition, a wonderful Frenchman, Valentin Bani. The suave and kind Ozbek was now deeply involved in the family business and married to a lovely wife, Esen. They had with them their new son, Alican – an “easy” baby who became the hit of the voyage. Bill’s wife Beth told tales of their New Jersey life. Bob’s daughter Lily is a math whiz and son Damon is hoping to become a surgeon. And I had a chance to speak with Ali’s mother Terim, learning of her interests in psychology and gardening – a passion we share … The cruise was a chance to connect with Mary vicariously through her family, and with fellow clan members – French, Turkish, American — united by blood and marriage, with whom we now share good memories and hopes for future gatherings.

A TALE OF TWO SHERIFFS … Joe Arpaio, who called himself the “toughest sheriff in America,” lost his Maricopa County, Arizona, election in 2016, after only 24 years in office. And now he is facing racial-profiling charges in federal court. That guarantees he makes national headlines … San Miguel County’s Bill Masters is planning to run for re-election in 2018 after almost 40 years on the job. But a recent newspaper story by Regan Tuttle in Telluride may be the only media waves he makes for a while. Why? He’s no softie. He upholds the law. But he does it by following the ethic of a “peace officer” – one who keeps the peace … While some accuse the media of fake news, I don’t agree. There’s precious little of that in this country, except for the tweets and PR machines of various media- conscious entities. But I think it’s easier for the third estate in America to play up the bad things that are going on rather than focus on what’s working … I’m just proud to have Masters as my sheriff, and I’ll vote for him as many times as he runs … And if ever there was an argument against term limits, Masters is it.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “No wonder psychedelics are threatening to an authoritarian religious hierarchy. You don’t need faith to benefit from a psychedelic experience, let alone a priest or even a shaman to interpret it. What you need is courage – courage to drink the brew, eat the mushrooms, or whatever it is, and then to pay attention, and make of it what you will. Suddenly, the tools for direct contact with the transcendent other (whether you call it God or something else) is taken from the hands of an anointed elite and given to the individual seeker.” — Dennis McKenna in The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012).

Art Goodtimes writes from San Miguel County, Colo.

The Talking Gourd

asking a question
I don’t want answered—
earwigs under the tarp

—Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


From Art Goodtimes.