It surprises no one that my harvest from my rooftop garden has barely been hung before I journey over to Spain to experience Spannabis Madrid
A popular song reminds us that all we need is love. I venture that we need love and courage to give and receive that love. Far too often we stay in our self-imposed bubbles of isolation; unwilling and incapable of creating bridges between each other. Often set, setting, and shared experiences, like smoking cannabis, can make us more amenable to softening our hard, outer shells to those around us. Sometimes, like with the GSSV Iceolator from La Kalada, we can be convinced to open up to complete strangers as well.
I have been travelling to Spain for the last couple of years and I have fallen in love with the land, the culture, and the people. I am especially impressed by the social scene that is unrivaled anywhere. Taking a cue from the Basque community, who have successfully married tobacco and eating clubs, Spanish cannabis connoisseurs circumvent oppressive cannabis laws by creating associations which allow members to consume cannabis privately and without fear. The social club scene trumps anything we have conceived over here in the states. Rather than operating as a direct storefront, impersonally doling out cannabis, these associations warmly invite members to relax, get comfortable, and enjoy cannabis with like-minded individuals. Each association is uniquely designed and caters to a particular crowd. Everyone is always welcome, but some clubs like Nectar obviously cater to the young and trendy crowd, while NPK Barcelona, with its lush outdoor patio and serene spaces, woos a decidedly more laid-back clique. Our cannabis communities and language may differ, but cannabis enthusiasts from both Spain and the US have supreme standards for exceptional product, expecting and accepting only the best in flavor, effect, and experience.
It surprises no one that my harvest from my rooftop garden has barely been hung before I journey over to Spain to experience Spannabis Madrid. After an exciting and party filled week in the capital city, I travel over to Barcelona to finish my trip with some of my favorite people. Walking through the lobby doors and into the familiar space of the Asociación La Kalada (IG: @lakalada), a smile immediately creeps across my face. I walk forward and allow my eyes to dance upon the walls and the coordinated, yet not matching, furniture. La Kalada is always one of my favorite clubs. I feel at-once at home surrounded by the garishly, yet tastefully, painted walls. Reggae throbs from the impressive speakers. Paintings and photographs cover the already colorful walls. Several glass cabinets display trophies and intricate and beautiful pieces of functional glass rigs and bongs. As I study the columns plastered with stickers of dozens of visitors who, like me, felt compelled to leave their mark on the club in the 21st Century version of “I was here,” La Kalada’s president Alesandro (IG: @jahkirevi) approaches and gives me a big hug. I grin and we walk over to a large table where my friends Edu (IG: @blueice_tech) and Alex are already sitting. I tell him that I am looking for the finest solventless I can find. His eyes light up and he leaves briefly, returning with three cold glass jars. Opening all of them, I am faced with two jars of bright white hash and one filled with golden resin. Based on the color, I can tell one was air dried and the other two were freeze dried. I expect that his favorite will be one of the sand-filled jars. Everyone, including myself, adores the pristine beauty of freeze dried product. Instead, with reverence, he hands me the jar filled with light amber crystals.
Even before the jar gets to my nose, I can smell the pungent sweetness. Getting closer, the jar exudes the aroma of sharp citrus, warm earth, and sugary berries. I cock my eyes at Alesandro prompting him to tell me about the loveliness I now hold.
Washing four distinctive flavors (Girl Scout Cookies, Sunset Sherbet, Starbud, and VCDC) produced the sweetly scented Iceolator hash in my hand. Holding the jar up to the light, I see the heads piled upon each other like heaps of glimmering topazes. The wide-leaf-dominant concentrate creation was processed from cured lower buds of plants that were grown indoors by Bobby and Charlton Kalada between May and August 2017. These two men pursue the highest excellence in both the cultivation and processing of the plant. They aim to use the best extraction techniques so that the members can enjoy a product free of impurities and treated in the best possible way from the crop to the dispensary. They believe that it is of the absolute importance that patients be able to enjoy the product in a clean space specifically created for the comfortable enjoyment of their member-donated flowers, concentrates, and edibles. Such meticulous dedication has garnered the social club more than 20 awards in prestigious competitions such as Legends of Hashish, Elite Cup, and Dabado. There is not a lot of hash on hand, so I put it away for safe keeping for when I return to California.
A few weeks later, on a clear, but chilly Sunday, I hear of an event called a Crochet Jam, and being obsessed with that hobby, I am eager to check it out. Sitting in the backseat of my car, I take out my portable rig. I could use my vape pen, but for my first taste of this GSSV Iceolator, I need to take full dabs. Scooping one third of the crystals into the palm of my hand, I press hard with my thumb. The warmth and the pressure melt the resin together forming a kidney bean sized dab. When the temperature is just right, I ease the resin to the edge of the banger and lay it along the side. With a swift sizzle, the golden dab slides down the banger and I inhale the thick smoke in a slow and steady pull. After the first exhale, I am in love. I am expecting a mishmash of flavors, so I am pleasantly surprised when I can quickly distinguish the sweet earthy notes of the Girls Scout Cookies and the Sunset Sherbet. The soft, berry flavors must come from one of the other two. Altogether, the GSSV reminds me of my grandmother’s black rum cake; fruity, heavy, and with a slight tang at the end. I use a cotton swab to clean the banger and very little residue remains. That’s the beauty of the low temp dab – good flavor, and no char. Half of the dab still remains on the tip of my dab tool and, after heating the banger again, I take another satisfying dab and put away my rig. The event has started 2 hours ago and I hope I can still get in on the fun.
I leave my car and button my jacket. It seems like it was just summer, but the persistent nip in the air tells me otherwise. I walk into the Berkeley Art Center which is hosting an extensive fiber arts installation. I continue into the main area where three large felted deer standing 10 feet high look down at visitors startled by their largesse. Mounted on the walls around the room are large and small artistic expressions of crochet, knitting, embroidery, needlepoint, sewing, and much more. The materials range from feathers for to fine wire. Seated at a long table in the middle of the room are 15 ladies and a few children. Heaped on the tables are strips of fabric of all different colors. I am amused to see the children holding crochet needles that look like they were built for a giant. I scan the room and notice that everyone seems to be talking to somebody. I walk over to the organizer, Ramekon, and I explain that I am ready to participate but I do not want to step on anyone’s toes so I’m more than fine to find a little corner and to start working on my own. I ask him what the purpose of this Crochet Jam is. He tells me that the purpose is literally to be there, allowing the fabric to express itself and in a completely non-judgmental way – allowing our creativity to just flow. My control freak self has a hard time accepting this. I frown slightly, look around, take a crochet needle from him, and sit across from a woman who is crocheting what appears to be copper wire and yarn. I love to crochet and despite what has been gently suggested about letting go, I determine that I’m going to make some sort of potholder only using blue strips of fabric. I begin to work the strips together and soon I am in my own world.
After about 15 minutes, my potholder is larger than my hand and I look up to stretch my neck. I gaze around the room at all of the people having conversations and think about being in the midst of so many, and yet still being alone. The woman across from me glances down and seeing my Barcelona tote, asks me if I have ever been there. I nod and as she continues to crochet she tells me about how much she loved Barcelona, and her global treks visiting Japan and Portugal and several other other destinations on my quickly growing list of must-have adventures. The majority of her trips were taken alone. I listen intently and I am impressed by her courage and temperament. When she momentarily pauses her story, I awkwardly ask if I can get her advice. When she assents, I talk to her about an argument I had just had with my mother. I am frank about personal struggles, I am amazed at the words tumbling from my mouth. I normally keep my emotions to myself, but I feel so comfortable. She smiles knowingly and gives me her perspective. I am grateful for her listening to me and sharing her honest opinion. She leaves and for a short time, no one is sitting around me.
I am just settling into a rhythm of double crochet when the chair beside me is pulled back swiftly. Turning to see who has disturbed my quiet zone, I look up into the face of a woman in her late 70s, with grim, tight lips, closely cropped white hair, and a slight air of annoyance. She gives me a short, blank stare and plops down with a huff. Her energy feels very off-putting. Immediately, I feel my invisible walls fly up around me. Why could she not have sit with the middle-aged ladies at the end of the table? Those chatty Cathys would be delighted to have her. I stand up and walk down the length of the table, ostensibly to get more blue fabric, but actually, I need to give myself some space. I briefly consider making a fast track outside to take another puff, or at least take some CBD tincture. I glance over at my purse and I see the woman, still bundled in her jacket, holding a piece of fabric in one hand and looking quizzically at the crochet hook in her other. She is holding the hook upside down and it is clear she has no clue what she is supposed to do. Ramekon, who has been walking around giving instruction, is talking earnestly to a little girl and I make a decision. I walk back to my chair and ask, “Do you need some help?” Staring at her hands she seems to be in a trance and with a shake of her head, in a softer voice that I expect, says, “I have no idea what I am even doing here.” I am not sure if she was referring to doing the project, or being at the event altogether. I chuckle and tell her I will show her. Taking the needle and the fabric, I deftly create a slip knot and begin to create chain stitches. She watches and nods and reaches out to do one herself. With her left hand, she clumsily wraps the fabric around the hook and somewhat hesitantly pulls the hook through the previous chain. I let out a brief shout of “Yes!” at her accomplishment and her mouth involuntarily cracks into a smile and I see that she looks much younger and friendlier than a mere five minutes ago when I was silently wishing that she sit somewhere else. With each properly formed chain and my consequent clapping, her smile broadens even more. I can see that she is steadily getting the hang of the chaining and I return to my own project. Ramekon finally gets around to our table and seeing her progress asks if she would like instruction on how to make another row. She looks to me, and I nod and flash her a smile. She accepts his assistance and I lower my gaze and continue to weave blue strips of tattered fabric into other strips now fortified by their knotted connections to each other. In my mind, I replay the last 10 minutes and appreciate that though my interaction with the second woman was fairly short, it was no less sweet than my previous conversation.
Still feeling extra friendly, I reach out to another woman wearing an intricate lace pattern and I tell her she looks beautiful. She blushes and says she made it herself from a pattern. I am not good at patterns and, so far, I have been unable to understand them, nor have I ventured to ask anyone. On a whim I ask her if she would explain a pattern to me. This level of vulnerability, attempting, in public, to learn something that has challenged me, is usually unheard of for me, but my heart is open. Ten minutes later, using yarn I always keep in my purse, I demonstrate that I have indeed picked up her tutelage and I promise her to keep in touch.
The event is drawing to a close and I finish my project and hand it to Ramekon. I tell him that rather than take my work home, I want it to be interwoven with the other creations of the class. It feels good knowing I will be symbolically tied to the other people with whom I shared this simple, yet heartwarming experience.
Deciding to take a different route back to my car, I trudge uphill toward the Berkeley Rose Garden. I had intended to go on hike earlier that day but just making it over to the Garden is giving my legs workout enough. I get to the top of the ridge and turning around, I am blessed with a spectacular view of the Golden Sun over San Francisco Bay. I pause and allow the sun to warm my face; caressing my features with warm kisses. This is a perfect spot for replenishing my endocannabinoid system. Looking from left to right, I reach in my bag and retrieve the jar containing the very last bit of the GSSV Iceolator. Pressing my finger into the jar I smooth the remainder of the hash against my finger and expertly deposit the hash into the top of my vape pen. At this moment I am thankful for the efficiency of using a vape pen. Mindful of the usually thin mouthfeel, I inhale deeply and trap the vapor in my mouth. Using my tongue, I swish the flavor from side to side before swallowing it down and then allowing it to easily flip back up my throat and out my mouth with no discomfort whatsoever. All credit to the farmer and the processor because the GSSV hash flavor, even diminished by a middle-of-the-road vape pen, is DANK.
I realize that I don’t have much time and walk toward the entrance of the Rose Garden. I am greeted by an amphitheater with roses on every level. I had been concerned that the roses would all be gone this late into the season but I need not have worried. A beautiful painting of manicured nature, the myriad of pinks, yellows, reds, purples, and whites roll out in front of me like the lushest carpet. I walk down to the nearest flower and thrust my nose into it inhaling deeply. The aroma is heavenly and I feel my eyes roll back in my head.
Over the course of 45 minutes, as the sun continues to bless visitors with its last golden rays I enjoy the sight and smells of many of the flowers standing defiantly against the encroaching winter. As I delight in the floral bounty I also offer to take pictures of two couples, dance with a toddler to imaginary music, help a woman corral her wayward dog, and catch the last of the sunset with about a dozen people, murmuring my contentment at the glorious display over the Bay.
Travelling alone can be terrifying, but also wildly exhilarating and liberating. On my recent solo trip to Spain, I experienced both loneliness and the unexpected joy of shared experiences with people I had just met. Sheer willpower and sadness forced me to reach out and I was pleasantly surprised by how warmly was received. Having now smoked GSSV Iceolafrom La Kalada, I can only imagine how much more fun my time could have been had those effects been coursing through my body. Ordinarily I yearn to connect, but I am so afraid of rejection that though I am almost always friendly and personable to lots of people, I purposely remain fairly superficial. GSSV’s gentle prodding to open up and trust is ideal for encouraging a controlling personality like mine to be still and let go. In our perpetually disconnected world, such intermediaries are crucial for increased kinship, which in turn allows compassion and love to blossom and flow freely. How beautiful is that?
Check out http://bit.ly/DD-GSSV for video coverage of my GSSV experience
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 132