Henry Rollins Finds Broken Dreams, a Hemp Farm and a Promising Future in Colorado
[The one and only Henry Rollins writes a weekly column for our sister paper, LA Weekly. You can find it every Thursday on their music blog, West Coast Sound. Last week, he wrote about his trip to Colorado to visit a hemp farm.]
I am in the back of an SUV, the seat in front of me almost against my knees. The great wide open of southeastern Colorado rolls by the window. Except for Kerri, who's driving, everyone has a laptop open. Phone calls are coming in, logistics are being hammered out, something about a hot air balloon. This is our rolling production office between locations.
We are in the homestretch of shooting 10 Things You Don't Know About for H2. Only another month or so left to go. Our remaining locations will be in Colorado, Nevada and California. The next few weeks will be extremely hot.
Last night, we were in Lamar, Colorado. It was 98 degrees when we pulled in in the early evening. The multihour drive from the Denver airport was quite moving. Small towns with closed theaters, gas stations and department stores appeared out of nowhere. As quickly, they vanished.
America is a country so vast that you can spend years chasing your dream and then, for whatever reason, just leave it behind. The remnants will stay for years afterward. Every one of those wrecked buildings we passed has a story to go along with it. Every sun-wrecked car was, at one time, someone's prized freedom machine, but it became problematic and, eventually, just junk.
I have been through so many of these towns all over America. Sometimes you can see the sacrifice and the heartbreak in the warped wood and faded paint. Often, when passing through, you can see the history of predation. The small stores gave way to the big ones and even those, when there was not enough money to take, were blown out and written off as another host was acquired. Dreams of every possible kind bit the dust.
Lamar is a beautiful nowhere to an outsider; for others, it is home. I went out to see what was happening. I got as far as the Subway and got a sandwich and checked out the other patrons. The pierced, rock-shirted youth seemed bored; the elderly seemed listless.
As I said, it's a big piece of real estate, which I think sometimes has an almost narcotic effect on some of the combatants. This is a part of America that fascinates me. You are so far removed from "what's happening" that you probably could really live. Passenger jets being shot out of the sky and Middle Eastern strife are a world away.
I went to the gas station/convenience store for some water. The Duck Dynasty shirts and caps had been marked down to a few dollars. Alas, another dream starts to die.
Earlier today, I spent several hours at the largest hemp farm in the United States, all of 6 acres. The owner, Ryan, has high hopes for the future of hemp in America. A few hundred years ago, growing hemp was required by farm owners, so intrinsic was it to the construction of the country. For a long time, you could pay your taxes in hemp. Then in 1937, hemp and its many uses were seen as bad things, and it became illegal to grow.
In Colorado, things have changed. Ryan can legally grow hemp and replant with his own seeds. He has been able to harvest a great amount of CBD from his plants, which could do a world of good to a lot of people dealing with chronic pain and other maladies.
Ryan has his challenges. This part of Colorado is hot and dry. His father informed me that we were not very far from the epicenter of the Dust Bowl, where drought, dust storms and erosion plagued Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and surrounding states during the 1930s. (One of the best-known books ever written about the Dust Bowl/Great Depression era is Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, but Nelson Algren's Somebody in Boots is another harrowing work written and released in those times; it's worth checking out.) Ryan's father has lived and farmed all his life in this part of Colorado and has seen the area depopulate.
Hemp is incredibly tough stuff, and those who grow it and process it have to be, too. Ryan is two years into building the dream. I definitely want to keep up with him and hear how it goes.
A few hours later: I am now back in Denver, at a coffee place across from the hotel. The teen prostitute who was passed out in what looked like a very uncomfortable position, almost falling out of her chair, just woke up. Puffy-faced and makeup-besmeared, she grabbed her bags and tottered out. We're definitely not in Lamar anymore.
Paradise lost, indeed. A few days ago, I got an email from a woman who is quite alarmed about the New World Order and the "obvious crisis" in America. I am sure her concern is as genuine as my inability to be very afraid. She just wrote again:
"Now that the borders have allowed an excess of illegal immigrants into the country with nowhere to live, the FEMA camps will be activated. My prediction is that the borders will be locked down to control the situation and the immigrants will be given a deadly strain of the H1N1 virus to unleash on all of us. They love eugenics. That or we're going to have our gun rights revoked and a possible insurrection will ensue causing President Obama to suspend the Constitution and declare Marshall Law. I am hoping I am completely wrong on all counts!"
I, too, hope she is wrong on all counts, especially the "Marshall Law" part. It's good to be back in Colorado, which, with recent developments, seems to be part of a cool American future.