Ten fucking years. Has it really been that long? Ten years of Mind Erasers and mushrooms, of Heineken and hashish, of coffee for breakfast, weed for lunch, and beer for dinner. Ten years of 14-hour binges and of shakily stumbling down some forgotten straaten at sunrise. In the past 10 years, I’ve gone from a naÃ¯ve young intern who’d never been on a plane before to a seasoned veteran who knows the city like the back of his hand. And here I am again, in Vice City to do it all one more time.
I can already see what kind of trip this is going to be. I miss my flight out of Newark by 10 minutes due to new security measures. After all, I could be a terrorist. I might hijack the plane using my nail clipper and force them to take us to...Amsterdam. Luckily I’m able to get on a flight to Gatwick, England, that’s leaving an hour later and a connecting flight that will get me to Holland in time. Though it’s a lot calmer and less conspicuous to travel alone, I miss those late-night flights we used to take collectively. Half the staff of High Times, the Rainbow Family posse with all their dreadlocks and funky hemp clothing, everybody getting tanked in the airport bar and eating ganja cookies right at the gate. Sometimes people got too drunk, as former columnist Garbled Uplink did in 1994. Sent into a frenzy by nicotine withdrawal, he rallied sarcastically in a booming voice, prefacing each episodic outburst with the phrase “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages—what the fuck is going on here?” Or that time in ’95 when we had a layover at Reykjavik Airport in Iceland at about three in the morning and our whole crew flooded into their lounge area and started blazing right there in the airport. Ah, the good old days...
PRETESTING THE BUDS
This year I’ve been invited to attend the private pretest banquet on the Friday night before the Cup begins. I know it can never compare to the half pound of pot (66 strains) I was presented with as a celebrity judge at the 10th Cup in 1997, but I expect it to be fun. There’s a problem, however—420Tours has decided that in order to effectively judge the herb, no alcoholic beverages will be served. Despite the prohibition, my longtime partner-in-crime Potstar and I manage to locate a few beers, which placate us for a while.
Strains C and R emerge as the front-runners, along with I and H. (Each strain is in a bag and marked only by a letter or number.) For my money, No. 1 is the standout; I campaign for it heavily before voting. H and I tie for first place. My choice, No. 1, is the Green House’s Hawaiian Snow—the eventual winner of the Cannabis Cup. After 10 years at the Cup, I’m proud to say I can pick a winner.
By the time I wake up at 3 p.m. on Saturday, the rest of my friends have arrived: Juliya, who’s never been to Amsterdam before; former HT employees Potstar, Zena, and Merilee; current HT production associate Elise; and publishing coordinator Dan. We’re an Ã¼ber-team of degenerates I dub the New Amsterdam Vice Squad.
By 5:30, Vice Squad members rendezvous at the Bluebird coffeeshop, where we purchase mass quantities of hash. Unfortunately, my favorite—the dark, gooey Afghani Mazar-i-Sharif—is not available. I buy Mazar-i pollen instead, but it lacks the sticky consistency and sweet hash flavor. It’s the Ice-O-Lator water hash that freezes my brain. I have a revelation: I want to mix Hawaiian Snow and the Ice-o-Lator in one joint and call it “The Hailstorm.”
But not even the Hailstorm could compare to the ultimate joint—the Mind Eraser, coined by High Times art director Frank Max at the 8th Cup, in 1995. “The Mind Eraser” refers to a supersize joint rolled with a mixture of every kind of weed and hash in your possession. I smoked my first Mind Eraser at the photo shoot that year backstage at the Melkweg. After each strain was photographed, Frank would come over and dump the buds on a big table. We broke them down into small nugs, wrote the strain names on little labels, and bagged the samples to be thrown out to the crowd at the opening ceremonies. The remaining shake on the table was ours to split up. This was dubbed the Super Salad. By the end of the session, our fingers were so green and sticky, we couldn’t get them clean, no matter how hard we scrubbed them. That was the most weed I’d ever seen in one place at one time, and after that it was nearly impossible for me to be impressed by marijuana ever again.
The Vice Squad disappoints me tonight. The night is young and waiting to be ravaged, but all my friends, except for Juliya and Elise, head back to Hotel Arena and go to bed. We decide to stop by Black and White, the happening little metal bar on the Leidseplein (the one with the Rolling Stone lips on the sign). Then we hit my favorite rock club, Korsakoff, where we run into my old friend D-Monica, the coolest DJ and tattoo artist in Holland. Monica and Juliya, who has her own collage of tattoos, hit it off. We hang out there until closing and get back to the hotel at 4:30 a.m.
Sunday is judge registration day. Before 420Tours took over the event, I was in charge of registration. In 1994, the first year I attended the Cup, I had no idea what to expect, and it was a total nightmare. I worked the desk by myself for 11 hours with hundreds of judges yelling at me for laminates as I fended off thieves and collected fistfuls of currency from six different countries. At the end of the day, I had $12,000 in cash. “Just hold onto it for now,” Cup founder Steve Hager told me. “I’ll get it from you tomorrow.”
“Uh, Steve, I don’t think you understand,” I explained. “Either you take the money from me right now or by tomorrow I’ll be on a beach in Ibiza drinking margaritas with a girl named Juanita.”
We have dinner at a great Mexican restaurant, Rosa’s Cantina. After dinner, it’s time for a quick tour through the red-light district. We pass by the Other Place, the Hell’s Angels bar where I did Jaegermeister shots with Chris Simunek and Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy’s Law at the 9th Cup in 1996. We wander around for a while trying to find a sex show to go into, but they all look so shady, we end up bailing on the whole idea and heading back to meet up with the rest of the Vice Squad back in the Leidseplein.