The late Oliver Sacks on getting high

“I was fascinated that one could have such perceptual changes, and also that they went with a certain feeling of significance, an almost numinous feeling. I’m strongly atheist by disposition, but nonetheless when this happened, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘That must be what the hand of God is like.'”

  1. having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.
    “the strange, numinous beauty of this ancient landmark”

Support the Marijuana Justice Act

I’m very curious about what might happen to mass-shooting statistics after we legalize cannabis in the U.S. — after we reduce our dependency on opiates and psychotropic pharmaceuticals, and after we reduce violent crime rates (and the racist, divisive overtones of incarceration rates) that surround the black-market marijuana trade, and after we collectively step back from the technological anxiety that destroys young minds in this country. I think it’s not hard to imagine a more empathetic society when certain walls are torn down.

I’m being a little glib here, but, honestly, I say this as a longtime cannabis user and supporter: Maybe we take a different tack as American constituents after each mindless mass murder going forward? The gun nuts and the gun-control nuts aren’t budging. It’s very boring and sad and numbing to see people argue with slipshod grammar and emotional memes every single time we go through this spin cycle of AR-15 seventh-period bloodbath. It’s embarrassing and useless — a disingenuous counterpoint to “thoughts and prayers.”

Call your elected representatives today and urge them to co-sponsor the Marijuana Justice Act. It’s been introduced in the House and the Senate. I suggest this earnestly.

(I think it goes without saying that we need tighter gun control regulations and an overturn ruling on Citizens United. I mean, come on.)


From Terence McKenna: “Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behavior and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong..”

This new study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology connects psilocybin use with increased nature relatedness and decreased authoritarian political views.

Your favorite children’s book

From Soman Chainini: “I think the greatest exercise a person can do when they’re stuck is to remember what their favorite children’s book was. A book that you read over and over and over again. Somewhere in that book is the clue to not only what makes you tick, but also to your life’s purpose.”

Mine was The Phantom Tollbooth. I often say to my friends that colleagues that journalism is “the practice of sustained learning,” which is something I’ve borrowed from an old FJP collaboration in 2011 or so. The seeds of that idea, for me, are found riddled throughout the chapters of The Phantom Tollbooth. It’s a beautiful book that nestles its readers deep within the crevasses of curiosity and intellectual courage — with a good dash of absurdism.

Point B

On top of some more rigorous reading, I’m working through Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors right now. It’s more of a coffee table book, almost, and it’s nice to flip through a few pages every morning. The book is a collection of perspectives on life and career successes, and Ferriss begins with chef and writer Samin Nosrat.

Nosrat offers some compelling anecdotes about how her career has developed, and she includes this line that really got me thinking: “I’ve learned to envision the ideal end to any project before I begin it now — even the best gigs don’t last forever. Nor should they.”

I didn’t plan to end my work at Scene after five years. (I actually had something closer to two years in mind when I started.) But it’s a neatly tied ending to my story there, and, especially as 2017 went along, I definitely kept my impending exit in mind. I put a colossal amount of energy into what became my final feature for the magazine, and I secured the hundreds of contacts that I had made during my time. I even set up a few side projects that I’ll be able to pursue in 2018, which will link directly back to my alt-weekly gig. It’s over now, and it fits perfectly into my burgeoning career.

But, no, I didn’t envision such a fine ending when I started the Scene job in 2012. I didn’t have a clear Point B — a defined sense of closure that I could slide into my career when all was said and done. It’s worth thinking about, though.

Every opportunity is stepping stone in a writer’s life.

End of session

That’s a wrap, folks. Today is my final day at Scene. It’s been an absolutely thrilling five years of adventurous journalism, creative prose, inside jokes and more than a few late nights of frenzied writing against fierce deadlines. What a ride!

On our best days, most days, I felt that we had beaten them all, that we had shown this city what it truly was and what it truly could be. I’m very proud of my contribution to the history of Scene and to the story of Cleveland. I’m looking forward to seeing what my friends on staff do in the months and years ahead; I’ll be following their work closely, and you should too.

Thank you all for reading along as I’ve made my way here as a writer. I appreciate your attention and your feedback beyond words. I could fill a book with my experiences at the magazine, and maybe someday I will.

But before that, I’ll be honing my focus on a long-running passion of mine: I’ll be joining the excellent staff of Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary Magazine, reporting on the industry nationwide and the vanguard of the reform movement.

I’ll still be here in Cleveland, so stop by anytime. Coffee’s always on, and the music never stops. Selah.


Late last year, amid a torrent of news stories about alt-weeklies crumbling, NYU media professor Jay Rosen wrote this: “A good question to ask of a digital media company: What does it stand for?”

“Can’t answer? Watch your wallet.”

Rosen linked to this story about Mashable’s own descent into the fire, which leads off with a warning against “jack-of-all-trades” publishing strategies.

I’ve learned a lot in the last seven years of journalism, and one lesson that burns brightly is the importance and vitality of consistent beat reporting — of honing your focus and learning deeply. This is immersive creativity and knowledge in its simplest form in journalism, and it’s what I’ve loved most about this line of work.

Most digital media companies don’t seem to agree.

But that problem — which will bear out a reckoning for any company unwilling to state what it stands for — that problem can also afflict an individual person. It’s important to question and examine your own life, your health, your relationships, your financial security, your values.

It’s easy to consider this stuff now, as the new year dawns, but it seems like a lot of people slip quickly back into the slipshod cultural stream of consciousness. Best not to rest too easily in these strange times.

What do you stand for?