Thursday, April 13, 2006

Legalize It
In the past two weeks on two separate, unrelated occasions I've seen two rather frumpy Hong Kong housewives on the subway sporting new, black T-shirts with white lettering framed by four tastefully rendered small marijuana leaves. The print says: "South Dakota NORML" followed by a brief statement in perfect English extolling the cash crop virtues of hemp for South Dakota farmers.
(For the uninitiated, non-American readers out there, NORML stands for "National Organization for the Reform (repeal) of Marijuana Laws. " It's America's oldest pot legalization group. South Dakota is - much like its sister state North Dakota - a largely bleak, enormous (75,885 sq mi./196,542 sq km), underpopulated (about 771,000 people) state whose main industry is farming and a man-made tourist attraction for which a perfectly good mountain, Mt Rushmore, was defaced and dynamited into the likenesses of four US presidents. Currently in the interests of fair play and honoring the original residents, another mountain is also being vandalized for a likeness of Sioux warrior Crazy Horse. The other principal tourist attraction is "The Corn Palace" -- an entire complex built out of, yes, corn. Besides Crazy Horse, S Dakota's most famous natives were a polka accordionist named Myron Floren, a senator and vice-president named Hubert Horatio Humphrey, B-movie/Charlie's Angel TV star Cheryl Ladd and NBC newscaster Tom Brokaw. To be fair, though, South Dakota doesn't lack for raw excitment. Sturgis, SD is the site of an enormous annual biker rally that will see its 66th year of mayhem and rolling thunder this summer.)
I think it's safe to say that neither HK housefrau had any concept of NORML, South Dakota or hemp as a cash crop. It's also a safe bet that they probably don't care a whole lot about saving South Dakota farmers and are only familiar with marijuana in an abstract "Reefer Madness" kind of way.
It was also notable that the NORML blurb was perfectly grammatical. Not a hint of the Chinglish that one sees daily on so many other "foreign"-looking T-shirts.
Where did they get them? Did someone from South Dakota NORML over-order a batch for a fund raiser that fell flat and then decide to cut his losses by dumping them on Hong Kong fashion fatalities?
I'll probably never know. After seeing the second one, I tried to ask her but she didn't speak English and more or less shrank back in horror while clutching her toddler to her lap. "It's okay," I tried to assure her. "I'm normal. Normal! Get it?"
I wound up Googling South Dakota NORML, found no T-shirts resembling the ones I'd seen but did find an e-mail address to which I dispatched a query titled "Weird Question from Hong Kong."
A couple days later I received this reply from the SD NORML honcho, which both deepens and explains part of the mystery.

Hi Justin,
Thanks for the news. Another traveler told me of similar sightings in Bangkok.
It is, indeed, strange. The graphic you describe was that on the back of t-shirts we made in 1999, the first SoDakNORML shirts. We printed 100 of them. That's all we ever made of that graphic.
Apparently it appealed to some pirate who marketed the graphic in Asia. I'd really appreciate a photo of the shirt with visual references that tell us where it was shot.
Thanks, Bob Hermosa SD USA

Umm, unless there would be (gawd ferbid) 2 HHH individuals, the only Hubert Horatio Humphrey I remember was the fresh-faced senator from Minnesota. (Maybe you were thinking of Tom Daschle?)
googled it:

Hubert H. Humphrey was born on May 27, 1911, in Wallace, South Dakota.
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