Monday, April 17, 2006

Legalize It Pt II
Guest dispatch from across the border in Shenzhen courtesy of my compadre James The Laughing Buddha/Temple Guy.

''I just read your blog about the T-shirts in HK. I am unfortunately unable to comment through the usual channels; China has me locked out.
''But I wanted to tell you there has a been a recent surge in T-shirts with large graphics of marijuana leaves amongst my students. Nothing from SoDakNORML, though.
''I have photographed two. One reads: 'Marijuana Pickers / Local No 13 United Grass Workers'
''The other says: 'God Made Grass / Man Made S-Live / Who do you trust?' A Google of S-Live turns up a student radio station in the Netherlands.
'' When questioned, both students knew what marijuana was (once I had pantomimed the rolling and smoking of a joint, and the woozy, eye-rolling stereotyped reaction).
"Both were likewise totally unaware that said substance was the subject of their shirts until I told them but neither seemed particularly elated or disturbed by the news; both rather shrugged it off. "Oh. Yeah. OK." That kind of response.
''Of course, college kids aren't HK fashionistas; your sightings are much more jangly. But I still found this interesting.''
Walking in Wanchai on Sunday, I saw a 50+ year old Chinese woman wearing a T shirt emblazoned with the Stiff Records logo and slogan (If it ain't Stiff, it ain't worth a fuck). I'm really having a hard time believing this woman owns records by Wreckless Eric, Jona Lewie, Nick Lowe or even Madness or Elvis Costello ...
Hilarious to me that you mention that, Spike, because my first exposure to "inappropriate" or "whaaa?" T-shirts here came about a week after I first arrived in Shenzhen to teach English for three weeks at a summer camp for kids ages 7-18. One of my fellow gweilo teachers had a 10 or 11-year-old girl who showed up in class wearing that same T-shirt.
She had no clue, of course to either the record label or more importantly the sexual context, and only reluctantly left class to change it after it was explained to her that she'd either have to change it or spend the rest of the very hot, very humid day wearing her backpack on her front.
And today some 25 year old Chinese guy in my building was wearing a Funkadelic logo t-shirt. I did not ask, I assume he has no idea it refers to George Clinton, maybe he liked the name or the pic of the lady with the huge 'fro.

At any rate, now we know where old t-shirts go to die ...
This gets curiouser and curiouser as Alice once said.
Turns out that Bob Newland, the South Dakota NORML honcho designed the T-shirt in 1990 so it's been floating around Asia for about 16 years.
But the kicker is that he knows my nephew. Max, and my sister's husband, Nicky Eyle who live in Syracuse, NY.
Nicky also heads a drug law reform group called ReConsider so it's not quite as bizarre as it may seem, however, here's an e-mail I just received from him after he read about SDakNORML and the t-shirt that refuses to die.
"I didn't get a chance to tell you the coda to your story of the NORML Tshirt wearing Chinese ladies... Three years ago I took Max to a NORML conference in San Francisco and he met Bob Newland from South Dakota. Bob and Max, 10 at the time, hit it off and Bob put Max on his mailing list.
Max remembers him well."

Small world and all that...
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