Where and how do you like to read Sensi? I spend my favorite time with this magazine trying to find that spot of afternoon winter sun at Gravenstein Station’s Coffee Catz, known to locals as Sebastopol’s Living Room. A large soy mocha with just one drop of lavender essential oil (because I’m freaky that way) in hand, my dog asleep at my feet, and a rainbow overhead create my perfect mood.
When the weather won’t cooperate, I abandon caffeine for some “fancy wine for semi-fancy folks” from Claypool Cellars. Sometimes, I even treat myself to a truffle (or three) from Eye Candy as I type events from The Scene into my phone calendar, buy tickets, and chart out my month. This is my Sensi happy spot. Where’s yours? Feel free to send us pics of your happy spot to email@example.com and tell us why it brings you joy. You might just see it on this page someday.
For many people, February represents love. But for Californians and beer aficionados, it’s the time of year for something even more special. Pliny the Younger, named after the Roman lawyer and writer whose works survive to this day, is brewed once annually and always released on the first Friday in February. Those in the know will line up for hours to get a pour of Pliny, so if you join the throng, wear comfy shoes and bring company—or make friends with some of the strangers who have flown in just to experience Pliny time.
Marin Valentine’s Day Ball
Feb. 8, 5:30 p.m. Marin Center, San Rafael $250, single; $400, couple marinvalentinesball.org This 24th annual event features complimentary cocktail bar, live and silent auction, seated dinner, and live music and dancing. It’s a fundraiser for The Godmothers of St. Vincent’s School for Boys, North Bay Children’s Center, and Side by Side.
Feb. 22, 2–3:15 p.m. Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael $9 rafaelfilm.cafilm.org A portion of the proceeds from these screenings will benefit Marin Humane.
Yountville International Short Film Festival
Feb. 6–9 Various locations, Yountville $25–$250 yisff.com This festival will feature more than 80 world class short films, film and wine events, and meet the filmmaker events. Screenings take place at three pop–up locations.
Feb. 7–9 Performing Arts Center, Napa Valley College, Napa Donation for entry performingartsnapavalley.org Napa Valley college students, faculty, and staff perform new works—plays, dance, and other performances.
Pliny the Younger, Limited Release
Feb. 7–20 Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa and Windsor russianriverbrewing.com This triple India Pale Ale has three times the hops of a regular IPA. For the first time in its 16 year run, this treat will be on tap each day until the taps run dry, and there’s a maximum of three pours per person, per day. Even better, Pliny will be available for the first time in bottles.
Cork Art Class
Feb. 8, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. The Village Food & Wine Center Vista Collina Resort, Napa $58 villagenapavalley.com
Feb. 15–16, 12–4 p.m. Black Stallion Winery, Napa blackstallionwinery.com Enjoy Hog Island oysters (raw and BBQ), award–winning wine, and live music at Black Stallion Estate Winery in Napa over Presidents’ Day weekend. No reservations needed.
Napa Wedding Expo
Feb. 23, 2–5 p.m. Silverado Resort and Spa Free Tickets on Eventbrite
Chinese New Year Celebration
Feb. 1, 5 p.m. Veterans Memorial Building, Santa Rosa $25 adults, $10 children recacenter.org
Feb. 15 Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall, Sonoma $55–$130 garagistefestival.com More than 40 small local wineries showcase and sell micro– productions and first vintages that you won’t see on store shelves or find in tasting rooms.
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic: The Farewell Tour
When it comes to wine, anyone who is anyone will be at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone on February 22 for Premiere Napa Valley’s Live Auction. If ever there were an elite community of extreme wine aficionados whose precise palates and pocketbooks were poised to possess the rarest vintner creations, this would be its Winter Olympics (or maybe, more accurately, its X-Games). And while this is an “invite-only” event for trade purveyors and private collectors, regular folk can pop over to Napaland to soak up the wine vibes from February 19 to 22, when Napa will be, if this is even possible, more of a wine wonderland than usual.
The Majesty of Micro-Production
Wine-making and collecting is often compared to art, and Premiere Napa is no exception. Approximately 190 Napa wines are up for auction, each one a unique selection crafted by Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) member winemakers for “just one moment in time, never to be replicated.” Lots are limited to 60 to 240 limited edition hand-numbered bottles that are then initialed by each winemaker.
Because wine-makers are unencumbered by the commercial viability of these micro-lots, collectors can expect to bid on wines that represent deep dives into hyper-specific sourcing and production methods. A wine whose essence is umami and forest floor heavy might, for instance, source only from an atypical varietal hidden away in the mountains. Another might play with an unpopular type of barrel toasting meant to bring out the coconut notes of a fruit-forward Malbec from the Spring Mountain district. All of these one-of-a-kind wines are meant to showcase not only the wines and production practices each vineyard thinks of as its unique best but also the creative minds of their winemakers.
Premiere Napa at the Nucleus
With so many all-star wine collectors and purveyors in town to scoop up treasured rare wines, you can bet Napa will be fronting its vintner A-game this weekend. Even though you may not be among the bidders on auction day, a trip to Napa is a good idea while Premiere Napa is happening. During that time, you are guaranteed the best that Napa has to offer, whether you head that way for some winery day drinking or evening fine dining in Yountville. Reservations and conversations with strangers strongly suggested.
Subscript: All wines created for Premiere Napa are produced by NVV members and the auction is a fundraiser for NVV. Created in 1944, this nonprofit trade organization celebrates its 76th anniversary in 2020. With approximately 550 members, the organization is dedicated to protecting, promoting, and advocating for Napa as a globally recognized wine region.
Loneliness is a killer, more dangerous than obesity and smoking. Studies have found it leads to heart disease, stroke, and immune system problems, and it could even impair cancer recovery. A researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark found loneliness a strong predictor of premature death, declining mental health, and lower quality of life in cardiovascular patients, and a Brigham Young University professor’s meta-analysis of studies from around the world found that socially isolated adults have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from any cause than people who have community.
That’s sobering, especially when you consider that 40 percent of American adults suffer from loneliness, according to an AARP study. And it’s one reason coliving—a new form of housing in which residents with similar interests, values, or intentions share living space, costs, and amenities—is exploding.
Coliving situations run a spectrum, from the resident-driven model to small homes with a half-dozen or so people to massive corporate complexes like The Collective tower with 550 beds in London. Residents, who stay anywhere from a few days to several years and usually don’t have to sign a lease or pay a security deposit, sleep in their own small private rooms (sometimes with bathrooms) and share common spaces such as large kitchens and dining areas, gardens, and work areas. They’re encouraged to interact with one another, often through organized happy hours and brunches. Ollie, which operates coliving spaces in New York and other cities, advertises that “friends are included.”
“Coliving is different than just having roommates, who may be people you found on Craigslist and just happen to share [your] living space. It’s done with more intention,” says Christine McDannell, who lived in unincorporated coliving houses for years before she launched Kindred Quarters, a coliving operator with homes in San Diego and Los Angeles, in 2017.
Author of The Coliving Code: How to Find Your Tribe, Share Resources, and Design Your Life, McDannell also runs Kndrd, a software company for coliving managers and residents, and she hosts the weekly Coliving Code Show every Wednesday on YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud, and coliving.tv. She has watched—and helped—the industry grow up, and she’s amazed at how few, if any, horror stories she hears. That’s largely because millennials—by far the largest demographic among colivers—are accustomed to sharing and being held accountable through online reviews, she adds.
“You just don’t hear the crazy stories about roommating with strangers in an unfamiliar city,” she says. “When people write bad reviews, it’s usually about the Wi-Fi.”
As companies fat with funding expand into cities across the globe, coliving is newly corporatized—but it’s hardly a novel concept. Boarding houses provided rooms and shared meals for single men and women in the 19th and early 20th centuries; one of the most famous, the Barbizon Hotel in New York, was a “club residence for professional women” from 1927 until the 1980s.
People lived communally throughout most of history until industrialization facilitated privatization of family life and housing throughout the 20th century—with a few disruptions. In Israel, people have been living in communal villages called kibbutzim for more than 100 years. In the US, hippies attempted to create communes in the 1960s, but they were destroyed by free love, drugs, and egos (which did a lot to discourage coliving, even today).
At the same time in Denmark, however, cohousing (an earlier iteration of coliving) was emerging as a way to share childcare. Today, more than 700 communities thrive in Denmark. In Sweden, the government provides cohousing facilities.
A handful of cohousing communities following the Danish model have been established in the US, and hacker houses are common in tech capitals like Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, but the concept has been slow to catch on until recently.
As it becomes increasingly impossible for mere mortals to afford skyrocketing rents in desirable cities, Americans are coming around to coliving and finding creative solutions to all sorts of social issues. Older women are shacking up together following the Golden Girls model. Coabode.org matches single moms who want to raise kids together. At Hope Meadows in Chicago, retirees live with foster kids.
The opportunity to pay lower rent (in many but not all cases) and share expenses makes all the difference in places like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles. When New York–based coliving operator Common opened a development with 24 furnished spaces in Los Angeles for between $1,300 and $1,800 a month, more than 9,000 people applied.
McDannell says coliving is exploding because it solves important challenges that plague modern society. “People are signing away their paychecks on rent and feeling increasingly isolated,” she wrote in “Why We’re Building a CoLiving Community Ecosystem” on LinkedIn. “It is due time that HaaS (Housing as a Service) disrupts the antiquated industry of property management and real estate.”
Our editor-in-chief’s hottest hits of the month. Read
The line of CBD products has since expanded to include vapes, drops, toothpicks etc. Read
With the nostalgia of the ’90s, old school parties becomes new again. Read
Try these top three West County burgers (and yes, one of them is plant-based).
The more bohemian, coast-hugging communities of Sonoma County make up what we residents refer to as “West County.” While there are many stunning restaurant options here, only a few can hold the coveted title of “best burger.” These are our top contenders:
#1 The Rocker at Rocker Oysterfellers
Situated in Valley Ford, one of the North Bay’s smallest communities (pop. 147), Rocker Oysterfellers (rockeroysterfellers.com) is a favorite among locals as well as passersby. Folks in the know stop by for the Rocker Burger. This Stemple Creek Ranch grass-fed beef patty stands on its own but you don’t have to keep it that way. Consider topping it with roasted oyster mushrooms, onion rings, a fried farm egg, or that magic that is baconaisse. Or have it like we do—with Firefly Pimento cheese sourced from Valley Ford Cheese and Kennebec fries on the side. This combo will make you very, very happy. Trust us.
#2 The Melrose at Handline
Located on Sebastapol’s Highway 116, Handline (handline.com) is a kid- and pet-friendly, fast-casual eatery with a focus on mindful ingredients. Inside this repurposed Foster’s Freeze, we found our favorite housemade plant-based patty. Made with quinoa and lentil, The Melrose (shown left) does not try to imitate meat like its Impossible Burger and Beyond Beef brethren. However, it stays true to the flavor of its ingredients and surprises the palate with a savory flavor profile that pulls from shiitake mushrooms, miso paste, and nutritional yeast. Add an order of fries to dip in either of Handline’s two housemade sauces or ketchup. Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will find this burger compelling.
#3 The Grilled Burger at Underwood
Nestled in the cozy town of Graton, Underwood Bar and Bistro (underwoodgraton.com) has thrived for more than 18 years, and its grilled hamburger has been one of its most popular menu items. Made with Niman Ranch beef and topped with your choice of white cheddar, Gruyère, gorgonzola, and applewood smoked bacon, this dank and juicy burger is plated with fermented red onions, sliced pickles, and crispy french fries. Chef-owner Matthew Greenbaum sources his buns from local Costeaux Bakery. This burger is what beloved bartender Gaelen Osbun refers to as “emotional,” and he’s not incorrect.
Here’s a look at new releases.
With the awards season in full gear, it’s also a time for some fun new releases in film and TV. On the big screen, the enamoring world of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn gives new meaning to female prowess with Birds of Prey: The Emancipation of Harley Quinn opening February 7. This long-awaited female-led film will throw you into a seductive, violent tailspin that will feed your need for a strong badass movie, welcoming you back into the DC Comics universe. Releasing that same day is a dark and bloody indie horror flick starring Elijah Wood called Come to Daddy. In the vein of reviving the past, the film Fantasy Island (inspired by the 1970s TV show) will release on Valentine’s Day, and it’s anything but campy. Guests are invited to the most seemingly perfect island to live out their fantasies, but what they’ve asked for is dark and twisted and will push them to their limits. Keep your eyes peeled for the long-awaited remake of The Invisible Man, written and directed by Leigh Whannell. Opening February 28, the film stars Elizabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
Netflix releases Locke and Key on February 7, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You on February 12, and Season 2 of Narcos: Mexico on February 13. Hulu releases the premiere of High Fidelity on February 14, Starz releases the long-awaited Season 5 of Outlander on February 16, and AMC releases Season 5 of Better Call Saul on February 23.
By Stephanie Wilson, Editor in Chief
1. Primary Focus A New Hampshire law requires the Granite State to be the first presidential primary in the nation. This election cycle, that goes down on February 11, after which my home state becomes irrelevant for another four years.
2. Leap of Faith While the calendar year is 365 days, it takes the Earth 365.24 days to orbit the sun. Every four years, we add an extra day to the month of February because without it, the calendar would be misaligned with the seasons by 25 days after just 100 years.
3. Born This Way The odds of being a “leapling”—a person born on a leap day—is 1 in 1,461.
4. Right On On February 29, some places celebrate Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—both a nod to the old Irish tradition that gave women the right to propose marriage to a man on leap day. If he declined, he was required by law to pay a penalty, often in the form of gloves so she could hide the shame of her bare ring finger.
5. Modern Love Since we’re not all Irish, but we are all feminists (because we all believe in the equality of the sexes, of course), any of us can propose to whomever our heart desires whenever we want. Except Valentine’s Day. There’s no law prohibiting it but, sweetie, pay-as-you-go forced romance is anything but romantic.
6. PETA Violation The origins of the canned-love holiday are as cruel as a red rose delivery in February is clichéd. According to NPR, V-day traces back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a brutal fete during which naked men sacrificed dogs and goats—and whipped women with the animal hides. Stop, in the name of love.
Ignite with Flavor
Dan Bilzerian, known as “The King of Instagram,” launched Ignite in 2017. The line of CBD products has since expanded to include vapes, drops, toothpicks, topicals, pet products, gummies, and lip balm. Flavor profiles include blood orange, lemon, cherry, lavender, and tropical fruit. Its newest product is the 350 mg full-spectrum drops and bath bombs. Ignite / $15–$65 / ignitecbd.co
Party Like It’s 1999
Old school becomes new again.
With the nostalgia of the ’90s revival including the comeback of scrunchies, old school hip-hop parties, cartoon reboots, grunge fashion, army pants, vinyl records, and the Friends craze ever present, why not celebrate like it’s Y2K?
The ’90s were the era when grunge was born; punk rock got a resurgence; indie music fests took off; personal style was nonconformist; music was insanely good, angsty, dance-worthy, and impactful (Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Tupac, N.W.A., Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, and so many more); and the teens and twentysomethings finally felt like their voices were being heard.
Whether cupid has you in his sightsor you have that new Peleton bike (despite that tragically misguided commercial) in yours, February is all about opening up your heart chakra (and maybe your arteries). In yogic traditions, an awakened heart chakra promotes balance, compassion, connectedness, and synergy. The hard work, however, of opening our heart chakra comes in the form of self-reflection and emotional openness. Such work is hard because it requires us to admit to and embrace our vulnerability in order to make peace with it in ourselves and understand it in others. In this respect, an open heart chakra is a powerful source of both empathy and serenity.
But an open heart is also one that embraces challenges. One that pushes for greater endurance. It’s in our nature to dust off a broken heart so that it can shine or to want to best our own personal best—whether it’s beating yesterday’s plank challenge or finally hitting that high note when you’re singing alone in the shower at the top of your lungs to that ’90s song you won’t admit to loving. It’s about laughing at ourselves and sharing in the laughter of others.
This issue is dedicated to what connects us, despite our differences. Our feature on the 60th anniversary of the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley reminds us that competition can bring us together just as easily as it can tear us apart. Our coverage of Premiere Napa reminds us that celebration is also key to a happy heart. And our review of burgers in the North Bay includes a house-made plant-based version for those looking to increase their compassionate consumption or decrease their cardiology concerns.
We challenge you to open your heart. Have a conversation with a stranger. Sign up for Bay to Breakers. Dance like no one is watching. Heck, dance when you know no one is watching. Face your fears and know you are not alone. We are all afraid. Listen without prejudice to someone who disagrees with you. Ask them to do the same with you. Search out commonalities instead of fractures. Plan a trip. Drink some wine. Hit the slopes. (Not in that order.) Stretch your muscles and your mind this year. And take some time to read Sensi.
It was February 27, 1960, and North Bay resident Kaeti Bailie found herself flirting with the bad boys of the US Olympic hockey team in Blyth Arena at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort. She was 16 and sitting right behind the US team’s penalty box. Thanks to Olympic rules at the time, she shared quite a bit of cheeky banter with the boys. (Players were required to stay in the box for their full penalty time, even if the other team scored during their power play.) And that other team did score in that first period. Twice.
The other team was Russia, which took gold in ’56 and was also unbeaten so far in the ’60 games. But that did not stop the US team, underdog though it was, from besting Russia, its Cold War rival, during the first televised Olympic Games, ultimately winning gold for its efforts.
This was the first time the US won an Olympic gold medal for hockey, and the team still holds the record for being the only US Olympic hockey team to date to remain undefeated throughout the games. They did not suffer a single loss or tie. Twenty years later, in 1980 at Lake Placid, another US men’s hockey team would do the same—upset Russia. That win would come to be known as the “miracle on ice” and harken back to the O.G. miracle on ice. The 1980 US gold would be the first time Russia had not won Olympic gold for ice hockey since its defeat at Squaw Valley in 1960.
The Olympic Bid
This win was a proud moment for the US nationally and a lovely 10th anniversary present to Squaw Valley Ski Resort, which opened for business in the 1949-50 season. While the Olympic Games did not put Squaw Valley on the map—it already boasted a naturally heavy snowpack and the longest double chairlift in the world at the time—it did show the world that Lake Tahoe’s mountain terrain was destined for epic recreational greatness.
The first US win for the 1960 Olympics, it could be argued, goes to Squaw Valley itself. Thanks to the rabid competitive spirit of skier turned lawyer and Squaw Valley founder, Alex Cushing, Squaw Valley beat out Reno, Nevada; Anchorage, Alaska; and Innsbruck, Austria, to become the host of 1960 games. And with this win came some very high stakes.
Since this was to be the very first televised Olympic Games, Cushing had to impress both audiences in attendance and those in their armchairs half a world away. So, he did what any American who sought to create a spectacle would do at that time: He hired Walt Disney.
Prior to the Olympics, Cushing had already disrupted American notions of ski resort etiquette. He modeled Squaw Valley after its European counterparts, rather than its US ones, by building resort elements like restaurants on the mountain instead of at the base.
Once the Olympic bid was won and Disney was on board for the opening and closing ceremonies, the $80 million village and “Olympic experience” would boast what Disney deemed a culture of “innovation and firsts.” This culture is still part of Squaw Valley today as an epicenter for free-skiing and extreme sport junkies.
Winners, Losers, and Firsts
For the first and last time in Winter Olympic history, the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley did not include bobsledding. However, it did include the biathlon, which premiered here as an Olympic event. Prior to 1960, a precursor to the biathlon called military patrol, which included both skiing and riflery, did take place at the Winter Olympics in ’24, ’28, ’36, and ’48. However, it was only open to athletes who were members of the armed forces. The event disappeared from the Olympics in the wake of WWII and returned as the depoliticized biathlon in 1960.
Women’s speed skating also premiered at the ’60 Olympics. For long track skating competitions, including speed skating, Squaw Valley was charged with creating artificial ice, and this was the first time it was used during the Olympics. It has been used ever since.
There was only one ski jumping event at the 1960 Winter Olympics, and it was held on the last day of the games just prior to closing ceremonies. This event marked the first time the gold medal was won by a non-Nordic competitor: Helmut Recknagel, a German. Similarly, his teammate Georg Thoma took gold in the Nordic combined ski jump and cross-country event—also the first non-Nordic competitor to take gold.
When all medals had been awarded, Russia swept the games with a total of 21 medals and nearly twice as many gold medal wins as its closest competition. The US came in second with 10 medals, three of which were gold. The United Team of Germany (comprising both East and West German athletes) took home four gold medals. This post WWII Olympic union lasted from 1956 to 1964, when each nation began competing separately, until 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Cold War on Ice
As the Cold War heated up, the most visible battlefield became the Olympics. And while the big players were the US and Russia, it was what and who they represented that garnered the most concerning international attention. China’s contested claim to Taiwan led to a significant uptick in tensions between the US, which supported Taiwan, and Russia, which backed China, prior to the 1960 Winter Olympics. Tensions ran so high that the IOC—the governing body of the Olympics—worried the US would not allow communist countries to participate in the games at Squaw Valley. In 1957, less than a year after awarding Squaw Valley the bid to host the 1960 Winter Games, Avery Brundage, president of the IOC, announced a potential reversal of that decision.
In the spirit of the games (and in the hopes of putting the Cold War on ice), he told the US that any attempt to deny entry to the games to communist countries would lead to a complete revocation of America’s right to host the games. It would also leave Squaw Valley in a bad way. Ultimately, the US backed down and agreed to Brundage’s terms, but China, amid still unextinguished disagreements about Taiwan’s participation in the Olympics, refused its invitation to participate in the 1960 Olympics.
Going to Extremes
Today, amateur and professional skiers and snowboarders of all nationalities (and all counties in California) flock to our state’s treasured mountains thanks in great part to what did and didn’t happen on the slopes and in the living rooms of millions of viewers around the globe in 1960. Squaw Valley’s unrivaled challenging terrain, consistent snowpack, and steeps and cliffs in the North Bay’s backyard are a playground for residents and visitors alike. And for some of us visitors (in my case, as a high school sophomore in Baltimore, Maryland, over spring break in 1989), our first visit to Squaw Valley led to our North Bay life today, 30 years later. Now that the Cold War is over, perhaps we can just enjoy the cold.
Cannabis is often championed as a cure for bedroom ailments, while at the same time often being misunderstood or simply (if cautiously) being introduced as an acceptable commonplace component to one’s love tackle-box, much like a bottle of wine and 1970s R+B is for some or a Tinder match on a Tuesday night and fistful of Viagra is for others. Seth Prosterman, a San Francisco–based certified sex therapist, told Vice in 2017 that weed isn’t a one-way ticket to pleasure town, but it can help you get there.
“While pot can help bring out our most sexy selves, disinhibit us, or relax us during sex, I would highly recommend that people learn to be in the moment and deeply feel and connect with their partners without using enhancing drugs,” says Prosterman. “Pot can give us a glimpse of our sexual potential. Working toward our sexual potential, with our partners, is part of developing a higher capacity for intimacy, passion, and deep connection.”
Depending on what social media feeds you’re attuned to, it’s not hard these days to get at least one story fanned your way in a month about something to do with weed and sex. Sure, some of it is just fluffy prose, and some of it just states the painfully obvious. You don’t need Cosmopolitan to tell you that “getting too high can backfire on your sex life [because it] it makes you too sleepy to have any. Don’t eat a whole pot brownie, and then expect to feel horned up and ready to go.”
That said, there are more and more mavens and mavericks—as well as manufactured goods, experiences, and bold claims—orbiting the Stoned Sex star. Take, for example, Ashley Manta, sex coach, relationship educator, and proud “cannasexual”—one who’s concerned with mindfully combining weed and sex for desired positive results.
Speaking to the men’s culture publication MEL magazine in 2017, Manta made it clear she’s not a blanket proselytizer intent on turning every client into a cannabis-forward sex enthusiast. “I’m not out to convert people,” she says. “If people are happy not having cannabis in their sex lives, I’m not going to tell them they’re wrong for not wanting to consider including it. My approach is more like, if you already consume cannabis or you’re open to the idea of it, here are the best practices for mixing it with sex. The idea of being cannasexual isn’t limited to one specific sex act either, or even just partnered sex. I speak of it in terms of one’s overall relationship with their body, sexuality, and self-care.” If you want to see her theory in action, her Instagram (@ashleymanta) is rife with content to back it up.
Manta is known for her cannabinoid-enhanced “play parties.” If you’re imagining a swinging group of couples gathering under the banner of self-exploration, relationship tonic, or just consenting group sex fests with weed lube, that sounds about right.
A satisfied customer, presumably still reeling in coital bliss, posted this feedback on Manta’s website: “Over the course of the night, I watched from my spot at the vape bar as [Ashley] shifted seamlessly from teacher to participant to confidant to chaperone…Nobody and no body was neglected by her. She guided the underinformed on the mindful marriage of cannabis and sex. She allowed the calming rituals of medicating with cannabis to bring those who indulged in it to that place of body-peace that only the right combination of carefully selected strains can induce.”
A glowing review, for sure. However, the science is still out about the use of specific strains as particular keys for unlocking sexy-time happiness in a universal sense.
Blazed in Love
Alcohol, on the other hand, has no shortage of both anecdote and hard facts about the good, bad, and ugly regarding drunk sex. Depending on body factors, two or more alcoholic beverages will depress the central nervous system, leading to limp noodles for men, reduced clitoral sensitivity in women, and unsatisfying romps.
There are plenty of positive studies coming out about general findings on cannabis and sex interacting. In 2018, Stanford researchers released findings on the largest study to date that compiled info on sex and marijuana. The data set included 28,176 women and 22,943 men, average age 30, who formed a reasonably representative sample of the US population, according to a Psychology Today column, which reported: “Compared with cannabis abstainers, men who used it weekly reported 22 percent more sex, women 34 percent more. Among those who used marijuana more than weekly, sexual frequency increased even more. This study did not ask if participants found cannabis sex-enhancing, but to an extent, that can be inferred.”
No study exists to confirm that cannabis can totally impair sexual function the way alcohol can, but that doesn’t mean all green means go. Dr. Jordan Tishler knows that well. He’s the founder of the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Inhale MD, which specializes in cannabis therapeutics, including the intersection of cannabis and human sexuality.
Tishler says people read things on the internet, dive into discussions about different strains and cannabis topicals (see: weed lube), or cook romantic-dosed dinners for loved ones, and that’s fine. “Those things certainly play a factor,” he says, “but generally it’s not my recommended approach regarding cannabis altering sexuality.”
It comes down to a lack of a standard of research and understanding. If you were to ask 20 casual CBD preachers about its positive effect during sex, you’d get 20 answers. To those who claim it’s the golden ticket to getting laid, Tishler says keep it in your pants.
“CBD for sexuality is a nonstarter,” he says. “It doesn’t provoke libido…. It may help with anxiety or pain if that’s an issue, but what we’re really looking at in treatment of sexual dysfunction or enhancement with cannabis is how it’s used to create healthier relationships.”
Which isn’t to say the new canna-sex specialists creating new businesses and products or hawking themselves as “experts” are necessarily a bad thing in these early days of legal weed. That there are people doing this and finding an audience suggests bringing such topics and experimentation to light is meaningful to people.
“I could make jokes, but I believe it’s actually a good thing,” says Tishler, who was once asked to advise a company trying to invent a dildo that squirted out weed lube during use. “That we’re comfortable even mentioning sex with cannabis is part of the breakdown of generational stigma.”
Unlike Manta, Tishler thinks having specific strains for bedroom activities isn’t going to make a huge difference. Additionally, sexual lubricants and toys set the mood, but a successful liaison is more about body type, effect, and all interested parties being in sync with each other. Or, for those on a solo mission, in sync with one’s self.
It’s about how cannabis introduced into sexual settings or relationships is a means to stimulate the big sexy organ everyone has above their shoulders, and that, of course, is where the Infinity Stone of getting it on rests for everyone.
“Cannabis can help facilitate situations and discussions and different levels of honesty and intimacy in relationships that need it,” Tishler says. “But what we know about humans is that over 90 percent of what’s going on [to enhance and improve] sex is going on between your ears.”
Don’t let that stop you from sparking a joint next time the mood strikes. It just may take your bedroom bliss to new heights.
Humans have used color to express ideas and emotion for thousands of years, according to color specialist and trend forecaster Leatrice Eisman. As executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, Eisman is the world’s leading authority on the topic of color, authoring many books on the subject. In The Complete Color Harmony, Eisman describes how even the most subtle nuances in color can result in shades that excite or calm, pacify or energize, and even suggest strength or vulnerability. “They can nurture you with their warmth, soothe you with their quiet coolness, and heighten your awareness of the world around you. Color enriches our universe and our perception of it,” she writes.
According to her research, we all respond to color at a very visceral level, associating specific hues with another time or place. “Color invariably conveys moods that attach themselves to human feelings or reactions,” she notes. “Part of our psychic development, color is tied to our emotions as well as our intellect. Every color has meaning that we either inherently sense or have learned by association and/or conditioning, which enables us to recognize the messages and meanings delivered.”
It’s with all this in mind that she and a team of experts choose the Pantone Color of the Year, which the institute has named annually for more than two decades, gaining more attention and having more impact with each passing declaration. So this year, expect to see a lot of blue. The 2020 Pantone Color of the Year is known as Classic Blue.
Describing the shade as “evocative of the nighttime sky,” Eisman explains the choice: “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on.”
She contends that Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious, expand our thinking, open the flow of communication. Her comments are rooted in color theory, which says that a good part of the emotions that colors evoke is tied to natural phenomena. Classic Blue is the color of outer space (look beyond), of the celestial sky (look beyond), of the deep ocean (open the flow).
One of the earliest formal explorations of color theory came from German poet and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His 1820 book Theory of Colours explored the psychological impact of colors on mood and emotion. Yellow, Goethe wrote, is the color nearest the light, yet when applied to dull, coarse surfaces, it is no longer filled with its signature energy. “By a slight and scarcely perceptible change, the beautiful impression of fire and gold is transformed into one not undeserving the epithet foul; and the colour of honour and joy reversed to that of ignominy and aversion.”
Of red: “All that we have said of yellow is applicable here, in a higher degree.” Goethe’s theories continue to intrigue, possibly because of the lyrical prose rather than its scientific facts.
Today, it’s generally accepted that shades of blue are associated with steady dependability, calm, and serenity. Yellow evokes the color of the sun, associated with warmth and joy. Green connects with nature, health, and revival. White stands for simplicity; black for sophistication.
A 1970s study on the body’s physiological responses to colors revealed that warm hues (red, orange, yellow—the colors of the sun) aroused people troubled with depression and increased muscle tone or blood pressure in hypertensive folks. Cool colors (green, blue, violet) elicited the reverse, but the important finding was that all colors produced clinically tangible results.
It’s not woo-woo science; humans have been using color as medicine, a practice known as chromotherapy, since ancient Egypt. In fact, chromotherapy is as tested a practice as any other alternative medicine—Ayurveda, acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology. While it is widely accepted that color affects one’s health—physically, mentally, emotionally—more studies are needed to determine the full scope of impact as well as its potential to help heal.
This isn’t a new theory, either. In the late 1800s, rays of color/light were shown to affect the blood stream. Later research found color to be “a complete therapeutic system for 123 major illnesses,” according to a critical analysis of chromotherapy published in 2005 by Oxford University Press. Today, bright white, full-spectrum light is being used in the treatment of cancers, seasonal affective disorder, anorexia, bulimia, insomnia, jet lag, alcohol and drug addiction, and more. Blue light is used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis. Red light helps with cancer and constipation. And that’s just the beginning.
On the Bright Side
When your physical landscape is devoid of bright, vibrant hues, your emotional one is affected as well. That’s where color therapy comes in. It has a deep effect on physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of our lives, and it comes in many forms: light sessions that include color wheels. Colored crystal lights. Breathing in colors through meditation. Infrared saunas with chromotherapy add-ons.
There are actually many ways of adjusting the color in your life, and not all of them require a trip to see a specialist. Unlike trying to self-administer acupuncture (don’t do that), techniques can be as simple as putting on colorful attire or getting some bright throw pillows or plants. You can never have too many plants. And you should eat more plants, too, filling your plate with healthful fruits, vegetables, and spices from every part of the spectrum.
If a lack of sunlight has you feeling a lack of joy, paint your home or office—warm, vibrant yellows and oranges showcase excitement and warmth; browns and neutrals decidedly do not. Choose wisely. Painting not an option? Consider temporary wallpaper or hanging large artworks. On a budget? Head to the thrift shop and repurpose an old canvas by painting it white and then adding whatever hues you are vibing with this winter. If it doesn’t turn out well, cover it up with more white paint and start again.
Have fun with it, consider it art therapy.
There are also an array of therapeutic options popping up as add-ons, as wellness studios, spas, and alternative medicine practices incorporate chromotherapy treatments into their offerings. Many infrared saunas are starting to offer chromotherapy benefits, and the combination of the full-light spectrum and the heat effectively tricks the brain into thinking it spent a full day basking in the sun, causing it to release those sweet endorphins that flood your body when the warm rays of spring hit your face when you step outside. It feels good and really, that is everything. Color is everything.
“Even if fire hasn’t touched us, we’re all part of California’s figurative tent city,” laments Emmy award-winning KGO-TV reporter and Marin resident, Wayne Freedman. His professional photography of late looks more suited to dystopian film than the adventure and nature varieties. In California, fall is becoming more and more synonymous with fire and losses—of homes, lives, livelihoods, and landscapes—and it’s creating a disruption in the force for North Bay residents.
But it is also synonymous with the resiliency and gratitude among the locals. Heather Orosco, a resident of Marin, spent much of the last week of October and first week of November without power. She brought Ziploc baggies filled with ice home on the bus from work in San Francisco every day to keep her groceries chilled and charged her phone enough to check in with her mom, Ginger Orosco, in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, which was devastated by the Tubbs Fire in 2017. That fire stopped within a couple hundred feet of her family home on three sides.
This go-round, Ginger is counting her blessings once again. Now skilled at quick escapes and transient travel tricks, she texted Heather after the winds died down from her life in the new normal. “Blue sky and not a trace of smoke in the air this morning. I am unpacking my car and no longer worrying about this!” What is past is past, even if it might happen again in the future.
As I write, the Kincade Fire hasalready destroyed an area twice the size of San Francisco. Skeletal images of the Soda Rock Winery ablaze, displaced friends and their fur babies marked safe on social media, crowdsourced threads on how to keep food from spoiling during blackouts, air quality warnings—it’s not the kickoff to the holiday season I was hoping for. And yet it’s not unfamiliar. Increasingly, this is the reality of climate change, and we are learning what it means to live accordingly. In times like these, the North Bay feels close, like one community united instead of a patchwork of micro-cultures and counties. We are in this together.
And we are unstoppable. As Jeff Goldblum famously quipped in Jurassic Park, as only Jeff Goldblum can, “Life finds a way.” Nature and communities rebuild organically. But this does not mean we don’t have to work for it. As we welcome winter and reflect on our tribulations and bounties in 2019, we are reminded of what it means to be human. Our responsibilities to one another and to the planet are often framed as black holes, inescapable and intense. But I think we are better served if we reclaim these responsibilities as bright stars in the darkness. We have the power, individually and collectively, to work with the planet instead of against it. Every day, we discover new ways to heal our fragile sphere and new ways to live in harmony with it.
The same is true of our relationships. If we trust compassion, humor, and hope to guide us in thought and action, our responsibilities to one another feel a lot more like joy than effort. Humans thrive in community, and we aim to shape the ones we frequent for the better. One of the joys of being a part of the Sensi community is showcasing the arts, culture, people, and businesses of the North Bay. We share stories and connect people. We deal in community. We reflect and reflect on the brightest stars in our galaxy. You are our community, and we joyously accept our responsibilities to you. See you in 2020!
I’m sitting at my desk in the early hours of the morning struggling to write the anecdotal opener to this story. There’s soft music playing, so soft I can hear Gidget’s content snores coming from the pineapple dome she sleeps in when I’m at my desk.
If the music were too loud, she would stomp as much as a chihuahua could out to the living room to get in her pressure-activated heated bed, engulfed by the soft white throw blanket I bought for myself. Gidget saw it, she liked it, she wanted it, she got it.
This is the way it works. The nails on my fingertips are past due for a manicure (Gidget got hers done today). My dinner was peanut butter spooned from the jar. Gidget dined on a gourmet blend specially formulated to deliver the exact level of antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, probiotics, and minerals she needs for optimal health. After dinner, she got a bath and a towel massage before tucking into the pineapple. That’s when I sat down to start writing.
I work hard so my dog can have a better life. The meme is real.
Hoomans and Floofers
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Gidget may be a furry freeloader, but she’s my furry freeloader and I love her hard. Because she is awesome. All dogs are. Fight me: I’m an elder millennial, and I’ve got a generational army of pet-pampering 20- and 30-somethings to back me up.
Millennials have been accused of killing a whole host of things.* Really, we’re just redirecting our limited discretionary funds to things we deem more worthy than, say, an intrinsically worthless shiny stone that De Beers’ marketing firm convinced Americans is a token of love and esteem that lasts forever. (Read: millennials are killing diamonds.)
Millennials do spend money on pets. This year, the US pet industry is projected to rake in $75.28 billion, up more than 30 percent since 2010 according to the American Pet Product Association (APPA). A majority of millennials (76 percent) would be more likely to splurge on luxury items like expensive treats or a custom bed for their pets than for themselves.
“The pet care industry is booming, as people around the world—especially millennials—blur the line between human child and animal,” according to Business Insider. The senior brand manager of Purina, Ryan Gass, suggests that millennials are putting off marriage and having children, turning to pets to “fill that void,” but I don’t know what void he’s talking about, so we’re moving on.
Millennials’ love for their pups is so intense, it’s spawned its own language. Us hoomans chase our heckin floofers, iPhones in hand, snapping pics of their snoots and bleps to share with frens, posting with captions about the goodest boy in the world.
This has all led to a rise in what more serious folks call the “humanization of pets.” Sounds ominous. But it indicates how much our lives and our pets’ lives are intertwined—and therefore following the same trends. And what’s trendier or more millennial than wellness, wellness everywhere?
In 1979, veteran journalist Dan Rather quipped during an episode of 60 Minutes, “Wellness…that’s a word you don’t hear every day.” Fast forward 40 years, and we’re hearing the word so much every day it’s almost lost all meaning. The fresh “pet wellness” phrase could mean pets are doing well overall or it could mean pets are judging you for not drinking kombucha.
Don’t worry, dogs don’t judge. But they are getting more probiotics in their diets, just not from kombucha. Probiotics in sales of pet foods grew by 139 percent last year, according to the Nielsen market report, “Trends in Pet Care Mirror Those of Pet Owners.” We eat super foods; our dogs eat super foods. We take CBD; our pups take CBD. We get massages; our dogs get massages. We have fitness studios where you can work out with your dog, acupuncture for pets, doggy day spas with swimming pools you can rent out for puppy parties.
Laying on Hands
Oh, yeah, and dog Reiki is a thing here, too. Gidget hasn’t tried it yet; she—like me—thinks it sounds a little bit woo-woo.
This is how Health mag describes the basic principle: “Energy medicine (or biofield therapies) is the act of channeling and manipulating the energy that courses through your body in order to heal it. This can be done with hands-on practices such as acupuncture and Reiki, as well as sensory-based experiences, like the use of crystals, sound baths, and aromatherapy.”
In Denver, Zen Pet is all about these modalities. Run by Dr. Becca Klobuchar, the mobile holistic veterinary medicine’s range of services is rooted in energy balancing and Chinese medicine.
“I began exploring holistic therapies in an effort to provide pets with additional healing options when traditional treatments were unsuccessful,” says Klobuchar. “The intuitive treatment modalities I use approach pets’ health from the physical, energetic, and spiritual perspectives.”
The energy balancing service is based on the concept that all living things have their own energy field that, when not in balance, can lead to disease, emotional stress, and pain. During a session, the ancient practice of “laying on of hands” transmits the healing energy of the universe through the practitioner to the animal for healing effects.
While energy medicine is the farthest mystical extreme of the modern wellness world, there are some forms backed by science. Acupuncture, for one, and even Reiki. Health reports that a 2010 review of research in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found strong evidence that bio- field therapies such as Reiki and therapeutic touch can alleviate pain.
The caveat: It could be a placebo effect, and our pups aren’t swayed by the power of suggestion. But if you think it’s working for her, then the session is working—for you. It’s called the “caregiver placebo effect,” and there’s nothing wrong with it. As long as it’s used in conjunction with traditional vet visits—a supplemental part of a whole wellness plan.
Chiro for Canines
Dog chiropractic is an another emerging field gaining traction as a beneficial supplemental treatment therapy. At Denver Central Chiropractic (DCC) in Centennial, Dr. Erin Moran is providing holistic health care to both people and pets—“holistic health care for you and your dogs.” While it’s still an emerging field, animal chiropractic at its core follows the same principles and practices as the human kind. She suggests you consider chiropractic treatments if your pooch is showing signs of pain: reluctant to climb stairs, difficulty getting up after laying down, constantly licking or chewing paws, walking differently.
“Dogs get the same back issues as people, and chiropractic is a great option to address those issues without the use of drugs or surgery,” says Moran. “People get great results from seeing a chiropractor, and I want people to know that their dog can experience the same benefits.”
It’s a nonsurgical, drug-free option for correcting disorders related to a fixation in the spine or joint. When vertebrae become immovable through trauma, injury, or standard wear-and-tear, the joints between them become jammed, often affecting the nerves in the congested area. Those nerves are the communication link between the brain and the spinal cord, so when they are out of order, it can set off a cascade of effects that leads to pain and loss of function.
But pets can’t tell us where they hurt or why they’re limping, so treatments are a bit more complicated. When working with animals, Moran looks for abnormal or restricted movement, with a goal of restoring it to reduce pain and improve mobility.
“The results I’ve seen have been amazing,” she says. Moran has helped dogs who have lost the use of their back legs because of slipped discs; after adjustments, they’re able to regain use of their legs and walk again. She also treats arthritic dogs, “getting the pep back in their step so they can have a better quality of life.”
Healthy pets can experience benefits of spine checkups, too, she points out—especially active and athletic ones. The DCC website is clear that the practice is not meant to replace veterinary medicine. Rather, animal chiropractors work in conjunction with veterinarians, treating areas that often go unnoticed by traditional care.
And that pain in your back as a result of hunching over your desk spoon-feeding yourself peanut butter while your pooch snuggles in your new comforter? As it turns out, living with a dog is good for human health as well. Having a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and may even help you live longer. So says science. So they deserve to live the same aspirational lifestyle to which we have made them accustomed. It’s the least we can do to repay the unconditional love
Time. Twice annually, we screw with it. Take an hour from one day; add one around four months later. Every autumn after we “fall back,” I scowl at a night sky that’s jumped the gun and made early evening feel more like eternal night. I dream of revolution and revolt, of a march on Washington at dusk on the shortest day of the year.
I want to see tens of thousands of Americans, all shades, all genders and sexualities, the richest oligarchs marching arm-in-arm with subway buskers, documented and undocumented, millennials and boomers, Texans alongside Californians flanked by Detroiters, all side-by-side in solidarity and unison chanting, “Hell, no! Hell, no! We won’t let our hour go!” and holding signs with slogans like “Keep Your Laws Off My Clocks.” Signs with photoshopped images of Johnny Cash giving us all the bird, only in this version, it’s Father Time underscored by the slogan “Time is Mine!” And I am not alone.
Research has shown that time shifts in either direction—springing forward an hour and falling back—can trigger depression and bipolar disorders. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is associated specifically with losing an hour of afternoon light at the onset of winter, while increased rates of suicide, miscarriages, and heart attacks correlate with the start of Daylight Savings Time every spring. Time change also leads to negative, even dangerous, physiological and cognitive impairments, albeit short term, due to changes in our circadian rhythms.
This burdensome practice is surrounded by lore. Did the idea stem from a misread of Ben Franklin’s 1784 satirical letter to the editor in the Journal de Paris, in which he suggested Parisians wake earlier to save money on candles? (I doubt it.) Was it to give farmers an extra hour of daylight during the grow season? (No. No it wasn’t.) Did the US begin the practice as a fuel-saving measure enacted during the World Wars as it was in Britain and Germany? (Sure, but not for peacetime use.) Was the candy lobby really behind the 2007 postponement of our annual fall back to standard time from late October to early November? (Yes. Yes it was.)
Time may change me…
Time didn’t used to be malleable. Time change did not become law until April 12, 1966, when congress passed, and L.B. Johnson signed into law, the Universal Time Act mandating Daylight Saving Time (DST) observance from the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October. This means that your living friends and family members, anyone who remembers 1970, also remembers a time when time didn’t change.
Not every state hopped on board in 1966, and that was their right—at the time. Hawaii and Arizona keep the same time year-round. (They look at us and SMDH.) And strangely enough, though the practice is said to be linked to farmers, it is the farm lobby we have to thank for delaying the mandate in peacetime that FDR hoped to enact permanently after WWII. By 1966, however, congress could no longer tolerate the free-for-all that led to inconsistent time practices across states and regions, voting to lock it all down under federal law. Specifically, time was now under the purview of the Department of Transportation staffers, overlords—er, I mean overseers—of time zones and the “universal observance of Daylight Savings Time.” It makes sense when you think about it. Our time lords are transit professionals because it’s not just time travel that matters, it’s time that matters to travelers (and goods and the sellers of goods). The Universal Time Act marks the end of chapter one in our story about changing time.
Then things get weird. In 1972, the law was amended for states that spanned two time zones, allowing them to opt out of the observance of Daylight Savings Time in part or all of their state. Enter Indiana. Pay close attention; this isn’t pretty. Taking full advantage of this legal tweak, most of the counties in Indiana decided to observe Eastern Standard Time year-round and opt out of Daylight Savings Time. A few rogue counties followed their inner Johnny Cash and decided to choose #TeamCentralTime and #TeamDST, thereby syncing them with Chicago, Illinois, year-round but with Indianapolis only during the national observance of DTS. This hot mess lasted until 2005 when, because of this legal loophole, Indiana was granted the gift of time. The state was allowed to refuse to observe DST like its Hawaiian and Arizonan kin. Then in 1986, Ronald Reagan signed into law yet another time f**k whereby DST began on the first Sunday in April, rather than the last, extending DST from approximately six months to approximately seven months in duration.
Then again in 2005, George W. Bush, with much encouragement from the candy lobby—and the golf lobby and big barbeque (what?)—saw opportunity in one more hour of daylight guaranteed through Halloween. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed the start of DST to the second Sunday in March and the end to the first Sunday in November. Our current approach to time, in California and 46 other US states, began after the passage of this act on March 11, 2007.
…but you can’t trace time.
When all is said and done, I’m not mad at it. The way I see it, we are now only four months shy of year-round late-day sun. I am holding out hope that we can just go Full Monty this time, all 12 months every year from now on, instead of eking in that direction by falling back later or springing forward sooner until time stands still enough to fuse together as one again.
With any luck (and a bit of lobbying), this past November just may have been the last time California f**ks with time. In the 2018 California general election, ballot Proposition 7 passed with 7,167,315 “yes” votes, just shy of 60 percent of total votes and a fairly strong victory for proponents. Prop 7 called, in its own cute and totally user-friendly-ballot-language kind of way, for the end of time change protocols and procedures in our great state. However, the ballot proposition was not a straight vote to make Daylight Savings Time permanent because…laws. Rather, it gave the state legislature the authority to “change Daylight Savings Time period by two-thirds vote, if changes are consistent with federal law.” And right now, federal law still prohibits doing so. Unsurprisingly, then, the one thing we can all agree on is changing time is never simple.
In January 2020, Democratic Rep. Kansen Chu from San Jose, an original sponsor of Proposition 7, vowed to move California Assembly Bill 7 forward in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications committee. In order for the bill to become law, it needs a two-thirds vote from both the Assembly and the Senate. Even if it does pass, however, we still need to deal with that pesky federal law. Currently, there are four bills in the US Congress designed to grant states the power to change the changing of time—but not in a timely manner. Congress has until December 2020 to act on these bills. Le sigh.
At the end of October, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Cannabis Open Houses Are Putting the High in High-End Real Estate.” The trend piece by author Katherine Clarke revealed the emerging discovery being used by developers and real-estate agents to move luxe properties in communities where recreational cannabis is not just legal but widely accepted.
It’s not unlike Los Angeles, where the rising industry is being hailed as an untapped source for buyers of high-priced homes. Throwing cannabis-related events—everything from elaborate seven-course pairing dinners with vapes in lieu of vino to live trimming classes—at multimillion-dollar properties on the market is garnering attention, building social buzz, and attracting buyers with money earned in, around, or on cannabis.
Not everyone sees the genius behind the trend, however. Clarke spoke to one agent in New York, where recreational cannabis is still a pipe dream and old tropes live on about munchie-motivated stoners. “When I think about cannabis, I don’t think about buying an expensive house,” says Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber. “It’s not a call for action as much as a call for Doritos.”
Someone should tell him friends don’t let friends make tired stoner jokes anymore. Especially ones implying cannabis consumers indulge their munchies with mindless consumption of unhealthy snacks when the reality is cannabis appeals to what The Economist dubs the “health-conscious inebriate,” citing a poll that 72 percent of American consumers thought cannabis was safer than alcohol. A 2018 The New Yorker headline declared cannabis to be a wellness industry in California where, in fact, a cannabinoid cousin of THC and CBD is starting to garner a whole lot of buzz. Instead of stimulating appetites, THCV may suppress those hunger pangs. When 2021 is declared the year of THCV, you can say you heard it here first.
Consumption and consumerism
Cannabis has moved so far beyond the clichés of yore. Tie-dye tees, bell-bottom cords, dancing bear patches, plastic bongs, Ziploc baggies: these tired trends are so out of style, some have already circled back and left again. (Looking at you, tie-dye.) The stoner kids of yesterday are the cannabis entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs of today. And as they’ve aged, their tastes in cannabis aged with them, like the fine wine they can now afford. Cannabis consumers have money to burn.
And since we live in a capitalist society (an unjust one where people remain locked up for nonviolent drug charges in states that earn taxes off now-legal cannabis sales—that’s a whole layered story for a different day), money makes things happen. And what’s happening now is the emergence of a cannabis experience elevated to a higher level.
If you were paying attention to the pop-culture cues over the decades, you would have seen the high-end highs coming. When cannabis prohibition began its slow-and-steady march to its forthcoming end, it emerged from the black market with an established following of consumers—loyal cannabis consumers with no brand loyalty, because cannabis brands didn’t exist. Dealers did, growers did, activists, advocates, and believers, too. But the concept of cannabis brands was all brand-new.
With strict laws surrounding where the substance can be marketed, sold, advertised, distributed, and more, establishing customer loyalty in this industry is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. What differentiates one edible brand from another, one vape pen from the next is complicated to discern for those who aren’t well versed in the modern verbiage or its meaning. (Full-spectrum distillate, live resin, 2:1 ratios, oh my!)
This is where marketing and branding comes into play. And with marketing and branding comes the emergence of new market segments, including the ultra-luxury category. It is from within that category that future trends are likely to emerge. That’s how trends play out, as Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) explained to her new assistant in one iconic scene of The Devil Wears Prada. (If you haven’t seen it in a while, a quick refresher: “The color of the shirt you are wearing right now was determined years ago by high-end designers preparing their collections for fashion week runways.”)
Trickle-down trends are a hierarchical process whereby individuals with high status establish fashion trends, only to be imitated by lower-status individuals wearing cheaper versions of the same styles.
“It’s always been a thing,” says Karyn Wagner, CEO of Paradigm Cannabis Group, a women-owned extraction company specializing in pre-rolls and extracts made from small-batch sun-grown flower. “There’s always been those products that are better than others. But now, with adult use, we have to be more brand-conscious. With that, how do you distinguish yourself from someone else? Why is this better? What makes it better?”
Some like it haute
With any luxury good, consumers want the assurance of quality and efficacy, Wagner says. But you can never underestimate the prestige that comes with a high price tag. “The moneyed class always loves expensive items,” she says. “This normalizes it in their world. It brings in folks who didn’t normally have the desire. It made it OK in their class. Expensive breeds expensive things. You wouldn’t have expensive cannabis if you didn’t have people who wanted to buy expensive cannabis.”
Jenny Le Coq, president of Le Coq & Associates, a marketing and communications firm in San Francisco that represents Kikoko cannabis-infused botanical mints, points out that most people typically don’t seek out a cheap bottle of wine, but look for something fine, trustworthy, and familiar. They want to know the winery, its reputation, who recommends the vintage. “People are looking at wines today with a more discerning eye—how their grapes are grown, for example,” Le Coq says. “People are looking at cannabis in the same way: with a discerning eye.”
“Discerning” can add up to big money, for sure. Anecdotal stories abound in national media outlets, suggesting couples in Colorado will drop several bills on “cannagars” and other high-end party favors to celebrate weddings and anniversaries. At The High End, Barneys New York’s luxury cannabis lifestyle shop in Beverly Hills, shoppers can splurge on a $1,475 sterling silver bud grinder or a $950 water pipe. New York fashion brand Alice + Olivia partnered with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen to debut a CBD wellness line earlier this year—bath bomb, body lotion, bubble bath with lavender. Alice + Olivia packaging features CEO Stacey Bendet’s signature “StaceFace” motif, with big sunglasses and a bold red lip. A timeless statement-making style that trendsetters of every era make their own while trendy types try to emulate the overall aesthetic. That’s just the way things work.
To be fair, luxury doesn’t have to mean $$$$. What it must indicate, however, is quality. “Luxury is an assigned label. It is typically assigned by marketers,” Le Coq says. “So, what do you want cannabis to be? As a consumer, how do you perceive luxury? The concept is really defined differently by every person. We want people to experience something that is luxurious. Not only the packaging is beautiful, the taste is beautiful, the place you are put into mentally is a nice, beautiful place.”
I drink badly, and I have a lot of fun doing it (when I remember). That’s a lethal combination, and when you throw in my unfortunate discovery of White Claw—I can drink as many as I want and never feel full!—I flamed out with alcohol last winter.
On February 1, just as everyone else was celebrating the end of Dry January and just ahead of the Summer of the Claw, I swore off the seltzer. I figured I’d give myself one month (note: the year’s shortest) to reset. It wasn’t an easy 28 days, but when March 1 rolled around, I felt better than I’d felt in years. The chronic inflammation I had attributed to everything from gluten sensitivity to genetics was clearing. I saw the light, and there was no going back.
I thought sobriety would be lonely, that every Saturday night would be Netflix. I forgot the Brett Kavanaugh generation isn’t in charge of culture anymore (thank God).
Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t interested in swilling beer until they black out like we did in the ’80s. Sober is sexy—or, as hipsobriety.com sees it, “sobriety is the new black.”
On Instagram, there are influencers such as @stylishlysober, @thesoberglow, and the darker @fucking_sober and hashtags like #soberliving, #soberAF, and #sobercurious. Millie Gooch, who posts as @sobergirlsociety, encourages her nearly 60,000 followers with inspirational messages like “Mocks not cocks” and “Sobriety: a surefire way to improve your wellbeing and your Uber rating.”
Just like that, I’m a cool kid—with a huge range of new options on Saturday night (and beyond). I’m exploring elixirs made with raw cacao, maca, and horny goat weed at Tonic Herban Lounge just a few blocks from my home in downtown Boulder (I can walk home after imbibing, and it amuses me that I don’t need to). I can do yoga and shake it before dawn at a Daybreaker dance party (daybreaker.com) in Denver, one of 27 cities where the alcohol-free early morning rave pops up and invites people to “sweat, dance, and connect with ourselves in community.”
I’m surely not alone in this realization that life is better without booze. Worldwide, alcohol consumption fell by 1.6 percent last year. Led by young people, heavy-hitting countries like Russia, Canada, Japan, and the UK are seeing drinking rates as well as tolerance toward intoxication decline. An international survey found that about a third of people wanted to reduce their alcohol intake because of everything from sexual regret and embarrassment to physical health. A 2018 survey found that nearly 40 percent of global consumers want to drink less for health reasons.
In the US, CNBC reports, 52 percent of adults are trying to lower their alcohol intake, and underage drinking has steadily declined in the last 10 years. But only 21 percent of US adults in a CivicScience poll said they had any interest in drinking less or not at all, and most of those were 21- to 34-year-old, vegan-leaning flexitarians who practice yoga and consume cannabis daily. Women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, are drinking more than ever.
Booze still rules for most Americans, and “increased stress and demoralization” is actually pushing more women, minorities, and poor people to the bottle, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The national Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 17 million adults in the US are alcohol dependent, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six binge drink—defined as drinking four or more drinks over two hours or until blood alcohol reaches 0.08—nearly once a week. For this White Claw guzzler, that definition is, well, sobering. I called that happy hour.
Giving up alcohol isn’t a hashtag for a lot of people. It’s not even a choice. As Sean Paul Mahoney writes on The Fix, a website about addiction and recovery, “I didn’t get sober to be cool. I just got sober to stop dying.”
A Little Bit Addicted?
“Sober curious” became a thing after HarperCollins released Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol in 2018. Warrington also has a podcast, runs Club SÖda NYC (featuring sober events like Kundalini Disco), and stages events (“Sober Curious: Choosing Sobriety for Focus, Presence, and Deep Connection” is February 14–16, 2020, at Massachusetts’ renowned wellness retreat center Kripalu). Her take is that a lot of Americans might not have a “problem” with alcohol but see it as getting in the way of their healthy lifestyles. “We eat well. We exercise. We meditate,” the press release for Sober Curious states. “So, why do we…still drink?”
Warrington wants to know why the only people who don’t drink are the ones who can’t and asks, “What if I am just…a little bit addicted?”
Call me old school, but a little bit addicted sounds a lot like a little bit pregnant. I worry that people who shouldn’t will take the advice of John Costa, who writes on twentytwowords.comthat being sober curious is like being bi-curious—you don’t always hook up with people of the same sex, and you don’t have to cut out drinking forever. “Be sober half the time,” he writes, “and sauced the other half.” He’s joking, but those are dangerous words for me. That’s the life I was living: sober by day + tanked by night = balance.
Like all disorders (and pretty much everything in our culture), alcohol use runs on a spectrum. I was at the end that spent hours upon hours researching whether drinking while on this antibiotic would really make me projectile vomit and scoffed at friends as they struggled through Dry January, Dry July, Sober September, and Sober October. I wasn’t interested in giving up drinking for any reason or any amount of time, until I had to give it up for life.
Warrington, who sees reducing alcohol intake as another step in the wellness revolution, is at the other end of the spectrum—and she is aware of the difference between recovering from alcohol addiction and feeling better during yoga. I hope all of her followers are, too, because the last thing most drinkers need is a loophole.
I want to believe the trend Warrington is leading toward spirits-free activities and thoughtfulness about alcohol’s role in our culture—where every ritual, celebration, loss, entertainment, and even sporting event is cause for a drink—is not a trend but a movement. That we’ll look back at “mommyjuice” like we shake our heads at “mother’s little helper” pills from the ’60s and ’70s. The infrastructure to support sobriety is being built, and public opinion is turning. After centuries of going hard, America is getting woke, not wasted.