In 1910, the Charles River basin was dammed, and what had been smelly tidal mud flats became a wide river basin, begging Bostonians to get out and play. In the 1930s, landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff transformed and expanded the narrow strip of parkland along the river’s south bank with gardens and groves of Norway maples (since replaced in some places with honey locusts); canoe ways and docks; plazas, promenades, paths, and playgrounds. Shurcliff designed the Boat Haven and the Music Oval. The Hatch Shell was built in 1941. In the 1950s, he redesigned and added lagoons and islands to accommodate for and replace the land that was sucked up by Storrow Drive.
In July, the three-mile-long, 64-acre Esplanade (esplanade.org) is teaming with tourists and locals. In March, it’s calmer, peaceful. On March 11, you can see for yourself while learning the Esplanade’s history during a walk with Esplanade Association experts from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The walk is free with a $10 suggested donation that goes toward revitalizing, enhancing, and maintaining the Esplanade.
That feels pretty good. And we can’t make promises, but you could see a bald eagle.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet afternoon at the museum or a punk-fueled Saint Patrick’s Day—Darkbuster in the house!—the Boston area has it all. And Restaurant Week is back. Lace up your sneakers, grab your friends, leash up your dog, buy tickets, make reservations, and get out there.
Mar. 20–22 Hynes Convention Center, Boston necann.com Come to the New England Cannabis Convention to hear from local cannabis industry leaders and discover brands and organizations advocating for more access.
Greatest Party on Earth
Mar. 21 Artists for Humanity Epicenter, Boston greatestpartyonearth.com Join the Artists for Humanity crew for dinner, dancing, and artistic observation.
Where: Cyclorama at BCA When: Jan. 23, 2020 Photos: Tobi Makinde (aka That Photo Kid), Melissa Blackall, OJ Slaughter
Hundreds of guests swarmed Boston Center for the Arts’ iconic Cyclorama for Shimmer, an event that raised $15,000 to support BCA artists’ year-round artist residency programs in visual arts, theatre, music, dance, and interdisciplinary art. Curated by Ethan Vogt, Shimmer took inspiration from early 2000s fashion and club culture remixed by over a dozen artists and performers including Accumulation Dance, Eleanor Arbor, The Davis Sisters, Fumesco, Layor Guevara, Masha Keryan, Tobi (a.k.a. That Photo Kid), Heleena Norvette, Pink Griffins, Rixy, S. De Silva, OJ Slaughter, Space Us, Rosa Weinberg, and J Michael Winward.
The worst of winter is over. It’s almost time to pull your shorts and sundresses out of storage (fingers crossed they still fit) and begin thinking about long lazy days at the beach, fresh summer breezes, and sipping sangria with friends.
It’s a good idea to start planning now. In the Northeast, the summer travel season is short and popular destinations book up quickly. To get some ideas flowing, we’ve done a bit of the work for you. These three fabulous getaways are an easy drive from Boston and—bonus!—also have cannabis-friendly laws.
If you have your heart set on a cosmopolitan getaway, a trip to Montreal, located in the Canadian province of Quebec, is more than worth the five-hour drive from Boston. (You will need a passport.)
The second-largest city in Canada after Toronto, Montreal has a distinctive Old World feel thanks to its historic seventeenth- and eighteenth-century architecture and numerous European-style bistros and cafés.
The city is home to two world-class art museums, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal (MAC). You can shop for the latest fashions on Saint Catherine Street before they hit US retail racks (the exchange rate is good right now) or spend an afternoon wandering the Montreal Botanical Garden. Hike up to Belvedere Camillien-Houde, Mont Royal’s observation area, and sip an espresso while taking in spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains.
No matter what you decide to do, all visitors to Montreal should see the Old Port. Located on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, it is the oldest part of the city, first settled by Europeans in the 17th century. With its historic Old World–style buildings, romantic French cafés, and massive neo-gothic Notre-Dame Basilica, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Paris as you stroll along the cobblestone streets.
Enjoy a coffee or glass of wine at one of the Old Port’s terrasses (what Montrealers call outdoor cafés) and watch the people pass by as you enjoy a performance by one the neighborhood’s talented street musicians. The Old City gets crowded on weekends, so it’s better to visit during the week if you can. It’s not car-friendly, so take the subway instead.
Other places worth seeing include the bohemian Quartier Latin, Plateau, and Mile End neighborhoods. Home to the city’s student and Jewish populations, these areas are nearly tourist free and full of art galleries, funky shops, beautiful parks, and excellent, affordable restaurants and cafés.
Located at the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is where the Pilgrims first landed in the New World on November 11, 1620. The quaint and historic seaside city has been welcoming newcomers ever since.
Home to America’s oldest active art colony, Provincetown’s remote location, stunning panoramas, and legendary light have made it a haven for artists, writers, and other creative people since 1899, when the Cape Cod School of Art was founded there. Historically left leaning and tolerant, the city was renowned as a sanctuary for gay, lesbian, and transgender people several decades before American mainstream society came to regard them as equals. Since the 19th century, Provincetown has also been home to a large Portuguese population, mostly from the Azores and Cape Verde. The no-nonsense
work ethic made the city Cape Cod’s primary commercial fishery. All these influences combined give Provincetown a rich and unique culture—one that can be tasted in the city’s restaurants and Portuguese bakeries, experienced in its art galleries, and felt as you stroll along the city’s narrow, flower-lined streets, most of them built long before America became an independent nation.
Visitors to Provincetown can enjoy some of New England’s most beautiful and pristine beaches. Other things to do run the gamut from whale watches and sunset cruises to browsing the city’s eclectic collection of boutiques; viewing birds, seals, and other wildlife at Cape Cod National Seashore’s Province Lands; and exploring the city and surrounding area on foot or by bicycle.
A wide variety of accommodations including inns, hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds can be found in Provincetown, and it’s a mere three-hour drive from Boston or a one-hour ride on the Provincetown Ferry (available May through September).
Roughly encompassing the region of Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River, bordering New York, Vermont, and Connecticut, the Berkshires’ rolling green mountains, wellness retreat centers, and lively arts and culture scene have made them a popular vacation destination since the 19th century.
Located in Lenox, Tanglewood is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the area’s biggest draws. Visitors can pack a picnic and enjoy an evening or afternoon concert on Tanglewood’s expansive lawn or pay a bit extra for seats closer to the stage.
Other Berkshires cultural attractions include the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, home to the world’s largest collection of the illustrator’s iconic paintings. The Mount, author Edith Wharton’s expansive Lenox estate, offers house and garden tours. Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, a living history museum offering glimpses of the influential religious community’s daily life, is home to hiking trails (it even has its own mountain), a scratch café, and the area’s oldest working farm.
If you’ve been thinking about a wellness retreat, Canyon Ranch in Lenox or Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, might have what you’re looking for. Canyon Ranch, which also has locations in Arizona, California, and Nevada, is surrounded by mountains and offers a nearly endless roster of nutrition and exercise classes, guide-led sports and activities, and programs for bolstering spiritual wellness and life management skills. The elegant spa offers dozens of skincare treatments and massages.
Many wealthy industrialists from New York City and Boston summered in the Berkshires during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and their enormous “summer cottages” have been converted into lovely inns and guest houses. The area also offers accommodations at larger hotels and vacation rental properties.
The stark reality of America’s mental health crisis never hits home quite so hard as when illness affects someone close to us. We may read mountains of books on the subject, talk to mental health professionals, even work in the field of medicine—but nothing can truly prepare us for the emotional toll of seeing a loved one suffer.
My mother was active, healthy, and independent before she was found on a flight of stairs, exposed to the elements, after suffering a stroke on a frigid February night. She broke her vertebrate and ended up paralyzed. I was traumatized. It is frustrating and heartbreaking to witness the abuse my mother goes through because of her illness, the lack of professionalism or basic human empathy she receives, even in her deteriorated state.
My own struggles with my mind became intensified with my mother’s illness, but I neglected to check in with a mental health professional as her condition became apparent. Minor things seemed to be inflated. I was walking a tightrope over a volcano. Despair and anger became my two closest companions, and they reared their heads at the most inopportune moments. I became isolated and plunged into an abyss of self-loathing and rage.
In our culture, if you fall ill, you must be lucky enough to have a support network in place or you face near-certain emotional and financial ruin. Fortunately, I had two important people in my life who didn’t give up on me. With a lot of reading, support, and hard work, I am proud to say I’m finally doing better. I was blessed, but many like me are not as fortunate. Sadly, mental health is simply not a priority at any level—local, state, or national. In this country, the communities most in need of mental health services are denied care because of systemic bias and indifference. Black and brown people are disproportionately affected by the woeful underfunding of vital mental health resources and dearth of services, rooted in the sordid legacy of white supremacy.
It is then no surprise that people from disaffected communities are the least likely to seek or retain mental health services, even though African Americans are 20 percent more likely than the general population to experience serious mental health problems and more likely to be exposed to factors such as homelessness and violence that increase the risk for developing mental health conditions, according to the US Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. One in four Black Americans will experience a mental disorder at some point.
If people from the Black community would seek out treatment, they would learn that the human mind fundamentally rewires itself to cope after prolonged periods of stress. This can damage the brain, causing disturbing flashbacks, insomnia, emotional numbness, angry outbursts, and feelings of guilt or responsibility. These symptoms, when experienced without context or understanding, can leave us confused, angry, or withdrawn. Only by understanding the root cause of these symptoms can we begin the healing process.
Dealing with these symptoms head on can be overwhelming, and many people choose to ignore the problem at all costs. I experienced the utter uselessness of the options presented to me while pursuing care within the American system, in which bureaucratic inefficiency and systemic bias appear to be the norm for my demographic (a plethora of studies affirm this fact). Is it any wonder people are not fully invested in their recovery?
The reality on the ground is that talking about mental health in the black and brown community is still taboo. That’s a shame. As black and brown people, we should embrace mental health. We need to check in with each other (friends, family, neighbors) because depression can materialize while incognito.
The mental health care system needs more resources, and aggressive studies should be done to target weak points and correct systemic bias. This issue deserves to be front and center as we head into the 2020 election cycle.
Our editor-in-chief’s hottest hits of the month. Read
These sensual herbal products (all made in New England) will help you forget winter ever happened. Read
Newton-based Pretty Polly Productions knows how to throw a party.
Ever wonder who’s behind the concerts you attend? Who books the artists? Who puts all the pieces together to make it a reality? Chances are pretty good that Pretty Polly Productions, a Newton-based boutique talent buyer and concert and event producer, could be responsible. The company has been booking and producing concerts, lectures, and comedy shows of all sizes for colleges, corporate clients, and festivals nationwide for over 45 years. It is a staple of the New England music industry, working with schools like Northeastern, Tufts, and Bentley as well as the region’s top businesses to host extravagant private concerts and events.
Pretty Polly is behind shows ranging from an intimate 50-person acoustic coffeehouse showcasing Boston’s amazing local artists to a 6,000-plus-capacity arena concert headlined by the biggest national artists touring today. The company helps with every step, from artist selection to production and disassembly on the day of your big show.
Now you have two weeks instead of one to taste your way through Boston’s finest eateries.
Boston, we’re blessed. From Asian and Argentinean fare to tapas and sushi, our town is tops for restaurants. And twice a year, you can check them out at crazy reasonable prices during Dine Out Boston (formerly Restaurant Week). Spring tastings will take place March 1-6 and 8-13. You can search for restaurants based on cuisine, neighborhood, or price. Reservations are strongly encouraged but not always required.
Although PE, or premature ejaculation, doesn’t have quite the same stigma as ED (erectile dysfunction), it can definitely become a barrier to intimate and meaningful lovemaking. It’s also a common problem for couples. In fact, Psychology Today recently reported on the “orgasm gap.” In case you hadn’t noticed, men tend to reach an orgasm during heterosexual lovemaking about three times faster than women—5.5 minutes vs. 18 minutes. According to the new brand and product Promescent, up to two billion women go without orgasms each year as a result of this issue. Makers of Promescent, a climax-delay spray, claim it prolongs lovemaking. So, will it become the next Viagra? Check it out for yourself and see if it improves your sex life.
1. READING ROOM The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf, $27). Showcasing her signature literary prowess, Mandel explores the infinite ways we search for meaning in this much-hyped new release, expected March 24. Also out this month: It’s Not All Downhill from Here by How Stella Got Her Groove Back author Terry McMillan.
2. STREAM THIS Freeform’s The Bold Type. Now in its third season, this sleeper hit could be your new favorite series. It’s mine, in no small part because it centers on three young women working for a New York mag. But also because it’s witty AF, aspirational, and depicts successful women who are defined not by their relationships but by their careers. It’s empowering, and you should watch it for free on Freeform, or on your favorite streaming platform.
3. LISTEN UP NPR’s Life Kit podcast offers tools to keep it together. And by you, I mean me; I need all the help I can get. Picking out a lightbulb last fall had me staring mouth agape in a store aisle for a half hour trying to make sense of all the options. After listening to “Picking Out a Lightbulb, Made Easy,” I know which bulb’s for me. Life Kit’s episodes are short, to the point, and offer tips on how to do things like start therapy, start a book club, master your budget, remove stains, and juggle paperwork, appointments, and repairs. Basically how to adult.
4. GROWING TREND Pot in Pots. The Swiss-cheese-leafed Monstera is last year’s “It” plant. Cannabis is the hashtagable houseplant of 2020. Get in on the trend. Depending where you live, you can find clones or seeds at select dispensaries with an easy google—while you’re at it, look up local laws regarding home grows. Cannabis cuttings (a.k.a. clones) are pretty easy to root—check Leafly.com for tips—and you should definitely bring some to your next plant swap. Spread the word, spread the love.
These sensual herbal products (all made in New England) will help you forget winter ever happened.
Broad Spectrum CBD Oil The Healing Rose’s hemp-derived CBD Oil is the perfect addition to your morning routine or a great way to end the day. The Healing Rose provides transparency through third-party testing on every batch. $80 for 1,200 mg /thehealingroseco.com
Sisal Bath Brush Use Baudelaire’s sisal bath brush on dry skin before a shower to promote healthier circulation and stimulate new skin cells while brushing away the old ones. $10 / baudelairesoaps.com
Deep Tissue Massage Oil Badger’s Deep Tissue Massage Oil has warming, enlivening ingredients such as ginger and cayenne. $18 / badgerbalm.com
Java Jolt Body Scrub Showering with the scent of coffee and mint from Boston-based Organic Bath Co.’s Java Jolt is enough to wake you up. Who needs coffee in a cup? $10–$27 / organicbath.co
Cleanse + Fortify Botanical Tonic Maine Medicinals’ gentle yet powerful tonic includes a little detox love from dandelion and nettle along with strengthening Reishi mushrooms and lemon balm. $26 / mainemedicinals.com
Back in 2017, when I was active on Bumble, my bio read as follows: “Small car, tiny dog, micro apartment, big career, huge dreams.” (I go on and off it now; online dating requires the kind of witty texting banter I just don’t have the energy to attempt after writing all day and reading all night, but that’s a story for another issue.) Right now, we’re focusing on the list, which referenced my Fiat 500, my three-pound Chihuahua, and my 239-square-foot apartment.
Minimalist living, maximalist personality; it worked. It wasn’t a tiny home, per se, but it was tiny and it was my home. And I loved it. It was cozy, it was bright and inviting, and it made impulse purchases impossible. Every item I brought into the space had to be carefully considered, because space was valuable. If I was on the fence about a shirt or a toaster or a throw pillow, I asked myself what I was willing to part with in order to create room for it on the shelves or in the closet. Living in such a small space as a full-grown adult forced me to be use what I already had, to read the books on my shelves. Living in that mini studio taught me to be content.
In Robyn Griggs Lawrence’s feature on tiny homes, you’ll see similar sentiments expressed by people living in such spaces. A celebration of minimalism in a maximalist world, small-space living is a trend that’s still on the rise years after it first came to our collective attention. The article gives you a good sense of why. It may inspire you to seek out your own small spot in which to live. Culling down the arbitrary things you’ve amassed over the last few decades is a cathartic experience that results in a feeling of freedom. As Jack Kerouac pointed out, “If you own a rug, you own too much.”
Enjoy the magazine, however many rugs you may own.
Stephanie Wilson @stephwilll
PS: Next month, this letter is coming from our new Sensi Boston editor, Emilie-Noelle Provost, whose name you’ll see throughout this edition. I leave you in very capable hands.
Feb. 19–Mar. 20 Pisces Listen to the compliment that presents itself to you as a criticism; energies will make you better through jealousy and roadblocks. It could be that you realize it’s time for a change.
Mar. 21–Apr. 19 Aries There is something to celebrate that presents itself to you. To thank the universe for this opportunity or inspiration, donate to an organization a few times this month.
Apr. 20–May 20 Taurus Do not try to impress anyone who isn’t treating you well. Please agree with the vibration that you are perfect the way you are—and totally step back from the people who are taking advantage of your good nature.
May 21–June 20 Gemini It’s time to apologize for the things you have done to hurt people. If your ego won’t let you actually call them to apologize, write them a “spiritual” letter telling them you were unfair to them and that you are sorry.
June 21–July 22 Cancer “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” The door to your future couldn’t open any wider. If you want the job, you can have it. If you want that relationship to go to the next level, you can have it.
July 23–Aug. 22 Leo People are about to prove to you how much they love you. March is when your gratitude toward people who are supporting you will make all the difference.
Aug. 23–Sept. 22 Virgo There are angels surrounding you. Pennies and feathers in your path are likely. This is a month of being aware of how things are lining up for you. Accept all invitations.
Sept. 23–Oct. 22 Libra Coincidence will be your best friend this month. It’s time to drop (old) ideas that you can’t have what you want…you totally can. Pay attention!
Oct. 23–Nov. 21 Scorpio Practice saying nice things about people. Do not take on the bad karma right now of backstabbing those who truly do not deserve it. Ask yourself: “Am I basing my opinion on someone else’s agenda?”
Nov. 22–Dec. 21 Sagittarius
You are the owner of this lifetime and acting as though you do have the power to change things will make all the difference this month. You will get a sign that you are on the right track.
Dec. 22–Jan. 19 Capricorn When you focus on one thing at a time, you are a genius. Avoid multitasking this month. Better to spend the time to make sure it’s done right the first time.
Jan. 20–Feb. 18 Aquarius Embrace the high energy of spinning lots of plates right now. You are the chef who has many pots simmering, and it’s time to admit that you like it this way. Thrive by making the magic happen with all the resources available to you.
Collaboration is a wonderful thing. When my friend Rosston Meyer told me a few years ago that he was planning a pop-up cannabis book, I thought it sounded like a great idea. I knew Meyer ran an independent publishing house designing pop-up books in collaboration with artists. Meyer is a designer with a passion for art and pop culture, so I imagined his books were a modern upgrade of the old-school pop-up books I played with as a child—3-D elements and foldouts, tabs to pull and wheels to spin—but with a modern aesthetic that appeals to adults. “A pop-up on pot would be cool to flip through and play with,” I remember thinking. “I hope he does it.”
A few years later, Meyer came around to show me a physical mock-up of his pot-themed pop-up, which he’d titled Dimensional Cannabis. What he showed me was a modern art form I wasn’t aware existed. Yes, the book featured 3-D elements and foldouts, with tabs to pull and wheels to spin, but what I had pictured was similar only in concept. These were intricate and elaborate kinetic paper sculptures that painted a picture and brought it to life. I was blown away. So, when he asked if I’d be interested in writing the words to go on the pages before me, I signed on immediately.
Altogether, Dimensional Cannabis took more than three years to complete, with a total of nine people contributing to the final product published by Poposition Press, Meyer’s independent publishing house. A small press, Poposition designs, publishes, and distributes limited-edition pop-up books that feature artists or subjects that Meyer finds of deep personal interest. He got started in the genre in 2013, when he started working on a collaboration with Jim Mahfood, a comic book creator known as Food One. The resulting Pop-Up Funk features Mahfood’s diverse designs transformed into interactive three-dimensional pop-ups. The limited-edition run of 100 copies were all constructed by hand.
Since then, Poposition has worked with a number of contemporary artists to publish titles like Triad by cute-culture artist Junko Mizuno and Necronomicon by macabre master Skinner.
Meyer has been fascinated by pop-up books since he was a kid, and in 2013, he began concentrating on paper engineering and book production. “After making a couple books focused on just artists, I thought that creating a pop-up book about cannabis would be a good idea,” he says. “There’s nothing else like it in the market, and there’s an audience for adult-themed pop-up books.”
For Dimensional Cannabis, Meyer collaborated with Mike Giant, a renowned American illustrator, graffiti writer, tattooer, and artist. Giant’s medium of choice is a Sharpie, and Giant’s detailed line work is instantly recognizable. An avid proponent of cannabis, Giant illustrated the entire Dimensional Cannabis book.
Giant and Meyer met at a weekly open studio Giant hosted in Boulder. “When the idea of doing a pop-up book about cannabis came up, he asked if I would illustrate it,” Giant says. “I’ve been an advocate for cannabis use for decades, so it didn’t take long for me to agree to work on the project.”
Meyer began by sending Giant reference materials to visualize. “I’d get it drawn out, hand it off, and get some more stuff to illustrate,” Giant says. “He’d send me previews of the finished pages as we went. It was really cool to see my line drawings colored and cut to shape. That process went on for months and months until everything for the book was accounted for.”
The process of making pop-up books is called “paper engineering.” I love obsessives, and the engineers who put this book together, make no mistake, are the ones who spend endless hours figuring out the tiniest details of the folds and materials necessary so that water pipe emerges every time you open the paraphernalia page.
“David Carter and I started talking about the idea a couple years prior to actually starting on the book,” Meyer says. “The initial concepts for each spread were figured out, and a different paper-engineer peer was asked to design each spread so that the book had variation throughout.”
Dimensional Cannabis is divided into six pages, or spreads, covering the cannabis plant’s biology, medical properties, cultivation, history, and influence on popular culture. The paraphernalia page features many items we associate with cannabis consumption over the years in America, from rolling papers and pipes to vaporizers, dabs, and concentrates—and that foot-long bong that miraculously appears as you turn the page.
One spread opens to the full plant, with information on its unique and fascinating properties. Another opens to a colorful, meditating figure with text about the healing properties of cannabis. One page is dedicated to its cultivation possibilities, basic genetics, and the differences between indoor and outdoor growing.
The history spread takes us back to the beginnings of the curious and long-standing connection between humans and cannabis. Engineer Simon Arizpe had worked with Meyer before and jumped at the chance to work on that one. “I wanted it to be Eurasian-centric as the viewer opens the page, showing the early uses of cannabis in ancient Vietnam and China,” Arizpe says. “As the viewer engages with the pop-up, cannabis’s use in the new world spreads across the page,” he adds. “We decided [to focus] on moments in time that were either politically relevant, like weed legalization, or culturally significant, like Reefer Madness.”
Arizpe feels like the entire project is an example of what can be done working with talented people outside the traditional publishing engine. “Rosston came up with an idea that has a big following and made it happen,” he says. “It is pretty exciting when people can do that out of nothing.”
For Meyer, who says he likes a good sativa when he’s working, the project was a labor of love that spans all his areas of interest. “Not only was this a great experience putting together such a unique book, but having different paper engineers work on each spread made this a real collaboration,” he says. “There have only been a couple pop-up books produced with a roster of engineers. Dimensional Cannabis is for cannabis lovers and pop-up book collectors alike.”
I visited Jay Shafer’s meticulous American Gothic–style house in a sun-dappled Iowa City backyard shortly after we launched Natural Home magazine in 1999. The Dow had just surpassed 10,000, mortgage credit requirements were melting into oblivion, and America had a bad case of McMansion Mania. Shafer’s 130-square-foot home (yes, you read that right), built for $40,000, was a hard “no” to all that. It was also cozy and inviting, and Shafer described himself as a claustrophile (someone who loves closed-in spaces).
Shafer won the Philosophy and Innovation Award in our Natural Home of the Year contest because his adorable house embodied everything the magazine stood for, and he wasn’t afraid to say things. He said that we Americans like our homes like we like our food—big and cheap—and he was the first to figure out that putting a tiny house on wheels makes it an RV and therefore not subject to city and county minimum-size standards and codes. He wasn’t shy about his intention to make tiny homes a revolutionary alternative in a housing market headed for disaster.
“I am certainly not proposing that everyone should live in a house as small as mine,” Shafer wrote in the letter accompanying his contest entry. “Such minimalism would be excessive for most people. What I am saying is that the scale of our homes should be as varied as the spatial needs of their inhabitants, and that it is those needs rather than government regulations and conspicuous consumption that should determine house size.”
Shafer’s message was radical, and largely ignored, in the frenzy leading up to the 2008 crash. But his company, Tumbleweed Tiny Homes, built a following, and he built a name for himself as the godfather of a fledgling tiny house movement (one blogger called him “the George Washington of simple and sustainable living”). He wrote The Small House Book and was on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Then he lost the company in a business dispute and his house in a divorce, and he was homeless for a while, living in a pigpen inside a shed. Determined never to live that way again, Shafer designed a 50-square-foot home that cost $5,000 in Sebastopol, California. He gives master class workshops at tiny house festivals around the world (including the Tiny House Festival Australia in Bendigo, Victoria, March 21–22).
“The evolution of tiny houses has paralleled the digital revolution, since this whole tiny thing started at the turn of the century,” Shafer told foxnews.com in 2014. “Once it became possible to have a remote little phone instead of a landline and a wall-mounted flat screen instead of a 2-foot-by-1-foot chunk on the dresser, folks started seeing the potential for living in what basically amounts to a laptop with a roof.”
A Status Symbol for Humble Braggers
Though 82 percent of renters say they would like to buy a home someday, according to Fannie Mae, homeownership is at its lowest point since 1965. Ordinary people can’t afford the American Dream (median listing price: $310,000). In the Bay Area, homebuyers paid twice their annual income for a house in the 1960s; today, they shell out nine times their yearly salary. Only 13 percent of millennial renters in the United States will have enough cash to put 20 percent down on a house in the next five years, according to an Apartment List survey.
Tiny homes are much cheaper, with prices ranging from $10,000 to more than $200,000 (averaging about $65,000), and operating and maintaining them costs a lot less. When the International Code Commission made changes to its residential code to facilitate tiny house construction in 2018, it reported lifetime conditioning costs as low as 7 percent of conventional homes.
That reality is driving the spike in interest in tiny homes, which are getting a lot of attention as a solution to the affordable housing and homeless crises, with the added bonus of being kinder to the planet than a traditional three-bedroom/two-bath. Whether they live in tiny homes for financial reasons or not, climate-aware homebuyers get a status symbol that flaunts their honorable choice to reduce their footprint and live with less—no easy thing to do, even in this post-Kondo age.
It doesn’t hurt that tiny homes—generally defined as homes with less than 400 square feet—are now readily available in every style, from your basic shed to sleek Dwell-worthy models. You can buy plans and build a tiny house yourself or pick out one online and have it shipped to you. You can even order one on Amazon. Used tiny homes, along with inspirational stories and information, can be found at sites like tinyhousefor.us, tinyhousetalk.com, and tinyhouselistings.com. Tiny Home Nation: 10K Strong
More than half of Americans would consider a tiny home, according to a National Association of Home Builders survey. Potential buyers and just-dreamers flock to check out micro-houses, “schoolies” (converted school buses), and vans at tiny home festivals like the Florida Suncoast Tiny Home Festival in St. Petersburg (March 28–29) and the People’s Tiny House Festival in Golden, Colorado (June 6–7). But the reality is that only about 10,000 people in North America—the lucky ones who have managed to find parking spots—actually live in tiny homes.
Like anything that disrupts the norm in a conformist capitalist culture, building a tiny home in a world of ticky-tacky boxes is not easy. The good news is that times are changing, as municipalities consider tiny home villages as a way to house the homeless and marginalized communities. Still, most states only allow tiny homes to be parked in rural areas (Massachusetts, California, Florida, and Oregon are somewhat more lenient). Because most zoning laws in the United States don’t have a classification for tiny houses, most owners have to follow Shafer’s lead and register them as RVs, trailers, or mobile homes.
In most places, zoning ordinances won’t allow you to buy land, park your tiny home/RV, and live happily ever after. You either have to rely on the kindness of family and friends with backyards or pay a monthly park fee to rent a space in one of the tiny home villages cropping up across the country. Park Delta Bay, an RV resort in Isleton, California, now has a row reserved for tiny homes. At Village Farm, an RV resort that’s turning into a tiny-home community in Austin, Texas, residents pay about $600 to $700 a month to park and use the services.
Slowly, city and state governments are responding to homebuyers’ demands for tiny home opportunities beyond RV resorts. Portland, Oregon, (but of course) has relaxed its ordinances to allow for everything from tiny house communities to tiny house hotels. In Rockledge, Florida, citizens demanded zoning changes allowing for a pocket neighborhood with homes ranging from 150 to 700 square feet. A tiny home community for low-income residents is under way on Detroit’s west side, and Vail, Arizona, built two dozen 300- to 400-square-foot houses for schoolteachers.
Advocacy groups have been paving the way for tiny homes since Shafer and a few friends founded the Small Home Society in 2002, and they’re seeing a resurgence. In 2017, a group of University of California-Berkeley students launched the Tiny House in My Backyard (THIMBY) project to promote research and development and raise awareness of tiny house communities. Operation Tiny Home is a national nonprofit that helps people “maintain a life of dignity” through high-quality tiny housing and empowerment training programs.
In Canada, activists calling themselves Tiny House Warriors are taking the revolution to the next level, placing “resistance-homes-on-wheels” along the pathway of the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline. “We are asserting our inherent, God-given right to our lands,” says Kanahus Manuel, a leader of Tiny House Warrior. “We’re defending what’s ours, and tiny homes are how we’re doing it.”
Somerville’s Neighborhood Produce makes grocery shopping fun again. Read
Our editor-in-chief’s hottest hits of the month. Read
A husband-and-wife start-up helps couples fire things up with THC-enhanced lube.
When Cambridge-based Sira Naturals launched its cannabis business start-up accelerator in 2018, Boston residents Leah and Sieh Samura were among the first in line. The husband-and-wife team beat out nearly 400 applicants for one of the coveted spots. Their company, Boston-based 612 Studios, sells Purient, a cannabis-enhanced “pre-foreplay” sexual lubricant that hit retail shelves last year.
Both Leah and Sieh had positive experiences treating medical conditions with cannabis before they launched 612 Studios. Sieh, a US Army veteran who served in Iraq, treated chronic pain and post-traumatic stress, while Leah found relief from fibroids and menstrual pain.
Free of GMOs and pesticides, Purient is coconut oil–based and meant for topical use. Each bottle, with 300 milligrams of THC, is sold in a kit that includes pipettes for internal application and retails for about $60. The product is suitable for use by all genders.
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.
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
Whether you’re planning a night in or a night out, these locally made gifts and experiences will make a lasting impression.
Let’s talk dirty. Personal care products often contain chemicals of concern like nitrosamines and harmful preservatives like parabens. Sustain Naturals, based in Burlington, Vermont, offers “clean” condoms made with you and your partner’s health and well-being in mind.
Modeled on the community-supported agriculture (CSA) concept, Somerville Chocolate offers shares of cacao harvests, with deliveries about every three months (four times a year). Each share features multiple bars highlighting a particular varietal. To try the chocolate, you can purchase single bars from the website, local retailers, or Aeronaut Brewery, where the chocolate is sold out of a vintage cigarette vending machine.
Puff Herbal Smokes in Somerville has created the perfect herbal pre-rolls from Aurora Haze hemp and locally grown Muddy River Herbals’ Chocolate Mints flower. Self-Care CBD Smokes give dank relief without the mental high.
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.
Niche Plant Shop in Cambridge carries a gorgeous selection of succulents, low-light plants, and ceramics that are ideal for city dwellers. Choose an option your partner can keep around for as long as their green thumb will allow. The Niche team will tailor your selection for the space and attention your special someone has to give. Prices vary / nicheplantshop.com
Alcohol-Free Craft Beer
Don’t drench your Valentine’s Day dinner with too much alcohol. Based in Stratford, Connecticut, Athletic Brewing Company’s ABC craft beer lets you enjoy the taste of IPA or golden ale without the hangover.
Somerville’s Neighborhood Produce makes grocery shopping fun again.
In a sea of big-name grocery stores, a standout shop in Somerville’s Winter Hill is putting a whole new spin on the way locals make dinner plans.
Neighborhood Produce is a fresh-food paradise. Owners Matt and Heather Gray have scoped out the best local fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats, and accompaniments to prep meals.
The best of the best is packed neatly into this small, perfectly organized shop. Whether you’re looking for herbs, teas, bulk spices, or pasta, Neighborhood Produce is ready with super fresh, thoughtfully sourced goods.
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.
How are those 2020 resolutions going? We’ve got you covered with a workshop on meal planning, a mental health and wellness discussion, free art exhibits, and a celebration of the bald eagle’s return. Get out there, Boston.
Nutrition Workshop with Good Witch Kitchen
Feb. 2 Boston Public Market, Boston thetrustees.org/things-to-do Learn how to meal plan on a budget and get yourself organized and energized for 2020 at this free event.
Feb. 6 ICA, Boston icaboston.org The Boston Institute of Contemporary Art is the place to be every Thursday night, with numerous free art exhibits and one of the city’s best waterfront views.
Fundraiser for Natick VFW
Feb. 8 VFW, Natick An afternoon of musical bingo, a raffle and silent auction, and a taco bar will benefit local veterans and their families.
Building a Giant Snowman
Feb. 8 Boston Common Instagram: @sohevents Facebook: SOhevents Unleash your inner child and help set a record for the world’s tallest snowman.
Feb. 8 Craftwork, Somerville craftwork.rocks This Valentine’s Day market features everything from art to oracle readings and handmade jewelry to custom face masks.
Feb. 11 Sonia, Cambridge nightout.com Build relationships and foster new connections with Sensi’s partners in the cannabis industry. Stay for a set by Organically Good Trio, an organ-driven instrumental group with a reggae spin.
15 Shades of Red
Feb. 13 Eataly Boston eataly.com Taste your way through the flavors of Italian wines and find your new favorite.
Heartbreakers & Heartthrobs: A Drag King Valentine’s Day Under the Dome
Feb. 13 Museum of Science, Boston mos.org/public-events The Slaughterhouse Society is hosting a not-to-be-missed night of drag king entertainment.
Merrimack River Eagle Festival
Various locations Feb. 15 massaudubon.org/get-outdoors Celebrate the return of the bald eagle with a day-long gathering at a few of Mass Audubon’s hot spots, including Newburyport and Amesbury.
Northeast Cannabis Business Conference
Feb. 19–20 Hynes Convention Center, Boston northeastcannabis businessconference.com Connect with dispensaries, cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, and much more at this industry event.
It’s hard to imagine a food more comforting than dumplings. Affordable, versatile, and communal, these little packages are an “it” food—some call them the next kimchi—for good reason.
Learn how to make your own delicious dumplings from the masters at Mei Mei, which consistently tops the dumpling rankings in Boston and makes some of the best bao in the United States, according to the New York Post.
Mei is the Chinese word for “little sister,” and the restaurant is owned by three siblings (Andy, Margaret, and Irene Li), whose grandparents introduced hot pot cooking at their China Garden restaurant in White Plains, New York, decades ago. In this case, mei refers to three important crops to indigenous Americans—winter squash, corn, and beans—known as the “three sisters.” It represents Mei Mei’s fusion of classic Chinese techniques with New England sensibility.
Mei Mei’s two-hour classes include instruction in five different ways to fold dumplings and how to make traditional Chinese pork and cabbage dumplings as well as pierogis with creamy potatoes, cheddar, and local veggies. During the class, students can enjoy plentiful snacks, including sweet corn fritters with maple soy aioli and scallion wedges with cheddar and pesto.
Death is the final taboo topic. Some people believe the mere mention of the word risks “calling it forward.” Psychologists identify fear of extinction—of ceasing to be—as one of the five basic human fears (along with mutilation, loss of autonomy, separation, and humiliation).
Death cafés are changing all that.
In 2004 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz began offering death-curious events called Café Mortels where people could explore the final journey. In 2011, Jon Underwood, a practicing Buddhist and London businessman, took the concept a step further with death cafés, which can now be experienced all over the globe. Underwood passed away in 2017 at age 44, but his legacy lives on in hundreds of events happening every month.
Death cafés offer a safe space for open discussion with tea and cakes and no judgment. A volunteer facilitator gets the conversation going and keeps things on topic as guests share their personal experiences or ask plaguing questions that would be inappropriate in other social situations. The events are free, and facilitators receive no compensation.
Richard Davis, who has been facilitating death cafés in several Boston suburbs for the past four years, was approached by various libraries that wanted to host events when he was volunteering with Merrimack Valley Hospice. “It’s important to know these are not seminars or lectures,” Davis says. “The topics vary greatly. A lot of people talk about the afterlife. We’ll talk about belief systems, different ideologies and philosophies, and final wishes. It’s not all deadly serious. They can be lively and animated. [People] come to talk about death in objective terms.”
The meetings are not grief-counseling sessions, although some people may attend to help manage their grief. They are not based on any religion, though people might choose to discuss their religious views. And they are not places to explore the idea of ghosts or spirit energy, although any topic related to death could crop up.
The environment is unassuming. Sixteen or so people sit in a semicircle or at a table, and meetings last between one to three hours. The facilitator initiates a free-form, casual conversation with a leading question such as, “What is your most memorable experience with death?” There are tears, but quite a bit of laughter too. Conversations run the gamut—superstitions, aspirations, fears, faith, euthanasia. Not much is off limits when discussing the ultimate journey.
Somerville resident Alan Bingham, a lifelong health-care professional and author of Dying Well Prepared: Conversations and Choices for Terminal Patients, facilitates a death café program at the local library. Bingham says most books about death describe the journey and pain of helping others but offer nothing about the dying process. “I talk to people about how to prepare, how to say the right things,” he says. “That sets my book apart from anything else.”
Death cafés attract an interesting mix, Bingham says, including people who have lost someone or are currently caring for someone. His groups are usually about 65 percent female. “Women have a sense of agenda, defining care-giving more,” he says. “They’re more exposed to it than men.”
Bingham offers advice on the death process and how to effectively prepare. He suggests taking a step beyond the usual living will or health-care proxy by creating an ethical will. “It’s not a legal will—it’s an articulation of your legacy, the reasons you’re making the decisions you make. It should talk about your love of family and your love of religion to keep your legacy alive. It’s a lovely thought, actually. It helps with your eulogy.”
Death is part of life, a rite of passage—morbid only because we think of it that way, he adds. “At the end of our lives, our final act is in dying. It will happen to us all. It’s important that we understand what it means.”
That’s what death cafés are all about. They help take death out of the shadows.
Back in June, in collaboration with the FDA, Massachusetts regulators banned the sale of CBD-infused food and beverages as well as products making unverified therapeutic claims. Yet months later, CBD-infused products—everything from sublingual tinctures that claim to help with sleep to water-soluble oils purporting to alleviate anxiety to topical salves advertising pain-easing qualities—still line the shelves at medical and recreational cannabis stores in Massachusetts. Amid the confusion, purveyors are doing their best to interpret the murky ruling.
Before these restrictions took hold, CBD-infused foods and drinks were popping up in restaurants and cafés all around Boston. Bodega Canal, a North End Mexican restaurant, served CBD-infused guacamole and cocktails. By Chloe, a trendy vegan chain, sold CBD-infused cacao chocolate bars. Noca Provisions (now defunct) offered an array of CBD-infused lattes.
Carrot Flower, a small café that serves plant-based smoothies, juices, and salads in Jamaica Plain, had to stop selling CBD-infused cookies and offering customers the option of adding CBD oil to tea, coffee, and lattes or risk failing its health inspection, says manager Audrey White. The café continues to sell packaged single doses and full bottles of CBD oil that customers can buy and add to their drinks themselves.
The difference between adding CBD oil to your own drink instead of having a barista stir it in may seem negligible, but it’s a great example of the nuances shop owners face as they try to follow local regulations. They will continue to swim in these muddy waters until the FDA drafts clear regulations, and even shop owners who work with CBD every day don’t know where its future lies.
The FDA, given authority over CBD and hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, is concerned about CBD companies making claims that might encourage patients to stop taking prescribed medications, even though most companies allege their products can ease the pain and anxiety that accompany a life-threatening illness, not cure the illness itself. The USDA has removed hemp from the list of controlled substances but refused to generally recognize it as safe.
Local boards of health are ultimately responsible for deciding enforcement strategies, and adherence to the new policy is inconsistent.
For Hemp Farmers, Devastation and Hope
Most people believe Massachusetts is down on CBD because it’s a derivative of a psychoactive plant commonly used as a recreational drug and could be a gateway to THC use—and in fact, a JAMA study found that some CBD products do contain trace amounts of THC. Oils derived from hemp generally have only 0.3 percent THC.
The irony can’t be ignored: You can purchase marijuana-derived CBD at any Massachusetts recreational dispensary, yet most hemp-derived CBD products are considered illegal. Consumers and producers alike are left to wonder why crackdowns have shifted to products containing CBD, the plant’s nonpsychoactive component.
This inconsistent ruling has caused upheaval in the Massachusetts hemp industry. It came as a huge surprise to the state’s 104 hemp farmers when state agricultural officials banned them from making or selling any edible product infused with hemp-derived CBD. The ban, in the form of a policy statement clarifying the state’s interpretation of existing law, came without warning and eliminated hemp’s most lucrative market.
Farmers across the state were devastated as tens of thousands of pounds of harvested hemp hung drying in their barns with nowhere to go. Growers are being offered as little as a fifth of the profits than they were expecting as the only market for their crops is biomass for fuel or feed. The state agricultural department still allows farmers to sell hemp seed, hulled hemp, and an assortment of other hemp products, but growers say those sales would probably not be profitable enough to keep them in business.
CBD’s future is uncertain, but there is hope. A bill filed in the Massachusetts House late last year asserts that hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD are not illegal drugs and that ingestible products containing CBD should be considered food. This bill could be a huge turning point for hemp cultivators.
Massachusetts attorney Michelle Bodian, who advises clients on hemp and cannabinoid issues, predicts enforcement and regulation of CBD will heat up at the state level until there is more federal guidance. States are already strengthening regulations on labeling, testing, and retailing of CBD products.
At the federal level, authorities have “chosen the least burdensome enforcement method, meaning enforcement letters with no penalties,” Bodian says. She’s quick to point out that marijuana, a Schedule 1 controlled substance, is subject to different regulations than hemp, which is regulated like cosmetics and food.
For about 5 percent of Americans, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) settles in just as winter does and stays around until spring. SAD is a recurrent annual depression characterized by hypersomnia, social withdrawal, overeating, carbohydrate cravings, and a lack of sexual energy. It seems to respond to changes in climate and latitude: about 1.5 percent of Floridians have SAD compared with nearly 10 percent of New Hampshirites. Fourteen percent of US adults suffer from a lesser form of SAD known as the winter blues, which leave them feeling less cheerful, energetic, creative, and productive.
There is no cure, per se, for SAD. The most prominent treatment is light therapy, replacing sunlight with bright artificial light. You need to sit for about 30 minutes in the morning in front of a light box (readily available online), which exposes you to at least 10,000 lux of UV-free cool-white fluorescent or full-spectrum light.
If you suffer from SAD or the winter blues, your instinct to pull the duvet over your head and sleep the winter away isn’t wrong. Humans evolved to be less active in winter because they needed to save energy when food was scarce, but modern Type A culture never cuts us any slack.
Here’s one: Historically, Leap Day was a day women had the right to propose to men who were taking too long to commit. One day, every four years, women were free to go after what they wanted—which is both sexist and progressive. I asked the universe how I should feel. It told me to stop asking it questions and to check out the gift the planet got for me and you and everyone: a whole extra day. Thanks, Earth!
Leap Day is a gift, and I propose we celebrate it by spending those free 24 hours going after what we want—whatever that may be. February 29 falls on a Saturday this year, a planetary/calendar alignment that happens once every 28 years. Until we make Leap Year an official holiday, this year’s free day affords the greatest chance for many to make the most out of the planetary gift. What will you do with your big day?
While you’re thinking about it, I’ll share big news on the brand front: we’ve launched a brand new website and a new magazine market. Check out sensimag.com, where you’ll see all our editions, including the new Sensi Tampa, our third edition to launch in a market where cannabis is still under prohibition. From the start, our mission has been to show cannabis as a beneficial part of a well-rounded, wellness-driven lifestyle in any city. That message was easy to spread in Colorado, then California, Vegas, Boston, and Detroit, but now we have the chance to showcase that lifestyle to markets where “the new normal” isn’t quite normal yet. It’s an opportunity we don’t take lightly, and I’m humbled whenever I take a step back and consider how incredible it is to be a part of a team of people driven to make a difference, to spark change in their communities, to stand up as advocates for the end of the madness that convinced generations of people to fear a plant that’s long been known to provide so much good.
On the new site, you’ll be able to find information about upcoming Sensi events in all 14 of our current markets, including Sensi Night Boston’s February gathering. If you’re in the area, you should come by, see what this new normal is all about. We’d love to have you. Sensi has a way of bringing good people together.
Jan. 20–Feb. 18 Aquarius Sometimes you do know what’s best for the people you love, but this month is all about celebrating what people can do without your assistance. Explore your own potential without the burden of helping others.
Feb. 19–March 20 Pisces Don’t be surprised if a new job or major project presents itself to you. As reluctant as you may be to let go of your current situation, your legacy may be better served by considering what the universe is offering.
March 21–April 19 Aries Concentrate on loving yourself this month. It’s not about proving yourself; it’s about filling yourself up and supporting your unique energy. February resonates with the signs of Aquarius (power of mind) and Pisces (power of intuitive). These are the elements to balance.
April 20–May 20 Taurus You will meet two amazing people. The man is a leader in his industry who has earned everything he has. The woman is unconditional love in action. Pay attention to the impression they leave with you.
May 21–June 20 Gemini You may feel frustrated that some people are questioning your credibility. They may not be the people to align with in the future. However, if these people have struck a nerve, that may indicate a skill to hone.
June 21–July 22 Cancer Ignore any past “stuff” this month. Although you may feel an innate obligation to heal, it is not your responsibility to do so. It’s time to forget the past and move forward. Trust yourself enough to enjoy this life.
July 23–Aug. 22 Leo Claim your spotlight this month. This is the month of announcements and commitments to a new future. The unjust element of last year has finally fallen away, and as such, your mojo and energy are (again) being celebrated.
Aug. 23–Sept. 22 Virgo Are you being stingy with your power? Have you done for people at the same level that they have done for you? Have you kept your promises? Are you telling the truth (not your version of it)? Balance the scales: reciprocity is your gift this month.
Sept. 23–Oct. 22 Libra Perhaps your dream is about to be fulfilled because you take an interest in your art or hobby. The more interested you are in the people who have followed their dreams, the more ideas and inspiration come to you.
Oct. 23–Nov. 21 Scorpio There are people who deserve your forgiveness. The grudge(s) you’re hanging onto could hinder the good energy coming toward you. There may be a new career opportunity that presents itself by the end of May, though you may hear about it this month.
Nov. 22–Dec. 21 Sagittarius You’re discovering what love means. You’ve figured out the emotional and financial issues and gotten yourself back on track. Your priorities are moving in the right direction, and you’ve accepted what you can and cannot do. Blessings on all of this!
Dec. 22–Jan. 19 Capricorn There’s a mistaken belief that Capricorns are cold and unemotional. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are drawn to puppies and kittens and are incredibly loyal to long-time relationships. You feel things to the core of your being; it’s time to let others see a glimpse of that.
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.”
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.
When the Boston Public Library—America’s first tax-supported lending library—opened in 1895, its architect, Charles Follen McKim, called it “the palace of the people.” A crown jewel of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classic architecture overlooking Copley Square, the library contains more than 23 million items (only the US Library of Congress has more volumes).
The Bates Reading Room, a Roman hall with a 50-foot barrel vault ceiling flanked by two half domes and 15 arched windows, has been a favorite spot for Bostonians to feed their brains since the library opened. The room is named after library benefactor Joshua Bates, a London banker who devoured books when he was growing up poor in Weymouth, Massachusetts. As a young professional, Bates could not afford books, so he spent his evenings reading in a local bookstore. When he made his donation, Bates wrote: “It will not do to have the rooms in the proposed library much inferior to the rooms occupied for the same object by the upper classes. Let the virtuous and industrious of the middle and mechanic class feel that there is not so much difference between them.” Bates added the rooms “should be well-warmed in winter, and well-lighted.”
Last year, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the creation of the Fund for the Boston Public Library, which has raised millions for preservation and restoration of the McKim building as well as digital innovations and technology.
North Cambridge–based MEM Tea’s Davis Square shop has a wall lined with more than 100 teas to taste your way through, with endless possibilities for preparing your own blends at home. MEM has flavors to satisfy even the pickiest palates, from subtle and sweet to savory and smoky. If you’re not sure where to begin, sit in on one of MEM’s many classes, attend an event, or drop in for a free tea tasting on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m.
Boston Chai Party co-founders Vishal Thapar and Rushil Desai couldn’t find authentic Indian chai in Boston, so they decided to bring real chai to the city. Skip the coffee, and order chai online from Chai Party, which delivers chai made with responsibly sourced ingredients and offers educational videos as well. Made from fair-trade Assam tea and freshly ground spices, this chai has no artificial flavors or syrups. No coffee shop chai can match this.
Based in Somerville, Tamim Teas is transforming the way we think about mushrooms, making medicinal mushrooms palatable and enjoyable. Committed to quality sourcing, Tamim’s owner, Liat Racin, ensures the mushrooms in your cup are from organic family farms in the US. If chaga is the king of mushrooms, Tamim is the queen of mushroom tea.
Old Friends Farm in Amherst offers immune-boosting, day-brightening turmeric-elderberry-ginger tea to get you through these cold months. Made with ginger and turmeric grown on the company farm, this tea is about as fresh as a dried blend can get. Enjoy it with a touch of Old Friends herbal-infused honey.
Mountain Rose Herbs isn’t based in Massachusetts, but the Oregon company is a go-to for online buying and education. Mountain Rose offers hundreds of single herbs and herb blends, and its website includes overviews, preparation suggestions, and precautions for every herb. You can order in small quantities or qualify for discounts when you buy larger bulk quantities.
Take a plunge for the new year, indulge in coffee and chocolate, and get friendly with winter. January’s packed with fun things to do—and many of them are free.
January is the month for setting goals, branching out, and rediscovering ourselves and our passions in preparation for the new year ahead. With a creative scene that’s bursting with character, the Boston area is the place to be. Looking to hop on an open mic? Incorporate more plants into your beauty routine? Learn how to plan budget-friendly meals? Take part in a local restaurant’s menu development? There’s something for everyone here. Whether you want to dive deeper into an existing love or explore the possibility of a new hobby, the city is waiting for you to take advantage of all it has to offer.
New Year’s Day Plunge
Jan. 1 L Street Bath House, South Boston boston.gov/calendar Gather at the L Street Bath House in South Boston for this annual New Year’s Day event—is 2020 the year you take the plunge?
Cooking on a Budget: SNAP-ED Nutrition Workshop
Jan. 3 Boston Public Market, Boston thetrustees.org The UMass Extension Nutrition Education Program is teaming up with the Boston Public Market for this free SNAP-friendly event to teach families how to eat healthy while on a budget.
Poetry Open Mic Night
Jan. 5 Cafe Zing!, Porter Square, Cambridge portersquarebooks.com/cafe-zing Cafe Zing! hosts a monthly open mic night for folks to sip their favorite coffee, swap creativity, and support the local community.
Clover Food Development Meeting
Jan. 7 Clover HUB, Cambridge cloverfoodlab.com What do you wish to see on future Clover menus? This free event offers you the chance to cook it up and present it.
Update on Invasive Plants
Jan. 8 Lexington Field & Garden Club, Lexington lexgardenclub.org Join naturalist Peter Alden in a free discussion about biodiversity and plants that could be taking over your garden or local greenspace.
Counter Culture’s Tasting at Ten
Jan. 10 Counter Culture, Somerville counterculturecoffee.com Coffee connoisseurs and caffeinated novices, take your palate on a free tasting of Somerville’s Counter Culture Coffee.
Boston Travel & Adventure Show
Jan. 11–12 Hynes Convention Center, Boston travelshows.com Now is the perfect time to plan your escape out of the city.
Winter Wellness Walk
Jan. 12 The Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain my.arboretum.harvard.edu Learn about winter in Boston and enjoy a peaceful walk around Harvard’s arboretum.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Jan. 20 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston mfa.org Spend MLK day reflecting at the Museum of Fine Arts, where the doors are open all day for free.
Seafood Supply Chain Open Forum
Jan. 23 Red’s Best, Boston redsbest.com Chat about New England’s fishing industry with Red’s Best founder Jared Auerbach during a free evening of enrichment.
Taste of Chocolate Festival
Jan. 25–27 Brattle Plaza, Cambridge harvardsquare.com Join some of Harvard Square’s favorite vendors for a free chocolate-filled graze fest on Brattle Plaza from 1 to 2 p.m.
Skin Food x Face Food
Jan. 30 Face Food Natural Beauty Market & Spa, Newburyport facefoodnaturalskincare.com Join holistic nutritionist Mary Taylor and holistic esthetician Khaki Paquette for an evening of plant-based knowledge for mind and body.
Juliet, the brainchild of chef Joshua Lewin and professional creative Katrina Jazayeri, has been welcoming guests since February 2016, but the restaurant’s concept is constantly innovating. Lewin said the partners have never had a plan. “We just let it happen,” he says.
The small space, once a beloved coffee shop, has a central, open kitchen so diners can see how food is prepared, dishes are washed, and even where flowers are stored. What makes Juliet so progressive is the business model, which embraces in-house talent and keeps ideas flowing. Workers are as much a part of the creative process as they are cooks, servers, bussers, and office staff.
In a management strategy that Juliet describes as “open book,” financial and operational information is shared with all employees, who are responsible for the restaurant’s challenges and successes. Employees have a stake in the outcome, growth is organic, and the staff works as a team. Juliet doesn’t allow tipping because the servers are paid a living wage.
Through the restaurant’s Pay What You Can program, diners—particularly restaurant staff and chefs early in their career, neighbors, and students—are invited to enjoy a three-course prix fixe dinner for whatever they can afford to pay.
Lewin is nothing short of a modern-day Renaissance man, with a background in writing, movies, theater, dance, and poetry, but cooking is his passion and his living, and he’s received multiple awards and accolades for it. With Jazyeri’s creative eye adding to the mix, Juliet is an idea hub. The food is delightful and insightful, and the prix fixe menu fires on all cylinders. Juliet’s website describes the dining experience as “a sort of immersive storytelling.” Themed menus include original poetry and prose.
The restaurant is only part of the Juliet experience. The team produces and manages a magazine, Of Juliet, featuring foodie fare as well as short stories, interviews, album reviews, opinion, art, and photography with covers designed by employees. Of Juliet is supported by donations and can be read online (ofjuliet.com).
The team at Juliet also produced a cookbook, Our Market Season, available on its website and at the restaurant. In a break from tradition, unlike dozens of restaurants in the Greater Boston area that grind out weighty cookbooks through major publishing houses, Juliet brought the process in-house. With a simple cover and beautifully detailed black-and-white illustrations by Ariel Knoebel, the book, affectionately called a cookbook(let), takes a seasonal approach to cooking and touches upon the unique ideas behind Juliet. It includes some 30 recipes as well as Juliet’s ideas, techniques, and stories.
Our Market Season and Of Juliet are available at the restaurant store, along with Jazayeri’s handmade cutting boards, Juliet socks, and custom spice blends by Curio Spice Company of Cambridge. As many as 150 people a day wander through Juliet, many of them neighbors. What’s next? Cooking classes are on the table, says Lewin. “We’re looking for that spark,” he says. “We have a lot of energy to give and not just for ourselves.”
Note from the Owners: French Onion Soup
Right, we know. Everyone makes onion soup with beef broth. Cheaters make it with chicken broth. We know, we know. But we make it with water. If you do the first part right, onions are just about all you need. You want to do it the quick way? Not a problem, but you better have some rich beef broth on hand to make up for it. We have recipes for beef and onion soup too. This was never meant to be that.
Juliet’s French Onion Soup
Makes 10 servings / Recipe from Joshua Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri
5 pounds Spanish onion, julienned 4 cloves garlic, sliced ½ cup butter 1 tablespoon kosher salt 2 fresh bay leaves 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped 2 cups red wine 2 quarts water ¼ cup red wine vinegar
Sweat onion and garlic in butter with salt, bay leaves, and thyme, covered.
Once vegetables have given up most of their water (they will be nearly covered with liquid), uncover the pot and reduce the water out by increasing the heat to a light boil and keeping it there, allowing that liquid to escape into the air and leaving behind a very concentrated little pot of onions.
Lower the heat and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are deeply caramelized
(1 hour at least).
Add red wine and reduce again until the pot is nearly dry.
You’ve heard of Massholes. Here are their donuts. Read
Sofar Sounds is redefining the concert experience.
In creating a more spontaneous experience for concert-goers, Sofar Sounds is redesigning the traditional concert model—and it’s bringing this revolution to Boston.
Keeping show lineups and locations secret until a few days before an event creates a sense of mystery and intrigue for concert-goers. The organization, which operates in 400 cities worldwide, offers lesser-known musicians a chance to go on tour and gives music lovers opportunities to listen to music outside of their usual genres and discover emerging musicians they may never have stumbled upon otherwise.
Sofar shows are set in unconventional locations, including art galleries, apartments, hotel rooms, and office spaces. A recent show was staged at Vibram, a shoe store and office space in Brookline. Audience members sat on the floor, some on blankets they brought from home, underneath glowing “flying shoe” decor strung from the ceiling. Like all Sofar’s shows, this one had an intimate vibe.
Sofar’s nonhierarchical lineups feature three bands playing four or five songs each. There are no openers or main acts, encouraging equal appreciation for all the artists. Charlotte Jacobs, an experimental pop band from Belgium, started off the night at Vibram, weaving an abstract, experimental quality into dreamy pop melodies through vocals and synthesized beats. Nick Anderson and the Skinny Lovers, an alternative rock band on its first-ever tour, and Visiting Wine, a lively five-part folk rock group that infuses its smooth harmonies with Southern stomp and holler, rounded out an evening of energetic chemistry.
Kombucha is that increasingly popular drink that owes its probiotic properties and tangy taste to a mother fungus. Beer is, well, you know. Kombucha can contain small amounts of alcohol due to fermentation and also mixes well into a cocktail. Unity Vibration has taken the pairing one step further with its kombucha beers.
Each brew combines the healthy tonic with organic hops and fruit flavors like ginger, peach, and elderberry to create a concoction that’s easy to sip. Just be prepared: it packs a whopping 8 to 9.1 percent ABV. The bourbon peach is the beer snob’s favorite, and the raspberry is a crowd pleaser.
Sira Naturals founder says cultural stigma is preventing the cannabis industry from exploding in Massachusetts.
When Michael Dundas launched his Cambridge-based company, Sira Naturals (formerly Sage Naturals), shortly after medical cannabis was legalized in 2013, he was confronted with challenges entrepreneurs in other industries don’t typically face. Because Massachusetts requires medical-use cannabis dispensaries to operate as nonprofits, he had no value-added collateral or equity opportunity to offer investors. In addition, his business was required to be vertically integrated, meaning Sira Naturals had to grow and produce everything it sold.
With adult-use legalization in 2017, medical dispensaries were allowed to convert to for-profit status, allowing access to equity financing. But Dundas, who converted Sira Naturals to a corporation before selling the company to Toronto-based Cannabis Strategies Acquisition in 2019, says Massachusetts can still be a tough place for cannabis companies to do business.
“Elected officials in many municipalities have had a ‘not in my backyard’ mentality due to the cultural stigma that cannabis has,” Dundas says. “When you add to that all the regulations and licensing required, negotiating host-community agreements, and financing still being somewhat difficult to get [because cannabis remains illegal on the federal level], it can be a hard environment to navigate.”
Still, Dundas sees enormous possibility for growth in the state’s cannabis industry. “It’s just a question of time,” he says. “Although municipalities have been slow to appreciate the economic potential, the market in Massachusetts is huge.”
What Matters This Month by Stephanie Wilson
1. Goals are the new resolutions. And since we’re in a new decade, let’s set loftier targets, hit them, surpass them. Where do you want to be in 2025? 2030? Start manifesting the life you want. In the shorter term, however…
2. Manifest the outfits you want by signing up for Nuuly clothing rental from Free People’s parent co. For just $88/mo., you get six temporary additions to your wardrobe—perfect excuse to try out new trends.
3. Be extra extra. I resolved to be just that at the start of last year. Met that goal and have a photo of the statement jacket I borrowed from Nuuly as proof. See @stephwilll if you’re curious just how extra “extra extra” is.
4. See Also: posts about my apartment/urban jungle.
5. Putting it out there now. I’m setting my first intention for 2020: I will get my place featured on Apartment Therapy as a home tour this year. Boom.
6. Wanna be my goal buddy? DM or post a comment—we’ll start a club. One with books and discussions involved. Community and knowledge will result. We’ll call it…The Book Club. Let’s do this.
You’ve heard of Massholes. Here are their donuts.
One of the newest additions to the Arlington neighborhood is the best little donut shop around.
This place sells nothing but donut holes—and with flavors like Boston Banana Cream (a brioche donut with Earl Grey–infused banana cream and milk chocolate ganache), New-berry Street (a chocolate cake donut with vanilla bean glaze, Nutella, and fresh blackberries), and Green Monster (a brioche donut filled with key lime curd and glazed in green-tea white chocolate), it’s a perfect spot for visitors to get a taste of Boston and a yummy treat for locals too.
Stock up on these cute confections for your next party or simply snack on them at the Lake Street shop.
Our magazine won Publication of the Year for the third time in a row at the Cannabis Business Awards in Las Vegas last month. It’s a testament to the people—from the publishers to the writers—who believe in this magazine and who continue to work every month to bring you the whimsy and the insight of the publication you hold in your hands. It’s a testament, too, to the dedication of CEO Ron Kolb and editor in chief Stephanie Wilson, who met in a coffee shop with an idea four years ago and have seen their passion blossom into magazines in 13 different markets across the country.
Sensi has grown and gained respect at the same time that cannabis has shucked off old stigmas. States continue to legalize and the national political will is moving toward decriminalization across the country. CBD is in everything from soda to shampoo. Entrepreneurs continue to find new ways to use cannabis and extracts to make life better for people in chronic pain or those simply seeking relief from a hectic life. At Sensi Xchange, a gathering of thought leaders that took place in Vegas the day before the awards, 19-year-old Coltyn Turner (coltynscrue.com) spoke about how cannabis helped get him out of a wheelchair as he battled Crohn’s disease. And 14-year-old Rylie Maedler (ryliessmilefoundation.org) explained how she used cannabis to beat a rare bone disease. She’s now an outspoken activist.
There is still work to do and the industry must be sure to engage in meaningful self-reflection. At the awards ceremony, long-time medical cannabis advocate and founder of The Last Prisoner Project (thelastprisonerproject.org), Steve DeAngelo received a lifetime achievement award. He implored the industry to get those out of prison who are still serving time (some life sentences) for possession of a substance that many now profit from. And there is a disturbing lack of Black and Brown faces in the industry, especially considering the ethnic demographics of those in prison as opposed to those profiting from cannabis. But this industry and the people in it have proven that they can grow and evolve. Let’s hope the awards continue to praise meaningful change on these crucial issues.
Cannabis prohibition is falling like an old empire across the United States. Yet not all new laws and regulations surrounding cannabis are winners. There are many laws in legal marijuana markets, both medical and adult-use, that are not based on data but are in fact quite arbitrary. At best, these regulations are off-base. At worst, they are curtailing access for medical patients who desperately need to access their medication. Laws have forced patients, adult consumers, and cannabis companies alike to jump through unnecessary hoops in order to get weed. But why?
Lawmakers have predisposed notions of what would happen if weed became legal. Unfortunately, many of the laws you see today were written by people coming from the perspective of a deeply ingrained “Reefer Madness” culture. Those in charge fear repercussions that are simply not backed by the data. When laws are developed through that lens, they are not likely to make a lot of sense.
It will take time to iron out these regulations, but someday they will be history. Fingers crossed. Here are six ridiculous, arbitrary, and damaging cannabis laws across the country.
1. No Restrooms Allowed
In West Hollywood, a lot of attention has been given to the country’s first open cannabis consumption lounge licensee. The Original Cannabis Cafe (previously known as Lowell Farms) has one bizarre quirk in its regulations forced by zoning. The restroom, formerly a part of the building located within the walls of the restaurant, had to be built out with a separate entrance.
The café owners told Sensi they were asked to disconnect the bathroom from the main building space. This forces customers to exit the front door and walk around the exterior of the building to use the restroom. Before opening its doors in October 2019, the restaurant scrambled to comply with this seemingly arbitrary building requirement.
As far as zoning is concerned, cannabis consumption needs to happen in a closed space. It is all very confusing. But the first cannabis consumption licenses to get off the ground will undoubtedly have some kinks.
2. Limited Lineup
Yes, there is a medical marijuana program in New York. No, it is not making a dent in the demand in the unlicensed market. This can be attributed to the state’s strict regulations, which make it so the only available products are items that aren’t as popular with medical patients.
Products in New York are limited to edible cannabis concentrate oil, capsules, or topicals. You can’t smoke it. Keep in mind, the allowable cannabis concentrate oil is not the same as the popular oils you’d dab with or put in a vape pen. You also can’t buy edibles that are already made with cannabis. Just capsules. New York consumers and patients do not have the option of regular ol’ flower.
This tight restriction on the products available for sale has deterred many cannabis patients, store owners, and cultivators from participating. While its medical program was enacted in 2014 by the Compassionate Care Act, the state has fewer than 30 medical dispensaries five years later.
3. Environmentally Unfriendly
All the largest markets have one unfortunate regulation in common: You cannot recycle or reuse any cannabis packaging. In Oregon, plastic childproof containers are required, but once the container is used to store cannabis, it is not allowed to be recycled, meaning all this plastic packaging ends up in landfills. The Bureau of Cannabis Control in California and Washington State laws make recycling products difficult. Colorado does not have any language in place for the recycling of cannabis containers.
It will become a Goliath issue if these laws are not amended to make practical recycling a part of the cannabis industry. Companies want to recycle, and they want a safe and effective way to reuse the old vape cartridges that are brought back into the store. Bad news is, because of these strict state regulations, they can’t. One solution companies are finding is to begin with recycled and reclaimed plastic, like products made by Sana. An innovative company called TerraCycle offers another solution in melting down and cleaning cannabis packaging waste. But like all other industries grappling with the plastic problem, the most impactful changes will be made top-down, not at the consumer level.
4. Not Fit to Print
Marketing regulations for the cannabis industry are a patchwork of chaos. There remain a limited number of ways that companies can advertise, and those laws vary state-by-state. Facebook and Instagram have gone out of their way to shadow ban cannabis companies, sometimes deleting the accounts of licensed, legal businesses. Google AdWords doesn’t play nicely with cannabis companies either, offering payment ad options to very few exceptions. In Colorado, you can’t advertise on billboards, on mobile, in banners, or in handout leaflets. California allows cannabis companies to advertise on billboards, but there is currently a lawsuit attempting to ban that method.
As a result of this mess, the industry has gotten creative with advertising. This very magazine is one avenue that exists without restriction, paving the way for marketing in the cannabis world.
5. Mandatory Monopoly
Some cannabis regulations go so far as to defy capitalism at its core. In Vermont’s medical cannabis program, for example, a registered patient must choose one—and only one—dispensary to buy from. Patients can change their designated dispensary, but only once every 30 days, and only for a $50 fee. The cost is an access issue for many medical patients.
Another peculiar move for Vermont: while any 21-plus adult can legally grow two mature and four immature plants for personal use outside in the sunshine (fenced yard, screened from public view), medical cannabis patients must grow indoors if they want to take advantage of the higher plant count available to them (seven immature).
6. Cash or… Cash
States that legalize cannabis want cannabis tax money. But they don’t allow companies to have a safe way to pay their bills, pay their employees, and to store revenue. Until the SAFE Banking Act makes its way through the Senate and eventually to the desk of President Trump, there is a massive regulatory issue. Dispensaries across the country are forced to operate as cash-only businesses—in a cash-only billion-dollar industry.
Stripe, Square, and other payment apps are cracking down not only on cannabis businesses, including CBD businesses, but on ancillary companies as well. Hopefully a solution will be found in the SAFE Banking Act. Cannabis businesses need to be able to lean on legitimate financial institutions.
Caitlin Fisher, an Ohio writer who describes herself as “queer as hell, autistic, prone to sudden outbursts of encouragement” and a lover of avocados, cats, plants, and soy chai lattes, released a new book this year, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation, based on a blog post by the same name that caught Twitter’s fancy and went viral in 2016. “The millennial generation has been tasked with fixing the broken system we inherited and chastised for not doing it right or daring to suggest improvements,” she wrote in the original post. “If you think we’re doing a bad job, ask yourself how it got this way in the first place.”
For Fisher, “OK, boomer”—the catch phrase that has surfaced as a way to dismiss stubborn, intolerant older folks—is nothing new. “We live in a meme culture, and this is a viral punchline,” she says. “It’s the new ‘whatever,’ a mic drop of, ‘I’m not dealing with this anymore.’”
Most boomers were blissfully unaware of the phrase “OK, boomer” until this fall, when a 25-year-old member of the New Zealand Parliament let it fly during a speech about climate change and the New York Times ran a “Style” section piece on it. Nearly every mainstream media outlet followed suit. Establishment boomers, publicly butt-hurt, declared intergenerational war, culminating in 60-year-old radio host Bob Lonsberry calling the phrase “the n-word of ageism” in a tweet he later deleted. Reaction was swift, fierce, and often hilarious. “You can’t say that, #boomer is our word,” @JazzHendrix tweeted. “But you can say booma.”
Though new to the mainstream media, on the subReddit r/BoomerTears, 17,400 members post “any sour or garbage logic from boomers explaining why they’re special or complaining.” #BoomerAdvice, blasting out-of-touch words of wisdom from you know who, trends pretty regularly on Twitter. And of course, there’s a viral TikTok of a white-haired boomer ranting while a teenager scribbles “OK, Boomer” (flanked with hearts) on his notebook as well as an “OK, booomer” song that has spawned 4,000 TikToks. Hoodies, t-shirts, phone cases, and stickers emblazoned with the phrase are available on Redbubble and Spreadshirt.
This is not your father’s generation gap; memes like “OK, boomer” spread exponentially faster in 4G. “We can talk to people across the world, and we have the power to create whole new movements and share information really fast,” Fisher says. “Teenagers are no longer rolling their eyes at the dinner table. Now, teenagers are joining the revolution.”
What Is This Revolution?
Millennials—along with their predecessors, Gen X, and successors, Gen Z—are angry. And whether they deserve it or not, boomers are taking the blame for social and historical factors that haven’t been kind to the generations that followed them. Boomers got college degrees “for the price of a McChicken,” according to one Redditor, while millennials are strapped with record student loan debt. The climate crisis and the rising tide of nationalism, inequality, and economic uncertainty all happened under the boomers’ watch. They elected Donald Trump.
Even to boomers, it’s pretty clear this hippie-cum-capitalist generation kicked a lot of cans down the road while they were chasing profits and partying like it was 1999 (well into the 21st century). “How many world leaders for how many decades have seen and known what is coming but have decided that it is more politically expedient to keep it behind closed doors? My generation and the generations after me do not have that luxury,” Chlöe Swarbrick told the New Zealand Parliament in her climate speech just before she dropped the OK bomb.
Even more maddening, boomers won’t acknowledge that younger generations are being forced to operate in a completely different economy, without the equity and safeguards boomers had and with huge fear about the future. “The world is just different,” says 30-year-old Lindsey Turnbull, who owns an empowerment company for teen and tween girls, MissHeard Media. “We need the adults to acknowledge that and not brush kids’ very real worries off as hormones.”
These millennials are quick to point out that not every boomer is a “boomer” (thank God!). And furthermore, anyone who is intolerant to new ideas and unwilling to unlearn their biases can be “OK, boomered.” It’s more about attitude than ageism.
“I know how exhausting it can be to debate with people, especially online, who are really adamant about not seeing another point of view,” says Turnbull. “‘OK, boomer’ just says you’re not wasting all that time and emotional energy trying to come up with a well-thought-out response when the person on the other side doesn’t listen.”
Trending on White Twitter
One of the biggest issues many people see with this meme-inspired revolution is that its guerrillas tend to be of a type—upper-middle-class white youth—and they’re complaining about issues like lack of economic opportunity and silencing that people of color have been dealing with for centuries. Black Twitter sees #OkBoomer as nothing more than disrespect for elders. “White Brogressives never cared about income inequity when it was just black or brown folks on the wrong end of it,” @Wonderbitch82 posted.
Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of Jacobin magazine and author of The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality, believes white upper middle-class youth who find themselves shut out of the housing market and exploited by the gig economy should aim their angst at investment bankers, not boomers. “These young people are surrounded by baby boomers who’ve hoarded all the wealth and polluted the planet in the process; they haven’t had to witness—or deal with the ramifications of—old age and precarity for millions of working people in that generational cohort,” he writes in the Guardian. “Instead they get to revel without self-reflection in oedipal angst about their elders—many of whom were kind enough to pass them their ill-gotten privileges.”
Fisher doesn’t disagree. “It’s important to acknowledge that ‘OK, boomer’ is about privileged older people, baby boomers in Congress who keep voting to give themselves pay raises but don’t want poor older people to have affordable health care,” she says. “While we’re fighting against the ‘royal boomer’ we can’t ignore the needs of older people in our communities. Ageism is really serious. There’s elder abuse, and medical debt is bankrupting older Americans. We can’t point to all older people and say they are the problem the way they point to our generation and say we are the problem. We have to open up the conversation.”
The conversation opens up for Turnbull, who lives in Washington, DC, when she mingles with people of all ages during political marches and protests. But in many places in the US, opportunities for cross-generational conversation are becoming rare as children are shunted into age-based sports and activities while the elderly are sent to care facilities, says Timiko Tanaka, an associate professor of sociology at James Madison University. “As is said in an African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” she says. “But today, many children are growing up without such a community.”
Tanaka says intergenerational care centers, which are starting to crop up across the country, have been proven to be useful in reducing age-based prejudice and stereotyping. In her Social Gerontology course, students spend at least 20 hours interacting and becoming comfortable with elderly people—so comfortable that by the end of the semester, they’re playing cards together. Schools, care facilities, and municipal governments need to create more opportunities for people to share different perspectives, she says.
“‘OK, boomer’ is a warning that we need to find a bridge, not a wall, and have meaningful conversation,” says Tanaka.
For decades, Central and Western Massachusetts have lagged behind the eastern part of the state in economic growth and job creation. Once-booming manufacturing towns like Holyoke and Fitchburg never recovered after factory owners pulled up stakes to seek cheaper labor in the South in the 20th century, and they’ve struggled with joblessness, poverty, and the crime and illicit drug activity that inevitably follow. Fitchburg has a median income of about $50,000, and Holyoke’s is just under $38,000. More than 28 percent of Holyoke’s population lives below the federal poverty line.
When medical-use cannabis was legalized in Massachusetts in 2012, regulatory issues and resident opposition in several Massachusetts cities and towns kept cannabis businesses out. Economically depressed communities have wholeheartedly embraced the cannabis industry’s potential to create jobs and generate economic growth. Government officials in Fitchburg and Holyoke saw an opportunity to bring the shuttered mills lining their rivers back to life, bring in much-needed tax revenue, and promote ancillary businesses, such as specialized construction firms that could repurpose vacant manufacturing space to meet the unique needs of cannabis cultivators.
To grease the wheels, both cities streamlined their host-community agreement (HCA) processes, required by state law before companies can apply for operating licenses, making it faster, easier, and less expensive for cannabis companies to set up shop. The cities’ mayors and state reps took their cases to the media, local chambers of commerce, and cannabis companies themselves, plugging their communities’ relatively low real estate prices, willing work force, and thousands of square feet of available industrial space.
In 2014, Somerville-based Revolutionary Clinics established a 140,000-square-foot medical-use cultivating operation in a former shoe factory in Fitchburg. According to the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise, the repurposed facility, which now operates in the adult-use space as well, had created 108 new jobs, paid more than $700,000 in taxes, and donated more than $25,000 to local charities and community organizations as of November 2019. Twenty-three companies had applied to the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to operate adult-use businesses in Fitchburg, opening the door to cultivation facilities, testing laboratories, and retailers. Some of these companies have purchased and renovated other vacant buildings.
In August 2016, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse became the first Massachusetts mayor to call for legalization of cannabis for all adults in the state. He’s been a fierce proponent for the industry, and his efforts are paying off. Morse estimates that the city has 1.5 million square feet of vacant industrial space waiting to be developed.
As of November 2019, 24 recreational-use cannabis businesses had applied to the CCC for licenses to operate in Holyoke.
In 2018, Green Thumb Industries (GTI), one of the nation’s largest medical-use cannabis providers, with headquarters in Chicago and 12 cultivation centers nationwide, spent $8 million to turn one of Holyoke’s historic 19th-century paper mills into a state-of-the-art growing facility. The company spent another $1 million to build a dispensary in Holyoke. According to its HCA with the city, GTI pays between $50,000 and $100,000 into Holyoke’s municipal fund and $15,000 in grants to community groups annually.
A Cannabis Workforce
Employers like GTI and Revolutionary Clinics need laborers, chemists, horticulturists, processing and extraction technicians, packaging and shipping staff, customer service reps, and construction and maintenance workers. To fill those needs, colleges are offering cannabis industry job-training programs.
Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) in Worcester, a nonprofit engaged in cannabis-related health research and social justice issues, partnered with Holyoke Community College (HCC) in 2019 to create the Cannabis Education Center for Entrepreneur and Workforce Training. “Within two years, 300 to 400 skilled employees will be needed in Holyoke,” says Jeffrey Hayden, vice president of business and community services at HCC’s Center for Business and Professional Development. “As a community college, the core of our mission is to figure out how to deal with things that block people from employment.”
HCC’s Cannabis Education Center offers training in four separate tracks, aimed mainly at the CCC’s Social Equity Program (SEP) participants, individuals who have been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition as determined by several criteria, including prior incarceration and living in one of the 29 Massachusetts communities designated as “areas of disproportionate impact.” Holyoke and Fitchburg are among these 29 communities.
The Cannabis Education Center’s educational tracks include entrepreneurial skills training, managerial training, entry-level job training for people reentering society after incarceration or with fewer than two years of work experience, and ancillary training for students with existing transferrable skills. Participants are required to complete 46 hours of instruction.
HCC manages the Cannabis Education Center’s business education programs, but because cannabis is not allowed on HCC’s campus, C3RN has partnered with area cannabis businesses to create hands-on learning opportunities for students interested in cultivation, extraction, culinary arts, and dispensary customer service.
The Cannabis Education Center also works to help industry representatives understand how they can take advantage of this newly trained workforce and working with local cannabis businesses to establish a scholarship fund.
Cannabis training programs have been established at other central Massachusetts colleges as well. Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner offers a yearlong online program culminating in a master certification, and Clark University in Worcester offers an online Certificate in Regulatory Affairs for Cannabis Control.
“We expect that there is going to be an explosion in jobs,” says C3RN CEO Marion McNabb. “Right now we have the opportunity to create a diverse industry where anyone who wants to work in it can. This can mean less crime and higher property values, but without a trained workforce, people from other states who are trained will come in, and nothing will change.”
Lynn is rebranding, and Beyond Walls is helping to make the town a cultural and artistic hub that reflects its diversity and draws the kind of crowds Salem gets at Halloween and Revere pulls in with its sand castle competition. The place-making and public art nonprofit is transforming underutilized public spaces into gathering spaces, producing large-scale artworks on buildings throughout Lynn, illuminating MBTA underpasses, and developing a three-acre waterfront park by the Lynn ferry terminal. The three-person startup sponsors a street art festival that brings in thousands every year.
“We have some lofty goals,” says Beyond Walls executive director Al Wilson. “But we have something special here—we play well with government agencies, and we’ve found a way to get big in-kind commitments.”
Beyond Walls was launched in 2017 to address walkability downtown, largely because of inadequate lighting on the Market Street Bridge, the Washington Street Bridge, and in Central Square. With help from government and private entities, the local electricians’ union, and a Boston architecture firm, Beyond Walls installed dynamic LED lighting under the bridges. Wilson’s team convinced the city to override a neon ban and let them hang 11 vintage neon signs, and it has brought in artists from around the globe to produce more than
“Beyond Walls is a model that can and should be replicated across the state and around the country,” Wilson says.
From the start, Sensi’s been all about progression. Growth is one of the two founding pillars of our company culture; humility is the other. I will be the first to admit the redesigned magazine you’re reading right now is long overdue. This is the first major overhaul of the magazine since we published the first-ever Sensi magazine covering the Denver/Boulder market in April 2016. Less than two years later, our first Boston publication rolled out to the East Coast, and today, we’re making local lifestyle magazines fueled largely by cannabis industry advertisers in 12 cities coast-to-coast.
The redesigned magazine and new branding you see here were about a year in the making. I jotted down my first notes on the subject last November while perusing old issues of Esquire magazine—the best of the best when under the editorial leadership of David Granger. He wrote about his title’s redesign in one of his editor’s notes:
“The magazine is not an inevitability. It requires eternal vigilance. It needs to … make an argument for itself.” Elsewhere in my notebooks, I wrote down this Granger wisdom: “[a magazine] is at its best when it starts over, when it is reimagined by the people who make it in order to better address the lives of its readers.”
So, that’s what we’re trying to do here. We glanced back to propel ourselves forward. We move onward, the only direction. And as author Jim Collins said (and I wrote down on a different page of that notebook): “[we] keep a clear distinction between what we stand for (which should never change) and how we do things (which should never stop evolving).” We stripped Sensi down to its core components and built it back up again with the reader experience in mind. With you in mind. I hope you like how it turned out.
Walk down any city street, and you’ll likely see an opportunistic mushroom growing somewhere. They pepper the lawns of suburban America and turn out in droves on millions of woodland acres all over the globe. They’re tenacious yet fragile—and often misunderstood. As plentiful as they are, the study of mushrooms is a relatively young science.
Master herbalist Nathan Searles, who harvests, dries, and sells mushrooms through his company, Forgotten Traditions in Tilton, New Hampshire, says about 1.4 million different types of mushroom species exist. Mycologists, scientists who study fungi, have identified about 80,000 of them, with only 2,000 deemed to be edible.
Ethnobotanists believe mushrooms have been part of the human diet since early humans. The Greek playwright, Euripides, made the first known reference to eating fungi around 450 BC. In the early 1700s, mushroom studies erroneously grouped fungi with plant life, and it wasn’t until nearly 100 years later that the term “mycology” was coined. Mushrooms have been studied in-depth for only about 70 years.
Mushrooms are curious organisms. They differ widely in size, shape, color, texture, nutritional value, and toxicity. Up to 60 percent of their genetics are similar to humans, and it takes two genetically similar spores, or eggs, to create a new organism.
Patterns of Consciousness and a Will to Be Harvested
Before you forage for mushrooms in the wild, learn from a professional how to determine what’s safe to consume. Searles warns that hunting in New England has its own set of risks. “There are look-alikes that can be very dangerous,” he cautions. Many mushroom species are similar in appearance but vary greatly in their compounds, depending on the type, season, region, substrate, and climate. The prized morel, for example, has a look-alike called a “false morel.” The difference is obvious to experts, but enthusiastic foragers can make dangerous mistakes.
All mushrooms are not edible. Mushrooms fall into four basic categories: edible, nonedible, toxic, and poisonous. Not all toxic mushrooms are poisonous, but all poisonous ones are toxic. “Some of the world’s most deadly mushrooms are in Massachusetts,” says Doug Sparks, editor-in-chief of Merrimack Valley Magazine and an amateur forager.
New England is home to some interesting species. “Hen of the woods, chaga, reishi, and turkey tail are powerful medicinal mushrooms,” says Sparks, who hunts for 25 species and can identify between 60 and 70. “Then there’s the black trumpet, absolutely delicious, and chanterelles, one of the tastiest out there.” (Searles, the herbalist, keeps the savory, rich, slightly smoky black trumpet—difficult to spot on the forest floor—exclusively for his family.)
Mushrooms “want to be harvested,” Sparks says. “It’s like they line the pathways for people to find them. It’s how they reproduce. When you pick them, thousands of spores are released. They want to be disturbed. They seem to show patterns of consciousness. Mycelium is part of a network, like trees that communicate underground.”
Mycologist Paul Stamets, the go-to guy in fungi, insists that mushrooms call to him and communicate with him through intuition and imagination. Sparks agrees. “Sometimes you just feel it, and you have an impulse, and it guides you,” he says.
Nutritious and Flavorful
Mushrooms are perceived very differently around the world. Cultures are mycophilic or mycophobic depending on how plentiful wild mushrooms are to the region. Italians, Asians, and Eastern Europeans grow up around mushrooms and use them in traditional dishes, while the Irish and English approach them with more caution.
In Asian cultures, matsutake mushrooms sell for up to $5,000 per pound, Searles says, because they cannot be cultivated and must be foraged in the wild near pine trees. Shiitake mushrooms are also considered a delicacy and are as widely cultivated as white button mushrooms in the US. Oyster mushrooms, the new darlings in the Western world, broadened the playing field because they’re easy to cultivate and grow on almost any substrate, as long as it’s sufficiently inoculated with spores.
Most mushrooms contain an impressive but varying amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals and are 20 to 30 percent water. The nutritional makeup of any mushroom depends largely on the substrate—the more nutrient dense it is, the more nutritional value contained in the mushroom, Searles explains. Some species are notably high in vitamin B-12, which is difficult to maintain in the body. Searles and Sparks agree, however, you cannot survive on mushrooms alone. Their dense fiber content makes them difficult to digest, and too many mushrooms will make you sick.
When it comes to flavor, mushrooms are a core food for achieving “umami,” a word that means savoriness in Japanese and has joined the ranks of the familiar tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Unusually rich and satisfying, umami is equated with the intense flavor of aged, dried, and fermented foods. Dried shiitake mushrooms are umami, offering a dense base and a hearty broth when rehydrated. Umami stems from the presence of glutamate—the same glutamate you’ll find in popular flavor enhancer MSG.
As veganism grows in popularity, mushrooms have become a go-to meat alternative, delicious in soups and sauces and now graduating to become the main dish at the dinner table. Keith Pooler, head chef and owner of Bergamot in Somerville, creates some remarkable flavor combinations with fungi, including Madeira Mushroom Cream, which combines earthy morels with a rich cream sauce and full-bodied Portuguese wine.
No matter how you slice them, mushrooms are becoming a staple food in the American diet. As our understanding of these remarkable fungi expands, so will our discovery of new uses in the kitchen and in medicine.
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.