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November 27, 2021

Funny Papers Again Column | Hello Cousin… And Cousin… And Cousin…

My landlord/roommate here in King City has a book that details the genealogy of early families in South Monterey County. He is a cousin in the Grab-Eade-Bengard-Copley clan and that makes for a fair number of cousins at all levels: first, second, third and distant. The obvious explanation for all these surnames being interrelated is because back in the late 1890s through the mid-1930s there weren’t all that many families from which one could choose a spouse, so it made sense you’d marry the gal or guy from the ranch just over the hill or the neighbor living four blocks away.

And the families above aren’t alone in cousinhood. There are also other family trees that blossom: Houx-Hall-Andrus-Harness can all say “hey cuz” on a regular basis. I was classmates with, and later performed onstage, with branches from the widespread Plaskett-Barbree-Hearne family tree. And when families cover both King City and Greenfield it can get multitudinous; a fellow can get lost in all the foliage of the Potts-Haver-Sirack-Hernandez-Yoakim-Sonnikson-Armer tree.

Anyhoo, the book mentioned above interested me because for most of my life I have had no close cousins in California; the closest were in Los Gatos who we visited rarely, and after my parents transferred from Soledad Correctional Facility to California Men’s Colony way down in Riverside County back in 1972, we pretty much lost touch. So growing up in Greenfield I was always interested in just who of my friends were related by either blood or marriage.

There were, and still are, a few families in town all tangled up in cousinhood. One I knew of from an early age was the Borzini-Poare-Leoni-Jones-Rianda-Roberts connection; lots of cousins there. I had three classmates that I did not know were cousins until later in life, that would be the Garnica-Partita-Diaz families. This getting to know all of whom married who is information that comes in trickles as we grow up, so by the time I was in high school I was aware of the Azcona-Bassetti-Layous cousins. And there are more: an Allred-Hayes-Grogan-Clark connection and, again a combination of towns, the Schmidt-Bray-Franscioni cousins; some of whom attended KCHS at the time I did.

Now, I realize I will probably get corrections and additions to some of those families cited above and that brings me to a point: someone should make an online forum available for families to list their genealogies, with the ability to correct or add as needed; very like a Wikipedia format. That way the history of Valley names is not lost to time and attrition.

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There is a cannabis store in Greenfield. While I am aware that is not news nor is it unknown that cannabis is now legal in many places, but it is still something, as one who has been around awhile, I find quite remarkable. But before we get to that let’s look at some words used over the decades in reference to cannabis, which of course is the plant’s Latin name. The slang terms include pot, grass, reefer, weed, ganga, yesca and buds to name a few.

Back in the late 1930s my dad drove a taxi in Des Moines, Iowa, and his late-night fares were Black musicians who referred to cannabis as “tea.” Marijuana is the Spanish word for the name MaryJane, which is also an early name for cannabis; cigarettes containing marijuana are either joints, reefers (again), doobies, spliffs and blunts, depending upon who you’re smoking with.

All these words have a history of time and place and so I have never questioned their use, but there is a word associated, probably the word most associated, with pot and that is used to describe the end result of ingestion. That word is “high.” You smoke weed, you get high. This can only be done semantically, not scientifically. Cannabis is a depressant, and you can’t get high using a downer any more than you can get sober drinking a shot of whiskey.

A look back at the early years compared to now is rather sobering; there was a time when all connection to marijuana was looked down upon and could get one both ostracized by and separated from society. Getting caught meant getting a bad rep or maybe going to jail, neither a rosy prospect, so being careful, and paranoid, was a constant strain. To ease the strain, we got high, which to many was a bit baffling: using the stuff to ease the stress that the stuff created. But the fear was real.

I once worked with a fellow in Salinas, way back in the late ’70s, who had been sentenced to three years for possession of marijuana. But the type and amount of pot he got sentenced for, all seeds and stems and low THC, would not, by today’s standards, qualify as usable and any current smoker would toss it out without second thought. Science has come a long way in cannabis cultivation, mostly through the efforts of doctors and scientists seeking to increase medical applications of the plant.

Another aspect of the current pot culture is who uses. While I have no research statistics to back this up, I would say that there are far more of the over-30 crowd using reefer than those under that age. And among the teen set the numbers are way lower; pot is not a big deal with many of the younger set. I see that as a good thing; looking back on my teens and early 20s, I would agree with Richard “Cheech” Marin of Cheech and Chong fame who in the late ’90s said, “Looking back, we got maybe a little bit too stoned.”

Stoned is another one of those descriptive words used by potheads that doesn’t really fit; smoking pot does not produce the same feeling as a group of villagers bouncing rocks off your noggin. And thank goodness for that.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist
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