In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis is as entertaining as it is informative.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
“Fun, informative, and stylishly designed, this guidebook positions marijuana cultivation as a legitimate, high (no pun intended) end, enjoyable hobby in the style of brewing beer or growing orchids.”
Writing Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis with the Raven Grass crew and Tin House was such an artistic, collaborative and sensory experience so naturally music played into it. I may or may not have cultivated cannabis pre-recreational-legalization in Oregon but I certainly grew cannabis outdoors in the summer of 2016 and the summer of 2017 while researching and writing Grow Your Own. What a life. Pretty stinking lucky.
From start to finish, Grow Your Own took us about two years to research, write, edit and design. When we were in the thick of the research and writing of it I put together a playlist for everyone that was primarily based on song titles and lyrics. I thought about using that playlist here, but ultimately decided to put together a more storied playlist for you and our beloved Largehearted Boy David Gutowski.
This mix includes all sorts of songs and musicians that have meant a lot to me over the years. The first three songs are from that original in-book-production playlist, however, because I love them and think you will too. Thank you so much for reading this and listening to my all-things-green playlist.
Every Day I Write the Book — Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Best of the First 10 Years
Writing and putting together books is so consuming and it’s nice to have fun and enlivening things like playlists to keep everyone’s energy up. The first time that someone put together a playlist for a book project I was working on was in 2012. Walter Green, then McSweeney’s designer and book designer of my first cookbook, Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull (McSweeney’s 2013), made a Spotify playlist for me, our book’s editor Rachel Khong (her novel just came out!) and chef John Gorham when we were in the thick of recipe testing and essay writing. It was a generous gesture when stress levels were pretty high. Teamwork greatly benefits this sort of generosity if you haven’t learned this much by now. We listened to the songs — Rachel and Walter in their San Francisco office, John and I in Portland — while going through final edits and making sure that everything was just as it should be. Or almost everything 😉
Pass the Dutchie — Musical Youth, Anthology
This song was on a mix tape that I “borrowed” from my brother, who’s five years older than me, in junior high. I was just getting into weed at the time and it was such a cool song to me from its sound to its message. I’d never heard anything like it — kids on the street, so raw, fun and vital. At the time, there were rumors that my brother was growing weed in the woods behind our house but I never found it and he’s never admitted to it since if he did.
Lately my brother’s been wishing he lived in a legal state because he’s been learning more and more about the medical benefits of CBD in particular. We recently had a funny conversation when he was talking about CBD but I thought he was, in fact, talking about cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Nerds.
I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve turned onto using cannabis as a sleep aid as well as an anti-anxiety treatment over the past couple years. Cannabis as medicine (one you can grow your own!) is a topic that comes up again and again in Grow Your Own and along that line we include recipes for tincture, butter or coconut oil infusion and all sorts of yummy things to make with both. There’s even a recipe for cannabis-infused chocolate shell in the book. Remember Magic Shell?? Ours actually tastes good — good quality chocolate and coconut oil.
Pass the Koutchie — Mightly Diamonds, Crucial Reggae
I had no idea that this original version of the song existed until I put together that original Grow Your Own playlist. It’s funny though because “dutchie” in the Musical Youth song actually refers to a cooking pot, while “kouchie”, in this original version refers to a cannabis pipe. The Musical Youth song removed all explicit drug references. I like to have these two versions together — the original and the cover. That juxtaposition reminds me of one of my favorite radio shows Chances with Wolves.
Strawberry Letter 23 — Shuggie Otis, Freedom Flight
My fine fellow DJ Jimbo played this beauty at our wild Grow Your Own launch party last summer at Holocene in Portland. He played a lot great music throughout the night, some of which you can listen to here, and his music combined with all the mind-melty, bold and beautiful art and images that my co-author Nichole Graf gathered and projected over the stage and bar was awesome.
I really dig this song. If you want to check out the Grow Your Own launch party, and all the kick-ass folks, many of them women, who spoke and demo’d and tabled at it, I posted a bunch of photos and info about it here.
Shine a Light — Shabazz Palaces with Thaddilac, Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
Last summer after Pickathon music festival, Jimbo was invited to open with a DJ set for Shabazz Palaces (!!) at Portland’s Star Theater. I can’t properly relay to you how excited I was when I heard this news. Shabazz is one-big-part Digable Planets with Ishmael Butler aka Butterfly being so crucial to both bands. The Digable Planets have made my heart go pitter patter since they formed in the late 1980s.
The end of last summer in Portland was really stinking hot and also smoky because of a dramatic, destructive wild fire that tore through the nearby Columbia Gorge. My two backyard sativa-dominant cannabis plants, that I grew in easy-to-move 25-gallon fabric pots, suffered through it with significant heat stress. The tips of their leaves browned and curled up and they also got overloaded with ash and particulates from the fire. (Our Grow Your Own Troubleshooting chapter gives you all sorts of info. and insight into tackling this sort of problem, as well as a host of cannabis pest problems, naturally, effectively and organically.)
My plants survived and so did we! And my friends and I have been enjoying their despite-all-obstacles perseverance via our pipes, vaporizers, joints, cannabis tinctures and oils all fall, winter and spring. I remember showering my quite-mature-by-then cannabis plants in water and shaking the droplets off (steer clear of mold!!) before we made our way to the Shabazz show.
At the show, after Jimbo’s awesome set, I offered my vaporizer filled with my previous year’s homegrown to a couple of Shabazz friends — they’d been hanging out backstage. We passed it back-and-forth a fair few times and one of the security guards saw us and took it from me later that night. I know that I shouldn’t have done that but I’m a wild one and summer tends to get to me. I got the vaporizer back eventually but it took some fancy footwork.
What Cool Breezes Do — Digable Planets, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Place)
I took a year off in-between high school and college and tried out some jobs in some places I’d always dreamed of. I thought I might want to be a farmer or a park ranger so I worked a couple seasons at Yosemite National Park — in the general store and housekeeping, and I worked on a culinary herb farm in Spain. I saved up for both journeys with restaurant service jobs in Cincinnati, Ohio. At Yosemite, I made all sorts of lifelong friends. I lived in a tent cabin, slept on a cot, did a lot of solo backpacking, did a little rock climbing and smoked a lot of weed.
My friends Raquel, Cindy and I — we all ventured to the park solo and became fast friends there — listened to this first Digable Planets album often when we were passing a joint, pipe or smoking the occasional blunt. I got the nickname Crazy Glasses in Yosemite because whenever I’d get really stoned in the valley I’d put on a pair of these big funny sunglasses. In the evenings, we spent a lot of time standing in front of camp vending machines weighing our options and laughing, always laughing. I wonder why??
Burnin’ Up — Sonny Smith, Rod For Your Love
I first came to Sonny and the Sunsets several years ago when a good friend gave me his debut album right after I’d been through a bad breakup. It carried me through, as music does, and Sonny’s music has signified independence and artistic freedom for me since. His music is heartfelt, full of truth and most of it is just really fun. Sonny is all about fun.
I sort of wish that I was stoned the last time I saw him at Mississippi Studios a few weeks ago for this new solo album (So good! Get it!) but I was getting over a minor concussion that took about a month to recoup from so I was taking it easy. Sonny had them turn off the lights completely on stage and in-house a couple of times during the set and that was really sweet. I’ve never experienced that at a show. It felt so intimate and special.
Mellow My Mind — Neil Young, Tonight’s the Night
Neil Young is one of my favorite people on the planet who I’ve never met. I feel so grateful to him and all of his music, art, activism and vitality. I get the feeling Neil partakes in cannabis much less now post-brain surgery but it’s obviously been a longtime friend to him and his musical creation.
If I listed some of my favorite things to do when stoned the top two would certainly be listen to music and have sex — preferably both at the same time. I wish I could get you a copy of my Grow Your Own co-author Nichole’s sex and cannabis zine that she put together at the beginning of the year and that I contributed to — Birds, Bees, Flowers, Trees. So many good stories in it along with inspired artwork and poetry. Also, have you read Broccoli? Love it.
Do What You Wanna Do — Devin the Dude, The Dude
Years ago when I was waiting tables and managing the wine program at a Portland’s RIP Alameda Cafe there was a Cuban man who I worked with named Erasto who was a dishwasher at the café and always had one bright and shining piece of advice for me. I’d come in from setting up the outdoor sidewalk tables in the morning, or pass by him when taking out the trash at the end of the night, and he’d look at me, hold up his index finger and say in his beautiful voice, “Only one life, Liz, remember. Only one life.”
We’re long out of touch, but Erasto’s life involved a lot of sacrifices for his family as he’d left his scholarly career path in Cuba to wash dishes in Portland, Oregon. He was always there to remind me — I was then a fledgling in the freelance food writing world — that I should dream big, follow my heart and not waste any time. Mostly I think he just wanted me to stop waiting tables and dive full-time into my writing. It didn’t take long for me to do just that. Thank you, Erasto. This song would probably make him roll his eyes in many parts, but the primary sentiment of living your own life and blazing your path shines through.
I listened to this Devin the Dude album on my drive back from Olympia the first time I met the Raven Grass crew up there right as we were setting off into our Grow Your Own book project at the end of summer 2015. A four-leaf clover affixed itself to my boot during that first meeting. I’m not exaggerating. We went on a walk and all of the sudden there it was on the tip of my boot. Anyhow, it’s a good memory of the very beginning of Grow Your Own.
Rirongere — Oliver Mtukudzi, Tuku Music
In 1998, when I was in college, I was lucky enough to do a semester of study abroad in Zimbabwe. When we got to Bulawayo for a several week stay I asked a teenage street sculptor selling his wares downtown if he would carve me a fish-shaped charcoal colored soapstone pipe. He loved the idea of that and he did. It’s beautiful and works so well. To this day, it’s my favorite pipe.
That pipe is actually photographed in all its glory on page 170 of Grow Your Own at the beginning of Chapter 11: Consuming Your Cannabis. That chapter also includes fun things like steps and illustrations for how to make a gravity bong and carve an apple pipe, and it also lays out the ins and outs of vaporizers, dab rigs, and all the other myriad methods for enjoying cannabis.
When the sculptor in Bulawayo handed the pipe over to me a week or so later he said, please be careful when using this while you’re here. So I named it Chenjerai which is Shona for beware, be cautious. I fell in love with Oliver Mtukudzi’s music during my time in Zimbabwe and this album had just launched so I saw him play from it a few times. If you’ve never listened to Mtukudzi, and dig this song, I highly recommend finding an album of his. He’s brilliant.
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind this Time) — The Delfonics, The Delfonics
I don’t have a story for this song (and my other stories have been a bit long so…) I just want it here. It feels right so I’m going with it.
At My Window — Townes Van Zant, Be Here to Love Me
Nichole and Micah, my Grow Your Own co-authors and co-owners of Raven Grass have a dog named Townes and I used to have a cat named Little Susie and both of those pet names are inspired by the same man, the late Mr. Townes Van Sant. What are the chances? Lil Susie was named after a character in the song Dead Flowers which Townes sang. The Rolling Stones wrote and originally performed that song but I much prefer Townes’ version. I really like this Townes song that I’ve included and hope you do too.
Look at What the Light Did Now — Little Wings, Light Green Leaves
This is the first Little Wings song that I ever heard and I’m pretty sure I first heard it while listening to Jeffrey Davison’s excellent WFMU show Shrunken Planet but it also might have been through an old Arthur Magazine compilation. I came to both around the same time and there’s a lot of overlap.
While working on Grow Your Own I learned how very much my co-author Nichole loves Little Wings because I told her about a writing residency that I did at the Sou’wester when on my last night of the residency Little Wings happened to play a show that Michael Hurley opened for, who I also love. Nichole freaked. She loves Little Wings. Michael Hurley actually congratulated me on making so much headway on my novel during my residency that night and that really made my heart sing. I’ll never forget it.
This song is so simple and beautiful. When you’re cultivating cannabis, whether indoors or outdoors, there’s a lot of time and thought that goes into lighting and believe you me we hold your hand and go into the details of that in Grow Your Own so that you know about all of your options. I grew cannabis indoors a bit pre-legalization but I prefer outdoor gardening of all stripes. In fact, in another month or so I’ll be planting this year’s backyard cannabis garden! I can’t wait — I look forward to my spring-time planting all year. It’s nice to have all that I learned while researching and writing Grow Your Own with the Ravens fuel it now. When I’m out in the garden and the light shifts in a pleasing way this song often breezes into my mind. I hope it will breeze into yours now too.
Liz Crain and Grow Your Own links:
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Food Lover’s Guide to Portland
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for Toro Bravo
Portland Culinary Podcast interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 – ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 – 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 – 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film’s soundtracks)
weekly music release lists