I'd been helping my friend "Raoul" drive across the country in a Lexus with California plates. Raoul made a lot of money in the Internet equipment industry, and he was changing jobs and relocating to the East Coast. The Lexus was equipped with every kind of toy you can imagine, from GPS to radio scanner to mobile Internet link to mountain bikes riding up on the roof rack.
We'd spent the night before at Raoul's in-laws, near Maysville, Kansas. Raoul had visited these parts before, and was eager to point out the roadside hemp plants, a vestige of Civil War days when the most common hemp was grown for its fiber.
My interest in hemp is ordinarily rather minimal, but at the time I happened to be about halfway through Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, in which George Washington experiments with the cultivation of hemp. Washington plants an exploratory plot with plans to sell the crop, if it should prove successful, to "New York fops" to finance a war in Minnesota against the Jesuits and Chinese, who are supposed to be in cahoots. The characteristically paranoid Pynchon thus effectively plants in the earliest days of the American political scene the notion of government-sponsored domestic drug sales financing foreign wars.
© 1997,98 Henry Kingman
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