A Strange Trip with John Perry Barlow
On a windy October night in 1969, John Perry Barlow blew into our rented house on the Connecticut shore like a blast from the past and the future too. Dressed as usual in a leather coat and cowboy hat, he had a suitcase and backpack he’d lugged all the way from India, through JFK Airport and straight up the highway to this funky summer cottage on Long Island Sound where he’d never been before. How did he even find the place?
He looked exhausted but also wild-eyed, preternaturally awake, with an “aha” look on his face that had nothing to do with homecoming or navigation. He shrugged off his pack and extracted a bronze, nearly-life-sized head of a Buddha. When he handed it to me, I almost dropped the thing. It was heavy. Solid bronze? The neck of it had been sealed over with some thick, dark substance that had hardened almost into a kind of cement.
Barlow rubbed his finger on the dark, sealed neck, took a whiff of it and handed it to me to do the same. I couldn’t smell anything, and that was the point.
“The Customs guys checked it out for 10 or 15 minutes, sniffing it, handing it back and forth. They finally decided not to bother," he said. "The guys who sealed this up for me assured me it would harden up and give off no smell. One of their main ingredients was cow dung.”
Barlow rummaged around in the kitchen for tools, knives, drill bits, a hammer. Then he whittled and chipped at the dark neck of the bronze head. The sealing material began to fall off in pieces. After a while he finally cleared out the Buddha’s neck, reached inside and pulled out a wrapped package that turned out to be a kilo of Nepalese black hashish in a thick braided bundle, just under a foot long. To pack it tight and keep the hash from banging around in the Buddha’s brain, Barlow had stuffed the head with flaky, reddish-brown Indian ganja.
From “My long strange winter trip with John Perry Barlow, a legend in the making” by James McEnteer for Salon
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