A 55-year-old reiki healer who reads this newsletter recently invited me to a hippie weed festival on Rainbow Farm—an underground cannabis hotspot in rural Michigan infamous for an FBI shootout that left its two owners dead in 2001. (Seriously, you should read about it.) The reiki healer is several decades sober from alcohol but loves to smoke weed; she said discovering Cali Sober helped her feel seen.
“I just wanna meet ya!” she chirped over the phone, offering to buy my flights and hotel room. I accepted immediately, stoked at the prospect of a new kind of patron: a subscriber instead of a media company…a sugar mommy who doesn’t want sex?! How…refreshing.
I was packing my bags and getting ready to jump into this portal when the reiki healer called. “My husband got COVID!” she wailed. “…and I’m not vaccinated!” And just like that, the portal closed.
Rather than braving the hippie festival solo (scared of wooks!), I flew back to LA to do some digging for a documentary about underground psychedelics. The sudden twist in travel plans meant I didn’t have a place to stay for a few days, and finding a sublet in LA right now? Pssht, good luck.
So I hit up Shroom Mom, the most fabulous drug dealer I’ve ever known. Shroom Mom is an elegant eccentric in her 50s who grows dozens of psychedelic and adaptogenic mushrooms in her sprawling bungalow—and sells them to the Hollywood stars who happen to be her neighbors. We met a year ago at a dinner party, where she told the table about an S&M club where dominatrixes give you psychedelics before cracking their whips. (Now you see why I’m obsessed!)
Shroom Mom said “yes”—I could stay in the mushroom mansion’s guest room. So late one night I showed up on her doorstep straight from the airport, and she ushered me into the kitchen. Flinging open her fridge to grab some guacamole, she pointed out an acid microdose spray and DMT vape chilling in the butter compartment. “Let me add you to the Signal chat with my friend who makes these acid sprays,” she said, putting the kettle on. “Oh! And I ordered weed milk tea for you this weekend.” I grinned and reached for the jar of cookies on the counter. “Those gingersnaps have LSD, 2C-B, and MDMA in them!” she said. “Want one?”
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Around the time I met Shroom Mom, I was having a druggie fling with a fentanyl dealer who I met at a strip club hosted by a CGI porn star in her backyard. (Yes I know that sentence is absurd… Longtime Rave New World readers might remember this character from the #FreeBritney protest.) Admittedly, I was going through it at this nadir of the pandemic, so the fentanyl fuckboy and I would stay up for days, his black box of drugs feeding my bottomless appetite for abjection. Until one afternoon, when I woke up to a war vet meekly smoking the sweet-smelling stuff out of tinfoil in my living room and decided, ENOUGH.
While fentanyl fuckboy and mushroom mama are both, technically, drug dealers, they occupy opposite ends of the spectrum: fuckboy pulsed with the carnivorous bloodlust of the streets, and I watched him callously cut cocaine with chemical fillers (not fentanyl!) to maximize profits while laughing at the junkies constantly blowing up his phone with desperate requests. This paradigm felt familiar and expected; I’ve never met an underground dealer who isn’t unhinged—even the nice ones always show their cracks in the end.
Every morning that I woke up to Shroom Mom singing to herself while spritzing plastic bins of shroom spores in her humidity-controlled grow room, it felt like a new paradigm was cracking open—one where drug dealers could also be earthy elders governed by generosity and kindness, and are driven to distribute not poison, but medicine. Shroom Mom loves gifting mushrooms to her customers, especially to women of color and sick patients, and I watched her give away ziplock bags stuffed with caps like VIP gift bags. But Shroom Mom also knew how to hustle, and was constantly on the phone with her network of movers-and-shakers in the drug world, negotiating business deals while spinning on her Peloton.
You see, Shroom Mom blew my mind because I’ve never really talked about drugs with my real mom, who lives in Singapore and doesn’t know what weed smells like. Shame bubbles up every time we broach the subject, so I’ve learned to obscure what I do for a living. “Stop sending me propaganda,” I snapped when she recently Whatsapped me a controversial article about cannabis causing heart attacks. “Oh honey,” she replied, “That’s all we get out here…”
Yet, all this mommy energy clustering around me like protective planets as I pirouette around the drug underground has made me reconsider motherhood—not literally lol, but like, as a concept? Becoming a mother seems like a metaphysical experience: to transcend the limits of your flesh and split your ego into another form—to create life and thus exist beyond death…what a mind fuck!
“Pregnancy is definitely a trip,” said my yoga teacher, who I met at an ambient party in a Japanese garden where everyone was microdosing psychedelics. I was sitting on her patio next to a meditation ashram in Mount Washington, drinking tea and watching the sunset. “All this trauma is bubbling up, and I want to deal with it now, before the baby comes out,” she continued, guiding my hands to her swollen belly. “Pregnancy feels like what happens when you’re on mushrooms—but more grounding.”
The first time I smoked DMT, in a thudding room above Bossa Nova Civic Club, I returned to a dark cave that was both a womb and a tunnel to the other side. “Don’t be afraid, you know who I am, you’ve been here before,” said the DMT goddess—and that’s how I learned that reincarnation is real and the pussy is a portal. The problem is that childbirth is literally a horror movie: a screaming gooey alien rips your vagina apart and cannibalizes your life, and we’re supposed to act like this is normal—a biological given?!
My whole life I’ve been roaming the dancefloors searching for the truest way to live free—and having a child does not seem to fit into the equation, not when I’m the type of person whose sense of romance is still stuck at colliding with a stranger at a rave and spending all night doing ketamine.
“I resent the spectacle of all this breeding, which I see as a turning away from the living,” wrote Sheila Heiti in Motherhood, where the 37-year-old writer spends the entire book asking what is lost when a person becomes a mother. Selfishly, I agree with Heiti: when a person has a child, they naturally turn their attention towards the child, and that means turning away from me. Maybe my mistake was in thinking that my friends and I would always be cosmically aligned—that we would be taking trips and staying up all night forever, that the sweaty rapture of the dancefloor would never lose its pleasure. It never occurred to me that one day (already it’s happening!) I would be abandoned as my friends jump ship, get married, freeze their eggs, and buy homes—leaving me to dance on my own.
How had I taken it for granted that parenthood was for suckers? When did we change our minds?
Let me tell you about the time I was almost a mother, when I was studying abroad in Shanghai one steamy summer and noticed that the smell of street piss on my walk to school was making me hurl. I booked the surgery in the only expat-friendly hospital I could find, and sat next to a row of girls as we shuffled one by one into the room. All I remember is hearing clinking metal through the half-open door, as I shifted slowly down the bench until it was my turn. Afterwards, I sobbed for days in my dorm room for my mom, but of course, I could never tell her what happened.
I have never regretted this decision, but as dystopian anti-abortion laws sweep the courts, I am triggered by the memory of how I wiped out what was mine. Let me be clear: I am so grateful I had this choice. Only now do I realize that I have been carrying a quiet grief inside me for a very long time.
But like, maybe it’s chill if a baby never pops out of my pussy, because I was raised on dancefloors and through the lens of queer club culture, the concept of motherhood becomes elastic: cut from gendered ties to the womb, matriarchal kinship complexifies into a set of values: love / generosity / power. To be a mother means to have the desire and the ability to nurture—to spot a seed and sprout it into full bloom. In vogue/ballroom culture, for example, the House Mother is usually a trans woman or gay man elected by younger dancers to provide guidance and support.
“You need to have something to offer in order to lead. To be the mother of the house, you need to have the most power,” said Willi Ninja, the NYC vogue dancer who was the Mother of the House of Ninja. “The mother is the hardest worker, and the mother gets the most respect.”
I’m writing this essay back in my apartment now, and was anxious that Shroom Mom would get pissed that I was putting her at risk—at the end of the day, she still could face jail time for selling shrooms. So I showed her this essay before publishing to make sure she approved.
“It’s perfect!” she immediately texted back on Signal. “Just like you!”