Watercolor pencil from “Letters from Russia”
Dave Olson, 2004
South Sound Internet Mogul in it for the Glory – Business Examiner newspaper’s “Fishbowl” – 6/28/04
Zhonka Broadband Secretary General Jacob Stewart says he runs an Olympia-based Internet Service Provider for the glory. “I started my current business with an eye toward making a living,” Stewart says, “not striking it rich.”
Stewart is no novice to the Internet game. He started OlyWa.Net in 1995. That first company grew quickly and was netting some $1 million a year before merging with Advanced Telecom Group in 2000.
After the OlyWa.Net merger, Stewart says he took a much needed break from the hectic day-to-day stress of building and running a tech company. “I needed time to decompress,” he says.
That break didn’t last long. In the wake of the Internet boom, Stewart decided to build a leaner, more efficient business. With the help of a small team of investors, Stewart created Zhonka in 2003.
The life of an entrepreneur can be tough, Stewart says. Entrepreneurs should be prepared for long hours, hard work, planning and perseverance. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his job. “To any would-be entrepreneur I’d say go for it,” Stewart says, “And don’t let anybody tell you it can’t be done.”
NEW BILL KEEPS THE INTERNET TAX-FREE PRESS RELEASE – April 28, 2004
Washington Association of Internet Service Providers
Ron Main of Cable Communications Assoc., Dave Olson of Zhonka Broadband, and Jacob Stewart & Gary Gardner of WAISP join Gov. Locke for SB 6259 bill signing on March 26 2004.
OLYMPIA – During the recent Legislative session, local Internet businesses and industry groups supported a bill to keep Internet services tax-free, in Washington at least. SB 6259 extends the moratorium on cities and towns imposing new taxes on Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Jacob Stewart, Vice-President of the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers (WAISP) suggests, “This tax moratorium extension is important to encourage the use of new Internet technologies by not encumbering users with confusing and redundant taxes.”
Gary Gardner, Executive Director of WAISP, hopes for a fair chance for ISPs who continue to pay the Business and Occupancy (B&O) taxes assessed to general service businesses. “We don’t feel ISPs should pay a separate rate of B&O tax than other businesses, and we continue to oppose any sort of tax on either ISPs or their customers simply for the privilege of accessing the Internet.”
Dave Olson, of Zhonka Broadband, an Olympia-based ISP, sees some comfort from the extension. “This bill enables ISPs to confidently expand broadband service to under-served markets across the digital divide, resulting in increased marketplace choice in areas like Grays Harbor and the Olympic Peninsula.”
A similar Federal bill (HB 49) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year. However the companion Senate bill (SB 150) failed, opening the door for municipalities to levy additional taxes on ISPs and their customers.
As the U.S. Senate again debates the Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act, President Bush offered his encouragement, saying, “If you want broadband access throughout the society, Congress must ban taxes on access.”
In Washington, we already have.
Contact: Dave Olson, Zhonka – Gary Gardner, WAISP
“President Unveils Tech Initiatives” April 26 2004http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040426-6.html
PRESS RELEASE – April 6, 2004
FREE WI-FI IS THE “SOUP DU JOUR” FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES
OLYMPIA – As part of Zhonka Broadband’s unique “Surfbreak” program, innovative businesses around the Puget Sound are serving up free wireless Internet access for customers.
While other companies offer “wi-fi” (short for wireless fidelity) for a charge, Zhonka’s Surfbreaks are no-cost and hassle free with no login, password, or membership required. With diverse locations from grassy parks to late-night diners, there is a Surfbreak location to suit most anyone’s preference.
As Zhonka’s Secretary General Jacob Stewart notes, “It’s great to see business people and students escape the office or classroom to meet or study in cafes or parks instead.”
Zhonka, an Olympia-based Internet service provider, introduced this unique program in early 2003 and interest quickly spurred expansion to numerous cafes, espresso shops, computer stores, taverns, and public markets throughout Western Washington.
Recent additions include coffee roasters Batdorf & Bronsons’ Dancing Goats cafe, CafŽ Allegro’s two locations near the University of Washington, and the Olympia Farmer’s Market plus a few micro-brew taverns. A complete list – including contact information – is located online athttp://www.zhonka.net/surfbreak/. Locations are also identified with distinctive “Free Wi-fi for the People” posters and window stickers.
The Surfbreak locations use high speed Zhonka DSL connections to power the wi-fi hot-spots. A customer simply brings a wireless ready laptop or PDA to a Surfbreak locations and “Voila!” they are online.
Dave Olson, Zhonka’s Minister of Marketing Affairs puts forth that everyone involved stands to gain from this arrangement, “The Surfbreak program offers participating businesses a strategic advantage over competitors who charge for use. While we certainly enjoy the goodwill and publicity, the biggest winners in this scenario are folks using this exciting new technology.”
Dave Olson Minister of Marketing Affairs
Man I am crushed sad about Elliott Smith dying. He was my age, walked the same Division street, drank in the same bars here in Oly when recording for Kill Rock Stars.
Now he’s all dead and another rock n’ roll sidebar – cynical comments about drug and alcohol abuse and pressures of fame.
Sure he was sad, sure he tangled with the bottle but damn, it has been already to hard of a few months – Tommy Chong in jail for 9 months(!), Dan Snyder slipping away, Dany Heatley tortured and hassled — and now Elliott Smith, another talent, impossible to replace.
Either/Or was in the CD player when I heard the news – oddly great loving music for being so sad. I wasn’t sure what to do. I took a few minutes and walked past Kurt Cobain’s house a couple block away and thought of the pain he felt to make that fateful decision. A knife? in the chest? Damn LA. Damn grammy, damn movies soundtracks and publicity shoots or whatever other contrived demon drove him…. geez I hope he’s happier now.
It rained more here than ever before (that’s saying something in the NW), flooing even – seemed a fitting mood to say so long to such a emotionally sophisticated song-crafter.
Re-watching my beloved Canucks trounce the Sabres made me feel only a little better. Elliott was/is to music what Artem Chubarov is to the Canucks – hard working and solid on the details, underrated despite the accolades and not a pretty dude outside, just like the rest of us.
either gone because of the pain or in spite of it
10/23/03 (posted 10/15/04 & 11/17/06)
40 Under 40 selected by (Tacoma, WA) Business Examiner – 6/23/03
Article by Paul Schrag
When more than three dozen “movers and shakers” gather in one place, you can expect the kind of energy that lights up a room, especially when the group consists of ambitious, younger standouts in the world of local business.
That was the case last week, when The Tacoma Club Young Executives and Business Examiner Newspaper Group hosted an event recognizing this inaugural class of 40 Under 40. The energizing power was awe-inspiring, even to older guests at the gathering, who came away with assured that the future of the South Sound is in quality hands.
On the pages that follow, you will have the opportunity to meet this stellar crowd — presented here in alphabetical order — and get to know a little more about what is important to them. Remember that there is far more talent here than can be adequately described in words. When you see them at work, at service or at play in the community, take the initiative to meet them — you will be as impressed. And plan right now to make your own nominations for the 2004 40-Under-40 List when it comes round next spring.
Minister of Marketing Affairs, Zhonka Broadband
Year of birth: 1970
As a managing partner and marketing director of an Internet service provider, Dave Olson does a lot of document writing, including business plans, proposals, agreements, contracts, press releases, marketing collateral, letters, technical FAQs and media articles. He also oversees corporate governance and company financing issues under his title as Minister of Marketing Affairs.
“Additionally, I organize and implement advertising campaigns, special events and promotions including the free community wireless access surfbreaks,’ customer appreciation parties and donated access,” he explains.
“I aim to help grow Zhonka Broadband into an innovative and profitable ISP serving communities throughout the Northwest region,” Olson says.
“I would also like to finish my elusive Evergreen degree and perhaps attend law school at UBC specializing in intellectual property, international trade and arbitration. One way or another, I hope to continue to travel internationally and perhaps make another documentary film or two,” he adds.
Olson’s role models and heroes have always been writers, artists, activists and adventurers such as H.D. Thoreau, Edward Abbey, Gary Snyder, Walt Whitman, Edmund Hilary, Thor Heyerdahl, Leo Tolstoy, Vaclav Havel, Leo da Vinci, etc.
Co-founder/Technology guru, Zhonka Broadband
Year of birth: 1966
As an entrepreneur in a high-tech small business, Zhonka Broadband co-founder and Technology Guru Jacob Stewart finds that he wears many different hats at different times as necessitated by circumstance.
“As a managing partner of the LLC, I am Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technical Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief (insert any adjective) Officer, salesman, network architect, government relations, customer support representative,” he continues. “I am also office supply clerk and, sometimes, janitor.”
He feels the real gratification comes when the business starts to flourish after putting in so much time generating business plans and standards of practice, finding investors for funding, networking with the local business community and marketing our business directly to the community.
“That is the most fulfilling part of my job,” Stewart says.
Stewart was also co-founder and Vice-president of Information Technology and chairman of the board for ISP, Oly.Wa.net and currently serves as vice-president of Washington Association of Internet Service Providers, which helped push through the state’s anti-SPAM bill. He also serves as chairman of the board of the Washington State Internet Lobby.
“In the next 10 years, I would like to see Zhonka Broadband grow to be a major player and shaper of the high speed Internet access market throughout Washington State and the Northwest,” he says. “Our business plan includes conservative, yet steady, growth of our geographic service area to 10 states in the Northwest and Midwest region.”
Stewart would also like to formalize his college degree by getting his credits transferred to one institution, so that he may graduate and continue graduate studies in management and the global economy.
He admits that he can’t point to any one person in his life who he tries to emulate or from whom he learned his business skills.
“I guess I feel my generation didn’t have a lot of heroes’ to emulate,” he explains. “We had to find inspiration on our own.
“I’d say that, if I wanted to point to someone as an inspiration to me today, it would be George Soros,” Stewart adds. “This international billionaire, financier, philanthropist, who grew up in Hungary during the harsh oppressive regimes of both the Nazis and the Soviet Union, has my respect.”
Stewart says his admiration of Soros stems from both his financial success and his advocacy of a civil “Open Society.”
“He had a philosophy that espoused openness,” says Stewart, “and condemns totalitarianism and tyranny in all its forms, in both the social and financial spheres of politics.”
So being back to work in this start-up is starting to be a regular job and not too bad at that – well it would be better if i was getting paid ;-) This weekend was split between hockey and housecleaning. I worked sorta late on Friday trying to get some stuff to the printers (unsuccessfully BTW) so didn’t go to pick-up hockey that night, opting rather to go out and about with my gf, the lovely Ms. Lisa. We went for a beverage at the Westside lanes bowling alley and sipping while people watching, figuring out who’s who in different bowling groups, enjoying the interpersonal dynamics amongst the vinyl benches and curvy chairs on the mezzanine level.
Then off to the movie theater at the dang ole mall. I usually would drive to Yelm to see a flick but the 40 minute drive wasn’t sounding too enjoyable so we braved the sticky floors and smell of diapers. Saw the Mike Myers and some eye candy chickies in a movie about following your dreams – in this case as a flight attendant. Rather disposable movie but some funny bits.
So Saturday was a big day at the Evergreen pavilion as my Chiefs youth hockey teams started their season, plus a big win for the Canucks that night but i got a few things to do so that will wait til later …
Just starting into a weblog feast thanks to Ben and Jay but ya know i have been a little apprehensive about doing so and i think there is a few reasons for this …1) i hesitate to be too self-indulgent and ego-centric. ya see now … in the last 12 months, my media manipulation skills resulted in excess coverage in national magazines, local newspapers, films and myriad websites and public access shows. i really do enjoy this kinda stuff cause i have a lot to say but sometimes i feel as though it reflects on me in a less than favorable manner like i am “pimping my own dojo” too much. in reality, i tend to be rather self-deprecating and sincere to a fault and don’t want to be that guy who is always cheesing out and boosting his own jive scene.
2) words are important things and are not to be trifled with. As a writer (aren’t we all …) and a reader i place almost undue reverence on the written word and tend to spend months doing a “big project” and feel “small projects” along the way aren’t as worthy. when i see my work published in a magazine and recall the hours i spend editing and researching, i am pleased momentarily. when i sit to write, i am motivated by the feeling that i am sharing an epistle with an yet unknown audience. this weblogging is much more immediate and i don’t much care for being caught with my pants down (well sometimes hehe) for lack of editing and consideration.
3) finding myself being an internet entrepreneur type again, there is always 15 “urgent” things on my list thus i feel my priority is doing that stuff whether is be creating ads, fundraising, writing business plans, proposals, contracts and letters, moving furniture, wiring offices, understanding command prompt TELNET on my mac osx (no laughing) to program a DSL router or improving my joint rolling skills. at the end of it all, the ‘puter (though a fine tool) and i need a little reboot time away from one another.
4) i reckon i am a veteran weblogger in that i publish most everything i write and finish in one form or another on-line and have been doing so since i borrowed an HTML book from Scottyo and posted my first hemp in japan website. shoot, i got stories i wrote in 11th grade are on-line and i am olden now. plus my works from evergreen, menu magazine, high times, photo galleries from the Olympic winter games and cannabis cup, even the infamous Uncleweed story are available for public amusement. i do like transparency and don’t mind people knowing what it is that i do (though i hope none of my youth hockey team players come across tooo much ;-) don’t need no irate parents).
i suppose, in recent years my use of the internet as a gutenburg-press-like publishing renaissance tool is well manifest in my fantasy sports leagues participation, particularly in the hockey league where i am currently battling some mystery team for the virtual Stanley cup. the players i choose and the manner in which in manage my team evolved over years of careful study and somewhat reflects my personality – i don’t like superstars or streaky inconsistency types, i like hard-workers who chip in every game and score in clutch situations. plus i avoid players from teams i don’t care for and relish finding the young break-through player before anyone else.
now that i have moved into the new/old office, my routine will facilitate more entries as i aim to make this a tool to post many of the lists that i am wont to make. perhaps we shall see my favorite books/authors, films, road-trips, countries visited, brushes with fame, fave tokes and other such info “for the record.” i realize my space-time continuum is often skewed so i it behooves me to post anecdotal discourse publicly before the senility gets any worse.
OlyWa, Friday, April 4, 2003
Entrepreneurs create local ISP in The Olympian (PDF) 3/21/03 – The Olympian
Article by Alex Goff for the Olympian about Zhonka’s plans. Features picture of Zhonka co-founders, Jay Stewart and Dave Olson, enjoying wireless Internet access at the Clubside Cafe with proprietor Kenny Trobman.
ALEX GOFF FOR THE OLYMPIAN
A second chance can be a golden opportunity, or so Jay Stewart and Dave Olson hope.
Former managing partners of South Sound Internet service provider OlyWa.net, Stewart and Olson sold that business to California-based Advanced TelCom Group, or ATG, in 2000.
Stewart and Olson stepped away from the business altogether. And ATG has since filed for bankruptcy, and most of its assets have been purchased by General Electric.
Now, Olson and Stewart are back and have moved into the old OlyWa.net offices and set up Zhonka Broadband — an Internet service provider offering digital subscriber line (DSL) services to subscribers in Western Washington.
## SIDEBAR ##
Internet service provider with monthly rates from $15 to $40.
– Owners: Jay Stewart and Dave Olson – Location: 1430 Evergreen Park Lane,
– Telephone: 360-701-6958 – Web site: www.zhonka.com
“We’ve sort of come full circle,” Stewart said. “But we’ve learned a great deal in the meantime. We spent the better part of the last six months working on our business plan and looking for investors. The lessons we’ve learned have allowed us to cut our costs considerably.”
Zhonka sees itself as a competitor to providers such as MSN, which has similar monthly rates. Zhonka offers no content, but plenty of bandwidth and service.
“It’s just a big, fast pipe,” Olson said. “We’re the friendly local guys who support the community with all the perks of some of the larger ISPs.”
Zhonka manages its own network, monitors outages and handles questions. Stewart said other ISPs depend on the phone company to do much of that.
By using techniques such as e-billing and concentrating on the type of faster connection most customers seem to want, Stewart said operating costs will be about a tenth of what OlyWa’s were. The pair has about a dozen subscribers since launching two weeks ago, and expects to break even at about 500.
That number is certainly attainable — OlyWa had 1,500 — Olson said, because “there’s a big demand for a local ISP.”
“We see a clear need in the market,” Stewart said. “Consumers are faced with a choice between impersonal, out-of-state providers and well-meaning, but often underpowered, local firms. We’ve designed Zhonka to fill this void by offering cutting-edge services coupled with responsive customer support.”
Which begs the question: Why did Olson and Stewart sell to ATG?
“It seemed like a good marriage,” Olson said. “And there were some cost savings involved. But ATG’s model turned out not to be our model of doing things.”
A big part of the Zhonka model is being part of the community — whether that is providing services and Web page space for nonprofits or setting up complimentary wireless Internet access points in various downtown locations.
Zhonka’s laptop and palmtop users can access the net at cafes wirelessly. The zones already have been set up at The Other Guys’ Internet cafe and the Clubside Cafe, both on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia. Zhonka is in discussions with Olympia Farmers Market for a hookup there also.
“It’s certainly an emerging technology, and it’s also something that gives us a presence in downtown,” Olson said. “I was down at the Clubside Cafe the other day and listening to the Vancouver Canucks game on Web radio.”
“The key part of it is to make sure there are no interruptions,” Stewart said. “When we got everything connected, I would log on to a radio site like National Public Radio and keep it on for 24 hours to ensure it’s a smooth connection. People are willing to pay more for good and fast connections. They don’t want interruptions.”
Stewart and Olson moved back into their old offices because of the fiber optic line already installed there, but it’s been a strange reunion.
“There’s a little bit of deja vu involved, that’s for sure,” Olson said. “But we’ve seen a lot with the bottom dropping out of the Internet economy and new technologies coming through. We’ve learned a lot about making the Internet efficient.”
TOP TEN COUNTERCULTURE COLLEGES | High TimesOriginally published as High Times Top Ten Cannabis Colleges in September 2002 featuring skateboarded Jen Grant on the cover. Archived version is more accurate to original and is republished – and attached as a .pdf – below for the record.
Story by Chris Simunek and Preston Peet
Photos by Comso G. Spacely
These are not party schools for stupid stoners, but places where intelligent users of cannabis can receive a quality education. What’s the difference? Smart stoners use the herb when appropriate, either as a tool to enhance creativity, or as a medicine to relieve stress, while stupid stoners abuse it through inappropriate use.
#1 EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE
Founded in 1967
$12,264 non-resident tuition
Fiske rates it the #4 public liberal-arts college; student-to-faculty ratio: 22 to 1
Mother Nature reigns supreme in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, the lumber companies have been trying for years to turn its beauty into napkins and newspapers, and there are the unnatural acts committed by the odd serial murderer–Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer were both particularly fond of the Cascade Mountains–but after mankind is done carving his mark on this particular part of the Earth, the forest is sure to swallow him up body and soul. This sense of permanence is perhaps one reason Washington is called “the Evergreen State.”
Walking through the rainforest that separates the Evergreen State campus from the sea, you get the feeling that you’ve found the halfway point between Darwin and Eden. The forest is primordially damp, insects swarm your head and the terra firma beneath your feet is exploding with life. Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees arch towards the sun, dripping with vines and moss. At the same time, the rainforest is reclaiming the borrowed molecules of the dead, slowly folding them back into the soil from whence they came.
Occasionally a hairy figure can be seen darting between the flora and fauna, causing my heart to leap at the thought that I’d finally fulfilled my lifelong dream to observe a Sasquatch in its natural habitat. Upon further inspection, I’d see that the beast was actually wrapped in colorful, loose-fitting clothing and that its long hair was matted into dreadlocks–the de rigueur look of the Evergreen student. Maybe next time, I think, then continue walking.
The leader of this rainforest expedition is Dave Olson. I first contacted Dave after a Google search of “Evergreen State” and “cannabis” spit his name across my Macintosh screen back in New York. Though his hair is kind of wild these days and a thick beard covers most of his face, you can’t pigeonhole Dave as a hippie.
He’s kind of a Renaissance guy who can speak at length on anything from ecology to music to pro hockey. A Vancouver, B.C. native, Dave is a member of what’s known as “the extended Evergreen family,” which comprises grads, non-grads, part-time students and people thinking of attending part-time. As part of his curriculum at Evergreen, he wrote, produced, directed and narrated a video documentary, The Hempen Road. The movie explores hemp from all angles, including the activist community, hemp products, food and history.
“Where’d you get the idea for your film?” I ask.
“I lived in the Pacific for three-four years, mostly Japan. I was doing hemp stuff the whole time, doing research. When I got back to America, I realized there weren’t any contemporary films that showed the products and the people and the culture. So I met this Japanese film student and we started talking about this project. He wasn’t really familiar with hemp, and was a little apprehensive about getting involved with it because of the negative connotations. I wrote up a proposal and shopped it around to different faculty.”
Though Dave found his faculty sponsor to be less enthusiastic than he would have liked, he was motivated enough on his own to see the project through to completion. He printed 2,000 copies, did a little publicity and sold them himself at hemp events.
“Before I came here I thought it was going to be an arts and literature and humanities focus, but that’s not really the case,” Dave explains. “The science stuff seems pretty heavy. There’s a lot of marine biology. A lot of people come here wanting to do stuff about forests and conservation and that kind of ‘ecosystem, organic farm and herbology’ kind of stuff. The strength is the multidisciplinary approach. It weans you into learning something that you didn’t really plan on learning, by bringing it in with something that you really want to learn.”
“Multidisciplinary” is the buzzword at Evergreen. It basically means you choose a subject you want to study, then the school encourages you to tackle it from several different angles. You find a professor at the school who you can work with on an independent-study-type basis, then go off on your own. There’s no tests to cram for, just a final project at the end, which can be anything from a paper to a performance to a piece of art.
We finally make it through the woods to the beach, which is empty on this day because most students are busy studying for their finals. The beach is clothing-optional, Dave informs me, and on a hot day you can often find undergrads smoking herb and working on their tans.
“I spent my college years in New York City,” I inform Dave. “For entertainment we used to watch the rats outside our dorm-room window teaming through the McDonald’s trash piles.”
“Evergreen provides a country-club atmosphere at a state-school budget,” he cracks. Tuition goes for $1,008 per quarter for Washington residents, $3,588 per quarter for out-of-staters, relatively cheap when compared with other schools.
I asked a few kids I’d met to estimate what percentage of Evergreen students smoked pot, and most answered somewhere in the 80% range. Given the surroundings, it just makes sense. There are no frats and little sports, so the bonehead scene is thankfully kept to a minimum.
My head is still buzzing from the William’s Wonder we sampled before arriving on campus when I ask Dave if Evergreen is a serious school or a refuge for burnouts.
“People work hard and play hard here,” he responds. “You see them at the bars until late, and then you see them on campus working late the next day.”
From the beach, we wander back to Evergreen’s own organic farm, kind of like a living textbook for their sustainable-agriculture program. According to the Evergreen bulletin, sustainable agriculture provides instruction in “soils, plant propagation, greenhouse management, composting, green manure, the use of animal manure, equipment operation, small-farm economics, pest control, livestock management, weed-control strategies, irrigation-system design and management, basic horticulture, machinery maintenance, vegetable and small-fruit culture, marketing and orchard systems.”
I can see where that might appeal to certain HIGH TIMES readers.
We tiptoe past the chickens, through the fields and greenhouses filled with lettuce, beets, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and tomatoes, until we find easygoing, bespectacled Pat Moore, professor and director of the farm. I ask him about how Evergreen differs academically from other schools. He explains that self-discipline is the key to success here.
“We get students who don’t fit in highly structured programs, and because of that, we’re going to get very bright and innovative students and we’re also going to get the exact opposite. If a student is motivated and interested in what they’re studying, they’re going to get an excellent education. If they’re trying to slide by, they’re going to find a way to do it.”
“As a faculty member, what was your reaction when you heard Evergreen had been voted counterculture college of the year by HIGH TIMES magazine?” I ask.
“Was it really? Gosh, it’s a little disconcerting actually. You probably won’t put this in your magazine, but I watch students as they arrive and what happens to them. A lot of them work for me three-four years, and it seems like they start getting a lot looser in terms of their ability to be reliable workers.”
“‘Cuz they smoke a lot of weed?”
“They don’t confide in me that way, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I’d prefer to see that than binge drinking. I mean, Washington U. had this big riot in the streets because of binge drinking, and a couple of kids died. Smoking a little pot, that’s not going to happen.”
That’s not to say Evergreen students don’t drink, and after we’re finished with the good professor, we head back to town and agree to reconvene at the Eastside later that evening to sample a few of the local microbrews.
The air alone is reason enough to move to Olympia–crisp Pacific winds that smell like fresh-cut cedar. On a clear day Mt. Rainier dominates the horizon from 100 miles away. It’s the capital of Washington, but still manages to keep a small-town atmosphere. It’s got a pretty happening nightlife scene–Fourth Avenue is plastered with flyers for reggae jams, karaoke, gay parties and retro nights. When we walk into the Eastside, it’s packed with undergrads playing pool and drinking beer. Kurt Cobain used to live here in the early days of Nirvana, and the grunge look is still alive, with flannel shirts covering parts of the crowd.
Kenny the bartender pours us a pitcher of Rasputin, a dark brew that’s as insidious as its mystic namesake. When word gets around that HIGH TIMES is in the house, I’m descended upon by so many students I can hardly remember anyone’s name. Without exception, everyone wants to tell me how cool their school is.
“I’m really glad that there’s a school like this in the world,” says Emily, a senior. “I wasn’t going to go to college. I was just out of high school. I’d spent my entire life since I was five years old in school. I wasn’t about to go back. Then I came out here, visited this school, walked around the campus, met some kids, talked to them, looked at their classes… I was like ‘dude, this place is awesome!’ It’s chill, you make your own classes up, you don’t get grades, people are mellow, it’s in a really beautiful place, there’s good herb, you know what I mean?”
Emily started out studying comparative religions, then switched to art and hopes to become an art therapist someday. When I ask her for a few tips on places to go off campus she suggests the Staircase (an outdoor nature refuge), Elwa hot springs, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic peninsula.
I ask another senior, Sarah, what sort of an education she thought she was getting. She told me Evergreen taught her “the things that high school left out. Such as how fucked up this world is. I’m kind of a glutton for the depressing stuff, so I mainly concentrated on things like, you know, saving the world. Really simple stuff.”
I ask her the names of a few classes she took and one stands out and cracks up everyone at the table–“Whiteness, Maleness and the Immorality of Wealth.” “The big myth is that kids at Evergreen major in underwater basket-weaving or hacky sack,” she explains. “But it’s true that my roommates spent a semester building eight-foot-tall sock monkeys.”
I start the next day with a tour of the Evergreen dorms. The kids are genuinely shocked when I knock on a few doors and announce HIGH TIMEs’ arrival. It takes me literally five minutes to find the herb–in this case some B.C. commercial bud. We speak a bit about the local strains, William’s Wonder and the Gangsta being favorites.
Talk turns to the campus police, who carry guns and who’ve been encouraged to step up their profile. The campus cops even print their own trading cards, and the kids actually show me a few with cops posing next to their favorite drug dogs.
“I heard the DEA was here,” one student informs me.
“I have a hard time believing the Feds are snooping around dorm rooms,” I tell him, but he insists it’s true.
“The cops are pretty cool, though,” he continues. “A fire alarm went off and the cops came in and found some dope on a kid. His punishment was to write an article about how to hide your shit in your house!”
I have a feeling I’m being treated to a few herban myths, but it’s true that the school is not too pleased about its cannabis-friendly reputation. In fact, after I left, the traditional graduation 4:20 on Super Saturday was shut down when rumors abounded that HIGH TIMES would be there to record the event for posterity. We were 3,000 miles away at the time, but the cops chased the kids into the woods. Sorry about that.
After the dorm tour I return to Red Square, the center of campus. There I meet Conner Kenny, a political economy major from Austin, Texas, currently in his first year at Evergreen. Conner is cranking a Bob Marley tape as he tries to get students to sign a petition to close mercury loopholes in the state’s clean-water laws. There’s a strong activist community on campus. In fact, the college caught a lot of flack a few years back when they invited Mumia Abu-Jamal to give a commencement speech via satellite from his prison cell. In the last year of his life, Ken Kesey also was the keynote speaker at graduation. Declaring Evergreen “the college for all hippies,” he gave a rambling speech that ended abruptly when he realized he’d lost the last two pages.
I’m running a little late for a planned photo shoot of the favorite local cannabis strains, but before I leave campus I ask Conner what role he thinks marijuana plays in the Evergreen education.
“It’s just part of the culture. People get together who feel the same way about things. Here, people would rather spend their time doing something other than spending money, making money and worrying about making money. It’s a rejection of the norms of consumer-driven society.”