Art, and Culture of the Mushroom World with Art Goodtimes - Episode 15
August 06, 2019
Alex Dorr and Madz Niemackl with guest Art Goodtimes Art, and Culture of the Mushroom World with Art Goodtimes – Episode 15 – Mushroom Revival Podcast.
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A podcast devoted to the wild and wacky world of Mushrooms! Episode FIFTEEN is a special interview with Art Goodtimes. This is a great episode if you want to learn more about the Telluride Mushroom Festival, Mushroom Poetry, Myco-Linguistics, Mushroom Art and Culture, etc.
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Alex: Welcome, welcome Mush Fans to another episode of Mushroom Revival Podcast. This is a podcast bridging the gap between you, our beloved listeners, and the wonderful wacky world of fungi. Mushroom Revival is a medicinal mushroom company based in Western Massachusetts and we help people gain more energy, a clear mind, a better night's sleep, and a bulletproof immune system with medicinal mushrooms. We love giving back, so every product that we sell, we plant a tree around the world. And so check us out at www.mushroom-revival.com. Follow our social media, tell all your friends, and keep subscribed to all the fungal goodness and the good times.
So we have some more good times on this episode, we have an amazing guest. His name is Art Goodtimes, and he's a great human. So I'm really happy to have him on the show.
Madz: Art is an American poet, farmer, and politician in Colorado. This artist, author, poet performer, bioregionalist paleo hippie, green County commissioner, husband, father, fungiphile, and basket weaver is hooked on heirloom spuds and southwest wind. He is the creator of Talking Gourds - a traveling tribal poetry feast - and runs the Telluride Mushroom Festival as Master of Ceremonies and poet laureate of the Telluride Mushroom Festival.
Alex: So welcome, welcome, Art. I'm so happy to have you on the podcast.
Art: Hey, I'm really excited to be with you guys.
Madz: So can you tell us what got you into the world of mushrooms?
Art: Oh, golly. You bet. It was 50 years ago when I was a young man hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains. I used to love to take trips on blue highways and County roads and go off into the woods and find things that I didn't know about. And I remember seeing a sign that said CYN; it said 'sin' to me and I was wondering what a 'sin' was. So I said, Oh, I got to go check out the sin place, which was short for Canyon, but I didn't realize that. And I went up this Creek and I was walking, like I used to do a lot when I was a young man, which I go from San Francisco where I lived up the Marine coast and a hike back into the woods thereafter hitchhiking up somewhere. And I would run up the creeks barefoot because it was so much fun seeing what was up there. And I was walking, hiking up this Creek, and all of a sudden on this little, little bluff was this giant red mushroom and it was a Hygrophorus - which I learned later, but I didn't know that, I didn't know what it was. I had never seen anything like it. And so I went home and started studying and joined the Mycological Society and blah, blah, blah, here I am, a mushroom enthusiastic of 50 years.
Alex: Wow. That's a long time. Yeah. I'm really glad you found that mushroom. And I can't wait to mushroom hunt with you. That sounds like a boss. That sounds awesome. And so, I met you at Telluride Mushroom Festival, and you are unforgettable, so to speak and I'm sure you hear that a lot. You definitely have a presence for sure. And I'm curious, you know, you kind of lead the beginning of the festival, the ending you know, lead some poetry and some might coin you as the Master of Ceremonies at Telluride Mushroom Festival. How many years have you been apart of Telluride Mushroom Festival?
Art: Well, let me tell you a little story, how that happened. It was quite interesting because as a member of the Mycological Society in San Francisco, I used to go hunting a lot for mushrooms, both in the city at Land's End, but also up in the North where we found us some oyster mushrooms. I had a special spot. And when I moved to Colorado, back in the early 80s, I thought, Oh my gosh, everybody out here was Micheal folks. They all were afraid of mushrooms. I mean, I talked to people about it, and there were maybe two or three people in the entire town of Telluride that I knew that actually picked them. And nobody, except those folks, would even touch them, let alone eat them. So I was resigned to being an isolate, not having anybody to talk to about mushrooms. And I got at 05:09inaudible] way as the arts council director in Telluride. And one day I got this call from Dr. Salzman and asking, he said, he wanted to do a mushroom conference and wondered if Telluride would be interested. And I was like, you've gotta be kidding me. And then he said, did I know anyone who would help? I said me.
And so Dr. Salzman turned up. Manny and Joanne are just the most marvelous people Manny has since passed, but they came to Telluride in 1981 and I helped them set up the mushroom festival. So the next year I actually was on a trip with my wife at the time; we were actually with Rosemary Gladstar on an herbal trip around the West coast. And I missed the mushroom festival and I also my house burnt down and I wasn't going to come back to Telluride at all. But then we couldn't find any jobs and somebody offered us a place to stay in Telluride. So sorta 06:14inaudible] actually we came back to Telluride and I got this call from Manny saying he wanted my help because they'd had a lot of problems the second year. And I said, well, I'm not the arts council director anymore. And he said, no problem, you can be the director of the mushroom festival for us. And I was for the next 25 years.
Alex: Wow. That's a lot of years leading people on fungal adventures and kind of leading this space where people can speak out about mushrooms is such a beautiful area. If any of our listeners have not been to Telluride, it is gorgeous; you're lucky, man, to do that. That's a good job.
Madz: Yeah. I'm sure all of the attendees are really thankful for you having established it. It's huge.
Art: It was funny because they had the conference, they called it a Wild Mushrooms Conference and they'd had it in near Aspen and near Gunnison, but neither community was very excited about it. So after the first year, as arts council director, I sent them a letter saying, we would love for you to come back. And so I think that was part of the reason - I learned later - why they came back. And you're right, Telluride Is just the most amazing place. You know, I was hitchhiking at cross country and I'd stopped to visit my friends who lived there. I remember waking up maybe the first time and looking up at those 14,000 foot mountains out of this incredible box Canyon Valley and I was just blown away. So yeah, I made every effort to come back and live there. And when you come to Telluride, it isn't just the mushrooms; they're powerful and wonderful and it's great, but those mountains are so amazing.
Alex: It's a perfect location. I don't know about a lot of the locals loving the mushroom parade, but for us, it's a fun time.
Art: We become kind of iconic for being one of the crazier festivals. Telluride was a ski area that was new and wasn't making much money in the 70s. And so, when we started the mushroom festival they'd begun to have a summer program of film festivals and bluegrass festivals and hang lighting festivals. And so we were the weird mushroom festival that they kind of adopted. So while not everybody participates, people really love the idea. And in fact, when I ran for office to get reelected, one of my promotional pictures was me leading the mushroom parade; which in most communities would be an automatic fail. But Telluride, like, yes, you bet.
Madz: Yeah. I'd vote for you if I saw that for sure. So with all the years that you've been part of Telluride, can you tell us about a couple of highlights or maybe one?
Art: Well, you know, hearing Terence McKenna come and speak was so amazing. He was a mesmerizing speaker. You know, he had a funny high pitched voice. It sounded kind of weird. It was like poetry. I mean, every time he made a sentence, it would connect all these different things. And so, you know, having Terrence here was really amazing, but we've had amazing people; Nobel Prize winners. We've had you know, Sasha Shulgin from the Bay area, Alexander Shulgin, who was the guy who really, the chemist who really brought MDMA back into circulation and created those wonderful books, 'PIHKAL and TIHKAL'; giving people recipes for how to turn, make all these incredible different formulas for different kinds of entheogens. Plus Sasha and his wife were just such beautiful people. So, you know, there's so many wonderful things. Let me tell you one thing that was kind of wild, and I can tell you this now because Gary Lincoff has passed. And so there's no real worry.
But I remember one mushroom festival - I can't remember what - we would all get high on mushrooms, which you know, wasn't legal, isn't exactly legal still, although in Denver and in Los Angeles now it's been decriminalized, which we love. But nevertheless, Gary was really wild. I mean, he was a wild man. I mean, he's a mycologist, but he was a philosopher by training, not a mycologist. And I remember one day in front of a nugget theater, he had, you know, magic brownies and he was passing them out on the street to anybody walking by. And I said, Gary, you can't do that. I live here.
Alex: This is my backyard. Wow. I mean, that's amazing that you got to listening to Terrence and what year was that in?
Art: Oh my gosh. You know, it's been 39 years, and they all kind of blend together. I haven't done anything in my life as consistently as be part of the mushroom festival. So I can't remember when Terrence was here, but I think it was in the 90s, and then Sasha came two or three times actually.
Alex: Oh, that's amazing. I had the privilege to see Dennis a couple of times and Dennis actually came two years ago; which is amazing. And RIP for Gary. He lives on forever.
Art: Yes, he does.
Madz: Oh, fun Gary.
Alex: Yeah, that's pretty incredible. And you were talking about, you know, some downfalls or some troubles the second year of Telluride. I'm curious, you're speaking on the highlights, what were some of the struggles throughout the years?
Art: Well, running a festival is a full-time job, really, you know, even putting on a conference is a very big deal, trying to make logistics and Telluride as it was at that time in the 80s, it was pretty funky. There wasn't a whole lot of support, you know, the local arts council, which I ran was pretty much a volunteer organization. There wasn't always a whole lot of venues that you could use. And so there was a lot of difficulty in trying to schedule lodging and transportation. Telluride is a very hard place to get to; it's way the hell out on the fringe of Colorado, between Colorado and Utah. So for a lot of people, it was a lot of work trying to get things going and trying to make things happen.
So I don't know exactly what happened in the second year, but I imagine it was a lot of those logistical things. We had to bring people from all over to come to Telluride. And we had to bring people to come and actually give us food. So we had a vendor come all the way from Denver to bring us food for the event because we ate meals together in the beginning. So there were a lot of difficulties we've had; luckily we've had no big problems or no injuries and you know, no big issues over the years. I must say we made the event - which started out as a conference - much of a family kind of a thing. We try to be really opening and welcoming and loving to everybody. There's a spiritual element to this.
I can talk a little bit about Dolores LaChapelle, who was my teacher, a deep ecologist. And she came one year and she would always talk about - and Gary too - this was a Hunter-gatherer activity. You know, we've been humans for over 100 thousand years as human beings, as homo sapiens or I like to say humus lootans(?) because homo knocks out all the women because that's man and sapiens means wise. And I can't really think of us as being very wise. But humus, dust or dirt and lootans, those that plays, the dirt that plays; that's what we do best. We sing, we dance, we tell stories, we do podcasts. That's what we're best at. So it's always been a different kind of vibe. You know, the film festival has a very Los Angeles chic, kind of snooty, standoffish and we're the kind of people that give you a hug when we meet you. And I think that really makes the energy at the mushroom festival very, very special; plus we're going out in the woods and finding these wonderful, amazing creatures that we eat. It's really quite amazing.
Alex: It's a magical time. I always refer to it as a family reunion, and I even tell people that I'm like, you don't even have, I mean, the classes are great, the speakers are amazing, but it's really the people; it's really the community of likeminded, you know, lost brothers and sisters. It's like, you meet everyone there and you see everyone, you're like, did I know you in like 10 lives? Yes. And let's go look for some mushrooms and like geek out about mushrooms and hug each other. And it's a good time. It's always good seeing you there. And yeah, I hope you're always a part of it.
Art: Well, you know, we're really sad to lose Gary and Manny. Again, they were the kind of people that may set the tone for this. They wanted it to be an intimate gathering where people work together. It wasn't about, you know, listening just to somebody on a diocese or a stand or a stage all the time. It was actually about walking together out of the woods and discovering things together. Gary would get about 100 feet or 100 yards, maybe on his hikes because he finds all these amazing, these tiny little things were mushrooms and he would know the name and he'd know what they were for and what they did. And I mean, he was an amazing person to go hiking with; whether he was high on mushrooms or not. But I remember all of us walking around the town at about two or three in the morning and just listening to Gary tell stories and tell jokes. And it was so amazing. So yeah, the energy there is really pretty significant, even more so than most of the other festivals. I'd say the mushroom festival has this kind of cache for being like you say, a family kind of event.
Alex: Yeah. And you know, a lot of people look forward to, like you were talking about, having your picture, you know, meeting that parade. You know, it's a fun time to have that 17:08inaudible] Everyone's dancing and dressing up.
Madz: Unfortunately, I've never been, but I've seen many photos. One of these days I got to 17:18inaudible] I've seen some crazy costumes just with the pictures. I wonder if you could describe the best costume you've seen, maybe it's not photographed.
Art: Boy, it's hard to say, you know, there were so many amazing costumes, people dress up like all kinds of mushrooms. You know, Dolores was a big fan of rituals in our society. Ritual is something that in traditional societies played a big part in helping people spiritually connect to the community and it's really stepping outside of ourselves. So I like to say we trick people into ritual because the mushroom parade, while it's lots of fun is really an amazing event where we actually go, not just cross-species, we go cross kingdoms because we all dress up like mushrooms, a whole different kingdom than ours and we inhabit their space for a few moments. And we walk down the street yelling, we love mushrooms. This is a kind of ritual that takes us outside of our normal self.
And again, that's really powerful. The dressing up part is something, you know, we all love to do at Halloween, but we get to do it and then we get to do it as mushrooms. Like there's been people that with big red hats, with white dots, you know, there's people, there's a kind of mushroom...we went on a trip down to Chile and on trees, they look like little golf balls. They're these little mushrooms that are edible. And there was a guy dressed up last year, like a tree with all these little golf balls all over. I mean, there's amazing...sometimes there are three or four people that dress up together and do things you know, wild. Gary had some incredible masks and things he'd put on. People wear these hats and capes and people, you know, do all kinds of crazy, crazy things.
And that's what's the most fun is that if you don't do a costume, you make up a sign. I'm a fun guy. You know, there's all kinds of fun things that people do to make jokes. So we give it so that the parade is not, you know, like carnival down in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, it's actually a thing where you watch, but in other communities in the Northwest, particularly in Bahia, people participate, they all parade. And that's what we do at Telluride. The parade is for everybody, you can stand on the side and watch, but why? Join in.
Alex: Yeah, it's incredible. Did you see the Gary Lincoff takeover? I think it was three years ago, but everyone dress as Gary Lincoff. And I think he ate a little mushroom. I could see he was a little freaked out.20:03inaudible]
Art: Everybody had on the same little camo jacket and a little crazy hat [20:08crosstalk]
Alex: Yeah. That's awesome. And you're really into the arts. You're really into poetry and you're a great speaker, very eloquent in just how you present your words and very creative. You kind of work with fungi magazine and you're the poetry editor. What does that entail?
Art: Well, you know, poetry has been my life. Poetry comes from the Greek 'poema', which means 'to make'. So a poetry is really 'a making'. And so all of the art... one of the things that Dolores taught us with her book, 'Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep' was that one of the ways to get us back in touch with the natural world was to use the arts. That artic poetry speaking for place, talking about the animals and critters and things we see, talking about our human society, and what's happening with the people in our community. All of those things are ways to get us back in touch with the natural world. So for me, the arts you know, you can't have STEM without the arts. You really need the arts to modify our scientific thinking. One of the things that I always love to talk about is how science takes everything down to the smallest tiniest element.
You know, we're just finding out that one of the reasons, maybe, why there's more matter than anti-matter is because some of the charm quirks actually have a different ratio of negating the anti-matter and so that may be the reason. So we're down to the tiniest, tiniest things, you know, it certainly goes down to the, we smash elements together, Adams and find the tiniest little particles. Poetry does a different kind of thing. It actually is about ambiguity. It's about putting a couple of different balls in the air and seeing how they relate to each other in ways that it's like juggling with things and putting energy out there. Artists create all kinds of things from the human imagination and those kinds of powerful ways of thinking, tell us not exactly how small and tiny and particle things are, but how there's a big hole, how things relate to each other.
Delores was really into relationships. You know, we're a society of nouns. We're a society of objects, society of things. But when you go to the East, it's a society of relationships. And so really one of the things we really find important is that we're able to have a relationship with mushrooms, have a relationship with the people around us. And being in the arts gives us that energy to see what's important, why those things matter, what they are, and being able to see those things are why for me, the arts, in general, are very important.
Madz: Yeah, I agree. So in regards to poetry and mushrooms, do you have a favorite poem?
Art: I have lots of favorite poems. We put together a little book of anthology, mushroom poems that actually Brent published. You know, as I get old, I forget everything so let me see I can't remember. There's a little short poem I used to know by heart, but I can't remember it right now. Sorry.
Alex: Have you heard of the guy, Vaclav Halek - I'm probably mispronouncing his name- he's composed over 5,000 songs about mushrooms. Do you write your own poetry about mushrooms or is it broader about you know, do you have a favorite poet that writes about mushrooms?
Art: Oh, you know, so what I do with the fungi magazine is I have lots of poet friends, and they write about lots of things so I'm always bugging them, send me a mushroom poem. And so I, I solicit more than go and look for them. I ask people to write me a mushroom poem, and when they do that, then most of them. I love. Because people are talking about, again, it's a bardic kind of poetry thing. You know, American poetry is a lot about confessionalism. They want to confess about who you are, or you want to have sort of this language poetry, which does really experimental avant-garde kinds of things and doesn't make any sense but it sounds interesting. What I like about machine poetry is looking at the natural world, finding some relationship with that world, and then speaking about it publicly. So for me, I love poems that tell me something new about mushrooms that I didn't know because these people are having some different kind of experience.
Alex: Yeah. So if anyone has any mushroom poems, you know who to send it to.
Art: Please, I want them.
Madz: Yeah. Mushroom, they're weaving their way into all sorts of things. And I feel like you would be a great person to ask about how mushrooms and politics collide. This isn't a very common environment but I'm sure that there's some juicy information. Do you want to share?
Art: That one's harder. Now, my Seesaw teeter-totter is politics and poetry. And when one goes up, the other kind of goes down. Poetry was not something that people in politics wanted to hear, and they didn't want to hear about mushrooms. They certainly were not...most people in our society are microphobes. We've kind of turned Telluride into microphiles. And the only saving grace is that we have hundreds of miles of forest all around us and wilderness, so that there's plenty of places to go and find mushrooms, even now that everybody in Telluride loves them. And most people love them, a few don't, but in politics, it was very hard. People did not want to hear about that. In politics, you're really balancing energy, you know, I was agreeing; and so I believe in all of the 10 key you know, feminism, ecology, social justice, peace, those are all things that really motivate me, but that's not what I was elected to represent.
I'm elected to represent a community of 6-7,000 people that includes developers and garbage men and drifters and trees and frogs. And so, you know, when you're representing that community, you have to balance energy. And so it wasn't about making huge changes. It wasn't about dosing everybody and getting them to see a different kind of worldview. It was really about listening to them and trying to find a way to bring about my vision of what society is. Of course, my vision of society is the rainbow gathering; I've been going to that. I met two of my four wives at rainbow gatherings, and I love the energy of open wild energy like that. I'm kind of an outlaw. My brother was a Hell's Angel. You know, we come from a family that did crazy, wild things. So for me, bringing that view into politics was like looking at the goal, which says, you know, sustainability, I can see it; it's across the Canyon, but politics was the art of the first step.
It wasn't about getting across the Canyon. It was starting down into the Canyon to get us into that direction. So the mushrooms teach me much more. Politics was something where I worked really hard to balance energy between the different people I had to represent in my little community. And I think that's why people,28:12inaudible] for me, not because I was wild and crazy, but because I didn't bring my wild and crazy into their face. I tried to not conceal it but to make it something that was acceptable to them by finding a middle ground.
Alex: Yeah. I think that that's really important to shapeshift. And it's really interesting for me, you know, studying business and I never would've thought I would be studying this and then going into this world, but yeah, it's a new language. The ability to shapeshift is so important because everyone is different and to be, you know, a good ally on this planet, you know, there are tons of organisms and there's all, even in one organism, there are tons of different variations and worldviews, and to be able to step out of your own way, to see another perspective and to speak another quote-unquote language or an actual language is super important. I think that's where poetry comes in of you know, how can I say one thing in as many ways as possible. And that leads me to my next question of, do you think there are politics in the mycological world? And if you were elected to represent the whole mycological world, all the mycophiles you were elected, how would you like to see community acting and unfolding?
Art: Well, you know, Polis again, I go back to the roots, I'm a poet. So I go back to language, that's the medium we use to communicate. One of my exes who's a co-parent was telling me that they think now that the reason why homo sapiens or humus Lutens was successful in neanderthal's work was that our voice box is a little lower in our throat. And actually we can make more sounds than the Neanderthals were able to make. I don't know if that's exactly true, but speech is really a key issue and that's how we communicate with other people generally. So, yeah, it's really important that we spend time in and listen to people. I mean, I think that's the problem is people don't listen to each other. If there's anything I'd suggest is that we listen to people in the mycological community, people of all colors and all races and all kinds, and all educations, and all of their experiences. I've seen people not understand things and do things, not because they're intending evil, but because they just didn't know better.
I remember in the community to the downstream, from us here with a pickup load of mushrooms, all tossed in the back of his pickup, Helter Skelter; it was a whole pickup load of mushrooms that were all ruined because he just tossed them all together because he didn't know anything about them. So, the word itself, Polis, means city. And so if you're involved in politics, you're involved in the life of the community. That's what we're talking about. If you're not involved in the life of the community, you're an isolate, you know, you're a hermit, which is fine if that's your choice. But if you want to be part of a community, if you really want to have influence on friends and strangers, you really want to be talking and listening. And so I'm happy with the politics and the community of mushrooms.
We have MAPS, which I think is wonderful. Rick Doblin has come and spoken to us. I've been to their events, they're wonderful. To me, they're a little intellectual, they're a little bit science-oriented, which is a little heady and a little bit more mind-oriented than the heart energy than we try to bring together with the mind in Telluride. We specifically want to include the arts. We specifically want to make it so that we have not only top-down discussions, but we have sharing circles where we listen to each other talk, not just listen to the experts' talk. So you know, if you're not involved in politics, I think you're really making a huge mistake. Now that's not to say that there aren't some really sad situations in our political landscape right now, but hopefully, if more of us start listening to each other, more of us listen to the people that support Trump and try to understand it's about, instead of demonizing people, I think we're going to be in a better place. And so for me, I'm happy with our mycological politics. Right now, it's really exciting to see Denver and Los Angeles decriminalized. I never thought that would happen.
Alex: I mean, pretty soon, you might be able to pass out those brownies.
Art: So I found that poem; I was getting to with you if you want.
Alex: Oh, please. Yeah, please. We'd love to hear it.
Art: So, during the mushroom festival, right before chamber music festival and that's been in Telluride actually longer than the mushroom festival. This poem is called Chamber Mushroom Music:
Chanterelles simmer in a pan of butter
garlic diced Walawala
I stand by the stove, chef conductor
remembering the Mozart of her morning strings sizzling, beneath me the hot sighs of our mingled oils
Madz: Mingled oils.
Alex: I love that. That's great. That makes me hungry. I want to go mushroom hunting.
Madz: So I wanna go back to some politics, and I know you served on the board of commissioners for San Miguel County, and I was just wondering if you could talk about your experience and if you ever brought up mushrooms, or do you ever do in your political position?
Art: I was agreeing, it's hard to get elected as a green party. In my County, they're mostly Democrats that's the majority. But where I live, which is out in the Western part of County, it's very conservative. People there in Norwood are Republicans mostly. So running as a green didn't really make sense so I ran as a Democrat. But in the second year, our office, they changed the state law to allow minor parties - a back 34:56inaudible] - and so I changed to become a green. So as a green, I was always talking about all kinds of things and an entheogenic experience among greens is a powerful way to change our way of thinking. You know, as Michael Pollan talks about in his recent book, it's ego-shattering, and when you shatter your ego, you have to put things back together after you've made this shatter.
And so for me, mushrooms were integral changing my viewpoint. I started out studying to be a Roman Catholic priest for seven years. So I come from a very conservative and actually traditional background. And I'm Italian, my mother wrote in my baby book when I was one year old, that I'd make a great priest. So, you know, I'm not sure how much free choice I had, but I followed a path of tradition. But thanks to entheogens, I shattered that whole world and I had to find my own new kind of world. In some ways I found things in the past that I loved and I found things in the world around me that I loved, and I put them together in my own mix. So in terms of talking about politics, mushrooms in politics, among people who were sympathetic greens 36:09inaudible] 50 in my County, out of 7,000 people. They would be receptive; a few people, the artists, would be receptive, but most of the people, that would be a nonstarter. That would be a good way to turn everybody off.
And because it was a green, I had ambition beyond my County. Now, there is no way in my state I could get elected into the state legislature, from the districts in which I 36:35inaudible] it was impossible. Anybody from Telluride would automatically lose. In fact, people have tried, they automatically lose, they get 30% of the vote. It's not possible, but I got involved with the National Association of Counties, the Colorado Counties. I got to be a chairman. I was in leadership of a committee on public lands in the national association of counties as a green, which was pretty unusual. And so, I was trying to show that because I was a green, it wasn't that I was unreasonable and dictatorial and was trying to change the world and change everybody else's view but I was bringing a viewpoint that they needed to hear often. And they appreciated the fact that I would lose gracefully.
Because I always lost. I remember one meeting, back in the 80s, they were talking about trying to open up public lands to more development. And I got upset something about the children and a native American commissioner got up across the room and said something about, you know, the future 2nd generations. And they voted 60 to 2 in favor. I mean, that was the world I lived in was not receptive to 37:43inaudible] caring about mushrooms or poetry or anything counter-culture. But because I had that experience and because I do, as Alex was saying, it's important to be able to shapeshift and able to speak to different kinds of people ao they're comfortable and can work with you, then you can kind of get stuff off your agenda. I think, you know, in some ways that's part of the problem with politics. If you're totally honest with everybody, everybody's mad at you.
I remember one wonderful friend, 38:16inaudible] and he was a horrible politician. Everybody hated him, but only because he was so honest and he told the truth to everybody. So what it is, if you have to be aware of yourself, of what your central truth is, you can't violate what you believe is important. You know, I told people I'm for the wilderness. I don't care if you don't like it, but that's one of the things I'm all for. Cause we need to save as much 38:40inaudible] the natural world as we can. But when it comes to other issues, I'm happy to talk about what I think, I'm happy to listen to what you think, and I'm happy to try and find a middle ground. And I think that's where politics really, you know, we forget that compromise. I was part of Earth First. I was their editor with their first journal for 10 years. And their motto was no compromise in defense of mother earth. Well, that sounds wonderful. Doesn't it? But compromise comes from the Latin 'promittere' to send com with pro towards.
So it's sending something to help others. That's our whole political system. If you say, no compromise, you may as well line people up and shoot them because you have nothing to talk about. So for me, politics, and having had that ego-shattering experience, I think I was able to share 39:29inaudible] I was able to listen to people, I was able to speak and when I was with my conservative friends in a way that they felt comfortable and could open up to me and when I was with my environmental friends, I would talk a different language. And it wasn't really being deceptive but in politics, a lot of people feel like that politicians aren't truthful cause they talk out of two sides of their mouth. But what they're trying to do, I think is make people comfortable with their very diverse kind of constituency and try to bring things forward together with those people.
Alex: Exactly. And to quote Dennis or 40:06inaudible] McKenna, we're kind of starting in archaic revival and that was kind of the inspiration for Mushroom Revival is with Denver and Oakland, we're starting to realize that entheogens have a huge play in being a better human being. And then just like you were saying, it made you a better politician to eat mushrooms. And I don't think many politicians would say that. I'm curious what your thoughts are on the decriminalization in Denver and Oakland and where do you see this track going? What would you want to see? Would you want to see legalization? Would you want to see more regulation around it? How would you want to see politics and mushrooms weaving together?
Art: Well, you know, again, I have my personal views about things and I'm kind of an outlaw, like I told you. So there's an element of me that doesn't like regulation. There's a couple of things I'm really proud of as being part of politics. One of them was getting rid of building codes in my half of my County because the people there didn't want them, they didn't need them, there wasn't a lot of exchange going on. There were just people living, they had been there for a hundred years and they really didn't want them. So, I'm not a Democrat that throws a regulation at everything I see.41:41inaudible] the way I like it.
That said, about decriminalization, I wrote a little column recently just pointing out the fact that I liked the decriminalization law in Denver. I thought it was good they had a committee to look over and see how what works and what doesn't. But where I thought they made the 42:00inaudible]was they didn't have a call center. They didn't have some people available to help people who are gonna have problems. Look mushrooms are ego-shattering, theologians, in general, are ego-shattering. Ayahausca which, you know, 42:18 inaudible] in Brazil for a while.42:23inaudible]
But Andy would always tell us, and he came for the first 25 years along with Gary, he would always tell us, set and setting are very important. You've got to plan what you're going to do. You've got to think about it so you don't have crazy options. If you're taking it occasionally with other drugs in a public place, it's very easy to freak out. I've had freakouts. I remember being out in the woods and hearing planes going overhead and thinking that there was a world war and it took a bystander that happened along who is saying here comes the sun that brought me back down out of my craziness.
So. You need to understand that ego-shattering is a tricky thing and it's not something you do lightly, and you really need a guide who isn't really on anything to be with you; someone who's experienced, who can help you. I remember when one of my good buddies from seminary, he came back from Vietnam. He wanted to try cannabis. He'd never had it over there. So he felt safe with me. So he took it and of course, you know, it didn't have an effect right away. So he took more tokes than he should have. Pretty soon, he's getting physically sick. He wants me to call the ambulance, he's having a total freakout and I was able to calm him down and get him into a safe place so it was okay.
But if we're going to have decriminalization, it's not good enough just to decriminalize and not have outlets to help people, particularly young people who have no experience or simply daring - like I am, an outlaw - and take it on their own, like I did many times. So I think, you know, we should be wiser. In most societies, when you talk about using entheogens and that they've been used for thousands of years in various societies, they're all in a matrix. They're all embedded in a cultural system that has rituals around it. And again, we come back to that ritual. Without ritual, when we take things freely and without much thought, we can get ourselves into bad places.
So decriminalization is tricky because it can lead to some really unfortunate freakouts by some people. And there ought to be some sort of cultural ways like we do at Rainbow Gathering where we have a, a tent that people go to and they can talk down. We'd do this at festivals, we have a tent; MAPS does this. We need to have some sort of way for people who get beyond themselves that they can call someone or have some people willing to go and help them. That's what I think, ought to accompany any kind of legalization or decriminalization.
Alex: I a hundred percent agree. They're not something to fuck around with. They're really powerful.
Madz: And we want to do this right because this could be the catalyst for like, you know, the next…
Alex: Sixties. We don't want the sixties all over again and people taking way too much and going, you know.
Madz: And this could be like a cognitive revolution if you are responsible and mindful.
Alex: Right. Maybe then we can be sapiens.
Art: You know, it's interesting because when we had legal...as you know, we started out in Colorado with decriminalization. And I would invite Vincent, who was one of the leaders, to come and talk at the mushroom festival. And our sheriff was opposed because he said it made law enforcement much more difficult having things that were illegal. They're sworn to uphold the law. They may not agree. They may not like it. They may not focus on it if they don't agree with it, but they uphold the law. If someone is smoking cannabis on the street or selling to kids, they're going to be arresting them. But at the same time, it's really important, whether it's decriminalization or legalization, that we go step by step.
So I think it's wise that we move in this direction. I thought it was a brilliant strategy to go to medical first to show that cannabis was wrongly scheduled, that it actually had some beneficial qualities. In fact, I can't think of many negative ones, but you know, we needed to change the law, change the perception, and then by going to decriminalization and then going to legalization. But again, having some steps in there, it's a much wiser way than simply making change. I taught preschool for 10 years in San Francisco. And learning epistemology, you learn the study of how we come to knowledge. You go from the known to the unknown. You don't go directly to the unknown. And so trying to jump people into the unknown world of entheogens is unwise. By starting out with decriminalization, starting to get people talking about what the medical effects really are getting research, which MAPS is so wonderful in doing, when you do all of those kinds of things and you take those steps, society can move quickly. But really, you want to take it slow because we have had this demonization, we've had this misinformation for so long, but I have many friends who are totally afraid because they think things are different than they really are.
Madz: So, what do you think a future of mushrooms is? And not just in psychedelic terms, but as a whole.
Art: Well, you know, 48:08inaudible] not only one of our speakers at the very beginning, he doesn't come every year now, but we've had him, I think, a couple of years back. And he comes every so often, but he came for the first 25 years and he and Andy and Gary were a trio. Paul has been the one with his mycelium running, really point out that this whole kingdom of fungi is something that we didn't understand. Up until 1980s, we still thought they were plants; we knew so little about them. Now we are finding out they're incredible. They have so many uses, so many things that can help us, whether it's Michael remediation, whether it's cleaning up catastrophic spills, whether, as Paul said, you can actually detoxify nerve gas with 48:58unclear]
I mean, there are so many things out there. That not only are they medicines, not only are they entheogens, not only are they helping us with so many things, but they taste good. They're wonderful food. I mean, My goodness. There are so many facts we have yet to explore. So for me, I think it's just exciting about...we're going to be spending the rest of our lives, learning about mushrooms and learning new things about them. They're making building materials from mushrooms. I mean, it's really unlimited the kinds of things and, you know, it's real easy to get really depressed. I just read an article by a guy named Wade Roche in Scientific American this morning, talking and saying that he's changed his mind and he thinks nuclear is the right way to go. And I think he's absolutely wrong. No, risk our entire planet on nuclear, the ability that the chance that things could go incredibly wrong.
We have some sort of, you know, black Swan event that just wipes out. You know, we saw what happened in Japan and what happened in Russia. We don't want those things to happen, but that kind of energy, the whole thing about climate change, all of that, it makes it so that a lot of the young people are really depressed. But I think at the same time, if you look at history, we've always been worried about things, whether it was war or our environment, or all kinds of stuff. So you can always be sad and worried and depressed. But when you look at the world of mushrooms, there's so much hope. There are so many exciting things. So if we can get our young people, particularly to put their energy, as you guys are doing, as so many good people are doing, put their energy into learning about mushrooms, using mushrooms in their world.
Remediate forests, cleaning up brownfields, doing all kinds of work with mushrooms. To me, that's one of the most exciting things going on right now. So in a way, at the same time, while things look really dark, they also look really beautiful.
Alex: Totally agree.
Madz: Podcast is a good place to start. If you want to start learning 51:17crosstalk]
Alex: I want some young kiddos, let's say, to listen and totally getting in on the mushroom game.
Art: Let me just say one thing though, Alex; one of the things we need to start doing is creating opportunities for people to have their ego shattered at an appropriate time in their life. You know, when they're in middle school, that's not really inappropriate time. Your brain doesn't really fully form until you're 25. And so, we ought to be having some sort of culturally acceptable way of getting people to that place. You know, they're doing wonderful work in Jamaica with Creates, and I think it's really important that we try to encourage that kind of thing to happen.
As elders, and I know you guys are young, but you're still elders in a sense, cause you've been doing this for a while, we need to be creating kind of opportunities for young people to do two things right and to learn right. And again, that to me is one of the things that is missing from the mycological landscape, other than what's happening in Jamaica right now.
Alex: Yeah, I think, you know, we're at exciting times. I am reading the news every day, just waiting for what's the next city, you know, what's the next city to decriminalize. And that's, for me, just like a small part of how incredible mushrooms are, you know, they're amazing entheogens and they can shatter your ego, totally transform your life, help with PTSD, addiction, end of life care, these amazing things, and totally, bring communities together. In Terrence's opinion that they were the catalyst for our human evolution so amazing. But like you said, they can clean up toxic waste, they can be an incredible food. They can have these new biomaterials, these textiles, these dyes, these, you know, anything. There are new bioinsecticides, fungi are amazing.
I think setting the standard and setting kind of a foundation, we need more whole schools, mycological schools teaching this and people getting degrees in mycology and more mushroom festivals, more mushroom podcasts, more mushroom classes, more mushroom books, more mushroom everything.
Madz: Yeah, and make myco-literacy more common.
Alex: More people running down the street saying I love mushroom in a mushroom costume. I have one last question for you, Art. And this is something, one question we ask all of our guests, and I think I'm the most excited to hear your answer, because I think you do this at Telluride. This is your main job is to speak for the mushrooms and you're a poet and I'm really excited to hear your answer. And this question is also for our listeners so if you have an answer, please put it in the comments section below, or send us an email at email@example.com.
The question is if mushrooms could have the mic and could speak to the whole human race, what would they say in one to two sentences?
Art: If there's one thing I think the natural world has to teach us it's to reduce and reuse and try to get out of this industrial technology world that we live in. We have too much. We spend too much, we have too many things and trying to simplify one's life, you know, I live without running water and a lot of people think I'm just a kook. The part of it is I want to experience what it's like in so many parts of the world. Yes, it's a little uncomfortable. Yes, it takes a little bit more work, but I reduced my footprint. I think if the mushrooms are going to tell us anything, reduce your footprint, stop taking so much.
Alex: That's great advice and it's a great time to spread that word. We're at a tipping point where we can't just rely to have mushrooms clean up our waste. We have to start at point A, and reduce and recycle and find ways to clean up and find new systems, which you were really talking about building foundations, of doing things right the first time and teaching our young ones the right way to go about life. So thank you so much, Art. You've been incredible and I can't wait to see you.
Art: What a pleasure to talk to both of you. I can't wait to listen to your podcasts. Thank you for doing this.
Alex: Amazing. So if anyone wants to learn more about Art Goodtimes and the projects that Art is a part of, the Telluride Mushroom Festival, go to www.tellurideinstitute and feel free to check out Mushroom Revival and all the fun projects we're up to at www.mushroom-revival.com. Check out our Instagram, our YouTube, our Facebook, all of our social media, and stay tuned. Subscribe to our email list and all of our podcasts, everything; we want to keep you up-to-date in the fungal family. We want to keep you close on this amazing voyage into the fantastic one-goal world. So as always, we love you. Mush love and may the spores be with you.