in The Bamboo Chronicles

Chasing Bambu

The Bamboo Chronicles, as a book concept, started sometime in late April 1989 while I was in college. That’s when I was first introduced to the members of Verbal Threat, a local Hip-Hop group. It was nearing the end of the semester and I was just shy of my 21st birthday; the rest of the bunch was about the same age or a few years older. Following the advice of some older musicians, the group put together the loose beginnings of a tour that covered parts of Virginia and North Carolina. Over those next few weeks I became part of the group’s management (if it could be called that). Back then I always kept a black bookbag with me that contained a Toshiba 1200f, an early model laptop with dual 3.5″ floppy disk drives as its only form of storage. Along with being brought on as a co-manager and wearing many hats, one of the things I did during my downtime was to start taking notes. Because I was getting a minor in Writing and a huge fan of Hunter S. Thompson, I had been experimenting with short stories using a style akin to Gonzo Journalism. My early notes with Verbal turned into a journal of sorts, haphazardly maintained from the Spring of 1989 to the Fall of 1991 with the goal of being the one to document the group’s rise to fame.

During those years my journal entries accumulated on floppy disks and ended up being stored in a makeshift archive in one of my dresser drawers. In 2002, about a year after I started BGP and was working on a book concept dealing with the various concepts of Freedom, I was inspired to dig up those old journal entries. Originally I thought they would work well for being a source of “coming of age” stories for that book. Since those stories grew to be larger than the sum of the book itself, I ended up splitting them off entirely into their own work. Throughout those times, particularly on the summer tours, aside from the music and the shows, the common thread that seemed to tie all the memories together was Marijuana. Among Rock, Rap and Reggae musicians, smoking weed to them is like Coffee and Donuts to Cops — both a bad stereotype and a lingering truth at the same time. Thanks to a heavy New York Jamaican/Rastafarian influence within group, most of the time the guys referred to any kind of rolling papers as “bambu”, thus the choice to package these stories as “The Bamboo Chronicles”.

Originally I wanted to use the word “Bambu” instead of “Bamboo” but the former was also the brand name of a rolling paper. Concerned about possible trademark infringement, I contacted the company and managed to reach the owner on the first try. She was an older lady with a phone demeanor that stoicly pleasant with a hint of suspicion in her tone. I figured she was probably an ex-hippie-turned-businesswoman., prone to be sympathetic enough to give her blessings to a small fish like me working on his first novel. She was okay with it — but her attorneys wasted no time telling her otherwise. The next thing I knew I receive an email saying “No” and an explanation about their releasing some new brand of blunt papers. After that I couldn’t even get a returned call.

(more later as these things come to me)

— Max Nomad

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