The following is a guest blog by my friend Richard Sheehy on his interactions with Howard Marks. You can read my own post on meeting with Howard here
One fuzzy night the question was asked ‘Who would you most like to have a smoke with?’
This lead to some scheming, and the commandeering of a member of the UCC Psych Society to organise a talk ‘Marijuana: Science and Experience’ with Howard Marks and some other guy whose views I didn’t care for.
My part of the deal was that I got to collect Howard from the airport. With two friends and holding up a card that read ‘Mr. Nice’ that’s just what I did.
It was a pretty surreal experience on the car journey to the hotel, we basically had a private interview with the author of the book that we were glued to on holidays. It was obvious after a minute of hearing Howard’s anecdotes that no car journey could be long enough for us.
At 10.30am I remember looking down on Washington Street trying to spot people I knew walking to UCC, so I could call them and get them to look up. I was there at the window of the hotel having a smoke of some mighty fine hash with Mr. Nice, who was nice enough to invite us up – mission complete.
Howard then spent the day writing a speech about the science of, and his experience with cannabis, which he later delivered with the finesse of a poet.
The following year Howard returned to Cork to play the Pavilion and so it would happen that the night before his gig Howard’s manager would arrive at a session to hear me belt out a tune or two including a song about the ridiculousness of Irelands laws called Cannabis Tree, in which I refer to watching Mr. Nice on the Late Late.
The following night I found myself playing support to Howard on his ‘An Audience with Mr. Nice’ show. It was again a great experience and being terrible at rolling up I remember my relief to have pre-rolls in my pocket when Howard came off for his half time interval and asked if I could roll him a joint!
Several months later he would return to Cork with UCC DAR, now Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and I used my job as designer of UCC Motley to interview Howard for the magazine. Somewhere there’s a recording of myself calling Howard to do the interview that goes:
“ *audible laughter* .. hehe, Hey Richy”
“Hey Howard, are you ready for the interview?”
“Was that 2pm today?
“ *pause* …Oh, well can we do it at 2 tomorrow?”
“Thanks Richy, talk to you tomorrow”
That may not seem as funny written as text but the next day we would do the interview where I found out Howard’s belief that government agencies take part in the drug trade, and his approach to life in prison; which was to help people as much as possible and to stay physically fit.
That interview also revealed that if given a choice Howard would prefer to fight 100 duck sized horses, over a horse sized duck, as at least he would kill a few of the 100 duck sized horses.
At the UCC DAR event he would debut part of his new show “Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe” and I again got to support him along with the late-Medicinal Cannabis activist and utterly hilarious comedian Aodhrua Fitzgerald.
Later that year Howard would do an Irish tour for his new show and I was delighted to travel with him playing 4 supports – and I have Howard’s manager Johnny to thank for that privilege.
Being around him for this period I saw Howard consistently being the perfect gent and incredibly accommodating for any people who wanted a signature, picture or to just have a chat. Howard even told me that if I ever wanted his opinion on a song or a joke that I could email him directly.
In Derry we figured out that we shared an inability to ride a bicycle, and Howard suggested we start a duo act called the Tandem Boys. Howard also introduced me to some of his favourite tracks, including Bob Dylan’s ‘One of us must know’ and a song written about Howard by Welsh rock group Stereophonics. It was also a shock to find out that during Howard’s time spent in Terre Haute Penitentiary he taught English for the jailhouse exam to one Christopher Wallace, a.k.a Biggie Smalls…. I think it’s pretty cool to be just 1 degree of separation from the Notorious B.I.G
I was lucky in Letterkenny when a major fan and obviously superb grower of the herb would offer Howard several samples of his top class smoke, and as Howard now prefers to stick to hash I got a nice little supply to keep me happy on the journey back down the country.
It was the night before the All Ireland Final and I needed to make it to Dublin, and once again Howard was as accommodating as one could be as he waited for ages at 3am in a car at Tubbercurry for me as I waited to catch a bus to Dublin that would never arrive.
I’m glad that this wasn’t the last impression I left with Howard, and during the Cannabis Cup in November I was lucky enough to catch Howard as he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Hemp and Hash Museum. This is where I found out about Howard’s illness and yet still the man was in great form and accommodating for chats and pictures.
I asked him to sign the back of my guitar and I’ll always cherish the message he wrote. When speaking to him he seemed more interested in what I was doing and asked me to pass on messages to people he knew from when we were in Ireland.
I find it quite funny that what started over a conversation over a smoke led to all of these meetings with whom I can only describe as a wizard and a legend. I will forever remain grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know Howard.
Rare is a man who can live such an extraordinary life yet remain as kind and down to earth as when he first began his journey. Howard could certainly claim this honour; but of course he wouldn’t be the type to let you know. He is, after all, Mr. Nice.