California Sober

Quitting drugs was easy. Dealing with the shit that comes after was hard.

This summer I threw myself to the whims of the rave gods and flew to Greece for a month in search of party paradise—an epic odyssey that found me shuffling to hardstyle in the mountains of Crete, and lolling around beaches like a stoned whale with SOPHIE and her girlfriend Tzef. On my last weekend, I ended up at a surreal afterparty at a loft overlooking the Parthenon with a guy I’d just met at a techno dive bar. After doing lines of coke off my ass he offered me a bump but I shook my head no… so he put a little crumb on his finger and I licked it. As my lips went numb my whole body shuddered with regret, which is how I knew that I wasn’t ready to break my sobriety… yet. 

This year I’ve been experimenting with a very specific drug diet: weed and psychedelics only. That means I can do shrooms, acid, and DMT/ayahuasca, but I am definitely not allowed to do coke, even with a hot stranger! I started calling this plant-based regime “California sober” sort of as a joke. But when I wrote about it in a druggie confessional essay for Broadly, the term went viral, and a friend even told me they saw someone wearing a shirt at Whole Foods that said “California Sober,” which is how you really know you’ve really hacked the zeitgeist. 

One of the dangerous side-effects of sobriety is that you become susceptible to things like VR ayahuasca

Honestly, quitting drugs was easy. Dealing with the shit that comes after is hard. Drugs make you feel like an exaggerated version of yourself—sexier, more self-assured—or they can be a fast-track to the serene state of self-obliteration. Either way, it always felt like cheating. Sobriety means wrestling with yourself—testing the limits of your strengths and insecurities, while sifting through the psychological gunk that rise to the surface when drugs can’t plunge them down. My California Sober journey (much like my Year of the Slut journey) has been about reconnecting with my body and confronting my deepest fears of failure.

I’ve also been thinking about the changing meaning of “sobriety” in recent years. The New York Times wrote that being “sober-curious” is the latest lifestyle trend, but I think it goes deeper than stunting on Instagram. Renegotiating my own boundaries with drugs has made me realize that the binary between “drugs” (=bad!) and “medicine” (=good!) is blurring. I think a lot of this has to do with the legalization of cannabis and psychedelics vs. the pharmaceutical and opioid epidemic: the drugs that put millions of mostly black men into jail brought about medical breakthroughs, while doctor-prescribed pills have sowed endless suffering. 

Being sick has become the new normal; it’s crazy how everyone I know has anxiety and/or depression, not to mention ADHD, OCD, and PTSD. “It’s like some dark psychic force is collectively draining us,” said one of my sober friends, which made me think about how our relationships to drugs can be understood as defense mechanisms. Some find strength in sobriety, others soothe with self-medication. Life can be so dumb and fragile and confusing, and sometimes the best way to transcend the bullshit is to dive within. No shortcuts, no cheating. 


WEEDSTOCK

This Sunday, I’m finally fulfilling my fantasy of throwing a Weed Rave in a sunny field where we can smell flowers and feel the wind in our hair as we smoke endless joints and dance to disco. The party is called WEEDSTOCK, and it’s FREE because I want half a million hippies show up.

The party starts at sunrise in Elysian Park with stoned tai chi (lol) and a sound bath with giant crystal bowls (no, not the kinds you can smoke out of). I’m really stoked that two of my fave LA DJs will be playing: Rail Up’s Kelman Duran will play an ambient-reggaeton set, followed by a fab disco set from my sis Masha, reigning queen of LA’s gay party scene.

The craziest part is that all these dope weed brands are gonna roll out picnic blankets and give out free weed!!! Joints, CBD sodas, gummies, vapes, and aphrodisiac shots…?! Don’t tell the cops. RSVP here for the location.


Welcome To Rave New World
Thanks for letting me slide into your inbox. This is a newsletter about sex, drugs, and raving by music & culture journalist + Weed Rave founder Michelle Lhooq. I’ll pop in whenever I feel like it, if that’s cool. This newsletter is just starting out so do me a solid: forward it to whoever might be into it! As always, you can follow my real-time exploits on Instagram and Twitter.

What's A Weed Rave?

Parties are the best way to witness a paradigm shift, and cannabis legalization is one of the biggest cultural revolutions of our lifetime.

The first weed party I went to was tucked up the winding Hollywood Hills, in a mansion full of peacocks that once belonged to Helen Mirren. It was the fall of 2017, a few months before California #LegalizedIt, and the vibe was total Scarface opulence—joints passed out like hors d’oeuvres, mountains of nugs on every table, everything for free. At midnight, Snoop Dogg rambled into the living room in a cloud of camera flashes, DJing his own tracks on a laptop while hired models rolled blunts for me by the pool. After all these years of smuggling weed down my panties so I could smoke at festivals and raves, what a mind fuck to be freed of the anxiety of cannabis as contraband—to suddenly see it as a luxurious cocktail party treat. Maybe it was the acid, but I almost dropped to my knees and weeped.

Cannabis legalization is one of the biggest cultural revolutions of our lifetime. It’s changing everything—from the way we socialize to seduce, even season our food. Weed (like rave culture) is often not taken seriously, but it is a window into the most salient socio-political issues of our era: the threat of corporate monopolies hoovering up small businesses; rising interest in plant-based medicines over Big Pharma; the disproportionate targeting of minorities in the War on Drugs.

Then I got a book deal to write an illustrated guide to the wild new frontier of cannabis, and weed events became field research. There was a Beverly Hills brunch where each course was paired with a different vape. A CBD sound bath soundtracked by Sigur Ros. A black light yoga class where the instructor handed out joints and yelled “smoke break!” while we were in triangle pose. The book became a compendium of interviews with the most interesting stoners in these rooms, along with a heavy dose of my own tips and experiences.

Parties are the best way to witness a paradigm shift, because if you peer through the wispy clouds of bullshit, they can be like a crystal ball into the future. Peering into the dark, you can see the most resonant trends floating in the ether suddenly manifest into a physical space and time. That’s why raves are so valuable for anyone trying to decipher culture amidst the constant churn of digital data: the dancefloor is a singular point in meatspace where subcultural cross-streams converge before they diffuse into the mainstream.

But even though all these weed parties were fascinating, they weren’t giving me the catharsis I needed. I go to raves because ringing it out on the dancefloor exorcises my demons, and too many weed events felt overly corporate and industry-focused, with music as an afterthought. I wanted to pull my community of ravers into the fascinating world of legal cannabis that is burgeoning across America. There are so many cool companies out there run by women, people of color, and queers, and now is a crucial time to build coalition and community before corporate interests take over, because in five or ten years, it might be too late. So I decided—fuck it, I’ll throw a weed rave.

When I threw the first Weed Rave in LA back in January, I was nervous that people would get too fucked up, have a freak out from too many edibles, or just get awkward and not know how to handle their shit. But as soon as the party kicked off, it was like everyone was wrapped in a fuzzy blanket of not giving a fuck. No matter what, everything would be OK, because we were all so goddamn stoned. I also realized is that weed is the most social drug—there is something ancient and tribalistic about passing it around a circle, as it gently pushes you to drop your pretenses and get goofy with strangers. As Weed Rave DJ Russell EL Butler put it, stoners have a different rave energy—“It’s a dance to conserve, it’s a sway, it’s real deep and personal.”

So now I’m bringing Weed Rave to New York on 4/20, with a day-to-night stoner fantasia in a cozy 200-person Brooklyn loft from 4:20pm-2:40am.  Right now, New York feels like it’s flooded with a lot of booming nightclubs, and that’s cool, but I wanted to do something intimate and underground—a mini-festival for 200 people, or the most lit house party of your life, basically.

We’ll have a heady discussion panel on the roadmap to legal weed in NYC moderated by Merry Jane editor Zach Sokol, with joints from LGBTQ delivery service Rosebud. A cannabis cooking demo with LEVO founder Olivia Harris. A stoned yoga class with Sigrid from FlucT and Eartheater, with topicals and tinctures from Goodwitch. I’ll do a little reading from my book—and then host a competition DJ’ed by Joey LaBeija where I give contestants a bunch of random crap and ask them to make bongs.

At night, the sativa room will rip your head off with sets from Jasmine Infiniti, Quest?onmarc, and Gooddroid, exploring the sounds coming out of New York I’m most interested in: techno and ballroom. The indica room, on the other hand, will be a kushy sanctuary with ambient sets from Unter residents Pure Immanence and Olga. Throughout, we’ll have a weed bar with drinks from Spleef and a bunch of sponsored booths (I’ll announce the full lineup next week). It’s going to be a fucking sick rave—and more than anything, I hope to recreate that feeling when I stood on the marble staircase of that Snoop Dogg mansion party, silently mouthing WHAT THE FUCK!, wide-eyed and giddy at this infinite sense of bounty.

So I hope you can come and invite your stoner-raver homies to join us. You can cop tickets on Restless Nites—the passcode is BONG, and you’ll also get a free copy of my book. See you at the rave ;)

Welcome To Rave New World

Thanks for letting me slide into your inbox. This is a newsletter about sex, drugs, and raving. I’ll pop in whenever I feel like it, if that’s cool. Here’s how it works:

  • The idea is to tell you the REAL stories behind my scoops—behind-the-scenes draaama, hot takes or sexcapades too spicy to publish, that kind of thing. I write about the holy trinity of music, weed, and sex… but tbh a lot of the craziest shit doesn’t make it to print.

  • A themed list of stories, videos, podcasts, etc that I’ve been doing. It’s a cute way to keep up with my work.

  • A Q&A with one of my homies, with links to content from around the web that they’re currently hyped on. I have a pretty crazy network of friends—from weed journalists to avant-garde drag queens to hackers throwing crypto-raves in Berlin. Let’s take a look into their brains via their bookmarks.

This newsletter is just starting out so do me a solid: forward this newsletter along to whoever might be into it! I really appreciate the support :) As always, you can follow my exploits in real-time on Instagram and Twitter.

Weed Rave Reviews

I spoke to PAPER magazine and i-D about Weed Rave in LA, and uniting cannabis with rave culture and social justice. NME popped by and asked if weed raves are the future of clubbing (duh). For Weed Rave New York, headliner Quest?onmarc made a 420-themed mix of head high-stimulating hard techno infused with the full body feels of indica that I HIGHLY encourage you listen to.

Lhooq Book: What My Friends Are Reading

Meet my stoner sis Bianca Monica, who runs a cannabis creative agency called Limone —and has been invaluable in helping me pop off my Weed Rave. She works with weed brands on their social media strategy and events, while organizing a dope conference called Women in Cannabis (among many other hustles).

Hey Bianca! I find the sense of sisterhood in the cannabis industry so powerful compared to other industries. Why do you think that’s the case?

We share the same love for a plant, and bonding over that is so much different than bonding over anything else—it’s something that spiritually connects all of us. CBD is such a huge thing for women because many of us have been suffering from pain our whole lives, and every time there’s a doctor saying “just take this,” it never works. There’s also the community aspect. It’s so hard to have a conversation with someone and not be your complete self when you’re smoking. Most of my business meetings with women start with smoking a joint and getting to know each other.

As women, it’s important to watch each other’s backs. I was in SF recently and there were these two women who are packaging different products but helping each other out by sharing a production facility. The cannabis industry is so difficult, it changes every day, and there’s a sense of women lifting each other up a lot.

What are your go-to cannabis reading materials?

Miss Grass newsletter—They just have an amazing way of sharing content and were one of the first to navigate the bridge between wellness and cannabis. Everything they send is never a waste of time. For example, Anna the founder recently wrote about her vagina and how she found this amazing serum to make her clam happy.

Gossamer magazine—they come from Lucky, so they know a lot about the editorial space. It’s amazing looking at the visuals they have. They’re putting cannabis in a new light—it’s not this stoner-y look, it’s very design-oriented and they feature real people.

Broccoli magazine—a women-founded magazine that features amazing people. One of their upcoming issues that I’m really looking forward to is all about social equity.

Year of the Slut

Around this time last year, I decided that my New Year’s resolution was to be a better slut.

Around this time last year, I decided that my New Year’s resolution was to be a better slut. I was tired of feeling broken. Despite being an extremely outgoing and totally horny party girl, I was haunted by the conviction that I’ve been cursed to a lifetime of getting hit on exclusively by creeps—of feeling like my fantasies were always out of reach. Then at 3AM on New Year’s Eve, in the middle of a thunderstorm, I took a cab by myself to a desolate shipping container yard in Singapore in search of a rave, where I met a stranger and told him my mission. He said, “Are you sure?” so I took his hand and proved it, giggling against a hidden stairwell.

When it was over I felt a little gross but mostly euphoric because I’d always been too scared to fuck a stranger at a rave, but now I’d proved to myself that I could do it. I knew that if I could defeat my demons, I could manifest into the total SEX GODDESS I was born to be. The flip-side of desire isn’t hatred—it’s fear. So I resolved to go spelunking in the murky waters of my subconscious to root out what was holding me back. And as corny as this sounds, I started by trying to teach myself the art of seduction.

I began my research on (where else???) Reddit, combing through tutorials written by douchey pick-up artists and picking up surprisingly helpful nuggets. Essentially, it boils down to inhabiting a world of your own making that’s so lit that people are irresistibly pulled into your orbit. Someone who’s seen a lot of death once said that people go out the same way they approached life—whether it’s with curious wonder or a sly sense of humor or a serious stare. I think that’s how seduction works too. You don’t have to pretend to be some mysterious vixen. Sometimes I told myself that chatting up an intimidating stranger was a reporting assignment (lol).

The next year unfolded like scenes in a soap opera, every few weeks a new theme. Shit got weird pretty quick when I chased the pouty models of LA and ended up one night IN A HOMELESS PERSON’S TENT on Skid Row with a Calvin Klein underwear model who was trying to buy crack AND meth to fuel our weekend bender. I invited myself into clumsy threesomes with my friends, basking in the intimacy of dropping into someone else’s relationship. I discovered how liberating it is to be freed from the patriarchy when I hooked up with women. I picked up sugar daddies with pockets lined with sketchy weed money because this is California, baby. Sometimes I played games with myself to see how quickly I could go from chatting up someone at a party to getting an invitation to the bathroom.

In Berlin I explored S&M with a daddy I met after being rejected from Berghain, who invited me to fist him on his artisanal sex swing. Ya’ll, I touched things that I didn’t even know existed. Recently I unlocked one of my greatest realizations: that when it comes to being a dominatrix, I am a goddamn natural. Perhaps my most fun conquest yet was performed fully clothed, with my legs propped up on a boy who was crouching on his hands and knees as my footstool, as I kicked back and smoked a joint on my patio late one night, grinning at the glittering hills.

As I forced myself to be afraid, to be rejected, to be shamed, sex started feeling like less of a torment and more of a game. The irony, of course, is that once you’re not afraid it stops being as fun—but that’s the next chapter I’m working on. Ultimately, what a cool feeling it is to look at yourself and be like, damn baby… you’ve changed. To realize that evolution is possible. To understand that we are are just the stories that we tell about ourselves, that our personalities are comprised of habits that we’ve performed so many times that we convinced ourselves that we are cursed to be like this forever. Anyway, I recently got a sex tattoo to celebrate and thought I would fuck the tattoo artist on the table but I chickened out. Which proved that the game is never over (till it's over).

Welcome To Rave New World

Thanks for letting me slide into your inbox. This is a newsletter about sex, drugs, and raving. I’ll pop in whenever I feel like it, if that’s cool (it’ll be about once a month). Here’s how it’ll work:

  • The idea is to tell you the REAL stories behind my scoops—behind-the-scenes draaama, hot takes or sexcapades too spicy to publish, that kind of thing. I write about the holy trinity of music, weed, and sex… but tbh a lot of the craziest shit doesn’t make it to print.

  • A themed list of stories, videos, podcasts, etc that I’ve been doing. It’s a cute way to keep up with my work.

  • A Q&A with one of my homies, with links to content from around the web that they’re currently hyped on. I have a pretty crazy network of friends—from weed journalists to avant-garde drag queens to hackers throwing crypto-raves in Berlin. Let’s take a look into their brains via their bookmarks.

This newsletter is just starting out so do me a solid: forward this newsletter along to whoever might be into it! I really appreciate the support :) As always, you can follow my exploits in real-time on Instagram and Twitter.

Babes of 2018: My Fave Features on Women

2018 was my first year of freelance and I told myself let's see how long you can go without writing a profile on a man. It was effortless, really. Here are my favorite features I’ve written on women doing dope shit. I don’t know anything about their sex lives (OK maybe I do… but I’m not spilling that tea here!) I do know that they are very good at what they do, and that’s the ultimate seduction.

  1. SOPHIE (Teen Vogue):

    SOPHIE, the greatest pop producer of our generation, gave me her first interview as an openly trans woman. We got lunch at her favorite Hollywood diner and went deep on honesty vs. artifice. She was very elegant and intelligent, speaking softly as her carefully considered words unspooled with the white wisps of her Juul vape. [Listen to “Faceshopping”]

  2. Yaeji (FADER Cover Story):

    I loved writing about Yaeji, a Korean-American singer/DJ/producer who blew up as one of the biggest indie breakouts of the year. It gave me the chance to return to my beloved Brooklyn underground and ponder the softer, introverted side of nightlife. It also confirmed to me that Asian-American queer culture (#slaysians) is on the come-up! [Listen to “Raingurl”]

  3. Chelsea Manning (The Outline):

    I went raving with WikiLeaks whistleblower (and drum & bass DJ) CHELSEA MANNING, one of the most controversial figures in modern American history—and possibly the strongest person I know. It was totally dystopian and surreal—she reminds me of a mysterious hacker in a political spy-action movie—but also very emotional and vulnerable and real. We went shopping for synthesizers. We met Genesis P-Orridge. We even hung out backstage with KRS-One and cried. One of my favorite stories I’ve ever written. [I love her Spotify playlist]

  4. Michelle Yeoh (GQ):

    I grew up watching Michelle Yeoh, star of Crazy Rich Asians and one of the most physically gifted actors alive, on TV in Singapore—and profiling her for my first GQ story felt like coming full circle. She reminded me of a rich tai-tai/doting mother who can kick your ass while sipping wine. What a vibe. [Watch Yeoh’s most ass-kicking scenes]

  5. Alice Glass (The Los Angeles Times):

    Alice Glass, former lead singer of Crystal Castles, took me into the dark womb of her basement studio, where we sat on the carpet and had a raw convo about her v sick new music—a response to her ex-bandmate, who she alleges abused her since she was 15. Glass was very sweet and jumpy and apologetic, which I’ve started to recognize as the default demeanor of people who’ve been through intense trauma. When I saw her shred the stage the next night, however, I was reminded why she’s punk as FUCK. Survivors are the strongest of us all. [Listen to “Without Love”]

Lhooq Book: What My Friends Are Reading

Meet my Singaporean sis Zing Tsjeng! She’s the UK editor at VICE’s women’s site Broadly, and a former News Editor at Dazed. This year, she published four books, wrote the cover of British Vogue on Dua Lipa, and worked on a really cool anti-stalking campaign called Unfollow Me, among many other very impressive things. You can follow her on Twitter and IG.

Michelle: Hayyy Zing! What have you been reading recently by women or non-binary people?

Zing: I am savouring this story like a fine glass of wine I am in no hurry to finish - it is that good. If you haven't read Akwaeke Emezi yet, what is wrong with you?? This investigation is the reason why I'm cutting back on my clothing consumption  this year. I read this in November and couldn't get it out of my head for weeks. You should read it too. Witchcraft stories that engage with history are catnip to me. I'm saving this piece for when I'm feeling resilient enough.

You wrote FOUR books about forgotten women in history in ONE year. Which taught you love, which one taught you patience, which one taught you pain? 

They all taught me patience and pain, and then they taught me to love both patience AND pain. Writing all four Forgotten Women books (in a year!!) on top of my full time gig at Broadly was like an endurance test. I've never worked harder in my life. But it engaged muscles in my brain and my spirit that I didn't know I had. I had to learn to be patient with myself, with my fear of failure and sense of doubt. I learned to love what I do more than I ever have done in the past. I always used to be like, eh I fell into writing *shrug*. Now I know that's just not true, because I have the books to prove it. And obviously, I fell in love with all the women in the books. How could I not?

OMG You Made It to the End!

Here’s your reward: a ticket link to my upcoming WEED RAVE in Los Angeles on January 20. (It’s also my 30th birthday!!!) I’m announcing it later this week, but you can be the first to cop tickets at the very special homie rate of $18. Trust me zaddy… it’s gonna be insane. THE PASSWORD IS “SPLIFF.”

[IMPORTANT: THIS PASSWORD IS GONNA CHANGE OFTEN, PLEASE FOLLOW OUR PRIVATE INSTAGRAM @weedrave.420 FOR UPDATES.]

Also, I’m looking for sponsors, so HMU if you’ve got a homie who works at a cool weed company.

FINAL HIT

Help me decide if this newsletter is worth doing by forwarding this to your friends! If you have any ideas or feedback, DM me on Instagram and Twitter.

Coming soon

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