Lake City revels in its vices. Whether it’s strip clubs, Prohibition-era speakeasies, or barely disguised black-market pot grows, this Seattle neighborhood has never felt the need to cover up activities that would be politely driven underground on the Green Lake side of I-5. So when I saw that Thomas Kohnstamm’s new novel, Lake City, was getting promoted with its own pack of pre-rolled joints I thought one thing:
Of course Lake City should have its own pack of pre-rolled joints.
And this pack of pre-rolls dedicated to a book dedicated to Lake City is no ordinary carton of cannabis. Kohnstamm partnered with the best pot growers in Seattle, his friends at Fire Bros and Saints, to produce a pack of joints adorned with the famous neon Lake City sign that hangs above the Kawasaki Motorsports shop. Inside the joint's box are pre-rolls filled with Gods Gift and Ringo’s Skunk, two strains of pot that were around in Lake City in 2001, the time Kohnstamm’s novel takes place. Saints produces the types of joints that are so aromatic they fill up any room you are in as soon as you open their cute little box.
I hope this idea catches off—I wouldn’t be upset if every novel, album, or art performance featured a pot collaboration—and Kohnstamm’s novel is a fitting first take on this novel meets pot farm. Kohnstamm’s book takes you into the heart of this usually ignored corner of Northeast Seattle and lucidly portrays the grit of Lake City Way, its trailer parks, its dive bars, and, most vividly, its Fred Meyer. The Stranger’s books editor Rich Smith called the book’s Fred Meyer scenes “glorious,” and I agree, so I was somewhat surprised when Kohnstamm told me, between hits off a Saints joint in the parking of Fred Meyer at about 10 p.m. on a Wednesday, that he had never worked inside.
“I have deli experience at the QFC up the street, the QFC on Roosevelt, and the QFC in University Village, back in the day when University Village was post-apocalyptic and empty,” Kohnstamm said. “You’re too young for that, that was in '93 or '94.”
Kohnstamm, who is only about 15 years older than me, is right. It had never occurred to me that the University Village shopping mall wasn’t always the land of Mercedes SUVs. It shows you how quickly development can sterilize a neighborhood’s identity, something that Kohnstamm said he thinks could happen to Lake City. As we passed the joint back and forth in the Fred Meyer parking lot he looked out and said change was coming.
“This whole area is not going to continue to be this way,” Kohnstamm said. “This is an area where you have fat parking spaces and an empty grass lot over there. This whole area is going to be six stories. We can see what’s happened in San Francisco… we’re ten years behind them of going into the wood chipper of everything becoming more crazy expensive.”
If that change does turn Lake City into something unrecognizable, Kohnstamm’s book will at least have made a respectable time capsule for the neighborhood that came before glassy towers filled with tech bros. And maybe even partnerships like this Lake City pack of pre-rolls can stop the sterilization of Seattle. The author told me he believes the new cannabis industry can help keep a more diverse class of people in Seattle.
“Seattle is becoming very monoculture, and I’m really rooting for the cannabis industry to make Seattle push against that,” Kohnstamm said. “Amazon is not fucking going anywhere but we need to have other things where people are making money and doing well. The cannabis industry has people… who are doing well and employing people from different backgrounds and classes and not all white-collar, I-have-a-computer-science-degree people.”
I think Kohnstamm has a point. If anything can save Seattle from destroying itself, growing and smoking more cannabis flowers probably can. Especially if it's cannabis flowers as nice as the ones Fire Bros and Seattle Green Buds grow. So maybe pot isn't really one of Lake City's vices, it may be one of its virtues.
Here's a list of shops where you can buy this pack of Lake City joints: The Reef in Bremerton. Kush Klub, all Hashtag locations, all Fweedom locations, Belmar, Herb(n) Elements, all Euphorium locations, all Dockside locations, Satori Bellingham, Ganja Goddess, and all Uncle Ike's locations.