My recent diary on Ben was received very warmly by this community. There is obviously a lot of love and affection for him here. I am grateful for that and pleased by it as I know Ben would be.
I wrote that piece very much 'in the moment' and decided I needed to publish it while it was 'of the moment.' As a result it was hastily written and I left a lot of things out.
Some commenters compared me to Ben but I don't, not for a minute. I was never the trooper Ben Masel was. Ben is who I would have been had I been a better person. I'm not fit to light his bong (although I have).
There is no doubt that the man was brilliant. He could teach chapter and verse much of the history of the last 50 years in America, and he often did. When Ben Masel held court all the wise ones listened.
He was a master level chess player.
He had a long track record of winning first amendment lawsuits.
He was known far and wide for his pro-cannabis activism.
He said “Life is like a movie. Be the star of your own movie. Don't be a bit player.” And he didn't just say it, he lived it.
I saw where some gentleman thanked him for teaching him how to be a leftist: question everything.
Ben was a natural born performer who mesmerized his audience as he made his observations and pronouncements, charming everyone within earshot with his intelligence, wit and good humor...not to mention his encyclopedic knowledge of politics, history, civil rights law, all things cannabis and etcetera.
Ben was a natural-born teacher who believed in never letting a teachable moment pass. That's what made it so incredible for my son, the intellectual sponge, to hang out with him in Chicago at YK07. The flow of wisdom, knowledge and sheer information was like some sort of bizarre alien mindmeld. Our friend claude (the original San Francisco Digger and underground press pioneer) was also in this mix and class was held. It was a wonder to behold.
Ben was funny about money. He'd never accept more than a one dollar donation to his candidacy of the moment. Though he'd sell you a 4th Amendment hemp t-shirt if you could afford it. Otherwise he'd just give it to you. He ran for office multiple times. He said he was the senator (or sheriff, etc.) you could afford.
He used to say “I'm Pro-choice on everything.” How can you not love that?
For me, Ben Masel embodied the spirit of the 60s. I cannot express how badly I hated to see him go. I wish he could have at least lived to see the complete legalization of cannabis. It seems like such a small thing to ask...in the land of the free.