In April, as Coachella pulled the focus of the entire media world, I was invited to a luxurious “weed brunch” on the outskirts of Palm Desert. I know, I know, that’s the most Coachella sentence ever written. Still, I hoped attending the brunch would help me understand more about the world of weed, and how its impending legalization in California will impact the state. Also, I was going to get treated like a goddamn queen. I RSVP’d with quickness.
Getting there was an event on its own. I would be picked up in a car, driven to the Santa Monica airport, flown in a helicopter up to the Palm Springs airport, picked up in another car, and, finally, dropped off at Leisa Austin’s Imago Galleries — where there would be food, drinks, art, and most importantly, weed.
If you’ve never been to the Santa Monica airport, and I hadn’t before this trip, it’s an extremely small and secluded place, which makes it much less hectic and annoying than the typical airport experience. Turns out, rich people travel privately for a reason. Our group didn’t even have to go through security — apparently with a helicopter that only holds eight people the rules are different.
Packed into the chopper with a group of relative strangers, I was alarmed to learn that at any point, any one of us could’ve swung open the door. No one did, but that possibility left me queasy for most of the flight. In the movies, you get some sense of just how loud helicopters are, but it’s even more intense in real life. The headsets aren’t there for you to communicate with as much as to muffle the sound of the blades whirring through the air.
It was a short trip. The entire travel process was estimated to take approximately two hours, much shorter than a car ride would’ve taken with Coachella traffic factored in. Attending the notoriously overpriced, overstuffed, celeb-infested music festival didn’t appeal to me on any level — even though my literal job is music editor — but flying in a helicopter to smoke weed and learn about a gallery that hosted glass blown bongs of all shapes and sizes? Now that sounded like a good late Friday afternoon plan.
The event was held at Imago Galleries — which is technically in Rancho Mirage — on behalf of Grey Space Art, a collection/space/brand focused on “functional glass” art run by a young entrepreneur named Mr. Grey. To put it bluntly, every piece in the collection is a working bong; an artfully constructed piece of blown glass that, no matter how extensive, ultimately is meant to get you stoned. I wandered through the collection briefly before visiting the outdoor bar or smoking anything, and was completely taken with the level of detail and intricacy on these glass sculptures.
Smoking anything out of them would’ve felt criminal, but the audacity to turn a bong into art, and elevate it to the gallery level, struck me as a deliciously rebellious part of the ongoing process, particularly on the west coast, to destigmatize weed. The ethos that Mr. Grey pursues is both avant garde and a hell of a lot of fun. Currently, Grey Space Art is located in Soho, New York, but they are planning the launch of an LA gallery this fall, and what I saw at the brunch more than piqued my interest.
As we sat down to brunch in the gallery’s outdoor sculpture garden, prepared and provided on site by Chef Antonia Lofaso of Scopa Italian Roots and Black Market fame, I felt like Hollywood elite. Lofaso works to combine her Long Island upbringing and Italian roots with the freshness and brightness of LA cuisine, seamlessly melding influences from the two coasts with dishes like the crispy baby artichokes salad, and a ricotta crostini.
Toward the end of the meal, we were confronted with enormous slabs of bone-in Rib Eye, and paired with charred octopus this made for a delightful surf and turf, another example of traditional east coast dinner items meeting the more experimental plates of the west.
With plenty of food in my belly, it finally felt safe to begin partaking of the plentiful weed. Blunts were passed around at the table, and upstairs on the roof of the museum a vape lounge of sorts broke out. Given my own very low tolerance when it comes to weed, I partook very carefully — there was still the helicopter ride home to think of, after all.
While I sat near the pool, slightly stoned, the Dipstick Vape crew started disseminating through the crowd, passing out dippers, and explaining the specifics to interested parties. They were incredibly friendly and made me feel right at home, even with a product that felt foreign and well above my current level of weed knowledge. Basically, these pens use a powerful form of wax for a very intense high, so while I appreciate the technology, I packed mine up to use at a later date.
As the sun began to set, our group piled back into a car to the airport, armed with a bag full of delicious looking edible weed treats, and plenty of other swag. Walking back out onto the tarmac, stoned and completely satisfied, I realized it was only fear that had made me so nervous on the ride to Palm Desert. In my own act of defiance, I took one more hit off a blunt, and climbed into the helicopter.
Caitlin White is Uproxx’s managing editor for music. Follow her on Twitter here.