In a ceremony at times both heartwarming and heartbreaking, this year's Bowlitzer prize reception ended with a Lifetime Acheefment Award honoring retired journalist Barry Ojee, who doesn’t remember writing his own piece due the very ailment he documented: Cannamnesia.
Best-known for his extensive work covering widespread memory loss due to strong THC, Ojee produced a venerable library of articles documenting the affliction, spanning a decade of research. It wasn't long after publishing a final report in 2005 that he held the now-infamous press conference to announce his own Cannamnesia diagnosis--a day he no longer remembers.
Ojee was asked to stand and read a passage from his most famous piece, "Why Can't I Find the Door Knob," which itself won a Bowlitzer in 1999. The article brought first national exposure to the issue and followed five cheefers through their daily routines at a time when affected rates were starting to soar. Ojee’s further investigation revealed that about 5 in 6 suffer from zapped memory while blazed, while the other 1 in 6 is already sleeping.
There wasn’t a dry red-eye in the crowd as he read the words as if seeing them for the first time. His voice slowed as he came to the description of the ailment, then paused briefly, perhaps in quiet reflection, maybe realizing that he too had forgotten something, or perhaps because he was suffering a flare-up of symptoms from the Durban-packed stogie in his fingers.
It was at that penultimate moment in the ceremony, when his own order of cheese curds arrived--to which he openly admitted, "I don't even remember ordering these"--that a choking, weeping gasp erupted in the audience. The bittersweet sobbing continued, waning only as the last greasy morsels disappeared from his plate.
There could be no truer portrayal of his work, or the condition it revealed. Afterward, several of those in attendance attempted to relate their own stories, although recollection was, on a whole, difficult due to the hash-covered fruit platters and ganja ganache hors d'oeuvres going around.
Still, for those who could muster the memory, celebrating the journalist in person offered some closure, even if he had completely spaced out. “When it first came out, these articles touched so many lives because people finally had a word to describe what was happening to them,” concluded event host, Clara Barnes. “We’re all fortunate to have such a dedicated reporter with us tonight, to thank him in person and watch him stare at the ceiling for a prolonged period of time.”
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