My Mother the Ganja Dealer

Narratively – Outsiders Week – December 31, 2014


“MAIL CONTAINS DRUG, YOUNG WOMEN SEIZED” reads an August 22, 1969 headline in the Milwaukee Journal. Below, in grainy black and white, floats Meridy Domnitz’s mug shot. At twenty, my mother looks more pathetic than criminal. Her frizzy hair has gone renegade from a sideways ponytail and she wears what appears to be a paisley kurta.

My mother never disguised the fact that, throughout my childhood, she made her living selling marijuana. I grew up listening to her spin vivid yarns while she rolled joints or counted cash, usually sprawled sideways on her king-sized bed. Customers would climb aboard the bed — nicknamed “the barge” — and linger for hours, enveloped in a miasma of smoke and stories.

I’ve heard my mother tell the story behind this article a hundred times, and I never tire of it. This was her first dalliance with the wrong side of the law; by the time she gave birth to me, nearly a decade later, the dealer persona was center stage.

If my mother were a comic book superhero, this would be her origin story.

Read this essay on Narratively.


Essay in Tin House – Winter 2014


I’m thrilled to have an essay in the gorgeous “Winter Reading” issue of Tin House,  the sharpest journal in the west. This issue includes new work by the legendary  Ursula K. Le Guin, Joy Williams, and Josh Weil, among other fine writers. I could  not be more pleased.

I encourage you to pick up Tin House at your local (independent) bookstore, but  you can also read my essay, “In Any Light, By Any Name,” online.

Read this essay in Tin House.



My essay about children in immigration court is live this morning, featuring original illustrations by artist Chris Koehler.



October 19th, 2014

The courtroom smells of talcum powder. On this afternoon’s docket, we have thirty-four children. Thirty-four out of 35,000 or 57,000 or 90,000 kids who have crossed our borders without permission since last October, depending on which source you trust to make sense of what doesn’t.

Read this essay on The Rumpus.

Before You Were Born: Stories from our parents’ surprisingly romantic youth. This week: two free spirits exchange psychic readings in ’70s San Francisco., December 3, 2010

By Alia Volz

My parents, Doug and Mer, exchanged psychic readings on a blind date. Though they’ve since divorced, I recently reunited them to ask about their unusual romance.

I would like you, my beloved parents, to take a trip back in time. It is now January of 1977 —

D: Oh really? What drug are we smoking now?

You tell me. How did you guys meet?

M: We met because of Barb. She was my good friend and also my business partner at that time. She and I had a marijuana brownie bakery, and business was really starting to boom. Barb met your dad because she had a crush on your father’s roommate, John, and went out with him a couple times, though I don’t think they dated seriously.

D: I’m pretty sure I met John through the Berkeley Psychic Institute.

So Barb introduced you. Was it a blind date?

M: Well, how blind is two psychic readings?

D: It wasn’t a date. I think Barb gave me your number, and said I just had to call you. So we talked on the phone and came to the understanding — since Mer did tarot readings and I did aura readings — we decided to trade readings. I mean, if there’s a question about it, blame Barb. “Match-maker, match-maker, make me a match!”

Describe the moment you met.

M: I think you came to me first, Doug.

D: Yes, that is correct.

M: I lived in an apartment on Frederick Street, in the Haight. It had a big staircase where you could stand at the top, and it rounded around so you could see who was coming up the staircase. My bedroom was the first doorway to the right. I had a king-sized bed, and I did the reading right on the bed with the cards.

D: I had, of course, heard from the match-maker all about this incredible tarot-card reader, and I had goosebumps, like, “What am I in for here?” I remember ringing the bell. The door opened and there was this long set of stairs with this lady up at the top. I think the light was behind you. I knew there was no way you were going to come down, and I had to go up those stairs. It was kind of like one of those Twilight Zone things where the stairs get longer and longer. And I was very aware of Mer’s presence and her social power. You know, her aura was very — the way you were standing on that landing, you weren’t going to budge. I had to come up to you.

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“SFB” Excerpt

Sticky Fingers Brownies is the true tale of a high-volume marijuana brownie business my family owned and operated during the 1970s. This excerpt is from an interview with Shari Mueller, The Rainbow Lady, who unwittingly founded “the biz”.

This oral history originally appeared in Instant City, Issue 6.


The Rainbow Lady of Fisherman’s Wharf

…So I went home and I said to the universe, “Look, I’m working with this concept of getting $10,000 as quickly as possible to go back to Findhorn and I really need some advice here. What do you think? If you want this to happen—if you want me to make marijuana brownies—let all the doors open. And if I’m not supposed to do this, just whup me upside the head and make it real clear.”

Then I just kind of sat back and waited for something to happen. Well, those people didn’t even wait for me to say yes. Next time they saw me, they gave me a substantial amount of marijuana and said, “This is a gift. You can start messing around with it in your kitchen. If you decide you don’t want to do it, just give it back to us.”

So I started working up a recipe and I found one that seemed pretty good. To differentiate between my regular brownies and the magic brownies, I put a single cashew nut on top of the magic brownies and individually wrapped them in cellophane. I kept them in a pouch on my shoulder, rather than in the basket with everything else. So you pretty much needed to know I had them. I wasn’t just pushing magic brownies on unsuspecting people.

Although, there was a funny episode, one afternoon…

Read the full excerpt