KINGSTON, Jamaica – Mortimo Planno, a philosopher
regarded as a key figure in the development of the Rastafarian religion,
has died. He was 85.
Planno was born in Kingston on September 6.1920.
He was one of the foundation members of the Kingston Rastafari encampment
on the "Dungle". His devoted studies of all matters concerning
the faith combined with his brilliant intellect, established Bro. Planno
or Bro. Cummie, as he is affectionately called, as one of the most distinguished
elders of the movement.
Selassie I Center, Finland
The Dowbrigade’s involvement with Rastafarianism dates
back to 1971, when he was a college freshman interested in anthropology
(which at that point we thought of as living with primitive tribes
in the jungle ? la Margaret Mead), comparative religion and cataloging
relative merits of Panama Red, Santa Marta Gold, Durban Poison, and
So it should come as no surprise that when word reached
our small group of like minded explorers that a strange charismatic prophet
named Boz was running around in the Jungles of Jamaica, rabble rousing
and preaching a revolutionary religion called Rastafarianism, which held
herb as a sacrament and expressway to God, who they called Jah, we immediately
organized an expedition for the upcoming intersession.
Of course, we did some research first. When we found
out that the real central tenets of Rastafarianism were that Rastas
were the legendary lost 13th tribe of Israel, and that His Majesty Emperor
Haille Selassie was the divine incarnate because, as the last King in
Africa, he could trace his lineage directly, generation by generation,
dates and vital statistics, to the biblical union between KIng Solomon
of Israel and the Queen of Sheba, we were hooked.
After Christmas with the family, we flew into Logan
on Sunday Dec. 26. Another member of our crew, who is now a public official
and must remain nameless, met us at the airport with our shiny new Driveaway
car – a red Cadillac Coupe de Ville. In those days, rich snowbirds were
more than willing to turn their fancy rides over to responsible Harvard
students who needed a cheap ticket to the Sunshine State. The drivers
left a deposit which they got back, usually along with a fat tip, when
they turned the car back to its owner.
Our colleague who had collected the car had also collected,
a few days before, the final output of the Fall semester of our associates
in the chem department, who were hard at work developing what would only
later come to be known as designer drugs. It was a previously unreported
short-acting hallucinogen called Diethyltryptamine (DET), a minute
variation on the Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) molecule which seemed to have
unique visual qualities.
Somehow the combination of powerful car, powerful drugs
and powerful hormones resulted in a fender-bender on the old Southeast
Expressway between Logan and Cambridge. Unfortunately, the other car
in the incident was an official government vehicle belonging to the US
Since no one was hurt, both cars were driveable and
we were blocking traffic on an elevated ramp, we exchanged papers and
went our separate ways, but our expedition was in jeopardy. Who
would want to turn their Caddy over to a bunch of hippy scum for a 2,000
mile drive when they can’t even get out of town without getting
into an accident?
Prudently, we decided to refrain from calling in the
accident until we were well en route, making the cancellation of the
mission nearly impossible. Of course. the fact that we were kissing goodbye
our deposit and tip would require some quick thinking and desperate measures.
With four licensed drivers, we drove straight through,
but we weren’t taking any more chances with our safety. We instituted
an absolute rule, like airline pilots or kids waiting to get back into
the pool after lunch: no smoking of the DET for an hour before taking
There we were, four 18-year-old college freshmen, stranded
in Miami without even enough to pay for our airfare to Jamaica, let alone
a budget to find Boz, no ride back to Massachusetts and no more dope.
Obviously, we needed to run a scam.
Exactly what we did to get the money is a gem we are
saving for our our autobiography or the deaths of the other people involved,
some of whom have considerably more to lose than we do. We have
our standards. They may be low, but they exist, and burning old
friends and running mates is beyond the pale. Unless we see some erious money on the table.
We did get to Jamaica, but we didn’t find Boz. We
did, however, penetrate the jungle and the inner circle of the Rastafarians,
living for several weeks with Justin Hines, the legendary Rasta, Ska
and Reggae figure who influenced Bob Marley in the early days and was actually tight with Mortimo Planno.
in Justin’s compound (The Jamaica Heights Club) in Steertown, visited fields
and learned secrets of cannabis cultivation, met mysterious figures
named after US Presidents, smoked the legendary Seven-Year Bush, trekked
through the jungle with Rasta guides and snuck into the isolated Jamaica
Hilton hotel, where we would use the facilities, order food and drink,
and sign fictitious room numbers,
At the beachfront Hilton Tikibar we also got into a
long drunken conversation with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones,
who were in Jamaica recording their album "Goat’s Head Soup", and who had
rented a villa down the beach. Every afternoon he and Anita Pallenberg
would walk down to the Hilton Bar for liquid refreshment,
But those are other stories for other times. For now,
suffice it to say that those so inclined should slight up a spliff and
say a little prayer for one of the guiding lights of Rastafarianism….