'I'm sorry what?' I could've sworn the clerk just asked me if 'Steve' was spelled with an 'A'.
The glazed over look in his eyes and the whiff of a familiar odor hanging around the counter give a pretty good indicator of why he can't spell my name.
'Sorry man, you're not that Stave,' the clerk mumbles to himself, head bobbing to his words. 'I'm soo high . . . '
I snort at the clerks pronouncement, 'I'd say.' I'm trying to be patient but I have shit to do. I can hear the song wanting out and it isn't getting there without these damn strings.
He laughs and nods. 'Yeah man, I am so sorry, I gotta do this bit over,' he sighs doing something to the computer. With a beep and whir the machine kicks back to life, spitting out my receipt.
'There, got it!' the clerk grins blearily. 'Sorry for screwing it up, let me make it up to you man. You look like a pretty cool dude,' he scribbles something on the back of my receipt. 'Here, he can hook you up like nobody's business, just tell him Tyler sent you.'
With an impatient huff I grab the receipt and my bag knowing I'm making like a diva on my way out the door but I just can't help it. I've got nothing against a little weed now and then, but shit, there's a time and place ya know. This guy's enough to make sure I'm not coming back to this particular Guitar Center, even if it is the closest to my place.
Glancing at the scribbles on the back of the receipt I see it's an address. There is no way I'm going to some random address some random stoner gave me cos he screwed up running my credit card. I do notice it's for a fairly decent part of the city though.
I get home, get the chords out and the song down on paper. I spend a little time with the mixer and figure I deserve some sort of treat for getting up and getting shit done before the middle of the night.
The little slip of paper with the address has been burning a hole in my wallet the whole damn day. It's not like I could throw out the receipt, I needed it for taxes after all, and the address is in a fairly decent part of town. In a choice between a sci-fi movie marathon and checking out the address the clerk gave me I decided what the hell, I've done dumber shit for less reason.
The building really is very nice, has a doorman and everything. A press of the buzzer for the apartment and I'm beeped through to the elevator, no questions asked. It's a quick ride up to the fourth floor and the door is one of only two on the floor.
I give myself a moment to see if I want to talk myself out of it, but aside from the notion that I could be walking in on an ax murdering psycho I really have done stupider shit than visit a new dealer alone. I give a sharp rap on the door and wait. After a moment, a muffled voice calls out from inside the apartment, 'It's unlocked!'
I shrug to myself and with a quick prayer to whoever watches over dumb stoners, I push open the door. Inside is a short hallway with a beaded curtain at the end, the faint sounds of reggae and the unmistakeable odor of some high quality weed floating on the air. See, I tell myself, grinning at my own foolishness, just your normal drug pad.
'Uh, Tyler sent me over?' I call down the hall.
'Hey cool, yeah, come on in,' the disembodied voice calls back.
I push through the beads into a totally stereotypical stoner pad. Swear to God it looks like it's straight offa movie set. There's beanbag chairs scattered randomly across thick carpet and if I can believe my eyes what looks like an ornate, six pipe hookah on the floor next to the couch.
There's enough paraphernalia on the coffee table to supply a medical marijuana shop for a month and just walking in I'm picking up a buzz from the haze that's hanging in the air like LA smog on a hot day. I'm in a stoners paradise.
I don't see the owner of the voice though. The only person in the living room is a skinny dude passed out cold in the corner, curled up on a rug.
The unseen dude calls out again, his voice coming from around a set of bat-wing doors, 'Help yourself man, I'll be out in a minuet,' he trails off to banging and swearing. 'Damn oven, all I want are my fuckin pizza rolls . . . heat up bitch.'
The banging and swearing sound like the guy is doing battle with the stove and losing. 'You okay man? Need a hand?' Never let it be said I'm not a nice guy.
'No, no, it's cool man,' trails off to mumbles and crashes. 'Piece of crap! Work damn you!' His voice rises again in my direction, 'If Tyler sent you, you're totally cool. Go ahead man, the pipe on the table is loaded.'
The place is pretty clean and non-threatening, besides who can resist such an invitation? I drop onto a beanbag, dig out my lighter and hit the bong on the coffee table. The first hit goes straight to my head and the fresh hit on top of the contact buzz sends me flying to the moon.
The weed must be laced with something too, cos the color from the paintings on the wall slides right down to stream around my feet. A giggle escapes me as I splash my feet in the puddle it makes.
The sound of my unseen host shuffling and banging around the kitchen picks up a rhythm and morphs into the steel drums from the reggae, the whole thing making some gorgeous sounds I can't help but nod along too. A second hit and when I look over at the guy passed out in the corner, he's covered in fur.
'Whoa, dude, Oz?' What? Who hasn't seen Buffy? Besides, who else but a pot smoking, musician, werewolf would be covered in fur in a stoners den?
'No way man,' calls out the bodiless voice. 'I don't watch that prison crap. Turn on fuckin Scoobie Doo man, that's some good shit.'
Another hit and I agree, Scoobie Doo is the height of entertainment.
'Gotcha!' carries over the sound of steel drums as I fumble for the remote on the coffee table.
Pressing buttons makes the whole wall across from the couch light up. 'Whoa!' The explosion of color and sound across the wall pushes me down into the beanbag.
After a moment of confusion I realized it's a bank of flat screens like Aldis has on Chris' show. The sound and color is intense and some of it flows down to join what's already come off the wall around my feet, making an ankle deep puddle.
The sound of sloshing pulls my attention away from the wall of t.v.s. With heroic effort I manage to roll my head to the side and my eyes are mesmerized by the rhythmic swing of the kitchen door. Tearing my eyes away from the movement I see a little gray alien splashing toward the couch, balancing a plate of pizza rolls on a six pack.
'Paul!' I yelp in surprise. Hey, Simon Pegg is a cinematic genius.
'No man, that's my brother,' the little alien says. 'I'm Stave.'
'Steve?' I question.
'No, Stave,' he corrects. With a sigh he mumbles, 'Why can't anyone get that right?'
Oh, this was Steve with an 'A'. The wave of giggles that hits has me sliding outta the beanbag with a plop into the swirly mess of color on the floor.
'Damnit Dave,' he kicks the werewolf in the corner on his way past, 'what'd I tell you bout doing that here?'
The furry, skinny dude lets out a growly grunt and curls tighter in a ball. 'Whatever man, but you're vacuuming,' the little alien bitches.
Stave drops the six pack on the coffee table, 'Help yourself man,' he says, settling into the corner of the couch, plate clutched close the way only a stoner can.
The thought of a drink has my mouth feeling like the Sahara. Dragging my hands up outta the really sticky swirl of color I grab a bottle and twist off the cap. Cold, wet and sweet are all that registers as I tip my head back, draining the bottle in one long swallow.
Grabbing a second bottle, I laugh as the little dude flicks the cap from his own bottle at the werewolf, making him twitch. Shooting me a pleased grin, the alien settles back in the corner with his bottle and pizza rolls, making happy noises to the room at large.
I don't know how much time passes in random hits off the bong and giggles at the misadventures of Scoobie and company. The alien dude keeps up a running commentary that seems to be directed at his plate of pizza rolls, no input from me required, so it comes as a surprise when he nudges me with a foot.
'So, hey,' he says, 'what'd Tyler send you over for anyway?'
It's hard to make my brain function, I'm more baked than one of my moms souffles. 'Uhh, Tyler?' I can't place the name. Then it hits me, the Guitar Center dude who couldn't spell. 'Oh yeah, Tyler. He said you could hook me up.'
'Oh yeah, sure dude,' the little stoner is suddenly jumpy with excitement. 'What'd ya want?'
That's the easiest question in like ever, 'Dude, you got any more of what we've been smoking? This is some righteous shit.'
'Oh,' his little alien face turns all sad, 'no man, I ain't got anymore.'
My face turns all sad too. This is too epic of a high not to try for a repeat.
'Wait!' he suddenly brightens. 'I know where I can get some more.'
'Sweet.' I brighten along with him.
'Oh,' his alien face falls, 'I don't know where Chuck's at this weekend.'
'Bummer.' My mood's are rising and falling as fast as his and it's making me dizzy. Another hit from the bong for us both makes things a little better, but I'm still sad I can't score some of this excellent shit. Hopefully whatever else he has will be just as good.
Jumping suddenly to his feet, bouncing on the couch, he starts waving his arms around. 'I know! I know! Dave can find him!'
He hops off the couch with a splash in the soup of color on the floor. With shuffling steps and sing-songing the werewolf's name, he makes his way over to the guy who's still curled up in the corner.
'Da-ave' he croons, stroking the dudes shoulder, 'wakey-wakey,' with a giggle he thwacks the werewolf's ear, jumping back from the annoyed arm Dave swings at him.
'What the fuck man?' The werewolf has a low melodious voice, kinda like Barry White. It's totally incongruous with the skinny white-boy thing he has going on. 'I'm trying to sleep here.'
'You gotta help us find Chuck man.' The previously mellow alien is hopping round like a Mexican jumping bean, waving his arms and splashing color back up onto the walls. 'We neeeed his weeeeed!'
I can't help it and start laughing like a loon at the little guys antics and the werewolf's sour face.
'Christ, seriously, you woke me up to find Chuck?' the werewolf grumbles in that deep, caramel voice. 'You know where he hangs out. Go hit the fuckin Strip yourself.'
'No, no, no, no, no,' the little dude hops up and down with every repetition. 'It'd take too long and Steve with an 'E' needs the weed.' The mournful look on his little alien face can melt hearts harder than Dave possesses I'm sure.
I've heard the expression 'hairy eyeball' before, but I've never seen anything I'd classify that way till I watch Dave give Stave the up and down like he can't believe the little guy is still talking to him.
'Fine,' he finally huffs out. 'But you so owe me now.'
'Great!' The transformation to happy little alien is instant and has me giggling like a maniac all over again.
'Put some pants on or I'm not helping you,' Dave adds.
Looking at Stave closer I realize I've been smoking weed and watching Scoobie Doo with a naked alien. I start laughing so hard I actually roll around on the floor, color soaking into my clothes.
Stave pouts at Dave's demands, but finds pants and a shirt somewhere. A running, grouching, commentary on the evils of synthetic fabrics spilling out of him the whole time he pulls them on.
After Dave takes a couple of deep hits - declaring he isn't going any place with us till he catches up - we get our shit together and set out to find Chuck the drug dealer.
Talk about surreal, I feel like I'm trapped in the Vegas montage from the first Austin Powers movie as we travel from club to club. Me, Stave the alien, and Dave the werewolf in search of the elusive Chuck. Every place we stop, if Dave doesn't know people, Stave does, and we drink with every one of them; Jagger bombs and Appletini's, micro-brews and mimosas, we have it all.
What feels like three days later, but can't have been more than a couple of hours- the sun is just starting to paint the LA sky with the smog enhanced colors of sunset- at an insanely exclusive club I've heard of but no one I know has ever gotten into, we hit pay dirt.
The door man takes one look at Stave and waves us all through. It's the most impressive thing I'd seen all night. Who knew being with an alien gets you preferential treatment at the trendy hot spots?
'Chuck!' Stave calls out with a wave, sighting our prey as soon as we walk in. He bounces across the dance floor to the bar in the back like it's empty space, leaving Dave and I to push through the tangle of bodies on our own.
I swear I can feel bruises forming on my ass from the groping as we push through the crowd and one adventurous, androgynous body going for the goodies has me yelping 'Rule 7!' as I skitter away. Now I know how the little fish feel in the shark tank.
I don't know what I expected when we set out to find the elusive Chuck, but this guy isn't it. I'm out with an alien and a werewolf for fucks sake. Their drug dealer shouldn't be a hipster 20 something with a bad haircut and glasses.
Edging my way closer I catch Chuck's reply to whatever Stave has greeted him with, 'Jeez Stave, what have I told you about hunting me down? We've got an arraignment and I got a reputation man.' What a dick I think, Stave is a solid guy, alien or not and this jerk is being a jerk.
'Don't be a jerk, Chuck,' Stave doesn't seem rattled by the man's attitude at all. My estimation of the little alien is only going up at what a cool customer he is. 'We just want some Rainbow man.'
'I don't have any on me right now. I've got some back at the house, I can get it too you later.' It's obvious the thoroughly boring looking man is trying to get rid of the bouncy alien.
'Let's go then!' Stave's enthusiasm hasn't diminished one bit, even after trolling through what feels like every club on Sunset Strip.
'I can't go now,' annoyance at the overly enthusiastic alien colors the dick hipsters voice, 'I'm busy.'
'Look,' Stave levels his little version of the stink eye on the dealer, 'I'm a pretty good customer wouldn't you say?'
'Sure, Stave,' the hipster has obviously checked out of the conversation if the look on his face as he scans the crowd behind us is any indication. I feel kinda bad for Stave, for a bouncy alien he's an alright guy and this Chuck is being downright rude. It's like being mean to a puppy.
'Well then,' Stave continues, 'my friend here wants to buy some Rainbow and since I'm such a good customer, you're gonna get it for him.'
'Dude, if he wants Rainbow he's gonna have to wait. I don't have any on me. I've got some Pineapple Express or some Hounds of Dover, but that's it.' Chuck's tone says he is done with the conversation.
'Chuck,' Stave reaches up, patting the dealers shoulder, 'we want Rainbow, and I do believe you're going to get it for us.'
It's the freakiest thing I've ever seen; with Stave's hand on his shoulder Chuck's eyes go all droopy and he sort of slumps where he stands. When he speaks his voice is all freaky and flat, like mind controlled zombies in the movies.
'Sure, Stave, whatever you say. We'll get some Rainbow for your friend.'
The look on Stave's face is the most serious I've seen him get, totally focused on the dealer. 'That's good Chuck, I'd hate to have to find a new dealer.' Stave gives the taller man's shoulder a companionable pat. Like a switch flipping the little alien is all bouncy, sunny smiles again, 'I like you Chuck! We can party at your place.'
Chuck shakes himself like a dog shaking off water, 'Yeah, sure Stave, we can go hang at my place.' He sounds more like he had before, but with less jerk in his voice.
I give Stave a wary look, even through all the alcohol I can tell that something about what just happened wasn't right. 'Dude, you're scary.' I blurt out, embarrassing myself.
Stave laughs at me, a big grin stretching his face. 'Naw, I'm not scary. Dave, now Dave can be scary.'
Looking over my shoulder at where Stave pointed I see Dave at the bar, by the looks of things the man in question is getting shot down by a seriously stacked blonde. He looks far more pathetic than scary.
Clapping his hands together with obvious glee Stave grins, 'Alright my man, let's blow this popsicle stand!' Once more herding Dave and I out into the warmth of the L.A. night, this time with Chuck in tow. 'Hey Dave,' he calls out, 'why don't you ride with Chuck and we'll follow you in your car, make sure we all get to Chuck's place.'
'No way man,' Dave growls, 'you are not driving my car ever again. We've had this conversation, you are not driving my Mustang like it's a damn spaceship you can play bumper cars with going down the 101.'
'Fine.' Stave flounces after Chuck, throwing Dave a glare. 'It was just that one time and I don't wanna drive your piece of crap any way. Don't loose us going up the canyon.' He slams the passenger door with a petulant frown thrown Dave's way.
I'm not surprised to see the nondescript drug dealer drives a beige Toyota Corolla. No wonder Stave doesn't wanna ride with him, Dave's Mustang is far superior in every way.
I am surprised though when we follow the boring little car up Mulholland, turning into one of the many gated drives along the way. Well, drug dealing is supposed to be lucrative so I suppose a house on the hill isn't out of the question.
We all pile out, Stave babbling on at a hundred miles an hour and Chuck's glazed over, shell shocked look says he'd kept it up the entire trip. 'Here, you guys wait here. Let me go get the stuff from the back room.' The desperation in his voice is funny after the way he'd been such a douche at the club.
The thoroughly suburban rec-room Chuck leaves us in looks like something outta the 70's, all wood paneling and shag carpet with more squishy bean-bag chairs and an honest to God egg chair hanging from the ceiling in the corner. Plus, it's already occupied.
Sprawled across a huge-ass couch are a couple of guys with guitars idly strumming along to a pretty little slip of a girl singing Joplin, the softly sung words of Bobby McGee wafting through the air. On the other side of the room a couple of guys who share the same skinny, scruffy look as Dave are hunched over a chess board.
Dave immediately gravitates to the guys in the corner as Stave lets out a whoop, 'Ray! I didn't know you were back in L.A.!'
'Yeah,' comes the laconic reply from the smaller of the two dudes with guitars, 'just got on planet a couple of days ago. I brought Earl and Auburn back with me. They're musicians, wanna try to break into the scene.'
'Hey, cool! This is Steve, with an 'E',' Stave introduces me around, Topher and Reggie in the corner playing chess and I can't tell who's who Stave goes so fast, the little slip of a thing is Auburn and the big guy who looks like he's cut from the same red-neck cloth as Christian is Earl.
I ignore the strange way Stave and Ray talk, coming to LA sometimes feels like going to a different planet to me too. They're off in their own little world in moments, throwing names and 'did you knows' faster than I can follow.
I shake off the feeling of being abandoned in a room full of strangers, we're musicians, we won't be strangers long, and turn to Earl, 'Whadda ya play then?' I ask. The opportunity to sit and chill for 5 minuets and smoke a little of the weed I can smell sounds like heaven.
Earl is setting the bong up for a second load when Chuck comes back from where ever the hell he'd gotten to. 'Here,' he says, dropping a huge baggie on the table, 'try this stuff out. Tell me it's not better then Rainbow.'
'Don't matter to me,' Earl rumbles, loading the bong up with the new stuff. He offers me the first hit and eyes closed in appreciation I draw deep. It's some of the smoothest shit I have ever had the pleasure of inhaling.
Opening my eyes as I exhale I'm not even shocked to see what could pass for the cantina scene from Star Wars. Dave and the guys at the chess board are all covered with fur and ears and tails now. Ray and Stave are identical gray aliens still talking a mile a minuet, Earl looks like he could be Chewbacca's twin, Auburn is a miniature version of the opera singer from 5th Element and Chuck has pointy ears that could pass as Elf or Vulcan.
The way the night's gone so far I think I woulda been more surprised if I wasn't hanging out with movie creatures. The werewolves take off not too long after we get there, 'Gonna go hunt down something to eat,' one of them says with a toothy grin. Earl and I, and surprisingly Chuck, end up swapping chords and favorite melodies while Auburn, Stave and Ray play twister.
The night passes in a haze of pot, music and companionship. The last thing I remember is being snuggled up between the soft, smooth curves of Auburn and the stiff, coarse fur of Earl watching a 'How It's Made' marathon and it's the most relaxed I've felt in ages.
I have no idea how I end up back at my apartment, but I wake up to the afternoon sun pinning me to the floor. My head is pounding and I have cotton mouth so bad I can't feel my teeth with my tongue, hell I'm not sure I have a tongue. For all that I do feel strangely rejuvenated.
The whole adventure has the fuzzy blur of a dream and I really couldn't say if it was real or the product of a bender combined with a movie marathon. Groaning to my knees, leaning against the coffee table, I spy a fat bag of weed and a slip of paper with a string of numbers and the name Auburn scrawled in a heart.