L.A. Story

*Disclaimer: The following, like all of the stories I write about, is true. The true story of a vagabond. That includes the grit, the dirt, the sex and the drugs. I have changed some of the details (ie. names, etc.) to protect the “guilty”. Then again, who’s really innocent.*

LOS ANGELES – Its New Year’s Eve 2015. I have been in L.A. for a full on week sleeping on the couch of my good friend Lori. That’s a week longer than expected. My flight plans have been unexpectedly delayed for a week. My visit was originally only supposed to last for a few days. It is now becoming apparent that I am starting to wear out my welcome.

I am headed to Bandung, Indonesia to create content for a restaurant one of my good friends is starting up. He is literally one of the best chefs in all of Southeast Asia. I am very excited to start this new project and I’m chomping at the bit. I don’t get paid until I start the project. I have somewhere around one hundred dollars in my pocket so I can’t afford to for Lori to give me the boot.

Lori lives in an artist’s loft apartment. It is unlike any apartment that you have ever been in. It feels more like the backstage of a Broadway show if it doubled as an oddities store. There are masks, fabrics hanging, feathers, Christmas tree lights throughout, a wooden stage of sorts built by hand smack dab in the middle of everything and an assortment of knickknacks from all around the world. It is a very interesting place to be. However, Lori is getting stressed; but I find out it’s not because of me.

Before I arrived Lori had been going through some troubles with her clothing business. She was doing enough, but that was just it. It was only enough. She felt as though she had no upward mobility with her business even though her product is recognizable and sells. Her problem is that she has to make each piece by hand; and she feels trapped in the confines of her home (which is her studio). The business that had given her freedom was now trapping her in her apartment for most of her life. Now here I am, witnessing her struggle at a time when she’d rather be alone. The weather is dreary and unusually very cold. The weather has fostered a depressing mood.

“Its New Years!” She exclaims out of the blue. “There’s no sense in being all down. Let’s go out tonight and Party!” I was surprised with her sudden change in mood but overall relieved. I was willing to do anything to get out of this negative energy we were in and have some fun; and then it happened.

“Hey, a customer of mine didn’t have money for some clothing so they left something else until they pay me. I haven’t seen them in weeks so I don’t think they are coming back for it.” Lori said. I asked her, “What is it?” That’s when she pulls out a golf ball sized rock of cocaine. My eyes got super wide because I knew what was coming next.

In all of my 35 years of living I had never used cocaine before. There wasn’t an urge to ever try it. Like many people that haven’t tried it, I was curious to know the effects. Lori has taken just about every drug in the book from ecstasy, to ketamine, to meth, to DMT, to acid, to opium, to… I think you get the point. She is practically an expert. Please take note that I did not include Marijuana nor Magic Mushrooms. I don’t consider those to be drugs because you pick them from the ground and then smoke or eat them. Why on Earth it is illegal to smoke a plant or eat a mushroom that grows on cow shit is beyond me.

Now I’m faced with a decision. I could be Captain Buzz-Kill and keep the mood depressed or I could explore what the effects of cocaine do to me. Peer pressure is a bitch. A rush of anti-drug commercials from the 80’s flood into my brain giving me hesitation to do so until I thought to myself, “Ronald Reagan was a fcuking liar! So fcuk it… bring it on!”

I should let you know that I’m the guy that doesn’t like to take any kind of drugs. When I get sick, I let my immune system handle it slowly. I don’t like taking pills of any kind. I especially don’t like things going up my nose other than the smell of gourmet food. My biggest fear was having a panic attack because I thought it would make my heart race like a champion greyhound. That is a big fcuking ball of coke on Lori’s counter and I knew we weren’t just gonna do a little bit of it.

I thought to myself, “What better chance to do something like this than with a drug expert that I trust.” With that thought in mind I was a go. Lori ups the ante. “Let’s do a gacker!” she exclaimed. I could see the excitement in her eyes when she said this. I knew I was in for it. “What’s a gacker and why are we doing it?” I asked. You see… a gacker is more than the lines you see in most movies. A gacker is similar to what Tony Montana did towards the end of Scarface. A gacker is like drinking a pint of whiskey at one time instead of downing a shot. In essence, it’s a big fcuking line.

Lori explained that by doing a gacker first it would insure that we would reach the right high on the first go. If you start out with a weak line, then you will be chasing your high all night with more and more coke. What do I know… she’s the expert. Gacker it is! She starts pounding on this bolder of cocaine with the butt of a knife like she’s Tuco Salamanca from “Breaking Bad”.

She knocks a chunk off and is immediately impressed with the quality of it. She tells me to look at the colors in the light. I have to admit it was something to behold. It was colorful. It reminded me of rainbow fish scales. She told me that I was lucky to have such quality for my first time. She prepared gackers for the both of us and four subsequent lines. The first one I’m not sure you could even call a line. It was more of a mound. I thought I would need one of those fat straws they use with tapioca drinks at Asian net bars.

I looked at it for a while, built up my courage, exhaled all of the air out of my chest, held one nostril with my index finger, put the straw towards the end of the gacker and snorted the whole thing like I saw in the movies. I let out a big Rick Flair “Woo!!” once it was down my throat. I could taste whatever chemical they cut it with. Gross. I dabbed the rest of it with my finger and put it on my gums like I had seen someone do. Nummies they call it because it makes your gums numb and cool.

That wasn’t so bad, I thought. Yeah, I can do one more line. I felt energized and eager to do something. What that something was I didn’t know, but until I figured it out I thought I should talk about it at speeds I didn’t know I could speak in. Suddenly, I felt like I could do anything. Any task someone would have given me at that moment would have gotten done at super-human speeds.

My thought process was that the drug had little effect on me other than that of caffeine. In fact, I was high as a Georgia pine. I can’t remember what we talked about for the next few hours, but I remember we were excited about the night to come. Lori’s friend who I met some years ago had become a successful party promoter in Hollywood. He was having a New Year’s Eve party that was supposed to be all the rave. Tickets were expensive, but he and Lori were good friends. Lori told him that I was going to take photos for him and that was going to be my way in. Not a problem I thought, because I am an actual photographer.

We get to the party a smidgen before midnight. I was impressed right away. It was an L.A. burner party. If you don’t know what a burner is, then look it up. The place was teaming with beautiful people with great bodies all dressed in fabulous costumes and dress. They probably wouldn’t call them costumes, because I am sure that most of them dressed that way every day.

Marijuana is partially legal in California and that was the first thing you smelled in the air. We were both still holding a good deal of coke with us so we were ready to party. At this time, I had fully given in to the fact that I am just going to let it all hang out on this night. Right away we are huddled with some of Lori’s friends on the back patio passing a joint in a smoking circle. I see this hot small Latina standing next to me as I pass her the joint. Her face seems familiar right away. Then it hit me. I’m standing right next to one of my all-time favorite porn stars! (Don’t act like you’ve never watched porn either.) I tried not to get porn star struck because she was standing next to her husband. I couldn’t help but keep thinking that I have seen her do all sorts of dirty things. It was a bit surreal but I played it cool. However, I didn’t take another hit off that joint.

I broke off from Lori and started to take some photos. That was how I got in so I might as well do it. I only took a few photos and then I saw Jack, the party promoter. He must have vaguely remembered me on the phone because as soon as he saw me it all came back to him. He was very happy to see me after all that time and even brought up parts of our conversations we had that I had forgotten about. He put his arm around my shoulders and lead me inside.

This party had two floors and a basement. Each area had its own DJ. It was jumping! He walked me through all of the rooms giving me my own guided tour introducing me to his friends along the way. Everybody in that party was on some sort of drug including alcohol at this party. One of his friends handed me about 4 or 5 grams of weed out of nowhere along with some rolling papers and said, “Happy new year!”

In the basement there was a 3D room setup complete with glasses and a light writing photographer. It was super trippy as if you had taken some sort of psychedelic. Burners really know how to throw a party. After the tour he invited me to come up with him in the club’s office where about ten other people were hanging out. I was getting the VIP treatment for sure.

Jack introduced me to everyone in the room. They were all very friendly and by association I was one of them. I was looking around this room that had all sorts of weird things on the shelves like Native American headdresses, kid’s toys, cool photos and art pieces. I looked over in the back of the room on the table where most of the people were centered around. There was a literal buffet of drugs splayed out on the table complete with pipes, bongs and a metal tube to snort whatever nose candy you preferred. Just about anything you wanted to do was there. Shit I’ve never even heard of. Of course they offered it to me, but I thought better of it. Some of these guys were so fcuked up it was unreal. I had already gone outside of my comfort zone with the coke so I just asked for a pipe for my gift bag of weed I had just scored. Whatever kind of weed the guy gave me tasted fruity. It was some grade A stuff. I took another bump of coke because, why the fcuk not, and we left out of the room.

I was alone now walking around the party looking for the right music to dance to. I found it and headed straight to the middle of the dance floor and started dancing like I was hired to do so. I had that look on my face. The look of a wolf in the moonlight standing atop a hill surveying his territory. In my mind I owned the night and no one could tell me I didn’t.

Later on I ventured down to the 3D room and saw one of the baddest female DJ’s I had ever met. She was in the office earlier and I had no idea she was a DJ. She was a very nice soft spoken woman. I had no idea that she could give the type of performance and command a crowd in the way that she did. She played music from a DAT recorder and it was hella dope! Her DJ name is Dat Girl. She was very unassuming in the room but not on the mic as she rapped. I was completely energized by her. My phone was dead so I had no way of recording this masterful jam session she was putting on at 4 in the morning but you can find her here.

Finally, I saw Lori again, who had been missing most of the night. She said she was ready to go. By this time, it was close to 6 in the morning. For first day of the year I saw the sunrise as we’re heading east down Pico Street to S. Figueroa. We stopped at her favorite early morning taco spot and picked up some gigantic breakfast burritos. We both smiled and acknowledged that we have high hopes for the new year. It always good to hang out with my friend Lori.

All the times that I’ve been to L.A. this was my first true Hollywood all-night-bender experience. Just like the movie stars do. Not that it’s a proud moment, but I can tell my kids one day that dad got a lil crazy in Hollywood one time. Just in case they think I’m lame. Back at Lori’s place I just wanted to sleep. We can deal with Lori’s problems and mine in the morning. Because no matter how much you drink, smoke or snort they are all still there waiting for you like a hungry dog left at home.

The next day was slow in starting. Lori was busy doing her things and I decided to work on some projects myself. We creatives barely take days off. Even on “holidays”. At some point during the day Lori got agitated. Her frustration boiled over and I was the one who she started to pick at. She was oblivious to it in a way. We had a long talk about her business and I gave her many suggestions, but she wasn’t receptive to it. She found it hard to trust people with her business, but there was no way that she could get to where she wanted to be all by herself.

I noticed that she hadn’t had the time to take photos of all of her knew stuff. I’m thinking… she’s letting me stay at her place rent free the least I could do is offer up my services. I was traveling heavy with all of my camera equipment anyway. So Lori is in Luck. I take photos of all of her new items while she left to go run some errands. It was somewhere around one hundred pieces I shot for her. After that she began to ease up a bit and listen to my suggestions because I was actually helping her instead of telling her what she should do.

Now I’m only 2 or 3 days away from leaving. In addition to creating content for the restaurant in Bandung I have been shooting video all around the world for over a year. I asked this young photographer named Ulrich to be a part of this endeavor. He miraculously obtained a companion pass with Delta Airlines which made it easy and very affordable for him to travel anywhere in the world. That was awesome because I couldn’t afford to bring him otherwise.

I decide to go meet up with Ulrich in Hollywood. Ulrich is a budding young photographer that is as weird as they come. I don’t mind, because I can be weird at times too. We worked together on a small project together around Halloween so I felt that we could put something together that would be awesome. This is Ulrich’s first time traveling outside of the United States. I didn’t fully appreciate that until weeks from now, but that is another story to come.

Because of the fact that he is new to all of this he’s walking around with his eyes wide open like a deer caught in the headlights. That’s ok and everything, but he has this sense that he knows what’s what even though he hasn’t had anything close to the experience that he’s about to have. I get to his friend’s apartment and immediately ask him where his gear is. This was the first sign of things to come. He told me he packed light and left most of his gear at home. It took me little time to process that he left the tools he needed to be on this trip back in Texas. I was a little perturbed but I let it go.

He invited me to a free yoga session. I thought this was overkill knowing we were stopping off in Bali for a week. Bali being one of the yoga meccas of the world. I agreed anyway because I love yogis. When we get to the class I come to find out that is only the three of us and the yoga teacher. I couldn’t help myself from not taking it seriously. We were laughing at times uncontrollably and at others simply trying to hold it in. I think at some point I farted. Yeah, we were those guys. Credit to the yoga instructor for keeping it together.

After class we went to the locker room to change clothes only to find a naked Colin Ferrell prancing about. I thought, “How random. Only in Hollywood.” Then I peered over at Ulrich and I swear if he’d have had a camera he would have snapped a pick of his junk.

I left Ulrich and gave him some instructions before we went to Hong Kong. That was the first leg of our trip. He still had the “I know; I know…” attitude that I would slowly come to loathe. We parted and then I went back to Lori’s.

I had two days left in L.A.. I decided on this morning to go have some of the best pancakes I have ever had at Jack’s n Joes. They have the best buckwheat pancakes I’ve ever had. So good I had to put them on Instagram. Good thing I did because an old friend responded to the photo asking me if I was in L.A.. I thought she wanted to meet, but she told me she was in Virginia. Incidentally a couple of years prior I left my favorite Australian hat at her mom’s house. I thought, finally I will have someone to fetch it for me and ship it to me.

We began to chat it up over Facebook about my hat and what we both have been up to. At some point I mentioned how great it would be for me if I only had a GoPro. She then said, “Hold on. Let me make a call.” Within minutes she had it setup for me to meet her husband on my final day in L.A. to procure one. I was in disbelief. I was elated to say the least.

Later that evening my good friend Wesley and his girlfriend Nannette happened to be in Los Angeles at the same time. They said they were going to a movie premiere and asked me if I wanted to join them. How L.A. is that? Before the movie premiere we took in two different art exhibits. I really enjoyed one of them. It was photographs of the Rolling Stones.

Then we headed to go see this independent film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”. It was surprisingly very good. Shot all in black and white. I encourage you to see it. After the movie we treated with a quick Q&A with the writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour. That was a nice experience to actually talk to the creator of a movie you just watched over free glasses of wine. I felt on top of the world at this point. I was headed to Asia to film my project, get paid to create content for a restaurant, I was getting GoPro’s the next day and a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to throw some parties at some prestigious hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia. The feeling I had was that everything I have always wanted and worked for was finally happening in a major way.

The next day I was instructed to meet with my friend’s husband’s friend in Compton. All I could think about was NWA. Oh brother, what has she gotten me into? I caught a train to Compton. While on the train I see a guy with his wife and daughter in a stroller. He pulls out a blunt and fills it with weed. He rolls it up and sticks it in his ear. We get off at the same stop and he starts chatting it up with me as he pushes his daughter in the stroller. He stops to light the blunt in the middle of the street and tells me it’s his medication with a giant grin on his face. He must have thought I had the same condition because he passes it to me as we walk.

We part ways and there I am walking the streets of Compton looking for some guy high as a kite. Compton wasn’t so bad I thought. It reminded me of the neighborhood I grew up in. Before I could get noticed looking around like a tourist the guy pulls up to pick me up. He said we had a little bit of a drive ahead but not to worry. His name is Milan. He is about as harry as me with wild hair and a big beard. We could have been brothers. He was very nice and helpful.

We go further and further out of the hood and towards the Hollywood Hills. Then we start going up the Hollywood Hills in a zigzagging fashion. The path was steep and we drove all the way to the top. The view was amazing. I could see all of L.A. from there. Every car was either an expensive luxury car or a super car. Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsche, whatever… I was just laughing at how this was unfolding. We walk in to the house and I meet the husband of the daughter of my good friend back in Virginia. Right away I notice that he looks very stressed. He offers me water, peanuts and weed.

He explains to me that he wanted to help me shoot what I needed for my travel project I had been working on. Then he hinted at his true agenda. He knew I was close to his mother in law. I came to find out his wife was somewhat estranged at the time. He figured by helping me out that it could put him back in the good graces of his mother in law; ultimately bringing him and his wife back together. I gave him no promises or illusions of that happening. He then, through two of his friends, provided me with two GoPros and a bevy of equipment. This was all so strange to me, but I figured it was meant to be. I was destiny’s child and I was going to take whatever was coming. I spoke it into the universe and it came. I took another look out into L.A. completely energized that this was the beginning of something very special. Everything was falling into place.

I headed back to Lori’s place to prepare to leave that night. Lori’s energy was special that night as she was purely excited for me and my new endeavors. There was so much love in that apartment. I always hold my excitement for my long journey right before I leave. Otherwise it makes me very anxious. I love going to the airport. The energy after you get through security check is usually full of people happy to go somewhere. I feel at home in the air. It’s a wonderful feeling for me.

Lori drove me to the airport and wished me luck. I was off with about sixty dollars in my pocket. Enough to get something to eat in Hong Kong the one day I’d be there and to get to my room in Bali. I had one more project to finish inside the Hong Kong airport to earn me a little more cash until I make it to Bandung.

I’m Starting the new year on an adventure with the feeling of claiming my destiny. Nothing can stop me now. At least that’s how it seemed. Goodbye L.A…. you were great to me. Hong Kong, here I come! Life is uncertain and the unknown can be scary as hell. However that same energy can be transformed into excitement mixed with adrenaline and that’s what I live for… the thrill of life!

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