Rock n’ Roll
As the small pickup cruised down Fremont Street, downtown shrank in the rear view mirror with Kalvin nervously checking for the cops in pursuit. Systematically he surveyed each of the three mirrors over and over again.
“Dude, they ain’t gonna chase us. We didn’t do shit. You’re paranoid.”
“Don’t you know Zack, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”
“Just because you’re high doesn’t mean you should be paranoid.”
“Better safe than sorry,” said Kalvin as he checked the mirrors three more times.
Zack knew better than to argue with Kalvin about his obsessive idiosyncrasies. They had been down that road before. He knew that it was time to get serious about finding a place to live. The answer to that riddle was easy to see. It was time to flip some weed and find another motel or weekly apartment to shack up in. The process wouldn’t pose much of a challenge thought Zack.
“So, you got this weed sold right?” asked Zack as a matter of record.
“Oh yeah, easy squeezy,” said Kalvin with his trademark smile.
“Okay. Then we gotta get another place, like a.s.a.p.”
“Well, we can run our total to about $250,” surmised Kalvin.
“And still have a quarter for ourselves? You can’t beat that!” topped Zack.
“Like a sore peter!” joked Kalvin.
They busted out in laughter. They were each others best audience. They didn’t have the time or mental space to allow reality to bring them down. It was all shits and giggles. There was no looking back. Well, except for Kalvin still checking his mirrors for cops in pursuit.
As planned, they met Dave, sold the weed, and raised their net worth to $250. It was enough for two weeks at the Gold Dust apartments. They were again downtown and they got just what they paid for. It was another dive complete with a two-burner hot plate, tiny fridge, two double beds, and a crappy color TV on the fourth floor close to Fremont Street. It wasn’t much but it was better than jail or the street.
It didn’t take long before Kalvin left the apartment to hustle up some opportunity. He would surely try to sell half of their stash, running it up into something they could work with. In true Kalvin fashion, he returned within a couple of hours with a new friend. Kalvin really had an acute ability to talk to anyone, especially strangers. Maybe it was his sharp wit or perhaps it was the Hollywood smile. Whatever the reason, Kalvin came through the door with his new associate. He was unlike anyone Kalvin had befriended before. Right behind Kalvin followed a black dude, slight of frame and a hairdo stolen straight from Buckwheat, complete with the large nappy Afro up and all over the place. And there was that one gold tooth that screamed ‘trust me.’
“Wassup dude?” said Kalvin.
Zack just nodded back. He already knew what was up, crack. Along with the thought came the feeling in his stomach that always preceded hitting the pipe.
“This is…,” Kalvin had already forgotten the brother’s name.
“Sidewalk” said the crackhead.
“Sidewalk?” Zack had to get this one right as he stood in near disbelief.
Kalvin could see Zack’s lack of enthusiasm topped with suspicion. “Right on Sidewalk. Have a seat,” said Kalvin as he pointed to the small, round kitchen table and chairs.
“So what’s up?” Zack got right to the point staring intently at Kalvin. He just smiled, verifying that Sidewalk had dope.
It wasn’t more than a second before Zack witnessed Sidewalk spit out three large, white rocks from his mouth, a favorite place to keep crack since it was not water soluble. Then, a long metal pipe that was formerly a car antenna came out. As fast as that, a huge piece of cocaine was loaded by the new visitor. Zack and Kalvin just stood there memorized by the crackling and popping sound as it melted to the flame. There were no more questions to ask. It was back on the edge.
The three dopers smoked cocaine deep into the night. A warm, safe place to get high was at a premium downtown and room 420 fit the bill. Zack didn’t have to be coerced to smoke the crack but he was less than comfortable about the whole thing. It was just more of the same, always ending broke and jonesing. Lucky for Kalvin and Zack they were already broke but there was no escaping the inevitable craving that ensued. Along with the insatiable urge to keep smoking was the accompanying self-loathing. It haunted Zack. He knew better. Yet, there he was again. He wouldn’t even enjoy himself after the first ten minutes of the high but that wasn’t enough to keep him from that first hit.
Fortunately, the two dudes still had a fat sack of that good weed. At the end of the night they burned two fatties. It eased the cocaine spell enough to eventually allow for sleep. Sidewalk returned to where ever Kalvin had found him. The housewarming party was over Zack and his friend; they eventually dozed off to the lullaby of sirens and early morning traffic from Fremont Street.
Sleeping in until noon was common for Zack but Kalvin was always a morning person. Even with as little as a few hours sleep, Kalvin would be out of bed by eight o’clock at the latest. Unbeknownst to Zack, his friend had already hit the street when he found himself brushing his teeth at one in the afternoon. As he looked into the mirror, his reflection was anything but refreshing. He had spent zero dollars the night before and that may have been a moral victory of sorts but the feeling of life wasted was not lost on him. He began to assess the situation and it didn’t add up to a shining example of success.
Zack was broke, that was the bad news. The good news was hanging around his neck. Gold was always cash at any pawn shop, and better news in that moment, was a fat roach in the ashtray that Kalvin considerately left behind. He sparked it and took a deep hit. As he exhaled, he pulled back the curtain and peered out the window. Squinting through the brightness, he saw life as usual on the streets of Vegas. He was compelled to make a plan of action. Zack checked his pack of smokes, only three. He stroked the thick gold rope necklace while he took another puff. As the stone set in so did his plan. His addiction to tobacco was a strong motivator and counting on Kalvin might not guarantee a pack of Camels. He knew what he had to do.
The walk to the E.Z. Pawn on Ogden Street took less than five minutes. The transaction was quick and uneventful.
“I wanna pawn this,” said Zack as he unlatched the diamond cut chain.
“How much do you want?” said the broker carefully inspecting the rope through his reading glasses.
“I’ll give you a hundred,” instantly replied the clerk.
“But it weighs 33 grams!” said Zack indignantly.
Unmoved, the broker said “Take it or leave it.”
“Fine,” exhaled Zack in resignation.
He slid the cash into his pocket, smiling to himself. The plan was to get a hundred dollars. The whole haggling exchange was just a ruse. Zack enjoyed playing the role of desperado in pawn shops. He knew exactly what his necklace was worth and what he would get on a loan. He knew if he asked for one hundred bucks the Old Italian pawnbroker would offer less, just as a matter of principal. It didn’t make financial sense to the pawn shop. Pawnshops are in the business of when they smell desperation. Zack had yet to comb his hair or shave, and after a late night of smoking cocaine, he looked the part of desperado. The funny thing, it wasn’t much of a stretch. In reality, living on the edge meant desperation was ever so close.
On the way back to the room, Zack stopped at the Seven-Eleven on Fremont. This store was the busiest Seven Eleven in the world, complete with “7-11” decked out in hundreds of flashing lights just like the casino signs up and down Fremont. After he picked up two packs of Camels, a breakfast burrito and a cold Nestle Quick he headed back to room 420. He loved his cold chocolate milk.
With his belly and wallet a little more full, Zack was kicking back on his bed watching People’s Court when Kalvin came rolling in.
“Dude, you will never guess what happened to me!”
“Don’t tell me…you sold our bag of weed, went back to the Horseshoe; put it all on 29…the black and we’re now rich? No, no, wait…you got back the lab results and the test says you’re not related to yourself.”
“Not quite Sherlock, I have a new career,” boasted Kalvin.
“You got a job?”
“Well, you could say that.”
“Really, doing what? I didn’t know the carnival was in town.”
“Funny…not. It’s a job in a supervisory role,” he said smiling ear to ear.
“A manager? You can’t even manage to keep gas in the truck,” poked Zack.
Kalvin was not impressed.
“Okay, okay, managing where?”
“It’s not where so much as who?” said Kalvin, like the mouse that ate the cheese.
“What the hell are you talking about dude? Just spill it.”
“I’m a pimp!”
“I met this chick. She was workin’ just down the street. We got a talkin’ and she tells me this story about how her pimp got busted and she needed protection.”
“Dude, you for protection? You must be joking.”
“I know, right? I think all she cares about is that I have a truck.”
“Are you serious? What are you gonna do when she has a problem with some John that beats her or won’t pay?”
“I don’t know about all that. All I know is she just gave me $40 and this rock!” said Kalvin revealing more cocaine in his hand. “That, and free pussy!” He was pleased with himself.
“Dude, you know this is not going to end well right?” said Zack shaking his head.
“Oh I know it’s not going to end well for her!” he said laughing aloud.
“Dude, I don’t know how you do it. That’s some crazy shit man.”
“I’m a pimp, I’m a pimp, I’m a pimp!” and more laughter.
Zack just stood there shaking his head. Then, a smile cracked through. He had to acknowledge that his buddy just had a way with women. He admired his friend on one level but just a little bit deeper he felt sorry for any women that would cross Kalvin’s path.
“So Mr. Pimp, where’s your ho now?”
Kalvin just turned his palms up and shrugged his shoulders.
“What? You don’t know?”
“Well, I spoze she’s out fuckin” he said giggling. “You want some pussy dude? On the house!”
“Thanks but no thanks,” said Zack proudly.
“Dude, she’s pretty cute, sucks a mean cock too. What do I gotta do to put you in that pussy?”
“What are you doing? You sound like a used car salesman, dude.”
“Hey man, what can I say?” giggled Kalvin.
“You can say that you sold that eighth.”
“Nope, I was too busy pimpin’ my ho.”
“Fine, let me call Pee Wee. He might be lookin’ for a sack. He might have some more of that killer acid.”
“Good idea dude. That was some mean shit. What did you call it?”
“Yeah, flying eyeball. Good idea, and if you get some cash we’ll pool it with Tracy’s cock money and get another ounce.”
“Tracy?” asked Zack.
“Well her street name is Summer.”
“And I’ll bet she’s as fresh as a spring day,” said Zack chucking to himself.
“Fresh money!” said Kalvin.
The news of Kalvin’s new line of work was a surprise to Zack but not shocking. In fact, it was comical. Zack was sure the whole thing would end badly for Kalvin. How could it not? He was sure that as soon as there was one problem with Summer, Kalvin would disappear faster than a rain shower in the desert. Zack also knew the life of a pimp could be dangerous. Kalvin was smart but Zack just hoped that his friend would be smart enough to keep his employee far from the room and that he would take cash over crack. He also wondered how Kalvin’s new job would interfere with their sporadic moving jobs. He knew that you couldn’t do a moving job high on crack. Why do ass-breaking labor when you can just hang out and have someone else bring you cash? The occasional moving gigs that Kalvin got from his brother were all the work Zack had for the last few months. It wasn’t much but a day’s work usually meant a hundred bucks.
The future was as uncertain and life at the Gold Dust apartments offered little chance for change. That, along with cocaine’s return made Zack uneasy. After months on the run he was now free to live a regular life and just what that would be was a question that needed to be answered. Fact was all he knew was slinging bags of weed, waiting on tables and moving furniture. He had partying down to an art and he knew there was little room for crack if he wanted to keep step. Something had to give. It was time for a something different. Change was long overdue. He was ready to make a move but Zack didn’t know which way to go. All he knew was ‘the next task at hand’ and that was to sell another bag of weed and try to get some more of that good acid from Pee Wee. For Zack, LSD was a good way to reset his brain and gain perspective.
As usual, Zack completed his mission. He sold the bag for $30 and Peewee promised him 4 hits of the notorious Flying Eyeball tomorrow. When he returned to the room there was no trace of Kalvin. Something still bubbled just below Zack’s consciousness and it was not going away. Maybe it was waiting for Kalvin that bothered him. Zack preferred to be the captain of his own ship and having to rely on Kalvin was a little unsettling. He fully trusted his buddy. He knew that his friend was careful and meticulous almost to a fault. Zack had little concern that Kalvin’s business with his new found prostitute friend would bring real trouble but he was more concerned that his longtime partner in crime might get infected with AIDS or something like that. Zack was just getting tired of the game. It wasn’t the lifestyle so much as it was where it led, it was a tiresome treadmill that headed nowhere fast.
Whatever it was that was eating away at Zack he had to set it aside. There was little room for second-guessing while living on the edge. Kalvin could handle his shit; he has shown that repeatedly. Zack couldn’t afford any rent for doubt in his head. Again, he drowned out that little voice with thoughts of survival and the distraction of smoking another sweetie. The beat goes on, yada dada de, yada dada da.
It was three days later when Zack came back to the apartment with some munchies to find Kalvin sitting on his bed watching TV eating cereal. Something seemed out of place, different.
“Yo, yo, yo. Wassup pimp daddy?” said Zack.
“Nada lada,” said Kalvin matter-of-factly.
“Shouldn’t you be out there workin’ your ho?”
Kalvin didn’t respond. He just kept staring at the boob tube. Something was definitely going on. “She’s gone,” he said.
“Gone, as in dead?” said Zack sarcastically.
“Gone as in, she left.”
“Aw common dude, you gotta do better than that, Corn Pop’s?”
“Naw... Honey Combs, she got burned from some john named Ricco. She wanted me to take her to the West side to chase the money.”
“The West side, are you serious?” Zack knew that meant trouble.
“Well not exactly the West side. It was more like Stewart and Washington.”
“So you took her?” asked Zack, stunned.
“Hell no, I told her I was going to go get my gun and I would be right back,” said Kalvin with a shit eating grin.
“And you came straight home, right?” surmised Zack.
“Yep” said Kalvin with a mouthful of Honey Combs.
Zack started shaking his head in disbelief. “So why did you say she’s gone?”
“Well, I went back to where I left her about an hour later and she was gone. I think she knew I was full of shit.”
“Really? So from pimp to pauper in four days flat?” said Zack.
“Guess so,” replied Kalvin showing little emotion.
“So now what?” asked Zack rhetorically. He was actually relieved for his friend. No harm, no foul.
“You still got that acid?” said Kalvin with a twinkle in his eye.
“You still got money to re-up?”
“And then some, I got almost $300 from that whore,” he boasted.
“Damn, pimpin’ pays! Let’s burn” said Zack.
“It sure does. I already got 2 ounces from Mary and still have $60!”
Kalvin pulled out a joint he had rolled and ready to go. It was a sweet celebration of sorts. The best friends laughed it up as they passed the doobie back and forth.
“Here…HO-ld this,” said Kalvin as he gave the joint to Zack.
“HO-ly shit, this is some good weed,” replied Zack.
“HO my God, is the joint running?” chuckled Kalvin.
“I HO-pe not,” said Zack as he passed it back.
“Ya know, pimpin’ has a lot of potentch-HO,” Kalvin thought that one was clever.
“I guess HO,” and the laughter continued.
Kalvin came back with “Dude, we should take two HO hits of that Flying Eyeball!”
“Good idea Kalvin. Let’s have a HO down!” they laughed almost to the point of tears.
The two stoners finally calmed down enough to break out the LSD. It was strong acid, rumored to contain 200 micrograms per hit. That was double most other popular varieties such as Blue Dolphin, Black Pyramid or Musical notes. Peewee was a first class tweaker. His appearance suited his nickname. He could have been Paul Reuben’s brother. He loved his speed most of all and was the best connection Zack had for crank or crystal but somehow Peewee stumbled upon the Flying eyeball and it was the real deal. There were four doses and the loadies put two, tiny squares under their tongue and waited for the journey to begin. Just on time, the LSD express arrived 45 minutes later just before the sun started setting. Once the acid kicked in, Zack felt compelled to start throwing a steak knife at the wall. Tripping and martial arts were a fun combo. He was sticking a high percentage of the tosses.
“Bull’s eye!” touted Zack.
“Bull’s eye? I don’t see a target.”
“I can see it,” said Zack pointing to the wall.
“I bet you do,” said the other tripper.
“Here, let me take care of that,” said Zack as he drew to concentric circles on the wall surrounding the gashes previous tosses had left.
“How’s that?” said Zack.
“Better,” Kalvin said with a nod.
Zack aimed and placed the knife right in the center of the target.
“Bull’s eye!” he proclaimed.
“Not bad, but can you do it again?”
He did. Then two more times before the knife bounced off the wall.
“My turn, common…hand it over,” said Kalvin with hand extended.
The knife throwing went on for nearly two hours but it seemed like only minutes to the trippers. That was when Kalvin broke out his nun chakus. Even though Zack was just becoming adept in his martial arts journey, Kalvin had been swinging nun chucks since he was a kid. He moved the weapon naturally with speed. The trails left behind from the moving pieces of wood were a spectacle. As he swung the chucks they appeared as multiple sections of the weapon. Like separate, still motion fragments super imposed over each other, Kalvin was putting on a psychedelic pectacle. It was hard to keep up with where exactly the nun chucks were. He quickly switched hands over and under his arms, legs and back. Bruce Lee himself would have been impressed. Zack certainly was. He was also certain he was very high and only getting higher.
The Kung Fu clinic went on for hours with sporadic breaks for cigarettes, hitting the joint and uncontrollable bouts of laughter. At one point the two friends were literally rolling on the floor laughing, complete with tears and sore cheeks. It was good medicine. There was the knock on the door. It startled the trippers, but not in a paranoid way. It was more like a wake-up call back to reality. Up until that point, Kalvin and Zack had been far away in their own world, far, far away.
“I wonder who that is?” said Zack. He then burst into laughter as if he just delivered a punch line. Kalvin got the joke.
Zack looked through the peephole only to see Sidewalk.
“Its Stop sign!” said Zack.
“Stop sign?” Kalvin was puzzled.
“Yeah, you know, Slip knot,” barely left his lips it before more laughing.
“Oh you mean Skid mark,” Kalvin guffawed.
“Yeah, that’s the dude.” Zack opened the door.
“Sup” said Zack with his chin up, cool as possible. He motioned for Sidewalk to enter.
When he entered the two trippers couldn’t help it, they just busted out in laughter. Sidewalk, high on cocaine, didn’t get the joke. It joke was on him.
“Wassup Sidewalk?” greeted Kalvin.
Straight to business “You wanna get high?” said Sidewalk.
The two friends just looked at each other and the laughter went up another level. They were already high, super high. As they looked at the disheveled Sidewalk, his aura and energy screamed out dejection and desperation. Zack felt sad for him while simultaneously thinking he was smarter that the crackhead for being on LSD. It was an enlightening drug, full of laughter and mental stimulation. Cocaine started off with a bang but always ended with craving, depression and little laughing.
“Dude…we’re already high,” said Zack.
“You got some?” asked Sidewalk wide-eyed.
“No, not rocks. We dropped some acid, man,” said Kalvin.
“Oh acid, you white boys get crazy with that acid shit.”
“If crazy means having a fucking blast, then yeah…we’re two crazy white boys!” said Zack. Again, laughter ensued.
“You wanna smoke?” asked Sidewalk as he broke out his trusty straight shooter and spit out a fat rock.
Kalvin and Zack stopped laughing. That was a serious question. No, should have been the answer. To ruin a perfectly good high by smoking coke would be less than wise; it would be straight up stupid. LSD has a way of intensifying everything. The craving for cocaine was strong enough. To jones on acid could be a nightmare. It seemed like a no brainer.
“I’m so high right now, I doubt if the coke would even have much of an effect,” said Zack.
“There’s only one way to find out,” smiled Kalvin.
“Yeah right, but after that first hit? You know how it goes.”
“Then let’s do only one hit,” said Kalvin.
Zack knew that was a bad idea. After the first hit of crack would come that wonderful rush of orgasmic ecstasy and then, the craving for more and the urge to smoke would only get stronger until all the money was gone. Nobody could take just one hit of crack. That just didn’t happen. On the other hand, LSD is known as the most powerful drug barring PCP or DMT. An individual on acid could drink all night long and not show a single sign of being intoxication. Smoking weed on acid was practically a waste of time because after fifteen minutes or so the acid high would dominate and it would be like there never was any weed smoked.
Zack reasoned, perhaps with a strong will, and assistance from the power of LSD the crack jones could be nullified or at least mitigated. Crack on acid? Crazy.
“Alright, let’s do it,” said Zack.
Kalvin didn’t need his arm twisted. He had a taste for crack cocaine and had ever since Zack introduced him to it a few years earlier.
“Load it up!” said Kalvin. Sidewalk handed Kalvin the pipe with a fat hit ready to go.
It was a pivotal moment in more than one way. Not only was it a party experiment of sorts but it would turn out to be a choice that would change Zack’s life forever. Kalvin hit the pipe. Zack looked on in anticipation as Kalvin exhaled a huge cloud of sweet smoke and nodded his head in affirmation. Sidewalk touched the tip of the pipe to a chunk of that was sitting on the table. It stuck to the end of the pipe and began to melt. Immediately he handed it to Zack.
“Damn! That was an awesome hit” said Kalvin as he watched Zack pull on the pipe.
Zack held the hit deep before slowly exhaling. Then the rush, intense, warm and tingling complete with the infamous ear ringing. He was sprung like a spring. It was a hit like no other before. He felt his pulse race and his heart pounding.
“Damn is right!” said Zack taken aback.
The rush was so strong both Zack and Kalvin had to sit. It was everything they thought it would be and more. They waited for the initial intensity to diminish. Sidewalk took the liberty to load his own fat hit. He hit the pipe twice before offering another to Kalvin who declined. Zack wondered if his friend’s refusal was genuine. Sidewalk passed the pipe to Zack. The cocaine was still doing its job. He really wanted to see if the Flying eyeball could kick the coke’s ass. He also declined. He looked back at Kalvin who had his eyes on the pipe. That was a bad sign. The jones appeared to be tugging on his friend. He had seen it so many times before. Zack took the challenge to resist even more seriously.
He was still trippin’ balls out. The edges of the window were shifting. The curtains were lightly waving with no breeze what so ever. The faux wood grain of the table looked to be alive, moving and swirling, as if I were breathing. He chuckled. He was high alright, high on LSD thank God. He calculated he was probably peaking at that very moment and laughter returned. He knew he had gotten the best of cocaine. There was zero desire to take another hit. Perhaps it was seeing his friend ready to give in. Perhaps it was the distraction of the visual psychedelic, spectacle surrounding him. On the other hand, perhaps it was the power of his mind. Whatever the reason, he was good. It was one and done.
The evening did not fare as well for the other passenger. Kalvin eventually gave in and helped Sidewalk finish the fat rock. Zack just took in the scene. It was getting on in the evening and eventually, with no more crack, Sidewalk appeared to be drifting asleep. While sitting in his chair and nothing propping up his head, he somehow looked to be out right where he sat.
It had been less than 20 minutes since he last hit the pipe. Any other mere mortal would have been wired for sound. Kalvin surely was, but Sidewalk was lights out. Zack concluded that the man must have been up for days, and his subconscious must have known that he was in a safe place and just shut his body down.
It was hard to believe that someone could just fall asleep sitting in a chair like that.
“Hey Sidewalk, you up?” asked Kalvin. No response.
Zack followed with “Yo, yo, yo, Stop sign…you awake?”
“Slip knot?” said Kalvin.
“Damn, I think he’s really out. Yo Skidmark!” shouted Zack.
As Side walk sat asleep, the strangest thing happened. As if it had a mind of its own, Sidewalk’s hand started creeping along the table, one finger at a time. Kalvin and Zack just stared awestruck. They just knew the guy was asleep but his hand was wide awake. It was reminiscent of the creepy hand named “Thing” from the Adam’s family. It crawled around the table as if in search of something. There was nothing on the table except a paper napkin, and a few, scattered condiment packs of ketchup and mustard.
Eventually, the hand came upon the ketchup and stopped. Zack and Kalvin’s eyes met as they both realized what was happening. Sidewalk’s hand secured the packet and he lifted it to his mouth, bit into the corner, and proceeded to suck on the ketchup until it was sucked dry. Still, Sidewalk appeared to be fast asleep.
Then, the hand went back in search for more. This time the hand took a more direct route to the pile of condiments and snatched another package of Heinz’s best. And again it found its way to Sidewalk’s awaiting lips. And again, he sucked it dry. It was clear that the crackhead hadn’t had much to eat lately and his subconscious was picking up the slack. The third excursion for food came across the yellow mustard. Zack, still frying, knew what was next and couldn’t keep himself from laughing. He was worried about waking Sidewalk but even when Kalvin chimed in laughing out loud, Sidewalk wasn’t fazed. It was easy to predict that once he tasted the twang of yellow mustard, Sidewalk would awake. The anticipation of sidewalk’s reaction had Zack and Kalvin on the edge.
He bit into the packet. He sucked and sucked some more. In just a few seconds, he emptied the mustard pack and was going in again for more. There was not one thing different except sidewalk actually licked his lips clean after finishing the mustard. Once again, they laughed, amazed and perplexed.
“Shit man, dude must be like real hungry” said Zack.
“Dude, he’s going for more! Slide over another mustard, quick,” said Kalvin to Zack who was closer.
“I can do better than that!” said Zack followed with a dubious cackle.
Zack dashed across the room and started digging into the trashcan below the wall mounted TV.
“Ah ha!” he exclaimed as he found an old paper bag. He reached in and pulled out a large packet of Arby’s horsey sauce. Kalvin’s mouth dropped. He quickly covered it in an attempt to keep quiet.
As sidewalk’s hand ventured out over the table in search of more plunder, Zack strategically placed the horseradish sauce a few inches in front of Sidewalk’s meandering hand. It took only a couple of seconds before he snatched the packet and lifted it to his lips. This time when he bit in, it was a different story. The twisted, contorted expressions on Sidewalk’s face revealed how strong the sauce was. The reaction complete with squinting eyes, pursed lips and tongue sticking out, was over the top funny. To their amazement Sidewalk continued to suck the sauce until it was all gone! The laughter was so loud that it disturbed Sidewalk enough, to wake him from his slumber.
He was dazed and confused. The two jokers were laughing so hard that it offended Sidewalk, what for, he had no idea but he knew they were laughing at him. He didn’t like it. If he weighed a pound over 120 he might have said something but the skinny, sucked up crackhead was powerless to do anything except sit there with a sour look on his face. Adding insult to injury, Kalvin spoke up.
“Hey Stop sign, it’s time to go. It’s bed time,” Kalvin opened the door to let him out, all the while laughing his ass off.
“Crazy, fuckin’ white boys,” he muttered as he left.
“Aloha!” said Zack.
Kalvin shut the door and no sooner the guys broke out into hysterical laughter to the point they couldn’t breathe. If they didn’t witness it, they wouldn’t have believed it. Sleep eating horseradish. They thought they had seen it all.
Seeing Sidewalk in his condition served as an example to Zack of how bad it could get with crack. He knew this all too well. He also was well aware that it could get worse. It penetrated deep into his mind. His brain was operating on many levels thanks to the LSD.
On the surface, it was all good. In fact it was better than that. He was in the cosmic groove, hanging with his buddy safe and warm. Even with his face hurting from laughing fits and feeling empowered from his victory over cocaine, there was something else, deeper in his psyche that was tugging on him, like a kid tugs on a parent’s shirt sleeve. He had been ignoring it for months but it wasn’t going away. The kid’s name was Change or perhaps Escape. Change from what and escape to where, were deeper questions.
He looked over to Kalvin and felt guilt and sadness. The guilt was for exposing Kalvin to crack in the first place. When his friend returned from the army, there were many questions about this “new” drug called crack. Zack answered all of Kalvin’s inquiries with a $180 night of smoking. The sadness was because as he looked over at Kalvin, he recognized the wide eyed stare of someone sprung on coke. Three white’s they called it. He knew that Kalvin’s journey down Crack Avenue still had a few miles to go.
He loved his friend. As a teenager, Zack always looked up to Kalvin as the cool kid. Kalvin played the drums in a band, was loved by the chicks and always had an air of cool about him. Kalvin was the classic, long haired stoner that always seemed to have it going on. Zack had secretly always looked up to Kalvin. Now as he stood, he was looking down to his friend sitting at the kitchen table. He saw a different Kalvin and he felt sad. He had to do something.
“Let’s roll a joint dude,” said Zack. He knew the weed would chill Kalvin out a little.
“In the drawer,” said Kalvin pointing to the end table between the beds.
The acid still had a firm hold on Zack as he broke up the bud into little bits. The weed seemed to have a special softness to it as he placed it into the paper for rolling. He also noticed the texture of the Zig Zag. It seemed strong and fragile at the same time. He laughed. When he looked over to see his friend’s reaction he saw Kalvin looking down on the carpet. With a quick twist and a lick, Zack finished the job.
“Dude,” he tossed the joint. “Spark it up,” said Zack trying to distract his friend.
Kalvin only took a couple hits from the joint before he got up and put on his jacket. Zack knew what was up. He didn’t try to stop him “What’s up?” he asked.
“I’ll be right back,” said Kalvin suited up for his mission.
“Save your money dude. Enjoy the fry.”
“I have man, all night long.” said Kalvin with a veiled smile. “I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”
“Alright dude. Just be careful.”
“20 minutes,” he said and was out the door.
He was certain it was a dope run. His partner had actually held out much longer than he expected. The result was easy to predict. It was a good thing that Kalvin had already bought the two ounces from Mary. Otherwise all of the money would be at risk. Zack figured it didn’t really matter that much since, after all, it was Kalvin’s money. Zack still had some cash of his own from pawning his gold. The whole scenario presented a certain disconnect for Zack. The LSD had allowed Zack to gain a certain detachment from his reality. His perspective was wider. When tripping, its always about the big picture and that scene was less than comfortable. He felt the tugging again.
Kalvin was always on time and in exactly nineteen minutes he came through the door of room 420. He went straight to his duffle bag and pulled out his pipe. If Kalvin was anything he was considerate.
“Wanna hit?” he asked as he loaded the pipe.
“Nope, I’m good. And that’s not just a rumor,” cracked Zack.
Kalvin came back with, “That’s not what I heard.”
The banter continued, “Of course your girlfriend would tell you that.”
Kalvin didn’t respond. He hit the pipe instead. Zack went back to knife throwing.
In just over an hour the rock was up in smoke and Zack had started to make larger holes in and around the target on the wall. Both the men were high but they were in two very different places. Zack’s disconnect grew. It didn’t take long before Kalvin was looking down at the carpet again. He was scanning the floor for any little pieces or chips that he may have dropped. Crack heads rarely drop or lose any dope but always think they might have. The carpet is the first place they look. Zack had done it dozens of times. It was sad.
Kalvin expanded his search area. He began to get closer to the foot of the beds looking for that one dropped piece. He was over six feet away from the kitchen table when he found something. He picked it off the rug and held it up with a smile on his face.
“No shit, I can’t believe you found a piece,” said Zack.
Kalvin wasn’t done. He came up with another chip and went back to the table to load his pipe. Zack watched in amazement. The pipe was loaded, and Kalvin brought the flame to the pipe. It only took a second and Zack knew something was off when he failed to hear the trademark crackling. The look on Kalvin’s face verified it wasn’t crack.
“What’s the deal?” asked Zack.
“I dunno, it didn’t melt, it turned brown,” he was perplexed.
Zack looked at the pipe and verified what he heard. He then went to the foot of his bed only to see dozens of small, white specks on the carpet. He picked one up and rubbed it between his thumb and finger. I crushed into a white, dust like powder. He then looked up and started laughing. He looked over at Kalvin and laughed harder.
“You were smoking ceiling!” said Zack laughing and pointing at his sprung friend.
“The carpet is scattered with pieces of the acoustic ceiling that you knocked off with your nun chucks! Ceiling, you just smoked ceiling!”
“That’s not funny man, I still had hits in this pipe. Now it’s contaminated with that nasty shit!” Kalvin was bummed and embarrassed.
The affair was funny but also pathetic to Zack. He realized it could have just as easily been him smoking ceiling. But this time it wasn’t. He lit up the roach and took it all in. He took the time to savor the sweet sensimilia. Weed was so much better than crack, or beer, or speed he thought. He thought about putting himself in Kalvin’ shoes, it didn’t take long for him to realize that he was in Kalvin’s shoes. They lived together. They hustled together. They worked together and smoked together. There was little difference in the life choices they had made. They were both in the same boat and it was headed for an iceberg. Exactly when and where the disaster would occur, he no idea but he figured it was only a matter of time. He felt the tug.
Zack look over at Kalvin. He was “pushing” his pipe, extracting the coke residue to get those last couple or few hits that were trapped in the pipe. The morning light could be seen coming through the curtains. It was a new day and there was something about sunrises on acid that represented a certain freshness and beauty of the new day. He felt the tug and this time he looked down in his mind and saw the kid. It was him. Zack at seven was tugging. That is when he made the decision. He got up, grabbed a fat bud from the bag, put on his jacket, grabbed his smokes and turned to Kalvin.
“I’m outta here” stated Zack.
“Where you going?” asked Kalvin.
“I don’t know, man.”
“Huh? I don’t get it,” Kalvin had a puzzled look on his face.
“I’m done dude. I can’t do this anymore.”
“This man, whatever this is that we’re doing. I’m over it”
Kalvin didn’t get what his friend was saying and went back to his pipe.
“I’ll be back for my stuff later,” declared Zack.
“Okay. See you later,” Kalvin either wasn’t convinced or didn’t understand exactly what Zack was saying.
Zack opened the door and walked away. The new day greeted him with a feeling that was similar to that first day at a new school that he had experienced so many times before. As he walked East down Fremont Street away from downtown, he had no idea where he was going. He only thought about what he was leaving behind. After he got a few blocks away the sun began to shine from behind Sunrise Mountain. He was facing East and the sun. Into the light is where he needed to go. He left his shadow behind, where it belonged.
With each step, he tried to place all of the pieces that had led him to this place in time. He wondered to himself, how did he get here? Where and when did this journey begin? He thought about a seven-year-old kid named Zachary. He still felt like that young boy somewhere deep inside. He may have been 23 years old but he was a long way from grown up. It hit him like an epiphany. It was like a fuzzy dream that he barely remembered just after waking. But this was no dream. It was his life and he didn’t know how he got to where he was. It felt like he was led to this point, but by what or who, and why? He tried to remember. He tried to remember back when he was that kid with all that potential and life ahead of him. How did that innocent kid end up high on LSD walking down Fremont Street in not-so-fabulous Las Vegas? Now that was the question.
Zack’s recollection of his early years was fuzzy. It all went by so fast. All he ever wanted was a place he could call home. That was easy to remember because as he approached Civic Center Blvd. the heat of the morning sun reminded him that he was now homeless. He didn’t know where to go, who to call and what to do. The confusion made only more intense from the residual effects of the LSD still humming in his head.
Eastern was a crossroad in more than one way. North, the street changed its name to Civic Center Blvd. and led back to North Las Vegas. There was nothing for him in North town except the hood. Zack had enough of the hood. Straight ahead Fremont Street turned into Boulder Highway and led to Henderson, of course. He knew no one out there. That only left south. South of Fremont, Civic Center’s was Eastern. Only a mile down Eastern was Kalvin’s mom’s house. He thought of his friend cracked out back at the Gold Dust. Kalvin always had his room at his mom’s to fall back on. Kalvin would always have a home. He grew up in that house. Surely without Zack Kalvin would end up back at his mom’s. He felt bad for his friend who seemed lost and didn’t know it. But who was really lost?
As he stood at the intersection, Zack knew he only had one place he could go really. He was torn. He didn’t want to go back, but he had to. Everything he owned was in Apt. 420. He looked at himself. The tugging seemed to be gone, the kid had grown up. He then decided that today was the first day of the rest of his life. He would create change. But he had to regroup. He had taken the first step and dedicated himself to make a break and dream a new dream. Anything was possible. He was re-energized with a new hope and conviction, it may have meant he had to go back on the edge but this time, he was facing the uncertainty of living life on life’s terms.
Las Vegas was a dead end. The desert was inhospitable; the town was cold even in the summer. He needed something new, something stimulating not from drugs but from his spirit, from his mind. Maybe back to school? He was a free man, his mom went back to school at 38, and he would be way ahead of her. Maybe it was time for a big move? Anything was possible, anywhere was possible. He just needed a goal, a destination.
‘If you walk, you’re gonna get there,’ echoed in his mind. He had walked enough. He remembered the mountain and that long walk . Where he really wanted to go, he could not walk. It was surrounded by ocean. That was really his goal. Hawaii.
First things first. His mom’s words echoed in his head “Just focus on the next task at hand,” she would say. That was easy. Get out of the blaring sun! Zack turned around and headed west, back to 420. “One step at a time” goes the 12-step saying. His journey would be a long one, but everything was different now. He thought of the trip to come, and then he thought about the trip he was still on! He busted out in laughter again. The Flying Eyeball had taken him on a trip that had lasted twelve hours easily. As he laughed aloud, he caught the attention of passersby on Fremont Street. Zack looked like a mad man as he kept laughing uncontrollably to the point of tears. What a long strange trip it had been.