Wasted in Laurel Canyon [ by Mark Tulin ]
I took it slow, sitting in the Laurel Canyon Café sipping on an apple spice kombucha. They had outdoor seating and lavender incense burning on the patio. It was a place where I could sit for hours, spaced out on the sky and the Eucalyptus trees.
I was stoned, as usual. The last time I wasn't high was before my Uncle Kenny died three years ago. He left me a small fortune that I can live on and not worry about working or doing anything constructive. I'm sixty now, so I figure I'm just taking an early retirement. I lay on the sofa most of the day, smoking pot, dropping acid, or both. I walk down the hill to the café when I'm hungry. Today, I had a veggie sandwich on sourdough and a bottle of kombucha. The café had comfortable outdoor furniture, which you could fall asleep on.
"Daydream Believer" played a Bluetooth speaker, and I fell into a dream about a girl named Loretta, whom I loved in High School. She was Italian, had long, straight hair, and the loveliest olive complexion. Those High School days never leave. I think about them often, usually when I'm stoned. Back then, I wanted to do something special with my life. But time passed, and it became less likely that it would happen. I realize now I never had the talent or desire.
I looked up. The sky was light blue with only a few white clouds. The song changed. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was playing, and I thought about my first car, a sky-blue Corvair. I used to be cool then. I had long hair and wore a suede fringe jacket like Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider.
"It's not a good idea to dwell on the past," my mother said. "You're liable to get stuck there."
She's eighty-seven and lives in a senior care facility. You'd think she would have dementia by now, but she is sharper than me.
"We're not made to stay stagnant," she said.
"But I'm okay with it, Mom."
"Nobody is okay with doing nothing. It's not normal."
The nurse handed her a bottle of Ensure and stood there while my mother finished it. It was time for me to leave. She always took a nap after she drank the Ensure. She said it gives her nightmares, but at least it makes her sleepy.
As I drank my second bottle of kombucha, I noticed a balding man with long white hair on the patio. He looked familiar. I put on my glasses. Shit! I said to myself. That's David Crosby. It had to be him. I'd recognize that big mustache and bald head anywhere. God, I thought. I'm sitting across from the one-and-only legend himself. Should I go over to him? But what would I say? I like your music. That sounds corny. I'm not one to bullshit a legend. So, instead, I caught his glance and smiled, and he smiled back. He drank kombucha, too, and we raised our drinks to acknowledge the moment of recognition. And then he broke our gaze and turned the pages of a magazine.
Geez, that was something. I thought of my pathetic life when I looked at David Crosby. We were so different. I used to play the guitar, but I couldn't sing. I have gone to about fifty concerts while he's performed in over a thousand. He got paid. I lived off my uncle's inheritance. He succeeded while I was a loser, yet we raised our drinks together.
I noticed another man come out to the patio from the store. He walked over to David. That man looked familiar, too. They knew each other like old friends. I looked closely. Holy shit! That's Graham Nash. What was he doing here? Should I wave? He had a bottle of kombucha. Everybody drinks this shit around here. He sat down, took off his sneakers, and folded his legs like a yogi. The two talked, and I could hear Graham Nash's song, "Our House," play in my head. That line about two cats in the yard brought tears to my eyes, and I thought about a girl I wanted to marry. She loved cats, too, but she had a boyfriend whom she wanted to marry.
This was mind-blowing. Nobody would believe it—even my therapist would think I was making it up. Sure, I had made shit up in the past, but I wasn't doing it this time. I saw Crosby and Nash as clear as day. Even if I wasn't wasted on the pot and acid, I know what I saw on the patio.
"You don't have to lie, Harry. You're safe here," my therapist said.
"I know I'm safe, Dr. Fisher, but I'm telling you who I saw. I saw Graham Nash and David Crosby sipping kombucha in the Canyon. They probably talked about when they sang at Woodstock and all those beautiful hippy girls they banged."
"You drink an awful lot of kombucha, Harry. I don't know how good it is for you."
When my therapist said I drank too much, maybe she was right. Who knows what's in kombucha? It might be playing tricks with my head, and possibly mixing it with pot and acid is not good. That's why I'm so fucked up.
Another guy walked in as I stared at the two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. He wore jeans and one of those suede Bushman hats that Dennis Hopper wore in Easy Rider. "Magic Carpet Ride" played in my head. Goddamn it, it's not Dennis Hopper—he's dead, but it was none other than Stephen fuckin' Stills. He sat down with Crosby and Nash. It's a goddamn reunion of CSN. I thought they had been in a big fight with David. This was too surreal. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
I couldn't believe what I saw. One superstar rocker was one thing, but three? Hell, I know that wouldn't happen in real life. I quickly finished my bottle of kombucha, put it in the recycling container, tossed half of my veggie sandwich in the trash, and headed for the exit. This was way too much for a stoner. My head was playing "Wooden Ships," and I could feel a sixties nervous breakdown coming.
Sweat poured down my brow. My hands shook, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I was having a freakin' panic attack. This can't be happening to me at the Laurel Canyon Café, my favorite hang-out joint. Then, I collapsed to the floor and passed out.
The next thing I knew, I woke up in a psych ward. The room was empty except for me, a bed, a food trash with a bedpan on top, and a TV playing The Price is Right. I wanted to find out how I got here, so I rang for the nurse. I waited a few minutes before ringing again.
Then Neil Young appeared at the door's threshold instead of a nurse. He had a half smile, and his eyes were glazed. He wore that signature crushed Fedora. His scraggly hair hung over his ears, and he had a guitar over his shoulder, a pick between his teeth, and a harmonica around his neck.
I was speechless.
He moved closer and said, "Hey, hey, my my. Rock and roll will never die. There's more to the picture than meets the eye."
"Nurse!" I yelled. "I think I need more medication! I'm starting to see rock stars again."
Mark Tulin is a former therapist, joke writer, and fruit peddler from Philadelphia who lives in Long Beach, California. Mark has five poetry books, Magical Yogis and Awkward Grace, Junkyard Souls, Rain on Cabrillo, Uncommon Love Poems—and one fiction book, The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories. Mark is featured in Friday Flash Fiction, Amethyst Review, White Enso, Page and Spine, Fiction on the Web, Poppy Road Review, The Writing Disorder, and others. Mark was a Pushcart nominee and Best of Drabble. Follow Mark at www.crowonthewire.com