It’s 1981 and L.A. is in a heat wave the week before Labor Day. Working retail in those days put us at ground zero of the Downtown L.A. energy from the garment district, the old financial district, to the flower mart, to the produce market and back around to the jewelry district. The Dodgers were heading for a showdown and it would be against the New York Yankees. Nate, Cleo, Rodney, Jim and I were left as the skeleton crew on this Friday before Labor Day because at around 11:30 in the morning, people were being let go to enjoy the long weekend.
Patrick, the general manager of the Adams Press retail store and order desk got the short-end of the stick as he likened it to babysitting the degenerates, he made us out to be. By the time noon hit, he gave us a last-minute order from one of the fashion jeans companies, Jordache or one of them, they needed to tag some new samples that were heading out to their factory in Mexico.
Most of us had been out the night before at Osco’s Nightclub for the Weekend Warmup where we had the run of 4 different dance floors. Disco, ska, reggae and house. Before we went to the club, we hooked up at our pal Tom’s house. Tom had everything… weed, black beauties, blow, and on occasion… shrooms. We hung out for about an hour, dropped a black beauty each and smoke some sinsemilla red hair. He had just gotten this shit from NorCal and told us it was a one-hit wonder. Looking at the bud, the pistils were colored like a carrot and it was really sticky. The aroma was strong, but not skunky. For those who don’t know, a black beauty was a hippie drug made of pure amphetamine. Tried one in high school when we crammed for finals. It was like caffeine. Ok, it was speed. The weed only enhanced the entire experience.
After a bong hit, seriously, just one, and hacking out a lung, we rolled a fatty each so we would have something to enjoy for the weekend.
So, there we were at 12:15 PM the day after clubbing, and pining to be let out. The joint in my pocket was accompanied by 4 black beauties. With Patrick’s order, he also instructed us to start prepping to close the store. He wanted to hit the road back to Burbank by no later than 2:00 PM. We looked at each other and new what each of us were thinking. “Let’s go out back and spark this fucker!” But no! My bright idea was to pop the black beauties and then when we walked 3 blocks to the parking lot, we would spark the joint.
Glub, glub, went the Sparklett’s water dispenser as we literally formed a line like 4 idiots in on a joke or something. “What are you guys up to?” Patrick bellowed from high perch desk. “Just hydrating boss…” one of answered back. Smart ass. I had to look up the word because it sounded biological and I was the biology major in school.
We took the order Patrick wanted us to fill, grabbed the brooms and dust pans and started sweeping the dark linoleum floors down the stock aisles where we also plucked the merchandise they needed. Number 4 sample tags, pattern envelopes, size tags, and garment bags for pants. This store had been serving the garment industry in Los Angeles from at least the 1940’s. Out of their small print shop, they were able to print brand tags for everyone in the industry who ran the sweat shops up and down Broadway and Spring Streets and points in between.
We completed the order, grabbed the trash, and were joking and ragging on each other at record pace. Holy crap! It was 1:30 PM. Patrick walked the floor. Fixed a couple of boxes that seemed out of place. Then stood by the front door for a minute. We knew he was trying to figure out how we got both the order and cleaning done. He had a sinister look on his face. Or maybe he was dreading the hour-long drive to Burbank in the heat. I was just dreading the drive home, period.
The AC in my 1970 Mustang Mach I was out. Just blew hot air. I had plans and I wasn’t gonna hang in Downtown waiting for it to cool down. Then Patrick turned around and said “clock out!” We were ready.
The walk to the parking lot was three block long. It was about 98-degrees that afternoon. One-block from the store, and in the other direction from where Patrick would be driving his Corvette, we took that joint out and lit it up. Pass to the right, pass to the left, didn’t matter. We were work family and we were just glad to be out. Jim was out to meet his son at a beer bar in the other direction. Nate was gonna pop the question that night. Cleo was heading to Circus in Hollywood; Rodney was going to a friend’s house and then to The Pretender’s at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. He couldn’t get Louie Louie out of his mind. We had had a 5.8 earthquake that morning just before 9:00 AM. People were anxious already. L.A. was celebrating its bicentennial… so much going on. I just wanted to make the drive home feed my cat, McFatty, and chill before heading to the beach the next day.
We made it to the parking lot, said our goodbyes and jumped in our cars. Of course, I had to burn rubber getting out to 9th street to head to the freeway and park for a while. Popped in Dark Side of the Moon into the 8-track player and blazed the joint again. Suddenly, I got cotton mouth. Crap! “Where’s the Juicy Fruit? Why didn’t I get a Coke at the hotdog stand by the parking lot?”, I said out loud to myself. Shit! Where is all this traffic going? I started getting paranoid now. You see, my car was this raven-black performance Mustang and she needed relief from this heat as well. Traffic moves at about 20 miles an hour. Hard to believe that today in L.A., 20 miles per hour is a blessing.
Finally made it to the 60, but my exit was still about 7 miles away in San Gabriel. I am now so thirsty and feeling heatstroke that I was getting desperate to get off the road. Ha! Old Datsun broke down on the lanes coming in from the Long Beach Freeway. Make my move and get off the exit to my dad’s restaurant. Yeah, that’s where I can go… no shit! I can’t go there stoned! Quick, what should I do. Turn right at the exit and head to the Chevron to wet my face in the restroom? Too late, going left. Now I am counting the signals. I gotta pee. I am stoned. I am overheating and just wanna go home.
Finally, I get to the signal and too many cars are gonna make the left turn so I zoom and head to the entrance passed the signal on the left to the rear parking lot where dad’s restaurant is located. Pull close to the back door and hop out. Yuck! The stench from the trash bin almost made me lose my cookies. Did somebody dump milk into the bin? What the fuck is that smell? Hold it together now. I look through the back door and see if the coast is clear. I could see that the men’s restroom door was slightly open. Opened the back door and shuffled in. Ring-a-ling. That stupid bell. A lady turns around just as I grab the door handle to the men’s room. “Hi grandma… just using the restroom.” Holy fuck! I could hear her voice calling me over to say hi and I had to ignore her and get in.
Ahhh… cold water from the faucet. Just shoved my head into the sink and let the water run off my head into my parched mouth and drink about a gallon. My color returned to normal as I sat on the toilet with paper towels drying my head off. Knock, knock, knock! On the door. “I’m okay dad! Had to use the toilet. Be out in a minute!”
Got myself together and saw I had been in the head for 45 minutes by this point. I unlocked the door, opened enough to see if the coast was clear again and took two steps to the back door to dash out. Grandma loudly says “There he is!” and I yelled back “Gotta go. Running late. Call you guys later!”
Phew! I made it home, fed McFatty and jumped in the shower for about an hour. Finally sat down with a Big Slurpee cup of ice water and looked up hydrate in the dictionary. Webster said that to hydrate is to absorb water. Well okay then. I learned my lesson that day… get the AC fix and maybe someone will come out with portable single serve water bottles that won’t break so we can all hydrate on our way to somewhere.