“This is a fictional take on exploring different perspectives and points of view and should not be taken as any more than that. Seriously. Don’t sell Drugs.”
Another night, another party. Same scene, same people. Like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”, I feel like I lived this scene yesterday. And I know tomorrow night will invariably be more of the same.
It’s ironic in a twisted sort of way. Like I’m caught up and at the same time – I’m not caught up. I’m caught up in the sense that it’s profitable. It’s money. It’s survival with all pretenses and rationalizations roughly stripped away. Yet at the same time, I retain enough self-discipline, enough self-control and enough cold business-like detachment to feel a sense of loathing…for the scene, for the people, about how everything is so fake, about the blatant sexual as well as non-sexual prostitution, and even for myself…for nothing more than just being there. Call it baptism by fire but more in a total immersion sort of way. But that’s life. It’s business as usual. I’m pulling my 9-5 just like every other cog in the corporate machine. The only difference is that my shift is from 9pm until 5am.
Welcome to reality. This is the real Hollywood. The very personification of a true drug economy. This is where the real work is done. The networking, the birth and death of careers, dreams, and projects…all done in the social euphoric haze between lines. And oddly enough, for that small aspect, it actually gives me a strange sense of pride. Like what I do actually has some meaning in some odd fashion. Like I have a small role in facilitating everything else that happens as a result of what I do. Almost makes me want to be mentioned in the producer’s credits. Almost.
And that’s the difference between me and these Persian kids blatantly running their own small-scale operation in the open. Short-term versus long-term. High-profile versus low-profile. Doing this shit for the right reasons or doing it because you want the glamour, the reputation, the illusion of power. Rappers usually get it all wrong but sometimes they do get it right. To paraphrase Rick Ross, “I don’t traffic for fun, I traffic for funds”. And to paraphrase Lil Wayne, “I’m not trying to prove something, I’m trying to move something”.
With that in mind we have reached the crux of my point. That last quote neatly sums up exactly what they’re doing wrong. From the very start they had the wrong motivations. They’re not doing it because they HAVE to but because they WANT to. They aren’t slanging for dinner, they’re slanging to get in the pants of the next ditzy Hollywood blond who’s willing to let them feel them up in exchange for an eightball.
In essence, that’s the ultimate mistake to make. Especially in the Hollywood market. Here, seduction is a two-way street. If you’re not careful, you can get just as caught up in the scene as your target demographic gets on your product. That’s all it is really. These kids have watched “Scarface” one too many times.
I leave them be though. It’s not my play, it’s not my people, and if shit goes south, these flashy high-profile motherfuckers will most likely be the first ones to be caught with their heads above water leaving me to make my hypothetical discreet exit in a safe and orderly fashion. Believe it or not, the reality about this business is that despite what the media-perpetuated stereotypes may say, making waves just isn’t worth it unless you’re in the major leagues where this sort of thing might actually make a difference on your bottom line – even if only to make a point punctuated by a gunshot. But for mid-level higher-tier junior executives such as myself, it’s never worth getting greedy by being territorial and chasing that extra dollar. The military has an acronym for it. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.
And that’s what I do. A controlled and careful operation. Minimizing risk as much as possible. Moving large enough volume where it’s profitable and I’m not running around all night moving eightballs to friends of friends and/or getting awakened by phone calls at seven in the morning from the fiends needing their last $30 fix for the night. Moving large enough volume where I am considered an asset not easily sacrificed or burned by my suppliers. Yet not moving so large where neither they, nor the exclusive customer base I deal with feel the urge to jack or burn me for a quick profit. Play it small, play it careful, don’t get greedy or ambitious, never front, never owe, always demand cash on hand, take care of those who take care of you, and always have a contingency plan. Those are my golden rules. If everybody’s happy, if all the pertinent people are getting their taste of the action and if discipline is maintained, there’s no reason things can at least reach some semblance of stability.
But I’m not perfect. I’ll bullshit for days about my business philosophy and about how I’m careful and minimize risk. But at the end of the day, there’s still the realization that without some risks there’s no gain. So here I am. Doing my best to camouflage into the wallpaper. Yet knowing that even without doing anything or saying anything I stand out like a fucking redwood tree in a field of petunias. Simply put: I’m not white or black. So I’m not exactly inconspicuous. As self-involved as most of these spoiled trust fund kids or aspiring starlets are, if they even took one second to think it out, I’m still fairly certain they could connect the dots. Especially if I made it open book, open notes, and while they’re at it, feel free to ask your neighbor for his or her esteemed opinion. It’s fucking obvious I don’t belong. I might as well be walking around holding a giant sign: OPEN FOR BUSINESS.
It’s kind of funny though. Even though I clearly don’t belong, nobody will make an issue of it. Motherfuckers come up and pretend I’m a homie, “Sup man, long time no see…didn’t I party with you that one time…” Then the inevitable pause to clumsily signal that yes, that’s my cue to chime in, “For sure man, that night was fucking crazy, I was hella fucked up”. Clearly it’s all for show. Let the world think that they’re people in the know and that they know everybody and shit. But that’s just their opening move because that’s the only way they know how to play it. They can’t hold a conversation beyond how fucked up they are at this party or how fucked up they were at a previous party, and how this upcoming party is going to be the shit and how everybody’s going to be so fucked up.
With that said, they eye me hungrily. It’s almost like they can taste the drip already. They drop the necessary line to pretend that yeah, we’re homies, and I’m supposed to buy into their bullshit hook line and sinker and hook them up fat. They think I’m supposed to be like, “Oh Hollywood big-shot, me front you eightball real cheap”. They’re waiting with bated breath for my IPO, waiting for me to pull out the invariable baggy and line them a samp. But they’re rolling snake-eyes trying to play dice with me. They put out their hands and I pass by in a stately fashion leaving them running on empty. I could but I don’t. I’m here to chase bigger fish.
I see Mel in one corner of the living room. He’s dazed as all hell. As usual. If there was ever an entry in the dictionary under “caught up on the product and the Hollywood scene”, there’d be a picture of Mel. With the same goddamn zoned out expression he always has on his face once he a good couple miles away from that figurative line in the sand known as Done Did It.
You ever love somebody so much that sometimes you just feel like you have to strangle him on general principles? That, in a nutshell, is the kind of relationship I have with this guy. He picks up on the regular from me. To the point where I’m actually cool with him on a personal level since we’ve interacted often enough. And that, in essence, is my greatest weakness. Where I ignore all the shit I say about cold professional business-like detachment and blur the line between customer and friend. Like I said earlier, I’m not perfect. And I’m only human. And in this world filled with fake Hollywood motherfuckers, sometimes things can get pretty fucking lonely running around solo, not trusting anyone, and even without meaning to, you end up getting dangerously close to people that are more liabilities than assets, just based on the belief that in a lifestyle where you burn a lot of bridges and lose a lot of friends, if people in that world don’t stick together, they’re only going to fall separately, unnoticed and unloved.
And that’s why I can’t burn the guy. Even though he’s too high-profile, can’t keep his mouth shut if his life depended on it, and is prone to fucking up six ways from Sunday in various inventive ways that even I, with all my chess-playing skills in planning at least five moves ahead, can’t anticipate and properly manage damage control. Out of necessity I still got to keep him close and well-fed. If only so he won’t be tempted to burn me. But this is where I fuck up. Since I don’t even necessarily view him as just a customer, I give him too much leeway. I give him shit on credit. I cut him a break if he a little short on cash. I basically break every fucking golden rule I just painstakingly explained.
But it’s almost like I can’t help myself. I rationalize cutting the guy a break just because, like me, he’s not from LA. He’s just another transplant, an aspiring writer who got caught up on the product and the scene. And part of me just likes to think that since he’s a transplant, he’s at least a little more REAL than most of these soulless vessels filled with greed and ambition. But at the same time, every time I deal with him I essentially fight a war within myself. My business-sense draws his strap, fully loaded with hollow pointed business platitudes. And straight out of nowhere, the ghost of what’s left of my conscience and sense of honor rears up with his own piece cocked, locked, and ready to blast generosity, friendship, and general good intentions. It’s a deadlock. Crossed-guns John Woo style. All that’s missing is doves flying across the landscape. Which I usually refuse to imagine unless I’m enjoying some truly altered state of reality courtesy of black market pharmaceuticals.
So here I am. Mel convinced me to roll through, claiming he’s going to link me up with some big customers while I’m playing my role in the game and reassuring him that for anything he sets up I’ll cut him a percentage. But deep down I know that’s just his favorite play. String me along enough where I show up and feed him product at cut-rate if not just straight up free-ninety-nine. And he’ll continue to tease me with visions of big fish in Malibu dropping 900 for a zone. This is a long-established game. It’s happened before, it’s happening now, and it’s more than likely that it’ll happen again. Just because I’m weak and I want to give this guy his proverbial last chance on any given day. And also because I can’t resist exploring every possible angle to see if it’ll play out with a lucrative payout.
I’m not entirely blind and stupid though. At this point of the night, all it takes is one look at Mel to know that nothing productive is going to happen tonight. Unfortunately, he still has enough working brain cells among all the frying synapses to register my presence, lurch towards my general direction while maintaining a thirty degree leftward lean, paste on a Cheshire grin like he just saw Santa Claus and that it’s definitely going to be a white Christmas, and all the while, maintaining just enough decorum and diplomacy to manage not to get jumped as he bumps into people and jostles drinks in his clumsy attempt to make his way towards me with, at the very least, a certain degree of graceless style.
Seeking to distract his limited attention span from the inevitable question I know is coming, I launch a preemptive strike, “So what’s the word on your homeboy?”
Like always, he plays it off with the same tired routine. Especially for a guy who claims to be an aspiring writer, you would think that at the very least, he’d at least throw a couple different lines at me to give me the impression that he has the creative chops. But knowing him, I’m more inclined to believe he already pawned his creativity a long time ago to fund his minimum $100 a night habit. That or from too much usage, he’s just too cracked out or apathetic to truly give a fuck anymore.
So he drops his line and neatly transitions to his next same tired line without even pausing to emphasize punctuation – not to mention a complete change of subject. Clearly, mentally he is somewhere else altogether. And also, not to mention, he’s at least 40% distracted by another blond Paris Hilton clone passing by, sashaying like she thinks she has rhythm;
“DUDE! My bad about the other day. I’ll have something for you tomorrow. FOR SURE. I just had bills to pay. You know how it is. Oh yeah…that guy. I texted him and he never hit me back. Once he hits me up I’ll MOST DEFINITELY be on point and hook you up. Don’t even trip. Hey you got any on you? Let me get one real quick”.
I resist the spiteful urge to grab something cold and liquid and douse him suddenly, conveniently killing whatever high he currently has. But I close my eyes, count backwards from ten, and remind myself like I do all too often while dealing with his scatterbrained ADD bullshit to keep it calm, stay steady, and shift to a contingency plan. I’ll even ignore the fact that instead of asking, it was almost like he was lounging at his $50 a plate restaurant-du-jour brusquely asking a passing waiter for a breath mint. As tempting as giving in to the dark side sounds, it’s just bad for business, not to mention bad customer service.
So I coldly reply, “I’ll hook it up, but you got to make something happen for me first. You’re a homie but you know I can’t justify this sort of shit without you scratching my back first”.
He pauses. In his addled state, it must have felt like a moment that lasted a lifetime. On some level, even though he’s so far under the influence he isn’t even in the same zip code, he realizes he’s rapidly approaching a line that even he knows he shouldn’t push. Sensing the imminent danger like a zebra who just realized that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop eating grass and start running, he seamlessly shifts gears into diplomacy mode;
“FOR SURE BRO. You know we’re homies. You know I got your back. You got an eighter? One of my homies just texted me. He’s at the Rosie. You able to drive man? I’m FUCKED UP. Come on. LET’S ROLL THE FUCK OUT. This shit was weak anyways. Yo…let me hit one for the road though. Come on dude why you gotta be like that?”
I look at my watch. It reads 2:20 AM. I grimace, mentally calculating potential risk versus potential profit. It’s more or less smack dab in the middle of the specific time-slot of any given night where cops are out in full force looking to pull over any unfortunate motherfucker over just for being one mile over the speed limit. It’s a trip that would only take ten to fifteen minutes but it’s more than likely that these fuckers won’t even have COD and I’ll have to resort to pressing Mel into pressing his homies for cash and maintain a vain hope that I can at least squeeze out some sort of token payment. A long and unnecessary process consuming vast quantities of time and patience. A large and unnecessary risk brought up by an inconsistent semi-shady motherfucker trying to link me up to other inconsistent semi-shady motherfuckers. Everything I say, everything I believe, points me in the general direction of saying “Fuck it, I’m tired, I’m going home”. That’s what any smart person with any amount of sense would do.
But like I said, welcome to reality. Reality is, if I had any amount of sense I wouldn’t be involved in this bullshit to begin with. Plus when it comes down to it, I just can’t say no to this motherfucker. So I mentally grit my teeth, let Mel dip his key into the baggy for a quick bump, and it’s off to the motherfucking races once again. Just another madcap early-morning delivery in Hollywood. Just another crazy adventure that could end with me getting caught, getting burned, getting jacked, or any of the many worst case scenarios my paranoia spins out with the regularity of Mel getting fucked up. But that’s the life I chose. The life I lead. Business as fucking usual.
“The Enemy” is RR’s contributing writer, and he’s currently living in Los Angeles.