“photography of smoke” by Paul Wong on Unsplash

Floating In a Blue Dream

The life of a working musician is nothing to be revered. Forget what you see on the Grammys. There are no after parties, no gift bags, no cheering fans, and certainly no awards. Just week after soul crushing week of giving $40 guitar lessons to spoiled tweens who spend most of the designated hour staring at their phones. And endless nights in bar band purgatory jamming “Play That Funky Music White Boy” until last call at 2 A.M. Then chasing down the deadbeat bar manager to get the band’s $200 for the night.

Dale found himself pushing through another Wednesday night, standing on a dirty black stage beneath dull red and blue lights at The Beatnik Bar in Laguna Beach. He was playing rhythm guitar with Joe Steel and the Bandits, wrapping up a fourth and final set with The Stones’s “Honky Tonk Woman.” Strumming that song was a real hassle because it forced Dale to re-tune his Telecaster to the open G tuning that was invented by some long forgotten dude but made famous by Keith Richards in the 70s.

When that last song limped its way toward a technical finish, there was no applause or cheering, just the clattering of a few glasses scooped up by a weary eyed waitress who was way too sexy to ever be sighted socially in such a dump.

These late nights were really hitting Dale hard now that he had earned a one way ticket on the Geezerville Express. Age is a foul mouthed old bitch hell bent on taking what is hers. As soon as Dale shut the front door to his apartment at 3 A.M., the ringing in his ears engulfed his head with a tremendous roar.

*

The harsh morning sun violated the peaceful bedroom, as Dale lied in bed refusing to acknowledge that he was already awake. So he just lingered under the sheets and endured all sorts of thoughts. The thoughts shot at him fast and erratic, without any real connection between them, like random flickering images splattering against a wall. Dale’s head had become a non-stop loop of bad movie trailers. What would have become of the United States if Jimmy Carter had defeated Ronald Reagan in 1980? Do those new Honda hydrogen cars explode when they crash? Why had it taken so long for scientists to discover the chicken pox vaccine?

After another night of insomnia and unchecked angst, Dale’s eyes felt bloodshot before they were even open. This would be a four cup of coffee kind of a day, with one of those 5-Hour Energy bullshit things around 3 PM.

The Mental Misery Outlet was open for business.

After polishing off a bowl of LIFE cereal and a plain bagel, Dale pawed past some pill bottles to grab a joint from his medicine cabinet. Dale felt like his pot somehow had a more respectable and justified existence if he housed it in close quarters with more legitimate medicine. So there sat Dale’s little bag of brown joints, next to bottles full of chemicals with labels like DayQuil and Robitussin.

*

Dale made his first trip to the new marijuana dispensary on the corner, across from the 7–11. He had expected a tattoo parlor type of ambiance, but was pleasantly surprised. Real hardwood floor — that expensive, dark “distressed” stuff made of boards that looked as if they had been pried from an ancient shipwreck. Fancy bright lights and spotless glass display counters. Two heavily armed guards with guns visible, wearing Kevlar ammo vests and great big smiles. “Good morning, Sir.”

Behind the counter, She stood at attention, ready to greet Dale. She, with the radiant flowing black hair, slender milky arms, perfect rows of glistening white teeth, lush lips, bright blue sapphire eyes, and breasts that stood bolt upright at all times day and night, looking as if they had been expecting Dale at any moment.

She talked while Dale stuttered and grimaced with an occasional, random half smile. “This here is called ‘Blue Dream.’ It will make you nice and relaxed — you’ll love it!” But Dale wasn’t thinking about pot anymore. The skin of Her neck was tight and firm like a snare drum and Dale just stared and wondered how she would feel under his calloused fingers. Dale bought whatever She had recommended without saying a word and sheepishly exited the dispensary.

*

Dale had planned to smoke an occasional joint on weekends, but the stuff was just too wonderful and it overtook him rapidly. It didn’t take long until Dale surrendered to an eventual “wake and bake” routine. Dale rolled out of bed each morning and ceremoniously held the joint between his thumb and index finger. The soft rolling paper caressed Dale’s skin and he could sense the gentle relief the Blue Dream joint was just waiting to release. The Zippo lighter flicked that all too familiar sound of hollow steel under Dale’s thumb and the flame shot high and straight. The tip of the joint stood out of Dale’s mouth like a stiff diving board. The steady flame seemed to magically find its way to the end of the joint instinctively.

Every dancer in this elegant ballet knew her place and executed her moves flawlessly. The soothing smoke from the Blue Dream joint tasted like a chocolate milkshake in heaven and smelled like a deserted Tahitian beach at midnight.

Dale’s body floated and his mind focused, and all physical and mental pain evaporated into the cosmos. Dale saw colors and floating orbs and psychedelic swirls. Crickets danced and frogs roared and a steady calmness settled into Dale’s core.

The Mental Misery Outlet was closed until further notice.

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