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A Tweaker's Adventures in Hollywood

In a remarkably realistic fictional excerpt from a new book, a crystal-craver describes in sweaty, twitchy detail what it's like to tweak your way from LA.

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By Joseph Mattson

10/20/11

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Don’t go to Pico-Union.

Not because of the general odds of being caught in gangwar crossfire, or because it’s one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, policed by the notoriously corrupt Rampart Division, beset by crime and hopelessness, but because the best shit is down there, and by best, I mean worst. The kind of wicked stuff that simulates ecstatic invincibility to its most superlative, supernova echelon—while swiftly as a calculating eagle it grips in its icy talons your heart, your skull, still pumping, pumping and gritting the amp dance, and carries them off for the final sacrifice. Harv holds there. He’s a rich mother, playing both sides of the border, he knows the game. He deals two floors subterranean in a squalid slipshod tenement built into a small slope, keeping south of the radar, and also has an estate in the Hollywood Hills, a mile above Franklin. But hell. If you’re going to go get drugs, then really go get your drugs. Have some guts about it. Forget the Hollywood Hills. Go to Pico-Union.

Here, you don’t have to deal with the crummy debutante princesses hanging around Harv’s Hills house, the ones who mistake speed for even more ego and pageantry than they were already bequeathed from their knotty-assholed, smug Black Beauty–gulping Industry parents before them. The cycle, it just does not end. Not only those godforsaken women who drape themselves ridiculously all over the place, but worse, their Chauncey boyfriends who can’t even hold their drink, let alone their amphetamine. The only thing worse than people who call the stuff “spizz”—naïve fools who can’t come to terms with what they’re doing and try to sugarcoat it as if it were kiddy candy, when it is exactly what it is: speed—are the inane, rich parasites who try so hard to be “down” by snorting with the proletarians, when what they really should be spending their easy money and family handouts on is holy pharmaceutically clean Dexedrine and Methedrine, or just go the other way and score some pure pressed opium, or, if they must go up, unadulterated Bolivian cocaine at the very least. Leave me and my drug of choice in peace. For my money—if I had any—I’d stick with the program.

Harv must’ve been up in the Hills, and Nettles, his skeleton wife, wasn’t keeping shop down at Pico-Union, which meant she probably found out that Harv was banging some Westside Debbie back at the ranch. None of his “lieutenants” were there either. Nobody answered. Normally, someone is always there.

By this time we’d caught the urge and were facing irate collapse, due to expectation.

“What now?”

“I have to piss,” Jim Grace hissed, and stormed off behind the tenement.

I leaned against the building, nauseated by the idea of going up into the Hills, when I heard a fiery “Hallelujah!” burst from the urination.

“Look at this,” Grace said, returning. “Perfect.”

“Your fly’s down.”

“Thanks. Okay, so check this out . . .”

Jim Grace had found a nice baggied chunk of ice in his customized underwear—a secret pocket sewn beneath the hangar for his testicles and padded against ball sweat with maxi pads—that he’d forgotten about. We sliced and crushed it even, two fat crystal caterpillars the size of joints, and snorted them behind a dumpster in a trash-ridden alley adjacent to Union. Instantly, my heart jammed itself up into my throat, my eyes blew wide. All dials and switches cranked. The raspy throat of the city screamed like ancient iron daggers against my eardrums and somehow it was sexy, invigorating, a mountainous delight. Compound wizards rewiring the brain to the tune of Armageddon. EVERYTHING GOES UP. I could hear a cricket jerking itself ten miles away. I was locked in.

It was a sun-destroyed four p.m. when we made for the bus. We walked dozens of blocks in swift minutes, the deltas of our chests soaked in long, wide Vs.

“We need your wheels.”

“Wheels, yes. And MUSIC. WE NEED MUSIC, NOW!” I yelped.

“NOT SO LOUD,” Grace said, loudly.

“Yes, you’re right, push the catheter in . . .”

“Catheter?”

“Never mind. We need to get to the number 4 bus if we want the car.”

“We can’t take the bus all the way,” Grace said.

“Into the Hills?”

“Yeah, that was all I had, for sure. We got lucky. I haven’t changed my underwear is all. Shit, I’d have washed that chunk later this evening. Lucky, damn lucky.”

“Let’s get the car,” I said.

We made it to the car in good enough time, just before the bus ride from downtown to Hollywood, to my house, might have made my cranium explode. There were bad vibes squaring us from all sides: plump brown mamas hauling bags of groceries and the tender elderly clutching lotto tickets—entirely evil in our peculiar state. Grace and I beyond tense, our innards gnashing at the walls of our skin, probably looking to our fellow passengers like two deranged deviant gimps who’d worked each other into a spastic, primordial lust fury and couldn’t wait for some serious fornicating in the privacy of our own home. It didn’t help that we were constantly whispering gibberish into each other’s ears.

After about an hour I located the keys—I’d hidden them from myself during the bad run the week prior—and we were doing 50 on Franklin, feverish for the turnoff up into La-La Land.

“There it is!” Grace screamed over the wail of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” spun up to earsplitting decibels.

“I know.”

“Man, fuck Cortez!” Grace howled, slapping his knees.

“Look,” I said, pointing out the windows at thick chaparral climbing up the rise, houses disappearing into the shadows of oak and rocky crags. “Old Mexico.”

“Fuck Spain! Fuck the United States! Goddamn goldbrickers! This is Mexico! Glorious Mexico!” Grace cried, now a hardwired demon full of fast rage.

“You’re not Mexican,” I said. I leaned into the left turn going at least 45 mph. After a good 15 minute bounce up the mountain, we reached the gate and were buzzed in.

Excerpted from The Speed Chronicles by Joseph Mattson with permission by the publisher. Joseph Mattson is the author of the collection of stories Eat Hell and Empty the Sun. Mattson also edited Two Letters Collection of Art and Writing Vol. 2. His novels, Hexico (awarded a 2011 City of Los Angeles Artist Fellowship) and Courting the Jaguar, are forthcoming in 2012/13. 

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