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It took me several years of weed-free living to realize the power it had over me.

Twelve marijuana dispensaries exist within a four-mile radius of my Los Angeles home. The stores are quirky and reek of weed-inspired names like The Coughy Shop, Gram Central Station, The Green Mile, Herbal Outfitters, Higher Path, Hollyweed, Pipe Dreams, The Growcery, The Pottery and Uncle Herb’s. Los Angeles has nearly 200 licensed marijuana dispensaries and more than 900 licensed sellers. At a fee of $4,233 per license, that’s quite a haul for the city.

In the 2020 election, four new states legalized marijuana. This brought the total number of weed-legal states to 15. Weed has never been easier and cheaper to purchase. Even with an overall tax rate above 30% (state excise tax + sales tax + cannabis tax), the average consumer cost for a gram of weed in California is $12.50. An eighth-gram (3.5 …


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The 1972 Lakers won 33 consecutive games, a record to this day.

The streak began on an ominous note. It was November 5, 1971 and Coach Bill Sharman approached Elgin Baylor with an ultimatum. The Los Angeles Lakers were 6–3 but Sharman was disappointed in the team’s play. He wanted a fast-break style and Baylor was slowing down the offense.

Sharman told Baylor, “Elgin, I feel terrible, but I know you have a bad leg… so I thought I’d bring you in as a substitute.” Baylor replied, “I don’t want to be a substitute and I’m still injured so it’s best that I retire.” …


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Academy Award winning actor Jack Palance was once a professional boxer.

Yes, he was this scary in person. I worked with Jack Palance in 1992 on the television series Legends of the West. He was intimidating. His height, his sharp cheekbones, his intense silence — all added to an aura of quiet menace. When I gained the courage to speak with him I learned his silence was merely shyness. He told me about his fondness for watercolor painting, his love of poetry, his huge cattle ranch in Bakersfield. He shared concerns over his son Cody who was battling drug addiction (Cody worked as a stuntman on the show.) …


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Paint pigments at a market stall in India.

The Scream is fading. Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting depicting a shrieking, agonized face is slowly losing it’s vibrancy. Yellows are fading to white and tiny pieces of paint are flaking away. A similar thing is happening with Van Gogh’s Field of Irises Near Arles. The once vivid chrome yellow has faded to a dullish brown. Another Van Gogh piece, The Bedroom, originally featured soft purple walls. The red pigment has broken down and the walls are now blue.

Van Gogh and Munch lived during a time of revolutionary change in the art world. Progress in the chemical industry introduced pre-made paints to the marketplace for the first time. Factories tested paints for vibrancy but not for longevity. Many paints contained impurities and the pigments were unstable. …


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My father was experiencing pain in the middle and index finger of his right hand. His doctor said it was likely arthritis and recommended Tylenol and hot and cold compresses. My father followed instructions but the pain grew worse until he couldn’t bend his fingers. He went to a hand specialist. Tests were negative and the diagnosis was the same: arthritic joints due to aging.

I suggested my dad visit the applied kinesiologist I’d been seeing for several years to treat my headaches and allergies. My father was resistant. He was a traditionalist committed to western medicine and he viewed alternative healing modes as quackery. I offered to pay the $150 fee and take him to lunch afterwards at his favorite deli. …


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Beat Generation Author Jack Kerouac (1956).

In the winter of 1948, Jack Kerouac went on his famous cross-country road trip with Neal Cassady. They visited old friends, all-night cafes, broken down bars and forgotten towns. They acquired food, money and gas by whatever means possible, and arrived in San Francisco in 1949 broke and exhausted.

Reflecting on his journey, Kerouac experimented with a frenetic, Benzedrine-fueled writing style he called “Self Ultimacy.” He’d fall into a deep trance and write with chaotic speed, channeling spontaneous prose that jibed with the ethos of “first thought best thought.” Like the surrealists, Kerouac believed in the William James construct that “mind is shapely.” His writing style was influenced by the jazz bebop of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and the concept of breathing in Buddhist meditation. …


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Film Director John “Bud” Cardos.

John “Bud” Cardos is a filmmaking renaissance man. Known for directing horror films, he’s worked as an actor, stunt man, teamster driver, assistant director, special effects coordinator, production manager, art director and animal wrangler. Quentin Tarantino called Cardos his favorite western stuntman saying, “Cardos is one of those dusty drinks of water who comes riding out of the chute on the back of a two-ton beast frothing at the mouth, bent on throwing him into the muck and stomping the shit out of him.”

Bud and my father were close friends. They made three horror films together, my father producing while Cardos directed. The most prominent was Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), a “nature fights back” thriller starring William Shatner. I was 13 when the movie was shot in Camp Verde, Arizona. I had a tiny role as an extra running for his life while killer tarantulas attacked a small town. Bud gave me a closeup, instructing me to stop briefly in front of the camera while live spiders crawled over my face. …


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Derek Fisher, Lakers Legend.

Derek Fisher was an underrated Lakers star during their 2000–2009 championship era. While Kobe and Shaquille monopolized the limelight, Fisher did the little things needed for victory. He dove for loose balls, took charges, set hard picks and guarded the opponent’s star player. He was humble, tenacious and tough. He was also a calming presence in the the ongoing feud between Shaq and Kobe.

Fisher was drafted in 1997, the same draft as Kobe Bryant. Where Kobe was a prodigy, Derek had to toil for everything he achieved. During their rookie year, Fisher and Kobe played constant one-on-one games after practice. They went at each other hard almost coming to blows. …


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Musician and American Treasure Tom Waits.

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

Tom Waits is a street poet with a heart of tarnished brass. With a voice like broken tiles spinning in an old washing machine, Waits fuses the pathos of Louis Armstrong, the ramblings of Charles Bukowski and the earnestness of Bing Crosby.

In the 80s, Waits lived in the Tropicana Motel on Sunset Boulevard. He could be seen driving the streets of Hollywood in his Cadillac Coupe De Ville, his arm slung out the window holding a cigarette. He could also be heard playing music at the Troubadour or Burbank Airport.

Waits once witnessed an altercation between local musicians and plainclothes police officers at Duke’s Coffee Shop in Hollywood. When he and his pal Chuck E. Weiss came to the aid of the musicians, Waits was roughed up and arrested by the police. …


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Tommy Bina, owner of the Laurel Canyon Country Store in Los Angeles.

Tommy Bina is owner of the legendary Canyon Country Store. Located halfway up Laurel Canyon, the store was immortalized by The Doors in the song Love Street as the “store where the creatures meet.” It was originally built in 1908 as a lodge for local hunters and was accessible only by trackless trolly. The lodge burnt down in 1929 and was rebuilt using brick and stones from a river that flowed near Laurel Canyon.

The Country Store became the center of the Los Angeles counter-culture hippie movement. Jim Morrison and girlfriend Pamela Courson lived in a house adjacent to the store in the early 60s. The store’s outdoor patio became an impromptu stage for jam sessions featuring canyon denizens Frank Zappa, Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell and Cass Elliott. While living in the Canyon, Joni Mitchell wrote Ladies of the Canyon and Graham Nash wrote Our House. Mama Cass lived in the store’s basement when she moved to Los Angeles.

Tommy bought the store in 1982 and quickly became a staple of Laurel Canyon life. He loves to tell the story about the time a stylishly-dressed man came in asking for “Flakes,” a British candy bar. When Tommy realized the man was David Bowie he began stocking the chocolate. …

About

Loren Kantor

Loren is a writer and woodcut artist based in Los Angeles. He teaches printmaking and creative writing to kids and adults.

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