One Sunday not too long ago, the homie Jayce "FL" Cabell and I went to South Broadway to see Slick Rick at 3 Kings Tavern. We arrived in the area around nine o'clock and burdened a pipe with broken-down marijuana crumbs before drifting toward our destination.
Rarely do I smoke in public, but when you're hanging with FL, you'd better be ready to light one up: We're talking about a man whose last album was called Young Amsterdam. He's practically a weed ambassador.
The bar was packed full of white people awkwardly scanning one another, waiting for the elation of adulthood to ignite, hoping to speed up the process by drinking more alcohol.
I was put at ease by the sweet sounds of '90s hip-hop duo Nice & Smooth. I focused my attention on the DJ booth, and to my surprise, I found musical expert and peerless producer Zak Harper there. We talked for a bit, then FL and I split to go flier the town for an upcoming show.
We walked north along Broadway. For me, this neighborhood has become a void that exists somewhere between Williamsburg and the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, a place where you could potentially be felt up by a frat brother who recently grew a beard for Movember and bought his first pair of leggings. Although it was Sunday, people were on the streets, in all manner of indie fashion, pouring out of the watering holes to loosely converse over loosies.
We occupied Lu Jaq's Liquors for the best four minutes of my night. FL was purchasing a pack of Marlboro 27s, and the clerk, a South Korean secret-wizard dad, entertained us. He spoke in broken English and had the charisma of a New York street performer. He consummated the sale with style, tossing the pack behind his back like a Harlem globetrotter. While dispensing FL's change, he combined his customer-service skills with illusion, placing the bills in one of FL's hands while cohering a nickel to his own forehead, dropping the coin from there into his customer's other hand. If you're looking for something to do on South Broadway on a Sunday, Lu Jaq's is the place to be.
From there we headed south again, haphazardly fliering the strip on our way back to 3 Kings. The bar had grown more crowded but was not yet bursting at the seams. I stepped outside with FL so he could smoke a stogie. An incoherent swain stumbled along and began throwing words out of his mouth, his face inches from mine. "Who's your mom? Is she white?" he blurted, fumbling each word over the next. I watched the cigarette dangle from his lips as he spoke. You can tell a lot about a person from his shoes; his reminded me of a busted white Suzuki Vitara from the early '90s. Eventually he hugged us and made his way down Broadway.
Slick Rick's stage show was a debacle. He sang halfheartedly into the microphone and ended songs abruptly when he felt the need. It all seemed like a bad dream. The crowd had become a raucous, chaotic wave, everyone within it pushing forward toward the stage. You could see the turbulence in their eyes.
The man in the Suzuki shoes appeared in the corner of my vision, smashing his way to the front of the stage, seizing people by the skin of their faces, jeering and yelling lyrics into their eyes as if they were his own personal microphone. But he did seem to be having fun, and he was undeniably the only person in the crowd rhyming every Slick Rick lyric.
Altering one's reality is an everyday occurrence, from the coffee we sip in the morning to the marijuana we consume in our basements. Drugs and alcohol can assist artists in their development, ideas and style. Those same substances can help audiences appreciate art, bringing creators and consumers closer. But they can also drive people apart. The house of booze leaves its light on for all visitors, old and new, and I used to be drawn to it all too often. On this night, however, I was looking through a cannabinoid lens, and I felt far from home.
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