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August 29, 2012

(excerpted from The Ketamine Sun by Cole Coonce)

Mikal Kiev’s video shop was a storefront on the east side of Lankershim, just south of Victory. When I had searched online for Kiev’s place of business, at first I read the results as “Camelot.” When I blinked and saw it actually read “Come-a-lot,” I realized my mind’s eye had defensively conflated a vowel so my brain would not have to endure the pain of the puerile pun.

The shop entrance was in the back, accessible by an alley that buttressed a liquor store, a strip club and a medical marijuana dispensary whose signage featured a dancing, smiling tooth. It was called “Happy Mouth Mental Clinic.” On the sign, the word “Mental” appears to have altered and derived from “Dental” and was the only modification from the previous business’s verbiage. Indeed, before it was a reefer emporium, “Happy Mouth” must have been a dentist’s office, catering to hapless immigrants with or without Medicare or even insurance, but now it went after a more lucrative trade, one that was less bureaucratic, and, because of the vacuum of oversight and regulation, one unconcerned with nagging details like sterilizing instruments. Despite its name, apparently “Happy Mouth” only made its clientele only marginally satisfied, as a menagerie of broken dirty crack pipes circled the business’s entrance like the poison pedals of a fetid flower. Peering inside, I could see the dispenser—a white dude with dreads, sporting a yellow Shabba Ranks t-shirt—rocking on his heels, swaying in time to some mechanical and bombastic reggaeton braying out of high-wattage sound system. The office ambiance of the medical trade has come along way since the days of Muzak. As I walked by, the dispenser smiled wide like his business’s icon. I walked through the alley, looked over both shoulders and entered Come-a-lot.

Kiev’s space was not just a retail outlet, but also a micro video-production studio. Beyond a smattering of shelves housing adult tapes and discs, a concrete floor lay partially covered with a hodgepodge of Persian rugs. Off in the corner, stood a smattering of film lights on metal stands buttressing an unoccupied, unmade king-sized bed. Sex toys and half-empty bottles of water sat on a bureau and a night stand. A candy bar-sized camera on a tripod tilted precariously, limp and pointed towards the unforgiving concrete. Cremora Creamer and similar hot talent could ply their trade here after hours. This was the new dream factory for nubile flesh, streaming live in high-definition, pending confirmation of credit card numbers and three CVC digits, of course.

To than end, egg crates and video boxes were tacked to the walls in a clumsy attempt at sound proofing, but the dampening barely calmed the thumping reggaeton from the clinic next door, thus allowing for an incidental score. Blue smoke hung in the air inscrutably like oxygen-deprived paper moons. Apparently, if the clouds of chronic were any indicator, Come-a-lot and Happy Mouth had some sort of barter and exchange program. The entire place reeked of Bunny Wailer and strawberry-flavored personal lotion.

At the entrance of the store, a bored, stoned, tatted, gum-popping bleach-blond Armenian woman sat at a desk set with a laptop, a cash register and a credit-card scanner. She half-smiled, distorting a pair of lips smeared purple. She had an overbite made for a set of panpipes.


(excerpted from The Ketamine Sun by Cole Coonce)




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