Past, Over: The East Village Lingerie-Marijuana Store

Rod Townsend (aka our commenter Momo), sometimes receives telephone calls from The Past, a mysterious entity that remembers where things used to be in New York before Starbucks and Whole Foods came to town.

"Hello?"

"Heh. Um. Do you, uh, have Prince Alfred in a can?"

"Let me guess. The Past?"

"Dude. You're so fun."

"Gosh, um..."

"Psych! You're not. At all. But I still love you. What's up?"

"Just sort of waiting for my dealer to call."

"Oh, how long ago did you beep him?"

"Beep him?"

"Yeah. You beep your dealer. As soon as he can get to a pay phone he calls you and tells you when he'll be coming by. Convenient if you're in that 'too-paranoid-or-wired-to-leave-the-house' mode, but not really preferable to just going out to get what you need."

"Like going to the dealer's house?"

"I would never send you to a crackhouse."

"We don't have those so much anymore, although there is the occasional meth lab."

"Meth? As in crystal meth? Are you in New York or the Ozarks? Insane. Do you ever go to The Lingerie Store?"

"Dude. I don't cross-dress. Often."

Past, Over: The East Village Lingerie-Marijuana Store

"No, no. This is a lingerie store that probably never sold a single Maidenform. In fact, it's not really even a lingerie store; we just call it that because of the chipped-nose mannequin in the front window wearing a pink and maroon teddy. All of the clothes looked like they were stolen from Laurie Anderson's laundry hamper and then recombined in the most mismatched of ways."

"And you're suggesting I go this place why, exactly?"

"Patience, buddy. So you go to the counter and hopefully you'll meet a nice middle-aged lady with salt-and-pepper dreadlocks. Ask Etta for 'something special.' She'll then ask how much you're looking to spend, step through a door behind the counter and come back with your weed. Voila!"

"But what kinds of weed are available? I prefer a specific grade of Canadian organic seedless that..."

"Hold up. Are you kidding me?"

"No. It's like Starbucks now. People have very specific tastes."

"Well, Starbucks sounds like a good place to buy weed, but I've never heard of it. If you start asking Etta a bunch of questions, you'd meet Big Guy for sure. Hell, Big Guy'd actually probably come out before you even got to your questions anyway unless you had an introduction."

"What are you..."

"The place is run by these Jamaicans (or, like, Trinidadians, or, Tobagoans or Somethingians). If you're black or Latin then you probably won't have a problem. But if you come in there looking all NYPD Blue meets Police Academy and asking a million questions, Big Guy is going to come out. Luckily I was banging a Latin guy that intro'd Etta to me, but even then there was the occasional trouble when Etta wasn't working."

"Trouble?"

"One time I came in and said the usual thing, the I was looking for 'something special.' But some other lady was behind the counter and the lady went through the door and out comes Even Bigger Guy. He stares me down and tells me in this scary-ass voice, "Get out my store."

"But if I wasn't white it wouldn't be a big deal? That's discriminatory."

"Dude, it's good business-sense. When it comes to marginal activities, white people are just trouble."

"You know what? My dealer's been telling me 'twenny minnit' for two hours now, so maybe I should go check this place out."

"Attaboy! Okay, so you want to go to East Second Street. The Lingerie Store's on the same side of the street as that cute little cemetery that always serves to freak a body out when you're walking home from the club, and it's closer to First than Second Ave. Don't be a numbnuts and look around at the clothes. Go straight up to the counter with a confident, but kind of unfriendly smile. Then just stick with the script I gave you and don't be such a white boy about it."

"It sounds too easy. If I end up missing my dealer and this store isn't around anymore, I'm gonna be annoyed—for instance, if it became some sad, run-down property management office...."

"My dear Present, I'd never steer you wrong. I smoke their stuff every time I call you."