At an intersection just east of another more congested intersection in Los Angeles is an old fast food restaurant building reclaimed for another purpose entirely. For the last five years this dispensary has sat among residential neighborhoods densely packed with apartments, condos and a sprinkling of houses. Its front door faces Bob’s Liquor across the street, the vintage signage lit up against the sunset.
I’d followed my smart phone’s maps while driving elsewhere recently and happened by this building. My guess was that it might be an old Pioneer Chicken. What caught my eye were the window murals featuring South Park iconography and one very distinct green cross. AS SEEN ON SOUTH PARK one window shouts in the quintessential font of standard window paint signs hoping to grab customers’ attention. It worked.
Walking in the door it’s clear that the place is not up for “The Cleanest, Most Well-Kept Dispensary” award. There have been some minor changes to the interior but the tile floor suggests “1970s fast food restaurant.” I realize it’s not an old Pioneer Chicken but an old Kentucky Fried Chicken when I spot the name of the place inside: Kind For Cures, or KFC for short. A glass case with disheveled white wire racks still lives here and I remember the cases from childhood that held cole slaw and chocolate parfaits. The glass is foggy and there’s nothing inside.
On top of the case is a smattering of business cards advertising catering, self-storage, marijuana attorneys, a brochure for a psychic medium and spiritual advisor, and cardstock flyers for the very doctor I visited to obtain my prescription. I pick up one of each, including a page of coupons for Knott’s Berry Farm.
The security window that separates me from the young male receptionist has the slimmest of openings in which to pass the clipboard of forms and identification and prescription cards back and forth. My companion and I sit on two of the three folding chairs to complete the forms.
“Metal Horns,” aka “Kind For Cures,” aka KFC asks, at the bottom of the last page of the three page document I’m initialing and signing, in larger, bolder font than the rest: Are You A Member of Law Enforcement? with two lines for yes or no. The document also states that I am “required to cultivate” as a member of this dispensary, something I haven’t noticed before on any other dispensary’s paperwork.
I slide the clipboard back through and ask, “Am I able to get a photocopy of this?”
Instead of a “no” I get a look like it’s an absurd request, a throwing up of hands like, do you see a photocopier in here?
I switch gears. “I’ve never seen this before. I’m ‘required to cultivate’? What does that mean?”
He explains in a slightly exasperated tone that I’m not required to cultivate, but since, as a patient, I’m allowed to grow my own, the phrasing is there to “protect” me.
We return to our folding chairs and wait, as has become customary at our dispensary visits. Traffic is heavy. The extension of the Los Angeles Exposition rail line is nearby, which may or may not be a boon to this primarily residential neighborhood. The voices of children chatting with adults in Spanish lilts over the sound of cars as families walk by the dispensary.
When we’re allowed into the buying room I notice there is no fish tank and no dog bowl. The décor is a mélange of cardboard cutouts of South Park characters, leopard print, glass bricks, and black and red paint. A claw machine takes up one corner, the treasures being one black plastic water bottle atop a mountain of plush toys. Cinderblocks prop up a large flat screen television. An ATM in the room advertises a free joint for using the machine. Smallish bumper stickers are for sale on a revolving stand: GIRLFRIEND WANTED. There is a standard refrigerated edibles case and T-shirts, tank tops, and hats for sale ($18). Glass cases house the standard offerings of pipes and Visine, but also a tray of what look like replacement parts for water pipes. On one wall, next to the enormous white boards listing all the strains available, are other offerings, such as Advil.
Between glances at the security television with cameras pointed at about six different spots around and inside the building, the man behind the counter answers our questions in a world-weary tone. When my companion asks if it’s okay that we take our time looking, he responds, “I got nothing but time.” I notice there’s no jeweler’s loupe or lamp. At least a couple dozen standard Mason jars are in the glass case and the counterperson offers us sniffs of various strains, such as the Manager’s Special, “Silver Velvet.” A phalanx of blue and green plastic containers stand on the counter waiting to be filled. Paper adhesive labels on some of the containers feature Albert Einstein in a Colonel Sanders uniform with a spoof equation of “K=FC2.”
“You offer gift certificates?” I ask after seeing a weathered-looking one on the wall.
“Yeah,” the counterperson answers. I also see a coupon worth one joint, fashioned to look like a dollar bill, only this time the Colonel is demonic with red eyes.
After finding out they’re open until midnight, we thank our counterperson and exit back into the lobby.
“So this was a KFC?” I confirm with the receptionist.
“Yeah,” he replies, and goes on to point me in the direction of South Park, season 13, “I think.”
A small coffee table has sun-bleached copies of magazines, including a Pottery Barn Teen catalog. It’s then that I realize we were the only women present in the time we’ve been at the dispensary, which is unusual in our experiences so far. Is it the “This Ain’t No Chicken Joint Keep Your Laws Off My Chicken Joint” South Park signage? Is it the slightly scruffy vibe of the place? My companion reminds me this neighborhood is often a decently affordable temporary home for UCLA students.
Later when I check on the related South Park episode, we find that it’s actually season 14, episode 3, which aired in 2010. Title: “Medicinal Fried Chicken.”