Entrepreneurs + Edibles - An Unnatural Union

 minute read

Sam Ellis

Author’s note: Select names have been changed in order to preserve individual’s identities, and quite frankly, dignities, in the following story. Likewise, certain facts and events have been disfigured by the ingestion of chocolate cocoa beans to which I cannot be held accountable. Christina and my identities remain obvious.

When I began writing this story, I thought it was a story about friendship. I had a vision about the entrepreneur’s journey, albeit a wacky one. I had intended on writing a long note on the importance of carving out time for a wellness weekend amidst all of the chaos of building a business. 

But now that I’ve written it, I see this is a simple story about entrepreneurs, risk-taking, and edibles. 

- - - 

When a friend invites you to Los Angeles for a “fun weekend” before your wedding, you generally accept. Weddings require a lot of fun weekends leading up to the main event because the pressure of the main event, despite what they’re selling us on TLC, is more migraine-inducing than you can imagine. Especially if you’ve decided on a destination wedding. For these reasons, when Christina invited me on this “girl’s trip,” I happily obliged. 

I had heard Los Angeles was the city of lost angels and lost people in general. These rumours excited me. I had previously only experienced LA in films and television as a place where blonde people find love and drugs. This, unfortunately, would not be the case for Christina and I. Our Los Angeles legacy would be forged on the streets of Santa Monica as the only two Canadians who have ever failed to purchase legalized weed.

Christina is an entrepreneur with a lovable touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I found myself boarding the plane equipped with an itemized itinerary and a custom Google Map with thirty-seven places to visit in our precious forty-six hours on California soil. By design. I was looking forward to finding time to relax in-between our three lunch reservations and back-to-back sessions at Barry’s Bootcamp. Like any good partnership, there must be balance. And we had a very good partnership. I was the slightly lazy yin to her energetic yang, the Rachel to her Monica, the mysteriously moustached Sonny to her charismatic Cher. And we were ready to party.

Friday, 1PM

We arrived at LAX, as Johnny Cash sings, in a fever. The wheels had barely touched down before I found myself whisked to Enterprise Rent-A-Car where Christina had made a very special reservation. It’s my firm belief that there are two kinds of people in this world; people who enjoy convertibles and people who strongly dislike convertibles. I am in the latter camp of people who just have never quite understood what’s so fun about violent wind. Nonetheless, the convertible rental was in the cards.

A quick exchange of keys and we were thundering down Jefferson Boulevard in a black BMW coupe sans sunscreen. It was August in California and the temperatures were hitting record highs. This fact alone may have thrilled sunseekers worldwide but as someone with vampire in my lineage, it became a surmounting problem as traffic grew heavier and heavier and a Tetris of Teslas stretched itself between our luggage and West Hollywood. Thankfully Christina had brought a baby pink baseball cap with us from Vancouver for just such an occasion. 

I tried to make as chic a ponytail as possible under this challenging hat in apocalyptic conditions. I had pictured us as a modern-day Thelma and Louise, cab drivers craning their necks to see what visions had arrived from the north, only to be met with the reflection of a Tara Reid-like character on her way home the Betty Ford Clinic in the rear-view mirror. My Irish skin has never taken well to warmth.  This was not my ideal entrance to the Petit Ermitage. But I would soon learn one can never be truly prepared for the circus. 

Friday, 2:30PM

The Petit Ermitage was on a shortlist of hotels Christina had curated for the weekend and been chosen for the honour on the account of one winning factor; it was known for its epic rooftop pool. I’m not usually a big pool gal, mainly because the chlorine turns my hair green and it’s relatively hard to look sexy in the shallow end. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to the scene.

The Petit Ermitage had a magical, layered quality. There were several vine-covered corners of the hotel where wild things grow, including Cartel dealer’s networks and Sunday hangovers. It smelled like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a jar labelled “Quaaludes” greeted us at reception. I liked the place. The rooms were nothing to write home about, but they did make good on that rooftop pool which was chock-full of character at all hours of the day.

The rooftop consists of a small rectangle of water (the pool) surrounded by acres of daybeds that don’t seem to ever end and yet are never empty. Loud, semi-famous Americans stretch out diagonally and vertically and horizontally, taking up more space than seems plausible in their wet neon bathing suits with equally drenched towels in order to signal that they have claimed their daybed and they mean full “day” business. The air smelled like weed, sweat, and santal. Spicy margaritas with imported jalapeño peppers are poured with such velocity one wonders if there might be a fountain of the mixture, or even youth itself, behind the bar. And at the Petit Ermitage, there just might be. 

Friday, 10PM

It was all fun in the sun that first day but as day turned to evening, we learned the true locals of this establishment were creatures of the night. Locals always are. 

We had just finished dinner at Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant. This concept initially sounded sacrilegious to me but was incredibly delicious on execution. A short stint at Catch, a peculiar energy of a spot, and we were over the public scene. Upon our return to the circus, we found ourselves finally inheriting land on a still damp pool lounger. There was room for two small people at best on this lounger, but we found our personal space being suddenly challenged by a shadow who had been circling the pool with a flamboyant cocktail in hand. This is when we met one Jean Clair. 

His name has been changed to Jean Clair to avoid any legal implications but rest assured, it rhymes with Jean Clair and is very much reminiscent of someone who both looks and sounds like a “Jean Clair.” If that isn’t enough of a description, I’ll tell you this; he was possibly 5 feet tall at most. His body was slender like a minx and tanned like expensive tobacco leather. He reminded me of an exotic cat a billionaire would keep in his house on Turks & Caicos named Ramses. He threw his body lithely in the middle of Christina and I. For some reason neither of us were alarmed, as if he might be some girlfriend we’d just flew in for gossip and giggles. He perched between us delicately, wanting more drinks and information.

“How do I find myself here? With such beauties?” he asked in a very dramatic French accent. 

He took a deep drag from a thin cigarette and I found myself oddly fascinated by his performance. He had incredibly tiny wrists. “I believe you find yourself here because you purchased a pool pass at this hotel,” I replied coquettishly. He seemed stumped by this logic. 

“But what luck and fortune has brought me to this place on such a night within the company of angels?” 

“Fortune” was a word he had had particular trouble pronouncing but I respected him for fighting through it anyways. “Many people purchase the same pool pass and enjoy the same comforts,” I was not equipped to flirt with the French. 

Though we were all growing bored with this dialogue it was admittingly exciting to have such an emboldened man approach us in a melodramatic way. He had the gift of perseverance and as we were extremely unthreatened, we let him linger.

“Would fate have it that I could buy such natural beauties a drink?” he persisted, winking or wincing.

“Yes, yes, fate would have it.” We acquiesced. The drinks were over-priced and we feared our bar tab.

Once we finally broke through the language barrier, we learned the basic structure of his life story. It turns out that Jean was the heir to a massive fashion brand that Christina and I were familiar with. He encouraged us to “Google him” and then when we politely declined, he Googled himself and showed us. I was beginning to worry for the women in Los Angeles who had to deal with this kind of behavior, but then I remembered I was worried for all women everywhere for similar male patterns. 

I did feel this backstory somehow explained his wrists.

After Google joined the party, we did what any pair of women would do in the presence of mass male ego, we professed our undying and legal love for one another. Our hopes to slip away from him into peaceful matrimony were dashed when this fact seemed only to intrigue him further. Alas, there were a lot of fish in the Petit Ermitage’s pool, but only one Jean Clair.

Saturday, 12AM

After this rather jarring experience at the pool, we proceeded to do everything in our humanly power to procure a joint. 

First, we put on our best Lazy American Hats and tried to Uber Eats it to the room. This service was heavily flawed in many areas, mainly involving a 2-3 hour wait. We decided to forgo Uber Eats, what a pain, and simply Uber to MedMen down the street. 

For those who aren’t familiar, MadMen is the Apple store for marijuana products. It’s not exactly elitist as it expensive and overstocked. The employees carry iPods around with them to take your order and try to pretend they themselves aren’t high. Some are better than others at this game. 

I spent an unreasonable amount of time perusing designer vape pens. They come in all sorts of pretty colours and sparkly packages and this is why I have a credit issue. By the time I made it to check out I had about 40 to 50 weed-related products in my plastic basket ready for their ultimate confiscation at the border. 

Turns out they make a strain of weed for everything; sleep, sex, stress, and even dinner parties with your in-laws. Just kidding, we all know that’s just plain weed. The edible industry has you covered; unless you didn’t bring your debit card

When travelling I generally use my VISA everywhere because that way I can pretend I’m not spending any money and that my parents might call out of the blue and say, “Hi, we’ve been thinking about gifting you your VISA bill this month for being such a standout adult!” This never happens but we spin such yarns to escape responsibility, don’t we? 

I watched the MadMen employee roll their bloodshot eyes and let out several exasperated breaths as she removed all 46 items from my basket. I couldn’t blame her. It’s funny when you only kind of want something because you think it would be fun and casual but as it grows more and more challenging to obtain said desire, you start to want it more than you’ve ever wanted anything in your entire god forsaken life. This is what was happening with weed, Christina, and I. 

I crawled back to the Uber to tell my wife the bad news. We were down, but not defeated. 

Saturday, 1AM

Back at the pool, we begged everyone with a pulse for a joint. They had all been smoked.

Saturday, 1:07AM

We met the bellboy. He offered us a promising option. He offered us to smoke the joint he thought he dropped on the floor of his car earlier that morning.

Saturday, 1:09AM

He had already smoked the joint he thought he dropped on the floor of his car earlier that morning.

Saturday, 1:16AM


Saturday, 10 AM

The thing about Los Angeles is that you can have a shameful evening and wake up the next day to sunshine and a breakfast nook of people who have been having nights like that for decades. Unfortunately for me, Christina doesn’t get hungover. I attribute this to the fact that she carries small bottles of saline with her from Sweden when she travels. She claims these insidious little vials “rejuvenate your PH level.” 

I thought this sounded like a cure for the pool and less like a cure for me, but because I wanted to emulate her enthusiasm, I took one. In order to ingest the mixture, you have to crack it open and chug it. So basically, you slurp saltwater through broken glass. I would describe the taste as akin to licking the inside of an old seashell. 

Saturday, 11AM-2PM

I’ve spared the reader details of these hours but just know they involved drinking rosé with minimalist names like “Stone” and “Block” at Butcher’s Daughter and shopping on Abbott Kinney boulevard where I was convinced to buy over-sized sunglasses because Jay-Z owned the company. Turns out he doesn’t. Just some guy who toured with him.

Saturday, 2PM

The Petit Ermitage is a magnet for people who actually live in Los Angeles but want to take a trip to the circus. I can hardly blame them. Thus, we found ourselves hosting Mandy for a cocktail. Mandy had gone to school with Christina but now lived in Los Angeles with her boyfriend Doug. Doug loved to chat, especially about tech. I wasn’t particularly chatty, but my interest was piqued when he mentioned he could get great edibles. He assured us he had an inline on “all the good stuff.” Mandy nodded her head, obviously strongly agreeing. She said she’d drop off some chocolates for us. “Very chill stuff,” Mandy said. 

None of this materialized Saturday. Thanks for nothing, Doug and Mandy.

Saturday, 11PM

Realizing our elevated vibes (still not high) wouldn’t get us ahead of the line, we bribed our way into a fabulous gay club Church by giving the bouncer leftover margherita pizza from Cecconi’s. This was my idea of which I was absurdly proud. 

And again, I asked around for a joint, testing our luck. I don’t even really like weed, but this was turning into a quest similar to the search for the Holy Grail. My new club friends looked at me like I had taken a hard right when I should have taken a hard left and passed me a tequila shot. 

Saturday, 3AM

It dawned on me after three hours dancing at Church, sandwiched amongst beautiful men who knew how to dance, that it was entirely plausible for me to recreate a life for myself in Los Angeles as a Cher impersonator and Queen of the Club.

Sunday, 11AM

We checked out of the Petit Ermitage. While I was sad to leave, I really wasn’t sad at all. We were accosted in the lobby by a man in Ritz Hotel slippers who was authentically on Quaaludes. He was the poster boy for Quaaludes. Apparently he lived up the street, but apparently this is what humans in LA do? Staycations in altered states. He was producing, “an Indie film about cats” which sounded like a crappier, low-budget version of Cats the musical. Because I didn’t want to tell him this had already been done and redone and even animated in 2019, I wished him luck and dodged his offer of an open bathrobe hug. 

Christina had grand ideas about going to Malibu. 

She had friends of friends who were having brunch at Elephanté. This sounded like a fancy French place for elephants but apparently it was very exclusive. It was also, “very close,” Christina said. Google Maps did not agree. I was beginning to get an anxiety sweat thinking about being in the convertible in the baby pink hat again. 

Had I not been through enough? How many levels of hell had Dante been forced to endure?

We argued a little but eventually agreed we weren’t the kind of friends who brunched at Elephanté. Again, Christina and I were a nice balance. She was not beyond reason, and I was not beyond a 5-mile radius adventure. One quick pasta lunch stop later at Bieber’s go-to Beverly Hills spot, Il Pastaio, we found ourselves surrounded by chic dogs drinking mineral water and sitting at the table. Were we high? Nope, not yet. From one sharp turn to another, we found ourselves at Lucky Nail Salon on our way to LAX. 

Sunday, 1PM

Lucky Nail salon is a place for only the very unlucky. It was created for tourists like us who happen to think, “Maybe it would be fun and relaxing to get a manicure before we head back to our real home!” This is why it’s located right smack next to the airport. The most successful traps are always obvious. Like tax returns and Boxing Day. 

I knew something was wrong when the manicurist with a retro perm started covering only my right foot in saran wrap. I could understand why this might be an outside-of-the-box treatment, but I couldn’t understand for the life of me why only my right foot was gifted with the experience.

Elsewhere in the salon, a woman was getting her moustache waxed and Christina had a surprise brewing for me.

Sunday, 2PM

Christina claimed she “accidentally” missed the exit to Enterprise and thus our final convertible ride was 20 minutes longer than necessary. She really could have had a canonical career in crime.

When we finally dropped the car at the station, Christina felt confident to produce her surprise. In her delicate palm rested a tiny container of chocolate-covered cocoa beans. The elusive edibles had finally materialized and the first emotion I felt was paralyzing fear. 

Mandy had delivered. Christina echoed her drug dealer’s disclaimer of chillness. Because I trust too easily, I trusted this assurance.  

And they were chill, Mandy. 

If by “very chill” you meant, “Will hit you head-on like a bullet train,” then yes, they were chill. If by “very chill,” you meant, “You are going to wish you were never born and find yourself huddled in a corner in the Air Canada Lounge calling your ex-lovers asking for a Sprite and a second chance,” then yes, they were chill. 

Christina suggested we take three each. I countered with two. We landed on 1 and lined up for the shuttle.

Sunday, 2:14PM

Everyone on the shuttle was looking at me. 

Sunday, 2:30PM

Christina and I upgraded to Premium Economy, granting us access to the Maple Leaf Lounge. 

A small bell tolls in the distance.

Waves crash into the sea.

Sunday, 2:32PM

I purchased a bag of Lays Original chips from an airport kiosk.

Sunday, 2:35PM

I placed this bag of Lays Original Chips in its own bin to pass safely through a LAX security scanner. It's very own bin. 

The LAX security woman winked at me.

Sunday, 2:37PM

The LAX security woman was still staring at me. 

Sunday, 2:39PM

We arrived at the Maple Leaf Lounge. We had not spoken a word to one another since the shuttle. We reached for words but drown in stunning silence.

I sent a message to a friend who was formerly a pothead. This was the most rational thing I’ve done in an hour. He said this type of weed is known on the streets as “couch glue.” He sent his condolences.

We noticed the buffet.

Sunday, 2:40PM

We dramatically tried to find comfortable seats in the lounge, though it was mostly empty. We moved places three to four times and not always in sync. Sometimes I was in a lounger and Christina was on a loveseat. Other times I was on a metal stool at the bar and Christina was at the community table avoiding eye contact, hardly keeping her eyes open, I think she was asleep.

I could tell by Christina’s facial expression, which was so neutral she’s close to unconscious, that the panic and paranoia was setting in. 

We each had an oatmeal cookie.

Sunday, 2:41PM

I have read the same line in a Forbes magazine 100 times.

“She discovered she had a knack for it, possessing a steady hand, a gift for problem solving, almost limitless concentration, and the desire to overcome any challenge—qualities that would prove useful for running her own business.” I wonder which, if any, of qualities key to successful entrepreneurship I might still possess by the end of this trip.

We each have a chocolate chip cookie.

Sunday, 2:43PM

Christina appeared to be making an anxious call to someone. I could tell she was anxious because she was huddled in the corner by the entrance of the lounge on her phone, whispering loudly. The concierge looked concerned. But she had three eyes, or so I was seeing through my bloodshot ones, so she had a right to be concerned.

Sunday, 2:44PM

I had to silence Christina’s texts as they were arriving in such a fury.

Christina: Everybody knows.
Me: Nobody knows.
Christina: The concierge knows.
Me: You’re right, she knows.
Christina: We’re going to be barred from the flight.
Me: Should we have another cookie? No, we’ve had too many.
Christina: We haven’t had the butterscotch.

We each have a butterscotch cookie.

Sunday, 3:15PM

Our flight is delayed one hour. Elsewhere, crops die. People write novels. Babies are born. Dreams turn into dust. Horses run wild in the prairies.

Sunday, 3:17PM

We took a moment to collect ourselves in separate bathroom stalls. We still have not uttered a word to one another in person.

Sunday, 6:00PM

We successfully boarded the plane. Christina insisted on unfolding her food tray pre-takeoff.  

The flight attendant repeatedly told her to stop this behaviour immediately.

Sunday, 6:01PM

Christina unfolded her food tray again. I pondered consciousness. Life itself. Gravity.

Sunday, 9:00PM
We arrived back in Vancouver utterly transformed by the weekend. Never to speak of this very chill experience again.

- - - 

Editors note: (as someone who was on the journey)

So, if you made it this far, your stamina is impressive and would likely contribute to successful entrepreneurial feats. Provided you’re still reading, I feel compelled to add some pearls of wisdom from the non-risk averse adventuring founders:

In the midst of the chaos, get focused on the present. Sometimes that feels like one foot in front of another or one enjoyable, yet stale, cookie at a time. When it feels like the world is melting, belly breathe and focus on something that will bring you back to the current moment. Even if it’s the same magazine line over and over again. 

Sometimes it's best to simply stop talking. In a reactive state, don’t risk losing value in your word. Be the wallflower. And lean on a support system (friend) that holds space for your vulnerability.

And, life is one big experience, so why hold back? Experience it, and go on and share the wisdom. 

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