Cigars, tacos and Laguna Beach

Taco Loco owner Gonzalo Rebollar receives a flower necklace from a patron Thursday night. (Aryian Malekpourshirazi)

A firsthand story of cruising down Laguna Beach for smokes, food and conversation

It was a Sunday afternoon and I was driving down Pacific Coast Highway, somewhere in Laguna Beach. My deadline was the next day and once again with most things, I waited until the last moment to get started. The weather was cloudy, yet it wasn’t raining, so I was able to listen to my ‘80s Japanese pop with the windows down and the sunroof open. I was in desperate need of some sort of tobacco. The cravings intensified, so I decided to make an essential stop at Cubanas Cigars, a subtle little shop on PCH.

I found it important to introduce myself to the shopkeeper. It’s always good to open yourself up to conversation; you never know what you might learn. He was a middle-aged man named Reza, and I quickly became aware that this man was Persian, like me. I spoke to him in Farsi and gathered information about the shop, which had been around for 17 years. Lately, it had become an asylum for locals trying to escape Laguna’s anti-smoking laws. A place where you can seek refuge and have yourself a fine cigar with brandy on the side, where you can sit on a leather chair and converse with your fellow customers.

Now I’m not one for cigars, but more into inhaling the smoke, without a sense of throwing up. So I got myself a pack of Al Capone filtered cigarillos (cognac dipped). A smooth, tasty drag which one could find themselves quickly hooked on. I took a seat while Reza helped another customer.

“So my friend, how long have you been in America.” He asked after finishing up with the customer.

“oh no…I’ve always been here, I was born here.” I replied while sparking another one of my smokes.

An hour had passed, one after the other however, I found myself feeling a little sick. Perhaps I smoked too many on an empty stomach, or perhaps I was getting bored. Anyhow, I was hungry and had gotten my fix. I bid farewell to Reza and left.

Back on PCH again, this time heading north towards the well-known Taco Loco of Laguna Beach.  The man whom I suspected to be the owner stood behind the counter with his colorful bandana and scarf, and his many necklaces and bracelets. You can tell he was a man of culture. I acknowledged Locos vibes. He smiled and said, “thank you.” I asked his name and who the owner was: “me” he responded, pointing to himself, smiling again. He then handed me a business card with his name on it, Gonzalo Rebollar, “or Gonzo for short” he said.

Meanwhile, I ordered two of the calamari tacos he recommended. The more we began to talk the more obvious it was how much of a joyous, loving and accepting character he is. I tried to match his energy by ditching my juvenile lingo. However, I could tell this man understood me on a deeper level, and there was no need.

With their posters that promoted Magic Thursdays, a big neon mushroom and a sign to Amsterdam pointing east. It was made obvious the strong energy of the mystical, spiritual and peaceful vibes of a once prospering hippie culture.

Soon my tacos were ready, the calamari was served with guacamole and hot sauce. A delightful combination of flavor served on a flour tortilla. Gonzo was 60 years old and had a lot of wisdom to discuss, based on his many life experiences.

The conversation made a quick turn towards the hippie culture and psychedelics, when I asked about the related paraphernalia all over the store. We talked about the drug exposure that started around 60s and the dangers of how some, being led by ignorant susceptibility, would find themselves addicted to the wrong types of drugs or worse: fried beyond repair. While others, who took careful steps were able to enrich their lives and reach the spiritual experiences and higher consciousness that they were searching for.

He recommended a book for those who are interested in the mystics of psychedelics entitled “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” This Nyingma piece of literature from the 14th century was designed to guide one’s consciousness after death in the realm called “bardo,” used to describe the realm of after death but before rebirth. Gonzo told me of its important guidance towards psychedelic or meditative ‘out of body’ experiences.

I was becoming more and more curious with every new topic. I asked him his personal opinion on the best way to have a psychedelic experience.

“In October, on a full moon, when the moon will be the closest to the earth.” He said. “You will need to prepare for it, fast prior, drink alkaline water and keep acidic foods/drinks out of your diet.”

We went one talking about astrology and quantum physics. he told me about “The Alcubierre Drive,” a theory that you can bend space to be able to reach faster-than-light travel. I asked Gonzo how long he’d been in Laguna Beach and what it was like when he first came.

“Around 1987, it was an affordable place to live, anyone who wanted to could live here. There was more fun back then, more… hippies” He said “Yes…Laguna is not as fun as it used to be, the yuppies came and ruined it… the yuppies follow the hippies and the millionaires follow the yuppies. Because they have no culture of their own of course.” I was confused, “what the hell is a yuppie?” I asked. “It’s what they call the middle class of the baby boomer generation.” He said.

I looked outside and down the street and oddly enough I could see someone pulled over in the rain, by the strict police force of this town. On any night, if you find yourself driving down here after 9 P.M. you will almost always see somebody pulled over. The once free spiritual Laguna Beach has turned to a tourist playground, where property is only available to the rich and where an honest man can get ticketed for smoking a cigarette in their streets. And once again America has taken a culture and raped it into submission for its financial gain.