Monday, July 27, 2015

Dominican Dirt pt. 3

Luciano was pacing around the parking lot, a fine sheen of sweat on his forehead shining in the dull parking lot lights, he walks over and explains that the guy he needs lives right here, pointing to the apartment block, he tells me he'll bring the guy out so that he sees me, he know me, and you know him, si? Si, i reply and off he runs into the apartment complex... i'm left standing in this parking lot, a 6'4 gringo, though i'm not quite sure that's term they use in the DR, but not the most inconspicuous of resort guests for my height and sideburns alone, but i wait and about 5 minutes go by and out comes Luciano, walking a few steps ahead of a dark skinned guy, Haitian looking, and Luciano walks by me all smooth as gravel practically yelling, you see him... he see you, nodding his head quickly and pointing back and forth between us, Si i say and the Haitian, who's jeans and shirt damn near match the color of his skin, barely looks at me and walks up some steps and back towards the apartments, Luciano then asks me if i know where the supermercado is, i tell him i do and he tells me to go over there by the street and the Haitian will meet me, fine i say and then he stops me and says, when you get there cut your wristband off, you get another at desk, i stop and say otra vez? and he says it's okay it's okay, get another... the antennae went up a bit on this comment cuz i know that these places always charge if you lose your wristband and here Luciano's assuring me that it's fine and i tell him i don't think i'm gonna do that and slip him a fiver as he jogs back to work and i head towards the mall...

Isaac Brock once said that the malls are the soon to be ghost towns, that was damn near 20 years ago now and it turns out he was right, malls i roamed as a child and teen have been bulldozed, replaced by different malls but they are indigenous to the suburbs of my youth and so it always feels odd when standing in a mall in a foreign land, this one was half indoor/ half outdoor with a disco, a supermarket and high end Euro/American swag, the same shit you could get at home, let's raise a glass to consumerism and the global community, at this time of day the place was winding down except for the Hard Rock Cafe and the Outback Steakhouse, standing outside and looking in the Outback's window i watched the end of the first quarter while a really bad American cover band butchered "Your Love" by the Outfield, i was waiting again after my first lovely interlude with the Haitian...

So making my way through the mall and  the paranoia is creeping, mainly cuz this crew seems to be a bit more Three Stooges and past experience has taught me that a loose team can be either dumb, dangerous or worse yet both, and so under the fluorescent lights i wander while trying to maintain a certain nonchalant air, i walk and look for the Haitian, clocking the security guards and realizing they were just the Domincan version of mall guards but the uniform providing a brief moment of oh shit, i'm scanning the lot and of course there's no sign of him and so i begin to walk towards the sidewalk that runs around the supermercado and next to the road, once around the corner i walk about 40 feet, once you get past the supermarket lights there is a whole lot of dusk and nothing, i can make out the outlines of buildings and such but there are no lights on in them, i look the street up and down and turn and start making my way back up towards the supermarket which sits on the one end of the mall, when i hear a pea-shooter motorbike coming up the road, the Haitian has finally arrived...

The Haitian pulls his motorbike over and i hop down to where the curb isn't as tall but i'm still standing on a bit of a lip, he looks up at me and the bright white of his eyes are almost startling, he says you want the coca? and at this point i about started yelling what the fuck is the fucking problem man no i don't want the fucking coca or cashews or an ashtray and you and Luciano speak the same damn language so tell me what the fuck aren't we hearing, mare-I-juan-AH, grass, ganja, smoke, Bobfuckinmarley, but instead i smile and give him the latter half of my mental rant and he shakes his head and says yes 10 minutes, you get on bike, i laugh and look at him, i don't ride bikes, no he says it's good, get on 5 minutes, a little more forcefully i tell him i'm not getting on the bike, c'mon man he says get on, i don't ride motorbikes i tell him, not in the fucking States and defo not here so if he wants to get my shit and bring it back here that'd be swell but if he doesn't well then i'll just be on my merry, fucking way...

There comes a time in every illicit transaction when both parties must balance their needs and wants, sometimes it's a seller's market, think powders and rock, sometimes depending on the situation it's a buyer's market, of course in the tourist/resort areas many times the seller's believe the Anglo's are made of money and want to get all they can, it's just like haggling for the fucking wooden mask at the local bazaar, how bad do they want to sell? how much you willing to pay? how much do you really want it?... The Haitian then gives me and exasperated look and tells me to meet him here in ten minutes, right in the middle of the parking lot again and under the lights so at least everyfuckingone can see what's going down and i say si si, and off he zooms and  like i said i wander in to watch some hoops beginning to wonder now if i'll catch any of the fucking game...

And so the first quarter ends and i walk back out and act like a confused tourist cuz by now the mall guards have to know something fucking shady is up and i begin heading back to the other end towards the supermarket and in pulls my friendly Haitian dealer, we'll just call him Curly... so Curly pulls up and immediately asks for the money, 50 American, i smile and say give me the shit, he says what? and a little more forcefully i say give me the fucking gear, he looks a bit taken aback but hands over a what looks like a torn off piece of a plastic grocery bag tied in a not, i hand him the money, i take the bag and hold it to my nose, i laugh and say this is dog shit, que? he says, mierda del perro i say, he nods and says great shit and then asks me for the 20 he saw in my hand, come again? i say, Curly then tells me that he gets nothing out of this and that i should give him the twenty as a tip, no no i say, and he continues to plead and then i stop and say give me the money, he looks confused, i say give me my fucking dinero! un momento he says and he hands me back my money and i give in a bit, i take out the ten and put in the 20 and tell him that he can have ten for doing me the favor of scoring me dogshit, i had put money in both pockets but had the sense not to let him see what i had in the other, i tell him that's it, that's all he's getting and to have a swell fucking life cuz we're done and i turn from him and walk off into the mall...

By now i'm talking to myself out loud and lecturing myself about how i'm not some fucking 20-something and what am i doing fucking about with half wits and wannabe thugs when a new character enters the fray, we'll just call him Moe, Moe you see is a slender light skinned Dominican lad sporting a rather expensive multi-colored striped polo shirt with his crisp and clean white Yankees cap and a pair of khaki Dickies, he bears a striking resemblance to Angel Di Maria and his voice seems an octave too high, you Chico's amigo he says, que? i say, Chico's amigo he says again and i smile and say i don't know a Chico and as i start to move he goes, no mean Luciano's amigo, oh i say quickly gauging what's in front of me, Chico's amigo, not so sure if i am i say...






Friday, July 17, 2015

Dominican Dirt pt. 2

Luciano was one of those light skinned Dominican men who i'm sure had no problem collecting dollar bills from the female clientele at this resort, his hair was coiffed in that trendy euro-football star style known as the Gents and his white pants and shirt were snug enough to let you know that Luciano was in fine shape, he smiled a lot and spoke English a little and since rule 1 in the dope fiend's handbook is bartenders and cab drivers are always good for info if not product i politely smiled back at Luciano as i drained my second beer and motioned for my third, he poured my beer and brought it over smiling, i slid a couple bucks across the bar and said gracias, he kept smiling and i motioned him to lean in a bit, i smiled back and asked, you wouldn't know where to get some smoke would you? he smiled broadly and said si, si si....

Let me say that at this point i was thinking fucking hell, that was easy... of course nothing is ever that easy unless you're in Amsterdam or Jamaica (or Denver), but for that fleeting moment the spirits rose, there are always moments when hope springs eternal for the fucking wastoid and of course Luciano runs off and through a doorway and comes dashing back, still smiling, and places a glass ashtray in front of me, i smile and shake my head saying, no no, como usted and i pause trying to figure shit out and then switching back to English i say, smoke man smoke, sorta laughing and making what i think is the universal sign for toke and of course there's my new buddy smiling and he runs into the back room again and reappears with a glass dish full of cashews, by this time i'm laughing hard and tossing cashews in my mouth and saying no no, Luciano is looking back a bit perplexed and finally i say, ah! and again making like i'm having a toke i say Bob Marley, Luciano says Bob Marley? and then it hits him, oh yes si si amigo, i can get Bob Marley...

At this point Luciano leans in close and says si amigo i can get you, he begins washing some glasses in the sink nearby and looks over his shoulder at his co-workers and then begins talking some more, i must be careful he says and gestures with his head towards a tall, dark-skinned, pot-bellied man, that boss me smiles, i glance over then sip my beer and tell him i understand and that i don't want him to get in trouble, these are prime gigs in this country and i don't want the kid to loose his job scoring me weed though i know it happens at these places all the time, he keeps washing glasses and explains that we can't get it on the resort but that we need to go just off, then it's okay and he can get it done no problemo, he explains that he gets off at 4 today and to meet him up near this same bar around that time and then we'll be able to go just outside and get things done, i smile back and ask how much? he says whatever you want, i tell him about $40 American, figured that would get me through the week, and he smiles and says again, around 4 up here, excellente!! i grin and drain my beer and head off for a day floating in the Caribbean Sea and swimming to the pool bar...

And so at 4 i make my way to the lobby bar where he works and he sees me and motions me toward the front desk and he comes out from behind the bar pushing a cart filled with ice buckets, ice, table clothes, and begins heading towards some conference/ballroom while chattering away in his broken English about how his boss is making him work over and that we can move things until tomorrow or later at 7 when he gets off, i explain that i'll be back up at 9 to watch the game in the casino bar and he smiles and says that work and to meet him around here, near the conference rooms at 9pm, great i say and head back to the bar for another Presidente before heading back to the room to relax before dinner...

At 9 i'm in my appointed spot waiting and hoping this won't take forever cuz i have a game to watch, Luciano pops his head out of the conference room, he's sweating and his smile is fading, i'm beginning to wonder if he's full of shit or not very good at this game, he motions for me to get up and we walk to the end of conference rooms which lead out to the entrance of the resort and towards the mall i was in earlier that morning, he disappears and re-emerges between two tour buses and hisses for me to come up there, i walk up the sidewalk and he, still sweating and bit wide-eyed, tells me to wait by the buses and that he'd be back in 5-10 minutes, my spider sense isn't exactly tingling yet but it's awake and i smile and say sure sure no problemo, he runs back towards the conference rooms and i begin trying to wander idly trying not to look like an American tourist trying to score drugs, which at the time i look plenty like in my book but a few people pass and say hola and i realize the paranoia is creeping in and i haven't even smoked any gear yet... and so i wait, i see a skinny stray cat and chirp at her and she comes cautiously walking over and she rubs against my legs a few times, i scratch her ears and off she goes into the night, i on the other hand am still waiting... then that hissing whistle again and a person clad in white is waving me towards him...

Now if there's one thing i learned when i was in the damn game was that it's always a good idea to take note of your surroundings, i knew there was some kind of industrial site to my right, maybe the resorts physical plant/laundry room/ meth lab, straight ahead and across the street was the mall and supermarket, behind me the resort and to the left of me a parking lot and what looked like apartments, i've travelled the Caribbean and Latin America enough to know that often times the resorts will build apartments for some of their workers to live in, i had noticed employees of the place either getting their cars and driving off or walking into the apartments, groups of two or three women, the lone guy, now Luciano was standing in the parking lot out of view from the resort and waving me over... and so into the dark parking lot i walked...






Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dominican Dirt pt. 1

To say there was an art to scoring is a bit of an overstatement and yet  there is a bit of an art to scoring, granted it's more commerce-centric than artistic but i've known people who were just absolute shit at finding and procuring anything, there is an unspoken language, a mixture of facial expressions and subtle movements, an aura of quiet confidence and fearlessness that helps drive one through the process, granted sometimes it's out of necessity as with the junkie, a more need based thing, and sometimes it's more out of want, you want something, a little grass or some blow or a bit of adventure... which brings me to how i spent my summer vacation, well not all of it of course, really it was no more than an hour or two all told but in the end i walked away with my Dominican dirt and even had a little adventure and story by the time it was all said and done... part comedy, part drama, part adventure, part B-movie...

Somewhere east of Haiti, across some mountains and heading south toward the Caribbean Sea one finds a stretch of beautiful beaches, the sand a fine powder and the sea a lovely pale blue, all gobbled up by international conglomerates and given fancy tropical names to appeal to fucking suburbanites like me, along with the odd Rusky and occasional Euro, a bevy of South Americans, an interesting place to hang at the bar and wander between the South Americans watching futbol and the Yanks watching basketball, it was my first full day and that night my beloved Cavs would be on the telly and though i had a wrist band that let me drink all i could possibly guzzle i still needed my smoke, or maybe not needed but definitely desired, having kicked cigarettes a while back and slowed my drinking down to a crawl for the most part i didn't want to spend the week in a half drunk half hungover haze, i wanted to enjoy this time and i knew it would be much more enjoyable stoned...

The first thing one has to do the day after they arrive is schedule the transport to the airport for the departing flight, of course i volunteered right off to wander up to the desk and arrange this because having done my research i discovered that in the DR one could obtain certain painkillers over the counter and being the consummate wastoid i decided why not tie two loose ends up first thing and so before i went to the desk i walked across the street to a mall, one i believe specifically built for tourists with a bunch of high end shops but also with supermarket and a pharmacy where i was hoping to find the pills that i had read about, all perfectly legal to buy over the counter and all loaded with codeine, for hangovers of course... and any other minor aches and pains, real or otherwise, that might arise, so i walked on over, the day's heat already coming up and a fine layer of sweat clinging to my body, i made a quick lap around the place glancing at the stores until i saw the familiar red cross and the words la farmacia written next to it...

The total amount of products in a Dominican pharmacy amounts to what would roughly fit in half an aisle at the local Walgreen's, it's got some lotions and soaps and shit locked in cabinets and then a counter where all the drugs are kept, both over the counter and prescription, i sauntered around the locked island in the middle of the store glancing at the names of things and then finally made my way over to the counter, first i asked about stomach medicine, half ass Pepto or some shit i didn't need and had no intention of buying, it was here the language barrier was established and a friendly woman stepped in to help, they handed me a packet of something and i looked at it and then handed it back, i turned to the woman and told her that i had back pain too, and needed something, something strong, the girl behind the counter looked at her and then at me and grabbed a box of something and immediately went to ring it up, i gestured to her to stop and asked to read the box, i leaned on the counter pretending to be in discomfort and scanned the ingredients label looking for the magic words, as usual i needed to be a bit more conscientious in my pre-trip studies and my slack note-taking and memory had me fucking all Chevy Chase, finally i gave up and handed the box back, thanked the counter girl and the lady and pretend hobbled toward the door thinking to myself, that was an absolute disaster you fucking knob end...

All this of course took maybe fifteen minutes and seeing how this little mission needed to be done a bit clandestinely it left me ample time to hit the bar, albeit at 9:30 in the morning, for a quick beer or two, i had half and hour and needed to take the edge off the heat and so i pulled up a fine wooden chair at an expensive looking cheap bar, the wood the color of dark chocolate, i drank from my first glass of beer thinking of the failed mission, i scanned the tourists and workers around the half moon and listened to conversations, actually thought of bumming a cigarette but then stopped and thought better of it, finished my first beer and then ordered a second and that's how i met Luciano...




Monday, July 6, 2015

The Wilderness Years - No Cover pt. 1

The first time i was ever in a strip club i was 17, an all nude place near San Diego called Les Girls, it served no liquor, my friend who had hooked me up with this trip (for scraping and painting his parents house) and i would drive down from Orange County near Irvine in our host's brown Lincoln Town Car with a cooler of Corona in the backseat and blasting Ice-T's Rhyme Pays on the tape deck, the place played porno on the walls and was a fucking dive located on one of those shitty city blocks i would come to know so well, the first time we went our host took us, an older gentleman who wrote computer code (this being 1988) had given us each a 20 for our first private dance, i can remember standing in the dimly lit hallway between the stage area and the private rooms, a bright light shining out of from the teller's booth where a girl gave you change, i was standing and holding my 20 in my hand like Ohio's finest rube just come out to the really big city, it was in this hallway where Goldie, not her Christian name but a stage name i remember damn near 30 years later, all six strawberry blond feet of her, proceeded to pin me against the wall with her ass and started grinding on me, she then asks me if i was looking for a private dance? to this day it is still hands down the best sales pitch i've ever had the pleasure of being the mark of, but before i could say sold my friend is practically begging her to take his money and she plucks it from his one hand, then takes his other and leads him back towards the private rooms...

Now i can attest to the fact that up to that point Goldie had not been my first choice, there was a blue-eyed brunette working that day and if there is one thing i am just a fucking sap for it is brunettes with blue or green eyes, not that i've ever discriminated but that combination fucking buckles the knees, and so instead of taking sloppy dance seconds i sought out the brunette and got my dance from her... when it was done i took my seat back at the stage and about 10 minutes later Goldie was back, she sneered at me as she dropped her bra in my lap and then worked the room, i waited anxiously with my stack of George Washingtons and by the time she got in front of me she was naked and grinning at me as she lay on her back propped on her elbows, she swung herself around onto all fours and suddenly her long hair was draped over me and her face was an inch from mine, she smelled like stripper, like a wonderfully cheap and fruity body spray, she whispered that she still needed to give me my private show and i mumbled yeah and then she flung her hair back and moved on to the next guy...

About the time i began to take an interest in the female form my dear mother made my old man sell his porn stash, and a fine fucking stash it was, mainly Penthouse and Hustler circa early to mid 70's to the early 80's, the day of the garage sale she had to put up some more signs that morning and her last words to me were that she knew how many and the exact order of those magazines in the garage and i best not touch them, i remember staring at the entry door and breaking out into a sweat i wanted to look at them so bad, it was akin to leaving a rock in front of an addict and telling him not to touch it, but i didn't, still i was pervert or just a normal teenage boy and so imagine the look on my mug as i sat in this place, a few scant years later, while naked women danced around me at the tender age of 17 1/2, (a side note: after the trip i sat at the kitchen table one afternoon and wrote down all the places i went and shit i did in Southern Cal and train wreck trip to Vegas, including all my sojourns to Les Girls which amounted to more than a few, a lot more in the few weeks i was out there, i then left the pages on the table where my mother found and read them, i can still see the smirk on my old man's face as he told me the news, your mother enjoyed reading about your travels son, there was that light dawning on marble head moment and then he handed me the pages, you might want to hide these... or burn them, he said in his stoic way, and then a smile crept across his face as he walked away...

And so she came off stage and i made my way back to the hallway with my own 20 this time and once again she pinned me to the wall with that glorious ass, there was a moment when i thought i might run out the door but in what was becoming a more common theme in my wayward youth i decided to see what would happen next, and so she lay down on a bed and i sat in a chair and she began dancing, the music was pumped in from the stage area and since it wasn't deafening we talked, what i else could i do? i tried to distract myself from the fact there was naked 23 year old woman in front of me, it didn't work and like any teenage kid i tried to steal glances, Goldie knew, and when it was finished i got another one, what did you expect from our young mark? i'm sure the smart money wasn't getting put on the Ohio Rube but then the second dance ended and i got up to go and she stopped me, she smiled and said sit down this one's on me, by the time that dance had ended she had given me her phone number and real name and work schedule and what days she was off and best to call, i don't remember what we talked about, she seemed to like my innocence, Christ i was naive as fuck and maybe she knew it, when she asked how old i was i calmly said 20, she told me she was 23, i told her i was here looking at colleges, she told me she grew up here, she was tall with a pointed face and her front teeth were slightly crooked, by the time i came rolling out and back into the club it had been over an hour, my friend and our host looked at me, the host grinning and my friend gobsmacked when i told them what happened, i think they thought i was bullshitting, i produced the number and showed them, still wide-eyed at what had transpired, my host laughed over his shoulder as i rode in the backseat, that number's real kid you're my hero... a few days later after a couple few beers i called... and it was...

One might be asking what the fuck is he on about now? what's he doing? what happened with Goldie?  and i would reply that i'm providing background, a point of reference so to speak, this suburban teenage kid had always been fascinated and drawn to the seedy and now as a grown man or at least appearing like a grown man though still feeling like a kid, had moved to a seedy neighborhood, to run what we'll politely call an illegal start up business, and now discovers that he lives just a half a block from two g-string and pasty strip clubs, one to the left and one to the right, now i'm not gonna lie and declare some sort of noble intentions when i began patronizing the places, i wanted to look at girls and pass the time, unwind a bit from the gig, i soon realized though that if you're going to delve into the human condition you have to get out and mingle among the humans and this place provided an up close view of the brilliance and malfunction of the lovely world in which i lived... and they both served .25 cent slices of pizza, .35 for pepperoni.. but i'll get to that...






Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Hogmanay

The strange thing about this time of year was how slow it was, which in a way was fine with me because i was still trying to catch up on sleep from the summer, from a day or two before X-mas eve until the 27th or 28th business was minimal, of course those who would stop by were in festive spirits and i was given six packs and fifths of booze, the occasional bud of high end that someone had come across, being the connection for the common man did have some privileges, of course the warehouse gig was shit at this point cuz i worked for a party store and what's the biggest party night of the year? if you said the night before Thanksgiving you'd be right but the night that the most useless shit is consumed and tossed in the garbage not hours after that clock turns to the new year is/was/and always will be Dec. 31, and so i loaded up van after van and delivered disposable crap to the stores, in the cold and damp, sweating away, there were nights after work when the real job began it was the equivalent of calling in sick, if you didn't catch me by 6pm you were fucked, i was laying in my warm room reading books and falling in and out of sleep, making the occasional cup of tea and listening to the drone of public radio, a good night's sleep then down the steps into the cold to do it all again...

But business calls and when the 29th rolled around it was two full time jobs, luckily one afforded me the option of staying at home and making triple what i did during the day, i figured i was in good shape supply wise but over the next two days i was practically wiped out and when New Year's Eve rolled around i made a quick run to Jack's as insurance, it went surprisingly smooth and Hippie Jack was in good spirits while he waited to go see some hippie band at a local bar, by the time i got back to my place i had a string of messages and being NYE i said fuck it, had people in and out for a steady 4-5 hours, no use worrying about the cops on a night like tonight, the gay guys downstairs were having a party and the sister upstairs wasn't home, in my hood it was just another NYE, standing on the battered wooden steps you could see a dozen parties all up and down the block, i had my own party that night and made some money doing it, people showed up with beers and nitrous and mushrooms, some were in and out in 10 minutes and some left hours later, the stereo played and people mingled about, a fine night of debauchery for the working stiffs, i dumped some herb on a plate and set a pipe and bong next to it, had the woman upstairs been home she would have been stoned from the secondhand smoke rising from my apartment...

Now i would have liked to take credit for this bit of business genius but the reality was i wanted to showboat a bit, things had been going pretty good and tossing out 10 grams of or so of good bud on a plate for public consumption was cool, i knew who was coming over and yes there may have been some ulterior motives where certain females were concerned but it also helped bring a certain level of respect from everyone who stopped by that night, years ago when i had spent a Thanksgiving with Cowboy Dan... Cowboy Dan if you recall was one of my first mentors back at Podunk U. and on that fine day he supplied beers and bongs and turkey and even fucking leftovers, there was something to be learned there and though i think Cowboy Dan's motive's were much purer than mine it was smart business sense... the people who came through the door that night thought i was a righteous cat and that's what i wanted, i wanted them to believe i was their friend and in all honesty some of them were my friends, but there are two reasons why i wanted all the people who came through that door to think i was their friend, the first one being, and it's naive as fuck but helped me to sleep at night, if caught with some shit amount of grass they wouldn't say shit about where they got it, and two that i was building my brand, i didn't understand or realize it at the time but i was, it was fucking business again, as Warhol said it's the most American of art, i wasn't only selling grass i was selling me, i was selling the image of the guy who sold you grass, dread locked underemployed warehouse worker with his middle finger flying squarely at the man, the guy who read like "serious" books and listened to fucking indie rawk, Jay-sus i was a hipster before some asshole even coined the term... or maybe i was just an asshole...

Now i know what you're thinking, you're looking up and saying how much trouble could people get in being busted with nickel and dime shit for the most part? and again i will remind our esteemed guests that Slick Willie put more people in jail for pot possession than any other president, granted it helped to not be black but looking like i did and living where i lived it would take a rookie with a real hard-on for collars to give me the shake down, being this close to a couple of uni's too gave the Fuzz pause, there were always cats who looked like me who wouldn't have two nickel bags to rub together and who wants to do the paperwork for that shit?  Still, a growing number of my customers lived out in the suburbs and so they'd all had a bit of a cruise back home, it's the dumb shit like rolling a stop sign and forgetting that you left the bag on the passenger seat next to you, and let's face it, suburban cops are more likely to do the paperwork, so in the end i wanted a certain level of trust and respect in this illicit social contract that went on when one stopped by, why not? like i said it helped me sleep better, to stave off the creeping paranoia that slips in and out after a busy night... and since this was the busiest of nights i worked the room and established, what i believe they call a rapport, with my clientele...

The funny thing was that while the business was beginning to take off i was still using a little letter scale to weigh and since i didn't want to short people and preferred to give what are known as "fat sacks" i knew i was losing some jack which was okay in and of itself cuz it kept people coming back but i didn't want to fuck myself over, i used a nickel (which weights 3.5 grams or 1/8) and marked a line on the letter scale but it ended up being a smart move hanging out that NYE, you see on the way to his gig a guy i knew who played bass in a math rock band and his younger brother stopped by to score, we went back to my room, which is where i spent a fair amount of time that night and started weighing their shit out and Little Brother looks at me and says, do you want a triple beam? i look at him and say really? and he goes on to explain about his talent for stealing triple beam scales from high school science labs, i asked how much? he was young and probably didn't realize those triple beams could bring a pretty penny, he asks would a quarter be cool? i stick out my hand, deal, he smiles and tells me he'll have it before the end of the week, another break for the kid in North Oakland, an important tool for the trade and i came by it criminally cheap...

It was well past midnight when the final stragglers made their way to the door and i shut and locked it for the night, surveyed the mess that was my apartment, bottles and cans everywhere, ashtrays overflowing, the plate of grass reduced to a few scraps of which i would load in the bong and then retire to my room, the next day being a day off i looked forward to sleeping in and not having to shuffle out into the cold, so i took a piss and wandered to my room, closed that heavy wooden door to keep it warm, turned the radio on low to listen to the hum of late night classical music and collapsed onto my bed, a good night...

Long about Wednesday bass player's little brother showed up, he was on his own with a friend of his and from his backpack he produced a triple beam and a set of small weights, of course then he started hemming and hawing about how much he was receiving in return, i shrugged and told him he agreed to it and he half whined about how much he could get for it, seems he had gotten some advice and feels like he was being shorted, mentioned the weights too which i gently reminded him i didn't ask for, at one point i told him it was cool, he could keep the scale cuz i had a line on  digital one (which was complete bullshit), this seemed to soften his stance a bit, he had went from agreeing to quarter or 7 grams to wanting a half ounce, 14 grams, retail a half was $100, 90 if i really liked you, wholesale even less, triple beams if you could find them which was increasingly more difficult with the commonwealth's crack down on head shops could be three times that much, but my bluff about the digital had worked, what was this kid gonna do with a scale? he didn't have anyone else to take it off his hands and since i did actually need and wanted to keep an air of goodwill going i offered him 10 grams, he smiled and said that's cool and i took the new scale, calibrated it and cut him his payment...when it was all said and done it cost me roughly around 70 bucks give or take, one of the best investments i've ever made...


Monday, June 8, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Here Comes Your Man

And so it began... in earnest you might say, i hadn't been back in the game long but i had a managed to not run out of gear at all in the first six or so weeks back and now i was sitting on this, the lovely green mid-grade that all us kids way back when loved so much, it didn't have much to do with marketing, good weed at a good price, there were assholes who would gouge people when they got shit like this and though i did raise the price slightly (to help cover costs, you know economics and shit) it wasn't much and everyone seemed to be more than eager to hand over money for this new batch, it took a day short of a week from the time i picked it up until it was almost gone, in that time i had hit the bar and laughed and joked with Hippie Jack, told him i was thrilled and wondered when i could get another one, he grinned and said whenever man, damn that was pretty fast he added, i shrugged and told him that people really liked it, told him this could be real steady, he slowly shook his head and laughed yeaaah maaaan, he said he'd put it aside that night... the next day i was over to pick it up...

The weed market is a funny thing, at the end of 1995 it seemed it was everywhere and nowhere, i heard a lot of talk from customers about other places to score but many seemed more than happy to score from me, it was easy, in those days i used to smoke with damn near everyone who came in, of course i had to keep my shit wired tight cuz one never knew when someone would try and rip you off or you'd weigh the wrong amount or not get enough money from people, dumb shit that surprisingly put many a would be dealer out to pasture, of course everyone thinks this shit is easy and it ain't but i was easy going and accessible and laid down some simple ground rules, explained that i had a real job (though i'm not sure the one i had classified as such) and that no one better be turning up unannounced or at 3am, things normal people wouldn't dream of doing but that the wasted of the world think is perfectly acceptable, and for the most part it worked fine, sure there were nights that when the last person left i'd walk back to my room and pass out fully stoned and half drunk in my clothes with the lamp on and the radio cooing away only to awake in a stupor to finally get out of my clothes and get into bed properly for a few hours kip, but things were beginning to roll, it would take less than three weeks to pay off the credit card thus in reality earning another six bills on top of what else i was pulling in which was still enough to put a little away and have enough in my pocket to hang at the bar, it didn't suck...

And so like Michael J. Fox in The Secret of My Success i was off, what was the secret you might ask? well it was just like i said, i wasn't a dick, i told people when i was around and how to find me, i had good shit at a good price, some motherfuckers spend four years of undergrad and another one or two chasing an MBA to learn in theory what i was learning in the real world,  i've heard people write books on this shit and get paid lots of money to basically teach common sense but that's all it was, do unto others as... well you know, of course the real key is good shit but like a good doctor or lawyer people come to trust their weed dealer, it's a strange thing but they do and soon they begin to stop calling the other ones they know and tipping off friends and such as to the fact they have a good one, the Snowball Effect once again and with the new line that snowball was starting to roll...

And roll it did, the kids were coming fast and furious, each week it seemed i picked up more customers, word of mouth among the potheads was doing wonders, there were a few people who i began to give carte blanche when it came to bringing me new people, a couple of cats from local bands and some old friends still bouncing around, soon it was taking around five days to flip a half pound, late summer had slipped into fall and old man winter was knocking but the phone was ringing steady and my head stash was growing and the wallet was getting a bit thicker and then of course the envelopes began showing up in the mail, the banker boys wanted reimbursed for all those leisurely days spent roaming the halls of academia, hell i was even lucky, the first few years the athletic department picked up the tab but i still managed to rack up a decent sized bill but $6.40 an hour didn't cover much in the way of expenses so this new connection was like water to this fish, i don't know why but my warped sense of responsibility made it imperative that i pay them off, i knew a lot of people, friends, who were defaulting or delaying payment and watching the fees and interest stack up, i watched as the bankers decided to wreck the credit of what should have been their future target market, yes we knew we had to pay back the money we just didn't think things would be so shit...

So in the straight world i made roughly $1000 a month before taxes, my rent, bills, loans and those pesky expenses like food left me with maybe a hundred left? usually less and this was not me eating Filet Mignon each night it was more like beans and rice and peanut butter, of course with the extra income i could eat a bit better (or worse really), the student loans ate up close to half of my legit income but with the real gig running so well by December or so i was putting all the loot Uncle Sam knew about towards my loans and such and living off the second job, still managing to stash away some money while having a fucking whale of a time at the bar and a couple of other establishments located roughly half a city block from my place... but we'll get to that...

It was right around Thanksgiving and things had picked up to the point that i was constantly looking for a ride or car to get my ass to Hippie Jack's place, usually if someone drove me there the next time they'd let me take their ride cuz sometimes Hippie Jack could keep you there for an hour or so fucking about and getting high and drinking beers and since his place was right on that main drag of no-man's land and said driver was parked at a shady industrial uniform place which was located directly across the street from the hood, the one where Mr. Wilson once lived, complete with walkway covered in wire fence and decorated with broken malt liquor bottles, I wouldn't have wanted to wait there and luckily i didn't have to, i was inside doing business and bong hits and adhering to the proper etiquette that seems to accompany this line of work... but the simple fact was at this point it was a hassle for me to get there and i needed to get there a lot...

And so one day i planted the seed of trying to figure out how to get more gear without having to put up more dosh, the front as we say, seems Hippie Jack was thinking along the same lines, after the first two months he told me i moved more than anyone else he had, so we came to the agreement that i'd give him the money for a half but get a whole elbow at pound price the  balance to be paid on my return with all the cash and the process starting over again, at least then it would be a solid week and i could always get him the money at the bar when need be, i'd try and hustle that first half as quickly as possible while putting all funds toward the pay-off, then of course when it was almost finished it'd be all profit, my rep was growing and the kids were now coming with bigger and bigger orders, the mention of qp's and the cost, it was still early but it seemed that every week i was picking up more and more people, the old new kid was back and hitting stride, there was a bit of new stress involved, not one of getting caught but of making sure i had the money i owed ready to go if Hippie Jack needed it and every so often he did, as for the fuzz they were something of an afterthought...

By the time X-mas had rolled around things had picked even more, i was still getting an elbow at a time but sometimes even those didn't last me a week, now i was putting up cash for damn near the whole thing, i was firmly ensconced at the bar as a guy who could move shit, Hippie Jack had apparently pointed me out to Mr. Big as a kid with talent, of course you didn't talk to Mr. Big unless expressly asked to do so and so i kept my distance, i'd show up each day and throw darts and do a little business, even managed to pick up some new business from different circles, people at the bar who knew Jack but seemed to like dealing with a more sane distributor shall we say, it was rolling, the 6'4 inch dreadlocked white guy was swiftly becoming a local face, another in a long line of faces who'd pass through that steel door but as 1996 approached he was on the rise, the Christmas lights blinking, the slush in my shoes, i had used some of my hard earned cash to buy a Carhartt coat for work, legit gig and otherwise, a good investment for bumming around in shit steel town winters , a coat that would last me over 15 years of shit jobs, a coat immortalized not a few years back in this very lounge, i had managed to pad the bank account a bit and keep a neat little slush fund but most of what i earned was tied up in the seed money but at least it was mine and if i walked or fucked up i wouldn't be in debt to anyone, at least not more than a couple hundred bucks, and that kids is another trade secret that we'll learn down the road...

But the holiday approached and for the first time in my life i wouldn't be hanging out with my old man, i didn't have the time or the means to get back to Cleveland, the warehouse gig was M-F but with X-mas on a Monday the stores were open and truck loads of disposable shit needed delivered over the weekend, six hour days instead of eight and all of it OT but i was still salty and even then i was making less than ten bucks an hour so it made getting to the old man's out of the question and with the good Doctor and Jess gone for a couple of days i had the place to myself, it was a rare and strange thing and it was cold with a dusting of snow and as i looked out over my little patch of nowhere, i grinned at the sad and derelict colored lights, the odd beaten and battered decoration hung in a dim window, i had a case of beer and some Hungry-Man frozen dinners and late one night a little elf showed up to keep me company and it was a bit slow business wise which was fine cuz for the first time in quite a while i was content, content to sit in my apartment, to catch my breath, it was a beautiful few days...


Monday, June 1, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Hippie Jack

It could be said i fairly sprinted home from work that day, taking the steps three at a time and immediately grabbing the phone and dialing, of course i got the machine and left a message and then paced up and down for an hour and then called again but all i kept getting was the happy hippie message of "hey this is Jack leave a message"... i was chomping at the bit, i wanted the product in my hand, i needed it cuz every day wasted was one day closer to paying the exorbitant interest on this cash advance, the game was to now pay it off as fast as possible while still having enough cash for pizza and trips to the boozer, a glamorous life indeed, it's just like the portray it on television, finally i walked to the bar part out of nervous energy and part out of hoping to find Hippie Jack and of course i walk in and the first person i see is Jack, Jack and Coke in hand and laughing with some guy at the bar, i give a nod and slide towards the one end of the bar, get a drink and wait, i didn't want to burst over and ask when could i get the shit but i wanted to burst over and ask when i could get the shit, 45 minutes went by and they were still yukking it up, there was eleven hundred dollars and change burning up my pocket, i was desperate to give him the cash and get the gear, this was the break i was waiting for and here i was dealing with what would become a common theme over the next 2 years or so... and then finally the conversation ended and i had my chance...

Shit through a goose would've been sloth-like in describing how i moved, i pulled up a seat next to him and dove straight in, a quick hey man was wondering when i could you know, and suddenly the power tilted, he was a bit aloof and put off i guess by my abruptness, jeez man he moaned i just got here a few minutes before you, i mean if you got a car i guess we could run back to my place in a little bit but i'm gonna have a few more drinks, it was a bit of a rookie mistake on my part and what i neglected to tell Hippie Jack was that in my excitement i had sorta put the word out that some nice stuff was coming down the pipe and that i'd have it by sometime tonight, if i couldn't get it worked out tonight or at worst tomorrow i was just lining myself up to be another fuck-up in a field full of fuck-ups, of course i didn't have a fucking car or even know where to borrow one at this point and really wasn't looking forward to riding the bus to a place i'd never been and then navigating my way back or better yet taking the bus back with a half pound of grass stuffed in my shirt, you'd think people wouldn't do shit like that but read the paper, morons abound... and so i resigned myself to the fact that it wouldn't go down today but bought him a drink anyway then split telling him i was a bit short until i got this up and running cuz i had all the loot tied up in this enterprise, that seemed to strike a chord, i had the fucking money, and he told me to meet him at his place when i got off work the next day, i forced a smile and said great, you'll have a car right? he asked, yeah man i'll have one, where i'd find it i had no idea...

Let's just say that Jah must have really liked this tall, nappy-headed white boy... The good Doctor had a car but it had been a stick and at the time i couldn't drive one, that would be remedied a little over a year later but for now i was fucked, except that very day i had come home from work to find out that the good Doctor's mom had come into possession of a better car than the good Doctor was currently driving and this car was an automatic and though he had had it for less than 12 hours he was gonna let me borrow it to go to some old hippies house who've i've known for roughly three or four days to score a half pound of weed, sounds about right yeah? and though i could tell the good Doctor was a little nervous as he'd only had the car a few hours i also knew that he had confidence i wouldn't do anything stupid... well at least not anything other than what i was already doing and so i grabbed the keys...

Bigelow Blvd. is the quintessential Pittsburgh street, it is the furthest fucking thing from a straight line you will find, it wanders and turns and starts and stops, part city street part go kart track, Hippie Jack lived on the go-kart track part, a four lane belch of car exhaust that connected Oakland and Downtown, the two busiest parts of the city, the posted speed was 35mph but once past the Bloomfield Bridge heading towards town and it was more like the minimum speed was 55mph, oddly enough there was a park placed on the right side of the road that looked out over the border of the Strip and Lawrenceville and out towards the Allegheny River, a long stretch of green between cityscape's, right before that green was a section of houses set upon the road, Jersey barriers lined the street at the narrow sidewalk, the dilapidated soot covered houses were varying shades of black, a fine grit seemed to cover everything, it was on this part of the street that Hippie Jack lived, his front door facing onto this major thoroughfare, he was the last house before what was the shadiest work uniform and laundry business i had ever seen, it was tucked on the corner and was the solitary business crammed between old houses and shit three story walk-ups, after 4pm it was cool to park in the lot, it seemed a bit strange at first that the place didn't mind but the more i saw it the more it looked like a front, of course on this day the last thing i wanted to do was get my best friend's car that he's had for all of a few hours towed away... and so i made the call...

And now we come to the part where we cross our fingers and hope shit goes smoothly and according to plan... yes, well, about that... in the world of wastoids things are lost and forgotten on a mostly minute to minute basis, after calling his place a few times it dawned on me that Hippie Jack may have stayed late at the bar the night before and completely forgotten the whole hook up the new guy thing, i walked over to the bar, each step my hopes shriveling, cursing my luck and motherfucking all the cocksucking morons with the good connections but not two fucking brain cells to rub together, everyone on fucked-up people time which really amounted to chaos, i sorta slammed through the door and of course who do i find? Hippie Jack, sitting on his stool in a half stupor, as soon as he sees me his eyes light a bit and he remembers about meeting me, suddenly it all comes rushing back to him, his memory photographic, you got a car he grins, just have to go get it i say, can be back in 15 minutes, and out the door i go damn near sprinting back to my place, huffing and puffing and stopping to catch my breath, sweat beading and cooling in the cool fall dusk, i grab the car and head back...

Hippie Jack climbs in with a to go cup and leaving a trail of Jack and Coke jet wash in his wake, i wheel the car around and head up towards Bigelow, i can tell he's more than half smashed and he's rambling on about shit and looking around and then asks why i didn't take the back way, to which i say what back way? and he tells of secret streets devoid of cops, a winding road from the one end of Baum and a back door into the Strip and Polish Hill, instead i'm on the go-kart track and what i must do now is make a sharp right turn onto a narrow side street which wouldn't be all that dangerous if it wasn't for the fact that few people knew the side street was there and slowing down on this part of Bigelow, especially enough to make a sharp right, ran the risk of being crunched from behind at a high rate of speed, as the night began to settle in i made my turn to the lovely blaring of horns from all the cars caught off guard behind me, per Hippie Jack i pulled into the uniform and laundry place lot and in we went...

Now hindsight being what it is i understand that a man needs a few breaks, you have to be born in the right place and at the right time in history, have the knowledge and the opportunity, look at Carnegie and Vanderbilt and fucking Morgan... or you can just be some fucked-up white kid from the suburbs who has read to many books and maybe listened to more gangster rap than he should have in junior high, and so here i was hoping for that break and so we sit down in his place and he packs one up, laughs you wanna beer man i think i got a few, runs to the kitchen, comes back with mismatched beers, asks which one i want and then begins fumbling with shit behind his couch, pulls out a triple beam and a garbage bag with a few pounds in it and gets to work weighing out my half elbow, i watch as he pulls from the top of the bag giving me nothing but bud while all the shake sits at the bottom, i make a little note of it knowing that someday i'm sure i'm gonna get the other half or hoping he was just to fucked up to notice what he was doing and i was just the beneficiary of his little oversight, we laugh and bullshit and i explain to him that while i'd like to hang out i had my friend's new car and needed to get it back, no sweat man no sweat he's rasping, you can drop me back off at the bar right? of course protocol says i have to, he helped me out and the shit is green and is stinking through the backpack i have with me, yeah man no problem i say and we head to the car...

To be brutally honest the last thing i wanted to do was drop this fucking hippie back at the bar, for one things had taken longer than expected (surprise surprise in this gig) and i'm sure the good Doctor was beginning to lose his mind, instead of being able to bee-line it home i now had to drop off Hippie Jack and while in total that would only be an extra ten minutes it was ten minutes more than i wanted to be rolling around in my best friends semi-new wheels with an old hippie and a half pound of aromatic bud stinking up the car... but i did it as fast as legally possible while using all turn signals and obeying all traffic laws, i parked outside my place and ran in thanked him profusely and tossed the good Doctor his keys and made for my cave, i was giddy, i pulled it out looked at it, suddenly Hippie Jack was fucking greater than Jesus Christ, like that good lookin' woman who is nothing but trouble but has that smile that makes you forgive, well that bag of green smelly herb had me forgetting all about the Hippie's transgressions,  i danced a quick jig and then went back out to the living room to check my messages, i called two people back and then got on the horn to a few more, with any luck this shit would be gone in no time...