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...









Monday, May 25, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Naugahyde Pt. 2

Sitting there near the jukebox, the din of happy hour drunks steadily increasing, the alien light still flashing in every time the door opened, i leaned back and looked Hippie Jack in the eye and said, reeeaalllly, drawing it out, he just kept grinning and said yep, and i asked if i could see it, he said sure you can, i asked how soon and he said tomorrow, i said about the same time, he said yep, i said cool and we went back to bullshitting about bands, i let him do most of the talking, he was espousing the virtues of Frank Zappa and maligning his beloved Dead, he said the scene was dead and Frank was the future though with Frank having died a few years before i don't know how that was... and there was the obligatory cop discussion, i knew i had passed cuz he said he wasn't even gonna ask me, Dina was a top notch reference and she said i was cool, it was like passing the interview, sort of what you would do if you were out with your boss at dinner or some shit, it was the same thing and this guy sitting here might soon be my boss in a way, the guy who supplied, the guy you had to pay and bullshit and keep in good graces with, it was best to sit back and let him ramble, nod and laugh and say a few things, i bought him another drink and then told him i had to split because i had to work in the morning, said my goodbyes and told him i'd see him next afternoon, same time same sandbox...

As i stepped into the early evening and past the piss yellow light that lit a large painted sign reading Mitchell's Tavern, i was practically fucking skipping down the street, past the shitty laundromat and liquor store and check cashing place, a fucking break, of course i had to tell myself not to shoot my wad quite yet, this was of course a racket filled with an endless amount of fuck-ups, lunatics and con artists, guys who promised the moon but instead provided steaming piles of shit, but still the gut was telling me something good, of course the average Joe might be saying to themselves, some girl you worked with for three days walks into a bar, gets up in your mug and starts smiling and talking about how you were always stoned at work and blah blah blah and you end up sitting with her ex-old man, who just so happens to be in the same line of work and with what seems like a much better connection, but that's how it was, that was the risk one took and it came down to keen sense of reading people and a little luck, i once heard a cop talking about how the media fed the public a load of shit, had the common man believing that there were these huge networks of distribution and the like, he laughed, it was all freelancers he said... and he was right, there were loose organizations, it's why they were called connections, the guys doing it knew that shit could go south any time in any way and then the connection was lost and hopefully it didn't zap you along with it, the fact if anyone anywhere on the supply line fucked up it would disappear, it could be people far removed, names and faces you'd never see or know, you do it long enough and learn how good you have it when a bunch of loose cannons hold shit together for as long as they can all for the common good of their billfolds...

The next day i awoke and got stoned and made my way to work, coffee-oj-donut combo because healthy eating was of the utmost importance after spending the night sucking down Scotch and beer, remember this lovely combo because it will make an appearance at a later date in this tale, work dragged as i stood around like the kid on X-mas, i was hoping, i wanted to see what the Hippie Jack could do and even after i got off i still had an hour and a half before i had to meet him,  it did give me enough time to check the messages and do a little business if need be, for once i wasn't worried about any calls coming in, i wanted to get down to the bar and see three lucky 7's all lined up in a row, hear the bells and whistles of the fucking jackpot going off in my head... and so when i could wait no longer i made that walk over to the bar, a half-hour earlier than planned, ordered my Scotch and beer and tried to look as cool, calm and collected as possible, first hoping he'd show and then hoping it wasn't a line of horse shit, i grabbed one of the naugahyde booths with my face towards the door, picked up the local stripper rag that they put in bars all over this part of town and pretended to read while i waited, mainly i looked at half-naked pictures of our local entertainment community, then about 20 minutes after he said he'd be there Hippie Jack rolled on in, grinning yet griping about some injustice of the local transit system, i had already put a Jack and Coke in the wood for him and as Karen poured his drink he looked over and waved, he grabbed his drink and started shuffling over, brown corduroys and worn gray hoodie, couple plastic grocery bags filled with who knows what, baseball cap pulled down low, he could have passed for vaguely homeless...

He slid into the opposite side of the booth and rasped thanks for the drink man, i said no problem and then he proceeded to go off on how the bus system in this town sucks and how he was supposed to catch a ride with this chick he knew but she bailed on him with some bullshit excuse and had this not happened he would have been down here ages ago, i told him it was no big deal and he grinned and took a look around and i said so? and he grinned and said oh yeah man don't worry, he smiled again, you ain't a cop right? naw man i'm no cop and then he laughed and i could tell he had slipped something into his right hand and was reaching out under the table, the best fucking part was that i could smell it before i ever saw it, i looked at him and said shit man, he grinned and out of the side of his mouth cackled i told you it was pretty good, and so there we sat, two guys doing business, we sat and drank our drinks, i asked roughly how much this would cost and he whispered six a quarter pound and elevenfifty a half, he paused twentyonefifty an elbow cuz i can do those too he grinned, i sat back and nodded, told him it sounded good, added that i was gonna finish my drink and head back to the place and give it a test, asked if he wanted anything for the sample, he said no no it's cool, i smiled and got up, shook his hand and made my way towards the door...

There was a brown and blue plaid flannel shirt that i had bought one day at a Salvation Army i believe down on Madison Ave. in Lakewood, it had cost a dollar and it was a fine fucking shirt, warm and ugly and there were women who hated it and ones that tried to steal it from me but this shirt in it's first five years had always been a bit of good karma, good gris gris and juju, not that i believed in that shit but sometimes you gotta believe something and as the Dude had his rug El Kono had his shirt, though it should be pointed out the shirt pre-dated the rug, of course i had it on that night and as i walked out of the bar and into my not quite ghetto-fied hood, i was fairly skipping down the street as the bums and liquor store clerks and Voodoo Lady looked on in bemused indifference, i needed to get home and test this shit out...

I bounded up the steps and into my place and headed straight for my room, i kicked off my shoes and tossed my shirt onto the bed (aka mattress on the floor), pulled up my garbage picked chair and opened the bag next to my new and quickly gathering dust word processor, the smell filled the room and i took it out and there were nice green buds, not much seed, what would come to be known as classic middies circa 1995, it was far and away better than the shit i was peddling now and more expensive, i sat and crunched the numbers and tried to figure out what i could do with it, i stuck my head out the door and called to Jess, she loved getting stoned and would be a help in gauging the quality, she came back and sat down and i packed it up and we smoked, Jess smiled and shook her head, she had a naturally sultry voice, that's alot better than what you got now she said, i smiled and said it sure fucking was, we finished the bowl and she left and i went to work with the numbers again, turned on the radio and listened to the local uni's punk rock show, opened the chest and looked at how much money i had, basically it was about six bills, enough for a quarter pound but if the stuff was like this i figured shit would pick up, business sense dictated a half, that extra fifty saved put toward the head stash and the numbers still come out alright, cut up small it could net $70-100 an ounce on average, no it wasn't coke money but it would allow me to eat and pay my bills...

For those of us who attended college from the late 80's to early to mid 90's there was this remarkable phenomena, every day it seemed when you walked into the cafeteria or library or student union there would be a table with a couple of people not much older than us students sitting there inviting you over to get a free travel mug or backpack or key chain or fountain pen, and in order to receive these lovely gifts all you had to do was sign up for a credit card, hell you were in college and someday you'd graduate and find meaningful employment so why not get started on building that credit score and getting ready to be an upwardly mobile member of our fine society? suuuuurrrre right now you have no visible means of income but those bankers were pretty positive that your presence on said campus meant that somebody related to you had a fucking income, so they lined up for the chance to dole out credit cards to the future of America... and hand them out they did, you could get as many as you wanted, i knew people who had half a dozen, probably don't need to remind anyone how well that worked out for everyone involved... lucky for one worldwide conglomerate El Kono decided to sign up for their card one day and had managed to be somewhat responsible with it mainly due to his dabbling's in the grass business... and on this fine day he was hauling ass with said credit card down to the local bank on his lunch break to cash advance the rest of the seed money needed to upgrade the current state of his business...



Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Naugahyde Pt. 1

The ritual of the habit has always been one of my favorite phrases, and when you get right down to it home is where the habit is, you can feel at home almost any place as long as there is the routine, oh i know people don't like to admit it but it's there in everything we do, we are creatures of habit, my favorite habit was walking to the bar, Mitchell's in particular, the drinks were cheap and strong and the happy hour crowd colorful, i'd often throw darts or play pinball as the jukebox pumped out a steady diet of Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Barry White, CCR, the Stones, the Kinks, P-Funk, it was a lovely fucking time damn near every night and i was becoming a fixture, the tall white kid with dreads, i was the well spoken kid who might have a side gig, the last time i had lived in this hood the good Doctor and i were regulars here and sometimes i'd do a little business out of the place, there was the legendary hash Thursday where i got about half the bar blitzed on hash, the pipe travelling to and fro and people looking bummed when it kicked on them only for someone to hand it back to me so i could pack it up again, back then it was college night, now it was the working stiffs and i was now officially one of them... or so i said...

So many nights i would come home from work and check the messages, things had picked up a little bit and every now and then to cut down on traffic at my place and give my roommates a break i'd head to the bar, i'd weigh and bag and walk over, Mitchell's had been home to so many petty criminals over the years it damn near felt safe, like a clubhouse for hoods, a nod and a wink sorta place,  that didn't mean you could be stupid and i wouldn't advise just shouting out what you had but it seemed like one of those places cops ignored, except of course when they wanted to score and a few of them were regulars, getting weed and coke from Karen the Jewish bartender, she was the go between, the buffer between the Fuzz and the hustlers, the cops were happy cuz they got their gear and the hoods were happy cuz if the cops ever heard anything was up the phone would ring and whispers passed about to be cool, all those who needed to know would be told and when the heat lifted it was back to business as usual... Karen had massive respect and the last place you wanted to be was on her shit list, she had a quick and dirty sense of humor and used to strut up and down the bar, frizzy black hair in tight jeans or a short skirt, she had no qualms about telling someone how she liked to fuck and she'd make men blush talking a blue streak about what she'd do to them, of course she never took any of them home when she was working but once she was off it was fair game, the brothers were her favorite and she had chewed up and spit out more than a few, but she commanded the bar for the happy hour crowd and in turn the place achieved a serene and strange peace...

Around this time i had fully embraced the cheap Scotch and beer lifestyle espoused by a certain poet, for less than five bucks (including a tip) i could get a Scotch and water and a bottle of beer, good city dive drinks too, a Scotch and water you'd have to choke down but come the third one and the world was fucking gorgeous... at least until the hangover kicked in, the dart board was in the back of the place and at times i'd be so drunk i'd have to hold onto the wall so i wouldn't fall down while i threw, at the dartboard i was a quick study and soon found it easy to find a partner to shoot Cricket, the old winner stays challenger plays bar rules and some nights i never put coins in the machine except for that first game, the games were intense but friendly and there was never any hustling, it was playing for the sport, for the competition and it was a good way to pass from late afternoon to early evening...

Now if i was going for the cinematic effect i'd say that it was a Tuesday afternoon and Sinatra's Luck Be A Lady was playing, Frank got his fair share of run at this place as well... but it wasn't, i was sitting at the bar near the door, when you walked in the past the grimy glass alcove and past the steel door the first thing you saw was a large rectangular wood bar, Cherry Masters in the corner straight ahead, the jukebox on the right next to the door, past the bar the place opened up with tables in the center and booths along both walls, the right side had the handshake drug booths, red naugahyde with high backs, a single light hanging above, there were about 4 of them and past the booths the bathrooms and payphone in the back corner, on the opposite was another alcove with a bench along the wall and more tables and then the dartboard, a set of steps led up to a door that connected to a cheap and good restaurant, the place was always dimly lit and seemed to get dimmer as the night went on...

And so there i was on my stool partaking in my first Scotch and water of the day, my bottle of High Life next to it, it had been a slow day at the office and so i took the walk to the bar, it was an Indian summer day, pleasantly warm and much to bright once you entered the cavern of Mitchell's Tavern, once the eyes adjusted it seemed every time the door open it was a blast from some alien world outside, i was sitting and mindlessly listening to the chatter when suddenly there was a face in mine, I know you she said and i blinked and examined the tiny space between her teeth and simple wavy black hair, the boutique hippie dress and scent of patchouli, she had worked at the bagel shop for three days on my first go round in the burgh, it had probably been 18 months or so since i had seen her and having only worked with her three days i couldn't remember her name, just knew she talked her way into the job to work a few days and collect a check, she confirmed as much as we started talking, she introduced me to an older hippie and by older i mean a guy in his mid-forties, it was her ex man and she just stopped by to have a drink with him, she sat there and started talking about how i was always stoned at the bagel gig, i laughed and concurred and the old hippy who's name was Jack added some yeah mans and laughed along too, it was just one of those things, a person sees someone they worked with but didn't really know and decides to start yapping, i had nothing to do i didn't mind, i began to glean that she was tiring of the whole hippie/ Dead scene and was definitely not into banging guys twice her age anymore, for a minute i thought she might be sizing me up but i didn't really want much to do with it and so we talked a bit more and then she said her goodbyes and then got up and left...

Her name was Dina and i watched her walk out the door and then turned to see that Hippie Jack had taken up the stool next to mine, now in it's own demented and warped way it was like that show Guardian Angel that once clogged up the airways, i didn't watch the show or believe in fucking angels but i knew the gist and maybe Dina knew something we didn't and now she had to go off and save a litter of puppies or something but first she had to put two potheads who wanted to make a living selling pot next to each other, Hippie Jack looked at me and rasped, i was really hoping she wanted to screw... she about killed me when we were together, i gave a wry smile and nod and then he proceeded to tell me all about the his ill-fated love affair with Dina, a girl half his age and who had sorta kinda broken his heart...

So i sat and listened as Hippie Jack told his tale, a tale of old hippie meets young nubile hippie and can't believe his luck when he beds her and then continues to do so and she moves in and he's thinking it's all PB&J, bliss and blotter until one day she stops fucking him and then shortly after moves out and in with her new much younger man, she enrolls in school, gets back in her daddy's good graces, (no more snagging a job for three days for a few bucks) and of course the last thing daddy wanted to see was his daughter shacking up with a guy who's much closer to his own age than his little girls and though parts of the tale are tinged with bitterness there is also a bit of self deprecation and the sense of who the fuck did he think he was kidding? he knew she wouldn't stay around forever but he was still glad she stopped by... even just for a little while... and in the end he sure was a likable fucking sort so i bought him a Jack and Coke...

And so we conversed... you know how if you're at a party and you put the two poets or marketing sorts or hypochondriacs next to each other the conversation will inevitably turn to poesy or shilling or fake illnesses? well the same things happens with wastoids and so the young guy with dreads sat with the older hippie with long black hair just starting to go gray, a full beard and the ever present sandals, and began trading stories about doing drugs, mostly about heroic doses of mushrooms and acid with the occasional grass story tossed in and in the course of this conversation which had gone on for over an hour or so i made mention that i sold a little bit of grass here and there, his eyes lit up and asked if it was any good, i told him not really and he smiled and leaned in and laughed the said i think i can help you...




Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Early Doors

When i had walked out of the hallowed halls of higher education the first time, circa 1993, i was walking into a job market rather barren and devoid of prospects, Slick Willie hadn't got us going in whatever direction it would be, hadn't boosted the markets and created disposable income, hadn't kick started the economy or reformed welfare... now by the time i flunked out of grad school just two short years later the college kids were blowing down the doors of corporate America and making bank, or at least that's what the papers said, i knew a few people of that ilk but most everyone i knew was in a band or made art or sold drugs or made art, was in a band and sold drugs, a few had real gigs, the Engineer, my Lawyer (who really wasn't a lawyer but a marketing guy,  a riff on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), the good Doctor who as the biggest introvert i knew took a job as a travelling salesman, and of course the good many of us who had taken jobs just to make ends meet like Jess, the good Doctor's lady who was shilling at the Party Haus and waiting to default on her student loans, she had actually helped me to land the warehouse gig and when we all sat around on Saturday nights drinking and getting stoned and indulging in too much whisky and various other substances one could describe it as a rather sad, less successful and less attractive version of St. Elmo's Fire, just a decade later and living in the land of Slick Wille and not Ruthless Ronnie...

The next week i managed to make it to work on time every day, start with small attainable goals, isn't that what all the self help gurus say? call it one for the working stiff and two for the hoodlum, the important business of getting the business up and running was taken care of pronto, Frat Boy Finance Guy lived across the 40th St. Bridge and into an old mill town now absent said mill, a run down little hamlet with a 100 bars, i was beginning to wonder who was shittier at finance as i pulled into his apartment lot, me for overpaying for his  mediocre smoke or him at his actual job, this was more Crap St. than Wall St. but what the hell did i know about the stock market? fucking nil, nor did i care, my market came in zip-locked plastic bags and with any luck made the room smell pleasantly funky, as usual luck was absent inside Frat Boy Finance Guy's apartment but at least the gear was a better than the dirt i passed of as ganja back at Podunk, it would do for now and we'd hope for the snowball effect to work it's magic... i had a feeling Frat Boy Finance Guy did too, i'm sure his asshole puckered a bit every time i came by, 6'4 and huge dreads, thrift store clothes driving a different borrowed car each time, even if i hadn't been doing illegal shit i'm sure i sorta fit the profile of a guy who would be doing illegal shit, and yet like Master Fucking Luke i'd slip in and out like a shadow and the local John Q.'s never saw me...

Maybe i was on the cutting edge of business models when it came to the weed slinging business, had i any foresight i should have planned out a few short seminars on the basics and then offered more courses on the advance and expanding model, been like the Tom Vu of grass, my face smiling across late night telly as i strolled across a yacht all blinged-out as bikini clad models lolled around and smiled towards me as we all drank champagne, i'd tell all the would be hustlers of America that i was once a stiff like them but now i'm making cheddar and that i could teach them to do it too! order my seminars on VHS or the new DVD format, $39.99 for the first three lessons and just 10 bucks for each additional lesson, call in the next 30 minutes and we'll throw in some free pipe cleaners and rubber bands (for all theeee fucking caaaash), don't be a fuck-up like all those other stoners, this method is tried and true and sure to make you a big success... the funny part was it was nothing more that business 101, do basic shit and do it well and people will come back, even god damn when your shit isn't as good as some other guy's...

And so i snuck in and out of the old mill town for the first few weeks, i had the numbers worked and had hoped to sell a couple of ounces a week if it went well, nickel and dime shit, eighths and quarters and maybe the occasional half, a small discount for buying weight but nothing drastic, it needed to be broken down to make a profit and so each day i'd roll home from the warehouse and check the messages, that's right, on the fucking answering machine on the apartment line, i didn't have a cell phone or a pager, it was all Ma' fucking Bell, then i'd make a few call backs and tell people when it was cool to come by, in the early doors sometimes it was 2 customers a night, sometimes it'd be 8, other times the phone wouldn't ring at all and i'd sweat it wondering if shit was going south but really i didn't have that many people on the payroll back then as we used to joke, but it went and people would stop by and we'd have a smoke and drink a beer and it was all quite polite...

The positive part was that i was seeing repeat customers and some of them had brought friends, apparently the new guy back in town was alright, of course there were protocols when new kids wanted to come to the party and so first it would be discussed and if things seemed cool then it was a go, the reference had to be a solid one as well as in no friend of a friend bullshit and said person had to vouch for new kid at risk of being banned or worse themselves, the worse part always left lovingly vague, often delivered with a chuckle but delivered just the same, and while you couldn't sit and dwell on what happened to even the lowest level street dealers for selling grass in the year of 1995 you had to put up some kind of protective barrier, maybe not as drastic or paranoid as Cowboy Dan from back in Podunk days but Cowboy Dan had passed on some important knowledge of what to do and at the same time what not to do, and what's a good student do? they study the teachers to learn the strengths and weaknesses in order to someday surpass that teacher, i just wanted to tilt the risk/reward ration in my favor as much as possible even though at this point i knew the reward was low and the risk high, it was maybe 200 bucks a week and if popped it was possession, possession with intent, any other thing the Fuzz could tack on, lots of threats and chances to help yourself (rat out or trade up) cuz it's good PR for the Five-O and the media loves stories about evil doers being taken off the street and who is more evil than your friendly neighborhood grass peddler? but i needed customers and i had to hope they'd need me or more correctly what i could provide...

And so those first few weeks rolled along and it went alright, i had a little extra cash for the bar and pizzas, i was settling in to my new place, the gig at the warehouse was cool, now i just needed something to break, a new connection specifically, one with better gear but for now i was just waiting it out, dealing with the few customers i had and scraping by, it was alright but it was no means to an end and by December the loans would start coming due and i needed things to pick up a bit, needed to generate a bit more income and as far as i was concerned the straight and narrow was for suckers...










Saturday, April 25, 2015

Louie

About a dozen years ago the girl and i were standing in some shelter looking at cats, debating actually if we should get another one or not, i am an unabashed cat guy, William S. Burroughs was one too, but we were standing there looking and truth be told we weren't even looking at Louie but at a different cat but for some reason i kept looking over at the cat who would be named Luis Garcia Shinobo Diego Rivera Marquez and every time i did he'd meow and stick his paw out of the cage at me and so i said to the girl what about that one? and so we asked to see him and we sat and played for a bit and when it was all said and done i was smitten with the cat i'd give six names, seven if you count a nickname, Louie as he'd become known...

He was the clumsy and had a penchant for landing on anything but his feet when he'd attempt to jump on or off something and yet i had rarely seen a cat so skilled at getting exactly what he wanted out of the garbage, of course that might mean tipping the wastebasket over and then pulling out everything inside until he found what he was looking for but he'd find it and then swiftly marshal it away to eat his fill, sometimes leaving the remnants for his large hairy people friend to find, he was a lap cat who loved laying around and i'm hoping he enjoyed his time laying around with me, he was a damn good cat, vocal and loving, he'd walk around loudly meowing when he was looking for you, i'd hear him wander from room to room and i'd call his name and he'd keep right on yapping and as soon as he'd see me i'd hear his motor start and he'd purr and jump up on my lap, lick my hand or arm, in a nutshell he was just a laid back cat, in fact i don't think i ever heard him hiss...

But he was old and things were going south and so last night as the girl and i watched him we knew it was time for a second emergency visit in the last three weeks, (not counting a couple of regular ones), his head was cocked from an ear infection and his ear was bleeding as well, he wasn't really eating and he seemed to be losing weight by the hour, after letting our boy Pablo go to long because neither one of us could pull the trigger we had learned our lesson and didn't want it to happen again... and so i took him and told the boyos to say goodbye because there was a good chance Louie might not be coming back and they did and i put him in his carrier and made my way to the vet... i sang to him, the little song i used to sing to him years ago, talked to him about how beautiful the night was, he meowed weakly and looked at me, i knew i was probably talking more for me than for him but it felt like it made him relax, he always hated the carrier and the car and if it was his last ride i wanted it to be a pleasant one, the night was creeping in and as i could see him turn his face to the cool night air as i took him out of the car, i stood for a moment and let him sniff the air...

I could list the myriad of things that were going wrong but i'll just leave it at what amounted to a quickly failing liver, the doctor told me more things but honestly i barely heard him, i knew what was coming and so i told them what i wanted and they told me to call them when i was ready, once again i talked, more for me i'm still guessing and told him i was glad he got my attention that day so long ago and that i loved him, kissed his head a dozen or so times and then he turned and licked my hand twice, i'll just say at that point it took a moment for a very tall and unshaven man to get his shit together, a few minutes later there was an knock and i nodded to the nurse and whispered okay, kissed my boy Louie once more and called it a life well lived...

Luis Garcia Shinobo Diego Rivera Marquez or Louie as he was known, was somewhere between the ages of 13-15 years old, he was a damn fine cat and i'm much better for having known him, like his younger brother Pedro i tend to think i'm gonna see him in all his usual places but when i look he isn't there... i miss him...

Epilogue: If anyone is really taking this hard around here it's little Nick Disaster, he's a bit awed and confused by the whole concept of death and this is the first time it's hit this close to home, sometimes he starts crying and asks if Louie is just asleep somewhere and that maybe they gave him the wrong shot and that he wishes he didn't die, i'm doing my best to help the little dude, talking to him and letting him know it's okay to grieve, to be sad, but i can see his almost six year old head spinning as he tries to comprehend it, i want to tell him that it's hard for the living to explain death for the sheer fact that we're alive and know nothing about it really other than how it effects us but i figure we'll wait for the teenage years for the really deep shit, now i just sit and talk and try to take his mind off it, as he sat in the tub today he looked at me and told me he wanted to get me a cat for my birthday, one that looked a bit like Louie cuz then i'd have a cat again, i smiled and told him that'd be great, tried to hide the mist coming up in his old man's eyes, then he smiled and went back to playing in the tub...