Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Wilderness Years - An Island Off the Coast

A lifetime ago, in a pub far, far away...

Somewhere on an island off the coast of Europe... when i uttered this phrase i wasn't on an island off the coast of Europe but at a picnic table behind a bar in a tony neighborhood of Pittsburgh, my old boss/business partner was fretting the current situation surrounding my former and his current business operation, there was some shit going down and he was lamenting and contemplating getting out, in short when the game is run well there are stacks of money to be made but that earning potential is always one blown stop sign or loose-lipped customer away from going tits up, it's one getting caught by a red light with a trunk full of weed as the K-9 unit's dog in the next lane looses it's shit in the back of the police truck moment from crashing gloriously down, and so as he sat there still fully invested and i sat there not so fully i explained to him what i now had time to think about, had the opportunity to think about without the lure of the precious-precious, those stacks of money that seemed to roll right in, to objectively examine the game having been through it, like the ex-athlete turned analyst, he had sought me out because there weren't many people around with the expertise and skill set in this particular field, the other person he could have sought out having been recently pistol-whipped and robbed of somewhere north of 200K, they shot his dogs to boot, i'd never met this person, he was a bit further up the food chain than me but while i sipped beer in the warm night air i told my old business partner this, if you can walk away with all your fingers and toes and a clean sheet you get the fuck out while the getting's good, if you can do it with a suitcase or more full of cash you don't even think twice about it you get out and get back to being "normal", i liken the dealing game to pro athletes, the careers are short and profitable, the longer you play the more likely you get hurt, it's high risk high reward, what i told him was, you get greedy, you get stupid or you get caught or on a real bad day, dead... the writing doesn't have to be on a wall, it could be on a scribbled on a napkin...

In the ever present half-ass postmodernist annals of the lounge there is a post about the Pizza Man, on old post shoddily written, it was about my adventures of getting shitty Mexican brick weed from my local pizza parlor/bar (now bulldozed and rebuilt as a Chipotle) and how i would transport it home (casually walking down the street) in pizza boxes, for all intents and purposes looking like some wasted youth with a raging case of the munchies, it's always good for a laugh when people learn i used to just walk down the street like that, the squares would never think of that now would they? oh we criminal types thought we were a cheeky lot, people who knew thought it was a right laugh and one of those people became my best friend and brudda and he just happened to live on this island off the coast and it so happened that after he went back home i saved up some of my hard earned drug money and went to visit him...

Now it also just so happened that my brudda worked in a pub and in this pub was a man who was rather well known to the authorities of this island but who said authorities could not seem to catch up with, my brudda had told the story of how i'd walk down the street with pounds of grass in pizza boxes and the denizens of the pub laughed hysterically, i was dubbed the Pizza Man and had acquired a nickname before i'd ever stepped foot on the island's fair shores, one could say this pub was a bit of a haven for the not so upstanding citizens of the area which meant i'd feel right at home once i got there, oddly enough when i did get there it took me all of 10 minutes to score some smoke, some good flower with a chunk of shit hash thrown in cuz i was the Pizza Man, of course much of this legend was fueled by my good brudda...

One could say i had been briefed a bit on the man, who i'll call Reggie Kray, how he moved around a lot, how he never stayed in one pub for more than an hour, this pub being the exception, this was his place to relax, i didn't have to be told, i knew the score, the boss is always treated with respect and deference particularly if not more so by the visiting small-time hood, and so as i sat and drank my pint and talked to the locals, then there was a tap on my shoulder and i was told someone wanted to meet me, Mr. Kray the messenger smiled, and so i stood up and turned around and there was the most unassuming of men, i was probably close to 8 or 9 inches taller than him, he took a sip of his pint and smiled, it's an honor to meet the Pizza Man he said and the place burst into laughter, come and have a seat he said and so we sat down at his table and talked, we talked the football and my Scottish surname, we talked about the States and all the while he wouldn't let me buy a pint, we got on well and it must have been 45 minutes in before he leaned in and grinned and asked, so you really just walk down the street with your gear in pizza boxes? we both laughed and i said yup and told him that i just walked along looking the average Joe on my way home with my pizza, he was amused to no end...

I'd talk to him a few more times before i left for what is called the continent, never as long or as in depth as that first time, i noticed he'd watch me sometimes as i hung out in the pub, i know now he was gauging how i handled myself, i wandered around the continent for a few weeks before making my way back to that island, i had another 4 days before i left to fly home and get  back to the grind, back to the game, it was always a calculated risk leaving for a month, weed kings popped up on a weekly basis, the difference i was hoping was that three years in and i was a reliable type, i could piece things together through fuck-ups and droughts and the superstitions of the city low-lives, i might loose one or two customers but i was pretty sure i'd pick up a dozen more once i was back...

I had come back early from gay Paree due to expense and exhaustion, i was tired of walking around and wanted to go sit in the pub for a few days before my flight... on one of my last nights there Reggie called to the bartender to get me a pint, ever think about staying? he asked, it crossed my mind i smiled, but i got things i gotta get back to, the gig and a girl, i've had a few offers to stay and work either painting or plastering, he laughed and patted me on the shoulder, fuck all that my friend he said, you wanna stay you come and work for me, i like your style kid he grinned, you can handle yourself, we'll do the business and make some bank and i'm not talking about runnin' my shit hash like Shep there, (he pointed to the guy who had sold me the gear i scored my first day), you 'll step right in and work with me, i said thank you Reggie and if i did decide to stay i'd defo sign on but i have my own thing back in the States, he smiled and we toasted, i understand he said, just remember you ever want to a job you got one here with me... we drank and i thanked him again...

On the walk back to my brudda's place we were well in the bag, i was eating the last order of chips from the chippie next door the pub and he shook his head, fuckin ell mate, i've known Reggie for years and he's never offered me a job, he even busted on Shep, you could walk in the pub tomorrow and be complete arsehole and no one is gonna touch you, Reggie Kray offered you a job, you're like his fuckin' boy mate, i can't believe this shit, it's fucking incredible... i smiled and kept eating my chips...

Not long ago a i got a text from my brudda, there was a link that led to an article about Reggie and his crew, it went back to my old maxim of getting greedy, stupid or caught, a few years later some shit had come down and Reggie should have walked, should have counted his money and lived happily ever after... but he didn't... i clicked the link to the article and read, hell if i had made different decisions my mugshot could have been gracing the pages of the newspaper, Reggie got close to 30 years, a laundry list of charges for what really amounts to the laws of supply and demand, where there's a demand there will be a supply, the supplier just needs to understand when to walk and let someone else take over, i understand the allure of the money and power and the fringe benefits that go with the job, i'm acutely aware of it, but in the back of the mind one must remember the flip side of that coin... and you definitely don't want damn near 30 years to think about it...




4 comments:

Exile on Pain Street said...

Didn't know you had a brudda. And that's the first time I've seen it spelled like that, which is pure genius. To do an old thing in a new way is a rare thing.

Did that gig with Mr. Kray come with a decent dental plan? Of course they got caught. And it's not about the money. What was he supposed to do? Quietly tend his vegetable garden?

daisyfae said...

Love the professional sports analogy. Good friend of mine had a small grow operation, but lived in a neighborhood that was starting to gentrify. He became increasingly paranoid, as he expected some asshole to rat him out to get a deal on his house.

He got out. Still grows the 'shrooms for personal use and friends, but left the greenhouse work behind.

Kono said...

Exile- dat's a brudda from a different mudda... meaning we were like brothers. And it's always about the money, it's a game where you have to know when to get out especially when you're heavy into it, it can be done, vegetable garden and all...

Daisy- grow house? what's that? ;) and i could go for a heroic dose right about now...

looby said...

kono -- you truly are a survivor. What with Cocaine Mike and now Reggie, you've sailed very close a few times. I read all this and often wonder how you're still a free man :) You do seem to have the knack of getting out just when the signal is turning to yellow and not waiting till it's on red. I bet in a certain pub in London even today, they still remember The Pizza Man :)