Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Wilderness Years - Working Stiff

The lie told by the powers that be, that's always been told by the powers that be starting with one Tricky Dick and trickling through every political type, police department, Rev. Swindler, since they dreamed up this story line is that the game is easy. It's that people get into it because they don't want to work and want easy money. Of course anyone who wanted easy money and to be a career criminal would go into politics or right wing talk radio but this ain't about them it's about the game. The real problem with slinging is that there is no place to learn to do it properly. One has to be around it, to study it, to take in what works and what doesn't all while not asking too many questions or appearing to look like your studying the business because people in the business don't like being studied. The assumption is the student is either a cop or trying to get into the business thus creating competition. That is unless you are recruited by the Big Man to join the team, then it's perfectly okay and they'll tell you exactly how to go about things. Problem is sometimes they have it ass-backwards themselves.

And so it was i started my apprenticeship way back at Podunk U. My first teacher was the infamous Cowboy Dan. A raging maniac who sporadically worked construction, very sporadically, and spent most of his time hustling all kinds of substances through the town of Podunk. He also was a mountain man who grew some of the finest outdoor smoke you'll ever find in western Pennsyltucky. Better yet he grew it in a state park which makes me chuckle to this day. When Cowboy finally unraveled a friend and i stepped in to fill the void at Podunk U. and let's just say Cowboy Dan and i weren't as close as we once were. At one time i was like his little brother, privy to hang at his place whenever i wanted, an honor bestowed upon very few of us student types. Hippie Jack was my next teacher and he mainly specialized in how not to do things. I loved the guy but man he was a fuck-up. These two taught me the most but i always studied every dealer i dealt with, watched how they did things how they worked. Hippie Jack never had a legit job until he was trying to kick smack. The last known record of him was when he was released from prison some ten years before i met him. If you're wondering the charge was possession and distribution of LSD.

There was one main characteristic all my mentors possessed and that was the fact that none of them had a steady job or job at all. Usually it was the latter and so after dropping out of grad school i had a plan. Professor Superstar had told me i didn't need these ivory halls and that i just needed to go out and write the great American novel but as of yet i didn't have much to write about. I had read to many Beat writers and to much Bukowski and Henry Miller. I had a bit to pull from but not enough. When i left the beach that summer, my last working as a migrant beach town prole, i already had a plan to come back to the Burgh and start slinging. Mainly, as stated, to pay off my student loans while providing myself a way to eat, drink and be merry. It was just always how i got by. My last year of undergrad, i took Cowboy Dan's spot, on moving to the city for a year between stints in school i had a good 9 month run slinging out of the infamous White Trash Pleasuredome, the glorious third floor walk-up where it sometimes snowed through the hole in the ceiling. Then back to grad school where after dropping out midway through the spring semester i became Ras Kolnikov, of which there are a whole series of posts. Other than the student stints what was the main difference between my mentors and i? I always had a job.

When i left the beach that last summer i had already lined up a job, my new roomie, the Good Doctor's lady friend, had helped me get a gig in the party store warehouse. It was an easy walk from the 759, the place i moved into sight unseen with the Good Doc and his lady friend. I'd spend the next three years slinging out of the back bedroom in what became my office and sanctuary. I loved that room, secluded from the rest of the apartment, it was warm in winter and cool in summer, the kind of comforts it's often hard to come by for a lumpen prole. The heavy wooden door would keep the space cozy in the cold months while the windows that faced the small and derelict backyard of the place were shrouded in shade meaning my little window fan acted more like an air conditioner. After a quick interview i was hired to start on my birthday and thus began my career at the party warehouse. The wages were exactly $5.40 an hour, .15 cents over minimum wage in those days. That would be roughly $11,000 a year, or more correctly below the poverty line. I left the place after four years because the guy wouldn't pay me a whopping $7.75 or a little over 16k a year which put right at slightly above poverty level. America! what a country! I left for another warehouse where i made a whole $9 an hour.

To say these jobs were more for show than some sort of "career" would be correct. After observing my mentors and their various fuck-ups it occurred to me to always have some sort of job. Let the neighbors see you going to work each day, having the weekends off (a feat i somehow managed to do), a schedule so that they didn't think you were moving copious amounts of ganja to support yourself. The other reason was what could loosely be called a form of self-discipline. By having a job, no matter how shitty, i kept myself on a bit of a routine. While i knew the main gig was slinging weed i knew the warehouse would keep me grounded besides the fact that one needed to keep a bit of healthy paranoia. The "real" job provided some semblance of responsibility. I used my paycheck to pay my rent, bills and student loans each month which after all was said and done left me with less than $50 bucks to eat or do anything else. The weed money kept me fed and drunk and high, it was good for the local economy you could say. The job also kept me from having unlimited free time which is where i noticed most of my associates fucked up. Who knew the Protestant work ethic would crop up in this shit? but it did.

With my plan in place i hit the ground running albeit with the uptight ex-frat boy connection and his expensive and average weed. My roomies were fine with it, the lady friend got a free eighth each month and discounts once she burned through that. The Good Doc, who wasn't really a doctor but had the air of a mad scientist hence his nickname, had lived with me during my stint at the White Trash Pleasuredome and knew what to expect. It should be noted that the lady friend and i had went to school together and been friends as well. That could be a post in itself.

To put it mildly once i got the business up and running and established a solid base of stoners i was not the most exemplary employee. Hell the first week at the party store warehouse i had to leave early as i got so hammered on Thursday night that i could barely stand the next morning. My manager, who wasn't a bad guy and probably recognized the fact this was a shit gig, finally told me to head home at lunch and that it wasn't a big deal. I'm guessing he figured i wouldn't last a month. I ended up being there four years, the longest tenured grunt they ever had up til that point. Of course i was never to shy about calling out and in one two month stretch called off 7 out of 8 Fridays. They didn't can me because i could do this job blindfolded and as my manager stated, "when you're here i don't have to worry, you get things done." It's a phrase i would here in various guises over the course of the next 17 years or so.

And so it was that from September of the year 1995 until late March of 2001, i dragged my sorry ass to work, most days at least. While my gig was just for show i'd often wonder how my co-workers survived on the shit wages paid to those who are now dubbed "essential" workers. The lumpen-proles of the supply chain, the working poor, the ones the suits and BMW set barely deign to acknowledge. I left the party store warehouse for a HVAC/plumbing supply warehouse where in the end i would maneuver myself into being laid-off and collecting unemployment. But that's getting a bit ahead of things. First I had to find that new connection.

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