Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Often Dazed, Rarely Confused




I expect this one may generate a few comments. Feel free, but all unapologetic polemics will be answered with both barrels.

Many times in the past, I've written bits about my former drug usage. I'm not especially proud of it, but neither am I ashamed of most of it. It was just something that occurred, much of it seeming not out of the ordinary for the time period and the neighborhood. If I said I was sorry I did it, for the most part I'd be a hypocrite. When I was an asshole while on drugs, I've clearly stated as much. If you've read about me doing drugs and I didn't call myself an asshole, then you can safely consider that part of my experience as something I enjoyed and for which I feel no need to apologize.

Similarly, I've mentioned the fact that I was a drug dealer for a little while. Same applies to that - neither ashamed or especially proud. It was just something I did. The time period in which I did it lent an air of revolutionary fervor to the activity. I, and my partners, truly felt we were not only not harming anyone, but also doing folks a service. Actually, for the most part, that's still pretty much how I feel about those times.

One of you - I won't name names, since she may not want to be publicly connected, even remotely, with such subject matter - during the course of some private correspondence, asked me how I came to stop dealing drugs. After giving that person the answer, I re-read it and thought that it might make an interesting post. So, here it is.

(If your mileage varies greatly - if you or someone you know has had hideous experiences with drugs, or currently has a problem brought about by addiction, or in any way finds my attitude flippant and uncaring - let me assure you that I'm not dismissing your concern or hurt. Everybody's story is different. I'm just telling you mine.

I've had a close and dear relative die as a result of an overdose. It has been my experience, though, that most of those who came to a Dead End, via drug abuse, had serious problems to begin with and the drugs were just the handiest exit for them to take. Again, your experiences may differ greatly and I'll not argue concerning your feelings.)

So, having given you every disclaimer I'm willing to give, here goes.

Reader - "Often you have mentioned your drug dealer days. What led you to give up this occupation?"

Confluence of events. First off, I was busted. I was lucky, in that the times were more mellow and the cops I dealt with were fairly mellow, too.

I'm 18, I think. If so, it's 1975. We (meaning me and my partners) were standing on our usual streetcorner, nickel bags ($5) of weed stuffed in our boots - the style then was cowboy-type boots or something similar, with bellbottoms, and you could slide 10 or 12 small brown envelopes (they were "bags" in name only, at that small a price) down into your boot for safekeeping - and we were just hanging, waiting for customers. We dealt other things occasionally - acid, mescaline, what-have-you - but weed was our major stock. That's all we were holding that night.

Well, someone in the neighborhood must not have appreciated our presence, as a Boston police car came screeching around the corner and pulled up right in front of us. Two officers hopped out, threw the three of us up against the chain link fence we were standing near, turned us around, kicked our legs out to "frisk" position and patted us down. Satisfied that we weren't armed, they went through our pockets. We all had personal dope pipes on us - nice pieces they were, too, customized by us with little brass knick-knackery - and the cops took them, took apart whatever pieces they could, and then threw all of the pieces in different directions, into the vacant lot behind the fence, on top of a nearby apartment house rooftop, down a sewer, whatever (and I was pissed, too, and just about to give them some shit about destroying my personal property, when the smarter portion of my brain kicked in and said, "Stupid! You've got enough dope in your boot to do serious time! Play nice!")

Then they told us to take off our boots.

We did. Of course, they then had their hands on about three or four ounces of weed, nicely done up in little brown envelopes, ready for sale. They could have truly busted our asses at that point and made our lives miserable. Instead, the times being looser then (and maybe with them not wanting to tie themselves up with paperwork and a court case that would probably result in nothing more than suspended sentences, since we didn't have any priors) they ripped open every bag, dumped all of our goods down the sewer - there were some mighty happy rats that night - and told us to use our fucking heads and not have them have to come back again or else next time they'd book us. Then they got back in the cruiser and drove off.

Of course, we didn't give up the business just yet. We had too much time and money invested. Besides, they had just put us in the red for the week by dumping our shit, so we had to hustle to make up that loss. We devised a plan whereby we hid our goods off of our persons. We'd stow everything under five or six big rocks in the vacant lot. And when someone wanted to buy, we'd tell them that there MIGHT be a nickel bag under that rock over there by the abandoned shopping cart. And if there's more than one, just take one, leave five bucks under the rock, and be sure to tell your friends what a righteous deal you got.

The second thing that happened was that we dealt some stuff that was hideous and frightening, even to us.

We had all done many different drugs. We did a little of everything we sold, basically. If you bought from us, you knew that we had tested it first. You weren't going to get screwed with a bag full of oregano or some caps that were bogus. We sold only what we felt was righteous stuff. We weren't interested in hurting anyone for a profit. We believed that everything we sold was basically benign. Sure, with any illegal drug you took a chance, but we trusted our clientele to have brains enough to know what they were doing.

So, we got hold of some angel dust and started selling it.

Angel Dust, in case you're not familiar with it, is the animal tranquilizer, PCP, mixed with an inert smokeable substance, usually dried parsley (although some idiots would ruin perfectly good weed by mixing the two, which probably still happens and is part of the reason marijuana has a worse rep than it deserves in some quarters.)

We had all done Dust once or twice; some of us more than that. And it is a DANGEROUS drug. Make no mistake. It can kill you. It acts on the central nervous system, of course, and smoking it is unbelievably effective at delivering the goods. It can pretty much shut down your lungs if you fuck up. But, we were teenagers and invincible and had come out the other end of every experience we had with it, so...

Anyway, we started selling this batch before we tried it out. Then we sat in a buddy's basement and sampled some ourselves. Let me tell you, I have never been more zombified in my entire life and it was the last time I ever did that shit. I sat and stared at a painting on this guy's wall for two hours solid. It was a mythological bird, a phoenix, which he had copied from a record album cover by Grand Funk.


I thought that bird was coming alive and coming off of the wall any moment. I was alternately fascinated and terrified. When I regained my senses a bit, I knew I never wanted to go through that again. The rest of the guys had similar feelings. And we decided then and there we'd sell off that lot of dust in one fell swoop, to anyone who wanted it for personal use ONLY, and was knowledgeable enough to handle it, but we would NOT deal it out in little parcels to our regular folk. As a matter of fact, we told everybody who came to buy weed that if they had bought some of that dust, or knew someone who did, it was deadly dangerous and we wanted them to return it for a full refund.

We sold the remainder, at cost, to a guy who very much knew his business - he was addicted to the stuff to begin with - with the warning that it was the strongest batch we had ever encountered and he should be extremely careful in using it. He was an addict, but a smart one, so he was cool with it and enjoyed himself greatly so far as I know. But we couldn't live with our consciences had we dealt that stuff in small doses to someone who might literally have killed himself.

So, those two situations, happening about a week or ten days apart, were key in the decision to shut down operations. We didn't do so immediately, but we let things peter out, dropping back to strictly selling weed for a while, then liquidating our final stock and cashing out.

None of us was getting rich from this, by the way. Sure, we had a few bucks in our pockets at all times, but we sold basically so that we wouldn't have to pay for our own stashes. We gave very good deals, always offered a money-back guarantee, and our mark-up wasn't huge. We figured if we could have as much as we ourselves wanted, and give good deals to everyone else, then whatever cash we got on top of it was just a cool bonus.

***************************************************************

And that's the story. I don't know if it's all that compelling, but it is true. And I probably need it to be out here someplace so that I can link to it, as convenient shorthand, in future postings. So, here it is.

Soon, with more better stuff.


36 comments:

Michelle H. said...

What a compelling story! It's so fascinating to see what life was like from a different perspective. And I can't believe those cops didn't run you in.

Hee-hee, happy rats...

Buck said...

You were VERY fortunate the cops didn't book you. But you know that. There are places in this country where you'd still be in the slammer for what you were holding, and more than a few of them are in Tejas.

Ah. OK... that said... I admire your forthcoming nature and honesty in this space. I cannot and will not be so honest about my checkered past, largely because I'm still subject to the UCMJ. And the gub'mint can be quite picky about this sorta thing, if they wanna be.

Ananda girl said...

You are one interesting man, Suldog. Good for you for your honesty. Even this takes me back to my own spaces in that place in time. Stories to curl the hair. (I was once unwittingly dusted at a King Crimson concert... whoa!)

Glad we survived those times to tell tales. big grin

lakeviewer said...

You are one of the lucky ones who lived to tell. Many youngsters I taught never dropped back into society.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Sul, I'm glad you got out before much more worser stuff happened. :)

Suldog said...

Michelle - Thanks for the kind words, as always. And for getting the ball rolling here!

Buck - Oh, yes, I know I'm fortunate to have had my experiences during a time and in a place where folks were less likely to be draconian. During my time as an activist for lagalization, I read quite a few tales of severe imprisonments for what I would consider amazingly small offenses: years and years for having a very small weed in one's pocket. I thank God every day for the breaks I've had.

Ananda - Being dusted unwittingly is truly not a good thing. I had a similar experience at a Black Sabbath concert in Boston. Someone passed what appeared to be a regular ol' joint, I took a hit and tasted that unmistakable plastic taste that dust has. As it turns out, I enjoyed the concert, but afterward it took me a good day or so to feel right again.

Karen said...

Glad that the angel dust experience was an eye opener for you.

Suldog said...

Lakeviewer - As I said, just my story. Some folks have (or had) worse; a few have better.

Angie - Thanks. As Buck points out, laws - or, at least, sentencing - varied wildly from region to region, so it could have been a nightmare in some places.

Suldog said...

Karen - As I said, we had no intention of harming anyone, so when we saw what that crap did to us, and with us knowing a fair deal about pharmacology, we knew we couldn't do business as usual with it.

Jazz said...

All I have to say is that if all dealers were like you, life would be sweet indeed.

Michelle H. said...

I'm always here to lend support. Think of me as your blogging jockstrap.

Chris @ Maugeritaville said...

Money back guarantees, cheap prices, geez, you guys were the Walmart of the drug world.

Glad you survived that stuff without dementia (relatively speaking) or incarceration.

Your honesty is compelling, and I do mean that.

GreenJello said...

That was quite a break you had at 18 with the cops...

Abe Lincoln said...

What an interesting tale. Probably what brought this on is even more interesting.

Voices from the past > http://bing-it.blogspot.com/

Janet said...

I have always admired your honesty, and you guys showed real integrity in the matter of the angel dust. Many dealers wouldn't have cared. I once dated a guy who i discovered was a mule. Then he started dealing himself. Since our apartment and phone and all utilities were in my name, I thought it best to end our association before I got busted as an accessory (this was the mid-80s).

MVD said...

A more honest group of drug dealers, there probably never existed. One little change in the law and you guys would've had retail space on Main Street with a nice awning and your wares neatly advertised in the window.

Lola said...

Great story, Suldog. And thank you for your honesty, it's powerfully irresistible.

For 18 year-olds, you were quite mature and grounded! Lucky too, with those cops.
You made the right choices, and that's what counts. Bravo.

Still laughing at the stoned rats...

Suldog said...

ALL - Thanks for the kind words. I've been kind of surprised that I haven't gotten a flame on this one, but I suppose I should know better with you guys.

Chris - As I've said at other times, I figure anyone with a purpose can dig up my dirt, so if I beat them to it, nobody can ever accuse me of hypocrisy.

Abe - As I said, just a conversation with a reader, and it seemed to necessarily flesh out some of my past postings.

MVD - We actually expected that we were on our way to legit business someday. As with many other small-time dealers of that day, we expected that when the laws changed, we'd be in on the ground floor. Unfortunately, more of us probably ended up getting a record than getting ahead. Too bad.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I think you are about the same age as my brother...those were very different days, weren't they? You are one of the most transparent bloggers I know...I am flabbergasted by your willingness to tackle the taboo in your writing. Your courage as well as creativity amazes me! I'm so glad your story ended so well!!! ~Janine

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

Funny to think that being booked after that incident could have affected your whole life. I don't think kids realise that a criminal record can keep them out of careers and travel, for many years, possibly a lifetime if they don't get clean slated...
scary

Jenn said...

It is amazing how such a topic can raise so many different opinions, it is nice you recognize that fact but still, I think it is brave that you do not apologize for the things you did many moons ago. Good for you Jim.

You were so very lucky that the cops were Then again, it sounds like you were a caring dealer and maybe it was simply your karmic goodness that kept you out of the clink.

Ananda girl said...

Suldog--That was very nearly my dusted experience to a tee but I also lost a chunk of time. No clue what happened to me or where I went. I was just suddenly in another place altogether. I was very scary angry for days afterward before I got back to being me. I knew it tasted funny but didn't know why... if someone had to told me to stop, it could have been even worse. BTW, I don't usually talk about this stuff.

Whalehead King said...

Jim, You're right that any consumer takes his or chances on the black market. You and your comrades were good businessmen warning customers of tainted goods and they took thier chances of their own freewill and desire. Not all purveyors of these substances are as conscientious, and that is where the problem lies sometimes. I am neither pro-psychonaut nor anti-. It's none of my business what anyone does. If everyone pursued this honestly and transparently, as you tried to do, there would be a lot less mischeif in the world. A tip of the fedora in your younger self's direction.

Moannie said...

As always, Suldog, your honesty is excoriating. And I,an old scaredy cat who has inhaled nothing more forbidden than tobacco can do no more than applaud your bluntness. I am lucky in that none of my three kids have been tempted to follow up the first taste-had they done so, and ruined their lives, I am sure my condemnation would be severe.

Ribbon said...

Glad you've survived to share your tale.

Brave of you to share.

best wishes
Ribbon :-)

Carol said...

Jim...As I travel this life, I find it so fascinating as to how our journey makes us who we are today. Great story! Life lessons are invaluable, no?!

lime said...

i've been educated a bit and i appreciate it. thanks for your candor.

Carolina said...

You must have been the nicest and most decent drugdealers around ;-)

But my worry is: I like oregano. In a big way! I so hope the switch is only made one way.
I mean...what háve I been putting on my homemade pizza ;-)

Suldog said...

Whalehead King - Coming from Dorchester, you might be interested in imagining, on a walk around town, some of the scenarios described. If you find yourself on the corner of River and Sturbridge - where the Starlite Cleaners still is, as it was in my youth - that's the approximate spot of the activities described.

Sandi McBride said...

So very interesting to hear your story...but then, you always tell it like it is...no complaints on this on, just a grudging admiration from a retired cop, lol!
Sandi

Suldog said...

Sandi - Hey, those cops who didn't actually bust me and my pals did us a great favor. I don't know what I've contributed to the world at-large, but it's certainly more the way I am now than it would have been if I had been behind bars for five, ten, twenty... My Cousin Joey, the one who died from an overdose - the link in my story brings you to the story about his death - did time early and often, and he never was able to adjust to life outside afterward. There but for the grace of God (and those cops...)

Gaston Studio said...

Love your honesty in this story of a part of your life that is left behind.

Chris Stone said...

great story. I'm glad you survived your youth, and that you got busted by either busy or perceptive cops. I suspect the cops knew who they were dealing with. And wasn't that before the "war on drugs?"

i'll read about your cousin later. sorry to hear that.

Christina LMT said...

Thanks for this post, Jim. As the others have said so eloquently, you get kudos for being so honest. I've never tried any drugs, but I don't feel that I've missed anything, either! As drug dealers go, you certainly win the prize for having been the most honest and responsible!

bluntdelivery said...

oh.... i understand close calls. although i never did drugs myself, my boyfriend was addicted to heroin and having drug dealers come around, taking my car to pick up drugs, all kids of stuff. and he was foreign and didn't have a legal license... how he never ended up in jail i have no idea

Hilary said...

You were indeed very lucky on more than one level. I would hate to think of what a record would have done to your career. Or what worse things might have happened to you. As always, you tell a fine story.