l awake. It's Friday, late summer. I automatically reach for my jug. There is about an inch left in the fifth of white port. I didn't forget the hair of the dog, and what a vicious mutt it was, too. My mouth tastes like a baboon's armpit, and why shouldn't it? I haven’t brushed my teeth in, what is it now, September?
I drink the wine, and it stays down — an auspicious start.
I look around my digs. What a dump. It reminds me of a mausoleum with a bed — scraps of carpet over the cement floor, a bare light bulb hanging down, a single dingy window....
Actually, the pad is in a nice location, Second and Nutmeg, but I live in the basement. The doctor who I rent it from for 100 a month sold it 45 days ago. Coincidentally, that’s how long it takes to clear escrow, and the realtor wants me out. Won’t the new owners be surprised when they discover the wino who haunts their $285,000 Hillcrest pad! Next time, read the fine print. Ha, ha, that cracks me up.
Big Fri, Big Fri, I’ve got to get going. First things first: I need a drink. I put on my Levi’s, a long-sleeve shirt, and some clean socks. It’s funny, I can wear a shirt for a week, pants for a month, but I have to have clean socks. That’s me, a real fashion statement. I grab a couple of decent butts out of the ashtray and head up First Avenue toward University.
The sun is fairly high, so that takes care of one decision for me. You see, every day I debate with myself whether to panhandle a jug or just steal it. If I get to the store during lunch hour when it is pretty busy, my decision is made. All the activity in the store will compensate for me, this long-haired, bearded fashion statement, walking in and out of the establishment without buying anything. I approach the stores, a Food Basket and a Safeway (now Lucky and Vons) across the street from each other. So who will be our contest winner today? The Food Basket looks busier.... I pull out my shirt-tail. In through the front door, a hard right to the liquor section, where I grab and stash a fifth of Seagram’s in the blink of an eye. Only a complete imbecile would steal white port. A left and another left to the cigarettes, where I pick up two packs of Camels (filters, because I’m health conscious). A lap around the store while I put the smokes in my back pockets, and then it’s out the door. Nobody follows me as I cross the parking lot, so I allow myself a sigh of relief for the first time today. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m an alcoholic.
I walk up Washington to the Der Weinerschnitzel and ask the lady for a glass of ice water, hold the water. I pour myself a whiskey on the rocks, light up a smoke, and take a healthy swig. Oh, that warm sensation. Life is sweet. Normally I would go kick it in the park or a canyon, read a book, and generally enjoy my good fortune. That’s what I love to do, drink and read. I read a lot, but today is Big Fri and I have things to do. I head home.
Once there, I fix myself another whiskey and water. As I sip my drink, I make a mental note of what I’ll need. Let me see, I need a pen, a ruler, a tracing wheel, a razor blade, a couple of grams of Coco-snow, some coin baggies, a greeting card, and some Actifeds. I have everything except the last two items here at the pad.
I put on my punk rocker T-shirt, slip my novel in my back pocket, and place the collected items into a paper bag with the Seagram's — except for the Coco-snow, which I place in my sock. I don’t want to have to explain to anyone what that substance is. I put on a light jacket because I won’t be home before dark, fix a drink for the road, grab the bag, and leave.
I’m heading downtown. It’s about a mile and a half, straight down First Avenue, but I don’t mind. The sun is out, the stroll is downhill, the view spectacular, and I’m well fortified. I walk over to the Second Avenue trolley station to my favorite trash can to look for a discarded trolley ticket. I find one that hasn’t expired, then walk over to Broadway to a bus stop. I’m still on a roll because I have time to finish my drink and smoke a cigarette before my bus comes. I board the bus and trade the trolley ticket for a transfer. Now I have transportation for the next two hours. I cruise up to Midway and Rosecrans, thoroughly enjoying the ride. At the Target I disembark and head over to the bushes behind the store. There I take a swig from my jug and stash my bag.
Into the Target through the nursery entrance at the side of the store — no security personnel work this entrance. At the greeting card section, I select a card and place it in the inside pocket of my jacket. The difficult part of the card selection is picking one with a psychedelic theme that I haven’t used before. Not an easy task. The card I pick is blue with a galaxy sort of scene that looks as though it may have possibilities. I exit the store unchallenged and make a left to the Ralph’s/The Giant down the parking lot.
The significant difference between the old Ralph’s and the new Ralph’s/The Giant is the sensors they have installed at the checkout stand. Boy, was I embarrassed when I made that discovery with a fifth of Kessler’s in my pants. They took the whiskey and insisted that I never return, but they have a short memory. So I stroll over to the cold remedies and add a package of Actifed to the greeting card in my jacket. Now I walk over to produce for a handful of cashews and out of the store. If it wasn’t for those bins, sometimes I think I would never eat. Ralph’s doesn’t put the magnetic strip that sets off the sensors on all their merchandise, only the expensive stuff. The trick is to know what the cut-off is.
I return to the bushes behind Target for my discarded items and a drink. Using my transfer, I catch the 34 bus to Mission Beach. At the Bahia I get off and walk across the street to an empty bench at Mission Bay Park. It’s time for me to use my artistic talents. This definitely calls for a tall whiskey and water and a smoke.
What I’m going to do is make a couple of sheets of fake LSD. (A sheet is 100 individual tabs or hits.) First I need a working surface. I use my novel (and you thought I only read them!). Next I want an appropriate design, so I select a couple of square inches on the greeting card with the pattern I’m looking for. Thirdly, I want to maintain perfect symmetry, so I use the ruler and pen to mark off about two and a half inches square, at one-quarter-inch increments. Now, to perforate the sheet into 100 hits. Using the ruler as a straight edge and my marks as a guide, I use the tracing wheel to perforate the card. If you are not into sewing, a tracing wheel is a little device used to trace a sewing pattern onto the material. It looks like a little pizza cutter with a serrated cutting edge. It also works perfectly for my needs. Until I discovered this little gem, it would take me a couple of hours to make one sheet of acid, using either a straight pin or a razor blade. The finished product would be less than perfect. Now I can knock out a couple of sheets in about an hour, and the result is hard to distinguish from the real thing.
Using the tracing wheel, I meticulously perforate the two and a half square inches of paper into 100 quarter-inch segments, each segment like a tiny piece in a psychedelic jigsaw puzzle. Then, using the razor blade, I cut the sheet away from the rest of the card, eliminating the guide marks. I repeat the process. What I end up with is 200 hits of bunk acid worth between $200 and $300 if sold in complete sheets, or between $600 and $1000 if sold as individual hits. I celebrate with a drink.
Moving right along, I’m now going to make some fake crystal, or methamphetamine. For this endeavor, I find a relatively clean piece of paper and place into it about 12 of the Actifeds. Folding the paper over with the pills in the middle, I use my Seagram’s bottle as a roller and pulverize the cold tablets. When I’ve achieved the desired consistency, I mix the powder with a little of the Coco-snow.
Coco-snow is a product commonly found in head shops. I’m a little unclear about its purpose, but I do know it’s quite similar to cocaine in appearance, taste, and smell, and when placed on your tongue or gums, or snorted, it will numb the area it comes in contact with, like cocaine. Coke dealers use it to cut their product, and rip-off artists sometimes use it to deceive customers into buying it instead of cocaine. I don’t think this is the manufacturer’s advertised intention. Anyhow, I not only use Coco-snow in lieu of coke but I also use it to cut my fake crystal by enhancing the texture and taste of the Actifed. Coco-snow is an expensive product, but I got a one-ounce bottle of the stuff, worth $190, for free. This was at the Get It On Shoppe in Mission Beach, when the clerk had her back turned and I was buying some coin baggies.
I place the concoction I’ve mixed into the baggies in approximately quarter-, half-, and whole-gram increments, to be sold for about $20, $40, and $65. I take what’s left over and make a 16th of an ounce (a teenth), one and three-quarters grams. Presto, now I have the products I need for a successful Friday night.
According to the sun, I have a couple of hours before the cover of night, when I will go to work. I would like to go over to the beach and watch the sunset, but in my line of work, it is advisable to keep a low profile. I place the finished product into an empty cigarette pack, which I place into my underwear (less likely to be searched there). The rest of the materials go into the bag, which I hide in the bushes across the street by the front sign of the Bahia.
I retreat to the chairs next to the boat docks behind the hotel with the rest of my jug. At this point, I have about a third of the Seagram’s left. I’ll need it for some serious fortification.
The trick is to reach a level of intoxication at which I won’t be encumbered with any sense of remorse or conscience, but not to get too loaded and lose my ability to articulate, persuade, and stay aware of my surroundings. That’s crucial, because I'm going to take these products I’ve just manufactured and, by misrepresenting them for the products that they resemble, try to sell said products to my unsuspecting customers. It’s a precarious task at best. The difficulties in this type of activity, other than it being highly illegal, arise when the customer discovers that he has been deceived. Usually once I’ve been found out, I can persuade the person into waiting longer until the fake drugs have a chance to take effect, or if worse comes to worse, I will give the disgruntled customer more “drugs” for free. I have even been known under the most desperate of circumstances to refund the money. The thing is, these kinds of situations have a potential of becoming violent and are best avoided entirely. I also constantly run the risk of encountering previous customers who will need to be placated.
I am not overly worried about these pitfalls because in this game, I truly am the master. I also know that as the bottle diminishes, the less preoccupied I will become by consequences— a necessary attitude to maintain. So I drink and plan my strategy for the evening.
I am going to work Mariners Point, a section of Mission Bay Park in vogue this year with San Diego’s young revelers. In the past, I’ve worked all of the party spots: Ocean Beach pier, Fiesta Island, Balboa Park, and concerts at places like the Sports Arena, SDSU, and San Diego Stadium. This season, Mariners is where the action’s at. During the high point of summer, the crowd at Mariners was so large and chaotic that I could make one sweep of the point without much chance of discovery. Now that it is late September, the tourists (a major supplement to my income) have left town, so I will target my business toward naval personnel and young people — the most gullible and least vengeful of my customers. I’m still only going to make one sweep, but because of the smaller crowd, timing becomes more critical.
Once I make my first sale of the LSD, I have 30 minutes, 45 at the most, to get out of there. That’s how long it takes LSD to take effect. If not... well, I’ve already explained what might happen. The crystal takes even less time to come on, but the effects are more subtle, and since the acid is my primary product, I use the 30-to 45-minute formula. Hey, you have to draw the line somewhere. I never said my plan was perfect, but it is tried and true.
The partiers usually align themselves along both sides of the road that bisects the point. They’re also along the tip of the point, where the cars turn around. From a bird’s eye view, the fire rings, cars, and people would look like an elongated horseshoe. I’ll start at one end of the horseshoe, the end closest to the channel, and work my way down, around, and back up so that I’ll finish just across the road from where I began. I hope this will take less than an hour and I’ll achieve my goal of at least $300. Being a payday weekend, this is a very realistic if not conservative goal. If I don’t achieve my goal in the allotted time, I’ll walk over to the parking lot by the bathrooms at the entrance of Mariners Point and work over there. A lot of people party there, but I don’t like it as well as the sand because it's much more accessible to San Diego’s Finest.
By the way, if I am caught by the police selling my bunk drugs, I will face the same penalties that I would if the drugs were real. The charge is called “sales in lieu of," a felony that I have been convicted of twice before, and Lord help me if I’m convicted of that charge again. But if the police merely catch me in possession of these bunk drugs, it will mean spending the weekend in jail. Once the substances are taken to the lab for analysis, they will release me with the charges dropped. Nothing I have is illegal to possess, only illegal to misrepresent and sell. Consequently, my greatest fear is to make a sale to an undercover officer. That would really put a cramp on my weekend.
The whiskey takes care of that concern, too, but I make a mental note to pay close attention to my customers’ actions and to stay in touch with my gut feelings. There are a lot of variables necessary to be successful in this game, and intuition is one. Like the song says, you’ve got to know when to fold, when to walk away, and when to run.
According to my bottle and the twilight, it’s time to go to work. One last swig and I’m on my way. I re-cross Mission Bay Drive to the park and leisurely stroll through the parking lot toward Mariners. Though I appear casually unconcerned, the committee in my head is going a mile a minute. I’m constantly on the lookout for police, past customers, and potential customers, all the while drinking in the atmosphere of the evening. As I approach the point, the noise and intensity level dramatically increase. My adrenalin starts to course.
The first sale, the first sale, so very important to draw first blood. The crowd looks moderate, but there is a long line of cars inching their way in for a night of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. I walk down to the first fire ring: A Chevy 4-by with the stereo blaring, surrounded by a group of young long-hairs drinking Bud with their dates. A good sign.
I walk up to the fire. “Yo, bro, need any cid?”
“No doses [LSD] for me," says a young long-hair.
“Crys?” I ask.
“Got plenty,’’ answers another little tweeker, a crystal freak.
I cruise over to the next car. Four young swabs are leaning on the trunk, listening to Zep, swigging Bud. “What’s up, fellas?’’
“Nothing much, dude,” replies a sailor in a Pretenders ball cap.
“You got acid, man?” exclaims another sailor in a leather jacket.
I reach into my crotch and break out the cigarette pack.
“Is it any good?’’ asks the swab in the leather jacket.
“What kind is it?”
“Galaxy.” Sometimes the hardest part about selling bunk LSD is thinking of some catchy name to call your product. This stuff practically named itself. As I pull a sheet out of the pack, the swabs crowd around. I ask them for some light, and one of them strikes up a Bic. I hold it up to the light so they can see, and they ahh. This stuff is a pleasure to sell when your product is up to snuff.
“How much?” asks the sailor in the ballcap.
“Five bucks a hit, five hits for 20, unless you’re looking for a quantity, then the price comes down a lot.” A swab with a Back East accent asks, “How strong is it?”
“250 mics [micrograms].”
“How do we know if it’s any good? I’ve been burned here before,” says Back East.
“Eat it. If you don't like it, there’s a money-back guarantee,” I assure him.
“And what, you’re going to stay here until we come on?” persists Easty.
This boy is starting to annoy me. Just buy the shit, airhead. “I’m not going anywhere, I’ll be here all night,”
I exclaim as convincingly as possible.
“I’ll take one hit,” says Leather.
Bless you, I think.
“Greg said to bring him two hits if we find any acid,” swabbie number four reminded his buddies — and I thought he couldn’t talk! The four sailors confer for a few seconds.
“We’ll give you 20 dollars for six hits,” says Back East.
Now, I would sell this stuff for 25 cents apiece for all I care, but if you don’t stand firm on your prices, you undermine the credibility of your product. Besides, this guy’s pissed me off. “Twenty-five bucks for six, but I’ll sell ya eight for 30.”
They confer some more. “Okay, dude,” says Back East, as they all reach for their wallets.
It makes me nervous when people start handing me money in the open, so I tell them to be cool and ask one of them to join me in their car to conduct the transaction. Leather volunteers. While I’m finalizing the deal, I caution him to handle the merchandise with care, so as to further emphasize the quality of the acid. Once it’s completed, I bid them “later on” and move on to the next group.
A few deals later, I approach a Karmann Ghia with a young couple in it. I knock on the glass and ask them if they want any acid. The guy says no and asks me if I know where they could get any “herb” (marijuana).
I tell them that I don’t have any, but there probably is some around if they look. Then I ask them if they need any crys.
Guy: "How much do you have?”
Guy: “Is it any good?”
“I’ve got ether-based rock that has a number-two acetone wash. This shit cooks." I’m not a chemist, nor do I use crystal. These are some of the expressions I’ve heard in reference to the manufacturing of the stuff, and if you are not a chemist, it sounds impressive. I reach into my pants and take out the crystal.
Guy: “Do you have quads [a quarter of a gram]?”
“I’ve got quads, halves, grams, and teenths.” I let him handle a couple of the baggies. “Try it before you buy it,” I entice. It gets a little tricky here. I want him to try it, not only to instill confidence in the product, but if he challenges me on it later, I can tell him that he had tried it first. Usually this entails tasting the crystal, but I don’t want him to taste it because crystal has a very bitter taste that my product does not. I whip out a little pocket knife I carry especially for this purpose and, scooping a little of the fake crystal onto the end of the blade, hold some up to his nose. He snorts it up.
“It’s rocky,” I say. He grabs his nostrils and snorts again, lodging the powder well up into his mucous membrane. “It takes a little while to come on, and watch the drip.” By now the stuff is starting to numb him out, and he doesn’t know what to think. Now is the time to push the sale.
“I got quarters here for 25, halves for 40, grams for 65, and I can make you a real good deal on a teenth,” I add. His girlfriend informs him that they don’t need that much, and he asks me if I would sell him ten dollars’ worth. I tell him that I don’t like to sell dimes because I don’t want to break up my bags. Then I add that if he has the cash (it’s Friday, payday, and everyone has the cash), he could buy a half for 40, split it in half making two quarters, and sell one of them for $25 to one of his friends. His bag would only cost him $15, I point out.
The guy and his date talk it over, he eagerly, she reluctantly, then he passes me $40 through the window and I pass him a half-gram. Somewhat amused, I mentally thank my best colleague in this endeavor: greed. “Party hearty,’’ I bid the couple good-bye.
At this point I’ve rounded the horseshoe and I’m working the other side of the road. As I ask a group of swabs if they want some acid, this guy from the car next to theirs tells them not to buy any. “Don’t buy any, it’s bunk,” he yells.
Immediately my sphincter muscle tightens. “Don’t call my acid bunk! I ate a hit when I bought the sheet Wednesday, and it’s the kind,” I inform him while the group of sailors listen intently. A drop of perspiration trickles down my back.
“I bought two hits from you last month, and I ate them both and never came on,” he retorts.
“Did it look like this?” I ask, showing him the sheet of my new product.
“No, you called it ‘Musical Note,’ but I remember you. You ripped me off for two hits.”
“Oh, I remember the ‘Note,’ good fry [LSD] but some of it got wet when this drunk dude spilt some beer on it. You must have gotten some of those,” I lie, while tearing him off two hits from the new sheet. “Yeah, I shouldn’t have sold any more of it, but I didn’t think it was totally ragged. Here, brother, take these, but don’t call my shit bunk — half of this beach is tripping already.”
“Righteous, dude. I hope this is good.”
“If it ain’t, I’ll give you your money back,” I tell him, turning a potential enemy into an ally.
People are really packing it in as the night progresses. I noticed a couple of cops on foot patrol earlier, but they’re behind me and I’m working away from them. Still, I’m wary. Young people are passing me as they enter the melee while I exit. I ask a couple of long-hairs walking by if they need any acid. One turns and replies, “How much do you got?”
That’s the question I was waiting to hear. “How much do you need?”
“We’re looking for a sheet,” says one.
“I got a sheet,” I inform them. “Do ya want to check it out?”
I steer them over to the sand behind a car, where we can talk undisturbed and break out my product. One of them produces a light, and I let the other one handle it. “It’s called Galaxy, about 250 mics and very fresh,” I say.
They look at it, seemingly impressed. “How good is it?” one asks.
I tell them my rehearsed pitch; “I ate a hit when I bought it on Wednesday and it was live. It’s not real overpowering — you won’t see cars melt — but you get good patterns, trails, and that acid grin. It’s also hilarious shit. You’ll be yukking it up all night. If you have an empty stomach, it takes about 30 minutes to come on. Once you start feeling it, it takes another hour to peak. You will peak for eight to ten hours. If you eat it now, you will be up to see the sun rise.” I tell these two guys all the things they want to hear, and they’re sucking it up.
“How do we know if it’s any good?” one asks.
“I come here almost every weekend, and if my cid wasn’t up to snuff, I would hear about it. As a matter of fact, I’ve been here all night, and half of this beach is tripping right now. The best way to tell is to eat it, but if you don’t want to, just ask someone.” I gamble on this ploy because if I do not sound confident, I’m sunk anyway. I also know that most people are reluctant to go up to complete strangers and ask them about their drug experiences.
“How much for a sheet?” asks one of the long-hairs.
“Are you guys going to sell it here? I don’t sell to people I’m going to have to compete with later,” I say, putting them on the defensive.
“No, we’re going to take it back to Granite Hills.”
“In that case, I’ll sell you a sheet for $125. At five bucks a hit, you can make $375 profit.”
“I usually pay $90 for a sheet,” one of them informs me.
"Not at this beach you won’t, but I’ll tell you what. I need to re-up [buy some more] anyways, so I’ll let you have the sheet for $110. That is as low as I go.’’ What the hell, it’s getting late and I’m anxious to leave. They ask me if I have change for three 50s.
That’s it, it’s Miller time. My day is done, and I’m out of here. I head directly for the bus stop. I never count my cash while I’m working... call me superstitious. I can tell by the amount of merchandise I have left that it’s been a worthwhile night. At the bus stop I pull out the wads of bills and count them. $341. Not bad for less than an hour’s work.
Instead of taking the bus, I hail a cab. The bag I have stashed across the street can wait until tomorrow. All of a sudden I’m in a hurry.
I tell the cabbie to take me to an address in North Park. Once there, I toss him a 20 and tell him to wait for me; I’ll only be a few minutes. I go up to the apartment and knock. This is my connection’s house, and he’s expecting me. I come over to his pad every Friday at this time. He answers and lets me in. This guy is a Mexican national who comes over and works this side of the border for six months out of the year. When he returns to Mexico, his brother comes over and takes care of the business. Neither of them uses drugs, and I know for a fact that they’re pretty rich. What I like is the quality of their drugs.
I have no time for chitchat, I've got a cab waiting. I ask for a "quartito” (a quarter gram of heroin) and a half-gram of cocaine. He sells me the heroin but tells me that he’s out of the coke. That really bums me out because that’s what I like to do; speedballs, a mixture of cocaine and heroin made popular by John Belushi. I buy the heroin for $60 and split. I have the cabdriver take me to my basement in Hillcrest and give him another five dollars. The $251 spent on cab fare would support me for at least three days during the week, but I don’t even consider that thought now. Easy come, easy go. I retrieve my syringe, cook up half of the heroin, and inject it. Ah, that rush. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a drug addict.
I clean the syringe and stash it in my hiding place along with the rest of the heroin and what’s left of my bunk drugs. The heroin will come in very handy later tonight. Now it’s time to just kick back and relax. I’ve maintained a frantic pace all day, and I just want to lie down on my bed and drift into my thoughts.
Alcoholic/addict, alcoholic/addict, boy, wouldn’t Mom be proud. Man, how did it ever get so crazy? Actually I’m what is commonly referred to by the dope-fiend community as a weekend warrior. I don’t shoot heroin every day, instead limiting my usage to the weekend and getting by on alcohol and marijuana the rest of the week. Though I’ve shot dope daily for many years in the past, now I only use when I can afford it. Since I only "work” on Friday and sometimes Saturday nights, this restricts my drug usage to the weekends — the reason being, when I use heroin every day, I always end up becoming very desperate for money and maintain a lifestyle that would make today seem relatively tame. This leads to complications such as jail and personal injury. Even though I will experience minor withdrawals Monday,
Tuesday, and Wednesday, I don’t dare allow myself to work on weekdays. Monday through Thursday I will either panhandle or steal wine, drink and read in the park, and eat at missions or soup lines. Next Friday the cycle will start again. I’ve maintained this schedule since before summer.
The ironic thing is that even though you may think of me as a despicable lowlife, the fact of the matter is I’m essentially a nice person with a very serious disease.
I like puppies and children. I love my family, my community, and my country. I don’t hate women, the government, or even the police, though cops make me very nervous. I’m not particularly bright, but I’m not particularly stupid, either. My parents didn’t beat me, and I have a sense of humor. It’s just that drugs and alcohol dictate every conscious thought and action I make.
I don’t know when I became an alcoholic/addict. I do know that in the late '60s, in a suburb of San Diego, I began as a young teen-ager to experiment with pot along with the rest of my buddies. Then I started going to keg parties and drinking beer, just having a good time. Still later I progressed to stronger and stronger drugs and more and more booze, and at some point they just seemed to take over. I do know what the disease of alcohol and drug addiction has cost me. It has cost me every job I’ve ever had, and it didn’t allow me to get my degree. At this point in my life, I’m unemployable, nor can I function in any other semblance of a normal life. Drugs and alcohol have taken away every relationship I've had, including my relations with my family. It has cost me every car, apartment, or other material possession I’ve ever owned. Most importantly, this disease has taken from me every shred of self-respect, morality, and dignity I have, leaving me a lonely, bewildered, and totally confused empty hulk. Knowing all of this, I still can’t stop using drugs and alcohol. They have me completely whipped.
Whew! I’m not used to this kind of soul-searching. What the hell, it’s Friday night and I’ve got cash. I think I'll go to the liquor store and get a jug. Then I’ll go and look for some coke, because I’m dually addicted and this is what I do best.