High Crimes and Mister Meaner, A Tale Noir (pt1)

high crime

by J.T. Hilltop
The story I am about to tell is true, the names have been changed to protect the guilty
Prologue
The year 1971, the town Centerlawn, a thriving little Long Island community in the suburbs of New York City where four youths chose to show blatant disregard of the law and engage in the heinous crime of sharing a marijuana cigarette. In an attempt to prevent these youths from throwing their lives away down the illegal drug drain two police officers arrested the four miscreant hoodlum youths and took them to the precinct for some instant “wake the fuck up” real world advice dispensing. That’s how things rolled in 1971 suburbia.…

My name is JT Hilltop and I was one of those miscreant hoodlum youths who narrowly averted a lifetime of penal institutions for a taste of the forbidden fumes. We weren’t hardened criminals or anything, just a couple of teens out on the prowl hunting for some fun. Me and my three cohorts were typical suburban kids looking for some cheap kicks to break up the boredom of living in our mundane cookie cutter neighborhood. Our way of escaping the doldrums of our mind numbing existences was to engage in the mind altering practice of smoking anything containing THC. Opting to gamble our futures away for a few puffs on the magic dragon we engaged acts of refer madness that can only be described as….One helluva crazy fun time! This is our story:

Part I
“Hey look, here comes Monty, he got his car back.” Monty, short for Montebello, was one of the cool kids in high school who had a car. Me, Streak, and Jimbo were just hanging around “The Stores”, a local meeting place where youths gathered to plan their evening of hijinx and carousing. Rolling across the tedium of a warm summers eve Monty pulled up in his recently repaired Plymouth Valiant. Not an especially hot car but it beat the Hell out of anything we had, which was actually two sting ray bicycles and a ten speed. In our defense though the sting ray bikes were tricked out with Ape hanger handlebars and Banana seats. One even had a sissy bar. Monty pulled up alongside us rolling down the window, “Hey man, you guys got any buzz?” Buzz! That’s what we lived for, a taste of escape from the unified conformity in Centerlawn that shaped our lives. Buzz was how we described anything that got us high, marijuana, hash, colored capsules from our parents medicine cabinets, or whatever we could get our hands on. “I got some weed man, you got papers?” Streak had some weed. Streak almost always had weed, I could never figure out how he did it but it wasn’t a surprise when he spoke up. We shared buzz all the time because none of us felt like getting high alone. I guess relief from misery loves company as much as misery itself. From the tiniest chunk of hash to the biggest five finger ounce of pot if one of us was holding, all of us high. “Of course I have papers. Get in guys.” Streak got in the front, because with having buzz comes privilege. Jimbo and I filed into the back. “Where ya wanna go to get high?” Streak was already rolling a joint, “Lets go up to the school parking lot man, we can hide in the back corner.” The sound mind of Jimbo, the most rational thinker of our crowd (actually the only rational one) broke in quickly, “No man, not a good idea. There’s no way to escape from there.” Streak overruled his objection, “No ones even gonna see us Jimbo, we can puff all we want, no one will ever know.” Monty and I agreed so Jimbo gave in reluctantly.
Now if we had seriously thought this whole thing out we would have realized that Jimbo was absolutely correct. “The school” was our old Elementary school and far beyond the parking lot in the corner of the playground was where we first learned the virtues of partying. It had been a safe place for us to guzzle Budweisers, or Schlitz if we were low on cashola, or Ripple or Boones Farm wine when we felt all upscale suburban. The cops patrolled it periodically but we were located in a perfect position to run in different directions into the woods. No one ever got caught there and it must have pissed off the cops because they never gave up trying. Or maybe they didn’t really care because it was only beer but there in lay the real problem. We had graduated to the hard stuff, smoking the devils weed, which puts everyone Heroin Highway, a dead end road for drug users. Now we were not just sneaking in a little alcohol to get drunk, we were committing high crimes that suck the soul of youth out of every neighborhood. That only made the police more desperate to catch us. But Hell, we were indestructible and would never get caught. Did I say never? Despite our dark out of the way hiding spot and being unseen by any passing traffic we failed to realize that the cops still made periodic runs through the school. Maybe we were too eager or too stoned but it never occurred to us we were far from the corner of the playground without our safety net. In hindsight the cops had to get to the corner of the playground somehow, and as we would shortly find out, they used the most logical path, straight through the parking lot.
“Just got my car back from the shop, cost me fifty bucks man. So what you guys been up to?” I always liked Monty so I answered him then gave him an offer, “Work mostly man. Keeping it real at the Nursing home, hanging at the beach when I’m off. But I was vacuuming the floor in the nurses office and noticed the medicine box unlocked. I five fingered a dozen Darvon man, got two with me now man, you want?” Monty accepted the two pills and placed them in his pocket as he slipped Jethro Tull’s Aqualung tape into his eight track. We had already passed the joint three times and I was flying, “Fuckin A Streak, where’d you get this shit man, its killer?” Streak took a deep hit answering without exhaling, “It…sss…we chair wee igha fra mahbaath Bobba” We all understood stoner speak, the language spoken while trying to keep your hit of weed in your lungs. He said “its wheelchair weed I got from my brother Bobby” Any weed that was super potent we called wheelchair weed, because after puffing it you felt like you couldn’t walk. The kept the car was full of smoke with the windows up because we didn’t like to waste the smoky sweetness and thought if it hung around it would continue to ply its magic on us. Mistake number two!
Streak took out his baggie of herb getting ready to roll another joint when we noticed two blaring white lights right in front of us bearing down like mini rockets. Because of the smoke we couldn’t tell it was a cop car sneaking up on us but in hindsight it wouldn’t have mattered if we did. The cops were on us within seconds so we reacted in typical stoner fashion. We totally froze trying to make sense of anything while wondering what the Hell was happening. After a few seconds we all three noticed two men running out from the two glaring lights. The message finally made its way past all the smoke and up to our brains so we instinctively began a frantic attempt to roll down the windows. Streak in a fit of panic tossed his baggie of weed with seeming super strength across the lawn. The doors of Monty’s car were flung open and the sight of two men in blue uniforms pointing actual guns at us made us damn near shit our pants. “Get the fuck out of the car and put your hands on the roof!” The voice was scarily authoritative and our “highs” were the only things that had a chance to run away. Now straight and shaking we obediently placed our hands on the roof of Monty’s car. “Hmmmm, smells like you boys are smoking some of that marry-wanna. You boys getting high here?” Desperate to find an excuse Streak replied weakly, “No, ah no, we were just, ah um, we were just talking and listening to music.” As he spoke we all saw the cloud of smoke rolling out of Monty’s Valiant making good on its attempt to completely discredit the story. One of the cops grabbed Streak by the arm and forcefully walked away with him. We could pretty much make out what the cop was saying, “You some kind of wise ass punk? You think we’re idiots?” I prayed Streak didn’t answer truthfully to that question because we considered the cops dopey drop outs. It was obvious he was really just trying to scare the shit out of us. Thinking back, he was pretty successful. The other three of us stood like petrified mannequins with our hands Velcroed to the roof as he pushed Streak back up against the car. Then the other cop came walking over holding something in his hands. He held up the baggie of weed Streak had tossed like it was a prize twelve point deer in a hunting contest, “Well lookie here Finch, seems we got us some Mary Jane here. Are you boys reefer addicts or something?” Then he walked around talking in his ‘I gotcha ya little fuckheads’ voice meant for us, “This here is what we call felony weight boys. Any of you young hoodlums know what felony weight is? I’ll tell you what it is, its over one quarter ounce of a controlled substance like this here bag of marijuana which raises this heinous crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. That means some hard time for whoever owns this shit and I aim to find out which one of you punks owns the dope!”
I was shivering like a naked beachcomber in January despite it being a beautiful warm summer evening. The cops took each one of us for a walk and talk and when returned put handcuffs on. Shit was getting real and I was no longer feeling any kind of buzz. That is aside from the paranoia buzzing in my ears. I was the last to go for the perilous perp walk and by this point they knew my brother was a cop. “Son your brother is gonna be real ashamed once he finds out what a low life criminal his hairbag little brother is. You putting him in a bad spot.” To accentuate the point the had been squeezing my bicep muscle between his thumb and forefinger like he was crushing a peanut shell. “You know what a felony is there Justin?” A million thoughts were flooding through my mind, jail, big bad strong criminals in jail, big bad strong horny criminals in jail, going to jail as fresh meat, and facing Mom and Dad. Jesus I was in deeper shit than ever before. I was hoping he was nicer than Mr. ‘Lookie what I got’ over there so I tried to sound remorseful as I pleaded, “Please officer, I’m not a bad kid, its just a little weed, we weren’t hurting anyone. Have a heart sir, I’m only sixteen and I” He cut me off as he now pinched my arm hard enough to cause a bruise. Apparently he wasn’t the nice cop, he was Mr. Meaner. Not fully satisfied at my wincing he then pushed me hard making me take a few steps to keep from falling on my stoned face. “Have a heart? You’re a cimm ee naal boy, you broke the law! This here is illegal and you did it anyway. Your brother is gonna get a lot of shit for having a felon for a brother. Tell you what though, since your brother is on the job I’ll cut you some slack. All you gotta do is tell me who’s stuff this is and we can work something out.” Shit! Jesus H shit! A rat. He wants me to be a rat. Well there’s no way man, I can’t turn on Streak. “I-I’m sorry officer, I never saw that baggie of weed, all we had was this one joint one of us found, I can’t even remember which of us….” The pain shot through my arm up into my shoulder. Now he was twisting and squeezing my arm pinching the bone as he literally tossed me back towards the car with the others. His voice was trembling he was so angry “Bunch of fucking idiots, all of you. I want to know who’s pot this is and you’re gonna tell me you little shits. Each one of you hairbags are going to jail.” They were rather well versed at intimidating four teenagers with bully tactics that fell just short of abuse in those pre I’m calling DYFS days. The one asshole cop, Mr. Meaner, who had a particular problem with me ruining my brothers cop reputation was eyeing me with evil intent. I saw him move his right foot and the moment his government issue hard leather flatfoot shoe found its target I yelped like a beaten puppy. I could tell there was already a huge lump as I fell to the ground in pain. My calf was throbbing as the other cop, Fitch or Finch or something grabbed both of my arms lifting me up. He flung me like a rag doll against the cop car. I could hear the slight clinking of metal as the criminal containment bracelets slipped around my wrists locking in place. The sharp pain of metal stunned me and I let out a gurgle. “Oh I’m sorry, is that too tight?” Finally some compassion, I nodded and managed a squeaky “A little”. With the ease of a man who more than likely has trouble in bed but found courage and a sense of real manhood wearing a badge of authority, the douchebag tightened the cuffs digging into the flesh at the outer edges of my wrists. Tears welled up in my eyes while they loaded us into the back seat of the police car and proceeded to escort us to the fourth precinct. Apparently what we had here was a failure to communicate.

High Crimes And Mister Meaner, A Tale Noir (part 2)

high crime

By J. T. Hilltop
The four of us were squeezed into the back seat having now had the first chance to actually see each others faces since the whole ordeal began. Every face was sullen, frightened, and slightly angered, as much at ourselves as our situation. Streak had a visible bruise on his temple, and Monty had a slight shiner of a black eye. The cops laughed and taunted us the entire fifteen minute ride in a misguided attempt to cheer us up, or maybe to make themselves feel superior and in control to compensate for any short comings they may possess. Fitch or Fatch or whatever tried to educate us in what life is like for a felon of our tender ages that get locked up in prison. He took a sadistic joy describing the details of the exact sexual activities we might be experiencing and his partner kicker cop just laughed. Their description of jail rape was frighteningly detailed down to a very expressive diatribe of the pain one feels as a new asshole gets torn in a more literal sense. I had little doubt they were feeling sexually aroused themselves just thinking about our fates, but even that couldn‘t cheer me up. Once we arrived at the precinct things seemed far too relaxed.
We arrived at police headquarters and were instantly separated into our very own personal interrogation rooms. Mine was a small room decorated in post modern minimalism with just a small table and a pair of folding chairs facing each other across the table. My fear impulse was pounding like a herniated migraine headache. I’d heard many stories about beatings with rubber hoses and hard punches using phonebooks so as not to leave any marks. I was hoping I had watched too many cop shows and movies and that shit like that didn’t happen in real life. But inside I knew that was being naïve. I stood there doing nothing as confused as a June bug in July. An idiot in handcuffs just standing still for what seemed to be a half hour. Finally a cop, a different one, came in my room. He walked behind me, removed my handcuffs and ordered me to sit down. He stunk of stale cigarette smoke mixed with too much English Leather cologne. He was much older than the cops who brought us in. I weighed the value of that, older and more paternal or cynically old and more adept at hiding interrogation bruises? “Justin Hilltop, possession of marijuana and distribution of controlled substance! I know your brother Randle. Worked with him a few times. He’s a good cop, a good man, why would you do this to him?” He stared at me condescendingly but I just cast my eyes downward. “It looks like we have a bit of a problem here Justin. I want to help you out here, keep your brother away from all this, but my partner hates drug users. Look son, someone here is guilty of a felony crime, and that somebody has to face the music. Its just a matter of time .We’ve talked to each of the other guys, Monty was caught with some pills and everyone swears you gave them to him. Not only that Justin, they also all claim that it was you that threw that bag of marijuana out the window. Your friends are willing to sell you down the river son. You say it isn’t yours but you see how looks don’t you? Your word against the word of three other kids. The brother of a police officer in position of felony weight marijuana. Not only are you screwing your brother, you may be heading off to Sing Sing.” What? No fucking way, they would never! My head was spinning with possibilities. Hope was melting like a mini marshmallow in a cup of hot cocoa. First business is the pills. I reckon I had to cop to that but its only two pills and I didn‘t sell them or anything, I’d think of a good lie for that, but the weed? Did all of them really say it was mine? That makes no sense. I sat in my chair dumbfounded. “Look Justin, here’s the deal. The other guys think because your brother is a cop you’ll get off easier. Personally I don’t think it was yours but someone has to go down and it looks the others chose you. Maybe we have an option though. Here’s what can happen. One, you admit its your marijuana and we book you, and off to jail you go. Case closed, you go to jail and your buddies go home. Two, you let us know who’s stuff it really was and we‘ll arrest him and see what we can do about getting you home, or three, I call your brother Randle and ask him to come in to the precinct and maybe you can tell him all about it. Know what? I need a smoke. I’m gonna go have one and give you a few moments to decide what your gonna do.” Without another word he got up leaving me alone in the room.
The first thing I noticed after he closed the door was a huge mirror on the wall. I had seen enough movies to know it was a two way mirror. Assuming I was being watched my survival mode kicked in and I went into acting gear, pacing the floor with what I hoped was a panicked look on my face. I pounded my hand and started talking to myself to enhance the performance. Starting of in a low unintelligible voice as if I were reasoning with myself I gradually began speaking louder and more clear so the cops could hear me. “I can’t believe those guys would say it was my stuff, why would they even do that. It wasn’t even ours. Oh man, oh Jesus shit man I’m in big trouble now. I did give Monty the pills but its not like I sold them or anything, I just gave em to him. Oh fuck man, the old man is gonna freakin kill me. I’m gonna get the beating of a lifetime, I’m as good as dead man, what am I gonna do?” I continued on like this for a few minutes before good cop came back in with his partner.
“Well Justin, we need to start talking the truth here son.” Before I could even respond the new cop, just as old and weathered with a battling cologne of perhaps Old Spice snarled at my direction, “Just lock his dirty hairy ass up in the back. Let old man Rheingold make friends with a nice young girl. Is that what you wanna be, a girl?” Now it was directly at me and his voice gained momentum, “Cause if you wanna be a girl with all that hair you’ll fit in real well in lock up, they love girly boys in there. And once they find out you‘re the brother of a cop thay’re gonna treat you extra special, maybe even give ya ass a sweet gang rape. You ready to spread your cheeks there ya smelly, dirty little hippie-shit pussy boy.” Wow! He was pushing every button on the intimidation elevator. Not especially articulate but playing bad cop a bit too well. I opted to give my attention to good cop, “Look I admit I gave the pills to Monty, but I swear to God I have no clue if anyone else had more pot than the joint we smoked. I wanna help, I really do, but I just don’t know where that bag of pot came from.” Good cop stared at me as bad cop began pacing and making harumph noises. Bad cop looked like he wanted to kick something, or someone. Good cop looked over at him, “Marty, wancha go check on old man Rheingold while I finish with Hilltop here.” Bad cop gave me a purposeful distained glare as he left the room slamming the door behind him. “ I told you my partner don’t like no drug users, he’ll be okay. Look Justin, here’s what’s gonna happen now. I’m gonna take your statement down about the pills, Martys gonna talk to your brother Randle, and then we will decide what to do with you from there. And that’s it, unless you have anything to add. Think hard about whether you got anything to say boy, I have no idea what the Sarge will choose to do with you. but I’ll tell ya one thing, he sure don’t like marijuana smokers.”
My head was spinning, so much going on. Before I knew it I was sitting at a desk with good cop who was asking questions and writing things down as I answered. “Okay Justin, what kind of pills did you sell Richard and where did you get them?” I was taken aback, “Wait, what? I didn’t sell them to Monty, er I mean Rich, I gave them to him!” I felt like I pleaded my case well but good cop was not feeling it. “Oh sorry Justin, I thought you knew. The law see’s no difference between giving and selling when it come to controlled substance. Its called distribution. It doesn’t matter whether you accepted money or not, legally you distributed illegal drugs. So lets start over, tell me where you bought the pills.”
I felt completely busted, they tricked me into confessing and I knew I had to give them something in order for them to back off about the baggie of weed. Thinking fast I came up with a story about an unattractive older woman who gave me the pills as a way of gaining my sexual friendship. They ate the story up believing they were on to a sexual predator. Or maybe they were getting off on it, but it worked. I’m not sure how long it took for them to give up searching for a heavy set dirty blond thirty something woman in Cold Spring Bay driving a Pontiac Firebird and surfing for young boys with a vial full of pills. Actually, thinking about it would really suck if anyone was hassled over my fable, but I had to do what I had to do. They finally relented on the marijuana charge, I thought I threw them but found out later that Streak admitted to owning the wicked weed. My brother came to the precinct to take me home which sucked, because it meant a long lecture and an extra few cc’s of disappointment guilt serum before going before the firing squad in my house. This too shall pass.
The legal part of the ordeal was over. Randle explained to me that my friend Jack (Streak) had admitted to owning the pot so Jimbo and Monty were released to our parents and I was given the added bonus of being released to my very angry older brother. I begged him not to say anything to Mom and Dad, trying the old it will kill them routine, and he told me to wait in the car as he went in to talk to them. It was a weak argument but I had to give it a try. When he called me inside I knew instantly he told them by the look on both my parents faces. They had somehow been able to register an array of emotions on their faces. Anger, disgust, profound disappointment, sadness, the feeling they failed as parents, the feeling their son is a drug addict, and more anger. I didn’t know it at the time, but once I became a parent I would possess the same super power of making a child feel like shit just by shape shifting the expression on my face.
As for the four of us delinquents, we got scoffed at by school mates for being idiots but also acquired a bit of street creds for being arrested. We avoided each other over the next few days, none of us knowing what the others went through, but once we finally did speak our tales were remarkably similar. The cops took us each aside and dangled the “everyone else told us it was yours” bait in front of us, and just as I assumed Monty and the rest sold me out for the pills, Streak was sure we had sold him out as well. In retrospect the cops were not as stupid as we thought them. We miscalculated believing them to be dim witted asshats but they fooled the shit straight out of all four of our pants to get to their “truth”. I was grounded for the remainder of my teen years which actually sounded fair, but I knew it wouldn’t last because they would grow tired of me constantly moping around complaining about where my friends were and what they were doing. I grew tediously disenchanted with television and snuck joints up in my room among other things to help pass my home incarceration sentence. All in all I learned a valuable set of lessons. One, always have an escape route when getting high, two, if a level headed member of the group suggests a place to be unsafe hear him out, and three, if ever again I get pulled into the station for a crime, remember that the cops are smarter than they look, they lie their faces off, and cannot be trusted about anything. Oh yea, one more thing, always keep a stash of something hidden in your room in case you ever get grounded for life.
Epilogue

In the end no real harm was done other than our parents finding out we smoked pot and Streak having to get a lawyer to go to court. Streak received an ACOD, adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, meaning if he got in no trouble for six months the charge and conviction were stricken from the records. Streak never really treated me or Monty the same, even after hearing that the cops tricked us by telling each of us the same thing about everyone else saying it was ours. I think he always had doubts. Jimbo and Streak however remained close friends, maybe Jimbo’s sound mind quality made him more believable. Time passed and life continued to happen. Jimbo and Streak eventually cut off all ties with me but I was leaving town soon anyway so I lost contact with pretty much all of my Centerlawn friends. Even now in the Facebook reunion age Jimbo wants no correspondence with me which is fine, some parts of our pasts are best left behind and forgotten. As for Monty, I went my way, Monty went his, I have no idea where or how he is but we parted as friends. I am certain of one thing though, if I were to somehow get in touch with Monty he and I would get a big laugh reminiscing over this tale and other assorted teen age escapapades we shared. Monty and I remained friends even after our being memorialized in the Long Islander newspaper Police Blotter section. Not like BFF best friends maybe but a friendship that traveled beyond schoolmate acquaintances. A friendship unchanged. As I stated, the bust have a lasting effect on the shattered friendships of my other two compadres. Once childhood friends now a casual friendship built on distrust and tension. Jimbo remained the sound voice, forging his life as one of Centerlawn’s upstanding citizens to this day and by all accounts he’s happy, but as I understand it Streak found himself on the wrong side of the law later in life in a much more serious capacity. I think about three of those compadres every now and again, and especially the night our heinous disregard for law and order altered our relationships. One night, one incident can have a ripple effect on our universal existences, turn friends into acquaintances, but in the end we really only need to answer to ourselves. As for me, well I continued my evil pot smoking ways for a long time to come, had my own minor brushes with the law, but in the end if its true that a persons measure is in their deeds and character, then I’m okay with myself. My deeds, counseling of youths, and assistance to others in need far outweighs all of my minor mistakes. Life is not always easy and all four of us had our share of dark times, but then again, sometimes you need to feel around in the dark for a while in order to appreciate the light. Peace

Taking Chances

take chances

This could be dangerous lets think it through
Young minds considering the wrong side of the law
None of us sat back but dove straight in head first
Without a thought if any consequence lay in store

Way back in the days when we took chances
We let not a soul tell us how we should act
Pissed in the wind without using protection
Mindful supervision was something we lacked

Back when we were young
Left no single bell unrung
No song unsung
No fence could keep us away
All we did all day was play
Doing it our way
Took on every single dare
Lived a life without care
So full of flair
Lives were full of fast romances
Writhing in horizontal dances
Just taking chances

Back in the day without a worry to be had
On life we kept the toughest stronghold
Indestructible bodies we were never defeated
Taking chances was just the way we rolled

Then our own children broke all of our rules
Responsibility suddenly became our new goal
Protecting our own kids from making our mistakes
Trying to teach them the safest way to roll

Back when were old
Talked of how we rolled
We broke the mold
Taught our children rules
They laughed at us old fools
Stubborn mules
Taught them what to see
Be the best they can be
Be better than me
Tried teaching them from the start
Taking dares won’t set you apart
Taking chances is not so smart

Time is a boulder rolling downhill
Gathering moss like no rolling stone
Of all the things we wish most now
We hope we never have to go it alone

I coulda been a contender
A lifetime full of splendor
But I surrendered
Never made a name
Never found my fame
So who’s to blame?
Take a closer look
At the chances we took

She Said, I Know What Its Like To Be Dead, (J. Lennon)

sammy

There and back
J.T. Hilltop

Of all the people to hear about God and life after death Samuel Brooks was not the most likely conveyor of truth. Sam wasn’t an especially religious man, went to church on Easter and Christmas, did good deeds, but never really prayed or sang hymns or anything like that. What made Sam’s story worth hearing was the fact, or at least the fact as he tells it, that he literally died and came back to life. Then again, he does claim his death and return was the result of a heroin overdose so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps some tequila and lime as well since his story was being told to me at Driftwood Pub in Cow Harbor New York. But to the best of my questionable recollection here’s what transpired.
It should be said first an foremost that Cow Harbor was the Mayberry of the Northeast, a tiny little beach town full of clammers, fisherman, and escapees from the metro Manhattan madness. Anytown USA, it was a beach oriented community on Long Islands northern coastline. From the boredom of the chowder many of us suburban misfits turned to drugs to take us away from a mundane life in a small community. In our day marijuana was a must have while the slightly more hardcore of us experimented with hallucinogens, diet pills, and Quaaludes. The really hardcore bored rural drones dabbled in snorting cocaine and heroin. It freed us of the mediocre and transported us to a level of suburban legend the likes of James Dean in Hollywood. Of course once one dabbles in something as powerful as coke and dope you become a mere half step away from the stereotype portrayed in public service anti-drug movies the schools force feed the huddled masses of suburban youth. The true legends emerged as the rebellious main-liners who inject the poisonous powders directly into their veins. Sam was one of those rebel legends.
I was back in town after leaving some eight years ago to visit the grave of my beloved deceased Mom. While in my old hometown I always stop off at The Driftwood as it’s one of the more comforting hang outs from my metaphoric stomping grounds. A place where the jukebox now played fond memories and the pool table stored folklore of all nigh revelry. Just walking through the door of Driftwoods imparted the warmth of a treasured and magical time. The comfort of a mug of beer transported me even further to an easier if not so innocent time. To make the trip even more appreciable who is sitting at a table in the corner but my old schoolmate Sammy Brooks, one of the once revered icons of a town as defined by drug use. Sammy was known for his numerous battles with addictions and stories of suburban legend most of us were glad we avoided retrospectively, but misguidedly glamorized in the days of our asinine self absorbed down with the system youth. Sam was a heroin addict turned methadone reliant ex user who if had no major contributions to society at least held down a job. Truth be told the stigma of addiction aside he was a really nice guy who just got caught up in his attempt to be the coolest of the cool but instead ended up selling his soul for some temporary recognition. I knew him since kindergarten, and while not best friends we were never enemies, not even for a petty moment.
“Yo Sammy my man, how the fuck ya dewin? Must be like seven years at least brother.” Sam looked up from his drink staring at me puzzled, “JT? That you JT? Hey you look good Bro, still got your pony tail, eh? Glad to see that, too many short hairs around these days. Jeeze shit man what brings you back to this hellhole of a town?” I was honestly surprised he remembered me let alone that I had left town some time ago. I grabbed a beer, sat down and we began to catch up. We had a great time reminiscing the old days but once we got around to the reason for my visit Sam got weirded out. “JT, I know death is hard when its your Mom and shit, but I’ve been there, and there are things about dying you don’t want to know.” He couldn’t have been more wrong, I’m a sponge for information as it relates to the mysterious unknown. There was no way I wasn’t going to ask him what he meant. “Whadda ya mean Sammy? What do you know about death man?” After some prodding Sam relented. “I died from an overdose in the city but for some reason I came back.” Afraid he was gonna go off on some God reached his hand out and took me back story I attempted to change the subject until he asked me if I wanted to hear about what its like to be dead. Of course I did.
“Buy me a club soda Bro, I’ll tell you the whole deal but don’t get mad when I tell you there ain’t no god just a big nothing after you die. I know everyone wants to believe in bright lights, hugs, getting back together with gone family members and shit that’s pure bullshit man, its nothing like that.” I walked up to the bar to get us each a drink. Always one to play the devils advocate this particular time I was in unfamiliar territory lobbying on the side of religion but just to stir it up I asked, “How do you know it wasn’t like God or some angel or something that came an brought you back?” Sam got this real serious look on his face, “Look man, you can believe whatever you want, but if god or the angels or whatever wanted me to live why would they have let me get so strung out on drugs in the first place. Listen to how it went down and judge for yourself man but for me I’m sure there ain’t no super power saving people and shit. Don’t be counting on no help from above because there just ain’t nothing there. You’re on your own Bro.” It wasn’t anger registered on his face but contemplative reality as he launched into his tale.
“I was on the lower east side looking to cop some dope and coke. I was into speed balls back then dude, you know mixing dope with coke in the same shot. The best dope on the streets was Mr. T. which I’d been doing all week. Really good shit man, one bag was enough but two bags sent you out of fucking town. There was some killer coke a few blocks away called double D and I heard it was perfect for balling. I had me some extra cash so I got a bundle (ten bags) of Mr. T then went over to cop some double D. I got four bags and headed out to my little studio apartment to do a few speedballs. I near about ran home with the shit so I could get off good an quick like. It was a really bad time for me Bro, Stella left me, I was gonna get fired soon because I was fucking up a lot, life just totally sucked, ya know? I needed to escape so I take out my spoon, empty three bags of Mr. T into it and add a few drops of water. I cooked that mother fucker up then added a bag and a half of double D, sucked that shit through the cotton ball up into my syringe. I tapped the fucker making sure it was ready to take me away. No prob finding a vein man, I’m a pro at hitting veins.” He rolled up his sleeve to show me the red track marks on his arm as if it were some kind of red badge of courage and not the scratched silhouette of a life once struggling in turmoil. We both took big sips of our drinks as he continued, “I stuck that spike right into my arm and drew back. I see a small patch of blood so I know I got a good hit on the vein so I start booting ya know, hitting slow back an forth a few times then BAM! The whole shot right in to my blood system. I could feel the “C” running up my arm right towards my head when hit me in like two seconds Bro. Like the shit flew right up into my brain and started filling it up with fizzy blood or something then a nice even buzzing settled in between my ears. I was flying bro, like on top of the world flying. It was so awesome it forced a huge smile to creep across my face. I was thinking man this is the fucking best thing in the world for like fifteen seconds, every part of my body buzzing easy before the god damn “H” kicks in. First this warm feeling creeps up my backbone, across my shoulders then into my head, like a warm puddle of happiness soothing as all hell man. My entire being was vibrating nice and smooth and then wham! I sprung up of the bed flying backward and passed out with the needle still in my arm. Next I feel nothing. I mean like fucking nothing bro, like sleeping sound like without any dreaming. I musta hit my head on the wall of something because like I said I was feeling nothing ya know, like I didn’t exist no more. No bright light calling me, no fucking angel singing to me, not even a dream or anything. I wake up like four hours later with this like dried out puke all over my mouth, down my cheek and some big puddle of puke on the bed. I got this slamming mother fucking headache man, like none I never had before. I mean I hear people say they had a splitting headache before man but I swear to god this really felt like it was splitting my brain into pieces. So my head is like throbbing hard, painful as hell but I’m still like groggy, ya know disoriented and shit. Took me five minutes to remember where I was and what I was doing. Something happened to my neck and I can’t hardly move like my shoulders are sprained or something. I look down on the floor see the needle laying there all innocent like. Musta flown outta my arm or whatever cause the rest of the baggies of dope and coke are on the floor too. That’s when it really hit me man, I died and come back for whatever reason. The hit on my head musta made me puke and if I didn’t toss my cookies I woulda been done for bro, I wouldn’t be here telling ya this, Ida been another New York City police blotter statistic. Couldn’t move, just laid in bed for hours thinking about how I just died and come back. Being dead just feels like nothing at all. No lights, no meeting the maker, no life flashing before my eyes, just empty. That’s when I realize there ain’t nothing at all after death man, its just the end, total dark and void. Knowing I lucked out I swore I would stop using, maybe go to NA, ya know, Narcotics Anonymous to help get straight. No more poison in my blood ,man.”
I took in the story and considered how easily this could have been my story. I looked him in the face, “You clean now Buddy, you completely straight?” Sammy peered up from his dark memory, “Oh I’m dosing legally on methadone but as far as street drugs I’m clean. I had to do it on my own cause like NA relies on praising god and shit, and now I know there ain’t no god. Counselor sent me over to another group of former addicts that don’t believe either. We lean on each other and do just like the other Anonymous groups but no meetings with all the thanking and praising shit. Been straight for almost two years now.”
We finished chatting and reminiscing not brining up the addiction again. We had a great judgment free reunion complete with one more beer for me and a game of pool for old times. Neither of us were anywhere near as good as we were in years gone by or maybe we weren’t ever as good as we thought back in the day but either way we had a great time.
One thing Sam said really resonated and if anything that’s what I’d want you to take away from this tale of addiction. There are many reasons people end up addicted to substances and judging them isn’t productive. It doesn’t matter how or why someone goes down that road, that road becomes very dark very fast and its nearly impossible to find your way back without some really good people to shine the flashlight ahead of you instead of in your eyes to make you confess. Sam’s parents gave up on him because they didn’t know what to do but his brother never gave up and neither did his good friends. So between them and the other warriors of addiction he has a good support system which enables him to stay clean. As far as god existing I reckon that’s a personal decision and frankly I really don’t care what your belief is because your believing or not believing has nothing to do with how I perceive you as a person. Like Dr. King once said judge a person by the content of his character, and let me tell you Sam is one helluva character. A real good character……Peace

Don’t Look Back

crew

We reach a point in life when there is more to look back on than forward to and pause to reflect. Oddly sometimes the ones we felt our closest friends from our carefree days harbor ill will and some we never stopped to get to know as deeply as we could have we learn to be worthy of true friendship. True friends possess the ability to forget the nonsense that youth often brings and remember only the good times, the bonds, the laughs, and the stories of legend from their hometown.

My Crew

Where are they now
Where have they been
Whats become of the crew

We lived hard and free
We did what we pleased
Good times we had more than a few

We laughed and we cried
And together grew wise
A life filled with laughter and smiles

But we grew up so fast
Choosing personal paths
Between us grew years and grew miles

If They Could See Me Now

Rib Eye

Rib Eye he won’t talk to me
Why I wasn’t told
But time and distance have a way
Of blurring days of old

Perhaps the memory’s not so clear
With flashbacks too selective
Not gonna lose one night of sleep
Some friendships are subjective
(At first it hurt your snubbing culture, you devour gossip like a vulture)

Streaker
Rolling in bills to make a straw
Becoming such a dirty habit
Could trust him with my girl or dog
Until he killed the rabbit

Streaker lives in gated housing
Handcuffed to his fears
Stole some paper to wipe his nose
Still has four more years

(I get the blame for many a crime, but I ain’t the one serving time)

Blondie
Shared a love of little pups
We were quite the pair
Scratched our initials in a tree
Carnal pleasures on a dare

But Blondie she snuck out of town
Her head bent down in shame
Pissed at all the years she wasted
Trying to take my name

(I’m sorry you had me at my worst, but no one ever forgets their first)

Speed

With the pedal to the meal
Speed flew all around town
A huffing and a puffing
Stuff that grew from underground

His Mama went an left him
His Dad just never was
He’s driving like a zombie now
Looking for more buzz

(Take a closer look at the crew and figure out the one not true. Don’t believe everything you hear Speed)

Miles

Miles he was my main man
Through thick and thin we rode
I got stuck on pins and needles
To him my life is owed

Miles pain was deeper than a well
So abysmal it made him to pull it
I was too late to try and pay him back
friendship ended from a bullet

(To you my blood I always toast, scarecrow you I miss the most)

And then there is JT

Forever taking something
To boost his self esteem
All to often misunderstood
Lives hazily in his dream

Took way too much medication
Never seemed to get his fill
Searching for his confidence
Hoping to find it in a pill
The Gang

Times we had were priceless
Carefree loving friends
Thought we’ be forever but
Sometimes friendship ends

Back then we were the brains, the bold, the beauty, the racer, the biker, and the fool on the hill
Now we are the recluse, the criminal, the missing, the lost, the dead, and the dying but still trying. Where we are has nothing to do with where we were but everything to do with who we were. Time to grow up.