It was a rough week. On Saturday I was arrested on a simple possesh, on Tuesday I Oscar Robertson'ed, on Wednesday I was again slapped with an 11350 and on Friday, blessed be the crowded jail and obliging judge, I OR'ed once again.
This state of affairs was particularly frustrating in light of the fact that I had literally been carrying and using drugs my whole life—since the early 1970s—and had never once been arrested for it, not until moving to Fort Bragg. At least part of the credit needs to go to those two fine officers of the Fort Bragg Police Department, Nick LaFazio and Karen Harris, and I don't intend that description facetiously.
I never had any cause to question their motives or methods and was always treated respectfully. But man! Those two had managed to turn ruining my evening into an art form. And while it's true that I may have had a little crush on Officer Harris and fond recollections of her firm and thorough frisks, it would be preposterous to suggest that I would deliberately place myself in harm's way simply for the pleasure of her dead sexy authoritarian presence, right? Of course it would. Perish the thought.
A more likely reason for my winding up so often in her strong, capable, and yet strangely comforting grasp was my unfamiliarity with the small town offender/officer dynamic, wherein the cast of characters is drastically reduced and far more intimate than the big cities I was used to.
Of course, my third possession beef did occur in San Francisco. In the Tenderloin. On a Saturday night. To those of you unacquainted with that intensely colorful locale, I can assure you that a middle-aged man holding twenty bucks worth of cocaine at that time and place is way, way down the list of priorities of law enforcement. In fact, the arresting officer actually apologized and told me he'd tried his best to ignore me but my blatantly idiotic behavior had forced his hand. So much for the small-town theory. I was probably just losing my edge, though I had never been very street-smart to begin with.
Anyway, there I was, fresh off of two Low Gap insertion/extractions and fired with the usual desperate need to addle my pate following such trauma. There's nothing like a couple of days of forced sobriety in a cold and hostile environment to make you appreciate the freedom to be able to atomize brain cells at your leisure.
I decided to give Fort Bragg a pass for a couple of days and kick it in the big town, where I was at least a little less recognizable. I think three in a row would've entitled me to some kind of bonus award involving a lengthier stay at the Best Western Graybar. It was time to up my paranoia game and play a little defense for a change.
First order of business, out there on the pick-a-nick table fronting the jail's inmate egress point, was an inventory of assets. $22 and change, half a can of Skoal and a cellphone with a 25% charge. I was in business. Not big business, as I couldn't even afford bus fare if I was going to try to make any kind of appreciable dent in my clear-eyed condition, but business nonetheless, and that business was an immediate and drastic course of treatment designed to put my sobriety into remission.
I immediately started firing off texts to all my Ukiah contacts, using craftily impenetrable code phrases like “Have you seen Chris? Like in the last 20 minutes?” Get it? Chris, crystal, “20,” $20. Responses: “no”, “no,” “Chris who?” “He's supposed to come over later” “who dis?” “ “wheres my mf $ mf.” Great. I hoped I hadn't reentered society during a dry spell. You might as well be back in jail if the alternative is walking around with nothing but your own naked, unadulterated self for company. Shudder.
Time to put in some footwork. I set out down Low Gap and then headed south on State. I stopped in at likely spots on Norton and Smith streets, cut down Perkins to Orchard to check a couple more, up Gobbi and down the tracks to the ass end of Cherry Street and back up to State. In every spot the same tragic story: nobody home or nothing happening. I paused at the corner and considered hoofing it up to Laws, but the vendors up there have a slightly different business model than elsewhere in the city. You may or may not come away with some product, but either way you're leaving without your money. I decided to file that notion under “last resort.”
Up to Washington, down Dora northward again, up and down Seminary and still nothing. My feet were starting hurt.
I headed over to Town Square to rest, regroup, and work the phone for a while. It was a nice day, at least, not that I really cared. You've heard of the Postman's Creed? Rain, snow, gloom of night, all that applesauce? Not only is it a clear misrepresentation of the actual facts, which are that a mailman is no more likely to suffer through adversity in furtherance of his appointed rounds than a Fuller Brush man (youngsters, consult the nearest geezer), which is to say not at all, but the USPS would do well to adopt the “seeking tweaker” as an emblem of their mission to deliver the goods on time and despite obstacles, if they really have one.
Had you told me on, say, the day in question that there was a quantity of excellent and inexpensive prod available at the other end of an Ironman course through which I'd have to travel, completing the bicycle portion on an iron-wheeled penny-farthing, the swim through sewage containment ponds, and the run wearing fireman's boots, I would either end up one spun-out, stinky, blistered mofo or they'd be shoveling up my wasted corpse somewhere around mid-course. In sum, there is nothing this side of death that can possibly deter a resolute tweaker from his appointed rounds, and certainly not weather at whatever extreme.
After a short period of weather-enjoying and texting furiously, I picked up on my side-scan radar a human presence and saw to my left and looking studiously nonchalant, a slightly skeevy young gentleman. Not definitively so, but something of a wobbler in that he could be a citizen having an off week, or a brushed-up denizen of the depths. Deciding the issue, he sidled up next to me and said, after kind of stagily cutting his eyes to and fro, “You lookin'?”
It was all I could do to keep from leaping up on this wonderful stranger and licking his face like a Labrador retriever, but I in time remembered my commitment to be more circumspect in these matters. “Looking for what, exactly?” I said, suspiciously.
He put up his hands in a “no offense” gesture. “Nothin', bro. Never mind. You have a nice day.”
“Hey, hey, not so fast,” I said. “I didn't say I wasn't looking for something, I just don't know if you have what I'm looking for.”
“So, what's that?”
“So, whaddaya got?”
“You a cop?”
“Hell no, are you?”
“No, and you know you got to tell me if you are, or that's entrapment.”
“Really,” I said. “So you're saying that when a police agency goes to all the trouble and expense of mounting a deep-cover operation, the first time some junkie asks ‘Are you a cop?’ they just fold up their tents and go home? ‘That's it boys, they're on to us’,” I said in a Chief Wiggum voice. “Doesn't make a ton of sense, does it?”
“I guess not. I never thought of it like that.”
“You'd be better off doing like the Gls in those old World War II movies asking suspected Nazi spies questions about the Brooklyn Dodgers or Betty Grable. Ask stuff only real tweakers would know, like what do you use for pipe stock in an emergency, or what the best free porn sites are.”
“Good idea. Like how many twomps to a teenager (twomp: $20 bag. teenager: 1/16 of an ounce. Answer: seven to ten, depending).”
“Per-zackly, bud. Now, what have you got for me?”
“I don't know, I'm not convinced. You could be a really smart cop trying to turn this around on me.”
“And you could be a really dumb cop who doesn't know when he's licked and continues to flail. Either way, I think we've both tipped our hands irrevocably. Let's try honesty, shall we? I am in fact looking, pretty desperately as a matter of fact, for something in the stimulant family. The black sheep, if you will — crystal meth. I just finished two stints at Low Gap and I am ready to start shotgunning Red Bull up my fundament if’n I don't get my artery walls around the outside of some zipadeedoo-dah, but quick. Now, what about you? Are you my man, or what?”
“Hell yeah. I got the good shit right here.” He patted his pocket. “Let's go for a walk.”
I stood up and reached behind me. “Turn around and put your hands behind your back, asshole. You're under arrest,” I said. It was the “asshole” that sold it. His jaw flopped open like a drawbridge and his eyes went wide, and just when he started to turn around I gave him the finger guns, both barrels.
"Bang, bang. Gotcha, homie. Just kidding. C'mon, let's take a walk.”
“Sonofabitch! That was not cool, bro! Not cool at all.”
“Call it a public service. Accosting strangers in the park to sell drugs is dangerous.”
“Hell, I knew you weren't a cop.”
“Really? How fast is your heart beating right now?”
Fifteen minutes later I'm back in the sweet spot, the initial phase of an epic run and chopping it up with my new friend.
Now; I understand that Proposition 47 has changed considerably the penalties for the sort of amounts I used to end up in jail for, and casual users get a pat on the head and sent on their way. I'm not sure if this is progress or not, but I do know I feel pretty goddamn indignant about the current generation being treated so leniently when we suffered so terribly for our avocation. This may be a civil-rights issue, I don't know, but I'm definitely going to look into the possibility of a lawsuit for my pain and suffering.