Illustration by Jordin IsipI would dress like a dork. A collegiate dork to be exact. A denim-collar-down-jacket-waffle stomper, outdoorsy-but-clean-REI-kind of dork to be real exact. I would paste down my bleached-blond spikes into a forced-part comb-over. I was Sunny Jim come to life. I would stand on the corner of the major strip in this particular university area armed with my Mead binder full of $10 gram-bags and eighths. If a familiar car happened to be passing my corner, I would pinch my thumb and index finger together, lift my hand up to my mouth and proceed with the universal joint-toke mime. I wasn’t supposed to be here. I was supposed to be in a high school classroom 60 miles north. One time I made $300 in three hours. That day, it was like working a McDonald’s drive-thru window at lunch rush. Fuck school.
They would come down the pike in their parent’s immaculate, ultranew cars. The convertible Chrysler K-car and the Ford Taurus seemed to be the most common. They would roll down their windows; I would open my binder and present my product like an Amway display case. They would pick a bag or two or three, hand their tuition over to me with a smile, and be on their way. They always came back. It was too easy. Rich college kids in the big city with minimal life experience, maximum cash, a longing for the imagined street credibility they saw on MTV or Hill Street Blues and way, way too much time on their hands: It all meant money in my pocket. Ka-ching!
It was 1985. The Drug War was starting to really kick in. Crack was becoming the media’s overused word of choice. But this war I was hearing so much about wasn’t happening on my corner. Despite my “disguise,” it didn’t take a physics expert, and certainly not a physics major — i.e., my clientele — to figure out what the fuck I was doing. I find it hard to believe that anybody who ever saw my narrow ass poke a binder in random car windows would ever come to the conclusion that I was pitching carpet samples. Yet today I do not have a felony criminal record. I doubt that any of my former clientele have criminal records. No, the Drug War was being waged in poor neighborhoods, where black and Latino people lived. But why the fuck would I have sold there? No one had any money, and their streets were crawling with cops. That just would’ve been bad business.