Part 2 of 3
I was raised primarily by my grandmother. She took me away from my mother when I was about three months old, because my mother and father were alcoholics. I was very close with my grandmother. She brought me up in the church. She was strict. My grandmother died when I was about twelve years old. Then the flip side came on, different personality, different look at things. Different way of how I wanted to live and do things.
I went back to my mom. I had two sisters and another brother that was under me, but I had four older brothers. It was hard for my mother raising the four younger ones of us at the time. She's been an alcoholic. She didn't know how to read or write. My stepfather was an alcoholic, too. My real father was gone. Whichever way she can get a dollar to help out with the bills, my mother will do. When I got to the age of fourteen, there was new styles of clothes and tennis shoes. I wanted to be hip with the kids. My mother caught a shoplifting charge, and the judge sentenced her to six months. That's when I took to the streets.
I had a brother that was four years older than me, and he started teaching me the ropes. He introduced me to drugs, to marijuana, that was my first drug. Then I started popping pills. I started breaking in houses, shoplifting, stealing bicycles.
I end up catching a real serious charge by following one of my brothers, him and one of my friends. From my old neighborhood where I growed up with my grandmother, there was one of them neighborhood girls that we knew. Me, him, and one of my school friends, we gang-banged her. It was a night thing. She put a charge on us. But it was me being a follower, just wanting to be with the big guys. My brother was big and strong and had been to the federal penitentiary. He done went through all the hard things in life, coming back with scars, done been shot up. By me being young, he was just like Samson to me, the Incredible Hulk. He could withstand anything. I idolized him.
He took me on the run from the law to South Carolina, picking watermelon during the watermelon season. The season was too tough for me. I couldn't get out there in the fields at the age of fourteen and hang in the hot sun from seven o'clock in the morning until five in the evening. We was in a strange town and got to pay the motel bill every day and things, so my brother brought me back home. I turned myself in. My brother turned himself in, too, because he didn't want me to face that kind of pressure. Eventually, they settled for a deal, gave him eleven-month sentence for the reduced charge, because the girl knows she was willing, at first. She just changed her mind because there was so many of us.
I kept getting in trouble. By my mother being an alcoholic, she didn't have time to take us no place or nothing like that. Weekends was hers. Friday, she stay out all night long, come in on Saturday morning. If something wrong with the house, we get a beating. I'm fifteen now, I ain't taking no more whippings like this here, you know what I'm saying? So I caught a strong arm robbery -- snatched purses with one of my friends. They sent him to a halfway house, and they sent me to junior prison. That's when things start clicking into me that I wanted to be tough.
When I was young, I felt soft. When I was in high school, I joined the football team, hut I warmed the bench. I was second string. It was making me feel soft. I got double-teamed a couple times in high school, where I had to bring one of my big brothers to the high school to fight for me. It was making me feel weak. My mother holler at me, I be crying. It was making me feel weak, you know? My mother was saying the same thing, when I go to crying when she hollered at me, "What you crying for? I ain't hit you!" It would make me feel weak. Where I went to prison, they had strict discipline. So I went up there, and toughened up my mind.
I come home in about three and a half months. My fall partner, he got out before I did. It's a little bit easier in a halfway house than the prison.
I followed him again. I hadn't just turned sixteen. They had done passed that law where at sixteen they could sentence you as an adult, but I ain't thinking like this.
One night, we break in this house, and there's this lady in there asleep. We raped again. My fall partner he had been raping all along, but I was unaware of this. The woman that we raped was a prostitute. She had told us, "Ya'll better hurry up and leave. My boyfriend will be home after while, and he going to be mad, because ya'll took the rent money." During the time we were in the house. he done said my name. She caught it, but we had got away.
The night we were caught, they put out a dragnet on us, because we had done terrorized the neighborhood. This is two days later, and we go on the same street, breaking into a house just two doors down from the last one. We been in, and I done left. I'm walking down the street thinking that I'm talking to him, but I'm talking to myself. I remembered that I had thrown a shotgun I found in the house out the window. I say, "Damn, I want to go back and get that shotgun. I throwed it out into the bushes." I turn around, and he ain't behind me. I said, "Damn, this fool gone staying in the house." I run back to the house, go back in the house. He in the room, and he done woke up the lady that live there.
"Hold her legs down," he say.
"Man, no. We done did that shit the other night. I'm not keeping on doing this shit here. We got away the other night, but I ain't up for all that shit there." So the lady raised up in the bed, and I seen her face. I seen how old she is, and how she look. I said, "Oh, my God." I got scared. She went to talking to us about the law, about the Bible. I will never forget it.
"Don't do this," she's begging. "Don't do this to me. Please don't do this to me."
We have made an agreement since he had said my name in the house two nights earlier to use code names. I'm going to call him Lunatic, and he's going to call me Dum-Dum. I said, "Man, you crazy, Lunatic. You just crazy, man."
"Come on, Dum-Dum, man. Hold up, hold up."
"Uh-uh. Naw. I'm gone." I left the house again. But I come back. This is the third time I been back in there, because he ain't came out yet. When we finally go out the house, somebody had done called the police.
The house is on a one way street. The police park at the end and turn on the bright lights, so that if anybody cross the street he can see it, period. He's calling for back up. We're behind a shopping center. I said, "Man, we're busted! The best thing for us to do is to split up and make them chase us. If one of us get away, we don't know nothing."
By the time we had gone fifty yards, there are cars coming from everywhere. We take out running. We get caught about an hour and a half later, but we done split -- one went south, one went north. They bring us back to be identified by the victim. She identified him, but she can't identify me, which I didn't give her an opportunity to see my face.
During the trial process, we were looking at life. I was sixteen. The new law is in effect. They hit me and my partner with fifteen years. They sent me to one of the worst prisons in the state. Sixteen, fresh, young, buying into this shit. I'm scared. Ain't no doubt about it, I'm scared.
It's everything that I ever heard, everything that you want to see -- killing, rape, people turned into homosexuals, guys shot off the fence trying to escape. I ain't got no big brother to run to. Ain't nobody to protect me, help me fight. I got to do everything on my own.
My first two years, I was what you call cutting time-staying in trouble, getting in fights, trying to keep my manhood, getting caught with a shiv (knife) in my bed mattress, selling reefer, contraband money, contraband canteen. Anything to survive, I was doing it.
At that time, they was putting five people in one cell. People sleeping on top of one another in the floor of the cell. You had to fight for your position. Bring the food up there, you ain't woke up, you don't eat. If you is woke, one other person that's there might want to take your tray. You don't stand up to get your tray from him, you don't eat. I took it upon myself that if I can't eat, he can't eat. Lost the fight, but don't lose your manhood, don't lose your respect. You had to keep your respect in that place. That was the bottom line. Gain your respect, keep your manhood.
First two years, I was running so wild and crazy that I wasn't thinking about the fifteen years that I was doing. Third year, the parole man come around to see me. I was in lock up. He said, "You keep this up, you going to do the whole fifteen years."
My grandparents are quite wealthy. When I was growing up, I could have anything I wanted, no problem. Fourteen years old, I had my own checking account and credit cards. Sixteen -- brand new car. Every year after that, brand new cars. When I was seventeen, I got infatuated with black men. That cut off the money, because my grandfather wasn't going for that. He didn't raise me for that, and I was not going to be that way.
They'd take my money away, take my credit cards away. Then, they'd give them back. "If you go to college, we'll pay you." So I went to college for something to do, because they would pay me. But when you're used to having and they're taking away, you must accommodate your lifestyle. So that's what I'd do.
If they would have told me no sometime in my life, I might not have ended up here. I should have been grown up enough to know that this doesn't last forever. My grandfather would just write checks and take care of me. But he had money like that to write checks. He knew it was real money. I'd call up my grandmother, "Oh, I need twelve hundred dollars." My grandmother would wire it to me the next day. "I need five hundred dollars for this or that." They never said no. They might have bitched, but that's all. This is what they'd do. If they told me no, I'd say, "I don't ever want to talk to you again. You won't ever see me again." I'd hang up the phone. They'd call me back in an hour. "How much do you need?" The people at Western Union saw so much of me, they didn't even ask for J.D. They just gave me the money.
I'm like my grandfather's heart. I'm his first grandchild. Even though he knows I did every bit of what they got me in prison for, he makes reasons for why I did it: "Well, your father, he was wild when you were growing up. You got the bad seed from him." He never ever thinks I do anything wrong. He had breakfast every morning with the chief of police and the mayor. They know him very well. When I was younger, they'd tell him, "We picked up your granddaughter drunk last night."
"Oh, no, she probably wasn't drunk at all, I'm sure there's a simple explanation for her behavior:' He's just the type that will justify anything that I do.
Every time I was arrested, my grandfather came and got me out. I had a bondsman I skipped bond on halfway across the country. He came all the way back to get me. He met my grandfather. The bondsman saw that my grandfather was good for the money, so I didn't have to have bail money when I got in trouble there. That bondsman got me out, knowing that my grandfather would pay him.
So I never had to sit in jail. I think that at the very beginning, when I first started getting in trouble, if they'd let me sit in jail, or go to prison, I probably wouldn't have kept coming back. I probably would have stopped a long time ago when time was easy, when it was a little time. The occasions when I did get in trouble. I hired a lawyer, because I had the money back then for a lawyer. If [ didn't have it. my grandfather would get it. "She grew up in this town," my lawyer would say. "Of course, she looks familiar to you. She went to high school here. She went to college here. Of course, you could pick her out of the lineup. She shops in this store and has for years." He could always get me out of anything [ got into, so it was all right.
They even took me to the psychiatrist, "Say something is wrong with her."
"There's nothing wrong with her," he said. "She's just a spoiled brat."
So they used another psychiatrist. Because my lawyer is real good. He says, "What we'll do is say that she has problems. We'll have her take a test. Even if she has to live in a private hospital for a while, we'll do that. At least, she won't go to prison."
I was always antisocial. I always took the side of the outlaw as a kid. When the other kids on the block wanted to play cops and robbers, I wouldn't even think about being a cop. I always volunteered to be the robber. Cowboys and Indians, I was the Indian. In the movies, I always felt bad when the bad guy lost, when I was seven, eight, nine years old.
I had a problem with authority figures. My father was an ex-boxer, and a man of few words. He'd kick the shit out of me. So I didn't give him a lot of hell, but I gave my teachers a lot of hell. I was constantly in trouble. My mother was constantly coming to the principal. I was the kind of a kid in fourth grade who would just get up from his desk, walk to the window, and look outside, kind of bored with the school work. It didn't interest me.
"What are you doing by the window?"
"I'm looking out the window."
"We don't do that. We're here to learn."
"Speak for yourself -- and for them -- but not for me."
"You got a smart mouth. Go to the principal's office."
I had a rebellious nature, but I was never influenced by older kids. No one led me astray, no one seduced me into a life of crime. These were my own internal feelings. I didn't identify with the square people, the working people. Maybe I sensed the hypocrisy. Maybe I saw the kind of respect or admiration they had for the successful outlaw. I associated with this.
As a street kid, I was around adults, people who didn't hide their feelings or change their language because of my presence. I heard who was fucking who, and I'd hear all the street lore. So I knew what life was about. My neighborhood was predominantly white, although a few blocks down, it was a black neighborhood. My neighbors were Italian and Irish. I lived in an apartment building which was Jewish. A clean neighborhood, working class. no crime. no drugs at all.
Don't forget, I'm Jewish, but J hung out with all Italian guys. My best friends were all these wild kids. J disassociated myself from the nice Jewish boys, because I had nothing but contempt for the Herbies and the Samuels. They didn't run around in the streets. They didn't take chances. They went home, they studied. they went to school, they played baseball. To me, these were all sissy things. I wanted to be running through the back alleys with my friends. the feral youth of the neighborhood, gelling into trouble, robbing out of Woolworth's, smoking cigarettes, drinking. This was attractive to me at age ten.
I was okay in school. I graduated the eighth grade, and that was it for me. I said, "Now, I know everything I have to know. I can read. I can write, and I can count. Anything else is superfluous:' I didn't know the word superfluous then, but that was the feeling. [ stopped going to school. I attended high school. They gave me the books, I threw them in my locker, and r never touched them again. [ never took a book to a classroom after that. That was the end of my formal education. I had a C average, and] was launched into life.
At fifteen, I was one of the first kids to be completely let go from school. This was a long series of events. The dean of students called me in and said, "Here's the phone, Mr. Schwartz. Call your father." I threw the phone through the window and said. "You call him!" That was the last straw with them. That was my last official act in school. I was on my own at fifteen by the edict of the educational system.
Now, I just roamed the streets. One day I came out, and these workmen were putting parking meters in my neighborhood. I said to a friend, "Look at all my piggy banks." It was love at first sight.
"Piggy banks? What do you mean?"
"I'll tap them with a hammer, and they'll fall apart." You had to make money, if you wanted to enjoy yourself, if you want to go to the arcade, the rides and all the shit you could eat. You had to have money to go to the movies, meet the girls. So I started breaking into the parking meters. Later on in life I thought, "You know, I was doing better when I was thirteen years old than I'm doing now. Then I was making a hundred dollars a day."
You wouldn't do it in the day time. It wouldn't look good. As soon as it got dark, I'd go out with a friend. Two kids hanging around a meter, work a screwdriver into the crack, jimmy the door open, and take the cash box out -- they're harder to get into these days.
Then I refined it. I would go into different neighborhoods, break open one meter. There might be only seven dollars in it, because they were just cleaned out. When they were full, you'd get as much as fifty dollars. I didn't want just seven dollars. When the repairman would come, he'd put a bag over it. I would write down the location in a book, the day, and the time. I'd come back in four days. If there was no bag over the meter, it means that the other meters had accumulated four days worth of money. Pretty soon I had a record of when they collected on which blocks.
I brought my friends into a criminal conspiracy on the meters. We were organized. The money was split among us. It was an illegal act.
We were also doing a lot of gangbusting. In the gangs, looking for trouble, wanting to be in gang wars, wanting to hurt people, see some violence, motorcycle jackets, and weapons. What changed me, even before I went to reform school, was we beat up some guys we caught in our neighborhood. Stopped them, asked them what they were doing there. They didn't answer us.
"What's wrong with you'? You're in our neighborhood. Who the fuck are you?"
They wouldn't say nothing, so we beat them up. I remember hitting them, kicking them, stomping them. We were vicious kids, and that's the way it was done. Bloodied them up, busted them up, left them laying on the sidewalk. "Hey, they didn't answer us! Forget about them."
I refined the meter thing even further. I wore square clothes, a big Police Athletic League button, combed my hair back square. I was incognito, so the cops wouldn't see me as a hood. That made sense to me. I borrowed my brother's square brown jacket. I didn't mind being perceived as a square. I knew it was business. I would never dress like that in a million years, but this was work, this was crime. Fourteen years old, and I got an outfit for crime. I wrapped my screwdriver in rags and put it in a brown paper bag. If a cop started to come, I could just drop the bag, and it wouldn't make any noise. Maybe I could get away with it, if they actually didn't see me with the screwdriver, doing it. The jacket and the button would help.
The cops knew what was going on. and they were trying to find the kids that were breaking into the meters, taking the city money. One particular time, they brought us in, me and a friend. They didn't have anything. They didn't find the screwdriver, but they wanted to question us. They thought we might have been the ones that were doing it. We walked into the precinct. This young kid I'm with was named Johnson. He'd been there before on some other misdemeanor.
A big Irish detective recognized him when we walked in. He says, "Johnson, you cocksucker! Again'?" He ran across the room and punched him in the mouth. Blood spurted out. The kid went down. The detective was kicking him.
Holy shit! What have I gotten myself into'? It was a real taste of a different kind of reality, police reality. We'd been chased by them and booted in the ass, but I'd never seen a grown man punch a fourteen-year-old in the mouth and kick him.
"You cocksucker, Johnson," the cop said, "I bet you're one of those guys who beat up those deaf and dumb kids." And it struck me. That's why those kids didn't answer. We beat up deaf and dumb kids. I felt real bad about it. Johnson wasn't even part of that particular beating. I ran with another mob of kids, and he wasn't there that night.
I said to myself, "I got to stop this shit." I was ashamed of what I'd done. It was unforgivable to me to beat up kids that are deaf and dumb. You don't pick on the afflicted. That was all that was done in those days as gang busting. Turf. I stopped all that. I stopped the gang fighting.
Even though I got out of that tough-guy mode, I still didn't have a direction. Very shortly after that, I was adjudicated incorrigible by children's court. My mother turned me in because she couldn't control me. I wasn't in school, and no one could control me. They knew what I was headed for. My father was still alive, but there was nothing that he could do with me. I was past that point. I was firmly on the path to where I ultimately ended up.
They sent me to a reformatory, which at that time was all Jewish kids. There wasn't any sentence, you were just turned over to the Youth Authority. It was different meeting all these Jewish tough guys. I didn't know there were that many Jewish tough guys in the world. The place dated back to when they had a terrible problem with Jewish crime in the early 1900s. The same thing as now -- Russian immigrants coming over with a large criminal underbelly. Of course, unlike me, they had an excuse -- they had terrible times. There was one black kid, and he was in trouble. We used to make him play Ping-Pong for his life.
The place was divided in three ways: There were the young kids -- as young as seven years old, the worst cases. If a Jewish mother has to send her seven-year-old away, we're talking serious demon, autistic assaulter, and completely out of it. They were across the way, and we had no congress with them. They would do anything, just maniacs.
On our side were the guys from fourteen up to eighteen, senior cottages. And then on the other side of the place, across the school and shop area, were the girls, fourteen- to sixteen-year-old wild Jewish women. There were no fences up between us. We went to school together. We snuck through the woods at night to get to each other. We had cottage parents who were supposed to watch us, but the kind of people they attracted to this job weren't the most watchful people. Usually alcoholics, or worse, who had their own lives to deal with. It was a good job for the local hicks. They'd get drunk at night.
It wasn't that bad. I had a good time there. I became head of my cottage in not too long of a time. I caused a lot of trouble. I was an instigator. After that incident with the deaf kids, I wasn't really as hands-on as I had been. I really didn't want to hurt people, unless I definitely felt they deserved it. But I saw that I could manipulate other people to hurt the ones I would like to have hurt, and I didn't injure my hands.
It was easy. Look at what I had to work with. The Jewish guys there weren't really very smart -- 90 I.Q.s. There was this kid named Moose. If I didn't like Philly, if he got me pissed off by saying or doing something, not to me but just I didn't like the way he acted, I'd say to Moose, "Moose, does Philly know your mother or something?"
"No, why? He don't come from my neighborhood."
"I don't know, he was saying your mother looked stupid or something. Your mother don't look stupid to me." Then I'd go in my room and listen. Sure enough, within ten minutes, I would hear Moose beating the shit out of Philly. "Hey, this is really neat!" Moose will never figure out that Philly didn't say these things, and Philly would never figure out that I was the one who put Moose on to him.
You could run away, go to town, and then come back. They counted you and had a night watchman, but you had so much free time, and it was so unstructured that you could do this stuff. I had guys going into town to buy marijuana. I got money through scams. Guys would get it from their parents, and I'd get it off of them. There always seemed to be money. I'd burglarize houses on the way to town, or rob stores.
There's a rabbi, there's school, there's shop. They're trying to broaden my horizons, rehabilitate me. No brutality, pretty nice place, but I was so far out of it that I didn't have a clue. I didn't have a plan, just experience life day by day and be able to do what I wanted to do.
"Listen," they finally said at. the reform school, "we'll let you out of here, because the next step for you is state prison ... if you will leave the state. Get out."
I had an uncle who was a military officer in Kentucky. He agreed to take me there, let me live with him, and look for a job. There was no work. All I could have done is pump gas. I wasn't ready to steal in Kentucky, and go on the chain gang. A Jewish boy on a chain gang in Kentucky couldn't have had a very long life expectancy. So I said, I'll join the Army. They'll station me here at Ft. Knox. My uncle will take care of me. I already know all the girls on the base.
I forged a birth certificate, since I was only sixteen. I knew then that joining wouldn't be a legal contract, that I could get out of the service if I wanted to, if I wasn't able to put up with the discipline -- this is a guy who hates discipline. I had that ace in the hole. I knew I was different from all these other jerk-off guys that enlisted. Any time I wanted, I could say, "Fuck you, I'm going home," and there was nothing they could do to me. That's what enabled me to get through basic training, knowing that I had an escape clause. It's my decision, not their decision.
I was a fast kid, among all these older guys, always the one getting out of things, paying people to do things for me, and loan-sharking money -- ten bucks for five. Getting over.
I'd be the first one back from the field. I'd go right into the shower with all my clothes on with the rifle, open the bolt, wash all the muck off me, and wash out my rifle. Come out of the shower, throw my wet clothes in a bag, give my rifle to a guy to clean and oil for me. I'd put on a shirt, a city jacket, and while they were still coming in from the field, I'd be heading out to the enlisted men's club to drink beer. I'd be sitting there drinking beer, thinking how swift I was compared to them.
Pay day nights I used to mug the sergeants that were drunk. All these sergeants that looked like fine figures of men in their creased clothes, real macho guys, I found out a lot of them were fags. It wasn't acting macho that meant a guy was macho. I'd be waiting outside the beer halls when they came stumbling out, blind drunk. I'd bought a set of brass knuckles. This upstanding member of the armed forces comes crawling out, vomiting on himself. If anyone is around it looks like you're giving him a hand. "Come on, Sarge, I'll give you a hand."
"I got you, Sergeant."
I take him behind the building, give him a little rap in the head with the brass knuckles -- not too hard, just enough to put him out of his misery -- take his wallet. So I got a lot of money robbing all these drunken sergeants, and paying guys to do my KP, using all my street smarts to make it as pleasant as possible. I bought my way out of everything, planned my way out.
They were doing these obstacle courses with the big things you have to climb on. I could climb. I was an active street kid. But I said, "This doesn't make sense. I don't want to be crawling under barbed wire in the dust with people shooting machine gun bullets over my head. Hard, strenuous work? They don't pay anything for this." So I was equipment guard, because I kept a case of athlete's foot, purposefully so I couldn't wear boots. I could only wear low quarters, and you weren't allowed to do the obstacle course in low quarters. Couldn't march. I had it, and I kept it. I was sitting as equipment guard and watching the other guys falloff the rope. That could have been me. I'm sixteen, and I'm cooler than the guys in their twenties. They didn't figure out how to beat this thing. Of course, they didn't think in the get-over mode. I'm drinking beer out of my canteen while everybody else is flailing around in the dust.
Now they send me to Germany. I'm buying leave time from personnel. I get into the black market. Gas is worth a lot of money in Germany. Every truck in the motorpool has a bunch of five-gallon cans on it. I was stealing gasoline, selling it to the Germans, replacing it with water. I used to joke that if they ever had a war, and the Russians invaded, this company would only go as far as one tank full of gas and then stop, because I had all the gasoline. But I didn't foresee any war. If I'd had any secrets, I'd have sold whatever I could get my hands on.
But I was having trouble. I was having fights with other soldiers, because I was always goofing off, looking for ways out. I didn't respect many of those guys. Pretty soon, I was labeled a "disruptive element," given an honorable discharge, and sent home.
Back in the neighborhood, I met a different set of guys. They're telling me, "See that guy there? He's a junkie." I made his acquaintance real quick, and started doing heroin and cocaine. All the crowd doing this is young, healthy, hip. Nobody was a dope fiend. I knew those people existed, but not us, not the young crowd. I'd heard all that stuff about how you use it once, and you're a hopeless junkie. I used it on Saturday night with my friends. The whole week would go by, and I wouldn't use it. "This stuff is nothing. It's only the weak people who get hooked." We all thought that.
Then I was using it on Saturday and Sunday. Five days a week I wouldn't use it. People went to work, did whatever they did. I was collecting unemployment. Then on a Wednesday, I bumped into this guy, something happened, and he said, "Let's get some junk." So I'm down. You know something? It feels the same on Wednesday as it does on Saturday night. This is a revelation to me. I could use it on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. I still didn't have to have it on a Thursday or Friday. So I said, "I'm in perfect control. There's no problem with this stuff. This is some great shit. They were full of shit about this stuff."
It wasn't long before Monday was meeting Sunday, and I was doing it every day, but I was still in control. I knew I was doing it because I felt like doing it. That's how you con yourself.
I was using, and then I was stealing for it, running with these people, just a bunch of seventeen-year-old guys and their fast girls.
Then came The Panic. For some reason, there were no drugs. "So what are we going to do, man? There's no drugs?"
"Doctors got drugs in their bags. They leave the bags in their cars to go up into the hospital sometimes to see a patient. They really don't have to take anything but the stethoscope and a prescription pad. They don't lug the bag up," one of my friends had observed. "So let's go around the hospitals, and see if there are any careless doctors that leave the bag." We started taking the doctors' bags, and got through The Panic.
One of my friends found a gun in a doctor's bag, so now we had a gun. "You know, we could cut out the whole middleman. Go right into a drugstore, take the drugs from him -- cocaine, Dilaudids, all the sleeping pills, all the ups, all the downs, maybe a thing of watches, all the money in the cash register, all the money the druggist has in his pockets, and in his safe. All we got to do is say the magic words Stick 'em up."
Doesn't sound too bad, shouldn't be too hard. I went along and stuck up my first drugstore. There were so many of them I can't even recall which one it was. Sticking up drugstores all over, getting all the drugs, selling them, using them, staying high all day every day. That went on for about a year.
Then I got busted. Ratted out by an informant junkie I was selling morphine to. I didn't hurt anybody. I was sick. It wasn't a criminal enterprise. Of course, that first judge knew I was also sending out guys to collect IRS checks from people's mailboxes, and we were cashing them, along with a couple other scams of various sizes and types. Every day was a different adventure. It wasn't cut and dried.
I went in front of one of the roughest sentencing judges in the system. He gave out the most time. Stinging Sol. People said, "You're in a world of trouble." I had to plead guilty. The witnesses had picked me out, and I had the gun. He was really nice. He said, "I want the court to know that these two young boys are victims of a criminal enterprise happening right now outside of my courtroom. They're selling drugs out there on the streets right now. This is a terrible American tragedy that is washing over our society. So on and so on."
I'm thinking, "Hmm, I might get out of this with probation. I'm a victim. I'm sick."
My mother was crying. The judge said, "Don't you worry, ma'am. I'm going to do the right thing for your son."
"Oh, yeah," I'm saying, "probation for sure."
A month later we went for sentencing, and my lawyer said, "Your honor, I don't condone what my client did, but there were mitigating circumstances .... "
The judge cut him right off. "There's no mitigating circumstances. These men ... "
"I was just a boy a month ago," I thought. "I didn't even have a birthday since then. I'm in trouble. Men?"
"These men are professional armed robbers," the judge said.
"Last month I was a victim. Now I'm a professional."
"They take guns and sally forth," he said -- I always remember that expression, "Sally forth into our neighborhoods to prey."
In my mind I'm saying, "Now you're in trouble, 'cause now you're sallying and preying."
He gave me five to ten years for my first offense. Today I'd get counseling, drug rehabilitation, and three years' probation. I have no idea why he changed his tune. He just felt like destructing that day.
I'm twenty-seven right now. When I was a kid, I was a devious one. I grew up quick. I outgrew most of the kids my age. I was one of the biggest kids in school. One of the coolest kids in school. I had hair down past my ass, long curly-ass hair.
I ran away from home when I was about twelve. That was about the time my mom and dad was going through a divorce and everything. Dad was hollering at Mom. That was one thing I just didn't stand for. So I hollered at him, and he jumped all over me. He said, "If you don't like the way I run this show, you can hit the damn road." That's exactly what I did. I only got in one fist fight with my dad, and I was a grown man by then.
I was hitchhiking on the interstate out by the airport. I was at the bottom of this hill, got my thumb out, with a backpack bigger than I am. I had toys and a couple of Kiss albums. All this shit I didn't need and very little clothes.
This bunch of bikers comes thundering over the hill. I said, "Whoops!" and put my thumb down. Billy, the one who took up with me, he's as wide as he is tall. Arms are bigger than my thighs. Here he comes running, beard, no teeth. They stop. "Where you going?"
"What-chu doing on the interstate then?"
"I'm waiting on a friend." We sat there and bullshitted around for a while. He pointed to a bike, and he said, "Get on that bike behind that dude there." Dude had real long hair, looked like a girl from behind. I jumped on and grabbed him by the chest, and he turned around and gave a toothless grin at me.
I told him I was going up North. He said they were going up into the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Carolinas. "You're welcome to join us."
When they got ready to head back home, I said I thought I'd be heading out on my own, and Bill sat there and shot the shit with me a little bit, and then said, "I'm going to go back, and you're welcome to go back with me."
The bottom line is, I ended up going back with him. He got in touch with my parents behind my back. He told them, "If I send him back, he's going to end up running away again. He can stay with me as long as he likes, till you iron this thing out." It never got ironed out.
He was an old tattoo artist. That's where I got my tattoos from. I didn't learn to drive a car or nothing. I learned to drive one of the most dangerous vehicles on the road: a '53 panhead with a mousetrap clutch and a suicide shift. Had a four-speed shift under the leg and a damn clutch on your foot. You rode around with one hand on the handle bars. I skint my ass on the bike more times than I want to count.
I went to school and everything when I was living with him. He was a lot cooler than my dad. With my dad, it was just my lunch money. With Billy, it was lunch money and a couple of joints. "Here's you some lunch money, and here's you some after lunch stuff. But not till after lunch."
I'd have three or four good joints as big around as your finger. Me and my little buddies would sit back on the bike and get high first thing in the morning before the bell rings. I was a clown in school. I was fun to be around, specially when I was high. I was held back three times in the seventh grade.
I had to have money to fix up my old rattletrap motorcycle, so I went out and mowed lawns. I had one lady who didn't pay me in money, she liked young little boys. So I learned early. It was like going to school with her. She wouldn't come in there and bang my brains out. She would teach me. "You do this, and then you do that, and then you do this. Now let's go!"
I was fucking everything that moved by the time I was thirteen years old. Hell, I barely had hair around that thing, and I'm almost boffing it off. Old drunk used to be laid out on the floor at Billy's place, and I'd tap her real quick.
"What're you doing, little boy?"
"Just hold still, baby, and I'll show you." I was just an arrogant little kid. I thrived on attention. Like that there, people laughed at it. "Look at that little brat fucking that drunk bitch." She was old enough to be my mother. The one that was fucking me whose lawn I was mowing, she was old enough to be my grandmother -- must have been forty-eight years old. I was what -- thirteen or fourteen? I fucked around with her for four years. She was a real nice lady, real well-kept lady. She wasn't no whore, no slut that you see off the street. She just liked watching them little bitty bodies. 'Specially, I'd get out there and get all hot and sweaty, yeah, shit yeah, she loved that. That'd be the time she got me. I'd come in all hot and sweaty, and the first thing she'd do is jump on me.
If she was a man, and I was a little girl, then it'd be a big deal made about it. But being as I was a boy, and she was a woman, there wasn't too much said. There for a long time it never got out, until one of the neighbors told Billy that I spend lengthy amounts of time in her house. That I was seen mowing her yard in the middle of the winter when the grass wouldn't even grow. Every time I'd mow the yard, she'd fuck me. I mowed the yard three or four times a week.
She enjoyed it. It was like a game to her, and to me, too. It was fun. It was educational, you know. I was more experienced when I was fifteen years old than most men ever get.
At fifteen, I was a father with a little daughter. The mother was my science teacher. She was hot, she was something else. She'd always come to work in short skirts. She would sit in front of the class with her books, and if you were in one of the front desks in the middle, you could look down and tell what color panties she had on. She had some wild looking panties. I used to tease her all the time about it. I'd look down there and say, "She's got her pink and purple polkadots on today." She'd just turn red.
I've got four kids now. I'm real potent. The other three were one-shot deals. That's all it took. I got a son who is almost two, I got another one that's six, one nine, and the girl will be thirteen on November 16.
Man, I was always into some kind of mischief. I had a lengthy juvenile record. There was plenty of times that Billy had to come and get me out of jail. I went to Reform School for Boys twice. I never did real good. I was mean in jail. I never had no problems on the street. I was always real people, bro. Once I get in jail, you know, and you got a bunch of people living together, all the same sex and everything, you're going to have problems. They should let pussy come in here once a week, bop us out a little bit. I loved to fight in prison situations. I've walked away from them looking like hamburger meat. I used to fight and fight and fight.
I started doing coke when I was about sixteen. Real heavy. I was shooting cocaine that looked like milk. When I went to Reform School, that science teacher would come and bring me coke. Billy'd come bring me coke, too. I was doing all right. The state school up there, they have a visitation for five or six hours a day on the weekends, and if you're a sophomore, you can leave the campus all day, then they bring you back. Hell, I'd come back blitzed.
You can bring in like Kool-Aid and all kinds of little knickknacks from the house -- Debbie Cakes and things. I had a little container I'd bring back with me, and there wasn't nothing but cocaine in it. I passed it off as sugar, and there was so much of it, they'd believe me. Hell, that lasted me for about three weeks. I was working the outside grounds crew, so I'd hide some in the visiting park -- the syringes and stuff -- I'd get on my tractor and ease on up there. If they asked me what I was doing, I'd say I was policing the area up, picking up the trash. I'd get my syringes, and do all that right in the state school.
Now I don't blame nobody but myself for my long record, because I was just a devious little shit. But now I'm almost twenty-eight years old, and I really want to do something. I think, "Damn, why did I do all that stupid shit to get me fucked up in this mess in the first place?" When you're a kid, you don't listen to nobody. Mothers and fathers make a lot of mistakes with their kids. That's some people's excuse. But I more or less raised myself. I'm a self-made man, you know.
I am the youngest of ten children. The majority of my brothers and sisters have college degrees, and seems like everyone of them is pretty successful, but me. I didn't even finish high school. Not that I couldn't, but that I wouldn't. I had so many people that I had to go behind. I began to get rebellious when my parents were going through a divorce. The hard part for me was that nobody explained anything to me. You didn't get a reason for anything. My family didn't talk about it. A child had to stay in her place. I wasn't supposed to talk back. I was to do what I was told. They sent me off to my aunt's house for the summer when they first started having problems. I knew something was going on that I wasn't supposed to know about. They don't want you to see what's happening. I was supposed to stay for school the next fall, but I really made a fuss so my aunt wouldn't want me there. I made my way back.
I was fifteen. I wanted to hurt them the way I was feeling at the time. And somewhere in my mind, I thought that if I could make money with what I was doing, it would show them that, hey, everybody don't need school. I was wrong.
I started trafficking in drugs. It wasn't that I needed the money. My family had their own business. I was getting an allowance. I saved two weeks' worth of that money -- and in between I knew I'd get money anyway -- and I bought marijuana to sell. I did it in the school, because a lot of the children you go to school with smoke weed.
Then I figured I could go on to bigger and better things. I didn't know how cruel the people I was affiliated with were until I was in too far. At that time, I thought it was a fun thing to do. I didn't think about the lives I was destroying. I didn't think about the children who were taking their parents' checks and spending them on drugs. I was a child myself.
You get involved with the guys who supply. They think that all women are fools. These people have been at this a long time. When they find a young teenager, you are their scapegoat, because you can sell drugs for them and not get that much time if you're caught. So you are used. Some people call it being pimped, and you are, in a way. You don't know the value of what you are doing. This person is buying mansions on what you're doing for him, but you don't have anything.
Sometimes, you know you're being used, but you want to belong. I've been used a lot of times. When you know you've been used and used and used and used, and you finally decide that you want to get back at him, you know where everything is stashed. That's what becomes dangerous, because you want to rob this person. You've been used, and you're just tired of it now. So you're going to get the user.
Part of me likes to take chances. Not everybody can rob. Everybody cannot be taken for a fool. Because I was young and from a small town, they considered me the country mouse. But I catch on quick. I'm always somewhere listening. I was good at that, because that was what I had to do at home to find out anything. I knew when everyone would be there. I knew how much money would be there. I knew how much drugs would be there. Figuring out the street value of everything, I had already pinpointed what I would make from this and what I would share with the other people.
I became addicted to my own drugs. At first, it was just something fun to do. You get to go upstairs to the back room at the clubs where it's off-limits to everybody else, because you've paid the kind of money for your privacy. You can look down on the dance floor where everybody is enjoying themselves. It was just having fun. This is part of the party. You couldn't have told me that I had an addiction. I wouldn't hear that. The people I sold to had the addiction. I didn't have the addiction. It plays tricks on you. You wonder later who's the real fool. I was a young, sophisticated flake monster, but I wasn't stupid. Still dealing, still making money. Still well dressed, still wearing gold. I never wanted no gold in my mouth. If I had four golds in the bottom and the top, the police would know exactly what I was doing. I wouldn't be able to go in somewhere and say I needed a job, look at me. Soon as I smiled and they saw that my mouth cost thousands of dollars, people would know.
Money is a weakness to me, too. It's an addiction, just as bad as drugs. People don't realize that. I've seen people die over a quarter, over a dime, some even over a penny. I look back and think about how many times I have had automatics to my head, how many times I have escaped death. I'm not actually going to say that God wanted me in prison, but this might keep me safe a little longer.