I moved to Downtown Los Angeles. I was living a mile from the Staples Center where the Lakers, Kings and Clippers play. I was two miles away from Dodger Stadium and two miles from Memorial Coliseum where USC plays College football. It all sounds amazing and it was, but I was also only a block away from Skid Row where the homeless and crackheads play.
When on the ‘Row do as the Rowans do, right? And when you can’t find the coke man, I promise you the dope man is right there waiting and he’s more than happy to “help” you out. I am in DTLA I don’t know anyone. I have no friends and no dealers. When I go out for drinks I want some blow because they’ve gone hand-in-hand for 15 year. I started heading out to the Row to cop some because there’s always some shit in the hood. All you gotta do as a white boy is wander around for a couple blocks and it’ll find you.
I went to some sketchy alleys the first couple times, I got ripped off a couple times, but I met Harry on the corner of 5th and Los Angeles. He was a real nice dude, a veteran, intelligent, and a very proud man. After scoring dimes from him for a few days and mixing it with weed in my pipe, he introduced me to D — well, actually, Harry wasn’t at the usual place one night and when I walked up to the corner, D came over and said to me, “You must be Joe. I heard you’re a cool dude,” and that was it.
We hit it off right away, though. D is one of the shot callers on Skid Row. Urban dictionary defines a Shot Caller as “an individual in a gang who has a high status. This person “calls the shots,” but he doesn’t carry it out. He’s already done that role, hence his elevated status.
D is a real fucking banger from Watts, which is a city in LA that borders Compton. Harry never showed up that night, so I ended up hanging with D on the corner for a few hours. After a few more nights of hanging with D and Harry, everyone in the area knew I was D’s boy. I decided since I was really feeling this new drug, it wouldn’t hurt for a little more protection. I knew it was a bad drug, I knew it was a bad idea, but I also knew I wasn’t going to quit tomorrow. I decided, “I’m gonna enjoy this shit and push the limits before I quit so I may as well enjoy it for a bit.” I offered to front D a couple hundred bucks, so if I wanted a $20 rock I can just ask. If I needed a few bucks I can just ask and if anybody fucks with me…well, we ain’t even gotta go there. I’m D’s boy, ain’t nobody fucking wit me. And honestly, it worked out real well. In fact, D was grateful and I got all my money back (paper, rock, and protection). Around this time, Harry says, “Joe you need your own pipe.” So he makes me one up and hands it to me. It was kind of like when you got the car keys from your parents for the first time. He looked at me and said, “It’s fun, but it’s dangerous, so watch yo’ ass.”
That first night when I went home with my $20 rock, my very own new crack pipe equipped with a fresh Chore Boy (a Chore Boy is a copper cleaning pad sold in singles at convenience stores in the hood and it’s used as a screen in a crack pipe) stuffed in the end of it, I quickly found out was life changing — but I didn’t quite get that it was NOT for the better. I must say, though, the clean glass pipe with a Chore Boy stuffed in the end was a beautiful sight. It was so beautiful my mouth is watering just thinking of it.
I got home and broke my rock into 1/4s, then proceeded to put a small rock in the end of the pipe. I raised my clear green lighter to the pipe, cranked up the flame, put my lips to the pipe, tipped my head back and inhaled. The rock sizzles like fajitas on a hot skillet and we all know how popular that sound is. The pipe fills with smoke proceeded by a delicious taste and smell of gasoline coming across your lips. Then you exhale, when this monstrous cloud of smoke out of your lungs, Your heart rate skyrockets and your lips go numb. It’s the most delicious fucking thing ever, and that first hit of crack, with a clean pipe, in an apartment with no wind and three more pieces sitting on the counter was an amazing feeling. But the bad thing about crack is, you can’t wait an hour or a half hour or even 15 minutes for that next hit. You can maybe make it 10 minutes but you’ll be watching the clock. That $20 piece took about an hour to smoke and then it was back to 5th and Los Angeles. Rinse and Repeat.
This went on three to four times a week for the next couple months and I’d spend $30-$40 a day — maybe $60-$80 on my day off. I wasn’t smoking before work, and I wasn’t staying up past 6 AM, but when I walked out of work, my legs would lead me on the most direct path to the ‘Row. I’d smoke a little bit before going out for a few drinks. Then, I’d smoke a little more, go to the ‘Row and repeat the process again.
I wasn’t doing too bad compared to the people I spoke to about crack addiction, but I did feel weak, hungry, dirty, and extremely depressed. There were plenty of days I didn’t eat a thing for 24 hours, and there were plenty of nights sitting in my room alone smoking rocks staring at my door waiting for the DEA to burst in. When I needed to slow my heart rate down, I’d drag myself to a bar for a Negroni, but I’d be to high to even speak to people. I became a shell of myself and the paranoia really started to set in.