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Crime and Payment
A Brief Memoir of a Teenage Drug Dealer
© 2012 James LaFond
Caley is a stocky, tattooed, long-haired young man who, just last month, finally earned the right to drink alcohol by surviving the requisite 21 years of enforced sobriety mandated by our benevolent oligarchs. That is not to say that he is ignorant of the ways of intoxication. As unlikely as it seems, of all of the many drug dealers I have interviewed, Caley is not only the youngest but the smartest—and he’s already retired. Talk about an exit strategy. If only he had been selling weed to the Iraqi’s George W. Bush might not have looked like such a fool.
Like most highly intelligent people Caley was easy to collar for an interview. You see, smart people tend to be lonely for that someone they can explain themselves to and Caley is no different; living the smart man’s curse, exiled to his desert Island of Introspection amid the vast Ocean of Stupidity that he was born into and remains to lap its lonely shore…
Mom
My mother named me Caledonia Aloysious; set me up for failure from the start by consigning me to a life of beatings. I guess Caley is an improvement. Mom had that nickname planned from the beginning.
This should really be about her. She had the hard way to go—spent thirteen years getting raped and beaten until she moved out on the streets with us kids. She worked so didn’t qualify for any food stamps or welfare or any of that shit. We had nowhere to live, nowhere! I was about ten. I really can’t get into it or I’ll start crying. [Caley was really uncomfortable about discussing this portion of his childhood. I did note early on in our series of 7 interviews that he had a hard time placing his age when recalling his childhood experiences, and that he tended to divide everything into ‘before ten’ or ‘after ten’.]
After I started making money and sent her to a NASCAR event some guy hits on her and she beats his ass. She really turned things around. I always did good in school because my mother would have killed me if I flunked or dropped out. Actually school was really easy.
Pop
I don’t remember much before ten [years of age]. I guess I blocked a lot out. The first abuse thing I can remember—hell, maybe it is the first thing I can remember—must of happened when I was two or three. We were at my uncle’s house on my mom’s side. Dad en Mom got in an argument and my dad picked me up and took me to leave. Pop—my grandfather on my Mom’s side—came outside and grabbed my dad by the throat with one hand and pressed him up against the truck. Pop was big, real thick like a bear, definitely over three-hundred. Dad was maybe two-twenty. I remember him holding my dad off the ground with one hand while he took me with the other hand and handed me to Mom. I was maybe three, and that’s pretty much how my childhood went.
Poppy Tom
My dad’s dad was in bad shape. He was dyin’ from heart trouble and cancer, even had a sensor in his bedroom. His great-grandmother was a hundred percent Indian: Cherokee and something else. He was teaching my brother and me what his grandmother had taught him, wanted to pass it on. He used to hunt and made the leather himself out of the hides. He made my brother and me a matching set of leather wallets, with our Indian names embossed in them. He also liked to make ice cream out of snow. I remember a big snowfall just before he died. We used to bring the snow into his bedroom and he would make the ice cream.
One day I went into his bedroom to wake him up. I said, ‘Poppy Tom wake up.’
I got my mom and they came and said he wasn’t breathing. I was little. It was definitely before I was ten. The stuff he made for my brother and I; my father, he kept it and I don’t associate with him [clenches jaw].
Bro
My brother was a couple years older than me. We did a lot together. By the time I was a teenager he had the kind of reputation that meant people didn’t mess with me. We did a lot of stuff together when we were little and I think had a pretty normal life in school and outside. It was at home that things were messed up.
One time before we were ten we were digging a hole in the yard and spreading sand, for putting in a pool. There was this neighborhood kid helping us. I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember much about the day really. The kid asked me a question. I don’t remember what the question was but I answered ‘no’. The kid was using a heavy ground rake and just clocked me with it. All I remember was falling back with my eyes closing and seeing my brother punching him. The next thing I knew I was waking up in the hospital and eating vanilla wafers. It was right under the hairline on the left [shows two inch scar under hairline above right eye] and lifted a piece of bone out. I had a lot of stitches.
A couple of years later we were at my grandma’s house playing outside. This kid came out of nowhere, jumped from behind this tree, and slammed this board with a rusty nail sticking out of it into my head. We had asked him where his brother was. We were just playing, and I think they were hitting everybody like that and I don’t think the kid new about the nail—like he intentional stuck it in my head. It was on the top of the head and [came down] from the side. My brother beat the shit out of him—a pretty bad beating.
I guess I’ve got a pretty hard head. There was one time my cousin slammed my head in a car door by accident—tore off the top half of my right ear. It was just an accident. He was like a brother two; my mom raised him too. So I came up taking a lot of ass-kickings.
Dad
Dad and Mom’s room was downstairs. Our rooms were upstairs. He used to think it was funny to call us downstairs and then throw full cans and bottles of soda at us, even two-liters. There was a lot of verbal abuse. He would beat us every day. I thought it was normal to be honest. It wasn’t that he had an aggressive personality. He had a lot of friends; firemen and cop buddies. But behind closed doors it was different. He had a ‘Jekyl and Hide’ personality.
Really, the most disturbing thing he ever did to me was tell me that my mother didn’t love me because she wanted a girl and that she used to try and kill me when I was a baby because I wasn’t a girl. He used to take our money and give it to our youngest sister. There were four of us, my brother and me and our two younger sisters.
We did try to fight back. He had a stomach problem and couldn’t digest certain kinds of food. He also had bad knees. He didn’t have a job and if he did it didn’t last for long. Mom worked between two and four jobs supporting us four kids. Now every day he would belt us; fist, open hand, belt, whatever he could get his hands on. Sometimes when he was sleeping we would smack his stomach or kick his knees. We’d get beat the worse for it but it was worth it.
On one occasion he threw one of those folding wooden tray-tables at us and it almost hit my little sister. She was real young when he threw the table. That was the day we left; no place to go, just out on the street, away from him.
Weed
I did not start getting high until long after I started selling. As a drug it’s appealing because it is less toxic than cigarettes and far less harmful than alcohol to those around you. To die from smoking pot you’d have to lock yourself in an unventilated room. Even then you would die from the same thing that kills old ladies in house fires—the smoke and carbon monoxide.
When I was fifteen a friend of mine—a real good friend, closer even then my brother and we’re close—was selling. I was always good at talking to people so I started setting up deals for him—like a broker. I’m not using, buying, selling so I’m a clean fix. When he started getting weight [quantities sufficient for distribution] I started buying from him.
At first there might be a one-ounce day or maybe it took me three days to unload an ounce. People don’t get into selling pot because of the bulk—of course—and because they think there is no money in it. That’s wrong, and just shows you how stupid most people are. Coke is all cutup and mashed down as far as it can go when it comes into town, nothing left to cut. Pills are really the only thing that is as popular as weed and they all have fixed prices. Everybody knows what you paid for it and you are just selling the same perk or oxy as the next guy.
But with pot, it is an organic product grown around the world with a lot of variance in quality. You’ve got all kinds of crazy shit coming into the country and also what is being grown.
If you have a good connect and have quality product you just mark it up accordingly.
Most people screw up on their inventory control. Yeah, I kept a stash, everybody keeps a stash. Hiding one thing is not so hard. But breaking it up and moving it out will get you burned. People don’t sell bags of pot like back in your old-ass day…
…Back to the weight; a scale gets you five years! That’s a distribution charge right there. Now the ‘old-head’ way of measuring was done with the finger [makes a hook out of index finger] but I have small hands. I only moved an eigth of an ounce at a time. That way if you get busted it doesn’t carry a distribution charge.
Now nobody buys weight they buy blunts. A blunt is a cheap cigar. You take a knife and split it down the side. You rip out the leaf—that shit is poison and you throw it away. You push the weed in. Leave a little bit of tobacco at the bottom and some on the end and roll it back up. An eighth rolls four blunts.
I would buy a couple ounces at a time and kept a stash but only broke out an eighth to go sell. That is very important—not to move weight. It is a discipline. An eighth costs forty [$40] for ‘mids’ [standard grade]; basically ten dollars per blunt. I would sell an eighth of ‘mids’ for fifty to eighty, depending on who it was. My man was getting crazy good shit though. That is where the money comes in, when you have the quality product: Afghan Kush, African Kush, Great Granddad Perp—all kinds of crazy shit. You smoke some of it with them to demonstrate the quality.
So, with an eighth of exotic weed I’m spending sixty to one-thirty-five and selling it for one-forty-five to two-forty. I tried not to deal in ‘mids’ too much. I’d text him [the supplier] ‘Is everything good?’ If he said ‘yeah, come by the house’ then I knew he had what I needed. We’d chill, play some games, have a drink. I’d always smoke his weed, not mine. When I was buying I always smoked before the purchase, when it was his shit. When I was selling I always smoked after the purchase, when it was their shit.
Now somebody would text me—I never talked on the phone—and ask ‘are you good?’ We would then meet at their house if it was a friend, at a park, or at the McDonald’s in the bathroom. It would depend on who they were and where I was at. If someone called or asked for weight I knew something was up [wrong].
My best three-days of sales was two-thousand net. A week usually brought me twelve-hundred to two-thousand in profit. I had a job the whole time. It was easy money. I would spend only three hours a week sometimes and make four times what I made at my full-time job. [He was working and still attending high school.] If you do it for a while you gain some knowledge and don’t let yourself get caught up in stupid shit. I did not deal with people I didn’t know. You don’t walk up to someone in the street like these coons do now and say, ‘Grass is out.’ That’s how you get caught or beat-up and robbed.
I had two things going for me: cops and criminals. I had some cop friends who would call me up and let me know when and where busts were going down, even if it was just a house party that was being broken up, so that I wouldn’t get caught up in it. I learned that from my father. He had cop friends that made sure my mother’s brutality and abuse charges never made it anywhere. It’s like that. I also had my cousin and my brother who were just crazy fighters who people didn’t want to mess with, and a couple of friends who had done time for murder and were out. So people that knew me didn’t really consider robbing me. The one guy worked for the Bloods, and used to make his victims tie themselves up with their own shoelaces. [Sounds like tying together of shoes to hobble a hostage, but it was third-person so I didn’t inquire.]
To this day I can’t even walk to the Seven-Eleven without getting harassed by cops. I have never been arrested or charged but I have been stopped a lot. One day my friends and I had been partying so we decided to walk up to the McDonalds and get something to eat. At the top of the street three or four cop cars come flying up and screech on the breaks. They’re piling out. One has a night stick and one has a tazer. They tell my friends to leave. They had me walk towards them with my hands up. The one cop then bent my arm behind my back. Then he grabbed me by the hair and the belt loop and heaved my fat ass up off the ground and slammed me on the hood. I said, ‘What’s this about?’
The cop said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not about drugs. You just fit the description of a rapist seen running out of the woods after a girl was raped.’
I was like, ‘Oh shit, that wasn’t me!’
Another cop pulled up and asked, ‘Is that the guy?’
The cop in the car looked at a picture, and said, ‘You got the wrong guy.’
That’s when I started having fun with them. I was holding my neck, talking about lawyers, and my friends were giving them shit about they saw the brutality. The cops got nervous and then just apologized and let me go.
I was eighteen and the risks started getting to be too much. When you get into this you have to abide by the TYC rule: ‘Take Your Charge’. If you get pinched you take it like a man and do your time. You don’t roll over on somebody else because you were a dumbass.
Well, there was this guy who I basically put out of business when I started selling. He got busted with three ounces and a scale—that’s jail time. I began to notice that people he did business with were getting busted. I also noticed he didn’t have any pending court dates. A cop buddy of mine called me up and said, ‘They are coming for you.’
I had a friend take my stash. Then this guy, the dumbass with the scale, calls me up and says, ‘Hey, you want to hang out?’
I told him I’d stop by. I got stopped on the way over. Now, these were [Baltimore] County Cops, and they don’t like being wrong, so I knew they’d be on me. They still are three years after I stopped dealing. Now the guy, the dumbass with the scale, he ended up getting beat up real bad. I don’t know what happened but he did have to eat with a straw for almost a year. He didn’t mind his TYC.
A Special Fear: A Related Perspective on Narcotics & Cops
I once interviewed a heroin dealer in the city. He was an interesting character who got started in crime at age ten, when he was employed by the owners of a shoe store to run numbers deposits and payments around his neighborhood in a shoebox. He got involved in martial arts and developed a creed. When he was approached by the Chapter President of the Pagans Motorcycle Club to train his people, he declined, thinking it would be a stain on his teacher’s art. He eventually got involved in his brother’s heroin business and took it over after his death.
When I asked him about the scariest aspect of his business he told me that it was the cops; not the cops that arrest you, but the ones that come over to your supplier’s house three at a time to snort coke, and the guy that ran him out of business; a police lieutenant who retired, bought a bar, and then took over the local heroin market. He told me, “Between the hospitals peddling their dope—from the so-called treatment centers—and keeping your customers addicted to their shit, you have the cops cutting in and taking over the business. I got out as soon as I found out the lieutenant put a price on my head. I got off the dope too—cold turkey. I was not going to get addicted to the hospital’s shit.”
Conclusion
This article is the product of seven interviews with Caley and one with Tim. If you are not interested in the subject, I understand. For me it was something all-together new, so I found it enlightening. I felt it was important to have an inside piece on some portion of the drug trade in Harm City. Because, it is in large measure the drug trade and the government’s war on drugs that has made Baltimore the dangerous place that it is. Even though Caley was involved with low-level trafficking of arguably the most benign of illicit drugs, violence was always just a phone call away.
Also, if you are a reader of my violence books and articles I thought it would be useful to demonstrate the process. I conducted similar series of interviews with hundreds of people over the past 16 years, but the reader of the finished product just gets glimpses of their lives. Caley was not really that interested in speaking about his drug-trafficking. That was where my interest was. As the prying researcher I had to strike a compromise, a compromise that I think results in a broader, deeper picture being drawn from his words. He really didn’t know me very well and seemed to regard me as something of a "creepy old dude." He was, however, needful of unlimbering some of his life experiences. You can see places where he drew back from the process and distanced himself. These hint at an unspoken subtext and can make for the focus of an eye-opening re-read.
Since I entered this process of recording violent urban oral histories from the perspective of wanting to understand the entire phenomena, the approach quickly took on this comprehensive aspect. Hopefully this gives the reader a better understanding of the means by which the information in my non-fiction works has been acquired.
Skulker Jones: A Tale of Dark Deviltry at the End of Caucasian Time
Skulker Jones is the sequel to A Hoodrat Halloween and an urban horror tale of a failed man looking for a final saving grace.
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