New York

Where Have All the Dealers Gone?

“The great library of New York dope has been going up in smoke this month. I want it all smoked up by September One, when I clear out for good. Here,” he said, tossing me a Baggie full of grass. “Try some 1967”

by

Where Have All the Dealers Gone?
September 27, 1973

Hi there. This is “R.” again. Remember me? Four months ago I wrote a story for these pages about my attempt to give up grass. It was called “A Month without a Joint (Except One.)” I’m back again with another dope tale, this time about frenzy and famine in the marijuana trade — the Panic of September One. 

You may recall that my month-long experiment in giving up grass came to an end on a note of cautious pessimism. I was forced to concede that I was not ready to face life without a bit of dope now and then, and mainly now. But I had pledged to hold myself down to no more than one joint per day. I was determined to skip entire days as often as possible. 

So far I have skipped the entire day of August 24, because on the night of August 23 a certain party was a piggy and smoked me down to my last shreds and crumbs. I was left with three slender joints and one big decision. September One and the big bad new drug law loomed a week away. For several weeks I had been hearing stories of frantic activity in the dope-dealing world: panic sales, informer tales, hasty getaways. The new law did not increase penalties for mere possession of grass, but the penalties for dealing were stiffer. There were wild rumors of a blitzkrieg narc crackddown right before September One, to catch slowpoke dealers before they could clean up, clear out, and lay low as many were beginning to do. 

So my big decision was this: Should I try to score one more high quality ounce before the September One deadline when the dealers disappear and the famine follows? Or should I smoke up my three slender joints and call it quits again, this time for good, allowing the coming famine to reduce the chances of backsliding?

A Class Operation 

The first dealer I try operates out of a factory building on the fringe of the garment center. The guy who operates this place is one of the last aristocrats left in the dope trade. This guy —  “Dennis,” we’ll call him — runs a class establishment. A Bengali manservant to greet you at the door, a gleaming carpeted interior, distinctive painting and sculpture by sonic well-known customers, a courteous and intelligent staff. These are no dumb hippy dealers with tedious cosmic raps to lay on you all the time, these are no Queens head-shop owners selling floor sweepings as “Acapulco Green.” Dennis is one of the last dealers in the city to carry nothing but the finest marijuana. No speed, no coke, and consequently none of the creeps and poseurs who come with those drugs. A place with standards. And killer weed. 

So I’m standing on the sidewalk outside this factory building. At this time of night all the surrounding buildings are deserted. The street is deserted. The entire garment district is deserted. There’s just me out on the sidewalk pressing the buzzer, waiting for the Bengali to descend in the freight elevator and admit me. 

Then it’s not just me. One of those shiny new blue and white police cruisers has nosed its way around the corner and is heading slowly my way. 

I do not handle these type situations well.

“They don’t sell sweaters up there this time of night, fella,” I could imagine the cop saying. “What’re you looking for up there?” 

“Well you see, officer, I’m planning this trip to Bangladesh soon. Relief work, you know, and I just happen to have a Bengali friend who lives in a sweater factory who … ” 

Inside the building the freight elevator is clanking down to the ground floor, and the Bengali is sliding open the grate. Outside the cruiser slows to a halt behind me. After giving some consideration to this situation and to the stabbing pains in my chest, I decided the clever move would be to reach up and ring the buzzer. This would show the cops, I reasoned, that I wasn’t just trying to break in. And if I kept on ringing it, I might warn the people upstairs of the raid I was certain was about to take place. I kept on ringing it. A long minute passes. Finally I hear the cruiser start forward and roll on past me. I stopped the ringing. The Bengali unbolted the door and passed me in, passing me, in addition, a reproachful look. 

“The buzzer works to your satisfaction, I hope?” he asked. 

Why did that police car pass by? It’s obvious: the better to bust me later when I come out of the building carrying a brand new ounce or two in my pockets. They’re waiting out there for me. They’ll bust me for possession, then try to make me turn informer. They’ll grab me as soon as I stop back out onto the street. That is what I am thinking as the lift reaches the top floor. 

A Mysterious Stranger 

As soon as I step out of the lift into the bright interior of the place, I know something is definitely wrong. The place looks deserted. Usually on a Friday night like this a dozen or more people are gathered around the long wooden sampling table, rolling, smoking, and laughing. The Bengali served spiced teas and brandy to sweeten the palate between generous samplings from the fat bags of grass spilling out upon the tabletop. The clientele was a nice mixture of worlds, the talk was witty and silly — the place was a salon as much as a dope den. 

Tonight there is one lone customer at the long table. I had never seen him before. 

A pale, sandy-haired, bony fellow who looks like an off-duty accountant, he seems to be engrossed in a dog-eared back issue of National Geographic. He is staring sullenly down at a two-page picture spread. An equally sullen herd of water buffalo stares back up at him from their jungle mud-wallow. Neither side breaks off the staring match to take notice of me as I seat myself across from them and reach for the Marfil Freres rolling papers. 

There are just two other people in the big loft and neither one of them seems inclined to pay much attention to me for the moment. I take some dope from a bag in front of me. The label on the bag says “Columbian Buds-June 1972-$60/oz.” I roll myself a one-dollar joint and survey the uneasily peaceful scene. 

Over in the corner behind the sampling table Andy, the Number Two Man in the operation, is yawning himself awake in front of a big Space Commander color set. On the TV screen Ralph Houk is walking to the mound to confer with Sparky Lyle. The bases are loaded with Tigers. 

The other person in the loft is Dennis. Dennis is sitting in his customary place at the head of the sampling table in his high-backed chair. He is not watching the ball game. He is gazing moodily at his triple I-beam pharmaceutical scale and his Cannon “Palmatronic” portable calculator. Finally he speaks. 

“What was all that buzzing for?” he asks me. “Look, you woke Andy up.” 

“Fucking Sparky Lyle,” Andy observed from the TV corner. “Fucking Ralph Houk,” he added. 

I told Dennis about the police car. “You don’t think the cops are watching this place, do you?” I asked him. 

“Of course they’re watching the place,” he told me carefully, managing a hint of a shrewd wink. “You want me to tell you how much it costs me every month to make sure they just watch it for me?” 

“Oh, sure, I see. Fine,” I said. “Let me look at the menu for today, huh?” 

I was not as reassured as I was trying to sound. “He’s lying,” I thought to myself. “I’ve heard that ‘be cool, I got the cops paid off’ line from dealers before. They use it to calm down the kind of hysterical paranoids who can single-handedly panic an entire roomful of paying customers. Me, for instance, I’m figuring Dennis knows the place is being watched, maybe he knows they’re about to bust him, or they’re gathering evidence for a post September One bust and he’s trying to clear out, but he doesn’t want to scare off a potential quick cash sale, so he’s lying to me. Or on the other hand, maybe he’s not lying; he doesn’t know the cops are closing in, he really thinks it’s still safe, when any minute now they’ll be ringing the buzzer with warrants, but he won’t pay attention to my warning because he thinks I’m just paranoid. 

That’s what I’m figuring. I’m also smoking my one-dollar joint, so my figuring is getting more complex all the time. 

“Lions eat water buffalo for breakfast,” the bony Geographic reader announced, to no one in particular. Contemptuously be flipped to a snowy Antarctic photo spread. 

“What do you think of the menu today?” Dennis asked me with a bland look. 

I stared down at the price list he had handed me. Usually Dennis offers a selection of four or five grades of dope, each available in ounce units, with quantity discounts for quarter-pound and pound purchases. The whole price list usually fits on a five-by-seven card. Today it is a foot long. There are twenty or thirty varieties of dope listed in a long column. Many listings have a line drawn through them, meaning sold out. “OUNCES ONLY,” someone has written across the top of the list. 

“What is the meaning of this?” I asked Dennis. 

“The meaning of this is that I am selling my library.”

“Library?” 

The Great Libraries of Alexandria 

“Ten years. Every important dope that’s come through New York City for ten years I’ve saved a quarter pound or so, labeled with year, month, and origin. Sometimes I go back, pick one out, smoke some, and I remember how I was feeling back then. It all comes back.” 

“So why sell it?” 

“Didn’t you know I’m going out of business? I thought everybody knew I was going out of business. Everybody but you and him,” he said, indicating the bony accountant now frowning at the South Pole. 

“You know about the great libraries of Alexandria, right?” Dennis asked me. 

“What about them?”

“In the fourth century A.D. they burned to the ground and a thousand years of Hellenic civilization went up in smoke.” 

“Yeah? And?” 

“The great library of New York dope has been going up in smoke this month. I want it all smoked up by September One, when I clear out for good. Here.” he said, tossing me a Baggie full of grass. “Try some 1967. What’re you on now?” 

“Some seventy-two.” 

“Do yourself a favor. Do this sixty-seven.” 

“That’s when I first started smoking — 1967,” I said. I did some sixty-seven. 

“I’ll tell you about sixty-seven,” Andy said, wandering over from the Sparky Lyle disaster on the screen. “Houk said sixty-seven was gonna be a rebuilding year. Go with the young ballplayers. The jerk. He rebuilds them into the cellar. Look at him now. He’s leaving Lyle in there.” 

The buzzer bleated twice, then twice again. I froze, back in 1973 again. September One 1973 and the cops outside.

“He says his name is Barry,” the Bengali reported to Dennis. 

“Let him in.” 

“You trust that Barry?” I asked Dennis. “I’ve beard stories about him.” 

“They’re probably true. But he’s never shorted me and he can move quantity fast. He’s a weird dude, but he’s not a cop, if that’s what you mean.” 

He is weird. The first thing he did when he had seated himself next to Dennis at the table was to take out his wallet and flash a New York City Police Department detective’s badge. At least it looked like a New York City Police Department detective’s badge. 

“You’re all under arrest,” he said. 

“You are a great one for the laugh, Barry. You must be a hit at parties,” said Dennis. “What brings you here?” 

“Take a look at this,” says Barry, removing a lid of dark brown dope from his pocket and placing it on the scale. 

Dennis takes a handful, kneads some between his fingers, sniffs it, and tastes it. “Not bad for Mexican these days. Buds all the way through?” 

“Buds all the way through. You want to see a pound? I can get almost unlimited pounds for you at one thirty-five. Up until the First. I’ll be right back with a pound, I got — ” 

“I told you I’m phasing out.” 

“You’re serious about that? This is not just for the First?”

“This is for good. Here, smoke some 1967, Barry.” 

“Where you gonna be on the First, Barry?” Andy asked. 

Bisby, Arizona

“Bisby, Arizona.” 

“Turquoise?” said Dennis. 

“That’s part of it,” said Barry. 

“What are you talking about turquoise?” said Andy. 

“Some people I know, some ex-dealers, got a thing going bringing turquoise in over the border. They get a good price, and they all find it convenient to operate out of Bisby. They’ve got this abandoned copper mine outside of Bisby and they’re finding a very unique kind of turquoise in the pits. ‘Silver spray’ or ‘spider web’ or something like that, the Acapulco Gold of turquoise. But I’m not going to be dealing turquoise.” 

“So what are you in Bisby for on the First?” says Andy. 

“Real estate,” Barry says. “I bought some lots on a place called Brewery Gulch. Zoned commercial. I lucked out getting it. There are three or four dudes have just about bought up the entire town. It’s a tiny place inside a canyon, but land is going to get more important, what with this turquoise thing and the price of copper. My lots are tiny things, pint-sized down there, but anyone who wants to build anything in downtown Bisby, they got to deal with me sooner or later.” 

“You ever coming back?” Andy asked. 

“I may check things out after the New Year to see if there are any good businessmen left in the trade. It’s hard to find a dealer you can trust around town.” 

“You finished spreading your good vibes?” Dennis asked Barry. 

“Okay. I’m going. Listen, Dennis, don’t disappear without letting me take that lovely scale off your hands for a very fair price.” 

“Good-bye, Barry,” said Dennis. 

The Bengali has returned from letting Barry out. He rolls a large, powerful-looking vacuum cleaner over to the far wall. He switches it on and begins carefully sweeping and re-sweeping the carpet foot by foot. 

“When we go, we go clean,” says Dennis. 

Meanwhile I am figuring again. About going clean. 

There is some great stuff here. Undeniably, I want the 1967 Gold. I want the 1969 DaNang Green. I want some 1970 Jamaican tops. I want the 1971 Original Chiba. I certainly want to taste the 1965 Original Micholocan. 

But l don’t like the haste with which this decade-old empire is being dismantled. I never liked the idea of stepping out into the street to face that prowl car when I’m loaded with dope, and now I like it less. 

Nevertheless, there are certain things that are just not done in a respectable dealing establishment. Walking in, rolling yourself one ­dollar joints, shooting the breeze, sharing confidences, and then walking out without buying a thing is one thing that is just not done. I decided I had to do it. 

“Look, Dennis, there’s something I’ve got to tell you,” I began. “That prowl car freaked me. I don’t think I could handle it if I walked out and had to look two cops in the eye.” 

Well, he was nice about it. He took me to the window and had me look both ways up and down the street and there was no prowl car. He explained patiently that the cops don’t waste their time hunting for cheap possession busts. He offered to send the Bengali down to the street to check things out first. He suggested I relax a little and offered me some of the last of his sixty-five. By this time it was clear he didn’t want my money so much as my confidence. Maybe I was his last customer. A decade of honest dealing comes to an end and he’s reduced to pleading with an obstinate paranoid who won’t take his word. 

“I’ll come back in the next couple days,” I said, desperate to get out of the mess I had created. “Save me some of that sixty-seven if you can.” 

“I won’t be here when you come back. The sixty-seven won’t be here.” 

“Dennis, what are we all going to do without you?” I said, stepping into the elevator. 

“I don’t know,” he said. 

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Vishnu 

I found out. We’re going to end up in places like this. This being a sixth floor walkup in what used to be known as the West Village. This being sitting on the floor of the living room/dining room tub-in-kitchen area surrounded by stinking mounds of German shepherd shit. 

The huge animal is locked in the bedroom now, barking viciously and lunging against the inside of the flimsy door. I am trying to inhale this grass I’m sampling without retching from the dogshit smell. 

I am visiting the apartment of a small-time dealer who calls herself Blue Jay. It is one day before September One. A heat wave grips the city and a fever afflicts the dope world. I have failed to score at three other dealers’ since I scuttled away from Dennis’s place. I have had bad experiences at each place. I have smoked my last three joints long ago and I am getting desperate, which is why I am visiting Blue Jay. 

Now Blue Jay is a nice lady, but in addition to dealing grass, she has been known on occasion to stock certain pills. She has also been known on occasion to take these pills. Sometimes she will take these pills for days at a time and she will either be much too busy or much too relaxed to take Vishnu — that’s what Blue Jay calls the monstrous shepherd — ­down six flights of stairs to the street for a walk. Vishnu doesn’t seem to miss going outside as long as he can shit and piss on the floor. He does. Sometimes Blue Jay remembers to put down papers for Vishnu to shit on, but then again, sometimes she forgets. When the smell gets very bad, Blue Jay takes two further steps. She starts burning sweet strawberry incense, and she stops feeding Vishnu for a while. This puts the dog in a bad temper and makes him want to eat visitors. 

Mao Is a Gemini

How did I end up here? Well, the night after I scuttled away from Dennis, I made three phone calls to respectable middle-level dealers. One was out of town, one was out of the country, and one was out of business. 

“Everything’s moving to Jersey,” the out-of-business guy told me. “The people I know are maybe keeping an apartment in New York for living, but they’ve shipped all their dope across the river, and they deal from there. That is, the ones who haven’t quit altogether. There’s a whole colony of dealers who’ve been putting away cash for a time like this, and they got themselves these incredible farmhouses — villas really — in County, Pennsylvania. They got it set up so they do nothing but consulting work — making contacts, arranging credit on very big deals — for these apprentice dealers in Jersey.” 

“Well, where might a person go if this person were interested in buying an ounce or so before September One?” I asked him. “Are there any dealers left in New York City?” 

“Well, have you tried Holy Bruce lately?” 

“I’ve been trying to avoid having to deal with him.” 

“Well, I haven’t seen him for a few months, but he travels light so he might still be in business.” 

There is some difference of opinion among his fellow dealers about Holy Bruce. There are those who say “Bruce is a true heavy. He’s light-years ahead of us all — that’s why we can’t understand him all the time. And you have to admit his dope is just about the best there is.” 

Then there are those who say “Bruce? At best he’s a simpleminded cheese brain. At worst? At worst he’s a cop. The only reason we let him come around is that he’s got the best fucking dope in town, but then he probably gets the run of the property clerk’s office to supply himself.” 

The disagreement about Bruce is not about his dope: “Look,” he says, “look how holy and/or groovy I’ve become from smoking the dope I sell. You could be like me.” 

But Bruce’s rap tends to lose him more customers than it gains. Listening to it is like being buried alive in an avalanche of jargon. All the cliches, catchphrases, and Kozmic Koncepts of the past decade, from Marshall McLuhan to martial arts, jumbled and garbled together into convoluted abstractions which roll out of his mouth with a momentum of their own and little regard for what anyone else is saying.

“How ya doin’, Bruce?” someone will ask. 

“Oh, I’m into a media feedback loop with my kundalini, trying to reprogram my biocomputer to get the old Tai Chi mobilized behind the immobility of the masses’ conversion to energy. Like Mao says, and don’t forget Mao is a Gentini … ” 

Now some people can listen for hours with rapt attention to this sort of stuff, especially when fortified by a few puffs of Bruce’s notorious “custom blends.” Some people, on the other hand, after listening only five minutes, want to dash his brains out. I come somewhere between these two extremes. It takes about ten minutes before I want to dash his brains out. 

So it was with some gritting of teeth that I went about trying to contact Holy Bruce. It was not easy. I left a message for him with a clerk at a sleazy health-food store he sometimes visits and waited to see if he’d get back to me. 

Nobody knows where Bruce actually lives. Nobody knows where he gets his dope, at least he doesn’t deal with the usual wholesalers. Nobody knows where he stashes his supply either: He carries around only a few ounces at a time, all of them packed inside a hollowed-out Bible which his customers have taken to calling “the Good Book.” Nobody is quite sure what Bruce is in the dealing business for — it doesn’t seem to be money — unless its for the captive audiences he gets for his raps. 

And Bruce does not deal ordinary ounces either. He deals only clean and manicured ounces of what he calls his “hand-mixed custom blends.” He is very touchy about his blends. He claims he has sampled “thousands” of varieties of cannabis, analyzed the “personalities” and powers of each of the strains, and has combined certain potent strains into blends for special purposes. He has a “religious blend,” a “creative blend,” a “visual blend,” an “intellectual blend,” “upper” blends and “downer” blends, even a “Tai Chi blend.” 

As with everything else. Bruce is capable of talking interminably about his blends. I can recall a party at which Bruce was busy laying a long rap about his “contemplation blend” upon two bored black dope dealers. 

“Hey, man,” said one of them. “Hey, man, how about blending me up some pussy grass. You got some pussy grass?” 

Bruce, of course, took him seriously. “I do have a kundalini blend which focuses upon the genital chakra and — ” 

“Hey, man,” said the other, “you let him have the pussy grass. I want some money grass. I want a whole key of money grass.” 

At this point Bruce put his “contemplation blend” back inside the Good Book and walked away. I think bis feelings were hurt. 

Mr. Parable & Mr. Truth 

Bruce called me the next evening and told me to meet him at a third party’s apartment. “I’ve got something very heavy I want to lay on you,” he said. I was wondering what new blend he was going to introduce. 

When I walked in, Bruce was seated in a big chair with his trusty Bible perched on the arm of the chair. 

Bruce was in the middle of telling a typically vague and abstract Kozmic parable to three rapt or stupefied listeners. “It’s a parable,” Bruce explained for my benefit as I seated myself at his feet, “a parable about two dudes. One of them is named Truth and the other one’s name is Parable, dig it. This is the heavy trip I wanted to lay on you. You see, Truth and Parable are making this long journey, dig it, and …”

I dug it. My eyes glazed over. Would I endure this kind of suffering for the sake of an ounce of dope? I asked myself. I gazed at the Bible longingly. Just this once, I told myself, just hang in there, he can’t go on forever. 

He went on forever. It was never clear where Mr. Truth and Mr. Parable were supposed to be going on this “long journey” of theirs, but they seemed to be spending hours on the way debating the relative merits of truth and parable and the relationship between the two. I could swear I even remember hearing Mr. Truth use the word “biocomputer” in the middle of his digression upon the nature of man, but then again, it may have been Mr. Parable speaking at the time. 

Well, to make a long story short — and I wish I could have done so at the time — Mr. Truth finally wins the big debate when be makes the devastating observation to Mr. Parable that as Truth he could go naked, while Mr. Parable had to wear clothes. Or it may have been that Mr. Parable wins the argument when he says that he looks better in his clothes than Mr. Truth docs naked. 

Anyway, as soon as it seemed that this epic talc had ended, and before another one had a chance to get started, I shifted the subject to dope. 

“Why don’t you open up the Good Book and show us what you’ve got in store for us.” 

“I’m glad you asked,” said Bruce. 

He opened up the Good Book. I felt ill. It was a real Bible. With real pages inside. 

“Why don’t we turn to the parables in the book of Matthew,” Bruce suggested. “I want to show you how I got on the trip I’m on now, from the trip I used to be on then. I’m off what I was on, if you can dig it, and I’m on what I was off. You’re not dealing with a dealer anymore, you’re dealing with a born-again Christian now, and I’m only dealing in the gospel. Doesn’t cost you a cent, and gets you higher than you’ve ever been before.” 

“Higher than on your ‘religious blend’?” I asked, feeling a little mean. 

“Higher than on any blend of all the personalities of every grass I ever smoked, that’s how high straight Jesus gets you. Let me tell you how it happened because I think it can happen to you too, you’re searching for the same Perfect Deal I found, I can tell. It’s a long story, but you’ll see how it relates to this parable I’m going to explain in Matthew where … ” 

I didn’t stay to find out. 

The Great Mescaline Bet 

Time was running out and things were going downhill. Three days left to September One and all the dealers I knew — all but one — seemed to be leaving town or going out of business. 

“I’ll tell you what’s happening,” said “Doug,” a movement veteran, sometime doper and acquaintance of mine. “A whole generation of original dope dealers, the freaks, the geniuses, the crazies, the ones who got into the business first because they loved dope a lot, those guys are clearing out of the city. It’s not that the new law is super-heavy on grass, it’s just that after all these years, who needs the extra hassle? September One is just a convenient excuse to retire …” 

“So what’s left?” 

“New Jersey. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jersey City or Newark turned into a kind of Marrakech for the New York dope trade. But you’ll never get the same class of dealers again.” 

We are having this discussion in a third party’s apartment while we await the arrival of a fourth party. The fourth party is a head-shop owner from Long Island who deals on the side. He is in the process of moving both his enterprises up to Vermont before September One, and he has been doing a little inventory clearance before the big move. 

Things go surprisingly well at first. It is nice stuff, the head-shop owner’s grass, standard Columbian but solid. Overpriced, but worth it, considering the circumstances. I was feeling good, glad to get all this silly chasing around for a single lousy ounce over and done with, when a hitch developed. 

The head-shop owner takes out a lid for Doug and me to inspect, when he makes the mistake of digging out a vial of pink tablets, turning on the Kosmic grin, and inquiring in a mellow voice, “I don’t suppose either of you two gentlemen might be interested in some very far-out mescaline?” 

This was a mistake because Doug is very partial to mescaline. He took a lot once. He took a lot many, many times, in fact. He fell in love with the drug. Then, about three years ago, something happened. The psychedelic market became glutted with fraudulent mescaline — usually cheap acid, hog tranquilizer (PCP), and belladonna in various combi­nations. Real mescaline became harder and harder to get. Wrecked and disappointed time and again by pills he had been assured were mescaline, Doug began sending samples to a lab in California which specialized in doing chemical analysis of street drugs. For the past twelve months not one single pill of the dozens of samples he’s tested has turned out to contain real mescaline. (This is the guy who discovered that the “sacred mushrooms” you all loved so much this summer, the ones your friendly dealer told you were organically cultivated by Blackfoot Indian medicine men in the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, were not so sacred after all. The lab reported that they’d had dozens of samples sent in for testing from all over the country and that they all turned out to be canned supermarket mushrooms dipped in a solution of acid and PCP.) In any case, when the subject of mescaline comes up, Doug only has one thing to say these days and he says it with the pain and authority of a lost love. 

“There is no mescaline,” is what he says. 

“There is no mescaline,” he told the Long Island head-shop dealer who was profferring to us a handful of the pink tablets. 

“Just try a tab of this, man. Pink Dawn, they call it out on the Coast. It’s mescaline, I can guarantee you. This dude from Laguna Beach brought it in special, he just dealt all but these to the road manager for —”

“There is no mescaline,” Doug intoned firmly. 

“How much you selling that for?” I asked. 

“Two for five dollars. You know the drummer for —- ? Well, he says he took a hit of this before — ” 

“I’ll tell you what,” Doug told the dealer. “I’ll give you the five if you agree to make a little bet with me.” 

“What’s the bet, man? Look, if you don’t want the stuff …” 

“Just make the bet. I send these tabs off to a lab for chemical analysis and I bet you three hundred dollars that the report comes back saying there ain’t a trace of mescaline in them. You’re so sure it’s mescaline you should be ready to stand behind it.” 

Sigh. Conspiratorial smile from the head-shop man. “Okay, man, so it’s not mescaline. It’s acid and something else. If it gets you high, man, what’s the difference? Some people dig on the idea of a mescaline high and maybe can’t relate to acid, so I tell them it’s mescaline and they get a mescaline high. It’s what’s in your head, man, not what’s in the pill. Don’t be so caught up with words and labels.” 

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” Doug said to me. “This is the kind of scum that’s gonna be left dealing after September One. There is no mescaline. Anywhere, anymore.” 

The Land of Oil & Honey 

I wasn’t in such a big hurry to leave. I wouldn’t have minded letting the big mescaline argument go on a little longer if I could have dropped a few tens on the floor and picked up one of those lids of Columbian. But it seemed like such a point of pride with Doug — he was defending his mescalinity, I suppose — that I left without making the deal. That left me with two days to go before the deadline. 

The next evening I decided that — cop car or no cop car — I was going back to Dennis’s place and get myself some of that sixty-seven if there were any left, or maybe some Columbian buds, or maybe both. I took a cab up to the garment center, almost ran to the factory building, and pressed the buzzer twice. Then I pressed it twice again. No response. No sign of life inside. 

Time had run out on all my options but one. I knew I would have to visit Blue Jay. 

So here I am with 24 hours left. The German shepherd is snarling, the strawberry incense is burning, the pile of shit is stinking, and I’m trying to get high on this sample joint. It’s 96 degrees outside, and no ventilation inside. Blue Jay is in her stained nightgown — the only garment I’ve ever seen her wear — drawing pictures of Brian Jones, the only kind of pictures I’ve ever seen her draw. For two years, or however long it’s been since his death, Blue Jay has done nothing but draw pictures of Brian Jones — just the head, to be precise. She has pictures of Brian Jones’s head emerging from the gnarled bark of an old tree, Brian Jones as a Cadillac hood ornament, Brian Jones on the body of a snake, etc., etc. 

Once I asked her: “Why Brian Jones?” 

“If you were a Pisces you’d know,” she said. 

Blue Jay looks up from her current effort, Brian Jones next to Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore. 

“Look, do you want the ounce? I’ll give it to you for thirty-five dollars,” she says. “But if you want it, you better take it now because I can’t guarantee I’ll be here tomorrow. I’m getting out of this city.” 

“You too?” 

“You kidding? Who needs the fuckin’ hassle? September One I’m leaving for Oregon. My lease runs out then anyway. I’ll let the fucking landlord clean up this shit. He’s welcome to it. You hear about that new law they got in Oregon?” 

“A little.” 

“Possession of one ounce of cannabis — any kind at all — is just a parking ticket. Can you dig that? I got this connection for oil out on the Coast. We’re gonna bring some very heavy hash oil into Oregon, dig it, this oil is the most concentrated form of cannabis known to man. It’s like honey. An ounce of hash oil is one thousand dollars against a parking ticket. We’re gonna be golden. Who needs this mandatory life shit? Look, is there something wrong with that grass? You want that ounce or what?” 

I couldn’t tell about the grass. Every time I inhaled, I took in a gulp of steamy sweaty shit-soaked air with the smoke. I wasn’t getting very high. I could have been smoking Hamburger Helper for all I knew. 

Thanks, but no thanks, I told Blue Jay. No grass for me. Three blocks away from her place I stopped gagging. You got to have some standards. 

Postscript 

It is three weeks after the September One deadline as I write this. As you all know by now, there’s a dope famine in the Big Kilo. Of course, like the energy shortage, some of it has been encouraged by dealers deliberately cutting down on supply, the better to jump prices later on. But what can you do with the type of dealer left operating these days? Nevertheless, good dope is definitely less accessible these days, and there is confusion in the dealing world as whole new marketing arrangements have to be worked out. Most of them in New Jersey. 

As for me, I gave up trying to score. For a while that nightmare hour I spent at Blue Jay’s place breathing dogshit stew and trying to get high had the effect of anti-marijuana aversion therapy. I gagged when I thought of the weed. 

But I’m getting over that now. In fact, I no longer turn it down when it’s offered to me at parties. I like it when it’s offered to me at parties. It’s better than paying for it. I plan to go to more parties. I wish people would start having pot parties again like they did back in sixty­ seven. Even in New Jersey. I’d go. ❖

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