This blog post title will certainly throw those who know me.
As in not once.
Never smoked or snorted cocaine.
Never shot myself in the arm or between the toes with any sort of syringe so I could receive either the thundering jolt of something or the soothing sensation of something else.
I never even smoked one of them thar marijuana cigarettes, which I believe are called joints or doobies or something like that.
Heck, I’ve never puffed once on a tobacco cigarette.
So, you may reasonably ask, why this blog topic?
It’s because of the book I’m currently reading, the late David Carr’s powerful 2008 memoir, “The Night of the Gun.” In it the New York Times columnist re-lived his years of addiction and abuse and selling and buying of various substances.
It’s a world I know nothing about. As I read through Carr’s book I can’t help but contrast his life in the 1980s with that of mine, a straight arrow, Goody Two Shoes who occasionally drank too much beer and tried tequila once.
And once only.
Heck, I didn’t even drink my first beer until I was 21.
During Carr’s besotted years I was living the life of a veritable Boy Scout. Yet, there were times I was near drugs, or at least in the general vicinity. Well, maybe the same zip code. I think.
I will change the names of the people in these three vignettes for the purposes of this blog post. My connection to these people placed me as close to the drug world as I ever got. And that’s nothing like the hyper-charged, violent and obsessive world Carr knew and lived and that nearly killed him long before his death at 58 in 2015.
Here are my “drug” stories:
Rosie, The Dude and The Cocaine
Somehow and I don’t remember how or why, but for a year or so in the 1980s I coached a women’s softball team in a Madeira Beach rec league.
One of the players on the team was Rosie, who I recall played second base. She was a fine player, one of our best. One night she called and asked if I’d like to go Silas Dent’s, a beach hangout, for a beer.
I said sure. She said she would pick me up. I said sure. Later, she picked up another guy at the bar for presumably something other than a beer.
Upon arrival at the bar, we walked up to the second floor of Dent’s, which was named after a local hermit. After a couple of hours and a couple of beers I was ready to go home and asked Rosie to drive me there.
By this point she had met The Dude, who was some sort of slick barroom operator. I was neither – slick or a barroom operator.
The Dude said she could drive me home in his car, which was a powerful Firebird or something like that. Rosie got behind the wheel, The Dude got in the front passenger seat and I plopped into the back.
Rosie should not have been driving, especially a powerful automobile. She roared through the parking lot, over a plot of grass, knocked down a sign, tore over the sidewalk and did a 360 in the middle of Gulf Boulevard.
I was sitting terrified in the back seat. The terror was about to increase.
A cop spotted her and she was pulled over. The Dude opened his glove compartment. Oops.
I spotted baggies of some sort of white powder. Cocaine? Like in the movies?
I was about to be arrested and likely to be fired the next morning from my sportswriting job at the St. Petersburg Evening Independent.
Somehow, the cop let Rosie go.
What would have happened if he had not let her go?
I don’t know. Maybe I would have been arrested and branded as some druggie accomplice. Instead, Rosie drove me home. Then Rosie and The Dude drove off into the night.
I don’t think I ever saw The Dude again. I suppose I saw Rosie at our next softball game. And of course she was back in the starting lineup and at second base.
Bahamian Coke Deal Goes Awry
One of my softball teams flew to The Bahamas for a tournament in the 1980s. We were in Nassau, as I recall.
After arriving several of us left the hotel for lunch. On the walk back to the hotel, Laurie, the blond, pixie-like girlfriend of one of our teammates, came rushing up to us on a sidewalk.
She was breathless and appeared scared.
Let’s call her boyfriend Carl. Somehow within a couple of hours of our arrival in a foreign country Carl had managed to get himself arrested. Laurie was frantic.
We had to do something. We had to get Carl out of jail. Laurie pleaded.
We walked to the jail and met with Bahamian authorities. Carl had been arrested on a cocaine purchasing charge. I didn’t know the legal particulars.
But one of our best outfielders was in jail. That much I knew.
We pleaded with the authorities to release him. One of my teammates was an American lawyer and although unfamiliar with Bahamian law somehow talked the Bahamians into releasing Carl.
It turns out Carl had not purchased cocaine. He was snookered and bought something like baking soda. He was angry. Not with the cops. Not with his stupidity. He was angry with the Bahamian dealers who sold him baking soda.
So after we left the jail he insisted we help him track down the dudes who sold him the bogus product. We pleaded with him that this was a bad idea, a very bad idea.
He didn’t listen. So we followed him into various Bahamian bars as he searched for the dealers. What was he going to do? Beat them up? In a Bahamian bar with many Bahamians around them?
We followed Carl into a few bars, all the time pleading with him to forget it and move on.
Fortunately, Carl never found the guys he was pursuing, the guys who sold him the baking soda.
The next day we played softball.
Nobody else was arrested.
I should add that I always liked Carl. Here is one reason why: I remember seeing him some time later with his left hand heavily bandaged and asked around about what happened.
I was told he and a black friend went into a redneck bar for a drink. The bar folks refused to serve Carl’s friend. What did Carl do? He attacked and punched the bar’s jukebox. Take that, you redneck peckerwoods. Alas, the jukebox apparently won on a first-round TKO.
But I did like like that Carl was outraged and stood up for his friend.
Golden Phoenix Rising
The name of the Chinese restaurant on Treasure Island was the Golden Phoenix. At least that’s what my memory tells me.
It was our post-game beer stop after Suncoast Surf Shop softball games in the 1980s. Most of us gathered around a large horseshoe shaped bar to rehash our glorious exploits on a nearby ballfield and perhaps watch a baseball game on the TV.
Most of us did that.
But not a fellow I will call John.
This teammate always huddled in a corner booth with suspicious looking characters we didn’t know. We wondered about what was discussed in that booth. We had our suspicions. We worried about John.
It turns out the Feds also wondered about what was discussed in that corner booth of the Golden Phoenix while the rest of sat at that horseshoe shaped bar.
I later learned that John had been arrested, charged and convicted of some sort of drug charge and ended up spending time in prison.
Those are my “drug” stories, such as they may be.
If you want actual, harrowing stories about the netherworld and underworld of drugs and abuse and fear pick up David Carr’s book, “The Night of the Gun.”