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Dispatch / January 5, 2009

Drugs may be the major American story of our era, the thing that did more to alter behavior and law, that redistributed income to the poor far more dramatically than any tinkering with tax codes, that jailed more people and killed more people than any U.S. foreign policy initiative since the Vietnam War. But this vital force…is absent from our daily consciousness and surfaces when discussed as a problem.

—Charles Bowden, Down by the River

It was just past 2 a.m. on a Saturday and I was standing at a busy intersection in a dirty corner of Hollywood, just a few blocks away from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. People were spilling out of bars and heading home. The strip was emptying out quickly. But where I was standing, prime time was just beginning. Hookers were pouring out onto the sidewalk, circling the block slowly in packs of twos and threes and causing a traffic jam as cars slowed to a crawl to check out the selection. There weren’t too many females among them. This part of town specializes in tranny whores and gigolos.

I was there to score, too. Not shemales—I’m no degenerate, you see— but an entirely different and altogether wholesome product. I was there to score some good old-fashioned heroin in order to celebrate a special day: The 75th anniversary of the end of the Prohibition. The celebration had officially ended that midnight, and alcohol-loving revelers were now stumbling out of bars all across the country. They had been marking the occasion in their own ignorant way. All that week, newspapers were reporting on the planned boozy celebrations. Drink discounts, speakeasy-themed restaurant events and kegger parties raged all across America. Even a few people I know had gone to a flapper-themed house party. But as far as I was concerned, they had it all wrong. America’s Prohibition never really ended. Sure, alcohol was legalized, within limits, of course. But the real Prohibition continued and intensified. Laws against other drugs became harsher and more severely enforced. So I went out that night to pay homage to the unspoken Prohibition the only way I knew how: hit the streets looking for the best illegal drug money can buy.

I came to this particular corner on a tip from a friend of mine who lives in the area. “Go down to the parking lot at the strip mall there. I’m sure you can get something. I see people buying shit all the time. You’ll know you’re at the right place when you start seeing transvestites.”

What kind of drugs did they sell there? Was it smack? Crack? Speed? All of the above?

He had no idea. Like most white people, he had never bought drugs off the street.

I parked my car in a side alley and approached the corner by foot. A pack of about a dozen thugs loitered in the shadows of a brightly lit doughnut shop. Inside, two pimp-looking black dudes decked out in gold chains and teeth grillz, surrounded by a couple of haggard, masculine-looking prostitutes, were eating doughnut holes, laughing and boasting. I bought a pack of smokes and lit up in the parking lot, trying to look as nonchalant as possible while I surveyed the scene. One thing was clear: there was no way I was going to blend in with this underworld. I was the only white face around, and I wasn’t dressed right at all. My dorky white-boy jeans and sweatshirt stood out among the oversized baseball caps, do-rags, crisp baggy jeans and Nikes. Plus, I didn’t have the gangsta spring in my step. My freshly-shaved white scalp glowed like a silent alarm. It was painfully clear I was a white boy in a bad neighborhood for one purpose only: to score drugs. Here, decent white folks didn’t get out of their cars for anything. Not for junk food, not for whores and definitely not for drugs.

Which is why I came out here. On this special day, going through a dealer would be a cop out. Discreet drug buys are a huge reason why the modern Drug Prohibition still goes unchallenged. As long as casual drug users don’t have to be sullied or criminalized by drug consumption, they are able to block out just how demeaning our country’s drug laws are. Without a connection, you go from upstanding citizen to lowlife in the time it takes to get out of your car and cross the street.

I finished my smoke and edged a little closer to a Latino dude leaning up against the shop’s exit. “Yo man,” I said under my breath. “You know where I can score some shit?” And then after a pause: “Some smack. Chiva.”

He stared hard for a few seconds, just long enough to make me nervous, and shook his head. All of sudden he swung his head to the right and walked away without a word. Then I saw why: a patrol car had just turned the corner and was slowly creeping by the parking lot. The vague mass of people hovering in the shadows dispersed without a sound, like a dark mist. A cop with a cleanly shaved head in the passenger seat spotted me and kept me in his sights. I was clean, but I felt like I was already guilty. Guilty by association. Instinctively, like everybody else, I walked away as calmly as possible.

To kill time and do reconnaissance, I decided to circle the block. I baited a homeless drunk down the street with a couple of bucks and a cigarette in the hopes of getting some information. But he was no use at all. “Naaaaw, maaaan. Those guys on the corner don’t have shit! They don’t even have weeeed, man! You gotta go to the valley to get smack.” That wasn’t an option for me, so I continued on.

A group of young punks further up the street were of no use either. “Why don’t you ask the spooks. They’ll tell you,” said the leader of the pack, laughing and smacking his buddy on the shoulder. “Better yet. Go downtown. To MacArthur Park. Hang out there for a week or two so that people get to know your face.” Shit man. A week or two? “Yeah whatcha think? They won’t sell you shit if they don’t know you. They can go to jail for that shit for a long time.” Two weeks? I wasn’t sure if they were fucking with me or what. Skid Row is where cops dump and corral homeless people they pick up from all over LA County. Even hospitals are known to ditch bums there. At dusk this square mile of downtown LA — a patch of shuttered shops and sidewalk tent cities — turns into a scene from Escape from LA. Hobos, freaks, whores, pimps, thugs and addicts come out of the shadows and take over like a pack of mutants. Hanging out there would be a nightmare. I’d be more likely to pick up a rabid strain of necrotizing fasciitis than score smack.

During the Booze Prohibition, people didn’t have it half as bad as this. Back then, alcohol was illegal only on paper. In reality, it became even easier to buy. At the height of the ban, New York had something like 100,000 underground booze joints catering to every layer of society — from board and nail shacks serving immigrants, whores and derelicts, to swanky clubs with big bands, tuxedos and high-class flapper chicks. With those kinds of numbers, you couldn’t walk a block without stumbling on a place to get drunk. If only we drug-seekers had it half as good.

I started walking back to the original corner for a second try. By the time I got there, a ghetto bird was circling overhead, its searchlight beam seeking out someone just a few blocks away. LAPD is serious about their chopper cavalry. A demand for surrender was being broadcast over the chopper’s megaphone; the poor fucker didn’t have a chance. Behind the strip mall, a patrol car had just pulled over a pimped-out, pearl white Escalade. A cop with a shaved head was approaching it from the right, giving it wide berth, his hand on his gun. It was the same cop who eyed me earlier.

On the corner, the thugs and whores had regrouped. And I got right down to business. I stepped up to a black guy leaning up against a wall, a few feet away from a puddle of fresh pink vomit, and lit a cigarette. He looked at me and gave me a nod. I nodded back.

“Hi, don’t I know you from somewhere?” he said with a lisp.

“Maybe,” I said.

“You looking for something?” he asked.

“Yeah, actually. You know where I can score some shit? Some smack?”

He looked around. “How much do you need?”

“I don’t know, I gram or two. How much is it?”

“Fifty.”

“I only got enough for a gram, then,” I said.

“You got a car?”

“Yeah, it’s just around the corner.”

“Follow me.”

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30 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. wengler  |  January 5th, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Excellent story, Yasha.

    At some level we all know that the drug war is a class war directed at poor people. The poor people in this country sure, but especially those in other countries.

    It’s backed by tens of millions of whitebread parents who don’t even know that junior is getting high on the weekends, and when he gets caught it’s just a slap on the wrist.

  • 2. aleke  |  January 5th, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    All Cool Gays Love Crazy Tina

  • 3. Narcoleptic  |  January 5th, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Seriously, Yasha, those guys weren’t fucking with you. If you want to buy heroin off the street, McArthur Park and Skid Row are the places to do it (or Long Beach and San Pedro, if you want to take a drive). Be careful, though. Are you actually a “casual” heroin user, or did you just want to write an article?

  • 4. petkov  |  January 6th, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Wow, you have read your Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs well. Time to stop aping them though. You ain’t impressing nobody.

  • 5. burbl  |  January 6th, 2009 at 11:44 am

    LOL
    This doesn’t sound like much of an incentive for your “Drugs: Helping our Readers Come Out of the Closet” advice!

  • 6. rick  |  January 6th, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I know how speed gets sexuality going, it’s an interesting scene. Far more interesting than the average disgusting crossroads in America, where even if you took a bunch of speed, you’d rather be all alone than fuck the disgustingly fat creatures there. I’ve never done meth, but on coke and ritalin and adderall, the sex intensity is so goddamned pronounced, it lights up the nature of this kind of brothel, where everybody’s male. Interesting too the relationship between the lustful pseudo-whore, wanting to get paid, and the skeptical customer, who expects the kid is a slut. When I knew some fags in New York, I noticed this thing I dubbed “relationship skepticism,” eroding the possibility of homosexual male relationships in the PC Dan Savage “child-adopting” school, out of the inability of one male to credit another’s will-to-relationship. The economy broke down, due to one male’s understandably distrusting the next. But that’s in worlds of attractive, vital people, which is not relevant to most Americans, gay or straight.

  • 7. Anthony Cristofani  |  January 11th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Excellent. It’s interesting how class divisions perpetuate our ability to be punked by one the saddest, sickest wars of human history: the drug war. Who I fault most: the millions upon millions of white-collar drug users who don’t admit it, and thus perpetuate the stereotype that drugs are for the poor and failed.

  • 8. Jen  |  January 13th, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis! I fucking live on that corner and I’m white as a sheet. That’s the safest corner in all of Hollywood!

    You just go to the Hot Wings place (formerly Benito’s Taco Stand) and order some food and pretty soon, if you’re sitting there for any amount of timee, someone will come and offer you drugs or you get to see tranny hookers banging each other’s heads against nail-encrusted telephone poles. Either way, it’s a good time.

    I love my neighborhood.

  • 9. internet anti-Zionists  |  January 18th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    A drug dealer … in Los Angeles … who drives a Mercedes … who is named David … David Short, no less … and he’s “Arab-looking.”

  • 10. thuggin  |  November 6th, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    i love this article. yasha for life

  • 11. Seano  |  November 13th, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Bitchiest comment on this whole page was from petkov. What a lit-bitch.

  • 12. jollyk  |  November 14th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    “Bitchiest comment on this whole page was from petkov. What a lit-bitch.”

    Yeah I mean, I liked HST. Now, he is dead. I’m happy that people are writing like him in his absence.

  • 13. BTH  |  June 6th, 2011 at 4:15 am

    If this was your first time trying to cop, why did you say “i only have 50 bucks so I’ll take a gram”? A gram is enough to kill you 1000 times over if you’re a rookie.

    I actually did a similar thing when I first tried copping on my own. I went to a mostly gay area that has meth because it seemed less threatening than where the actual chiva is, which is in some pretty bleak areas. But i learned when all I got was gay dudes hitting on me and offers of coke and meth.
    No way you’d have to hang out at MacArthur Park for a week. An hour tops you could get someone to deal. Dealers need money, they can’t have ppl waiting a week to buy.

    Anyway, like your story.

  • 14. Peachy  |  June 12th, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Loved this story. I just moved to LA and made a trip to Skid Row… Spent 40 bucks on a rock that was supposed to be oxycontin. But by rock I mean a rock off the ground, not even a crack rock. I had a hard time even getting that though. It wasnt like the Tenderloin in San Fran where people come up to you trying to sell you pills or dope or whatever, maybe I went on the wrong day. Just got a place in Hollywood though so glad to know to steer away from the gays unless I’m looking for meth.

  • 15. the dude  |  March 20th, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    i dont know about la, but i always thought tar was sold by the “balloon” or whatever. In buffalo we get powder in the old school glassine bags, like in that american gangster. And usually copping is easier by ethnic group out here, if you want heroin its the ricans, crack is black.

  • 16. Heather  |  April 22nd, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I love this. Read it several times now… Moved to L.A. six months ago, started scoring on Skid Row (that shit is SO hit or miss tho.. You just never know man… Sucks…), anyway I’ve got a reg connect now but his hours suck and so do the prices. And now I’ve moved to long beach, so to even meet my connect is a crazy crappy drive… So tell me people, where do u score in L.B.?????

  • 17. scott  |  May 28th, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    i just moved to cali from ohio, and i been on heroin for over 4 years.. i drove here took me 3 days, and ive been here for a about a week, and im oficially out. im taking suboxone but i need to find some kinda of connect. im located near lake elsinore, temecula, area.! help!!

  • 18. karl  |  May 30th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    scott write to me. o was using some time ago. but maybe we can find something

  • 19. karl  |  May 30th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    my mail is burbuliuok@gmail.com

  • 20. joe bob  |  June 6th, 2012 at 9:29 am

    It was way too late to try and score. Junkies tend to be day people. Early to bed, early to rise.

  • 21. ian  |  July 10th, 2012 at 2:21 am

    What he said about the Arab man is true. He was Prolly armenian though. All the Armenians in Glendale had high quality heroin and ecstasy pills when I lived there.

  • 22. BrattySheWolf  |  July 25th, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Dude ?… Heroin School Lesson #101, NEVER put money for smack in a meth-heads hands, unless you see the “H” right there in front of ya !.. Copeesh ?..
    That bitch Darnell set ya up from the get-go & robbed ya straight-up. I would of went ape-shxt bullistik on him, partying on your dollar,… NOT kool unless ya asked him otherwise, & that was NOT the case. Ya gotta offer to “kick’em down something” when ya don’t know who you’re dealing with, so the odds are more in your favor of getting what ya want, and that they come up a little to. Scandelous drug feinds do NOT normally score for anybody unless they are going to get something out of it to. This is why i hate to deal with “middle men” & junkies,.. but sometimes ya gotta do, what ya gotta do, to score. It’s all part of the dope game,.. yukk. They can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. If i was in your shoes that evening, i would of lost my patience, because i’d want to get my smack, & get freakin HIGH !!.. That was your whole point in going to “score” right ? Prohibition celebration the modern way,..”hell ya” LOL !.. NOT sit around & watch everybody else have a effin good time smoking-up your money, WTF ? Darnell says, “this is what we do” BUT NOT ON MY FxCKIN DIME BEY-OTCH !! Give me my S-M-A-C-K, or i’ll smack you***

  • 23. AnonLA  |  August 26th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Scoring heroin and crack is SO easy in Downtown LA! Just cruise skid row REALLY slow and wait for someone to ask if they can help you. Tell them you’re looking for “something”. They’ll say “for what.”? You’ll say “for heroin nigga”….the addicts down there will help you find ANYTHING you need (if anything means “crack and heroin”). Anyways decent article, wish you had gotten your dope!

  • 24. yevgeniy  |  January 4th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    You are a fantastic writer but I agree with Petkov. The only thing worse than a comment junkie is being a wannabe comment junkie. If this comment is real, you are luck you weren’t flamed. Don’t underestimate anyone and don’t glamorize being a comment addict. Don’t even think about it. It’s ten times worse than you could ever imagine and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Real cool.

  • 25. scott  |  January 30th, 2013 at 10:44 am

    *looks for legit connect near lake elsinore ca*

  • 26. karl  |  June 5th, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    When i came to la years ago fist contact i get here. Now i have 3 good cotacts 24/7. If u r good guy and u need help email me. Im not dealer, i will help friendly because i know what the stuff is h.

  • 27. karll  |  June 5th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    my mail is burbuliuok@gmail.com

  • 28. karlll  |  June 5th, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    26 coment is my mail if u need help

  • 29. karlll  |  June 5th, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    19 comment is my mail if u need help

  • 30. Brattyshewolf  |  June 9th, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Ho-humm ? I’M BORED !
    MostSkidrowDope + PastYear = GARBAGE
    Also, WTF is going-on with the prices of a “G” going up ?..
    Anyone else experiencing the stupid price hikes lately ?..


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