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Confessions Of A Dealer

(told by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous)

In Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Tim Roth plays the gang member Mr. Orange. Mr. Orange is an undercover cop. Mr. Orange's coach for his undercover work is a cop named Holdaway (Randy Brooks). Holdaway tells Mr. Orange that he needs a "story" to entertain his fellow gang members and to give him credibility.

The "story" involves an encounter with the police in a men's room. Mr. Orange enters the men's room with a gym bag full of marijuana. Standing around the sinks are three or four cops with marijuana sniffing dogs. Mr. Orange leaves his bag on the sink, goes over to a urinal, and urinates; he comes back to the sink and washes his hands; the dogs start barking at him; the cops tell their dogs to be quiet because Mr. Orange's casual manner has convinced them he is not a suspect.

If Quentin Tarantino were a friend, I'd be convinced he stole the story from me. I lived a similar experience.

I was living in Philadelphia and dating a woman named B. B was an amazing and complex person. She was a loving companion and a fierce feminist. Once I was with her on a bus, when someone near us referred to women as "chicks": B started clucking loudly.

She was a carpenter and a mechanic; she put up all my bookshelves, refusing to let me help. She was also a gourmet cook-- today she and her husband, a chef who was born in Mexico and studied Mexican and French cuisine, own a gourmet restaurant in Philadelphia.

She worked with recovering addicts at a halfway house while studying law at Temple University. I was impressed at her patience and compassion while working with these vulnerable, needy people.

B did most of the cooking. She cooked everything well, but specialized in short ribs and Alice B. Toklas brownies. I had three specialties of my own: potato pancakes served with strawberry applesauce (all made from the basics), what became known as "L's Beans"--merely Campbell's baked beans to which I added finely chopped onion and brown sugar, and gourmet coffee made with varietal coffee beans bought from Zabar's Delicatessen on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This was the 1970s and gourmet coffee and Chemex drip coffee makers were new phenomena.

I was also known for the marijuana I brought to parties and barbeques. I had two friends who frequently went scuba diving in Montego Bay and brought back oxygen tanks filled with Ganja.

My friends would sell me a generous ounce for $35. However, B's friends and my friends would ask us to get them ounces, so one ounce became four or five ounces and there was demand for even more. B, the brighter and more ambitious of the couple, suggested that I start buying the stuff by the pound--which I did. Before I realized what was happening, I was carrying two pounds of marijuana from New Jersey to Philadelphia each month.

B and I would clean, weigh, and bag the stuff at her house because she had a scale. We kept one ounce of every pound for ourselves and sold the rest at Price divided by 15. We told our friends they were paying for our pot: no one objected.

At the same time, I had become a dealer for gourmet coffee. I would carry back from Zabar's as many as a dozen bags of Hawaian Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain, Costa Rican, Maragogipe (Elephant Beans), Kenyan, or Vienna Roast--all in whole bean form. Because of me, all of our friends had bought coffee grinders and Chemex coffee makers. I sold the coffee and accessories at cost, insisting that my friends look at the receipts I included with the coffee they had ordered.

I travelled with a large backpack that carried books, a change of clothes, the coffee, the pot, and an occasional Chemex coffee maker or electric grinder, as well as a few well-chilled bottles of beer.

I traveled by train from Penn Station in Newark to 30th St. Station in Philly.

One Saturday night, I sat in the waiting room with my contraband laden backpack waiting for the late night express to Philadelphia to be announced. I was uneasy. All around the station were drunks, druggies, homeless people, and vagabonds who were sleeping on the floor and on the benches. I was glad when the train's track number was announced and posted.

Except for the vagabonds, the place was creepy and deserted. I walked slowly but a bit anxiously toward the stairs that led to my track. As I was opening the door to the stairs, I heard a loud, desperate woman's scream for help. I stopped, ran back to the waiting room and yelled, "Help! Police!" Suddenly every drunk, druggie, and vagabond jumped up and ran towards me. One of them snapped,


“Stairway one or two —I croaked.

Oh fuck —I thought—, what have I wrought?

My instinct was to hightail it to the train, but my metacognitive self said, “Stay where you are, asshole.”

After a few long minutes, the undercover guys came back from stairways one and two.

“Was anyone hurt?” —I asked.

“No: just some kids fucking around,” one of the cops responded.

“I'm sorry for the false alarm.”

“You did the right thing. That's why we're here.”

I managed to get to my train on time, find a seat by a window, sit down, and sigh a huge sigh of relief. I found a cold bottle of Heineken in the backpack, opened it, and took several deep swigs.

“Son,” I said, “you must learn to control yourself.”

One Comment

  1. izzy October 22, 2016


    Back in 1972 I was living in Weehawken, NJ. Went over by bus one evening to the Village to buy a pound, but things got delayed (as they often do). When I finally got back to the Port Authority, merchandise in a shopping bag, I discovered that the buses back were no longer running as it was now so late. I called my wife to drive over through the Lincoln Tunnel for a ride home. As I was leaning on the wall by the tunnel exit waiting for her to show up, two cops ambled over and leaned next to me, engrossed in conversation. I decided to play it cool, and just stood with them for about 20 minutes with the contraband in hand. Our car came out of the tunnel, I opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat with the bag, and made a clean escape. It was allegedly of Jamaican origin, about the quality of hassock stuffing.

    Nerves of steel will get you through the toughest situations. Look at Trump.

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