Archive for the ‘T.’ Category

"Ante Up" – Chronicles Of A True Hustler, Part 3

April 23, 2009

Previously: Pt. 1, Pt. 2,

Once again, and like clockwork, T goes in with his memoirs. Here with another installation is Part 3 of Chronicles Of A True Hustler:

A few weeks after I moved back home, Uncle Mark came to visit us. Uncle Mark is Mom’s younger brother, the youngest of her five siblings. Uncle Mark wasn’t handy with a gun and pretty useless with a knife. He also wasn’t much of a pimp and was a horrible drug dealer. Stealing? Stealing, he could do. Uncle Mark was a good thief, though he was never able to steal himself away from his drug addictions. Hooked on heroin and crack for most of his life, at his worst, Grandma wouldn’t even let him into her house unless he was under constant supervision.

During his visits Uncle Mark would sometimes shower, eat a home-cooked meal or occasionally pay back money he’d borrowed or stolen from us. On this particular visit, while shooting the shit after dinner, Moms excused herself and stepped into the kitchen, leaving Uncle Mark and I alone in the living room. That’s when he pulled my coat. Looking me dead in the eye he said, “I heard what happened with you and yo momma. What you need to do is get you a real hustle. That weed shit ain’t gone make you no real money. You need to get you a real package. That way, if yo momma kick you out again you can get you a motel room, be a man, you know?”

My first thought was, “Why would I take advice from him?” For all intents and purposes, he’s the last person I should be listening to. But, after the way my own mother had just treated me, I was searching for answers, and he seemed as good a
mentor as any. Plus, he was only echoing what I had been hearing on the streets; Crack had become big business, much to the dismay of then Mayor of San Francisco, Diane Feinstein. She, like other Mayors in California at the time, was overwhelmed by the devastating fall-out from the movements of drug kingpins Freeway Rick, Danilo Blandon and drug ring The Dark Alliance. Danilo Blandon was the cocaine supplier for Freeway Ricky Ross, who is credited for the crack epidemic that was ravaging California during the 1980’s. I remember seeing her hold up a huge bag of crack rock on TV, talking about how it had taken over the streets, reporters and camera men taking it all in. Watching her holding up that bag, that sealed the deal for me. It was time for me to ante up. I immediately traded in my weed scissors and shoe box for a razor blade and a crisp, clean mirror.

I knew nothing about selling crack. Moms had given me my start on the block with weed but that was “Hustling 101” and I needed to matriculate. There were things that only the streets could teach me and I was an eager student. One day, on my quest to transition from weed to crack, I headed west toward Hayes Valley looking for a “plug”, a connect to supplies of that white rock. The popular term for crack at the time was “Hubbas“, so popular even that there was a local hit record called “Hubba Rock” by Rappin’ 4-tay, if I remember correctly. I passed Po’ Boys Car Wash on the corner of Laguna and Birch Streets, where I’d occasionally see Willie Brown’s car being detailed. Willie Brown was a highly respected State Assemblyman who was always able to come back to the turf. Rumor was that Po’ Boys was a front for a cocaine distribution ring that dealt only in weight. Staring at Assemblyman Brown’s red Ferrari being gently buffed to shine, I knew I was in no position to challenge the rumor, nor was I in a position to handle the kind of weight Po’ Boys was “rumored” to move. I wouldn’t know what to do with a quarter-ounce, let alone a quarter-pound. I continued on to the Valley where I hoped to find a hook up more my speed.

“Are you the police?” he said. “If dude is the police and you ask him, he gotta tell you, or else it’s entrapment.” He continued, “You know what entrapment mean?” Before I could respond, he answered his own question. “That’s when the police trick you into catchin’ a case.” Tela V was schooling me, helping me get my hustling legs. Tela V was 3 years older than me. We were like frat brothers when it came to Hayes Valley. We were never in a gang together, but I knew him from the block, and growing up, we both claimed Hayes Valley as home. Though, he would never become DVP (Death Valley Projects), he was a close homey and the first cat I knew of that was hustling crack in Hayes Valley. He hadn’t been selling for long but was already making some money from the clientele he built. His interest in me was to basically make more money with someone he could trust. He was focused on his grind and it showed. Hayes Valley Projects took up a full city block, with multiple entrances and exits. They were a maze of 3-story buildings, clad in pink stucco and grouped around a parking lot with one way in and one way out. The North side of the parking lot would later be renamed Death Valley and South side, Iketown. The whole complex looked like a pink prison complete with external landings for each floor made from concrete and steel. When the police raided Hayes they would often ask for a suspect’s address saying, “What’s your cell number? Which cell do you live in?” That’s how much of a prison Hayes Valleys resembled, how much of a prison Hayes Valley was.

Tela V and I stood at the bottom of the stairwell, to the left of the Webster Street entrance, shielded from both Webster and Hayes Streets, facing the internal courtyard. He extended his left hand out toward me, palm up. In his hand, he held five milky-white rocks. Each rock looked like separated pieces of a puzzle. “These are double-ups. I sell ‘em for $20 but you can prolly get about $40 off a each one of ‘em.” “You know how to cut ‘em in half?” he asked. As I shook my head to indicate that I didn’t, he put one of the rocks in his mouth. And with a clink of his jaw, he spat out two perfectly halved pieces of the boulder he’d just showed me.

“Never keep yo dope on you,” he continued as he curiously surveyed the ground around where we were standing. Kneeling down to pick up an empty potato chip bag, he explained, “Always hide yo dope in somethin’ like this, and put it in a stash, someplace you can get to quick for a fiend but if the police raid, you ain’t gone have nothin’ on you. “Oh, yeah,” he remembered. “Don’t let no fiend put yo dope in his mouth. Sometimes they want to nibble it to see if it’s real. If you slippin’ he’ll put the whole thing in his mouth, switch it and hand you back some fake shit.” I nodded in the affirmative. He paused to look at me reassuringly, “You’ll be alright,” he said handing me the two damp stones he had just spat from his mouth, “That’ll be $20. You keep coming back and I’ll keep doubling you up”.


"There’s Rules To This Shit" – The Chronicles Of A True Hustler, Pt.2

April 16, 2009

Previously: Pt. 1

The homie T really liked the way it went down last week, and we’re loving the comments. Please keep them coming. Like I expected, he went in and blessed me with part 2 earlier this week. That being said, I proudly bring to you “The Chronicles Of A True Hustler”, Pt. 2

The moment Moms foretold finally came to pass. I was on my own. I remember her telling me “Momma may not always be here to take care of you” when I was eleven. I also remember her advising me to make sure I “keep cop money”. And I did. I kept cop money. That’s like rule #2 to a drug dealer, #1 being “never get high on your own supply”. Cop money is what you keep in order to cop more drugs in order to keep inventory in stock. Keep the business alive. No cop money, no product, no money. I got that. And I kept it.

No amount of cop money could ever prepare me for the shock that hit me dead center in my stomach on the day my moms kicked me out of our house and fed me straight to the streets. I was thirteen years old. She screamed at me, “Get the fuck out!”. Shit came out from nowhere, knocked every last bit breath out my thirteen year old lungs. It was the ultimate betrayal. Having Moms choose a man over me, her son, her flesh and blood. Funny how they say everything has two sides though. That day, one of life’s most important lessons was seared into my brain. From that moment on, I would never again rely on my reality as real. I would never again get too comfortable in the comforts of my daily life, walking around, ignorant in trusting in what I thought I knew to be fact, to be solid ground, because at any given moment, I could lose any and everything, and within a fucking heart’s beat away. I would never again take a god damned thing I had for granted.

This whole bullshit started because I thought I was smart enough to do the right thing. Ha! Doing the right thing didn’t make me right, it made me homeless and with nothing. Nothing but cop money though. Cop money, the streets, life’s lessons and the rules of the game. We lived on Oakdale Avenue, in Hunter’s Point. The year was 1979. I was just 8 years old. My mother, brother and me lived on 1086 Oakdale. Some of my best childhood memories are from that period, the late 1970’s. My friends Byron, Montrell, Lil’ John, Marcus and I had a Big Wheel chop shop in Byron’s garage. Even then I hustled parts to kids who needed their red and yellow plastic three wheeled “rides” staying fresh. We also had a tree house, built atop the nursery school at the bottom of the hill, across the street from some abandoned buildings. White boys wasn’t the only ones with tree houses. It was during that period in Oakdale, when I first heard “Rapper’s Delight”, the song I played when I lost my virginity with a 12 year old girl who lived across the street from me. That was also around the time that “Chicken”, Moms’ new boyfriend moved in and started living with us. Moms taught Chicken how to read and shorlty after he learned, he landed a steady job as a bus driver, driving for the city’s MUNI system. He wore a shit-brown colored MUNI uniform to work. He was called Chicken because he teethed on a chicken bone when he was a baby. Must’ve been cute. The name stuck.

By 1984, Oakdale had gone from being a middle and working class neighborhood to a hot spot for drugs. The epicenter was a two-block stretch cut off from the rest of the world by George Washington Carver Elementary School. The intersection of Oakdale and Baldwin Court was ground zero. Baldwin Court was named after the late literary icon James Baldwin. At the time, I had no clue as to who James Baldwin was. To me, Baldwin Court was just the place that had a free lunch program. I never missed a lunch.

I was selling good weed at the time, had been since 11 years old. On Oakdale, I was among the gangsters and hustlers, men and women, boys and girls, all talking big shit, all getting in where they fit in. The hustle was real sloppy then, not sophisticated. The daily grind was running up on passing cars, throwing ‘bows and bumping shoulders, jockeying with competitors for position. Once you claimed a car window, you’d shove your arm deep into the customer’s vehicle, right in front of the customer’s face, offering up your wares for sale. The fiends had their hustle on too. They’d slap your hand in the air, causing you to spill your product all over the floorboards of the car, driving off, dragging your ass up the block if you weren’t on point. Most times though, it was business as usual, fiends quickly exchanging money for the fattest bag, the biggest rock, and getting the fuck out of Dodge, hopefully in one piece. This one day, I noticed Chicken pulling up, riding in a little shitty brown Ford Pinto. We owned a brown late-model Ford Pinto at the time. It was the same color as the chocolate Thai weed I sold. It was also the same color as the MUNI bus driver uniform Chicken was wearing as he drove our Ford Pinto. The second I spotted the car and peeped Chicken, I laid in the cut, studying real hard to make sure I was seeing what I saw. What I saw was the Ford Pinto as it slowed to a stop, swarmed by the dealers who were pushing and shoving each other until one claimed that window, the victorious dealer walking away from the Ford Pinto counting money. As the Ford Pinto pulled off, my thoughts raced “Chicken just bought crack?” “Chicken is a crackhead?” “Does Moms know she’s fucking with a crackhead?” As much as I was thrown off by the scene I just peeped, I was smart enough to want to protect my mother, my younger brother. Angry and concerned for Moms, I bounced off the block, rushing home to tell her that Chicken was a fiend.

Beating Chicken home from across town, I walked through our door and saw Moms making dinner. I told her “You’ll never believe what I saw today”. I ran the whole shit down, how Chicken drove up with some strange woman in the car. How a crowd of dealers swarmed the car. How I knew that Chicken bought crack and not weed because the guy who claimed the car window, who walked away counting money was a known rock star. Moms took that news and waited for Chicken. When he got home later that evening, she lit into his ass. They moved their beef into their bedroom, closed the doors and screamed at each other, back and forth for what seemed like an hour. Their argument spilled out of their room, out into the hallway, to the living room, into kitchen, back into living room, down the hallway and into my bedroom. Chicken was still in his MUNI uniform. Worn from going at each other head on, Moms and Chicken started directing their anger towards me. They both began screaming at me like if I was the fiend seen driving the Ford Pinto, wearing the brown MUNI, kicking it with a ho’ riding shotgun. That’s the day I came to hate bus drivers and for a long time after that, thought they were all fucking crackheads.

The screaming ended with Moms telling me to “GET THE FUCK OUT!” Chicken’s punk ass, cornered like the fiend he was, hit Moms with that old “him or me” routine. She fell for it. She didn’t even give me time to pack a bag. I hit the streets with the clothes on my back, my weed bags and cop money. Moving with my sudden predicament, I headed towards the Valley to look for the homies. I caught up with my man Dark and told him what went down. Surprised that Chicken was smoking crack, his response was “If you want, I’ll help you catch and smoke that fiend ass nigga.” And I did want to catch Chicken. Catch him one morning, coming out the house in his MUNI uniform, on his way to work. Catch his ass by surprise the way he caught me when he rolled up in the Ford Pinto to buy crack. I didn’t want to smoke him though, just swing on him with something cold and metal. Let him feel me giving back some of that pain, see me bringing him close to death. Have him scared and scarred, knowing that whenever he saw me, he saw the person who held death over him. Moms loved him too much though, and I fell back because me hurting him would only result in her feeling more pain, more hurt.

Dark let me crash at his house until I could figure out my next move. A week later, I visited my Grandma Jones on 3rd Street. After sitting down for some dinner and bringing her up to speed as to my whereabouts, my current situation she said “You know, your momma called me. She said she want you to go back home.” “Ain’t this a bitch?” I thought to myself. “She let that nigga turn her against her son and now that I’m out, she wants me to come back home. Fuck that and fuck her!” I responded “Really, I’m cool with that”. Streets were no joke and I knew I had to keep a roof over my head, knowing I couldn’t stay at Dark’s home much longer. Plus, I had to keep an eye on my brother. It took a few days for me build up the stomach to tolerate Mom’s and Chicken’s bullshit. When I did get home, Moms and Chicken played like the whole scenario never play out like it had, like it never took place. They did their best to act “normal”. I played it like I never forgot, understanding that in moving forward, shit would never be “normal” again.

Can’t Knock The Hustle, The Chronicles of A True Hustler, Pt. 1

April 9, 2009

I never idolized drug dealers. Their way of life seemed too risky and way too dangerous. I do deeply respect the few that I know. And I know a few. Seems like the ones I knew the best were filled with an incredible sense of wisdom, a clear sense of mission as to why there were here on this planet and what they had to accomplish before they left this life. I most definitely met a lot during my career in the music industry. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the one’s that made the successful transition from working the streets to becoming successful execs in the industry are the few people who continue to make good coin today. The honest way. It did take me by surprise a few years back, when one of my closest friends and former housemates from law school decided shortly after graduating from Georgetown Law that he would forego a career in law in order to hustle drugs. And not street corner slanging either. Because of his credentials, my dude placed himself in a position where he was able to move some serious poundage during the early 1990’s. Even lent me the seed money needed in order to start my law practice back in 1995. Good dude. Eventually, he got busted and did time twice, first state, then federal. Shared the fed time with his twin brother who graduated from Columbia University and was on his way to med school. It felt good to pay him back, and then some, once he got out from doing his bid, like maybe the money I paid back would help him get back on his feet. Crazy shit, but no embellishment.

Which brings me to my dude “T”. T is an upstanding citizen of the community. Brooklyn homeowner, married to an accomplished writer, a father and an extremely successful real estate agent. Top exec in New York’s top real estate company. Member of the block association even. Dude moves brick and mortar like nobody’s business. I met T a couple of years back, when my wife and I were on the market for a home. T was real patient, extremely forthcoming with information, especially because I was intimidated by all the things I didn’t know about real estate, me being a potential first time homeowner. As we got to know each other better, his kids playing with mine, his wife bonding with wifey, dude began to share some things about his background. How he was from out west by way of San Francisco, how he grew up in an extremely disfunctional family, with a father who was a pimp, sometimes dope dealer and full-time drug addict, a mother who became strung out on heroin at the age of 17, how most of his uncles and aunts were drug addicts who had died of drug overdoses, one dying of aids because of his affinity to the needle.

Some real heavy shit, but whenever T shares his experiences with me, it’s never coming from a place of “check my street cred stats” machismo bullshit, it’s more like dude is reflecting on the worst aspects of his upbringing with a sense of appreciation as to who he is today, the hurdles he’s had to overcome in becoming a successful businessman, husband, father, human being. Almost like he gets this big joke about life and is somehow trying to let me in on that joke. There’s no glamorizing or glorification in his words.

T eff’s with the Combat Jack blog heavy, and has started writing some of his experiences as an exercise in expression, in growth, in strengthening his skills as an writer. As much as he enjoys doing what he does, selling homes to those that can afford one, he does not want to become complacent in becoming just one thing. I’m really honored that my writing has inspired him to write more. Recently, he’s begun to share with me some of his writings. In reading some of his work, especially with regard to his memories as a young kid growing up in the streets of S.F., I was blown away by the things he’s lived through and how he’s been able to make it over to “this” side. In a sense, his experiences are inspirational to me, in helping me to overcome the challenges that I face on an almost daily basis. I’ve asked him if he would allow me to share with you pieces of his “memoir”. T gave me his blessings, and I promised him I would do my utmost best in bringing his words, his story, his life to you. I truly hope that I do this man’s history justice. If what Shawn Carter raps about is true, Jay-Z ain’t the only one that dabbled in crazy weight and survived the “game”.

That being said, I proudly bring to you, in the words of T, The Chronicles Of A True Street Hustler, Pt. 1

Looking back on my life, in hindsight, I’m able to recognize that some of the worst things that have happened to me were some of the best things that happened to me. Growing up in Hayes Valley, better known as “Death Valley”, I received strict “professional advice” as to what my career options were at a very early age. Around the time that I was 4 or 5, my father and my mother’s brother, my uncle, would often lecture me on the only two choices I had to look forward to when I grew up. “Niggas round here grow up to be either a drug dealer or a pimp, you need to figure out what you gonna be early, before you get twisted up in some bullshit. Don’t ever forget that shit T.” My pops used to drill that shit into my head relentlessly. He came from a family of pimps. Through my father, I learned that one of the best ways for pimps to keep their women on a tight leash was to get them strung out on drugs, on heroin, and as soon as possible. My mother met my father when she was in high school. Fell in love with him. By the time she was 17 years old, she was addicted. I don’t know if she was using when she was pregnant with me or my younger brother, but I knew she was an addict, and for a very long time. Eventually, my father became an addict as well. My younger brother and I soon were left to be raised by a drug addicted single mother. At the time, I understood these things that I lived through to be normal, and as hectic as shit was, I was content in my extremely fucked up conditions. Maybe that’s because that was all I knew.

By the time I turned eleven, I decided to choose drugs over the family business, I decided that I would become a drug dealer. With mom’s zoning out on her highs, I felt I was old enough to earn a living and keep food on the table for my younger brother and me. Although I got first hand training in the skin trade, I wasn’t much into pimping. Maybe I was turned off by pimping because I grew up watching my mother catch regular beatings from my father. My brother and I never intervened, but when the beatings were over, we’d look after moms, cleaning her up, consoling her they way she should have been able to do for us. When I finally shared my decision as to my profession to be with my mother, she was very supportive. So supportive in fact that she sat me down at the kitchen table in order for her to instruct me with my first lessons in selling drugs. She started off explaining to me that she loved me very much. That because she wouldn’t always be there to take care of me, she would show me how to hustle to make money so that I’d always be able to take of myself. She said “remember, no matter what, you’ll always have a hustle to fall back on.”

And the lesson began. She went in her room and came out with a huge bag filled with marijuana. She placed some of the marijuana on the kitchen table. “This is a quarter-ounce of weed,” she said. “It weighs 7 grams, plus the sandwich bag makes 8 grams all together.” She continued, “Never pay more that fifty-dollars for a quarter and never, ever let me catch you selling anything for anybody else. Only hustle for yourself.” I listened to her intently. After emptying the weed into an empty shoe box, she took a small pair of scissors in one hand and some weed in the other. “This is how you break it down.” She snipped and crumbled the quarter into a fuzzy green mound, removing the few seeds and stems along the way.”See, now you have to let it dry out a bit. It’s heavier when it’s wet and sticky, you’ll end up over stuffing your bags. When it dries out, it will fluff up and fill out the baggies more.” I nodded as if to affirm her observation, not having a clue of what she was talking about. She took a baggie, stuffed it and placed it on the table between us. “This is what a ten-dollar bag should look like. Now, bag up the rest of this weed and make’ em all look like this one. ” I followed my mom’s orders like a good son. I figured out that rubbing the baggie between my thumb and index finger

made them open easily. The weed felt crisp and crunchy between my fingers, and it’s skunky aroma wafted up into my nose, made my mouth water.

Moms returned about a half hour later, “8 bags”. “Not bad,” she said. “But your bags are too fat, you”re giving money away, nigga. Take some weed out of these two and get one more bag out of ‘em.” After a couple of more turns of breaking down, packing, weighing, after my moms felt I was getting the hang of packing weed bags the right way, efficient and economical with my servings, I felt I was ready to hit the streets. My moms introduced me to one of her, one of my father’s connects. I felt grown, extremely pleased with myself and the responsibility that I was readily assuming. My next step though, was to figure out how I was gonna survive the streets. See, niggas in my neighborhood started gang banging heavy, and I wasn’t yet down with any gang. I had to get my shit “affiliated”. There was no way I was going to place myself out on the streets of a war zone, alone at 11 years old and with no muscle.” Fuck that! I need to get my muscle game up and intact.