I first moved to NYC in late 1985, when crack and AIDS were the huge raging news stories. Figuring that trying crack was less risky than trying AIDS, I opted for the crack.
The first hit I ever took was on the Lower East Side on my way to work at a night job in a print shop. I saw some brothers hanging outside a homeless shelter smoking a joint, so in a gesture of interracial outreach, I asked for a hit. They told me the weed was mixed with crack, which, like their skin color, was not an impediment for me.
I took roughly 1.3 hits, thanked my new friends, and started walking westward toward my job. Within three steps, it was as if someone had adjusted the world’s lights more brightly. No complaints.
The second time, I bought a vial from a Puerto Rican who lived near me in West New York, NJ. My girlfriend and I filled our glass weed pipe with a nugget, took a few lungfuls, and it suddenly felt as if my head was the size of a medicine ball. It reminded me of doing whippets, except without that rushing sensation as if Niagara Falls had suddenly decided to pass through your head. It wasn’t exactly pleasurable, so I was still not convinced that I should develop a life-ending crack habit.
In the autumn of 1986, I decided to give crack cocaine another fair shake. My girlfriend and I drove up to Washington Heights above Harlem and copped some buttery nuggets in a plastic vial from a Spanish Wolfman.
We motored up to the Catskill Mountains for the weekend, staying at a moldy old resort where meals, lodging, and bingo were all included in the $99 price. On Saturday morning we shoved a white rock into a glass pipe and took some megablasts while watching Pee Wee’s Playhouse. My head swelled up to weather-balloon size and it seemed as if my heart was going to punch through my ribs and splatter all over the room. But as soon as it felt safe again, we smoked some more. That night, gacked on crack, we drove through the dark mountain forests to a posh hotel featuring kosher comedians such as Mal Z. Lawrence.
The ride back was black and quiet. Trees were huddled deep and thick on both sides of the narrow road. Suddenly, as we hit a dip, a bearded wildman in a fringed-rawhide jacket jumped out of the woods and tried leaping onto the car hood. It was something out of a “Freddy” or “Jason” movie, minus the production values and plus the real threat of death. I hit the accelerator and left him in the forest.
We reached our hotel with foreheads sweating and our hearts battered like punching bags. I decided not to develop a crack habit.
So how about you, kids? Ever smoked crack?