Acid Heroes

September 14, 2016

And there I was, hanging out in my apartment, minding my own business, when . . .

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This was the first home of my own that I ever had. This studio apartment in Berkeley. I lived there in 1979 and 1980. Rent was $115 a month if you can believe it. It was one of six stucco apartments, side by side, all connected by the same roof. So we all got to know each other. The next-door neighbors dropping by to borrow a cup of sugar. That bit.

Three of the tenants were on welfare. Another one — this Vietnamese guy with a wife and two young sons who didn’t speak a lick of English — ran a car repair business in the parking lot behind the building (made big bucks). And the guy next-door to me was a big pot dealer. Myself, I worked as a San Francisco bike messenger.

I got to know the pot dealer next-door a little bit. I liked to smoke weed myself. So I’d hang out at his pad sometimes getting stoned with him. He looked a lot like the guy on the Zig Zag rolling papers pack — hippie hair parted in the middle and beard — and he had a Mexican accent because he was from Mexico. He mostly sold pot, but he also sold cocaine and heroin and speed and quaaludes and just about anything else you wanted. There was always a steady flow of business going in and out of his apartment.

His girlfriend was this nice, sweet, normal young woman. She sort of played the role of a typical housewife. You wondered how she had gotten herself in the middle of this whole crazy drug-dealing scene. But I guess sometimes you just fall in love with the wrong person and end up going along for the ride.

For the first year I knew the guy he seemed pretty solid and normal. Just your typical laid-back mellow pot dealer. But then — as often happens with these scenes — he started to sample his own wares a little too much for his own good. Started smoking a lot of opium and getting a little loopy in the head. One night he actually fired his gun out of his back window. He told me he was hallucinating from the opium and thought he saw somebody out there that was out to get him.

A remember another odd thing he once told me — which turned out to be prescient. “If you ever shoot and kill somebody in your front yard, always drag the body into your home. Because it’s legal to shoot somebody if they’re invading your home.” I filed that savvy bit of advice in the back of my mind.

Anyways, this one night around midnight I’m sleeping in my apartment and he starts knocking on my front door. I get up and open the door, say “What’s up?”

“Listen, can I come inside you place and hang out for awhile,” he says.

“Aww no man, I’m sleeping. I gotta get up for work in the morning.”

I shut the door and went back to sleep. I figured he was just having problems with his girlfriend and wanted to get away from her for awhile.  And I didn’t think anything else about it.

Until the next day when I realized they had both suddenly packed their bags and left their apartment. Which was weird. So all of us tenants were wondering what had happened. Anyways, the next day I get a knock on my door and it’s two plain clothes detectives. “Listen, we need to talk to you,” the detective said.

Turned out the pot-dealer had shot and killed this guy the night before. What happened was, these three black guys from Oakland tried to break into his apartment with a crowbar that night to jack him up for his money and dope. He got his gun out and chased them down the street, firing at them as he ran. Didn’t hit any of them, but he left a bullet hole in one of the trees (every time I passed by that tree I would be reminded of the incident). After chasing them off, that’s when he had knocked on my door. What he wanted to do, it turned out, was to wait in my apartment for the guys to come back. And then when they tried to break into his apartment he would ambush them from my apartment (and how wonderful that this guy gets me in the middle of a scene like that).

When I rebuffed him, he decided instead to wait in the back of the building with his gun, and ambush them from there. So he hears somebody coming, walking down the sidewalk and he jumps up and opens fire. Kills one of the guys dead. But it turned out it just happened to be two guys who were walking home from a night at the clubs. “They were just walking home, minding there on business, smelling the daisies and the guy kills him in cold blood,” said the detective.

I never wrote about this incident before. Because it’s kind of heavy getting in the middle of a murder trial. I figured somebody might track me down and kill me. But I recently turned 60. So I don’t care that much anymore whether I live or die. It’s like Bukowski once wrote when he was 70 and thinking of committing suicide. “What’s the point,” he said. “At this age there’s not that much left to kill.

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for continuing your writing. Yours is the only blog I read now. Love the cat pictures!

    Comment by aftertheclearsigns — September 16, 2016 @ 1:16 am | Reply


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