The Deuce

Originally Published 09/15/2011

Photo Source: Michael Sean Edwards

It was always an easy score with The Deuce, at least when he wasn’t on vacation at Rikers. When he was out he could be found at the corner of St. Marks & 3rd, one block west and ten blocks south from my apartment on 18th & 2nd. If he was in I’d have to keep going to E. Houston and Avenue A, but more often than not I found The Deuce.

They called him The Deuce because he used to work 42nd St. during the grind house days. Now the heat was all over Times Square, so the trade had moved out. The man was gigantic, probably 6’4” and completely sculpted. You were afraid to score from him, and he made you afraid to score from anyone else.

I called him my Vending Machine. I would walk up, stick out my hand, bills in my palm, for a shake, and he would spit the bag out of his mouth. Nothing to see here, just me – white, 5’8” & 120 lbs – saying hi to my 6’4” 300 lb. good black buddy. I would shove the bag into my crotch, wave and take off back home, sweat pouring down my neck. Well, I was getting my exercise for the day.

Back in my first floor studio, I would set up next to the fan and put a record on. Something mellow, nothing to tweak myself out too much. Miles Davis “Birth of the Cool,” mostly. Next door there was a family from San Juan with a baby that screamed non-stop and a toddler that yelled in Spanish. The hall outside their door always smelled like Sazon and beans and rice, and the noise never ended. Not the most relaxing atmosphere in which to shoot.

I’d turn the TV to a game show or a soap, sound off and cook up, hands shaking from coffee, cigarettes and junk sickness, slam the spike and feel the warmth spread. Like floating in a warm tub of bliss.

And I would think to myself I shouldn’t know these things. I shouldn’t know where to find The Duce and how to tap a vein and that Dilaudid helps when coming down…

I shouldn’t know this.

How did I know all of this? What a life. And then I’d do it all over again the next day…

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