Top Dog and I walked down a set of old railroad tracks, passing under 2 or 3 bridges. We stopped at his cat hole under the 3rd bridge to hide his bike and to get his shooter. A shooter, or a stem, is a glass or metal pipe about 3-4 inches long with brillo packed snuggly in one end to smoke crack. Some people use beer or soda cans to smoke crack by punching small holes in the side of the can with cigarette ashes on top of these holes. “This will take the edge off for the day,” said Top Dog as he often would. Under the bridge there were clothes, blankets, and broken beer and wine bottles. “This is my cat hole and you are welcome any time.”
“Thanks, but let’s go take this fucking edge off. I need a blast.” We walked to this abandoned building. About 15-20 guys were hanging out, drinking and smoking crack around a fire barrel. They were burning anything in site: old furniture, clothes, small tires, etc. I was introduced to 7-8 guys around the barrel, everyone loud and high. Some couldn’t speak because they had the mush mouth. I could understand Flipper better than I could some of these guys.
Someone drew a circle on the ground. If you had money and wanted to drink, you threw it in the circle. This was called pitch in. If you wanted crack, you bought your own. There was a slim guy who said he had no money to throw into the circle. A fat bellied guy called him on it. “You’re bullshitting, man. You made money last night fucking or sucking that pump.”
“You’re crazy as hell,” said Slim.
The big bellied guy said, “That punk drove around several times looking at you.”
I took a drink of my forty and said, “That sounds like a shitty deal to me, man.”
“Who the hell are you, nigger?” said Slim.
I smiled and replied, “Does your momma know you talk to your father like that? I’ll put so much of my foot up your ass, you’ll shit shoelaces for weeks. I’m Lead Dog, mother fucker.”
Top Dog said, “Oh, let that punk ass son of a bitch live.”
“Can’t we all just get along?” said the big bellied man. “Hey, that OJ is a stupid son of a bitch for killing that white woman.”
“How in the hell do you know?” said Slim. “If it was one of us, they would have locked us up for so damn long that if we had gotten out, our clothes would be out of style.”
“Here comes your boyfriend, Slim,” said the big bellied man. As he said this, a big, strong, gay guy walked up. He looked like a lumberjack; a black Paul Bunyon. He had on a long, black wig, make-up on his face, tight blue jeans and a leather jacket. He looked just like the crypt keeper from ‘Tales From The Crypt’.
The crypt walked up to Slim and in a soft feminine voice said, “Where’s my fucking money? You smoked it up, didn’t you!”
Slim said, “I’ll pay you tomorrow.”
“Fuck that! Pay me my way or the highway.”
We all was laughing like hell. Slim said, “Get the hell out my face, bitch!”
The crypt pulled his long hair out of his face and spoke in a deep, manly voice. “We can do this the hard way or the easy way.” Before Slim could speak, the crypt body slammed him to the ground on top of the warm ashes from the fire barrel. Slim jumped up with his shirt smoldering with smoke. The crypt grabbed him by the back of the shirt collar and dragged his smoking ass to his car. I laughed so hard I almost pissed on myself. Slim had this look on his face, like a little puppy who had been beaten with a newspaper. I was crying laughter as they drove away.
The big bellied man said, “I told them fools about trying to sell themselves on that block up the street. Why don’t these so called international tramps go to the Catch Out Corner.”
Still laughing, I asked, “What’s the Catch Out Corner?”
Top Dog said, “The Catch Out Corner is where we sometimes stand to make money by people picking us up for work. You make more money than you would at a labor hall, but sometimes you get bullshitted and won’t get paid.”
“Damn, fuck that,” I said.
“You can always get a panhandlers license downtown for free, I think,” said big belly.
“You can get a panhandlers license? I don’t understand this shit,” I said. “Why give a man a license to beg? Like that old saying, ‘Give a man fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for life.’”
“Speaking of eating, let’s go downtown and eat fellas,” suggested Top Dog.
“Hell no!” said the big bellied man. “I’m tired of eating that same ol’ food. It gives me the shits.”
I said, “It don’t look like you miss many meals.”
“Oh, he’d rather drink a Flat Man,” said Top Dog, referring to a cheap wine. “Let’s blow this joint, and smoke this woo on the way downtown.” A woo is like a blunt. You cut open a cigar, toss out the tobacco and fill it with weed and crack cocaine. “We’ll be good and hungry by the time we get there, so it won’t matter what they’re feeding us.”
When we got down there, the line was very long, but it didn’t matter. We were high as hell. By the time we got our food, I couldn’t even eat.
We walked back to Top Dog’s cat hole to sleep for the night. I’ve camped out many times in the country, but never in the city, not to mention under a damn bridge. I was a little cold, afraid, and a lot of things were going through my mind. I couldn’t sleep.
The next morning Top Dog and I went to the labor hall around 5 AM. I went with him, not to work but to get out of the cold and to wait for my appointment with my probation officer. I met with Ms. Karen Jones at about 10 AM. I told her that I lost my job and that I couldn’t pay the probation fees.
“I understand, Mr. Caldwell, but if you don’t pay your fees and visit me on a regular basis, you will go to prison. You understand, this is a supervised probation. So if I were you, I would pick up beer cans or do whatever to pay these fees.”
“Ms. Jones, you have no idea. I’m already doing time right now on these fucking streets. Give me a couple days to think about it. I just may do the time.”
She looked at me with a sad look because deep down she knew, and so did I. If she was ever to see me again, I would be hand cuffs.
A week later, on a Friday, Top Dog and I whipped up a quarter of an ounce of powder cocaine to sell to make extra money. I had lined up cliental at a local park. We sat around a pick-nick table, selling and smoking crack. I was taking a blast from a can when Top Dog nudged me, giving me warning that a park ranger was heading towards us. I tossed the can, Top Dog hid the crack under his hat and the other guy we had just sold to, hid his crack under his cigarette pack.
The Park Ranger approached us. “You guys are too fucking old to be down here smoking that shit.” Smoke was still coming out of the cans we had thrown on the ground. We denied that we were doing anything. “You’re a damn liar. All of you were smoking like Navaho chiefs. Everyone put your hands on the table.” He began shaking us down, one by one, asking us for ID. He checked our bags, and found a few unopened forties. He picked up the cigarette pack on the table and found the rocks hiding there. He threw the crack on the ground and crushed it with his foot. “Follow me guys, I have something fun for you.”
Once at his cruiser he made us all stand with our hands on the hood while he made a call on his radio. A few minutes later a truck pulled up. “Okay guys, the fun begins now. Grab those trash bags and rakes. Pick up all the trash and make sure you get those damn cans that are still smoking over there!” He told us with a smirk. After picking up all the trash, he said, “Good job, and don’t let me see y’all asses again.”
We started walking down the trail in the opposite direction as the park ranger. The guy whose crack had been found said, “Fuck him! Sell me another fifty, Dog.”
“Didn’t you hear that guy, man?” I said.
“Shit, I’ll sell him another fifty,” said Top Dog. “Hell, and I’ll even break you off good. We need the money.”
The guy went off into the nearby woods to smoke his crack as we continued to walk downtown. Just a few blocks later, to our surprise, we heard a siren and a horn blow. We turned around quickly. It was the park ranger honking his horn and waving at us, pointing to the backseat of his cruiser. In the backseat was that clown who had just left us to smoke his crack in the bushes, pressed up against the window. With a huge grin on his face, the park ranger was letting us know that he wasn’t bullshitting.
“Damn, pop got his ass,” I said. “That was close.”
“How in the hell did that stupid son of a bitch let him get him? I told you this shit is good,” said Tog Dog, referring to the crack. “I cooked it myself. His dumb ass was stuck on stupid.” We smiled and continued to walk downtown.
There was concert going on in the streets, and we partied the rest of the afternoon, drinking and smoking pot, selling twenties of rock here and there. Later on, Top Dog said he was going to the penthouse to party with some other homeless people.
The penthouse was a three story parking deck, our new cat hole. Each Friday and Saturday night, homeless people would party on the second and third floor of the parking deck. This Friday night, I wanted to hang out in the park, but Top Dog advised me to hang with him and go to the parking deck party.
“You go ahead. I’ll stay here and drink and smoke with Michael.”
Top Dog said, “You know that you have that probation shit hanging over your head. Keep six Lead Dog,” letting me know to watch my back. We didn’t quarrel because Top Dog knew that once my mind was made up, that was it, for better or for worse.
I drank heavily with Mike the rest of the night. In the wee hours of the morning I was woken up with a tap on my shoulder. Mike and I had passed out on the stage where the concert was earlier that night. I opened my eyes to two bicycle cops standing over us.
“Hey guys, you can’t sleep here. Have you both been drinking?”
We looked around to see if our wine bottle was still there. I said to myself, “Damn, somebody stole the wine.” But that was the least of my problems. The police officer asked for ID. I was fucked.
Michael was released without a charge. I on the other hand was hauled to jail, and there was no way in the hell I could talk my way out of this one. I was arrested for a probation violation for not meeting with Ms. Karen Jones. As predicted, this dog was back in the pound.