Christmas in Mobile
With Christmas approaching, I've been thinking about presents, because even though I'm in my forties, I'm still a kid. But I know that I won't get what I want for Christmas. Nor will any of my fellow dope fiends in Mobile, Alabama. Let me tell you my sad story--and in a way, all our stories.
I started using H at sixteen, after going thru the typical late 60s, early 70s drug chain: inhalents, weed, acid, mom's medicine cabinet, garbage such as PCP, super potent methamphetamine. Then finally, I found the drug: Heroin. And all his little (and not so little) cousins, of course.
Sticking Out in Mobile
I lived in a small city in Mississippi about forty miles outside Mobile, Alabama. My friends and I would pool our money and go to Mobile's infamous Davis Avenue. Davis Avenue is nothing but a strip of nightclubs, but it is also the place to buy H. The area is "black": the people who live in the area are black, the people who go to the clubs are black. If you're white, like we were, you tend to stick out like a syringe in scar tissue.
Everyone knew why we went to Davis Avenue. It wasn't rocket science. If you were white and on Davis Avenue, you were either a cop or trying to cop. This had the unfortunate result of making us easy targets for the other whites on Davis Avenue: the police hassled us pretty often. On the plus side, we almost never got ripped off by dealers. The reputable dealers noticed us quickly and welcomed us to their "open-air markets".
Two instances where a dealer tried to mess with me stick out in my mind. One time I was alone, and the other I was with a friend.
I gave my money to this guy. He was walking right in front of me, so I figured everything was cool. Suddenly, he's gone; he just vanished into thin air. To this day, I cannot figure out how he did it. He would make David Copperfield ashamed, if David Copperfield hung out on Davis Avenue.
My partner refused to give up our money to a big guy with a big gun--a .45; The dealer hit him square in the face with the gun. At that moment a police car turned on to the street. We all proceeded to part company, quickly. That is one of the few times I can say I was glad to see the police on the Avenue.
The Glory Days
For the most part, the dope in those days was very good (I'm sure we were scoring real China White for a long time). The price was $10 to $15 a cap, or $120 a bundle.
My family moved to Mobile about one year after I started using H, so my connections improved and I was rarely required to "scout the Avenue". The supply increased to the point where the dealers would literally run to your car begging to make a sale. (They do the same these days, but all they are selling is shit, which is spelled "C-R-A-C-K".)
Mobile Dries Up
Alas, the glory days were short lived. Around the mid-seventies the heroin supply started to dwindle until there was no heroin in Mobile! Was it due to the fall of the French Connection? I dunno. But it has stayed dry in Mobile for almost 30 years! It's still dry.
We did have a very nice temporary solution. A friend in Mississippi owned a small plane; for about a year he would regularly jump in his little airplane, fly down to Mexico, score a few ounces of "black tar", and fly right back down into Redneckville! You know the song: "Those were the days my friend..."? It doesn't even begin to express the emotion.
Toughing It in Mobile
Since the start of the drought, this area's junkies are lucky when they can get any kind of heroin at all. Now they settle for Dilaudid and Morphine. This is in a city with a greater metropolitan population of about one million! I have read about northern towns with populations of 50,000 or less that have H dealers knocking on their front doors! Does Mobile have heroin cooties?
Mobile Has Heroin Cooties
I was taught that demand would always be met by supply. Not So! At least, not so for heroin in Mobile. I know that New Orleans is not "dry", but the 240 mile round-trip is just too far to travel for anyone but a fairly big dealer. It's not going to work for the junkies of Mobile.
Maybe Santa Dealer [or "The Great Poppy" vis-á-vis "The Great Pumpkin"? -Ed] will visit our fair city this year. We ain't been good, but we ain't been really bad--only a little bad. And for a dope fiend--hell, that's nearing sainthood.
[Editor's Notes: This is a wonderful article about heroin in an area that few people (including me) know much about. Before I get tons of mail from readers, I want to address a few points raised in DIXIEFIXER's article.
- DIXIEFIXER is right about the "typical late 60s, early 70s drug chain". It is important to remember that this chain has nothing to do with one drug leading to a more harmful drug. This is the old, repudiated, but unfortunately still widely believed idea that "soft" drugs lead to "hard" drugs. Most youthful drug experimentation is entirely dependent upon access--not one drug pushing the youth to another drug. Children are told that illegal drugs are horrible. They try one and find that it isn't. As a result, they will try any drug someone offers them. So much for helpful drug propaganda.
- It is relatively rare for blacks to be involved with heroin. The only period when they did much heroin was the late forties to the early sixties, because of its association with be-bop and cool jazz. This is probably why in the late sixties, the heroin scene was still linked with the club scene. Traditionally, blacks have been associated with cocaine. In fact, the debate over the Harrison Narcotics Act included a terribly racist attack on cocaine-crazed blacks and the threat they posed to good white women. But I could be wrong.
- I question how good the dope was in the early 70s in Mobile. The average purity of New York heroin was only 3% at that time. It is always a question of the user's tolerance. If all you've ever had was 3% heroin, 5% heroin is going to seem great. Just the same, the fact that DIXIEFIXER was bring it directly from Mexico just after that period makes me wonder. Maybe New York junkies were getting abused, but those elsewhere weren't. In correspondence with him, he says that a cap ($10) was about as effective as a 4 mg Dilaudid tablet--that does indicate that the dope was of a high quality.
- Doing Dilaudid instead of heroin doesn't really sound like "settling". Although it is common knowledge that Dilaudid is not very euphoric, it is also wrong. Not only is Dilaudid quite euphoric, it is less nausea-producing than heroin.
- Many years ago, when I moved from Portland to Seattle, I found that the dope in Seattle was horrible. So twice a week, I drove down to Portland to score. That is 180 miles, one way (360 miles, round-trip). What's more, a number of heroin addicts have told me in interviews that they travelled as far as 60 miles from home (120 miles, round-trip) each day to score their drugs. So some junkies must certainly be doing the Mobile to New Orleans score. This shouldn't be a great surprise. Heroin users risk spending ridiculous amounts of time in jail for the pleasure of the high. I say this only to reinforce the fact that the experiences of heroin users are highly varied; DIXIEFIXER is right that New Orleans is out of the question for the vast majority of Mobile users.
I'm sorry for all these notes. DIXIEFIXER brought up so many interesting things that I couldn't help myself.