Five years ago I met this guy at this loft party in Brooklyn. It was July 1st and I had literally just gotten off the plane from Florida. I spent the month of June following every Pride week between Orlando and South Beach, and ended the parade with a week long music conference of the EDM variety. It was the kind of month where everyone talked about snow, but it never snowed. He had over heard me talking about my adventure in South Beach, which ended with this methed out dude in pink denim daisy dukes, a wife beater, and just socks, no shoes, following me down A1A grabbing his junk.
We began talking, exchanging stories, until he decided to open his bag and pulled out a rather large ziploc bag full of jewel cases packed with herb. He handed me a business card and said, "I work for Jack, and don't ask me who Jack is 'cuz I know jack shit." Apparently, he worked for one of those delightful delivery services. The kind where you call a number within the five boros of New York City, and an angry man picks up the phone. He demands your name and address and says thirty minutes. Then just like that, two or three hours later a guy is in your apartment pulling out various strains of cannabis to choose from at a premium price. Very illegal, which makes it very convenient. You don't have to leave your house! Regardless, over the past several years we got to know each other real well. It took a while, but after four years, he finally agreed to answer some questions...
Jon: Start off with how you got started?
A: So, when I moved to the city I only had a couple hundred bucks, but I knew I wanted to live in NYC and when I first got here I was trying to hang out with different people. Just anyone that I knew, to just kind of establish myself and I ended up hanging out with this kid. He asked if I wanted to get delivery and I was like, “Delivery? Like food?” So, he was like, “I’m going to order pot.” So, I said ok. Long story short, the guy who came to deliver the stuff was complaining that he was starting this business but couldn’t find reliable people. I needed work. I had a part time job but it was paying nothing. So I said, “I’de love to do it. Let me get your number.”
J: How long ago was that?
A: Eight years ago now, or nine…
J: Why do you like this job? Is it the money?
A: Well, yeah! But it’s the running around the city. I’m a big history buff when it comes to this town and I like being in all the apartments. I like the views that I’ve seen which are really fantastic. I’ve seen sunsets on the Hudson from the 17th floor that I think a lot of people in my income strata don’t see. Or seeing the Chrysler building in all its glory from 38th street on the east side from the 20th floor. All these views and stuff that I’ve seen is just really fantastic. All these cool apartments and cool neighborhoods. I know where all the good dollar slice pizza places are. I’ve become quite the tour guide because of this. It’s not just Manhattan that I got to know really well, it’s Brooklyn too!
J: Where does your company deliver?
A: We have a range that goes down to Ditmas Park, sometimes further (and Manhattan). But things expand because of gentrification. At one time we would only go as high as 125th street and now we are going to 150th street.
J: So you’re following gentrification?
A: Yeah. But no Queens, no Jersey and no Bronx.
J: Do you have regular customers?
A: Yeah, I have customers I’ve known for seven years now!
J: Take me through a day. Beginning to end…
A: The first thing that happens is the person who has the product and the back-up stock puts it together for the day. He usually meets up, or has someone else meet up, with the group for the day (to make sure they have what they need).
J: And that group is?
A: The runners in Manhattan. There are runners in Brooklyn but I don’t know what they do now. So, the runners meet up and they alert Dispatch that they’re done with those calls and Dispatch will give them more (calls). And they do that for hours and hours. Usually it’s a ten hour day.
J: Is it by foot?
A: Some do foot, some do bike, some do car. Some people have a driver. Then at the end of that day, when the last call comes in, there is usually a cut off time so that runners aren’t out late.
J: What time is that?
A: It depends on the service. Somewhere between ten and midnight. Then you get in contact with the person that’s doing pick up for that night. They usually take money and product from you (runners) and then you go home and that’s the end of your day. Then they go home and assess what the counts are, what we call the money. Then they give that money to the Boss. Then the next morning the Boss gets to count it!
J: Do you guys keep track of inventory?
A: When I was doing it I would keep track of what went out and what came back in order to keep a really good mental record of everything. I don’t think they do as well a job now.
J: Is this a ‘tough guy” business?
A: Yes, absolutely! At a certain point when I was running the show, people were pulling guns on my runners. There was a rival gang or company. I didn’t ever get to the bottom of it, but there were people that were making calls and laying in wait, waiting for the delivery guys to show up and would just take everything they had at gun point. Cops can also take you down. I was taken down by the cops. I was very glad when I turned around and it was the police throwing me up against the wall!
J: You were happy? Why?
A: Yeah! Because you can get killed if it’s a rival. Sometimes in Harlem I look over my shoulder more than three times.
J: What about the cops?
A: The cops taught me an important lesson the day they got me. You know the reason they got me is because I went into the building after somebody without ringing the bell.
J: So they told you why?
A: They told me a lot of things that day, actually. About what they look for.
A: Yeah, we were talking casually. I didn’t reveal anything and they weren’t even curious about anything I was doing. They knew exactly what it was… So they put me in their Explorer and they drove me around the block a few times for some reason. Then we went to the precinct and there was no room in the cells because there were actual criminals in there. So they handcuffed me to the outside of the cell. I’m a social individual, so I start talking and interjecting things. They looked at me at first like I was a criminal but then I said look, “Its 2008. It’s a pretty bad economy in case you haven’t noticed. I really need to do something. If you think I am some kind of arch-criminal then you have another thing coming.” So they were like, “Oh we know guys like you.”
J: So they bust people regularly?
A: Yeah, all the time! They were being really cordial and I think because I was, they were being really gentle with me. They took the money, but they gave it back. It took like six months to get it back.
J: What about the product?
A: The product I never saw again.
J: What about court?
A: I went to court and I was nervous about going. But I went and the Judge threw it out!
J: What were the formal charges?
A: Just possession. They had no case! The attorney asked the prosecutor to tell the judge why they (the police) stopped me and the prosecutor took one look and he knew they had no case.
A: Because it said that the police had indicated that there was a strong smell of marijuana emanating from the bag.
A: When he said there was a strong odor emanating from my bag the Judge slammed the manila folder and said, “I’ve heard enough.” Gave me 6 months of ECD Probation, which just means don’t get in trouble for six months and you’re good.
J: That’s crazy. So… anything else you want people to know?
A: Well… Everybody smokes! Everybody! There’s finance people. There’s artists in SoHo studios. There’s dead beat kids in the LES. There’s older gay men in Midtown with beautiful apartments. Retired city workers with grandchildren. Concert pianists. Everybody.
J: So, there is no typical customer?
A: No, there isn’t! This is a “we want it and we want it now and my way” type of town and there’s no stopping this.
Well, there you have it folks; words of a professional.