Part 3 of Carlos’ story from the book “A Snowball’s Chance.”
High school dropouts tell their stories.
When I was about ten or eleven years old, I had my first run-in with the law. It was a curfew charge. I was out on the streets late at night. They arrested me and took me to juvenile. I was there for eight hours. I was put in a program called diversion. All I had to do was complete some community service hours and go to a Scared Straight type of program.
In junior high I was labeled a “bad ass.” I was in and out of the principal’s office so many times that whenever anything happened, they’d automatically come to me. I was such a bad ass that the school resource officer, a police officer that worked at the school, actually tried to run me over. I had a mouth on me, and I wouldn’t take no shit from nobody.
An assault charge came next. I got into a fight with a kid at Doolen Junior High. After that there was a theft charge for a stolen bike. I bought the bike for twenty dollars from a kid that stole it. The next thing I knew, the cops were at my house. I was kind of dumb. I tried to hide the bike. I took off the tires and made a pit in my backyard. I doused the frame with gas and lit it. I was trying to strip the paint. Next thing I knew, the fire department was at my house. I said, “I’m trying to take the paint off my bike.” They looked into it a little bit more and arrested me. I went to juvenile for about two months.
God, that was the most humiliating, horrible experience in my whole life. It was de-grading. The staff looked at us like we were the worst kids. I loved the food but hated the constant confinement. We’d come out of the cell for two hours in the morning to go to school, get locked up again, go to lunch, and go to school for another two hours. The rest of the day I was locked in a two-man cell. The room had cement walls, a big steel door, and a four-inch window.
Juvenile was bad. I was knuckling up—always fighting. There were kids from ten to seventeen years old. A lot of kids label others from where they live. You might not be a gang-banger, but if you’re from the south side, you could easily be labeled a Crip. If the kid was from the north side, there were more Bloods, but Crips as well. Kids had to stand their ground and let others understand that they were not going to get punched or pushed around. The first time a kid bowed down to the next man, he was labeled a punk. He’s going to be fighting all of the time. Eventually, I went to Project Rise. It was a juvenile school, and the classes were smaller. There were outside probation officers breathing down my back. I had bus passes, and the officers always checked attendance. I’ve been arrested a good twenty to thirty times. My juvenile record was kind of stupid. It was for stealing and a couple of times where I took the rap for the older guys from the gang. That was for possession of marijuana, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, and firing a gun in city limits.
Looking Back and Looking Ahead
I always wanted to go into the military service. I wanted to know what it would be like to travel and to have a uniform on. I’ll never be able to do that. There are little things that bother me. I love guns. I like shooting guns. And I know that I can’t have one legally. There are different jobs that I’ll never be able to have. I can’t have a government job.
I have a saying that I believe: “You gotta be tired of being sick and tired.” Regardless of what anybody tells you, regardless of what anybody shows you, you are not going to make a change until you want to make that change. It’s like being a drug addict. Until you reach rock bottom, you are not going to change. No matter what the situation is; no matter what a person is going through, there is always hope. There are different programs and resources that can help people. A lot of times we have problems and we don’t realize help is out there.
I was the pot head of the century. I started messing with weed when I was about eleven or twelve. For the first couple of years I really didn’t like it. Weed made me break out in hives. I kind of left it alone, but peer pressure got to me. When I was fourteen my homies were bugging me, “Come on, let’s smoke a joint. Smoke this splif.” I tried it when I was older, and I didn’t get an allergic reaction. I liked it.
We got weed from everywhere. Tucson’s real close to Mexico. This town is so full of drugs, and most people don’t realize it. Sometimes I had to pay for weed. The guys from the gang would always have it. When I was in school, I used just weed. I tried cocaine a couple of times, but I didn’t like it. I was smoking about an ounce, which is twenty-eight grams, every two days. Weed slowed me down and gave me short-term memory problems. I couldn’t remember anything. It made me slow and tired all the time. I was going to school as high as a bird.
I used to carry a little bag around my neck. It was a Walkman carrying case, but there wasn’t a Walkman in there. It was full of bags of weed. I would go to school with two ounces of weed a day and an eight-ball of cocaine. I broke the cocaine down into quarters—quarters are little twenty-dollar papers. I’d make between two and five hundred dollars, depending who I was selling to. If it was a dumb kid, I would sell him a little, a little bit and tell him it was a full twenty. It would be only a five-dollar piece.
I was a hustler. I would make anywhere from one thousand to three thousand dollars a week. For a high school kid, that was good money. I had two apartments and took care of three or four girlfriends. And I was taking care of my family, putting food on the table, and buying clothes for them. My mother knew where the money was coming from, but she’d just turn her face.
I would move a kilo every four days. Once I got into the hustling business, it was almost like figuring out the location of the nearest Circle K. I knew every drug house. When I was in the ninth and tenth grades, I was still doing weed, and I started hustling coke. I was moving about an ounce and a half every three days. When I dropped out of high school, I was running four crack houses. I was moving a kilo of coke every four days. The wholesale price of a kilo goes for about $12,500. I could make about $30,000 once it was broken down.
I had four cars—an Astro Van, a ’64 Chevy Impala, a ’77 Cutlass, and a Grand Prix. Shoot, I didn’t even have a license. I had girls driving me around. I didn’t think about getting caught. I was in the fast lane.
When I first started out, I was the kid pushing the dope. After a year I moved up. I had another kid pushing my product. All I had to do was buy the product and weigh it out. I went from powder to crack cocaine. I would cook my coke and drop it off at my crack houses. I would relax and go back every few hours to see how my guys were doing. I’d get my money and drop off some more.
Through the grace of God, I don’t have a drug charge. Weed is addictive, but there aren’t any withdrawals. It’s like a cigarette. People desire it, but it’s not intense like coke. I had no remorse about selling coke. All I cared about was, “Make sure you have my money on the table.” There were times I’d drop off crack and the conditions of the houses were horrible. There were kids running around in the houses. All I cared about was my money. Actually, selling drugs and doing drugs—you can get addicted to both.
When I was out there hustling, doing my do, I realized that as quick as I made a dollar, I could spend it. If money is flowing and flowing, you don’t appreciate the value of the buck. I put money away. I had seven bank accounts under different family members’ names. I had a guilty conscience and didn’t want anything in my name. I figured that if something happened to me, the government would take my money. An account in someone else’s name was safer.
Carlo’s story will continue in Part 4.