Marrying for Citizenship

ILLUSTRATION BY CHAD MITCHELL

 

Sarah is a tall drink of firewater. She is currently 28 years old and handles business from her home in Mexico. The following is derived from a recorded interview and the names have been changed.

I was in the peak of my post-college partying days and living in Los Angeles.

My best friend, Danielle, has a brother who is a rapper. He befriended these German guys that were DJ’s and involved with the LA hip-hop community: Ronski, Stephen and Justin.

Danielle and I began partying with these German guys pretty often; they were really cool and fun to hang with. We all became friends and Danielle started hooking-up with Stephen.

I thought Ronski liked me but wasn’t sure, or rather, he never made a move. He was one of those guys who you could tell was crushing on you, but never did anything about it, which is not my type of guy.

Anyway, Ronski and I became good friends. I was 24, growing tired of partying and thinking, what am I going to do with my life? I need to have an idea.

Ronski and I started talking about going into business together. He wanted to immigrate to the US. He was in love with Los Angeles, Chicano culture, Mexican people and the hip-hop scene in LA. The guy kinda’ thought he was a Cholo, even though he was German.

He wanted to export classic lowrider cars to Germany. We had a buyer set up but the German government is insane. They have tons of trade laws and require lots of paper work to import goods. It’s socialist I guess. We couldn’t get past a couple of regulations, so we scrapped that plan.

Next, Ronski wanted to make t-shirts with LA hip-hop style graphics. He did design work and knew Photoshop. We planned to manufacture them in LA where it was cheap and sell them in Germany. We were working out the details but he needed to immigrate to the US.

He went back to Germany for six months and saved money.  Then he returned to LA and was staying with me. One night we had this awkward moment.

I had decided, I guess I’ll have sex with this guy and see if I like him, you know?

We started making out but he couldn’t get his dick hard. He was really nervous or something. I was like, oh my god, this guy fucking sucks dude.

I felt bad. It was really awkward. I tried to be nice and said, “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

But in my head I thought, I’m never going to try and have sex with you again, if you can’t get it up the first time, I don’t want to go out with you.

I thought, alright, I’m not going to date him, we’ll just be friends.
But I think he still liked me after that.

Then he asked me to marry him so he could get his immigration papers.

Honestly, I don’t even remember the conversation.

I thought about it for a week. I did some research and it seemed pretty simple. A lot of people in LA marry for citizenship.

You go to the courthouse, pay some money and they marry you right there. The hard part is all the paper work. You have to submit an application for citizenship to the government and an application for a work permit.

I agreed to do it. I wanted to help him out.

The morning of our wedding, I had to pick Ronski up from his friend’s house in East LA where he was staying. I was extremely fucking hungover.

I woke up at 7am because we had to be there by 8am. I was still drunk and thought, oh shit, I gotta go get married! I can’t miss this, dude!

The previous night was my friend’s Grad School graduation party. Her crazy baller mom came from Hawaii and threw this crazy baller party with a limo. I got wasted.

I tried to appear presentable for my wedding day, but instead just looked fucked up and drunk. I put on skinny jeans and this insanely loud, black and white, checkered, satin shirt. Then I drove to East LA swerving all over the road.

Leaving his house I almost hit a car and killed us. He couldn’t drive because he was German. I said, “Sorry, I’m drunk, but it’s okay, let’s go get married.”

When we arrived they told us a witness was required, which we hadn’t realized.

So we were like, shit, we need to get one of these dudes in the waiting room to be our witness.

It was 8am in this horrible government building with awful fluorescent lights and sketchy people waiting for their appointments. Couples who get married downtown at the courthouse are usually really poor or just fucked up like myself.

I went into the waiting room and said, “Hey, waiting room! I need a witness for my marriage. Will somebody do it?”

A Mexican guy with a mullet stepped forward. His name was Adolf. So I’m marrying a German and the Mexican who volunteers to be our witness, is named Adolf. I’ll never forget that.

We went back into the room to get married. It was a stale cubicle of death with no windows.  The floor and walls were covered with generic gray office carpeting and there was a misplaced, white archway covered in plastic flowers.

I stood in front of the government priest pretending that I loved Ronski. I was so hungover my face was trembling. I had to concentrate on staying composed so he wouldn’t know we were bogus. I remember thinking, holy shit, I am marrying someone.

The priest did the whole “Do you take this woman? Do you take this man?” thing. It was a really short ceremony.

We had bought these shitty rings in the downtown LA jewelry district for like $10. They were brass with plastic diamonds. We put them on and then I went in for the kiss. It was awkward. The priest stood there staring at us and Adolf snapped a photo.

It was the worst picture ever taken. In the space between our necks, in a perfect circle, was the priest’s face. The kiss looked reluctant.

Adolf took some more pictures because the government might come to our home and do an interview a few months later.

Everyone said we needed to have a photo album and stuff around our house that showed the history of our relationship, pictures from when we were dating and the wedding. So we had been bringing a camera everywhere we went and taking romantic photos.

A hundred dollars later they gave us our license and we were officially married. It was just a piece of paper, no big deal. We went home and continued on with our lives.

A few days later, we went to a sketchy immigration lawyer’s office by McArthur Park. He checked our documents and told us what forms Ronski needed to fill out to get a work permit. He was just living off his savings and needed a job.

We wanted to run a business from home, but I was living in a shitty little apartment. Ronski suggested we rent a nice house. Then we could receive perspective clients in a professional place. So we rented this sweet house in Glassel Park, a really nice but expensive place.

I said, “Look dude, I’m poor. I can’t afford this, I can only pay $600 a month.”

Ronski said, “That’s ok, I’ll pay the rest.”

“Do you have enough money to rent this place?”

“Yeah, yeah I have savings.”

He had nice stuff so it seemed like he had the cash to do this immigration thing. It’s expensive. You have to pay the government about $2,000 to process your paper work and hire an immigration lawyer. Plus you need savings to live off of until your work permit comes through, unless you work illegally, which is what most immigrants do. The difference is they’re usually Mexican or El Salvadorian and work super hard and do whatever it takes to survive. This is USA, you gotta’ hit the streets man, you have to wash dishes at a shitty Chinese restaurant.

I’d never been to Europe but I started to realize that Ronski’s personality had an elitist European thing going on.

I don’t know how easy he thought living in America would be, but it was like, dude you’re just another immigrant. I don’t know what you’re expecting from this country but people aren’t going to lay out the red carpet and throw job offers at you.

I had assumed he understood this. But then I started thinking, this guy doesn’t really know about America. He’s in love with Chicano hip-hop culture, but does he realize how hard it is to survive?

This had never occurred to me. Moving to a new country is a rough learning experience. Luckily, I was there to help him, but I didn’t anticipate that he wouldn’t listen to me.

It turned into a situation where he just sat in our nice house and looked for jobs online. At first, of course, he wanted to go for the better jobs but after so much time goes by, maybe you’re going to have to scrape some dishes.

A month passed, and then another. I asked, “How’s the job hunt going?”

He had an interview but he didn’t like the job.

I thought, well he has money so he can afford to be picky.

I should have asked, “Hey, exactly how much money do you have?”

Things became a little awkward between us. We weren’t in a romantic relationship but we started to bicker like an old couple. I’d come home and say, “You’re just sitting around all day while I’ve been working?”

At the same time he had housewife syndrome, he’d get cabin fever from doing nothing all day. He was trying to save money so he didn’t go out or party.

I had warned him, when he was still in Germany. The recession was starting and I said, “Dude, the economy is not good here. It’s really bad, I’m not sure you want to come right now.”

He had said, “No. It’s now or never.”

Then I started dating a guy, who became my boyfriend.

I knew Ronski had liked me before the marriage, but I thought it was clear after our weird sexual incident was followed by no further intimate interaction, that I wasn’t interested.

A couple of times after our hookup, he tried to hold my hand while walking down the street. I would quickly pull away. This was before we were married. I thought he took the hint because a month went by and there was no kissing and no talk about it. I thought, he understands and it’s clear, so we don’t need to talk about it.

There I went assuming things again.

After I started dating this other guy it became really weird between us. I realized, Oh, Ronski still likes me and he’s really burned that I’m dating someone else.

He started acting catty towards me. I acted the same towards him thinking, Ah, you’re just this presumptuous arrogant asshole who thought you could come to America and it’d be easy for you because you’re German.

I’d say mean shit like, “What you think you’re better than all these Mexicans who are trying to work here? You better hit the streets and get a job dude. This isn’t socialist Germany, no one’s going to take care of you. You’re alone.”

I started to get really intense with him and became prejudiced towards Germans and European people in general.

Then one day, I came home and he said, “Sarah, I have no more money. I’m leaving the country in two weeks and I’m never coming back. I can’t pay the rent for next month.”

This was 3 months after we’d married.

I was 24, a waitress and the recession had hit hard. People in Hollywood still had money, but my customers worked at Citibank. My tips dropped big time and they started cutting my hours. I was broke.

I freaked out. I had signed a lease for this expensive house. The landlady was no slumlord; she wasn’t going to let me get away with breaking the lease.

I said, “You have no money for rent?”

He said, “No.”

I said, “What the fuck dude? Why don’t you sell your computer?”

He had a really nice laptop. I went all ghetto on him. I was like, “Fuck this shit, you’re selling your computer and giving me the money! I married you to try and help you immigrate!”

He said, “Thanks for everything but I’m leaving in two weeks.”

I said, “Well, we have to get a divorce! And the divorce costs money and I think you have to be here. I don’t know if I can do it after you’re gone!”

I was right, we didn’t have time to get divorced and it would have cost $300 dollars to submit the paperwork.

I started yelling and threatening him, “If you don’t get me the money, I’m gonna’ fuck you up.”

He said, “I’m not selling my computer. I need it to live and to work.”

I was pissed. He knew that he’d fucked me over and didn’t have much to say.

I said, “See, you totally failed and don’t have what it takes to make it in the USA! Go back to Germany and live off your government you lazy piece of shit. I, on the other hand, will survive because I am an American hustler! And I know how to make it in this world!”

During his last two weeks things calmed down and we got back on speaking terms. He left and we were still married.

I had two weeks to come up with an extra $1,000 dollars for rent.

So that’s my marriage story.

 

HOW DID YOU PAY THAT MONTH’S RENT?

Danielle, my best friend, was a big time drug dealer. She sold ecstasy, weed and pills. I called and said, “Danielle, I have two weeks to make a $1000, can you front me a bunch of drugs to sell?”

She said, “Okay!”

I decided to deal weed and ecstasy. There was a huge rave called “Monster Massive” in LA the following weekend. I was scared. Selling ecstasy in LA is a felony; it’s not like dealing weed. If the police busted me I would have gone straight to jail.

I went to Monster Massive, hid a condom filled with 40 pills of ecstasy in my vagina and walked around selling them.

After the rave, I started slanging to my coworkers. I drove all over LA like a maniac, dealing drugs.

Rent day came and I had just enough money. After the check went through there was $3 left in my account.

DID YOU DIVORCE HIM IMMEDIATELY?

I procrastinated on filing for divorce. It cost like $350. I didn’t have the money and kept putting it off. Also, I couldn’t confront the situation. I wanted to pretend like I wasn’t married to a random German dude in Europe. Sometimes I’d think about it and freak out, what if I meet a guy? Will I tell him I’m married to some German?

DID IT COMPLICATE ANY RELATIONSHIPS?

Later, I had a serious boyfriend named Manuel. When the recession became really bad, he lost his job. He was an illegal immigrant and couldn’t find work. I was like, “Dude, just go back to Mexico. Don’t stay here for me.” Then we started talking about getting married so that he could stay and gain citizenship too!

I couldn’t tell him, “Sorry, I’m already married to this German.”

He kept asking, “Why don’t we get married?”

I’d say, “Uh, well, I dunno…”

WHEN DID YOU FINALLY GET DIVORCED?

After about a year, I decided to get it done. I wanted to totally delete that chapter from my life.

It was way more complicated than getting married. I went to the courthouse and submitted a stack of forms. It turned out there was a six-month waiting period before approval, in case you worked things out with your spouse.

I had procrastinated so long, that by the time I filed for divorce and learned about the six-month waiting period, I’d already bought a ticket to move to Mexico in four months. When I moved I was still married.

Eventually, the divorce judgment was mailed to my old house. My roommate was still living there and expecting the envelope.

He called me and opened it. I said, “What does it say!? Is it all done?”

He was like “I don’t understand it!”

He read it to me and I didn’t understand it either. It was a bunch of crazy court jargon. I called one of the court’s offices in L.A. but nobody would answer my questions. Finally, I got a guy on the line and he said, “Actually, it didn’t go through because you’re missing a signature.”

I had forged all of Ronski’s signatures. I was worried that they had found out.

I mailed another form from Mexico and called back again. I got this really nice guy on the phone. I said, “Look dude, I don’t know what’s happening, I live in another country and I need to know if I’m divorced!”

He said, “It’s fine, it’s in the computer system. You’re divorced!”

I still don’t know if it ever went through or he just told me it did. I don’t think I even have the correct paperwork, which makes me worried that if one day I want to get married again, I might need it.

WHY DID YOU MARRY HIM?

He was my friend and I wanted to help him immigrate. Also, I wanted to start a business with him.  We had some pretty good ideas at the time.  You get prematurely excited about things in your early 20′s and tend to rush into them. Looking back, neither of those reasons seems even slightly logical.  Why did he need to live in the US if I was going to be his business partner?

I was a semi-alcoholic trying to become a legit person.

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU’D MADE A BAD CHOICE?

A few months in when he was always at home, never looking for jobs on foot and not getting interviews. I realized he was spoiled and didn’t really understand what immigrating to a new country during a recession might entail. I thought, this dumbass is going to blow all his money and have to move back and I am going to get stuck with this expensive house he rented.

DOES YOUR FAMILY KNOW?

Nobody in my family knows about this. They would be so fucking mad. I’ve only told a couple of my friends.

 

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Casual Train Hopping

Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

by Skyler Swezy

On the outskirts of downtown Albuquerque there is a series of abandoned train depots and railroad workshops built in the 1920’s.

As teenagers, my hooligan friends and I snuck into “the Old Train Station” now and then. Friday nights in Albuquerque had become a monotony of shitty house parties, restaurant loitering, Mexican-brick-weed smoke sessions, police dodging, pointless fights and aimless lady chasing.

So breaking into a dark, transient ridden, rust shell of a building to climb around on its rotting roof and smash 90-year old windows was good times. Trespassing was fun.

At night the buildings were dark and sketchy as fuck. Graffiti and empty bum nests lined the walls. It felt like anybody could be lurking inside – taggers, junkies, security guards, paint huffers, fellow juvenile delinquents – but usually it was just empty and dodgy.

The inside of the main depot was a massive room with three-story ceilings. Now they rent it out to movie studios, Beerfest and Transformers were filmed there.  Rickety staircases led to the skeletons of offices on the third floor where a steel ladder provided roof access.

One fall evening around midnight, four friends and I hopped the 10ft chain-link fence and slipped into one of the old buildings. There was Jesse, Chad, Dave and Travis. Jesse was drunk, pretty sure we had picked him up from a party. Travis was a couple of years older than us and had been in the train station plenty of times. Chad and Dave were always down for illegal exploration.

We wandered around with a couple of flashlights between us. After checking out the third floor we climbed onto the roof and surveyed downtown Albuquerque’s minimal skyline. Back inside we walked across the cavernous main room, which seemed like the size of a soccer field. The floor was made of wooden blocks laid like brick and there was plenty of random shit to trip over.

Outside, a pair of active tracks ran along one side of the abandoned compound. Amtrak cars and cargo trains used them to travel north and south along the city’s spine.

A freight train slowly approached from the south and began to rumble by at 10-15mph.

Travis yelled, “Let’s hop it!”

He jogged towards the train. I didn’t think twice, don’t think any of us did, we all ran towards the train. I’d never jumped a moving train before but had fantasized about riding cross-country by rail, evading yard bulls and drinking hooch with hobos.

Everyone’s heard stories about people getting sucked under the steel wheels and sliced in half. But when you’re 19 and jogging through crunching rocks, looking for a ladder to grab, thoughts of steel discs snatching your legs are absent. Plus no one wants to be a wuss.

By the time we hopped another chain-link fence and reached the tracks, the train’s caboose was approaching. It was unlit. A ladder was mounted on the front; in the rear a couple of stairs with a handrail hovered waste high, a good car to hop. One by one we matched the train’s speed and grabbed the ladder or railing, lifting up our feet and climbing onto the car.

Once aboard, we acted like ten-year-olds zapped on Redbull, hysterical and adrenaline juiced, we clambered all over the car messing with everything. The caboose’s interior was falling apart and coated in soot. Cabinets and shelves sat empty. Old newspapers and garbage covered the floor. I figured they only used this car to end the train, because trains have to end with something. We had to yell over the rumbling and creaking of the steel to hear each other’s words.

After a couple of minutes, everyone gathered at the rear door in a line. Jesse stood outside the doorway, I was behind him and three others were inside.

I felt like it was time to get off. I shouted to Jesse, “Let’s get off!”

He nodded yes.

I turned to the other three guys and repeated, “Let’s get off!”

Travis pointed to the ground. The rocks alongside the tracks had become cement.  We were approaching the next station. Travis, who had a bum ankle, shook his head and said, “Let’s wait ‘till we pass the station and it goes back to rocks.”

That seemed reasonable. I turned around to tell Jesse but he was already running behind the train. He slowed to a walk and faded into the distance.

After passing through the commuter station the train conductor gunned it and we rapidly accelerated. It hit me immediately, Oh shit, we’re trapped!

I hadn’t seen this coming. I hoped, maybe it will slow down after a minute. Instead the locomotive’s whistle blasted as we crossed street intersections with striped barricades lowered and blinking red lights. Whole city blocks whipped by as we headed north at 50 mph.

The rear of the caboose had two steps and a short railing. Travis descended to the second step and, gripping the railing, lowered one of his legs to touch the ground, trying to gauge the speed. His foot bounced back violently, kicking up rocks. He pulled his leg up and looked at us wide eyed. I thought, damn, this fucker is flying, there’s no way we can jump.

By now Jesse and the old train depot were miles behind us. We were running out of city fast, soon we’d be in the desert.

A slightly panicked discussion took place. Options were shouted back and forth over the wind and roar.

We could ride the train to the next stop, which was probably Santa Fe  (50 miles north) if the train stayed course. But it was pushing 1am and if we rode to Santa Fe it would be at least 2am when we arrived. Who’d pick us up? What if it didn’t stop? Plus, the train might switch tracks and directions, taking us to a different state.

Our other choice was no better. Jumping at this speed could ruin a motherfucker.

Let’s just make a decision, I thought.

“Ride to Santa Fe or jump?” I yelled.

Travis shouted, “Jump!”

Chad and Dave nodded, both a little grim faced.

Okay. Shit.

Suddenly the train began to slow. There were two sets of tracks running parallel. Another train was heading straight toward us, southbound. Our train had braked to a safer speed while the cars screamed past each other in opposite directions, separated by a few feet.

We decelerated to about 25 mph. A goddamn miracle, but it still felt way too gnarly a speed to leap at.

Dave volunteered to jump first.

He descended to the lowest caboose step. There was a four-foot drop to the ground, which was a dark blur. The rocks sloped downwards, away from the tracks, to a dirt ditch that ran behind industrial lots.

There’s two ways to jump off a speeding train. Method one is to tuck and roll, hoping you don’t land on a piece of sharp metal or tumble through a pile of broken bottles and heroin needles dripping with HIV.

Option two is the run-off: jump and start sprinting in mid-air with the belief that your legs will be able to match your body’s speed. If your feet don’t move fast enough they will stick and you’ll face slam, losing your teeth among the rocks.

Dave was a tall, skinny fella. He leapt and disappeared. Being the last in line, I couldn’t see what happened to him. I figured, well, he’s probably wrecked.

Travis was a lanky guy with a bad ankle that he’d permanently ruined kickboxing years before. He jumped and landed with his feet spinning comically, his torso pitched forward and he too vanished. That didn’t seem too bad, I thought.

Chad, also a skinny guy, crouched on the lower step, knees bent, his face concentrated. He jumped, going for the run-off but panicked in mid-air and tried to tuck and roll. He landed belly first in an explosion of jagged rocks.

Jesus, I thought, he just got fucked up!

His crash knocked my confidence. For a second, I was like, jumping is an awful idea, but I sure as hell don’t want to be alone on this train.

Chad’s biff had confirmed that running for it was the best tactic.  My brain went blank and I leapt, sprinting on the way down. My feet zipped off the ground’s surface and I kicked myself in the ass with each step. After four or five cartoon-speed steps, I hit mud and Supermanned into a shallow puddle.

I stood up muddy but unscathed. No fucking way, I thought and jogged back to see what shape the others were in.

Somehow, everyone was ok. We hollered and group-hugged like a bunch of bro’s who’d just won a citywide beer-pong tournament. Chad’s stomach was wrecked. A six-inch gash ran downwards from his belt-line. Travis and Dave had made out well, only tumbling at the end of their runs.

We walked along the tracks to a gas station. It was after 1:30am and we were miles from the train station. We called our friend Maureen from a pay phone. She got out of bed and picked us up with the air of a disappointed mother.

We found Jesse waiting outside the old train station.

He said, “What happened to, ‘Let’s get off!’?”

 

I contacted Travis, Dave and Chad. I asked each of them a few questions about their leap from the speeding freight train. I like that Dave remembers riding in a kitchen and nobody knows how fast we were going.

TRAVIS:

WHY DID YOU SAY, “JUMP!”?

Because we didn’t know where we were going to end up, Kansas, Utah, Santa Fe?

Also, I’m pretty sure that I had a [real estate] sales meeting in the morning and had also made plans to eat breakfast with my mom.

So I was thinking how would I explain this, “Yea, I can’t make it because I’m trapped in the caboose of a train with four other guys. Please don’t be pissed off.”

That basically influenced my executive call of, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m jumping off this train.”

I SAID WE WERE GOING 25-30 MPH WHEN WE JUMPED OFF, WHAT WOULD YOU PUT THE SPEED AT?

I would estimate it was a little more, or maybe that’s just influenced by how really scary it was. I remember I was about to stick my head out of the caboose to try and look ahead when, Whoosh, a pole whipped past really close to the train. If I had looked out at that moment it would have cut my head in half.

WHAT DO YOU RECALL ABOUT THE JUMP?

I recall going back into the caboose and searching for things to pad ourselves with, I was hoping to find a life jacket or use padding from the seat.

I remember we found one dirty foam pad half-eaten by mice and it was like, nope, that’s not going to do anything.

I went for the run-off and then did a sort of a tuck and roll down the side of the dirt hill. I messed my knee up a little bit but was fine overall.

I remember Chad eating shit. He got fucked up.

DAVE:

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE WE MIGHT BE IN TROUBLE?

I remember being inside some kind of kitchen on the train. We were trying to see if there was any wine we could steal. Suddenly, everyone seemed nervous and was looking out a window. I looked out too and saw houses flying by. It was kind of surreal, usually when you are going that fast you’re in a car on a freeway. But going over 50 mph, right next to houses, creates a pretty intense blur.

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS BEFORE JUMPING?

I tried not to think at all.

YOUR LANDING STRATEGY?

I wanted to literally hit the ground running. I made sure to jump as far away from the train as I could so there would be no chance of getting sucked under. My plan worked, I landed on my feet and stayed upright. I lost my shoes in the mud and found them later. I was completely unharmed!

HOW FAST DO YOU THINK THE TRAIN WAS GOING WHEN WE JUMPED?

It had slowed some, but was probably going 40mph?

CHAD:

WHAT WAS YOUR JUMP STRATEGY AND HOW DID IT WORK OUT?

I never took a moment to decide, “Alright, Chad your gonna run it out” or “you’re gonna tuck and roll”.  I figured, “I’ll just jump and know what to do.”

Well, I didn’t know what to do.

I started off with the air-run technique but mid-jump I instinctively switched to the tuck and roll.

You know when you see a little kid at the pool jump off the diving board for the first time and while in the air they panic, unable to decide whether to dive or cannonball, so they just end up belly flopping?

That’s what happened, I belly flopped at 20 mph on big, jagged rocks. I remember being pumped that I didn’t bash my face on the ground.

After standing up, I realized a rock had sliced me over my hipbone.  It should have hurt a ton but I was so jacked up on adrenaline that it didn’t feel very bad. Ten years later I still have the scar.  At the time, I lied to my parents and said I had slipped off a wall running from the cops at a party. Somehow, that seemed better than telling them I went train hopping.

HOW FAST WAS THE TRAIN GOING WHEN WE JUMPED?

Man I don’t know. It was probably going about 20-25 mph. But when I was leaning off the side, about to jump, it felt like it was going 50mph.

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30 Shots of Well Tequila

Illustration by Chad Mitchell
Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

 Jesse Sullivan is a 28yrold barkeep in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He is a renowned dance floor destroyer and primetime drinkathoner with the face of a Persian Bill Murray. The fella has razor wit, shortstop hands and a pop-culture-encyclopedia brain. He was 27 when this went down. (The following was written by Jesse.)

You know what? Fuck it. I like Maroon 5.

That has nothing to do with this story, but here it goes:

This is a tale about two dudes who decided to beat a hangover the only way they knew how. Prolonging it.

I met William in Brooklyn, a year before he moved to East LA to buy a low-rider Impala and record an album with his band. When he returned to the East Coast a couple years later I was managing (to slowly drive) a bar (into the ground) and William was looking for work. I hired him immediately hoping he could save my ass.

William, I call him Billy, is a charming young man with a barrel chest and a Rollie Fingers mustache. He enjoys golfing, quality time with his nieces and nephews, and drinking the fucking shit out of everything (everything but whiskey, oddly).

Once a trio of fraternity brothers came into our bar and ordered something called a “Bear Fight”. It was an Irish Car Bomb (a shot glass of 1/2 Jameson and 1/2 Bailey’s dropped into a 1/2 pint of Guinness) followed by a Jager Bomb (a shot of Jagermeister dropped into a half pint of Red Bull). Billy and I mocked these jabroneys and rolled our eyes condescendingly, up until the second they left. Then we drank about 9 Bear Fights; so much Red Bull.

Billy and I work in a few different bars in a city that has more bars per square mile than anywhere on earth. Bar-owners hire people like Billy and me because no bar patron likes to drink alone and we are a couple of nice, accommodating dudes.

We’re in the hospitality business. If you have a shot, it’d be rude if we didn’t join, right? So that’s what we did. A lot. The beauty was we could drink as much as we wanted, for free, on two conditions. One: we count the money correctly and properly lock the bar at the end of the night. Two: we’re only allowed to drink well liquor.

Well liquor is fucked. It’s cheap as shit. Bars get bottles for, like, $4 a pop. Mostly brands you’ve never fucking heard of. Well vodka is always something that sounds remotely Eastern European: Popov, Nikolai, Zemkoff, Georgi. Well rum always sounds like the entertainment on a cruise ship: Uncle Wray and Nephew, Caribbean Nights, Rico Bay, etc. Whiskey companies know that people who drink bullshit whiskey don’t give a fuck, so they name their labels like shitty motels: Bellow’s, Carstairs, Ten High, Five Star, etc. Gin I’m not quite sure about. My mom told me as a kid that gin makes men mean, so, honest to God, I never touch the stuff.
Billy and I danced with the devil known as well tequila. These bottles sport names from a Spanish 101 pop quiz: Conquistador, Montezuma, Zapata, Tres Generales, Chupa Mi Culo, etc.

We enjoyed drinking the Zapata brand. To scholars of Mexican history, “Zapata” alludes to Emiliano Zapata, a prominent figure in the Mexican Revolution. To people like me, who learned Spanish from the kids on my mostly Mexican high school soccer team, “zapata” means “shoe”. The latter definition is an accurate description of the taste of Zapata Tequila.

We preferred well tequila because it’s the only liquor that’s also a stimulant. All others are depressants. So, working at a bar that stays open until 4 (or 5 or 6), tequila is the obvious choice.

One day, Billy and I were a little bored during our Wednesday shift, which started at 4 pm, ended at 4 am. That’s a long time. Our shift was a simple one-man, drink-pouring operation that the two of us chose to split. Thus, we could drink ourselves half-blind every Wednesday and still have two good eyes between us at the end of the night. On this particular evening we began wondering how much we actually drank throughout a shift and decided to keep count.

We tallied them throughout our shift. At closing time William had taken 35 shots, I had put down 32. He snuck in three extra when I took a quick break to go home and walk my dog. That’s fine because while he was busy drinking water at the beginning of the shift, I was entertaining a salesman, sipping one of the undrinkable beers that he wanted our bar to sell.

I must admit the shot glasses were small, about 1 1/4 ounce.  It still works out to a little over a liter of tequila for each of us (plus one shit beer for me). Also, we drank this over the course of 8 hours.

Every time I tell the story of “the night Billy and I drank 30 plus shots” the first thing people ask is, “You guys must’ve felt like dogshit the next day. What was that, like, 16 shots each?”

The answer is a proud/ashamed, “No, it was 30 plus each.” Followed by the grosser statement, “And no, I wasn’t terribly hung over.”

Instead, the next day we woke up shitfaced. At 4pm we headed to work at the other bar we both tended and kept the tequila train arunnin’. Our bodies were so dehydrated neither of us pissed the entire day.

The previous night was hazy, but we both recalled looking each other in the eye and saying, “Let’s never fucking do this again.”

At the time it probably meant, “Let’s never drink this much again.” But after a few shots that morning we decided it meant, “Let’s never count how many shots we take, ever again.”

We didn’t. However, we did celebrate our disgusting accomplishment of the night before by taking X more shots during work. We continued putting them back all evening, straight through our shift. This is where we made the bad choice.

By the end of my bartending shift at 2am, I had drank somewhere around 100 ounces of well tequila in about 36 hours. According to the Internet, that puts my Blood Alcohol Content at about .9%. In other words, I should have been pretty fucking dead. But rather than call it quits, I properly counted all the register’s cash, locked up the bar like a champ and invited the few remaining customers to join Billy and me back at my apartment for a tattoo party.

I was 27, flirting with 28, and had zero tattoos. I live in a place where not having tattoos is much weirder than having tattoos and I liked that. I used to say my not-having-a-tattoo was my tattoo. But then I went on a two-day well tequila bender.

Now, I’m no teetotaler. I drink often. I get drunk often. But only once in my life have I demanded that someone use my roommate’s tattoo gun to help me pay permanent homage to my temporary love of well tequila.

Billy, myself, my roommates and the last few remaining bar patrons walked back to my apartment with a fresh bottle of well tequila in hand. Upon arrival, my roommate brought out an old tattoo gun he had scored a few years back in a late-night trade for a microphone cord. This is where shit gets real hazy. But here are some bullet points of what went down, all of which were terrible, terrible, decisions:

Before we could find batteries for the tattoo gun, Billy spotted a Darryl Strawberry painting in my bedroom. He decided to ink the number 18 (Strawberry’s jersey number) on the right side of his ribcage. It would be the best tattoo given that night.

I told the two young ladies that had come to my apartment from the bar that they were, “NOT TO LEAVE MY APARTMENT UNTIL I HAVE THE FUCKING WORD ‘WELL’ TATTOOED ON MY GODDAMNED LIVER.”

Not wanting to assume total responsibility for such a heinous act, the ladies decided to write two letters each. They honored my request and tattooed the letters right where I demanded them to, “on my liver.” I said that while pointing to the right of my spine in the middle of my back. Exactly where my liver is not. My bad.

Billy had “Well” in fancy script tattooed somewhere around the middle of his rib cage on his left side. After my first failed attempt at understanding human anatomy, we decided this was where the liver is located.

I still don’t know where the liver is.

I do know how to Google what my Blood Alcohol Level is.

So there you have it, two days of constant tequila shots, one night of prison tattoos and four days of believing I had Hepatitis before realizing that that’s just what a hangover feels like after drinking three liters of well tequila in two days.

 

ANY IDEA HOW MUCH YOU DRANK THE SECOND EVENING?

I’d say close to 30 shots again, but I’m not sure. I know we were trying to outdo the previous night, and each other that second day, but you have to keep in mind the Shampoo Effect: trying to build up a good lather the first time you shampoo is hard, much like it’s hard for someone with a high tolerance to get drunk the first time. But once you finish that first wash and rinse, repeating is easy as pie. Your hair lathers up in a heartbeat during the second wash. The same principle applies when getting drunk, if your blood is still full of booze from the night before, it doesn’t take a whole helluva’ lot. That’s why you get smashed off two beers at Sunday afternoon brunches.

WHAT TIME DID YOU START AND STOP DRINKING?

Day one we started around 8pm stopped around 4am. Day two we started at about 4pm and I’m not sure I’ve stopped yet.

YOU DIDN’T PUKE?

Nope. Day one we were just in the zone. The first 3 or 4 shots of well tequila are fucking vile, but once you get passed those, it’s all downhill. Meaning, taking shots is as easy as coasting a bike down a hill and the direction of your life is also going right downhill. By day two Billy discovered that chasing well tequila with orange soda tastes like stealing a homeless man’s Orange Julius and chugging it; surprisingly, it’s really fucking good.

WAS THE TATTOO GUN SANITARY OR A GRIMY PRISON-NEEDLE OPERATION?

Beats me, Mom.

DO YOU REMEMBER GETTING THE TATTOO, ANY SNIPPETS OF COGNIZANCE?

Mostly what I remember about getting the tattoo, and this is for anyone reading who doesn’t have a tattoo, is that it doesn’t hurt at all. Seriously, didn’t feel a goddamned thing. I think I slept through the entire letter ‘E’.

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU’D GOTTEN THE TATOO? DID YOU WAKE UP CONFUSED ABOUT A WOUND ON YOUR BACK?

It was similar to drunkenly blowing a bunch of money at a strip club the night before. You kind of jolt out of bed the next morning, and there’s a brief moment of panic where you say to yourself, “Fuck, did I seriously blow $500 dollars last night? No way, right?” Then you open your wallet and it’s just full of ATM receipts and your heart drops to that place in your stomach where barf happens.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST THOUGHT WHEN YOU RECALLED THE GETTING THE TAT?

I’m so good at self-denial it’s dangerous. It’s 5:47 am and I’m in bed watching ‘Duck Soup’ with a 40 oz of Olde English. Hook me up to a lie detector and ask me if I’m an alcoholic. I’ll say no and pass. Ask me if I believe this tattoo will magically go away, I’ll say yes and pass.

DESCRIBE THE TYPOGRAPHY ON YOUR BACK. DID ONE LADY DO BETTER THAN THE OTHER?

The letters are all CAPS, probably about an inch and a half tall each. If you subtracted 20 years from the actual age of the girls who did it, you would get a pretty good idea of the quality of their penmanship. And yes, one girl did do a better job than the other. The one that hated me more did a stellar job of getting the ink in real good and deep… but it doesn’t matter because it’s going to magically disappear anyway.

Well Proof

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First Day Doo-doo Drawers

Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

Salty is a 31yrold Mortgage Broker who lives in Glen Park, CA and works in San Francisco. He is a master of bar sports, horseshoes and bowling.(The following is derived from a recorded interview.)

I was fifteen and it was the first day of high school. I had just moved to Tampa, FL two years earlier and didn’t have a lot of friends. I was pretty shy, and nervous about going to a high school where I didn’t know anybody.

I didn’t get much sleep the night before and was super stressed. High school was scary, plus I would have to ride the bus for the first time, which also scared me because my high school was really far away.

The next day everything was going grand. I made it through first period, second period and vividly remember sitting in third period English class. The classes were 60 minutes long. 50 minutes into third period I felt a gut wrenching stomach pain. It was killing me.

It didn’t feel like I had to take a shit, it was more like, man, I gotta let out a fart and it’s probably gonna be loud, I can already tell.

I fought it and fought it.

I thought, I have to somehow very quietly squeak out this fart. I’ll look around at everybody, give them the stink face like they did it and then go about listening to the teacher, totally playing it off.

Hurting, I had to let it rip. When I made this motion [shifts to one butt cheek], it was pretty apparent that more than a fart had taken place. I had sharted.

The expression on my face must have said it all. I thought, oh man, I may have just shit my pants a bit, well, time for damage control. Then I started smelling poop.

I sat through the rest of the class wondering if people could smell it. Then I thought, no, no, no, maybe there’s some type of vortex in my pants, the smell is just coming up through my pants and out of my shirt collar and I’m the only one that can smell it. No one else can smell this, just me. I’ll inhale a lot and soak it all up. It’ll be all right, I can make it ten more minutes.

The bell rang. I pretended to finish work so I could be the last one out.  I stood up, stretched and did a butt check. I didn’t see anything on my pants. I thought, good, maybe I’m all right.

I marched to the bathroom, went into a stall and checked my underpants. There was definitely some turdage. On a scale of 1 to 10 it wasn’t that bad. About a 2.5, but it wasn’t a 1 either. There was more than a dab.

I haven’t even gotten to the bad decision yet, everything was still going okay. I figured, all right, I’ll take some toilet paper and wipe this up, throw it in the toilet, pull up my pants and go call my mom. She’ll come get me and I’ll go home. That’s the end of my day. Done.

It seemed pretty sweet actually, dude, I just pooped my pants and I get to go home early. Wish I had known about this a long time ago.

I was also relieved that I hadn’t completely destroyed my pants. The outside of my jeans weren’t brown. I was going to go home. I was in the best of moods.

At this point, a lot of people ask me, “Why did you put your underwear back on if they had poop on them?”

I remember thinking, what if this stomach feeling returns and it happens again? I don’t want it to be on my bare jeans. So I put the dirty underwear back on as a buffer, just in case.

Everything was going great. I pulled my pants up and walked into the principle’s office. An old lady was typing at the reception desk. I said, “Hi, I need to call my mom.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I’m not feeling good. I need to go home,” I said nonchalantly.

“Yea right, you and everybody else. Now go back to class,” she said.

“Yea, but I’m sick.”

“Do you know how many kids have come in here and said they’re sick on the first day of class because they don’t want to stay? Go back to class,” she said.

This completely blindsided me, I had no idea this would happen. I realized high school was a lot different than junior high but this still seemed bizarre. All my life, if I told someone I didn’t feel good they sent me home. No one had ever said, “Nope, you’re going back to class.”

I thought, oh no, okay, focus on what’s happening, what are my options now?

There was a really cute girl (a student) working at a computer, I remember looking at her and thinking, damn that girl is cute. Damn this lady’s a bitch, she just told me I can’t go home.

This is where the bad decision comes in. I was a very soft spoken kid. I never raised my voice. I always said, “yes ma’am, no ma’am.”

The thought crossed my mind of saying, “Look bitch, I will plop some doo-doo covered Garfield underwear on this desk right now. I am sick. There is shit in my underwear and you need to let me go home. I am calling my mom right now.”

I could have done that, I considered being very bold and declaring, “I don’t care if that girls is hot, I don’t care if she tells the whole school, I want to go home, I have shit my pants.”

Instead I said, “Yes ma’am”, smiled at the girl and went to class with shitty underwear. You can only clean so much shit up with toilet paper.

So that’s how that went down.

I was late for fourth period. I walked in, sat down and immediately smelled shit. It wafted into my nose. I’m like, fuck, there’s no way that the people around me can’t smell this, it is pretty prominent, but my nose is closer to my drawers than anyone around me, so maybe they can’t smell it.

I went back and forth in my mind, oh god people smell it, should I look around and act confused? And say, “Dude who smells like shit?”

Maybe they just think someone stepped in dog shit.

I sat through fourth period. Fifth period I made sure to be the first one to class. My stomach was feeling fine at that point. Everyone filed into the room and sat down. There was a very clear area of empty chairs around me. I imagined everyone in the room thinking, Chemistry sucks, oh man that dude smells like shit!

I became super paranoid. I started sweating and freaking out, which probably upset my stomach.

I only knew one guy in the whole school and ran into him in the hallway between fifth and sixth period. He didn’t really like me, but we were the only two people from our junior high attending this high school so he said hi. I was horrified and thought, if this guy smells shit that’s the end of it. I gave a very brief, “What’s up?” Followed by, “Gotta go!”

Nothing spectacular happened in sixth period. The bell rang. I ran to the bus and was the first on.  Everyone filed in, it was a packed bus but no one sat next to me. Maybe they smelled shit; maybe they thought I was a dork. I have no idea, but it worked out in my favor.

Right when the bus started driving, I got the worst stomach pains. I thought, oh, this is not good, this bus driver is not going to pull over, I am stuck and mine is one of the last stops.

I knew I wouldn’t be squeaking out a fart. This was something I had to hold in and hope I made it home.

I fought it for so fucken long. The beast was rattling the chains; it was getting nasty in there. I put up a good hard fight for twelve rounds and then it went to decision. I was holding back a waterfall of shit. It got to the point where I thought, ahhh, I just gotta shit.

I let go. It was an eruption. It was a silent shit storm. It felt great. After such a long fight, I was like, oh god man, thank god.

The bus seat was covered in shit. I was horrified. I reached in my book bag, grabbed a couple of folders, sat up and plopped them down trying to cover it up. But it just spread out even more when I sat back down. I think some fell on the floor.

It was a disaster. If somebody sat next to me, he’d be sitting in my shit. I tried to sprawl out and just act like an asshole that wanted his own seat.

My stomach didn’t torture me for the rest of the ride home. The bus had started with about thirty riders. When it reached my stop half remained. I didn’t want to walk off the bus with brown pants. I kept riding.

The smell was horrendous. Earlier I figured I could play it off like I’d stepped on a dog turd; but this was the scent of human feces. No one said a word.

How could they not know it was the guy sitting by himself? Either no one noticed or they pretended not to. But the odor was undeniable, plus I was sitting around the middle of the bus so everyone in the back must have received a good whiff.

The bus continued dropping people off. We’d driven so far I didn’t know where the fuck we were. Finally, only three of us were left and the bus driver said, “Where you kids live at?”

The other two kids described where they lived. He asked me, “Where you going buddy?”

I mumbled something and said, “I’m going the same place as him.”

He dropped the first kid off, then second kid off, then he was like, “I thought you were going with him.”

“Nah, I’m just going a little bit further,” I said.

“Where? What house is yours?” He said.

“That one right there that’s me.”

He pulled over. I left my folders on the seat and walked to the front of the bus. When I got there I turned towards him and said, “I have a question.” I backed down the stairs and out of the bus saying, “Is this like, uh, the usual route? Okay yeah um, well, hey, it was nice meeting you.”

Once outside the bus, I quickly turned and walked away.

I was easily a mile and a half from home. No one had cell phones in those days, I couldn’t just call my mom. I was sporting some extra shitty pants. They were Jincos to be exact, which may be more embarrassing than crapping in them. I started to run. I just wanted to sprint as fast as I could.

When I had stood up on the bus I felt poo around the back of my knee.  Running shook it down onto my ankles; it was dropping from the bottom of my Jincos.

I ran and ran. I even passed some kids that had been dropped off earlier. I didn’t fucken care. I passed them.

Jogging with diarrhea is not wise. It’s hard to stay puckered up. The urge returned, which made me run faster, which made it impossible to hold it back. I started shitting again, full force, just shitting, and running, and shitting. Poo was blatantly falling from the bottom of my jeans, covering my shoes. I left a trail a good mile long.

I no longer cared. It was gross.

I reached home and my mom was standing outside because I was late.

“How was your first day?” She said.

“Whatever mom, screw you!” I said then hurried to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. I wasn’t done! Apparently, I could have crapped for hours.

The bathroom was a bad scene.

I took a shower. My mom kept knocking on the door asking, “Are you okay?”

I exited the bathroom silent. I let the visuals and smell do the talking.

I thought for sure she’d throw my pants in the trash but somehow they were clean later that night. I never asked how she did it. I don’t think I ever wore them again, too many bad memories. Plus, I had plenty of Jincos.

 

WHAT DID YOU EAT THE NIGHT BEFORE?

I can’t remember. It could have been 32 extra hot chicken wings or something super gnarly like a bowl of jalapenos, but nothing really jogs my memory. I’m just gonna go ahead and say it was your basic pre first day of school meal.

YOU GOT AWAY WITH THIS? YOU WEREN’T LABELED “SALTY SHITTY PANTS”?

My reputation was unscathed. Somehow I was not known as the shitty pants guy. I was expecting it and maybe in some circles I was. I don’t know. If I was, I never heard about it. Nobody picked on me for it.

I was afraid to ride the bus the next day. I was scared the bus driver would say, “Hey man you shit on the bus, that’s not cool, I had to clean that up.” But he didn’t say anything.

WHAT WAS YOUR BAD CHOICE?

Not standing up to that lady.

I wish I would have dropped my pants, ripped my soiled underwear off and slapped them on her desk.

It was traumatic. For several years every time my stomach would make the slightest noise, I’d be like, oh fuck this is not happening again!

I am still not one with my guts. We’re not like we used to be. That’s the biggest part.

If I’d just gone home, I wouldn’t have been so mad at my bowels. After the bus incident it was like, listen bowels, you did a lot of people wrong with this one. You did me wrong, you did whoever had to clean that bus up wrong and you did my mom wrong.

SO YOU LITERALLY SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED YOUR GUT?

Yeah, my gut feeling at that point was to say, “Look lady, you don’t understand, I’ve got proof, I have nasal proof if you want to get close enough to me, just take a big whiff, I will prove to you I am sick.”

But god that cute girl, fuck her, l shouldn’t have paid any attention to her.

SO THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED, YOU DIDN’T WANT TO SAY YOU SHIT YOUR PANTS IN FRONT OF THE CUTE GIRL?

Yeah, of course.

MAYBE IT’S GOOD THAT YOU DIDN’T, SHE MIGHT HAVE TOLD EVERYONE…

Haha yea, maybe this is all for not. I would’ve been Shitty Pants Guy and maybe not saying anything was the best decision of my life.

Although, if I’d spoken up I think I would have been a little more coy about it.

DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?

I guess if I learned anything, it’s that this was going to happen sooner or later. I have definitely been in a lot of situations were I get shy, nervous and stressed, and my bowels don’t like it.

If I’m at a job interview and I feel like I gotta fart, I excuse myself for a moment. I don’t think, maybe I can just squeeze out a fart. I’m 0 for 1 in that game.

If you think you can just squeeze out a fart, be careful. Sometimes you can’t just go change your underwear.

COOL MAN, GOOD SHIT.

Haha.

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Thai Police Chase (Full Version)

Illustration by Chad Mitchell
Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

Nate is a 26yrold Anthropology student at the University of Hawaii who originally hails from Albuquerque, NM. He’s lived in Thailand and Cambodia, and has rambled through India and most of Southeast Asia. He was 23 when this happened.
(The following is derived from a recorded interview and the names have been changed to protect Nate’s Thai visa status in the future.)

This story starts in a small village called Pai, high in the mountains of Northern Thailand, at a shisha bar my friend owned.

My friend, the bar owner, introduced me to an English chick named Kate. We started shooting the shit. She was cool. We drank a bunch of beers and got drunk, telling our life stories and all that.

We were both going to be in Thailand for a while and exchanged numbers. I never called or thought I’d see her again.

Months later, after travelling through Southern Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, I ended up in Bangkok alone, trying to land a teaching job.

I was staying at a shitty hotel across the street from MBK, an enormous mall. The room cost around 400 baht per night [$10]. The hotel was shady and pretty much in a go-go bar area.

One night I headed over to a touristy part of the city called Khao San Road. I wanted to get out of the room, meet some foreigners and have a few beers. Khao San Road is like the Vegas Strip for underage drinkers on crack. It’s a tourist party zone, full of dumb t-shirts, pubs playing European football games, dance clubs, trinket shops, McDonalds, overpriced western restaurants, sarongs, flip-flops, crap.

Walking down the street, I ran into Kate, the girl from Pai. She was with three friends. They had just come from some islands in southern Thailand.

I couldn’t remember her name at first; we’d only met that one night. I sat down and we started drinking beers.

Her friends were English dudes in their late twenties. Two of them were wannabe Rastas rocking scruffy, dirty jeans almost yellow from age. They were new-age hippie types with hemp bracelets who missed the Southeast Asia hippy trail by 40 years. One of them had dreadlocks and was named Chester.

We were drinking and cracking jokes at a makeshift outdoor bar, basically a little table set up outside a real bar, in a narrow ally off of Khao San Road.

This Thai dude who worked at the bar started chilling with us. He couldn’t have been any cooler. He was tatted down, dreadlocked out, friendly, a super cool guy.

The conversation turned to drugs fairly quick. Stories began to abound about weed and drugs in Thailand. The Thai guy said he liked good weed and the Brits told a story about taking shrooms in Southern Thailand.

The drinks had been going for a while, when Chester slipped away with the Thai guy further down the alley. I took note but wasn’t concerned.

Shortly after they returned, we decided to walk to a main street and grab a tuk-tuk (a small, three-wheeled Thai taxi, basically a motorbike with a bench-seat mounted where the rear tire would be). We wanted to find a dance club.

We headed down the alley, which lead away from Khao San Road to a busy main street.

Immediately after we started walking down the alley a cop stepped out of the darkness and said, “Why are you talking to Thai men? Why are you talking to Thai men in the alley?”

Everyone was like, “What?”

Then, two more officers appeared behind him.

The cops were intense, clean-cut fuckers in brown uniforms. Most Thai police look sharp; they are considered royal servants. The first cop did all the talking, except for one-word exclamations from the rest.

I thought, I didn’t do shitWhat are these cops tripping on? Then I remembered, oh fuck, homeboy did go in the alley. But I hadn’t done anything so I figured, fuck it, I’m straight.

It quickly became apparent that the cops were not going to just let us go. Soon two older, more senior looking cops arrived.

They walked us farther down the alley, hidden from the view of other foreigners. At this point I still thought, it’s all good, this won’t be an issue, we’re on Khao San Road where tourists are always doing crazier shit than this.

One by one, the cops told us to empty our pocketsI emptied mine right away to prove my innocence.  So far everyone was clean, then they got to Chester, who I’d been watching the whole time.

Chester emptied his front pockets and palmed something in his hand. The cop patted his front down without finding shit. Then turned him around to check his back pockets. That’s when Chester tried to slip what was hidden in his hand back into his front pocket. Not a horrible maneuverbut all the cops were watching him. The cop yells, “Ah! Ah! Ah!”

Chester tried to turn and throw it, but he had no chance, the cop caught his arm. After a split-second hand wrestle, the cop pried something from his fingers.

I thought, well, shit, homeboy is fucked.

The cops inspected the contents of one of those mini zip-lock drug bags. It was weed, almost nothing, just a dime bag probably worth $10 in America. But that didn’t matterwe were in Thailand. Catching a foreigner with any type of drug is instant gold for Thai police.

I did a series of wai’s (Thai bows) and said “kawtor kraup (I apologize)” several times in some vain attempt to show respect. The main cop gave me a funny smile and said, “Oh, you speak Thai?”

Nit noy kraup (a little bit),” I said, which made my attempt to speak any Thai at all look ridiculous.

Kind of a stupid move, but shit, you never know what showing a little respect will get you in Thailand. This time it just weirded them out.  

They motioned for none of us to move, stepped back and began talking amongst themselves. One of the officers radioed the station, while the others listened intently. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, it could be bad or maybe he’s just getting approval to release us, I thought.

After a minute the cops came back and insinuated that we needed to bribe them.

The main cop said, “You know this is Thailand? This is illegal in Thailand and there’s a big fine.”

I was still thinking, they may not fine me, maybe just tax homeboy who had the weed. We were all sitting down in the alley.  I planned to assert myself and explain that I just met these guys. But before I had the chance, the most senior officer motioned for Chester to stand up, turned him around and slapped handcuffs on him. We all realized that the situation was fucken serious.

Chester looked at the floor but didn’t freak out. Judging from the Brits’ calm reaction, they had money for the bribe or didn’t realize they might go to jail. They seemed more worried that their big night out was fucked up.

When they started cuffing everyone I knew we all would have to pay a bribe. I wasn’t sure how much; they weren’t exactly throwing out numbers. I had heard that a bribe in Thailand was usually upwards of $1,000. In Laos, a much poorer country, I had talked to foreigners that paid police bribes of  $600. I knew it was going to be more expensive in Thailand.

My head started buzzing. I thought, I only have about $200 in my bank account, fuck, I’m the only one who’s not going to be able to pay.

I started running through my options: Best case scenario, I get arrested, don’t have enough cash for the bribe, spend some time in a Thai holding cell, have a chance to call my mom before getting processed, she wires me money, I pay the bribe and I’m released.

But what if it doesn’t happen? What if they don’t let me call for the money? Instead, they demand it and process me when I can’t pay the bribe. Then I’m stuck in the Thai judicial system, usually you don’t get a court date for months and can spend a lot of time in Thai jail. If that happens I am fucked. I contact the embassy and my name goes on a list. Who knows when I get out?

I couldn’t let that happen.

The policeman motioned for Kate to stand up. They bound her hands with a zip-tie. She began a whining plea with a pouty expression on her face.

I was next in line to get zip-tied. One of the larger officers motioned for me to rise. I was shaking. He held both my wrists behind my back in one of his hands. He didn’t have a good grip. I felt a moment of time, a single moment of possibility for action.

I pushed him, thrusting myself backwards, hitting his chest with my back and shoulder as hard as I could.

I couldn’t see if he fell but I knew he went flying. He hadn’t expected it. I took off running down the dark alley. I didn’t look back but could hear their footsteps echoing off the walls as they chased me.

The alley opened into a huge parking lot full of parked cars, with a busy street and traffic circle running along one side. I looked back; the cop was right behind me with a second cop slightly behind him. I ran to the street but couldn’t cross the 60 mph Bangkok traffic, so I turned, juked the cops and sprinted back into the lot.

Thank god they were basically shitty runners and I’m pretty fast even in flip-flops. At one point they came within five feet but I quickly gained distance on them.

A car driving through the lot slammed its brakes and stopped right in front of me. I jumped the car’s hood Hollywood-style and kept running full speed through the parking lot cutting through rows of parked cars.

The parking lot was on the same enormous city block as Khao San Road, but on the opposite side. In the back of the lot were a series of narrow pedestrian alleys that cut through apartment buildings and guesthouses back towards the touristy area. I thought, one of these will lead all the way back to Khao San, just get back to Khao San Road, there’s thousands of foreigners there, I can blend in.

The cops must have stopped chasing me for a minute, maybe to regroup? I’ll never know, but suddenly I’m standing before a ten-foot wall, at the end of the lot and they’re not behind me. I couldn’t hear or see them.

I’d been holding a long sleeve shirt in my hand and wearing a baseball cap. I realized I had a few seconds and threw my hat as far as I could, then put on the long sleeve shirt to hide my forearm tattoos.

I started trying alleys; the first dead-ended at a ghetto security wall. The side of an apartment building was directly behind. I hoisted myself onto the wall, which had glass bottle shards cemented into the top.

There was a two-foot gap between the wall and the side of the apartment. I thought, I can throw myself in the gap and hide but I’ll be a sitting duck, fuck that.

I hopped back down and still didn’t see any cops. What the fuck, where are they?

The next alley led to the rear courtyard area of a guesthouse, enclosed by a cement wall. Police whistles were blowing and boots pitter-pattered as they searched the other alleys; it sounded like more cops had joined the chase. I followed a path to the back door of the guesthouse.

My first instinct was to find any young foreigners and say, “I gotta go in your room right now! I’ll give you a hundred dollars!”

The first floor was empty. I ran up stairs to the second floor hallway. I searched for somebody entering a room or an open door to force my way into and banged on random doors.

I came across two old white ladies. Will they help me or will they turn me in?  I didn’t trust them and scrambled back downstairs. There were whistles chaotically blowing close by. I knew a fucken search was happening.

The first floor was still empty. The front of the guesthouse was an open-air lounge that faced the street. There was also an unattended front desk and an Internet Café with a bathroom next to it.

The whistles were getting closer. The cops are figuring it out, searching each alley.  I entered the guesthouse’s shitty, public restroom. It was empty. There were two stalls. I entered one, latched the door and pulled my feet onto the toilet.

The whistles seemed to be getting closer and closer. I resigned myself to having about two minutes of freedom. I lit a cigarette and smoked with my feet up.

You can’t smoke in a guesthouse bathroom. I thought, who gives a fuck? I’m about to go to Thai jail. There’s no way out.

I guessed there would be ten cops by then. I could hear men shouting in Thai.

I waited for them to come get me. Any second a cop would enter the bathroom, bust open the first stall, then kick in my stall door and drag me out of the bathroom. They would take me somewhere out of the view of any foreigners and beat the fuck out of me. That’s basic protocol in Thailand. Sometimes the Thai police beat people up just for looking at them wrong and they don’t appreciate foreigners acting above the law. I figured that first motherfucker, the cop I shoved, would get five minutes alone with me.

I smoked my last cigarette.

Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

Slowly, the whistles became fainter. I thought, you gotta be joking me, these motherfuckers didn’t come in the guesthouse and check the restroom?

After five minutes of silence I thought, this could be my lucky shit, but I might fuck myself by staying in this bathroom.

I exited the bathroom trying to act normal but wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t safe yet. I could still hear whistles and yelling in the distance. A cop car was parked in front of the guesthouse.

I figured, the best thing I can do is sit at a computer, blend in with the other white kids and hope they don’t recognize me.

Ten foreigners were in the café, all looking at Facebook. I rented a computer, logged into Facebook and stared at the screen listening intently. I tried to use the screen as a mirror to watch the street.

The cops never came. I couldn’t believe it. After ten minutes of thanking God and sweating a puddle, I paid the cashier and walked outside. The cop car was gone. Instead a tuk tuk (three-wheeled taxi) sat where the cruiser had been parked. I crossed the street with my head down and got in the tuk tuk. It’s roof came down just enough to hide my head.

I had startled the driver who said, “Wow, wow!”

“You take me to MBK?” I said.

“Ah ok,” he said, smiling because it was a good fare and started driving.

He was all happy as fuck, a jolly guy.

“How you like Thailand? Your first time?” He said.

“Yeah it’s my first time. It’s fucking great! It’s a beautiful country!” I said.

After a couple blocks I thought, I’m free!

The air tasted good. That moment was, honestly, exhilarating. But at the same time I thought, What if they had caught me?

What did I just do?

Why was I hanging out with those people?

And, why the fuck am I hanging with wild folks when I’m broke?

 

WHAT WAS YOUR BAD CHOICE?

Well you attach yourself to people when you’re travelling abroad. It just happens and you group up. When you see something sketchy go down, like when I saw Chester go into the alley that should have been it, because I knew it’s too dangerous to buy drugs on Khao San Road.

I put myself in danger by thinking this white Rasta was intelligent enough to understand the corruption of Thailand drug trafficking. You’re basically prey for a lot of people.

I know it’s not the pinnacle of a bad decision, but certainly it will resonate with anybody who’s travelled abroad. When you’re travelling in other countries you link with people, and when you link with them you’re tying your fate together.

HAS THIS CHANGED WHO YOU CHOOSE TO LINK WITH IN OTHER COUNTRIES?

I’m a thousand times more careful bro. It could have been so much worse. He could have bought ya baa (Thai meth) or ecstasy, and I may have never have had that tiny window for escape, the cops wouldn’t have been relaxed, instead of asking for a bribe we would have all just been taken to Thai jail.

DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO RUN?

Nah, the decision to run was instantaneous. Up until then I was just hoping they would have a wild change of heart and not arrest us. I hadn’t decided to run because the rational side of me had scenes of Thailand’s brutal shoot first and ask questions later drug policy of the early 2003’s running through my head. 

Honestly, I think being raised in Albuquerque was a huge part of it. In my hometown we all had ran from the cops and I’d never been caught.

It’s embedded in your head that you have that option, it might be the worst decision you ever make, but it might be the best decision.

WAS PUSHING THE COP A GOOD CHOICE?

It was a valid choice. If my logic was right and they didn’t let me call to have money wired for the bribe, I would have had to do time in Thai jail and it could have been up to six months, you just don’t know. 

YOU THINK IT WAS A SET UP?

I know for sure it was a set up because the cop was waiting for us.

I’ve done plenty of drug deals and I’ve seen enough movies, if you understand criminal activity at all then you know about set ups and this was textbook. The dreadlocked Thai dude probably got a good chunk of the bribe money.

WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER YOU GOT AWAY?

Went back to my hotel room, called my mom and told her the story. I was freaking out. She said, “You understand I wouldn’t have been able to do a goddamn thing for you?”

WAS SHE MAD?

No, she was just thankful. She said, “Are you going learn from this?”

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Thai Police Chase: Part 2

Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

 Nate is a 26yrold Anthropology student at the University of Hawaii who originally hails from Albuquerque, NM. He’s lived in Thailand and Cambodia, and has rambled through India and most of Southeast Asia. He was 23 when this happened.

 (The following is derived from a recorded interview and the names have been changed to protect Nate’s Thai visa status in the future.)

Continued from Thai Police Chase: Part 1

The alley opened into a huge parking lot full of parked cars, with a busy street and traffic circle running along one side. I looked back; the cop was right behind me with a second cop slightly behind him. I ran to the street but couldn’t cross the 60 mph Bangkok traffic, so I turned, juked the cops and sprinted back into the lot.

Thank god they were basically shitty runners and I’m pretty fast even in flip-flops. At one point they came within five feet but I quickly gained distance on them.

A car driving through the lot slammed its brakes and stopped right in front of me. I jumped the car’s hood Hollywood-style and kept running full speed through the parking lot cutting through rows of parked cars.

The parking lot was on the same enormous city block as Khao San Road, but on the opposite side. In the back of the lot were a series of narrow pedestrian alleys that cut through apartment buildings and guesthouses back towards the touristy area. I thought, one of these will lead all the way back to Khao San, just get back to Khao San Road, there’s thousands of foreigners there, I can blend in.

The cops must have stopped chasing me for a minute, maybe to regroup? I’ll never know, but suddenly I’m standing before a ten-foot wall, at the end of the lot and they’re not behind me. I couldn’t hear or see them.

I’d been holding a long sleeve shirt in my hand and wearing a baseball cap. I realized I had a few seconds and threw my hat as far as I could, then put on the long sleeve shirt to hide my forearm tattoos.

I started trying alleys; the first dead-ended at a ghetto security wall. The side of an apartment building was directly behind. I hoisted myself onto the wall, which had glass bottle shards cemented into the top.

There was a two-foot gap between the wall and the side of the apartment. I thought, I can throw myself in the gap and hide but I’ll be a sitting duck, fuck that.

I hopped back down and still didn’t see any cops. What the fuck, where are they?

The next alley led to the rear courtyard area of a guesthouse, enclosed by a cement wall. Police whistles were blowing and boots pitter-pattered as they searched the other alleys; it sounded like more cops had joined the chase. I followed a path to the back door of the guesthouse.

My first instinct was to find any young foreigners and say, “I gotta go in your room right now! I’ll give you a hundred dollars!”

The first floor was empty. I ran up stairs to the second floor hallway. I searched for somebody entering a room or an open door to force my way into and banged on random doors.

I came across two old white ladies. Will they help me or will they turn me in?  I didn’t trust them and scrambled back downstairs. There were whistles chaotically blowing close by. I knew a fucken search was happening.

The first floor was still empty. The front of the guesthouse was an open-air lounge that faced the street. There was also an unattended front desk and an Internet Café with a bathroom next to it.

The whistles were getting closer. The cops are figuring it out, searching each alley.  I entered the guesthouse’s shitty, public restroom. It was empty. There were two stalls. I entered one, latched the door and pulled my feet onto the toilet.

The whistles seemed to be getting closer and closer. I resigned myself to having about two minutes of freedom. I lit a cigarette and smoked with my feet up.

You can’t smoke in a guesthouse bathroom. I thought, who gives a fuck? I’m about to go to Thai jail. There’s no way out.

I guessed there would be ten cops by then. I could hear men shouting in Thai.

I waited for them to come get me. Any second a cop would enter the bathroom, bust open the first stall, then kick in my stall door and drag me out of the bathroom. They would take me somewhere out of the view of any foreigners and beat the fuck out of me. That’s basic protocol in Thailand. Sometimes the Thai police beat people up just for looking at them wrong and they don’t appreciate foreigners acting above the law. I figured that first motherfucker, the cop I shoved, would get five minutes alone with me.

I smoked my last cigarette.

Slowly, the whistles became fainter. I thought, you gotta be joking me, these motherfuckers didn’t come in the guesthouse and check the restroom?

After five minutes of silence I thought, this could be my lucky shit, but I might fuck myself by staying in this bathroom.

I exited the bathroom trying to act normal but wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t safe yet. I could still hear whistles and yelling in the distance. A cop car was parked in front of the guesthouse.

I figured, the best thing I can do is sit at a computer, blend in with the other white kids and hope they don’t recognize me.

Ten foreigners were in the café, all looking at Facebook. I rented a computer, logged into Facebook and stared at the screen listening intently. I tried to use the screen as a mirror to watch the street.

The cops never came. I couldn’t believe it. After ten minutes of thanking God and sweating a puddle, I paid the cashier and walked outside. The cop car was gone. Instead a tuk tuk (three-wheeled taxi) sat where the cruiser had been parked. I crossed the street with my head down and got in the tuk tuk. It’s roof came down just enough to hide my head.

I had startled the driver who said, “Wow, wow!”

“You take me to MBK?” I said.

“Ah ok,” he said, smiling because it was a good fare and started driving.

He was all happy as fuck, a jolly guy.

“How you like Thailand? Your first time?” He said.

“Yeah it’s my first time. It’s fucking great! It’s a beautiful country!” I said.

After a couple blocks I thought, I’m free!

The air tasted good. That moment was, honestly, exhilarating. But at the same time I thought, What if they had caught me?

What did I just do?

Why was I hanging out with those people?

And, why the fuck am I hanging with wild folks when I’m broke?

 

WHAT WAS YOUR BAD CHOICE?

Well you attach yourself to people when you’re travelling abroad. It just happens and you group up. When you see something sketchy go down, like when I saw Chester go into the alley that should have been it, because I knew it’s too dangerous to buy drugs on Khao San Road.

I put myself in danger by thinking this white Rasta was intelligent enough to understand the corruption of Thailand drug trafficking. You’re basically prey for a lot of people.

I know it’s not the pinnacle of a bad decision, but certainly it will resonate with anybody who’s travelled abroad. When you’re travelling in other countries you link with people, and when you link with them you’re tying your fate together.

HAS THIS CHANGED WHO YOU CHOOSE TO LINK WITH IN OTHER COUNTRIES?

I’m a thousand times more careful bro. It could have been so much worse. He could have bought ya baa (Thai meth) or ecstasy, and I may have never have had that tiny window for escape, the cops wouldn’t have been relaxed, instead of asking for a bribe we would have all just been taken to Thai jail.

DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE GOING TO RUN?

Nah, the decision to run was instantaneous. Up until then I was just hoping they would have a wild change of heart and not arrest us. I hadn’t decided to run because the rational side of me had scenes of Thailand’s brutal shoot first and ask questions later drug policy of the early 2003’s running through my head. 

Honestly, I think being raised in Albuquerque was a huge part of it. In my hometown we all had ran from the cops and I’d never been caught.

It’s embedded in your head that you have that option, it might be the worst decision you ever make, but it might be the best decision.

WAS PUSHING THE COP A GOOD CHOICE?

It was a valid choice. If my logic was right and they didn’t let me call to have money wired for the bribe, I would have had to do time in Thai jail and it could have been up to six months, you just don’t know. 

YOU THINK IT WAS A SET UP?

I know for sure it was a set up because the cop was waiting for us.

I’ve done plenty of drug deals and I’ve seen enough movies, if you understand criminal activity at all then you know about set ups and this was textbook. The dreadlocked Thai dude probably got a good chunk of the bribe money.

WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER YOU GOT AWAY?

Went back to my hotel room, called my mom and told her the story. I was freaking out. She said, “You understand I wouldn’t have been able to do a goddamn thing for you?”

WAS SHE MAD?

No, she was just thankful. She said, “Are you going learn from this?”

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Thai Police Chase: Part 1

Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

Nate is a 26yrold Anthropology student at the University of Hawaii who originally hails from Albuquerque, NM. He’s lived in Thailand and Cambodia, and has rambled through India and most of Southeast Asia. He was 23 when this happened.
(The following is derived from a recorded interview and the names have been changed to protect Nate’s Thai visa status in the future.)

This story starts in a small village called Pai, high in the mountains of Northern Thailand, at a shisha bar my friend owned.

My friend, the bar owner, introduced me to an English chick named Kate. We started shooting the shit. She was cool. We drank a bunch of beers and got drunk, telling our life stories and all that.

We were both going to be in Thailand for a while and exchanged numbers. I never called or thought I’d see her again.

Months later, after travelling through Southern Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, I ended up in Bangkok alone, trying to land a teaching job.

I was staying at a shitty hotel across the street from MBK, an enormous mall. The room cost around 400 baht per night [$10]. The hotel was shady and pretty much in a go-go bar area.

One night I headed over to a touristy part of the city called Khao San Road. I wanted to get out of the room, meet some foreigners and have a few beers. Khao San Road is like the Vegas Strip for underage drinkers on crack. It’s a tourist party zone, full of dumb t-shirts, pubs playing European football games, dance clubs, trinket shops, McDonalds, overpriced western restaurants, sarongs, flip-flops, crap.

Walking down the street, I ran into Kate, the girl from Pai. She was with three friends. They had just come from some islands in southern Thailand.

I couldn’t remember her name at first; we’d only met that one night. I sat down and we started drinking beers.

Her friends were English dudes in their late twenties. Two of them were wannabe Rastas rocking scruffy, dirty jeans almost yellow from age. They were new-age hippie types with hemp bracelets who missed the Southeast Asia hippy trail by 40 years. One of them had dreadlocks and was named Chester.

We were drinking and cracking jokes at a makeshift outdoor bar, basically a little table set up outside a real bar, in a narrow ally off of Khao San Road.

This Thai dude who worked at the bar started chilling with us. He couldn’t have been any cooler. He was tatted down, dreadlocked out, friendly, a super cool guy.

The conversation turned to drugs fairly quick. Stories began to abound about weed and drugs in Thailand. The Thai guy said he liked good weed and the Brits told a story about taking shrooms in Southern Thailand.

The drinks had been going for a while, when Chester slipped away with the Thai guy further down the alley. I took note but wasn’t concerned.

Shortly after they returned, we decided to walk to a main street and grab a tuk-tuk (a small, three-wheeled Thai taxi, basically a motorbike with a bench-seat mounted where the rear tire would be). We wanted to find a dance club.

We headed down the alley, which lead away from Khao San Road to a busy main street.

Immediately after we started walking down the alley a cop stepped out of the darkness and said, “Why are you talking to Thai men? Why are you talking to Thai men in the alley?”

Everyone was like, “What?”

Then, two more officers appeared behind him.

The cops were intense, clean-cut fuckers in brown uniforms. Most Thai police look sharp; they are considered royal servants. The first cop did all the talking, except for one-word exclamations from the rest.

I thought, I didn’t do shit. What are these cops tripping on? Then I remembered, oh fuck, homeboy did go in the alley. But I hadn’t done anything so I figured, fuck it, I’m straight.

It quickly became apparent that the cops were not going to just let us go. Soon two older, more senior looking cops arrived.

They walked us farther down the alley, hidden from the view of other foreigners. At this point I still thought, it’s all good, this won’t be an issue, we’re on Khao San Road where tourists are always doing crazier shit than this.

One by one, the cops told us to empty our pockets. I emptied mine right away to prove my innocence.  So far everyone was clean, then they got to Chester, who I’d been watching the whole time.

Chester emptied his front pockets and palmed something in his hand. The cop patted his front down without finding shit. Then turned him around to check his back pockets. That’s when Chester tried to slip what was hidden in his hand back into his front pocket. Not a horrible maneuver, but all the cops were watching him. The cop yells, “Ah! Ah! Ah!”

Chester tried to turn and throw it, but he had no chance, the cop caught his arm. After a split-second hand wrestle, the cop pried something from his fingers.

I thought, well, shit, homeboy is fucked.

The cops inspected the contents of one of those mini zip-lock drug bags. It was weed, almost nothing, just a dime bag probably worth $10 in America. But that didn’t matter, we were in Thailand. Catching a foreigner with any type of drug is instant gold for Thai police.

I did a series of wai’s (Thai bows) and said “kawtor kraup (I apologize)” several times in some vain attempt to show respect. The main cop gave me a funny smile and said, “Oh, you speak Thai?”

Nit noy kraup (a little bit),” I said, which made my attempt to speak any Thai at all look ridiculous.

Kind of a stupid move, but shit, you never know what showing a little respect will get you in Thailand. This time it just weirded them out.  

They motioned for none of us to move, stepped back and began talking amongst themselves. One of the officers radioed the station, while the others listened intently. I couldn’t tell what he was saying, it could be bad or maybe he’s just getting approval to release us, I thought.

After a minute the cops came back and insinuated that we needed to bribe them.

The main cop said, “You know this is Thailand? This is illegal in Thailand and there’s a big fine.”

I was still thinking, they may not fine me, maybe just tax homeboy who had the weed. We were all sitting down in the alley.  I planned to assert myself and explain that I just met these guys. But before I had the chance, the most senior officer motioned for Chester to stand up, turned him around and slapped handcuffs on him. We all realized that the situation was fucken serious.

Chester looked at the floor but didn’t freak out. Judging from the Brits’ calm reaction, they had money for the bribe or didn’t realize they might go to jail. They seemed more worried that their big night out was fucked up.

When they started cuffing everyone I knew we all would have to pay a bribe. I wasn’t sure how much; they weren’t exactly throwing out numbers. I had heard that a bribe in Thailand was usually upwards of $1,000. In Laos, a much poorer country, I had talked to foreigners that paid police bribes of  $600. I knew it was going to be more expensive in Thailand.

My head started buzzing. I thought, I only have about $200 in my bank account, fuck, I’m the only one who’s not going to be able to pay.

I started running through my options: Best case scenario, I get arrested, don’t have enough cash for the bribe, spend some time in a Thai holding cell, have a chance to call my mom before getting processed, she wires me money, I pay the bribe and I’m released.

But what if it doesn’t happen? What if they don’t let me call for the money? Instead, they demand it and process me when I can’t pay the bribe. Then I’m stuck in the Thai judicial system, usually you don’t get a court date for months and can spend a lot of time in Thai jail. If that happens I am fucked. I contact the embassy and my name goes on a list. Who knows when I get out?

I couldn’t let that happen.

The policeman motioned for Kate to stand up. They bound her hands with a zip-tie. She began a whining plea with a pouty expression on her face.

I was next in line to get zip-tied. One of the larger officers motioned for me to rise. I was shaking. He held both my wrists behind my back in one of his hands. He didn’t have a good grip. I felt a moment of time, a single moment of possibility for action.

I pushed him, thrusting myself backwards, hitting his chest with my back and shoulder as hard as I could.

I couldn’t see if he fell but I knew he went flying. He hadn’t expected it. I took off running down the dark alley. I didn’t look back but could hear their footsteps echoing off the walls as they chased me.

To be continued...

Part 2 will be posted next Friday (May 17th, 2012).

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Eating Weed Brownies at Comic Con

ILLUSTRATION BY CHAD MITCHELL

 

Robbie is a laid-back, 31yrold San Francisco native who teaches public high school in the city. He’s a large well-proportioned man stating, “I’m 6’3’ and at the time [of the story] weighed around 240-250lbs.” It’s likely that a smaller guy would have succumbed to an edible-weed overdose much faster.

(The following is derived from a recorded interview and the names have been changed to protect his teaching career.)

When I was 26, I decided to attend Comic Con in San Diego. A couple of my college buddies had been going since 2000 and always pushed me to come along because we’d dork-out about superhero movies and comic books on occasion. So a few years after graduating college I agreed to go.

I was flying into San Diego and didn’t want to smuggle weed on the plane, so I decided to bake pot brownies. Some friends of mine had made a ton of hash butter and gave me a few sticks. They didn’t know how strong it was, they didn’t even smoke weed. Their plan was to make the butter and sell it to Cannabis Clubs. But clubs don’t buy hash butter from guys with no license or paperwork, so they started giving it away to friends.

I bought brownie mix from the grocery store and substituted all the recipe’s butter with the weed butter. I’d never baked weed anything before. I had no clue how strong the brownies would be and didn’t try them before leaving.

I flew down with the brownies in my carry-on and met three of my college roommates, one of their girlfriends, and this other dude we used to kick it with in college, at the shitty little motel we had rented.

The next morning my buddy made everyone Bloody Mary’s for breakfast. Then we ate a bunch of the pot brownies and some marijuana cereal bars that my friend had bought at a Los Angeles Cannabis Club. We rode the train across the city to Comic Con and smoked weed as we walked from the train station to the convention center. By the time we arrived, I’d consumed at least one cereal bar and two pot-brownies. I was stoned.

Comic Con was crazy. I’d never seen anything like it. There were people in costumes everywhere, dressed up as everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to Doug from Nickelodeon. I started taking pictures with tons of people and bought a skate deck. I skate, but I definitely did not need to buy a skate deck at Comic Con. I was really high.

Throughout the day we snacked on weed food. We ate more brownies instead of stopping for lunch. I don’t know why, but we didn’t think to eat actual food. We just ate more edibles when we had the munchies. Maybe I drank a bottle of water throughout the whole day. The convention was closing when hunger hit us and we started looking for a restaurant.

We ended up at this place called Dick’s Last Resort. It’s a restaurant where the servers treat you like shit, that’s their whole gimmick.  They’re like, “What the fuck do you want?” And if you’re not fast enough they turn and walk away.

We didn’t know about the bad service thing, which is just a terrible idea for a restaurant. We chose it because they had an open table. I sat down and our server was being a total dick to me. I’m like, dude, what the fuck? Why is this guy being such a prick? Being stoned, I was a little more sensitive to shit, but figured whatever, let’s just order. Suddenly, I was really hungry, really thirsty and did not feel well.

I became clammy. I thought, oh man, there’s something not right with my body. I need to drink a lot of water and lie down. I need to be on a couch and nothing else. I was far from any couch.

I drank a big glass of water. Everyone ordered beers. Mine did not go down right.

After one sip, I knew I shouldn’t be drinking. I had some more water, but nothing improved. I became clammier and clammier. I felt cold but my palms were sweating. I decided to get to a bathroom, that it would be the only safe space for me at that moment.

We were seated in an outdoor patio. I got up, feeling off-balance. I walked inside the restaurant and asked where the bathroom was. Someone pointed in a direction and said something. It sounded like “Wah, wah wah.” I didn’t understand a word, just followed the direction of their hand.

It was a huge restaurant, with tons of people and families sitting everywhere. As soon as I had entered the restaurant I needed to sit down. As I walked towards the bathroom I could feel myself blacking out. I saw a small space with two open chairs located at the beginning of a walkway for servers, which led to the restroom and kitchen. I sat in one of the chairs. I was continuing to black out. I thought, okay, I think I’m going to throw up. I need to get to the bathroom as fast as I can. On the count of three I’m going to get up and go to the bathroom and this is going to get better. I felt everything closing in. I counted to three, stood up and it was lights out.

I had fainted. Apparently I fell straight over like a tree, hitting the side of my face first, then the side of my body, before rolling onto my back.

I woke up because I felt myself peeing. While coming to, I immediately realized I was pissing myself on the floor, and stopped. I was aware enough to be embarrassed. Here I was on the ground in a restaurant and I’ve peed my pants.

People were huddled in a circle above me. My glasses were broken and laying on the ground next to me. I felt a warm wetness on my face, blood.

This guy said, “Are you okay?”

I said, yea, I just needed to sit up. I was wearing khakis, which was bad. Luckily, there wasn’t a piss stain on the front of my pants because I peed while lying on my back and all the piss had soaked the seat of my pants.

I decided to stand up, turn and immediately sit down in the chair. I think I pulled that off without anyone noticing my pee pants. Someone handed me a towel for the blood pouring from my face.

The lens from my glasses had sliced me pretty deep a few millimeters from my eye. There was blood all over my face. I looked like a total nightmare. Everybody had worried expressions.

I was still high at this point but adrenaline had kicked in, so I felt more awake and alert, but was still dazed.

Somebody asked, “Are you drunk?”

I said no.

An old fat woman was scowling at me. She was in her late sixties, and appeared to be a grandmother eating with her children and grandchildren. She said, “You had a seizure.”

I said, “What are you talking about?”

She said, “I saw it when you hit the ground, I think you had a seizure.” I said, “Uh, I don’t know.”

This whole time, my friends figured I was in the bathroom. I saw my server and asked him to get one of my friends. He wasn’t being a dick anymore.

My buddy John came in and said, “Dude, what the fuck is wrong with you?

Are you ok?”

“I don’t know. I stood up, passed out and hit my head,” I said.

He was high as shit too, so he was like, “Oh fuck? What should we do?”

I had no idea. I said, “John, I should not be in this restaurant right now.”

He left to cancel our orders and gather the group.

He came back and said let’s go, motioning to the front door. I wanted to go out the back and he asked why. I waved him to come closer and whispered, “I peed my pants. What woke me up was peeing my pants.”

He’s like ohhh.

“When we stand up can you walk behind me so no one sees?” I said.

Outside, my friends started making fun of me immediately:

“I can’t believe you fucking peed your pants.”

“You just ruined our dinner and pissed your pants, I hope you’re happy.”

The next day everyone ate weed brownies again, but I declined. That was the last time I ate weed.

HOW MANY WEED TREATS DID YOU EAT?

Over the course of the day, I probably ate 3-4 weed brownies and 2 cereal bars. They were really strong.

 AT ANY POINT DID YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE EATING TOO MUCH WEED?

No, the whole time I was like, whatever fuck it, I’m at Comic Con, I’m sure it’ll be cool. How high can you get? Not thinking I would get so fucking stoned I’d want to die.

I was seeing friends from college I hadn’t seen in a while. I figured I could just go back to the college days of smoking tons of weed and not worry about getting too stoned.

DID YOU NEED STITCHES FOR YOUR EYE?

I should’ve gotten stitches but I didn’t go to the hospital because I was stoned.

Is it really worth it to got to the ER high and be like, “I’m really stoned. I ate a lot of weed. I fainted and hit my head and peed my pants can you give me stitches?”

WOULD YOU MESS WITH EDIBLES AGAIN?

No, I don’t think so… well, of course maybe I would, but not in that manner. I might share a cookie with someone if I’m in a big, safe, green field with plenty of water and food.

HAVE YOU PISSED YOUR PANTS SINCE THEN?

No. But that wasn’t the first time peeing my pants as an adult. Urine rash is just terrible.

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Stealing Your Neighbor’s MDMA: Part 2

Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

Isabelle is a 25yrold non-profit worker who lives in San Francisco. She’s clever tongued and speaks in a fast smoke-tinged voice. She is respected at office and dedicated to her work with kids, “I’m sure it will be pleasant for people to know I’m looking after their children.” After work she’s been known to cut loose with the best of them. She was twenty-three when this story happened.
(The following is derived from a recorded interview and the names have been changed for obvious reasons.)

Continued…

Six days after the robbery, I’m at this bar Delirium with a bunch of friends. I’m outside smoking a cigarette with a buddy, telling him the story about our house getting robbed. I look across the street and see Jason and his girlfriend are walking towards the corner.

“That’s the fucking guy who robbed me! Stand in front of me!” I said. My friend hid me from view while I dialed 911.

The dispatcher answered and I said, “Hi, I reported a robbery like three weeks ago. I’m at a bar on 16th street and I’m looking at the guy who robbed my house; he’s standing across the street. Can you please do something?”

Thirty seconds later, I’m still on the phone with the dispatcher describing which direction Jason’s walking, when a cop car pulls up alongside him, stops and flashes their lights. I’m like, oh man, some shit’s going to happen.

The dispatcher said to wait in the bar and an officer would come talk to me, and then hung up. Minutes later, she called me back and said an officer was outside.

I exited the bar and a cop car was waiting. The officer said, “Ma’am, get in the car. We need you to identify the perpetrator of the crime.”

I became nervous and hesitated. Recently, one of Jason’s old roommates had told me that Jason’s dad was an active member of the Hells Angels in Castro Valley. He described all these connections his dad had with sketchy big time drug dealers and crackheads.

Luckily, my buddy offered to ride along in the cruiser and the officer assured us that Jason would not be able to see me. The cop drove up the street to where Jason and his girlfriend were. He shined the spotlight and headlights on him so he couldn’t see into the cop car, and asked me to identify him.

Jason was cuffed, leaning against the hood of another police car. His face was squished up from the lights and an officer held his cuffed hands behind him. The crazy girlfriend was sitting on the curb.

“That’s the fucking guy!” I said.

The cop said I had to come to the police station and file a follow-up report, indicating why I called the police and what took place. I was at the police station until like 2am. While I was there, one of the cops that arrested Jason came in and started talking to the officer filing my report.

“Did you see that little white kid that came in? He had a bag of cocaine on him this big!” He said, holding up his hand with three inches between his thumb and forefinger.

“That little fucker. I went up to try and talk to him and the kid picked up his skateboard and started swinging.”

The officer speaking was a 6’ 4’’.

My sister and I decided not to press theft charges. It would have required us to testify in court, in front of him and potentially his motorcycle gangster father. Instead, he went to jail for the coke.

The two positive impacts that came from this story are one: I created a new word used to describe sniffing cocaine off someone’s genitalia. That verb is “dusting.”

Two: I now receive a check for fifty dollars every month from Jason. His judge read the reports I had filed and ordered Jason to pay me restitution. The receipts that I submitted to the police detailing everything he stole totaled 2,200 dollars. I’ll be getting checks for the next two years. I think they garnish his wages, so I get a check from him that processes through the court. Then I spend it on cocaine that I sniff off people’s penises. Joking.

That’s it dude, that’s my story.

 

ARE YOU SCARED OF RUNNING INTO HIM?

I think I see him all the time. Right after he robbed me, I became paranoid and hyperaware of every scrawny white boy with a skateboard. Then I did see him and he got arrested! My fears vanished for about a month, until the police informed me that he’d been released from jail. We moved out of the apartment immediately.

DO YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT DROPPING THE DIME ON HIM?

When I saw him outside of the bar I was like, I want this motherfucker to be arrested, right now! I was so mad at him. Afterwards, I felt really guilty. When the cop in the waiting room said Jason was arrested with a bunch of coke, I became really concerned. I was really upset that he might go to jail for over a year. But he only went for a few months.

WHAT DO YOU THINK EVERY MONTH WHEN YOU GET THE CHECK?

It’s a little bitter-sweet because it reminds me of how stupid I was, but I also get fifty bucks. I actually have one of the checks in my backpack right now; I need to go cash that!

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Stealing Your Neighbor’s MDMA: Part 1

Illustration by Chad Mitchell

 

 

Isabelle is a 25yrold non-profit worker who lives in San Francisco. She’s clever tongued and speaks in a fast smoke-tinged voice. She is respected at the office and dedicated to her work with kids, “I’m sure it will be pleasant for people to know I’m looking after their children.” After work she’s been known to cut loose with the best of them. She was twenty-three when this story happened.
(The following is derived from a recorded interview and the names have been changed for obvious reasons.)

At the time, I was living in SOMA, on 11th and Mission, with my sister. We were really close with all our neighbors in the building, which is why I loved living there. We’d been there eight months, when this gentleman named Jason moved in next door.

Jason was a drug dealer. He sold everything: weed, cocaine, mushrooms, acid, molly and ecstasy. Turned out, he was more of a drug user than a dealer. Once, he showed me a poem he’d written while on crack, about using crack, but he never tried to sell me any.

Physically, I’d describe Jason as a noodley guy. He was small with a scrawny build and scraggly, grease-laden hair. He was a skater. If I was much shorter and he hadn’t been a crackhead, I might have found him attractive.

I was close with all his roommates, so I started hanging out with him too. At first, I didn’t realize the extent of his insanity. One morning I ran into him on the front stoop, he had just returned home after being out all night. He started crying and was coming down from a bunch of drugs.

I felt bad for him. He was really upset about the state of his life. I invited him into my apartment, cooked him breakfast and we talked about his problems. That was the first time I let him in our apartment; mistake number one.

A few of weeks later, I ran into him outside the apartment building again. He said he’d lost a sheet of acid in his bedroom and asked if I’d help him find it. I said yea.

We went up to his apartment. He’d turned this room into a fucking crack den.

His mattress was on the floor. There was a television with a hole punched in the middle of the screen. It was still turned on and glowed blue. All the walls were covered in graffiti. I stepped on the carpet and water squished beneath my feet. I said, dude your room is flooded. He said he’d been drinking the other night and let a whole bag of ice melt. The floor was a carpet-puddle blanketed in trash.

I said, “We’re not going to find your acid in here. If it’s on the ground it’s going to soak through my shoes and I’m going to get really fucked up.”

He said I’d be okay if I sat on the bed. I sat down and he pulled out a massive bag of cocaine, a bag of molly (pure MDMA), and a bag of mushrooms. He asked me if I wanted to do some lines and drink.

I said yea, fine, whatever.

He mixed a gross jungle juice concoction of tequila, rum and various fruit juices. I started getting really wasted. Then he started laying out lines from the hefty bag of cocaine (it could’ve been more than an eight ball).

We sniffed a bunch of coke. Somehow it devolved into him asking if I wanted to do a line of cocaine off his penis.

I was like, well, I’ve never really done that before, it’s one of those rites of passage if you will, so I figured what the hell, fuck it.

I did a fat line of coke off his penis. Basically, it was a semi-flaccid penis with cocaine spewed over it and I put my nose on it. He was on so many drugs I don’t think he could have gotten a full boner. I got really fucked up, so I’m assuming it served its purpose. We didn’t have sex, just sniffed cocaine off of weird body parts.

That was the second mistake.

About a week later, my sister went out of town and I invited my friends Kate and Sarah over for drinks.

On this particular night, another friend named Mike was staying in the city and asked if he could crash at our house sometime late that night. I told him I’d leave the front door open and he could just come in and crash in my sister’s bed.

So that night, my girlfriends Kate and Sarah came over. Sarah lived next door. Then Jason stopped by with his girlfriend who was also super crazy. She was a young, blonde Asian girl with hipster glasses who was always on an unheard of amount of pharmaceuticals. They wanted to hang out. So the five of us went into the bottom room of our apartment and started partying hard, getting really fucked up, drinking and snorting cocaine. They had other drugs on them, which I respectfully and responsibly declined. At about 4am, I called it quits and told everyone I had to wake up for work tomorrow morning.

Kate and Sarah went upstairs to my bedroom while I walked Jason and his girlfriend to the door. After seeing them out, I found my friends in the bathroom giggling hysterically.  Sarah said, “Jason dropped this massive zip-lock bag of molly and I took it.”

She held up a sandwich bag filled with 3 inches of white powder. Molly is pure MDMA, basically ecstasy that isn’t cut with speed or meth. It was an ounce of molly, maybe two, probably worth a couple thousand dollars.

I said, “Dude, I’m gonna sell it! We’re gonna make so much money!”

For a second I actually believed he wouldn’t notice its absence. A minute later, Jason was knocking on the front door. Sarah panicked and threw the bag out of the bathroom window, which overlooked a small, enclosed alleyway that ran between our apartments. She planned to crawl through her first-floor bedroom window and retrieve it once he was gone.

I answered the door and Jason started freaking out. He said, “You stole my fuckin bag of molly. What the fuck did you do with my molly?”

“I don’t have your drugs. I’m sure they’re lost in your bedroom cause it’s a fucking disaster,” I said.

“No. I know you fucking have them,” he said.

“You can come inside and look around the house.”

The whole time I’m thinking Oh fuck Sarah needs to give those drugs back to him. He’s gonna go fucking crazy.

He started getting really aggressive. He wouldn’t make eye contact and was pacing around the apartment. When I would try to stop him from going into certain rooms he would push me way. 

He accused me of stealing the molly again. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about and that he needed to go.

After a brief search he left. Sarah decided to return his drugs. She went downstairs to the alley space between the buildings retrieved the bag of molly and put it in Jason’s mailbox. His door was locked and we figured he’d find it there. Then she went to bed in her apartment.

Problem solved, Kate and I went to sleep in my bedroom. At some point in the night, the friend who needed a place to crash, arrived and passed out in my sister’s room.

At 6am, an hour before I needed to get up for work, I awoke to somebody rummaging through the apartment, talking to himself.

It was Jason. He was rambling like a schizo, “Where the fuck is my shit? What the fuck have they done with my shit?”

He was stomping and slamming things around. I was too tired and wasted to get up; I just wanted to sleep. I yelled at him from my bed, “Dude, get the fuck out of my apartment! I don’t have your shit! Will you please leave?”

The noise stopped and I fell back asleep. My alarm woke me an hour later. I got up and started walking around the apartment. My cell phone was missing, my iPod was missing, the cash tips I made waitressing the night before and had left on a table were gone. My sister’s laptop was gone. Anything valuable and easy to grab was gone.

I freaked the fuck out. I banged on Jason’s door and got no answer. I started walking back and forth between his apartment and mine, repeatedly pounding on his door. Already late, I left to go to work. Outside, I came across Jason and his girlfriend strolling down the street, coffee in hand, like nothing was wrong.

I said, “Jason what the fuck? Where’s my shit?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t take your shit,” he said.

“I heard you in my apartment this morning. I didn’t take your fucking drugs. Check your bedroom. Check your house.”

“Yea, I know, I found it in a box of my shit under my mailbox,” he said.

“So you found your drugs, but you thought I stole them and now you’re stealing everything from my house?”

“Nah, I didn’t rob your house,” he said, then walked into his apartment with his girlfriend and closed the door in my face, with me yelling and banging on the door behind him.

I couldn’t call the police because he had stolen my cell phone. I was also late for work. With only a three-hour shift that day, I decided to deal with everything after, instead of losing my job. Somehow the connection between him robbing my house and the immediate gravity of the situation did not exist.

While at work, I repeatedly called him and left voicemails saying he had three hours to return my shit or I’d call the cops.

Immediately after work, I returned home and knocked on his apartment door. His roommate answered.

I said, where’s Jason? All my shit is gone. He robbed my house last night.

“Jason moved out this morning. There is nothing in his bedroom. All his stuff is gone,” he said.

Jason had stolen some things from the roommate as well, so he accompanied me to the police station. I filed a police report and the cops said, “We’ll do what we can.”

I called my sister, who was still on vacation, and I told her Jason had robbed the house. I left out the part about stealing his bag of drugs.

FRIEND’S ACCOUNT:

Mike, the friend who was crashing in my sister’s room, had arrived early that morning and gone straight to bed. I talked to him the next day.

He said, “What the fuck happened this morning.”

I told him I was pretty sure the neighbor robbed the apartment.

Mike said, “Yeah, I know. I woke up at 6am and heard a guy screaming incoherent sentences outside. I looked out the window and he was pacing around the front of the house with an eight-inch blade in his hand, just talking to himself.

“I closed the window and locked the bedroom door because I was so freaked out,” he said.

AT THE TIME, DID ANY PART OF YOU THINK STEALING THE DRUGS MIGHT HAVE CONSEQUENCES?

No. I was really fucked up and thought, Fuck it, we’ll sell it. He doesn’t need the drugs and he’s not going to know.

WHERE DID THINGS GO BAD?

Letting him into our home and thinking oh, I can handle hanging out with crazy people.

When Sarah showed me the bag of molly and said, “Fuck yea, dude, let’s sell it!” as opposed to saying, “Give me that shit. I’m giving it back to him right now.”

The next morning when I realized the house was robbed, that I hadn’t called the police yet, and discovered that he’d moved out and disappeared. Plus the fact that I’m the younger sister and when my older sister goes out of town, I’m responsible for getting the house robbed and her belongings stolen.

That’s when I thought, Oh dude, you fucked up.

There is a string of bad choices in this story. It’s more like seven bad choices in a row.

Continued in Part 2…

 

 

 

 

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