Thursday, March 12, 2015

How to Save a Life

From the upcoming book "The Plain Ugly Truth" by Toriano Porter

I can still hear the voice in my head to this day.
“TP, don’t do it,” my good friend said. “C’mon let’s go.”
The year was 1992, maybe ’93. Had to be ’93.
In fact, it was the summer of ’93.
St. Louis City was not a very peaceful  place that summer. The murder rate was at an all-time high and youth from different parts of the metro were knee-deep into the trade of the time: the sale of crack cocaine.
I dabbled briefly in the trade. And I mean briefly.
A good friend from college had driven South City-bound from his perch in north St. Louis County to sell me $100 worth of crack for a mere fifty bucks.
I had plans that day to hang with my best friend from high school, Ricky Simms.
Pretty Ricky and I were inseparable from sophomore year of high school until we both left for our respective institutes of higher learning.
I was home that summer from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, and Rick was back in St. Louis from Springfield, Mo., where he attended Southwest Missouri State.
It was early June, and my college homeboy had promised me he would sell me a ‘double up’ so I could earn a few dollars while home for break.
The climate of the city was the drug, gang, and crime trade. My neighborhood, the 3400 block of Park Avenue, was one of the Southside’s biggest drug markets at the time. I figured I could shake the block for a couple of days and come up with some quick cash.
I would then get back with my college buddy to spend $100 with him for one sixteenth of an ounce of hard rock cocaine.
From what he told me, the sixteenth could be separated equally into multiple pieces of crack rock valued at $20 each.
First, I had to sale the double up I had in my possession.
My college buddy gave me five pieces of already cooked and cut crack. At $20 a whop, I was sure to make that $100 I needed for the sixteenth.
Once I got the sixteenth I had visions to ball out of control like my older brother and the rest of his crew on Park Avenue. I needed a car, some clothes, and that college scholarship I had to play ball at CMSU was a thing of the past; squandered in less than a year.
The first two pieces of crack, I was ganked for by a relative. Ganked, as in swindled. Strong-armed. Outfoxed, perhaps.
The second two pieces I almost sold to S.C.A.T., and the last piece I flubbed trying to stash the dope.
S.C.A.T., by the way, was an acronym for the St. Louis Police Department’s Street Corner Apprehension Team.
Between S.C.A.T. and Mobile Reserve you did not want to run into officers from the STLPD on the street corner. If you did dirt, S.C.A.T. or Mobile Reserve had intelligence on you, and like it or not, they would collar you by any means necessary.
I was stationed a half block from my grandmother’s home on Park Avenue when a younger relative approached me with a demand.
Draped in khaki shorts, a thick, long white tee and a pair of blue low-top Chuck Taylor Converse to match the fitted pro model ballcap I wore, I listened in on the setup.
“Hey man, it’s a white boy around the corner that wants two,” he said to me. “Give me the work and I will go slang that for you.”
Keep in mind this was my first foray into the crack game. Although I came from a long line of crack dealers – my mother, father, older brother and best friend all sold crack at one time or another in the late 1980s, early 90s – I steered clear of illegal activities.
After the lost scholarship, I started down a path of self-destruction.
That destructive path led me a short distance away from my Granny’s house; on Park Avenue and Theresa Street with my 19-year-old cousin amid a drug transaction.
“OK, here,” I said. I had no clue that I would not see the cousin again for at least another year. “Bring me my forty bucks right back, man.”
Shortly after the cousin disappeared, two young, college-aged looking white guys approached me with a request for crack cocaine.
Rick had already happened upon the scene and was ready to hang out.
Rick grew up on Sullivan Street in north St. Louis. In the late 1980s, early 90s, that section of Sullivan became known as a ruthless area appropriately referred to as “Beam Street.”
The named was derived from two sources. The hoodfellas and their allegiance to the California Blood gangs that had infiltrated St. Louis culture, and the amount of crack rock sold on the street – hence the phrase, ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’
Beam Street.
Ricky survived the madness of those circumstances much as I did. We found refuge in athletics and education, and formed a friendship back in our days at Eureka High.
He excelled in track. He had a choice to play football at CMSU at his expense, or take a partial scholarship to SMSU to run track. We often talked of the same college, but a partial ride beat out the no-ride-at-all option.
We departed on separate journeys in life after high school, but that day Rick cemented his place in my personal history books.
“TP, don’t do it,” he said. “Let’s go. Lets Go!”
He continued as I approached the vehicle he rode in with a high school sweetheart: “That’s S.C.A.T., dawg, you’re tripping.”
I left the undercovers in their wake for a brief second. I did not want to go to jail.
“For real?” I said to Rick with utter stupidity. “They ain’t no damn S.C.A.T.”
“Dawg, that’s S.C.A.T.,” he said again. “You’re tripping.”
After a fake ‘give me a second’ gesture to the buyers, I made a beeline to the girl’s father’s minivan and climbed in the back seat. I turned to see the young white guys' reaction as I fled the scene. They turned away and walked toward Vista Street, one block to the north.
They must have had bigger fish to fry that day, or I was one lucky son of a gun. I credit my friend Rick for that in a sense. If he hadn’t been there that day, I probably would have sold crack to the undercover police.
Instead, I discarded the pieces I had left into the street, charged to the game the forty bucks my cousin stiffed me for, and thanked Rick.
Had the sale transpired, I would have more than likely ended up in the system; just another young kid from the hood caught up in the hustle.
I don’t know what my friend went through when he went through what he went through, but please know I will always treasure and love him. I miss him dearly.

Rest gently in peace, Ricky Simms, Jr.

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