High Times

The Need for Speed

Jimmy and I weren't sick—we were druggies and our doctors were our dealers

When I was in my late teens, my cousin Jimmy and I spent every other Saturday together going to our various doctors' appointments. Luckily, we had the same physicians. Not so luckily, their offices were quite a distance apart, and so these bi-weekly drive-arounds of ours took the better part of the day. This went on for a couple years, give or take.

Jimmy and I didn't have any health problems to speak of. Hell, we weren't even sick. We were druggies. And our doctors were our dealers.

They were "diet doctors." Two of them actually. One had an office in a not-so-great neighborhood in the Bronx, while the other was in what was then one of the most affluent spots in Queens. To become a patient of either man, all you needed to do was dial his office and tell the receptionist that you wanted to lose weight. In no time flat you'd have a slot in the schedule in which you got to meet with the doctor and start the "diet."

They dealt in different types of delivery systems, but the same class of drug: amphetamines. The guy in the Bronx pushed pills—blue and red capsules, as I recall; in Queens, it was always bottles of liquid. Either way, Jimmy and I were scoring plenty of speed.

Sometimes it wasn't just the two of us. Jimmy was around 10 years older than me and was married. His wife Cindi signed on for these diets too. She wasn't much for using the speed, but her tagging along meant upping our score by 50 percent. After just four or five visits with the doctor in the Bronx, Cindi didn't even have to show up to the office most times; they'd just hand over her pills to Jimmy.

There's a pretty important point that I haven't mentioned yet: I wasn't overweight. Neither were either of my cousins. In fact, the women who worked at the Bronx guy's office could have used to lose a few pounds, but in Queens, the office help was always super hot.

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My cousins and I weren't the only customers—er, patients—who were fit and trim and yet in desperate need of a doctor-prescribed weight-loss plan. The Bronx guy's office? You really had to see it to believe it. It was on the ground floor of a big brick apartment building, and had its own steel door leading in off the street. It was just a couple blocks down from a hospital. The waiting area was standing-room-only, and I'm guessing it accommodated 30 or 40 people. Jimmy and I always tried to get to the Bronx early in the morning so that we could get in and out before things got busy. But if we got there after around 11 a.m., we could be looking at some serious wait time. Sometimes the line actually went out the door and onto the sidewalk.

You didn't run into a lot of fat people on line either, just those who either liked a speed high or liked selling the pills to other people who did. Jimmy and I went both ways on this. We had a pretty decent drug-dealing business, mostly weed, and in weight. When it came to speed we most always dealt in Black Beauties, which were the most popular and highest-priced pills.

The stuff we got from the doctors was basically fill-in—extra inventory, you might say. We didn't have to work very hard to attract customers either. Back then everybody took drugs, hardly mattered what kind. Jimmy and I were popular guys in our neighborhood before we started dealing. We always treated people fairly, unlike a lot of dealers who were hard asses or just plain scumbags, and so people were actually loyal to us, and for a long time.

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But we loved taking speed too. There was no better rush. It was like nothing could possibly go wrong with anything around us, and all we wanted to do was stay up all night talking and laughing and spinning records and whatever, until it was getting to be about dawn and time to drive over to the Rockaways and watch the sunrise. Speed gave you energy and purpose. Weed made you goofy and ponderous (and, of course, paranoid), which was fine—but it wasn't the same high as speed.

The Bronx doctor, who was maybe 60, was humorless, unkempt and all business. One at a time we'd be escorted into the room where he dispensed his blue and red pills. He'd ask you to stand on a scale—sometimes after saying hello but not always. After jotting down your weight, he'd hand over two weeks' worth of pills and say "Thank you," which was basically your cue to get lost and keep the line moving.

One time we did have a conversation, a very brief one. Before I'd even hopped up on the scale, the guy looked at me—not sternly but seeming kind of bored actually—and asked if I was taking these diet pills or selling them. I said that I was taking them, of course. He said, "OK then," and that was the end of it. Jimmy and I had a good laugh over this on the drive to our next appointment in Queens. The doc had done the exact same thing with him. We assumed he'd read the same script with all of his many patients that day.

Scoring liquid speed in Queens, which always came after our Bronx run, could not have been more different. Forest Hills was a classy neighborhood back then. The doctor's office didn't have a steel entry door off the street; it was in a second-floor suite in a white brick building that was kept up pretty well. The waiting room was always busy, but this was no low-class, line-out-the-door operation. The two women who worked in the office—one blonde, one brunette—wore designer clothing and expensive jewelry. I already mentioned they were gorgeous.

The doctor? Just like the guy in the Bronx, he was all business too. Only he was younger, handsomer, better dressed and spoke a few more words while handing out his diet drugs, though not many more.

I guess when you're in the business of helping people, the results you get have to speak for themselves.

Tags: memoirs