Early in my junkie career I had a dealer named Jeff. Jeff and I had known each other since before he started dealing. I hesitate to call him a friend, but in that world he was the closest thing I had to one.
At that point I was just entering the true down and out junkie phase. Friends and family were no longer willing to loan me money and I had pawned everything that I could pawn. I needed at least $40 a day to support my habit and I kept coming to Jeff and asking for fronts. I would come to him and say “sort me out just one more time, I can’t make the rest of the money I owe you if I’m dopesick”. Jeff had a big heart and he almost always helped me out. This meant a lot to me and as a result I pretty much kept my word.
Things went on like this for a couple months. At some point though his patience ran thin.
Short on cash again, I made my way up to his neighborhood and called him from a payphone around the corner from the house where he rented a basement room. Feeling appropriately ashamed, I asked for a $20 bag. Promising that I would pay him back that evening. He agreed and told me to come by.
I rushed over to his place and let myself in through the basement door. As usual he was laying in bed watching TV when I came in. I sat down and he let me pick out my bag from the small handful he had in an Altoids container.
This was another one of his charitable acts. In theory each $20 bag should be .2g. In practice, bags could vary quite a bit. He always allowed me pick my own, checking each one like a piece of fruit, trying to find the largest and the most dense.
After I had cooked up my shot and gotten well he told that I couldn’t keep relying on credit. He told me that I had crossed that line from messed up kid to junkie and that meant I had to make some changes. “You have to get a hustle” he said. I asked him what he meant and he explained: “You have a habit to maintain now. You have to find some way to make money every day. Spanging (asking for spare change), boosting (stealing and reselling items from stores), middle man deals, you have to do something.”
I tried a few different hustles. Being a middle man for budding junkies was good, but it was inconsistent and getting regular clients is hard when you keep stealing their money/dope.
Spanging was good too. The money was consistent and I was good at it. I knew how to read people and I didn’t waste time with people smart enough to see through my bullshit, but it was soul crushing. For me, begging made me feel like a stray dog. It corroded my sense of self worth.
Eventually I settled on entertaining. This turned out to be a good choice, my city was an untapped market. In most major cities you can find junkies who tell jokes or do simple magic tricks on every busy street corner. Here there were none. Between my natural showmanship and the lack of competition, I was raking it in. Weekends nights consistently made me over $200. Enough to get a room at a flea bag hotel and a dangerous amount of heroin. Weekdays weren’t nearly as good, but I still managed to stay well.
Nowadays, the heroin is long gone. But every year when the weather starts to warm up and tourists come to town, I still go out to perform. My act has improved dramatically and because I’m no longer feeding a habit, I only work the best spots on the best days. This allows me to use my time most efficiently.
I don’t know how to tie this neatly together, so lets say to be continued. In the future I’ll go over in some detail what makes a good street performer and simple ways I’ve learned to increase your tips.