When I got to the Tenderloin at 22 years old, I had mostly worked or sponged off my parents to use drugs. I had never had much of a habit, unless you count booze. I could drink up my whole paycheck at the bar drinking Jagermeister shots, falling down drunk ripping my fishnets on the way home. I used to open my eyes in the morning. My first thoughts were: "where am I, who are you, where is my purse?". My first thoughts were always "get me the fuck out of here!" I feel very sorry for any man that cared about me. There were some very nice men who wanted to know me in some way. They would hold my hand and gently guide me home, half carrying me if necessary. I would come over there apartment, smoke their weed while I was detoxing from one thing or another. They say some light in me. While they saw it as some beacon of hope, I should have let them know it was actually a flashlight pointed at their things to see what I could find to continue to use.
By the time I came to San Francisco, I was a seasoned addict but not a full time one. I had binges shooting up morphine, coke, PCP, diluadid, heroin, and smoked a little crack here and there. I was not prepared for what it was like to be completely dedicated to a drug habit. As a San Francisco crusty punk, I had a variety of options. We would sit on the cold rocks at the Civic Center and plan or next move. At the time, the Mexicans sold cheap weed by the entrance of the train station. The tweakers who stole bicycles controlled the area by Carls Jr. I used to say anyone on speed in the Tenderloin ends up at Carls Junior since it was the only place open 24/7 in the area. Farther down in the plaza area was the punks and the "home bums". Home bums are generally older men, vets and burn outs, who had something horrible happen like the death of a child or visuals never lost from Vietnam. At some point, they just gave up on anything besides drinking. They were drinking themselves to death slowly but liked the social element of being around their fellows. By mid day, they would be passed on with no blanket until the could wake up and drink away the pain.
I was not these men. I was still in the partying stage. Partying my life away. On the rocks of the Civic Center, I learned about applying for welfare and food stamps. We all had a little money coming in. With a fresh face, I could still make $20-30 in a few hours panhandling if I wasn't too fucked up to smile. Some people stole, this was never my thing. The punk rock boys had an advantage. They seemed to find these naive stripper chicks willing to support their habits. Some people paired up for survival. Every night I was a struggle to find somewhere to go. Amazingly, a person could find a studio for $450 so three people might put in their welfare checks and let five other people stay there. I was rarely that lucky. Quickly, I got a reputation as a junkie. A junkie was at the bottom of the social stratus. Everyone wanted my drugs "Can I have your cotton?" When you FIRST start using, you are willing to kick other people down. You like having company. You will sit and cuddle and scratch. You listen to music. There is a warm fuzzy feeling. When the sickness crawls in, there is not a person in sight. The world gives you a hearty FUCK OFF because no one wants to be responsible for supporting your habit. But wait...you wanted my cotton.
Things are different when you are strung out. You need a running partner. I am not sure when the party ended. We used to have a saying back in the day. You could separate the causal user from the dope fiend by the things they were willing to do. "fuck, I'm getting sick." okay I start to think of things we can do for money. "well lets go up to Larkin and O'Farrell. Maybe we can catch one of those kids with money going to Larkin Street. If not, we can do a quick date and meet back here." Silence. "No." There is a difference between a casual user and where I was in that life. You needed a partner who did not say no. We used to ask "Are you down for the cause?" what that meant is are you willing to do ANYTHING necessary to make money to get high. I mean ANYTHING. While you are willing to scrounge money for drugs similar to looking for change in a couch to support a $5 habit, I need some REAL money. I am supporting a $30-$50 a day habit. The party ended for me when the shots got bigger. If you aren't making money, you are walking around sick. No one is helping you except a few in the ranks of those dedicated to the cause. You better be boosting, selling your ass, or working the hell out of any female that crosses your path. Or all of these things. You are getting your teeth pulled for pain meds to sell. You are living on the street. You are alone in the world. I need to clean my ass up, I thought. I need to get a place, a base of operations. The dates don't like me all dirty. And I'm 100% dedicated to the cause of getting fucked up. I started using to forget this pain and now it is all just fucking painful.
When squatter kids go places, they tag them up to let people know they have been there when they move on to a new city. I never had many friends. I never went many places after I got strung out. I used to tag "LOST". I would walk around the city by myself at night or in the early mornings. I would stay in the abandoned buildings and shooting galleries. I never knew where I was going from fix to fix. I was in San Francisco but I was LOST. And this was just the beginning. It was still 1992. Many years of using left in the story.