Do Millennials Hear Boomer Parents Talk About Black Tar Heroin And The Damage Done? Sam Quinones Says Not Much.
The movie Traffic isn’t about black tar heroin.
It’s heroin, though, and shows a group of affluent young people dealing with a friend’s drug overdose.
They drop him on the sidewalk outside an Emergency Room and drive away.
As if to say, “Why let a downer ruin the party.”
Early death comes for a reason: disease, accident, violent crime.
The difference is a black tar heroin overdose crosses the line.
It’s an accident. It’s a disease. It’s a crime.
Black tar heroin is the group of friends and more than a few are dropping off.
Sam Quinones came to Portland to report on the tidal wave of heroin drowning the city.
Tidal wave? Heroin? Bound to be messy.
His new book, Dreamland, tells an old story with new light.
Instead of hitters laying around opium dens like Robert DeNiro in Once Upon A Time In America, it’s a modern story.
Bobby looks comfortable. Ready for a rest.
That’s his story, a grown man hitting the pipe. No one is checking on him.
It might be your story.
Or someone close to you.
Boomer parents learned the answer to “How are you” early.
The answer is always “Fine. Everything’s fine.”
Maybe they saw their dad go through open heart surgery with his body temperature dropping so low it reminded him of the winter of 1950 in Korea.
They see him in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and ask how he feels.
You can’t compete with fine after your old man gets quintuple bypass.
Ask black tar heroin how it feels and it’ll say fine.
Young tar victims don’t just drop, get a nice memorial, and everyone moves on.
Heroin walks around for years.
How long? Who knew about Jerry Garcia and heroin? John Lennon? Phillip Seymour Hoffman?
Portland black tar heroin filled four rows in Powell’s Books on an April night. A rainy Tuesday like so many in this city.
Sam Quinones came up from LA to talk about tar and his book Dreamland.
In what feels like an early version of the sharing economy, an addict’s next fix is only a phone call away in a heroin marketing plan. A delivery car is that close.
A black tar heroin associate checks back after the delivery. Was the driver on time? Was the product satisfactory? Are you happy with the deal?
Someone else might connect coddled millennials who earned trophies for participation instead of championships, who got timeouts instead of extension cord whippings, to hard drug customer service.
Somehow Mexican dealers figured out how to reel them in with care.
When you read about heroin deaths in young people, it’s about millennials.
How does this happen?
Mr. Quinones could probably answer the question best.
My sources explained it like this:
“Where do I get black tar heroin in Portland?”
“You don’t want it.”
“If I did, where would I get it?”
“You’re asking me like I should know. Me?”
“Not you like you’re an addict. I just want to know how it works.”
“You want to know?”
“I want to know.”
“You don’t want to buy any, you just want to know.”
“That’s it. I just want to know.”
“Where to buy black tar heroin.”
“Because you want to know?”
“You’re not a junkie?”
“Not an addict.”
“Just want to know and you insult me with this question: Where can I buy chiva in Portland. Like I’m a kingpin.”
“Look. I’m sorry. I’m interested in…”
“No problem. You’re funny. Okay? So there’s a place. A bar. People standing around outside. Park your car and walk over. A few people talk to one man.”
“Okay. This is good.”
“I’m not done. The man tells his customers where to stand. Another man comes by and takes money. Then another man tells them where to stand until another man walks by and hands off the dope.”
“Where does this happen?”
“What’s the difference. Now you know.”
Another source gave a location, Burnside and NE Sandy.
After listening to Quinones talk about being a reporter and how he does the job, I left Powell’s Books, hopped into my soccer mom van, and turned onto West Burnside headed for the bridge.
On the way I passed a big crowd packing the sidewalk, shuffling around.
At nine at night it could have been bible study, or dope.
Quinones said he was a reporter, but not the kind who risks their life for the story. Sounded good.
As a BoomerPdx blogger I follow the same rule. But Portland is my city, not his, and I wanted to see how black tar heroin works here.
The few Portland blocks leading toward the Burnside Bridge looked barren and cold, like a bad side street where life is cheap. Perfect for a zombie movie, or a junkie lay down.
When I got to the dealer zone it was empty. No one. Where were the deal makers and the runners? Gone, or gone for the night.
After channeling my inner-Serpico I called it a night for black tar heroin.
The important part of the business is the delivery in the system.
No one carries all the dope, all the money, or all the connections. As individuals they represent low value arrests.
Sweep the whole team up and another one is waiting.
Instead of the high drama of crack where desperate acts always make the most sense, it’s low drama for tar.
People want a fix, not a fist. You won’t see Faces Of Tar like you do meth.
Junkies want their junk. They want to Keep Calm And Hit A Vein, not get caught up in events and miss a shot.
Gene Hackman’s withdrawal scene in French Connection II ought to be enough to make anyone Just Say No.
Except they don’t.
The original French Connection and it’s China White heroin is a good comparison to Portland and tar.
Both feel like a tidal wave of future remorse.
From the movie you remember the Frenchman and Popeye Doyle. Who was the American connection?
Unlike black tar heroin in Portland with no clear godfather in charge, China White has Carmine Galante in it’s corner.
His style is what Mexican drug dealers want to avoid. They want things nice and calm. Like Mary Kay Cosmetics, the Fuller Brush man, and newspaper delivery, Portland black tar heroin delivery doesn’t need an ambitious Mafia leader grabbing headlines.
This news is bad for drug business. When the top guy goes down, the environment changes. Probably not for the better.
Keep Portland heroin low key, suburban, in nice housing developments with names like Spring Water or Gentle Breeze.
You don’t want a big event drawing more attention to heroin. Just get your dope and die quietly is the unspoken motto.
Sam Quinones and Dreamland do a service to Portland. If you think he’s not talking about your town, your state, you are wrong.
Black tar heroin is the 900 pound gorilla in the room. You just don’t want to talk about it.