The death of my runnin’ partner Tate was first attributed to alcohol poisoning by others of my crew. However, since that type of death is attributed to becoming drunk after binge drinking, I doubt if this was the cause of his demise. I later learned it was more likely due to cirrhosis of the liver, due to his decades of heavy drinking. Even moderate drinkers have been known to succumb to this liver disease over time. In any case, Tate could have been categorized as a functioning alcoholic during his years as a mechanical draftsmen, working with the CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) system.
Others in my old crew, such as Benny and Billy, were still indulging and managing to hold on. Benny drove a bus for SEPTA, and Billy had managed his own vending stand on a downtown street corner. One could say they were functioning alcoholics.
Mel, another partner, had gotten hung up in the counterculture movement. He started his own retail outlet specializing in drug paraphernalia used for consumption of cannabis and other recreational drugs—a head shop. Marijuana, which had already been abused by beatniks, college students and hippies, was used as a symbol to show discontentment with the establishment. For some odd reason, the rest of us never got hung up with those types of head trips—we were already addicted to the bottle, not the pipe.
In the meantime, I still didn’t know of anyone of my running partners, relatives or other acquaintances attending AA meetings. Being that it was all anonymous, I assume I wouldn’t have known anyway.
Another activity I’ve labelled an addiction is car theft. In those days it was fairly easy, because of unsecured vehicles. In later years this would turn to carjackings—taking cars from their drivers by force.
Lastly, there were the addictions of Santiago and the “Zip” to guns. These guys were ahead of their time, because like carjackings, gun play was just beginning to become another thriving activity of the gangland subculture.
In this chapter I have focused mainly on my experiences in the Badlands of North Philadelphia from my youth till my mid-twenties. During those times, some of the neighborhoods were very gritty; however, from what I have recently learned, violence and drug dealing has increased two-fold; thus, making the hood grittier. One thing is for certain: the guys are anti-sociable, whereas the gals are just the opposite.
If anything, this was the first hood that made me aware of the depravity that exists in our American Society. And of course widespread crime on this side of town was the reason for tagging the entire city “Killadelphia.”