This column was originally published in the S.F. Examiner on Mar 17, 2017. In it, I introduce Mr. Judy, the drug dealer I drove daily for over a year. He appeared in the column multiple times. Much to his delight.
He never seemed to worry that I was writing about him in the newspaper. He even wanted me to use his real nickname. All his customers at the bars where he hung out knew him as Judy.
When his name appeared in print, he’d carry the paper around and proudly show everyone.
Once, I was waiting for the light at Church and Market with Judy in the backseat when a lady waiting for Muni recognized me.
“Are you the guy who writes for the paper?”
“Yeah, how’s it going?”
Just then, Judy stuck his head out the window and shouted, “I’m Mr. Judy!”
He reveled in the notoriety.
Anyway, this is how it started. (The photo above was actually taken at Delirium, the bar in the Mission where Judy spent most of his time plying his trade.)
“There’s no hope, I’m telling ya. All that’s left is total destruction.”
Mr. Judy has been ranting since I picked him up at a dive bar in the Mission, where he peddles his wares, and tried to drop him off at another. But as I idle in front, he just sits there, eyeballing the crowd of smokers on the sidewalk.
Randomly, he singles out a girl in ballerina flats and three chuckleheads with matching spectacles and beards fawning over her. “I hate those shoes. They’re awful. Her pants are too tight. And look at that hair … Well, at least she’s the queen of the sausage party tonight.”
“Dude, I think you’re way too judge-y to go in there right now.” I offer to drive him somewhere else, but he just wants to hang out in my cab for a while. Since I’m not feeling very servile myself, I don’t mind driving around aimlessly. At least the meter’s running.
Sensing Mr. Judy’s high level of agitation, I put on some Grateful Dead. In between tirades, he sings along to Jerry, then critiques the bars we pass on our way downtown, describing the owners, the bouncers, the bartenders, the type of clientele and what kind of music they play. His knowledge of watering holes in the Mission is impressive, though it makes sense for a bar-to-bar salesman to know his territory.
One thing I’ve learned from driving Mr. Judy is that selling drugs isn’t as easy as one might think. You have fierce competition for both customers and suppliers, you have to control your personal intake while dealing with people you’d rather see skewered in a cannibalistic ritual, 12 hours a day, just to make a buck. Which is a lot like taxi driving. Except the money’s not as good.
“I don’t know how you do it,” I say during a brief moment of silence.
“It gets really fucking boring,” he admits. “But just when you’ve had enough, someone gives you money and you feel good. So you wait around, until you can’t take it anymore. Then, right before you bail, someone gives you money. And you feel good. So you keep waiting …”
Again, sounds like cab driving.
After snorting something, Mr. Judy returns to his bitter soliloquy.
“Sometimes I hate this city as much as I hate myself. I feel like Colonel Kurtz, you know? Just send in the air raid already! Exterminate the brutes! These kids today … I can’t stand them. If they’re the future, we’re fucked! Doomed! There’s no hope. I’m telling ya … None at all. Might as well give in to total destruction. It’s the only solution.”
After a while, I lose track of his jeremiad, so just drive and grunt on cue.
“Do you have a five-year plan? No? Do you even know what you’re doing next week? I don’t … Life has no meaning. None of our lives matter. Today is all we have. There is no future. We’re living our future right now … Look at all the madness. It’s everywhere … I’m losing it. It. It. I don’t even know what ‘it’ is. But I want to know, don’t you? I want to find a way to harness the madness. I need to become a cash cow … Look around you. Madness disguised as cheap consumerism. All our needs monetized. Ad machines fueled by our complacency … That’s why we need total destruction …”
As if realizing the world outside the bars might be worse, he decides to go back to the first place I picked him up.
“Orwell was wrong,” he continues. “We don’t have to fear Big Brother. Our only fear is that Big Brother isn’t watching us … We surrender our privacy for the allusion of choice. We feed the marketers until they know everything we want, how much we want and when we want it … But they won’t sell us what we really need: total destruction.”
I pull up to the bar, and Mr. Judy looks out the window for a few minutes, making up his mind.
“I’ll call you in a bit,” he says finally, hands me a wad of bills and slowly exits the cab. Before closing the door, he leans back in. “Remember, the future is now.”
I drive away, back to my own grind, waiting for someone to give me money before I embrace total destruction myself.
[Originally appeared in the S.F. Examiner on Mar 17, 2017.]