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Age 19

All right, recap a little bit of the last chapter. My buddy from Cascade, brought me to Sausalito, California with his dad. Sausalito was amazing. It’s on the bay. I woke up every morning, listening to seagulls. And looking at a beautiful view every morning. It was relaxing, calming. I had to go back down to the a in Palo Alto, and I met the person who helped me move from Spokane, Washington with all my stuff (remember my store) he gave me a job detailing cars. We will call him the “boss”. I’m going on weekdays, taking the bus and then staying with the boss. And then on the weekends, I’m back to Sausalito. I was eventually given a company truck to drive. It just made everything easier and it made sure that I was going to be at work on time. If I wasn’t given the truck, the bus would take three hours, while the truck was a 45 minute drive.

At this time, everything’s going well. I’m learning how to detail cars, which is a great skill to have. I’m also learning Perma Touch (how to take scratches out of the paint). At this time, I also met Unc. We’ll just call him Unc. He was an older person. He was part of my new family. If you remember, the grandmother told me how much she was sorry that her family helped me go broke that I always had a roof over my head. She had a massive family. While I’m detailing cars, slowly but surely, I was being introduced, (I’d already known a lot of the family, just from being the easy mark) to the older crowd, the different crowd, not people my age. The older and wiser members of the family.

Before I went broke, unk tried to talk to me, but I was young, dumb and knew everything. The one thing he used to say was, “Does it hurt yet?” I’d look at him like, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Does it hurt?, you’re running into that wall? You just don’t know it. I’m just asking you if it hurts.” I would laugh at him like, “Yeah, whatever, old man.” When I went broke, and worked next to him he was like, “So does it hurt?” And I had to tell him, “Yeah, it does.” He said, “I tried to warn you.”

I started being more susceptible to what he was saying in his life lessons. I had nobody else. When I went broke, all the crowd that was around me forgot about me. It was really just moms, Unc, and the boss. The boss would send us together on jobs, unk and I. To detail a car, it takes two and a half hours. So, if we have two or three cars, we’re out there all day just the two of us. He was way older than me. He had kids 10 years older than I was. So, he was more like grandpa than unc, but we call him Unc. Unk would always call me Ace which was the same nickname my grandfather called me growing up. 

He slowed me down. He taught me different things. He gave me a different perspective. the one thing he used to always say, “I hate people.” He’s like, “People are just stuupid.” It made a lot of sense.

Okay, today, we talk about only 10%. Why do 10%, Or, 2%, make 98% of the money? Or why does 10% of the world have 90% of the wealth and 90% of the world has 10% wealth. it’s like what Unc would say, “People are stupid.” He said, “I don’t like people.” What he was saying is 90% of the people in our lives are stupid and in the way. A very powerful life lesson.

I had no money, no one wanted to be around me.

Everyone made fun of me when I was around. Did I have a place to stay? Yes. Did I have a job? Yes. Was I being taught by the older people? Yes. But the younger crowd made fun of me. They never invited me to go anywhere. I’d be stuck at the house during the week and just talking to the older people.

There’s a song by Tupac. he says, “While other suckers were guessin’, I was gangsta sexin’.” I remember that song. And I was like, “You know what, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to just hang around all the older people and read books.”

When I was at my friend’s house in Sausalito, his dad owned a bookstore. While I was there, we used to have reading competitions. we weren’t allowed to highlight any of the books. His dad ordered the books for us, we’d read the books, and then give them back for him to sell as long as we didn’t squish them and fold pages, we could read as many books as we wanted. I read books about intellectual property, I wanted to understand what it was. Everything was beginning to normalize and I was settling into my routine. At this point in time, I was splitting houses. Half the time I’d be in Sausalito and the other half I would be in East Palo Alto. If you want to better understand the contrast between my two lives simply Google both cities and do a little research. 

Once a week, there was basketball. The boss loved basketball. So, we’d always go. 

This one week, there was a different looking person. He was way more yellow than we were, and the way he presented himself was very different. You could tell he was not from around here, “one of those”. He had braids, gold teeth, his skin tone was yellow and the way he played basketball was different.

I had no idea who he was when we’re playing. So, it didn’t mean anything. I realized later, he ended up at mom’s house,we started talking, he was from Louisville, Kentucky. I think he was in his early 30s. I was 19, not that much older than me, but a world of differences separated us. I had no idea what we were doing or who this person was, but the two of us were rolling a blunt or something like that, talking about the different marijuana prices from California to Kentucky. This is basically international trade, but it’s national trade. You buy low, sell high, the problem was getting it from point A to point B. Well, little did I know, that’s kind of what he was out there for. We were talking about marijuana, those numbers were astronomical to me at the time because I was broke.

I noticed this person, we’ll call him “the don”. wasn’t leaving. So, little by little, things started to reveal themselves of what he was actually in California for. Over the next couple of days, we stopped detailing cars as much and we bought a car, a little 4-door Cavalier. And it became my car ( everything was in my name; title, tag, and insurance). I was the young dumb one. I thought I was getting a car. I really thought I was getting a car. I was wondering why I didn’t actually get the car? A few days later, me, the boss and the don hopped in my car and we’re on our way to the Kentucky Derby. 

While we were detailing cars, we tended to go to Mexican restaurants, bring in a shoe box, when nobody was there, sit down, have a beer And wait for the boss and a Mexican to finish having a meeting. Then we’d have another shoe box, And we’d leave. The majority of the time, I was the driver. We were detailing cars, don’t get me wrong, I did learn that skill. But the other half of the time I was driving all over the Bay Area, stopping at an assortment of Mexican restaurants picking up and dropping off, picking up and dropping off I was driving so the boss could count money, counting money and shuttling packages all day long.Those hours were ridiculous, (That’s part of the reason I still wake up so early) we had to be out of the house at about 5:30 and we wouldn’t get back until late at night. Those days were jam packed days. I’m not going to say that they were easy days because the Bay Area is huge.Sometimes, we’d be in the South Bay, then Sunnyvale, then we’d have to drive all the way to Pittsburgh, and then have to drive all the way to Fremont to damn near to South San Francisco, to Belmont. If you don’t know the Bay Area, then this makes absolutely no sense to you. I’m going to quit right there. We were driving all around the bay all day, picking up, dropping off, picking up, dropping off, detailing a car, pickup, drop off, detail a car, detail a car, pickup, drop off, it was an all-day thing.

So, when the three of us set out, I think it was either the early May or the end of April. You have to look at the Kentucky Derby. It was all based on the Kentucky Derby. At that point in time, we knew there was going to be lots of money. It was a great time to start on a new enterprise.

At this point in time, I knew what I was getting myself into, but not really. I didn’t know the scale of what I was getting myself into. I was more or less asked to drive and I was like, “Fuck it, let’s do it.” So, again, I wasn’t stupid, but I wasn’t smart either.

This first trip is where I was named Black Mex. like I said I was a driver. I drove most of the way. The only time they drove is when I needed a quick break and then I got back in the driver’s seat. We went through every type of weather you could imagine, it was terrible.

We hit rain, obviously. We hit sleet, We had a tornado warning, We had to redirect. We ended up going through Colorado. Wyoming was shut down, between Laramie and Cheyenne, it was too dangerous. It took forever. It was ridiculous. Mind you, we’re going I-80. So, we were going from California and to Louisville, Kentucky. If you look at the map, it’s going right through the mainland of America. It was crazy. we were only allowed to stop to use the restroom. weren’t trying to stop until we were running out of gas. The gas and restroom break were mostly the same. You try to coordinate them together because your mission is to get there as fast as possible.

I got the name Blackmex, during this drive the Don and I had hours together. The two of us would talk a lot I would be driving the entire time we would be talking, he would offer to drive but I was always like, “Nah, don’t worry about it. I got it.” So, he’s like, “Man, you are black but you work like a Mexican”, man. “You’re the blaxican. Nah, you’re the Black Mexican. I’m going to call you Black Mex.” We got to Louisville, compared to California, Louisville was more like the Wild Wild West. There were people flying down the road in their cars passing police, there was land and open lots everywhere. The way people walked and talked, I could barely understand them. It felt like I was in a different country. I could barely understand what anyone was talking about. I had to be like, “What did you say?” about three or four times just to grasp their accents. All of them had gold teeth in their mouth. Their cars were different. Everything was more shiny and just big, compared to California especially with the boss. The boss was always trying to be under the radar. Well, in Louisville, everyone was trying to be above the radar. So, it was a completely different world for me.

One of the people was from California as well. My family and this family in Kentucky had been in business years ago. My friend, we’ll call him Sailorman. Sailorman was from California, it was Sailorman’s dad, who originally orchestrated the family connections.

For the Sailorman, California had become too dangerous for him. Everyone of his friends had been murdered. His crew robbed someone, and then the person started to hunt them down one by one. He was the last one standing. His California family sent him to Kentucky, to save his life.

So, when I got to Cali park, this is how I met Sailorman. It is around May, so it was probably about 70 degrees fahrenheit. No need for a big parka in the middle of the day, he was a little drunk guy. He was explaining to me why he had the parka on. He was going around robbing people. Great friend, right?

We clicked, we were close to age. I was 19, he was 21 we were both from the same place in California. So, we had something to talk about. I could understand what he was saying. The two of us became inseparable. His family ended up calling us butt cheeks because we were always together.

When we arrived, we were treated like royalty. I was a respected member of the group at 19 (in way over my head). We were unorganized, Everything was starting. We stayed at the don’s mom’s house. He had his own section of the house. When it was time to return to California, another person from California appeared. We’ll call him, “celly cell.” When celly cell arrived it was the first time we met we didn’t know anything about each other. But we were on the same side to watch each other’s back because we were together in foreign a land. The business we were in wasn’t the safest businesses, if you have ever watched an episode of First 48 you know Louisville’s not the safest city.

Celly cell comes and the boss says, “It’s time to go.” So, instead of the boss hopping in the car with us, it was just me and celly cell. The two of us were from very different backgrounds, let’s just say two of us could not get along, not at all. However, the boss seemed to always put us together.

So, when we got back to California, my life was transitioning. I stayed less time at my friend’s house in Sausalito, because I had a job and I’m not in the Bay Area. I’m in Louisville for a week to two weeks at a time, I think that summer I made five complete trips.

The first trip, I didn’t know anything about Louisville. The second trip, I felt comfortable, and became a complete lunatic the alcohol consumption in Louisville compared to California was completely different. In California, drinking was frowned upon. I was the only one who drank. But in Louisville, I was one of many. Everybody drank. I mean, literally in the summertime, the place I was at, smells like fried chicken, but it’s not. It’s the mash fermenting from all the liquor distilleries. You can almost get drunk on the fumes. It makes a lot of sense why Louisville is dangerous, everyone’s drunk all the time, at least in the area I was.

If you remember from the store in Spokane, we were driving all this stuff down to California from Idaho. I wrecked one suburban, but the other suburban was still alive. 

I was driving with a different cousin from California to Kentucky in the “other suburban”. We had one of those huge balloons. The package was already pre-wrapped so we didn’t inspect the product before we drove it across the country. If I recall correctly it was a few hundred pounds of Mexican brick marijuana. The Mexican Connection had no need for it so they gave it to us for basically free.

It made a lot of sense why they didn’t want it when we got to Louisville, we looked at it, and it was the lowest quality of Mexican brick weed. It was worse than the weed they had in Louisville. It was nearly impossible to do anything with a wasted trip. But now the suburban was my designated car, until it was taken from me. Why did the car get taken from you? 

Well, Sailorman and I weren’t always the most responsible. Remember how I met him? He didn’t seem like the most logical choice to become best friends with, But both of us were plumb idiots.

I shocked him, here’s somebody riding around trying to rob people. And I shocked him. We were downtown, looking for a strip club. We’re already drunk. I had a two-shot derringer. I wanted a derringer with me at all times. I wanted the power of a gun.

These two white boys called us niggers. I drew down on those motherfuckers as fast as I could and I’m like, “What the fuck did you call me?” With the gun in their face walking closer towards them. “What the fuck did you call me?” I wanted to shoot them. I’m drunk. I was little over a year out of Mexico, I went broke, all my hatred and frustration was in control of my actions, I had no fear. I was ready to shoot, but Sailorman calmed me down. After that day, Sailorman realized he was not the only crazy one of the group. I was just as crazy as he was, our relationship was headed for disaster.

The craziest thing was after he told the story, his job became to babysit me. So, here is the lunatic whose job is to literally babysit the baby, which was me. Within a few days, we had a couple police interactions. We met a couple of girls. We picked them up and gave them a ride somewhere. I’m telling you the story because I learned something.

We dropped them off and they’re like, “What’s your job?” We’re like, “We detail cars.” We were drunk and looking pretty. We didn’t look like people working for a living, detailing cars, all the stuff for detailing cars was in the back. But we were obviously not detailing cars.

Right after we drop them off the police pull us over. we literally dropped them off, hit the corner, and we’re pulled over. Don’t forget, I have the gun in my pocket, the cop does an illegal search real quick. Thank god, I’m going to say, thank you very much, Snoop Dog. Thank you so much, Snoop. at the time, Snoop had his own clothing line. His clothes had really deep pockets the normal pocket is probably let’s say six inches, Snoop’s pockets were like a foot. When the cop patted my legs, he literally padded inches above the gun. He barely missed the patting down the gun. In Louisville at the time, a gun that was loaded, was a mandatory seven years. I’m saying thank you, Snoop, thank you so much for making these pants that were too big. They were the most impractical pants that you could ever wear. But this one moment in time, wearing those pants saved my ass seven years. Really!

I’m trying to sit down on the curb, Sailorman and I were both from California, so, we start vibing off each other. We are talking to each other about the gun in front of the cop, the cop had no idea what we’re talking about because we’re talking about car detail stuff. I was worried,the gun would fall out when I stood up from the curb. I was like, “Okay, so when I stand up, you have to distract the cop in case it falls out of my pocket and makes a noise.” The cop searched the car and found nothing so he had to let us go. we go right back to the hood. Everybody already knew what happened. That was strike one with the suburban. 

Strike two, we see those same girls a couple of days days later, this time, I’m drunk. I get into with somebody and I’m like, “Nigga, I’ll go to my fucking car. I’ll go get my pistol Nigga, I ain’t scared of you, nigga.” some stupid shit. I go to the suburban and get the gun. When I go get the gun, everyone scatters. Sailorman is like, “nigga, Let’s go.” Before we could make it back to the hood, we see the police now we’re drunk. We have the whole front bench full of Remy Martin, Hypnotic, and Hennessy. Drinking and driving, didn’t matter. But we were coherent enough to realize that we needed to get this car parked and get this gun off of us as fast as possible. Because now, the fucking police, they’re coming for us. Someone called that I had a gun and they were coming.

this is what happened. It was a race, they have alleys. we could see where the police were. we’re flying through the alleys talking about where to fucking park, and how we’re going to dispose of the gun. We decided where to park and by the grace of God we got there, The police turned right behind us and blue lights. Woo-woo.

I got into the parking spot and the police jumped out the car like, “Hands out. Hands out of the car.” So, I throw my hands out so he doesn’t just start shooting. Sailorman had to get rid of the gun. So, he takes off. He throws the gun into some bushes and dives to the ground before the police could shoot him, because the police had their guns drawn and chasing him. They roughed him up a little bit for running and finally put him in the back of the car. You could hear the police searching through the bushes looking for the gun. They knew there was a gun. They’re looking hard for the gun. They’re looking through the bushes, going through the suburban. Everything. The lady was like, “chief, should we get them for drunk driving?” “No. That’s not what we’re here for.” By the end of it, both interactions with the police, I got two tickets. One ticket had my first name and sailorman’s last name and the second one they never filed. However, what I learned was this lovely thing called set “me a free”. Kentucky at a time, if you snitch on somebody else and it becomes a case, then it will reduce your time a favor for a favor. 

Those two girls kept calling the police on us trying to get us in trouble. They figured we either had dope or a gun on us. If they caught us and got in trouble, then one of their cases probably could have been loosened or whatever. That was a very valuable lesson to learn how people act and am glad I didn’t get in any trouble.The boss found out about all of this and took the suburban from me, obviously. He said, “You’re just not responsible. I’m taking this shit from you.” I no longer had the suburban anymore. So, it makes sense because you hear about this from and he’s probably looking at me like, “You’re an idiot. What are you doing?” And then they also got mad at Sailorman because he’s supposed to be babysitting me and making sure that Erik doesn’t do anything stupid. And here I am as dumb as can be.

Needless to say, I got taken off the detail. At this time, my eldest sister had just been married, and opened the door for me to go to Tacoma Washington. So, I went to Tacoma.

Bless their hearts, they had just gotten married. my sister, born again Christian. (They are all into it, man. They are singing and clapping and all that kind of good stuff.) and me who just came from a very grimy environment of drugs, guns, money, prostitutes, crime, the underworld. I’m blasting music, drinking 40s, behaving the same way I was a couple months prior in California or Kentucky. They accepted me for a little bit, we had our talks, they had to explain to me how I was not in the same environment anymore. So, listening to the music as loud as possible and drinking 40s in front of the house was not what they wanted in their neighborhood.

I changed, I wasn’t quite as rough on the edges, I guess you could say. But then I also had a new mission, after I was taken off the Louisville detail, I was back and forth between Tacoma and California, depending on where I was needed at the time. A new idea came up. Now, at the time, there were these, I think they’re still around, but at the time they were really popular. They’re called Mitchell & Ness throwback jerseys. These jerseys can run you like $200 to $300 a jersey.

The boss had told me about an opportunity to go to South Korea to find these jerseys. It was more or less like who had the courage to hop on an airplane and go to a country that they’ve never been to before and look for jerseys. Well, I had the courage and I had a passport. 

Come fall, I was going to Korea. First trip, I was sent. I didn’t speak any Korean, I still don’t. However, I lived with Koreans. If you remember from middle school, I was in a dorm with a whole bunch of ESL( English as a second language) Asian students. So, I understood their culture a little bit. But being in their country was completely different, it was a cultural shock.

We didn’t have iPhones. The BlackBerry was a new technology. I didn’t know where I was going, not at all. I’m just saying, I had a pocket full of money and told the jerseys are in this country. Find them.

I get to Seoul, Seoul is a big city. I literally try to find these jerseys, I go to every bloody mall in Seoul and I look around, I’m looking and I’m looking and I’m looking for them. I had to go back to the hotel to their business center, send an email to the boss’ phone, and wait for a response, to tell him, “Man, I can’t find these jerseys. I have gone to every single mall. Where am I supposed to go?”

There was someone else in Korea as well. It was our competition. I didn’t know this until after I was in Korea. The boss tells me “hold on, man. Let me talk to my people.” So, he comes back and Mind you, we’re not talking. This is all through email. You could tell he had an attitude. He’s like, “Man, you’re in the wrong fucking city. This motherfucker finally told me what city you’re supposed to go to.” Damn time was running out. I was only in Korea for a couple nights. 

The city I was supposed to go to was three hours away. I found a taxi, Go to the city when I got there. Candy land, What? It was a counterfeit paradise, everything you can imagine was right.

You want some Gucci? Hey, go over there. You wanted some Rolexes, go over there. The tag heuers, everything. You want some diamonds, you want some Louis Vuitton. Anything that you can possibly imagine. Some Jordans, don’t worry about it. It’s everything that you can possibly imagine was there. Everything. Imagine it? Yeah, it’s there. Imagine something different, yes, it was there.

How expensive was it? It wasn’t. The Mitchell & Ness jerseys were $200+ in America. I’m spending $10 per. The first time they boxed everything for me, I was supposed to ship everything. The mission was to find everything, get it packed and shipped. After that the mission was complete.

I got my jerseys boxed and headed back to Seoul, the main city. There’s a small problem, It was freezing in my room and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. I was like, “You know what? Mission successful. I’m going to go and get drunk. Because if I’m drunk, I’ll just pass out and I won’t even notice it’s cold.” I was celebrating. I didn’t bring my passport and get to the airport money, I had no credit card, no bank account, nothing. This was all the money I had. But I did screw up and bring the shipping money with me, the money I was supposed to spend to ship the packages. That was with me.

I went to a bar, in Korea, they had these girls at each bar that were there for one reason, to “entertain you”, talk, smile, flirt, all that good stuff. Well, all that was great, I was having a ball, until I don’t remember. They also tell you to be very careful because they might slip something in your drink. All I remember is waking up and not having anything. I had just enough money to pay for the drink. They calculated it perfectly. I was so discombobulated, I didn’t know what fucking happened. long story short, I was broke.  I could pay for the drinks, but all my shipping money was gone. So, “mission successful” was now “mission failure”. I get back to the hotel room. I’m too out of it to care at that moment. 

Now I had a problem. I had all the merchandise. How is it going to get it to America? my solution was to bring the boxes with me. Now, I told the boss what happened. And of course, I had to hear noise, the ba-ba-ba, you’re irresponsible. Blah, blah, blah.

God works in funny and mysterious ways. Remember the competition? Well, they did the original plan. They sent their package through the mail. customs seized their package. So, they ended up getting robbed, while I made a mistake and was robbed. I however made it through customs. (So, the lovely thing about international waters, mind you, I’m 19, and on Singapore Air, is they gave free drinks, and didn’t ID me.

Remember, I had an alcohol problem. And this is an 11 to 16 hour flight. By the time I arrived in San Francisco I was sloppy drunk. Here I am stumbling around with these two big boxes, I had 50 or 60 jerseys and a couple of microfiber blankets. I’m going through customs with these boxes. I was buying quality stuff, the tags were still on the clothes. Customs were more concerned about how drunk I was, and had someone to pick me up then the merchandise. So, yeah, they were talking to me about the merchandise. But more talking to me about, “Are you sure you have someone to come pick you?” “Yeah. Fine. Okay.” I was trashed and could barely stand up.

I make it through customs. No problem. Mission successful. Someone picked me up, we’re happy, happy go lucky, celebrating because I got through. That first trip, I learned about duty free. At the time, I hadn’t seen everything, I looked, and I was like, “My god. There’s so many cognacs I’ve never heard of.”

I bought one of the bottles, I had everyone try it “wow”, it was completely different from Hennessy, and better. After the first trip, I went up to Tacoma to my sister’s house.

By this time, I was not drinking 40s. I was more a reformed person. Much more quiet, I learned more about the computer. I went and started Googling, or I don’t know, might have been Yahooing at the time. I started sending emails to every cognac company I could find, lo and behold, one sent me something. They sent me a little starter packet, their beers mixed with cognac, and three or four different sample bottles of their best cognac from France.

I ended up making three trips. Trip number two was nothing exciting. I knew where I was going I think the second time I ended up buying the jerseys for even cheaper. I knew what I was doing. Second time through customs, did they stop me? Of course, they did.

Customs are not smartest people sometimes. They looked at the price tag and asked (because you can only bring so much money into the United States without declaring it). And I was like, “Oh, that’s Korean money.” Even though it has USD next to it and they’re like, “Oh, really?” So, I was like, “Yeah, man, this is like $5-$10.” Again, the internet wasn’t what it is today. I don’t think that same excuse would work today because he could go on his phone and look and be like, “Yeah, you’re full of shit.” But then, iPhones were not in existence yet. So, life was a little easier to deceive people. Got through. No hiccups.The third time, the boss went with me. I was going to go a fourth time. However, I lost my passport.

I stayed in Tacoma with my sister for a few months and got a job at Labor Ready. Labor Ready was an ideal job for me because anytime I was in town, I always had a job. It was work today get paid today. I really enjoyed working for Labor Ready in Tacoma Washington. Most of the jobs were on the port and they all paid relatively well. The only issue was you had to be at the Labor Ready office at 5:30 in the morning. My sister lived 45 minutes away so I had to wake up extremely early to walk and be on time. 

My last trip to Korea was December and my birthday is in February. I was at my sister’s for a consistent few months before turning 20.

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