Matthew B. Dexter

Matthew Dexter is a board-certified American anomaly living in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. When Matthew is not writing he is most likely drinking cerveza by the ocean. This lunatic gringo enjoys beautiful beaches, breathtaking views, reading, and being inspired. But never candlelit dinners on the beach. He’s afraid of Pirates.

Helicopter Rotors

American Consulate Doldrums in Mexico

Floral Rose

Helicopter Rotors (March 20, 2010. Issue 15.)

I caught my Mexican sister-in-law climbing through my bedroom window, one leg over the ledge like a crab with its claws trapped in a fragment of corral. She was always pulling shit like this. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mexicans and don’t mind children--but her little girls are monsters. They tear the house apart; never stop screaming, leaving fingerprints all over the windows, glass doors, walls, and television screens. Their mother leaves them all day to drive me crazy while she smiles and defiles her body with rock cocaine. But this time she didn’t get away with it.

“Que estas haciendo en mi casa?” I said, asking her what she was doing in my house.

She laughed like an idiot, struggling to raise her chubby leg over the window ledge. Her footprints were on the wall; dirt fell like snowflakes from dirty sneakers. There was a maze of tiny footprints, a trail of mud leading to a puddle of yellow urine shining on the linoleum floor. A patch of sunlight landed on a large tear in the back pocket of her daughter’s pants. The little girl’s ass reflected sunlight like a perverted disco ball. I noticed golden sparkles illuminated by the sun. Apparently, the girl bathed in glitter before breaking into my house.

“Contestame señorita,” I said, demanding an answer, an explanation for the break-in.

“Hola Mateo,” she said. Mouth open, mother dove face-first onto the floor, leaving an exclamation point of mud on the wall from the soles of her sneakers. Why the hell did it have to rain last night? It hardly ever rains in Mexico.

Waking up to a home intrusion-baby-sitting ambush is like waking up to an earthquake. The younger girl twirled in a circle like helicopter rotors, running her fingers across the top of my bookshelf--smashing porcelain eggs, glass vases, and picture frames onto the floor. Broken glass echoed as I scolded the crack head:

“Dios mio, que tienes señorita?” I asked, my god, what the hell was wrong with her?

“Lo siento Mateo,” she said, wiping her ass with her hand. I went upstairs to go get a broom and dust pan. When I returned she was gone.

“Donde esta tu madre?” I asked the older girl. The four year old pointed toward the window and smiled at me, “Se va.”

The señorita was running down the street through the mud. She looked like a cheetah: stolen leopard skin coat flapping in the breeze, yellow with black spots made it difficult to ascertain which dark spots were from the animal and which were from the woman.

“Jesus Christ, not again,” I said. There was only one solution: I grabbed the children by their hands and lifted them through the window. I shut the window and ran out the front door. “Nos vamos en el coche, niñas,” I said, instructing the girls to get in my car.

They followed my directions. They had pretty faces and didn’t know any better. They couldn’t be blamed for their mistakes. It wasn’t them I hated. “Vamos a la playa,” I said. I figured the beach was the best place to be; they agreed with my prediction:

“Si, la playa, siiiiiiiii, vamos.”

“Gracias Mateo.”

I started the ignition and drove down the street. As I suspected, the señorita had wisely made the decision to run through the desert. Last time I chased her, almost ran her down before she collapsed of exhaustion on the pavement. She was sneaky that crack head.

We arrived at the entrance to the beach and I drove down through sand dunes, cactus and a rainbow kaleidoscope of bougainvillea growing wild. White clouds anchored across the horizon like cruise ships; apparently not moving at all, they would drift in place as if they were a helicopter hovering over a hiker who had fallen from a cliff. And that’s when the idea hit me.

“Ok, niñas,” I said, “estamos aqui.” They knew we were here; they could see the waves. We were parked on top of a precipice. I opened the back door so the girls could shuffle out onto the gravel. We peered over the edge. I held their hands. I could see it all. The white foam from the waves formed a maze and I followed it backwards in time to where I could see the señorita pregnant for the first time, glass pipe in her mouth, bottle of Pacifico in her hand. No fingerprints on her right thumb when the polícia arrested her because she obliterated even the deepest layers of flesh with those goddamn fluorescent lighters. (Señorita burnt through half a dozen lighters a day when she had a pocket full of rocks.)

“Porque estamos arriba?” her daughter asked, wondering why we were high above the Pacific.

“Hablar con dios.” I told her so we could talk to God.

I held their hands. I could see angels. They would be better without the señorita. Their mother would surely destroy them sooner or later, in a house fire or a traffic accident or an insane act of desperation. We walked closer to the edge. No more turds festering in a toilet that never flushed. No more toilet paper covered in feces stashed in the trash. The sea was empty except for a fishing boat drifting along the horizon. I lifted the girls and twisted their wrists, spinning them like helicopter rotors over the edge of the cliff. A minute later I released their arms and closed my eyes. I listened, but couldn’t hear any sounds over the roar of the waves. They were lying on their backs in an awkward position staring at the sky. I called to them, “Vamanos niñas, nos vamos a la playa.”

I picked them up from the gravel and brushed the dust and pebbles off their pants. Their wrists were pink, but they were laughing. As I took their fingers, clouds kissed the horizon and I hugged the girls and there was glitter on my hands.

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American Consulate Doldrums in Mexico (November 20, 2009. Issue 11.)

I knew it was Mariana before I even answered the phone.

“They said no…I didn’t get it….”

She didn’t need to explain further; I knew the US Consulate rejected her request for a tourist Visa; they always do; four times now.

The phone had been ringing all morning…and I was just trying to sleep off a hangover.

It’s ironic because she would never want to live in the United States, and neither would I for that matter. I could never return to a nation which is too jaded to allow my girlfriend to enter with me for a few days to visit my dying grandparents--both of whom would appreciate a visit from Mariana--who they had recently met on their last trip to Los Cabos.   

“Why not?” I asked.

Then all our words came out as one voice in the same few seconds, but I could understand everything, as I always can when the commotion around me is bordering on chaos. 

“They said no.”


“I didn’t get it?


“What does this man look like?”

“I don’t know?”


“They said I have to wait three years.”

“Is he ugly, emaciated, obese, or what?”

“He’s Puerto Rican.”

“Well fuck him.”

“What can you do?”


“I’m coming to talk to them.”


“There’s nothing you can do.”

“He’s not the President of the United States.”

“I know.”

I don’t know how it ended but I hung up the phone and tried to go back to sleep, battling brutal new demons dancing up my spine in Mexico and the American immigration system on my mind. I needed to push forward, purchase a plane ticket, talk some sense into these bureaucratic cretins and atavistic imbeciles working at the US Consulate in Guadalajara.

A few days later I was walking across the tarmac and boarding an Interjet aircraft headed for Guadalajara. I was always thrilled to climb the ladder to the plane because the International airport in San Jose del Cabo is always too bright--and I’m always tired--in dire need of a bathroom--or dreadfully hung-over. On this occasion I was simply tired and in dire need of a restroom. You never have a nice quiet bathroom with privacy when you need it most--but whenever you don’t need such luxuries you find yourself immersed in fabulous, glamorous bathrooms--it’s a curse.

But stepping into the aircraft and greeting the sexy Mexican flight attendant was different; not the ritual itself, but as I turned right and headed toward the back of the plane I noticed white smoke billowing into the aircraft from the overhead cabins. The cloud was thick and persistent, and I realized almost immediately that it was the air conditioning. Strange I had never noticed this before. Another stewardess señorita actually had to wave the smoke away from her face while she was walking through the cabin. I could taste it as I inhaled it into my lungs and mouth. I couldn’t tell if it was fascinating or frightening; sort of like what a disaster might look like--except it was pretty cool and interesting and if I could experience this on a plane again I would certainly appreciate it. The returning flight did not offer this smoky service.

As we took off, the air subsided and things gradually resided as we defied gravity and I prayed; as I always do on planes; because even though they’re safer than driving: I want to be in complete control of my destiny and dying--if I crash on the road at least I was at the control or gave my confidence in the person behind the wheel--but an air disaster--I never want to know what that feels like. So I pray. I’m agnostic, but I still pray to God-- especially during take-offs. 

I sat next to two elderly Mexican señoras, who gossiped about me when I requested my beverages.  

We were in the air without incident and the flight only lasted a mere hour and twenty minutes before we landed amid the green hilltops of GuadalajaraInternationalAirport. All passengers were afforded a complimentary mid-flight beverage--so of course I requested two: one Modelo Especial and one Pepsi--with a plastic glass of ice. The ladies gossiped and you would have thought by their bewildered expressions I had ordered a pizza and ate the seat cushion they were sitting on.

We landed on the tarmac and as usual the plane was full of impatient idiots all trying to get out as fast as they could--even though they all understood it would obviously be at least another few minutes before the line of passengers would begin moving. They knew this, but they all do this repeatedly and probably will do so until their deaths--for these cretins are creatures of habit. I should know; I’m one of them. I suppose you could even call me their leader. I even sit on the armrests between the seats--patiently waiting with my hand gripped tight as a corpse around the shoulder strap of my backpack: my only carry-on because luggage slows down an airborne imbecile like nothing else.

The line finally started moving and I jumped down from the second step onto the tarmac with dramatic elegance--enough to inspire one of the old ladies who mocked my manners on the airplane to sit in the empty aisle seat beside me in the front row of the second bus--which was of course much slower in departing than the first, and so we waited a few more minutes--even though we didn’t converse. We were an interesting dichotomy: me and the old Mexican lady. I was the only gringo on the whole airplane--so the stewardesses paid me extra special attention.

Some people like Americans--others despise them. In Guadalajara, most people treat Americans with respect. Some Mexican women are interested solely in gringos--they’re called: “Gringo hunters.” They hunt them like a man hunts a woman he really loves; they will go to any extreme and often embarrass themselves in public with shameless actions. Most people in Guadalajara looked at me as if I was an alien from another planet. You would have thought my face was green and my eyes were enormous and black, as if I had just received a shiner from a space battle on another planet--not that I was merely a tourist and therefore looked physically different than a native Hispanic.

I made it past security without accepting any transparent hand sanitizer gel that the lady in the white uniform offered those entering the main airport. I would not accept that under any circumstances. I would rather kiss a sweet mouth attached to a cute face with the swine flu than wear a mask to cover my own; call me stupid--but I know there’s a vaccine and there’s no way I’m going to live my life in fear. It’s not like airborne HIV is being transmitted, and I am not about to cower in the corner with my eyes shut, listening to the symphonic Munchausen’s syndrome orgy playing out all around me. A hundred Mexicans died in Mexico City? Well, have you ever heard of another type of flu that’s killed more than ten thousand in Mexico during the last few years? (It’s called the “bullet flu.”)

What gets me the most: watching the little old ladies with their ineffective polyester masks over their mouths and noses, holding the hands of their children--who have no masks and I wonder if they realize those porous masks can transmit the disease just as easily and the hands are usually the carrier of the worst germs.  

I made my way to the airport bar--finding Mariana nowhere--and frightening me a little--as often happens to a foreigner in a foreign city for the first time. I did what any respectable American tourist would do: I sat down at the bar and ordered a cerveza. The bartender was not too friendly as I waited about a half hour before Mariana finally tapped me on the shoulder--holding the hand of her little cousin, Jasmine. I slowly finished my beer and paid with a nice tip--inspiring a smile from the stoic grouch of a bartender who had already made up his mind gringos were terrible tippers. 

I introduced myself to Jasmine--who had made a sign welcoming me but was too cute and shy to say “Hola, Mateo!”

“Hola Jamine…mucho gusto,” I said; telling the precious little princess that it was nice to meet her.

We entered the temperate weather of Guadalajara in early September; a much more comfortable endeavor than Los Cabos in late summer. Of course, Mariana’s uncle’s car was not air-conditioned--neither was her own and mine had been broken for a month--but the air was nice and with the windows open we roared out of the airport--on our way to the US Consulate.

Guadalajara is alive with auspicious and crazy drivers; either with fancy foreign cars like Mercedes, Audi, and BMW roaring down the street like the sound of an ATM machine when it spits out the maximum: five-thousand pesos; or poorer people in normal vehicles which would be considered “run-down” in the United States. Everything is designed for madness and pedestrians don’t stand a chance if they fall down while crossing one of the millions of roads in Guadalajara. I would learn this firsthand a few days later when our taxi would come within inches from smashing into a little old lady who made a terrible decision to try to cross the street at the worst possible moment. Only the brakes and instincts of the driver saved her life by giving the woman sufficient time to run out of the way--smiling like a drunken fool when she made it safely to the sidewalk--while all I could smell was burnt rubber and everybody was looking at us like our car was the culprit.

We were innocent on this mission--so after listening to mariachi music and eating some delicious Mexican dishes consisting most notably of a steaming molcajete bowl of shrimp, chicken, and beef, I was in the hotel office on the Internet researching section 214 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“Steal that highlighter,” I said to Mariana.

“No--nevermind,” I interjected, “…better ask their permission at the desk--ask them how much they want for it--I need a highlighter.”

And I did. I felt like that stupid highlighter would be like a magic pen and make everything clearer and in fluorescent focus--so I took it to our room free of charge and illuminated the important points. I took two pages of notes and spent about an hour memorizing the law and our personal circumstances and my speech, while Mariana walked across the street--for the second time--to buy some toothpaste, water, and other toiletries form the OXXO corner store.

I was gonna be a goner for this trip--but as I mentioned: I was on a mission. I was going to waltz into that Immigration building and give them my opinion and all the injustices made in the decision to deny Mariana entry to the United States.

I got no sleep the night before the big morning. The wind started to blow hard in the middle of the night for about ten minutes. I thought it an ominous sign--not auspicious--as the howl grew louder and began to envelope the building. The rains followed, bringing thunder and lighting as if the heavens were sending a message. I figured perhaps it meant that my meeting would be a success--as if the storm was coming to the Embassy in a few hours. I finally dozed off just before dawn and arose to a car alarm blaring from down below. Every time it would stop momentarily, thunder would rile it up again.

“Iraq is quieter than this hotel,” I said; “next thing you know a bomb will explode or a rocket will come through the goddamn window.”

Mariana held me and told me to fall back asleep. She could sleep through an earthquake; but I could not sleep at all. I finally crawled out of bed around seven: my eyes burning like fire; redder than hot coals smoldering in a cool, green forest.  

I studied my notes while Mariana walked to the store for a third time to buy shaving cream and a razor. I showered with fury and prepared my thoughts in my head as the pressure came out so powerful it felt like a sadistic fire hose. I put on some Oil of Olay Touch of Sun facial cream; for a nice glow because I looked like a ghost. We walked out of that room: a zombie following his Mexican señorita.

Walking the few blocks between the Embassy and the hotel was easy, and with each step I got more intense--like a football player walking through the tunnel between the locker room and the stadium. I was the quarterback and wide receiver; I was ready for the ball.

Mariana suddenly stoped on a corner and spoke: “I need to wait here…I can’t go across the street.”

This became obvious--though ridiculize--with the sight of dozens of Mexicans quarantined on certain sides of the streets. I walked the remaining couple blocks and tried to enter--without success--two incorrect entrances. I finally arrived at the proper door but was told I needed to fill out a form explaining my reasons for being here and why I needed to go inside. I did so and dropped it down into the little hole in the bulletproof window, waiting on the sidewalk. I couldn’t belive they wouldn’t just let me inside immedietly.

As the minutes wore on I got angry and began pacing the sidewalk in front of the metal detectores inside, next to the tiny office with the plexiglass window that determined my fate and whether I had wasted at least ten thousand pesos. (I had flown to Guadalajara specifically to be admitted into this consulate--the consulate of my native country--the United States of America.)

I got tired of waiting while the beaurocrtacic imbeciles debated my worthiness to enter my own consulate. Perhaps I would not have flown to the mainland if I knew I had no merit to enter. Either way, I filled out another one of their stupid sheets--this time crossing the street and venting my fury with the Mexicans waiting more patiently than I on the other side. I told them how I couldn’t belive how difficult it was to enter the goddamn consulate.

“Pinche Los Estados Unidos,” I said. “No puedo entrar mi Embasia?”

“Where you from?” one of them asked.

“Yo vivo en Los Cabos,” I explained.

This young man didn’t even know where Los Cabos was--so another gentleman had to explain it to him. It’s amazing how many Mexicans don’t know of Cabo--and some don’t even know of Baja California. I guess we are the forgotten peninsula--the paradisiacal one at land’s end where Steinbeck lost his load seventy years earlier. This century will make Los Cabos one of the most famous tourist destinations on the face of the earth; but I was here in this strange city of Guadalajara on an enormous mission.

Of course I was forbidden entry--and when I handed my second hand-written note through the glass (I had my own pen and was prepared with notes and writing utensils), I was denied admission--yet the man reluctantly excepted my second note after I exclaimed my urgency:

“I need more lines,” I said, pointing at the piece of paper. “This paper says I can’t write below here--and this is an emergency…I can’t even get in my own consulate? I’m an American. I paid a thousand dollars to fly here just to enter this consulate.”

There was now some ignorant young soldier answering my questions. The portly Mexican security guard was much friendlier through the window. He looked compassionate and timid and amiable; but this American idiot was a typical military dipshit of low rank and likely an undescended testicle.

“Ok,” he said with hesitation, after reading my lines; “I will give this to them…but they told me to give you this….”

He handed me a printed form letter that everybody gets given--explaining in terse language how Americans cannot petition on behalf of any immigrant’s status. Immigration was making the stupidest decisions every minute because someone’s first language is Spanish and not English. It was for this reason that I needed to enter the building.

I told him and the Mexican before him that I needed to speak with the most important and powerful person in the building.

“Necissito hablar con la gente mas importante en este edificio,” I said.

My second note did not add much credence to my appeal. This one was a little more direct, stating on the first and last lines respectfully: “I am a professional journalist and author…just google me!” I wrote how “I don’t want to write and publish negative things about this Embassy,” but “my grandmother is dying and she wants to say goodbye to her daughter”; “we have no intentions of entering the US to live”; “I have lived in Los Cabos, Mexico for five years now and we only want to say goodbye and drive up to pick up a new car!”

I didn’t receive another form letter, but I stormed away--after the gringo officer forced me to wait on the other side of the street with the Mexicans and hopeful immigrants and good citizens of Mexico. I found Mariana and told her to talk to the man--explain the situation. “You can cross the street--screw them,” I told her.

She made her way to the window and presented our situation to the aforementioned Mexican man; who received her with affable, good-natured concern. I couldn’t believe we were denied admission to the embassy. I couldn’t even schedule an appointment because Americans can not petition on behalf of immigrants. The only way I could have been given admission to that fortified building was if somebody was kidnapped or murdered. The night before I had scoped out the barriers and the barb wire and the building--but after a sleepless night the storm had warned me that I was unwelcome. Thunder rattled in the back of my brain and lighting danced in my pupils. A futile attempt, we walked back to the hotel in utter failure; speechless and tears in both our eyes.      

I received a white business card with the phone number to the US Consulate written in black ink on the back, so I took a few deep breathes and prepared my mind for the call. Our hotel looked more like a flophouse than the four stars it claimed to have earned; we selected it because of its convenient location a few blocks from the consulate. Any hotel can be meritorious and less than glorious, but you can’t easily fool even the least experienced tourist by putting four stars on a hotel room dirtier than a crack house--with ashes scattered on a brown carpet like they were recently dropped from an urn and cigarette burns all over an ugly old room--hidden behind a glue-posted plaque with an inscription reading: “No fumar” on the outside of every door; explaining in Spanish that the entire floor is no-smoking.  

I dialed the number and after about a dozen touchtone requests from an automated system a male Hispanic accent answered.

“Hello,” I said, “I was just denied entry to the US Consulate two times this morning and they told me to call this number and explain my situation…I cannot even endeavor to ascertain exactly why I would be denied entrance to my own Embassy--nor why my girlfriend was denied four times--I’m an American--and I cannot even begin to imagine what the problem is with this jaded, xenophobic, archaic, Draconian US Immigration system--but I all I wanted was admission and a minute of their time…in either English or Spanish--whichever language they prefer.”

“Is that a racist comment sir?” he asked. It was at this point that I knew I was dealing with another idiot.

“Of course not--I’m petitioning on behalf of an immigrant tourist Visa for a Mexican--my girlfriend--I’m simply explaining that I can speak both languages and articulate the situation clearly because if anybody has ever been more deserving of earning a tourist Visa--it’s this woman.

“Well you are upset sir,” he said; another brilliant observation by the cretins working in the US Consulate.

“Of course I’m upset--I spent a thousand dollars to fly here from Los Cabos to speak with somebody in the US Consulate…I’ve lived in Mexico for five years with no desire to return to the United States for anything. I have been advised by my immigration attorney and studied 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act myself--and am fully prepared to state my case….”

I heard the silence on the phone and perhaps this moron was taking notes; my only hope was that he was listening and willing to assist me. I looked over my highlighted papers and my handwritten notes and began my recitation:

“…I have studied the law and am ready to provide an articulate and thorough presentation of new convincing evidence of strong ties…I have additional information and supporting documentation to present which is substantially different from her initial ninety-one year old grandmother is dying and would like to say goodbye to her granddaughter. We have long-range plans within Mexico. I have lived here for five years with no intentions of ever returning again. We only need two to three days up in the US, and the idiot interviewing her did not even give her a specific reason why she was denied--even though she asked for it politely--he just handed her some poorly written printed note like I was given at the Consulate--so I don’t know what’s wrong with the US immigration system, but it needs to change.”

“It’s like that in every country in the world,” he said; another statement to highlight his ignorance.

“Of course it’s not,” I corrected him. “Gringos--Americans--can live in Mexico with no problem at all; Mexicans can visit Canada with no trouble at all; it’s only the xenophobic United States that is making all these mistakes.”

He put me on hold for about five minutes. He was probably in the bathroom or smoking a cigarette. When he finally returned he advised me that there was nothing he could do; my girlfriend would need to schedule another interview and that was that.

“The man interviewing her said she had to wait three years,” I explained.

He began to feed me the same line I’d been given a half dozen times already: “That’s the only thing you can do sir--”

“No it’s not,” I said. “I can write and publish about these failures and expose them in major newspapers in the United States to change this failed system…thank you very much--have a good day sir.”

“Thank you,” he said.

If I could only see that Puerto Rican moron who denied Mariana’s Visa I would spit in his eye if he denied me a few minutes to respectfully prove his ignorance. Of course: the US Consulate does not provide names for its employees--and judging by what a terrible job they do with rejected Visa applications to those who deserve them most--I can understand why. But secrecy and civil protection is not an excuse for ignorance and complacency; am I the only sagacious citizen of the United States of America? If that’s the case: they can take away my citizenship and I will live in paradise where all men and women were created equal and afforded the same rights under the law; if such a place even exists anymore.

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Floral Rose (July 20, 2009. Issue 7.)

Nobody ever says I want to smoke crack when I grow up. But here I was sitting on the toilet seat with a glass pipe in my mouth. The pipe was filled with a piece of Brillo pad to act as a filter for the damp yellow sliver of cocaine and baking soda at the tip. We always used to say we were “freebasing cocaine,” as if this would distinguish us from the toothless degenerate druggies who smoke hard formaldehyde-filled rocks of crack. There was really no difference, at least not chemically, and certainly not in potency. I didn’t know how to cook it but I watched a middle-aged man thirty years my senior prepare it like a master chef in a five-star restaurant.

He would put the chunks of cocaine in a spoon with some baking soda and then the magic would happen when he heated this concoction with a fluorescent lighter. It never came out in the shape of rocks, but fantastic slices that we needed to burn slowly to take full advantage of the potency of the smoke. You can hear it cracking (hence the name) when you heat it up and hold that flame toward the end, inward and outward, twirling the stem of the pipe in circles to make sure it begins burning evenly.

You do this for a few seconds, sucking softly until the chunk starts to bubble and melt, pipe pointed upward at the heavens, then you take hits like a demented dragon. You wait for the substance to start melting and do reluctant small hits at first, sucking in and out gently in pulses, to save the cocaine and the breath in your lungs. I was a monster. With cocaine you can inhale enormous amounts of smoke without coughing, so the sky is the limit when you’re smoking Grade “A++ Cocaine. It’s all about how far and hard you want to push yourself--how close you want to take it to the edge.

My hits would often last more than a minute, and then I would hold the sweet smoke in my lungs just as long as I could before slowly expelling the most unbelievably caustic vast cloud of white smoke you could ever imagine. Much more than you could ever accomplish with marijuana or a cigarette or anything, because cocaine doesn’t burn the lungs, enabling expansion and entrance into an ethereal shrine, but only for a few minutes at a time.

It was truly like a fire breathing dragon. I sat on the toilet in that bathroom for hours as we cooked up batch after batch, always buying at least a quarter ounce of cocaine and a half dozen lighters so we could make it last for a couple days at least. My biggest fear was that the sizzling Brillo chunk would get sucked through the pipe and burn a hole in the back of my throat. My middle-aged mentor promised me this would never happen; he was experienced in the art of smoking glass pipes.

But we weren’t smoking crack, we were merely “freebasing.” It’s not like we were addicts or anything. We didn’t care about girls or sex or violence; it was merely an unhealthy hobby. We didn’t do it round-the-clock, (unless we could), and we both held down full time jobs. He would be up smoking crack and drinking Keystone Light till about two in the morning before deciding it was time to crash, and like Superman he managed to wake up at seven and make it to work like a champion, and after work go bowling--sweating through the seats of his 1974 Volkswagen Beatle with the hundred and ten degree weather and no air-conditioning--could have been drier in a swimming pool.

This happened for months, until he got fired and transferred. I was working for National Car Rental at the time, since nothing says smoking crack can be done responsibly like driving low mileage vehicles at the Tucson International Airport for a living. I would not smoke and drive. At work I was always responsible and popular, smoking cigarettes, cleaning cars fast as a crack-head, and being shy and quiet; especially when the boss made “crack-head” jokes.

I would usually blow lines and drink and drive, but never at work. I would never defile the elfin vomit-green uniform or the Emerald Isle.  My shift started at two in the afternoon. We only did this for a few months every night during the summer, so it wasn’t like we were addicted or life-long addicts or anything. The pipes were sold in a dilapidated liquor store with a red rose at the end of the glass stem under the guise of an innocuous floral souvenir. I am sure only junkies bought them. There was a difference and I was not an idiot. Besides--nothing bad ever happens when you’re “freebasing cocaine”; only when you’re smoking crack.

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