My Afternoon With The Drug Lord
It was a gorgeous fall afternoon in Connecticut.
The foliage was beginning to turn with the Maple trees taking on a brilliant crimson cast. Late in the afternoon I decided to drive over to Bridgeport and do a little scouting. I was covering Connecticut for National Geographic and looking for something with an edge.
I was told by the State Police that Bridgeport was a very dangerous place. Ironically, Bridgeport had a long and illustrious history. It was also the longstanding home of one of my favorite personalities. PT Barnum. I had to find out about Bridgeport for myself.
I checked in with the local police to get the lay of the land and in that meeting it was suggested strongly that I not go to the bad side of Main. I asked which side was the bad side and the officers on duty looked at each other laughing and said, “ You won’t have any question once you get there.” They suggested I hire a body guard. I laughed at that because, as I told the officers, I live in the LA area and have to do a lot of work in the south central area. I said, “ How bad can it be?” They just said, “ Be real careful. It’s bad down there.”
I headed for the bad part of Bridgeport! The officers were right. There’s no mistaking that part of town. It doesn’t look much different from any other city's seedier side but, there was a heavy feeling of tension that existed as you drove through. I made a quick pass through various areas of the neighborhood and stopped my rental car at a corner near a small convenience market.
I left my cameras in the trunk and went to stand next to a telephone pole. I had a great vantage point down the street and it became apparent quickly that drugs were the commodity of choice in this part of town. A car would drive up, the bagman would lean into the window, money exchanged hands as well as the drugs and the car moved on down the street. It was a ritual that repeated many times an hour. I considered going back to get my camera as a young man strolled up to stand by the pole with me.
He introduced himself as Gary and asked me what I was doing in this area. “We don’t get a lot of white folks standing on the corner down here. You aren’t hooking are you.” We both laughed. I told Gary I was doing a story for National Geographic and he said that he had grown up looking at that magazine at his grandma’s. He asked if I liked work. We talk for about half an hour and then he said, “ you know it's probably smart for you to take off now. I think the people up the street are getting tired of you watching.” I told Gary not to worry I spend a lot of time in tough LA neighborhoods.
He smiled at that and said, Let me put it another way and pulled up his polo shirt exposing a very clean glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol in the waistband of his pants. He smiled again and said, I really don’t want to be rude but, your cutting into my business time. I just think it would be best for you to stay out of the area for a while. I garnered up a smile and said, in a stupid, sort of awkward way, “You take care and I’ll see you later I guess.” He said, “ Just give it a few days ok.” I nodded. I never saw Gary again and when I went back to that part of town it was with an off duty officer or with the police on a raid. It’s funny how we survive being stupid. I guess god smiles on the intellectually challenged.