A Marijuana Man
A Dealer's Diary
The Present: 1984
There is nothing like the clanging of steel prison doors against their iron frames to jar you into reality. I am a Federal prisoner, number S.T. 83-7964-976. For the next seven years I will reside in the federal prison at Seagoville, Texas, or anyplace else the United States Federal prison system wishes for me to occupy space. My current elegant accommodation with gourmet meals and glamorous attire is not what this story is really about though.
My present situation is not the beginning of this story but rather the end of a story that begun almost eighteen years ago when I was just another dumb teenager who knew everything and had life all figured out. My fondest memories were of my maternal grandfather or Zady to me, a small man who had come to the U.S. as a young husband from Belarus, Russia, at the turn of the century like so many Jews running from the Pogroms. He was a master Tailor by trade, working the fabric to his will and me too, his youngest grandson. Our conversations were not equal exchanges, but more like educational wisdom delivered by Zady via philosophical analogies’ in Yiddish and then again in English. He would advise me, “What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth.” And my favorite maxim, “A Jew is 28% fear, 2% sugar and 70% chutzpah.” In light of all that has happened, I can hear him admonishing me from his grave, “Max you should have used your Kop (Head) not your Tuchas (Butt),” and then the zinger, “Experience is what we call the accumulation of our mistakes.” They are Zadyism. A Zadyism is a piece of knowledge distributed verbally with love, and an insightful knowledge of life. Some of these bits of knowledge are original, but most are borrowed/stolen from someone else (though he never claimed any of them as his original thoughts, “just good words.”)
My name is Max Gold. In the late summer of 1966 after I had graduated from high school in Dallas, my best friend Rodger Sampson and I, had planned a road trip to Austin, just 190 miles south, down I-35 as our last hoorah before our college classes started at North Texas State University in Denton.
Austin had a great growing music scene, which we both loved. I was not quite six feet tall and a wiry one hundred sixty-eight pounds; I had shoulder length, reddish brown hair, almost black eyes and a rich tan complexion year round. My nose is larger than an average Catholic school kid, but smaller than some of my fellow Jewish friends. I also had an adventurous spirit and loved a challenge. I had grown up in a typical middle- class family. My dad Harold Gold had met my mom Miriam at a USO dance in New York City before he was shipped out to Europe to defend our country during World War ll. I have an older sister, Judy Gold Blumberg, who was born in 1945 and is now married to Dr. Joel Blumberg. Danny, my older brother, was born in 1946, and was now attending the University of Texas, in Austin, and then there was me, the baby, in 1948.
Rodger had been my best friend since third grade, his mom a nurse, and dad a Master Sergeant recruiter with the Army, had lived just two doors down from mine for many years. Even though two years older than me, Rodger had been held back in first grade, so he was only one grade ahead of me in school. At 6’2” Rodger is much taller than me and weighs close to 225 pounds. Rodger is shaped like an upside- down pear, broad at the shoulders and small at the hips. He has dark blond hair and most intense blue eyes. He is what my mom would call “movie-star” handsome. As Roger will tell it, "I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I am the most charming." He’s like a big lapdog.
Friends for life, we complement each other. I could get a wild hair and he would calm me down, so I could reconsider the bad decision I was about to make. I was the natural leader; Rodger the happy, fun, agreeable co-pilot.
Enterprises even as young kids, Rodger and I collected empty drink bottles to return to the store for two cents cash each. One time, while exploring on our bikes, we came across a burned-out house. Inside we found lots of burnt wood, furniture, and trash, but it also had over 150 pounds of copper wire and pipes lying between the walls and floors, which for a week, we cut and hauled out on our bikes. It brought us $47.50, our first big job together. Though it was dirty and smelly work, it was also exciting and dangerous. Are these burnt wires I am about to touch still carrying live electricity? Will the floor hold me or is too burned out? I guess we relished in the thrill.
We also got into all kinds of trouble together as teenagers. Like the time just after Spring Break in 63, we locked three live chickens, one a rooster, in the school’s public- address broadcasting room. Leaving the mic open and locking the door, Rodger pocketed the only key. When school resumed after the break, the entire student body and faculty were greeted by the rooster crowing with the hens clucking in the background. That one cost us one month of detention after school, but was worth it as that caper became a legend at the school. There is still a small golden rooster in the school’s trophy case to this day.
My dad and Rodger’s dad used to play golf together on Sunday mornings, rain or shine. So Rodger and I one time, bought some trick golf balls, one that did crazy turns, one that would hardly roll at all, After we exchanged our new balls for the ones in their golf bags. I had forgotten all about them, at least until the next Sunday afternoon. Harold and Mr. Sampson were pissed. They had been playing doubles against friends at $ 10 a hole. The ball they got out of their bags had magnets in them, so they would stick on the lip of the cups, not go in but would hang on the lip. Harold did not think it was as funny as I did, and Rodger’s father was a real hard ass, so we found ourselves climbing ladders, removing the screens and washing all the window of both of ours houses, and mine was a two story. So that adventure, as window washers, was not as fun or profitable.
Our carefree days seemed to end abruptly on the day President John F Kennedy was assassinated here in Dallas November 22, 1963, and on the very same day half way around the world Rodger’s father was assassinated by an unidentified enemy in a place called Vietnam . The family never got straight answers from the government about the details of Robert Sampson’s death, just a standard Western Union telegram and it read simply.
THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY ASKED ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEPEST REGRET THAT YOUR HUSBAND, MASTER SERGEANT ROBERT SAMPSON DIED IN VIETNAM ON 22 NOVEMBER 1963, FROM WOUNDS RECEIVED WHILE ON COMBAT OPERATION WHEN HIT BY HOSTILE ARMS FIRE PLEASE ACCEPT MY DEEPEST SYMPATHY. THIS CONFIRMS PERSONAL NOTIFICATION MADE BY A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY.
Arthur R, Pardham Major General United State Army: Adjunct General
That was the day our worlds changed forever.