Saturday, August 28, 2010

"We are the moment the of deconstruction," January, 2001

Packing for a move, which means throwing out old papers. Among the notebooks to be disposed of is the tiny pocket one in which I wrote these words by a forgotten speaker, someone I interviewed about something in the late 1990s or early 2000s. I have no idea who it was. Nobody I'd planned to encounter -- that's why I wrote in a tiny notebook instead of my preferred steno pad.
Cocaine was rediscovered by the individual in the 1980s. Then, by a whole bunch of individuals in the 1990s. Cocaine was especially good for people with no sense of belonging. A lot of people don't have anything to belong to. They're not religious, they're not in a labor union. I'm drawn to labor unions, but I was not a worker. Well, that's not true. I was. I was a worker in the cocaine business. 
I've been an addict, I've been a dealer. But that didn't reflect who I thought I was. So I went to law school, and at law school, I sit down with all these people at lunch time, but they're not my people. The only place I see myself reflected is in the people I graduated from college with.
My disdain isn't sociological. I'm actually jealous of the fratboy law students. And of my boyfriend. [A minor dealer, in the business through family connections.] He belongs. And he feels belonging with me. But I don't belong. Do you? [Laughing:] We are truly postmodern. We are the deconstructionist moment. We're the day after generation. 
Sometimes I look at some insane piece of furniture, a $30,000 coffee table, and I calculate, How many families can't eat because of it? Because of the wealth compressed into this table? 
I asked, "Do you look at $180,000 of coke" -- a shipment the dealer had helped process -- "and think the same thing?"
[Thinking. Laughs.] You know, I was taught to be introspective. You know, hippie stuff, "I spoke to the river; did the river speak back to me?" And the answer is, I don't know. I see the problem. I understand the problem with what I'm doing. I can say with certainty that I'm not happy. I mean, I sell drugs; I facilitate the sale of drugs. I'm a saleswoman. It's not the drugs. It's the sales. I persuade, right? That's what you do, right? That's what journalists do? What's the difference? I'm a propagandist. You're a propagandist. That's what we do. 
Now that I'm done typing this in, I remember who I was talking with, and when. It was the late fall of 2000. I wanted to write a story about her, a dealer with plans for a union. But the coke had other plans. The last time we discussed the story she grew paranoid; she talked about guns. It was the eve of W.'s first inauguration. One of customer came over, giddy. He was a rising star conservative writer. He called her a Marxist, and giggled when she counted his money. She called him a fascist, and cackled with delight when he bragged about the young Bushies he'd soon be fucking -- confirmation of her low opinion. She considered herself -- she was -- a deeply moral person. She no longer touches coke, in any capacity, but back then she was a diligent law student by day and a drug dealer by night. Not the glam kind, the gritty kind, not slumming but paying the bills. It wasn't cute; as I recall, she told me she'd established her authority as a woman in a business of men by putting out a cigarette on the arm of an asshole who didn't pay her on time. She was always a tough girl. Still is; but sober, and past the moment of deconstruction.