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The Jim Carroll Website Home > Background > The Basketball Diaries > Stories from Dennis Driscoll > Sour Grapes

Sour Grapes

Stories from Dennis Driscoll


The first woman I fell in love with was a beauty, she was on Irish and Hondoran descent. I first started hanging out with her when I was 16, she was 13, but she looked a lot older. Lets just say she was very mature for her age. She had a sister, that was, how should I put this, well she was ummmm... promiscuous. She used to have sex with just about anyone, and it wasn't unusual for her to be with multiple partners. Also she wasn't the most intelligent woman in Inwood. One of her later boyfriends dubbed her Stupid Linda and it stuck. Because of Linda's sex habits, Nancy was very very careful about who she slept with. Actually I don't think she had sex with anyone till later in life because of the reputation Linda had, I guess most guys thought Nancy was as easy as Linda, but this definitely wasn't the case. One day I met the two sisters and they wanted some weed. So I copped for them and we went back to their apartment and got high. After awhile I was sitting there in between these two women, and being a teenage boy I thought about the possiblities. At this point I was still a virgin, had kissed a few women and missed an opportunity to have sex with a Jweish girl from Tarrytown, because I was too shy.

So here I sat between Linda and Nancy, Nancy had nodded out and I looked at Linda and put my arm around her. She looked at me and asked "where's my sister?" Well Nancy was sitting on the other side of me and when Linda saw that she nixed my advance. So I left the house and started to see Nancy more after that. We would kiss goodnight and occasionally make out but she made it clear she didn't sleep around. So as our relationship developed I was getting extremely frustrated, but I liked her so much I was happy just to be with her. Also she was one of the prettiest girls in Inwood and I always hoped she'd change her mind.

We started using heroin and methadone together. One or the other of us would hit up our grandmothers for some cash to use for some dope. This went on for quite awhile copping and getting high together till we developed habits. Then we discovered methadone.

Methadone was cheap, pure and got you high for much longer than dope. So on Friday's when the methadone patients would get their weekend doses we'd pool our dough and get some meth. It'd take a longtime to hit you but once it did there was a good chance you'd still be high the next day. Not a bad deal, plus it was also possible to kick a heroin habit with methadone. After about a year or so together Nancy's dad found out what was happening and she asked to go away to a rehabilitation center upstate. It was run by nuns and I remember the day the nuns came to take Nancy away. We met early in the morning and kissed and promised to write one another, but the thing with rehabs, they always tried to get you away from the people you got high with. I wanted to go to this place just to be with Nancy but by this time I was over 18 and too old for this program.

So we wrote each other quite a bit and I thought of Nancy all the time. One day i get a call from Nancy, she'd run away from the program with three other kids. She wanted to meet me and help her cop some drugs. It quickly became apparent that she was "with" one of the guys she'd escaped with. He was tall, goodlooking kid, seemed nice enough and was nice enough. He thanked me for not freaking out and attacking him for being with my girlfriend, but Nancy was never really my girlfriend just a girl that liked me alot and would occasionally make out with, but I loved her, more than I'd loved anyone outside my family up to this point.

So here I am with Nancy, this kid from upstate and these 2 other runaways. They were pure trailer trash. Not nice people, to say the least.You could tell they were always looking to get over, on anyone they could.

Nancy asked me if I could get them some methadone, not really feeling very cordial towards these people considering the circumstances, I just set her up with my methadone connection. For doing this they gave me a bottle of liquid methadone.

The guy we got this methadone from was very reliable and sold 6 bottles every Friday. He was one of the first people I knew on a methadone program and was the older brother of a friend of mine. His dose was 180 milligrams and that still got me pretty high. I did a bottle and Nancy and her new friend did a half bottle each. It was springtime, late spring or early summer and the weather was nice, but we still needed a place to crash. My parents moved from Inwood to way out in the ass end of the Bronx, so I had no place to go either, I'd really would have just as soon left them on their own but I still had feelings for Nancy. So I took them up to a friends place. Inwood at the time was still a fairly nice place to live, but sections of Washington Hgts. were pretty dangerous. One of the worst being an area we called "Fungito Village". Fungito, I'm told, means little swamp in Spanish. This was a hardcore drug area. The main street in Fungito Village was 184th St. This is where my friend Barry lived.

Barry was OLD, or then he seemed old, he was 35 and we were all 18 or 19 at the time. Barry was a man with a million ideas for making money, they all seemed to work too, for a little while at least. The first Barry biz I was involved in was "The Magic Incense Company". In his basement apartment/office we would make incense. Dipping the punks in essential oils and letting them dry, them packaging them in bags. "26 one hour Sticks" was our motto. We'd sell the incense at concerts, mainly in Central Park. We also sold pot along with the incense. We had empty cardboard liquor boxes, these boxes had inserts to keep the 12 quarts of liquor from bumping into each other and breaking. Each slot held incense of different flavors, vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, jasmine, all the usual hippy scents. The slot for the lemon incense was where we kept the pot. You'd go to Barry get 6 bags, sell 5 and the 6th was yours. Plus we made money selling the incense. Hippy capitalism. In Barry's basement we also made plagues, which were prints of old masters,Renoirs, Titians, all kinds of paintings, which we mounted on wooden plagues and antique them, we made and sold lots of them during the Christmas season especially. He called the company the Black Plague Plaque Company. Without fail the businesses would start out good and then slide downhill when Barry went on a drinking binge. Then he'd go to Florida, in the winter, when money ran out, and get a job testing drugs for the big pharmacutical companies. He'd come back to NYC in the spring with a little money and another idea.

So I took this group of runaway drug addicts to Barry's basement to crash for the night. I sat in the room with the 2 white trash kids, while Nancy and her new boy were in the other room, making out, but not having sex as Nancy still didn't give it up. I finally fell asleep, not really getting all that high even on 180 milligrams of methadone. Nancy had been clean for awhile so she got high, and the kid from upstate got really high. I don't know if he'd ever done methadone before or not.

The next morning I wake to Nancy's screams. I get up and go into the room she'd spent the night. There is the kid, with his arm raised and a cigarette in his hand. I looked at him and it didn't look good. I told Nancy to go in the other room and tried to bring this kid out of an obvious overdose. I reached over and grabbed his arm. I started to pull him upright and found him COLD. Plus rigor mortis had set in, so his whole body was really stiff. I recoiled and dropped the body immediately. This guy was way beyond help, or at least beyond any but a priests help.

I realized we had better get out of there and told Nancy and the trailer trash to get packed. I took a quick look around and found an ounce or so of this Jamaican pot Barry was selling. I figured it'd be better I took the pot, because the cops were going to come once we called in that there was a body in a basement on 184th St. So packed up we leave and go call the cops. I tell them what happened, and where to find the body and went to the park, to decide our next move.After an hour Nancy thinks we should go back and make sure they found the kid. So against my better judgement we do go back. Well, they hadn't found the body. So I call again and explain again the deal. An hour later we go back, still there. After another call, this time really explaining exact directions through the basement we check once more. Still there. Now I'm starting to get scared. I call once more, and the cops tell me to wait outside the building and direct them to the body. Well this didn't sit right with me. So I told them no, but again told them exactly where the body was. We waited nearby and watched the ambulance get there, we waited 10 minutes and figured they MUST of found the body and we left.

We went to my parents co-op way out in the Bronx and slept on the skylight on the roof after going in and stealing some sheets and pillows from my parents place. Finally Nancy turned herself in to her parents and the trailer trash went back upstate. A few days go by and I stay out of Inwood and try to forget what happened. After a week or so I go back to Inwood and I'm sitting up in the park. I hear someone talking about the body found in Barry's house. Now no one knew I knew who the body was, and none of them knew the kid because he was from upstate.

What happened was, Barry was out of town when we decided to crash at his place. This was not uncommon and people would drop by all the time, even when he was away. So after the last call , I assumed they had found the body, but it turns out they hadn't. So people were coming and going in the basement and saw the body but just assumed it was someone crashed out. Three days go by and finally Barry comes home. He sees the body and also thinks its just someone asleep and lets him rest. Well I guess after awhile the smell started to get to Barry, so he goes over and looks at the kid. The gases had started to rise in the kids body and formed a bubble coming out of his nose and it looked like a grape was protruding from this kids nose. He realized he had a body in his bed place and had no idea who it was. He has to call the police, but he's really nervous. Being a longhair and selling pot definitely made you a bit paranoid in those days.

He gets up with courage goes out to the corner and calls the cops. He gets the desk sargeant and says "I just got back from vacation and there's a stiff in my bed with a grape in his nose". The cops says "What?" So Barry says " I just got back from vacation and there's a stiff in my bed with a grape in his nose". So the cop slows him down and finally realizes whats being said and they send a squad car. The cops get there, look at the body and tell Barry he can't leave till the coroner gets there. So for hours, Barry and a cop sit there waiting for the coroner to show. Barry is mighty worried about the ounce of weed he thinks is still in his house, but fortunatly i took it. Finally the coroner comes, looks at the body and says, "methadone overdose" and tells them to release Barry and they take the body away.

I never mentioned to Barry that I knew the kid that died in his basement. I just didn't see what good it would do. Unfortunately I did tell ONE person. A guy that for years was working on a book about that era and who I've long since lost touch with. After a couple of years went by, he told Barry that he thinks he knows who left the body in his house. Twelve years go by, I'm in Southern California where Barry then lived. I was staying with a friend, when Barry comes over to the house I was visiting. After an hour or so, Barry asks me, very nonchalantly, if I happened to know anything about that body in his basement. Well I told him the truth, that we called the cops 4 times, finally giving up only when we though the body had been found.

I still think of Nancy and that kid occasionally and feel really bad that his life ended so young. That same amount of methadone got Nancy high and I can't see why this kid couldn't also handle the same amount, but that is the danger with drugs, an overdose is always a possibility.

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