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First Shot

Stories from Dennis Driscoll

Well I thought maybe you would be interested in how a good catholic, ex altar boy like me starts on heroin.

My first thoughts of junk were planted by my school. We used to have assemblies in the auditorium at school, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs. On occasion they would show films. Being Inwood was such a party neighborhood, there were an incredible number of bars I had seen lots of high people. Mostly on alcohol. I wanted to experience getting high for quite some time before I actually got high. So in school they showed a film about a junkie. I had seen one or two junkies in Inwood at that time but still wasn't sure what these people were high on, but my parents would always tell me to stay away from them. Which wasn't hard considering I was a kid and these were guys in their 20's at least. The most recognizable junkie in Inwood was named Norman.

But Norman had nothing on the junkie in the film!!! Well to be honest I got to see more of what it was like to be a junkie in the film then I learned from seeing Norman running around Inwood. Or at least what the makers of the film wanted you to think it was like to be a junkie.

His name was Charlie, he lived in a shack on the wrong side of the tracks. His house was dirty, he was dirty and they said he smelled too. They showed Charlie getting up in the morning needing a fix, needing a fix BAD. He vomited into his waste basket, he dragged himself out of bed and cooked up his first shot of the day. After the shot of course he was just fine! :) I really don't remember all the details of the film, but I do remember I wanted some of that stuff Charlie was doing.

I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about being a junkie and shooting up but I wantecd that high. I thought it'd be easier and quicker than drinking, which I still hadn't done either. But a seed was planted. I still didn't equate Norman the junkie with Charlie the junkie moviestar, but i wanted what Charlie had.

Well it was a good 2 years before that happened. I started drinking in the 8th grade. Drinking quarts of beer on rooftops and getting very very drunk. Things progressed very rapidly from there. There was a few guys that smoked weed, but I didn't even smoke cigarettes (still don't) so I thought I'd have a hard time smoking weed. I didn't want to embarass myself by coughing too much when I smoked weed. But I finally did, smoke weed. I refused to do it on a school night, I had 3 chances to do it before I finally tried it. I must admit I loved and still love smoking weed. But I still remembered Charlie.

By the end of the 8th grade i heard that some of my classmates were using junk. I knew the main guy that was using, he was the first Puerto rican guy to come to our Catholic grammar school. He was a goodlooking , tough, and crazy kid. But he was also smart and very lucky. He would get away with things that no one else would ever get away with. He got a job in a supermarket and started robbing it almost immediately. This was in 1964 or 65, because i remember he was just buying stuff for everyone and he bought some Worlds Fair picture cards and were giving them away. Also at lunch time he'd play this coin toss game, throwing quarters into garbage cans and we'd all fight for the quarters when he left. Somehow he got caught but beat the whole thing. Maybe it was his age. But this guy AC, was shooting dope by the 7th grade and it became more popular in the 8th grade with other students.

So I smoked my first joint , 2 months later took my first acid trip and 2 months after that tried heroin. I'd been wanting this for years and for the last few months I'd been both wanting it and avoiding it. This guy DJ was always trying to get me to do some dope with him. But it was always on a school night and I didn't get high on a school night, at that time at least. This was kind of frowned on by older junkies, getting someone high for the first time was considered bad form. But i guess with DJ it was a case of misery loves company. Me and DJ were pretty good friends and were partners in a couple of pigeon coops. We raised pigeons together at various times.

So in the summer between grammar school and high school, I KNEW i was gonna do heroin. I was hanging out with mainly the hippie kids up in the southern end of Ft Tryon Park not far from the Cloisters. A few of them were also into heroin besides being acid heads and pot heads. But most of the acid heads frowned upon the junkies, at least until 2 years later when some of those same acid heads became the worst junkies out there. One night, toward the end of the summer, when St Jude's another local catholic school, had its annual bazaar to raise money to build a church. My plan was the same whenever the bazaar was on, just to go down and play some games of chances and ride some rides and see my friends.

The night before i made my first attempt at doing heroin. By now I knew you could snort it and lots of people i knew were doing it, and some of the more hardcore guys, like AC were shooting it. But I wanted to snort.

I ran into a friend that also hung out with the hippies but also did dope. this guy, Danny Mancole, had a brother who was a junkie for a few years and was more knowledgable about it than me, so I wanted to get high with him. We split a 3 dollar bag, which is really the white boy price for a $2 bag, or a deuce. Copping was amazingly easy, now came the hard part. Danny wanted to skin pop his half. I didn't even know what skin popping was, but Danny wanted to do it. So we had to find works. At this time finding works was sometimes harder than finding drugs. We walked and walked and walked all over Inwood and half of Washington Heights looking for works.

Finally back in Inwood we find some works. It was a beautiful summer evening, not too hot and a really nice breeze. A breeze that would prevent me from doing heroin that night. Danny got the works we went and got some water in a cup from a local pizza shop, and now needed a place to do it. Being it was my first time, I basically just followed Danny, for what seemed like hours. My parents were away and my brother and his wife were minding me and my younger brother so I wasn't worried about staying out late. Finally Danny decides we should go down to the river to get high. We hike down to the Hudson River and find a spot, actually now that I think about it , the spot was within feet of where that guy jerked off in front of me a couple of years before. Anyway, Danny pours what he says is half the bag into the cooker, can't remember what he used for a cooker.

He did his shot, skinning it in the upper arm. Then turned to me and with his house key proceeded to "feed" me the dope. Often in those days when you snorted you'd have a friend feed you. He'd put the key with dope under your nostril and say "go". Well that beautiful summer breeze, managed to blow most of my dope into the air. I didn't even get that nasty nasal drip I'd heard about.

Needless to say I didn't get high, I wasn't that mad cause i was still a little nervous about it and it wasn't much dough. Danny says he felt bad and would definitely get me high soon. We parted and I went home. The next evenning I leave my house, walk down the block and theres Danny Mancole. "Give me a dollar", he said. "what?" "Give me a dollar quick". I slip him a dollar and he disappears around the corner. Less than a minute later him, DJ, Bobby M and Jimmy McQ, come around the corner and Danny says to me, "lets go". So i go with them, still not sure whats happening. We go into my friends building , which is every building on Arden St because i grew up on that block and knew someone in every building. But we go into 2 Arden st, straight up to the rooftop.

On the way up DJ tells me, if Jimmy McQ asks me if i ever got high before to lie and say yes. McQ was a little older and didn't want to give a kid like me his wings unlike DJ who had been trying to get me high for months. So we get to the skylight and out come the works. This night we were in luck. Bobby M and DJ both had brothers that were diabetics!!!! Plenty of works for everyone. So everyone gets off and now its my turn, I definitely wasn't going to mainline, not my first time. So McQ asks me, "you've done this before right?" Of course I lie and say yes, so McQ tells me to roll up my sleeve and jabs me quick and shoots it in. I didn't feel a thing. So nows the wait. Skin popping it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to come on. After 5 minutes or so Dj comes over to me. "Hey you feel it?" Nope I don't feel shit. "OH man, he gave you a water shot". Before i could inquire what a water shot is, i FELT it. I felt a wave, a smooth feeling envelop my body. Oh man!!!!!!

DJ asks again you feel it now. YESSSSSSSS, a big smile crosses my lips, but that weird junkie smile


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