"You want a drug dealer who's like a dad; who's like, an immigrant, and putting his six kids through college. He's not gonna fuck around, you know?"
It's late Saturday afternoon at Cafe Pick Me Up on 9th and A, and I'm sitting across a thrift-store side table from Nicky Hilton,** an Ivy-educated Wall Streeter in her late twenties. Her pigtails, Texas-sized belt buckle, and well-worn cords provide suitable camouflage in a room full of hipster trash.
I'm wearing a t-shirt that says "boys lie" and carrying a bag made from something remotely akin to astroturf in a rather obscene shade of fuchsia. I briefly wonder if one or both of these accessories undermine my journalistic credibility. I place a microcassette recorder on the table, hoping that our conversation isn't drowned out by the background music, which, at the moment, is Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or something equally trendy and annoying.
Nicky stares warily at the recorder.
"I don't know if I want 8,000 people reading this."
"Don't worry," I assure her. "We'll give you a fake name. What do you want your fake name to be?"
"I don't know, Jezebel? [ex-boyfriend's name] Sucks?"
I decide to go with "Nicky Hilton."
"The deal is," she says, "I have a drug dealer who delivers, but he's completely unreliable. The other night I called him and he was at my apartment, in like, five minutes and everything was perfect and he was great. And then, I know that the next Friday night when you get all your friends around, and they're like, 'let's get some coke,' I'll call him and he'll never call me back. You know?"
I nod sympathetically, even though I've never paid for my own drugs, and have no idea what she's talking about.
"So one time, on Saturday night, I called him from a bar, and he shows up in like ten minutes, and it's like, all supercool. It was when [name of ex-boyfriend] was in town and I was this glamourous girl who [could] get cocaine delivered to her door at her fingertips. And then you're like, 'okay, let's get some more'-because that's what you say after buying drugs. You always want more. So we call him back, and all we did that night was call him."
Nicky believes the problem is fundamentally a customer service issue.
"It's like, I want to give him my money; I want him to give me the stuff. I have a lot of money and I'd like to be able to spend it where I want to, you know?"
I nod sympathetically, even though I'm a perpetually broke freelance writer and have no idea what she's talking about.
"I want it to be run like a real business. Like, 'here, we have our people,' and they come. The people who bring me pot-they're like that. You call a number; they're there in ten minutes. Every time, any time. They're these cute indie rocker bike messengers. I really like that. But it's the nature of the drug-the service, you know, because you've all of a sudden you've gotta screen people for not stealing it, and cutting it, and I guess that's where the problem comes."
"And the illegality of it," she adds.
Nicky acknowleges, however, that there are certain drug-related conveniences that come with living in New York.
"In other cities you don't really have delivery services, and you have to go everywhere to get it. You spend six hours riding around to other people's houses and calling different people. When I was in [name of ex-boyfriend's horrid midwestern home state] that happened. We were just riding around, and going to different people's houses. It was this nightmare, really. But then somebody said once, that's really the thrill of it. You go to the shadiest place imaginable. And it's very, very ritualized. Like [with crack-cocaine] there's a metal rose in the end of the pipe you buy. I think that can be part of the fun in a way. But you know, after a while, it's just not interesting at all."
While definitively better than the suburban variety, New York dealers still have plenty of room for improvement, Nicky says. Consistency, in particular, is a major problem.
"It's sort of funny; my coke dealer, *Guido*-you can put his name in asterisks or something-used to drive a white Jaguar. I called his number and I hadn't called him in a while. He called me back, and I'm like 'I'm right here,' and he's like 'I'm right here,' and I'm like 'no, I don't see you at all.' It was a different guy driving a gray Mazda from like, 1982 or something."
"I don't know," she shrugs. "It's less conspicuous, I guess. Maybe [it's just that] when Guido does office deliveries he uses the Jag."
She leans forward. "I'd really like it to be run like any other business and I don't mind paying more for that. At all. I'd like it to be reputable. I'd like the quality to be consistent-to know what I'm going to get, the quantity to be consistent. i think that's what everyone's looking for, really. Convenience, consistency, and quality."
"Is there anything else you'd like from your ideal dealer?" I ask.
"Well, one time somebody else was driving Guido's route, and he was just really pleasant. He shook my hand and tried to remember my name, and that was really nice. You're a little more comfortable calling someone like that. Especially if you're a little girl getting in a car with someone who is most definitely a drug dealer."
"Safety is important to me, too," she adds. "It's definitely not 'safety first,' but safety, maybe, fifth.
Quality is also a serious issue.
"One time Guido was out of the country and he had somebody else covering his car. And [the guy] cut it so badly. You know he's just an addict, going around with all the coke in the world. I'm not saying I couldn't have all the cocaine in the world and not do it all. But that's really terrible."
"It's just so frustrating. Because it's never a half-assed decision to buy coke. [It's] like, 'okay, let's do it.' It's not the kind of thing where you say, "eh... maybe. So you get all the people together; you get the money; and then you call and you can't get it. It's a level of frustration I don't think you really experience anywhere else. They're playing with your emotions."
"And you're a disappointment, really, to your friends. Like when my [ex] boyfriend from [name of ex-boyfriend's horrid midwestern home state] was in town, I was a little bit like 'I'm so glamourous' you know, and then disappointing him, too. I mean, I'm not sure that's to blame for the breakup of our relationship, but he definitely lost a little bit of respect for me because of that. I mean, later, he did pay me back the favor by failing to get us drugs in [ex-boyfriend's hometown] but I guess that's to be expected."
"He was very impressed with the weed delivery service, though. He couldn't believe it. I don't really smoke pot. I don't like hallucinogens so much, either. I'm crazy enough without them. But he does. I go crazy. I'm liable to go out in traffic and get killed. Cigarettes also affect me. And sugar. Really, coffee, too. It's like, pick your battles. Know what you can and can't do and let's all be adults about it."
"I really started doing [cocaine] when I came to New York. I work in financial services. Tax season is really a strain on people in financial services and a lot of my friends are in the office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."
I nod sympathetically. I used to pick stocks for hedge funds and screen deals for venture capitalists. I know exactly what she's talking about.
"They used to have an office and they would do it there. All day, every day. They'd just put a piece of paper over the drugs when people would come in. They'd also have a big bottle of cognac on the table that they would drink all day. And they'd only eat sushi. If you do a lot of drugs and your stomach is upset, you can't eat a lot of fattening foods, really. So sushi, cognac, and coke."
"What we used to get from Guido was a mixture; it was this heroin and cocaine mixture. And I've done heroin more than I've done coke before this recent spate this year. And I was more comfortable doing that really."
"Heroin is really a very good drug. That's why people are so addicted to it. And the thing about it, too, is that there are no negative effects the day after. And that's the problem. You're kind of like, 'okay, what's the big deal? I could do this every day.' And if you do that, then there are really serious problems."
"It's so powerful and you have such a reaction to it. Even talking about it, I can kind of remember. And I know that happens with alcohol. I've seen people that don't really need to drink to get drunk; they just get the idea that [they're] going to get drunk soon, and they're fine, and they're relaxed with the beer in their hands. And you know the alcohol hasn't affected them."
"With heroin, even a little bit will do that to you. It was pretty popular, and it because reasonable to do drugs in New York in the late '90s. And I think people were doing it [casually] at parties, where they never really did that before. You could get powder. It's snortable, it looks like coke, it makes you feel really good. I'd do that again, before I'd do acid again. It was all really fine and stuff, but while you were coming down. It was really clean and I thought I was going to die. You know when you're really tired and you're shaking and you can't move? It was like that, and it felt like it was like that for days, but it was really, like, an hour. But it twas just really torturous and awful."
"I would do mushrooms again," she said thoughtfully. "There's no twitching involved."
"I have this pulsing thing right here," she says pointing to her right eyebrow.
"I'm pointing to my right eyebrow," she says, leaning into the recorder.
"It's so gross," she says, wrinkling her nose. "Ew. People with twitches. A lot of the people at my work have them. But not really from drugs. The real drug addicts at my work are awesome. But the other people really suck."
"My work is so boring that it's really hard to do it if you're not hungover in some way. My friend tried to not do drugs for a while and he was like 'this is a nightmare! I have to sleep eight hours a day. I'm tired all the time. I wake up and it takes me three hours to get up, and then I'm tired in the afternoon.' For months he was like that."
Of Wall Street's obsession with cocaine, she says,
"I think it's pretty prevalent. Because it's a soulless...it's a pretty empty profession. You're helping really rich people get richer, and you're getting rich doing it, but you're not getting that rich, so you're a little bit jealous of them. You're not doing anything good for the world at all. It's just a waste of your time, except for the money. It's just really empty. Nobody really cares as long as you're getting your work done, and it helps in that respect, because it keeps you from thinking about quality of life things
what's true or important in the world, you don't worry about."
Nicky continues to lament the inefficiencies of her current coke delivery service, so I ask her what she would do differently if she were running Guido's operation.
"I would employ people and I would pay them well. I would give them a generous cut and I would employ people that really needed money. And I would give them hours. And I'd like to get an answering service that screens the calls and makes sure they're going where they're supposed to be going, because you don't know what they're doing. I would really be a lot more controlling about the whole thing."
"What about quality?" I ask.
"This is what they do with the weed: it's vacuum-packed. You'd know how much it was and how much it was supposed to be."
"Okay," I nod, "so it doesn't get cut in transit. But what about the people who corrupt it at source?"
"At the source? Yeah, that's part of the problem. We're doing this dumb war in Afghanistan stuff. You know, 'stop the terrorism.' And I think they're closing the borders sort of, so getting harder drugs is harder and the prices have been raised. But it's still coming in through New York. And I know that because of the quality difference between New York and the rest of the country. Like when I was in [ex-boyfriend's horrid midwestern home state], I was snorting baby powder with a tiny little bit of speed in it. It was ridiculous. And it was more expensive there."
"It's not being cut in Colombia. Nobody's putting crap in cocaine in South America. They're putting it in over here. That's why at the ports it's good. And they're probably cutting it in half as soon as it gets here."
"But I just have such lmited options, you know? I mean, as my friend said, it's a lot better than NYU coke. But it's the nature of the drug that you always think it was good, or it could have done more, or it could have been better."
"Heroin, you don't feel like that. You're always like, oh that was great, you know? like, cocaine makes you this fiendy neurotic weirdo, you know? Heroin's sort of like how pot should make you feel if it did what everyone thinks it does. it really does that. You're like, I...feel...great. I don't ever need to move. Ever. Ever. I mean that's what it does, you know."
"What percentage of the people you know would you consider addicts?" I ask.
"Like 2%. It would be really easy for me to never do cocaine again."
"People I think are addicted to it? My old boyfriend," she says. "Whose name is [Ex-boyfriend's name]" she adds, leaning into the recorder. "Who lives at [ex-boyfriend's address, ex-boyfriend's hometown, ex-boyfriend's horrid midwestern homestate, ex-boyfriend's zip code] and he works at the [ex-boyfriend's place of employment] also in [ex-boyfriend's hometown, ex-boyfriend's horrid midwestern home state.] And he's an ass. And i can prove it. I think he's probably addicted to it."
"I think with any drug, there's a level of depression you have to have to get addicted to it. You have to have something missing from your life. It's not like it can just happen to anyone. People say heroin's so addictive. I mean, I do have this physical reaction to it, but I'm not addicted to it. It's not like one time, and you're dead."
Nicky notes that she hasn't done heroin in three years.
"One time and you will always remember it. Probably one time skydiving, and you'll always feel a bit of adrenaline rush."
A mischievous smile crosses her face and I feel an intentionally obnoxious quote coming. "If you have a baby, you're not going to forget that, either! And it lasts about the same amount of time as labor. It lasts, like, six or seven or eight hours. And it's really cheap. A good value for your dollar!"
"I hope to have a life without drugs someday," she sighs, lying through her teeth. "I want to get married and have a white picket fence."
"What? You don't think I could do it?" she laughs, unsuccessfully pretending to be offended.
"I think you could do it," I reply. "I just don't think you'd like it. The suburbs would destroy your soul."
"The thing about the suburbs is, like, I've never lived there. They seem so awful to me. I was there that one time. You remember?"
"I went on a date from someone from the Internet, and I went to the suburbs. It was ridiculous."
"No, I mean, really! It's awful! And the restaurants are awful! I mean, I like the country. I grew up in the country. In a small town. We don't have chain restaurants where I'm from; we don't know about them...I hate chain restaurants."
"I want to fall in love and have a baby," she says. "That's my main goal in life!"
"That, and finding a good drug dealer."
**Name has been changed.