The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.  Proverbs 30:1



There have been a lot of ravens hanging around here. More than usual. If I was superstitious, I’d be worried. I’ve heard that some people call ravens the wild death bird, the demon bird, or the shepherd of the dead. There are those who say ravens represent souls who were murdered without a Christian burial or the souls of the damned. If two ravens are seen fighting during a wedding, it’s a sign of a bad marriage. If seven ravens are seen fighting in the sky, it’s a sign that war is coming. What nonsense!


I’ll tell you why I’m not superstitious. It’s because for every belief someone else holds a contradictory belief. Some indigenous peoples called the raven the creator of the world. The Viking god Odin kept two ravens. One represented wisdom, the other memory. Ravens are said to predict the future. Viking warriors thought a raven could protect them in battle, that raven feathers were magical, could pick any lock even the lock to someone’s heart, that a certain stone picked out of a ravens nest could make you invisible. You see what I mean?


People say they have the courage of their convictions. Some philosopher once said it’s better to have the courage for an attack on your convictions. I mean, really … but I’m off point here. Let’s get back to the ravens.


If it seems like there have been a lot of ravens hanging around here, the only thing I know is that there are a lot of ravens. If that’s true and why it’s true and what it means requires more information, evidence, facts. You know the old saying, you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. The problem with facts is that whatever they may have to do with reality, facts alone won’t convince anyone to change their views. Our views are based on emotion and habit. Emotion has more power than facts and habit quickly turns to addiction.


So, I’m stuck. If it seems like there are lots of ravens around that could mean something or not, something good or something bad. I really don’t know. The ravens are smart. They’re crafty. That’s why I watch them. A raven changed my life.


I was a drug dealer back when I was young and beautiful and innocent. It happened more or less by accident with friends. I was good at getting stuff and friends started asking if I could get them cocaine and I thought, why not? At first I didn’t want to do it but then I was doing it so much I thought I might as well get paid since I was taking the risks anyway.


One of my innovations was something I learned from my pet raven, Parakeet. I know, it’s the only name I could come up with. Ravens can make good pets. They can learn to speak a limited vocabulary and, get this, if they like you, they will bring gifts—a button, a bead, a polished rock, small bones, shells and even a pine sprig with a soda tab threaded onto it.


How do you feel when someone gives you a gift? Special, right? It feels good. I noticed that cocaine is sold in baggies or bindles. Nothing special although the bindles can sometimes be interesting. I decided to package up my goods in something pretty, a colorful little box or a nice ceramic jar. A gift. Suddenly customers were coming to me from other dealers because they liked those little gifts. Go figure.


Freddie was my supplier. He had cartel connections. I stayed away from people like that, the cartels, and from anyone I didn’t trust. I’d rather pay more than have to worry about getting hurt or worse. There’s no stopping once you go with guys like that. Poor Freddie, I thought, I wonder if he knows? He either keeps hustling, or he dies unless he gets arrested.


My relationship with Freddie was strictly business. I paid cash up front for cocaine. That was it. Freddie had contacts with fishermen who delivered the drugs on their fishing boats. There were even frogmen swimming ashore with drugs back in those days. None of that was my deal. I bought from him and sold. That’s it. And since I paid up front and sold a lot, I got the good stuff.


“Wow! I can’t believe,” said Freddie. “You sell more at higher price because of how you package? How’d you know to do it?”


“Businesses have known this for a long time Freddie,” I said. “They call it branding. But, I got the idea from my pet raven, Parakeet.”


“You got pet raven? Why you call him Parakeet?”


“It’s the only name I could think of, a big black parakeet,” I said and laughed. Freddie liked it when I laughed.


“You got beautiful teeth,” he said.


“Thanks Freddie. Did you know if you take care of a raven and treat him nice he’ll bring you little gifts.”


“No way!” said Freddie.


“Yep. I got this idea to package my dope in nice little gift boxes and my customers stopped focusing on prices. I got more customers too. A lot more.”


Freddie’s brown eyes veered left then right as he processed what I said. “I guess we gonna call you She Raven, girl. You smart like the bird.”


“Thanks, but keep this to yourself, Freddie. Let me build up my business first.” I knew he was gonna use my idea. I couldn’t stop him but I had to try to slow him down.


These were the days when drugs were everywhere. Folks lumbered along like cars with their engines running with no one at the wheel. When you said hi to someone as they walked into a room they said “Who’s got the blow?” My friends started telling their friends about me. Drugs made people crazy or killed them but I didn’t see that at first. I got caught up in the scene like so many others. And I was dazzled by what I thought at first was easy money.


The “She Raven” thing caught on faster than I expected. People started seeking me out and I had to be extra careful. The packages I made for the dope became a sort of collectible on their own. Sometimes the packages sold for more than the dope inside. But that didn’t mean people didn’t want their fix. They all wanted to get skied. The novelty of the package was ultimately only a gimmick. It was just a creative way to sell drugs to rich people, upper class kids and trust babies. Strangely enough a resale market developed for my packages. Unfortunately I lost out on a lot of that money but my customers were happy and the word spread.


I was extremely careful. The last thing I wanted was to end up in jail. The risks weren’t really all that high. It wasn’t a priority for the police. They were more interested in violent crimes.


The punishment for dealers wasn’t all that bad. First time offenders generally got off with a month or two in jail then probation and a treatment program. Getting put out of business was the real penalty and I didn’t want that. I was making more than I ever imagined, two, three even five grand a week. And no taxes.


My only supplier was Freddie, whom I trusted as much as you can trust anyone in this business. I paid cash, never asked him to front me. He liked that so I got everything I needed. I sold only to upscale clients—yuppies, trust fund babies, wealthy business people—in bars, restaurants, theater and music venues, high end hotels, sports arenas. I carefully vetted my customers. I never sold to strangers that weren’t recommended by someone I knew.


I didn’t use drugs myself. I remember one of my friends telling me “Be careful with that stuff, don’t use it.” Using is one of the fatal mistakes most dealers make. I didn’t have a drug house or employees. I cut and packaged in a hidden room in the house I rented. No one, absolutely no one knew about it. I didn’t carry large amounts of drugs except for immediate delivery to high end customers. I had places where I stashed small supplies for quick and easy retrieval when needed. Sometimes I carried drugs under my bra, sometimes in a cocaine-filled amulet. I tried not to have drugs in my possession until just before the sale.


I kept a low profile in my personal life but I dressed up for the top tier customers especially in the expensive hotels and theaters—high heels, expensive dress or suit or miniskirt, hair done up, makeup, the whole package. The male clients didn’t care about the quality of the blow. Many weren’t even users. The drugs were a tool to please and impress the young women they wanted to party and have sex with. I could cut the cocaine with various fillers and make more money but I had to be careful not to ruin my reputation. What these high end customers really wanted was convenience and safety and rapid delivery. Some were high when they called and were down to their last hit. So, they wanted delivery before the drop when the high wears off.


“Cocaine and sex addiction go together,” one girl told me. “Middle-aged men snort cocaine with young girls to sleep with them or with hookers. It’s like they forget how to have normal sex.”


I knew these men abused women but the women went with them because they wanted to get zooted out even if it meant doggin for their fix. They also liked the glitz and glamor that surrounded these men. I now regret my role in this but at the time I justified it because I thought these women were better off than the poor addicts that frequented and sometimes lived in the crack houses where conditions were really dangerous. And, they were going to get their fix somewhere anyway.


The better the coke the more money you can make but with guys like these it isn’t the quality of your package, it’s having something available on demand. They like having fluffy white lines of coke all ready to snort when the girls show up.


In the the bars and restaurants and sports venues things were more relaxed. This is where I’d find rich kids and younger men, adventurous types, usually four or five in a group, party animals out for a good time. These were the weekend junkies.


Every community has its good places and bad places, places for sin and places for atonement, places to hide and places to show off. Most bar owners were chill about drugs and sex as long as they were kept out of sight. Most of the deals went down in the bathrooms or dark hallways. It was good for business and the owners knew that even if they claimed to be against drugs. Cocaine encourages customers to drink more. Bars were places to unwind, see old friends and make new ones.


I’d be dealing with almost anybody, lawyers, doctors, teachers, college students, mechanics, secretaries, you name it. I usually wore tight jeans, a tight blouse and tennis shoes but I made sure my hair was done up and my makeup was on. Looks were part of the game. In no way did I want to look like some pusher off the street. People felt more comfortable doing business with someone who looked respectable and they liked the tamper-proof sealed packages I provided.


I didn’t feel bad about what I did. Not when I did it. I never sold to underage kids. My customers were grown up and knew the risks of using drugs. They had to buy from someone and I kept them away from the dangers of the street. There is a battle between the desire to sin and the desire to live a moral life. This is nowhere so obvious as in bars. I frequented one bar customers called the butcher shop. An out of town patron eyeing the scene asked the bartender, “What do normal people do around here?” The bartender just smiled and kept on making drinks.


“Coke’s a social thing and I always pair it with alcohol,” said Tina, one of my regulars. “I go into restrooms with my girlfriends, snort a few lines off the cistern and then return to the bar. It’s no big deal.”


“Yea, and then we hit the dance floor with our eyes blinking in all directions,” said Theresa.


“Snorting is an art form,” tittered Rebecca, “like lovemaking. You have to learn by trial and error or be taught by someone with experience.”


“True,” said Tina, “but we gotta be cool about it or the holier than thou folks will come down on us.”


“Those pussies don’t realize that it’s cocaine fueling all their favorite comedians and musicians,” said Rebecca.


Sometimes things got out of control. Cocaine is a quick buzz that’s done in about fifteen minutes, and then you want another fix and then another. The craving is like alcohol but more intense. The high on cocaine is so much greater than anything else most people have ever experienced before.


“Everything I saw was brighter,” said a regular named Alice. I felt a lot happier. Then the crash follows and is unbearable. But, two quick snorts and I’m back up again.”


If I suspected customers were stealing to pay for the drugs I stopped selling to them and told them to get help. It didn’t always work. Sometimes it did. There was a woman whose habit of snorting cocaine created a hole the size of a quarter in her septum, the cartilage that divides the nose. This required a partial reconstruction that changed her appearance. She switched to freebasing. I didn’t cook cocaine so she was no longer my customer. I heard she eventually got so depressed, she checked herself into a recovery program.


I avoided serious addicts. When my customers did coke it was mostly out of boredom. They bought once or twice a week, on the weekend. Typically they’d start on Thursday night and buy until Sunday. After Sunday only the hardcore were out looking for drugs. I avoided that crowd.


Lots of bad business deals in bars and restaurants were done between guys operating in a cocaine-infused haze. It’s remarkable how loose some players were with their money when they were all zooted up. I witnessed one guy buy a bar then turn around and sell it all in the same night while snorting line after line of coke. It occurred to me that the real estate market would crumble if some of these high rollers had to stay sober for a week. I couldn’t imagine selling in that market. Way too big for me and way to risky.


Cocaine and all the hype around using and selling isn’t real. None of it. It’s all a mirage. It’s the illusion of happiness but it’s a very powerful illusion. Snorting cocaine and smoking crack is a narcissistic act. Users don’t care much about anyone but themselves and they are not interested in truth or facts, just the quick feeling of euphoria they get from the drug. Cocaine kills kids and the planet. It destroys marriages and careers. That’s a fact. I knew it. Users knew it or they should have. Even with all the hype about poverty and global warming no one saw the disconnect. Or, they did but didn’t care.


I’d tell myself, look, it’s not my fault if people choose to use cocaine. There are millions of alcoholics, workaholics, and shopaholics but no one calls out bartenders or bosses or the Walmart family. Self justification is how I ignored the damage I did. I floated in the stupor of a cocaine daze without ever having snorted a gram.


I almost got caught in the spider web. Like the song says you’ve got to know when to hold’em, when to fold’em, when to walk away, when to run. I didn’t have a private life, always at someone else’s beck and call. When crack became the rage everything went to hell. Cocaine coked with water and baking soda became crack, a rock hard substance that could be smoked and went straight to the brain. Suddenly too many dealers were on the street. People were going overboard, getting high all the time. Things quickly went from bad to worse. The rules that work for the few don’t work so well for the many. I knew it was time to quit but I had my own habit—money addiction.


One night when Parakeet was out of his cage, I was attacked. He flew at my face and nearly pecked my eyes out. I had scratches all over my face. This had never happened before. I wasn’t superstitious but I knew this had to be a sign or something. After that I never sold another package of cocaine. The work was hard and dangerous. There was no such thing as a quick dollar. Parakeet was telling me that I wasn’t just hurting myself but others too.


I freed Parakeet into the wild night. I gathered up all the cash I’d saved up. It was enough. I left town without saying a word to anyone. The bad guys would be after me because of how much I knew, but I had a plan. I relocated far, far away under a different identity.


It was a helluva ride. Would I do it again? Knowing what I know now? I wish I could say no but honestly I’m not sure. When you’re young, caught up in the moment, searching for what you don’t even know, you’re gonna make mistakes. Mistakes that could be fatal for you and for others. It’s unavoidable. Someone always pays the price, you, your customer, or Mother Earth. Maybe all three.


Later, after my life settled into a new routine, I discovered that someone had started a company called She Raven Designs. They’re still out there selling gift packages online but without the cocaine. Go figure.


The next big fad after cocaine was OxyContin which is basically heroin in a pill. No surprise corporate America wanted their share of dope profits. I’m thankful I didn’t get roped into that. Beat artists are lacing their cocaine with fentanyl these days. That stuff’s so deadly just a smidgen can kill you. I suppose some idiot will start the meme that cocaine was the gateway drug like they did with weed and that will allow Big Daddy to send a lot more poor folk to jail, get them off the streets, until the jails get too full again and they have to legalize cocaine like they did weed.


Whatever. It isn’t my problem anymore. Hasn’t been for years. I’m old now and gray and live in the quiet corners of a society that’s crumbling from the inside out. Maybe I share some of the blame. Maybe I don’t. The krark krark krark of a raven gives the answer. Like the people sinking with the Titanic trying to figure which way to walk I’m lost between up and down, down and up. Lost in a cocaine daze without ever having snorted one single line.