You are invited into the mind of a drug dealer.
If we go about seeking slices of life to write about, we have to be open to the whole loaf. Thus, enter onto the page one Darren “Doc” Paulson of Escondido. Paulson has spent most of his working life as a dope dealer, and proudly boasts of his accomplishments, just as an accountant would of his CPA.
He claims to no longer be in the life. However, that might be for the ears of cops.
Paulson’s a congenial chap, at least to have coffee with at McDonald’s. Sort of a parallel to a stranger’s Rottweiler: You appreciate the wagging tail while keeping an eye on the teeth.
He’s originally from New Jersey, 52 years old, a bald, short man, about 5 feet 6 with glasses clinging to his nose. He has a bulbous stomach he calls his “tumor.” He quips a lot. He says he served five years in the Navy. He has three children, none local, including a son who “hates the ground I walk on.” His jokes are funny, especially if you’re amused by victims.
He’s jolly enough to play Santa in a department store, but if you bought dope from him and didn’t pay, you wouldn’t want him coming down your chimney.
If Paulson has been a successful drug dealer, I almost — almost — lament the fate of a failure. By his own account: “I’ve been to prison four different times, almost 20 years.” He has two strikes, one shy of a life sentence.
Going back 15 years, I counted five drug convictions in North County Superior Court alone. Paulson considers that just a necessary downside to his career, like a corporate exec fated to transfer from San Diego to Little Rock, Ark.
A source in the Escondido Police Department said they are quite aware of Paulson’s history and his presence in the city.
Paulson also claims some spectacular athletic feats in his youth that could well be true, but I never saw the promised scrapbooks.
His career has been varied, that I’ll give him. He says he’s done everything “except see Jesus.” By that, he means dying. One is compelled to wonder how mutually that meeting would be sought.
Though Paulson started using drugs at 9, it wasn’t until he hit San Diego that he became a merchant. “In ’92, to be honest with you, I had a little business going down in San Diego. We had the first drive-thru dope house. I used to drive taxi, and part of my business was selling cocaine.”
His wife and partner in the drug business died of cancer, and he says he went sort of crazy and started robbing drug houses. “If there was 10 people in a house, I would kick in the door and rob it. I was a gang member — Crips, West Coast 30s. That’s down on 30th and Market Street in San Diego. When I came (to Escondido), I didn’t carry guns. These people up here were so stupid it was beautiful. You could rob them with a flashlight.”
New to Escondido and realizing crystal meth was the preferred drug in North County, he soon learned how to cook it. His customers ranged from the homeless to professionals. “You’d be surprised who bought from me.”
He would ride around town on a bicycle peddling his home-cooked meth. “If you saw me on a bike, I was selling dope. I rode it all day, from sunup to sundown, selling my own product. If you were a penny short, I’d beat you up, plain and simple.
“My attitude is this: Stupid people get what they got coming. That’s why I’m waiting for judgment day because I’m going to ask God straight out, ‘Why the hell did you make so many stupid people?’ ”
Paulson preens when he swears that he rode his bicycle on the freeway. Not on the shoulder, mind you, but in the traffic lanes. He festooned his bicycle with multiple lights, put a DVD player on the handlebars and rode the 14 miles to Mira Mesa watching porn on his DVD player. One night, he claims, he made the trip naked on a dare.
“Never got stopped, not one time. I had a cape like Dracula. I had a World War I leather cap and goggles. I called myself Captain Homeless (or) Sexual Chocolate.”
Paulson and local police got to know each other well. “Once I assaulted an Escondido police officer. Another assault was on somebody here in a park. That’s all a part of business. It’s not personal. You can cuss me out. You can call me the N-word, I don’t care. But if I have money in my pocket, I’m not black, I’m not white, I’m green.”
Words bounce around his thoughts like a pinball. “I figured out why people are the way they are. Homeless people? Homeless people act the way they act for one reason: They don’t have cable TV.
“My attitude when I sold dope was you take care of the homeless people and you never have a problem. I would ride by people that would normally buy from me at the first of the month. I was Santa Claus. It was like I was Eddie Murphy coming to America. I could sell an ounce of dope in about 25 or 30 minutes. I could make almost $1,000 off an ounce. And I could make 4 pounds (of meth) for the $52 it cost me to get the products at Home Depot.”
Did you ever take in-trade for your dope?
“Oh, yeah. This watch, I’ve had this watch for eight years. PlayStation, I’ve gone through six of those. I just got a laptop a couple months ago.”
“I’m like, ‘No, I’m good. I’ve got porn. I don’t need you.’ Besides, if I catch even a cold from anybody, I’m going to shoot them.”
Paulson lectures like a business consultant on the vagaries of his calling:
“The people out here trying to sell dope now, they are the sorriest bunch I have ever seen. It makes an old-school hustler feel bad. They hustle backward. They smoke more of their product than they sell. They have nothing to show for it.
“Their product is not as good. I could do a line about an inch long of stuff I used to cook; I’d be up for two and a half days. You could tell I was up because I was sweating like a research monkey on death row. You hear all this stuff about rat poison and Drano. I have six different recipes. Not really rat poison, but you might get Drano. You do end up with stuff that would kill a rat. People are putting it up their nose.”
Just talking about it gets his juices flowing: “I’m not going to lie to you, I’m dying to get back in.”
I thought you said you weren’t going to start cooking again?
“I’d like to. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve got to enjoy the devil.”
He also talks of being a truck driver and retiring to Arizona with his girlfriend, but the different routes of his life he lays claim to are as confusing as a Beijing freeway interchange.
Have you ever overdosed?
“Yeah. I’ve done it on two different drugs. I’ve done it on China white (heroin). If you’re going to be a drug addict, China white is the way to go. I’ve done meth to the point that my heart swelled up to twice its size. I almost had a stroke. I couldn’t walk from here to that counter without passing out.”
It doesn’t seem like anything to ruin your life for.
“No lie. Once you get hooked, it’s not only your mind that goes. Your body, too.”
Since you know what it does, don’t you feel guilty when you sell it?
“No, because if I don’t do it, somebody else will. Drug addiction is such to where you got mothers that don’t care about their kids. I’m not supposed to have a conscience.”
If you are feeding someone’s weakness and they’ve got a wife or husband and kids at home …
“I’ll be honest with you, my morality was if you was pregnant, I wouldn’t sell to you. I didn’t sell to minors, and I never worked on Sunday.”
You know the Escondido cops have you zeroed in. If you were caught dealing, wouldn’t you fear going back to prison for life with a third strike?
“When I first started in my 20s, prison was a beautiful thing. I liked prison. I used to. The way prison is now, no. I’m 52 years old. If you sent me to prison for life, I say, five to seven years I’d be dead.
“(Police aren’t) taking me to jail. Super Negro becomes fight or flight. I’m the most devastating puncher you’ve ever seen. I knocked a person out twice with one punch. If I’m going to go to jail, it’s going to be a shootout.”
We take leave of the planet where Paulson dwells. It’ll keep spinning around us, held in place by the gravity of weakness, greed and predation. Doc Paulson will continue doing what Doc Paulson will do.
The McDonald’s coffee is now cold and the Coke drained. Paulson departs and I watch him disappear into a gray day, but knowing …
He’s out there, and he’s not alone.
Fred Dickey’s home page is www.freddickey.net
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org