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Turning Tricks to Get My Fix: Tales From the NYC Drug Underbelly by Johnny of No Fucker

Johnny Underage of NY punk band No Fucker talks about the first time he turned tricks to fund his heroin habit.

When I was younger and ripe for the taking, whoring myself out to old men for an hour or two was my easiest way to secure a fix. It seems it was the safest, quickest, and most reliable way to keep the needle full and the monkey relaxed.

It is only right to stop here and give a little insight as to who I am and why you are afforded this peephole to view clips of my life. I should be called Lucky or Nine-lives because I have been side-stepping death since the 80’s. I am Johnny; I am a punk, a whore, a survivor, a junky, a counselor, a friend, and very kind when I’m not driven by self-hate, abuse, or basically a heroin-fueled death sentence. When in crisis mode I am the epitome of Iggy Pop’s words, “a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.”

I wasn’t born under-privileged or in an inner city minority family. I was born in Upstate NY, white, privileged, middle class, and happy. At the age of seven, I was turned on to Harley’s loud pipes and even louder music from a neighborhood biker. When he decided to turn me on to sex, I discovered that loud music could drown out my mental screams. I got even with him the day I covered his precious Harley with gasoline and lit a match and watched it melt away.

The abuse didn’t stop there. From ages 8-11, my cousin got paid to protect me, watch me, and make sure I wasn’t alone after school. He took this to new levels. He forced me to fuck and suck him and his friends. I knew I was different. I knew I liked boys. He told me that I wanted this to happen. He said if I told no one would believe me because everyone knew I was a queer. Eventually my young mind and body looked forward to my extra-curricular activities. I learned quickly that because I was an object of desire I could get anything I wanted. Except peace.

At age twelve, I was shooting cocaine. By the time I was fourteen. I had experienced, my first wrestling match with dope-sickness. Music started playing an important role in my life. I would try not to go sell sex to some old man leaving OTB for a fix. Instead I would walk in the park for hours listening to rockers like the Stones, G-n-R, Black Flag, The Cure, the Dead, and try to make the cravings go away. I was trapped. I wanted the pleasures from sex, but then I would feel bad, so I would shoot drugs to try and forget how fucked up I had become. I was fourteen and felt like I was 100. I never felt safe or at ease unless I was shooting drugs or making an old man beg me, for more.

I found a new place, a safe place, where drugs and sex were not needed to make me feel “normal,” at ease with myself. In punk I found a place where I was accepted for who I was. I didn’t have to hide my sexuality, my desires, or my drugs. The feelings of inadequacy were lifted from me when I finally made my way to the stage. Punk made me feel adequate, alive, like I belonged to something. I was a punk. Punk gigs in basements, VFWs, gyms, houses, squats, and bars gave me purpose. I felt accepted as myself. I didn’t have to pretend to be anyone or anything.

No Fucker, the punk band I started in 2002, set out to be the rawest of the raw and on some days, we succeeded. It was my new high. When we hit the first note of chaos on stage, Pandora’s Box was opened and a mushroom cloud of energy absorbed us in the noise-death-ritual. It was Zen, it was religion, it was rock and roll in its mythic Dionysian ritualistic wanton destruction. At least that’s what we felt like playing it. The audience usually would be bored at this band of weird guys. We weren’t a joke band and we were going to bum you the fuck out. But for the diehards that loved us, the gravity swelled and shifted as we played, it was an orgasm that lasted for twenty minutes, or ten songs. It was everything I could never get through the needle.

A few days before recording our first solo single (we had shared two split records previously with Disclose) and a month before leaving for an American tour, I hacked two of my fingers off on a table saw. Standing in a driveway of some homeowner, I watched a tourniquet being pulled across my arm and a cold shining steel syringe full of morphine being put in my vein. The sun was shining and the needle exploded its seed into me. I felt it swimming up my back, firing every receptor in my body, and years of a false sense of security were washed away as the morphine rain through my veins. I looked at the EMT and said, “I haven’t felt this good in 12 years, my fingers are dangling from my hands, it hurts, and it burns. I think you should work up another shot!!??”

The next two years were spent thinking about that moment. Scared to let myself seek and shoot the drug that would alleviate all of these new feelings, heroin. I became miserable, lost, frustrated, and angry. It was these feelings that started another downward spiral. Everything was lost in the physical world, so I felt there was nothing left to do but shoot heroin.

No Fucker continued through this period and we produced our best and most despairing work at this time, Conquer the Innocent, with JJ on guitar, me moving to bass (it’s easy to play with one finger!) and Luke, another degenerate missing some fingers (this time to a pipe bomb) on drums. We planned an LP and a European tour. We considered ourselves more of a European band than a US one anyways. We were that well-liked at home. But heroin's specter loomed large.

No Fucker crumbled. Our long anticipated European tour was botched; we missed the plane to Spain because of heroin. I planned a Japanese tour to coincide with a memorial show for Kawakami and a visit to his grave with his Mother. I never even purchased the plane tickets. I just gave up. I wanted nothing from life. Nothing could make me feel better but the reunion with my old lover, heroin, to feel him deep in my veins again. To feel the rush from the needle warm my body, mind, and soul and take me back to those memories I so often want to forget and not feel.

Anyway, back to the tricks, which were never pleasurable, so sex addiction was never lurking around the corner. Masturbation still holds the key to my heart! There were a few times when it almost felt like something, something more than a trick. I was able to con myself into believing that I might have been something more than a teenage joystick, something that really mattered, something more than a helpless piece of flesh. Unfortunately, the reality is that tricking my youthful innocence for junk was more humiliating than shoplifting, begging, or stealing combined.

The first time I sold myself for drugs, in Manhattan, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had been thinking about how to find a way to sell my ass, but I was timid and paranoid. I feared asking the wrong person and finding myself in an unpleasant situation, never knowing what pervert or pig was lurking around the corner.

I had just copped on the west side and I was looking for a safe place to get off in. I stumbled across a bar called Boots n Saddle, walking in and never paying much mind to the name of the joint. I dragged myself to the bar ordered a ginger ale, and asked where the men's room was located. I couldn't wait to get off; I had never done this dope and I heard it was ‘fire’. I never paid much attention to my surroundings, and definitely didn’t notice that the shitter stall’s door had a half moon shape cut out of it where a coat hook would traditionally be nailed.

Once inside the stall, I dropped my pants and sat on the dirty toilet. The smell of piss was strong. Several spent rubbers lie hardening in the piss and other sludge on the floor. It was only 11 am, there are condoms on the restroom floor. I was more familiar with the East Village’s used needles and empty dope bags adorning restroom floors, parks, streets and sidewalks. But I guess I was on the West Side.

Heroin

I put my hand under the faucet and turned it on. As the water was pooling in my hand I drew some up into my syringe. I poured two bags into the cooker, sprayed the water on it and drew it up through the cotton ball I had been using all morning. I was always pretty lucky and didn't have to tie off in order to get a good vein. You know the Hollywood ritual of a match or candle to heat the dope up? Total bullshit. White dope is water soluble and it doesn't need it. When heat is added a junkie is only cooking up the cut and inevitably cooking their veins.

I pushed the rig in and watched the blood register. It swam and swirled with the dark brown dope in the syringe. The blood oozed a little spec of red into the syringe. I watched the little drop of blood drip into the syringe and mix around through the junk finding its way to the back of the plunger. The two liquids, swayed and swirled like some savage ritualistic orgy. My heart raced as it waited to blast this orgasm to my brain. The needle found its communal pathway, and I started to release hell into my veins. I worked the plunger in and out; slowly I jerked the plunger back, in and out, and then push and pull the plunger several times until I couldn't take it anymore. I bury the plunger into the back of the needle. Explosion. Expulsion. Orgasm. I was in control. I was alone within myself, finding my way back to the safe warm waters of the womb.

Watching my blood flow in and out of the syringe was more explosive than any orgasm I had ever experienced. I loved it so much it got me fucking rock hard. I pulled out the rig and let the blood flow down my arm and pull at my wrist. My heart slows and breathing calms as I drift off on the nod. As I come back into reality I see this creepy face peering in at me, while I am sitting on the toilet, my pants to the floor with a heroin hard-on that could have been used as the fire pole. I stood up, bent over lifted my pants and walked out the door.

When I got to the bar, I noticed a shot glass turned over in front of my soda. I was gone awhile. The ice was all melted in my ginger ale. The bartender told me the gentlemen at the end of the bar paid for another drink for me. I looked over at him. He had to be about 60. I was only 15 at the time and I started to get a bit nervous. He was fat and repulsive, with a triple chin and big jowls that sort of flapped as he wobbled his way across the peanut shell covered floor. He came up to me, leaned in real close, rested his hand on my back and whispered in my ear that he enjoyed my little show in the water closet.

"What show?"

"Sitting there parading that big hard cock of yours around."

"I was in there taking a shit."

"Well, when I looked in you were ecstasy with your hand around your cock." He reached his hand down between my legs and squeezed. I was still hard.

"Wanna go back in there and let me finish that for you? I will pay you! You look like you could use the money. I am sure I can get you loads of work, too." He smiled and repeated the word “loads.”

"How much?"

"I'll give you 150 to swallow that load."

"200 and you got a deal."

He nodded and led the way. He sat down on the toilet and handed me two hundred dollar bills (a lot of dope in 1982) then reached for my belt and lowered my pants. It took forever to cum cause of the drugs and this guy was sucking my dick like he was never going to suck another cock. It was painful. I couldn't say stop, I had the money. I wanted him to stop. The worst blow job ever. He suckled on my dick like a baby calf on the teat. Concentrate, Johnny. I just closed my eyes and tried real hard to think of anything to make me blow for this fucker. If he wasn't so hungry and if he slowed down a little, I would cum.

I finally came and he still wouldn't stop. I had to slap him upside the face and said, "Alright man you drained it.” I bent down pulled my pants up. He sat there just staring at me.

He looked at me and winked. Then he licked some cum from his lips. He handed me a card and said, "Call the number, Friday at 4pm sharp. You will make 500.00 for this night of love, love. Especially, if you last like that again. You are so tasty!"

I left the restroom quickly and headed for the door. I had two hundred bucks and was going to make 500 more in three days. I felt dirty as fuck, but the money would make the feeling go away. The money turns into smack, and smack made me forget anything.

Look for John Makohen's forthcoming book on his experiences in punk and dark battles with addiction