In February of 1987 I was making my plans to head to Chicago. I was really excited - not so much for the job, but for the road. If you have been out there on the road you know what I'm talking about. The road isn't like anything else, you can only attempt to be prepared. If you don't know what you're doing, only bad things can happen.
Now when I talk about the road, I'm not talking about making reservation and having a daily amount to spend or specific sights to see!
I'm talking about getting in your vehicle and only knowing that you have to get somewhere. The only real "plans" I would ever make is for the day I was leaving (never a time), the car that would take me there, the money I would need and whatever fun drug of choice I'd partake in along the way.
At that time I had a van, but no way would I want to do 1100 miles in that thing. During this same time, I was hanging out at a social club called the Combination Club. It was a pretty cool place with some major players that I had befriended. I filled in there a few times, tending bar. When I did that I usually ran nine ball games with three regulars. I could walk out in the morning when the cleaning crew showed up with about five to six hundred bucks. With the bar skim I'd have a total of seven to eight hundred bucks...not bad for ONE night. So I figured that would be my traveling money.
My plan was finally taking shape! I traded the 1983 van for a 1976 Lincoln Mark 5 - this car was going be great and really comfortable. With transportation set, my next point of action was to try to get a night to tend bar but in all actuality I wanted to be able to shoot some pool for my traveling money.
The woman who managed the place was my age and loved to booze it up. I spent many a night with her drinking and bullshitting about why some dunce wouldn't marry her. Most people think a hustler is a fast talker, the great hustlers know how to listen. Anyways on one of the nights doing this, I told her I was heading out and going back to Chicago. There was some sadness because I had made some true friends even made a few scores with them. But in my life I learned early you have to be able to turn your back to walk away and ignore any feelings. So after telling her this she asked if I wanted to work for her on the next Tuesday. This was perfect and I was set. I would work and shoot pool on Tuesday night and then leave on Thursday.
I had ten days before I had to be there so this could be a great trip, plus I could even have a few days in Chicago to see some college buddies. Everything was falling into place.
On the Tuesday before I had to tend bar, I stopped at the police department. I was looking for one of the cop bumper stickers to slap on my bumper to keep the state troopers off my ass while I was traveling. I always did that - I'm not sure it worked but I do know that I'm sitting here writing a book. It was a great bumper sticker too, it said "Just say NO to Drugs" donated five bucks to the cause and slapped that on the bumper.
Until next time...
Farewell night of work!
I returned to Chicago in 1987 after fifteen years of living on the road. I was hustling and living the life of a carefree rebel. In those years, I lived in Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Louisville, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Dallas - those are the big ones - there were numerous small towns along the way.
During this time the highs were high and the lows were very low. However, it became a way of life. Through drifting around I learned the "hustlers code" and I still live by it today!
As time went on I would be joined for short periods of time by my brother, Micheal. We were quite the team - following in the footsteps of the two other infamous James brothers, Frank and Jesse. My brother and I had always been close and I wonder if he was alive today what he would think about this whole book thing. I hope wherever he is, he's proud and laughing. He was a great brother but never understood you can't keep the gas pedal of life pushed to the floor 24/7 cuz that will shorten your life...and it did.
I began to develop my own laws that I would follow. If there were laws written by other people, the government or even God - I didn't care. If those laws conflicted with mine I didn't follow them and certainly did not obey! There wasn't many laws I made. I focused only on making those that involved good karma. I strived to be fair, loyal, and respectful to those who earned it and my elders. I believed that being a hustler was a way of life. I realized that it didn't matter what the size of the hustle or the stakes involved; the rules of the hustler were the same!
I was in Boston in February of 1987. It was an especially shitty winter and I was suffering through one of the lows - just hanging out. My mother called me and asked me (as she had done numerous times over the previous fifteen years) to come home because some relative had found me a job. In the past, I had always politely refused but this time I asked her where this job would take me and she told me my cousin Pete had a job opening where he worked. I told her I would take the job. She was elated and I was anxious because I knew it was time to go to Chicago to make a dream come true.
It was then I realized alea iacta est (the dice are cast)...