Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hash Palaces #1: The Kings of Queen Street

You've gotta remember that this was the 80s, of course. Everyone was gonna make it big on the stock market, live in a huge house and get the trophy wife. I guess the problem for us was that we didn't know a whole lot about stocks, or any of that Michael J Fox 'Secret of My Success' type stuff. What we did know about was weed. Bro, so much weed.

I'd been down to the library, the Central one, and got this book about business, to figure out what we needed to do. It turns out, this book said, that the capitalist business model is pretty simple, when you get down to it. Buy for a dollar, sell for two. There's your profit. Not a whole lot more to it. And so, we came up with a business model. This was pretty straight forward too—buy heaps of weed from Dave's cousin, using 'our capital', which we got doing the summer work at the freezing works back in ??. Then, we need 'premises', and 'customers'. This book I was reading said the premises should be central to our target customers, and should be well furbished. So, there goes more capital. We signed a six month lease on this place, and told the landlord we were 'trading futures'. I still don't even know what that means, something Dave came up with, but the landlord guy was happy enough. It was a pretty nice building, too. We got some desks, and some of those swivel chairs. A broken photocopier, and even some of those posters with people in suits running a race, to make it look right. Sometimes when the landlord was coming past we just drew these graphs and numbers on a white board. Seemed to make him happy.

Anyway, we had our business model, our product, and our premises. According to the book I'd got, the next part was customers, and this meant advertising. For obvious reasons, this was gonna be a little difficult. You can't exactly buy up a bunch of radio time and start shouting “COME BUY OUR WEED, IT'S REAL MEAN”. Cops and all that. In the end, it never really mattered. In business, advertising is all about increasing demand for your product. As we found out, though, demand was pretty sky high anyways. I wouldn't even like to guess why. Life's just not that interesting when you're not wasted, I guess. Still, its a weird New Zealand thing, maybe. The rest of the world was busy chucking cocaine up their noses at this point, or washing up a few bowls of crack before breakfast, or whatever, and here we are, everyone smoking a few cones just to make Top Town bearable evening entertainment. I'm not complaining, though. There was the demand. We had the supply, and the law meant that supply was always gonna be on the limited side. The word got around. Some jokers are selling tinnies outta the NZMP Tower! In business terms, we were set.

The average day went like this. One of us would open up, and serve all the before-work types. The dudes that worked in town in weird data jobs where they had to get wasted at 9am or the unbearable day would grind them down. Come to think of it, this was always the most depressing part. The dependents, the early hours, the inescapable impression that everyone else's job was a horrible waste of time, and the corporate ladder everyone was talking about was about as climbable as the Green Bay Fort on datura. We'd just hang out all day, while business boomed and bloomed. Open late, for the after-work wind down types, with their ties loose and their shirts all wrinkled in the same places from slouching over the same desks all day. I realised that for most of the world, that's what 'business' meant. Not us. The last thing we'd do is count the money. That was always the best part of the night. Some days, it was ridiculous. We were selling 10 ounces some days. Wasting all the money on useless shit too, come to think of it. Big shouldered suits and steak dinners. Champagne by the barrel.

The headlines said “THE KINGS OF QUEEN STREET” when the cops finally cottoned on and busted us. I'm still not sure who narked, but I guess it was our own fault. Selling drugs to strangers, and always staying in one place, with nowhere to hide when they did turn up. A whole pound, they got us with. It was gonna be all conspiracy and distribution charges for all of us, but I said it was mine. The rest were just customers, just hanging out, I said. We weren't the kings of anything. Just greedy kids in a greedy world, and I paid the price. Only four years, though. Nothing major. They never tracked down the cash, either, and that got me back in business, at Jimmy's Spa and Pool.. Some of the boys hooked it up for me when I got out. Even the building's in my own name, and we're moving more spa pools than any other bastard in town, so business is good. The game never changes, no matter what you're selling.

The above is an excerpt from the forthcoming book 'Hash Palaces: An Oral History of Great New Zealand Tinny Houses'.

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