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How to Become a Crack House Host

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.

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Both lay persons and members of the scientific community have come to view the inner-city crack house as a facility where drug dealers and crack addicts sell, buy, and use crack cocaine. It is suggested in this article that the term “crack house” be unbundled into four more meaningful terms based on the physical conditions of the house, its functionality, and the social relationships that it supports. Two typologies are proposed. The first separates drug houses into four general categories: (1) Crack House, (2) Cop House, (3) Drug House III, and (4) Drug House IV. The second typology categorizes the Crack House into four types: (A) the Party House, (B) the Hit House, (C) the Smoke House, and (D) the Bandominium.¹

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host ¹ n. Biology- The animal or plant on which or in which another organism lives.

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It starts like this:

The host gets a place paid for by the government (for reasons of poverty/HIV). It’s a place in a medium-to-bad building, one plaqued “NYPD: Operation Clean Halls” on the outside.

The apartment has a couple of rooms, and it is clean inside (and look at this big living room!), working electric and general appliances. (A fridge! An oven!)

The hallway is worse, smelling of urine, downstairs worse still, punched out mailboxes. Still, the inside was once painted soft yellow, and jasmine’s a soothing color.

The host has signs of fledgling personality — a drum set, cheap model cars, seasonal door decorations affixed with a whole roll of scotch tape.

Once the host moves in, a friend arrives. She’s only staying a couple of days, just needs a place to shower. You know I’d do the same for you, Papi.

…but, this friend, what about her husband? Can he stay a couple of days too?

Ok, he can stay, but don’t tell anyone, the host says. The host has a mental issue and speaks slowly. He falls asleep standing up and can’t work or talk clearly. He talks about police raids in run-together sentences and people call him paranoid.

The guest will take care of everything and knows that she and her husband have to be quiet about this, don’t want Shelly and Samantha and Brenda (the other girls) to know.

The guest and her husband enter the building on the sly, which works for a few days, until they get complacent and start hanging out — hours at a time — under the building’s scaffolding outside. What, there’s nowhere else to go.

Host, the streets are hot with cops today. This time they only need a hit to feel better, and can they please shoot up in the apartment. What, host, you would risk the police locking up your friends when you could just help them out?

The syringes get cleaned up, but some lay forgotten on the table — eventually buried in the piles of medical papers, journals and porn magazines dedicated to the ass.

Big Ass Booty
Big Ass Booty: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

The guests will get flypaper for the flies in the kitchen.

But shit now, Shelly saw friend and husband leaving and she asked questions and they just had to let her in. Just her, no more.

Such a wonderful person you are, host. So generous. What would they do without you?

The friend’s husband is doing a little dealing, but it’s not a big deal. It will be very discreet.

The apartment has more that four people for its one bedroom and things are getting messy. Who took Samantha’s crack stem? Turn over the couch cushions, the air mattress.

Brenda needs somewhere to take a date, can she just come up this once? It’ll be fast and she’ll give you a bag for it, host.

Wait, if Brenda can do it, why can’t Shelly? She’ll give you more than a bag, host, and she’ll find a way for you to make money from it. You can buy a new drum for your set.

The group takes the host’s confusion and humanity for acceptance and act as they please with their sweet voices and urgent begging.

Generous, wonderful host.

Frankies Door
Host’s Door: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

The police knock in the door one day. Most are out except for you and one woman, host. The host and woman get locked up. Guests get fucking angry because all of their clothes were in that apartment and somebody stole everything after the police came in.

The guests fan out, find something new.

Though you’re gone host, people don’t worry because you’ll probably just get your place again once you’re released after a couple of months. Kind of convenient if you really do have HIV like the rumors say: the government gives you housing. Must be nice.

When you return, host, a friend finds you again, a female one with a sad tale. She needs a favor, just for a couple of days. Well, her and another girl. They’ll only smoke crack inside the once, and they’ll give you a bag for letting them. And if this john can come inside for a quick blowjob, she’ll give you half, host. Easy money, and don’t you want that?

You can buy a new drum, start to replace the ones that were stolen while you were gone.

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More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
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Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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