It started as a trip to the north side with some guys for a party in the summer of 1968. I was 15 and had recently returned from boarding school after being expelled. I went with some guys from a nearby high school. I don’t remember a whole lot until the moment that one of the guys, Eric opened his wallet at the party and in the plastic photo section displayed a blue tablet he said his older sister had given him. She told him it was LSD. We all stared at it. There was certainly a lot of interest since most of us had never seen LSD. Eric said he was scared to try it and so I volunteered to take right then and there to see if it was for real. I had never done hallucinogens before nor had anyone else there. But I swallowed my apprehensions and my fear along with the LSD. We stayed at the party a while but I didn’t feel anything. I remember calling some guys, Jimmy and Tom from University of Chicago Lab School. They were not friends but guys who had professed to have done acid. They said if I hadn’t felt anything already it was probably fake.
So we jumped in Eric’s car, a Fiat Spyder, and he even let me drive. It seemed uneventful going home to Hyde Park except when we arrived at the next party my foot was all tingly like I could still feel the Fiat motor purring beneath it. I began to feel real weird. I went to the party at 5000 East End and had my first encounter with the Hyde Park counter-culture. Preppy kids and hippy kids all twisted up in this hi-rise lakefront apartment. It was the first time I met the notorious long-haired hippy kids I had been warned about. I remember we got in an elevator to leave and someone screwing around had pushed every button for very floor. I felt claustrophobic and wanted out. But there was nowhere to go. I recall the relief I felt when we finally got to the ground floor. I walked home to the large lakefront apartment of my parents which was on the 18th floor.
It was in a great old art deco building called the Powhatan and it was a beautiful place with a view of the lake and downtown Chicago. I had heard the building also hosts the only 24-hour elevator operators in Chicago. I had my own section of this great big apartment. I snuck into my room that night and tried to relax, listen to music and chill. But I was real antsy and dreamy at the same time. It was late. I called Lynda, a friend from a suburb, Kenilworth. She was the logical choice because she was the only one I knew who had her own phone in her bedroom, so I wouldn’t wake up her family and get in trouble.
We chatted for quite a long time. I will have to call her soon and see if she remembers what we talked about. Before we hung up she asked me if I would be all right. I assured her I was fine. But shortly after we hung up I got antsy again. It was about 4.30am by now. I went to the back door. The front door was a manual elevator, which required the elevator operator. He would be the night man and would be sleeping on the couch in the lobby by now. I could ring him with the elevator bell, but I figured he would wonder about my timing and my mental condition. So I walked down the 18 flights of stairs in my socks, holding my shoes to muffle my footsteps.
As luck would have it, after all that, I tripped as I approached the building’s front door and woke up the doorman. He looked at me quite curiously (or it was the LSD) and let me out and off I went into the night/morning. It was dark and quiet. I had no idea where I was going, None, Zero.
But off I went. We were new to the area, had only lived there a few months. I was home for the summer from boarding school and really hadn’t had time to get that familiar with the hood. I had often visited friends in the area but it wasn’t my home turf yet.
The weather was lovely. It was a Chicago summer and that hour brings the best of the cool breezes. I walked away from the lake and towards the central part of the neighborhood. There was a commuter railroad that ran through the area. Its rails ran above ground level but to cross over the neighborhood you had to find a viaduct that went under the train. These were not unlike the tunnels that one traveled under the main road to get out to the lakefront. They had their own ambiance and sound, a good place to whistle and late at night a good place to get mugged. As I approached one of these viaducts I saw two people walking up ahead, a guy and a gal. They looked back towards me and for some reason it just scared me. Not hard to do to a kid on his first acid trip. I looked around, spotted a Yellow Taxi nearby and flagged it down. I jumped in with no destination in mind. Upon quick reflection I directed him to take me to a restaurant back in my old neighborhood, further south at 71st and Jeffrey.
The restaurant at 71st street when I was growing up had always been called Peter Pan’s. The new name was the Orange Pig. They probably changed it to reflect the changing racial composition of the neighborhood from white to black. It probably wasn’t the smartest place to go. But it seemed the right thing at the moment. I had grown up only two blocks from that corner. We had only moved out recently. But it had been a long time since it was safe to be out late at night in that neighborhood. As indicated, the neighborhood had been in transition from white to black. Didn’t bother me much but when the cab pulled up to the restaurant on the corner of 71st street, I suspected I should have stayed in bed. The restaurant was all plate glass in front. It seemed everyone in the place looked up at my cab when we stopped. As I paid my fare I looked at a sea of black faces. They certainly had reason to look. I was indeed the only white face around and I was only 15 years old and it was now 5.20AM. I know the time because while I hung around outside the place afraid to go in, I looked at the bank building across the street and it was supposed to give the time and temp. But right now it was only giving the temp. There was a black man standing nearby who answered when I asked him “Isn’t that sign supposed to give the time also.” He replied as he looked at his watch, “Sure is and I am tired of waiting for this lady to show up. It is 5.20 young blood.” And so we struck up a conversation. I remember that he was a medium complexioned black man about 25 years old. He was wearing a straw wide-brimmed hat, not unlike the Chinese bamboo ones you see in the movies. He had a goatee. He wasn’t a big guy. He laughed easy as I made wise cracks, which is what I do whenever I am ill at ease or just plain scared. I was wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt, a blue jean jacket and a metal peace sign hanging around my neck from a leather strip. My hair was long by the standards of the day although I was a long way from the hippie hair I would soon adopt.
He asked me “Are you high on what I think you’re high on.” I asked him what he thought I was high on. He said, “You know, the big L”. I replied ‘I don’t know what the big L is so I couldn’t tell you if I was high on it.” He laughed and said, “You know, LSD.” I got real scared and thought this guy might be a narc. But for some reason I answered him truthfully, that I was in fact high on LSD. He laughed again and said he had once smoked some LSD.
Shortly thereafter he said he had to go in and eat his breakfast and bid me goodbye. I purposefully followed close on his heels, through the revolving doors into the restaurant. I did so that it would appear I was with him or knew him. I was trying to make it to the counter to sit down and evade the stares. When he got to his table where a friend of his was sitting he noticed me behind him. He asked me if I wanted to join them. I was grateful and of course I accepted his invitation. He introduced himself for the first time and then his companion. He was Eugene Hairston and his friend was William Throop.
We had only been sitting there a moment when he excused himself to make a phone call. I got real scared again. It occurred to me that he was a narc again and he was calling for police to come get me. I was distracted from my reverie when William called for the bus boy. The bus boy came over and asked “Yea brother?” William stared hard at him. The bus boy said “Yea man?” but sounded a little strained. William stared harder and said with intensity “Stone run it!” The bus boy said, “Yea, Stone brother, stone run it.” William spoke harshly, “Where’s my steak and eggs?” The bus boy looked scared and said he would go get them right away. Before it all had sunk in, Eugene returned to the table. We began to chat. He asked me why I was there. I explained that I grew up there and used to live right down the street. He then said “Oh, you got the Stone in you.” Oblivious to its meaning we chatted on. When he asked why he had never seen me around I explained it really wasn’t safe to come around anymore because of the gangs. I told him that even though I had grown up there the local Blackstone Rangers had taken over and could be dangerous. He asked me my name again and I told him. He asked if I knew anyone from the gangs. I told him I knew the former branch leader J.B. but that I had heard JB had quit and in fact that was why it had gotten dangerous for me. He smiled and asked “You really know JB.” “Yea” I replied. He asked whom else I knew. “I know Paul Gibson too. “ He smiled and said “You know them huh? Yep. Then he asked me if I knew who he was. I replied he was Eugene. He said, “I am Eugene “Bull” Hairston. And this is my warlord Bull Sweet Jones“ (AKA Sweet Pea), pointing at William.
I knew the name of Eugene, aka Bull, Hairston and it seemed unlikely he was who he said he was. The name had been in the papers constantly because Hairston was on trial for solicitation to commit murder. It was alleged that he paid three 12 year old boys to shoot two drug dealers who had failed to get permission to operate in the Rangers territory. The murder attempt failed, the boys were caught after shooting and wounding the 2 dealers and they had given up Eugene.
So I put foot in mouth and accused this man of lying. “So you mean you are Bull Hairston from the newspapers? I don’t believe you.” He got agitated for a moment. But then he said, “You a funny little white boy. You tickle me.” After some back and forth he pulled out his wallet and showed me his driver license.
I was having breakfast with one of the two most powerful guys on the south side of Chicago. This was one of the two original leaders of the Blackstone Rangers, the most powerful street gang to ever exist. His co-leader was young man by the name of Jeff Fort who himself has been serving time in prisons for over 20 years. At the time it was estimated that the Blackstone Rangers numbered over 30,000 members.
I couldn’t believe it. I asked for his autograph. I was having breakfast with Cappo di Cappi of Black Chicago gangs. He laughed some more and instructed William to write me a note. William complied and a moment later wrote me as follows. To a fellow Stone. ABSR signed William Throop. I believe ABSR meant All Mighty Black Stone Rangers.
I paid my check and went outside. William had gone to get the car and bring it around for Eugene. It was a clean white Cadillac. Before Eugene got in passenger side, he patted my head and told me to come back next week and have breakfast with him again.
I noticed as we left the restaurant that he did walk with the air of confidence that accompanies power. And when he paid the tab he had a roll of money. Course I now understood why the busboy was terrified and why “Stone” was the only acceptable response to William. “Stone” was the common reference to the gang and “Stone Run It” was their battle cry. Lucky for me that even though my old classmate JB had in fact quit the gang, he was still respected by OGs (Original Gangsters) like Eugene Hairston. The name of JB got me in good with Eugene and saved my ass just as JB had when I used to call upon his assistance in high school to ward off bullies.
I had every intention of going back the next week to meet them. But midway through the week I read that Eugene had been convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison. A war for control of the Stones broke out and William Throop survived an attempt on his life when he was shot 7 times in a motel on the south side. His girlfriend died in the barrage of bullets. William Throop did not survive the second attempt on his life.
Eugene was shot and hit three times shortly after he got out of prison on parole. He survived. They say it was a warning from his successors to stay away. In 1988 his luck ran out when he was gunned down in a south side housing project. The papers conjectured it was gang-related.
As to that note that they wrote me, I tucked that in my wallet like it was a get out of jail free card. Remind me to tell you how that worked out when I it was discovered on me by Chicago Police officers.
As acid trips go it was pretty fulfilling. I took a cab home to Hyde Park after the sun had come up. My head was ringing and my eyes burned with fatigue by the time I got home. I was worn out from the hours of sleeplessness and psychological hyper-awareness that I had paid to trip the light fantastic. I would soon become a full-blown acid-head, ingesting untold amounts of hallucinogens over the next two and a half years. I would trip in a variety of places like Kenwood High School, Museum of Science and Industry and a lakefront location called The Point. Every trip was weird and of course under a variety of conditions but I doubt I ever brushed up against the likes of Eugene and William again.