INTERVIEW: Addiction, Crime, Prison, and Redemption – Part 1


An Interview

I met this Ironman Triathlete while he was in town competing at this famous yearly event (search your internet for Ironman Triathlon, Penticton, Canada) and he was so different, and so enjoyable, I knew there would be a great interview somewhere, somehow. It took three years to get around to it (he returns each year for the triathlon), and took me four months to finish such a long interview while working at a more-than-full-time job;

It’s over twice as long as my longest interview to date, and I was going to edit it down to half-size… but it’s so fascinating, entertaining, such a wealth of information about a certain type of lifestyle most of us never see, that it’s just going to have to be the whole interview.

Wolfgang at Mahoney Lake

We did our three-hour interview at Mahoney Lake up in the hills.

Wolfgang – “I’d like to talk about what starts out as an innocent thing, a fun thing for so many people – we learn the ‘experimental phase’, talk about imbibing something so simple as a beer or glass of wine – then later it becomes more meaningful to us, has more impact on our lives.

When we ask why people take drugs, the shortest answer in the world is: people take drugs to change the way they feel. It’s that simple. The reality of changing the way we feel, whether that’s ‘happy hour’ at the bar after work, or smoking a recreational joint with someone – the purpose is always the same: you want to get a ‘lift’. Bottom line, we want to change how we feel.

That seems to be a normal part of the journey, for most people.”

“Strangely enough, I never even had a real beer until I was 18. If you believe in genetic disposition, I come from a long line of German tavern owners and beer drinkers, and Germans are known not only for beer drinking but for brandy. I was born in the U.S., and so were my parents, but my great-grandparents were from Germany. I come from a long line of Germans from both sides of the family.

In my state, it was legal to drink beer at age eighteen, though they changed that later on, so it was ‘harmless’ and ‘fun’ and all that. I quickly figured out I was the ‘hollow-legged’ person – I could always be the designated driver even though I was drinking or smoking or doping, because I wasn’t affected by the drugs as much as everyone else.

Which was kind of irritating to me; my friends seemed to be having a lot more fun, having the good effects of the recreational drugs we were using, as opposed to me, who could over-imbibe on any drug and not seem to be affected as much as everyone else.”

“I was told in high school I was in the ‘dumb group’, the third group, so I wasn’t really college material; so I joined the marine corps at seventeen – until my Mom found out that my Dad had signed the papers for me. She said, ‘What?!’, called up the recruiter and that was the end of my marine corps career; it lasted about a week.

Myself and nine buddies were going to join; this was around 1966 so I was a sure-goer to Vietnam, and probably – the way they were chewing up marines over there – cannon-fodder. Although, all of my buds went to Vietnam and came back. But what are the odds that I would have made it, not come back as an unstrung hero? Given my proclivity for drugs, the heroin there, the golden triangle, I probably would have been a mess… if I came back at all. So maybe all that worked out for the best.”

“I went to college in Oshkosh, Wisconsin; somewhere in the middle of that I started to see Vietnam for what it was, and suddenly flipped the other way; I became a card-carrying SDS’er – Students for Democratic Society – which is about as far to the left as you can get. We’re tearing up the streets in Oshkosh, prying up the cobblestones for not only the war, but also to object to their changing the legal beer-drinking age to twenty-one.

It used to be, beer you could drink at age eighteen, and if you were twenty-one you could drink other liquor. There was a huge underground business in fake I.D. cards; when I was nineteen I had a fake I.D. and could go into all the bars. And then once you get known… (access becomes easier elsewhere). I joined a fraternity at college in my sophomore year, I think 1967. When I became president of my fraternity, there was some smack (power, acceptance) with that.

A lot of my fraternity brothers were returning from Vietnam – they’d flunked out of school, gotten drafted, and now were coming back after their year of serving in Vietnam. And with them, of course, they brought back a cornucopia of drugs, including some very impact-full, potent pot from Vietnam, Thai-sticks from Thailand, all that. I immediately, though I wasn’t a smoker, discovered that I preferred marijuana to all the other drugs that I had so far experienced.

This was also at a time when fat girls’ remedy for obesity was pharmaceutical amphetamines, they were prescribed as diet pills back then. So if you were in college and wanted to cram for an all-nighter (study all night), it was a fun thing to contact one of the girls who might be on diet pills (and buy them from her), and then you had benzadrine, dexadrine, methadrine to keep you up all night as you cram for an exam in Greek history, Roman history – I was a history major and an anthropology major.

Alcohol was always my least-favorite drug. I think alcohol was always commonly accepted in fraternities and sororities. I started out in a fraternity and eventually became the president, and during my tenure at Oshkosh we were allowed to have bars in the fraternity house, actually be allowed to drink there, and that had actually been forbidden before that time. This changed again somewhere around ’68 or ’69.

Pot has been illegal in our country, since the ‘30’s. Before that, somewhere about the time they took cocaine out of Coca-Cola – say 1910, 1912 – all those other drugs came into play (began to be seriously investigated). Later, somehow marijuana came to be looked at as the ‘rape and kill’ drug, and you began to see the strange movies from Hollywood, you know, ‘Reefer Madness’, where cannabis was portrayed as this curse on man.

My fellow professionals might hang me for saying it: I think we need to follow more along the lines of Canada – at least how you had been going until you elected this more conservative Prime Minister – where it seemed to me you were moving to be more liberal with the use of that drug as being ‘just another drug’, similar to alcohol.”

Follow the Blue Brick Road?

Follow the Blue Brick Road?

“My fraternity was kind of split down the middle: we had the ‘juicers’ and the ‘heads’. This was in the time of Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles going on their Magical Mystery Tour. The heads – the dopers – weren’t limited to just cannabis, there was also hash, hash oil, LSD, mushrooms, all those things. I did my share of tripping (going on a drug-induced ‘trip’ in your head), but I found that I like to be geared more in reality rather than, you know, leaving the Earth for awhile; not being able to truly understand things – melting steeples were a little too far out for me. You could have ‘bad trips’ too, and that wasn’t good.

I did my share, but they were more problematic; unless you could be in a proper setting where everything was low-key, nature, or somebody’s secluded house, where you weren’t going to take that chance of either police or something ruining your trip by inflicting bad images… you could certainly screw somebody’s trip up. Art Linkletter’s daughter, of course, thought she could fly, and tried to out of a ten-story window.

We were aware of those things (dangers during the ‘trip’). I preferred the good nickel-cigar; marijuana was always a good thing for me, but on occasion I used other drugs for tools, like amphetamines to keep awake studying.”

“My thinking, and the fraternity (and many people back then), was: we thought marijuana was going to be the original ‘love drug’, and this was going to be the end of war.

Traditionally, to separate our fraternity, we had those who would get drunk – they would go down town, get in fights. Then there were those of us who smoked pot – we stayed in our rooms, listened to psychedelic music, you know, lit incense. This was the ‘sixties, you know.”

“But, what to do after college? I was undecided as a junior what I was going to do; I had a degree in history, and one in anthropology, and no teaching credits… I was deathly afraid of one course you had to take along with your teacher’s, and that was public speaking. Now I speak in front of 500, a thousand people and it’s nothing. I lecture to cops on dual-diagnosis, train police, do all kinds of things at the college (where he presently works), so it’s funny how things come full-circle.

I graduated college at twenty-one, started hand-making candles at a candle factory. I had a pretty good affinity for smoking dope by then, and a little drinking. I started to acclimate around people who could help me score dope that wouldn’t cost me money. The only way to do that, of course, is to deal. I wanted to stay in the college town where I lived, 12,000 of the people were college students. That was the life and I liked it. So we started supplying pot, on a large basis, for most of the college students, who all smoked pot and did all kinds of things.

I always had little jobs on the side so I could pay the taxman and appear to be getting by. I would get jobs at some really interesting places that I could tell you about – like the ‘Little Flower’ in Oshkosh, a working-man’s – actually, an alcoholic’s – tavern, where these old guys would get their Social Security checks there, dole out a certain amount of money to them every day so they wouldn’t hose it all down (drink it away instantly).

I’d open up at six in the morning, and these guys would be waiting, shaking. I’d have to give them their first shot in a highball glass, otherwise they’d spill it (from their hands shaking, waiting for their first drink of the day). I was such a sadistic bastard, sometimes I’d make them smoke a joint with me, in the bar, before I’d let them have any alcohol. And they would do it, just to get to the alcohol, to ‘get right’. Then we’d all laugh, I’d dole out the money, they could get drunk.”

“I had brothers coming back, telling me all about Vietnam. I was intrigued, but also kind of glad I hadn’t gone. Although now I have ‘survivor’s guilt’ – ‘Why me, why not me?’ You know. It was fascinating, a whole other world, without going there. I knew everything about trip wires, grenade launchers, you name it. Guys who had done combat tours there told me all about it. It frightened me and intrigued me at the same time.

I had investigated Officer Candidate School, Inactive Reserves, how long I’d have to serve… in the end, I made the decision to let them draft me. I would just go in as a regular ground-pounder, do my year, then get an early-out for school like my fraternity brothers, come back and go to grad school… in something, God knows what.

We had draft numbers – mine was 138 – in Brown County, and any number under 200 was a ‘sure-goer’, you were ‘one-A’ for a year; in other words, you were prime draft material for a year, once your college deferment was up, you were on the block.

They told me, ‘Pack your bags’. I’d already been to Milwaukee for one physical, and passed – despite my little tricks, trying to smash my knee up; I’m not a coward, I’m not that way, but after the 4 ½ years in the college environment, to see the injustice of that war – very similar to what’s going on in Iraq recently – I was one of those people screaming as the 7th or 6th fleet stood off the coast, that we shouldn’t be there (in Vietnam).

I had been One-A for nine months now, I was ready to go, they told me, ‘Your time’s coming up’. Another choice was to be a dodger or deserter, come to Canada… but I wasn’t going to do that, I was going to let it fall however it fell, that’s usually been my approach to things. But a strange thing happened in the US: there was a huge split in Congress. The war had been dragging on since ’64, ’65, and now we had ‘doves’ and hawks’ in the Congress; they actually filibustered to the point where Congress’s ability to draft – called the ‘Selective Service’ bill – lapsed. So, suddenly, until the end of the year, the Selective Service bill was no longer a factor. I finished my twelve months, they couldn’t draft for the last three, and suddenly… I was out. I had done my year One-A, they didn’t draft me, and unless I enlisted, I was out. ‘Woo-hoo, I’m outta here!’”

“Then I started to work at various blue-collar jobs. Got a job on the railroad tending bar. All these guys get in from a 22-man ‘tie-gang’, and I got to know them after a week of getting them drunk. They said that school’s starting up again, they’re losing all the college boys, you wanna come work with us? I said, cool. The railroad paid pretty well, sounded romantic, and I was single. These guys were drinkers, partiers, so I fit right in. I became a member of the largest tie-gang in the Michigan/Wisconsin area, 22 guys. We replaced about 2,000 railroad ties a day.

Half the guys in the crew were back from Vietnam, wearing jungle fatigues… their lunchboxes were filled with beer, sometimes they’d be tripping – running these huge expensive machines, and just higher than a kite, hallucinating. They were interesting times; these guys had just survived a war, so as far as they were concerned, anything went. Anything.

I would go home on some weekends, score drugs for the local heads. They were from Michigan, they didn’t have as good stuff up there, supplies; remember, I know all these dealers in Oshkosh, big college town. We lived in these big mobile homes on the tracks, we’d be about two weeks in each area. And we were like big smoke, it was like having this big gang of guys come into your town. We’d go to the bars at night – you’d see the fear on the local men, they’d be fear-based about their women, ’cause the women found us kind of exciting. We’d walk in, it was almost like someone unplugged the jukebox, they’d all look at us. We didn’t give a shit, we were up for whatever.

Some of my gang were guys from the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan – ‘U-Pers’) state wrestlers, really macho guys who had never smoked pot, every weekend they went home to visit their girlfriends like good boys, never hung around and partied with the rest of us. They came up with the idea to set up a half-barrel every night for the last 2 weeks – about the third night into it these guys get so screaming-drunk they’re smashing their fists through the cupboards – think of a very nice mobile home on railroad tracks – up to their elbows, and they destroyed one of these cars. Not the one I lived in.

The railroad bosses did a search and they found a quarter-pound of pot. This is in ’72 I think, so they think, ‘Marijuana – rape and kill drug’. Tried to get us to rat out who did it… it was really the people they least suspected. But everybody hung on to what I call the ‘criminal code of silence’. We all got blackballed, with our long hair, hippy-like, and all the clean-cut guys who were the beer-drinkers and really did the damage… some of them are probably still working on the railroad, or retired engineers, whatever.

So that was my real dose of reality… how the system’s going to treat you if you seem counter-culture at all.”



“I went back to Oshkosh, and then… what to do? I got my bartending job back. I started to work in a ragshop, a clothing store, as assistant manager, but everything I ever did then, started to revolve around what I call ‘the Life’ – using drugs. Even in the clothing business, we would send a leather jacket… in this leather jacket the UPS guy was delivering, there’d be a pound of pot in each sleeve. Drugs pervaded everything.

I started reconnecting with some of my drug friends, and they said, ‘Wolfgang, what are you working for, why don’t you help us out?’ What they wanted was a mule (someone to carry/transport drugs). They had the money to bankroll all this, but they needed someone to do the nuts and bolts… and I was fine being an Indian, I didn’t need to be a chief. There were a lot of benefits, like I could buy pot for whatever they sold it (wholesale) for.

I would run with fifteen, twenty grand of cash in a big Oldsmobile 98 with load-levellers on it (strong shock absorbers), I would run out to Boulder, Colorado for instance, stay there for however long it took to put 400 bricked-up pounds of pot in the trunk, and run it back to Oshkosh. So we would get pounds of commercial-grade Mexican for maybe $65, $75 dollars per. I could tell you all kinds of stories about Mexican cartel families…

I had been down to Texas, muled pot up in a truck, and had been told that we had State Patrol protection up until the Arkansas border. Which scared the hell out of me; I’d think, ‘Oh sure, the Texas Rangers are cool, but what about his brother who’s on the Arkansas State Police, who wants to make a promotion?’ I’d be running in a state truck (a box truck, rather than a semi), the Mexican carpenters would take the back doors off so the truck appeared empty, and because of an optical illusion – they would move the front part of the truck back about this far, just to make a big enough space for bricked-up pounds to fit in there, tightly wrapped up. We could run, I don’t know, a ton, ton and a half . And because the truck back was open, I wouldn’t have to stop at a lot of scales, almost none. Even if I did, they wouldn’t think anything was weird.

And with amphetamines for ‘tools’ – I wouldn’t do any other drugs other than speed for a stay-awake tool – I’d drive non-stop all the way up to Wisconsin where this friend of mine’s parents had a farm, and we’d unload the stuff in the barn at night. And we would deal pot to the whole college community, and it would last however long it lasted.”

“I would get two, three thousand dollars just for making the run. Texas took a lot longer, but for example I could drive to Sugarloaf Mountain in Boulder, Colorado in twenty-three hours from Oshkosh, and that’s with three hours sleep in Ogalalla, Nebraska. I’d be spaced out with an alarm clock in the rest stop. But remember, I’m pretty geeked on speed during all this. When I got to Boulder, they treated me like a king, be up in the nice mountain place, there’d be women, pinball machines, any of the toys, Corvettes, that having a lot of money would buy. I was just like a favored guest for as long as it took for the pot to arrive to our end.

If it was there when I got there, they might let me rest a day or two… but they wanted that pot out of there. Often it wasn’t there yet, I’d have to wait a day or two, even a week. But I didn’t care, because everything was on them (provided free). They would feed me, fancy restaurants, sometimes they’d have to buy me clothes if I was waiting for awhile.

And I had the added advantage of being able to buy that pot – back in town – at a really diminished price, and could sell it. For instance, I could get ten pounds of pot for $75 a pound, run it sixty miles up to a little town called Oconto where I’d unite with one of my old railroad buddies, who would meet me and buy all ten pounds. We knew each other, trusted each other, knew that, you know, neither one of us would do anything ‘funny’, like with guns or anything.

There’d be an exchange of those ten pounds of pot, the capital, and I would drive home. Then I’d charge maybe $110 per pound; so we’re talking $35 per pound profit, so $350 for maybe three hours work. But I also did this on a regular basis out of my house in Oshkosh. I only, as a rule, sold pot. I’d make people come in, stay for awhile, so it didn’t look like I had a ‘shooting house’. I lived in an old residential area. On a normal day I would probably make between $80 – $100 dollars – for sitting out in the sun in my driveway with a fifty-foot landline telephone on my hinged bedroom screen window, reading books, smoking dope, drinking wine…

The lady next door was a nurse. She’d go to work each day, I’d do a little work around her house, walk her dog. She knew what I was up to, you’d have to be blind, dumb and stupid to not know what was going on. But she liked me, I was a nice neighbour, a good neighbour. It got a little hinky, though; when you do pot long enough, you start looking for the next high… people started introducing me to other drugs – is marijuana a ‘gateway drug’? Well, is tobacco a gateway drug? It hooks into the same system, the meso-limbic system of the brain, the pleasure center; ‘that felt good, let’s do it again’.”

“You’d be running with the spare tire covered up so you could use all that space. A big Oldsmobile ‘98’… they’re like a big Caddy, a 98’s like a Cadillac but not quite as attention-gathering as a big Lincoln or Cadillac. And I’m sure, on some level, the cops in Oshkosh had an idea of what we were doing. But if you weren’t dealing in powder – heroin or cocaine – they oftentimes looked the other way.

Although I was getting close (doing large enough ‘business’) to where they might take a look – but I wasn’t the big man, you know. I think they saw marijuana for what it was, in a sense. It was too time-consuming for them… it’s a weed, for God’s sake.

It’s a power trip as well, the power of being a drug dealer… walking into a bar, seeing fifty people just light up, because you’re ‘the man’. You might not be able to play music, have any artistic ability, but you’re the man. That’s very seductive.”

“I had a lot of dealer friends who weren’t happy with the money they made with pot, wanted to cut out a lot of things – like the middleman. So they started doing things like sticking up drug stores, armed robberies. The scary part was, there was a pharmacy about five blocks from where I lived, and some of my idiot friends stuck this place up about five times. He had Dobermans in there, they still kept sticking him up.

Then they’d jump in their car, drive over to my place, where I have this garage I never used. Pull into the garage, shut the door, and come and knock on my door. There’d be sirens going by – and we’d be fixing up spoons and the (drug) works in the living room. And I’m nervous as hell, going, ‘God damn it, you guys!’ They would never tell me beforehand, they would just come over. ‘Oh, sit down, Wolfgang, let us tie you off’. They’d shoot me up, I’d go, ‘Well, okay’.

But the potential there… (for trouble). I always tried to not have guns in the house; and if I got busted for dealing pot, so be it – I had a clean record, so I thought ‘What could happen?’ They didn’t send you to prison for the first time, unless you had a huge amount of pot. My thought was – and maybe this was ‘imaginative thinking’ on my part – as long as you weren’t messing with the heavy-duty drugs, cocaine and heroin and stuff, that the cops had enough to do and would look the other way. That was probably flawed thinking on my part.”

“I started to experiment with other things. I had a dealer who dealt powder cocaine – this was when I still had my part-time job at the clothing store. He could come down when I was running the shop at night, and I never rang up a cash register slip for him. We would keep track, and I would take it in trade. One night, I shot up a thousand dollars of cocaine in a twenty-four-hour period. This is running back and forth across town for grams. So how did I pay for that? With some of the ten-pound lot of pot that I had just sold, which really wasn’t mine to sell. I shot up my profit, and then I shot up some of the stuff that belonged to ‘the man’ (his supplier/dealer), which is never a good idea.

So I had visions of..? – A hit man coming over, from ‘the Godfather’, breaking my kneecaps. My supplier had about an eight-foot black guy who was his enforcer… who I knew really well, but this was ‘business’. He would have given me some time to make up that loss, he had done that before when I had stepped over the edge a little, it had been no big deal, but if I had jerked him around…

At that time, I was involved with an exotic dancer. She had a contract in another state, and wanted me to move with her. So I kind of crept out of town in the middle of the night on this thousand-dollar pot bill, more like fifteen hundred, and moved to another state where I didn’t know anybody. The same mistake that so many drug addicts make: they think if they make a ‘geographic escape’, they’ll move away from their habit.”

The dish

The big dish at White Lake Observatory.

“So I moved to Minnesota, where I don’t know a soul. She has a job as a ‘house girl’, at a place called the ‘Yum Yum Tree’ (ha ha). So I think I’m safe now, straightened out from the cocaine. I was good when I wasn’t using it. I got a job later on, with her and another dancer; I was their grip – driving all over the country in a big Cadillac. I carried their bags, did some of their music, carried in their light bars…

My main job was to roll joints and wake them up in time to watch ‘All My Children’, a soap opera they were addicted to during the day. I’d wake them up, we’d have a couple joints, watch All My Children and laugh. An addiction I carried into prison, as a matter of fact… running back from the mess hall to get locked in my cell so I could watch All My Children.

She would go out on the road for a long time. She would go work in Thunder Bay, Canada, she worked all over, worked in Las Vegas. Eventually… she’s still single, never got married, lives in Arizona now, working for some kind of map company. That is the only woman I ever fathered a child with… but ‘not quite’, we aborted it. So, the line ends with me; no more little Wolfgangs.

We shared an apartment in La Crescent, Minnesota. When she was gone working alone, my addictions would flare up… and what happens when we put drugs in the body? – Inconsistent, inappropriate thinking. I did a lot of goofy things. I heard a lot of ‘stupid criminal stories’ when I was in prison, but I’ll tell you one of my stupid ones.”

“I was on alcohol, Diazepam – you know it as valium – a tranquilizer, ‘Mother’s little helper’. One night, I’m really down on my luck. The owner of the bar I worked at was upset with me for a lot of reasons, like this one: He was a Vietnam vet with a gambling issue, so was in Vegas at the time. I was to close his bar, party upstairs at his place, you know. I took his Corvette for a ride, ended up losing control, slid out onto the Mississippi River – frozen over fortunately, it’s winter.

I got towed off the river, and this is all cool because I haven’t hurt the car other than a flat tire, I’m thanking my lucky stars for this as I’m freezing in the cold. When we took out the spare tire… he had seven or eight bags of quarters there from his bar, that I assumed he used for weight (for winter driving traction). So I helped myself to a load of those.

‘Ethical deterioration’ is one of the characteristics of addiction – you will do some things that, straight, you thought ethically not possible. This is where the term ‘coke whore’ comes from. Bear in mind, I was an Eagle Scout, boy scout and all that. So how does one go from having God and country, into stealing quarters from your employer? This is the downside of drug addiction – it starts out as fun and games, then at some point we’re sticking needles in our arms, spoiling other peoples’ lives, shooting up women. As so often happens with the disease of addiction, there’s a process called ‘corrosion and cut-off’, where you start out with the best intentions, and slowly but surely your resolve weakens.”

“I also had a job as a federal fireworks seller. There was a woman I snorted, shot coke with, her dad owned the ‘Flag and Display’ shop in town. That meant I could travel around, sell fireworks on the road, to municipalities, set all their fireworks up for shows.

But, being the good drug addict I was, even wearing the three-piece suit during the week as I traveled all over… I also had things like a ‘mortar tube’ in the trunk, and a fifty-pound bag of dog food – I would use the dog food like a sand bag to brace the tube. So, on the weekend, I had samples of these fireworks. We would party in town, then go out on the bluffs of the Mississippi River. When everyone was good and drunk, I would set off one of those Flash Thunder things – BaWhooooom, I mean rock the world, it was loud. That was one of the fun things, and a good reason to invite Wolfgang to your party. Then we’d jump in our cars and take off, because the cops would come.”

“Somewhere in there, when my dancer girlfriend is on the road and I’m at home, I met a girl named Mary, this cute little Irish woman, and find out she manages three massage parlours. I fall madly in love with her. She likes to do coke, likes to shoot up… and she now has ‘Dr. Wolfgang’ as her personal bed partner, and for awhile we’re quite an item. What I don’t understand is that it’s election year in La Crosse (La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a sister city right across the river from La Crescent, Minnesota), and that I’m drawing quite a lot of attention because I appear to be like these ‘made’ guys – organized crime – from Minneapolis, who run these massage parlours.

I have nothing to do with this, but if you’re watching – when I show up on a Friday after being on the road for a week, I look a lot like them; three-piece suit, big car. So somehow the local authorities think I’m connected with these two yahoos from the city… who do jewel robberies, fencing, all that crap I know nothing about. I’m just in love with Mary, right?

Mary and I finally have a falling out, too. Because one night I go into her lock-box and shoot up all her cocaine, and she’s had enough of my crap. So I’m out on the streets… but I know a lot of waitresses, people I partied with, so one woman or another takes me in, I’m a fun guy, right?”

“One night, two of my bartender buddies and I decide we want to watch the Miss America pageant. But guess what? – Stupid criminal story: we do not have a television that works. So brain-boy here, Mr. Clever, gets the bright idea that we’ll just go and get us a TV – drive downtown late at night, do a smash-and-grab, kick in the store window, toss a TV into the back of the truck, drive off with it. Makes sense, right?

Remember what I told you about inconsistent, inappropriate thinking? You have enough alcohol, pot and valium in you, and you think just about anything’s possible… this makes perfect sense to us. But as we get downtown… still a lot of people out, it’s getting dark – the store’s not closed yet, not until 9pm. So I say, ‘To hell with that. Look at the shops across the street, they’re closed. I’ll just boot in the door of one’. I’ve done stuff like this before when I’ve been really loaded, but those are other stories. So I thought I’d kick in the door, we’d clean out the register… and we’d go buy the TV! Makes sense too, right?

Except anyone with a brain knows they only keep a little till money – float – in stores overnight. We go down the alley, I tell them to wait in the car in case something goes wrong. I boot in the front door of this small engine-repair shop. Well, I’m not even sharp enough to know there’s a guy standing in the door of a tavern up the block, and he’s watching all this.

Watches me boot in the front door, and by the time I come out the back entrance there are lights in my face, the cops, I’m on my knees, they’ve got me, and I’m the, you know, bad-ass guy. Who’s got, by the way, $116 and a pocket calculator in my pocket.”

“I get locked up, and I’m facing one count of burglary, caught red-handed. I’m twenty-nine years old, clean record, know very little about the legal system. I’d only been locked up for fights, little things. My attorney friend – who I’d been in his house and shot cocaine with, by the way – comes, says, ‘Wolfgang, I don’t know what the hell you did, but somebody wants you to go away (to prison). You’ve pissed off somebody around here’.

I have no money, I’m destitute at this point because I’ve tricked off girlfriends, generally on the downward spiral that happens with most people who allow drugs to take over their lives. No goals, no ability to plan for the future.

I’m going to court, I’m in the La Crosse county jail. The detectives come to see me. ‘Well son, you’re in a world of hurt’. I said I know I am. And I freely admitted I did the thing. How could you not, they all caught me red-handed. But I still don’t rat out my two friends, who now think I’m, you know, Sylvester Stallone or some stand-up guy for not ratting them out.”

“The detectives – and remember, I’m pretty ignorant of the law, even at age twenty-nine – tell me, ‘Look, we want you to plead guilty to this one other charge of B-and-E’ (Break and Enter). They pull out this list of like forty other crimes that look remotely like what I did, smash and grabs. I say, ‘What if I don’t?’ They said, ‘Then we’ll charge you with as many on this list as we can make stick’.

Because I’m an idiot, I don’t realize that they need to get you for two counts of felony B and E, before they can send you away to prison, or even give you hard time in jail. I don’t know this. And I have a court-appointed attorney, who of course is part of the system in La Crosse. He doesn’t want to make enemies, so he doesn’t really try. Had I reached out to my Mother, who I hadn’t talked to except in varying degrees over the years – she knew what was going on with my drugs. They (parents) would have popped with some money, helped me out, got a real attorney, I would have walked (free of charges) on all that. At the most, maybe two years probation.

But like an idiot, I plead guilty to two counts of B and E. The other charge I plead guilty to was breaking into the Montgomery Ward store. I still have never been into it, I don’t even know where it is located in La Crosse, if it still even exists. But because of that decision, I now gave the state enough ammunition to send me away wherever they wanted to.”

White Lake Observatory

Wolf and the Dish at White Lake Observatory.

“I’m home now (where he went to await sentencing), telling my Mom all this. She says, ‘Why didn’t you tell us, we could have…’ Anyways, I’m looking at ten years on each count, potentially; though that’s not going to happen. Mom knew all about me smoking pot. She had even let me plant pot plants against her fence. She hated smoking, but she didn’t think it was a ‘rape and kill’ drug, didn’t think it was a reason to send someone to prison.

While I’m at my parents’ house, I do a burglary on a drug store. My friends back in La Crosse are convinced the officials have turned me, that I’m going to be ratting out everyone in the area. So I can’t even get any pot. I’m so angry, upset, that I decide… there’s this drug store close to my parents’ house. I’ve had little run-ins with drug stores before – I used to say I ‘filled my prescriptions at night, when the line-ups weren’t so long’. Just a burglary, no armed robbery; that doesn’t make it right, but I didn’t want anybody to get hurt, I just wanted to take their drugs. I would do the cash registers too, while I was in there, but no unnecessary damage.

There’s a huge rain and lightning storm one night, I’m in the bottom of my parents’ house. I walk through the woods near there, in my poncho, and I have an axe underneath it, and a couple bags. Dark and raining. It was all actually about half a mile from a maximum security prison known as the Green Bay Reformatory. I grew up next to that reformatory until my parents changed houses; I’m familiar with the walls – who knew I’d get to see it up close and up front from the other side?

It’s raining and storming; I put the light out above the door, in the back of this drug store. I’m battering away with the axe on the door, on the lock. Boom, I’m inside the store. I don’t take time to look at stuff, I just walk down, scooping stuff off the shelves into my big hefty bag, do the mall too (this was part of a small shopping mall), two or three registers from there.

Now I see lights come in the window. But I know the cops come by, do periodic checks. So I’m sitting on the book rack, below their light, and the flashlight through there, everything looks normal. I’m sitting there, breathing. I know it’s just a check. So they go on.

I go out the back. To see me walking down the street, I looked normal. A guy walking, a poncho in the rain. I go back through the woods, to my parents’ house. Now, I have all kinds of class B drugs. Could you imagine if they’d caught me doing that drug store? ‘While waiting for sentencing on two counts of B and E, then he burgles a drug store’. I’d have gone away forever. That would have changed my life a bit.

My Mom works, Dad works, so I’m alone at home, and I have a drug store in my basement. Now, I call up my idiot friends in La Crescent, because I still want pot (and can’t get it locally). They were telling me there’s no pot. I said, ‘You guys are full of shit, you think the cops turned me. But think about it… if I give you a hundred pills sealed in a bottle… who’s at fault here? Am I entrapping you?’ We worked it so two of them drove down, brought me as much marijuana as I wanted. I was getting sentenced, gonna go to prison in another two weeks or so, just needed enough pot to get me through that.”

“My dealer finally tracked me down. Took him maybe a year and a half, he had no clue until then where I’d gone. In his world, it was a small amount of money and I figured he would have just blown that off. But he wasn’t that kind of guy – he wanted me to know that he knew where I was, and that if he wanted to reach out and make trouble for me, he could.

But the time he caught me, I had already been caught and found guilty of this B and E, I was on my way to sentencing, he caught me at a bar I was tending. I said, ‘Maynard, I don’t really give a shit, I’m on my way to prison, what more can you do to me, man?’ He knew that I knew all kinds of (illegal) things about him, and he wasn’t going to kill me over that amount of money.”

(Continued on Part.2)

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