Minimal Viable Product

“Nothing can come from deviating from the path you were destined to follow.” -Robert Greene

When we were kids we used to pretend that we were drunk. We would ride our bikes to the corner store at Chenery and Diamond. In the back of the store, at the beverage section, there was a large bottle that looked like the 40 oz bottles of liquor we saw the older guys in the neighborhood drinking outside. I remember reading the ingredients and searching for anything that might look like alcohol. Then, in small print, I came across the words “Red 40/40.” I got excited and showed the label to my friends in a whisper as if to keep the store owner from hearing. I walked to the counter with more confidence than you would imagine for the average 7 year old.

The store owner smiled, took my money and said goodbye. “Oh shit, he just let me buy liquor!” I rode my bike all the way home without stopping, afraid the store owner would realize his mistake and come running out after me. When we got back to our block, my friends and I surrounded the bottle to admire what was in front of us. It was like my favorite character Indiana Jones, after years of research and a long journey, we found our hidden treasure.

Finally, the answer to all our problems had arrived. Now we could laugh hard, be dizzy and fight like all the grown ups around us. Looking back at it, I can see that we were actually in search of relief from the stress of our homes and neighborhoods. The turf issues, being bullied, robbed for our stuff or harassed by the cops. We wanted to be somewhere else or at least change what it felt like to be where we were.

Our community was made up of pimps, prostitutes, gang bangers, dealers, users, and many working class families. I admired the dealers, but I would mostly daydream about being a user. In middle school, I remember telling my friends that when I made it to high school, I would smoke weed and cut class. My friends looked at me like I was odd, but I thought it was completely normal.

I got my first opportunity to sell drugs in the ninth grade. I bought an eighth of marijuana from the local dealer around the corner from our house. My plan was to break it down to dimes and 20 sacks to recoup my investment and grow my supply. I had a camping trip with my 9th grade science class coming up. That’s when I planned on making my first sell. I was excited about my plan and told my older cousin Marquis. He didn’t share in my enthusiasm.

“Where you get weed from?” He asked while snatching the bag from me.

“Aye, give that back!” I said whining while reaching over his shoulder and across his body, trying to get to the fist that he had clutched in one hand away from me.

“Make me! Someone takes your shit on the street, what you gonna do? You in the game now, do something about it!” This wasn’t some training session for a real-life test. Marquis was disgusted. He knew something about me that I couldn’t see, I had more to give than the streets had to offer.

“Man stop playing!! I need that back. Why you hating, dang?”

“That’s what you think this is? This aint what you want Stevon, I’m telling you,” he hollered while walking to the bathroom.

I followed him snatching at his arms and body, pushing him acting like I was ready to fight. He turned around and punched me in the chest. “Back up!”

He created enough distance between us and slammed the bathroom door behind. I started to bang on the door screaming his name. He didn’t respond. All I could hear inside was the sound of the toilet flushing.

“If you wanna sell those drugs, you’re gonna have to find them at Hetch Hetchy.”

Book Recommendations: Mastery, Laws of Human Nature

Music Recommendation: Bullets Aint Got No Name Vol 2

Stevon Cook