By James Maher
Occupation: Engineer (Music)
Location: 4th Street and 1st Avenue
Time: 4:30 pm on Thursday, June 30
I’m originally from the Bronx and grew up in Manhattan. I was raised in Brooklyn for half of my life, got into some trouble out there and my mom moved me to the Lower East Side. I lived by FDR Drive almost half my life. I lived over there in the Baruch Houses, grew up over there going to school.
It was pretty cool for me because you know, I was different. I learned how to play basketball. I met a lot of different people. Then after that the world started opening up for me, and as I got older things got rougher in the city. The Lower East Side used to be the city that never sleeps.
My mom, she was strung out on crack or whatever, so most of the time I was by myself. I raised myself out here. I’ve been raising myself until now, since I was young. Back then when I was out here, people used to walk around buying drugs and stuff on Avenue D. They would get ripped off; people would rob them, take their money. But they didn’t care because they wanted that fix. You know, I’ve seen a lot of stuff out there.
When I was around 22 or 23 ... I used to sell a lot of cocaine out there man. A lot of people used drugs. My friend [was selling] at the time and I used to sell weed. I was like damn; I used to see them make a lot of money.
Then this guy I used to know, he’d see me walking around all the time — this Dominican guy. He comes up to me, ‘Come here Papi.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ He’s like, ‘I see you out here a lot, you want to make some money?’ I said, ‘Doing what?’ He said, ‘You know what this is?’ He showed me some coke. I was like, ‘that’s coke.’ He was like, ‘Well this is what I do.’ And then from there, I guess he just flooded me with cocaine. He gave me a job and I took advantage of it.
Instead of being out here hustling from hand to hand, you can get money smart. You can meet people that own businesses. A lot of these businesses out here, I used to go there and knock off coke for the staff, then leave that place and go to another spot. Half of these businesses out here, people use drugs. You would never know that. You could go in a restaurant and people would be sitting down eating. I used to walk in and it’s like, it’s candy time. It’s like a little kid walking in a candy store, and everybody’s like ‘oh shit.’ It’s like me walking in with a big bag of candy. I was making so much money through all these people.
A lot of my friends died. People are still doing the same shit. You know, sometimes people just gotta push themselves somewhere else, to the next level, and this ain’t it. I got my mom into rehab and then I bought her a house in Virginia, and I moved out there and I stayed away for 15 years, just to get away from all that shit that was out here.
I escaped everything. A lot of my friends were dying. I couldn’t take it no more, so I just left, took off. I started a new life. Now I’m into music, hip hop and R&B. I went back to school and all that, for engineering. But I’ve been doing [music] all my life.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.