What are the unspoken rules inside a crackhouse?
February 26, 2009 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Every culture has its inherent understandings, those laws that people abide by without them ever having been stated. What are the unspoken rules inside a crackhouse?
posted by Sully to Human Relations (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Keep your friends close, and your crack closer. Open crack is open game.

A person's pipe, however, is untouchable.
posted by shownomercy at 11:09 AM on February 26, 2009

i'd guess, from the times i've seen people doing crack, the only rule is to leave everyone else alone.
posted by lester at 11:15 AM on February 26, 2009

Read The Corner by David Simon and Ed Burns and Crackhouse: Notes from the End of the Line by Terry Williams and you will know.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:16 AM on February 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

In the same spirit as Sidhedevil's suggestion, watch The Wire. Seriously. It's incredibly well-researched, and incorporates a lot of "crack culture."
posted by charmcityblues at 11:17 AM on February 26, 2009

Nthing the wire, and this cop's blog about entering a Baltimore crack house is pretty insightful.
posted by Hwaet at 11:21 AM on February 26, 2009 [8 favorites]

... except in The Wire everyone was using and selling heroin, for the most part
posted by bobot at 11:22 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Without more information on why you are asking this question comes across as "chatfilter."

I have never been to a crackhouse (I tried the drug 20+ years ago though), but I assume that like most drugs that make you crave more and make you paranoid, that it would be a very anti-social space.
posted by terrapin at 11:38 AM on February 26, 2009

Having lived across the street from a crack house, I have a few observations.

The cardinal rule, I think, was to keep below the radar. To all appearances, the house across the street was a little run down, and had lots of visitors, but was otherwise just a normal house--no big drama, no junkies passed out on the lawn, or anything like that. Deals took place inside the house, behind closed doors. Cars parked legally. Only because the house was directly across the street, so we observed patterns of behavior over months, did we know it was shady.

Not to say there were never problems, just that the problems tended to not repeat themselves. There was one guy who'd, apparently, been locked out for some reason. He was banging on the door, even going around trying to open the windows. He was finally admitted, but he never came around again. One resident got beaten on the front porch. We didn't see it happening, but saw him afterwards, laying on the porch, moaning. He declined our, and other neighbors', offers to call police or an ambulance (we declined his declining, and called anyway).

There was also a woman who tended to come outside and yell and laugh and make noise at odd times. She seemed to be tolerated somewhat, perhaps because she was rather attractive. But she made a big scene one day when another resident stole her purse. She was outside, yelling at the thief, who stood, oh, 20 or so feet away, keeping his distance, but not going too far. Despite all the other criminal activity that had been going on, she seemed indignant that he'd taken her purse--theft was beyond the pale, I guess. I mean, like 15 minutes, outside on the sidewalk berating this guy, in tears.

We called the cops that time--my description to the 911 operator was that there seemed to be some type of "drama going on." I mean, she did say that her purse had been stolen, so it seemed a crime had been committed, but I couldn't say for sure. Oddly, when the cops arrived, the couple, and a friend who'd joined them, hopped in a car. They didn't drive off, but just sat in the car as the police came over and talked to them for 10 minutes or so. I guess there's some legal protection in being in a car instead of on the sidewalk? They did not, however, go into the house, or make any move towards the house. I guess no one was talking, so the police eventually left. And we didn't see her again, either.

The place was finally raided, and is now, thankfully, being renovated--the good side of gentrification.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:47 AM on February 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

Out of curiosity, why are you asking this question? If you are truly interested in crackhouse norms, you need to go to the source, read sociological treatises on the topic, or find journalists' reports and resources like the cop's blog above. It's an interesting topic, for sure.
posted by Piscean at 11:55 AM on February 26, 2009

Like terrapin, I had an opportunity to try it once way back in the day. I was used to pot culture, like perhaps being teased about bogarting. With my crack debut however, it was a different story. When my match went out before I got a hit, and I tried to light another...you would've thought I was a baby killer. It almost erupted into a fight, and I said "Fuck it !!". One of the few smart choices I made in the early 80's. Little did I know what was at stake.
posted by lobstah at 11:58 AM on February 26, 2009

Yeah, The Wire was about heroin...although I don't suppose the cultures are too radically different.
posted by downing street memo at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2009

although I don't suppose the cultures are too radically different.

Why on earth not? The drugs are radically different. That's like saying you can get ideas from observing an opium den, or your neighborhood bar. Frankly, anyone who hasn't spent quality time in a crackhouse or debriefed friends who have has no business trying to answer this question. And it's none of anyone's business why the poster is asking; I can think of any number of perfectly good reasons, and so can you.
posted by languagehat at 1:23 PM on February 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

You can find a number of the rules here: http://tinyurl.com/cstuyo

Overall this book is an incredibly disturbing look at crack culture.
posted by sacrifix at 1:25 PM on February 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

While it doesn't specifically involve a crackhouse, per se, check out Dark Days, the documentary about homeless people living in the Freedom Tunnel area of the NYC subway. Many of the participants are crack addicts and have various rivalries and agendas that are unique to that culture.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:34 PM on February 26, 2009

dj shadow did the music to dark days, i think, and if thats the right movie, its awesome. whats your definition of a crackhouse? some of my peeps used to smoke alot of crack back in the day, but when visiting their apartment it was just your typical fratbag hangout. they were just a little more irritable and tired during the crack phase.
posted by fumbducker at 1:57 PM on February 26, 2009

There are different kinds of crackhouses. Some crackhouses are organized affairs with security, orderly dispensation queues, rooms set aside for women to turn tricks in, etc. However, most crackhouses aren't establishments, as such, they just...happen. In my experience these situations usually revolve around an addicted single mother who loses control of her home. She invites friends over to get high, friends refuse to leave, friends invite a dealer over, dealer takes over the property either using drugs to appease or violence to dominate the homeowner/lease holder. These latter situations are very unfortunate as they inevitably wind up with the jailing and eviction of the mother, the placement of the child in state care.

I used to know a dude who ran security in a crackhouse, he said it was about as insane as you would imagine it to be. The proprietor used to cook batches in a coffee pot on the stove, holding a giant silver semi-auto pistol in the other hand while he did. The addicts would line up at the kitchen door and practically drool watching a coffee pot full of rocks cooking. The dude I knew would stand in the doorway between the addicts and the dealer, his arms extended, holding back the crowd from overrunning the kitchen and creating a situation where the proprietor might start shooting.

The last time I was in a crackhouse, it was the latter kind I described. First thing on a Monday morning my phone started ringing and it was some big wig from one of the city housing departments telling me that she suspected an addict prostitute was living there with her four year old boy. I was ordered to go there immediately and investigate. I always got those kind of assignments at my last job, anytime there was a real risk of the social worker being assaulted it always seemed like I got sent. That's the downside of being a bigger dude in a woman dominated field. Anyway, I went up there and rolled in with the landlord and everybody ran out the back thinking we were cops. The place looked like what you would expect. Coke everywhere, spoons, baggies, empty bottles, used condoms. Shit overflowed the toilet upstairs so they were pissing in a bucket in the living room. It was pretty rugged.

Btw, we found out later the kid wasn't there, he was down south with his father. His mother, who also suffered from schizophrenia and had actually been doing great for a number of years prior after having receiving mental health services and drug treatment, was later sent to jail.
posted by The Straightener at 2:15 PM on February 26, 2009 [20 favorites]

This isn't quite a "rule," but I once asked a crack-addict client (I'm a criminal defense attorney) for the last name of someone he was hanging out smoking crack with who was a potential witness, and after he collapsed in laughter and recovered his composure, he said, "Crackheads don't use last names."
posted by jayder at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

some of my peeps used to smoke alot of crack back in the day, but when visiting their apartment it was just your typical fratbag hangout.

One time I had to visit a place that was sort of a crack house (same case mentioned in my comment a few minutes ago). I was very embarrassed to discover that the crack house was much neater than my own home.
posted by jayder at 5:12 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi everyone!

Thanks for all the answers.
I will check out that book, as well as the Wire.

Do not worry - I'm not interested in
seeking out crack, at all.

I was just reading this book called
"Down to This" and in it, the writer goes
to a crackhouse with his buddy, and he
waits outside while his friend goes in
to score, and then the friend comes out,
but I was wondering what the decorum was
when his buddy went inside.

Coming from a middle class background,
and having never done harder drugs than
perhaps some pot, it seemed utterly mysterious
to me how there could be this house where
business was done - with random customers
actually doing crack in there - and I suppose
I was curious as to how things transpired in
such a place, seeing as the author did not
go into any sort of detail about it.

Many thanks for the responses I got.
Basically I have a lot of weird questions
that come up in my head during my everyday
life and sometimes when google can't help
me, I come to you all here on AskMefi.

posted by Sully at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2009

He who has the crack makes the rules.
posted by Muirwylde at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2009

Mod note: Ongoing meta-discussion needs to take place somewhere else.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:13 AM on March 1, 2009

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