Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Father, His Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuana 



Tony Dokoupil

In the tradition of Blow and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, The Last Pirate is a vivid, haunting and often hilarious memoir recounting the life of Big Tony, a family man who joined the biggest pot ring of the Reagan era and exploded his life in the process. Three decades later, his son came back to put together the pieces.
As he relates his father’s rise from hey-man hippie dealer to multi-ton smuggler extraordinaire, Tony Dokoupil tells the larger history of marijuana and untangles the controversies still stirring furious debate today. He blends superb reportage with searing personal memories, presenting a probing chronicle of pot-smoking, drug-taking America from the perspective of the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the Great Stoned Age. Back then, everyone knew a drug dealer.The Last Pirate is the story of what happened to one of them, to his family, and in a pharmacological sense, to us all.      
The Last Pirate is a cultural portrait of marijuana’s endless allure set against the Technicolor backdrop of South Florida in the era of Miami Vice. It’s a public saga complete with a real pirate’s booty: more than a million dollars lost, buried, or stolen—but it’s also a deeply personal pursuit, the product of a son’s determination to replant the family tree in richer soil.

...If you smoked Colombian weed in the continental United States between 1970 and 1986, odds are good that the author’s father, Big Tony Dokoupil, was your supplier. A graduate school dropout whose heroin addiction exempted him from the Vietnam War draft, Big Tony had all the makings of an extralegal superstar: handsome, smart, prone to romantic self-mythologizing, and he lived up to the mythology in time. Big Tony moved his first brick of marijuana in 1970, the same year Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, firing the first shots of what would eventually turn into Reagan’s war on drugs. Marijuana became a Schedule I narcotic, cast as highly addictive and deadly, a scourge on society requiring a new set of draconian punishments.

It was just the kind of challenge Big Tony wanted. Impatient with honest, low-stakes work, he found rebellion as thrilling as any chemical high he pursued. After 14 years in the business, he had amassed more money than he could keep track of, with millions of dollars lost in beer coolers buried across America. Amid all this chaos, Tony started a family with a cleareyed, resourceful schoolteacher who made sure to invest in the one thing the government and the drug trade could never take away — a top-notch education for their only son, Little Tony.

What happens to the Dokoupil family is inevitable: Big Tony walks out on his wife and their 6-year-old son so he can dive deeper into the squalor of cocaine addiction. Former friends and colleagues start ratting, and Big Tony recedes further into the hell he seemed to crave. This titan of the pot trade would have become an obscure footnote, but Big Tony’s son and namesake, a senior writer for NBC News, took an inheritance of psychic loss and transformed it into a probing, exuberant memoir about the history of the American drug economy, the ambitions and failures of politicians and outlaws, fathers and sons. After years of estrangement, Little Tony reunites with his father looking for answers. The result is a fascinating tale about the wreckage of addiction and the shadow side of the American dream...

New York Times

Blow is my all time favorite book on dope smuggling so I was drawn to this one like a moth to a flame when I read the the Amazon promo. It's a real good book - I'd give it four out of five stars - but Blow still reigns supreme. The Last Pirate is written from the viewpoint of the smuggler's son (the author who is a senior writer with NBC News) and is filled with personal memories and in depth interviews with parties involved - he really dishes the dirt on his old man in an interview about the book and in the book itself...

The Old Man was restless in paradise,” he writes of his father at the height of his success, using his drug-trade nickname. “He had broken a cardinal rule of dealing and become an addict himself. Coke and hookers, mostly. He left the party early in search of both.”

...Big Tony, as the family called him, made $2.5 million ($6 million in today’s dollars), almost half of which disappeared, “lost, buried or stolen.” He fell so low that when U.S. marshals finally arrested him in 1992 while he was spearing trash on Miami Beach as part of a sanitation crew, Old Man was happy to see them...

All in all, this is a definite addition to my drug smuggling bookshelf.




Since I was involved in the trade for a while myself I had more than a casual interest in reading it. I'll you what! - This mother fucker rocks!!!

Smokey Dafino

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