When I was friends with Ivan Boesky

I came of age in a time of no heroes. That was until I met Ivan Boesky, no, not the guy who went to jail for insider trading.

I met Ivan during my freshman year of college. His nick name was Sterling. He sold pot out of his dorm room, just a couple hundred feet from my own. He was tall and thin with a full head of curls. He had a small diamond stud in his ear but because it was always leaking some weird fluid, he stuffed it with cotton.

I always thought he was a nice Jewish guy, despite the fact that he was a drug dealer. His prices were in keeping my poor student lifestyle and he was always open for business. In so many ways he was too cool for school. I asked him once how he got straight A’s if he was high most of the time and he told me the secret to straight A’s was to be high most of the time.

I spent the following weekend stoned out of my mind, but incapable of studying for a big test I had that Monday. I was screwed.

Sterling asked me if I wanted to go with him to a political rally. I imagined something like Kent State in the 1960’s. I kept humming, tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming/we’re finally on our own/this summer I hear the drumming/four dead in Ohio. Instead, I stood shoulder to shoulder with ten or so other students and listened to Walter Mondale’s daughter tell us why her dad should be president. I was so bored but Sterling thought it was cool that we were so close to someone who had probably met Jimmy Carter. After he said that, I kind of thought it was cool too.

Sterling said he would be a draft dodger if the government implemented the draft again. He said he would head up to Canada if his number came up. I was so impressed that I said I would probably follow him. Montreal was only an hour away from the college, so I figured I could still commute to school. I didn’t know anything about the draft, except for what Sterling told me. From our little state college in New York, Canada didn’t seem so far.

To me Sterling was a genius. He said we should take the ferry across Lake Chaplain and hitch hike to Burlington Vermont. Common sense should have prevailed but I deferred to Sterling’s wisdom and followed him to the bus stop where we waited 45 minutes for a bus to take us to the ferry. The bus didn’t exactly drop us off at the ferry, more like near the ferry, so we had to walk another mile or so to get there. During the short walk, Sterling lit a joint and passed it to me. I took a toke. When we finally got to the ferry landing, we waited about half an hour and paid our buck fifty to get on the ferry.

The ferry ride was about 20 minutes and for those twenty minutes I thought this is the best thing I’ve ever done. We looked out the back of the boat and watched the fall foliage of the Adirondacks get smaller and smaller. Then, in what felt like a minute, the ferry docked on the other side of the lake. We disembarked onto a small landing but there was not a building in site. In fact, there was nothing but a green sign that pointed towards Burlington. I started to feel a creeping anxiety that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea but Sterling acted as if he all but expected the ferry to leave us in the middle of nowhere.

We started to walk towards Burlington. I was grateful that I had worn my good sneakers with extra support for the long walk. Sterling wore flip flops and seemed completely at ease. He pulled out the joint again and lit it before taking a long drag. I was getting more nervous and started humming Air Supply songs to keep myself calm Even the days are brighter/When someone you love’s beside ya.

Sterling asked me what I was humming and thought the lyrics were fantastic. He used the word fantastic a lot, fantastic, class, fantastic view, fantastic meeting Walter Mondale’s daughter, fantastic weed.

Every so often a car would pass and Sterling would stick his thumb out just like a real hitch hiker. The cars nearly ran us off the road as the road was really too narrow for us to be walking among traffic. Still undeterred, we marched on until a car stopped. I was leery of taking a ride from a stranger but Sterling was confident. I borrowed his confidence a lot that day. I borrowed it when we arrived in Burlington and Sterling revealed he had no cash with him for the ride home, when he said he hoped we made it back to the ferry on time and when he confessed he had no idea when the ferry stopped running.

Sterling may not have had money with him but he did have grass. He figured he could sell a couple of dime bags to some UVM students to fund our little trip. I admired Sterling’s tenacity. He was somehow able to pick perspective customers out of a crowd and sold five dime bags that afternoon. While I was afraid of getting caught and going to jail, Sterling got us an invitation to a party at the university and secured us a ride back to the ferry that night.

We caught a ride to the party with some friends Sterling had made during his little business transaction. They were friendly people but seemed to direct all their conversation toward Sterling. Maybe it was the grass, but like me, they too seemed smitten by Sterling. He told them about meeting Walter Mondale’s daughter and they all were impressed. Later at the party, I strayed from Sterling’s side and made conversation with a group of Lugers. I thought they were saying they were losers though and then had to pretend for the rest of the conversation, that I knew all about the Olympic sport. It was only months later that I discovered what the luge really was.

Sterling sold another dozen dime bags that night at the party and left with enough money for us to take a limo home. At least that was how it felt.

We made the ferry with only minutes to spare. The dock workers were already untying the ropes from the pilings as we pulled up. We thanked our driver for getting us to our destination and as I closed my door, I saw Sterling toss a tiny pouch at the driver.

Sterling got us on the ferry in time but didn’t quite factor in the bus schedule at almost midnight. We walked until we came to a pay phone. I handed Sterling my last quarter, the price had been just a dime weeks earlier, and he called a taxi to pick us up in front of the small motel where we had found the pay phone.

We smoked a joint while we waited for the taxi. I finally let down my guard as I considered the day’s events. For me everything had been sheer luck, but for Ivan Boesky, it had all been part of his well-crafted plan and for that night, he was my hero.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *