BROTHERHOOD --/-- a weekly series

Episode 2: "Higher Education"


"Fucking clouds."

That's what Marlin said when he picked me up at Mom's house.  

She was looking through the front window of the house with a concerned face, but a sort of smirk, too, knowing that we were up to no good, but somehow we would come back home alive.  

Marlin reved up his engine before backing out, just to hear the sound of his new cold-air intake.  

"Are you seriously mad at the fucking clouds? I mean I can understand being angry about the fact that you have to take me to visit private school today. But it ain't the clouds' fault."

"Dude just seriously shut up, this is why I am angry at the clouds. It is officially not even 7am.  Can you please just shut up for like three more minutes."

And so we started off towards our new life like that, in silence.  Just us and the road and the clouds.  The fog was setting in heavy over the Delaware River.  Once we got out of The Town, it was all country roads from there, all the way to Private School.  We didn't know it then, but this was a network of back roads that we would learn like the veins on a lover's palm. 

Marlin put on a Weezy mixtape and started bumping it.  I'm pretty sure it was The Carter II. Marlin had just installed this new Pioneer audio system last week and the bass was traveling through my spine like little fish. Shit was so sick. I remember that was the moment I finally fell in love with rap and stopped asking him to switch the music.

Marlin glanced over at me smiling a bit and said, "Wow, we have been driving for ten minutes now and you haven't tried to put in your Grateful Dead Euope '72 Album yet.  What the fuck is wrong with you, you popped some more of those downers didn't you."

"I didn't pop any pills bro. I just like this music, kind of, right now."

"Wait, wait what?!" When Marlin really laughs, he howls like a wolf with a muscular disorder.  "Okay, Okay I see you then little man.  This right here is the Carter II."

"Yo I know what the fuck this is. Just cuz I like Jerry Garcia don't mean I don't know my Weezy."

We rounded a grassy bend and approached a steel tressel bridge in some old river town. Shit looked like Europe. Marlin sparked up the last half of a vanilla dutch and we cruised over the bridge, fog setting in heavy on the water. Shit looked like a Thomas Cole painting.

"Who the fuck is Thomas Cole?"

"He's one of the hudson valley painters..."

"Okay  no more history. Matter fact let me show you some real history. You think you know rap cuz you know the Carter II? Ha! Look hand me that mixtape right there in the door little man." 

That was the first time I touched a Styles P and Jadakiss mixtape. LOX. D-Block. Watershed moment in my life. He put on the tape, the lyrics came on and we reached Pennsylvania just as the beat dropped.

Styles P: "By the time I was nine I was outta my mind
My step pops didn't like me beat me outta my mind
Ten and eleven the same I never would change
He still had to hit me, aggravate a little nigga
Still wearin' Skippys
Golf hats, Adidas and Pumas, I could a had a pair
My mommy said wait 'til Christmas but I needed 'em sooner
If you heard I was broke dawg it wasn't a rumor

"Whooohooohoooooooooo barssssss," - Marlin

"Goddamn that's poetry right there." - Mikey

"Shut the fuck up and just listen little poet boy." - Marlin

We pulled into the Private School before the song even ended. Marlin put out the blunt roach quick and had to lower the window for an adult wearing shorts, a faded polo and some of the eyeglasses that hang around the neck.  It was Peter Amorosa, this hippie right here was about to change our lives.

"You must be the Jones boys," Peter said leaning into the car, taking a whiff. "Smells good. Continue on around the bend there and park in front of that cottage.  Mikey I have one of our new ninth graders to take you o your tour, and Marlin I knew you were coming, so I set you up in one of our art classes while your brother is on tour. You like ceramics?"

So we pulled around towards this little cottage, we couldn't tell if we were at a school or a camping trip for ex-Woodstock people. 

"Dude did you fuckin here what that guy said?! He likes weed!" I said excited.

"Of course he likes weed, he teaches English in a fucking cottage.  But yo, what the fuck is ceramics?"

I went to my first class, philosophy and world religions.  My tour guide was named Brooklyn.  She wore thick framed glasses and a dope gold chain over this t-shirt, I think it had a tootsie-roll logo on it.  Years later I would tell her I remember she wore that t the first day we met and she disagreed, said she never had a t-shirt like that.  Anyways, she was amazing. We skipped the next class because she wanted to show me the trails through the woods.  When we got out there we sat down and she pulled out a book of Edgar Allan Poe stuff.  Second amazing poet since Styles P I learned that day.  She pulled out this glass stick thing and packed some tree inside.  I couldn't believe this school. I did not expect private school to be like this. I wanted to tell her she was smoking some reggie miller and I could get her that loud if she wanted, but decided to hold back. Didn't want her to meet my brother unless it was necessary. 

As she blew out smoke her lips moved to the Poe verse:

"Yawn level with the luminous waves;

But not the riches there that lie

In each idol's diamond eye -

Not the gally-jeweled dead

Tempt the waters from their bed."


Back in the ceramics room, Marlin was trying to work the pottery wheel without getting clay on his brand new, fresh white Air Force 1's.  

"Fuck man no wonder these hippies wear brown sandals, I don't blame them why waste money on freshies when you're going to be making clay plates and bowls all the time. What are those called I need to grab some?"

A frightened and confused ninth grader sputtered out, "Birkenstocks".

That's when Marlin met one of his best connects of all time: Yaff.  Really his name was David Yaffowski, but down at the docks in Philly he was known as Yaff.  He left his mom's house at 16 and moved to Fishtown, where he worked out a way to receive big shipments from his older cousin up in Boston, who got his stuff from an outdoor farm in Canada.  Yaff was destroying the market, and doing it quietly.  No one who bought his product knew who he was or how the entire supply came from this one high school hippy kid who liked to hack computers and had three tongue rings. No one including Marlin, who had been profiting off of this cheap "kind bud" for months now.

"Hey man, I can get you a pair of those sandals if you are really interested, if you get me a pair of those 'freshies'." Yaff said to Marlin.

"Haha yeah you like these freshies right here? Footlocker got em for 100, I get em of this dude in The Town for 35."

"Hot truck?"


"I'm Yaff."

"I'm Marlin."

"You wanna blaze?"

"Hell yeah I gotta dutch in my car."

"We can't smoke the shit i got in a dutch, I got some glass."

Marlin followed Yaff outside and they walked out into the trail in the woods.  Yaff pulled out his bag and showed Marlin some legitimate Sour Diesel. 

Marlin - "Yo what the fuck is that." He smelled the bag and squinted his eyes, raising his nose in the air like a puppy who just smelled his own poop.

Yaff - "This is what they call Sour Diesel.  Chemdog and this dude Weasel combined their seeds up in Central Park in the City and no this shit is coming straight out of indoor setups in the Bronx and Queens."

Marlin - "This is the real Sour Diesel? Yo they are selling some kind bud down in the Town and calling it Sour D. They spray it with lemon juice like idiots and all these even bigger dumbies buy it for like 20 a .4 gram.

Yaff- "No way, are you serious."

Marlin - "Yeah I sell that kind bud too, crazy connect no one knows about got the market flooded. But I don't spray it, I don't smoke that shit either. My personal stash is that Og and that Lemon."

Yaff - "Well shit man, you got a big clientele down there in Jersey?"

Marlin - "I mean not crazy you know. Most of it is bloods and crips controlling shit around there right now so I keep it slight. That's why I brought my brother up here, I'm trying to meet these doctors and lawyers kids."

Yaff - "Interesting. What do you think would happen if we brought this Sour down to the Town?"

Marlin - "We would take shit over. And probably need a lot of guns."

Yaff - "Guns? Fuck guns dude, there's better ways to do this. Quieter ways, and more money too."

Marlin - "Yo bro I don't think you know how it is down there. I see you got some fire here, but that don't mean shit to those kids. They are in a war down there."

Yaff - "You know some dude they call Nino"

Marlin - "What the fuck did you just say?"

Yaff - "Nino. You know him? I was just wondering because he gets his entire supply from my cousin."

Marlin - "Let me find out your cousin is that white boy they call Bambi."

Yaff - "Yup".

Marlin - "Wait, what the fuck?! Who the fuck are you bro."

Yaff - "I believe I am what they call 'The Plug'."

"Yo put that down, we got some kids over here".

That's when Brooklyn and me came walking out from the trees with a book and the glass pipe and ran straight into Marlin and Yaff.  Marlin started cackling in his twitchy howl and Yaff couldn't help but follow suit. 

"I guess this is your little brother?" Yaff said.

"Yup.  That's my little bro."


When we got home, Marlin dropped me off at Mom's, but she ran outside before Marlin could leave.  She wanted to ask questions.

"Oh shit, here comes Mom on some Johny Cochran shit I can see in her face. Grill session."

I tried to leave and go inside quick. 

"Mikey, you stay right here, I want to ask you boys how your first day was at Private School. Marlin, did everything go okay?"

"Everything went wonderful, Mom, I think the teachers really like Mikey and, you know what, I even made some new friends."

"Oh really," Mom said. "New friends, like, meaning you are okay with those "hippy kids" now?"

"Yeah, I mean, yeah I am okay with them."

"Well, I will tell you what, show me you can get your act together, and I will call the dean to see if you can apply for the scholarship with your little brother. Maybe both of you will get it."

Me and my brother looked at each other, half confused half dreaming about the possibilities. I shook my hand in front of my neck to tell him to chill out and to not say anything bad right now. I hope to god he would just say, "Yeah, that sounds great, maybe it could happen!"

And to my surprise, that is exactly what he said. I knew it was because he met that Yaff kid, but hey, I was cool with that if it meant my brother getting his ass out of trouble and going back to school.  As long as I got to see Brooklyn again.  I could be cool with just about anything. Even private school.  


Look out for Episode 3 next week. "BROTHERHOOD" only on riojones.Live