Hoss: “Everybody will fuck over a friend. They allow the drug to demoralize them. They forget who they were in the heart. And forget what the basics of life were: respect thyself, respect thy neighbor, and respect thy friend.’’
Plainfield, Indiana, where Scott grew up, is a long way from the Brickyard. When Scott was a boy, Plainfield was home to about 9,000 people. “There were four hundred students in Greg’s high school class,’’ his father, Randy, said. “No minorities. One of the students had a tan.’’ The family had moved to Plainfield from Indianapolis for the “rural environment and vastly better schools,’’ Scott’s father said. But Scott longed for the big city. He said, growing up, “I always felt like an outcast.’’
And for as long as Scott can remember, he has been drawn to marginalized people and outlaws—“criminal entrepreneurs’’ as he put it, revealing the geeky sociologist in him. Maybe he inherited his gangster love from his mother, Barbara. “She read everything she could get her hands on about serial killers,’’ he said. When Scott was ten, he started a “detective agency.’’ He distributed fliers up and down his street, asking potential clients, “Do you have a cheating spouse?’’ A neighbor called his parents. “We had to close up the agency,’’ he said.
As a teenager, he played high school baseball for the Cascade Cadets, washed dishes at a local café, and worked at a Kroger grocery store where, in 1987, he was named bag boy of the year. Like his sister, Dawn, Scott attended the University of Southern California, where he took sociology and film classes. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1998. Back in the Midwest, he landed a research/policy job at the Illinois Attorney General’s office. The feeling of being an “outcast’’ came roaring back. “I had to check my soul at the door too many times,’’ he said.
Scott doesn’t have that outcast feeling when he’s in the Brickyard. He told me there are two places in the world he feels truly at home: the Brickyard and New Orleans. He owns a house in the Big Easy, in fact. He loves the seedy bars, the juke joints, and “the old voodoo lady down the street feeding folks out her back kitchen window at two dollars a plate.’’ As for the Brickyard, that makeshift village of the dispossessed, Scott recalled in his radio essay the time one of the Brickyard regulars told him that he was “every bit the freak that they are.’’ The man said that everybody in the Brickyard had their own thing: some smoked crack, others preferred heroin. “Your thing,’’ the man told Scott, “is telling stories—that’s cool. We need somebody to make our home movies for us, to get our lives on tape and share it with the rest of the world. Otherwise, man, we’re gonna die invisible.’’
Scott is a family member in such good standing that he has a street name, Two-Thirty Dirty, or Two-Thirty for short. Mike-Mike, a loquacious member of the Black Souls street gang, gave Scott the name in honor of the time of morning Scott typically showed up at a gang apartment to do research and shoot dice. Scott was also always “dirty’’ when he showed up, Mike-Mike said, referring to his bag filled with syringes and other harm reduction equipment.
Two-Thirty wasn’t Mike-Mike’s first choice for Scott’s street name. Initially, he christened him Big Red, a subtle slap at Scott’s slight frame. But when the original Big Red came home from the joint and objected to some egghead using his name, Two-Thirty was born and no one had to die.