Weed Man: The Remarkable Journey of Jimmy Divine

Overview

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Americans in the early 1970s were smoking upwards of 35,000 pounds of marijuana per day. By the time the decade drew to a close, Time magazine reported that reefer had become “the most widely accepted illegal indulgence since drinking during Prohibition.”

You can thank Jimmy Moree for helping to feed America’s insatiable pot habit. Nicknamed “Jimmy Divine” for his teetotaling ways, he would become one of the most successful...

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Weed Man: The Remarkable Journey of Jimmy Divine

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Overview

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that Americans in the early 1970s were smoking upwards of 35,000 pounds of marijuana per day. By the time the decade drew to a close, Time magazine reported that reefer had become “the most widely accepted illegal indulgence since drinking during Prohibition.”

You can thank Jimmy Moree for helping to feed America’s insatiable pot habit. Nicknamed “Jimmy Divine” for his teetotaling ways, he would become one of the most successful marijuana traffickers of the 1970s, smuggling high-grade South American weed across the tempestuous seas into North American ports of call.

He was born and grew up poor in the Bahamas. That life was forever changed on a morning jog when Jimmy literally stumbled onto several million dollars’ worth of prime Colombian grass. He disposed of the weed with a little help from a law-enforcement friend and was surprised to earn over three hundred thousand dollars for his trouble. It was the first deal of many. The money was easy, and the perks fantastic. Jimmy went on to make?and give away?a fortune.

And now award-winning journalist John McCaslin is telling Jimmy’s story. Several of the characters are identified by their actual names or by nicknames. Identities of others have been changed to protect the guilty. Rest assured, you’re in for a white-knuckle ride on the open seas where adventure, enterprise, and entire fortunes go up in smoke.

“McCaslin brings his exceptional reportorial talent to bear in a fascinating exposé of the drug trade.” —G. GORDON LIDDY

“Told in a breezy, witty style, McCaslin’s book captures moments in relatively recent Caribbean history when it was . . . possible to make a fortune by the ability to steer a boat stealthily through dangerous seas.” —MARK BOWDEN

Endorsements

"I'm delighted to see that John McCaslin has climbed out of his political trench in Washington long enough to set sail on this astonishing journey through the precarious Caribbean reefs, and beyond. Somehow, in typical McCaslin fashion, he manages to bring his readers back to the nation's capital in a chapter that will certainly have official tongues wagging in Washington." -- Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News and former co-host of NBC's Today

"This story is so compelling . . . John McCaslin has put it all together in a way that simply made me want to just keep on reading. Wow." --Wolf Blitzer, anchor and host of the CNN newscast The Situation Room

"For years everybody in Washington has turned to John McCaslin's Inside The Beltway column for the inside skinny on what is going on in our nation's capital. Now, in Weed Man: The Remarkable Journey of Jimmy Divine, McCaslin brings his exceptional reportorial talent to bear in a fascinating expose of the drug trade." --G. Gordon Liddy, Watergate figure and nationally-syndicated radio host

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401605353
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/18/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 985,278
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John McCaslin is a columnist, anchor, talk show host, and storyteller. A former broadcast news anchor, and award-winning correspondent,John pens the popular "Inside the Beltway" column for the Washington Times and Los Angeles Times Syndicate.
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Read an Excerpt

WEED MAN

The Remarkable Journey of Jimmy Divine
By John McCaslin

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2009 John McCaslin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59555-153-5


Chapter One

RUSTED WHEELS CLUNG TO WORN TRACKS AS THE rickety train climbed the sabana, or high plateau of the Andes mountains. Slouched so as to be less noticed in the passenger seat nearest the locomotive, the Reverend Jerome Constantakis felt inside his scarlet-red tunic for his passport, which identified him as a Catholic priest from the Bahamas. Proof of citizenship and motley vestments wouldn't be required once he reached his final destination in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world's highest coastal mountain range he'd soon be ascending on the back of a donkey-the day's final mode of transportation that began in the backseat of a Miami taxi. He zipped his travel documents into a small suitcase kept at his feet-where he could feel it-realizing in doing so that he forgot his toothbrush again.

Father Jerome, as he called himself-for fear of butchering the last name-had never grown comfortable administering blessings to the appreciative Colombians who squatted in the mountainous villages between Bogotá and the northern coast. Seldom did these peasants come face-to-face with visiting clergymen of his caliber-dressed to the hilt and sporting an ecclesiastical stone ring so gigantic it should have belonged to the pontiff.

"Full regalia," he now describes the wardrobe with its dangling tassels and trinkets. "Sometimes I wore purple, sometimes I wore red. I didn't wear just the black outfit with white collar. I didn't have the pope's hat, but I had the cardinal's hat."

Mothers and grandmothers alike, babies forever glued to their arms, swarmed around the handsome priest with the jet-black hair and matching goatee. "Padre, bendiga a mi bebé, por favor," they pleaded, asking for blessings for their children.

Father Jerome managed a smile with each request, grateful when the women extended the infants so he wasn't at a loss for their requests. He then placed the palms of his suntanned hands atop each silky scalp and recited his trademark Latin blessing-the few holy words he could recall from his years as an altar boy in 1960s' Nassau. At which point the unsuspecting Colombians, who spoke Castilian Spanish peppered with Colombian vernacular or one of 180 other indigenous languages overheard in the third-world country, knelt down before the holy imposter to kiss his magnificent ring.

Without fail, Father Jerome followed each Latin blessing with a separate prayer that he whispered to himself in a language he could understand. "God, forgive me," he repeated, over and over again.

More often than not his mind turned to the real Father Jerome, his principal at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Nassau and a guiding force in his life. How would that servant of the Lord, a Pennsylvanian from blue-collar Bethlehem, have reacted if he'd known that one of his more promising non-Catholic altar boys and pupils had literally hijacked his name and most sacred vow?

The guilt would have been unbearable had the phony priest not recalled the strap. Once the unruly boys had grown taller than the nuns, Father Jerome would be summoned to administer more memorable punishments. The children called it "strap time"-when they would bend over their desks for lashings, the specific number hinging on the severity of the crime.

So what if I'm not an ordained channel to God? Father Jerome reasoned with himself. Isn't my presence alone a good thing? Aren't my prayers and blessings among these masses of spiritually deprived people better than having none at all?

He recalled one of his former Sacred Heart classmates, whose surname was Constantakis. The boy had been enrolled in the Catholic school for maybe a year before his Greek parents shipped him off to boarding school. It took one of his classmates so long to memorize his name that he hadn't forgotten it to this day. Still, it was difficult for him to pronounce. And then the school's stern principal popped back into his mind, haunting him again.

"Pour the wine," the principal would encourage his timid altar server, who would start to pour and then stop, the chalice half-full. Maybe it was because he'd grown up knowing that too much alcohol-whether orange-colored altar wine or the clear hooch his father drank-was not such a good thing. "More wine, more wine; it's okay, Jimmy."

No, it wasn't the Colombian police or military that Father Jerome dreaded bumping into during his risky journeys into these unfamiliar mountains. He wasn't afraid of the rebel groups that kidnapped foreigners for a living, holding them for ransom. What petrified him more than anything else was crossing paths with a Catholic priest or a nun and having to lie about being in the poor South American country in hopes of opening an orphanage. It was a tough sell to begin with, but the fact that he didn't speak a lick of Spanish made such ungodly deception all the more difficult.

He glanced down at the shiny cover of his Bible, realizing how unread it looked. He slumped further into his stiff seat, its fabric worn to wood many journeys ago. Fatigued, his stomach growling, he stared through the train's filthy windows into the muddied-green countryside until the rocking and rhythm of the wheels lulled him to sleep.

* * *

"Padre, padre, me marido se está muriendo! Venga, venga por favor!"

The shrill cry was coming from the rear of the car. Startled awake, Father Jerome sat upright, turning to see an old woman wearing a colorful pollera skirt, her dark gray hair wrapped neatly in a bun, waving her hands wildly into the air as she rushed to the front of the train.

The priest looked to his fellow passengers for a clue, unable to comprehend the woman's pleas: "Father, Father, my husband is dying," she was repeating in Spanish. "Come, please come!"

The train's riders stared wide-eyed at the larger-than-life priest-wearing everything but a halo on his head-no doubt expecting to witness their first miracle. Father Jerome knew enough to grab his Bible-and, on second thought, his suitcase-place his zucchetto (skullcap) on his head, and follow the hysterical woman back down the aisle to the rear of the train.

"Her husband had suffered a heart attack," he explains now. "I went to him, but unfortunately he was already gone. So I recited some of my Latin words and traced a cross on his forehead-just like the priests do on Ash Wednesday. I figured that was a good touch.

"'Ahd Doh'mee-noom Day'oom noh'stroom [ad Dominum Deum nostrum]'-I had no idea what I was saying. But the old woman seemed relieved, given the circumstances. Giving him the last rites-whatever the case was-it made her feel good, and that made me feel good. And the people who had gathered around for my send-off were all thanking me, handing me various tokens of their appreciation-whatever possessions they carried with them on the train, some breathing, some not. I kept saying, 'No, thank you, no, thank you.'"

Last rites administered, a weary Father Jerome carefully made his way back up the swaying aisle of the train, keeping his suitcase clutched to his chest. Now more than ever he relished the seclusion of his forward space, where he could reflect on his sins. And then, as if on sacred cue, the sun's rays broke through the storm clouds that shrouded the nearby mountains and streaked yellow through the car's muddied windows. "Light from God," proclaimed one elderly passenger, rising up from his seat to bow in homage.

Father Jerome passed row after row of these adoring peasants, some shouting accolades, others grabbing at his colorful mozzetta (bishop's cape), cassock, and silk sash. It reminded him of the annual May Day processions in Nassau, except in this unholy aisle it wasn't the Blessed Mother the throngs were worshiping.

Ashamed of himself, he found his seat and stared one last time at his Bible-still no worse for the wear. "I've really done it this time," he mumbled. "I'm going straight to hell for this performance."

He felt like ripping off his cross and leaping from the slow-moving train. He tried to concentrate on his two-day itinerary, which culminated as guest of honor with one of the more influential drug cartels in Colombia-the Cardinals.

It took longer than usual, but the priest began to relax and came close to nodding off, when he felt a light tapping on his shoulder. He turned to first notice the crusted tear streaks, twisting like dried mountain streams down the widow's wrinkled cheeks. Her eyes were bloodshot, but determined.

"Padre," she offered, her voice a mere whisper in comparison to the screech of her time of need. "Gracias por su bendición. Por favor, acepte este pollo en agradecimiento."

And with that she placed a simple wooden and wire-mesh box on Father Jerome's lap, turned, and shuffled away. The cackling chicken inside it looked as confused as the priest.

Chapter Two

THE MOREE BROTHERS-RENO, FLOYD, AND JAMES (whenever the latter was back visiting)-didn't have to pore over the pages of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island to dream about buccaneers and buried gold. Pirates and pillaging were in their blood. The boys' father, Jacob, delighted in recalling the maritime adventures of the family's ancestors-genuine French-rooted boucaniers licensed by the British crown as privateers to attack any and all galleons and coastal cities from the Caribbean to the Americas that flew the Spanish flag.

Surely Jacob spared his sons the most gruesome details of the family's diaries, given the sport of buccaneering in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries wasn't bound by any manual of niceties. Buccaneers attacked without warning and seldom took prisoners-it was that simple. Except for a diversion or two, the family's days of swashbuckling ended in the 1780s, Jacob assured his barefoot boys, which is when the Morees first settled on this sliver of an island that Christopher Columbus had christened Fernandina some three centuries before. Their bloodline, their father told them, fished and farmed on the same five-hundred-acre tract-a pirate's payment by the crown-they farmed and fished from today.

"Tell us more about the wreckers!" one of the boys begged.

"There was one spell during the nineteenth century that the Moree clan helped darken the lighthouse a couple of times and set a fire in the middle of the island-they were called wreckers," Jacob explained. "They did it to survive, you see, or else you boys might never have been born. And when the ships, loaded to the decks with goods and treasures, sailed past our island, the captains would confuse the fire in the field for the lighthouse, and they'd run their boats up on the reef. The wreckers would then go out to the sinking ships and collect whatever supplies they needed. Does that make sense?"

If a Caribbean cowboy ever existed, it was Jacob. Tall and thin, he wore all black, from his Stetson hat to his pointy-toe boots. A cantankerous fellow, he welcomed fistfights with each snort of hooch-a corn-based moonshine made by a neighbor farmer the islanders called Mr. John. When he wasn't fishing for grouper, snappers, yellow tails, and grunts-plentiful lobsters were used to catch the grunts-or growing potatoes, pumpkins, and corn; or tending to his chickens, goats, and sheep, Jacob was riding his black and gray horse, named Smokey. Jacob used to irritate his wife by galloping his stud into her kitchen-separated from the one-bedroom pink rubble (stone mixed with mud) house-and tying him up to the table while the family ate.

A renowned womanizer, Jacob was always telling his boys that their mother, Perline Daville, was the most gorgeous woman he'd ever laid eyes on. Of Portuguese descent, she stood just over five feet, weighed fewer than 110 pounds, and had a hardened beauty to her. The Long Islanders were most impressed with her flowing black hair, which hung below her hips. She was, Jacob realized, the prize catch on the island. To court her, he would jump on his horse and gallop halfway up the eighty-mile-long shard of land, past five-hundred-acre tracts owned by the Millers ("Mr. John" and "Ma Miller"), Dillards, Knowleses (pronounced "Nalls"), Farrellses, and Wellses. A single date with Perline would last the entire day, but given the distance involved, Jacob would spend most of it with Smokey. The three dated like this for two years, until Jacob asked Perline to give him and his horse a rest. She accepted the pair's proposal and left the five-hundred-acre Daville tract her family farmed and fished to settle on the five-hundred-acre tract the Moree family farmed and fished.

* * *

The earliest settlers employed by the British crown had been doled out like-sized parcels of land, what came to be called "generational property"-passed down from one generation to the next, so long as there was a son in the family to inherit the property. Deeds stating as much were issued by the Bahamas House of Assembly when it first convened in 1729 to draw up a constitution, which recognized the English king and queen as its rulers, with an appointed governor to oversee the tropical archipelago of seven hundred islands and cays-fourteen of them prosperous enough to sustain populations.

Stretching north to south on the map, Long Island resembles a chewed toothpick, albeit there was less wood and more rock, and not much of that. Stand anywhere on the island and all you see is ocean. In fact, the waterlogged geology confused the original inhabitants of the island, which in turn served to confuse their children, their children, their children, and so on, despite the fact the subsequent generations, unlike their forebearers, had state-of-the-art maps at their disposal. Even the Moree brothers were confused.

"The entire time growing up, the east side of the island was known as the north side," Jimmy recalls. "I never knew why, and I learned not to question it. Early one morning Jacob-I almost always called him Jacob because that's what he wanted to be called; he refused to believe that he was older than the rest of us ... Anyway, this one morning Jacob and I were eating breakfast before we went out to check the pots. And up comes the sun, dead in the east-where it's supposed to come up, you know? And I said, 'Jacob, I realize I'm not that bright, but why is the sun rising in the north?' And he said, 'Son, let me explain something to you. It's not up to us to step in and change something that has stood for centuries. That has always been the north side of the island, and it will stay the north side.'"

* * *

Perline had delivered her third and last son, James-who henceforth answered to Jimmy-on the morning of November 15, 1952. When it came to a baby's size, the two older Moree siblings had been larger than most newborns, but a mother's intuition told Perline that Jimmy would be no ordinary arrival. And he wasn't-topping Jacob's fish scale at almost fourteen pounds, a Long Island record as far back as the neighbors could remember.

Anemic to start with, Perline never fully recovered from the difficult delivery. From that day forward she barely stepped foot out of her pink house and kitchen, except to use the bathroom or attend church, which was as close as the outhouse. Jacob and the older boys carried in all the fish and vegetables, and Perline always managed to set a hot meal on the table. But she and Jacob knew-indeed the entire island knew-that the huge addition to the Moree family would be too much for Perline to handle. On that inevitable day, tears welled in her eyes and, drawing all the emotional strength she could muster from her frail body, she kissed her six-month-old on the nose and told him to always remember his mother (as it was, she lived another twenty-two years). She then handed the baby to Jacob, who wrapped a blanket around his youngest son and told the boy's speechless brothers to see to their mother's needs while he was away on the boat, and to call on the neighbors if needed. He then placed his black cowboy hat on his head, grabbed the small bag that Perline had packed with what few possessions belong to somebody Jimmy's age, and set off for the water's edge, where the father and son boarded the mail boat bound for Exuma Sound and the Bahamian capital of Nassau.

Ironically, it was the most bonding Jacob had ever done with one of his babies. He didn't normally step into the picture until his children were old enough to run the fields and learn how to set the fish traps. For the first time, guilt gripped him as the boat churned its way north, past a few large islands and hundreds of smaller ones, christened with curious names like Man-O-War Cay, Rat Cay, Bitter Guana, Rudder Cut, Sail Rocks, Booby Island, and, once beyond Salt Cay, the big island of New Providence and its bustling harbor of Nassau.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from WEED MAN by John McCaslin Copyright © 2009 by John McCaslin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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