John Koopman worked at the San Francisco Chronicle for years—until one day, he didn’t anymore. That’s when he started learning about himself. A tight, terse, almost hard-boiled piece of remembrance that started with Economic Hardship Reporting Project and ended up at Rolling Stone.

It would be more noble to say that I smuggled drugs out of economic desperation, but that’s not true. I liked the rush. I also liked the people I dealt with, and the exposure to the human condition. Even after twenty-five years in journalism, I never knew humanity the way I did working at a strip club and moving product. In the dark, you see people close up. You learn who has a good soul and whose is muddy. You have to trust your gut. People will show themselves to you and it’s important that you listen.