“Mind if I have a beer?” I asked the big skinhead with the bulbus beer gut.
“Only if you do one thing for me,” he said.
I nodded. “What’s that?”
“Talk to people,” he said. “Socialize. Don’t just sit in the fuckin corner like a fuckin leper.”
This was it; it was called A Touch of Class. An abandoned house where the Punks and Skins went to get trashed.
Jeff Turner had brought me here.
I first met Randy at the free Toxic Narcotic show at the Axis. I’d seen him at other shows but this was the first time I met him in person. Jeff, Harry, and I went to the show together. It was being filmed and I licked the lens of the camera as they filmed the crowd standing in line waiting to go in. In the final production they did not use that footage after all, but they did catch me standing there like a boring buffoon. Just standing there. I was at the front of the line and I was the first one to notice the guy with the camera emerge from inside the big black doors.
Usually this venue had many buff, angry bouncers standing around, making sure no one stage-dived—although that never stopped us—making sure no one was high on drugs, making sure no one danced in the pit with studded jackets, spiked collars, lock-&-chains around their necks. Tonight Toxic Narcotic had rented out the place for their 15-year anniversary and they removed the barriers between the band and the crowd, making it so much easier to stage-dive, and got rid of the bouncers, too———it was just us kids. Jeff Turner was caught on camera numerous times leaping from the stage and surfing the upraised hands that brought him to the back of the venue in a fluid, sequential motion.
Personally I did not enjoy this show as much as others, because I felt that the crowd was rather divided. There were cliques formed and it was quite boring.
As I left the show, down the street from the venue, Harry, Punk Rock Pete, and I were walking and then we were stopped immediately by this large, muscular skinhead who I later learned was named Lester.
He said to me: “What the fuck is up with the upside-down flag on your back?”
He grabbed the shoulder of my soft, navy-blue blazer, with an upside-down American flag sewn to the back. Pulled me toward him with a single heft. My jacket hung to my shoulders awkwardly after he got a hold of it.
I could smell the whiskey on his breath.
Next to him was this fat skinhead who I later learned was named Randy. Both were dressed sharp. They had scaly caps, braces, plaid, denim, and steel-toed Docs. Their jeans were cuffed evenly. Their braces were straight, their laces were straight. Even their scaly caps were straight. These two guys had flair, albeit they were piss-drunk and pissed-off.
Lester held me in his large, hairy hand. His knuckles were tattooed: SKIN. His hand was tattooed too. I tried to avoid looking him in the eye and I noticed that he even had tattoos climbing his neck.
“I oughtta kick your fuckin head in,” he spat, with one hand clung to my blazer, the other hand clenched.
I was scared.
Harry was scared.
Punk Rock Pete was holding something in his pocket.
The fat skinhead said: “Lester, let it go.”
Lester’s grip on my jacket tightened as he pulled me closer. My boots were raised off the ground.
The fat skinhead said: “C’mon, Lester. They’re just kids. Let it go.”
He patted the skinhead named Lester on the chest. Lester released me with a shove, and I buckled into Harry. We both stumbled backwards as Punk Rock Pete stood there with his feet planted firmly on the ground.
The skinheads walked away. Punk Rock Pete pulled brass knuckles from his pocket and told me that that was fuckin scary, man.
Later Jay Drunk said to me: “If our Founding Fathers hated their country, why can’t we hate our own?”
I was pretty sure these skinheads were not interested in an intellectual debate.
That’s why I was nervous as I sat in the corner of A Touch of Class. Lester and Randy were there.
Randy handed me a beer. Beckoned me into the kitchen.
“C’mon, what’re you waiting for?” he said.
Lester was stumbling around with a beer in his hand. He gestured for me to come over to him.
He put his hand around my shoulder and led me to a private corner.
He said: “Sorry, bud.”
I was dead silent.
“Listen, bud,” he said. “I think we got off on the wrong foot.”
He said his name was Lester; I told him my own.
We shook hands.
Still holding my hand firmly, he said: “Here’s the thing. I hate the government but I love this country. The flag means freedom. I served two tours overseas just to keep it that way.”
Then he walked away. I sipped my beer and started to feel much more at ease. These guys were welcoming me in.
I was to go to a rehab center in Houston, TX, the following day. This was my last night to do it up///
Me and Lacey met up with Andrew and Caitlyn in Harvard Square; Travis was there too. They all knew the score; they knew that tomorrow I’d be gone.
We hit the bottle hard, in the Pit, in the alleyways, going back and forth from the packy to the street corner so we could constantly replenish our stock of booze.
The star-speckled night sky was static. The crowd was bustling—from shoppers, to drunks, to winos, to bums. Men in business suits going home to their families after a long day of work, or to their mistresses to let out some steam. Hipsters with their friends having a blast and going from one store to the next. Hippies with their long dreads trying to sell some bud. Gangsters trying to sell some dope. Junkies trying to score. Hobos trying to make some change.
Andrew would do this thing where he’d run at some random person so fast they’d flinch, and right before he’d crash into them he’d stop there and start dancing. It was pretty hilarious. Lacey was around my shoulder. Caitlyn was glued to Andrew. Travis was in the middle, and he wanted to score some pot. We moved from Harvard Square to Central Square, all the way down Mass Ave. and back, harassing folks, shouting, being weird and mean, but funny.
This was our city and tomorrow I was going to leave….
When we arrived back at Harvard Square, after causing the slightest of mischief in Central Square, Andrew and Caitlyn were gone. Travis was still with us. I called Andrew and he told me where he was. Travis, Lacey, and I followed his directions but when we got there he was nowhere to be found. So I tried again. Where are you? He told me and the three of us went there and he was gone again. What the fuck is going on? I was starting to become rather aggravated. He knew it meant a lot to me to be with my girlfriend and my best friend tonight. This was my fuckin night, and he fuckin ditched me. Tomorrow he could do what he wanted—after I was gone———but tonight, this was my fuckin night.
He led us all over the place; it was like a wild goose chase. Everywhere we’d go was exactly where he wasn’t.
I was so frikken pissed.
Finally I saw him coming up the street. I ran to him as fast as I could and shouted: What the fuck!
Huh! he said.
What the fuck! And then I went to slug him in the face but I stumbled and he moved and my fist split open on the side of the building. Fuck!
He looked at me fierce and I saw him and Caitlyn and Travis—since he was Travis’s ride home—all take off around the corner.
Now it was just me and Lacey. I looked at her and she was beaming because it was just the two of us now and now I could give her my undivided attention.
We walked along until we got to the park. We sat on the fountain and talked and laughed and drank whiskey from the two-liter coke bottle. Before long, I forgot about Andrew; he was dead to me.
Some guy a little older than us wandered into the park.
As he passed the fountain, I said: Hey!
He came over to us and he had weed. So we smoked with him. I was pretty sure he wanted to have a threesome with us. It became quite apparent when he asked to kiss me and I said sure and then he gave me some pot to take home and Lacey and I left and he didn’t seem too happy about that. But whatever, this was my night.
We smoked and drank all the way till 7AM and my flight was at 8 and I got on the plane and immediately ordered myself a drink.
This was it: my last bout of freedom.
I ordered another drink. And then another. But the guy who was there to take me to the program said I shouldn’t have any more. So I stopped.
I don’t remember much of what Houston looked like as he drove me to the program; I don’t remember much of the program either because they subdued me with Ativan the whole time I was there—for alcohol withdrawals and anxiety.
I left a week later because they said I was trying to take advantage of some girl in a vulnerable state. She was having a bad day and I read her some of my poetry—that was it, I swear. Nothing else happened between us—although maybe it could have if they hadn’t kicked me out so quickly.
The morning before I left, I took an Ativan. The guy got me and took me to the airport and first thing on the plane I started drinking again and I don’t remember much of the flight.
Or much of getting home.
Or much of meeting up with Lacey.
Next thing I’m waking up beside the fountain where I kissed the guy a week earlier.
I was just leaving the open-mike. It was at the Center Street Alley, and as I was cutting through the first-floor balcony, there was a group about my age clustered at the picnic table closest to the door. I was sleep-deprived and stimulated; I was running on fumes and I might have said something obnoxious to them. I think I asked them if they wanted to buy one of my books. I slipped I Need Help: The SkullFuck Collection from my backpack and handed it to one of the girls. She flipped the pages and looked at the art and then asked me: “Are you on drugs?” I told her: “No.” I said: “I’m just crazy.” She said she wanted to buy the book sometime. Asked if there was a way to contact me. We exchanged Facebook information and then I left. A few months went by and out of the blue I got a message from some girl who I had no recollection of ever meeting and she told me who she was. She was the girl I met a few months earlier at the open-mike who had shown interest in buying my book. She said she was having a really bad night and she needed someone to talk to. It was probably 1AM when she messaged me, and I told her she could come over and we could talk. She agreed to meet me at the library and then we went back to my apartment. We sat there and talked but she never told me what was going on, why she was so upset; we kept it innocent and I read her some of my writing and she bought a book and then I suggested we go for a walk and we walked all around town and, as the sun crested the hill and rays of light burst from behind the storefronts and cars began buzzing past us as people went to work, I walked her home. We continued to talk. I put a cigarette out on my wrist to show her that people have different thresholds of pain; mine happens to be higher than most. At her door she hugged me goodbye and I said bye and then left and went home. Late that day she messaged me and told me she read the whole book and I said cool and we made plans to hang out later that night and when we did, we walked all over the place, talking with the energy of a highspeed train, chugging caffeine and whatnot. When the night came to an end, as it usually does, I walked her home. The following day I was feeling rather crummy myself and when she called me on the phone I told her so and she invited me over and I met her little toddler girl and we talked and smoked cigarettes outside her backdoor and she played me David Bowie’s newest music video and I remember he looked so old, for I think he had cancer, and he was still kickin and making music videos even in his cancerous state and it was kind of impressive and inspiring. The following day she met me at the library cuz she was taking her little girl to Walmart and she wanted me to come with her. I met her there and she said her fiancé worked at Walmart and he wanted to meet up with her when he got out of work and she guessed I could come along too. I didn’t know she was engaged. She never told me about it. I wondered did she tell him about me? All those late nights talking and hanging out and I was starting to develop feelings for her and I could sense the feelings were mutual, her leaning on my shoulder as I read her my poetry and me putting my arm around her or letting her wear my jacket when she was cold. She could have at least told me she was engaged. So I went to Walmart with her and her little girl and there I met her fiancé and I was a completely blank asset, didn’t say a single word. I was brewing resentments. They had no chemistry whatsoever. Complete opposites. She was fun and interesting and he was a bore. He wore a collared shirt and khakis and he was such a boring fuckin asshole. I was brooding so hard into the day until I said I had to get going. I went home and called a friend of mine and told him about it and he said he knew her fiancé—what with living in a small town in Vermont—and he was not surprised she was so drawn to me like that since he and I were total opposites in every sense of the word and I was so mad. I texted her and said I didn’t know she was engaged. She insisted she told me. I said she hadn’t. Did she ever tell him about me? Was he just as shocked to meet me as I was to meet him? She immediately changed the subject. Said I was just too conceited to remember a detail such as her being engaged. I told her it was a detail I wouldn’t forget. Then she told me to lose her number. Said she would get over her massive crush on me. “What?” I said. She blocked me. I was so distraught. The fuck just happened. Why are crazy girls so drawn to me? And why the fuck am I so drawn to them?
Music is my life; it always has been. The first musician I ever listened to was Weird Al Yankovic back when I was 9 or 10 years old. Then it was Green Day, Smash Mouth, the Beastie Boys. When I met someone for the first time, I’d always ask: “What kind of music do you listen to?” I’ve always been so restless and hyperactive my whole life, and music could keep me occupied for hours. I’d listen to it and all the problems of the world. my problems that had plagued me since I first could walk, vaporized—just like that. Gone. See you later. My first job was in a DJ studio; I worked in the warehouse where I sorted through inventory. It was a big company called Gibson Productions and they had lots of gear and I was so stoked about this job. I was only 14. In my free time I’d come in and set up the dual CD player with scratching capabilities—like an actual record player (they only had one dual CD player that could do that)—and a couple of monitors and just Go for it. I’d be there for hours mixing tracks, scr-scr-scratching songs, doing it up.
Finally I got the owner of the company to give me a shot in the field. He said okay, but warily, as I was only 14 years old. I had to do my first two gigs with an experienced DJ, and for free, and then he’d see how I did. The first gig was great: I made a 30 dollar tip, and I got a very complimentary phone call from the client when I returned to the warehouse the following Monday morning. The second gig—not so well. That would be the last time I DJed, but not the end of my career as a musician.
I was always very anxious and quiet and most of the time I preferred music as my only company. I liked to crank it when I was drinking because nothing beats it when your vision blurs and the world spins and the roaring guitar kicks in. I was addicted to it—more than anything. Every time I went out with my friends, the moment we’d start drinking I’d flip my headphones over my head, click PLAY on my discman. The music would flow so smoothly as my head swam in a sea of liquor.
Until my angry, blunt friend said to me one day: “You know, it’s kind of rude to hang out with us and then put on your headphones and act like we don’t exist!”
What a dick! Well, I suppose that’s why they make boom-boxes. So the surrounding world can hear the movement. I’d bring my boom-box everywhere. It was sort of my signature, my contribution to this pre-apocalyptic world where we sometimes exist.
Picture this:::: You wake up in the morning to the sound of a bass drum being kicked. Boom! And then again, it’s kicked. Boom, boom! Every few seconds you hear that bass drum, a rhythm that knocks you awake. Then there’s feedback as you make the coffee. The coffee maker rattles a bit. Buzzes. Rattles. You take the pot and pour it into your mug and the guitar cuts in like a buzzsaw with your first sip. The bass guitar gets plucked. There might be some sort of synthesizer being keyed as you sip your coffee, becoming more awake. But it’s not enough. So you have another cup and the vocals chime in with beautifully poetic lyrics that give your life purpose, and now, you can go about your day.
That’s why I had to start a band.
We lived faster and we played louder--that was our motto. Being onstage and releasing your emotions in a rapid-fire succession was almost comparable to taking an automatic assault rifle and gunning down a line of presidents and world leaders. With one long, raucous roar, each head would explode Domino-style, one after the next. Some venues were packed, and some were barren, but it didn’t matter. We’d play in front of a measly mirror, for all we cared. We played--for us! We played because it was fun. We played because it was a major release. We played because we … played;;;; and not to mention it was a fun way to release your emotions on an unsuspecting crowd.
It was the best part of life, the only thing I looked forward to. When I wasn’t onstage or playing with my band, I was sitting on the curb playing what I later referred to as my Stink-Box—a large red construction-worker boom-box that I carried with me everywhere I went; it was my baby. I only bought it—for 120 dollars—because all my previous, cheaper boom-boxes would break in some disastrous but humorous act of destruction. They would never last. So I saved up and invested. It stayed with me for five to six years.
I always had to have my music.
I don’t know where we were or what we were doing or where we were going. We were on the highway; my dad was driving. The sky was dark and filled with stars. If you rolled down the window, you would smell the sweet and natural smell that only comes from the countryside.
Half a mile up the highway there was a large, lumpy shadow splayed out across the road. As we got closer to it, the shadow turned into flesh and we realized it was a dead bear. We were going way over the speed limit and we were much too close to it to slow down and pull around. All we could do was barrel through.
We got closer and it grew larger in the front windshield.
Closer and closer the dead bear just got bigger and soon you could almost see its cold dead eyes in our headlights as--thrump-thrump—the car bounced and came down and a sheet of dark red fluids draped the front windshield, raining down all around us. My dad was frozen sold. I was screaming, asking him if he saw that. He didn’t move or speak. He was in complete shock. Almost on auto-pilot. I said: “Are you okay?” He said nothing. All I could see was red. The car kept going. Then the windshield wipers kicked on and wiped away all the blood. My dad shook his head; he snapped out of it and we continued on our way >>>