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Nov 27, 2011

The Nitty Gritty, Part 21: Patron Saint of...Whatever

 I'll admit that suffering, or rather, the dramatic interest of being One Who Suffered, appealed to me. I could see myself tragic and tortured, wasted by some suitably novel madness or malaise that would leave me wanly luminous, a brave inspiration to friends and family gathered about my bedside.
Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game

TUESDAY. SEPTEMBER 6th, 2010

            I thought about the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
            During World War II, the Navy ship was torpedoed by the Japanese. After it sunk, almost 900 men were left in Pacific Ocean. Some were in the few lifeboats, some floated in their lifejackets. 316 survived the 4 days it took to be rescued. Many were killed by sharks. All were severely dehydrated. Some decided to drink the salt water which caused them to become delirious. I didn't want that to happen.
            I was already delirious.
            I was also completely dehydrated. Being dehydrated in reality, was causing me to desperately crave water in my hallucinations. If I was back in my bedroom at this time, I was so far from reality that I did not have the sense to walk to my bathroom sink and get a drink.

            When I fought for my life on the I.P.O.D.S boat in my last delusion, I was actually acting it out on a neighbor's boat. That was where I caused the damage to my knee and my IPOD player.
            I may have been floating in the intracoastal outside my apartment. That would be my best guess. I would say that made the most sense, except nothing made sense anymore.
            Physically, I could only imagine where I was. In my imagination, I was in the Atlantic Ocean. Somewhere between Philadelphia and Ft. Lauderdale, I was waiting for the sharks.

            Despite the blood in the water, the sharks never came.
            Instead, Johan did.
            I recognized my old friend's voice as soon as I heard him call my name. I stopped gazing at the full moon and looked towards his voice to see him paddling towards me in a kayak. I had not seen or spoken to him in 5 years, but there he was.  Couldn't have picked a better time.  How could he possibly find me in the middle of the ocean in the dark?
            At first, I thought I had lost my mind and was seeing things. I was. But in my version of reality, he was there.
            Finally, my mind was giving me a break. I don't know why. Maybe there is only so much fear that the mind can take. I know now that there is only so much stress and lack of sleep that the mind can take before it loses touch with reality. I don't know what happens to the mind when it experiences more fear than it can possibly handle. Maybe it would not be a temporary psychosis. Maybe it would be permanent.
            He pulled me into the kayak. I just kept thanking him. I wanted to know where the hell I was and how he knew I was out there? He explained that we were not far from the Boca Raton Inlet.

            Once again, the laws of physics were no match for me.
            Einstein? Newton? Hawking? Morons. Jimmy Mac? Genius. I had made a habit of refuting their concepts of time and space over the last 5 days. I had created my own theory concerning the time-space continuum.
            Not a theory, a law.
            The Law of Whatever.
            A person can not float roughly 1,000 miles in a few hours, if not minutes?
            Whatever.
            A car leaving South Florida after dark can't make it to Kansas City Airport before midnight, even with the 1 hour time difference?
            Whatever.
            Kids can't knock on your apartment door and be out of sight in 3/10's of a second?
            Whatever.
            People can't show up at a beach memorial for a man they didn't know who died 20 minutes earlier?   
            What. The. Fuck. Ever.
            Someday this Law of Whatever will be studied in schools.
            It may be perfect for the current generation. Of course they would add "slang" to this old man's law.
            The Law of Whatevz.
            Someday, this brain of mine will be studied by neuroscientists.
            It may not be because I was considered a genius though.
            Whatevz.

            This "genius" was treading water in the right latitude and the right longitude at the right time. Apparently Johan was paddling out here because a few of my friends had discovered the approximate location of treasure that sunk to the ocean bottom in a famous shipwreck. You probably never heard of it. The name escapes me right now, but trust me, it was very famous. I knew enough about it to know the treasure was priceless and now I would get a cut since...since it was my delusion, I guess?

            As nice as it was to hear some good news after the events of the last few days, I knew I could not survive much longer without water. Johan did not have any. Being surrounded by an ocean of water while dying of thirst was torture.
            Johan paddled until we spotted my friend, Mark. I never knew it, but Mark was a world class scuba diver. In my world, at least. Johan paddled along Mark's kayak. I had to get in with Mark because Johan had to paddle back to tell the other guys that we would be coming back soon. They had to prepare, um, whatever it is their individual assignments were. I told Johan I had to go with him because I was severely dehydrated and I would not make it much longer without water. Johan said I had to stay because someone had to help Mark. Apparently when they divvied up jobs, they forgot this vital one. Someone had to keep Mark's kayak from drifting away while he was marking the treasure as ours. I told Johan I was too weak to assume such an important task. He told me if that was the case, then I would never have the strength to paddle to wherever the other guys were. They both made it clear that if any of us did not do our respective job, we would lose our chance at a fortune beyond our wildest dreams. After hundreds of years of being undiscovered, another group was right behind us in search of the treasure.

            I had no choice. I could not let my best friends down or they would never forgive me.
            That is what I told myself.
            That is also what they told myself.
            I said I would not let them down. Even if I died. I would stay alive long enough for Mark to bury the flag and get back to the kayak. In typical drama queen fashion, I said something lame like,"Even if I wasted my life, I will not waste my death".

            The only thing I asked was that they let my friends know that I loved them and that I died so that they could enjoy lives that most men could only dream of.
            And that once in a while, they take just a moment out of their lives of luxury and leisure to remember me and my selfless sacrifice.
            And also, if they would erect a statue of me.
            Life size, preferably.
            Before I could ask them to name their first born after me or have me canonized as Patron Saint of Temporary Insanity, Johan said he had to hurry. He told me that live or die, my life was not a waste because I had been a good friend. He said if I didn't make it, he would personally see that all my final wishes would be followed, no matter how much the statue would cost.
             I watch Johan paddling as fast as he could. I think about how I may never see my oldest friend again and that I forgot to tell him something. I shout out his name, but he is too far away. I would tell Mark to pass my message, but I did not want to distract him while he hurried to get his equipment ready for his dive. Now Johan would never know what I wanted to tell him. I wanted to let him know that I would like the inscription at the base of my 6'1 statue to read:

         JIMMY MAC
10/28/1975 - 9/6/2010 
          MARTYR    


              

Nov 25, 2011

The Nitty Gritty Part 20: Galeophobia

The waves are crashing in
And I can't save this sinking ship
I sent out signal flares
But no one out there seems to care
And now I'm lost at sea
I'm drowning in what I won't be
I'm haunted by the sound
Sweet sound of my last breath
                               Senses Fail, Lost and Found

                                                                                                                                                                     
TUESDAY. SEPTEMBER 6th, 2010

            It was not only my hallucinations that were on par with my worst nightmares, so was my life. The delusions just took it that must further.  My guilt, my fears, my regrets, my pain. All were being manifested into my psychosis. What had been a slow downward spiral was now moving at hyper speed. I would escape one nightmare only to find myself in another even more horrifying.
           Addiction and depression were nightmare enough.
           Months of failed detox attempts and withdrawal made the depression worse.
           The coinciding insomnia just made it all unbearable.
           Over the last 5 days, overwhelming fear was the only thing that distracted me from the unshakeable  physical withdrawal symptoms. As awful as my body felt, the mental anguish was worse.

            I had somehow got out of Vegas without being buried in the desert by Criss Angel's thugs.
            Before I could see that as a second chance at life, I found out my father died.
            I barely had time to grieve before finding myself in the company of pimps and whores with their dirty needles.
            I thought escaping prison rape and a crime ridden ghetto would allow me time to finally reflect during the boat ride home.
           I did not have time to get my head straight before I was threatened to have it severed from my body.
           If I had been allowed a moment of peace, I would have realized that I was struggling to keep alive a person who had wished they were never born. I had fought and killed to preserve my despised and wasted life. Since Friday, I had faced more ways to die than I could think of reasons to live. I was about to face another. This was enough to drive a person mad, if they weren't already.
     
           The cold ocean water made me shake.
           The detox made me tremble.
           The thought of my greatest irrational fear made me shudder.
           If I had a phobia, this was it.
           Don't think about it.
           It was only a matter of time before they smelled it.
           I was covered in it.
           Blood.
           Think about something else.
           Anything else.
           Make your last thoughts be about something good.
           Make your peace.
           Try to forgive yourself.
           It wasn't always like this.
           I tried in vain to prevent the word from entering my mind.
           Too late.
           Sharks.
           I'm scared, mom.
           I hear my mother's voice.
          "They can't hurt you, honey" she assures me.
       
            My treading legs, along with my arms are now convulsing with panic at the mental images of something that I had always been fascinated by. Once the sharks smelled me, there would be no hope. There was nowhere to swim to. I didn't even know in what direction to swim towards the coast. I couldn't talk my way out of a confrontation with a shark. Even with all the rage a man could muster, there was no way to fight off a school of them or even one man eater.

            I did not bother to pray.
            If there was a God, He had given up on me.
            Maybe I had given up on Him first.
            Maybe He could not be bothered with me because of what happened on the boat.
            Maybe I lost my soul from fighting on the boat tonight.
            Maybe I lost my soul from filming on the boat 5 years ago.
            I remember what Doyle said that day.
           "God can't save you here".
            I try distracting myself from the shame.
            I try distracting myself from the sharks.

            I remember being 4 years old. It is one of my earliest memories. It is the moment that introduced me to the concept of fear. My mother was there. So were the sharks. I jumped into her arms when I first saw them. The movie screen at Sea World scrolled up and revealed a huge tank filled with dozens of them.

            I remember being in a McDonalds only a few years later. While I ate my Happy Meal, I saw something on the wall that has stayed with me ever since. It was a picture of a Winslow Homer painting called  The Gulfstream. A black man is lying on the deck of a damaged fishing boat. The rough ocean waves battering the small boat are filled with blood and sharks. A water spout is in the distance. Whether or not I knew it at such a young age, I was deeply affected by the sense of impending doom I saw in it.



            I only thought about the fear I imagined that I would have felt if I were that man. If Homer did not want to convey a feeling of hopelessness, he would not have made the seas so rough. He would have put the man on a boat with a rudder or a ship with a sail. He would not have included the blood in the water indicating the man had not always been alone on this boat. If there was supposed to be any hope to be found in the painting, the artist would not have made the shark's aggression so obvious. He certainly would not have painted an approaching water spout if there was to be any hope of a happy ending.
            The painting had left such an impression on me that I visualized it while I felt my own impending doom approaching. Despite my panic, I started to think of the painting in a different way. I had always noticed, but I had never acknowledged that despite the dire situation, the man was calm. He obviously understands the situation, but he shows no fear. I always imagined that he had once been a slave. If this was to be his death, his only comfort was knowing that he had lived through worse. 
 
           I hear my mother's voice.
          "They can't hurt you, honey"
           I stop my furious treading.
           I give my legs a rest.
           I float on my back.
           I stare up at the moon.
           I've been through worse.
   

The Nitty Gritty, Part 19: The Trivial Pursuit of Survival on an Ocean of Fire and Brimstone


          
            "They're dreadfully fond of beheading people here;
           the great wonder is, that there's anyone left alive"
               Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


            My eyes are closed. I'm waiting for Yakuza to put me out of my misery with his samurai sword. I don't waste my last moments praying.
            I hear Squeak's voice.
           "Alright, come one now. Buddy's had enough", he tells Yakuza.
            Handjob let's me loose. I drop to the boat deck. I look up and see Squeak with his arm holding back Yakuza.
           "Buddy's alright", he tells him.
            I hear DJB laughing.
           "Aww, Squeak. He was just testing him. He wasn't gonna do anything" he says.

            Squeak pulls me up and sits me in a chair. I am emotionally drained. I want to cry in frustration, but I don't have the energy. I put my hand on the back of Squeak's neck and put my forehead to his. Without words, I thank him. He says that he won't be able to help anymore. He tells me that he is sorry before he walks away.
            I look up and see him walk into the cabin with his head down. DJB shakes his head in disgust at him while he whispers in Yakuza's ear. DJB tells me to listen up because I'm not getting this boat ride home for nothing.

           I knew that DJB set up street fights for money. I had been there. It sickened me. It showed how empty his life was, no matter how much money he had. He enjoyed putting up the money  watch guys beat the shit out of each other in backyards and boatyards so he could post the videos online.He always ended up paying his own guys that he brought to fight.

           There were no cameras around, but I was told I had to fight. It was not going to be filmed because someone was going to die. Winner gets $10,000 per fight, loser gets their dead body thrown into the ocean.

            I can't believe what I'm hearing. No time to ponder before a bald guy who looks like a Mexican gangbanger by his tats emerges from beneath the cabin. I didn't have time to say that this was not a fair fight before he punched me in the jaw. I dropped to the deck once again.
           In Spanish, he kept calling me the same word and it was not amigo.
           In English, he told me he hoped I was ready to die.
           This vato was as mean as he was strong.
           I was neither.
           I was nice.
           I was weak.
           I was getting choked out from behind.
           I could not breathe.
           I could not talk my way out of this one.
           I could not defend myself.
           I struggled to stay conscious.
           I reached my arms behind me trying to grab his head.
           I saw the IPOD player on the deck. Since I had the same one, I knew that unless you took an axe to it, it was pretty much indestructible. Instead of fighting back, I kept reaching for it. I finally used my foot to pull it towards me. I picked it up and with both hands and as hard as I could, I swung it over my shoulder and hit him directly across the bridge of his nose. He let go of his choke hold. I turned to see him stumble backwards with both hands covering his bloody and broken nose. Before he could take his hands away from his face, I knocked him to the deck. As he laid on his back, he again started telling me that I was dead. I put my knees over his shoulders to hold him down. I drove the IPOD player into his face over and over until he was unrecognizable.

           I killed someone.
           I wanted to vomit.
           I dry heaved.
           I had nothing to throw up.
           DJB clapped. He told me that he never knew I had it in me. He and Yakuza exchanged money.
           On my hands and knees, I try to get my breath back as the boat deck filled with blood.
           Why am I putting myself through this?

           I realize then what the new new name of the boat means. It is suddenly so obvious.
           I.P.O.D.S.
           If Pilate Overturned Death Sentence.
           It did not take a Jesuit to decipher it's meaning.
           Everyone on this boat was going to Hell.
           The only question was in what order?
 
           I continued to fight. Every time I was over matched. The only way I survived was by unleashing all the rage I had built up inside.  Every time I wanted to give in to my exhaustion, I found something inside that I never knew I had. I could never have imagined being capable of such brutality. A person could never know until they were put in the position.
          I thought of the Coliseum. I thought of the disgusting acts that served as entertainment.  I had no desire to take part in some gory blood sport. I was not like some gladiator fighting for glory. If anything, I was like some scared Christian facing the lions. Instead of letting myself be persecuted, I became one of the beasts I had been thrown to.
           The equivalent of those evil emperors were getting off on this transformation. After every kill, they laughed. They never allowed me enough time to catch my breath to tell them I give up. As soon as it was over, security would throw the body off the side of the boat. Before I could ponder the fact that I had just taken someone's life with my bare hands, I was being beaten upon by the next opponent. I started every fight from my hands and knees.
          
           I don't have a clear enough recollection of the other fights to write about them. I only remember being told I was up to $70,000.
           I had fought and killed 7 men.
           I kept telling them I did not care about the money. I did not want to do this anymore. I just wanted to go home.
           They didn't care. They would just tell me I was alright and to get up.
            I try, but I can't.

            They say it's time for a new game. They tell me that since I'm smart I will like this game. I wish I had the energy to kill both of these mother fuckers. Nothing would make me happier than beating them to their deaths at their own game. A game they could never survive themselves.
            They tell me that there is going to be trivia added to the game.
            Trivia? My mind and body are beyond exhaustion and they want me to answer trivia and fight?
            They explain the rules.
            A trivia question is read.
            The IPOD player then gets tossed across the deck.
            First person to get control of it gets to answer the question.
            If you answer the question wrong, you have to fight.
            If you answer correctly, the other guy dies by gunshot.
            This does not sound like a fun game.
            What kind of twisted psyche comes up with this kind of bizarre competition involving brains and brutality.
            Why not a spelling bee and a sword fight?
            Which one of these sick fucks thought up such a sick game?
            The sick fuck in question was me. This game was a product of my own mind. I was making up the rules of a game I would be playing against myself.
            I  was both sadist and masochist.
       
            T stepped out on deck. He was another cameraman and had been a good friend when we worked together. T was a Cuban who never stopped his fast talking.
            He saw me collapsed on the deck. He walked over and helped me up.
            I told him I could not do this, not with him. He said we didn't have a choice. I told him that they couldn't make us try to kill each other. He said we wouldn't have to. They would do it for us. We had to play or else we both died.
           "What about your wife and son?" I ask.
            He shrugged his shoulders. He said he needed money.
            I am disappointed to know he is here by choice. It helps me forget any friendship we once had years ago.

            DJB tells us to get ready. I know T is not going to hold back. I'm bent over, with my hands on my knees to hold myself up. I know that I can't survive another fight. I'm too drained, emotionally and physically All I can do is summon every ounce of strength I have and try to get that IPOD player and hopefully I will know the answer to the trivia question. If I don't get to it first, I am dead whether he answers correctly or not.
            We are shoulder to shoulder, like two nervous sprinters waiting on the starting gun.
            Handjob stands off to the side, ready to toss the IPOD player. Some thug I don't know stands next to DJB and cocks a shotgun. DJB pulls a card from from the stack in his pocket.
           "Here we go". He reads from the card."What is the name of the Tom Stoppard play centered around 2 minor characters from Hamlet?"
            Handjob tosses the IPOD case towards the deck. Before it lands, T and I lunge forward. I throw my shoulder into T and dive towards it. My knee scrapes the deck as I slide on the blood and wrap my arms around the case like I was recovering a fumbled football.
           "ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD!" I shout.
            DJB flips the card and shows it to Yakuza.
           "ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD!" I shout again.
            They look at each other, as if there is anything to discuss. As if either of these scumbags know anything about theatre. I know I am right because after all, I chose this question.
           "Nope" DJB tells me.
            The thug points the shotgun at me. I hold the IPOD player over my face as if it could protect me.
           "WAIT! STOP!" I plead. "THAT'S THE RIGHT ANSWER! I KNOW IT IS! THERE'S EVEN A MOVIE OF IT WITH GARY OLDMAN AND TIM ROTH! I SAW IT! ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD! ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD!"
            DJB looks at the thug and nods. The thug shoots T in the chest and he flips backward over the back of the boat. I remember thinking about his wife and son, and how they will never know what happened to him.

            I realize that they have no intentions of letting me off this boat alive. They've just been waiting for me to be killed off since the first fight. I had killed off just about everyone who worked for them. I had no value to them as anything but a fighter, but they knew I would never fight again after I got off the boat.
            I laid flat on my back, still clutching the IPOD player, while they talked to each other. I hurt my knee when I dove. I raised it up to see that my jeans were torn open exposing a huge bloody gash.
            I heard them tell me it was time to get up and that I only had one more fight.
           "I'm done". I've been done. I had nothing left. I would not be able to even defend myself any longer.
            They tell me that I can't be done. I had $80,000 coming to me and I had to fight this one last time or I'd get nothing. It would be double or nothing. I would either walk away with 160k or I would not walk away at all.
           "Keep it. I don't care about the money", I tell them. "I'm finished".
           "I don't think so", DJB says. "You got one more. If you don't get up, he's just gonna kill you where you're laying so you might as well get up".

            Out of the cabin comes the most intimidating person I had ever met. A black guy with a bald head and huge beard with muscles on top muscles. I compared my fist with his one day. His was twice the size. I had seen him fight may times. I had watched him destroy guys who would have killed me on my best day. This was far from my best day.
            Even though I had no chance, I pulled myself up. It took everything I had.
           "I can't win" I tell them. "He's gonna kill me with one punch".
            They knew that. That's what they were waiting for.
            He started coming towards me with his fists up. I could not even raise mine, let alone land a punch.
            I wanted to tell them I would see them all in Hell. I didn't even have the strength for that. I stumbled backwards until I felt the side of the boat behind my legs. I let myself fall overboard.
            I could hear them voicing their disappointment at missing out on my death. They knew there was nowhere for me to go. I heard them talking and laughing until the engine started and drowned them out.         

            It has been 14 months since that night.
            I never saw my watch after that night. It was a $2,000 Tag Heuer that had been a birthday gift from DJB back in 2006.
            I still have the IPOD player. It still works and it still shows the damage from that night.
            I  no longer have those ripped Abercrombie jeans.
            I do still have a scar on my knee from that night.
            2 days later, a doctor would see the large scab covering my knee and ask me what happened. I told him,"Well, I thought I was fighting for my life on a boat, but now I have no idea".

Nov 19, 2011

The Nitty Gritty, Part 17: Revelries of Roaring Lions & Red Dragons



 "Things are always darkest before they go pitch black"
    


            When we got to the dock, I immediately recognized "the boat". I had spent a lot of time on it a few years back. The only thing different was the name. It had been changed to I.P.O.D.S. I had no idea what this stood for. I didn't really give it too much thought. I was just relieved to get on board. I wanted to get far from this ghetto and this city. The further we got from the dock, the safer I felt. I had been through too much that Monday night to even start to talk about it. I was doing my best to not even think about the events of that day. Monday was in the past.
            It was after Midnight.  It was Tuesday.

TUESDAY. SEPTEMBER 6th, 2010

            I sat there quietly, stuck in my own head, staring at the water from the back of the boat. I just watched the land get smaller and smaller until it was out of sight. I found a little bit of comfort in hearing my favorite songs playing. It did not seem odd that the same songs that I was hearing were all on my favorite playlist on my IPOD. It did not seem odd that these guys who only listened to rap were playing my kind of music. It did not even seem odd that the these familiar songs were coming from the same exact portable IPOD player that I had. The same one I had been taking with me everywhere I went like a little boombox. I played it every minute of my day and night to avoid letting an unbearable silence seep into the void that was my life. It was my only way to hear another person's voice. Nobody ever called my phone. I had no internet. I had no cable. I sold my Playstation a few days earlier, so I couldn't even watch free DVD's from the library. My books and my music were my only friends. I tried not to even think about what might happen if this IPOD died like my last one. It was all I had left.
            Except for the sound of the engine, it was quiet. I wondered if there was any chance that I may get some sleep. Nothing would be better than a few precious hours of sleep. I just wanted enough to rest my exhausted, but still racing mind. Maybe I could even sleep deep enough to have a dream or 2. Just a few hours would be a gift. I took 10 Tylenol PM's a few nights earlier and did not sleep for a minute. Instead, I tripped out from whatever they put in those things. My pupils were the size of small planets and I was catching trails off of everything that moved. Nothing helped. 12 or 15 melatonin had no effect. I prayed for some kind of temporary escape from this nightmare life. Usually, when people are depressed, they sleep a lot. They want the hours to pass as quickly as possible, hoping to wake up to find that things have gotten better on their own, that maybe the pain will have subsided. Maybe they can wake up to find out that their life was just a bad dream. Maybe they could fall asleep and never have to wake up. That would have been Heaven to me. Anything was better than this. 
            Even when I was able to get a few hours sleep in the previous months, waking up was depressing. I had nothing to look forward to. My nightmares were better than my life. Everyday started the same exact way. My eyes would open. I would look around my dirty ass, self imposed prison of a bedroom that had become a microcosm of my life. As I was thrown out of sleep and back into life, it took a moment to realize that this was my reality, not the dream I had just woke from. As soon as I recognized this sad fact, I would utter out loud with disgusted disappointment the same exact thing that I always said to myself to start the next miserable day of my miserable life:
           "Fuck".
            I actually missed waking up and cursing my life. At least that meant I had slept. I was suffering from acute clinical depression and insomnia. That meant I was face to face with my depressing thoughts every minute of the day. There was not a moment of release. There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to retreat to. I needed a break. I just needed some goddamn sleep. That's all it is, sleep. It's not sex. It's sleep. It's a given. If a person hopes to survive, it is a necessity. It is food. It is water. It is shelter. How was I ever going to get better if I couldn't sleep? I needed it now more than ever. As bad as things had been, they were getting worse by the day. The last sleep I got was Friday night before the unexpected flight to Vegas. 
            Besides that, I could not even remember the last time I slept.
   
            I sat on the back of the boat, dreaming of sleeping when I heard the cabin door slam open behind me. I turned to see 2 Japanese men emerge from beneath. The one was wearing an expensive black suit. I had seen enough Japanese films to recognize a member of the Yakuza when I saw one. The other was his henchman, who looked and dressed exactly like that huge assassin from the James Bond movie, Goldfinger. I think his name was Handjob, or maybe Oddjob? Probably the latter. If this brute wasn't Handjob, then he was definitely the parody of his character, Random Task,  from Austin Powers. He was the one who threw a shoe as a weapon. I believe Handjob threw a hat in the Bond film. The only thing this version of the character threw was me to the ground. Then he picked me up by my head and slammed the right side of my face down on a table and held it there. Once I could focus my eyes, I saw Yakuza unsheathe a Samurai sword and walk towards me with it pointed directly at my face. I was so dazed that I couldn't even say,"What the fuck?" as I typically would have in such a situation, even though before the Criss Angel incident a few nights earlier, I had never been in any situation remotely like this. Yakuza started yelling in his version of Japanenglish. He basically wanted to know who I was and what I was doing there. 
            Why do I keep putting myself in these situations?
            I was still reeling from having my face slammed down. Handjob pushing my face into the table was not helping me gather my thoughts. He had my hair in his hand and made a fist, pulling it hard enough to indicate that I better respond. 
           "I USED TO WORK WITH THESE GUYS! THEY KNOW ME!" 
            Yakuza puts the blade on my neck and raises the sword above his head with both hands. I keep expecting someone to set this asshole straight. Nothing. None of my old "friends" are speaking up on my behalf. Somehow, even though they do and say nothing, I know that the security guys want to step in and stop this.
           "GUYS? COME ON! PLEASE! SAY SOMETHING! TELL THESE FUCKING GUYS WHO I AM!" I plead to no avail. Not a word. I can't see them, but I know they are there. I can feel them watching. I call out to the security guy that I was especially close to. 
           "SQUEAK! SQUEAK! WHERE ARE YOU? HELP ME, MAN. I KNOW YOU'RE HERE SOMEWHERE. PLEASE JUST SAY SOMETHING!"
            Despite his nickname, Squeak does not make a sound. It's desperation time.
            SQUEAK. IT'S ME, MAN! WE WERE ALWAYS TIGHT, REMEMBER? FROM DAY ONE. JUST..PLEASE... SQUEAK. JUST SAY I'M YOUR FRIEND".
           I know that he is the only one who ever genuinely cared about me and, even in his silence, I am sure that it is killing him to not be able to help me. It's a nice thought, but Squeak's best intentions aside, I'm about to be fucking decapitated. I try a different approach. I stop shouting and I resort to using the closest  thing we had to a term of endearment for each other.
          "Squeak! It's me, your buddy. You can't let them kill your buddy."
           I'm all alone and I know it. The tears start to flow and my voice cracks as I struggle to force my words in one last futile attempt. My voice has about as much authority as someone trying not to wake the person in bed next to them while they cry themselves to sleep. Like that same person whispering a bedtime prayer, I was the only one who could hear me.  
           "It's me. It's Jimbo Jones. Don't let them kill me. Don't let them kill Jimbo Jones".

            He did not have a choice. He would lose everything if he interfered with whatever business is going on between Yakuza and DJB, who I can now see in the background. The son of a bitch is standing there smiling. He is finding my display of fear and desperation amusing. I yell at him to tell Yakuza that I am not some rat. He says nothing. When I see how much he is enjoying this, my fear turns to anger. I make the last choice I was ever going to make. I had lived my life like a coward, but I was not going to die the same way. I was not going to beg for my life. I would not give him the satisfaction. I would not provide the punchline to one of his sick late night stories. I would happily die before spending my last words pleading with him to show me mercy.
           That would not be the last act I performed in my shitty waste of a life.
           "FUCK YOU!" I shout at him as our eyes meet under Yakuza's raised elbow. Handjob still has the whole right side of my face buried in the hard table surface. Yakuza brings the sword back to my neck and raises it back to prepare for my beheading, which I can only hope will be done in one clean chop. I see DJB again as Yakuza raises the sword. 
          "FUCK YOU!" I shout at him again. 
           He's snickering. I roll my left eye around for another face to spit my venom at.
          "FUCK ALL OF YOU MOTHER FUCKERS! YOU'RE NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF FUCKIN' COWARDS!" 
           I look up at Yakuza's face with my left eye.
           I realize my angry words do not faze him.
           I am only amusing him.
           I stop screaming.
           I take my final breath.
           I am calm.
           I know this is it.
           I wink at Yakuza.
           I see his confusion.
           I smile.
           I know something they don't know.
           I choose my last words.
           I laugh.   
          "You're all gonna rot in fuckin' Hell".
           I continue to laugh like some lunatic. I laugh like this so I won't cry. No matter how hard I force it, I am still somewhere in the middle of  laughter and tears. My small victory is being able to laugh a little harder than I cry while I tell them their futures.
          "You're all gonna fuckin' rot in Hell. Every fuckin' one of you".
           The harder I laugh, the harder it is not to cry. When I feel the laughter begin to give way to the tears, I force myself to be silent. 
            I close my eye and try to think of something.
            Something that might bring me peace. 
            Something good I did with my life. 
            Something I am proud of. 
            Something.
            Nothing.
            Nothing comes to mind.
           "HIYAH!" Yakuza shouts.
            I deserve this.
     
     

Nov 16, 2011

The Nitty Gritty, Part 16: Bent, Not Broken. Not Yet

If you are going through hell,
keep going.
Winston Churchill



            So far, I've done my best to try to describe my bizarre hallucinations. Even without access to an online thesaurus, I have a fairly voluminous vocabulary. Basically, I know lots of words, and sometimes even the meaning of those words. I must admit that I lack the vocab to describe how I escaped from the Philly jail. Sure, I know enough words to write the sentences,"Then I looked up to see a guy who used to work for my dad fly over me in an electric hang glider" and "I made the right decision by diving to the right, dodging the helicopter's spotlight that went left ", I just lack the ability to form the sentences that would connect those 2. So let's just say, I got away. Sorry, no Shawshank moment in the rain. If there was to be any redemption, some kind of light at the end of this shit filled sewer tunnel, I wasn't there yet.

            After I got past the barbed wire fence around the jail, I sprinted across the seeming endless cow pasture ahead of me. I had no time to pick shrooms, I just ran through the open field, searching for cover. I finally reached the tree line and laid down behind some bushes to assess my situation. On the other side of the tree line, I saw the city streets that I would have to run through in order to get home. Every direction I looked, nothing but the worst ghettos I could imagine. I knew I had to get moving, but I couldn't. Across the street, I saw some guys standing in a circle in what was clearly a drug deal. I recognized 3 of the guys. A white guy and his 2 large black body guards.

            Let me tell you about the biggest pieces of shit I've ever associated myself with. This guy and his cronies were a bunch of lowlifes who got rich from pornography, but somehow thought they were above people who were not degenerates. Cowards who surrounded themselves by thugs so they could get away with treating people like shit without getting their asses kicked. Guys who shake hands with pimps, carry and clean dirty dildos, but then suddenly become germaphobes and refuse to shake hands with the guy working at the car rental. People who if you heard died when one of their private planes crashed, you would only say "good riddance", knowing that the world was a better place without them. They would not be missed, except maybe by those who pretended to be friends, but really only saw them as their meal ticket. You may even want to attend the funeral so you could laugh to yourself as people try to find something nice to say about them. Basically, they were people I had become ashamed to have once called "friends". But, I was willing to put all of that aside if it meant making it alive out of this ghetto in my mind. So you might say that even in my hallucinations, I'm a hypocrite. All I could say to that would be,"Hey, fuck you, I was in the middle of a psychotic episode!"

            I had nothing against the body guards. They were alright.The white guy was scumbag who I will refer to as DJB for my own personal sense of satisfaction. No matter how much I despised DJB, I knew that his security was the only way I would make it out of here alive. I ran as fast as I could towards them and explained my situation. They said everything would be cool and as soon as the drug deal was done, we were going to head home on a yacht that was at a nearby dock...in the middle of the ghetto. I thought I was safe. I was wrong.

Nov 10, 2011

The Nitty Gritty, Part 15: I'm Not Here. This Isn't Happening

I think,'My bed will comfort me,
and sleep will ease my misery",
but then you shatter me with with dreams
and terrify me with visions.
I would rather be strangled-
rather die than suffer like this.
I hate my life and don't want to go on living.
Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days.
 JOB 7:13-16




MONDAY

            After the dirty needle full of heroin just missed my jugular, I stood there in shock and fear with my hand over the puncture. Even though being stabbed by the hooker was only the second time I had tried heroin, I felt the heartbreak of knowing that I was still going to die a junkie's death. This is not how I was supposed to die. If I made it out of this room alive, it would just be a matter of time before I felt the death sentence of an incurable disease start to destroy me. There was no doubt that once I would feel my body start to deteriorate, I would either purposely overdose on pills or just Jackson Pollack the bathroom wall with my brains. I would take things into my own hands like Hemingway did with his shotgun 3 weeks before his 62nd birthday, when he realized that his mind was deteriorating. I often thought that when the day came that I knew my mind was going and would never return, pulling a Hemingway would be the best option for both myself and the people who would be responsible for changing my diaper. Until the hooker condemned me to death, I never considered that I would be faced with such a decision in my mid 30's. I wanted to blame this nameless hooker. I wanted to blame my cousin. I couldn't blame anyone. I knew it was my fault. My addiction brought me to this place. I had been the cause of all of my problems in my life, so why would my death be any different? For the first time in months, I did not want to die.

           It seemed like the whole Philadelphia Police Department was outside within minutes, or maybe even seconds since keeping track of time was no longer one of my concerns or abilities. Basically, it was no time before this shit hole was surrounded like Nakatomi Plaza back when Bruce Willis still had hair. The pimp and my cousin, realizing this was bad for both of them, came up with a plan.  I don't remember the details of this plan, except that I had to stay there while my cousin went out to calm the situation. He assured me everything would be okay before he left, but I no longer believed him. As soon as he walked outside, above all the mayhem, I hear my mom and my aunt screaming at my cousin about how he could get me involved in this kind of situation and that I was a good kid and did not belong there. Pimp Daddy tells me it's not up to my cousin, or the cops, or anyone but him, if I am going to leave there with my life intact. Then I hear my mom. I hear her voice as clearly as I hear her tears. She was on a bullhorn, begging me to come outside. She was saying that she didn't care why I was there and to just please come out and she wouldn't be mad. She said she would get me help and everything will be fine if I just come out. It was obvious that she thought I had my cousin take me there so I could score some drugs and then somehow got caught up in this deal gone wrong. She did her best not to cry as she said she could not handle losing me the day after she lost my father.

            If this sounds like the ultimate guilt trip, it was. It was not my mother initiating this guilt trip though. If anyone set an itinerary, it was me. I was a strung out travel agent who despised my one and only customer. Without knowing it, this trip had been in the works for years. I had been saving up guilt like hard earned cash to cover my expenses. I would finally leave on Friday, September 2nd of 2010. It was either morning or afternoon when I drove myself to the airport, dropped me off, and waved good bye, not knowing that if  and when I returned, I would never, I could never, be the same person that departed. The pilot was Captain Crazy and the plane ran on fumes from my fears. The destination was an all inclusive Sandals of sadism and psychosis that was filled with ghosts of guilt. If there was to be a return phantom flight, there was no telling who the pilot may be. The more important concern was being able to get home without crashing in the ocean.  


            Behind me was a window. I couldn't turn around or move without risking being shot by the cops outside or the thugs inside. Then I hear a woman's voice in the room say something like,"Jimmy, why won't you come outside?" I turned my head to see who it was. It was my 87 year old grandmother who had just wandered inside like some sweet, but senile hostage negotiator. I was in total disbelief, as was fat boy and the 2 Bone Thugs. I remember suddenly not being scared for myself anymore, or maybe I was just too stunned to be scared. Somehow I knew that me and the Ghetto Boys were all on the same page. None of us wanted an innocent grandmother to get caught up in... this whole... whatever the hell was going on, we didn't want her to get hurt. Suddenly, I was as cool as that guy on Burn Notice. Maybe it was the heroin pulsing though my veins that took off any edge I was feeling during this standoff that had everyone at a stand still except my grandmother. I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I was feeling guilty enough over my father's death so I knew that I didn't want to be responsible for his mom's death only a day later. I wanted to be as respectful as possible when I asked her to get the fuck out of there. I addressed her as if I was a teenager whose parents went out of town and left her in charge, and she keeps embarrassing me by walking into my room while I'm smoking pot and getting drunk with 2 girls I'm hoping will hook up with me or each other. "Grandmom, what are you doing? You can't be in here. You have to go, ok?" She said everyone wanted me to come outside. I said that I could not go outside, so she asked what I was doing. Again, like a teenager whose rep is being ruined by the second, I say,"It's ok, grandmom, I'm just hanging out with some friends". She seemed surprised and asked,"Friends?" I said,"Yes, grandmom, these are my friends, you have to go". She looked at "my friends" and they all immediately played along, smiling at her and nodding their heads. One thug gave her a slight wave. Putting aside my surprise and appreciation for this unsolicited display of the Get Along Gang's  softer side, I pleaded with her to go. "Grandmom, please go outside and tell my mom that everything is okay and I'll be out as soon as I can." Doing all I could without shoving her, I turned her towards the door and sent her on her way.
 
            So this pimp, who did not seem rattled in the least, drops any kind of gangsta facade and starts telling me that if I want to make it out of this room, I have to come back in a few days and make some coke or heroin delivery for him. I tell him "sure, whatever, no problem", whatever I have to say to get out of here and catch the next flight to Florida. He asks me how Thursday sounds. Instead of lying, I tell him, " I can't do it on Thursday. Thursday is my father's funeral ". In a very warm gesture, he says,"I'm sorry to hear about your pops." I tell him I appreciate that. "How about after the funeral?" he asks. Without hesitation, I tell him that will work. He smiles and says, "You know, I like you". I say,"Thanks, man. I like you too. You're pretty cool ". He tells me he doesn't know why my cousin brought me here. I tell him I don't either. Like some prisoner on Scared Straight, he tells me that I'm not cut out for this kind of shit and that I should want no part of it. I figured it was pretty damn obvious that I had been Scared Straight since the moment I walked in the door. After his pimp pep talk, he wants to know if he is correct to expect to never see my ass around there again. He is correct, but I lie. I tell him,"Not after Thursday". We both grin, acknowledging my quick answer to his trick question. Behind my smile, I'm thinking of how clever I was under such duress. I'm also wondering if this street smart criminal is stupid enough to think that I would really return to this Godforsaken Hellhole. He looks at me as if he's sizing me up for something very important, as if he is second guessing letting me leave. "You want a slice of pizza?", he asks. Trying to hide my pent up nervous energy like someone finally being asked out by someone they always loved., but felt was out of their league, I enthusiastically reply,"Yeah, sure, that sounds pretty good".

            My cousin returns to see me eating a slice of pepperoni pizza. He is visibly confused by this. Pimpin' Ain't Easy tells my cousin that we worked out some shit. So did my cousin. He came up with some story to explain why a police officer was hanging out with known criminals in a known hangout for drugs and prostitutes. Sounds great, except for the one unknown in the equation. Me. He couldn't think of any explanation of what I was doing there that would not incriminate him, and as a result, he would naturally have to break my thumb before we could leave. Wait, what? As logical as that seems, I questioned the necessity of  having to inflict this excruciating pain. Even though I can not even fathom what the delusional reasoning behind having my favorite finger broken was, it must have made sense in the moment because I understood it had to be done. I put my right hand on the table. I was not thinking clear enough to let him break the thumb on my left hand. Maybe it was  the 6 year addiction to sex drive obliterating pain pills, but I did not realize that being infected by that hallucinatory HIV infected needle meant never having sex again. I'd be stuck jerking myself off until I eventually killed myself. Try that without the use of your thumb. This righty might be forced into becoming a southpaw in his final days. My cousin pulled out his blackjack. He lined it up with my thumb, but I kept pulling it away when he started his upswing. He told me to stop being a pussy after the 4th or 5th time. I was beyond arguing over name calling. I told myself that having my hitchhiker broken was not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. After all, I had been injected with a deadly virus with no cure so it was just a matter of time until I spotted my first lesion and then filled my mouth with a shotgun or shitload of pills. This thought gave me a bright idea. I asked Pimp Daddy if I could have some heroin to snort in order to help numb the pain....and get high. He obliged. I indulged. I put my thumb on the table. I looked away. I screamed in pain. I snorted some more heroin. I was ready to leave. I had to spend the night in jail . Wait, what?
            My cousin said that I had to spend the night in jail, and he would get me out in the morning. Whatever this plan was that he concocted, it sucked. I was told that all I had to do was keep quiet and get through the night. I started going off about how I was the only one who didn't do anything wrong and that I never wanted to be there in the first place, not to mention I had my thumb broken and had been stuck with a dirty needle. My cousin said there was no way around it. Even the pimp and thugs could not believe this bullshit. One of them said,"Yo, that's fucked up!"

             To a country music fan, I was Patsy Cline. To a conspiracy theorist who snickers at the Warren Commission, I would be recognized as the biggest patsy since Oswald. I was taking the fall for something that I have given up on trying to make sense of.  My cousin walks me out like some lit up and lefthanded lone gunman. It was nothing but mayhem all the way to the closest cop car. In those moments, I would have rather seen Jack Ruby approach me with his gun than seen my mom do the same with her tears.
        
           The next thing I remember was being the only white guy in a long line of violent criminals being lead towards the entrance of  a small building with one huge holding cell. I couldn't help but wonder why I had been taken to an all African American jail. I was nothing but a snowflake in the night. I wouldn't go so far as to say that being the only white guy was as comforting as a Snuggie, but that is not what scared me. What really scared me was that everyone of them seemed to be the biggest powerhouse to ever step foot in the big house, and I don't mean the one where the Michigan Wolverines play football. I had spent the night in Palm Beach County Jail on a couple occasions, and even though I had considerably better nights at Fantasy Fest, the Palm Beach Jail was definitely a step up from this clink. When I say a step up, I mean from here to the moon. I never felt the least bit of fear in the Palm Beach jail. Maybe it was because I knew the second anyone even talked to me, I was going to punch them in the throat. Maybe I should have been scared, but since I was the only person who spoke English, I would have had no idea if my murder was being planned.  For some reason, the holding cell was in a small building on the 50 yard line of a  football field. As I was being lead to certain death, a guard called me. Luckily, despite my delusional fear, I still recognized my own name. Nobody seemed to have a problem with me stepping out of line and walking over to talk to him. He told me my cousin was doing his best to get me out as soon as possible. He just had to do some paperwork first, which I'm sure was going to exonerate him from any kind of wrongdoing. Again, I was told to keep my mouth shut and all I needed to do was make it to the morning. Constable Comfort then directed me to one of those big ice dispensers like they have in hotels next to the overpriced soda machines. He knew I was confused by his suggestion that I "better go ice down". Then, completely lacking any kind of bedside manner, he told me that I had a few minutes before he had to put me in the one cell that held all the murderers and rapists, so I should dump some ice down the back of my jeans to numb my ass because there was basically no way that I would not be raped at least once...by everybody... if not repeatedly....by everybody. Best bet was that after fighting off these felonious fanny fuckers for about 15 seconds, I would be passed around like a blunt at a Snoop Dogg/Cypress Hill double bill. Completely hopeless, I used the scooper to pour the ice down the back of my jeans. Since I can't stand tight jeans and I wear boxers, the ice cubes fell right past my as yet undefiled virgin ass and down my legs that were shaking even before the ice. I walked back to the guard. I told him that there had to be some other option that would avoid having my rump ransacked like an electronics store after the Rodney King verdict. Maybe as a favor to my cousin, this guard could see that I got my own cell, or maybe he could make up an excuse to put me in solitary confinement, or maybe he could just shoot me somewhere on my body that would cause the least amount of pain, like that little area right between my fucking eyes. Anything but an ass annihilation. To each their own, but for me, same sex sodomy is always option Z. He said my only other option was to make a run for it. He said I probably would never make it, and if spotted, I would be shot and killed. It was either that or face the possibility of playing Jodie Foster's role in a prison rendition of The Accused. He said he knew it was a tough choice, but I had to make it in the next 5 minutes. So I had 5 minutes to choose between "bang bang, you're dead" or "gangbanged by actual gangbangers". Faster than you can say "salad toss", I said, "I'll run for it".

            Pimps, pushers, prostitutes, polluted police. All alliteration aside, welcome to my nightmare. I know that this is what all this nonsense seems like. If I had not been suffering from insomnia, I would have thought that I fell asleep while watching an episode of The Shield. Even 13 months later, though some details are hazy, it still astounds me that over 6 delusional days, I can remember exactly what was said and what I was thinking on so many occasions. Not only did it seem real at the time, but 2 days later,  I was still so convinced this happened that I would tell my family that I would never hang out with my cousins again, and later that same day, I would incoherently ramble on about Philadelphia Police corruption to a real life Boca Raton Police Officer.

Nov 9, 2011

The Nitty Gritty, Part 14: My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies

“I admire addicts. In a world where everybody is waiting for some blind, random disaster or some sudden disease, the addict has the comfort of knowing what will most likely wait for him down the road. He's taken some control over his ultimate fate, and his addiction keeps the cause of his death from being a total surprise.”
 -Chuck Palahniuk, Choke


MONDAY. SEPTEMBER 5th, 2010
  

           Dirty whore and her hypodermic needle keep getting closer. She asks me if they have heroin in Florida. I tell her what she already knows, that yes, of course, there is heroin in Florida. I was trying not to show how truly terrified I was by what I knew she was about to ask me to do. Asking or requesting were not in her nature. She only knew how to insist. I was not so much appalled by the thought of doing heroin as I was by the filthy syringe she held in her hand like a switchblade. There was no doubt in my mind that the weapon she wielded was infected with certain death. Unlike having your throat slit, this would be a very slow death. Even though I had been inviting death to put me out of my misery in the recent weeks, I was hoping for something as painless as not waking up in the morning, almost in envy of how my dear friend, Mitch, probably just never stopped dreaming one night. The idea of dreaming forever sounded like bliss. I loved and missed dreaming, the best part of sleeping, if not the best part of living. I did not care about the promises of Heaven. Heaven to me would be to dream forever.  Those dreams that when you woke up, your heart hurt a little bit to realize it was only in a dream that you experienced an ideal situation that the reality of the day ahead of you could never promise or provide. There is nothing I would rather do for eternity than have the ability to fly, to touch a beautiful woman that you had only seen on a movie screen or magazine cover, to find yourself reunited with friends and family members who died or a past love who now belonged to someone else, and best of all, to not have any idea that these fantasies are not reality. I had no idea that the hallucinations that filled these 6 days were not reality. I was walking around in a dream state, but I was not experiencing the kind of dreams that, when you awoke, made you want to immediately go back to sleep and jump right back into. These were nightmares. The kind of dreams that made you afraid to go back to sleep. The greatest dreams and the worst nightmares share one thing: At the time, there is no doubt in your mind that they are reality. This was not the kind of dreaming that I would have optioned over Heaven. This was Hell. Hell is what the whore had in her hand. If that needle stabbed my flesh, the temporary pleasure of the rush of dope through my veins would be followed by months or years of what would be nothing less than Hell on Earth. Some people say that heroin is the devil, but I was not afraid of the smack. I was petrified of this demon who held both a filthy needle and my fate in her hand. Heroin I could handle.

           The painkillers I had been addicted to over the last 5 years were nothing more than synthetic heroin. Both are opiates and like heroin, the roxy's are often snorted or injected. Countless heroin addicts see there habit develop in the same way mine did. They suffer some kind of injury, maybe to their back. Most of the time it is not through any fault of their own, like a responsible husband and father who gets hurt on the job while working construction. Then there are those who can only blame themselves for their injury. Maybe they had been drinking for 2 days straight on 4th of July weekend and decided to dive into a shallow pool and hit their head on the the bottom, miraculously not breaking their neck and ending up paralyzed or dead. Either person is prescribed painkillers. They realize that the pills kill both physical and emotional pain, and they slowly start to abuse them. If the doctor has any ethics, the patient is cut off after awhile. Either the patient finds a crooked doctor, a "pill mill" that calls itself "pain management", or they begin buying them on the street. Pills on the street are very expensive. They vary depending on city, supplier, local pharmacy shortages, volume purchased, amongst many other factors. Once I lost my insurance, my doctor visit and prescriptions ran around $800 per month, and that is before I ran out and had to pay street prices. My habit in street prices in my area at the time would have been about $150-$200 per day. When people realize how much cheaper a bag of heroin is, many make the switch. They first snort it and then eventually inject themselves. Because of the stigma attached to heroin, I never sought it out. If anything, I knew I would like it too much. In the meantime, all I thought about was pills. When I ran out, I would have dreams about finding a lost bottle of them in my room. I did not think that life could be any good without them, that I would not be able to feel any kind of pleasure without them. I convinced myself that the pain caused by 2 herniated discs was reason enough to be on pills for the rest of my life. I had no intentions of ever stopping. Like Lou Reed said in the song "Heroin", it was my wife and it was my life. It was not my top priority, it was my only priority. I was fooling myself to think that since I was not on heroin, that I was not still just a junkie. It was the inevitable next, if not last, step down.

            Just about everyone I had admired at some point in my life was either a junkie, addict, or alcoholic. Substance abuse was a common theme in my interests. Drugs always fascinated me. I loved movies about drug dealers and undercover cops. I used to pretend that I was going undercover and would hide a toy gun under my shirt and stick it behind the belt buckle in the waist of my pants..... my Catholic School uniform pants..... and then I'd go to school and pretend to be an undercover cop trying to find out who was flooding Our Lady of Mount Carmel Elementary with drugs. I was 10.  At the end of that same 5th grade year, I decided to take part in the talent show. I decided to channel my favorite addict at the time, Ozzy Osbourne. I had a large rubber vampire bat that I had my best friend toss to me as I finished lip syncing "Crazy Train". I put the bat's head in my mouth and shook my head like a madman. Again, I was 10...in Catholic School. Needless to say, the teachers, nuns, and I'm sure a few students were appalled by my brilliant, yet disturbing performance. I'm so glad my mother was not there. She would have been humiliated that she had introduced herself as "Jimmy's mother". She would not have been able to take pride in my spelling bee victory after this. The mothers who were in attendance must have wondered what possessed their  own child to vote for and award this boy, who seemed to actually be possessed,  the class leadership award. At least they could all take comfort knowing that this influential and insane 5th grader would be spending 6th and hopefully every other grade in Florida. As stirring and distressing as my performance was, neither I nor my classmate's mothers could have expected that 25 years later, like Ozzy, I would be going off the rails on the aforementioned  "Crazy Train". Well, maybe the mothers could have.

           It's funny, I probably haven't thought about that in 20 years. It's funny to look back at that little kid...and to realize how "complicated" I was even back then...before I could blame drugs for my bizarre thoughts and behavior. As I write about and remember that kid, it makes me sad to know that for whatever the reason, he never had a chance. There was no way that this ultra sensitive kid who lacked any control over his extreme emotions would eventually find himself in over his head. It was just a matter of time before the white powder he would cut into lines and snort would no longer be Sweet n Low. My younger cousin and I thought we were funny calling it "Sweet n High". If we had any idea what the future had in store for us, we would not have been laughing. That same cousin would become addicted to heroin and spend most of his adult life in the revolving door of rehab and prison, where he is right now. It would seem that he didn't have a chance either.

           Was it even possible for me, a kid who idolized Jim Morrison, to not experiment with drugs at some point? Who else but this kind of kid could be so oblivious to the fact it was a bad thing that his idol was dead at 27 after years of alcohol and drug abuse, and a rumored heroin overdose that put an end to his life. When you're 14 years old, 27 does not seem that young.  I never really acknowledged any tragedy in Jim's death since, even though his life ended 4 years before mine began, I still grew up idolizing him. I even wanted to take "Morrison" as my middle name when I made my confirmation. My mom said I had to take the name of a saint, so I made up some bullshit story about Saint Morrison being the Patron Saint of the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she didn't buy it so I went with "William", even though I still have no idea who the hell St. William was. Actually, I'm going to google St. Willy and see if my namesake can maybe be worked into whatever it is I am writing about since I'm not exactly sure yet. Let's see, Saint William.... Patron Saint of......adopted children? Are you serious? If I would have told my mom that the imaginary Saint Morrison was the Patron Saint of Adopted Children she would have laughed at me and called me a liar. The adopted children thing doesn't really work into the whole dead rock stars tangent that I am about to go on. It looks like there are a few St. Williams, but only one is the Patron Saint of anything. Here we go, this one works for a much needed segue. There was a Saint William of Norwich who was the victim of a ritual murder at the age of 12. 

           I was 12 when I saw La Bamba (you like how I did that?). It made me sad to know that, in  a plane crash with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens died at 17, barely 5 years older than I was. Even if the 17 year old Valens died at the age of the 25 year old Lou Diamond Phillips brilliantly portraying  him, it would still have been a tragedy. For some reason, I never comprehended the tragedy of dying young in the cases of those who were responsible for their own early demise. I could only recognize the tragedy in the deaths of those who did not kill themselves in one way or another. Otis Redding sang "Pain in My Heart" and that's what I feel when I think of him making that last phone call to his wife and children shortly before dying in a plane crash at the age of 26.  As much as I love Otis, I think there is only one voice better. I have never heard another man who could sing the way Sam Cooke sang "You Send Me". One of my favorite songs of all time is Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come". No matter how many times I hear this song, it's almost too much to take when he sings," It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die". It just crushes me every time. That incredible voice even makes it hard to laugh during the classic cafeteria scene in Animal House. It's bad enough to think of John Belushi's eventual overdose, but then combine that with hearing Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" playing and knowing that he was shot dead at 33, well, it just makes me sad. Another person with the voice of an angel was my favorite female singer ever, Patsy Cline. Hearing her amazing voice sing "She's Got You" already stirs my emotions to the extent that I can feel it in my chest. If I think about her death in a plane crash at the age 30 when I hear "I Fall To Pieces", well, I know how she feels. Another one of the greatest female singers was Mama Cass, who died of a heart attack at 33, not from a ham sandwich as Austin Powers and many others would have you believe. Another legendary singer whose weight struggle sadly led to an early death was Karen Carpenter, who died at 32 from heart failure due to complications of anorexia. I can't say that I'm a Carpenters fan, but knowing that even someone as  decent and wholesome as Karen Carpenter had her own inner demons, it's hard to not feel a little gloomy even when hearing the most beautiful voice I have ever heard sing songs like "Superstar" and "We've Only Just Begun" ...and "Rainy Days and Mondays"... and "Close To You"...and "Solitaire"...and "One Fine Day"...and probably the best Christmas album of all time...and that song "I guess I might as well just admit that I am clearly a Carpenters fan after all ". I never realized until I started thinking of how many classics she created that there is no doubt about how amazingly talented Karen Carpenter truly was...and that just makes it sadder. She never did drugs or drank anything harder than iced tea, but she still fell victim to self destruction.

            I can't say that I have any understanding of the psychology behind eating disorders, but I do feel quite comfortable in assuming that there is a difference in sticking your finger down your throat and sticking a needle in your veins. Then again, I may be completely wrong. Maybe both come down to being a way to deal with fear, anxiety, pressure, depression, or self image issues. I still have trouble comparing a Karen Carpenter with a Billie Holiday  or a Janis Joplin, who both destroyed themselves with heroin and alcohol until their final hours. Billie died at 44. Janis died at 27, becoming one of the earliest members of the now infamous "Forever 27 Club" that spans the death of Robert Johnson in 1938 to the recent death of Amy Winehouse, and includes Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and my former idol, Jim Morrison. When I was reading every book I could find about Morrison at the age of 15, 27 seemed like a lifetime away. If 27 was far away, then even further away was 28, the age that Brad Nowell of Sublime died of a heroin overdose and  Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon died of a cocaine overdose. Since their music lived on after them and I considered them responsible for their own deaths, I didn't fully comprehend how tragic not only their deaths were, but also their lives. As I've grown older than these all of these people that I admired, I realize how young they really were. And it's not about dying before 30. I am now beginning to realize that John Lennon, murdered at 40, still had so much to look forward to. So did Marvin Gaye up until the moment his father entered his room and shot him, killing him at the age of 45. Even though Elvis had his better days, 42 was too young to die from abusing prescription drugs. Though it seems far away, I am sure that as I approach my 50's, I will realize that even Jerry Garcia missed out on far too many good years when he died at 53 from a heart attack during heroin withdrawal.

           I have only made mention of musicians who died too young. I have not even mentioned actors or writers who did the same. All of these people were addicts in one way or another, and all were people that I admired. It never occurred to me that all of the people who epitomized what I thought was cool had basically killed themselves. Maybe that's why I could not see that, like my idols, I was killing myself. By not seeing the tragedy in their lives, is it any surprise that I was just as blind to the tragedy that my own life had become. By not fully comprehending how tragic their deaths were, I had no comprehension of how tragic my own would be to those I left behind. I now realize that unlike those idols and addicts, I could not have avoided my life being seen as a waste. I would not be remembered as any kind of legend. The tragedy of my death would not have been because my life was short and I would soon be forgotten. To those who knew and loved me, my  death would have been tragic because my life was short and I would be remembered... and missed. 
  
           Considering the people I admired, it's a wonder I had never smoked crack. There is a stigma attached to crack and heroin that I always felt separated them from all other drugs. I could not justify smoking crack or shooting heroin by referring to it as "partying" like I did with cocaine. There was a time when I told myself that I would never do cocaine, and then someone offered it to me. I would put cocaine on weed or the end of a cigarette and smoke it, but somehow I still convinced myself that I would never smoke crack.  Who knows what would have happened if it was ever offered to me though? I doubt that if I was in party mode, I would have turned it down. After all, I always said I would never do heroin, but then the first time I was offered it, I did not hesitate to accept.
  
           The whore asks me if I've ever done heroin. I figure no matter how I answer, she'll use it as a reason for me to do some. I decide to be honest. I tell her that, yes, I did heroin. Once. Of course, she wants to know more. I told her that I was addicted to painkillers and that a few months ago, I ran out and I could not get any until at least the following day. I was working in an office and was trying to make it though the day without getting sick since I could feel the withdrawal starting. One guy told me he couldn't get any pills, but he could get me a bag of dope to at least stop me from getting sick. Stopping myself from getting sick had seemed to be my main priority over the last year since I hardly even got high from the pills anymore. I knew that since I had been so deep into it and for so long that the sickness would be much more than I could handle.  I told him to get the dope and I would meet him in the parking lot outside the office. He brought it and I took it to my car. I immediately poured it out on a cd cover and snorted the whole thing in one line. Then I went back to my desk.

          Although snorting heroin was a big deal to me, this junkie street hooker was not impressed so she asked me if I ever shot it. I told her that was the only time I had ever even seen or tried heroin. She started insisting that I take the needle and shoot it. I told her,"No fucking way". She started telling the pimp not to let me leave if I didn't. Either the pimp agreed with her or just wanted to further antagonize my cousin, so he agreed with her and told my cousin that he was the one responsible for whatever happened since he brought me there. Their conversation got more and more heated. I wanted to stop this from escalating and do what I had to do to get out of there alive. I interrupted, telling them to bust out the heroin and I would snort it. This wasn't good enough for them. Dirty junkie whore tells me I have to shoot it. My fear was turning into anger. I was angry at this whore turning this situation into what it had become. I was angry with my cousin for involving me in this shit. I was angry at myself for ever starting on a journey that could lead somewhere like this. If I was not already in Hell and just didn't know it, there was nowhere lower that I could descend to without walking through it's flames.

          I told her to grab me a brand new, clean, unused syringe and I would shoot up so I could leave. My cousin started to interject but I said I would do it because I just wanted to get the fuck out of there. She told me that was the only needle so I had to use that one. I told her to forget it then. She asked,"Why not?" I snapped,"BECAUSE YOU'RE A FUCKING WHORE, WHY DO YOU THINK?" This set something off in the room because suddenly my cousin had his arms stretched as if being crucified, pointing a gun at both of the 2 thugs. He told me to be calm and we were getting out of there. I still had no idea what the fuck we were even there for. As soon as I heard the police sirens blaring outside, I turned to look. At the same time, the whore stuck the needle in my neck, injected me and then ran out the door. All I could think was that I had just been given a death sentence through a dirty needle. Even if I made it out of this room alive, I was still a dead man.

Nov 5, 2011

Zeroes and Heroes

"As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary"
- Ernest Hemingway

   Ah, yes. Hemingway. Even though my blog has surpassed the importance of his Nobel Prize winning work, and the fact that this particular entry will mean considerably more than even his greatest short story, there is still a lot to learn from this literary giant. After all, until I started my Nitty Gritty series 4 weeks ago, he was arguably the most important writer in American history. But the times have changed, Papa. Now that I have taken his place, I can now question this giant whose shoulders my Converse now stand upon. To know that in less than a month, my writing is more important than literary legends like Fitzgerald, Poe, Miller, Bukowski, Thoreau, Emerson, Melville, Whitman, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Kerouac, Vonnegut, Mailer, and Salinger. Wow, my sentence ran on so long I just ended it. See, that's what I'm talking about. Important writers can do that. They answer to and write for no one but themselves. The point that I am taking an unbearably long time to get to is that,in regards to this particular quote, Hemingway was wrong. I can't believe I just wrote that. His delivery was perfect, but by being wrong about the need for heroes, he is showing that our heroes can be wrong.
    Using Hemingway's quote and the cocksure bravado of my first paragraph as an example and an excuse to use the word "cocksure", I am pointing out that great writers, whether it be novels or songs, never express themselves in the form of an opinion. They tell you that is how it is and the reader takes it as testament. Hemingway didn't say," I kind of think that the world breaks everyone, but maybe after, some are strong at the broken places, but I could just be drunk". Kerouac did not say,"You know something, Neal Cassady? Even though we've been awake on amphetamines for 4 straight days and I keep calling you Dean Moriarty, I'm thinking that, I don't know, like the road is kind of like life...or something. Well, I'm gonna crash, I'm beat". (There's like 4 hilariously clever On the Road jokes in that fictional quote)  Maybe Jack did say that, but what mattered is what he actually wrote,"The road is life". He left no room for debate, and so over 50 years since it's publication, people like me and my old roommate use this as our rallying cry every time we set forth on any kind of road trip or new adventure. 
    Even though the Bronte sisters were not American writers, I am still going to use a quote from Emily's Wuthering Heights to reinforce a point that I have already made clear, because I love the quote so there's that. (See how I left no room for debate on this matter? Good. Try to keep up because soon I'm not going to tell you when something is funny or when I'm being sarcastic) After Heathcliff left the moors in devastation without any parting words, Catherine finally understood that they were incomplete without each other, maybe the most kindred souls in all of literature. When she came to this heartbreaking realization minutes too late, she did not snap her fingers, point, and say,"Damn, you know what I just figured out? This may sound kind of weird, but that guy named after a cartoon cat, he and I are...it's like we're almost the same person. We're that close". Instead, Emily wrote the most beautifully haunting 3 word sentence I have ever read, "I am Heathcliff". This simple statement may mean nothing out of context, but since the first time I heard it, and in every one of the nearly half dozen film versions, it hits me like a punch to the gut.
      Once again, every time I start to write, I get lost on the way to my intended point. But to be honest, that is what I enjoy most about writing, knowing that all I have to do is start, and by the time I am done, I will know something about myself that I did not know before. That is why it is the only activity that I hold sacred. That is why I have lost any interest in writing fiction. That is why I can be at home on a Friday night and know that there is nowhere else I would rather be. That is why I don't feel any kind of lack from not having a woman that I love in my life. That is why I have not turned my television on in over 3 weeks. My whole reason for being was once based on these things that I thought of as necessity, now my life can only be enhanced by them without being ruled by them.
 This almost leads me to the whole reason I started writing this in the first place. I was so irritated when I decided to turn on my TV today to make sure it even still works that I was going to write a FaceBook status, but it would have been too long so I figured I'd write a 1 paragraph blog entry instead. Basically it was regarding the mayhem and fervor outside of the Michael Jackson Trial and chatting online. People are screaming at and almost coming to blows with strangers over their "hero" that they would not have been able to stand within 100 yards of without having to pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket. This was going to be an attempt at a funny entry that consisted of hilarious insights like "No matter how much Headline News has tried to up their ratings by turning this current trial into another Casey Anthony, there is no way that Michael Jackson could ever be as big as Casey Anthony". I was going to mention how many people MJ touched, and how most of them were under 10 years old. I probably would have written something about how he was the King of Pop, "Pop" standing for "Pedophiles Or Pederasts". Even though I have been known to find humor in things as gloomy as funerals, addiction, and depression, this kind of vicarious existence is not as funny as I thought it was when I started writing this. It's sad. 
   This is the reason why I no longer really get affected by professional sports, something I have loved pretty much my entire life. This is the other reason for the use of the Hemingway quote about having heroes.The Phillies lose, the Eagles win, how does this affect me? How can this lend any meaning to my life? I would rather my favorite team win, but I no longer have my day ruined or my mood affected by the win or loss of a group of  multimillionaire strangers whose day would not be affected by my death. What can I take from a victory that I had no part in, a victory that would have happened whether I was dead or alive? A few months ago I could have resigned myself to a life of coming home from a job I had no passion for, have dinner, watch other men live out their dreams during the ballgame, and then live out my own dreams only after I fell  asleep. I was convinced that the only meaning or pleasure I could experience was through another person's victory, or the music written and performed by someone else, or in some movie that was created by a writer and director and actors who were all living out their dreams while I paid $10 to watch with the hope of finding something that applied to my own life. 
   I became conscious of the fact that I was not seeking, and as a result, not finding any pleasure or meaning in my own existence. Before I even read William Blake's quote, I recognized that I had already taken his advice to "Invent your own mythology or be slave to another man’s". I did not even realize that I had started to do this until my therapist brought it to my attention. I love to use other people's quotes when I feel they express what I am feeling better than I could, and one day he told me that he noticed in our last session that I was beginning to reference my own quotes from things I had written. For the very fist time since I had begun to read and memorize song lyrics and movie lines, I was using my own words to describe my own experience. That's why I can say, without a wink of my eye, that although I may never be the greatest, I am already not only the most important writer who has ever lived, but the only one who ever even mattered, the only writer who ever lived who cared enough to write about my family, and my friends, and my experience. That is why my writing is more important than even Hemingway's. Not to anyone besides me, but that does not matter. By default, I am the hero of my story, my life, my personal myth. Obviously, I am not using hero in a literary sense, because I am the furthest thing from such a person. I'm more like a main character that I continually learn more about in those hours that come between  the first and last words written on that particular day.  
   Maybe you don't write. Maybe you are a salesman, a construction worker, or a stay at home mom. It does not matter. You are the most important person to ever do what it is that you do. You are the hero of your own myth. I hope you know that.
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