Thursday, April 29, 2004

Sketchy Bill 17: The Crash

Things got pretty hairy after the LSD kicked in. Every time I tried to relax and not look so much like a FUCKING FREAK ON ACID (because we were, after all, being served in an expensive french restaurant), I'd sort of overshoot and start feeling like just another punk rock kid with no class. A turd in a punch bowl, in either case.

And Sarah instantly started to dislike me. I can't blame her, really. My charm was long gone (what there was to begin with), replaced by an almost psychotic paranoia that I tried to cover by smiling too broadly. Like everything else, I overshot that as well, which resulted in either a rictus grin or a slumped, tight attempt at a regular smile, which probably made me look like I was fighting back nausea.

Dinner for me was the lion's share of two bottles of white wine and a noodle or two from Nefertiti's plate. Sarah made rather stilted conversation with Bill, who didn't seem to notice my difficulties. In fact, he appeared to be singing my praises to Sarah, who wouldn't look at me unless she just absolutely, for decorum's sake, had to.

And again, I don't blame her. I was a sweating longhaired acidhead in an Amoeba Records tshirt, which got me a surreptitious thumbs-up from one of the younger servers. She was nearly Bill's age, and looked out at the world through a thin mist of perfume that cost more than most of my employees make in a year.

Dinner was not lingered over, because it was nearly dark and Bill (who was plainly running the show) was intent on getting me into what he felt was my natural element, a club. This is in fact one of the worst environments for me to be in. I know this story has revolved in a large part around my neuroses, but it's still OK for me to point out that I hate crowds.

In a jiffy, though, we were all downstairs at some chrome-and-glass monstrosity of a bar, where Bill shouted affectionately at the bartender while deftly arranging for me to sit next to Sarah. I made an abortive attempt at conversation, which was promptly smacked down with a sort of eye-roll/quick look away combo that would have made my hair stand up had I not been so acutely aware of what I looked (and probably smelled) like. Still, it's not like I was asking her for her freakin' sign or anything, so after we got our drinks I decided to give her another chance. I turned on my barstool, intending to face her directly and made double-damn sure I wasn't misreading her...

...and knocked her drink into her lap.

I swear to you, peoples, I would never, ever do something like that on purpose. Ever. I mean it. And she knew that, I'm sure--if I'd done it on purpose, she would have slapped me, but might have respected me a bit more. In short order, she was gone.

Which was OK by Bill, for some reason. Nefertiti wanted to dance, so suddenly I found myself upstairs, precariously holding a small drink and being introduced to a hundred hipsters all at once. I was back in the outer orbit of something I was familiar with--Burning Man people.

It turns out I'd met a few of these people before--they had showed up on Friday night in a white limo with a big red cross on the hood. I'd blown them off at the time, because, well, just because, I guess. If they were that cool, why were they hanging around Bill? Now I was in their territory, and they loved me. Bill kept dragging me into the bathroom and handing me a glass vial full of what I took to be coke, which didn't seem to be doing much for me. I later realized it's probably what kept me from falling down and going to sleep right there in the club...

You know you're in trouble when you can remember what happened 20 minutes ago, but not five. I had a dim feeling of impending doom, which I could think of by a horrible slow motion film loop of me vomiting down a girl's back, which I saw a guy do once here in Oklahoma. This would be the humiliation of all humiliations, of course--and this vision, combined with my inability to make a sentence to ask for a drink at the bar, ultimately led me to Bill.

"Dude," I said, "you've got to take me home. I got The Fear."

Which I did. Everything was starting to swim and I was sweating like something was really wrong with me, which I guess in retrospect was in fact the case. Bill looked at me, saw my pupils were two different sizes, and nodded his head in acknowledgement of my situation.

"Hey, someone call this guy a cab!"

This shocked me into wakefulness, as he dragged me into the bathroom for two great big ol' nostrils of what would keep me on my feet til I got downstairs and into the cab. He handed me his housekey.

I remember very clearly seeing his eye through the hole at the top of it. Or maybe it was his nose. Anyway, he held it and gestured with each word:

"Jeff, this is my only house key. Are you sure you can make it home OK?"

"No," I muttered, to which he smacked me on the shoulder and told me that I'd better leave the front door unlocked. The cab came. He paid the guy, and suddenly I was being awakened (empty drink glass in hand) at the curb near Bill's house.

It took me about 20 minutes to get the key in the front door, and another 10 to get it turned. I crawled up the stairs, vomited in the toilet, and curled up on the rug.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Sketchy Bill 16: Sunday In SF (On Acid, Again)

Sunday was an odd day. I crawled off the couch with the morning dew still on the balcony railing outside, and promptly kicked over the bottle of whiskey I'd left on the floor. Luckily I didn't lose much, because there wasn't much left in that big square bottle, so I was able to finish it off while helping Nef do the dishes and fry up some bacon.

I used to drink a lot back then. Nowadays, I try to at least eat something before starting in on the whiskey again...but when I'm nervous (which is around new people, as I've mentioned), I still tend to do stupid shit.

Nefertiti had a soft and husky voice that made me want to ask her questions, just so she'd answer. She was playing a Macy Gray album on the stereo in the kitchen--now that I think of it, her voice was mighty similar to Macy's, except a little less harsh. I don't think I'd ever met a woman whose mere voice affected me so strongly--and any woman with that sort of voice thereafter was only a cheap imitation.

Other than that, she was beautiful, in all your standard ways. Firm, obviously enhanced breasts, but enhanced in a rather subtle way. No fat at all. Shapely, demure, and the complete opposite of Sheryl, who'd been obnoxious and, let's face it, violent.

Nef was so completely demure and...normal...that I nearly dropped my beer when she told me she was a stripper. I know, a name like freakin' Nefertiti, you're saying, c'mon. How naive is this Okie, anyway? But this is California we're talking about--shortly, we're about to meet a girl named "Stoned," who most definitely was not a stripper.

But it was mainly her utterly non-aggressive manner that sucked me in. And that voice. It was not the voice of a girl who worked in a dance club. Which, now that I think of it, might mean she was more of a...private dancer...if you know what I mean and I think that you do. But whatever she did for a living, she was completely sweet and obviously devoted to Bill. I never even got the feeling that this was related to his wealth--but then again, I spend a lot of time fucked up from here on out.

She fixed me a plate of eggs and bacon, then swayed upstairs with another plate for Bill. The bedsprings began shortly thereafter, so I took the opportunity to grab a shower. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my own shampoo, so I was forced to use regular soap on my hair, which resulted in something you guys just don't want to see. I grabbed my bag, changed clothes, and picked another couple of pieces of bacon out of the skillet before they descended the staircase.

Bill was relaxed and happy, but whether that was due to the previous night's conversation or just getting fucked, I don't know. He had very definite plans for the day, including me meeting several of his friends and getting a taste of what San Francisco was like for him. This should have made me nervous, but I was hoping against hope for another shot at Coco (and, I'll confess three years later, possibly a shot at Nefertiti). Within the hour, we were on the road in Bill's car.

First stop was a huge record store called...oh christ, I just had it in my head. Kaleidoscope? It's over in the Haight (which I know really narrows it down, in terms of record shops), and it's basically a big warehouse with all sorts of shit. I dropped about $300 on records and CD's, which I neglected to ship or bring back home. That's OK--they definitely improved Bill's collection.

After that, we had a sort of early lunch, and discussed the only point of business I really needed to get done: the purchase of a quantity of MDMA. I'd been prepared to smuggle some back home, but after my first go round with the shit Bill was getting, I decided to Make A Purchase. Long story short, an hour later I was the proud owner of 14 hits of ecstasy. 10 minutes after that, all three of us ingested one. Nef got a little queasy, but none of us ralphed this time--maybe my stomach was beaten into submission. The rest of me sure didn't give a shit anymore, but I was kept mobile by the drug.

All was beautiful--the streets, the sun, the Mercedes, the Golden Gate Bridge, and especially Nefertiti. Bill had his own special glow--he really seemed happier today. In due course, he decided that he wanted some more LSD, so we drifted on over to another friend's house. Bill knocked, and shortly the door was opened by Hippie Chick Personified. "Hey," she beamed. "Hi," said Bill, "I'm Bill, and this is Jeff and Nefertiti."

"Hi, hi," she said, "I'm Stoned."

This was obvious, so it took me a few seconds to realize it was her name. Again, this is California we're talking about.

In no time at all the two women and I were sitting around a tiny kitchen table discussing houseplants, while Bill was off in the other room, hashing out a deal. While we waited, Stoned fiddled around with an opium pipe, which Nef declined but I took a meager toke from.

Bill and Jerry Garcia entered the kitchen. I swear, I had to do a double take, because Garcia had been dead for some time at that point. I won't mention the dude's name, because I have the feeling he's into some heavy shit too, and I just plain like him. I realized that when he held up a ziplock bag with two vials of clear liquid. He opened the bag, took one out, and handed it to Bill. "Bill, this one's yours." The other one was about half full. He unscrewed the cap, and said "Jeff, this one's for you. Open your mouth." As I tilted my head back and closed my eyes, I realized there wasn't a dropper anywhere nearby. Then he dumped what felt like a pint of liquid LSD down my throat.

The (e) was hitting so hard I didn't feel like this was a problem, so we all sat around for a few minutes, getting to know each other and discussing Burning Man and other stuff. In less than 20 minutes, though, we were ushered down the steps and out into the sunlight.

As my feet hit the pavement, every single thing in the entire world went 2 dimensional on me. It was one of the smoothest, most pleasant transitions I've ever had from "reality" to "acid reality." Every single thing I saw (including Bill and Nefertiti) was completely and utterly two dimensional, but I had no trouble navigating around corners or judging distances. If I hadn't been having such a good time on the ecstasy already, I would definitely have played around with it a lot more. We decided to drive me across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Unfortunately, the really visual part of the trip had vanished by the time we hit the bridge, and by that time the sun was beginning to set (I've been sitting here for 10 minutes trying to describe it, but I just can't), so Bill decided it was time to get me laid. And have some dinner. In a flash, we were having the car valet parked and sitting down to a fine French meal on the patio. Before they brought us the first bottle of wine, we were joined by Sarah.

Bill dragged me to the bathroom, shoved some cocaine up my nose (I was quite surprised, never having done any before, but didn't really feel like I was in a position to stop now), and told me that I was going to fuck Sarah tonight. I was, he said, going to be "her boy."

If you've been paying attention to my intake of various substances over the preceding two days, you might guess that this likely doesn't actually happen. And if you guessed that, you'd be right. The next story is about The Crash.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Sketchy Bill 15: An Egyptian Goddess Cooks Me Eggs

Bill crashed out shortly after the incident in the garage, dragging himself up the stairs like some sort of vanquished Roman centurion. I sat up for a while, drinking beer and whiskey and trying to get some sense of what it all meant.

His situation wasn't unique. I've spent a lot of time sitting on front porches, rooftops, and car hoods thinking and talking about the same shit. You want someone to be there for you--more specifically, you want to think someone understands you. Because, I think, if someone understands you, you're not weird. You belong to someone, or to a group of someones.

But even if you're lucky enough to find a person who can at least make a good attempt at empathizing with you, and who certainly appears to love you, the game's not over. In fact, I've concluded, that's when the game starts. Or the work, more accurately.

Bill's problem was that he'd lost track of what it was to be a partner in a relationship. He backslid a bit, I think, and started believing that just because someone loved and understood him, they'd always love and understand him. This is a common problem, as I said, and it results in heartache all the way around. Either you get blindsided, like he did, by an extremely bitter and alien woman who you failed to notice getting colder and colder; or you realize that neither of you are happy and start drawing up the necessary papers yourself. I've been in both situations, ladies and gents, and they both suck.

It's a lot easier to debate the premise, which is that people can truly understand one another in the first place. Or slipping past the immediate problem (that is, getting completely fucked over by someone you thought cared about you) by questioning that perceived reality, then moving on to the real problem, which in Bill's case (and mine, from years ago) was assuming anything was permanent in a relationship. Your kids love you, but if you ignore them, they start smoking dope and visiting glory holes at truck stops. Your wife loves you, but if you spend most of your free time away from home, she's going to fuck the pool guy. Or the landscaper. And if it's in her best interests, she's gonna call an attorney.

But this shit doesn't happen if you pay attention to your life, and the people in your life.

Well, OK, you got me. It still happens. I could probably pinpoint the day I began to worry about my last relationship, and I think it would probably match up with the day she began to think it was going to fail. I paid attention, and saw it coming, but was helpless.

I fell asleep on the black leather couch (face down, to inhale any lingering remnants of Coco) with a beer in my crotch and a nearly empty bottle of whiskey near at hand. I'd tried my damndest to finish it...but...

I awoke to a woman singing in the kitchen. It was morning, and the sun was up--and it promised to be a beautiful day. I sat up, grabbed the bottle, and took a big slug. This is the best way, I've found, to put your hangover in its place. You have to be careful with Jack the morning after, of course, but if you've got nothing better to do, what the hell. There wasn't enough left to really be dangerous, anyway.

I woke up again to a cool hand on my cheek. I opened my eyes, and was presented with yet another vision of femininity. She was black, with beautiful brown eyes and wonderful lips and a pair of breasts that were on prominent display about eight inches from my face.

"Hi," I croaked.

"Hi," she murmured, "you must be Bill's friend Jeff. My name's Nefertiti, and I'm Bill's girlfriend. Do you want some breakfast?"

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Sketchy Bill 14: Existentialism for Wise Guys

What do you do with a crying mafia dude? A guy who 10 hours before had ordered two kids legs broken, then nearly forgot to call when it turned out they were innocent? A guy who two hours before that hadn't even bothered to look at the girl he'd been fucking, when she cursed him as she slammed the door? The guy who, for our purposes, had it all? And the guy who, now, was baring his soul to a fellow whose only claim to fame was that he had the balls to say he hated Ginsberg?

Good question. What did I do? I took a great big pull of whiskey, first of all. Then I took another one, just to make sure I was good and fortified. And to buy myself a second, hoping against hope that I wouldn't have to do it.

Bill didn't let up on the waterworks. So I gave him a big hug.

It was weird, as you can imagine, but not as weird as I thought it would be. Perhaps the whiskey helped, but the hug seemed to calm him down somewhat. We both celebrated what had to be his own rock bottom, dark night of the soul with a little more whiskey, then I began to talk to him about How I Looked At Life.

See, I've spent a lot of my adult life alone. In most cases, there's a good reason for this: I just don't like people. I'd go so far as to say that I'd rather spend time alone than spend it with people that annoy me. Daniel-san pointed this out to me years ago: some people are so afraid of being alone with their thoughts that they'll do anything to drown them out. Once I identified that as a weakness, I did my best to stamp it out. I did, but I probably went a little too far. To this day I'm nervous around strangers, and I tend to escape being around them if at all possible. This results in me being alone with my own thoughts, which are good company--but I've realized over the years that they're not exactly sane, so I'm even less able to deal with real people when they come around. It's not precisely true that I'm a hermit, but on some days it feels like it.

But I'm used to it, for chrissakes. When you spend a lot of time doing LSD and staying awake all night, you tend to do a lot of reflecting on what life means. And if you're unfortunate enough to have a mind that likes to run in circles, by the time you hit 29 you've probably spent more time thinking about the nature of human interaction and the universe than most old men or women ever do.

Everyone's had what Dan calls an existential awakening, that dark night of the soul when you realize ain't nobody out there you can depend on in every situation. There ain't nobody out there who understands everything you say or feel. That's a deep blackness, brothers and sisters, and you can only get out of it once you realize the only person who can get you out of it is you.

If this all sounds like a bad acid trip, folks, you're right. That's why tripping alone is a bad idea--because it forces you to do things like look at your own face for five hours, and think about what you're really doing out there in the world.

But in many ways, having hit existential bedrock and somehow avoided complete lunacy, I'm a better person--and if you can catch me on a good night, I'm even pretty capable of discussing the shit in person. Many's the person I've sent off on a long walk after putting things in context--it's cruel and dangerous to send a depressed person off by themselves, but if you can do it after reassuring them that it's not the end of the world, I think it's OK.

Back to Bill: I told him that it's OK to feel like you've made mistakes. Mistakes are made, and once made, cannot be undone. Stupid mistakes are doing the same ones over. To get over some of those mistakes, you have to admit to yourself that you were dumb, or naive, or cruel, or any one of the less than complimentary adjectives that everyone tries their best to avoid thinking about themselves. Realize it, then promise never to be that way again.

I told him that doing bad shit doesn't always make you an evil man. It means maybe you're a weak man (or woman), and once some shit's done, the best thing you can do is promise not to do it again. And the best way to do that, I've found, is to really get down and wallow in what it must feel like to be the receiver of all your own bullshit.

I finished it off (after a quick tilt of the bottle) by telling him that nobody's perfect, and all you can try and do is be good as often as you can.

I'm starting to feel self conscious about all this..but we're done, anyway. Bill looked at me and said, "you're right. You fucking Okie, you're right. I knew bringing you out here was a good idea. You know how I knew?"

I indicated in the negative.

"Because I was listening to what you said to my son, back in September. You told him I was a good man. You're the only fuckin' guy in the world that would tell him that and mean it, and I know that because you didn't know I was listening, and you still said it. Anything of mine you want, you can have. Anything."

Suddenly I was the one about to cry.

Sketchy Bill 12: The Crux of the Biscuit

OK, I know I should let that one sit and fester for a bit, but I'm stuck here at work, and it's Saturday, and it's cloudy, so there's absolutely nothing for me to do. Plus, I don't want you guys to spend a lot of time thinking that this whole mess is due to some crush a latent homosexual with lots of money had on me out in the desert six months previous to this.

I'll confess to being stuck on dialogue. It's a pain in the ass to type, I don't have any practice, and I'm not sure that it works well in this type of writing format anyway. But this is one of the weirder parts of the story, so I've got to figure something out, right?

Anyway, to clarify the last bit, Sketchy Bill had just absorbed that part of California culture that thinks it's OK to say "I love you" to another man that you don't know very well. Maybe he felt like he knew me that well. Maybe I was a bit shellshocked from the day, and the freakiness of Castro on Halloween. I didn't think I was about to be hit on by a Jersey mobster, but it did make some sense. After all, if he was going to fire up some sort of gay relationship, he would definitely have to keep it under wraps, right? I'm sure that sort of thing is still frowned upon somewhat within The Family, or whatever you want to call it, and he seemed to be under some suspicion as to his stability anyway.

But no, turns out what he meant to say was "I like you, and I trust you," which is still a little iffy to say to a guy you don't know very well, but it's far and above better than the L word, which is a bad word to hear out of the mouths of 99% of the world's population anyway.

After Bill parked the car in the garage, he didn't seem too anxious to go inside. We hung out, examined his car, and knocked back large amounts of whiskey, chased by beer. The garage was spotless, except for piles of dogshit on the floor. Commenting on this led to an introduction to his two dogs, which further calmed me regarding his sexual intentions, since they were both NOT small and yappy, but rather a Doberman and an old pitbull.

If I'd been still tripping, my own evil mind would have pointed out that while yes, small yappy dogs mean "gay man," big attack dogs might very well mean "seriously warped and violent gay man." Thankfully, that didn't occur to me til I got back to Oklahoma.

The dogs had been either locked in the garage or outside for the preceding day, since there was a party and they weren't particularly well mannered pooches. After muddying up my pants and shirt with pawprints, they were led back outside, and I got a chance to look at the back yard with him.

This is where you find out about people. The front yard is all about public perception, generally, as is the public area of the inside of your house. In Bill's case, even his bedroom was fairly public, since he had a fairly high turnover in girlfriends (remember the Armenian past, and visualize Nefertiti, the future). So it was his back yard that I was curious about.

I confess I might be reading a bit into this--remember, I'm a landscape guy, so I pay more attention to shit like this than most people. But Bill's back yard fit him and his lifestyle perfectly. It was empty.

I'm a guy who lives alone, in a house that's too big for him. I understand not having time to "make a house your home." Believe me, I know what cutting your losses looks like.

But it was still eerie to look out across that expanse of sandy loam to a set of railroad ties which bordered a more elevated area of nothing but more sandy loam. For me, it fit all my most paranoid dreams--that behind all the houses I pass on a daily basis, there's nothing. It's all props in some huge stage show, a show in which I'm an unwitting actor.

Remember, kids, this is the guy who suspected his parents were poisoning his toothpaste when he was a kid. I can't explain it, though, at least not in this post. Suffice it to say, an empty back yard unnerves me.

It was also kind of odd that he didn't seem to care about his yard. Most people whose back yards I visit either have questions for me, or want me to look at something. It took me a little bit, but I finally concluded that this area didn't really exist for Bill. Between socializing, caring for two boys, and doing whatever he did for work, he didn't have time to care. Furthermore, growing up there in Jersey, or the Bronx, or wherever the hell he grew up, there's just not a whole hell of a lot of back yard to be had.

We sat on the porch for a bit (beneath the balcony I'd so recenty stood on, marveling at the sunrise and how quickly life can change), hitting the bottle and shooting the shit. After a bit, Bill said he wanted to show me something, and we retreated from the dogs back into the garage.

Do you remember that song, four or five years ago, that had as its centerpiece a commencement address sort of thing that mentioned always wearing sunscreen? It was a forgettable song, for me, but for some reason it had become stuck in Bill's head--especially a part that talks about "the worst things in life blindsiding you on a Tuesday afternoon."

The bottle was probably 2/3 gone, which is a hell of a lot of missing whiskey. I could feel it in my system, but I could also sense that Bill was beginning to act funny, almost like a gale spinning up into a tornado. It's a strange analogy, now that I think back, but he seemed to be gathering energy and determination, instead of stumbling off drunk to sleep in the back yard. He began to talk, suddenly, in a strange sort of voice.

He told me about his life, which was a prototypical self-made millionaire's life, growing up on the streets of New York, getting beat up, and learning "what it takes to make it." He said very little about how he came to be where he is, except that clearly there was a crime, or multiple crimes involved. He talked to me about getting married, and how happy he had been, and how in the early days he'd felt alive and purposeful and good.

But one Tuesday afternoon some police had shown up at his door. They told him his wife was divorcing him and had filed a complaint of child endangerment. She was suing him for everything he had. His life was over, and he suddenly realized how fake it had all grown to be.

So, at age 45 (or so), he was stuck with nothing but money and work. Work wasn't even really work anymore, it was more signing documents and appearing at social functions. He didn't have any siblings, or parents, and his wife had taken his kids away except for the occasional weekend.

His life had become a high wire act, he said, because he didn't know who he could trust. His soon-to-be-ex wife knew where all the bodies were buried (whether this was a figure of speech, I don't know), and so he was constantly worried about police showing up again, this time with information.

"Jeff," he said, "you are the only person I trust. And I don't even know who the fuck you are."

Then he started crying.

Sketchy Bill 11: Fast Forwarding Through Saturday

Luckily, Razor had a cellphone, so Bill was able to divert him in time. It was apparent to me, though, that Bill was serious about the whole "leg breaking" thing, and that Razor was, too.

Steve left, and Alex retired to his couch downstairs to watch the game. Bill showed me "my" bedroom, which was the spare bedroom that Alex would be vacating. I dropped my bag by the bed, and that's as close as I came to the thing for the rest of my stay.

I don't really like sleeping in other people's beds, if you must know. I mean, yes, girls' beds (with them in them) are OK, but "guest beds" are weird for me. I'll confess I finally slept in Axelrad's bed over at Robert's, last time I was up in The Immense Fruit, but it took me three years to do so (and Axelrad's bed has had more people sleep in it than, well, your average Motel 6. Not a bed at a Motel 6, an entire Motel 6). Maybe it's got something to do with my dislike for making up beds. Maybe it's a subconscious fear of other people's dead skin particles, or of leaving my own. Maybe I just like to pretend I'm camping out. Strange. But not nearly the strangest of my peccadilloes.

Saturday was pretty dull, actually. I spent the time talking to Bill, buying beer and a half gallon of Jack with Bill, and riding cramped in the joke of a back seat of Bill's Mercedes, to eat dinner at some sort of restaurant nearby. It was dark, but barely dark, at that point, and Bill was worried that I would catch cold. He loaned me a coat, which I still have, and insisted that I wear it out. The fogs of San Francisco, I guess.

The food was plentiful (and Italian, of course), and I found that I was hungry as hell, not having eaten for a day or so. It was raining again when we left the place, but my newly acquired coat was of oiled canvas, so it didn't faze me. Bill dropped me at the house, then took Alex to the airport. Upon his return, we started hitting the Jack in the kitchen.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, Jack Daniels sour mash bourbon is something a lot of us drink regularly. It's something that I grew up drinking (half pints on the porch at band practice, age 16, getting punched if you made a face after a shot), and something I've left behind and picked up again periodically ever since. I spent most of my troubled youth drinking Jim Beam out of bottles, because it was about half the price, but about six years ago I gave up straight whiskey completely (except for rare occasions). I'll drink a Jack and Coke now and again, but since my stomach doesn't like Coke, or caffeine for that matter, it's rare that I mess with it.

However, there are times in my life when drinking Jack Black out of the bottle is necessary for some reason or another. Saturday night was just such a night. We grabbed the bottle and headed out to pick up some drugs from his friend's place. I won't write anymore about this, because:

1) It's such an ingenious way of distributing drugs that I don't want to be responsible for bringing it down.

2) It takes such a large amount of capital investment in the infrastructure that should I talk about it, I'm sure I'd be dead before the weekend is out.

But it was really cool. Trust me.

The result of this drug buying trip was a rock of cocaine roughly the size of a golf ball, which I was unimpressed with until I saw how much powder that broke down to, sometime early Monday morning. In other words, more on that later. We also drove through the Castro District, where Halloween parties were in full swing. "Those homos have the best parties," commented Bill as we zipped by in his little sports sedan. We grabbed a 12 pack of beer (Bud in cans, which was a welcome taste of home after a day of sweet chardonnay and mind-mangling socializing), and as Bill hit his garage door opener, he looked at me with a weird expression.

"Dude, you know I love you, right?"

Thursday, April 22, 2004

On Strike

I'm a sad, ridiculously neurotic excuse for an adult. I aspire to HST, who would never pull this shit, but I might reach the pinnacle of Sean Ryder, who held the second Happy Mondays album hostage til someone gave him 50 pounds.

Point is, I require encouragement on a daily basis. More to the point, if I don't see a new comment once I post something, I obsess over what's wrong with it until I eventually slump over wherever I am, in a completely depleted state. Which is bad, if you're driving a train.

Luckily, I'm not...but if you want to read another installment of the e'd up mafia guy, post me a comment. If you're Wayne or Josh or Todd or Robert, well, you get one further installment. If you're a complete stranger, you get either one big long one or two regular ones, either of which will get us to the nut of the story, which is why I'm being treated like a visiting dignitary in the first place.

So there.

Oh, and if instead of a comment, you can send me a pair of naked breasts supporting a couple of big lines of powdered MDMA, I'll tell you the secret of how Bill got his drugs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Sketchy Bill 10: I Meet The Family

Thankfully, Bill rescued me from the television room, so I didn't have to watch OU play football. It's hard enough avoiding it here--I had no idea I was going to be inflicted with college sports in that den of iniquity.

Bill's primary reason for bringing me upstairs was to fill me in on Alex, whose business card (which I may also still have here) proclaimed him to be an investment banker somewhere on 5th Ave. Alex, of course, was one of The Family, or maybe the Family. He was, said my host, visiting SF on business, but Bill also suspected as a spy to report on how Bill was doing. The Family, he said, would be cool with everything but the LSD, so would I mind keeping that under my hat? This was a no brainer, both because I liked Bill and because here was the first actual confirmation that the Mob was involved. Or rather, that I was involved with the Mob.

Luckily, Alex was flying out that afternoon, so there wouldn't be much time that I'd have to play it straight, which was good, because all the light in the room was starting to bead up on Bill's shiny forehead and slide down his face, which is really distracting if you're trying to remember which mafioso you're not supposed to be talking about LSD with.

All those beads of light vaporized as the front doorbell rang. Bill answered it, and returned with yet another frat boy gone to seed, this one named Steve. Steve analyzed me and dismissed me immediately, which was fine, because I'd done the same to him. Alex came upstairs, and the three of them forgot about me as they discussed the night before.

Turns out, Steve had loaned Bill a credit card for some reason. He was now also about to return to the other coast, and needed it back. After a few exchanges of what time everyone had gone to bed (Bill lied, which was rather interesting), Bill slipped out to get the credit cards. I managed to keep it together through two or three of the obligatory exchanges about OU football, propped up by Alex, who I was liking more as I saw him in the same room as this Steve jerk, who kept giving me the fisheye for no other reason than I was wearing a Corrosion of Conformity tshirt. And, yes, possibly because parts of my anatomy kept coming off and drifting aimlessly around the kitchen.

Bill returned, a bit redfaced, and asked Alex if he'd seen where Bill had put the credit card. Alex and Bill both left to go look, followed shortly by Steve, whose flight was leaving "immediately."

All three of them returned in 10 minutes or so, about the time I was realizing that while Bill knew that I was a stand up guy, these other two guys probably saw me as some transient who had latched onto Bill for his money. In other words, if that card wasn't found, and soon, my credentials might be brought into question. And my credentials, as far as the two younger guys were concerned, were not so great.

I wasn't worried about Bill, except inasmuch as he was brick red at this point, both out of humiliation and anger, and I could tell he wasn't thinking too clearly. Watching them together contributed a lot to me sobering up, actually, even before Bill threw his beer across the kitchen, lunged for the phone, and began roaring about "those two punk assholes who crashed the party last night. You remember them, Alex? Those assholes with Fabio?!"

Alex remembered, and before Bill had the seventh number dialed, all three had decided that if there was a credit card thief amongst the party last night, it was one of those "kids."

If you're trying to direct a film about this whole scenario, here's where everything switched from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" back to "Scarface." Bill, it turns out, throws things for emphasis (I found this out for certain the following night, when I got a five pound bag of sugar in the chest), and even before Razor picked up his phone (on what couldn't have been more than the second ring), Bill had already wasted another beer and shattered his pot chopping coffee grinder on the floor.

The conversation (Bill's half, anyway) went something like this:


That was a quote, ladies and gentlemen. And what was even more disturbing was that the other two guys had begun staring at me like I was a bad porno. In retrospect, they were probably embarrassed by Bill's tantrum, but at the time it sure seemed like they were thinking I was a potential witness.

Which I was. But I had faith in Razor--there's no way in hell he would ever fuck up. His heart rate was too low. And his name was Razor, for fuck's sake.

Bill seemed further aggravated after he got off the phone, when he realized that he'd wasted four beers and pieces of shattered plastic were all over the floor. The loss of the chopper, that is, the loss of a device that performed the function of chopping up weed, was no big deal, and I wasn't surprised. Bill wasn't exactly Tommy Chong. It turned out to be Sheryl's, which was just one less thing for her to come pick up, in his estimation. Bill started pickup up. I helped. The boys continued, I felt, to burn holes in my back.

After cleaning up the beer and plastic bits, we decided to tackle the rest of the debris. As we worked, Bill reverted to his old self, laughing raucously and making crude jokes about the size of Sheryl's, um, vagina. The boys drifted downstairs to check on the game, and by the time Bill and I had filled the wine cases with empty wine bottles, spritzed down the counters, and put away cutlery, about thirty minutes had passed.

I heard an exclamation of surprise from Bill, and turned to find him looking at a credit card, which he evidently had found in a kitchen drawer. We both began cackling madly, him because of how worked up he'd gotten and me out of sheer relief. I was no longer a suspect--and believe me, brothers and sisters, the thought was never far from my mind. Break their fucking legs? I mean, shit, he hadn't even told Razor why. And Razor hadn't asked!

A few minutes later, Steve was reunited with his card, and all four of us were back to drinking beer standing around the kitchen island (which was some kind of really expensive looking granite, I noticed). Everyone seemed more relaxed, enough that the boys talked a little bit about how things were going in the Business Back Home. Once that ran dry, there was the obligatory talk about construction at SFO, and when everyone was flying out, me included. I found myself wondering if the previous outburst had been my imagination.

It was one of those conversational lulls that sometimes happen for no apparent reason. Bill had been studying me intently for a few seconds, like he had forgotten to tell me something.

Then his face lit up in a smile that's difficult to describe. It was the "silly me" face of someone who's forgotten something completely obvious, but at the same time it was the smirk of a guy who knows no one would ever call him on it. It was the crocodile smile of a man who didn't really care much about what was happening around him, because he was untouchable.

With a sheepish yet somehow gleeful bark of laughter, he said:

"Oh shit, fellas, I guess we'd better call Razor!"

Monday, April 19, 2004

Sketchy Bill 9: Neil Always Gets the Girls

Razor left. Bill went upstairs for a nap, leaving me on the couch with Coco and Patty. It was raining, hard enough that neither Coco nor Patty was willing to get up and put the top back on Coco's car. They were content to sit around, hemming and hawing about this guy named Neil and some sort of benefit concert that was scheduled for that day.

Now, as you can imagine, I had a serious vested interest in keeping Coco around. But although she was still lying, very soft and beautiful, in the crook of my arm, she hadn't been too keen on kissing me since the precipitous departure of Sheryl. Initially I was willing to chalk this up to a dip in the candyflipping rollercoaster, but after several more iterations of body language evincing a change in heart on her behalf, eventually I came to realize that I'd been a patsy the whole time! It was confirmed that afternoon by Bill that Sheryl had been so focused on Coco because she "thought" Bill and Coco were flirting. Or making out, or something like that. The advent of Oklahoma Hippy Boy had been a godsend to Coco, who had been essentially feigning death under her black leather coat until Sheryl passed out or had a stroke from sheer frustrated rage. I had enough (I guess) that I was a plausible beard for Coco's true feelings, or at least to appease Sheryl as to Coco's intentions.

I don't know what happened, folks, but I do know that the entire FBI raid scenario of less than 10 hours before (remember being stranded at the airport, with a shoe full of LSD?) was wildly off the mark--the true "bad time, brother" was due to a tense "situation," or more baldly a "mexican standoff," between Coco and Sheryl. For some reason I pictured Sheryl lunging at Coco with a broken beer bottle, but of course that couldn't be--it must have been a wine bottle. Or maybe cognac. My visions of Bill upstairs with a Mac 10 and a pile of cocaine the size of Rhode Island, screeching at the DEA agents outside to say hello to his little friend were thankfully just one more paranoid fantasy.

It was a little humiliating to think that I'd wandered cold and alone on the streets of SF for several hours just because Bill didn't want any of his stemware to get broken, but I was still OK with that. What I was not OK with was being left alone in a huge, weird house with no supervision and no friends, on the rising curl of what was turning out to be a deepwater acid trip.

But of course that's what happened. The rain began to lighten up around 10am, and they began making plans to leave and get to wherever this thing was held. My last argument: hey, it's raining--if you don't want to go, then just don't go! Patty's response was, "well, Neil will be mad if he doesn't see me."

"Neil, please. He'll understand. It's raining, for chrissakes," I said, as I gently tickled Coco's slender flank.

[Jesus, you have no idea how pleased I am to be able to write shit like this.]

"Well," said Patty, clearly disturbed at the thought of pissing off Neil, "it's not that simple. I mean, you don't just not show up at a show Neil Young's invited you to, just because it's raining."

And you know, I didn't have anything to say to that. I mean, what would YOU have said?

Defeated, I dragged out my brand new black leather organizer (god, how I agonized about losing my soul when I purchased that), which was completely pristine except for Bill's phone number, and had them write their info inside. As they were doing this, another balding, middle aged dude came downstairs and started rifling through the fridge, looking for a beer. His name, let's say, was "Alex."

Alex was followed shortly by Bill, who ushered Patty and Coco out of the house (I micromanaged Coco's parting hug to the nanosecond, all the while trying to absorb as much of her scent as I could, without seeming a pervert), tossed a beer to me, and ensconced both of us downstairs in front of the bigscreen. OU was about to play Nebraska (I think) for the conference championship. Or something like that.

Alex was a typical college football yuppie dude. He'd crashed out early in the party, and no one saw him til he came downstairs in a polo shirt and khaki shorts, shaved and clean. Only his bleary eyes betrayed the wild evening the night before.

I, on the other hand, was cranked up on two different types of hard drug, as well as five layers of conspiracy theory and social minefields. I could see from far away that this conversation was going nowhere fast.

April 19th-Again (My Disillusionment With Media)

Seems like I've been living with the damn OKC Bombing my entire adult life. Now that I say that, I guess it's true. It happened right after I turned 23, when I was still trying to make a go of college and work full time, making about $7.00/hr and living in some of the worst conditions I've ever been in.

The apartments were Section 8 apartments, which meant that we couldn't live in them, not being poor or anything. Or maybe it's that we weren't registered, because we sure as shit lived paycheck to paycheck. Anyway, there were a couple of indigent AIDS patients, a woman who was so fat she couldn't work (living directly above us--she was so fat you could see the bulge in our ceiling where her recliner sat), a stripper, and a cirrhotic landlady who had a dog named Pepper. Rent was a staggering $225 per month, which included hearing the stripper get fucked nightly, as well as occasional tongue lashings by the fat bitch upstairs who couldn't watch "her shows" because we were making too much noise. These apartments were at 17th and Indiana, which turned out to be inside the curfew area imposed by The Man in the days afterwards.

Anyway, on the morning of April 19th, 1995, at 9:00am, I was getting my ass kicked by an organic chemistry test up at UCO in Edmond, 15 miles away from downtown. About 3 miles away from the bomb site, my sweet but sleep-challenged girlfriend, Lexi, rolled out of bed and fired up the coffee maker. While waiting for it to brew, she sat down, picked up the remote, and hit the "on" button.


In Edmond, the windows rattled. Everyone looked up and around, but there was nothing to see, at least right away. We returned to our own little corners of hell.

In Oklahoma City, windows rattled and shit fell off the walls. Luckily, we lived on the far side of the apartment building, so we didn't have to contend with broken glass. Come to think of it, most of the windows on the other side of the complex were already either plexiglass or just broken out, so the building as a whole didn't really sustain too much damage.

In Edmond, I ceased pulling out my hair and gathered my stuff up in preparation for leaving. I noticed a plume of smoke coming from the downtown area, but didn't think much of it.

In Oklahoma City, Lexi got out from under the coffee table and called her mother.

The rest of the day was a blur--I can't remember what classes I had, and I'm sure there's no one in school that day who absorbed a bit of any lecture, period. The ones who skipped class stuck close to the televisions, which showed a surreal scene that I can still remember perfectly.

No one could imagine that this had been done on purpose. Explosions, while not common, are certainly more common than truck bombs here in Oklahoma. A lot of people still use propane or natural gas to heat water and their homes, so it's not at all rare for one of the places that sells these types of gases to go up in a fireball (there have been 2 in the last 4 years, in OKC and Tulsa). That's what I thought it was.

The whole town was chaos. The phones (especially the phones downtown) were completely impassable. Emergency crews were imploring people to stay the fuck off their cellphones. For a while, phone service to our area of the city was shut down, which was pretty exciting for me, as this was right around the time I started trying to find out if Lexi was OK. We were far away from it, granted, but you never know.

[Incidentally, this is what was so profoundly frustrating about the 9/11 attacks--I knew to stay off the phones, which meant that I couldn't call Liz, who lived very generally "near the Trade Center." Now, I realize the LES is nowhere near Ground Zero, but think of Manhattan in terms of Oklahoma geography. EVERYTHING is close to the Trade Center in Oklahoma terms. Thankfully, the cellphone system had improved a lot in six years, and Robert was kind enough to make that call for me.]

At home that night, I was confronted by a very nervous Lexi and a gaggle of rather wired-up kitties. Lexi's problem was that she initially associated her clicking of the remote with the subsequent explosion, and then spent the rest of the day in front of the television, which was trying to convince everyone that the entire world was coming to an end. This is Baptist territory, folks, and many of those people don't need much of an excuse to start seeing Mary Mother of Jesus in a Milk Dud.

By dark, a curfew had been set up which included our house, but didn't include Lexi's work, which was a CD shop a few minutes away. She was a little nervous about driving around after curfew, because the most hysterical TV channel here (Channel 4) had originally characterized it as a "mandatory ban on unneccessary travel," or some such tripe. Mercifully, she was neither shot nor hassled on her way to or from work.

The next day, the hunt began in earnest for the perpetrators of this act. Luckily for the FBI and the other dozen or so agencies on site, Channel 4 had already learned the identity and ADDRESS of one of the conspirators. His name I can't recall, but he was of swarthy persuasion and had been doing his best to go to school nearby (although in a different school than I). As you can imagine, he left town rather quickly after a news crew broadcast a picture of his house, complete with address, and mentioned his name on the air. Last I heard, he's suing the shit out of them from Pakistan, or Lebanon, or somewhere. Here's hoping he wins.

This, my friends, is when I started looking at media more objectively. To this day, if there's a big grass fire, other news channels will have coverage of The Big Grass Fire At 234th and Air Depot. Channel 4 will have ominous blarings of brass instruments, bass drums, and onscreen graphics notifying you of The Firestorm Emergency. I thought Hearst had died in the 80's.

Shortly after all this, they caught McVeigh and arrested Nichols, and everything started getting back to normal for us. So normal, in fact, that John and I forgot all about it and swung through another part of downtown to play pool in one of the local microbreweries. After six or seven brews each, our server grabbed me by the elbow and pointed out Tom fucking Brokaw buying tshirts in the gift shop. John, of course, almost peed his pants. "Jeff! Go ask him if he wants to play pool! It's Tom fucking Brokaw! Jesus!"

Now, you know me. I'm a shy dude. Odds are good in any other scenario, I wouldn't have dared approach Brokaw. But I had been pushed to the edge recently, by what I saw at the time as sheer self-pitying Hallmark sympathy card opportunistic bullshit on the part of the media, and by the daily barrage of the poor yahoos around here that bought into it. I mean, any time I turned on the television and saw or heard anyone using the word "heartland," I turned it right the fuck back off and kicked one of the cats. The cats, after a couple of days, learned to stay away from the television, but strangely enough I didn't.

And it wasn't just there. You couldn't turn on the radio without hearing Live's "Lightning Crashes" intercut with sound bites from emergency crews and shattered victims family members. I hate that song, to this day. My favorite, though, was the poetry. Anything from haiku to...well, sentences that rhymed, is all I can say. The couplet that sticks with me, after 9 years? "It was a big yellow truck, better known as Ryder/That had a big deadly bomb, nestled inside her." That one was two pages long, people. Two. Pages. Long.

Jesus fucking Christ. New Yorkers get "terror sex," I get freakin' daily prayer vigils and bad poetry published in the weekly apartment newsletter.

Anyway, my back was against the wall, I felt, and I also wasn't too happy with some of the shit that Connie Chung bitch had to say when interviewing some of our firefighters and EMSA units. So I approached Mr. Brokaw, and asked him if he wanted to play a game of pool.

"Well," he said, giving me time to absorb some of the bourbon fumes hanging around his head, "I'm sort of busy, but hell, what kind of game are you guys playing? 8 ball? 9 ball?"

Boys and girls, I'm not going to lie to you. I have no fucking clue about pool. I know solids and stripes, put the fucking balls in the holes, "chalk is free," and don't put your beer on the felt. That's it. I would have made a total ass of myself, had John not been right behind me with "whatever you feel like playing, sir."

Soon enough, John was racking the balls and Brokaw was smarming about looking for a cue that wasn't all fucked up (note to Bricktown Brewery: buy some goddamn pool cues, OK?), and I was being buttonholed by Brokaw's assistant. Here, he felt, is A Chance To Connect To A Real Oklahoman. Someone Who Lives Here. Someone to add a little local color to the story he'd no doubt tell when he got back to Manhattan. If he was lucky, maybe I was a victim. After all, how big could this city be, anyway?

After a question or two about "the mood of the city" and "how I feel personally," interspersed with "do you know those two girls over there?" and "what about those two over there," I'd finally had enough. I explained in excruciating detail just exactly why I had decided he and all other media gangsters were at best dupes and at worst evil, how televising someone's grief wasn't fucking journalism, it was cheap sensational ratings grubbing of the sort that had Joseph Pulitzer spinning in the grave, and that I was going to be a very angry and unpredictable man until everyone just left us the fuck alone and quit pretending to care what happened here, at least long enough for the crappy poetry to dry up. He seemed appropriately stunned, so I backed off of the climax, which included a rather graphic depiction of what Connie Chung could go do to herself in the closest Red Cross portable toilet.

He left me alone after that, allowing me to concentrate on how Tom was cheating at pool. I'm not making this up, folks, Tom Brokaw cheats at pool. The old "oops, I accidentally bumped this ball, let me put it back four inches away from where it was." But I don't care. John could have spotted that slick old bastard four balls, and still won handily. I've seen him beat people with wet mops. I've seen him beat people with the butt end of a cue, one handed. Hell, he once beat me with a freakin' plastic ashtray. But Tom beat him. When he did, the crowd cheered, Brokaw shook his hand, signed a couple of coasters for him, and dropped a hundred dollar bill on the table. He was out before the flunkie had a chance to warn him there was a dangerous anti-NBC zealot in the room.

I asked John later why Brokaw had beaten him at pool. You know, more than any other fucked up event in my life, the look he gave me made me feel like an idiot. "Jeff," he wheezed, "you just don't beat Tom Brokaw at pool."

Sorry, guys, this is a long rambling one, which does not pertain to the story at hand. However, I've been thinking about the events of 9 years ago since I got up this morning, and thought that you might enjoy hearing about it. Let it be known the following:

1) The events of April 19th, 1995 were evil and unneccessary. The men that perpetrated these acts are/were evil and despicable men.

2) The people who died there that day didn't deserve to die.

3) I understand that everyone's entitled to "grieve," and that "healing" comes in different ways for different people. None of the above is intended to mean "these people shouldn't be able to spout bad poetry."

4) I don't have it out for Tom Brokaw, his assistant, Connie Chung, or NBC. Tom cheats at pool, Connie is the worst kind of snotty, condescending yankee bitch, and NBC's probably no worse than any other mass media outlet.

5) I get pissed off every day about some aspect of the media, from fakery, to agenda pushing, to sensationalism, to the mass of people every day who take the news as holy writ. Most days I watch the news, and I do it with a leather strap in one hand, to flog my body alongside my mind.

"There's got to be a better way" -Social Distortion

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Sketchy Bill 8: 28 Years Old, Never Kissed A Girl

The title is lifted from a Tragically Hip song--yes, I had kissed a girl or two by the time I rolled into SF. But I'd certainly never been kissed in a situation like this:

Patty was rambling on about someone named Neil that she was supposed to meet later that day, Razor was watching her with this bemused look on his face, and lovely Coco had a tractor beam coming out of those soft brown eyes. The LSD and (e) were in full effect for me now, and I made myself comfortable on the couch--content to see where the morning would end.

Bill and Sheryl were making the beast with two backs upstairs again, judging from the noise--and shortly after sitting back down on the couch, Coco was kissing me passionately.

Now, ladies and gents, I'm no prude. However, I'm also not one for group sex, and my definition of group sex is loose enough to include people watching me have sex. Smooching of the variety she wanted, in front of other people, made me a bit uncomfortable. However, this was California, and I was tryin' to go with the flow, and, hell, it felt really good. So I made out for a while with the girl who lived in a black leather couch, under the watchful (but benign) eyes of Razor and Patty.

It just occurred to me that if you need help visualizing Patty, imagine an old, wrinkly Janice, from the Muppet Show. Remember? She played guitar in "Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem?" "Fer shur?" That's Patty.

So after a bit of clinching and murmuring, we broke as again, we heard feet on the steps. This time it was just Sheryl, and she plopped right down next to Coco on the couch. Awkwardness, which I still couldn't pinpoint, seemed to permeate the room. She grabbed one of Coco's hands, and cooed:

"Oh, your hands! They look just like my grandmother's hands!"

Even I realized this was a horrible insult--but since I had hold of Coco's other hand, I immediately noticed that indeed, they were rough and chapped in a way that was completely out of character with the rest of her body.

I'd also like to point out that there's only one surer way of getting grossed out about your body on acid than examining your hands, and that's looking at your face in the mirror. I don't know if Sheryl knew that or not, but I started getting grossed out about Coco's hands. Coco, of course, was humiliated, stunned, and aghast at how awful her appendages had suddenly become. She'd gone from being cuddled and starry eyed to basically being called a hag, all in no more time than it takes for a complete bitch to sit down and grab her digits. I was aghast, but I was immediately rendered irrelevant because my mind got caught in an acid loop thinking about whether or not I should drop her hand or not. I mean, it wasn't disgusting, but she might think that I thought it was disgusting, so I should keep hold--however, there was a very good chance that this was going to come to cat scratchin' very, very soon, so I figured she might want her off hand free.

There was a stuttering excuse on the part of poor Coco, something along the lines of the sculpture work she'd been doing hadn't treated her hands kindly, which was a sort of lead in to Sheryl (who really was good at this sort of thing) reassurring her that no, no, honey, they're beautiful hands, they just remind me of my grandmother's hands....

I began to panic when I looked over and saw Razor's mouth hanging slightly agape, and his eyes firmly affixed on Sheryl's hate filled visage.

An incredibly painful silence, when I could feel Coco trembling slightly, and could see Sheryl spinning up for the kill. Bill was nowhere around, and Razor was just not helping. The words just hung there, like gunsmoke.

And then Patty knocked over the bong, onto the glass coffeetable. The spell of Sheryl was broken--and in the first instant after Patty looked up, she looked at me, and I saw that she had very much done it on purpose. Against all odds, the tables were turned on Sheryl. She was completely outflanked, and routed, I soon saw. If Coco was a rabbit, and Sheryl a wolf, the wolf had suddenly realized that she was in imminent danger of being hugged by the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Do you see the things your mind gets to thinking about on drugs? This all flashed through my head in about 5 seconds, before Coco even had a chance to relax. I saw Sheryl once more, when she and Patty came back in to ineffectually daub at the bongwater on the glass coffeetable, before she stomped off upstairs to yell at Bill.

A few minutes later, Bill was back downstairs, lounging around in some sort of silk pajama set, poking fun at Razor and laughing at Patty and rubbing Coco's feet and calling me "you fuckin' Okie," and he barely stopped when Sheryl screamed "THIS IS THE LAST TIME YOU EVER SEE ME, YOU ASSHOLE!" from the front door. I don't think he even responded, just waved with one hand and gestured to Razor for him to see the lady out. Or, probably more accurately, make sure she didn't slash any tires or bust any windows out in the driveway.

Ten minutes after Razor sat back down, Coco was a mass of gelatin, with her feet being kneaded by Bill and the nape of her neck massaged by me. She would occasionally put her arms around my neck, swing up like a cute little monkey, and kiss me, but invariably it was too much.

After a bit of that, Razor and Bill wandered out to parlay concerning the night's events. It had begun to rain, Patty noticed, which provoked another round of discussion about Neil, in conjunction with some tickets Patty had managed to procure. To my chagrin, Coco was to accompany Patty on whatever this was to be.

Sketchy Bill 7: Top of The World, Ma

If I hadn't just gotten back from Burning Man, which primarily taught me that things CAN be as good as they seem, I would have immediately assumed an ulterior motive for Coco. As it stands, it took me three years to realize that she was probably completely playing me for a sucker.

The footsteps behind me were, of course, Sheryl and Bill. Sheryl was standing practically on top of us (which was creepy enough for me), and Bill was standing within easy reach of Sheryl's hair. Neither one of them looked like they were fucking around. Coco left the room to fetch me a glass of wine, even though I hadn't asked for one. While she was away, the room was strangely silent, as everyone tried to evaluate the social situations.

I'm a big fan of social analysis in any group of people when I'm on acid. I'll spend hours watching and ascribing motives and prediciting behaviors. Unfortunately, this works best when you know some or all of the people present, and in this case, Bill was the only one I knew, and that wasn't very well at all. In fact, I felt a lot younger and more naive than my 28 years of hard living.

Bill shook me out of my reverie, and pointed out of the back door. You could see outside, finally.

Now, there's a certain kind of groupthink that takes place during an acid trip, due mainly (in my opinion) to the dangers of any individual wandering off alone for any period of time. The rules as I've been able to pinpoint them are:

1) If one person who's tripping leaves, s/he must either have someone who is NOT tripping keep an eye on the clock, or must take some sort of timekeeping device that the tripping person will notice. An egg timer would work in theory, but the most popular one is a cigarette. When you're done with the cigarette, you go back to the group. Period. This sucks for me, since I don't smoke--and a beer doesn't work at all, because I'll carry around an empty beer bottle for hours (we've found this out the hard way). So,

2) If two people want to go somewhere, they must either use rule #1, or one of those people cannot be tripping. The whole idea here is to limit your exposure to fucked up shit that acidheads have a hard time dealing with, like, say, police. If there's one "straight" person in the party, this helps out a lot.

3) Any group of three people is an autonomous subset of the group at large, unless
a) all three of those people are tripping and
b) none of those people are from the city the acid trip is taking place in.

For example, if a group of us were to go to Chicago and drop acid, we'd either need a guide on acid or a non-tripping person (a "babysitter," in parlance). However, three people from Brooklyn who are tripping in Brooklyn are perfectly OK.

In this case, there's really no way in hell that I should be left alone for a second, so Bill was kind enough to escort me out onto his balcony for the sunrise.

As near as I can tell, Bill's house sits on the north point of the peninsula that encloses San Francisco Bay. But I'm not sure. Anyway, I was stunned by the beauty of the scene.

The back yard was about 20' deep, and then dropped off precipitiously--so steeply, in fact, that I couldn't see it. We were high enough up, though, that I could see a brief swatch of road, where early morning traffic would flash occasionally. Beyond that was a small river or large stream, of which, being farther away, I could see much more. The other side of this river was defined by a solid cliff of gray rock, probably three hundred feet tall, that turned into a bluff on which all manner of California plant life grew. A coastal forest, looking for all the world as if no human had ever walked within. The curve of the bluff urged my eyes westward, towards the ocean, and a few white houses that clung to the top of the cliff.

This would have been the first time I'd seen the Pacific ocean during the daylight since 1975 or so (when I was a child, believe it or not). There were shreds of fog that were burning off and exposing yet more of the vista, and as I watched, sunlight began to gild the wave tops far out from shore. It was the most beautiful scene I'd ever seen in my entire life.

After I'd spent a few minutes collecting my jaw off of the deck, I realized Bill had gone back inside, leaving me alone--this was old hat for him, after all. My acidhead nature took over, sort of, and I decided to check back in. I slid open the door, made sure there were no catfights in progress, and beckoned Coco to come outside. She, strangely, declined. No one else seemed inclined to come outside, either, so I did what Stubborn Jeff always does: pretended I was having a better time outside, alone.

Which I was, really, once I got to examining the landscape again. Even when I'm not tripping, I tend to examine and identify plants in the landscape, and this was like being plopped down on Venus or something. All the leaves in Oklahoma had already fallen off of everything, the plants were browning out, and what is generally a drab state was becoming even drabber. Here, however, everything seemed to compete for the title of Greenest Plant Around. And yes, that was probably the acid talking, too.

Some of the trees were colossal! There were a dozen eucalyptus that were easily a hundred feet tall, with all their weird bark and foliage that for some reason reminds me of Central America. I stood for a few minutes, playing with my brain, interacting with the acid making fractal patterns of the leaves and bark, and suddenly realized that there were a couple of HUGE golden eagles perched in the closest one. Holy fucking shit, I thought. How can one stay sane in the presence of all this beauty? How can one work at Kinkos (for instance) when all this was outside? How does anything get done at all out here?

This was the question of the hour, so I turned back to the door to ask these people (wonderful people, even Razor, who I realized was probably just misunderstood), when I stepped in an acid hole and realized that I HAD BEEN INVITED THERE. By these very same people! I mean, this certainly wasn't for my sole benefit, but perhaps something in the cosmos was toying with me.

Two things here:

1) A large part of the wide-eyed "natural splendor" writing you just read was strictly due to the (e) and LSD that I was firmly in the grip of at this point. That's not to say it wasn't there-I'm just saying I wouldn't have paid attention to it, and appreciated it, as much if I hadn't been tripping balls. And I'd sooner be shot in the kneecaps that wax poetic about a landscape if I didn't have some sort of chemical to blame it on.

2) Remember, five hours ago I had been the lowest of the low--homeless, friendless, cashless, and exhausted in a strange city half a continent away from home. In the last hour and a half, I'd been fed a bunch of good (e), feted by Bill as a Person Worth Knowing, eaten a bunch of good LSD, drunk as much good wine as I could hold, and snuggled with a completely gorgeous girl who had (if you squinted just right) fallen instantly in love with me, which sentiment was returned with interest. Never in my brief and squalid life had my fortunes shifted so dramatically, so quickly. It was possible, for a brief time, to believe the hype about myself.

That's it for now: I feel like hell, and this is a good place to stop, and frankly I'd rather end on this note than on the rather claustrophobic socializing that occurs in the next few minutes.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Back To Normal/The Exponential Growth Of The Ego

Please let me know if you can read this--I think the situation's in hand with Blogger, but since it was all rather mysterious in the first place, I don't know if/when it will happen again. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

My project for this weekend will be splitting the blog. Hookechoes will be story posts only, because I think the personal shit is getting in the way of the narrative, but I still want to be able to rap at you guys about other stuff. I'll post a link to the new blog, for which I had a great title the other night but have since forgotten--or I might just bite the bullet and change the name of this one, since the new name seemed to fit it better. I don't know. I'll also look back and see if I think any of those old posts are worth keeping--certainly my standard "it's Monday and I'm hungover" posts aren't worth it.

I'm a bit curious about traffic here, as well. I think it's fairly low, judging from the comments, but Josh suspects it's higher, and people don't comment because of the drug content. I don't guess there's a way to tell, unless I want to start paying for this thing...but regardless, if there are going to be people here just for the reading of stories, well, there's got to be a man behind the curtain, right?

UPDATE: The other blog is called Seeing In The Dark, and it's rather a mess, since I just took the stuff I couldn't bear to part with from the earlier days of this one and threw it over there.

This Is Weird

I'm having trouble reading the Razor installment of Sketchy Bill. Obviously, Wayne's seen it, because he commented, but I have to republish it every time I log on to check things over and link up (I use this site to page through my favorite sites every morning and evening). Very strange. I'm hoping that this post will sort of shove SB 6 through the birth canal, so to speak. Yuck.

Since I'm still a little sick, I'm going to try and stay home and be a good boy this weekend. If this in fact occurs, I'll post another installment. I think there's probably 10 left in this story, and then I'll probably move on to either The Canadian Acid Sale or Never Give E to Strangers on Coke. One's another road trip story, and thus sort of long, and the other's a shorter but extremely intense (and thus more difficult to write) story of how we learned our lesson and quit abusing drugs. Once we get closer to the end of this one, perhaps I'll let y'all vote.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Sketchy Bill 6: Razor

After I was formally introduced to Coco, she sat up and took a hit of the (e) of which Bill apparently had an unlimited supply. Luckily, I'd managed to scrape loose the duct tape from the inside of my boot before sitting down, so her first vision of me wasn't digging around in some gnarly old combat boot.

No one else in the room wanted any acid, initially, so I just tore it in half and ate five, giving the other five to Bill. These he gobbled with aplomb. However, he was more than willing to spit them out and tear off 2 hits to give to Coco, when she decided she'd slept long enough and wanted to get on the same ol' roller coaster upon which I was embarking. She'd never taken acid before, she said, and since this was a couple years before Francisco tried to kill his wife and baby while on (e), I was still willing to induct a newbie into the greater wonders of psychedelia.

The whole spitting out acid, tearing off two hits, then casually handing it to another person didn't really bug me (I mean, if it was beef jerky, that would be kind of gross, but acid?), but it set Sheryl even more aquiver. Bill noticed this (everyone in the room realized this was fucked up, but me), and practically threw Sheryl over his shoulder, headed, we soon discovered, to the boudoir.

Bear in mind, ladies and gents, that I'm rolling along, completely lost in my own fog of Okie simplicity, drugs, and bemusement at my current situation. The whole thing may be obvious to you at this point, because I've written it this way, but as it stood at the time I was blissfully ignorant of the reality of the situation.

Some would argue that this is my normal modus operandi, but that's not the point.

After a brief Q&A in which Coco treated me like Timothy Leary, and I (I'm sure) waxed serious and expansive about the joys and terrors of both LSD and MDMA, I had the presence of mind to ask her if she'd like a glass of wine. Which, of course, she did (for the uninitiated, LSD is like chewing on tinfoil). I entered the kitchen to retrieve yet another bottle of wine, turned around, and was face to face with the adam's apple of Razor.

If the sun had been quite up yet, the light would have been blotted out. Or maybe it's that my heart stopped for a second. Immediately I realized that it was ridiculous to think that Coco could be here alone, and also to think that "Coco and Razor" was probably a cool thing to put on your invitations to yacht club parties. I resigned myself to a brief but painful drubbing and probably some asphalt rash as I was thrown out the front door.

Razor said, "didyougotoburningmanthisyear."

My jaw sort of dropped. I couldn't help but think that his murmuring speech was merely a ploy to get my ear closer to his head, so he could bite my entire head off, but after considering him for a second, I realized this wasn't the case. I bit.

"Yes, I was camped next to Bill. Were you out there?"


[Brief note: Those fuckers are crazy. I mean, I'm all about fire breathing and such, but the whole idea of setting off a 300' column of kerosene fueled flame out of the back of a pickup, wearing a fireproof suit, is a bit out of my league. And they had SIX of them, I think.]

"Wow, uh, did I see you out there?"

I was resisting the urge to talk like him, and also rapidly running out of things to say. There was no conversing with Razor, really, although I could tell he sort of wanted to. It's like he was trapped in a huge Samoan body with the mind of Walter Mitty and the voice of Steven Wright in the middle of a Xanax and red wine bender.


See? I told you he was trying. But since I'm lucky enough to keep my money til next payday, it was a conversational non-starter. He tried again:


Well, as you all know, I'm a landscape maintenance guy, with a little bit of design and a lot of Spanish cursewords.


After sorting this out, I responded, "Bill and I are just friends. I didn't come out here to put the make on him."

Surprisingly, this seemed to make up his mind about me. He nodded, kind of, then glided back into the living room without a sound. Patty was screeching with laughter, and as I returned to the living area with a bottle of wine (shaking ever so slightly), I heard the unmistakeable sound of bedsprings being rocked upstairs.

We all smiled, and Coco looked over at me in a fashion I could only describe as coy. I poured her a glass of wine. The bedsprings stopped. She leaned close, as I heard footsteps descending the staircase behind me, and pressed her breast against my arm. It was warm, but since I was currently engaged in counting up exactly how many different colors of brown her eyes were, I didn't notice. Her eyes flicked past me briefly, then she was snuggled fully in my arm. She whispered, "is this the way you see things?"

Her pupils were dilated. My head felt like it was about to explode, and the only thing keeping my entire body from doing so was her warm hand on my arm, and the nagging feeling that all was not as it seemed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Sketchy Bill 5: Coco

Instead of stumbling around looking like an idiot, I decided it would be easier (and safer, since Razor didn't like quick movements) to sit down on the couch. I was briefly interrupted in this endeavor when Patty reintroduced herself (she really is sweet, but a complete burnout), Bill's girlfriend reentered the room, and Bill himself showed up with a small coffee grinder.

This turned out to be Bill's special coffee grinder, by which I mean this is what he used to chop up his weed before sticking it in a pipe. I had never seen anyone do this before, so I stood around for a bit watching the Cheech and Chong farce of Bill and girlfriend and Patty arguing about how best to go about smoking dope.

The argument briefly moved into slightly more familiar territory, as the girlfriend (whose name is Sheryl, come to think of it) moved on to trashing Bill's CD's in a manner that was overtly cheerful but obviously malicious. Something was still up, however, I was still at a loss as to what was making this woman angry.

Incidentally, this is where the term "Sherylized" comes from, which is the state of your CD collection once you let either me or Sheryl come sort through them for an hour or so. Complete disarray.

But the tension was broken. Sheryl had calmed down some, Razor was drinking wine again, and Patty was happily blithering along about something no one was paying any attention to. After another slug of wine, I remembered that I was supposed to be unlacing my boots, and proceeded to sit down on the black leather couch again--as I realized that Bill was right. That shit was good, and I was queasy, and in fact...

Yes, folks, I yarked. That shit was STRONG, and I'm not afraid to say it almost made it FUN to vomit, which is a point that a lot of people miss about taking drugs. It's not "why would you want to take a drug that makes you vomit," it's "why wouldn't you want to take a drug that even makes it fun to puke?" It's all a matter of perspective, see?

But that's an aside. I made it into the bathroom without incident, then rinsed out my mouth with yet more chardonnay in the kitchen sink. The (e) was creeping up my spine like an electric leech, which got me to thinking about time frames. Specifically, the time it would take the LSD to kick in, and whether I could get some synergy going with both drugs.

This is known as candy flipping, kids, and you shouldn't try this at home. Or anyone else's home, for that matter. Especially Sketchy Bill's.

I sat down on something hard, with a bump on the top of it. I heard a muffled squeal, apparently coming from the adjacent couch cushion. I turned my head towards the sound, just as the couch produced a very sleepy and very confused young lady.

Named, of course, Coco.

Coco was beautiful. Coco was clad in a black leather coat (which she'd thrown over herself to sleep) and a sort of almost there black dress with black hose and black shoes. And hey, it was fairly dark in there, so it's no wonder I'd missed her.

Coco sat up. Our eyes met, and time stopped.

I could hear my heart beating in my ears. The room was silent. We were both completely surprised by each other, and (initially) mutually attracted.

My first thought: "There's no way this couch just spontaneously generated a girl."

My second thought: "If there was ever a couch that could do that, Bill would own it."

My third through fifth thoughts weren't of much use to this narrative, because they were mainly internal battles concerning whether it was appropriate to start in on the Song of Solomon in front of other people, whether I could in fact remember any of the Song of Solomon, and finally about the very unhappy incident that occurred last time I tried to use it to seduce a strange woman. And that was just some stripper, not a woman who lived in a black leather couch.

Her first thought was "who is this asshole sitting on my ankle?"

There was that complex interplay of slight pupil dilations and ghosts of smiles, and I knew--it was meant to be.

We were snapped back into the real world (such as it was) by the temperature of the entire room dropping 40 degrees instantly. I heard a Joan Rivers cackle behind me, the most bitter and unpleasant sound in the whole world...and I knew for whom Sheryl was sharpening her claws.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Sketchy Bill 4: "Eat This, It'll Make You Puke"


So there I was, in a hotel room in San Francisco, where I knew not a soul except for one drug crazed Jersey mobster. And the more I thought about it, the sketchier this whole thing became. No address, no home phone #, hell, no last name! As I was walking between hotels that early morning, I was feeling fairly dispirited and alone.

The thing that's important to realize here is that I didn't own a cellphone at this point (although I bought one the day after I got back), so there was no dialin' up of Todd, or Robert, or really anyone, because I didn't have a roll of quarters to spend on a pay phone. I was well and truly fucked, when I left that message on Bill's voicemail, if he hadn't called me back. And by the time my head hit the pillow, I was relatively pissed off at him, anyway.

I fell asleep at around 4:30 am. I don't know when Bill called me back, but it was just before sunrise--so I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. And Bill is a guy at whom I can't stay mad, so when he apologized profusely and told me he'd lost his cellphone in his couch cushions, that was all it took. I hadn't been abandoned (at least, not completely), and if you squinted just right, I'd actually benefitted from the nap I'd taken.

After giving me explicit directions to his house (complete with address, which I might still have written down here), Bill asked "did you bring 'the stuff?'"

"Of course," I said.

"Drop now! Drop now! That way you'll be tripping when you get here!"

This, ladies and gentlemen, was the dumbest idea I'd ever heard. I declined, and went downstairs to see how this whole "taxi" thing would work during the daylight. I made sure to show the directions to the guy in the car BEFORE WE LEFT, when I still had access to a telephone, but he assured me that all would be well.

And it was! I have no doubt he took me pretty far out of his way, but soon enough I was being dropped off with my bag in front of a tall, narrow house with an iron gate, complete with buzzer and speaker. Buzz: "Password?" "Burn baby burn, you big jerk. Let me in."

And there in the doorway, in all his festering glory, stood Sketchy Bill.

He was shorter than I remembered, because he talked so loud and was so boisterous on the phone, but otherwise he was all there. A little worse for wear, as partying all night will do to all of us, but there was no doubt in my mind that I was once again in the presence of a genuine weirdo.

Somehow he managed to bear hug me and pick ME up off the ground, which doesn't happen too often, then I was being rushed upstairs to meet the party guests.

A pretty sorry lot they were. Bill sort of waved his hand around the room, spouted some names, introduced me as "the fuckin' Okie," then wandered off at his girlfriend's admonition that he needed to find something to break up the weed with. I was left to peruse the room.

The most striking (and frightening) person in the room was Bill's girlfriend, whose voice I had listened to a lot on the way to San Francisco. Remember her, the one with the gravelly voice? The one I (and probably you, too) had pictured to be a prototypical brassy blonde mob wife, probably in her late thirties/early forties? Yes?

Bill's girlfriend, the owner of the raspy voice, was 25 years old. And HOT, til she opened her mouth, or looked at you, so you could catch a glimpse of the rage that lay seething just beneath the surface.

And I'm not kidding about this, folks. It was like looking into the eye of a wolverine in a cage. I actually took a step backwards when she came toward me, until I realized that this unearthly hatred was directed at someone else in the room besides me. But who?

Let's describe the room, briefly. It was smallish, by California standards, and probably was originally intended to be a dining room. It had a fireplace, and next to the fireplace a glass door led out onto a balcony. Opposite the fireplace was a small black leather couch with what looked like the coat pile on it, a glass coffee table, now liberally sprinkled with drug paraphernalia and wine glasses, and beyond all this, stairs leading down into darkness.

The girlfriend (whose name I can't recall, but since she makes an exit here in a few minutes, I won't bother making one up) was up and at me, to give me a big welcoming hug and ask me if I wanted a glass of wine. Which I did, so she sashayed violently out of the room to go fetch me one.

Sitting on the floor opposite the couch was a fiftysomething woman who was the epitome of burnt out hippie. Her voice was raspy, she didn't make a whole lot of sense, and was just as cheerful as the day is long. Her name was Patty, and she was, of course, An Artist. A Fairly Well Known Artist, which I immediately took to mean that lots of people knew her in San Francisco, not that her work was well known anywhere else. She looked and acted like she'd been dug up in some archaeological dig in the Haight, dried out, and given something to smoke. Patty's a sweet woman, and I've called her every Christmas since this one to wish her happy holidays. She has no clue who I am, of course, but seems to be genuinely glad to have random season's greetings sent her way. I'm sure if I tried harder, I could get the ether to vibrate in such a way as to make such a phone call unneccessary, because she was bedotted with crystals of all sorts, and as I walked in, she was fiddling with them and explaining them to the last person in the room.

This person was, and I'm not making this up, a six foot two inch Samoan named "Razor."

Razor was clearly not here to party. Razor was here to make sure nobody touched nothin', least of all Bill. As I cast my eyes over the room in response to Bill's grand gesture, the two girls said "hi," but Razor just looked at me and, after a long, considering second, dipped his head a little at me. Without ever taking his eyes off me.

It was like being in the room with a crocodile, or something. Patty was gaily chatting away at him, and he wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to her, but she didn't seem to mind. After an eternity, Girlfriend came back with my wine. I downed it, and went into the kitchen to get another.

The place was stacked, and I mean stacked, with empty cases of wine. Every surface was covered with a sticky residue of chardonnay and god knows what else, and the fridge door was conveniently left open so that I could see where the next bottle was coming from. I found one that was still cold, poured myself a glass, and turned around.

Sketchy Bill was standing there, practically dancing in anticipation.

"Jeff, this is the best fucking ecstasy you will EVER, and I mean EVER, have in your life. This shit's GREAT, brother! It's so good, it'll make you puke! Here, take two!"

Well, what do you do in a situation like this? I swallowed two, chased them with another glass of wine, then started unlacing my boot.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Sketchy Bill 3: The Arrival

I was due in to San Francisco at about 11:15 on Friday night, which was promptly moved back til midnight upon my landing in Phoenix, for reasons unknown. Once this was ascertained, I found a payphone and called Bill, to alert him. I found him to busy to talk, so he handed his phone to his girlfriend, who sounded a lot like Phyllis Diller.

This sort of confirmed my idea of Bill as an aging ol' dude who could still party with the best of them, but when he was back at home, acted pretty much like the rest of the guys I know. Obviously the 23 year old Armenian girlfriend of Burning Man had been a sort of second tier fling, and his "true love" was someone more his age. She sounded like she'd spent most of her life shouting at people while smoking menthol 100's.

So, by this I'm somewhat encouraged. Obviously Bill has a semi-stable family life, if he's got 2 kids and a girlfriend that's his age. Right?

After a few minutes of small talk, Bill gets back on the phone and assures me this delay falls into his plans perfectly. He's currently winnowing out the "hot women" from the "party trash," and the former should all be gathering at his house at around 1am.

Furthermore, he just wasn't able to get away from this big party, which was all the way over at his yacht club, but he'd call his limo people and see if one of them could pick me up. Upon arrival at SFO, I was instructed, I should look for either "a hot blonde Brazilian chick in a chauffeur's outfit," or "a Filipino guy named Miguel." The sign, of course, would read "Burn Baby Burn." Almost as an afterthought, he said, if neither of them were there, I should call him and he'd give me directions for a cab.

My flight was delayed, then delayed again. We didn't land at SFO til about 1:30, which was of course 3:30 for me.

No one was there to meet me.

This was not alarming at first, and I just sort of hung back and watched everyone pair off and leave...searching my pockets for change. After it was plain that I was alone, and no one was there to take me by the hand and lead me to my 72 virgins, I slipped into a phone booth and dialed Bill's number.

No answer.


I dialed it again. No answer. Hmmm...

I wandered around the airport, looking and listening carefully for any sign of a wild mobile party looking for me. Nothing. I wandered back upstairs, almost put my quarter in the slot, then walked back downstairs to make sure.

Yup, nobody there. It was approaching 2am in San Francisco, and most of the airport was closed, and the people in uniform there were plainly unhappy that I was still around. I doubt that my mere presence made a difference to them, except inasmuch as I might actually ask one of them a question. I obviously was Not From The Bay Area.

About 2:30, I slipped a quarter into the payphone slot, bedraggled, betrayed, and distinctly uncomfortable withe situation.

Here is everything I actually knew about the guy I was visiting:

1) His name was Bill, and he was sketchy.

2) He had a cellphone, which he wasn't answering.

3) He lived in San Francisco, or its environs.

Not a whole hell of a lot to go on, right? But it was San Francisco, and I had a fucking credit card. If the dude wound up ditching me, for whatever reason, there were any number of things I could spend two days and two nights doing.

Quarter in slot. 2 rings. The voice of Sketchy Bill, very quiet but very, very intense, spoke the following words in my ear:

"Bad time, brother. Call me back later {click}"

It's nearly 3 in the morning, in a city I've never been to, and a guy who's been acting very suspiciously suddenly cuts through the fog of my exhaustion with six words that strike fear into my heart. Because, kids, I had come loaded with LSD, and I'd seen his Rate of Ingestion of some of the DEA's least favorite drugs.

I was in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand, I felt like the guy was nutty enough to freak out this way if, for instance, he ran out of his favorite chardonnay at a party. On the other hand, there was a very good chance it could be some sort his house, or boat, or whatever. Or, it could be anything in between.

But that did me no good. The tone in his voice made it clear that he was a) not in a position to talk to me, and b) not interested in negotiating a). So I was in a quandary. WHEN to call him back, considering his cellphone might be in the hands of god knows what federal agency? Then the paranoid's corollary: SHOULD I call him back? The LSD was taped into my left boot, and not exactly easy to extract. If someone got 'hold of that phone....

See what happens when you take lots of drugs, kids? It makes you think weird, unlikely things. But upon reflection, those endlessly recycled paranoid fantasies are probably what saved me from getting busted, back in the day.

I finally decided that I should probably just spring for a freakin' hotel room. It was late, very late, and I was entirely too fucked up on adrenaline and lack of sleep to make too many rational decisions. After studying the posters at the visitor's bureau (long closed), I realized that I had absolutely no idea where I was in relation to any of the hotels advertised, and in fact could only really focus on the pictures. Fuck it, I said, this is what cabbies are for.

Shortly thereafter, I was in the back of a cab, saying suicidally ignorant things like "I have no idea where I am," or "I don't care what hotel, just one that's close." Thankfully, the guy was a decent sort (I've been fortunate in that regard for my whole adult life), and he dropped me at one that was both close and reasonably priced.

Unfortunately, it was full.

The manager was kind, though, and called around to a couple of ones which were within walking distance (my cabbie, of course, had fled the moment my feet had hit the asphalt). He gave me directions, and even walked outside to show me the sign.

It was approaching 4am when I walked into the front door of the hotel with room. The night manager was extremely friendly, and genuinely seemed interested in helping me get some sleep. No later than 4:15, I was ensconced in a room that didn't smell and had its own phone. With the last of my energy, I called Bill again.

No answer. But by that point, I didn't give a shit. I left a message, giving the phone number and the hotel. Then I fell asleep, with one booted foot still on the floor.