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.


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