Narrative


Muscling through the back streets of the hilly suburban landscape of Taconic Heights, NY in Mom and Dad’s station wagon on the way to pick up a friend or six and pack them in the back for the night’s frivolous unfettered funmaking.  Gossiping idly, looking for that golden, as yet undiscovered, coveted nugget with which to regale the girl of choice and in the telling would get to see her head thrown back in private laughter or ear-to-mouth whispering incredulous intimacy huddled against the blare of the electrified din.

No beer yet, or maybe a couple of strays left over from last weekend when the curfews cut short the drinking.  Looking for others in the same speculation situation.  Looking for something to do, not just something, but something else, and being not only the discoverer of such a scene – not too crowded, just the right mix of maidens to match the squires arriving through the fallen leaves of the powerful autumn chill, “Yeah, we checked out that other place – not much goin’ on there.  Where are her parents?” – not just a discoverer, but being recognized as a co-creator as well.

And so the nights go and go and go and go on in this petty pace and the exhibitionist gossip producers will perform for the community – performing each weekend for the adolescent gossip mill to reproduce into the halls and classrooms of the stillness stilted standing week.  The viscereality of it all is fragmentary, almost totally hidden from view.  Seconds, minutes, sometimes hours of real human interaction under a cloak of darkness; actual caring conversations are snatched from the jaws of the repressed gossiping values police.  In between the posturing and flirting there appears a genuine feeling – briefly acknowledged but then quickly stashed away.

During the week, all is back to normal.  Some truths which shone so brightly over the weekend disappear like the gray Manhattan snow.  These truths which appeared so fleetingly late in the beer smell Saturday night have no place in the fluorescent school-day hallway.

(San Francisco, March 1990)

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Yah, but qu’est-ce que c’est que the raison d’etrishness of the whole fucking thing?

What does it mean? What does it matter?
– most of this world is just a lot of chatter.

Eternal recurrence – where nothing seems to matter – everything is subsumed and consumed as soon as it’s created – a generation, a nation of critics. Nothing of value is ever recognized, nothing is truly innovative unless it’s willfully obscure – with the proviso that you have the connections necessary to promote it.

So – just give up and give in – work your ass off at something that means absolutely nothing to you and you can make a living – but only if you give up your life.

But how is it different this time? – how are these times different?

– Is this world approaching some sort of critical mass? do you feel trapped? – penned in?

– like everything you could ever want has a price tag and barbed wire around it?

– trade in your life for some material comfort.

But now I listen to Mr. Coltrane blow –
So who the hell am I to ruminate on all this shit anyway?

Life is beautiful! – And it really is too.

David Foster Wallace says television

“can train viewers to laugh at characters’ unending put-downs of one another, to view ridicule as both the mode of social intercourse and the ultimate art-form…: the most frightening prospect, for the well-conditioned viewer, becomes leaving oneself open to others’ ridicule by betraying passe expressions of value, emotion, or vulnerability. Other people become the judges; the crime is naivete.”

Musical taste and the music industry have become a political tyranny handed down without regard for the actual music. As the nation becomes more and more obsessed with the pixellated visual image, how things appear has become more and more important and their essential nature becomes obscured behind a curtain of hype and promotion.

My own musical biases will become clear once they realize what it is – a hippie manque – classic rock freak before they started programming that shit onto four hour rotations and selling spaghetti sauce and sneakers and beer and cars and software and fast food and overnight mail and stock brokers and light bulbs and dishwashers to it.

In 1980-81, it was rare on the radio, still a mystery and a challenge to catch those great old songs. And now they can’t even do it justice. I only heard Hendrix right after they put him in the “Hall of Fame.” And the most sickening words ever, the most twisted form of shameless marketing taken to the extreme, has got to be – “It doesn’t have to be old to be a classic”

Well anyway, I’m a London Mod (’63 & ’77)/a Bunnymen New Waver (circa ’82) before New Wave got thrown in the machine and re-emerged as Kajagoogoo and Haircut 100 and Thomas Dolby and the Human League and Duran Duran and the Thompson Twins and Our Daughter’s Wedding and Flock of Seagulls and various other forms of “synthy-pop.”

And the Boston rock for a New York suburban boy – The Neighborhoods, La Peste, Human Sexual Response, The Nervous Eaters, The Lyres, who knows who else. But then, of course, the kings of it all – the Missions – Mission of Burma –

And so what the hell do I remember of the music in relation to that ever-present glow on the southern horizon known as The City? Weell, I remember the late ’70’s Who Are You? tour and not going to see them at the Garden although my brother Hamish did go and see Keith Moon before he died.

My first real concert being the Police and the Go-Go’s at Madison Square Garden in January ’82 (Me, Bobby Devlin, Jim Costa, and Hopper).  This was the Ghost in the Machine tour before they graduated to the outdoor spectacle of Shea Stadium and the Synchronicity tour which was ostentatious sycophanticy, though the Garden show with the Go-Go’s was typically new-wave right on the turning point where it went all sour and heavily serio-commercialized and then disappeared.

And it was freezing cold that night on the way home, as we convinced the Harlem Line Conrail conductor to take our Hudson Line round-trip stubs (come on, Hawthorne’s the same as Taconic Heights) being that we had no ride from the Taconic Heights station and figured someone we knew would be at the old Colonial, the bar that used to be right there next to the Hawthorne station.

Then the springtime end of May, and The Clash are supposed to come to our shores – Asbury Park to be specific, so me, Hamish and Hopper get the tickets and plan to drive on down…

but Joe Strummer – he’s disappeared! Where is he?!

Well, when he came back it turned out he had been in France. The Clash – I realize that it was late for them then, this being of course the Combat Rock tour, but anyway, Should I Stay or Should I Go? was reduced to dim simplicity live where Straight to Hell Boy was just eerily hypnotic. But then right at the end of that song someone threw an M-80 at Joe Strummer and hit his leg. He finished the song and limped off and that was it – one hour into the show. Ah, yes – New York.

And then for the Summertime ’82 – King Crimson of the early eighties starring Robert Fripp with Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin. What a collection of musicians! This after Discipline and Beat had come out.

Here I was, sitting at the town pool doing nothing when Jeff Wilander (who I had gotten to know during our three week exchange program trip to Paris in Feb of ’82) comes by and suggests going down to the Pier to check them out. We ran into fellow suburbanites (Jim Maddox, Jimmy Meyer, and John Patten) down there at the show – the pier – being the scene of much later fright excesses.

Thela Hun Ghingit, Thela Hun Ghingit

Fraaaame by fraaaaame, death by drowning in your arms in your arms.

And, though they might have played it, I never would have known – The Waiting Man (hoooooome IIIIII am). I only heard it for the first time in Fall ’89 in Binghamton, NY during a truly frightening weekend venture. One of those weekends that makes you weary and heavily cognizant of your mortality and fateful dumb luck for driving around an unknown city after midnight and stoked to the gills with very strong mixed drinks balancing precariously on the dashboard and half-inch deep puddles of the very same spilled very strong mixed drinks seemingly everywhere else. A repeat of previous dumb luck surviving a similar weekend and driving experience in Nashville during Halloween weekend ’83. And I’m still here – its hardtabelieve (say A-men). Feeling like poor Dr. Backwards – laying on the sidewalk screaming “Pleh! Pleh!”

And then first semester senior year in high school, another new-waver, though by the time we caught him, he had moved on into something else, a New York composer phase of some sort. The Night and Day album for Mr. Joe Jackson.  This crew was all from the THS Class of ’83, me, Dan Molinaro, George Schaffer, Andy Mancini, and Jeff “Hank” Greenberg.

Although at that point (’81-’83) we, as juniors and seniors in high school, were still eating up his classic first efforts. Look Sharp/I’m the Man was one of the 90-min. tapes blasting in the locker room before the homecoming game earlier that Fall.

-So give me all your money cause I know you think I’m funny, Can’t you hear me laughin’ Can’t you see me smile

– and Don’t you know that it’s different for girls….. You’re all the same

Geraldine and John, see the happy couple, so inseparable, and the beat goes onon, and for better or for worse, they are married, but of course – not to each other.

But by the time he came to the Meadowlands he had dropped all guitars and was relying on the keyboards and percussion only, which worked o.k., but stuck out toe-like on the opening of “One More Time” which is ruination without electric guitar.

That December ’82, freezing cold again and Bud bottles all the way down into Jersey and ducking into the lower level seats at Brendan Bryne Arena – and got our coats thrown down from the original seats – upper deck – then high-tailed it into oblivion.

Brendan Byrne security has been sued periodically over the years for brutality – well, we escaped unscathed that time, though the true brutality of the culture that would express itself in the security force at that venue was still off in the future.

Then the show I didn’t think I would make – April-Eastertime 1983. So hungover from the night before, hurtin fer certain. Heavily beer drinking Friday night and then scammed 17 years old into Franzl’s bar out by the Kensico Dam in Valhalla to flirt over sloe gin and vk collins among that gang.

Then the next day packing boxes of aquarium supplies at work and struggling not to puke, hearing the repeated supplication of the WLIR dj over and over. “Mission of Burma and PiL at the Paramount Theater on Staten Island – the last Mission of Burma show ever – Roger Miller is losing his hearing – this is their LAST SHOW EVER!” Over and over all day long I heard it. Thinking, “It’d be nice to see them, but I’m sooo hung over and no one’s probably going anyway and so it looks like I won’t make it.”

But then home after work, the older generation (of my brother 1-3 yrs older and out of high school) has decided all to take mushrooms and head out to Staten Island. There were many folks who made that trip.  In our car, it was me, Hamish and Hopper, with Bobby Devlin and various other folks in other rides.  I also ran into Jeff Wilander down there as well.

Being still recovering from the night before, just regaining equilibrium, I am recruited to remain sober so as to drive and be the general butt of trippers’ jollies.

And so down into the bowels of Staten Island we head, maybe the first and last time I’ll ever be there. I drink one beer the whole night and am more or less confused by the whole thing. Everyone else is transfixed by the Missions – they having just come out with Vs.

Myself still digesting Signals, Calls, and Marches and the fact that they had alphabetized their lyric sheet. And I only recognized “Academy Fight Song” and “Revolver,” but had the 6’6” deadhead Hopper to keep me company in ignorance.

And then, and then (to borrow a phrase from the years later appreciated Horrible Truth About Burma) and then not two months later, it was back into the city to see the Return to Forever reunion at the Palladium when it was still just a theater, and not yet a spectacle.

One of the most beautiful spring nights of my teen-age years. Into the city to drop off the Hopper at C-P south for some mysterious rendezvous, maybe with his dad (who was supposed to have worked for Roy Radin, and then was suddenly out of a job). Then, as he directed us, me, Danny  Mol., and  Ethan Adelman over to Broadway and all the way down to 14th.

The concert was good but mostly it was that cruise down Broadway in a gentle Manhattan spring night with the beers to keep us goin’ and the concert at the end of the rainbow. This is what I remember about that night.

The end of my high school days was capped by the Forest Hills Talking Heads show, August ’83 – Speaking in Tongues tour. My knowledge of the Heads, again, limited, but my driving ability and willingness to stay sober carried through. Knew some ’77 and pieces of Speaking in Tongues – but a hell of a show – saw the first set stoned to the bejesus, out in nosebleedland with Hamish, Bobby D. and various other miscreants.

But then, at the break – proof of the strength in numbers maxim – we went to the floor and walked right past security. As they asked for my ticket, five other fellow crashers came walking in, the security then forced to ignore me so as to nail them.

And finding Hopper and Nik down in their floor seats, we boogie our asses off for that second set. The only concert dancing I remember being that much fun was the Echo & the Bunnymen February ’88 Radio City.

And saw Talking Heads again two months later, my first Fall down in old Va. But they didn’t play “Burning Down the House” twice like they had in NY. Also that fall, third day down there, caught King Sunny Ade and his Nigerian juju music and the talking drums thereof.

Then in December ’83 caught the Fleshtones with Amanda, my first love and original Dixieland Delight. The band played fast and rough and the guitarist kept making like he would whip that guitar off his shoulder and smash it down but he wouldn’t.

Then sweltering summer ’84, back in NY, the drive down into the city with Hamish, Bobby D., Jim Maddox, Eddie Alarcon, and John Patten and hang out drinkin in John Patten’s sisters’ studio on 110th st. on the West Side. First experience drinking on a fire-escape-not-your-own on a relentless summer night in the world of Manhattan.

The Fleshtones again, at the Peppermint Lounge. No driving for me that night so it was Becks and Becks and Becks. And Eddie ran away to buy porno magazines and disappear back to the apt. And Bobby dropped out of sight after the show only to awaken in the curbside dawn and forced to find his way home to the suburbs, while we, disoriented and chastened, awoke back on 110th st. to another ruthless Manhattan summer day.

(Oklahoma City, March 1992)

So that summertime of 1984 was one of those horrible getting over something/killing time periods, and so we’ll kind of skip over that period of aimless drinking and pick it back up in old Va. the following fall, my first REM show at UHall.  The Reckoning tour with the dB’s warming up, and during the warm up me and Tim Koslowski watched a girl walk out of the crowd and puke on the edge of the basketball court.  Then watched as various concert-goers strolled through it slipping and wondering “What the  -?- ”

But like the first time I see any band, I didn’t know any of the songs but remember “Rockville,” “Gardening at Night,” “Up the Stairs” and the a cappella “Moon River.”  Truly beautiful from Stipe when he had the big bushy head of hair.

And the alcohol poisoning experience of Los Lobos outside in the springtime (’85) – holy mackerel – glad I wasn’t driving that day.  Beautiful Va. springtime, and yelling at the beer folks to bring back those kegs, “They’re still full! What are you doing putting them back on the truck, we’re not done drinking!”

Holy Heck!  The rallying cry of ironic astonishment for in the mid-80’s when the Velvets were the kings in collegetime of old Va. – 17 years late.  “So can we get another 12-pack?”  This was a recent arrival in the NY sensibility.  Up north it was Bud suitcases at $11.76 ($9.99 plus tax and deposit).  Perfect on the 3-way split to drink outdoors in the summertime.

The home-life in college became an exclusively summertime experience except for the haze of Christmas, when 3-4 weeks were siphoned off your life into stoning darkening afternoons and darker colder evenings reserved for jumpstarting the bake and serious nighttime drinking, carousing and trying however unsuccessfully to get laid.

Which, of course, became an excuse for all kinds of late-night boozy excesses.  Getting laid was truly a secondary concern in the after-midnight drink-fest bullshitting about anything and everything.  Those who came home from far away had classes and school-time tales to tell while those who remained in town had local gossip for the drunken homesick ear.

And the REM ruled the roost then – Fables of the Reconstruction of the Fables.  They came to old Va. in the fall of ’84 although I had none of their music.  Some of my friends in NY had listened to them a little the summer before we went to school, I remember Dan showing me the Murmur albumn and saying, you should listen to these guys – REM – rapid eye movement.

But my first REM experience was that fall of ’84.  Stipe with long curls and cat eyes and Moon River a capella.  It wasn’t until the fall of ’85 that I would get Fables and listen entranced.  Fables, always my favourite and found out later it was recorded outside of London.  Though most everyone else still pined for Murmur and Reckoning.

And, of course, everything and everyone was still new then, the group was highly liquid in composition.  Always with new people and new music and someone’s got cash to do something or someone’s got a house we can go to – as the REM says – “A perfect circle of acquaintances and friends, drink another, coin a phrase.”

Holy Hector!  And so the mid eighties, and I must admit was not quite as eclectic for me as the late eighties on the music scene.  The Beatles, Hot Rocks and More Hot Rocks from the Stones, Neil Young After the Gold Rush, Workingman’s Dead and so on and so on along with some Traffic, oh but then also the Who and let us never forget old Elvi, who shall never go out of style, of course Trust in Elvis.

Holy Heckenbock! but then this was also the time I finally got around to putting Quadrophenia on a 90-minute tape while mowing the lawn in the hometime summer, or straight-through listening stoned out back at school.  Yeah! for the Who – QUADRO – Schizophrenic? I’m bleedin quadrophenic.  “I Am the Sea,” and the instrumental “Quadrophenia” still the greatest, and

– Here by the sea and sand, and nothin ever goes as planned, I just couldn’t face goin home, it was just a drag on my own

–  They finally threw me out, my mom got drunk on stout, my dad couldn’t stand on two feet, as he lectured about morality, and I guess now the family’s complete, with me hangin round on the street, or here on the beach

– I ride a GS scooter with my hair cut neat, I wear my wartime coat in the wind and sleet.

Yeah, the mod mod mod sensibility took us over in the suburbs.  Still had the old Style Council tape back then, this was also the beginning of the true mixed tapes.  I had done the 60’s radio show mixes in ’81 off I-95 FM out of Brookfield, CT.  They called it “Ancient Rock Formations.”

Hey, it got me out of bed at 10am on Sunday mornings my sophomore spring.  And then later on, the Motown mix with old Junior, who lived down the street from me and so on and so on.  But the mid eighties was when my records and roommates records added up to an undeniable mixing opportunity.

Holy Hackenzee-deutsch!  Yeah, down at school spring ’85 was the year I became friends with the sun again.  Got infatuated with L.A. and Rachel Ward watching Against All Odds on cable (so that ten years later I would stay in Manhattan Beach during an El Nino January on vacation) and sat in the rays whenever possible.

Stoned to the bejesus, or beer drinkin suntime, or throwing frisbee – or all of the above, becoming brown and warm and just enjoying the shit out of it.  Still single at the time, but just about to come out of a long slump (though sometimes I wish I had been a little more choosy, course then again it was slim pickins and always has been).

But spring ’85, lots of vivarin and vodka and grain with fruit punch or lemonade or whatever ya got, a pint of grain will make it righteous.  So then that stupendous trip to Myrtle Beach with me, Tim K. and Jay Shockey which has been recorded for posterity a la Kerouac etc. complete with cooler noise and caffeine sleep deprived yammerings throughout North and South Carolina.  On crutches for the beginning of that trip (twisted ankle playing basketball).

Springtime so beautiful with the purple trees budding (only want to see you climbing in the purple trees).  Off the interstate for the backroads driving, and the vacation condo developments all over the fucking place in eastern N.C. lake country.

Leaving old Va. around 3am for the sunrise somewhere in Themiddleofnowhere, N.C.  Vivarin with the styrofoam cooler rubbing against the vinyl seat for prime annoyance noisy distraction.  Kamchatka Vodka at the rural Friday morning liquor store – vodka vodka vodka – and more vodka.

This may have been the year I developed that huge affinity for this particular liquor or it might have come before (I recall drinking straight Stoli while flirting outrageously in the Stowe, Vt. senior year ski trip in March ’83).  Either way, this was a spring of indulgence in that particular vice.

So we got shit-faced to oblivion by 2pm on the beach that afternoon and at that hotel where we first parked and pissed and had the bellboys cracking up just watching us trying to stand against all gravity.  This deadly effect of gravity I have always felt akin to REM singing about Feeling Gravity’s Pull and I don’t know if this was their intention or not.

Boozy warm nights in shorts and long sleeves – just the perfect drinking and especially stoning weather.  This period peaking (and freaking) with TJefferson’s B-day in April ’85 with the outdoor Los Lobos concert stoning with 40cent beer and liberal libation with everyone in the sun and bopping around not knowing not caring.

When the Lobos played Tequila, I was wandering through the crowd by myself on my way to get yet another 40cent beer, so I gave the shout “Tequila!” at the pause.  Everyone looked at me like I was some crazed weirdo.  But then, staggering around the Rugby Rd. frat parties afterwards, trying desperately to stand – the others having saved their fire for the evening hours looking on amazed.

This standing trick becoming more and more difficult, culminating the next fall when I would awaken to immobilized arms and finally conclude that this was a result of repeatedly falling and landing on my elbows over and over during the night before.  I saw Gerry four years later in ’89 with the same and only problem and asked him  “Fallin’ down?” and laughed empatheticly knowing.

(Tappan Ferry, N.Y., Summer 1995)

Southern Spring

Comes on slowly,
you expect it after break.

In the greening of the trees and
the yellowing of the bushes and
the browning of the skin
that
March and April bring.

The scents, sights, sounds –
expressions of the
Southern swing
in the southern spring,

as the mountains sing
and the valleys ring

on

through

the warming of the nights and
the knowing that she might
stay and linger
to the coming of the light.

Bringing on the beauty
in the heating of the days,
in the freeing of her ways,

so gently,

gently
wafts the breeze –

she sways

and falls into your arms

and stays.

Sprung, spring is –
’til all is done.

(written in a taxicab between Citicorp Center and Grand Central Station, Manhattan, Fall ’89)

So then in the summer of ’85, I started moving furniture to earn some cash and started hanging out more and more with Dudley (aka Mike Sullivan) and Jefferson (aka Jefferson Thomas Stephens Faircloth aka Jeff).  Me and Jeff both were down in old Va. –  Washington and Lee – Lexington, Va. for the man, and me an hour away at UVa. in Charlottesville.  So we have dinner with our old French teacher Steve Henry (affectionately known as “Serge”) then I don’t see Jeff for like the first two months of school.  At some point in October, I get this phone call,

– “Dude, I’m in Charlottesville, let’s party!”

It turns out he’s like ten minutes away at the condo of some girl the guy he drove up with knew.  So I give him directions – come down Barracks Rd. to Rte. 29. Go south like two miles and you can’t missit.

But like the true man that he is Jeff manages to screw it up and ends up driving half-way to Lynchburg before he turns around to come back and find the Business 29 (as the first time around he had turned south on the 29 Bypass).

So, over an hour after I talk to Jeff on the phone and he says he’ll be there in 10 minutes he blows through the door,

“DUDE, WHAT’S UP!  Since the last time I saw you I’ve spent $1500, and all I’ve got to show for it is a dead snake!”

“Oh – well, here’s some acid – take one.”

“O.K.”

And off we went, but not before weirding out on the first and certainly not last freakshow of the evening finding out that Jeff knew this random roommate that my friends Tim and Doug ended up living with (literally randomly drawn in a lottery system) because the guy had lived on Jeff’s hall at W&L for his freshman year (the man known as Inertia – things at rest tend to stay at rest).

So we head on down to Randy Mac – in the Volkswagen Jetta with that guy J.R. driving – so yah, it’s time to head south to Lynchburg – Tacky Party at Randolph-Macon Women’s College.  My very first Women’s College experience – on acid.  So south it is – tripping idiots, speeding through the wilds of southwestern Virginia and on into the night – the night which would never end – and never really has.

We somehow manage to arrive in one piece (Jeff and J.R. had been “drinkin all day”) about an hour later, and immediately hit the hall parties with some vicious, vicious punches (grain, rum who knows…?), a different one on each hall, and that girl we met from Reston, Va. who knew some weird guy we went to high school with in New York (because he had lived in Reston before he moved to N.Y.).

So drinking as many cups of punch as we could handle while simultaneously hiding from the R.A.’s as we were allowed to be up there in the girls’ halls, but not in their rooms (or something) until it was time to go down to the Tacky Party.

One of those mid-’80s all black Virginia oldies and funk bands was playing with beer for sale in the next room.  Well, Jeff knew the girl who was serving beer, so we spent most of our time in the next room right next to the beer (surprise, surprise), getting our drinks for free, wee-hee.

Towards the end of that part of the night, I ran into a girl I hadn’t seen since the seventh grade and ended up talking to her for (what seemed like) an hour or two while we were trying to find a ride back to Lexington as J.R. had taken off at some point in the evening (there was a ten-minute puke break in the middle of the conversation as all that alcohol had finally gotten to my poor acid tortured stomach).

All right, so we got a ride to Lexington, but the car won’t start, we need to jumpstart it.  Shitman, it’s 2am nobody’s still awake, we gotta call AAA.  So, we go back inside the lobby at Randy Mac to call and wait for the AAA.  While we’re sittin there, in comes this beautiful crazy girl, fresh from the Dead show in Richmond where she had been arrested and spent several hours in jail while her jaw was frozen from whipits.  This is the first time I ever see Kathleen Ryan.

But then the AAA guy shows up to give us a jump start.  It takes a good 10-20 minutes to find the battery (under the driver’s seat in a Volkswagen Squareback, I guess this was the night of the generationally opposed Volkswagens).  But the car still won’t start – that is until the AAA guy takes the stickshift out of gear and puts it in neutral, and then bawls us out for getting him out of bed at 3am so he can come and put the car in neutral for us.

(Phillipse Corner, N.Y. Summer 1998)

Now fast forward to the summer of ’86.  Jeff and Dudley are working in the city again, while I’m moving furniture again.  My little high school honey has had some kind of affair behind my back with my friend Jimmy Meyer which I didn’t find out the truth about until the following spring.

Then, at the end of the summer, two weeks after Jeff bought that mint used Volvo, Dudley flips us over into a creek doing about 60mph, not too far from the bridge where Ichabod Crane met the Headless Horseman.  So we all headed back to school with various bumps, bruises, scars and a new tale to tell.

Fresh from this latest car wreck and the disruption of my relationship with my hometown girl, I was ready to seriously cut loose for the senior year of college.

Me, Jay Shockey, Tim K., Doug Boyd and Doug’s girldfriend Dana started out peacefully enough playing that Pass-out board game on the front porch of the house we lived in on Gordon Ave., just off Rugby Rd. (known by the sign that hung over its porch – Shady Rest), and ended up the night, as my housemate Slim put it, throwing Frisbee while Mitch threw a chair.

I evidently had become tired of this particular chair that kept getting in my way, so I decided to DESTROY IT WITH MY BARE HANDS.

The behavior became generally less violent but also less sober as the year wore on, and I eventually graduated a full-blown alcoholic.

The first show that Fall of ’86 at UVa. was Lou Reed, supporting Mistrial or whatever that album was (the Original Rapper).  So, Jeff and his buddies came on up from Lexington to Charlottesville (W&L to UVa.) to see Lou and hang out and – fuckin’ party!

So we partied off and on during the Fall and finally ended up going up to Georgetown for Halloween.  Me and Jeff and his friend Danforth and Kathleen Ryan and Lisa Farlow and various other Randolph-Macon girls – about 5 or 6 of us in all sharing a hotel room in Roslyn, Va. so that Georgetown was just over the Potomac River, a short walk across the Key Bridge.

Jeff had a bag of mushrooms that night so we let the others go ahead while me, Jeff, Dan and Kathleen stayed for a little while until the buzz kicked in.  Then off we went.  I think we lost Danforth on the walk over the Key Bridge, then we lost Jeff shortly thereafter and it was just me and Kathleen who we barely knew each other.

But anyways M Street was a zoo, I was tripping and K-leen was the crazy wombat that she is and things went on from there.  She got picked up over a gorilla’s head, then we ran into Jeff again and went to drink vodka shooters (in rocks glasses) in that bar with that reallllly creeeepy couple.

Then we ran into Danforth again, but he had a girl with him, and couldn’t really be bothered to stop and hang w/the likes of us.  Then we lost Jeff again and walked home together over Key Bridge.  I think I remember stopping in the middle of the bridge and holding each other or making out (“mugging down” as Kathleen called it).  But I definitely remember the late night mugging down while everyone else was asleep, while we stayed up ’til the early morn’ listening to the airplanes overhead coming in to land at National Airport.

So from there, we wake up the next morning – one of those mornings that can really only happen in college.  Where 8-10 people (yes, we woke up with a few extra people who had joined the fracas at unknown points during the previous night) from various parts of the country, who barely know each other, can wake up together in a hotel room, still drunk from the night before and have a good ol’ time riding out the rest of the alcohol.

By early afternoon, me, Jeff and Kathleen needed sleep (the early morning bake session certainly wasn’t helping us stay awake) so we headed back to the 150 year old log farmhouse which Jeff’s family had in Fairfax for a nap.  Then up again that night for food and redneck bar hopping!  Trying, just trying to stay out of fights.

Then Sunday comes and its back to school.

“Hey Jeff, what’s Kathleen’s number, dude?”

So I invited her up to C’ville to see REM in early November of ’86, a very good time for the MX missile, half-gram of mushrooms and half-gram of ecstasy makes for a very sweet mix.  This was the year we rented the whole house at Shady Rest, the basement and stray cats and three floors of weirdness.

And the doorknobs, we only had two doorknobs and had to carry them around downstairs otherwise once a door closed, it stayed closed.

So, that night, Kathleen walks in and as soon as I see her down at the other end of the hallway, the door between the hallway and kitchen slams closed and I have to go running around to find a doorknob to get the door back open.

Weirdness abounds!

Alright, so by now, me and Kathleen are flying headlong into l-o-v-e, but as she so aptly put it at the time,

“Don’t you think we’re travelling a tad over the speed limit?”

I wrote back:

“Just call me Sammy Hagar!” (She didn’t get it.)

Now Thanksgiving rolls around, so it’s back home to Patsy’s Pub in good old Grassy Sprain, N.Y. (the next town over to the east from Taconic Heights) but Kathleen lives in Ct. so we’ll be able to get together over the holiday.  OH, yeah!

I meet her in Tarrytown the Friday after Thanksgiving, then drive back up to Connecticut with her brother and his friend, drop them at a party and head on out to the Connecticut bars.

It was a fairly normal evening, but I slept in her brothers’ attic room and wake up the next morning to find that my sweater and T-shirt from the night before have – disappeared- literally.

I put my pants on and go to the stairs where I find the shirt, but no sweater.  Finally, I fix myself up a little and go on down to the kitchen where I get some funny looks for just wearing a T-shirt, but quickly explain that it’s because my sweater has disappeared (more funny looks).

Her mom says it must be upstairs somewhere, so after breakfast I go upstairs and look around some more, then get Kathleen to help me look, but to no avail all this looking.  I had taken it off right next to the bed I slept in and left it on the floor right next to the bed.  So Kathleen gives me one of her brothers’ sweaters to wear and we go to some high school football game.

Later on that afternoon, Kathleen’s dad calls from work.  She asks him,

“Dad, what did you wear to work today?”

“Dress pants, and my black crew neck sweater, you know your brother borrowed that from me again without asking, I had to go up to his room to get it back from him this morning.”

“Uh, Dad, that’s Mitch’s sweater, are you gonna be home early tonight?”

“No, hon, I’ll be working late, you can give it back to him after the holiday.”

Weirdness abounds.

(Phillipse Corner, N.Y., Summer 1998)

So that was Thanksgiving.  At the end of the first semester (December 1986), I was set to drive back to Westchester with Tom Matuzzi who was a year behind me at UVa. and also lived down the street from me in Taconic Heights.

We were going to pick up Brad, another friend from Taconic Heights, in D.C. and drive on back to N.Y.  The next day I was flying out to Los Angeles for the first time to spend Christmas with my father who had moved there the previous summer.

So I had a 9am final which I got finished with at like 10:30.  Tom had an afternoon final from 2-5pm so I had a long wait and nothing much to do as all of my roommates had already left for home.  However, we had had a party several weeks before which had not been as well attended as we would have liked.

The upside of this somewhat unsuccessful party was that we had about two gallons of vodka left over.  By the time everybody had left for Christmas break, there was only about a gallon left, but that was more than enough for me.  So, I started in on the vodka at about 11am and drank steadily by myself until Tom came to pick me up at around 5:30.

I talked to Kathleen on the phone from about 2 until 4:30 in the afternoon that day which I would pay dearly for when the phone bill came the following month.  Two and a half hours from Virginia to Connecticut in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday – I think it came out to $20 for that one phone call.

So anyway, Tom finally shows up at 5:30 and we head on up to D.C. to pick up Brad.  Tom lets me know that he’s kind of bushed from finals and says that he’ll drive to D.C. but then I’ll have to drive from there.

I don’t mention to him that I’d been drinking vodka for the past six hours.

So up through the Piedmont we go – that drive up the rural 29 that takes you from Charlottesville to Washington in 2 hours (110 miles).  By the time we get to Washington, Tom has figured out that I am not in any kind of shape to be driving (or walking for that matter) and when he and Brad come back out to the car, Brad gets in the driver’s seat and off we go!

The rest of the night is a blur needless to say, but me and my sister had to leave the next day for Los Angeles.  The flight out was uneventful; Kathleen had given me her walkman and I remember listening to Dave Brubeck’s Take Five on the radio as we came in over Los Angeles.

I also remember hearing ads for eating disorder clinics and thinking, I’m definitely in L.A.

My dad had a little garden apartment out in Orange County and we did some sightseeing and just kind of hung out and visited.  I had made plans to visit a guy from UVa. who lived in Lakewood so I called him one night and we ended up going down to Tijuana with a girl who lived across the street from him and lord, we got loaded.

It was a beautiful warm night and the only time I’ve ever been to Mexico, although I don’t know if Tijuana really counts.  I threw up in a big plastic cup I found in the back seat on the ride home (it’s a good three hours each way), and then threw it out the window.

I went sailing the next day off of Marina Del Ray with my dad and sister and one of my dad’s lawyer buddies who could see I was little under the weather but was very relaxed about the whole thing.  He told me he had wanted nothing more than to be a bum when he finished college, but had ended up being a lawyer instead.

I flew back into New York on New Year’s Eve and headed right on up to Kathleen’s and it was party party party until it was time to go back to school.

On the Thursday night before Super Bowl Sunday in January 1987, it snowed about 18 inches in Virginia and classes were cancelled on Friday.  The radio said not to leave the house unless it was for necessities.

Well, me Tim and Doug drove over to the shopping center on Friday and bought a keg, a bottle of Yukon Jack and one of those jumbo 25 packs of Marlboros, so you can see we had our priorities straight at the time.

We had a little snow party at the Shady Rest and played some coed tackle football out in the yard that afternoon and just basically enjoyed ourselves.

On Saturday, Kathleen found somebody crazy enough to drive from Lynchburg up to Charlottesville despite the blizzard of the previous day, so we got to spend Saturday night together.

Sunday night was the Super Bowl and by the time the game started it was snowing again.  We got another 15 inches and Kathleen stayed over Sunday night.

I’ll never forget the blizzard of ’83 in NY which came in on a Friday night.  The weathermen had watched it all day and everybody knew it was coming.

I was a senior in high school then, and worked that afternoon packing up aquarium supplies for mail order.  I always remember loading up the UPS truck that afternoon and as the driver pulled his door down and jumped into the cab he yelled back to me, “Get snowed in with someone you love tonight!”

Now, here I was four years later and 500 miles away getting snowed in with someone I loved.

I was a little out of focus that semester.  Kathleen was a junior and had another year of school to go.  I, on the other hand, was graduating and tried as hard as I could not to think about it.

Just like my dad’s buddy, I wondered if there was a living in doing nothing.  The fact that the majority of my friends were not graduating on time (or graduating at all)  certainly did not help my motivation.

By the time spring break rolled around, I was a dedicated party boy, chasing my buzz just like The Swimmer of Cheever’s story.  Of course, I usually had plenty of company, which made it that much easier to ignore the despair inherent in such a pursuit.

That spring break of ’87 was spent in N.Y. with the time split between driving around looking for a party, actual parties and the hometown bar at Patsy’s Pub.

There were far too many people around at that point in my life to begin to get into their stories and describe who I was spending time with and talking to about what.

I think the most apt description is that of the Swimmer, and the coming fall and winter of 1987 would find me in exactly the same position I was in the spring, although in the Fall of ’87, I was a college gradaute, and there weren’t as many “friends” to hide behind and my hopelessness and desperation became far more apparent.

I would return to this state of realization periodically over the next seven years, first in the spring of 1989, next in the spring and summer of 1991, then the spring, summer and fall of 1993, and finally the summer of 1994 (the Summer of Drugs) until finally quitting the booze for seven years in October of 1994.

(Down East, Maine 1999)

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