Category Archives: i used to be stupid

Excitable Boy, or, “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others”

You wake up to a strange voice asking you if you’d like to take a shower before breakfast. As much as you want to open your eyes, the fluorescent canopy overhead stings them, making it hard to make out the blurred form that is speaking to you. Mumbling incoherently, you say something about a cigarette, and the strange voice clucks in disapproval.

“You need to get some food in your belly so we can give you your first round of meds, buddy.”

You sit up a bit and try to focus on your surroundings — two bed room, other bed currently unoccupied. The room has dorm furniture. Your right wrist has one of those plastic hospital bands wrapped around it, name, date of birth and allergies listed in smudged black ink. Looking toward the disembodied voice that is now telling you where you are, you realize where you are.

“West Valley Camelback Hospital. You and your mother admitted you last night, saying you were going to hurt yourself. You did the right thing, buddy. We’re going to help you get well, don’t you worry.”

You worry.

You worry when you head toward the bathroom, and the voice that now belongs to a six foot seven inch black man informs you that he has to shadow your every move.

“I know it seems awkward, but we have to take precautions, buddy. You’re here because you felt like you were going to hurt yourself, so I have to shadow you for the first seventy-two hours to make sure that you don’t.”

You put some toothpaste onto a brush that you’ve just pulled out of a plastic wrapper. You run some cold water over the brush, and then step into the bathroom to piss — your shadow leaning against the door jamb. Your shadow hands you a plastic reservoir to piss into, because they need to run a tox-screen, even though they have already taken pints of blood from you after they sedated you the night before.

“They just want to be sure, buddy. No need getting your meds all messed up and having it interact poorly if you’re already on something.”

You remember the look on your mother’s face again, the look she gave you as they were taking your blood. You remember holding her hand and telling her everything was going to be okay, that this was the right thing to do.

*****

Your shadow is sitting with you while you eat your breakfast. There is nobody else in the cafeteria, because everyone else is off doing their thing. Your shadow has a name, Darrell. Your shadow used to play basketball at Wake Forest. You tell him that you watched him play on television once, against Ralph Sampson. Your shadow laughs at you.

“You like basketball, buddy? I’d have picked you for one of those skateboarding types.”

This will not be the first time something you say surprises people in this place.

*****

You are sitting in a plush leather chair in the office of the psychiatrist assigned to you. The plastic cup in your hand had just held within it three pills. You asked your shadow what they were, and he just told you to take them because they will help you relax so you can talk to the doctor. You try to figure out a way to keep your sneakers from flopping around, as they have taken away your shoelaces. To protect you from yourself. They have also taken away your belt. Your shadow was kind enough to take you outside to smoke half of a cigarette before bringing you in to see this doctor who is running late.

You look at the framed diplomas on his walls. There is an American flag stuck into a little plastic replica of Plymouth Rock on his desk. There is a painting that depicts a tiger being brought down by savages in loin cloths. There is the slightest musky smell in the room — almost like pipe smoke or cloves. The door opens.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting, I’m Dr. D’Javadi, I’ll be your primary physician here.”

You shake his hand, which feels calloused and dry. You introduce yourself, and the doctor then goes through a rambling mess of treatment plans. All of this is happening as he reads your intake folder without asking you a single question about your current state of mind or feelings. Twice you ask him about the medication you have been given. Twice he raised his hand up off of the folder he is holding to give you the stop sign.

You begin to feel furious.

When the doctor finally engages you about your feelings, you take your time with the opportunity to speak. You explain to him that you do not, under any circumstances, want to see your father. You tell him that as a voluntary patient, you understand you have rights, even as a minor. You express to him repeatedly that the crux of your depression and desire to hurt yourself is due to the fact that you feel like you have driven a wedge between the members of your family with your bullshit, and that by allowing your father to visit you, you will do nothing but submarine any progress you might be able to make.

His fingers are tented from the tip of his nose across his mouth. The doctor takes a moment, and then tells you that he will do the best he possibly can to honor your request. He then asks you if there are certain people that you would be willing to see, so you tell him that your mother and sister, your personal psychologist — whom you have known since you are fourteen — and your English teacher are the only people you want to see. He scribbles into the manilla folder. He asks you questions about your relationship with your psychologist and your English teacher and scribbles some more.

You ask him again about the medications they are giving you, because you do not want to take Prozac. The doctor laughs audibly at this, and then finally relents.

“I have prescribed Imipramine, which is a mild anti-depressant. I have also prescribed you, for the first few days that you are here, with Lorazepam, a benzodiazepine that will help you with the anxieties of adjusting to being in a new place. These medications will also help you to adjust to the intensive talk therapy that you will be participating in. There is no smoking in the building, and because some of the other patients do not have parental permission to smoke, your cigarettes will be kept by the nurses and rationed out to you throughout the day.”

You shake his hand and go back out into the hallway, where your shadow is waiting for you.

*****

That whole first week is now a dull blur. Your shadow is gone, replaced by a nurse named Sarah. Sarah works the night shift and took a shine to you the night you were admitted. She was charged with going through your personal belongings, and tells you repeatedly that she had to fight really hard to get the administration to let you keep your tattered copy of The Hotel New Hampshire. She tells you that John Irving is her favorite writer, and that you have excellent taste.

You have asked multiple administrators repeatedly if it would be okay if your mother brought you your guitar. You have expressed to them all that it would be therapeutic for you to be able to play, and have explained that if it is a distraction to other patients, you have a headphone amplifier you can play through.

The administrators say no.

Sarah tells you that they had to lock up a lot of the cassette tapes you brought with you to listen to on your Walkman, because as they listened to them, the music felt violent — not to mention the lyrical content. Sarah also explains to you that the reason why they would not let you keep your Jimi Hendrix tapes or shirt was because he “died of a drug overdose, and that is not what we’re all about here.” You calmly try to explain to her that Hendrix died because the woman who was with him at the time was an idiot and watched him choke on his own vomit instead of doing anything to help him, but Sarah isn’t buying it.

“We’re all a little bit older than you — I think we know what really happened.”

You wonder to yourself why it is they will let you keep a book that has incest in it, but won’t let you play your guitar or listen to Jimi Hendrix. You look in the plastic bag that has your approved items, and find an unmarked cassette tape. You smile, because if they had really listened to everything, they would know what was on this tape. You realize that you now possess something they would not want you to have, and you fill up with warm blood for the first time in over a week.

Sarah asks you a series of questions about your current mental state while she takes your vitals. Her hands feel warm and kind, unlike your psychiatrist. She seems to genuinely care about your well-being. Sarah tells you that she speaks to your mother every night, letting her know how you are doing. Sarah also tells you that tomorrow, you will be switching rooms and will now have a roommate.

After Sarah has turned out the lights and left, you masturbate, thinking about how soft her hands are, and about how you will have to share a room with some other fucked up kid.

*****

You are sitting in a room with twelve other patients. They have seated you boy/girl in a big circle. There is a counselor speaking about the rules of the group. Nobody is allowed to talk over anyone else. If someone feels as though they cannot participate, that is fine, but you must not become a distraction to the people who do choose to participate. You feel uneasy, because the girl on your left is attractive. You also feel uneasy because your new roommate, Raymond, is making faces at you from across the circle.

The counselor asks you if you would like to tell everyone why you are there with them.

Instead of just speaking up, you look down at your feet for a moment. The counselor takes this as a sign, and starts to speak again. You put up your hand to stop him, and he, like so many other adults in your life up to this point, exhales forcefully.

“I’m here because I felt like I was going to hurt myself. I bought a gun, and was planning on killing myself.”

One of the other guys in the circle coughs. A girl sighs. The counselor, his name is Richard, asks you to continue. You then spend a few moments explaining the reasons why you wanted to hurt yourself. You realize, as you are speaking, that these reasons are no different than anyone else’s, that this thing you have felt afflicted with is the same thing that each one of these children are afflicted with — a lack of self-understanding. A lack of self-love. A hole in the heart where joy should live.

This was the moment that you realized you did not belong in this place.

You finish speaking, going through the motions. Richard thanks you for sharing why you are there, and then asks the group if they have any questions for you. The girl to your left, the cute one, raises her hand slightly. Richard acknowledges her, and then she beings to speak.

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

Everyone bursts into laughter. Well, not everyone — you feel paralyzed by the question. Richard gets red-faced and angry. Raymond shouts from across the circle that he thinks you are a faggot. Another girl asks if you are a faggot. Richard’s face reddens, and he starts to raise his voice to quiet everyone down. The girl next to you who asked the question slyly grazes your shoe with her own, causing you to start to get an erection.

“Do you have a drinking problem? Do you use drugs every day? Are you violent? Do you cut yourself? Have you ever hurt an animal?”

All of those questions come flying out of Richard, spitting venom as he asks. You respond to each question calmly. You shrug your shoulders about the drugs and alcohol questions, because you’ve already witnessed how they march all of the other kids off to twelve-step meetings three times per day, and you’d rather not do all of that talking — this group session was more than hard enough as it was. You explain to the group that you grew up with violence, and that you yourself were only violent if you felt the need to protect yourself. You explained to them that you had a bad habit of bullying your little sister, because your father bullied you. You make it perfectly clear that you value the lives of animals over those of other humans.

Richard moves on to the rest of the group, but throughout the session he makes sure that you see him watching you.

*****

Richard corners you after the group is over. He has red hair, and resembles Cousin Oliver from “The Brady Bunch.” He makes you feel uneasy even though he is supposedly there to help you. Your palms start to sweat and your tongue feels fat in your mouth.

“Let’s go outside and smoke and talk, okay?”

Richard goes over to the nurse’s station and gets your cigarettes for you as you wait for him by the door to the patio area. As he walks back toward you, you see that he has a slight limp and that he tries to conceal it. He puts his key into the lock for the door, and you hold it open for him to go outside before you.

You are sitting at a picnic bench with Richard, smoking, as he tells you how much you remind him of himself when he was a kid. You’ve heard this rap before from plenty of people — each one of them more sincere than the next. You try to act as though you are truly listening, but each word he utters distorts and becomes a part of the previous stream of words now echoing in your head.

“I’m here to help you. If you ever need anything, just ask, okay?”

*****

Raymond will not stop. He does the same thing over and over again, and each time he does it he howls like a wolf at the top of his lungs.

The windows in this place are three inches thick. Unbreakable. Raymond will back all the way up to the door of the room, plant one foot on the back of the door like a sprinter, and then he takes off — full speed, head lowered like a ram, right into the window.

BANG.

“If you weren’t such a faggot, you’d be trying to break this glass, too.”

*****

The Imipramine causes you to have dreams that scare you. You keep on picturing that last night, when you were sitting outside in the gravel with the gun. The clouds are scattered and the moon is bright. You can smell the sulfur and gunpowder. You are slumped against the wall outside of your window, blood streaming from the wound on your head. You should be dead, but you are still alive, slowly bleeding out. Your hands are numb and you feel cold. You can hear your mother calling your name from inside the house, behind your locked bedroom door.

You wake up calling her name, but the only thing you hear is Raymond calling you a faggot and telling you to go back to sleep.

*****

You are sitting in Dr. D’Javadi’s office, waiting for your mother to arrive to talk about how you’ve been doing. You feel anxious. Your head feels muddy from the medications they have been giving you. You’ve felt for a while like you should be able to go home, because you’ve been playing the game in Richard’s group sessions and he’s been telling you that you’re getting better.

You worry about the incident, though.

There was an incident with Raymond that caused you to get put into a solitary room for twenty-four hours. You’d had more than enough of being called a faggot, so you purposely low-bridged him on the basketball court, causing him to fall and hit his head. When Raymond tried to get back up and in your face, you punched him in the face repeatedly until your former shadow pulled you off of him, muttering “Goddamn, son. Goddamn” as he did so.

You felt like your mother would understand. There was only so much someone could call you a faggot before you retaliated in some way.

Dr. D’Javadi comes in and sits at his desk, smiling. You still feel anxious, but make small talk with him about how things have been going. He appears to be proud of you for your progress, and his tone of voice seems warmer than before. He mentions that Richard is very fond of you, and that a lot of the staff is very impressed with your demeanor.

As the door opens, you immediately feel betrayed.

Your mother comes through the door with your father in tow. Everyone sees you shift awkwardly in your seat. You ask the doctor if you can smoke in his office, and he hands you an ashtray, a lighter and a pack of Winstons from a desk drawer. You refuse to look at your father, who is sitting on the small couch with your mother who will not meet your eyes. You hear a lot of words coming out of the mouths of adults who you felt had your best interests at heart. You hear tell of your father moving back home. You hear your mother telling you that she is proud of you. You hear the doctor expressing to your father your concerns about him being able to visit you, and watch as your father looks shocked.

Everyone sounds like they are underwater to you. Every syllable is muffled, garbled. Your hands start to shake. You fidget in your seat. You can hear your heartbeat in your ears and the light in the room feels dimmer.

*****

You wake up in a very bright room, strapped down on a gurney. Your cheeks are raw from chewing holes in them, and your tongue feels rug-burned. You can barely lift your head to see the heavy door, but you know it is there. You try to speak, to cry out — but you are too sluggish to make your voice work. You can crane your neck and see that you have been injected with something, because of the cotton and the band-aid on your arm.

“You really did a number on Dr. D’Javadi, buddy.”

Your former shadow, now your shadow in this room, slowly tells you the tale. You flipped out, launching yourself across the desk at the doctor, grabbing him with both hands around his throat. Your father tried to pull you off of him, but you were determined to take care of each one of them at your own pace. Dr. D’Javadi hit the panic button as you grabbed him, and your mother ran out into the hallway screaming for help. Your shadow and four other staff members rushed in to try and pry you off of the doctor, but you put up a pretty good fight.

“You broke Richard’s nose, buddy. Pretty badly, too — he’s going to need to have surgery.”

Your shadow tries not to laugh when he sees the smirk come across your face.

*****

Your new doctor, Dr. Phillips, meets with you openly in the cafeteria. Dr. Phillips is asking you about your aftercare program, because you are going home at the end of the week. You tell Dr. Phillips that you would like for your personal psychologist to administer your aftercare, and he agrees to that. Dr. Phillips then tells you that Dr. D’Javadi will be coming back to work the next day, and that it would be best for everyone on the staff if you apologized to him in front of the staff and the other patients.

You agree.

*****

You are packing your belongings in a room you have all to yourself again. Sarah is sitting on a chair talking to you about the things that have happened with the rest of the patients that you have been kept from. She tells you that Richard explained to the group that his getting hurt was not your fault, as he was dumb enough to try and grab you forcefully in the middle of the violence. Sarah also tells you that the cute girl, Maureen, has been passing her notes for the past ten days that were meant for you.

“That girl has it bad for you, kiddo. Real bad.”

You don’t really have much to say, so you give Sarah the same smirk you gave to your shadow in the lock-down room. Sarah laughs and reaches into her pocket, taking out a fistful of notes and shoving them into your bag of stuff. She hugs you, warmly, and kisses you on the cheek.

“You be good to you, okay?”

*****

You are in a car with your mother, on the way home. Your mother keeps asking you about school, and about what your plans are. You’ve missed almost ninety days, and you have a lot of catching up to do. You tell her that you will work something out with the school, and that you did plenty of work there in the facility that should apply in some way.

Your mother apologizes for blind-siding you with your father, and you tell her how sorry you are for everything. You tell her how you realized very quickly that you did not belong in this place — that this place was for kids who were far more fucked up than you were, and that you feel like you wasted everyone’s time. You tell her how sorry you are that your depression and your inability to get along with your father has ruined the family. You cry. Your mother begins to cry.

The both of you spend the rest of the ride in silence.

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Filed under i used to be an angry motherfucker, i used to be stupid, who is sean?

The Needle And The Damage Done, or, “Objects In The Rear View Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear”

The first person that I ever watched shoot drugs was actually my boss at the time. My mother and a friend of hers had helped me get a part-time gig, working in a small print shop in a really shitty part of Phoenix.

Actually — when I think about it now, this was also when I was going to night school. I had been removed from the regular high school I was going to, because I was skipping classes and being nothing more than a hurricane of disruption for my teachers. Not fully my fault — they were boring me to tears. I was banished to the “alternative” high school.

Basically, this guy, who I will call Don, ran this print shop that my mother’s friend used to print programs and stuff for her baton twirling competitions and newsletters and such. My sister was a baton twirler — a damn fine one, too. World Champion.

Anyway — they hooked me up with this Don guy and hoped I would “learn a trade,” since the betting pool on whether or not I was going to actually finish high school was growing daily. I was just this kid who felt like he was too fucking smart to play the games that schools wanted me to play, and by doing the whole learning of a trade thing they hoped to cut me off at the pass so that I wouldn’t spiral down into some weird world of working construction, pounding beers, and living in a trailer on the West Side of town by the time I was nineteen.

I often wonder how they would have felt about the trade I really learned.

Because my classes at school didn’t start until three in the afternoon, the plan was that I would work for Don from around half-past seven in the morning, until around two. My father would drop me off on his way to work, since his office was only a couple of miles away. My mother would pick me up in the afternoon, and then drop me off at school. The routine wasn’t so bad, actually.

For the first week or so, Don was definitely on his best behavior. He was very patient and kind as he taught me about all of my responsibilities at his shop. The way old school printing used to work, an image would be photographed with a really huge camera that was inside of a dark room [they used to call this “line photography“]. You would use certain chemicals and solvents to burn that image to a printing plate, which would then have to cure before being able to be used to print whatever it was that needed printing. Negatives were also used in a very mechanical cut and paste fashion, which used to be called “stripping.”

Don told me it would be a long time before he taught me how to do the stripping part. I had regular old grunt work like running to the greasy burger stand to get lunch, folding brochures, taking those line shots, cleaning the shop and other things to master first.

Part of me was really excited to learn all of this shit, because this was the industry my father worked in — I felt like maybe we would finally have something to talk about other than him being disappointed in my grades, or him being sick of me pulling the ball when I should have been raking it to every part of the field. I found myself, in those first few days, growing to like this odd little man who was teaching me all about his business. The first day I showed up I was wearing a shirt and a tie, and he mocked me, saying “You some sorta rich kid, Sean? You might wanna just wear jeans and a t-shirt working here — you’re gonna get dirty.”

After that, I would just show up wearing whatever fucked up punk rock t-shirts I had.

*****

I arrived to work one morning in the middle of my second week to find the doors locked. My father had just driven off. I stood around by the front door of the shop, pacing back and forth, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Every now and then I would rap on the door, thinking that maybe Don was inside and working already — the last thing in the world I wanted to do was be late for work. Whatever little money I was making at this gig was paying for my smokes, weed, guitar strings, and pitching in on half-racks of cheap beer on the weekends with the guys in my band.

Obviously, this liquid income was very important to me.

I thought about going around to the back door of the shop and breaking into the place, but then my weed-addled brain remembered that Don had a Doberman he kept in the back room. One of my other responsibilities at this gig was to take the dog out into the parking lot twice per day and let him go to the bathroom. The dog, Alejandro, was really sweet-natured, but kind of dumb. No sense in me trying to break in and get my hand or face chewed off.

I didn’t wear a watch, so I really had no idea how much time had passed — it could have been an hour or it could have been ten minutes. All I knew was that I really wanted to be inside and not out on the street where some Cholo could up and rob my monkey ass [I was in South Phoenix — Cholos kind of ran things around that part of town at this point in history]. Every time a car slowed down and looked like it was going to turn into the tiny lot/driveway in front of the shop, I felt nervous and kind of ducked into the recessed part of the doorway.

Then a really beat-up looking conversion van pulled up right in front of me. I could see Don sitting in the passenger seat, looking like he had just risen from the dead. There was a much older woman driving the van, and as she parked I could hear her admonishing Don for something in a very stern and mothering way. Don slowly worked himself out of the van and stepped toward the front door, muttering something to himself while shaking his head. The old woman followed, looked me up and down slowly and then said “You must be my Donny’s little helper. I’m Dot — Donny’s mother.”

Great.

*****

After following “Donny” and his mother inside, I proceeded to go about my regular routine — I checked through the outstanding work orders to see what I had to do that day, and got myself organized. Normally, I would have had my little cassette Walkman blaring some Black Flag into my ears, but I could tell from the tension in the room that I would miss out on something. I tried very hard not to make my eavesdropping obvious, and went to work in the camera room taking shots of shit to burn to plates.

I could hear Don and his mother arguing. She kept on saying things like “you have to stay clean,” and “I can’t afford to keep bailing you out,” while Don would mumble something incoherent and then shout things at her that made no sense. After about twenty minutes or so of this, Don’s mother told him she was leaving, and that she would pick him up in the morning to take him “to the clinic.”

Right as the door closed behind her, Don flipped the fuck on out — he threw his coffee mug against the wall, screaming at the top of his lungs. He kicked over his light table. Alejandro started to bark. Don went into the back room and started rough-housing with the dog — possibly trying to release some frustration and lighten up a bit.

“Goddamn it, kid! You get your ass back here and clean up this fucking dog shit, will you? I’M NOT PAYING YOU TO FUCK AROUND!”

As weird as Don was, this was the first time I had ever heard him yell. I felt awkward and a little scared, what with his explosion of emotions and everything. I took my time getting back there, making sure to snap on some rubber gloves.

As I worked my way around the corner into the back room, I saw Don standing on top of a step-ladder, his arm craned up and into some of the ceiling tiles. Alejandro was wagging his little stumpy tail at me as I reached down and picked up huge chunks of his waste and put them into a plastic bag. Don didn’t even pay attention or notice that I was there — he just kept on grunting and moving his arm back and forth, popping up ceiling tiles to try and find something.

I didn’t really give it another thought as I went outside to dispose of the dog shit.

*****

Later on that day, I was folding boxes of brochures with my headphones on when a very large Mexican biker came through the front door. Not only did he not acknowledge my presence, he just walked his way on in to the back of the shop where Don was working. I lowered the volume on my Walkman, and could hear Don and this dude bantering back and forth, making small talk. I heard Don mention something about his mother, and then something about him being “good for it.”

The Mexican biker left five minutes later, and as he walked by me on his way out he gave me a little head nod.

“Kid — you got a lighter? All I got are matches — come on back here and gimme your lighter, can you?”

As I walked into the room, I could see that Don was up to something I had only read about before. On the light table in front of him was an unfolded foil wrap that had two twist-tied baggies in the middle of it. Next to that was a spoon, a torn-off filter from a cigarette, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Clamped between Don’s teeth was a hypodermic needle.

Fuck me.

Now everything that had happened throughout the course of the morning made sense to me. Hell — everything that had happened since I started working there made sense to me — the weirded-out Doberman watch dog, the telephone calls where people would hang up, the multiple chains on the doors, his mother talking about “the clinic,” and “staying clean” — everything just fell right in line.

This motherfucker was a goddamn junkie.

I tried not to act too freaked out when I slid my lighter across the table to Don. He just sort of grunted at me, and started playing with the instruments of his addiction right there in front of me. I acted as if this was no big deal to me — like I had seen all of this before.

“You gotta get just the right mix of coca and chiva, otherwise you’re wasting good shit.”

Don was now cooking up his little mixture in the spoon, holding my lighter underneath to boil and bubble his drugs the way he liked them. There was a smell in the air that I couldn’t identify — it blurred out the ever-present scents of cigarette smoke, solvents, dog shit and mold that were in the shop. I watched Don take the cotton from the cigarette filter and stick it in his still-bubbling spoon, drawing the hot fluids into the syringe, which he then set on the light table in front of him.

I could not believe I was witnessing this — at this point in my fledgling little life, I had already read everything I could get my hands on by Burroughs, and was slowly working my way into Selby — but seeing Don’s face as he sunk that rig into the top of his hand was one of the most intense things I would ever see in my life. His face, which up until that moment had looked like he was in agony with every movement, suddenly filled with warmth, all of the hard and angular lines smoothing out. His eyes went from beady to glazed in half a second. Even his posture changed immediately as he slid down into himself in his chair, every muscle gone slack.

“You want some of this, kid? I can cook you up your own shot if you want.”

“No, Don. I’m cool. Thank you, though.”

*****

Almost every morning was a repeat of that day — me showing up to find the place locked-down, and Don’s mother dropping him off around a half an hour later. His mother started feeling sorry for me, and would make sure she had coffee and donuts for us — kind of her way of apologizing for her son, I think. I also realized that it was her I was really working for. She really owned the shop, and this was her way of making sure her son had something to do with his time other than shooting dope into dead veins every day.

Don started to get very comfortable with shooting dope in front of me. I soon learned that the big Mexican biker’s name was Ruben, and that Ruben had given Don the dog as a gift for not ratting him out to the police when he got arrested for holding a bunch of dope that belonged to Ruben a couple of years earlier.

Don and Ruben would sometimes ask me to come into the room where they were, and would start asking me about my friends’ drug habits — trying to get me to sell stuff for them in my neighborhood. They knew that the neighborhood I lived in was full of kids with disposable income at the ready, and would often make jokes about how “white” I was. I would always be respectful and decline, even when Ruben would tell me that he would give me a fair split on the money.

After they would make more jokes at my expense, I would usually just put my headphones back on and get back to work. As much as I was fascinated to see these aspects of the drug trade right in front of me, it made me nervous as hell. I was just a kid who liked smoking pot — I’d tried cocaine a few times and found it to be a little crazy for me, and I had already had my battles eating diet pills being sold as speed. I certainly wasn’t about to start selling heroin and cocaine to the kids I ran with. The thought of that was far too much for my adolescent brain to handle. I had no idea what they meant when they were talking about “weight,” or when they would rattle off dollar amounts.

I just knew they were part of a world that I did not belong to.

*****

As my father drove away one morning, I noticed the front door to the shop was open a crack. Instead of just walking right in, I walked around to the back door — something about the way the front door looked didn’t feel right to me.

Coming around the side of the building to head toward the back door, I saw a car idling near the dumpster that I used to throw Alejandro’s shit into. There was nobody in the car, and the driver’s side door was wide open. Looking toward the back door, I could see that it was open as well. I took my time walking toward the door, keeping my eye on the idling car as I crept slowly along the wall.

That’s when I saw the blood.

There was a streak of red on the wall next to the door to the shop, and a trail of it that went all the way across the lot to the idling car. On the ground in front of the doorway there was a massive puddle of it, and a pair of bolt-cutters laying in it. I tried to angle myself so I could see inside the open door, but I wouldn’t be able to do so without exposing myself if someone was still inside.

The sweat running down my back felt like ice water.

Looking back over toward the car and the dumpster, I could see two legs and a torso sticking out from behind the car. I tried not to make a sound but I must have gasped loud enough, because a very bloodied Don came stumbling out the back door. He was holding on to his side with one hand, and in the other was a very bloody pair of industrial scissors.

“Motherfuckers killed my dog! They killed Alejandro, those motherfuckers!”

Don was screaming, wild-eyed and obviously in shock. I had no idea what the fuck to do. I asked him if he wanted me to call him an ambulance, and he shot me a glare that would have melted steel.

“Ambulance? An ambulance will bring the fucking cops, you fucking moron. I’m waiting for Ruben to get here to help us get rid of that fucking dead motherfucker over behind that goddamn car.”

“Us?”

“Yes, us! Go the fuck over there and turn off that goddamn car — if there is a gun in there, bring it back over here to me.”

I just stood there staring at Don. Us? Me? What the fuck did any of this have to do with me — I was just some kid who was working for him part-time, not some fucking dope lackey hanger-on.

“Goddamn it, kid — GO TURN OFF THAT FUCKING CAR, NOW!”

As soon as he yelled at me my fight or flight response kicked into gear. I didn’t even think — I just acted. I marched right over to the idling car and yanked the keys out of the ignition, putting them into my back pocket. There was nothing in the car other than a pack of cigarettes on the passenger seat and some empty coffee cups on the floorboard. No guns to be found.

Stepping back out of the door of the car and closing it, I looked down at the blood trail that led to the body laying in the parking lot. I gingerly took a few steps toward the body, looking back toward the shop to see Don staring at me intently.

“Is that motherfucker dead?”

I looked down at the body — there were huge chunks of flesh missing from his forearms and bloody holes in his pants, obviously from Alejandro. The man was Mexican. There were large cuts in his throat and face, probably from where Don attacked him with the scissors. Three feet away from him, nearest the dumpster, was a small revolver. I pretended not to notice it. I did not want to touch it. I did not want to touch anything.

I turned back to Don and shook my head to indicate that the man was dead.

I am seventeen years old.

*****

The inside of the shop looks like Beirut. Boxes and paperwork littered all over the place. File cabinets overturned. There is even more blood inside the back doorway than there is outside — I quickly realize most of it is Alejandro’s. The dog is dead in the middle of the room in a puddle of his blood, three gunshot wounds that I can clearly see from a distance.

Don was in the bathroom, pouring rubbing alcohol into his open wounds — apparently he managed to stab the attacker after getting shot in the side, but his hands were all cut up from the struggle with the scissors. It was a fucking horrorshow. I felt so nauseated. I had never seen so much blood before in my life.

“Don? I’m going to go over to that 7-11 over on the corner and get a cup of coffee — you want one?”

Don stopped what he was doing and put his hands on the sides of the sink, locking his elbows as his shoulders try to slump in on themselves. Head bowed with chin to chest, he takes a deep breath.

“Yeah, kid. If they’ll sell you a beer, get me a tallboy, too.”

*****

At first I started walking at a regular pace, but with each passing car I felt a sense of dread building inside of me. What if more people were coming to get Don? What if they had been watching the shop for a while, and because I worked there decided that I had to go, too? I could feel my heart beating inside of my brain as I picked up the pace — first walking briskly, and then breaking into a dead run.

I was ten blocks away out of breath at a bus stop when I realized I still had the keys to the dead man’s car in my back pocket.

I didn’t panic as much as I wanted to just throw those keys out into the middle of the street. When the bus pulled up, I knew it was going to take me a long time to get home — but home was where I was headed. About an hour into my ride, I took the keys out of my pocket and shoved them into an air-conditioning vent next to my seat. I got off at the next stop and walked for a while, using my transfer to get on a different bus.

I called my mother at work when I got home, and told her that Don had closed the shop for the day, and that I took the bus all the way home.

*****

I never went back to work for Don.

I told my mother that Don was using heroin in front of me, but I didn’t go into all of the crazy details. At first she didn’t believe me and thought it was just another one of my stories to get out of working. She stopped thinking I was up to no good when I quickly found another job, working at an Arby’s near the mall.

I kept on poring over the newspaper for a few days after the incident, looking for a report about a burglary/murder on McDowell Road — but there never was one.

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Filed under drugs are bad, fun at work, i used to be stupid

Busload Of Faith, or, "Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It"


This is just going to be a brief little update, followed by something that I had posted on my old site, back in August of 2006. I’m posting it, because I was reminded of it today when a couple of good friends of mine revealed that they were going through some really rough shit – and it immediately caused my mind to flash back to one of the lowest and most desperate times in my own life.

I’ve been having a rough time with some things lately as well. I’m holding fast to the health thing, and working really hard to maintain the emotionally healthy ideas I set for myself for 2010. The health thing has actually been way easier than I thought it would. Once I established the patterns of eating healthier, my body now craves that healthier food. I’m still chugging down lakes of water daily, and I have yet to have a single soda or a cup of coffee since I began doing this back in January.

Physically, I feel pretty fucking good.

Emotionally, on the other hand…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my sobriety, and about the effect it has on my relationships with people.

I stopped imbibing almost three years ago. It was something I had wanted to do for a while, and had tried to do many times in the past. In the past, I was usually only able to quit for a little while, but it was very hard to suppress my innermost Hank Chinaski (also referenced in the letter posted at the end of this here Ramble) – the allure of a dimly lit speakeasy (and the cast of characters commonly found within it) coupled with the tractor beam of a well-balanced glass of whiskey was a constant niggling, pulling me into those magical and darkened corners. Most of the time that I was in the process of quitting, I was choosing which vice would get to live on – if I was going to stop drinking – I kept on smoking pot and eating bars of Xanax like candy, or if I was planning on giving up the reefer – I would start drinking more red wine and popping Valiums. I was a fucking mess.

Obviously, this wasn’t a very good pattern for me – choosing between one vice or the other.

This time it was much easier, and very different. I didn’t seek anyone else’s help, I just made a decision and stopped. Everything. No more pills, booze, reefer. I gave it all up, and have honestly never looked at the road behind me – I just keep pushing forward. I do not question, at all, my choice to no longer “get fucked up.” If anything, it was a long time coming – and not just for the reasons that would seem easy enough for anyone to suss out.

It was just time.

In the beginning stages of cleaning myself up, I was very nervous about how my friends were going to take it – most of the time that we all spent together involved me drinking brutish volumes of liquor. I was the guy that someone could call at three in the morning and meet up for a drink. I just didn’t give a fuck. And now, here I was, cutting that part right the fuck on out of me. How were my friends going to take it? Were they going to shun me? I really was kind of terrified – I had just been through a lot of really heavy shit in a short period of time (which the letter below spells out), and the few friends I had – I really wanted to keep them, and keep them close.

They actually adjusted pretty well. In fact – quite a few of them confessed that they had hoped I was going to make such a change, because they were worried that I was going to drink myself to death.

In the rightfuckingnow, I’m definitely happy with my decision to clean my life up – I would never go back to being that Sean. But, and this is serious now, at times I feel as though new people that I meet figure out or find out that I am sober (it’s not like I walk around rocking a Youth Of Today shirt and talking about the evils of poisoning oneself with drugs and hooch), and they immediately get fucking weird. Am I an alcoholic? Yeah. Am I a junkie? Yeah. I’ll always be those things – it’s not like I can just erase the memory banks completely – all I have done is change my behaviors and made a decision to no longer “get fucked up.” I appreciate being clearheaded now, and I appreciate the fact that when there is a problem, my first instinct is no longer to drown my sorrows and try to erase the problem – I deal with shit now. For real.

Much like everything else – this might all be in my head – but sometimes it feels like people have a harder time with my sobriety than I do with their imbibing. When people get that wonky look in their eye and feel the need to ask for my permission to have a drink in my presence, that’s when I start to realize that I need to step back a bit, really look at that relationship, and try to figure out how much value there is in it. Is this judgmental of me? Yeah, a little bit. But that’s unfortunately how I have to do things. I’m not concerned with me suddenly changing my mind and running to the nearest liquor store and guzzling down a bottle of Maker’s Mark outside on the sidewalk – the decision to be sober has been made, and I am more than cool with it. What I’m not cool with, is when people who I am emotionally investing in (and let’s get on motherfucking Front Street, people – a friendship is an emotional investment) treat me like a fucking leper or a lesser-than because I’m not rolling the way they roll. If you’re in my presence, and feel self-conscious about your habits, then that is something broken inside of you, not me. Believe that.

ANYWAYS…

So – that’s what has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s funny in a way – there is a lot of truth to all of the koans written about the nature of water. One ripple creates so many more.

Below is this goddamn letter I keep on referencing. I wrote it, funnily enough, in an opiate/alcohol haze back in the summer of 2006. I got clean for good almost three years to the day from today – my last drink was on March 16, 2007 – a shot of Jameson’s for my old man. Not one drop has hit these lips since.

Take care of yourselves, and be good to each other. Life is too fucking short not to.

————————

Dear Universe,

I don’t really know how we’ve ended up in this predicament, but it seems as though we’re at an impasse in our relationship. I feel really awkward writing about our relationship out here on the interweb, but I’m not sure you’ve been hearing me in my attempts at daily commiseration with you.

It feels like this cry for help could be my last shot at some kind of open dialogue/reconciliation with you.

Lately it seems as though every time I reach for your hand, you pull away from me. I’m not sure what it is that I did to offend you, but it hurts. Our relationship used to be so much stronger than this, and I feel very disconnected. This feeling of disconnection from you is leading me into a deeper well of depression, and I am starting to become concerned that the damage is not only irreparable, but also permanently scarring.

My psyche is a wee bit too fragile for this shit from you, Universe, and I honestly expected a little bit more from you than this.

Maybe you think I’ve been taking our relationship for granted, or something along those lines? It seems so cliché, but that’s not about you, it’s about me. I certainly haven’t been blaming you for all of these trials and tribulations that have been tossed my way over the last 36 months or so, have I? I felt as though I was handling things pretty well, taking responsibility for my own complicity in the events that have transpired around me. For some otherworldly reason, I’ve yet to point my finger at you out of anger for the multitude of humbling and soul-shattering moments you’ve laid at my feet.

Is that what you want me to do?

If blaming you is what you want from me, I am going to have to disappoint you some more. I’m not in the blame business, and at this point in our relationship – you should already know that I have outgrown that kind of behavior. Hell…you taught me to love, not hate. So why would you want me to blame you, for things that were/are/will be beyond my control? I can’t do that, and you know it.

Fuck it. Hold up.

Okay. Fine. You know what, Universe? I am a little bit pissed off at you, okay? Maybe I do need to scream at you a bit; to get this shit out of my chest and out into the ether.

Why, oh Grand Universe, have you decided that consistently testing my ability to keep from becoming some fucking mess of a man is so important to you? Was it necessary to take both of my fucking parents from me, before I had the chance to ever feel as though I actually made them proud of me for anything other than mundane bullshit that any mouth-breather on this rock could pull off? Was it totally necessary to take from me a friend that I felt like I had known my entire life, and was motherfucking sure I would end up knowing for the rest of my time here on terra firma? Does it continue to be necessary to have The Holy Rollers judging me and fucking stealing from me what was left for me by my grandmother (whom you also took from me much too fucking quickly, you fucking sadist, you)? Do you think it’s fucking funny that my sister can’t return my calls? Why do I have to be so fucking tested all the time? Putting obstacles in my path seems to be your sick and twisted manner of showing me affection, Universe.

Right now I am screaming the safe word at you, yet you continue to flog away.

I’m not totally sure what it is that I have done to hurt you so deeply that you would act this way, but whatever it is I am sorry. It’s also unnecessary for you to continue to fuck with my friends as well. This isn’t high school – it’s life. My friends are for the most part all goodly people, and I think whatever it is that you have out for me is more than enough. Leave them alone, okay?

The only times I even feel remotely connected to you anymore are during the smallest hours. When I am walking and wandering in the night, headphones set to stun, with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. There are fleeting moments during these meanderings where it feels like old times; memories flooding into my subconscious mind like the connection is wide open again. Remembering my ability to rise above and overcome. Feeling invincible, yet remaining humble within your womb. During these moments, I am almost always close to tears, because I miss the intimacy and closeness of our relationship much more than you could ever realize.

This is having a major impact on my other relationships, Universe. Because we’re so distant, I cannot seem to allow myself to get close to anyone or anything lately. Maybe it’s the usual fear of abandonment shit I drag behind me like Linus (can you fucking blame me, after all the rugs that have been yanked out from under my feet?), I don’t know for sure. But I do know that it’s becoming more and more likely that I will turn into some drier and much more celibate version of Henry Chinaski if things keep rolling this way. Nobody wants to be friends, or “intimate”(do I need to spell that out for you?) with the guy who cannot connect. Nobody wants to hang out with the guy who can’t make any kind of commitment to anything other than the unknown.

I’m not sure if or even how we’re going to be able to reconcile this mess we’re in, Universe. I know that there’s a part of me that’s hollow now; a space that you used to occupy is empty and in need of filling. I used to believe in you without the smallest shadow of doubt, yet here I am writing you an open letter on the interweb like a jilted teenager. Placing not only blame at your feet, but also my disdain. You broke my fucking heart, and you continue to do so on an almost daily basis. You’ve taken away from me almost as much as you’ve given me over the years, and you’ve done it all very quickly and methodically.

This is me, throwing up my hands and begging you to slow your roll. Begging you to give me some room to breathe and recover who I am underneath all of this rubble. This is me asking you to maybe let up a little bit and allow me to find some answers before the next Big Letdown happens, so that the next one doesn’t push me over the edge into the well of insanity that I’ve been dancing on for a while now. This is me asking you from the tiniest portions of my broken fucking heart…for a reprieve.

After all we’ve been through Universe, it’s the least that you could do for me.

Sorry if there was some anger in this letter, but I can’t hold stuff in all the time – it’ll kill me. I don’t want to be some Emergency Room casualty because I kept all of my anger in until my heart bursts at the seams (that’s just not how this story is supposed to end). I’m also sorry if I gripe too much – I’ll work on that.

I hope this letter finds a good place in you, and we can figure out some way to work through and salvage our relationship, Universe. It’ll be worth it if we can. For both of us.

Be well,

Sean

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Filed under i used to be stupid, jealous insecurities, nuggets of infinite wisdom, recycled posts from literati messiah, sean likes to curse and use italics, who is sean?

Jump Around, or "This One Is About That Time I Was A Chickenshit And I Am Still Repulsed By Myself Fifteen Years Later(And You Will Be, Too)"

I don’t want to go with you – I shouldn’t know where ‘The Jew’ lives.”

In my long and sometimes ridiculous life, I have always managed to somehow put myself into situations that most people never have to deal with. I’m not sure if this is because I have always been a free spirit who was willing to float along with whatever came my way, or if I was just a moron who was incapable of seeing that my inability to say no to things that were going to excite me was going to put my life in jeopardy.

Drugs.

Drugs always put me into these types of situations. Well – drugs and women. But mostly drugs. When I was in High School, my experimentation with marijuana led me into some sketchy situations, but that’s to be expected when your balls haven’t dropped yet. Meeting up with some kid you’ve never met before to buy a dime bag of Mexican dirt weed near some racquetball courts at a school a few miles away was rough at the time – but I had no idea that it was just a precursor to much rougher connects in my future. I once bought around one thousand White Crosses(Benzedrine) off of this guy I was working with at an ice cream parlor – well, I didn’t buy them as much as he fronted the money to get them and then he started showing up at my house at odd hours asking me for “the fucking money,” or he was going to kick my ass. You know – I still feel kind of bad about that whole situation. I mean – dude could have totally whooped my ass, no problem – he was an angry motherfucker who used to smash sheet-pans on his head at work for fun. But the time he showed up and rapped on my window at 3AM with a baseball bat? That was a bit much for a hundred bucks‘ worth of pills.

I rummaged around in my sock drawer for whatever money I had stashed in there, and shoved it all through the screen into his hand – I just didn‘t feel up to going outside and having a bat-fight with anyone at 3AM.

Fast-forward to around late 1994 or so. I had just got out of the military, and was living in an apartment complex that my father was managing(so his rent would be cheaper) with his new wife. I was working at a record store. I was reconnecting with people I hadn’t seen in ages – people I used to party with in High School and all that. A lot of them were in college – milking their parental units for not just tuition money, but rent, food, all of that important shit that people sometimes take for granted when they’re young. And a lot of the kids that I was friends with were kids that came from money – and that‘s no lie. I had met the majority of them through the punk rock scene in Phoenix, which, in the 1980s, was chock full of privileged kids who were acting out. I mean – who the fuck can scream “Kill The Poor” by the Dead Kennedys while driving around in a Mercedes? Kids in Phoenix. In the 1980s. Usually with me in the back seat, stoned out of my mind and wondering why I didn’t get a Mercedes, and then remembering that both of my parents worked their asses of for what little we had.

One night at the record store, an old friend of mine named Michelle* was suddenly standing in front of me with a huge grin on her face. We’d hung out here and then since I got back to Phoenix, but at the end of my High School years we hung out all the time. She was a great girl – full of life and always happy. Back in the day, I never saw her take so much as a sip of alcohol. She was always responsible and hated the fact that the majority of us boys were always getting loaded and ingesting whatever drugs we could get our hands on. She had already told me that she had been smoking pot a bit – which was a little shocking to me – I just never saw that one coming, not from her.

“I met this really awesome boy and I want you to meet him.” – she was practically bouncing like Tigger. It was almost embarrassing.

“Really? Does he like House Of Pain?” I was then holding up a House Of Pain CD, and couldn’t believe what a dipshit I had turned out to be. Really? This is what I say to my lady-friends when they meet a boy and they’re excited about it? Jesus, I am an asshole.

Michelle said that he did, in fact, like House Of Pain. She also told me that I should let her come and pick me up after work to go over to her place in Tempe to hang out, and meet this boy. She then mentioned his name – which struck a bell in my head.

If this was the same dude that I thought it was, another girl I knew had briefly dated him, and this guy was supposedly a White Power Skinhead. And if it was the same guy – I knew he hated me already, because the other girl had brought my name up to him and he went ballistic.

Awesome.

Driving out to Michelle’s place, I asked her if this was indeed the same person. I mean – far be it for me to judge anyone on their taste in love interests – at that time in my life, most of the women I was interested in were completely insane. It was almost as if I was somehow able to sniff out the women who were bi-polar and had decided that going off of their medication was not only a good idea – but the best choice they had ever made.

“He used to be a Nazi, but he grew out of it. Just give him a chance – he’s really sweet and nice. People change, Sean. You know?”

Michelle sounded so earnest and convinced, that muttering “shave a zebra – motherfucker’s still a goddamn zebra” under my breath made me feel like a dick. I had a hard time believing that this dude was anything more than a White Power asshole – in my experiences dealing with this type of person, there was no mystical or redemption-bound Derek Vinyard-type of character in any of them – no capacity to change all the way, with most of them who claimed to have changed switching up the Nazi rhetoric for that of a more Libertarian or Right-wing type of conservatism(bitching about immigration and Gay Rights – which sadly, they’re bitching about even louder in the rightfuckingnow of MMX). Hate is hate, and as much as I want to believe a person has the capacity within them to transform and release themselves from their own ignorance – I had just never seen it.

ANYWAYS…

When we arrived at Michelle’s apartment, homeboy called her and said he was on his way over, but would be a little while. She sounded really excited and happy on the phone with him, exclaiming “Sean came! I can’t wait for you to meet him – he’s one of my best friends in the world.” I watched her face change a little bit while he was obviously saying something to her on the other end of the phone – her expression like one of those magnetized little beard faces when you wipe it clean, and then her heard mumble “He’s not like that. Stop it. You’d better be nice to him.”

I was already wishing I had trusted my initial reaction to his name, and not come along.

No sooner did Michelle hang up the phone when she produced a very large mound of methamphetamine from out of nowhere. It was chalky and pink-ish, and piled high across the jewel case of a copy of Helmet’s Meantime. I watched her as she moved the pile back and forth with the skill set of someone who had been playing with this tricky substance for a while – the way she used her ID to cut lines out of the pile and move them to the tiniest edges of the jewel case without dumping any of the larger pile off the sides and onto the table was pretty impressive. I watched her then pull out a little piece of a straw she had obviously cut down, and then she fucking Hoovered up one of the fattest and most ridiculous lines of bathtub drugs I had ever seen such a tiny woman snort before.

My sweet and innocent little Michelle, was no longer my sweet and innocent little Michelle – so far removed from the little Catholic schoolgirl who used to yell at me for drinking too much coffee.

“You should do a line of this. It’s really good.”

I didn’t argue – I just cut myself out a line, and blasted that thing right into the deepest parts of my brain. I had only done meth a few times before – I was the kind of super-retarded drug user who would say things like “if it occurs naturally in the world – I’m going to do it,” and I had always subscribed to the whole “if a biker can make it in his bathtub it can kill you” ethos of junkiedom – but this stuff? GODDAMN. I could immediately feel it burning holes into my brain. All I wanted to do was run into the bathroom and watch my pupils swell and contract. My ears felt like I had just rapidly descended from thirty-thousand feet, the sound of the room whooshing in and out like the ocean.

I’m pretty sure I was on my third or fourth line when homeboy showed up.

I was sitting on the floor with Michelle’s roommate, Erica, and her boyfriend – a Mexican kid with a huge, jagged scar across his left cheek, named Mark. I heard Mark very quietly mumble “Great – here comes Himmler,” as Michelle’s new dude rolled right on through the front door like he owned the place. I could see Erica’s body language immediately shift, like the way someone curls up in the dentist’s chair as soon as they hear the words “root canal.” For a moment, I was glad that I wasn’t alone in feeling uncomfortable – but only just that moment, as Erica and Mark immediately went and hid themselves away in her room, never to be seen again.

Fuckers.

I was really fucking high. It took me a moment to actually allow myself to really look at this guy – to take him all in. Roughly my size. Scalp-shorn blonde hair. Jeans. Oxblood boots(with the required red laces – so much for him being in the midst of a “transformation,” right?). A black flight jacket with a Confederate Flag patch on the right arm. A Sepultura t-shirt.

Sepultura? They’re Brazilian. They’re not “white.” Dude has himself some identity some issues, obviously.

“Sean – this is Michael. Michael – this is Sean.”

Michael is staring me down. I slowly get up from the floor, and in doing so notice that he has taken a step back, as if I was going to somehow lunge from my position on the carpet to attack him. I extend my hand out to him, the gentleman that I am, to shake hands after the introduction. I want to draw it back the second he speaks.

“I know who Sean is. You used to hang out with all of those SHARP(Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, for those of you who aren’t up to speed on your gang names and their affiliations) faggots, didn’t you? You‘re a Jew, right?” – he sneers that last bit just enough to get the meth in my body a little closer to boiling, atoms firing all over the place.

I’m not really sure how to respond to him. Part of me does want to pummel him. Part of me wants to just move right by him, and walk out the door. I can feel the humming of impending violence rising off of him, a slow and nasty-looking smirk forming across his face.

“Dude? SEAN? What the fuck, man?”

Looking behind Michael, I see Danny. I have known Danny since I moved to Arizona. We played baseball together. We both went to the same “Alternative” High School. Danny hanging out with this fucking guy makes no sense to me at all – Danny might possibly be the most aloof, most kind-heartedly Spiccoli-esque permanently stoned person I have ever met in my entire life. What the fuck is he doing rolling around with this curb-stomping monstrosity?

Drugs. It is always, about The Drugs.

“Dude – I’ve known Sean FOREVER – he’s cool. Don’t sweat him like that, Michael. He’s cool as fuck.”

With Danny’s Testimonial On The Status Of Sean‘s Coolness, Michael reluctantly shakes my hand and smiles, saying “It’s cool, man. I’m just fucking with you” – which, sadly, would be a refrain that I heard tumbling out of his mouth for the rest of the night and into the early hours of the next day.

Sitting around on the floor like a bunch of kids at a drug-fueled slumber party, the methamphetamine pile was being gone through at an alarming rate. It felt like every ten minutes or so I was snorting more of it into me. The jewel case being passed around between us like a canteen, each person cutting out line after line. Conversations ebbed and flowed from recollections of retardery from the past between Danny and myself, to Michael randomly trying to talk to me about his crazed White Power ideals on Christianity – at one point he tried to explain to me that the reason Jesus was sacrificed was because he was a Jew, and that his supposed resurrection was a Jew magic trick that proved Jews were “of the devil, and never to be trusted.”

My heart was pounding.

Every time he made some crack like this, I noticed that Michelle would instantly look over to me – as if I was somehow going to agree with this asshole. Instead, I did my best to try and stay calm, and try to engage Michael in a way that would not upset him or cause him to fly off the handle. As comfortable as I might have been on the inside of myself with taking him outside and beating him bloody – I knew that the ripples from such a beating would be outlandishly dangerous, considering the fact that most racist skins traveled in packs, so as never to be outnumbered or in danger.

Michael knew this as well.

At one point, as the sun was just starting to rise, I wandered through the apartment to go to the bathroom. As I was walking through the living room, Danny was asleep on the couch, and Michael was trying to quietly mumble into the telephone. He didn’t see me, because as he had the phone cradled between his shoulder and his head, he was playing with the gun he had strapped to his ankle. When I realized what he was mumbling – “Yeah, he’s here. He’s a fucking kike motherfucker with a hook-nose. I can give you the address. How soon can you guys get here?“ – I knew it was time for me to get the fuck out of there. Fast.

Mistakenly, I made the decision to ask Michelle to drive me home.

“Totally. Michael can come with us.”

I tried so hard to give her a look that would translate that this was not what I wanted – I did not want this violent pack animal to know where I laid my head at night – and then I realize that Michael didn‘t want to know either.

“I don’t want to go with you – I shouldn’t know where ‘The Jew’ lives.”

Michelle just looked at him after he said it – first a frown, then a smile, because she thought he was going to say that he was fucking with me again.

He wasn’t.

As she was gathering her things for the ride, Michael got back on the phone, and spoke more clearly into it for my benefit, describing Michelle’s car for the person on the other end, and telling them the basic route we’d be taking back to central Phoenix – all while glaring at me, trying to gauge whether or not this was the moment when my instincts would take over, and the violence between us could finally be birthed.

I was petrified, just standing there waiting for him to pounce.

The ride to my apartment took a nasty turn, as Michael started to unleash a torrent of racial epithets at me in the back seat, while Michelle kept on screaming at him to leave me alone. Me? I just sat there, my head on a swivel, looking out the windows to try and see if I could spot a car full of bald heads, to spot the executioners Michael had sent my way.

As we got closer to my apartment, I asked Michelle to just let me off on a random corner, begging her to stop the car so that I could make my way through early morning back yards, and escape the beating that was imminent. Michael told her to let me out of the car, suddenly screaming – “Just let ’The Jew’ out, Michelle! Get him the fuck out of this car!” She refused, and actually locked the doors to the car so that I couldn’t jump out. Michael turned to me, his face flushed and red, and said to me – “You brought this on yourself, you know that, right? We never forget. We never forget who The Jews are, and you will never forget who we, the True and Superior White Race, are.”

Michelle pulled her car into the parking area of the complex, and I looked at her face in the rearview mirror. She was sallow. She looked back at me with eyes that were druggy, confused, and hung like a dog that was just caught shitting on the rug. I said nothing as I jumped out of the car – the small eye contact between us, and the terror that I knew was in my own eyes was enough.

As she backed her car down the driveway to get out, I saw a beat-up Monte Carlo slowly creeping in front of the complex. Somehow, they had found us, and followed Michelle’s car to where I lived. The car looked to have around four or five people in it – each one of them, bald. They were just sitting in the car, watching me as I tried to take my time walking to the back door of my father’s apartment – which was far too close to the position their car was in for my liking.

Inside the kitchen now, I am looking for something – anything I can use to defend myself. The methamphetamine, coursing in my veins, makes everything I hear sound like it’s right in front of me. I hear car doors closing. Footsteps in the gravel. Muttering. Laughter. I am laying on the kitchen floor, with my head and body out of view, wedged between the sink and the oven.

The footsteps stopped at the back door.

I can see the shadowy outline of four people standing outside my back door. I don’t even realize that I have the phone in my hand on the floor until I hear the operator say “911 – what is your emergency?” Quietly, I beg her to send a squad car over to my address, telling her that there are four people outside my back door who want to harm me – telling her that they are driving a maroon Monte Carlo, and are quite possibly armed. I tell her that I know the precinct is close by, and beg her to send a car as quick as she can. I tell her that I am hiding on my kitchen floor with a wooden baseball bat, and that I cannot wait for the police to arrive – I tell her all of this, with the drug-addled tongue that instantly raises a red flag with the Phoenix Police Department. I can hear the shuffling of feet outside as she tells me on the phone that a squad car has arrived, and to just sit tight until the police come and speak to me.

There is a knock on my front door, and through the door I can hear the sounds of the police radio. I can also feel my heart exploding in my chest – because the fuckers that came to hurt me were at the back door. Opening the door, I am greeted by four officers, one of whom is holding what looks like a black-jack in his hand. The policemen all look me up and down, as if they knew in that moment that I was a complete paranoid fueled by bathtub drugs. Quickly, I tell them everything about what happened, other than telling them about the drugs. One of the officers opens the back door and walks around out there, while the youngest one asks me for my identification, which I give to him.

As he is slowly fingering my ID, I realize that it is probably caked in a film of methamphetamine, and in rapid-fire succession, my mind decides that I am probably going to go to jail.

“Well – we did find this black-jack outside, Mr. Doyle. And as we were pulling up, we did see a group of men running away from the Monte Carlo that is still parked outside. Do you have anywhere you can go – it’s probably not safe for you to stay here for a while?”

I tried to call my friend Brian, but I knew he was asleep. I left him a rambling message on his answering machine, and told him to come and get me as soon as he could. As I hung up the phone, I realized that I had the keys to every apartment in the complex, and I could hide out in one of the vacant ones until I saw Brian’s car pull up.

The police asked me multiple times if I was on drugs, and each time I told them that I wasn’t – which they obviously knew was a lie. They told me to call them if there were any more problems, and the young cop handed me back my ID, and gave me a quick squeeze of the arm as if to tell me that everything was going to be okay.

As they left, I saw Helen – the ninety year old mother of the man who owned the apartment complex, as she was gathering up her morning newspaper from her front door. I quickly walked over to her and asked her if she wouldn’t mind my company for a little while – she was a sweet woman who I looked after from time to time for her son, so the request probably wasn’t out of the ordinary for her.

I went back to my father’s apartment and grabbed the cordless phone, and locked the place up.

Back inside of Helen’s apartment, the drugs were still working their way around inside of me. I asked her if she would like for me to make her some coffee, and she said that would be nice – so I did. It wasn’t lost on me in any way that I was in that moment doing what might probably be the most cowardly thing I had ever done in my life – hiding out in the apartment of an elderly woman, while high on drugs and running from a gang of angry racist skinheads who wanted to beat me to death.

I tried so hard to remain in my own body. It took a while for Brian to call, and when he did I could hear him shaking his head at me through the phone – bizarre behavior like this wasn’t so out of the norm for me in those days – my paranoia when using drugs was always the biggest detriment to any friendship. Brian agreed to come and pick me up, but told me that I needed to calm the fuck down.

Hours later, playing darts with Brian in his living room, I felt this wave of disgust wash over me – I was still terrified, and me being terrified was something that was just totally unacceptable to me. I tried to call Michelle and talk to her, but she hung up on me as soon as I started to tell her what her new boyfriend had done.

I never spoke to her again.

*Yes, I changed the names of the parties involved. And yes – it is fifteen years later, and I am still repulsed that I hid out in the apartment of a ninety year old woman. What the fuck would you have done?

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Changes, or "It’s Not That I’m Throwing Out The Baby With The Bath Water – I’m Just Throwing Out The Babies."


In keeping with the spirit of my last post, I’ve been doing a lot of culling and a lot of changing. I do not feel bad about either of them. If anything, I feel better than I have for as long as I can remember. Looking back over the arc of my life – I’m hard-pressed to find myself in better alignment between mind and body than where I am rightfuckingnow.

Let me break it down for you –

I’m in the throes of a fucking massive overhaul.


Think of it like this – I am a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. Throaty-as-fuck 426 Hemi under the hood. Lots of miles. Rust. My alignment is off just enough to notice(I veer to the right). Most of me is made up of original parts, but I have some foreign parts as well – lots of scar tissue from “accidents,” a couple of knife wounds, some bullet fragments. One owner. And like I said before – lots of miles.

Now that you have that image burned into your mind, I want to tell you what’s been going on with me over the last week to ten days or so.

Not only am I taking the opportunity to use the beginning of a New Year/Decade to weed out all the malcontents and misery addicted people from my life, I am also using it to get myself closer to something resembling “healthy.” I’ve spent so much of the last decade or so working on getting my mind/spirit “right,” that it would be a shame if I continued to neglect the vessel that contains me as well.


Basically, I don’t want to feel like shit anymore.

I have abused the fuck out of this body. Over twenty years of smoking. A life-long addiction to soda and sugar. Terrible eating habits. Awful sleep patterns. Years of abusing alcohol, narcotics, pills, etc. So sedentary at times that it’s hard for me to even believe that I used to be a pretty good athlete, a Gym Rat who was always hunting for an open gym to play hoops with anyone, any time(and I am sure there are plenty of people out there still in shock that a lumpy, “Elmer Fudd-lookin’ motherfucker” like me schooled their asses from time to time, too).

I took the beginning of a fresh year as a way to start working on getting myself not only back into something resembling the shape I was in when I was in the military, but to try and make it so that I don’t drop dead in the middle of the night standing there bathed in the low-level lighting of the open refrigerator as I’m rooting around for another Coke to chug.


I mean – and as per the usual, we’re on Front Street here – if I was able to quit my fucking drug/alcohol habit(s) in the manner in which I did(I made the decision to stop – and then just fucking stopped), why shouldn’t I be able to make this shift as well? In the long run, this will save me the agony of the early adult onset diabetes I had penciled myself in for, not to mention save my kidneys and liver the trouble of having to filter out all of that crap I’ve been dumping down my throat since childhood.

I made myself an appointment to go and see Gilles Obermayer, who is not only a health magician, but a member of my ever-expanding family(he’s engaged to The Wife’s Aunt, Rosie, who is also a healer – acupuncture wizardry). I was a little bit nervous on my way over to see Gilles, but then I really thought about it, and realized, that for once in my life, I was really doing something good for myself, and that I needed to be forthright and straight up about everything that I felt was wrong with me. Both Gilles & Rosie have come and done work on me in emergency-type situations(me falling down a flight of stairs, or my back locking up on me so badly that I couldn’t stand up straight), and in talking with them, they’ve made it clear that I have a pretty good understanding of my body, and about what is or isn’t working properly. Which is a bonus.

Gilles made me feel right at home immediately, and we got down to business – taking our time talking about every single malady and possible Costanza I had fears about. Talking about my diet, my sleep patterns, the way my body feels when resting – you name it – we covered it. I told him that it felt to me as though my “fire” had gone out, and that anything I felt passionately about was now bordering on being a chore, or a task that I couldn’t bring myself to complete without great and concerted effort. And I told him that throughout most of my life, the one thing that had always been a constant was that “fire.”


I’ve been having problems with my right hip & lower back since I had hernia surgery back in June of ’07 – when the doctors cut me open, they realized the injury was much worse than they originally thought, and that almost the entire abdominal wall on my right side was shredded. They put a bunch of that titanium mesh inside of me, hoping that the musculature would grow through it, like lattice, and become whole again. Because of this, and my irrational fear of re-injuring myself, it has been hard for me to maintain the strength of my lower back. I’ve felt all along that the problems I have with my right hip(it constantly feels as though a tendon needs to “pop over” my hip bone, and like my right leg is a taut line, ready to come unhinged at any time) are related to the surgery/lack of activity as well. As I relayed all of this information to Gilles, he kept on nodding at me, as if to say “You’re not too far off.”


After we finished talking, Gilles went to work on my body. As he was kneading and working on my muscles and joints, he kept on asking me if he was hurting me. I explained to him that I have an almost ridiculous threshold for physical pain, and that he shouldn’t worry about it. I could feel my body loosening throughout his systematic and methodical manipulations – I also felt great relief when I felt my right hip pop into the place where it is supposed to be, so much so, that I teared up a bit.

Validation is such a powerful thing, especially for someone who feels hyper-connected to their instincts like I do.

After the session was over, Gilles and I sat down to talk again. He broke it down pretty simply for me – my liver channel is not functioning properly, causing my body to be in an almost constant state of depression. Without question, my bad habits tax my liver far too much, rendering it unable to do the work it needs to do for me to be and feel healthy. Some of that can also be attributed to the titanium in my abdominal wall – a normally functioning human body will be in a constant state of battle with anything foreign residing within it – which is why some people are not able to heal body piercings, or have trouble holding ink from tattoos(both of which I have obviously never had any problem with).

Gilles then gave me instructions on how to change my lifestyle and diet to help my body heal itself from the damage I have done to it over the years. As he was talking to me, I could feel a Great Weight being lifted off of me – as if me taking just this one tiny little step was the opening of a doorway that was never going to close.

For me, that hardest part of my life has always been conquering that initial fear of the unknown. Once I’ve gone beyond that threshold, I can usually create the necessary drive and discipline to apply the knowledge I’ve gained, move forward with it, and grow.

And that is exactly what I am doing.


I haven’t had a soda, or anything containing refined sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup in almost two weeks. Not only did I power my way right on through that addiction, but I am drinking – wait for it – water – liters of it daily. If you know me at all, you know that for years, as soon as someone offers me a glass of water, I break out the old WC Fields line – “Water? I never touch the stuff – fish fuck in it.” – because for some reason, my body was conditioned to only consume things with sugar in them. Probably because I was a sugar addict, and a terrible one.

Not anymore. Done.

Because I’ve spent years dumping spoonful after spoonful of sugar into my coffee, I gave that up as well. I replaced it with two cups of Yerba Mate’, but I cannot drink anything with caffeine in it after 5PM. No raw foods – everything must be cooked or at room temperature for me to eat it. No cooling foods(foods that cool the blood), like broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach. No turkey or lamb. No eating after 7PM. I’m working really hard on some of his other recommendations, like me being asleep by 11PM(he knows this one will be rough for me – I’ve always been a night-time creature), and getting at least seven hours of sleep per night(I usually sleep no more than five – anything more than that and I feel hungover – which he said was a product of me conditioning my body to need to be awake and continue to consume all of that sugar).

The Wife tells me that I am already losing weight, and that my skin looks a lot better. All I know is that I feel fucking great – I haven’t felt this good in a long time. Most of my usual aches and creaky bones seem to have given up, and I no longer feel their dull throbbing. I haven’t had to slather my lower back and hip with Tiger Balm in two weeks. I don’t feel like I am dying after walking The Gracie for an hour in the evening. I wake up feeling refreshed – and actually hungry, which is totally a new one for me. Breakfast used to consist of one French Press full of coffee, coupled with at least half a pack of smokes* before I felt even remotely human.


All of this is hard fucking work. I know this is not going to be easy, but I also know that this is worth it – I’m not getting any younger, and my chances for reversing or changing all of the damage I have done to myself decreases annually.

This change, this personal revolution, is a necessary one. I have a lot of work to do in this life, and I am not going to be some sloppy, unhappy mess of a man who looks back twenty years from now and laments the fact that I didn’t align the physical me and the mental/spiritual me when I had the chance. I’ve worked far too hard conditioning the latter, while taking the former for granted. I cannot stomach seeing the me in the future that I was headed toward.

Removing a lot of miserable and negative people from my life, no matter how extraneous they might have been, has been a great help for me. I feel like a raw nerve emotionally – incapable of even reading something with a negative or woe-is-me connotation to it, my instant reaction being one of repulsion. And as I said in the beginning of this Ramble, not to mention the previous one – I just cannot roll with misery addicts any longer. I’m done with it.

I’m doing this for me.

*Before anyone starts to yammer on in the comments or in e-mails about me quitting smoking – please understand that this is a long-term goal. If I am making all of these crazy lifestyle changes, eventually I will get to a place, after lots of exercise and creating new habits, where quitting smoking will be as easy as can be. Until then – please leave me be about it. Thanks.

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Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, or "I Prefer Being Called A Soothsayer To Being Called A Prophet"

I’m just going to go ahead and get this out of the way right out of the gate – I know this is not only the end of 2009, but also the end of a decade, which means The Interweb is currently flooded with “End of The Aughts” posts from everyone. While reading a lot of them(I ain’t got nothing but time and nicotine stains on my hands, you lovely motherfuckers), I’ve noticed this common theme:

“WHAAAAAA! EVERYTHING THAT EVER HAPPENED IN THE LAST YEAR/TEN YEARS SUCKED!!!”

It has been very painful for me to read all of this negative bullshit. I mean – I’m a humanimal just like most of you, so I am prone to disappointment and whatnot like anyone else is. And being a member of the current state of our society involves dealing with a lot of extraneous shit that will find a way to drag even the most positive-thinking person into the quicksand of negativity. I get all that, I really do.

But enough is enough already.

(This is the part where Sean puts his funny Philosopher Jones, Esquire hat on – if you want to read something else – now is the time to go ahead and do so – you’ve been warned)

When I am feeling flushed with frustration or anger over the things I see/read/hear from people who are wallowing in their own misery, I try to always remember this very important piece of writing right here:

Feeling deeply the difference between oneself and others, bearing ill will and falling out with people — these things come from a heart that lacks compassion. If one wraps up everything with a heart of compassion, there will be no coming into conflict with people.” – from Chapter Two of The Hagakure

It seems very simple, but in fact, this is a very hard idea to follow through on. I work on it every day – reminding myself over and over again that we’re all just human beings sharing human experiences – what might cause me to react one way will cause another person to react in a totally different way – all based upon our own personal needs/wants/environments, and how those factors influence our emotions.

Sometimes it feels like trying to untie knots with your heart while blindfolded.

I’m a Sagittarius – so this shit is all a naturally-occurring part of my natal blueprinting. Just go through this here site and read the posts tagged “The Spiritual Misadventures Of Sean” if you need proof of that aspect of my being. Most of my life has been nothing more than a Spiritual/Philosophical Quest of sorts – trying to find answers to the big and heady questions most people never think about once they settle into their holding pattern of adulthood and the responsibilities that get thrust upon us once we go out into this Great Big World – the only difference being that I have always been this way, from the moment I was able to comprehend language enough to use it to verbalize what was happening in my scattered little mind.

ANYWAYS…

Back to the “End of the Year/Decade” tip – I’ve written before about how much I cannot stand the fact that people seem to think that being snarky somehow denotes that they are intelligent beyond the comprehension of others. And after reading through a lot of these Year End lists and posts of doom – I’m kind of hoping this trend goes away for good. Seriously.

Maybe this makes me some kind of hippie idealist or something, but no matter how bad my life appears to be in the moment, I always know deep inside the core of my being that I AM GOING TO LEARN SOMETHING FROM THIS. And that right there is the key for my monkey ass – learning. If I’m not learning, I’m not an active participant. If I am not an active participant, I am dead. So – I try very hard to remain, in some way, positive. Even when the shit is b to the a to the motherfuckin’ d. It is just too goddamn easy to get all caught up in the misery of disappointment or struggle. And that shit is just a power trip anyway, stomping your feet and acting all indignant because things just aren’t going the way you had them planned out in your happy little fantasy of what life was going to be all about for you, as if you somehow have the power at your disposal to CONTROL EVERYTHING.

People who lead miserable lives will always cling to that misery. They will say stupid shit to cover up their own insecurities and doubts, and do it in a way that gives them the quick elation that one would get from an inhalant, or possibly from snorting huge rails of methamphetamine. That’s where all that snark comes into play – people lashing out at other people because they have some need to feel superior to something, when in all reality, they hate themselves so much that they feel nothing but inferior to everything.

Like Roberto Duran once said – “No mas.” I’m done with negativity. Done with misery addicts. If you want to roll with me, you have to drop that shit. Not having it.

AAAAAND BREATHE…

Moving forward, 2010, or as it was told to me in an e-mail from a good friend – MMX: The Year We Save The World™ – is all about me getting shit done. Grinding it out. Honing my skill set. Working on my craft. Writing, writing, and more writing.

And working much harder on attaining this very important goal that sometimes slips away from me:

Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

I hope that each and every one of you that I call a friend has a wonderful and amazing MMX. You deserve it.

Love,

Sean

Please enjoy the video –

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Gimme Three Steps, or "I Ain’t Never Told Nobody This Terrible Tale About What Happened To Me When I Was Living Down There In The Ozarks"

I’ve never told anyone this story before, other than my father when he was dying. He had asked me why I had always dated so many “crazy women,” and I had given him some crass-as-fuck answer like – “because they fuck better” – so, late one night when it was just me, him, and the morphine – I told him this tale. He was halfway out the door at that point, but raised an eyebrow and said “Sean, sometimes you are the dumbest motherfucker I have ever known – but I love you anyway. Stop being so stupid” – and then he fell back into Morphine Dreamland.

Running away was always the easiest thing for me.

I was living in a very dark and smoke-filled apartment across the street from the main campus of the University of Arkansas. Fayetteville was an interesting little town, although I very rarely ventured outside of my cave. Smoke runs. Odd-houred journeys to the laundry room of the apartment complex down the hill behind me. One very ill-advised and spontaneous joyride in a running car that was left idling out in front of my tiny apartment building.

I left it at the Denny’s off the highway – I‘m not a fucking savage. I really wanted a Grand Slam and a bottomless coffee. I wanted to see other haggard and restless night-time faces.

Most of my days were spent with me sitting on the floor, either devouring a book or trying to write one, depending on how I was feeling that morning. Some days were Writing Days, others were Consuming Days. Most days were Who Gives A Fuck Days, spent in a haze of discontent and loud music.

When I was leaving Brooklyn to head down that way, I made some sort of deal within myself that I was going to force myself to get well in some way. Being smarter than the average payaso, when I shipped my belongings down ahead of me, I stashed a decent amount of the strain of marijuana I was smoking daily into a few of the boxes – so as not to upset my innermost system. I promised myself that I would not buy more – what was there was what was there, and that would be that.

There were a fistful of reasons as to why I had run down to Fayetteville – a friend and mentor I had just connected with deeply had been killed in an accident, the finalities of my Grandmother’s passing were set into motion, as the home I spent large portions of my youth within was sold to a neighbor, and the tumultuous and terrible relationship I had been in when moving back to Brooklyn from Phoenix had finally imploded into a fireball of deceit and indiscretions that made even the druggiest and sleaziest parts of me shudder.

So I ran away.

A friend of mine from the Internet had lived down there her entire life, and she and I spent a ridiculous amount of time talking about how I just needed to get away from the lunacy of the situation I was living in, so that I could heal and write. She certainly didn’t lie to me about her town – she told me it was small and basically nothing more than a college town. What we did talk about was how low the crime rate was, and how cheap it was to live there. According to her, it was the most liberal town in the entire region – which was a huge selling point for a cat like me.

I stayed with her, her ex-husband, their five year old daughter, and their roommate for about a week to ten days, and then I landed the aforementioned apartment right off the campus. The rent on this place was retardedly cheap – less than four hundred duckets a month. I paid the landlord for three months in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything other than getting my head together. I borrowed a car and went over to the truck yard where all my stuff was at, and started bringing it on over to my new Secret Hideout.

The friendship between my friend and I was already horribly strained – not for any other reason other than the two of us both being very headstrong people who were set deeply into our own roles in our heads. She was a very strict vegetarian who was trying to align her mind and body into some form of healthy, and I was a very strict carnivorous hedonist who was hell bent on self-destruction. It wasn’t good for me to be staying over at their place – my presence was creating a lot of tension within their household, as I found myself really getting along with her ex-husband, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t good for her at the time. She and the roommate and I would go to the gym together, and I’d watch with awe and respect at the level of commitment she had for getting herself healthy.

It almost matched my level of self-loathing that I had brought down to The Ozarks with me.


I think it was my second or third day living there when the police knocked on my screen door in the middle of the afternoon. I was very set on getting myself back on a Spiritual Path of sorts, and had set up an altar on top of my refrigerator – nothing too fancy, but somewhere that I could burn incense and focus during my daily meditation. When I opened the screen door, one of the cops, the younger one, asked me if I was “one of them Satanic-type of people,” which made me laugh in a way that didn’t translate too well. I mean – who thinks a statue of Buddha is Satan?

“Is there something I can help you with, officers?”

The other cop had decided it was okay for him to walk past me and enter into my apartment, and he was walking into the other room where I had music playing. The younger cop was sort of standing in a way where he was blocking the doorway, with one leg jutting across the threshold as he leaned into the door jamb all casual-like.

“We came over here because we got a complaint about loud music. You wanna come on in here and turn this racket off?” – the older cop was obviously not in a playful mood.

I realized in that moment that I probably wasn’t someone these gentlemen were used to – a Yankee covered from head to toe in tattoos, with strange incense burning in front of a statue of what they thought was Satan, blasting Public Enemy in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. As I started to walk into the bedroom, I saw that the older cop was using his baton to lift the flaps to the cardboard boxes that I had yet to unpack, as if casually looking into my belongings was part of the call they had received.

“You looking for something specific there, officer? I just moved in two days ago – I still have plenty of unpacking to do.”

He just gave me a twisted look as I turned the volume down. His younger partner was now standing in the doorway to the bedroom – in the exact same position he was standing in the main doorway to the apartment not two minutes earlier. It must have been part of the Fayetteville PD’s training program to block doorways from possible perps or something.

“Just try not to play your music so loudly – your neighbors will be less likely to call us and complain. If anything, turn down all that bass. My idiot nephew is your downstairs neighbor, and his mother has been calling me since you moved in bitching about some scary guy covered in tattoos who listens to loud rap music upsetting her half-retarded baby boy who’s trying to get a degree in some bullshit. My sister annoys the shit out of me, so can you do me that favor?”

I smiled and told him that I would do my best.

After they left, I looked at the top of my bathroom counter and realized I had left out a pipe with some weed in it, so I took it as a sign that I should be thankful and try and honor what the older cop had asked me. There was no sense in dicking around with fate or jail time any more than I needed to. I also went out of my way to go downstairs and apologize to his mouth-breather of a nephew, who looked like he was going to shit his pants when opening the door wearing his favorite WWE t-shirt – I even shook the kid’s hand and told him if he needed anything to just come on up and ask me.

Because I was all about being neighborly and shit.

After a couple of weeks of hiding out in my cave, I decided to venture out to the main drag and have myself a few cocktails. I figured that since it was a Thursday night in a college town, the odds of me getting into trouble were pretty slim. What I forgot to factor into the equation was that this was The South, and trouble can be found anywhere if you didn’t fit.

I spotted a place that had some Harleys in front of it, and went inside and plopped my ass down on a stool at the bar. The bartender couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. She was pretty in an awkward way – jet-black hair pulled into a side ponytail, pale as fuck, wearing a black tank-top and a schoolgirl skirt, and flashing a couple of really shitty tiny tattoos on her bare shoulders. She was doing that whole I’m-over-here-cleaning-glasses-pretending-you-ain’t-sitting-at-my-bar-even-though-I-keep-on-staring-at-you thing, so I called her over and asked her for a Jack and Coke.

Now – I had developed myself some terrible habits after spending most of my adult life working in the service industry. I was always respectful toward bartenders, servers, and the like – but I’ll be damned if I didn’t say something if something was wonky. I always tried to temper it with a little humor, because I know I always appreciated complaints that were at least presented in a funny light.

“Excuse me, Miss? Would you mind if you actually put some liquor in my glass – I mean, if it’s not too much to ask and all?”

Elvira, the Mistress Of Dickson Street made her way over to where I was sitting, picked up my glass, and then dumped it right into the sink – all while staring me down in a way that I wasn’t able to decipher – it simultaneously said Fuck and Fight. I heard one of the big gruff boys at the end of the bar make some smart-ass comment to her, and she shot him a steely glance. I then watched her as she poured me a Proper Cocktail – again, while she stared at me intently.

“What’s your name?”

“Sean.”

“Where are you from, Sean?”

“Brooklyn.”

“Well, Sean from Brooklyn – my name is Emma. I’m from Little Rock. Came up here to go to college a few years ago, and then I never left. You ever ask me to put liquor in your glass again, and you ain’t gonna leave here neither, okay?”

I let a real slow smirk move across my face and lit up a smoke. Emma smiled and giggled a little bit, and then went back to pouring drinks and polishing glasses. Every now and then I’d look up from the notebook I was scribbling in to see her glaring at me some more. There was a group of extremely drunk kids hanging out over by the pool tables, and a few of the local bikers hanging out at the other end of the bar. They were all taking turns glaring at me, too.

One of these things is not like the others. Obviously.

After downing my fifth Proper Cocktail – which I surreptitiously used to choke down a Lorazepam, I decided it was time to march my crooked ass back down the hill to my cave. I called Emma over to thank her and to settle up the tab. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught one of the bikers giving me the hairiest eyeball I had ever seen, so I decided to keep my flirting to a minimum, so as not to suffer the wrath of the natives.

“So – where do you live, Sean from Brooklyn?”

Emma was giving me the are-you-man-enough eye, while leaning herself over the bar toward my position, lots of exposed and glowing flesh billowing out of her black tank top, like a Siren Call, only without melody.

742 Taylor. The bottom of this hill. Apartment number one.”

She then leaned in even further, reaching with her still-wet hands from washing all of those glasses to grab at the back of my head, kissing me gently in the middle of my forehead.

I really hadn’t planned on this little exercise taking place. Hell – I just then remembered I didn’t even have a bed. Whiskey always made me do dumb shit. This was definitely in my Dumb Shit Sean Does wheelhouse.

Fast forward an hour and a half or so, and I am now not only still buzzed from the benzo/whiskey treat I’d allowed myself, but I have smoked a bowl of my NYC red-haired reefer. I was sitting at my computer, listening to some Miles Fucking Davis(Miles and I had reconnected and our love affair was getting mighty goddamn deep down there in them Ozarks), trying to uncoil some sleeping literary ambitions out from under my nervous system’s warm little blanket of drugs and hooch.

I realized that my intoxicated ass had left my front door open when I felt Emma’s hands rubbing my bald pate as she cooed some ridiculous nonsense at me. I tilted my head back in my chair, and she was leaning down, grinning at me. Things are a little hazy from there, as there was a lot of grunting, pushing, and pulling going on – lust and alcohol always made me an odd beast.

Laying around in a pile of clothes and blankets on the floor, smoking and replaying shit in my head as Emma slept softly – I was watching how her back would rise and fall as she filled her lungs with air when I noticed something shadowy move in the other room near the front door.

I noticed it a little too late, actually.

It only took a matter of a few seconds before the gun was planted firmly in the middle of my forehead. It only took half a second after that for Emma to roll over and start laughing her ass off. It took less time than that for me to realize I’d just been burned something fierce.

“Alright, Sean from Brooklyn – give us everything you got. Money, weed, whatever else kinda drugs you got stashed up in here. You do that, and we won’t kill you, understand?”

Emma was still laughing while she was pulling on her clothes. The big greasy biker guy kept on calling her “Baby,” but she never said his name once. I had about a quarter pound of that marijuana stashed all throughout the apartment, and gave them about half of it. Homeboy rifled through my wallet, and got pissed off when he saw there wasn’t any money in it.

“You’d best cough up some motherfucking cash or I’m gonna put a hole in your head, Sean from Brooklyn. I’m not fucking around here – GIMME THE CASH!”

I stared at him for a good long second – this was the same dude at the bar who had muttered something to Emma – and in that good long second I thought about taking him down. I mean – what good was all that military training if I wasn’t going to use it, right?

“I’m from New York City, man – nobody keeps cash in their wallets unless they’re a fucking tourist or a target. The cash is in my front right pants pocket over there – it’s about three hundred – just take it and get the fuck out of my goddamn house.”

As I watched him pulling the cash out of my jeans, Emma walked over to me all sassy-steppin’, as if this little home invasion/strong-arm was no big deal or anything. I took a step back away from her, and she started to laugh again.

“Oh, Sean from Brooklyn – I ain’t gonna hurt you, honey. This is just your Southern Comeuppance, that’s all. Y’all Yankee motherfuckers always think you’re so fucking smart and slick, but just like we seem like yokels and morons to you – you do to us down here.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. What the fuck else was I supposed to do – she had a point. I let my guard down, thinking that my regular sense of reality would help me out in an alien world. I was goddamn wrong, and I was man enough to laugh at it.

Emma gave me another long and weird kiss as I watched homeboy count the cash he snatched as he put the pistol back in his waistband. Again – a fleeting idea to tackle him and put the gun to his head popped into my head, but I realized that was fucking stupid. No sense in me getting shot or roughed the fuck on up when it was all over now.

“Okay Sean from Brooklyn, we’re gonna leave now – but don’t you ever think about coming into that bar again, you got me? You show up – you disappear out in the woods. And don’t you even think about calling the cops, okay?”

I just stood there like a big dummy.

I watched them walk out the door, Emma looking back at me through the screen door with a look on her face that said “I’m really sorry, honey.” As soon as they were down the front stairs I kind of collapsed on the floor. I was half-laughing, shaking, and half-crying. What the fuck? Nothing like getting set up by some fucking hillbilly motherfuckers – but they were pretty goddamn smart. An old con, one I shouldn’t have fallen for but did. Lesson learned.

After that, I rarely went out while still living down there in Fayetteville. I made nice-nice with the two kids who lived upstairs – I never told anyone what happened, but positioned myself as the neighbor who kept his eye out for everyone – hoping it would be reciprocal.

The one time after that when I did go out was after my father had already been diagnosed with cancer and I was already gearing up to go and take care of him. My friend Carole rolled into town from Louisiana with Fruity Jim and Crazy Wayne.

We had us a hell of a ball – but that’s another tale altogether.

I do still feel guilty about jacking that car to go to Denny’s, though.

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Filed under drugs are bad, i used to be stupid, nuggets of infinite wisdom, who is sean?