By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I was a kid who refused to learn how to read, write or do anything except act like an asshole. A kid whose dad taught him how to read in one night once they discovered I wasn't retarded. Pops threw me on the ground, bent both my arms behind my back and put a book in front of me. I learned to read phonetically. When I couldn't sound the word out my arms got shoved up a little bit higher between my shoulders. When we reached the end of the book my arms weren't good for much, but I could read. Once I learned how I read compulsively, starting with L'Amour and Heinlein and working my way through Sartre and Nietzsche, Freud and Jung, hoping to learn something about my twisted psyche. I still read whatever I can lay my hands on. But back then reading was something I kept to myself. I perceived myself as stupid, and was comfortable with that image. The fact that I liked to read was my deep dark secret.
Moms was the first one who encouraged me to write. In sixth grade my muse was disturbingly bleak, and what attention it got me in school was beyond negative - they thought I was sick, mentally ill. An essay I wrote in sixth grade that extolled the benefits of immediate gratification, a blend of nihilism and hedonism, damn near got me thrown out. I quit writing when I quit school, seventh grade. Later I picked up the pen for my own amusement and to try to preserve my sanity. I wrote for 25 years, though, before I had the courage to let anybody read any of it.
I was 12 years old the first time I got picked up for a felony. The charge was strong-arm robbery. That was my first experience with getting locked up, as opposed to picked up by the police and then released to my parents. That was also my first real experience with heroin withdrawal. By the following morning I was introduced to that particular flavor of hell, one I've tasted over and over through the rest of my life. The full-on insanity of righteous withdrawal, nerves and brain screaming, flesh crawling, guts twisted into knots. Praying with all my heart just to get through it and swearing to myself and on everything that's holy that I'd never use again. And deep, deep inside me knowing that at the first opportunity I'd be loaded.
Hopped a train and ended up in Boston. Life got interesting.
Making dough hand over fist. Armed robberies, burglaries, shooting smack 24-seven, stopping only when I had pharmaceuticals to slam instead. Dilaudid, pharmaceutical coke in that brown glass bottle that had a skull and crossbones on it below the words Cocaine Hydrochloride Flaky Crystals, Pantapon, Neu-morphine, regular morphine, all that good shit. Hit a drugstore and come out with bags full of dope. Back there and back then the heroin was white with a quinine cut, way good. Too good. Live hard, die young and leave a good-looking corpse, right? Wrong, pal. Whoever the idiot was who came up with that expression didn't see my friends' corpses.
It was the mid-'70s, and the punk rock thing was starting to happen. The rage that consumed me had found a home. I've heard people describe rock & roll as good-time music, but for me it was always about anger and outrage and sex, Chantilly lace and a pretty face . . . motherfucker. Us and the disco kids used to roll and tumble on a regular basis. Kenmore Square was the scene of multiple Punker vs. Disco Dweeb riots, as were most of the smaller clubs around town - we'd crash their gigs and they'd do the same. I loved it. Mohawked down, with steel-toe boots and a pistol in my back pocket, I thought I was Billy the Kid on smack and rock & roll.
One night me and my girl were drinking boilermakers and taking reds, and a locally famous sometime pro wrestler and all-the-time asshole came strolling into the joint we were frequenting at the time. A bar that had generous shots, cheap hot dogs and a good jukebox.
One thing led to another, and both being loaded and so on, the second or third time the young lady I was with told the maniac to buzz off I felt like I had to get involved, whether it was a stupid move or not. This guy scared the shit outta me. He was huge and way aggressive, had a big mean mouth to go with his oversize and mean everything else, and was rawjawing the whole bar before zeroing in on me and my girl. All 140 pounds of my poorly groomed leather-jacketed ass got in his face. His first shot took out my front teeth, I don't know if it was the second or third that broke my nose, and sometime after that he kicked me in the face good enough to split the skin from my eye to my temple. I remember rolling into a ball so he couldn't kick my head all the way off.
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