Monday, September 25, 2006

No Time to Wallow

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I forgot to tell you how I met Jeff. Or 'Glamorous Jeff', as we called him back then. I met him at Berlin after the Cure concert. I was thinking I had met him after either the Siouxsie or Cult concerts, but they were in 1986, and I know Jeff was at the apartment I lived in with Kip and Jody, and that was '85. Thank God the internet can help me piece this all back together...

I'm finally coming to the end of '85 in this tale, but I feel like there is something I'm forgetting; things left unsaid, stories not told. That can't be all there was! Actually, what I'm forgetting can be explained in one sentence: my life had a duality back when I was 19; I had the surface life I and everyone else were witness to, and a life that was going on in my head, a life I talked to no one about.

I guess I'm still like that. I guess we're all like that, in some way.

Back in beauty school, in Appleton, before I moved to Chicago, my friend Bryan O. would pester me into talking about what was going on, really going on! in my life, but I was a 'mute witness'. I just could not talk to him about what was lurking around in my head.
"Bryan, let's just go to 1101 (eleven-oh-one) and get drunk, OK?" I would say.
"Come on, talk to me!" He pleaded.
"What's there to say? You know everything." I said.
"No I don't!" He replied, as he drove to our small-town gay bar.
I knew this upset him, me not sharing my life with him, but I was more upset for not having the ability to do so. Somewhere along the way I decided never to give a voice to my inner monologue; if I spoke my fears, hopes, or problems, they would turn into uncontrollable monsters.
Everything boils down to control, doesn't it? So boring.
Things were very out of control when I was a kid and in school, and my way of coping was to try and wrangle it all inside with the useless rope called denial. I didn't want more people knowing how shitty my life was; there were hundreds making it so, and hundreds more who already knew. And yet, the people who I felt should have known how bad it was, 'never seemed to notice'.
I wanted to look cool and unaffected, no matter what happened to me, but little did I realize that I came across as someone trying to look that way. There is no way to look cool and unaffected when you're getting beaten up, or when your classmates throw their books at you.
That way of coping became cemented in me, because Brad and I went to those schools together, where we shared an equally horrible existence, and rarely talked about how bad it was. We made an unspoken pact to never to do so, and crammed in as much fun and good times as we could create. We separated ourselves in every way possible from our classmates.

Old habits die so very hard...

Digression over. Back to Jeff. After the Cure concert, Jody, Brad, Scott and I went home to get ready to go out. Brad had scored some 'happy stars' from Collette, and we decided to take them before we went to Berlin. Happy stars were a low grade home-made acid that were floating around Chicago back then. One of my friends, who shall remain nameless, (cause we all have 'real' jobs now) liked to extol the virtues of mind expansion, through acid. 'They' told me about Aldous Huxley's famous book, The Doors of Perception, (where The Doors got their name) in which he writes about his life-altering experiences with mescaline, in the name of 'science', like it made him 'more intelligent' or something. This friend of mine was very smart and well educated, but the person who gave Brad this acid was far, so very far, from smart:
Collette's eyes never quite focused when she talked to you. She always managed to look cool and put together, but the years of fun were starting to show in her young life. My friend Carla actually witnessed Collette's 5 inch fall from the curb in front of Medusa's one night, breaking both her legs. As I remember, I think she tried to swim across Lake Michigan one night, too. She was also kicked out of England, and told never to return. My mind boggled as to how she did those things, but she fascinated me, none the less.
Brad went to her apartment under the guise of buying only one hit, "cause I'm broke!" he said, because he discovered there were dozens of hits embedded in the living room carpet, and he would pick them up whenever she left the room.
"Collette, can I get a glass of water?" Brad said.
"Sure!" she said as she went to the kitchen. Brad picks up some acid.
"A piece of bread?" He said.
"OK." More hits.
"Another glass of water?" Brad asked.
"Jesus! Alright!" More acid.
He left with enough to last for weeks.
After I read the Huxley book, and saw how my friends who had taken that acid didn't 'go crazy' from it, I decided to take the mild dose myself. We sat around our living room drinking vodka, waiting for it to take effect.
"When you feel a little nauseous, that means it's about to hit you." Brad said.
I didn't get nauseous, but I did need to poop. After I finished, I looked in the mirror, and saw red streaks on my face. When I came back in the room, I could tell they were all tripping.
"Wow! What did you do in there, Brian? You look great!" Brad said. Acid wisdom number one: poo-stress makes you ugly, I thought to myself.
"I crapped. Do you guys see these red marks on my face?"
"That's another sign it's about to hit you." Jody said. They all seemed to be staring at me, waiting for my trip to start.
A little later, I noticed how amazing the music was.
"What is this? This is the coolest record I ever heard!" I said.
"The Cult! You've played this a million times! I think somebody's tripping!" They said.
The music really did sound incredible. It was as if The Cult had tapped into a subconscious, ancient tribal rhythm.
"I wanna hear The Caterpiller!" I said.
"Wow. This song is so great." We all agreed.
"Now put on How Soon is Now?" I said.
After a minute, we had to turn it off. The soul-crushing wail from John's guitar, and Morrissey's 'criminal vulgarity' was just too much on acid. It struck us all too close to home.
"Let's go to Berlin!" Scot said.
We left through the back door, and out the alley. Our alley was paved with bricks, as some streets are in Chicago, and something caught my eye, so I knelt down to look at it.
"Jody, come look at this." I said.
She came over and knelt down with me. Thousands of pieces of glitter twinkled between the bricks in the moonlight. I knew I wasn't acually seeing glitter, but I was dumbstuck by the fact there was no denying the beauty I never knew existed in these ordinary objects. I tried to will the beauty away, but it wouldn't budge. I started to think I was seeing remnants of the people who had walked on these bricks for the past hundred years, and how little pieces of my life are stuck in there now, too.
"You freaks! We're walking ahead. We'll meet you there." Scot and Brad said.
"Jody, I think we've been staring at these bricks for a really long time. We better go." I said.
We ran down School Street to find Brad and Scot. The homes seemed to turn into doll houses as we ran past them. We saw our friends standing on the corner a few blocks away, staring at something. When we rejoined them, we saw what they were looking at. Someone's house was burning down. The fire trucks hadn't arrived yet, and the house was almost half burned. The sobbing owners and their friends were doing their best with some garden hoses, with little effect. A hysterical woman kept trying to run in and get something, and three people were holding her back. Dozens of neighbors were standing in the street in their robes and pajamas, holding each other, tears in their eyes. As the sirens approached, and the four of us stared in shock, I noticed how unstoppable the fire looked to me. I saw the pure and only intention of fire: to consume.
"Let's go." Someone said.
By the time we got to Berlin, the 'happy' effects of the drug had worn off, and I was left with a horrible speedy feeling, that I tried to quell with gin and tonics. Thankfully, it worked. A little later, a gorgeous kid with huge, spiked hair and silver eye shadow accented with swirling black eyeliner lines walked up to me.
"Were you guys at the Cure show tonight?" He asked.
"Yes! It was great, wasn't it?" I said. He told me his name was Jeff, and he wanted to talk to me at the show, but was too shy.
"I'm glad you're talking to me now!" I said.
"I'm here with my roommates and some friends from Kansas City, where I'm from." He said, as he pointed to two girls, Ava and Kristin, (the roommates) and two dreamy guys, whose names I forget (the friends). The guys were impeccably understated in their all black ensembles and long brown hair. I'm moving to Kansas City! I thought to myself.
When we exchanged numbers, he told me he was going back home for a few weeks for the Christmas break from Loyola, and would call me when he was back in town.
Scot, Jody, Brad and I all left Chicago and went home for Christmas that year. When I flew back to Chicago, and got out of the cab I took from O'Hare, I saw a scary sight when I approached my building. The entry way for the rear apartments was on the side of the building, and the door was smashed open, and there was soot everywhere. The stairs were soaking wet, and the door to the first floor apartment was gone, and I saw most of the apartment was charred. I tore up the stairs to my apartment, because it was right above this one. Scot was home, and told me about the fire:
Yesterday, he smelled smoke and called the fire department, who quickly came and put it out, and that no one was hurt.
"It all happened so fast, Brian. Our place isn't damaged at all. Not even smoke damage! If I hadn't been home when I was, this building would be gone." He said.
"Let's get out of here. Let's go to Louie's and pick up Gidget (our cat)." I said.
Louie made us a big bowl of his famous guacamole, in his large, homey kitchen, as we told him what happened. We stayed at his place until well into the night, and dozed on his couch, while watching rented movies, surrounded by the comforting glow of his Christmas tree. I silently thanked God for the miracle He had just granted me, and asked for more divine intervention in 1986, because at the rate things were going, I knew I was going to need it.


David said...

A little later, I noticed how amazing the music was.
"What is this? This is the coolest record I ever heard!" We had on The Cult's Love.
"The Cult! You've played this a million times! I think somebody's tripping!" They said.
The music really did sound incredible. It was as if The Cult had tapped into a subconscious, ancient tribal rhythm.
"I wanna hear The Caterpiller!" I said.
"Wow. This song is so great." We all agreed.
"Now put on How Soon is Now?" I said.

My perception of hell. The Smiths on acid...

Jeff said...

Ok, I did not know that you were on acid when I met you. I remember your makeup that night: pale face, orange lips, black pointy eyebrows, orange eye shadow high on the brow bone only. You had used rub off letters to write "YES" on one eyelid, and "NO" on the other. I expected you to stick out your tongue and for it to say "PERHAPS"