Certain people have the kind of maladies, mental or physical, that can be traced back to a specific cause, some event or situation that mars one. May it be a burn or an alcoholic parent; there are often signs that are common among the victims. This is not the case with Sam. His causes are so complicated that one of them may have produced some behavior in another person but in Sam has only added color to an already existing ailment. But saying so, I think it is still necessary to give you some background into his complex personality. First of all, I do know that he was born in San Francisco SF General. I recall that his mother and father broke up shortly after the birth of his younger brother. Her ‘ 65 Corsair hydroplaning over the wet surface of the Golden Gate bridge, I imagined an Ice blond like Hedrick from a Hitchcock, careening on the edge of control, unsafe at any speed; the two frightened boys in tow, returning to their home in Corte Madera. She committed suicide when Sam was 13. Mr. Haycraft, a retired marine sergeant, a skinhead leatherneck, had given up his exotic bird trade and started a trucking company in Saigon. He thought that it was best to keep the boys close by, to keep them out of trouble. They arrived in Vietnam in 1972. Mr. Haycraft remarried a Vietnamese woman, and they had a daughter together. The kind woman became Sam and his brother Bevin’s Vietnamese mother. Sam had many stories of Vietnam, he told me that his father shot bats in the house and didn’t allow the boys “poky bait”, military for candy. So to get around this embargo the boys employed a round about tactic. They stole New Port cigarettes from their father and Sam the elder, traded the smokes to the US GIs for hand grenades .The boys then traded the grenades to the Vietcong (our enemy) for heroin, sold the heroin to the GI’s for cash to buy poky bait. Some of the grenades, however, went for pleasure fishing. They’d throw a couple of them into the lake then paddle around plucking the dead fish that float to the surface. A couple of Vietnamese kids showed them how to hook up to the power lines and charge the lake, killing even more fish, thus saving the grenades. The brothers never got around to this new technology, because two days later their friends ended up in the newspaper, electrocuted, dead. They’d stick to the grenades.
At the fall of sign they ran down the streets to catch the planes out many were left behind and for his step mother and that was certain death they ended up in Hong Kong where, for a prank Sam stole some jewelry from a woman who had entrusted the brothers her home, because he said, he could. He planned to give them back. The woman, who was of high position In the Hong Kong government, didn’t take kindly to the joke. Sam got arrested. He spent time in the Hong Kong jail where he read the Shogun trilogy, some thousand pages, on the stone floor cell. He was later offered the choice of deportation or indefinite incarceration. From there, strait to Orange County, Santa Ana, the home of P. K. Dick, a later hero, living part time with his father, part time on the street. Hanging out at the Cuckoo’s Nest, an OC punk club, where for a summer he was the bouncer or squatting in the dilapidated glam hotels popular with the punk LA scene. Sam was not a big guy, but he lifted weights. His father had returned to the exotic bird trade and used a drug called Ketamine to knock the birds out in order to determine their sex for breeding and sales. Sam began shooting the ketamine ten years before it became a club drug and described to me in detail the intense ten minute hallucinations that would be later known as K-Hole. Bored with the Orange County punk scene and sure that Ronald Reagan would start a war with Iran, Sam joined the Marine Corp and was stationed at the facilities at 29 Palms, some hundred and fifty miles out into the desert from LA, back from which he would traverse after slipping out after night call to take pills and amyl nitrate and dance like a fiend at the gay new wave night club the Odyssey. I met him in the parking lot at the American Burger, one of the spots that we would drink, since it was an under aged place that officially only sold Calistoga water and locker room. We both thought each other gay. He had short greenish hair and wore eyeliner. I can’t imagine what I looked like, but I’m sure it was not a straight look. We drank sitting in a Saab owned by who knows whom. He was at the wheel listening to British Electronic Foundation. Later that evening upon arriving at the base, he was forced by his Sergeant to scrub his head with Clorox, till the green came out and was wire brushed on the face to remove an asphalt scar from a motorcycle accident, that the Sergeant thought was makeup. Several demerits did not discourage young Sam and he returned to the Odyssey for more. Then there was the time while tripping somewhere near base, he had to take a dump and bumbled into someone’s house, sat on the crapper and fell asleep. The lady of the house came home found the strange crapper, freaked out and called the cops. Sam was arrested and spent several days in the can where he traded some of the acid that he had hidden in the fifth pocket of his Levis for cigarettes. “I don’t like to trip in jail, it’s a bummer.” He showed up at court in his Dress Greens, they read the charges: “Breaking and entering and possession of Amyl-nitrate, commonly used by homosexuals to facilitate anal sex.” The charges were eventually dropped and so was Sam to buck privet. With in a month he went straight-up AWOL and became a staple drug dealer at the Odyssey, specializing in Sodium-Nembutal. He came a few times to my folk’s house where we’d drink coffee with vodka in the morning and lift weights on the upper deck. My mother was quickly annoyed with Sam for his trying to empress my father with gun talk at the dinner table. And it was the gun talk and the fact that he stole my brother’s brand new linen pants, that had cost her one hundred dollars, that my mother never forgot and always asked for whenever his name was mentioned. She concluded from these two facts, disregarding all other transgressions that he, Sam, was a sociopath. The pants in question he had worn off one day, only to fuck off some hours later at another friends house, an incident he hardly remembered. Sam wasn’t so much a thief but a borrower, misplacer, fucker-offer. It was around this time that Sam ended up with a ziplock baggy full of codeine #4, he hid them in a coat pocket of one of my suits in my closet. Preparing to borrow the coat at another time, but it caught his eye for the moment, enough to serve as a marker for the drugs he would later retrieve. He did a lot of ditch and recovery and in time seemed better at the ditch portion of the maneuver. Robby a friend of ours from the Odyssey had a job working for a Mom and Pop corner drug store. Mom and Pop were convinced that Robby was a clean-cut nice boy. They had no idea that the style had changed and that because he had short hair and looked straight out of the fifties, that he wasn’t a drug addict, queer and would steal the roof off the place. He would, Robby, pocketed any left over pills and pinch from the bottles of the good stuff. He got bold and nabbed a bottle of the codeine #4s, a restricted substance that required a triplicate prescription, meaning that the state knew when a doctor prescribed the drug. Even the biggest quack would never give you a script, unless you were on death’s bed. So the little corner pharmacy never sold the stuff, hence would never miss it. Robbie nabbed the drugs and had them in his possession only a few hours before Sam strong-armed him out of them. The drawback of codeine #4 is that they give you an intense upset stomach. Sam and I went to the Anti-Klub to see the Outer Circle and Nervous Gender. I was making a video of the Outer Circle’s Blind Venetian at the time with Xavier Harrison. I was playing the Blind Venetian. Sam and I hung out in front of the Anti-Klub, the toughest punk club in town, drinking milk. Inside Sam got roughed up by Maylan, wearing a flop over Mohawk. I thought the tall lanky singer from the Nervous Gender might be a man, but she had the kind of gawkiness and hips that only women had. Then during the Outer Circle show, Spit Spin-dose-a, the singer, who had been hitting on me during the shooting, had a tattoo on his shoulder I tried for three songs to make out, finally I saw that it was “Mother”. Later, Sam picked a fight with a couple of guys in camouflage. He took offense to the wearing of military equipment for fashion. We had to leave. Sam also hated me to wear all black; he said that it looked like the VC (Việt cộng). After several days of codeines while driving on La Cienega, Sam went into violent convulsive hick-ups. I was scared for him and was threatening to take him to the hospital. When I really wanted to freak Sam out I’d threaten to take him to the hospital. In fact within a month of us hanging out he made me promise to deliver a hot shot to him, if ever he was in a serious condition in the hospital. So, instead we went to Donnie’s, an older gay guy, that lived in one of those 60s styled apartment complexes, that have a pool in the courtyard and balconies around overlooking the pool. The long slab stairs cut diagonally across the landscaped front, grass and arched cutout dirt hills with palm trees coming out of them and split by the glass front doors, the stucco facade with some kind of slogan or metallic star. Once inside, the brightness of the sun was amplified by the chalky white stucco of the inside walls of the court yard, like one of those reflectors that people use to put up to their faces to get the most out of the sun’s harmful rays, rendering the features of the patio distant and hard to see, as if it was a kind of brain washing between the outside world and the inner sanctum of ones apartment. The chlorine smell from the pool also served to facilitate this effect and no one ever swam in it, unless blasted on ludes. Then it was either naked or fully clothed and only once per each resident, because the gossip that it would inspire would keep one forever more a recluse. Donnie was Sam’s kind of older drug brother, he could shoot as much speed, stay up as long as, and take as many pills as Sam, maybe more. He also had some big time connections. He worked in a shack of an antique store on Melrose Place that was primarily a drug front. Donnie was there and he had Valium to trade for some of the Codeines. For Sam even the sight of something new he could swallow, halted his hiccups and relieved me, not only because this was a dynamite drug combo that was like a poor man’s “Load”, the popular street pill cocktail of four 4’s and two doors, that produced a better than heroin high, but that I wouldn’t be blowing my high by having to hang out in the hospital with Sam, as they tortured him off the hiccup producers.
At this time I was in beauty school by day, the Odyssey has lost its appeal, a new place called the Seven Seas had opened and some of the Odyssey kids were trying to start it up as a new place. There was also an upstairs place called Geno’s, that almost nobody went to, that we could hang out at, because they’d play what we wanted. Sam was not the only guy I was hanging out with, Tony and I were going to Marigo-go, that’s what we were calling the beauty school Marinellos in Reseda, because it was like a daytime discotheque, across the street from the Country Club. Xavier and I were making a video with the Outer Circle. He described himself as the liaison between black actors and the entertainment industry. He was my manager, or agent or whatever. Durell had moved in with his dike girlfriend, who thought I was too fem for him to be hanging out with, so I saw less and less of him. I spent the time, after I finished beauty school and before my exam, working for the Barron. I was mainly hanging out in the black color department, with Richard the same guy that convinced me to get into hair, kind of my mentor. The flamboyant Barron scared me. Besides I was always stoned and extremely shy. Randy, the street hustler and angel dust smoker friend of Tony the drag queen from the Odyssey, who had been hired to do shampoos along with me, also scared me. I clearly didn’t get the Job. Sam and I had a regular meeting at the scream parlor Wednesday night at the Grandia Room on the sleazy side of Melrose, east of Highland. They played the bat cave kind of death rock that some years later would be known as Gothic, Bauhaus, Southern Death Cult, Sisters Of Mercy & Specimen. It was a very small scene but it was like our own inside group.
My mom was my model for the state board of cosmetology, the exam to get my hair license. It was almost a joke how easy it was. Mom tried to help me along, as if she knew the proper application for a dye back to natural. It was cute anyway. The exam took place in an old fifties LA bureaucratic building off Hollywood Blvd.. In fact the whole affair seemed to be a throw back from the fifties, the examiners hair styled in two-tone bouffant and glasses and the antiquated stations. It was also strange to be hanging out in washed up Hollywood early Sunday morning, within blocks of where I’d be boozing by night. Sam met me, as they let me know I passed the practical and we had a smoke. It was the first time I smoked in front of my mom, she noted it but didn’t make a big deal. “You’re smoking, Nelson, don’t smoke. Ah Sam, light my Cigarette for me please.” She almost mechanically gave me advice. I left mom and the state facility to celebrate with Sam. He hurled like a violent faucet into a striped metal trashcan in the vacant theater parking lot. It was a vomit I was unfamiliar with, but would soon know intimately. It was at that moment that I entered a new phase in my life, Sam by my side. That Tuesday I showed up at the Beverly Hills salon of Allen Edwards. I had heard the posh high-end salon was hiring assistants and landed the position with Dalee, one of the top black hairdressers in LA, and began working the next day. One of my duties was to make arrangements with Robert the photographer for hour or half hour sessions (code for blow). One evening after work, Dalee and I along with Sam went to Robert’s West Hollywood Studio. The two men were about ten years older than me and Sam and asked us questions, like what would our style be like if it wasn’t a matter of money. Sam and I agreed that forties suits were what we’d be wearing. We spoke of some future photo session and what I needed to get loosened up for some good shots. Antique guns came up in conversation, a subject Sam and Robert were quite interested in, but Dalee and I had no interest in whatsoever, in fact, I nearly blocked out the whole conversation. By the way we did lots of blow so I don’t remember much of the night, but Sam seemed to be working Robert for something; I thought was more blow. Sam often worked older gays for drinks or drugs. I guess we all did, something we learned at the Odyssey, but some were more obvious than others. I had been working at the salon for what seemed to be a month or two and decided to take an apartment in Hollywood, my first and it was surprisingly easy to land. I was getting ready to spend my first night there, still at my parents, when Sam called. He wanted to know if I wanted to see the Sisters of Mercy at the Alexandra Hotel in Downtown LA. Sam had friends at Golden Voice, the punk rock show promoters that were putting on the show, and could get us in for free. I agreed and was excited to see the British band. It was late afternoon when I got the call from Sam to pick him up. Ray snatched the other end of the line, “You gotta come get Sam right now!” Ray, a kind of meek guy who lived with his grandmother, was flustered and couldn’t handle young Sam.
“Ray, you going to the show, I’ll drive?” I asked him. But he was in no mental condition to go, and made it clear to me that it was imperative that I came to relieve them of Sam as soon as possible. When I arrived at the house of Ray’s grandmother, down in the flats of Burbank, it was still daytime, still hot out. The crazed image of the red faced Sam, after a day in the summer LA sun and ingesting much of the grandmother’s reserve of Valium and pain killers, that she carelessly left in the bathroom medicine chest, being chased out the door holding a cocktail of sweet liquors, by the equally red faced Ray, who, although shared the same color as Sam, wore an expression complete opposite. Sam, jovial and joking In his freshly shone Hitler Bob, wearing one of Ray’s stolen suits and a pair of flip flops as if just leaving the greatest party of the summer and Ray, the brunt of his joke, with the seriousness of someone who had just witnessed his cat being murdered. Being an optimistic pessimist, I opted to read the situation as laying somewhere in between, realizing that Sam had indeed worked Ray’s last nerve, but that it wasn’t all that bad. Ray being a Nelly queen was acting for company, namely me. I squelched the action with a few calm words and let Sam into the white Camaro that I was driving. Ray said, still flabbergasted, to let me in on horrors that had transpired, “He took all my grandmothers medication!” He seemed to care nothing for the suit that was a couple sizes too big, the pant leg looped over the back of his heel serving as a partial sock. On Sammy the get up gave him a kind of kid brother just escaped from the psych ward look.
“Oh, he’ll probably be OK” I said, ironically insinuating that Ray was concerned about the health of young Sam. ”You shouldn’t leave drugs laying around.” We tore off. The Camaro has a way of leaving one situation behind and beginning another as soon as you hit the gas. Nothing like a 350 Chevy to get you out of a jam, and even though the white disco era Camaro was out of character and almost a joke car, it had quite a bit of power and with the T-tops off the wind and speed seemed to sober Sam up almost instantaneously. He handed me a pill.
“Complements of Grandma!” Sam said, still in good humor and I tried to swallowed it dry. As we rode out of the Valley, Sam went into great detail about the thwarted robbery attempt night before. With full flailing arms and gesticulating fingertips he spun pirouettes and expounded pure reason from the blue tweed bucket seat next to me, all the while, holding steady and upright as if from some mysterious outside magnetic force, the cup of whatever he had taken from the liquor cabinet of Ray’s grandma. It was hard to drive.
The story went something like this; Sam was staying at Jova’s ground floor apartment in the flats of Hollywood, one of many places that Sam would crash at. He was loaded, taking to a good nod there on the couch, peacefully. That part I seriously doubted, but I’ll go on. It was a hot night so he had the window open. The curtains blew the cool desert air into the smoke ranked flophouse room. He heard some kind of noise and came to, to find a large black man rummaging around, there in the room. Sam leapt into action, this is where the arms really start going, sometimes leaving the car, I’m hoping there’s no cops around. A scuffle ensues. Sam talked like that and used a lot of big words like nomenclature to mean pussy. Somehow the lights went out and the black man grabbed a ceramic lamp and smashes it over Sam’s foot then escapes back out the window that he came in. When the dust settled Sam, the new flophouse hero, had ‘shards of ceramic’ as he called it in his left foot. For his services he was granted full tenants rights, at least in his own mind. Now did he, or anyone else bother to remove the foreign objects from the appendage? No, they doused it with Bacardi, gave him a pair of flip-flops and filled young Sam with pills, which is exactly the way I received him a few days later. Then he let a holler, “Fuckin’ NIGGER!” There was a long silence after that. Then Sam, to change the subject, warned me about making eye contact with people while we were Downtown. He always found it necessary to inform me about proper street etiquette when entering a rough area, of which he was an expert and we nearly got our asses kicked every time we went out. And god knows he was no prince inside anyone’s house.
I parked in an unmarked lot. The Santa Ana winds blew the dust and corruption down the desolated streets of Downtown LA. We were past the high rise office buildings and not as far as the bridges that crossed the LA river and lead to the endless projects of East LA. This part of town was the outskirts of skid row, home to abandoned buildings, dope houses and an occasional wandering bum, that had strayed from the cardboard city, that served as a line in front of the Rescue Mission soup kitchen. It was nearing dusk now and shadows cast by the old brick tenement structures darkened the fast expanses between them making each block look like the next. Sam made long strides and swung his arms with joy as if we were kings of this wasteland. Then out of nowhere and nothing burned the fluorescent glow of the promise of alcohol. A liquor store, one of those thick, scarred Plexiglas numbers with a walk up window, so that you can’t go inside. The kind Hollywood movies used, as a ploy to make sure you knew that you were in an extremely rough neighborhood. There was a vacant lot next to the building that housed the alcoholics filling station, where proud weeds had broken the pavement and were imitating trees. Sam cocked his head to the side and spoke through the exchange slot, then turned to me and said pay the man. I poked a ten dollar bill at the window, the man inside, rendered only a shadowy image from the graffiti marred plexi, stickered booze ads and ill flattering backlighting, snatched the cash and disappeared to the back of the shop. He reappeared and slid a flat bottle of Popov vodka through the slot, then rolled a bottle of Tropicana orange juice, the bitter kind from concentrate, through the dirty hole of commerce, as I wondered what his regular customers were like. Sam broke the seal of the hooch as I took and dumped out half the OJ, with a drop he baptized his swollen foot. I held the Juice container steady as Sam poured the booze into it, then in turn he held the pint bottle while I carefully blended the yellow and booze together. Once more and we completed the delicate two-man operation to each others satisfaction, there standing on the curb in front of the liquor store. Sam took the OJ container for himself and I was left to hold the pint bottle. “I have a record”, Sam said to explain the switch. We drank and walked enjoying the wind through our giant strides and the sour nastiness of our jerry-rigged cocktail. We passed no one until we hit the marquee lights of the Alexandria Hotel. Night fell just then as we took our first step onto the once plush red carpet, gum stained and dingy but still boasting and mocking the wiry sidewalk that it lapped over. A girl in a bride of Frankenstein get-up brushed past and pushed open the Victorian mahogany double hung door, as if our escort. We followed her in, assured that we were in the right place and that we’d have less explaining to do, since she looked way more punk than we did. Not that she or we were punks, at least not to ourselves, but to the outside world that was their only way to understand or dismiss us. Once inside the place that was crawling with them, there was white face and black eyeliner everywhere. There was not a brown or tan article of clothing anywhere! As we approached the ornate front desk, the little old lady clutched the public address microphone with forced fingers and In a shaky voice announced, “All PUNK Rockers, Please report to the third floor.” Then a roar came from the depths of hell! Like pirates taking a ship, we had taken the hotel. Punks had taken it on the chin for years now beaten by the cops, fag bashed and nearly driven from every club in LA, but finally in the derelict unwanted hotel of skid row, we had taken a stand and the revolution had begun. And we, Sam and I, were just in time to see it all, as we mounted the stairs.
There, on the third floor, under the hundred-year-old chandelier, atop the sweeping staircase was the door, an entrance to the new society. Sam made his pleas to the doorkeeper, a parody of what a punk rocker looked like, leather stud jacket, liberty spikes, chains, the whole shebang. Nobody really looks like that anymore, maybe if you went to a so-called hard-core show like — but that was all second generation shit. Punk was dead, we all knew that and even if the outside world couldn’t differentiate between this bouncer guy and say someone like me wearing a black suit with messy hair, we were post-punk. In fact, I was too young to be a punk anyway, that shit all ended when Sid died in 1979, it was now 1983. Anyway, this guy had never heard of Sam, and wasn’t going to let us in. The person that Sam knew, someone infinitely more important, had gone to the back stage for some kind of arrangements with the band, probably was getting high, so Sam and I retreated to the girls bathroom that was across from the ballroom door, to finish our drinks. Once inside, we set up camp along the lavish lengths of mirrors were girls were reapplying makeup. There were plush waiting chairs and none of the girls complained about us being there. The place was downright comfy. We offered swigs and talked, I even teased out one chick’s hair. If there was a heaven in this world it was there, in that girl bathroom at that night. But it was not to last, Carry Favor had returned, loaded, to her post at the front door and Sam was anxious to get us in. After a little finagling and the passing of a few Valiums, Sammy and I slipped through the door and by the out of place gray tweed Merman Miller office and the cubical dividers that served as a blind, so you couldn’t see the band from the front door of the ballroom. The ballroom was setup in the classic cathedral style in other words like a cross laid down, aps, transepts all that. The stage was only a couple of feet high and was at the head of the cross. There were wings off either side, arms, were banquet tables had been set up, but were vacant. Under the left arm at Christ’s waist was a long dark wood bar and under the other arm was the door that we had just entered. The carpet was red like the rest of the hotel and there was a huge pattern on the floor directly under a stunning chandelier at the absolute cross. This spot would serve as the pit when the band started, but was now a kind of a picnic floor. Groups of kids were gathered, sitting in little circles of friends on the red floor. Sam headed strait for the bar and I made my way through the picnickers saying my hellos and catching up with would be girlfriends. I went over to Sam, now in a wild state of intoxication, who was working some older poof for Black Russians and offered to have the man buy me one. At least he was sticking with vodka and not mixing his booze I thought to my self as I declined the drink. I left him and his new friend to continue my socializing. After a while Carry Favor came to me in a frantic state of having too many things to do, to inform me that Sam was having some kind of problem at the front door and had passed out. Then, while staring at me, she went into achieved full sleep for part of a moment, then snapped completely back to frantic state again, as if she, when not occupied to capacity, would herself be passed out. Everyone always exaggerated Sam’s state, so I was in no hurry to see about him. I slowly made my way to the door, where I found Sam In the precarious position of having the top half of his body sticking our from under the Herman Miller office blind and the other half, from the waist down, forming a stomping pad for each of the new entries to the club to trample. Remember, he was in flip-flops and had ceramic shards still in his foot. Not only unconscious and unfazed by the fact that he was being stomped, Sam was unmovable and had a kind of pleasant glaze over his face, like sleeping on the beach. As I tried to pull him out from under the divider his body recoiled to its previous position. Fuck It. I left him there, and went back to what I was doing, making the scene. I checked on him from time to time, no one else gave a shit. After a while I noticed he was no longer there, so I started asking around to see If anyone had seen him, this also gave me a change to check back In with everyone. No one had seen him and I was getting a little worried that he had gotten kicked out or something. I asked Carry if she had had him kicked out. She said no. “If people are into gang bang trampling that’s their trip”. She also said she saw him wandering around over by the side of the stage, which I didn’t really believe and was beginning to think that she had her fake punk kick his ass for being mouthy or something. I headed over to the stage, still asking about him. “Sam is here, he’s having some food off the side of the stage.” Lia said nodding her head as If talking about a young child, leading me to think there was something funny about it. And there he was, when I got over to the right arm of Christ, where the banquet tables sans chairs had been set up, Sam had positioned himself directly under a spotlight, sitting on the Formica folding table with a Chinese box of rice to go. Twinkling under the light as he threw handfuls of it into the air, the rice bounced off his face, his mouth open to the sky, gnashing wildly for it. Much of it ended up on the carpet beneath him further enhancing the reformative aspect of the feast by creating a spotlight ring around his little show. He reached his hand into the box, pulled out a handful of rice and offered It to me with a grunt. I was not about to participate in his little show and stopped him, “SAM! Where did you get that rice?” He gave me another full-mouthed grunt. I asked again putting the emphasis on different parts of the sentence this time, as If to slightly alter the meaning, to make It more understandable to the maniac before me. Finally he spit out something about down stairs in the basement. I knew that he didn’t even have enough money for rice and he had to have stolen it. The thought came over me that I’d now have to hide Sam from the Chinese restaurant people and that there was no restaurant anywhere close to where we were. Just then he hopped off the table dropped the box on the floor and was instantly back to normal, determined now to go downstairs where the men’s bathroom was. I picked up the box, tried futilely to brush the rice into one concise pile and followed him out the door. He took a header down the first flight of stairs, thwarted by his comical pants and flip-flops, all the while retaining the mask of amusement. The apparent pratfall didn’t sit well with one of the bouncers stationed to guard the steps. He noted the insolence and put me In charge of watching the lighthearted drunk. The tile and marble men’s room in the basement had not seen much action as of late and was now flooded. I waded along with the other guys over to the urinals and while Sam got into a heated discussion about how straight American men were afraid to kiss each other, with another bathroom guy. He then had to take it one step further and pulled out his thing, dispensed with formalities and pissed into the middle of the floor. It’s all going there anyway was his rationale. The other customers weren’t buying it and we nearly got our asses kicked right there on the flooded piss-room floor. We left unscathed but were rapidly building a reputation.
I lead Sam back up the stairs as the band had just gone on. I had already hit the landing when Sam, just steps behind me, misjudged the treader and toed it. His flip flop balked and in a cowardly gesture betrayed him inverted and rolled into a ball beneath his right foot, which he rode face forward like a roller skate, back down the flight of stairs, his greased hair lurching up and back into semi place with each step, taking innocent victims in his wake, all the while retaining a casual expression.
“Okay, that’s It. You guys are 86ed! YOU”, he pointed to me, “take your fucking friend and get the fuck out of here”. I didn’t argue ‘cause I new things could get much worse, make a punk into a cop and you’re fucked. Besides, I heard chatter, “That’s the guy… was pissing on the floor!” as if none of them ever pissed on a floor before. We retreated. About the time we passed the concierge’s desk, Sam lost balance and decided to play possum. I grabbed him by the two arms and started pulling him, fearful that someone would take advantage of his wounded state and attack us. Just about the time I got him out the door, he found it somewhere in his semiconscious soul to yell out, “Fuckin Niggers”. I stopped, “Sam shut up” don’t say shit like that, you wanna get us killed? He piped down, I grabbed his arms again and started back peddling away from the hotel. Crying from the pain of his dirty swollen foot dragging against the wrecked pavement, he mustered strength in his belly and let rip “FUCKIN NIGGERS”. It echoed through the night streets. ”SHUT UP!” I stopped and hit him on the head, hoping to knock him out. I lifted him from the chest and slammed him back to the ground, but to no avail, he was now bawling. My only course of action was to keep him moving and yell back at him to shut the fuck up, as loud as he was yelling fucken niggers. We made it about a block and a half away from the hotel when I could see a black man coming from across the street. Oh shit, I thought, he stopped us. A white guy seemed that to be with him passed by and kept going.
“I’m the police, let me see your ID”. I didn’t buy it , but I did know that I’d have to talk pretty fucken fast to get us out of this one.
“ Look, he was robbed by a black guy and they got into a fight and now he’s got glass in his foot. I’m just trying to get him home. I’m really sorry I can’t get him to shut up”.
“Is it this foot?” he pointed to the one without the flip flop. “
Yeah.” Thinking that he could see how mush pain he was in and maybe excuse the situation. The man then lifted his boot high and laid a fully accentuated stomp onto the foot in question.
“WAAAHAA!!” Sam let out an eyes to the sky, full open mouthed bellow. Then another. Then another howl, as the man walked off across the street and disappeared into the night.
“That’s what you fuckin get! Come on you asshole let’s get the fuck out of here.” Sam had made it to his feet during the episode and was now able to walk on his own, although a little rudderless. I guided him for blocks, now fully convinced that the car had been stolen. We had passed so many lots, they all looked alike in the dark. Finally, there it was and intact, looking as if glowing from beneath, salvation, bearing the confident Camaro smirk. I can get out of this shit, no problem. I was almost surprised that the key fit, but it did and we were out of there. Throbbing gristle’s United played on the car, as I found Wilshire Boulevard and flew through Korea Town. It was then when Sam woke up and started crying for food, fuck I thought where am I going to get food at this hour, I pulled into a Seven-Eleven. “Sam, I’m going to get you a burrito, I want you to stay in the car, you hear me? Stay in the car!” I went inside grabbed a couple of frozen burritos and went to the microwave in the back of the check out. I just got them in, when Sam sounders in the front door, goes straight to the wine section and grabs two jugs of Taylor California Cellar’s Chablis, turns around and makes for the door. Already in action the cashier meets him at the door nabs the bottles and in one motion pushes him out. I say nothing pay for the burritos and leave. We make it to my new pad. I open the grandma styled folding couch that my father helped me take there two days earlier and we crash. Sam tries to grope me a couple of times in his sleep. I shove him off, knowing he is under the happy delusion that somehow he ended up sleeping with a girl. In the morning I perform the necessary surgery on his foot with nothing to dull the pain. Then I leave for work, Sam stays with me for a couple days. I’m just about to tell him he can’t stay with me and he’ll have to make the rounds, when I come home to find he’s not there. I spend my first night alone in my new place then go back to work the next day. This is when my boss Dalee sits me down and explains how Sam has shown up at the photographer’s house the night before with stolen guns and tried to force him to buy them. When the guy declined there was a little blackmail attempted and something else that he wasn’t going to talk about. He makes it perfectly clear that I have to get rid of this Sam guy. He even rehearses with me what to say. When I get back home he’s still not there, so I relax a little.
The next morning about an hour before my alarm goes off, Sam walks in the door. “Get up”, he says quietly. He’s waxy in the face and smells like house paint. He’s wearing someone else’s black Levis and two brand new white t-shirts inside out and backwards, helping to overcompensate his posture to the point of restraint. He’s managed to clip the tags off and would have looked less crazy had It not been for the way his eyes moved back and forth considering every object In the room, then jumped back to check the window while he spoke to me In an almost Inaudible tone, with his tongue shifting position from one side, hitting the extreme corner of his cheek behind his molars, to the other like doing some kind of tongue yoga. There was a little white portion of gunk that collected In the corners of his lips that would reappear as soon as he wiped It away. He prefaced the spiel by recounting a night some weeks ago. “Remember that night I broke into the antique store?” Of course I did. I was driving Sam around, we had taken Nembutals and really had nothing to do. He directed me to Melrose Place, to the driveway of a shack of an antique store. “Wait here a minute” he said to me, hopped out of the car and went around the back of the shack I thought he had stashed something there behind the place when the alarm went off. I started the car and said to myself I’ll give him one minute then I’m leaving. Sure enough he popped out the side door and got into the car. “TAKE OFF!” he said.
“No Shit, why don’t you tell me when you’re going to rob a place so I’m a little prepared?” He swore up and down that he was only checking It out up on the roof when the boards gave way sending him splat on his ass In the office, alarm sounding. Later, he wanted to go back and finally convinced me to just drive by, then to just stop for a while across the street from It where we sat and fell asleep in the car till dawn.
“Well, I left my calling card there, when I fell into the store.” he meant that his cigarettes fell out of his pocket. He smoked either Players Navy Cut or Gitanes. It was the Gitanes, nobody smoked those kind of cigarettes back then, except Sam. “They knew about that and every thing else.”
“Who?” I said confused, remembering that I had to get rid of him.
“The cops, it was their coke I was after, I didn’t know It then but It belonged to them.”
“What?” knowing I was In for a long story.
“Donnie and I and this big black guy that’s fucking him went last night to the antique store, the one where Donnie works. Anyway he told me that they had a whole bunch of coke there and that’s why we went there that night. The cops were watching us and knew we didn’t have anything. But the three of us got It and went back to Donnie’s to fix. The black guy was greedy and went first, then I shot up Donnie. They both went out and I was resuscitating them for hours. It was hard work and I never got my hit, but I nabbed a little.” He pulled about three grams of blow from a slot that he had cut behind the waist band In all his jeans, unwraps the plastic and poured out an eyeball quarter gram on to the kitchen counter. “Take a little of this quick and lets get out of here. We got to go somewhere public where they can’t fuck with us.”
“Look Sam, first of all why did you bring then here? You’re getting me in total shit at work with the fucken guns.” “You can’t stay here anymore.” “That’s It!”
“I know I got to get out of town for a while until this all blows over.” he told me and I was thinking that this was way too easy, there had to be a catch. Then we went to Burger King and ordered breakfast, sat In the hard bright orange fiberglass booth, as he leaned Into me whispering the rest of the story and we took turns going to the bathroom to take hits off the stolen cop blow. “Then the cops broke Into Donnie’s, tied us up, beat the fuck out of us and forced us to snort coke. ”
“Sounds terrible.” I said joking about the thing.
“No! We were fucken terrified, I thought they were gonna kill us, the black guy almost had a heart attack.”
“So they finally let you go?”
“Yeah, after six hours of torture. and you can’t say anything about It to anyone!”
“Who am I gonna tell? I’m not even sure I even understand. Besides they don’t know me, I wasn’t there.”
“They know all about you they know about the break in, about Dalee and even the coke dealer photographer. They know everything and they’ll kill us all If we say anything.”
“OK, I wont say a word.”
“You have to swear to me!”
“What do you mean, that’s ridiculous you don’t believe in god.”
“Just give me your word.”
So I did and I’m breaking It right now telling you all this. We did some more blow and went our separate ways. I caught the Santa Monica Line to Rodeo and went to work reeling from the coke and conversation.
Sam headed north for San Francisco. He called me from there a week later to tell me that he had made a new scene for himself and was hanging out at Theater Artaud and the Art Institute. And that I had to move there.