Stories from the Arms 1986

I came out, still in a towel with a pair of bicycle handlebars swinging them over head clanking against the walls of the hallway just to scare them off.  

The skinny doped up girlfriend of Darnell came out in a robe soft fro, singing love mmmm mmm love. The boys took off down the hall. “I’m just scaring them out of my room. I’m not gonna hit them.” 

I went back in, slammed the door that was so broken now that it wouldn’t even stay shut. I tied an extension cord around the door hole opening and looped the other end around the drawer pull, more like a trip line than a closure. I was pissed at Sam. 

Two weeks down in LA, hospital visits and rehabbing at my folks. They sent me to a shrink who was making brain waves with a cassette tape and the head phones had little medal screws instead of speakers you soak the little foamy ends in water sprinkle on some salt and the headgear secured them to the bone behind your ear.  I knocked on Darnells door. I’d never done that before. He was known as a big time dealer, one to be feared. He wasn’t a big guy, but you knew he was a kind of king pin and nobody fucked with him.The kids were his they were only around once in a while. Mainly him and his woman. “I need the tape, they can have the radio.” I said at the unopened door. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about”! That was the first time I’d heard Darnell’s voice. 

“The kids took my radio… I know it looked like the place was abandoned but I need my tape it’s a special thing and you can’t record over it.” I pleaded. 

“They don’t have nothing!” I left.

Oh fuck now im screwed. A few minutes later she came by, dangled the cassette tape off her long fingers towards me with the look on her face like well, so what? I thanked her. She said nothing and sashayed in slow motion back down the hall to Darnell’s. 

I didn’t know how to move back into the city. I’d been living in Burlingame at the Burlingame Hotel for the better part of 6 months I didn’t know anyone in town to stay with, unless I met a girl. Sam had a room in a hotel from time to time there in the Mission. I didn’t want to be right on Mission Street because there was too much drug traffic there and the Royan Inn caddy corner to the projects seemed too sketchy. Some of Sam’s tweaker friends lived there and I didn’t want to be too close to that. The Valencia Arms looked nice enough and not too close to the action. They asked me why I wanted to live there, I guess I looked like a pulled together white kid and they gave me a room at the back of the second floor with a window to the back alley. The interior was shaped like a big U. I was on one end and the wide staircase at the middle lead to the manager’s Reception and the door out to Valencia Street. Next to me a fire escape and a staircase to the next floor that no one used, except Sam to wait for me to get back from work or school. Sometimes he had been up for more than a few days on speed and needed to crash and come down somewhere safe so he’d wait for me on the steps wild as a lunatic  or completely passed out. The super would let him in the person at the desk in the front door where the manager’s apartment was and you could kind of look in to see a glimpse of what the life of a slum manager looked like. In the beginning the folks were nice enough. Sam had convinced them that he was my brother and he was allowed to come over at any time day or night which he did. He didn’t have a key to the room though so he could get inside. Therefore the stairs was the next best thing. He could also pop out the fire escape if he needed to. It was the perfect home away from home, if he had a home to begin with. Mostly Sam would stay with a friend, strong arm sell them drugs, leave his shit, take off with money to cop and come back hours or days later with less than the count, or a long sob story of a rip off that, if you cared to follow, might take days to tell. There was always a bag and a long drawn out unpacking and the offering of gifts. After a while I came to find out where those gifts came from. Once all his shit had been spread out all over your apartment and in this case hotel room and you’d had enough of young Sam, it would take several hours for him to pack his shit back up and some of yours would get packed up with it. Hence the future gifts to the next crash pad. There was one time when he absconded with my antique bicycle. I let him take it just to get rid of him. I even gave him a lock that he promptly lost and when I contacted the guy whose house it allegedly was at, he demanded some of his property in exchange for what was left of the frame of the bike. “Sam is a sociopath” my mother informed me years prior “you know he stole your brother’s sunglasses and his linen pants and I don’t appreciate that. Will you tell him I want it back? Do you think you can do that?”  

Years later she’s still asking about the pants and glasses. 

At the Arms there was Johnny, a skinny toothless biker in black leather or a withered clone. Johnny liked speed, his old lady liked speed, so Sam was in quick with him. He slunk around the hallway getting into everyone’s business; fixing stuff, sort of, a quasi mechanic and handyman, case your place motherfucker. “My Ol’lady….” he was always talking about his old lady. “My Ol’lady she likes speed. Is Sammy around. I don’t do a lot of speed but my Ol’lady she plays guitar, she was in a band.  She likes speed. She was kinda famous. No one around here ever has any speed but your brother Sam, he gets good speed. “Will you have him come by my place when he gets back?” he says to me. No one ever sees his old lady and I get to thinking that she doesn’t really exist. 

“Sam doesn’t really live here he hasn’t been around in a little while, but ill let him know you’re looking for him.” I says.

“I’m not looking for him, really. I just need to see him. When he’s back you know.” Biker fucks, rednecks, racists, they all like speed.  Sammy said that Hitler invented the shit for his soldiers. Marching powder he called it. Somewhere up the dark trail of distribution led to some white power underground, powered by the go fast and cash it brought in. Sam could finagle his way through these dark passages and get to the source then come back into the nice realm of his artistic friends to supply them with the inspiration they so desperately needed. And for a price beyond the cash, a long series of favors and courtesies that he could reclaim like markers later. I didn’t do the shit any longer.

 I use to do some speed in the old days with Pam. We’d go down to Long Beach and stay up for the weekend, do a marathon yard sale in some suburban neighborhood, with shit she stole. Then we’d go back to our warehouse in downtown LA and come down with a bag of dope. Dope, like dope! Don’t ever call weed dope, it ain’t dope. Pam had a pretty good business going turning Mexican dope to the punk rockers she knew. She’d been around in the early days and everyone knew her. They’d call up from the street and shed run for them out to the grand central market place where she knew all the dealers. They’d hang there with me, play guitar, show me some licks or watch Gem and the Holograms on TV. Anxious, dope sick, anticipating, but being creative nonetheless. I traced the outlines of shadows on the wall formed by the wavy imperfections of the cheaply made or just old factory windows, one foot squares divides by rusted metal. Light  hit the wall at wild angles. I traced swooping lines confined in a grid of rhombuses and at the hour, lined up light and drawing. I watched it nightly like a clock and kept a memorial moment. But that was a lifetime ago. 

Sam had ruined  speed for me. It was fun when I’d come up to visit and at a party drawing all night and going off with a girlfriend of his exploring the early morning streets of a mysterious city. Or photo shoots in the rumble of downtown buildings where Nordstrom now stands; like when we were kids in LA, wanna be models in industrial decay. 

Now I was in school at SF City College. Studying anatomy, astronomy, physics and algebra. Sam and I rendered diagrams of the lymphatic system, he guided me on Krebs cycle. Excited by the possibilities, Marina, a black 21 year old mother of two, listened to stories we made up off the cuff as she bleach mopped the floors, doors open to her room across the narrow hallway. “White boy is crazy!” 

“We like to fuck together, one chick, one underneath and one on top and our balls go flop flop flop against each other. Cause we’re really fags. And that’s the kind of Fagotry we are into. What do you think? Wanna mess around?”

“Hell no!” She said but liked the story and always chatted us up as she mopped every day and changed diapers and real life shit. 

This story was in fact bull shit. When Sam’s girl Yevette came over, I made a play for her and she dug through her purse as if she was in a constant state of looking for something. He flipped out and threw her purse out the window. I held him back when he pulled a knife on her once. This time she ran out of the room to the back ally, to get her stuff before some bum snatched off with it. “She’s a speed whore, spoon trick and she has chronic hepatitis and probably Aids too. You want to fuck her? You want to defend her honor?” He spit a little as he screamed in my face. I let it go at that. She came back up and slammed at the door with her bag just to let him know she got it back and screamed out some vile slur. I’d hardly heard more than a mutter from her before, but this was what it was all about. This was like fucking for them. She’d sweet up to a guy in front of him and never a cuckold, Sam would loose his shit in a jealous rage boner and she’d cum when he slapped her. This time I was the audience. So I didn’t take it too kindly when I was sick and Chloe came to visit. She was always dressed so nice in a long expensive black leather trench coat out of place in our shithole, with cigarette butts everywhere and piss in the sink. I was sick, it was the beginning of the illness. I’d gone off to the bathroom and came back to Sam on top of her under the green foamy blanket. He reached his hand out to me in a sweet  kind of join us gesture. She had brought over a Merlot, something good. She was that way and it made my head pound. Sam had always said we shared the same girlfriends but I was always after him. I was fakely pissed. “Let’s all go get out” I said. All told he’d either couldn’t get it up or already came anyway. “Wait up here for Sam and I headed out to Mission St. to cop. Came back and shot up in front of her like punishment. She didn’t want any. And was weirdly ok with the whole scene. As bourgeois as I made her out to be, she was up for almost anything. I felt better except the headache that I blamed on the wine. We always said “Dope, the cure for the common cold.” But dope and wine as I did, the headache just got worse. Two weeks, maybe three, I could hardly stand the light of day. I went to Lise Swenson loft on Clarion Alley. It was the temporary home of ATA and she made me chicken soup. And told me to go to the hospital. But that was the end or nearly. 

Knocking at my door… Is Sammy here? The desperate up all night voice of the super. It’s early I’m getting ready for school, I don’t know where he is. Crashed out sleeping with a friends girl. Sam was good looking back in those days and the element of danger always provided an appeal to girls in the art crowd. He wasn’t boyfriend material, but he seemed to be the side guy for many a board house bitch. 

“My ole lady she really needs some speed.” He had the desperation of a guy that had been up all night on coke and couldn’t get more and couldn’t come down. “I don’t know where he is but he’s not doing no fronts, you know Sam.” I knew he was broke too. 

“Just let me talk to him. My ole lady…” he held his fingers about an inch or so apart, “my ole lady she’s got a dick, but its just this big.” She needs some speed, you know what i mean?” 

I really didn’t. But somehow keeping his ole lady off the street meant getting her speed. In the time i lived there i only saw her once, a tall storm of hair and makeup blew through the hotel hallway, too fast to make out the details. She knew who I was. The punk rockers, that’s what we were called even though Sam and I never looked punk, no liberty spikes or chains, no dog collar, nothing like that. I wore a sports coat for god sakes and carried a vintage doctor’s bag, but we were always branded with that title. Besides, we were the only young whities in the complex. It was making more sense to me that she was kept, but he, by hook or crook, had to keep keepin’.

It was some kind of weird sexual setup that involved speed too and in short time Sam had become his main man. Now i was in between. No one else sold speed in the Arms, it was a whitey drug. I told him I’d send Sam to him as soon as he came back, then took off to school.  Masheila was mopping, she waved, I had my doctor’s bag, “See ya for dinner honey!” “Ok bye bye!” 

Sheila? She corrected me Ma- sheila. I broke in to Prince ‘O ma shela…da da da. Da da da da. Sam joined me as she did a little pole dance thing with her mop)

Lisa has been living in the Royan Hotel, where the real dopers lived, there right across from the projects. Sam brought her over one night to appease me for something. She wore her short mousy blond hair pulled back in a band and always looked like she was about to put on makeup or cold cream ready for bed. All black clothes to blend into the night like a burglar, but she was a diver. A dumpster diver. The tweakers took this to a new art form in San Francisco and grew in numbers to a subclass. They didn’t go to the bars or clubs they hit “put out”. Sunset Scavenger, the company in charge of garbage collection and disposal in the city, arranged a night in each neighborhood, that allowed people to clean out their garages and put all the stuff out on the curb, which was collected no questions asked. There was a calendar that those in the know used as a bible in order to know what neighborhood to hit. Speed fueled divers descended as night fell onto the chosen blocks. Ramshackle vehicles with shit piled 2 or 3 times their height crept from pile to pile like ants or Okies escaping the dust bowl. There was a gang that rode bicycles outfitted with vintage kids rocking horse for a seat and sparkle fringy ribbon coming out the handlebars. There was a kind of sport to put out, you had to beat out the other divers and there was on the spot trading, you knew what the other divers were into and could trade for other things or go fast. Or to simply appease more senior divers with a gift. Sam on stolen or borrowed bicycle could thread through the blocks selling speed making choice pics and trading for that shiny object or curiosity.  He never possessed more than a backpack, but left one as a marker at every crash pad he stayed. The divers  might not like each other, but they all knew one another. Rider was a known guy I heard a couple young wanna be divers next to a dumpster talking about a 5 night run that they had witnessed. I thought shit you should see Sam after 11 days, a complete lunatic. 

Lisa hung with me for a night then left to join the divers and get back with Tone, a tall pimple faced tweak with greasy dark waves slicked back and a schnoz. He always had the look of being caught with something, wronged or just trying to get over with a sad look. She lived with him at the Royan. It was his place and I was like a tryout for a new place to stay. I wanted to lay in bed and nod for the night her by my side. Sex was no good now, he wants to cuddle, how irksome, so back to the street and an action guy, Tone. All I wanted to do was to be loaded with my eyes closed and the girl next to me dreaming a thousand visions. Then the dope wore off, daytime hustle, work, school, have to get high again and start over. She was gone, but still hanging at my place. I promise it can be better… I could see she’d moved on, she’d cut the neck out of my favorite black turtleneck and was using it as a hair band, picking her face in the mirror with the door wide open. I took too big a hit. I wasn’t like that, I didn’t like to get too high. It was scary but it happened, like the time Pam and I went down to Long Beach, did their 10 dollar bags and crawled around the floor in someone’s hotel room, wind in our minds, woosh woosh. blowing our souls right out of our bodies. Breath. I have to keep breathing, crawling, keep moving, keep breathing. It’s not the dope that kills you but it does turn off the reflex to breathe and the heart forgets to pump while you off in dreamland. That’s all I wanted, to feel good and be in dreamland. Pam and I crawled around for the better part of the day like a marathon crawl. When she came too she wanted more. I convinced her to go home where the dope wasn’t so fucked up. There was a fentanyl scare going on, homemade synthetic stuff really strong, kill you, give you Parkinson’s. This shit was too strong for its own good. “Let’s go back and get the purple stuff.” Mexican dope cut with baby laxative and Kool Aid. 

I bought two Rumba clumps, one for now one for later. That’s what they called the Salvadorean stuff, the best on Mission Street. A little damp or warm when they pack the tar dope mixed with some kind of cut that makes you shit. How nice of them, it takes care of the dope constipation and gets you high at the same time. 

Stretched into colored water balloons so all the air gets out, tied, doubled back and tied again. That way you could swallow or suitcase them and they’d be fresh later, if the situation occurred. They came out in little black and light brown balls that plop in the spoon. They take a moment to dissolve but do so without a residue, golden brown when you heat them with a match under the spoon. Not too much water, that will give you the shakes. Drop a piece of fuzz in and draw it up with your fit. I cooked up one and a half for me and Sam. I took most of it and left Sam with a wash. He wasn’t happy about it. I stood with my face down leaning on a pile of clothes on the dresser, door wide open to the hall, a dead nod, couldn’t move. Sam was pissed at this issue and left with Lisa wearing her trophy band. Some picking, a big dumpster down Valencia Street in front of the Carl Hotel, someone had died, those are the best, they just huck it all. The winds blew woosh woosh, door open, come and rob me. I think something left the room. I was fine to die there. Fuck them all. I tried to tell Sam I did too much, but it wasn’t audible, I forgot how to talk. 

“I’m a wanker!” Sam said at the jack off booths when some creep wanted to join him. Foot on the changer, rubber band tourniquet around cock and balls, blown up, speed needle into his cock hitting and jacking at the same time. The quarter dropped and the movie stopped and he’d have to start over again till he gets the dance just right and a creep keeps knockin’ on the door, hello hello can I come in…

One time in a panic he rode up to my place in the garage, the Arc I called it, I was there painting early in the morning. “Good you’re here. He shut the door, pulled an Exacto knife out of his back pocket, brought it to his mouth and bit down on the makeshift cap he had fashioned out of a ballpoint pen cap, blackened and gaffers tape decorated, camouflaged. I thought he’d cut me right there, couldn’t think of what I’d done this time. Reached a filthy hand down into his own pants with a wild grimace on his face, stretched a length of natural rubber band between his fingers and with the other blade hand, made a flourish and severed the tourniquet to a head back mouth open, howl, pain, as the blood rushed back into his balls. He subsided winded by the ordeal. “It was on so long I was afraid I’d inadvertently castrated myself” he confessed. 

“Isn’t that the point?” Unfazed by this kind of behavior. He thrives on shock value but he’d never get it from me. “How many days? Why did you have to wait to do it in front of me if you were scared?” 

“They were following me.” He put on a sad face. 

“They don’t give a shit what you do. You’re a small time speed freak dealer and you’re not very good. And you’re a wanker!” “Did it turn black? Does it look like a truck ran it over? Let me see pull it out” I nodded, show us the goods.

“I’m not gonna show you nothing.” Pissed now that I wasn’t a little disturbed by the scene. 

“Show me, I’m a doctor and I think you need at least 3 to 5 days to lose your balls maybe more.”

“Your not a real doctor, you don’t know shit about it. I was in real danger, you’re supposed to be sympathetic.”

“Oh Fuck that did you cop yet? Sidney our on the block.” 

“You know he’s a rip-off. “

“Ya but seeing him you know he gives me that look. You got another man?”

Lights! A fluid stream of red orange and green streaking and colliding in the darkness of black like a tiny bloodstream of headlights, or the electrons racing across a circuit board, a crossing gibberish of talk and language, dissertation of speech to ride. Momentary and meaning transmitted, simultaneous awareness, a ripple of motion and the separation is the self from the body, woosh woosh, and swept off. Now flying ten feet high above that useless body…. then the vibration molecules reconnecting, electrons back into shells…PAIN… back to long waving undulations faster and faster and shorter in height to a hard vibration, paralyzed for an instant, reconnected….

“Are you there? Not sure you were breathing…”

“I think I was out

Did I say anything?” Hoping for some grain of wisdom from beyond. 

“The perfect painting 6-5,4…

“6-4,5 what does that mean?”

“How the fuck should I know it was your fuckin’ dream.”  

“Ew him double dipped” came from the chorus of opening doors along the hallway. Sam was wild on three nights of speed, enough to make him a lunatic, kind of fun, jaunty, active, not like another night or two a catatonic wailing mess. Bouncing like Tigger in a flash of free exuberance he took the hallway. He’d donned a light colored flannel pajama top, backward and cinched, button up tight around his throat, collar up like a preacher, like a strait jacket that couldn’t hold him back. He spun pirouettes with a glass of water in his hand, balancing overhead, suspended on spring like fingers. Spotting as he twirls off balance in a falling dance without spilling a drop. “Ew he’s really done it this time. Call the paramedic. White boy double dipped. You punk rockas vile!” The chorus chimed in as I tried to balance the nut by the other hand as he went into a crescendo of twirls falling down the stairs spotting on a nicely dressed black couple talking to the manager seemingly trying to rent a room and him, the manager, downplaying the fact that the Arms is one fucked up place and Sam spotting mouths “cock sucker!” The look of terror bewilderment on the faces of the prospective tenants. Two more stumble steps and out onto Valencia street water glass still intact. 

The cock sucker was a new manager and in fact a kind of new protocol for the Arms. which had been purchased by a holding company and was being ramped up to gain a resale value. They were painting the outside and had hired a new manager. It was still rotting from the inside, nothing was going to change that but a face lift was underway. And with it a more prison like heavy handed management, gone was the nice middle aged Spanish lady, that cooked nice smelling food from her office reception annointed apartment. A kind of Mexican grandmother who would tell me your brother’s not well, I think he has a cold, he’s waiting for you upstairs. You know I’m not allowed to give him a key and let him in the room, but I couldn’t leave him out on the street, not in that condition. I’m worried about him. I know you’re a doctor, you have to see if you can help him. 

“Yes, please don’t let him in my room. And I’m not really a doctor.” I said to her. 

“You’re the closest thing we have here. So please take a look at him. He’s so yellow.” 

Lemon head, Slammy, Slambo, whatever they call him, had Hep most of the time. And a sob story to get into the door. Once at the Arc he drew up from the toilet tank, an old stupid junkie trick, “IT’S STERILE!” 

 “Sterile my ass, that tank has been sitting there stagnant for at least 10 years. They never turned the water back on and they just pour a bucket down the shitter, when they take a dump. You would be better off draw up from the gutter or piss into a cup and draw up from that.” 

“I got the worst case of hepatitis, it was really bad.”

“It amazes me that you’re not dead. How the fuck do you do it?  Shit you do on a daily basis will kill most people.”

Anyway the cock sucker was a big ugly toothless jail bird or corrupt guard sent in to whip the place into shape. From the open door to his room half naked black men lounged in repose. Sweaty, he spit when he talked, toothless, lips sunk, fat tongue swimming aimlessly in his pink orifice. 

He and Sam shared a kind of prison love dirty talk. Racism, shame and debauchery swirled in a melange of insult come-ons.

“N-lover, had your teeth pulled out so you could suck a bigger cock. Want that big black dick in your face, your pussy.” I didn’t know if he wanted to punch Sam in the face or kiss him. Now he held none of this against me. He was always kind and friendly to me, fatherly. “You know your brother has real problems. I’m not sure, medically, you can help him. I know you’re a fine doctor. But these things… I don’t know. Anyway, I got your back. We have to look out for one another.” (A whitey thing, like we’re both white we should look out for one another, which usually meant, I’m about to fuck you over right about now.)

Sam had convinced people of a lot of things that weren’t true or that stretched the truth so far it was unrecognizable. Sam and I had some kind of relationship we weren’t lovers, we weren’t brothers. it had been 5years since we sat in a stolen Audi drinking my dad’s wine in the American Burger parking lot across from the Odyssey1, me with a bandana and eyeliner, him already AWOL from the Marine Corps. We thought each other gay. Now I was studying anatomy and my professor was going to get me into Stanford premed. I was the brightest student she’d had. She took me aside and told me not to worry when we did a urine analysis on ourselves and I was the only one in the class with golden brown piss. Like people, she was black, there is a range of colors, she waved her hand describing the spectrum in a poetic gesture. It wasn’t that, I’m pretty sure that meant I had hepatitis. 

“Theres two guys looking for you… they kind of look like cops.  I don’t know to me, they look like cops. Yeah cops, there is two cops looking for you! 

“Like Cheech and Chong?” I ask him. Cheech and Chong were two bumbling undercover cops that worked Mission Street. One Asian, one Latin and everyone on the street knew who they were. “It’s Hot! Cheech and Chong down the block swallow your bags”, the guys would say. 

“No, two real cops! One said he was your father. I don’t believe him. Is your dad a cop? Are you a cop?” Just then appeared a great shape back lit in the hall, overhead lighting scrawny Johnny backed out as drawing into focus my dad. And boy did he look like a cop just then and my brother too. Old cop young cop feel alright on a warm San Francisco night. Dad had on a maroon leather sports coat, gold chain, with eagle spray styled sandy blond hair, 6’3” in boots, 245, the fluorescent lights in the room played lines across the clean lens of his gold framed glasses. And Pow-Wow a man now, young cop lookin in fresh bomber jacket and wayfarers, strawberry GQ hair the same height, but slimmer at 185. The two of them took up the entire hallway. I was sitting then as they towered above me my head still pounded from the meningitis and I too wore sunglasses from the photophobia. The humming of the electrons in the fluorescent tube, as they exchanged excited by the flow of current, bonds producing light tuned and untuned into a warbling ruckus, as dad sat with me and said we came to take you home. 

“Dude, don’t blow it” Powell said, “come with us!”

I had no choice I felt and what the hell, it be like a vacation, except I felt so fucked up. The door to my room never closed and I could feel a chorus of doors open and close down the hallway as this was all going on and as they took me away, Sam emerged in the hallway and although wearing the grubby uniform of a three day tweak dumpster diver, straightened up and drew a salute and Yes Sir to my father the Captain. To him military rank was still upheld by Sam, as I flipped him the room key and said hold down the fort. 

“Is it the doctor or the other one?”

“I can’t tell they all look the same”

“Oh no the bad one’s still here”

“They both prolly cops”.

“I don’t trust no white people, and punk rockas, they especially fucked up.”

And can you blame them? Whitey has been fuckin’ them over forever, that’s the nature of Whitey. Whitey only sees whitey. What’s in it for me? Fuck those other people. 

You see the dope world is like the straight world turned upside down. Blacks and Mexicans run the dope world and whitey is the nigger. Difference is blacks and Mexicans are stuck there, born into it. Whitey can clean up, put on a suit and join the straight world, no questions asked. 

So now for me the question is, do I join the straight world or die in the dope world? We fly down to LA, back home where I’m just the family punker to everyone else. A series of hospital visits, USC and some psych friends of my mom. “They’re very good at USC, it’s not Stanford but they are very good there”, although they are losing a little credibility with my mom trying to convince her that where I went SF general is not only a real hospital but a very good one. They got my records and confirmed my diagnosis. Ran a few more tests then the head of neurology excused my mom. 

“There is something else here, I understand you are a heroin user?”

“I’m clean now” after detoxing in the hospital at Sf general it wasn’t too bad they gave me enough pain meds to get me through the worst part then I was too sacred to start up again when I got out. 

“This is going to kill you! Take this opportunity to stop now. You see what’s happened it only gets worse from here.”

I nodded “yes you are right.”

“Okay, you need a little rest get cleaned up and stay that way.”

I spent 2 weeks or maybe a month there living on the couch. I hung with 3balls and Kim from down the hill. It was like joining my old life for a little while. A little wild but nothing life or death. People drank and smoked weed and there was no talk of needles or junk, normal strait world stuff. My mom had contacted my professors while I was in the hospital. Dr Warren told her she wasn’t worried about my performance. I had memorized most of the anatomy book, knew all the bones and could describe the workings of all the systems. I was never particularly good in school but I finally hit on a subject that seemed natural to me. At night loaded, laying in the darkness of my hotel room, Sam would quiz me on the connective tissues of the knee, the placement of nerves down the leg and all the bones in the face. Krebs Cycle was a favorite. Cellular respiration! Nomenclature is very important, he’d tell me. We’d draw the bones of the hand from his dog eared copy of Grey’s anatomy. If I became a doctor it was like him becoming a doctor and he took it very seriously. That is any time he hadn’t been up for more than a couple days on speed, then all bets were off and the looney bin was open for business. Psychiatry I thought, I have the perfect test subject for schizophrenia here with me. Maybe I can find a cure if I study Sam hard enough. I began to take notes on his behavior, appearance and how many days he’d been up. I had the sharp end of a protractor that I’d poke him with to test his reaction to pain. It was all very scientific. 

She’d help me get into Stanford premed to finish up. Yes I could clean up, put on a pair of scrubs and join the strait world. She was so excited. She was ready to call the head of psychiatry to arrange a residency for me. You know I’m not even in school yet. 

“I’m sending you to Dr Shair, he’s doing ground breaking work with addiction, he’s using brain frequency to retrain the mind not to need the dope. My mom knew all about dope. Her uncle was a dope fiend. Grammies baby brother broke his leg back in the 20s. They gave him dope for the pain and he never got off it. They’d tie him down in his room like a man with rabies. She was a kid and they told her not to let him out cause he was lying and just wanted dope while she went to the store. She couldn’t bear it, he cried and cried she was only 10 and let him out. He bolted to the closet high up on the shelf, where her mom had hid it from him and fixed there in front of her. The horror never left her. And then when her mom wouldn’t let him drive the big Buick Roadmaster, he sat crying in the back seat eating a whole bag of candy bars. 

Some times I’d say I need a snickers. 

“Only a dope fiend need a candy bar!”

Her uncle died young only 44. Sometimes on a know these stories came to life. I could see the wooden floor boards of the house in White Plains, feel the paper bag filled with candy bars and I was certain that I was the reincarnation of her favorite tragic uncle. Is there a choice or is it just a recurring cycle, generation after generation? 

Dr Shair had fashioned a Walkman into a brainwave emitter. At his office in Westwood he showed me how to soak the little spongy ear pads into salted water. The cheap metal headphones slightly crimped, provided enough pressure to hold the electrodes onto the bone behind the ear like Frankenstein’s monster, the tiny shock waves enter the brain from that point. On an endless tape like the kind in answering machines had been recorded a frequency suitable to the recovery for heroin addiction and another one for speed and yet another for those addicted to valium or prescription drugs, which was becoming very prevalent at the time. This was a prototype and because of my mom and my interest in psychiatry he was willing to let me take it, if I kept records and reported my findings back to him. It would be helpful and he would note me in his paper that he was preparing. 

One hour twice a day I wore the cold wet electrodes, tasting the metallic flavor of brainwave or placebo in the back of my throat. Either way this thing was going to fix me.  

“Welcome back. We thought you were gone. Your girlfriend was here and moved all your stuff out.” Charles the cock sucker said to me at the reception of the newly painted  Valencia Arms Hotel. Above him it said “Sunrise Apartments”. The rebranding was underway. 

“What about my brother? Sam?”

“I sent him off! Your girlfriend said he wasn’t you brother and not to trust him.”

“Where is Pam?”

“Oh she’s gone now.”

Word has gotten out through unknown channels through the dope trade through Mission Street and back down to LA that the punk rock doctor had gone to jail. Pam having never been to the Arms found the place and as only she could convince Charles that she was there to move me out and that I had moved to LA, which could have been code for I was going to do some time. She lived there pawned all my shit with the help of Johnny and his old lady. My line erase typewriter, that was as close to a computer as you could get in those days, guitar and effects pedals all gone.  She connected with dealers, sold dope and speed there out of my room. then when all the natural resources were spent left the place in the disheveled heap, that I found when I went upstairs to my room. The door handle broken off, door open blocked by trounced school papers, clothes and rubble all the built in drawers lay on the bed, striped mattress off the caster box spring, window wide open to the alleyway wind, the remnants of a bicycle chop shop, greasy chains, handlebars, tires and empty cans of spray paint. On cardboard, the reverse image of painted frames and someone or a dog had been pissing on the floor. I pushed a path through the rubble lay my bag down and slept in my clothes. In the morning, Sunday, I fashioned a closure to the door and went down the hall to the bathrooms to shit and shower. 

When I returned two black boys were rifling through the rubble on my floor


I scared them and they bolted. But they had my Walkman. 

Nelson Loskamp 2020