Part Twenty-Eight: Style and Substance

It’s a universal truth that music and media can play a major part in influencing the style and persona that we adopt in our lives. Growing up with artists and performers like Alice Cooper and David Bowie as influences, it’s really no surprise to imagine that I might have started wearing makeup at some point.

It wasn’t until I was around ten years old, though, after seeing Robert Smith in the video for Just Like Heaven, that I snuck into my mother’s makeup one day and tried my hardest to look like he had. I’d been up at night, watching Night Tracks, a program that hasn’t been on the air for the past twenty odd years, and when that video came on I was entirely captivated. To my young eyes, Robert Smith was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen (not in a sexually arousing sense, but in some less tangible, aesthetic sense of the word), and I wanted to look that way as well. This is how music began the process of shaping me.

That was the beginning for me, of my growing interest in what would be the whole gothic subculture. I didn’t have much by way of resources available to me, no internet service which could be used to delve into a musical genre I didn’t even know existed, especially not being here in the middle of nowhere that was South Dakota. There were magazines, though not many that were relevant, but there were music-oriented publications in every grocery store and convenience store and I tried to find more things like what I’d heard when I first heard The Cure. It wasn’t easy. It was around that same time in my life when I discovered the comic book series The Crow, and I loved it too.

Musically, I was mostly focused on listening to heavy metal artists as I was growing up, followed by what would be classified as alternative and grunge along with a healthy dose of punk…but I was always looking for more of what I’d glimpsed with that first exposure to The Cure. I came across bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, and a few others…and I loved what I was hearing in each of those cases, I just couldn’t easily obtain it.

I found Type O Negative and Nine Inch Nails at about the same time, a couple of years later than first hearing The Cure, followed by bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy…and I began discovering myself in the process. The music that speaks to us tells us a lot about who we are, if we just listen closely enough and let it into us.

I didn’t have any friends that I could share the music with, none of them seemed to care at all about music beyond what they would hear whenever they tuned into whatever the popular radio stations happened to be…where they would simply listen to whatever was being broadcast. It took some searching, but I found a radio station for me as well.

KTEQ was (and is again) a college radio station based out of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus, and it was the location on the dial where I found so much more than I could have hoped for with things like MTV or Night Tracks. Too often I was left with no idea what I was hearing, as artists were rarely announced…but I was happy just the same to have discovered various blocks during which music that spoke to me was being broadcast.

I didn’t persist with trying to wear makeup for a long while, having failed miserably in my attempt to emulate the man who first inspired that particular adornment…but it would only be a few years before I started again.

The film adaptation of The Crow came out when I was 14 years old and I saw it in the theater a couple of times. I was young enough to enjoy it even though it had little in common with the comics I’d read, and impressionable enough to think that this made it acceptable for me to look however the hell I wanted to look. It was only as I got older that I realized what a god awful, monumentally horrible movie The Crow happened to be…filled with terrible acting and insipid dialogue, but that hardly matters where this story is concerned.

It wasn’t often at first, but I began applying eyeliner on occasion when I was going to be out and about…with the expected derision from those I’d run into, including some patronizing treatment from friends (including some who’ve become Juggalos and Juggalettes over the intervening years, which is kind of humorous to me).

There was one exception though, a tall man in a red Chevy Nova SS who dressed and looked almost exactly the way that I wanted to. I was captivated by him, as were most people I knew, and I am proud to say that I ended up being able to call him a friend, even though I later ended up stealing a girl away from him who would then become the mother of my two oldest children. He’s no longer with us, but I trust that he knew how much I respected him and that he was actually a profound influence on me as far as helping me to feel comfortable in my own skin and becoming who I wanted to be.

As I became more comfortable and experimental with my makeup and dress during those teenage years, I became what that girl (the future mother of my children) would refer to as being gutter goth when she met me, an amalgam of gutter punk and goth. I began adding long black skirts and long black coats to my attire as time passed by.

I believe it was my junior year of high school when the vice principal escorted me to the restroom and informed me that I needed to wash off the makeup that I was wearing or leave the school because my appearance was becoming a distraction in the classroom.

I stood in front of the mirror for a couple of minutes, staring into my own reflection, considering cleaning my face before making up my mind and walking back into the main hall without changing a thing where I was asked to leave or security would escort me from the premises. I left without causing a scene.

The next day I showed up with an even more distracting appearance and was again asked to leave. Strangely and/or touchingly, another dozen or more people arrived for school that day either in garish makeup or outright dressed in drag…whether a sincere show of solidarity or a desire to get a free pass from school. It was an excellent show of support.

Being a politically minded young man and filled with righteous indignation, I (along with a few of my friends) went and had an impromptu visit with the superintendent in order to seek his intervention in this matter of what we perceived to be clear and unambiguous discrimination. He patiently heard us out, but ultimately determined that the administration was well within their rights to have me removed from school based exclusively on my unconventional appearance. I still have the letter somewhere in which he informed me of his decision in that matter.

After leaving Sturgis and beginning to attend school where my mother was a teacher, I was less aggressively judged for how I chose to appear. My mother refused to drive me to school while I had makeup on, so I had to take advantage of how early I was arriving (due to being the child of a teacher) and apply my makeup after getting to the school. This became my daily routine, and it worked out just fine.

This habit of wearing makeup when I was going out remained with me for a long damn time, well into my 20s…as did my overall gothic sensibility as far as appearance is concerned.

I don’t often wear makeup these days, but it does occasionally happen when I’m feeling like going out (on those rare occasions that I ever opt to leave the house)…because I’m apparently a perpetual adolescent. My musical tastes still lean more towards the industrial and goth musical genres, but I tend to listen to pretty much anything that sounds good to me, regardless of genre.

Part Twenty-Seven: Opportunities (My Lucky Number Continued)

For the moment I would like to return to the subject of my relationships, of the romantic variety, as there’s still some catching up to do on that front.

Following the soup incident I remained single for a little while before something unexpected happened. It was during the interval of my life when I was heavily using cocaine and LSD that I struck up quite the interesting friendship with a quite remarkable girl in Indiana. She and I would spend literally hours on end discussing everything from theoretical physics to obscure religious practices and myths.

She was articulate and brilliant, and I positively loved the opportunities I had to talk with her, whether online or over the phone. There were occasional intervals of silence between us, as life would get in the way on both ends of the line, but we had no difficulty picking back up right where we left off.

It was during the Christmas break just after my friend who’d been working at Perkin’s moved in with me that she decided to take a brief vacation to see me. It was an exceptionally wonderful couple of weeks for me, and apparently for her as well. She was lovely in addition to being intelligent, and as passionate with her flesh as she was with her mind. There was no question on either of our parts that we could have a thoroughly fulfilling relationship…if the opportunity arose to pursue such a thing.

She returned to Indiana and her college courses: she was actively pursuing a degree in forensic psychology, and she was in school on a full scholarship that exceeded the cost of her classes and course materials (which is one hell of a pleasant position to find oneself in). She had an excellent deal going for her there and I was exceedingly happy for her.

It was only a couple of weeks after she’d returned to her real life when she proposed taking a hiatus from school in order to return to South Dakota and begin a relationship with me. I was adamantly opposed to her making what I considered to be a monumental mistake. I fought as hard as I possibly could to convince her to stay where she was, that we could continue seeing each other during the breaks from her schooling and that, if it was something that proved to be as good as we both believed it might be, we could get by like that until she had graduated and go from there.

I even went so far as to enlist my roommate to help me explain to her what a bad idea it was, her putting her real life on hold to come slumming with us. She had a good life there; a job she happened to like, an excellent educational opportunity, and friends…and it seemed like such a categorically terrible idea for her to walk away from all of that, least of all for something like me.

Of course she wouldn’t listen to reason, otherwise this story wouldn’t be something worth talking about right now. Sure as shit, she withdrew from classes, turned in her two weeks at work, and made preparations to vacate her apartment (which included paying out a penalty for early termination of the lease, if I recall correctly). There was no stopping this girl if she put her mind to something, and she was absolutely certain that we belonged together.

Hell, maybe she was right about that too, and we were supposed to be together (if such a thing is even reasonable to consider, which I don’t believe)…but I certainly fucked that all up. It wasn’t right away though, that I fucked it up, we actually had a good year and a half (almost) before she finally did return to the better life she’d left behind.

It was a great year and a half, with a woman who genuinely loved and cared about me in the sort of selfless way that only seems to exist in fiction. She made sure that I was taking care of myself and did her best to encourage me to improve my life in any way that we conceivably could.

When she arrived here I was working for the local ABC affiliate, including two terrible overnight shifts on the weekends. It wasn’t a bad job really, but the pay was borderline pathetic and there were no benefits even though I was employed there full time for almost two years by the time she arrived. There were some benefits to working almost entirely autonomously though; one night in particular comes to mind when she and I made our way through the hatch and onto the roof of the building where we had sex against the edge facing the bar across the street where the bar crowd below us scurried from one place to another trying to stay out of the gentle, slightly chilly rain that was falling. I’ve enjoyed plenty of sex, before and since (including numerous instances with her), but something about that particular experience always stands out for me.

Were it not for her encouragement and support I may not have quite that job and taken a better position with the local NBC affiliate; a job that provided both better pay and decent benefits, an end to working overnight (though I did work into the middle of the night, but not all night long at least), and the added bonus of having three days off every week.

In addition to the improved occupation, her presence in my life and the stability that it helped to promote allowed me to begin seeing more of my children than I had been previously, and for that alone I would always be grateful to her. She was amazing with the kids as well, spending time coloring with them on the floor while I sat in my recliner or at my desk watching them bond. She was fond of the children and they were quite fond of her, though they likely wouldn’t remember her today (but I have pictures that might elicit some recollection, perhaps).

She fell comfortably into the same routine as my roommate and I, watching Farscape on Friday nights, enjoying the final season of the X-Files together, and just all around enjoying the life that we had (as banal and pointless as it might have been).

I wasn’t able to enjoy the relationship as freely as I wanted to though, there were some major reservations on my part; because while my life was steadily improving, her own seemed to have stagnated in the cesspool that was my pointless existence. I felt guilty about what she had given up to be with me and I resented her a little bit for that, for putting me in the position of feeling that way about something that I wanted to embrace. She was doing her best to save me (mostly from myself), and it felt like she was being consumed in the process. She has disagreed with me about this for years, claiming that this interlude in her life was somehow a positive and pivotal experience, which has helped to shape everything that followed…but I suspect that she is just being charitable, because that’s the sort of person she is.

I began to withdraw from her more and more as the guilt got worse, spending less time around the apartment. That was made easier by virtue of the fact that an old friend of mine had reappeared in my life. We’ll refer to this friend as The Chemical Toilet, because I always have referred to her that way…it’s both a term of mocking endearment and a factual assessment of her most defining characteristic. I took this as an opportunity to be out drinking rather than being at home, and I fostered the impression that there was something more going on between myself and The Chemical Toilet, that I was being unfaithful…at least until she got arrested for drug possession. But the damage had already been done and it was only a short while later before my girlfriend returned to Indiana and the life that she deserved to be living.

We are still close, and she will always be a treasured friend…but I don’t regret pushing her out of my life, though I could have perhaps utilized a less hurtful method, because she genuinely deserved so much better than she could ever have found with me.

Perhaps it was because my roommate and I discovered a reliable and constant source of high quality methamphetamine shortly after she moved out, but my judgment was clearly impaired when I decided that a relationship might be possible with The Chemical Toilet when she got out of jail a month or so later.

That ended about as well as one might suspect, which was no surprise to me (even at the time). The worst that could be said is that I was disappointed in her, but nowhere near as disappointed as I was in myself. I’d gone from something deeply fulfilling to settling for something disastrous that held no potential for any real depth or positive mobility.

That shouldn’t be too surprising to you though, not anymore. We know just how stupid I can be…and it should no longer surprise us. Nothing I do should really be much of a surprise to us anymore.

Part Twenty-Six: A Magical Journey

Sit back children and hear a magical tale of friendships discovered and of great triumph over the plague that is procreation. This is the tale of the Cane of Abortion and Nancy Severedhead, which I agree, does not sound like such a magical tale now that I think about it. In fact, the story itself isn’t magical at all really, it’s actually just a story about a few teenagers at the edge of adulthood behaving as if adulthood was something alien and light years distant.

The night began with my fellow musician and I wandering aimlessly through the downtown streets and alleyways, something we were prone to do when nothing else appealed to us, or even when there were a multitude of things that we could otherwise be doing with our time…but at least we were active, so there’s that. This specific night we found ourselves in possession of a number of wire clothes hangers for whatever reason, I honestly can’t begin to recall where the fuck they came from or how we’d decided to carry them around with us. On a whim we straightened the wire hangers and twisted them around one another until we found ourselves creating something that approximately resembled the shape and size of a cane.

It was while we were walking through the downtown streets that night when we encountered another young man of similar disposition. He appeared to fall into the same gothic subcultural category that my fellow musician and I did (which was an unusual thing for the area). This young man would rapidly become my closest friend for a good many years to come, and he is still, to this day, among the dearest friends I will ever have…a number that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, but that’s neither here nor there.

The three of us became quick companions that night, walking up and down streets gradually being flooded with the drunks exiting the various local bars. One unfortunate inebriated woman made the mistake of asking us what the thing was that we were carrying with us, referring (of course) to the wire cane…and it was only a moment that passed in reflection before we informed her that it was The Cane of Abortion (a proper title merits capitalization, and this was a well and proper title), it was then lifted just slightly and pressed against her abdomen as we announced that she was cursed to miscarry her next pregnancy.

We continued walking around through the milling clusters of drunks, arbitrarily blessing random women with our special cane. Looking back, I realize that this was perhaps done in exceptionally poor taste on our parts, but I have always had a bit of a dark sense of humor. Even now, when I look back on that night (fully aware of how truly awful it was, what we were doing), it still makes me smile and almost chuckle. Knowing how sensitive the subjects of miscarriage and abortion are, even to me, I still can’t help but find some small amount of pleasure in the reminiscence. I’ve always insisted that it’s important to find humor in everything, even the worst things in life…perhaps especially those things. I wasn’t alone in that way of thinking by any stretch of the imagination, as my two companions were similarly inclined to treat everything as a joke, both the sacred and the profane…something that has become almost a litmus test as far as determining who will become my friends ever since.

It may have been that same night, the next part of the story I wish to tell you, though the more I think about it I believe it was indeed another night altogether…it’s too damn long ago to recall with any certainty, and there were so many nights spent wandering through those same streets and alleyways at night that it all begins to run together aside from certain specific episodes. It doesn’t matter what specific night this was, but it is the night when Nancy Severedhead was born of great tragedy.

My fellow musician and I had stumbled upon a veritable gold mine when a friend who worked at a local beauty college showed up at my apartment with a bag of mannequin heads that were to be thrown out after being used to the point of being no longer viable. He and I laboriously decorated them and subsequently used them as props during our first live performance as a band, but that is a tale for another time.

We got into the habit, after that, of dumpster diving at the beauty colleges in order to get our hands on more of these wonderful little treats. It was one of these heads that we carried with us downtown one night, a lovely lady we’d decided to name Nancy. She joined us during our walk that night, a trophy that we carried along with pride, startling numerous people when they came upon us in our meanderings.

It was when a train began making its way through town that the sudden, random impulse came upon us to toss Nancy towards the rail wheels carrying the train along. After it had passed, we collected what was left of her. Nancy’s head had been almost neatly sliced through, removing the upper portion of the skull, including one of the eyes. This was when her name became Nancy Severedhead, even though the severed head aspect was in place well before having that severed head more severely damaged. We continued carrying her along with us, destroyed as she might have been.

It was later that my fellow musician and I proceeded to rebuild her. Bits of wire, fragments of circuitry, and assorted screws were affixed to what remained. She was our little miracle, the product of our Frankenstein impulse to meld plastic fake flesh with machine…which, I accept, sounds a little bit crazy. I’m making all of that up, by the way, about there being any objective in mind beyond the aesthetic pleasure of turning this destroyed thing into something else entirely.

I still had Nancy Severedhead for a solid decade or more after she was born. I may still have her somewhere, stored away in the garage. It would be a shame if she were to have disappeared somewhere along the line, because I have always taken pleasure in knowing that she was still one of my possessions. We were an odd sort of people, the three of us, but we were damn lucky to have discovered one another…and I was the luckiest of all to have had such friends (including Nancy).

Part Twenty-Five: A Different Box of Crayons

I walked into a convenience store one night only to hear the music of KMFDM playing on a stereo behind the counter, which I found to be a moderately surreal experience. This led me to strike up a conversation with the guy operating the register and a friendship was born from that simple encounter. We spent countless hours in that damn convenience store; talking about music, books, movies, and whatever inappropriate shit happened to pop into our heads.

I would walk down to that convenience store at night and lose track of time just hanging out there with him, and not exclusively because I had nothing else to do throughout the middle of the night (because I always had things that I could be doing, I’m an expert where it concerns distracting myself almost perpetually). It was an easy friendship routine to fall into, having a number of overlapping interests like we did.

Being altogether too self-involved and not always the most considerate person, I did occasionally tend to take advantage of this new friendship. The number of fountain drinks and gas station hot dogs that I consumed during those visits with him are probably equally without measure…because I have the dietary habits of a mentally challenged person, as anyone spending much time with me would quickly discovery, and so it was difficult for me not to take advantage of the situation.

The truest evidence that he didn’t care about his job altogether too much was not reflected by the copious amounts of food and beverage that I was provided with while spending time there, it was exemplified by the times when I would be standing there and he would suddenly tear off a handful of scratch off lottery tickets and hand me some of them, telling me to scratch them off. We would stand there, scratching off lottery tickets in the middle of the night, waiting until we had obtained sufficient winnings to cover at least the cost of the tickets themselves. Winning at the lottery through a sort of reverse engineering would be the best way to think of it, not so much theft as a calculated form of borrowing.

Sadly, he was transferred to an alternate location that was outside of casual walking range for me, so I was no longer able to spend quite as much time with him at work. He made up for that fact by spending more time in my apartment with me than anyone who didn’t actually live there (though there were times when he would just fall asleep on the sofa or in one of the chairs because he was too tired to worry about the drive home). I would sometimes fall asleep in my recliner with him sitting at my desktop, sifting through my digital music archive, and watching movies…and there were plenty of times when I would wake up with him still sitting right there.

I once described this friend by saying that, while he might not be the brightest crayon in the box, he was like a Crayola Jumbo. He may lack some of the variety and brilliance of those normal Crayolas, but he was thicker and far more durable, less easily broken and seemingly lasting forever. That may have seemed like a bit of a back-handed compliment, and it probably was…but it was intended to be a sincerely complimentary statement at the same time.

One could easily downplay his intellect if they wanted, but I’m not inclined to do so. He is definitely a smarter man than he lets on, maybe smarter than he gives himself credit for being as well…but it’s not his intellect that makes him someone I would always be happy to consider a friend. I’ve rarely met another individual with the sort of compassion and consideration that he’s capable of displaying, and it served as quite the counterpoint to my own lack where those things are concerned. He actively worried about me a lot of the time because, without regular reminders or someone taking note, I would routinely forget to eat anything for days at a time. This was a man who would show up at my work in the middle of the night, unannounced, just to drop off something for me to eat and drink because he happened to be thinking about me. He’s the sort of person who would show up with cash in hand if he even suspected that a friend was in need or dealing with a rough patch.

There aren’t many people out there like him and it’s a damn shame, because the world would be a better place if there were…unless you happen to be a woman, because that man was certainly quite the womanizer. I may have gotten around quite a bit, as you’re well aware (so don’t act fucking shocked when I say it now), but I did tend to maintain good relationships with the women I dated or even casually enjoyed…but my friend, he burned bridges like it was going out of style when the relationship or casual situation ended.

The only conflict that ever really existed between he and I was after we were sharing a house along with the woman who would become his wife a short while later. Were it not for her being present, the conflict might not have become an issue, but she and I definitely didn’t work and play well together. That woman rubbed me all the wrong ways, and not in the sense that I might actually enjoy it…and the feeling was certainly mutual, because she despised me. I may have taken exception with how he treated women at times, but even with all of that taken into account, he definitely deserved someone better than her as far as I was concerned. However, as bad as it got between he and I during that interval where we lived under the same roof, he was the sort of man who went out of his way to rent a U-Haul for me so that I could get everything moved out with the assistance of my little brother all because he wasn’t going to be around to help me with the move.

We gradually dropped out of regular contact after that, but he is still my friend and probably always will be.

Part Twenty-Four: Part 13, My Lucky Number, Continued

Since my apparent inability to see things through to completion or successfully navigate the currents that would lead me to a successful completion is fresh on my mind and I sidetracked myself when it was my intention to tell you more about the significant relationships in my life, I figure now is as good a time as any…so, let’s get back on track here.

It was after the incident during which my ex-girlfriend was almost assaulted by the guy she left me for that I found myself in the unenviable position of needing to choose between two women who came into my life at approximately the same time and expressed a desire to become involved with me. This is not a fun position to be in, contrary to what you might believe.

I’ll start here with the one I didn’t choose, though I can’t for the life of me determine why I ever made that choice. Maybe I flipped a coin, out of sheer imbecility, and let that arbitrary chance make the choice for me? First off, I want to clarify that, though I may not have chosen her at the time, she and I had managed to remain close over the years and even pursued some intimate experiences with one another as well as some tentative steps towards a relationship.

At that time, however, it could have been taken as a bad sign for the potential between she and I that I stopped in the middle of intercourse so that I could go out to my living room and watch the episode of South Park in which Mr. Garrison was upset about his father not molesting him as a child. That was disrespectful of me, without any question…but what makes it far worse is the fact that I wasn’t even aware that I was being disrespectful at the time. There was a large chunk of my life during which I had little to no capacity to consider how my actions impacted others, not when all that really mattered to me was whatever I felt like doing at the time. Other people weren’t blessed with internal, three dimensional existence when it was inconvenient for me to consider that those things existed.

I was the sort of person who could walk away, mid-coitus, simply because there was something on television…and that is far from a healthy way to live one’s life.

That ability to turn on a dime from an emotional perspective ended up playing out pretty heavily in the relationship that developed between myself and the woman that I did choose out of those two. She and I could be in the midst of a major argument when something grabbed my attention or some random thought or recollection would pop into my head, and the argument would evaporate almost immediately. If I felt like arguing, it could go on for hours…but if I found something else I felt like doing instead of continuing with the argument, that is where my attention would shift without any hesitation. She accused me of not actually caring about the things we were fighting about, and that I was just playing a part when our fights arose. She wasn’t even entirely incorrect.

She and I had a relationship that consisted of more than arguments and disagreement, but it is those intervals of conflict that stand out the most in that relationship for me…perhaps mostly due to how it ended.

As you’re aware, marijuana has never been my drug of choice, but I had a quite nice blown glass pipe that was purchased by the mother of my two oldest children from some random guy who had been peddling his wares through the audience during the final live performance of Alter Noctvm…Alter Idem. She left this pipe behind when she and the children moved out. Even though I rarely had either motivation or occasion to use it, I held onto it for purely sentimental reasons both because it had been purchased by the third (and final) live performance and because it was the only thing left behind as a remnant of the good aspects of my former relationship.

It was necessary to mention the history of that specific piece of glassware because my girlfriend in this piece of personal history took the pipe with her one night while I was at work…and while she and her friends were drinking and getting high that night, a whiskey bottle was dropped on the pipe and it was shattered.

It wasn’t until the next afternoon while she and I were sharing a lunch of chicken and dumpling soup that her mother had made (in her place of employment, I might add, which was an adult bookstore, though they mostly dealt in movies and artificial genitalia rather than books) that she told me about what had happened the night before and informed me that her friend who’d broken the pipe was offering to replace it with one of his own. I was unhappy with the whole situation and I told her precisely why that pipe itself mattered to me regardless of my use for it, all sentimental rather than practical.

Her response was to sarcastically tell me that she was, “so sorry.”

My response to her sarcasm was to throw my bowl of soup at her…not the bowl itself, mind you, but the contents of it. I threw my chicken and dumplings on her and stormed away, walking home.

It was a short while after I’d arrived home that the police showed up, informing me that they had been called by my (now) ex-girlfriend’s mother. Both of the officers apologized to me for the fact that they were arresting me; because, had she and I not been living together, what I’d done would not have been illegal…but, solely because we did share my apartment, the soup incident was classified as domestic violence.

We should take a moment to parse that little bit of information; that an action which was not, by itself, illegal, became illegal exclusively because of relative living arrangements. I won’t pretend that I don’t have some problems with the whole rationale behind that odd and flawed inconsistency. As far as I’m concerned, an act is either illegal or legal, and that’s all there should be to say about it.

I spent the night in jail and, not knowing how the legal system works at the time, I plead guilty the next morning when I appeared in court. That was how I wound up with a domestic violence charge on my adult record. My former girlfriend hadn’t pressed charges, but the state did that in her stead, for something that literally was not illegal.

If I’d known that I would not be stuck in jail for another night regardless of my plea, I would damn well have never accepted the domestic violence charge without contesting it, a charge that will perpetually haunt me. That stupid action of tossing soup and my subsequent lack of understanding as far as how the legal system works has made it so that I am unable to own or carry a firearm (and that kept me from being able to enlist with the military a few years later)…it also prohibited me from taking a job as a paid tutor in the high school where my mother worked when the opportunity arose.

More stupid decisions from everyone’s favorite genius, right?

Have you started to notice a trend here?

Part Twenty-Three: Wasted Potential

There are times in my life when I’m not even sure if I can still recognize myself when I look in the mirror, and not because I’m getting older or because I’ve happened to gain or lose a substantial amount of weight at that specific time. I wonder if I even know who I am anymore. I know who I want to be, along with the myriad iterations of who I wanted to be at various points in the past…and all I know for certain is that I am none of those things.

I suppose that is not entirely true, I wanted to tell stories and influence people’s minds since before I understood that a person could do that specific thing for a living…hell, since before I ever had a grasp on the reality that people did things for a living at all.

But here I am; one novel (albeit a shitty one) and a collection of poetry (not so shitty, but poetry is really a niche commodity) on the market, multiple novels and short stories in progress, and then there’s this abominable thing that you’re reading presently. I’m sure as shit not making a living from my writing, not even close, but I have made some small amount of money that wouldn’t amount to a drop in the bucket compared to my income from gainful employment. But it has made me some money, regardless of how little.

So, I guess that I have managed to make some small amount of progress towards being that portion of who I’ve wanted to be in my life…but it seems like an abysmally small bit of consolation.

Growing up, there was one word that stands out more than any other, that word is potential. Teachers, administrators, counselors, and family alike all seemed to be inordinately fond of that word. I did well in school for all of my troubles socializing with other children, never failing a class or even really receiving grades below an A or the equivalent, at least not until I stopped showing up for school part way through 10th grade…and yet I always overheard, during conferences and the like, that I had so much potential and that I could be doing so much better if I would just apply myself. Similarly I ended up hearing quite frequently that it was a consensus that I might benefit from feeling that I was being challenged in school, and that the problem was that I wasn’t being challenged at all.

Seriously, I wondered, how much better did they expect me to be doing? Personally I have come to believe that it’s somewhere in the training manual for new teachers that they have to use various iterations of that sort of statement regarding the potential a student exhibits whenever they meet with parents…at least when the student displays at least fair to middling intelligence.

Having that sort of thing tossed casually my way throughout my whole childhood, there was a great deal of pressure that I should make something of myself and do more with my life than I have thus far…at least to this point, I’ve certainly not done anything of note that would indicate that I lived up to that supposed potential. I wonder if maybe, somewhere inside of me, there isn’t my own little imp of the perverse lurking around and riding on my shoulder, encouraging me to do precisely the opposite of what I should be doing in order to capitalize on that potential.

Or maybe I’m just a screw up.

For a long time there I wanted to be a musician, which you’re already aware of by now. It wasn’t an overall lack of talent or skill that stood in my way there, because I did actually develop some small amount of skill where certain instruments were concerned…though nowhere near as much skill as I could have developed if I had devoted more time and energy to those efforts. A lack of faith was the greater hurdle for me, faith in myself and faith in the possibility of anyone being remotely interested in what I was creating.

I had no confidence in my own voice, the same sort of thing that had led to my feigning a sore throat and the like when I was supposed to perform as a soloist in choir…but it was much worse when performing on stage, performing things that I had helped to create, it was far more personal and a source of greater vulnerability for me. My overall lack of confidence served to severely hinder my performance even when recording or working on material with no one else present but my fellow musician. That inability to work with anyone present became worse with time until I lost the motivation to work at all. I’ve always felt bad about my self-sabotage where music was concerned because of the collateral sabotage that it inflicted upon those who wanted to work with me. I was difficult to work with at the best of times, but my lack of faith in what we were doing only ended up making it far more of a challenge.

It’s no wonder that I stopped trying. That sort of thing seems to be a trend with me.

I began attending college at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology at the age of 27, with a double major of physics and chemistry as my focus. I felt invigorated to be in that academic environment, to feel that I was finally doing something that stood a chance of improving my life and building a future of some substance for myself and my family. I always had a passion for science, and it seemed only natural to pursue an education along these lines.

The problem was that I had no choice but to maintain full-time employment while attending school full-time as well. Initially this wasn’t a problem, but over time that sort of obligation begins to take its toll. My GPA began to decline because I wasn’t able to apply as much attention to my coursework and studying as I needed to, especially as I realized that I needed some downtime in order to relax and decompress a bit…because that downtime cut into the time that I should have been spending on my studies.

The stress involved with making ends meet while still attempting to keep myself afloat in school was rough to deal with…but I was treading water with some success as I made it through my first year and a half in college. It was at that time when my two oldest children came to live with me full-time, which hadn’t been the case since they had moved away from the old apartment along with their mother some 9 years before.

Shortly thereafter my youngest also came to live with me full-time due to some problems at home with her mother, and I had a lot more on my plate than I’d had previously. The strain made it more difficult to handle the crowded classrooms and lecture halls, especially during periods when exams were being conducted. Stress can play hell with preexisting anxiety issues, and it certainly did in my case.

I found myself in a position where I needed to withdraw from school, only three years into my pursuit of the double major, prior to my youngest beginning kindergarten. The school days for her were half days, and I had to decide whether I was going to be home with her during the half that she wasn’t in school and be able to get her to class or if I was going to attend the classes that I needed in order to continue with my own education. Obviously, I made the only choice that a parent can make under those circumstances. I placed my education on hiatus, and that hiatus has continued to this day, almost four years later.

I do intend to return to school and finish at least one of the degrees that I was pursuing, if only because I want to finish what I started, but I don’t know when that time will come…hopefully soon. I don’t want that to be a particularly costly (especially in the financial sense) venture that never sees fruition like so many other things I’ve done in my life.

Mine is a life lived halfway when it comes to completing the things that I am passionate about, a life of incomplete goals and half-assed application…but I’ve spent this time sharing so many things with you, with so many things left to share as my story continues, and maybe this can be the next step towards actually completing the things I have started. We’ll have to see…I have a nasty habit of letting myself down, so you should be prepared that I might let you down as well. I’ll try to avoid that though.

Part Twenty-Two: A Step Back In Time

I spent a good, long while telling you about my sordid and pathetic history with women during my teen years a short while ago, spotlighting some of the most important relationships that I’d been a part of during that period of my life, and there are more of them to discuss because I would be remiss to avoid talking about them. First, however, I need to go back a little bit further…well, a lot further, because my problems with interacting with women stretch back a long way.

It might have been a direct causal relationship between what happened with my next door neighbor as a child and the fact that I developed an unhealthy interest in sex and sexual gratification at an early age. I ended up having to see a counselor when I was in third grade because my teacher caught me rubbing my penis up against the bar underneath my desk, kids are never as sneaky and subtle as they seem to think they are, and I was no exception to that.

It was at approximately that same time when I developed a bit of a crush on a girl in my class, and that part is perfectly normal. What was not normal was the way that my crush on her manifested itself. I was a creepy little shit, expressing stalker tendencies as early as second or third grade, riding my bike across town to the neighborhood where she lived and proceeding to ride my bike back and forth along the street in front of her house. I even went so far as to become friendly with a nice old gentleman who attended the same church as my family because he happened to live across the street from her, all so that I could watch her house from the workshop that he had in his garage.

What was easily the pinnacle of my creepy behavior regarding her revolved around a gift that I wanted to give her. I had been wandering around in the hills throughout the day, like I frequently did, when I came across the carcass of a deer that had probably been hit by a car and limped off to die where I later encountered it. This was not a fresh carcass by any means. Limbs had been removed by carrion eaters, what was left had become dessicated and was in a state of advanced decay. The thoughts that followed my discovery are not the sort of thing that should have seemed reasonable to me at the time, but they apparently did. I saw those remains and immediately determined that I was going to use it to fashion a fur coat for the girl I was interested in.

It was probably a mile and a half to two mile walk directly through the center of our small town from where I exited the hills to home, and I walked calmly that whole distance dragging a deer carcass behind me like it was a perfectly rational thing to be doing. This damn kid that people already seemingly thought was spooky enough (admittedly they had adequate cause to think that I was perhaps a bit touched) comes wandering through town in the middle of the day with a rotting animal dragging behind him. Scratch what I said before about not knowing why other kids wanted to beat me up when I was a kid, I think we might have just uncovered the solution to that particular mystery…or at least part of it.

My mother was less than enthused with finding a dead deer at home and it was placed in the garbage. When I couldn’t find it, I located it in the garbage can and placed it in the fort that my grandfather, uncle, and I had built for me only a short while before. It disappeared from there while I was in school, and I couldn’t find it again. I didn’t throw a fit or anything of the sort, so I wasn’t entirely insane…there’s some comfort to be drawn from that. I never did get to give her the coat that I planned as a gift and was thus able to avoid being placed under psychiatric care, because I sincerely doubt that outcome could have been avoided if I’d tried to hand her what would have probably been a poorly skinned pelt from a decaying corpse. Looking back on this, I’m having a difficult time not laughing, because my sense of humor is decidedly perverse.

My apparent obsession with this girl was unhealthy and if it was an adult behaving the way that I was, they would belong in jail or some sort of mental heath institute. I ended up dragging my best friend into it as well, the same friend I was experimenting with sexually during those early years. I began calling this girl and just breathing into the phone or hanging up as soon as she or anyone else answered. I had apparently learned my seduction techniques from a late night viewing of When a Stranger Calls.

I want to say that it was fourth grade when that all came to a sudden end though, as her family had called the phone company or the police and gotten the number traced back to my grandmother’s house where I’d been calling from that day, with my friend right there beside me. This was back before the days of Caller ID. I don’t recall if the police got involved or if there was just a threat of that happening, but my best friend and I got into trouble and we weren’t allowed to see each other for quite some time after that.

There’s no denying that I was a truly spooky damn kid, with some serious issues…I’ve known that for a long time. My social skills leave me with limited capacity to properly interact with people even today, but especially women, and it has been that way for as long as I can recall…but it was definitely much worse back then.

I had one other major crush as a child, a girl who lived in the trailer court across the street from where I grew up after my father sold the house out from under us before the divorce was complete…yeah, he was a real sweetheart at times. This girl ended up being my best female friend for close to half of my life, since I successfully avoided creeping her out and getting the police involved…but I have absolutely no idea where she is today.

We used to be almost inseparable. She was the one person I could rely on who would frequently be available to join me when I slipped out of my bedroom window and wandered around town aimlessly throughout the middle of the night. There were a couple of kisses between she and I over the years that we were friends, but nothing beyond that, and there were even a couple of times when we called each other boyfriend and girlfriend, though the words were essentially meaningless, being as young as we were.

It’s sad to consider how easily people used to simply drop out of our lives, especially in the days before Facebook and Twitter, or even MySpace. Kids growing up today really do live in a totally different world. I’ve lost touch with a number of people over the years, but this girl would certainly be the one I most wish I could catch back up with.

Part Twenty-One: How Did We Arrive Here?

Have I ever told you about the man who taught his asshole to talk?

Of course I haven’t, you’ll have to turn to William S. Burroughs for that particular anecdote. Naked Lunch was a terrific book and it was loosely adapted into a pretty damn interesting movie as well, if reading isn’t your thing…though that seems unlikely since we’re here right now. As far as teaching this particular asshole to talk, you’ll probably have to take your frustrations out on my mother since she was instrumental in nurturing my ability to communicate.

Personally, I love reading…and I am unhappy with myself that I don’t do as much of it these days as I would like. I have my mother to thank for fostering that love of the written word within me. She began teaching me how to read well before I ever got into school, using phonemes before Hooked On Phonics was even a thing. I don’t remember the lessons themselves, but the product of those lessons does indeed remain quite fresh in my memory.

My earliest recollection associated with reading is of my mother, father, and I in the car here in Rapid City when my father suggested that they take me to, “D-I-N-O-S-A-U…” when I blurted out that I wanted to go to Dinosaur Park before he had even finished spelling out the first word. Dinosaur Park, if you’re unfamiliar with the place, is a hilltop collection of concrete formed dinosaurs that would largely appeal only to children, especially little boys…this little boy was no exception to that.

My memory of that time is hazy, but I vaguely recall my father reacting negatively in response to me spoiling the surprise like I had…if that recollection is spot-on, I would not be at all surprised.

Don’t rush to interpret that the wrong way, it was not an indication of my father being opposed to my intellectual development, my father was an avid reader too. For all his faults, he had a decent collection of novels by Stephen King, Peter Straub, and others…including the novelizations of the original Star Wars films. It wasn’t my budding capacity to understand the English language that upset him, just my newly developed capacity to interfere with his intended surprise.

I grew up loving books though, regardless of any negative response to my being able to read at an early age. As a child I couldn’t get enough of them, which is something that remains quite true today as well. I remember insisting on attending the book fairs that were coordinated by my elementary school and eagerly wandering through the tables and counters piled high with new things to read. I always wanted more of them than I could reasonably expect to have.

During my younger years I collected and consumed Hardy Boys books, they were probably my favorites until I started reading classic literature and more contemporary adult fiction. The action and mystery of those books fascinated and intrigued me, the suspense was thrilling, and the fact that the brothers used their minds as much as their assorted skills to prevail over sometimes terrifying circumstances was something that made me feel like I wasn’t a total freak.

Through all of my childhood and adolescence my mother happily encouraged my enjoyment of reading as well as my desire to learn whatever I could about whatever there was available to me. She even took it in stride when her English and psychology textbooks disappeared into the wasteland that was my bedroom while she was still actively taking the classes that required them. She was studying to become an English teacher shortly after my age reached the double digits, and I was right there beside her…repeatedly stealing her course materials and reading through them for nothing more than the sheer pleasure of learning something new.

Not only did my mother heavily inspire my love of literature and learning, but she also directly led me towards my love of puzzles and other things that required critical thinking and analysis. I was putting together large puzzles on a card table in our basement at a very early age, sometimes with my mother or father’s assistance, other times by myself. I enjoyed watching the picture beginning to unfold from the disorganized and disparate components that looked like nothing at all until we put our minds to the task of organizing them and seeing the pattern before it had started taking shape.

It could be argued that my appreciation for artistry was spawned by my mother as well, though I have little to no artistic talent of my own. She was, at one point in the past, quite the artist. I remember digging out pencil sketches and the like that were highly impressive. Comparatively, I can doodle like a champ…but little more than that. My mother still seems to enjoy art of a sort, manufacturing by hand some truly impressive cards, invitations, and the like…also something that I am ill-equipped to replicate. Apparently artistic skill is not something I inherited from her.

I developed quite a love of music at an early age as well, and that one came mostly from my father, perhaps due more to my personal tastes than anything else. I grew up with access to an impressive collection of vinyl and as soon as I was old enough to operate his turntable I was regularly absorbed in listening to albums from artists like Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Quiet Riot, Dire Straits, Queen and others along those lines. I loved just laying back and letting the music carry me wherever it might.

The same way that my mother encouraged my love of literature, my father very much encouraged my love of music by buying me cassettes and then CDs as they became commercially available.

As far as my love of movies, that could probably be traced back to my father as well…not solely because of the countless video rentals that I enjoyed during the weekends I spent with him after the divorce, but also because he accumulated a pretty large collection of movies for himself. That is something of a ball that I took from him, and I damn well ran with it; owning somewhere in the vicinity of 1,500 DVDs, close to 500 or so blu-ray discs, and an unknown number of burned DVDs by this point in addition to my subscriptions to Netflix and the like. Escapism is probably my greatest weakness (certainly my greatest vice), enjoying, as I do, the chance to live wholly different lives from my own…regardless of the medium. I am proud to say however, that my library of books surpasses my collection of movies and television shows…displaying which medium remains my personal favorite.

My family life may have been pretty well fucked up by many standards, and I wholeheartedly concur with that conclusion…but even a broken timepiece is right twice a day, as the saying goes. In this case, my broken and disorganized family was proven to be right in quite a few ways, as far as I’m concerned.

Part Twenty: Miscellaneous Bits & Pieces

In the process of telling you this story I have been reminded of so many anecdotes that could easily be overlooked, not falling neatly into the framework of another overarching bit of narrative. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it upsets me to know that there will always be stories that I’ve forgotten to tell, no matter how concise I manage to be. This is my attempt to share a few things that might otherwise have been overlooked.

I could tell you about how I used to roll my flaccid penis into a ball within the loose skin of my testicles and parade it around as if I had three testicles but no actual penis, in public and in private with about even distribution. I referred to this creation as the mollusk for whatever arbitrary reason, and I was happy to introduce people to the mollusk whenever the urge to do so arose. I had no sense of shame interfering with these actions.

Similarly there was an almost complete and total lack of shame involved when I would casually draw a face on the head of my penis and use it as a puppet to communicate with people regardless of who was present, barring my children. I suspect that my kids are grateful that I did happen to draw a line somewhere.

There should have been shame though, not because those behaviors merit some degree of shame in and of themselves, but because my penis is nothing to write home about (not that I would be inclined to write home about my penis under any circumstances), even with a massive piece of jewelry dangling from it, and no one should proudly show such a pathetic thing off like that.

Yes, that last part was meant to be a bit of a joke, in poor taste, of course…but a joke, just the same. The behavior itself should have been a source of shame or discomfort in addition to the penis itself being inherently shameful. I’m not entirely serious where this self-deprecation is concerned, but I’m not entirely joking either…a lot of my jokes end up like that.

I should take the time to tell you about the incident when my co-musician began having sex with a girl he was seeing in the landing of a stairwell in one of the apartment buildings downtown and I entertained myself during their intercourse by tossing jellybeans at them, trying to lodge them in his ass crack while he was thrusting and reversing. I don’t think I managed to succeed with a single one, and that was a terrible waste of delicious candy.

Speaking of him, there was a night when he and I were getting drunk at a party in someone’s house, I can’t recall who, if I even knew at the time. There was a girl there who had been wanting to sleep with me and she decided she was going to take advantage of my inebriation. My fellow musician decided that this was a good thing, so he was full of encouragement. The problem was that I had no interest in the girl at the time (though she and I did eventually end up sleeping together at a later date), no matter how hard she tried to spark that interest. In the ultimate example of adding insult to injury, I wasn’t anywhere near obtaining an erection until my fellow musician began massaging my genitals in her place. Things were getting uncomfortable for me pretty quickly at that point, less because of his attempt to jerk me off than because the girl in question was becoming annoyingly desperate and clingy in her attempts to make me sleep with her. The fact of the matter was that, as little interest as I had in sleeping with my friend, he was a great deal more appealing to me than she was that night. I decided that I needed to leave, so I walked to Perkin’s for some coffee and to wait until I was sober enough to make my way home from there.

It wasn’t all sex and deforming my genitals for the purpose of entertainment though, as much as I’m sure you wish it was…maybe I’m not the one who should be ashamed here.

I had a friend, the same one who stayed on my sofa after he couldn’t live with his girlfriend anymore, I mentioned him briefly a short while ago. He insisted on carrying around this stupid pager that didn’t work and served no function whatsoever aside from making him look like a jackass. He insisted he was going to fix it or some such nonsense, for whatever imaginary use that might have provided him. One afternoon I asked him to let me see it because maybe I could fix it, and he handed it to me happily. I didn’t know what I was going to do in advance, but there wasn’t a moment of hesitation before I flung it as hard as I could at the far wall of the living room, or did I throw it all the way into the kitchen at the far wall there, I can’t recall that particular detail…but the important part is that I threw it against the wall.

He looked like he was going to cry as he asked me why I did that and all I could think to reply was that I hated that stupid fucking pager and now he was free to throw it into the garbage where it belonged. The way he looked at me you would have thought I had just strangled his favorite puppy and iced the cake by violating the corpse.

Hopping into the Way Back machine, during my freshman year of high school I briefly dated a basket case girl who wasn’t a half bad poet who had a reputation for being easy, not that I cared altogether too much about that rumor, I was still a virgin at the time. I don’t remember what led to my breaking up with her, but it became quite a spectacle thanks to her melodramatic reaction. She made some stupid comment about how she was going to just jump in front of a car to make me happy, and all I could say in response was, “Wait. No. Don’t do that. I’ll push you.”

She ran away crying and my friend who was the fantastic dungeon master I previously talked about went chasing after her, hoping to maneuver his way from a shoulder to cry on to a penis she could seek comfort from. I don’t think it worked out quite that well for him, but maybe it did…I never cared to find out.

I have a long and well documented history of saying and doing the wrong thing essentially every time the chance arises…and I can’t even pretend that I actively attempt to curb that peculiar little quirk of my personality, even going so far as to minimize it like I just did in order to downplay how bad it really is.

The mother of my older children and I took a brief vacation to Minneapolis/Saint Paul in order to visit a friend who had moved there (that friend being the girlfriend I had abandoned before she and I got together). While we were there we ended up in one of the less pleasant neighborhoods of Minneapolis late at night. As we were turning around in the darkened parking lot of a grocery store I saw a rather large group of what appeared to be exclusively African American teens and young adults just a short distance from where we were changing direction and my first impulse was to put down the window and shout, “What’s up niggas?” Don’t worry; I placed emphasis on the less racially insensitive final syllable of the word. MY ex, who was not my ex at the time, asked me if I was out of my fucking mind or trying to get us killed…and I had to admit that she had a good question.

My common sense is a fairly uncommon thing for me to exhibit, especially when I lack adequate time to really think about what I’m going to say or do…though, even then, I leave something to be desired in that department. That’s the story of my life though; the same could probably be said about me in general as well, that I simply leave something to be desired.

My judgment isn’t always questionable, but where my impulsive actions are concerned, I am perfectly willing to concur with that assessment being entirely correct. To showcase this piss poor judgment, as if I haven’t done enough of that already, there was an incident during my teenage years when I leaped from the bed of a friend’s truck where I had been riding and onto the hood of another friend’s car while we were in motion. No one knew that I was going to attempt something so unbelievably stupid, even I had no idea it was going to happen until I did it. If this idiotic stunt had been something we’d planned, it would be something altogether different, but I could have easily caused an accident or simply gone careening from the hood of the car and ended up seriously injured or dead. At the time, none of those concerns crossed my mind at all, and I think that might be precisely why I’ve had a lot of the problems that I get myself into…no recognition of, or interest in, consequences.

I have two ways of doing things, I either act without thinking or I over think what I’m doing to such an extreme that I think without acting. There is very little middle ground for me, as I tend to bounce back and forth between those two extreme ends of the spectrum without warning. The times when I over think things aren’t of any real importance here, as they don’t lead to any interesting stories, only a form of indecisive paralysis.

Part Nineteen: Binge and Purge, But Mostly Binge

Drugs are a hell of a thing, and I don’t necessarily mean that in the negative sense that you might assume. Like most things in life, drugs have their ups and downs…they can be just as useful and beneficial as they can be damaging and traumatizing. It really depends on the person more than the drugs in question, and also the timing. If I cared as much about making a good impression as I do being entirely sincere, I would tell you about how badly drugs have fucked up my life and the lives of many of my friends…but I’m a total fucking idiot and I can’t just focus on the negative aspects of my drug history. There were negatives, I assure you of that, it’s just that the positive experiences I had outweighed the negative ones by more than a narrow margin.

With the family history that I have, from both sides of the aisle, it would be a simple bit of reasoning to conclude that I must be hardwired to have a predisposition towards having an addictive personality. Apparently I dodged that particular bullet, or maybe there is a balance of sorts to be found in nature because I already suffer from more than my fair share of psychological issues.

I have never been compelled to seek out drug or alcohol treatment of any kind, I have avoided requiring any sort of intervention from friends and family, and I have somehow avoided any legal entanglements relating to my drug or alcohol use. What can I say? I guess I lead a charmed life in that one particular area.

I am a living, breathing, walking around bit of proof that the horror stories painted with such vivid clarity in late night public service announcements and school assemblies are far from universal truths. Sure, my life isn’t perfect, and I have had some troubling experiences due to my experimentation with numerous substances…but nothing that would adequately deter a classroom full of impressionable youth, I don’t suspect.

I recall the first time I recognized that I was being exposed to drug use. I was on a family vacation back to Minnesota and we were visiting some of my father’s friends, one of whom happened to be my godfather. The men were collected downstairs in the house we were in and I remember recognizing the smell of marijuana in the air as I was walking downstairs. I don’t know why I knew what the smell was, though I can only assume that earlier exposure had left some sense memory without a coherent recollection that has carried through to today.

I’ve heard anecdotes from my father, about alcohol being added to my bottles when I was a toddler by he and/or friends of his, perhaps to put me to sleep or maybe just to watch me stumble around more than I probably already did at that ungainly point in my life…but that seems perverse and sadistic even from my admittedly desensitized standards, even where my father is concerned, so I personally prefer to think of it as a bit of a sick joke on his part because he does have a peculiar and dark sense of humor as well. I can’t remember anything of the sort happening, so I can’t speak to the veracity of such things, but it seemed like something potentially relevant to the tale at hand.

I wasn’t one of those daytime talk show kids born addicted to heroin or any god awful bullshit like that. I wasn’t sneaking behind the gymnasium at ten years old in order to hit a joint. This isn’t one of those stories, and only a sick asshole would be hoping for something like that.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first tried marijuana for myself, but that isn’t particularly important. I have never been a big fan of that particular drug. I have definitely smoked plenty of it, especially during and immediately following high school, but there has never been a point in my life when it was my drug of choice. I’ve sold plenty of it over the years as well, of varying qualities, and I always preferred selling it to smoking it. Money brought me far more pleasure than the drug itself.

It was during high school that I first experimented with cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, mushrooms, MDMA, and assorted opiates. I preferred all of those to marijuana, though the opiate and MDMA use was not the sort of thing I could picture myself developing a habit out of. There was an instance in the latter half of my sophomore year when I ingested LSD without any warning because a friend of mine handed me a peppermint hard candy in the hallway, while neglecting to inform me that it was playing host to an undisclosed number of hits of acid. I was maybe three quarters of the way through my subsequent class when something started to feel very unusual to me.

LSD isn’t actually like it is portrayed in movies and on television, or it never has been in my experience. Perception is distorted substantially, and the senses do indeed go a bit askew (to the point where minor aural and visual hallucinations aren’t entirely unknown), but you don’t suddenly lose touch with reality and imagine yourself in totally different surroundings. The effects are far more subtle, which can actually make them far more insidious.

The most interesting part about being unexpectedly under the influence of LSD is that you have literally no idea what is wrong with you. It feels like something in between a severe feverish state of mind (but without the sickness and elevated core body temperature) and what I imagine it might be similar to the onset of schizophrenia. You’re aware that something is very wrong, that the way you are processing sensory input is pretty well fucked, and that you are not thinking quite the way you’re accustomed to…and it is disorienting at best. Come to think of it, that’s just how LSD works even when you know that you’ve ingested it…which could lead someone to wonder why anyone would choose to feel that way. No one claimed that it was a sound decision on my part or the part of anyone who intentionally walks towards that lifestyle. If it matters at all, it was another few years before I ever willingly ingested LSD.

My use of drugs beyond marijuana was one of those few and far between situations until my early 20s, mostly due to a pronounced lack of surplus being readily available to a teenage boy here in the middle of nowhere of the upper Midwest. It was after my ex moved out of our apartment with our two children and a good friend of mine moved in that I was in the state of mind that was quite conducive to really enjoying a decline into decadence, and it just so happened that the supply side of the equation was fortuitously shifting in my favor.

Thanks to this friend, there was a reliable and steady supply of quality cocaine available through a biker friend of his with connections to the Hell’s Angels. Even better than that, this individual was happy to front us fairly large quantities of that cocaine on a regular basis, for the purpose of selling it ourselves. Initially he and I did a good job of selling what we needed in order to keep the rest for ourselves without actually needing to pay for any of it. After a while though, it did begin to cost me money, but I didn’t particularly mind. I say that it cost me money because my friend had quit his job shortly after moving in with me, thinking that he was going to simply make his living by dealing the cocaine that we were consuming in greater and greater quantities. If I had to pick a drug of choice though, cocaine would be it.

My friend and I used to do a line and then walk the couple of miles to the Perkin’s where we routinely went for coffee. You can feel free to rattle off the list of negative effects cocaine might have, and I will agree with some of them, but I can vouch for the fact that it worked fucking wonders for my social anxiety as well as my overall level of productivity.

There was one night when we were about to leave for coffee when my friend, as a joke, trailed a line of cocaine from damn near corner to corner diagonally across the 3′ by 4′ mirror that we kept on my bedroom floor for the purpose of dividing and partaking of that fantastic powder. I told you already about how I’d converted my bedroom into a rudimentary recording studio and drug den, right? My friend passed me in the hallway to tell me that he left a line for me on the mirror and I thanked him. I laughed when I saw it, recognizing it for the joke that it clearly was, but taking it as a challenge just the same….I did it all anyhow, half up each of my nostrils. My friend was equal parts irritated, amused, and concerned for my health after that. We were about halfway to our destination when I started laughing and told him I thought my heart was going to explode. That would have been a suitable way for the 20 year old me to have expired, but we know that didn’t happen.

During that same time frame, a hippie friend of mine arrived in town with a strangely regular surplus of decent quality LSD…and my friend and I were positively giddy with that additional tweak to our almost daily drug habit. It became a regular thing for he and I to drop acid and spend the late night hours in the hills with other friends of ours, most of whom were not under the influence of the same drugs we were, which is not the safest way to spend time…but it was really quite enjoyable to say the least.

Where the cocaine was fun and lent itself to my being more productive, the LSD was more of a dark, unpleasant experience that I nevertheless found myself thriving on. It is my personal opinion that anyone who truly enjoys horror, and especially those who wish to create it (whether through literature, art, or film) needs to spend some time under the influence of LSD and spend a good deal of time focusing on self discovery. People talk about bad trips, but I don’t know that I could distinguish between that or any other. I may have forced myself into bad trips if they weren’t naturally heading in that direction more than a few times, and I may have realized just how ill advised that was while still going right ahead with it.

I can talk about how much I enjoyed that time of my life, but there was a lot that made it less spectacular than I like to remember it being. I was still pretty heavily damaged from the events only a few short years before and I was recovering (albeit poorly) from a failed relationship and the sudden absence of my oldest children. I was scraping by, financially, but only barely…what with the friend and roommate who would have made a more successful woman than a drug dealer. This is not the recipe for good, enlightening acid trips like those spoken of by men like Timothy Leary. And, when my disaster of a life wasn’t enough, there was the fact that I would watch movies like In Dreams while under the influence…because that sort of thing definitely sets a person off down the path towards happiness and enlightenment. In fact, I saw both The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense in the theater that summer while under the influence of LSD…which dramatically improved the scare factor of Blair Witch almost exponentially. My friend and I were a solid week into almost constant LSD influence before we picked up a ten strip each for that movie. Prior to the movie we took six hits and wrapped the rest up to save for later. It’s a sign that I was clearly in no state of mind to make decisions when, no more than five minutes into the movie, I felt like we had been there forever and I wasn’t feeling the drug like I thought I should have been, so I opted to take what was left of my acid. Going into the hills that night was made all the more interesting by the residual effects of seeing the movie in that entirely fucked up frame of mind.

Beyond intentionally watching movies that were sure to influence my frame of reference in a truly unpleasant way there were multiple times when I stood in front of a mirror in a dimly lit room, staring at shadows playing across my features, imagining something else taking shape beneath the skin. I became fixated on learning the contours and dimensions of the monster beneath my flesh, and it helped to set my trips off on the correct note for me…because inflicting psychological trauma upon myself is apparently the sort of thing I do for fun.

It took the better part of a year, living like that, but things finally started to really slip out of control for me…which, I think, might have been part of the purpose behind it. Some part of me was in it just to see how far I could push myself before I reached a breaking point. Don’t ask me why I would do that sort of thing, because I haven’t the foggiest notion. It got to the point where time had dilated so badly that my mother called me one evening to find out if I was going to be at my grandparent’s house the next night and I asked her, quite sincerely, if it was already Thanksgiving. She thought that I was joking, but I was not. It was Christmas Eve, and my mother’s side of the family has always gotten together every Christmas Eve out in Piedmont where my grandmother lives to this day. The better part of a month, maybe more, had slipped through my fingers and I had no recollection of where that time had gone. I’d reached nearly the end of my rope, and it might have been a good thing that I’d had that momentary flash of wakefulness or I might have slid further out of control.

It was the end of this particular binge period of my life when I decided that I was going to simply take whatever my friend and I had left and go out for a walk in the chilly night air. Somewhere along that walk I got it in my head that I was going to end up curling up on the side of the road somewhere to die. It isn’t right to consider this a suicide attempt…it was more an acceptance of what would inevitably happen if I were to lie down in the cold night and let nature take its course.

Before letting myself die, I decided to stop and see the mother of my second son, I figured that I would say hello and head back out along my way, since I found myself in the neighborhood where she lived anyhow. You could say that it was my way of trying to say goodbye.

I was almost surprised to actually find her awake when I got there (having no idea what time it actually was), and in a clearly frightened state. A mutual friend of ours was there as well, as support, because the crazy asshole that she left me for had finally snapped. I told you that I would get back to that story, and here you are…so stop being so impatient. I know what I’m fucking doing…sort of. The creep had been obsessively calling her screaming because she’d ended their relationship earlier that day. Our friend asked me if I could stay there so that she could go home, and I agreed. Being in no state of mind to make that sort of judgment call, of course I agreed. I’ve never been very good at declining a request when someone was in need, but especially a pretty woman.

My night had taken an unexpected turn, but I was rolling with it, because that’s just what I do…it wasn’t in me to leave, not with my ex-girlfriend in such a terrified state with a baby boy asleep in his bedroom right there. As surprising as it might be, knowing the toxic nature of my internal chemistry at the time, I actually relaxed and started to doze off in the living room where I’d taken my post just before the banging at the front door began. My ex-girlfriend came running from her room, I don’t know if she’d been able to fall asleep or not, but the noise was such that no one would have slept through it. The banging continued for a long while before stopping just as suddenly as it began.

It wasn’t long before the same sort of frantic, angry beating began at the window to her bedroom, and we quickly when into the room where he was splitting his time between beating at the window and trying to pry it open.

He was gone from there suddenly as well before the banging started up at the back door.

Subtle was definitely not a word that could be used to describe this crazy prick. He returned to the front door, breaking in the door to the enclosed porch before beginning to beat at the door directly leading into the living room where my ex-girlfriend and I were now waiting to see what would happen next. I had enough common sense left in me to attempt calling the police, but she had unplugged her phone because of his repeated calls earlier. I had to locate the phone cord, plug it back in, and call 911. I was just getting through to a dispatcher when the front door came flying open, glass from the window shattering and spreading across the floor. It wasn’t something I immediately registered, but the knife he had in his hand when he crossed the threshold fell from his hand as soon as he saw me sitting there. I was in the middle of trying to explain the insane situation to the operator on the line when he came at me, my ex-girlfriend getting behind me where I was half seated while trying to keep a grip on the phone and maintain a distance from her crazy ex with my foot.

It took some yelling, but he finally got it through his head that the police were on the way and that he would be better off not being there when they returned. He took off running out the door, leaving the knife behind where it had fallen.

I don’t know how the police weren’t able to recognize that there was something clearly quite wrong with me…I was in the worst possible condition to be dealing with the insane, potentially violent situation with her ex and trying to subsequently provide a report for the police. I expected to end up being hauled off myself at any moment, but I apparently maintained my composure better than I imagined I was.

The police left, having taken our statements, and began passively searching for the batshit crazy psycho, and we began cleaning up the mess left behind by his breaking into the house. It was while I had a large shard of glass in my hand when I saw him approaching the house via the sidewalk with a limp. I have never been so proud of my self-control as I was at that moment. I had repeated flashes passing through my mind, second by second, of me leaping from the front step and tearing into him with the shard of glass as a weapon. These images were so visceral and real that I almost feared I was actually doing it, but I kept myself under control…with the glass digging into my palm and the meaty parts of my fingers, I was able to keep myself in check. I told him as calmly as I could manage that the cops were looking for him and that he needed to leave. He claimed that he’d fallen and hurt himself and that he needed our help. He finally did fuck off like we wanted him to and when the police contacted us to let us know he was in custody, they dispelled his bullshit story about injuring himself. The limp and sob story had been an attempt on his part of generating sympathy, which was arguably one of the dumbest fucking things I could imagine anyone thinking.

That was over, and it brought me to my senses enough that my drug use was dramatically diminished over the course of the following month or two…until I had cut the illicit substances out of my life altogether for a few years to come. That will be a story for another time though, since this one has become some enormous fucking monstrosity. Good lord, are you still reading this? Why?