Many, many years ago I had a job for a few weeks at one of the Skid Row missions downtown, setting up their databases. Worked with lots of recovering addicts. That was interesting. My assistant had been an executive in an aerospace firm, with a huge house, expensive cars, a yacht, some beautiful children and a trophy wife. Speed had helped him get more work done. He’d been through every addiction program his company offered but finally wound up on the street and then in the mission. He showed me the ropes. The addicts there had a hierarchy, he explained, almost like a caste system. The cokeheads–strictly powder–were the aristocracy, the Brahmin. Even in the mission they wore bling. Then came tweekers. Very busy. Then junkies. They were the thinkers. Then the boozers and winos. Theirs was legal, they could leave anytime they wanted and get a bottle, or not. They always did though. Finally, at the bottom, were the untouchables, the crackheads. Even the sorriest Skid Row winos were above them. None of the other castes at the mission had any respect for them. They’d order them around, drive them off like stray dogs. They aren’t even human, my tweeker assistant told me, they’re just pure addiction.
I did meth once. It was a gay drug then, and our gay friends were getting heavy into it. This was Hollywood in the early 80’s, before AIDS. Everyone did everything, we all figured the world was gonna blow up any day now so why not? We actually thought that. There were so many bombs that they could blow up the world a hundred times over and still have bombs left for another go. Mutually Assured Destruction, they called it, M.A.D. There was a defrocked gay chemist living upstairs from our friend Tim who’d lost his chemist license years before. It was a crowded apartment building full mostly of other gays at Wilcox and Fountain right in the center of Hollywood. At night you could hear the inhabitants loudly fucking. Tim lived on the second floor. The crazy queen chemist was brewing meth on his stove on the upper floor. Cool! None of us thought about explosions or anything at all, really. This old ex-chemist certainly didn’t. It was obvious he’d lost his job due to the drugs he could make, and if I remember right he’d spent the 60’s making LSD, making a lot of money and a lot of friends. He was like a crazy mad scientist who laughed and laughed and spun a million disjointed stories about hippies and rock stars and handsome men. Tim was a retired lieutenant colonel from the US Army, his friend Chris a talented stage actor gone over the edge. I forgot the name of the defrocked chemist. The gay scene in the 80’s was dark and decadent, all kink and leather and things we were not allowed to see, ever, innocent straights that we were. But we loved to party and had no hang ups and so all became great friends. Naturally we were invited over to their meth party. Meth party. Sounds so trailer trash now. Not back then, though, meth was the new blow, but at recession prices. Lasted longer than cocaine and you could make it on your stove if you were smart about it and no one got blown up. Tim was mad about classical piano, Horowitz especially, he had a hundred cassettes of Horowitz, and his living room echoed with great sweeping Russian arpeggios that would collapse into huge ivory pounding crashes. Rachmaninoff gone mad. The meth made our ear drums vibrate and it was Horowitz in a wind tunnel. My god it was exciting. The meth was piled on the coffee table, gleaming white, and there were plenty of straws. We drank cheap red wine in fancy glasses and ate nothing and talked all at the same time and laughed hysterically at nothing and I couldn’t take my eyes off of Fyl’s tits. I wanted her so bad just then, then and now, right there, and probably tried. No luck. We drank and drank and drank and snorted and snorted and snorted and went home who knows when, nine or ten in the morning. Sleep never came. I wrote. I still have that pad. The letters get bigger, more jagged, the grammar dissolves, soon the pen is shredding through the pages like a knife. I listened to crazy music. My hard-on had disappeared hours before, unthought of, impossible. Fyl finally crashed. I couldn’t. I just stayed up and up and up. I wanted to sleep but couldn’t. Just stayed up and up and up. It got boring. The eyes vibrated. The teeth ground. I was vibrating and grinding and twitching and bored. The trip finally became manageable and I got loads of things done. A zillion little things. I cleaned and straightened out and wrote but was too antsy to sleep. Antsy. Like army ants antsy. Too many ants antsy. Not itchy antsy, just twitchy unsettled antsy. But that feeling too subsided and exhaustion took over. Utter exhaustion. Two of three days worth of exhaustion. The thing was over. I slept hours and hours and hours. For a few days afterward I spit out pieces of teeth. There are gaps now where they used to be. I can run my tongue where they once were and remember.
Never again, I said. Never ever again.