I am continuing my series of memoir-note posts. I left off in the last post leaving Fresno so perhaps I should start with that. It is Fourth of July, after all, and this period is all about discovering my own freedom. Sartre once said that freedom is what you do with what has been done to you, or something to that effect, and though I did not know about Sartre or the Stoic tradition that this quote is reminiscent of, this is definitely the kind of freedom I experienced before being let out of the Group Home. I was controlled by my mom and eventually by the State but I never really felt unfree. I could do whatever I wanted as long as I was smart enough and willing to pay the price and I certainly felt I had more freedom in the group home than I did at home. And it is also true that I ran away a lot and so spent periods of time on my own but I had never just been told that I was on my own now; Good luck and so Long! Looking back on it I can see that I definitely overreacted a bit and some of the stuff from this period is pretty ridiculous but I am going to try to get what I remember out. There are so many details that I am leaving out because these are just notes to try to get the sequence of events straight, and also remember that I am not using any real names unless the person is a public figure.
So in the last post I had just got my first real tattoo and was on my way back to the Central Coast. I am pretty sure that this must have been sometime around April of 1990. I had not been in contact with my family at all during my time in the system, although I can’t help but think that maybe I heard from my mom at some point telling me that our family dog Twinkie had been put down because of a broken back but I may have found that out when I returned (either way I was really sad about that). We had had Twinkie since she was born and we all loved her a great deal. My mom’s boyfriend bought her for us after our previous dog was run over by a truck in front of his house. She was also a Weiner dog (he name was name Tasha). He thought a new dog would cheer her up. At first my mom hated Twinkie (who I got to name) but eventually she became her best friend. Twinkie was old and jumped off the couch and broke her back and because of that she had to be put down.
Anyway I drove all the way from Fresno to San Luis without any problems. The drive itself is only a couple of hours but I guess I must have been driving somewhat late because I remember being really sleepy on the way there. I had to roll the window down and blast the music to keep from falling asleep. As soon as I got off the highway in San Luis I was pulled over. The policeman said that I had been weaving and thought I was drinking and driving. I wasn’t, I was just tired and he let me go. To be perfectly honest I do not remember if I had my driver’s license at that point. I am pretty sure I did not but I do not have any corroboration of that.
I had been driving since I was 12 or 13. My mom had agoraphobia at that time and often would not leave the house for weeks. She would send me out in the car to run errands. One time a Jehovah’s Witness friend of hers called and said they swore they saw me driving our car around town. My mom was really embarrassed by that and told me to be more careful. Anyway, I knew how to drive (Obviously, I stole a motorcycle) but I had never got a driver’s license. Before I ran away I was too young and once in the group home we were not allowed. When I got out of the group home I had a couple of different vehicles. The Caddy, and also a little moped that I had briefly, but I don’t remember ever going to the DMV in Fresno. As I remember it, it never occurred to me to get a license to drive (or insurance, or registering the car) and I just drove my car around and never had any problems.
This time I did. The officer did not write me a ticket (I am pretty sure) but he wouldn’t let me drive. I told him I would walk somewhere to get a ride and that I knew someone with a license. I would come back with them and pick up the car. He said he would wait so I walked around the corner and waited out of sight. He eventually left and I came back but I slept in the car just to be sure. The next morning I had to drive from San Luis to Morro Bay where Maddy lived. This car had some issue where it would drain the battery while you drove it so you had to either leave it running, have a new battery, or get a jump (or some other way to charge the battery). Since the car had been sitting overnight there was no chance it would start but I kept jumper cables in the trunk (if worse came to worse we would pop hoods and look for batteries to steal…some places in Fresno were wise and people would chain their hoods shut) and so I got them out and stood on the hood holding them up over my head. Eventually someone pulled over and offered me a jump and I was on my way.
Maddy lived with her mother and sister, who was slightly younger than her, and she was not expecting me. I pulled up in my giant Caddy and knocked on the door (remember I can’t turn the Caddy off unless I have another battery or a way to charge it). She was very surprised to see me. It turns out she had her own room in the garage and she told me to come back later that night after her parents went to sleep. I did and we soon started dating after that. This would turn out to be my first long-term relationship and I was probably just about to turn 19. I stayed with Maddy for a few days hanging somewhere during the day and sneaking into her garage at night. Her parents figured it out at some point and I needed a place to stay. Somehow I had got my mom’s telephone number (I think from my aunt) and so I called her.
We talked on the phone for a bit and then decided to meet. I found out that she had met someone, a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, and they were planning on getting married (they did in 1993 I think). My mom and I had a big reconciliation. I told her that I was not interested in rehashing the past and that I was an adult now and things would be different. She apologized for what had happened in the past, and so did I. She really seemed to have changed. Since I had been away she had seriously devoted herself to being a Jehovah’s Witness and she was being very nice to me. She even offered to let me stay with her out in her place in Arroyo Grande. My sister had just recently “moved out” (it’s a long, long story!) and so there was room for me. I remember I drove my car over there and then it pretty much died. I still objected to her religious views but I could tell that they were helping her. I told her that I was an adult now and we could be friends even though we disagreed.
At some point I started working out at the Sport Launch out at Avila Beach. This job had really early morning hours. I was used to working the night shift at McDonalds, from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m.. When you get off at 2 in the morning you usually end up hanging out, partying, or whatever for a few more hours, going to bed sometimes at 8 or 9 a.m. and sleep until 2 pm or so. I didn’t mind working this shift. It allowed me for the most part to do what I wanted and to avoid other people which I preferred. The Sport Launch had even stranger hours. I had to be at work at 4:30 a.m. and worked until noon. That is when the fishermen went out apparently. I liked working out at the Sport Launch. Sure it was a lot of dead fish coming through and as a vegetarian I was repulsed by it (but also this is where I first some some of the stranger fish, like a ling cod or a halibut, which I had never seen before) but the fishermen were for the most part nice. We made good money, and tips if we didn’t ding the boat. I also liked working the boat crane. It was fun to strap the boats in and then hoist them out into the water and then back in at the end of their trip. On top of that they would often come back in shit faced and leave any extra beers with us. After work I would hang out at the beach. I liked being back out at Avila. I had worked out there as a pre-teen (I think) on a summer youth work thing we got through our being on welfare. I spent the summer out at Avila picking up trash on the beach and sweeping the sidewalk. It was a lot more fun to be out there as an adult!
I did not stay with my mom long. She claimed ‘weird stuff’ begins to happen at this point. I didn’t really remember this time period too clearly but I have spoken to my mom about it pretty recently. She claims that it might be good that I don’t remember it because it may be a way of protecting myself. According to her there was some kind of supernatural being that followed me to the house. She swears, and she really believes this, that she saw a tall (over 9 feet tall!) hooded figure gliding down the hallway and into my room. She followed it and saw it standing at the foot of my bed. She says she was overcome by dread and sat outside my room all night reading bible verses to protect me. There were a couple of other things as well, but I won’t go over them. At the time I was morphing into an atheist and did not really believe in the supernatural. But my mom tells me that I told her about my dabbling in satanism, which began up in Boonville (according to her, I don’t really remember any of this too clearly). She says that I told her that I saw demons and that they looked like angels of light. To be completely honest I do vaguely remember telling her that but I also remember telling a lot of people a lot of things. I was mostly playing the same game that I had played with the psychologists. I had a knack for knowing what someone wanted to hear (or not hear) and I would often just say those things (even if they were flat-out falsehoods). I did not respect the truth the way I do now and I thought of lying as making a move in chess. The goal was to get the other person to do something and the game required figuring out what you could say to get them to do it. I told her all of this when I spoke with her recently and she didn’t believe it. She thinks I am in denial about the satanic influences on my life.
I have to admit that I had gone through the phase where I thought it would be cool to be the Anti-Christ. I remember reading The Omen and wishing I had a secret mark on my head. But I didn’t really believe in any of that stuff. In the first place cruelty for cruelty’s sake never appealed to me. In the second place there just seemed to me to be no evidence at all for any kind of supernatural machinations. Meanwhile science seemed to be the more reliable guide. At some point my mom and I got into a big argument over her claims about a code in the bible that no Human could reproduce and the shroud of Turin counting as scientific proof of what the Bible says. I remember being so filled with rage at this idea. I could think of an infinite number of more plausible explanations. Why not aliens? (by the way, this is what I take happens in book The Bible Code II!).
Shortly after that my mom received a sudden eviction notice. She had 30 days to get out. As she tells the story it was because I had come back into her life and Satan was unhappy about that since I might be turned toward the light. As I remember it the landlord’s son (or something) needed a place to stay and he was giving them our place. At any rate my mom says she eventually ended up staying in grampa’s and grandma’s vacant house (they had just bought a new place) until they caught her and told her to stay with them. My mom claimed (and still claims) that this was Satan punishing her for trying to get me to come back to God. Insert eye-roll here.
I was making decent money at the Sport Launch and I move into a place with my friend Jay. I don’t even know how I originally met this guy. The apartment complex was pretty cool. We had a one-bedroom apartment. I had the bedroom and Jay lived in the living room. We had a guy who lived in the building who sold weed and other drugs, and we hand a guy, Jeff, who was an outpatient at a mental hospital. He had schizophrenia but was managing it with medication. These were our neighbors. This place was right by the McDonalds that I had worked at as a kid and Jay got a job there.
With the money I am earning I buy my first drum set and Jay and I start our first band. We were called Distraction, and I wrote all the songs and Jay sang, and I am pretty sure the guitarist and bassist lived in the apartment complex as well. I wish I had some kind of recording from those days. We did have a demo of sorts recorded in our apartment that we called ‘Eternal Vigilance’. I vaguely remember renting a four-track recorder to make this and Jay doing the artwork for the cover. I wrote the lyrics and they were all about freedom and the state, control and power. The themes of my life! Except for one song called ‘Die, Fly! Die!’ that my mom swears could have been a hit. How I wish I could find some of the lyrics!
It was around that time that I officially quit skating. I just hurt myself too much and it began to interfere with my drumming. Suddenly a twisted ankle meant no drumming for a few days and I was already better at drumming than i had ever been at skating so I quit.
I really do not remember when I lived in this place but I am guessing it must have been late 1990 or early 19991 when we moved in. I do remember that shortly after we moved in we heard that Slayer was playing in L.A. and I really wanted to go. Jay, at the time, was into punk and not into any kind of metal. He was really into the Dead Kennedy’s and The Exploited, etc. I really liked the shows but I was getting more and more into Death Metal and not really into the punk/hardcore stuff as much. Even so I remember that we went and saw Jello Biafra speak at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. According to this that happened in May of 1991. But my point is that Jay was not interested in seeing Slayer while I thought of them fondly as a band I was really into when I was younger and I still liked Reign in Blood, and Hell Awaits had become a staple by that time as well so I was still into it. This was just before the ‘Clash of the Titans’ tour I am pretty sure. I think that this was in January of 1991 at the L.A. Sports Arena and it was the Touring the Abyss tour.
I had sold my car at that point and so I had no way to get there. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to make the roughly 3 hour drive so I decided to hitchhike there and so off I went. I made it there no problem. It took a few rides but nothing that serious. I had begun to think of hitchhiking as a reliable form of transportation by that point. I was good at making small talk and I had very rarely had any problems. The concert was amazing, the place was packed. They started the concert by playing Reining Blood and ended it with Angel of Death and didn’t play too much from their Season in Abyss or South of Heaven albums. I had a great time even though I never made it to the main floor. I was up in the bleachers and I could see the giant pit circling below me, like the Giant Red Spot on Mars. At some point people began to tear the cushions off of their seats and throw them through the air. You could see them flying across the field of view, it looked pretty cool! Towards the end people from the Mezzanine began to jump over the walls and to rush into the pit. It looked somewhat like a waterfall of people. And then there was Slayer, a giant pentagram behind them, Kerry King with a wristband of spikes. I wanted to get down there as well but I could not find any way to do so.
On the way out I stood by the parking lot exit with my thumb out so that every car that left that concert saw me. I got picked up by a group of guys coming home from the concert and they were going to San Luis Obispo. Score! I got in and they were all drinking vodka and orange juice and smoking a pipe. Excellent. The guy driving was a bit of a psycho though. We were driving on a windy two-lane road (a short cut from Santa Barbara though the mountains) and when we would come around a corner he would turn off his lights and get in the other lane. No cars were coming but there was no way he could have known that. Everyone in the car was hollering and drinking. It was amazing but also terrifying. As we got further along though, people began to pass out. In fact the guy driving began to doze off! I look over at some point and see his head resting back against the seatbelt strap and his eyes closed his breathing regular. We were by that time back on the 101 freeway which is for the most part straight so we weren’t in immediate danger but I could see a curve coming. “Hey man, look out!” I yell. He jerks awake and laughs. At that point I make small talk just to keep this motherfucker awake. We make it back safely.
I saw Slayer again that year in Fresno at the Wilson Theatre, and I think this was in March of 1991. Testament opened. This was at the Wilson Theatre back in Fresno. I think I went up there with Maddy and her friends and it was the first time I was back in Fresno since I had moved to the central coast. The venue was a lot smaller and I thought it would be cool to see them. Tom Araya chided the audience for slam dancing and asked us to just enjoy the music, right before going into ‘die by the sword’. Slayer was selling out! But then the singer for Testament came out and said ‘fuck that, kill yourselves!” and the crowed went wild. The power went out at that show and there was an awesome drum solo by Lombardo to fill the time. I caught a drumstick at that show.
Jay was also an amateur tattooist and we made a homemade tattoo gun out of a motor from a Walkman, a pen cap and some guitar strings that we sharpened on the concrete. That is where I got three of my tattoos. My first tattoo from Jay was a Dead Kennedys logo on my right arm. He didn’t press hard enough and it came out after about a month and a half. I actually thought it was pretty cool to have semi-permeant tattoos! Great business idea. Forget about henna tattoos! Get a real one that fades away, and then get another! After that he did the ‘Skate’ on my left hand. He also did a Corrosion of Conformity logo and the artwork from a Suicidal Tendencies album (Controlled by Hatred/Feel like Shit…deja vu) as well that I still have. Truth be told I was never really all that into these bands, I liked them but they were not my thing. But I did like the imagery and what they stood for so I was ok having the tattoo.
I also got hepatitis, or at least I think I did. Shortly after getting one of the tattoos I became very sick. I was sick for weeks and finally I started turning a bit yellow so I went to the emergency room. They did some tests and told me that if I had had hepatitis then it was gone now. I was like, Ok, guess I’m fine then!
At some point the fishing season ended and so I lost my job at the sport launch. I needed a job and Jay told me McDonald’s (where he was working) was hiring. It was strange being back at the McDonald’s that I had worked at as a teenager.
I would also play this video game at a place by the McDonalds. This was some kind of diner that offered car service, or something like that. I am pretty sure the game was called Kid Niki. I would get off at 2 a.m. and go over there and it would be out in the parking lot. It was a great game. It was off in the corner of this place, out in the open but chained to the wall. It was directly underneath a light post that shone on it making it look a bit isolated or spotlighted. I had to plug it in (and once ran a 60 foot extension cord to my house to do so), but once it was on it took quarters just like all games. The Nintendo had been out since before I had been arrested but I never got to have one. I had friends who had an Atari and an Apple IIE but I never did. The best I got was an old Pong station and once I had a computer found at a thrift store that used cassette tapes and I played Oregon Trail on that. This was as close as I had come to having a game at home!
At some point Jay got fired from McDonald’s. This was because he pulled the fire alarm during lunch rush. This made the fire extinguishers spray foam all over all of the grills and deep friars. We had to shut the whole store down and clean all of that stuff up. It was a real pain in the ass. He said he did it to get out of work early.
I was fired shortly after that, I think, but am not 100% sure, because we had a massive sauce fight. We were working late and we had these sauce guns. I had been on the closing shift for a while now and preferred it. I came in at 5 p.m. and worked until 2 am. The store closed at 11 or something like that and the rest of the time was spent cleaning up and doing the final closing procedures. But anyway we had these special caulk-guns to squirt the sauces onto the buns. One was for mayonnaise, one for secret sauce (used on the Big Mac), one for tauter sauce. We started shooting them at each other and then we started running around hiding and shooting. Those were good times. I had a name tag, which I resented, so I had written ‘Dr. Strange’ on it. At this point in time this might have been my prize possession, coming in right after my (newly acquired) drum set and skateboard. Unfortunately my name tag had come off and they found it in the sauce in the morning. I was fired.
After being fired for a while we would still watch the McDonald’s since we lived so close. I remember one time we were really drunk and bored and someone who was there at the time, I forget who, thought it would be fun to prank call them. He called and said “the capitalist regime is polluting the people” or some such and that he had a bomb in the building that would go off at noon. He thought it would shut the place down all day but it didn’t. They shut down for an hour or so. The police showed up. They looked around and left. But I did find out that they were pissed because that hour was during lunch and that is their busiest time. That must have been in late 1990. I can’t imagine doing something like that in today’s climate!
Another night we were particularly wasted and we went over to the playground, which was outside in front of the McDonald’s, and were messing around. I see the big Ronald McDonald statue and I started kicking it. Jay came over and we both began kicking it. The thing cracked at the knees and I got the idea that we could break it off and take it with us. So we did. We took it back to our apartment. What should we do with it? Well, we had Jeff the mental out-patient who was a bit schizophrenic down in the other apartment. So we broke into his house and put the statue in his shower. We had it half hidden so that only the big yellow hand (or was it a big red hand?) stuck out. We then went home to await the mayhem! And we did not have to wait long. He came home, with us peeking out the window, and went into his house. A few minutes later we heard screaming, a large crash, and he came running over to our place yelling that something was in his shower and he thought he had hurt them pretty badly. We laughed so hard I nearly started crying. Of course we couldn’t keep it and after we calmed Jeff down we decided to take it out to the woods and dump it. It lay there at the bottom of a ditch looking sad and abandoned and I remember feeling a bit guilty leaving it there. ‘Keep your chin up up you Son of a Bitch’, I thought to myself as we walked up the embankment.
The next day we got a knock at the door. It was a detective who was investigating the disappearance of the statue. He knew that we had worked at the McDonalds and that we had been fired. We said we don’t know anything about it. He asked us where we were on the date in question and we made up some excuse. They had nothing on us and after harassing us for a while the detective left. They did eventually find the statue in the ditch and it was repaired.
At this time I was experimenting with a lot of drugs. There was a lot of drinking, a lot of smoking weed and a lot of taking acid and mushrooms. I took acid quite a bit.
I remember the first time I took LSD we got it from the neighbor who said it came in with The Dead. At the time I did not know about the Grateful Dead (well, I had heard “Touch of Gray” on MTV but I did not know about Deadheads or their history, as I would soon find out!) so I thought it was something more gruesome. We took it and as soon as I swallowed it Jay smiled and said “you’ll never be sane again,” and I remember grinning and saying “I never was to begin with!” or something but I can’t really remember so let’s say I said “all I wanted was a pepsi” ;). Jay kept a stone-cold deadpan and said,
“no, I heard of a guy who took so much acid that he thinks he is a cantaloupe! That’s right, the fruit! They found him in a corner saying ‘leave me alone, I’m a cantaloupe!”
“Bullshit!” I retorted
“No,” he continued “seriously! And I heard that Jeff was normal before he took acid as well. That’s why they call it *acid* -it dissolves your brain!”
This continued for a while and then we were off on our wild adventure. Jay thought that he saw Snuffaluffagus and went chasing after him. We had to track him through the streets. We eventually found him in the local cemetery staring at a headstone. He claimed that Snffaluffagus had gone into the grave and he started to try to dig it up with his bare hands, clawing at the grass and screaming for Snuffy to come back. Truth be told I had never watched Sesame Street so I did not know until later that he was chasing a giant Wooly Mammoth from a kid’s show. We climbed up the hill a bit and we could see all of Arroyo Grande and the highway below. I saw all of the cars driving, each a little distance from the other and each one lighting up only the path directly in front of it. None of their lights extended more than a few hundred feet in front of them. I thought that this was a perfect metaphor for most people’s lives. They see only a few feet in front of them. We look no farther ahead than we need to in order to get to the next spot. All the while surrounded by a vast and seemingly endless darkness.
Another time I was walking over an overpass, tripping balls. I looked over the guardrail and saw all of the cars going in one direction with blinding white headlights. The other side of the highway had cars going away from me and all I could see were the red taillights. I started to think that the white lights were angels going up to heaven and the red lights were demons going down to hell. I really started to feel as though I were standing on a vertical surface watching these things flying up and down. There really is no ‘up’ or ‘down’ I thought to myself. I started to get vertigo and then I got dizzy and tried to step back but I stepped towards the railing and bumped into it, almost going over. Jay grabbed me yelling “what the fuck are you doing?” I looked at him and said, ‘We need to jam with the angels and party with the demons’. I couldn’t tell if he answered me back because his face was an undulating, shifting, mess of lines and so I could not tell if he was talking.
Each time I took acid I had some kind of mind altering, Earth-shattering realization. I began to think that everyone should take acid at least a few times. Since I was not really a believer in the supernatural I found it amazing that what I took to be reality could be so altered by just taking a drug. I very rarely had hallucinations so severe that I thought they were really real. Most of the time I could tell that I was frying and that this was my experience of the world, not the world itself, that was altered. I began to wonder if that meant that when I wasn’t frying my experience could be misleading yet convincing. People told me I was becoming a burn out but in retrospect I think I was becoming a philosopher!
At some point I got another car. As I have already said I moved to the central coast with my Cadillac. I sold that car and bought a motorcycle, which caught on fire when I drove it, then I bought a dodge Dart. That car was good but its brakes pulled to the left so I sold it to someone I had worked with at McDonalds. With that money I bought a Chevy Impala which I liked a lot. I eventually traded that car for a Volkswagen Baja Bug. That car was awesome but not my style so I sold it and bought a Nissan Pulsar. That is the car that I took with me to San Francisco. These will come up at various points but I thought I would list them here. I honestly cannot remember when I got my first driver’s license. As I said I was too young before I was arrested and I am pretty sure I did not get it when I got out. I vaguely remember taking the driving test the first time but I think it was in San Luis Obispo and it may have been around this time. I am pretty sure I had to use Maddy’s mom’s car to take it.
So at one point a friend of Jay’s was flying into LAX and Jay said we should drive down there and pick them up. He would pay for gas. So I said sure thing as long as he would drive I would take acid and enjoy the ride. On the day of the trip I drop acid and we go out to the car. He gets in and then realizes that he cannot drive a stick. So I end up driving. So we head out towards L.A. Part of the way through the drive I start tripping hard. I am just trying to keep the car in front of me a proper distance while trying not to think to hard about what distance really is. We have the music up loud. Suddenly the car in front of me hits its brakes and so I hit mine. This car had breaks that pulled to the left and the harder you hit them the harder it pulled. The result in this case was that it pulled really hard to the left so much so that the car was pulled in that direction. I panicked and pulled hard in the other direction and then we started spinning. I think we must have spun three or four times and bounced off the center divider before we came to a rest in the ditch on the side of the road. This was near Santa Barbara.
For a moment afterwards everything seemed normal. The music was playing, I had my hand on the wheel and Jay was sitting there and I said “man, I’m tripping hard. I thought we just spun into the ditch” and he says to me “we did!” We get out and climb down the embankment looking for a phone (this was before cell phones!). We eventually call a tow truck. We get back to the car and there is a cop there. I panic and tell Jay that he has to say that he was driving. The cop had just seen the car on the side of the rode and pulled over to check it out. He asks what is going on and Jay tells him the truth (for the most part minus me driving on acid). The car is functional and we are going to tow it to a shop and have the alignment checked. The cop listens, then looks at me and points right at me and his finger seems enormous in my face. He then says “You drive” and starts laughing. At this point I can’t tell if he is kidding or if he is accusing me or what the fuck is happening. I feel the urge to bolt but I keep a straight face (what is straight, anyway?) and Jay laughs and says ‘sure thing officer, it’s his car anyways’. The officer looks satisfied and leaves. This whole encounter blows my mind. As I get back into the car I am wondering if Jay and the police officer communicated something to each other through their laughs.
After we get back on the road I am trying to get a grip on myself. We still have at least an hour’s drive. I think I can still make it. Remember, Jay can’t drive and so I have to do the driving. After a while the cars in front of me begin to look like they have faces. The taillights are the eyes and the bumpers are the mouths. Each car has a certain personality. Some are mocking, some are encouraging. I find myself racing to pass a particularly smug looking Honda and then, feeling guilty, I let it pass me to explain that we are in a hurry. Jay tells me to get a grip and stop driving like a fucking maniac.
We finally get to L.A. but we are lost. I pull into a drive through to ask for directions.
“How do you get to LAX?” I asked (I think that is what I said). The person in the drive through window starts talking to me and they are waving their hands and arms and saying “you get on the 101 to the 5 to the 408 to the 654 and then you take the 107 to the 987” or at least that is what it seems like to me. I cannot follow what they are saying to me at all so I start repeating it back to them but in a made up nonsense order “so, you take the 909 to the 567 to the 453? Why not the 476 to the 321?” All the while I am waving my hands around randomly trying to imitate what they had just done. The person looks really confused and Jay is laughing uncontrollably so I just hit the gas and take off. But the car is not in gear and so the engine just reves. In a panic I throw it into gear and peel out of the drive-through. At this point I am too far gone and we are somewhere near or in L.A. so we go to a Denny’s and sit there to order something. I remember looking at my refection in the spoon on the table for what seems like a very long time. We eat but none of us have any money so we have to dine and dash. But we get the friend and drive back with no issues.
Since neither Jay nor I were working we eventually get evicted from this apartment. We decided to have a massive blowout party and trash the joint. I don’t know when this was but it was sometime in 1991. Our band Distraction played and we ate pot brownies and took acid. I remember being so high that I thought I was part of couch. I literally felt like I was part of the fibers of the couch. I sat there watching everything happen but I had no ability to communicate at all. People sat next to me and talked but I could not respond. I was the couch. I felt trapped inside my body and I could not move. “Couches don’t move,” I explain to the person sitting next to me, “and I am a couch, so it is only natural that I am not moving”. “But you are moving,” they say and then I realize that I am not a couch. With a massive exertion of the will I stood up. We played our set and that helped. I sat behind the drum set watching my hands move and with the drum sticks in my hand I felt like a magician waving a wand. I wasn’t playing songs, I was conjuring spirits. People were moshing in the living room and afterwards we trashed the joint. I smashed out the sink and used it to bust up the toilet. We punched holes through the walls. That place was destroyed. And then we left.
After we were evicted I ended up back in Maddy’s garage. By this time we were a steady couple and her mom begrudgingly let me stay for a while. Her friend Mac played drums and was into death metal. He got me into Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, which I of course loved. Eaten Back to Life quickly became my favorite album and I used to listen to it religiously. Originally Mac was a drummer but he decided that I was a better drummer than he was. At this point I had only been playing for a couple of years so I was surprised but we decided to form a band. Mac’s mom worked during the day and so we would write songs and rehearse with Mac’s friend on guitar and bass. We officially formed Mutilation. This is also when I discovered Zelda. Mac had it and he had played it before but Link to the Past had just came out. Man I loved that game and spent hours, and hours, and hours playing it. Mac would have to kick me out of his room.
Mac and Jay did not get along. This was mostly because of a time we all took acid together. Jay was trying to convince everyone that in reality we were all one giant eyeball flying through space. Jay enjoyed fucking with people but Mac and his friends did not. I kept in touch with Jay but we drifted apart because I was out in Morro Bay with Maddy and Mac most of the time.
At some point in 1991 I got a job at the Burger King in Morro Bay. I started as a cashier and went to the drive through. By this time I was good at the drive through. We also used to play a game where we would see who could say the most ridiculous thing to someone in the drive through without getting caught. We would say things like ‘so that two order of flies and and a flopper with fleas?’ and then bust up laughing when they said “yes, that’s right”. The worst anyone ever did was when we were supposed to say ‘Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order’ someone would say “welcome to Burger King, may I fuck your daughter?” and then they would say “yes, uh I would like…” and we would all laugh.
I had a patented stealing technique that I had developed back in Fresno to make extra money at McDonalds. Any order that I took through the drive-through (it didn’t work face-to-face) I would add a dollar to the total and tell the customer that total. So if the total was 5.49 I would tell them 6.49. As they came though and paid I would make a tally on the register with a pencil. At the end of the day I would take that number of dollars from the register. On a good day I would make over a hundred dollars. The hardest part was getting the money out of the register without anyone noticing.
Not every customer would pay. Some would ask, “6.49? For that?’ and I would always add one of something they had ordered. So, if they order a burger and fries and a drink I would say,
“that’s a burger, two fries, and a drink?”
“no, one fry”…
“Oh, sorry about, 5.49 at the window”.
It was fool proof and I made a lot of extra money doing it. Sadly I could not keep my mouth shut and I told other people about my method. They started doing it but were not as discrete as I was. They got caught and fired. To their credit (?) they did not rat me out but I knew I had to stop doing that, I can’t help but feel partially responsible for the new order-readouts by the cars they have now.
It wasn’t very long before I was promoted to night manager. At this point I had been working in fast food for a while so I knew the drill but I was still surprised when I was approached with the offer. The job was basically to babysit high school students and then to do some rudimentary bookkeeping and sometimes the ordering for the store. The most important thing to do was to make sure the safe with the day’s take was locked when you left.
Working at this job I was able to get my own apartment by myself. It was the first time I had ever really lived all by myself in a house. I had a one bedroom in a nice little complex by the Burger King. I would hang out during the day until 5:00, then go to work, get off at 2:00, hang out and party with my fellow night peeps and then do it all over again. On my days off I would practice in the band and occasionally we would have gigs. In between we would see concerts. I wish I had more documented evidence of those gigs. I used to have recordings and pictures, etc but they were all lost in the Great Storage Place Fiasco of 1997. Anyway, it was not a bad living. I was on salary and making what for me was truly good money for the first time in my life.
During this entire time I was still dating Maddy, who really was my first official girlfriend. She had been a swimmer in high school and she was really funny. I really liked her but our relationship was not good. Looking back on it I can see I was re-enacting all of the things from my relationship with my mom. We would break up, yell and scream, then I would beg her to come back and it would start all over again. At the worst point I came home to my apartment and found that the door was already open. Inside I found medical supplies, some wrappings and tubing. I didn’t know what had happened but I soon found out that Maddy had broken in and tried to kill herself by taking an overdose of something. She had intended for me to come home and find her but when I didn’t get back when she expected she had called 911. Another time after a big fight she called 911 and told them that I had threatened to kill my self by driving my car off a cliff. This was not actually true at all but when the police officer came out to my place to talk to me and saw the scars on my wrist they took me in for a 51/50 observation. This is when they hold you for 48 hours for psychiatric observation. Given my history I was freaking out. But the more I freaked out the more angry I got the more they thought that maybe there was a problem. Through a Herculean effort of self-control I was able to maintain my composure while in there and they released me. Being back inside reminded me what was at stake. It was funny to me because when I was a kid I thought that being inside was no big deal. I had more freedom in there than at home I would often remark. But now I had had a taste of real freedom and I did not want that taken away.
One of the great concerts I saw was Sick of It All, Sacred Reich, Napalm Death, and Sepultura. According to Google this was August 30th 1991. I have a vague feeling that someone (not me) spit on Sick of it All or something like that and that there was a fight as a result that delayed the concert a bit but Napalm Death was amazing. I was fully into their album Harmony Corruption and I remember being very excited that they played Scum, which was an all-time favorite of mine, but it was Sepultura that brought the house down. Their tribal-inspired rhythms and mid-tempo songs make for violent slam dancing. The whole place was one seething rage-pit and it was one of the few times I have ever really been scared that I might be seriously hurt in a mosh pit. I wasn’t but I did end up with a black eye and a swollen lip. I really enjoyed slam dancing but it was definitely not anything goes. If you got knocked down people helped you up, if you were hurt badly people helped you get medical attention. I did occasionally hear about people bringing razor blades into the pit and people trying to really hurt people in there, so there was always that risk, but for the most part it was just a way of thrashing about with the music. But in that room it really felt like you could be seriously hurt. The entire place was undulating and pulsating to the music and it truly felt like the entire concert hall was a mosh pit.
I remember watching the drummer and being awe-struck. He was able to do things with one hand that I could not do with both of mine! Truly inspiring. And when I learned that he was self taught I was flabbergasted. After the show we were buying beer and we saw him, the drummer for Sepulture, buying a pack of socks. We were amazed.
I must have worked at Burger King for most of 1992. I was being introduced to another way of living. Mac’s mom would go to work in the morning, leaving the house to Mac and his friends. We would hang out and play music, Zelda, or whatever and then his mom would come home and make dinner and often chocolate cake. Then we would all sit around and watch taped Days of Our Lives. I became quite familiar with the plot lines for a while there.
With the money I was making at Burger King we had a rehearsal space at a local storage place that had a lot of bands in it. I put a lot of my money into the Mutilation demo.
- Deceased Visions Track 2 from Molesting the Remains by Mutilation
I don’t remember exactly when we recorded this but it was sometime in 1992. Since I was a self-taught drummer who had only been playing for a couple of years at that point I was always self-conscious about my drumming. In the beginning I thought that each riff needed to have some specific kind of drum beat and I was always surprised that I was able to think of one to go along with the riff. The concept of drumming as keeping time never occurred to me. Instead I thought of the drum parts as functions of the guitar riffs. It never occurred to me that different drummers might come up with different drum parts for the same riff and I was always trying to find “the correct” drum part for a song. It was a real advance, for me, when I realized that as long as I was on time I could do whatever I wanted.
In those early days I was completely mystified by the drum set. When I purchased it the kit was all broken down so I had to figure out how to set it up. I remember wondering what the correct way of setting it up was and someone told me that it should just be comfortable for me I didn’t know what was comfortable because I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing. I knew what kind of drumming I liked and I simply tried to play like that. I thought of drumming a lot like skating but with rhythms instead of tricks. Mostly I saw a lot of music, and listened to a lot of it and tried to play the kind of stuff that I heard. I saw a lot of great concerts back then, too many to name all of them, but a couple stand out.
One was Obituary, Agnostic Front, Malevolent Creation, and Cannibal Corpse. Another was Deicide on the Legion Tour. At this concert one of my friends ended up getting a tattoo from one of the bands that was opening and as a result we got to go back stage. I met Steve Ashiem and I remember thinking that his hand shake was so fucking firm. It blew me away. We also saw but did not met Glen Benton and we could see the upside cross burned into his forehead. These guys were apparently true believers and while I wasn’t I felt that was more respectful than Slayer who I had begun to view as a bunch of sell outs.
Anyhow, back to the Mutilation demo. The studio was really fun and it is the only time I have ever really recorded in a professional studio. It was Moon Studios in Arroyo Grande and back then they used to do a lot of death metal recording. We each were in different rooms and we played with headphones on and then went back and did the other tracks. We had enough money to produce a few of these tapes and we got them distributed via Wild Rags Records. This was a very eccentric record label that billed itself as the ‘smallest but heaviest record label’ in America, or something like that. They had a small review of it (along with a bunch of other ones but we were very happy none the less!) in the Art Gore special issue of The Wild Rag zine.
I had just turned 21 and things weren’t going that bad. I was free. I had a decent job making decent money. I had an apartment of my own and I had realized my childhood dream of playing in a band. We even had our own demo and had played gigs. This is when I decided to get the Mutilation logo tattooed. I liked the design but it turns out it was premature because we had to change our name shortly after we found out that there was another band called Mutilation! We changed it to Cannibalistic Mutilation and had shirts printed by hand.
And then one day the owner of the Burger King I managed told me that I was an excellent employee and that some day I would own my own Burger King. I had never really thought about it that way and I suddenly saw that my life was heading in a direction that I did not want it to go in. I could see myself just as he did at that moment. I could end up owning a store, being a successful businessman, but it would all be based on selling hamburgers. I had by that time worked in fast food for most of my life. I started at McDonald’s when I was 13, went back again when I was released. As a vegetarian it was hard for me to be around so much meat but I was in survival mode (and really the frozen circles we had to put on the grill were about as far removed from actual meat as you could get!). I was behind enemy lines and had to make do. Besides, as long as I worked there I could control what I ate. I was allowed to make my own food and so could make sure the buns never touched the grill, that the fries were in fresh oil with no fish bits, etc. But I couldn’t really be that person.
I quit that day.
But since I no longer had a job I could not afford my apartment and so I was evicted, again. This time I did not have a blowout party and trash the joint. Instead I just refused to leave. I hid whenever someone came by. At that point I was not overly concerned about the future. I used to joke around by telling people that I only planned on living until I was 23. I figured once you turn 21 you can legally drink but by the time you are 23 it would be getting old. I didn’t at that point have any intentions of killing my self but I did have a reckless abandon with respect to the future. Eventually they put up a notice that said that the sheriff would be there in the morning to escort me out. At that point I left.
I ended up staying in a room I found for rent, until the guy said his finance was moving in and I had to be out asap. At that point I ended up moving into our rehearsal space. This must have been in 1993 but I really can’t remember. I also got the chicken pox. It turns out that I had not had them as a kid. At night by myself in the storage facility, covered head to toe in Chicken Pox and itching, I recalled the story of Job and how he had been described as itching so badly that he used broken shards of pottery to scratch the boils. What an asshole this God character is that he would allow this amount of suffering to test someone’s faith. No amount of reward could justify this (especially without consent). I also spent a lot of time thinking about how the itching felt. I remember trying to distinguish the itchiness of individual bumps on my arm or legs. Was *that* one more itchy than *that* one? It was hard to tell
Anyway, in general I spent a lot of time at this rehearsal space. Really it was a complex of storage sheds that a lot of bands used for rehearsal. There were at east 10 or so bands out there. There was us, Cannibalistic Mutilation, and there was John’s other band Desinence. There was also Charlie Christ, Psychotrope, Terminal Human Combustion, and old school groups like No Remorse. Then there were a bunch of other bands that I can’t even remember. Deeds of Flesh eventually emerged as that era’s most successful group (I think). They came out of a previous band (Charlie Christ) that a bandmate of mine also played in. I tried out for them at some point (later in like 1995 or 1996) but they were way out of my league (they eventually released this so, yeah, way out of my league.)
Somehow I ended up living out in Atascadero with a roommate who was not around much for most of 1993. At first I got a job at the local McDonlds but that didn’t work out. I forget why but I do remember that I found out that they put beef powder in their curly fries and that really pissed me off. Was nothing safe? I then found a job at some local liquor store as a cashier. I don’t remember much about that place except one day I had to debone a bunch of roasted chickens. Ripping these tiny corpses I felt like the monster on one of Cannibal Corpse’s albums (Butchered at Birth) and I did not like it. I vaguely remember drinking a lot of Natural Ice. I also had a job at a retail store called Srouse-Rietz but that did not last very long.
One day I got a call from my dad. Apparently my mom had given him my number. I told him that I did not have much to say to him and I don’t think we talked for very long. That was the last time I talked to him. I vaguely remember telling him that if I ever saw him in person I did not know whether I would hug him or hit him. I found out much later that he died in 2010. I guess I felt a little said about that but mostly I thought of this guy as a stranger. It is always sad when someone dies but I did not know him. My mom tells me that as I kid I really loved him but I don’t remember that. All I remember is that he did not try to contact me until it was too late.
I really do not have any idea how this came about but somehow I ended up getting a job at a pre-school in Los Osos in 1994. I lived above the pre-school and after the school closed my job was to clean it up and make it ready for the next day. In exchange I got free rent in the place above. It was a good gig and I was happy to have it. So all together it was ok. I got free rent and I had a day job at a local gas station that was one of those encased-in-glass kind of jobs.
One time I was on acid with some friends at the house and somebody came by with a friend of a friend of mine. I had my Impala at the time and this person had a powder blue Volkswagen Bug. It looked like a cartoon. I saw it through the window and was fascinated with it. I offered to trade him my car for his. He thought I was joking. Nope. Let’s do it! And we did! He left in my Impala and I had the bug. We took it out to the beach that night and drove it in the dunes. It had roll bars and a cage and we did end up rolling it. It got stuck on its roof and we had to push it. Then it had a dent in the roof and I had to kick it to get it to pop out.
The bug was a beast! It was loud and it smelled like gasoline in the driver’s seat. The gearbox was fucked and it would pop out of 4th gear. You had to use this bungee cord to hook it and latch it to the frame of the seat to keep it in that gear. It also did not have a tape player so I did not really like to drive it. I always joked that I felt like I was in a German war machine in it. I had the bug for a while but eventually got rid of it.
I liked the pre-school. The kids were nice and they left me alone during the day. At night I would eat the left over snacks and put the place back together.
At some point I saw my mom pull up in the gas station I was working at. We had been in some fight or other and so had been out of touch for a bit. She told me about this program that her husband was involved with called the Private Industry Council that might be able to help me get into college if I was interested. At the time I wasn’t really interested. The people I hung out with did not like the college students who came into town and then were gone a few years later. And I didn’t think I needed to go back to college.
I eventually had to move out of the pre-school (some of the parents had complained about me and my friends being there) and I figured maybe I should look into this school situation.
My mom had given me a number to call and so I called it. I set up an appointment and I went to meet with the woman who would be my caseworker. Basically they would help you register, apply for financial aid, and give you a voucher for books. In return you had to agree to do a follow up ten years later to see what happened and where you were. I agreed to give it a shot and enrolled in Cuesta College in August 1994. I was 22 but would be 23 soon.
2 thoughts on “So long, and Thanks for All The Freedom: 1990-1994”
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