I was a creepy kid alright. No doubt about it. Something was seriously wrong with me. A dark lad, with different interests. I had a wild imagination, and sometimes I used it, but more often it used me.
As a young snapper, I loved reading about prisons and leprosy. When I saw the movie Papillion with my dad, I couldn’t believe my luck. It had both. I begged him to buy me the book, which he did. Now I could read about convicts getting their guts cut opened by other prisoners looking for the diamonds the dead man keestered, and lepers whose fingers came off on the coffee cups they hand you to drink from. This was heavy shit, and I found it all so much more interesting than the suburban postcard I was living in.
So while other kids were learning to play little league, I was under my sister’s trundle-bed, gnawing on coconut husks, pretending to be doing time in the hole. I may or may not have leprosy, depending on how miserable I wanted to make-believe to be that day. Like I said, a dark lad, with different interests.
I get a kick out of kids these days with their vampires and zombies. More people have had the life sucked out of them in the Colonial French penal system, or for that matter an office job, then by any blood-thirsty vampire. Statistically, more people have died from having their flesh rot off their bones, right before their very eyes, from common diseases than have had their brains eaten by some zombies stumbling through a mall like sleep-deprived commuters.
Kids, if you want to scare yourself. Go all the fucking way. Convince yourself you have cancer, or that someday, because of the bad choices you’ve made, you’ll have to hide knives in your ass just to survive, or sell insurance. There’s plenty to be scared about right here in the real world. Unless, you just want to pretend to be scared, and I get that. Then vampires and zombies are cool. Sorry for getting all preachy.
As an introverted little imp, I spent a lot of time in my own head, and in the process created a bleak inner landscape. My family’s stories about life in Europe during World War 2, my own morbid research into historical plagues, wars, and genocide, as well as the ugliness I saw in myself and other people, convinced me I was on the scariest planet in The Universe.
Could I discover everything that there was to get freaked out and scared about? I’d sure try my darnedest, Mr. Wizard.
I used to love reading about paranormal phenomenon, ESP, ghosts, pyramid power, telekinesis, but especially about UFO’s and ancient astronauts. I would pray for an invasion. I actually remember praying to Jesus to send UFOs to take over the world. Double-barreled crazy? Perhaps, but the way I saw it, we’d be much better off than the way we were running things.
Worst case scenario, they come down and decide to exterminate all of us. In other words, not really all that bad. I mean to actually save the planet, I’d make that call. Just DDT us like some roaches that have taken over a building. My big hope was to be captured and sent to a comfortable life in one of their zoos, some habitat they’ve surrounded with things they’ve found humans to love.
I’ve been watching the skies since.
Then there was my deal the Devil. (No, I didn’t actually make any “deal” with him) I mean my fear of and fascination with him. I was given his basic profile report by a Catholic upbringing, which also pretty much convinced me I was bound to go to hell and meet him in person. I used to rehearse the speech I would deliver to him regarding my humane treatment, if only because I had apparently served his will so well while on Earth. At least that’s what I got out of Catholicism. That me and The Devil were two peas in a pod. He loved sin, and by cootchity, so did I.
It was only a matter of time before he would come to claim one of his own. And when he did, there would be a hot eternity in the old town tonight.
I really got worried after having choice excerpts from the The Exorcist read to me by my friend, Adam Weiss. He was Jewish and could claim immunity from being possessed. Good for him. I wasn’t so lucky. It seemed like Catholics made easier targets. After really mulling over the concept of demonic possession, I was convinced I was a prime candidate to host a pea soup spewing party. It just made perfect sense.
At night, when I felt The Dark Lord getting too close, I’d lay in bed clinging to a rosary, my illustrated children’s bible, or a clear plastic dashboard mount St. Christopher, my eyes and asshole tightened to close off any ports of entry. When my bed started to shake one morning back in 1971, I actually thought, “And so it begins…”
I was relieved when my father ran in with half a face of shaving cream yelling about an earthquake.
That, by the way, turned out the most harmless shaking bed I’d ever be in. I would eventually learn there was something out there more terrifying than the Devil and more devastating than earthquakes, and it all starts with a smile. That nightmare would begin soon enough. For now I only had to wrestle with Satan for my soul. Women were still behind the ropes waiting to get tagged in.
Between preparing myself mentally for a life in prison, begging U.F.O’s to come down, and running from the devil, participating in healthy recreation like running around a baseball diamond, or bouncing a ball around, seemed like a dangerous distraction. There was just so much to think about and scare yourself with. Gnarly stuff to mentally prepare yourself for, when it finally happened.
Besides, I sucked at sports. My father never really taught me that stuff, and I’d get all nervous and blow simple catches. The more I freaked about it, the more I dropped the ball. (A very good life metaphor, I might add.) Team sports are a healthy way to integrate individual personalities to work together harmoniously. No wonder that got skipped.
Then there was the clothes. My mother was insane about them. I was going to be her living fashion doll and she would play dress up with me. She insisted in dressing me in the latest styles…from West German fashion magazines. I even remember the name of one of them, Wenz. Wenz for the wimpiest in wiener wear. It featured some of the gayest, most dip-shittiest outfits ever designed for children, or rather, der kinder volk, to look their absolute dorkiest and most beat-upable.
Going to school in New York City public schools dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, or like a Broadway stage dancer, was bound to magnetize beatings. Who could resist? I was like a multicolored spinning and flashing bass lure. I caught a lot of them. Then later got some of the West coast version when we moved to California. The clothes had come with me. I would beg my mom to let me dress like the other kids, but she never relented. We played a cat and mouse game for years, with me wearing two pairs of pants over each other before school, or keeping a smuggled T-shirt to change into.
“But mom, the kids pick on me for being dressed like this!”
“They pick on you because they can smell the fear on you,” she’d say, “like dogs can.”
I tell you what though, being exposed to so much physical violence early on did something to me. Years later, when I was actually earning a living fighting with dudes, there was deep well of rage I could tap into. I was not just hitting the son of bitch in front of me, but every single one I ever took a beating from.
I remember hitting on this one fucker in Rodeo Nites one night, and he just kept changing from Paul Rodriquez, to James Rich, to John Mahoney. I poured it on, and wound up having the other bouncers working that night pull me off.
I could become a vicious motherfucker when it served me. Took me a lot of deprogramming to undo that guy.
Speaking of deprogramming. My parents were very Right Wing, as most refugees from a Communist takeover tend to be. It was explained to me early on, that everything bad that was happening in the world was because of Communists, and their lackey surrogates, the hippies. They were going to take over the world and ruin our lives. They didn’t believe in God or taking showers, and would force us not to either.
They were going to do that with drugs. The hippies would disseminate them among the population, and it would weaken our will to resist a Red invasion of the United States. In fact, they were doing just that to our soldiers right then, in Viet Nam. Holy shit. Add Communists, hippies, and drugs to my list of things to be scared of. And, perversely, now be suddenly more interested in.
Drugs especially. I used to read my parent’s Time and Newsweek to look for articles about drugs. I learned there were all kinds, and that they would do all kinds of different things to you. Some would make you see things that weren’t there. Some made you really peppy, and others really sleepy. I became pretty savvy about drug culture, way before I even partook.
A semi-trailer truck would park in front of The Esplanade shopping center and it would have a display inside of all the different drugs and corresponding paraphernalia in exhibition cases behind glass. The idea was to educate the public on what to look out for so they could rat out whoever had any of this stuff around. That wasn’t what happened to me.
I’d stare mesmerized at the hash pipes, syringes with burnt and bent spoons, roach clips, bags of white powder, bags of brown powder, sugar cubes, pills of all colors and shapes. This was some bad stuff. Stuff people shouldn’t have. I wanted to play with all of it.
In fact, I used to pretend play drug dealer. I think I was in 5th grade, and I would bring in bags of brown sugar, which was Mexican heroin, and bags of white flour, which was French heroin, and thus more expensive. I’d have to explain all this to the other kids, and then hand out vitamin pills telling them what each one was. “This one is going to make you jump around a lot.” “This one is going to make you think that the swing set is a dinosaur.” And so on, and the kids would have to act out their various “trips.”
So it was no surprise when the world of substance abuse did finally open it’s doors of liquor and medicine cabinets, I pushed through the cafe doors like a little Baudelaire, a lazy, morbid, fearful little dreamer, a loner flaneur, morose and miserable, but now with an avenue of escape. Here was a remedy for all that ailed me. A fleeting but sweet relief from having to be me, one of the most miserable bastards I could invent. A brooding, cathedral gargoyle, hunched over a bong and a 32 oz. malt liquor.
By high school, I was dressing more normal, but the insides were warped beyond straightening. Somebody was about to grow up to be a crazy person, a total drunken Visigoth on a pillaging rampage through life.
Looking back now, I can see I wasn’t all that bad of a kid. Just a lot of things made me believe I was, and my reaction to that, ultimately did make me turn a little rotten. Or maybe I was just destined. All I know is, I thought it sucked to be me, and to be around me, and I was having to do both. Drinking and drugs gave me a small vacation. The problem was when I’d get back from my journey, somebody always ransacked the joint.
So I try not to make that mistake these days. I figure I’m stuck with being me. I can continue to try to evolve as a person, but hating myself along the way is just going to make me thirsty again. I try to cut myself a little slack, and in the process, find it easier to do it for others. Things tend to go better for me that way. I still believe in crazy things, but these days, they’re nothing that scares me. If anything, the crazy shit I believe these days helps me make it somehow.
I don’t try to make other people believe what I believe. All I want other people to believe is that they are okay, the way they are right now. That they are worthy of love regardless of their weirdness, or the mistakes they’ve made, and that love is stronger than anything, so there’s nothing to really be afraid of. That’s the only thing I’ll ever mount a soap box for, and hopefully help some creepy kid from having to go through what I did. That would make everything worth it.