Ah, intrepid youth.
I was reading an article about the Stooges, specifically about the wonderful Stooges documentary, “Gimmie Danger” by Jim Jarmusch. As you are reading this blog, you probably know the Stooges – in their first incarnation – made two amazing records in the years from 1968 to 1971 where they basically invented punk. That statement is simplistic and only partly true, but whatever, it sounds cool. Three of the four members also became junkies. Those albums didn’t sell all that well and by the end of 1971 the band broke up. In the article there’s a quote from Stooges drummer Scott Asheton who says, “I guess I realize the band’s over when I’m sleeping on the floor of some people’s house, and I had no money and I sold my drum set to get bus tickets home to my mom.”
It got me thinking about how tough it is to be young, particularly so when you’re young and hooked on drugs. And how thankful I am for my own mother, who stood by me when I was behaving like a complete shithead. Mom was always there to pick up the pieces. Or at least she tried to.
Shit didn’t go well for me as a young person. The first 5 or 6 times I tried to leave home I failed. From age 18 when I first left for college to age 25 when I finally made it out for good (without a college degree I should add) I couldn’t make it on my own. That’s the thing about drugs; they make it difficult to do things good. I had a lot of fun through those years, until I didn’t… until I was next to death. Penniless. Dopesick. Humiliated.
When I reached that desperate, depleted state – like many a young man before (and after) me – I’d retreat back to Mom’s.
Over and again I found myself in my childhood bedroom. The small, grey room in the small, grey town on Massachusetts’s North Shore I’d long ago sworn off as nowhere-ville. Despite all my big plans, big talk and the years long stretches where I managed to pass myself off as an adult – in New York, Boston and a disastrous 3 month run in San Francisco – I kept finding myself back in my childhood bed, dopesick and broken. “How is it I’m here again?” I’d ask myself. So, so depressed, shivering. Wondering, “How did it all go so wrong?”
Mom would sit downstairs, worried sick, mortified that this is what has become of her eldest son. Clueless as to how to help. “Jared? What can I get you? What will make you feel better?” she shouts from the bottom of the stairs. She doesn’t do Valium. She has no benzos to take the edge off. She doesn’t even know what benzos are. Nothing short of a trust fund – or better yet, a never-ending supply of drugs – is going to help me now. She’s got nothing I want, beyond a rent-free place to lay my head and a mother’s love. “Mom, just leave me alone, would ya?!” I shout back, sullen and indignant.
There’s no smoking at Mom’s, so I head out onto the back porch. It’s winter. The striped comforter I’ve had since junior high draped over my shoulders. I shiver and smoke half a cigarette; stub it out in the snow, saving the second half for later. After two or three weeks – once the physical withdrawals have passed – I might get a menial restaurant job. I’ll wash dishes, bus tables maybe. Mom will give me a ride to work. I think I’m above working a job like this because I’m an entitled prick, but I do it anyway. I need to save some dough. I have to get out and start over in the city again, sure that I can get it right the next time. Mom’s house is just a pit stop, a temporary set back, a place to recharge and get healthy enough to try again. Until I get a habit again and can’t afford to keep it together.
In retrospect it’s like watching a car accident in slow motion. How was I so blind to the cause and effect nature of my predicament? How foolish was I to think the world would succumb to my will? I was convinced the world would come to recognize my nihilistic brilliance. I’M NOT just an entitled suburban junkie! I’m a punk rock hero! No, I’ve never done anything of note – but look at me – how good do I look? How many girls have I bagged with this greasy haired low-life impression I’m putting on? Have you seen how many drugs I can take? Have you seen how cool I am? Have you read the half formed and semi-original ideas in my journal?
It took a long time to realize the world would not yield. That it would not suddenly become what I wished it to be, despite how badly I wanted it. Somehow I was in denial that my body would break first.
Until I make that key realization, that the world will not bend to my will, I will cycle through that pathetic pattern: move to the city, build a life, burn it down, skulk back to Mom’s, repeat.
I’m like the guys in the Stooges. We both skulked back to Mom’s. Except I didn’t invent punk rock.