THE 13% [chapter 17]


While you were still in college at the Art Institute, you flew from San Francisco to Utica, New York to visit your mom and dad during Christmas break. They lived in a beautiful old turn-of-the-century house with white plastered walls, all soft molded corners and black iron cornices. The windows were small and deep, some still retaining their original lead panes. The turreted two story cottage sat on a corner lot like a fairy castle in a Thomas Kincaid painting, embedded in a deep sloping wooded field, home to a raucous murder of crows.

Your parents were in the midst of trying to sell the house because your dad found a better job in Indianapolis and was moving there. But your mother was reluctant to go this time. She'd been teaching yoga classes in town and had developed a healthy sense of financial independence. She'd also grown close to a solid following of students that she didn't want to leave behind. One such student was her secret lover. So your mother stayed at the cottage in Utica while your father lived and worked in Indiana. Insisting that there were simply no offers on the property from any interested buyers, blaming the delay on the housing market, bad timing or whatever else --in this way, your parents' first real separation continued. And your mother finally seemed to come blossoming out of her shell.

Rather suddenly, she came out to you over the phone one day. Claiming she'd always been more attracted to women than to men ever since she was a teenager. You just said, "Okay..." She was so relieved to tell someone, "I knew YOU would understand." And for the first time, she seemed so happy and in love. "Life doesn't even BEGIN until you're 50!" she exclaimed gratuitously.

When you finally met your mom's girlfriend on another short trip to Utica, you definitely caught the spark. She was astonishing, overflowing with a quick wit and a bright eyed vitality. Part of you was truly happy for your mother's authentic joy. But another part of you was completely pissed off that she was, suddenly, so open and caring and warm toward you; sharing her untold stories, calling you all the time, asking your opinion about things, buying you plane tickets to come and visit her inbetween every semester, being there for you, all nonjudgementally -- just because she was now a lesbian. This kind of behavior never occurred before. Or since. And you really didn't give a fuck whether she was straight or gay. Sexual identities never shocked you.You just wanted to feel like your own mother genuinely loved and accepted you, too. But this point has always remained convincingly vague.

But for the short duration of this Christmas visit, your dad was also present, so you agreed to quietly avoid any and all discussions at the dinner table that might leak hints about your mom's newfound lesbianism. Ugh. The burden of secrets that are imposed upon us to keep. Add them to the scapegoat's unwanted heap. Then slap it's ass and hope that it takes away your wax doll guilts before running off the edge of something nonredeemably steep.

You were already bogged down with another secret you did not want; knowing that your father was beaten so severly as a child because his dad was sterile and knew this was not his kid. This secret, shared with you 15 years prior, wasn't revealed to your father by his own half-sister until after their
angry sterile dad was dead. When it was finally found out, he brought his shotgun to the cemetary and unloaded a round of shells into that plot of hallowed ground. Secrets cowards and shrouds, release the hellhounds.

The summer after graduation, after your last spring visit to Utica, a tumor had been found. Within 3 short months, your mom's girlfriend was dead. Brain cancer culled her, this fully functioning, highly intelligent older woman that had just taken you and your mom to a politically invigorating Edward Albee lecture was now instantly stuck bedridden. Losing her vision to a tunnelling darkness, her brain was quickly shutting down. She reached out her arms to everyone standing around her hospital bed and cried, "Why won't any of you help me?! Pull me out of this hole! Please, help me... I'm sinking!" Balking at the starkest futility.

More than a year passed before your mother told you about her girlfriend's death. She just stopped talking to you. As suddenly as she had begun. Soon after that, the cottage was sold and she moved to Indiana to rejoin her husband. Gone back to being the good ol' critical hetero milf. Mourning her lover and her lost self. Crammed back into the brutal closet. Shrinking. Forgetful. Unblest. You cannot even begin to imagine how sunken in run her regrets from doing all the things that were expected of her, being the "weaker" sex.

One stuffy night during that close to the chest stiff upper lip Christmas visit to Utica, you were trying to sleep in the tiny room upstairs while your parents were in their bedroom across the hall. It was freezing cold, yet under the covers you felt feverish and clouded. Burning in discomfort. Sick with unease. You kept slipping in and out of consciousness. Not into dreams but into a thick swampy nightmarish lucidity. The crushing weight on your chest would not stop torturing you and stealing your breath as you lay frozen in sleep paralysis. It felt as if someone was trying to strong arm you into doing their bidding. "GET UP!" it hollered inside your sweaty immobile head. "Go downstairs. Into the kitchen. Open the back door. Grab the axe. Come back up here. And GIVE YOUR PARENTS WHAT THEY REALLY FUCKING DESERVE!!!"

The whole massacre played out, over and over vividly in your mind, as if this horrific scene were trying to convince you of its justifiable rationality. "Just think of how happy you will be once they are gone," the voice coaxed. It took a ton of light innocent resistance and a touch of dispassionate detatched indifference to not give in to this bottomless well of rage and bloodlust. Growing more irritated than scared, you declared impishly at the overbearing manipulative presence, "no. i won't. i won't do it." Perhaps it is a good thing that you're such a stubborn selfish bitch, eh?

The next morning, your mother looked concerned when she saw your pale sleepless face emerge from across the hall. She was dutifully making their bed. As she slid the bedframe to one side to tuck in the sheets, you pointed down to a dark brownish mark on the hardwood floor that was peeking out from under the bed. "Yeah," she said, revealing the whole atrocious width and breadth of the massive pooled stain, "I've tried everything to get it out, but it's too old and too deeply soaked into the wood. I think it might be blood."

Ya think?

But you thought nothing else of that night back then, except to remind yourself that you need to drink more booze and smoke more weed in order to drown out any and all experiences of psychic shit like this cuz you were too busy
trying to be normal, which is really important to most people before they go turning 30.

One huge advantage to age is that the number of fucks you give annually gets peeled away,until you are who you really are the moment you reach your grave. Sometimes it seems as if all those lucid dreams about flying, or altering your space, or learning how to keep still and protect your egglike shell, or increasing your skill for riding those emotional horses is all just practice for leaving this plane and crossing the bridge to the north.

Until you have to come back again. And again, of course. Life is hard, then you die. Death is hard, then you're born.

*u can call me ph!*

THE 13% [chapter 7]


Professional help never helped. Until one autumn day in 1990 when you felt compelled to seek the counsel of a Jungian psychotherapist in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts named Dr. John Huele. Initially, your parents agreed to pay for your weekly visits, relieved that at least you were finally out of their house and living "in squalor" in the big city. But once they received his bill for your first $90/hr session, they did not think your mental health was worth it. Dr. John did however, and asked you how much you could afford to pay without the help of your parents. So you continued seeing him for the next 18 months at the adjusted rate of $15/hr.

Long before the advent of hallucinogenic substances in your life, dreams had always been a place to receive guidance and insight, a place of both secret joys and enormous horrors. Often, it was easier to recall your childhood nightmares than to remember the actual events that took place.

The longest running reoccurring scene began at age 5. The whole family would sit in a small pink tiled bathtub inside a palatial space like a sound stage, always too brightly lit. One by one, they would pass around a plastic orange gun and point it at one of their own eyes. Pulling the trigger loudly sucked that eye out. Then they would all turn to you. Staring, one-eyed. The red hole of their newly exposed occular cavity dripping with bloody severed nerve endings. They'd hand you the gun and pressure you to do the same. Waking up screaming every time, your hands covered your face, guarding your precious double-eyed sight.

Together with Dr. John you moved through these quirky and cruel psychological imaginings, pieceing together an intricate and imposing map of your subconscious landscape. You began to uncover by emotional associations what certain colors, words, sounds, animals, people and places really meant. It was the only type of therapy you felt just as excited to engage in as did the Dr. himself. Whenever you would rattle on about the frustrating things happening in your regular life, he would patiently sit and listen. Inevitably, the words would come, "...and then, i had this dream," at which point, he would excitedly grab his yellow pad and pen and start scribbling down your dream's details like an inspired madman. The two of you would then set about working on the decoding process, slowly adding more elements to the expanding cartography of this emerging new found land.

It was fascinating and sometimes heartbreakingly illuminating. You would always have to take a step back in the presence of this other, higher mind. It would record and playback so many complex issues, effortlessly weaving together a song of solution, so delicate and so simple. You never felt quite qualified to take credit for coming up with these mechanisms for coping. They never seemed entirely yours.

Those sessions enabled you to first conceive of the viable possibility of self-healing through dreams. They birthed the connections your mind made to the infinite sources of healing energy out there in the unknown universe, inside the quantum omnipresent vibrating fields. You're forever indebted to the knowledge gained from Dr. John. You also thanked fuck that Jungian psychoanalysis existed at all. Otherwise, you might have succumbed to your parents wishes that you be committed to a mental institution for being depressed anti-social bipolar defective or whatever.

It should come as no surprise then, that when you first heard the song "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies in 1986, you had found a long loyal friend in punk rock. And, incidently, the more involved you became with Jungian dream journeys into the collective world of ancient archetypes, mythological beasts, and other archaic symbols,the less involved you were with the outrageous consumption of drugs and alcohol in order to deal with the ongoing psychological and socioeconomic trials of anyone trying to stay alive below the poverty line.

Lucid dreams happened sporadically as far back as you can remember. But practicing "dream yoga" almost religiously, you were having sometimes 2 or 3 lucid dreams a night, most often in the form of nightmares. Gradually, you learned how to transform these repetitive haunted terrors. Becomming lucid, you could bolster the courage to take control of your own mind. The nightmares then began to diminish and nearly ceased. Getting to know those Black Dogs that chased you for so many years, you now took ownership of your imagination. You screamed at their snarling, "STOP!" No longer would you run from them. You stood still, commanding them with a pointed finger to "SIT." And they did. Their faces shifted to little grins with tongues dangling and tails began to wag. The Black Diamond Dogs became a crazy bitch's best subconscious friends.

However, for some reason, waking up from these exalted states of consciousness became more difficult. Equal amounts of curiosity and fear caused you to question the nature of reality itself in a much more intensely tactile way, having up to 8 or 9 "false awakenings" after each lucid dream. This was so exasperating that you worried if you would ever really wake up at all. And a part of you started to feel the distinction between real life and the lucid dream waning. Thinner and thinner. The difference was disappearing. It got to be a bit much.

This persistent fear of losing your mind, without the reliable excuse of being fucked up on drugs, induced a sober admiration for the practice and a larger sense of responsibility toward approaching this state of mind with sincerity, not aggression or greed. In return, you discovered many valuable truths within each dream's revealing riddle. It seemed these riddles were coming from, again, a source of higher intelligence you couldn't even begin to understand. Nor could you make any sense of why it would feel your damaged brain was worth receiving the wisdom embedded within these undazzling, but inspired insights.

Insights so hackneyed, yet they stood the test of time. Recalling these unvarnished mantras helped you regain a sense of internal calm while caught in the constant storms of stress and strife. All you had to do was take the time to look, feel and listen...because sometimes, it isall too much. You get so tired of having to fight nonstop for every single little fucking scrap of some stupid bullshit basic need; like being heard, like being seen, like being treated with the barest thread of common human decency. Not being overlooked or ignored or cut off or pushed aside when waiting in line at the corner store or at a red light. Taking a timeout from society's infantile needs to go inward instead calmed you. It calmed the defeatism that would leak from feeling like the blank faced rusty little cog that amuses itself by squeaking in sync while it's trapped inside this massively malfunctioning male dominated earth raping kindness killing machine.

But this is life in the Natural World; even single-celled organisms have to defend themselves in order to survive. Every living thing is a sentient being, struggling just as hard as you to feel a momentary peace. Every single molecule is capable of reflecting intentions, of resounding vibrations of consciousness. Paying attention to those equally sentient cells involved alongside you in the act of living, breeds compassion and kinship. Insights are then bestowed upon us all when we open ourselves to the auras within empty spaces because they are not empty at all.

Put into the context of each individual's map of their own subconscious symbolism, any manner of things can take on new magical meanings, or renew a childlike curiosity with the mysteries of life. And despite society's attempts to carve,cut, shock, tranquilize and otherwise mute different kinds of creative thinking, as a species, we continue to be mystified with the ancient ancestral magic of dreams, with the connection we all have to the collective unconsciousness, with the innocent divinity we keep secret but secretly celebrate inside our sleeping minds as it delights us with it's absurd little insights on the nature of being.

Absurd little insights like "There is no such thing as Winning, there is only Spinning"- a phrase accompanied by an image of the cyclical rotation of the earth that occured while you were, once again, feeling like a total failure and considering suicide.

A song, whose humorous showtuney chorus,"Men are Minor, Waste of Eyeliner," was a response to your frustration with the misogynistic inequality you repeatedly confronted both in your intimate relationships and at work. Your personal favorite, "If you take lots of small steps to hell, you will end up in hell. If you take lots of small steps toward heaven, you will end up in heaven."

After the more recent addition,"All there is is IS," you found some sense of ease in regard to making big life altering decisions, viewing the consequences of your choices as neither good nor evil, but knowing that no matter what you chose to do, all you would ever have to deal with is exactly what is in front of your face. Every decision therefore forces you to face simply THIS. And this 3rd face then revealed itself to you as a face that is All Faces, yet faceless.

*u can call me ph!*


THE 13% [chapter 16]


In May 2007, as a last desperate attempt to revive your sputtering relationship, you and Evan stopped doing drugs and drove a rented 16 foot moving truck from San Francisco to Chicago, delivering his sister's furniture to where she now lived. Armed with 2 weeks free from work, an old school Nikon camera and rolls upon rolls of 35mm film, you went the long way around. Avoiding all major highways, it came as a complete surprise to stumble upon one static and decaying town after another. All those bustling hubs that once thrived from the railroad traffic that steadily flowed through til the 1930's, but got choked off by interstate highways, slowly subsided and died. You took hundreds of photos portraying the sad beautiful things life had left behind.

Fords with open suicide doors ditched in dry deer tick fields encrusted with snakes and rust. Dandelions and ivy sprouted up through bathtub drainplugs. Bedsprings clung to plastic bags blowing in the breeze. Windmills missing most blades still turned with a squeak. Schoolhouses buckled under warped belltowers that won't ring. Potbelly stoves stood more solidly than the homes they were once warming. Swifts and swallows nested in a hand painted nursery. Owls guarded proudly marked depots where trains no longer came. Rodents undermined an efficient bank office filing system. Pigeons cooed and pooped all over an empty factory lunchroom. Dark crooked barns, leaning at a frail 45 degrees, were propped up with feeble sticks to combat the inevitable sag of gravity.

Arriving in Portland, Oregon one rainy Monday night, being in an urban environment made both you and Evan want to get high. To quell the drug cravings, you instead got wicked drunk pretty quick at a little bar on the north side. Usually, this doesn't work and only makes the cravings worse. But for some reason, it distracted you from going out on the prowl just long enough this time. Staggering back to where you had parked, you both decided it would be easier to pass out in the back of the truck than to slovenly drive to some cheap motel that was nowhere near in booze-goggled sight.

It was freezing cold. Evan lit the propane gas stove and camping lanterns, turning up their hissing blue glows as high as they would go. You tugged out a long couch from under a pile of boxes. He rolled down the back door and yanked up a bunch of moving blankets. Collapsing there together, curled up for warmth, Evan commented, "We might die of asphyxiation if we leave the gas on all night." You slurred, "So what...at least I'll die happy." "Me too," he replied.

As grim as it might sound, that was one of the most intimate and romantic moments of your life -- facing such a silly demise together. After so much hard lined loss had dredged up all your disappointed desires, this gentle surrender to death was a sweet little delight. In the morning when you both woke, you collectively sighed, "Oh well, we're still alive," and smiled. Rolling up the back door invited the bird songs and dew drops and rising sun's light to come in. Full on. Hangover bright.

While pulled off onto a dirt road somewhere outside Missoula, Montana, Evan was putting another pot of coffee onto the stove. You sat on the couch, smoking a cigarette, looking out past the rolled up door to the lolling yellow ochre expanse of open prairie. Pale violet peaks teased it's distant edges. Endless and abrupt. Sustaining winds whispered and hummed. Pink clouds drifted down. Waist high grasses swayed and bent, swishing like a woman walking in a long tafetta dress. Taking a snapshot of Evan against this backdrop, you said, "I could live my whole life like this." He answered, "Yep." Then you took a long clean deep breath.

This idea of living in a housetruck was neither new nor novel.

You first considered it a future possibility when you were still a kid in the late 70's, during one of the many long drives your restless parents took across the country to attend Amway conventions. Another one of their attempts to succeed at building a pyramid scheme American Dream of materialistic prosperity. But you noticed that while on these road trips, there was a consistent absence of the violence and abuse that was so common during periods of housebound stagnation.

Maybe it was being in motion that made attitudes shift. Or the limitless light in the big round sky stretching over wide carved out canyons. Or the acerbic serenity of change itself that smoothed the behavioral snags into well-contained conduct. No one knows, but these motorhome memories were happy and golden-hued for everyone in your entirely damaged family.

While traveling through Europe in your early 30's, you befriended a photographer in Ghent named Wim. He lived in a converted 20 foot freezer truck he called Babu. He drove Babu all over the place. From his home town in Belgium to Ireland, Croatia, Russia, Mongolia, Morocco and back, always taking pictures of the people he'd met along the way.

One such image held your gaze, spellbound. It was a black and white portrait of a handsome middle-aged woman sitting on the wooden steps at the door of her vividly decorated caravan. Wearing a thick sweater, rain boots, and smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, her long dark hair was pulled back into a loose bun, but riotous strands broke free and were blowing in the breeze. From a hook under the stairs hung an empty bucket. At her feet sat a muddy mutt, smiling up at the camera playfully. She did not smile but stared off to the left, deep in thought, a thousand kilometers beyond the lens. You could sense that the reality of her life was not easy. Yet this picture sang a song of raw liberation, a lament of redemption. Perhaps society had exiled her to the bitter margins, but she exuded a contented resilience, a defiant inner strength. Inspired, you could see yourself living well like this woman. Solitude, animals and nature are your most trustworthy all-weather companions, too.

More than a decade later, during the autumn of 2011, you got the chance to revisit Wim and his housetruck in Belgium. He was now married with a 4 year old daughter, a black cat and a large comfortable RV in tow. Babu functioned as the "guest house" in which you gratefully spent a week living simply. You took to it immediately. Like a fish inside a duck to water.

The housetruck's shower was in need of some plumbing repairs. Early one October morning, you could no longer bear your own ripe stench. You didn't want to wake up Wim and his family next door in the RV. So with a clean towel and a full gallon jug, you walked out into the woods beyond the industrial lot where you were all parked next to your friend's circus caravans restoration and repair shop.

Dumping water over your weary body, the invigorating icy coldness made you gasp for breath. Swabbing soap around in the roguest spots, rapidly rinsing, gasping again and dancing like a spaz, you quickly dried off. Clamouring back up into the warmth of Babu, you whipped on some clean clothes, that, by comparison, smelled almost heavenly.

Then you sat down and smoked a cigarrette on the stoop, checking out the updated status of the sunrise. With wet hair on your warm head, foggy wisps of vapor trailed off to join the haze of dawn's discreet ascent. You couldn't remember the last time you felt so alive. So quiet inside. Or so clean, emotionally. Although you were still hopelessly mired in the cross-continental smuggling embrace of an ether-soaked amphetamine addiction and global alcoholism,here, in this hidden back lot, you were cloaked with invisibility for at least a week. Free in the anonymity. Somewhere so much closer to safe.

9 days later, you were walking down a London street toward Victoria Station to ride the tube to Heathrow and board the plane back to San Francisco. You heard the startling sound of a pack of mad dogs barking orders behind you. "Dump the drugs!" your intuition distinctly heard them say. Weird, but ok.

So you took a quick detour into a local pub next to the Eurolines bus station and ordered a cup of coffee and a glass of cognac. Locking yourself in a toilet stall, one of the few places you ever felt unsurveilled, you methodically did line after countless line, devouring all of the substances you had left in your possession. So much so, you felt gluttonous and nauseated half way through. But waste not, want not. You couldn't bring yourself to throw away perfectly good drugs. Chopped up and spread out over a cd cover of "The Fountain" soundtrack, each powdery pile that got injested slowly revealed more of the mesmerizing image on the cd cover beneath. The words that appeared there, "Death Is The Road To Awe" would be imprinted indelibly upon your memory for the rest of your at-risk life. You had no idea you were still capable of getting this stupidly Whoa Hey Goofy Magic Mountain high. Oh holy shit. Hold on tight.

Immediately upon arriving at the airport's security checkpoint, one of the uniformed guards pointed you out in line. As if to say, "She's mine!" Every square inch of your baggage was manhandled, scanned and rescanned, sniffed, rubbed down and rifled through for such a long time that you would now have to run impossibly fast in order to make it to your gate before departure time. They even confiscated your box of matches. You complained that you had a stop over in Chicago and would want to smoke a butt after the long flight. The officer snarled and threw down a single match. You bellowed, "I said, CHICAGO! It's called 'The Windy City' for a reason! Wanna gimme more matches, please?!" She acquiesced politely to your request. You were now allowed 2 matches but nothing on which to strike them. Dismissed. Next!

In the ensuing funnel of chaos and on the verge of a panic attack, 3 separate strangers empathized with your obvious plight and gently said reassuringly, "It's going to be alright," at each heaving pause while waiting for the next disasterously overcrowded shuttle car or at the bottom of every compressed escalator line. After being run through the vigorous gauntlet of official friskings, you took off without grabbing your wallet which held your passport inside. Somehow, it arrived before you did at your departure terminal. You didn't even realize you'd left it behind. "Oh, THANK FUCK!" you screamed as the smirking airline employee shoved it into your sweaty palms just as you were slipping through the swiftly closing gate.

Running onto the plane, you were so exasperated you thought you might vomit, have a heart attack or just faint. But none of these things happened. The stewardess held your shaky shoulders steady, gave you a glass of water and showed your toxin soaked body to it's assigned seat. As soon as you'd buckled yourself in, you threw the soft blue complimentary blanket over your head and began quietly sobbing like a little child. Not due to any invasive anger, but because you were too overwhelmed with gratitude.

Gratitude for the dogs that warned you to get rid of your stash. Gratitude for the completely unexpected kindness that came from those 3 strangers each time you nearly lost the plot during your mad dash. Gratitude for those who had returned your wallet and passport back to you in time. Gratitude for the airline staff who recognized but did not ridicule your messy distressing display of anti-ennui. Gratitude for all the choices you had made, even the ones
disguised as mistakes, which were now easier to define between the voluptuous bookends of a decade. Although those decisions had born hardships, they also lit the way to this self-sufficient life in which you were now wed to music and art, not breeding more resentful spite.

Saf, another old friend from Ghent, had commented on this devotion to creativity you were still engaged in when he said,"I can't keep up with you, crazy." Ten years ago, he was too self-conscious to stand up in front of people and sing the songs he was writing back then. You bombarded him with encouragement, saying, "Fuck Them, Saf! Do it anyway cuz one day, yer gonna be dead. And so will they. So who gives a fuck!?" He recorded his first album that summer and was now one of Belgium's most celebrated performers, "The Flemish Tom Waits". Gratitude that, even though Saf never acknowleded this or said thank you, here was real proof that one person's kind words could make an actual difference in another person's trajectory. Recompensed and respected, words now became something so much closer to sacred.

And gratitude for this melting pocketful of Belgian chocolates that you were now gobbling down and offering to the Indian man beside you. Because, when you removed the blanket from your swollen tear stained face, he looked worried about sitting so close to your highly charged emotional state. This was your way of telling him, "It's ok. I'm ok." He shook his head side to side, smiling, and relaxed back into his window seat.

And then came that shifting lift from asphalt to air, held again in Ariel's arms, on tenderhooks but holding it mostly together, swimming through space, peacefully sighing, "Everything's gonna be ok...everything's ok...it's all alright."

*u can call me ph!*

THE 13% [chapter 15]


By December 2005, you gave yourself the best and worst xmas present ever: Speed Psychosis.

Christmas was always a hard time. Just like it is for a huge percent of the population that lives in familial denial. Most turn to their friends to get through it with some sense of contentment and fellowship. But if no one really enjoys your company, then drugs will do just fine to kill the time.

You were actually in a great mood. So happy to be left alone with this big frosty snowman made outta meth stacked high in front of you. 12 different half finished projects laid strewn haphazardly about the room. All the roommates had gone away to their respective warm holiday gatherings. Sucks to be them, you thought, with not a shred of envy.

You were so glad that you wouldn't have to get into some pointless political argument with one of those right wing bigots related to you. Or hover over a bowl of green beans and mashed potatos while everyone else ridiculed you for being vegetarian. Or hear, yet again, that forced age old question of, "When are you gonna settle down, get married and have some kids with whichever man is crazy enough to have you?!" Always followed up with, "Aww..whatever happened to that guy Zack? You should've married him when you had the chance." Or laugh about that time when your dad, in a drunken frenzy, carved the turkey with his bare hands. Grabbing, mangling and throwing the much labored-over carcass all over the room. Cursing as each limb smacked up against something and fell to the floor, greasily doomed. Picking up the whole table, he flung it over. Toppling off into broken shards went the glasses, the good plates and all trimmings of that delicately prepared meal. Your poor mother sobbed for hours, numbly clutching a broom. But the dog was happy as fuck that afternoon.

Nope, not this year. You could do whatever the hell you wanted to do in this big empty house. So you joyfully consumed almost that entire huge chunk of meth over a heap of sleepless hours. They blurred together in a revolving shock of night/day/night/day with the unforgiving flux of time lapse photograhy. This extensive holiday would forever alter the internal workings of that person you thought was you and only you.

To understand what birthed this seasonal hatred of Christmas, several attempts were made via dream healing and concentrated meditation to trace it back to it's origin: Germany, 1972. You were 3, your brother was 5. The two of you woke up and excitedly started playing with the new toys you'd received for Christmas the day before, all spread out on the floor of the bedroom at 4 or 5 in the morning. Suddenly, the door burst open. Your infuriated red-faced father screamed that it was too early to be making noise. Your brother chirped, "But Daddy, lookie what Santa gave me!" He held up his bright blue Tonka dumptruck gleefully. Your dad grabbed him by the wrist and flung his entire body across the room. He bounced off the wall and landed head first on the floor in front of you. Through your terrified screams you heard a splitting sound. The pretty porcelain tea set you were playing with was broken. For years that's what you believed shattered at that moment. But it was not the china cracking. It was your brother's bones.

Something else snapped then, too. Willy appeared. Sitting there next to you. This happy little 4 year old boy, tenderhearted and true. His calming presence acted as the gatekeeper to all the other alters who would later join him and you, one by one, over the next several years every time a new trauma broke into you. But you never saw them coming. It was only a sneaking suspicion. Like that weird feeling you get when someone else is watching you.

At 12, you saw that movie about a woman with multiple personalities called 'Sybil'. Your reaction to it was, "I'd never be lucky enough to have that problem." Not good enough to have a mental disorder. Not good enough to have a built-in defense mechanism for dealing with life threatening stresses. The ultimate in self-deprecation.

Not even halfway through those 4 days that you spent spun up as fuck, having an enjoyable White Christmas, all of your busy bodied building projects became just background noise to something else that was conspiring for your attention. People began appearing solidly before you. Saying nothing. Just sitting there. Staring at you. How rude.

It was annoyingly disconcerting to look over and see a young boy with eyes wide as saucers, his entire fist shoved into his mouth. His other hand gently caressed his crying girlfriend's head, laying there limp in his lap. Long hair covered most of her face except where it had matted down in her streaming tears. One wet eye peered straight out at you. No amount of pleading, cajolling or yelling seemed to dislodge their dreamlike presence there on your bed. And when you moved around to different parts of the room, only their eyes followed. Creepishly boring into you. This real life nightmare had only just begun.

And here you were, so happy to be left alone for Christmas.

Yet the whole house began filling up with strange people staring at you. There was no escape. No matter where you looked or didn't look. Even with your eyes closed. Everything,everywhere was matrixing into another staring accusatory face in some phase of physiological decomposition or distorted with agonizing bliss.

You tried to amuse yourself with silly ideas. As if all of these figures were the trapped souls of people who died from drug overdoses on this holy holiday. And they all came here to Partay! Wooohooo!! But no amount of dark humor could curb the increasingly unfunny haunting invasion flooding your room, filling the hallway, coming up the stairs, walking around outside the window. It began to frighten you, this complete loss of control. And soon you felt a greater empathy for those schizophrenics on the street as they stand there yelling in the bus stop or at a garbage can, toward someone no one else can see. Stuck in the torment of a terrified brain in crisis, hallucinating mercilessly.

After a couple more day/nights of this, you became so scared, so backed up into the corners of fear, all you could do was sit in the lukewarm bathtub. In the dark. Crying. Then you started singing to calm yourself down. It brought a tiny respite. Silver Bells. Noel. Silent Night. Still the unblinking eyes did not subside. They found their way to you through the faucets, the shower curtain, the peeling light blue paint on the walls and on the ceiling of the bathroom.

So you started praying. "And yea though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i shall fear no evil for thou art with me..." Over and over until the bath water turned ice cold. Hot water on. Swirl around. Repeat for another rough ungodly hour. Never alone. Yet so totally alone in your own total hell.

Joseph Campbell once said, "The path is from dreams to visions to gods. All the tomorrows, all the yesterdays are within you. All the hells, all the heaven are within you. All the gods are in you." So you reached out for someone else.

Evan soon showed up after you finally made a frantic phone call for help. He took you to a large luxurious loft in West Oakland where he was housesitting. A completely muted neutral space. Even he became skittish, nervously laughing at the steady stream of nonsensical descriptions detailing these ornate hallucinations with which you were still carousing. He lead you over to the couch, sat you down and gave you a blanket to cover up your shivering, though not cold, body.

Through a tightly clenched mouth, a certain phrase kept repeating itself in broken consonate sounds, "GT STND! GET STND! GET STONED!" So you followed it's direction and got stoned. But it wasn't you talking. This was someone else.

At last, your panicked heart rate began to slow and the hallucinations eased off a bit, mutating into swirls and patterns instead of crazy judgemental dead toy faces. As you laid down, a high pitched ringing drowned out your ramblings. Then cold beads of sweat trickled down your neck. You wanted to vomit suddenly, but had nothing in your stomach. A dark cloud of bile forcibly ejected itself from so far deep down in your gut, it felt like your intestines were being ripped out. Out shot a hoarse blood curdling primal howl. And then, convulsions. Only one step left til Overdose. Death.

With spit flying through your teeth drilled shut like a vice, you tried to voice the words, "Immm hvinnng e seezure!" Evan replied, "What? You want a ceasar salad? I'm not sure if there's any parmesan in th--" "No! Imm hvinng a seezrr! A SEIZURE!!!" But your stiff electric limbs made this obvious by now. Your eyes rolled up into your head and you dropped off the cliff of muscle coordination like a piece of lead. Evan had enough sense at least to hold your head while the rest of your body spasms did their short circuiting stringless puppet dance. It stopped eventually. Then aftershocked over the next few hours in a fog of exhaustion and kinetic helplessness.

Gently, Willy's little face floated in front of you. All other hallucinations had ceased. His smile was so sweet and kind.You asked him, "Were you the one telling me to get stoned?"

"Yeah...we were scared."

"Who's we?"

Willy calmly asked if it would be ok for you to meet all the other alters. "All the other alters? What the...? I thought I didn't have any!" He giggled and said that they'd all decided you were too bossy, so they were just gonna hide until you needed them again. So here they were. One by one. Name. Age. Face. When and why they came to be living inside of you. And what they thought about what you were doing to yourself now. You sighed, "I'm so sorry..."

It felt wonderfully warm and loving, this unexpected intervention. This family reunion of secret selves who helped you cope for so many years. Who cared enough about you that they made sure not to show themselves off too much in front of society for fear of getting you thrown away into an institution. They did actually have your back. Even those who wouldn't acknowledge you since they were
so pissed about shit. Even those who would fuck every stupid dude that got drunk with you back in Boston because they were so into it. You still thanked them, though you weren't sure what good it would do. But they did actually care whether or not you lived or died because then, they would all either live or die too.

So much of the past made sense now. Why you never really felt alone. Why it was so neccessary to write everything down, to take photos, to document events and be sure they did actually happen. To keep a record. To keep track of time. Because you often found things written and recorded that you did not recognize or remember as your own. It was a beautiful, long overdue reception. An accidental healing that greatly improved your outlook on life. And Evan graciously sat there listening to this perplexing conversation you were having with all these imaginary people, watching over you as the discussion grew more peaceful. Until finally, you fell into a heavy comatose sleep.

Yeah, maybe it was just the drugs talking. But similar to feeling the presence of The Angel of Death, this kind of knowing experience was too far beyond questioning. So there was no need to quantify it's validity. It was as real as a dream within a life that is as real as the dream itself feels.

It was what it was.

When you woke up 2 days later, it took huge concentrated efforts to speak. Your mouth did not work right. You couldn't string together words or pronounce an understandable sentence. This was the scariest plight yet. Weeping, you were suddenly struck dumb. What if you had just damaged your brain so severly, you'd given yourself some form of cerebral palsy for the rest of your life?! Inside, behind your disabled tongue, you cried, "My God, What Have I Done?!"

MERRY CHRISTMAS DOOKIE HEAD!! Now, you may fully appreciate the ability To Speak. To Think. To Act Freely. To Write. To Feed Yourself. To Wash. To Pee. To Sit Upright.

The next day, you left Oakland to go start a new job at Amoeba Records on Haight Street. Evan said he was hurt that you spent those completely retarded out-of-your-mind nights quarantined to the couch, not sleeping in bed next to him like a good sane girlfriend should. But he could never understand that you already felt so crowded, the last thing you could deal with was being cuddled or screwed. Though you were grateful he showed up to help you, his emotional reaction to this insane situation said something about the clueless and unabashedly inherent selfishness of men. Maybe he felt you owed it to him since he protected your skull during those violent fits of convulsion? But you were too busy almost dying to think about how much he might need to get some head. Really rather unfortunate. From beginning to end.

Although psychologists are still debating whether or not multiple personality disorder even exists, you later researched the different wide ranging theories on this and wondered if 2 opposing conclusions might both be true. If trauma occurs before the age of 7, it is said, the child's brain is far more likely to fracture into different aspects as their personality has not fully formed yet. Those young brains, that in most other mammals, would still be in utero, are too tender and too vulnerable to withstand violent abuse, so it compartmentalizes itself as a natural coping mechanism. Another camp suspects that early trauma injures the aura's spiritual defenses and thus, opens the child up to being possessed by other entities. Maybe they are both correct? Perhaps those alternate personalities are just lost ghosts looking for another host to crawl into? And what better way to show your appreciation than by paying an emotionally protective rent to the original owner of the body that is now housing you? It's just a thought on a subjective goose that is difficult, if not impossible to prove.

Possible or not, that Psychotic Christmas was quite a gift. You recovered. And for a couple years, you severly cut down on your drug use. Because now, there were other people to whom you could turn to feel true long term love and gratitude.

All the hells, all the heavens, all the gods are within you.

*u can call me ph!*


THE 13% [chapter 14]


And so it was that your love affair with crystal meth was rekindled like a house of cards on fire and smoldered until it was just a carbon fluke. It became a saving grace because you no longer cared. You could be spun up and in league with projects, theories and ideas for days, weeks, always. You never succumbed to bouts of loneliness because you were too busy cleaning, repairing or organizing some minute shit into the tiniest of enclaves. You bonded with meth, paint brushes and power tools instead of most women and men, on and off, for like, the next fucking decade.

But you don't demonize the drug for being there when you weren't there for yourself. It filled in a space. It occupied a time when you felt empty and heavy and gross and lost. Like good ideas unrealized. Like decent jobs laid off. Like old people crying because they can't remember their children's names. Like analog synths and tube amps trending on ebay. Original movies that need not be remade. Black mayonnaise. Kodachrome color. Super 8. Gone off. Long gone. Then insultingly regurgitated. Retro. Chic. Limp. Stripmined. Razed. It sucked to see history being co-opted by those who could afford to jack up your rent and take take take with an air of careless ease and entitlement. But nowhere near as painful as it was for more than 50 million Native Americans.

Ever so conveniently, your drug supply was now showing up in the form of giant fist sized boulders via your new boyfriend, Evan. Again, you were so low you would have done anyone that night you met him while getting drunk at Zeitgeist. Well, that is to say, you would have done anyone that Actually Managed To Turn You On, which was a complete rarity. Certainly, you never would have guessed that he'd still be hanging out with you the next day. But you also don't blame him for finding such melodramatic humor in watching the sharp arc of your orbit toward this fiendishly pathological habit you both shared over the next few years in close proximity.

Not the healthiest relationship ever, but at least you did feel some flashes of gushy love and deep compassion for him on more than one occassion. So much so, it still surprises you to think on all those amber impacted memories. Which is why you prefer To Not Think About Them. It's easier to concentrate on, and not cry about, what went wrong.

Evan was quirky and pretty fucking hot in his own weird way. Politically aware and musically inclined, he had a curious enthusiasm that was inspiring. Shaved blond head. Bright blue eyes. Hairless bulldog chest. Could keep it up for as long as it was required. Not afraid to go down on a woman. And not totally clueless once he arrived. Which must be honorably mentioned, for that rare oral sex equality that his willingness never belied.
Think: Giovanni Ribisi, tweaked. Uhhhmmgrrrr...right?

Initially, Evan said he loved that you made comix, music and art. But the second he had to take a back seat to the pencil and the Sharpie marker or the Korg Monotribe and the mixing board for a full afternoon or two, he felt neglected sexually. Only 6 weeks into your relationship, he cheated on you. Good to get that outta the way so quick, your favorite dog trick. But you saw it coming BEFORE it happened this time.

The moment you laid eyes on his sunglassed face that morning at your door, your head clearly said knowingly, "the next time you see him, everything is going to be different." He didn't show up that night like he said he would. Hours stewed slowly by. You sat at your drawing board but drew nothing. Just sat there. Randomly, you dug out an old copy of Nirvana's acoustic Lead Belly cover "In the Pines" and listened to it. Over and over and over. Doing line after line after line. Getting progressively angrier, more depressed and crying onto the sketchbook pages that remained mockingly unmarked and white. He finally showed up the next day all teary-eyed, telling you he got really drunk, fucked another woman, and spent the night. Yup. You already knew that. Then you turned around and started drawing again finally.

Sloppily, he offered to bring you some more drugs. He only spoke to your shrugging back. Yeah, ok. You thought this is the best kind of crack whore you could ever hope to be. "Alright, bitch. Bring it!" you snapped as he departed sheepishly. The truer gift was this voice of warning in your head because it was, once again, correct. And you had to celebrate the fact that you could still hear it under so much drug addled sleepless duress.

You soon forgave Evan for fucking someone else. So he cheated on you some more over the years. You knew it every time, yet let it go unconfronted as you had ceased caring what he did with his own dick by then. At least he was still talking to you like a human being, and that was of the utmost importance. You could accept all kinds of sexual deviance up the yin yang, so long as you weren't being spoken to like a dumbass.

He once said, "Every man has a stable. Every Single One."

How can any one woman believe that she means anything substantial to a man, when she's up against the bottomless sexual questing of one entire objectified and furthermore, self-objectifying gender? Unless he sees her as an equal human being, treats her the way he treats his best bro friends and not as a conquest or a trophy to make other men jealous, then it is impossible to ever be anything other than eventual sworn enemies. And Evan agreed. He was understanding, thoughtful and decent. Yet his dick still wandered from one "willing slit" (his definition) to his ex's address constantly. It didn't seem to matter how honest or in love or open you were with him. You would never be enough. So yes, caring became a commodity. Every year, you had a little less and less trust in love's truthfulness left.

Evan called himself a writer but the only writing of his that you ever read were the letters he prolifically wrote to you during those years. Then you read all the letters from his former girlfriends that he wanted to share with you for some strange tweaked out reason. This only made you realize the total futility of your presence in his life. Here were their similar reactions to all the same stories he told them just as he had told you. All the same songs on a mix tape sent to someone else. You saw yourself as simply another name that would be said to the next woman down the line. Erased was any sense of being different from any other interesting cunt he had loved fucking previously. It lost all it's uniqueness, the biological him combined with you; as if on some molecular level, the mixture of 2 specific people could create a sort of atom bomb of social change that found its genesis inside an explosive relationship, affecting all else around it. Like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, like Yoko Ono and John Lennon, like Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, like Mileva Maric and Alfred Einstein. That looks great written on paper to you for Valentine's Day in his blood, but loses all it's meaning when repeated like spam to every woman who ever bared her breasts to him.

Yes, you were a sucker for that soulmate myth. What woman isn't during a large portion of her child bearing years? It feeds into the operatic fantasies while trapped in that ongoing battle with your own hormonal body; that fight to the death between the womb's attempt to breed and the brain's raging need for independence, respect and liberty.

So how the hell would you know How To Have a Good Healthy Relationship? Your success to failure ratio is a solid 0:100%! Good job! By Jove! But you do know that being in a relationship IS A Job. So get yer head outta the stove and go make me some turkey pot pie, Ho!

Oh, and let's not forget to mention that ravenous animal living between your legs whose impetus to eat fuck and kill only increases exponentially when on amphetamines. Isn't it nice to think that a soulmate would still be there after the 8 ball is all done? Not leave you to wipe up the mess of those liquidy communal expressions of lust that are stuck and crusting over as you come down on your own? Better not come down then. Perhaps the destruction of monogymy's soulmate myth really was for the level best.

It is what it is.

Adopted as a toddler, Evan had managed to locate his biological mother after years of searching for her. You felt it neccessary to warn him that she might not be happy to hear from him. But he waved your pragmatic suggestion aside, and beamed with excitement. Their relationship was initially rebuked by his mother who had never informed her husband
or children of Evan's existence. Evan was crushed. His mother eventually came around, but their relationship remained tentative and strained. He probably felt it was easier to place that disappointment on you, instead of facing the truth of this difficult situation that fell so horrifically short of his long held fantasy filled expectations. You didn't blame him for being upset, but many pointless arguments ensued. You stuck to your guns, saying he was lucky to be raised by people that did love him instead of being treated like shit by his own flesh and blood.

You know someone is not listening to a single word you say when they tell you, "I am so sick of listening to you." No longer could you stand the feel of his skin against you in bed; all gropey, moist, disconnected, overfriendly and available to so many other women and men --yet so unjustifiably mad at you for fucking someone other than him once. Once.

You wanted to take a breather from "the stuff", as Evan so deftly called it. But he just kept bringing it over anyway and chopping that shit up right in front of your face. And when that voice in your head came back and said, "don't ever have children with this man because he will molest them," you were pretty much done. What a horribly cruel joke your life might have become -- it's likely you would've ended up in prison because if anyone, including your husband, ever raped your daughter or son, you would have castrated them.

Evan professed so strongly to be against the antiquated idea of marriage, yet he so quickly married the last woman he was cheating on you with. His opinion must have been as solid as catsick. Oh well. To each his own bowl of hell.

In fact, all of your former boyfriends got married almost immediately after the disaster of you occurred in their lives. Is that a compliment or an insult? Who gives a fuck. Probably had absolutely nothing to do with your narcissistic butt. But, like clockwork, they all contacted you down the road, having contracted that 7 year itch, post wife and kids. They wanted to relive the sexual exploits of their younger days with that crazy bitch that was into sucking dick, anal sex, other women, yadda yadda yadda, it was all ok, except putting them in diapers and playing with their poo. There was a reason you didn't want children. And you certainly did not get off on a man who fantasized about being a baby. More often than not, you'd end up being the man in every situation anyway and you hated that. But hearing from your ex-boyfriends again under this topic of discussion did nothing except depress the fuck outta you. These existential trainwrecks are neither here nor there, ultimately. So why go there? It was for these kinds of thoughts, specifically, that you turned to drugs to annihilate. Into ridiculousness. Black and white. Hard shorts cuts. Like a French movie. Absurd. The choices you made in life were yours to make. No regrets. Only pinched off torpid turds.

You still wanted to be good for something other than just sex. Other than just a jerk.

Long after the end of Evan, you kept his letters bound by a string. A more definitive fate would later bind them together forever better. Along with all the other remnants of all the men, all the women, all the leftover shrouds of hope, of fear, of failed careers, of love rage sex and dope -- Fire.

Disappearred. Up in smoke.

All those years of us being close for nothing but a ghost.

*u can call me ph!*

THE 13% [chapter 13]


2004. Your friend crystal meth showed up to even the score.

You were at such a desperate low point, you would have done just about anything to avoid the monotony of failure. This time with speed, you thought it best to avoid people and parties like the plague. Not hard to do. Invites were not exactly pouring in aplenty.

The sudden deaths of 3 of your most kindred spirited aunts had already buried you in compounded grief that year. And a maddening attempt to escape California by relocating to New York City pummeled your rising humility into some of that class-conscious poverty you'd grown so accustomed to. But it's one thing to be broke and eating cheap oranges and avocado filled tacos and quite another to live on pizza slices and coke. So you crawled back to San Francisco with $10 left to your name and your tail firmly tucked between your toes. Lame. It was difficult to forgive yourself for going back. So you made some more epic faceplants. Fucking up. You were getting good at that.

Broken-hearted because for years, you believed the easily forgotten non-slurring words of a blackout drunk. Those lovely intimate moments that you obsessively replayed in your head whenever you felt too depressed to deal with people, they meant Absolutely Nothing. It turned out you were having an imaginary relationship with yourself. He was not there. With you. At all. Even when he was in the same room fucking you. What? Who? He could not recall. The sober version of him that you hardly ever saw was cold, kind of an asshole. But the drunk version acted like being with you was always new and exciting. In his mind, It Was Always The First Time. And you stupidly rearranged all sorts of important things in your life around this flying circus illusion that was just ding-a-ling tinkerbells toy pianos and moth eaten tutus, but you kept heading head strong for that fall. So we fall. And that's all.

There'd be other imaginary loves as well. But you pursued these individuals because you felt Psychically Pushed to. You were so confused as to the meaninglessness of this -- Why Be Shoved Toward Someone Who Had No Love For You? It was a crack in the glassy-eyed delusions of youth. Trying to find meaning or draw patterns in the chicken soup of life when it does not need to prove anything to you. It's just soup.

Much later, it came into view, the obligatory shattering of a crappy midlife crisis averting truth. The Real Reason Was This: You were pushed toward them so that you would become vulnerable, get rejected, feel abandoned, be miserable and then learn -- because if it didn't fucking hurt, you'd Never Learn -- that you must stop looking for someone to be there for you, stop looking for someone to love you, stop looking for someone to save you, stop looking for someone to kill you, validate you, make you exist as something less ghost-like and drifting.  Stop looking for someone to entertain that static fear, to avoid that infinite loneliness, to distract you from that prison you put yourself in with constant aggressive self-defeating judgements. Stop looking for someone. Look for yourself. Look At Your Self. Eew. That's something no one really wants to do.

Next, you received a nice friendly eviction notice from the big cheap black mold and music infected warehouse where you loved living with members of some now-famous bands like Crack WAR, RubberOCement, Erase Errata and Thee Oh Sees. When you moved into the huge commercial space, it was decked out with empty server racks, miles of ethernet cable, dimpled nerf footballs and a white board hanging all askew. These words were scrawled across it in dry erase marker: THINGS TO DO: Claim Bankruptcy, Get Drunk, Look For A New Job. Mistakenly, you thought the dot com bubble had burst. But no. It grew back. And worse. So much worse. So so so much worse.

All this, on the heels of having just crawled out from under the fallout of a disasterous, yet memorable, European tour that effectively disbanded 7 years of collaborative work and
hard won efforts. ALL FOR NOTHING. You helped create the anarchic electronic record label from the ground up, but after the big tour, all of your work had been whitewashed out of existence. Mere moments after you left the collective, the label received a worldwide distribution deal with Revolver and AK Press. It included the entire catalog except, of course, they had already erased everything made under your Deletist namesake. The humor in this is not lost on you, even if all else was: the vinyl test pressings and master recordings, scores of 45s, stacks of cds, piles of videos and films. A veritable ton of hard work, all tossed onto the book burning pyre, as it were. And we all know what happens to a dream differed.

It didn't help that you were initially fucking the anarcho motor mouth that was Marco from Glasgow. It was his idea to start this record label slash collective that other people often ignorantly called a cult. Marco would never admit to having fucked you though. He always covered your face with his hands to muffle your moans so that no one else in your crowded flop house would hear him humping you. Immediately upon zipping up his Ben Davies pants, he would sing a line from that Ultravox song, "This means nothing to me...Oh Vienna!" and laugh.

But if it weren't for your resulting disgust, you never would have been outraged enough to write record and put out your first song, "I Feel Weird." It went on a loop like this:
we laugh / have sex / he disappears / i feel weird / cut him off / dye my hair / i don't care / attitude / he responds / i abuse / we laugh / have sex / he disappears / i feel weird. etc.

For the next few years, he sometimes fucked you on the side.You let yourself think that meant something. But now you were just like Zack, from the other side of that uselessly
cruel but opportunistic Luv Stick. Marco actually despised you for putting up with his domineering bullshit. He later married one of the other 2 females in the collective and moved to Italy. C'est la vie. C'est la fin. It was good that your eyes were gradually being torn open. So you chose to stay focused on all that you had learned about recording, mixing, performing, touring and releasing music --that's what Really Mattered to you, more than getting screwed.

In those years prior to youtube's existence, so much of your hands on learning had to come from being with men in person. Which undoubtedly led to someone else getting head in exchange for the knowledge shared with yours. Visual-centric learning disabilities and confused sexual worth is probably what blocked your painfully obvious free access to Library Books.

Whoa, hey, on second thought, maybe the collective could have been called a cult since the women were the ones doing all the heavy lifting and dirty work. Though, by that definition, it could be called Any Job. But no one would have paid any attention to the label at all if it weren't for the intimidating Scottish front man talking it up. Ye Olde Patriarchal Stamp of Approval makes a woman's efforts fruitful. Admittedly, you went all pear shaped because lopsided shit like this Will Drive Anyone Crazy.

But what did you learn while wading through all this stoopid gut wrenching interpersonal gobbledeegook?

3 things:
It's a Man's World.
You Get What You Settle For.
And Living Well is most assuredly, The Best Revenge.

So it was death with braised death on it, smothered in death sauce, on a bed of death flakes with a light dusting of powdered death on top. It doesn't just come in 3's, it also comes in 6's and 9's.

It was actually easier dealing with the cancer caused finalities of your favorite family members dying than to grieve over petty creative severings and abandonment by those still living, by those whom you thought were your friends. Far more damaging to realize you were just a joke to everyone than to deal with cleansweeping death. It's all the living remnants left.

It's all that trying. Trying to be loyal to a group, to something bigger than only you. Trying to bite your tongue and accept others as they are, even though they won't do the same for you. Trying to make something that's worthwhile, or good, something that moves others to mutter the simple phrase "thank you." But it's also the fact that after all that trying, you'll still only come to being a small box of gray dirt whose songs and stories went unheard. Doesn't it make sense that this is why it became so important that your efforts mattered to those around you? That you listened to them? That they'd listen to you?

...insert cricket chirps...

Yeah, it hurt. Most deaths do.

Every single time you picked up the full roll of toilet paper that sat on top of the empty cardboard tube still wiggling in the holder, you'd push the roll onto the wooden dowel and say to yourself aloud, "Everything you do in life is completely meaningless, but it is very important that you keep doing it."

*u can call me ph!*


THE 13% [chapter 12]


As soon as you arrived in San Francisco, you didn't like it.

You were lonely. People were fake. They never did the things they said they would do. "No" was a word that had been removed from the Californian vocabulary. Instead, the red
herring "yes" would repeatedly waste an unprecedented amount of your time. "Flake" was a new word that took you only a week to learn, but much longer to assimilate. And everyone was so afraid of confrontation, you found yourself angrily walking straight through busy intersections, wishing someone would just have the moxie filled balls to yell "Fuck You!" instead of whimpering, "I'm sorry," when they were clearly not at fault.

Socially, this place confused you to no end, turning you into a tediously befuddled dingleberry. At every party you went to, you'd open your mouth and succeed in clearing the room. Dejected, the rest of the evening would be spent on the stairs or at the outer edges, smoking, being lurid and uncool. However, alone at night, when the jasmine bloomed and the eucalyptis trees near the sea breezed through, it was a beautiful refuge for someone who not only loves, but needs lots of unpopulated solitude. It was a gift in disguise that no one was ever there for you.

People said, "Don't go to the Lower Haight because it's dangerous." So you went straight there, only to discover this neighborhood was not filled with danger, just non-white folks. Obviously, that river of racism that runs underground throughout America, even this far away from the other regions in which you had already witnessed it's ignorant shame was still firmly held in place. But what did you expect?Equality? Justice? Such fabulous notions that have yet to actually surface. Seems it would be easier to raise the dead. Or see white cops getting convicted for killing black kids. Or experience corporations being held accountable for crimes against humanity. Or accept generally that the protection of bees, coral reefs, forests, oceans, rivers and streams is more neccessary for long term survival than money. Or, even just receive equal pay without having your body parts felt up every other fucking day.

Isn't it obvious why you cleared every party?
So anyway...

Renting the cheapest room you could find for $243 a month in an old run down but rent controlled victorian at 2429 Mission and 20th Street, you discovered you had become broke ass, so it was too late to bail. You got a minimum wage job at the Lumiere Theater on Polk Street. Now all you had to do was deal. Deal with every mistake you had already made, and look forward to all the bigger and better mistakes in which you would soon wholeheartedly engage. Whoopee!

The first friend you met was a guy from D.C. named Josh. He was beautifully gaunt, like an Egon Schiele drawing. Also into industrial and goth. Having sex with him was like admiring exotic tropical fish in an aquarium -- always just out of reach emotionally, as if he didn't need to breathe the same air. But he did share with you what he was breathing, and you leapt right into that enticing pool without holding your breath.

Crystal meth was an entirely new drug to you. Nothing like the white cross kinds of pre-teen speed you did back in New Jersey. These virginal pink batches were particularly pure, if you can call battery acid, paint thinner, anti-freeze and psuedoephadrine pure. But one thing was for sure - it made vapid people a lot easier to deal with.

You were quite content to see life through planet sized eyes. Greeting strangers on the street, your head focused on what was in front of you, not cast down beneath everyone's feet. This action itself was formerly utterly foreign to you. Released from oppressive self-doubt, speed punched you in the face repeatedly. Like doing shots of whiskey or absinthe
or everclear - it's a good painful kiss. Like a natural disaster forcing you to face your own insignificant mortality. Every line that pummeled your crusty nasal causeway seemed to balance out your downer brain. Everyone said it would make you go all paranoid. But you became Less Paranoid. This drug made you feel like A Normal Person somehow. As if your life was not a series of Total Shits. But it is still a drug. Not authentic joy. Meh...who fucking cares? It was the best you could do back in '93 thru '94.

At one particularly memorable all night party in a sticky sparsely furnished living room overlooking the corner of Haight and Fillmore, every glistening skinned, green and purple haired tweaker was there. All talking nonstop simultaneously about their childhood traumas. But no one was listening. No one.

Uncomfortably half seated in the corner of the room, twitching and fighting off nausea and the taste of tin foil on your tongue, you began to wonder if there was some kind of connection between addiction and child abuse. All of them barely older than you. All of them fucked since day one. All of them escaping life since day two.

In addition to that non-shocking theory: On a road trip to a book convention with the SF Homeless Coalition some years later, the passengers that filled the 12 seat van all shared their own stories of being unloved before they became unsheltered. Fueled by a steady stream of brown bagged beers, it became apparent on that 6 hour drive that every single person in that vehicle - the homeless men and women, the coalition volunteers, the legal advocates and the driver of the van - had all been abused as children. Coincidence? You wish.

But back at that tweaker party on Haight Street, you left the loud chaotic chatter behind and sat alone on the stairway, as usual, feeling doomed. That was the first time you decided to quit your infatuation with crystal meth. Even though it felt so good, not being constantly filled with the dreaded depression of fear. It felt so good to have the energy to Do Shit instead of just lying in bed, crying for no good goddamn reason, feeling sorry for yourself, wasting another year. This drug got you to Work On Time! Your customer service skills went through the roof! But meth's effects were socially futile if they only resulted in verbal avalanches onto those who would never listen or come through for you in tense real life situations. The shit Real Friends do. Even though, in truth, drugs were better friends than people were to you.

There was also that hope you were still holding onto. Hope that there was Someone Out There For You. Still young and stargazing across that superfluous indoctrinated bromantic notion that obscures the reality of most women's lives; lives that are actually filled with fateful losses, repeated betrayals and discriminated subversions. But it's all roses and sunshine after finding That Man That's Right For You. Sure it is.

Before quitting meth, however, you managed to bust your new boyfriend's cherry with it. Josh didn't love you so you fucked Zack. You thought it was only going to be a one night stand. But Zack kept coming back. He did love you. And you hated him for that. Doing speed with him only once, you became even more annoyed with his clinging and wished you could be less of a mouse trap.

So you quit meth. Just like that. No severe aftermath. No zombie fried brain damage, at least not more than you already had. You forgot all about it. And instead, returned to drinking booze regularly and smoking chronic amounts of weed daily. That seemed to hold the reality, nihilism and psychic visions at bay for a full foggy decade.

You couldn't afford the colossal tuition at the Art Institute, so you took lots of $13 classes at City College and spent all of your free time falling into the colorful spreads of Sandman and Tank Girl instead. Art was not dead.

Eventually, you were offered a painting scholarship that partially paid your way into the Institute regardless of your pennilessness and general negativity. Student loans that grew like gall stones covered the rest. After 3 years of taking a range of interdisciplinary courses while holding down 2 part time jobs, you graduated with honors and awards. This was your one true success. Memorably short. Unpaid for still.

During that entire time, you kept trying to get rid of Zack. But, if Zack was so irritating, one might ask, why did you stay with him for so long? Because nobody else was calling you. Yup. It was as shallow and pathetic as that.That one-sided relationship in which you became the domineering dickhead tyrrant. A horrible example of how not to behave toward someone who did nothing to deserve such abusive treatment, except put up with it year after year.

Constantly, Zack was trying to thaw your frozen disposition. You were repulsed by how joyous he always was. Like a puppy. It made you sad that you couldn't get Psyched or Stoked about stupid things like sitting in hammocks or flying kites. He'd have to rouse up your spiraling downer ass to go skydiving or go for motorcycle rides at night. You did feel all of the awesomeness in all of these awesome things eventually, but your happiness never seemed to last quite as long as his. And this was the "healthiest" relationship you ever thought you had. HA HA! It turned out to all be bullcrap. Many years later, you found out that Zack was slamming meth the whole time you were together. He kept his shit well concealed under his chess set from the self-obsessed mess that was his wacko art school girlfriend. Not actually a difficult task.

For some reason though, finding out about his hidden addiction made you like him slightly more than you ever did before. All sorts of things made sense in this new context. But you still would have treated him like doggy doo doo, doing whatever was necessary to stop his spazzy ass from putting you on a pedestal. You hated that he allowed you treat him like crap, wishing he'd get some self-respect and give up on you so that you could appreciate his kindness after it had been removed. But no. Meth or no meth, this nice boy was never going to Deliver You. And that's what you were really looking for. Although this unconscious drive went unrealized until after reaching the age of 42.

Except for that one night in the summer of '95 when you got shit faced drunk in front of all of Zack's high school buddies in Bend, Oregon. You did a terribly awkward stripperish performance at his friend's bachelor party. It made some of the guys in the room leave for the tranquility of the back porch, perhaps out of pity for your sorry unskilled act. Zack, however, couldn't be happier that his girlfriend was getting naked in front of all of his friends as they hollered obnoxious platitudes at your ass. Looking over at him, shining the spotlight on all of your exposed damage, he just sat there smiling. You started to feel weird, but kept on stripping. Nothing was sexy. Becomming more and more freaked out at this bizarre scene that you had entered into voluntarily, the only thing you could do to stop from either laughing or crying hysterically, was to turn around and focus on me. I took you away instantly. An insulin reaction whited you out, and you fell into a petit seizure. Show's over, choads.

Afterward, in the middle of a sleepy provincial street, at the top of your lungs, you shrieked, "Why Can't You Just Fucking Kill Me!?" Zack cried, "cuz I love you...why would I want to kill you?" This embarrassing little onslaught had slipped your mind until recently when it came back to haunt you like a spiteful giggling wraith.

Courtney Love life stinks. Fuck that donkey headed sociopathic attention seeking bray. It killed Kurt Cobain, whose death you celebrated because he was lucky to have escaped before more of his sexually abused yet self-realizing spirit could be winnowed away.

There should be some remorse for having turned out Zack to a life of drug abuse, but there isn't. Perhaps because no blame was ever placed on those who brought it to you. The choice to snort that shit rests firmly on your own slouching shoulders, so you don't see the point of feeling guilt over the choices other people are capable of making for themselves. Or if they choose to squarely place that blame on someone else. But if you must blame anyone, blame Del. And by Blame, I mean, Feel Undying Gratitude Toward.

Sometimes when an experience begins to happen that will later become a much revisited memory, a subtle but noticeable shift occurs. It's as if regular life turns into a cheesy sci fy movie and you are witnessing a portal in time being unearthed. A thick silence echoes at the start. Then colors saturate as if all the things you see are layers upon layers of the same image on a transparency. Sounds knell like you're at the bottom of a well. It feels as if all of your future selves are psychically crowding around, one for each time you will remember this particular hell that you are about to enter into. Remember to breathe and pay close
attention to everything, for here comes a memory forming that you may or may not live to tell. One such event occured at a party in the spring of '96 on the corner of Oak and Fell.

Wandering around outside the house since you were too stoned to deal with people, you gazed up at the sullen moon and took a photo. The scent of something dreadful about to happen wouldn't quit stalking you. The air held a trace of blood. Iron. Water and rust. Death.

Inside the party, Del had arrived to a loud round of approving yells. He was a local fixture. Always drunk. Always fucked up. Always decked out in leathers and a frayed Einsturzende Neubauten tshirt. Black hair greased back. Reeking of sexuality and a healthy portion of isolated emotional torment. Hung like a unicorn, he could charm the pants off both women and men, in numbers that would rival a rebel army. And everyone loved him. Despite all the fucked up shit he pulled, all the wobblies he threw. Crazy only looks good on someone beautiful.

Staggering outside to his motorcycle, clearly beyond being able to ride in a straight line, you jumped in front of his bike. Straddling the front tire, you yelled that he could not leave yet because if he did, he would get into a horrible accident. You felt so strongly compelled to help him avoid this awful thing that was about to befall him that it wasn't even You being compelled. No part of your own ego or personality was involved. You had long since gotten out of the way. This pulsating wave of words came barrelling down through the top of your skull and out your mouth with such determined ferocity, all you could do was let it ride. It was uncontrollable, like vomiting profusely. Del practically ran you over, vehemently bellowing, "Outta my way, you crazy bitch!" And sped off, up the hill.

People had come outside from the party because of the commotion. You started to walk home down the hill. 7 seconds later came the squeal thump crash and crunch that was Del getting hit by a car that ran the red light. It ruptured his spleen, fractured an arm and a leg, broke his ribs and collarbone, collapsed a lung and concussioned his head. His favorite tshirt was torn for good as the paramedics cut through his clothes. Shivering straight up through the middle, they revived his blood soaked body in the bright strobing ambulance, then went screeching and wailing away.

He spent 3 weeks in and out of the Intensive Care Unit at SF General. You went there nearly every day to make sure he was going to be ok. You told the hospital staff you were family, but everyone knew Del didn't have any. This wasn't his first, nor his last visit to SF General. Each time he came to, he'd angrily yank out all of his tubes. When his eyes focused, he was fucking pissed. "Death was so beautiful...I don't wanna still be alive," he cried. The nurses told you his lung had collapsed again during the night. You wiped off his sweaty forehead as they routinely reinserted his tubes. He fell back asleep and did some more healing while also detoxing from the massive amounts of amphetamines that flooded his veins for most of his high velocity life. Despite his best efforts, Del survived.

As you stood over his bed with that sweaty cloth in your hand, it came as a complete surprise to realize that you DO have a single nurturing bone in your body. It was not broken.

This attention you were spending on Del infuriated Zack to no end. He jealously accused you of having feelings for his drug dealer and likely secretly gay lover. And maybe you did, who can tell? You thought yourself lucky to feel anything at all, no matter upon whom the target of your affections fell. But Zack had no clue as to all the spookiness that had precluded this accident. And that trying to grasp the meaning behind all of this weirdness was really what was propelling you. Yet nothing was discovered.

Not long after that, Zack left SF for Canada and got married to someone else. After being discharged from the hospital, Del got engaged and moved to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge with his new fiancee. You would not run into him again for another 15 years. He was still not dead.

It snidely besotted you on the odd occassion, however, that if you hadn't tried to stop Del from riding off that night, if you hadn't caused all those moments of obstruction with your Kiss of Death Premonition, he might not have gotten into that accident at all.

"Everything's my fault."

Being a control-freak to the Nth degree, years of failed attempts to formulate trusting friendships with people forced you to gradually calm that compulsion to hound others unneccessarily. It focused you on controlling only those things you Actually Have any loose cannon control over: You yourself, that dissociative low self esteeming twat of yours, and that black cloud following you around that had, by now, begun turning blue.

*u can call me ph!*


THE 13% [chapter 11]


Thirdly, gone to seed, those petals that fell were from a flower that is as old as life itself.

Your parents had already gone to bed. It was late, nearly midnight by the time you got home from your shift at the asylum. A hard rain was barrelling down in sheets, limiting visibility, making the commute home a struggle through the squall. Standing at last over the bathroom sink, you routinely brushed your tired teeth.

In an instant, the air shifted. Gripped in a hot prickling stillness. Time melted and slowed to a drone. You felt an immense dread. A primordial alarm. Pierced with it's immediacy, this huge unavoidable presence was looming right behind you. It felt older, more permanent than earth. Intrinsically, you knew, with all your synapses boiling, not to raise your eyes from the dripping faucet to the mirror that stood facing you. In a flash, you shot off like a hunted rabbit for the safety of your little room. Everything left strewn on the sink. Ribbons of flouride ran out your mouth and down your chin.

The abject heat of fear distorted and stretched this short distance, pulling the modest hallway like soft taffy into a foreboding tunnel, draped in the faint scent of a long forgotten tomb. A sepulchral blast shoved you forward in that last gasping sprint for your door. Swirls of ether turned oily, a viscous sparkling purple darkness. The gust then rushed up beneath what sounded like a monolithic pair of wings. You saw nothing. Nor did you want to see anything, beyond the back of your slamming door. And it was gone. As suddenly as it had come. Crumbling onto the floor, you sobbed helplessly, overwhelmed with frightful grief.

A couple days later, the youngest son of the family living downstairs told you that his older brother had been killed on his motorcycle in a head on collision with a semi at 12:00 on that same rainy night. The news both shook and scared the shit outta you. It took a long time to grapple with the thought, much less the belief, that the presence you felt that night might have been The Angel of Death. But I have always believed it, with every knowing fibre of my being. Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

*u can call me ph!*

THE 13% [chapter 10]


The 2nd blossom to burst open in '89 was that of Suicide.

When you were still a kid, sitting in your favorite hiding place next to a tiny window at the back of a hall closet upstairs, you considered throwing yourself out onto the ground. But you knew this short fall would not kill you. So you pet the kitty instead, crawled across furniture on your hands and knees, ate some cat food with her and meowed. You wondered if being a feline was any less depressing than being a 10 year old girl, stuck living in a brown house with a brown car under a brown cloud. The brown kitty meowed.

Once, your mother abruptly grabbed the car keys just before dawn. All bleary-eyed and hurriedly shoved into coats, she hurled your brother and you into the back seat and threw some crap in the trunk. It seemed as though she had finally come to her senses and decided to leave her abusive husband. Both of you kids beamed with the excitement of being removed from those corrosive strokes that haunted your small darkened days. Feeling this short warm blast of your mother's love, such heavenly protection that you had for so long craved, you couldn't wait to go anywhere she decided to take you. At last, you've been saved!

But less than a mile went by before she pulled into a Burger King parking lot and started to cry. You sat silently staring out of the window at 2 tiny broken twigs in the drifting early morning mist. Then she started the car, pulled out of the parking lot and sat with the engine running at the empty crossroads of Black River Boulevard and North 46. Watching the light change from green to red to green to red and green again. "Go straight", you howled in your head, "please just go straight ahead!" She turned left. Back to the house.

You sank, gutted. In a flash of panic, you and your brother looked at each other. Reaching out, you clasped hands. Both of you knew there would be hell to pay for this. And you knew it would be years before either of you would be big enough to protect yourselves from those hard impatient fists that your mother, sadly, had neither the strength nor the will to resist. She would never know how much this seemingly insignificant event completely crushed her children's spirits.

Only once did you ever witness your father physically attack your mother. Screaming that she was a stupid bitch, he kicked the back of the chair she was sitting in. When she fell, he pushed her face down into the carpet, as if he were potty training a dog. But far more frequently, she'd put up with a formidable browbeating every 20 minutes or so for 50+ years of marital bliss. Still, she stayed with him. And to this day, still is. "I promised Til Death Do Us Part," she quivered. Then voiced that she regretted everything she ever did, "including giving birth to you kids." Stick it in. Then twist.

So your family remained immobile for a short while beneath the woeful skies of Mohawk territory, under the deafening noise of a military base runway in Rome, New York. It's surprising how quickly the brain can become accustomed to such an intrusive sound, strangely missing the thunderous roar of fighter jets when they were no longer there to drown out the yelling rounds. But the beatings and gropings only seemed to increase with each drop of degree in the weather, which, in upstate, brings new meaning to the word freeze.

More than twice, in Roosevelt, New Jersey, you held razor blades to your flesh. Sitting in the bathtub, you tried to scrub yourself clean with steel wool to remove the vilified stains of semen and sweat. But that filth had seeped in too far below the skin. So you dug into your budded breasts in a listless attempt to cut them off. Though you only drew inch long openings before pulling out. The beauty of trickling blood instantly severed your brain from that hot buzzing claustrophobic cage of hatred. Like a cool breeze, in rivulets of relief, you hovered above your head, pulsating with endorphins and a breathless benevolent peace. This discovery stuck. So a cutter you would come to be. Fascinated, you watched the body's unstoppable healing process as it did its best to remind you that there are other emotions you can feel besides loneliness, abandonment and melancholy.

That was the year you testified in court against your dad. He was sentenced to 5 years probation. It could have been significantly worse for him had you told the truth on the stand. But your non-communicative mother was obviously not on your side. And in this meantime, you still had to live with these people, with their dagger filled eyes stabbing you for dinner every night.

You began to wonder if it was a mistake to bring the abuse to light at all. Or to tone down its severity to the Family Services authorities. But you told yourself you were doing it for this dysfunctional family's sake; to keep you all together. Right after dropping the bomb that laid bare this disgrace.

So you lied.

You lied so that your dad wouldn't get sent to prison where he'd be killed by inmates. You lied so that your jobless mom wouldn't be deported back to England, leaving your brother and you to be thrown into foster care - a decidedly worse fate. You lied so that you wouldn't be mechanically separated inside the system of trafficked child care; where you may be free from the torture of a known biological devil, but now, you'd be thrown into a deeper hell, being owned by the satanic red tape of the state. At least, that's what you had pictured in your 14 year old brain. "You're crazy," they'd say. You're welcome, fuckfaces.

Many long disaffected Wednesday nights were spent driving to Trenton for the group therapy sessions you were now required to take. It already felt as if you were being punished for having brought this matter of sexual abuse to society's attention, but now you were being punished again, stuck in the car alone with your father. Therapists told him to be open with his feelings, so he openly shared all of the gory details of his ongoing wet dreams that always featured you. You said nothing. Just turned your head and stared out the window at the waning moon, drooping through a blur of passing trees in deep set indigo fields of gloom.

In Trenton's huge civic meeting rooms, tinted lemon yellow cement bricks and cracking tan linoleum tiles were lit in spastic flourescent twitches. A welcoming circle of cushy orange vinyl loveseats and low oval tables crowned in thin metal ashtrays did their best to comfort the embedded stresses heard at Group. Spurts of muffled laughter and boisterous yells would waft up the hall from the gathering Men's Group.

One evening, all of the other sexually abused girls passionately declared, "Yes!" They would love to kill their perpetrators. Even sweet doe-eyed Latisha who was 7 months pregnant and excited about giving birth to her own father's baby. But you said no to this question. Everyone, including the social worker, demanded to know, "Why the hell not?!" The only answer you could verbalize was that no matter what damage you could do to him, there'd be no escaping the fact that this fucking man is still your fucking dad. Dead or alive, you're forced to live with that.

Then you'd eat as many of the free crackers and cheese they put in front of you, getting fatter and sadder and more withdrawn in little increments, week after week. And every time, 15 year old Sandra would tsk tsk tsk, clucking disapprovingly while you stuffed your face. "I gotta stay skinny for my men," she'd proclaim, "cuz that's how they like me." Her impeccably manicured hands gliding down her sheer lavendar blouse, from her ribcage to her tiny waist. But you remained fairly certain that, fat or thin, it made no difference. Old men would just as soon grope you as stick it to an anthill or a warm sack of poo.

These days, even your beloved brother had ceased speaking to you due to his own complete teenage withdrawl. He had his own issues to deal with. One of his 2 best friends had just attempted suicide, and later succeeded, after the 3 of them went on a summer vacation to Israel under the watchful eye of a local rabbi-turned-priest, the late Reverend John Gruel. They returned from that trip severly damaged after the holy pedophile's yearly retreat. He had raped well over 150 young boys, maybe more, during his highly praised life. Almost the same number of people that he'd bravely led to safety, helping them escape certain death in the Nazi concentration camps of WWII on a ship known as Exodus. Only to destroy the lives of their grandsons. Is there enough forgiveness in God's hands for this?

Listening to Pink Floyd and Kate Bush tapes on your headphones, or riding your yellow 10 speed bike for miles, or practicing Beethoven on the piano at school, or typing RUN to play the 'E.T.' theme song you programmed on a Commodore 64, or hiding up in the big old elm tree at bedtime, or taking square pictures with your 135mm camera, or swimming down to the drain grate at the deep end of the public pool were the cherished bright spots of solace still left open to you. But then you had to Get Out Of The Water. And walk to your towel. With all those incriminating small town eyes either judging or pitying or rubbing up against the not so private parts of you.

Suicide started to look real good after such vulgar demolition took what was left of your tattered cellulite squeezing self esteem. Enter the emancipation of razor blades --so many years prior to their reappearance in your life as a tool for rendering snortable all those thick crunchy rails of crystal meth up into yer sunken ol' reject face.

Just writing that made you crave it's rapturous pain again.

Cringe. Wash it off. Breathe. Deeper. Sit with it. Don't avoid the grief. Breathe it in. And breathe out relief. Not just for yourself, but for every single person on the planet that is, at this very moment, struggling with the same weakness, the same need to feel free from society's sickness. Sing something. Breathe. Then turn the page.

At 19, you experienced a small bout of freedom, of what life might be like outside the parental penitentiary where all of your belongings were routinely inspected and sometimes confiscated. Things like your Dayglo Abortions record and your favorite pair of Converse hightops. Your father had retired from The Air Force as an electrical engineer and was
now a proud card carrying member of the Reagan/Bush Task Force, helping to develop America's first spy satellites. So it's no wonder he continued to invade your privacy daily.

After graduating from high school in Huntsville, Alabama, you accepted a scholarship that granted you a semester at Montevallo University in Birmingham. For a few months, you breathed more easily. The following winter, your parents told you they were moving back up to the east coast for a job promotion. You wanted to go with them because the South was a place where rocks were often thrown at you with taunts of Witch! Dyke! Satan Worshipper! Freak!

On the flip side, the South was also a place where you knew who your friends were. These were the sweetheart punks that you were tripping on acid with in basements, in cars, in forests and on mountains. Drawing geometric patterns in the stars to an impressively diverse soundtrack that ranged from Big Black to Bessie Smith, from Agnostic Front to Arvo Paart, from Minor Threat to Bob Marley, from Cro-Mags to This Mortal Coil, from Saccharine Trust to The Sugarcubes, from Metallica to REM, from Bad Brains to Brian Eno, from Janis Joplin to Fishbone, from Agent Orange to Edith Piaf, from Jane's Addiction to Nina Simone, from The Specials to Killing Joke, from Lighetti to Love and Rockets, from Bach to Nico.

Sometimes you had to gently remind your peaking friends that it was not a good idea to lick the church or prostrate themselves in the middle of the highway if they wanted to avoid jail time.

These were also the honorable hard core skins that you defended, slipping a steel pole out from the sleeve of your leather jacket during the violent attacks from gangs of jocks and sons of the cops. Their dads, sitting in their patrol cars watching, laughing and egging on their kids, "Git tha nigger boy! Git 'im!"

One summer, your friend Dee was beaten half to death with baseball bats because she was riding a pink bicycle in a pink dress, her pink hair blowing wildly in the wind. Yes, in this place, you knew who your friends were. Moreso than other places that don't pose the same kind of day to day threats to people whose mere existence in a public space is offensive to others. An anathema. As if you had kicked their dog. Or slapped their baby. Or spat in their stink-eyed puckered up squishy pig face. That's Life In The Big City, but what really scared you was the open obvious and proud possession of guns always within reach. It wasn't long before you found it in your best interest to learn how to use a 9mm, a 12 guage, an AR15.

By January, your parents reluctantly agreed to take you north with them. Charging you rent to live in their house was meant to teach you a lesson. You learned that they didn't want you around. Fair enough. Not long after the move to Massachusetts, you took half a bottle of sleeping pills. This was your first somewhat serious attempt to commit suicide. Clearly it wasn't serious enough since you didn't take the whole bottle. But you would not call what happened next a dream. It was a vision.

Descending upon a landscape, circling down to a flat barren plain somewhere in the midwestern states, you see a deteriorating white wooden farmhouse. The year is circa 1888. A woman, weathered with fortitude, wears a heavy gray woolen dress. She is frantically gathering her children together to send them into the root cellar for shelter. A tornado is rapidly approaching. You can see it hurling up debris from the empty acres of fields gone fallow. Clouds beckoning ever blacker with each surge of the winds as they strain and funnel down, rumbling and devouring everything on the ground. Pushing, the solitary tree trunk groans and lurches. The woman's gutteral screams can barely be heard. "HURRY!" Pulling at the irritating weight of her dress, it drags at her with it's unnecessary girth, but she must hurry to keep the children safe. She must hurry! The tornado is whipping in closer, spitting up earth.

You are so close to her now that you become her. The gravity of her terror is suffocating. All you kids get in! Bolt the cellar door! The twister is coming, coming straight for us! Everything I have worked so hard for is going to disappear in this horrid wind. Is there nothing I can do? What can I do?! I must DO something! I have to...sacrifice something. Sacrifice myself. Give myself to the storm. If I give my life to it, to God's mercy, my children will live! Yes, I must do that. Run! It's coming - RUN! I will I will I will! I love them, God I love them! I must do it for them! I must die for them! I MUST!

Across the stabs of broken dry corn stalks, we run. Across the lonesome years of ache and toil that barely kept the little ones going, we run. Across the losses, the regrets, the beloved husband we long since put down in the soil beneath that tree that will soon uproot, we now run to our own illusory deaths. Edges catch and tear, ripping off dirty mended and remended ends of our heavy woolen dress, yet we run. We run faster and harder, losing everything, we've lost it all, gone is our last breath.

At the cusp of the tornado's upward strength, we don't need to run anymore. It picks us up from 7 or so rows away. We are sacrificed. But this deed does no good. A storm holds no tally. Souls are not scores. There is no game. A tornado does not care what people believe. The children may or may not survive. Nature's indifference thrives. And all we feel inside the spiraling eye is unending human suffering. A seething sense of regret that can never be corrected. And we are trapped in this torrential swirling fugue, this mass of countless souls in desperate misery, suspended and wailing with such unfathomable sorrows.

You rose from your bed and gently went outside into the snow and silence. Wandering along dark suburban roads in a daze at 3am, you came to a wooded field at a dead end. Silky black ash branches glittered like wet ink against the city-lit orange clouds that scudded across a low lying sky. After the owl cries fell mute, all things hushed. In this diffused place, a promise was made that you have managed to keep, still to this day.

Then, you realized you were only wearing pajamas. It was about 23 degrees. And you were not asleep.

*u can call me ph!*