#had to kick dad out of the house but we may lose our house now since hes our source of income
COVID Diaries; Pennies
It is March 2020 and I’ve channeled the spirit of Paul Revere. As Los Angeles erupts into rioting and mass fentanyl suicide, I dive headfirst into the cabin of the Mazda, and gun the packed ship upwards along the vacant I5 corridor. Every smouldering city under Gavin Newsom looks further gone than the last. The navigation takes me on some perverse fantasy detour thru post-apocalyptic San Francisco. It’s been a long time coming but now it’s solidified. The mayor and her delegates have chomped their cyanide pills and now the streets and bridges offer rotting cars beside silent, beautiful Victorian manors. Still in full color, the sky is blue and the sun is yellow, gleaming indifferently. I am nervous about San Franscisco County. The shelter in place order says no one shall be out on the street without proper reason. And, proper reason or not, I have a pharmacy of drugs in the trunk of my car. Will it be enough to wait out the pandemic in my mother’s house? Enough to keep me sane tucked in the basement of the compound on Cougar Mountain, Issaquah, Washington, for GodKnowsHowLong? My very own Bavarian Alps.
For years in LA I have lived for high speed and hard sex in a blackout frenzy which no young American could denigrate without looking like a nerd. In our culture of excess I sought the most insane, unexplored corridors. Chavionistic romps through the bitter forests of lust, contamination, too-young suicide, too-good blowjobs that leave explosions on this cast of characters flown from every corner of the globe, all with the same indelible fever. I come to now, in this chaotic month handed down by God, March 2020, and I’m withdrawing from all of it in the penthouse on the side of the mountain.
In this moment the fantasy is fading fast, like being jolted from a wet dream by a home invasion. For a lot of people the American dream was already a flickering ember in the distance, a relic of some stupid pilgrimgrage for egoic glory, a blind propaganda puzzle piece with no jigsaw to belong to. But I had formed my own relationship with the concept, and, until now, had believed wholeheartedly in the myth in America; or at least that myth’s capacity to spur significant action, which could abolish hunger and pain, mistreatment and misunderstanding, which could deliver us from evil and unto the kingdom of heaven.
I am not, to many of her 300 million pairs of eyes, a portrait of traditional American success. I am the starving artist archetype. I’ve lived in abandoned buildings and shot cocaine into my veins in the speeding bathroom of many an Amtrak carriage. These may be my most definitive traits, save for the music I somehow manage to draw out of all of this. Albums worth of potential answers to the impossible questions. Sometimes I think I’ve reached the peak, with the LSD and the naked festival girls. I am 26 years old and feel incompetent. I go to pay a traffic ticket or am electric bill and find myself paralyzed at the entrance to the website. In a moment of otherworldly strength I call the bank and my debit card has been cancelled. I stare at the parking ticket in my pod, which has been rented from a company called Up(Start), and is arranged in a row with twenty others. At least I’ve made it to Los Angeles.
Up(Start) is a strange place. I find most people don’t last very long in this community. They leave back to their hometowns or find apartments. The ones who stay haunt this place like ghosts, with no discernible goals and mysterious incomes. I’ve learned not to ask how these life-longers pay the rent. The answer is not translatable.
Willow is one of these life-longers. She always talks about moving out; sometimes to an apartment in LA, most recently about some nebulous palace in France. She says her grandmother died and left her everything. She shows me a suitcase full of watches and rings that still can’t fully convince me of her story. She drinks vodka when she wakes up and convinces me to fuck her when Jesse leaves us in his room alone.
Jesse found his way out to a beautiful house in Silver Lake. He had been at Up(Start) for a year before that. He is the nicest guy I know, offering the coat off his back for nothing but a swig of your vodka in return.
I left these characters behind, keeping a steady 65 on the interstate and stopping only to black out in a hotel room in Redding, CA. Summer, inspirational barista and blowjob queen, dared me to stop and see her in Portland, but my body was crawling from scabies from Lucy, (who was also in Portland and, I would later learn, infected with the virus) and I sped right through.
My younger brother Jon was at the house and had been awaiting my arrival. I instantly understood why. My mother had become a figurehead for the national panic, and shoulder-hugged me with her mask on. She is, as we speak, sterilizing the place.
I’ve gotten to spend a good amount of time with Jon, and am somewhat surprised to find that he faces the same existential torment as I do. This is not something we talk about, but I can feel it on him. He is super into Xanax, and orders pressed bars off the darknet. I share the drugs I’ve brought with him. Kratom, weed, and, —most enticing— Flubromazolam. I learn that he has been kicked out of UW on academic probation. I ask him about it in front of my mother and stepdad. With a casualness that shocks me he says he just didn’t care about any of his classes. But he’s got reaccepted to the school and he says he’s going to make it this time.
I show him how I order my drugs online. I show him the designer benzodiazepines on the clearnet, pennies per dose. We place an order for O-DSMT. It’s an insane solution to our problems, but I guarantee you it works.
I tell Jon about my life in LA with the stuff. Taking it and driving weed deliveries all day. I don’t tell him about the long nights with Lucy, telling her the love I feel from the opiate is sourced from her, then failing to get hard.
Jon, for his part, tells me about the peak of his Oxycontin habit, poppin 7 OC30’s a day with his buddies at Rolling Loud. I was just a few blocks away. I didn’t know he was in town.
We order the O-DSMT to his apartment in the U District, stopping to and snag it on our sole vacation to Dad’s for dinner. Two packages have been delivered. We have the save pavlov response. We carry the packages to his apartment on the top floor and split the bubble wrap with a butterfly knife. Out of a manilla envelope comes 100 green Xanax bars. From a bent UPS envelope comes a gram of O-DSMT and 250mg of 4-ACO-DMT, a bonus for me (Jon says he hates psychedelics).
We set to the scale and split the gram, dosing 50mg then and there to get through dinner. The next day he visits me in the basement, saying “Yo, this O-DSMT shit… it’s dope.”
I say “I’m with you.”
My days are spent deep in the dream flow, recording songs for a hopeful fourth album. The third one is still far from complete, but I can’t go back and meddle with those songs now. Wouldn’t dare touch their Los Angeles essence with the hand of the evergreen state. They will go to Rob and Twon and Andy as they are.
I’m back to guitars for the new album. Cardinal sin AC/DC type songs. I think it may be a double album, quarantine permitting. I want an exploratory, unstructured, throw paint at the wall and see what sticks, White album/Life of Pablo situation. I want solo piano pieces and Aphex Twin-esque 808 excursions. I want the label to release it on white vinyl with extensive liner notes. Indulgence. I want this album to be the one where I say “indulge me.”
If Rob is vehimently opposed to the idea I had the fantasy of making an easy album. Taking songs like Parade Owl, See You Tomorrow, Miss Can’t Sleep and putting out a whole album of them. Good rock music. Take a step back from the frontlines; the cutting edge. We’ll see what sticks to the wall after this quarantine is over.
Weeks drift by. There’s a trade route for all the beer that gets brought into the house. It goes from the garage fridge to the basement fridge to my eager hand, to my mouth, to my blood. Night by night the ritual recurs, til my mom takes out the downstairs trash and finds all the empties. She makes some subtle comment. I tell her to buy more White Claw.
Despite the drug flow my inspiration seems to be drying up. Rob took a listen to the twenty five songs I’d completed since arriving in Issaquah and said they sounded like Dogs. The old band. The old rock and roll band we’ve been trying to move away from. I was disappointed to hear him say it. I was disappointed he wasn’t excited about the songs. “Fuck it, should I scrap them all?” I asked myself. Then I started to look around the house and understand that if nothing came of these songs… I must be insane. I must be losing it. The stupid research chemical stimulants don’t help. I thought they would. Productivity and all… but I’m just jittery, texting strangers on Instagram for hours, all the while feeling like I should be doing something else. And the television is on in the background, and I told myself I was going to do so much to day. And I did it. And people on Instagram say “you seem busy.” They’ve always said I seem this and I seem that. I never agreed with any of it, but they probably know me better than I do. How could I see myself? I look for myself through a fog and it’s only a ripple of a shadow. A microcosm a million miles away through a hellscape with no up or down, no east or west. They say I’m social. They say I’m a socialite. Really I just get drunk and unleash all my nervous energy on the party or, nowadays, the Zoom meeting.
Today I drink Modello. Ma and Chuck went to the Seattle waterfront for a picnic or something. I didn’t get the details. But the sun should be going down now, and she’s texting me asking if I want to play a board game when they get back. I say yeah sure I do. My temper when I’m off these amphetamines analogues, though… I worry I’ll flip the Pictionary board. Slam dunk the wine glass onto the wood floor. Now the cliffhanger; will this Modello calm my nerves?
This morning I went with mom to buy plants for the garden. I thought we were going to get seeds but she wanted the already grown ones. She was ready to be angry. Nothing made her happy. We went to three different garden store. I think she got some tomatos. How the hell am I going to get out of this one? Feels like the walls are closing in. I feel like I’m in the freezer in the back of McDonalds. I feel so sad for her, but I also feel so sad for myself. I feel cut off. I feel short of breath. I feel terror. It is Friday, April 17, 2020. Dread, terror, paranoia… I’m sure it’s been felt a million times by a million people, but here’s my version of it. In this McMansion on the side of the mountain, feeling less like I have a mission than ever. Calling nobody. Freezing. Yeah I’m freezing.
My brother and I both have drugs to get through this crisis but I’m planning to get off them. I sold him half of my etizolam and half of another shipment of O-DSMT the other day. He wasn’t at all interested in the 2-FDCK, an analogue of the dissociative Ketamine. I am still not really sure what dissociatives do to consciousness. They can move you into states profound darkness. You feel like your life is a black and white film and it is raining outside. And it drips off the palm trees and you sit in traffic on the way back from the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, where the boys and girls wouldn’t listen, they’d just go off into their own worlds. I wonder how they’re all doing now, tucked into their parents houses in Calabasas.
Anyway, I said to Jon “I’m getting off the stuff.” And I intended to. This journal finds me at a crossroads between fantasy and reality. What is my life going to be for? Where do I cast this fishing pole? Well the pole’s been cast. It’s out there in the middle of the ocean. But at the same time it’s in my hand, in this very moment, and I can chose where to dip it. I’m not trying to catch a fish in this scenario, I just like the serenity of the bay.
The question on everyone’s mind is: “If not drugs, then what!?” That’s a great question and I’d be bullshitting if I said I could answer it. I don’t know what lies on the other side of this life. I want to find out. Do I truly? I have to truly. Love, sex, work, victory… I’ve seen all these things before. And I keep turning to these substances. They fill up my days and my hours and all the music is informed by them. They move my hands to play the guitar and my voice is scratchy when it comes out. I’ve formed an identity around these drugs to a certain extent. That idea of me has to die. It does. I’ll have to mourn it. I’ll have to mourn a lot. I guess I don’t know what to be afraid of. I know a lot of stuff is going to come up through this process. The drugs numb it all out. People say that but it’s really really true. Bad news doesn’t don’t hit you as hard. Most things don’t hit you at all. You’re in your world. You’re off in a cloud. You’re unaware of the world around you. You’re afraid to engage. Why?
It’s easier not to ask why. It’s easier to get the immediate relief of a squirt of etizolam tincture. Or a gross tossing of O-DSMT powder into your mouth and a quick washdown with water. In this way you don’t have to answer any questions. In this way nothing hits you. And guess what else? All your heroes did the same thing.
But a lot of them died doing it. And you don’t want to die. You really really don’t want to die. You want to live a long life, with kids and grandkids, and see what happens to America and what music turns into. You don’t want to die, but what do you have to live for? You know you can make things up. Everyone’s always making shit up. All of this is made up. The culture, the value of a dollar, the value of a Benz. We just decide on it. And that takes a lot. But you know what takes a lot less? Deciding how you want to react to each moment. This one and this one and this one. Do you know what I mean? They say a lot of stuff about the world. The world’s fucked. They say the world’s burning to the ground. They say we can’t leave our houses. They say America won’t be a super power by the end of all of this. But they’re making shit up. And I’m making shit up too. I’m whipping up like a chef. Throwing dishes out from the kitchen, but the dishes are words and actions and the kitchen is my mind. What kind of food am I throwing out? What kind of food am I serving the world? Let me serve love and hope. But for that to happen, let me cultivate it in myself first. Let me nurture it like a child. Let me see it sober. Let me take the steps in the right direction. It’s simple. It’s simpler than you think it is. What are you going to do right now, after reading this? Or while reading this? How are you going to face the world?
Jon told me he got into Xanax from the Famous Dex song “Japan.”
“Baby girl, what you doing, where your man? I just popped a xan, fifty thousand in Japan”
He told me his friends heard the song and picked up some Xanax because of it. They liked it and reached out to him “You’ve got to try this,” they said. My little brother, in the throes of this batshit demon force that will bury him. It might bury me too. The jury’s still out. Mom, just let me withdraw in peace. She brings down a space heater. I grow to love it. I lay down on the wood floor that the spiders sometimes dash across. The space heater comes close to burning me, but I’m ok. I stand up, dizzy from all I’ve done to try to combat the withdrawls. Way too much etizolam, way to much kratom, getting to the point of way too much weed and alcohol. But hopefully it’ll all be over soon, and I can call my friends in peace and not want to slam down the phone whenever there is the tiny threat of silence, or whenever I speak, or whenever they speak. I can’t any of it sober, that’s what I think. Life is hard sober; it’s a breeze when you’re floating thru it. A good dream. So why get sober? They say it’ll kill me. Well, I said that. In this very same paragraph. And maybe it will. But when you’re withdrawing like this… all you want is a moment of peace.
Oh God, at dinner tonight I started to go off about my own mental state to the family. I should have known it was a big mistaken, but on my way home from Doordashing a rainy Issaquah I stopped at QFC and got a bottle of True Eagle American Spirits, Kentucky manufactured vodka. And, helping myself to serving of kimchi, I said to them “I think I’m losing it.” And the conversation spiraled until my mother asked me “Are you suicidal?” And “Are you struggling with drugs?” Jon, between us, must have felt betrayed, but I just wanted to feel understood. I feel Chuck does not want to understand. I understand what he’s sacrificed for the life he has, but what value does that life has to him? He has a tumor in his jawbone, and it’s eating away at him, and no one can do anything. And they can’t get out to the specialists on the East Coast, and they won’t do the invasive surgery. He’s too busy. I know, in some capacity, he understands. Because he blows these things off like they don’t matter at all, when anyday he could have a stroke like Grandma had, fall to the floor of the kitchen while dishing up his kimchi, or pulling a slice of pizza out of the carton. I feel the same way. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I know that I am mentally unwell. And I avoid the questions about my drug use and about my suicidality. I miss girls, ma. I miss pussy and parties and not giving a fuck. The way I don’t give a fuck now is in these terrifying sound collages drafted on the latest of nights, in the deep dark depths of quaratine. What was I saying in the last one? Something about how I didn’t wanna kill the crabs on the beach on Whidbey Island as a kid. Holy shit I’m losing my mind. But it’s all fine, isn’t it? As long as the music comes out fine.
What could I possibly do to get healthy? I feel so far off the deep end. You have no idea; I feel like crying. My best friend, living with the girl I thought I could always go back to. We don’t talk. I mix these ketamine analogues in with that cheap cheap vodka (plus etizolam) and cry tears onto this plastic table. It’s pointless to keep up the tinder courtships. I feel like this will never end. And it started with such a bang. I was such a part of history. Now I’m a nobody; I’m a junkie, holding on by the thinnest thread. No energy to pray. I feel like Cobain, and I know so many people do… but I really do. I can only imagine. But I’m only listening to Mingus, Lana Del Rey and Radiohead (Kid A thru Hail to The Thief).
Should I throw weed in the mix? Lord knows I have enough of it. It’s my number one priority. I’ve made enough songs now that we could workshop what I’ve come up with years. What else is there to do? Mingus ripped the piano strings out of some pianist’s instrument in front of a live audience, then stormed off the stage. Where the fuck is that in my life? I’m in front of the computer, weeping because America has come to a close. You know they sent jazz to the Soviet Union as a WEAPON? A weapon of freedom and democracy and individualism. What the fuck happened? It all makes me want to cry. It’s all too much; this world. These people I’ve known and loved and lost. This music I’ve made that they promise me will be something, but I don’t know if I believe them. I don’t know if I want anything to do with this life. I can’t engage with my culture anymore… my history. I feel like I’m not a part of it. I feel so disconnected. Who’s rippin the strings out of MY piano? Or who’s piano am I ripping the strings out of? We’ve lost so much… I mean… I’ll do my best to work with what we still have, but we’ve been so fractured. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was the end. Of America. Of our culture. Of our music and our hustle and bustle and industry and lover’s lanes and rites of passage. I feel like I’m mourning it now. Mourning my culture. Maybe mourning the illusion that was sold to us. Believe me, I was first in line to buy. That’s why it destroys me so deeply to see it collapse.
I guess we’re all one people. I’m crying writing this. Weeping, weeping, weeping. Grieving. You know what grieving is. I remember what’s-her-name in the pool. We went to every hot tub, each a different temperature, in the Desert Hot Springs Resort. Then Lucy’s friend’s new boyfriend told us Bernie Sanders had stayed there when he had visited DHS. I laughed so hard. Lucy ordered me another drink. She didn’t mind the cost. She liked me to be on her level. And I didn’t mind. I was proud to sip. We went back to the hotel and did god knows what. Feels a million lifetimes away.
This was back when anything could happen. When America was a blank slate and no one could predict anything. When you could go outside and say “What the fuck is up?” and get in adventures. I mourn the loss of that. Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe that’s still there. But I’ve emotionally severed my ties to it. And I wish I didn’t. Because I love it. I love it so much. It’s not a myth. I swear to god it’s not a myrh. It was a reality… until all this happened. You have no idea. I mean, if you’re reading this and weren’t around before. You have no idea. I mean… I don’t know what things are going to be like after this. But not the same. There’s no way they could be the same.
You know I hope I get this shit. I hope I contract COVID-19. Lay in this guest bedroom bed with the scabies I may or may not have gotten from Upstart Creative Living… and which wouldn’t die off. I hope I can’t breathe. I hope I’m immune. I want to walk the world. Maybe I should go out, get it, isolate, heal, be immune… if that’s even possible. At this point we don’t even know if immunity is a thing that happens with COVID. But even if I could walk the earth without fear of it… everyone else is cowering, and they pull away from, seeing I’m not wearing a mask or gloves, or even if I am… I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it would all end this way. I would have done so much more. Focused so much more on each kiss. Even every note. I did my best, I guess. It feels like it’s all coming to an end. It’s Thursday, April 23, but that doesn’t mean anything. You have to understand how little dates mean in this time. It’s like we’re living in one of those time capsules buried beneath the walkway at WWU. Stagnant… yeah we write songs and poems and do our work and keep the economy from faltering completely… but there’s a different angle to look at it all now. The world is over. I mean, aha, to use the words of Rem… “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.” Key words: “As we know it.” I had no idea this would happen in my lifetime… I couldn’t even conceive it. If you would have told me this would have happened six months ago I wouldn’t have believed it. America seemed so stable. And now it feels like it’s in shambles. It really did feel stable. You may think I’m insane for saying America in September, 2019 seemed stable… but shit, we were free. And we were headed where we were headed. This throws a wrench in all of this. And it could be the end. And I thought this was the greatest country on earth. Happiness is a buttery, try to catch it like every night.
I’ve been fascinated in American history since I could understand it. Most specifically, I’ve been fascinated about how history is still happening. The closer you get you the current day, the harder it is to get a straight story. FDR did what he did and we won. That’s fact. That’s cement. Nixon? Everyone agrees he was a crook. But what about Reagan? What about Bush Sr? What about Clinton? The closer you get to the modern day, the more difficult it becomes to discern what is real and what is fake.