I left home at thirteen and spent a year on the streets, more or less, and four years in group homes. Because of that my social network was significantly wider than average. In 2005 I began interviewing people I grew up with and transcribing the interviews, creating a kind of memoir but in other people’s words. What’s most interesting turns out not so much to be the things we remember differently as the things we remember the same. This is the sixth interview, you can read the interviews with Roger, John, Dan, Aaron, and Kevin.
Pat – Bartender
If you think about it, the stories we have about each other are some of the most awful things. Why is that what we remember?
The first time we hung out is when we broke into that comic book store together. The window had already been kicked in and all you had to do was give a little push. I remember you going straight for the valuables. But I was a collector so I was going through and putting stuff back and only taking what I wanted. You had the mind of a thief.
I used to show up at your school. I had already finished grammar school and was just starting high school. You were in seventh grade. I didn’t think anything of that, you being younger than me. I would meet you in the morning and I would have weed and you would say, “I really got to go to school today.” It was straight out of a drug commercial- I’m the older kid ruining your life, you’re begging to go to school.
Nobody went to school. All we did was do drugs or find people with drugs who would do them with us, or steal money from parking meters and buy drugs. We were bored urban teenagers. It’s no wonder we were all socially maladjusted.
We went into the grocery on Devon to buy a gallon of vodka in one of those plastic bottles. They asked you for I.D. and you got all huffy insisting you were 35. I think you were 14, at the most. But you had that beard. We drank the whole bottle. How do four teenagers drink a gallon of vodka and not die?
It was around that time I was walking down Devon with my big radio blasting heavy metal and the Assyrian kids hit me with a golf club.
I could never figure out why we all were so hell-bent on squandering our potential. Despite the circumstances most of us came from, we were a bunch of really bright and talented kids. It just seemed like we were more interested in deliberately pissing away our collective futures. The desire to be some kind of streetwise city kid was too strong for some…y’know, Aaron and Kevin and the rest of the house burgling clique, but I know at least for me I feel like it did me some good. Hardened me in a way that has served me well in life.
We were at that girl’s house the first time we took LSD together. I busted out the landlord’s window at her request because the landlord was giving her family problems.
A lot of us didn’t have relationships with our father. I stole my father’s weed everyday for ten years. Your dad shaved your head. I remember that. I couldn’t understand that anybody could be that adversarial. I was shocked that a father could be so brutal. It seemed like a brutal act, to violate you in that way. It affected me.
You moved around a lot that year you were homeless. I remember being like, “What the fuck?” You looked like shit. You said you were sleeping on top of the Quick Stop.
We had nothing going for us. Girls didn’t like us. We weren’t like these safe sanitized versions of ourselves I see walking around now. There were one or two girls, but they were troubled. They were the ones who could look at us and see a measure of stability. Girls aren’t into mindless vandalism, smoking pot all the time, stealing electrical meters off buildings. I remember Herb and I stole so many of those things. We kicked the meters off every building in the neighborhood. We would dump all of them at the burned down Wheels Warehouse. The place was full of those things.
We were really into vandalism. We were huge vandals. We were probably responsible for the downfall of our neighborhood.
I was living with my mom above the fruit market when you and Niko got in a fist fight in the apartment. I think it was Nik had an issue. You’re a guy with a certain level of charisma and people looked up to you and Nik didn’t like people not looking up to him. There was ego and tempers and then the ridiculousness.
I chose to live with my mom. I knew she was going to be more lenient. She let me smoke weed in the house. I would buy her weed for her. That’s always a weird scenario, having to buy drugs for your parent. You want to be the cool son, with the cool mom. Don’t be the cool mom, be the mom.
One of her friends turned me on to cocaine for the first time.
Then there was the jewelry heist. I probably shouldn’t go into details on that.
I started seeing you a lot again after you moved into the group home. Mike was there and we were jamming together. It was cool because Tom lived across the street. Tom was into bad drugs. They were doing crystal meth before I even knew what it was. (Tom passed away from a heroin overdose December, 2002 – se)
Maybe that’s what got us clean. We quit drugs together. You were sixteen and I was eighteen. You, me and Dan. It was the longest I’ve been clean. I lasted three years. It was not surprisingly the most productive period of my life.
During that time you and I were volunteering at the homeless shelter. You were a senior in high school then. There was that female priest and she would leave you and me there alone all night to run the place. Two kids and a hundred homeless people. We would stay up drinking coffee and we’d have to turn people away when the shelter was full. We were good kids at that point. We could have stayed good.
Then I started smoking pot again. I’ve smoked pot every day until now.
I dropped out of college, got divorced from my cop wife, and joined a punk rock band.
I’m a good bartender. I can trade on my personality and it translates into hard cash. Right now I’m doing catering bartending so I’m somewhere different all the time. It’s a lot of fun and if I don’t like the people I’m working with I never see them again.