by Glenn Frantz
This is the first in a series of essays that are part of a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English — May 1997
Previous to washing up on the beach at Synanon, in Santa Monica, California, I was a drug addict on the streets of New York City for fourteen years. This collection of essays attempts to explain the good, the bad, and the hard to understand about the pressures of living in community and how it affects your thinking.From the thesis Abstract
what can I tell ya, god? today was another typical winter day down here in brooklyn, a freezing cold, runny nose, no steam in the pipes, got no where to go heroin addicted kinda day. kinda day ya wished you’d become a pharmacist. now those are some cats that got it made, got it made. I was on the prowl early, scheming, searching, howling for my peace — just like the rest of america.
nothin’ was happening in the neighborhood, so I figured i’d go into the city and boost something, that’s how I get my money, god, I steal shit. i’m your basic nonviolent drug addict. i’m no tough guy, sir. i’m afraid of guns, don’t like the sight of blood, and in general I don’t fuck with people. of course I will kill a motherfucker if they try to take my shit. now you wouldn’t know it by lookin’ at me god, well maybe you would, but in a few short years i’m goin’ be strung out like a dog, lookin’ all skinny and shit, eyes poppin’ out my head, and abscessed, nasty. won’t be able to boost anymore, plain clothes cops and me I’ll be on a first name basis. shit, i’ll be pan-handling from a bunch a sorry ass citizens, given me quarters when I tell ’em a tale about losing my wallet and having to get home to jersey and they’ll know i’m lying and i’ll know they know i’m lying, how disgraceful, a fuckin’ panhandler. well it’s not that nothing was happening in the neighborhood but yesterday was another typical day and it just so happens that I shot up a bundle of stuff I was dealing for crazy marty and he’s gonna be lookin’ for my ass and he is crazy, and there’s a couple other people lookin’ for me, my cousin paulie bein’ one of the ’cause I stole his tv last week, so I hopped the turnstile, the smell of piss leaping with me, and got on the 7th avenue train, oh the train, try to picture an urban cattle car, ok god, packed with people going to their deaths in the city, going to earn a few rubles to put some porridge on the table, some wood on the fire, going to make the man rich they shoot through the main vein to the city, along tracks they smack side to side narcotized by the dream, a dream they can never wake in. so god, dig this, i’m on the train, i’m sick, you understand, it’s freezing and i’m sweatin’ so no doubt I look a little strange, a little wild, my hair dirty and long, as dirty and long as the tracks on my arms and i’m desperate god–just like the rest of america.
but check it out father, since I live at the end of the line, which becomes the beginning of the line, I get a seat. ya know god, whoever said “each ending is a new beginning” never lived in east new york. those “each ending is a new beginning” people never got the smell of a rotting tenement on a hot summer day etched in their little parasite brains, they never see the shrunken faces of the rotting tenement people with their rotting tenement teeth, or the rotting tenement children taking their rotting tenement dogs out to take a rotting tenement dog shit unless, of course, they’re the rotting tenement landlord. some “endings are endings,” know what I mean, padre? so I get a seat and as the train fills up no one sits next to me, not even when the train is packed to the doors with mister big business man’s whores, so I sit alone freezing, sweating, the fluorescent lights making my teeth ache, my clammy skin slowly moving creeping crawling like the tectonic plates under california getting ready to release the big one, my eyes i’m sure are gonna pop right out my head and onto the front page of the daily news that’s scattered on the floor that some poor asshole will wrap his feet in later on to keep warm and so I sit stop after stop wondering where will it come from today–just like the rest of america.
ya followin’ me pops? so I get off the train and fly to my favorite store looking for something to boost, take a few looks around and crazed I rip off the tags, slip on a jacket and hurry out the door ’cause like I said before and I can’t stress this enough god, i’m sick, and I need to get straight–just like the rest of america.
an hour later i’m back in the projects, by the way god, the projects is gotta be one of your worst fuckin’ mistakes ever. what were you thinkin’ the day you put that idea into play? the thought was bad enough but then putting it into the head of some criminal politician, jesus christ god, puttin’ all of them poor people in their own little cement city, man that was one bad idea you had and by bad I don’t mean good, I mean bad, nasty, ugly, deadly . hey god, do me a favor will ya? when you get to doin’ the projects thing over give me a call, criminal addicts know the projects better than criminal politicians. anyway god, i’m back in the projects wearing a jacket that will tum into dope and give me some hope of forgetting where I am–just like the rest of america.
so I bang a few doors, “yo my man this leather’s never been worn.” four hours later i’m still banging and saying ”yo my man this leather’s never been worn” when finally my mailman, my merry fuckin’ mailman, gives me some cash and i’m off to the comer to score. a man’s work is never done–just like the rest of amenca.
so then I stood on the comer and waited and waited and waited for my man to get straight and wouldn’t you know it, of course you know it, it started to snow, why’d you do that for god? my cardboard soles were letting in all the world and I said to myself, “this is it, this is the last time I do this shit,” just like the fat man says as he waits for his third piece of chocolate whipped cream pie, just like the black lunged smoker says as she puts her coins in the machine and pulls the knob for a fresh pack of camel “lights,” just like the guy who borrows money to hit it big in vegas says as he leaves his house in the morning and then blows his brains out after losing all his cas leaving his wife and seven kids behind–just like the rest of america.
finally my messiah, you heard it right god, my messiah, his name happens to be chico, you didn’t know about the gospel according to chico, did ya god? anyway, finally he shows and i’m tight. with hope in my hand I started for home. I walked past the whores who like me already had a hot date for the night, walked through the park where some future addicts of america were hangin’ out smokin’ pot, poppin’ pills, hurried through the underpass where the local winos make perpetual love to their bottles of port whispering sweet nothings in their glass ears, then cutting through the lots on ashford street I headed for home to cook dinner, which I figured would be ready by six–just like the rest of america.
two blocks from my home coming the rollers rolled by all fancy in blue, I prayed “please lord don’t let them stop me tonight, let them pass by, please god let me have my daily bread.” besides getting high god, I can’t get busted a judge said next time I go upstate, we’re talkin’ sing-sing here, where the big boys are and I gotta tell ya god, I don’t look that good in a dress and I couldn’t face my old man again, last time he came to the brooklyn house of d looking through glass he said to me, “son, instead of screwing your mother that night twenty-two years ago I should of done it in the sink.” what a thing to say, but he doesn’t understand i’m not in charge here, like the president’s stupid wife he says, ”just say no,” like we were talking about skipping an after dinner mint sitting in front of the fireplace at our country home on lake geneva or something, ”just say no,” and then the dumb bitch says, “well mr. president, now that we’ve solved the drug problem lets do something about welfare, how about ‘just say yo.’” and now there’s companies saying shit like ”just do it,” like the average person can say “I think i’ll just do it,” and then slam dunk a basketball taking off from behind the foul line like michael fuckin’ jordan. so simple, ”just say no, just do it.” ya know god I never said this to anyone before but it is kinda strange that I spend my days, my nights, shootin’ drugs. I mean here I am on the third mudball from the sun and I haven’t figured out who am I, where am I, does god, well, do you exist? haven’t figured out nothin’ and I spend my life cooking up poison and shooting it in my arm, pretty weird when ya think about it, but anyway, thank you lord ’cause they did roll by and I got to my place, locked the doors, bolted· em twice and cooked up five deuces, ok, six deuces, for dinner. there you have it god, another busy day, another quiet night at home getting off in front of the tube–just like the rest of america.
so tell me god, what’d the rest of your creation do today?