Los Angeles, Present Days

AB541 Three Month Program of Classes begins the round of stupidity.  You get the list of what classes you have to do, then hunt for one on the internet that isn’t in Arizona.  The 541 classes and the

12 NA classes are for?  I don’t know.  The court.  But you end up with three sheets of thin paper which crunches in your handbag because on your first day in AB541, where you pay $760, they tell you to add another six classes.  Why? New rule.

I find my first AB541 class on Hollywood Blvd and Cahuenga, which should take me ten minutes, but like all things in the last five years, I’m so nervous I get there an hour before.  Although they’re gentrifying Hollywood, this ain’t the bit. And if I hadn’t spoken to the girl on the phone, it would have been hidden.  Over a massage place on Hollywood, on the side.  It was a souvenir shop, and in the back, on the second floor.

Parking up the road costs ten bucks, but everyone else seems to know where to park that’s free.  I know I’m in the right place because about a dozen hunched over men and three girls are smoking, trying to drag something out of the filter.  They don’t seem to see me there.  Average age of the group: 22.  They talk about cars, speeding, beer parties, pools.

Gradually, a big guy, still a decade or so younger, comes out and they all greet him.  He lights up and shakes my hand, knows my name.  Brings me up to sign some paperwork.  A schedule of dates.  This gig is a one hour “movie” and a one and a half hour meeting, nothing like NA or AA, just like a requisite…something.

We all trudge into a room, after signing our names, paying our money.  I am still invisible and that does not really change much.  When I speak it is school again, last kid on the team, almost two years younger than everyone else except this time the other way around.  Ma, or grandma, dressing too cool, hair too long, but hot body.

The guy, Dan the counsellor turns off the lights. Cheap TV, he turns on the tape.  A female doctor is at the podium discussing Prescription Drugs: A Menace on The Road.  Found that out lady.  Her monotone does me in.  I nod off at least twenty times.  People turn around and stare.  This will be a recurring problem, and could be dangerous, as well.  Did I just shoot up before attending? Will they demand a drug test and cart me off again?

Suddenly, the lights come up and I rouse.  This first time no one catches that I missed three-quarters of the film.  Small mercies.  We get a 15 minute smoke break.  Better than prisoners.  Awkward,’cause I’m still like a lawn chair, even when I smile and try to ask a question.

A few speak Armenian, a few Russian.  One girl is rich but thinks she is a prostitute and all the men hope she is.  Also thinks she can drive her father’s car with no problem.  I suppose girls with sixteen different shades of highlights do not belong to Mensa, but then, neither do I for different reasons, like they’re boring snobs.

Head guy Dan comes out for a smoke and here I see his bitterness with the system, or just his act.  Sure, to do his job you need a long checkered past of jail, drugs, alcohol, lord knows what else. Then you have to go to school.  The school part I’d like.  I was always reporting on, reading about, and fascinated by criminals.  But this is petty shit in my eyes.

Too bad the state doesn’t see it that way.

We got up to the meeting, go around the room. I’m already in panic.  It’s the wrong place, though the girls at the desk and Dan waves it off, although I’ll learn in the future that even when you don’t make a mistake, they make it a mistake.  Wrong form, right typeface.  Right type, wrong form.  Go straight to jail.

Everyone in the room has “blown” a something or other. A .17 or the saddest one, a poor Mexican fellow with a .09; the legal limit being .08.  Nice cop for busting him and taking away all his hard saved funds for a family home.  They come around to me.  Only thing I’ve blown lately is Brian.

“I’m not a drinker,” I say, and eyes narrow, as though I’m a spy. “I was busted for drugs.”  Now they look at me like a dirtbag in an alley.

“Man, oh man,” one guy says.  “Those NA meetings are so depressing.”  And these are?

I see most of these people are almost done.  No one tells you what to do.  What do people with no money and not a stinking clue get through this? They go to jail, and then lay tar on roads for 100 hours.  For a first offense.

I recently heard some NYPD stories.  About people being sobered up in the station if they had no priors.  Of cops sharing boozy war stories.  In New York, we know what crime is, and how to treat which ones accordingly.  Back in the day, Grace and I were smoking a joint semi-secretly down 15th street, too young to know how we smelled.  A cop came from behind us and we jumped.

He whispered, “Got another joint? Smells like great stuff.”

That was MY city.  All of a sudden, I’m in Singapore, getting 1000 lashes.

15 more weeks of this.  Bullet through head.  Don’t have a gun, so there’s no choice.

One funny story: a morose girl tells of her field test when arrested in which you have to do various acrobatic tricks with your eyes closed.  I’ve asked friends, even trainers, and not one could do them.  She tell us she was ordered to stand on one leg with her eyes closed for five minutes. She tells the cop:

“Shit! I couldn’t do that if I was sober.”

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David taught me all about the teachings of Ernest Holmes and The Science of Mind.  Basic metaphysics, but too much Jesus for me.  Down the block is Spirit Works, based on his teachings.  Wow!  The signs.  These are the NA meetings.  My good friend, who’s been through it all via AA, warns me.

“Don’t volunteer to share.  Just do the time. And for God’s sake, don’t say you’re a writer.  These people are terrified.”

The Anonymous part is read, read, and read again.  It has no legal binding, but it is an ethical one.  So I will be general, although I’ll mention that I nod off here, too and everyone looks at me.  They’re much older for the most part, many who make me feel young, so they think I’m still “using.”  Which I am, because only a skillful psychiatrist can wean me off these cocktails in a year or more.

I am fresh meat; everyone wants to be my sponsor.  It’s supposed to be same gender, but there’s one gay guy who makes this his life’s work and cures everyone.  I may take him yet but so many of these people appear to be Stanford Clean.  Don’t like therapists.  Are accused of being a crutch or a cult.  A cult, I can see, but whatever works.

They have rituals, like a church.  Celebrating months, years sober.  Birthdays.  announcements.  Then reading from cards.  The infamous Twelve-Step Program.  Won’t buy the book, it’s all boiled down on the Net.

People cry a whole lot here, for there are sad stories to tell.  My friend explains that booze does damage more slowly, while drugs do you in quick.  Shows you how much he knows, being an ex-alkie.  I took Xanax for 30 years, two milligrams a night.  Smoked marijuana just to get to sleep since college.  No more photographic memory, but a lot of good shit published.

I didn’t know at which meeting, but I admit to having taken a Xanax the night before. (I had to share, I am a performer, and if I don’t, I nod off.)

A woman shuts me up, tells me I can’t share because that’s the rule.  You must have at least 48 hours clean.  I start to cry and cry and don’t stop. Look at the floor with hatred.  She tries to apologize; others touch my shoulder.  Only later do I realize how selfish I am, how like an addict.

Like an addict?  I am one.

I have made people who already are miserable feel even worse.

Like instant karma, I trudge back home, and there is a thick envelope my lawyer said would never come.  From the bowels of Hell itself, the DMV.

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David would be beating me with a metaphorical stick.  A magician has power, he is never overwhelmed.  He has courage, he walks through adversity.  And all these memories.  How have I not forgiven, let alone forgot?  Tonight I sit with another bureaucratic mistake, another debacle to handle which may or may not work out and I feel like Job in the Bible.

How?  Because I’m getting better at what I do. These last few years have humbled me, sweetened me, and left me prone to forgive weakness.  I thought I knew it all, that I was chosen.  Fact is, if you think that, you probably have a lot of learning to do.  That’s why most of the Holy in the East are beggars.

So one day I will forgive. Until then, I’ll try.

(I will say that I have always been a sucker for those old fortune-telling structures, the kind with the wax dummy that moves its hand over a deck of cards at fairs and amusement parks—and Las Vegas, where I found one.  The card was happy enough for my 50 cents, but it said watch out for my “karma.”  Just one word. MOTHER.)

When I walked out of the NA meeting crying, I had a breakthrough with my old here again, gone again Brian.  Up and down Brian.  Just stop taking drugs Brian.  He saw the state I was in.

“You mask your pain with all your rituals and sleep and OCD,” I said, finally, after 40 years.  “I mask mine with drugs.”

He held me, shaking and crying in the parking lot, for a good half hour.  Next week he was back to the same warm again/cold again Brian.

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Watch out folks!

Posted: August 13, 2012 in Writing Books

Watch out folks!

Remember? This is a work of NON Fiction.

Gene

Posted: August 12, 2012 in Felines, Magic, Writing Books

We walked a lot around the retreat, and when we could, we held hands. Gene pinned me to a tree and kissed me. “I’ve never had sex with a woman,” he said.  “Ever. But lots of men.”

Funny thing, but from the moment we met in the soup kitchen down my block, the attraction was immediate. He gravitated to me, and dove head first into magic.  But Jesuits are within breathing distance.  Their leader is Rome is known as The Black Pope.  You can’t educate a priest with a Ph.D. and not expect him to have some problems with logic.

One day, we were working in my apartment from the book, The Golden Dawn, because Gene loved rituals of course, and afterward, he laid down on the rug beside me. Stroked my hair.  I could feel him, poking me below.

It was a small item that didn’t appeal, but that wasn’t the point.  Gene could have scores of men and reconcile it.  I couldn’t.  Vows I took seriously, though I was doing a half-hearted job. “Not now,” I choked.

But I did kiss him before mass in the sacistry in his full regalia and got off when he pulled me into a seating position and for dear life hugged me. For a nominal Jew, magician or not, this was Very Bad Behavior, although I knew David would find it stupid, funny, or just a waste of time.

In magic, Gene turned out to be an excellent student, even though he eventually became obsessed with one of his male grad students, which was so pedestrian on the rule-breaking statement.

But he more than made up for it at one of his five o’clock sermons, an event Gene insisted I attend, when he refused communion to the thinning congregation.

“I am not going to absolve you of your sins,” he said. People whispered, alarmed.

“You drone the prayers. You don’t even hear what they say.  You hurt others and ignore people, then come here and think that now you’re fine with God. The Lord as band aid.  Well, it isn’t fine.

You won’t be absolved until you go out and do something nice for someone in need, and it doesn’t have to be a homeless person.  Someone at work.  A family member.  Do one kind act.  A christian act. With a small c. Do you even know what that means anymore?

Until then, I will no longer absolve you of sin.”

I knew Gene was looking for a way out, searching for life.  He was tired of living in a building with 16 other men, stealing each other’s pornography, mainly male-oriented.  He also was working in the Theater Department at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts (one of the best) and they offered him a position.

He could no longer abide the Catholics.  He believed in alternate methods.  Fact was, that old Church proved a wealthy and wily serpent.  They sent him to a mental institution for six months, to somewhere in Kansas, and relocated him afterwards.

I never heard from him or about him again.

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