Prologue / Epilogue:
rrrrrRight! Now...(creepy laughter)
Theatrical drag on a lit cigarette, a puff off to the side, and a look back, the cigarette clutched between thumb, index and middle fingers.
Cheap Dialogue - B-Movie Scenery
Okay, so this is the part of the program where you get the obligatory story of my life, huh? I hope you brought some No-Doz the keep the hankies company... this is about as awe-inspiring as a Carol Channing marathon on PBS when you were wanting to catch the science guy.
I was born up in New York, February of 1959. My dad worked for some shit factory and my mom stayed home all day, got fat and watched TV. They'd both come over here on different boats before World War Two with their folks and met up on the sly just after the fireworks were over.
Odd thing is that there was never any kraut spoken in the house outside of what we were having for dinner. My grandfolks were all big on the 'act American in America' deal and mom and dad got it drilled in early.
I had an older brother I never saw because he took a dirt nap in Korea, another older brother who I hardly saw either because he was doing time when I was five, and two older sisters I try to forget I ever laid eyes on. I'm sure dad felt the same. I was the youngest for the long haul, too. After me they told mom to take it easy with the baby thing and boy was she ready to comply.
Anyway, I had a pretty normal childhood for New York. It's everything they say and then some, especially when you're living in the part that they tell tourists not to get out of their cars in. Stickball, broken fire hydrants, bicycle racing in rush hour traffic... I loved every fucking minute of it when I was young and stupid and thought I could live forever. You know that feeling?
Yeah. They ought to bottle it up and sell it to old folks, just to watch them squirm and go DO something.
Ah well. I grew up real quick.
I got home from school one day in 6th grade and found the door broken open. Mom was lying in the kitchen... and the living room... a couple other places around the house if you get my drift. Someone had painted a big old swastika on the living room wall with her blood and scrawled something underneath, too.
Back then I had no idea what was going on I was just two steps away from losing my lunch and then my mind.
Now I know it was a warning from the Thule Brudershaft... Uncle Adolph's magic gestapo. Turns out my maternal grandfather had belonged before the war and scuttled out under a false name to escape being nailed by American's version...
Oh, didn't know Hitler was into that stuff?
Yeah. Way I hear it, Raiders of the Lost Ark was based on a true story. But who'd believe it, huh? Just like who'd believe a group had survived the culling after the war and escaped and were finding and executing traitors. They missed my grandfather Steiner by a year and grandma'd died when I was two, so they went after his only daughter for the consolation prize.
Puff, puff, puff.
Anyway, that was about when my wonderfully shitty inner city childhood became a terribly shitty inner city childhood. Dad kind of went sideways out of the reality loop, at least that's what me and my olders thought. He started talking to mom like she was still there, bringing her glasses of things to drink, leaving a full plate at dinner. Every once in a while we'd hear him fucking all alone in his big, empty bed...
Matilda - that's my oldest sister - she made the mistake of trying to tell him mom was gone, one night at dinner. He smacked her so hard I swear her teeth flew across the room. He broke her jaw in three places. That was the end of letting dad in on the joke.
Puff, sideways glance.
Of course, without mom there to make me mind my P's and Q's, I kind of went off the end myself. Dad was living in mu-mu land, my older sisters were either trying to fuck every sleazeball guy in town named Karl, or succeeding brilliantly, and my older brother got out of jail just long enough to go home, see what was left, and then disappear for good after filching 247 dollars from the cookie jar.
No supervision, no direction... school went to shit, I hung with a rough crowd... you know the story. Same old story. My ending was just a little weirder.
I turned eighteen and it was pretty clear I wasn't gonna graduate from high school on time, much less get into college. Dad got pissed at me one night and told me to pack up and scram. I did, too. I goaded him into that one. I'd been spending half my time at a squat over in the arts district with a bunch of punks.
We celebrated my emancipation from Babylon by getting a razor and giving me a Travis Bickle mohawk. Then we got drunk and went out smashing car windows with bricks. I think I might have even gotten laid that night for the first time but I can't remember... ever have that happen?
That was 1977: the Pistols were big over in England and the sound was starting to trickle over here. I almost got to see them play in New York but the show got canceled because they had fucking visa problems, and none of us had a car to make it to Atlanta. And then they broke up at the end of the fucking tour... so there was that piece of history done and over with. Of course, I missed it.
But there was great shit on this side of the pond, too. The Ramones, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Patty Smith... Blondie too, if you didn't mind being laughed at. I think I was down at CBGB's damn near every night the place was open, buzzed on one thing or another.
I was really fucked up back then. Of course, that goes without saying. I mean, it was '77. What else was there to do? You could go to the disco and snort coke off someone's chest hairs, or go downtown to catch the funk and have some soul brother kick your honkey ass back where you belonged. Punk was all I had, and the heroin and speed went right along with it.
I think I rode the horse twice and decided it was just not for me at all, thank God, but speed... that was cheap, and all over the damn place, too. I did that shit so much I'm sure I lost a whole six months from the acceleration.
And then there was the one time I fucked up and sprinkled it on my cereal instead of sugar. I didn't sleep for an entire week. Can you beat that?
Slow inhale, amused stare. Long, glorious exhale.
And then came the night that everything changed.
I'll never forget this if I live to be 100, and I don't think that I will... but hey, you never know. If you'd asked me then I'd have said I wouldn't have made it to twenty-five...
But there I was, twenty years old on February 1st, 1979. I was at a friend's place over in the village and we were listening to the Clash on his crappy stereo, kicking back and trying to wig off of his crappier homemade speed. Then he comes out with a couple of pieces of paper and tells us to try it.
It's acid, he says. His first attempt at making LSD.
Now my friend... you gotta understand where he's coming from. He used to be a chemistry student, right? He knows how it all fits together and comes apart. But he got caught nicking shit from the school's lab, so they kicked his ass out. And what's he supposed to do then - go work for fucking McDonalds?
Of course not. He thinks this means he's gotta go be Kid Charlemagne, just like that song by... ah... whosethoseguys... Dan Steel? Shit. There's my memory going again.
So, you know, there we were and I was already out of my fucking head on his damn speed. So it was like that Life cereal commercial, and they were like... you know, "Give it to Mikey! He'll eat anything!"
Guess who was Mikey?
Damn stuff was nasty. It was like everything those awful, government-made documentaries on drugs tell you it is. I was hallucinating like mad all night long, and as I was going down... I saw all kinds of crazy shit.
Thin-faced, slaphead ghosts were all pointing to the numbers on their arms and screaming their names for me to remember. Guys in German military outfits were all screaming at the sky, and then the sky opened up and something else screamed back. I saw those Nazis take some girl on an old rock altar and then cut her open... she's still alive, right? And something from outside... here... was eating her parts one at a time while they were handing them over.
And, of course, halfway through this bad dream, some moron at the party gets the great idea to put Never Mind the Bollocks on. So while I'm hallucinating all this Nazi Witchdoctor shit I'm hearing Johnny belt out "Holidays in the Sun": 'I don't wanna go over the Berlin Wall... I don't understand this thing at all.'
Yeah, you know that one. It's a classic. And that night I DID go over the fucking wall, and I swear I must have hit every brick on the way down...
Stub stub. Cock the pack to the side and pull one out.
Light. Puff. puff-puff.
Okay, so that was that. I landed on my god damn face on the other side of the Berlin Wall, and looked up. Since then the world's been a hell of a lot different.
The next day I woke up and found that I had a moldy, paperback copy of the Necronomicon in my hands. I'd been babbling it aloud all night long. That's what they said, anyway. They also said I was running a fever of 119 - they checked - and my pupils had swelled up to the size of nickels.
But I wasn't really noticing all that shit. I hardly noticed that I'd pissed myself, either, because my eyes may have been the size of nickels when I was out of my gourd, but they were back up to nickel-size then, too.
And that's because sitting in the squat, on an easy chair with a lousy look on his face, was god-damn Sid Vicious himself.
Yeah, no shit. Sid fucking Vicious. He was living in Queens at the time, and this was just after he'd been in the clink. He knifed that gal he'd been seeing, and he was out on bail or something. I'd heard a little about him maybe getting out on my birthday, but having him at my sorry excuse for a party -Wow!
So I was all nervous and stuff, and waved to him. They all asked me who I was talking to, and I said Sid. Sid Vicious is sitting in the fucking chair, man!
'Sid? What do you mean?'
I mean Sid Vicious! Hey Sid!
So Sid flips me two fingers and asks me what the fuck I'd wanted. I had no idea what he meant...
And NO ONE ELSE COULD SEE HIM! There he was, Mr. Gimme a Fix himself, and I was the only one who could see him. It was really sad, me trying to tell them what I was seeing that they couldn't and Sid bitching me out for bothering him but not coming over to kick my ass or trying to leave.
Then my pal, the one with the bad acid... he comes up from the street and he's all sad and shit, and someone asks him what was up.
He says man, it's terrible. Sid Vicious ODed last night.
The place goes silent as fucking morgue. Everyone looks down, and they're about two seconds away from saying 'man, that sucks.' Those two seconds went on forever for me. I looked back at the chair, and Sid's just sitting there looking at me with this glazed look on his face. He looks at my friend, and then he looks back at me.
I look at him and... I don't remember what I said. I think it was Sorry, man, or some dumb shit like that.
And then... he just starts crying. Just like a little kid. Tears rolled down his face and he screwed up his eyes tight as nails. And then he was gone. Poof. Just like that.
Yeah. No shit.
When I got downstairs and shook the last of that buzz out of my head I looked at the paper, and sure enough, Sid was dead. February 2nd, 1979. He must have ODed right when I was going over that wall. I have no idea how I attracted him, either, but that's stayed with me my whole life right there. That look on his face when he found out that he was actually fucking dead and this wasn't just some junkie dream.
I've seen it a thousand times since then and I've gotten used to it, but that first time's gonna stick with me forever.
Puff. Stub stub stub.
Anyway, things changed like a traffic light after that.
Sid might have been the first ghost I ever saw but he sure as hell wasn't the last. It took me a week to clean up and smack myself back into shape, and then I went back to my friend's place and asked to borrow his book. He told me I could keep it. He'd only bought it to impress some spooky chick who turned out to be a dyke, anyway.
And I started reading it for real. Now, in hindsight, I realize that it was a cheesy rip-off that Mr. Lovecraft probably would have sued over. But back then I didn't know real from not. I'd had a taste of the weird shit and I needed to get another look at it just to make sure I wasn't imagining things.
What do you know? I wasn't.
I read an invocation to some guy who had a ratio of seven consonants per vowel in his name, and the next thing I knew I was seeing shit you would not believe. I went to look out the window and there were dead people EVERYWHERE. Walking on huge, armed groups, or out by themselves. I saw angels flying in the god damn sky. I saw stuff flopping in the street.
It scared the bejesus out of me. And I wondered, if I can see them, what happens when they know I can see them? I'd seen The Exorcist by then. I knew what kind of stuff I could be getting into.
So I decided to go back to my folks place, because I still had my junior Bible and my wall cross there and I figured if nothing else maybe they could help keep me safe. I got back when dad wasn't in, but he still left the spare key where it always was, and I went in.
And guess what. Remember I told you that dad was carrying on like mom wasn't dead and gone? She was dead, alright, but she wasn't gone. I walked in and she was sitting on the couch, waiting for me. And I saw her.
And I knew she knew I could see her, mostly because she asked me what I'd done to my hair.
That was when we had a good long talk about what her father had been up to before and during the war. I guess Grandpa Steiner had let her in on the gag in case something went horribly wrong. Mom wasn't into that shit, though, so she left all his books alone after he died and put them in storage. Turns out she should have read a few of them... but she didn't, and that's why she was a ghost.
So she asked me to do her a favor. She needed my help to get to a state where she might be able to rest easier, and I guess you can guess what happened after that. It involved some of her friends, a couple of the other people who these pricks had killed over the years, and a whole lot of stuff I hoped I'd never see again but have, just every once in a while.
That was three months of my life I'll never forget, either, and by the end of it mom was crazy and had to be put down like a dog by her friends... hell, I was half-crazy myself by then... and the last prick who'd done her was dead and buried. And when he came out of the ground wondering what had happened her friends very quickly escorted his ass off to be put down too.
I had a real problem remembering all that until a few years back. I don't know why, either. In the meantime I had Grandpa's books, and I had some money of his that mom had stashed for a rainy day and hadn't told dad about, and I had a vague notion that I should be trying to help the dead folks out. I mean, why not? What else was I gonna do besides put myself in the ground one coffin nail at a time?
Speaking of which. You sure you don't want one? You look like a smoker to me... okay. Suit yourself.
Anyway, that kind of work doesn't pay too good. So I needed to find some way to make it on the sly. Just my luck, the Boardwalk wasn't too far away, and I went on down there to work the tables by day and go looking for dead folks who needed some help by night.
I got a lot of takers. Mostly it was idiots who didn't pay their bills and wound up as fish food and needed to know that someone knew. Sometimes it was people I really didn't feel sorry for at all, but they were stuck in some kind of loop until someone on this side did something for them, or at least showed them the way to get it done.
I mean, shit... I'm no hero. I'm just a guy who can do something and I've been doing it for so long that if I tried to quit I'd...
Ah, I don't know what I'd do. Kind of like smoking. If I didn't have any cancer sticks on me I'd feel like someone was pissing in my mouth.
Yeah, I know it sounds bleak, but one night I spent the whole night just thinking about that... how I was looking for something and I couldn't figure out what but I knew I needed to find it? The next day I felt like a million bucks in spite of it all. Now that's something else they have to bottle up.
Speaking of which... why I'm out this way.
Puff puff puff
I was a fixture in Atlantic City for a good long time, and then I found out I'd stayed just a little too long and gotten a little too lucky at the tables. They sent some mountain with arms and a head named Rocco out to bust my kneecaps open. I had to get lost, fast, so I packed up all my stuff and came out to Vegas. I figure the mob out here's not kissing the mob out there, so Rocco's gonna have to jump through a few hoops to catch me, right?
I'll do my thing here for a while... maybe move out to Tahoe when it gets hairy here.
Yeah, it's gonna get hairy. I can already see that. You start playing around with this kinda shit and you get a nose for what's coming down the pipe.
And speaking of all that... I suppose you're wondering why I look like I've got throat cancer already? Well... I guess we need to come to that part of why I pulled the rent-a-car over and came up to talk to you...
You see that car across the road? The one that's not mine? Yeah, the one wrapped around the telephone pole?
Who's that hanging out of the driver's side window...?
Lights another one, puffs it to keep it going.
It's okay man. Deep breaths. Let it out.
Here, trust me, you WANT this cigarette...