I always had a small notebook in my back pocket in order to write down jokes, but then I also began to write down things that weren’t jokes necessarily, but just my feelings in general. I would keep that notebook with me at all times and when it was full, I would throw it in a dresser drawer or in a large, brown paper grocery bag, whatever my living arrangements dictated at the time, but I still have most of them. Those notebooks were probably more crucial to my survival during that time than I ever thought back then. Back then those notebooks were just a place to write a joke down, “You never know when that one joke gets you on Letterman!”, but as I think about it now, those notebooks were also almost like having someone listen to me any time that I wanted to bitch about something or if something made me laugh, because that’s when my notebook would come out, when I either laughed out loud or if I stood there asking myself “What the fuck?” and then I would start shaking my head. If either one of those two events happened, I’m getting my notebook and then asking, “you got a pen?” damn it. I always was searching for a fucking Bic of some sort. Either a Bic pen or a Bic lighter. Bic makes a fine fucking product, let’s just admit it. Bic rocks!
I spent a decent amount of time just go to the Botanical Gardens in Austin just in order to get out and have a place to think to myself. I had gone there on field trips with the school, when I was a kid, all of us carrying our sack lunches with a can of soda, that had been wrapped in aluminum foil in order for the can to be a few degrees colder or at least I think that was the theory. I’m pretty sure that my mother even used the term tin foil to be exact. As a young adult I would find myself at the botanical gardens for several reasons. It was free, it was outside, but also shady in spots, and you could smoke a joint in your car and just walk around the garden area high as fuck, just relaxing and looking at flowers and shit. I remember thinking how lucky the settlers were that they could just build a log cabin and call it their house, not having to go through the hectic schedules that are expected from society today. Those thoughts are just so silly though, because if for a minute I think that I would have been a success in those “settler days” I’m just daydreaming using ridiculous imagery. The missing variable between success and I, wasn’t just a variable regarding time and it’s just shortsighted and irresponsible to even hypothesize that. I was just a fuck up for a long time. I didn’t have any confidence that I would ever be able to do anything other than maybe, stand-up comedy and that lifestyle was killing me. Does every comic follow the same path? Fuck no. I’m an addict and I got addicted to performing and getting that rare laugh. I was getting better at comedy, but I still wasn’t very good and even when I was funny, it was extremely sporadic. I’m just a fucking mess, but with flashes of being very good. Unfortunately, I’m still Steven Kendrick. Ask anyone, I’m a fuck up.
I keep asking myself if there was any way to stop my addiction or to even slow it down, at any point before it began to happen or during it’s worse days, and until the day that I finally stopped drinking, which correlated heavily with my cocaine use. If I wasn’t getting too drunk, I wasn’t using coke. The problem is that I knew that I had developed a cocaine addiction, but I was absolutely certain that I wasn’t an alcoholic. Drugs are a motherfucker and crack kills, but alcohol, c’mon playa, what the fuck are you talking about? I got this. I got alcohol. I can quit ANY time that I want. I just don’t want to. End of story, next question. Let’s just discuss the real issue at hand. My cocaine use. Let’s discuss it over a beer.
I stay with a friend for a few days and I’ve got an interview lined up for a regular type of job, I borrowed a suit from that friend, because I don’t have any clothes that would be appropriate for an interview unless I’m interviewing to work in a bar. Every suit that I’ve ever worn feels like my mother is making me wear it and this suit is even worse. It’s slightly too big and I’m short to begin with so… “Who’s wearing his daddy’s suit trying to play grown up?” is playing over and over in that mental Boss Loop Pedal (guitar nerds) that resides on the pedal board in my head just playing over and over. I can feel my anxiety going through the roof, but I make it. I make it to the interview, in my 1983 Toyota Tercel, with a proof of liability insurance that is only valid in appearance, having stopped paying monthly payments a long time ago, only really just wanting the slip of paper to show a cop in the off chance that I get pulled over. Who the fuck pulls over a Toyota Tercel? No one. That car was never pulled over in its life as my vehicle. That Tercel’s last hurrah did involve the cops, but they didn’t pull it over, they caught up to it. And that’s a different story, in a different state, that you won’t read about that one for another year. Sorry I brought it up, won’t mention it again until then.
I remember being so excited about this interview because it was a sales position with no drug test and I knew someone that worked there. I get to the interview early and I’m sitting in my Tercel smoking a cigarette. I get out of the vehicle and I can feel my anxiety a lot. I’m walking through the parking lot and onto the sidewalk, opening the large glass doors and trying to find the interview room. I’m nervous, but I can handle this. It will just be me, the interviewer and then it will be over. Maybe I’ll even get the job. I had a shot, I figured, because my friend was pretty much a dumbass like me and he got the job. I find the room and when I open the door there is a medium sized conference room filled with maybe 20 different applicants and my anxiety goes through the roof. I hadn’t really experienced anxiety that sudden or massive in an interview type setting before, and like I said, I had been feeling decent about the interview, even talking myself up about it a little, but when I saw all of those other applicants I knew that I had no chance in hell of landing any job if I had a roomful of competition. The truth is that every job that I’ve ever been given most likely had many applicants as well, but when I saw them and had a visual representation of my competition, it just seemed like they were all so smart, well dressed, educated, pretty, handsome, and they all knew that I was stupid, borrowed suit, bad shoes, white socks that don’t even match and one of them barely passed the smell test.
My suit is stupid, I’m stupid, I suck so fucking bad and now it is so crystal clear, just hold me up to the light next to any one of these other applicants. Can’t you see how I look so low-class, smelling like Camel Reds and stale socks, sweating like a bitch-ass punk, not even knowing where to put my hands, not being able to choose between in the pockets, or just outside of them. My inner voice does all the damage needed today I really only need the presence of others for inspiration. My inner voice will tell me all of the things that the people in that room would never say to my face or may never even think them at all, but in my brain they all know the truth. I suck. The truth is that they probably barely even noticed me as I stood nervously shaking towards the corner of the room, tightly clutching my two-pocket, tri-prong, folder containing my older, poorly executed resume, typed, with a Bic pen edited, pager number written in where my parents phone number had previously been typed, recently covered with two brush strokes of liquid paper. Fuck, now I’m rolling that folder, because I’m nervous and it’s going to look like shit.
I’m so stupid if I think that I’m going to get a job if all of these people want it to. I leave, because at least this loser knows when to give up. I started to leave the building and I’m having a difficult time walking upright. It sounds so weird, but I couldn’t stand vertical, or at least not all of the way. I’m having to use other cars to lean on as I make it to the Tercel, but other than that I’m ok I guess, other than I’m shaking a little, but I do that when I have anxiety attacks sometimes, so that’s scary, but it’s not as scary as the feeling of not being able to walk correctly.
Someone moves out of my friend Teddy’s duplex and I’m invited to stay there. There is a spot on the floor with my name on it and sometimes there is a spot on the couch available. It’s on this huge hill in South Austin and it’s a lot of roommates, with varying backgrounds. I’m told that Gibby Haynes was found all fucked up in the backyard once. What?
I’m 29 and I’m about to do a lot of psychedelics and not so much crack, but then a lot of crack.
Sometimes it almost feels as if my addiction gives me an advantage. I know that sounds weird but I’m serious, especially during a really good moment, like after I make an A on an exam when I had been going over the material an insane amount of time, being able to listen to the same lecture over and over, without it bothering me. In fact, sometimes the repetitious nature of listening to the lectures over and over is somewhat comfortable, and almost complimentary to me other addictive quirks. Yes, there is the destructive side, but once that side is tamed, the rest of my addictive personality is quite fun, and furthermore I have no intention of suppressing it.
My addictive personality allows me to get so involved in a project at school that the time can just pass by, and when I finally get my head out of whatever has been fully monopolizing my time at the moment, I’m usually happy with the result. It took me so fucking long to be happy with the result and to stop listening to my doubtful inner-voice loop pedal that seems to be stuck in my head, telling me that I’m stupid. That voice got silenced pretty much. Not by me mind you, but by the University of Houston. Once I made the Dean’s List, I was like “Hey, inner-voice, why don’t you shut the fuck up for a minute and read these grades with me. Oh, it says that I made the Dean’s List while majoring in psychology and minoring in business administration, being a research assistant, and also being in an honors level course.” “Yeah, but it’s not a top-tier univer…” “Shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down, inner-voice loop pedal in my brain. I’ll listen to the PhDs at the University of Houston over you.”
Or at least I will try. I fucking love school. Go Coogs!
Do you remember the story that circulated years ago about the monkey that mauled its trainer over some fucking birthday cake? The trainer gave a birthday cake to another monkey and this one monkey, that the trainer had been around since the monkey was a baby monkey, attacked the fuck out of the trainer, mauling the trainer’s face and shit. I thought that was a perfect analogy of my addiction and the monkey that lives on my back. My addiction monkey loves me and is content, but it wants cake. If that monkey sees me around other people with monkeys that live on their backs and those people are feeding their monkeys cake, I better either feed my monkey cake or get the fuck away from those other monkeys, or my monkey is going to maul me, because my monkey wants cake also.
My past drug use also makes it so much easier for me to rationalize an unauthorized spending splurge. Like I’m really going to be worried about spending some cash now, when A, I spent a ton of money on drugs, that are just gone. And B, I could die tomorrow from said drug use, like a lot of my former acquaintances did. And that’s how I got a Fender butterscotch blonde Telecaster named “Half Ounce”.
I’m not sure which part of my life fucked up my perception of money worse, drugs or school.
I paid a lot of money on drugs, but I’ve also paid $300 for a fucking Astronomy book. No shit. I remember being at the bookstore and buying my Astronomy book for $300, which just went on my growing student loan debt as if the money isn’t real, and just kind of laughing thinking of how much blow I could have once purchased for the same amount of money.
When I moved into my new living arrangements with Teddy, a performer at the absolutely amazing and world-famous Esther’s Follies in Austin, I was just thankful to just have a place to stay. Teddy was and still is a really nice guy and he sees the good in anyone. Thank God, because that is exactly the type of person that I need to be around right during that period of time in my life. Teddy is funny, always down to go hang out, play disc golf, smoke weed, eat shrooms, L.S.D.?, Y.E.S.!
Teddy could have $20 in his pocket and he would go buy $20 worth of Jack in the Box for everyone at the duplex and never ask for a penny in return. Teddy was such a talented performer, but always so shy and dismissive regarding compliments. He would work long hours during the week preparing and practicing for his shows, helping build props or backdrops, bitching under his breath at the little mistakes that no one else would ever notice, and not ever really receiving the spotlight, almost always a background or supporting player. He was excellent though, diving into each character throughout the week, in the living room, where the higher-ups at Esther’s would never see all of those hours of preparation that Teddy gave of himself.
Teddy of course was performing in Esther’s Follies right next door to the Velveeta Room on 6th street as mentioned in an earlier post. The huge windows of Esther’s Follies behind their large stage. Those same huge windows provided the stage backdrop during much of the Esther’s Follies performance. The chaotic and dynamic nature of the bustling 6th street crowd intermingling with various Esther’s cast members as the live performance seems to dance along with the natural habitat of the present evening’s 6th street patrons.
The duplex that we shared itself was a shit-hole, but it was our shithole. Well, it was Teddy’s shithole and from what I understand Teddy lived there for a long time and he eventually only had one other roommate, but when I was there the duplex had at least four regular roommates. But the couches could have people sleeping on them at any given time also. Teddy couldn’t say no to strays and we were all strays it seemed. Maybe not a stray in the current micro sense as in Teddy and the others had a roof over their heads but strays as in the macro sense. None of us really fit in. Teddy had been, and I think still is highly involved in the renaissance fair lifestyle and would wear these pants that kind of looked like maybe pajamas, but then some that were just odd patterns, but always sort of cartoonish. They were odd, but not like, grab your kids and lock the car doors odd, just like seeing a funny cartoon odd. Teddy was a character and I’m convinced that for 24 hours a day there was a stage in Teddy’s mind, and not only was he singing his own musical loudly in his own head, Teddy was also feeling a bit sorry for the rest of us, who for whatever reason, just aren’t able to jump in his world with him. It must be a magical place.
Teddy doesn’t give a fuck. Teddy is going to put on a costume, dance, sing, be a pirate one night or a football player the next, whatever the script calls for at the time. Teddy is the success among us professionally. Teddy works for fucking Esther’s Follies for fuck sake. He makes a living doing play-time for real, but he makes sure to never brag about it or mention it really other than to gripe about the regular work day gripes that are prevalent in any industry.
I can honestly say that being around Teddy at that point might have really saved me. I needed to be around a good person and if I would have, at that time been around a sketchy motherfucker instead of Teddy, I could have gone down any number of pad paths built with the labor of bad choices. As I said, the place was a shithole. The carpet was so dirty and muddy, it might have been used as a place for concert goers to wipe their feet during the original Woodstock concert in 1969. It was just awful, it actually had these tiny little dreadlocks forming, just dreadful. The living room had this huge glass door that would slide open towards the backyard, where the house next door was not only visible, but some boards in the fence had been removed in order for the two neighboring properties to be joined in a way. Teddy was good friends with the neighbors, and they would all hang out and BBQ together. Every once in a while, a startling Bang! Bang! Bang! would occur from one of the neighbors, cop knocking on the sliding glass door, scaring the shit of whoever was high on the couch at the time.
There was a tall, kind of dorky, funny, but also a real asshole at times roommate, who just kind of bagged on everyone’s mom constantly. It was funny, but every answer from the guy became extremely predictable. If you asked Cody a question, the first answer, maybe even the second or third answer will be the same answer every time. “Your mom.”
“Hey Cody, where are you guys going?” “We’re going to your mom’s house.”
“Hey Cody, what are you guys grilling?”
“We’re just making a batch of your mom burgers.”
It just wouldn’t fucking matter. It was repetitive, predictable, and it still makes me laugh just thinking of it. It was just so stupid.
There was a female roommate that probably wasn’t technically insane, but probably…maybe? She was a short, nice, quiet, kind of shy person, unless she was drinking and then she became a different person that was mean, vicious, and maybe the worst part, mostly unapologetic the next day, when she sobered up. She usually just rationalized her behavior by pointing out how the rest of us had also fucked up, then she would storm down the hall to her room and slam the door. Then the air would be filled with that unique crackling sound of an inexpensive, older turntable with the shitty built-in speaker, start to play. This girl loved old, old, records that would be turned up so loud, spilling Billie Holliday throughout the house, out the door, into the yard, past my Toyota Tercel, down the long, rapidly descending, black-top driveway that spilled into south Austin. I’m so glad that I hadn’t yet taken my “Jazz Appreciation” class at the University of Houston as I did some almost 20 years later.
That’s when I learned of Billie Holiday, you know? The life of Billie Holiday, how she was ushered into prostitution by her own mother at an early age, singing with the voice of struggle and abuse, fighting both personal vocal limitations and also record company bullshit. Listening to the lovely Ms. Holiday singing Strange Fruit for the first time as an adult was such an experience. Sitting there with my headphones on, feeling me heart sink, my throat get tense, my eyes fill up with tears, clearing my voice in order to quickly dam the impending flood from my bloodshot eyes. I’m glad that I wasn’t able to ask the questions to her then that I could ask now as to why she was playing Billie Holiday so loud and was that the reason that she was so mean after a few good strong drinks. She was mean, boy. As mean as they come. We all tip-toed around her a bit. We had to. We were kind of scared to be honest. She was small, but the girl could swing a wrench. Seriously. She had this old, boat of a car, that she was rebuilding, but she wasn’t rebuilding it in the traditional sense. She was converting the gasoline engine so that it would run off of hydrogen. She intended to be able to fill the gas tank with water and then the water would have the hydrogen removed, the hydrogen would burn, water vapor would be removed via the exhaust and we were dicks for any doubtful looks, glances, possible tones to our voice etc. “Sounds cool.”(met by her blank stare, which is slowly replaced by a frown.)
“Fuck you, asshole! No one EVER believes me!!!”
I’m 29 and I’m stuck on a hill.