This is part of a series and it is suggested that you start from the beginning. To do so just click here. These are older posts that will eventually catch up to the current date.
I’m about 4 weeks away from earning my Master’s in Business Administration. Wow. This has taken so much work over the past 7 years but to see it coming to an end is enjoyable to say the least. I’ve also met a couple of other former drug addicts recently at school. They have different backgrounds than I do, both having undergrad degrees from extremely respectable universities, and earned at the appropriate corresponding ages, but we are all examples of individuals overcoming or conquering addiction. I’m not sure if those words, overcoming or conquering are correct due to the heterogeneous nature of addiction but I think that you get what I mean. I’m not sure what I’ve written about regarding this era before I took my break so if I repeat anything please be patient. It will get edited out eventually. During those days on the hill I did have some “relationships” with women, but those were weird days and like I said before, I’ll probably write a blog or book regarding the relationships in my life, but this isn’t the time. I honestly would have hated dating me. Everything about me was so fucking broken at the time. One false move in just about any figurative sense could be the end. I have no idea how I kept waking up every morning, but I did.
I was meeting girls and I would occasionally date someone, but I just don’t have that good of game. “Hey, I sleep on a floor and our electricity is out. Feel romantic baby?” Why not just throw on the movie “Kids” and really creep her out? Oh, we can’t watch a movie. No electricity. The women that I would meet in Austin from this moment forward all had some issues. No shit. We all have issues, but if I seem like a good choice of boyfriend…that girl is about to either get arrested for some old warrant or come to her sober up and come to her senses. I seemed to meet a girl right when she was about two months away from beginning her downward spiral. At about 6 months into the relationship I’d hear this. “I need to get my shit together and my life straightened out. Bye!” If I heard a woman say “So, I went to an AA meeting the other day.” “I got a gym membership.” “I’m going back to school.”, really anything related to self-improvement, pretty much meant that if she made a list of shit in her life that needed improving, I was somewhere on that fucking list. I may not be in the top 5, but my day is coming. Sell those CDs of hers while you can, because pretty soon on a Friday night just before her unscheduled weekend away with friends… “We need to talk. You know I started working out…” Long story short, who in their right mind would be anywhere close to a dude like me during that time. Girls with coke problems that’s who and thank God for them. Short term relationships can teach a young person essential team building skills and how to dodge a high heel being thrown at you. Come to think of it I did have some two-month relationships during that time. I guess when you find yourself dating an unfunny, coke-head comic that smells like a stinky fridge and dirty laundry then if you have any girlfriends at all they are going to give that girl a talking to. Intervention and shit. The “Did you realize you’re dating Steven Kendrick sit down that must have occurred with those girls. They were all sweet, just sour at the time. We all were. We were addicts right in the middle of the shit. It’s weird though, when you’re sitting in the back of the Velveeta Room in Austin laughing like a motherfucker, you could forget that you owe someone money, you can forget that she hates you, you can forget that the electricity is out at home. It works for a little while. Add some coke and a decent set where you start to get your first laughs, and you can almost believe for a second that you have a shot at your dream. It’s intoxicating as fuck.
The laughter could sometimes make me forget how fucked up my life was. I loved comedy for that. Yeah, I still sucked, but like I said I had a dream to follow, to be a stand-up comic and that gave me that place to go. The stage was that place. God, I was just awful, but I started to get shitty gigs around the outskirts of Austin. I did a show 45 minutes outside of Austin around that time and I was so fucking happy. I did a road gig and I even got paid to do it. Kind of. They gave me a sandwich. This was a coffee shop that sold sandwiches just like any random coffee shop that lasts a few years and then closes. They had been doing comedy for a little while, but they would only pay the comics a meal. I got a sandwich and some chips. On the drive back, in my head I’m wondering what is next for this not so hungry, but only because of the sandwich, comic. Those shitty first road gigs seemed so fucking cool at the time even though we all knew that they were also lame at the same time. So now I had a choice. Do I tell people that I’m doing comedy, but getting paid in sandwiches? Do I lie and say that I’m making money? I’m pretty sure that I lied. I’m not telling motherfuckers that I’m getting paid in fucking sandwiches. Order the sandwich before your set if you are going to bomb. That way to don’t have to worry about a barista fucking your sandwich while he makes it because he was offended by your jokes.
Life on the hill was getting really motherfucking old. There was some dude that would crash there sometimes, but just random as fuck. We never locked the front door as what the fuck are people going to steal? The dirty carpet? Our electricity that isn’t on? The stinky-ass refrigerator? I hadn’t lived with a mean alcoholic before. I’ve lived with and I have been the mean at moments alcoholic in the house, but our one roommate, the girl, was a mean drunk. She’s probably changed a lot by now and I get that, but back then…just a bad drunk. But it’s about to get worse. Long story short, the random dude on the couch brings over a bunch of blow and some of us cook it up and smoke it. Some don’t. There were a few extras in tow so it’s difficult to say who was there and who wasn’t. We had partied for a couple of days and then he left. He came back in a couple of weeks and we did it all over again and then one morning he was gone. Poof never saw him again, but that was the last full on crack out with a room of other people function that I can remember attending. Everything else was in groups of three people or less. I don’t like a room full of fiends. It makes me nervous now.
So, Man-Boobs invites me to hang out with him one night at a DJ gig that he has. The motherfucker is DJing at a swinger’s bar in Austin called Anchovies. I go.
“How do you live like that? Man, I just couldn’t live like that.”
I was asked this by one of our hill-top neighbors as he whispered to me even though we were smoking a bowl of good weed in his place, no one else was there, and there was no way in hell that any of my roommates could hear him. Was he referring to my drug use? The fact that I slept on the floor? He and I had our similarities as he had pointed out to me during the smoking session that he had invited me to attend with him, just the two of us. He was sitting there with his nice, glass bong, Pantera poster on the wall because it was in the 90s and he was a male in Texas. His Ford Ranger sport truck had been almost stolen by car thieves one night, but they couldn’t get it down that hill that we were perched on. The incline was crazy and if you were not used to backing down the long driveway, you could easily become disoriented and wind up in the bushes or crashing into one of the small trees scattered on the hill. He kept saying that I was a lot like he and his friends. They all did blow and drank, but I wasn’t like his friends at all. He felt as if he fit in. His friends seemed confident and almost like they were always ready for a fight. They all just kind of seemed like dicks, but as I think back on it now, I probably looked like a dick too. Just a broke dick with a coke problem. His day was starting at the same time everyday going to work, but I was a comic. Kind of. I at least called myself one and I hung out where comics would tend to hang out. Shit open mics that happen in small restaurants or coffee shops that are desperate to fill any chair possible.
You could just tell that some people were almost naturals with their comedy, not me as I’ve said before. There are comics that are kind of bullies during their sets, discussing celebrities and bashing them into oblivion, or each other, or the three audience members at the different comedy nights. Sometimes the comics will be very self-deprecating and seem able to say things out loud that would hurt most of us to think about even in private. I know it’s a very general statement, but I guess that I’ve always seen the comics in one of two camps. The comics that were the funny bullies that picked on the other kids at school and then the kids that got picked on that learned how to laugh at themselves. I had a video camera that my parents had given me about this time and I started to record my comedy sets. One night while I was watching my set from the Velveeta Room I heard some of the other comics talking about how bad I was and how much they didn’t like me. Even though I was aware that I sucked and I was not doing myself any favors trying to get to know people, I remember that for some reason it hurt hearing it from the same people who had been shaking my hand and patting me on the back after that same shitty set. It’s so petty, but I just didn’t know that they thought such bad shit about me, but honestly I was a fucking mess and when I think about who I was back then I just find it difficult to believe that I’m that same guy. I have several degrees and I haven’t had a drink in about 20 months. No cocaine, no sodas, no cigarettes, still nervous sometimes but Exposure, Response Prevention. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not even motherfucking close to being one. But ERP was something that fascinates me in so many ways.
Now for no good reason. I want to talk about my grandfather, and I might have already shared this about him, but I’ll share it again.
My grandfather was going deaf and was wearing hearing aids, but he was always so damn happy. My grandfather was always in a pretty good mood, but he always seemed to be in his own world. He died when he was 98 years old but had remained very active until the last month or so of his life. He was so independent and extremely untraditional when considering what appears in most of our imaginations when we begin to picture an old man in our heads. My grandfather would drive his old truck out to his farm and sleep in the bed of his truck, while staring at the stars, during his late 80s and early 90s. No shit. He didn’t care what other people thought. What was his secret? He had turned the volume down on his hearing aids. He turned off all that bullshit that we hear every day. He just said, “I don’t fucking care what you have to say.” And he just lived his life. My uncle would get upset exclaiming that they would find him dead out there someday. I witnessed my grandfather crying at his son’s funeral, my uncle. That hurt to see my grandfather so sad but living long has its drawbacks as well as its benefits. Living a long time would be really cool if you could hold onto grudges for a long time also. Sit there smirking while a decade’s argument finally came to a conclusion that was acceptable. “Fine, I forgive you since you’re dead.” My grandfather turned down his hearing aids and tuned out the world. He couldn’t hear any of the bullshit, but he couldn’t hear the other stuff either. He couldn’t hear “I love you.” “Would you like another plate of turkey?”, nothing really, but he knew that we all loved him and he probably had enough turkey. He just wanted people to shut the fuck up and leave him alone. I love it and I understand it. I sit hear listening to repetitive Korg generated beats going off in my head, blocking the entrance of the outside world with the help of my Dre headphones. I’d rather listen to this sometimes than hear the world around me. I guess it all depends on what’s around me.
I had class today. It’s so different during these last weeks of my academic career than it was when I began. I was so fucking scared during those first few classes at the community college and wondering if I would even make it through. I wouldn’t make it through if I had listened to the naysayers or even worse to my own inner voice telling me that I was too old and that I already tried the school thing. But at the same time the voices of encouragement were extremely helpful when I was unsure or worn out from studying but with exams still left to take. So, I guess the answer isn’t to tune the world out unless you are just done learning. Maybe.
Now, that I have my psych degree knowledge I hypothesize that deep down I’ve been scared for a very long time. I’m not really sure what the fuck I was scared about then and honestly, I don’t know if I’m not still scared of something while I’m typing this. It could just take some time to stop walking around waiting for someone to pounce on you or punch you, because I did get a lot of that growing up or maybe I was just born with this nervousness about me, perhaps it’s the isolation associated with having speech impediments, I suspect that all of those are correct to some degree, all with weighted averages of their own. Thank God for my Psych degree.
So, I go to this place Anchovies where Man-Boobs is DJ-ing. He works there on the weekends and says that he’ll get me a couple of beers. I had never been to a swinger’s club so this was a completely new experience for me. It was just kind of uncomfortable to watch a bunch of old people having sexual contact right there, not really out in the open, orgy style, but if they had turned down the Prince that was blaring the air would have been filled with the sounds of middle aged people fucking in a gymnasium. The swingers club was in an old warehouse or industrial complex type of building and smelled like lube and Old Spice. The DJ-ing was not really DJ-ing. There weren’t any turntables or grooveboxes that I recall. Just loading cds and playing them. But, Man-Boobs did get a BJ one night by some dude’s wife as he watched. I wasn’t there that night to witness the Dinner and a Show, but he was quite proud of that accomplishment.
I end up getting some weed through one of Man-Boobs friends and I start hooking up people again. Not a lot, but enough to get me some free weed. I run into an old real estate client and he offers me a really good deal on some Mexican brick weed. I bite at the deal and I start to round up some cash. Bulk baby.
Today is my birthday. I am now 48 years old and no shit, I feel better than I did 20 years ago. It’s not even a close competition. I’m not hung over in the morning, I’m not coked up, and I’m not spiraling out of control due to alcoholism, drug addiction and suicidal fixations. No, I’m 48 and I am a quitter. I quit stand-up comedy. I did and that makes me a quitter. And I’m totally cool with that title. Add loser to it. I’m comfortable with it. I’ve been a loser and a quitter more than I’ve been a success. I’ll hang my loser degree right next to my MBA. Ha. See how fucking powerful education is? Hang that quitter plaque right next to my psych degree. Ha ha. I am all of those things and I’m fine with being a successful, educated, loser that quits shit occasionally. I wish that I had paid more attention to the people around me when I was a young man. Not, my associates, my friends, my drinking and drug buddies, I mean of course I should have hung around some less shady people, but I mean in a macro sense. I wish that I would have noticed the old alcoholics more as opposed to the old pot smokers, but most of the old pot smokers were in the closet, I guess. Not all though.
Teddy had a lot of friends and I met some of them. He had old friends from high school and of course everyone at Esther’s Follies just adored Teddy. Teddy is still around and working in the Austin theatre scene, making audiences laugh, or cry for that matter if the scene would call for it. I just love Teddy so much and Teddy isn’t his real name, but it is so poetically perfect if you know that motherfucker, because he is a Teddy bear. I’ve never seen any of those movies with the shit-talking teddy bear, the ones with Markey Mark…yeah, I haven’t seen those, so I can’t use them as a base line. Did I tell you that the last movie that I saw in the movie theater was “March of the Penguins”. I cried during that movie quite a bit. How the fuck do you not? Well, I’ve gotten off track. Time for my coffee. I LOVE my espresso machine. I bought it with the money that I don’t spend on energy drinks. I used to spend at least $4 a day on energy drinks. Fuck that shit. Quit those and went 100% into coffee. I love my Chemex, but my lever-pull, dude…that is a crack machine. My addiction loves that motherfucking lever-pull espresso machine. You should see the smile on my face. Love it. Get back monkey!!! I’m getting all pookie just thinking about it.
One of the people that I met through Teddy was this older woman, most likely in her late 60’s or early 70’s, I’m just awful at guessing the ages of women when they get past the age of 40 that it is much safer to no attempt that at all. The point is that she was older than most marijuana smokers that I had met up to that point.
She was an older woman past her early 60s for sure and she smoked marijuana with a sense of elegance about her, sitting back in an antique chair, in an older home hidden away in Austin near the University of Texas campus. Her large dogs, the racing kind…greyhounds were lounging about, being rescued much like Bart Simpson’s dog had been. She would smoke a joint as if it was teatime in England with style and elegance as I mentioned before. She didn’t quite care for me and I understand why. I’m sure that she could see that I was just a wreck. I could fool some of the younger girls my age, but a woman that has dealt with some losers in her day would be able to spot me from a mile away. One of her dogs had this weird growth thing hanging off of its dick. It’s difficult not to stare at weird dicks. Teddy would visit her quite a bit and since he didn’t have a car at the time I would drive us in my uninsured Toyota Tercel with one of Teddy’s Frank Zappa mix tapes blaring out of my cheap 6×9 flea market genuine Sorny speakers and a cassette deck that wasn’t actually attached, it just slid a little in the cassette deck dashboard hole, just above the ashtray. Full ashtray.
“Did you hear that Mary almost got busted?” Mary was the name of the older, mature marijuana smoker. “No, what the fuck happened?” I asked Teddy. Then Teddy told me the story.
Mary had driven down to downtown Auston to pick up a paycheck for her musical talents. Mary was / is an accomplished piano player that has entertained literally hundreds of thousands of Austinites over the years without them even knowing her name. Funny how that happens. Well Mary was parking her car and lit up a joint once she was settled. She was an older woman that just wanted to smoke half of a joint before she walked the streets of downtown Austin, picked up her paycheck and grabbed some lunch with friends at the place across from the Parmount with the bad ass buffet. Hickory Street. Mary’s older model Honda CVCC was quickly filling up with the billowing viscous smoke as Mary quickly licks her finger, then places her finger to the joint, smiling slightly with satisfaction as the runner in her joint was just presumably fixed. The smoke in the Honda is a little much and Mary has one of her favorite, bright flower patterned yellow dress on, so she opens the window slightly and the smoke pours out with the first slight opening as the hand cranked window lets it all slowly dissipate into the humid, Austin afternoon downtown, skyscraper induced windstorm. Mary hits the joint one more time…about to exhale… BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! Or whatever fucking sound a police officer’s nightstick makes on the glass of an old Honda CVCC with hand crank windows and a mature, successful, Amelia Bedelia looking woman in the passenger seat.
Mary looks up and then quickly to the drivers side window and sees the police officer standing there. She rolls down the window.
“Mam, that’s marijuana!”
“Yes, I know. I took it away from some kids. I was making sure it’s real.” ‘It is.”