1991 – 2003 CHICAGO
From the beginning, Chicago gave me hints that I would have a difficult time there. The very first apartment I went to see, I rented it. It was here that I met Albert. Thus began a 6-year relationship with someone that would eventually show me that life has a way of stopping you perhaps when you go too far and continue to play with fire. Albert was murdered. From all I could gather, Albert would have sex with some of the drug dealers he represented in court. He told me about a time he and one of his clients had a sexual encounter in the room where he would meet them at the courthouse. Albert always seemed to do what he wanted to do. I admired him for that.
He used to tell me that the dealers always paid in cash. He showed me his safe one day and it was full of cash. I think one of those criminals Albert was dealing with killed him. The police (as far as I know) never found out who did it.
Albert kept secrets. He was a close friend and we would talk often, but he somehow always hid the wildest parts from me. I wouldn’t call what we had a “relationship”. It was more of something that happened … something to do. It was a secret and secrets gave me energy … they excited me … I could live in that secret.
I had not spoken to Albert for a couple of weeks … I remember it was summer or early fall. I was at home with a friend, preparing for an acting class we were taking. For some reason, I decided to give him a call. I had started drinking again at this point and had had a few shots of whiskey to get ready for my class. My call to Albert went to his answering machine and the message said the tape was full. I paged him, but got no response. Something seemed strange because Albert always returned pages. Later that day I called a cousin of his that I knew in Chicago and he gave me the story. When he said at the beginning of the call “You don’t know, do you?” I went silent as he told me Albert was found murdered in his apartment. I was numb. I drank more whiskey and finally went off to class. I never talked to anyone about this. I never found out what really happened to Albert. It is only in sobriety that I have even begun to think about it.
As time went on in Chicago, life kept feeling more and more dead. I was feeling beaten. What’s worse, I was losing all patience and passion with my chosen career. My personal life suffered as well. I was in and out of numerous relationships. Most were kept for the sex, but I had no real personal connection with anyone. I would be whatever they wanted me to be: tough, distant, helpful, humorous, abusive, etc. As the relationships flowed in and out of my life, depression began to get the best of me. Nothing seemed to be working at all. I was not feeling like life was moving in any direction. I was stuck.
The constant was the occasional affair, a random partner, random sex with random people … and eventually porn. I was definitely addicted to pornography. I kept it everywhere in my apartment. Photos and videos. I found out that if I went to a porn shop, I could get sex. This wasn’t really new to me for I had done it in high school. But I discovered Chicago had many porn places that were pretty intense. A lot of sex going on day and night and I jumped right in.
After a few years, the inevitable happened. I began to drink alcoholically. The cause? Who knows, really? I could say I drank again because I wanted to fit in, find relief, have fun, relax, excitement … However, none of these feel like the exact reason. I can also say I drank again because I hated myself. I had no direction or any belief in myself. I was my own worst enemy as I judged everything about me by comparing myself to others. There are probably other reasons I could decide on as well, but when it is all said and done, I really, really, really liked the effect alcohol had on me … until it stopped working (more on that later). I was restless, irritable and discontented and alcohol relieved those symptoms. I got a sense of “ahhhh” after the first drink.
And then came the crack cocaine … again.
I was leaving one of my porn places around 2am. I was drunk from Jack Daniels and I was cruising around looking for prostitutes or anyone else to party with. I was feeling pretty low and sad. I knew that I needed to stop this madness, but I did not know how … or was I just choosing to ignore all the tools I had learned to quit using and drinking? I remember saying “God, please help me …”
As I came to a stoplight somewhere around Chicago Avenue in Chicago, I saw a car with the symbol that refers to Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a circle with a triangle inside of it. Wow. I thought that this was a miracle. I asked and there it was. AA. As I came upon the car, I stopped beside him and waved at him to roll down his window. He did:
Driver: What’s up man?
Me: R u a friend of Bill W?*
Me: The bumper sticker on your car … You know Bill W?
Driver: Man, this ain’t my car.
He made that last statement with a wave of his hand that held the crack pipe.
*(NOTE: People in AA sometimes use this phrase or question as an anonymous way to make contact with other people in AA.)
Why I remember this conversation is still a bit of a mystery. Maybe because it would be the first time I would do crack in Chicago and it would be the start of a 10 year nightmare. This guy in the car didn’t necessarily look like a crackhead. But then again, what does a crackhead look like? We’ve all seen the people on the web or in the street. These are the crackheads who are far gone. But there is a whole group of people out there who are either at the beginning of their crack career or have managed to control it to some degree for the time being. They are teachers and social workers and lawyers and engineers and custodians and postal workers. They are everyone. They are all around. It’s not hard to spot them really. Hangout at a drug spot for a minute and you will see the cars driving around. You see the desperate faces in the nice cars. You see the cars come back every few hours. You see the walk back to the car of the person that just copped. Either it is a happy gait or a nervous walk. It is very recognisable because something seems off. I rarely got out of my car. Thats the other sign … why else would someone on the corner go to a car, put their hand inside the car, and then the car drives away? It’s not hidden.
I cannot remember much of this initial crack run in Chicago except that it was filled with crack, sex, prostitutes … it lasted 2 days. Of course, I remember that first hit because it was the same feeling of euphoria I felt when I took the first hit of crack in 1986: ecstasy, relaxation, extreme joy and release … it’s like the whole body orgasms. Suddenly I feel like I am superman. It turns me into the man I always thought I was or wanted to be. I become invincible … invisible, carefree, open, noteworthy, famous, infamous, brilliant, deviant and dark. I want an orgy and I want it now! All of this happens for 60-90 seconds and then I come down and the only thing that then matters is getting that feeling again, no matter the cost in money, ethics, morality, physical or mental harm and deterioration. It doesn’t fucking matter. Only the crack and the next hit matters. Period. Exclamation point! I am willing to do absolutely anything to get more.
I would party with this driver — I’m not sure I ever knew his real name … they always had names like Dave, John, Peewee, Ray-Ray or Nick — and his “friends” for days at a time. I would miss work, spend all of the money I was making, ignore friends and family … Crack was my god again. These crack parties were always filled with characters too. These are men and women who sometimes look like addicts, but most of the time they seemed rather normal to tell the truth. At least normal to me. They had jobs. Sometimes they showed up to the crack parties in work clothes — whether it be a construction worker or a nurse — and inevitably they would run out of cash, leave to go get more cash and not return. I would do that often. I would leave to go to an ATM, and then run into another crackhead somewhere and end up at a totally different place.
Buying crack in Chicago was easy really. All on needed was to know where to look. There is a joke that if you are in a new city, look for ML King Avenue and you can find liquor stores, barbershops and crack spots. Sad, but true. Chicago was really no different. I purchased most of my crack on the Northside of the city. Sometimes I would go to the West or South sides, but they were a longer distance and time is everything when I was using. I wanted to score and score quickly. The Northside had several spots I went to score and they were all basically near what used to be Cabrini Green. I would often Bring someone with me. The person would know what to do and I would give him the money, he would go to get it while I made the block in my car, picked him up and headed back to my apartment which was about 10 minutes away. It was really like clockwork. And this happened 24/7. The Westside had some drive-thru spots. You simply pulled up in your car, asked for 2 or 3, the guy would say how much, he put his hand inside the car with the crack and I would have the money in my hand. We would make a quick switch and off I went. Sometimes the dealer preferred to drop the rocks into the car, I would give him the money and he would walk away. Other times I would give him the money and he would signal to someone up the street, I would drive further and the drugs would be dropped in my car.
My favourite dealers however were the guys who delivered. I paid more, but it was worth it. I had a dealer that would take a taxi to my apartment and have the cabbie wait while he came inside and dropped of the drugs. It wasn’t very rushed or anything, it was purely a business transaction done safely from the comfort of my living room.
The ensuing ten years saw much pain and horror. It was chaotic and it caused a change in me that I still struggle to explain. I think the best way for me to understand what happened is to write a series of short stories for every episode I can remember.
What follows (in no particular order) are the crack episodes that happened over the next 10 years. The times and places are in no particular order and I have changed the details of names to protect others (and myself!). The obsessive behaviour and the insanity of getting and using drugs is what I am attempting to portray … the lies, secrets, denial, hiding, running away, crying, fighting, thievery, hopelessness, fear, anger, despair, energy (negative and positive) … addiction on display is chaos.
ALLOVIT – The PLAY
… is a series of observations about the sad, tragic and humorous life of an addict … the good and the bad: the painful descent into madness and the painful road to sanity. The scenes are not meant to be realistic nor should they be interpreted to happen sequentially. As a matter of fact, effort should be made to make sure no scene has an effect on another scene. Each scene is independent. A director should feel free to rearrange the order of the scenes and experiment with creating individual scenes of life. Another option is to allow the audience to decide the order of the scenes based on the titles. This can be done pre-show. Be creative.
The set is a black box. Whenever possible, a minimum of set pieces should be used to suggest location.
There is a larger than life projection screen suspended above center stage. It is the width of the stage. The projections are dramatic, exciting, dynamic and ultra-modern. At the start of each scene, in the blackout, the title of the scene is projected as noted in the script. The title should be superimposed upon a background suggesting the location or landscape of the scene. Other projections are also noted in the text.
MACH – 40-ish, but looks younger, highly intelligent, frustrated, angry, passive aggressive with a streak of self-loathing. Smiles a lot, but has flashing rage at times.
BEN – 30’s, male, short, arrogant and talks nonstop; anger issues.
JADWIGA* – Female, 75, walks with a cane, chain-smoker, gravel-voiced. Feisty and mean. Polish Accent.
NAT – 30’s, athletic, hyper, nervous, rough with a big heart, New York native.
LIL MUSH – short, tiny hands, wears “elevators” in shoes, tiny voice, MAGA.
GOOSIE – identical voice as LIL MUSHROOM, very slender, large head and hair, gaping and crazy eyes, Southern.
JO** – military type, 20’s, Kentucky/Spanish accent, tobacco chewer.
GUEST** – Businessman, professional, very cheerful.
TRISTIAN – 40’s, looks older, arrogant, anger issues, smiles all the time, pot belly, from Idaho.
* Can be played by same actor. **Can be played by same actor.
Projection: HEADING OUT
A filthy, small and cramped room in a boarding house. Directly at the foot of the bed is a TV that is at least 15 years old with a cable box on top.
MACH enters room and sits dejectedly on the bed, his backpack still on his back. He is slumped a little and clearly tired as he is returning home from work. He is dressed in his work uniform: Black slacks, Black shoes, Black socks, black belt and a baby-blue long sleeve button down shirt (with his name tag) MACH doesn’t move for a long moment. Silence. His cellphone beeps and plays ominous music as its ringtone.
The ringtone of the cellphone makes him jump. He smiles mischievously. Pulls out his cell phone from his backpack. Looks at it. Looks up with a sigh of concern. Pause. Cellphone continues to play ringtone. Pause. Finally, MACH answers …
MACH: Wassup D. (pause) Hey (pause) nothing man … just got home. What you up to? (pause) Yeah … did you get it? (pause) Oh well … for the better I guess. (pause) Not really. I’m sitting here trying not to think about what I want to do. (pause) Yeah … that’s the fuckin problem. (pause) I know. Man, this shit is killing me … Kil. Lin. Me. (pause) I’ma go to a meeting. (pause) Why not? (pause) Yeah, gotta be in the mutha fucka at 6am as usual … I hate that fuckin job. (pause — a look of concern) Hmmm. What time is it now? (pause) Let me sit for a moment. I’ll give you a call later … after I nap. Aight. Lata.
MACH throws phone on the bed, strips down to his underwear, gets under the covers and tries to sleep. A little time passes as the lighting fades to “dream” lighting (i.e., blue or red or dim or whatever). In this lighting, the words “A DREAM” are now projected on the widescreen and we hear harsh/mean/steely music. The music should resemble the ringtone on MACH’s phone. Shortly, a film begins to be shown on the widescreen as well. This film is a dream-sequence. It moves in and out of focus. It is sometimes fuzzy; sometimes very vivid. Mach is dreaming. It is an abandoned apartment/motel somewhere in the heart of the city. It is big, but barren with stains and cigarette burns in the carpet. Fear. Lots of fear. A feeling of horror. There are several people in the apartment in various levels of undress. The film is blurred to the point that we know exactly what is happening, but nothing is clear. People’s faces are muted. Everyone is partially naked in some way. There are many crack pipes and one couple does oral sex in the middle of the room. The rest are watching, masturbating or touching each other. Sex is happening in all kinds of ways. The whole thing lasts only 30 seconds …
MACH awakens in a panic and the film scrambles out. The title, HEADING OUT reappears on the screen. MACH is in pain … screaming, gasping, sweating … deep breaths … a prayer. Silence.
MACH: Please, don’t let me do this. (pause)
Finally, after being tormented for a moment as to what he should do, he grabs his cellphone.
NOTE: The following is MACH texting with D. As he texts and the D responds, we see the words being typed out on the screen.
MACH(texting): Hey. Im’a get on the bus now. I should be there round 5.
TEXT RESPONSE: ok
MACH(texting): Can you please fuckin call him before I get there? I swear to god if this mutha fucka makes us wait and keeps lyin about he’s “right round the corner” …
TEXT RESPONSE: ok
MACH(texting): Fuck him!
TEXT RESPONSE: ok
MACH(texting): We’ll call somebody else!
TEXT RESPONSE: OK!
MACH(texting): I’ll call you from the bus stop downtown.
TEXT RESPONSE: Will you stop fuckin texting and get your ass over here?!
MACH(texting): ok 🙂
MACH throws the phone into his backpack … grabs some money from his hidden envelope somewhere under the bed and quickly counts out a few hundred dollars. He begins to throw some things into his backpack: bottle of vitamins, box of condoms, two packs of cigarettes from his carton that is under the bed. Most importantly, he opens a fresh pack of cigarette lighters and tests several of them to be sure the flame is high. He chooses three. MACH begins to chant “The Serenity Prayer” throughout the following action:
MACH: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.
MACH continues to put various other things into his backpack (gum, lip balm, etc.). He finally puts on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, socks and athletic shoes. He grabs his work clothes from before and sniffs them. They smell, so he finds some air freshener and sprays them. He then methodically folds them into the backpack: black work pants, black belt, black work shoes, black socks and blue shirt. It is a bit chaotic because he is in a rush, but this routine clearly has been done many, many times before. MACH continues to chant the Serenity Prayer as he dashes out of the door.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
This is two chapters from my manuscript, ALLOVIT – A Story of Love. The manuscript consists of narration and script combined into one story.