DISCLAIMER: My intention is not to glorify or condone any of my past behavior. I am not proud of it, nor do I regret it. It simply is what it is. My intention is only to give an honest account.
Michael Musto and I, Summer 1989.
Yoko lived at St. Marks place and 1st Ave in a sprawling, shared 3 bedroom apartment above the St. Marks bar and grill. Our bedroom faced another bedroom in the front which was occupied by a couple who I literally never formally met, and hardly ever saw. But they were in there. The 3rd bedroom was at the opposite end past the kitchen and living room. This room belonged to the guy who was on the lease, a Swedish photographer named Jesper Haynes. I had met him, but he was never in town while I was living there. Over the years, the place had a revolving door of bohemians in and out of there and Jasper made a book about it.
Yoko and I had an ambiguous relationship. We slept in the same bed and were intimate a few times, but it was never spoken as to what our thing was. It was vague. She was going back to Japan for the summer, and was allowing me to sort of sublet her room. I didn’t come home a lot of the time, and she never gave me any grief. At Mars, Yoko worked under the club’s intense co-director, Yuki Watanabe. Although we were welcome there, the Mars crowd sort of looked down on Club Kids, social terrorists that we were. They saw themselves as one notch above us. They employed a friend of ours, Mykul Tronn, to be the resident in-house club kid and host parties, so they didn’t fully alienate us. They just kept us one step removed. I had a kind of special relationship there, since I was friends with the Japanese component. Yuki hosted a night called “KOOLest Thursdays: hosted by MR. KOOL”(“Mr KOOL” was Yuki himself). The party borrowed it’s branding aesthetic from KOOL cigarettes. The summer of 1989 was roasting hot, and Mars was having trouble with their air conditioning. Michael Alig and I had the brilliant idea that we would spoof their party, and create a “KOLDest Thursdays” invitation “hosted by MR. KELLY KOLD, at the fully air-conditioned Red Zone”. We were cracking up about it, and made the invitations, identical to theirs. I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was all in good fun. But Yuki was volatile. He was a bit of a coke fiend, and one night shortly after our prank, he was on a tear and caught me on the 4th floor of Mars. He began hysterically spitting expletives at me in Japanese, the veins bulging in his neck. He grabbed me by the nape of my neck and lifted me off the ground, dragging me toward the fire exit door. I knew this door: it led to a long staircase, 4 flights in all, directly down and out into the street. “Oh shit…”, I thought, “This guy is crazy. He’s actually going to throw me down four flights of stairs!” End over end I went down, my club flyers cascading through the air, littering the stairwell. He could have killed me, but I was completely unscathed. He stood at the top of the stairwell, continuing his tirade, gesticulating wildly. Although I couldn’t understand the words, I assumed I was no longer welcome there.
Yoko left for Japan. She wasn’t due back until the end of September. I was alone in this apartment with the weird recluse couple. The one rule was that I wasn’t supposed to have any guests. So, naturally, I started having people over.
One night Bella and Freeze had gotten their hands on some PCP. We had a little party in my tiny bedroom, cramming about 8 people in their, all smoking it. Things went a little hazy. I ended up stumbling out into the street and blacked out. I came back to consciousness in a graveyard in Queens, with two people I didn’t recognize, silently standing there. I have no idea how I got there.
One morning, still partying by myself from the night before, I was lonely and horny beyond comprehension. I had heard about a brothel in Gramercy Park, and I decided to investigate. I called the place and asked if their were any young girls working. I told the lady on the phone that I was 18. The lady said that yes, in fact, there was one girl working and that she was also 18. Fantastic. I told her I’d be right over. I took my remaining drugs and walked out into a bright, summer Friday morning. Making my way once again past the shiny happy folks on their way to work, a zombie on a depraved mission. The place was in an unassuming brownstone on 2nd avenue at around 19th street. I buzzed in and walked up a long, creaky arched stairway to the 2nd floor. The madam led me in to a well appointed, bright apartment and introduced me to a very cute blonde girl who was seated on her knees on the floor in the middle of the room. She had an expectant, excited expression with a huge smile across her face. As the madam began explaining the rules, the girl abruptly interrupted: “Are you a movie star?!” she asked. “I want to be a movie star!” She had a strange innocent, airy quality and spoke in a bizarre almost cartoonish voice which I cannot find the words to accurately describe. The madam shushed her and continued her explanation. The girl stared at me with that massive smile. I was now curious to see what on Earth was going to happen here. This was definitely going to be interesting. After I paid her ($200 I believe), the girl and I were shown to a small room. The girl babbled some nonsense as i took out my cocaine and did a little pre-action bump. This piqued her interest. “You have drugs?” she queried in her bizarre voice. I showed her that I did. She took the remaining cocaine and tried to pour it into a crack stem and smoke it. She made a mess. I couldn’t figure out if she actually knew what she was doing. It was strange because she didn’t seem like someone who would be using cocaine. She asked me if I could get more. The Twins were living on 14th street, right around the corner. The girl gave me some money, and I literally ran the few blocks down to their apartment and woke them up(it was probably 11am). They buzzed me in and literally sold me the coke from their bed, which was just inside the front door of the apartment, in the living room. They didn’t even get up. I ran back to the brothel as fast as I could, because I was on the clock, after all. The girl and I hung out and got high for the remainder of my time. We never touched. At the end of my hour, she said she wanted to come with me. “Sure” I said “But are you allowed to leave?”. She very confidently assured me that she could. She stomped out of the room. I could hear her in the adjoining room arguing with the madam for some time. Sure enough, she returned with a fistful of cash: “Let’s go.” As we were leaving the madam glared at me. I gave her a sheepish look, as if to say “hey, it wasn’t my idea!”
She paid for a taxi to my place, and we holed up in my little room and began doing the coke I had gotten from The Twins. The conversation was minimal. We still didn’t touch. We listened to music and got high. I was fascinated by how odd she was. After a few hours the Twins’ coke was gone, and she wanted more. I was like “look, maybe we should call it a day.” I had been up for 2 days. The mood was turning. There’s a point while doing cocaine where, if you don’t have a down drug to equalize things, you sort of amble forward in this tense, teeth grinding state, and if you keep going, things just get weird. The girl insisted. I reached out to the dealers I knew and none of them were available. I explained to the girl that we could go to the bodegas in Alphabet City, but it wasn’t guaranteed that we would score.
Let me explain the drug bodegas to you: In the 1980s and early 90s, there was a network of Dominican and Puerto Rican “bodegas” on the lower east side that sold drugs. Some sold heroin, but mostly they sold cocaine. Very speedy, strange cocaine. You had to know which bodegas did this, and they had to KNOW YOU. They absolutely wouldn’t sell to just anyone. You had to be introduced by someone from the neighborhood. Periodically, law enforcement would put on some obligatory pressure, and one would temporarily close, and the action would move to a different one. Or if one wasn’t holding drugs, they might still be open, only to tell you where the spot that was holding was.
They were pretty obvious. They were dusty, and the shelves generally were not well stocked. The neighborhood people all knew what these delis were about, and they might go there for cigarettes or toilet paper, but most serious shoppers stayed away. It worked one of two ways: typically you would get a roll of Scott toilet tissue and bring it to the counter and say “20”, meaning “I want a $20 bag of cocaine”. The stoic, grizzled attendant would study you for a moment, take your money, and put the rolled up glassine envelope into the center of the roll of toilet paper, and into a paper bag. That was my technique anyway, inherited from whoever first took me into one of these places. The other more uncommon way was, you moved a box of detergent on a shelf somewhere in the back, and there was a hole in the wall: money in, drugs out. They always had a pallet of those little barrel shaped plastic bottles with the foil lid, filled with that god awful electric colored sugar fruit drink. They would tell you to take one of those and drink it on your way out so you didn’t look suspicious. Great plan.
On this particular day, as our taxi pulled up to Avenue C, we were stopped by a police barricade. I tried to tell the taxi to turn around, but the girl wasn’t having it. She waved a police officer over. “What’s going on?” she asked. The nice officer explained to the two of us, FLYING on cocaine, that they were doing a “sweep” of the block. This meant that they were checking all of the businesses for illicit activity. Now this meant that, even if you were the best customer the bodegas had ever had, you were NOT getting served. I tried to explain this to the girl. I tried to impart the truth to her that there was 100% no way that we were going to be able to buy drugs on this block. She didn’t want to hear it. I pleaded with her. I didn’t want to get into some fracas with this crazy girl and the police and end up in jail, coming down from a 2 day coke binge. Here’s what happened next: with absolutely no knowledge of the block or the bodegas, she got out of the cab and walked toward the police barricade. As she disappeared around the corner, I was sure that the next time I saw her she would be in handcuffs. I mean, she was a little nutty. I could imagine her walking from business to business just asking for cocaine. The cabbie seemed interested in what was going to happen as well. He gave me a little look and just pulled the car over. He had heard our conversation, and I think he probably knew what went on in this neighborhood. We sat there for what seemed like an hour. After what was probably 10 minutes in reality, I see the girl come around the corner, with her hands cupped together in front of her. She has a quick, friendly greeting with the officers at the corner, moves around the barricade and gets back to the cab. I’m looking at her, but her hands are full of something so she can’t open the door. I reach across and open it, and she gets in. She looks at me, and dramatically opens her hands and dumps 10 baggies of bodega cocaine onto the seat, a giant smile swallowing her face. I couldn’t believe it. “Wha… How…?” But she was already telling the taxi to take us back to my place. I have no idea how she did it.
The girl began taking a tone with me like we were together. Lots of “we” and strange future plans, etc… Day was passing into night, and we were still going. I was starting to experience a kind of frozen cocaine psychosis. Time would skip. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed from just then to just now. I noticed that the girl was starting to behave even more strangely. She began crouching or curling up in a fetal type position in the corner. It was silent. Every few minutes she would skitter over to where I was sitting and whisper things in my ear from behind me. Strange things: math equations, lines from nursery rhymes. The only thing specific I recall her saying was this: “I promise not to tell your father where you hid the mittens.” You can imagine how that landed on ears that were going on 3 days awake. It was, to say the least, unsettling.
But I didn’t know how to get rid of her. Suddenly, she stood up and said she wanted to go shopping. Shopping? I could barley walk. I was so coked out that my brain couldn’t tell my limbs how to work properly. I was grinding my teeth and I looked like a psychopath. She somehow convinced me to go out into the night with her and help her find a dress. We went to a little store on St. Marks that was open late and I sat there like a good boyfriend while she tried on dresses until she found one. On our way back to my apartment, we did some window shopping and I coveted some shirts in the window of a store that was closed.
Eventually we made it home. My body was demanding sleep. I laid down. The girl laid down next to me. She began caressing my head and I slipped into sleep. When I awoke, she was gone. No trace of her.
I never touched her.