PUNK: Lonesome American Memoirs

13. Guardian Angel

It was raining. I was heading home, sitting at the platform waiting for the Bart train to arrive. I was up in Rockridge, and had spend a few extra days away from home. It was one of those desperate calls where I begged to come home, and my mother said just come home. I sat there, thinking those things over that aren’t actually conscious thoughts.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” A pale-eyed blond man was suddenly sitting next to me. He looked like the guy who played hammer dulcimer on Telegraph Avenue every day. I loved that music. Some nights I would just sit with him and listen.

“Sure.” I said.

“Do I look familiar to you?”

“No.” I said. But he did. He fucking did. It was really creepy.

“Are you sure?”

“No.” Images of Gary Leroy, a babysitter of mine from when I was three or four began flowing through my head. All us kids painting each other in the Smith’s garage. Laughter, and hoses spraying in every direction. The smell of turpentine. That red, raw, rubbing sting of paint being removed from skin. Happy images. But I wasn’t going to ask this guy if he was Gary Leroy. No way.

“So I do look familiar to you?”

“Yeah, kinda. Who are you?”

“That’s not important. But I recognized you immediately.”

I felt really uncomfortable suddenly. Was this someone’s dad? Was this guy trying to pick me up?

“I’m not trying to pick you up.” The man looked down, as if the idea embarrassed him.

Woah. This was giving me the creeps, and I was looking for a way out of this.

“Have you got some time?”

“For what?”

“Just some time, maybe to miss a few trains and talk a while with me?”


This man spoke softly to me about how he was involved with a group of people who were interested in psychic powers. I laughed. He explained generally how he’d gotten interested in the connected between certain people, and why somehow we are inexplicably familiar we are to each other. How this was only true for some people, but not for everyone. This kind of talk went way over my head. I generally made fun of people who were interested in this kind of thing, and especially when they admitted it. This man was gentle. He was quiet and sincere. He seemed to believe that I was smarter than I was pretending to be. I liked that.

“Like how you meet someone, or just see someone and its like you’ve known them forever?”


“Are you Gary Leroy?”


“Never mind.”

I didn’t have any attention span for hippies, or religious people. I was guarded, and hateful. I was the guy who chased the Jehovah’s Witnesses down the street, sprayed Windex into the eyes of the Hari Krishnas, and who’s only interest in the Rajneesh, and the Utopian Classroom had been the possibility of sex, free food, and a place to take a shower. I had nothing but contempt for anyone who wanted to talk about God. How could there be a God? How lame.

Finally the clean up train was in front of us. That’s the absolute last train. So we got on together. When we got on the train he said that he sensed that I was very powerful, and I liked that. But that I was completely untrained, and I didn’t like that.

“So what, do you sell training?”

“No. I’m just a friend. I’d like to help you.”

“But who are these people you’re working with?”

“They’re just people interested in the same things. But I don’t think they would like you.”

“Why not?”

He paused and just looked at me. “Because I believe they would be threatened by you. Jealous of you.”

“Me? Why?”

“Just because sometimes people are like that. Have people taken kindly to you in your life?”

Me? Ha! No. No way.”

“That’s kinda what I mean.”

I didn’t understand.

“Would you like to try something right now?”

“I have to get off at the next stop.” I was back to thinking he wanted to have sex.

“Just close your eyes.”

I closed my eyes.

“Now open them.”

I opened my eyes, and he had placed his hand over his nose and mouth, so that between his hair and hands, all I could see were his eyes.

“Do I look familiar to you?”

“Yes. Yes, you do. Dude, what is this? Who are you?

“I was hoping that you would be able to tell me.”


We pulled into the station and the doors opened. We were just sitting there staring into each other’s eyes.

“I will see you again.” He said and smiled sadly.


“I just know.”

“See ya.”

I got off the train, and watched him through the window, collecting his things and straightening himself. The train pulled out of the station. I stood there on the platform for a long time thinking about how fucking creepy that was. Wondering, still, if that was Gary Leroy or not. That’d be so trippy if it was.

My life took a serious turn for the worse after that night. I stopped going back home. I ran out of space to fuck around. Lost a lot of friends. I got pretty strung out. Things were bad. My world was getting very small. And I was beginning to think that my world views about “us and them” really just meant me. To my mind, I was a prophet of rage, a black panther. A reminder to everyone that they sucked, that they had failed completely. Between talking to myself on street corners, and nodding in public bathrooms, I made it my mission to disrupt anything happy, or full of shit that I encountered, or came to find me. It was my self appointed pleasure to throw up on strangers, whup out my penis and pee on people who were trying to help me, throw things across rooms, and sucker punch people wherever possible. Just like that, for no reason. I would slug someone in the back of the head. And if they were still standing, I’d look around like that was fucked up, and where’d that guy go?

One afternoon two Cal swimmers were walking down the Ave. together talking. I knew they were swimmers because they had that greenish hair, plastered to their heads that only swimmers get, and don’t mind presenting to the world. They broke out into laughter. Convinced they were laughing at me, I walked up behind then and cracked the blonde guy over the head with a baseball bat. It dropped him. And his companion wheeled around and looked at me in complete shock.

“What did you do that for?”

“Fuck you ass hole!”


The cops came, and a few people who’d seem me do this gathered and were telling the story to police officer. I just resumed my post against the wall, rocking back and forth from one foot to the other. They were in another dimension, and it was possible they couldn’t even see me.

“Son, can you step over here a minute please?”


“Yes, you.”


The cop approached me, unthreatening, pad of paper out, pencil in hand.

“Can you tell me what happened?”

“How should I know?”

“You didn’t hit this man with that baseball bat?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Can you tell me why?”

“Because they were fucking laughing at me.”

The cop turned to the other swimmer and they talked. I could hear the dude saying “No, he just came up from behind us…” and “We didn’t do anything to him.” An EMT was asking the guy I’d hit some questions. He was sitting up now.

“You fucking jock liar!” I shouted. “You were fucking laughing at me, and you know it.”

They both looked up at me.

“And I know what’s gonna happen here. I know how it goes. You’re gonna fucking take his word for it because he’s a fucking jock faggot and you’re a fucking cop!

Somehow the swimmer’s word came into question. And for whatever reason, I really don’t know why, they dropped the whole thing and let me go. The cops stayed there a long time after the swimmers had left. I stood post. I wasn’t going anywhere. Eventually the police were done, and they rolled.

A few months later, maybe a year, I was going to see Black Flag at the Mab. Me and a bunch of punks were walking up from First and Mission, through the financial district. We were right around the Crocker building when the guy from the Bart station stepped out of the shadows and called my name. I didn’t remember right away, and just kept walking. But he followed me and kept calling my name.

Finally I stopped, turned around and looked at him and said “What?

“Hey.” He said, catching his breath. “What’s the hurry?”

“We’re going up to the Mab.”

“What’s that?”

“A club.”


“What do you want?” I remembered him now.

“You got a minute?”

Did I have a minute? Yeah, I had a minute. I was an impressive ninety-nine pounds. I was dope sick. I was so lonely and angry. I had a fucking minute.

“Sure. What do you want?”

“Hey, you don’t look so good. Are you ok?”

“I’m fine. What do you want?” I was postured like he wanted to fight me. But somewhere inside I was glad to see him. Relieved.
“Why don’t we go over to a place I know that’s open and get you something to eat?”


We walked a few blocks to a place in the Civic Center called Salmagundis, or Solomon Gundies? Something like that. We went in the back door, and my friend talked to someone about us being alone somewhere and just having some soup and coffee. The person led us down the stairs to a small room where we were alone at a table in the corner. There were mirrors at head level, slightly angled down. He sat with his back to the wall, and I was facing the mirrors. I really didn’t like seeing myself. I looked like shit. He ordered soup and bread, and water for both of us. We made small talk a little while. I told him how good everything was going. He just seemed to be looking at my mouth while I talked. He looked sad. Sorry for me.

The soup came. I ate mine, all the bread, and most of his soup while he talked about how things hadn’t worked out well with the people he told me about last time. How he had been trying some other things to help him explore consciousness. I wasn’t interested in him at all. I didn’t care. I was glad to be eating something warm. I was glad to be inside.

“Do you want to try something?”


“A thing I learned recently.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Just close your eyes and listen to me.”

I closed my eyes.

“Now relax. Take a deep breath.”

I did.

“Try to breathe deeply, and just listen to the sound of my voice. No matter what happens. Just try to relax and keep your eyes closed until I tell you to open them.”

Some of me thought something fucked up was going to go down. And another part of me thought that maybe he was going to give me some kind of present, and when I opened my eyes there would be money or something on the table. So I did what he said.

“First just try to clear your mind.”

Immediately my mind filled with clutter and noise.

“There’s a lot going on in there. It’s ok. Just imagine an arm, your arm, reaching in and removing everything. One by one, take everything out of your mind and put it into a little black box.”

I could see a black plastic box, and my own mechanical arm was carefully reaching into my mind and taking each thing in there physically out of my head, and dropping it into the box. Some things would come right back out of the box, and dance around in my head.

“Some things will slip out of the box. It’s ok. Just concentrate on your breathing, and take them out again. Everything that you place in the box will stay there. It’s safe in there.”

I did what he said.

“Soon you will need to put the arm into the box. And even the sound of my voice.”

I put the arm into the box, and the sound of his voice.

“Now close the box.”

The box was already closed. There wasn’t any opening. Things went into the top by passing through the wall, and they couldn’t get out. The box just hovered there in my mind’s eye.

“With each exhale of breath, allow the box to float away from you.”

Every time I inhaled, the black box would glow, and hover between my eyes. And with every exhale, the box would move away from me.

“As the box travels further and further away, you will feel more comfortable.”

The box moved out into space, and when it was no bigger than a star in the sky it just sorta flickered out. I felt like I was falling. Really falling. It scared the shit out of me, and I grabbed the chair.

“You are going to feel like you are falling.”

Damn. How did he know?

“But it’s ok. You are safe here. Whenever you are done falling, you can just stop.”

I fell a little while, and then came to an abrupt stop and swirled around like after a really good dive.

“Just rest here a while, listen to the sound of my voice, and breathe.”

I was sweating. The fall had really freaked me out. I thought of Muhixma Muhalia Mahoy. I remembered being scared of roller coasters as a kid. I was glad to be floating here, safe.

“Now imagine a bright blue sun. Visualize it. See it hovering over your head.”

I tried, and what happened was this; you know the lights you see when you close your eyes? Well, they kinda went all blue. I focused on them, and they got bigger. They were like suns in my mind’s eye. I watched them until they came together and made one sun.

He placed his hand softly on top of my head and said, “Now imagine an opening in your head, right on top. It’s full of yellow fire.”

When he touched my head, the skull melted away, and I could see a glowing yellow fire inside the hole.

“Now as you exhale, bring one of the blue suns into that hole.”

I exhaled, and the sun started to go in. I could feel it in my balls. I got scared and let the sub pop back out.

“Don’t struggle. Just accept them into the hole.”

I tried again. And the sun went in.

“Continue welcoming them into the hole. Take as many as you need.”

They were picking up speed now. I was bringing them into the fiery yellow hole, lots of them. They were cool, and soft. I felt wonderful.

“When you’ve had enough, you can open your eyes.”

I opened my eyes, and my friend was sitting across from me at the table with his hands over his nose and mouth. I could only see his eyes.

“Do I look familiar to you?”

“Yes.” I burst into tears. “Yes you do. Who are you? What is this?

“You don’t know?”


We sat there a long time in silence. The waiter came, my friend paid the check. I drank another glass of water.

“Look in the mirror.” He said.

I looked up into the mirror and was horrified. I didn’t see the gaunt, anemic and angry kid that I was avoiding looking at when we first sat down. What I saw was the stupid fucking fat kid that I had been before all of this punk rock bullshit began. It was me.

“What the fuck is this?” I sobbed. “Why are you doing this to me?”

He stood up and came around the table, lifted me to my feet. Here it comes. This is where he’s going to kiss me, or try to fuck me. He just hugged me. And I let him.

“It’s ok.” He whispered. “It’s ok.”

I pulled myself together, or rather, allowed myself to be pulled together. We got our stuff and headed out onto the street.

“I’ve got to catch a Bart train.” He said.

“How can I find you?” I asked.

“Find me?”

“How can I get a hold of you? Can I have your phone number?”

My friend smiled and said, “I’ll see you again.”


“You’ll know.”

“Thank you.” I said to him, and I meant it.

He laughed. “No, thank you.

I wandered around the Civic Center for a while. I didn’t feel like going to the Mab anymore. But there wasn’t anything else to do. I had nowhere else to go. So I walked up to Broadway and went into the club. Black Flag were great. Dez was singing for them now, and he kicked ass. They had so much energy. The bass player was funny, he looked like a chicken. Robo, the drummer was amazing. And the guitarist was just awesome. They were like a totally different band.

Things really changed after that night. Not for the better. Not at first. I hate to jump around like this and blow the whole story, but I bottomed out completely. I overdosed on heroin, and I died. I was hospitalized, and eventually released. I didn’t go home to my mom’s house. I stayed on the street. I felt that the people here were the only people I really had, and I needed to know if that was true.

Well, of course it wasn’t true. The people I’d shot heroin and speed with were not happy that I had gained a hundred pounds, and finished puberty. They were not pleased that I had kicked, and seemed to be feeling a lot better. But why would they? These were the people I had lied to, stolen from, fucked over, slept with, and slept with their girl friends, boyfriends, mothers, sisters, fathers and cousins. Just because I had survived and gotten clean wasn’t any kind of amnesty from the damage I’d done.

But I wanted it to be. Being clean wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Fat, curly hair, hair on my chest, a teal and black Hawaiian shirt, and converse hi tops were bad for my self-esteem. I stayed out on the sidewalk handing out dollar off coupons. I reclaimed my three-foot tall trailer to sleep in. But it was shitty.

One afternoon I was going to go home and visit my mother, stepfather and little sister. I was headed to the bus stop when I ran into a nurse I’d had a crush on when I was in the hospital. She was very fair skinned and had thick red hair. I was surprised to see that she was very pregnant.

“Hi” I said.

She looked at me curiously.

“It’s me.”

“Oh… Hello!” She smiled. But then she looked me up and down and frowned.

“You’re not sober.”

“Yeah I am.”

She shook her head and moved away from me. “No, no you’re not.”

I just stood there with my mouth open, arms outstretched as she boarded the bus.

“Yes I am!” I called.

She didn’t look back.

I just stood there wondering for a moment if I actually clean. Her flat out refusal to even engage with me, convinced I was strung out again, left me spinning. Yes, I was unhappy. Totally unhappy. But I was clean. Not actually clean, as in bathed and groomed. I didn’t have a bathroom; there was nowhere to take a shower. I was not enjoying being sober. But I was.

Another month passed very slowly. I gained even more weight and if I couldn’t stand the sight of myself before, I was having difficulty passing shop windows now. I would catch a glimpse of my bloated self and get angry. I wanted my friends back. I wanted to be handsome again. I wanted to belong somewhere. This was shitty.

I decided that I was not going to stay clean. That if clean meant lonely and fat, then I would rather be dead. I knew that Social Distortion and 45 Grave were playing at the On Broadway in a couple of days. So I spent them letting people know that I wanted to go, and finally found a group of people who would let me come along. I had to take the bus up to Wendy’s house, and I could go with them.

In the back of my mind the plan was to cop a bag and shoot it in the bathroom. Not to tell anyone. Just a taste, and I’d keep the rest to keep on tasting. Maybe someone in the group would want some speed, and I could use their money to get myself something. I was going to store it in a matchbook. I had it all worked out.

I got to the bus stop late. I had to be there now, and the fucking bus was going to take forever. I could have walked, but I didn’t like walking. I saw the bus at the stop down the street. It was just waiting there. I hated that, when the fucking bus driver would get off the bus and go to the bathroom, get a coffee, and have a smoke where you could see him. I had to fucking go man. Finally the bus arrived, it was packed with people. Many of them were wanting to get off the bus here. There was some clown in a wheelchair that needed to get off. The driver had to stop everyone from getting off the bus, undo the straps, let the wheelchair come forward to the platform, and turn on that Beep! Beep! Beep! While the elevator descended to the street. Finally the guy was down. He had his head all the way back, mouth open, a beard full of drool. Fucking retard. Then all the people had to get off the bus. A plume of people, Students, teachers, kids, all coming to Telegraph Avenue for a big Friday night.

I was pissing and moaning out loud about how long this was taking and how late I was going to be if they hadn’t already left without me, because they sure as shit weren’t going to wait for me, when our eyes connected. My friend, the man who had taught me about meditation and bought me soup. There he was, standing right in front of me.

He smiled sadly. “Hey.”


“How’s it going?”

He took a deep breath. “Not very well actually. Have you got time to miss a few busses and talk with me?”

“No, sorry I don’t.”

“I’m really late, I sorta have to go.”

“I understand.”


I got on the bus, and drove off. I shot speed and heroin that night. I raped a girl. Well, I pathetically masturbated all over a sleeping girl I had always been crazy about. While the nausea of opiates fought it out with the firing neurons of meth-amphetamines in my central nervous system I imagined that she was awake. I imagined that she loved me back, and would roll over at any moment to confess her deepest feelings of love and attraction for me. I imagined that she could no longer contain her passion inside for my swollen, disgusting and unwashed body. We would caress each other well into the day, and eventually be married. She was the one for me. “I love you,” I whispered as I released myself onto her back, and then finally fell asleep with my head resting on her shoulder.

I don’t remember the concert. But I remember this girl telling everyone what I’d done in the kitchen the next morning. I remember the sour; hate filled faces of a kitchen full of people I had fucked over one too many times. I remember grabbing my jacket and getting the fuck out of there.

I remember my friend’s face as the bus pulled out. He was grey around the edges, and very sad. He had been there for me when I needed him the most. And all he asked in return was that I miss a bus or two and talk a while with him. But I was in a hurry. I was in a big hurry to take a shit on the last people who would ever make an exception for me. People who had looked up to me. People who thought I was so cool. I tried to be cool. I wished I was.

I spent years looking into the faces of dishwater blond haired men with ruddy faces and pale blue eyes. I was searching the faces of men for my guardian angel.

Table of contents
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24
Musicology, Errata