PUNK: Lonesome American Memoirs

5: Shooting Up

The first time I ever shot up was an accident. I’d always been terribly afraid of needles. Not a little unsettled, but like scream and cry and completely freak-out scared of them. I remember it once taking two doctors, three nurses, and orderly and my mother to hold me down just to give me a tetnis shot after I gored my foot on a rusty nail. I would have gladly gored my foot several more times in exchange for that shot in my butt.

It was an uncharacteristically sunny afternoon in San Francisco. I was at the Mutant’s Lounge above the fun terminal. I’d spent the last three days at Damaged magazine’s “office” and messing around at Target Video trying to meet someone from Negative Trend, snorting black beauties, eating christmas trees and trying to get someone to buy me a milkshake from Whiz burger. If the truth be told, I think they only let me in because they were so gacked out they thought I was Johnny Patterson. On a dry, spring afternoon, I looked like the singer for No Alternative (one Mr. Hugh “Johnny Genocide” Patterson,) and on a wet shitty day, people thought I was Satz from the Lewd. Shows you how unique and interesting looking we were.

Anyway, after listening to my speeded out bullshit stories about the “King’s Row” and riding on the back of Sid’s motorcycle in London (“Where exactly in London?” “How the fuck should I know?”) Brad finally decided he had no idea who I was and didn’t want me around any more, so he said, “Are you going to the party at the Mutant’s?”

Being the know it all, can’t tell the truth little bastard I was I said “yeah…” as in Duh… Of course I am you dumb ass, isn’t everyone?

He chuckled. “Well you better get over there.” and asked me to bring a stack of the Magazine with me. Brad was the former editor of Search and Destroy, pretty much the punk rock magazine, and current publisher of ‘Damage’ Magazine, which looked even cooler, but nobody actually read. So grabbed my jacket and bounced down the stairs.

When I arrived at the fun terminal it kinda seemed like maybe nothing was going on. Fritzy was home, and there were some weird people in the kitchen, but otherwise there was no party. I spent a couple hours waiting around, still holding the magazines, getting picked on by these two regular looking women. They kept asking me if I liked boys or girls, and I kept asking her why she wanted to know… and they’d cheer and say “woooo….” in that we know you’re queer kinda way. And as much as I liked the attention, I was pretty confused about where I was at sexually at the time. So they kinda made me cry. And while I was humiliated, they thought I was adorable. Fritz told me not to listen to them, that it was “Bruze’s wife” and she was “a fugging lezzbian.” I laughed it up with them some more, wondering if they might have sex with me, being lesbians and all.

Eventually I went to the bathroom. The bathroom at the Mutant Lounge was kinda big, there was a toilet and sink on the opposite wall of the door, and an open shower stall against the wall as you walked in. The floor had been painted more than once and was chipped and black in the corners. I noticed this guy in an overcoat failing miserably at shooting himself up. Seemed like he’d had more than enough to me. But when he asked me to help him, I happily complied.

I set my magazines down on the toilet, and stepped into the shower. He showed my how to tie him off, and once I did, he was able to locate a vein, and inject most of what was in the rig into his arm. I thought it was pretty fucking cool to see that so close up. I waited around while he pulled himself together, and he actually gave me what was left in the syringe.

I asked him to show me how to do it, thoughtfully, but never asked him what was in it. He talked me through it. I removed my belt, and wrapped it around my arm. Held the end of it between my teeth, and effectively tied off.

He smiled and said “nice veins.”

To which I replied “Thanks.”

He explained about how I wanted to find a nice firm one on the side of my arm. And never shoot up into my forearm or my hands. I asked why not, and he explained that you get bruises, and you can miss. I didn’t ask what missing was, but I’d soon find out for myself.

So I poked the needle into my bulging vein, and registered the rig. When a little blood showed in the mixture, he said, “That’s it, you got it.” So I just pushed on the plunger with my thumb, and injected myself.

He got really excited and pulled the belt off my arm. He ran his fingers up and down the back of my head and made sucking noises asking me if I could “feel that?” or if I could “taste that?”

I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t taste anything. But I was fucked up almost instantly. It was very nice.

We spent about six hours together in the bathroom shooting up every half hour or forty-five minutes. Then some people started arriving and wanted to come in the bathroom with us. It seemed he’d found some more interesting companions who actually had some money, so I was left out of the fun after that.

I followed him around the apartment for a while, down to the fun terminal for a couple games of defender, and then he told me to “beat it.” So I went back upstairs.

The second time I shot up was during one of my weeks back at home, before I left for good. I’d met two girls from LA at the Mab and they needed a place to crash, so I told them that if they drove me back to my folks house I would let them crash there for the night. In the late seventies and early, early eighties, San Franciscans absolutely detested anyone or anything from LA. They were so healthy looking, and usually not really hardcore enough. Later on that jock-ish sort of surfer-esque thrasher punk would replace me completely as the icon of the genre. But for the time being I was doing these girls a big favor, putting my whole thing on the line.

We arrived at my house, and no one was home. I had some pills and my parents had some whiskey, we took the pills and drank the booze, and talked a little while. Then we crashed. In the morning I woke up and found the one girl, fresh out of the shower, shooting up in front of me. I smiled and asked if I could have some. She finished what she was doing and scolded me.

“There’s only enough for us.” She said sweetly.

But we had sex. And it was really very nice sex. She was really high, and I was really grateful. Girls from LA were like that back then. It’s completely different now.

After her friend came out of the shower and shot up, I hung around while they nodded and slept for a while. While they were sleeping I rifled their bags and scored a few hits of acid, a fresh rig, and a nice little baggie of smack. I went into the bathroom and shot up. I didn’t do it right. It burned, and I had a gnarly bruise on my arm for a week or so. But I kinda go off on it. And when they woke up, I tried to make it with the other one, but they laughed at me, and got in their car and split.

I wasn’t sorry that I stole their shit. But then again, I was still too young, and way too naive to understand what it meant to heist the best bit from a junkie girl’s kit.

Shooting up became an interesting game. It was a control trip really. You could play stupid, and let people fix you up, most junkies liked that, as if they were helping you, or teaching you something. Or you could hold the rigs, and use them to barter for drugs. Swiping a box of insulin rigs was easy to do, but somehow most of the junkies I met never had a clean outfit to wear, so they needed me for something. I could get high, just by holding the rigs. Or, with weekenders, you could score the dope, or whatever they wanted, cut it, and sort yourself out too. But knowing how to shoot up was a very useful skill.

Eventually, my welcome wore out. As it does. I would be allowed to wash out the baggies, or pick through the carpet for anything I could find. But no one in the city was sharing their stuff with me.

I’d made a few friends here and there who would sell me some if I needed to buy it, but it was better to find a squid or a squirrel that needed something and overspend their money to connect myself for a couple days. Since I was doing the cooking, they didn’t know any better.

Soon enough I had run completely out of resources. I moved my operations to Berkeley. Swiping rigs from Kress was a lot easier than Merrill’s. Those old ladies would follow me around the store, and I’d still walk out with a full box, and a handful of candy bars.

I got connected with a guy called Tony. I brought him customers for speed, and we’d get high when they were gone. Tweekers were fun because they’d come, cop, hit, and split. You could let them wait for a couple hours sometimes, and as long as you showed up with something they were very happy to see you. But you couldn’t cut speed with sugar or saccharine like you could dope. A tweeker is a lot less desperate, and knows when you stick funk in the shit. And a pissed off speed freak is a lot more trouble than a pissed off junkie. Plus, if you’re already straightened out there’s very little you can do.

Soon my associations started to go sour. I ploughed through groups of people. I didn’t really blame them for ditching me. I would steal from them, lie to them, hold out on them, and eventually I started getting suckered myself. So I’d talk big, and then turn up burned. Nothing.

Eventually I was living in the boarded up study room in the basement of Barrington Hall. I wouldn’t leave. I was just holed up in there with a guy in a Wheel Chair who had a steady supply of opiates. I’d shoot him up in exchange for a taste. By then I was slinging my leg over chairs and shooting the stuff into my leg. There was nothing left of my arms.

My arms got fried from hanging out with Joe K. He always had cocaine, and we liked to shoot cocaine. I really liked to mix any sort of opiate with cocaine in a syringe. That was pretty much the living end for me. Because after a while of shooting drugs, you more or less stop getting a rush. Unless you can get it together and kick now and then, it’s all about staying well. And when you’re well, you are not high. You are always a little sick. But following a coke dealer around everywhere until his mood changes and he turns on you is not the way to stay happy. So I sought out the SSI heads, and shot their drugs instead.

In the end I was in a doctor’s house, with Juliet H. He had a half of blow between us, and one old bent rig. I’d sharpened the rig on a matchbook, and we were pretty excited to shoot it. We spent all night trying to find a vein in either of our bodies. Over and over, sweating that sweet and sour stink that you get when you’re holding, and you’re about to fix. But nothing happened. In the end we just missed on each other, and drank whiskey instead. Six hours of swiss cheese, and neither one of us had a place to put it.

I kicked dope a couple of times, tried switching to speed, and whiskey, or just going straight. But I couldn’t drink any better than I could do anything else. I’d get way too drunk, way too fast, and end up somewhere throwing up all over someone I didn’t know. At first people are nice because you’re sick, or because you’re cool (at least they think you are,) or because you’re really very fucked up and they’ve still got some degree of conscience that just won’t let them leave you there like that. But after you steal enough people’s record collections, and any money laying around the charity has a way of drying up.

I was once invited to live in my friend Harald’s garage. It was questionable, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go. The people who lived in the house made it very clear that I was a scumbag, and that I could sleep in the garage, but I wasn’t welcome in the house. One night Harald and I went inside and listened to Joy Division and Pere Ubu records. It was nice to be inside. I washed my hands, drank some water, fixed my hair, and stole a ten-dollar bill that was sitting out on the counter.

The next day, the shit hit the fan. I woke up to the sound of dogs barking and the woman who owned the house screaming. Harald appeared in the doorway and asked me for the ten dollars. I asked what he was talking about.

He said “Did you steal ten dollars from inside the house last night?”

“No.” I blurted out harshly, and started to berate the girl who’s room we’d been in. Saying she was fat, and she didn’t like me, and what a bitch…

“Look,” Harald didn’t care about my emotional hang-ups; he just wanted to keep his garage. “Just tell me the truth, did you take anything from inside the house last night.”

“No.” I said, looking him right in the eyes.

He went back inside the house to defend me, and to talk things over a little more. I sat in the garage folding the ten-dollar bill over and over in my pocket.

A few minutes later they all came into the garage and essentially confronted me. They wanted to get a look at my face when I denied having stolen the money.

“Did you steal the money?”


“You fucking liar.”

“Did you or didn’t you? Just tell the fucking truth for once.”

“I didn’t steal shit from you.”

There was a slow conversation that followed, where the owner said she did not believe me, that she could tell I was lying, and I had to get out right then and there.

“Out” She said pointing at the door. “Get the fuck out of my house.”

“I don’t have anywhere else to go…”

“I don’t give a fuck what happens to you, god dammit, just get the fuck out of my house!” she screamed in her frighteningly loud voice.

So I grabbed my jacket and stood outside on the front walk for about half an hour listening to her scream and yell at Harald. Eventually Eileen’s boyfriend came out and said I could crash at his house. He was in his late 30’s and had pockmarks all over his face. He wasn’t really what I would have called a punk rocker, more of a heavy drinker. We walked to the bus stop, and I gave him the ten-dollar bill and asked him to buy me a fifth of whiskey and a pack of smokes. He did without questioning the money. We drank the fifth, and smoked some cigarettes, and rode out to Richmond to his parent’s house. I think he was supposed to kick my ass. Or maybe teach me some kind of lesson or something, but when we got there, all he did was shove me out the door and say “Get out of her kid, and don’t come around us anymore.”
So there I was, drunk, sick, broke, and nowhere to stay at four o’clock in the morning in Richmond, California. I took Bart in the morning, after bumming up some change, and went back to Berkeley. I found my friend in the wheelchair, and crashed at his place for a few days.

Eventually the owner of the record store I handed out dollar off coupons for let me sleep in the office of the shop. Eventually I managed to get a connection that would let me test shit out, and sell a little bit to keep me from getting too sick or desperate. A lot of people came in and out of that record store. Between the Quaaludes, the reds, the cocaine, the speed and the dope I managed to scrape together I was pretty well most of the time. Well enough to keep searching for veins in my arms and legs.

Well enough to introduce all my friends to needles. Well enough to make it look good.

Years later startlingly thin women would approach me in the street and ask if I was who they thought I was, and I would ask why… They would tell me they had AIDS and accuse me of killing them. Accused me of introducing them to a practice of shooting up which lead to their decline into drug addiction and inevitably AIDS. Twice that happened. But I know a lot of dead people. I lost track of my early trainers and teachers. So many people died in the eighties that I stopped keeping track. As I moved completely out of that world, and eventually got cleaned up for good, I got an HIV test every six months for about 5 years. Every time it came back negative, but I still felt guilty. I still feel guilty. As if there were some better reason that I’m alive, and healthy. I think it’s just plain old dumb punk rock luck.

When I got into the doctor’s office (when I go to the doctor) these days and they draw my blood for whatever reason, I am always a little excited by how they still use the same variety of rigs to draw blood. The orange cap comes off, and they tie off my arm with a piece of rubber tube. My veins still don’t do much, there’s a lot of scar tissue, and only a couple of useful places on my forearms to access my blood from. The nurse will always go for the big scar tissue, and I’ll advise “No, not there… ” Then they’ll move down to the mainline, and I’ll squirm a little and say “No, not there either.” At which point they’ll usually say, “Why don’t you show me where is good.” and I’ll point out a spot I think would work out fine. It usually does. But even when getting blood drawn, I still expect to get a taste of something in the back of my throat. I still expect to feel the hands of my anonymous friend all over my hair, down my back, and thoughtlessly slip into the front of my pants.

The Heartbreakers ‘Chinese Rocks’


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