Excerpts from GET OFF:
"I was a rising star on the NYC jazz scene, but ever since getting back from the European tour with Hampton I couldn’t stop thinking about heroin…to the point of obsession. I had run through just about every drug imaginable, systematically and to the point of excess, and had come to the end of the line. I chain smoked cigarettes, smoked pot from morning ‘til night, drank most nights, and did coke with regularity, but it never affected my work; it was my normal waking state and I functioned at a high level. But none of it was enough to quell the self-loathing and guilt of living a double life as a faggot. Also, I constantly felt like I was faker, and that it was just a matter of time before my bullshit would finally fail me and I’d be found out. I was booking and running one of the top jazz clubs in the world, and I didn’t own a jazz record. I was managing people and I was barely an adult myself. And though at some point I realized it couldn’t all be bullshit, and that I had a talent, I was still fearful I’d be exposed as a fraud. I was constantly having people compliment me, and remark about my age, and kiss my ass, and that only made me feel like more of a piece of shit inside. No drug or drink could stop that feeling; it just made the feeling easier to live with. But with all the drugs I’d done, and all the dealers I'd hung around with, I’d never tried heroin, and I started to think of it as the missing piece of my drug puzzle, and that doing it might be like finding a cure for a terminal disease after every treatment option had been tried."
"My grandfather died from a long illness around that time. My parents and sisters were spread around the globe, so it was left to me and my cousin Corrine to start making the arrangements. I stood over the body of my mother’s father, and I realized I had never known him, or even had an adult conversation with him. He had dementia and had checked out long ago. His was the first dead body I had ever seen, and I felt nothing, other than the desire to get high. I shot some dope in the bathroom of the funeral home, and thought how convenient it would be if I OD’d there. I wondered if people ever committed suicide inside the funeral home to streamline the process.
Corrinne was much older than me, and she and my grandmother were inseparable. Corrinne’s parents had died in a murder/suicide when they were elderly and infirm and crazy; it was a real scandal in our family. Corrinne said the funeral director was salivating when she walked in with two dead parents to bury, but Corrinne was so disgusted by what her parents had done that she bought the cheapest pine boxes possible and threw them in the ground. The funeral director was crushed, and the family was confused, but if her parents didn’t care then Corrinne didn’t care. Corrinne said she wanted to be buried at sea so the fish would eat her and swim her to the four corners of the world. My father said he wanted to be put in a Hefty bag and left on the curb on Thursday night. I was already a ghost so it didn’t matter to me. What did matter was not ending up on a slab in a funeral home one day with a fucked up grandson standing over me who had no idea who I was."
"I grew up on rock and roll with my two older sisters, and always loved it, especially the Beatles and The Who. I remember listening to “Hey Jude” over and over, watching the spinning apple logo on the 45. My parents were into Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Judy Garland et al, and I’d grown up listening to them; and I was into musicals, so my tastes were pretty eclectic. But when puberty and sex combined with drugs and rock & roll, I was off to the races. Though I’d listened to the Stones and The Who all my life, now I really got it, and it changed my world. The Stones had been arrested early in their career for public urination, and their defense was that they could piss anywhere they wanted. Fuckin’ right, man. I covered the walls of my bedroom with Stones posters and articles, studied song lyrics, and made a commitment to maintaining the “we piss anywhere” attitude. Rock & roll made me want to get high, drive fast, and fuck, and I took it all as dogma. While my classmates went out on dates on Saturday night, or hung out at the teen center, I was dropping acid in a parking lot listening to Jethro Tull from a car stereo with the small group of miscreants and misfits I called my friends. When the Ramones and the Sex Pistols hit the scene I went into orbit.
My parents had seen me go from a kid who had varied interests to a drug-crazed teenager, and since my sisters had gone through this before me, they weren’t that concerned at first. But by the end of my senior year I was going bonkers, and constantly felt tired and jangly and wired. I loved the action and danger, and had become as addicted to that as to the drugs. Shit like the girl in the police car, or jumping out of a moving car going backwards, only served to confirm what I already knew: that life would be just one series of weird, fucked up circumstances after another, and that I had started on a path that would keep narrowing until there was no exit. It was like I was pre-destined to be a character in a movie of my life, and despite finding the movie engaging and entertaining, deep down I was terrified and felt dead inside and wanted out.