Tag Archives: New York

The residue

Okay, here’s the difference between now and the other two times I’ve used since getting clean: this didn’t happen in the course of some short out-of-town project. Those times, I finished what i was doing and then had to leave town to get back to my regular life. This time, it happened in the course of my regular life. I don’t have anywhere to run to, I still have things to do here in NY, there’s nothing pulling me “back” to anywhere else. The fact that it’s really easy to cop dope here doesn’t help. I thought I’d be able to bounce out of the hospital with a smile on my face and a “well that’s over – what’s next?!” attitude. And I did feel that way for a minute. But the residue of this shit is sticking with me and won’t leave me alone. And I feel alone. And I wanna use. I kinda really wanna use. And I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way.

And it’s not like I think it’s gonna be fun or that it’ll even be okay. I know it’s all bad, I know it’s all downhill but I still can’t shake the feeling. I’ve already had the thought of “well, if I’m gonna use, I might as well OD intentionally this time (and without anybody else around to call 911). ‘Cause I don’t like feeling like I wanna use. And even though I know this shit’s temporary – that I’ve lived without this feeling for the better part of three years now – the present bias is strong in me. And for all the positivity and optimism that comes with my current brand of nihilism, my personal philosophy doesn’t include any great reasons to continue living unless I’m enjoying it. And I am (I guess) – for the most part – up until moments like this.

I don’t fucking know. I’m not saying I wanna kill myself. I’m definitely not saying I need to go back into treatment. I’m sure this shit will pass in another day or two. I just… my head’s just all fucked up right now and I’m not enjoying it. I’m probably making it out to sound worse than it is.

Don’t move in with a girl you’ve never met

“Joy” is a fake name. Sometimes I have to use fake names.

Incoming Facebook message (May 27th) from Joy: I haven’t spoken to you since high school. I used to think you were just the coolest.
Sam: I don’t recognize you but you’re pretty cute so I sure wish I did!
Joy: I remember you from some parties… AND MYSPACE.

And so it began. She told me she was a model and an acrobat. Asked for my phone number so she could text me some photos. I happily obliged because I’m an incorrigible flirt. We started texting back and forth pretty frequently. She told me she liked my blog, complimented it as “raw,” “honest,” and “brave.” We talked about potentially meeting in person one day, we talked about having sex, she sent me a lot of really suggestive texts, I responded in kind to a degree but not like I would with a lot of other girls because she had already told me that she wasn’t into the kind of rough sex stuff that I am. After about a week though, I started texting less. I wasn’t going to be seeing this girl in real life anytime soon and I had – you know – a life to live in the meantime. I can’t be wrapped up in all day text message conversations all the time.

After a couple days of not much interaction (about two weeks after we first started talking) I hit her up. “Does it even matter?” she said, “You hate me.” That was my first red flag. I wasn’t texting her as often and her interpretation of that was that I hated her?? The next day, she apologized and started texting me more often. My responses were far less frequent and far less detailed than before but I kept the conversation going.

Toward the end of June, she told me that she might have an opportunity to stay for free in a really nice apartment in Manhattan – for two months – as a house/catsitter. A few days later, she sent me a long message:

I think you should come stay with me and sell your art here. No rent. No parking fees. A warm bed in a plush place. If it goes well, you can stay as long as I stay. Maybe you’ll make really good money. Hustle to get in some galleries. […] You help out so many people… And so many people have helped ME out… I wanna help someone. And you’ve been on my mind the last few days.

“That sounds amazing,” I told her. I had been wanting to get out to New York, to meet with galleries for a long time. But the city is so big and the art scene is so big that the prospect was a little overwhelming. Having a place to stay, a place where I could feel welcome and not like an imposition – that made it a lot easier. This was going to be an outstanding opportunity.

But I was just a little hesitant. I thought it was strange that – despite growing up in the same city – we didn’t seem to have any mutual friends. I asked some of my friends about her and their responses weren’t exactly comforting. She was – as I was told – not an easy person to get along with. (And that’s putting it lightly). Going to New York, to stay with her, would be a little bit of a risk. But when I got the go ahead from the court to leave the state of Illinois, I was too excited to not take her up on the offer. It’s not like I had any other city I needed to be in at the time; my next exhibit was in Seattle and I wouldn’t need to be out there until October.

I started driving to New York but along the way, I got a phone call. It was her and she was crying. “I’m having a panic attack,” she told me. I asked her what was wrong, what was happening. She said that she felt trapped in the apartment but felt like she couldn’t go outside either. She was anxious and uncomfortable and nothing was wrong but everything was wrong. I did my best to talk her down from the ledge. She regained her composure and said she was going to go out to the fruit stand across the street. We hung up. Fuck, I thought. This doesn’t exactly bode well.

The night that I got there, she said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to have sex yet. I said okay but that night in bed, while I was falling asleep, she started to fool around with me and we wound up having sex after all. I was really gentle, really vanilla, really boring. We had talked about what I was into, she had said she wasn’t sure she could handle it, and I had told her that that was fine. That we could do whatever she was comfortable with and maybe slowly try to incorporate some more dominant/submissive stuff and see how she liked it. That’s kind of how it always goes whenever I have sex with someone the first time. Unless they explicitly tell me “yeah – I want you to do this, I want you to do that,” I’m not gonna chance it. So I played it cool and just had regular-people-sex with her. When I was just about done though, I whispered in her ear, “I’m gonna cum on your face.” “Do you want to?” she asked. “Yeah.” She said okay. So I pulled out and I came on her face.

And she immediately started crying.


I gave it some time. I didn’t wanna upset her any more than she already was. I didn’t wanna make her feel bad. But, eventually, I had to tell her, “If you’re not comfortable with something, you’ve gotta tell me.” “Well, it’s just that no one’s ever done that to me before,” she said. “Okay, well, that doesn’t really change anything. I don’t wanna do anything that’s gonna upset you. You had even told me before I got here that I could cum on your face so long as I ‘was sweet afterward and cleaned you up with a warm cloth.’” “I know,” she said, “I’m just… I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

We had already broached the topic of “what if we’re not sexually compatible” before I even got to New York but it quickly became a regular topic of conversation once I was there. “It’s not a big deal,” I’d tell her. “We don’t have to have sex. We can just be friends that don’t have sex.” Her response: “I know but I wanna make you happy. If that’s what you’re into then I wanna do those things.”

This was awful, terrible news. I told her that I was already happy and that – even if I weren’t – she couldn’t make me happy. And what’s more: if she wasn’t into [whichever kind of sex act] then I wasn’t gonna wanna do that with her. I’m into violent shit and I’m not gonna do that kind of stuff with a girl who isn’t enjoying it just because she wants me to enjoy it. That might technically be consensual but it still sounds like abuse to me and it definitely doesn’t sound fun.

We tried to fuck a few more times over the course of the next week, sometimes with better results than others but it didn’t feel natural or right or good. And there was other stuff going on too. By my third night in town, she had told me that she loved me – and that she was in love with me. “You don’t know me well enough to be in love with me,” I told her. “You’re in love with some idea of me that you got from my art and my writing. You hardly know me as an actual person.”

But even that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst was her mood swings. One minute she’d be perfectly fine, the next she’d be having an anxiety attack about a delivery coming to the apartment or a scheduled meeting with a photographer. I’d do my best to soothe her nerves, calm her down, and everything would be okay. I could handle those mood swings. The ones I couldn’t handle were the temper tantrums. In an instant, she’d FLIP THE FUCK OUT over some insignificant little thing that – more often than not – had nothing to do with me. One morning she woke me up, SCREAMING at me. Holy shit, I thought – what is happening?


The glass she was holding, she had picked up from the counter by the window where she smoked cigarettes (I had smoked all of mine out on the fire escape the night before). I walked over. “These are all Pall Mall Blues with the exception of one Camel Menthol that you bummed from me last night. I don’t smoke non-menthol cigarettes; these are all your cigarettes. I didn’t use that glass as an ashtray; you did. Why are you screaming at me?”

After episodes like that one, she’d eventually calm down, apologize, become sweet and affectionate once more. But it was too much. It was more than I could handle. And it was every day. Several times a day. I told her that I could continue to stay there if we could just be friends. No more kissing, no more touching, definitely no more fucking or physical intimacy – and I’d be sleeping on the couch instead of in bed with her. She said she wasn’t sure if she could do that. That she was in love with me and that it would be too hard. I assured her that not only did she not know me well enough to be in love with me but that people don’t treat the people that they love the way that she was treating me. This was seriously fucked and it was seriously not okay. I left but she invited me to come back later that night and I did, to sleep on the couch. She woke me up in the morning, yelling at me again. I told her that it was totally over. That we could still be friends but that it wasn’t a good idea for me to stay in the apartment at all. I told her that she could call me anytime – if she was freaking out, having a panic attack, if she needed a friend. But that that was all that I could be to her: a friend.

A few days after I left, there was one night when I needed a shower and I was in her neighborhood. I didn’t wanna go all the way out to Brooklyn just to shower and then have to come back out to Manhattan. I offered her five bucks for the use of the shower. She asked me to just pick up some toilet paper on my way over. Deal. I stopped at the store, went to the apartment, and took a shower. Before I left, she offered me some leftover pizza. We hung out and talked as it heated up. Everything was okay, we got along fine. After I finished eating, I gave her a hug and said goodbye. She texted me later and said that if I wanted, I could come back that night and stay on the couch. I told her it was nice to see her but that we’d better not push our luck.

About a week later, she called me and invited me over. I took a shower and – again – she offered to let me stay over. This time I took her up on the invitation but told her I’d need to move my van (to somewhere it could be legally parked overnight). After I moved it, I went back upstairs and told her, “I’m gonna go downstairs to the deli and get something to eat. Would you like anything?” This was not acceptable. She got really mad at me. Told me that if I was going to stay, then I needed to just stay. She yelled at me for leaving to go move my van and for not having gone to the deli (which is literally underneath the apartment) before I came back upstairs. She called me “gross and manipulative.” She told me that I’m a bad person.

So… that’s about enough of that. I left and I blocked her number. The convenience of a place to shower or sleep isn’t worth the way that this girl treated me. I was in one shitty relationship before and this time I wasn’t even dating the girl. I barely fucking know her. I understand now why none of my friends from Sarasota had nice things to say about her. I understand now why (as she herself told me) she’s never had a “boyfriend.” I feel for her because she’s clearly lost and in a lot of pain but I’m not gonna be her fucking pincushion.

Is New York more difficult without having the apartment as a base of operations? Yeah – absolutely. But if I really need a place to sleep (an air-conditioned place to sleep) I’ve always got my friends in Brooklyn and Queens, I’ve always got Tinder, and I’ve always got the option to just sleep in the van. It’s been about two weeks now since I stayed with Joy (and a few days since that last time I went over) and I’ve been doing just fine. I’ve started hitting up some of the galleries around the city; I’ve set up my table out on the street a few times and made a little bit of money; and I’ve gotten to see a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in a long time (and gotten to make some new ones). Now, when I need to do work on the computer during the day (like writing this blog post), I just stop in at some coffee shop and buy a fucking lemonade and take a seat. It’s not so bad. Some of these places even have bathrooms.


My first day in the city, my little brother was passing through New York with his girlfriend, Valerie. Since both of my sisters live here in the city, we all met up. It's probably one of just three times that the four of us have all been together in the last five years.
My first day in the city, my little brother was passing through New York with his girlfriend, Valerie. Since both of my sisters live here in the city, we all met up. It’s probably one of just three times that the four of us have all been together in the last five years.

Arrested with Dear Landlord (Song Stories #2)

Update (10/17/13, 2:31 AM): Originally written over the course of two days (and published in two parts), I spent the last two hours rewriting it and the whole thing is now here, in this entry.


Song: “Goodbye to Oakland” by Dear Landlord
Time: July 2010
Place: Brooklyn, NY


Between semesters at Georgetown Law, you took an internship. It wasn’t required but it wasn’t a question either; it’s just what was done. I was about to wrap my first year when I got called into the advisor’s office—“Where will you be interning this summer?”


“With Rational Anthem,” The way I said it probably sounded as much like a question as an answer. She looked confused.

I’m tempted to lie and say that I followed up with the bluntest, least-responsible sounding version of the truth, but I sort of spun it to sound like they were more than my friends’ punk band and that this was something that’d benefit me in my career as an entertainment or intellectual property lawyer. If I were smarter, I’d have actually done an internship that summer. I might have a totally different life today.


The following summer, I did take an internship. My dad’s dad is a lawyer and he took an interest in me when he heard I was going to law school (and an ever bigger interest when he found out it was Georgetown). He was the one that set this up for me. It was at a firm in Manhattan where my uncle or cousin (someone I didn’t know in any case) was a partner. (I don’t know my family). Following two consecutive summers of psychotic episodes and temper tantrums, it had already been decided that I’d no longer be touring with Rational Anthem. So I figured what the hell—I’d go be semi-responsible in New York for the summer.

Well, not quite “the summer.” Though that’s what was expected of me, I had a glut of releases coming out on Traffic Street in June and I understand how “priorities” work. And I wasn’t gonna stay through August ‘cause I wanted to make my way back to DC by way of a week on tour with New Creases, joining up when they came through New York at the end of July. Three months, one month—what’s the difference?

Midway in, Vacation came to town. I didn’t know them and I hadn’t gotten around to their demo but they were a new band and I figured they’d appreciate someone actually coming to see them. I called a mutual friend, got a phone number, and called to make plans to meet when I got out of work. Their show was at Tommy’s Tavern, but someone fucked up. Two promoters had booked shows that night and one of them had merged his show with another bill from down the street. There were fourteen bands slated to play. Did I mention that this was a Wednesday night?

Evan, Peyton, Jerry, and I sat in the parking lot all night and got to know each other while we waited for their chance to play. At 4 AM, they finally went on and the minute they finished, I helped them load out and hightailed it to my sister’s apartment in Bedstuy to get an hour’s sleep before I had to wake up for work.

I don’t nap so when I went to Lost + Found for the Sandworms show that night, I was still operating off virtually no sleep. It wrapped up around 1 AM and I got on the train. Maintenance or [who knows what] had me sitting in the car motionless for long enough to doze off.

“Hey. You. Wake up.

I opened my eyes. Two cops were standing over me.


“You can’t sleep on the train.”

I looked up at the sign; Bedford-Nostrand: only a few blocks from my sister’s.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m exhausted but this is actually my stop anyway.” I got up to leave.

“Hold on there. You were across two seats. It’s illegal to occupy more than one seat. Other people need to sit too.”

I looked around the train. It was just the three of us—not another person in sight. “You’re messing with me, right?” I smiled my best respectful, non-mocking smile.

“You think it’s okay to be a seathog?”

He was clearly fucking with me. Was I supposed to laugh at the joke? I apologized again, tried to explain: up early for work, visiting with outta-town friends, overtired, standstill train delays. No dice. He was having too much fun to let it end. Gleefully redundant, he continued his lecture on the harms of being a “seathog.” They let off the train, but not out of the station. I asked, directly, if I could go home, he asked if I had any warrants and I told him that I didn’t. “Are you sure?” “Yes, absolutely. No warrants.” “Okay, we’ll run your ID and if that’s true, you can go.” I handed it over, set my bag down, and held myself upright against a support column, waiting for my cue to exit. I’d have to be back at the firm in a few hours; I just wanted to sleep.

“What’s this here?” he asked. “Two years outstanding…”

I rolled my eyes smiling, pretending to think he was as funny as he did. “Come on. Don’t mess with me.”

Sarcasm left his face and he assured me it was no joke. The lightbulb went off in my head.


I absolutely had a fucking warrant. One that I had legitimately fucking forgot about.

“Put your hands behind your back” and the cuffs came out. I was going to fucking jail. And that wasn’t all.  It’d only be a matter of time before…

“What’s in the backpack?”

“Clothes. Books,” I told them. The first thing they pulled out was a brown paper bag. They asked what it was before they unfurled the top. I put on my confused/trying-to-remember face: “I don’t know…” Inside, they found syringes, cookers, cottons—all the usual paraphernalia. “Recognize it now?”


“How’d it get in your bag then?”

“I don’t know. I had it stashed in a closet in the bar so I wouldn’t have to carry it around earlier.” (Which was true; I do that).

“You’re saying someone put this in your bag?”

“No. I’m just saying I’ve never seen it before.”

The search went on. I was beyond fucked. “What are these?”

“Stickers,” I told them, “For my record label.” Who cares? Let’s just get this over with.

The more obnoxious cop’s attitude suddenly changed just a little bit. He cared. He was curious; he thought it was cool. “You know who my favorite Florida band is?” he asked. [I lived in DC but still carried a Florida ID]. Ugh… I can only imagine. Are Nickelback from Florida? Puddle of Mudd? Fuel?  I had no idea. What kind of awful shit does a cop beat his kids to?

“I don’t know – who?”

Kids Like Us.”

Ho-ly shit. I laughed. What are the odds?

It’s 2010 and I have no idea who’s in Kids Like Us or if they’re even a band anymore but (back in 2003) their guitarist would come down to hang out in Sarasota pretty often. We were friends insofar as you’re friends with anyone that you hang out with a few times and get along with well enough. We weren’t close but [you get it]. Could this work to my advantage? I lied and said that the whole band were great friends of mine and started talking out my ass about our friendship. Now, he didn’t set me free at this point but his search of my bag got more perfunctory and then ended abruptly, before he had so much as glanced at half the stuff in there. I might be okay…


At the station, he asked if I wanted my property checked into inventory or picked up by someone. I’d need my sister’s number, and I didn’t know it. “Can you get it from my phone?”

Flipping through contacts, he stopped: “You’ve got Andrew W.K.’s phone number?”

I smiled and shrugged in that I’m the coolest motherfucker on the planet kinda way.

Granted, that number for Andrew W.K.: it was public information, available to anyone with an internet connection. It was only in my phone ’cause Hembrough put it there. I’m not cool and I’m not a big deal. I run my record label out of the same little apartment that I live in and I don’t know anybody.

But this cop didn’t need to know that.

My sister came for the backpack and its undiscovered contents remained undiscovered.

And all was right with the world.


From my cell, I saw that my brown paper bag of NEEDLES ETC hadn’t left the station with my backpack. “What am I looking at?” I asked. “For the warrant,” he said, “time served probably.” “How about the other stuff?” He threw the bag in the trash. “What other stuff?”

! ! ! ]


It was time to get transferred. Central Booking for Brooklyn. Before they handed me over, my “arresting officers” had some words of wisdom: “That shit will ruin your life. Stop before it’s too late.” I nodded with a solemn yeah, I’ll think about it face.

(I wasn’t gonna think about it).


Back at the station before my backpack left, I had asked for a book out of it: a worn-to-shit copy of Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. When I got passed along to Booking, I asked if I could hold on to it. “They’ll take it when they find it, but sure.” Shockingly, I made it through processing with the book stuffed down the back of my pants. Stuffed into a cell with three times as many people as it was probably meant to hold, I had no choice but to stand still. There were benches along the wall, but already packed with bodies. Those of us that stood couldn’t even move around: it was packed like a Tokyo subway car. And, if there had been room to sit on the floor, it still wouldn’t have been a great option. The toilet – still filled to the brim with urine – had spilled its contents across half of the cell.

It’s 6 AM and I’m tired, hungry, and stuck shoulder-to-shoulder in a literal piss pen. But I had my fucking book. I took it out and stood, just reading for hours, the pages inches from my face because I didn’t have room to hold it in front of me. It was shitty but I was glad to have it. When I finished the last page, I paused … and then I started again.

What the fuck else was I gonna do?

I just had to be patient. I’d be outta here in no time. Right?

About twelve more hours in, we were chained-ganged up and transferred to a bigger room. There was enough space to sit against a wall without sitting in pee. (Well – without sitting in a puddle of it anyway). I sat, read my book and ate shitty apples. They were warm and mealy but they beat the fuck out of my other options. I was glad to have ‘em.

From here, they’d call a name—if it was yours, you’d go before a judge who’d determine whether you were released or sent to Riker’s Island to wait for your next hearing. But this was a Monday through Friday operation and today was Friday. (The judge didn’t see anyone over the weekend). Hearings went ’til midnight and if your name didn’t come up before then, you got a trip to Riker’s for the weekend by default. Around 8, nearly all my old pals from the piss pen had been called up to see the judge and a new group of twenty or thirty had come in to replace them. By 10, nearly all those guys had been called away and the room had been filled again. What the fuck is going on? Why haven’t they called my fucking name?

I didn’t want to go to Riker’s Island for the weekend. That didn’t sound like fun.

11:45 PM: my window of opportunity for release was down to fifteen minutes. Basically, I was fucked. But then I heard my name. It was glorious. The door was unlocked and I could hardly contain or my excitement. Led into the courtroom though, I found myself seated in line behind six or seven others. Still, I had to be in the clear…

I looked to the guard beside me: “Everyone that’s already in here will get to see the judge tonight, right?”

“Not necessarily.”

I will kill everyone.


As it turned out, I didn’t have to kill everyone. The judge called my name and I stood up. She asked a few questions, read some bullshit off a paper, and ruled on my case. The gist: “Don’t catch any new charges in New York for six months and you’re good. No additional penalties or fines.”

Out on the empty street, I actually jumped in the air, cried out in joy, and ran all the way to the train station. (I probably fucking skipped). I don’t know if I’d ever been happier in all of my life. Just to be out of there – it was amazing. I’d never felt better.


While in New York, I was floating so as to not wear out my welcome anyplace. My pre-arrest plan for the day was to relocate – from my sister’s apartment in Bedstuy to Chadd, Grath, and Toni’s in Elmhurst. The train I got on wasn’t taking me to either though – because my Friday plan had also included seeing my favorite band from back home; Dead Mechanical were in town and playing at Tommy’s Tavern (where my whole stupid sleep-deprived adventure had began two days prior)! I knew I had probably missed the show but so long as everyone was still kicking around, that was good enough for me. It took everything I had to not fall asleep on that train as I rode back out to Greenpoint but the adrenaline and serotonin pulled me through. I thought about the last thing I had done before I got arrested: my goodbyes outside the Sandworms show. When I walked up to Tommy’s that night, I found the exact same group standing out front (along with Matt, Dan, and Lucas). I couldn’t have been happier to see everyone.

” Who can guess what I’ve been up to since we parted last night?”

I told my tale and we laughed and joked and it was fun. And even though I missed their set, it was cool just to see Dead Mechanical in a different city [outside their natural environment!]

Around 2AM, everyone packed up and I headed for Bedstuy to collect my things. …And totally fell asleep on the train…

I woke up scared as shit, shaking and knocking myself into consciousness. When I got into my sister’s she was mad and mean as shit about having been called down to the station in the middle of the night.

“Sorry! Gotta go!”

I grabbed my stuff and turned around for Elmhurst. …And totally fell asleep on the train.

Live to fight another day…

[the end].


Obviously, there’s one lyric in particular that’s affixed “Goodbye” to this memory with concrete, but how am I gonna throw that up here without “Park Bench” when the two are so intertwined on the album (and “Park Bench” is so strikingly appropriate/relevant for a story like this)? It’d be criminal!

Start the video at 0:22.

you were swaying on your feet, trying to light a smoke
waiting on a bus, you got nowhere to go
you were sleeping in the park in a dirty sweatpants suit
the cops woke you up, now you gotta move

walking around wearing a motorcycle helmet
up and down the same streets you walked yesterday
wild irish rose can make a mean world almost decent
it’s an illusion handcuffs quickly take away
there ain’t enough room in this city for a guy who
wants to drink himself to sleep under the stars
there will always be some shit bag to remind you
right where you are, right where you are.

I got two dollars and fifty-one cents
eighteen matches, a lighter, two pens
and a beat up copy of Cannery Row
five hundred miles left to go

everywhere I go I’m looking down
watching my old tennis shoes as they’re wearing out
walking off these homesick blues
I may be drunk and lost but I’m not confused and
I know where this train is slowly going
north through K-Falls then on to Portland
I know I’m fucked up, it’s stupid hoping
you’ll answer phone calls, goodbye to Oakland



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