Memories from Albuquerque

Between the ages of ten and thirteen, my parents forced me to take piano lessons. I hated it. It was a constant battle to get me to go, to practice, and to have a good attitude about it. They told me they would give me a thousand dollars if I made it to adulthood still resenting my musical training. They were right; I’ve always benefited from what little piano I still remember. But shortsightedness is the hallmark of youth – especially my youth.

Every week I split and hour-long piano lesson with my sister: she would play with the teacher for the first half while I studied music theory on a computer in the other room. We would switch at the half hour. During my music theory sessions, I would excuse myself to the restroom where I would masturbate for twenty five minutes. I would return just in time to log off the computer and switch to the piano.

I’m sure if they knew, my parents would regret the time and money they wasted sending their son to masturbate in a stranger’s bathroom. It’s a pity.

Dan and I bought a pack of party poppers from the grocery store. These quickly became boring; they didn’t explode with enough force to be fun. We popped a few at each other stomped on a few more. Not the thrill we were looking for.

We decided they would be better if we lit them like a firecracker. They had a string, so we burned off a couple trying to light them like a fuse. We figured the best way to get them to explode was to melt through the plastic.

I gripped a party popper by the stem and we held our lighters up to it. Soon it was sizzling and melting. In a flash it exploded directly in my face, covering my cheeks, neck and arms in bits of molten plastic. I ran screaming into the yard as if chased by a swarm of imaginary bees.

The hot plastic caused the skin to blister wherever it landed, and adhered to the wound. We spent the next hour picking it off my flesh leaving dozens of tiny scabs across my body.  I still have many of what look like chicken pox scars across my shoulders.

Dan and I used to roam the neighborhood with his BB gun, looking for targets. As we walked up the ditch one day, Dan took aim at a glass bird feeder in someone’s back yard. He shot straight through it blowing it to pieces.

Suddenly the home owner appeared at the fence shouting threats at us. He was an older man in his sixties. As we turned to run, he tried to climb the fence to chase after us, but he was not spry enough for the task. He climbed into a straddled position on the top of the fence before he tumbled back into his yard.

We didn’t stick around to see if he was ok. I felt very guilty and hoped the man did not hurt himself on our behalf. It’s bad enough some shitty kid shot his bird feeder, all he needs now is a hip injury to boot.

Dan didn’t seem concerned about it on either account.

One day in the summer, I went out to smoke weed with a group of friends. We made our way to a foreign house, belonging to a friend of a friend. We set up in the back yard and passed the pipe. There were probably seven or eight of us.

As we smoked, I heard raised voices from the fence. I looked over to see several of my friends talking shit to another group of young men in the adjacent backyard. Things were escalating quickly. I watched as several of my friends jumped the fence into their yard.

Not wanting to be left out, I joined along. As I jumped the fence, an older boy emerged from the house, slammed a loaded magazine into a pistol, ripped back the slide and screamed, “I’m gonna kill the next mother fucker that climbs into my yard!”

I stood there for what seemed like ten minutes as he pointed the gun at each of us. I was too stoned, young and dumb to be afraid. We climbed back into our own yard and made our way back into the neighborhood.

None of us ever really talked about it. It’s hard to tell if any of us took it seriously.

There was a local gang in my neighborhood, the Uptown Kings. Several good friends of mine at school were members. About once a week they would jump in a new member in the bathroom. Dan and I were invited to watch on several occasions.

Dan and I were always down with these guys, but we were never properly initiated. We were white kids so admission wasn’t offered to us. But since we smoked weed, wrote graffiti, sneaked out, and generally didn’t shy away from trouble, the gang always maintained friendly relations with us.

I smoked pot for the first time when I was in the seventh grade. I took a few big hits from a pipe on the walk to school. It didn’t do anything. I remember thinking that if this was what being high was like, it was overrated. I smoked probably ten more times, each time feeling the same way.

One night I was home babysitting my brothers and sister; my parents were going to be gone all night. I called my friend Brett to see if he wanted to stop by and smoke a cigarette behind the house. He said he would come over.

He was over within minutes. My siblings were occupied in front of the TV, and they were old enough that they didn’t require much supervision, so Brett and I hopped the fence and made ourselves comfortable in the ditch.

Brett loaded a bowl of pot in a pipe and handed it to me. I lit it and inhaled deeply. I passed it and he passed it back. I hit it over and over. I lay back in the ditch with my arms behind my head and stared at the moon. Like a ton of bricks it hit me – I was stoned out of my mind.

Without explaining myself I stood up and ran back to my house. I don’t think he followed. I spent the rest of the night hiding in my room from my siblings and asking them like a broken record what time mom and dad were coming home. I’m sure I was acting very strangely.

As adults it was confirmed – my brothers remember the incident and always wondered what the hell was wrong with me that night.

There was a kid who lived in the adjacent neighborhood whose name was Guy.

Guy was pure white trash. He was dirty and smelly and disheveled. He wore old clothes that fit poorly. At the age of thirteen, he smoked openly at his house and drank beer out of the fridge without fear of getting caught. He was known to huff butane regularly for its hallucinogenic effects. He never had to sneak out; he came and went as he pleased. He wasn’t a close friend, but we smoked together and walked the same direction home.

Late one night Guy was smashed on malt liquor and wandering through the neighborhood. He approached my house singing and shouting and carrying on. My parents’ bedroom was in the front of the house, and Guy woke them up. My dad threw on a bathrobe and stormed out of the house to see who was causing this ruckus.

By this time Guy was in the driveway. “Does Matt live here?” he asked my dad in a drunken slur. “Matt’s in bed,” he replied through gritted teeth, “who are you?” “Guy..” he began to say as my dad sent the drunken stumblebum sprawling into the street.

I’m not sure how much more physical it got. All I know is that the next day at school, rumor was going around that my dad had roughed him up pretty good. “I heard your dad kicked Guy’s ass,” Brett told me when I saw him.

I saw Guy every day after that and he never brought it up.

Dan and I and several other kids would get high every morning on our walk to school. I remember on a daily basis being so stoned that I was sure I’d get busted at school.

Several other kids would sneak beer from their parents’ fridge and drink them on our walk to school. I remember watching Brett drink a 40 oz bottle of King Cobra. He slurred his words for the first two periods and reeked of booze. No adult at school seemed to notice.

The first time I ever dropped acid was at school. We took it during our first class, and by the time it ended I was sure I had been ripped off. But within minutes of arriving at the next class I could barely contain myself. Fortunately I made it through the day.

Again, no one seemed to notice.

One day at lunch we sneaked down to the ditch to smoke pot before the next class. We smoked at lunch regularly, and I normally I had enough time to sober up before I went home at the end of the day.

On this day, we had the local drug dealer with us, a kid name Israel. Israel’s shit was the bomb. We smoked it up and I immediately found myself almost in a state of euphoric paralysis. We made our way back to school and I finished out the last two classes of the day. The final bell rang and I knew I was in trouble; I was still planted firmly on the moon.

My mother was waiting at the elementary school next door for my brothers. I arrived to meet her. She took one look at my face and immediately interrogated me, “What’s wrong?? Is something wrong??” I froze; I had no idea what to say.

Suddenly all my paranoid nervousness rushed up to my face and I exploded in tears, “Lorna got sick at school today and they had to take her away in an ambulance!” I made up on the spot. “She did? Are you ok?” She grabbed me and hugged me. I just wanted to get away and sober up. “I have to go to the bathroom.” I said.

I stood in the bathroom for half an hour.There’s nothing worse than wishing you weren’t high any more. I composed myself enough to make it home and I was fine by dinner time. My mom asked for more details about my day; I’m sure I gave here the weakest story ever. But she bought it, and I lived to smoke another day.

My parents were good friends with another couple at church. It was revealed one day that the wife had been having an affair with the local preacher. It was more than a scandal.

But really it was the most exciting thing that could have happened to a bunch of churchgoers. You never heard people talk about something with such excitement. She did them all a favor, really. What else would they all have talked about if it weren’t for her?

I found it all in poor taste, and it padded my growing file of reasons not to attend church.

One Friday night I was out skateboarding with a bunch of my friends. We all had acid and were dying to take it.

We had a plan. My friend Sam’s mom was going out of town that evening for the weekend. We would all go home, tell our parents we were spending the night at Sam’s, and then meet there where we could trip out all night.

It was already dinner time and I headed home to tell my parents the plan. I ate my acid on the way home to ensure that it was working by the time I got to Sam’s. I made it home and ate dinner before I started feeling the effects.

I called Sam to make sure the plan was still on. He picked up, “Sorry man, my mom’s not going anywhere after all, and she said no one can come over.” “But I already took my dose!” I exclaimed. “Oh shit, that sucks man. Well have fun tonight.” I was screwed.

By this point I was starting to trip pretty heavily. I sat in the living room with my whole family and watched TV. It was too much to handle. My sister had that day cut twenty inches off of her hair – I hardly recognized her. We had a new puppy that was running in circles and humping things. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure played on the TV. I had to excuse myself to bed early.

For the rest of the night I sat alone in my bedroom tripping out on some of the strongest acid I’ve ever eaten. It was one of the least fun times I’ve ever had.

The next morning I had to be up at 7:00 am. I had a gig that day with my friend Ryan: we had been volunteered by our parents to juggle at the zoo for “Drug Free” day. Luckily I was lucid enough to do the job.

I remember standing behind a gas station, high as a kite, watching several kids I knew compare the handguns they were carrying. There was nothing inconspicuous about it; we were literally standing on the street with pistols, passing them around for each of us to look at.

Dan and I went hiking with a couple of girls in the Monzano foothills. As we hiked, I lost my footing and performed a complete back roll through a thicket of prickly pear cactus. I had needles in every square inch of my back, from my heels to my head.

I had to lay on my stomach in the back seat of the car. When I got home, I had to strip and let my mother pick cactus needles out of my bare ass for hours.

I’m sure the girls were very impressed.

I remember accompanying my friend Jeremy under the bridge to meet an enemy for a street fight. His opponent showed up on time and brought an older friend for support – someone who looked four or five years older than us.

The fight ensued and Jeremy got the better of him. His opponent’s shoe fell off in the melee, and the kid called a time out to put it back on. Obviously winded and hurt, the kid took as much time as he could collecting his shoe, putting it on, tying it, etc.  He didn’t want to continue but was too proud to quit.

“Let’s go already!” Jeremy yelled at him. “Hold on, hold on, I’m not ready..” the kid replied. “Stand up or I’m gonna kick you in the face,” Jeremy threatened. Without warning, the kid’s older friend began throwing punches at Jeremy.

Jeremy ate a couple of clean shots and dropped to the concrete. It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to make a plan or assist. Without getting up, Jeremy crawled over to his backpack, unzipped it and stuck his hand in.

“Hey, hey, what’s in your back pack??” the older kid demanded. He ran over and kicked the backpack away. Jeremy scrambled after it and again reached inside. “Hey! What do you have in there?!” the kid yelled. “Come find out,” Jeremy replied.

The older kid knew he was in a dangerous situation. He turned and ran, leaving his friend behind, who ran quickly behind him trying to catch up.

“What’s in your bag?” I asked him, expecting for him to produce a knife. He laughed and shook his empty back back out for me to see. “I knew that would scare him,” he laughed.

We explained to his mother than he got a black eye from slipping on the wet floor of the school bathroom. She didn’t buy it for one second, but she didn’t press the issue any further.

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One thought on “Memories from Albuquerque

  1. Pingback: Autobiography | Matthew J. Summers

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