Tuesday, June 09, 2015


California’s Central Valley was once considered the methamphetamine capitol of the world. This made growing up in Modesto interesting as cookers and users were everywhere. Your boss, co-workers, landlord, next door neighbor, etc. were all equally likely to be involved with the substance in one way or another. Although I'm not sure of our current status in the drug monopoly, in the 1990's Modesto, Sacramento and San Diego all shared the "Meth Capitol" moniker. It's uncertain which city was the worst, but Modesto was probably #1 in media whitewash. For several years, the meth problem was ignored by our local media. Of course overlooking such subjects is good for business, as no one wants to move to a city known for serious drug issues, but you can’t remedy a problem unless you address it and get the community behind you. (1) It wasn't until California officials like Dianne Feinstein came to town to discuss the meth problem that the local newspaper finally came clean. After years of silence, it was suddenly front page news. Considering I had been surrounded by the drug since high school, I found this rather amusing.

My freshman English teacher was a cooker. His partner in crime was also a teacher, who happened to live two houses down from me. I was friends with his step son. We were in the back yard once when he showed me a spot in the corner where his dad would spend time by himself. The ground was littered with cigarette butts, all concentrated within one small area. Little did we know this was daddy’s tweak zone, where he would hide from the family and tweak for hours on end. But we figured it out soon enough when he and his partner (my aforementioned English teacher) got busted. Both went to prison.

Another guy in my neighborhood (a certain noisecore icon) was also heavily into meth. His addiction was so bad that even his dealer worried about him. So he showed him the bathtub where he made the stuff. There was no linoleum. The chemicals ate it away. After seeing that, he quit using speed, but marijuana, booze and pornography remained central to his daily routine.

When you live in the middle of nowhere, and TV and drugs are your only options in life, you must get creative in order to keep sane. How about some late night vandalism? The streets are devoid of pedestrians at night, so once the sun goes down you and your comrades can paint the town with high-grade devilry, with no regard for public safety or legal ramifications. We used to light the public swimming pool on fire. Just pour in some gasoline, throw in a match and run like hell. Flames 7 feet high lit up the neighborhood. We called it “shredding”, and during my freshman year it was a nightly ritual. Mailbox baseball anyone? (2) It was around this time that several of my friends took a sharp turn for the worst, becoming gun-toting speed-dealing maniacs no one could fuck with. Rather unprecedented considering what geeks they were just a year or two before.

In the late 90’s there was a meth house just around the corner from me, a small apartment actually. You could tell they were cooking just by the people hanging out front. The windows being covered with Glad bags was a hint as well. It didn’t last long though, only a few months before they were busted. The entire complex had to be condemned while they cleaned up the chemical fallout.

I played in a band with tweakers. Our bass player would do strange things like Turtle Wax our equipment, mow the lawn at 2am with flashlights taped to the lawnmower, etc. I knew another guy who mowed his entire lawn with a weedeater. But the real story is about our guitarist, DeeDee. I knew him since my mid-teens. If he needed a drummer or bass player he’d call me up and we’d play. Although the music lacked proper arrangement, and he was too egotistical to let me remedy the problem, I enjoyed hanging out with him and his circle of friends. They were older than me, so the conversation was usually a few degrees higher on the maturity scale than what I was used to. It was the escape from high-school-hell that I had been yearning for, but.....they all used speed. Some used it more than others, namely DeeDee. His dad turned him onto it when he was a kid, and he then shared it with his friends as the years rolled on. One of them was Al, who we will get to later.

When I first met DeeDee, he used speed a couple times a week. But as semantics would dictate, several years of weekly use led to several years of daily use. He handled it ok at first. He kept a job, a marriage, a place of residence, etc.

After finishing high school, I played with DeeDee on a steady basis. We practiced several times a week. He let me arrange songs this time, which was nice, but he didn’t have much choice anyway due to the toll his drug habit had taken on his musical skills. We rented a rehearsal space in a nearby town. The owner of said space was (you guessed it) a meth user. A very nice, professional, clean-cut gentleman with pupils the size of pin heads. This amused DeeDee to no end. That's how he was. He could always find humor in the calamities going on around him, but pointing the finger back at himself and seeing how his vices were slowly destroying him seemed nearly impossible. Everything was a head trip, an abstraction. In turn, he viewed everything as a witness, not a victim. He could transcend the worst circumstances this way, even downplaying his own risky behavior. He once told me how speed eats holes in the user’s brain, like Swiss cheese. He talked about it like it was a fun fact, not a scary consequence. When someone tried to blow up the bridge next to his house it was pure entertainment. Barely avoiding accidents while driving drunk: more entertainment. Like a typical thrill-seeker, he couldn’t get enough of it. Disturbing as it may be, this adventurous spirit made him a fun guy to hang with. And since he was always high, he had no “off” switch and exuded an energy that charmed all who knew him, especially the ladies.

Since I was older and more mature at this point, we connected better and became close friends. We hung out all the time. Since he was able to act normal no matter how high he was, his drug use rarely got in the way of our friendship. It wasn’t a dirty little secret either. To him, it was a matter-of-fact part of life. He would say “Everyone does something”, but that’s not really true.

After about 9 years of this behavior, he started losing control. He cheated on his wife and told me about it the next day. This put me in an awkward position because I was also friends with her. Should I tell her what he's doing behind her back? He then regressed even further when he traded snorting for smoking, which greatly excelled the rate of his deterioration. His wife then threatened to leave him if he didn’t get clean. This led to a stint in AA which didn’t take, resulting in a full scale drug frenzy. After several months of unemployment and freebasing daily, his wife finally kicked him to the curb. He then moved in with his dad out of state. Al came along as well.

It sucks watching a friend fall apart like this. Someone you've known for years and feel close to. Someone known for his wit and personality, and now he's barely able to function. Luckily, he eventually kicked his habits. He got a new wife, a son, a job, etc. Our friend Al, on the other hand, spun completely out of control after the move. We’ll get to him momentarily.

Shortly before DeeDee’s breakdown, I got a janitorial job. Most of my co-workers were tweakers. It’s a perfect job for them. They get to stay up all night cleaning stuff, which is what they would do anyway regardless of financial incentive. I had the pleasure of cleaning a bail bonds office downtown. The place was owned and operated by a meth dealer. He was in his 50's. He had a party room in the back fashioned with a mirrored wall, an entertainment system, a collection of cheap porn videos, and a black leather couch with an industrial-sized blowtorch next to it; perfect for lighting the pipe while getting a blowjob. He had late night crank sessions here with various groups of women. They'd smoke speed, watch porno and go wild. His wife didn't seem to mind either. I suppose the mirrored wall came in handy during an orgy, helping him to see exactly who is doing what. Sometimes when I cleaned the party room I could smell the chemicals from his pipe lingering in the air. It smelled like burning plastic. I would hold my breath, clean as fast as possible and get the fuck out. (3) This guy was a lunatic. He would leave crazy stuff sitting around the office: porno mags on the front desk, porno mags in the break room, furry handcuffs on the shelf, speed and marijuana all over the floor, etc. One of my co-workers once spent a good hour combing through the party room carpet looking for pot. She came out with an eighth bag of marijuana mixed with human hair, lint, etc. She also stole a “P” block that was left sitting out. That’s a solid block of pure meth, something only a dealer/cooker would have. She snorted it over the course of four weeks, which might explain why half her brain didn’t work. (4) He didn’t notice the missing block since it was sitting amongst 100 others. He was indeed a shady character. Although he seemed rather unassuming at first glance, his loopy behavior betrayed him. He was either edgy as hell or high out of his mind, no inbetween. I remember the local newspaper doing a story on him, portraying him as a swell guy, a seasoned old man well versed in bonding bails for Modesto’s most distinguished criminals. Like there’s some kind of dignified charm in this line of work. When I read that, I suspected something was up. That bullshit article, and the fact that his office was located across the street from the county jail, leads me to believe not only were the city and the cops aware of his illegal activities, but they probably encouraged it as it meant job security and probably pay-offs. More meth = more law enforcement jobs. More meth = more people behind bars. More meth = more dead poor people. Being a bail bondsman gave him an inroad to the drug market, making him an ideal cog in their death machine. (5)

And now we get to Al. He was always a crazy guy. A nice friend, but had a bad temper and extremely poor impulse control. He would fight anyone anytime no matter how minuscule the reason or how many people he was up against. Anything could set him off, which made him notorious amongst those who knew him. He was obsessed with comic books and horror movies, his favorite movie being A Nightmare on Elm Street. To commemorate his love for the movie, he made an exact replica of the Freddy glove. He was good with metal work. There was a shed behind his house where he hammered out all kinds of stuff, mainly weapons from comic books like Wolverine blades, etc. I got a call from him one night saying “Hey, I’m making a new Freddy glove. Wanna come over?” His house was easy to find, located next to a Mormon church. I found him in the shed blasting an Exploited tape and feeding slabs of metal into a grinder. The so-called “Freddy glove” was actually a metal fist enclosure with three triangular blades ready to be welded to the knuckle area. It weighed maybe 3 lbs. We eventually went inside and spent the evening talking about punk rock, comic books, etc. He showed me his Dr Know LPs. He had pretty much all of them. He told me about an art project he was working on involving skulls from roadkill. He kept a machete in his car so when he came across a dead animal he could pull over, chop off it's head, throw it in a ziplock bag and take it home. He would then boil the meat off and add it to the collection. He planned to attach the skulls to a large piece of plywood (painted black) then weave tubing through the eye holes. The tubing would be filled with different colored liquids, and the skulls and liquid would glow in the dark. Eventually the conversation turned to meth. He said he only used it occasionally but I suspected otherwise. We watched Gwar videos until his wife got home. I noticed a black leather whip in a drawer next to their bed.

The next time I saw Al was at a party. He was so wired he couldn’t stop talking. I moved to the Bay Area shortly thereafter. I got a call from him one morning. He was high as hell, talking like a machine gun saying his friends The Insaints needed a new drummer and would I like to join. I said no. I don’t need to get fist-fucked on stage while trying to play “Pipeline”.

One thing leads to another and he eventually moves out of state with DeeDee, as mentioned before. He was divorced by this time and found a new girlfriend shortly thereafter. They had a son who he named Freddy (as in “Krueger”). The months go by and his meth use escalates, taking a toll only this drug can. He begins to tweak on things that some might find unsavory: gay porn, cutting his girlfriend during sex, etc. He ended up trying to rape his girlfriend’s little sister and her friend (at the same time). This led to a 10 year prison sentence. I saw most of his CD collection at a local record store shortly after his release, so I guess he’s back in town. I hope he’s doing okay.

It’s all so strange in hindsight. These were my friends. I knew they were wild or whatever, but I never thought I’d see them end up where they did. Drugs are a problem I'm glad I don't have.


1) Modesto is a small city with little culture and no stimulation. Located next to Modesto is an even smaller town called Riverbank (i.e. “Crankbank”), where public dancing was outlawed up until 1990. Even after the law was lifted, spending a few minutes here would be enough to break anyone’s heart. This is a town where literally nothing happens. A place so desolate, if you shit your pants you’d have to drive out of town to buy new ones. And the town slogan is “Riverbank: City of Action!” This is funny considering it’s not a city and has no action besides a movie theater. They air football games on the big screen. Admission is free, but they cash in on beer sales. Get drunk. Stare at the screen. Go fuckin' wild. One of my bands got hooked up with a rehearsal space here, but after learning the owner was manufacturing LSD on the premises, we said no thanks. Legendary Chicano activist Oscar Acosta grew up here. Although his accomplishments in the Brown Power movement are notable, he’s best known for his association with Hunter S. Thompson. In 1971 he accompanied Hunter on his famous trip to Las Vegas, and is referred to as “Dr. Gonzo” in the book which details their drug-fueled adventure: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. He loved psychedelics, and was addicted to amphetamines. In 1973, he sailed alone to Mexico looking for an escape from the American nightmare. Although the facts are unknown, many believe he was killed by drug dealers shortly thereafter.

2) I once had a crazy roommate, a repressed Mormon who loved dabbling in the dark side. Anything involving drugs and violence was fair game. He used to hang out with a group of skinheads. They’d do speed on the weekends and raise hell. One Saturday night, he was driving around picking up the boys for a night of fun when one of them got into the car wielding a double-edged axe. He noticed the axe but thought nothing of it, and off they went looking for action. They headed out to the country roads on the edge of town, where you could literally get away with anything, and came across a house with a slew of cars parked out front. There was obviously a party going on, so they decided to crash. They walked right in heading straight for the keg. Someone starts giving them shit, so Mr. Skinhead runs out to the car and fetches the axe. He proceeds to chop up the dining room chairs, reducing them to kindling. All party goers quickly fled the scene. He then goes to work on the dining room table. Full swings were executed downwards, gradually chipping away this once beautiful piece of furniture. Then suddenly the axe got stuck in the ceiling on the back swing. He couldn’t pull it out, so they left it there and took off. As they were making their way through the country roads they pass another house and recognize a car parked out front. It’s someone from the party. So they pull over and smash the car to bits. No repercussions, no consequences. Another Saturday night in the middle of nowhere.

3) The person who cleaned the bail bonds office before me was an older guy in his 50’s. There was so much speed on the floor the vacuum would kick it up into the air and get him high. It was making his body twitch, so he complained about this to our boss and was told “Oh, come on. You can handle it.” A few months later, I was asked to take his place. He told me about Mr. Bail Bonds beforehand so I wouldn’t be shocked. Early one morning while vacuuming the break room, I looked up and saw a woman standing in the main office area. Apparently I failed to lock the front door. It’s one of the guy’s crack whores. She’s wearing a nurse’s uniform so I assume she just got off work and is looking for a fix. I tell her the guy isn’t there. She asks if she can change her clothes in the bathroom, and against my better judgment I say yes. Moments later she comes out wearing a hooker outfit: miniskirt, pink polka-dot leggings, etc. She stands there looking at me a certain way (i.e. THAT way) and I glare back with a look that says “get the fuck out of here”. She walks out in a haste, gets in her car and speeds off. What a bummer for her, no crank from her dealer and no dick from the janitor. And lets face it ladies, there’s nothing better than janitor dick.

4) She lived in a neighborhood full of labs, where you could literally smell chemicals in the air. For her, this was a special treat. The lovely aroma of bathtub crank. “Someone’s cookin!” she said.

5) While working this job I lived in a nearby town with roommates, an insufferable married couple. They were Mormons. Although they weren’t the most obedient cult members, they were certainly believers, brainwashed in ways most people can hardly imagine. The guy closely resembled an ape and was training to become a cop. He's the same guy I mentioned earlier who used to hang with skinheads. He loved to fight and owned several firearms. His wife was a bundle of seething hormones, a maternal lunatic who hated her job. She desperately wanted to get pregnant, but he failed to share her enthusiasm. Since he was too horny for abstinence, and too manly to wear a condom, he made her take the pill. They boned once a week. No more, no less. It was like clockwork. Every Friday night I would hear his ape noises emanate from the bedroom whilst she made no noise whatsoever. That’s what you call “Mormon sex” (in Mormonism the female orgasm is, shall we say, not encouraged). She eventually opted for the #1 female career choice by “forgetting” to take the pill, and voila, she was pregnant and finally had a legitimate excuse to quit her job. They lost their house as a result, but not before I moved the fuck out of there. I rented an apartment around the corner. Getting the place was easy. No credit check or anything. I was told they needed more white tenants and I fit the bill perfectly. The place was huge and rent was cheap. There was a taco truck across the street. Completely oblivious to the lard factor, I ate there almost daily. Burritos were usually $2, but sometimes $1 or even free, depending on the guy’s mood. I was happy there and planned to stay indefinitely, but was chased out three weeks later by the meth dealer who lived next door. I was then forced to move in with another group of Mormon heathens (my family) and began listening to Poison Idea exclusively.

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