In the early ‘90s I lived in Seattle and worked on a magazine about comic books. At the time Seattle was a cartoonist Mecca and maybe it still is. I don’t know anything about comics any more. I lost interest after having been completely obsessed well into my 30s.
Anyway, one day the art director at the magazine came over and handed me a piece of paper with a name and phone number on it and he said, “You should really meet this woman. She’s visiting from the East Coast, and I think you two would hit it off.”
I had a lot of social anxiety — I still do — and just the thought of talking to a stranger, even on the phone, gave me palpitations. Normally I would have just thrown the paper in the trash. But I had no female friends, and the art director, who was someone I trusted, had been insistent. So I dialed the phone and whispered tremulously into the handset: “Is Deb there?” Luckily, when she got on the phone, I didn’t have to say much more than my name. Deb gave me the address of where she was staying and asked me to come by later that night.
For the rest of the day at work I had problems concentrating. I kept wondering, What am I going to say to this person? Should I try to think up something clever in advance so she’ll think I’m smart and funny? But then I thought I might sound affected and she’d think, “Wow, this chick is a big phony laying schtick on me.” Should I bring beer? If I bring Red Hook, I might look pretentious. But If I bring Red Stripe, I might look pretentiously unpretentious. Hook or Stripe? Ack!
I finally decided that I wouldn’t bring anything. And I’d just show up and listen and smile and if I felt like saying something I’d say it and not worry. There was a good chance I wouldn’t like her anyway because I hated just about everybody.
I drove over to where Deb was staying in the beat up Cavalier my dad had sold me for almost nothing. It smelled like cigarette smoke and burnt plastic. The ashtray was always overflowing with butts and one morning I went into the office without taking care and the dashboard had caught on fire.
Deb let me in this apartment that was stripped down even for a crashpad, with bare lightbulbs and old dusty sheets covering the windows. What a dump! Deb was about the same height as I was, five foot, but she was a spunky art punk with short, bleached hair, a husky voice and a frank gaze and I was a whiny neo-hippie with roving eyeballs and lots of long, brown political hair. But it didn’t matter because the whole grunge thing that was happening was a sort of truce between the punks and the hippies based on a mutual love of heroin.
There was an ashtray on the dining room table where we were sitting so I took out my pack of Drum tobacco and rolled a cigarette. I was a chain smoker because at that point in my life I was one-seventh suicidal. The other six-sevenths were anxious, horny, lazy, sleepy, doc and grumpy.
Deb asked me to look at her comics and she brought out these gorgeous originals drawn in a primitive big-foot style. They were painted off-register in neon colors and every one included a goofy catchphrase that I’m sorry I can’t remember. They were adorable and funny and I loved all of it.
Then I started talking about heroin because it really was everywhere. I mentioned that I had injected it recently, not because I really wanted to do it but because I felt like I had to. Living in Seattle at that time and not injecting heroin would be like going to Disneyland and not riding Pirates of the Caribbean. One of my roommates had shot me up as a birthday present.
I said I really didn’t like heroin addicts because they were boring. All they ever did was sit around and draw for hours. Deb put her index finger to her lips and flashed her eyes over to the right and I was shocked to see another woman sitting on the floor who I had not noticed before. And she was completely absorbed in drawing in a sketchpad.
Deb quickly switched the topic to bands that she liked, but she was way more into the music scene than I was and I couldn’t keep up. She mentioned that a punk band of some renown had stayed over at her group house back East. I don’t remember the band or even the city were she lived.
Deb said that because these guys were staying at her place she had felt like she had to be a good groupie and fuck one of them. But the problem was she found all of them disgusting in one way or another. Finally she had chosen the bassist because he was the least physically repulsive and seemed the most likely to pass out. I had to ask, “Was there cock worship involved?” And she said, “I’m only getting paid scale for this.”