In the end, it fell apart in an ugly way, as all good things do. And for me, at least, that might've been for the best since, for my services, I was being paid just enough to cover my weekly commute via New Jersey Transit. As a result, back in Brooklyn?where I had no job?I was sinking deeper and deeper into a debt it would take me years to climb out of.
But my God, it was fun while it lasted.
My trips to Philly usually went from Thursday morning over into Friday afternoon?which meant I had to crash on someone's couch every week. Usually I stayed with Derek, my oldest friend in town, and the paper's editor-in-chief. I'd pick up a magnum of cheap white after work, on the way to his house, where I'd drink it, and he'd drink Yukon Jack (that's all he drank, but he drank a lot of it), and we'd sit and talk until one of us passed out. The next morning, I'd be awakened, hungover or still drunk, at 8 sharp by his hyperactive pug, who would jump up and down on my head until I sat up.
Every single time he'd do that.
Less often, I'd stay with my friend the Crippled Lord. We'd sit around his kitchen table, drinking Bud tallboys and singing along with his first two albums until one or both of us passed out. I'd wake up whenever and go back to the office.
Just once or twice, I stayed with Suzanne, who was the associate editor, and her husband, Peter. They were good folks, both in their 40s, who lived in a surprisingly well-kept three-story house in West Philly. Peter?who'd gotten his start as a rock critic for Crawdaddy around the same time you could find your Richard Meltzer and Nick Tosches and Lester Bangs in there?was now an antiques dealer, which meant that every available space in the house was filled with all sorts of old?some of it delicate, some of it just kitschy?stuff.
Peter's mid-70s drug-gobbling days were behind him, and when I knew him, he only sipped obscure foreign beers. Suzanne liked her red. And I'd show up on their doorstep toting my magnum of white under my arm.
The last night I stayed there, Peter and Suzanne went to bed early. I stayed in front of the television (Earthquake was on) smoking and working on that bottle.
I finished the bottle, but sat there until Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner were both washed away down the sewer. Then I figured it was about time to get some sleep.
Very, very slowly, very, very carefully?so as not to kick and break something?I felt my way over to the staircase, then slowly climbed to the next floor. This was very difficult, considering how drunk I was at the time. I felt my way down the hallway again, to the next staircase and, once again, climbed the stairs. Then I did the same thing one more time.
At the top of the stairs, I started feeling in the darkness for the door to the bathroom. It had to be around there someplace, I knew?but I couldn't find it?and damn but I needed to piss. As I felt around, arms outstretched in front of me, it slowly began to dawn on me?not in a matter of instants or seconds?this was more like minutes?that something was wrong.
Every time my hand brushed against a wall, it felt almost furry. And the walls were so close together. And the ceiling was so low. And everything was at such a weird angle. And everything smelled a little too musty. This wasn't just the effect of the wine, either. At least I didn't think so.
I finally stopped. I wasn't going to find the bathroom around here. I knew that. Something?
I'd climbed one too many flights of stairs and found myself in their fucking attic. I reached out a hand to my right until it hit the wall and felt around. Sure enough?that was Owens Corning. I could tell.
Shit. I really had to piss, I was in complete darkness, in a strange attic for godsakes, with no idea how the hell to get back to the stairs.
I'd spun around two or three times while trying to figure out where I was, and now no longer had any idea how to get out.
So I clutched my bladder and simply felt along the wall from one side to the other, hoping I'd kick something along the way?and not go tumbling down a flight of stairs as a result. I'd done that at Derek's place just a few weeks earlier, and still hadn't fully recovered.
Finally, my panic increasing into the red zone, my left hand accidentally swung hard into the wooden banister that led down through a dark hole in the floor.
I clung to it like a drowning man, and slowly crept my way unsteadily back down the stairs, trying to keep myself from leaking until I could find the goddamn bathroom.
At the bottom of the stairs, I felt for the wall again?these down here were straight, at least, and not fuzzy?and found a doorway. Inside, the walls were covered in smooth, cool tile. I'd done it.
I found a light switch and flicked it on. Despite my wavery vision, I could tell it was the bathroom, all right. Jesus, but I was in some shape. I made it over to the toilet, and started going about my business. It didn't take nearly so long this time to realize that something?again?had gone very, very wrong. I looked down.
The lid was up, so that wasn't it. No, this sounded more like newspapers under a faucet. I looked to my right, and saw then how very off my aim was.
Now, normally, missing the bowl would be no problem. Just a matter of redirecting, then mopping up a little afterwards. Something I do on a fairly regular basis.
Well, the problem here was the fact that Peter had taken to leaving a huge stack of incredibly rare, original underground comics from the 60s and 70s on a small table next to the toilet?Freak Brothers, everything, in mint condition. And I was pissing all over them.
In a panic, I made my adjustments?given the state I was in, there was no way I could stop. When I was done, I grabbed some toilet paper and sloppily wiped up what I could. Suddenly the tile floor seemed so cool, so comfortable and inviting, that I just curled up there, around the base of the toilet, and went to sleep.
As I remember, they didn't invite me back after that.