In order to compose a thorough, no-holds-barred saga of his drug-addled past in “Night of the Gun,” a riveting 2009 memoir, N.Y. Times columnist David Carr relied on the accounts of first-hand witnesses, gathered by diligent shoe-leather reporting, rather than his own memory. I’m mentioning this because a friend reminded me last weekend of an eccentric episode that happened, he said, in my early 20s. When, he also reminded, I was living a colorful, dissolute life. The story made an impression because I didn’t remember all that much. But then certain details began to come back into focus. My friend’s account was probably exaggerated, but I realized that if I ever write a history of my own wild tales I’ll have to get out the pad like Carr.
Here, in any event, is my best recollection:
I was crashing with a married couple, Frank and Karen, in a smallish Boston apartment in the general vicinity of Symphony Hall and Hemenway Street. They had a linebacker-sized friend named Eddie who lived nearby and was also hanging out a lot. Mainly the four of us sat around in the evenings and got high. I distinctly remember not rolling joints as much as tapping the tobacco out of filtered cigarettes and then-filling the cigarette with what I recall was low-grade pot. Moderately potent, lots of stems and seeds.
One night around 10 pm or so we decided we needed a straw. That may have meant we were looking to snort something but I really don’t recall what. Maybe we were looking to suck in hash smoke. (A tiny chunk of hash placed on the burning embers of a cigarette, etc.) No, I don’t remember why we didn’t just use rolled-up dollar bills. Probably because it would’ve been unsanitary. I recall that it was fairly cold out and that we were probably broke or close to it, and so going to a market and buying a pack of straws was out. So I decided to start knocking on doors and asking Frank and Karen’s neighbors if they had a straw to spare. It wasn’t just the vaguely strange notion of a long-haired guy in jeans and boots with bloodshot eyes looking to bum a straw from strangers, but that it was too late to knock on doors and bum anything from anyone.
I was turned down five or six times in a row. “What? No, I don’t have any straws…buy your own. Who needs a straw after 10 pm? No, I don’t”…slam. “A straw? Nope. No. You can’t afford to buy straws? Sorry.” Slam. “You’re serious? At this hour?” In no time I had annoyed or irritated residents of all five or six apartments. Then I hit pay dirt with my seventh try. The guy who answered was irked and distracted but basically good-natured. To get rid of me he gave me a whole unopened box of straws. Just take ’em, he said. I’m watching something on the box. You wanna return the ones you don’t use tomorrow then do so, fine, whatever…enjoy yourself. Slam, click.
So what did I do? I went back and knocked on the doors of the first five or six and said, 10 or 15 minutes after they’d all told me to take a leap and leave them alone, “Hey, I was given a box of straws…you want four or five? Here, take a few to tide you over.”
I really did this, my friend told me.