Main | Monday, May 17, 2004

Body Count

Nick didn't use drugs. Never had. That seemed pretty amazing for a popular circuit party disc jockey.

Here's this revered, demi-god DJ, slavishly followed around the country by legions of affluent, sophisticated 'A-gays' who obsessively planned their elaborate drug schedule around Nick's sets, carrying felony-quantity amounts of drugs in and out of Nick's booth all night.

For these guys, merely for Nick to accept the occasional gift of a pill or a bump from them would have been considered his personal blessing, a bright and shiny symbol of how "connected" they were.

Nick would smile and graciously wave away their offer, turning back to his turntables, his cigarettes and his ever-present can of Red Bull. I saw it happen dozens of times.

Three months ago I got a call from Chicago.

Nick had gone to work on Saturday night and played a spectacular set, even for him. The holiday weekend crowd had packed the dance floor until the very last note of Nick's set, shouting and cheering and calling his name, until he played one more record...flashing the crowd his brilliant smile and giving them a sheepish wave. Nick always seemed embarrassed when the boys went on like that.

After packing up his records, Nick went home and swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills.

His husband woke up Sunday morning, looking forward to their traditional late lunch of omelets and mimosas on their sunny deck of their Castro Victorian, cats running in and out of the house.

Nick was dead on the living room sofa.

Nick had been secretly abusing crystal meth for months, going on days-long manic binges of shopping and cleaning and cruising on the internet, then spiraling down into even longer periods of darkness and lethargy.

With Nick's passing, the number of friends whose death I directly attribute to crystal use now stands at four, starting with Bob.

It's hard to believe, circuit party glad-hander that I fancied myself to be (but never even came close to actually BEING), had never even HEARD of crystal until I moved to San Francisco in 1995.

At my first Thanksgiving dinner in my new home with Mark, Bob arrived about 2 hours late, apologized profusely, and dove into the bathroom for 20 minutes.

When he emerged, beads of sweat dotting his face, Bob saw that Mark had set a place for him at the now deserted table... with a tiny plastic baggie of turkey placed in the dead center of his plate. I can still remember how Bob's donkey laugh echoed to me and Ted (dead, crystal, 1999) out on our balcony overlooking Market Street.

Bob never did have anything to eat, he told me he thought he was getting the flu.

Ever the workaholic, Bob went to his office over that weekend, maybe even directly from Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Sitting at his desk, in his sleek, high-tech, South Of Market office, Bob did crystal and wrote code.

Monday morning, the cleaning crew found him dead on the floor behind his desk.

Apparently his 'flu' had progressed into full pnuemonia, only Bob was too high to realize how sick he had become. His lungs filled with mucus and he choked to death, alone.

Bob's death was my introduction to the world of crystal meth.

I had never tried any drugs myself, not once in my many years on the scene in Miami.


And this was someone who was a relentless, multiple-nights-a-week clubgoer, during the halcyon days of South Beach, when cocaine was free with chewing gum, and the bartenders dispensed ecstasy as openly as a bottle of beer.

I was a one queen 'Just Say No' campaign.

Of course, by 'Just Say No,' I *really* meant: 'I'll have a dozen (or more)$7 Budweisers'. Then I'd drive 30 miles home to Fort Lauderdale on I-95 so blind stinking drunk that I would miss all 14 exits for Broward County, and have to reverse direction and drive back south towards Fort Lauderdale, with God's Angry Flashlight melting my eyesockets, like the grave robbing Nazis at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

I still marvel that I'm not currently incarcerated in Starke Prison, considered the many, many times I *know* I drove home VERY, spectacularly, 'America's Dumbest Drunk Drivers', drunk.

All that info is offered in the 'I ain't no angel' vibe.


Now... my stories of witnessing crystal meth induced psychotic behavior and self-destruction almost rival my two-decades in the making AIDS gore-a-thon.

I've seen and heard things here in NYC that make San Francisco look like the place for gentle loving people, i used to THINK it was.

We *were* a gentle loving people.... (the 2004 Mix).

Take Kirby, for example. Kirby was a handsome, muscular, successful executive. He was hilarious and smart and always on our short list when planning some fun.

Kirby began to hallucinate that local Fox newscaster Terilyn Jo was watching him from the television set, and that he was being secretly recorded through the tv by his employer (The Gap) he did the only logical thing...which was to disassemble his roommate's Sony big-screen in the bathtub, and then douse the scattered parts with a jug of Raid (to kill the 'bugs' you see...there IS a interesting logic flow there).

Later, he was arrested in in South San Francisco, after pulling a spectacular u-turn from the northbound 101, across six lanes, across the median and onto the southbound freeway. He did this in order to evade the pursuing black vehicle, with mirrored windows, which was being driven by assasins from Macromedia (and how CAN you make this shit up?).

Kirby's roommate had the city issue a Baker Act warrant for Kirby's arrest. The Baker Act provides for the arrest and evaluation of a potentially psychotic person. However, misguided friends allowed Kirby to couch-surf around town for a few weeks, and finally the warrant expired or the cops just gave up. We figured the cops must have enough on their hands handling rape and murder, they don't need to waste time chasing some faggot crackhead around town.

Kirby lost his job with The Gap, despite their repeated and impressive attempts to put him into rehab.

Kirby began dealing crystal.

Down on 3rd Street, making a delivery, he was arrested. The courts were lenient. He was educated, he had no previous drug record, he was white. He got eight months in a half-way house in Colma.

His first night there, he violated house rules and hitchhiked to San Francisco. He bought crystal and went to the Powerhouse, walking utterly nonchalantly up to Darren and myself at the bar.

'Hey boys!'

'Well, hey Kirby. ARE you?'

'Oh, pretty good. I'm in a halfway house down in Colma.'

We acted like we didn't know that.

'Ah...well, you must be doing pretty good if they are letting you go out to clubs!'

'Oh, I'm violating all kinds of ways, I'm supposed to be there right now, but here I am. And I'm high as a kite!'

Darren and I exchanged a look.

'So, you boys need a pick me up? I've have some extra I need to sell.'

'No...we're good, thanks'.

'OK, if you hear of anybody that needs something....' his voice trailed off.

A few minutes later, Kirby ran into another old friend. Darren and I snuck out of the Powerhouse the moment he turned his back. I've always felt guilty about that.

A few hours later, Kirby was stabbed to death under the freeway. The cops speculated that it was drug-related, but they didn't really know. Kirby's pockets were empty. They couldn't even identify his body for a couple of days.

I have a picture of Darren, myself, Kirby and a few other friends. At the Pride parade. We're all squinting into the sun, arms draped around each other's bare shoulders. Kirby looks amazing. Everyone who sees that picture wants to know who he is.

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