I know, I know most of you wanna hear about Alchemy Savant. The facts of his scurvy-pervey sexcapades and what really happened that night he bought the big one. I’ll get to that, but I been prepping for some time and I got a story to spill that’s more than just Alchemy. I loved the bastid and I despised him. Like he said, we was honest brothers, and sometimes brothers fight. Yeah, he rescued me from a life of scrounging for dimes in the deep end of the shitpool. Did that for lots of us. That was him, then and always: a lifesaving con-trol freak. After becoming a rock ’n’ roll god, he wanted not to be prez but a left-wing king.
I also been advised by the people paying me to do this to start when we met in ’92, almost thirty years ago now. I ain’t writing a word, just dictating. Don’t worry, it’s all me. They can fix everyone’s grammar except mine. I gotta sound like I sound, not some airbrushed version of me. I ain’t gonna softsell nothing neither. Some shit will make me look like a crude, ignorant crudhead and a world-class a-hole, which I was way back then and maybe still am. Judge for yourself.
I was born Ricky McFinn. Twisted branch in a warped family tree. Part Italian, part Irish, and all lapsed Catholic.My journey to becoming Ambitious Mindswallow began late summer of ’92, I’d been doing zip for a few years since I got my butt tossed out of the highfalutin School of Performing Arts for acting like a plastic surgeon and “repairing” my piano teacher’s nose after he opined my mother should’ve aborted me. Since it was my third offense, I was fresh out of community service and no-jail-time cards, so I was awarded an allexpense- paid trip to Spofford, the juvee jail. Before I could even join a gang, this motherfucker, who had body tatts of his mama, the Mother Mary, and muscle heads, tried to stick his wang up my anal hole. I elbow him in the nuts and tell him to take his queerass Puerto Rican butt back to his cell and leave me the fuck alone. That night, in the showers, in front of his compadres he gets on me for being so skinny (I was about six feet two, 130 pounds back then). So I put this fucker down: “Yeah, so what? I’m carryin’ weight in the only place it counts.”
“What you mean? You got dope?”
“Wha-utt?” I says. “Cocksucker, you so fuckin’ stoopit.” I grab my nuts. “I seen four-year-olds carryin’ bigger logs.” I let that one sink into his big, bald skull. Then wham, I snap him, “Hell, I bet yo’ mama’s clit’s bigger than your muscle!” That did it. They gouged out my left eye, which got me out of Spofford fast and gave me my little good-luck charm. Still keep my eye in a glass marble around my neck. My family was s-o-o-o sympathetic. (My dad and some Jew shyster sued the city. They ended up getting something but I didn’t get squat.) So then I was living at home, speculating on what to do with my wonderful fucking life. One night I am sound asleep when I hear my sister Bonnie, who has the other half of the bedroom, moaning and popping chewing gum bubbles while balling some lucky future herpes dick she picked up at Paddy Quinn’s. I figure I’ll hide in the bathroom, only my older brother Lenny, who’d gotten out of the army and was a speed freak, was shivering and shaking right on the bathroom floor. He liked to use me as his punch dummy, so I take about two hundred bucks and some of his pills. He can’t do shit. I feel much better after that.
My mom was screwing her new Korean lovewad — the Asian invasion was getting heavy and Main Street looks like a mini-Peking. My dad hadn’t found some pathetic divorcée to put up with his act that night, and he’s passed out drunk on the pool table in his half of the living room, which is also the office of the two family businesses. The other half is filled with “secondhand” dresses that happened to be all new that my dad “buys” and my mom sells to the neighborhood wifies. I think, Shit, Spofford’d be better than trying to make a life with this family a ratbrains.
I toss a few things into my backpack. I open the kitchen window to the fire escape. We lived on the sixth floor. I take this chair, go out the front door, and lock it. Wedge the chair under the door handle so they can’t get out. I climb up to the roof, down the fire escape, and slip back in through the window. I dial 911. I turned on AC/DC so loud it could rattle the Chinese super’s place six floors below. They all jump up and start screaming. My mom is wailing, “Ricky, yeh bastid, I’m gonna kill ya, I swearh!”
I plead to the 911 lady, over all the cursing and commotion, to get someone over here ’cause they is dying. If only. I scoot out the window and down the fire escape with only my Strat and backpack, wearing my leather jacket, though it’s late- August shitbowl Flushin’ Bay hot. I hear the sirens as I head toward Main Street to catch the Seven, thinking, They can kiss my bony ass if they ever see it again.
I start hustling — not, as rumored, letting old queens suck me off, but I do rip off tourists and hang out on 2nd and B at the Gas Station club that is this burnt-out building with only half a roof. For free booze and crash rights, I clean up the broken bottles, crack vials, and vomit. Me being only eighteen was a misdemeanor next to the other shit going down.
One night about 3 A.M., from my seat inside I see this snazzy guy wearing a black sports coat, black porkpie hat, a purple T-shirt, and black stud earring, and puffing hard on an unfiltered smoke, high-step out of a limo. (This was a few years before that hood became a haven for the hundred-dollartorn- jean crowd.) Beside him is a six-foot blond strung-out model type with albino skin and straw-thin arms clomping onto him. He has the aura. Everyone just zooms their eyes on him as he swaggers in and downs like five beers in five minutes. I’m playing my Strat, I plug in whenever I got the urge. After he buys a packet of powder for his babe, who snorts up right there, they split. As he walks out, he says, “I like your playing.” I’m thinking, Fuck you, who cares what you think? The crazy thing is, already I do care.
To make some extra smash, I was buying junk and toot from this Super Fly knockoff who hung out on the southeast corner, we call him Duckman though he calls himself “Mr. Sam Spade,” wearing his big-brimmed hat and brown leather jacket and polished white shoes. He patrols around his corner like Chuck Berry doing the duckwalk and quacking “crack, crack.” I buy some stuff from Duckman and cut that shit down so detergent’d get you higher. I sold some shit to a coupla prepsters in the Gas Station, who is acting like they was dirty boulevard homeys. This one guy, showing off for his babe, tries to scam me by shorting me, giving me seventy bucks instead of a hundred. We engage in a minor conflagration. He tries to play tough. “Fuck you, man, that shit isn’t worth a hundred.”
“You right, it ain’t.” I says to his chick, “Why you sucking off this prick? You should try this white trash missile.” I stare real tight in his face: “G’head. Try something, yeh pisshead.” As I’m doing this, I spot the snazzy dude from the other night without his hat, sitting with my guitar on his lap. He’s sidewaysed himself into the corner and is lazy-eyeing us, and then, again, he smiles at me, while strumming the Velvets’ “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.”
I say to the prepster, “You think I won’t mess your pretty face, you are way mis-tak-en.” With my left hand, I pull off my shades. “Look close at my left eye . . . Yeah, it’s glass. Gift from my cell mates. Now gimme me the dope and the cash. All of it.” I took it. “Now go!”
The guy keeps strumming. No one really listened to the music or poetryslammin’ there. The Nuyorican was down the block if you was into that mumbo-jumbo. I grab an acoustic guitar from behind the bar and hand it to him. I take mine back and we start jamming. He drops me a dime worth of lickass. “You handled that real sweet.” “Yum, just swallowed that pussy whole.” He nods and starts playing “Police and Thieves,” achingly slow and reggae cool. Not at all like the Clash. I says I never hear it like that, and he says, “I always preferred Junior Murvin’s original.” I say nuthin’. Don’t want to show my ignorance. Then he starts messing with more music I never heard. Turns out it’s his shit and he sings his lyrics:
I do it for the chicks and money
don’t care ’bout no salvations
or gold-plated salutations
all I want is chicks and money . . .
We’re jamming when Mr. Suburbia drives up with his boys in a Mercedes with CT plates. I stop playing and step outside. He and his three buddies come at me. I pull my metal before they get close, and I grab the main sucker. I go right at his ear. “Bitch, I tolt ya. I don’t care. I’ll cut you good and we’ll be one pretty pair a misfits.”
Mr. Suavola glides out to us like he’s Mahatma Luther Kingmaker. “Let’s maintain a level of intelligence and decorum . . .” He gently takes my arm and pulls the knife away from the guy’s ear. He calls out to the Duckman, who saunters over.
“My man, Alchemy Savant, ain’t seen you since I hear your soulman’s heart and chocolate vodka voice charmin’ us at the Paradise,” Duckman declares, and quacks. “So what can I do you for?” These clowns are morgue-meat white. The neighborhood cops drive by and Duckman throws a big Howdy-deedamn- do kiss at ’em while Alchemy is explaining everything, only he adds this, “My friend and I, we need a car, and I think these gentlemen are going to lend us theirs as compensation for our troubles. What do you think?”
Duckman muses for a sec. “That be fair.”
Mr. CT starts howling, “No way. Wait. Please. No!”
Duckman says, like he’s sucking the last juice from his whore’s hot spot, “Boy,” and he’s lov-ing using that word, “boy, did you see that black-’n’-white that drive by? You don’ do what I suggest, you take your ride, and I call my associates and they stop you before you hit First Avenue. You know what the Tombs is, boy? The Tombs is the nastiest cell in America.” These tools are piss pants yellow now. “Shee-it, you’ll see it for yo’self.”
I’m just wishing, wishing this cat had been my lawyer in juvee court. “Okay, boys, past your bed-wettin’ time.” The CT guys start slinking away and Alchemy surprises me when he yells after them, “Give me your number.” They stop and do that, and the screw job, he thanks them.
I think it’s finally done ’til Duckman grabs my arm. “How much you get?”
“That and the shit be mine for services rendered.” No way I’m hosing Duckman. “And, one mo’ thing, as I am sure you remember, anything you sell to the white boys in here, I gets seventy-five percent. And them other three corners, I owns ’em.” He and Alchemy shake hands. I hand over the cash and the dope to the Duckman, and he quacks on back to his corner. Alchemy yells out to me, “You up for a ride?”
“L.A. Going to start a band there.”
Never been to L.A. and I ain’t got sweet nuthin’ to lose and no future in New York. “Let’s jam.”
Alchemy drove like red lights, slow-moving cars, potholes is just hazards to be avoided. Or not. In minutes, we’re over the GW Bridge and jetting away from dumps like Bayonne, the “American Dream Developments,” and them putrid gas tanks of the “Garden State.” Yeah, a garden doused in weed kill. I’m thinking to myself, So Looong Flushin’, when he swivels his head so he’s looking backward and stares at the city, and I’m getting a tick nervous here about his driving skills, and he says, “Look at that skyline, and the acolyte cities, the lights, they’re like God’s dissonant drips merging across the sky on a Jackson Pollock canvas.” Uh, yeah, sure. I don’t know Jackson Pollock from Jack-in-the-fuckin’-Box, and if God created Hoboken in his image, then book me a ticket to Satanville.
A coupla minutes later he turns and asks, “So, besides taking advantage of foolish college kids, what do you want to do?”
“Pile up chicks and money,” I croon. We laugh and start riffing about L.A. and the music we want to play and all the movies we dig and all the shit we have in common. ’Cause I don’t know yet, but sense there’s plenty we don’t.
We drive for a coupla hours and it’s like 4 A.M. when he pulls off the 80. Even at that hour it’s not like any Jersey that I seen. No gas and garbage smells.
He announces, “I need to see my mom. There’s a motel where we can get some rest first.” In the room, in like one minute, the guy’s asleep. About two hours later, I hear him howling. I am freak-ing out, and I don’t freak easy, but I ain’t never heard such scarifying noises exiting out from no one except when Tommy Huston shot Davy Rathbone in the nuts. I’m thinking the guy is a psycho or he’s gonna die on me and that’s all the bullshit I need, stuck with a “borrowed” car and a dead body in Nofuckingwhere, New Jersey. I leap out of bed, turn on the lights, and shake his ass awake. He sits up, he’s all sweaty, and his eyes — whew! They are a kaleidoscope of light and dark browns with dots of tans and whites, gonzo wild and like he has just seen God and Satan — only his voice and body are totally cool.
“It’s part of my birthright,” he finally says. “You’ll see in the morning. Now go back to bed.”
I’m more than a bit jittery, so I put on the cable TV, watch some porn, and jack off in the shower while Alchemy is once again fast asleep.