Friday, August 04, 2006

Goodbye

It's a cliche' to say that every mans life tells a story and that some men serve as a cautionary tale. My uncle John died yesterday. Heatstroke from a drug overdose. He leaves one son, too young to understand what it's like to lose the fight with demons of your own making. It's a surprise but not a shock. John has been heading down this road all his life.

It's hard to explain where the demons came from without having to tell you the whole family history. Suffice it to say that my family is still very close in the Mediterranean sense, My Big Fat Greek Wedding kind of way. He lived downstairs from my father in the house they all grew up in. My dad was not home. He'd gone to Maine for the month to work on his cabin. My aunts live in Maine and New Hampshire. Another uncle lives the next town over. No one was around to pay close attention to uncle John.

The drugs aren't purely to escape and hide, to revel in hedonism. He's got pins down his leg and an artificial hip from a drunk driving accident that put him on disability. (he wasn't driving but he was stupid for being in the car with someone who was) The pain could be unbearable. He hit the needle hard when he got his check on the 1st of the month. My cousin Nicholas stopped by to check up on him and found him unconscious on the bathroom floor. There's no air conditioning in the apartment. It was 110 degrees. Junkie alcoholics can't regulate their body temperature. EMT's tried to revive him, they stabilized him and brought him to the hospital. There, the ER team fought to revive him for longer then they should have. This is the way we all knew he would go if not then, then next week or next year. Hell, he'd used up his nine lives 30 or 40 cat's worth ago.

I know he died getting high, doing exactly what he wanted, consequence be damned. It's hard to justify my more libertine bent when faced with the very real destruction of his life and how it affects my family, particularly my cousin, his son. All I can say is some folks can handle their high. Some folks become a cautionary tale. He was my Godfather. I love him.

16 Comments:

Blogger Dean ASC said...

No new posts for a while but I will respond to comments. Especially ones that begin with "Dean you are awesome..."

Aug 3, 2006, 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous PaulMc said...

That is some heavy shit.

My condolences for your loss.

Aug 3, 2006, 1:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Daren said...

Dean you are awesome.

I am saddened to hear that your uncle is gone.

Heroin is like no other drug. All of my opposition to Partnership for a Drug-Free America's fearmongering ads concerning pot would dry up if they'd start targeting junk instead. Having had acquaintances die from it (one of them being John Gage's ex) kind of told me that, no matter how experimental I might be while drunk at a a party, I should never, ever check this one thing out.

If I was in great pain continuously, I don't know how I'd react. But making that first decision to try heroin, under any circumstances, well... I guess I've read enough Bill Burroughs and listened to enough Lou Reed to just know. Maybe that's what anti-drug public service groups should do, supply everyone with copies of "Junky" and "Berlin."

Aug 3, 2006, 1:22:00 PM  
Blogger Dean ASC said...

Thanks Paul. Like I said, it's a surprise but not a shock. He had an unusually lucky and long life for a junkie. Then one day none of the enablers were home. Luck runs out.

Before family jumps down my throat, I count myself as one of the enablers too. I stood silent and watched him kill himself for decades. I ignored the unsavory and nefarious characters wandering in and out of the house when I lived there too.

I thought if he'd survived into his late 40's he'd have been able to handle his high. I guess not.

Aug 3, 2006, 1:23:00 PM  
Blogger Dean ASC said...

Thing about the Heroin is that if you really delve into Junky, Ol' Bull Lee is pretty Pro junk use.

The pain was the direct result of other bad choices in life. If he had the help he needed early enough he never would have turned out that way.

It's all about choices. Every choice he made was the wrong one. Every time he'd pick the easy choice over the hard work choice. Eventually the choices became self limiting.

John never stole from anyone who didn't let him (enabler behavior) and he was, all demons aside, a pretty good father where it counted the most.

If he had any tragic flaw it was that he was fiercely to loyal family and often extended that loyalty to friends who seldom deserved it. If we were a wealthy family (that's the side that I'm the first college graduate) he'd have been another former drunken frat boy commuting to his big city corner office in the club car and drinking 3 watermelon martini lunches.

Aug 3, 2006, 1:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Daren said...

"Ol' Bull Lee is pretty Pro junk use."

Was he? Or was he more resigned to it? I may be placing Junky, his first book, in the context of what he says in one of his later works (probably Naked Lunch): That becoming an addict "Changes your whole cell structure." That the cells in your body are either pre-junk or post-junk, and that the two are different on the cellular level, and that withdrawal is so bad because every cell in your body is crying out for more smack. (Since you're a chemist, you may have to take that at the metaphorical level.)

The quote I do remember from Junky is the addict saying that his bowels are so fucked up that he has to reach under and manually pull his turds out. And that they are as hard as "little rocks." Now THAT would be an advertising campaign to discourage heroin use.

As for easy choices versus hard work ones, that's the tragedy. It's a complicated thing. I guess it comes out of the coming-of-age impulse to avoid a menial day job, and that doing so is selling out. If you romanticize that notion and take it too far into your twenties, bad things usually start happening. Eventually you've got to put on that tie; we can't all be rock stars. I don't know if any of this applies to John or not. I'm just thinking of all my musician friends -- another group that was predisposed to Not Playing By Your Rules during our early twenties -- and how almost all of us ended up working with software for a living. I'm not quite sure why.

Aug 3, 2006, 2:59:00 PM  
Blogger Dean ASC said...

He would have made a fine mechanic if he could show up for work sober and on time. He found work often but would fuck it up pretty quickly. His boy is terrified of ending up like him. Hopefully he'll make something of himself. There's no shame in swinging a hammer but the family dream is to get away from that kind of life. So far it's working. Albeit slowly.

As for Junky, I always thought that part about junked up cells coming back to life is the only way to feel alive was less of an indightment then a sales brocure.

Aug 3, 2006, 3:18:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

You can't save someone who doesn't want to be saved. If that was the case here. And you can't blame yourself for someone else's actions.

I find that I can't judge people in these situations because I've never been in them myself. For some folks, that's license to sound off on someone, but I just can't. Just because I'm clean, per the typical definition, doesn't mean I should point fingers.

I remember Ray Charles, who had a herion addiction for a long time, made the observation re John Belushi - whom he'd worked with, of course - that you can't understand what drives people to damage themselves unless you've been there yourself. His way of telling gossipers, blatherers, pundits and preachers to shut the fuck up.

I'm sorry about your uncle.

Aug 4, 2006, 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Dean ASC said...

Thank you. It's easy, even for me, to dismiss him as some sort of junkie loser but there was a kind gentle person underneath all those demons. When I was a kid I was a know it all. Big surprise. In a lower working class town that kind of attitude causes a lot of playground fights especially for an only child who has no big brother to hide behind. One day Brian, one of the tougher kids in school, found out I was "Kappy's" nephew. His dad was good friends with my uncle. The fights didn't end but they were fewer and didn't last as long when Brian was around. Brian would let the other kid get in a few shots but then he would step in and break it up. Brian and I never became friends, we were too different but he made sure I never got too hurt because anyone related to Kappy, even if a smart ass was somewhat cool with him.

Aug 4, 2006, 3:24:00 PM  
Anonymous anita said...

this is so very sad. i can tell you in all honesty that know from whence you speak.

addiction and substance abuse is so complex and so very entangled within the drama that is family. but ultimately, as adults, we alone are responsible for our own lives. to stop using is a massively difficult decision. no matter how many attempts are made by family and friends to intervene, the decision to stop can only be made by the addict and/or alcoholic themselves.

my point, i guess, is to suggest that you please be gentle with yourself, that you try be careful not to allow yourself to be consumed by guilt. that is so much easier said than done, i know. but i just think it's something to keep in mind.

please accept my condolences for your loss.

Aug 5, 2006, 2:46:00 AM  
Blogger marthadot said...

I'm sorry for what happened...what you wrote was moving, eloquent and honorable. You seem to really understand the complexities of your uncle. As others have said, don't be hard on yourself. You loved him, and always will.
Thinking of you.

Aug 5, 2006, 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Dean ASC said...

Thank you both. He and I were cut from the same cloth so to speak. That's why I feel guilty. I don't agree with his choice of going flat out junky but I do defend his right to live how he wanted. If he was an adrenalin junkie getting high off of shooting the enemies of capitalism, he'd be a hero. Instead he was a junk junkie content to get high and watch the walls melt.

His demons controlled him whereas my demons and I are on an uneasy truce. So long as I feed them caffiene, Ritalin and the occaisional glass of Port, Sam Adams or Irish Car Bomb we get along fine. It's too bad he never learned what his demons wanted or had a psychiatrist who understood what to feed them.

An interesting side note to all this, it turns out that his estate consists of a stripped down Harley, a stack of nudie magazines, several square miles of denim, leather and biker T-shirts and what turns out to be a big surprise. He owned a small plot of land in San Felipe, Baja California. It turns out he had what's called a Fideicomiso which is a bankers trust to allow foreigners to own restricted properties in Mexico. I saw a satellite photo of his land. It's nothing more then a camp site in the desert at the end of a dirt road in the middle of no where but it's something. He never told anyone about it. It's an absolute mystery to us how he got it.

Aug 5, 2006, 2:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Adorable Girlfriend said...

Dean, I am sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.

Aug 6, 2006, 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Bry said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Dean.

It's amazing what you find out about people when they die. My cousins went through my uncle's truck and office when he died last year. They found out things about him they never knew by what they found.

I'm sorry I didn't read this earlier and give you a bigger hug last night.

Aug 6, 2006, 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger RicketyFunk said...

It's not easy to lose family. Life's not easy. That's why some people us drugs. That's why some people work all the time and never see their family.

I like the line from A Scanner Darkly. "Reality is for people who can't handle drugs." I know I can't.

As for Burroughs, I read Junkie shortly after high school. While it may not be a book against junk use, it sure didn't make me want to go anywhere near it.

Find peace and accept. That's pretty much all I can say.

Aug 8, 2006, 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Dean ASC said...

Last night the Simpsons was the episode where Marge goes to rehab. Homer says something like "My demons and I have never been better. Next summer we're going to visit every major league ball park together." That pretty much sums me up.

Aug 8, 2006, 11:40:00 PM  

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