Where on the spectrum of loyalty and betrayal does song begin? And where does it end? I think each writer has to decide this over and over.
DAVE: You’re fuckin’ up, man. Don’t be an asshole. If I was doing something on people who lived in houses, I wouldn’t say they were all the same. Would you? You can’t say that about street kids. You can’t take me, Cookie, Ziggy, and Freckie, and lump us together. The streets are like rock and roll: short, fast, and hard. James Dean would have died of AIDS if he were still alive. This is not a round trip ticket. There’s no goin’ back. My life story would make a million bucks if it were a film. The street is my TV set. I can take a hit of acid or a shot of speed while a fuckin’ normal 16-year-old hangs out in a mall smoking Marlboros. Fuck if I know wh …”
BON JOVI runs in, panting.
BON JOVI: Someone fucking robbed me, man. Fucking Frank stole all my shit, man. Fuck. I’ll never trust a motherfucker out here again. Fuck, he better be on the fucking highway, man. You gotta cigarette?
He leaves as fast as he had arrived.
DAVE: Just like prime time TV, man. Something always happening.
JIM: What are your dreams, Dave?
DAVE: See the world. Fuck all the girls I wanna fuck—in a bed instead of in the dirt. Go to all the concerts I wanna go to. Write all the music I wanna write.
VYPER comes in while we’re making a list of our favorite musicians.
VYPER: I just got outta jail, man. They were telling me I had felonies and shit. I was in for kidnapping and being under the influence. I was in there planning out my whole life and I decided that I’m going into a drug rehab program. And then the motherfuckers let me out. Shit.
DAVE: Yeah, and I’m going into a tweek program. Free dope. Gimme a marker, Jim. I can feel a song comin’ on.
A pregnant RAG DOLL cruises by searching for a TV crew. She heard they are looking for a homeless teenager who is pregnant, and they are willing to pay.
RAG DOLL: People are nice to me now that I’m going to have a baby. Treat me nice and courteous. How come they weren’t so nice to me before?
DAVE: Where the fuck were all these film crews and photographers when I was ten years old and really needed them?
TWO DAYS LATER, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD
ECHO: Dave’s on five hits of acid. I’m on two.
DAVE: No wonder the whole city’s freaking out. It’s one big lake. All the hippies are swimming. I’m going to give you the yin/yang test. Ready, Echo? Are you yin or yang?
ECHO: I’m soft and slow.
DAVE: I must be yang, I’m hard and fast.
ECHO: Sure, Dave.
DAVE: Listen, Echo. I don’t care about anybody but you. I’ll support you for the rest of your life—that is if you can live offa $2 a day.
ECHO: We’ll panhandle every day.
DAVE: In front of Saks Fifth Avenue. I’ll buy you beer. I’ll ask everybody that walks by for a penny to buy you beer.
ECHO: We could make a lot of money like that.
DAVE: Jim, dude, don’t give her strawberries with her beer. It’s ugly.
ECHO: Sick! Don’t get sentimental on me, asshole.
DAVE: Baby, I love you so much I would drink your blood.
ECHO: Don’t you take anything seriously, Dave?
DAVE: I take Johnny Thunder quite seriously. I take the Rolling Stones seriously. I take God seriously. I take not taking baths seriously. And I especially take drugs seriously.
ECHO: Uh huh. Right on.
Later I’m taking pictures of tweeks and stoners outside of the 7-Eleven. All of a sudden the cops pull up and shake us down.
COP: Hands behind your back, shut up, legs spread.
I keep turning around. A cop keeps jamming his baton into my balls, saying he wants to ram my head through a plate glass window. We stand this way for maybe 20 minutes. They separate us and ask conflicting questions, trying to catch us in a lie. Then I am allowed to explain what I’m doing.
COP: Why waste your time with these kids, picture man?
I buy Dave rent at Denny’s.
A bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee costs $1.84.
His lips are blistering. There is dried blood around his gums.
He’s been trying to sleep off the results of his latest “life without Echo” binge.
DAVE: I have hepatitis and should be in the hospital. The rumor is that I’m Jesus. And when I die they’ll rename Hollywood after me. Everyone is hanging under the bridge, shootin’ dope with Pops and his little girl dope fiends. Lorna is suckin’ dick for money. And Blade says hi. She’s doing basically the same thing I do: staying stoned for about eight months and then working for a month. Drunk Steve is still drunk. Saw him and his girlfriend two months ago. They were still out to kill each other. Rag Doll is around. She had her kid and gave it away. Freckie’s down here livin’ with Chance. He’s workin’ at a clothes store up on Melrose and drinkin’ a lot. Kristy blew him off. Hear she’s stripping for cocaine on mirrored glass in Florida. Jersey Lu split from Cruise ’cause he’s still slammin’ and she’s seven months pregnant. The cops closed Oki Dogs. The Teen Shelter’s bogus. You can’t smoke in there. You can’t sleep in there. You gotta talk to your case worker just to get something to eat. And most kids don’t wanna go through all that shit just to get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
JIM: What’s going on with Cookie?
DAVE: Beat my meat to the toilet seat. Doo dah. Doo dah. Sure looks ugly but it feels real neat. Doo dah, doo dah, day. Drugs and sex. I love Cookie. She’ll always be true to herself. She’s straight-up nude dancin’. Perry found a magazine with a picture of her gettin’ cum shot on her. She looks damn good. She said she’d fuck me if I pierced my nose.
JIM: What about Ziggy?
DAVE: Cops got him for jaywalking. He’s in jail for possession of cocaine. He should be out by now. Him and Echo had an off again, on again love affair for awhile, ’til he told her, “Look bitch, I like dope better than I like you. And you like dope better than you like me. So get it straight.”
JIM: I heard from Echo’s mom that you two weren’t getting along.
DAVE: No, I haven’t seen her in months. I wanted to stop shootin’ dope, not only to make sure I still could, but for her. You know, go straight for her. Well, she couldn’t handle it and got all strung out. So I said fuck it. Echo and me are two different people. I hear she’s real fucked-up, hookin’ way out in Palmville, livin’ with her ex-sugardaddy Ian. No, me and her weren’t meant for each other. I used to think we were the same but we’re not. Guess I’m lookin’ for a new girlfriend. Gotta go, Jim. I have an appointment.
IAN THE SUGARDADDY
Ian decides he wants to help street kids, so he collects a bunch and brings them to his rented house out in the Valley. Calls it a “youth shelter.” Every now and then he convinces someone that he’s honest and they’ll give him a couple hundred bucks or something and he’s off on a tangent. Echo is staying there and she lives quite happily on the floor, watching TV 24 hours a day. I buy her a banana split at the Fame Cafe.
ECHO: I was sitting on the wall by IHOP and I’m, like, reading a paper and Ian, like, keeps driving by, going “C’mon, just go for a ride.” And I’m like, “I’m not working.” And he, like, parks the car and comes up and talks to me and goes, “I don’t care if you’re working. I didn’t say anything about working.” And I go, “I’m not gonna do nothing.” And he’s like, “Just come for a ride.” He’s about 30. Glasses. A little fat, says he’s into computers, and has a nice car. Well, we go to the beach and he buys me an ice cream cone and gives me his shirt when I’m cold. Says he doesn’t want anything except to hang out with a pretty and smart young person like myself. And to be my friend. And to help me. He seemed nice. I went and stayed with him. He fed me. Brought me clothes. After a while he told me he didn’t want to fuck me—that he liked older girls. But he told everyone else he does fuck me. So now I sort of fuck him and he sort of pays me.
THE BIRTH OF AMBER, December 17, 10:35 AM
Echo is in labor. At 2:00 AM, R. Sylvia (Echo’s mom) and I drive to the Crystal Hotel where we find TWACK JACK geeked on his bike, popping wheelies and trying to jump over garbage cans. His arms are flailing and he’s howling repeatedly:
TWACK JACK: I’m going to be a dad, I’m going to be a dad.
In the delivery room Twack Jack and Echo are arguing out of control. He is yelling at her between painful contractions.
TWACK JACK: Echo, you don’t understand. Why do you think I want to leave? Fuck, I’m doing this for you. I just want to go back to our room and make sure our stuff’s safe. And I don’t trust my bike in this hospital. Some doctor will probably steal it and I don’t want to miss my SSI appointment tomorrow morning.
ECHO: What a fuckin’ asshole you are Jack. You ought to check a mirror and get a good look at yourself. You selfish bastard. No doctor is going to steal your motherfuckin’ bike. Can’t you see some doctor racing around here on your bike, popping wheelies in the hall? And who gives a shit about our room right now? And why don’t you call the guy at welfare and tell him you just had a baby? Fuuuuuck! Unh.
Twack Jack leaves the hospital and doesn’t return till the next morning. By then Echo is having full blown, screaming contractions. Jack is spinning harder than when he left. The doctor keeps hinting that Echo is no good because she is a welfare case. The nurses give Echo oxygen in between the contractions. Thinking that no one is looking, Jack tries to sneak the mask away and take a hit. At 10:35 AM, Echo’s daughter, Amber, arrives. At 10:40, Twack Jack asks the doctor for the hemostats that were used to tie the umbilical cord because he needs a new roach clip.
ONE YEAR LATER
BETH: Hello, it’s me, Echo, or Beth, or whatever. I got a job working as a data entry clerk. Mom’s tired of my mess so I moved down to the basement. It’s all right there. More room for me and the girls. Got my own phone. It takes me a week of work to pay for Dave’s collect calls. He tells me that he loves me so much that he would move to New York, go into drug rehab, and become a father to my children. Ian has been calling, wanting me back as Echo, promising he will buy me an ice cream cone whenever I want. He swears he will help me make it in Hollywood this time.
BETH: My boss is an idiot! He thinks he knows everything but half the time I’m reading him the instructions. Got a few friends at work. They all think I’m funny. A couple of guys have asked me out. One’s rather nice and he’s a single dad. I met him in the McDonald’s playground. I like his kid and I kinda like him. He’s around 35, real normal. His hair is thinning. Turns out we have a lot in common, mostly about our dads. He and I can talk for hours about how unemotional they are. His father fixes lawn mowers and my dad fixes cars, so we sit around on the porch and talk about the lawnmower parts on the ground and the cars jacked up in the driveway, while our own kids are running through the sprinklers. It makes me feel good and I know I’m almost home.
HOSPITAL, October 22
The next time I hear from Dave it’s two months later. He is in Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.
DAVE: It’s bad, Jim. I’m swollen-yellow. My liver is shot. I have hepatitis A, B, C, and D, maybe E. The doc says that I only got six months to live.
JIM: Dave, you’ve been dying for years. I don’t know what to believe anymore.
DAVE: Truth is, I don’t either. I feel caught myself, like I’m stuck in between right and wrong. It’s so hard to explain on the phone Jim. All I want to do is sit and write it all down on some paper for you.
JIM: Dave, I don’t know if I want to know the truth anymore. It’s probably all the truth, isn’t it?
DAVE: The motherfuckin’ truth is that if I have to die here, I hope I kick it with a hell of a lot of morphine going up my veins. I’m so fuckin’ bored, Jim. They say they’re going to put me in a nursing home in a week or so. Fuck, if I do get released and I don’t like the god damn place, I promise you I’m AWOLing it to Hollywood. Shit yeah, dude, I’ll find me a gram of some down dope and get me to Oasis alley so I can straight-up slam it all.
DAVE: Fuck yeah, then I’ll crawl what’s left of my sorry, orphaned life out on Hollywood Boulevard and OD right there, fast and loud, on top of James Dean. Hope the motherfuckin’ street gets stained yellow from all the piss an’ tears of all my friends. Maybe somebody will even spray paint a star for me on that motherfuckin’, lyin’ “boulevard of dreams.” Jim, do me a favor and send me some Kerouac and Bukowski books, paper, and some envelopes and stamps. Then I promise I will write you back and blow your mind with the truth. Okay? I gotta go talk to the social worker. Send me some paper, okay?
I send the stuff and later I receive from Dave a note:
Guest list for my funeral
Anybody who wants to come (except for Tiny Waller and Doug)
Echo and her kids
Jim and Susan and the kid
Ziggy (I guess)
Cruise and Crash
Pops (just in case I want to get high on my way to hell)
Anne-Marie (but not Nigel, her boyfriend)
Freckie, Sue, Tori, Casper, Hippie Chick, Psycho, not Tank
(no assholes except me allowed)
Tweeky Michelle, Boss Bitch, Coma, Playboy, Destiny, Weedhopper
Pup Dog, Drunk Ray, Shorty, Hippie Dave, and Li’l Bit,
of course Doper Molly, Perry, Wea, Crow, Universe, Blade,
Officers Ruby and Moore
Mindy the Counselor
and Gabe if he hadn’t died of AIDS,
Cher (What the fuck)
Dylan, Kieth, Sid and Nancy (if she promises not to whine)
Axel and Slash, Yoko Ono, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Jerry Garcia,
Johnny Thunder, Johnny Ramone, and Johnny Cash
Madonna and Michelle Shocked (I would fuck either)
Mozart, Beethoven, and definitely Mahler
Bob Marley, Mick Jagger, Iggy, Lou Reed,
Willy Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Gore Vidal, Stephen King, Henry Miller
Ursula Leguin, John Lennon, Dostoevsky, Marx, Lenin, and Freud
Kerouac (he’s pretty much God_—_he can say the prayer)
Allen Ginsberg, Robert Frank, Picasso, Henry Rollins
Trent from Nine Inch Nails
Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, John Steinbeck,
James Dean, James Brown, Elvis (the fat fuck)
All corrupt politicians
Jesus Christ and Buddha
and all my enemies, including (maybe)
my mom and dad.
Where on the spectrum of loyalty and betrayal does song begin? And where does it end? I think each writer has to decide this over and over.