Tag Archives: Drunk

Van Halen Cassette tapes, Kindergarten Underpants, Atari 2600, and the Awesome Hippie Babysitter

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Atari2600wood4

Atari2600wood4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rock and roll was the background music to my life from a very early age.  I initiated this obsessed love with two cassette tapes.

The first was “Purple Rain” by Prince.  I had that when I was about 4 years old.  My Dad bought it because he thought it was a killer album.  My Dad always had an ear out for what the best music on the scene was, a practice that I tried to pick up on.

The second was “1984″ by Van Halen.  I had that when I was about 5 years old.  I loved the song “Jump“, and also loved “Panama”.  I memorized the lyrics to “Jump” and used to sing them to my classmates in Kindergarten.  They looked at me like some sort of space alien.

My Dad was really into music.  When I was in my Mother’s womb my Dad’s drummer, Rodney Psyka nicknamed me “BB” (pronounced “Bee, Bee”), which is why my parents named me “Benjamin Bradford White” a little bit of a reference to BB King, but a never ending reminder that my identity was carved out in the middle of a bar gig.

I had no idea when I was a little man that my Dad had been heavily into the 60′s and 70′s drug scene. Nor did I have any idea that the members of Van Halen had probably indulged in their fair share of booze and drugs (especially old Diamond David Lee Roth!).  I just knew that I loved the sound of music pumping in my ear-drums.  Something about it felt familiar to me.

When I was a kid, my Dad smoked Barclay 100′s cigarettes.  I remember being 4 and 5 years old, and my Dad would be blowing that mellow blue smoke into the air.  I would be wafting it away from my face, trying not to breathe it in.  I always yelled at him saying, “Dad!  Smoking is so gross!  I hate it!” My Dad would just laugh and light up another, at times apologizing for smoking.  My mom would give my Father the dirty look that she often gave him.

I didn’t grow up under any sort of religious instruction.  The basic religion that my parents seemed to feed me was love, tolerance and compassion, coupled with BeatlesJoni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young records.  As a child I looked to musicians as being a certain breed of sage or prophet. I felt that their chords and melodies contained some sort of mystic power.  I was drawn to it.  It was the most spiritual experience that I encountered in my formative years.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I did pretty well.  They had me in a couple of advanced classes and I was basically a geek.  I was a different kind of geek though, because I had a variety of friends.  I was somewhat of a “socially adjusted geek”.

I had an appetite for trouble as well!  Once in Kindergarden I pulled my pants down in front of the class when my teacher had left for a short time, trusting that we the students would behave ourselves. We found after that she had left to join a small group of people that were observing their class behind glass with a one-sided mirror.  It was a behavioral experiment done by the Montessori School we were part of at the time.  They wanted to see if kindergarten kids could behave themselves in a large group without adult supervision.  I led the kids into a mini riot when I dropped my drawers and thwarted their experiment…

My parents later thought it would be a good idea to put me in public school, to give me more structure and rules.  It ended up working well.  I became a good student, and more well behaved.

In the meantime my Dad worked for John Hancock, an insurance company that was doing well in the 80′s.  He was at work often but he was also a good Father.  In many senses he was more of a friend to me than a disciplinary force.  I could always talk him out of punishments.  For example, after the pant-less fiasco my Dad tried to take away my Atari 2600 for a month…  and I talked him down to 2 weeks of Atari-absence.

Then there was the first time I witnessed my Dad get drunk.  He didn’t do it often, especially in front of me, and he definitely wasn’t an angry drunk, more of a slap-happy drunk.  We were at a wedding once when I was 10 years old and he had a little too much whiskey.  He had a lot of wild conversations with random people, basically being the life of the party in an extreme sort of way. While I, on the other hand, didn’t get it.  I cried and cried on the way home telling him how wrong it was.  After all, I was taught in school that these exploits were wrong.  Something in my young conscience felt horrible about it.

My Dad reassured me that he wouldn’t do it again.  He was generally good to his word throughout the rest of my pre-adolescent years.  He wasn’t an alcoholic, just a social partier.  He communicated to me that his position as a Father was more important than his party life.  He did a good job of keeping those two worlds separate before my eyes for quite a time. 

I had a babysitter named Laina who talked often of going outside to “get a fresh of breath air”.  I had found out that she smoked Camel cigarettes, and thought that maybe she was going outside to toke. I thought that was true because she used to come back from the “breath of fresh air” in an erratic mood and feed me some wild snacks, like Tato Skin potato chips, marshmallows and Coca-Cola Classic.  Then I hit the age of 13 and found that all hormones of either gender make one erratic. Nonetheless, it was safe to say I began to get a little chubby and crazy on this munchie food towards the end of my Elementary School days.

During this time I also got a guitar for Christmas.  My Dad had the guitar amp wrapped up and under the tree, and I had opened up all of my presents including the amp, but no guitar was to be found.  Then my Dad pulled a kamikaze move and grabbed the guitar out of his closet.  I was thrilled.  It was a black Fender Squier Stratocaster with white inlays.

Laina, my babysitter, was really proud of me for chasing after rock and roll.  She got me into the DoorsAerosmith and Led Zeppelin.  I listened to Zeppelin II for the first time, and it blew my world apart.  Jimmy Page’s riffs made me want to learn how to tear it up just like him.  Laina even helped me write a song, and we called it “Death Theater”.  She was really bummed when I made the lyrics a naive version of an anti-drug rant.

But Laina and I became pretty good buds.  She took me downtown in Hudson, Ohio during the annual shaving cream fight that all the middle schoolers and high schoolers used to go to.  It made me feel pretty cool to say the least, especially for a 4th grader!  Laina helped me figure out a little bit more of who I thought I was, and turned me on to rock and roll that turned my world upside down.

Rockstar Daydreamer

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Rock star baby, Rock star.

Rock star baby, Rock star. (Photo credit: fmgbain)

Someday he’s gonna make it to the top
And be a juke box hero, got stars in his eyes~ Foreigner

I’ll never forget when I played my first gig in a bar.  I was 14 years old and our band Mulberry Tree got a gig at a dive called “Europe Gyro” in Kent, Ohio.  We got there to set up and the stench of alcohol, cigarette smoke and urine had filled the air.  A couple bands were playing with us and treated us like second class citizens, so of course we went on last.  It was a Sunday night before school on Monday.  We went on at 10:30 pm to an audience of one black man, drunk out of his mind and yelling out, “play some Jackson 5 man!”  My Dad had set up the gig for us.  At one point I dropped my pick in the middle of a song and was deeply embarrassed when he picked it up off the ground and handed it to me.  I think the microphone picked up my words, “get away Dad!  Get away!”

Not long before this, we had our first experience in an amateur recording studio.  The man who recorded us was a total throwback to the 70’s and 80’s.  He had a wild long pony-tail down to his butt cheeks.  He played the saxophone.  We recorded all our Mulberry Tree Songs live, and then I did the vocals.  We finished a whole album of 7 songs in 12 hours.  We laughed at Duane, our drummer, because we had to duct tape headphones to his skull, they kept slipping off because he banged his head to the beat while drumming.

All of this led to the pinnacle for us.  We had a chance to play in front of our peers in High School at what Hudson High School in Ohio called “Rock Fest”.  It was 1996.  Hits like “Stupid Girl” by Garbage and “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins were on the radio.  Duane, Mitchell and I were nervous before the show.  We snuck into a bathroom upstairs in the High School and turned off the lights.  We lit up a cigarette and shared it.  We hopped up and down pumping ourselves full of adrenaline before the show.  Then the moment came.  We were on.  I stepped up to the mike, plugged in my Cherry Red Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, and wiped away the hair hanging over my eyes.  We played our first song, and through the whole show the crowd stayed into it.  We were deeply hooked on the accolades we got from the masses of peers looking onward.

And afterwards, we were able to sell our album to all of our friends.  It was on cassette tape.  I had to make copies myself on my high-speed audio dub recorder, and we gave some weed to a friend of ours for making our “high-tech” album art on his 95′ PC Computer.

But after the show, Mitchell’s Father cornered me.  He proceeded to tell me that “red flags” were going off in his mind, because in one of our songs I had a lyric that sang “smoke it up, toke it up, drink it up, gulp it on down”.  He was sure that I was singing from personal experience.  I assured him that I was writing fictionally, and felt bad for all of the poor people who were caught up in the mess of addiction.  After a lot of interrogation, Mitchell’s Father backed off.

I came up to Duane and Mitchell and they were asking me; “What did he say? What did he say???”  I told them that he tried to get me to admit I was doing drugs and drinking, and that I was sure I pulled one over on him.

I was becoming a liar.  I certainly struggled with lying to my parents, because we had such an open, transparent relationship.  Nonetheless, somehow, lying became a new weapon that I felt I could use to protect the things I did in darkness…  I began lying to many people, including my parents and some of my close friends.  I began to abandon my conscience and step into a whirlwind of hedonistic freedom of which I had not experienced yet.

Drunk and Arrested at Age 15

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Hiatt type 2010 handcuffs. Circa 1990s

Hiatt type 2010 handcuffs. Circa 1990s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was late July of 1996, and “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand” was #1 on the alternative rock charts.  Not far behind was Stone Temple Pilots’ “Tripping on a Hole in a Paper Heart”, a modern psychedelic rocker, and Beck’s “Where it’s At”- an genius hybrid of minimalistic alt-rock and hip-hop done by the white grandson of a Vaudeville performer.

This had been an interesting summer.  My parents, in the midst of their continual fighting about money, had certainly moved ahead financially.  We bought a nicer house closer to the High School in Hudson, Ohio.  It was actually within walking distance.  One positive result of this was my removal from old surroundings.  Some of the neighbors around me who perpetuated my drug habits were now absent from my every day life.

On top of this, our high school band, “Mulberry Tree”, was facing some strain.  Our drummer, Duane, had disappeared from our existence for the summer.  We found later that he was hanging out with his older friends, and had really gotten the love bug for an older girl.  I suppose I would have done the same thing were I in his shoes.

But in our youth, me and the bass player of Mulberry Tree, Mitchell, took it personally.  We started writing our own music, which had more of a progressive-rock edge to it.  We wrote 6 to 9 minute long opuses, which were deeply influenced by prog bands like Yes, Rush, early Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and King Crimson.  We were also certainly influenced by Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne.

Yet the removal of Duane and his older friends from our little rock star utopian dream world severed us from the ability to acquire marijuana.  We began to experiment more often in the cedar lined shelves of our parents’ liquor cabinets.

Mitchell would come over on Summer Evenings, after playing baseball all day, and we’d conjure up some form of liquor or beer.  We’d fill ourselves with it to the point of buzzing or being intoxicated, and then we’d congregate in my basement, which now had a full drum set, guitars, a bass, amplifiers, a keyboard, PA speakers, and a little recording studio with equalizers and mini-speakers.  It was every thing a young rocker would dream of.  We’d record our original music, with me on drums, and rhythm guitars, and Mitchell would play bass and lead guitars.  We’d mess around with over dubs and share doing the vocal tracks.  We created some great material when the alcohol wasn’t disabling us too much.

We ended up connecting with an older girl named Madeira in our circle of friends.  Mitchell had a love interest in her, and I had a bit of one, but knew that it was only right to allow my friend to pursue his interest before mine.  Our first connection with Madeira was at one of her parties.  Her parents would leave town and her 21 year-old sister would buy enough beer to kill an army of kittens.  She’d invite her sphere of influence into her den of high school freedom, and we’d partake of the spirits.

Now, I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for two years, and have never been legally drunk, because the only drinking I did past the age of twenty-one was a beer or glass of wine here or there.  I was floored by Ephesians 5:18 that says; “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”  I want that fulfillment and joy that can come from sobriety and being filled with God’s presence.  But at the age of fourteen going on fifteen, I dug debauchery.  The dictionary defines debauchery as “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures”.  This was my M.O.

The first party we attended at Madeira’s house began with Mitchell and I sharing a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and ended with both of us laying like fools on a bathroom floor, vomiting what seemed to be an endless ocean out of our insides, and professing of our bro-mance friendship love for one another.  People say and do completely silly and regretful things under the influence of alcohol to be sure.

Later, Madeira had invited us to hang out with her and go bowling.  She obtained a bottle of 40 proof (1/2 strength) whiskey and 2 bottles of Boone’s sparkling wine for our voyage.  We made it to the parking lot of Stonehedge Bowling Alley in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Madeira was 16 and drove us there.  Mitchell had a learner’s permit because he was 15, and I had no sort of driver’s license because I had just turned 15.   We certainly had no plans for a designated driver.

We decided to drink the alcohol before going in to bowl.  Mitchell and I drank the whiskey, and Madeira drank the Boone’s.  Mitchell and I managed to finish the entire bottle, which was ½ strength but a large quanitity, especially for 15 year-olds!  Madeira finished both of the bottles of Boone’s.  We stood outside and smoked cigarettes as the deeply inebriating effects began to destroy and flood our minds.  Mitchell and Madeira ended up further away and I was on my own smoking.  I saw them kiss.  Madeira later got so sick that she started throwing up.  We never made it into the bowling alley to bowl…

So we had a serious dilemma.  Madeira was in no state of mind to drive.  Mitchell had a learner’s permit and half a bottle of rot-gut whiskey in him.  I had the same amount as Mitchell and no license.  We collaborated with great wisdom and intelligence to have Mitchell drive us home.  “We’d take a back-road highway- Route 91, and avoid the Route 8 freeway.  That way we’d stay away from potentially getting pulled over.”  So we thought…

Mitchell drove us home as Madeira laid down in the back on my lap.  She was feeling terrible and not in the best place, but still my feelings for her were there…  hidden underneath the surface.  I looked out the window into the beautiful summer night sky.  It was July 29th, 1996.  The stars were out.  What were we doing?  Were we crazy?  I held back my feelings for Madeira.  I hoped that we wouldn’t get in deep trouble.  Things weren’t looking good.

Mitchell drove through Cuyahoga Falls, then Stow, and then we were close to the border of Hudson, Ohio.  All the way he kept turning around to us in a fit of adrenaline.  He spoke loudly with a slur, “I think we’re going to make it!  Everything is gonna be ok!”

When we crossed the border into Hudson, a cop car pulled out of the darkness.  Flashing lights beamed in behind us.  Mitchell began to freak out.  “Oh no! Oh no oh no!!!  What are we gonna do?  What are we gonna do?”  He yelled.  I responded, in my inebriated tone, “It’s all good man, just tell him you’re taking us home and Madeira has the flu man!”

Mitchell pulled over.  The cop shone a flashlight in from behind us, making our adrenaline spike up.  Mixed with the alcohol, the feeling was numbing and terrifying.  The cop came up and addressed Mitchell, “Son, do you realize you were driving without your headlights on?”  Mitchell flipped and started apologizing.  He got out of the car and admitted he didn’t have a real license.

Everything else seemed to flash before our eyes like a nightmare.  Mitchell getting a sobriety test, then getting cuffed and put in the cop car.  The cop pulling me and Madeira out of the car and cuffing both of us.  Two back-up cops showing up and taking all of us separately…  isolated from one another…  They put me in the back of a cop car alone.  I was drunk, only 15 years old for 9 days, and breaking curfew.  An accomplice to under-age drunk driving.  I don’t remember all the details in the haze, but I was definitely weeping like a little child in the back of that cop car.

Later that night at the police station, our parents would come and pick us up.  I was too drunk to remember any of the conversations.  But I do remember when my Dad brought me home, and my Mom was waiting at the door.  It was about 3 am.  She didn’t say a word to me, she just wound up and slapped me hard in the face.  The numbness of the alcohol combated the physical pain.  But the emotional pain and shame were magnified.

I went up and slipped into a drunken slumber.  I would be grounded again for another month.  I would be enrolled into Oriena House for substance abuse counseling.  I would have to serve community service.

“Burden in My Hand” by Soundgarden would enter the soundwaves of the summer of August, 1996.  I would write songs in my month of grounding that were reflecting on my own addiction and desperation.  What would my Sophomore year of High School hold for me?  Would it be a year of reformed salvation?  Would it be a spiral into degradation?  Time would tell, but the words of Soundgarden certainly reflected my current state.

Follow me into the desert
As thirsty as you are
Crack a smile and cut your mouth
And drown in alcohol
Cause down below the truth is lying
Beneath the riverbed
So quench yourself and drink the water
That flows below her head

Close your eyes and bow your head
I need a little sympathy
Cause fear is strong and love’s for everyone
Who isn’t me
So kill your health and kill yourself
And kill everything you love
And if you live you can fall to pieces
And suffer with my ghost