Less Than Weirdo

Nan Goldin "French Chris at the Drive in New Jersey 1979, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery New York

text by Max Barrie


    The noise in my head is so loud some nights, only bashing my brains in or a power drill would suffice.  Then this Meat Robot called Max would finally know peace.    

    The delusional hemorrhoids of loneliness are consistently painful and at times paralyzing.  I’m around clients all day at work; I pass families and doggies as I stroll through Brentwood; I have a great relationship with my therapist who I see four times a week.  But at the end of the day, I always go home alone.  And there’s no good way to get home.  Any route I take, each step is cemented with sadness, as if I’m walking a long plank to my apartment… trying to avoid dog shit on the sidewalk.

    I know the worth of water now that the shower head is missing and I’m forced to bask in my own filth.  I consider getting married some day— then I think about resenting HER and trolling around LA for strange.  I imagine creating a family, and I obsess about my poor children.  I will make them crazy… then life may very well break them as it has broken me and so many others.  I refuse to create lives carelessly, especially as the planet decays and Biff Tannen takes office.  Am I better than my biology because I believe the best gift to my kids would be to never have them?

    What?  I can’t ask their permission.  “Hey buster, would you like to be born?”  Had my parents asked me, I think just based on the common cold, I would’ve rejected the offer.  Even though I think it’s selfish, if I loved a woman enough, I would probably have children with her… if she poked holes in the rubber.  That said, I’d much rather co-exist with someone who’s already manufactured rug rats or has a broken pussy.

    Don’t misunderstand me… I love kids.  I just don’t want any of my own.  To all my friends and family and the readers that have reproduced, I have nothing but respect and admiration for you— provided you’re there for your brood.  From volunteering with little ones a few years back, I’ve come to believe that life’s true meaning is fully realized when one is responsible for another life.  Also, tots are closer to “The Source” than us, and regularly teach us important lessons we have forgotten.

    The following story is one more reason I’m afraid to multiply.  I’m content with being half-baked.

    I was roughly six months sober when I moved into an apartment with George Kutter.  Everyone predicted the worst, but I didn’t see it coming.  Most likely Jewish blindness.  You know, you look in the fridge and the milk is right there, but it’s nowhere to be found.  I fuckin’ hate that.

    In high school, George’s family’s home was a large gated estate in Bel-Air, on the tippy top of a hill.  My father once picked me and some pals up there after a party in 9th grade.  I had alcohol poisoning and my old man had to pull over every five minutes so I could barf.  The cops even stopped us along Sunset Boulevard, and my dad lied and said I had food poisoning.  This was in 1998 and I was fifteen years old.

    Years later life had evolved, but I had only revolved.  I’d been in and out of posh rehabs, treatments and other programs by my late twenties.  And as it turned out, so had George.  Except POSH wasn’t the adjective I’d use to describe the joints he ended up in.  He was on his own… his father had lost the family fortune, and done time in federal prison for tax evasion.

    George and I were living in different sober livings, but kept running into one another at AA meetings around Los Angles.  At my sober living, I had a private room and air-conditioning, while at his— Georgie had rats and a vending machine.  But even without the family funds that had once propped him up, George was a straight survivor.  He was slinging cell phones to make rent and car payments… he even had a really beautiful sober girlfriend named Eleanor.

    On toilet paper his life was in the shitter, but Georgie was handsome, confident and always held his head high.  I admired that.  And even though I had gotten alcohol poisoning at his house when I was fifteen; and he had almost beat me up for making fun of his wanksta wardrobe in 10th grade, I was taken with him in a heterosexual way.  He was cool, he was likable, and these days he often included me.  He introduced me to people, took me to parties, dinners, BBQs— we even did a road trip with some of his friends.

    After about a month, maybe two— we were both ready to “graduate” from our sober living homes.  My plan was to get an apartment, which was George’s thinking too.  But he had shit credit and zero savings, so it would be difficult for him to get greenlit anywhere.  We were buddies, and naturally I wanted to help… so we soon decided to be roommates.  But looking back on it, somethin’ tells me George had decided this long before we ever broached the subject.

    If it wasn’t Daddy, it was Mommy or Grandma— when she was still around.  Someone was always backing me.  So even though I was constantly worried, I never really had to worry.  George and I soon moved into a nice two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.  We basically split the rent and utilities, but I paid a couple hundo more for the master bedroom and a private bathroom.

    Not only was I newly sober— at this stage in my life I was dealing with some of the worst OCD I had ever experienced.  Every little thing felt like climbing a mountain.  My days were plagued by endless showers, lots of butt wiping and lengthy brushing and flossing sessions.  I would rarely shave because it took an hour and made a mess.  I was cleaner than clean, but had gone primal.  No one was allowed in my room… and I spent most days in bed watching movies I had already seen a dozen times.  Occasionally I would leave for food or to have my clothes professionally cleaned at Flair Cleaners on Montana.  I was royalty at that place— easily paying their monthly rent and land taxes with my distorted thinking that didn’t work— linked directly to my MasterCard that did.  Sometimes when I returned to our apartment, I would get paranoid about someone having been in my room and rifled through my things.  I soon called a locksmith to secure my bedroom door.

    George worked during the day, and at night we would go to an AA meeting or grab dinner or both.  Some nights his girlfriend would come over and we’d all go see a new movie or eat at Sugarfish— a place I have since deemed The California Pizza Kitchen of sushi.  Cookie-cutter menu, mediocre service… it rattles me even to write about it now.  If you wait thirty minutes for a table and spend megabucks at Sugarfish, you’ve completely bought into the bullshit.  If you know the difference between rat shit and Rice Krispies, you’ll take your clitoris over to Matsuhisa.

    My room and George’s room were separated by a kitchen and a living room, which in a few months would become a moonless den of iniquity.  Sometimes in the middle of the night when I’d grab something to drink from the fridge, I could hear him plowing Eleanor.  I’d hear her moans and the mattress give, and a light thumping against the wall.  It seemed that he fucked her hard and often, but like any good addict, it was never enough.  George was smitten with Eleanor and proclaimed to everyone that she was the only vagina in his life.  But he neglected to mention Heidi, who was a speed fuck slut freak of the week and Georgie’s side piece.

    I remember the day everything started to go dark.  Thats how darkness works in my experience.  It doesn’t flood the building immediately.  It finds a way in and spreads itself out like peanut butter.  Slowly at first, but soon the knife picks up speed and nowhere is safe.  Eventually it’s stuck to roof of your mouth and it’s hard to voice the words, “HELP ME.”  Georgie and Eleanor sat me down in the living room.  With roughly nine months of sobriety, George had apparently smoked crack earlier that day in his car, down in our parking garage.  He said the urge came on strong and all he could do was pick up the phone and call Red.  Red would soon become a character in my life and a lampshade in our apartment.

    Eleanor and I stood by George in his time of trouble.  I mean what choice did we have?  She had been hoping for a ring finger rock, and I was aiming to make good on my lease.  It was obvious Eleanor and I were thrown off track… this wasn’t part of the plan.  We were two skeptical, yet encouraging hostages.

"If you reside in and around the darkness, it’s just a matter of time until you grow fangs."

    Inside every addict lives a monster.  If you feed it, you wake it up and embolden it.  If you stay off the sauce and dry goods for long enough… it falls back asleep.  The beast lives with you and it dies with you.  I would soon learn of the depths of George’s addiction and the bloodthirsty yeti that ate his spaghetti.  It was not going down without a fight.  It was not going down, period.

    When Georgie wasn’t working, we regularly hit AA meetings and hung out with Eleanor, like nothing had happened.  But something had.  A few weeks passed and then came Eleanor’s birthday dinner in Hollywood… I noticed that George was amped that night and picking at his forearm during the meal.  Later on he appeared to be slurring his words and falling asleep mid-sentence.  I didn’t want to believe it, but he had been tuned up for days prior to the celebration.

    She broke up with him.  Thats when all hell broke loose in our apartment.  

    George began cyberstalking Eleanor on my laptop and doing drugs out in our living room.  That’s when I met Heidi.  Apparently George had been sneaking her into the apartment since day one.  Whenever Eleanor wasn’t around, he was drilling Heidi like the cum dumpster that she was.  They shot speed, fucked like rabbits and stayed awake for days.

    After a while I completely cracked too.  I was mostly alone in my room… my OCD was still off the charts… I didn’t have a job, and I was rooming with a speed junkie— now in the throes of his addiction.  If you reside in and around the darkness, it’s just a matter of time until you grow fangs.

    One night I went over to a pal’s house and picked up a bottle of booze… then the bottle picked me up— held me against the wall by my throat.  My friend was concerned.  “I thought you gave up drinking,” he said.  I told him I WAS drinking, just no longer doing drugs.  Most people who aren’t addicts always accept that answer… but the truth is— whether it’s wet or it’s dry, if it changes the way you feel, whats the difference?

    Pamphlets and Big Books can suck my Dick Tracy… if you’re not a druggie and want some insight into the monster, listen to Eminem’s song, “Deja Vu.”  It beautifully and tragically explains everything in under five minutes.

    Soon enough, I was abusing the non-addictive drug, Seroquel???  Georgie was using it to, to come down from his seventy-two hour runs.  Then one night we went to Cody’s place in Hancock Park.  It was a condo on Rossmore with a back entrance through an alley.

    When we got up the stairs— it was me, George, Red, Cody and Heidi.  The blinds were drawn and “Family Guy” was playing on the TV, but no one was paying attention… everyone was getting high on Red’s supply.  I was drinking from a six-pack of Heineken.  Cody was smoking Roxys on foil; Red was smoking crystal meth out of a giant glass pipe; and Heidi and Rusty were making themselves comfortable on the sofa… tying off and trying to shoot drugs.  They would gasp each time they missed a vein, then wiped the blood off with an old t-shirt.

    Cody eventually offered me a Roxy, but it was my old friend Xanax that I ended up visiting with.  I washed down two bars with a beer like it was nothing.  Then a little later when I saw Red smoking a joint, I took a monster hit.  As I exhaled the smoke, coughing, it clouded the air… and the next few days were erased in a matter of minutes.  I only recall my legs shaking and it being difficult to walk.  And I remember stopping by my Mom’s house to ask for money the next day.

    When I look back on my life, I can connect the dots for the most part, but I’m certainly not one of those people who says— “I wouldn’t change a thing.”  I would change many things.  The first thing I would change is, I would’ve slept with Lexi Shapiro that one night in 2008.  The second thing I would do… would be to go back to each time I put my poor mother through hell, and not do that.  There must be a thousand instances.

    I came to in my apartment days later, sitting next to Red on my green living room sofa.  I was snorting a line of coke off the coffee table and handing him eighty dollars for another gram.  Red gave me a little sack of chunky white.  I laughed at how small it was.  He said we could weigh it.  I told him no, I believed it was a gram… I just found it all so amusing:

    Paper is access granted and powder is make-believe power.  

    George walked in and told me to go easy on the blow-sheezy.  When George wasn’t at work, he was basically stalking Eleanor or getting high or both.  He would drive past her apartment five or ten times in a row.  In his deranged mental state, he had convinced himself that she had a new man in her life.  This was a delusion.  She would soon file a restraining order against him.

    I did cocaine for days… taking Seroquel to come down, but the coke crashes still landed me in some starless emotional basements.  It was a Sunday in September when I sank into a quicksand state of hopelessness and self-loathing.  I picked up my Blackberry and texted a sober actor friend of mine who lived in Malibu.  After I typed to him things that had transpired, he invited me over to talk in person.  But later that day he was presenting at the Emmy’s, so he only had a few hours.  When I arrived at his home, we smoked cigarettes on his ocean deck, while I explained everything in greater detail.  He listened to me carefully.  Often times humans just need to be heard.

    While he got ready for the Emmy’s, I lay on the couch in his den.  I think football was on the TV in the background, and soon I was asleep.  I woke up to a bottle of Fiji Water and some chicken nuggets that he had microwaved for me.  After I ate, he told me to take a shower.  He even gave me a change of clothes.  This was the only person in Hollywood, on or off-screen, who wasn’t a complete and total disappointment.  He was the cool kid who invited me to his birthday party, told me I mattered, and picked me up when I tripped and fell.

    We both left his house at the same time.  I left in my car and he left in a limousine with his assistant.  He told me to call him when I got back to my apartment, and he’d walk me through flushing the rest of my drugs.  I did as I was told, except I couldn’t dump the coke.  While I was on the phone with him, I only pretended.  He told me he was proud of me and that we’d check in later that night.  I thanked him and hung up.

    George was spending so much on drugs that he couldn’t pay the rent.  Although I didn’t find out until it was too late.  Maybe I should have suspected when he started asking me for a Benny now and again.  He also got in trouble at work, not just for being loaded, but for fucking his supervisor’s wife.  You can’t write this kind of stuff.  Well, I can… it’s true.

    I was eventually back in the treatment center I had been through several times before.  I’m not sure why I kept going back there and not somewhere else.  I guess the same reason I kept using… it was comfortable… it was familiar.

    My dad ended up paying George’s back rent, as well as to break our lease.  If I could go back in time, that’s something I would change too.  I can’t even imagine how much dough I’ve cost my father since my world premiere in ’82.

    Shortly after I checked back into rehab, Georgie’s Mom passed away.  After that, the word was that George took off with some druggie chick named Christian Weinstein… wait, what?  As for Eleanor, she moved on and I would see her from time to time around the sobriety scene.

    I remained in treatment for two months and then sober living for another fourteen months.  After a year and a half of hard work, abstinence and a job in recovery, one day the urge came on strong… all I could do was pick up the phone and call Red.

Max Barrie is a writer and artist currently based in Los Angeles. The son of screenwriters, Michael Barrie and Sally Robinson, Max was born and raised in Beverly Hills, California. With acerbic wit and self deprecating humor, Max documents his life growing up in the shallow, superficial depths of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood machine. In his multiple part autobiographical series, entitled A Trendy Tragedy, Max will explore his bouts with addiction, prostitution and his search for identity in a landscape that is rife with temptation and false ideals. FOLLOW AUTRE ON INSTAGRAM TO STAY  IN TOUCH: @AUTREMAGAZINE