I remember one of the last times I saw Craig. It was late in the evening and he was standing in front of the Annapurna head shop (“Since 1969!!”) on Telegraph. I could tell he was stoned out of his mind. He was hurking and jerking and sort of piruetting around in circles like a wind-up toy with a crucial piece broken.
“How ya doing, Craig,” I said.
“Not good, Ace” said Craig flailing his arms in the air. “The clerk at Annapurna’s is calling the cops on me.”
I looked in the front door of Annapurna’s and could see that the clerk behind the front counter was doing precisely that. “Why is the clerk at Annapurna calling the cops on you?” I said.
“Ooooh. I DON’T KNOW!! The last time I was in there I caused some kind of scene and they permanently banned me. I forgot about the ban and just went back in there again and I got all confused when I tried to make my transactions.”
“What was the transaction?” I said.
“I forget'” said Craig. His face was contorted and in some kind of distress. He threw his hands up in the air and started pacing back and forth. “It was all a big misunderstanding.” Then he burst out laughing.
“Oh,” I said.
“I went back in there multiple times to try and straighten things out but the clerk just kept gettin’ more and more confused and freakin’ out on me for no damn reason!!”
“Oh,” I said.
Craig’s brains had become permanently scrambled from speed. I had known Craig since 1994. And now it was 2007. He had been a legendary speed freak even back then. It was a big part of his self-image as sort of a Keith Richards-wannabe rocknroll outlaw romantic street poet drug addict. I was a John Lennon-wannabe myself with my own drug demons, so what could I say.
“Maybe you should get out of here before the cops show up,” I said.
“No I need to go back in there and buy something at Annapurna’s,” said Craig.
“What?” I said.
“I don’t KNOW! I FORGOT!!” Craig threw his hands up in exasperation and confusion. Then started laughing again.
Back in the old days Craig used to get high. But then he’d come back down. Come back down to earth. But then Craig got high this one time and never came back down.
I think it was that one last fatal speed binge that did him in. One of the biggest speed dealers in town had recently ODed. And since the rent on his studio apartment was still paid up until the first, this whole pack of speed freaks — including Craig — had descended on his apartment like a horde of locusts. And moved in, systematically selling off all of his stuff and using up his huge stash of speed. And I think all that speed finally drove Craig over the bend.
So nowadays you’d often find him in the middle of the street babbling nonsense non-stop. Or laughing hysterically for no reason. It was really sad to see. Because Craig was basically a really good guy. But that’s life on the streets. Some people hit the streets with some kind of deep wound in their souls. And then the streets just tear them apart.
“Well I better get going,” I said.
“Hey Ace,” said Craig. “Would you give me a hug?”
“Well sure,” I said.
We embraced standing there on Telegraph in front of Annapurna the head shop. And Craig held onto me tight for just a couple of extra beats. Before he finally released me.
It was an odd request. We had never hugged before after all. But I just figured it was one more goofy thing that Craig did. He was almost always in a goofy head space now.
“You take it easy Craig,” I said.
“YEAHHH!” he said.
And he started laughing. That kind of loon laugh where things are so fucked up all you can do is laugh at the absurdity of it all. One thing I’ll say about Craig, he never lost his sense of humor right to the end.
I could see two cops walking in our direction so I made a hasty exit. And I didn’t think more about the encounter. Just one more surreal interaction with crazy ole Craig.
Until a short while later. After Craig had jumped in front of a train. And I thought about that hug. I think Craig had realized he was fucked. Doomed in a way. It’s hard to get through life when a person’s brains are permanently scrambled. And they’re sort of beyond help. And all they can really ask for is a good hug before they walk off the plank.