For some reason I was thinking about a particularly dark period in my life. 2009. I had a complete nervous breakdown around December of 2009. Everything that had been working in my life stopped working all at once. My best friend died. My street vending job came to a bitter end. My latest book (which I thought was going to be the answer to all my prayers) bombed commercially. And my artistic career (so-called) grinded to a halt. My life had hit a complete dead-end in every way.
Adding to my misery, I had been homeless for 3 years at that point. And the rainy season was about to hit. And what with all my other existential woes I wasn’t up to dealing with that, too.
So — for lack of anything better to do– I decided to get the hell out of town. Maybe if I got out of Berkeley, and got some distance from my situation, I could get some kind of perspective on the wreckage that my life had become. I had $5,000 bucks saved up from my vending job, so the plan was to just hole up somewhere, lick my wounds, and see if I could come up with a Plan B. So I got on a Greyhound bus and moved to this little town in the middle of the Arizona desert, and rented out a little apartment at this one-story motel/trailer park.
My apartment had a kitchenette, a living room with a bed in it, and a bathroom. When I looked out my window I could see all the RVs parked in the courtyard. And beyond that, miles and miles of Arizona desert. It was like being in the middle of nowhere.
I got drunk by myself in my apartment almost everything night. Mostly OE malt liquor. But occasionally I’d get a pint of Jack Daniels to add some fire to my fuel.
And I binged on cable TV. I must have watched TV about 12 hours a day. Which was a weird experience. Because I hadn’t watched any TV in nearly 20 years. The last time I had a TV in 1990 there was the 3 networks, PBS, and a local channel and that was about it. And now suddenly there were hundreds of channels. The one show I really got into, oddly, was The Kardashians. I must have watched an entire season of that show. I vaguely remembered Bruce Jenner from back when he was the Wheaties All-American Boy of the ’70s, and now his skin was all tight and shiny from too much plastic surgery, and he had fake hair, and when he smiled he looked sort of like the Joker from Batman (this was well before he became a woman). And one of the Kardashian sister was married to an NBA player from the Los Angeles Lakers, so that was interesting to me as a hoops freak, getting an inside look at that stuff. And for the big season finale this guy Scott, who was the boyfriend of one of the Kardashian sisters got drunk at a swanky Las Vegas casino and when the waiter wouldn’t serve him because he was too drunk he made an ass out of himself by trying to stuff a wad a bills down the waiter’s throat (which was grotesque) and ended up getting excommunicated from the family. But then his girlfriend had a baby — they brought the cameras right into the hospital and filmed her at her hospital bed grunting out the baby while everyone looked on in awe and shit. And the boyfriend showed up and they decided to let him back in the family since he was the father (so they were stuck with him for better or worse). And that’s how the season ended on this choreographed note of so-called inspiration. I don’t know what happened after that with the Kardashians. But as a natural voyeur it was fascinating to me to see how these rich Hollywood media creatures and vampires lived and related to each other behind closed doors.
The other show I used to sometimes watch was the cable news guy with the square head Keith Olbermann. He sort of played the part of the righteous, crusading liberal. So it was interesting to get up to date as to what the liberal were outraged about at the time. . . And I liked “The Dave Chapelle Show.” He was pretty funny. And he just seemed like one of the guys you’d be hanging out with on a street corner, and then he gets up on stage and does his own TV show. . . And then late at night I would watch the “Girls Gone Wild” info-commercials. Because that was the only thing I could find that had sex and nudity in it.
Sometimes late at night, after many hours of drinking, when I was really starting to get a good buzz going, I’d come up with some great idea for how I could turn my life around. And I’d get all excited and start making all these big plans and it was great because I had finally come up with a new direction to go in. But when I woke up the next morning I’d realize my idea was stupid and hopeless. So it was back to the drawing board.
After three months living in that motel apartment in the middle of nowhere, I started to run out of money. So I decided I better pack up my bags and move back to Berkeley. So that’s what I did. And here I still am.