Forgetting my toothbrush was the least of my worries. But then again, I wasn’t really worried about anything. I was too annoyed to be worried. Too fed up to be worried. Too angry at the world to be worried.
My favorite comeback to anything for as long as I could remember was: “I never asked to be born.”
I had a favorite mantra, too: “If I can’t be dead, I might as well be drunk.”
And my favorite color was black.
But I knew if I got the heck out of Michigan, everything would be better.
So I was on my way. Sitting on a Greyhound bus headed for New York City. With a jug of white wine I stole from my parents and a giant duffel bag that contained everything I cared about. My markers, sketchbook and journal. My cassette tapes and Walkman.
I had my black leather jacket with my failed attempt at painting the Led Zeppelin swan song image on the back. And a pair of scuffy combat boots.
Oh yeah, and $200 in my pocket. The last of my pay from my gas station job, coupled with the $100 bill my mom had kept tucked in a picture frame.
I even had a game plan. It’s not like I was running away to NYC all willy-nilly. What do you think, I was nuts?
The New York City Game Plan
First off, I did wait until I graduated high school, thanks to mom’s words echoing in my head: “You’ll regret it later if you don’t graduate.” So I did. Class of 1988. The horror of high school was over.
High school truly became a horror after I got drunk in front of a football stadium full of people during homecoming weekend my freshmen year. I don’t think I could ever drink gin again, and certainly not an entire fifth of it like I did in about 10 minutes.
I woke up in a hospital with tubes up my nose and those nasty leather cuff things on my arms. They said I had gotten violent as they pumped my stomach.
I went to school Monday like nothing happened and was promptly called down to the principal’s office. Didn’t I remember being told I was suspended? Uh, no.
Kiss any friends goodbye after that one. I became a modern pariah. I remember the shame burning my face and ears as I slunk down the school hallway to the principal’s office.
It was a bad EF Hutton commercial. But instead of everyone being quiet to hear EF Hutton speak, they fell silent to watch me walk down the hall, as if I were shuffling off to the gallows. I kept my eyes straight ahead, pretending I didn’t care that I had become notorious from one stupid fifth of gin.
I didn’t care if you hated me, either. I didn’t care about anything, so there. I kept up that tough-girl facade for so long that I began to believe it. My exterior became a wall of armor. No friends, no problem.
Well, a couple of friends stayed. Annette stuck with me no matter what. She’s also the one who turned me on to Led Zeppelin. And I still had my friend Dave. He had strange things, like moldy pizza, under his bed. He also had a Mohawk.
Dave was actually the one who helped solidify this move to New York. He had heard about a guy named Lan or Lon who helped runaway kids. You’d find Lan or Lon around Tompkins Square Park.
This Lon guy let runaways stay in the abandoned building he took over if they did chores around the place. I pictured legions of angry teens with paint cans, painting the whole building mint green.
But now, all I saw was blue. The blue sky stretching its limits somewhere over Ohio. Or maybe it was Pennsylvania. It didn’t really matter, as long as the bus kept moving away from picture-perfect suburbia where people always looked at me weird. I figured my weirdness would just blend on in with all the existing weirdness in New York.
Fame and Fortune Awaits, Right?
Besides, that’s where I was going to get famous. I couldn’t very well get discovered in boring ole suburbia. A bonus of my game plan was getting discovered for my drawings and poetry, kind of like Henry in the movie “Barfly.”
Some agent would come give me thousands of dollars to publish my poems. People would snatch them up in droves, demanding books and more books and some artwork. That’s why my journal, sketchbook and markers were in tow.
Charles Bukowski was definitely my hero, tied with Shel Silverstein. Bukowski for his who-the-hell-cares attitude and his twisted way of looking at things. Silverstein for his catchy poems, illustrations and imagination. Years ago he took me to where the sidewalk ends. That’s where I decided I wanted to go, far far away from everything. But for now, New York City would do.
We interrupt our usual blog programming to share excerpts from Ryn’s upcoming book of essays and collages: How Alcohol Saved My Life Then Tried to Kill Me.
Now that I’ve been in recovery for 20+ years, I help amazingly creative people who want more out of life than sleep-work-sleep get their dazzle back so they rock their world.
I also help young adults and other folks at all stages of recovery from alcohol, drugs, depression and other inner demons. Book a call for more info.