In the fall of 1992, I was leaving my parents safe three bedroom apartment in New York City behind me and heading off to study communications, in the wilds of Ithaca College. It was a medium sized liberal arts school nestled in lush, green mountains and famous for its gorges in upstate New York. ‘Ithaca is Gorges’ Is the T-shirt. Like many others before me, it was at Ithaca College that I began my love affair with getting high. Ithaca was also the spot where I’d meet one of my all time favorite people, Todd. When Todd and I first met we were both freshmen. We actually met because of his weird roommate Ari. Ari was a really awkward guy with a thick lisp and funny, feathery blow-dried, eighties-styled hair. He also had a nice sporty car that my friend Zev loved to borrow. I think it was an Audi or something, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Todd thought Zev and I were nerds, and he was right. He’d always be like ‘Yo Ari, why do you let those nerds borrow your sweet car?’
Todd always loved to say ‘Yo’.
Maybe Ari listened to Todd, but who knows? Soon enough, Ari stopped lending us his sweet car. During my first semester I started a 14-piece soul band, kind of like the Blues Brothers Band. Todd became our biggest fan. He’d come to all of our shows, always bringing a nice little crew of cute girls. Todd was an infectious little guy, who was most always fun to be around. He was always scheming and spouting little catch phrases like ‘Nice ones!’ and ‘You know it!’ (I know they don’t sound like much, but when they came out of Todd’s mouth they were pure comedy gold). He was bubbling with energy, a quintessential 90’s hippie type, meaning his style was cacophonous- ranging from Phish and The Grateful Dead to Motley Crue and White Zombie, with nothing really in between. He wore hemp jewelry and often sported a holey, tie dyed Grateful Dead long sleeved t-shirt (he had at least ten of those). As his hippie flair grew, so did his hair and drug intake. By the time he was a sophomore, he had a beard, and the early stages of white people dreadlocks. He was an enterprising little guy too. He sold weed, acid, mushrooms and eventually got into the nitrous business. Todd loved nitrous. He would steal tanks for parties from his father, who was a mild mannered dentist from outside of Albany.
We started selling weed together in our freshman year, and from then on Todd and I became pretty much inseparable. We’d get stoned day and night, and take whatever other drugs came our way, mostly psychedelics and low grade uppers. Our go to pharmies were Ritalin and Adderall. Occasionally we’d fill the gaps with over-the-counter Ephedrine, which was famous for keeping truckers alert, and producing the side effect of short termed, acute testicular shrinkage.
After graduating college I moved back to New York City, and Todd soon joined me. He moved into my studio apartment on 24th street in Chelsea after my girlfriend had cheated on me. I had found out she had hooked up with an Asian glass blowing hippie from Minnesota, and had moved in with him. She would later claim that he wasn’t Asian, but that was beside the point. I was heartbroken and devastated. I invited Todd into my apartment for company, laughs and most importantly, to have someone to get high with. I was working as a production assistant for a company that mostly shot small forgettable shows on cable TV. Meanwhile Todd became a weed delivery guy. Every night he’d pick up his case of weed, which consisted of fifty tiny plastic boxes with about 2 grams each. Each night before his shift began, he’d come back to my place in order to ‘pinch’ the boxes. Eventually Todd would become very stingey with his pinched booty. It was the early days of pager based, bicycle weed delivery services in Manhattan, and security was not so refined. He’d take like .4 grams from each box, and we’d smoke what he would steal together.
While out and about in Manhattan, Todd had made friends with a lot of New York City doormen, and soon found cocaine connections. Todd loved doing that shit. I never enjoyed cocaine too much, I was naturally up, and craved downers to give my neurotic mind a rest. Eventually we’d find heroin and pills (mostly benzodiazepines), which would become the loves of my life, and the key to all my future downfalls.
Now we were 36. Maintaining our heroin and Xanax habit was a full time job. If you don’t know, Xanax is a powerful and effective anti-anxiety drug in the benzodiazepine family. One major side effect of using (and coming off of) large amounts of Xanax is a risk of seizures. Unfortunately, I had experienced many seizures in my life in some fucked up scenarios. When I seized it was usually mild, and it would feel like I was dozing off into a peaceful nod. In reality I was shaking and gurgling- quite unnerving and unpleasant to look at. One time, on a business trip I had seized on an airplane, and had to be wheeled off down the center aisle. As they removed me from the plane, I distinctly remember screaming, “I was sleeping! It wasn’t a seizure, get me back on this plane!”
Another time, I seized in rehab while playing guitar on a picnic table. I wound up falling off the table onto a very hard, cobblestoned ground, risking severe head injury. My worst seizure happened while climbing onto my loft bed. It was at least 5 feet off the ground. I wound up falling out of the bed, and onto a glass bong that was sitting on my square styled coffee table. The bong shattered, embedding thick resin coated glass shards into my ass, shin and thigh. The seizure lasted awhile so my girlfriend, Jenny, called an ambulance. The cops also came. According to Jenny, I didn’t want to leave the apartment. I grabbed for the doorframe, and made a move for a cop’s gun. I regained consciousness on a cold, tiled hospital bathroom floor (the same hospital where my daughter would be born years later). A West Indian nurse chastised me, “Bwoy! You too old to be acting like this!”
I hadn’t seized for at least three years when Todd and I were getting high in my apartment in Astoria Queens. We were sitting around, hitting the bong and watching TV. I think it was reruns of Beverly Hills 90210, one of our favorite get-high shows. We had always loved watching the gang at West Beverly High get into their shenanigans while we got fucked up. I was shooting up which always disgusted Todd. He preferred snorting heroin because he was terrified of needles and blood. Years before in Los Angeles he was curious about what shooting up felt like and asked me to inject him. I agreed. He fainted before the needle ever touched his skin.
We were getting hungry, so I ordered Mexican food from a local spot. He did lines off an old broken, scratched up CD case, while I searched for a hospitable place on my broken body to stick myself. We waited for the food, watched TV, and pretty much ignored each other. That’s when I fell out (seized). Everything went black. Todd freaked out, terrified and certain that I had overdosed. At that exact moment, there was a knock at the door, and Todd raced around my apartment like a chicken with his head cut off. Was I dying? Was it the cops? What was happening? He of course had forgotten that we had ordered food and somehow, as he answered the door, he fainted.
Simultaneously I regained consciousness. My seizure hadn’t been too intense, and I woke up thinking as always, that I had nodded out from the heroin. I looked for Todd but he wasn’t there, so I got up and walked to the kitchen. I was shocked to find Todd laid out in the doorway, with an unknown Mexican man standing over him. The front door was wide open and I was scared. Who was this guy? And what had he done to Todd? Was he here to hurt us? Rob me? What was happening? I had forgotten we had ordered delivery until I saw that he wore kitchen whites, and had a plastic bag full of Mexican delivery. I laughed to myself and paid him. Then I had to deal with Todd. I got him up, I asked him what had happened, he said he freaked out when I seized and couldn’t handle the pressure of the delivery guy when his fight/flight mechanism forced him out cold. I laughed and laughed and laughed. To this day, Todd still doesn’t think this story was funny.
Nowadays we rarely talk, just a few lonely texts here and there, but for some reason, maybe out of habit, I still consider him one of my best friends.