Opening of my novel “The Rat House”

This is the bi-polar kid coming at you and by kid I mean older and wiser man.  Living in danger every day is a hassle and I’ve been given some bad advice over the years in psychotherapy from the suicide of a grad school schoolmate of mine at Santa Monica Mental Health saying, “That’s a shame,” said my doctor, “we didn’t catch that one,” to the counselor at the University of Oregon that counseled me to smoke some pot, which was damn good advice.  Nothing is like smoking a bowl of powerful weed to find or ignore every possibility.  To be mocked is bad.  To be of interest or intellectual curiosity is not.

I edit films now.  I also write fiction.  That’s what I’m attempting to do now, in a kind of mesmerized trance where the words just flow out.  I have ideas on this.  It’s still the Rat House (when hasn’t it been?) Only set in Seattle in 1987.  We don’t fit in quite right in that scene either and yet they made us part of the scene.  We were hilarious, I’ll bet, bad pop punk.  Punchy lyrics and sneaky solos, some surprising piece of musicianship despite all the errors, all the mistakes, all the bullshit, it still was art.  ART!

As an artist I play by a different rulebook.  But there is a book of rules and it’s conspicuously not being used as often as it should.  That book is the Bill of Rights.  Complaint is part of being an American, and that means anyone who is living here.  Make it a hard journey, but a rewarding one, to becoming a citizen, to becoming a human.  The Bill of Rights guarantees the right not to suffer, yet suffer we do, from inadequate healthcare to overpriced, underserved roach traps such as my apartment in Los Angeles, but it could be any of the forty or so places I’ve lived in my life, moving around a lot was my thing.  Make a mistake, go back home and make a new start, or go on the road and pick a new start.  My life was always a crap shoot, but that’s how a human being lives.  By predilection.  Yo deseo historias.  Soy escribidor.  Tambien, soy editor.

INT: DAY- VERY DARK ROOM WITH A LARGE TELEVISION IN IT.

The room is long and narrow possessing an incredibly large TV sitting on milk crates.  The room has hard wood floor and exposed brick and through the darkness of the room you sense a tobacco brown gloom.

Suddenly, the TV turns on.  I appear on the screen.

                                                    DAVID

                  Welcome to a different kind of writing…same style, different function.

The screen goes blank.

A flash of lightning then almost immediately a thunderclap.

(Continuous) The screen turns on:

WILLIAM

(Who looks like David only sporting hair and three days growth)

That’s not how you start a book.  You start like this:

“I’m leaving the band.  I’ve been diagnosed as manic depressive and all this bullshit is making it worse.  It makes me depressed and that’s trouble,” I said sitting at the kitchen table chair.  My head was down; I couldn’t look them in the eyes.  They were all there:

Howard didn’t like me because he was a horse.  His reason, I was a rat, born in November 1960, the YEAR OF THE RAT.  I felt it a high complement since I wouldn’t let people lead me around, like a horse.  But the rat is wise; he grows older, he grows wiser, he keeps his nose clean.  Howard looked like Ichabod Crane, tall, lanky with a large Adam’s apple, but I’ll have plenty of time to tell you about Howard later.  Suffice it to say he hated me without limit or reservation.  He was hardly the worst of my problems.  There was Ritchie the Hunchback.  Yes, that’s how he introduced himself to people.  “Ritchie the Hunchback.”

Ritchie would steal the money you stole from your mother’s purse, that’s the kind of guy he was.  Knock over an aged grandmother on her way to the shrimp cocktail at a Las Vegas buffet so he could get there first.  Shit like that.  Matt thought Ritchie was all right and Howard was in love with the guy but Wayne and I agreed that Ritchie was sleazy.

It was his sleaziness that made him a fascinating front man for the band.  His physical appearance mixed with his also damaged psychic energy made for high drama onstage and the audience knew it.  He was our Johnny Rotten.

Matt was a Gemini, believed he could read people by their astrological charts, and shared a birthday with Ray Davies of the Kinks, thus Matt’s fascination with all things Kink.  Matt had a dual nature, prone to extreme moods.  If he was sad he’d play the same tape over and over or if he was in a happy mood he’d play an LP side over and over again.  It was always Sticky Fingers when he was depressed, especially “Wild Horses”.  Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power” was an LP he’d play.  Also, he was always trying some new art project instead of focusing on the band.  He tried painting, collage, Xerox agitprop, fake band posters, and astrological readings.  He lived on bananas, valerian root and coffee, I never saw him eat and I lived with the guy in three houses.  Just bananas, valerian root and coffee.

Wayne, on the other hand, like Howard, would fixate on things.    He’d do it for years.  His fixations were always worthwhile things, not frivolous.  He had a single-minded belief back then. Get high and stay high. He strode the golden path of unlimited devotion daily.  He knew the fire from the ice and maybe it was because we’d grown older we were no longer the kids of 18 we were when we met.  Now we were 28 and life had occurred.  But there was always time to party, ALWAYS.

Back to Howard the Horse (does that sound like a Damon Runyon character?) and my feelings toward him.  I’m a Sagittarius and that’s half a horse and half an archery man.  So why couldn’t the clod accept half my bullshit, if that’s even what was bugging him?  It’s not like he didn’t love the shit out of that fucking little hunchback Ritchie.

Who was our Sid Vicious?  That would be our simpleton drummer, The Man Who Would Be Horse.  Wayne, our resident drug pig, was our rock, the Steve Jones of the group. That left Matt to be poor Steve Cook, never appreciated as a rhythmist since bass was overdubbed on the Never Mind the Bollocks: Here Come the Sex Pistols.  He and Steve were noted as being the best two piece band in rock history.

Me?  I am William and I vote myself the Glen Matlock of the group.  I’m tall and lanky with long hair (note to self, stop obsessing about the hair you USED to have) and three days growth of beard.  Remember, if you see the Buddha in the picture; ask why he doesn’t have a beard.  I’m also depressed most of the time, but that could just be because I’d lived in the Pacific Northwest for 10 years.  There’s nothing like the long gray day of Seattle to make you sad and blue.  It’s true.

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