To say I’ve met some interesting characters in my life would be a grave understatement. As uninteresting as my character may be, I have often found myself serving time around some very colorful personalities.
A good example would be a one Lance Strongarm. Now Strongarm is not his real name of course, but Lance had a way of muscling people (me) into doing things they knew were not such a good idea. We knew they were wrong but for some reason we did them anyway. Lance was very cool, educated, and funny. I guess people just wanted to be around him. Even if it met trouble came along for the ride. Like following the Pide Piper off the cliff, only in this story the Piper jumped as well.
I first met Lance under the bridge in Mission Viejo. My friend Rich had brought him to one of our late night soirees. Rich was another character all his own. He was my doppelganger. Everyone thought this kid looked just like me. When I first moved to the area I would go places and people would call me Rich. It wasn’t until some time later that we finally met and he told me people called him by my name as well. I even had my girlfriends best friend call her and tell her that they saw me with another girl at some party while I was suppose to be at work. It was crazy. The funny thing is we both felt we looked nothing alike. Anyway.
Lance and I both owned 67 VW bugs. We would race them all over town like they were go-carts. We would bump into each other and anything else that got in our way. I took a torch and cut the top off of mine, making it a convertible. Rainy days were made for bugs.
One afternoon Lance told me that he had met this girl. She was house sitting for a rich couple in the Hesperia valley and wanted him to come down for the weekend. She was also having her twin sister and another friend over and wanted him to set them up. He already asked Rich and needed me to go along for the sister. I felt the arm twist and said I would go. Now I have not always been the nicest of guys. Desperate times bring desperate measures and all that stuff. Point being in the following case.
I told my girlfriend that my father was ill and I needed to go to my parents house for the weekend to help my mother with some things. I knew it was wrong but Lance needed me. Or maybe I just needed a way out. For whatever reason it was, it was wrong. But Strongarm had a hold of me, there was nothing I could do. She kissed me as I got into my car and drove off. I parked my car behind Lances house and jumped into the backseat of his VW. I had a small black bag with a change of clothes, two ounces of weed, a handful of Tijuana Quaalude’s and a fifth of Jack. Rich was in the passenger seat already with two cases of beer on his lap and a bottle of vodka on the floor between his feet. Lance had a camera case full of coke under his chair and a quarter sheet of blotter in his glove compartment. Now this might seem a little extreme I know. But it was the 80’s. Excess and decadence ran rapid in those days. This was common place. So like men being led into battle, the three marched on into the night.
I’ll never forget flying down the emergency lane of the 405, doing 90 in rush hour traffic. Smoke pouring out of the windows, beers being passed, window pane being cracked. How I ever made it out of that decade with all my limbs I’ll never know. They say you do stupid things when your young, but stupid had nothing on us. We had no regard. No moral obligation, only reckless abandonment of the very moment we were living in. Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we shall die and all that good stuff. The fire of Hades chard the souls of our feet as we tried to keep one step ahead of the flames.
We arrived at the house around 7. From what I can remember it was a nice place. Cathedral ceilings, fireplace, swimming pool. We all went into the den downstairs, which was small and dark but had a stereo, a t.v. and a couple of couches. We gathered up all the pillows we could find and piled them in the middle of the floor. We set up camp got underway. I remember at one point I got up to use the rest room. When I came out I heard a girls voice coming from outside. I walked out the sliding glass doors to the porch in the backyard and saw one of the girls sitting on the air conditioning unit. The fan exhaust was blowing her hair back as she held on to the corner of a floor mat she had underneath her. I asked her what she was doing and she said she was flying. So I got on behind her and held on. Moments later all six of us were crammed on that metal box. Iron Maiden’s Aces High blaring from the speakers inside with all of us screaming like we were on some sort of roller coaster ride. That’s how the whole weekend went. We were far beyond in control. And having a blast.
When Sunday came and it was time to go home, but we didn’t want to leave. The girls had the house for a few days longer so we decided to stay. I called my girlfriend, and my boss, and told them that my father had passed away and I needed to stay a couple of more days. (I know, I know).
Anyway we came home beaten up and broken. We had gone to war and barely made it out alive. Scared and bruised. I never did get the name of that girl, not sure of she ever got mine. I sometimes wonder if she ever thinks about that weekend or even remembers it, wherever she may be.
About two weeks after that Lance called me up around four in the morning. He was up freebasing all night and wanted me to come over. I told him no but he broke out that strong arm of his and forced me to go. I had to be at work at 7 and told him just for a little while. He told me he just didn’t want to be alone. So I went over to his parents house. (He still lived at home). Lance was in the garage smoking coke and looking very strung out. I popped open a beer and sat with him. Moments later, just as he took in hit from the glass pipe, his eyes turned black and his skin turned blue. He fell off his chair grasping for air. I panicked. I had no idea what to do. After a second or two I ran into the house and into the bedroom of his parents. They were sound asleep when I came in scream “Wake up! Your son is choking in the garage!”. His father jumped out of bed and ran passed me. “Who the Hell are you!”. He said as he ran down the hallway. I followed and as his father reached to him on the cement floor he asked me what he was choking on. I simply said “Cocaine”.
His father saved his life that morning. It seems Lance’s lungs collapsed. The following day he was placed in rehab somewhere in Arizona. Rich joined the Navy that month and was shipped off soon after. I never saw either one of those guys again. Now I don’t condone drug use, or recommend it to anyone. I know first hand the damage it can cause. One second your on a magic carpet ride and the next your lying on the ground in some dirty garage about to leave it all behind. You lie to those who love you and you put everyone around you at risk. With that said. I may have had no regard, but I also have no regret. Mistakes are what makes us who we are. A perfect life has no room for growth.