Nico and My Cocaine, Austin Blues
John Hughes would be disappointed in us all. I’ve just played my second showcase at South by Southwest that my label’s hosting, and I’m drunk off numerous vodka Cokes as well as a double tequila shot someone had given me while I was on stage. The venue is swarming with hipster youth and industry people who are all cutting loose to the degree of high school adolescents digging through their parents’ liquor cabinet. The air is warm and I’m feeling sorry for myself as I always do after any performance because I can’t wrap my head around the fact that life is meant for having a good time and not for feeling sorry for oneself…Nico Rodriguez (friend of the label) comes over to me with his tan, thin body twitching from Japanese Breakfast…tells me about this party we’re going to on the edge of town and how “everybody’s going there” and that we “have to go.” I agree but say we must have one more drink before we go because my body isn’t tight and my mind is still working too well to the point where if some girl talks to me, I’ll over think every word and make a fool of myself the way sober people do and not drunk people. He agrees and we take a shot and have ourselves another round.
When the cars come to pick us up there are a million stragglers out in the Austin streets — beautiful women in short skirts with men shambling after them. All there faces are blurred to me as a woman I know caresses my drunk head in her bosom and says its time for us to go. Nico has disappeared completely and I’m now riding with strangers out to God knows where to find more booze and trouble as the Austin night rolls on. A year ago from now I was back home in Illinois — drinking my way through a bottle of vodka and receiving a phone call from my then soon-to-be-manager, telling me that we have to work together and that my life was going to change forever and so on. And low and behold I get signed to Jagjaguwar almost six or eight months later…and now I’m living the life of the American celebrity that everyone desires because America has taught us that the point of life is to become famous and be adored by the masses…even if those masses are only five hundred followers on Twitter.
The house we’re going to sits among the suburbs of wealthy socialites and possible dope fiends who’d probably voted for Ted Cruz in the recent Texas primary. It looms over us — the grass already a summer green with rows of bushes properly trimmed to an uncomfortable perfection. One of the patrons who rode with us is now pissing in the front yard — his yellow stream glistening in the moonlight — but we pay him no mind (accepting him as we should) and tromp inside to find the house full of naked youth soaking from the pool and hot tub out back. One of them is passed out face down on a plush couch in the living room — I imagine him choking on his own vomit later in the night with no one there to save him. There’s no music just talking…people paying no mind that the house is an expensive piece of property as chairs are turned over and stains from tipped over wine bottles spread out across the floor painting the whole damn kitchen red. I grab one of these bottles and take two swigs out of them feeling invincible like Hemingway — I give it to the woman who’d nestled me earlier in her breasts and she takes a few swigs as well and we’re feeling good as if this night is suppose to mean something in terms of the purpose of our lives and where everyone is heading…I go out to the pool and find more people out there. Beautiful girls strung out in swimsuits with gallows eyes as if they’ve never slept a day in their life. And like some Dean Moriarty I see Nico erupt from the pool yelling for me to jump in. He nudges some girl sitting on the pool’s edge and points to me — she waves to me and Nico yells again with earnest for me to strip down and jump in with him. Feeling loose, I obey — stumbling over myself as I sit down and yank off my boots and reveal my small beer belly to the world. As I jump in I expect to drown…but the water is so damn cold that my body tenses and springs into survival mode with my mouth yelping and cursing everybody because the shock of the water unfortunately sobers me up a bit. Nico asks me how I’m feeling — I tell him I’m feeling good and probably need another drink soon because my buzz is diving with each passing moment and I want to stay up high forever because I can escape my mind up there. He introduces me to the girl and says her name is Mary — and Goddman if she isn’t beautiful, but I see that Nico is trying to bed her so I make no move and instead sling my arm around him and speak in some prophetic tongue about how I’m an artist and everyone and everything is my material for me to ingest and regurgitate into three minutes songs meant to turn people on their heads (clearly making a fool of myself, as I only come to realize later on the next morning with my head humming and my soul full of far too much regret…ah, Catholic guilt). She smiles at me like Betty Davis but leaves to get a drink…and now Nico tells me about his ex-wife out east and how he’s got this kid he sees every once and a while when he’s got his shit together and isn’t high out in the woods somewhere searching for God. I listen and nod and give him some profound advice I can’t remember currently — the kind of advice only one drunk man can give to another drunk man over such matters.
I tell him I’m freezing my nuts off and that we should get in the hot tub as there were more girls in there and that I wouldn’t mind warming up next to one of them to see where the night went. He agrees and I get out to grab a cigarette and lighter out of my shirt. Water dripping off my body, I feel like an Adonis in my grey briefs and cigarette dangling from my mouth. But as I crawl into the hot tub, I drop my cigarette (the last one I have) in the water and swear.
“That’s the why way it goes,” I say plucking the cigarette out of the water and tossing it in the bushes, “one minute you have something that’s going to take the edge off, and the next you’ve lost it due to your own drunken stupidity.”
People chuckle and I crawl in — Nico now talking to some other girl and everyone chatting as they should — I sink in the water and let the warmth swallow me as I can feel myself sobering up even more so. My mind is starting to work a bit better and my courage is waning with beautiful girls all around me. Someone is taking pictures of us and Nico now slings his arm around me and I get this ominous feeling that these photos will all appear in Time magazine someday with scrutinizing words decrying me as the next Judas Iscariot. Now the warmth is too much for me and I get out and gather up my clothes, asking around as to where I could get a Goddamn towel — and like a vision, Mary appears and tells me that she can show me where the towels are. I follow her into the house and up to the second floor — her barely covered body still damp from her time in the pool. The towels are in this bathroom that’s off one of the main bedrooms — I throw my clothes in there and lean up against the wall to appear like some James Dean character with my grey briefs and small beer belly. Mary looks at me with drunken blue eyes and I do my best to keep my attention on them instead of her figure.
“What’d you do?” I ask.
“I work for a PR company.”
“Ah, another industry person.”
“Well everyone here is an industry person.”
“Yeah. Well who do you work with?” I fidget as I see her eyes giving me the ol’ up-down.
“Oh a handful of artists. Father John Misty probably the biggest.”
“Never heard of him.” I suck in my stomach to hide some of my flab. I now realize that I haven’t shaved in a few days and probably look like shit.
“He’s great. I think you’d like him, does the same type of thing you do — folk singer-songwriter.”
“Yeah,” I say and now give her the ol’ up-down as if to reciprocate the interest I figure she has in me. But she fidgets uncomfortably and we fall silent.
“Well, I’m going to go back downstairs.”
“Yeah, I’ll do the same in a bit.”
“Nice talking to you,” she says walking away, “that song of yours, ‘The Reaper Man,’ it’s really good by the way.”
“Thanks,” I say, “I wrote it when I was seventeen.”
“Crazy.” She smiles and trots back downstairs.
I struggle getting dressed in the bathroom, as I’m still drunk and now hating myself for acting like an ass in front of a woman once again. I thank God, though, that my wallet and phone are still in my pants and that I haven’t completely fucked up. I can’t seem to escape my mind as everything now rushes through my brain as if everyone is talking to me at once and I can’t make out any of the words — it’s all just noise that keeps me up at night trying to figure out ways to get away from it all. I walk back downstairs and see that the kid passed out earlier on the couch is now gone either dying somewhere else or already dead and hidden from our eyes…in the kitchen someone is trying to make a joint out of crumpled cigarette. It’s the patron who pissed out in the front yard earlier — he’s muttering under breath and swearing as the joint won’t stick together and the nuggets of weed bulge out. I laugh and carry on like some jester. Outside on the back patio, four gueros are emptying out little bags of blow on the back of their hands. I sit down next to one of them and watch him snort up a huge line with ease — I admire him for this because if nothing else, he could always take comfort in the fact that he could snort a thick line like that despite the size of his nose. He introduces himself to me — his name is Paul — and shakes my hand. Some of the left over blow gets on my thumb and I lick it.
I lean back and hear Nico yelling about something in the back yard — looking up into the open Austin sky, the farthest south I’ve ever been in my life traveling on that old road that so few people my age actually travel on these days. How everyone settles for seeing the world through various screens disturbs me — everything in the 21st century disturbs me — as I feel as though I am a man out of time lost in some hopeless dream that I could get back to something I’d left in the past. And while Paul empties out another line on his hand, I dream of a day where my blues will fade and my small beer belly will disappear with my hair and I’ll roam on through America bald and skinny with this or that kind of junk in my veins — never coming down from any sort of high and finding God in the most unlikely of places. In Nico’s sex drive, his endless hunger for the night, and his spirit that is oh so reminiscent of Neal Cassady.