Let me begin this story by telling you my wife doesn’t think it happened this way. She says no mother would have done what I remember her doing and that I’m conflating two stories that happened at different times. Maybe so but I’m going to tell the story the way I remember it first.
If you have been reading my stories you know I spent many years in some kind of trouble or other and I loved to party. In my late thirties though, I got a wake-up notice, a little O.D. like episode that told me if I wanted to stick around I had to change my ways. I liked living a lot even though it confused me, so in fits and starts and with the help of three years of therapy I quit doing the drugs and the booze. I made a lot of other changes too, so by the time of this story I thought my party life was in my past …
1987, by now I was a Panavision executive, a husband and a father, a different guy. The party years were over. I’d put the nitrous and the cocaine and the rum, the bottles and the bags away.
Then one day Chuck Myers came back to town and wanted to hang out. Now Chuck had the largest appetite for drugs and self-destruction I’d ever known. I wish you could see Chuck as I remember him best, shambling through a bar on a Friday night. You’d see a large, overall wearing, fierce-faced man with a loose wad of hundred dollar bills spilling out of his back pocket and a bottle of blow clutched in his hand, You’d see Chuck lurching and weaving as he headed back to the table where he’d marked his place by leaving his false teeth in his drink. To see Myers then was to witness excess.
We met on the movie 1941 just before he got fired and we bonded over many nights howling down the streets together. But Chuck wasn’t just a party guy. He was also a greatly talented First Assistant Director. He was so good he managed to last about one picture with every big director in town. But so enormous was the wake of his nighttime destruction that it overcame his brilliant talent for creating realistic background action, inspiring crowds of extras to act like they were stars. Good as he was he was never invited back.
Well, it happened my old friend and prodigious partier Bobby Vee was in town too, and we all agreed to meet up at Tom Snyder’s house for a little bit of the old days. I told Darcy I’d be home by ten. I’d like to believe what happened next happened just because I was too fucked up to understand what I was doing — but that’s bullshit.
Really I stopped caring for a minute; I quit paying attention to promises and responsibilities. I wanted to get fucked up dammit high and screw everything else — so I did. The way Bobby tells it, he tried three times that night to get me to call home, but I wouldn’t do it. That evening I was the boss of me again, and I could do whatever I wanted to do. We started with an eighth, and then got serious, drank up everything in the house and ordered more booze and drugs. It was one of those nights where everything slows down, and you speak your truth from deep inside, the truth that seems more important than anything else at the time. I was with my best friends, the ones who understood me in a way no one else could possibly know.
Around daylight, Bobby drove me home. He propped me up in the doorway, rang the bell and took a few steps back. He says the only reason he didn’t run right then was that he had left his fax machine inside.
So far, so good. Bobby and Snyder and I all agree about that night, and the party and Myers can’t argue anymore, but then I came home. Here’s my version of what happened next.
Darcy came to the door cold and furious, “Why didn’t you call me. I was up all night” “How could you do this?” Even totally stoned and hungover I knew I might have broken our compact. She thrust the baby, precious Alexandra, into my arms, and stalked off. I stood there stoned, holding the girl I had seen in a dream even before her birth and then I started shaking. Reality came crashing through, and my arms clenched until they vibrated. I held my baby as tight as I dared, filled with the knowledge that I could drop her, fail her, hurt her. I shook knowing I had created those terrible possibilities. Then I sat down in my chair and held the gift I had been given, and cradled her in my arms. I never got high again.
Ahh, but Darcy tells another story. She says she would never have put our baby in my arms with me in that condition, that no mother would. In my mind, I’d always believed she did it to force me to pay attention, to put me on notice, that she knew somehow that I would not/could not hurt our baby no matter what. She doesn’t believe it happened that way, and I’m going to leave it at that because she’s probably right.
I’ve carried this story around with me for a lot of years. So when I finally told it, and my wife and friends told me I had it wrong, I objected strongly. It took me a while to accept the likelihood of their truth and to write this version and even now my version remains the story I recall. In my mind, the story is about a turning point, a moment when it crystallized for me that I couldn’t live the way I had lived before, not even for an evening. My version of the story may not be accurate, that’s clear to me now, but it’s true nonetheless in some fundamental way. I never got loaded again. That’s something.
Here is where I usually put in a link to some other story of mine, but this time the link points to a story written by my daughter. It’s about me and how she came to terms with all the stories of my life — including this one. My Father, Larger Than Life