spring '82. maybe my gf (later the mother of some of my children) was out of town, cause i don't think she'd have put up with this. we lived in an ancient icehouse down by the tracks in ellicott city. one day i was planning to go to the ramones show at shriver hall at hopkins (where i was a grad student). this suggested some preparation, so my friend dolan (as i will call him), my brother adam, and i gathered at my place on the banks of the placid patapsco. we started noonish, seeking an exquisite balance or, as i like to think of it, sobriety on a higher plateau: adam brought the bombay gin and grapefruit juice, dolan the cocaine, me the hash. we listened to ramones lps all day and engaged in a satisfying conversation, for drunk or sober this dolan was the most sparkling talker i have ever known: erudite, ironic, with great facility, perfect enunciation, and maddening superficiality. indeed i had watched dolan's undergraduate thesis - the camouflage of persiflage - unfold, and he was by this time not only an exemplary practitioner of persiflage, but an academic expert on the subject.
finally as dusk settled we tumbled into dolan's car for the drive into town. we took back roads, because it turned out that dolan, as well as being stomped to the gills, had no driver's license, and we were seeking police-free routes. we climbed through the hillls at oella, waving grandly to the local albinos. at the (red) traffic light at druid park drive and reisterstown road, we quite dramatically rear-ended a pick-up truck. dolan's head smashed the windshield. and yet he still yelled 'run!'
the three of us ditched the car in the middle of the road and dashed into the darkness of druid hill ('droodle' or 'murder') park, where we watched from behind trees on a hill as cop cars, fire engines, and ambulances converged on the scene. my sense of time might have been a bit distorted, but it seemed only moments before a helicopter was overhead ffpffpffping and shining a spotlight, converging on us in a spiral pattern. we took evasive measures, flitting from tree to tree, though dolan flitted limpingly.
finally he decided that he was going to return to the scene and "face the music." magnanimously, he suggested that adam and me ditch. so we made our way guerilla-warfare-style across 83, across hampden, across the ravine at wyman park, and up to the venue. there we thrashed beyond belief; christ we were already bleeding when we came in. that night as on many occasions, the ramones played for an hour or so and hardly seemed to care that they were making the most fundamentally sound rock and roll ever played, much less that we had lost even our common decency to be in their presence.
afterwards, we somehow got back to my place and spent the rest of the night trying to track down dolan in hospitals, jails, etc. fuck me, but he was already back at the family mansion in chevy chase. through his cut-up lips he'd told the cop "officer, i am eager to take a breathalyzer." the response: "son, you don't seem drunk to me." like i said, the best talker i ever heard. plus it helps to have the kind of family with a mansion in chevy chase, i think.
it's pretty amazing to reach your forties, having raised a bunch of children, pursued a career at least adequately to make a living, lived through the demons that claimed many people for death, settled in a big house on a hill, started gardening and feeding the birds, found heterosexual love etc to the point where life appears settled and in a way gloriously typical or nornative, and then to find your personality disintegrating, find yourself driving west with no destination listening to dwight yoakam's "thousand miles from nowhere," drinking mid-priced vodka and flopping in cheap hotels, spending christmas eve as the only guy in the theater watching "walk hard." over these joyous holidays i thought as seriously as i was able of simply driving on, trying to get i.d. in the name of a dead person somewhere in missouri or alberta, and pretending to be someone else so convincingly that i actually did become someone else. i took to referring to myself as "crispin sartwell," i.e. enclosing my name in scare quotes. there is one reason i came back and signed a lease and reacquainted myself with my family and my job: i am a coward.