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Tom Pitts & Hepatitis Heights Pt. III

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tom Pitts & Hepatitis Heights Pt. III

Yesterday's post covered being solicited (again) by the awesome folks in England (  Ben Turner and Chris Pilkington are starting up a journal over there, PoV (, which stands for Passing Out Victorious.  God, I love the English.  Jack Kerouac used to say the prettiest girls in all the world are English girls.  And I ain't arguing with Jack.  The English seem to like me, women especially.  I remember when I went over there when I was 19, girls used to eye fuck the shit out of me quite often.  But they did so politely, classy.  'Cause, y'know, they're fucking refined and shit.  I was hardly the bastion of self-confidence you see before you today. I think the first time a girl smiled at me in London, I started to cry.

So anyway, super nice guys over there, with obviously awesome taste in art, because they like my work.  The deadline to get in the first issue, whose theme is "street," is today.  Which doesn't give you a lot of time.  But check PoV out, read what they're trying to do, see what their next theme is going to be, and submit something.  You don't get a lot of chances like this, when a magazine is young, its editors excited and anxious to read your work.  Give Ben and Chris a few months of being bogged down by Happy Third Week Anniversary poetry, and they might not be quite so gung-ho.

The best part about being in the inaugural issue of PoV, slated for Mid-January, is that I will, once again, be appearing with my (former?) partner in crime, Tom Pitts. 

This won't be the first time Tom and I will have appeared in the same journal.  It won't even the first time we've been in the same issue.  But maybe it's the "street" theme that makes this one particularly meaningful, since Tom and I, quite literally, lived together on the streets, as in broke-ass homeless, sleeping in stairwells or on benches. 

Ben and Chris asked each of us for an introduction to our stories (we're getting 2 published apiece), and Tom joked, since our work is so incestuous, that perhaps we should each write the other's introduction.  Ben thought it was a great idea.  Here's what I came up with for Tom's:

I met Tom Pitts sometime in the late 1990s at a shooting gallery, on top of a very high hill in San Francisco, called Hepatitis Heights.  In a drug world filled with liars, thieves, and criminals, Tom fast became a rare commodity in my life: a reliable doper.  He was my best friend.  Even then, in the middle of all the junkie bullshit, Tom considered himself a writer.  He used to tote his computer, which contained all his stories, everywhere he went.  But this wasn’t a laptop.  We’re talking a big ol’, straight for the ’80s, bulky-ass desktop.  Tom would drag that computer with its tangle of cords and keys up these giant hills, dopesick, trying to duck the crooks looking to rip him off or the cops looking to drag him in.  I thought he was fucking nuts, but such was his commitment to his art.  He believed even then he’d get out.  I wish I’d shared his faith.  But he was right.  He got out.  We both did.  And he took his stories with him. 

I hope this bromance isn't getting too nauseating for you.  After all, this is hardly the first time I've written about Tom and Hepatitis Heights (  The truth is, I just don't have many friends.  

The other day, I was talking with Justine about someone I know, and she could tell by my tone, I guess, that said individual didn't rate very high on the friendship meter anymore.  Nothing this person did really.  I simply don't hold onto friends very long these days; I don't need people like I used to.  This isn't any grand Facebook declaration about "cleaning up my friends list so write me and say you still love me if you want to stay" bullshit. There's no hidden meaning.  If you think we're friends, we probably are.  What has happened to me, is what happens to most people as they get older.

We have a parenting book we keep in the shitter.  Nice to read parenting books when you are on the can, since most of the info in them is pretty disposable. But this one book has a great line.  I don't think it was the author's intention to make it come out sounding like this, but this particular book comprises little pearls of parental wisdom written by moms and dads in Kansas and shit; they're not going to be worried about syntactical consistency.  It reads, "Toothbrushes are like good old friends --we hate to get rid of them.  But the truth is we should replace them every three months."  And I think that is very good advice.  After three months, most people, like most toothbrushes, have worn out their welcome. People I would've considered myself close to five, six years ago are barely in my life at all these days, and in most instances there was no big falling out, no major event precipitating a break-up; it's more that we're forty-something, with families and individual lives, and it's rather pathetic, I think, to keep meeting up at bars when you are in your 40s, especially when many of your friends are recovering alcoholics, reliving the same four moderately funny things you've done together.  
I don't dislike people, individually.  I simply find most friendships require more work than what I receive back. It's a matter of reciprocity.  I don't want to feel like a friendship is putting me out by asking me to do things. In your 20s, it's a completely different story.  One day I was talking to Gluehead.  I was probably 25 or so, and feeling self-consious (imagine that) that I was asking him for too many favors, so I said something like, "Hey, Glue, I don't ask you for too many favors, do I?"  And Glue, in classic Gluehead response said, "Of course you do.  If we didn't ask each other for favors, what the hell would we talk about?"  
It's not fair, I suppose, to the people I met after my SF drug days, since nobody can measure up to the friends I made during that time, which goes counter intuitive to everything you hear about the friends you make when you are using.  Yeah, you meet some peripheral scammers along the way, but the guys with whom you share the trenches--the Dans, the Big Toms, the Soupys, the Glueheads and Kelpbeds, the Tom Pittses--some deep-seated shit forms.  I'm still friends with those guys today.  As close as I am with Jimmy, Petersen, and Rich, the only real friends I held onto from before I moved to SF in '92.

And I spent more time with Tom Pitts than just about anyone, at least we spent more time together when it mattered most, when I was loneliest and most lost, during the darkest days of my life.  The last couple years of my using, I'd managed to piss off just about everyone, Kelp, Glue--I attacked poor Big Tom one day for not giving me $13 (sorry, Big Tom).  I was pushing everyone away with my stealing and lying, my selfishness and manipulation.  It's not like Tom Pitts was a saint in the city.  

It's just that for some reason we spared one another our worst.  Maybe it was out of sheer necessity that you stay true to at least one person in that lifestyle, that you give him all of your trust, make yourself vulnerable, if only to reaffirm a part of you is still human.  Y'know, sorta like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.


Tom Pitts and I are both writers these days.  We don't shoot needles full of dreams into our arms anymore.  Cindy is, indeed, on methadone.  We have wives and children, and we both work very hard to get our story out there.  It isn't often when a writer friend of mine has success that I genuinely feel happy for him or her.  I'll say I do, of course, as the little knives of jealousy pang the shit out of my green-with-envy heart.  But with Tom, even when he gets accepted into a magazine that's rejected me, I am truly, truly happy.  I guess because I was there with him in the shelters, and when he had to sleep on the cold metal bed of the truck I'd stolen; because my liver never turned on me like his did on him; because I've been given a few breaks that perhaps I didn't deserve.  I don't know why, exactly.  Maybe I just really like the fucking guy.  I trusted him with my life back then, and I'd trust him with it now.

I'm sure we'll both be pimping the shit out of the issue when it comes out in January.  

Until then, here is Tom's site:


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