Out of This World with Bucky Sinister!
Will My Insurance Pay for Rehab?
Out of This World with Bucky Sinister!
Bucky Sinister is a poet, a comic, an actor and an author. He is one of us and writes for us. Take, for instance, his self-help book Get Up: A 12-Step Guide to Recovery for Misfits, Freaks, and Weirdos.
I first met Bucky 20 years ago in San Francisco. He was a massive guy with a no bullshit attitude who ran this shithole bar called “The Chameleon” in the Mission district. I was a chunky and probably very annoying tweaker, a sloppy drunk LA girl, trying her hand in the local “spoken word” scene. Many years later we reconnected and incredibly, we were both sober. Everybody else from that time is pretty much dead.
Bucky has released his fifth book—but first book of fiction—called Black Hole. It is word porn for addicts. Ever dreamt of a gripping semi-sci fi book for junkies? Well, your dream has come true.
This is your first book of fiction. Why did you decide to write it and how was the experience different from writing your other books?
The novel has been eluding me for years. My first collection of short stories and poems, King of the Roadkills, was published in 1995. I spent 1995 and 1996 working on a novel about a cult that made soap out of human fat. In 1996, Fight Club was published. I was crushed. It probably wasn't good anyway. I don't know if I have a printed out copy to find out. I wouldn't want to read it.
I had a really hard time working on longer projects. I would give up on them before I got halfway done. Short stories and poems I could write the first draft of in one day, then edit them later. The first draft of a novel was difficult.
Ring Lardner is one of my favorite writers. He had the same problem, and it's why you probably don't know who he is. He was also an alcoholic.
You’ve been sober for 13 years. Why did you decide to write this book as an active drug addict?
14! It's a parallel universe in the book. In that universe, I never got clean and sober. I tried to think of what it would be like if I was still trying to be the life of the party. The last days were really pathetic. I was living in a punk house, and I was the Old Guy. Ugh.
The protagonist wants to get clean but he thinks it will be dull, basically saying that the only upside of the dull is that there won’t be anymore chaos. What’s been your actual experience of dullness and chaos in sobriety?
I have way more fun now, and I remember it. There's so much more joy to performing sober. But I do hear this from people who are bottoming out, "BUT HOW WILL I HAVE FUN?" Motherfucker, is this fun? Are you really having fun? A lot of addicts get to this point that even just using isn't "fun," something really wrong has to happen.
How did you come up with the idea of these fictional drugs like Remote, Black Hole, Pump, and my favorite, Happy Birthday?
They are all drugs I thought should have existed. I wouldn't doubt if some innovative chemist creates them after reading the book. Every emotion, every feeling you've ever had, every memory you have exists as a chemical in your body. It can all be replicated.
There is a small network of chemists that work to create new psychedelics. I knew some guys who sold drugs to the ravers 25 years ago. They were connected to these guys making massive batches of LSD in Berkeley. In their downtime, they tried to make new drugs. Occasionally they would release a batch into the rave community with a batch number on it. You were getting drugs before they had a name for them. I tried finding these but they were always gone by the time I got there. So I don't even know if this was real or rumor. There was a popular one I remember called 2CB. Never found a dose of it. There was this whole crew of smart drug Mondo 2000 guys who knew about it. Track down RU Sirius. He probably knows the real deal on all this.
Anyway, the whole concept is that anything your body can do or feel can come in a pill. Remember that feeling of someone bringing you your birthday cake when you were a kid? That's a specific chemical in your brain. Theoretically, there's a drug that you can take that would make you feel like that for 8 hours.
You write, “They pick him up in the place where they find the kind of mathematicians they want: rehab. There are those who are good at math, but the ones who will create the next-level shit are damaged goods. They’re insane or drug addicts or both.” What do you think is the link between creativity and/or intelligence and addiction?
There are a lot of us who look at the world in a different way. It's great for innovation with arts, or science, or sports. We're intense people who obsess over things we love. When we're engaged in our passion, our physiology changes, so we don't need food or sleep. Give someone like this drugs to self medicate? Trouble. We're not the same as most people. We can attach this singular nature to acquiring, using, and recovering from drug use and we're almost instant addicts.
There’s a lot of time travel in the book. What would you tell yourself 20 years ago? Or even five?
The week I turned 21, I went to the Holy City Zoo and signed up for open mic night. I did standup for the first time and sucked and thought, "Well, I guess I suck at that," and didn't try again until I was 37. I really wish I had stuck with it.
There are so many things. I need about $26,000 worth of dental work. I'm preparing for four surgeries and bridge work. HEY DUMMY, EVEN IF YOU'RE POOR, GO TO THE DENTIST. Floss, motherfucker. It's not a conspiracy to sell waxed thread.
I'm on the autism spectrum but they didn't really know about that when I was a kid. They didn't understand what was different about me. I was reading at a third grade level the first day of school, but my bilateral motor skills were so poor, I couldn't tie my shoes and couldn't ride a bike until the fourth grade. I won the county art contest but couldn't make letters. I filled out the entire math workbook on my own the first day, but I couldn't follow the teacher's instructions. Back then, autism was a word for someone who was completely non-communicative. I would tell myself that it wasn't anything that was wrong with me.
My family joined a cult in the '80s. I left when I was 17, and felt like I had let down GOD. I felt like a coward and weak because in my mind, "I couldn't handle it." Later I learned what I had been through was severely abusive and the lingering problems I had was PTSD. No one noticed. Boy, that first drink felt good after that. Self-medication started there. I wish I could tell myself to get real help.
You write, “I’ll go to that rehab down south, Promises, I think it’s called, the one where Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Affleck go, where you get clean by a pool, and I’ll write a screenplay, and one of them will get it to their people, and then I’ll have people waiting for me when I get out. And I’ll meet some nice actress from an old show like The Facts of Life or something who’s having trouble with pills since her kid died or a car wreck or something, and we’ll hit it off and she’ll be tired of those Hollywood jerkoffs and want a real down-to-earth guy like me.” Have you been to rehab because that is hysterically on point?
Nope. Pure fantasy. I was trying to write a screenplay and sell it, and use the money for rehab. Tommy Swerdlow, I had heard, went to rehab and wrote Cool Runnings. Sounded like a plan to me. I admired him as a poet. He had a really cool chapbook of poems on Zeitgeist Press in the '80s. Worked for him! You can look this up. He's open about his past. It's not slander or whatever.
How much of the characters in the book are pulled from real life?
They're all a little bit someone. Most of the people in there are dead or completely out of my life.
Oso, for example, is based on a real Tenderloin dealer/addict I knew who died of a diabetic coma. He was over 400 pounds most of his life, and over 500 sometimes. He also smoked crack. Every addict knew at least one extremely overweight crackhead or tweaker or junkie. I've heard so many of the stories, I don't know who they're about anymore. So he's 25% one guy, and 50% stories I've heard about people I've never met, and 25% pure fiction.
Some are more one person, some are more of a mix. I would have to break it down for each one, and there are too many for that.
Tucson Sam was pretty much one guy. It's a horrible story that hurt me really badly. I was really jealous of him for many years. I thought he had it all together. In a state of drug psychosis, he killed his dog, whom he loved, and when he sobered up, he killed himself in grief. I don't know the real facts. I heard that it happened in front of the brunch crowd at Boogaloo's on Valencia Street.
NSA Andy is also based on a guy, a man I didn't know well. He was one of the local wingnuts. He was covered in shit one day, got 5150'd, had both of his arms amputated, escaped from the hospital, and overdosed in a residential hotel. There are 1000 versions of this story. What if they're all true, because reality is a frayed rope that is barely held together with our group consciousness? There's a book for you right there.
You write, “If you can’t fix what’s broken, break it some more.” I related so much to that. It’s classic destructive addict thinking. Does this still crop up in your life in sobriety and if so, how do you handle it?
Sure! Have a problem at work? Quit! Girlfriend is difficult? Dump her! Did they fuck up your drink order at Starbucks? Yell at them and challenge them to a fight!
Those are all urges I've had. That's what step work is for. That's what my therapist is for, when I still have these feelings with many years sober. That's why I still have a sponsor and go to meetings with 14 years.
This book is very violent, very graphic, very sexual, very druggy. When I saw you at the reading, you told me that the parts that you almost cut out are the parts that people love the most. Explain.
There's a lot of gentrification in San Francisco rants in there. People love that stuff. I thought it might be too "inside baseball" for the book, but it really grounded people from this world in the world of the book.
What do you hope readers take away from this book, aside from entertainment and a trip into this creative alternate universe?
I would love for people to really tell their stories in anyway they want. I would love for them to read Philip K Dick's novels, and also find the work of Jon Longhi and Peter Plate. It's a love song to the San Francisco I loved and a eulogy for a lot of dead friends. And I would love some genetic engineer to figure out how to make tiny whales, because I want one really fucking bad.
Buy Bucky’s book here:
You can see Bucky in the unrated “Willow Creek”, the 2014 horror film by Bobcat Goldwaith.
Follow him on twitter @bucky_sinister