top of page

Putting Out Fires with Gasoline

And Cocaine. Lots of Cocaine.

Photo by Adrian Schüpbach on Pixabay.

I moved into my first NYC apartment with a guy, Bud, who was a big drinker, just like me. He would do drugs with me and my friends, but he was more into the drink.

And he loved his Camel non-filters.

He started a fire in our apartment. In my room.


Bud had gone to college in my hometown of Pittsburgh, where he studied music. While there, he met some friends of mine, although we never crossed paths. Later, when I was looking to move to New York, they knew Bud was looking for a roommate.

I flew up, and a friend of mine and I went to meet him and see the place. We checked it out and then went around the corner to Dan Lynch’s Blues Bar where we drank.

I moved out of Pittsburgh, and into the East Village, a short time later.


One of our mutual friends lived down the hall from us. John often had cocaine and was happy to share.

There was an evening when we were back and forth between our apartments. Cold beers here, the weed there, the cocaine down the hall.

Once we got enough cocaine in us, we were bouncing around like pinballs back and forth between the two apartments. But we decided to bust a move down to John’s apartment and stay there for the evening.

We gathered our drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and jittery selves, and off we went.


It lasted about two minutes. That’s when Bud jumped up to bolt back to our apartment to get some Scotch. 30 seconds later he opened the door and yelled at me and John to hurry and help him put out the fire.


In the buzzy flitting fit that the cocaine had brought on, Bud had thrown an ashtray full of butts into a can in my room. However, not all of the cigarettes were completely out.

The little garbage can was sitting next to a full laundry bag, and it had caught fire and the flames were burning my wooden chest of drawers. That was next to my bed, which was next to some huge curtains because there were giant windows.

When we rushed in, there was a full-on fire, but it hadn’t gotten to the bed yet. We three crazed youths ran in and out of the kitchen with pitchers of water, and after a while, we got it out.

Had Bud not gone back to get the Scotch, in another couple of minutes it would have been a raging fire that would have been very serious.


As it turned out, it was only almost all of my clothes and my dresser that were destroyed.



Bud was contrite, but given the fact that I was constantly behind on the rent, he didn’t feel a great need to be generous in replacing my stuff.

Fire under the bridge, as it were.


He slept on a futon on a wooden couch thingy. It was hard like a spongy rock formation, but it was easy to go from sitting to laying down, so it worked for him.

We would often be in drunken stupors listening to music. He’d do the laydown thing and fall asleep with a lit Camel in his hand. Many times I watched the cigarette burn down to his fingers, causing him to roust, curse, toss it into an ashtray, and go right back to sleep.

Photo by LEEROY Agency on pixabay

Such were the conditions that were acceptable to me. It seemed that the ever-present danger of fires was simply a part of the drinking and using life.

I had a lot of job jeopardy, and I was always scrambling to stay afloat. Balancing paying Bud for rent with my needs for booze and cocaine and cigarettes kept me challenged. And it kept me down.

It kept me down from knowing that I could live better. I thought I was lucky to have a bed in the living room of an apartment in the East Village of New York City. The neighborhood had some things going for it back in the 80s. We even had a drug delivery service! Give them a call and some dude would show up with a backpack full of little weed baggies and your choice of mushrooms.

That’s fucking living!


Eventually, Bud got tired of the whole scene and wanted a place of his own. I was tired of it, too, but I had to be forced out in order to break my inertia.

I moved into a sublet of a friend of a friend.

That’s where I lived when I got sober, within a month of leaving E. 13th Street.

And that is where I began to learn how to live a proper life, and to leave the danger and the insanity behind me.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page