The Dickstein Chronicles
As you read in “Dead to Me,” my old friend John Lewis Dickstein is absolutely deranged, but in a good way. He is the only person I’ve ever asked to contribute something to this zine and he’s such a lazy, crazy prick that he never sent me a submission. I decided to run some of his letters to me because they are the closest he’ll get to writing his story. I told him that I was writing “Karoshi” as the centerpiece of the zine and that if it had a theme, it was going to be about how work can damage you. I really wanted him to write about his work experience because he makes me look like a saint. He has no formal training at anything and left college very early. He’s taken more drugs than me, which is really saying something, and all of the other people in my circle that were friends with him are now all afraid of him and avoid him at all costs. When I talk about him they say, “Don’t mention me, please. Seriously. Don’t.” I’ve always had a soft spot for him not only because he was a lot of fun, but also because he made almost every experience that I had with him feel dangerous. Anything could happen. He would walk up to a girl to ask her if he could buy her a glass of his jism; he would tell a big muscle head that steroids caused your dick to shrink; and he used to be the singer for D-Cup and the Blue Balls, the worst band at my college. Almost all of the songs he wrote (and even those that we co-wrote) were about women ingesting semen in some capacity. Here’s a sample lyric: “Put a clamp on her tit / she ate the corn outta my shit.”
My friend Peter told me that he met John’s mother and stepfather at their home in Brooklyn. He said that John told Peter that his stepfather was a stupid asshole, in front of his stepfather, which we both agreed was typical Dickstein behavior. His stepfather was a large Italian man who Peter said was in the military. He physically threw them both out of the house as John continued to insult him. John usually made people hate him but the more they got upset, the bolder he got.
Dickstein had a way with women... who were deranged. One of the most infamous stories about John was the night that he came home with a woman that witnesses described as looking like a lizard lady. I am not sure if it was a forked tongue or scaly skin, but she was a very large, Amazonian woman and John is a swarthy, hairy little Jew. In the bathroom the next morning, his suitemates asked him what the hell he was thinking by having sex with the lizard lady. John tried to act like she was attractive and then the lizard lady flushed and came out of the stall. He is the kind of guy who tries to fuck every girl that he meets and from time to time he finds a girl who is on the verge of a breakdown who just wants attention. It’s like trying the handles of parked cars—eventually you’ll find one that’s unlocked and you can just jump on in.
We were all crazy, dangerous idiots for many years but at some point I grew up, calmed down a little bit and found pleasures outside of primal destruction and massive drug consumption. John got worse and worse. The last time we hung out together was when he was living with his mom and stepfather in Florida. My sister and I went to visit my grandmother and since we didn’t know anyone, we let him take us out to some night clubs. After the third night, he called my girlfriend back in NY and told her that I was fooling around with strippers and getting drunk all over Miami. It was a complete fabrication and my sister thought that he was really scary for making something like that up, but he was just fucking around. My girlfriend didn’t think it was funny, believed him and made my life miserable for a week when I returned.
At some point later, he started to think he was the second coming of Christ. He carried a Bible, wore a tweed suit and looked like he was completely dazed all the time. He told me to hold his hand to see if I could feel his bones growing. I didn’t feel anything but his sweaty palm and after that incident, he disappeared for years. He started e-mailing me out of the blue in 2000 and while I never gave him my phone number or address, I did write to him regularly because I wanted to see what would have happened to me if I had made much worse choices with my life.
The thing that I have always respected about Dickstein is that as a person, he has been remarkably consistent. I know that I’ve changed a lot since Dickstein and I were friends in college, but on the whole, the changes have been improvements. I would imagine that we’re all supposed to improve ourselves, grow, mature, evolve, develop and turn from stupid kids into stupid adults. That’s why I don’t reflexively respect old people—just because you’ve survived doesn’t mean you know a goddamn thing and I’m guessing by the fact that you look unhealthy and miserable that you didn’t really plan this whole “old age” thing very well, so fuck you.
Dickstein always fancied himself a bit of a renegade Bukowski type, where his life was his art and he lived like every day was his last. He’s still out there, somewhere. He disappeared for the last six months but reappeared yesterday and said he wants me to publish his letters, but I should edit them, which I did. He said he’d been in Mexico and didn’t have access to e-mail but now he’s in Chicago doing something else that is dangerous. He always said he wanted to write about work and he came up with the title before he ever wrote a word of his story. It’s a great title.
You should know that every single thing in his letters is exactly how he wrote it. I have given it a good edit, taken out really obscure references and explained everything else in brackets. If the kids need a reason not to do drugs, here it is. Kids, do not try this at home. You’ll end up with pubic lice, a hangover and scars in hard-to-reach places.
dickstein’s special poetry place
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 14:57:46
From: genpop [at] excite.com
To: negcap [at] yahoo.com
Subject: it’s in your eye it makes you cry you wanna die [a jism reference]
I see your new mag is coming out soon. I wish I wasn’t so easily distracted; I want to write, but pussy, booze and travel always seem to get in my way. Here’s a special poem just for you.
And cover me with boiling oil
When I was 5, my father raped me
I’ll never forget the look he gave
When he came all over the bed
Murder me, she said
And piss on my ashes
My mother lived on valium
She beat my brother
Until he was autistic
If the earth would open up—I’d crawl inside
Murder me, she said
I love you, but you remind me of him
So we both must die
Jism and a can of kerosene,
Click here to enjoy John Dickstein’s story, The Only Good Job is a Blowjob