Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1459479-Kevin-1967-1983
by Lorenr
Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Biographical · #1459479
A true story about a close friend who made some really bad choices.
The Long and Winding Road

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way

Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried
Any way you’ll never know
The many ways I’ve tried

But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
A long long time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here
Lead me to your door

But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
A long long time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here
Lead me to your door
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

- “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles

Kevin 1967-1983

I met Kevin in jr. high school. We weren’t that close, but he did go to my Bar Mitzvah. I know this from pictures that we have of him from the blessed and awkward event. Early in our freshman year, we met up at a Rolling Stones concert- my first rock concert. We smoked a couple of bowls together. Neither of us knew that the other one was a partier. Knowing this, we started to hang out more and more. It wasn’t only the weed that made up our friendship, but it felt as though we were brothers. We both had sisters in real life and no brothers. So, we filled a missing psychological gap for each other; we were the brothers that the other one didn’t have. During freshman and sophomore years, we were inseparable. We both discover the Grateful Dead at more-or-less the same time. We both collected Grateful Dead bootleg concert tapes and albums. We obsessed about this band. I had a Grateful Dead shirt for every day of the month. I saw my first Grateful Dead concert in the summer of 1982 at Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, WI. with my friend Jim. (Jim is now a Principal Timpanist for an international symphony.) Kevin, and I went to what would be my second and his first Grateful Dead concert in the summer of 1983 at The Poplar Creek Music Theater, Hoffman Estates, IL. (Sears bought this land and demolished the open-air music theater. No one knows why. I can only assume that it was hemorrhaging money.) Kevin’s parents would not let him go to both concerts- a Grateful Dead tradition. If they are in town for two nights, you go to both concerts because they will be two totally different concerts. Kevin drove a bunch of friends from Northbrook, IL back home after his first Grateful Dead concert. We were in his brown Country Squire station wagon with fake wood paneling. All ten people in the car were on acid. (This is every parent’s dream- a carload of teenagers, taking LSD and driving.) Getting home necessitated driving on the tollway. This isn’t the greatest situation when you are seeing pingpong balls hitting the car’s hood and laser beams whirling everywhere. We were about to enter the tollway when we saw a huge truck barreling down the road quickly- or so we thought. We had a choice of whether to out race this truck or stay put. This is a big decision when you’re tripping and you have tripping cheerleading squads behind you, half yelling, “go for it” and half yelling, “Stop”. (Our friend Ben was in the back seat pounding his fists on the front seat yelling, “truck, truck, truck!” We may never let him live that down.) In the car was a psychedelic chorus of insane life-or-death confusion. What to do? Kevin was totally cool about the situation; he turned around and yelled to everyone to “shut the fuck up!” - And the car did not move. The truck passed us. It had to be going 90 M.P.H. If Kevin had gone forward ten feet further we would have made the news the next day: “and the decease teenagers are…” Kevin had good street smarts and survival skills. We all got home safely, but I am sure that no one got any sleep because of the eyelid movies from the acid. It was risky behavior, but we did not realize it at the time, and we were no worse for wear-and-tear. So, I had, by the end of the summer of 1983 seen, the Grateful Dead three times and Kevin had seen them once. We were crazy about this band and the uniquely American sub-culture that meant being a Deadhead. Kevin and I were Deadheads in our minds but older, more hardcore Deadheads who saw at least 100 Grateful Dead concerts since 1972 didn’t consider us Deadheads: but we were young. Being a Deadhead was our social identity in and out of the school, and we sought out others like us from around the North Shore of Chicago. Deadheads were usually easy to spot- long hair, tie-dyed shirts and/or pants or Jerry Garcia or Grateful Dead clothing, patches and buttons. Eventually, there were a bunch of us hanging out, forming bands, trading bootleg tapes, and going to concerts.

Yes, Kevin and I got into drugs far too early in our lives. We weren’t serious juvenile delinquents- no problems in high school with the police- but we were surely slackers. Schoolwork seemed to be a waste of time and it was filled with useless and pointless knowledge. We scoffed at authority, and we hated high school. For me, it just didn’t fit my learning style and it felt like a prison. We didn’t take advantage of any of the benefits of going to a top-notch high school. We were too busy wasting time (smoking weed and drinking beer) and we accepted that a “B-” was a good grade. Besides we were having fun. We couldn’t believe that there were actually students in our high school that studied five hours a night. Dorks! And they became doctors or now rule corporate America with their high paying, high power jobs. Who’s the dork now? College felt like light years away, but my attendance to a college was a given. Glenbrook North High School, Northbrook, IL had a student body that was split between the “sportos” and the “freaks”. (This division appears in most of John Hughes’ movies: the high school’s most famous alumnus.) Kevin and I were proud to be freaks. We wore “grunge style” clothing back when it was just called “sloppy”. Half of the freaks were into heavy metal and the rest of us, more-or-less, were into The Grateful Dead. What Kevin and I didn’t know is that half of the people in our crowd would grow up to be mature adults with normal lives and the other half would grow up to have serious problems: prison, hard drugs, mental illness, etc. What I realize now about the freaks is that many of them were Special Education students. We hung out with these people in “freak hall” and at parties and concerts but we did not take classes with most of them. We were in regular classes instead of Advanced Placement classes that we should have been in if we had put effort into school. I did participate, briefly, in the Science Club and I was in Marching Band for a semester. At Glenbrook North, the Marching Band competed nationally. They took this shit very seriously. I, on the other hand, did not. There was no room for improvisation and worst of all is that they made me play the cymbals. Four years of drumming and I played the cymbals with bass clarinet players who couldn’t march with their instruments. It was humiliating. Also, we knew only five songs. So every week, we played the same five songs at the football game and no one in the audience even watched us. It sucked. There was a third group of students at Glenbrook North. Those that were neither “freaks” nor “sportos” were “bandies”. Bandies were a scary, brainwashed, cultist group of musicians that I clearly did not fit in with. (A few of the band members were fantastic musicians and some did go on to have professional music careers.) At the time; I hated it. I was listening to improvisational music and the Marching Band played rigidly timed and scored music with me asleep at the cymbals. I just wasn’t the kind of music I wanted to be involved with, and their seriousness about the band took all the fun out of it. That semester, freshman year, I did get my first hickey on a band trip to Tennessee- from a senior no less. (Hi Donna, if you’re reading this I’ve gotten my braces off!)

Kevin and I hung out after school almost every day. We listened to the Grateful Dead, talked about girls and smoked weed. Kevin had better luck with the ladies than I did. He was a few girlfriends ahead of me. He played the guitar and bass. I played the drums (and cymbals). We jammed often. We beat the hell out of Grateful Dead tunes and did some crappy jams. To us, it sounded like a symphony- the only symphony in the world with only a bass player a drummer. Once Kevin tried to sing “Sugaree” by the Grateful Dead and my mom came rushing down the stairs into the basement where we were playing. My mom said, “Kevin, you can’t sing.” He never tried that again. His singing was awful. It was so bad that the two of us laughed our way through the song. I don’t know why, but Kevin and I were always in different bands throughout high school. We would go and see each other’s bands play, but we never played in front of an audience together. Maybe this was for the best even through I was a seasoned cymbal player.

Kevin had a wild streak that I did not have. He lived about three blocks from the high school. Whenever there was an all school assembly, which we had no intension of going to, Kevin would throw huge parties after his parents went to work. About fifty to seventy-five freaks would cram into Kevin’s apartment. These parties were insane: drinking, smoking, getting stoned and getting laid at 8:00 AM. Kevin always wore a pink Polo shirt whenever he hosted one of these early morning bashes. He was also known for wearing pink Polo shirts on Wednesdays. It was just one of his quirks. In the back of my mind, I worried that one, or both of his parents would come back home? How would Kevin explain an apartment packed full of drunk, stoned and naked teenagers to his parents? More to the point how would Kevin like military school? Luckily for Kevin, it never happened. There was no parental interference. He seemed to have good Karma in that respect. So around the time when the assembly was ending, we stumbled back to school. Most of the party’s attendees were inebriated all day. We winked and waved at each other in the hallways during passing periods because we all knew how we spent the morning. Truth is that I never did like being stoned or drunk at school. So I took it pretty easy at these parties. When we went back to school, Kevin stayed back and tidied up his apartment. Nothing was ever broken or stolen. His parents never found out about the early morning parties Kevin hosted. These parties were legendary.

I know I have painted a pretty ugly picture of Kevin. He had his faults, as did I. However, he was a ton of fun and he didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He didn’t lie or steal or get into fights, as far as I know. He had a great sense of humor which manifested itself in a heavy nasal laugh. He was a friend to many and as we came to learn many loved him. He was hard to dislike. He had a smile that the girls would melt from. The guys thought he was cool too. I cannot emphasize what a great character he had. He was smart and mature for his age. Yes, we did drugs, which wasn’t the smartest way to spend high school. It was not a particularly smart way to drive a car either, but we did that too. He made my freshman and sophomore years in high school really enjoyable. Kevin and I always found something to do. He was someone I could always count on and turn to in bad situations. Although we were doing drugs, we did not do hard drugs- cocaine, heroin, etc. - just marijuana, very occasionally LSD and cheap malt liquor-Old English 800 was our brand. One 40-ounce bottle, which cost $0.99, got one really drunk. Our behavior was obviously not good to even the most casual observer. Looking back, I am not thrilled by my adolescent behavior but we were not alone in developing these bad and risky habits in high school- it is all too common. We might have been naïve risk-takers, but we were not bad kids. We were sloppily dressed, slacker, Deadheads who didn’t understand the importance of high school.

One of the funniest things that ever happened involved a bunch of doses of LSD. We had scored a bunch of hits of really good acid on a Thursday. Kevin had never tripped before so he really didn’t know what he was in for. We swore to each other that we would wait until Friday night to take the acid together. Thursday night, at around 7:00 PM, I got a call from Kevin. He said in a whisper, “Man, I am trippin’ so hard!” I said, “Dude, we were going to wait until tomorrow!” Kevin said, “Man, I couldn’t wait. How long does this shit last for?” I replied, “Eighteen hours. You will have a fun night. Put a Grateful Dead bootleg in your Walkman, turn off the lights and enjoy the show. See you tomorrow and we’re still on for tomorrow night.”

There is a rumor, a “rule” if you will that if you take acid one day, if you want to do it again the next day, you had to take triple the amount from the first day. It is probably not true, but we thought it was the truth. So we went down to my parents’ basement. A mutual friend of ours, Mike (he’s now a Police Officer.), joined us to be our totally sober leader and trip-master. He was there to make sure Trippy and Dippy did not get killed. I took one hit of acid and following the “rule,” Kevin took three hits of acid. About thirty minutes later, the psychedelics start kicking in- metallic taste in my mouth, two-dimensional objects appeared to be three-dimensional, voices echoed, etc. My goal was to get the hell out of my parents’ house quickly. For some reason Kevin felt most comfortable in the kitchen talking with my parents! Mike, sensing that this could only lead to bad things happening to us, said something to my parents and we were out of the house. We didn’t have our Driver’s Licenses (did I mention we were kind of young?) and therefore we had no cars. Mike had his own bicycle. Kevin and I rode my parents’ beat up, brown, single speed, tandem bicycle. So there were Kevin, and I tripping our brains out on a bicycle built for two riding around the psychedelic streets of Northbrook. Laser beams, melting trees, and a road that was breathing was my reality. Everything that was illuminated left long extended light beams or “tracers”. I was hallucination very heavily (Did you figure that out yourself, Einstein?). And I can only imagine what was happening in Kevin’s mind. We were having a blast. After a while, the three of us had the great idea to go play in a cemetery. We wanted to go to the oldest cemetery in town. There was a cemetery in Northbrook where the names on the headstones were also major streets in Northbrook: Northbrook’s founding fathers. To get there, we had to cross the intersection of Willow Rd. and Shermer Ave. - something we had done 100 times. This was a pretty busy intersection during rush hour, and it was dark out. Kevin and I had no way of getting across the street. It was hopeless. There were too many lights and supernatural sounds- and the sea of lights that could mean anything. We were seriously unable to comprehend a green light and a walk sign from a red light and a do not walk sign. There were too many lights, all with tracers, coming from every direction- headlights, stop-and-go lights and hallucinated lights. Kevin and I just looked at each other, smiled, and proceeded to walk into the street. A hand grabbed me from behind and pulled me back. It was Mike. He said,” You idiots, the light’s red.” Kevin and I said together, “Which lights?” We made it to the cemetery. Mike immediately took off running leaving Kevin and me alone. It was time to go exploring. Mike’s plan was to jump out from behind a headstone and freak us out. We were on to him. Even when tripping, when we got near a headstone and we heard Mike giggling; we knew he would jump out. Usually, we beat him to it- a sort of psychedelic precognition. I have no idea how long we were in the cemetery for. We finished back at my parents’ house. When we arrived, my parents thankfully went to bed because they thought we were having a sleepover party. That was everyone’s excuse to his parents for being gone all night. The three of us stayed up all night, played pinball, and quietly listened to music. I wonder if my parents noticed that Kevin and I did not sleep that night. (Not together you sick-o!) Eventually, Mike went to sleep- he was sober. Kevin and I had a long way to go before we “touched down”. That’s the one thing about acid is that it lasts a long, long, long time. After ten hours, enough is enough but it usually lasts eighteen to twenty-four hours. Not too bad for a $3 a hit drug: a day and night of insight, fun, laughter, hallucinations and free access to the unused portions of one’s brain.

Freshman and sophomore years went fine, except for our grades which only twits cared about. When junior year came around, Kevin and I saw less and less of each other. I did not, at the time, understand this. We still hung out, but it went from everyday to once a week. We did not have girlfriends, but Kevin and I drifted apart. On a sunny Friday morning, he picked me up from my house to go to school. He and I chatted with my parents. (Kevin may have snuck a handful of croutons in his mouth- his favorite munchies.) He and I left and smoked a joint on the way to school. One of the few times I was high in high school.

The next day, Saturday, October 22, 1983, my parents came to my place of work- The Northbrook Gun Club, trap and skeet shooting. My mother was crying. I thought that one of my grandparents had died. My mother said to me the last thing I ever expected to hear, “Kevin died early this morning. He was hit by a car while he was changing a flat tire.” I freaked out. I ran around the gun club crying and screaming. I cried for days. Many of our mutual friends came over to my parents’ house to console each other. Someone had some hash, and we smoked it right in my parents’ living room with my parents at home. Fuck it! Who cares? It couldn’t get any worse. Everybody knew Kevin and I were like brothers and that I would take this very poorly. I was in denial, confused, angry and I had many questions. We went to Kevin’s parents’ apartment. There were adults there, friends and relatives, crammed into their apartment- just like one of Kevin’s early morning parties. No one seemed that upset. I was a wreck, and I could not believe how calmly these people were taking such tragic news. At the urging of a friend who was there, we poured ourselves some strong drinks while no one was looking. We went into Kevin’s bedroom. I spotted his only Grateful Dead ticket that he had proudly displayed in a plastic case. I grabbed it and shoved it in my pocket. I still have it today. We went to talk to Kevin’s mother to find out what had happened. She gave us what became the “standard party line.” “He came home at 11:00 PM and we all went to bed. Kevin snuck out of the house around midnight and was driving to Aurora, IL (48 miles southwest of Northbrook!) on a rainy Saturday morning. He lost control of his car. He was trying to change a flat tire, and he was hit by a car.” But, what the hell was he doing going to Aurora in the early hours of the morning? He had never mentioned Aurora or anyone from Aurora before to me. Then we asked his mother if he was drunk. His mother said that, “The police said that there were no drugs or alcohol in Kevin’ system.” That explanation was laughable. Clearly it was untrue because I smoked pot with Kevin 18 hours before he died. Others had partied with Kevin later that day. There was even a rumor that he had psychedelic mushrooms, too. I pondered the standard party line for years. If I wanted the truth, I would have to enquire extensively about what Kevin was really up to. It took years, and the circumstances are still not perfectly clear.

When my family and I arrived at the funeral home, Kevin’s car was parked outside. I noticed that he did not have one flat tire. Rather, he had two flat tires and the driver’ side of the car was smashed in. He did not have a flat tire. He had a major accident. This was the next clue that the standard party line was false. The funeral home was filled to capacity- freaks, sportos, bandies, parents, family friends, and relatives. The tears were flowing, and loud sobs were audible. There is nothing more devastating than the loss of child or adolescent. I was a pallbearer. Kevin’s family viewed his body behind a curtain before the coffin was shut and the service began. I regret, to this day, that I did not go behind the curtain to see Kevin for the last time. After the service, I went behind the funeral home and cried uncontrollably. I was inconsolable. Almost everybody at the service went to the cemetery. The funeral procession was nearly two miles long. This was going to be particularly hard for our friend D.J. His father had died when D.J. was in 8th grade. His father was buried at the same cemetery in which Kevin was to be buried. We buried my best friend. In the Jewish tradition, we all shoveled three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave. No one left until the grave was totally filled. For many of us, this was our first experience with death. As teenagers, most of us didn’t have the psychological maturity to cope with this. I didn’t. Senior year, I read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D’s. book On Death and Dying.

Years went by, and I could not reconcile the standard party line with what I thought was the truth. For years, I had asked people who knew Kevin what they really knew about Kevin’s behavior when I was not around. It turns out that he was doing cocaine: a drug that quickly gets its claws into a user, makes one a different person in all the wrong ways and ruins one’s life. One does cocaine until he or she is broke, totally out of cocaine or dead. This explained quite a bit. I had not done cocaine. People that do cocaine hang out with other people who do cocaine because someone probably knows where to get more cocaine- a vicious circle of fake friends united by cocaine. Since I did not fit the bill, Kevin and I saw less and less of each other. He showed me some cocaine once. I could not believe that a tiny bit of powder that got one high for 30 minutes was $25. I took a pass. Several people said that they saw Kevin at cocaine parties where all the attendees powdered their noses around mirrors and glass tables. As for the stranger in Aurora, I suspect that he was Kevin’s dealer. No one sneaks out of their house to drive a 100 mile round-trip on a raining Saturday morning except to get hard drugs. The night before Kevin died, a bunch of our mutual friends was hanging out in front of the liquor store trying to get some beer. Several people told me that night KEVIN HAD A GUN. Most likely this was obtained from the stranger in Aurora. Had he become grossly paranoid from cocaine use? Kevin needed a gun as much as he needed a Lear Jet to get to school. It was pointless, dangerous, and very disturbing to those around him. No one we knew, except Army brats, has a gun. No one in high school needs a gun in Northbrook, IL, an upper-middle class community. Had Kevin lost his mind? He died less than three hours after brandishing this gun. He was probably making a cocaine run. I knew that the accident he had been in was severer than a flat tire. I saw the car at the funeral home, and it was a mess. Kevin probably realized that he was in very deep shit. He was probably craving cocaine, he had a gun, probably drugs or drug paraphernalia with him and he was in a major accident. He probably figured that he would go to jail, or his parents were going to ground him until he ready to go to military school. What plagues me is the question: “Did Kevin commit suicide?” Did he deliberately jump in front of a car going at highway speeds to end his self-made problems and the agony of cocaine withdrawal? Had he gone that far downhill from cocaine within six months that suicide seemed to be a choice? Only Kevin knows which probably means that we will never know. Kevin has left me with a hole right through the center of me. This hole is still healing today. This event made Mike, the future Police Officer, and I closer friends. Mike is my best friend today and has been for many years. We always get a good chuckle about that night with Kevin and us in the cemetery. Now Kevin is in a cemetery forever and I still miss him. Occasionally, I will visit him. His father died of a stroke years later so he and Kevin are buried next to each other. I always put a rock (a Jewish tradition), roses and a Grateful Dead sticker on Kevin’s headstone. He would have wanted it that way.
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