Chapter 1

5 March 2008
London, UK

Dear Holly,

I know what you are thinking, "Where the fuck have you been!" And that's the purpose of the letter. I'm sure you have embraced the 21st Century and bask in the warmth of technology and are used to e-mail but I have been avoiding the internet as much as I can these days. I have a general mistrust for all things technical and mechanical and I'd rather not be involved in man's constant struggle between himself and machines. Sorry to go off on a tangent so early into the letter. Maybe we should start over.

Dear Holly,

I know what you are thinking, "Where the fuck have you been!" And that's the purpose of this letter. No one writes letters anymore. Everyone does email or texting and that's instant gratification but then it's lost forever. Gone. Vanished into thin air as fast as you can erase it. A letter stands the test of time. Letters get stashed in a drawer or stuffed in a shoe box somewhere in the back of a moth-infested closet with clothes you haven't worn in a decade and the letters are found by your surviving relatives after you die. In fact, you'll speed read it because you're too busy with the twins to actually sit down and read a long-winded letter. And instead, your children will rummage through your things after you die looking for jewelery or cash or the answers to closely guarded secrets. They may stumble up the box with my letter and sit down in read it once or twice and think wow, "My Uncle Duncan was one fucked up dude." Or perhaps they will toss it into the trash with all the other faded memories of our past. Why is it the warm and precious and orgasmic memories we want to keep are the hardest to bottle up and yet the harsh bitter ones that we wish we could never recall again disappear forever seem to linger on like a bad cold that you can't kick and you end up sniffling for a week straight with a scratchy throat that never seems to go away no matter how hard you try to boost your immune system? Anyway, I'm going off on another tangent. Fuck. Maybe we should start over.

Dear Holly,

Third time is a charm. I'm in London. England. Yes, I know the food sucks and it's so fuckin' expensive. I'm staying here in the smallest hotel room in the British Empire with Hungarian maids that I'm sure nicked a few pounds off the nightstand. I'm starting to go off on a tangent again. Focus. OK. London. I'm in London for work.

Yes, I have a job. It's been a steady gig for about a month. I have been playing with a band that's pretty good. You know what, pretty good is a lame fuckin' adjective to describe the band... they're little pieces of dynamite on the verge of becoming a fuckin nuclear bomb. How does that sound? I have no idea why they picked me, or how they found me, or why they wanted someone washed up like me playing with them. Well, I know why, it's because their other guitar player got strung out and beat the shit out of his girlfriend and got thrown in jail and they needed someone at the last minute for a big European tour otherwise the record company will lose millions of dollars that it invested into this band and their shitty album and a huge European tour to support that shitty album that no one bought in America because the damn kids today get all their music for free off the internet. And then that fat fuck Lester somehow found me and made me an offer that I couldn't refuse. He looks like the genius and savior in the same breath. The suits love him for saving their investment and the critics applaud him for resurrecting the career of self-loathing drug fiend who could have been somebody, but ended up a nobody.

Right now I'm playing in a band called Anita and the Dubious Pandas. I guess I'm one of the Dubious Pandas. I never asked about the origins of the name of the band. Maybe I should have inquired when I got offered the job, but little details like that seemed trivial. I was more concerned about learning the songs which sound like a rip off of Velvet Underground meets Green Day. Anita is the lead singer and she is an amazingly beautiful temptress with a voice like silk and honey with the sultry range of a young Billie Holiday before she got all smacked out. And the rest of the band is pretty good considering they are all at least 12 years younger than me. Two brothers. Not black guys, but one brother on bass and the other on drums. The brothers are supposedly from Minnesota. They say they grew up fifteen miles from Bob Dylan's hometown but that's just PR bullshit that Lester's team spun. The brothers are from Chicago and those scrawny fuckers can play some tight shit. Some nights it's hard to keep up but they're invigorating youth is pushing me to play better.

I have no idea how Lester found me. Somehow the fat fuck tracked me down. He probably blew some queer at Interpol or sold his soul to Big Brother who found me wandering the streets of Amsterdam. I thought that maybe you told him, but you had no idea that I was in Holland. The last time we spoke, I was living in that shithole of a dump house in Santa Fe with these tweakers and the place smelled like cat piss and burnt candles. I know that was four years ago and the last time we spoke. But I'm sorry that I missed Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the birthdays and holidays and Mom dying and the world is just one fucked ups shit sandwich and I had so much to eat that I couldn't breathe and I just went fuckin' bananas and flipped out and jumped off the grid. Things happened for no reason and I reacted in the worst way possible and you know... the next thing I knew it was 2008 and Lester showed up at the houseboat out of nowhere.

Yeah, I was living on this houseboat in Amsterdam near the Anne Frank house with a couple of junkies including my girlfriend Mika. She's Dutch and I met her a year ago or something like that. I really couldn't tell you much about what I was doing prior to two months ago. I mean, I could tell you exactly what I was doing, but there were days and weeks that all of it was a blur and I was sleepwalking through life and numb to everything around me because I numbed myself as much as possible. I just sat around and got fucked up on anything and everything and I would bike to Vondel Park in the mornings and pass out on the grass or I would take mushrooms and ride the trams for several hours straight looking at all the faces of the people going to work or coming home from school. The Dutch people. They have such weird and obscure faces. You know? And they seemed so happy and fit and I'd watch all the people on the bicycles riding by and living their lives and they had happy days and sad days and they loved and lost and hurt and sang and fucked and sucked and watched weird game shows and old episodes of Hill Street Blues dubbed in Dutch.

It's so much safer to travel on the tram when I'm so faded, which happened all the time. Besides, I kept losing my bike. Holly, I can't tell you how many bikes I lost! Mika used to get so pissed off at me, she would be screaming in Dutch and slapping me. Most of the time, it was her bike that I lost and come home hours later without one and she'd get pissed off and start screaming again in Dutch and I'd leave and get more depressed so I'd do more drugs and ride the trams for several more hours before I stole a bike to bring home for Mika and life would be calm and peaceful for a few days until I lost the bike again.

I liked Amsterdam because I did not know too many people. I kept to myself and even Mika and I never really got along too well. I always felt that she was with me out of pity or because she needed to be with someone. Anyone. How pathetic is it that she chose me? I guess when people talk about rock bottom, well I hit that just as I arrived in Amsterdam. Mika met me just as I was taking a step up from rock bottom, which is just as shitty, but at least it's a step forward.

I still have no idea how Lester found me. I never checked my email. I avoided the internet as much as possible. I even stopped caring about Broncos games. When I first left the country, I'd freak out on Sundays and want to find out the score. Now, I couldn't even tell you who was still on the team. I wonder how they have been playing? I'm curious, but a part of me is just over it. And it being sports and current events and anything. I guess that's why I have not called or gotten in touch with you. I'm a horrible brother.

It's just that I've been trying to run away from the past and block out all those bad parts. The thing is, it's hard to block away those tumultuous memories and be able to hear a song and sit in peace without wanting to throw up or cry or pound your head as hard as you can against the wall. I'm running without anywhere to hide. I know that now, but at the time all I wanted to do was evoke my powers of invisibility. I ran and kept running until I finally sat down and blocked everything out.

I'm good at doing that. You know, blocking things out so they don't exist. However, some things take longer to erase from your memory than others. Wiping your immediate memory is easy. It's wiping away the long term memory that is the hardest. You can go deep and extract all those painful moments and think they are gone, but they come back and bubble to the surface and you are sucked into a black hole of despair and hatred and darkness for days and weeks when all you want to do is crawl into a small space disappear.

Anyway, I sat here and chain smoked ten cigarettes while I wrote you this letter. I promise to write more letters and let you know how I am. And right now, I am doing OK. It's day to day and that's all I can ask for is a chance to wake up every day and makes something of myself and make music and create and try to bring joy to others because maybe, someday, I'll be able to bring joy to myself.

I want you to write me back but I don't have a return address. I wanted to know how old the twins are. They have to be six now right? And in school? And how is Teddy? Or is it Eddie? Wow, I'm such a dick. I can't even remember my brother-in-law's name. You must hate me now. I'm joking, I know it's Jed. I hope Jed and the twins are healthy and normal and they like music and I hope you play them the Beatles just like Mom used to play for us when we were kids. Remember how she used to sing "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" for us all the time? We changed the lyrics and substituted 'Holly' instead of 'Molly' and you used to sing it all the time when you were four.

You have to understand that there's nothing you could have done to ease my pain. I control that and only I am the one who can pull me out of the abyss. You did exactly what I wanted, which was to leave me alone and let me go find my own way out of my utter misery. I respect you for that and love you forever for making that difficult choice to let me go. And I'm sorry that I made you worry and left you with so many sleepless nights wondering if I was still alive or knifed to death in some alley.

I know it's been hard. A very hard road for all of us, but right now, I'm traveling on the path that hopefully will bring me back home. And when do I get to go home? I have no idea. For now, I'm in London and we go to Spain on Monday.

I miss you,