Wondering in Weehawken

I’ve always intended for NIHILISTIC (the newsletter) to have an audio component (video, too, if necessary). This first NIHILISTIC Pod (I debated several names, almost went with NIHILISTIC NEWS but didn’t) was recorded spontaneously into my phone Tue., July 4, 2023. I did my usual Independence Day vigil (listen to the episode to find out why) on our stoop as people streamed up the block towards Boulevard East – with its commanding view of Manhattan’s west side – in an attempt to see Macy’s fireworks (FYI: They’re bound to be disappointed: Macy’s hasn’t launched fireworks from the Hudson River since Bloomberg was Mayor). Episode 001 includes my update on the progress of NIHILISTIC (the book) and – bonus – a recording of an old phone call circa 2002 with Mike (RIP) from the Nihilistics. I was living on Adams Street in Hoboken and had managed to evade Mike after he tried to choke the life out of me. But I didn’t have Caller ID (didn’t see the point to paying extra for it) and he caught me unawares one night. Why I didn’t immediately begin recording the call is lost to time but I captured a bit, right after Mike threatens to kill me. Also on the tape is the next call, to good friend Jim Brown. Most puzzling is the mention of “…that story about that girl” he may or not have murdered. Fuck. Neither Jim nor I know what that tantalizing fragment means. Did Mike joke around about having killed a girl? Next, I plan to dive into my 2002 Journal and see what I may have written about this. Meanwhile, here’s a complete transcript of this episode:

CHRIS: It’s 8:41 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4th, 2023. The sun is almost completely down. People are streaming up my block and headed towards Boulevard East, even though they haven't done fireworks over the Hudson River since Mayor Bloomberg is no longer Mayor Bloomberg. But people still go to Boulevard East thinking they're going to see something and maybe they can… maybe they can see something happening behind the skyscrapers. I am out here mostly to try to keep anyone from parking in our driveway or attempting to pull a three point turn in our driveway, tearing off the side mirror on my wife's car, any other bullshit that might go on. I said to my wife over dinner “So which do you dislike more? Would that be Halloween or the 4th of July?” When she said Halloween without hesitation I said “I have to agree with this. We have to pay for Halloween.”

So at this point, the Macy's fireworks are still 45 minutes away on the East River, not on the Hudson River. It was really something to be living here when they did those Hudson River fireworks. And they only did them for like two or maybe three years before there was such a clamor from all the people in Brooklyn and Queens who said, “What the fuck? We used to be able to see fireworks. We’re part of New York… we’re two of the five boroughs. So I don't know how long I'm going to sit out here and don’t want to get eaten alive by bugs. I feel in need of a shower. I also had one of those days where I don't know just what the fuck I accomplished. I mean, I wanted to enter this mid-Atlantic Arts Council grant program to see if I could win a grant for NIHILISTIC. It's a pretty complicated application process, and what I need to do to be able to enter something is a little bizarre. They want part of a completed work, and I just don't know how to do that. I haven't completed the work, but I would like to send them something. But it requires formatting and it requires removing your name from everything because they want everything to be anonymous. So I started out with good intentions today. But then of course, you know the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that's where I ended up. And by the time six-thirty had rolled around, it was almost dinner time. And then the day was pretty much over.

Time is going so fucking fast. I mean, next thing you know, it'll be Christmas time. I thought I would have more progress on the book by now. I really did. Something is in the way, as Kurt Cobain sang. I don't know what that is. Maybe it's just fear of failure. There's any number of fears attached. That it won't be any good is the number one fear. That nobody will fucking read it. In between those two, no one will publish it. And I really don't want to do a vanity printing. I'm hoping if I can get everything in there that I think should be in there and if I could do it with even a modicum of skill, it should be a pretty good read. Something different from the books that I've been reading from folks who were there in the early 1980s. Because a number of them have come out. I don't really know if I want this to be like those. I want it to be something different. A coming of age story; a story about getting the hell out; a story about your chosen family as opposed to your actual family; a story about figuring out what the fuck you're good at, even if you're just good enough at it to get out; a story about friendship that sours in the most horrible of ways. And a story about a suspicion that I've harbored that my best friend in Junior High and in High School and on stages at venues all over – my chum, my buddy boy, bass player, main lyricist, songwriter – might be a really good suspect in the Gilgo Beach murders, the Long Island Serial Killer. And today I listened to a piece of tape that I stumbled on… this is why I keep everything from back when I was living in Hoboken and Mike would call me and leave long, rambling messages on my answering machine.

“Buddy boy. Hey, buddy boy, give me a call back if you remember who the fuck this is.”

One time I picked up the phone and we talked, and it was after he had tried to choke me to death. And I said to him, “I don't know why you did that.” And he laughed it off. He wanted me to laugh it off. “You were never that soft.” And he said, “You don't have to worry about me trying to choke you, because next time I see you I’ll just kill you.” And I went in the next room, I tried to turn on this tape recorder that I had hooked up to my phone and I picked up an extension and I tried to get him to repeat what he just said and he immediately knew what I was doing. He was too clever. I was being very clumsy and stupid with how I did it. I basically said, “Why would you say next time I see you, I'm going to kill you?”

“Whadda ya whadda ya recording me now?”

I tried to come up with an excuse, he says  “Why did you have to go in the other room? What you do in the other room?” And I told him I had to turn my new air conditioner off. And he's like, “All right, thanks, buddy boy. Have a nice life. Have a nice life.” And then he hung up on me. And then this same piece of tape, miraculously enough, documents a call I made to my friend Jim to tell him what had just happened.

“Hey, Jim, you're not going to believe this.” And then Jim and I, we talk a little longer, and one of us makes mention of some girl that Mike may have claimed to have killed. Like, do you think he was lying about her? I'll put that call right after this, and you can hear the call for yourself.

MIKE: How many phones you have?

CHRIS: Hey, I’m sorry about that.

MIKE: Yeah.

CHRIS: So you making death threats now?

MIKE: Nope.

CHRIS: (Exhales)

MIKE: What. Whadda ya… whadda ya trying to tape me?

CHRIS: Why would you say that? Why would you say “Next time I see you I’m go…”

MIKE: Why… why you trying to tape me?

CHRIS: I’m not trying…

MIKE: What are you trying to say? I’m making death threats?

CHRIS: I’m not trying to tape ya, Mike. I just don’t understand why you said what you just said.

MIKE: Is that what you're trying to do? Is that why you had to get off the phone? Set up your, uh, tape recorder?

CHRIS: No, I got off the phone to turn my new air conditioner down.

MIKE: Okay. Listen, pally, it was nice knowing ya. I tried to give you a call out of the niceness of my heart. Me and you are fuckin’ washed up.

CHRIS: Listen, would you…

MIKE: See you next life.

CHRIS: …would you… could you for a minute…

MIKE; See you next life.

CHRIS: Could you…

CHRIS: Where was I? In the story?

JIM: Umm. Well, you know, you said, like, he couldn't believe you didn’t realize he was joking.

CHRIS: Oh, and then he threatened to kill me. Did I tell you that part?

JIM: Uh, no.

CHRIS: Okay.

JIM: I mean, I heard about it, but I didn’t get the…

CHRIS: Yeah, towards the end of the phone call, he basically said, So what's the story? Are we not friends anymore? What’s… what’s… what’s going… what’s… what the fuck… what’s the fucking story? And I said, I don’t know what to tell you, Mike. I’m not very… really fond of being choked, you know?

JIM: Right.

CHRIS: Ah, what's wrong with you? You know, when did ya… when did you go soft? I mean, you never were like this. Whadda ya… whadda ya think I was serious? You know? And I said, I don't know. It felt kind of serious to me. I don’t know what to tell you, you know? So then he said, Well, you don't have to worry about me choking you because next time I see I'm going to kill you.

JIM: And then what?

CHRIS: And then I said, Can you hold on a minute? And I ran in the other room to, uh, hook up my tape recorder.

JIM: And then what?

CHRIS: Then I picked up the other extension and he said, Whadda ya, go hook up your tape recorder? Whadda ya tape recording me now? So what, you think I’m that stupid? And I said, No, I didn't hook up my tape recorder. I went to shut up my air conditioner. And he said, Yeah, okay. All right. Bye. And he hung up the phone, I think at the end of the conversation. But unfortunately, I tipped my hand I think. I should have had the tape recorder.. he took me totally by surprise when I picked up the phone. I really thought it was somebody else calling, you know? And I didn't even recognize his voice at first. And then I was just like, pulled into this world of psychosis.

JIM: Yeah, I don’t know what to tell you, man. I think he's obviously sick, you know?

CHRIS: Uh-huh.

JIM: You know? And I think he's wrong, you know? And I mean, from what… from the way you've described it, no, there's no way you could have thought he’s joking. I mean…

CHRIS: Uh-huh.

JIM: He’s pushing forty years old.

CHRIS: Yeah, well, not only did I not think he was joking…

JIM: You know when someone’s joking or not.

CHRIS: Not only did I not know he was joking, I am still not convinced that he didn’t… actually… he hasn’t actually killed somebody.

JIM: Right? I know.

CHRIS: I mean, I think that's quite a pos… that’s very possible.

JIM: Right.

CHRIS: Because he's got so much rage… and so much anger that, you know, I wouldn't doubt it if he had… actually has.

JIM: Oh, yeah. Well, there was that story about that girl…

CHRIS: Oh, yeah… the story about the girl.

JIM: And he was acting very cagey about that.

CHRIS: Yeah. Like maybe he did it, maybe didn't do it. But anyway, it's. I just thought I needed to share this with somebody who knows Mike. And I called Maschi and there was no answer over there and I thought…I thought I would share that with you.

JIM: Well, I appreciate it.

CHRIS: Yeah? You like hearing about death threats?

JIM: I do. As a matter of fact.

CHRIS: Have you ever been the victim of a death threat?

JIM: It’s my one vice. Uh, I once played…  I once had my jaw broken by a guy who had a headband that said “Hit Man” on it.


JIM: He just liked to wear the head band. I don’t know why.

CHRIS: I will be shocked, but not surprised. It turns out that my friend, was the Gilgo Beach murderer. Stranger things have happened. Some of these serial killers, man, they hide in plain sight. You would never think it. I mean, how many years did John Wayne Gacy get away with it? By the way, Mike was a huge John Wayne Gacy fan. Mike was into serial killers. Mike had a very dark side. He had a lot of resentment, especially towards women, because he had lost a hundred pounds. And these women who found him horrified, lying and disgusting, repugnant, loathsome, smelly and just not good looking, these same women later, when he was in a band and he was tall and slim and playing bass and puking off the edge of the stage because he was a male bulimic… he used to puke his meals in the parking lot of the McDonald’s. We'd go and eat McDonald's, and then he'd come out and throw up in front of the nice family that was walking in. That was his idea of a good time and.. and a really good laugh. And I laughed, too, You know? I laughed, too. Yeah. I signed off on a a lot of it.

WOMAN: Thank you.

MAN: It's all on the other side.

CHRIS: It’s all on the other side. Meaning the East River. It's all on the East River. We still have another 28 minutes for fireworks to begin. Dennis is doing a very good job of keeping people from turning on to the block. I don't know how that Porsche got through, and at some point I will go back in the house… and the rest of the evening will commence. And then all these same people will go home and there will be more crazy traffic on our block. I mean, listen, part of me wants to walk down the Boulevard East, too, but I don't think I would enjoy it. I'll be honest with you. I don't I mean, I would just be comparing it to the years when they were exploding directly above your head. And it was the most remarkable feeling, the sound, the way the sound would hit you. And this is why fireworks on television just blow. The only thing worse would be fireworks on the radio. This is Chris T. And even though I may not be doing Aerial View – live Aerial Views – as often as I was, it would be nice to get some audio out there somehow. And I think I'm going to just publish this on my Substack and it'll be something like a little lagniappe, a treat, an extra little treat. For those of you who have stuck with me. I would like to grow this audience, by the way. So if you think you know anybody who would enjoy NIHILISTIC on Substack, please share an edition with them, a post with them, share a link with them so that they can subscribe as well. It would be nice to get some more people.


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Chris T. – founder of seminal NYHC band NIHILISTICS – takes you on the journey to publication of NIHILISTIC: How a hardcore band saved my life... then nearly killed me – "A memoir with guitar" – is a coming-of-age cautionary tale following two forlorn, friendless, dead-end suburban “Lawn Guyland” fat kids who form a band and end up on the legendary stages of the NYHC (New York Hardcore) scene. We see how each interpret the lessons of their particular moment and the way success in their milieu warps their friendship until one tries to murder the other.
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