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Episode 24: Greg Cheever Part 1/2
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Former fugitive, ex-con drug dealer, heroin addict 60’s hippie, divorced four times, what’s not to love?   He’s a close friend of Paul’s and has so many stories, we had to do our first two-parter.


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Paul: Welcome to Episode Twenty-Four with my guest Greg Cheever, Part One of two parts. I'm Paul Gilmartin, this is The Mental Illness Happy Hour an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads from medically diagnosed conditions to every day compulsive negative thinking, feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy and that vague sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. You give us an hour, we'll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky.  But first a few notes. The website for the show is mentalpod.com. That's also the twitter name that you can follow me at. If you go to the website I've got some blogs there and we're starting to incorporate guest blogs into that as well. Those might be worth checking out.

Thank you for continuing to take the survey. As I've said before if you want to support the show you can do it a couple of different ways. You can support it financially by making a donation, there's a little Paypal button on the website. And you can support it non-financially by going to itunes and giving us a good rating. That helps boost our ranking and that helps bring people to the show, which we like. I don't know if you guys saw Adele sing at the Video Music Awards earlier this week but wow. Unbelievable. That was the performance of a life time. I've never been so moved by a singer by anything, by any artist. It just made me think -  everybody I've talked to saw that and was so moved by it.  And it made me think, maybe that's the direction this show needs to go in. (guitar music begins to play) maybe I need to move you guys to tears. Maybe I need to be honest with you and say - look these past twenty-three episodes have been bullshit. You're fucking lazy.  Go ahead let it out,  cry. If you can manage to put the effort forth into crying. You sleep all day, I've said that's ok. It's not.  It's not. You need to start pulling your weight. I've told you that all the pain you suffered as a child is going to make you into a more interesting person.  Again, a lie. It's made you draining. Hard to listen to. Hard to look at. Some of you, hard to listen to and hard to look at.  God you are to be avoided. Are you crying yet? I don't care if you're crying or you're laughing.  Maybe you’re doing both. That would make me more talented than Adele.  She doesn't make anybody laugh, she just makes me cry.  I'm more powerful than Adele. That's what I want you to take away from this. And then you can go back to bed. This may be the worst idea I've ever had. (music stops) I've just lost listeners in the key of A minor.

SHOW INTRO

 

Paul:  I'm here with Greg Cheever who is a really good friend of mine. And man, I'm so excited to have you on because the longer I know you, the more I get to know about you, and the more of your stories I hear.   You have worked in the film industry since – when did you start?

Greg:  I actually started at Fox in the mail department in 1967.

Paul:  And you were a projectionist for -

Greg:  I started as a projectionist in '69 at MGM and then I went into sound at Lions Gate for twelve years and then I went back into projection for another thirty-eight years in total.

Paul:  Thirty-eight years in total.  And thrown in the middle of that is heroin addiction, running from the law, encounters with celebrities in studios. At one point,  your photo was posted at the security gate to four major studios with the sign saying  'under no circumstances let this person in.'

Greg:  That's right. I had -  one of the few guys to have my own wanted posters at the guard shacks at four of the seven major lots in Hollywood.

Paul:  We're going to get to all of that.  But I want to start at the beginning and I want to talk about your parents because your dad I just found out, you talked about this about a year ago, your dad was a cult hero jazz musician. Talk about your dad if you would.

Greg:  I grew up right here in Sherman Oaks, studio city in Sherman Oaks. My father was a studio musician for forty years with Fox.

Paul:  What was your dad's name?

Greg:  Russel Cheever.   And outside of his studio gigs, which he was a reed player of just about all the reed instruments, they put together what's called a Hollywood saxophone quartet.   Which was four different saxophones: soprano, alto, bass, tenor. That's all it was, four highly trained studio musicians. Wrote their own stuff, a gentleman by the name of Lenny Niehaus who was a composer and a famous writer back in the big band days wrote some of their stuff also.  And they put out four different albums. My father also was a teacher to a lot of famous musicians.  Pete Fountain, the Chrysaleed boys. And I remember my dad was a very disciplined man. He was a man of integrity, a passive man. A man of passion about his craft -

Paul:  When you say a passive man what do you mean?

Greg:  He was just a man who was very gentle and kind.

Paul:  Ok. Not in a bad way?

Greg:  No. He was a great man. Look, I had a warped mind from the beginning.  I was a younger boy with an older pack. My brother was two and a half years older than me. We were sports fanatics. My whole dream in life was to be a major league baseball player. We had Dodgers that were involved with the family that helped train me in baseball. I did break a lot of records here in this valley growing up.

Paul:  I had no idea. More shit about you that I had no idea. What position did you play?

Greg:   Pitcher.  But I was a - me and my brothers, I mean you gotta understand we grew up in Sherman Oaks when the Ventura free way wasn't there.

Paul:  This is what orange groves?

Greg:   Yeah.  We did some stuff that was unbelievable. We would destroy these buildings. We would do just horrible stuff. This guy - 'cause at three o'clock we get out of school and the crews would quit at three.   In fact, there were building a new auditorium at the Riverside Elementary school there on Riverside and Ethel, and I got up in the diesel tractor and got the thing started because it had a magneto in it.

Paul:  So you could start it.

Greg:  Start it right up. My start it up happened to be in gear. Right? I mean the auditorium is almost done, they just got through Gun-iding it and the bulldozer went right through it. Clean.

Paul:  And were you happy or horrified?

Greg:  Oh we had so much fun. We terrorized that school so bad.

Paul:  And how old are you at this point?

Greg:  The first time the plain clothes police men came and pulled me out of school I was at Millikan, my first year at Millikan.  So I was probably eleven.

Paul:  Wow.

Greg:  There used to be a guy, back then they wouldn't have the little blinking electronic lights with the battery packs,  there would be a guy called the Lantern Man.  And he would -  after they would get through grading the freeway and evening it out -  There would be earth movers and bulldozers up there and the Lantern man would put these caution signs around them with kerosine lanterns.  And he was the guy that kept the kerosine in them.  That was his job.  And he was this old fat angry, probably just getting ready to retire...

Paul:  Which made it all the more fun to make the angry guy angrier.

Greg:  And he had the most foul mouth ever. So what we would do is we would go up to, there was a five and ten up on the corner called Quigleys. And we would go up there and we would steal CO2 cartridges that you would put in your Daisy pump at the time or whatever.

Paul:  Your BB gun.

Greg:  Yeah. And we would lift the glass thing on the kerosine lamp and put that CO2 cartridge in, like a whole row of them going down. Now that's basically a -   

Paul:  A bomb.

Greg:   I don't know what caliber of shell that would be. But when that goes off it's very scary. If it happens to hit the wooden caution thing, it shreds it. It turns it into like a toothpick. It was going through garages, it was going in houses.  You could hear it like a missile go through the air.  And the lantern man would be coming down and we'd go, 'oh it's getting ready, here he comes! It's getting ready!'  We did this to this guy for at least a year. I'd think 'here comes the Lantern man, come on let's go get the Lantern man. '  It was so much fun. You think how dangerous that was.

Paul:  It's amazing you didn't kill somebody.

Greg:  Unbelievable. Or ourselves. It just went on and on and on from there. I could talk, I could tell you stories Paul, every day was something crazy. I'll hit a few highlights and we'll move on because it will take up a lot of time.  When the freeway did open I was in print shop at Millikan, and we printed up these cards, these little cards called 'the chuckers' cause we're were all about throwing, cause we all had baseball arms. 'I could pick that guy off I know I could do it, watch this.' And so to get into this club called 'the chuckers' you had to break three truck windshields of semis coming down the freeway.

Paul:  To get into the chucker club?

Greg:  To get into the chucker club. We go so good at this. And we got up there high, really up there high. I had like fifteen, my brother had like twenty-two.

Paul:  You would break the front windshield on semis driving -

Greg:  Yes. Coming down the slow lane.  And they'd hit those air brakes and the whole rear trailer would go (makes noise) whreeeeeee, it'd slide, it would almost, it was so exciting. We would hide down in the weeds of the dirt lot next to the freeway.

Paul:  And that's your first drug as a kid. Cause I remember that. You wanted them to chase you because that kept the high going longer. And the laughter, you would - your legs would be shaking cause you'd be laughing so hard but you're also – there's the risk that you're going to get the shit beat out of you by an adult. But you also know 'I can outrun these fuckers.'  But hearing that thing when you would, BOOM, you'd hit the side of a bus or you'd hit a window or even worse it would disappear into the cab of something and you'd hear the brakes hit then you knew you fucking hit the guy. And that was - Oh boy do I remember that.

Greg: As you know, it sounds like you have some experience in this so, the stuff we did as kids would make the evening news today.

Paul:  That was above what I did. Way above what I did.

Greg:  It was, I - you tell people this kind of stuff today and they go, 'you're lying, you're kidding, whatever.'  No. Unbelievably.   We got caught eventually.

Paul:  And you never seriously hurt anybody?

Greg:  Oh yeah.

Paul:  You did?

Greg:  Yeah, yeah, we did because – well, not that we knew of.  But what was so exciting about it was the truckers would pull off on the Coalwater ramp and they'd bring those bring semis down those little residential areas.  It was like -

Paul:  Looking for you. Like a Steven King movie.

Greg:   Exactly. We'd be down in the weeds hiding there and they'd take their lights and you'd hear that big truck. And it was so exciting. And it was the same module that took me when I was doing drugs. When I started to deal drugs.  When I started dealing drugs I realized a huge part of my addiction was that exactly  - getting the big deal done. In the middle of the night, carrying a lot of weight and all you need was one cop to pass you and you know your done.

Paul:  So you're getting high through vandalism and a bunch of other shit. Then when did the drugs start?

Greg:  My brother had gone away to college on a track scholarship. And he was up North and he had been away for quite awhile. And this was right in the middle of the whole sixties deal. This was sixty-six. So everything is happening up north big time as far as free love and drugs and all that.  So he went away as this just really good looking guy, great physique.  Real healthy athlete. And I see him pull up as I'm talking to my mother in the kitchen window, I see him pull unexpected.  'Hey look, there's - ' He had this 59 Chevy which none of the windows rolled up and it was white so we called it the freezer. 'Hey look there's the freezer!'  And he gets out, he's got hair down to here. He's got a tapestry – you know with a hole in the top pulled over as a shirt.  He's got tapestry jeans on. I think he's got Fairchild boots on. A full beard. And me and my mother just kind of looked at each other with our jaws dropped. He comes up in the house, makes pleasantries, says hello...

Paul:  And where was he going to school?

Greg:  He was at Chico state. He comes up to me and he goes 'Come on, come on with me.' He takes me in the car, we get in the freezer and he passes me a joint. I had no idea how to smoke it, whatever.  I started smoking this joint and I started getting silly. And the head of the joint flew off and landed in the back crevice of the back seat and I didn't know it. And the backseat caught on fire. And we pulled on this side street, pulled the back seat out 'cause smoke was coming out the rear windows. And we're stomping it, and we're laughing.  I'm just having a great time.  First experience with just having a good time. So anyways, we're driving along after the joint, and the backseat catches on fire and we go up toward Ferndale park. And he goes  'Come on let's take a hike back here. ' I'm like ok. Grading with my brother, this is fun.  I'm still a little stoned.  He walks me into the stream he says 'sit down.'  I sit down in this stream, at the edge of the stream. And he says 'Just sit there and meditate.'  And I was like what? Do what? I didn't know what he meant by meditate. 'Get quiet and I'll be back in a little bit.' He comes back in fifteen minutes or so and it's much like an evening like this at about four o'clock – beautiful, good temperature.  He says 'open up' and he drops two tabs of orange sunshine in my mouth. And I knew it was something that was going to make me get high but I had no idea that it was, you know, some of the most powerful LSD that was at least coming out of southern California, made by the brotherhood in Laguna Beach. Anyways...

Paul:  And he gave you two tabs.

Greg:  He gave me two tabs. See I was brought up in a loving, caring upper middle class family in the sixties. Fifties, sixties. I was born in '47. And it was really all about pomp, power and prestige.  That's is what I was brought up with. That kind of what was in my mother board. Look good no matter what on the outside. Do not let the neighbors know what happened.  Just this mega black belt denial system about anything wrong or whatever that you've done.  Look prestigious, look like you know what you're doing, even if you don't.  This whole false facade. Which I had no idea was -

Paul:  That was most of America at that point.

Greg:  It was. It was. But what happened with that LSD is -  having that I had a complete ego-loss trip. It was like this major, I became part of that stream. I just did a complete ego-loss meltdown trip. And on the other side of that, it was like all that pomp power and prestige just washed away.- Gone completely gone. I had a major truth - it was a chemical spiritual experience. It was like I had this major truth serum put in me.  And I went home, straight from there probably still purple, went up to my wife of six months and said:  You can have the house, you can have all the cars – broke her heart. It crushed her. But I was so -

Paul:  Convinced.

Greg:  Inside out.  I was so inside out then. And it was a fabulous experience. It really, really was. If I had just stopped right there and started my life without drugs from there on, maybe I would have had a spectacular life. Which I've had. I consider I've had a spectacular life. Right now. I'm a blessed, blessed man.

Paul:   But you've also, can say with the hindsight of having coming out the other side.

Greg:  Absolutely. I have no regrets in my past.

Paul:   There are many times that you have cheated death.

Greg:  Many, many, many times.    

Paul:   And hurt a lot of people and scared a lot of people and done a lot of damage.

Greg:  Keep going.

Paul:  So you get divorced from wife number one. You've done acid, you've done weed and then what?

Greg:  I move into a house south of the boulevard and it's on. It's on. The party's on. Smoking weed....

Paul:  What is this, sixty-six?

Greg:  This is getting close to sixty-nine. Sixty-eight. I'm working at the studios. I've got a few of my other friends that are working other jobs living there with me.  I'm paying most of the bills because I'm making the big money.  We're having parties every night. The drugs are working phenomenal for me basically -  LSD, mescaline, PCP, and the best weed, hash, and hash oil – napalese hash 60/40 hash, that type of stuff. Very very high grade stuff. And then of course cocaine came on board and we were all sniffing cocaine.  But every weekend was, every night was the greatest bands with the music system going, and parties on the weekend. And at that time either the Swing Auditorium, or Santa Barbara, or San Bernardino, or somewhere in LA,

Paul:  Santa Monica.

Greg:  Santa Monica -  all the big bands, all these famous big bands that are now you know, from Grand Funk Railroad to, you know, to the Pink Floyds, to some of the biggest bands were playing these little auditoriums, they were just coming up. And we would go take massive doses of LSD  and go to these things -  every weekend.  Unbelievable times. Did that for a long time.  And then that house broke up. We had a lot of huge parties there. We had a major party there it was called – a bunch of my buddies went out and caught a bunch of yellow fin and brought it over so we called it Fish Fry.  And we based all the fish in LSD.  We had massive doses of LSD. And then we had every, we had these jugs of wine all over the house and each one had a dozen hits in them. And so people just started coming in.

Paul:  And did you let everybody there was acid in this or was this at that time when it was cute to dose people.

Greg:   Oh no. We didn't let anybody know, right? By about eleven o'clock at night I go out in the backyard of the house and there's people laying out all over, laying on the lawn, some are half on the side walk some of their heads are between rose bushes, they're all looking up at the sky going:  'Did you see that? Oh my God!'

Paul:  No bad trips?

Greg:  Oh yeah.  So I come into the house and music, people all over, I couldn't tell but I started noticing that some of the bedroom doors are shut.  And people are in there freaking out and won't come out. So the next thing I hear is the police, the sirens coming and the ambulances... and as I'm going around to my buddies telling them 'oh oh we're going to have some problems, here get rid of this, hide this' whatever...  but back them it was as long as they could contain and take care of that part of the neighborhood and get all the kids the help they did - it was kind of like,  they just went away. They didn't raid us, they didn't search us or anything. So that stuff was happening a lot.

Paul:  I had a bad experience with acid when I was eighteen. There was a ski club in my high school and we'd take this twelve hour bus trip from Chicago to White Cap Mountain which is in the northern part of Wisconsin.  And my friend and I decided that we should try acid on this bus trip. And about an hour into dropping this acid I realize I'm losing my mind. He and I are sitting next to each other on the bus, we're about in the middle of the bus. I think that if I just shut my eyes I'll be ok.  And I'm leaning my head against the window and the vibration of the bus - I don't know if you remember that old cartoon where the little turtle is spinning down the thing going,  'Oh no Mr Wizard'  and I'm seeing that. And I'm like, oh my God I'm fucked. And then I get this sick feeling that I'm going to die. That I'm going to lose my mind. And I vomit just enough that it fills my mouth. And my buddy is – I need him to get out of the way so I can go to the bathroom. He doesn't know  what I'm - I'm trying to mime – 'get the fuck out of the way so I can go'  and he's not understanding. So I just crack my mouth a tiny bit and blow the odor at him. And he goes (vomit noise) oooowaak and he bolts up out of the seat and lets me out and I go spit this out.  I'm sorry for people listening.  Some of you are probably tuned off already.  But it was probably the most challenging thing I'd ever had at that point in my life because, I'm like, I've got nine more hours on this fucking bus. And I'm hearing voices. I'm hearing people calling my name that aren't. There's teachers fifteen yards away at the front of the bus. And I don't know how I got this moment of clarity, that said: 'you have got to talk to people and stay focused and stay out of your own head. And just connect and hopefully that will be enough to keep you alert.'   And so I did. I ignored the voices that I heard and before I knew it ten hours had passed and we were up there.  And I just remember laying down in the bunk bed and breathing a deep sigh of belief and saying I will never do that again.  And six months later I did acid again.

Greg:  My brother when he actually came down from up north, he was serious about the LSD experience.  He had read all the – The Spiritual Experience, the Timothy Leary, the Adolph Huxley, the Albert Brooks, all that.

Paul:  And they didn't know at that point the damage that LSD does to the brain and how it can really set you up for depression for the rest of your life.

Greg:  Well what happened, what I got from that was -  most of the bad trips were because you got caught between your ego and the drug. Usually because you didn't take enough LSD is what most bad trips resolve from.  If you take enough you don't have a choice you lose your ego. It goes. It's gone. You do not have a choice. And that's where the good trips are. But a lot of people are afraid. And they hear - there's a lot of bad information around.

Paul:  Why do I find that so hard to believe. Because there was a kid in our high school who was fucking crazy. And he did six hits of acid and had a terrible trip.

Greg:   Maybe it was -  

Paul:  Maybe there's a point at which you don't – (laughing) I think there was kind of a naïve period where it was very refreshing, and there was an opening of windows that would eventually shut but the opening of those windows – you know George Carlin once described drug use as a window that opens in your mind but eventually it will close where the drugs don't work anymore and you have to recognize when that times comes. And that was my experience.

Greg:  And that's what happened with LSD.  We took it as a  - seriously, the only time we would really take it would be out in the country, would be when we were around crowds. But of course, we started to abuse it. We started taking it at concerts, we started taking it everywhere. And once we got like we felt like we were pros with it.... and what happened, here's the strange thing that happened is one of the girls I went to high school with was James Coburn's daughter. And James Coburn had an article in Playboy at the time, he was one of the first movie stars that was using LSD.

Paul:  Was it legal at this point or was it illegal?

Greg:  It was still legal. It was LSD 25 made by Sandos Labratories. And so I asked her, 'hey your dad where does he get that from.'  She said, 'I don't know where.' So she went and checked in his study and he had a little thing of 24 ampules in this little thing from Sandos or who know where he got it. So she brought me a couple of them. And my friend's wife was a registered nurse. So I went out underneath a lemon tree and I said I'm just going to lie out there for awhile. And she had the sterilized water and everything. It was the first thing I ever shot. And she came out and wiped my arm and put both doses, two vials of LSD 25 straight into my blood stream.

Paul:  Jesus Christ.

Greg:  It was unbelievably magically.  It was so magical. By the time the needle came out, the tree was doing its deal and it was just -   it was the most smoothest beautiful trip.  It was complete ego-loss, complete peace. Complete oneness like with a God. Complete - it touched me so much Paul, I can actually feel the back of my jaws watering now with that almost metallic taste that you get when you're starting to come on.

Paul:  And it's so shocking to hear you describe this as a recovering drug addict.

Greg:  I have tremendous respect for LSD. 

Paul:  But you're not recommending anybody go do it.

Greg: Absolutely not. Because it's a false high.  It's a false god. It's a chemically induced God. Anything that is achieved that way I know I'll use it until it turns against me. Like I did everything that I loved so much. So anyways, from back on the Covack house that was just a great experience. That was when everything was working in my drug life. By the time we left there we were all sniffing a lot of coke and smoking really heavy duty THC stuff.   A lot of angel dust, smoked a lot of angle dust.  And we kind of disbanded from there and I kind of went out on my own. And when I went out on my own, we all had girlfriends, I took this girl with me,  and I start dealing larger amounts then.  And when I start dealing larger amounts,  I start hooking up with other people in the valley that were doing fairly big amounts. Four of us banded together so we could buy one big load.  And we would all once a week, we would put all our money together and buy a major load.

Paul:  Of which drugs?

Greg:  One guy was a north Hollywood guy, one guy was a west valley guy,  I was right here in this area and another guy was Sun Valley or something.  And we all had our own clients.

Paul:  What drugs?

Greg:  It started with large kilos of cocaine.  Very high quality. Peruvian Flake. Ether Wash stuff. We were all about quality 'cause we all had habits so could step on it and get our stuff free. We weren't looking to do a killing in the money -

Paul:  You just wanted enough to survive.

Greg:  Yeah I had a job. I was still working at the studios this whole time. I was still doing great. But what happened is, from there I moved a couple more times.  I moved like every six months or whatever like that.  And then I had a guy that was buying a half pound every three to four days. Of coke. Which was big back then that was the early seventies.  And the DEA was just -

Paul:  That's a huge amount of coke. He was buying it from you?

Greg:  He was buying it from me until I got kind of smart and put a middle man in-between. So I paid this guy five-hundred dollars just to come get the stuff from me and then he would go do the delivery.  And it was so down with these people they never even tested it, checked it,  they knew it was good. It was an exchange of packages. But I didn't want to be there for that exchange. So this guy got five-hundred dollars to do that.  And he calls me up one day and says 'my mom just died up in Oregon, I gotta go right now. She's in the hospital, they don't expect her to be alive till I get up there.' I said 'ok go.' But I knew later that afternoon that there was, it'd come down to there was hardly phone calls, hardly anything.  This guy would pull up in a market on Sherman way and Sepovida and he'd park in the side of the market. My guy would go into the market, he'd buy a bunch of bananas, put them in a bag, he'd come out. Take the half pound out of his jacket, put it in the bag of bananas, walk along the side of the market, they'd exchange two packages and that would be it. So I had to do that. And so when I went to do that the DEA was there waiting for me.

Paul:   So your middle man had set you up.

Greg:  Yeah. I still don't know that to this day -

Paul:   That's too coincidental.

Greg:  That's too coincidental. But so I had this bag in my hand. Cars start pulling up from around the market. I heard a helicopter comes up from over above.  And I realize I've got this – back then it was a huge charge. It was a ten to life. That was that was.

Paul:   It was a half pound of coke?

Greg:  Yeah. Anything for profiteering, hard narcotics profiteering,  it was ten to life back then. I knew I had this and I -   I'm going to reach in this bag and I'm just going to take that baggie and dust it in the air. I get my hand down in that bag and all I hear is hammers clicking.  And there up on me and a guy gets me on the ground, he's got this forty-five in my temple going  'please, please just move. I'd love to blow your brains across this parking lot. Please.'  And that's when they took me in, I got bailed out. They wanted all this stuff trying as far as who's my connections, who's whatever – I would say where -   I got bailed out on fifty-thousand dollars bail.

Paul:   Hosted by your parents?

Greg:  Hosted by my parents. Which I eventually paid my lawyer off for and the bail bondsman because when I finally went to court they had me dead to rights.  And I had good attorneys. I had attorneys that were in the pockets of Van Nuys judges but they said they can't do about this.  There were actually attorneys who were on the ballet at the time because there were so many narcotics arrests, that there were judges that were being paid off. I'm working at the studios, right -  still.  Through all this stuff. I go for sentencing in superior court and so I had already gotten sentenced to the ten to life. My attorney had set it up so I could come back for sentencing because I was still working so I could give my boss that sort of time  - but the judge kind of flipped on us in court.  He said 'I see no reason why we can't take this man now.'  My attorney stood up and said  'Your Honour, he's on lunch from his studio job, he will destroy his career.' And he goes 'what career?' So my attorney he says, 'can we please have a lunch breach so that he can at least make a call.  And then my client will be released to you.' And I never came back.

Paul:   Really.

Greg:  It was so funny. Cause I was like, oh my, I thought I was like such a big criminal or something. I went home -  I was so nervous getting out of there. I remember driving off the curb of the courtroom. Didn't even look for a drive way. I just gotta get out of here. They're looking for me. I'm a fugitive now.

Paul:  So obviously your job at the studio is gone at this point because it would be too easy for them to find you there.

Greg:  Absolutely. Yeah. Changed my name, withdrew my pension - this is in 1973. Ran as a fugitive moving large portions of cocaine and heroin up and down the coast to a little town called Zig Zag Oregon. Which is kind of like the Topango Canyon of Portland.

Paul:   Is that where Zig Zag papers get their name?

Greg:  I have no idea but it's a creepy little town. By this time I'm deep into the spoon. I'm doing major amounts of China white, match head stuff, that was -

Paul:  What does that mean? What does 'match head stuff' mean?

Greg:  Pure China white you can literally sniff a match head. It was so strong,  and these were guys with healthy heroin habits,  maybe two match heads would be close to over dose. It was way too -

Paul:  The amount that you could put on a match head, would be enough.

Greg:  The size of a match head on a spoon.  That's not even shooting it, that's how strong it was. And a lot of people were overdosing on that stuff.

Paul:  Wow. And where were you getting it from?

Greg:  I had this connection that was coming in from the airport with it. I've never ever had a connection like that.

Paul:  And where was he was getting it from?

Greg:  He was getting it straight in from the Golden Triangle.

Paul:  I suppose that's one of the benefits of importing on the West Coast is you get it straight from the -

Greg:  There's a pretty horrible story behind that in fact. All my friends were all connoisseurs and everybody wanted the best and everybody wanted a have a good enough price so they could cut a little and whatever.  So I would give them the option, you know my guys who were really close -    do you want me to cut it? And you're going to pay this price or do you want it pure and you're going to pay a lot more and you'll cut it your self.  'No, no, give it to us pure.' Ok. This stuff is - you've got to be really careful.  So some of that ended up going to this guy that I knew, his family -  and shot a lot of heroin with him. They were part of the clique right here in the valley and it was around the Jewish holidays.

Paul:   And you were living in Oregon at this time or you were living here?

Greg:  This is when I was living here.

Paul:  This was before you got busted.

Greg:  This is before I got busted. Yeah. And I had found out that this particular guy had gone to this Jewish dinner, where the whole family was there. His brothers his mom and dad.  He had gone to the bathroom, during, got up had got up from the dinner and went in the head, did some of this china, and overdosed. He didn't come out. He had fallen against the door. He didn't come back to the dinner table and his father went to go check on him. His father pushes the door open sees him with the needle in the arm, blue, and has a heart attack and dies on top on him.

Paul:  Oh my God. And you sold this guy that heroin.

Greg:  It came from me indirectly. The mother goes down the hallway and sees what's happened 'cause they were insane....

Paul:  And it what year was this happening?

Greg:  It was in '73. One fix took out a whole family.

Paul:  And what do you remember feeling when you heard about that?

Greg: At the time?

Paul:  Yeah.

Greg:  Well simply rolled it off to whoever I sold it to.  I warned him, I told him, what are you doing, you can't -  And I don't know, I didn't know the facts.

Paul:  So the person you sold it to, sold it to that guy.

Greg:  Yeah. But it made me double think the whole thing of giving people the option to take it pure cut.  It was so powerful. I had a four-hundred a day habit going on this stuff.

Paul:  In 1973.

Greg:  In '73. When I was running as a fugitive. So to bring that habit back down I - and I had this fake ID. My name was Harry Bring.

Paul:  Harry what?

Greg: Harry Bring.

Paul:  B-R-I-N-G.

Greg:  Yep. I had this wig I was wearing. And you know, I'd only come back into California a little bit.  I'm married to wife number two now who was the big connections girlfriend who the first time we ever did anything together we kind of, the thing it was on.  And she ended up one night, she showed up at my door saying 'that's it I'm done with him.' And it was all of this -

Paul:  He would still deal to you even though you had his girlfriend?

Greg:  Yeah. Wife number two. Never knew her one day sober. A very gorgeous Norwegian model. Beautiful, beautiful girl. The best by far drug connoisseur, packager, weigher -  she was just unbelievable.

Paul:  Like what, describe what specifically made her a good -

Greg: She knew every kind of cut there was on every type of narcotic. She knew everything about where it came from. She knew exactly how to package, weigh precisely.  Her measurements and everything were - she was a like a chemist. And she was beautiful. Unbelievably gorgeous. But died on the streets as a wino downtown. About fifty pounds over weight. All scared up from beer bottles.

Paul:  How long ago did she die?

Greg: She died about fourteen years ago. She disappeared for – and you know what? These four wives? This just came up the other day on one of my match dates.   One of the girls asked me 'did you propose to any of these girls?' And I went -  Holy shit no.  I didn't. I didn't propose to any of them. I was one of those guys like 'Yeah ok, that sounds all right. We can do that'. And it just kind of a rude awakening the other day. So anyways, you know, I'm with her and I start running as a fugitive. So I get out of California.  I'm basically up there and she's down here.  She's handling the business down here getting me the supplies that's going up there. She gets in a car wreck and goes through the front window. There's a big scar on her face. Wasn't her fault. Law suits involved.  That settles out after about four or five months.  I was running as a fugitive about a year and a half, by the time I get caught and jailed and everything it was almost two years.  I had to come down and sign the papers cause it was my car, it was my policies on the thing -  so I wanted to come down anyways.  I had been up there...to be hooked up there and not have your regular source to get it all, and to be sick sometimes in that wet, damp, dark hotels up there in Portland, that was some really dark times for me. Really really dark times.  With that impending doom.

Paul:  You're about to get caught.

Greg:  I had a grand plan that I was going to move to Hawaii, I was trying to make a big lump sum. And then the whole big lump sum, I took a major load to make one last killing and I got ripped off in Portland. And so, everything was gone. I'm a clever guy, I'm smart. I set up - the guy comes back to me and I say - 'what happened?'  He goes, 'I got ripped off.'  I say, 'Well, you gotta get that back, you gotta get all that money back for me.'  He goes, 'I'm going to need another load to do that.'  I said, 'Ok I'll get the load if you can get me your profits back from it I'll get you two more loads and then maybe you can start getting - ' He goes – 'I can get all your money back in three loads.'  Ok, I say, 'the first ones coming.'  I go, and we were moving at the time tar heroin, looks basically like mud. So that's what I get. I go get as best as I can to simulate - the same exact weight.  I bring it the same way in, we would do this whole thing in the basement of an old house in Portland, on the outskirts of Portland with the cement foundation with a dirt floor with the cord coming down with the one bulb in the center -  it's a movie set.  You know, I never, my past address – from my father passed down to me – I never with all my craziness ever  touched guns.  But there was a guy on our crew called the duct-taper. And this guy could get you wrapped up in duct-tape faster than anything. So I take him up there with me. And I take a twenty-two with me that this guy had with no bullets in it. And I set up the whole buy, I get the tri-beam out, I get the tar out, which is half a pound and I put it up on the scale.

Paul:  And it's mud.

Greg:  It's mud. But before I even walk in this time, I send the duct-taper in and tell him 'you want to see the money. Tell 'em I'm out on the curb.' So he signals me in,  ok they got the money. I come in. I show them the dope. Put it on the scale and everything's going on. And I pull out the gun, right. It's him and his girlfriend. This guy down there, he looks just like Charlie Manson. I say 'all right give me all the money.' Everything happens real fast. I say 'Up against that pole!'  There's this big girder coming down holding the main part of the house up. She's on one side and he's on the other and the duct-taper goes to it.  And he just starts going around that thing and he's got them in there with just their heads are sticking out. And so, we get ready to leave we've got all the money, we've got all the dope – it wasn't dope, it was mud, left it there. Left the tri-beam there. The whole deal. And I go 'Oh shit' - the plan was to take their car.

Paul:  Their keys are wrapped up in the duct tape.

Greg:  Their keys are wrapped up. So the duct-taper gets the knife out. And they're like ooh! Ooh! (makes noises as if his mouth is behind duct tape)  Gets a little thing by their pocket. 'Which one is it?' We got away with that. But anyways I eventfully came back to sign those papers for that insurance claim. And got pulled over at two in the morning just completely swacked.

Paul:  Oh so you didn't intend to turn yourself in. You got busted.

Greg:  Oh no, yeah. I was on course to do my whole new life in Hawaii. So I get pulled over at the corner of Canyon and Ventura, right in front of the hot dog show. This is like three in the morning. I'm in this friend of mine's 65 Chevy Impalla. I'll never forget this. And I had dope all over the thing. And I had marks all over my arms. And it was in the winter and I had a jacket on. Now they knew something was wrong but they didn't know what.  Just a regular black and white. So they took me down to Van Nuyes to blow to see if I'm drunk. 'Cause back then they had no way of really doing it, they take you to the station.  I blow, nothing. They're like - Ok. All right. Good. I had this meticulous ID that they were looking at. Complete made up. It had country club cards. Social Security.

Paul:   All as Harry Bring.

Greg:  All as Harry Bring. So anyways I get read to blow and everything comes up whatever. And I'm kind of continuing with them cause I'm loaded and I'm trying to stay on top of it. You can be that way on heroin. Especially if you've got some nervous energy going. And the guy goes 'Ok, you can go man.'  And he goes over to the door and puts his hand on the handle to push the door down to say 'your free to go.  And as he puts that hand down there and cracks it he goes - 'You know what? Can I see your arms?'  And I knew it man. I showed them my arms. They took me up to narcotics. They printed me. They started to run a make on my prints.  Now, this is early seventies. There's no computers really to.... So anyways, they put me in a holding tank. And I get on the phone - my phone call is to my bail bondsman.  If you ever - there's an extra three-thousand dollars in this....

Paul:   By the way, you know you're a fuck up when you refer to it as my bail bonds man. Not A bail bondsman, MY bail bondsman.

Greg:  Art Aragon. Been around forever. It was a race. Either the bondsman got there first or they made my the prints first. I'll never forget that feeling that washed over me, that incredible dark chill of that sheriff walking down little freeway in front of the holding tank going 'Cheever? Cheever?'  I knew it was over. I had that ten to life facing me, I had jumping bail. I had the pending charge, probably going to search the car for another holding. And I had a four-hundred dollar a day habit. And to take that habit down I had gotten on one hundred and eighty milligrams of methadone that I had been on for four months.  I almost died from that kick.  I literally almost died.

Paul:  Describe kicking heroin.

Greg:  Well for me because it was methadone - methadone and heroin are completely different. Kicking heroin is not that bad really.  It's bad, it's horrible but it's nothing like some other drugs.  Now, methadone that's another completely different animal.

Paul:  It's worse kicking methadone than heroin?

Greg:  Methadone soaks all the way into your bone marrow.  And it can be anywhere from, depending on how healthy you are and how young you are and how many milligrams you've been on, it could be from anywhere from two months to four months. And you will not sleep. I didn't sleep for thirty-one days after they caught me. Not a wink. I didn't sleep for thirty-one days. And then I on the other side I came out with, I had hepatitis. They took me and put me into Wayside Macks when they were trying to find out who I was.  And I was in the bakery in Wayside Macks pounding dough. And everyone's calling me Mellow Yellow.  I'm weak as can be. I'm jaundiced back. My poop is white. My pee looks like motor oil. And I'm trying to tell the CO's in the bakery, but everybody's trying for a play to get a med bed so they don't listen to you.  So finally I went over to this guy and said 'Man you need to come watch me. I gotta pee, you need to come watch this.' I finally got him to do that. They rolled me up and took me down to.... and it was like oh my god please. I was so happy. They put me in this van and they took me down to the twin towers and on the seventh floor there's an infectious disease floor. It's for like everything from poison ivy, to TB, AIDS hadn't been identified yet so Syphilis, Gonorrhea, hepatitis -  anybody that's been incarcerated in the system and that has an infectious disease goes to that floor. There's no bars,  or anything, it's like death row kind of. And you think, It's a hospital bed in a very small room with an iron door with a little square window.  And I was like 'Oh my God this is going to be so great.' But it was hell. It was hell because you only came out twice a week and that only was to shower.  And you ate your meals inside. The lights never went out. And I was in there for hundred and ten days. And it was bad.  It was bad. But I managed to get some heroin into myself.

Paul:   Did you really? How the fuck did you get heroin in, I suppose you can get it anywhere, but who do you ask?

Greg: There was some guys that were trustees they'd been in there, they were were going to be in there for six months to a year.  They would sweep the floors. Once a month up there you'd able to get a visitor. And they would sweep the visitors room too.  So I had my second wife at the time drop some china white in a cigarette cellophane out there. Told the guy 'I'll split it with you if you bring it to me.'  From there I went to state prison.

Paul:   Where'd you go?

Greg:  I went to CRC, which is a  - see here's the neat thing about this. I should be dead so many times over Paul. If I hadn't ran as a fugitive I would have got that ten to life.  Because in those two years that I ran there was so many people getting arrested for just narcotics with no violence, and me being one of them.

Paul:  They had to reduce the sentences.

Greg:  They were like this is, we can't keep it up we're putting these people who just have narcotics arrests who'd never robbed, stole, nothing and we're putting them with killers and armed robbers and rapist and whatever. So they created what's called an N number and it was for narcotics. And if you have narcotics on your jacket only, you'd get this N number.  The deal with it was, it was a much reduced sentence but it had a nasty testing parole on it. Seven years blind testing.

Paul:  They could come get a piss test any time they wanted.

Greg:  Any time they wanted. And the real dope fiends back then because recovery wasn't a big deal or very prevalent and there's not a lot of people who knew about it and there certainly wasn't all the institutions now that help us with those problems -  A lot of them said 'Forget it. I'll take the time. I'll never, 'cause, I'll never,  I'll never make it.' So, I got the two years because of that and I got out. But when I got to State prison you got to remember I'm coming out of isolation where I had been down for almost four months. I'm white as an egg, middle class white boy with no muscle, nothing and I'm getting off the bus to walk into state prison and they're at the fence looking at me, right? And I'm like, 'you're done. You're done.' Because on the way up to this insanity of trying to go through all the courts and because you don't get your real name back until you hit the State. If you're arrested underneath an alias -  I was Harry all the way through County jail, all the way through Wayside, I was still Harry.  So you get your original name back when you finally hit the State and you're sentenced to - your final sentencing. It's too confusing.  I'm in County jail and I'm sleeping on the floor next to the toilet, so sick. So sick. This was about day, I don't know, maybe fifteen or sixteen. I can't sleep. There are two guys down from San Quentin that are going back to court for killing two people in a Motor Vehicle registry.   They waited until Motor Vehicles had registration and they knew they'd have a ton of cash and they went in with weapons and sprayed the roof and people ran in all directions and ripped off the DMV.  And one of them went out and got out underneath the get away car and when they took off they drug him to death. And someone got killed inside and they never found the money, so they were being brought back to court. But the one guy, these guys were hard core Mexican mafia. Hard core. This guy had shank marks all over him from the joint. And his name was loco. And he had this littler other guy with him and they're bantering back and forth while I'm on the floor, they see I'm sick.  And I know they're talking about taking me off. I know they're talking about raping me.

Paul:  Really.

Greg: Oh I knew. Right off the top. I knew. And they're laughing, looking at me. So I get- he falls asleep, I get his booking number off his band, his wrist band. I call up my wife and I say 'you bring Suzie down here and tell her to wear the lowest cut dress she can and call out this booking number.'  So they both come down. They both get a visit. This guy Loco gets called out and he's like (makes a noise).  He comes back and I give him a look and he's like 'it's ok, but it still aint gonna save you.' He said something like -

Paul:  What did she do?

Greg:  She just calls him out for a visit. I mean this guy had been down in San Quentin. He hadn't seen or talked to a chick in who knows how long.

Paul:  She just talked to him, she didn't -

Greg:   She just talked to him. Had a really low cut on. She was a real babe. He probably talked dirty to her. But I made sure she did it again or whatever.  A couple of other nights go by and they come up to me about eleven o'clock one night.  And they say,  'you can make this real hard on yourself or you can make it real easy.  But we're going to get it any way. Either way we're going to get it.' And I can barely stand up. This guy is two-twenty, maybe six feet. So I stand up, I'm against the bars, standing against the bars. I said, 'You're going to either have to kill me or knock me out to take it from me.' And they start laughing. And they said,  'Why are you making it so hard man? Come on, just lay down here on the bed.'  I'm like no fucking way. So he starts coming towards me, he starts taking his belt off and coming towards me - and I lay a haymaker as hard as I could. Right, right I don't know where it even landed, somewhere on his face.  But it was like you see in the movies, like hitting -

Paul:  Like when Don Knots hits somebody?

Greg:  (laughing) Yeah. It was like -

Paul:  The guys doesn't even blink. Clang!

Greg:  It was like nothing had happened, right at all. Whatever. And he puts his, I'll never forget, he puts his hands up under my heck and pushes my head back against the bar and he puts the grip of his hands right in my adam's apple area and pushes me in and he says  'I just wanted to see how much heart you had. That's what I want to see. I'll get it from somewhere else. But I don't forget when people do something for me.' And he says,  'Tomorrow morning you walk behind me in chow.'

Paul:  Wow. Wow.

Greg:  And he was just saying, cause he said,  'you're going to run against this when you leave here. When you go up to State, they're going to be after you.'  And I so get to State prison and I'm going through, they're checking me in, they do the whole thing,  indoctrination and all that. And you go through all this – you know, and I get called out. I get called to the Captain's office. All right?  I'm like Oh my god. So the CO walks me up to the Captain's office.  I walk in and it says Assignment Office on the door. Captain Duh Duh Duh. I walk in and there's this little office there and there's this guy there. And he looks at me and he goes 'Cheever?'  And I was like, 'yeah?' And he goes, 'Randy Phillips.'  And I said, 'Oh my god.' He was a guy that we used to have rock wars with. It'd be Sherman Oaks against Studio City Park. And we'd have these rock wars when we were like eight, nine years old.

Paul:  You'd throw rocks at each other?

Greg:  Yeah.  We'd find our little forts in the park and we'd go Sherman Oaks against Studio City.  He had the most prestigious or most important job that an inmate can have in the institution and he was getting paroled out in about a month. And it was his job to leave that to a white boy.  Somebody that could type, somebody that could spell, somebody that could do some office work.   And he says, 'hey I'm getting paroled out man, you want this job?'  Another God shot.  I was the only guy who didn't have to go down for count. I had my own office. No one was going to fuck with the Captain's kid. The head CO's kid. And I used it – I was the one who kept ethnic balance in the whole institution.

Paul:  What?

Greg:  Yeah. You have to keep an ethnic balance to the whole institution. There's a giant board on the wall with everybody's name and booking number on it.  And then, and it's vanilla for Caucasians. Then it was orange for Chicanos. Then it was yellow for Asians, there weren't very many of those. And then they had, what was it for – red for Black. And you had to keep,  there were all – so many in this cell block, and so many in this one.  And then there were all the jobs through the institution. Cause you see, what you don't realize is that a lot  -

Paul:  And this is which institution?

Greg:  It's called The California Rehabilitation Center. It's right next to Chino.

Paul:  Ok. And this was state not federal.

Greg:  State. They have what they call pay numbers. And a lot of these guys that are in there they have nobody from the outside to even bring them a buck. You know. And you can only leech for so long in there. You can only borrow smokes or coffee or – you know.  If you've got cream and sugar and coffee, or tasters choice and cream and sugar  - that's called a Cadillac, inside. And if you stick 'em with a Cadillac and desert crawlers which are unfiltered camels,  you're rolling big.

Paul:  If someone from the outside gives you that. Or they give you the money to buy it.

Greg:  Or you've got to work for it – so the pay numbers -

Paul:  Or fuck for it, right.

Greg:  Yeah, whatever. Or trade dope for it or whatever. So I had all these jobs to bargain with. I'll give you a job in the CO's cafe, cafeteria, but I want a hamburger every day. I'll give you a job in dry cleaning, but I want all my clothes done all the time.

Paul:   So, it's like you got a seat on Wall Street, basically, in the joint.

Greg:  Absolutely.

Paul:  So then you were in there for how long? How'd you get out?

Greg:  Two years. And when I got out – but that means my strung out wife was left out here who went through everything I owned.  Including everything that was in every storage bin or whatever.

Paul:  This was the Norwegian?

Greg:  Yeah.

Paul:  Fucking Norwegians.

Greg:  And never, never, she kind of just disappeared. Last communication I had, I had about nine months ago.  I was in heavy communication with -

Paul:  Nine months ago? I thought she died fourteen years ago.

Greg:  Well, no. Nine months before I finished my two years. I had no communication -

Paul:  Oh, ok. Nine months previous to that, you mean. I thought you meant nine months before today. I gotcha.

Greg:  Nine months before I got out for my two years. She just dropped off the map. None of the gang had seen her or anything like that. Ever since then she kind of disappeared. I had been in heavy communication with my – with the girl who ran my lawyers law office. A para-legal. Wife number three. So, she picked me up from the gate. And it was on. And still at this time Paul, no even idea about recovery. Not even an idea that I was in the grips of a killer disease.  Wasn't even there. In fact, when I got out my old crew had a huge party for me at the Micado. Enjoining rooms. And they're all like,  'Be careful. Be careful we know how clean you are.' And I said, 'No I'm not clean. I was using inside.' There was this huge party and a bunch of other people overdosed and I was out there rescuing, right, so.... it was just so crazy when I think about that.  And here's where the parole was to give you an idea, where even the state was at at the time. My testing parole was that it was okay to drink but you can't use any drugs. So I didn't start drinking till I was -

Paul:   You know to a person who's not an addict or alcoholic that probably makes perfect sense. But an addict or alcoholic would understand how crazy that is.

Greg:      Yeah.

Paul:   And that is one of the things that is why so many people have trouble getting help is the misconceptions. The doctors that prescribe Vicodin at the drop of a hat for something where Ibuprofen would certainly do. Because they don’t want you calling them again for another refill.  So a lot of them will just give you a bottle of a hundred Vicodin.

Greg:  They don't want you calling them in the middle of the night or something like that. It's a very misunderstood disease of course. But anyways, from there Paul I get another God shot.  And I go down to Burbank to meet my parole officer. And I pull the only lady parole officer out of twenty agents. And so I'm thinking ok, that's good but she's still going to watch me pee and whatever all that. So I meet her and everything’s good.  And I tell her I'm going back to work at the Studios and I'm going to put my name on the board and back then you still good. My parents had paid my union dues. I was still in high grouping. And so I go back to work right away.

Paul:  As a projectionist at -

Greg:  As a projectionist at Warner Hollywood. And this is where things start really, I mean things had happened before, I had a couple things at MGM happen,  but this is where some things really start happening because I'm full in fledged in my disease.

Paul:  I love the fact that you just got out of almost getting butt fucked in prison, kicking heroin,  but now this is where things go down hill.

Greg:  Oh yeah, definitely.

Paul:  You know what maybe we should pause here.  I think this is going to be a two parter. What are they going to hear in part two? They're going to hear the stories behind why you were banned from four studios.

Greg:  You're going to hear a lot of funny stuff from what happened on major lots. You're going to hear about the fall of my addiction into the darkness. You're going to hear about my third wife abandoning me with my child.  You’re going to hear about me hitting bottom and then you're going to hear about me coming out of that to glorious success in pinnacles of inside achievements and outside achievements and great stuff to only fall to the disease and come back up out of again two and a half years ago.

Paul:   Which is where you are now. Two of those stories that I'm going to have you tell which in of itself were enough to make me want you have you on the podcast,  was the story of the screening of Ordinary People where you threatened Robert Redford's life.  And I'm not going to give the other one way but it is where you are in a black out at a screening for a movie, you're running the projector for it,  and you don't have any clothes on. We'll leave it at that.  That's to come for part two.

Greg:  Yes, the details are the makers of that one.  And I have a couple others -

Paul:   I want you to find out what movie that was cause you couldn't remember what the movie was that you were in a black out for.

Greg:   I will. I could do that real easy too.

Paul:  Buddy thank you, that you so much -

Greg:  Thank you Paul it's been fun.

Paul:   - for coming and sharing your time with me and being my friend.  And helping lift me, I know I called you a couple of weeks ago when I was having just a shit day and I was sideways and I just needed some loving from you man. You're always there with love and support. You've helped me through some dark days and I appreciate that.

Greg:  Well you've been just the highlight of my day. Thank you Paul. I love you bro. You give so much to so many people.  You don't know.

Paul:  Thanks.

Greg:  You really don't know. From so many different directions that a lot of us can't give.

Paul:  Thanks buddy.

Greg:  I love that about you.

Paul:  That was Greg Cheever. And you didn't see, but right after he told me that he rolled his eyes. Which I found very hurtful. Part two of Greg will be coming up next week and I don't think it's going to disappoint you.  Maybe it will, maybe you're hard to impress. But I find his stories very very interesting and the fact that he has managed to find a way out of that darkness is a fucking miracle to me.  I want to read a letter I got from a kid named Matt. It says:  “Dear Paul: I'm sorry if I start to ramble but bear with me.  My name is Matt, I'm seventeen years old, a senior in high school. I get good grades, am moderately athletic, and I am a finalist to become a national merit scholar.    I've also been severely depressed for my entire time as a high school student and a few months ago I was about as close to ending my life as any human being mentally could be.  I say “was” because that breaking point is now behind me. Much of this is due to finally getting up the nerve to tell some how wrong I felt. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with ADD and am prescribed medication for that as well as depression and I'm seeing a therapist weekly.  I've also recently discovered your Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast and I truly believe that was the most helpful development of all.“

Well, I think he's actually being a little over flattering there but thank you.

He says: “The prospect of being medicated scares me and I'm not crazy about my current therapist, but being able to hear certain specific worries and experiences I've been afraid to talk about come from you and your guests mouths has not just let me know that I'm not some quiet anti-social freak who will always be alone which was just the least of my worries.  (hope that didn't make you sad.)”

It doesn't make me sad Matt.  It actually makes me realize that you probably feel a lot like I felt when I was your age.  Just way more articulate. Matt went then went on to say:

“I also wanted to put out a few of my own personal fears as it's the fear off on your podcast that most resonates with me. You can skip this if you like, as it is a bit long and isn't the most important thing that I wanted to say.  But I figured maybe something on here would be something that would resonate with you. So, here goes. Fear that you read that I was seventeen and will either think 'he's a kid what's he got to worry about' or  'Ah he's just another apathetic teen, he'll grow out of it.'”

Wrong.

“Fear that all things considered I have a negative impact on the lives of those close to me but they love me too much to see it.  Fear that all my worries are in some way a sign of narcissism or self absorption.  Fear that I don't worry about the mistakes I've made in the past, I won't learn from them and I'll always be the same asshole.  Fear that if I don't worry about mistakes I may make in the future,  I'll be unprepared and crumble once something does blindside.  Fear that if I had kids I'd be the reason they'd end up as screwed up as me either because of genetics or because I'll make the same mistake my parents made and not be able to hide my sadness from my children, spreading it to them. Fear that when people say  'your life hasn't even begun yet ' or something to that effect it some how means that the friendships that I actually do value now are merely transient, and in the long run each of us are superfluous to each others lives.  Similarly, a fear that I’m superfluous to everyone outside my families lives.  Fear that subconscious feeling they have toward me, that I'm fragile and weak and they'll be artificially cheery around me or hesitate to be honest about their problems so as to not push me over the edge. Fear that I just wrote an awkward run on sentence and seem stupid now. I fear this message was too long and you'll never read most of it. Sorry if I rambled but just know that this message isn't intended as only a method of therapy for myself, though by now it partially is.  I felt compelled to come here and let you know that for years I felt too disillusioned and in many ways apathetic to have any real heroes. But you are my hero. I felt cheesy just writing that, but I'm extremely grateful for you sending out these hour long conversations that really, for me at least,  do a world of good. I'm sure some part of you wants to say 'I'm just doing this for myself, I'm glad this helped but I'm no hero,' because that's what I would tell myself. “

Well Matt, I'll just end this with this one fear back at you. My fear is that there aren't enough seventeen year olds like you out there.  And yeah, maybe that's a fucking cheesy way to end this show.  But you're a special person. You really are.  And your life probably won't be simple and your life probably won't be painless. But if you continue getting the help that you need and you deserve, I have the feeling you're going to do some pretty amazing stuff in this world. And I love the idea of a world where a seventeen year old that I've never even met can make me feel less alone. Make me feel better about myself and better about the world. So if you’re out there and you're stuck just remember, we're not alone. There's help.  You just gotta ask for it.

 

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