It was the dawn of a new century, and I was the quintessential Generation Xer: college educated, ambitious. Floundering. Hoping to revitalize my mediocre sales career, I moved to Los Angeles to fill a new company post—an “opportunity” that would supposedly suit me. But as the business began to fold, I found myself in a quandary. I could accept failure, again, and allow my savings to hemorrhage. Or I could take advantage of another opportunity: an obvious and accessible market, one I was already steeped in. My friend Eric had recently introduced me to Morgan, a cocaine dealer who appeared to have it all. It seemed too serendipitous to ignore; I was business trained and making connections. There’d be steady income with no alarm clocks, no sales meetings. A cash business with no one to answer to. What could possibly go wrong?
I’d been getting by on dry wit and good genes—a naïf amidst the throng of aspiring actors and rock stars. Suddenly I found myself with an all-access pass from Beverly Hills to Skid Row. No more lines, no more cover charges. Effort into meeting women went down to nil. I solved problems with money, which simply materialized; it was like a dream, but not a guiltless one. Unable to fully reconcile my actions with my conscience, I adopted a persona: the hyper-sexualized rock n’ roll coke dealer, shirtless with tattoos blazing and sarcasm flying. I could answer my phone or not. I could host a wild party or curl up with a notebook and pen, write a poem, snort some drugs, deadbolt the door. It was all up to me. And the word “no” practically disappeared…unless of course it was coming from my mouth.
But I began to realize that it was all a Faustian bargain. I led a double life, lying to family members including one who lived close by: my brother David, LAPD sergeant and the hero of my youth. The majority of my so-called friends were little more than enablers: lapdogs willing to deliver the beers and the smokes, unclip the velvet ropes—whatever I asked, so long as I had the drugs. Romantic relationships were circuslike and required constant maintenance. There was Joanna, the British expat who used threats (suicide, cops) to hold on to me; Stephanie, the constipated stripper with no car and AA meetings to attend; and Jia, the sedentary would-be starlet whose perkiest attribute was her breast augmentation. The list went on and on. And the more surreal my life became, the more I faded into the background.
But then a chance encounter with an old friend led to work on a film project, reviving my dormant love of storytelling. I was offered a production credit, script duties, even a small acting role. I felt…purposeful. I distanced myself from the drug game and dedicated my time to the movie. For once in my life, the task at hand seemed in sync with my aptitudes. I was impassioned, productive. I nearly forgot I was a criminal. But the cops had been onto me. And then the day before my 35th birthday they arrived, warrant in hand.
I led a double life, lying to family members including one who lived close by: my brother David, LAPD sergeant and the hero of my youth.
The biggest challenge of my life lay ahead. Not jail. I was caught at the tail-end of my inventory cycle; the stint would be doable. What terrified me was the idea of starting over at thirty-five with a blighted record and a spotty resume. Plus I’d had a taste of the artist’s life, and I couldn’t go back. While navigating my legal woes, I began exploring my past through writing, and the pages piled up. I called my estranged father, promised him I’d go straight, that I’d make him proud—that I’d become the son he’d always wanted. I was that son, he explained, I just never allowed myself to believe it. And with the purging of all that pain, he died, entrusting me to finish the journey.
Beyond the standard, formulaic drug or “misery” memoir, Swirls in the Negative Space explores themes that are universal and cultural as well as personal. It is about looking inward, facing fears and finding hope. It challenges the myth that happiness can be achieved through consumption; it examines the struggle to prioritize character over reputation; and it reveals the only judge that truly matters: The one in the mirror.