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Neal had a Toyota Corolla. I don't remember how we met, or who introduced us or any of that. There had been Matty and there was always Jonathan, but Neal, he just kind of appeared one day. And without questions and without reason, we were best friends.  
   I mean, for me the attraction was obvious. Neal had a car and he was just beginning to smoke cigarettes.  I always needed to get somewhere and I always needed someone's cigarettes to smoke.  But what Neal saw in me is entirely questionable. I had no base, meaning I rarely slept in the same place twice.  By the time I had met Neal, Mom was living full time with Mary Jane, dad's brain was mush from alcohol and my brothers and sister had left the house.
    The strange thing about Neal isn't that he is now a leader in the world of Messianic Judaism.   He always had a huge and giving heart.  The strange thing about Neal is that one day when I must have convinced him to drive into the Bronx to get some pot; he and I bought this new drug that Gene the dealer had.  No one had heard of this yet, and apparently we didn't care if it was safe or not.  Maybe we figured that Gene wouldn't hurt us.  Besides, the new drug looked like chipped off pieces of soap, could that hurt?
     It didn't take long before Neal and I were making nearly daily trips to see Gene and buy some crack.  One day, Gene invited me up to his apartment.  He didn't have any of the little vials on him so I had to go up with him.  We could check with Neal but we could say it was about an hour later I came down, high off my ass. Gene had turned me on to over a hundred dollars worth of crack, plus some of the twenty that I bought.
      Of course Neal knew right away. He laughed at me and then we smoked some more together and put on the tape.  This was the era before CD's, thank God, because it wasn't the music but rather the "swoosh, swoosh" sound that might be associated with Star Wars light sabers today, that we enjoyed.  And we listened to it over and over again as it led into STYX' "Mr. Roboto".
      I remember feeling bad about leaving Neal out in the car the whole time I was up getting high. That's the thing about getting high, whether it is pot or crack, acid or beer, even when you feel bad, there's nothing you can do but justify yourself or just smile and forget it.  I remember feeling bad about leaving Neal in the car the whole time I was up getting high. All the way home I just smiled and forgot about it.
      After one of these trips we took to smoke some crack, we came down hard on the couch in Neal's family's den. I loved that den.  It really felt like a den, it had a certain woodsy kind of dark and a big couch with a big TV. After an afternoon of crack, we would crash on the couch and sit.  Awake yet motionless as our bodies felt like human sandbags.
      And then there was Larry. Larry was Neal's younger brother and sometimes kind of annoying.  There were other times when I thought Larry was an incredible source of creativity. But this day was not one of those.
     Neal and I were sandbags. Unfortunately Neal had put on a pot of baked beans when we came into his house and then we became sandbags.  And then Larry came home.
     It wasn't pretty.  There was a lot of yelling. Well, Larry yelled. I remember telling him, "Listen, your brother just isn't feeling well. Please just leave him alone for a minute."
     The difference between being in my family, or in most of my friends families is that behavior like Neal's would be readily identified as intoxication.  In Neal's house he was just assumed as being obstinate. I wanted that so bad.
     Neal did a lot of amazing things -- good things-- between that day and this.  God smiles on him, his wife and his worship. Me? I've done a few things too. Maybe 20 years from now I'll be sitting around thinking of them.

Posted: August 7, 2005 ,   Modified: December 9, 2006

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