30 Albums, 30 Stories: Paul’s Boutique


This November, I’m telling 30 stories about 30 albums. The albums on this list are not necessarily my favorite albums, but they are the ones that are instantly associated with a time and place. All of these albums represent a chapter of my life. This is the story of those albums, and by extension, the story of me, presented mostly chronologically.

Album 13: Paul’s Boutique by The Beastie Boys.

One day, I was hanging out with a skeezer–a crackwhore–at her apartment, getting high as balls. We were leaking–that’s what we called it when we were running low–and it was her turn to score. She took her young daughter with her, saying that she was going to drop her with friends. She came back without her.

When it was my turn to score again, I found the girl at the crackhouse. Her mother had sold her for drugs. I called the cops. Then, I called my parents. I wrote the whole story here if you’re interested.

I spent the next few months getting clean at my family’s house in the suburbs where they had moved. The fact that they lived in the suburbs ended up being a good thing since I had no drug connections out there. It was easier to stay clean.

My family never asked what had happened. They let me have some space. Even to my oblivious parents, my physical appearance made it evident that I had been through hell. I weighed about 100 pounds and I’m 5’9″. I looked like a walking skeleton that someone dragged out from under a rock, which is pretty much what I was. I spent a good long while writing down everything that happened, factually, without emotion, but I left out all the worst parts.

When I tell people now that I quit a very serious crack addiction all on my own, without rehab or help of any sort, they’re amazed as if that’s as impossible as having a pet unicorn named Stanley. “You couldn’t possibly quit a hardcore drug addiction without going to rehab a minimum of twice.”

At the time though, not only did I not have any other options (I had no money, no insurance and parents who never offered), but I was very determined. I didn’t want to live that life ever again. I was very lucky to have survived the first time and I knew if I went back, I’d die. It’s not that I had a problem with dying, but I didn’t want to die that way. Besides, quitting smoking is much harder than quitting crack.

In and of themselves, the drugs weren’t the problem. The real problem was that I was using them to mask all the nonsense related to child sexual abuse and my family’s betrayal, though at the time, I still hadn’t put two and two together.

Once it came time to poke my head out into the world again, I realized I had no friends, no job, no life. Everything I had was gone. All I had was a small room in the suburbs with some, quite honestly, shitty people who I didn’t like very much.

I got my old high school job back and even got a promotion. I started taking classes at the community college since all those scholarships had disappeared and it was all I could afford. I didn’t feel like I was up for a real higher learning facility anyway. While most of my cohort was immersed in their first year university courses, I was shivering in an abandoned house in Detroit looking for my next score. Not exactly Ivy League material. At community college, I didn’t have to answer any awkward questions about where I had been for the past year.

Slowly, I started to emerge into the world again. I went out one night and ran into some old friends. They didn’t know anything about the events of the previous year and I liked it that way. One of those people was the domestic violence monster who I had blissfully been living without since shortly after redhead left. If only I had walked away then.

When the first Beastie Boys album was released, I was too punk for words and didn’t care all that much (though, I always loved Slow & Low), but Paul’s Boutique was different. A different sound, a different attitude. To this day, I still think it’s their best album (Check Your Head a very close second, followed by their last).

Favorite track:

Without a doubt.