“You doing alright Legs?” Joey Ramone asked me one night, shortly after I’d gotten dumped by Billie Bartlet. We were hanging at out one Monday night at Arturo Vega’s loft, the Ramones’ creative director, right around the corner from CBGB’s.  

Excerpt from: “LIVE THROUGH THIS…”

an Excerpt from the soon to be published "LIVE THROUGH THIS..." (A True Story) Copyright 2013 by Legs McNeil. photo ©Tom Hearn

“You doing alright Legs?” Joey Ramone asked me one night, shortly after I’d gotten dumped by Billie Bartlet. We were hanging at out one Monday night at Arturo Vega’s loft, the Ramones’ creative director, right around the corner from CBGB’s.

Joey Ramone was the lead singer of the Ramones, the band PUNK magazine believed were the next Beatles and tons of people on the scene thought would be the next breakout sensation from New York City. They were gaining momentum, getting tighter and faster every time they played CBGB’s, which was about every two weeks or so. Joey had one of the best voices in rock & roll and though he was an unusual looking guy—6’6, tall and as skinny as me, he was also my best friend– one of the few guys I talked about real shit with.

“No, not really,” I mumbled, nursing a Bud tallboy, filled with oceans of self-pity.

“Wanna watch Ted?” Joey asked, as we ambled away from the benzene stink from Arturo’s silk-screen operation in the front of the loft– to Joey’s “bedroom”– a mattress, a small black and white portable TV, and a hanging sheet for privacy, right next to the bathroom in the back.

“Ted” was our codeword for the Mary Tyler Moore Show, because Ted Baxter, the clueless; knucklehead newscaster, was our favorite character.

Joey was nursing his own tall boy. Arturo had given into our whining and given us each a dollar for beers. Arturo was an older, gay Mexican artist, who possessed that rare glow of immense possibility– and made us feel like what we were doing was important. Arturo was a fucking Saint.

“Yeah, okay, nothing better to do than watch Ted,” I mumbled, sitting in the chair next to the mattress that Joey stretched out on. I put my feet up on the bottom of it, getting comfy for two half hours of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I’d woken up quiet a few times like this, and I guessed this was going to be another one.

“Whatsamatter?” Joey asked.

“Some chick dumped me,” I told him.

“That sucks…”

“Tell me about it…”

“She got to you, huh?” Joey quizzed me, twirling his hair around his finger. He was constantly playing with his hair.


“That’s the worst,” he looked stuck, as if he was having a memory he couldn’t turn away from.


“It’s bad when you let ‘em get inside,” Joey mused. It wasn’t a very good Mary episode; it was the one where Mary and Rhoda join the Divorced People’s Club in order to be eligible for the club’s cheap plane tickets to Europe, even though neither of them were divorced– and there wasn’t much of Ted Baxter in it, so Joey and I kept talking…

“You ever been in love?” I asked.

“Yeah, after I got out of the bin…”

“The bin” was our shorthand for the nuthouse. Joey was referring to his short stay in St. Vincent’s Psychiatric Hospital a few years earlier.

“Whycha hafta go in?” I asked.

“Oh, ya know,” Joey smiled that cryptic smile of his.

“Not really?”

“Well,” he thought, then smiled even broader and said, “Cause it was– time.”

“Time for what?” I giggled.

“Green Jell-O,” Joey snorted,  “…and TV till 10…”

We were both laughing hard.

“Yeah, green Jell-O and TV till 10,” Joey hummed, “That’s the way the bin has always been…”

Joey always liked playing with words, like they were ricocheting around his brain, trapped inside until he could distill them into to his own language. I think it had something to do with his OCD– his obsessive/compulsive disorder– but it didn’t matter. Joey was always a lot of fun.

“Doesn’t sound so bad?” I suggested.

“Yeah,” he snorted, “It was– very therapeutic, ha, ha, ha!”

We laughed some more and sucked on our beers, both lost in thought.

Joey was receiving SSI, Social Security Insurance, some kind of public assistance because he’d been deemed “nuts” after his stay in St. Vincent’s. So he had some money coming in. “Crazy Money,” is what he called it. Joey was so generous he even took me down to Wall Street one morning and tried to get me signed up for “Crazy Money” too, but the Social Security functionary insisted on seeing a note from my psychiatrist. I was too afraid to go see I shrink, thinking they’d probably lock me up for a month long stay in the nuthouse too. So I never went back to Social Security office.

Mostly Joey and I were partners in adventuring to the end of the night—every night. The blistering night was all that mattered. Fuck the day time– that only served to do some work and watch the clock until the sun was ready to depart for another day. It seemed as though every night was another chance to live out our fantasies—whatever they were at that moment— and to taste the whim of sex, drugs and rock & roll again. Joey and I would inevitably get drunk, try to pick of some chicks and see where the darkness led us…

But every now and then, we’d take a Monday night off and stay in at Arturo’s and watch TV.

“I hate fucking Monday nights,” I said, counting and recounting the number of Marlboro’s I had left in the pack, “Mondays always feel like Sundays used to feel…

“Hey Legs, I wonder if ten years from now,” Joey deliberated, “will Tuesday nights feel like Monday nights feel now?”

“Good question,” I snickered. It made sense. As weird as Joey behaved sometimes, he always made perfect sense. He was a complicated, but profound thinker.

“Like how Friday nights used to feel in the bin, ya know?” he added, his OCD not letting go of the thought.

“So who was the girl you fell for?” I pressed.

“Just some chick,” Joey shrugged, getting moody, still playing with his hair, “But I let her in, ya know?”


“If only you could fuck ‘em, and not fall for ‘em, ” he laughed, “That would be great…”


“It really sucks when you’re sitting around wondering what she’s doing, ya know? Like that Boyce and Hart song, that song says it all, ya know?”

“I know man…”

Joey was an incurable romantic who believed in the concept of a perfect love, but didn’t mind indulging in the tasty treats that hung out at CBGB’s until he found it. We were just starting to get really hot chicks on a regular basis, still, we had to take what we could get, and sometimes that was nothing– like tonight.

“I wonder if they ever sit around wondering what were doing, ya know?” Joey mused. “Like, if they’re out there watching Ted, thinking, “Hey, what’s Joey and Legs doing tonight?’ I wonder if they’re hearts hurt as much as ours, ya know?”

“I’d like to think so,” I griped, “But I doubt it…”

“FUCKING CUNTS!” Joey burst into hysterics, “Why? Just cause we fucked somebody else?” He was doubled over, holding his stomach he was laughing so hard at the absurdity of his argument. I couldn’t help it; I was in hysterics along with him.

I really hadn’t been expecting to fall for Billie; it took me by surprise, and I knew I was on a downward spiral since she left me. I just couldn’t seem to get a grip; there was nothing to hold on to as I slipped into the void. Life seemed like some greasy slide into oblivion as I began to realize Billie couldn’t be replaced…

I knew I was headed for the big crash, but I also realized I had bigger problems than alcohol– while it was unusual for me to fall for a girl, I realized through Billie, that it was possible. So I had new problem– how was I going to survive myself until everything was okay? How was I going to survive falling in love until I was famous or successful enough to get what I wanted?

And what the hell did I want anyway?

Well–  just more decadent sex, more beer and more Marlboros– and another great story! My needs were all consuming– beer, cigarettes, sex, etc– that I never considered the anything but the immediate future. Besides, I didn’t plan on living that long…


Copyright 2013 by Legs McNeil