Notes and Quotes – The Book of Drugs, a Memoir (2012), Mike Doughty

– Notes and Quotes –


Mike Doughty (1970-present)

The Book of Drugs, a Memoir (2012)


“I talked to the admissions guy about Sartre; I told him that I also thought hell was other people. I didn’t really think hell was other people, but it was a fantastic teenage pose.” (20)


“. . . drugs can be a form of suicide.” (22)


“‘You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing,’ Alan Watts wrote.” (23)


“There were certain business-y phrases that every exec at every label used. “At the end of the day,” and “bring to the table.” “It’s about———at the end of the day.” “———is what———brings to the table.” “At the end of the day, it’s———that we bring to the table.” (51)


“Alternative music’s popularity meant the labels were trafficking in a genre in which they were almost wholly nonconversant.” (52)


On “hits”: The A&R people “. . . discovered that they had wandered into a car dealership and sniffily announced they were shopping for boats.” (53)


“But I was ten years younger, and they were all much better than I was.” (56)


“I could’ve said: It doesn’t occur to you that I’m better than you think I am, that I have a vision that you’ll never give me credit for—maybe you do know it, and you don’t want to admit it to yourselves, because this would mean accepting that your future lay in following this guy, this annoying skinny kid from the suburbs with the weird lyrics, who can barely sing, and is such a primitive guitar player he might as well be a novice. Admitting this guy was a whiz kid meant admitting you were never a whiz kid yourself.” (57)


“You have to ask what key you’re playing in, you don’t even know the names of the chords you’re playing, Doughty,” said the bass player.” (57)

“You think you chose us, Doughty,” said the bass player, observing my dazed state, “but after you chose us, we chose you.” (58)


“Oh, you want the snare on the two and the four.” Yes! Exactly! If somebody had taught me the language, maybe I wouldn’t have felt helpless at rehearsals.” (59)

“He’d sneer, “Yo, G, that beat is played” (played meaning used up, out of style).” (59)

“Uniqueness was more important to him than making the song better.” (59)


Ruby Vroom: “The record came out on the same day as REM’s Monster; there was a line outside Tower Records of REM fans waiting to buy it at midnight. Stanley Ray and I went in. I found our CD stuck in some non-glorious spot at the back of the new releases rack. I was crestfallen.” (62)


“At last I knew I was right; my band was a great band, and I was a lowly thing attached to it.” (63)


“Thanks,” the bass player had written back, “but Doughty doesn’t know how to tune his own guitar.” (64)


Bollywood Indian music: Vivah Geet (64)


“Leave me a message,” he said in a porn-star voice. “A detailed message.” (66)


“We’re not the kind of band where the singer stands in the front of the picture.” (66)


“I’ve been in a threesome!” the bass player piped in. Like he’d been waiting to say this.

“What was your experience?” asked Dr. Drew.

“It’s nice work if you can get it!” said the bass player.” (67)


Sampler Player: “Doughty’s not a musician. He’s a wordsmith.” (67)

Doughty: “Years later, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, I still beat myself up for not being a real musician.” (67)


“We were having an argument on whether the personality was encoded in DNA. I believed mostly in nurture rather than nature. “That’s because you’re afraid! You’re afraid! ” the sampler player yelled at me. I tried to say, No, I just think that… “Why are you so afraid?!”

Laughing, I put my arm around him: Now why won’t you let me answer you? He shrank, trembling, as if I were going to punch him.” (69)


“First thing in the morning, at the airport check-in desk.

How are you? I asked.

“Pretty horny!” Gus yelled.” (70)


“She’s soft,” Gus said, describing his girlfriend. “She’s small. I like her parts.” His shorthand for finding girls was, “Let’s go look at some shirts.” (70)


MC Hammer song: “Aaaaaww yeah, I’m glad I put this tape on.” (70)


“We had this prank call tape that we loved.” (71)

“At one point, the guy is asked for his phone number, and he says, “My number is seven.” This became our answer for everything.” (71)


“I can tell you really know how to party,” Gus said.” (71)


“Warner Bros. gave us a small budget for gear—new amps, etc. I used my cut to buy a laptop—circa 1995, about as thick as a Tolstoy novel.” (74)


“I slept with a girl in Amsterdam who refused to tell me her name.” (74)

“I kept looking at her, and she looked back with that same frank, sexy regard.” (75)

“So what’s your name? I said as we crossed a footbridge.

My head was spinning from the weed. I kept stumbling into the bike path, and I’d hear jingling bells and think, How pretty, but they were the bells on bicycles, ringing at the idiot in their way.

“I’m not going to tell you my name,” she said.” (75)

“I think I will come up to your room,” she said.” (75)


“Look, I said. Tell me your name. You have to tell me your name.

“It’s ugly,” she said. “It’s Dutch, and you won’t like it.”

Dutch has a kind of mish-mish-mush-mush quality to it, punctuated with long, phlegmy, rolling consonants in the back of the throat. But how bad could it be?

“My name is Bregggggkkkkkgggggggya,” she said.” (75)

“Finally I came inside her, risk be damned.” (76)


Dusha Arangu: “. . . sometimes you just really need a shag, you know?” (76)

“Why fuck a goddess not-stoned?” (76)

“I’ve discovered what I was put on this Earth to do, and nobody’s trying to help me do it!” she wrote, cheerfully irate.” (77)


“I fucked a. . .” (79)

“I fucked a publicist for hip-hop acts who wept as I went down on her.” (78)


“Mostly, though, I didn’t fuck anybody. The above litany is uninspired compared to that of the average singer of a band that had a video on MTV in the ’90s. I was usually too high to pickup girls. Every night that I spent alone, cotton-mouthed, in a hotel room, I loathed myself for loneliness itself.” (79)

“Flippant sex is a wasted man’s pastime.” (79)


Saul Mongolia: “He said the way I sang reminded him of a soul singer—my phrasing, my approach. By saying this he won my heart forever.” (79-80)


“You’re not a star! I yelled at him.” (80)


Rufus, whizz: “Do you want some pyooaah?” Huh? “Some pyooaah, mate.” Oh, pure. Pure what?” (87)


“A guy from Warner Bros. stood by the sandwich platter. He had horn-rimmed glasses and an aw-shucks, kid from the cul-de-sac, Encyclopedia Brown demeanor.” (91)

“. . . when you’re on E, and you move intensely, then stop, you feel like you’ve ignited.” (91)


“This is what I wanted to do with my life. Be outrageously high, be absolutely alone except for the random high fives and yelped You’re awesome’s.” (91)


“There was a fifteen-year-old hippie girl dancing. She turned around and saw me. Her eyes lit up. I realized that I was wearing the same clothes I had worn onstage with Dave, and having essentially been in the Dave Matthews Band, I was a celebrity. I playfully shushed her: don’t reveal my secret identity. She screamed. In seconds I was dogpiled by fifteen-year-old girls. Like a Monkee. Luke yanked me to safety.” (92)


“I had mailed myself eight different varieties of weed on the Amsterdam stop of the European tour right before I moved there, so I had this little rainbow of marijuana—yellow-haired buds next to purplish ones next to ones with a sheen of silver crystals.” (92)


Winchester Mystery House, “Circles” (99)


“Sure, Mike. I’ll do anything for my godfather, you know that.” He says it without resentment: he’s loyal, selflessly obedient. Duty, Honor, Country: the West Point motto.” (100)


“Are you crazy?” she said.

I blinked. Then I said: Yes. I am crazy.” (105)


“At some point I went to bed; when I came to, I found the laptop was still open. The top window said:

They: “i luv ur band :)”

Me: Uwabt u ciykde gi tge8u stib=re abd tgeb u;d byt nysekgf a e3kuidiys 370n 9 rd9rr33.

They: “ru ok?”

Me: Yteah if ciyrse ium pl. ehjsy yfp upi yjoml. o, kidy fine.

They: “hello?”

Me: nothing

They: “hey doughty ru ok? hello?” (107)


“I spent one night in Bangkok before a holiday in Cambodia.” (109)


“Puking became so normal that I stopped kneeling.” (118)


Doughty quits (125)


12 Step Meetings: “The atmosphere was reverent, but not pious; it was both ritual and intimate.” (131)


Rock legend’s Sufi poem: “Look to this day, for it is life! The very life of life” (132)


“A story about standing next to Jim Morrison in Max’s Kansas City: Morrison drank a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in three guzzles and said, “Takes the edge off the acid.” (134)


“. . . I met another girl who said she’d flown in from Denver, and would I like to take her back to my apartment and fuck her? Yes. We went to my place, a fetid disaster of a drunk’s burrow; she pushed me onto the bare mattress and rode me. I’m going to come, I said, within a minute. “Don’t look at my tits, and just breathe through it,” she said.

I came instantly.” (134)


“Without mitigating substances, sex involved feelings.” (135)


“Grinning, he spoke of revered figures in twelve-step history as “drunks” and “degenerates.” (135)

“. . .he told me the old parable of the jaywalker . . .” (135)

“You can wear life like a loose garment,” the rock legend said. He was plainly serene.” (135)

“I got two words for you,” he said. “Books.”

He buried me under a pile of them, spiritual tomes on every level of user-friendliness. Alan Watts, Thomas Merton, Autobiography of a Yogi, the Upanishads, Jorge Luis Borges’s poem “Everything and Nothing,” a loopy, ass-pocket-sized book called Metaphysical Meditations, a slim, wry volume called How to Be an Adult.” (135)


“If we had true knowledge of the cosmos, our skulls would burst,” he said. “You’re like a flea contemplating the Empire State Building.” (136)


Compassionate/Theoretical Wayne (136)


Unseasonably cool (137)


“27” (138)


John Coltrane, 1989: “I read the liner notes to A Love Supreme:

During the year 1957, I experienced by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.” (138-139)


“I thought of the old canard “Better living through chemistry” and thought that I wanted to be able to say, “I’ve achieved better chemistry through living.” (139)


Slavic princess: “. . . I would’ve fallen in love with her the moment I was in her mouth.” (141)


“I’m full-bore bat-shit crazy with regards to Soul Coughing.” (142)

“Don’t put that on me, I’m not that guy anymore, that guy’s dead.” (142)

“No song you make can get to them: it will fail to turn them twenty again.” (142)

“We were a relatively successful cult band, but I think that, had my bandmates chosen to let me be a bandleader, we could’ve been Led Zeppelin.” (143)


“Bitter man fights his past.” (143)


“There is a Soul Coughing fan reading this whose heart I’ve just broken, who picked up the memoir of the guy from a band he loves, and it turns out I hate what brought him to this book in the first place. Some Soul Coughing fan is going to read this and come to a show to implore me to love what he loves, to sell me on it. How can you hate this? It’s yours.” (144)


“I have to go, I mumbled, and hotfooted towards the door.

He was suddenly furious. “BUT I’M NOT DONE COMPLIMENTING YOU,” he barked after me.

Fandom is often not altruism. Effusive praise, in these cases, isn’t meant to make you feel good, but to get something out of you. He wanted me to provide him with, appreciatively, dutifully, a gratifying encounter. So, in lionizing me, he felt he was extracting from me an unquestionable obligation.” (146)


“If your mind works similarly to mine, one spiteful sting will ring truer than ten pages of accolades.” ()

“(Some affronted fans threaten to withhold their cash. Do they feel their relationship to music and musicians is, on the most essential level, as a consumer?)” ()



“I was opening the shows with a Soul Coughing song, the first line of which was:

A man

Drives a plane

Into the

Chrysler building

So sick of that song, I thought. Need an excuse to stop playing it.” (150)


“I like news, not celebrity corn. I switched it off, mildly bummed. Reproachfully, I told myself the old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.” (150)


“I picked her up, and we immediately went to Starbucks, which had a sign in the window that said CLOSED DUE TO THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY.

We ate pizza, then hoagies, then Mexican food. Every indulgent thing we did, we joked, “It’s for the war effort!” (151)


“I walked up to a bearded white guy. “Are you a friend of Bill’s?” A code for somebody in the rooms. He looked surprised. “I am Bill,” he said.” (152)


“We kept holding our flags up to each other and saying “America” in bad redneck accents. Uhmurr-kuh. Uh-murr-kuh. Uh-murr-kuh.” (152)


Shooting guns: “For $20, the proprietor handed me an AK-47, and I unloaded the whole clip on an archery target.” (153)


The Donald in Ethiopia: “I think I was drugged. I was drinking a bottled water.” (156)

“So I was freaking out. I hadn’t been on any drug for just shy of five years.” (156)


“There was a knock. In my boxer shorts, I opened the door to find one of the girls from the veranda.

“Do you sleep now?”

A plain implication.


“Give me 20 birr for a taxi?” she said.

Sorry, baby, I can’t do that, I said, Sinatra-circa-1962 suave. I gave her a peck on the cheek and shut the door.” (159)


Andalam: “He sings, ‘Gasharby, eezabirfay.’ What does it mean?”


“‘Gasharby, eezabirfay.’”

Oh, ‘Go shorty, it’s your birthday.’” (161)


Hijab/abaya woman in cab: “Yekanyeley,” (164) (thank you)


Valium: “What’s up, player? the pills said.” (166-167)


“She lay at my side, with her head on my chest, that position that feels like she’s a battery and you’re the recharger.” (169)


Police searching for drugs: “I had two libations the day before I put on this badge,” he said. “When they legalize marijuana, I’ll start smoking it,” he said.” (170)


“None of these have any discernible logic to their etymology, except my nickname, which is Foss: my middle name is Ross, but there’s a typo on my Social Security card.” (172)


“My shrink told me the diagnostic term for this voice is an introject.” (173)


Painter with no breaks: “Breaks came, but he didn’t take them. If he took them, he’d cease to be an undiscovered genius and become just a very good painter.

(I’m afraid of that right now: I’ve loudly vowed to write a book for years. I’m also trying to avoid the paralysis that begins with, Now, just exactly how much better is Nabokov than me?)” (174)


Never arrested: “I have no record of badassery.” (175)


“I went to a meeting in Germany and spoke, although what came out probably sounded like: “Drug is no happy, I make bad! To stop, many times meetings, I go fine! Good the life-ing is!” (175)


“What I’m trying to say is that we’re all—from cub scouts to Nobel laureates—viewing existence through our humanity. Which is to say: in metaphor.” (177)


“I wrestle with making amends to people who’ve hurt me. How do I express my regrets to someone who’s done something worse to me? How do I just take responsibility for what I’ve done, and move on?” (177)


Medicinal weed strains: “White Widow, Northern Lights, Pancake Throatjam” (178)


“You a friend of Bill’s? (I alluded to it earlier; a code for twelve-step people.)” (179)


“I talked about how the god thing had baffled me, how Homer Simpson was my spiritanimal, how, even now, in a life buttressed by prayer, I was truly ambivalent about god: I believe as much as I disbelieve.” (179)






















insouciant contempt


compliments, complaints



staves with clefs



egregious understatement

innocuously arrogant









glassine envelope



serially, simultaneously

éminences grises