I was born to a couple of well-meaning but incredibly fucked-up drug addicts.
My father was a flamboyant wanna-be rockstar/hippie bohemian who built funny cars, hobnobbed with Frank Zappa and Andy Warhol and slung dope on the side. My mom was a pale, starry-eyed woman-child who swore equal allegiances to my father and their drug habit. Their fortunes rose on occasion, but mostly plummeted, which meant they spent a lot of time living with my mother’s parents.
After I was born, I went home from the hospital with my grandparents. My mother swirled through our lives like a hurricane –- she would spend a few weeks with us, my grandmother would kick her out, Mom would check into a rehab, come back, start using again, my grandmother would kick her out again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
It wasn’t until I was in second grade and a friend's older sister started calling me a bastard that I started to asked about my father.
Shortly after I was born, my grandparents explained, my father had fled to New York -- he was in trouble with the law, and he’d burned his suppliers in a drug deal gone bad. He’d meant to hang out until some of the heat died down, taking occasional trips to check in on my mom and me until he could come back. He ended up OD-ing.
My grandparents had prepared a dossier that included his death certificate, diplomas, letters he wrote to my mother, pictures of us –- mom, my father and me –- together. They told me they would hang onto it until I told them I wanted it.
They also encouraged me to get to know him another way: My father had owned a Hollywood boutique called the Psychedelic Supermarket -– equal parts hippie flea market and head shop. When the business folded, the inventory went in my grandparents’ garage. I spent hours sifting through boxes of leather pants, macramé vests, old Penthouse Forums, feathered headbands and boxes of pictures of my parents’ crazy life.
More than anything, it was pictures of my dad’s hot rods and funny cars that I loved. My favorite was the psychedelic, candy-color Corvette: a silver machine screen-printed with an overlay of iridescent lace, a huge nitro-blower poking through the hood.
By the time I was 22, anyone with any connection to my dad had passed. My mom died when I was 9, then my aunts and uncles died, then my grandparents died. My father’s parents, first-generation Russian Jewish immigrants, had passed years earlier. All I had left of my father was a legend and pictures of flashy cars.
As an adult, I had many years where I was too busy flailing in the present to invest time or energy looking into the past; I concentrated on moving forward, believing I had the existential freedom to ignore my past and become the healthy, sane person I wanted to be. And, more or less, it worked.
By my mid-30s, I was comfortable with my life, and I’d finally found a “nesting spot.” I proudly displayed pictures of my dad’s crazy cars throughout my little apartment. One day, a friend quizzed me about the photos. What had happened to the cars? And wasn’t I the least bit curious about finding out about what other relatives my dad might have had?
Later that evening, my brain gnawed on the conversation. I Googled “Michael Boosin.” The results were pretty unspectacular; the first entries were about a dude in New York who may have purchased his college degree. Then I Googled “Michael Boosin Corvette.” BAM.
The search brought up a page on Warholstars.org, a site devoted to Andy Warhol and his acolytes. The page covered the making of an unreleased Warhol opus, called Surfing San Diego, and all the Southern California-style lunacy and debauchery that went with it. Michael Boosin spoke about how intrigued Warhol and his minions were with his own glamorous Hollywood outlaw lifestyle. There were several mentions of a wild, 27-color “Candy Vette.”
I was convinced that it was my dad. How many Michael Boosins who owned LSD-looking cars could have lived in Hollywood in the late 60s?
I searched again. The second result was a “sources cited” page for the same website. According to this page, the reference for the previous page was a series of conversations between the author and Michael Boosin in 2007. Obviously, this had to be a mistake. Or maybe 2007 was the year the author referenced tapes or transcriptions of conversations that had happened long ago -- since my dad died in 1972 or 1973, not long after I was born.
I fired off a note to the website’s author, prefacing it with “I’m sorry, this is probably the strangest request you’ve ever had.” And I was totally stunned when I received a reply 30 minutes later. He told me he had, in fact, spoken with a Michael Boosin in 2007, and it sounded like this was the same Michael Boosin I assumed was my dead father. He asked me to supply him with some additional information so he would know that I wasn’t a crackpot, and he asked me why I thought my father was dead.
I calmly wrote that I was his daughter, and that I and my entire family believed he’d died in the early 70s. I assured him my mission was not a vengeful one. He then told me that when he was researching Warhol’s films and art, he had met my father. That was in the late 80s, and they’d become friendly. He said my father had not been proud of the things he’d done, but he probably had good reason for doing them. His guess was that my father went away to protect my family. And then he gave me an address, phone number and email.
In 10 seconds, I went from being completely numb to flooded with potent emotions. Anger was a big one. Not for me -- my childhood wasn’t ideal, but my grandparents loved me very much and I ended up being okay. But my mom didn’t.
Maybe being a junkie was in her blood, but losing the one man that she truly loved loosed a self-destructive streak that made her willing to ingest anything without regard for her safety and sanity. And that, in turn, ripped my grandmother apart. Due to her erratic and violent behavior, I wasn’t a big fan of my mom, but my grandmother meant everything to me.
All my friends pleaded with me to call him; one friend volunteered to take me down to Florida so we could spring a tabloid-style confrontation on him. But I’d gotten along without him all these years, why the hell would I want to talk to him now? What would happen if I reached out and he turned me down or ignored me?
Plus, I had a lot invested in my nearly life-long “orphan” status. It was the foundation for nearly all my personal strength, where so much of my personality came from. With the discovery of his life after death, I went from being a one-in-a-million enigma to some poor slob whose no-good father ran out on her mom.
A month after I’d made the discovery, I caved and wrote to him.
The rest is pretty anticlimactic. He didn’t write back; I paid a people-finder service to get personal records, past home and business addresses; I wrote everywhere I but never got a response. I just gave up.
Randomly, last year, my dad’s last girlfriend before my mother looked me up on Facebook, wanting to know if I had any info. A little more Googling and I found his obituary. He died two months before I “stumbled” on to him.
I don’t have any profound way to sum this up. On the one hand, I’ve done all right for myself; I have a good job, healthy relationships, a loving, forgiving nature, a boyfriend I’m crazy about. But as much as I want to say otherwise, there is a little father-sized hole in my being.
I’ve built over it as best I can. In the end, I refuse to let what my father did -- and didn’t do -- hurt me anymore. Like I said, it's not profound. But it's the best I can do.