It had been another sleepless night for Chris Squire, pedaling around San Diego delivering drugs. When the sun rolled into the sky on August 14, 2006, he knew he was looking at his last few hours of freedom.
"I had been cruising around that day, doing my hustle, and I had this impending sense of doom," he said. "This black cloud was over my head."
Squire had been back in town about three months after a yearlong absence from San Diego's music scene. He was one of those guys who attended every show at Carpenters and Wabash halls, going all the way back to 1983, his freshman year at Mission Bay High. When he wasn't in the crowd, he was on the stage. Mostly a guitarist, Squire could also take over on bass or drums. He grew up with John Reis, Gar Wood, Mitch Wilson, the Nefke brothers, and a bunch of other guys who eventually formed or played in local bands such as Rocket From the Crypt, Tanner, No Knife, the Morlocks, and Crash Worship. Squire's band résumé clocks in at 20-plus San Diego-based bands, among them Heroin, Tit Wrench, Tiltwheel, the Tori Cobras, and the re-formed Battalion of Saints. He seemed to know everyone, and it began to pay off in 2002, when he got some recognition -- and good shows -- with his band the Tori Cobras. He had also started a record label, Pure Noise Forever, and announced plans for a lineup of releases by the Teeth, Cheerleader666, and his own band. Write-ups in the local alternative press portrayed him as San Diego's latest underground music mogul.
In reality, things were falling apart.
When They Found the Grow Room, I Ran
In 2002, Squire, 33, was living in a house on the corner of 32nd and Upas in North Park. He ran Pure Noise Forever out of the living room, and the Tori Cobras practiced in a back bedroom. He paid the bills selling weed.
It was the place to go after the show was over. Even on a weeknight, a knock on the door at 2:15 a.m. opened up to an afterparty that might go on into daylight, depending on how much beer was around.
The party came to an end when Squire and his wife, a svelte French-Canadian, separated. The missus eventually became the ex, and Squire and his bulky, happy-go-lucky dog Sophie moved to a large duplex on Collier Avenue north of Adams. The place had a giant couch in the living room, which was constantly packed with touring bands crashing for the night and friends of the roommates who never wanted to leave the party.
By January 2004, the partying had become more important than paying the rent, and the sheriffs came with the eviction notice. In Squire's bedroom, sheriffs found a closet lined with reflective wallpaper and a halogen bulb hanging over pots filled with soil.
"When they showed up and found the grow room, I ran," Squire said. "I took off and left everything I owned behind."
Although he wouldn't be charged with growing pot, Squire now considered himself a fugitive. In his mind, it was official: the sheriffs had found pot-growing equipment, and they knew it belonged to him.
Squire moved into his Grantville practice/
recording studio. He'd spent $4000 transforming the commercial space into a sealed-off, soundproofed room, but he shortly lost that too. From there he lived temporarily in a detached garage in South Park near Ray's Liquor. Then he took off for Seattle.
After seven months, Squire returned to San Diego. He'd been miserable in the Pacific Northwest. "I had no friends, I couldn't connect with anyone, it was too expensive. It was depressing."
He moved in with a friend in Bankers Hill, and in April 2005, he returned to Pokéz, a popular downtown Mexican restaurant and musician hangout, to run the side bar, the Rosary Room.
"I had just started managing the Rosary Room," he said. "The guy that had managed it before me had double booked a show one night."
Both sets of performers showed up with their fans and quickly filled the tiny bar.
"I tried to appease everybody and mix the show up," he said. "The hip-hop guys ended up stealing some beers, and [Pokéz owner] Rafa caught them and ended up in a fight with this guy. Rafa ended up knocking him out. The guy got hit so hard he thought that I hit him with a baseball bat."
According to Squire, when the beer thief came to, he spread the word through the bar that he'd been attacked with a bat.
"He told his friends, and they ended up tearing the bar apart," Squire said. "They were throwing all kinds of shit at me. They were throwing pint glasses, pool balls, and pool sticks. They ripped the cash register off the counter and threw that at me.
"Everything missed me somehow. It was like The Matrix. I was dodging everything in slow motion. They did about $2000 worth of damage to the bar. They smashed out all the glass behind the bar. They also had said that they were going to come back and kill me, because they were convinced that I had hit their friend with a baseball bat."
Squire took the threat seriously. That night he acquired a 9mm Ruger.
"I had to close the bar every night by myself at two in the morning in a shady part of town," he said. "So I procured a gun for my personal protection, since threats had been made on my life."
He took to carrying the gun at all times. Deep down, though, he knew it was a bad move because eventually something would occur that would involve the police.
Working odd jobs a couple of weeks later, Squire and a friend got into it, and the two came to blows. "It happened on the way to a job as a photographer's assistant," Squire explained. "He was the photographer makeup artist. I was the guy that holds the silver umbrella.
"It was primarily over drugs, but it was mostly over being called a liar. I was dealing speed, and this guy was strung out. This guy would loan me his car, and I would hook him up with drugs. He loaned me his car one night thinking that I would give him drugs, when there was no drugs to get that night. He accused me of holding out and called me a liar. I don't like being called a liar. We got in the fight in the car, and he kicked me out of his car. I grabbed the keys from the ignition and threw the keys in the bushes."
Then Squire kicked out a car window, and his friend called the police.
"I got surrounded by the police within a couple of minutes," Squire said, "and they found the gun on me."
The charge cost him only a couple of days in jail.
"The courts were too clogged up, and I didn't get in front of a judge within my rights as a citizen. But the loophole of habeas corpus is that if you get in any more trouble, they can bring this charge up again. When I got busted again for some petty stuff -- I got picked up for driving on a suspended-license warrant a couple of months later -- they found drugs on me, and I got a possession charge. I went before a judge and was released and was supposed to go to some sort of probationary drug program."
He never showed up. In his absence, the district attorney's office added the gun charge to his arrest warrant.
D'ya Hear About Squire and the Mexican Drug Gang?
At this point, Squire disappeared from his usual hangouts, and it wasn't long before rumors started.
Of all the rumors going around town, the most action-packed was that he'd moved to an apartment in Tijuana, complained to a gang of drug dealers downstairs about the noise they were making cooking meth and filming pornos, and had to flee for his life.
Surprisingly, two parts of the rumor were true: Squire did live in Tijuana for a few weeks and he did have to flee for his life, but it had nothing to do with meth-cooking pornographers.
Squire moved to Tijuana for the cheap rent. In early June 2005, a customer at Pokéz mentioned that one of his Tijuana apartments had become available and the rent was $100 a week. The place was nice and spacious, a ten-minute bike ride from the border.
"Everybody that lived in his apartments were Americans that were running away or hiding from something," Squire said.
His place had been formerly inhabited by a "speed-freak prostitute" who stiffed the landlord for 75 bucks. When she moved out, she left her computer behind, and the landlord kept it as collateral but never bothered to take it out of the apartment.
"Instead of just doing the right thing and paying her debt, she went to these Tijuana gangsters," Squire said, "and I don't know what her pull was with these guys, but she got them to go over to the house and try to rob us.
"She actually warned the landlord, 'Carlos and his boys are coming over to get my computer, so you better give it to them.' The landlord had warned me, 'Look, these guys might come by. Don't answer the door if they do come by, and if you do unfortunately run into them, just give them the computer. It's not worth you getting into any trouble over.' Sure enough they did come around that day" -- June 30 -- "and I didn't answer the door."
Squire hid behind drawn shades until nightfall. One of his favorite bands, Sweden's Backyard Babies, was playing at the Casbah, and he wasn't going to miss them. He grabbed his bike, ran out the door, and took off for the border.
As he pedaled down the street, he realized he'd left his ID back at his place. He turned around and raced home, hoping the gangsters hadn't returned.
"Just as I was walking out of the door of my apartment, those guys were on my porch," he said. "They basically forced their way into my apartment. Trying not to show that I was scared, I said, 'Oh, you must be here for the computer. Here you go, here's the computer.'
"They said, 'No. Sit down,' and one of them tried to grab me, and the other one pulled a filed-down screwdriver out of his jacket and a roll of duct tape. I don't know what the fuck they thought they were gonna do with that shit, but I grabbed a cast-iron pan and fuckin' clocked one of them upside the head with it as hard as I could.
"It scared the shit out of the other guy, and I just powered past him, knocked him out of my way, and ran out of the apartment, leaving all of my possessions, including my recording equipment and drum set, behind. I ran as fast as I could to America, just assuming those guys were cleaning me out and I was losing everything I owned."
The apartment was full of musical gear: amps, speaker cabinets, mixers, and more.
"They actually left the house wide open with all of my stuff in it and went to get a truck," Squire said. "By the time they got back, my landlord was on the porch with his gun. They didn't get any of my shit. It still scared the fucking hell out of me, and I never did go back to TJ after that, except when I went back to get my stuff, but even that was months later."
Too Much of a Loose Cannon
In July 2005, Squire left town, heading for Oakland to fill in on bass with Verbal Abuse, which was about to go on tour with Fang. The two Bay Area bands had made their name in the '80s hardcore and punk scenes.
On roadie status, Squire drove with the bands from Oakland to L.A. to Phoenix to Houston. But he never played with them. "I was officially asked to join the bands," he said, "and I was on tour with the bands, and I learned the bands' songs, but it was fucking chaos, but we never played nor practiced. Yet we were on tour. And the tour fell apart before I even got to play a show."
Fang's vocalist Sammy had gone to Austin, saying he'd come back to Houston to pick up Squire. He never showed. Late in August, Squire moved on to New Orleans and was just getting comfortable in his new city when he heard the warnings about Hurricane Katrina.
He fled the city ahead of the storm and arrived in Phoenix a couple of weeks later. He settled in and landed a job helping out with sound at the Clubhouse, a large all-age club in Tempe.
Having grown up surrounded by stacks of amplifiers and musical gear, Squire was perfect for the job. He trained for three weeks under the main soundman, learning to wire and run the mixing board. Things were looking good until the main soundman took time off to attend a funeral.
"I had to do sound on my own, whether I was ready or not," Squire said. "My first night doing sound by myself was a hip-hop show. There was a gunfight, and a bullet was shot through the window and zoomed past my ear."
But the real trouble came the next night, when '80s thrash metal band Overkill headlined.
According to Squire, the band's roadies showed up for sound check at 3:00 p.m. the day of the show and reconfigured the sound system without letting him know.
"So that night when Overkill was playing, nothing worked right," he said. "None of the controls went to the right speakers. It was a nightmare."
Overkill vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth screamed at Squire from the stage, and the roadies bitched at him in the sound booth. Squire blew up.
"I lost my temper," Squire said. "The roadie kept coming back there and yelling at me. I went and told the owner of the club, 'Look, if this guy steps one foot closer to me, I'm gonna knock his fucking block off.' The owner decided at that point that I was too much of a loose cannon and he let me go."
On the Road Again
Now without a job, Squire moved on. Of all places, he packed up for New Hampshire, where writer Lisa Carver lived. While in Phoenix, Squire had corresponded with her, which led to the two becoming an item.
Long before blogs and online diaries, Carver had built a following writing about the intimate details of her life, first in her fanzine Rollerderby and later in books and magazine columns. Part of her public life included her relationship with Boyd Rice, a former San Diegan noise music pioneer who performs under the moniker NON.
Despite being 3000 miles away, Squire knew his problems in San Diego would catch up. Toward the end of 2005, he got a phone call.
"I'm in New Hampshire, and my mom called me up and said, 'These warrants showed up in the mail for you.' Fuck it, I'm not going back to California."
Carver was involved in a custody battle, and Squire moved out, finding a room on craigslist that was across the state line in Maine. He moved in with a couple in a rockabilly band. The woman, he later discovered, was porn star Isabella Soprano.
He considered his time in Maine temporary while he tried to decide his next move. His way out was another band calling for a fill-in musician.
This time it was electrosynth punk band Digital Leather from Phoenix, who needed a drummer.
In May 2006, Digital Leather flew Squire to Arizona, and they hit the road. Squire said part of the deal was a guarantee that the tour would be profitable. He should have known better. Even midlevel bands with a nightly guarantee are lucky to break even.
"This was all on the promise that they were going to make some money on tour and buy me a plane ticket to New Hampshire when the tour was over," Squire said. "What happened was they didn't make money. They ended up borrowing money from me and burning through all of that." The tour's last show was in San Diego at Scolari's Office on May 27.
"I had the choice of going with them back to Phoenix or staying in San Diego. Either way, it was going to be with no money and no plane ticket home. I didn't want to end up back in Phoenix, so I ended up staying in San Diego, which everyone had been warning me not to do. My friends were telling me, 'Don't go back to San Diego. You're gonna get arrested.' "
You Have the Right to Remain Silent...
Despite his network of friends in San Diego, Squire quickly fell on hard times.
"I was basically homeless, with no job and no money, so I had to hustle. I did what I knew how to do and started selling drugs. I got thrown into the mix real quick."
Squire had gone from selling weed to his friends to selling crystal meth to an assortment of shady characters. He was using regularly. By selling, he could both keep himself supplied and make money.
By now, he looked and acted like a tweaker, riding his bike around Imperial Beach and San Diego -- Loma Portal, Clairemont Mesa, Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, and downtown -- making deliveries at all hours of the night.
Most of Monday, August 14, 2006, was spent dropping off dope at prearranged spots.
"I remember I spent most of the night just waiting around to pick up drugs," he said. "I was just floating around. Sometimes I had money, sometimes I had drugs, sometimes I had both. But I was just rolling around San Diego waiting to turn drugs and money into more money. It was a really long night. I spent a lot of time on the trolley or running around throwing my bike into people's cars, getting rides to places, and then getting back on the trolley. All the way, I was just counting down to the time where I was either going to make a lot of money or I was going to go to jail.
"Then I got the phone call. Someone wanted some drugs. I was sitting on a big bag of dope that someone had already paid for, but I figured I'd sell it."
His plan was to sell a marked-up ounce to the new buyer, use the money to buy a replacement ounce, and deliver that to the original buyer. He figured he'd pocket several hundred on the deal.
Squire showed up at the prearranged meeting spot, the Mobil gas station at the bottom of Washington Street, across from Gelato Vero.
"I went to where I was supposed to meet them and they weren't there," he said. "I was riding my bike across a crosswalk to go across the street, lock it up, and get a cup of coffee, and all of a sudden these plainclothes cops roll up on me from every direction.
"They had this crazy story about how they were doing a stakeout on the gas station because it had been getting robbed, and they said they thought I was robbing the gas station at three o'clock in the afternoon on a bicycle. It didn't make any sense and just tied in with my whole suspicion that I had been set up."
Squire was caught with 31.5 grams of meth -- slightly more than an ounce -- a scale, and bags.
"I had been so depressed being separated from Lisa and being aware of what I was doing to myself and with my life. I wasn't making any progress, and I had totally taken two steps back after a year."
As he headed toward downtown for booking, he settled into the seat and cracked a smile.
"Finally, it's over," he thought to himself.
Squire Behind Bars
Squire was now facing serious time with no chance of making his $60,000 bail. He figured he'd be in jail for a while. Coming down off the drugs hard, he told the jailers about his issues with depression and landed on the jail's psych ward.
"It was my own One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. I was in the fucking nuthouse in jail with all the fucking loony tunes and some not-so-loony tunes," he said.
Squire wasn't faking his illness, but he also knew he would be prescribed drugs.
"If I'm going to be in jail, maybe I can get some fucking Klonopin or something. I used to be prescribed Klonopin by a shrink earlier that year. I thought I could use my case history with anxiety to get some good fucking drugs and numb the shock of it all.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy enough for them," Squire said. "I think I was the only guy in the psych ward that wasn't on Klonopin. Everyone was taking all sorts of crazy meds that they prescribed -- only nobody took their own meds. It was like this big fucking pharmaceutical barter town, where everyone took everyone else's drugs, which made it even weirder in there. There was this full-on black market in there, where you could get stuff from commissary, like snacks and stuff, and people were using their commissary like cash to buy each other's drugs. People had credit going on and all kinds of crazy shit.
"You had these guys jonesing for each other's drugs, and they would roll them up in pieces of paper and they would flick them across the floor and use strings to fish them into each other's cells when we were locked up. I really didn't get involved with it."
The rules of jail tend to keep most people in line. Squire said the only time he had a problem involved a cell-to-cell drug deal. He was in the common area of his cellblock, waiting to be escorted to the visitor area, when two guys yelled for help moving pills into a cell.
"These guys wanted me to -- mind you, you're under constant scrutiny, and there are deputies everywhere -- and these guys are trying to flick drugs under their doors and have me deliver them to other cells or slip them under the door.
"I told them, 'Fuck that. I'm not getting caught up in your shit. I've got court in a few days, and I'm trying to stay out of prison, and the last thing I'm gonna do is get in trouble in here.' These guys couldn't deal with that. They started talking all this shit and calling me a 'fucking pussy.'
"There are certain things you have to do in jail. There are certain guidelines you have to follow. No matter who you are, you don't let someone call you a pussy in jail -- or you are one.
"These guys were just a couple of mooks from El Cajon, stupid white-trash tweakers. I told them, 'You know what? Say that to my fucking face when you get out of your cell, and then we'll see who the fucking pussy is. Until then, shut the fuck up!'
"I lost my temper a few times in jail, but that was probably the worst time I lost my temper. There's a hierarchy and segregation in there with reps. I had to go to the white rep, because these guys were white guys, and I had to tell them what had happened. That's when the rep and his right-hand man stepped in and made those guys apologize to me."
Despite the number of charges, which included possession, transport, and intent to sell a controlled substance, Squire did less than six months in jail. He considers himself lucky he didn't get sent to state prison.
As part of his release agreement, Squire was required to go to rehab, but he got kicked out early this year after he told someone he was thinking of making an unapproved stop at Pokéz while on a pass to run personal errands.
Normally, the probation department would have bounced him back to jail, but the court considered him a New Hampshire resident. His probation officer cut him loose on the condition he return to New England.
This past August and September, Chris Squire was spotted at a handful of local shows, chatting up acquaintances and hanging out as if he'd never left. He reformed the Tori Cobras for two quick shows at the Tower Bar on September 7 and Scolari's Office on September 11 before leaving San Diego once again in October.
In a recent phone call, Squire said he was happy to report that he was in New Orleans, back where he wants to be, playing in three bands and working sound in another nightclub while documenting it online at posttraumatic.blogspot.com.