Why you should care
Summertime romances are a dime a dozen, but not many of those dozen include dissolute nights with drug-dealing surfers and celebs.
The day I met Patrick Abrams, I knew I was in trouble. That gleam in his eyes as they quickly latched onto mine. He introduced me to the all-encompassing beauty of Montauk, Long Island, in New York, back when it was a small fishing town.
At the time, I was living on the south shore of Long Island with a commune of cousins. Their parents had moved out and left the house to their kids. It was my first year out of college, after 13 years of Catholic school, and I was eager to bite into the world. Pat helped spark my appetite for adventure.
He’d recently returned from Vietnam, his war stories a part of his warehouse of fascinating tales, having a way of making any experience sound exciting. Nicknamed Potty, he was high most of the time and supplied weed for our household, as selling nickel and dime bags was one of his many sources of income.
He’d soon become known as Captain Zero.
Pat grabbed us some drinks and gabbed with Truman as I stood thinking of the killers he wrote about and visited in prison.
Since he was an adrenaline junkie like myself, Pat and I connected over our histories, both of us abandoned as children, though his backstory surely trumped mine. His mom, who’d been left on a doorstep in Brooklyn, was married to another man when she had an affair with Pat’s dad, also married to someone else. Pat bragged he was their love child. But when his mom’s husband returned from the war, Pat was put up for adoption, ending up in multiple foster homes and an orphanage.
A past that’s hard to shake.
He was a rebel who barely made it through high school. Even so, he was cocky as hell, a quirky kind of guy who’d wait outside the department store where I worked, standing for 20 minutes or so gazing in the window, watching me attend to customers until my shift ended.
He was a die-hard surfer, a sport he said staved off his demons, saving him from himself. He was amped about taking me to Montauk, where he regularly surfed and camped at Ditch Plains, not far from the point. We set up his orange tent with a view of the sea and Dick Cavett’s cliffside home, and zipped together our sleeping bags, before heading to the docks to fetch a bluefish we cooked on the open fire for dinner. It was on that night I first had sex with him, learning the secret behind his cockiness, as his ever-present dog, Jake, looked on.
We came out to Ditch Plains many a weekend that summer and fall, where Pat and I roamed the campgrounds looking for parties to crash. One night we stumbled on Truman Capote and his band of fabulous friends, guzzling gin and tonics under the awning of his Airstream camper, with Chinese lanterns dancing about. Truman often left the city to carouse with friends at Ditch Plains. Pat grabbed us some drinks and gabbed with Truman as I stood thinking of the killers he wrote about and visited in prison. We stopped by a number of times that summer.
He also introduced me to his surfing buddy, Allan Weisbecker, who played a huge role in his life and would eventually write about his undoing in the memoir In Search of Captain Zero.
Another weekend, Pat talked me into going up to Dick Cavett’s home. After smoking a huge joint, the two of us approached his porch like the kids in To Kill a Mockingbird peeking into Boo Radley’s windows, finally getting the nerve to knock on his door, hoping to introduce ourselves. Pat eventually became friends with Cavett, intentionally running into him walking his dog on the beach, under the cliffs where we regularly strolled.
We dated on and off for two years, not seeing each other for a stretch I spent back home in Jersey after having a breakdown from all the alcohol and drugs I used. He came to see me one weekend and left mid-stay, disgusted over my parent’s fighting — the reason I left home in the first place.
The last time I saw Pat, I’d driven spontaneously out to Montauk to see him. I discovered he was caretaking a place on the Long Island Sound, a thing he did, besides selling pot, to earn money. He’d acquired two more dogs and wasn’t that happy to see me. He ended up telling me I was too good for him, that my smarts would take me far.
His way of breaking it off.
I moved to Philly and eventually Massachusetts, but this lovable guy who called me Pookie and who I’d brought to my brother’s wedding had gotten into heavy drug trafficking with Allan, shipping tons of marijuana from Colombia into the States. They did this a number of years before things got too hairy and the DEA started to breathe down their necks. They thought it best to split up, Allan going to Hollywood and quickly landing a screenwriter’s job for Miami Vice, and Pat, now a fugitive drug smuggler, escaping to a beach in Costa Rica in search of the infamous Salsa Brava, considered the most dangerous wave in Central America.
I was heartbroken to find out he’d eventually also gotten so hooked on crack that he sold his beloved surfboard just to get high.
I’ve heard he’s since gotten clean, as have I, and for that I am grateful.