Sunday, December 14, 2008


Scott Ramsden was my friend.

I met him when he was 21. He had pulled up in his car, packed to the brim with stuff, with a big brown beard and he stayed. He had come to the ranch of his own volition, as a 21st birthday present to himself, because he wanted to get himself help. At first it didn't seem like Scott needed any help. He said he had an addiction to cocaine and other undisclosed problems, and he was ready to face his demons. But when he first got there he seemed like a man with his life under control. He was smart, and beyond being smart, he was wise. He was a really good guy.

He became something of a mentor to my friend Brad, and a friend of mine. He stayed out and above the politics of the place and treated most everyone as equals. The three of us would hang out a lot, having talks about life. He was someone I liked talking to.

Before the ranch was a program, it had been a lot of other things - most recently an orphanage and a commune. There were abandoned buildings on the campus, filled with torn up walls and shattered glass. Scott and I would climb up to the roof and sit up there. He told me how his friends back home in California used to get together and wear suits and drink wine and talk about music and that was what he missed most.

Since Scott was there of his own accord, and because he was such a good student he was allowed to keep things no one else had, including a computer. We stayed up til curfew playing one of those stupid online games where you try to score with some pixelated girl - starting by just trying to get her on a date. It was about as hard as real life, and we spent hours just laughing and trying to remember facts and trivia of our onscreen love.

He took one of the only two pictures of me from over there that I know of. I'm sitting on one of the beds, looking down, wearing a flannel shirt and a skull cap. It's blue tone, and it was a picture of me that I liked, which doesn't happen often. I don't know where it is.

We used to play a game sometimes at night by the fire, where we would take turns and each person had three minutes where they had to answer anything asked. We had to tell the truth, so I assume everybody lied. But sometimes they did tell the truth. One night I asked Scott who he thought he would keep in touch with. He sat there, in the light of the fire, and finally answered that he didn't think he'd keep in touch with anyone. I can't remember if I felt hurt that he hadn't said me, or sad that he didn't think he would with anyone, but I made it a point then to make a vow to myself that Scott was one of the ones worth staying in touch with, and that I woud.

Scott moved to phase 2 in record time, beating the previous title holder - me. But soon Scott's demons began to emerge. There was a pattern to his issues - when he was under watch, he'd be fine. But once he had some freedom, and people trusted him, it would come out. He started doing coke again, a lot of it. And he started cutting himself. Large gashes on his body, a big 'X' on his chest - deep cuts, intense depression.

That's when the ranch figured why he was there, because before they had realno clue. I don't think that place was worth a damn for most anyone who ever had the misfortune of setting foot on its' grounds, but maybe it would have been good for him to stay. He had a strong connection to the then head-therapist Leift position changed three times in the eight months I was there) - even if that connection included a weird sexual undertone that Leif had no problem exploiting to get the results she wanted - a practice that didn't stop with Scott. But he needed someone who wouldn't let him destroy himself.

But as soon as Scott was found doinf coke in the cabins, he was ready to do what he always did - run. He packed his things and left in the middle of the night. Before he left, he snuck Brad out and picked me up. The three of us stood by the bridge at Arroyo Seco and looked down at the gorge, this deep crevice clawed into the Earth, and we said our goodbyes.

It was the last time I saw him.

He moved back to be with his parents, a kindly very religiously based and deeply faithful couple who were unequipped to deal with this kind of addiction and depression. I'm sure he was great for awhile.

When I got home, I wanted nothing to do with anyone or anything related to the whole experience for a long time. I was just happy to be away from it all. But I had Scott's number and aim and every day I said I'd call him. He was one of the people I was going to keep in touch with. I had made a promise and I'll be damned if I wasn't going to be right.

And I'm sure I would have, but I never did. Because I got a call first from Brad telling me that Scott was dead. He was found drowned in a river, after commiting suicide. I don't know whether he ran away for the last time or whether he stopped being able to run anymore.
I wish I'd called. I really wish I'd called.

I can barely remember his face or voice now. When I try, I can, a little.
I remember what he said about Leif once - "Have you ever met someone so pretty, so smart, so cool that you just think to yourself I have to fuck you!"
A few years later I totally understood what he meant.

He wasn't my best friend, and he wasn't the first person I knew really well to die. He wasn't even the first Ranch Kid to die.
But he was my friend, and when I think about him I miss the fact that he and Brad and I will never sit on a rooftop somewhere in suits and drink wine and toast to the fact that we beat that terrible place together.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if this blog is being monitored anymore; I realize this post is years old. But Scott meant a lot to me in high school, more than he ever realized. When I found out he'd died, I was devastated. I never told Scott never knew what he meant to me, and I had no clue he was going through what he must have been going through. This is a lesson for all of us: speak your truth now.

Jason Heat said...

Hi Bethany - while TG is pretty much defunct, I still monitor all the comments. Yours made me re-read this, and think about Scott again. I'm a director, and I'm doing a show that reminds me of the ranch now, so it was strange and important timing to revisit these memories now.

I'm curious how you found the post. And if you ever want to talk to remember our friend, I'd love to know more about him.