Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Life and What It Means to You

Top of Form
This is going to be the first and last time I say this stuff. I will put the body of it in my autobiography. I may make this a blog, so generations of my "family" (what a concept!) can research it and stumble across it and say, "Hmmmm. Wonder if that was all true?" Of course, since I am the only one writing it down, it will have to be the truth as it stands. I could care less if the people who were supposed to love me from birth, unconditionally, think it is all lies or hogwash or whining or whatnot. They're the ones this is for. They're the ones who caused this to come about, through neglect, abuse, derision and their constant yammering about "family"; as if they ever set out to produce a real family in the first place.
That being said, I believe my relatives should read this through. If they don't, well then they stand accused of hiding their heads in the sand and pretending to some lie, rather than stepping up to the truth and seeing it for what it is. This has a lot to do with what became of "my g-g-g-g-gggggeneration." Why we did the things we did. Why we took drugs, rebelled against our parent's "values" and "traditions." I will make a case that they never had either of these things at all. I will make the case that what they had was pretense to a lie about an America that never existed, still does not exist for the majority (There may be a very tiny select few who have some stability and extra income to spare...and who somehow learned to love their children...for which the American Dream is still playing out to some extent. But I think each family has a closet full of skeletons if you just look deeply enough.) A fable is foisted upon us every holiday season as the "reality of the American Dream..." A dream millions of people can never realize.

How does one realize a dream? Wouldn't that entail living in a dream state, rather than in reality? Wouldn’t that mean pretending something is real when it is really unreal? Sort of like being insane, isn’t it? Why do we believe in Mom, Baseball, Apple Pie and America and strive towards it, when we don't strive towards being naked in the high school classroom with all our friends laughing at us? And when the dream comes real, how do we wake up when things go wrong? There are good dreams and bad dreams. What makes us think the Mom Apple Pie American Dream is actually a good one? After all it has served to disenfranchise all minorities, other races, other religions, cultures, nations and lifestyles in order to promote some ill-educated white male's "ideal" of everyone sitting around the table and talking about how great it is that his son Johnny gave up his life in Iraq or Afghanistan or Viet Nam or Italy, so everyone could safely watch the ball game and eat turkey on a White Puritan Christian holiday in a country literally stolen using genocide and mass destruction techniques including biological warfare against the land’s previous owners. Somehow I do not think a Somali youth is having this dream. I don’t think a young Cherokee boy, familiar with his own history is having this dream. The people that have that dream and come here from elsewhere quickly find the dream is not real. And frankly we all know even if a young Somali boy came here and made a pile of money, he'd never realize that particular dream; because that dream is for a particular religious and racial group. The very idea that anyone can own a home and car and 2.3 children inside a picket fence painted white in a nice neighborhood with decent schools and a church nearby to attend every Sunday, has been shown up to be a lie every day of every year since Macy's and Gimble’s Dept. Store first boasted of it in the early 1920's or since Norman Rockwell dreamt it up and slapped it on a canvas and then onto a magazine cover in the 1940's. Norman was a right talented whore for the magazine industry, peddling every sort of brain candy and silly unreal dream imaginable. As he showed men and women of every race and creed saluting the flag, men and women were being burned and raped and lynched in Alabama and Georgia. If the medium was the message, and the message was a lie then the medium was just the way devilishly clever way to deliver the lie.
My particular heroes growing up were media generated heroes. They were Superman, The Lone Ranger and Zorro, men fighting against injustice who always had a pithy remark at the end of their shows about Truth, Justice and the American Way. I had no idea how deeply I was being sucked into a mass delusion by these masked and caped crusaders. Such men did not exist. Those who tried to follow their ways were usually brutally martyred. One named Jeshua of Nazareth comes to mind.

I was taunted myself by the American Dream; and I am White and (up until recently) Middle Class. I've had those big Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and family gatherings. I've spent the day in the park on the Fourth of July listening to the patriotic messages and seeing the glorious fireworks in the sky at night. I’ve marched in a parade as a young ROTC recruit. I've lived that dream. And because it was false, the dream hurt me, because I kept wanting it and could never really have it. Because the dream is a lie. Thanksgiving dinner at my Grandfather's home was a string of swear words punctuated with the constant questions; "Are you queer!?" As we watched ball games that never quite made anyone happy, and watched the Viet Nam war kill people we did not know as we sat and ate turkey and stuffing and thanked Holy God above that WE weren't there in that stinking jungle dodging landmines and bullets. Meanwhile the boys dying in the muck were frantically dreaming the dream of hope in an America which, when they made it out alive, rejected them and cruelly mislead them. That was the truth then. Just as now it is the truth that the bank can come and take away your car, your house, your white picket fence, alleviate you of your children with cruel ease and put you out on the street, even if you were good and said your prayers every night and paid your taxes and gave to the Red Cross. Your house and property are now more important to your bank and government than the hands that built them; certainly more than the people living inside. The govt. of course sanctions the tobacco that addicted and killed my Grandfather. As well as once giving him a job at the nation’s shipyards, spraying asbestos into ships hulls…so he got asbestosis as well. The govt. is in control of the corn and the corn liquor he used to haul for Al Capone. America has a lot to offer…in the way of addictions, pitfalls and dangerous liaisons. Whether we sell guns to terrorists or Contras doesn’t seem to matter, as long as we can keep selling guns. If people, good decent American Dreamers, get killed behind these activities, so what? At least we made a profit. The problem is that the American Government wants us to keep dreaming; because if we wake up…they will be out of a job.

My mother has a seriously skewed idea that our dysfunctional family, broken by several divorces, alcoholism and neglect was actually a really cool version of "The Waltons." Now she won't let the rest of my family members forget that I, her first born son, am the fly in her ointment...the hair in the soup...the black sheep among all the noble white sheep. Because I remember another, more painful life, I have been spurned and outcast since I first contradicted her delusion. I found out about her delusions, and mine, when I started smoking grass in the 1970’s. What did drugs do for me? What does it mean when I say "Drugs opened up my mind?" Just this; I saw the truth. I saw through the illusion. I couldn't sanction living a lie anymore. I woke up from a zombie state into myself. I became David the individual. I decided to do something with my life besides pretend. Drugs didn't veil reality for me. They blasted it in my mind like a 3D hologram that turned out was the reality behind the Matrix I had been living in since my birth in 1954. Today over the counter and prescribed medications keep people in a safe little world where reality doesn't have to hurt so bad. But in my day the drugs were hard and the trip could be bad. And what was the badness...Truth. Truth hurts. But if you want to escape the dream and live in reality, you must face the truth. Don’t let them fool you. The nonsense reports of people thinking they could fly (ala Superman) or who “tore out their own eyes” or what have you are mostly lies and were used by the media to turn kids away from drugs. Oddly the first reports of drug induced “mania” handed out by the police depts. To the schools back in 1968 were that some kids said they had “talked to and seen God!” My my, that’s a far cry from throwing oneself out of a window. In fact it was that statement that made me want to take LSD. And it was that statement which frightened the “straights.” Why? Because what if the God I saw and talked to was different than the one the media had foisted on everyone for two thousand years? This made some big waves in the not-so-still pond that was the 1960’s. As Grace Slick sang: “When the truth is found, to be lies, and all the joy within you dies…Don’t you want somebody to love?” And that was all I ever wanted; someone to love and love me back. We are taught that this is supposed to be your family first. Conservative Republicans enjoy using the term “family values.” But what happens when you are barely a family and the unit has little or no values?

This is the truth. This is what I experienced.
My mother was a young girl who never should have had kids. She was totally unprepared to be a mother. According to her she just wanted to have a “baby to play with.” When she married my father she did not know how to cook or sew or do anything wives in the 1950’s had to know. His mother had to come over and give her a crash course in "wifery" just to get her started. She was 18, barely out of school. My father didn't even graduate. When she got pregnant instead of prenatal care, she lived on Ritz crackers and Pepsi-Cola. They were poor and when you are poor you can't afford to go out to the local club and dance. You can't get together with friends and party. You scratch and scrape together a hard living; which is what they did. They lived in a series of ghetto-like basement apartments in Chicago, dark, dank, dirty. Street noise went on day and night. It was a constant struggle for them to keep the lights on, to keep the apartment, or to keep a car so they could go to work. At first, when I was born, they got a lot of help from my grandfather who had a brick and plaster business. But then that went to hell and my father found himself scraping out a living at a series of very low paying jobs. He went from a nice apartment and a new two-toned Chrysler, to a basement sub-let and riding the bus until he could get another used car. Much like the "Economic Meltdown" of the Bush era, some U.S. citizens in those days were doing well. But others were living very impoverished lives. As my mother had two more boys our lives became more and more impoverished. And she, as a young woman who had lost her parents early and was the youngest child, longed for a better life. Without money or education, she could not find it. So she stole away at night to go to downtown "Twist Clubs" (the Twist was the biggest dance rage then...) where other young men, not knowing she was married, or not caring, would buy her drinks and dance with her. Eventually one such young man got between her and my father. He was going to shoot both of them when he caught them in his car making out. But he thought better of it and simply walked away. I do not think to this day she knows how close she came to being killed by a jealous husband.

My mother then decided to marry this new boy named Ron Bonecki. (He was new, fresh from the Korean war with some G.I benefits and a bit of an education and more prospects than my dad had...) She brought him home and declared him our new father and that we had to call him Daddy. This was one month after she had declared that I needed to be "The Man of the House" and take care of my little brothers while she worked after my dad walked out on her. I had already been subjected to a series of really vile babysitters, ones who would refuse to feed us. One's who left the house on a date and would leave us unprotected. Or ones who were so old and decrepit that they did not even hear a baby crying and couldn't walk fast enough to protect one if anything did happen. On a couple of occasions I had to call my grandma up to come and save us. I had to do this at age 5, 6 and 7. I had to make adult decisions that involved the well-being of my mother's kids.
My father was out of the picture except on alternate weekends. When I told him how hard my life was becoming, he said nothing. He didn't believe me or more likely, did not want and could not afford to believe me. So we spent our days in bug and rat infested slums while my mother went out partying at night and came home drunk. She and my New Daddy worked all day so they were never home. At night they just had to go out because they were still young and partying was everything then as it is now. We kids were a burden on that lifestyle. And my mother endlessly explained that to me. How much of a weight of responsibility we all were on her poor shoulders. How life would be so much better if she either sent us off to live with our father...(this was not anything but a manipulative threat which would make all of us cry and swear how much we loved her and how we wanted to stay with her! My brothers probably do not recall these scenes. But I do), or if she sent me off to Military School. (As if she had enough money for that. And for me, that would have been cool. At the time the Army seemed like a cool place to learn to shoot guns and see far off lands...I was only 8 after all!) Any "break-up" of the family unit was a threat to me. My brothers depended on me to protect them from the babysitters and life in general. And we were already haunted by being the children of a "notorious divorcee." (Read: loose woman who plied men for drinks and favors and who could not be trusted around decent women's husbands.) I was already being taunted at school for bearing that stigma, as well as being "a dumb Polack," "shorty" and a "smart ass;" because I was both too tiny and undernourished and too smart for my own good. I was beginning to steal money from my mother's purse because she was spending it all on herself and leaving nothing for us. About a year after my New Daddy married my mom we moved out of inner-city Chicago to a real house in the suburbs of Carpentersville, IL. I lost all of my friends. She sold most of our toys and furniture. So we arrived in the Suburban American Dream with nothing but our clothes and the hope that our New Daddy would treat us all nicely, since he had no real obligation to us, nor any real link to our little family except by virtue of a marriage license.

For awhile things seemed good. He took a job at a local grocery store, where they said he could be a manager some day. The house was super nice. No rats, no centipedes, roaches or spiders in the corners. It had its own washer and dryer, so no more long jaunts in the snow to the laundromat. We had a car, a Corvair. We had a TV. (Which I had to fix if a tube went out on it. But I got good at that.) We had all of this for three whole years. The biggest threat was the Tornado Season. In my time at that house I went through at least seven or eight tornadoes. One even hopped our house and destroyed one across from us. Carports would become detached and fly through the air. One time a tornado literally chased me into the school basement! I learned about facing and surviving these natural disasters which almost always occurred when my parents were not home.
I went to an extremely progressive school. My education was superb. However I was still bullied or beat up nearly every day for being "different." My teachers noticed I was smarter than the other kids. But not much was done about it because I started purposefully flunking my IQ tests so they wouldn't take me away from my friends and put me in a special course. Teachers at the school were allowed to mete out “corporal punishment” in the form of “paddlings” which were given with paddles these authority figures seemed to have specially designed. (Was there a catalog for school paddles? Some had holes for less wind resistance. Some were broad and thick and painted with designs…I took a paddling almost every day in gym because the teacher was a complete sadist. Last kid out of the shower, paddled. If there was “horseplay” in the locker room, everyone was paddled. Sometimes he gave a monthly paddling to us all on general principle. I did not take such arbitrary punishments well and became rebellious and withdrawn around teachers.) Of course there were other punishments; wearing a “dunce-Cap” or being forced to stand in the corner or cleaning up some school mess were usual and I usually got to do one of these at least once a week.
My mother was working at a really good job with Motorala for awhile and we had health care and a bit of extra money. But my New Daddy’s job started early in the mornings, so he couldn’t go out and party. Mom became not only bored, but started drinking heavily after she had her fourth child, my little half-sister. She lost the good job and began working at a bar on the Fox River. So she had all you can drink drinks. The bar was almost to the western Illinois state line. So she had a long, long commute. My new father was not ever going to make manager. All he was ever going to be was a glorified box boy. He was really nothing more than a big dufus kid who spent his evenings at the neighbors’ playing cards. He would make sure we had a pizza every night so we didn't starve. As for day time; we were all latch-key kids. I would make breakfasts and lunches. I was learning to cook very well. I would also have to make all the beds, do dishes, vacuum, clean, dust, mow the lawn, pull weeds, etc. etc. I was a little indentured servant. My mother, once lovelessly proclaimed: "Why do you think people have kids?" When my sister came along she was so enamored of having "a girl baby" that she simply stopped paying any attention to me whatsoever. In the meantime my mother wanted to get rid of me and give me to my father. I wanted to go! I loved him. I missed him. But he would not take me without the others. And so these endless tugs-of-war for our affection and our allegiance would go on between my mom and dad. Resulting in endless phone calls where my mother would scream at him and call him the most vile names, threaten suicide, jail, threaten to take all of us somewhere we could not be was a nightmare.
Then of course she would come home from work and endlessly argue with New Daddy while they both got buzzed on beer or wine. I did not realize it then, but she was also on barbiturates. We ate pizza every night for two the point where for years I could not bear to even look at a pizza without vomit coming up in my mouth. I finally forced him to buy hamburgers for me saying I would tell on him to my mom…something I should have done in the first place. I began to make my own food too, not joining in with the family pizza party anymore. Imagine a constantly beer-buzzed college dorm kid trying to take care of children...that was my New Daddy. One night he nearly killed us all, having taken us to an all night card game and then driving back and falling asleep at the wheel! Had I not been awake and terrified we would all have been dead, because I kept slapping him awake when he would nod off.

The American Dream was turning into an American Surrealist Dream. Finally one day she came home, caught New Daddy playing indoor basketball with us...(I must say he could be fun at times, being a big kid himself...) and proceeded to throw him out. Of course it was revealed later that she was already "dating" other men. Read: my mother was a loose woman. No doubt about it. She was just not hooking up with men of means. That was because she had a passel of kids hanging from her apron strings; which she made us constantly aware of. So, more threats of the family breaking up because she couldn't cope...and worse, she was going to hire another babysitter to watch us. I stepped up and said I would take care of the kids while she worked. I did not want another stranger involved, hurting my brothers and sisters. I was only ten years old. But she agreed. Her job now had her out until well after 2:00 in the morning. And to get there she had to leave before we got home from school. I can't tell you how many times I had to break into my own house, having lost or left the keys! I got really good at putting in window glass...And at breaking and entering.
Meanwhile I watched as all my friends living the American Dream were being beaten and abused by their drunken parents. One friend I had would come to school with whip marks on his back and legs. Another would be forced to sit ON an electric range which was turned on! Or forced to kneel on a metal heating grate in the floor! I thanked God daily that at least all I had to suffer from was loneliness. I missed my mother. But sometimes I didn't. Sometimes as I sat with my hand on the dial of the phone ready to call the Highway Patrol to see if she had been in an accident, I would hear her car drive up sometimes from a block away, my ears and eyes and all my senses became very acute during this time. I found out later this is called "Hypervigillance." (This is a condition which cops and firefighters suffer from. Fears and guilt based on not having "done something" about a tragic situation causes them to suffer fits of depression, anxiety and nightmares. You also have to watch and listen and smell for anything out of the ordinary at all times. The constant looking out for danger can become compulsive.) I was so scared all the time that I was like an animal, alert for every sound, smell or hint of danger... So I would hear her come in, cower beneath my blankets and wish she had died in a car wreck, because often she came home drunk, making all kinds of noise and waking the kids up, setting them crying...sometimes she brought crazy drunk friends over. One or two tried to abuse us sexually. When she wasn't home I had to deal with magazine salesmen, charity cases, people who wanted to get into the house for whatever reason, bill collectors and even repo-men. You are ten years old. Two HUGE guys come to your door and demand your kitchen table. What do you do? What DO YOU DO? Your are eleven years old. It is about 10:00 at night, a knock comes at the door, you open it to find two teenage girls. they are demanding they come in and have sex with you! They began trying to force their way in. You push back, they slam at the door with their shoulders. You scream for your little brother to call the police...The girls take off. You sit all night waiting for your mother to come home scared out of your wits. You know if you tell her, she will get a real babysitter. So you go to bed as if nothing happened. It became a fear of mine just to answer doors or telephones. (Heavy breathers and degenerates called all the time because they knew a young boy was home all alone with other children...) As the year went on after her second divorce we began to lose all our furniture and toys again. I wished she were dead sometimes just so I could go live with my father finally and not have to weep every night for my strange, lonely, scary miserable life.

Finally she fell for some other guy, a big lying drunk named Lew Kellogg who owned a Sinclair gas station. (Oddly my mother had always warned me to never become a "GreaseMonkey" and that's exactly whom she was going to marry next.) It was an odd deal. He drove a big, green Caddy. He had money for dinners and movies and treats. But I did not like him or trust him. He was always trying to buy our affection (of course the younger kids fell for him hook-line-and-sinker). He was a heavy drinker. And my mother became one too. Then something weird happened. Something bad. For me it was the worst thing that could have happened. This fellow did not live with us, because it turned out he had a whole other marriage going and other kids to take care of. But he hung around and played daddy. One day I came home from school and a note said: "Your mother has cancer. She is in the hospital, go to the next door neighbors, your brother Danny is already there." Signed Lew There were no warning signs, no phone calls to doctors, etc. Just this note. One day my mother is home and fine, then she isn't. And the neighbors...they were the ones who forced their kids to kneel on the hot registers as a punishment! They were scary. Their dad hunted bears and wild boars and field dressed them in his garage. They ate the meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They had a "potato cellar" which was truly horrid and rank. It smelled all the time. He was abusive and mean. And this is where me and Danny were to stay? What of my brother Doug and sister Dee? Where were they? Why couldn't I talk to my mother? Where was L.? What in the hell was going on? I wound up across the street and living with the neighbors. It panned out that my mother had ovarian cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. But why would she have to be gone for three months? That's a day operation at best, even back then. No one told us where she was, how she was doing, or what was going to happen. Apparently she had divided us up for one reason only, my dad was looking to get his boys back after this last divorce, and the state thought it was best. So she hid us! She didn't want the family broken up, so she broke it up herself and scared the living bejeezus out of us all. Danny and I wound up at our aunt's in southern Illinois for the summer.

That was weird. The summer was all stock-car races and picnics and summer fun and hi-jinx with my cousins...I had no idea that my uncle Max, a Korean war vet, who was in a wheelchair and had a special house, van and bed all for paraplegics; was actually faking his condition and was up in the night stalking and sexually abusing his own children while in the day time his sainted wife would take care of his infections and bed-sores and soiled bedding and clothing! Thank God he never touched my brother and I. I would have killed him. As it was no one found any of this out until his own kids grew up and ratted him out. But they never told us! So we were in jeopardy without knowing it. Meanwhile no word from my mother. And you must understand my brother Danny was a complete accident magnet. He had been hit by cars, fallen out of trees, off of playground equipment, off of 2 story buildings, and had his toenail ripped off and then infected...he was a walking nightmare of cuts, scrapes bruises and scars. He fell out of a tree and onto a barbed wire fence hanging upside down while we were at my pedophile uncle's house...and all I could do, because he was too heavy to lift, was let him hang there as I ran a mile to go get help from my aunt. What kind of life was I leading now? Lonely, scared, anxiety ridden, unable to be in charge, unable to take orders from people I did not trust. I grew up quickly. I became an angry young man. At the end of summer my mother showed up with Dee and Doug and we all went back an empty house that was in foreclosure. Nothing was said of those three odd summer months.
Lew had apparently pledged his troth to my mom and they were married in secret and had their honeymoon without us being involved. So now I had a New New Dad. And what a creep he was! He started out by taking the guitar I got for Christmas and locking it up because I wouldn't play it for him! I couldn't. My fingers were too short to fret the damned thing! He drank until he passed out nearly every night. Or he would take my mom out partying and she and I would often have to physically carry him stumbling in the door and throw him on the bed at the end of the nights’ debauchery. But hell, we were a family...except when he had to sneak off and spend time with his other family. They, it seemed, knew nothing about us. I frankly do not think he was officially divorced when he wed my mother. If he was then he still treated his first family with a pride and love he did not have for us. Instead of paying the mortgage, since the house was in my last father's name, he let it slide and we were evicted. He set us up in an apartment on Duke near Irvine in inner city Chicago again. It was a big apartment, nice enough, but still in a section of town reserved for retired Jews and oddly, lot's of people from Arkansas, or as my mother called them...Dirty Hillbillies. I suffered a brutal winter with L. and my mom drunk all the time. On New Years Eve 1968, Lew forced me and Danny to go out into a RAGING blizzard and by more booze for his party! (Yes they let kids buy booze for their parents back then, if you had a note.) Lew was a fierce task-master. Thank God he did not stay around. He went off to California to find a job and set us up in a real home. So once again my family was back together. Mom had a better job. But I had already began to degenerate under the pressure. Huffing gasoline...taking her "reds" for kicks, pissing off Mayor Daley by flipping him off during an ROTC parade. I was becoming a little juvenile delinquent, ditching school, hanging around with hippies, breaking and entering...though most apartments I went into the people were so poor that I couldn't ever take anything...doing all sorts of mischief. I was running with a bad crowd. But on top of that I had to be careful of all the gang kids who wanted to beat me up...I was still too small and "weird" to be in a real gang. So basically I lived this unsupervised existence on the streets.

At this time I found an old battered leather suitcase in the closet which belonged to Lew. I liked old things. He had left it behind. I opened up to see what was in it. I found some pornographic books and magazines and photographs of him and my mother doing things that are pretty standard for internet porn today but to my 12 year old eyes was something so outrageously painful I put them all back in the case and hid it. To see one's mother in those sorts of positions is not a healthy thing. To see her giving that sort of pleasure to a man you utterly despise, who was calculating, lying and brutal...well it did not make me feel anything but intense hatred for him. My mind was now scorched with a recording of my mother basically being a total sex slut. Still, how could I despise and reject the sexuality of these people? I had already become somewhat of an over-achiever in masturbation and collected porn wherever I could find it. Sexual release was my one and only true friend. An orgasm was the only real pleasure I ever got anymore, because all the other stuff; birthday parties, school events, fairs, carnivals and candy were all vain and empty illusions to me. They rang like the sound of someone thumping on a hollow bronze coffin in my ears. They rang untrue; because I was seeing the rank underbelly now of everything; a terribly unjust war being waged in Viet Nam; kids being beaten in the streets by cops because they asked for peace; Blacks being savaged by dogs and fire-hoses on TV night and day as they asked for their civil rights; ghettos burning all over America. I saw the Southside of Chicago burning from my livingroom window. I saw the Watts Riots on my TV. I had seen John Kennedy shot, seen Bobby Kennedy shot, seen Malcolm X shot, seen Martin Luther King shot. I saw the generation just before me being shipped away to Viet Nam only to come home either in a pine box, or so screwed up in the head they weren't barely human anymore. (Suffering as I did, from hypervigillance and post traumatic stress syndrome…) I saw racism first hand. And I was so impoverished I was almost always finding ways to steal what I could not afford. I would steal models, clothes and toys whenever I could. I became so good at shoplifting that no one ever caught me. Although I looked like an angelic kid, and acted polite and reserved, inside I was seething with hatred and anger at those who were neglecting and abusing me. And I saw that society, authority and the government did not give a good goddamn for any child, adult or old person. I was seeing too much evil and crime and abuse. The neglect was rampant. A young girl who lived below our apartment was rail thin, starving to death as her obese mother fed her only hotdogs for every meal! I had joined the ROTC in high school that year. I sang in the Catholic Church choir down the street. I even joined a “Teen Rehab” group that was part of the church. But I was split in two. The Dr. Jekyll part of me wanted to be a happy-go-lucky, friendly, out-going young man with prospects who loved education and wanted to help everyone. The Hyde side was a rejected, abandoned, abused, depressed young outcast with all the wrong kinds of friends, beginning to get involved in crime and drugs, skipping school and becoming more and more anti-social and withdrawn. I was sliding down the thy Hyde lifestyle quickly and quietly as my mother still worked long hours, now at a bakery, coming home too exhausted to do much but sleep.

My father would take me for the summers sometimes and that was weird. He lived the typical suburban lifestyle. He was a foreman at a factory. He had a retirement plan, a savings account, a mortgage and two cars. He lived in a house with an acre of yard which he mowed on a sit down mower. He lived in a tiny town, so tiny it wasn't really registered as a town. Today we call them sub-divisions. He was surrounded by quarries and cornfields. It was like a scene out of Norman Rockwell and I, a juvenile delinquent from Chicago had no real place there. I had no friends, no one to play with. I had two half sisters who were too young to really do anything with that was fun for a kid my age. They were wonderful, happy kids who had a real mother who took care of them all day long.
Every weekend, like a religious rite, instead of going to church, we went to visit my grandparents in Franklin Park. For my young life I was too small to be athletic or strong and so my grandfather Ray continually chided me for being a whimp. He also accused me of being a fairy, a fag, a fruit and a queer...especially when I cried if he sliced my ear giving me a home-made haircut to save 50 cents. He would often yell at me and call me names until I cried. When I was very young he would tickle me until I peed my pants and then throw me off of his lap and call me a baby for peeing. He was always right. He was mean as a snake. And no one could argue him down once he got on his soap-box about something. He called all Black people niggers, Italians were wops (even the one his own son Donald had married! Donald was a rich hairdresser who lived in the upstairs apartment that my grandparents owned. They were property owners,which made them “Upper Middle Class” but Donald really was wealthy. He had several styling salons. He had a stuffed polar bear in his living room! And he had a very good looking Italian wife, Lillian, who was super nice to me.) Ray despised "nigger music," rock and roll, and hippies as "commies." Good old Archie Bunker of All in the Family was patterned after men like my grandfather. But he was the real deal. He was a bastard who chain smoked Camel regulars, consuming three cartons in a day while calling people wops, niggers, spics and kikes! He was also a hypochondriac who thought he was dying of some disease all the time. He golfed on weekends but never amounted to much on the greens. He had high falutin' ideas about himself with no basis in reality. He was uneducated and his own very wealthy and rigid Catholic family had disowned him for marrying a divorcee, my grandmother, Jewel. She was also a supremely bigoted woman. She was from deep down south in Georgia and believed every major weird superstition ever devised. So I was constantly assailed at their house with overly rich foods, rank swearing and verbal abuse, wicked racist slurs and attacks on other cultures and vaunted opinions on just about Glenn Beck, Fox News’ prophet of doom today, Ray was a totally poorly self-educated man who thought he knew everything and made use of his bad logic to make a point. When that didn’t work he would scream at you until you cowered and cried. I was also subjected to weird rituals in case I slammed the door or put a hat on the bed! My grandmother had a superstition for every occasion and a spell to counteract every curse. And yet because these two old people had been together since the days of Al Capone, I felt oddly secure around them, protected and safe, mainly because I was not put in charge of anything or anyone. I could be a kid. I could eat two sandwiches if I wanted. My grandmother was a supremely good cook. And she spoiled us. She was also terribly obese. But I loved her more than anyone else in my family; because she provided for us and was selfless. Buying us winter clothes, school clothes, summer clothes and wonderful presents and toys at Christmas...which of course my mother would sell when we fell on hard times, or my brother Danny would break in fits of uncontrolled savagery.

My mother, as I said, could not cook at all. She made food so bad that I had to learn to cook just to give us real food when she was gone! And she would of course demand we not get up from the table without singing her praises as a chef and mother! I dreaded dinner at home. But my stepmother and grandmother could cook like chefs. So at least I ate well there. Still each dinner at my dad's or grandparents was loaded with litanies about how everyone was not to be trusted, how niggers should be sent back to Africa, how hippies should all be shot...etc. etc. ad nauseum. If I disagreed I was shouted down. So I became sullen, withdrawn and finally depressed there too. I lost hope in life. I began to think about running away from home; especially when I had to go back to my apartment in Chicago for the oncoming school season and the brutal winter. I had been reading about a thing called "Woodstock" A Gathering of the Tribes in the Chicago Seed...I had been hanging out with hippies down in Old Town Chicago. I was painting my room psychedelic and dressing like a radical. Hippies loved one another and accepted new ideas and smart people. So I went that way instead of with the glue-sniffing gangs in my neighborhood. I was going to go on the road at age thirteen, (after having attended the Chicago Democratic National Convention and being chased by cops) to Woodstock New York and take my chances with the hippies. I told my mother. She literally begged me to stay and take care of her kids because now we were all going to move to California! Lew had apparently found a job and a house in South Pasadena and wanted us out there. We were to tell no one, especially my dad. This was because my mom was getting alimony payments from him and help from the welfare dept. She wasn't supposed to be working, but she did, so she was actually making fairly good money. So we packed up our old Bonneville station wagon (The one Lew put a 467 police car engine in...) and headed out to the Land of Plenty. The great American Dream Machine itself, Hollywood! The land of the Pacific ocean, replete with movie Stars, mansions and palm trees towering majestically through the smog. My mother wept and pleaded and I caved. I was to be the good son again.

California. You would have thought that the paradisical landscape and cool, hip people would have made me happier. In a sense it did. But in another sense I knew I had been dragged from Chicago for one reason, for my mother to escape from my father's determination to have his sons with him. She left without telling anyone. It took two years for my grandparents to track us down. Letters I was sending to my father were being stolen before they could reach the mail. And phone calls were forbidden. The house Lew found for us was a rental. It literally had not been lived in for forty years. In the closets were WWI uniforms, magazines from the 1900's, the floors were rotten, the whole place was obviously termite infested. The backyard looked like something out of a Tarzan movie. And Lew made sure each of us kids was forced to help him clean and fix this place up. We did a helluva a job too. We made this rotten old haunted house into a home. My mother didn't have to work as much so she was home more. Lucky thing, because Lew would get so drunk at night that he would often pass out on the floor. He was too heavy for any of us to carry so we just had to step over his prone form. This is what my brothers and sister was seeing nearly every night. Lew would demand back and foot rubs from us. He would sit and spin the most idiotic lies about a life he never had. How he had invented Indianapolis style racing, or had innovated the chassis of sports cars. He drove an old, broken down Renault now and worked as a grease monkey for an auto repair place. My first job was sweeping the floors there. But he thought I was too weak and small. So that ended. And I believe he got fired from there; because he spent all day at home, drinking Vodka he secreted in the clothes hamper, cooking these outrageously delicious but rather exotic meals. (He really should have been a chef!) and then passing out. I had friends over and he would pass out and we'd walk around him. I was scared to have friends over though, because he was not a fun drunk.

My mom of course started taking her typical "night jobs" at "steak houses" (i.e, bars). She would dress like a whore in order to attract men to give her drinks. She would come home crying when she saw the wreckage Lew had made of the kitchen and house. I would try to clean it up. But my brothers and sister would just come behind me and re-wreck things. So it looked as if nothing was ever done. I couldn't keep up with them. I finally got some help from a psychotherapist who my mom sent me to after she realized she was an alcoholic and tried to stop drinking. Lew also went to A.A. and I began to go to Alanon (A.A. for familiesof alcoholics). Lew stayed on the wagon about a week maybe two. My therapist taught me it was Ok for a man to cry. And cry I did. Every night when the drunken arguments and screaming would begin I would go to bed early and cry until it all stopped or I fell asleep. The crying made me feel better; though I really wanted to kill Lew as he seemed like some sort of evil leech to me. My mother even suggested one time at a picnic, that we do just that! Finally her third divorce came when he "went out for cigarettes" and didn't come back for about three weeks. We thought we'd seen the last of him. But he did return. My mother told him to leave and put his stuff on the stoop and locked him out. And I never saw him again...except once during a PCP laced pot experience. Seeing him on the street like a normal person freaked me out. He was like a nightmare figure to me. Like Freddy from Elm Street.

Now at this time I was beginning to get into smoking grass big-time and my Hyde personality was taking over. I was being a rebel at school and not a very attentive son or caretaker. My mother had regular hours. So even though life was hard, it was starting to make more sense. My brother Danny was being beat up all the time at school and he kept begging me to give him sage advice. One night I told him that what he needed to do was confront the bully and tell him that he was ready to fight and then make sure he got in the first punch. Bullies were usually more afraid of getting hurt than most people imagined. Danny took my suggestion, and then went insane. He started taking on everyone else's bullies as if he were Batman. Then he became the bully of the whole school! He also became a shoplifter and got caught. He stole money from me and used to sell my stuff to other kids. He was a complete juvenile delinquent and way more tough and angry and mean than I had been. I was a peacenik now, a hippy who loved everyone and wanted to find the Truth in a Spiritual Quest. He totally destroyed his school with some friends and got caught by the cops. They nearly put him in Juvie. Maybe he even did go there for awhile; I was too stoned anymore to even care. My high school days were more of a daze. I did and said things and committed pranks that I never would have thought possible. And every one of them I got away with scott-free. I was smarter than the cops or any authority. I never got caught doing anything bad. Never put my mom through the hell of seeing me in a police station or jail. This is not a boast. I just was too smart to get caught. This does not mean I did not do some incredibly bad and stupid things. My brother however was becoming a real monster. He was uncontrollable at home. He didn't need a babysitter anymore, he needed a straitjacket. He would go into these terrifying rages and I'd have to sit on him and pummel him into submission to make him stop and calm down. What he did at school was anyone's guess. People next door knew we were living an unsupervised existence. Sometimes welfare workers would come by. But because I had had a sudden growth spurt and now wore a nearly full beard, they always thought I was an adult. So we kept being unsupervised.
Meanwhile my mother was going nuts. Something was wrong with her. She would cry and talk about suicide; she would say what rotten children we were, threaten me with military school and threaten to just put us all in foster care homes. She concluded nightly that we were the main cause of her terrible life. So we all had to put on quite a little act to keep her from tossing us out of the house altogether. She kept the door to her room locked. She was drinking wine all the time, even though she said she was supposed to be on the wagon. I broke into her room (easy for me...) and found her closet packed with the most extremely flimsy lingerie, nighties, panties, skirts, tops etc that looked like stuff exotic dancers would wear. And there were cookies, treats, candy and doughnuts packed in there as well! We were eating peanutbutter and jelly on whitebread every day, literally starving...and she was hoarding food! She was spending our welfare money on clothes and shoes! Danny was often so hungry he would cry. We literally used to have nothing nutritious to eat for days. (I was lucky because I had rich friends with lots of money for food and plenty of food at home…) He broke into her room one day, found her stash and totally went berserk! He glommed onto boxes of HoHos and Twinkies and gorged himself sick. My mother screamed at him that night about not getting into her private things. Finally I broke my long years of silence. "Your child is STARVING! Do you get that? And you are keeping all this food from him and your other kids! What the hell is wrong with you!?" At that point I think she began to hate me. I had shown her that I knew what was going on. All of it. It was in the open now. The truth had come out. She hated the truth. Because the truth was she was trying to live out her lost youth by stealing the lives of her own children. Her daughter DeeAnne had food issues where she refused to eat anything for years. Danny was like a vacuum cleaner and would eat anything anyone left behind, even crunch up chicken and pork bones. Doug suffered from nightmares and had a fetish about how his food was taken and arranged. If you touched it he would refuse to eat. So Danny would touch his food in order to eat it himself. And me, I’d touch it just to mess with the poor kid’s head. There were these dysfunctional kids with all these abandonment and eating issues, getting into trouble living totally unsupervised and she kept trying to make out like we were one, big, happy family.

One night a friend of mine asked me about my mom. I told him what she was like. He said: "So like, your mom is a whore?" I couldn't take umbrage with his comment. It was true. She was a drunken slut. Bringing guys home all the time, making them give her money and clothes, while she kept us on welfare. She would call me things like a "gorilla" or a "caveman" and say things to girls I brought home that nearly ended every relationship I tried to develop. I began to spend long weeks away from home, hiking the Sierras and the San Bernadino mountains; going on long trips to friend's beach houses or out into the desert, hitchhiking and learning how to drive the highways. My friends were all wealthy. That was one thing about South Pasadena. One friend drove a Mercedes Benz to school! They always had food, pot and a place for me to crash. My mother would not see me literally for months and pay no mind whatsoever. I don't think she knew I was gone. She was as stewed as a prune most of the time. And I believe she was still doing barbiturates and anti-depressants. Along with the alcohol, she was often as stoned as I was. One night I even smoked pot with her. She claimed it did nothing to her, but she acted quite giddy and foolish anyway. It was actually one of the first times that I had "bonded" with her since I was seven. I was seventeen at the time. In school I was a bad-boy; always in detention for breaking the rules, always on suspension, failing classes. I was stoned mostly all of the time. I was taking LSD as well; though not at school. My first Acid trip was a very, very religious and deeply spiritual experience where I beheld and felt the Oneness of all things and myself with God. It turned my head around. I stopped shoplifting and I tried to be a better brother to my siblings. But I was still stressed and had begun both drinking and smoking as well as testing other drugs like barbiturates, benzadrine and thorazine. Something I detested in my mother I was now doing out of spite against myself and my road to nowhere lifestyle. By graduation I had been told I could not graduate with my class because of all the demerits I had collected. I literally told my teachers and principle to go fuck themselves. I could have cared less. I was done with their fake authoritarianism and the fake world they wanted me to live in. I could not afford college or even a vocational school. My SATS sucked because I barely did anything but guess at the questions. I flunked out of Math and English. When the semester ended and we all parted ways I was left pretty much friendless because I was not out choosing colleges to attend like my friends had done. I was very afraid and broke down in front of my mother and cried that perhaps LSD had driven me insane. She said "Maybe it has." She had been called into school only twice because of me. But she never considered that anything that had ever happened to her child might have been her fault. In fact her therapist told her not to let me "bully her" into believing that she had done anything wrong at all. My life was my own affair. I had made my own mistakes and nothing, but nothing could be traced to her. Huh. Ok. So I was driven nuts by what exactly? I had been driven to taking drugs by...ghosts I made up apparently. It wasn't the brutal poverty, never the rats and roaches and bullying at school, never the broken marriages and the fact that my mother was basically as loose as a woman could get without disconnecting from her family entirely. Of course I had to understand that these things happened to others and they didn't take it so hard so what excuse did I, a seventeen year old boy have? Oh really? What sort of dream was her therapist living? He didn't see an entire generation being drugged up, put into prison, shot and abused just for "rebelling" against the Middle Class American Dream? The one where you take prescription drugs like Compoz and three martinis at the end of the day to feel normal? The one that was funneling its own children into a war that was endless and bloodier than anything previously waged against an "enemy" no one could really pin down? The one where hypocrisy and denial was the basis of business, religion and family life? So just because the local pastor was diddling your four year old, if you didn't see it, you could act like it wasn't happening? So if you chose to beat your children or wife half to death, by God that was your right as an American!? So it was all right to do unto others what you feared would be done unto you? America was living a lie. She knew it. I knew it. The World knew it. Yet we were all supposed to believe in the lie until it somehow came true. I tried. I really tried. I was a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Eagle Scout. I attended many churches. Sang in choirs, went to Sunday School; knew my Bible so well I won prizes. When I put my mind to it at school I excelled. I even excelled for a short time at sports, especially in sprints, broad and high jumps. I started a hand-ball and tennis league in high-school. I had been in the ROTC. I was a Junior Statesman of America. In courses in anthropology and philosophy given at my high school by the local college, I got A’s. I got A’s in Art History, History, Civics and Art. Math was my weak suit, but I got through it. I did graduate high school. But through all of this I got no mentoring, I had no father figure. I had no one to show me how to do a job interview or to balance a checkbook. I had no one to show me how a man should act in the world. My therapist did give me a lot of techniques to deal with my issues emotionally. My Alanon sponsors thought the world of me and helped me when they could. In the end though, their help was overwhelmed by the horror show in my home and by this one salient mother did not love me. Never really had. Didn’t know how. She could not show love without showing an equal or more powerful show of disaffection and disconnection. She could not love without also hurting me with her words and her neglect. She had washed her hands of me when I was seven.

In the end after graduation I began to see the light. I tried to get into college. I needed twelve dollars for books. When I asked my mother, she kicked me out of the house. "You have to leave the nest." Was how she put it. Do you know the word "nasty" comes from the word "nesty"? In other words, bird's nests are full of shit, cast off feathers and dead bugs. I was now free to fly from my nasty nest. And so she thrust me out into the waiting world without any help whatsoever. I left my home with no money, the clothes on my back, and not much else. My sister and brothers cried and begged me to stay. But I was a “freebird” now, wasn’t I? Time to make my own way in the wicked world. I went to live with my father in Chicago for the winter. What a bleak, depressing world that was. He got me a job at a sheet-metal fabrication factory. We had to wake up at 4:00 AM just to warm the car up, drive twenty miles, work eight to ten hours, drive back and eat like pigs and then crash like wreckage. It reached 40 degrees below zero that year...that's Antarctic temps. I went out in it and smoked a doobie, just to see what 40 below felt like. The snot froze in my nostrils...It was not cool...but it was very cold. I got caught by the Post Office with a letter that had a joint in it. Dad handled it. But I was pretty close to going to jail on a Federal Offence, well…not me, since I had not “solicited the drugs” My friend had just sent them on a lark. Still it could have gone badly. That’s the kind of line I walked. My father suddenly wanted me to be an upstanding son with a bank account and a steady paycheck. I tried. But I got sick nearly every week from the bad food served from the mobile food concession at work. I was feverish and sick every other week for three months, unused to the frigid cold and early hours. When it came time for me to join the union, they fired me. I took my final pay and bought a ticket on a jet plane back to Cali. It was my first airplane ride. It was spectacular. (I had arrived by train previously.) It gave me some kind of hope…that men could now fly like the birds, as once he had dreamt; perhaps meant that my small and gentle dreams for myself could come true as well. My dream was to become a writer and an artist. I was on my way. Secretly I had been compiling reams of sketches and stories which I never shared with my mother or father. I knew I had to keep these things to myself in order to protect them. Short glances I gave to my parents of my work only provoked silly opinions like “That’s so violent.” Or, “why can’t you paint friendly smiling clowns?” Of the two my father actually saw my talent, as he had his own which he never really pursued. He had done a lot of murals on our walls in the old days, with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. He even painted me some dinosaurs which I treasured. My mother of course destroyed that painting when I left home. She hated my father with a psychotic intensity for years. Though today I don’t think she would even remember her hate and what it did to me and her other boys. Anyway he once suggested I take some courses at the Chicago Art Institute. I was too afraid to do it though. He didn’t really try to convince me to pursue it, for like most people in those days all artists tended to die in the gutter. Ah, people, can’t ever see the forest for the trees. They couldn’t see that every cereal box was a piece of art created by a paid artist who was not going to die in any gutter anytime soon. They could never see any alternative to the work-a-day world. So of course they could not direct me. I determined then to direct myself.
I knew this. My time with my "family" was over. My father did not know me anymore and really did not want to. I was a ghost that haunted him. He had failed me. And he knew it; but wouldn't believe it. When he could not turn me into him he said Goodbye and Good Luck. Later he tried to take Danny in as well. He could see how screwed up we were. But he never ever mentioned it to us. The rest is described elsewhere.
I just wanted to say that these things happened to me. It is not an excuse. I am not making excuses for bad behavior that occurred long after these events unfolded and became past events. But there is no way to tell what sort of psychic damage was done to me that I literally have no conscious control over. This has made my life very hard, especially in terms of relationships. I swore that I would never smoke or drink and I did it anyway. I swore I would never get divorced. So I made sure I wasn’t married to my first common law wife. But a break up came anyway which was as bad as any divorce. And I have been faced with these same issues in my second marriage. Still, it is not a wailing and gnashing of teeth, because I overcame these disabilities myself through hard work and increasingly enlightened conscious thinking. Still, knowing about things like hypervigillance, abandonment issues, post traumatic stress, drug induced flashbacks, clinical depression, bipolar disorder (which is what my mother had finally been diagnosed with), etc. doesn’t necessarily help a person stop the resulting anxiety attacks, depressive episodes, confusion and wrong-headed thinking…it doesn’t stop you from having “intrusive thoughts” or “suicidal tendencies” or even ongoing neurotic fears; it just makes it easier to explain why a person is suffering. What needs to be understood is that any of these results deriving from these intense events can pop up in the sufferer at any moment. Unfortunately the human brain is a wonderful recording device and it likes to “playback” recordings that were deeply etched into it whenever some subconscious or unconscious trigger is flipped. Sometimes in psychological lingo these triggers are called “buttons” and we all know how to press them in others. My parents and grandparents were past masters at button pressing. One presses someone’s buttons to control, manipulate and distract them. My mother presses my buttons to distract herself from the truth when it gets too close. Simple as that. Unfortunately for her I am a living embodiment of the truth. And the truth hurts. Sometimes the trigger is flipped for no reason. Just as, when a child is force fed hundreds of loaves of bleached white bread or gallons of sugary drinks or spoonfuls of processed sugar and nutritionless cereals eventually, even though they seem fine, Diabetes type II can just pop right up and destroy their ability to make insulin! Woops, there it is! People need to know that abuse, neglect, abandonment and malnourishment in children causes mental health problems in later life. They also need to know that it happens all the time in America and America will never have any of its dreams realized until mental instability is decreased by stabilizing people before they have children. America is not now and never was a “healthy environment” for children.
In the end my mother took me in for a few weeks so she could get more welfare money. Then she applied to nursing school with money the govt. gave to her. I had nothing. No money, no job, no prospects and no education. She left me hanging, went out, became a nurse and to me she said: Goodbye and Good Luck! I went to live in a friend’s apartment, from which we peddled enormous amounts of grass. I had finally flown the nest. I was an entrepreneur; a businessman. However when the police evicted me from there I had to really learn to fly.
So ended the period where I could "blame" my parents for my troubles. What is funny is at the time I never blamed them at all. I just figured life had dealt all of us an unlucky hand. It took years of getting off of drugs and smoking and learning how to apply for jobs and be a contributing member of society to realize I had been bamboozled by the American Dream. I had been neglected, abused and harmed, possibly irreparably. Now it was too late to cry about it; though I often do. Since those times I have not spoken to my parents much. We went through a couple of times when I tried to love them and forgive them and let bygones be bygones; like the television and movies tells us to do. But each time one or the other or both would say some terribly hurtful thing to me, and I would "quit." The relationships grew toxic. I could do nothing right in their eyes. I was damaged goods, the black sheep, the enemy from within. I knew too much. I was a rogue agent as it were. So they just cut me loose. Still they believe they had little or nothing to do with my so-called "badness." They can't see that they took a happy go lucky, extremely intelligent boy and put him through a nightmare wringer that would have unhinged other, weaker boys. They take little or no responsibility for what they put me through. Nor do my siblings even recall most of this and so they have been indoctrinated to believe such things did not happen. As my favorite author Kurt Vonnegut would say...And so it goes.

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