Was Mine a Misspent Youth? Or a Necessary Evolutionary Process? Chapter 4



I need to take a break from dredging up all of those old, sad, memories, and move on to new, sad, current events.  Not that I didn’t have a great amount of fun and pleasure in those years of my youth, but I have only touched on those occasions so far, and believe it might be time to write a bit about my current life, since I find the person I was once is now a complete stranger to me.  I mean, I understand her, but I wouldn’t want her as a companion today; way too much ignorance and misdirected focus.  I don’t know if I’d be able to take on the challenge of my former self today, if she were a person in my life.

Yesterday I was sitting outside during my lunch break at work.  I watched a beautiful young crane circle the pond and land on the bank.  So gorgeous; his wingspan even at his age, magnificent.  The building that I work in is part of a large complex, very near Oracle’s cathedral-like campus, that stands in monolithic glory for all passers-by to marvel at.  My “campus” has the same type of man-made landscaping in the center of the buildings;  huge mossy standing and fallen stones in an attempt to replicate some neolithic scene, a huge labyrinth for those who want to walk the stylized spiral in contemplation, and large river-stone lined ponds, with dancing waterspouts.

Ducks live here year-round.  I have watched several years of broods arrive, tiny little chirping chicks racing after their mothers.  Usually the numbers dwindle as the days go by.  I’ve seen a mother duck with 11 hatchlings one day, 8 the next, all the way down to one, and then none.  From joy to despair, wondering what happened.  However, other years, my co-workers and I have watch the little bits of fluff grow into adults, to come back the next year to brood.   How miraculous the cycle of Nature is!  Those are good years.

The Canadian geese come seasonally.  The ones who try to stick around off-season are run off daily, by men with dogs, hired by building management to keep their well-manicured lawns and walkways from being “fouled” with goose excrement.  And, oh!  people’s cars!  How dare these nasty creatures do their natural business along the Great Pacific Flyway, which they’ve done since before man discovered fire?

It’s hard sometimes to enjoy the view, when I know what goes down regularly, and even though the scene seems so pastoral and gentle, the birds are trained to stay on alert and sound the alarm when the dogs in red jackets come trotting around the building.  I have an antagonistic relationship with the “dog man.”  I scowl and cluck at him, and he tries to explain that he’s just “doing his job.”  That’s why the world is so fucked up, you know – because people want that paycheck, and don’t question what good or harm they do to earn it.  There’s not much integrity left to speak of, it seems to me.

Just to be clear, when I look at an animal, I see a soul, as valid and precious as any human.  This is the planet I’ve landed on after all of my experiences, the culmination of all of my trials and joys since birth.  This is where we go back to Grandma Eleanor, who opened my eyes to the glory of the natural world – the truly natural, not manufactured, beauty and sanctity of all life.  I held on to her teachings, in the recesses of my psyche, knowing over the years that there was more to it than just basic respect or selective compassion, something just out of reach, that I had to do in order to cross over a hidden line onto the path I wanted to travel.  But I had to be ripe to really receive the message, and now I believe I have reached that evolutionary path.  I ain’t perfect, and never will be – but I’m getting close to undoing all of the human crap that separated me from the real meaning of life, which is an integration with the natural world, not unlike a Shaman, who can blend in and out of the trees unseen and without disturbing wildlife – because he/she is one of them.

This morning was a lesson in panic.  How to dodge cute little fluffy kamikaze bunnies all the way down the Skyline Ridge, which is a stretch of about 15 miles.  They were everywhere.  I usually see deer and coyotes, and squirrels.  I had never seen a wild turkey with my own eyes until I started this daily commute (about a year and a half ago now); they are incredibly beautiful to me, a riot of iridescence and pride, as they strut by the side of the road.  Just last week I saw a family of them, a couple of mornings in a row; the cutest little turkeylings (what the hell are baby turkeys, I’ll have to look that one up).  I slowed my vehicle, and did what I always do with the crows and the deer, etc., that are just standing on the narrow road.  I loudly berated them for being so close to the road, told them that I loved them and wished them no harm.  I let them know there’s evil people out there, who would just as soon run them over than slow down, and people that would love to eat them for dinner.  And I advised them to stay as far away from humans as possible.  I know they don’t know what I’m saying, but the entire time I was, most likely, scaring the wits out of them with my unintelligible human babble, I was projecting white protective light over them, in hopes that the love I feel for them will leave a residue of protection from harm.  I haven’t seen them this week, so they’re either dead or safe.  I won’t know.

I wish everybody could see the world the way I see it now.  How everything in Nature is sacred geometry made manifest; how the Sun and the Moon and the Earth all work together in a perfect union to provide all life with everything we could possibly need.  How much we need to work with, rather than against, to achieve and maintain the balance that humanity has deliberately let slip from its grasp.

We, mankind, are the most invasive species on the planet.  While we blame geese for doing what they do naturally on our manufactured structures and machines.  We poison the feed of birds so they won’t reproduce, or simply kill them for bothering us.  We run them over to make points on the road.  We hunt and trap them so that we can steal their bodies, their fur.  Their children slowly starve and die in their dens when mom never comes home again.  We stalk and shoot them with arrows and bullets, taking false pride in the fact that we have weapons, and they have no defense.  We have mass die-offs of ocean-dwellers washing up on shores all over the globe from pollution we dumped there.  Birds, falling from the skies; indicator species like frogs and bees and bats, disappearing, dying off, contracting unknown diseases, growing extra legs and eyes – How can we humans mindlessly prance through life, indoctrinated from birth, continuing to ridicule, torture,  misrepresent, profit from, kill and eat all of our fellow earthlings, and tear down their habitats in our narcissistic folly, much longer?  When the water is fouled forever, and the crops turn to dust from overuse of pesticides, when the peoples’ health fails from consuming untested genetic modifications that our bodies have not yet evolved to process without complications, will the sleeping awake then?  As the years pass, I’m having my doubts.  I believe they’ll just stockpile their guns, listen to the media blaming everyone but ourselves, and take out as many people as they can, like warring savages, when the shit really hits the fan – no food, no water, no order – let them eat their money then.   It’s the new God.  Again.  Like I said in Chapter 3, if you don’t expose yourself to alternative media, you’ll have no clue what’s really happening to the world, because they keep you medicated and numb with reality shows and inane comedy,  news that isn’t news, and advice that keeps the corporate machine happy.  #unplug

Not that I’m some great Braveheart-like warrior for the planet – I’m 55, disabled now, and I break no laws.  On purpose.  Until free speech is considered outlawed, that’s how I spread my message.  “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and all that.  My alarm goes off at 5am every morning, and I commute pretty far, and work a lot.  I have a mortgage and car payment, like most fools.  I follow a lot of websites and pages that promote living off the grid, because it looks SO perfect to me.  But, I’m not that young, spry, immortal person I once was.  So I bought Organic Gardening for Dummies, planned a small organic garden, which is doing pretty well for the first year.  The tomato plants are taller than me, and I wanted to be all earthy and creative, so I lashed together fallen redwood branches with green twine to make the tomato cages, which are turning out to be woefully inadequate.  I want to expand the garden next year, having learned a few new things in the application of the thing.  Gardening really is the best therapy, both mental and physical.  Watching something grow from seed to fruition is an epiphany.

I want to learn how to dry and can food.  I’m hoping that 1) I learn how to do all of this stuff before the grid fails, and 2) I live long enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor, and 3) that I can provide some sort of sanctuary to some friends, family and neighbors when it hits the fan.  All of that is pretty ambitious, but I do believe we are on the verge of a massive infrastructure fail, though the mindless idiots out in the world will be shocked and butt hurt as all hell when it happens, and there’s nothing left to consume.  Who will they blame then?  Sillies.  Can’t save ’em all, just like the animals in kill shelters that no one comes for.  Well, not just like them.  The animal didn’t do anything wrong.  Their human breeders did, though.  Like I said – mindless.

I may not sound much like a happy person, but you’d be entirely incorrect to conclude that as fact.  I am living better than I could have ever imagined; the little cottage I have is the culmination of every dream-dwelling I ever mused over; surrounded by soaring redwood trees, with a river flowing by my deck, the garden, three rescued kitties and a family of skunks who live under the house and come out in the evenings to explore the yard and eat (skunk babies are as sweet as kittens, btw).  The sun through the trees that give the yard a Rembrandt glow; the moon and stars through the skylights, the deep, satisfying scent of warm earth and leaves on a hot day, the fog that becomes so thick that it’s like a spooky movie – the night filled with the sounds of mountain lions and squabbling skunks and raccoons drinking from the river.  I am finally, completely, in my element – which is ALL of the elements.  Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit.  I dwell within all five.  That’s why I say I am on the path I was meant to be on.  It feels so right.  Not to be cliche, but it feels complete in my gut.  I would rather converse with a bird or a skunk than a human any day.  The birds get it.  They are part of something that, collectively, humanity is so disconnected from that it makes us the most pathetic species ever spawned.  We don’t get it.  We’re the odd ones out.  We live outside of the natural order, and thus have deliberately juxtaposed ourselves against everything else.  It can’t last much longer.

We will either implode or explode, take your choice.  I think I imploded, which erased all of the programming I had received, and I have been free to see the world with real eyes since then.  It’s the most beautiful, fulfilling, delightful, stunning feeling in existence – to see with real eyes.  Some say you have to go through hell to get them.  I guess the definition of “hell” depends on your perspective, but I believe now, that the only hell there is, is the one we have created, right here on Earth.  We can either be compassionate and just stewards of nature, or unthinking, mad machines of destruction.  There’s really no middle ground in this war between good and evil.  Every day, some corporation, who is protected by the very people we voted into office, is literally raping and pillaging a forest, a mountain, a lake, the ocean, the plains, the air, and the inhabitants who get in their way – simply to make another dollar.  Orangutans, endangered species – burned alive out of their trees, clutching their newborn babies.  Dolphins are corralled into The Cove and slaughtered until the ocean runs red.  Intelligent, loving creatures, treated like unfeeling garbage.  Dogs and cats boiled alive because locals believe the flesh is sweeter if the animal died in agonizing pain.  All of the entertainment I was brought up to believe was delightful fun, like circuses and petting zoos, county fairs and roadside attractions – I have found to be steeped in atrocities and arbitrary punishment towards entirely innocent victims, non-human animals.  I say “non-human” because people seem to forget, in their disconnected state, that they are animals, too.  We’re not vegetable, nor mineral.  We are animals.  And if non-human animals could describe their Satan, he would look just like us.  What we have done to our home is unforgivable.  Seriously.  It’s so beyond the pale that the Holocaust, by comparison, was a tiny massacre.  We breed, subjugate, make to suffer, abuse and slaughter billions of animals every year.  And those who balk at my comparison of the slaughter of humans to animals, as if somehow it denigrates superior humanity, are perfect examples of the disconnected, mindless masses.

I remember what it was like to be placed in a dark box without my consent.  But what I encountered was a luxury if placed side-by-side with the life of one pig in a factory farm.  I wish that everybody would watch any one of the myriad videos that are free online, of the things we do. It’s not what you’ve been conditioned to believe.  Not even close.

This was my dream when I was young.  This song was number one on the charts when I was sixteen, and playing constantly on the radio the weekend I met my husband-to be.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jMBU4kR70z4 I finally achieved my dream, and I’m not leaving without a fight.  Even if I have to beat somebody to death with my cane and pummel them with tomatoes.  Thank you, Jesse Colin Young, for implanting my dream in my head.  Best goal ever.

So, when all is said and done, I have had the surprising and unexpected pleasure of creating a glorious paradise for myself, through hard work and sheer luck.  But, outside of the boundaries of my property, I see the world as it is – slowly being bled of its life force, billions suffering the worst possible sadistic treatment for the palates,  pleasure, and “wealth” of mankind.  They don’t know the true meaning of the word wealth at all, and I don’t like selective compassion and deliberate ignorance, so leaving home is not something I like to do.  Thus, Lone Raven Sanctuary.  In case you were wondering.


Was Mine a Misspent Youth? Or a Necessary Evolutionary Process? Chapter 3

The summer after my 16th birthday, my brother invited me to his house in Healdsburg, on Chalk Hill Road, right on the Russian River.  I threw my backpack on, and was there in a flash.  I have no recollection of whether I found a ride or hitchhiked.  I simply remember being in his house.  It was a great, rambling old place, filled with antiques (TWO grand pianos for my bro to play!), and he had several roommates.  I met his friend Steve that weekend.  Steve had gone to school with Kevin in San Francisco, before Kevin also became a ward of the court and was sent away from home.  Steve and me did not hit it off very well.  Actually, I didn’t think much about him, and when we did converse, it was only with some “I’m just his friend’s little sister” -type banter.

I only spent two days there, and then the house burned down.  It started in the basement, an electrical fire.  The wires were old, and had not been replaced since the house was built long ago.  I remember that my brother was in the shower, and he had to run out onto the road with nothing on but a towel.  I was the one that called 911; standing in the living room, watching the smoke billowing in all around me where the walls met the floor.  Then I ran outside, too (luckily I had my backpack handy, so I didn’t lose everything like Kevin).

Kevin was a composer.  His teacher at The Conservatory of Music had likened his compositions to Bach; he said that if he didn’t know any better, he would have thought they were lost works.  Many of Kevin’s creative endeavors were stacked in the piano bench in the living room.  They didn’t survive the fire, and to me that was the most tragic loss that day.  We were in unincorporated lands, so the Town of Healdsburg didn’t deploy their fire department, even though they were right across the river and would have taken only a few precious minutes to arrive.  The emergency vehicles had to travel from Santa Rosa, which took 20 minutes at full speed.  The house went up in 20 minutes, and a large portion of the slope down to the river was burned and charred.  The only survivors were us, the brick chimney, and the weed crop that had been ready to harvest, growing on the riverbank – and now dried to perfection.

But, something happened during the fire that was even more unexpected.  As I waited for the fire department, I became hysterical.  I was not in control of my senses at all – there was something so visceral about watching the place go up in flames, watching Kevin’s possessions burn to ashes, and realizing that this “escape weekend” was just another disaster in a long string of unbelievable events in my life.  I was screaming and yelling, condemning the absence of the firefighters, over and over again.

At some point, my brother said to Steve, “Go shut her up.”  So Steve walked up to me, locked me in a big bear hug, and kissed me.  I shut up.  It was quite the long, lingering kiss, too.  After he kissed me, we looked at each other, and I believe that was the first time I really noticed him.  He was handsome to me, a tall man, long blond hair, blue eyes, sharply in contrast to my features.  I thought he was a god, right there, at that moment.    And he gave me something to think about that was much more pleasant than the present situation.


Suddenly, we became inseparable.  It was weird, to be immediately connected that way.  It was as if we were old friends, joking and playing around with each other, acting as if we were family already.  My entire future changed that day.  He had decided at the moment we touched that we were now together.  I was champing at the bit for change and adventure.  I had no idea what I was doing.

Some friends downriver took us in and threw a “survivor party” because we now had garbage bags filled with ready-to-fire-up weed.  So I spent my first night with Steve, and we talked about our lives, telling our stories and aspirations for the future.  What had seemed to be total destruction on that day had metamorphosized into something else.

Well, Kevin survived his losses, moved on to his next adventure;  I began staying with Steve more and more until I finally said goodbye to my Mom and Dad in no uncertain terms, so happy to move out of that dark, tiny nursery!  I was still 16, luckily nobody thought about statutory rape.  I guess they finally figured it out – that it’d be more trouble than it would be worth, to continue attempts to control me.  Good, for all concerned.

Steve had a tiny studio apartment at 16th and Valencia, in the Mission District of San Francisco.  I became a burrito aficionado in no time at all, due to the fact that there was a taqueria on just about every corner.  Steve had a pretty good job for his age (he was 20), and I didn’t have to lift a finger.  Looking back, this was a huge setback in my growth.  I was indulged to the best of Steve’s ability, so I jumped on the bandwagon to see what would happen next, still in survival mode, gobbling up all the fun.  I really didn’t know any better, then.  And I certainly had no idea what love was, except for what I had shared with my Grandma, which couldn’t be the same kind of love, could it?  I know better now, but then?  Not even close.

What followed were some good years, and some pretty bad ones.  Even though I loved Steve as best I was able, he wasn’t as strong or passionate as I had first thought.  He was a good man, though, with a great heart.  He really loved me, and gave me a home and sheltered me from the world.  I believe that he entered my life so that I could see that love was possible and real and tangible – because up until then, I rejected those notions, just by virtue of my collective experience with humanity thus far.  I embraced Steve’s offers of home and affection, but only to a point.  Beyond that, I was always looking outward for something else, another possible future.

That didn’t bode well for a happy marriage, but after I turned 18, we simply woke up one morning, he asked me if I were ready, and I said “Yes!”  With no plan whatsoever, we went to a Presbyterian church in the Richmond District, and asked the pastor there to marry us.  Steve was Methodist, and I was Catholic, so that seemed a highly logical choice of venue.  Everything was a joke then.  The pastor told us that our desires were “highly unusual,” but agreed to perform the ceremony.  We had no witnesses with us, so he asked the church secretary and another employee to witness for us.  I was in my hippie attire, a long floral skirt and sweater; Steve had more conservative garb, a flannel plaid shirt and slacks – and we were married on that day in, if I remember correctly, November 1976.

The reception was interesting; we were close to my eldest sister’s place of employment, King Norman’s Kingdom of Toys, on Clement Street, so we dropped by and told her what we had just done.  After she got off work, she stopped at a local bakery for a cake.  I believe that she bought some champagne for a toast.  I do not remember who attended our “reception” at such short notice, because we have no pictures of the event.  I think that my sister took some that day, but I don’t know where they’ve gotten to.  There are very few pictures of my life during those years, so I have to rely mostly on memory.  Cherish pictures from your distant past, people – they’re instant memory-boosters, and you’ll never forget a face, no matter how much it changes over the years.

So I became a wife, and while he worked, I played.  Shortly after that, we moved into a flat in the Sunset District with my brother Kevin, and one of my sisters.  It seems that I was partying just about every day, and there was a live band in the living room almost every night.  My brother had chosen to play a lot of blues and rock n’ roll, rather than classical, and he was extremely good at it.  He still is.  A local legend in these parts, he has toured the world, is still playing the clubs, performs at private parties at wineries and homes all over the Bay Area, and records in studios with various artists.  I could name a pretty impressive list of people he’s played with (and for), but you wouldn’t believe me anyway.  I became very close to Kevin.  I roadied for him as much as possible, even though I wasn’t 21 yet, lugging his amps up stairs and onto stages, and dancing like a fool with the audience.  What fun we had!  Most of the time.

We were on the road at 4 am, coming home from a gig in Ukiah one morning, when we decided to stop at the Jack-in-the-Box on Lombard St.  There were a couple of young men that must have visited San Francisco with the sole mission to find someone to gay-bash, because they arbitrarily decided Kevin was gay and I was lesbian.  They began yelling it at us in the parking lot.  One of them knocked Kevin out, and he fell partially under their car, and then they advanced on me, calling me a dyke, telling me I didn’t deserve to live – I thought I was going to die, I thought Kevin was dead – I was so panicked.  It brought back to me so many instances when I was not in control of the situation, when someone wanted to do me harm for no good reason – I seriously do not remember what happened next.  This has occurred a few times already in my life, when the stress was so great that I either just blacked out or saw red until the situation was over.  All I know is that my brother had  revived, the violent, evil, bigoted jerks were driving away, and I was unhurt.  We didn’t stop there again.

I still wonder what the hell is wrong with people that feel the need to gang up on complete strangers, simply to feel powerful and validated.  They need to go do something heroic – not evil, to reach that place.  One thing I never did, that I wouldn’t allow myself to do, was bully someone.  Some people would disagree, because they don’t know the difference between bullying and a good, rousing argument.  But I know the difference, and I would never set out to hurt someone deliberately.  I never stole anything from anyone, either.  I know what it’s like to have nothing, and to work for something, and then for someone to come along and claim it as theirs, or simply take it.  I don’t understand people who don’t hesitate to cross that line.

There’s an argument that some have a genetic disposition to do this or that, to be empathetic or incapable of compassion – from my perspective, it’s hard to fathom.  Aren’t those people considered sociopathic?  Shouldn’t there be some sort of intervention when a person goes out of their way to harm others?  So many are walking the streets today, with so many more being birthed  every day, because their parents are afflicted with the same disorder.  No wonder the world has gone to hell.  After all of the hard-won advances in civil and social rights of the 60’s and 70’s, corporate rule is dissolving the laws that protected us from another’s greed, hatred and ignorance, and everyone’s now living in survival mode, in their own little bubble, insulated from reality, plugged into the Matrix of media and entertainment and marketing tactics, not wanting to step outside the bounds of what they’re used to – even though it’s not real, not healthy, not natural, and not where humanity needs to be heading as a whole.  So many are socked into this “alternate reality” that anyone who reminds them it’s not real is ridiculed, even brutalized.   The people in the Matrix are actually supporting the destruction of our infrastructure and social welfare with their votes, because they’ve been convinced by media that night is day, and the sky is pink. They’re literally angry at the weak, needy, and almost anyone who is different, and lately, to the point of promoting violence.  If you’re not exposed to alternative media, you won’t understand or agree with a word of this paragraph, most likely.  I plan on getting more in-depth into social politics later, so be warned.

I think that the above was a deliberate diversion from the subject.  Back to my marriage.   To be honest, I lived as if I wasn’t really married, which goes back to the wall/disconnect I had created in the past.  I know my husband was devastated when he realized it, a few years into our union.  I was always looking for affection, and I know that my behavior stemmed from my childhood experiences.  Though I did not deliberately set out to hurt Steve, I succeeded in doing so, and quite thoroughly.

By the time I walked out of his life for good, he had hit bottom.  I can’t get into the details, it would be too painful; but it was as bad as it gets, and after attending Narcotics Anonymous for awhile, he cleaned himself up, found a woman in the program that would love him for who he was, and asked for a divorce through his step-father, who was an attorney.  We were together for, at the most, six years, but married for sixteen and a half.  Neither of us filed for divorce during all that time, maybe with him thinking I might grow up, and me thinking that he was still connected to me somehow, which made me feel safe, for whatever reason.  I was actually pleased to receive and sign the papers all those years later, in hopes that Steve would have a chance at happiness, finally.  He moved to Oregon with his new wife, by all accounts, and I never heard from him again.  I search sometimes online for his name, hoping not to discover an obituary or other bad news, but there’s nothing.  It’s as if he never existed.  He’s probably very happy with that.  I truly hope so.  He was a good man surrounded by a shitload of crazy people and situations.  Some thrive in that environment, but not Steve.  Well-wishes, wherever you are.  BTW, I still use your last name.

Was Mine a Misspent Youth? Or, a Necessary Evolutionary Process? Chapter 2

I was going to write about my marriage and my daughter in Part 2, but after further thought, I feel that’s jumping ahead too fast.  So, Onward and Downward…

The last time I ran away before my parents became fed up and had me made a ward of the court, I was not very far away from home.  On the shore of Fort Funston at Ocean Beach, people had carved out the sandstone on the bluffs, and that place was known as the Sand Caves.  I lived in one for a month, with an Iroquois named Chance.  We had the best time.  I would wake up in the mornings, and look out at the waves, where Chance would be standing in the rising mist, with his arms up over his head, and his long black hair flowing down over his naked bum, welcoming another day.  Bliss, I tell you.  Pure joy.  If I’d run off with Chance, who knows how much sooner I might have woken up, walked the right path, and found the meaning of life?

Problem was, I was not even 12 years old yet, and Dad took issue with that.  So when my sister snitched about my whereabouts (I’ve never really forgiven her for that), Dad came walking down the beach, calling out, and all of the people in the caves peered from their perches to see what was going on.  Eventually he saw me.  We hid in the cave, but Dad climbed up, and said some quite nasty things to my best girlfriend who was visiting me that day. Then he took me by the hair and dragged me down the beach, all the way to juvenile hall.  I spent three days that first time.  I was scared out of my wits, and my first friend inside was a very young prostitute, who watched over me and offered advice on what to do in there.  She was an angel.  These experiences are why I question the norm.  I could never condemn her – she was a victim of greed and mankind’s arrogance, as much as any other.  And we were all being punished for things beyond our control.  I still believe that.  So, I spent three days, but I had to go to court, and the judge declared me “incorrigible.”   Thus I became a ward of the court for the next 5 years or so, and was placed back in a cell to await my designated, arbitrary fate.

Having failed to be the perfect money-making foster child to a woman in Mill Valley, who had made a career of living off the State, feeding her own kids steak while spending as little as possible on her wards, (and me preferring to be at the bongo parties at the Tamalpais Mountain Theater over being there), I transitioned into a Catholic group home in San Francisco.

Have you ever had a nightmare that your family moved away without telling you?  I did.  Actually, it happened.  I was 14, and remanded to live at Mount Saint Joseph’s Home for Girls.  I was there for 10 months, was following all of the rules, and thought that was long enough, as I hadn’t stolen anything, killed anybody, or abused anyone.  I was simply a runaway from a violent situation, but of course, back then nobody listened to the kids.  It was all discipline and no understanding.

I asked some of the nuns (Sisters of Mercy, I have to admit they were nice and put up with a lot of shit from the girls) when I was going to be able to go home – they didn’t have an answer – so I decided I was going home anyway.  I didn’t have a penny for bus fare, and not being at all familiar with the area, I began walking down 3rd Street in the general direction of the ocean.  I knew I’d get there eventually.  It was a long walk, all the way across the City, but other than that guy who stopped his Lincoln Continental Land Yacht on 3rd and tried to force me into his vehicle (he had no idea who he was fucking with), it was a tiring but uneventful journey.

When I finally walked up my steep street to my house, I was exhausted.  I attempted to walk in and surprise everyone, “Hello!  I’m home!”   But the door was locked.  No one answered.  Frustrated, I sat down and waited on the steps, and eventually my neighbor came out and told me that my family had moved south.  Wow.  I still remember that feeling.  It wasn’t pleasant.

I’d never even heard of the town they moved to, because I always hitchhiked north to Marin, Sonoma, Santa Rosa counties and beyond.  It was a sharp kind of hurt, but I should have known very well by 14 that in the scope of life, I didn’t matter to those who called the shots.  So, when my parents were called, Dad came and got me.  I was allowed a brief glimpse of the new house, and then a counselor came from the group home, took me back, and processed me into a nearby lock-up convent with barbed wire, and severe punishment if you went too close to the fence.  Talk about adding injury to insult.

The “new” place was located near a slaughterhouse.  We were required to rise at 5am every morning and attend church services at 6am.  As I would walk through the courtyard to the chapel on some mornings, the air would be thick with blood.  Literally red with it, and the sickly-sweet stench of a multitude of miserable lives and deaths would clog my nose.  I had to OD to get out of that place.  A friend went on a home visit (I was never allowed one) and raided her mom’s medicine cabinet.  I swallowed a large paper cup filled with I Don’t Care What.  In the middle of the night, I found myself crawling on my belly, calling for help from the excruciating pain in my gut.  I don’t remember much after that for awhile.  I heard that the girl who gave me the drugs was placed into CYA.  The California Youth Authority facility was like the Pelican Bay for juveniles.  Everyone was scared of going there.  I hope it wasn’t me that told them, in my painful stupor, who it was.  I will never know.

I woke up in a psychiatric ward.  It was the most pleasant place I’d been in years.  It was comfortable, bright, everyone was polite and careful to not offend, there was good food (in comparison), and comfy beds.  I’ll never forget taking the Rorschach test, and trying my best to shock the therapist.  I was just making shit up.  Did it matter?

One of the best things that came out of my time there was that I met a young girl, about my age, who could have been Janis Joplin’s mini me.  She had an outrageous, boisterous quality to her singing voice, and she played the guitar.  I’ll never forget her rendition of “Yer Blues” by John Lennon.  I’ve always sung it her way since.  She inspired me, and I left there with a determination that I would sing and play guitar too.  All of her songs were sad, but the way she sang them – amazing.  Another person who influenced me greatly – and I’ll never know what happened to her.  I know she was suicidal.  I hope she survived, like me.

Anyway, after they determined that I was nutz in some manner or another, I was transferred to the juvenile detention facility in San Mateo County.  After three months, I was “promoted” to “blue” status, which meant that I was trusted to wander around a bit, watch TV on the main floor, and wasn’t locked up alone so much.  I remember watching the Watergate Trials live, because that’s what they wanted to watch.  I had no interest whatsoever in politics.  All that serious dialogue was boring as hell to me, but it was something to do, other than being alone, scraping long grooves into my wrist with a bobby pin I had found.  I cover the scars with pretty silver bracelets now.

As I mentioned before, I was finally released from juvenile hall for the last time just prior to my 16th birthday.  My Dad came to drive me to their new home.  I still remember vividly the “talk” he gave me on the long ride up El Camino Real from Belmont.  All about not making waves, learning lessons, toeing the line, being “good” (I was so confused about what good really was, it felt like one thing in my gut,  but everyone told me it was a lot of other things); and so I arrived after all these years away.

I was promptly presented with the tiny nursery for a bedroom, as if I were a temporary guest.  There was colorful circus wallpaper and mismatched curtains, and the room was smaller than the cell I had been living in.  And it was dark.  I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there.

Now, maybe we can progress to the burning house/future husband tale.

Was Mine a Misspent Youth? Or, a Necessary Evolutionary Process? Chapter 1

There were so many times that I should have just died, or been killed, or lost for good.  Somehow, miraculously, I have survived to the ripe old age of 55, with only a minutia of scars, and my reason intact – or so I believe it to be so.  Even though my brain doesn’t jibe with today’s society – I’m appalled by the easily manipulated masses, and their laser focus on inane and irreverent life choices – I feel that I have more clarity about the meaning of life, and true wealth.  It’s not the pursuit of money, or possessions, or power.  It’s a full and open expression of love, and simplicity, and compassion, that brings contentment and happiness into being.  It’s what will save the world, this environmental hell we can only blame ourselves for creating and maintaining so very carefully.  Do you wonder how a person gets to this state of mind?  Here’s one story.

I was “on the run” at 11 years old.  Sticking my thumb out at the busy intersection of 19th Avenue and Lincoln Way in San Francisco, with only a vague idea of where I wanted to eventually land.  I performed this act several times over the course of a couple of years, not returning home for months at a time, my mother dreaming of shallow graves and all manner of horrors in my absence, but I didn’t know or care – I was running on survival.  My home life was like a scene out of hell.  Too many kids, not enough compassion – my parents were completely inept, and used the simple-minded teachings of the Church to attempt to raise 7 kids – spare the rod, spoil the child – in San Francisco, in the 1960’s, a block and a half away from Golden Gate Park, a mile from the Haight, and just a quick jump on the N Judah to Ocean Beach.  There were too many avenues of escape, and I believe to this day that I would have been a complete idiot not to utilize them.

You can only imagine what life was like, unless you were raised in our house, and even then, everyone’s perspective was skewed by their own personal experiences.  For me, it was a giant fog of violence, sex, anger, religious fervor, over-the-top discipline, and very few declarations of love or affection.  Back then, the “fix” for anything wrong was to ignore it, and punish the victims if they didn’t just shut up and let the problem die without resolution.  My parents should have been incarcerated on many occasions for the things they did to us, but instead they were icons in the Parish, or so it seemed to me at the time.  I don’t understand how anybody could think this was the right way to raise children, but there it was.

There was always music in our house, though, which made the reality of living there even more surreal.  Mom was a piano teacher for the community, with my eldest sister assisting; my brother was a very promising protege at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, (I attended there as well on Saturdays).  We had a big, sleek, black Steinway grand piano that took up a great portion of the dining room.  I hid under there on many an occasion.  So on the one hand, we had all of the great symphonies on vinyl, recitals at home, even a few trips to the SF Opera House for performances, which was a very dear thing for my mom to do – my parents didn’t make a whole lot of money then.  And on the other hand, we had Dad’s big band obsession.  He had a reel-to-reel he was very proud of, and we listened to Glenn Miller and Harry James, Sinatra and John Gary ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-giH9a0cxa4 ).  Music, I think, was one of the two enormous factors that saved me from jumping off the roof back then.

The other major influence in my life, and without it I would not be the deeply empathetic, discerning, no-bullshit person that I am, was my sainted grandmother.  Eleanor Alice Banner Abbott was the only natural, wonderful, REAL human being in my life, and I am grateful still, every day, that she offered to share with me her love of Nature, the sanctity of life, the wonder of creation – she would take me out of the City and we would get lost in state parks, wandering down paths and marveling over a wisp of moss or a color-changing rock in a stream.  I had piles of rocks, twigs and moss from our adventures, in a pathetic attempt to bring something beautiful into my house.  Mom had painted everything white, with gold trim.  There was nothing sacred in our home, unless you counted the portraits of the Virgin Mary and Jesus over the fireplace mantel in the living room.  The kind whose eyes follow you around the house.  You decide if that’s creepy or not.

Even in the years where I was incarcerated in this or that juvenile hall, group or foster home, Grandma would send me little “care packages” and beautiful cards with awesome words of encouragement.  She never forgot me like everyone else did.  I hardly ever saw visitors, and I didn’t get “out” for good, until just shy of my 16th birthday.  Grandma was my light in the darkness.  I could never have had enough of her presence.  Thank you, Universe, for her.  She provided the jumping-off point for my metamorphosis, though I didn’t recognize that fact for another few decades.  We were all saturated in ignorance, traditional mindsets, and social manipulation then – and any attempts to break out of the little dark black box of the norm was met with ironclad resistance.  Which is why it was believed by “those in power” that I so needed correction rather than understanding.  At the tender age of 11, I was jaded with the  ways of humanity, having been drugged, raped, and/or abused in some manner by many of my neighbors and acquaintances.  All of this occurred in a close-knit, Catholic parish, and no one ever came to my defense.  I look back and think, “How the FUCK did I survive?  How does anybody ever figure this shit out, and get beyond it to what’s important?”

So many of the people that I DID like either didn’t survive that era, or simply disappeared.  My best friend from Catholic school, for instance – the last time I saw her, she unexpectedly knocked on the door of my other BFF, looking for drugs – any drugs.  We turned her away, told her it was inappropriate to come there and ask that (heaven knows why I was so fucking judgmental, I was doing everything under the sun).  I never saw her again, after years of hanging out together, and have no idea where she went next, or what happened to her.  Or her family; she had a daughter, and a younger brother; her parents were gone, she was a mess, and I still wonder what’s going on with her.  Then there was a friend of my brother’s, who had given me CPR and saved me when I OD’d on coke after a three-day, all-you-can-snort binge – who died a couple of years later of an overdose, alone.  What was I saved for?  What did he die for?

Then there was Theresa.  When I was released from juvenile hall for the last time, I was placed in a local “day care” psychiatric group therapy center, to keep me “safe” after school every day.  I met Theresa there; she was from a family very similar to mine (Catholic, authoritarian, unflinching discipline), though different, in that they were 100% Maltese-American, and we were from Genovese/Tennessee Hillbilly stock.  They ate octopus and stuff like that.  ew.  Though I did learn about polenta from them.  Now THAT’s good food, even today.

So Theresa and I became the very best of friends, and she was my companion through many adventures over the years. We hitchhiked up to the Columbia River with a buddy of hers once; I got in an argument with her friend, crossed the road, and hitchhiked back to San Francisco alone.  That wasn’t the best decision I ever made, but I did end up flying First Class into SFO from Medford, Oregon.  But I digress.  When all was said and done, I ended up marrying my brother’s friend when I was 18, and Theresa married a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, who had just been released from prison, and who recognized an easy mark, moved in on her like a starving shark, married her, made her deliver packages for him even after he was re-incarcerated – and, as far as I’m concerned, had her killed when he found out she had begun seeing a person of color in her futile quest for love and affection.  She was found, 10 months after her disappearance, thrown into a shallow grave on an on-ramp in East Palo Alto.  A message.

No one knows what she endured but her abusers.  No one knows how long it was into that 10 months that she died.  There were syringes in the grave with her; the police never talked to me; her mother was convinced that her new boyfriend was the killer, and attacked me at her funeral, in the mistaken belief that I had introduced them to each other.  What a mess.  To top it off, when “Bobby” got back out of jail, he showed up at my work (instant, flashing migraine) and asked for a place to stay until he got on his feet.  I was scared shitless (I had just had a baby then, and was alone), so I said yes.  He tried to play the same cards with me that he had with Theresa, but I wasn’t having it.  I just kept my cool, and a month or so later, he moved in with a neighbor of mine, who was a good friend and knew that I was suffering by just looking at Bobby’s face.  I remember reading his Tarot for him, and time and time again, turning the Devil card over, the only card in the major arcana that means a complete lack of control over our fate, the only card that scares me.  After that, I moved away and never saw him again, thank the Universe.  There’s a lot more to the story of Theresa’s life, and I wanted to put some of it down in memoriam.  She was a great, honest person; transparent and believable, and easily used by bad entities.  I remember her often.

And so, it seemed in my foggy state that the good people all died/went away (except Grandma); my parents only grew more judgmental, angry and distant, and I wasn’t a highly aware being at that point in life – just taking what I could get in order to feel alive, and pursuing fleeting happiness, not really connected at all to anything or anybody.  That’s survival mode.  I had been living it since day one, and it would take many more decades before that thick, encrusted wall would come down.


Part 2 will be about my fantastic, insane, short-lived marriage.  And my beautiful little girl, who opened my heart.