The golden summer days of innocence and freedom walking barefoot around our neighborhood on Cheltenham Way in Citrus Heights, California are my first memories. Our home was across the street from Arlington Heights elementary school where my sister, Leigh Ann, and I attended our first years of school and we knew almost all of our neighbors.
There were frequent walks to the Lovish family home where my parents would have drinks, smoke cigarettes and talk or play cards for hours while us kids played in each others yards or on the street. Cars drove slower then and there weren’t so many of them.
One summer night we all climbed on to the roof for a better view of my dad setting off fireworks and the sparkles landed in the dry weeds of the field across the street setting it on fire. It was exciting and a bit scary when fire trucks had to be summoned to extinguish the result of my parents irresponsible revelry.
My sister, Leigh Ann, is 13 months younger than I and my first memory of her involved a new wall mounted air conditioner from Sears. Houses then rarely included air conditioning so this was a real anomaly for the times. It was installed in the living room wall and I vaguely recall something about my sister having breathing problems as the justification for this great expense. I know I was jealous of the attention she got, and she has always been the smiling happy one that gets along with just about everyone.
Another memory is one day we were in our bunk bed with a blanket draped over the open side and mom came into the room to find us “playing doctor” or something like it. Horrified she got really mad and scolded us strongly. I have wondered for a long time if that incident had a lingering effect on us.
A strong memory from those days is of a fight between two teenage boys that I came upon at the schoolyard one afternoon. They were alone in the middle of a big open field and had already been going at each other for some time when I came along. They were both bloody on their face and hands while striking blows in a terribly violent manner. I was really scared and ran away lest I get drawn into the battle!
My brother Mike is 12 years older than I am and his father was mom’s first husband who turned out to be a polygamist and “silver tongued devil”. Many years later I learned that mom had come home from work one day and found him in bed with her mother, which of course was the end of the marriage. However his was not the first tragedy for Bobbie Jo Barnhill.
Bobbie grew up in a small west Texas town called Winters, one of five siblings, a brother and four sisters, and daughter of a barber/artist/sign painter of reputed Indian heritage. Herschel Erastus Barnhill lost his barbershop during the Great Depression and turned into a heavy drinker, eventually abandoning his family to wander. Young Bobbie was fourteen years old when a fiery car crash hospitalized her for years and left her scarred for life. Here is the story as she told it:
“I was sitting around the house, bored, when my friend Emma Belitz came by my house and invited me to a mutual friend’s family reunion. Emma was a very pretty and popular sixteen year old girl, whose parents ran the only bakery in our home town of Winters, Texas.
"Come on!" Emma said, "Charles Dunn’s family is having a big party in Abilene at a night club called 'Charlie Blanks'. It will be fun!" Charles was a friend of ours who had lost one arm. Both he and our other friend, Carl Hancock, would be driving us there. Carl was a 19 year old football hero, who came from Wingate, a small town just outside of Winters. I put on my new pair of socks that I got for Christmas and waited until Emma and the two guys came by to pick me up.
Charles drove the car; despite missing one arm he was supposed to be a good driver. Carl had brought a pint of Four Roses whiskey, and all four of us sipped from the bottle. It turned out that letting Charles drive while sipping the Four Roses was a bad idea.
Abilene was a one-hour drive from Winters. It was mid-afternoon and the party wasn’t going to start until dark, so the four of us decided to go explore the countryside. We visited the Abilene State School, an asylum on the outskirts of Abilene, and talked to some of the residents there. Never before had I seen any people who weren't normal, and to this day I don't know if the people there really were insane, or mentally disabled, or if the truth was that they just didn't have any other place to go.
We attended the party until it was over, and then the four of us left to go back to Winters. Little did I know how much the ride home would change the rest of my life and the lives of all those around me.
On the way back, we spotted two cars parked on the right side of the road, fixing a flat. We moved left to pass them on the narrow two-lane road. What we didn’t see was the oncoming car headed in the opposite direction. The car sideswiped us. We rammed into the two cars parked on the side of the road. All four cars smashed together; two burst into flames.
My friend, Emma, was thrown clear out of the car and died instantly.
What happened to me depends on who you ask. A fireman named Buford Baldwin said I was thrown out of the car and had landed between the two cars that were on fire, where the firefighters pulled me out; yet, according to my cousin it could have been Emma who they pulled out of the fire.
The story told by my favorite cousin, "Skinnie" (C.L.) Mullins, who I used to play with all the time, more likely describes what occurred. He says he just happened to be going by when he saw a wreck, and sticking out of the back seat of one car he saw a foot. He pulled on the foot to rescue the person from the fire, and discovered it was me! (Ironically, Skinnie himself was burned to death many years later in a house fire).
I was alive, but had been seriously burned on my face and hands, and had a broken arm, a large cut on the back of my head, and other injuries. Of all the people injured, I was the only one burned.
I have no memory of the accident until I woke up in the hospital to hear the doctor say, "Don't bother to set the arm, just wrap it up because she won't last the night." The pain was unbelievable and I kept going in and out of consciousness, and hearing my mother crying "Is she dead?" I remember very bright lights and lots of people running around, and that in the middle of all this I asked about my hair — where had it gone?
Hair was a lifelong fixation for my sisters and me. I was upset when I learned the doctor had to shave my head to treat the wounds. My uncle Guy Mullins said not to worry, and promised to get me a turban to wear to the upcoming Junior-Senior banquet, which I had been looking forward to, especially because I had been invited even though I was just a sophomore. I found out later that the hair would be the least of my worries; it grew back, many times, and was shaved off again each time the doctors went to work on an area of my head. The surgeries went on for the next ten years.
At the age of fourteen the course of my life had completely changed.”
My father, Don Sherrel Castleman, was a good ‘ol boy from Oak Grove, Louisiana and he loved to talk and would spend hours with complete strangers while his family waited in the car. Thin and six feet tall he had a habit of putting one foot up on something like a car bumper or fence while he went on and on about who knows what. We were often bored and frustrated waiting for his conversations to finally draw to a close. Usually they ended with a promise to visit again for some project or another to “help” the new acquaintance. These free work projects annoyed my mom to no end.
Dad was a sort of “jack of all trades” and was really quite genius when it came to fixing things. In fact that was how he began with my mom. After meeting for the first time he returned to fix things around her house and his southern charm caught her Texan heart. He was in the Air Force at the time and stationed at McClellan Air Force base in Sacramento, California. My brother Mike never did really get along with him, but he was a loving father during our early years. Well, he was a bit mean with his belt, but usually it was just a threat because once we had felt the sting of it a threat was all it took to gain compliance!
Dad was also an alcoholic and I believe mom just drank to keep up with him as she did sober up when her health began to decline in later years. The excessive drinking would take a mighty toll on our family over the years and the first big impact happened around 1965 when I was 7 years old.
Dad had fixed up an old printer and was making a little money on the side doing small jobs for people. His regular job was with Sears as an appliance repair man and that plus his GI Bill benefits had secured a nice middle class three bedroom house for our family. But he didn’t really like working for Sears because they were always pushing him to sell service contracts, which he felt were not a fair deal for his customers so he didn’t sell them very often.
Somehow dad learned there was a print shop for sale in South Lake Tahoe so he convinced mom to rent out our home and we moved to Lake Tahoe to buy that print shop. One attraction of the offer was a contract to print Keno tickets for a casino and this turned out to be a real nightmare for them. It turned out that the old equipment could not possibly keep up with the demand so into debt they went for a fancy Heidelberg press that was incredibly complex and finicky. Mom operated the typesetting machine and my sister and I spent many hours underfoot and even staying late into the night as they worked to fill the orders.
They also bought a property that had three houses on it, two that were small rentals and the main house that was our place when we weren’t at the print shop. One of the tenants was an interesting odd couple in that she was a 6 ft tall Texan and he was a 5 foot tall Chinese man that worked as a cook at one of the casinos. They had terrible fights and she would chase him with a butcher knife as he ran for his life. The other rental had shorter term guests like visiting acts performing at the casinos. I remember one group of four young men that in hindsight sure seemed like the Beatles, and it was in 1966 that they had a concert in San Francisco, so maybe it was them trying to get away from all the publicity. I will probably never know, but it is fun to think maybe it was them!
My sister Leigh Ann shadowed me everywhere. One day I found a stack of boards outside the print shop and convinced her to try one as a slide, like at the playground. Trusting me she did it and a protruding nail ripped a terrible gash in her leg. Off to the emergency room we went and the wound required a lot of stitches plus she had to have a tetanus shot just in case. Health insurance wasn’t a thing at this time so that was yet another expense for my parents. Having kids underfoot as they tried to run the shop proved untenable so they tried a daycare thing that we absolutely hated. I led a jailbreak and mom found us wandering on a highway after the facility called her to report us missing.
One day Rummaging in a storage room I found some shotgun shells and used a nail and hammer to set one off. Fortunately I didn’t blow my hand off, but it sure did scare my mom and I didn’t do that again!
After a late night at the shop Mom was driving us home and was pulled over by the police. The officer suspected she had been drinking, which was of course true, but Mom told him that she had been painting at the print shop and that the fumes had made her dizzy. He let her go.
Our time in Tahoe was short, about a year or so. The business was failing and my parents decided to shut it down and declare bankruptcy. My mom has since told me that we were all packed up and ready to go back to Sacramento when at the last minute she decided to go with my dad to Seattle instead. She said that was the beginning of the death of our family. I think the death began when they moved to Tahoe and if we had stayed there on Cheltenham our lives would have been very different.
Our first house in Seattle was a real dump. The wood floor in my room had a hole in it so you could see the ground below. It was drafty and cold in a sketchy downtown neighborhood called Queen Anne. Fortunately we didn’t stay there long but the next house wasn’t a lot better. Our neighbors were the Mendenhall's whose kids were all grown and they were daily drinkers so of course my parents struck up a friendship right away.
Dad had gone back to work for Sears and mom went to work as a bookkeeper so our finances were improving. They got a charge account at Sears and bought a fancy Super 8 movie camera, projector and roll up movie screen so we have a lot of three minute movies without sound from those days. At some point I spliced many of them together to make 30 to 45 minute films and most of these have been converted to digital now.
For Christmas one year we got a shiny silver aluminum tree that came in a box with numbered branches to assemble. We got a lamp with a four color rotating lens to shine on it that fascinated me. I would stare at that tree for hours wondering what was in the packages my mom was piling below it.
By now I was in fourth grade and I really liked my teacher. I was good at reading and to impress her I started stealing “Little Big Books” from a local store. I could read one of those in a day or so but my first crime spree soon ended when the adults found out I wasn’t paying for the books.
Dad met another older couple on a service call that lived on some land between Bothell and Duvall. Ma and Pa Omley sold firewood so our first visit as a family was to buy a truckload. They became fast drinking friends and I loved the wilderness and ponds that surrounded their mobile home. They had a riding lawnmower that I loved to ride under the guise of mowing around their fish pond. They had guns and I learned how to shoot at bottles and cans. My dad enrolled me in an NRA course so I could learn gun safety and I soon had my very own .22 caliber rifle!
With both parents working they could afford a brand new house in a new sub division called Windsor Vista that was built in Kirkland. It was a two story three bedroom with fireplaces on both floors and a nice big unfinished yard. The lower floor was also unfinished so weekends were consumed by projects putting in landscaping, building an expanded rear deck and finishing the lower floor.
One of the big projects involved many trips to a quarry where we loaded up stones that dad then built into a wall and waterfall by the lower floor fireplace. I think the project was conceived after he came home with an old cement mixer that he fixed. Dad always had at least a couple of projects underway like this and they were always fueled with beer. Mom favored a drink called a “highball” which was whisky and water with ice in tall tumbler size glasses. Dad mostly drank beer, lots of beer. As long as he stuck to just beer he mostly just got silly until passing out on the couch. But when he added shot glasses of hard liquor he could become angry and unpleasant, often to extremes and do really embarrassing things.
For example dad had a habit of urinating just about anywhere, anytime. Since he drank so much beer this was frequent and he had very little discretion about where he chose to relieve himself. He had false teeth and would push them part way out of his mouth to get a reaction. At times he would make rude comments, especially about women and usually in front of their husbands. There might be a complete stranger that he would call a “fat old cow” just to get a reaction. One time he had done a service call at a black families impoverished home so he brought them mother and her kids home to have dinner and spend the night at our house. Mom was especially unhappy that he insisted on the black woman taking their bed for the night and complained bitterly about the curly hairs she found afterward. Dad would insist on mom making huge meals, sometimes including a barbecue, and he would invite people over to eat but then he would get too drunk, refuse to eat any of it and finally pass out on the couch.
There was an enigma too, dad was really friendly and people really liked him, at least until they had been through one of his drinking nights or even a weekend filled with some drunken adventure or another. Sometimes it would be a home improvement project for a new friend where he would instigate it and bring us along while the adults got drunk and did the thing. Sometimes we did dangerous things that I am surprised we survived.
At some point dad bought a boat. It was a 19 foot cabin cruiser with a 100hp outboard motor. We took several trips into Lake Union and Lake Washington, and even out into Puget Sound a couple of times. It was exciting and fun to drop carb traps on the way out, catch fish and dig for clams and oysters. When we got home there would be seafood feast of our catch. And of course the adults always got drunk.
My dad talked a neighbor family into going on a trip together in the San Juan Islands for a Fourth of July weekend. I sensed the neighbor was somewhat wary of the plan, but Jim and his wife Trudy agreed to bring their young daughter anyway. They had a really nice Chris Craft cabin cruiser that was a larger and had an inboard engine with a shaft driven prop. I think it was about 32 feet and it was really a beautiful boat.
So we set off into Puget Sound with these two boats loaded with picnic supplies and lots of beer and booze. A few hours later as we approached a place called Deception Pass we needed fuel and as we entered the marina seaweed got sucked into the outboard engine but by this time dad was pretty drunk and insisted on trying to keep going anyway and halfway through the pass the engine overheated and was ruined.
Having come so far already, with plenty of food and booze left, it was decided that our boat would be left at the marina and everyone boarded the big Chris Craft to continue to a small island where we planned to set off fireworks. As the day proceeded the adults got drunker and as we approached the destination island around sundown the depth finder was ignored and the Chris Craft ran aground on a rock, severely damaging the propeller and shaft.
The boat broken we dropped anchor and used an inflatable boat to row ashore so we could set off the fireworks and the drinking continued until everyone passed out. The next day we limped into the nearest marina, drive shaft rumbling menacingly. Upon arrival Trudy took her daughter and mom took Leigh Ann home via bus, ferry and taxi. I stayed behind with dad and the neighbor. It took a couple of days for parts to be secured and installed. All I remember is that they stayed drunk while we waited and I was bored.
Finally the Chris Craft was fitted with a new prop and drive shaft and we set off to retrieve the other boat at the marina by Deception Pass. The engine was blown so we rigged up a tow line and as the sun set we were on our way back to the Bellevue marina. By this point both dad and Jim were quite drunk so they turned the boat over to me and they passed out in the cabin below. Fortunately I had taken a navigation class so know how to read the buoy system and compass on the boat and managed to get us back despite the dark night. I was 12 or 13 years old at this time, so it was all just great adventure to me!
Our time at the house in Windsor Vista was pretty good. It was here that I met Ron Hausner. Their house was right behind ours so that the corners touched in a catty corner way. We became fast friends and spent many hours doing boy stuff around our neighborhood. One of our plans was to mark trees growing in a vacant field and try to sell them to our neighbors for landscaping. We never sold one, but it was a grand plan and we had fun dreaming about what we would could buy. We often had physical fights that were really wrestling matches because he was bigger than me and neither of us really wanted to hurt the other, we just liked to fight. One time we ran away from home together and set up our camp in the woods of a freeway median near our homes. We even took our guns with us but as darkness fell and it started get cold I realized I would miss one of my favorite TV programs, The Dick Van Dyke Show, so at my urging we abandoned our escape from parental authority and found the sheriff waiting for us at my house. Oh boy were we in trouble for taking those guns with us!
Ron's parents were strict German Catholics that had moved from Saskatchewan and his mom always reminded me of a wicked witch type of character. She was never nice and always seemed angry about everything. She worked at a restaurant in Bothell and his dad was manager of an auto body repair shop for a local Pontiac dealer. Ron had two sisters, one older and one younger and he was always really proud of his whole family. The part of their house we would call a living room was called the Front room and with plastic covered furniture and highly styled fixtures was more for looking at than using. Ron shared a bedroom with an older brother that I always felt was a little weird as he was obsessed with baseball and was never very friendly to me. The older sister was equally obsessed with her dogs, German Shepard's and a mix of some sort, and I remember she was always really nice to me. The younger sister was deemed the family beauty and treated as such by all. I just remember she would follow us around a lot and Ron was often assigned responsibility for her. Every Saturday was the big shopping day and the whole family would go, no guests allowed.
The Cole sisters were all really pretty and part of the neighborhood gang and they lived just a few houses away on the same street as we did. Sydney was the oldest, Cheryl was my age and Susan was the youngest. I was fond of all of them but especially Cheryl. She was the childhood sweetheart I could only dream of. She had soft brown hair cut medium with an inward curl at the ends and bangs on her forehead. When I look at those old pictures I still think she was so pretty it almost hurts in my chest to look at her and feel the denial. When I tried to kiss her she refused me and made it clear she was NOT interested. Still we were all good friends and they would all come over to spend time in our basement playing games and listening to music. One night we put on a "dance party" and I have a very fond memory of slow dancing with Cheryl to Crimson and Clover played by Tommy James and the Shondells on a record player with our waterfall going and the place dimly lit by white Christmas lights we had strung up for the occasion.
I got a paper route delivering the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in the early morning before school. I used my bike and had a canvas bag that draped over my shoulders with pockets front and rear. There was one house along the way that had a great apple tree and I loved the cold crisp sensation when I picked one and took a bite. I saved my money and when I had about $40 convinced my mom to cover the rest to get a brand new Raleigh Chopper 5 Speed stingray style bike that cost $85 and was super cool but not so great for the paper route. My old Schwinn was actually easier to ride with the paper bags on, so that old workhorse stayed around a long time.
I learned how to drive in my dads old pickup truck. I think it was a 1951 Ford and it had a 6 cylinder engine with a 4 speed transmission. To get the motor started there was a foot activated starter pedal that mechanically engaged the starter motor and a hand pull choke knob. There was a sequence to get it going; pump the gas pedal a few times, pull the choke all the way out, make sure it was in neutral, then stomp on that starter. It was next to the gas pedal so if it didn’t catch right away you could pump some more gas with your heal. When the engine started to run then you would carefully push the choke in as it came to life until the engine was warm enough to idle smoothly. If it was especially cold the choke might be left pulled out a little but would need to be pushed in all the way soon to tame the racing engine.
There was a big giant steering wheel and you had to pump the brakes to build up enough hydraulic pressure to stop. The turn signals had been added on and clamped to the steering column. On the passenger side there was a steel box with a fan and water coil for heat when the engine warmed up. Often the box needed to be kicked to get the fan going, and the holes in the floor made it fairly useless anyway. The levers to open the door often slipped or fell off and it had manual roll up windows with wing vents that opened all the way to direct air into the cab on summer days. That truck was a brute and with sideboards installed we could haul a full cord of split wood in one trip. That was how I earned Christmas money one year. Dad had found a source for split wood at $15 per cord and we sold it delivered for $35 to $65 depending on what we negotiated. Kicked off in the driveway was one price, stacked neatly somewhere was another price and of course how much beer the customer provided seemed to always be part of the negotiation. My dad liked to talk, wheel and deal, and drink beer so I loaded, unloaded and stacked a lot of split wood that winter!
But I got to drive that old truck, I didn’t mind the work, and I loved being with my dad so it is a fond memory that has held the lasting value of a strong work ethic. There is still something very attractive to me about working outside on a cool wet day cutting firewood. I loved the smells, the feelings and the sense of accomplishment. During this time of my life the Vietnam war was on TV every day, along with the Partridge Family and Dick Van Dyke, hippies invented flower power, Sly and the Family Stone, Creedance Clearwater and Tommy James and the Shondells competed with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn and Willy Nelson for our attention. It was also the final days of the family life for us as Ma and Pa Omley became our best friends and role model for my dad.
In the summer of 1970 I turned 12 and we bought a brand new car, the Ford Maverick for $1,995. It was stylish and simple with a 3 speed manual transmission and no frills, but it was new so the family was doing pretty good by this time and I had been going to school with the same kids for a couple of years. There was a neighborhood bully that enjoyed waiting for me to come off the bus after school and I just never had the courage to fight him. I was so ashamed when he slapped me around I begged him to stop and went home crying. The year before in the 5th grade I also was bullied at school by a crowd of kids that was lead by a black girl. One day the crowd followed me out to the baseball field and interfered with the game so much that all of my teammates also turned on me and told me to leave. This disaster was only relieved after I fled to the school principals office in tears. I hated to be a snitch, but I was out of options and had to do it.
The visits out to the Omley's place had become frequent. So had the drinking and my parents decided to imitate the old couple and bought a piece of raw land on a hillside on a remote country road between Duvall and Woodinville, next door to a dairy farm. It was exciting and raw living for sure as we hired a bulldozer to level off a place for our second hand mobile home and to build a dam to make a pond, just like the Omley's had. One drunken day dad rolled the old truck when he went off the driveway and I will never forget the panic that turned to hysterical laughter as he poked his head through the passenger window that was now facing the sky.
I finished the 6th grade and most of my classmates were scheduled to attend a new junior high school that wasn't ready so we had a few months at Bothell High School before being bussed out to Leota JHS in Woodinville. I did graduate from 7th grade with Ron and the Cole sisters and a few other friends, but that summer we left the nice 2 story home in a good Kirkland neighborhood, Windsor Vista, to live at the property in Duvall like the Omley's. I began 8th grade at Tolt HS in Carnation which is where I met Donna Avery who I considered my first real girlfriend.
Donna's family were devoted LDS members and I visited their home often for a time. I remember being so frustrated with her little sister Paula following us around all of the time but I was crazy about Donna so it didn't stop me! Her older brother Lloyd reminded me of Cat Stevens because he had a dark beard and long hair.
The Omley's son Lynn was an outlaw biker type that had such a charismatic personality that everyone really liked him despite his ongoing criminal activities. I was especially fond of him and at some point he brought a modified Moto Guzi motorcycle out to our place in Duvall and made some kind of a deal for me to have it. He had installed a straight pipe in place of the muffler so it was incredibly loud and I had a lot of fun riding the old logging roads around our property. One day I was riding it on a dirt road between cow pastures at top speed and didn't see a strand of barbed wire stretched across the road as a control gate for moving cows around.
The wire hit my chest and fortunately unhooked and became entangled in the back wheel so that when I went down it just ripped a gash across my chest instead of decapitating me. Alone in the middle of nowhere I had no choice but to untangle the wire and ride that motorcycle to the only place I could think of to get help, which was a friends house in Carnation, about 13 miles away! Judy's mom stitched up a cut in my scalp and they wrapped gauze around my chest wounds. Later on xray's determined I had also cracked a couple of ribs but I was young so I rode that motorcycle back home the same day.
One night around Christmas the neighbors had a party and my dad got so drunk they had to carry him home. I remember him crawling around the house breaking things and this event was the end of my mom's patience. I don't remember the exact sequence, but I know she committed herself to a treatment center called Olalla and it was during this time that my sister was sent to live with my dad's family in Oak Grove Louisiana. I remember a cold month living mostly alone at the Duvall trailer and then several weeks at the Fall City Outdoor Theater. At the time they had a summer program for teenage boys to stay in tents and work on the facility during the day. The first weeks were good, I made a couple of new friends and I was feeling pretty good about myself. Fall City was the closest town and it was over 3 miles each way so we stayed in camp most of the time.
Then one day a fellow I knew named Steve from Tolt High School arrived in his 57 Chevy Bel Air and we were all excited to now have a ride into town to do teenage boy stuff. One night we brought some beer back to camp and I got drunk. I made a real ass of myself on the phone to Steve's girlfriend and blacked out. The next day all the boys hated me to the point of physically ejecting me from the work group and the staff told me I had to leave the camp. I was crushed and hated Steve for bringing that car and believed for years that he had taken away my friends. I now know that it was my own drunken behavior that cost me those friends and Steve was just another victim of my blame game.
When mom got out of the treatment center we got an apartment in Kirkland. They let me enroll in Juanita High School to finish the 8th grade and I loved it because it was a new type of school with very few teachers and a "self study" program that didn't require attendance at any particular classroom. Soon I was selling drugs in the schoolyard and the only time I went inside was to listen to music at one of the "study" desks.
Mom started attending AA meetings, and dad even went to one or two of them. I was sent to attend the Alateen meeting and there met a really cute girl named Laurie. There was a big Alateen conference in Canada and we road together with a group in a car. On the drive Laurie and I got to know each other and a romance was budding. When we arrived in Canada our prearranged lodging was with some young men that had an apartment and there was a large number of kids from other Alateen groups there too. Soon there was a stack of cases of beer and everyone proceeded to get very drunk. Late into the night Laurie and I tucked in to a sleeping bag but I was too drunk, and nervous, to have sex with her. She left and joined the adults in the kitchen playing cards and I went outside to cry. She spent the night in one of the bedrooms with one of the adult men and we rode home in uncomfortable silence. I never attended another Alateen meeting.
There was a really pretty blond girl named Chris living in the complex that I grew friendly with too. At Juanita High I had become good friends with an older boy also named Chris. Soon after I introduced them she cut me off and they became a couple. I was a little hurt, but they were both my friends so I accepted it and let it go. Soon after Chris joined the Navy and I never heard much from either of them again. There was also a group home for troubled teens nearby and I became friendly with a resident that was black. We played basketball a bit and enjoyed hanging out together, but I forget his name now and we lost touch when we moved to Redmond.
One day mom came home to our apartment with one of the characters she had met at Olalla, a rotund fat man named "Red" and they had been out drinking together. Red tossed me the keys to his big red Caprice convertible and gave me a six pack of beer to get rid of me. I happily drove directly to Donna's house and begged her to go driving with me. Her dad intervened and told me to leave. I angrily sped away down the gravel road and crashed through about 100 feet of barbed wire fence that belonged to their neighbor. I think I ran out of gas on the freeway and vaguely recall police impounding the car before taking me home. Red was really mad and so he took that ford maverick which was found months later in Baltimore!
Mom and I moved again, this time to an apartment in Redmond where I soon got busted for breaking into the neighbors apartment and stealing a bunch of stuff. Exasperated by it all mom decided to move us back to Sacramento and she borrowed some money from my brother Mike to rent an apartment on Hurley Way in a complex called Hurley Villa. I was enrolled in Encina High School but really didn't go to many classes. I was more interested in finding the "cool" kids that drank and used drugs and we just hung out in the parking lot. Amazingly at that time the adults turned away from all this activity going on right there in plain view.
At Hurley Villa I met two young men from Michigan that were here to attend the Glen Fishback school of photography, Clay Tinham and Wally Candler. I guess they were around 19 or 20 years old and they were also very into Tennis. They invited me up to their apartment and we became friends over shared interests in Chess and smoking pot. Soon they were providing me pot to sell at school which went well for a time and made me fairly popular among the "cool" kids. That is until one day the vice principal busted me which ended that friendship and sent me to a "continuation" high school.
By around 1973 my dad and sister had rejoined us in Sacramento. Dad wasn't actually living with us, but he was around. He used his GI Bill to help mom buy our house on Laredo Rd. I helped pick it out because it had a little hobby room that was separate from the main house so that became my room. It had power but no plumbing so I used the bathrooms in the house. I only lived there a few months before a jailing for public intoxication compelled me to join the Army. While I was gone to the army dad added plumbing and converted it into a full service apartment, which mom rented out and that revenue paid the mortgage on that house!
Keith Stuart lived in the house next door. He was the son of Sandy from a prior marriage and now his step dad was a friendly bartender named Joe. They were both employed and kept their house really nice. Joe was always working on it in some way or another and Sandy kept it very clean. Keith was my age and we became friends pretty quickly. Keith had longish red hair and a very good physique. He ironed his clothes and fancied himself a "ladies man". Keith also had a lot of black friends and styled his speech and music preference to be as much like them as he could. Keith was proud of his ability to steal and had a regular habit of breaking into the house across the street to steal weed from "Denny". One day Denny had pretended to leave and was waiting in his house when Keith broke in and I'll never forget seeing him chasing Keith out the front door trying to catch him. Keith was fast and got away but Denny made it clear this would be the last time for this to happen!
Keith and I became pretty good friends because when he was with me he was white, but when he was around his black friends he changed completely and acted more like them. I should say "ghetto blacks" because these were men from Del Paso Heights, Oak Park, Lemon Hill and South Sacramento. These are the "hoods" of Sacramento where most white people don't go, especially after dark. After we became adults the allure dissipated and Keith gradually dropped the affectations of black culture, though he did get more into hard drugs than I did and he became a meth addict. His tragic life ended in Arizona when he accidentally shot himself with a rifle in his mouth. There will be more about how he came to be in Arizona later in my story.
Around this time Lynn Omley moved here from New York and he brought his girlfriend, Joy, with him. The plan was that he and my dad would start an appliance repair business named C&O Appliance and I could help out. They rented a space in downtown Sacramento on "S" street that had an apartment upstairs for Lynn and Joy and their big Bull Mastiff, "Duke". One of the first "service calls" we went on was to look at a dryer that was making noise. I remember taking it all apart and we told the owner we had to get parts and would be back when we had them. Lynn noticed a 5 gallon water bottle full of change and he brought me back later to steal it when they were not at home!
The appliance business venture soon failed due to constant drunkenness and dishonest activity. By this time I was completely out of control. I gave up school entirely devoting myself to running around with Lynn and I had an affair with Joy while he was gone on drug business to New York. When he found out about the affair that was the end for us and I was on my own drinking and living at the river in an old Ford van. There was a grocery store nearby that sold a gallon bottle of red wine for a couple of dollars so I would panhandle enough for a gallon and spend the day drinking at the river with all the other vagrants.
One summer day City police caught me panhandling and I was jailed for public intoxication. Because I was a minor my dad had to get me out of the Sacramento City jail. He and Mom were fed up with me by this time and we decided something had to change. I agreed that I would join the US Army and dad took me to the library and we checked out a crash course on how to pass the entrance exam. I not only passed the exam but scored high enough that they offered me my choice of Advanced Training if I signed up for 4 years. I logged one more good drunk and begged money from passing drivers with the claim that I needed it for bus fare to Oakland to turn my self in to the processing station. It worked and I got blackout drunk, but I did finally make it to the Oakland processing station where my life completely changed in short order. The sergeants there were very different from the nice recruiters, these fellows were damned serious and clearly hated us long hair smart ass recruits. They were mean to us! What a wake up this was for the drunken spoiled young punk I was!
At first, I did really well in the Army. With the help of my dad I chose my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to be Heating and Cooling Systems Specialist (51L20) as my job. Basic training sobered me up and the physical demands of training helped make me more healthy in general. I did well in AIT also, graduating at the top of the class. While in school I did get an Article 15 for having some weed that had been given to me in DC by a homosexual that picked me up on the street in front of a strip club, and it didn't take long for my drinking habit to affect my military life also. Drinking is actually promoted in the Army and 3.2% ABV beer is available at post stores for anyone to buy, no matter what age they are.
After the AIT at Ft Belvoir, VA, my permanent duty station was at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During the 2 week intake period at Ft. Carson I got notice that due to my high score in school I had been promoted from E-1 to E-3, which was a rare achievement in such a short time. Then I learned that due to that and my entrance exam score I was eligible be assigned to the elite Army Security Agency unit. I would need a "Secret" clearance and I had to pass an accelerated GED course, which I did pretty easily. All of this really made me feel like a big shot and soon I wanted to live off post in a rented house so I would have a place to party and take women I picked up in bars. I had a pretty cool 1958 Ford pickup truck that I drove from California, but I wanted a luxury car for driving around to find women so I went into debt to buy a very nice Buick Century. I really wanted a Riviera but couldn't qualify so I settled for the Century. I drank every night and often went to a few bars looking for easy women. Soon I had a DUI in Denver. I picked up one girl that didn't give in right away so I visited her apartment a few times until I finally got what I wanted. I promptly broke up with her so two of her neighbors got mad and came after me to beat me up. After a high speed chase by those guys around Colorado Springs with me in that Buick I managed to get away, but destroyed the transmission in the process.
All this high living was expensive, so I decided to get back into the drug selling business. I got in touch with Lynn and he agreed to airmail me something when I had a buyer. I went in search of a customer and met a stranger at a bar that was interested in doing a deal. The stranger was an undercover CID agent and I got busted, on post, doing my very first deal. I was caught trying to sell 5000 hits of speed and a pound and a half of magic mushrooms to an undercover CID agent. Clearly I am not very good at this! In my alcoholic haze all I could see was a way to get money to keep my chosen lifestyle going.
Initially, I was up for something like 25 years in prison. However, upon analysis, it was found that the speed was actually ephedrine, a non-controlled substance at the time, and the mushrooms had thawed and become brown vegetable matter. I was convicted for "Attempt" and sent to Leavenworth for 3 months, and given a Bad Conduct discharge. When released from prison in 1978 I was 19, three days from my 20th birthday.
Returning to Sacramento, and not welcome to live with Mom anymore, I survived the best I could. Drug dealing was no longer an option, so I went into business as a junk dealer. I met my first wife at the place I was peddling junk. She was a 14 year old run away named Sally. I took her in to be my "housekeeper", which lasted about a day before I was sleeping with her. Sally really did love me and she stood by me loyally for years. I repaid her love with drunkenness and cruelty. I did manage to convince her to go home and to finish high school, but this was more for my own selfish desire to be free to do whatever I wanted than anything else. Over the following couple of years Sally would ride the bus from Rancho Cordova to North Highlands where she would wait at my apartment until I came home from work. We would have dinner and sex and then I would take her back home to Rancho Cordova where she was living with her parents and finishing her school years. I guess I was trying to be decent on some level, and she did graduate high school, but I was still deep into my alcoholism and behaving very selfishly trying to be a big shot.
My dad had done some work for a man named Chuck DeLaney and Chuck owned a used furniture and appliance business with locations in Del Paso Heights in North Sacramento, North Highlands near McClellan Air Force Base and on Franklin Blvd in South Sacramento. His devoted and very pretty wife Mary helped out at the front of the stores and together they had a large Catholic family of several girls and one boy that were all young and went to private Catholic school. Chuck was a big tall loud man with poor English, a big winning smile and a curiously charismatic way about him. It was like you always knew he was somehow taking advantage of you, but nevertheless everyone would make the deal with him anyway.
The business was called CJ's and this was at a time when it was very hard for low income people to get credit and even if they could it would be at exorbitant interest rates so one of the keys to the success of CJ's was that they would give anyone with an address a "Rent-To-Own" option on the all of the second hand stuff they sold. It was a bit of a scam in that it only applied to the "purchase" price, which was inflated far above what you could get it for if you just paid cash. If you could pay in full on the spot the price could be negotiated down significantly, sometimes as much as half the sticker price. But it was very attractive because the customer only had to pay the required delivery fee, so the address would be confirmed for repossession in the event they didn't pay, and $5 to $15 monthly "rent" for each thing they wanted. Often a family would get furniture, appliances and a TV so their monthly rent could be $100 or more, which was still pretty affordable if all you had was the monthly welfare check from the State. They could come in anytime and pay off the inflated price and the rent paid to that point would be applied. Poor people fell for the low monthly payment and Mary kept account books on her desk for the daily calls to those who were delinquent. This was the first of three keys that made Chuck's business very profitable, enough so that his large family always lived very well in nice neighborhoods.
At the time the Salvation Army had a fleet of big trucks that would go around everyday picking up appliances. furniture, TV's and other household goods that people would donate to help the poor. The Salvation Army had stores where they sold some of the best things, that didn't require much cleaning or service, and daily auctions of the most of the prior day's bounty and it often filled a large warehouse. Chuck called this "Sally's" and he had a special relationship with the leadership so that he was able to buy most of the donations at rock bottom prices. Every day at least one truckload would arrive for processing and some days it would take two or three loads to get it all. Reflecting back on this I now realize it was also a great recycling business because a lot of stuff that now goes to the dump was used long after the first buyer disposed of it. Almost all of these products were made in USA so the quality made them last much longer than the cheap imported goods we have now. This was the second key to CJ's success, a cheap supply of goods.
Chuck had several people working for him cleaning and fixing furniture, TV's and appliances and even had a mattress sterilization shop so he could sell used beds too. Most of these people were paid what Chuck called "piece work" which was paid for each item that was brought to a salable condition and put on the sales floor. For the TV guy I think was $5 for black and white and $10 for color TV's. The furniture guy would re-upholster a couch for $25 to $50 with Chuck providing the workspace and materials. I went to work there fixing washers and dryers for $5 each and refrigerators for $15 each. The truck drivers and cleaning people were on salary, around $150 per week each. No one had health insurance, sick pay or paid vacation and those on piece work were paid as 1099 "contract" workers so no taxes were taken out. It was hard, dirty work in dangerous conditions with the bare minimum of parts and supplies.
When a fresh load of appliances came in it was unloaded onto the outside area beside the building before individual units would be brought in for service. Some never made it inside and were either stripped for useful parts and then picked up by the scrap collector or possibly stored for a time while the good parts were gradually pulled from them. Part of this process involved running an extension cord out to refrigerators to plug them in and just check to see if the compressor ran and if the system was holding the refrigerant charge. Chuck always had a couple of "security" dogs that were left inside the building at night and there was one Doberman that I had become especially friendly with. That dog would follow me around all day as I worked on stuff and one rainy day was standing next to me when I opened the door of a refrigerator that was plugged in and standing in a puddle of water. It had a short and I got a powerful jolt that caused me to swing the door open hard as I let go. The door hit the dog in just such a way that her front legs were on each side of it and she was hit hard with electricity until I was able to unplug it from the extension cord. From that day forward that dog never liked me again and was even a bit hostile towards me!
Chuck had an older son named Grant from a previous marriage and he had came from Ohio to work for his dad. He had long dark hair worn in a ponytail, a dark beard, tattoos and wore glasses with blue colored lens. He had a somewhat gentle way about his demeanor, but at the same time you could tell this was not someone you really wanted to tangle with. He had married a very pretty wholesome girl that kept their home super clean and nice. She was somewhat high maintenance and was often unhappy with him for coming home late. Their marriage always seemed like a mismatch to me, but then so was Chuck and Mary. Both women were like angels married to devils.
Grant and I became friends and drinking buddies right away. Nearly every night we would go to a local bar after work to shoot pool and drink. Grant was on salary and had multiple roles that included sales, repairing appliances and sometimes delivery. He was also in charge of collections and there were many nights I would go with him after work to collect past due payments or repossess the appliances or furniture. These repossessions were almost always from very dysfunctional homes that were usually disgustingly filthy and unhealthy. It was always better to get some money instead because the goods were usually beyond reconditioning so we often settled for whatever we could get. Only in the most extreme cases did we actually load up stuff and take it away, and then only if they were especially rude or uncooperative. Our friendship endured for several years and for a time I worked for him at his own store in North Highlands. Grant fell victim to meth addiction and after a time was in such bad shape financially that he had to sell that store.
The buyer was my neighbor Joe Forsha who was also alcoholic. Joe had for years worked as a bartender at the then upscale Buggy Whip Restaurant and Bar followed by a stint at the Golden Tee, another higher end watering hole for golfers near the Haggin Oaks Golf Course. I do regret my role in helping this transaction to occur as it turned out Joe was too far into his illness to handle the business and this probably accelerated the loss of their home to bankruptcy. To be fair, none of the local bars would hire him due to his problem drinking so the process was already well underway and I was just trying to provide a way out of the inevitable while helping two friends.
Sally and I ended up married after a couple years, and even had a baby, her name is Suzette Marie. I had a decent job by this time and had settled down some. But my drinking continued, and I abused her badly. Not so much physically, but emotionally. After Suzy was born we began to grow distant from each other and she started spending time at the house next door. It was there that she began an affair with John Vaca who was a friend of the owners son. One day I found her soiled panties and knew I had lost her to the other man. I told her to get out and go back to her parents in Rancho Cordova. Suzy was two years old when we separated and I did not see either of them again for 17 years. When Suzy and I did finally reunite we tried to form a relationship for a couple of years, but it has not worked out and we remain only facebook friends as I write this. She married and had two kids that I have had almost no contact with.
After losing Sally I was so depressed I drank more trying to escape the misery and shame. I had a little repair business going but wasted the opportunity. I bought and nearly sank a cute little wooden boat in Folsom Lake. I got more DUIs, and was facing more jail time. I got in touch with Lynn who arranged a fake ID for me and I left Sacramento to return to Seattle. Surely that would solve my problems! When I got to Seattle I looked up my old friend Ron and learned he had married my former girlfriend Donna and they had four kids. One day we went to the lake and rented boats, one for me and my beer and the other for them. Donna refused to let any of the kids go with me and sure enough I flipped the boat and nearly drowned.
I also got in touch with my childhood dream girlfriend Cheryl Cole. She had joined a Christian church and encouraged me to join also. I did and was baptized into the "Born Again" Christian faith. It was here that I met my second wife, Wendy. She was a very pretty single mom with no money and a broke down Plymouth. Perfect for me. I decided to return to Sacramento and face the charges that were pending there. I was given a sentence for jail time but qualified for work release, a program that would allow me to leave a secure facility daily to go to work. One condition was that I not drink at all and of course a couple of weeks in I came back with alcohol on breath and they terminated that deal. I finished my jail time in at the County jail facility in Elk Grove. One good thing that came out of that was that I had time to read the bible from front to back, so there is that. Soon after, Wendy and her daughter Angel joined me in Sacramento and we were married.
I started my own business selling used appliances and we joined a "Brethren" church. This was unique in the communion included foot washing, just like Jesus did for his disciples. In November of 1984 my daughter, Melissa was born. Things were going pretty good, except I still wanted to be able to have a few beers, daily. Leaving the bar next door to my shop one night I was pulled over and arrested for my 5th DUI in California. This meant a mandatory year in jail. I decided to run again. This time to Phoenix Arizona.
In Arizona my drinking escalated and I quit attending church. Wendy and the kids kept going anyway. By our second year in Arizona I had gone to work doing home service calls and was making enough to rent a decent house in West Phoenix. I didn't have a driver's license so I drove my own truck and worked as a sub-contractor being paid a commission on the service calls. My first few days I rode with one of the existing guys named Larry. Later we became good friends and he showed me how they did things a bit different than I was used to. The first stop was on a washing machine that wasn't getting hot water. Well the screen on the inlet valve was clogged with sediment so I would have just removed it and cleaned it to resolve the issue for about $35, but that wasn't the way with this company. Larry sold them a new inlet valve and two new hoses for a total of around $165. The wholesale cost for the parts was around $20 so Larry and the company split the $145 profit. I was shocked and offended! At the end of the day the Jimmy, the owner, asked me if wanted to make money or make friends. I had brought my family from Sacramento, had no drivers license and decided I wanted to make money.
The game at the time was to buy half page ads in the yellow pages which made the company seem legitimate. I soon learned Jimmy wasn't the only one doing this, there were several others and what I perceived to be overcharging was actually quite normal. One company even had a "rate book" with all of the various repairs listed along with two tier pricing printed in binders. This way the technician could show the customer the "regular" price and give them the "discounted" price if they pressed. I actually became quite good at this game because I am very talented about fixing things so could speak with confidence about solving their problem.
This amounted to a very good income and was able to provide a nice home for my family. My childhood friend Keith Stuart contacted me from Sacramento and the meth habit had really brought him down. He was desperate to start over and would I take him in to help out. I agreed with the condition that he had to stay off the meth and sent him a plane ticket. We set up a bed in the den and Keith spent the first week sleeping and eating. When he was doing better I took him to work with me for a while and soon we bought an old pickup truck for him to use so he could start doing calls on his own. He got better and soon had a new girlfriend. I had a new Dakota truck by this time and when I left town one time Keith "borrowed" it without my permission. This was my first clue that he had resumed some of his old habits and sure enough it wasn't long until I found out he was using meth again. I kicked him out of my life and he went to live with his girlfriend. A few weeks later she called his mother, Sandy, and then Sandy called me with the bad news. Keith had accidentally killed himself when he put the barrel of a .22 caliber rifle in his mouth during an argument with the girl. Meth is such a terrible drug, not many ever make it back once they have gone down that road.
By 1987 we had moved to a nicer house in East Mesa that we had a lease purchase on so we would eventually be able to own it. Despite no driver's license we managed to buy a couple of new cars on credit using Wendy's name. The house had 4 bedrooms so each kid had their own room and I put up a swimming pool in the backyard. One of my customers was a small private school and I made a deal to trade tuition for an A/C unit so the the kids were enrolled there. In may ways we were having a good life, but I was also a drunken slob most of the time. I was abusive to everyone. I was miserable even though I had it all. Wendy was a loving loyal wife and fantastic mom to the kids. We lived in a good neighborhood in a nice house and had everything anyone could rightfully want to be happy. Still, I was relieved when they would go to church and I stayed home to get drunk and watch football on TV, alone in my sunken living room on my expensive furniture.
On New Years eve, 1989, I called an my old friend Ron in Seattle. He told me that Donna and he had separated and suggested I give her a call in Utah. He gave me her phone number so I did, and this began a series of calls that eventually led to a meeting in Las Vegas in early 1990.
I restrained my drinking that weekend, and fell in love with her again. I saw the lie I was living with my wife Wendy. I decided that what I needed was to divorce my wife and marry Donna. Once again I thought all I needed was the right woman to fix the broken man inside me.
However, the reason her marriage had come apart was drug and alcohol abuse. I knew that I would need to quit drinking if I wanted to marry her.
I tried to stop, but kept finding myself drunk. I looked in the yellow pages and called around to the various treatment centers until I found one that would work with me on my terms. I attended group therapy 4 nights per week and graduated the program. I was told that I would need to go to A.A. meetings or I would most likely drink again. I didn't believe that applied to me, maybe it applied to those other people, but not me.
I lasted about three months. Then life got real, Donna disappeared in Seattle for about a month with very little contact. I went crazy wondering what was up. I had no tools for dealing with that so, I drank again. I continued drinking and it got way worse. I drank to overcome depression, and got more depressed. I drank to overcome anger, and got more angry. Alcohol had quit working for me at all. It just made everything worse.
During this period, I moved to Utah and lived in a twenty one foot travel trailer. I left my kids in Phoenix. I managed to pick up another DUI, this made seven. Things weren't working out with Donna, so I moved back to Phoenix. I married a girl from the office. We were married about a week when one night the bedside phone rang. It was Donna and then the craziness really gathered steam. I told Suzy it had been a mistake to marry and at first she resisted but after I talked to her best friend she understood and demanded that I move out. We got divorced right away, and I went to stay with a friend from work named Tom. His family soon got tired of my drunken behavior and demanded that I go.
I got together with another friend named Dwight and we managed to rent a house in Mesa, AZ. On my birthday, August 4, 1991, I invited my neighbors out for a drink at a local bar. A few hours later I had convinced them to go to Mexico with me. On three separate occasions that weekend I had contact with the police. Amazingly, they didn't arrest me. When we got back from Mexico, I was convinced I had "Valley Fever", a local illness. What I had was a really bad hangover. I treated it with NyQuil cold medicine and wine and stayed drunk for a few more days so that was an 8 day run.
That turned out to be my last drunk. On August 13th, 1991 I started to attend A.A. meetings daily, sometimes many times in a day. I got a sponsor and worked the steps. I got involved in service, cleaning the meeting hall, making coffee, serving on the monthly speaker meeting committee, joined a home group and went to lots of meetings.
I didn't marry Donna. As a matter of fact, Donna joined us in November of 1991 and has been sober since. I did not marry anybody, get any DUIs, be arrested or suffered a hangover for a long time!
I met my next girlfriend, Faye Pearl, at an AA party held at my friend Ron's house in the summer of 1997. Ron had inherited a lot of money after his alcoholic parents died and we became friends in AA. His large house is on a golf course in a nice East Mesa neighborhood and he had a lot of stuff. He drove high powered cars like a BMW M4 that he traded in on an Acura NSX. He had a custom hot-rod built in the style of a Model T, a custom Jet boat that he towed with a Chevy Suburban to Lake Powell where he had a houseboat that we took out several times. Ron even had a "ski in - ski out" condo at Purgatory snow ski resort where I learned to ski. I learned a very powerful lesson about wealth from Ron as he was always nervous about our friendship and wondered if I was only his friend for those things. The truth is that while I did enjoy those things, it was Ron I liked and respected, regardless of the tings. I even came to resent the things a bit because he was always so paranoid about this. I can now see clearly how hard it was on him to ever know who was truly his friend or not. We organized an annual weekend AA event help at Apache Lake called "Trail to Serenity" that became very well attended and continues to this day.
Faye was an exotic Mexican woman about my age that had a small business doing translation and interpretation from English to Spanish. She was also a disciple of "Osho", otherwise known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was an "Indian spiritual leader who preached an eclectic doctrine of Eastern mysticism, individual devotion, and sexual freedom." Faye had come to AA because she liked to get drunk and had a host of mental "issues" as she put it. I was attracted to her and we started dating right away. It is interesting that for all of her past sexual freedom we never really clicked in that area, but we held on for years anyway as I tried to "help" her. God knows she needed a LOT of help.
The next chapter of my life began in early 1998. I was on-line researching a question about the use of LSD in the treatment of alcoholism. Bill Wilson and others had experimented with LSD through a California University. Bill even brought some home for his wife to try, and the last word I found on the topic was that his opinion was that while it was an effective tool, by itself it could not offer a long term solution for alcoholics.
This interested me as I had experimented with LSD and most other psychoactive substances in my earlier years. Further research led me to one report of a project in Russia using Ketamine to entice the "psychic change" many believe to be a key component of recovery from the insane state of mind that is required to maintain active alcoholism. Success rates reported were encouraging in the light of my experience with AA.
Curious, I followed links to topics that appeared, and soon found that certain cacti contained significant quantities of a natural, rather than synthetic, psychoactive substances. Initially, of particular interest to me was the San Pedro, trichocerrius pachanoi.
Since Arizona has lot's of cacti, I reasoned that this one must also be growing somewhere and determined to seek one out, in order to conduct some experimentation with it. (Remember, I have studied Emmet Fox, Carl Jung etc.)
This soon led me to discover the existence of The Peyote Foundation, in Kearny, about 60 miles from my home. I sent an e-mail to the founder, Leo Mercado, and he replied with an invitation to visit. Thus began a new spiritual journey that led me away from AA for over 20 years. Alcohol was no longer part of my life and I threw myself into the communal life that was going on at the Foundation.
In 1999 the world noticed a new vulnerability due to the pending date change from the prefix 19 to 20 and how computer system would be affected. It was called Y2K and it caused quite a stir. By this time the "psychic change" that started with the AA program and continued through my experiences with Peyote gave rise to an acute awareness of our unhealthy dependence on finite resources and widespread social denial of the symptoms and consequences that are the result. I took the vulnerability seriously and took action to prepare for great social disruption. There are those who say we overreacted, but I believe our reaction was appropriate given the potential impact that many perceived. This new awareness combined with the injustice of the raid on the Peyote Foundation initiated the next phase of my life which was primarily political action and consisted of multiple "projects" that came to me like a flood and consumed most of my time, attention and resources for the following decade.
After Y2K passed and the lights stayed on I began three Hemp related projects. Fuel and Fiber Company was a plan to process hemp biomass, Hemp US Flag produced 500 US Flags using hemp fabric and Arizona Industrial Hemp Council promoted AZ SB1519 to the Governors desk where it was vetoed on 4/20/2001.
I traveled to my home town, Sacramento, to visit my mom on the way to the Santa Cruz Hemp festival where I hoped to find some buyers for the flags. Mom was very sick, smoking 2 packs of Salem longs every day, and a parasite had moved in to help her order discount cartons from the reservation. I ran the parasite off and moved in to the apartment out front. It had been vacant and neglected for years so required a great deal of rebuilding but it was home for me and was able to watch after Mom and helped her quit smoking. She lived another 12 years and we helped each other a lot during this time.
In addition to the hemp projects I had a small website development company and published a few medical marijuana related books. None of these efforts made much money, but I was just trying anything to avoid going back into the HVAC business. I even tried growing cannabis and had some success with that, but not for long as I found the act of selling it to dispensaries difficult and humiliating, and of course I was really afraid of getting caught and going to jail so I gave that up after a couple of seasons! Here are the books, still available from Lulu: https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/mmapublishing
My final cannabis advocacy effort was to coordinate a petition drive that got picked up by a network of professional full time signature gatherers because it drew support from so many people that could then be convinced to sign other petitions. "The Tax, Regulate, and Control Cannabis Act of 2010" (California Cannabis Initiative, CCI) was filed and received by the Attorney General's Office July 15, 2010, assigned 09-0022 that would have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older and included provisions to decriminalize industrial hemp, retroactive expunging of criminal records and release of non violent cannabis prisoners. It did not make it onto the ballot.
In late 2009 I had a 9 week proton radiation treatment for prostate cancer and during this time I resolved to remove myself from the cannabis reform movement and sharpened a business plan I had begun for a bike business focused on bikes people could use to break their addiction to cars and trucks for trips under 10 miles from their homes.
In December of 2015 I met Wan Hong online and then we met in Shanghai for 10 days 2015-2016. We communicated regularly on Facetime and I made two more 10 day trips to China during 2016. On February 14, 2017 Hong and I were married in Sacramento and together we opened a new Practical Cycle store in Folsom. A year later the Old Sacramento location was closed due to revenue shortfall that couldn't cover the staff payroll. In September 2019 Hong returned to China to fulfill her employment obligation and retire from working in China.
Christmas of 2019 brought early news of what turned out to be the Covid19 Pandemic which trapped Hong in China for the next two years but we were able to communicate via Facetime and she returned in May of 2022. On September 1, 2022 I closed the showroom in Folsom leaving the Rentals and Service location in the capable hands of the manager, Eduardo. Now I am enjoying semi-retirement and using the time in part to work on this history.