It is pretty funny to me how many people I know have asked me not to use their last name in my blog and in the case my therapist, I will just call him Doctor Do the Right Thing.
Dr. Do the Right Thing is a very stoic gentleman. He is a no nonsense kind of guy. Older, not old. When you walk into his office it is adorned with masks he has collected from all over Africa. The masks have a huge psychological effect on me, but that’s another story.
My early memories start around the corner of Ashby and Sacramento. This area comes to mind for a few reasons. One is that this is where the cops gunned down Floyd Blacksheir, an extended part of my street family. I remember him mostly because we went down to identify the body. I stayed in the hallway of the Oakland Morgue but my Mom gave me a graphic enough picture of him laid out on the table riddled with bullets.
The other is the Northwest corner of Ashby and Sacramento. This was three city blocks of full on ghetto life circa 1975. There were pool-halls, barbershops and at least five liquor stores inside of this three block area. This place filled me with fear. Drunks, junkies, loud-ass hookers and I grew to know this place as home.
We lived on Woolsey. My mom had to be nineteen and my uncle fifteen. They were kids and I was a baby, the same age as my son, three years old. I remember my uncle like it was yesterday with his long black hair, wifebeater T-shirt, polyester pants and platform boots. He drove a lowered step-side Chevy truck with costume flames on the sides. My mom was half his size and she wore one of those fur jackets that looked like she killed a litter of rabbits and sewed them together.
I remember seeing my uncle use his gun on a man in our studio apartment. The way that gun echoed in the small apartment made an imprint on my mind that left me sensitive to the sound of gunplay today.
I remember being wrapped in a blanket in the middle of the night by my uncle. I remember feeling momentary comfort in his arms as we ran down to the street where I saw my mom and her friends, two young prostitutes, standing in a phone booth. It was the middle of the night and my grandmother showed up to get me. Why? I don’t know.
I remember when my mom would leave the house. It was like a game. I would say, “Where you going?” and she would say, “To see a man about a horse.” I would say, “Get me a pony,” and she would laugh. Horse is seventies slang for heroin.
The city of Berkeley bulldozed that whole area near the corner of Sacramento and Ashby, did their best to wipe it off the face of the earth. But it is still there, seared into my mind. I know the ghosts, I hear their violence in their silence. All that is left of them is a row of low income housing, a couple of liquor stores and the B.A.T.S methadone clinic. Now there’s the Biofuel Oasis.
So why write this shit down? What is the point? I have a son who never has to know my demons first hand. My wife and I lie in bed with him sometimes just holding him and loving him. We believe as a family that love is an action that you show each other by touch. I also believe that this is the action of safety, a safety that I seldom knew as a child. A safety that can carve healthy neural pathways into my son’s mind. I can not think my way out of this labyrinth I call my mind, I have to be guided by right action. Right now the right action is as Doctor Do the Right Thing says, “Let’s put your life down in chapters so we can get a clear picture.” This is chapter: You Need Therapy.