Version 2.0

Culture, healing, politics and bullshit - Not necessarily in that order

The general, socio-political and very personal rantings and ravings of a hip hop head from the hood hustling for change... Of himself.

You all know me and are aware that I am unable to remain silent. At times to be silent is to lie. For silence can be interpreted as acquiescence.
—Miguel de Unamuno


Thursday, February 28, 2008

I hate yesterday... Sometimes it feels like today

I remember the first time I was aware of who I was...

It was November 1992 and I had just gotten out of the Army. I was in San Francisco because I had exited the military while stationed in Korea so Uncle Sam sent me to the Presidio to be debriefed and for out processing. That took a little time and I also knew that there was not much that could have been debriefed (my opinion) so I took a lump sum for taking the early out option and enjoyed my stay out on the left coast.

I liked Oakland better, it was like being back in Chicago in the 80's.

During my last week in Korea I was retrieving the mail for the batallion staff. My position as personnel security chief hadn't been filled. I had an office right down the hall from the full bird colonel that ran our four company batallion and for the most part I was seen and not heard processing security clearances and issuing COMSEC (COMmunications SECurity devices that recorded radio transmissions made out of carbon. They could be destroyed with water if the enemy approached. We recorded everything and kept the transmissions in a safe, and I was in charge of that as well as newly drawn maps of the Northern part of the Korean peninsula via spy satellites... Sigh, the life.) to the goofies that had no clue to what we were doing on the 26th parallel.

I found a piece of mail meant for someone that had went back to the states from DeVry so I opened it and thought hard about what I would and could do now that I was getting out. I imagined going to this three year institution and getting my degree and getting a wholesome and good job. I saw myself as a homeowner, a husband and a father having little discomfort. I linked all good thoughts to getting into this technical institute and doing well. I never gave thought to struggling when I got home.

Until I walked away from and off of Presidio's hallowed halls and base and entered San Fran and Oakland to go and play.

I had a few thousand in my pocket and Uncle Sam had given me more for unused vacation and for taking the early out. Funny how as soon as I got to the base and gave them my exit paperwork to process I got a check first before anything else. Back then, out processing the military took weeks and was a long arduous task. One had to take classes and be counseled in order to reacclimate to normal society. If someone like myself had access to anything to a secretive nature, they were debriefed. I don't want to go into explaining that process.

I like how my mother told my wife last year about the 'gaps' in my service. Yeah, even my mom knows (and Terry does too) about service gaps for certain military personnel.

The first thing I experienced as a member of the free world I helped to protect and defend was a fight from a bunch of cats that had no respect for military people. I later drank with them after they saw me wild out. This was my initial counseling and reacclimation to the world. All I wanted was a drink. So what that I had the haircut and the body type of one of those army dudes? We had just finished up a war and to a few folk at this one particular spot, I was the cause of most of the bullshit George HW Bush and Dick Cheney (who was Army chief of staff at that time) pushed to the American people. And for that I was not accepted.

I had never been rejected in public like that before but remember, we ended up having that drink.

Alcohol had never tasted like that to me before. It seemed to fill some emotional void. It spoke to me when everyone else looked at me with disdain and contempt. It became my security blanket. I had already developed a drinking problem overseas, drinking damn near a half gallon of hard liquor and maybe seven to ten beers a night during my last few months in Korea, but that was what we usually did over there anyway. I had no clue my tolerance was so high when I got back to the states. I kept drinking... All the way back to Chicago.

By the time I enrolled for school I had failed a few drug tests because when I got back to the south side, all of the cats I left there in the 80's from high school were still there, and they were smoking blunts and killing malt liquor. The time I spent in San Francisco was almost like a proving ground. Being in Oakland with a bunch of deadbeat cats that was always at the club helped me enhance my social skills through drinking. I was still in military mode, so weed smoking was out of the question.

Until I got home.

There were no jobs and no love for an unskilled black man in Chicago. There was no pride in serving one's country on the south and west sides. I was a sucker for getting my college money by joining the army and according to many, I was just a pawn. My mother has convinced me to come and live with her so I could give her my entire paycheck and watch my little brother and sister because my dad had left right as I joined the military, and there wasn't any room for me, but that didn't matter. I was just a babysitter in her eyes. One that got a GI Bill check she could spend for herself, damn me.

I slept on the couch and all of my belongings were in a locked closet still packed up for damn near a year until I had enough of that bullshit and broke out of there.

In that time I enrolled at DeVry and tried to stay focused but it was hard. All that time spent in Japan, Korea and other places for years shielded me from the booty, and I had to chase it at all costs, even though I had a girlfriend. I ended up getting a job with the phone company and was earning at least $60k in the early 90's which made me hood rich, so I rented my best friends mother's basement which gave up a place to smoke, drink and party. And that's all I did.

Something was telling me that I would never make it out of the neighborhood so celebrate as much as I can before I die.

And I did.

At the end of 1993 I was downing a twelve pack of Red Bull (the malt liquor, energy drinks did not exist), a half a pack of Newports and smoked at least 2 blunts before I would go to class. After I got the job with the phone company, I switch over to night and weekend classes and eventually stopped going because I would wait until I got off work to smoke and drink. I can't remember much of what happened those nights, I just knew that I worked for AT&T for about two years before I stopped coming to work because I was too embarrassed that I smelled like either weed smoke and/or liquor.

I got fired due to no-call/no-show. And then I got put out of the apartment when my friends mother found out I had no job.

I had a devoted girlfriend
A family
A few friends that gave a damn
A working musical relationship with a close friend... And we were recording
Add a degree in the making

And I let all of that go because I needed to stay in this 'mode'.

Alcohol made me forget and weed made time pass by. I had gained more than 250 pounds in a few years. I was also homeless and had burned a whole lot of bridges.

It was 1996 and I was damn near 400 pounds with a weed habit. I was living out of my van and couldn't find a job to save my life. I was gigging lightly with a band (if free beer counts as pay) and I was thinking about getting back into school... Something happened.

God spoke to me.

Oh don't get it twisted, I didn't get saved or anything like that. I stopped smoking weed but I kept on drinking. Right up until that whole diabetic coma episode.

That was 1998.

I was arrogant, evil and had no respect for my own life. I remember those times and I cannot erase the inate details I will never type onto these pages. I live with that and am in shear amazement that I am where I am now. There is so much more to that time in my life. There is so much I wish I never experienced but I can't turn back the hands of time. All I have is now, and now is as good as it has ever been. But it still feels like I'm climbing out of something.

I hate what I did with life back then. But sometimes those memories come back and I wish...

Never mind.

You'd like to think you're stronger now. I hope you are. I don't know if I am.


Bananas said...

Love that whole "exit counseling" thing. Like any of that shit was really gonna help in the end.

You know after reading this Hassan my first thought was, that this is not an uncommon tale. The military doesn't fill their cracks very well and a lot of people fall through them.

I often wonder what would have happened to me had I not gone directly to college.

The cool thing is, as you yourself have demonstrated, you can find your way out of such darkness. But you are correct on one account. You can never get lost time back.

I'm glad you made it my Brother, and I'm glad you're here.

Keep on keepin' on.


The Second Sixty-Eight said...

Well you are stronger. No doubt about it. It just don't seem that way once we get into a different place.

Damn. Diabetes put you in the hospital in 1998 too? Gained 250 pounds? Wow! Funny how life is. Glad you put the excessive weight and the coma behind ya. Oh yeah. You are definitely stronger.

Lola Gets said...

Damn man: This is one excellent cautionary tale!

Im going through a horrible depression right about now, and I wont lie, I thought about drinking (havent in 8 years, never had a problem though) about 1 month ago. But I decided not to because I know it WOULD become a problem now, and I really dont need all that extra shit to deal with.

But you did get through, and you did get a great life (per your own words) - congrats!

Aly Cat 121 said...

*singin* O, O, O, O, O, O, O . . . Just had to rep my city for a second. Spend some time in The Town huh?

Well if you weren't who you were back then, you surely wouldn't be the Brown Brotha you are right now. And that's some real sh*t. Think of who Malcolm X would have been had he not been a criminal, dope fiend, AND a convict FIRST. Folks can't relate to nobody if they haven't been there and done that already.

the good nurse said...

the key is you are climbing. keep climbing man.

Bballmom said...

what an amazing story. So glad you found your way back.

Paula D. said...

I'm so glad you shared this! I am moved by your honesty. Glad to see you are able to look back & know that what happened is in the past.

Anonymous said...

You know you're stronger and surviving through all of that alone made you a stronger man and you keep growing every day. Aly summed it up. If it wasn't for the things you went through THEN, you wouldn't be the man you are NOW. And that's what's important to remember.

mp1 said...

That's some deep stuff, wow!

I'd think going through all of that and surviving would make anyone stronger.

Good luck finding the way.

That which doesn't kill you....

Darius T. Williams said...

It's always good looking in the past in order to reach toward the future!

Mr. Jones said...

Good stuff, man. Seriously.

Thanks for sharing that.

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