In 2005 I began interviewing people I grew up with. Because I left home at thirteen and spent four years in group homes, my social network was significantly wider than most people of that age. What’s most interesting about these interviews turns out not so much to be the things we remember differently as the things we remember the same.
Dan – Assistant Restaurant Manger
My earliest memories of you are on the bus, third grade. That’s where you stood out, gaining laughs through insulting others. I was the recipient of those insults. I can clearly remember you singing: Oh Dan don’t wear no socks/I saw him when he took them off/He through them in the sky/Now the birds refuse to fly.
You’ve told me before that you remember our first meeting was me kicking your bike and you punching me. But I don’t remember that.
In early childhood there was no chance of us hanging out. I was getting beat up a lot.
I moved away from the neighborhood in fifth grade, came back for high school. That’s where I meet John. We were all ditching school. He was a runaway and I let him move in with me. You were soon in the same boat. You and John had the common cause of rebelling against your parents and running away.
You lived with me a little bit. But my mom was getting sick of people staying over. You were the one that told me John was having sex with my sister.
You lived on the roof at California and Devon and drank lots of vodka. You were generally miserable at that time. Your father found you on the street and dragged you home and handcuffed you to a pipe. Nobody knew what to do with you then. You were drunk all the time, very self-absorbed.
You and John hitchhiked out to California. I gave you a flute to sell, to get some money. But it was too much so you threw it away along with everything else. After you guys came back there was this big group dynamic. Huge numbers of people hanging out. I always had the line on everybody. I would hang out with Albert and he would know what happened to you. You would know what happened to Tim. Everybody knew everything.
Then we split into two groups. There were the dirtbags and the overlords. I remember specifically a conversation we were having in the laundromat. You were talking about what would make a good leader and you elected me, but you were actually the leader. That was the perception. The overlords made a comic book about us. I still have it.
I remember you getting your first tattoo. That led to many sleeveless days. You wrote a lot. I would write too. You would pick two or three lines out of my various poems that you might like. I think you’ve always been one to tear down other people.
I was put in the hospital when I was sixteen. You and Joe and Pat wrote me letters. When I got out we were going in different directions. You were moving out of the drug scene, toward high school. We made a pact not to do drugs but I didn’t take it seriously.
In high school you were doing more things. You joined the chess team. You had your little side dramas because you were hooking up with one of the staff members in the group home you lived in. We didn’t hang out that much. You were reading all these books on Bhuddism. You were all about higher-consciousness. At some level you were probably more grounded. You were very quiet at that point. You did a lot more listening. Next time you were social was much later.
I remember you came to wake me up every day for my last few months of high school. I was about to be kicked out for truancy. You made it some kind of decision. Took some kind of responsibility that it had to be done. But you weren’t acting like a friend. You wouldn’t hang out. You were actually very parental, paternal at that time.
It was something I didn’t want to do. To this day I would never have done that. I didn’t want to graduate high school. I slept through finals and they still passed me. I shouldn’t have bothered with high school; I wasn’t into it. I didn’t learn anything. I should have just got a job. I enjoy work more than I enjoy school.
Overall, I would say most of what I like about you is who I knew in high school. Afterward there’s a lot less to relate to. Then you were into this idea of everybody. How can we help everybody. Now I would say over all the years a lot more of you is for self, Steve for Steve. This doesn’t include the last couple of years, where you’ve transitioned and become political.