I got dropped off at the bus station with fifty bucks and a bus ticket. It was about a month after Jerry Garcia died, and a harsh dose of reality. A felon. No future. DOOMED.
All I could think was “Jerry’s dead, phish sucks, get a job and take a bath.” Time to get real…… So after that thought I jumped on the bus and saw “the outside” for the first time in 3 years. It was surreal. I had 8 hours to report to the next chapter on my road to gettin’ the f*** out of the legal system. The halfway house. It will either make you or get your sent back…….and I didn’t want to go back!
As part of my release I had to do up to 6 months in a halfway house. They decided when you would “get out” based on your behavior and how well you played their game. I learned the game VERY quickly and became quite proficient at it, but I’ll talk about that later!
The halfway house closest to Wally and Janey (my aunt and uncle) in Santa Cruz was in Salinas, California, of John Steinbeck fame. Except it wasn’t very quaint and Steinbeck. Salinas was over run by gangs, drugs and crime, but it was the closest place to my release address! It was a little run down and dilapidated to say the least, and here I was, a red headed white boy living with a bunch of convicts (mostly gang bangers themselves) in one of the classier neighborhoods (pun intended) right in downtown Salinas. Oh well, I decided I was going to keep my head down and get the hell out of that s***hole as quick as I could.
The first step was to get a job. Not the easiest thing to do for a felon but I’d given this a lot of thought. ” What can I do to make a living where nobody cares about my past?” It dawned on me. THE TRADES, Construction.
I got a job pretty quickly framing houses in the south San Jose area. Hollister to be exact. The earthquake capital of the world. In the mid nineties there was a big construction boom happening and there were tons of construction jobs. It was a no brainer. I had construction experience as a carpenter in high school and college during breaks working for my step dad or his friends. It made perfect sense and I had a goal and a plan. Little did I know this would become a career, and here I am 24 years later. But, that’s another story I’ll write about later…..
So here I was. 25 years old, just released from prison and working with a bunch of tweaker cowboys in Hollister, California. Cowboys definitely do more drugs than rock and rollers, but these guys were some of the best framers I have ever seen in my life to this day. They could s*** it and git it, and all you saw of these guys were elbows and a**holes all day long. I assume this was from the copious amounts of methamphetamines they were consuming, but I learned tricks I still use to this day in my chosen profession of carpentry. It’s been a good life, even though I found it through A LOT of bad choices.
Back at the halfway house the cops were there nightly hauling some poor bastard back to prison for a myriad of screw ups. I swear to God those stupid dumb bastards were banging dope in the hallways and getting into all kinds of shenanigans. It just made me look like a choir boy and after 30 days they put me on something they called “home confinement” which was another ploy to fill the bed there and still get 25% of your paycheck while you sat at home. Double, triple or maybe even quadruple charging for the same set of sheets! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Our country’s prison system isn’t about reforming you, It’s ALL ABOUT THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR!
The feds didn’t find all the money when I got busted. I had a little nest egg I had hidden and I had enough to buy clothes, tools, a pickup truck and an old 21 foot travel trailer I parked on a logging road in the middle of a 50 acre tract of redwood trees. My uncle Wally’s property in the Santa Cruz mountains is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Life was good, I was free, and I didn’t have a care in the world except to work, grab a surf session every chance I could and play good boy for my parole officer. I was bound and determined to play the game and get out of the system and I did……Eventually.