Oakland, Reggae, and The Fish Bowl Apartment

7 Jan

Oakland, Ca  is truly a one of a kind place to live.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say: Oakland has a Mediterranean climate with an average of 260 sunny days per year. Lake Merritt, a large estuary centrally located east of Downtown, was designated the United States’ first official wildlife refuge. Jack London Square, named for the author and former resident, is a tourist destination on the Oakland waterfront.

So lovely and inviting. A city by the Bay. Of course I loved living in the East Bay. I had dreamed of living in San Francisco when I lived in L.A. I had imagined that I would move up to S.F., finish college, get married and raise a small family in one of those amazing houses in North Beach, the ones in the opening of the old show Full House. So I never made it to S.F. I stopped in the East Bay and never left. It suited me so well. It had everything a gal like me wanted, great food, culture and of course amazing music.

Reggae the music that moves me. I can’t think of Oakland without thinking of Reggae. I can’t think of my twenties without thinking of Reggae. I can’t think of Reggae without a big smile on my face. It is a music that moves me to my soul. A reggae bass line can hit me inside and move me outside. A reggae drum beat is something special, in my private moments I fantasized of becoming a reggae drummer. I practiced my air drums for hours on end. It was a magnificent time in my life. All of my most cherished friends were amazing musicians and knew everything in the world about reggae music. It was all around me, it was in my house, it was in my car, it was deep inside my head. I felt so lucky. I would gladly sit and wait baking in the sun to listen to Berees Hammond play at Sierra Nevada Music Festival. I got 2nd degree burns but they were so worth it. I stood right in the front and felt as if that lovers rock was sung directly to me, I get chills just thinking about it.

Like I said, this was such an amazing time in my life!

Hard to believe that I lived two realities during this time. I lived two different versions of me. I was a split personality and it was only a matter of time before I completely cracked. In fact I did crack before that beautiful weekend of sun and reggae at Sierra Nevada. I indulged the night before we were due to leave. I once again brought myself dangerously close to death and I payed for it all weekend long. I acknowledged that the storm was brewing as I arrived that weekend, for what should have been a joyous occasion. After not eating for days I opened a beer and took a sip. I left my tent and moved one leg in front of the other to make my way to the stage. I looked up at the beautiful Northern California sky took a breath in and completely collapsed. My loving friends came to my rescue and cited heat exhaustion, I knew differently, of course they did too. We were all in the same pool of lies, shame, and guilt over our, “not so secret” lives. I wasn’t alone, I never was.

I got back home and brushed my shoulders off, only to get back on the ferris wheel of shit. I went back home to my fabulous FISH BOWL apartment on the lake in Oakland. It seemed like such a great place. It had hardwood floors was near the lake and you know the rest. What the heck was I thinking? It was a long and narrow building. All the doors faced the same way. We were all on top of each other like roaches. If your neighbor took a poop in the middle of the night you heard it. If your neighbor got lucky, you definitely knew it. Here is the hitch, every apartment had a front wall that was on the walkway. This wall had your front door on it. This wall was the pathway for everybody to come and go. This wall was floor to ceiling windows, the type of windows that are like slats and don’t ever really close all the way. I suppose living in a fish bowl where everybody walks by you and sees you is fine for most people, if you are an addict and spend all hours of the night in a pit of hell, it’s not so great.

Shortly before I left the fish bowl I had one of those life changing moments. My ex had painted me a life-size portrait of my beloved father who had passed away when I was 5 on July 15th of 1983. It was propped up in my living room. He was in my living room, Mel he was there. He would look at me, and if I really tried hard enough he would talk to me. As I sat at my kitchen table and watched the clock roll past 3am and then 4am, there he was. Those big eyes of his like saucers staring at me, watching me as I threw my life away, or shall we say snorted my life away. Every time I laid that poison out and ingested the blackness into my soul he watched me. I looked up that one last time and I came eye to eye with him, my father, the first man in my life. I could feel his sadness come through the blue and pink ink on that canvas. I could feel him shaking his fists in the air that I was following in his footsteps and self medicating just as he did.

I hadn’t had children yet or found a husband. I hadn’t finished my college education or came anywhere close to following my dreams. I knew one thing that morning at 5am in a fish bowl filled with smoke. I didn’t want to die alone. I didn’t want my family to find me in a way that didn’t represent who I was. I didn’t want my family to have to fill another black hole in their hearts.

I knew at that moment that I was in an out-of-body experience and one that would smack me right back into reality.

On January the 6th I left the bay. I drove away in my 2-door silver Ford Explorer. I loved that SUV so much, I felt my hair blowing in the wind as I rolled my window down and turned the music up. It was California so it was no where near cold even in January. My car was filled to the rim with everything that was too important to leave behind. My whole life in the back of my car. I left with my music, my pictures, my clothes, and whatever keepsakes I could put together to represent my past. I drove away knowing I would never go back, I would never see that place again. I don’t know if I would ever see the bay again, but I knew that place the lived in me was fading fast in my rear view mirror.

Little did I know at the time that 3 months later a new place would grow inside of me. I found out that a baby was growing inside me, just shy of the 4 month mark of spreading my wings and flying home. I wasn’t scared or even remotely concerned about my future. I knew as that little baby grew in my belly and my heart that I was making a new place for my soul to call home.

I don’t remember what it felt like as that place of poison left my view that day, I have let it go forever.

2 Responses to “Oakland, Reggae, and The Fish Bowl Apartment”

  1. JenPastiloff January 8, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    Reblogged this on The Manifest-Station and commented:
    Another beautiful one from my sister in Atlanta.

  2. jamesvincentknowles January 8, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    And now here you are, after having achieved so much healing in your own life, with beautiful souls under your care who need a lot of nurturing, appreciating them & loving them with everything you’ve got. What a tremendous achievement~! Feel that now. I’ll wait…

    Phew. What gratitude you’ve been building up & maybe sometimes missing, i dunno. But it’s there in your heart, no doubt, growing & expanding out to all who know you.

    So I’ll send a little bit of it your way, maybe you’ll feel a little of it, like a warm breeze instead of cold wind, maybe like a gentle european hello-goodbye kiss, cheek to cheek, & a squeezie friendly hug that overwhelms you with relief, a belief change from, “I’m not good enough,” to “Wow, I believe now … now I don’t need to tell anyone else … I AM! good enough.” May that soft & warm certainty help carry you forward assuredly, eyes bright with a tender understanding you have let all that stuff go, back there on cold winters winds.

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