Atlanta Straight Survivor
Atlanta Straight Survivor
Atlanta/Marietta Georgia Straight 2221 Austell Road.
January or February 1981 to September 1983
I had the dreadful misfortune of being Double Court Ordered to Straight by the very same Judge.
The first Court Order resulted from an arrest for D.U.I. and for assault on two Police Officers which carried five years in jail in North Carolina. I had been drinking lots of “Wild Turkey” on and off for 24 hours. A High School friend and I were driving around in my 1977 brown Vista Cruiser. We pulled into a local gas station. A Policeman pulled up. He asked me what beach I was at and I incorrectly responded by saying “Holden`s Beach.” In reality I was at “Ocean Isle.” I then went into a blackout. I was told later that I punched the cop and he went inside his car and called for backup. He was an old guy and I heard later on that he was the nicest guy on the Police Force. It wasn`t long till the second cop arrived on the scene. They both wrestled me into the car. I came out of that blackout around the time that they violently handcuffed me and put me in the back seat of the Police car. They made the big mistake of handcuffing me with both my hands in front of me. Why they didn`t handcuff me with my hands behind my back I will never know. This big cop was sitting right next to me to my left. He put a cigarette in his mouth but I didn`t want him to light it so I swung and nailed him in the mouth. He knocked the hell out of me and I never hit him again after that. I woke up the next morning in a drunk tank all sore and stuff with a bloody face. The next morning I was processed and faced the Judge for Arraignment. At the time I thought I was being charged for DUI. I was madder then Hell when I found out I was also being charged for assaulting those two Police Officers. A local bail bondsman got me out of jail 24-36 hours later for $90.00.
My second Court Order to Straight was from my arrest for “Breaking And Entering.” One night I broke into this one house with a so called, “friend.” I was shit faced drunk from drinking a 5th of cheap wine called “Old Crow.” We broke into the house to steal guns. We ended up only finding one shotgun. The very next day my partner in crime went on a Breaking and Entering binge. I was not with him when he did this. He broke into eight houses in a row in broad daylight. He was finally caught when some people saw him burglarizing that 8th home and they called the Police. He got arrested soon afterwards. While down at the Police Station he ratted me out to the cops about our burglarly we did the previous night in a shameless attempt to save his own skin. That very same night Police came to my house that night and arrested me for “Breaking & Entering.”
I spent a month in a Psychiatric Ward of what was then called Pitts County Memorial Hospital. It`s now called “Vidant Medical Center.” It`s located on 2100 Stantonsburg Road, Greenville, North Carolina. During my thirty day stay there the Medication they had me on was either Thorazine or Stelazine. How I loved going into the kitchen and making myself these triple and quadruple sized sandwhiches which consisted of meat,bread, cheese lettuce and tomato. The delicious sandwhiches were affectionately nicknamed “Dagwoods.” After a week I was allowed to leave the facility during the day. I met a cool orderly who worked there who would give me pot from time to time. I got stoned about seven different times.
There was one patient there who was a chain smoker. I would always watch him constantly smoking one cigarette right after another. The staff would always put him in a straight jacket whenever he became argumentative and disagreeable. There was this other patient there who was a middle aged lady. I really felt sorry for because she was given shock treatments on a regular basis. She was definitely plagued by some demons that`s for sure. While there I met this pretty lady and we fell in love. She was a patient there because she had tried to commit suicide by cutting her wrists and that got her sent to the Funny Farm. After she was discharged from the Hospital she got a job at the local McDonalds and she would bring me home these ice cream Sundaes. We had sex a lot at her house while her parents were at work.
One night out of the blue my mom showed up one night with a friend at Pitts County Memorial Hospital. It was embarrassing for me. They drove me to Atlanta Straight that night or the very next day.
Fast forward to the Summer of 1983. I had a job all that Summer of 1983, working at a landscaping company called “Landmark Groups.” I was on fourth phase at the time. There were one or two other people from Straight that worked there, sometimes. This place hired a lot of phasers from Straight over the years. When I was working there this one guy 7 stepped and he left the job soon afterwards after graduation. The other guy copped out but kept on working there anyway and he was fired less then a week later for copping out from Straight. All Summer long I would work Monday through Friday from 7:00am to 3:00pm.
After work each day when I would arrive at the Straight building in the afternoons the rap was going on, the glaring spotlight was on me because, I had been gone all day at work. All the eyes were on me. I did this five days a week. They always would put me at a door and they always called on me to talk during the rap. I always hated being assigned to stand at a door.
I floated along on 4th phase forever, then the upper-pushers started pressuring me to put in for 5th phase. I wanted to lay low and stay under the radar, but the pressure was mounting and Labor Day Weekend was coming quick. I knew, I had put in for 5th phase twice and I did not get it, and I was still working outside the building making money. Boy, I grew anxious, then paranoid, and SILENT. Those final days were insane. While this was going on a chickenpox outbreak hit the place where I lived. This girl had came down with Chickenpox at the hosthome I was staying at which caused an uproar. The newcomers were displaced (sent to other hosthomes) that had never had it.
Every day, to work, I had a day pack for work stuff, that I carried,sunscreen,lunch,water,gloves, workboots,sunglasses,etc. So on a Thursday night at the Chickenpox house, I packed one change of clothes, twelve cassettes,Sony walkman, Rayban aviation shades and running shoes. I packed everything in this red Jansport Daypack that I had.
By now, I just knew the Newtonites were gonna get me, if I did not bail and soon. The thought of getting started over again just destroyed me. I had to get out of there. So Friday of Labor Day weekend arrives, I am at work and all my stuff is packed. No turning back now. It was payday, and at lunch most of the employees would go cash their checks. At Straight, we received our checks at work, like everyone else, then we gave them to our foster moms when we came home from the building. Not on that glorious Friday. At lunchtime I went to the bank with my boss. I asked him if he would cash my check for me and he did.
Right then and there I knew, there must be a chance, to escape. We left the bank. It was walking distance from my work site. I hauled ass into the woods,surrounded by suburbia, with my 400 bucks cash. I was scared, because I was not sure if my work would call Straight. That place had me so weirded out. I had just copped out during my lunch break and I knew it was only a matter of time before my boss got wise to the fact that I wasn`t back at work. So I hid out in those woods for two to three hours, I remember hearing Helicopters and thinking they were looking for me. I was pretty paranoid about the cops. Those woods were like an acre square of woods in an undeveloped part of suburbia. Those woods were kind of sparse. I remember there were pine trees and hardwood trees. I was just terrified of being seen by anyone whether it be the Police or non-Police. If the cops found me that was bad enough. If someone else spotted me in those woods that was just as bad because they would call the Police and I would be sent right back to Straight. I wasn`t taking any chances of being seen by anyone so out of pure desperation I built this makeshift, Camouflage barrier of sorts made up of tree limbs and other materials I found on the ground. I spent a couple hours building it. It was a foxhole of sorts. I wanted to lay low and hunker down. At one point it started storming and raining while I was in those woods.
Finally, I left the woods. Soon afterwards I caught a city bus to downtown Atlanta. At The Marta East Point on 2848 Main Street I jumped on a Greyhound Bus for a two hour bus ride to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The bus ticket was $20 to $30 dollars. I remember running through the bus terminal, by cops and feeling scared shitless, they would grab me. I remember thinking I was inches away from Freedom. Oh, how I longed for freedom. This was the beginning of my Journey West. I had done it. I had finally left that unspeakable place called Straight.I was a free man.
I took a Greyhound from Chattanooga then road all night long out to Memphis, Tennessee. I had no idea where I was going, other than as far away from Straight as possible. I arrived at 3033 Airways Boulevard, Memphis, TN 38131. I saw these three guys hanging around the bus station so I asked them if they could direct me to a local Salvation Army. I wanted to shower up and have a hot meal. They said they could help me. It was all friendly and it was all a scam. We were all just chatting it up and walking down the street. Before I knew it they were all leading me down this long and narrow alley. The fact that they lead me down this alley made me very suspicious that they were fixing to mug me. In the alley nobody could see us. Once outside of the alley we were out in public in broad daylight where everyone could see. Then suddenly out of the blue they specified their real intentions. One of them said, “We`re gonna rob you.” They told me they wanted my shoes,my glasses,my wallet, my Daypack, everything. They weren`t joking. I bolted and took off running as fast as I possibly could. They were all yelling at me as they were running after me. I outran all of them and just got away by the skin of my teeth.
Not long after escaping those crazy muggers I walked across West Memphis Ridge/Mississippi River, into Arkansas. I started hitchhiking and I was picked up by an elderly man who must have been between 64 and 69 years old. We stopped off at a Hardees and had some coffee. While there he offered to take me back to his house so I could wash all my clothes. So we got in his car to head to his place and we drove down the road about a mile. I remember saying to him, “This is weird. I find this strange because the last time I was in this exact situation the person tried to pull some sexual stuff on me.” He then said, “You mean you don`t want sex?” I said, “Fuck no! Let me the fuck out of this car right now or I`m jumping out!” I already had the car door opened even as the car was still moving. He immediately stopped the car and I got out and slammed the door shut. I was not kidding, I was going to jump out. The person who I mistakenly thought was a good Samaritan turned out to be a molester who wanted to suck my —-. All this within an hour of my almost getting mugged.
After that I got picked up hitchhiking in Hot Springs Arkansas by a criminal named “Crazy Indian.” I ended up riding with him for five hours from Hot Springs,Arkansas all the way to San Augustine,Texas. He was driving a two door Sedan that was a burgundy color. He was in his late forties. He had a really wrinkled face and he smoked Marlboro cigarettes. He had tattoos all over both his arms. We stopped off in Texarkana,Texas. We filled up his car with gas and purchased a case of alcohol called “Lone Star Beer.” We drank that beer for hundreds of miles. We got drunk and stayed drunk. We told all of these wild stories. During that trip I also got to enjoy listening to good old classic Country music again. I loved it. The musicians Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings come to mind. We drank, and he said he had work for me loading and unloading a boat in Corpus Christi, Texas. He didn`t specify exactly what the work was and I didn`t ask any questions. I was nervous, but accepted. Later that night, we got pulled over by two Police Officers in Nacogdoches,Texas. He was drunk. It was nighttime. After the cops pulled us over they smelled alcohol plus there were all these empty beer cans littered all over the car. It wasn`t long after that they found his gun under my seat, and we both got hauled away to jail. “Crazy Indian” got arrested for DWI and for illegal possession of that gun.
Their jail turned out to be this Trailer on State Highway 59 in a tiny,little town out in the middle of nowhere. No street lights,no nothing. At one point I asked to use the bathroom. I had a check stub on me that had my real identification on it. This worried me. I didn`t want them to find out who I really was. I didn`t want the police finding it so I tore that check stub into many,many little pieces and flushed them all down the toilet. I gave the Police a fake name and said I was a hitchhiker. I told them I hardly knew the guy who gave me the ride and I didn`t even know he had a gun until the cops found it. They eventually let me go.
I walked for hours in the pitch black darkness. Then I found an old tractor which turned out to be a yellow John Deer Tractor, so I took off the seat and used it as a pillow for my head while I lay on the Texas ground.
Next day an old man who happened to be a retired Judge picked me up, around San Augustine, Texas and took me to his house and fed me. I was flat out exhausted because I had been moving nonstop for three days. I slept for two days straight (no pun intended.) His house was interesting. It looked like Ted Kaczynski`s Unabomber shack and it was located out in the middle of nowhere. He had this HUGE 40 inch fan in his room. It was a crazy,homemade fan. He had no running water inside his house. His only running water was outside from a garden hose. I, remember cleaning up, outside. He asked me if I was on the run I said, “No, I wasn`t.” I knew I had to keep moving. He drove me back to the State Highway, but I could not get a ride, so I ended up in Shreveport, Louisiana.
It was a Labor Day Monday. I was sitting on a city bus bench and this car pulls up, tells me there is no service sunday, so they took me to Greyhound Bus Station on 408 Fannin Street in Shreveport, LA. I bought a bus ticket to Dallas,Texas!! I went to Dallas then stayed on Interstate 10, heading West. This whole cultural experience, of travel,roughing it after being tortured at Straight was quite surreal. I felt like I was moving away pretty fast from ground zero, but nothing was fast or far enough. I wanted to end up in Hawaii, seriously. I was confident that I might even make it there. Days later I was walking down I-20 in Odessa,Texas when a man in a silver colored produce truck picked me up. He said he too, was once down on his luck and he could help me out. He also said he was once homeless for a months and had lived on the side of the road. We went to his house, had lunch which was a meatloaf sandwhich which was the first time I ever ate one in my life. He gave me a bigger backpack and a K-Mart pup tent. I was estatic, grateful and suddenly felt amazingly up lifted. I had a shelter and a pack for food now and essentials. My money was not much, by now down to a couple hundred dollars, so this would help me economize. I was walking down the street of Guy Clark`s, (Texas Troubadours) home town of Monahans,Texas. (Guy Clark is the famous Grammy award winning Texas Country,folk singer, musician, songwriter, recording artist, and performer who was born in Monahans,Texas back in 1941. He would go on to enjoy a long musical career from the 1970`s to the present day and release 20+ albums.) I was gonna buy some canned foods such as chili and beef stew.
I was fifty feet from the store, when out of the corner of my eye, a cop was trying to get my attention,while he was in his car, outside the grocery store. I ignored him, acting as if I had not seen him and not heard him. Within 90 seconds, he was inside the store with his gun trained on me. He yelled, “Don`t move! ” “Freeze! My hands were up in the air. It was Scary! Everybody was staring. They were scared. They thought he had caught a really bad guy. He grabbed me and angrily escorted me out of that store at gunpoint, put me in car and off to jail I went. It was just like Straight and beyond.
At the jail I was strip searched,and all my few belongings, and my cash and a book of zigzags were all they found. Had the daily papers, but no weed. They said I was wanted in Houston, Texas for stealing and writing bad checks. The thing was I had never even been in Houston,Texas in my Life. I gave them a variation of my name. I had no ID. Not as crucial, back then as now. Since I had not committed any crimes I was not going to admit to any crimes. So a really huge, doughnut eating cop came in and bullied and bloodied me. He punched me in the face twice and he body slammed me a whole bunch of times against the cell bars. The whole experience made me cry. He beat the crap out of me. His so called plan had been to beat me into submission so I would confess to these alleged crimes he claimed I had committed. His plan failed because I never confessed to anything. Since I was innocent there was nothing to confess to. Finally he left, and I sat in the cell terrified, naked, thinking I would never get out, or be killed, for no one knew where I was. Finally a Mexican deputy, I am (from North Carolina) hardly ever seen a Mexican, till then, came in threw all my stuff on floor and said to me,”You better get the fuck out of this town!!” I grabbed all my stuff, and was free again. Amazing how quick circumstances can change from good to bad then back to good!!! I ran like hell out of Guy Clarks town, Monahans,Texas. Don`t mess with Texas. I ran to the shade of an overpass on I-10 to escape the glare of the super,hot raging Sun. I chilled out there for an hour or so.
Free again. So here comes my second amigo, driving a green, early 1970s Monte Carlo. He picks me up and tells me I have to wear a seat belt, so if there is trouble I can`t escape, and he can wreck the car. Fucking Wild. We were 150 miles East of El Paso, so he stopped, bought a case of Coors Beer which we drank all the way to the city limits sign. He drove seventy plus mph all the way there or faster. He said he had quit his job rough necking on an oil rig. When he saw the El Paso sign, he poured me out of his car. I was drunker then a skunk and I crawled on my lips, to the bushes on side of I-10, inside my new preowned pup tent. I was to drunk to properly set up the tent so I simply crawled inside it as if it were a sleeping bag.
Next day, I was hitching again. It got rough now as I got only short rides and a lot of walking on I-10. The sweltering temperature must have been in the 90`s. I remember sleeping in Culverts, under Interstate, at night some. I was very worried about ole rattler. (Rattlesnakes) I made it to Deming,New Mexico and was dying of thirst. I walked up to a house and found water and a job for “The Hurt Cattle Company.” I did the job for about two weeks. It was near Hachita, New Mexico. Almost on the U.S./Mexico border. Lived in a barracks for soldiers during the Mexican war. It was a small building with four walls and some sleeping cots. It held about ten people at the most. It was really primitive.
We worked from Sunup to Sundown on windmills and pumpjacks and rode fence. “Rode Fence” meant we drove alongside of the fence for miles and miles for Security purposes because the Mexicans would come across the border illegally and bust holes in the fence. Lots of rattlers and scorpions were running amok. The snakes hid inside the pumpjacks because it was cool. It was crazy because the Mexicans used to saw down the windmills and take them across the border. The pumpjacks were locked so we had to unlock them to water the cattle, that was when the rattlesnakes would come at you, when you opened the pumpjacks. It was here where the ole chicken pox caught up to me. I had forgotten about my exposure, and did not know what was wrong with me but knew I was sick has hell on the Mexican border, fever, the works. I bailed the hell out of there. Rode on the back of a Honda motorcycle to Deming, New Mexico.
I had made some money, and was back up to about 400 bucks again,so I took a Greyhound Bus to Phoenix,Arizona. I made it to Phoenix,Arizona and I remember renting a motel room in middle of night. It was a dirt cheap motel. I had to hand the clerk the money through a hole and then he gave me a key through the hole. It was very similar to movie Theaters where you give the person behind the glass your money through the little slot and then they give you the movie ticket. Nice area. I was a country boy and man the West was far different then East Coastal North Carolina. Later on after I had checked into my motel room I took a long and hot bath. I was soaking in the tub examining these red scabby things all over my body. By now I was itching and had sores all over, and somewhere along there figured I had the chickenpox. It all just consumed me. Remnants of ole Straight, still physically attached to me. Yuck. That night I scanned the Yellow Pages looking for some type of local clinic where I could get looked at and treated for this most unpleasant condition.
Next morning, it was time to keep going. I knew as long as I was physically moving I limited the chance of getting caught. If I stayed in one place to long I was putting myself in a dangerous situation. I got on a bus to San Diego. I was doing it, escaping. I arrived in San Diego. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my Life. Even more huge, culture shock, but I liked it. Remember this guy, downtown selling acid. I was like, wow, cool! I am so ready to trip so I gave him some cash and he gave me the acid. That night I rented a cheap room in the “bollocks” which is another word for bad area. That acid turned out to be nothing more than sweet tarts. I had been so ripped off. Quickly, I learned that my street smarts needed to improve, if I was to survive. Needless to say, I felt pretty bad that I had wasted my precious resource cash like that. The next morning, I hung out at the docks, going from ship to ship looking and begging for work. There were all these battleships,Navy ships and other kinds of ships. I had never seen anything like that before.
You see, by now I still wanted to get as far away from Straight as I possibly could and the only way West at this point was by ship. I was sent to the Merchant Marines office down on waterfront, so I went. This man was cool there. I basically, said that I wanted to join, and he said I could but, it took a few hundred dollars. Money, that I did not have. I was distraught, and it must have shown, because when I left, he came outside and gave me a small amount of cash. I accepted it with much gratitude, and then I left. Man, I was lost inside now, and did not know what to do. I hung out around the Mission Beach/ San Diego area, but not for long. That night I slept in a park and the water sprinklers came on me that night. It was most likely Mission Bay Park.
Since I could not go West, and I sure as hell was not going East, it was time to go up North. I quickly found out I could ride city busses, North of San Diego, for quarter, and get a bus transfer. Done with the work search, it was bologna, bread, mustard,handouts and then move North fast. I met some really cool people that, gave me rides, advice, shelter temperarly. Would meet people and they would get checked into the motel, and sneek me in later. Remember, one motel, I stole some bedding from. I took a nice thick gold colored blanket. It was way after Labor Day and getting very chilly at night.
Made it to historic Chinatown,San Francisco. Remember walking through there and hearing the classic 1975 Pink Floyd album (Wish You Were Here) on my Sony walkman. Can`t even begin to describe Chinatown from thirty years ago. ) I remember there were lots of chickens in crates. You could buy a chicken and they would butcher it right there on the spot for you.
I felt like I could get a landscaper`s job around there, but I didn’t so I kept right on moving. It was the end of free bus transfers, and now I depended on my thumb to get me moving down the road. Was getting into wine and bud country. So I applied for work at wineries, but California was more rigid on ID. I was beginning to realize, without an ID, it was gonna be a bitch to move away from Straight. I forged on. What the hell else could I do? Remember where I came from, even though I was 2,800 miles from Straight. I found myself, stranded in Myers Flat, California. This is South of Happy Camp,California. So, at night I slept by the beautiful river, and all day thumbed for rides out of Myers Flat, because I was not a happy camper, but I was free. Finally got a ride with this guy, that had a bad ass, silver colored Bronco. A big one.
He was on vacation, and I had nothing going on, so I hung with him, in the deepest recesses of Northern California, Klamath River area. We camped, and four wheeled dry river beds, and I got to experience true big foot country, just like that video I saw as a kid. This guy had some of the cleanest acid I had ever done, and plenty of weed. It was an amazing experience, being in such Beautiful country, in the Fall. It was the end of September, and I had been on the road almost a month. Surviving without a plan or clue. Well I traveled, all the way up to Makenzie Bridge,Oregon with this guy. That’s East of Salem, Oregon. I was still with him because, he said he had a friend in Two Dot, Montana that supposedly, had a cattle ranch where I could work at. I was so desperate, but did not show it. Wanted that job. My 21st birthday, spent at McKenzie Bridge. I ate at a restaurant there for my birthday.
Remember stealing silverware from an adjacent table for I had none. I had nothing, little bit of cash, tent, change of clothes,my Walkman (my music salvation) and backpack. It was October 9 1983, and it was getting cold. I had no warm clothes. A totally different climate in the Cascades. The next day at McKenzie Bridge, that guy left, till almost dark, with the little bit of shit I had, as in, it went with him. Scared shitless,clueless what too do!! I stayed put, it was almost like a test of me, and like he was testing me. Decided, that it was time to exit extremely soon. All this time since Myers Flat, California, we had been camping out of the Bronco, in wilderness. Wish I had a single photo. That night, I said to myself I must find work and a way out of my situation. Ended up at lovely Crescent Lake, Oregon the following day and got a job, running a five cabin,store,and gas pump for an elderly couple. It truely was a break at the right time. We had stopped for gas. I could not believe I had a job and security. It was in the middle of nowhere. 100 miles East of the Oregon Ducks (University of Oregon.) So that was a little over a month after my Friday Labor Day walkout.
I had seen a lot in all those many miles, and had some very close calls. That is what is painful. Not looking for pity, so please give me none. No regrets. So my journey out and away, from Atlanta Straight was wild, but it belongs to me, and I did it with the help of others. I still have that pup tent and bag as reminders of where I came from. Never told anyone about this, but honestly I always wanted to tell anyone from Straight about my escape, even if it happened in 1983. I never returned back to Atlanta Straight.
I`ve been living here in Mount Hood, Oregon for the last 26 years ever since I exited Atlanta Straight. (Yes, Mount Hood,Oregon is home to the famous Timberline Lodge which served as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, “The Shining.”) I have my issues but I am thankful, and after writing this, it`s a reminder to me how fortunate I am.
Ok, Chris Poole, Thank you for asking. My word is good. That was it. And thanks, to all who can relate, and who took the time to read about a vital time and journey in my life.
SINCERELY and Emotionally.
Atlanta Straight Survivor