Last year I wrote an entry called “september air, the days you’ve come to fear”. This was a good insight into my odd connection to the weather and the changing of seasons. I know people always talk about how much they love seasons, and the seasonal drinks and all of that stuff, but it’s not exactly like that for me. I honestly can’t explain what it really is, but there is something about the smell of the air and the scenery around me that really touches me in a deep way. There are a myriad of photos on my cell phone of just palm trees and blue skies, palm trees and pink skies, and tons of photos of flower bushes, orange trees and even just palm trees at night. Also, there are photos of just a simple street in my neighborhood at night, or stoplights and streetlights on a bigger street. These images strike something inside of me that has this peculiar feeling, and still to this day I cannot describe what exactly it is, or where it originated from.
The central coast takes awhile to really shift into any kind of autumn type feeling, it doesn’t really get cold until January and even then, we still have bright blue skies and sunshine. However, in October, when the sun goes down, you can start to feel a little bit of that change in the air, whatever that is.
I always loved October as a kid, school was back in full swing, and school was a safe and happy place for me. October also brought the Major League Baseball playoffs, Sunday Night Football with Al Michaels and Halloween, my mom’s favorite holiday. This will be my second year not having my mom alive for Halloween and with her birthday being right after the holiday, I know I will be thinking of her and missing her phone call to tell me she’s ritually hanging up the same Halloween decorations she always did. I used to come home from school, do all of my homework, go out and skateboard with my friends, and then be home in time to watch whatever MLB playoff game was on that night. Sunday nights were always special to me, I would wrap up all of my homework for the weekend, and then turn on my little TV and watch Sunday Night Football. They have such a cool way of presenting that game every Sunday night, the voice of Al Michaels, the shots of whatever city the game is being held in, I loved it so much and still do. There was something about the slight change in weather, the time change, and just being in my living room watching my favorite ball players in cold weather gear, fighting their way through each game on the road to the World Series. I don’t know if I ever really cared about the games, even as a young kid, I think I found comfort in the atmosphere that those October nights created.
From 2010-2015 I spent most of my life homeless on the streets, consumed by heroin addiction, or in the county jail. This added an interesting twist to my younger self’s connection with the Summer/Fall transition and those October nights. The change in weather now meant that I would have a much harder time sleeping outside, or we would have to make sure we had enough gas is in the car to run the heater all night sleeping in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It’s hard to keep a set of blankets when you’re homeless, I was always on the move, stashing stuff in bushes and being woken up by the cops who would make us throw all of that shit away and then arrest me or just fuck with us for an hour and let us go, rightly so. Needless to say, those October nights I loved as a kid were long gone. I was merely trying to survive and even if I thought about baseball or my mom’s decorations, I was in no condition to participate in any of it. I was so lonely, I hated that I had done this to myself and there was still part of me that longed for a better life. I would walk through these old neighborhoods off of Main Street in Corona, because I had nowhere to go, no purpose or destination. I was lost. I would just wander around crying and wondering why I was the way that I was. Many times I would pass by a house that had their curtains open enough for me to see into their living room. They would be watching the MLB playoffs or Sunday Night Football and that shit tore me up. It looked so warm and comfortable, I would remember how much I used to love being where they were and I would stop and think about how cold I was, how heroin was my master, and how I would never be able to have what these people had.
I remember one night in particular, in 2013. I was homeless on the streets of downtown Long Beach, strung out on heroin and I had tried to take my own life a couple days prior. This night the heroin withdrawal sickness was worse as it had ever been, I had no money and had been left behind by significant other who had taken all of my things and left me with nothing, I deserved it. I had managed to follow the Dodgers playoff series with the Cardinals through just asking people on the streets, and on this night the boys in blue were in an elimination game 6 of the NLCS. I was on Ocean Avenue in downtown Long Beach trying to figure out how I could get my hands on some heroin or even just a hit of crack, anything really. My stomach felt like it was being stabbed with a million needles, I was sweating and shaking, but I was freezing, cold, all the way down to my bones. I could barely walk, but I couldn’t sit still. I decided to walk to an Albertson’s nearby to steal some alcohol and just get blacked out drunk, that way I would have the courage to break into some cars or do something to get some money, and if I went to jail that was fine, at least I’d be indoors and wouldn’t have to worry about keeping up with the junkie life. As I began walking, I saw through the windows of the Rock Bottom Brewery that the Dodgers were down 9-0 in the 9th inning, what a perfect image to relate to the way I was feeling inside. Defeated. I stopped and stared through the window of that bar at the TV to see the Cardinals get the final three outs and celebrate their National League pennant. I remember thinking, “and when I thought things couldn’t get any worse”.
In October of 2014 I was being transferred from Riverside County Jail to Orange County Jail in the middle of the Giants/Royals World Series. I had actually got to watch game 6 in the house of a guy I bought meth from and as soon as the game was over I walked outside to smoke a cigarette and there just happened to be a cop driving by. I didn’t have a chance to try and run, I had just lit the cigarette, he rolled up on me, I was on the run from probation and was arrested on the spot. While being transferred we stopped at West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino and they kept us there in holding tanks for a couple hours. One of the guards was walking by and I asked him who had won the world series, he told me the Giants had won, that’s how I found out about the fall classic finale that year.
Tonight as I sat in the comfort of my own warm home, in my spare room, flipping from the Yankees/Astros playoff game to prime time college football match ups, 4 plus years removed from any mind altering substances, a breeze blew in from one of the open windows. It caught me, I knew the smell of that air, it was October air, the California kind. It took me back to those days when I was a kid, those Sunday nights watching football and those weeknights watching the world series with my dad. I thought about how earlier today I finished all of my homework for this week, maybe unconsciously preparing myself for a fall night of playoff baseball and comfort. I got up and walked outside to find that the temperature had actually dropped, I breathed in the air deeply, and the crispness of October filled my lungs, and then my spirit. I walked back inside and sat down, looked at the Yankee game in front of me and realized that I was one of those people I always thought I’d never be. Watching my fall favorites in the comfort of my own home, I thought about those who were out there suffering and felt empathy for them, and gratitude that I have reached a place in my life I never thought I’d get back to…