If I were to ever film some fictionalized version of my fictionalized story the opening shot to this particular chapter in my life would go as follows:
In the frame of the camera we see two bare feet as Our Hero sits on a sidewalk with feet in the street, body above the knees out of frame. A small dribble of sprinkler water creating a little stream that flows beneath Our Hero’s calves in the gutter where the road meets the sidewalk.
Next to the Hero in the foreground… a crowbar with a peculiar spot of dried house paint embedded into the iron attesting to a recent battle of some sort.
This is a bokeh shot. Which means that the foreground of the image is in focus and the background is blurred. And as the camera holds on the spot of dried and embedded house paint and Our Subject’s bare feet… we see in the blur of the background the unmistakeable flashing red and blue lights of a police car turning onto this residential street in AnchorBabyLand™
A hand lowers into frame holding a nearly finished cigarette.
An exhale of a plume of toxic smoke.
Our Hero– whose body is mostly out of frame says:
“Well… guess I’m finally going to jail….”
said 17 year old Dave Griffin on the WrongMedication™.
As the flashing lights come closer and more clearly into frame, Our Hero drops the smoldering cigarette into the SprinklerWaterRiver™ and the cigarette butt floats away from the camera as the GoodCopCar™ slows to a stop in front of the BareFeet™.
The GoodCop steps out of the vehicle still slightly blurred. The camera has not moved one centimeter the whole time absorbed in endless focus on the dirty bare feet and the rusty crow bar.
“Lemme see your hands.”
said the GoodCop™
“I just want my sandals.”
said 17 year old Dave Griffin still on the WrongMedication™
A point that should be made– and I think this point is best made in this precise moment of God’sPerfectComedicTiming™ in the story– is that I was used as a child actor in a propaganda show for child audiences aged 8-12.
The company that made this propaganda effort is called Focus on the Family™.
And Focus on the Family™ is the media propaganda arm of the White Evangelical Industrial Complex™.
This propaganda effort was spearheaded by a man by the name of James Dobson.
Affectionately referred to as Dr. Dobson™.
Dr. James Dobson™ is the author of several parenting books that I would bet my life were at some point on the bookshelf of the house (painted in the same paint currently embedded in the rusty crowbar) that is behind our Hero off screen.
His very first ever book was printed in 1970 right at the exact time the Religious Right™ was beginning to coalesce around Jerry Falwell™’s effort to take back SCOTUS™ which I talk about waaaaaaaaay at the start of this effort.
That book’s title is: Dare to Discipline
His sophomore effort is titled: What Wives Wish their Husbands Knew About Women
Proving he has range.
But he also authored a book (and is most famous for) called:
The Strong-Willed Child
I have not read this book and I have zero desire to read this book.
And so I will not attempt to tell you anything at all whatsoever about this book.
Soooooooooooooooooo many people have read it and reviewed it for decades.
The original version was notorious.
And I encourage all of you who care about my story so much to spend some time diving into the criticism of this book.
Do some research and homework on your own all while the opening image of our story today plays in a loop in your mind.
I don’t remember what the argument was about. Long forgotten.
But it was another one of those heated arguments where I am eventually utterly irate. And outmaneuvered because it’s not my house. Which is always made very clear to me whose home I am in. Not mine.
I want to be clear that being furious and irate and angry are not positions I seek out or choose to be in. I don’t like to be mad. I like my life to be very even-keeled.
And, yes, I am a 17 year old adolescent on the cusp of adulthood and all the accompanying growing pains of the parent-teen relationship were in play in our home. But add to that the dynamics of a misdiagnosed kid who is bristling against the rigid parenting decisions of my Religious Parent whose career sabotage had led to this entire suicidal problem that has now devolved into the year from hell for everyone.
It was a hot summer day.
This is key.
People get more cranky in the heat.
I don’t remember what the argument was about because I’m certain it didn’t matter. This was the same basic fight like all the other fights we were having. I was trying to recover from this hellacious experience I’m going through, and my Religious Parent™ is likely setting some condition or rule or passing some moral judgment on my smoking or lifestyle or whatever the zillion reasons were why we fought.
What percentages of the fights were my fault versus what percentage of the fights were Religious Parent’s™ fault doesn’t matter.
The reason for the fight doesn’t matter.
The fight is not the reason the police were called or the reason Our Hero is now worried about going to jail.
I mention earlier in the Broken Mirror series how at times the arguments would get so heated I would either leave the house of my own volition OR I would be kicked out of the house.
This is the story of:
One of the Times I was Kicked Out of the House
It’s not a very exciting title is it?
That’s fine… what happens next will make up for that.
I am told to leave the house immediately.
Talking back is not allowed in Religious Parent™’s World.
Any backchat gets a worse punishment.
And life sucks enough without MORE punishments.
And I was punished a LOT in this house that almost certainly held the title of the book The Strong Willed Child.
On this day I am told to leave the house immediately.
But I do not have shoes or sandals on.
And it is a HOT. SUMMER. DAY.
For those of you who don’t live in Southern California you probably picture the beaches and palm trees, right?
Southern California is a desert from the pit of hell.
And it gets HOT.
Not muggy hot like the South or the East or Midwest of this continent.
This is dry ass desert heat where temps of 105 are normal for weeks on end.
The kind of heat where you can cook an egg on the sidewalk.
The kind of heat that is painful to walk on when you have no shoes or sandals and you have been told to leave the property.
It was not uncommon for Religious Parent™ during this time of my life to draw arbitrary lines in the sand of parental domination. I don’t know any other way to say it. The kind of situation where you as a kid know the adult is wrong but they hold all the power cards and even if you’re right you’re wrong because you’re the sinning BadKid.
(There were many many times I was wrong, too. I’m no innocent.)
And so when I head back to the house after almost certainly slamming the door on my way out a problem arises:
Religious Parent™ has locked me out of the house.
And no matter how much I ring the doorbell or knock… no matter how much I beg ask cajole yell at scream at– by this point it’s escalating to absurdity and my fury is rising– my Religious Parent™ absolutely will not open the door to give me my shoes or sandals. Almost certainly sandals. Always been a Birkenstock wearer.
No shoes for you until you leave the property and cool down.
But I can’t leave the property.
The moment I step onto the sidewalk my feet are burning.
No matter how much I try to suck it up… MY FEET ARE BURNING.
Religious Parent™ Who Probably Reads Dr Dobson™ has insisted that I leave the property and once they have made their decision they WILL NOT UNMAKE THAT DECISION.
So we are at a toxic AF standoff.
I can’t leave the property but I have been ordered to.
And no amount of pleading for my shoes so my feet won’t burn will change the order to get off the property.
And so now the original reason for the fight has gone bye bye.
Now we are entering a very dangerous moment:
Religious Parent™ who consumes FOTF Propaganda
17 year old StrongWilledChild™ on the WrongMedication™ with burning feet
An interesting quirk of the home we lived in at that time was that most of the bedrooms had a door to the outside. This was a weird one story post-and-beam kinda Frank Lloyd Wright style house that was common in California in the 60’s.
And so my bedroom had a lockable door to the outside that was very handy for going outside to smoke cigarettes late at night and then I would come back inside and spend the next half hour climbing into and out of my bed worried that I hadn’t locked the door as I would check it dozens of of times again and again.
*One of the key behaviors that will unlock the proper Obsessive Compulsive Disorder diagnosis sometime later after DavePocalypse1994™.
And so at some point it dawns on me that I don’t need my parent to open the front door of the house to retrieve my shoes… I can just go around the side of the house to my bedroom door that I leave unlocked during the day and just get my shoes myself without bothering anyone, right?
But. This. Is. No. Ordinary. Religious. Parent. ™.
Religious Parent™ recognizes that L’il DaveyBoy™ has found a clever loophole to our current standoff! And so– through the door– I hear RP yell for my sibling(s) to race down the hallway to my room to lock my exterior door thereby continuing to lock me out of the house.
It. was. an. actual. race.
I had a closed gate that was too tall to jump over blocking me, so I had to navigate the clunky 50 year old gate lock mechanism… all while I see and hear my sibling(s) gain on the time I’m losing and run down the hallway getting closer to my room.
I arrive at the exterior door to my bedroom in time to hear the lock being set.
My sibling(s) and my Religious Parent are in my room.
They have foiled my ingenious plan of getting sandals to not burn my feet.
To say that I was mad at this point is such a gross understatement of just how mad the human mind is capable of being.
Fury? Outrage? Anger? Enraged? Inflamed? Fuming? Seething? Incensed? Irate?
Those are very tame words to describe the molten lava coursing through my veins in that moment. I saw red. I was ready to burn the house down.
One of the rare times in my life I was angry enough to kill someone.
Religious Parent™ continues to assert their authority and dominance of the situation and is yelling at me to leave the property once again while they stand in the room that my footwear is in.
I am not proud of this next part.
It’s a bad look for me.
I’m not here pretending to be innocent about any part of my story.
I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do. I HAVE TO LEAVE.
Greater punishments await me if I don’t.
But I can not leave the property because the cement is burning my feet.
The only solution is to get my shoes which are behind my locked door.
Admittedly this is MolassesBrain thinking.
Our quirky mid-century house with lots of exterior doors has an unattached carport with an overhang and a single large room with a door the prior owner had used as an art studio. This is where we keep all the tools. Eventually this will become my room as my behavior becomes so unstable I’m moved into the garage. This happens after this event I’m now relaying.
I decide to break the door down.
I run to the garage to find some implement to achieve this brilliant new strategy.
There’s nothing. No axe. No chainsaw. No dynamite. No wrecking ball or crane.
Just a lousy crowbar.
Artists don’t always get to choose the tools with which to make their art… sometimes the tools choose you.
And this is how a 17 year old Dave Griffin on the WrongMedication™ finds himself grasping a crowbar and swinging with all of my fury and strength beating down the door to my bedroom in full view of my entire neighborhood.
My sibling(s) are screaming in terror.
My Religious Parent™ is calling the police.
Everyone is terrified for their life.
I am seeing literal red. Fury.
At all of it.
How unfair this entire fucking situation is.
How I didn’t want any of this.
All I had tried to do was avoid living on this stupid fucked up planet and now every day is getting worse and worse.
The lock holds.
After a half dozen whacks… and feeling guilty at the sound of my sibling(s) screaming and realizing that I have become a literal monster...
I walk to the sidewalk, set the crowbar down, and light up a cigarette knowing that this may be last one I smoke for awhile.
Best enjoy it while I can.
3 cigarettes later.
The bare feet have yet to move.
The crowbar is still there.
GoodCop™ has been at the door having very intense discussions with Religious Parent™ when something utterly. fucking. AS.TO.NI.SHING happens.
GoodCop™ says loud enough for me to hear…
“Just give him his damn shoes!”
WTF?!? IS… is the cop agreeing with me?!?
I look over my shoulder and Religious Parent is silently fuming.
RP has been out-authoritied!!!
Overruled by a greater dominating power.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend!
And just like I had to red-faced bite my lip and leave the house 20 minutes earlier, ReligiousDobsonReadingParent™ now is red-faced and biting their lip in fury but knowing they can’t challenge the authority in front of them.
I don’t even remember if my shoes were thrown at me or I went in to retrieve them or the cop brought them to me– no memory.
The bliss of being right for once barely was enough to lodge in the memory of my WronglyOverMedicatedBrainofSadRage™
This was a rare win during my year from hell.
By all rights, violently attempting to break into a home would land most BadKidz™ in my shoes *rimshot* in jail.
But this time even the GoodCop™ recognized that there was a rather extreme and irrational attempt to force someone to leave your property… and then actively prevent them from doing so unless your goal was to intentionally cause physical harm to a kid’s feet.
15 years later an offhanded comment would implant itself in my brain that would make me re-evaluate this incident.
When I return from the 20th Anniversary celebration weekend from the FOTF headquarters and starting to rethink my involvement and maybe this organization isn’t just good bible stories for kids… I remark about this to my Religious Parent™.
“I’m not sure about Focus anymore… something seems… iunno… odd.”
And my Religious Parent™ said….
“Well, they’re not all bad… they were very helpful when you were going those rough years…”
It took me another decade to process the significance of those words.
Was my Religious Parent communicating with the staff of AIO during this period and were they advising her on how to deal with me during this era?
Was my Religious Parent calling the Focus on the Family hotline and getting counseling for how to deal with their Strong Willed Child™?
Raise your hand if you were a child actor who made propaganda for Dr. James Dobson™’s right-wing organization that teaches an
abusive authoritative style of parenting that drove you to suicide and then your Religious Parent™ also utilized the counseling services of that same right-wing authoritative parenting media company while you are making right-wing authoritative parenting propaganda for that organization?
just me again
Suicide. Addiction. Bad Kid School. Therapy. Legal Problems. Suspended from School . Still Faces. Bad Kid Friends. Losing Families. Anger. Destruction of Property. Parental Manipulation. Discrimination. High School Dropout. Disappointing Generations of Relatives. Shoplifting. Cops Called. Brutal Side Effects From Medications. Tardive Dyskinesia. Tremors. Dry throat. The World’s Most Painful PermaBoner™. Genetalia Failya. Arguing with Parents. Kicked out of Home. Crowbarification of Doors. Violence. Rage. Scaring my Siblings. Moar Police Called. MolassesBrain. Dobsonian Parenting Tachniques.
The crowbar leaves dents in the panel behind what’s left of the mirror.
My dirty bare feet crunching on the fallen shards to get better leverage for each swing.