In 1986, when I was fifteen and Joey was eleven, we moved from Los Angeles to a small town in Alabama. Our father, a sergeant in the Army, was transferring to Fort McClellan outside a place called Anniston. Along for the ride was this guy Rick, a friend of the family who was also in the Army. We left the day after Christmas. It was the first time Joey and I had ever been outside the urban sprawl of Southern California.
Six months later, the old man and Rick were in prison, Joey was in a Christian group home and I was in a mental hospital.
For me, things were looking up.
The adolescent ward of Hillcrest Sunrise Hospital wasn’t so bad. The food was decent. I had friends and things to do. Among the depressives, the suicidals, the pot smokers, the bulimics and anorexics, the white girls who dated black guys, the atheists, the queers and the borderline schitzos, I was in good company. The freaks and rejects of small town Alabama were my kind of people. Sure, the doors were locked, the windows were thick plexiglass, we had video cameras aimed at us all the time and a full battalion of psych techs patrolled our every move—I was institutionalized without a doubt—but Hillcrest was a dreamland in the sky compared to the shelter where they put Joey and me when we were first taken into custody.
That place was a real shithole.
An Excerpt from Piltdownlad #4