My Home Growing Up in Bel Air

The title of this post relates to something we used to tell ourselves, and sometimes to others: It’s an old family inside joke, When asked where we were from, we would say, Bel Air. It sounded cool, or at least – normal. And it was partially true – because we lived IN a 1956 Chevy Bel Air coupe. Yeah, those were the days. We were homeless a lot….

We were homeless - We lived in Bel Air ..Chevy, that is.

We lived in Bel Air ..Chevy, that is.

I was a kid at the time and I didn’t exactly realize that this wasn’t normal. I’ve had an interesting life, anyway. I just thought I’d share this… Try to imagine living in a car like this with your alcoholic gun-slinging dad and chain-smoking mom. We mostly slept in national parks and other forests of Oregon and California. Sometimes on the streets, instead. There were even brief times where we had a house: Once in Chico, California and another time in Sacramento. Then just before my dad killed himself we ended up in an isolated farm house a gazillion miles from any human habitation. I guess it was something like The Shining, complete with the overacting but with guns instead of axes.  Good times.

I remember times when the only food was some flour mixed with water, cooked over a campfire on a stick. It tasted good. As I said, we usually parked somewhere in the woods/forest whatever…. I had several birthdays while living in a car or tent in forests.

6th Birthday, homeless

6th Birthday, homeless

Here we see a picture of me on my 6th birthday. Good ‘ol ambigendered me, dressed like a boy but clutching a doll under my left arm… I think the area is the woods outside Red Bluff, California, which is where we were living at the time. We didn’t call it being homeless, we called it camping. We just didn’t have a home to go to. I think we had the Bel Air at that time… Later, in this very car shown above, my dad would commit suicide, sitting in the driver’s seat. After that, my mom just gave that car to someone – so we didn’t even have a car for a while. It was actually an act of mercy and compassion, I think. My dad knew, as my mom knew, that he would have ended up killing us all if he had not killed himself, first. He couldn’t help it; his mental illness made him like that. He did the one thing he could do to save us. ….I will credit the homeless years with my early introduction and experience in street art. And while I am aware that some people are horrified by the things that have happened in my life, to me they are just part of my history and part of what has made me who I am.

It may seem funny, but if you grow up a certain way then you don’t realize that it isn’t normal. To you, it’s just life. And even as I grew up and finally realized that we had such crazy lives, what difference does it make? There are no do-overs, after all. I guess I would be a very different person but then I’d be a different person if I didn’t have ADD or whatever, too. It could be interesting, but that’s not the way things are. And really, I don’t have an overwhelming desire to be anything other than who I am, even if having a “normal” life sounds tempting from time to time.

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