Soon after I turned 11 years old, my family moved to 9th St. downtown Sacramento, Ca. This was around the time I began to make friends and was happy to play outside as opposed to staying in my room all day drawing, writing and constantly being yelled at while forced to do not only my chores but those of my younger brother’s as well during a time momma suffered from depression. I learned to appreciate nature’s provisions as it allowed me to nourish myself by eating from the blackberry vines and pomegranate trees that grew in our neighborhood which meant not having to go in and out of the house all day. Even though I was well aware of having to face the inevitable wrath of momma at the end of the day from my fingers and clothes stained with juices from the sweet fruits, it would be worth it. There was the occasional pedophile driving up to ask for directions and offering candy we knew not to take; only to discover he was completely exposed from the waist down, we also quickly learned never to approach strange vehicles. Aside from that, back then there weren’t any real dangers to be concerned about. The notorious serial killer Dorothea Puente who lived a few blocks behind us, wasn’t targeting children.
The girls spent time playing hopscotch and roller-skating to K Street Mall, which back then was an empty strip of space lined with stores on each side that stretched a couple miles all the way into Old Sacramento, a popular tourist spot. Today K Street is more of a club/restaurant scene with not only rail lines for the city train, but regular traffic as well. My brother’s and I were fortunate to get an allowance from my stepfather on the weekends he visited. My money was spent in Woolworths either on ice cream or nail polish while the boys would spend theirs at the underground arcade in Old Sac. However, on the days we didn’t have money, the boys would wreak havoc in the neighborhood. Between our home and K Street Mall there were several offices and buildings of which I had no clue as to what took place inside. Most days while they were in operation, we were in school. One block over from K Street is our State Capitol building. There were times my brothers and I hung out in there all day. We would sit in the mini theatre and watch short films about the history of Sacramento. We’d explore the secret doors on adventures wondering what they led to which was always something interesting. One day we decided to play on the elevators until we found ourselves stuck inside for what seemed like forever but was only 10-15 minutes. To our surprise when the doors finally opened, it was former Governor George Deukmejian who came to our aid. Certain aspects of the Capitol Building are more of a museum and of course there’s no longer freedom to roam with the transient population and crime being what it is today.
My brothers seemed to enjoy diving in the dumpsters located in the alleyways behind what I eventually discovered to be law offices. They’d find case files from homicides, old polaroid’s taken at the scene of the crime, even boxes of new pens and fresh paper. I was intrigued and often chose to stay inside reading through the cases never realizing that later in my life, I would not only be utilizing the services of an attorney and bail bondsman, but also find myself in the huge courthouse (featured above on left) in one instance testifying, another as a juror and at one point facing 7 years during my own trial. Although as a kid I wasn’t aware that huge building was a courthouse, I knew it was an important place and sensed it was a place I didn’t want to enter even though I admired the design of all these extremely tall structures in our neighborhood, sparking my initial interest of becoming an architect. So, when the boys would wade in the courthouse fountain for loose change, I stayed clear. Sometimes the boys would unscrew the plastic covers from the tires of cars in the parking lots, letting the air escape throughout the day.
My siblings and I laugh whenever we get together now as they tease me for surprisingly being the one out of all of us that not only ended up in the courthouse but also the main jail (featured above on the right). After forty plus years I had my chance to witness first-hand what goes on inside the building I admired as a child. Now after being homeless and recently starting a new job, I can’t help but believe it was God’s plan for me to once again find my way downtown in a new home. Not only am I located in the center of everything, but I’ve also found myself in the last year revisited these places from my childhood memories with a greater purpose. Working in the mental health field for various county affiliates throughout California, a huge part of my job is advocating, educating and raising awareness regarding what many families and peers struggling with mental health face regularly. Visiting the state capitol to discuss and learn about certain programs and funding such as SB1338 and AB 2830-CARE Court. Experiencing firsthand for those 5 days in the county jail if people with MH challenges are receiving proper treatment/medications and what if any resources are offered to them once they are released. Looking back, I have no regrets for those lived experiences. In fact, I feel blessed for paying attention and knowing I wasn’t being punished but more so chosen for a purpose although not realizing at the time my life would come full circle.
Fun Fact: It was my daughter who at the age of 7 taught me how a bill becomes a law by always having her head in that big brown book from a previous post. I never thought that would be something I needed to know, nor did I have much interest at the time, but I listened because she was interested, and I never forgot or imagined I would need to use that information at some point in my life.