By this time, I had a little money coming in as I was back at Saint Francis, working as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician.and I had enough for a deposit on a place which was equal to a months rent. Actually, I may have had to have first and last months rent and a deposit. I found a studio apartment on the 13th floor of a small highrise about a block from work. Polk Street was still a gay neighborhood and it was an ideal place to live at the time.
Once I got settled in at the new apartment, David eventually came back down and continued to live with me there. It was a little tight in a studio but we made do. Mary Jo continued to be my best friend at the time and came over to visit regularly.
Mary Jo was taking photography classes at the San Francisco Art Institute and I would visit her there from time to time. I eventually enrolled there in a film making class. I was paying for the class out of my own pocket of course and it seemed like most of the people going there were a few years younger than myself and had rich parents that were paying their way. It was a great school in that they had great resources but for me it was too espensive to continue there. I also had problems with my own self esteem and my film making ability that precluded me from enjoying my experience there.
During the time I was attending at the Art Institute, I was working on a project I called "Ennui." It was dialog I had written some years earlier when I lived with Mary in Seattle. I wanted to make a "narrative" film and so I rewrote some of that dialog and started making my little film with Mary. Essentially we would make que cards and pretty much read our dialog from the cards. We would set the camera up on a tripod and then film a scene. Most of it was filmed in consecutive order so there would not be as much editing required.
My instructor at the Art Institute was totally into non-narrative film. We spent a lot of time blowing out eggs and filling them with paint and then droping them and filming the paint splatter. In these "art" films, there was no story line or beginning, middle or end. They were stoney psychedelica for the most part. This was not the kind of film that I had much itnerest in at all and at the time, I felt inhibited and self consious about the kind of film that I wanted to do. My peers at the Art Institute seemed pretentious and disengenuous to me and so I did not continue there.
I did eventually continue with film making at City College in San Francisco. It was also around this time that I believe I connected with some of the people that would later form Frameline which would be an organization that would do the annual L.G.B.T. film festival. At that time, it was just a few guys getting together to look at each other's super-8 film. I believe Marc Huestas might have been one of those people. I remember meeting in a flat on Guerrero around this time. I remember a couple of years later I would run into one of those original film makers and he had some mysterious disease. Every time I would see him, his health was deteriorating further.
By this time I had made some new friends on the psychiatric unit where I was working. I don't think any of the gay staff remained in the closet by this time. It was a time of gay pride. The staff was also ethnically diverse. I don't think I had ever known anyone from the Phillipines before working there. We had a staff member from Yugoslovia as well Sweden. There were Hispanics and African American's. There were also people that identified themselves as "witches" and "warlocks" and believed in the occult. It became apparent that people that work in the psychiatric field tend to be diverse and interesting.
My mom, Darlene, Chris and Misty came to visit during this period and I borrowed a fold-away bed from Jim over in Hayward and we had people sleeping wall to wall in the little studio. By this time, I had acquired a sound camera and was taking a lot of super-8 sound film and got film of the visit. I got some definitive film of my mom singing, telling a fortune, telling and telling an original story.
She sang some of the lullaby's and songs that she sang to us in our childhood and now sang to Chris and Misty in theirs. She had a beautiful voice.
Mom had been telling fotunes ever since I could remember and people always loved it. She never attributed it to any supernatural but it always seemed supernatural anyway.
While mom was visiting, we spent an evening with my step-brother, Jim, in Hayward.
My first psychiatric aid job was at Pacific State Hospital on a developmentally disabled childrens ward. Pacific State Hospital was a pretty big place with over a thousand patients. I think they even had their own dairy at Pacific State or horses or farm animals. On the unit where I worked, the children were between the ages of about six to ten years old. The day that I was given an interview, while the supervisor was giving me a tour, children started climbing on me. One boy proceeded to take off my belt. The Supervisor acted as if there was nothing wrong, maybe watching for my reaction.
I was resposible for maybe twelve to fifteen kids and followed a regimented routine. I would supervise them while they played in a playroom, some screaming and drooling and others banging their heads on the walls or on the floor. Then at a certain time I was to bring all of them to a dining area and get them seated in their chairs and then bring them their trays. Some would need to be fed.
After we left the dining room, I brought them to the bathroom where there was a row of low, childrens toilets. I would put them on the toilets and there was a platform that I was taught was a place I could put a child to hose them off if they were filthy. I don't think I would ever use it, though, as I think the water than came out of the hose was usually cold and it just seemed like torture.
After toileting, they were all brought to the sinks to wash their hands. I think they were allowed to play for a little while longer and then I would bring them to where they got their medications and then to where they slept and get them all into bed. Once they were all settled into bed, I was responsible for mopping and polishing the floors with a huge floor polisher. It was hard, exhausting work. I lasted only a month or so before I found a job at Doctors Hospital in Montclair.
Doctors hospital was a brand new faciliity and their psychiatric unit mostly catered to depressed, menopausal women or others that had private insurance. It was an open unit and only rarely were there any actual psychotic patients. I worked the evening shift with another psychiatric aid, who's name was Booker and it turned out he was gay also and we became close friends. We were both in the closet at that time but both had the "gaydar" even then and we had gravitated to one another and became close friends. Booker was black and had not really reconciled being gay as much as I had. He also had a daughter. The charge nurse on the unit that I was working on and the licensed psychiatric technician were both very religious. It was the year that the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar" had come out and they discussed it being blasphemy. They also discussed homosexuality being an "abomination in the eyes of God." There was no way to be out of the closet in those circustances.
You can't go anywhere in Southern California without driving and I really utlized my little red Volkswagon stationwagon. It was really my first car that I actually drove and I loved having the mobility but I knew nothing about cars. I didn't know anything about having to change the oil. Eventually, one day while driving on the freeway, the engine would freeze up and I would learn about why it's necessary to change to oil. By that time, the mechanic told me that the oil was thick and clumpy. I couldn't afford to have a mechanic fix the engine though and so I had the car towed to my apartment complex and somehow got the engine out of the car and into the living room of my apartment where I thought that I could follow directions in a book and could take the engine apart, fix it and then put it back together.
I had never worked on cars or had any interest in cars in my entire life but there were books about the Zen of Volkswagon Repair or something like that and I thought that it wouldn't be so difficult. I was actually able to take the engine apart with the pieces spread out on my floor. I had a friend from school come over to help me try to put it back together but eventually I had to hire someone to actually put it together.
The year at Valley Vocational was intense. I was constantly on the go when my car was running and then when it was broke down for a while, I carpooled with friends from school. On the weekends I would often go to West Hollywood by myself or with Booker to go clubbing or go to the baths.
I had a serious crush on a hispanic guy in my class named David and we spent a lot of time together. Even though he was straight, he seemed to like having me for a friend and he was one of the funniest people I ever knew. He could always make me laugh. He was a big Alice Cooper fan.
David had a big crush on a girl in the class named Cheryl but Cheryl had a crush on me. It was a triangle of unrequieted love. I would never have David and he would never have Cheryl. She was able to get me into bed after plying me with wine and pot but that was another dismal, miserable experience for me. She had a daughter who was about five or so and would call me daddy and that was a little disturbing too.
I was desperate to have a maketable skill and I stuck with the Psych. Tech. program through a lot of unpleasantriess. Some days we were in the classroom and others were spent in facilities, getting real world experience. We went to medical facilities, private psychiatric facilities, a Montessori school, various units at Pacific State Hospital with various types of developmental disabilities and then various Metropolitan State Hospital units with the mentally ill. We spent a week or two at California Rehabilitatio Center in Norco. It was a good program with a wide variety of experiences. Doing bed baths and cleaning up urine and feces and taking care of the basic needs of others can be a humbling growth experience.