Ex-‘Gutter Punk' Tells All
Tuesday, November 21, 2000
"When I am in a house I am trapped," Pockets says.
Pockets, who got his name from the multi-pocketed pants he wore for three straight years, has been living on the streets - last week on Berkeley's streets - for nearly five years.
"I left after my pops got five years for shoplifting Christmas presents for me and my sister," Pockets says. "They put us in a group home - three days later we were gutter punks on the streets of D.C."
Pockets left Richlands, Va., when he was 14 and his sister was 10. He says the gutter punk scene is usually where the newest runaways find their street family. This is usually because the greenest runaways are enraged with their life at home and the gutter punks have the most anti-authority attitude on the street.
Pockets parted with his gutter punk identity and his gutter punk sister two years past. He says he wanted to dislocate from that culture in order to escape violence.
"I used to be a violent, violent person," Pockets says. "Now I know that violence only brings more violence. The day I left was the day after I roundhoused this guy who kept on taunting me and my friends. I just couldn't take anymore of his shit! But after he dropped, my friends piled him like a pack of wolves. I almost killed someone and I realized this wasn't the life for me."
Pockets left his sister of 12, who goes by the name Styx. She carries two sticks for protection and luck.
"I have seen my sister take down a full grown man and make him bleed," Pockets says.
Pockets says he made a transition from aggressiveness and bitterness to the hippie lifestyle of peace and harmony. He credits the streets for helping him find himself.
When I was a kid, all these counselors claimed that I had (Attention Deficit Disorder) and were feeding me all these drugs," Pockets says vehemently. "Once I got time to think, I realized nothing was wrong with me. They used these diagnoses and drugs as an out."
Pockets has an eighth-grade education, but, like many other street youths, he spends much of his time reading and thinking. He has had numerous revelations while on the streets, most which come to him while alone and malnourished.
Pockets says he found God when he was crawling across Death Valley. He estimates that he was walking in the desert for four to five weeks and eventually crawling for three straight days. In the middle of this journey, Pockets says, he had to fight off a hungry coyote, but he won by using his ruthless gutter punk fighting tactics. His crawling journey ceased when he found a solitary motel on the highway where the owner provided him with water, food and shelter.
"Looking back at that journey, I found that a part of me died - so another part, a better part, could come to me," he says.
The travels of Pockets are not always this rough - if they were, he probably would not have made it to every state in the continental U.S., as well as Hawaii.
He says the day after he abandoned the gutter punks, he hitched his way from Richlands, Va., to Santa Monica, Calif., in five days. This is the fastest he has ever heard of anyone traveling on land from coast to coast.
"I just traveled with truckers," says Pockets. "That is the beauty of this life. Touching both oceans in less than a week and not a dollar spared. It is the only way to travel America."
Pockets says his favorite part of being a traveler is meeting new people and seeing so many different places. He is not happy if he stays in one place - he gets bored.
"Just last year I went to New Orleans to find my sister," Pockets says. "I didn't find my sister, but I stuck around long enough to meet a girlfriend, live in a house, and I held a job in construction."
But one day Pockets decided to pack up his things and hit the road again. He was bored.
Pockets is a self-proclaimed hippie, and while he travels he likes to meet up with members of "the family." This family is a group of hippies that ends up crossing paths at many musical concerts, at "gatherings," and in "communes." Pockets says gatherings are held regionally on a monthly basis, and nationally and internationally on an annual basis. A commune, he says, is where a group of hippies live together and everyone works together to form a small society that lives in peace.
Two years ago, Pockets was "spanging," or "spare-changing," on the docks of Long Beach when he was invited to work on a commercial fishing boat on its way to Hawaii. Pockets stayed there for about six months and was able to attend the gathering that was held that summer.
Pockets sticks to hitchhiking as his method of travel. He stays away from freight train-hopping because he had a near-death experience with train travel.
"I was trapped in a freight car for one week straight," he says. "I boarded in Allegheny, Pa. and the train didn't stop until we got to Sacramento."
"Us travelers have become beyond society," Pockets says. "I believe I am what society wants to be - to be free, you know."
Pockets is genuinely content with his traveling lifestyle. He says confidently that he would not live any other way. The only downfall, he admits, is that he has had too many friends die or become "dope" fiends. Pockets fell victim to heroin addiction three years ago as a gutter punk, but when he saw one of his best friends die from going through "the shakes," or withdrawal, he kicked the habit.
"I started dope because I was scared of spiritual growth," Pockets says.
Pockets considers himself an entirely different person from what he was when he left five years ago. He believes that people trapped in the constructs of society are "dead."
"All people are dead," Pocket says. "They are not happy, they are not where they want to be - they gave up a long time ago."
Pockets considers his life more alive than any other. Last Friday, he was going up to Humboldt County to spend time with "the family" and enjoy the marijuana harvest season.
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