Photo taken outside my bedroom window at Riverfront Towers. A colleague once famously said, “I don’t understand how anyone could be depressed with that view.”
Editor’s note: These are only excerpts from one chapter of my book, expected to be published fall 2018. These excerpts may change a little or a lot up until final completion of the book, and do not represent complete chapters.
“When you look back on this Davey Boy, you’re gonna say, wow, that was the life back in Detroit,” said my neighbor, Jack, as we looked out over the Detroit skyline from my penthouse apartment.
In one direction, a full-on view of General Motors, the Penobscot Building and all the other skyscrapers. In the other direction, the Detroit River and Windsor, Canada on the other side.
But the 29th-floor apartment – $975 per month, a low price even by year 2000 standards – could not make up for the horrible depression that weighed me down.
The coolest thing about living in Detroit, hands down, was seeing Rosa Parks most every single day.
There’s something incredibly powerful being told by Rosa Parks each morning to, “Have a blessed day.” I smile just thinking about it.
Ms. Parks always had who I presumed was her bodyguard, or personal assistant, by her side. He also was an incredibly positive, friendly man and wore a top hat.
As if all of this were not enough, Aretha Franklin lived in my building, too. Aretha always had a fur, an entourage, and a big, shiny presence, shiny as her bling. “Hiiiiiiiiiii! YOU have a BLESSED day!”
Yes, of course I thought I was fabulous! Who wouldn’t, being blessed daily by Ms. Parks and Ms. Franklin?
‘Who’s Zoomin’ Who?’
I had a cell phone at the time – that was a huge deal! – and when you it turned it on it was registered to “Divadome Dave.”
Inside the Divadome, you could get marijuana in the grocery store and cocaine in the hair salon. The official name for the place was “Riverfront Towers,” but part of the sign was burnt out when you exited the freeway downtown.
It was just “Riverfro.”
Last year, the complex was sold for about $80 million. Check out the news story here. I lived in Tower 200, as did Ms. Parks; Ms. Franklin, I thought, I lived in Tower 300.
The saying was, “Tower 300 is old money, Tower 200 is new money, and Tower 100 is no money.”
Tower 300 was not included in last year’s sale, according to the news report.
From Riverfront Towers to dry river trail in Palm Springs
I landed in Detroit with the help of a mentor and friend I since have lost touch with. I was spiraling out of control at the Press-Telegram of Long Beach, burning it at both ends in an incredibly stressful newsroom management job.
I would work from noon midnight, toot crystal meth from midnight to 8 a.m., close my eyes for three hours and start it all again. I wanted out of there.
Of course, you can’t run from your addiction. But you could not tell me that back then.
What ended up happening was a predictable crystal meth crash during a time when I had been given the chance to prove my stuff at a top newspaper. At the time, the paper still was owned by Gannett.
Instead, I cried all the time, could barely think, and ultimately, barely function. I put in for a transfer to the Palm Springs Desert Sun. I knew the drugs would be flowing again there, and the weather lovely.
My time in Detroit still was memorable, despite the depression. The newspaper itself contains the most talented journalists I ever have had the pleasure of working with. Detroit itself is even more insanely corrupt than the Quad-Cities, maybe even Chicago for all I know. At least, it sure used to be.
I remember some in the newsroom high-fiving when Kwame Kilpatrick was elected mayor. If you don’t know who Kwame Kilpatrick is, you can Google him.
Strung out in a Mumu, Rollerblading through Palm Springs
One handwritten note dated March 28-29 (2002) succinctly summed up my time in Palm Springs.
“Pot is your friend,” I wrote. “’Twelve-steppers are dangerous’ will be the title of my new book. Miss 12-Step called 911 and said I assaulted her – twice. Cops at Disability Dave’s! That, upon my inspection of dad’s new residence – assisted living at $1,800 per month.”
Note: There’s something really wrong in this world when someone who disagrees with you and perceives they are in a position of power over you can say you assaulted them because you raised your voice. The only person in my life I ever have struck was another kid in high school at fight outside a basketball game. We both were wearing white pants.
People having mental health episodes frequently are detained in this manner in ways that are obscenely unconstitutional. When other people struggling with mental illness see this, it makes them even more unlikely to seek mental health care.
“We learned he has Alzheimer’s on March 7, the 7th anniversary of mother’s horrible cancer death,” I continued. “Uncle Ted dropped death while I was back in that horrible, horrible hellhole. Dad’s in a dump. Please, when I enter assisted living, I want Marriot Mapleridge. Oh well. At least he wants to go places and do things now.”
I wrote about having “no sleep in several weeks” and “luring men into my apartment for sex, when all I really wanted was company.”
I would pass the days hooking up with men on the phone sex line, Rollerblading to their houses. Then, I would Rollerblade home, stealing flowers out of people’s gardens along the way.
I then would make elaborate floral displays upon my return to my apartment in Warm Sands, a debaucherous, drug-ridden segment of the city best known for its gay nudist resorts.
Sometimes I would wear a MuMu during my Rollerthons.
Physically, I reported a “severe case of the runs accompanied by terrible cramps all day” in my note about life in Palm Springs, just waiting to be found 15 years later.
‘This is Palm Springs, our officers don’t wear hats’
Through the help of a man in the Quad-Cities who I met in an AOL chat room, I made it back to the Quad-Cities. This man never asked for anything in return other than the money I borrowed from him.
At the time, he worked for an organization called Quad-Citians Affirming Diversity, or QCAD. The organization affirms gay people in the Quad-Cities who essentially are not finding it anywhere else, in a nutshell.
He flew to Palm Springs, rented me a U-Haul, filled my car with gas, paid for hotels along the way back to the Quad-Cities, and even had an apartment rented for me for when I got there.
Who does that?
His help came just in the nick of time, as I was totally out of my mind. I thought cops were watching me from high atop the palm trees, which I must have thought they just shimmied right up.
“Oh yes he does! And a whistle!” I insisted to a police dispatcher who told me the police were NOT outside my apartment.
Apparently, the cop I was reporting to her was the exact same cop you see on a Monopoly board.
“Sir this is Palm Springs, it’s 107 degrees outside and our officers don’t wear hats,” she explained.
When the police arrived, I showed them all the antipsychotic medications the psychiatrist had me pumped full of.
“You know what I tell high-strung people like yourself? Just smoke a little pot once in a while.”
I swear, people. Palm Springs, Calif. in the year 2001.
Coming next week: The Pollyanna College years.
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