Where I Lay My Head Is Home (Confessions of a Road Dog)

Where I lay my head is home. That is the basis of most of my personal freedom. I was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska. I started showing signs of independence which I equate with freedom at an early age. I have memories of being nine and ten and constantly scolded for being out late, doing my own thing and having fun.Fast forward a few years and I'm in high school. Without fail, as any free-minded student would, I began to rebel. Smoking pot and drinking, staying out late and partying, 'cause I had the freedom to do so. However, I was eternally paying the consequences as long as I was in my parents' house. My mom was always catching me high and clean as clockwork, I'd be tongue lashed.After 15 years of battling my mother, I said, "I'm outta here." My first real taste of freedom. I'm 15, smart, think I know it all, and I'm my own man. Woo hoo.The first thing I did was find me a nice cabin up in the woods about a mile. It was already November in Alaska and very, very cold. I didn't care, as I had to answer to nobody. I got me a job at a coffee shop, partied when I wanted and had my humble 8ft by 8 ft cabin, cooking stove and food.Things stayed pretty ideal for the next few months but most of it's a blur due to my intoxication. Eventually my mom asked me to come back. I did but I didn't change. So on the fourth of July, 1996, I got my fourth Minor Consuming ticket and had court. My mom was sick of me and bought me a one-way ticket to Seattle. My friend Wes traveled with me and we ended up in Portland.Wes and I stayed with Pat and Naomi, friends from Juneau, but often slept outside, too. At this point Wes and I started shooting heroin. Looking back, if I had wanted I could have got a place, a job, and done as I pleased, but I fell slave to the worst master there is. I was finding my freedom in a blissful dream world and complete oblivion.For a while I had cash to support my habit, but as any good junkie learns, it doesn't matter how much you have, cause with heroin you'll always hit rock bottom or die first if you're lucky/unlucky. I don't know which cause I made it through my hell and I'm better off for it, but some may not be.For the next year or two I had my blissful freedom, but I had just as much pain. I lost my sense of self -- my passion, caring, reason, desire and want. That's just too much of a price to pay if you ask me.As of this writing, I've spent a couple of months clean. I had no chains holding me down so off I had to go. I hopped onto a freight train, headed to sunny Cal with my dog Spazz and , at the time but now my ex-, girlfriend. We hopped across countrysides, through mountains and snow, to wherever the train may go.I have the freedom to roam the country, go and see as I please, when and where I want. However, riding a train doesn't have it all either. From town to town, I dig through others' waste for food to eat or panhandle for food and drink. And panhandling is not freedom. It's relying on others to help you out and being on the road I know not to count on anyone, unless they are my road dogs.So I've been trying to find some sort of medium between riding and bumming. I'd much rather work than beg any day. But when from day to day you don't know if your basic needs will be met, it can be a hard thing. Every day I wake up with no food, water if I'm lucky, and the scary thought that it's a new day. I feed my dog cause he never goes hungry and pack up my gear. I'll hike to where people are to find food or sponge. Occasionally I'll eat at free places but that's not always an option.On any given day I'll occasionally eat, drink, write and look for work. I'd love to have the means to support myself and do what I want to do, which is real freedom as far as I'm concerned.EULOGY FOR A ROAD DOGDamian Eckhout od'd from heroin sometime after midnight, February 18, while sleeping with friends and his dog Spazz in a squat in downtown San Francisco. Born in Juneau, Alaska, 22 years ago, he'd been on his own -- a "road dog" by his description -- since the age of 15. He'd been clean for two months and when a friend woke up to find him in a coma, she was stunned. He od'd because he got drunk, another friend figured, adding that Damian lived much of his life in pain. But for two weeks he had been writing for The Freedom Manual and On-The-Run, a web site by, for and about homeless young people living outside the system. It was the first time, he had told his friends, he'd found a job he wanted to do. YO! will miss him. --YO! EDITORS

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