Life of Socrates [part 3 of a series]

The rehab was located in Boca Raton, Florida, which is just five minutes down Military Trail south of Delray Beach which is where Grandma and Grandpa Cooper lived his entire life. Socrates knew the area well because once a year, they’d usually go down there as a family and visit not only the grandparents on Mama’s side who spent their lives and later their winters in Providence, but also his grandparents on Abba’s side who had a slightly smaller apartment but lived on a golf course.

The facility was called Renaissance and Abba said it was pricey, (Socrates did not know whether insurance paid for it). He flew into West Palm Beach where the airport is and there was a driver there to pick him up. So sad he could not have been a very successful person and greeting the driver of a stretched limousine.  When they arrived at the rehab they passed by a swimming pool and the driver went outside. Socrates stood around the courtyard and smoked a cigarette. Then, he went inside the little office there so that he could to an intake but not after a good two hours standing around outside. Inside, a robotic and emotionless lady told Socrates firmly to ‘Sit’. One of the workers who Socrates presumed to be one of the psychologists came down the neat, green, carpeted hall. His Nike hi-tops strutted with pride and subtle power. He stopped in place only long enough to give a ‘yo’ and then he swerved his hips and spun around leading the way back down the hall for Socrates. The two were about the same height. He had a grey ponytail that stretched halfway down his back and big thick prescription glasses. They went into his office which was about the size of a closet compared to some of the other rooms which Socrates would see there.

‘I’m Jeff.’

‘Hi.’ nervously.

‘Give me your bag.’ he said in a relentlessly dry tone, his facial expressions still not cracking and not looking at his eyes.

Socrates scraped up the backpack from his feet and lifted it to the rehab intake guy who snatched it out of his hand.

‘Do you have any weapons?’ the guy asked.

‘No.’ said Socrates.

He dumped the contents of the backpack on to the extension tray that was connected to his desk. Not much was in there, some food crumbs, a fork, condoms, matches, a lighter, some books, a journal which he said Socrates can keep, tobacco grinds and mostly a lot of dirt is what came out. He noticed that Jeff, the ponytail man had bloodshot eyes.

‘What is this?’

‘It is a fork.’

‘I am going to ask you what drugs you have been on.’

‘Okay.’

‘Are you high now?’

‘Nope.’

‘No?’

‘Nope.’
‘Well your eyes look red.’

‘I smoked yesterday.’

This was the response that the inquisitor wanted.

‘Weed?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Coke?’

‘No, weed.’

‘I mean have you done cocaine?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Crack?’

‘Nope.’

‘Crystal meth, anything like that?’

‘Nope.’

‘Heroin?’

‘No.’

‘Liquid G?’

‘No.’

‘Ketamine?’

‘No.’ he said smiling.

‘DMT.’

‘Nope.’

‘Angel dust.’

‘Don’t think so.’

‘Ecstasy?’

‘Yes.’

‘LSD?’

‘Yes.’

As Socrates answered his questions, Jeff went down a list with his pen, checking things off and taking notes sporadically.

‘Mescaline? Peyote? Mushrooms?’

‘Just mushrooms…’ Socrates stated shrugging, slightly entertained by the game.

‘Have you been on Barbertonites? Quaaludes? Opioids?’

‘No.’

‘So weed is your drug of choice. You would say that, right?’

‘Yeah.’ said Socrates. ‘I guess you could say that.’

At the Rehab everyone was assigned to an apartment and these apartments were not bad at all. There were two to three to a house and they consisted of separate bedrooms, dining tables and live-ins, television sets and fully equipped kitchen. They each had a porch and one bathroom. Each patient was given a budget to shop with and they took the little vans to the supermarket one day a week, usually Friday. At the time, America had just invaded Iraq, and everyone had this on their television sets. But there was not much time permitted in the program to be watching those little things, other activities took precedent, playing guitar and pool on weekends, reading, cards socializing and smoking cigarettes. There were two sessions per day during the week at the therapeutic facility which was actually a ten minute drive from the living facilities. In the mornings they sat around in large circles on metal folding chairs in a largish class room type, the therapist would be in the middle with two associates and they would shuffle through papers which had to do with people’s cases, and they would call out people’s names one by one and begin asking them about the personal details of their lives and their behavior in the clinic out loud, in front of the whole group. When they woke up in the morning they had to do physical exercise like jogging or walking around the complex on the main drag there, a distance of about 1 mile. They would go home for lunch then return to the therapy place at about 2 pm. There would be more sessions, this time in smaller groups with only psychologist in the room and the protocol was much the same as in the prior sessions. Clearly, the groups were divided up by age. In Socrates’ group were two girls and two boys. One of the girls was from Kentucky and she spoke with a drawl. She wore a yellow hooded sweatshirt and her hair was bleach blonde. Socrates saw her sitting out by the pool in a bikini. She had a vertical scar on her abdomen, it had been closed by staples. The other girl was from Florida. She had a disease and it was going to cause her to become blind in a couple of years. Both of the girls were short and cute, but they did not converse much. Alex was the name of one of the guys who had been there slightly longer than Socrates and perhaps he did not immediately recognize it. He was slightly shorter and the only Hispanic patient. Everybody else was white or Jewish. He and Meghan – the girl from Florida – were being promiscuous at one point. Alex and Socrates chain smoked together and Alex told Socrates how he was into techno music and the rave scene. He was a little in-your-face, his style; did he have to tell Socrates what kind of clothes he wore to the function? So anyway, everybody believes in the term ‘tough love’ these days. Just months prior, it was a term Socrates came to hear frequently at home spoken ‘about’ him. Well it was very much the philosophy of Renaissance.  The experience gradually became tougher and tougher. One time Socrates called his grandmother and aunt, who lived together in the apartment where Abba’s parents used to live over in Del Ray Beach. Socrates asked them if they could meet up. Aunt Betty got on the phone and told him no absolutely not, then of course without Socrates’ knowledge, proceeded to call Abba and Mama and inform them of the incident. Abba received the information with his usual callousness and called the rehab and the incident came up at one of the sessions. There was a punishment issued out by the personal therapist, and Socrates had his guitar taken away. The next week, Alex and Socrates got to talking and they resolved to the leave the program. So one day, Socrates walked up to the office of the therapist where the door was unlocked and simply took his guitar which sat behind the desk of the psychologist. He and the Latino boy hit the road and headed for the bus station. There they went into the shop and each bought a 40 oz. of beer. They got on the bus and started for the beach. By the time they got off the beach they were already drunk. Alex kept bringing up how he wanted to buy some crack. This was not Socrates’ choice of drugs, but he would have tried that day, had Alex not had a sudden change of heart and headed back for the rehab, alone. Socrates went to the boardwalk with his acoustic guitar which Abba had bought him for graduating high school and began to play some of his own original music, singing along with his own original words and everything. It took nearly 48 hours and one night on the beach spent with this tall, homeless blonde boy, Socrates’ age who climbed up on a lifeguard stand on the beach and helped the young man clad in slacks, a white t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt and guitar, to sit and polish off a jug of cheap wine. Socrates woke up on the beach hungover and the other kid, who was at least two years older in age and two arrests more experienced had left mysteriously in the night when Socrates was unconscious. He played guitar some more in the morning and held out a plastic cup for money. When he had enough, he hopped on another bus and headed for Renaissance. He went on through the gate, and the other patients saw him but said nothing, as if he were dangerous. It must have been common news that a patient from the clinic had disappeared and even broken into the private office of one of the psychologists. That psychologist, Socrates never saw again, not on a personal basis, that is. Jeff, the ponytailed guy who did the intake came up to Socrates and thrust his pelvis in his face.

‘Come with me.’ he commanded Socrates. And the two walked to his van where they got in and drove to the other facilities where the offices and the classrooms all were. He left his guitar and backpack in the van and proceeded to get out, but Jeff pointed his finger.

‘Take your shit out.’ he ordered in a ‘tough love’ tone.

They walked up stairs and Socrates followed him to the office of the program’s director. A relatively young psychiatrist with bloodshot eyes and suspiciously groovy vibrations. He was short but very strong, like he lifted weights. He was bald, and to add to the effect he shaved his head. He was wearing a green oxford, in dress code with the other staff.

‘How’d you get the guitar, Socrates?’

‘I took it.’

‘Why?’

‘Sorry.’

Then there was a long and uncomfortable pause.

‘Okay, here is how we are going to do it.’ he said. ‘We aren’t going to let you in. Not yet.’ he said. ‘We’re going to call your father’ he said.

And so he spun around in his revolving chair and reached for the telephone. Socrates’ file was open out on his desk, he proceeded to dial the number on the telephone and Mr. Cohen answered.

‘Hello?’ Craig Schwartz had him on speaker phone.

‘Craig Schwartz from Renaissance. I’ve got Socrates here.’

‘Hello?’ Mama picked up on the other end.

‘I’ve got it.’

‘Hello there.’

‘Hello.’ said Mama, speaking into the phone and not hearing anything apparently.

‘Hi.’ said Dr. Schwarz.

‘Hello?’ she asked again, frustrated.

‘Hi, Craig Schwartz here.’ again.

‘Oh ok.’ It was his mother’s voice. ‘Hello.’

Things at that point started to get serious.

They proceeded to explain to Socrates how he was thrown out of the rehab, he was being expelled. And that was not a good thing because he had to appear in court in Connecticut in one month time about a marijuana bust.

‘You need to figure something out.’ Abba told Socrates over the speaker phone. ‘You are now homeless.’ he said.

‘Oh, don’t give me that arrogant look.’ said Craig loud enough so that everyone on the other end of the phone conversation would be mad at Socrates. But in truth, Socrates had not done anything; it was only a ‘tough love’ tactic.  After the conversation was over, Craig began explaining to him that he ought to go to an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting and figure out what he was going to do. He called Jeff over, the ponytail guy who chain smoked Marlboro Lights.

‘Put him in the van and take him to a meeting.’ Craig said.

***

What ended up happening is that Socrates had to work day labor jobs until he raised enough funds to take a Grey Hound bus back up to Connecticut where he would be sure not to miss his court date in Norwalk. Each morning he would wake up and line up in the day labor office where he would be added to a makeshift work crew who did all kinds of anonymous jobs, from building a private dock in someone’s yard, to hoeing up grass, to cleaning a construction site and loading boxes onto a freight truck at a huge factory. When he had enough money saved up, he got a Grey Hound ticket and headed back north where he was given permission to stay at Mama and Abba’s. That is to say, they left the key out for him. They also hired someone to come look after him while he was there and they hired this charming African-American lady who slept in their bedroom. While he was there for the court date in which, pending a letter from the rehab, the case was just pushed back and he was ordered to appear in another six months, he called Sarah Krystal who was also home. She came and picked him up in her car. She was smiling, happy to see Socrates.

‘Guess what I got?’ she said, the Grateful Dead was playing in her CD player.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘I’ve got some weed.’

‘Oh, cool. I wonder what they’re going to say? They are doing urine checks in the rehab.’ Socrates said.

‘Well, if you do not want to smoke then don’t.’ she snapped.

‘Don’t get snappy with me.’ said Socrates, taking her pipe from her hands. ‘Of course I’ll smoke.’ he said. The next thing they knew, the two of them were downstairs in Socrates’ bed, doing it again. They had taken a bottle of wine from Mama’s wine cabinet and also Socrates had managed to find some Xanax in Abba’s bathroom. They had an argument over something petty that night and Socrates kicked Sarah out of the bed and out of the house telling her to go home.

‘Take your wine and go.’ he said.

Like an idiot, Socrates had told the lady who was looking on over the situation that he had smoked a bowl and slept with his old girlfriend. Why did he tell her that? Either way, Sarah was never his girlfriend, just a play thing. A cuddle buddy. They hung out together and did traditional things. Well, the African-American lady called his parents and reported this. Socrates borrowed some money and headed back to Florida by bus; he had an old friend from high school take him to the bus station. She was annoyed that he required assistance still. His bus left that night at 10 pm. It made one stop in each state, Southern New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and back to Florida, where Socrates was still not let back into the program but at least reported back the news from the court that he would have to appear again. But now that all had heard that he had what they called a ‘relapse,’ he was in even more trouble. Socrates wandered the long public streets of Florida, over the train tracks and through the alleys. He still went to NA meetings but just so that other, older addicts could find him and take him under their wing a little. There is only so much that one can do for a homeless teenager, but at least he found places to stay for short whiles at a time and to eat and bathe, and the rest of the time Socrates was homeless and alone. Finally, one day, Abba and Mama passed by in a rented car. They slowed down to talk to him.

‘Are you here for parent’s week?’ asked Socrates.

‘Yes.’ They said.

‘Don’t go near the rehab.’ His mother ordered. ‘You are still homeless.’ she said.

It was not the end of the world, Mama and Abba being there in Florida. Abba could always squeeze in another game of golf. But for Socrates it was the end of the line. At the parents’ weekend function, the three of them sat in the middle of the circle with all of the other family’s from the rehab watching them. Socrates began to cry, they would not let him get a word in.

‘Well’ said Doug, the one running the rehab, “You still have another court date pending.”

‘I know.’ Socrates said.

‘Don’t interrupt.’ Interjected Mama.

“Don’t you interrupt, shut up.’ Said Abba.

Socrates broke down in tears with his head in his hands.

‘But what am I going to do?’ he sobbed.

“You need to get help.” Mama said.

‘Shut up. Stop crying.’ said Abba.

More sobs.

‘What you need to do is figure out a way to get back to Connecticut.’ Said Doug who was leading the session.

‘Again?’ Socrates asked.

‘Yes, again.’

‘Again.’

‘Again.’

‘Can you give me the money?’ Socrates begged.

‘No. This time, you are on your own.’ Mama said.

That night Socrates had somewhere to stay before his bus ride, at an apartment of a graduate of Renaissance. He couldn’t meet him till 11pm. There waiting, he found himself in the company of an older junky who had some heroin on him. He had Socrates go into the supermarket and order a pack of hypodermic syringes from the pharmacy. When he got back out, there in the parking lot, he took out the brown powder, cooked it in a spoon and shot it into the syringe. The junky shot Socrates up and it felt like running full speed into a brick wall. The high effect of the drug overcame him. Socrates didn’t like it. He became agitated and couldn’t stop itching his skin. At 11pm he met up with the sober friend and spent the night in his apartment. In the morning it was back to the Grey Hound.

***

When Socrates got back to New Congregation, it was like he was a ghost. First, he begged for handouts, using the quarters he received to make calls on the pay phone at the coffee shop. He called every old acquaintance he had, asking if he could spend some nights, escape from the reality of homelessness. But hardly anyone would take him in, and those that did, it was only for a few nights at a time. One friend gave Socrates a sleeping bag, and this kept him warm when he slept in the park or off the filthy pavement when he slept in the parking garage. One day he sold off his music equipment: two guitars, a keyboard, an amplifier and accessories. He had a wad of cash from the sale. And one night he spent sleeping on the floor of the apartment of people he didn’t know. He took off his pants and lay under the blanket. In the morning, the cash was gone! All of it. It was impossible to determine who took it because there were lots of people in the apartment and besides, what would he have done about it?

***

The court date was in the summer. Socrates had not been able to pay the fine he had for a prior marijuana bust and now was facing the judge on that charge. He was sentenced to 18 months, suspended sentence. It would be on his permanent record as a ‘Felony’. For the ‘suspended sentence’, Socrates would have to complete a ‘hard concept’ program in Bridgeport, called Daytop. But first he would be incarcerated in a facility in Waterbury while he waited for a bed to open at Daytop.

The facility in Waterbury was a step away from prison. The whole population was about Socrates’ age and they could keep their own clothes. There were six beds to a room, always all filled. One day Socrates was offered some dope that was smuggled in. It was a little ‘dime bag’ of reddish brown powder. Socrates went to the bathroom and rolled up a piece of paper. He snorted up the powder through his nostrils. It didn’t sting. Socrates didn’t get high. It was brick dust. What level had he stooped to!

Socrates always wore a black hooded sweatshirt that he had been given as a gift during his homeless days in New Congregation. The sweater said ‘Be Good Family’. One day as Socrates was going up the stairs to return to his room, he was stopped by a thin but muscular black kid. The kid played with Socrates.

‘You want to go up?’

‘Please let me pass.’

‘No entry, motherfucker’.

Socrates tried to force his way past his assailant who pulled on the sweatshirt by the collar, tearing it, and flinging Socrates a few steps back down the stairs.

***

Finally, after about three weeks a bed opened up at Daytop. Socrates was transferred from Waterbury in a van. He didn’t know what to expect but he had heard stories about Daytop while in Waterbury. He had heard that the program was brutal. That they made people wear wooden signs around their neck and worse.

When Socrates arrived, he was seated to a chair in an office. He waited there for a couple of hours in the strange atmosphere of the office. They brought him a plate of food. Participants of the program were answering the phone and talking amongst themselves the business of the program. They were wearing ties with jeans and sneakers.

‘Do they really make you wear wooden signs around your neck?’ asked Socrates to the bald-headed, light-skinned, black man who sat there chatting.

‘No. They used to. But the program got in trouble. So, they stopped.’ He said. ‘You’re not supposed to be talking bro.’

‘Sorry.’ Said Socrates.

Finally, one of the directors of the program, a short Italian lady named Denise, called him into another office. She took his bag and did an intake. The basics of the program were explained to Socrates. Participants were to ‘job function’, in one of several departments. There was laundry, kitchen, expeditors (which was what the people in the office with the ties were), maintenance, etc. You could be promoted to a higher rank in your department or demoted to a lower rank, depending on your behavior. ‘Spare parts’ was for people new to the program and people who were in trouble. ‘Spare parts’ spent their days wiping the door knobs and room signs with spray bottle and towels. They were last to line up at meals and they were automatically given the task of washing the dishes after every meal.

At Daytop, there were rules. A whole bevy of rules. There was a language to learn: ‘coming off sick’ meant using profane language. Walking away from your equipment was ‘flagging out’. Then there were such rules as keeping your shirt tucked in, not having your hands in your pockets, etc. Everybody at Daytop were responsible for everyone else. So, for example, if Socrates caught someone leaning against a wall, he would ‘confront’ the person, which meant he would say: ‘leaning, be more aware of yourself!’ then it was up to the person to stop leaning. If that person did not stop leaning, it was up to Socrates to write the incident on a card and drop it in a box that was kept in the hall. Every night, Denise and one of the participants of a higher rank would pull all the slips out of the box and then one by one, the accused would be called down to the office, where they would line up outside the door. Inside the office at the end of the hall was like a mock hearing. You’d walk into the room and Denise would confront you: ‘Socrates, were you coming off sick?’ You’d say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ then leave the office. You’d be called back that evening and a punishment would be dulled out. The worst punishment was ‘spare parts’. Then there was losing time on furloughs, that seemed equally severe.

The population of Daytop were mostly sent there from the Department of Corrections, most were not merely court stipulated like Socrates. And nobody would volunteer themselves to such a place. So, Socrates started out on ‘spare parts’ for four weeks. In the third week one day he was washing pots and pans in the kitchen. These were large industrial pots and pans and they required Socrates to lean over and put half his body into them as he scrubbed out the stuck food debris with tough industrial Brillo.

‘Those are not clean’ said Wilfredo, who was running the kitchen inspection.

Socrates muttered under his breath: ‘I’m going to kill that guy’. Then he forgot he had even said anything. After he finished his kitchen duty he went back to the Day Room and sat down. Soon it was time for the nightly AA meeting. After the meeting Socrates’ name was called by the expeditors to the office. When it came his turn to go in the office, he closed the door behind him and stepped on the line.

‘Socrates, were you coming off sick by threatening Wilfredo?’

‘Yes.’ Answered Socrates.

‘You have to sit in the chair.’

They led him out and there was a wooden chair set facing a wall. Socrates was seated in the chair and had to stay there for three hours. When it was time to go upstairs to sleep, he was able to move. The next morning, he walked down the stairs with everyone else and found that the chair was still set out for him in the hall, facing the wall. Socrates would have to spend all day in the chair. That night he had his spare parts extended by another three weeks.

***

For the first few months at Daytop, time moved slow. Abba and Mama didn’t come for Thanksgiving. It felt like a cold gesture and it was probably meant to be. Then time seemed to speed up. Socrates went from spare parts to expeditor, to laundry and back to expeditor. After six months, it was time for the first furlough. Both Mama and Abba were there to pick him up. Socrates wanted coffee and cigarettes and he got them.

***

Once in a while the Department of Corrections showed up and conducted ‘shakedowns’ of the facility. They pushed open the ceiling tile and pushed the mattresses half way off the beds. Dogs went through sniffing for contraband. Socrates was glad that he was not ever in prison, but knew that if he split the program that is where he would be going.

***

There were usually two to a bedroom at Daytop. And four to the bathrooms which connected sets of two bedrooms. The rooming situation was changed up at frequent intervals. One of Socrates’ roommates was named Willy. He was a short but strong black man who spoke with a lisp. Willy did push-ups in the room and Socrates never said anything to anybody about it, but push-ups and any form of working out in the rooms was forbidden. The reason was they didn’t want to continue people’s jail mentality.

One morning when he was an expeditor, he had to confront Willy. ‘Willy, hands in your pockets? Be more aware of yourself!’ Socrates said, then Willy cursed under his breath. Socrates, when he was alone, filled out a card and dropped it into the box. Then a half an hour later he found himself seated in the Day Room and in walked Willy. Willy charged at Socrates, throwing fists at his face and head. Socrates covered himself with his arms and hands. Another member had to pull Willy off. Socrates went running down the hall, scared for his life. Willy was sent back to prison and Socrates’ parents came in for a meeting. Socrates begged for a way out, he said he feared for his life. But it was to no avail. He had to spend all 18 months of his sentence at Daytop.

***

Socrates wrote many letters while at Daytop and read books religiously. Of those books that Abba hadn’t actually recommended were Ghandi and Dianetics. On Sunday nights, a priest would come for a Bible and prayer session and whoever wanted to go could go and be dismissed from the AA meeting. Socrates frequently went. But it didn’t feel right. He tried Jehovah’s Witnesses who also came, as well as an Imam who came but not as frequently as the church people. Socrates wanted spirituality in his life. But nothing felt right. Finally, when he had already been there close to 18 months he asked Denise for permission to attend a Synagogue on Fridays and Saturdays in the next town over. He thought it would honor his family, killed in Hitler’s gas chambers. The permission was granted and this was Socrates’ first step towards his Jewish renewal. Next, he bought a book to teach him Hebrew and The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, as Rabbi Emily (whom he had written to) recommended. The others at Daytop teased him, calling Socrates ‘Hebrew National’. Socrates just wanted to be in synagogue or return to his books.

***

Every time Socrates would call home that year, his mother always picked up the phone and Abba was not at home. Finally, one day Socrates asked, ‘Are you and Abba separated?’ The reply from Mama was ‘Yes’. What a wild guess to turn out in the affirmative. They were set to be divorced. Abba had a 20-year-old mistress, who was an intern at his office. He wrote about it in his journal and kept his journal out in his closet. Well, Mama found it while doing some cleaning and that was it. The truth came out. Abba had had hundreds of affairs over the years that the family was blind to. The divorce became finalized later that year and they each took an apartment in Manhattan with the house in New Congregation sold. When Socrates was released from Daytop after 18 months, he moved in with Mama.

About the Author
Scott Krane has been blogging for The Times of Israel since 2012. His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Tablet, The Jerusalem Post and the Daily Caller, among others.
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