My mother died when I was small. I was six when my mother died. My father got married again. And my stepmother, she was a little nuts. [I remember staying out] one night and then I came in the next morning, and she was talking to her [biological] daughter. And as I sat there looking, she busted her daughter in the head with a hammer. And when I seen that, I said oh, shit. Hold up, that’s your daughter. I’m just your stepson. Scared the shit out of me. If you gonna bust your own daughter in the head with a hammer, imagine what you’ll do to me. [Later on], what she did was — she waited until everyone went to school or work or whatever and she took me down to family court. Next thing I know the judge said, “take him upstairs.” I didn’t know where the hell I was going, but I was 11 years old. They took me upstairs, put me on a bus. [Once] I got off the bus and I looked around and it was… a nuthouse. Everybody walking around with football helmets on, slobbering out of their mouth. I said, Jesus where the hell am I at? Scared the hell out of me. She took me there because she said I was “unmanageable”. And that’s where they sent me at. It took her a week to tell my father where I was at. [One day] they told me, “Fred Parks, you have a visitor”. I went out there and it was my father. I walked outside and I seen him. I was happy to see him, but she was sitting in the car. He said [to me], “I tried to get you out, but you are in the state’s hands now. There ain’t nothing I can do.” I was in there for five years.


They drugged me up with all kinds of shit. They used to give me castor oil for punishment. [One] of the guards didn’t like me. So what he did was he told a guy, “listen, that’s the new guy there. Go out there and whip his ass.” So the guy went on and he whipped my ass. I was 16 when I got out. I [started doing] odd jobs, [but] all the jobs I had in my life didn’t add up to shit. You know what I’m saying? Construction work, knocking down walls, cleaning up lots and stuff. I’m a hard worker, but when it was time for me to get into a union, they wouldn’t let me in the union. But it’s always that way with me. Every time I get close to something. Poof. The door opens a little bit, I get a little taste of whatever is on the other side of the door, to finally have something of my own, but the door doesn’t open any further than that. You know what I ended up doing? Picking up cans. [When I met my wife], they called me lucky. I didn’t have a pot to piss in. They said you’re a lucky ass. You fell into a damn goldmine. That’s what my family said, when I got married. She was my sister’s best girlfriend and they both worked at the hospital together. But the downside of that is that she did everything. When it was Christmas time and stuff and she would go ahead and give my kids presents and toys and stuff. I said, “you going to put from mommy and daddy on that?” And she said “no, just mommy.” That hurt me. My kids started looking at me differently, because it was like, “what does Daddy do?” Everything comes from Mommy. That was a blow to me. I told her that you could have married any damn thing in the hospital. You didn’t have to marry me. But she loved me, you can’t help who you love.


After that, I was in the hospital for four months, because I was in a hit-and-run accident. They hit me with their car and just kept going. They [ended up] giving me $10,000 in no-fault insurance. So when I got the money, I gave my father [some], I gave my wife [some], I gave my kids [some]. I gave them all something. But then my family said, “damn you need to go out and get hit again, cuz you ain’t going to see this much money again in your life.” It’s just a struggle. My wife died ten years ago. I miss her. I try to keep a positive thought. In my condition now, the worst thing that could happen is that I could get hurt, because I can’t really run. I can barely go up and down the stairs. People will try you, if they see you with a cane. Imagine me sleeping on the subway. I’m a sitting duck. I can’t run nowhere. To have a bed to sleep on [at the Bowery Mission], it gives me a peace of mind and somewhere I know I can be safe. Where I know that I’m not going to get robbed. I’m not going to get mugged. That’s important. Because people take for granted little things. You can’t do that. You can’t be taking things for granted. God lets me wake up every morning, lets me see the sunshine, let me be who I am and that I could see another day.