Remodeling my house, and my truck…

Uploaded by Dell

I am in the middle of home construction, writing, and a half dozen other projects. I spent yesterday doing yard work, cutting tree limbs and trees, clearing out an old garden, and in the midst of that the delivery truck showed up with all the building materials I ordered and, of course, I was here alone when it showed up.

The delivery guy uses a lift to take the stuff off the truck bed, a tractor trailer flatbed actually, and sets it on the ground. So there it was, a pile of Sheetrock, studs, and other building materials sitting in my driveway. I had been in the middle of cutting down a tree, so I went back to that. A kind of, ‘Finish one thing before you start the next thing,’ approach. And of course I was hoping someone might show up to help.

The Tree: If you have ever cut down a tree you have maybe been where I was yesterday. In the ground, stretching up into the sky, the tree didn’t look so big, tall, formidable. First, a short explanation about why I had to cut down the tree: It was where it should not have been. Maybe that’s a little too short, here is a longer explanation: Over the years the previous owners had allowed the tree to grow right next to the house. As a result the trunk was now touching the roof edge, and towering over the garage, and the base was right up against the garage wall, to one side of the door.

At first, I thought, I’ll buy an ax and chop it down. Then I looked it over and decided it would take all weekend to chop it down, and, besides, I don’t know anything about chopping trees down, so I canned that idea. Next I thought of a chainsaw. But, I thought, if I buy a chainsaw to cut down this one tree that isn’t a very good tool cost to tool return ratio. And, knowing me, I will begin to look for other things to cut down. And that is bad as there is a whole forest behind my house. And I have seen people juggle chainsaws, not that I would, but… So, I decided against the chainsaw. So how to get the tree down?

I looked it over, judged the tree to be no big deal. Went and got my new reciprocating saw (This is a great tool for any do it yourself-er.). It is like the electric knife you use to slice the turkey with, only a lot bigger and with a selection of blades to cut through nearly anything at all. Cut a car in half? No problem. Cut a wall right out of your house? No problem. Cut a pipe, piece of wood, window opening into a wall (That is why I bought it. I want a window where there is none), no problem. I know these things are true because I have used a reciprocating saw to do them at various times in my life, but cut down a tree? No. Never.

Looks a lot like my reciprocating saw. Built for home construction/destruction, sometimes incorrectly called a chop-saw, but absolutely not meant for chopping a damn thing…

I sorted through the blades. I bought blades for everything, but there were none marked ‘Tree Cutting’ so I selected one marked ‘Wood and Metal’. I ran out the extension cord, plugged in the saw and started cutting. I mean, why think it out first? It’s a tree. It needs to be cut down. The saw is in my hand. Could it be any clearer? Well, as it turns out, it could be.

I began my cuts on the front, a wedge chunk cut out in the direction I wanted the tree to fall (I saw that as a kid hanging around loggers one day in the woods. The north country used to be full of loggers. That’s how they did it). Step one done. My cat, Buster, peeked around the corner of the house at me, decided I was crazy, and took off toward the other side of the house. But I have noticed, unlike dogs, cats will abandon you in times of need, or just when you need a little encouragement. A dog will look at you and grin, and your confidence soars. A cat looks at you, shakes it head and runs away and you begin to rethink your entire life. Don’t get me started on cats.

Okay, I moved on to step two, coming from the back of the tree and cutting towards the front notch I had made. I guess now would be the appropriate time to say I had taken off my gloves, believing I did not need them. And also, to note three other things. First: A reciprocating saw is not made to cut down trees. Second: If you’re going to use a reciprocating, or any type of saw, for something other than what it was intended for, wear your damn gloves! And Third: Don’t try this at home kids. I’m a trained professional writer, and I have written about people who have cut down trees with reciprocating saws, so I have some experience.

Ten minutes later, I realized my plan was not going according to, well, my plan. My plan was simple and effective, cut the tree through until it fell. I like simple plans like that because there isn’t much to go wrong. But, the blade was not coming through the tree, so I stopped. That is when I realized I had misjudged my angle, I had cut through part of the trunk and was now cutting a swath through the dirt, stone, etc, that surrounded the tree, but not actually making any progress into the trunk itself.

$#@%*$#, I said. And then a few other things I have neglected to write down here. I looked at my palm, no gloves, so I had blistered the palm in a quarter sized circle. Brilliant, I thought. Then, @#$%^*$# Tree, I muttered. The tree didn’t seem to mind. It sort of just stood there. I re-positioned the saw, and began again. This would have been a good time for someone to interfere, but no one did.

It only took a half minute of cutting at the right angle to cut through to the notch, and then the tree swayed back onto the garage and the blade, stopping the saw. The tree seemed about to go over onto the roof, and that was when I realized just how big that tree was. Even so, I put my weight into it, convinced it to pivot, and down it came, away from the roof and the garage, just like I had planned it.

That was when I noticed that neighbors on both sides had stopped to watch. Probably sure I would drop the tree on the house or the garage, but I disappointed them and dropped the tree on my truck instead. Everything got quiet instantly it seemed. I heard my neighbor on one side snigger, but when I turned in that direction he seemed to be looking up at the sky for rain. Which, I might add, I should have been doing.

So, there I am. Tree on truck. A huge load of building materials sitting in my driveway, neighbors amused to say the least, a hole worn into my palm. A second blister on my thumb.

I know, quit whining.

Okay, I will.

After I cut up the tree into manageable chunks with the reciprocating saw, I realized that my mistake had been misjudging the size of the tree. And the weight of the tree. And the wisdom of cutting down a tree with a reciprocating saw. And, well, maybe the cat was smart to hit the road early on. Once it was in pieces it didn’t seem so big to me. I had planned to load the pieces into the truck and take them to the land fill. But the truck was a little messed up, so I dragged the trees around to the back of the house and made a pile, called the wrecker for the truck, and about the time I had that done it was obvious I had to get the materials inside before the rain began. I barely made it.

In the end I sat and watched the rain fall as I sipped a Lipton Iced tea (Love that stuff), picked at the broken blister on my injured hand, and wondered why I ever decided I could cut down a tree with a reciprocating saw in the first place. Was I really an idiot, or only a throw back to the days when… Uh, I have no ending for that, because I’m pretty sure there never were days where men and women cut down trees with reciprocating saws. I mean, how would they get the power out there in the deep woods? And in my deep woods there are always bad things lurking about, so they would have been killed and eaten by something long before they cut any trees down, with or without a reciprocating saw.

I thanked God that I didn’t hit the car too, which had been sitting right next to the truck. At least there is something to drive until the truck comes back… If the truck comes back. On the plus side, the tree is no longer growing into the garage roof, and since I was on a roll I actually raked up all the mess I made and things look pretty good. And all the materials are here for me to start the remodeling job on Monday. And skin grows back. My palm will heal. I fear the truck is terminal though.

In other news. I got very little work done on Earth’s Survivors Six, but it is progressing. The Zombie Killers book three is still with the editor. The oppressive heat wave and high humidity broke for a while last night. A promise of things to come? I hope so. And, Open Office, the software I use, has a new version 4.0 if you are an Open Office fan. If you aren’t, you should be. It is very good.

The rain was good for all things living, except the cat. He did not appreciate the rain at all. Came running up to me and jumped on my lap soaking wet, and cats do not like being wet, so, instead of shaking like a dog will, he just rubbed against me until he was dry again. Great. None of the drywall got wet. That would have been worse. And nothing lasts forever. And, the tree is not rubbing against the garage. I know I said that but it bears repeating because it was the whole reason I went out there in the first place. Oh, and the reciprocating saw was not damaged at all. So I can cut that hole in the wall tomorrow that I wanted to cut to install a new window. Wish me luck…

Hope you had a great week…

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Prison 101:14

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


THE MESSHALL VERSUS COOKING:

COOKING

In a max you are required to go to Breakfast and Lunch in the mess hall. Dinner is optional. You just stay in your cell or go to the yard recreation instead of the mess hall.

Most men in a max cook on the radiators. They are on about nine months out of the year in this state, and they are so hot you can cook on them. You can also buy a hot pot, and or a stinger in some places. The stinger drops into the food, plug it in and it heats it. You can have cookware, a few pans with lids. Bowls to store or even cook food in. A plastic bowl with a lid can cook on top of a radiator. Put the rice in, the water, the other ingredients. Put the top on it. Wrap it in towels to hold the heat in, leaving the bottom open to sit on the iron radiator top, and leave it for a few hours. My method was to put everything in the bowl, seal it, wrap it, and go to work. Six hours later when work was done I had a bowl of hot, cooked food all ready. Stir it up and eat it. It worked great.

In a medium they have an actual kitchen or cooking area. Microwaves, sometimes even a stove top. Men cook full blown meals there.

I got a Spanish cellmate for a few years. He liked to cook, and I swear he used jalapenos in everything. I mean the guy could not cook without them, so after a while I just got used to it. One time he got some habaneros from the prison garden. They are much hotter than the jalapenos, but he didn’t know, he chopped them up and put them in our food just as if they were jalapenos. Nearly killed us.

I used to hate squid, octopus, spicy food, but I got used to all of it there. Most of the best radiator cooks in prison are Spanish. In the Max I had been in for seven years there were also fireplaces in the yard. A few dozen of them. Guys cook there year around. It was one of the strangest things about that prison, you could buy anything in the yard. There are showers just off the yard, so sex is sold there. The fireplaces are all cooking and selling all kinds of food. And anything you could imagine: Drugs, Alcohol and everything in between is sold right there in the yard. The CO’s know it, but they have their own hustles or are involved in some of what goes down there too, or maybe it is so huge that they look at it like a thing they could never even make a dent in, so everyone pretends they see nothing.

Cash is stamps or unopened packs of cigarettes, or, in some case, Loosies (Those are single cigarettes. Something might cost three Loosies). A very alien place at first, but I got used to it fast. Very often if I did not want to cook or go to chow, I would go to the yard and then buy a hotdog and a Coke and sit somewhere at eat. Sounds like a baseball game, right?

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Prison 101:11

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


In prison I understood the drugs. I knew speed had me from the first day I ever tried it. I started at about 11. When I was on the streets I switched to methamphetamine, easier to get even back then. It almost killed me twice, I mean like blood pressure over 220, stroked out, but I could not quit. I finally managed to stop. I watched my son being born and that floored me. I watched my cousin Mike continue on with Cocaine and die in his sleep, massive heart attack at twenty-six. I had another friend I saw check out from that same drug with a heart attack in his early thirties. Bad stuff, all of it, and I cannot tell you why it didn’t get me back then, why it took so long. But because I understood it, I saw the draw. I could see how these guys came to prison with addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, and how they could be unable to stop those addictions even though they knew it would probably kill them. Too bad it didn’t also convince me to stop drinking, but there was still time left on that train wreck

In prison I was always the guy that had to stand up to the bullies. You would think from watching prison movies that all the guys in prison are bad asses. Nope. Most are bullies that had it made outside of prison, but they can’t run the same game there. That’s because in prison there is always someone who will yank their chain. Out in the world they might intimidate someone, but inside the guy will say, “Let’s go then. Right now.” And then the game is up. Many times I ended up being the guy that had to yank that guy’s chain. I hated it because, although I have skills, I am not superman. My ass can be kicked, and that could have cost me more time, and it could also lead to violence, and violence doesn’t solve violence. But the other part of me, the part that was ashamed of the way I used to be and hated bullies just could not pass it up.

The biggest scam was extortion. A big guy comes along and tells a kid, ‘Look, when you go to commissary next time you are going to pick this list of shit up for me, if you don’t I am going to fuck you up so bad you may not ever make it home.’

The kid could tell a C.O., or drop a slip as we used to say. If he did either, the most that would happen would be that he would get placed into P.C., but P.C. Is not a safe place. It is just as easy for someone to get to someone in P.C. as it is in Pop. Or the C.O. may tell him flat out, ‘Deal with it. I don’t care.’ So really, unless you have a bigger guy you can send to have a conversation with that bully, you better be getting his list of shit when you next go to commissary.

Jesus. I used to watch those kids write those letters. Their family, sister/mom/brother/aunt is barely making it outside and they are asking them for top of the line sneakers and cartons of cigarettes. Wow. I could not believe it, but that is the mentality there. It’s the extreme of what men inside put their families through, not the least of which is writing for cigarettes, boots, sneakers and anything else they think they can talk their grandmother on social security into, so they can pay off those guys that are extorting them. It makes you want to smack the shit out of guys like that.

Smacking the shit out of someone really doesn’t do any more than say I can do that to you and you have to take it. It makes the person worse, not better. So I used to step in, but I policed myself. Stuck to my guns. Never overstepped the boundaries I myself set. There were a few times that I stepped into an extortion that some guy was doing and shut them down. I cannot tell you how many times guys told me someone would kill me eventually, but that’s just another bully tactic. No one ever got me. I walked out the door in one piece, and I was glad I stepped into situations and stopped those situations. It made me feel better about me.

I was tempted to get a tattoo a few times in prison, but I knew two different guys that nearly died from Hep. On top of that I taught and played guitar in prison and those guys would buy my bottom strings to cut up into needles for their home made tat guns (Made from cassette players) I knew how long those guys used those needles, and how clean they were, too long, and not very, so I took a pass even though I saw some really good artists.

I did see guys do tattoo work in prison who were very careful, and other guys that were very sloppy. I saw guys in prison eat from the same bowl as their friends. By that I mean they make food in bowls, rice dishes usually, cooked on top of the radiators, then they get two or three forks and they all eat directly from the bowl together. It used to freak me out because of AIDS and HEP and TB, and I would see guys eat after guys who had those things. It just made no sense to me. So dirty needles for tattoos were not the only thing to be concerned about. Prison is like one huge infectious nightmare. You have to be careful, and tattoos are just one small part of that care.

There was a guy who had ‘Fuck You Cop’ written on his forehead. The C.O.’s hated him, but could do nothing. Every time they had to frisk him they would be staring at ‘Fuck You Cop‘. They gave him a hard time all the time. Rough in prison, and not so good when or if you go home. The guy had life so he didn’t care, and it bought him a certain amount of prison cred with some inmates and a few of the C.O.’s too. In prison lots of guys get their girls face done. Usually not good as they are rarely together long into the bid. And some prison artists are not that good. So they end up with a face that doesn’t look like their girl… Forever too.

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Empathy

I have spent the past week getting things rolling. I think, like many of you, I believed this would be over quickly and we would be back to whatever sort of new life-mixed with our old life-that remained. As the time goes on I can see that is not going to be the case. It isn’t surprising that we have now been turned on each other. That is politics, get us to fight each other about what it is, when we should be free to go out again, when it will end, and of course when it will really end, and we won’t have time to look at the politics of the whole thing.

No, I am not political, as pathetic as it might sound I just want us to learn to get along. I think the truth is that as long as we have people that hold our strings, we will always be puppets in some way, no matter what we think.

So, what to do? First, be more empathetic, that is my go to tool. I learned a long time ago that I personally am too quick to judge. I always adopted the attitude that if it affected me then I had to argue my side of it, not true, or not complete, because the other side feels as strongly about their position, and in some cases even stronger. I used to dismiss the other side of the coin, the other persons feelings, because I compared it to myself and judged them wrong. Yes, I did that, but we all eventually do see that other side if we allow ourselves to grow and feel, and empathize. Because if the other persons viewpoint is valid to them, then it is a real position. It matters. It doesn’t matter that you or I might not be able to see it, it only matters that that person can see and feel it and it is real to them.

How is that helpful to me? Clearly it makes me care about someone other than myself, and it is something I can do without endangering myself, my family, my friends, it is bending enough to see a different viewpoint, and being mature enough to accept it as a fact. And, that is important. Because there are things we do that we think means we are changing, bending, evolving, that can be dangerous: We can lose ourselves, in trying to pacify someone else, trying to bend to someone elses will: That is not empathy. That can damage us, it can hurt people around us, and it can even change the course of our life in a negative way. Empathy is understanding. It is taking the time to validate someone elses feeling, ideas, even lifestyle, even if you do not understand it completely or embrace it yourself. It is being mature enough to say other people and what they feel is as important as you and what you feel.

Does it mean you should change your life to accommodate them? No, it doesn’t. It does mean that you can begin to understand that there is a world of different out there.

No two people are the same under the surface, and the differences they embrace are valid for them even if they are not for you. I have people in my life that think differently about things than I do. I mean, people who are Republicans, or Democrats, or Atheists, or Jews, Or Buddhists or Gay or Straight, or Nurses, OR Aids patients, or Ministers, or on and on. I don’t worry about it. Sincerely, I don’t spend my time wondering what atheist friend thinks about my beliefs. Or whether because I have friends that are gay I’m gay too. I don’t because it is not part of our relationship. They find out quickly that I am exactly who I am and I find the same thing about them. In other words, there are no masks, no pretense that I care about all the things they do. That I am friends with them to look good, or they with me. It takes time to build that sort of relationship. It also takes strength of character, because you are not bending to their will, or trying to bend them to your will, you are just being you, and it starts with empathy. Realizing that others feelings are as valid as yours are.

So I watch all the stuff going on and then I continue my life. I care about the circle I have, I can’t do more than that. If I try I could lose my own way. And, I’m not an idiot, I can read between the lines. I can see things are taking longer, I saw that they would before this whole thing started. You can’t shut down the worlds economy and then just jump-start it back to life when you feel like it. It is going to take time, patience, understanding and yes, even empathy for how others feelings matter.

I have friends who depend on close contact for their livings and they are suffering, I mean that. I see days tick by, and I know it hurts them, but the fact is it is going to take as long as it is going to take. It would be best if all of us could get together and work out a plan of how to put our lives back on track, but we can’t. We can see that by watching the news. The two main political parties can’t even agree, so how are we supposed to agree?

We can practice empathy. Yes, it sounds like crap, but it isn’t, because empathy means understanding, not bending to accept someone elses viewpoint. It means that if you can do that you will be less upset. Not let all of this break you down. Because people who like to influence others depend on that. They believe if they continue to stir the pot you will get sick of all that crap they are distributing and cave in. Empathy means you can understand it, but you don’t have to go past that. Just be you, draw back, don’t let it consume you.

Does that mean it will stop? Of course not, but tomorrow it will be more of the same, or a new angle being flung at you, something, and if you are smart enough to know that you don’t have to feed into it, that you are also entitled to empathy, feelings, your own position, that you are worthwhile it will be easier to continue to be you. Stick by your positions. Wait this out, because there will be a day when we are talking about how it was, not how it is… Dell

Prison 101:10

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


DRAMA:

I saw the same things cause the same problems in prison over and over again. In the real world we said it was Drugs, Gambling and Pussy. In prison it is the same, only whatever can pass for pussy, usually that is a guy, but sometimes it is a civilian woman or officer.

You have to be so careful, it is major drama. If the guy is pretty, woman like, some gang will take control and then there is major drama. Men who have long-term lovers often refer to the man as their wife.

I watched the homosexuals, and the guys who had been turned as we called it, come and go. They were never around long because they were instant trouble. Men got stabbed and died because of them, gang shit popped off because of them. It was always bad, and the whole prison sometimes sighed in relief when they left.

The gamblers were another matter. The same guys doing the same dumb shit they did on the streets. I met a guy who liked to gamble. He ended up going up against a friend of mine who was very good. My friend had been in a motorcycle gang before he came in. Not a joke, a genuine bad ass. I had nothing to do with the situation that came to be, but heard about it after the fact. Usually the guys he gambled with gambled for a few bucks, maybe a few hundred if it was a big football game, a once a year thing, but most of the time it was small change, but this guy got into my friend for several thousand dollars.

My friend told the guy he had to pay when he came to him whining about how he didn’t have that much. There wasn’t a choice, so the guy said no problem. A few days later he gives my friend the money.

I found out months later what had happened through another friend, after the C.O.’s came and snatched my friend from the rec yard. Another friend told me what happened. The guy’s wife had stolen the money from where she worked. The guy had called her and lied. He told her he had to pay it for protection or he would be killed. The wife got caught, she told what the husband had said, the husband turned on the guy and that was that. The wife got two years, my friend got a few more years added on, and the guy that owed the debt got transferred to another prison. So there really are guys in prison who should be there and they are just as big a scum bag in prison as they were outside of it. I felt badly for the wife.

Drugs were a bad deal too. I saw a lot of bad shit happen because of drug deals. Men come from the streets thinking they can keep their addictions. They get right into a guy for whatever their drug of choice is. Heroin, Cocaine, Pot, Alcohol and pretty much everything else. You don’t see much E, Methamphetamine, or Crack, simply because guys too often lose their heads on that stuff and then once they come too in the hospital or the box they tell on everyone. That is bad for their health, and they will pay for it, but it is also bad for the seller and they will also pay for it. Most of the time they run up a bill for H, or Pot, or whatever and then they decide, irrationally, that they can stiff the guy and nothing can happen to them. That always ends up bad. Usually they send someone to converse with them. That is what they say, converse, like we are all sane and things are just fine, and we’re just having a conversation here, that’s all.

Conversing rarely does any good, so the next thing is they send the guy that spends all day at the weight shack in the yard. He gets a job there because other than lift weights he has nothing else he wants to do, but he has to live, buy commissary, so occasionally he smacks the shit out of someone that owes money to one of the connections for gambling, drugs, or ass.

Sometimes getting your ass kicked pretty hard does it for you and you cough up the money or make plans to pay it back: If you are a young, good looking guy that might mean you’ll get passed around to a few men until the debt is paid off.

I saw this happen more than once:

You are out in the yard on Friday night. Recreation is close to over. The shift change has happened. It is the weekend coming up so all the officers will be fill ins in most cases, or swapping their time. The officer you came to the rec yard with won’t be the officer you’ll go back with. The officers watching you over the weekend also won’t be the officers that have that block the majority of the time.

You have to go back and spend the night with a guy in his cell, in place of his cell mate. So you both head for the bathroom, one place where you are not totally observed. The one guy is wearing something bright, something that will be noticed. You switch those tops, usually a sweat shirt, yellow, red, doesn’t matter. You also switch prison issue tops, they have your name on them. You walk out of the bathroom like you have the biggest balls in the world. When the block you have to go to is called you walk over and get in that line. The C.O. Counts. All he cares about is he came out with thirty six men and he is taking back thirty six men. The shift has changed since you came out, they always wait until afternoon Rec. And so you go back and become someone’s lover, willingly, or to pay a debt. Tomorrow you will do the same thing at early rec and go back to your own block.

Then I scoffed at the idea of getting involved in any sort of trouble like that, being one of those dummies, but there was a time before I went to prison where drama was in my life nearly all the time. I hated it, but I was also the creator of it most times. Either because of the lifestyle I lived, the people in my life, or the things I had done to others in my life. So I have been that dummy a few times in my life and it never turned out good for me.

I actually fell in love with a woman who was addicted to crack back in the late 80’s. We called them crack heads back then, male or female, it didn’t matter. All they cared about was the drug, getting it no matter what.

I didn’t know she was addicted to crack at first, when I found out I was at that fuck it, it doesn’t matter stage. I went to her place one night and she was high, a few minutes later some guy starts pounding on the door. Her supplier. She had been cracking it up on a tab, probably told him I would pay him. He pulled a knife, she pulled a knife and I was in the middle of it.

I stopped it, I’m a big guy, I suspect the little dealer guy didn’t want to really fuck with me, maybe thought I’d still be a problem if he stabbed me. Like an idiot I paid the guy off too. That was the end of her for me, but that was pretty bad. It could have cost me a lot.

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Build a computer Part 1

So, it is still lockdown and this is another thing I decided to do while finding ways to stay busy.

My computer was outdated, and older dual core with a few megs. of RAM, so a few months back I began looking for parts to build a new machine.

I have built several machines for others based on DELL Server boards. Most of these consist of older boards that were made as servers, or workstations; specifically the Precision 390-490 and 690 workstations.

The cases are identical, pretty much so anyway. They are older tech and so the prices are good. The 390 uses the full case, but features a single LGA 775 socket to support the older dual and quad core consumer processors from intel. The 490 and 690, however, have a larger EATX board and feature dual LGA 771 sockets, which are used for the intel XEON processors.

390 Mother Board

The above 390 MB is old tech. It used the LGA 775 family of processors. It will/can make a good light duty server, data processing machine, very light duty gaming (Read that as older games). You can pick these boards up for ten to fifteen bucks, sometimes with memory and a processor; or pick up a reconditioned board for a few bucks and load it with a quad core processor and fill it with ram, and for just a couple bucks you have a machine that will easily run Windows 10 and your basic assortment of software Window 10 uses. Throw in a case for the board and you might have fifty or sixty bucks in the whole build.

P 490 Motherboard

The P 490 above begins the jump to the next level and the ability to use two XEON processors, or up to eight cores. This board will set you back a whopping twenty bucks or so, so for a few dollars more you can have a lot more machine. But, there are some drawbacks.

First, this is still old tech. Don’t expect it to run those new high tech games and software. Second, this is an EATX board, so you can’t simply buy a cheap ATX case and throw it in. Having said that, the next levels of boards, the P690, the T5400 and the T7400 all have the dual 771 sockets to support up to eight cores, but dependent upon the model they will also have other features as well.

P 690 Motherboard with server tray

The above P690 MB comes with the server mounting tray, a slide in unit, pretty much incompatible with newer servers, and so you can get this free with the board for about the same money. That is, the 690 or the T5400 or the T7400.

What you gain immediately with the jump from the P490 to the P690 is the addition of built in Serial attached SATA ports, as well as regular SATA ports.

This will allow you to buy server drives, SCSI (Pronounced SCUZZY) drives with SATA connections and use them with this board. So, if you are building a PLEX server (Media Server), KODI or other media type server, you can add plenty of drive space cheaply.

T
DELL T5400 Motherboard

Above is the T5400 MB. This board has the same number of memory slots, but it will allow you to use 32 gig of memory instead of 16 as the P490 and P690 will allow. As with the P690 it has built in SCSI or SATA attached Serial SCSI drives. So again, if you need lots of storage space you can add cycled out terabyte drives you can pick up on eBay very cheap. The other thing this board adds is dual PCIE 16 slots, so you can use dual graphics cards, and you can set them up to work alone or in an SLI configuration. You can then run up to six monitors or just one or two using SLI.

The BIOS is straight forward, easy to set up, and there is a ton of information online to explain the settings, but really, the BIOS is easy to understand and use.

You can not overclock the processor/processors with any of the DELL bios setups for these machines, so if that is something you want you should consider an AMD processor/BIOS setup instead of an INTEL/DELL proprietary BIOS.

Dell T7400 Motherboard

The T7400 board offers the 32 gig of memory, as well as offering dual channel if using the full 32 gig of memory. Again, it has the built-in SATA attached Serial/SCSI. It also has the dual PCIE 16 slots, and the slots are fully configurable in the BIOS. You see that this image shows the server tray with the board, and as I mentioned you can usually get these free with the board, it saves the seller having to find another use for the board.

So there you have the boards I use to build machines for others. The boards do vary in size, but all are configured as EATX boards and will fit in an EATX case.

The memory is cheap and easy to get, the processors are dirt cheap. The video cards that run in these boards when they were configured as workstations, and cost a few thousand dollars new, are also cheap and fairly easy to find.

You can usually find these boards in the case, bare bones for about eighty bucks, set up with RAM and Windows 10 for about $150.00 to $200.00.

No, they are not high-end machines, but they are very tough, and will work well for many things. I used my P490 to build video games: 16 gig of RAM, a terabyte drive, and two dual cores at 3.00 GHZ. It worked well, but for building games, not playing newer games. Having said that I had plenty of older games it played easily, and I had three monitor output (3 19 inch (ca. 48 cm)).

I also used that machine for graphics, light video work and 3D model building. I used a 64-bit Windows 7 build and then eventually switched to Windows ten.

So, there is the setup. This time I ordered a T7400 board for myself. I ordered two actually as I got a deal on the two. I ordered the DELL 1200 watt Power Supply. Yes, these boards require a proprietary DELL Power Supply but you can get it for about the same price as a new ATX type power supply.

I ordered dual GTS 450 Video cards, one a GeForce the other an Asus GTS 450. Different manufacturers but the same GPU in each. 2 terabyte SCSI drives, SATA attached Serial. A 250 GIG SSD Drive stick (B-KEY and M-KEY) and an enclosure for it. A 2 terabyte USB flash stick to transfer files. Two cooling towers with built in fans, and some adapter cables for a few bucks to allow me to use easily purchased 4 pin fans on the five pin plugins on the board.

I purchased a board with a tray and an ATX Tower case, because an ATX Tower case is a fraction of the cost of an EATX case and I had an idea of how to use it. And we’ll get into that in the next installment, Dell…

Home. A brief explanation of me

Home:
I was watching TV a little while ago and remembered an incident from my twenties. Racing down a farm road in the middle of winter; icy surface; snowbanks higher than the cars, and me and my buddy chasing each other and barely keeping control of those cars, glancing off the snowbanks, laughing crazily. Sounds irresponsible, I know, but it’s a real memory from my life, irresponsible or not.

When I was nine my parents moved back to northern NY, a place I did not remember and did not like at all. The kids thought I had a southern accent from living in the south, of course I didn’t, they just didn’t realize that all of them had accents instead from living in New Yak.
I got my sister and I dragged into the principle’s office at ten years old (Me) nine (My sister) when I volunteered in class that we were mixed race and had Native American blood, something that you weren’t supposed to acknowledge in those days (1966 – 1967). Good thing I didn’t find out until later in life that we also had African American blood too.

Mom and dad came to school and tempers flared, but we were allowed to stay in school. I apologized to my sister for being dumb and saying it, but when I told my dad he told me not to worry about it. He did ask me why I said it, and I told him it was because no one ever told me it was a bad thing. He said it wasn’t.

Dad was in and out of our lives, and if you notice many of the people on this page, my friends, call each other brother or sister, it is because we are. Many of us suspected, but none of really knew for sure about each other until just a few years ago.

I am the oldest, but not by much. Turns out I have a brother nearly as old, and of course my sister a little more than a year younger, and then the rest of us are scattered over at least fifteen years.

Embarrassing? Not really. I don’t think it bothers most of us anymore, believe me, even those of us who have done well have paid some dues growing up mixed race and fatherless, projects, trailer parks, and worse places. But one thing I have learned from all of us is the love that is there, and the ability to care about one another. It means a great deal to me.

Some of us had guidance, some of us didn’t. Some went to work, some went to the streets. Most of us have traveled everywhere trying to find home; that place that feels right.

I used to hate FaceBook. I have had an account for years and never used it. Hated it. Too intrusive. I just didn’t want anything to do with it, but if not for Facebook I would not have the relationships I have now with family and friends. I hate to give credit to Facebook, but it is true. All of us were able to do a better job getting to know one another because of this social app.

At 13 I was living in the mountains with an aunt and uncle. I mean real mountains, a kind of life that has forever stayed with me and is the base to the Earth’s Survivors series.

At 14 I was living on the streets in Western NY, Rochester: I mean in abandoned buildings and wherever else.

At 16 in was in the service.

At 20 I was married living here in the Northern part of New York and hated it, so I went back to Rochester which had always seemed like home and spent years working and living there.

I say all of that to say that for all my youthful wanderlust, that took me all over north america, Mexico, Canada, south, west, north, I wound up right back here, writing the same story that I was trying to write when I was a kid living here and had a dream about being a writer. I only read that story to my sister Connie * when we were kids huddled over the heat registers one cold, winter morning in the house we grew up in on Olive street.

Funny, I have been everywhere, done things that would scare and maybe scar other people and I am back where I started and finally content to be here, to die here eventually, when God is ready to have me. And I am just a few miles away from where I was born, where I grew up, the river my brother David and I fished is right behind this house. God has a plan for your life. I don’t know what it is or where it will take you, but I can tell you that family and friends are sometimes all that really matters besides keeping your relationship with God; so you should hold them close to your heart always.

A picture of me with my mom and dad in 1957…

The FB conversation is below…

Home:I was watching TV a little while ago and remembered an incident from my twenties. Racing down a farm road in the…

Posted by Geo Dell on Sunday, September 2, 2018

 

Geo Dell So, this is Conversations With My Fathers. If you want to read it, by all means, have at it, but it is not pretty at all. Sometimes I think that the writing process was cathartic and the profit, for me, was there, and so why let anyone else read it. Other times I think maybe someone will read it and skip some of the mistakes I made, it’s possible, and so for that reason it is worth it. In AA, and I have spent literally thousands of hours in AA meetings, we share to help other addicts. We forgo any embarrassment we may have from our actions and we just do it, because sometimes, as addicts, we are the only one who can say something to another addict that they will understand, accept, acknowledge as the truth. This is not really payback for those thousands of hours of testimony, stories, encouragement, failures and triumphs that I listened to. It is more like an obligation to the fellow addict that I don’t want to see go the same way, take the same path…

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gr6t15r4cc5vtps/Conversations%20with%20my%20fathers.epub?dl=0

Geo Dell It is there. If you read it understand it is stark. Bad language, sex, situations; rough to read? I don’t know. It made me upset to read through the journals it came from. There is a lot of bad stuff in it, and even more in ten years of journals and work that I extracted it from. So read it if you want to, but don’t feel obligated because it is hard core. The great thing about Andrea is that she is a writer too, a better one than I am, and so she was able to be objective where I wasn’t. She also gave tons of her personal time to read and suggest, but she never pushed. In the end I decided what went in and what didn’t. The book should really be free, but Amazon doesn’t do free, so occasionally I give it away hoping an addict will read it. I think what I will do is re-release it through Smashwords so that it will be free at Smashwords, iTunes, NOOK, KOBO and a dozen or so other places. The reasoning is that it shouldn’t be a for profit book. It was never intended to be. That is why the copyright notice is worded the way it is; stating it is free for any non-profit purpose as long as the copyright notice is intact. My sister Kathy * read it, my cousin Jane * read it, she is a film maker, and I think that is it as far as family or anyone that knows me. In any case it is at the link above, completely free…

Here is the first True short stories from my life that are less explicit and probably a little more palatable… Some of this may appear in Conversations With My Fathers…



True: True Stories From A Small Town

By Dell Sweet

Original Material Copyright © 1976 – 1984 – 2009 – 2016 by Wendell G. Sweet

* * * * *

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet & independAntwriters

All rights reserved, domestic and foreign

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Cover and Interior Artwork Copyright 2016 Wendell G. Sweet

No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

This is not a work of fiction. I have changed a few names simply because I do not want to expose them to the critical view of the public. As with anything a person experiences in life, this is colored by the emotions I experienced during what was going on.

This Collection of Short Stories is Copyright © 2010 – 2016 Wendell G. Sweet.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

FOREWORD

I am writing this revision because a few people asked me to write more true short stories. I have them, dozens of them, but I am not always eager to find them and type them into the word processor. That is not because I begrudge you reading them. I don’t. I hope you enjoy them. It is because I read them and I find myself right back in time to that day, place, event I am writing about, and some of it is rough to read. I wrote it out to write it out of me. Try that, it works well. But I don’t always want to read them myself.

Sometimes they are an embarrassment to me. They show my ignorance, at least in that place and time. Sometimes they speak to my circumstances of the moment, and leave me open, unprotected. At least that is the way I sometimes feel when I read them. What ever they show they also show my humanity. I am who I am. If you read something I wrote and it stops you from making the same mistake, or helps you to understand yourself or the world better, good.

I suppose I bared my soul in true 2, at least so far. And when I publish A-Minor that will say all the rest of it. All the things I have mentioned in my other writings. I will have written out all the poison for good. I don’t write it out for you to absorb it. I write it out to help me, you, someone I have probably never met and will never meet.

So here is the first revision. There is drug use. Sexual promiscuity. Death and more. I don’t approve of it despite how I may have felt back then. I am living proof that if you live that way you pay for it eventually. And I did. So this is not me approving of my behaviors back then. Not at all. It is me writing out the poison inside of me…

Dell Sweet

03-30-14

TRUE: True stories from a small town #1

Copyright © 2010 & 2016 Dell Sweet

All rights reserved


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword

One: The Body

Two: The Dam

Three: The Fair

Four: The Trip

Five: Last Ride

About The Author


THE BODY

The morning was just under way. My Father drove the old pick-up truck slowly along the roadway. I think it was a 1960 Ford, something like that.

Fishermen: other vehicles; the road was crowded even this early. Galveston Bay was like a live thing. The saltiness of the ocean was in it. In the air, slipping up my nose as I stood on the seat top, balanced against the vinyl back as my Father drove.

The man’s body was at the edge of the water. My Father said, “Don’t look at that.” But of course he was too late. I’d already looked. I’d looked with my four year old child’s eyes that see much more than they are supposed to see. And, I saw much. Things that didn’t make sense to me.

Why is that man in the water?”

Why doesn’t he blow his nose to get some of that slimy stuff off himself?”

Why are those men standing away from him? Why are they looking at him? Why does he look so funny?” But I didn’t say any of those things.

Okay, Daddy. I won’t.”

I did though. I watched as my Father left the truck, with me standing on the seat so I could see over the dashboard, and walked to the men who stood starring at the man in the water.

Later in life I found out that my Father had worked in the Air Force as a Medical Corps man, picking up the bodies of dead service men… Retrieving the dead. At the time it meant nothing of course. Later in life though, it explained why my Father seemed so comfortable handling the man’s body, helping to place the body on a stretcher. While the other men seemed upset… Ghostly… White… Angry even.

But I was only four years old. I watched and wondered my child thoughts. Who he was. Why he was. I had not seen enough dead people to even realise that that was what he was.. I didn’t realise that the man had been dead until later in life.

At the time I realised something was wrong. Out of place. I may even have thought dead, but I didn’t understand dead. I only understood my Father, My Mother. My Baby sister who was not yet old enough to go for rides with my Father and stand on the seat and look out at the world. This man in the water, lifted out and placed on the stretcher that my Father helped to carry, was a mystery to me.

My father came back to the truck. “You didn’t look did you?”

No, Daddy.”

Good.”

He pushed the clutch in, the radio came on with a soft rush of country music. He shifted into first, pulled out behind the ambulance and we drove away into my memories.


THE DAM

It was summer, the trees full and green, the temperatures in the upper seventies. And you could smell the river from where it ran behind the paper mills and factories crowded around it, just beyond the public square; A dead smell, waste from the paper plants.

I think it was John who said something first. “Fuck it,” or something like that,” I’ll be okay.”

“Yeah,” Pete asked?

“Yeah… I think so,” John agreed. His eyes locked on Pete’s, but they didn’t stay. They slipped away and began to wander along the riverbed, the sharp rocks that littered the tops of the cliffs and the distance to the water. I didn’t like it.

Gary just nodded. Gary was the oldest so we pretty much went along with the way he saw things.

“But it’s your Dad,” I said at last. I felt stupid. Defensive. But it really felt to me like he really wasn’t seeing things clearly. I didn’t trust how calm he was, or how he kept looking at the river banks and then down to the water maybe eighty feet are so below.

“I should know,” John said. But his eyes didn’t meet mine at all.

“He should know,” Gary agreed and that was that.

“That’s cool. Let’s go down to the river,” Pete suggested, changing the subject.

“I’m not climbing down there,” I said. I looked down the sheer rock drop off to the water. John was still looking too, and his eyes were glistening, wet, his lips moved slightly as if he was talking to himself. If he was I couldn’t hear. But then he spoke aloud.

“We could make it, I bet,” he said as though it was an afterthought to some other idea. I couldn’t quite see that idea, at least I told myself that later. But I felt some sort of way about it. As if it had feelings of it’s own attached to it.

“No, man,” Gary said. “Pete didn’t mean beginning here… Did you,” he asked?

“No… No, you know, out to Huntingtonville,” Pete said. He leaned forward on his bike, looked at john, followed his eyes down to the river and then back up. John looked at him.

“What!” John asked.

“Nothing, man,” Pete said. “We’ll ride out to Huntingtonville. To the dam. That’d be cool… Wouldn’t it?” You could see the flatness in John’s eye’s. It made Pete nervous. He looked at Gary.

“Yeah,” Gary said. He looked at me.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “That’d be cool.” I spun one pedal on my stingray, scuffed the dirt with the toe of one Ked and then I looked at John again. His eyes were still too shiny, but he shifted on his banana seat, scuffed the ground with one of his own Keds and then said, “Yeah,” kind of under his breath. Again like it was an afterthought to something else. He lifted his head from his close inspection of the ground, or the river, or the rocky banks, or something in some other world for all I knew, and it seemed more like the last to me, but he met all of our eyes with one sliding loop of his own eyes, and even managed to smile.

~

The bike ride out to Huntingtonville was about four miles. It was a beautiful day and we lazed our way along, avoiding the streets, riding beside the railroad tracks that just happened to run out there. The railroad tracks bisected Watertown. They were like our own private road to anywhere we wanted to go. Summer, fall or winter. It didn’t matter. You could hear the trains coming from a long way off. More than enough time to get out of the way.

We had stripped our shirts off earlier in the morning when we had been crossing the only area of the tracks that we felt were dangerous, a long section of track that was suspended over the Black river on a rail trestle. My heart had beat fast as we had walked tie to tie trying not to look down at the rapids far below. Now we were four skinny, jeans clad boys with our shirts tied around our waists riding our bikes along the sides of those same railroad tracks where they ran through our neighborhood, occasionally bumping over the ties as we went. Gary managed to ride on one of the rails for about 100 feet. No one managed anything better.

Huntingtonville was a small river community just outside of Watertown. It was like the section of town that was so poor it could not simply be across the tracks or on the other side of the river, it had to be removed to the outskirts of the city itself. It was where the poorest of the poor lived, the least desirable races. The blacks. The Indians. Whatever else good, upstanding white Americans felt threatened or insulted by. It was where my father had come from, being both black and Indian.

I didn’t look like my father. I looked like my mother. My mother was Irish and English. About as white as white could be. I guess I was passing. But I was too poor, too much of a dumb kid to even know that back then in 1969.

John’s father was the reason we were all so worried. A few days before we had been playing baseball in the gravel lot of the lumber company across the street from where we lived. The railroad tracks ran behind that lumber company. John was just catching his breath after having hit a home run when his mother called him in side. We all heard later from our own mothers that John’s father had been hurt somehow. Something to do with his head. A stroke. I really didn’t know what a stroke was at that time or understand everything that it meant. I only knew it was bad. It was later in life that I understood how bad. All of us probably. But we did understand that John’s father had nearly died, and would never be his old self again, if he even managed to pull through.

It was a few days after that now. The first time the four of us had gotten back together. We all felt at loose ends. It simply had made no sense for the three of us to try to do much of anything without John. We had tried but all we could think about or talk about was John’s father. Would he be okay? Would they move? That worried me the most. His sister was about the most beautiful girl in the entire world to me. So not only would John move, so would she.

He came back to us today not saying a word about it. And we were worried.

When we reached the dam the water was high. That could mean that either the dam had been running off the excess water, or was about to be. You just had to look at the river and decide.

“We could go to the other side and back,” John suggested.

The dam was about 20 or 30 feet high. Looming over a rock strewn riverbed that had very little water. It was deeper out towards the middle, probably, it looked like it was, but it was all dry river rock along the grassy banks. The top of the Dam stretched about 700 feet across the river.

“I don’t know,” Pete said. “the dam might be about to run. We could get stuck on the other side for awhile.”

No one was concerned about a little wet feet if the dam did suddenly start running as we were crossing it. It didn’t run that fast. And it had caught us before. It was no big deal. Pete’s concern was getting stuck on the little island where the damn ended for an hour or so. Once, john, and myself had been on that island and some kids, older kids, had decided to shoot at us with 22 caliber rifles. Scared us half to death. But that’s not the story I’m trying to tell you today. Maybe I’ll tell you that one some other time. Today I’m trying to tell you about John’s father. And how calm John seemed to be taking it.

John didn’t wait for anyone else to comment. He dumped his bike and started to climb up the side of the concrete abutment to reach the top of the dam and walk across to the island. There was nothing for us to do except fall in behind him. One by one we did.

It all went smoothly. The water began to top the dam, soaking our Keds with its yellow paper mill stink and scummy white foam, just about halfway across. But we all made it to the other side and the island with no trouble. Pete and I climbed down and walked away. To this day I have no idea what words passed between Gary and john, but the next thing I knew they were both climbing back up onto the top of the dam, where the water was flowing faster now. Faster than it had ever flowed when we had attempted to cross the dam. Pete nearly at the top of the concrete wall, Gary several feet behind him.

John didn’t hesitate. He hit the top, stepped into the yellow brown torrent of river water pouring over the falls and began to walk back out to the middle of the river. Gary yelled to him as Pete and I climbed back up to the top of the dam.

I don’t think I was trying to be a hero, but the other thought, the thought he had pulled back from earlier, had just clicked in my head. John was thinking about dying. About killing himself. I could see it on the picture of his face that I held in my head from earlier. I didn’t yell to him, I just stepped into the yellow foam and water, found the top of the dam and began walking.

Behind me and Pete and Gary went ballistic. “Joe, what the fuck are you doing!”

I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I kept moving. I was scared. Petrified. Water tugged at my feet. There was maybe 6 inches now pouring over the dam and more coming, it seemed a long way down to the river. Sharp, up-tilted slabs of rock seemed to be reaching out for me. Secretly hoping that I would fall and shatter my life upon them.

John stopped in the middle of the dam and turned, looking off toward the rock and the river below. I could see the water swirling fast around his ankles. Rising higher as it went. John looked over at me, but he said nothing.

“John,” I said when I got close enough. He finally spoke.

“No,” was all he said. But tears began to spill from his eyes. Leaking from his cheeks and falling into the foam scummed yellow-brown water that flowed ever faster over his feet.

“Don’t,” I screamed. I knew he meant to do it, and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Don’t move,” Gary said from behind me. I nearly went over the falls. I hadn’t known he was that close. I looked up and he was right next to me, working his way around me on the slippery surface of the dam. I looked back and Pete was still on the opposite side of the dam. He had climbed up and now he stood on the flat top. Transfixed. Watching us through his thick glasses. Gary had followed John and me across.

I stood still and Gary stepped around me. I have no idea how he did. I’ve thought about it, believe me. There shouldn’t have been enough room, but that was what he did. He stepped right around me and then walked the remaining 20 feet or so to John and grabbed his arm.

“If you jump you kill me too,” Gary said. I heard him perfectly clear above the roar of the dam. He said it like it was nothing. Like it is everything. But mostly he said it like he meant it.

It seemed like they argued and struggled forever, but it was probably less than a minute, maybe two. The waters were rising fast and the whole thing would soon be decided for us. If we didn’t get off the dam quickly we would be swept over by the force of the water.

They almost did go over. So did I. But the three of us got moving and headed back across to the land side where we had dropped our bikes. We climbed down from a dam and watched the water fill the river up. No one spoke.

Eventually john stopped crying. And the afterthought look, as though there some words or thoughts he couldn’t say passed. The dying time had passed.

We waited almost two hours for the river to stop running and then Pete came across…

We only talked about it one other time that summer, and then we never talked about it again. That day was also a beautiful summer day. Sun high in the sky. We were sitting on our bikes watching the dam run.

“I can’t believe you were gonna do it,” Pete said.

“I wasn’t,” John told him. “I only got scared when the water started flowing and froze on the dam… That’s all it was.”

Nobody spoke for a moment and then Gary said, “That’s how it was.”

“Yeah. That’s how it was,” I agreed…


THE FAIR

It was June, maybe it was even July. I truthfully couldn’t tell you, any more than I could tell you what happened the rest of that year. It’s a blank in my mind. June or July is only a point of light in my mind because I heard about it, not because I lived it. But because I was told about it. That is, all but the one part of it. The absolute memory that I’m sure of from that day. But the details… The rest of the year… I have no clue.

It was June or July. My brother was supposed to go to the fair with his friend Star, but he had instead taken off with my sister. I never did know why, and I’ve never been curious enough to find out either.

It was June or July. I was in the front yard lining up some Matchbox cars, running them around the base of one of the huge Elm trees that grew in our front yard. The sidewalk ran right between them to the front steps. The trees took up what yard there was. I have been back to that house later in life. The trees are gone. Cut down because of Dutch Elm disease. And the yard seems to be huge. It seems to go on forever. But back then the Elms owned that yard on either side of the sidewalk and my brother and I had a perfect place to make roads and run our matchbox cars around. And there I was running my little cars around when I spotted Star from far off. I thought maybe he would pass by. After all he was my brothers friend more than mine, but he stopped.

Hey,” Star said.

Hey,” I allowed. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look up from the cars, at least not at first.

Where’s Dave,” he asked?

Fair,” I answered.

He told me he’d go with me,” Star said.

Huh,” I answered. “Maybe he forgot ’cause he left with my sister… Awhile ago… Like” I tried to think of how long ago it had been but I was unable to come up with it. “Like… I don’t know. Awhile I guess.”

I hadn’t gone because I didn’t like the Fair. The year before I had gone, ridden the roundup, and puked as soon as soon as I got off it. I had been sick all night too. I hated being sick, specifically being sick enough to puke, more than anything in the world. No way did I want to go through that again.

You gonna go,” Star asked?

Uh uh,” I answered. I pushed the Batmobile back in line next to a green metallic tow truck..

I got two bucks,” Star said.

I looked up, “Well, I ain’t got only fifty cents,” I answered. That was the other reason I hadn’t gone. The Batmobile had called to me from the toy car rack at Woolworth… Batmobile? Fair? Batmobile? Fair…

That’ll get you a couple of rides,” Star broke in. “I’ll buy you a Coke.”

I looked at him. “Okay,” I agreed instantly. My rock solid reasons I had against going had flown out the window at the promise of a Coke. “But first I gotta take care of my cars.”

I have no idea what happened to that shiny black Batmobile with the amazing bubbled windshield. I never saw it again.

~

The County Fair grounds were on the other side off the city. A long walk.

The Tracks, our name for any of the many sets of railroad tracks that bisected the city of Watertown, would take us most of the way their. We walked them balancing on the rails as we went. When we came to the Coffeen street crossing we left the tracks and walked the side of the street to the outskirts of the city and the Fair grounds. I was thinking Double Ferris Wheel. No puking, just sight seeing. You could see almost all of Watertown from the top. And if you were actually lucky enough to get stopped at the top for a few moments, and I had been, you could actually pick out landmarks. I recalled that from the year before. Before the Roundup and the puking.

After that I would get the Coke Star had promised. Then I could stop at Majors Market on the way back and buy a second Coke with my other quarter. I had the whole afternoon mapped out and it seemed like a good plan to me.

The fair grounds were crowded. I saw my sister once, but she seemed to be avoiding me so I didn’t press it. We were less than a year apart and it was never really clear to me whether we hated each other or liked each other on any particular week. I saw a girl from school, Debbie something. One of my friends had referred to her as a Carpenters delight… A flat Board that had never been nailed. I didn’t really get the joke, I was always a little slow back then, but I did think she was cute. She smiled at me and I smiled back thinking I had no chance at all, wondered briefly about the board and nail remark, and then turned my attention back to the Fair Grounds.

I went with Star to the ticket booth, paid my quarter, and we headed to the midway.

I gotta try the Double Ferris Wheel,” I said.

I was thinking about The Roundup,” Star said.

No way,” I disagreed. “Puked last year.” I was only too glad to tell him the story.. He ended up agreeing with me on the Double Ferris Wheel ride.

I guess I do remember some of that day. Sitting here writing it all out brings a lot of it back. Maybe it was after that day that I have trouble with. Even as I write this my next clear memory is about a year later. I know I do remember all of the next immediate events, but I mean the feel of that day. I remember the feel of that day too. The smells of Cotton Candy… Buttered Popcorn… Cooking Sausage and Hotdogs… The crowds and the noise… Not long ago I smelled Popcorn and it took me right back to that day. All the way back. For a split second I was standing on that Midway once again… The crowd was moving around me. I was Happy… It was high summer. Watertown was a beautiful place to live.

That is why I think my memories are real, not just things suggested by people who were there. And, of course, afterwards, I remember all of that clearly. There was no one else there but me to see it, feel it, hear it. And all these years later it is just as real as it was then…

The Double Ferris Wheel was really the coolest ride I had ever seen. I was in front of Star as we wound our way through the line. I could see the guy running the ride. One of those typical Carney guys. I had cousins who were Carneys. I knew the look. And this guy was old school Carney. Dark, greasy hair. Cigarette plastered in one side of his mouth. Arms bulging. Crude tattoos covered his exposed chest and arms. Dark, almost inky, Gypsy eyes. He held the long steel handle that controlled the ride in one hand. The cigarette was unfiltered; Camel or Pall Mall, pumping up and down as his lips moved. His smile was cocky. His eyes bloodshot. He was none too steady on his feet. Bumping the handle occasionally. Rocking the steel cages that held the seat buckets as he bought them around for loading and unloading. Letting kids on and off.

The long line wound it’s way down. I gave up my ticket and stepped forward and that was the end of my summer. It ended up being the last carefree childhood thing I ever did. It’s more than forty years later now and I can say that as a fact. The rest of the real world part of that day came from Star’s testimony at the trial years later when the ride operator was sued.

The guy took my ticket. I stepped forward to get in. The cigarette jumped as he took a deep pull, jiggled the handle, lined up the wheel, and my leg swung into the open seat bucket. That was when it all went wrong. He did one of those unsteady joggles on his feet, bumped into the lever with one thigh, and kicked the ride into full operation.

For some reason, I couldn’t tell you why, I hung on instead of letting go when the bucket lurched forward and rapidly climbed up into the sky. Maybe it was simple instinct, fear. Whatever it was it probably seemed to me to be the smart thing to do until I hit one of the struts about thirty feet up and got knocked off the bucket and down to the ground. I ended up under the buckets which kept coming around and hitting me because the ride operator was too drunk to turn the ride off. Too drunk. Forgot, Froze. Whatever it was I was stuck until another Carney ran over and shut down the ride.

No body knows what was up with him. At the trial he claimed that I had ran through the line and jumped at the ride like some crazy kid. It wasn’t a good story. The jury didn’t buy it. And it didn’t explain why he was drunk or why he didn’t shut the ride down. The jury came back with a ten thousand dollar judgment. A great deal of money for back then. But that is secondary to this story and didn’t happen for a few years. What this story is about is what the next few weeks were like for me.

I put my feet into the seat bucket and the whole wheel seemed to lurch. The next clear memory was absolute darkness and God speaking to me. Comforting me. Not hurried. Not sounding Godlike, just sounding like an ordinary, reasonable man who for some reason had nothing better to do than talk to me. A little kid.

God was behind me. I never did see him, but I still knew it was him.

When my sight came back to me I was far above the Fair Grounds watching the ambulance weave it’s way through the crowds as it made it’s way to me. The next thing I knew I was inside… The siren warbling, and I was on my way to the hospital. God continued to talk to me and comfort me as I looked down at my broken little boys body

I don’t know what they knew then, but I had a laundry list of injuries. Broken neck, broken vertebrae in my thoracic spine. Broken vertebrae in my lumbar spine. Broken left scapula and joint damage to the shoulder. My upper back had been hit so hard that the muscles that attached from my shoulder blades to my spine had been torn free. I don’t know if I was still breathing or not. I stopped at some point in there. But it really didn’t concern me.

I watched as I was unloaded and rolled down the hallway of the emergency room. My mother ran beside the gurney, crying. The nurses cut the clothes from my body as they ran. I was filthy. Either the filth or the nudity embarrassed my mother, but the nurses did their work as they rushed my body along that hallway. And although I could feel their thoughts, hear their words, it did not affect me.

The next few weeks went by fast. God never once left me. Talking to me. Answering my endless questions. And I did have endless questions but he had endless answers. Everything… All the knowledge of the entire world… Universe… Universes, was mine.

She tricked me this way: The nurse was young. Pretty. Even to me, a little kid. She took my hand and began to talk to me. She had no idea I was busy talking to God, so I forgave her, at first anyhow.

But then she began to call my name. Call me Honey. Tell me to wake up, and it began to bother me.. I couldn’t concentrate on God if she didn’t leave me alone. I wanted to tell her to shut up! Stop! And so I imagined my mouth opening to say the words and that was it. I was back in my body. Stuck in my body. God was gone. The pain was everywhere. Huge. Unyielding. I was stuck. And, worse, everything God had told me was gone. It was like it was some sort of top secret knowledge. Top secret God knowledge that could not exist outside of death. You could know all of it if you intended to be dead, but none of it if you intended to live.

I hadn’t intended to live, I remember thinking that. Who in their right mind would leave the company of God to come back to this world? Not me. But, She had tricked me. Tricked me, and I had fallen for it…


THE TRIP

I was about thirteen when this took place. By that time I was already alcohol dependent, had tried and liked Speed, a drug that would twice come close to killing me before I was twenty one, had pretty much dropped out of school even though I was legally there and on the rolls, and I flirted with the idea of suicide on a daily basis…

I don’t really know him at all,” Dick said.

Neither do I,” I admitted. “But, everyone says he’s the guy, so I called him and asked him.

Yeah,” dick asked?

Yeah,” I said. “He’s going to meet us down at the Olympic.” The Olympic was an old run down theater on the edge of downtown.

When,” he asked?

Now, I guess.” The truth was I hadn’t asked. I had been too nervous. We were up in my bedroom. Dick was my most recent friend. John Gary and Pete, my early childhood friends had fallen by the wayside.

John moved away after his father nearly died. One day the whole family just moved out of state.

Gary was older and had finally found older friends. Pete just drifted away. I got into drugs and alcohol, skipping school and working towards that first prison bid I had in me.

As I said, at thirteen I had more than a passing acquaintance with alcohol and speed. I did both whenever I could get them. I drank every day, or at least the days when I didn’t drink were rare. I was already at a a point where I didn’t really get all that drunk anymore, no matter how much I drank. And I was just a few weeks away from a serious accident at the county fair that would come very close to taking my life. Ahead of me, although I didn’t yet know it, was recovery from that accident, suicide attempts, life on the streets and near death there more than once too. But today I was trying to find my way in the drug world. Today was acid. I had two joints in my pocket and Dick and I each had a couple of bucks. Two dollars was the price of a hit of what they called blotter acid back then.

Neither of us had ever done acid before. Never had seen it. Never sold it, and we did sell pot so we could smoke some, or at least Dick did. I couldn’t smoke pot. It made me sick every time. So I used my money to buy Boone’s Farm Apple wine, or Strawberry Hill, Colt Forty Five Malt Liquor, cigarettes, diet pills (AKA Speed), and all the other stuff we shouldn’t have been doing. We knew, in short, nothing at all about acid, except you tripped. Whatever that was. It was supposed to be intense.

We left the house and headed toward downtown and the Olympic Theater.

For most of my childhood the Olympic theater showed adult movies all week long, and then cartoons and kids movies on the weekend. At one time it had been a grand theater. But that time was a long way behind it.

I saw it later in my life, a few years later really, and it was boarded up, ceilings fallen, and then I moved away for the first time and when I came back it was gone.

That place had always bothered me back then though. I would pass it on the weekends and the little kids would be lined up to go in and sit where the perverts had been sitting the day before doing God knew what. It made no sense to me. And, the perverts didn’t really go away on the weekends. They hung around. I know. I saw one there one time that I had encountered as a younger child. One that had abused me.

Despite that parents sent their kids to the Olympic Theater all weekend long. Probably to get them out of their hair. Have a little down time. Who knows. It was a small town. It was supposed to be safe. And I suppose it was for most kids, but I never liked it. I never felt at ease with it.

So the little kids went to the Olympic all weekend long, just like we were doing, and the pervs were not the only thing out front. Drugs were sold right there at the sides of the doors nearly all of the time. That was where we were going to pick up our purchase.

There was always a crowd, and it was easy to disappear in that crowd. Of course the pervs watched you, sometimes even propositioned you, but I didn’t know anything about that world yet, and wouldn’t for a few years until I ended up on the streets. Ironically when I sold pot, I too always had the buyer meet me in front of the Olympic. Funny how I could feel the one way yet justify that in my mind.

We walked the eight blocks to the Olympic. It was early fall, cool but not cold yet. The leaves were turning, but they were still on the trees. There was a wind. More like a breeze on steroids, but you could smell winter on that air.

Smell it. It was like that. Just like any kind of flower reminded me of death, that particular fall air reminded me of winter. And really, winter and death were always the same thing to me. It evoked depression in me. Summer was over… Dead… Gone away at the least. Gone for at least a year. And a year was almost a lifetime at that age, so it may have well have been dead. At least it seemed that way to me then.

I saw Jeff standing in front of the Olympic. A leather jacket. Jeans. He practically screamed tough guy. We idolized him and imitated that look ourselves. It wasn’t more than a handful of years that he had left to live. He didn’t know it. We didn’t know it. He was going to be on the bad end of a drug deal in the near future. Get stuck with the time and then get stabbed to death shortly after that in prison over a bad drug deal there.

It’s funny, thinking about it now, where blocks of time, five years, ten years, seem to slip by so fast. What he had left to live was next to nothing, but back then, if we had known, we would have thought it was forever.

Right then, at that time, he was about to enrich out lives. Acid was the big time experience. And he was the way to score it.

I walked up like I belonged there. “Hey,” I said.

Hey,” Jeff threw back. He looked at Dick and Dick nodded. “Hold this for me for a second, would you,” He asked? He handed me a small slip of paper.

Sure,” I said. I took the paper.

So…” He looked at each of us. “You got the money?”

Sure,” I agreed. I pulled the two dollars from my pocket and passed it to him as we pretended to shake hands. The he shook hands with Dick too. Some old Grandpa was checking me and Dick out, I threw him a finger. He looked away with disgust written across his face. I turned back to Jeff.

Cool,” He said. “Well, I’ll see you. Let me know if…You know.”

Uh huh,” I agreed. I watched his back as he walked off into the downtown district.

What the fuck!” Dick said.

I looked at him. “What,” I asked?

Where is it,” Dick asked?

I figured he gave it to you,” I said, surprised that he apparently hadn’t.

I can’t believe he screwed us,” Dick said. “I thought he gave you something.”

He did,” I said, remembering the small slip of paper he had given me. I opened it in my palm. A cartoon Micky Mouse printed on a small strip of thin, white paper. Nothing Else.

It’s just a cartoon… A cartoon… It’s nothing,” I said after looking at Mickey for a few minutes. “He didn’t pass you nothing either, I guess,” I finished.

Great,” Dick said. He shook his head.

Well, we got the joints,” I said.

Yeah, except they make you sick almost every time.”

We were both dejected. We had maybe another two bucks between us. We could try again, but who could we call? If Jeff had stuck it to us, wouldn’t the next guy too?

Well, we could stop by the doughnut shop. Buy some day old doughnuts and coffee. Then go get some wine, you get high, I’ll buzz off the wine, we’ll eat the doughnuts later and the coffee will keep us up.” It actually seemed like a pretty good alternate plan to me. I had been more than a little nervous about the acid. I had heard about bad trips. Maybe this was for the best. We walked away back up State Street.

I was still holding the slip of paper in my hand. It amazes me that I didn’t crumple it up and throw it away. But, something about it bugged me. We walked about a block in silence before it came to me.

Hey,” I said. I came to a complete stop on the sidewalk. “Remember how some of those guys the other day were talking about blotter acid? How it was just a spot of color on a piece of paper? And those other guys were talking about Goofy and Minnie Mouse… Donald Duck? … “

Cartoon heads made out of acid… Like in the ink or something.”

Dick had continued to walk a few steps after I stopped, so he was stopped slightly ahead of me… Standing… Listening… Looking back at me.

Huh,” he said and nodded his head.

So… Maybe this is it,” I said looking at Mickey’s small head on the piece of paper.

So how do we get it off,” he asked?

I shook my head. “We’ll eat the paper,” I said finally. Before we could think about it I ripped it in half and handed Dick half of Micky’s head. I shrugged, put my piece in my mouth and swallowed it. Dick did the same.

We stood in the shadows of an alleyway there watching the traffic pass us by.

Nothing,” I said.

Me either,” He agreed.

I don’t know, Man,” I said.

Yeah. Maybe he did get us… If so, we won’t buy no more pot through him,” Dick said. The guy we bought our pot from bought it from Jeff. Just about all the drugs in our little town came through Jeff who had a cousin in Syracuse that got them from somebody else. Who knew how many times they changed hands on the way to us. We didn’t.

Yeah,” I agreed. “Plan b?

Yeah, plan B,” He agreed.

We made our way to the doughnut shop just a few blocks further along and decided to modify our plan.

The doughnut shop was a cop hangout and the way we dressed, and our long hair, always pissed the cops off.

So we decided to buy doughnuts and a coffee to go, but to have a coffee there too. Just to sit there and piss the cops off. We were kids, I don’t know how else to explain how something like that seemed like entertainment to us. It was like we liked to tease them. A, ‘I know you hate us, but you can’t get us.’ or, as Dick used to say, ‘A big fuck you right at them.’ I have since come to have a great deal of respect for law enforcement. I didn’t in my youth though. It was good guys and bad guys. And in my screwed up thinking I was the good guy.

There were three or four cops in there when we arrived, spread out along the curving counter top, eating doughnuts, drinking coffee and reading newspapers. It really was like another office for them back in those days And, I have never been able to figure this out, but they didn’t talk to each other. They didn’t sit side by side and shoot the shit as we used to say, as they ate, drank, read. No. They staked out little territories of their own. A little something on this side of them so someone wouldn’t sit there, a little something on the other side. It was weird to me as a kid, because I figured they all hung out, joked, and talked about catching the bad guys. Maybe they did, but they never did there.

It may be cliche in some cities when they talk about the cops hanging out at the doughnut shop. And really, now, it would be more than a little hard to do, there are no places like that, and they have an office right there in the car. Go through the drive through, pull out back and eat. But then, in my town, cliche or not the cops ate and hung out at the doughnut shop. No matter what time of day or night, if you had a problem just run down to the doughnut shop and get a cop. There would be one there.

We went in, picked out a bag of day old doughnuts, got our coffees, and sat down at the counter to drink. Like I said, we did that mostly to piss the cops off. It was their place. We looked like bad kids. Hell, we were bad kids. No way did they want us in their place.

We weren’t looking for trouble exactly, we just didn’t want the establishment, read that as any kind of authority, to rule our young lives.

We were sitting for less than five minutes when the acid hit us. It hit us both at the same time. We turned and looked at each other. Then, also, at the exact same time, we both became convinced that the cops were on to us. They knew without a doubt that we were tripping. In fact one cop kept looking at us non-stop. The paranoia was just starting.

We left, which was probably a good thing, and headed for my house. The hallucinations grew worse as we went. The tree limbs above us turned into leaf covered hands reaching down to snatch us from the street and eat us. And the worst, freakiest part of it is that we both had the same hallucinations at the same time. There was no calming influence from the non hallucinating party.

To make it even worse our girlfriends, two sisters, discovered us at some point on the walk home and knew something was wrong with us. I was alternating between laughing hysterically and crying. My girlfriends face kept turning into a pig face each time she tried to kiss me or came too close. Eventually they left us alone and we got ourselves under some sort of control and decided to go to my house and lay low until the high became more manageable.

My mother was cooking dinner and listening to Walter Cronkite do the evening news as she did. She would pop into the living room doorway from the kitchen every few moments to see Walters face.

Hi, Boys,” she said.

Hey, Mom.” I was amazed how normal I sounded.

We sat down and tried to watch TV, but it quickly became apparent that Walter somehow knew we were high.

He kept looking at us. Winking, saying things only we could hear. Smirking at us. He knew alright.

We left the living room, went up to my bedroom and ended up listening to the Black Sabbath Debut album and the Stones. Good music to trip by. It seemed as though the bands were playing in our heads.

I tried to lay down but the knotty pine bunk beds drove me crazy. The knots kept turning into eyes. Staring me down. I couldn’t look away, they followed me.

Time passed. Somewhere around five in the morning we began to come down. We drank the coffee and buzzed a little again on the caffeine, we left the house, met up with some older kids. Traded one of the joints for a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, then made our way downtown to Peanut Park where Dick got high on the other joint while I drank the wine and watched the sunrise…


LAST RIDE

It was early in my shift. I owned my own taxi so I could pretty much pick which 12 hour shift I wanted to drive. I drove nights so that I could be home with my son during the day while my wife worked. I’d told myself for most of the last year that I should stop driving taxi, settle down to a real job and be more responsible. But then a Conrail contract came along and then the opportunity to work with another driver who handled the Airport contract, and suddenly I was making more money than I could have reasonably expected from what I would have considered a straight job.

The hours were long, but there was something that attracted me to the night work. I always had been attracted to night work. Like my internal clock was Set to PM. It just seemed to work and after a few failed attempts to work day shift work, I gave it up and went to work full time nights.

I was never bored. The nights kept me awake and interested. They supplied their own entertainment.

Conrail crews, regulars that called only for me, the assorted funny drunks late at night when the bars were closing. Soldiers on their way back to the nearby base, and a dancer at a small club just off down town that had been calling for me personally for the last few weeks. Using my cab as a dressing room on the way back to her hotel. It was always something different.

Days, the few times I’d driven days, couldn’t compare. Sure, there was violence too but it rarely came my way and never turned into a big deal when it did. At six foot two, two hundred and twenty pounds most trouble looked elsewhere when it came to me.

It was Friday night, one of my big money nights, about 7:00 P.M. and my favourite dispatcher Smitty had just come on. He sent me on a call out State street that would terminate down town. Once I was down town I could easily pick up a GI heading back to the base for a nice fat fare and usually a pretty good tip. My mind was on that.

My mind was also on that dancer who would be calling sometime after two AM and who had made it clear that I was more than welcome to come up to her room. It was tempting, I’ll admit it, and each time she called she tempted me more. I figured it was just a matter of time before I went with her.

I really didn’t see the lady when she got into my car, but when it took her three times to get out the name of the bar down town that she wanted to go to I paid attention. Drunk. It was early too. Sometimes drunks were OK, but most times they weren’t. This one kept slumping over, slurring her words, nearly dropping her cigarette. I owed the bank a pile of money on the car and didn’t need burn holes in my back seat.

I dropped the flag on the meter, pulled away from the curbing and eased into traffic. Traffic was heavy at that time and I pissed off more than a few other drivers as I forced my way into the traffic flow.

I had just settled into the traffic flow when a glance into the rear view mirror told me my passenger had fallen over. I couldn’t see the cigarette but I could still smell it. I made the same drivers even angrier as I swept out of the traffic flow and angled up onto the side walk at the edge of the street. I got as far out of the traffic flow as I could get so I could get out to see what was up with the woman in the back seat.

I was thinking drunk at the time, but the thought that it could be something more serious crept into my head as I made the curb, bumped over it, set my four way flashers and climbed out and went around to the back door.

She was slumped over into the wheel well, the cigarette smoldering next to her pooled, black hair. In her hair, I realized as the smell of burning hair came to me. I snatched the cigarette and threw it out the open door, then shook her shoulder to try and bring her around. But it was obvious to me, just that fast, that the whole situation had changed. She wasn’t breathing.

I reached in, caught her under the arms, and then suddenly someone else was there with me.

He was a short, thin man wearing a worried look up on his face. Dark eyes set deeply in their sockets. His hair hung limply across his forehead. He squeezed past me and looked down at the woman. He pushed her eyelids up quickly, one by one, and then held his fingers to her lips. He frowned deeply and flipped the hair away from his forehead.

“Paramedic”, he told me as he took her other arm and helped me pull her from the back seat.

We laid her out on the sloping front lawn of the insurance company I had stopped in front of and he put his head to her chest.

He lifted his head, shaking it as he did. “Call an ambulance,” he said tersely.

I could feel the shift in his demeanor He wasn’t letting me know he could handle the situation, like when he had told me he was a paramedic, he was handling it. I got on the radio and made the call.

The ambulance got there pretty fast. I stood back out of the way and let them work on her, raising my eyes to the backed up traffic on occasion. The paramedic had torn open her shirt. Her nudity seemed so out of place on the city side walk. Watching the traffic took the unreal quality of it away from me. I watched the ambulance pull away, eased my car down off the curb and back into the sluggish traffic and went back to work.

I got the story on her about midnight once things slowed down and I stopped into the cab stand to talk to the dispatcher for a short while. His daughter knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone at the hospital. The woman had taken an overdose. Some kind of pills. It was going to be touch and go. He also had a friend in the police department too. She did it because of a boyfriend who had cheated on her. It seemed so out of proportion to me. I went back to work but I asked him to let me know when he heard more.

2:30 AM:

The night had passed me by. The business of the evening hours catching me up for a time and taking me away from the earlier events. I was sitting down town in my cab watching the traffic roll by me. It was a beautifully warm early morning for Northern New York. I had my window down letting the smell of the city soak into me, when I got the call to pick up my dancer with the club gig.

“And, Joe,” Smitty told me over the static filled radio, ” your lady friend didn’t make it.”

It was just a few blocks to the club. I left the window down enjoying the feeling of the air flowing past my face.

The radio played Steely Dan’s Do It Again and I kind of half heard it as I checked out the back seat to see if the ghost from the woman earlier might suddenly pop up there.

The dancer got in and smiled at me. I smiled back but I was thinking about the other woman, the woman who was now dead, sitting in that same place a few hours before. The dancer began to change clothes as I drove to her hotel.

“You know,” she said, catching my eyes in the mirror. “I should charge you a cover. You’re seeing more than those GI’S in the club.” She shifted slightly, her breasts rising and falling in the rear view mirror. We both laughed. It was a game that was not a game. She said it to me every time. But, my laugh was hollow. Despite her beauty I was still hung up on someone being alive in my back seat just a few hours before and dead now. Probably being wheeled down to the morgue were my friend Pete worked. I made myself look away and concentrate on the driving. She finished dressing as I stopped at her hotel’s front entrance.

“You could come up… If you wanted to,” she said. She said it lightly, but her eyes held serious promise.

“I’d like to… But I better not,” I said.

She smiled but I could tell I had hurt her feelings. It was a real offer, but I couldn’t really explain how I felt. Why I couldn’t. Not just because I was married, that was already troubled, but because of something that happened earlier.

I drove slowly away after she got out of the cab and wound up back down town for the next few hours sitting in the parking lot of an abandoned building thinking… ‘I was only concerned about her cigarette burning the seats.’

I smoked while I sat, dropping my own cigarettes out the window and onto the pavement. A short while later Smitty called me with a Conrail trip.

I started the cab and drove out to Massey yard to pick up my crew. The dancer never called me again…


ABOUT DELL SWEET

Wendell (Dell) Sweet wrote his first fiction at age seventeen. He drove taxi and worked as a carpenter for most of his life. He began working on the internet in 1989 primarily in HTML, graphics and website optimizations. He spent time on the streets as a drug addicted teen as well as time in prison. He was Honorably discharged from the service in 1974.

He is a Musician who writes his own music as well as lyrics. He is an Artist accomplished in Graphite, Pen, and Digital media. He has written more than twenty books for the Earth’s Survivors series, many of which are unpublished, and several dozen short stories.

All music, lyrics, artwork or additional written materials attributed to characters in the novels, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright © 2009 – 2016 Wendell Sweet.

Dell Sweet’s Amazon Page: https://amazon.com/author/wendellsweet

Prison 101:4

STOP! This material is NOT edited for content. It is not fiction. It contains explicit language and descriptions of real situations. It is not suitable for minors, and may not be suitable for people who easily disturbed…


I’ve been told it shows. Something in the way I look at a man. Something they see. Something. Whatever it is they leave me alone. The few times I was tried by someone it didn’t turn out good for them. Living on the streets will teach you to fight, and it doesn’t take a lot to make people leave you alone in jail. So I took these guys under my wing. That meant everybody else leaves them alone the same way they leave me alone.

After a while that gets to the C.O. (Correctional Officer), what would have been called a guard in the old days. He uses that information, so that if a guy comes in that needs a little looking after he points them to me. They usually catch on quick. Join the bible study and people leave them alone. Sad but true. Kind of like a Jesus protection racket. I didn’t mean for it to be that way, but I knew it was. I still did the study every day.

It’s the same way in prison. Join the Christian studies and get protected, join the Muslim studies and be protected. Only in prison the Muslims do a much better job at protecting. Touch one of their members and you will get stepped to and told in no uncertain terms to leave that person alone or else. And or else means they will do what they have to. Christians are much more lax, not protective. They will use the excuse that they are Christians, non-violent to not fight. But in my mind, being Christian does not mean non-violent. The Old Testament is full of violence, so is the New Testament. I was not afraid to step to someone and tell them to stay away. I would say fuck off, if that’s what I had to say. You may think that disqualifies me as a Christian right there. So be it, but prison is a different place. The language, morals, everything is different. It doesn’t mean Christianity is different, but it does mean, for me, stripping off all the crap. This is who I am. Yes, I use bad language. Yes I committed a bad crime that bought me here. But the bible doesn’t say I need to do anything other than believe that Christ can save me, and that is what I am doing. It’s more honest than the man who goes to church on Sunday, all pious and forgiving, the perfect Christian it seems, but Monday he is stealing, playing around on his wife and who knows what else. But on Sunday he’s the man. I can’t stand that form of Christianity. I am me all the time. Take it or leave it.

Sometimes a guy would come in with a crime that might make others go after him. In those cases they would put them in P.C. if they could. Or Admin Seg. (Administrative Segregation) we called it. Same as P.C. . With Admin Seg. the guy doesn’t have a say, with P.C. they do, or at least on paper they do. If they are really concerned about the guy he goes, but sometimes there are borderline cases. Or bad cases, but guys that seemed to have their shit together enough to make it. In those cases they put them in pop, sand if they came to my block the C.O. Would come to me and personally tell me what the deal was. What kind of crime the guy had, and ask me to keep an eye on them.

If you see hardcore prison movies you might think C. O’s and Cons have no respect, business, or anything else between each other. Bullshit. Nothing comes into a prison unless it goes by a C.O.. Think about that. Nothing. And nothing happens inside, drugs, alcohol, whatever, unless a Con has a hand in it. That means the two factions work together. I spent a lot of years in a max prison and I always laughed at the new guys who came in spouting shit about cops, (cop is prison slang for C.O.’s), whatever. They hate them. This and that. They have no clue what the real deal is. You see them a few months later and they have usually fallen in line, if not they’re gone. Shipped off by the C.O.’s or stabbed up by Cons (Inmates). Either way, they have decided to buck the system and that doesn’t work. Not only doesn’t it work it causes problems for everyone else.

So the C.O. comes to me one day and says, “Look… This guy will be on the news tonight… Killed his girlfriend’s baby.”

“Allegedly,” I add.

“Yeah… Allegedly,” the C.O. admits. “So I got no space in P.C. I need you to keep an eye on him.”

I just nod. Like I said, it is give and take. He doesn’t say he’ll give me a pack of smokes, or some weed, or whatever. He asks, I do. Someday, he knows, I’ll ask and he’ll do. It works that way.

You might say, “How can you associate with Killers? Killers of babies?” I could explain it, but you wouldn’t get it. The best I can do is tell you that Jail, and Prison more so, are entirely different worlds. The rules we live by out here don’t apply. The moral code is different. Sounds like bullshit, but it isn’t.

Men die in prison all the time. I knew I was going. Maybe I would be one of those that died. Many men hated me for putting myself between the men they wanted to use. Stopping them. They liked the world where they can prey on the weak and there is no one to stop them. They hate anything that disrupts that. So maybe someone would kill me for that. Or the life I had lived. Crimes I had committed. When I really looked at it, it came down to the fact that I was no one to judge anyone. If someone stabbed me for that? So what.

My motto was Iacta Alea Est (Loosely translated to ‘The Die Is Cast.’). And it was. It was cast, all that remained was to live it. So I took the kid under my wing. Big kid. Early twenties. Cried for the first few weeks. Wouldn’t come out of his cell. Scared to death. I put the word around to leave him alone and he was left alone.

He came to me a few weeks into his time. He looked like Hell. He hadn’t been eating, taking care of himself. It looked like he had at least begun to start taking care of himself again. I had talked to him through the bars dozens of times…

“God can help… It’s not over… If you need to talk, even if it’s the middle of the night, tell the C.O. And he’ll crack my cell. We can talk… Don’t do anything stupid…”

That sort of stuff. And I meant it. I wasn’t trying to look at this guy any certain way at all. So he came to me a few weeks into it. He talked. Not about his crime. Not about the weather, or lunch. He came to talk about God. What did I think of God? What did I think God thought of people like us who committed serious crimes and went to prison? I did my best to answer. I answered honestly too. I felt, and still feel, that God loves unconditionally. You can’t get that from people, you can only get it from God.

He came to the studies every day. His demeanor didn’t change though. He never smiled. He never laughed at anything. On the other hand he didn’t seem moody. He just seemed very deep into his thoughts. Probably more than a little depressed too.

Eventually he started asking for time alone. Time after Bible study. He had other questions, he said.

The first few times it was not much. The dance…

“Do you think God can forgive us when we do really bad things?”

“Yes, I do.”

“But I mean really bad stuff.” He looked at me and the tears began to leak from the corners of his eyes.

“You think I haven’t done really bad things?” I asked. It’s where I usually go. It’s safe. I’m talking about myself. It takes the pressure off them.

“You don’t seem like you could have.”

“I have,” I told him.

We talked about life. We talked all around the subject. I knew what it was. I could feel what he wanted to ask, but was too afraid to ask.

“Listen,” I said a few days later. We were in my cell. I was sitting on the bed he was sitting at my little steel seat and table welded to the bars. “I’m not a priest… This doesn’t work that way.” He had come in. Sat down, and told me he had to tell me something.

“I know that,” he said, but even as he spoke the tears started hard and heavy and he lost control for a few minutes. I let him cry. Sometimes it’s best to stay silent. Eventually he got himself under control. “I know,” he said at last, picking the conversation up where it had left off.

“So, if you are about to…. About to say something that is serious, I want you to understand that… You may look at me a certain way… Like someone you can talk to about anything, but, I’m not a priest… I can be subpoenaed… Made to testify… Be careful what you say to me.”

His eyes were red and bloodshot. It looked as if maybe he hadn’t really slept much at all since he had come there. “I know… I know that.”

I nodded. I think I was convinced that he would get back up and leave after what I had just told him. More than once a guy had come close to the same thing, what amounted to, or even was a confession, and had shut up once I said my piece. I thought this kid would too. Or change the subject to something else.

“I did it,” he said. He dropped his head into his hands. “I can’t fuckin’ live with it… I did it.”

The silence lasted so long it seemed to me as though it had always been there. “I wish you hadn’t told me.”

“But I needed to,” he said. His eyes caught mine and I had to nod.

“Well, what do you want to do?” I asked. I knew he had the same lawyer I had.

“I just want to say it… Get it over with… I can’t stand it… I have to say it.”

“So you say it,” I said quietly. I didn’t say that lightly. I understood better than he did what would happen if he did, but I also understood about living with bad shit inside you. It killed you a little every day. It poisoned everything you did. Every relationship. Your whole life. I had an appointment of my own coming up where I would be walking into court and confessing to my crime in exchange for an amount of time that would make most men give up right there. Enough time that I would maybe not live to see the end of it, but I had to do that or I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. With me. What and who I was. So I understood what he needed to do and I understood why, like I said, probably better than he did at that moment, he was unconcerned with the consequences of his confession.

Read more at Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/true-true-stories-from-a-small-town-3-life-in-a-minor/id966742487

iTunes books from author Dell Sweet

Top Books from author Dell Sweet

1. Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive. Small groups band together for safety, leaving the ravaged cities behind in search of a new future…

2. The Zombie Killers are the men and women who keep the new settlements safe for the other survivors. Those in the Nation and those in the Fold, and the many independent colonies that would not be able to exist without their help and intervention. They are the ones who search out supplies, fight the Zombie Plagues so that the others can live in safety…

3. Earth’s Survivors Rising From The Ashes continues to follow the survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule. The small groups are growing, branching out in search of a new future. It chronicles their day to day struggles as well as their dreams as they search out new hope in their shattered world…

4. This part of the story really concentrates on the formation of The Nation and the people who will build it and carry it forward, but it also brings along the side story of The Fold and the people who will build that haven. It gives a more complete picture of Adam and Cammy, and picks up the Tale of Billy and Beth, Mike and Candace, Conner and Katie as they work to sort out their lives.

5. Home in the valley concentrates on the building of the first and most important settlement of The Nation. The valley settlement is where the people that run the Nation will come from. They will rise to leadership positions across the former United States. The first supply trip out for the Nation nearly turns to disaster, and more of the separate parties join and become one under the Nation Flag.

6. Major Weston read the report twice and then carefully set it back on his desk. Johns or Kohlson: One of the two had stolen samples of SS-V2765. It was not a question. No one else had the access, no one else the proximity or knowledge of where it was stored. Two of the virus, one each of the REX agents were missing. Enough to infect several million people, and that was just the initial infection…

7. Plague outlines the sudden rise of the dead, chronicling the spread across the country. It follows Adam, Beth, Billy and Pearl as they head north looking for an antidote that can bring the plagues to end. It also sees the first babies born to the Nation, the formation of both the Fold and Alabama Island, and the loss of one of the founders of The Nation without whom the Nation may dissolve…

8. When a catastrophic natural disaster looms on the near horizon, the government releases an airborne virus designed to make the human race better able to survive. Those that do survive are picking up the pieces of their world, and those that have died lay in their death sleep, but in their bodies the virus works on, mutating, setting the stage for a second catastrophe far worse that the first.

9. Star Dancer is an inner galaxy cruiser, transporting inmates and materials between the penal colonies on the Moon and Mars, as well as supplies and people to the bases scattered throughout the Solar System. Her captain, Michael Watson purchased Star Dancer right out of school, but the last few trips have left him longing for more adventure out in the wider expanses of space…

10. This book steps back to the beginning to bring you the story of the Fold. Jessie Stone, why and how Snoqualmie settlement came to be. It begins in present day and then falls back in time to the beginning of the Apocalypse. The Fold becomes the biggest challenger to the Nations power. The community that can force the Nation into compromise, or bring a war that may destroy both societies.

11. The summer of 1969 in Glennville New York had settled in full tilt. The July morning was cool and peaceful, but the afternoon promised nothing but sticky heat. Bobby Weston and Moon Calloway worked furiously on the go-cart they had been planning to race down Sinton Park hill, in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. Both boys had grown up in Glennville…

12. Crime Time is a collection of nine crime stories from author Dell Sweet. From short stories to near novel length… … When a man tells you he has the moral flexibility to include murder in his life if he deems it necessary this is probably not a man you should be hanging out with. Jeff Johnson had reminded himself of this fact about Robert Biel more than once…

13. L.A. Billy and Beth: March 11th Billy was up on the roof. Beth, Jamie, Winston and Scotty were standing at the edge of the building as he was, looking out over the city. Things were crazy, and they seemed to be getting worse as the days rolled by. The police precinct was still burning.No one had come to put it out. Gangs were rounding up survivors, never to be seen again: The world seemed over…

14. Earth’s Survivors SE 1 contains the complete text from the first two Earth’s Survivors books, Apocalypse and Rising From The Ashes. It includes a character bibliography. It follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite hits and sets off a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule.

15. Billy Only intended to go for a walk downtown, look at the lights and the pretty girls, kill some time. It seemed the safest thing in the world. He bent to take a look in the window of the car, two dead men, he had thought, but the driver was not dead, he raised his gun and leveled it on him. 24 hours later as he dug the hole in the desert hard pan he was wondering how it had all gone so wrong.

16. An apocalypse of epic proportions has shaken the Earth to it’s core. In the bigger cities the dead are growing quickly in numbers. Growing intelligent as they continue to change and mutate. They have one thought in their rotting brains, take over the world, and destroy those that live in the process. Billy Jingo leaves Los Angeles hoping there might be something better on the other coast…

17. The Zombie Killers are the men and women who keep the new settlements safe for the other survivors. Those in the Nation and those in the Fold, and the many independent colonies that would not be able to exist without their help and intervention. They are the ones who search out supplies, fight the Zombie Plagues so that the others can live in safety…

18. Gabe Kohlson moved away from the monitors. “Heart rate is dropping, don’t you think…” He stopped as the monitor began to chime softly. “Dammit,” Kohlson said as he finished his turn. “What is it,” David Johns wheeled his chair across the short space of the control room. “Flat lined,” Kohlson said as he pushed a button on the wall to confirm what the doctors already knew. Clayton Hunter was dead.

19. Donita’s Notebook March 1st (Night) Quakes, at least three. Warmed up fast, and all the dirty snow that was piled along the streets has melted. Torrential rains. Thunder and lightening in the snow storm that came after sunset. Didn’t last long; turned back to rain. Parts of the projects are burning. Jersey is burning. The sky is red-orange, everything across the river is on fire. No one has come.

20. Donita: The hunger was terrible, all consuming, and it came in crashing waves. The impulse to feed seemed to be the only coherent thought she had. It was hard to think around, hard to think past. It was all she could do not to rush from the trees, find the smell that tempted her and consume it. Eat it completely. Leave nothing at all…

WALKING ALONE: Addiction and Recovery… Dell Sweet.

WALKING ALONE: Addiction and Recovery… Dell Sweet
 
  If you have lived any kind of life at all you have made mistakes. It comes with the human territory; I think it probably comes with any thinking animal’s territory. Those mistakes may be small or they may be large and overshadowing. You may be ridiculed because of them or they may be severe enough that you will have to pay for them. In this country, unless you are rich, that means jail or prison.
You may do time for whatever you did. There is no other payment acceptable in the United States. This country does not believe in rehabilitation, just punishment. I realize this country talks about forgiveness, rehabilitation on the surface, but under that surface it does not exist. But I am not country bashing today or any other day, because despite the issues I have with this country it is probably one of the safest places to live in the world and one of the fairest, considering that there are countries, even countries that call themselves democratic where I could be killed for speaking anything other than praise about the country.
I am pointing it up to help you to understand that when you make a mistake in life there is rarely forgiveness or forgetting. Whatever you did will become part of who you are and for some it is a hard burden to bear: For some people it seems impossible, but it is only impossible because you allowed yourself to look past the truth and see things the way you wanted to see them instead of the way they actually are and you are not alone, many of us do that or have done that. So I am not bashing government at all. The world is the way it is.
Whenever we are outside of normal society we are walking a dangerous line. We know that. We understand the risks. Is that really true? The real answer is yes; that deep inside we do understand the risks. At some point in our lives we have seen people fail, explode with anger, hurt someone or themselves. We have seen others bullied; we have seen relationships that seemed solid fall apart. We have experienced loss, sometime on a close and personal level, and sometimes from afar. We have tried to speak to God and have heard no reply. At least a few of these things are common to most of us and if ignored these issues can lead us to very dark places.
What is outside of normal society: Normal is a loose term: Being normal means that we are with other people who conform to an existing, unwritten set of rules that govern our lives. They are so ingrained that we believe we rarely think about them, they have become part of who we are. See a person with a gun we try to protect ourselves and our family. We move away from that person. See an injured child we become protective and there are dozens of other examples. And although we don’t always believe that we think about those things we do. Everything that questions our beliefs is examined and weighed against those beliefs. In the blink of an eye we reject or accept, and so as we grow we build our character based on that moral code we have deep inside of us.
Today I am talking about people. And I am pointing up people from different walks of life for a reason: Inmates or people who have spent time in a penal institution. Anyone who has ever been bullied, picked on, discriminated against: Drug addicts, alcoholics and other people with addictive personalities. I guess if we are all being honest that should include everyone, yet I know some would never raise their hands and admit to any of what I just wrote if asked to. So I will include people that have these problems, but are still hiding them because A: They don’t want others to know about it out of fear they will be ostracized or B: Because they still believe they are completely in control of their lives and that they can fix their own issues.
All of these conditions can cause problems. Who is equipped to go to prison: Or a mental hospital; or to take that first hit of cocaine, shoot heroin? I don’t know anyone who is. If you are bullied and you do not get a chance to deal with it, it can cause problems. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the stresses of this world, some to self abuse, some become abusers, and some find the revolving doors of jail, prison and mental health units and that becomes their life. A few others live their lives tethered to what is familiar. Work to pay bills and then go home. Rarely socialize, keep the circle small, do not trust do not love. That is not living it is existing and I am speaking from experience. We need help.
Here is the issue though. We cannot always fix ourselves. I am not saying we are not strong enough to fix our problems, I am saying that we cannot see them. I know that is old news, but many of us ignored it when we heard it and we should not have. It is true and it should not be so hard to believe. Can you see the back of your shirt? No, we don’t actually have eyes in the back of our heads, and so if we want to know if there is a stain or a tear or some other thing wrong with the back of our shirt we ask someone to look. They look and tell us. That is the only way we can know it. And we trust what they say and go about our day believing the back of our shirt is fine. Maybe it is, maybe it is not.
I say maybe it is not because many of us have people in our lives that facilitate our addictions and our weaknesses. They do it for varied reasons. Some because they believe that were we capable of deciding certain things, or being sure of certain things for ourselves we wouldn’t need them. To them their usefulness to us is tied up in enabling us to be who we think we are and that includes lying to us, helping us to get drugs when we need them. Many enablers love the people they enable. That does not mean they are truly helping that person. Men and women have committed murder in the name of love. Most often that sort of thing starts slowly, a lie here, a little lie there, and then suddenly you find yourself in a position where you are ignoring behaviors. I myself have looked to others asking them to endorse my behaviors when I knew they were out of line completely, and they did. I had surrounded myself with people that would tell me what I wanted to hear or who had an investment in me that they would be in danger of losing if I were to straighten up and fly right.
There was a time when I drank and drugged constantly, yet I made a tremendous amount of money. Stop the medicating and I would fall down, the money would go away and the people I had surrounded myself with knew that. The money was good. The money allowed them a lifestyle they could never had lived: Reason to lie to me; reason to enable me and I am not without blame for that because I knew from the first time that I tested them that they would support me until the end, whatever that turned out to be. And they did. I think many of us who have become alcoholics, drug addicts, abusers, who allow others to abuse us came to be there because of things that happened in our lives. Things we were not prepared to deal with. Maybe because we were too young or maybe because we had no way to deal with whatever was occurring, or maybe because we were in a position where we were forced, where our choice was taken away.
I want to qualify that. I do not want to give anyone a way out. By forced I mean you were actually forced. I mean you were in a position where you were forced to do something that was against what you would normally have chosen to do. I do not mean situations where you or I made bad decisions and we want to put that off on Bob, the bad guy that was with us, who talked us into this or that. No: Those are our own bad decisions. You cannot blame them on others. This walk we are taking requires honesty, so things like that have got to go. If you can agree on that we can make some progress.
I do understand the need to push off some of that responsibility, I have felt it. I have done it. Part of my life was spent on the streets and for the longest time that was my excuse for my bad behaviors. “Well, I grew up on the streets.” Or “Well, I didn’t have a father around when I needed one.” Or “I spent part of my life poor, living in the projects.” Yes those things truly did affect my life. They hurt me. They made me angry but they did not think for me did they? They didn’t. I did that. And because I didn’t really want to think about my life I adopted a workable solution. At some time in my early life I realized that I was a big kid. I also realized that when I raised my voice and came at someone they most usually became afraid: Even older boys and a few times men.
Raising my voice and being willing to bluff or even get into a fight became my first line of defense: In other words violence. It worked. It kept others away from me. It became my go-to response. I stopped worrying about solving problems or dealing with situations. I had a secret weapon, the threat of violence. I was safe. All I had to do was react, not think about it. And so I lived my life that way for a while and as I lived that way the person I had the potential to be drifted further and further away. And as I practiced the threat of violence to keep others away from me it was only a short leap until actual violence became another weapon in my response arsenal.
My point is we accumulate damage from the things we become or try to make ourselves into when we are not really dealing with life. When we are aimless, unconnected to society and the rules everyone else has to live by. When we enable others and are enabled by others to stay in our hatred and addictions. Ignore reality.
Prison: I had been in prison a few years, long enough to be transferred to a medium security prison. Two men had been at each other most of the day, back and forth, the larger man taunting the smaller man. I was housed in a dormitory setting, 40 men housed in one area watched over by one guard. No doors, no cells, those were in the past when I was in a Maximum security prison. The last count of the day was taken and the C.O. stepped out to wait for the sergeant to pick up the count slip. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye as I began to lie down, a shadow raced silently past me, heading away so fast I was unsure I had really seen it. I stood and looked in that direction and caught the shadow slip into the end of the line of beds. That told me all I needed to know. A second later a man screamed, a second after that the one man was shadowed as he leapt up and both shadows began fighting. It was clear to see that the smaller shadow was making stabbing gestures as his hand rushed at the other shadow.
Maybe the entire sequence of events lasted ten seconds. I would be surprised if it did. The smaller shadow suddenly separated from the larger one and a split second later raced past me to the bathroom: Breaking up the home made knife, in this case a pen casing that had been shaped and flushing the evidence. The larger shadow stumbled to the open doorway. There had been so little noise that no one, not even the C.O. standing just outside that door had been alerted.
There are lessons here or I would not have told you the story. The events actually happened just as I said. I told you we had heard and seen the two arguing most of the day, yet none of us did anything. The bigger guy was a bully, stopping him would mean that we night get drawn into a fight, becoming involved in a fight means that we might have lost our parole dates, a thing an inmate lives day to day for. Sometimes that date is all that keeps you sane, and so it is always foremost in your mind. A few minutes later the lights came on and several C.O.’s rushed in. The entire company was locked down for several hours. During that time they found the pen which the smaller man had not broken up sufficiently and bloody clothes he had somehow managed to conceal in that brief time. They also questioned all of us, but no one had seen anything.
What does this have to do with enabling? It is clear cut. When you don’t speak up about the things that are wrong in your world, you begin to stop seeing them for what they are. Living in a violent society such as that one you are subjected to so much violence day in and day out that you become not only accustomed to it you do not even speak of it, and you then deny its existence in that way. You truly turn a blind eye to it. It didn’t happen. I didn’t just see that. Doing that enables the bully, gang members or whoever is perpetrating the violence to continue, and it will continue: Get worse, even more violent as it did with the smaller man being bullied by the bigger man. That is an example of enabling you may not have thought about.
For others it is a need to control others around them. If people can be unpredictable or have been unpredictable in the past they could be again, but controlling what they see, what they believe via what you tell them limits that possibility. It protects that person, not you, you are a means to an end. And of course there are people that have a need to control other people to get them to do what they want them to do. This could be as sinister as a pimp controlling a woman he wants to earn cash for him, or as simple as a man or woman manipulating their spouse or significant other into something they don’t want to do. In either case, or any others you might envision or might have seen, the issue is not the reasoning, the issue is that someone is being manipulated against their will. They may know it. They may even think they need it, but it is not free will.
 
Let’s say you do that time, or maybe you don’t, but you’ve made your mistakes and you are trying to pick yourself up and move past them. Admirable and that is not sarcasm. Moving forward in life is a big deal. Many people just bury their mistakes and they never deal with, acknowledge or learn from those mistakes so that they won’t do them again. They seem to skate through life, meanwhile there you are, regretful, doing what you can to make amends, sure that you will be forgiven if you do the right things because that is what you were told from childhood. But it isn’t true.
I started this purposely telling you that there is no such thing as rehabilitation in this country and that is true. Maybe I irritated a few people immediately with that statement, but hear me out before you start protesting or whining about what I said.
Check out the law. Take a look at reality. Check the statistics and you will see I am right. It has never been anything else. Confession, admission of guilt will get you past the parts of what you did that supposedly must be answered for, but from there it moves you into the punishment phase, not rehabilitation, and there will never be forgiveness of any kind at all.
Look at the way this country works, not in a critical way, just an impartial way. We say one thing, we do something different. We imply absolution, we give none. We imply forgiveness, we again give none. You may be starting to think I am being hypercritical, but bear with me; I have an end and a purpose for these words in mind.
My purpose is to get you to take a breath, realize the way the world really is, not the dream world we all want to live in, but the real world we all do live in. That is important because even though I said all of that, none of it has to be true, because we as individuals make our own reality to a very large extent.
Yes, just shake your head, clear it. I wanted us to all be on the same level playing field and now we are. The key is, we can shape our own destiny, and we often don’t. Instead, we allow others to shape it for us. We allow others to tell us what their reality is. What they perceive our reality as. We find it easier to go with the flow, to join with the rest of the people that do accept the status quo and just jump in and follow blindly. Swim little fishy, swim. But it gains us nothing at all. It means we gave up our individuality to feel like we are part of something even though we know it is not really what we want to be part of at all. What we really want is to be part of what we believe. We know there must be others who believe as we do also, and there are, that is true. There are many others who see that better way. Dream about it. Almost touch it, but they do not have the resolve to see it to fruition. There is not enough belief inside of them. They are afraid, and fear is a stronger motivator than their desire to realize their own goals: To be individuals completely.
So what good is it all if no one makes it to the end? I never said no one makes it. People do make it. My illustration is that it is a hard road. You have to want it badly. More than you want to fit in. And that brings me back to my beginning. The major force, fear: That which holds us back. It is wielded by others whenever we make a mistake. You will meet people who will let that pass, but you will meet people who will not. Unfortunately there is always something about that other person that keeps us with them. We find things that are redeeming in them, about them, all we need to do is change, and give up that dream, maybe all we are really doing is growing up, after all. And so why not do it. Look at what we can have.
The problem is blinding. It is so hard to reason past, see around, that we give up completely more often than not and join that irresistible force that compels us, but the entire premise is flawed. Forgiveness is not a human trait. Neither is forgetting, and those are the things we really require moving forward if we have invested in their answers, their ideals. Forgiveness and forgetting are supernatural things, things we assign to divine beings, and we do that because we know deep down we are not capable of them ourselves. Yet we still expect to receive them from others.
To me that is like believing in the Easter bunny, or Santa Claus, but if you give it some thought we are a race of beings that love to make up fairy tales, tell stories, weave fiction into reality and so we subvert ourselves because some of us never stop and lay it all out. Tell ourselves what our truths are. It can be that simple. It certainly doesn’t need to be complicated, it only needs to be explanatory, and it only needs to be for us, because although there are physical laws that equalize all of us, our motivations, goals and dreams make us capable of being vastly different from one another.
So we do not have to become someone else to realize our dreams, in fact that absorption into someone else’s dream is what will kill our own dreams, usually for good. All we need to do is stay the course, and let me explain why.
One of the things you will notice when you step back to really look at your situation is that after a very short period of observing how things work you will see that your protagonists, the ones who want you to change so badly, to see the world as they do, are very insecure themselves. They need you to change to reinforce them, not to help you. You can easily see this because they give up very easily and move onto someone else if they don’t get results and if you happen to see them change someone to their thinking you will see the positive reinforcement this gives to them. That doesn’t mean they will never try again to change you, they will, it only means that like you they need positive reinforcement to move forward the same as you do.
Positive reinforcement: It is undeniable, powerful, and it is most often the reason that powerful people exist at all. The intoxication they feel when they bring someone into their line of thinking, make them see something they did not see before, did not conceptualize without them showing it to them. That is a feeling that is not unlike a drug: Once they taste it they will want more of it. Whether they are on a true path or destined to become wreckage may no longer matter to them. Think about that. They are bringing you along, who knows how many others and they don’t even have a pilot or a map.
So what to do? It is obvious that not all of us are leaders. It is equally obvious that some of us do need to follow. I am not questioning any of that. Leaders and followers is the natural order of things. There could be no Gods if there were no people to follow them. No great men or women. I believe it is inside of us, lead or follow. I know there are those who say there is another way, the ‘Go my own path’ way, but that is bull. The go my own path people have their own branch. How could that be if they are all alone? It couldn’t be. It is just another path to be part of a whole, while attempting to deny the need to be a part of something when that need is undeniable. Water the grass and the trees and they will grow. Withhold sustenance and all will die. If there truly were a path alone you could withhold all there is and they would continue unaffected. So while I understand that need to be an individual, it can only go so far. In the end you follow or you lead.
The choice is not to do something outrageous. Yes, some do choose wild paths and some do succeed on those paths. That is not what I am saying. Outrageous implies spontaneous reaction, and reaction means you gave it no thought at all. I have watched some of what appears to be outrageous and it is sometimes, but there are times when it only appears outrageous to you or I because we have never seen it, never considered it: That does not mean it is outrageous.
In my experience there are those who do those outrageous things with no planning and they always fail just as we know they will as we watch the outcome or the events leading to the outcome play out. We say to ourselves, “I saw that coming.” And you did, so did I, but what about the times when we say we didn’t see that coming? When we turn to the other in awe? Have you ever jumped into those times and asked questions: How did this happen? How did you get here? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but I have and I have because I have seen it happen a few times and I didn’t ask any questions. I assumed it was luck, but have you ever really looked at luck; the odds of this thing happening over that thing, for instance winning the lottery. The odds of winning are so far against you that you may as well not even try. Now if you were calculating the odds of losing that would be a pretty good bet. Say if you chose to bet that you would lose: No book would take the bet, odds are you will lose. Weighing those odds it is easy to see the other end of those odds, how wildly hopeful you would have to be to expect to win. Yet some people enter into everything they do believing just that: That they will win. And when they do all the bystanders will be in awe, just as we are when that person wins the lottery out of the blue.
So what is the secret then? How do we live life in a world that is weighted against us? How do we trust, who do we trust? What do we hope for and how do we know we will get it? The first thing we have to realize is that our destiny is in our control. We are the ones responsible for our ultimate destination.
Break the law and wind up in prison? You made that decision. Yes, I know that there are men and women who sometimes end up in circumstances wrongly. I get that. I have seen it, but the percentage is low. And most often when I hear that argument it is a last hope argument. It means “I have not taken any responsibility for my own life and I know it and so I need to put that blame off on someone else because I can’t function under that load.” Or the reality would be that the person is completely unaware of their circumstances. Very unlikely, very unlikely. And I am not speaking about an experience of some other person. I am not guessing. I am talking from my own experience. What I have done, what I have tried to do, and what I have seen that other people have tried to do.
There is a point. Maybe not when we take that first step, but there will be a point after that first step when we know we are wrong. Not where we should be. Not following the path we wanted: Even doing something illegal and there will come a time in that walk where we will say to hell with it and walk it anyway. I know that because I have done that and I know men and women who have done that. And if I am completely honest I have done it more than once. I was more than a little thick. It took me time to realize that although I thought I was just going with the flow: Along for the ride, I wasn’t. I was moving my feet. I was making choices every second of every day that lead me toward that bad end. I did that. It was me; no one else.
I don’t think that is an uncommon situation. I think many of us do just that. We follow when we should lead, because there is a part of our life where we absolutely have to be a leader, and that is when it comes to direction: Choices, destination, plans, goals, hopes and dreams: The things that really matter. And yet many of us fail to do any of that. I never did. I truly believed I had no choice at all. Then when I realized I did have a choice I truly believed I was making decisions when all I was doing was reacting, putting no more thought into the situation than I would be about not stepping on a crack as I traversed a sidewalk. Deciding? Yes, after I got myself into a bad situation: After I quit my job; after I married that woman I had only known a few months. After I decided to go for a ride in that car when I knew bad things might happen: After I had a beer or two and then decided to argue knowing that alcohol affected my thinking processes; lowered my inhibitions. Then I took time to think, and that thinking went something like this “Why did I do that? Or “What the hell was I thinking?” or “How am I going to get out of this one?”
The fact is, just a few minutes of thought beforehand could have changed everything completely. Where might this lead? What are this persons true intentions? What could happen? Am I prepared to take those consequences if that thing happens?
The fact is almost all of us wish we had made that time for thought: Bounced some ideas off someone else if we had, had the chance, or just thought it out in our heads. Are we stupid? Did we really never give any thought to it at all? I can’t answer for you, but I can answer for myself, and for myself I did not give anything like real time to myself to think things out ever. I felt I was worthless. I had grown up worthless, I would always be worthless and so why should I bother to do anything at all? Make any decisions at all?
The answer is evident, because I am not worthless any more than you are, or anyone else. We all have purpose, and that purpose shouldn’t be tossed away, spent in the backseat of a car, or wasted in the passion of some violent crime, or thrown away on an unremarkable life. It only takes a little thought. Sit down: By yourself if you have to, with a friend if you have one you trust well enough. And if you do it with someone else you don’t want someone who enables you: Someone who tells you what they know that you want to hear. You are going to be bouncing real things off of them so you want someone who has their head together. You might want to observe your friends and family for a while. Who seems to have it together and who seems aimless? You probably have had enough aimlessness, which is not what you need. What you do need is sound advice if you ask for it.
That brings you to what you need to do once you have sat down. No rocket science here at all. You simply need to be completely honest with yourself. I am not saying be mostly honest with yourself, but be completely honest with yourself: All the way. That does not mean you need to bare your soul to someone else too. In fact I would not recommend that at all. Is there a time for that? Yes, there is, after you find more of your own kind. The people who are like you, and then from there someone you love. Not lust, not find yourself attracted to, love. Then go ahead and bare your soul. What if you have done something truly horrible? I will have more to say about that. For this time all you need to do is be honest to yourself in your head. Lay out the truths about you. What motivates you; what is dangerous about that and what is good about that. What you have to watch yourself about.
For me it went like this: I am an alcoholic. A good drug will sidetrack me too. There are times when I feel I cannot resist a woman. I can be compulsive. I tend to stuff anger and then explode. I can be impulsive…
There were more things. The point is, get those things out of you. If you are in a place where you can write them out and you feel comfortable doing that, do it. It is not a big deal to tear up or burn your list after. I mention writing it out because that is exactly what I did. I want to remind you about the people in the world that will use you, use information like that against you, and so you should take this step seriously. Don’t jump, remember, this is about thinking and every step of it requires you to think. Weigh the danger of what you say to another person. Yes, some things need to be said. I personally put myself in a position of honesty about some of my life, the drinking, womanizing, drugs, because I knew where those particular things had taken me and they were very bad places I did not want to find myself in again.
Compulsions, impulsive behaviors, giving no thoughts to what I was doing or where I was going, reacting instead of thinking. I laid all of that bare because I knew I had no choice if I wanted to find my way. No choice at all. I was at the edge of “It is all over” and I knew it. So, honesty is what matters here, no half measures will do. Think it out, write it out. I wrote it out because you cannot argue very well with the truth that came by your own hand. That is if you are being honest, because let’s face it, if you are lying to yourself you are dooming yourself to fail. Let me repeat that, you will fail because you have already doomed yourself. How can you win if you have lied to yourself? And, more importantly, how do you think that you could lie to yourself: You can’t.
Let me touch on truly horrible things. I have met a few men in my life that I believe were true sociopaths. They had no regard for others at all. I didn’t believe that at first, but after observation and prolonged exposure to them I realized it was not a crazy act; in other words an act by them to convince me that they were crazy: They truly were disconnected from feelings, caring, compassion, and empathy. Their lives centered around themselves and nothing else. That is a horrible place to be. And there does not seem to me to be a way back, at least I have not seen any of the men that I met in that situation come back from it. Yes, I have heard them act; say the words, but I have seen no real change in their actions, lives, feelings, mind set.
Truly Horrible Things: An exception to my keep it to yourself rule, and I will tell you why, it can make you a person you will grow to hate. The steps to get from who you are now, hiding that truly horrible thing, to who you could become are short. One day you are not and the next you are starting down that path because in order to keep your world okay you have to hide that. Every day in all ways, and maybe there are compulsions that come along with that, you have to hide that too. You cannot truly love or trust anyone because they might find out, sense it, feel it, figure you out, and that cannot happen because you have denied that behavior even to yourself, left it unacknowledged because you don’t want to face the consequences of it.
This path will kill you, or someone else, or both. These horrible things may not seem so horrible to someone else, maybe only you. On the other hand they may be horrible to anyone who hears about them. We have all done things that are horrible to us. All I can tell you is that it is best to pull the plug on those things. Get them out in the open. This isn’t Hollywood, there will be no happy ending despite these things; these things will instead destroy you. So do what you should do. If you need to confess these things, confess them and deal with the consequences, because removing the blocks in your life is essential to moving forward. One cannot be without the other.
Maybe your concern is the punishment: Prison, ridicule, maybe you will be laughed at. But circumstance can be overcome, guilt cannot. That is because you can fight against your circumstances, learn, find new paths, but guilt is locked away inside and can never be changed unless atoned for according to the moral standards you were raised by and that were set in your mind. There is your judge: Your own moral code.
That is where I believe sociopaths are born. Somehow the moral code inside of them is vastly different from you and I. Their moral code says things like “Another Persons Rights Do Not Matter” or “There Is No Guilt Associated With The Things That I Do.” This is not a place that you want to be, is it? Were you raised so differently from me: The person next to you?
I was raised in a torn family until the age of about 11. At 11 I found others who had the same kind of pain I had and had no real ways to survive with it and so we were all looking for solutions. No, at that age we were not thinking in those terms at all. We were wondering, questioning why me, when will this stop? And we were out late at night having sneaked out of our homes, trying to find answers, although we didn’t know they were answers, anymore than we knew that those with us were very nearly the same as we were.
From the age of 11 until 14 I might have appeared in school a handful of times. No one did anything or raised any alarms. The few times I was there, there were incidents, sometimes violent. I felt apart, as though I did not and could not belong, and so I fought everything about it. At 14 I wound up on the streets where I found even more similarities between the street people and the person I thought that I was. My moral code had been changing, adapting to my circumstances. The truth was I had never adopted a moral code, or so I thought. Yet inside of me I had real conflicts. I can’t do this; I shouldn’t do that, so obviously there was a moral code in there at work, even though I didn’t believe it.
I spent two years on the streets and the moral code I started with broke down further as one by one my objections to the parts of my life as it was fell away. I left the streets with a modified moral code, one that said “At times I will do this to survive.” A lie, because they were not things I did to survive, they were things I did to stay in that situation: That situation where I did not have to take any responsibility for myself or my actions; that place where the world and my view of it never changed and I could always point to my succession of failures and point out that it was because the world was against me, society. If not for that who knows what I could have been.
All bull, all lies and that is how we keep ourselves in our circumstances. Lying to ourselves, but I already told you. Lying to yourself is impossible, so what is the truth? The truth is that we ignore the truth. The truth requires sacrifice, action, real work. A lie is right there on the lips. It rolls off. All that it requires is your own willingness to stick to it. I spent two years on the streets where I did things that were completely against my moral judgment, or so I thought, where I used drugs daily, drank alcohol daily, engaged in risky circumstances daily, and I did it because I did not want to admit that I was there because I had lead myself there. Because I wanted to be there, or I believed that I should be there. That is my upbringing and that is not so different from yours, is it? Are there things you can relate to? Have you engaged in risky things to get the drug you wanted? Broken the law? Gone to jail, prison, and mental institutions? I have also. Overdosed, tried to commit suicide, sold your body to a stranger? I have done those things.
I have known many people in that same situation and I never met one person that had arrived there alone. Yes, they did bring themselves there, but they also had help, the same way I had help. A deadbeat father, no roots at home, and early drug and alcohol dependency, low self esteem, strangers who were more than willing to take advantage of me and lead me down paths that would help them to use me. In that sense we had help getting to those places. Don’t think I am not acknowledging all the people that steered us, but you are the captain of your own vessel, and your feet; one in front of the other led you there. You could have walked another way or even walked away and you did not. I know that is the truth because it was for me. Unless someone kidnapped you and held you slave or hostage you could have walked away; like me you did not.
The reason why I keep bringing it back to you and I is that there can never be any real, lasting work done until you acknowledge the fact that you made your own decisions. Yes, it is embarrassing. Yes it means telling the truth after many lies and it means it may not be believed. Yes, it might even mean there will be consequences over and above what you expected or thought you could handle. Yes, it might also mean you will lose some things. Yes, it means that many of the relationships you now have will end.
This is not a joke. This is not just another reaction to your problems. This is sitting down with or without help and working through the lies and deceit in your life to get to the truth, find some answers, set a new course, and believe me, if that truly is your goal this is one of the things you should prepare yourself for, loss.
Loss will come. Loss will begin the instant you begin to pull away and it is the major reason so many fail: Whether it is pulling away from an addiction, an abusive relationship, a risky lifestyle; or the edge of a thousand foot drop. It means changes are coming. It means you will lose the comfort of sameness, of being with others that also suffer, of suffering because you have come to believe you deserve to suffer. That sameness, that suffering, is sometime all we have allowed ourselves to keep from the wreckage of our former lives and to lose that it must seem to you as it did to me that the world is ending, and in many ways that is true.
When you throw out the poisonous stuff there will not be much left. When you throw out the relationships that help to keep you in your situation, that entire world will be gone. When you go to work to earn a living instead of flagging down cars, shop lifting, selling your body and soul, it will be a world that you might know nothing about at all. So in that sense your world is ending and the one that is coming is one you will fail in unless you are prepared for it. Unless you have sat yourself down and had that talk, figured out where you want to be and told the truth about where you are and where you have been.
Are we all equally lost? No. That is another misperception. We all have different temptations; we all have different demons, compulsions. All of us have commonalities too, but that doesn’t mean we should lump all of our circumstances together and make common decisions for all of us. I have been in treatment programs where I have seen that approach used and it is hopeless. It is breaking down with your car and then walking down a road that parallels the main highway. You can see the main highway and cars zipping by. Help is there, but there is a twenty foot high fence topped with razor wire in between your road and the highway. You will never get there. That is because what you need is not the same as what I need. Your wants, goals, future, will never be the same a mine. Think about it. If that were the case, if we were all that common in our needs, marriages would never fail. We would understand each other. One trip to jail, prison or rehab would be enough and it isn’t. That is why you must sit down and have that talk with yourself. Figure it out. Get it straight in your head before you ask for help to make the changes you are going to make and there are reasons to do it that way.
The first reason is you may make some decisions based on what you think you know that turn out later to be wrong. They become wrong because you learn as you change and we come to realize that what was right yesterday is not right today. And you will change. You will change because even in your circumstances you change every day: Every minute. If you tried to stay the same you couldn’t. Everything that touches you changes you. You think you are static because you do not acknowledge that change. You stay in your circumstances because at some point in your life something happened and you froze, slapped a coat of paint on who you were then and called it good enough. It wasn’t good enough. Not even close.
At around the age of five I was molested by an aunt. I don’t say that to shock or disgust you I say it to illustrate my last point. The abuse was ongoing and at some point in there I stopped growing. I considered it everything I could do to survive what was coming each day and so I stopped growing mentally. I slapped up a few defenses, whatever a five year old can, mainly to cave in, admit I am worthless, go through the pain and get it over with. I stopped my path to the person I was supposed to be and became that little person I was at that time for many years: With just those basic defenses to protect myself. My views of women stopped developing and became based on her actions and so the hatred I felt for her dominated my feelings about women. I became a man who acted like a child; thought like a child, behaved liked a child. A child cannot live in an adult world where they are expected to be adults. So I was rejected. No one was going to stop and take the time to talk with me, get me to see what I had done; was doing. I was rejected and that was all that I felt. The world made no sense. I had no mechanisms to help me survive. Alcohol and drugs seemed to provide answers and so that is the road I took. I had relationships that did not last because I was a child playing at being an adult. I had chances to prosper, trust was placed in me, and I failed again because a child is not up to those tasks.
So it is the child’s fault. No; that is not why I bought you here. It is your fault. I am giving you an answer I found after I sat down and had that talk, and after I participated in groups and spoke to counselors, and after I had some time away from those behaviors I had practiced and achieved some clarity. And I started these particular verses out saying we are not all alike, and we are not. I do not know what led you to where you are. I do not know your circumstances. What I do know is that we do have similarities. There are common areas we can explore, learn from each other about, identify with and there is hope in that, because if there were no common ground we would be lost.
Common ground: The human experience; addictive behaviors and substances, past abuse, anger issues, prison time, jail time, psychiatric hospital time, time on the streets, coming from a large family, coming from an abusive home, being sexually molested… The things I have listed are only a list. It is to illustrate what you can write about yourself. This is a way to find common ground and in my experience common ground is important.
I opened my eyes one morning and saw the familiar institutional color of the wall next to me and knew there would be a cell door of some type before I ever turned my head. After I looked, for a very long time I laid there and cried: I did not know what I had done on the surface; it was all lost at that point and some of it I was keeping myself from acknowledging, but I knew that once again I was in a county jail and I was feeling sorry for myself, not for my actions, for myself.
Days slipped by, weeks, and I came to know what I was accused of but I did not believe it because I had no memory of it: Convenient, maybe, bad if it is the truth and in my case it was. I said way back at the beginning of this that honesty is the only way to reach the goal of living in the world instead of dealing with the world, and that is true. As the weeks slipped by I began to acknowledge the fact that I did have some memories and although they were only partial they supported what I was accused of. I also realized that no one would believe me no matter what I said. Not about what I had done, but if I said I wanted change. That fear kept me undecided, but the truth is it doesn’t matter who believes you. No one has to believe you and if you have lived a life of deceit and lies, most likely no one will. This is a personal journey. There are no passengers on this train. It is that simple. You have to decide to tell the truth and live by that knowing full well there may be few people who believe you or believe in you. If you cannot do that you are setting yourself up for failure. The common ground came after I admitted the truth to myself. I felt isolated. Who was like me; who could help me, what should I do next?
Next was a drug and alcohol meeting where men and women came in from the outside and talked to the inmates. They held them on the weekend and so I had to give up church to attend. Church where I was doing my best to persuade God to help me. Could I afford to take a day off of talking God into helping me? Don’t get me wrong. God can do miracles, but I have never seen God set a drug addict or alcoholic, or both on their feet in one setting. That is because we aren’t quite sure about God and what God can or cannot do. We have lied all of our lives, so we think that maybe God lies too. You can convince yourself of anything.
I went to the meeting expecting absolute salvation and deliverance from drugs and alcohol in one setting and then the judge would hear this and release me and I would get a real job and enter smoothly into the real world, the world the straight people, the squares lived in and life would go on forever so happily, and I would be so grateful: All bull. I also went there thinking “This is a waste of time.” I went. I had to sign up for it and so I was on the call-out and when they cracked my cell door I got in line and I went.
The speaker was so-so. He talked about drinking, losing his wife and home and job. I listened but it meant little to me. Then he said, let me introduce you to two men who have been down some of the roads you have. Something like that; I paraphrased it, but I’m pretty sure I got it right since it was a very important day in my life.
The two men came up looking embarrassed to be there, same as I would have been; a little overweight, normal, not super stars, not polished like the counselors always seemed to be, but real people. They had my attention because of that and here is why: I had heard they were beginning, in counseling and mental health facilities, to use ex addicts, ex alcoholics, people who had been abused and others that understood the situation because they had been in it rather than people who had gone to school and really did not have a clue what it was like to turn a trick, or score some crack, meth, hustle, sleep in a doorway. That impressed me and it impressed me because these were men like me: Men that had looked into the eyes of the same monster I had been staring at for years and had managed to look away.
As they talked I found I believed what they had to say. They spoke the same language I understood, and as they went on one of the men began to tell a story and I realized I knew that story. Not that it sounded familiar, but that I knew it. I knew it because I was one of the people in it., That man told a story about me when I was younger. He was talking about his own circumstances, but he described it so well that I knew it was that time and place from my past. The year, the time of night, the place and the crowd of kids that was there. I was one of those kids. In fact I was the one that was showing out the most the way I always did to impress the people around me, to be noticed, to get attention and a funny thing: I could not remember a single name of any of those others I was with that night, or much about them, but I remembered the one guy who was now talking in that concrete block room in the county jail, his circumstances and that night, that place perfectly well.
That was all I needed: The beginning of the end for me; I believed him. I believed his recovery; his transfer back to society, how he learned to be a man. How he put the past behind him. Not covered it up, but let it go, dealt with the consequences and began to live. He finished and asked if anyone else wanted to share and I found my hand shooting up and he called on me. I froze: I knew what this moment was and what it could mean. I stopped and thought; I really thought and then I spoke. I told him who I was and what I was there for, accused of, and then I admitted I did it, broke down and thanked him for his story and what it gave me.
When I finished I thanked him again and although a few guys had tried to make me see reason; that criminal moral code, never be honest, he had encouraged me to speak and I had. You never saw so many guys reaching for pencils to write down what I said, but they had none. You cannot bring anything to those meetings. When we got back I saw those same guys calling their lawyers, looking to trade information on me for a deal. For a second I panicked, but my resolve was good. I did not know what this new road was, but I was on it. I had found my common ground.
Understand this was a process. There was no flash of light and then I was absolved of all wrong doing. I was only taking that first step. I was still a criminal, still hated and still a liar in many respects. No one began to love me because of that, many people even seemed to think there must be an angle I was playing. Guys even came up to me at recreation and asked me what that angle might be. There was no angle. I had my common ground. That man and I may have had nothing else in common, but we were both alcoholics, meth users, and we had been on the same path. Apart from that he had found his way out before I had, his life was in a direction I didn’t know or understand, and he could not help me in my choices or walks or even talk to me apart from that one conversation.
I say that to tell you that it is not an easy road to honesty. It took me some time, weeks in fact, but I also say it to come back to common ground. Although I was becoming convinced that I had a drug and alcohol problem I would not allow myself to consider what that meant. I am sure that you know what I mean. Your thoughts start down that path and you stop them. You stop them and begin to think of something else. That is what I was doing. I had not taken the first step because there was nothing compelling me to do it. Honesty? Honesty is a lot of work! Who will believe me? Who even cares? Why should I do it? I’ll have to pay for that, there will be serious consequences; and so honesty is not a possibility. I found I could deny everything I saw and heard because; after all I had been doing it for all of my adult life.
But an encounter that happened to me changed it all. It made me able to take that first little step. And a little step is all it was. I had taken a step that was going to cause me to spend a very large portion of my life imprisoned, maybe all of it: I did not know. What I did know is that I was being honest. I didn’t matter if people thought I was playing an angle. It didn’t matter if people hated me; it only mattered that I could stop at that point and begin to think instead of simply reacting, clear my head, all because I had found some common ground. So although we are different there is common ground we can meet on; agree on to begin to accept and give help to get one another moving in the right direction. It doesn’t mean you are agreeing to become just like everyone else, it only means there is common ground we can meet on and begin to address our lives, what matters.
We are back to our original argument. We do know the things we do are wrong. We pretend they are not wrong, or we simply react and think that saved us the decision, but that is bull. We know exactly what choice we have made, and again if you are reading this my assumption is that you want to change. I cannot change you, nor would I want to. That goes back to being a follower again. And you may end up following someone, but the point is to follow someone, something worth following: So no, this about you changing yourself; you, not allowing others to do it. Not just living and thinking it is all fate, but you being responsible for you and the choices you make, so me saving you is not on the table. The information I have is. And I believe that information can help you. It is you that will have to implement that information and the changes it can bring into your life.
I hope that you are not disappointed, but if I did what I set out to do you should not be. If you are honest you can sit down and do this. I don’t know what you will sick up, and it isn’t my place or anyone else’s place to know that, except you. You are the one that needs to know. You are the one that will know whether you are once again blowing smoke or if you are being honest. I hope for honesty and I believe you do as well. Even so, sometimes we can believe we are too weak. We can believe that since we live in this country, this world where forgiveness is not a given that everything is stacked against us and we cannot do a thing about it. I can only say, go back and read this again and compare the things it says to your own life. You should see some truths there. No one can stop you from doing this except you.
In closing: Let’s go back to the beginning. When I started this I was speaking about the world, how unfair it can be. How there is no forgiveness, no forgetting and I don’t want you to forget that, because the fact is that, that is the way it is. Family, lovers, and people you meet. Very few people will truly forgive the things you have done. Forget the mistakes you have made. As long as they are in your circles, around you, maybe as long as you live they will still feel that way. In short there is nothing you can do to change that. Yes, you could run away from that reality to another reality, but there will be new people who will discover your faults, mistakes, crimes, because things like that tend to continue to turn up until we take care of them permanently: So new people will feel the same way. You will have done nothing except set yourself back in your goals and dreams. The answer is not to change them: To make them see you differently, the answer is for you to see them differently.
Have you ever hated something someone has done? Not necessarily something someone has done to you, just to someone else in general. I always used the analogy of what if it was something that happened to someone you love. What if it was your brother someone killed, your sister someone murdered, raped, how would you feel then? Don’t just dismiss that. Think about it. There really are people you love and if someone hurt them, cheated them, you would have emotion tied to how you felt about it. The line I am drawing shouldn’t be hard to see. You have done things. Maybe they are minor things compared to what I just mentioned, maybe they are worse. No one has gone through life without impacting someone. You sometimes have to hurt one person’s feelings to save another person’s feelings.
Life is like that, so no matter who you are you have not come through this life unscathed, there are people that do not like you, and, surprise, there are people that don’t like you because you are different from them: A different sexual orientation, a different color. Right, we know all of that. I say it to make you think about it. There are people in your world that will never let you alone about real or imagined things they do not like about you, and there is nothing you can do about it. So you can let them push you, shape your life, bow to their idea of what you are capable of, what you should be, or you can sit down and have that talk with yourself. Make the changes you need to make and start guiding your life to the place you want it to be.
The other side of that coin is the reason that you may decide that nearly every person now in your life may not be in your life much longer. Not only will they continue to remind you of what you were, they will be a constant reminder to you of what you were and could be again. Many of them may also be enablers. They have known you and your needs. Maybe that was good for them. Maybe you changing would take away their stability, their need to fix you so that they do not have to look at themselves, fix themselves.
That may seem ludicrous, but it isn’t. You may passionately love someone who is also an addict, alcoholic, involved deeply in the criminal life, or a dealer, or your main enabler. How is maintaining that relationship going to help you recover from your own problems? It isn’t. Sure, you can go to them and lay it all out. In fact I encourage you to do that because it is the only way to break that bond: If that person means that much to you take that time, in fact you truly do owe them that time, and it is a cowardly act to simply walk away without explanation. But having said that you have to know where you are, how strong you are. Can you have that conversation right now and not cave in; maybe not you, you are not me you are an individual and this is walking alone not in a crowd. My only point is there is a reason why these relationships we had in our addictions and compulsions do not very often come through with us. They are part of the support network we have built around us to continue in our life of lies. We could not do it as well as we did without them, but if we are truly on the path of change we do not need them any longer and if you cannot face them without fear of failing and falling back into who you were and understand so well, the explanation will have to wait until you are strong enough to give it.
That does not mean we run crazy and screaming from that life. Reasonable people, people who live in the real world, handle things differently. If I have a problem with Jill, Keisha, Johnny I don’t just drop them, add them to the list of bad people I have in my head, maybe punch Johnny in the face because we no longer see eye to eye. Picking up the real world means we are no longer apart from the laws that everyone else has to live by. It means we have excluded ourselves from those laws and now we have acknowledged that we are willing to be held to those same laws that the rest of the world is held to, and that same loose set of rules civilized people live by.
Is that offensive? It might be, but the fact is when citizens, a regular Jane or John Q looks at you they are afraid. You live a life amid circumstances they find disturbing, crazy even. They read about people like you and I in the paper, hear about them on the evening news. Or maybe you are a statistic. The point is they go to work. They pay their bills. They contribute to society. It doesn’t mean they understand every aspect of our society, like every aspect of it, agree with all of our politicians and politics, but they are invested in it, involved in it. And overall they believe it is a good way of life. You may disagree. Maybe that is why you went down the path you did.
Age 13: I took an overdose and nearly succeeded in my goal which was simply to stop living. I was serious, but I didn’t know enough about the drugs I had taken to ensure that they would work. I only knew there were a lot of pills and they seemed to be enough to get the job done. They weren’t. They were only enough to almost kill me, ruin my stomach for the rest of my life and leave me in intensive care. When I was released from intensive care I was locked up in the hospital’s Mental Health ward.
In the mental health ward I learned that depression is suffered by many people. I was not special, I did not want to actually kill myself I only needed some attention. That was all news to me because I did not feel that way that I knew of, but then again this was help from outside of me. Help I did not understand and help that came from a system that was ill prepared to deal with drug addicts who were so young. So they cut me loose and I went home to my crappy life, my alcohol addiction and speed addiction and a few weeks later I tried again, taking even more pills. That got me locked up for over a month in a mental health unit.
I talked to a young counselor there a person who had been through some rough patches in their life. A week, week two, then week three of one on one counseling and I decided I trusted that person. I told them then, of all things I could have told them about, what my aunt had done to me. Later in life I came to realize why that was the thing that came out, but at the time I was as appalled as the counselor was. The counselor excused themselves and a few minutes later I was talking to a psychologist and then to a psychiatrist: For whatever reasons I never saw the counselor I had come to trust again. I was not believed and a few days later I was cut loose without any sort of real explanation.
I think there was fear, I think there was disbelief, and I think that I should have gotten a better break back then, a better set of ears, and had that happened maybe I… And what does that line of thought do? Derail me. I have heard too many criminals, addicts, alcoholic go down that road. That road only leads to “It Was Someone Else’s Fault Not Mine.” It is a dead end road. It means nothing, it accomplishes nothing; it goes nowhere. It happened, maybe something like it happened to you, or something similar, but it doesn’t matter, because we are living in the real world now and in the real world that sort of stuff is pointless. It doesn’t solve anything, heal anyone and it wastes time better spent dealing with real issues.
The other thing is that it scares people, back to that argument just a short while ago. It scares people because they do not understand it. Yes, a psychologist or some counselors are trained to understand it. That is because they have read it, and maybe in a few case they have seen it in action and so they have a better grasp of it, but they have not lived it: Even so they can deal with it without surface fear of the things you are telling them, the average person cannot. If you think that is a stretch, consider this, almost everything we do is motivated by fear. I won’t get into a long explanation about it that has been covered and covered, look it up, read it, but understand that this is not an abstract idea, it is true. People will be afraid of you. Afraid of the things you say, the ideals you promote. They will be afraid because people who are considered normal don’t live those types of lives. And they will be afraid because they will know that it is like a disease, let it in and it could infect everything they love. It can do that because it is the opposite of all they have worked for.
For you and me, if you are an addict or a criminal, it might not be a stretch at all to witness violent crime and do nothing, say nothing, certainly we wouldn’t report it. That is part of our moral code, not to call the cops and we understand that, people on the up and up in society don’t understand that. Their first thought would be to stop it. Their second thought once they realized they might get hurt themselves trying to stop it would be to call the police, 911. That thought would not enter our minds. You might think, So what: Big deal; if they were in our circumstances they might act the same as we do! Another diversion, because we do not want them in our circumstances, do we? No we want us in their circumstances. We are trying to get away from that reasoning, those moral codes that we lived by and learn how to live in the real world. Well, that is the real world right there.
I point that up so that maybe you can get an idea of how vast the gulf is between them and us. And really I have to say them and you, because I have crossed that gulf. I also want to point up that in a great many people’s minds it changed nothing at all. They still hated me. They still doubted me and they are still afraid of me. Don’t harbor any illusions, for the most part that is the way it will be and you need to remember that because if you come into this thinking it will all be good and all that old stuff will simply fall away, you are wrong, it will not; but that does not mean there will not be encouragement, help, and probably that will come from some of the people and places you hated the most when you were in that life, the people who are in charge of that world; authority figures: Police, Parole Officers, Psychologists, Counselors, Psychiatrists, Mental Health Facilities, Prisons and Jails.
Authority Figures: My thoughts twenty years ago when it came to authority figures was like this: Don’t trust them, tell them anything real, lie to them, hate them just because they are trying to control me. I don’t think that is exaggerated at all. It was who I was and how I thought. My attitude now is vastly different, and if that makes you think you should not believe in the things I say then so be it, because the world needs to have authority figures. There needs to be someone in charge that can be the go to person that takes responsibility. I know that might sound crazy to you, but it is an absolute. If you are a religious person read the Old Testament, New Testament or the Quran whatever religious documents you adhere to and you will see that authority is an absolute. Without it there can be no fairness for anyone, any group of peoples, religions, small countries, impoverished peoples. There has to be authority figures to apprehend that thief, rapist, murderer so that they can pay for what they have done. There needs to be authority figures to guide us too. No religion has ever worked without them. This means that you will have to revise your thinking. You will have to bend to that loose set of rules I was referring to earlier if you wish to be considered acceptable in a real society.
Last words: This is not a magic bullet. Just because you put yourself on the right track does not mean that all the problems you created just reacting to life are going away. If it were that simple we would all have done it long ago. All it means is that you have set goals and you are working for them. You are giving yourself time to think. That is something you deserve. You are saying no to some situations and you are aware of your weaknesses and how they can lead you to bad choices, bad places. It also doesn’t mean that everything you want will be attained. Goals are made to be changed, expectations lowered. Winners know that: Dreamers tend to believe that things will rise to meet their expectations instead of them lowering their expectations to meet life. So, don’t think unrealistically. Make that one of things that you talk to yourself about. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. That is really the way I have lived my life for several years now. I think it is the only way to do it and win, Dell…