No matter what kind of game you find yourself in, no matter how good or bad the luck, you can change your life completely with a single thought or a single act of love.— Gregory David Roberts, author of Shantaram, a novel.
The temperature is soaring. In the Northeast water tables are going crazy from all the rain we’ve had. The sun, like a malevolent eye, glows hot in a hazy sky as the world thermometer climbs; mercury like spinal fluid rising, rising, then bursting through our heads, our brains exploding under pressure.
Humans pack the city streets, panting with heat as power stations go down trying to feed the electric monster of civilization, sucking hungrily while every air conditioner in the city growls and strains. The highways are jammed with hot engines that spew carbon dioxide. Elsewhere, in Brazil and other countries, forests are eaten by chain saws and bulldozers; rain forests burn, soon to become barren desert.
We have seen the future and it is heat. In Greenland the ice is melting faster than it ever has; the polar icecaps are shrinking. Global warming, global turbulence is upon us and we, in the United States, fail to take action, spurning the warnings of scientists all over the world and spitting hot air from the mouth of a President who might as well be a red-headed stepchild. We pull out of the Paris Accord and the world environmental summit in Kyoto is dead to the United States.
I have a new heroine and she is only 15 years old. Her name is Greta Thunberg and she is the most vocal of all of the Global Warming protesters. She skips school every Friday to protest the coming Extinction Event and do-nothing politicians all over the world.
But why should she go to school on Friday when the world she will grow up in is threatened by all of us who continue to act as if nothing has changed in our world? The giant fires in California have destroyed the city of Paradise, an ironic name that now stands for Ashes, California.
The exhaust pipes from all of the cars are lined up on all the interstates around the world and we are sucking down all the fumes as they heat up our atmosphere. If you took all the exhaust pipes from cars and trucks and SUV’s in the Boston area and fused them into one pipe, how big would that pipe be? I’ll bet you can’t even imagine it, can you?
I can tell you one thing and that is our noses are stuck up that giant unimaginable exhaust pipe. Greta Thunberg knows this is true and she is standing up for what she believes in.
Greta has been protesting for more than a month and she has no intention of stopping. She wants to wake up the world and shake us out of our complacency! Before Sweden’s parliamentary election on September 9th, she began her Friday strike from school, sitting on the steps of the Stockholm parliament building. She has done this every Friday during school hours. She goes back to school on other days, but every Friday she demands that the government take a radical response to Climate Change which is not creeping up on us but roaring our way with the intensity of a category 5 hurricane.
Greta Thunberg’s parents are Svante Thunberg, an actor, and Malena Ernman, a well known opera singer and writer in Sweden. Greta’s mother has written and published a book describing both of her daughters’ special needs. Greta and her younger sister, Beata, have been diagnosed with Autism, A.D.H.D. and Asperger’s Syndrome.
As Greta states, she sees the world in black and white, not in shades of grey. In her own words,”I see the world a bit different, from another perspective,” she states in English. “I have a special interest. It’s very common that people on the Autism spectrum have a special interest.”
Climate Change when she was nine and in the third grade. She says,”They were always talking about how we should turn out lights, save water, not throw out our food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.”
Greta began to study Climate Change in depth and has stopped eating meat and buying anything that is not absolutely necessary. In 2015 she stopped flying on airplanes and a year later her mother followed her daughter’s example which meant that she was giving up an international performing career.
The family installed solar batteries and they have started growing their own vegetables on a planned space outside the city. They bicycle almost all the time and have an electric car which they use only when necessary. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk, and I am totally impressed with them.
Sweden’s parliament reached a consensus that rich countries should cut their emissions by fifteen percent a year. Greta Thunberg calls bullshit on that because, in Sweden, actual emissions have gone up 3.6 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Greta says, “Sweden is not a role model”. She points out that even the best plans to address Climate Change make no attempt to look beyond the year 2050.
“By then,” Greta says, “ I will, in the best case, not even have lived half my life. What happens next?”
In the United States our Trumpian president is a Climate Change denier and he hasn’t even tweeted about it! Greta states, “I can become very angry when I see things that are wrong.”
When Greta Thunberg is at her Climate Change protest post outside of parliament, many people come by to chat with her and bring her food. She really likes falafel and noodles. Greta Thunberg is my new heroine and I hope the whole world takes radical action to avoid the Extinction Event that is hurtling towards us like a rocket ship out of control.
Greta says, “The climate is not going to collapse because some party got the most votes. The politics that’s needed to prevent the Climate Catastrophe—it doesn’t exist today. We need to change the system, as if we were in crisis, as if there were a war going on.”
The first time I met Chuck he was coming back from escape at the state hospital where I worked. It was mid-winter. The frost bite on his feet was so bad that he had to be rushed to the medical wing. The front parts of his feet developed gangrene and were removed.
He would stump around the hospital on his bandaged feet, sometimes falling, sometimes leaning against the walls like a wounded tree, chanting songs from his tribe that his grandfather taught him, songs that echoed echoed through buffalo ages, songs that moved the leaves on trees filled with passenger pigeons, songs that traveled with the ghosts of tribes long dissolved into the Red American Earth. When he was tired he would spin through the dingy green institutional hallways, roll to the end by the window that overlooked the gnarled oak tree on the back lawn and his cries would shatter the white noise of the psych ward for the acutely disturbed. Then he would fall asleep in his wheelchair.
Shoulder length brown hair fell on his face. He constantly brushed it back with his right hand as his left hand flew over the keyboard of the hospital computer. The bugs in our computer system would vanish as his fingers danced on the keyboard. Chuck was a master hacker with a Bachelor of Science Degree that he earned before he reached the age of twenty and the electronic brain would respond to him like a dog to a stern master. After working out a glitch that had stumped us all he would turn to us, grinning the the Cheshire Cat, sweat glistening on his dark forehead and say, “The machines eat our souls. All I have done is learn the pathways of the false mind. I cannot walk that way any longer.”
Then his dark brown eyes would become filled with a dense mist. Lines of tension would arc down his cheeks and the space above his nose would pull together. His hand would firmly grasp the edge of the desk and the sinews on his forearm would ripple and define themselves. He would continue to speak and his voice would echo through the office as if it had the acoustics of an amphitheater.
“This is a troubled time. I am one of the Earth’s pain receptors and there is much wrong with the Spirit during this period when the air has become foul and the waters dark with dirt and melt the icecaps under the eye of an angry sun. I must return to the Spirit because the pain is too great for me. I am not a defective but the pulsing nerve of nature exposed and I must extract myself from it all.”
Then he would turn away from us, push away from the desk and, as if hauling the weight of the Earth on his shoulders, stump laboriously down the hall. The doctors determined that Chuck was schizo-affective and delusional and he was placed on suicide watch. But Chuck had determined that the hospital was a symptom of the disease of the human soul. He instituted legal action to overturn his commitment.
One day, as I escorted him to the whirlpool bath, he and I talked. “I trust you,”, he told me. “I am going to win this court fight because I know what the judge needs to hear. You know this is true.”
I knew in my heart that he would succeed in his court battle and asked him what he was going to do when was released.
He smiled and his strong teeth seemed to beam in the fluorescent light of the institution. “The task you and the doctors have undertake is immense. It is your job to convince me not commit suicide. It is my job to ensure I return home. I am convinced that may course of action is correct. You must convince me otherwise before I get out. Time is on my side, no?”
I nodded my head and grinned at him. He shook his head and his nostrils flared as he flipped his long hair with his hand. He grinned back.
“Look Chuck, I know that I am supposed to stay within an arm’s length of you because of the suicide watch but I want to give you privacy in the bath. Are you going to be okay if I leave you alone?”
“You sure you can trust me?” he replied laughing. “I will be if you say I can.” “You would risk your job to give me privacy?” “Yes” I replied. “Thank you. You have my word.”
I lifted him out of the chair and lowered him into the swirling water. Then I stepped out of the room and shut the door. Suddenly a chant I had never heard before made my ears dance. There was splashing and laughter and song and my eyes became wet as I leaned against the wall. It was the first time Chuck had been left alone in a room for at least two weeks.
One week later Chuck successfully fought the order of committal in court. On his third day of freedom he stripped down to his skin, wrapped himself with a thin layer of sheet metal, stripped a heavy duty extension cord and splayed the conductor metal onto his tin suit, taped it with black electrical tape, placed his half-feet into a large pan of water and then plugged himself into an electrical outlet.
I can still hear the stumping of those half-feet and his chant haunts the corridors of my mind. He was right! Time is on his side.
I grew up in a white factory town until I was 10. My father had a small grocery store in Newark, New Jersey and his customers were all Black people. My parents had a term that they referred to Black people while they were in the house. They called them Schvartze’s, pronounced Schvat-Suh, and they claimed not to be racist. Yet they were and I was adopted into thinking that I wasn’t racist but, in the meantime, I was being taught racism.
I remember one night, when Eisenhower was running for president, I was with a group of my white friends and they saw a person of Color going into my house. One of the guys said, “what’s that “Jungle-Bunny” doing going into your house?’ I had never heard that term before and I told them that it was the man who worked in my father’s store.
Racism was rampant when I was growing up and it seeped into my mind’s eye and my attitude. Yet, I thought I wasn’t a racist. But I was one. I had no conception of what it was to grow up Black in the inner city. I did notice that the factory town I grew up in was almost all White and I heard the word “nigger” bandied about by the kids I hung out with.
I just received a book in the mail yesterday called “So You Want To Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo and it is an eye-opener. I won’t go into a review of it at this time because I’ve only read three chapters of it. But it exposes me and outs me as a racist and calls into question my commonly held beliefs as to what is racist. I admit that I’m changing but I don’t really know, first-hand, the reality of being Black in the world because I’m White.
My parents moved into a suburban town when I was 10 and there were no Black people, that I know of, that lived there. Prejudice was rampant among the kids I hung out with and some of them were even gay-bashers as teenagers. At the time I felt there was something wrong with that but queers were queer, right? I got into hard drugs while I was in high school, beginning with the opiates. It took me to places that I never thought I’d go and I remember, one time copping heroin in Newark, New Jersey, which was only 7 short but eternal miles from Livingston where I lived.
This guy, Joey who I was copping with had grown up in Newark and we picked up this Black guy and his friend who were taking us to buy heroin. The Black guy turned to me and said, “Heroin is the great equalizer. Black or White, we become the enemy of society.” That really struck me and I’ve never forgotten it.
I remember times, when my friend and I were cruising the streets of Newark and we saw this unmarked cop car stop by a bar where a bunch of Black guys were hanging out front and the three white cops, dressed in plain clothes and long leather jackets flipped their coats open and two of them had shotguns and they lined the Black guys up against the wall of the bar and were frisking them. Why was this happening? I never saw this happen in front of a bar when all white guys were hanging out, that’s for sure.
In my racist mind, this was something I couldn’t process very well. I just knew that we had to flee that area because I didn’t want any attention drawn to us. After all, we were heroin addicts and probably had more of a criminal bent than some to those guys being frisked by the White cops that actually looked more like gangsters than the Black guys they were shaking down. Sometimes I copped in Harlem and was always nervous, more like afraid, but the drugs were running my life and I let my racism slide to get the drugs. Then there was that special night where 4 White kids, all about the age of nineteen, went to Paterson, New Jersey to buy drugs. We were all juiced on what we called goofballs (barbiturates) and wanted some heroin to straighten us out.
Three of the guys went off and I was waiting in the parking lot of a store when all of a sudden I was surrounded by 4 or 5 Black guys and they were asking me for money. I looked around for my associates (not necessarily friends) and they were nowhere to be seen. I broke bad with these Black cats and tried not to show my fear (and prejudice) but this was their land I was the trespasser and all of a sudden I was being hit and went down and they were kicking the living shit out of me. After all, I wasn’t giving up my dope money; I was just the dope isolated on their streets. They must have knocked me unconscious because all of a sudden there were cops all around and the Black guys were running.
The cops caught a Black guy and asked me if he was one of the ones who was beating on me. I didn’t have a clue and I didn’t really recognize him but I was so angry and full of hate that I said, “yes, that was one of them.” The cops took me down to the station and had the Black guy alone in a room, no lineup thank you very much. They asked me again if that was one of the guys and, to tell the truth, I had no idea but I pointed at him with one of my eyes closed and said yes that was one of them. The guys I went with were waiting at my car and even with one eye closed I insisted on driving home. I was furious and full of hate and that night I used the N word for the first time that I could remember and I blamed all Black people for what happened to me. Suddenly I was a full-blown racist.
I had to be hospitalized because the lower rim of my right eye was shattered and they needed to remove the pieces and place a plastic rim in my face. My head ached for almost six months because of the beating and I was full of hate. I testified in court against the Black guy who I wasn’t even sure was the one and he wound up being sentenced to three months in jail for something he might not have done. I’ve grown up a lot since then and I realize that I was taught racism undercurrents my whole life and all it took was that event to make it blossom. I had no idea what it was like to grow up Black in an inner city and be poor and oppressed because of the color of my skin. My understanding of my racism has grown and I have worked on my ignorant prejudices until I have come almost full circle on race hate.
I realize that we are all people struggling with our different crosses to bear and my ignorance has changed to enlightenment. Am I still prejudiced? Well, we don’t change ingrained belief systems overnight and I do the best I can with it. I pray that my mind doesn’t let me slip back into old thought patterns. I was my worst enemy and, over the years, I have changed the way I see things. Am I still a racist is the question I have to always ask myself. If I catch that ugliness creeping into my thoughts I send those thoughts packing. I meditate. I feel empathy. I do the best I can under the circumstances that have shaped me. I need to always face the truth about myself, what ever it may be.
When I heard the news about James “Whitey” Bulger being savagely killed in his new prison in West Virginia, it came as no surprise. For years he ratted on the New England Mafia to increase his own organization of crime’s control of the Boston area.
I grew up in New Jersey and started using cough syrup with codeine and antihistamines when I was about fifteen years old. By the time I was 17, I was using heroin on a daily basis. Back then there were no police Tip Lines. But if you were outed as a Rat or an informer, you were likely to get what we called a “hot shot.”
Street justice was swift and merciless. Two off my associates died of a poisoned heroin shot. The old time junkies would scrape the white powder from the battery cables of a car. It looked just like junk but it was pure acid. Some people got rat poison mixed with their dose if they turned when the police picked them up.
In West Orange, New Jersey, there was this detective called Palardy. When he picked people up, he would bring them to the police station and put them in a room, pull the shades down and beat them around the body and slam a telephone book on their heads.
During my first drug bust, when I had just turned 18, I was arrested with a Dyke named Angie and we were both holding. They took me into that room and beat me for a while and then I gave them old information that I knew they already had to stop the beating. They weren’t satisfied and threw me in a holding cell next to Angie.
This wasn’t Angie’s first rodeo and they knew she was a hard case so they didn’t beat her. I heard her calling to me and asking me if I was all right. I told her that I didn’t give anyone up but myself. Back then we actually had mattresses in our holding cells and Angie said, “You’re about to smell smoke.” And she lit her mattress on fire.
James “Whitey” Bulger was beaten by two Mafiosi to the point where he was unrecognizable. One suspect is Fotios “Freddy” Geas who is doing a lifetime bid for murdering a head of the Genovese Mob in 2003. They hailed from West Springfield, MA so they were local and had a major grudge against Bulger. According to the prison officials Bulger’s body was wrapped in a sheet and unrecognizable. How could this happen in the prison system? Well, transferring a high profile rat to another prison and putting him in general population is like signing the death sentence that he never received.
Back in the day, when I did time I was being held in Maximum Security in West Boylston, MA . We were two to a one man cell. The new guy slept on the floor on a mattress and the senior cell citizen slept on a bunk. I had two choices where to put my head. One choice was by the bars of the cell and the other was by the toilet. As unpleasant as that might seem the toilet was the better choice because if your head was by the bars, you could be fair game to anyone who didn’t like you. Now when I got popped in Massachusetts with 15 pounds of reefer and a little heroin and some hashish and cocaine, not to mention the weighing scales and the hypodermic needles, they threw all the charges at me and I was even charged with harboring a fugitive because my woman back then was wanted in two states.
But it was an honorable crime, as they call it in prison. I was all over the news, both television and radio. The police said they had arrested a major drug kingpin but I never saw myself like that. I had a history of arrests for simple possession of heroin, which was why I sold marijuana. I didn’t care for reefer so I didn’t use my profits smoking it up. Getting back to the honorable crime situation, I didn’t rat anyone out and I knew I was going to do my time. My first cellmate was transferred when his case came up and a new guy was transferred to my cell. The first question anyone asks when they come in is “what are you in for?”
The new guy told me he was in for receiving stolen goods and I took him at his word. But in prison, everyone has a story, some true, some not so true. The next day one of my associates on the Maxi-tier came into my cell during open door time, which was about 2 and 1/2 hours every night after supper.
He told me that the guards had tipped them that the guy in my cell was in for rape of a child and the guards gave the leaders of the tier a carton of cigarettes, major currency back then, and told them, “you know what to do with this guy.” He asked me if I wanted to take part but I opted out and told them to do what they had to do. A little while after I left that cell, three guys came in and beat the guy so bad they had to take him to the hospital. The guards, who we called “screws” back then, took their time coming in to break it up.
When I think about that and the transfer of James “Whitey” Bulger to a new prison and placing him in general population, I feel that they did this on purpose. It served to have the proper, as they saw it, justice finally administered to a guy who got away with murder because he was a major rat. Justice was done all old school and, in my twisted mind, I know that Whitey was set up deliberately.
Whitey should have known, and probably did know, that he was being transferred to another prison and put in general population so he would be given the death sentence that Rats get when they break the code. Like I said before, this was all old school. When I was a young junkie, I knew better than to break the code. No tip lines, and the police were always the enemy back then. Some things change and some things don’t change. Are things better in today’s world? I think not. And for old guys like me, it’s still old school. You don’t have to like it, it’s just the way it was—and in some cases, it still is that way.
The Suboxone Withdrawal Diaries (Part 1)
August 12, 2018
I’m in the third day of my Suboxone withdrawal and starting to feel it. I have night sweats, my appetite is diminishing and I’m only sleeping five hours at night. I’ve gone from three Suboxone a day down to one-half of a Suboxone a day, which started three days ago. It’s a familiar feeling because I used to withdraw from heroin all the time. I’m doing this because I just got sick of being locked into the Suboxone regimen. I decided to drop it as a way of life. I don’t feel like using at all but I am mildly sick and at the age of 72 that isn’t easy. I’ll keep you
August 13, 2018
This is the fourth day of my Suboxone withdrawal and I’m sweating a bit and feeling tired. I’m not sleeping that well but I am sleeping. I took 1/3 of a Suboxone yesterday and I’ll take 1/3 of a Suboxone today. Tomorrow I will take the last 1/3 and then drop it altogether. We’ll see what happens.
August 14, 2018
This is the day where I take my last 2mg of Suboxone. Had night sweats and morning sweats today. I see my therapist at noon today and I’ll tell her what I’m doing. Haven’t seen her in a while because she was on vacation. This is the trickier part where I leap off the cliff and see if I have wings. Since it’s early I might write again today. Just to be clear, I was on 24 mg of Suboxone a day for about 8 years, then dropped to 16 mg, then dropped to 8 mg, then dropped to 4mg over a period of time. Things have speeded up since then. I wake up periodically at night and have trouble sleeping. However have a feeling that this is the beginning of my sleep troubles for a week or so after I stop completely. Just guessing.
August 15, 2018
The milestone day! The beginning of no Suboxone at all. I am prepared for any eventualities though and I talked to my therapist for about 20 minutes last night. I’ll keep you posted. Later.
August 16, 2018
Well, I never got back to the Suboxone Diaries yesterday. Last night I slept fitfully, but I did sleep. I was still tired when I got up but I ate fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast and a half of a sandwich for lunch. I’m sweating like crazy but it is 90 degrees with a lot of humidity. It could be worse. I’m glad I didn’t wait until it was colder. I’ve kicked heroin and methadone back in the day and I was always freezing if it was winter. I haven’t felt tempted to use Suboxone anymore; I’m dead serious about this detox and I want to be done with it. I’ve reached the point where I don’t fantasize about getting high. I just had a bout of the withdrawal sneezes and that was familiar. Well, I’m going to go back into the air-conditioned bedroom and watch a movie. Boy do I remember those sneezes from previous detoxes even though I haven’t had a detox for over ten years now.
August 17, 2018
Well, this is day three, drug free. I have major sweats but it’s close to 90 degrees and humid anyway. Slept fitfully last night. Had some minor leg cramps. But I feel like I’m doing okay. I even took my wife shopping and then bicycled into Harvard Square to pick up my writer’s check at Spare Change News. I’m hungry right now so I’m going into an air-conditioned room and eating something. And that’s what I did. It’s suppertime now and I’m not starving but I will eat. I ache a bit all over, especially my back.
August 18, 2018
Day four, drug free. Whew. Rough night sleeping last night. Fell asleep around 11pm and then woke up just after midnight. Didn’t get back to sleep until after 2:30am. Then slept fitfully with weird dreams. But it’s morning and I was able to eat a healthy breakfast—fresh fruit and yogurt. I ache a bit but I’m going to do some chores. Over and out! Got some stomach cramps but I’ve had worse when I was kicking methadone. That was worse than heroin. People say the Suboxone withdrawal is the long road. Well, I’m on it and I’ll just keep going. Saw a good movie today called The Meg. Took my mind off things. Then tonight I’m watching a show called Longmire—about a sheriff in Wyoming. It was great but gut wrenching. Saw some things that made me cry. I haven’t cried like that in a long time. I think this is a good thing I’m doing. Nice to have feelings again. My wife tells me that I’m talking more and acting more engaged in our life together. Just hope the night goes well with sleep. That’s the hard part.
August 19, 2018
Day five, drug free. Terrible night sleep. Sweats, awake from 11:30pm to nearly 3am, then had a dream (not nice) filled sleep. Ate breakfast this morning and my stomach is cramping up. Suboxone withdrawal is no joke. This afternoon my wife and I meditated to a reading by Thict Naht Hahn about being interconnected with our parents and everything else. Meditation is different when I’m not on Suboxone. I thought of my mother when she was in Hospice and felt sad that I never really got to know her because of the fractured interactions of my nuclear family. That’s all I have to say now except I’m no stranger to meditation.
August 20, 2018
Day six, drug free. Dropped off the edge last night. Could hardly sleep and had waking dreams of my life running through my mind. Like they say, when you are dying your life passes in front of you. Thats how I felt but the picture stopped at about my mid-twenties so I’m still alive. Feeling very tired this morning but glad I made through the roughest night yet. This afternoon I’m having a hard time getting out of my chair. All I want to do is sleep, which means I’m not talking or bonding as much.
August 21, 2018
Day 7. Totally exhausted. Any little action is a big effort. Desperately need a good nights sleep. Fell asleep during the day and the phone rang and it was a person collecting money for some organization I never heard of. I hung up a little angry because I needed that nap they interrupted. This is some ordeal. I’ll be grateful when it ends. So will my wife. She’s proud of me but finds it difficult to watch me being sick and tired. (To Be Continued)
As I write this the outcome of the election is unknown. Many people will be happy; many people will be upset. The fact that our country could be so divided has brought about a police force that is now being gifted with weapons of war that are no longer being used in the mid-east.
For some reason, Homeland Security has disposition over stockpiled weapons/vehicles of war and is gifting local police forces and SWAT teams. Local police will be able to crush armed insurgency. Isn’t that nice? They won’t wear body cameras, but they will drive tank like vehicles to the scene of a domestic dispute?
In Concord, New Hampshire, a town of 42, 900 people, city councilors actually voted in favor of receiving a 20-ton military vehicle which is a cross between a humvee and a tank as a “gift” from the Department of Homeland Security. That will come in handy when angry citizens take to the street to express their first amendment rights to protest actions by government that they don’t agree with, like police executing young black men.
This gift is a giant war machine that cost the taxpayers of our country $250,000. To call it a “gift” is misleading. Our police are becoming militarized SWAT teams with weapons of war that put the honest citizens of our country under the boot heel of a standing army.
There was never supposed be a standing army in America. A film just being released, “Do Not Resist”, will be playing at the Museum of Fine Arts from November 3rd through November 26th. . It shows miles of these weapons of war up for grabs by our local police departments. These vehicles are called MRAP’s, which means Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.
These vehicles can spin around town, piloted by the same police forces that refuse to wear body cameras, with weapons designed to blow away heavily armed insurgents thousands of miles away. Is this frightening you? It should scare you silly. Go to see “Do Not Resist”, and when you see these vehicles, you’ll know that the Constitution is being violated, as it forbids a standing army on our lands.
Dave Grossman, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, is holding classes with police departments across the country, telling them to be aggressive with the “enemy.” The “enemy” is us, folks: the citizens of the United States.
In one town the police raided a house that was called “terrorist based”. The people who lived there were a family of color who had a son in his early 20’s who worked as a landscaper. The police came in, viciously wrecked the house, and the only “crime” that was evident, after the fact, was less than a gram of marijuana.
In good faith, the son gave the police $876 that his boss had given him to buy a few lawn mowers and asked them to give the money to his boss so he wouldn’t get in trouble and lose his job.
The police, instead, confiscated the $876 as drug money. It would cost the family much more than that in lawyer fees to get the money back.
These machines, the MRAP’s, are not supposed to be used for riot suppression in the United States. But they made an appearance in Ferguson, MO, where they were used against the people who protested police brutality.
When Dave Grossman lectures the police about the joys of using these weapons, he tells police that “after a tense, “successful” raid you will go home and have the best sex of your lives.”
Grossman also tells the police that after a “successful” raid, they should pull the MRAP up onto an overpass that looks over the city that they “police” and picture themselves standing there with the capes of superheroes blowing in the wind. That makes me sick.
The documentary “Do Not Resist” has won the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival Award for Documentary of the Year.
When George W. Bush was running for President, it was scary. I couldn’t think of a worse outcome than having George W. become President. Yet I find it even harder to believe that a man as unstable, dishonest and dangerous as Donald Trump is actually being considered to lead our nation at this crucial time. Donald Trump makes George W. seem like a gem. I’m not saying that Dubya isn’t flawed—I’m saying that Donald Trump—a misogynist, a liar, an arrogant bully—is the worst leader we could ever have for President.
Trump is a racist, a fascist, and his goal is to “destabilize” the election by having his supporters act as “deputized” but amateur poll monitors. The people of our nation, even with all its imperfections, need to really consider whether they want a man at the helm who cares nothing for the country but slavers at the power of the Presidency.
It frightens me to think about what this arrogant man will do if he becomes President. When I watch the antics of Donald Trump, I see Mussolini, Hitler and other maniacal leaders that almost brought the world to the brink of destruction.
When Trump claims that the election is “rigged” against him, he is playing to the worst of the worst of his blind followers, who have already shown that they do not care if laws are broken—as long as it’s okay with Trump.
Trump is destroying America’s political norms by claiming that there is a giant conspiracy between the media and the Democratic Party to elect Hillary by massive fraud. What is worse, Trump’s blind believers follow in lock-step behind his statements, reminding me of Hitler’s Brown Shirts.
I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than building a giant wall between the United States and Mexico. Will this be the new Berlin Wall? Trump appeals to the worst in people—people who want to change the country for the better but are blinded to the fact that Trump is a destroyer, not a builder.
Even worse, just think of the type of person a maniac like Trump will nominate for the Supreme Court of our land. Our next President will probably get to choose more than one Justice for the Supreme Court.
Donald Trump does not want to be the President of the United States—he wants to be the Ruler of the United States and we all stand to watch our country’s values shattered by this political upstart.
This is the first time any presidential candidate has ever complained about the system being “rigged” before the election has even taken place. It’s almost impossible to rig a national election because the system itself is so de-centralized that it would be too complex to rig a Presidential election in America.
Donald Trump is crying “poor loser” before the fact—which shows a total lack of character on his part. This is not a man who should sit in the office where “the buck stops.” If Trump loses, and I, for one, hope he loses, it will be because he didn’t get enough votes to win.
Trump will have no one to blame but himself. Maybe he’ll lose because of his expressed racism. Quite possibly he’ll lose the election because of his misogyny. Maybe Trump will lose the election because he’s been caught in too many lies.
Just recently Trump met with the President of Mexico and they discussed a few things, one of them being the wall that Donald Trump wants Mexico to build. After the chat, while being interviewed back in the United States, Trump said that the matter of the “wall” never came up.
The President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, when asked, said that the wall was mentioned and he said Mexico would not pay for the wall. So, already, in an international meeting, Donald Trump did not speak the truth.
For the most part, the United States is working towards becoming a free country. It will be a shame if a man with the nature of Donald Trump steps into the highest office of the land and starts to turn the clock of our country back into a place where racism, misogyny, and bigotry reign.
Donald Trump’s instability is extremely dangerous when I think his finger will be so close to the nuclear button. He is not fit, in my opinion, to be President of our country.
If you’ve read this far and are ready to rip my head off, that’s okay. Just don’t forget to vote. I’d rather see you vote for someone I dislike than not vote at all. That’s what makes this country great.
Everyone gets to pay the gatekeeper. In the end we pay with the only currency that we own. The gatekeeper’s desires are simple. All he wants is all we’ve got.
They call me the Troll. I’m a gatekeeper of sorts and I have my own kingdom. Of course, I have to follow the rules too. He’s always watching me. He watches me through the eyes of the junkies that live here. Who’s he? I’ll get to that.
That’s why I treat everyone the same here in the last dope house on the block. No one gets here without paying the high price. Every one of us has opted out of the world as most of us know it.
Have you ever woken up in the morning at first light, heard the birds chirping and then cursed the sun for burning you out of slumber? Have you ever stumbled to the bathroom looking for the wake-up shot that you hoped was still there, knowing full well that at 3 in the morning you had used it because the dreams in your head had grown sharp with yellow teeth that were ripping away the pieces of what was left of your soul? Have you ever come to in the dark alley between mortar and bricks, behind the dumpster, where you had hidden to protect yourself from the young boys out wilding?
No, maybe you wake up scratching the dead skin on your face cursing the job that you must go to everyday where your essence spills out into the ether as you wait on customer after customer. “And what would you like in your coffee, sir? Who’s next? Just jerk the handle, I’m dying, sir. I could use a drink myself.”
Or maybe you sit in a cubicle, one of many in a giant row of them, staring into a computer screen tabulating figure after figure, maybe checking zip codes hour after hour, pressure building up in your bladder, but “oh my god, I can’t go yet, there’s still so much to do and they never stop coming in. I hope I pass that urinalysis, I didn’t know that they’d pick me today. I don’t want to lose this job and wind up homeless.”
Quite possibly you’re a beautiful woman waking up late in the afternoon. Your body aches from running from the tables to the bar in that costume that always makes you feel like a piece of ground round served up steaming in a hog trough. The bruises where you were pinched dot your upper legs, you still smell the drink that someone threw at you because you wouldn’t give them a kiss. “Better the drink than their breath,” you think as you make your way to the bathroom to clean yourself before you are fouled by life once more. You look in the mirror and see the worry lines starting at the corners of the mouth, sparrow-prints at the eyes that are suddenly very wet and you swallow hard and splash water into your face, sobbing deep in your chest.
Just maybe you are the President of the United States waking to the news that another woman claims to know about the tattoo on your penis and you wonder how George Washington, John F. Kennedy, or even J. Edgar Hoover would have fared in this terrible time when everything is grist for the cows at the public watering trough called television? You roll over to hug your wife; she is crying. An emptiness that is full hurts between your lungs. “Maybe a war is not a bad idea,” is the thought that crosses your mind.
Hey, maybe you’re a writer like the guy in the corner there who is between stories or poems. You haven’t written a word in over two weeks and the worry stomps your mind into its own hellish nether regions. We all have them in our heads. Your mind says, “Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’ll never write again. Maybe I’ll just shoot some dope; I know a place where I can go, downtown where all the lights are bright, downtown where I can die tonight, downtown, everything’s waiting for me.”
I could go on and on and on. That’s how life is. Sooner or later we all wind up knocking on the door of the gatekeeper.
I’m a gatekeeper. My kingdom is a subterranean basement where junkies come to dream about what might have been; what should have been; what could happen if only, if only, if only. Sometimes I tell the stories and he writes them down. I’m not the only one here who tells the stories. Everyone who comes here has a story, maybe more than one. The guy in the corner, the Troll points to a bearded junkie sitting at a typewriter, he writes them down. He never tells the stories but he’s always listening and writing or typing. All it takes to shake him out of a deep nod is for someone to say, “Oh yeah, let me tell you a story about what happened to me.”
There are times, in the middle of a story, that he will stop to fix; maybe his hand has started to shake, maybe he just wants to hold off the cold and the cramps until the tale is over. His memory takes over and he’ll play catch-up while he’s listening. He may get to hear the same story a few times but each time it is a little different, depending on who’s doing the telling. It could be different even with the same teller.
He writes the stories but he always laughs and says, “I don’t really guarantee their accuracy, you know. But I don’t have to, see. No one believes a junkie.”
Call him Seth. Last name Morgan. The writer. I’m the teller but he’ll record it. He promised not to lie or change the facts and to write it just like I tell it. Junkies always make promises.
Let me tell you about another gatekeeper. The one who watches me. The one who might very well have his eyes on you. Some people call him the Dustman. Others say he is the king of the dreams that live between the waking and sleep. Still others say that he is just a man who has chosen a path of crime and that he is nothing more than a druglord. I choose not to argue with anyone’s story when it is about him. The confusion clarifies my beliefs. My beliefs? I’ll tell you this story and let you form your own.
I’ll tell you this story about his beginnings. It was told to me by a Harvard professor who comes here now and then for a bit of a rest. Forget about it. I’m not going to reveal my source. You would probably recognize the name.
In the beginning the Dustman’s only name was Ar Lain Ta.
Ar Lain Ta was a man of humble origins. His parents were farmers from the west bank of the Salween river. The terrorist, but legally sanctioned, army of Burma, known as the Tatmadaw, had driven his parents from their farm. The Tatmadaw used what they called a “Four Cuts Strategy” which meant isolating and controlling sources of food, funds, intelligence, and recruits. His father, a farmer named U Hla Pe, had been meditating and his mother had been in the fields slicing the pods of the poppies when the Tatmadaw arrived and began looting homes, gang-banging the wives and daughters of friends, and plundering animals and the croplands. Instead of surrendering to them and becoming unwilling participants in the construction of a one-hundred-mile-long railroad line from Aung Ban south to Loi Kaw in a slave labor camp where cholera, dengue fever, yaws, blackwater fever, yellow fever, amoebic dysentery, and other antagonistic life-forms constantly raided the camps, U Hla Pe chose to slip through the fields and take his pregnant wife to flee across the Salween into Mae Ark, a small Pa-O village which was controlled and protected by a benevolent lord of the opium trade named Chang Te Tzu.
Very little is known about his mother’s origins. She was named Nang Saeng Zoom, yet it is not known whether this was her given name or one that she acquired later. It is said that she loved the fields and, as she worked, she was known to talk to the plants. There were some that said she was haunted by ghosts of her ancestors.
This story about Ar Lain Ta’s mother was passed on by an old farmer in the opium den that he had retired to after his work was done. One day, when Chang Te Tzu was visiting the village he became very ill with all the symptoms of cholera. The diarrhea came on suddenly and violently and his stools were filled with filled with rice like-particles. He vomited and shat simultaneously and the muscles in his arms and legs knotted and contracted spasmodically, literally appearing to be boiling beneath his skin to all those who watched with horror. The man collapsed and virtually seemed to shrink in size within moments. Other observers said his skin turned to light parchment paper and began to rip in places.
At that moment Nang Saeng Zoom appeared and light seemed to shine from her eyes as she lifted Chang Te Tzu as if he weighed nothing and carried him quickly into her dwelling. His personal guard stood well away and did not interfere for they were afraid that they would be stricken with the strange malady that had infected their Lord. Normally they were afraid of nothing and would charge headlong into battle no matter what weapons their enemies wielded but this was something out of their realm.
Nang Saeng Zoom lit lamps, mixed potions from strange herbs that were hanging on the walls of her hut, and soon alien smells and chants mixed with the sound of moaning and the smell of feces, vomit, and death spilled into the air. At first the smells were weak and the chanting was soft, but like a rising wind, they increased in velocity and power. Suddenly they began to diminish and, within hours, the stench of hell was gone and the people nearby the hut heard the voice of Chang Te Tzu singing in harmony with the sweet soprano of Nang Saeng Zoom.
It was told, and there are no villagers that will contradict this, that in the evening Chang Te Tzu emerged from the hut of U Hla Pe with Nang Saeng Zoom on his arm and he was in such robust health that he appeared to glow. When he asked Nang Saeng Zoom what he could do for her, the only boon that she requested was that Chang Te Tzu take her son, soon to be born, and raise him with the best of educational opportunities. When Chang Te Tzu asked her how she knew that the child would be male, she laughed. He began to laugh also; he laughed so hard that his body shook and the laugh leaped from him to his men and coursed through the entire village like a titanic tide that could not be stopped.
Three days later Ar Lain Ta was born on the day when the harvest was celebrated. It was the largest harvest in the history of the village. Soon after that day U Hla Pe met with an unfortunate accident, the details of which are unknown, while working in the poppy fields. Six months later Chang Te Tzu married Nang Saeng Zoom.
To this day the people speak of the wonder and magic of the times when Chang Te Tzu ruled with Nang Saeng Zoom at his side. There were those that said that she wielded the power during this era in which Chang Te Tzu’s influence spread across the land and even reached overseas to the Americas. Of course, this is nothing but rumor and innuendo. Only the walls of their many dwellings know the truth and they are not speaking. Yet, there still remain servants from this era who might talk if they were so inclined.
However, these servants that still live now serve Ar Lain Ta, the birth son of Nang Saeng Zoom and the adopted son of Chang Te Tzu. It is said that he is everywhere at once. There are many stories told about Ar Lain Ta, the man of many names.
Some say that Ar Lain Ta speaks more than eight languages fluently. He did attend Harvard University and, it is documented, now has two post-graduate degrees: a doctorate in International Relations and a doctorate in Ethnobotany.
There are many stories about Ar Lain Ta yet there are not many people who have specific memories of meeting him. Many students say that he was like a phantom and sometimes they noticed him and sometimes they didn’t. Even the professors have different versions of their experiences with him and their stories are always subject to change.
Me, I met him in a church and I’ll never forget that day. Did I ever tell you that story? I seem to remember relating it to you once. But I feel a little sick right now.
The Troll turned in his chair and called out.
“Veronica! Veronica! I need you right now.”
Ron de Voux came bustling over, pulled two packets out of the Troll’s cracked leather bag and cleaned a syringe that lay on the great table.
“Into the kitchen,” hissed the Troll.
Veronica, as she rolled him through the door to the kitchen, glanced back at us. She gave us a great big grin that brought the dimples out on her cheeks and her pinpoint pupils appeared to spray laser beams of light before they disappeared into the candlelit back room.
Last night, that would be Monday, October 19, 2015, as my wife, Mary Esther and I, sat in the small chapel at the Weston Priory, I remembered how it was a bit over 10 years ago when the Benedictine Monks invited us up for a 5 day stay. How different it was for us then.
I was recovering from knee surgery and because my illness of addiction never forgets, even if I do forget, I relapsed with my pain pills. I was given a 30-day supply back then and my wife asked me if she could hold the pills and dispense them to me as prescribed.
Well, I was a bit cocky, and I said, “Remember, not only have I been abstinent for a lengthy period of time, but I’m a Substance Use Disorder Counselor. I think I can handle a few pain pills.”
It turned out that Mary Esther knew better and, within four days, my thirty day supply was empty and I was searching the streets for heroin, my drug of no choice, that I had been strung out on from 1964 through 1994. It was a continuous ride , the stumblebum push an opium pellet with my nose around the world ride, and because of the lengthy period of my active addiction my pleasure centers, from one synapse to another in my brain, were totally atrophied.
Many people ask why opiate addicts relapse after the drug is out of their system, knowing what they know about where the drug will take them? It’s quite simple really. The dis-ease continues onward, even though the person has kicked the physical aspect of the illness.
People who take the opiates for chronic pain are excused from this phenomenon because they get no pleasure from the drug; the opiates in their system travel to the pain centers to ease the suffering and not the pleasure centers of the brain.
I know people who take opiates for extreme chronic pain and it always amazes me that they never get high. That is because they are not “using”; they are taking medicine for a purpose. When our “esteemed” Governor Baker of Massachusetts came up with a plan to only give people a 72-hour supply of medication for the first time, it was quite clear to me that he did not understand the difference between people with chronic pain and people with the dis-ease of addiction.
With someone like me, a 72-hour supply of opiates would merely kick my addiction into overdrive and I would be on the street looking for heroin in no time. However, if I were not someone with the illness of addiction, it would be an inconvenience to bother my physician for the medicine I needed.
I also hear politicians, not health experts, talk about mandating people who overdose to 3 days of lock down with the possibility of commitment. This crazy idea could keep people from calling for help when someone overdoses. It’s a good thing that Needle Exchanges give trainings in Narcane administration to addicts so they can save their friends without the indignity of being locked up for overdosing—treating someone with the illness of addiction the same way one would treat a sex offender.
Let me retrace my steps back to our stay, ten years ago, at the Weston Priory. For 5 days my wife prayed and meditated and did research on what to do so I wouldn’t keep relapsing. We stumbled across a drug called Suboxone, a combination of Buprenorphine and Narcane, which re-activated the pleasure centers of the brain but did not get the addict high.
When we returned we searched on the Internet for a reliable pharmacologist who specialized in treating people like myself, who suffered from long-term addiction, with this psychiatric medication that mimicked the opiates in the brain but did not get the person intoxicated.
Suboxone worked. There are other aspects to Suboxone treatment, which must be followed to make it a success. This treatment must be combined with therapy and support groups to keep the person from relapsing. Also, the person with the illness of addiction must be motivated to stay abstinent.
If someone wants to get high, no matter what you do, they will. Remember, addiction is not a crime, although most countries treat it that way, with the exception of an enlightened few. When someone with the sickness is punished for it, the desire to get high increases. However, when a person with the illness is medically treated, with medication, therapy and support, they can recover.
The illness of addiction is a stubborn animal and one does not always get immediate desired results. But when persistent attempts are made to gently place the illness in remission, it takes place, no matter how hard core the person seems.
Do all people with the disease of addiction recover? Unfortunately, they don’t. Most of them, with the right treatment, not punishment, will recover. We have to realize that, like any fatal illness not placed in re-mission, death is one of the outcomes of the illness. The goal of Harm Reduction is to keep the person alive and treat them long enough so that they make a full recovery.
A full recovery is not a cure. Once an addict, always an addict. But addiction is one of the potentially fatal sicknesses that can be successfully treated.
With the disease of addiction, force almost never works. Force is punishment and most people who are prone to this illness have been punished enough, which is what makes them use opiates: to stop the self-punishment in their own psyche.
So my wonderful, patient, loving wife and I are back visiting the Weston Priory, refreshing our spiritual roots that keep me from falling back into a hell of my own creation. I take my medicine as prescribed, I go to therapy because it is good for me and I go to my support group so I can heal daily.
Spare Change News is one way of my giving back to the community, which is part of my healing. So, if you are reading this column, I want to thank you for taking part in my recovery. Also, if you or anyone you know is struggling with the illness of addiction, the good news is that there is hope. Love, treatment and never give up. Together we can do this.