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.
Grey. Not the sky but the bicycle
left locked. If the iron rails might
talk, or the crosswise snitch, or the bicycle
be gifted with tongues, a broken
mouth cursing from a beaten frame
warped by shod feet, the rider
could know who to hate. The lock
was too good for these shrunken
minds. A good thief takes
or leaves it alone. Fools frustrated
by their own limits kick, bend,
render the bicycle useless as
their wits. Grey. The night
hiding reptilian idiots in frenzy
spending the remnants of their
fury at their own ineptitude destroying
what they cannot take. Greased
hands, they return home to parents
who plan to deny them sooner
than anyone can see it coming.
“Boy,” the father thinks as his
son walks in the door, “the best
part of you dripped down your
mother’s thigh.” Grey. The bicycle
lock won’t be the last obstacle
Late last night I scored a bag of dope When my spirit is low it gives me hope I emptied it into my faithful spoon But it sparkled like the stars in the evening’s noon I thought for a minute that I was beat Shot it anyway and leaped to my feet My heart was racing, couldn’t catch my breath It wasn’t smack; it was crystal meth I’m not complainin’, don’t get me wrong Just rushin’ like a jet stream, comin’ on strong.
Nothing like the glass to straighten your hair And give your eyes that demonic stare Just then this chump knocked at my door I let him in; he was lookin’ to score So I turned him on to a cotton shot He started sweatin’, a heavyweight he’s not He said, “What the fuck man, this ain’t junk”
I said, “you’re right dude, but it ain’t bunk That’s crystal meth that you just did” He was runnin’ around, just flippin’ his lid I guess he’d never done any real speed I thought it was righteous and he agreed
We hit the streets and started to stalk Flyin’ high on this eternal walk Everything was closed; the streets were dead But the electrons were dancing; in my head
Two days later I came back down After raging around that goddamn town Now I was lookin’ in earnest for some smack My mind was blown; I couldn’t get back Then I saw my connection walkin’ down the street He was just the one I was lookin’ to meet Handed me the bag; said it was real fine shit
I cooked it up and then did my hit It came on slow but I reached the height Hey, who the fuck turned out the light I’m sinkin’ fast; am I gonna die
Who gives a shit; I’m gettin’ high Some people think I’m on a real death trip Well, I am tryin’ to give this world the slip You think I’m wrong; do you have the cure That’ll fix this pain in my heart for sure
One thing I know, Heroin’s the best For nullifying the hurt that’s in my chest And if one day I find death’s sweet sleep Just dig a hole and bury me deep And if you’d like to join me in my tomb You bring the junk, I’ll make some room.
Just passin’ through this goddamn state and don’t ya know it’d be my fate to get popped with fifteen pounds of grass Into Worcester House they placed my ass All because someone dropped a dime Everybody’s tokin’ but it’s still a crime I was just a merchant but I’m doin’ time in steel and stone writin’ perverted rhyme You think this country would take a tip and legalize that shit and finally get hip The weed is here and it’s here to stay Millions are smokin’ to brighten up their day They got red bud, green bud and Columbian gold America’s lit up, both young and old People are smokin’ all over the street Even cops are stoned while they walk their beat I know plenty of farmers growin’ that cash crop and there ain’t no law that’s gonna make them stop Where there’s demand there’s gonna be supply And one-third of America’s gettin’ high They can lock us up but not the smoke Right now there’s millions just takin’ a toke And while I’m here just rappin’ these tales On Boston Harbour they’re unloadin’ bales And there’s barns all over filled with that green And dealers out hustlin’ to make their scene Now when I get out I’ll be ready to roll I’ll smoke a few joints and light up my soul And there’ll be the day when we’ll all be free So stop on by and cop a buzz from me The Lord made weed so we all could fly So love your brothers and sisters and get them high!
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.
They meet for the first time at an AA meeting. He sat in the third row, end seat close to the wall. She sat in the middle of the room, tears spilled down her face; she had a tissue crumpled in her fist and her lips quivered.
He watched her. She was well-dressed, gold jewelry splashed about her wrists, neck, hanging from her ears. He knew she came from another world, one he was not familiar with. She was a stranger in his world, a sheep amongst the wolves, yet she had the teeth of a fox. Times there were he spoke about the hell he was resurrected from; times there were she spoke about the hell she was walking through.
Some connections begin slowly, electricity leaps from person to person before they are even aware something is taking place. His hormones did a slow firefly dance. He was steel; she was a magnet. She was a spider; he was the web.
In the beginning. Truthfully, both their recollections are as dark as a hurricane sky, but he did remember she asked him out for coffee.
The next thing he knew they were drinking coffee, eye to eye, knee to knee. If you were to ask him what they were talking about at that little round table, if you were to ask him anything specific, he would strain.
Holding back when every cell is moving towards the object can be difficult. One could say going into orbit around a point of light is so much easier, but an asteroid might say different.
Luckily, we’re just talking about two people out for coffee on an otherwise normal day.
What made it more than normal was that, even though it was right in front of him, he has no memory of what it was. Looking at her, watching her lips move, listening to the music, the slight lisp which made her words all the more wonderful. What was she saying anyway?
He tries to piece together the conversation on that day. If only he could remember what it was about. But any group of sentences can be strung together to make a necklace of pearls that has nothing to do with the meaning of the individual words. So it was on that day.
Plans were made. They must have been, for sooner or later, they wound up at Revere Beach.
He knows they ate at Kelly’s Roast Beef on the boardwalk.
He remembers there were sand fleas, yet which trip to the beach was it when they were bitten; was it the first or on one of the many trips since then?
They were bitten the first time. Sand fleas? The teeth of a fox?
All he remembers was he took her into his arms, or was it her folding into him with the magic of not knowing whose arms touched first? But the ocean was roaring, smashing giant waves onto the beach as the salt spray soaked them, and then her breath in his lungs. Giant waves on Revere Beach? The storm clouds? Perhaps, on that day, both their perceptions were a bit altered.
There are times they talk about what happened on the beach. She smiles, looks into his eyes. He forgets what he asked. What he asked doesn’t matterr anyhow, does it?
America a country of immigrants with the exception of the Indians,
An indigenous race of color that a Trump with a red cock of hair
Would hate anyway; he would give them blankets filled with
Smallpox and deny it; if women complained Trump would accuse
The women of bleeding; Trump is an abortion of a man who would
Place women behind bars if they were seeking to get rid of a baby
Seeded by a rapist; Trump was also an immigrant
But he would never admit it; how long has his family been here
Financially raping the workers of America? Trump loves the words
‘you’re fired’ if he’s the one saying them; we the people of the American
north are firing Trump from the presidency which he will never attain,
which rhymes with stain because he would stain that office with his red
cock hair and red cock face and eyes glinting of hatred at all of those
people who hate him; and also the people that love him; Trump has no
respect for anyone; he only respects money, his business, which he started
with a small loan of one million dollars. I say that with sarcasm because
Trump never fooled me; I have always thought he was a red headed jerk
Whose lips only lied when they were moving; Trump was a man who
Made a mistake when he thought he could become the president;
Any woman would be able to tell you he will never succeed because
We the people of the United States of America have Fired Trump in the name
of every man woman and child who has ever immigrated to this Indian land.
Instead of writing a novel today I have decided to write to you. Sorry it took me so long to respond but I am basically out of sorts. The emotional windmill has taken me for quite a spin and I don’t know if it is wind-driven or driven by the demons in my mind.
Yes, I have finally gone insane. When I take off my sunglasses I give the impression of a vast emptiness, as if one was peering into a black hole in space, a dark star. Was that a reference to David Bowie? It might well be.
I feel like I fled town safely with everything intact but my mind. I am no longer looking over my shoulder; the ghosts of the past remain in the past but the ghosts of the stories in my head are closing in.
I guess that is what happens when one reaches the age of 70 and develops a full-blown book addiction. Have you ever known something but refused to acknowledge it at the same time? I guess some people call that denial. The heart is a many-tiered bastion of twist. Common sense is eliminated almost immediately upon the first beat and then it’s just blood and fire. Do you have any inkling of what I mean?
When I feel like using, dope that is, I buy a book instead to dispel the impulse. I have quite a collection, and they just keep getting better. I just finished reading Driven by Kelley Armstrong, about a pack of American werewolves. It’s a fantastic read.
Elena Michaels is the Alpha of the pack; her husband Clayton Danvers is the Beta, the enforcer of the pack rules. Katie and Logan are their children, about ten years old but already able to change at will into werewolves.
It’s a love story with bloodshed. But what romance doesn’t have a bit of bloodshed, even if it is emotional spilling? The pack rules the North American area. If a werewolf doesn’t belong to a pack, they call him a mutt. Most werewolves are males; there are very few female werewolves.
In Driven, Curtis Cain, who is from a clan of mutts, calls on the pack for help. Supernatural hunters, one of whom is a werewolf, are hunting the mutts, killing them and taking their pelts. Elena Michaels, as the Alpha of the pack, has to decide what is the right thing to do in the situation.
Even though the mutts are not too nice, and not too bright either, the pack can’t have people killing werewolves in their territory. Malcolm, a new pack member, was a big bad wolf for many years because he killed viscously indiscriminately, doesn’t think they should bother with them, after all, they are only mutts. But he has to learn, as a member of the pack, he has to follow orders or die. So the plot thickens and the hunt is on.
The author, Kelley Armstrong, is a prolific writer. Not on the level of Stephen King, but she has written many books about her world of werewolves and other supernatural beings.
Most of these books are put out by the Subterranean Press, which you can find on the Internet. I own five of the werewolf series and love every one of them. The books come in two different editions.
The classy edition is signed & numbered; signed by Kelley Armstrong and her artist Xaviere Daumarie, with beautiful pictures interspersed throughout. Then there is the regular trade edition, which is half the price but still beautiful.
Subterranean Press puts out many books by different authors. Some of my favorites are Robert McCammon, Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King, Gail Carriger, David J. Schow, another master of the macabre and Caitlin R Kiernan who is one of the darkest writers I read. It’s rumored that her book, The Drowning Girl, which was put out by Centipede Press, will be made into a movie soon.
Centipede Press is one of those special presses that create books that are wonders to behold. Their books are filled with gorgeous art and a ribbon to keep your place, and the majority of them are signed & numbered by the writers and the artists.
Then there are books published by regular presses. An interesting book I have just finished is called The Girl With All The Gifts, by M. R. Carey. This book is dystopian in nature; the world, as we know it, has ended.
A fungus has been let loose in the world. Over 95% of humanity has been infected. This is the story of those who have not been infected and how they treat those who have been infected, especially the children.
One special child is a girl named Melanie who, even though infected, acts as if she is not. How do the infected act? You’ll have to read it to find out. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to get bitten by one.
This book is also in the process of being made into a movie. M. R. Carey, the writer, has just finished another novel called Fellside, which is the name of a prison where strange things take place. I won’t talk about that right now because, even though I have read it, Fellside won’t be released for a few months.
These books have saved me from a fate worse than death. Instead of scars from needle tracks I have a beautiful set of valuable books and a head full of stories. Books I can always sell if I choose to, but needle tracks—no resale value.
A book addiction is much healthier than being addicted to drugs, but an addiction just the same. Wouldn’t you agree?