Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Blog

I decided to port over all the articles to my own domain, so check it out (looks better too I think lol)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Typical Bootcamp Day

Every morning at 5:00am, the military horn blew its top off. God it took me forever to get used to waking up that way. We'd all jump out of bed to stand at attention at the foot of our bunkbeds, cold tiles on bare feet waking us up even faster. Some did the peepee dance as discreetly as possible (I know I did more than a few times), while waiting for the officer on duty to count us. Every federal prison and facility was subject to the same count times across the country. And under NO circumstances should you miss a count. None.

These couple of minutes were crucial to determining how the rest of the day went. Each CO (Corrections Officer) had vastly different personalities. There was the playful but aggressive, steroid-taking officer with the mentality of a 12 year old (his bark was definitely worse than his bite), the unpredicatable but highly intelligent (but crazy!) Mr. Loy (however many think, and I agree, that he put on an act), the good-natured, but very tempermental Mr. Steese, who could have been smart had he not grown up in the middle of the woods, and the short and sadistic Shark, who had a serious Napoleon complex.

There were others, but these were the most colorful officers. If the Shark woke us up, we were fucked. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, dreaded when he was on duty. He once crawled underneath an empty bunk before 5:00am to spy on us, and see who got out of bed before the horn sounded. Apparently that wasn't allowed, and the guy got hell for it.

After we're counted, we have a few minutes to wash up, make our beds (which had to be made hospital style... ugh...) and get ready for our morning PT (Physical Training) and this varied from officer to officer, or from day to day. Ranging from calisthenics, aerobics, endurance training, and running, working out on an empty stomach when your last meal was about 22 hours prior wasn't easy. Quite a few people threw up while running on an empty stomach, especially if they overdressed in the winter time.

That lasted about a half hour. We changed, lined up, marched to the cafeteria (food was served to us from the Camp, the lowest possible security federal prison besides boot camp), and once there, one team after the other goes in to eat, while the others stand outside waiting. The only time we waited indoors was when it was pouring, otherwise, we learned how to doze off standing and to talk without moving your lips. No yawning, no looking/moving around, no scratching yourself, no talking, no sleeping. But I've managed to hold conversations that way and play mental chess just to kill time.

Meals lasted around 40ish minutes, meanwhile we only had 5 minutes to eat. And we had to finish everything on our tray unless you're slick enough to throw it away in the trash without any COs seeing.

Bootleg Fruit Loops (I was told these would make me shit different colors, and I obviously thought they were joking... unfortunately they were not), Lucky Charms and Cheerio's made up most of our breakfasts, we also had french toast or waffles once in awhile. The milk was real at least, but we were restricted to one cup a person.

Now remember how there's nothing you can do while waiting to eat or waiting for others to finish? This is even worse when beans were on the menu, because people had no shame in farting randomly. And trust me, a bunch of guys from all over the country put together, there were some really foul smelling stomachs out there.

Then we marched back, and our day officially begins. Between mandatory classes (drug education, resume building, etc.), voluntary classes (smoking cessation, food safety, etc.) which people took to get out of work, and work, all of us go to our designated stations.

Most of the work there sucked. Mainly all labor work, from working the farm, mopping the units, laundry. I was designated to Topside, one of the best jobs. It was basically clothing issue, and the CO in charge of it was Mr. Steese, and from the day I first joined, he had requested to have me work there. Later, he told me it was because he could see I wasn't a bad kid, and wanted to save me from all the bullshit the others had to go through. And that's how he recruited everyone in Topside.

We basically didn't do shit all day lol. Once in a awhile inmates came to swap out their clothes or canteens for one reason or another. And when a new team comes in, we're in charge of distributing all of the stuff they need for their 6 months of torture. The rest of the time? We built a ghetto chessboard made from cardboard, buttons, pieces of paper and tape.

But the most important part was our ability to get brand new clothes whenever we wanted. Everyone of us working there had our stash hidden somewhere of the newest things we want in our sizes. Hey, even in jail people wanna look good! Also a cleanliness thing though. On top of that, since we were free for most of the day, we ironed our clothes and shined our boots, leaving us more of our personal time at the end of the day.

Then it was lunch time. Same routine. After lunch we had about a couple hours before we had PT again, work/class, then dinner around 6:00pm. Work/class once again, then 8:00pm is the start of our personal time. During this time we shower, write letters, and take care of our affairs for the next day.

Lights out at 9:00pm, then rinse and repeat. Six and a half months of this crap. We were all designated time slots to make our one 15 minute phone call a week. This is different from regular jail, where you have a max of 300 minutes a month, 15 minutes each, but you can call again an hour later. One 15 minute call a week was rough. Real rough.

The entire bootcamp was split into four teams: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta. I was in Delta. And what sucks is, especially during the beginning months (they did this less as we got closer to leaving), when one person fucked up, the entire team paid for it. I've done countless pushups and other ab exercises without even knowing why, not to mention a ridiculous amount of extra miles that I normally wouldn't have had to run.

"DELTA TEAM, DROP!" was something we heard quite often. I was on a team of fucking idiots by the way.

Other random rules? You couldn't step on any black tile. When not in our sleeping areas, you can't walk past a CO without stopping and sounding off, "Sir, Inmate [NAME] request permission to carry on, sir, I can make it, I can take it, nothing can stop me sir!"

And if the CO just stood there and ignored you, you just keep standing there until either he tells you to carry on, or he walks past you.

If a CO drops you for pushups or something, before you get back up even though you're done with whatever number he said, we had to say, "Sir, Inmate [NAME] request permission to recover sir. Thank you for conditioning my mind and body, please feel free to do so at anytime, sir!" Now sometimes if they were assholes they'd say, "Anytime? Okay, do another fifty."

No looking into the CO's eyes. No hands in pockets. Boots are to be shined, shirts with three creases in the back, no snacks, no gum, no drawings or anything personal outside of a particular personal envelope.

Typical day in boot camp. Thank god it's way behind me =)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Uh... what?

I'm not exactly sure how I ended up there, but I did. I was at this bar in the Lower East Side, called BOB, a small venue, rather coffin like since it just extends straight down to the bar, and had booths lining the sides. That was it.

Oh I remember how I ended up there, it was a friend's going away party (she had actually already left by this point I think). Anyhow, Alanna and Shannon were there with me, Alanna was up and about, Shannon and I sitting on the booth, catching up.

Then this Asian girl (more like lady...) in a jeans jacket, walks up waving. Figuring she was someone's friend, we both waved back.

"Is someone sitting there?" she asked, pointing to some space between Shannon and I. We both looked at each other thinking it was weird she'd ask for the seat in between us, considering it didn't seem like she knew either one of us.

"No, go ahead," I replied, motioning to the empty spot.

So she puts her coat there.

"You don't remember me?" she says into my ear.

"Remember you?" I asked, completely confused. "I don't think I know you."

Up close, I could see the layers of makeup, which led me to notice that there was something odd about her clothes but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

"I'm supposed to meet you."

I was completely lost. I had no idea who the hell she was, but yet she kept insisting. The look on my face must have been revealing, because her friend that I hadn't noticed until now, stepped up.

"You were here last week right?"

This was my second time at BOB. The first time being close to a year prior.

"Uhh, no, not at all, you have the wrong person."

"Are you sure?" they both looked just as confused as I did now.

"Umm yeah I'm pretty sure I'd know if I were here last week."

They looked at each other, said something then turned back to me.

"You look just like him, are you really sure?"

Oh my god, I'd fucking know if I were here last week or not.

"Yeah I'm sure."

Nodding reluctantly, they finally walked away.

"Who was that?" Shannon asked.

And when I said I had no idea, we started laughing and talking about what just happened. The crazy part is, Jeans Jacket came back to ask me again, if I was sure I wasn't this guy she was supposed to meet, and kept insisting that I looked just like him. She leaves again.

At some point during the night, I go out for a smoke. On my way back in, Jeans Jacket stops me (again!), and asks me what ethnicity I am.

"Oh I'm Taiwanese too!" she said excitedly, then pointing at both herself and me, "You, me, brother, sister."


I was starting to get irritated. She actually repeated herself, meanwhile my "what" was of incredulity.

"Look, I don't have a sister."

"You don't want me as sister?"

"Uh no."

Then her invisible sidekick interjects.

"Are you here alone?"

Knowing what she meant, I played dumb.

"Nah, I'm here with my friends."

I pointed to my group, then just started walking away.

About an hour had passed by now. Who were these people? I guess it wouldn't have been such a big deal if she weren't 40ish, trying to act and dress like she were 20, and looking like she fell into a tub of makeup foundation.

So I'm sitting and talking to my friends, having a good time, started joking that Jeans Jacket was a prostitute and her invisible sidekick was her pimp. It wasn't actually too far fetched considering the vibe they were giving off.

Jeans Jacket started dancing around our area, inching closer and closer. My friends started semi-jokingly forming a wall around me to keep her out lol, Danielle dancing right up against her and bumping her away.

But her pimp still comes a-fucking-gain!

"Why aren't you dancing?"

I had enough.

"Look, I don't know you, or your friend, I don't care to talk to you, I'm not who you think I am, so just stop talking to me."

I actually had to tell her that twice because the first time she didn't hear or understand. But she was respectful and walked away. Jeans Jacket comes by a few minutes later, and her sidekick rushes up behind her, grabs her arm, points to me and shakes her head.

They disappeared again, came back but didn't say anything. Jeans Jacket just did some wave motion with her hand, pointed at me, then herself, then some other hand signs that I clearly didn't understand, because I just stared at her blankly. My jaw might have been hanging open actually. Then she turned around and left.

Was she just nuts? My friends and I just looked at each other frowning, completely confused as to what that whole little episode was. But it was a relief that she was finally gone. She was bothering me for a total of 2.5 hours!

To this day I still don't know if she was a prostitute or not. I forgot what it was, but there were a few little things that happened that night that led me to lean more towards that conclusion. It's either that, or she really did meet someone there the week before and they were supposed to meet again. I'm not sure what the whole sister/brother thing was though, but I'm pretty sure that's gotta be the worst pickup line ever lol.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What We Lose

I just read something on a friend's blog, and it was about faith. Not faith in religion, or even faith in yourself, but rather, faith in other people.

Pondering my own faith in others or humanity as a whole never crossed my mind before. Why? I guess I thought becoming cynical and losing that faith was part of growing up. As a kid and teenager I was very idealistic, very trusting, and I believed in the intrinsic good in people, honestly believing that they would, ultimately, do what's right.

As I "matured," or more accurately, "aged," I lost it. Cynical and blase, I'm now under the impression that the majority of people will do what it takes to advance their own position in life, with little regard to others around them. Humanity has always been its own worst enemy, doomed to commit suicide.

After a couple betrayals it's hard to trust people. I guess I'm fortunate that I was naturally more trusting than others, and as such my experiences have tapered that down to a healthier level, and I'm still able to trust.

But of the millions of people out there who cannot, who are or feel alone and isolated, what are they to do? Everyone's so caught up in their own little worlds, rushing about to make ends meet, to feed their stomach, to sleep under a roof, we all lost the appreciation of the little things in life, and we've lost sight of the bigger picture. What is that bigger picture? I have no idea, I'm just as caught up in my own self-created world.

When I think of having faith in others/humanity again, it makes me tingly inside, like it's a childish idealistic dream, like utopias, chased but never caught. But what if that's not necessarily the case? What if what's warped is not the dream, but reality? What if we really do lose a little more of ourselves with each passing year, but yet, we call it becoming wiser, being more realistic?

Whichever the case, we die and are reborn every day of our lives. If this is what my life shaped me to be, then so be it, I can only truly learn from my past experiences. We all want to stay true to ourselves, yet we never fail to compromise our beliefs, our stance, our being. If you can't beat em, join em, right? =/

How many of us grow up actually living our dreams? How much do we give up? What did you have to lose, to not be shunned by this god-forsaken society?

But I will NOT lose in the end. Sacrifices are sometimes necessary in order to attain your goals, just don't let them be in vain. The day I stop wondering, the day I stop pondering, the day I stop questioning, is the day I truly die. Until then, hopefully we can all find a way.

"Perhaps, if we stop to listen, and wonder, and accept, that faith can one day be restored." -Eva

Eminem - Beautiful

I liked the song the first time I heard it but I started really feeling this when I actually paid attention to the lyrics lol, just sharing... one of the beauties of music is allowing people to see that no matter how different our lives may be, there are experiences that can be shared and related to, no matter who you are, where you came from, or where you're going

Lately I've been hard to reach
I've been too long on my own
Everybody has a private world
Where they can be alone
Are you calling me, are you trying to get through
Are you reaching out for me, I'm reaching out for you

I'm just so fuckin' depressed
I just can't seem to get out this slump
If I could just get over this hump
But I need something to pull me out this dump
I took my bruises, took my lumps
Fell down and I got right back up
But I need that spark to get psyched back up
In order for me to pick the mic back up
I don't know how or, why or when,
I ended up in this position I'm in
I'm starting to feel distant again
So I decided just to pick this pen
Up and try to make an attempt to vent
But I just can't admit
Or come to grips, with the fact that
I may be done with rap
I need a new outlet
And I know some shits so hard to swallow
But I just can't sit back and wallow
In my own sorrow
But I know one fact
I'll be one tough act to follow
One tough act to follow
I'll be one tough act to follow
Here today, gone tomorrow
But you'd have to walk a thousand miles

In my shoes, just to see
What it's like, to be me
I'll be you, let's trade shoes
Just to see what It'd be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each others mind
Just to see what we find
Look at shit through each others eyes

But don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you
Don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you

I think I'm starting to lose my sense of humor
Everything's so tense and gloom
I almost feel like I gotta check the temperature in the room
Just as soon as I walk in
It's like all eyes on me
So I try to avoid any eye contact
Cause if I do that then it opens a door for conversation
Like I want that...
I'm not looking for extra attention
I just want to be just like you
Blend in with the rest of the room
Maybe just point me to the closest restroom
I don't need no fucking man servant
Tryna follow me around, and wipe my ass
Laugh at every single joke I crack
And half of em ain't even funny like
Haa! Marshall, you're so funny man, you should be a comedian, god damn
Unfortunately I am, I just hide behind the tears of a clown
So why don't you all sit down
Listen to the tale I'm about to tell
Hell, we don't gotta trade our shoes
And you don't gotta walk no thousand miles

In my shoes, just to see
What it's like, to be me
I'll be you, let's trade shoes
Just to see what it'll be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each others mind
Just to see what we find
Look at shit through each others eyes

But don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you so
Don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you

Nobody asked for life to deal us
With these bullshit hands we're dealt
We gotta take these cards ourselves
And flip em, don't expect no help
Now I could have either just
Sat on my ass and pissed and moaned
Or take this situation in which I'm placed in
And get up and get my own
I was never the type of kid
To wait by the door and pack his bags
Or sat on the porch and hoped and prayed
For a dad to show up who never did
I just wanted to fit in
In every single place
Every school I went
I dreamed of being that cool kid
Even if it meant acting stupid
Aunt Edna always told me
Keep making that face it'll get stuck like that
Meanwhile I'm just standing there
Holding my tongue trying to talk like this
Till I stuck my tongue on that frozen stop sign poll at 8 years old
I learned my lesson then cause I wasn't tryin to impress my friends no more
But I already told you my whole life story
Not just based on my description
Cause where you see it from where you're sitting
It's probably 110% different
I guess we would have to walk a mile
In each others shoes, at least
What size you wear?
I wear tens
Let's see if you can fit your feet

In my shoes, just to see
What it's like, to be me
All be you, let's trade shoes
Just to see what It'd be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine
Go inside each others mind
Just to see what we find
Look at shit through each others eyes

But don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked. Just stay true to you so
Don't let 'em say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked. Just stay true to you

Lately I've been hard to reach
I've been too long on my own
Everybody has a private world
Where they can be alone...
Are you calling me, are you trying to get through
Are you reaching out for me, I'm reaching out for you

Yea... To my babies. Stay strong. Dad will be home soon
And to the rest of the world, god gave you the shoes
That fit you, so put em on and wear em
And be yourself man, be proud of who you are
Even if it sounds corny,
Don't ever let no one tell you, you ain't beautiful

Friday, December 11, 2009

Most Frequently Asked Question

One question almost everyone asks me is, "What's jail like?"

Well, it's nothing like what you see on TV. Not where I was at anyway. Sure there's gay guys or guys that turned gay in there, but in low security and camps (camps have the lowest security, there's not even a fence surrounding the complex), rape isn't a common thing.

So what is jail like? Fucking boring. Day in and day out, you have nothing to look forward to. Only thing that keeps inmates going are letters, and our fifteen minute phone calls.

When I first got sent to the low security prison in Allenwood, PA, the first thing that came to mind was that it looked like a college campus. Except for the multiple fences, guard towers, and razorwire lol. But besides that, the grass was nicely manicured, there were four units with a few hundred inmates in each.

Despite the appearances though, there were some major differences with life on the outside.

The way phone calls work there is, you get fifteen minutes at a time, every hour. Each call, if it's long distance (which all of mine were), costs a little over $3. Do the math, goddamn I missed my cell phone.

Commissary is our own little private store. How lucky. You can spend a total of $220 a month max. Every inmate has an account that people in the real world deposit money into.

What's interesting is that mackerels (in plastic packages) cost $1.05, and these macks were used as currency amongst the inmates. Or anything of value. Bartering was the norm. For the less fortunate inmates who didn't have money in their commissary account, they found money in other ways, by doing chores for people, gambling, drawing, etc. And they got paid generally with macks.

You can also buy a glorified ink cartridge at commissary for use as a pen. It was literally an ink cartridge with some rubber around it, which made it flexible. Do you know how fucking hard it is to write with that shit?? So what a lot of inmates did was take a shaver, break off the razor part, then the remainding handle has some space on the back where you can lodge the "pen" in and use that. A huge improvement, but after hours of writing, the calluses I ended up with were huge as well.

The TV room was an area I avoided. It's a room with about 7-8 TV sets, and you use your Walkman to tune in to the proper one to listen. Chairs were available to place wherever you wanted to sit. Now, the catch is, I was told that some people, having been there for many years, have their designated "seats." And they would come up to you and tell you to move. It's a lose-lose situation. You fight (whether you win the fight or not), you get sent to the hole (solitary) and your security level goes up and off to the medium you go. You change seats and you're a bitch. So I just didn't watch a lot of TV.

The entire prison complex is on lockdown all day long. It opens up for ten minutes every hour for inmates to move between buildings. But you can only be in certain areas if you have a pass, or you'll be considered out of bounds. This took a little bit to get used to, because if you missed it, you were stuck wherever you were for another hour.

We slept in 9x9 cubes, shared by three people. All of my belongings fit in a 4ft tall dresser, the most fashionable clothing we had was what we could buy from commissary. Sweat pants, sweatshirt, and surprisingly, Nike Air Force Ones (or New Balance sneakers) lol. I bought a pair to wear out, that I still have lol.

Microwaves were used to cook. And man, people can get creative. Spaghetti with macks, cheese and some seasoning thrown into the microwave, that shit was actually pretty damn good. Okay I admit, relatively good.

Speaking of food, I've been told from various sources who worked kitchen detail, that the meat they served us was usually expired. By years. Whenever I changed facilities, my stomach had to readjust and I couldn't hold my food for a couple weeks until it did. The same happened when I came back to NYC, eating good, clean food lol.

Some inmates went on dates with Fifi. Who's Fifi you ask? No, not another inmate, but it's some MacGuyver type of shit. They would take a towel, roll it up in a cylinder shape, take a surgical glove and shove it into one of the sides, and secure the glove on the outside by flipping it over. Some baby oil, and voila, you have a night with Fifi. Or however many minutes they took lol.

It's very race oriented. My first day there, every asian person I saw told me that if I needed anything to let them know. Extra clothes, newer stuff, anything that they would have spares of since they're already settled in.

Gambling is illegal, so most card games are played for pushups. There is a gambling ring in there anyway, employing other inmates who could fight as its collectors.

Every inmate had to work. Most of the work there is bullshit, except for one job which pays $70 a month, and that was community work that I'm pretty sure the prison got paid for. My job (which consisted of cleaning the recreation area at the end of each shift) paid a little over $5 a month. Yeah. A month.

For the most part, shit is just boring though. Wake up, go work, eat lunch, workout, work, eat dinner, write letters, hopefully read letters, make some calls, talk to a couple people, cook something in a microwave, talk or draw or write some more, read, play cards... that's about it. If we get bored enough we sometimes make up games too lol.

That's it in a nutshell. Oh yeah some guy went by the name of Precious. He walked, talked, and had all the mannerisms of a ghetto hoodrat lol.

Much better than MDC Brooklyn, boot camp, or solitary, but it still sucked. Oh well, nothing beats being free lol =)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nothing To Be Proud Of

I went to happy hour with my boss at the time, Neil, a British guy who could drink Guiness like nobody's business. So on an empty stomach, I had about six or seven pints of beer under an hour.

Why was I drinking so fast? Well, for one, I was pacing with Neil. And for two, I had to go meet up with my girlfriend at the time, Kim, to watch Ratatouille. We were fighting the night before, I don't remember what it was about, but she was still pissed and insisted that I don't be late.

So, I hopped into a cab in the West Village, and headed up to Kip's Bay for the movie. Besides the constant jerking of the cab, everything was fine until we got to my destination. We got to the corner where I told the cabbie to drop me off, I took out a $20 bill (I have no idea how much the fare was, but it couldn't have been anywhere near 20 bucks), and then it happened.

I threw up all over the cab. And on the right leg of my jeans. Ugh.

I didn't even ask for change, got out, sat on a porch and held my head in my hands, trying to sober up.

The cab driver got out to follow me and kept on bitching, saying he wouldn't be able to get another fare. I think I mentioned something along the lines that I just gave him a twenty, but he just ignored that.

His blabbering just made my head hurt more, so I took out another $20 bill.

"Here. Take this, get the fuck away from me and shut the fuck up."

He quickly pocketed it, but the asshole didn't stop. He threatened to call the cops.

That did it. I was still on probation at the time, but I hated when people threatened to call the cops on me, especially if I didn't do anything illegal. I mean, c'mon, since when is throwing up in public illegal?

"Call the cops?" I asked. "What the fuck are you gonna call the cops for? Huh? Okay fine, call the fucking cops, give me back my money."

I approached him but he backed away, of course not giving up the money.

"Look, look! Cops right there!" he shouted, pointing to a traffic police car.

I don't think he expected me to actually hail the cops down, but unluckily (or maybe luckily) they didn't notice and kept on driving.

But that convinced the cabbie that I really didn't care if he got the cops involved, and he ran to his cab and drove off.

What a prick.

Anyhow, I called Kim, and she already sounded pissed.

"Well, I'm not late, I'm here but I can't watch the movie with you."

"WHAT? Why not?"

Uh oh.

She was with her friend Lin and her boyfriend at the time, Vic.


And I proceeded to explain the story that I just told you up until now.

"... so I really need to go home and change, my jeans just reek. It's fucking nasty," I finished.

Kim wasn't having it. I guess she really wanted to watch Ratatouille lol. We continued arguing in person, Vic and Lin were just waiting around, we told them to watch the movie without us, but they missed it. Then they found another movie they could watch. They missed that one too.

So apparently we were arguing outside of the theater for awhile. I'm not exactly sure how the fight was resolved, but Vic said he'd drive us home to Rego Park, Queeens.

He had some wet naps in his car, I cleaned up, got in, and no more than a few blocks later, the stench was unbearable.

"Oh my god I can't take this shit anymore," I said and took everything out of my pockets.

"What the hell are you doing?" Kim asked, looking at me like I completely lost my mind.

I ended up throwing my jeans out the car window. What the fuck was I thinking? Well... I wasn't really, to be honest, but hey, it got rid of the smell of vomit, right?

I didn't really plan this too far ahead though. Vic couldn't find parking any closer than two blocks away (technically I guess he could have just dropped me off in front of my building first), but I ended up walking those two blocks in boxers and boots lol.

Thankfully I didn't know anyone in that neighborhood.

Moral of the story? Don't be a dumbass >.<

P.S - I just remembered, sometime during that car ride home I bit Lin's hand or arm pretty hard for some reason... I think she dared me to? Or told me I could? Yeah I kinda have a biting fetish lol

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is Blood Really Thicker than Water?

It was 1998, I was sixteen, in Strasbourg, France, and a year prior I had gotten in trouble for smoking weed. I moved to France when I was seven, and by 1998, my entire life was based there.

On the last day of school we all said our goodbyes and that we'd see each other in September like we did every year. I attended an international school, so most of us went back to visit our homeland during summer breaks.

And I visited my mom in NYC every year. The night before my flight, I was quite sober and searched my entire room for some extra weed or hash, but even before I started looking, I already knew I was out.

It had been a rough couple weeks financially to begin with. Either way, during my search I found a small plastic baggie in my wallet with some stems and seeds. Remembering that there were dogs occasionally at airports, I took it out and left it in my room.

My theory in hiding it was that maybe if it were fairly in the open, it might not be detected because it was so obvious. So I just threw it in a basket which had a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff in it.

Hopped on the plane, flew across the Atlantic, got to NYC, and (mind you, this is how I remember it, after talking to my mom, it seems it wasn't quite as abrupt as I describe) almost as soon as I walked into the door, my mom said:

"Alex we have to talk."

Sheesh, I miss you too, Mom, I thought.

(sidenote: it's weird how my interpretation of this memory is quite distorted, but this is what led me to believe that although there is an absolute truth, there's also a relative one, and although this scenario didn't play out the way I remember, since that's how I remember it, that is in essence, my truth)

Apparently my grandmother had called, claiming she found a bag of weed in my room and two joints all rolled up, ready to be smoked.

I balked.

"No, she's lying, I don't have that in my room!" Blah blah blah.

"Well, Alex," my mom replied with resignation. "I just can't take your word anymore because you've lied so many times."

Fair enough.

"Okay, so you want to know the truth? The whole truth?"


I'm still ashamed that despite my claim to tell the whole truth, I still lied. But it was a rather small one (then why lie at all, right?). So I told her I smoked every other day, instead of every day. I also told her that I cut classes on a regular basis. I didn't mention that I sold hash because I was cut off from an allowance. Omission lies don't count right? ;]

"But, I know for a fact that they didn't find that in my room because..."

"... you would have smoked it," my mom finished for me.

I nodded.

The next time my mom spoke to my grandmother, she asked if they were sure that it was weed.

"How am I supposed to know?" my grandmother replied indignant.

"Just burn it, it'll smell differently than cigarettes."

"Oh, we already threw it away."

So now it was my word against theirs. Obviously mine wasn't worth much.

Then at the next plot development, they finally found the small baggie with the stems and seeds. And how surprising, they tested that instead, and of course it came back positive.

Bottom line? I was to stay in NYC. Torn away from nine years of my life, all of my friends, all that I know, the town that I lived in, my home.

Their reasoning (paraphrasing)? Alex and his friends in France are a bad influence on each other. Alex has a drug problem and because of that, we think we should separate him from his friends. There are alternative schools we were looking into in France, but they all fell through, as such, we think it's best he move to NYC.

Wait. Hold on. What? I have a drug problem, so the solution is to send me to New York City, of all places? Ri-fucking-diculous.

They're not stupid, so I dismissed that as being the real reason why I was sent back to NYC. I think it's a combination of my getting in trouble and being too much to handle, my grandmother's desire to move back to Cali (impossible any time soon if I were to stay in France and go to college there), and the fact that I failed sophomore year and had to stay back.

But is framing me really the adult way to approach this? Yeah sure, telling me "Go back and live with your mom, we don't wanna deal with you anymore," is going to hurt, but I'll understand to a certain degree, and I'd be able to get over it.

But my own blood lies to my mother about what they found in my room is just low. Aren't adults supposed to set an example?

I never got to say bye to my friends. From that day till today, some of my friends from France I haven't seen again, others I've seen once or twice in eleven years.

And since my "move" back to the States was unplanned, finding a school last minute over the summer was damn near impossible. Every school required teacher recommendations and a bunch of documents. It was summer break already. All the teachers in France were long gone.

We finally found a school in Ithaca, NY, about five hours away from the City. On brochure it sounded amazing. It was right next to Cornell University, it had an accelerated program, it looked like a complete paradise for dorks and geeks.

Going up there I really thought I was going to reform my ways, even quit smoking cigarettes. Boy was I wrong. And boy, was that brochure misleading.

But that's for another post. So when people invariably say that blood is thicker than water, I politely disagree.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Days As a Pool Hall Junkie

When Lisa and I first met, we shot a lot of pool. We started by going to Soho Billiards on a regular basis, but it was kind of pricey, especially considering that she was still a high school student and I was working dead end jobs.

So we eventually migrated to Broadway Billiards, on 21st Street and... well, Broadway. It was a basement location (I say was because I recently passed by to find it closed, but hopefully just for renovation), a little on the ghetto side, but the regulars were friendly, and the price couldn't be beat.

Four bucks an hour per person on weekdays, five on weekends. And the owners, a Korean family, were our little dwarves. We had Grumpy, Happy and Sleepy. Sleepy was Mr. Choi, he sometimes asked us to shoot with him so he could get some "exercise" lol but that was only at 5:00am. Happy was the lady, always smiling, and Grumpy was her exact opposite.

Lisa and I got to know the regulars there, some helped us with our pool like the cab driver Issac, a couple would play against us like a couple filipinos, some we barely spoke to but still knew each other like the 273ish year old skeleton Nick.

We spent hours upon hours there, taking occasional breaks from the pool table to play Megatouch, reclaiming our usual high scores and attempting to steal new ones. We had our routine going, two peas in a pod, enjoying the same little pleasures in life. Together.

And we also met a wide variety of people during our time spent in pool halls. The old black couple, Charlie and his wife (I don't remember her name) who played Monster Madness on the Megatouch machines together. They must have been at least 60, and Lisa used to wonder if we'd be like that, at their age.

But as much as we enjoyed shooting pool together, there were some moments when we got into fights because of it. We came to a point where we took pool more seriously than your casual player, and if we performed poorly, we would get upset, mainly at ourselves. But no one's perfect and it did happen when we took it out on each other.

But those moments were more rare than not and we usually enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. We eventually got our own cue sticks, watched billiards on TV, bought books... It was our thing.

As often as we could, we took advantage of the Amsterdam Power Play (back then Amsterdam was still on the Upper East and West Side), 11:00am to 6:00pm $22 all you can play.

We graduated from Eight Ball to Nine Ball together; we watched Pool Hall Junkies pre-screening, only to go straight to a pool hall and try to imitate certain shots we saw in the movie; we immersed ourselves into this hobby together at the same pace.

At the San Genero fair, there was a pool game, three balls are racked, and after you break, you have one cue to run the three balls. $2 a game for a small prize, $5 a game for the big prize.

Starting off at $2, we tried a couple times unsuccessfully. The cues were crooked, the table was slightly slanted, the cloth was bumpy, all to be expected from a game at a fair (obviously not fair!).

Then I got the feel for it. I won five stuffed animals for Lisa, was about to play again when they told me I couldn't play unless I paid $5 per game instead, for a big prize. Lisa looked around but couldn't find anything she liked, so we left.

Lol well I guess it's only fair to mention that I spent a ridiculous amount of money at another fair for a Fireman and Statue of Libery Tweeties (probably much more than I would have paid at the Warner Bros. store, for worse quality too lol). But I do have to admit, winning these made Lisa a lot happier than buying them.

Sorry, I'm just rambling. Due to recent happenings most of my thoughts regarding Lisa tend to be more negative than not, and hence my memories steer me towards the fights that we had. So I wanted to take a detour and think of all the good times I spent with her.

Funny how memory is selective, because in the past, I always mainly thought of the good times with her. Now I have to consciously do it.

But without a doubt, some of my fondest memories of Lisa, are when she had my back, regardless if I'm right or wrong. When shit is about to pop off the street, whether it's a flower delivery guy, bums, semi-famous street photographers, she backed me up without hesitation which had a reassuring quality to it.

Hm I can't think of a way to end this post so it'll be abrupt. Lol.

Temporary Split Personality

I don't exactly remember how this day started. To be honest, it probably doesn't matter in the slightest, it's not like anything important happened during those times anyway. Or anything different for that matter from a day-to-day basis.

Wake up, get high, hang out, get high, go out, sometimes eat (usually not), get higher, sleep (usually not), rinse and repeat.

And peppered throughout this stream of meaningless highs, this day managed to stand out from the rest. Why? Because I had the genius idea of taking four different drugs at the same time. Actually, I'm not even sure if this was a conscious idea that formed in my head, or if it kind of... just happened.

The latter sounds a lot more probable. Anyhow, between coke, K, ecstasy and weed, two were uppers and two were downers.

My body was never more confused. When the uppers kicked in, I was bouncing off the walls, wanting to go out, talking at the speed of light, jittery like a crackhead... and literally 30ish seconds later, the downers kicked in, I would crash to the ground or the nearest couch, an inch away from being comatose. I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me I drooled.

And another few seconds or a minute later, I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This kept up for awhile, I'm not sure how long in terms of actual time, but I know I had these spastic mood swings several times.

Needless to say, I was in no condition to step out the door, and luckily my friends were aware of that and didn't instigate.

By the time I was sober enough to stay in one high state, I was drained. Empty. In retrospect, I found it to be an interesting experience, but would I recommend it or do it again? Hell no lol.

But I guess that's the closest I'll ever come to having split personality or some light form of schizophrenia. I'm pretty sure I would have been considered legally insane by a medical professional that night.

And thinking back, why would I have done that to myself? Did I really think it'd be a good idea? Did I think it wouldn't have too bad of an effect on me? I can't quite figure out if I was consciously being destructive, subconsciously thought I was invincible, or if I really just didn't give a fuck as long as I would get high.

I find it hard to reminisce. It almost feels like I lack the analytical skills required to do so, but that's not true because I do have that skillset when it comes to other areas of life. A self-defense mechanism to prevent myself from uncovering the truth about myself? Denial has served me well (and poorly I must add), but a in small doses, it can go a long way.

Afterall, hope is but denial with a facelift.