Sunday, March 4, 2012

Truthiness

This is exactly what I try very hard to do, each of these tips. It is not easy and requires practice. This is just one of the things that changed my view of the world and how I fit in it.
 (It has become real easy)
The Ten Truth Skills
1. Experiencing what is.
Distinguish between what you actually experience (see, hear, sense, feel, notice, remember) versus what you imagine (interpret, believe, assume) to be true. The statement “I see you looking at the floor’ is your own experience. The statement ‘I see you are uncomfortable’ is an interpretation. If you get caught up in believing your interpretations about another person’s behavior, you’ll be responding to your interpretation of what she did instead of what she actually did.
2. Being transparent.
To be transparent is to be willing to be seen, warts and all. Contrary to what we may think, most people become more appealing when they reveal their needs and insecurities. This doesn’t mean presenting the story of your wounds in misfortunes in vivid detail. It’s more a matter of practicing being open about your feelings, impressions, wants, and self-talk about your interaction with the person in front of you.
3. Noticing your intent.
Do you communicate to relate or to control? When your intent is to relate, you are most interested in revealing your true feelings, learning how the other feels, and connecting heart-to-heart. When your intent is to control, you are most interested in getting things to turn out a certain way – avoiding conflict, getting the person to like you, being seen as knowledgeable or helpful, etc.
4. Giving and asking for feedback.
Giving feedback is the act of verbally letting the other know how his actions affected you. Being open to receiving feedback means you are curious about and willing to hear how your actions affect other people. Most people don’t get very much valid feedback in their daily lives, and they long for it.
5. Asserting what you want and don’t want.
Many of us are afraid to ask for what we want in a dating relationship for fear or either not getting it or of having the other person give it to them out of obligation. Asking for what you want is an act of trust. You are taking a step into the unknown – not knowing how the other person will respond.
6. Taking back projections.
If some aspect of my own personality is unconscious or suppressed, I may find that I have a pattern of being attracted to men who exhibit this quality in spades. Have you ever been attracted to someone for some wonderfully appealing quality only to discover a few months down the road that this very same quality turned you off? That’s a great opportunity to take back or rediscover your own hidden qualities.
7. Revising an earlier statement.
This means giving yourself permission to revisit a particular interaction or moment in time if your feelings change or if you later connect to some deeper feelings or afterthoughts. For instance: “After I said such and such, I later realized there was more to it than that. What I now feel is ________.”
8. Holding differences or embracing multiple perspectives.
Many people fear intimacy because we fear losing ourselves in a relationship. If you know how to practice holding differences, you won’t need to fear losing yourself. This is the capacity to listen to and empathize with opinions that differ from yours without losing touch with your own perspective.
9. Sharing mixed emotions.
Sometimes we want to tell someone the truth but at the same time we are concerned about their feelings. A desire to clear the air might be accompanied by a fear of being misunderstood. If you do have mixed feelings, expressing both feelings can add depth to your communication.
10. Embracing Silence.
Authentic communication depends as much on silence as it does on words – the silences between your words and the silence you have spoken as you await the others response. Embracing silence encourages understanding that there are many things that cannot be known all at once or once and for all. These things emerge gradually as we get to know the other person.

The Freis Dilemma

I don't know where to start. I want to tell a story about a fellow I grew up with named Tony Freis.
Tony and I met originally in juvenile detention, we would continue to know each other, from that time, until his death.
That death is what this post is about.
Tony and I were not exactly friends. He was one of those guys that nobody liked. He was a thief, he was a liar, he was loud, obnoxious, and generally a real jerk, all the time.
I guess I always sort of drew those types in. Every type of asshole. The unpopular, the strays.  We were all flawed, we were as yet, unfinished and immature.
Tony was a tough case though, even for me. My wife hated him, she wouldn’t come out of her room if he was around. She was right, there was no good reason for him to be around. Trouble of one kind or another would always follow. I had actually fought him on several occasions. That was part of the problem, I guess. He was hard for me to beat up, and I was twice his size. I guessed at the time that was why he always came around me. I was not afraid of him, so I’d open the door. There was no way I would have ever shown weakness to the dude. I was a hoodlum I guess too and we were real macho like that.
The incident that caused his death happened at the home of a guy that was getting married the following day.
I won’t say a bachelor party because there were females in attendance. My lovely wife was there with me. We had all planned to get really high, listen to music, get really higher, etc. It could not have been more ‘seventies’ you know, real cool. No excitement, no drama.
Of course Freis showed up. He walked in without knocking, aggressive, obnoxious. I figured it was gonna be alright. I thought since I was there, he and I were cool, no problem.I couldn't have been more wrong.
Soon enough, Tony had started a quarrel with some of the people there and it looked like it was gonna continue into the night.
Most people left as soon as he arrived, more after the fighting broke out. Teresa and I were still there, as well as the guest of honor and a couple of others. There was also a black kid that I had never seen before. We later learned that he had came with a mutual friend. I had thought, at first, he was a buddy of Tony’s. Turns out the two of them had just started speaking to each other when Tony started pushing the kid around, bullying him. That is what Tony came for that night, to push.
Suddenly, one of the guys there pulled out a kitchen knife and stabbed Tony.  He stabbed him one time, right in the center of his gut.  Tony hit the ground like a sack of rocks. Blood ran from somewhere near his sternum, as well as his mouth and nose.
He was dead, unbelievably, frighteningly, dead. The bullying, the pushing, the whole thing just went too far.
Tony Freis, whom I had now known for most of my life, was lying on the floor with his life soaking into the cheesy linoleum, dead.  His eyes were still opened, a look of horrible surprise stuck on his face, forever.
Needless to say, everyone that was there, ran.  The kid who lived there stayed.  He was there when the police showed up. He is why I know the rest of the story.
Apparently, somebody contacted the police pretty quick. By the time they arrived, everybody that had actually witnessed the stabbing, had gone.
The police went around the neighborhood and picked up a couple of people that had been at the party. One of the people they picked up was the black kid.  Unfortunately for him, someone had seen him right next to Tony's body . I spoke to my friend there that said that indeed, the kid had gone through Tony's pockets. More had done the same, taking all the money and dope, and whatever else, before running away.
My friend and I had seen the entire thing. Several people remember looking over toward the upheaval, remembering very little but knowing that the black kid was involved because he was standing the closest.
I happen to know that kid did not do the stabbing, I saw who did.
I never spoke to the police. I ran, and I very well should have. That is how any one is trained to respond in the dirty world that we were a part of.. It was not of evil intention, I had no agenda with the kid, I  was not just running to avoid being a "rat."   I too, was a juvenile delinquent. I had a young lady with me.
Oh yeah, I also believed that whomever was responsible would be held to pay and my input was unnecessary. Hell, I had been arrested many times, I was always guilty, I was always found to be so, and I was left with the impression that law enforcement, worked. 
The thing is, that black kid was arrested.  Then, he was convicted of that stabbing, of murder.
The last I heard, (maybe a year or two after the incident) he was still filing appeals.
Within a few months of that nightmare, I had created my own hell and was way to caught up to ever really think about it.  I had successfully managed to avoid ever being questioned.
The other night, I began to think about it again, I find myself kind of on the fence about my role in the ruining of this guys life. At first, I was troubled, but not anymore. The whole thing had nothing to do with me. That's what I'll tell myself.
I don’t know whether I could have changed it in any way. I am also not sure that I would react the same if it happened today.
 I may just reveal a little too much here but the fact is, I still live by that same code of ethics that led me to avoid the police that day.  I am my brothers keeper, to a point but to the extent that my own life become in danger or my ability to raise my children or grandchildren in a neighborhood, well, I think not.
I hope that gentleman got his freedom back, i will never know, I don't even know how to find out. I never knew his name.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mania, My own anti-drug

Today, I had someone point out to me that I seem to have a lot of time on my hands. They were wondering just how I manage that. If there was an easier way to put this I would. I have very little time on my hands actually because I have figured, quite purposely, how to fill it all up. I am way behind on so many things that I’ve intended to do, that it would be embarrassing to try to explain the whys and wherefore’s of it.
I am a real manic. I was diagnosed a couple years ago and, depending on who’s looking, have tried various treatments. Of course, I’ve tried many medications. The trouble with medications is that the very same things in my head that drive me to the brink of insanity, are the same things that make me well; LeRoi So medications have not been a favorite way to treat the problem as far as I’m concerned.
Therapy is a useful tool that I personally believe would help anybody, in one way or another. Shit, an opportunity to vent and whine and snivel and bitch to a professional listener that is sworn, by law, to keep to himself. Come on, that’s a gem of a plan, isn’t it? Trouble there is that if an individual has been in therapy for most of their life, either by force or by choice, or both, the effectiveness it will have on full blown mania is limited. I guess it’s an opportunity for a medical professional to see, first hand, the manic in action. Otherwise I don’t see the benefit.
Throw in the little fact that sometimes (this will shock you) I think I know it all and it is a difficult situation, not just for me, but anyone having to deal with me in any way. I actually think, because of the nature of the mania itself, that it is less difficult for me than those around me.
Hell when I’m on, I’m fantastic, I’m unstoppable, I can see the future, read minds, see through walls, and I love it. Those closest to me are exhausted, spent, and at a loss as to what to do about it.
Fortunately, over the last couple of years, I and some experts have come up with a set of rules with which I can live life pretty normally. If I remember to remember. I can minimize the damage, so to speak.
I will try to put into words, so as to be understood, exactly what this plan of action is.
1.The first part of mania is an uncommon amount of energy. The motor doesn’t slow down for sometimes weeks at a time. That is not to say that I stay awake or continue running long after the race. That’s part of it but it can be more subtle than that. I mean that there is nothing that can hinder my outlandish plans, my super-abilities. I wake up feeling like I need to win a war, not fight a war, win it. I believe that I’m all but invincible. That is what it feels like anyway. I can work harder, run farther, swim faster than anyone has ever done.
The problem with that folks is I can’t. There are no wars waiting for me to win. No worlds to conquer, no oceans for me to swim. So then, I’m left with all this energy, all this adrenaline, and nothing reasonable to do with it. See the possibilities? A guy could get himself in a mess of trouble with that.
2. So my plan of action is, in fact, a plan of action. I stay busy, I plan to be busy. I have to schedule all my time up as far as possible in the future so as not be left with a lot of time on my hands. I have to work, I have to write.
I have to help anybody I know who is moving, to move. I have to exercise, I have to stay active with something all the time. I am not willing to commit to a lifetime of taking medications that make me less than I can be. I’d rather be nuts.
Therefore, I have learned to fill that time up with activities, of damn near any kind. In a perfect world, those activities will be of a sort that interest me, that keep me happy and interested. But we do not live in a perfect world, sometimes I still struggle.
I believe I am getting better and will continue to do so. My life stays full, even when it seems I’m screwing’ off, there is a part of screwing off that is essential to my stability.
The most important thing I’ve learned to do, to expend this energy is just what I’m doing now. Writing, knowing full well that someone is gonna read it. It’s huge, it’s a lifeline for me. Sound a bit dramatic? Maybe I’m putting’ too much on it? No way, it has become the most important, nonessential part of my life. I’m writing here for an audience. I’m editing for the umpteenth time a novel.
I have become less manic, because of the writing, mostly. I am not cured and I am not suggesting anyone else refuse medication. That would be arrogant even for me. However, combine this with a daily dose of physical exertion of some kind, and I am usually tired at the end of a day. I still don’t sleep all night hardly ever but then again, I’ve been known to sleep a couple days away. That is the nature of it. The difference is, I used to wake up at three to pace and smoke, and talk to myself. Now, I just do this mostly. I write whatever comes to mind, I read those blogs of others with whom I’ve become acquainted, I comment on those, I flirt, and I laugh, and I surf a little on the cyber waters, and I am a fuller, easier going, human being.

The Influence

The first time my brother David approached me about the bank robberies, I just laughed him off. We had been discussing the fact that I had a two month old baby, my rent was past due, I had lost my job and things were looking rather bleak. David looks at me and says, “Bro, this guy I was locked up with, told me how to get away with bank robbery.” I thought he was joking, or that he wouldn’t really want to rob a bank. “His old lady worked for Bank of the West for years. She says that from the time they know they are being robbed, until the police arrive, is about three minutes!” He was serious. “Do you know how much money you can grab in three minutes?” He was convincing. “If I think of a better way to help you feed Amanda, I’ll do it, but I say we hit this bank.”
About two weeks later, we took my Plymouth Valiant, about two and a half blocks, to the First California Savings and Loan. David went in while I sat with the car running. He was back out about thirty five seconds later, looking nervous as hell and walking real fast. He jumped in the passenger seat and said “Go man, but don’t speed, go like your leaving your business.” I complied, although my heart was racing out of control, and it was difficult not to put my foot to the floor and burn it up! We pulled the car into the covered garage behind my apartment building, left it there and went into the house. I noticed as we walked in that the sirens were just starting to wail. David pulled thirty five hundred dollars out of his shirt and split it with me fifty-fifty. I told him it didn’t seem right. He told me, “Hey, when we get caught, driving is the same as going in, and everyone gets caught.” I thought he was wrong, I really did. “Besides,” he said, “you’re going in next time.”
Seventeen hundred and fifty bucks in less than half an hour start to finish. I paid my rent and filled the house with groceries. I spent pretty much the rest on dope because that’s what we did. If it wasn’t for dope, there would be no bank robberies, no lost jobs, or hungry kids. Of course, I couldn’t see that then. I was still very young.
Three days later, David had a cool new ride. He didn’t have a wife or child to worry about. He spent his money on a car, of course he did. Then he was at the door and ready for the next one. I feigned enthusiasm.
This time, we went to the 7-11 at six in the morning. We pretended to make a phone call while we waited for the right car, the right sucker. Dave’s car couldn’t be used for any robbery; we would need that later, to get dope, after we were in pocket again. So we waited at the seven-eleven phone booth for a sucker to drive up, leave the car running and run in for cigarettes or coffee, then we jumped in his car and drove it quickly to the apartments; stashing it for the bank run later. My Plymouth was never driven by anyone I knew ever again. It was eventually towed away from the apartments, but was never identified in any robbery.  Anyway, this day the take was much more, about fifteen thousand, and that was all it took; I no longer got cold feet. I looked forward to my turn. I was convinced we’d never be caught. I went into the Wells Fargo Bank at the corner of Stevens Creek Blvd and Winchester Blvd. and came out the back door with seventeen thousand, five hundred and twenty dollars. All were brand new bills. A new stack of one hundred dollar bills is one hundred, hundreds, ten thousand dollars. That went in my jeans. I told David that we had gotten seven thousand five hundred and twenty dollars. We happily split that.
We were unstoppable. Sometimes I robbed banks with two grand still in my pocket from the last one. I bought my first Ford truck. I bought my friend Terry Lafond, his first Ford truck. Everybody I knew had new Levi’s and Red-Wing boots. My wife and kids were not hungry. My dope dealer was in seventh heaven. Hey, I’d told everybody I knew I was doing it. The story about the bank robberies would be broadcast on TV every evening and, of course, my house was always full of people. I’d shush everybody and listen seriously, telling them “That’s me and Dave, man, really, we’re real live gangsters.” I’m not sure they believed me, but it didn’t matter, I was a generous guy, I could say anything I wanted.
One day Dave showed up at the house real early. He was ghost pale, seemingly, from fear. I couldn’t imagine why. We had stopped doing the robberies after about two months or so. We later found out it was twenty-one banks, about $165,000.00. We hadn’t done any in a couple of weeks when Dave showed up that morning. He had a newspaper in his hand. When he motioned me upstairs, I knew it had to be serious. He started tearing through the pages of the paper but I saw what he was trying to show me right away. They had composite drawings of the both of us. The one of David was eerily accurate. I felt the fear go right through my guts.  They had tied the robberies together. That was new. The reporter said it was two guys working together, taking turns going in and driving the getaway car. That was new, and really scary. They said they might be brothers. That was horrifying. They also, scariest of all, were offering $2500.00 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of these dangerous men. That was petrifying because everybody we knew, had heard me bragging. Any one of them, with a couple of exceptions, would take that 2500 and go, no problem.
The composites were the biggest reasons yet for me to remain cocksure I’d never have to pay any price for the robberies.  David was a different story.  The paper had him so good, he may have posed.  They had gotten every detail.  From his thin lips and lazy eye all the way to height and weight perfection, and almost unnaturally red hair.  The witnesses had seen me as 5’9″ to 6’0 with olive complexion, even boldly suggested that I might speak with a Spanish or Cuban accent.  I was practically given a pardon, in my mind anyway.  Being so naive was a comfortable place; I rested there.  But not for long.
About a week and a half later, David showed up early.  He said, “Man, I’m broke, we’ve got to do another bank.”  I was not broke, I was good, and I was back at work at a warehouse making nine bucks an hour.  For a twenty-year old kid in 1980, that was ok.  I had a vehicle, my little girl was now about five months old, and my wife was recovering slowly and painfully from Toxic Shock Syndrome.  We were going to be ok.  There was no way I had ever intended to rob another bank.  After all, hadn’t I just dodged a huge bullet here?  But I said, “We aren’t using my car.”  I knew he was too much in love with his car to dispose of it after a robbery.  I was wrong, of course.  He said to me, “Bro, I’m wanted for parole violation, probably for the robberies, and I’m going to lose this ride anyhow.  I got some stolen plates we can put on before we head to the bank.”  I said, “Let’s go.”  (I was such a shining example of manhood that it disgusts me now)
Anyway, I carried the plates on my lap while David drove as we cruised up and down city streets looking for a perfect target.
By the way, a perfect bank for robbing has some very important musts.  It must have two opposite entrances.  It must be on a main thoroughfare, but just in front of a neighborhood.  It must be federally insured, and lastly, the parking area cannot be restricted in any way. Full access from at least two sides, preferably three.
Anyway at some point in our search we found ourselves at a traffic light and we sat and waited for green.  Suddenly, David says to me in a frantic voice, “Bro that cop just recognized me, I know him, and he’s busted me before and now, he’s turning around!”  He started to pull over to the side of the road just as I rolled down the window and tossed the plates right in front of the lucky officer.  “Go!” I said, “don’t stop, we can lose them.”   I guess I suddenly grew some nuts or something because I was in charge.  Telling David where to turn, where the cops were (now there were a lot of them), and to stay calm, we would get away; I just “knew it”.
We went at top speed right through the banks and lawyers section of San Jose, on Hedding and Bird streets.  We went across red lights and miraculously, in the middle of a busy morning, nobody crashed.  We were really going to make it, if I could just come up with a destination.  As it was, we were just guessing, driving faster than we were thinking and getting real lucky. Then we hit a dead end.  We were suddenly stopping.  We had come up behind the FMC Corporation by N. 1st Street and Market Blvd.  We jumped out of the car and we both ran in different directions (planned, for then, maybe one will escape).  I found myself heading directly for the old rail road yards there behind FMC, I had no idea, nor did I wonder which way Dave went. Fortunately, I can run, I always could.  With a dose of primal fear and adrenaline on the side, I was gone, baby.  Because David had been the reason for the intended traffic stop and he was the main target, they mostly followed him.  While I completely immersed myself in a loose mountain of gravel and stayed for three hours, David was caught, beaten severely, and arrested.
After three hours, during which time I actually slept, I crawled very slowly out of my gravel cocoon and simply walked home.  I told my beautiful wife what had happened and complained about how wrong the San Jose Police were and went right back into my fearless, ignorant bliss.
ÏÏ
The days following Dave’s arrest I learned plenty about my situation. I received many calls from the county jail so that Dave could update me on the investigation. The charges for robbery had not been filed against anyone but they felt they had their man and questioned him endlessly for several days. They wanted to know who his partner was. They even offered some leniency if he were to cooperate and give them a name. We laughed at that because obviously David was the criminal. Whoever this mystery person turned out to be, he was a follower, if not a reluctant participant. Anyway, I was advised to lay low because they had some evidence having to do with the apartment building I lived in. Apparently David had previously used it as his home address. Leaving a trail that could eventually lead to me. Scary. At this time, I had never been considered a suspect. I was not a known criminal. I was ghostly white and painfully thin and almost seven feet tall. Hardly the description of the man they were after.
Enter into the story now, one Terry LaFond. Terry had been a close friend of mine, and ours for several years. A bit older than I but very much a regular in our crowd. Everyone was a bit older than I. Anyhow, during the time of feast, while the robberies were still paying off and going well, Terry had driven a second getaway car for one of the bigger heists. That is to say that David and I both entered a Great Western Savings and Loan at a shopping mall. When exiting, I jumped into the driver’s seat of the first getaway; we careened away while removing over shirts and makeup. We drove only as far as the other side of the huge mall parking area, Terry waited there in my baby blue Coupe Deville. We left our “disguises” in the throw away vehicle and Terry took us calmly away.  So, he was a trusted ally. After that robbery, as a matter of fact, I had bought him a small travel trailer that he and his girl could live in out at the fairgrounds trailer park. We were close.
After Dave was arrested Terry had been using the Coupe quite often. I allowed this because I drove my Ford pickup truck (some things never change).  He needed wheels. “Go Brother”.
Terry was, like Dave, an ex-con. One night while he was driving down the freeway to deliver some drugs in my car, he was pulled over. He was found to be on parole, was subsequently searched and detained in a police car.  The officers at the scene proceeded to tear the car apart. They had found three twenty dollar bags of methamphetamine in Terry’s possession. As an ex-convict, he was going back to prison, guaranteed. As a man, he was broken.  He stated, without being asked, from the back seat of the cruiser, “I know who’s been doing all those bank robberies.” The officer turned and asked how he knew.  “I drove this Caddy as a getaway car for one of them.” Now the officer was really interested. “I would look at Lloyd Miller.” was all he had left to say.
Now obviously, I was not present when the whole thing took place in the police car. I didn’t have to be. I know it all word for word, every detail. I’ve read it in every court document, every arrest report. Every piece of evidence against me started with that conversation in the police cruiser between Officer Teddy Miller and Terry Lafond. (I.e. stoolie)
The police now had a starting point to find David’s partner. I lived in the right apartment complex. I was David’s brother and semi-constant companion. I was the registered owner of a confessed getaway driver’s vehicle. They now put somebody watching the apartments. They now took a photograph of me to every eye witness and asked if this could be the guy. My proverbial goose was cooked.
I’ll leave out some detail but my arrest was even more dramatic than Dave’s. They did not hurt me though. They surrounded my sister’s house with helicopters, newsmen, FBI agents and lots of guns.  They lured my wife out of the house with a weird phone call from her sister and went in and showed me who was boss in a real quick, efficient  no-bullshit way. They had in their possession a Federal Arrest Warrant with none other than the stamp of the president of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. Bank robbery is a federal crime.
I had very little courtroom experience prior to the great robberies.  I’d seen it on television.  Movies depict some formal drama that seems real.
This trial would turn out to be one of the most educational, riveting, and meaningful experiences of my entire life.  I learned about due process.  I learned which lies are considered lies, and which ones are not.  I especially began a journey into learning about myself.  What I’m made of.  What it takes to be held responsible for my own actions.  I got to find out if I can take as much as I can dish out.  I got to find out what it means to be a man.
I was arrested and formally charged with four open counts of Bank Robbery.  David too was now served charges for the robberies.  At first we each had four separate counts.  We were considered co-defendants and were to be tried jointly in Federal Court.  We were being held, temporarily, in the City Prison in San Francisco.
The morning of the third day of my incarceration we were taken into a chamber room that had barely enough standing room for the ten or so participants.  I expected more cameras, more fanfare.  It was cut and dried.  We were formally charged.  Each side had a few words to say, then the judge stated, “In the interest of justice these charges are dropped.” I was astounded.  My attorney turned to me and whispered, “Don’t get excited.” Federal Marshals took us out of big government handcuffs and left the courtroom.  I was still standing with my mouth open, not knowing what the hell was going on.  Apparently, federal courts at this time didn’t choose to prosecute bank robbers unless they had either used automatic weapons, or taken hostages.  Neither of those circumstances was involved with our little case. The federal courts would then rely on the arresting counties to prosecute these cases.  Within about forty-five seconds of being released from one set of cuffs, I was put into cuffs belonging to the Santa Clara County Sheriff Department and transported to the jail in San Jose, where I remained for the next sixteen months.  County jail would make prison easier but not easy.  In county jail there are no “contact” visits.  I watched my oldest daughter learn to walk and talk through a 3/4 inch piece of security glass.  This is the saddest part of this story.  The relationship that could have been between me and my first born child was to be damaged badly.
The trial was going to last a long time. There were so many witnesses.  Everybody I knew who had heard me brag.
Every customer in every bank we had been into and a few we had not.  See, we were not the only bank robbers in the Santa Clara Valley.  We were just the only ones on trial and we would be tried for every robbery that was yet unsolved.
One hundred and fifty witnesses.  Some were scared, some angry, and a lot of them didn’t even realize what they were saying when they testified against me.  One friend of mine was a young lady named Terri King.  She wanted to help, so she gets on the stand and says, “Lloyd said he was robbing banks, but I didn’t believe him, he would never do that.” Thanks, Terri.
One of the first robberies we had done had proved to be timely. The cameras had not been working, nor had the pull-alarms located in the money drawer.  Had we stayed there and made coffee we probably would have been alright. The manager of this bank was a classic and memorable witness.  She was asked if she could identify the robber in the courtroom.  She stated that her post inside the bank was so that she was facing inside and all she saw was that he had “long thin legs and a small butt.” I was then asked to stand in front of the courtroom and walk away from her so that she may look at my ass and perhaps identify me form the look of my gluts.  If you think this was humiliating, in front of an entire courtroom well, you’re probably right. The only save is that she was still unsure.  I was not convicted of that robbery.  What I came to find out was that a conviction comes down to really one thing.  If I could be positively identified by one bank employee or one customer that could prove to be “reliable”.
One such witness was a young man who had proved him to be reliable by stating that he had just finished airline pilot school. The prosecutor went on and on about how significant that was. How his eyesight had to be perfect and because of that, his testimony would be absolute. The word of God.  He positively identified me and gave me what would become my jail house nickname.  He first described to the court the individual he thought to be in “charge” of the robbery.
He said that person was well over 6 and 1/2 feet tall and had “aquiline features.”  My attorney stood and asked if he could explain “aquiline features.” The gentleman responded by saying, “His nose was large, and appeared birdlike.”  I was instructed to stand in front of the jury and allow them to examine my beak from all angles.  I was convicted of that robbery.  I was called “bird” for the remainder of my time spent in jail.  Even now, occasionally, I’ll run into someone somewhere who will say “Hey is that you, Bird?”  So that witness affected my life like few others.
I was eventually convicted of four counts of Robbery, no weapons, no enhancements.  I can never be tried for those robberies again.  I’m safe to write about them. My brother Dave, whom I love still, was convicted of only one. Come to find out, I guess I was a little scarier than Dave; people seemed more inclined to remember me once they got into the courtroom.
I was sentenced to fifteen years in prison where I served just fewer than eleven.  I got the greatest education of my life in prison.  I believe though, that I learned and saw things differently than most folks do.  But hey, that’s a different story.
Winston Churchill once said, “A society must always be judged by the way it treats its prisoners.”  Interesting thought.  I went into the “Big House” with a belly full of fear.  I guess every man does.  Whether or not they admit that isn’t relevant.  It’s there.  The very idea of being put into a cage with other dregs, and misfits, is frightening, terrifying even.  I knew that I had to be there for what seemed to be forever.  At twenty-one years old or so, fifteen years seems to be forever.  I know now that, although it is far too much time to be locked up, it is far from forever.  I am still young and pretty and I’ve been out of jail for a long time.
When I arrived at the reception center in Vacaville, California I was given a green uniform, a toothbrush, and some bedding.  I was escorted down a huge hallway toward a cell block where I was put into a tiny little cell that had two bunks attached to one wall and a toilet/sink thing at the far end.  I had a cell mate. I had never seen this man before and suddenly our lives are more closely sewn together than married people. We ate together. We showered together.  We had to smell each other.  This is not always pleasant.  I wondered how this would be if two men were put into this situation that couldn’t stand one another.  (I got to find out later.)  It just so happens that psychiatrists and specialists of all kinds have thought of that also, and the state has developed a system for deciding whom gets celled up with whom. They must have learned that if they put a 135lb white guy, who’s in for drunk driving, in the same cell with a 270lb black guy, who’s in for aggravated rape, there will probably be some sparks.  To say the least.
I was taught by some of my more experienced peers how to live in prison. While at the reception center, it’s a good idea to gather as much information as possible. There are more returning inmates in prison than there are new guys. I don’t know why that is, but it seems that way anyway.  May as well dip my eager fingers into this never-ending pool of demented knowledge as much as I possibly could.  I learned plenty.  First of all, I’m no dummy.  I have been called genius, gifted, and all sorts of flowery things as a kid. I don’t know about all that, but I know that I am fairly sharp and that I learn quickly.  What I didn’t know is that the convict mind is a different animal than any I had ever dealt with. Eventually I would be better at being a convicted prisoner than anyone I knew, but first I would have to be the fucking new guy.  No matter how sharp I think I am.
So many times, for instance, some other con would show up at our cell door on Saturday morning and say, “Hey, you two, get ready for visits.  Just hit the buzzer when you’re ready.”  Man, I’d be so happy. Shaving, brushing my teeth, and so on, until I was ready. Then I’d hit the buzzer. Guard’s voice would come over the intercom, “What’s your emergency?” he’d ask. “I don’t have an emergency sir, I was told to get ready for visit.”  The guard would barely be able to keep the laughter out of his voice, “If you had a visit, an officer would come and open your cell. You must be new.”  I’d be so pissed I’d be almost shaking and embarrassed, and totally without any way of releasing that frustration.  That is a small example of how the veteran cons treated their newly arrived comrades. You can probably imagine the extent that sort of practical joke can go to when driven by a deviant mind.
I was lucky in a lot of ways.  My brother had been there before and we spent as much time as possible doing the student/teacher thing.  I also knew some guys from the neighborhood and the county jail and was already respected enough to not get fooled with to much.  Also, I had a long sentence.  Most people in prison, at least then, have less than five years until their release date.  Most of them are going to work camps or level one or “easy time” prisons.  That was not the case for me.  I had over ten years until my date and I would be going “Behind the Wall”.  That was San Quentin State Penitentiary.  At the time, it was the largest and most dangerous mainline in the system.  Designed for the worst of the lot.  Murderers, rapists, predators of all kinds, and I guess, me.  That is where Death Row is, in California.  San Quentin is the second oldest mainline in this country.  Having been in constant operation since 1851, it was built to house prisoners until death.  It has thirteen steps between each tier.  Thirteen foot thick walls surround the place.  That’s where the expression “Behind the Wall” came from.  It’s a formidable sight, no joke.
Someone told me early on that I would survive “The Q” if I stayed clear of three things.  Don’t mess with gambling; don’t get involved with drugs, and, stay away from homosexuality. Period. “You follow these simple rules youngster; you’ll get along just fine.”  Ha-ha.  I bet that guy went to sleep that night still laughing about that.  There is not one man with whom I’ve ever spoken, who has gone through any similar experience, and not been involved with each and every one of those things.  It’s a way of life.  It’s the way that world operates.  There is no staying out of it.  Period.  If anyone, ever, says different, I challenge them to explain how they have done that to my face because I call him on it now.
I went into prison 6’7″ tall, weighing about a 180 lbs. Very thin.  Almost skeletal.  I came out 6’7″ about 290.   I lifted weights, I ran for miles.  I did push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and every other kind of ups that came up(s).  I read every book I could get my hands on for ten years. There was a time when I was reading a full novel a day.  I read Tommy Knockers by Steven King in one day. That book has over seven hundred pages.
Once I found a book I really enjoyed, I would read everything by that same author until I felt I knew the person.  After reading all of Steven King’s books there are certain things that I just know about the man, and about the part of the country he comes from and writes about. Also, because I’ve read so much, I have a passion for writing.  The idea of touching someone’s life in some small way, without every really knowing it, is exciting to me.  Like, I’ve read absolutely everything ever written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  As a result, I think differently about some things then I did before I read them.  Kurt Vonnegut has therefore changed a part of my thought procession for the better. Mr. Vonnegut has no Idea who I am, that I even exist, but he has made me, at least a different man, if not a better one.  That is my passion.  I want to do that.  I want to affect you, dear reader, in such a way, albeit small, that you will forever be changed.  This silly little thing, dream, whatever, comes directly from spending time behind the big wall at S.Q.  Ha-ha, funny isn’t it.
That’s not all; I learned some great things about myself while incarcerated.  I learned that no matter where I’m at, I’m noticed.  Not just because of my size, (though that is part of it) but I have a certain charismatic charm about myself.  Don’t take this wrong, I am not bragging or complaining. I’m saying it’s absolutely true.  Once I got used to being in prison, I had no enemies there.  Everyone has enemies there.  I didn’t. I was liked and respected by inmates as well as the guards. I was liked and respected by any and every man, all races.  I’m not sure how this happened because I saw myself as being just like everybody else, but I wasn’t.  Even guards have asked me, “Man, what are doing here? You should be somewhere running for office.” No kidding, I have heard that very line from a guard that was known to really dislike the white prisoners.
I still have a bit of a convict mentality and I’ve been out longer than I was in.  I wish that I could have the time back that I missed with my children.  I wish I could look in the mirror and see the kind of person that I’ve always respected.  That is the man who works his ass off and pays his bills and taxes so that his family may sleep comfortably for one more night.
For now I have to be comfortable with what and who I am.  I like myself a great deal but I know that I’ve made decisions in my life that make me far less than the man I could have been.  Tonight I’ll sleep comfortably and freely because I’m an American and we are a society that treats its prisoners pretty good despite the belly aching.
One more note, I have no animosity for Terry Lafond.  He could never have hurt me had I not been guilty in the first place.  I always think when I hear someone bitching about getting snitched on that it’s probably about time to take responsibility for your own actions.  If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.
UPDATE 4-20-2011
This, I believe is just a small piece of this whole story. I have written many more parts of the story and have even considered a possible order to them.
Seems every time I begin to put the parts together, I over-edit, change the degree of emotion…whatever. I guess since I was forced to move my stuff to a new web location, I’ve not found a comfort zone. I’m not sure how many ways that crippled my already fragile intellect, but it seems I’ve yet to fully bounce back.


Magic, Really

Today I see my own experiences so very differently.  I speak often about how I see things in what I can only say in an unusual light.
I now understand that the greatest gift I ever received from my parents, was in fact, an early demise.  I realize a statement like that deserves a reasonable explanation.  Every tale I've told, every lesson I pass on, is, in fact, my explanation.
Had my mother not passed, I would have never left Oklahoma, never my wife, children, grandchildren.
All those things most valuable to my very existence, could never have been.  I shed tears even now as I write and ponder that my own mother and I could never share these people that she never knew.  They could have never known her. Her existence would negate theirs.  Profoundly sad, yet when this idea first began to materialize in my mind.  I was absolutely filled with a true sense of gratitude.  Mainly, because I know how much she has given of her, so that my life is full of the most important things, love, family, kids, valentines, hope, belief in anything.  It really leaves me almost unable to express the depth of my gratefulness, my humility. My heart is full of an entire new kind of love of her memory.
Here's kind of a general description of the rode I ended up walking as soon as she was gone.
   
                  With my maternal uncle, and his lovely German wife, I
had a stricter, more traditional upbringing. I didn’t dig it too much
at the time, I was 12 to 14 years old. The value, at that time, was lost on me.
During my junior high school years there, I was given the gift of self, who I was becoming.
How I would interact with the rest of humanity began to take hold. During that
time, I made excellent grades in school. I was an honor roll student nearly always growing up but
secondary school was, in fact, the brightest of my public education experience. I was elected to the
student body in seventh grade and was president of that body in eighth. I excelled in sports, I started
making out with girls in the music room during that time. Any male will relate, this was a very intense
time.
My guardians were excellent providers and I wanted for nothing. That was new to me. We were
actually dirt poor in Oklahoma and with all the children in the house, treats and gifts were rare and
actually unknown even. In Washington, I had everything that any other kid had and it was very good.
Of course, emotionally, I had some problems, anyone would, but this is the luck, this is an example of
what I have come to refer to as “magic”. If I would have still been struggling, still been the poor kids,
whatever, it may not be so nice looking back, but that was not the case. So although it seems sad, the
reality is that the situation could not have been better.
I also, have had, all my life, an incredible wanderlust. I had it then, I had it before my mother was
gone, and in fact, I have it now. He-he.
So, of course, in 1974, after graduating from junior high school, I had an opportunity to run, and I ran.
My natural father, after whom I am named, was released from prison. (another story) He had been
locked up since 1962 and as his release became imminent, he wrote and invited me to join him and his
new wife in New Mexico. Off I went to Santa Fe.
I’ll skip details here but as you can probably imagine, this was a wild, time for me. I eventually ran
away and ended up here, in California. This is when the magic really began to wrap around me.
I have been here mostly ever since. A few short stints outside of California but for the most part, I have
been a Californian since the middle seventies.
I met the mother of my children the day I moved here. The day. Within two months, I was
incarcerated for the first time. Both of those things became a very regular part of my life almost
immediately and although I am many years past my last incarceration, those things are still two of the
most important facts about me.
I am not a person who believes in God. I have stated many times that I am, in fact, an atheist. I have
also tried to make clear that I am not real pleased about that. Here’s why. I happen to know that
something outside the obvious goes on in this world. Unfortunately, the “god’s” that have been written
about and prayed to so far, are not even near what is real. I cannot identify what this is. Of course not.
The difference is, I’m okay with that. He-he. I have decided to call this “Magic”. Of course it is not
magic in the sense that we are used to the word. It is, however, magic in the sense that I have become
really in awe of.
My mother’s gift to me was her own premature passing. That, my friend, is magic.
Perhaps the most productive and important part of my own education, is the time I spent in prison.
Again, MAGIC.
When my daughter met and fell in love with the man that is presently my son-in-law, he possessed
qualities that I would not even demanded. I actually believed that was gonna be my job! My own
ignorance at just the right time…Magic.
A few years ago, I was going through a terribly difficult break up with Teresa, (baby-mama, and
incredible human being) I was sure to kill, either an innocent, or a member of the family, or even
myself. Magically, I met just the right people, just the right time in just the right place, in their own
just right situations to keep me and my freedom, alive. I cannot overemphasize what I’m saying here. I
have been a fighter my whole life. I am older now but I am so prideful that I would rather die than
hurt, I’d rather hurt than walk away quietly, dignity meant little.
I don’t believe in any, so far,unknowable god.
But I cannot explain Cindy Simmons.
I cannot explain Tara Ellington.
I cannot begin to explain how the two of them represent God to me, only more than God.
The same goes with Paula Olmstead and Manny Diaz.
If there were a God, a real one, I could not have expected him to be so perfectly equipped with just the right remedy to keep me, not only alive, but better than I’ve ever been.
I will explain each of these “angels” roles in another post but the point is, I believe in magic. No other
series of events could have led me to the place I am today, right now.
Magic.
On July fourth, just as I reminiscing in a feelin’ sorry for myself way, Graven looked right in my face and told me how much he loved me.. That is why I had to write this.
Magic.

Socially Speaking; (The Rant)

I’ve been thinking. I watch the news, I read an awful lot. I have been studying, among another things, the human condition. Mostly, the human condition as it applies to us here in the US. I happen to believe that borders and separating human beings was a mistake right from the start. I truly think that as we were evolving, both physically and socially, we could have made some better choices in our reactions to the environment. The biggest one, in my humble opinion, was this idea of breaking into groups. Suddenly we were different; he has red hair…that person is darker in color..etc. Now, instead of humanity standing together to grow and feel and learn, we looked and found differences that has nearly ever since, kept us focused on that, instead of our mutuality. I have stated many times, I am not the most educated person, nor do I claim any expertise in human nature or development. I am just a regular cat, maybe slightly eccentric, but really a regular Joe. It seems to me though that this is probably obvious to most thinkers. This idea of separation from each other, differences being so much more important than similarities. Well, I also must admit that there is no solution. Seems to me that it is a situation that has such momentum that it cannot be stopped, no matter how many regular Joe’s and great thinkers alike, see the futility of it. I’ll just say that in a perfect world, where say, I was supreme leader or some such, there would be no borders, no separate forms of humanity, none. I mean has the sovereignty thing really worked out? When a man from Mexico wants to move north so that he may make a better life for his family, in my opinion, why the fuck not? What makes me more deserving of the milk and honey than he is? An accident of birth. Period, that’s all I got. That cannot make sense to any right minded person. It absolutely does not to me. “Brach, my parents and grandparents worked hard to make this country strong and free and wealthy so that Americans could move into the future with confidence and security.”
Replace the word Americans with the word people and I’m on board. An accident of where you were born doesn’t, actually I should shouldn’t, be a factor in opportunity to have a better life. If I were born in Africa somewhere, or Mexico, I wouldn’t be able to write this shit. Not that they are not free to do so, I’m pretty sure they are, however, most people with my level of activity in their lives are so dirt poor that they can hardly go to school, let alone own a computer. Man, that breaks my heart when it occurs to me. I don’t know if these kinds of ideas are socialist, or Marxist or what-the-fuck-ever but I don’t give a shit about that. As we evolve, as we grow and learn. As we get more information, the idea is to set aside the less informed views of yesterday and to apply our new knowledge to the world as it is today……Which brings me to the reason for this rant.
We in America have wealth to the extent that most of us cannot put our heads around it. The numbers are so big as to make me dizzy. We spend almost all of it, in one degree or another on WAR! Yes we do. Man, I get almost to a point of tears as I learn more and realize what that really means. Forgive me for this but goddammit, that is scary for my grandchildren, for my children, for ME!
I’ve read so much more since I was originally pissed off enough to bitch. Seems I was premature. Perhaps I got into that state of mind a bit too soon.
Oh, things are much worse even now, overall. I just think pissed off, ranting and complaining, spouting better ideas, well, it’s been done. It has really been done to death. We can say with utmost confidence that these are not the way to solve the problem. That research is, in fact, complete.
What then? WHAT THEN GODDAMMIT?
Well, it will take drastic, as of yet indescribable, change in things. I do not yet know exactly what all that will be. I will though. I will or I’ll be completely insane for looking.
Until we meet again.
“The most heroic word in all languages is revolution.” Eugene Debs

St. Peter's Gate (Iced Tea)

I am an atheist.  I guess that is a simple way of describing my present belief system. I am still available to have my mind changed.  I wish that someone, anyone could show me some new information. Something that will make me realize that I have been wrong.  I have read thousands of documents.  I have searched and investigated.  I have spoken with people. I have written letters to inquire about this subject.  So far, there have been no epiphanies, no new information that would make obvious the existence of an external God. I will continue to look but there seems to be no evidence.
I believe that we, as a species, underestimated just how huge this entity would need to be.  Every God that I have ever had described to me was, in fact, to small time, to worship.  I think when we were imagining what God was; we had a real bad idea of how big the universe is.  We then made him very small.  Do you know that if we had a scale model of our known universe, even if this scale model was as large as the entire United States of America, Earth would still be too small to see?  That is because the universe is so large as to be incomprehensible.  We cannot really wrap our minds around how large it is.  It is truly beyond our experience.  I believe then that we created God’s that were entirely too small to be Gods. I continue to hope that I will stumble upon a piece of information that will change my understanding.  At the time of this writing, it does not look promising.

Therefore, I have a dream. 
No really, I have this dream once in awhile. 
This often occurs after spending a frustrating period of time arguing or debating the question of whether or not God exists.  I get so frustrated sometimes, really pissed. Just like a preacher myself.  Pointing at the Good Book and hollering about fire and brimstone. 
Instead of that, I get real arrogant and defensive; I point all the many scientific reasons that counter any theist idea.  I am horrible and I always regret these tirades.
Seems really, if I have no belief in magic or whatever, I really am not the one to convince anyone who may well be quite comfortable taking an enormous leap of faith.
If I am very honest, I am hoping that someone stops me and proves me wrong! Could you imagine? Clear irrefutable evidence that there is any afterlife. Does not matter which afterlife, any will do. 
Nevertheless, nobody has, not yet.
Anyway, I have this dream.  I am 89 years old and I die in my sleep. Comfortably, of course, it is a dream.  Within seconds, I am standing next to a giant harp-shaped Pearly Gate.  
St. Peter is standing there with the little clouds all around his feet.  He has this clipboard in his hand and a quill pen.  He has a cynical look on his face and he is shaking his head just slightly.  To tell the truth, he looks a lot like George Carlin. The George Carlin that I knew when I was young, from like 1976 or so, with the ponytail and all.  Anyway he looks at me with a doubtful smile and says, "Look, we decided to let you in, even though you doubted, even though you successfully convinced others, we weren't here, we decided to take a chance. I grinned and exhaled. 
“Wait,” Peter says, “Don’t let out all that hot air yet, there are some ground rules. This is not a playground, nor a prison.  You are not here to recruit people for your own causes.  Stays very low-key avoid controversies.  We like peace.  As long as you do these things, I'm sure you'll be just fine." 
I am thrilled, and promise Pete that I will be a real angel. (Oops)  I do get a little curious before walking through the gate. I say to Pete, “hey, why would I need to recruit anybody?”  I was thinking that even I should be content here.
Pete looked at me with ages of wisdom, patience, and maybe some annoyance.
I get the idea that maybe I will just look and listen until I get the hang of it.
Before we parted, he told me one more thing.
“We never run out of iced tea." he says
Hey, it‘s a dream, just a dream..

A Tornado Miracle

I was watching an old news broadcast.  It was from somewhere in central Kansas, there had been a terrible tornado.  The storm had completely destroyed a small farming community.  In fact, every single human being in this small farming town of under fifty people were killed, except one family that had managed to save themselves by getting into the storm cellar before the winds prevented it.
That is a very sad and horrible news story.  I found it while looking through data of weather patterns when I was planning a trip to the middle of the country.  I was intrigued by the headline so I decided to watch the short video of those survivors being interviewed there locally.
The interviewer started with a simple question.  “What do you attribute to the fact that only you and your family were able to survive this atrocity?”
As the camera began to zoom toward the face of this average American family man, I knew what was coming and I was sick for it.
“Why, it is only because of the great miracle of GOD.” 
He smiled dazedly as he continued.  “The Lord has blessed my family and I, a real miracle.”…………..
WHAT THE FUCK am I missing?
I couldn't believe that the local newsman missed that opportunity.  Maybe he just let it pass, I don't know, but I would have grabbed that line and ran with it.  I'd have asked him, really sir, and how exactly do you think your neighbors missed the boat?  Did they somehow piss off your GOD?  Were they displeasing somehow, perhaps they had practiced some abomination, eating shellfish, homosexuality,  adultery, not honoring their respective parents?
I was absolutely offended by the remark.
If I am missing something,….actually, I am not missing a damn thing.  I only see that the safety net that is religion is more dangerous than I even saw before.  I am just blown away to think that grown, educated, otherwise rational people still buy it.  Unbelievable.

Wrestling with Self

As a youngster, I lived in a very small town. The school we went too, was the only one in town. The entire student population was about three hundred students. That’s all grades, kindergarten through the eighth. If you were interested in going to high school, it was about forty miles across the turnpike. We were told that the only kids that needed to go to high school were the ones that were good enough at sports, and those that were “just to damned lazy to work.” I tried my damnedest to have the skill to be an athlete. Some things you are born with, some well, you’re not. That is not to say that I was not athletic, I was, but Oklahoma State University was not looking real hard for my house, dig? I was actually involved with sports, starting with little league baseball, from the second grade, on. In seventh and eighth grades, I wrestled. That’s what this story is about.
Like I said before, as far as being as good as the other boys were in sports, sure, I was usually picked in the first ten or so. Nothing to be ashamed of, but, no career. Wrestling was different. Nobody, my weight class, could touch me in wrestling, nobody. I was completely undefeated all through seventh grade. I won every match by a pin, no match went the distance. Awesome, I had finally found a way to be the best. Notice, “in my weight class?” I say that because, I wasn’t the best wrestler, hell, I wasn’t very good, but I was 6′ 1”tall, 130 lbs. In eighth grade, very little difference in seventh. Tall and way too damned skinny, impossible for the other kids to get a grip on me. I could stretch straight out and no kid in the state that was in my weight class could beat me at wrestling. Ha, fact is, my matches were kind of like little comedy relief times at the meets. The other kid coming out, looking real surprised when he sees me. Then him not even knowing how to start, then me, mopping the floor with him. Seems a bit sad now but at the time, I loved it. Hell, I was undefeated! At the end of the seventh grade season, I got a trophy, I was pleased.
By the time the eighth grade season started, congress had passed some damn law about girls being able to participate in school sports, right along side the boys. If they could compete, gender could no longer be the reason they were refused. We had girls that made the baseball team, that was as bad as we ever thought it would get, we liked them, one of them in particular was an all-star. We,(I), never thought I’d be competing against a girl, in wrestling! (?) I mean, I never knew girls that wanted to beat up boys for some sick, twisted, already hating males right in junior high school, reasons. But, I found one, and I had to wrestle her at the very first meet, everybody would be there, every kid in school, that kid’s parent, every kid in the school we were meeting, their parents, and of course, remember, it’s a tiny town, early seventies, local media.
There are a lot of ways this story could end. Some are obvious, predictable. Fact is, I won that match; although, it went all the way through two rounds. The difference in points was less than five. Three, I think. That’s really not the story though, With every kid and their parent from two small towns in rural Oklahoma watching, I wrestled the prettiest, most mature girl I had ever seen. I enjoyed most of it. She smelled good. She felt good, and I knew I’d win. But when I stood up to wave my hand in victory, the town paper took a picture of an eighth grade kid, with more than just his hand sticking up in victory. My family still has the photo, it’s priceless. I wish I could share it with you now. You’ll just have to be satisfied with your own imagination.

Mikey Levin

Mikey Levin was a kid I knew in junior high school. He was like the smallest guy in the seventh grade. You know how every seventh grade has this one really small kid? That was Mikey. He was pretty smart and everybody dug him for a million reasons, especially because he was little. Everybody’s baby brother.
Anyways, one day me and Mikey were playing ping pong during our lunch break. Ping pong was the big activity at our school and he and I were both known to be pretty good. Not the best in school, but certainly we both ranked in the top ten.
We were playing like three out of five or so and were down to the last game. We were in a dead heat and this was gonna be the final point. Very tense there in the seventh grade lunch room at a small town school, Somewhere, U.S.A.
Mikey won the final point much to my dismay and I began to playfully chase him through the hallway. Just before he pulled out of my reach for about the tenth time, I kicked out my foot to intentionally knock his feet out from under him. Wow, he went nearly all the way upside down through the air and landed awfully, on his head.
Little Mikey, everyone’s kid brother, lie face down on the hallway floor. The over waxed coating of the floor mixing horribly with the blood running from his temple. The entire school seemed to get suddenly and totally quiet. Everyone turned to look, sadly at first, at Mikey lying on the floor, then angrily, hatefully, at me.
Soon after, summer break came, and I forgot about the incident for the most part. I mean, after all, I was just a kid, and it was an accident. Right?
The following year was eighth grade, we were finally the big cheese here. Top Dogs of our school. The air was crackling with excitement, the old hallways almost deafening with raucous laughter. Then Mikey walked in, barely. His right arm was twisted badly upwards in an ugly curly shape. His right leg seemed much longer than his left, as he had to kind of swing it around to put it in front of himself. His neck was bent to the side and his face was twisted upwards so that he may look forward.
Mikey then walked as well as he could, very slowly right up to me and looked me in the eye. With his face so twisted that I couldn’t tell whether he was laughing or crying, he stared into my face and that’s when I understood. That trip I’d given him last year at lunch time had destroyed Mikey’s life, as simple as that. Didn’t matter that it was an accident. Didn’t matter that I felt awful. I felt the tears burn in my eyes as I realized what our horseplay had become to Mikey. Today, over thirty years later I still grieve for him, I still kind of feel that.

Duane's Song

I was raised in a rural area outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were dirt poor from the early sixties up until 1972 when my mother was the victim of a violent, drunken abuser. She wound up dead way before her time and way before us kids had a chance to grow up.
I was eleven then.  My closest brother was Duane. This is Duane’s story .He was born only a matter of several months after I was. We had the same father.  By the time Duane was actually born, our father was doing a life sentence in state prison for murder.
Duane was born gay, I don’t care what any crackpot will tell you, there was never a decision for him to make about his sexuality. While the rest of us played baseball and rode horses, and learned to hunt and fish, Duane would secretly steal my youngest sister’s Barbie dolls, Keep them in an unknown location and privately live in a world only he knew. Well, we knew, but we loved him and knew he was different and he was one of us.
When Duane was twelve years old, I was actually incarcerated for one of the first times in my life and missed him terribly. I was given the privilege of a phone call home at a point maybe halfway through the fourteen months I spent in the boy’s camp. During that conversation he said he had something very important to tell me.  I was very intrigued.
I got on the phone with him and he says to me, “I’m queer, Lloyd, I’m a homosexual.” I told him that we had all know that his whole life. I had, in fact, beaten up several kids over our short years for calling him “Faggot” or “queer bait” and I still remember the pain in his face when that would happen.  Although he and I were very different growing up, I truly loved him.
As many young men do, we chased our own brand of hell, after both our parents were gone and all us kids ended up in different temporary homes, foster care, or well-meaning relatives and other short –lived remedies. I was not to see Duane again for about four years.  By that time he was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He had found a group of young gay men to associate his life with. He seemed ridiculously happy considering, (at least from my view) he was still a very lost little boy. I went to save him
Duane needed a lot of things from me I guess, but not to save him. I found him genuinely content in his peer group. He had a fake birth certificate and was doing extraordinary at a local cosmetology school.
He had also, fallen in love.
Marvin was native to New Mexico; He was a waiter in one of those fancy, high dollar Santa Fe places.  He was recently split from his wife and children.  That’s Right folks, after eight years of matrimonial bliss; He actually brought Duane home to his family and spelled the whole thing out to them.  I wasn’t quite around then, but the more I heard the story from everyone who was within earshot or eyeball range, the more I knew I would have paid quite a sum to have witnessed that little dose of reality.  Marvin packed what little he had, kissed his children and grandparents, said goodbye to the woman he’d married and walked out of his life holding tight to my brother’s arms. I’m quite sure that this typical Chicano Family has never had that kind of idea about there boy and stood watching them go with mouths agape.
The relationship had some pitfalls, as you can imagine, and I’d hear about them from my safe settings in California or Washington.  I had often made bad jokes and innuendoes directed at this alternative lifestyle.  I meant it in good fun, I really did.  Duane however thought and continued to think for sometime that I hated him for his homosexuality.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.   I admired his accomplishments, He became such a sought after hairdresser and beauty advisor to the well-to-do women in New Mexico that he had become quite comfortable over a very short time.  Not only was he good, he was well-mannered, handsome, non-threatening, he had the whole package.
I got the call in 1992 that he and Marvin had contacted aides. It affected me so deeply that I pooled together literally every penny I could muster so that I may go to Santa Fe, and to nurse him, to wash his ass, to shower him, to do anything in my power to make his life more livable. As you can see, I, as well as many others was quite ignorant of Aides and its terrible track.
I found them both in fair health.  I found them both completely devoted to each other and staying alive. They had a beautiful Adobe home on the right side of town.  They were very popular and loved by everyone they knew.  They were doing Magic Johnson Before he was.  Jim Nabors was a friend of theirs and he too was quite sick with the same virus. It was a scary time for those of us, uneducated in the dilemma.
Remember, Duane had been born in 1962.  I arrived on my mission of mercy in 1992. Duane and Marvin had been in a continuous loving relationship since Duane was 16 years old. So from 1978 to 1992, so far, they had loved through thick and thin.
The following summer their best friend Steve died and that was when I really saw it hit Duane’s eyes.  A sadness there that I hadn’t seen since grade school.
Bottom Line, as they got weaker, I was finally able to help.  I did become an ass wiper, as well as the bather and the keeper of the medication and so-forth.
Duane died in 1998 in his bed at home, with his cats and his makeup just perfect.  I still mourn for him because I still love and respect him.

Socially speaking..

I guess it was about six years ago, I was driving my truck on the freeway.  I had an awful lot on my mind.  I had been to see a medical doctor that day and he had given some real tough stuff to think about.  The test weren’t back but it appeared as though I may have some awful, deadly, frightening, condition to fight.  I was taken by surprise and, found myself to be introspective, even thoughtful.
I had never, at that time, really considered my own death.  I always had a kind of devil-may-care attitude about it and kept it quite far from my conscious thoughts.
That day was different.  I wondered if there really was a god?  I wondered, if there were, did that mean that my death is only the beginning then?  I started really thinking about that.  While still driving I kind of came to the conclusion that most likely, that would not be the case.  I just started thinking about how very, very wrong we, as human beings, always are.  Remember, “the world is flat”, “The sun goes around the earth,” “the moon is made of cheese,” etc, etc..   Seems to me that our guesses about things, well, are usually so far off that it’s silly to think that we could be right about something that is so hidden, so mysterious.  This thought led me to another.
I started thinking about cause and effect.  I started thinking about believing something to be right is the most dangerous thing.  If wrong, everything after is twisted.  I used to install cabinets.  If at one corner of a kitchen, you allow yourself just an eighth inch mistake, by the end of that project, it’s way, way, off.  Therefore, if our ancestors  made a mistake, early in human development, then went on to base their other life decisions on this erroneous thought or belief, by now, we’d could be really, really far away from where we should, or could be as a species.
This idea intrigued me.  Fascinated me really.  I started to actively create scenarios in my head that could result from that.  Frightening indeed.
I then started to wonder, where did we come up with the idea that we needed one of us to lead?   I mean,  where did we decide that we needed a leader?  I started to think about that.  I thought of a caveman type guy.  His family, his clan.  Hunting in packs.  Living in groups.  Everybody for everybody else.  The group would hunt and gather for the group.  Language was primitive.  Let us imagine a group of hunter-gatherers living together in a cave.  We grunt and make sounds to express ourselves.   Picture that in your mind.  My question became, “What happened to turn that collective into a need to follow?”
We are hunting, we have a way of bringing down giant animals, much larger than ourselves.  We are cunning and skillful.    We make weapons based on an idea that one of us had and it works.  Why then, did we go from there, to making one guy better?  Why did need a king?  What made the King idea attractive to us? Why go from, “we are all valuable, with different, but equal responsibilities, and it’s not working.’  We need somebody to be in charge.
I’m sure that there was somebody in the group who was a bit stronger than the rest of us.  I’m sure that individual was a master of the hunt. Perhaps He will lead us.  Maybe there is an individual with incomparable fighting skills.  That person would more likely be able to insure that we keep our meat once we killed it.  Is that then our leader?  Perhaps an uncanny ability to assign tasks,  or to provide warmth.  These things must surely be what we need in a leader.
Actually, I figured it was probably indeed a combination of these types of things.  Whatever brought about the smoothest road for the survival of the species.  That had to be how we first came to pick and follow a leader.  The group member most able to insure the survival of the group itself.
Remember,  I’m still in my truck, a bit melancholy, a bit scared, coming up with this stuff in my own mind.   So this was the only conclusion I could imagine at that time.   I am not an educated person.   I am not studied on the history of our culture.
I am a curious bastard.  I decide right then, I would use this internet thing to look it up.  Find out what happened between cave dwelling and Kingdom Come.
I had actually been familiar with computers at that time for about seven years.  I can build them,  I can tell you what is wrong and fix them better than anybody I know, I had developed that skill.  I had yet though to become familiar with the internet.  Oh I had it.  I had high speed internet before it was popular.  I used it to play games, commit crimes, look at pornography, that sort of thing.  I did not yet know it’s value.
I was really interested though.  I had a feeling, it seems a little bit childish and ignorant now, that we are part of a big experiment and we fucked it up a long time ago.  I started to look for “Social Evolution”  I came up with that on my own.  Sounded reasonable, right?    What I’ve found, and continue to find, is nowhere near where I thought I would find and the search has become my whole life.   I have done little else in the years since.  I still read everything  I find that in any way relates to the human condition.  Social evolution is still my main interest.
“There is a deep gulf between what a man is and what he represents, between what he is as an individual and what he is as a collective being. His function is developed at the expense of the individuality. Should he excel, he is merely identical with his collective function; but should he not, then, though he may be highly esteemed as a function in society, his individuality is wholly on the level of his inferior, undeveloped functions, and he is simply a barbarian, while in the former case he has happily deceived himself as to his actual barbarism.”
The important thing about this story is how this idea has changed my entire life.
I went looking to find an answer to what I believed was a simple question. Turns out, of course, that the question is not very simple at all. First of all,  we hunter-gatherers, as we began to leave our caves, leave our clans, our groups, we weren’t keeping good records.  Some pitifully hard to understand pictures on the walls.
Some half broken tools.
We were still ages and ages from the idea of recording our lives for future generations.  The motivation then, is speculative.  We can put some ideas together about what we think made the cave boy look outward.  Farming, growing our own food and fuel is an educated guess that is commonly cited.  We began to think about settling into one dwelling, one settlement, for all seasons, instead of constantly following the better weather.  We began to think about ways to make our environment adjust to us, rather than the contrary.  These things, as well as other accepted ideas of how our ancestors  were changing, has led me to some conclusions of my own.   We’ll get to that later……
What I found first, when I first one finger-picked the words “Social Evolution” into the search engine was a website called ‘Cosmic Evolution’.  The site is huge.   Links followed by links, with glossy graphs and pictures.  Tons, volumes of first class scientific knowledge and information that is up to date and as far as I could tell, complete.  The site takes you on a written as well as a pictorial journey, beginning at the Big Bang and well into the projected future of our Galaxy.   From there I went on to read the Origin Of Species.  I continued to study wherever the links and my own childlike sense of wonder took me.
Folks, that was six years ago.  I have not been employed outside of my home since then.  I have the uncommon and fortunate opportunity to study uninterrupted for most every single day of the last six years.  Every single day, with very few, but some, exceptions, I have read and discussed, online, a constant flow of data.  I have learned more in this six years, than all of the rest of my life.  That is not an exaggeration.    Once I became aware of what it really was that I was finding, I got excited about it.  Then I got a little frightened.  Then, maybe a couple years ago, I was able to identify, myself, what it was I had found.   Start putting an A next to a B then before you know it, everything becomes rather clear.
During this time,  I realized that the GODS that we have been praying to and counting on all these years, lifetimes, whatever, is utterly and obviously bullshit.   I have spent many, many hours looking at actual data, no faith, no hope, just factual information, relating to this subject.
I am very happy to have found that truth.  If you misunderstand me here, or think I’m nuts, do some reading.  Look for the information yourself.  When you begin to see the immense amount of real science relating to the cosmos and where we come from,  hopefully, it will do for you what it has done for me.  I am a better, more valuable human being today because I live a better, more valuable life today.  I do not have to imagine my bliss by looking forward to an afterlife, or a second chance, or some reward system that has been put in place.  I get to live each and everyday to its fullest potential.  I and I alone am responsible for my success and contentment in this life.   It is up to me to make tomorrow an exciting time that I look forward to.  There is nothing external that I can lay this on.  I find myself much more appreciative of life, of others, of things that I see and do, because I did them, or saw them.  I love my children more because I remember being a child and wanting to understand the world.
I remember asking questions as a child or a young person.  Questions that meant a whole lot to me at the time because I was curious about our world, our lives.   Seems like though that I was never satisfied with the sound of the responses that were given.  Indeed, I heard Richard Dawkins say on one of his interviews I’ve seen that every time you answer a question with something like “God made it” or  “Trust in God’s way and all will be well” or any variance; you have really explained nothing  at all.  There is no evidence of those answers being factual, therefore, that answer, that explanation, is simply not good enough for the questions.
My search has taken me to many, many, branches of information.  I am sure you can imagine, if you’ve ever tried to study anything on the internet, how far and fast these sciences reach.   I continue, even today to read all I can in the time that I put aside for this.   I believe I will always do it.
I’ve rad about just how far Medical Science has come in recent years.   Even more exciting is how far Medical Science is looking, quite confidently, to go in the near future.  Unbelievable.
At some point in the last couple of years,  I have had the opportunity to listen to  Professor  Stephan Hawking.  He had so many incredible observations but one really struck me.  I can’t quote exactly but he said that because of his condition, his illness, he has had an opportunity that most people don’t have.  That is the opportunity to spend all his time and energy on a quest for knowledge.  He said he had been lucky that way.   From his bent up little fragile body, sitting permanently in a chair on wheels,  He stated “ I have been Luckier than Most”   What a guy.
I take that a step further.  The next time you hear a creationist or a fanatic ask “What then, is life all about, atheist, without god, why are we here?”
I have the answer.  There could be an infinite number of answers, depending on perspective and honesty, but I know the answer.
In a nutshell, we are like the leaders that first brought us out of the caves.   It is our responsibility to do all that we can to further the existence of our species.   We must always be improving, growing, becoming, evolving.   For cave boy, that may have been hugely survival, physically.  To us, to me, it is knowledge.  The more we know, the better our offspring will be.  The quest for knowledge that Professor Hawking spoke of, is our reason for life.  It is what it is all about.  I am alive to prepare the world, as best I can, for mankind.  I am here to leave the world just a bit better, easier, brighter, for those that will come after me.  I am one man, but I represent mankind, I can do a little.  I can read, study, build a better mousetrap, teach my children how to make and understand that mousetrap.  It will then be there job to improve or retire that mousetrap so that others can be built.  I am a link a piece, a tiny cog.   I love life.  I love knowing that I get this one random, life, this truly awesome, miraculous life.   I will do my best to honor it by enjoying it, respecting it, and living everyday like it was the only one.

Truthiness

This is exactly what I try very hard to do, each of these tips. It is not easy and requires practice. This is just one of the things that...