Meth dealers are far closer to prison
snitches than math teachers.
No, really. I promise.
“First degree littering” would be considered the worst, of course, a genuine, pre-meditated affront to humanity. “Second degree” wouldn’t be any better, except that maybe you put a “FREE” sign on your old-ass queen size. But because that’s a stupid excuse, I take it back: there’d be no second or third degrees.
It’s all bad. It’s all willful and deliberate.
When I find some skanky mattress or overturned recliner dumped next to sidewalk tree, I imagine locating its former owner and rubbing his face in it the way my father taught our dog not to crap in the house. There’s simply no excuse for making your problems ours, and those who do are self-serving leeches with rat urine for blood. So no, the “Take Me” sign you stuck on that used condom of an old couch doesn’t frame this picture any more forgivably. Your Carrington-Breckenridge microsuede fat throne and you can go to hell.
I can’t say why the site of abandoned furniture hits my who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are? nerve with the precision of a laser-guided missile, but when it strikes I picture the culprit creepin’ around, lookin’ for the right spot and the perfect moment to dump a lifeless TV before racing off like he’d just waved his dick at some kids.
If the offending home furnishing happens to be sitting in front of your home or at the end of your driveway –and it belongs to you– that’s a different story. But old couches are most often abandoned in and around condo and apartment complexes. Discarded mattresses are leaned upside electrical boxes, building entrances, parking garage gates, and in street gutters for all to enjoy.
(Here, too, I imagine a herpetic male tenant who doesn’t pay his child support, waiting ’til midnight before wrestling his personally varnished king-sized Euro-top out of the building and into the alley, where it’ll stay for weeks.)
In hopes of extending this infographic’s reach (Huffington Post’s smart use of BJS data) I now present the biggest argument for the growing national dialogue on prison reform in America: Lock-up Quotas.
For years, Morgan Stanley, Ameriprize, Barclays, Invesco, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, among others, have invested heavily in for-profit detention. So, if you’re someone who still dismisses incarceration as being for “those people,” perhaps you should follow the money. You see, the same idiots who mistakenly foreclose on people’s homes, may wind up deciding just how long your brother, sister, son or daughter are detained for public drunkenness. Operating at such a competency level, and with occupancy the highest priority for private prisons, all bets will soon be off with regards to who fills those beds.
Sound crazy? Sure it does, but at the rate we’re going it’s not hard to imagine a day when banking institutions and financial investment companies open pop-up prisons like so many Wal-Marts.
Without a complicit criminal justice system, ever more influenced by these financial entities, today’s lock-up quotas wouldn’t be so easily and enthusiastically enforced across the country. Have a look:
Not havin’ the day you hoped for? Here’s some joy you can’t ignore
I’m a big fan of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Cab Calloway, of his high speed rhyming, wordless “scat” singing, and his manic energy. A friend who’s familiar with my admiration of the big band leader shot me this clip, and upon watching it I felt guilt, excitement, and the swelling of my heart – in that order. The magic here is its big middle finger to me-me-me.
It seems like we live in a world where everybody has to be everywhere at once, where, if we can’t have what we want, we know what it looks like to get it. It’s a world in which nearly all of our needs are digitally serviced, yet nothing does as much for us as music.
As important as music has always been to me, woven throughout my history and tied to just about every human connection I’ve made since my youth, I haven’t used it enough to help others. And by help, I mean I haven’t used it to brighten someone’s day, or as a means for giving others a way to communicate — i.e., the power to climb up and out. Not for years I haven’t.
Never mind bemoaning a bygone era in which we spent hours of super concentrated brain power creating vinyl-to-cassette compilations as gifts. Lots of writers have bitched about our loss of such human connections, not to mention the generosity on which they were based. But with music being so readily available today, what excuse could I possibly have to keep it limited to my own selfish enjoyment and confined to lightening only my load?
Evidently, I need to remember that music is not for the self-serving. It never has been (though it’s funny to me that music-based plastic purchase vouchers are called iTunes gift cards: they’re meant for sharing, but they’re more often used like isolation training. Maybe that’s the “I” part).
I need to be better about letting music help me help others. My maternal grandmother, for instance, is from El Paso, Texas, by way of Chihuahua, Mexico. She used to love listening to Freddy Fender. So this iTunes gift card here, the one held to the wall above my monitor by a magnet, saving itself for something I really want, should probably get put to use.
How suddenly stupid it makes me feel, looking at it. I have only one grandparent left, and no excuse not to spend my card on a way to brighten her day.
My reasons are simple. First, with today’s official publication of Where Excuses Go to Die, I’ve paid myself back for the opportunities, experiences, friends, and belongings that the consequences of my actions took from me. Second, a prison sentence was the first thing I ever started and saw through to the end, and the long journey of bringing this book to market would never have begun if I hadn’t formulated and maintained a relationship with delayed gratification. Neither would certain realizations have been triggered by the input of those I encountered along the way. The late comedienne Lotus Weinstock, for example, encouraged me to consider developing my newfound voice under less isolating circumstances, and her advice came just as the meaning of the concept — having a voice at all — was finally becoming clear.
Where Excuses Go to Die contains a good number of instances where the lights came on. But this is the most important of all: (more…)
Those that serve only to indoctrinate – yes.
You’ve got your 9-11 ceremonies and your 9-11 family fun runs, silent auctions, parades, Karaoke, walkathons, crafts for the kids, food, refreshments, and for some groups, even mock CSI investigations with clues, evidence, and presumably “perps.” (I wonder what they look like at a 9-11 festival.)
You can be outraged at my questioning this stuff, but you can’t be offended by my asking why these events rarely include educational opportunities to broaden our understanding of cultures other than our own. Yes-yes, I understand it was Western culture that took a hit that morning, but number one, ours wasn’t the only culture to be irreversibly affected, and number two, not every follower of Islam is hiding Boeing 747 wiring diagrams. So what’s the excuse? Where’s the booth that explains to young people what the Koran is, and who reads it?
Of Connecticut’s Wethersfield 9-11 memorial picnic, a Richard M. Keane Foundation spokesperson told a local paper, “It’s a nice family evening, and a time to remember in a positive way. It’s a looking-for-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of theme. I think it’s a great way for people to share the day and remember, but also enjoy their families.”
Absolutely. And familiar sentiments all –– the physical and emotional scars of 9-11 are indeed part of America’s social fabric. I’m just asking why it has to be limited to only those. Why can’t it also be used as a teaching tool (and an ounce of prevention)? Limiting these festivals to only “our side” and our understanding is dangerously restrictive in terms of dealing with those suspicious or distrustful of our way of life. Even from a tactical military standpoint, a soldier would question why we’re dismissing “the other guy.” Must hearts and minds always be won after America has put itself above those with whom it seeks to gain favor? (more…)
“All writing is re-writing.” Yeah, try telling that to someone who last wrote in blood.
Author and playwright David Scott Milton spent 13 years teaching creative writing at CCI, a “SuperMax” prison in Tehachapi, California. “Tehachapi,” as the facility itself is better known, has seemingly been around forever. It was built for inmates refusing to live by regular prison rules, murderers serving lengthy sentences, and men assigned to extreme isolation in high-security units, a.k.a. the controversial S.H.U. programs making headlines today.
Milton’s average Tehachapi class consisted of 15 to 20 lifers, most in for murder. I met him after he’d been hired to teach one of his classes about 80 miles north, on the Level III Yard at Wasco State Prison. By then, David Scott Milton was a veteran prison educator familiar with every risk, procedure, and personal reward his job could entail.
First off, for all the prominence of literacy and its rehabilitative powers, which we assume exists behind bars, you’d think creative writing courses would be better attended. They’re not. Though the power to save lives endures in the written word, a lot of the fellas incorrectly assume writing credentials come with the territory.
Yet you don’t learn to write in a prison writing class: you learn why it’s important to fight for the time to write, which sounds funny considering inmates are supposed to have nothing but time. But if there’s one thing true about prison, it’s that it’s one upended Hollywood cliché after the next. (more…)