Of Old Barns And Empty Streets

Of Old Barns And Empty Streets

Like the one they found Claudia in the night she ran away. We knew where to look. The children. This was our tongue and groove, hand hewn, dusty dirt floor playground. The “web” we knew, was a design delicately strung across the corner, home to the big green wolf, or the black and yellow striped guy. Claudia was more scared to go home to that drunken abusive witch who adopted her, than she was of any spider, bat, or little gray field mouse. The rain fell.
We told her to run. Some nights you could hear the screams of the wretched witch half way home, and down a hill. Her parents adopted two, Claudia and Thaddeus, before finally rearing one of their own. The adopted ones were tortured, the other treated princely, that’s why we told her to run. But she had no place to run to…except one of those old neighborhood barns.
Those barns were our wonderland. We were Admiral Perry, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Lewis and Clark, all wrapped in one. This was Timbuctoo, this was the North Pole, this was the haunted castle, or the lost dutchman’s mine, it didn’t matter to us. The only “post” we “liked” was attached to a beam, that held up a piece of American history. They smelled of lime, of hay, or the scent of weathered wood from days long past. At the ground beneath our feet, the soil darkened from the blood of big red machines; once they tilled natures pennies from the earth; now an empty space for a neglected girl, and the echo of America’s farmers forever lost to progress.
It didn’t take long to find Claudia. The children knew where to look. In those days nobody ever asked why she ran. We knew. Eventually she grew up and moved away from the monster. Eventually the neighborhood grew up, and one by one the old barns were torn down, replaced by houses or commercial development. Tiny pieces of American history ripped from their moorings, to make way for shawdy soulless testaments to greed and excess.
Progress is a lie. It’s a lie that parents tell children, that governments tell citizens, it’s a lie that people tell each other because they can’t tell them the truth. The truth is too ugly. The truth is, most Americans want more stuff, not because they need it, they don’t need it, they want it so other people will want what they have–so they can feed their sensitive ego’s and feel special.
Claudia never felt special. The children don’t need to play outside anymore.

Reviews

Money Monster

Let’s get right to it, this is a damn good movie. I give it a whole bucket load of stars, spoons, gummie waffles,  smiling imoji faces, or for that matter, any symbol you prefer for your movie rating system. It’s a pretty decent flick, the entire staff (me) here at the loop-hole.com actually agreed on this one– you  should check it out. George Clooney does a very convincing job as Lee Gates, the narcissistic stock adviser with a television show. While Jack O’Connell performs brilliantly as Kyle Budwell, the man who takes over the show with a handgun and jihadist style bomb vest  he forces Clooneys character to wear. I have to admit the whole shit-show takes a very unrealistic turn, when they all go marching down Main st. in search of the C.E.O. douchebag who ripped off stockholders for 800 million bucks. But hey it’s not a documentary, because in real life the police would probably fuck things up a lot worse and a whole bunch of innocent black people would get killed….or maybe not. Anywhoo, the movie is good, you should check it out, especially if you are like me and just plain ole’ tired of watching grown ass men in tights doing a lousy job of pretending to be really pissed off at one another–sorry, that’s a different movie for a different review. Let’s get back to this one. I did enjoy the plot twist, and the incorporated social commentary about greedy Wall St. assholes, about trigger happy police, about mass media, and about the public’s ability to forget things very quickly, those are all worthy topics which is exactly why I really liked this movie. I give it three bloody band-aids and a tampon.

 

Random Rant

                                             Leggings -T.M.I.

         Fashion is a funny business. I mean, who knew that ripping jeans so the white thread is exposed becomes a reason to charge more money for them. Now they are actually blasting them with lasers to create intricate designs–pretty neat. These are fashion statements I can live with, but their is another fashion that is not so benign, a fashion statement that sometimes makes me cringe, creates feelings of abject fear, feelings of anxiety, of discomfort, and sometimes makes me literally want to run for cover. I become traumatized. I feel violated. I suffer from a spontaneous form of compulsory fashion PTSD. CF-PTSD.

    I am talking about leggings.The T.M.I. of the modern fashion world. Let me clarify. There is a certain segment of the female population that can absolutely rock this clingy, stretchy, fabric anomaly with impunity. Some, the ones with the tight athletic derrieres even look sexy. But then there are the others. Maybe they know who they are and maybe they don’t. Either way–PLEASE–I don’t even know your name, what makes you think I want all that information about every nook and cranny of your robust cellulite ass. If I wanted cottage cheese, I would run down to the dairy section of my nearest Aldi, and buy some! Look, if you have even the slightest fashion sense, you can wear a long sweater or top, and we don’t have this conversation. If you’re suffering from a chronic form of conjunctive trunk-de-litis, I understand, I sympathize, but please… consider the children. Nobody can tell me the sight of protruding ass camel toe is not disturbing…it is! Very.

      Some of these leggin things are actually see through. Now I’m a dude, and at the risk of sounding misogynistic (which I am not), I can admit, not a day goes by, that I am not wondering to myself what some sexy little biscuit, that I pass in my travels, is wearing for panties underneath those tight blue jeans. I can’t help it. Does that make me a pervert…or does that make me normal? We can debate that another time, for now we need to get this urgent message to the masses of asses that are running around with a delusional concept that this style looks good on them, when actually if they bend over (sometimes not even) the whole entire population of a given area becomes unwilling witnesses to a lunker set of granny panties, tighty whitey’s, or even more incendiary–a thong gone wrong.

     Ugh…the horror of it all. I may have nightmares tonight. Look, I don’t like to be the harbinger of ill will…like it or not, this needed to be said. I consider it a public service announcement… Your welcome.

 

For comments email me at RJWordsmyth@gmail.com

Your Heart is Your Compass

                                         Your Heart is Your Compass

 

    A well-respected friend said to me almost a week ago today that he felt like something was a little off; perhaps like some negative energy force was looming closely overhead, just waiting for the right moment to rain down its misery upon the unsuspecting mass of humanity. Those are my words–not his. He just said something didn’t feel right.

    I told him first of all that I did not feel the same way, and secondly when that happens to me I try to go through categories in my head, like money, family, people in general, and others, to see if I can narrow down the idea, or better yet, get an impression. Or I may ask myself questions like “Does it feel like something really big is about to happen”? The reason I do this is because I have a lot of experience in the field of psychic phenomena. I have studied the subject in depth for over 30 years, and more importantly, actually have designed and performed my own informal experiments to learn more.

    The reason I have always had such a strong interest is simple: At a young age I was an avid dreamer. I usually remembered most dreams, or parts of them, in vivid detail the following morning. Some of them, certain ones, left impressions that were so strong, that the emotions associated with them lingered into the next day. I often noticed a pattern between how some of those specific dreams presented to my psyche images that were somehow related to newsworthy events of the following day or week. Sometimes, I would only remember a fragment of the entire dream, yet that fragment was unmistakable as it related to a major event.

    A good example of this, is the night as a young adult, when I had a dream about certain random stuff they I don’t really remember. Except for the two things I did remember, and they were a submarine and a number. The number was 111. I told my mother the next morning (because I still lived at home) that I had a weird dream, and the only thing I remember is that it involved a submarine and the number 111. I had not yet had a chance to glance at the front page of the Hartford Courant.

    By the time I finally did it was lunchtime. I went to the usual small diner where I ate regularly. Walked in, sat down, ordered coffee like I usually do, and picked up the Hartford Courant. There it was right there on the front page, the headline read: Flight 111 Crashes off Nova Scotia Coast. Then the next part put a chill down my spine, it said: Searching for wreckage with a submarine.

     This is one of many examples. So I that explains why I take these things seriously, having experienced enough of them over the years. When my friend (remember him?) told me he felt something was a little “off”, even though I did not have such feelings at the time, I  still did not dismiss what his heart was telling him.

    In fact, two days later when I saw him again, I told him, that I too felt something was off, and had even gone as far as posting something to myself (private setting) on Facebook with an actual guess of what it might be. My impressions were similar to his, in the fact that we both felt whatever it was it would not be positive, in fact very negative, and have implications on a large group of the human population. Basically, we felt something very bad was going to happen in the near future. On that we both agreed. I took it one step further. In what amounts to a random stab in the dark, I guessed maybe it was going to be a large tsunami. So my post read something to the effect of “I feel like something is looming…maybe a large Tsunami, or something”? It was really just a guess. Sometimes, I noticed if I start trying to guess, then certain elements start to feel correct, and I can narrow down what my heart is telling me.

    Our last conversation took place on Tuesday, Feb.13th. On Wed. Feb.14th, Valentines Day, a teenager took an AR 15 and shot up a high school killing and wounding members of the faculty, and the student body alike. An unspeakable tragedy. Am I saying this is what we felt coming? It is really hard to say for certain, especially since both of us seem to agree that something still doesn’t feel quite right. (I don’t want to scar folks…but we agree…something is still “off”).

    If I were reading this I might be thinking “Well, you have an uneasy feeling because the world is a scary place today…we are all a little uneasy, right”? I would have to answer that by saying that what you have described is an external type of fear that could be affecting us, one that might be expected in this crazy world we live in, but what we are actually talking about is an internal uneasiness that first comes unexpected from someplace else, someplace primal, instinctual. In fact, if you were to look up “instincts” in the Webster’s Dictionary, you would find a definition that says something like:

instincts– What animals use to compensate for their lack of reason.

If you reverse that you get:

reasonWhat humans use to compensate for their lack of instincts. Of course, that is not the standard definition of reason, but I am using it to make my point.

    Following your heart takes practice. First you have to have a belief system that allows for such madness. Some people won’t even entertain such a silly notion, therefore the chances of them having a psychic experience are drastically reduced for them. That is akin to having a radio receiver but no electricity to turn it on. The equipment is the same for almost everyone, it is available for everyone to use, but if you don’t believe it is real, I ask you--how can you possibly expect it to work?

    It has occurred to me that I must appeal to your logic (Mr. Skeptic) first, in order to open your eyes to this truth. Actually, it is your heart I need to reach…the eyes often lie. I will try to make this explanation as simple, and as logical, as I possibly can, because I already know how rational and reasonable you like to be.

    I am working on two premises, one scientific, one philosophical. The first one has been credited to none other than the legendary Albert Einstein. As it turns out Einstein believed that the past, the present, and the future, are all actually operating simultaneously. Based on his record, we can assume he is probably correct. Still, a difficult concept for the logical human brain to wrap itself around– for certain. To simplify this idea just remember: linear time is a man made idea. It is only the observer who sees time in a linear format, the rest of the universe goes about its business with everything happening all at once, in a perpetual state of “Now”. Some might go as far to say–the universe is very Zen.

    So that is the first premise, it originated from Einstein, and I tend to believe it makes a whole lot of sense, it’s logical. The second premise is a little different. It comes from experience, from experiments, from testimonies, and from books and storiess as old as man himself. The other thing I can tell you, is that it is profoundly simple, but it has the potential to change your life, to save your life, and to make your life a whole lot more meaningful. I cannot take credit for the reality of this truth, but I can take credit for how it is stated.

    The second premise is this: The heart never lies. Simple enough, right? We may not always have the clarity to know that our hearts are speaking instead of our heads, but when you open up the channel the voice gets clearer. Some will tell you that God speaks through your heart. Perhaps this is the case, but for this article, I am not trying to bring religion into an already metaphysical topic.

    Now. let’s put these two premises together and see what we get. The past, present, and future, all exist simultaneously, and the heart never lies. If we believe that those two (let’s call them) assumptions, are indeed correct, then it only follows (rationally and logically) that the heart can know more about our future well beings, as individuals and groups, than we want to give it credit for. Just look at it as an Oracle. What good is an oracle if no one knows how to use the darn thing? Learning how to trust your heart takes practice. It is not the natural state of the human condition. Humans have learned to use logic as a better tool for survival. I predict, in the not-so-distant future, that man will reclaim his lost ability. The ability to sense danger, the ability to feel on a deeper level, the threats and the love, of ourselves, and even of other beings like animals, maybe even aliens too.

    The ancients, in the bible, predicted this very thing. The word Apocalypse, in ancient Greek, literally means to uncover, to reveal. According to biblical prophecy, after the period of tribulations, (we can only assume) something will be revealed. I believe I know what that something is. The reason I believe this, goes back to Adam and the apple (oops, theres that pesky religion thing). Adam ate the apple of knowledge and that changed the course of humanity. My studies have shown me that the true essence of all ancient scripture is in its symbolism– not in the literal. The symbolism in this case is quite clear. The “knowledge” Adam gained had negative consequences associated with it. This is the logic. The logic that helps us survive, is the same logic that will be our undoing. It is the voice of the heart that was lost when Adam took that first bite. Some say the voice of god. We must reclaim that voice. This is my message to you, faithful and wise reader– Reclaim the voice of your heart. It may take some time, perhaps you are out of practice, but I can guarantee you this, your heart will never steer you wrong. Your heart will never lead you astray, because it cannot lie. Let your mind blaze the trail if you so choose, but always let the heart be your compass, it could literally be a matter of life or death someday. The heart never lies + the past, present, and future, are all happening now = The heart can tell the future. Makes perfect sense to me.

Barb’d Wire– Don’t Blame the Poor

Barb’d Wire– by Ralph Gagliardo   

          Don’t Blame the Poor

     It seems to me, from what I read on social media, is that a lot of people like to blame the welfare system for creating lazy people who don’t want to work. Or, that by providing S.N.A.P benefits, and cash assistance to some people, we are reducing their incentives to seek and maintain gainful employment.

   In addition to these two flawed arguments, there is one more, and it goes something like this: “The reason I can’t get ahead is because the government is wasting my tax dollars on people who just keep having more kids, because they are happy to live off the state dole for their entire (colorful adj. goes here) life”.

    So this is the perception of some people. There is a lot there. 1. Poor people are lazy, don’t want to work.2. We reduce incentive to work by giving something away for free. 3. People have kids just for the money, are happy to live off the state for their entire life…and that is the reason I can’t get ahead. There are many more besides these.

    Everybody who needs money is willing to do something to get it. Whether that something is filling out a form at a D.S.S. office, or shovelling shit at the circus. If people had something else they could do to make money, something other than fill out forms, (and threaten hearings), then they would do it. Nine times out of ten…they would do it. People can surprise you, if you just give them a chance. What people need are opportunities more than anything else.

    So if the system is failing to provide incentives, or is in fact, creating hurdles, to people trying to move off poverty roles, then that is a real problem. In some cases I think this may be the case. Of course, the issue of fraud always comes up in this debate somewhere. Fraud is a real problem. But, it is a real problem everywhere, from Wall St. to Main St. as they say. Whose fraud caused more damage, the Savings and Loan mortgage fraud or large scale welfare fraud? I would bet you, it is the first one; and that is only one example. How many others are there. Apparently Medicaid fraud is a big one.

    Now, as far as people having kids just for the money. Yes, it does happen. We all know it happens. Here’s the thing though, these mothers, a whole lot of them, raise those kids anyway they can, but as soon as an opportunity to go to school, start a career, a business, comes along, they do not hesitate to jump on it. I see it a Goodwin College. They are willing to work for a better life, the kids give them more incentive to do that. This may not be true in every case, but even if it was a small percentage of the cases, it would justify all the money spent.

    Most people do not want to live off the government handout (as some call it) for their whole lives. That premise is just wrong. The people who are satisfied with what they recieve, are people who either feel it is temporary, are handicapped in some capacity making work difficult or impossible, or are elderly, or have just been unemployed so long that they have basically given up on searching for work.

    There is one more point I want to make about this subject. If for some reason, someone reading this article truly believes that the reason they cannot get ahead, is because of the broken welfare system. I would first tell them that all the money spent to fight poverty is still less than ten percent of the national budget. Secondly, I would tell them that if the 1% control 90% of the resources, and make 90% of the policy, then who is to blame for their tax dollars being wasted, the poor people who receive 10% of it, or the rich people who decide where the 90% goes? Stop using the poor as a scapegoat!…they are not the reason our government burns through money like they printed it themselves.

Thoughts On God?

                                       Thoughts On God

      Who is God I ask myself? Is it just a label given to something nobody really understands? If I were a lawyer, scientist, or head shrinker, I might try and infer some things from his/her behavior that would give me some clues as to who he/she/it actually is. I could try asking, but would I recognize the answer, when, or if, it ever came. Maybe I would…maybe not? Or, because of implicit bias, I might find the answer I needed, simply because I was looking for it. Kind of like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, or a government study sponsored by big pharma.

    Here’s the thing that I keep coming back to. If there is an entity of some kind, that designed, built, and/or plays a hand in, the destiny of humankind then it is obviously of a far superior intellect than are we. This entity knows a whole lot of things we don’t. Like how to build a universe, and keep it going all this time. Not to mention, the past, present, and future. This entity may or may not have the same concept of time as we do because time is largely a man-made concept. This could explain a lot.

    What else can we infer from looking at this entities work…namely us…humans, planet earth, space, etc.. Well, thanks to Hubbell we now know that expansion is not only real but to everyone’s surprise, is accelerating for some unknown reason. If we are saying this entity designed and built this vast universe, then it is also responsible for that accelerated expansion. Hey Charlie, What’s the big hurry all of a sudden? Did you forget your car keys again?

    This entity would also be responsible for the affairs of men. No, not like Monica Lewinsky, but like wars, famine, snipers, computers, pizza, all sorts of stuff–the good, the bad, the ugly, (and the uglier than that). So when things get real crappy down here on planet earth, the Greeks would just blame it on one of the hundreds of possible gods, sacrifice a baby, and keep it moving. I wonder what happened next, did they all look at the mother and say “hey lady…my crops died…what in the hell took you so long”?

    That is where free will, as it is called, comes in. What is free will, if not another invention of this God dude, or dudette, if you prefer? If that is true, then is free will really free? Or is it just God’s will, with our little dope stamp on it? Are we the middlemen for God’s agenda? I feel so cheap…all this time I thought you loved me…You were using me!!  

   A different scenario would be that he/she/it built free will into the program to see what it would do? A sort of God experiment. If that is true, when you look at the state of affairs here on planet Earth, you can’t help but wonder if the experiment has gone slightly awry. The inmates are running the asylum…the Frankenstein monster has broken loose…Soylent Green is people..Donald Trump is president .etc., anti-etc.,dark etc., etc..etc..

    The other possibility is the entire concept of God or Gods, is an idea born as a way to cope, as a way to explain, and as a way to comfort, us deaf, dumb, and blind little mice. As a way to help us deal with the mystery of our own deaths and the deaths of others, we care about. If that were true than it says that we created God, instead of the other way around. Just like they did in ancient Greek civilization, except our present god is a singular entity, not a whole incestual first family of deities and idols to worship.

    I once read somewhere, that humans “design gods around their needs.” Maybe we do? In that case, we have more control over our God, then he/she has over us. That probably doesn’t sit so well with some folks. But it is fine for Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostics, Immanuel Kant, and best selling authors of self-help books.

    It would seem, like most people, I have a whole lot more questions than I do answers. I don’t know if that will ever change. What I do know is what I see happening every day in this world. Death, destruction, war, famine, drought, greed, indifference, and more…mixed with love, respect, decency, forgiveness, compassion, and a whole host of other amazing displays of humanity. It’s complicated.

    The biggest thing I struggle with is when people claim to speak as experts on God. Certainly, any almighty creator can use whomever he/she chooses to be the messenger of the day. Maybe it uses all of us equally…even the really bad folks who have been on the naughty list so long that they appear in Time magazines bibliography of seriously bad people. But, some people like to claim some form of expertise on the entire subject of God’s intentions. I can’t understand how anyone can claim to know the intentions of an entity who is so far superior to us, that it created us, and our little dog Toto, too. It’s not like we wouldn’t listen if we heard it direct from him like Noah did. (God on line one…should I tell him to hold?)

    The Lord works in mysterious ways is a reference to God’s agenda, and sort of implies that it’s his/her stuff and he/her can do what he pleases with it, but that he/she does know what he/she is trying to achieve. The all powered entity has a plan for mankind. Well, that is good and fine, as long as you don’t read the bible; Because the plan in the bible is a little unnerving. The ending is called Revelations, and it don’t sound like no Sunday picnic…ey Boo Boo?

    I don’t even know if calling God-God is the right thing to do? Who decided that was what we should call this all knowing, all seeing entity? Is it short for something else like Godfrey? OMG!! Gilbert Godfrey could be God’s full name. The mystery is solved…Praise the Lord!!! Just imagine if that is what God sounded like…oh boy.

    Faith is believing without any evidence. Prayer is a one-way conversation with the big man. According to Jim Morrison “You cannot petition the Lord with Pray-ya!!” I am not sure I can take spiritual advice from someone calling himself “Lizard King” even though it sounded pretty darn convincing on the album at the time. The problem I have with attaching a label to something this ubiquitous and all powerful, is, as soon as we do that, we bring some of our own preconceived notions along with the label. G-O-D. three little letters that can literally change everything, at literally any time. But what do they really mean?

    A priest once told an old friend that “A relationship with God is an individual thing” I am not sure if that helps or not? A relationship with a ten-year-old boy is an individual thing too…that don’t make it right? All jokes aside, there does seem to be a kernel of truth in that statement. Wars are even fought over who has it right. My God has a bigger button than your God. This is probably the most baffling part of all. If you don’t agree with my God…then I have to kill you…just seems ludicrous in the modern world. I may never get the answers I seek, but maybe if I could get just one answer…It would be a great start–Whose God thought of that idea?  I have a few words for him, her, or it.

A Staircase Made of Mud

                                                 A Staircase Made of Mud              By Ralph Gagliardo

I fell,                                                                         

I slipped

             And fell

More than once,

                I fell

                Down

                 The

                 Well

Into the abyss

               I lay

               Down

                My

               Head

Onto the rocks

                and cried,

                 Cried

                Because

                 I had

                Not yet…

…reached the bottom, my family said, I had no bottom, and for a while there it

 

seemed like they were right                        I got up a little

                                    –because every time                           

                                                                                      I fell back down               again. And again…(and)

       then, I realized I still had the shovel.   The same old spade I used to dig this damn well with, in the first place.  So I picked up my little implement,   removing one small scoop of my life at a time, I…

       began to carve out a staircase…and you know something…?

                      It was that long narrow slippery staircase through the mud                                        

                                                                                              — that brought me back home.

Beat of the Street article Jan. 2018

    Barb’d Wire by Ralph Gagliardo

    Another year has passed, and it’s been a duzey. That term–Deuzey–as some of you car buffs may know, came from the Deuzenburg, which at the early part of the last century, was a marvel in automotive style and engineering. Today, you might find one in an automotive museum–if you’re lucky enough. In their day, they were extremely expensive and competed with Rolls Royce for the high-end automobile market. Still, I would be willing to bet, most millennials have never even heard of one. Times do change; technology changes too.

   I was fifty years old when I got my first laptop. I had a basic understanding of how they worked, but never actually did anything, like set up an email, or get involved with social media, or even play games, like poker or trivia. Those things wouldn’t happen until after I received that glorious Chromebook; the very same one I am writing this article on right now. The laptop that was given to me as a gift, for graduating the B.O.T.S. School of Creative Learning back in 2012. I had no idea how crucial having a computer would be until I got one. It would be impossible to survive academically, in Goodwin College, without it.

    Yes, I went back to school at age fifty, too. Charter Oak Cultural Center in collaboration with the awesome folks at Goodwin College, worked together to provide that opportunity for me, and for anyone else who graduates from the B.O.T.S. school. For me, this was a blessing beyond what words can express. I am truly grateful to Donna Berman, and Mark Scheinberg, and would like to take the liberty of expressing gratitude from all the graduates, past, present, and future, who feel the same way.

   I am now in my third year of my journey into higher education, and the doors continue to open. I can remember, it was not so long ago, when I was in a halfway house, and one of the requirements was that we attend N/A or A/A meetings. It was at one of those required meetings, where I first heard the expression “If you do the right thing…the right thing happens” I admit I was a bit skeptical. Is it really that easy? I thought. What does that even mean “The right thing happens”?  I was a skeptic…but now I am a believer, (and I think I know what it means.)

   What it means is essentially this: When we move towards becoming who we are meant to be, then the universe will make the necessary adjustments to help that process along. Take the steps…the doors will open. The “right thing”, means the right thing for you–the heart is your compass. For the fulfillment of your destiny, the discovering of your true purpose on the spinning blue/green orb, known as earth, you must merely take those first small steps. Once you get the ball rolling, it is like a locomotive, picking up speed as it moves along its track towards finding the real you, and your true purpose. One of the secrets I discovered is this: When you align with your true purpose–you find joy–not only in the destination, but also in the journey; even when that journey is difficult.

   See that folks!! Only in the Beat of the Street, will you get this much wisdom, for less than a nickle (Way less.) So much less, that if you wanted to donate…we wouldn’t object…just sayin…(you know how it is..times are tough.) Anyway, Happy New Year!!! To the readers, writers, and rithmatic-ers. Rock on, in 2018. Your da’ Bomb!!! Now go out there and find yourself…the world is watching…(and help is available, you just have to know where to look.)

 

 

 

                                                                              

 

                                                                              

Barb’d Wire: Housing First.

Barb’d Wire : Housing First                 by Ralph Gagliardo.

 

    Social experiments across the nation are supporting the idea that housing first, as a model for reducing the numbers of chronically homeless, while sharply cutting the long term cost associated with them, really seems to work. Money dictates policy, and if cities large and small can save a few bucks, then the funding should a no-brainer. Of course we all know that nothing in gov’t is ever that simple, and whether it works or not, may be irrelevant. In my view, however, there is nothing to left to debate. The proof is in the results I have seen firsthand, in the dramatic turnaround of some of Hartford chronically homeless after they have been housed. I won’t name names…they know who they are.

    Allow me to quote on man who was homeless for approximately four years, before getting housing through this type of program, he said “ I never realized the kind of mental stress I was carrying around at all times, until after I got housed”. He went on to say that for the first three weeks he still had nightmares from the mental defenses he built up while struggling to survive on the mean streets for so long. Just take a moment and imagine how frightening it can actually be to be living day to day with constant uncertainty, and no stability from one day to the next.

    This is only one person’s testimony, but it still opens the window to the realities, and mental stresses, homeless people face all the time. I know of others, whose demeanor, hygiene, and even their personalities almost seemed to change overnight…after being housed. It is a beautiful sight to behold, when a person who has struggled for so long, get’s their own key, that goes to the lock on their very own apartment door.

    I will let the sociologist and policy makers debate the who, what, where, and why, of the financial and societal benefits if they choose to do so, as for my part, I will share my first observation. You see, I also know happen to know that studies do show two common factors that cut through, homelessness, recidivism, and addiction/recovery, and as it turns out the two factors are very closely connected.   

The first one has to do with feelings of connectedness. The more connected a person feels to others, statistics show, the more likely they are to succeed in overcoming one or all of these conditions. Pretty self-explanatory-I would say.

     The second factor is the one I am focusing on, and only because of my desire to play better poker. You see, it is one of those simple rules of behavior that every card shark, worth half his chip stack, is very well aware of. The rule is simple: The majority of the time, a person is more afraid to lose what he/she already has, and will not risk it, even for potential gain. In the retail industry it has a name “the endowment effect”. In simple terms, people view the world a little different when they feel like they have something to lose. It is like all of a sudden they have a reason to pay a little closer attention.

    Even in the solitary confinement blocks of some of the country’s toughest prisons, they understand this basic principle. Since some of their guest really did have nothing to lose, other than their prison life, they had to seek newer ideas on ways to reduce the number of inmates in segregation, they often found that by letting them get a taste of a certain luxury and exposing them to a sample of the benefits of staying out of seg. than they might be inclined to act accordingly. This was part of a successful program aimed at reducing the number of inmates in segregation, or solitary, and serves to emphasize the point. Recidivism studies show this as well. The more the parolees had to lose, the less likely they were to violate. Same also held true for terrorism suspects: When they were tortured the information was often unreliable, but when they gave prisoners some simple things, simple benefits, the net effect was one of gaining trust and the prisoners were often more cooperative, leading to more dependable intel.

     All these examples point to the same basic principle, and it does have a whole lot to do with trust. The chronically homeless, are folks who have not generally had the best experiences navigating the process or getting on the long section 8 list. They often will need help with things like getting proper I.D., filling out paperwork for E.B.T. or S.S.I., and many of them will have stories of promises they felt were not kept by these or other institutions. They will be skeptical, and for good reason.

    By taking the initiative and offering the chronically homeless housing first and foremost, it does a lot more for that individual than just putting a roof over their head, it changes the way they feel about life, restores their faith in the goodness of people, gives them a chance to restore their mental health, makes the feel invested in the community, and gives them something to care about…something to lose, and since nobody likes to lose what they already feel they own, they will generally take the actions necessary to protect and maintain that stake.

    The state’s idea is that it saves money just on trips to the E.R. alone, which is a costly and often unnecessary burden for taxpayers. Whatever the logic they choose to use to justify the upfront cost associated with these type of models– they need to keep using it. Housing first works. I don’t need any fancy statistics…I can see it in the faces…and the smiles…of the recipients of these initiatives. They are grateful; they have reason to hope.

 

                                                                      

The Idle American Part III, Barb’d Wire column, Beat of the Street newspaper.

   The Idle American Part 4     (see previous issues for part 1&2)

….so as he continued to trade his written words for supplies, he was also discovering much about himself and those around him. In the confined environment of prison pent up emotions can sometimes lead to turmoil, and even violence. Violence for him was not so much a foreign language, but more like an old standby that had served him well as a quick and ready solution in his youth. But this was prison…

    In prison, just like “out in the world” a lot (I mean an awful lot) can depend on who you know. Since he had done work, using his writing hustle, for many of the top dogs on the block, he no longer need worry for his safety; it was a non-issue. Again he could see the power of words–the power of understanding how to communicate was palpable and real, and this was his epiphany.

    If only I could use this skill out in the world, he thought, how much better and meaningful my life could be. But how?

    Finally the day had arrived, not his “end of sentence” date, mind you, but the next best thing–early release on parole. Yes, soon he would be free. This time things will be different, he told himself. His experiences with heroin addiction had taught him some important lessons about the nature of freedom, and the nature of prison. You see, he now understood that in the same way he had freed himself in prison by freeing his mind, many so called free men were languishing in jails of their own design. Prisons, not of concrete block and iron bars, but of addiction, of relationships, of employment, of health and disability, and of all other manner and way of confining oneself to a singular path. These are the prisons we create for ourselves and are often much worse and destructive than the brick and mortar type. Freedom, he realized, comes with responsibility. Responsibility to himself, to his family, and to society as a whole. He had to stay clean this time, and he vowed to do anything to make that happen.

     So one day when he was walking back from the parole office in Hartford CT. he decided to stop at the Hartford Library’s Main street branch. As he walked in that direction, he wondered to himself about his future. He had no job prospects, no place of his own to call home, no money, no special prison training that would give him a direction to pursue. All he owned were just the clothes on his back, and now he carried the label of “convicted felon” as well. Still, what he lacked in opportunity he made up for in desire. A desire to stay clean, and a desire to be a good and responsible father to his daughter (also a victim of his addiction) and who had been silently growing up without him. He had to do the right thing. He just had to.

     When he stepped inside the library, unbeknownst to him at the time, was an event going on that would change his life forever. The title of the event was “The Day of Caring and Sharing” and it was sponsored by a group of people from an organization known as “Hands on Hartford.” When he followed the arrows to the back meeting room of the library, he had no expectations other than the information posted on the sign out front, which said something about raffles, food and music. But there was more. A lot more.

     As he sat there in that room, amongst so many of the tired faces he had encountered from his days of living on the street as a homeless drug addict, and listened to the speakers, something else occurred to him, and it was this–these people from “Hands on Hartford” they really go out of their way to show how much they care, and they do it with action, not just words. These are the type of people I need to be around, he thought. Not only that, but part of the program included time for an open mike, where anyone could perform a poem or song, or even a prayer. In his pocket was a poem he had written for his daughter during his time incarcerated. So he got up and read it to the audience, and in doing so got the attention of one of the members of Hands on Hartford (thanks Anne), who upon hearing his poetry invited him to come to a meeting. It was a meeting for a local newspaper he had never heard of called “Beat of the Street.”

     A few days later when he attended the meeting, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. They were going to let him write an article on how he felt about addiction, incarceration, and homelessness, and publish it for the world to read, and on top of that he would receive compensation (not Ramen noodles) which he needed just to survive. And the people…the people, the members of this group, they were all working together to make the world a better place, and all the other writers who contributed were previously homeless or addicted, just like him. It was a perfect place for a recently released, previously addicted writer, who was still on parole. Once he joined the organization, he started his own column called “Barb’d Wire” and met the folks from another dedicated group at “Charter Oak Community Center.” They, he found out, had a learning center which they called B.O.T.S School. He started attending classes at the school, everyone liked his writing, but more than that, they just wanted to help him embrace the change in life style that was necessary for him to progress. Once he graduated from the B.O.T.S school, he was told he could attend Goodwin College for free. This opportunity, for him, was just unreal. Totally unreal.

     Yes, he was given a second chance, and after being inspired by all the amazing selfless acts of these two organizations, he vowed never to return to his old ways, and to join in the fight against poverty, against addiction, mass incarceration, and all the other maladies of society, by helping any way he could. Shortly after he was invited to join the “Faces of Homelessness” speakers bureau, where he could tell his story to help educate groups about homelessness and break down negative stereotypes.

    He is still a member of both organizations today, has over five years of clean time, and by the time you read this article, he will have graduated with an associates degree from Goodwin College, and will be starting on his bachelors degree in human services. He continues to write and speak to audiences about his journey, and hopes to continue his schooling, and if possible, attend law school some day.

     All of this would never have been possible were it not for all the dedicated people, working hard every single day, by showing a virtual endless amount of empathy and kindness towards those trying find a their own way through this complicated maze called life. He, that is I, will be forever grateful to all of the dedicated people who have helped throughout this journey. Change is always possible, but sometimes folks just need a little help and a little opportunity. The end.

           Ralph Gagliardo.

 

 

  

        

Beat of the Street: The Idle American Part Two

Barb’d Wire

                                The Idle American–Part Two     by RJ Wordsmyth

…He relapsed the way addicts often due, and found himself back in prison. This had become part of a pattern that would continue on for many years. And so it did. Clean time in prison sometimes extended into clean time “out in the world” as the other inmates liked to call it. Sometimes he would stay clean for months at a time, but inevitably he would fall backwards, hit his head on something, and wake up in a cage.

    His family “out in the world” had all but given up on him. He received very few letters and almost no commissary, with the exception of twenty dollars from his mom every year on Christmas. Commissary is the store for inmates to get extra things that the state doesn’t provide, or doesn’t provide well. Commissary also cost money, the state allows it because they get a nice little piece of the action. On Christmas they come out with special items that are only available for a limited time, giving the state even more money around the holidays. Stuff like pre-cooked bacon, and Christmas tree shaped Little Debbies are only a sampling of the delicacies available for the man unlucky or deserving enough to be spending his holidays in one of the Dept. of Corrections specially designed cement suites.

    Our hero really could not afford such luxuries since he had no money coming in. Yet, still he was able to purchase them because he had discovered “a hustle.” Almost everyone in jail has a hustle. It is a way to survive, a way to get things you need; It is a job and a business. He had watched the others and so he knew what to do. He saw the artist, who would draw something truly amazing on an outgoing envelope, He saw the laundry worker who would charge you a small fee to fold your clothes, he saw the kitchen worker selling salt and pepper, and the tier man selling cleaning supplies or plastic bags, all with their own unique hustle. He knew what his hustle would be–he would write. Write poems, and letters to girlfriends and wives, and sometimes even the judge himself. By writing he thought “I will keep my mind sharp.”

    Soon his reputation as a man who could literally “put your thoughts into words” had spread throughout the entire dorm, and even into other dorms. On holidays like St. Valentine’s day he would be very busy writing custom poetry for the other inmates. Sometimes he would receive kites for work from the other side of the jail. Kites were messages that could go all the way from one end of the prison to the other end via the laundry or the kitchen workers. He would get some details about the little things everybody’s girls liked and incorporate them into his poems, giving them the idea that their boyfriend/husband wrote it specially just for them. He wrote convincing letters to the judges requesting leniency for any number of specific reasons. As time went on, he saved marriages, got men bonded out, saved people time on their sentences, convinced family or friends to send commissary money, and did custom request which included a whole myriad of other unique types of assorted random documentation.

    In doing so, had access to coffee (top priority), snacks, candy, cosmetics, and was able to contribute to group meals that would sometimes be prepared using food smuggled from the kitchen combined with food purchased on commissary.

…to be continued  

                           Read part three in next weeks edition of “Beat of the Street”                      

  

“Beat of the Street” article–The Idle American Part I

Barb’d Wire.                             

                     The Idle American–Part One      By RJ Wordsmyth.

I want to tell you a story. This is the story of a guy who lost his way, as sometimes people do. He grew up in the suburbs–this guy–and knew very little about the city life. He was an ambitious fellow with big dreams. He started his own business because he always wanted to be his own boss. He worked hard. He paid his taxes. He was, for all extensive purposes, your typical entrepreneurial American.

    At some point the economy took a downturn and his business went bust. This made him very depressed because he was losing all the stuff he worked so hard to build up. He had to sell all his equipment and the lenders foreclosed on his building. Twelve-plus years of hard work and it was all broken into pieces and sold off to the highest bidder. This made him very sad, but not angry, because he did not blame others, but took responsibility for making some poor choices. Still, there was things that were completely out of his control, like the recession, and this too he understood but could not change.

    Then all of a sudden–BOOM!! He got hurt in a car accident. He recovered fairly quickly from the accident, although his lower back would never be the same. In addition to the disability, he also had a new set of problems. Problems he neither understood, nor had any experience with. He became addicted to pain medication. When the physical therapy ended, and the doctors stopped writing scripts, he did something that he swore he would never do. He turned to street drugs. Opiates. Heroin. Dope.

    He never wanted to be an addict. He, like most young people, felt like he was invincible, like the world was there for the taking. He was an American, and everyone knows in America if you “work hard and play by the rules” you can slice off your own big fat piece of that oh-so-sweet American apple pie.

    Yet, there he was, out of money, out of work, no place to call home, and the worse part of it all–he was strung out on dope. He stayed in shelters, sometimes he slept in the park, in an abandoned building, or a burned out car. He didn’t want to stray to far from the city, because he was always within walking distance of a hot meal at one of the soup kitchens, and where he could always try to hustle up enough money to “get right.” Some mornings he woke up cold and dope sick, so he would get up just as the sun rose and try to panhandle a few dollars just so he could function. It was a hard life. Everything he knew about the American dream now–he put in a needle and shot into his arm.

     Then he got arrested. Arrested and sent to jail. This was long before they gave prisoners any type of medication to ease the suffering of a cold turkey heroin detox. They call it “cold turkey” because of the way your skin looks, and they call it “kicking” because you cannot control the way your legs jump around all night. As miserable as he was, and he was truly miserable, he saw others who were coming off large doses of methadone–and they were even worse. Some would not eat a scrap of food for thirty days. Some even attempting to take their own lives, due to the unbearable nature of a methadone detox. It was his first offense so he didn’t get too much time. And he swore on everything he loved–he would never go back.

     But he did. Addiction, you see, is an insidious monster. He knew how bad it could get, he knew what the experts said was all true–it always ends the same–jails, institutions, or death. Even with the clean time, the miserable detox, the lesson of prison, and the promise to himself–even with all those things, and a loving family who wanted him to get better–even with all of that–he still relapsed. He. Still. Relapsed.

This is part one. Read the next edition of “Beat of the Street” to find out more about the adventures and tribulations of “The Idle American.”

 

                                                                               

The Magic Bus–a memoir

I purchased the bus off an old farmer who lived behind the Stop n’ Shop in Vernon. His name was Randall–Randall Farmer: truck mechanic. He customized it for his family to travel around and see the country in. When I discovered her she sat covered in trees, wedged way in the back of his yard, with a for sale sign inconspicuously placed on the windshield where it could barely be seen. A 1957 Ford school bus camper conversion, with a 4ft. by 4ft. porch welded to the back bumper. The perfect cruising party vessel. I had to have it.

    The year was 1984, we were two years out of high school…and I had dreams. We had dreams. Dreams of getting rich, of being someone important, of starting our own businesses–but all of those dreams would wait. The dream I chose to pursue immediately at the time, was my dream of seeing the country, of travelling ‘cross the old U.S. of A. in a rolling house on wheels.

    But the bus needed some work before that could happen. I borrowed the money to purchase it from Rick’s dad. Rick was my best friend, and his father was really wealthy. He took a liking to me…his father, not just because I was his only sons best friend, but because he knew my own dad had died when I was only two years alive. So after I put down the deposit to hold it, I went to him for a loan. I fell in love with this bus the first time ole’ Randall gave me a tour of the inside. I just had to have it. Jack gave me the money…and I paid back every dime.

      Randall Farmer was a very talented truck mechanic, with his very own hands he converted her from an antique school bus into a comfortable motorhome. All the amenities, a stove and sink, bathroom, dinette area that converted into a double bed, and a cozy back room with storage and a large sleeping area. And that porch– the porch Randall welded on the back, had a fence all around with a gate that swung open, and was so sturdy six people could stand on it while cruising down the highway. He had also explained to me about the two-speed electric rear end that was permanently jammed in high for better cruising speed on the highway. The man was a genius. There was one last feature that made this about the coolest custom cruiser I had ever seen, and it was in the drivers area. One bucket seat–a high back from a 1972 Charger, custom shag dashboard, and extended stick shift with a Hurst aluminum handle grip. The whole decor reeked of retro hippie mixed with bad-ass biker. It was just too perfect for a 19 yr.old free spirit dreamer, like myself.  

      Even though parking at my mothers house didn’t make mom all that happy, I still managed to sandblast the entire bus there, and paint it in three sections, giant stripes–one red, one white, and one blue.Very patriotic.Very Grateful Dead.

    After several local test flights, the “Magic” bus was made ready for her maiden voyage. Back in those days I did a lot of ticket scalping as a way to earn extra money, even though the majority of the time the profits were taken in the form of choice tickets for myself and a friend–instead of in cash. When I heard on the radio that “today at 2:00” they would be making “a big announcement” I knew what it had to be, and headed straight to the ticket outlet/ head shop, in downtown Manchester, and waited. LIVE AID tickets went on sale, and I was not only the first person in line, but I was the only person in line. Limit four per customer. With over a thousand dollars in my pocket, a little sign wasn’t going to stop me. I went to work. First person I saw was a man walking his dog.

      “Excuse me sir, would you like to make ten dollars quick?”

      This was the line I would use over and over; even the mailman got me tickets. When it was all said and done, I had scored over a dozen tickets to the biggest live show since Woodstock. For the price of one hundred dollars, a person would get a ticket to the show, and a ride to Philadelphia on the “Magic” red, white, and blue, school bus camper. This trip would be epic. The concert adventure…“of our lifetime.”

    Michael, Patrick (Seaweed), Gerry, Rick, and myself, all heading down the highway, in a bus full of beer, and a healthy stash of assorted mind altering substances specifically designed to enhance the experience. We got there a full day before the concert was scheduled to begin, giving us ample time to explore the area. For this purpose, we had Rick’s brand new “enduro” on/off road dirt bike strapped to the back porch. We all took turns riding the bike, doing wheelies through the crowd as they began to gather, and making cheesesteak and beer runs whenever necessary. We were having a blast and the concert hadn’t even started yet.

      They sang “We are the world…We are the children…” When it was all said and done, many bands reunited, bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, and many others just jammed together for the first and last time. Music history was made and we were there. Our history was also made. Never again would this unlikely group of friends be together like this. Never again would we be part of something that would be considered the music event of a generation…of our generation.

    The year was 1985, on a hot summer night in J.F.K. stadium the world was watching. People came together–in peace, and in music–for a single cause, to raise money for the starving children in Africa. When Phil Collins took the stage and played “Something In the Air Tonight” 90,000 lighters lit up the night sky. At that moment I knew life would never again be that carefree, that reckless, and that serendipitous. I also knew this would go down in our history…as one of our finest hours..so I couldn’t help but find myself lost in a melancholy dreamland…“We are the world….We are the children.”