What the hell happened, Joe?

Image by BarBus from Pixabay

The news doesn’t look good from down here, Joe. Can I call you Joe? The polls look bad. We were so optimistic eleven months ago. Now, they say you’ve lost contact with reality. That you said that inflation is just a nuisance, and it will be soon under control. That the courts are just messin’ with you about vaccine mandates and that it will just be a matter of time before they all come to their senses. All these people screaming about vaccine mandates are just looney tunes, and we shouldn’t worry about them. And what the hell happened with Build Back Better (who came up with that name?). The moderates and the progressives are making fools of you at our expense. What the hell happened, Joe?

Then, I’m reading about Kamala, you know your vice-president. She is either the most incompetent or just the most ignored Vice-President in the nation’s history (okay, so I’m exaggerating). You made a big deal about the first person of color, and then it looks like you threw her under the bus. WTH is happening there?

Every day, I click open a news website, and it just seems like there’s nothing but bad news coming out of Washington and New York and Florida and Texas and pretty much most of the Midwest, South, and the West. All I hear and read about is how you don’t have a consistent message. Honestly, I just want to listen to a message, any positive message. I don’t want to hear about 3 trillion or 1.5 trillion. I want to know about the specific programs and policies that are going to help everyday Americans. About how you’ve united your political party so you can get something done before you get thrown to the GOP wolves who are already circling your body, and you’re not even dead. Yet. They’re sitting back doing nothing but throwing hand grenades with the assistance of that maniac in Florida and Fox News and every GOP member of Congress, and you seem to not realize the seriousness of the next two elections, 2022 and 2024.

Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

Americans may not know their ass from their elbow about science and COVID and economic policy and inflation and that the GOP stands for Totalitarianism. Still, they know when someone ain’t shooting straight with them. They want reassurance that someone really cares about them and the issues that affect them. And the list is long: jobs with good pay and benefits, affordable housing, the price of gas (holy crap, what’s up with that), and making sure that we’re going to have Christmas gifts and food for the holidays. People are just trying to get their pre—COVID life back even if they are still doing their darndest to extend it by not getting vaccinated, hanging out without masks, and ignoring simple protocols. It doesn’t matter because, in the end, they will blame you because, well, they must blame someone in the White House. They say they want Leadership, Sanity, Calmness. Something that we didn’t get for four years from the maniac who was there before you.

Look, Joe, I can’t even imagine what life is like for you, and I’ve known you long enough to see that you do have a good heart, but a good heart is just not good enough these days. This country is splitting up. Breaking apart in all kinds of ways. We need some healing. We’re just trying to heal as a nation without getting jammed in the heart by the crazies out there. We need your help to unite us while at the same time protecting us and our democracy from millions of nut jobs out there.

I keep wondering what the hell happened to this country, and then I realize that as long as I’ve been alive, all seventy-three years, there have been nut cases out there, both right and left, who just can’t help themselves. That it’s always about them and screw the other person. My Way or the Highway kind of BS. I know from personal experience how easy it is to fall into that hole. We love to talk about how we are in this together and waving the flag and sacrifice and America the beautiful, but I know they don’t mean it. What they really mean is what’s good for them, and everyone else can eat dirt. Or is it cake?

Americans. If the GOP wins next year, you Joe and we are screwed. I will never understand how a political party that has pledged allegiance to an idiot can win against a person who can think like a human being and dish out so much humanity. I just can never understand them. That political party is not the friend of People of Color, the working class, young people, or older Americans. They only want to screw us so they can help the rich. No debate about it.

Image by Tibor Janosi Mozes from Pixabay

But the Democrats have their own problems. Some of them are also out of touch and think that figuring out a way to allow most Americans to succeed with some help from our government is making them into a dependent group. I’m talking about you, Senator Manchin and Sinema. Look, I’m not looking for a handout. I’m just looking for some breathing room. An economic policy that doesn’t benefit just the rich. Talk about a dependent group. Dependent on a tax system that maintains them. Come on, we weren’t born yesterday.

Here’s my advice, Joe, talk to us every day. Go on national television and use your bully pulpit. Talk to the middle straight about what you’re doing to solve our problems. Press Conferences, Oval office speeches, one-on-one interviews, visit family homes, town halls in Des Moines and Bakersfield, not on CNN. Come on out and see us like you did on the campaign trail. Talk to us straight. We’re ready to listen. And bring Kamala along with you.

The News Is Driving Us into A Dark Hole

Mental Health
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I have this daily ritual when I wake up and after I organize my day. I scan both the local and national news sites. My head usually hurts afterward. These days it’s just always the same: political fights, wars, shootings, COVID denial, culture wars, the GOP this, the Dems that. And the opinion pages aren’t any better. I mean, I have an opinion, and no one cares about it, so what makes me want to care about these (unless, of course, I agree with them). It’s all the news that’s bound to drive us into a dark hole.

This morning like every morning, I went through my list of sites beginning with local. Long Beach Post. It’s Monday, so at five a.m. in the morning, the news isn’t fresh yet, I get it. People need time off. Headlines like “Community Hospital to close ER, increase mental health services, skirting seismic requirements” and “From migraines to vomiting, residents struggle to live normally through Dominguez Channel odor” compete to get the positivity vibes going. Over at the Press-Telegram, there’s the mandatory update on the Pandemic (there’s a pandemic?) “LA County reports 1,153 new cases of COVID-19, 10 more deaths.” Seriously no one seems to care anymore. That’s the impression I get from all the sightings of people entering businesses with no masks (it’s okay, they’re vaccinated. Yea, how do I know that? I’ll leave this for another rant).

“4 weekend shootings in Long Beach leave 2 people hospitalized,” and this is with strict gun control laws. Wait until the Supreme Court rules that we can all run around with a handgun in our pocket to bars, stadiums, public transportation, hell, maybe a school. As my brother, who lives in New York, said, “What could go wrong?”

Over at the Los Angeles Times, the headline that caught my attention was the one about books in school libraries, “A ‘war on books’: Conservatives push for audits of school libraries.” Is this like election audits where we call in people who have no clue how to run elections, and then they sort of hack their way through ballots contaminating the process, and still come up with nothing but more votes for the winner? So who gets to decide who the expert is this time? Do the neighborhood Ken and Karen who barely made it out of high school get sent into school libraries and just go nuts pulling books from shelves and sniffing them for the odor of subversion and anti-stupid? No, that wouldn’t be right. Let’s invite the same people who gave us the majority conservative Supreme Court that we have. They’ll know what America needs.

Mental Health
Image by kalhh from Pixabay

Over on the national news sites, the news is scarier. The New York Times blasts “Retailers Scramble to Attract Workers Ahead of the Holidays.” It seems people don’t think bonuses of $500 upwards to $3000 are just not enough to put up with “the pandemic’s many challenges, from fights over mask-wearing to high rates of infection among employees.” Sure, the pay is just great. All I have to do is bring my boxing gloves to work every day to fight with Ken and Karen or break up a fight they start with other customers. I’ll just stay home and watch the videos.

Down in Washington, D.C., I see our elected officials are hard at work…arguing with each other and not doing the people’s work. The Democrats finally squeezed through an infrastructure bill (you know, the one that creates jobs) with some of their own refusing to sign on and only thirteen Republicans in the House voting for it. In the Senate in August, only nineteen Republicans voted for it. At the Washington Post, the headline is “Democrats insist Build Back Better bill will pass, despite divisions.” They’ve been saying that for months as the amount of money and programs are carved away to satisfy, wait for it, two Democrats in the Senate who will have to vote for whatever passes in the House eventually. I wonder how many Republicans will vote for the package. I’m not taking that bet.

Thank goodness there’s some good news, but good news gets easily crushed combined with what we see and hear on television, our phones, and radio. It’s all enough to make us depressed. The bad news has always been with us, but I do feel like this time is different. You cannot absorb all this terrible news without seeing it in the context of the Pandemic. It’s enough to drive all of us into a dark hole.

Mental Health
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

According to Mental Health America in their report on “The State of Mental Health in America,” over half of adults (27 million adults) in the United States with a mental illness are not receiving treatment.” Thinking about suicide amongst adults has increased. “4.58% of adults report having serious thoughts of suicide,” that’s 664,000 more people from last year’s data. The numbers are numbing when it comes to substance abuse: “7.74% of adults in America reported having a substance use disorder in the past year. 2.97% of adults in America reported having an illicit drug use disorder in the past year. 5.71% of adults in America reported having an alcohol use disorder in the past year.  

This latest survey has more bad news. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the “Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020.” During June 24–30, 2020, “U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.” The affected groups include younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers, pretty much everyone as far as I can tell. Compared to the same period in 2019, the survey turned up these groups suffering “disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide). I wonder if dealing with all the Ken and Karen debacles involving mask and vaccine resistance has anything to do with it (I’m not laughing).

The solution is not to stop watching the news, as I implied in last week’s blog. Although a respite from the noise sure does help drain the muddy swamp in my head. I speak to a therapist regularly, but that’s because it’s a medical insurance benefit. More people should take advantage of it if they have it. The real problem, as always, is reaching those who feel stigmatized by the idea of therapy. Then there are those Americans who don’t have access to the benefit at all.

Suppose elected officials would stop their partisan sniping and sending up false flags. Then maybe, just maybe, Democrats and Republicans can deal with the real issues threatening all our futures.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to look for the good news amongst the bad and hope for the best.

What’s Bugging Me These Days

Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay

Watching television and your phone these days, do you ever get the feeling there’s just too much happening in your mind and your life? There’s the stress at work and school and home and community. Pandemic, arguing about Critical Race Theory, vaccination denial, death threats over masks, we won’t get toys in time for the holidays. There’s the social media hysteria. And the Democrats can’t get their act together. They’re practically handing 2022 and 2024 over to you know who. Don’t forget the new narrative about January 6, 2021. The FBI, BLM, Antifa, and yo momma did it. I have a severe headache.

Months ago began refusing to watch the evening opinion shows on CNN and MSNBC. Not because I was in denial. It was just the constant drone of lousy news hysteria and throwing shade, and it was just the same horrible bullshit night after night. There just didn’t seem to be any good news on the horizon. The bad guys were still the bad guys, and I couldn’t figure out who the good guys were. That was the sad part. Everyone points fingers and scream at each other. They accused each other of the worst things imaginable, and no one wanted to take the blame for anything. It was just easier to blame the other person.

Gas and everything else is going up. The supply lines are threatened. And you just can’t help but feel like nothing is happening and that nothing good will come out of this. Wow, this is a good time as any to take a deep breath and step out of the vortex of negativity, misinformation, and selfishness.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

That’s a big part of the problem. You see and read more examples every day where people would rather satisfy their little selfish needs than take the time to see how their actions might impact their family or friends, or neighbors. Whether it’s speeding through someone’s neighborhood or refusing violently to wear a mask when asked, or shouting death to your neighbor every time you disagree with each other. Knocking out the teeth of a fellow passenger on an airplane 35-thousand feet in the air just doesn’t seem like a good idea. Arguing with the Uber or Lyft driver while they’re trying to take you to your destination by keeping their eyes on the road instead of your shouting mouth is just not the most brilliant move you can make.

Whatever happened to We’re all in this together? Yeah, I guess that was just a marketing slogan, not a sincere thought. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? We just can’t seem to muster enough empathy, sympathy, heartwarming feelings for our fellow human beings. Half of us are still angry that their guy didn’t win, and the other half is trying to move forward with an eye on our rear to make sure someone doesn’t run up on us and spray bear urine on us. Don’t grin. Some of that second half is spoiling for a fight and just can’t wait for the first half, nominally called Karen and Ken, to bounce out from their camouflaged hideaways and pick-up trucks and whatever hold they think they need to hide in to ambush the second half. Anger and threats fill the air between the first and second half, guns come out, and cheers and threats go up as we sadly watch our Democracy die.

In the meantime, we’re all just trying to survive. Carry on with life as if the past nearly two years didn’t happen. I hate to tell you, but it’s still happening whether you want to believe it or not. Denial, isn’t that a bitch? I just don’t get it. What’s the end game? There’s a whole network (actually more than one) devoted to fanning the flames of denial and hate and ignorance, and I’m trying to figure out what’s in it for them? It would be too easy just to say it’s all about money. And to say it’s just about aiding and abetting the next American revolution to overthrow the Democracy we know for something else like, I don’t know, a Theocracy or a United States of Republicanism or Trumpism. I mean, they do know that more of us voted for the other guy than voted for their guy? But, they have more guns and the deep state of law enforcement and military and ex-law enforcement and ex-military. What do we have? The stereotypical answer would be We have the truth on our side. But, no one cares anymore about facts. All that matters is which conspiracy theory, what crazy ass story, is the worst. How many times can you call something, anything, a False Flag?

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I wish I could say that it’s only one side screaming crazy. The internet is full of people screaming equally crazy shit about the other side. Say something that breaks some invisible rule or crosses some imaginary red line, and you are fucked for life. All sense of perspective and proportion no longer exists. Everyone has anointed themselves enforcer, judge, and jury. All you need is a social media account, and you are suddenly that enforcer, judge, and jury. Whatever happened to sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Now, it’s we’re going to beat the shit out of you for your words with a stick, stones, more words, lawsuits, harassment, and threats against you, your family, and anyone else we can find. I’m just curious Who died and made you King and Queen?

I get into discussions with my wife and friends who have a more optimistic passion for the future. They believe in hope. In the long run, we all want happiness and a good life and community where we can all live as neighbors in peace. All the noise we hear and see in internet videos is not an accurate picture of this country. They try to convince me that there are more good people than bad people and that it’s all our responsibility to find each other and look out for each other. To celebrate together what we have and what we need. That without each other, we will surrender to all that noise that we just can’t seem to get out of our heads. Come on, Antonio, they say, change the channel and discover the other 500 channels of hope and love.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Okay, I’ll try. Except my channel seems to be stuck, and I have to change the batteries on my remote.

I guess I could just unplug the TV and turn off my phone.

Chacho and The Five-Dollar Bag, Part 2

The following short story was written as part of an assignment for English 405 at CSULB. It is the first draft. A final version is due in December.

Read Part One Here: Chacho and The Five-Dollar Bag

Part Two

He can hear Kiki’s mother screaming behind the door. His sister Gina opens it, and she’s crying. Chacho pushes his way in, rapping some shit about, “I saw some guys try to rob Kiki, and they chased him into the building, but I told them that he ran down 141st street.” He prayed that Kiki had not given them another story.

Momma is still screaming. Sister is still crying. Kiki has his snatch and run uniform off, holding a towel against his left arm full of blood dripping down onto the black case that he had taken from the old woman on the floor. It was slightly open, and Chacho, huffing and puffing out of breath, could see the corner of a bible inside. Kiki looked at him and then at the black case with the bible book peeking through the unzippered opening and back to Chacho. What the fuck? He mouthed.

There’s so much chaos that Kiki’s mother and sister don’t see the black case on the floor. His mother is on the phone calling someone to come over and take Kiki to the hospital. Chacho slowly bends down and picks up the case, catching Kiki’s eye, who’s mouthing to Chacho to take that shit outa here. Chacho backs out of apartment 12B, talking about how he’s going to find those ladrones de mierda, fucking thieves, who tried to rip off Kiki. No one hears him or cares.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Chacho steps out into the hallway, finds the stairs, and slowly makes his way down twelve floors hoping not to run into those guys who were chasing Kiki or anyone from his family or anyone who knows them. When he gets to the first-floor landing, he stops and opens the black case. Inside a pocket, Chacho can see money sticking out. His eyes bulge in surprise, then he freaks, thinking about taking money from an old woman. But Chacho’s nose is now running full drip of snots, his body shivering from more than the winter cold. All that really matters now is stopping the shaking.

He falls back onto the wall of the first-floor hallway, and his mind races with calculations. Chacho counts it…twenty-five dollars. That’s five five-dollar bags. That’s at least two, maybe three days of getting high.  

As he stands in the hallway to his building’s back door, Chacho thinks that, in the future, he will respect all old ladies walking down the streets with their bibles and purses from now until his death. Chacho will ask that they forgive him even as they look at him and wonder, “¿Qué te pasa, chico?” What’s wrong, boy?. “Nada, I just need your forgiveness forever.”

Chacho turns and hustles out the back of the building into the playground, where he walks across Willis Avenue looking over his shoulder for la jara or the guys still looking for Kiki. He passes Sammy’s and scopes the clock inside. It’s eight o’clock, and he really needs to get high soon. Determined but still shaking, he heads to Westchester Avenue, the number 26 bus to 156th and the man with the best dope in the Bronx.

Chacho has heard of El Gato. Big-time drug dealer. What the fuck was he doing up in here? The trashed-up and boarded-up tenement building on 156th Street is littered with dead syringes, yellowed newspapers, beer bottles, discarded glassine bags, and the lingering smell of too much dope, too much alcohol, and too much death. Chacho struggles up the darkness-covered stairs to the third floor, hoping he doesn’t step on no shit and no dead junkie who gave his life for a high that he will never repeat.

When Chacho left the Seminary, his friends, including Kiki, told him that his student deferment was dead. Nothing was going to save him from the draft. It was only a matter of time before Chacho got the call: next stop, Vietnam. Crazy advice followed.

Carlos told him, “If you shootin’ junk, they won’t take you.”

Herman’s idea was even crazier, “Bro, when they call you down, go high. Punch some holes in ya veins, and they won’t draft ya.”

Kiki had the plan all worked out.

 “Chacho, it’s real simple. All you gotta do is get strung out. Ride the white horse into the main vein direct to your brain all the way to the draft board.”

Chacho is in a deep hole. This is not what my mother and father had prayed for me.

El Gato lies on a cot in front of an open oven door, trying to stay warm. His hands are smeared with too much pain, blood, and dirt. It’s hard to believe this broken-down-looking man has got the best dope in the Bronx. At least, that’s what Kiki told him.

“He’s a little messed up now,” Kiki told Chacho, “But, he still got good connections.”

A trail of dead food, half-empty beer cans, old smelly rags spill out behind Chacho as he moves a battered stuffed chair closer to the man. El Gato fumbles with a grease-stained brown shopping bag next to him. Out comes a smaller brown bag also marked with blood and dirt.

“I just wanna skin-pop. I don’t mainline,” Chacho says nervously.

El Gato digs into the paper bag for the improvised tools whose only job is to plunge heroin into one’s central vein, where it will crawl up the arm through the body into the brain. He pulls out an eyedropper. A small needle with a red cap is supposed to protect someone from being pricked. That’s funny, Chacho laughs inside. He’s getting ready to shove heroin…or what El Gato claims is heroin…into his body, and they’re worried about their fingers being pricked.

Up until that moment in that jive-ass shooting gallery, Chacho had been snorting or popping, injecting under his skin. It takes a little longer to catch the rush, but he had been assured by the best street dope experts that he wouldn’t get hooked. They were lying. El Gato wonders what the point is.

“Man, if you main, ya don’t have to use as much. Ya get high faster.”

Image by Лечение Наркомании from Pixabay

There is always a ritual when preparing for death. First, don’t worry about sterile. Ignore the dirt on the floor. Ignore the old blood dripping down walls that haven’t been washed since the building began or the smell of old piss and dying garbage all around you. “Man, did someone die up in here?” This is not Good Housekeeping certified.

The old junkie has an old bottle full of water.

“I cleaned the bottle, man, before I put water in it,” he assures Chacho, who knows he’s lying, but he doesn’t care.

El Gato takes the rusting bottle cap off and sets it down on a broken-down coffee table next to him. If that table could only talk, Chacho knows it would warn him, “Don’t take this ride on the mainline home.”

The stench from El Gato, the crying voices from elsewhere in the shooting gallery where the same ritual is happening. All of it is starting to choke Chacho’s mind. He just wants to get high and get out of there, down those dark steps, and rush into the street, praying that he has some coins for the bus ride home.

There’s a small ball of cotton stuck to the inside of the cap like it’s permanently engraved there.

“Gimme the bag,” the old junkie snorts.

There’s one five-dollar bag of heroin. Chacho is holding on to the other bags. A five-dollar bag is best for only one person, but El Gato has the works, the tools for the injection.

“Yeah, since we be sharing one bag, you gotta main, or you ain’t gonna get high.”

Chacho is convinced. See how easy it is. Why be in that cesspool shooting gallery if he ain’t going to get high.

Practice makes perfect as El Gato wraps the belt around Chacho’s upper arm, looking for the central vein crying for the high. The muddy water sucks up through the thin needle from the bottle cap through that week’s old cotton ball up into the eyedropper back down through the needle into his bulging vein. His blood percolates back up and down with a rush of warmth.

Chacho knows the heroin is authentic, imported from some foreign country, smuggled across thousands of miles hidden in suitcase bottoms to apartments where naked women mix it with baby milk powder (or worse) into glassine bags into the hands of Paco down the block onto pissed on steps leftover from the last fool who overdosed crying for his mommy into an overused rusting bottle cap with water that ain’t clean through a dirty needle into the main vein. For Chacho, this will not end with a trip home.

Chacho slides down the overstuffed chair until he’s now half sitting in the chair and the floor and his legs are splayed in two different directions. El Gato jumps up from his cot. He’s wearing an army jacket over a full-length wool coat. A scarf wrapped so many times around his neck that it must feel like it’s choking him. Chacho’s eyes are rolling back in his head. El Gato is screaming, slapping Chacho across the face. One cheek, then another.

“Get up, dude. Get up. Ya’ can’t die here.”

El Gato grabs Chacho’s feet while yelling out to other people elsewhere in the apartment. Two dope fiends rush in.

“Help me get this motherfucka’ outa here. He dies here, and we’re all fucked.”

But first, business is business.

“Check his pockets. See if got any more dope or money.”

They ransack Chacho’s motionless body, pulling at his pockets, finding the other bags and a black case they open, seeing a bible inside.

El Gato is pissed.

“Motherfucka’ was holding out on me.”

Junkie number one grabs one arm, and Junkie number two grabs the other arm. All three carry an already or soon to be deadweight Chacho out the apartment door and turn left onto the stairs up to the roof.

“Let’s dump him on the roof,” El Gato says thoughtfully, “Man ain’t gonna be dead in my pad.”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

And that’s it. Pedro, aka Chacho, is dying alone on the roof of a five-story shabby-ass tenement building full of shooting gallery apartments where heavenly music crashes with the sounds of sirens and people screaming outside. This is not how the day was supposed to end, as Chacho swears to the night sky that he can’t die. He’s got things to do. There’s that job he has to get. The one that Carmen demanded he gets during their last argument so they can get married. She wants a big wedding and a white wedding dress and a honeymoon in old San Juan. But he can’t get a job because he’s a junkie, and mom and pop tell him that he’s got to move out. “I no want a junkie livin’ here,” tears washing over her brown face.

Carmen will not be getting her wedding, and his parents won’t have to worry anymore about kicking him out.

Chacho wonders if people can see their soul falling, life’s breath oozing out as he goes from looking up at the sky to looking down on his body. How is that even possible is his last fading thought.

Feature Image by RenoBeranger from Pixabay 

© 2021

Chacho and The Five-Dollar Bag

The following short story was written as part of an assignment for English 405 at CSULB. It is a first draft. A final version is due in December.

Part One

Pedro was pissed when he found out what his nickname meant. The nickname that Kiki, his best friend from childhood, gave him. He started calling Pedro Chacho when Kiki got back from ‘Nam. At first, Pedro ignored it. He figured it was no big deal. Then, his brother, Tony, told him that Chacho was slang for Muchacho, as in small boy. Now, all his friends called him Chacho. Pedro protested to Kiki.

“I ain’t no boy. I’m eighteen years old.”

“Bro, it’s just a nickname. Everyone in ‘Nam had a nickname,” Kiki calmly explained.

“Yeah, what did they call you?”


“But, Kiki is your name.”

Chacho stands at 142nd Street and Willis Avenue, watching the sunset between the project buildings. Dark, ominous clouds take its place. Snow is coming to the South Bronx.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

He’s freezing his ass off, his cold brown hands shoved deep into his peacoat, a thin alpaca shirt under his coat, no hat. Even his busted ass Keds are no protection for the crosswinds winding their way through the canyons of the Jefferson projects. All he can fume about is the damn nickname.

Kiki said the plan was simple. All Chacho had to do was to be the lookout at the corner. And Chacho believed him. He and the rest of the boys always believed and trusted Kiki who was two years older than the rest of the group. That made him the leader in his mind. And that was okay with everyone, including Chacho, Carlos, Herman, Junior, Guy. They all looked up to Kiki because he wasn’t scared of anyone, anytime, anywhere. But Chacho was scared now.

“My mom’s bedroom window is like right there…on the eighteenth floor,” he protested, “She could look out and see me.”

“What she going to see from that far? Man, you just look like a bug,” Kiki tried to convince him. “Just look cool and watch for the man. If you see him, ya holla.”

Hector’s Barber Shop is two doors down, where Hector himself would give Chacho a razor cut every time he came home from school. Sitting in the barber’s chair as if he was on a throne listening to Doble-OOO radio. Traditional Puerto Rican music oozing out like milk from a momma’s breast. Spanish and Spanglish chatter reminding him where he comes from and where he is at.

He missed it the last four years while he was away at the Seminary. Yet, he felt more distant every visit when he came home for Christmas, Easter, and summer. Now that Chacho was back in the neighborhood, he was trying hard to blend back in. The old crowd was no longer the fourteen-year-olds he left behind. They were now young men, like him, with their own dreams and nightmares. Carlos got drafted and was in ‘Nam. Herman got a job down on Delancey Street with a baby on the way. Last he saw Junior, he was running from la Jara (the police) across Willis Avenue screaming some crazy shit about Yo momma ain’t got no draws. And Guy, the word was he had graduated to a big-time dope dealer in Manhattan. They don’t got time for Chacho. Only Kiki does.

Directly behind him is Sammy’s Pizza, where, on a good day, Sammy would give Kiki and Chacho small paper cups of clean water for free. Sammy knew why they wanted the water. It was used in a ritual where water would drop into a bottle cap full of smack along with a small blob of cotton and heated over an open flame. The water would help purify the death that they tried so hard to bring upon themselves in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost. Bless you is all Sammy would say as if it was the last goodbye to Chacho and Kiki. The final act in a dangerous and tragic play called The End.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Chacho is still skin popping. Kiki is mainlining. Bragging how the dope in ‘Nam is the shit.

“Higher than those B-52s dropping their loads. My homeboy told me, some of the brothers be doped up while they dropped their bomb loads on the Cong’s ass.”

Sammy’s clock says it’s five o’clock. Chacho had hocked his watch last week, a gift from his girlfriend Carmen. She noticed it was gone when they went to church to talk to Father Kelly about their planned wedding.

“I lost it in the subway. The strap was loose, and I think it just…,” he tried to tell her, his voice trailing off.

He knew she knew he was lying. It wasn’t the first time that he was nodding in her face. Carmen started crying and ran home. Chacho stood in front of Saint Anselm’s Church wishing he could run after her. But, as high as he was, the only place he was running to was face down on the sidewalk.

The streetlights are on, and headlights are streaking up and down Willis Avenue. It’s rush hour. That’s a good thing. A lot of distractions. Around him, people are shuffling home from bus stops and train stations and dead-end jobs that pay the high rent in rundown apartment buildings where they have to step over the deadbeat bodies of junkies during the dope epidemic of 1968. No one is going to pay any attention to a purse snatch. People gots to get home.

Chacho is standing guard looking up and down Willis Avenue and then 142nd Street and across the street up to the 18th floor to make sure his moms ain’t looking out the window wondering, ‘Why is that fool standing out on that corner in this cold weather without a hat and gloves?”

Yeah, that’s not what she’s thinking! “He lookin’ for la droga again. Soy done con el.”

And she be right. Mom should be done with Chacho because he can’t believe he’s standing with the hawk kicking his ass on the lookout for la jara.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Meanwhile, Kiki walks behind an elderly woman up 142nd Street toward Willis Avenue, eyeing her black purse with the determination of a beast stalking its prey. Kiki is wearing what he liked to call his snatch and run uniform. Black leather jacket with some African print Dashiki thrown over it, black pants, black sweater, black socks, black and white Chuck Taylor Cons (the best for running, he bragged to Chacho). Kiki told Chacho that the clothes sent a message to old people, don’t fuck with me. I’m dangerous.  

All they need is ten bucks for two five-dollar bags of dope. Kiki has done this before, he says. “Plenty of times. I grab the purse and run. They ain’t going to stop me. If I have to, I push them down. Not hard. I ain’t no animal.”

Chacho’s never done this before. And he doesn’t want to do this now or ever. A year ago, he was upstate in a seminary studying to be a priest until he met Carmen during a holiday visit home. He was shaking. From fear. From the cold. From the creeping jones that was making its way up from his feet to his nose. The priesthood wasn’t for him. He told his father that. But his father didn’t want to understand.

“Hijo, why’d you leave? We all prayed for you to serve the church.”

“Pop, the Irish and Italian boys always wanted to fight me because I was Puerto Rican. I was alone in the Seminary,” Chacho tried to explain.

“There is pain everywhere. Maybe God was testing your faith.”

For Chacho, there was too much pain and too much testing of his faith. What he didn’t tell his father was the number of times the kids had called him Spic. His father hated that word. His children were forbidden to ever use it.  

Chacho had made up his mind that he was leaving after the last fight. He got his ass kicked by some Italian from Arthur Avenue who was twice his size. Father Burke accused Chacho of starting it. The other white boys just nodded. No one came to his defense. Fuck ’em.

In the end, there were just too many rules and too many daily prayers. Worse, Chacho told Kiki, there would be no sex as a priest. Kiki thought that was the best reason to leave Saint Thomas’s Junior Seminary.

Now he was a junkie “aiding and abetting” a strong-arm robbery of an old woman. Damn, I hope my mom doesn’t find out. But the road to a good high is just too strong. More potent than any guilt he would feel if Kiki in his snatch and run uniform had to push some old lady down on the ground because she refused to let go of the goddamn purse.

Suddenly, Chacho hears a scream shooting up 142nd Street, shutting out the Willis Avenue noise of buses, cabs, folks just trying to get home before the threatened snow piles up on the streets. They don’t have any boots on because they just got here from Puerto Rico or Santo Domingo, and they have no snow down there.

Chacho looks down the block, and an old woman is hanging on to something, struggling with Kiki. She’s screaming madness in Spanish, and Chacho can’t quite make out what she’s saying as Kiki pushes her down and starts running up 142nd street towards Willis Avenue.

Chacho prays that he’s got that woman’s purse when out of the corner of his right eye, he sees some bro’ in a doorway of a rundown apartment building on 142nd street. He’s just standing there, hands in his coat pocket, looking down the street. The man gotta see Kiki running and hear that old lady screaming mad as hell, “Por favor, stop him, please!”

Damn it, shut up. Chacho is freaking out looking for a way outta there. His heart is racing. Run mofo across Willis Avenue and home.

“¡Me robó!”

Then, the man in the doorway steps down and lunges at Kiki. Chacho figures he’s trying to grab him, but Kiki lets out a scream stronger than the woman’s, “Motherfucker, why you stab me?”

Kiki is running, tripping, holding his left arm. The guy in the doorway is joined by other men from down the block running after Kiki. He ain’t waiting for the light to change as he scrambles across Willis Avenue dodging cars and people towards his and Chacho’s building.

There’s a procession of chasers after Kiki as they cross the Avenue screaming “¡Ese hijo de gran puta! That motherfucker!”

Chacho is faster so he pulls up alongside the lead guy, the one who stabbed Kiki, and yells that he knows who that guy is and the building he lives in.

“He’s at 242. I’ll run around 240 and cut him off in case he tries running up 141st Street.”

They turn the corner and haul ass while Chacho pretends to look exhausted and when they’re out of sight, he runs into 240 and takes the elevator up the 12th floor, and knocks on 12B. There’s blood on the door.

Feature Image by RenoBeranger from Pixabay 

Next Week: Part Two

Image by Лечение Наркомании from Pixabay

© 2021

That Purse Snatch in 1968

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The following narrative was published in Medium earlier this year. We are republishing it in advance of a submission to my Short Story class based on this piece.

It seemed simple enough. I would be a lookout at the corner of 142nd and Willis Avenue. Hector’s Barber Shop was two doors down, where Hector himself would give me a razor cut every two weeks on any Saturday. Sitting in that chair as if I was on a throne listening to Doble-OOO radio station and traditional Puerto Rican music and Spanish-language chatter oozing out like milk from momma’s breast. Next door was Sammy’s Pizza, where, on a good day, Sammy would give us small paper cups of water for free instead of filled with the Italian Ice they were meant for. He knew why we wanted them: to drop clean water through an eyedropper into a bottle cap filled with a small blob of cotton and a five-dollar bag of smack in the belief that we could purify the death created in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost. At least the water is clean. We would buy a slice for fifty cents when we could to say thanks. Bless you is all Sammy would say as if it was the last goodbye to us. Just in case, the water drops into the bottle cap full of smack, and a small blob of cotton heated over an open flame turned out to be the final act in our dangerous and tragic play — the End.

It was winter, and I was cold and shivering. Seven o’clock in the evening, and people were shuffling home from bus stops and train stations and dead-end jobs that paid the rent in rundown apartment buildings where they had to step over the deadbeat bodies of junkies during the dope epidemic of 1968. Hands in my coat pocket wrapped around my works (eyedropper- check, bottle cap-check, needle safely sheathed, so we don’t stab ourselves-check, a recycled blob of cotton that will not purify anything-check) bundled together with a brown rubber band in a decaying brown bag. A matchbook with 4–5 matches left with the hidden message written across the inside cover “Use wisely sucker. This is all that is left.”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’m standing guard looking up and down Willis Avenue and 142nd Street and across the street up to the 14th floor to make sure my fiancé, Chicky, is not looking out the window where she could see me and wonder, ‘Why is that fool standing out on that corner in this cold weather without a hat on and probably doesn’t have any gloves on?” Yeah, that’s not what she’s thinking! But I know she’s thinking “he’s looking for dope again. I’m done with him.” And she be right. She and I should be done with me because I can’t believe I’m standing on the corner of Willis Avenue and 142nd Street in this damn cold ass weather on the lookout for La Hara as Carlito stalks an elderly woman up 142nd Street toward Willis Avenue while eyeing her black purse with the determination of a beast stalking its prey. All we need is ten bucks to split two five-dollar bags of dope, smack, skag, the white horse. Carlito has done this before, he says. “Plenty of times. I grab the purse and run. They ain’t going to stop me. If I have to, I push them down. Not hard. I ain’t no animal.” I’ve never done this before. I don’t want to do this now or ever. But the call of the main vein, the road to a good feeling, is just too strong. Stronger than the guilt that I would feel if Carlito had to push some old lady down on the ground because she refused to let go of the goddamn purse. Let it go, damn it.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Suddenly, I hear a shout and a scream shooting up 142nd Street, landing in front of me, shutting out the Willis Avenue noise of buses, cabs, folks just trying to get home before threatened snow piles up on the streets. They don’t have any boots because they just got here from Puerto Rico or Santo Domingo and they ain’t got no snow down there.

Damn Carlito, why you have to push that woman down? She’s screaming madness in Spanish, and I can’t quite make out what the fuck she’s saying as I scope Carlito running up 142nd street towards Willis Avenue. I pray (not really pray) that he’s got that woman’s purse when I see this guy in a doorway of a rundown apartment building on 142nd street. He’s just standing there, hands in his coat pocket, looking down the street. He’s gotta see Carlito running and hear that old lady screaming mad as hell shit in Spanish, “¡Detenlo, por favor!” (“Stop him, please!”) Damn it, shut up. I’m freaking out looking for a way outta here. Run mofo down Willis toward 149th Street and home. “¡Me robó!” (“He robbed me!”) Why ain’t you running? Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see the guy in the doorway step down and lunge at Carlito. I figured he was trying to grab him, but his arm was swinging like he missed, and Carlito let out a scream stronger than the woman’s, “Mother Fucker, why you stab me?”

Carlito is running but tripping, holding his left arm. Now, the guy in the doorway is joined by other men from down the street running after Carlito. He ain’t waiting for the light to change as he scrambles across Willis Avenue dodging cars and people towards the projects. To this day, I don’t know why I joined the procession of chasers across the Avenue as they’re screaming “¡Detén a ese hijo de puta!” (“Stop that Motherfucker!”). I know where Carlito lives, and I tell the men when I catch up with them that I saw him cut behind the 242 building to run down 141st. They turn the corner and haul ass while I pretend to look exhausted and when they’re out of sight, I run into 242 and take the elevator up the 12th floor and knock on 12B, and I see blood on the door.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Carlito’s mother can be heard screaming behind the door. Carlito’s sister opens the door, and she’s crying. I push my way in, rapping some shit about, “I saw some guys try to rob Carlito, and they chased him to the building, but I told them that he ran down 141st street,” and I wanted to make sure that Carlito was okay. Momma is still screaming. Sister is still crying. Carlito has his coat off, his shirt off, holding a towel against his left arm full of blood dripping down his arm onto the black case on the floor that he had taken from the old woman. It was open, and I could see that there was a bible inside. Carlito was huffing and puffing. He looked at me and then looked at the zippered black case with the Bible book peeking through the unzippered opening and back to me, and I’m like, What the fuck? His mother is on the phone calling someone to come over and take Carlito to the hospital, and I back out through apartment 12B talking about how I’m going to see if I can find a cop so I can give them a description of those Ladrones de mierda (Fucking thieves) who tried to rip off Carlito of that zippered black case with the bible inside that he had found in the street and was trying to find the owner when a bunch of junkies tried to rob him.

I stepped out into the hallway, found the stairs, and slowly made my way down 12 floors hoping not to run into those guys who were chasing Carlito or my girlfriend or anyone from her family or anyone that knew her. When I got to the first floor, I turned to go out the back way that would take me into the playground where I would walk across the project complex to St. Ann’s Avenue and then Third Avenue where I would walk to Westchester Avenue to take the number 26 bus to 156th and Westchester and home.

Image by Лечение Наркомании from Pixabay

My nose was now running, shivering from more than the winter cold. I was not high and would not get high until maybe the next day. But, I learned two lessons: one, I’m a terrible lookout that is never going to be good at committing a crime, and two, from now until the day I die, I will respect all old ladies that I see walking down the streets with their bibles and purses and ask that they forgive me even as they look at me and wonder, “¿Qué te pasa, chico?” (“What’s wrong, boy?”) is wrong with you, Nada, solo necesito tu perdón para siempre. Nothing, I just need your forgiveness forever.

A Distraction at 57th and Fifth Avenue

The following is an updated narrative poem from Medium

Mental Health
Credit: zodebala

Joe Vega is a lost young man who cannot find his memory or the light in his eyes. Nor the sounds of his past. There is no way back and no map forward. He is stuck where he stands. Void of any purpose except this moment.

Blood pooling at his wrists. He opens his mouth to hear nothing but silence. 57th and Fifth Avenue. It’s 3 o’clock. 1966. Invisible to them, the crowds rush past him.

He’s late for work. Chock Full o’Nuts Coffee Shop splashing cups on customers and flipping those greasy half-beef patties onto stale buns while smiling uselessly. Hopelessly. It’s a future that will not arrive.

No, he’s just going to throw himself down at the feet of New York’s finest, directing traffic in the middle of 57th and Fifth Avenue. The symbol of a civilized society, the guardian of order, protector of the law. He’ll take care of things. He’ll know what to do, how to help. This really wasn’t a badly botched suicide attempt begun in Central Park on a knoll overlooking a quiet, placid lake. No, it’s more like a cry for help.

That’s what they will later tell the nice busy policeman minding his job and not thinking about someone falling, scrawling with their bloodied hands on his long blue coat with the silver badge glinting in the afternoon sun on a fall day in the middle of Fifth Avenue encircled by the rush hour traffic crush and a №49 bus vainly attempting a left turn onto 57th Street blocked by hundreds of New Yorkers zombie fast-walking to stale jobs and the latest personal bankruptcy sales at Bloomingdales and Macys. Slowed down by gawking tourists (Look, Ethel, Tiffany, Bergdorf Goodman, Van Cleef & Arpels).

Mental Health
Image by Pat McKane from Pixabay

They all stop. Distracted for a second in time. Dropping their jaws in awe at the sight of the young man with the red blood pooling at his wrists. Dripping a trail down Fifth Avenue. Falling with arms and hands outreached like he was praying to the skyscrapers before him. Barely shouting. Help me.

Oh, well, just another distraction in New York City. They move on.

Writer’s note: You are never alone. Someone is always there to help you. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-8255.

Trust Me, COVID Ain’t Over No Matter What Your Facebook Friends Say


I checked the CDC.gov website this morning. Here we are 18-19 months in this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic; you know, the one that people increasingly think is over or is not as bad as the experts say or worse, never happened. Yeah, it isn’t over. According to the CDC, “the current 7-day moving average of daily new cases (146,182) increased 6.1% compared with the previous 7-day moving average (137,783).” The government agency reports that there are now a total of 41,593,179 COVID-19 cases reported as of September 15, 2021. THE CDC has reported an astonishing 666,440 total deaths to date. That number doesn’t seem to get a rise in anyone these days unless you are, like me, someone who knew a fellow human being is part of this statistic.

What has gotten people a little more anxious is this reality: hospitalization rates are increasing, including rates in children ages 11 years and younger, according to the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019-Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network. They report that “the weekly rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations for these children are the highest they have ever been.”  The rate for children four years and younger was 2.4 per 100,000 (for the week ending August 28, 2021). The rate for children ages 5–11 is 0.9 per 100,000 (for weeks ending August 9 and August 21, 2021). I know, These age groups are currently not eligible for any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

From FaceTime Margaret Ruiz

These numbers don’t bother some people, but they sure do bother me as a parent and a grandparent. My granddaughter, Anabella Ruiz, four years old, was diagnosed with COVID a week ago. She and her parents, my son Antonio and daughter-in-law Crystal, were quarantined. Anabella developed a bad cold and a low-grade fever. Today, as of this writing, she seems well on her way to a full recovery. We’re all glad to hear it.

Image by Janet Reddick from Pixabay 

But that’s not the point. Anabella shouldn’t have gotten it in the first place. According to my son, she most probably contracted it at her preschool—the one in Texas. You know the state where the Governor is prepared to kill everyone to satisfy the crazies in the GOP base (too harsh?). The Texas Tribune is tracking the virus in the state, and one of their recent headlines said it all, “About a month into this school year, the number of reported coronavirus cases among students is approaching the total from the entire 2020-21 school year.” They add that the state data on school cases is “incomplete and likely an undercount.” Hell, with no mask mandates required and people acting like it doesn’t exist, what would you expect.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had to contend with denial, misinformation, threats, and the disintegration of public health safeguards. Worse is the fraying of whatever mutual contract we had for neighbors looking out for neighbors, for Americans to practice what they preach:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare” United States Constitution

Image by Marcos Cola from Pixabay 

This pandemic has been a test of justice; those with the least resources and protection were easy targets for the virus. The last administration and the administrations of many Governors, County, and local officials have created an atmosphere where the local contingent of crazies constantly threatens domestic tranquility. People attack retail workers and show up at Board of Education meetings to protest and disrupt with outlandish conspiracy theories and selfish demands. We may not be at war with planes and tanks and infantry but trust me when I say this is a war for the common defense of our neighbors, our families, especially those who are most at risk. A significant number of Americans have turned their backs on that responsibility. Instead, they have said, “You’re on your own. We owe you nothing.” They have abandoned us all as we work to ensure the general welfare of the United States of America.

It is all in service to a delusion. It is to a sphere of aluminum foil through which they receive their instructions. Those instructions come from each other and the puppeteers who pull strings. The actions are all at the expense of the common purpose. That is to fight against a virus that threatens our lives, economy, and future. They would instead immerse themselves in shouting matches, and desperate sloganeering, and quest for power over the rest of us. But, what will they reap? A dead country, dead people, dead future. And for what?

Those that know better and encourage it are complicit. I mean, those people do know better, but they continue to enable it and lead it. They sit in their offices, television studios, editorial rooms, and behind their news site paywalls and laugh and count their money while America burns. All of this is in service to Free Speech, owning the libs, the illusion of freedom with no accountability, the economy, and some pictures of a strong America that does not exist and probably never has.

I wish I could tell you that we’re all going to be alright. That tomorrow, the deniers and apologists for them will wake up, brush their teeth, make their coffee or tea, and exclaim aloud that they get it. That being patriotic, that freedom, that being citizens of the United States of America carry specific responsibilities if we are to be a nation. The exact messages that we’ve heard for decades. Those messages came from the same types of people directed at those of us who protested. We were told, “You have a responsibility. Nothing is free. We all must respect the flag and our laws.”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Hypocrisy is one thing. Refusing to see and hear the facts of what is literary in front of you is another. I honestly don’t know which is worse.

9/11, Ten Years of Sobriety, and the Pandemic

In respect to the solemn date of 9/11, I withheld this blog’s publication for one day.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

On September 11, 2011, I woke up and swore I would never again pour alcohol down my throat, smoke a joint, or ingest any other controlled or uncontrolled substances into my body. At the time, I told myself that the decision had nothing to do with the then 10th anniversary of 9/11. It was just a coincidence.

Now, ten years later, twenty years after 9/11, I sometimes wonder. Especially now during a Pandemic that shows no signs of going away, contrary to the wishful thinking of the deniers.

There is so much commonality, emotionally, between the chaos of my life in 2011 and the chaos of 9/11/2001. That one day not only changed the survivors and families and friends of the dead. It turned an entire nation at that moment into a united people ready to do whatever was necessary to protect itself. Unfortunately for many, that act meant being turned into fearful, angry, vengeful, hateful citizens willing to strike out at anyone they thought looked like the “enemy.” 9/11 brought to the surface the ugly past of anti-immigrant fury so ingrained in the nation’s DNA.

That fury was not just from the usual white suspects. The wrath of hate extended to people of color who I thought would be more tolerant of the neighbors they had known for years. A hysteria crawled out of the nation’s sewer history and crept into their brains and hearts. It was repulsive. Emotionally devastating, and it has lasted for years even to this day.

I am not making a comparison between the death of thousands of people and my life. There were so many emotions in 2011. Feelings of fear, anger, even hate, and self-hate had crawled out of some sewer in my life and captured me. I had been dealing with alcohol and drug addiction for forty-seven years. Emotionally, it had at times turned me into an unrecognizable human being. The gut-wrenching vitriol. The despair of sinking into a bottomless hole. Countless relationships were injured, damaged, excised from my life.

I woke up on the morning of September 11, 2011, and decided that enough was enough. All those emotions had been bubbling up and oozing out of every pore and exploding inside and from me. I just couldn’t go on. The exit strategy was simple, walk away, just like that.

I’m not saying it was easy, nor that I did it alone. My family and friends were there. Always there when I needed a reminder. I was not going back into that hole, that very dark hole. And not once, in ten years, have I ever peeked over the rim and wondered. Not once.

Now, here I am ten years later, post-Trump, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. We are surrounded by deniers, threats to our democracy, threats to the future of this country, more divided as a people (remember when we all rallied around the flag?). I’m still sober, attending college, trying to make sense of why we even celebrate 9/11 because it sure isn’t the same nation. Some people don’t remember because they weren’t born yet or were too young or stopped caring about their fellow citizens who aren’t like them.

New York City’s One World Trade Center when under construction (Photo by Antonio Ruiz)

Sort of like on 9/11 when we suddenly stopped caring about our next-door neighbor because they were too brown or their names didn’t sound American enough, and who knows what’s in their minds and souls. It’s all the same shit as today. Fuck our neighbor, our family, our friends because, well, “It’s all about me.”

On this anniversary of my 10th Sober Anniversary in the middle of a pandemic, I honestly don’t want to relive 9/11 or the personal nightmare from which I escaped. There had been enough emotional suffering to last a lifetime. I want to move on with my life, free of the lifetime of the emotional burden

Sobriety allows me to look back and consider that I was more than a drunk and drug addict. I have accomplished much during my seventy-two years, and I wasn’t always the worst person in the world. The goal is to find the best in me and build on it for the future. That’s what I’m doing.

It’s easy to mourn the lost lives but forget what we became because of the tragedy. The last twenty years of 9/11 anniversaries but also on where we are now. I say we because, just like 9/11, this one finds us in a world of hurt. I am satisfied that I made it to ten years of sobriety. However, I have not felt this much tension, vulnerability, despair, and sadness for us as a nation of citizens in a long time. What the fuck happened to us?

The Manhattan Skyline (Photo by Antonio Ruiz)

We can mourn and still push away from the worst of what we have become. I have realized that the enemy is not terrorists from some foreign country. Each of us Americans has become the enemy to each other. It’s us, those who take this pandemic as a threat to this planet versus people who want to defy mask rules and vaccine mandates. Those are the same people who want to impose their version of an America that never existed except on television and magazines. No, the United States of America doesn’t just belong to them. And they can’t get that through their thick empty heads.

As I review my status today, ten years sober, I see a man trying to stuff a whole lot of “would of should of” into these years of my life that are left to live (I hope it’s another thirty years). The reality is all I can do is take it one day at a time. I commit myself to challenge the worst of me and be a better human being and citizen. I can only hope that we as a nation can do the same.

Thirty-Four Years

I’ve told the story of our meeting so many times in the last thirty-six years. Kismet. Luck. Crazy. But it never seems to get old. A friend of a friend. More than one. Baltimore, Maryland. She West Coast. Me East Coast. A simple hello in a hotel lobby. A bet in front of a hotel’s elevator bank. A fateful ride back to Washington, D.C. A life crisis that would throw me three-thousand miles away to Los Angeles, California, into the love of Sumire Gant that would save my ass.

This gallery of photos is a love medley of our greatest hits as we celebrate thirty-six years together and thirty-four years of marriage (September 3, 1987).

%d bloggers like this: