Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My View of Skid Row(Part One)-OneYear Anniversary of Scribeskidrow.

Today marks the first year anniversary of my blog. It is hard to believe that it is actually been one year since I started writing it. I started writing the blog the same day that I moved out of the Transition House into the Marshall House. I shall never forget that day. I was quite fearful of my future, though, when I went to sleep, and woke up in the morning it was the beginning of a new life. You see, It was the first time I slept soundly for twelve months. Four months in jail followed by eight months in The
Transition House were not places were privacy was something that was remotely possible. In addition to that I was told when to wake up and when to sleep. I slept way into the morning that first morning. It was what I needed to start me on the next phase of my journey on Skid Row. So, I left people behind. They stayed with me in my heart. It was a good thing because most of the people that I met fell prey to circumstances, one way or the other. That candle that you see is not only for the one year anniversary but it is in memory for all who touch me and there were so many. I have been thinking of all of them. The ones that made it, I am more in awe of them than I was previously. The ones that did not, I am in awe of them as well for they gave me their wisdom and they fought a courageous battle with their demons. It was just not meant for them this time around. I miss them. I miss them deeply.
I recall when I first wrote about Skid Row I said that I knew nothing about it. Yes, I had been on Skid Row for eight months but I was in a compound and I rarely ventured out. However, when I moved to San Julian St., to the heart of and soul of the neighborhood, I knew I was going to learn a great deal about it. But as I said in the profile introduction, I began to learn a great deal about myself. My strengths and weaknesses were magnified. I was not able to enjoy my strengths as I had to battle and endure the weaknesses. The strengths meant nothing if I would succumb to the weaknesses. No, I am not talking about using drugs. I am talking about losing faith. And let it be known that I am not talking about losing faith in making through the Skid Row tunnel. I could not think that far ahead. That would be a weakness that would bring about inner chaos and emotional turmoil. The risk was to worry about the future and that would paralyze you from progressing through the day.
"Don't trip." That is where that phrase comes from. Many learned not to trip in jail or prison. They tried to teach me in jail. I understood it in jail. I did not have to deal with it as I had to focus like a robot to survive mentally and emotionally. I tried to deal with the concept when I first arrived on Skid Row because I had more time to let my mind wonder. I could speculate more about the future. In jail, there was no future--just the moment.
Some moments were extremely profound-in ways that are hard to describe. After all that I had experienced, the smallest act of kindness to me would evoke a body shiver and a waterfall of tears. Each act of kindness allowed me to regain faith that softness existed in the world. I would thank the person who extended that human kindness over and over again. Within the first couple of days of moving into the Marshall House and starting my blog, I went to the store to purchase something. A man was sitting on the ground in front of the store. He sat on the ground and asked me for some change. I ignored him. Each time I saw him, he asked me. Each time he asked me, I ignored him. I had my own anger at the time.
. I was not looking down on the man as much as I was fearful that if things did not go as I wanted them to go, needed them to go, I would end up on the ground like him. But in the final analysis, I was rejecting him and his needs. I learned later that his needs were far beyond the money for which he asked. I was hurting at the time and probably angry that someone would ask me for anything. Of course, I forgot that I had asked people for answers to my questions and the time they spent giving me those answers provided comfort and reassurance in my moments of insecurity. And believe me, there were many of them.

Last week marked the end of my first six months of employment and thus was eligible to receive medical benefits. On that day a woman who lived in the building where I worked asked me if her television had arrived for her. She has to urinate in a bag and many times it leaks on the floors and in the elevator. People complain about her and she can be very insistent on what she wants and demands immediate service, service for which I do not have the authority to provide. She gives me hell sometimes. But the woman had to be in a hospital for sometime and was transferred out of here to another location. When she returned the television was delayed in coming with her. Upon hearing that the television was here, she gave me the biggest smile in the world. Behind those otherwise sad eyes, you could see that she felt that somebody cared. She even said that she could hug me.

I saw that man again last week, the one that I told you I ignored. I went to the very same store and he was there. He looked at me like he was familiar with a hostile vibration from me though he obviously did not remember who I was. I went into a conditioned response mode when I saw him. I went into the store, bought what I wanted to buy and walked out and passed him. I walked ten feet and froze, standing dead in my tracks for about 20 seconds. I turned around and approached the man. He looked at me with a wonder in his eyes. After all, so many men like him are attacked every day by those who have such anger they feel that the mentally ill are available punching bags for anyone that feels they need to get out frustration.

I handed him the few dollars that were in my hand. He looked at me as if he was wondering if there was a mean trick in store for me. He looked deep in my eyes and finally saw that I was willing him to take it. It was as much for him as it was for me. "God bless you," he said. And in his eyes I understood that look. I had wore that look myself not too long ago. I felt that look. I ached when I recognized it.
It was the look of hope, a look that let me know that I nourished that hope in him enough for him to fight long enough to have someone provide him with some more hope--The hope that human beings still care for one another in a cruel, mean and vicious world.

I turned away and tears ran down my face. I fed my own need for something inside me to stay alive and grow, something where I can be of service to my fellow man. I looked down and saw the logo of the company for which I work and I had to smile.
As the CEO said one day to me when I told her that her organization can lead the way, "Walter, we are trying." Trying in Skid Row is not an easy task. It takes allot. But all of the people that I have met, gave their all with me when I was in the Marshall House. And now a year later, I am able to do the same for others.
That is what will bring change in Skid Row.

People have asked me what I think of the non profit organizations. That answer is not easy to come by. One must be objective and when in Skid Row it is difficult to be objective. It is easy to grab onto something at which arrows of your own anger and frustrations can be aimed. Any story can make you pull out an arrow from your quiver.

Let me tell you a story. My story. And I tell this story not in anger but as a matter of fact in hopes that the spirit in which it is intended is received in the right way.

I was released from jail on February 7, 2007. It was two weeks after the court released me when I was picked up by Volunteers of America. I did not know I was going to be released in their custody. I was told differently. The judge, himself, did not know where I was. Each time I went to a court hearing he thought I was in another program other than to where he sent me.

I did whatever they told me to do at the Transition House. 7 months later I walked into the court room and the court released me from their custody. However, he said to me that though he appreciated all of the cocaine anonymous and alcohol anonymous meetings that I attended, that was not what he wanted me to do. He wanted me to go to an anger management class for a year. I did not know that. Basically the whole 8 months I that I spent in the program was a waste of my time because I had to still find a program as the judge still wanted me to attend an anger management class.

If I was not angry before then, I was angry after court. Why because I was already frustrated etc etc. I still had to go to a class. Volunteers of America had failed to deliver what they were supposed to do. Somebody in a decision making capacity dropped the ball. It cost me 8 months and I had to find a program before the next court date in December. No program was available. The free ones had a waiting list of 6 months. Perhaps, with a note from several programs, the judge may have understood and not sent me back to jail. I could not count on that.
One of the counselors from the program told me of a program that started at the LA Mission in February but that was speculative in my point of view. Even so, I would have to postpone my life another 4 months. It was already costing me a couple of years.

One counselor came up to me and told me that I should sue Volunteers of America. because they failed to deliver services and I lived in that 100 bed dormitory for no reason. He was right and most likely I would have won. But at the same time I would have lost. And that is my point.

Yes, Volunteers of America failed to do what they told the court they would do on one level. But on another level, on an interpersonal level, each and every person in that organization was there for me. The judge did not know where I was and he ordered me there. How can I assume that Volunteers of America was told I was to be in a certain type of program. Everybody that goes there is there for a drug program.
Should they believe that I was any different? I would say NO.

Each employee gave me wisdom in how to deal with my emotions. Each employee taught me how to deal with the separation and isolation from my family which was court ordered. Each and every employee fought to make me believe in myself and that all would work out if I just was patient. They were patient with me as I would as the same questions repeatedly. They mended my heart as best they could.

What happened to me was not so much a Volunteers of America failure, it is a Skid Row SYSTEMATIC DISORDER. There are communication problems between courts and organizations. There is under staffing. The staff is overworked. Organizations do not hire enough. People cost money. Counselors tell me that they are frustrated because of the unprofessionalism of their peers. Their colleagues do the best they can. It is not their fault that they are not being provided the training.

In cases where training is available, then you have a high transition rate of employee. Some relapse. Others seek other employment after cutting their teeth in the trenches of Skid Row. Some are there just for a paycheck. Is it because they don't care or they can no longer afford to care emotionally as they have been disappointed by clients that let them down or bureaucratic handcuffs that prevent them from doing what they feel needs to be done.

Organizations have a fear for being sued, and lets face, many who are in Skid Row come from a background where scams are a traditional source of employment. Fraud does not only live in Health Care Hospitals. A large percentage of the people that "seek shelter" in the LA Mission, the Midnight Mission, and the Union Rescue Missions are merely taking advantage of the system. They are running some type of scam. Two people were evicted from where I work and they told me they did not care because they can go to one of the missions. Indeed, that is where they told us to forward their mail.

Lets face it. and many in Skid Row believe this. Many counselors believe this. Many of these non profit organizations serve as enablers for those who want to continue to scam the system or do drugs. "Walter, I will relapse when I damn well please." Is it bravado hiding their shame of relapsing? Is it mental illness bred from many things, the seeds of which were planted long before they were born. Let us be clear. There is a socialization process in certain mental illnesses particularly if the roots stem from the eggs of disenfranchisement and the growth comes from a need to survive, whether through ignorance or expedience.

If the missions were to throw out all of those that rotate to one mission and then the other when they have overstayed their welcome at one place,or if they would be tougher on relapsers, then I pretty much guess that their would be enough beds available for the mentally ill and emotionally crippled who are not slick enough or whose souls are not corrupt enough to "run game" to have shelter. They are the ones who are suffering. They are suffering deeply. The other sufferers are the people that relapse after fighting a hard battle and resources are being depleted by those who make a lifestyle of it. These missions are homes to them.

There is an argument by many that the missions do not want to turn anyone away or kick anyone out who is relapsing. To do so would discourage those from stepping forward to receive help. Some say that is nonsense. Some say that the people who are "full time residents" are playing a game and are playing the missions for fools.
Some say that the missions need the crack smokers more than the crack smokers need them. The missions need them to fill the place in order to receive funding. That view is echoed by counselors who believe that the goal of some of the missions or non profits is to obtain funding and that everything else is secondary.

Some also say that at the LA Mission and the Union Rescue Mission you must first commit to being a Christian before you can either gain employment or receive assistance for drugs. Therefore the perception on the street is that help is subject to being converted over to a religious group. I have not talked to the leaders of either place. I do not know. I have read the employment application of the Union Rescue Mission. It does ask you to state some commitment to Christianity. If one is excluded from employment because they are not Christians, I do not know.

I believe the missions have their purpose. I also believe that it would be politically a tough call to throw people out after they have relapsed repeatedly. Everyone is conditioned to certain policies. Business on Skid Row has been done a certain way for a long time. But lets be honest. Everyone knows that drugs are sold by those that live in the missions. Some believe that low level employees protect those that are buying the drugs and even supply them as well, taking a percentage of sells as a supplement to their incomes which are definitely low.
Temptation is there. I was walking with a woman a month ago and she told me to wait for her because she had to stop in the mission, where in front we were standing, in order to purchase her bag of heroin.

It is a difficult call. So no one can expect expect things to change from establishments that have been in Skid Row a long time. They have their axes to grind. It is harder to bring change in huge organizations--too bureaucratic.

It is just like trying to get the agencies or government to committees.
I can recall many times in the last year when government officials would call me to rant and rave about how frustrated they were. County and City agencies were in agreement for a couse of action for Skid Row but everthing was held up because one of the Agencies did not only want top billing. They wanted ONLY billing. Therefore the people who needed assistance did not receive it because of marqee issues.

That led some of the people participating on Skid Row issues to conclude, as do people on the street, that everyone wants Skid Row to stay the same. "Walter, nothing gets done. We have meeting after meeting. We have meetings to discuss the next meeting. Everybody gives lip service of agreement in public. As soon as the meeting adjourns, everyone is backing out of their commitments. it is as if they want to sabotage it. It makes you think that not only nothing is going to change but that everyone wants it to stay the same," spoke a several year front line veteran of Skid Row issues.

"Walter, this thing about containment. It is actually true. No one will state that it is the case but the decisions are, in effect, a defacto policy position. We have this discussion to spread out the services that are offered to the homeless. Every government organization says "yes", we should not put the pressure on the city of Los Angeles. But then they vote down money allocations for their own municipality or respective counties. So in effect nothing changes and LA maintains it position as the homeless capital with Skid Row being the center for it all. But,of of course, eveyone would deny indignantly, feigning trmendous umbrage, if you mentioned that they were in effect perpetuating the 'containment" policy.

So with that, I believe that innovation will come from new sources-sources that are not set in their ways and are open to ideas. There are organizations in Skid row that are open to change. They are more able to adjust to the needs of the community if management feels the situation warrants it. More on that in Part 2 of my first year in review.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tribute to 911

When I was in the Transition House last year, I opened up YouTube account in an attempt to begin to acquaint myself with the evolving multimedia phenonmenon.

The very first video I saw was this one, After 911 The Intimate Story. It was taken by some people who lost someone in their family in the 911 disaster. They, 912crew. have since created a website where they tell how a catastrophe created a community within a community and brought people together who most likely never would have met, let alone create and develop life long relationships.

I am aware that the 911 tribute was last week. However, I feel that each day, in one way or another, we should remember the people who lost their lives in 911. We should also live by the example that the people of "ground zero" have set, transcending cultural differences and nurturing an environment that facilitates the communication and understanding among varieties of people.

Please watch this video, and then after viewing it, please go to 912film.com.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Protest on Spring Street

This morning I went to Wells Fargo Bank on Spring Street between 3rd and 4th. Usually it would be a very quiet routine but that was not the case this morning. There was a huge protest taking place in front of the State Building which is on Spring St.
I did not get the exact name of the union but it was a health care workers union that represents social service providers. Apparently they were vocalizing their position that the budget should be signed. The fear was that the social service workers would not be paid and then services would eventually be cut to their clients who are the developmentally disabled.
At one point the workers marched in a circle in the middle of the street blocking Spring ST. Eventually they settled on one side of the street. The clients, most of whom were in wheelchairs, joined the workers in the protest.

The LA times,reported in this morning's paper
that an agreement had been reached and the state legislature would vote on it today. No new taxes are to be levied but cutbacks in services are at risk.

That is how Monday started. Let us see how the week progresses.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Miguel Contreras Learning Complex Swimming Pool.--More than just a pool

When I was 9 years old two things happened: I became a competitive swimmer in the AAU and I joined the Crenshaw YMCA. At that time the Crenshaw YMCA was expanding its programs and it formed what was the GRA-Y. The GRA-Y was a group of clubs. Club membership was determined by where a child lived in the various neighborhoods that surrounded the YMCA, or by where a child attended school. It was a sports league, human relations laboratory among other things. It was a place where minority kids could spend quality times with their fathers who were all role models for us. It was a place where we could begin the socialization process so we could blend or assimilate into society at large. We were able to travel to places and experience environments that were outside of the immediate area like the Los Angeles National Forest.
It was also a time when fathers could spend quality time with their young sons and provide examples on how to conduct yourselves as adults and as community citizens. Those that did not have fathers were able to benefit from the fathers that were at the meetings, club gatherings and outings or field trips.
My father, a career Los Angeles Unified School District(LAUSD)educator suggested that the members of my club name ourselves the COBRAS. We loved it and that was the name that was on our team tee-shirt and we wore it with pride.

I was swimming every day in my club swim workouts but, in addition to that, I swam daily at the Rancho Cienega Park swim pool adjacent to Dorsey High School. I was a constant figure inside of the pool and my father was a constant observer in the stands. The pool allowed for me to develop my swim skills, stay off of the streets and strive to become a Junior Olympic Champion. I remember when the Tokyo Olympics came on and I watched Don Schollander win 4 gold medals. He was from Yale College and it was the first time I had heard of a college other than USC or UCLA. So that swim pool at Rancho indirectly exposed me to even more environments and opportunities.

As you know my return to swimming, training at USC for the Los Angele Triathlon, was the main ingredient in the successful ending of my substance abuse. Everyday, I went to USC and swam. Interesting enough, I met a man there who was a very good swimmer. He was older than I and he introduced himself to me as Dr. Hart. I remember reading, in the swimming meet results, in Swimming World Magazine, of a man named Hart in 1964. He won many meets and he was on the swim team with Don Schollander at Yale. I asked him where he went to college and he said Yale. Yes, it was the same man about him I read in the magazine. Thirty eight years later, at another people three thousand miles away from where he was living where I first read about him, I met him.
In the spring of 2007, while residing at the shelter in Skid Row, to which I was ordered by the court, I went home to retrieve a couple of things. I could not stay long because I would get into trouble but I managed to grab my swim goggles. I stuffed them in my bag and grabbed my bicycle and rode back to Skid Row, one of the loneliest moments in my entire life that I experienced.

I hung those goggles where I could see them every day. I thought of swimming every day while in jail and what it did for me and I needed to experience it again. I never gave up the idea that I would have that chance, though, in Skid row it was hard to believe that nothing of enjoyment would ever enter my world again. It hurt remembering those days swimming at USC, talking to all of the swimmers and the coaches. They inspired me and had so much to do with my ending a lifestyle of substance abuse. That pool trained so many Olympic swimmers and it felt good to embrace the lifestyle of dedication, devotion, discipline and determination.

I was determined to keep the dream alive, sitting in that shelter, day in and day out. One day, in the summer of 2007, I read, in the Downtown News, where the Contreras Learning Complex had opened up, and there was discussion about opening up the pool for community use. I did not pay too much attention to the article--the important thing was that I became aware of the fact that a new pool was in the area and if they ever opened it, I could afford the cost of it as USC was too far as well as expensive and the Ketchum YMCA membership was beyond my budget as well.

Finally I obtained a job and the chance to begin my fitness program was again in my thoughts but I had a way to go before I could make it happen. And once again, and article about the Miguel Contreras pool was in the Downtown News. Mayor Villaraigosa dedicated the opening of the pool for the summer to the community.

I moved off of San Julian St. and the Olympics were approaching. Months before the 2004 Olympics began was the time when I was when I was on the path of fitness again at the USC pool. The Olympics were here again and I wanted to feel the water and begin once again my fitness program, that same program that helped me end a career of substance abuse.

It all seemed perfect. The was no better time to start my training. The Olympics were only a week away. I had moved into a new unit and left most of the past behind me. The former USC swim Coach had left and become the director of USA swimming and was in charge of the Olympic swim team. I definitely felt a connection there as He and I had become friends.

So I found my goggles and rode my bike up to the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. It was a beautiful new facility, situated on a hill, above a valley, where you could see for miles. It was in contrast to the limited view that I had for so long on Skid Row. But that had changed because my new unit had a expansive view. I guess all of that was in line with the new attitude on life.

The first thing I saw was the School name, the COBRAS. It reminded me immediately of my father, the YMCA clubs and their purpose of developing young men. I could not help but think about how families were able to spend quality time together and boys were off the streets. Instead of getting into trouble, they were having good, healthy fun.

Needless to say, I had a great swim and went there for three weeks. The strength came back and the feeling of building a new life and looking forward was ingrained in me more and more each time I left.

But that was not the important thing. The most important thing was watching the kids having fun, jumping off the diving boards while older brothers and sisters held the hands of their younger sisters with their first attempts of being inside big pool. Mothers played with the kids and enjoyed the company of their husbands.

One Latina girl really caught my attention. She was not frolicking in the pool. She was hard at work swimming laps. She was nine years old, and was doing the butterfly stroke, which is the hardest of the competitive strokes to do at any age--but at nine years old, damn near impossible. It takes hard work and dedication to master the rhythm, acquire the strength and understand the synchronization involved. Clearly she had been doing this for some time. Her parents sat proudly watching her and her father would encourage her. She was a little tiger in that water.

And now the pool is closed until next summer. It is a shame. Again, it is not important that I train. It is important for those families to spend time together. It is important for those children to have the chance to spend time with their mothers and fathers while being taught by their older siblings. It is important that that little latina girl have the opportunity to continue developing her swimming, something that will give her confidence far beyond the swim pool. It is important that they learn and experience something new and realize that there is a big world out here and it is theirs for the taking.

The pool did so much for me in my life. It exposed me to worlds and developed my mind and body. When I was lost, it was there and I found it. And by finding it, I found myself again. And just those few days I swam this summer, this Olympic year put me back in touch with my dreams.

I love that name the Cobras. It was the name my father gave us and I saw the spirit of the YMCA purpose in the Cobras swimming pool where families could be together and where children could develop. That pool did a lot for me. It gave me a chance to feel what it was like to have recreation in my life again and to relax. It gave me a chance to see a young latina girl pursue her dreams.

My father, a career LAUSD teacher, would have loved seeing that activity at the pool. I hope it reopens and the families can continue to enjoy it during the weekends. Those parents could watch their daughter swim and that little latina girl could pursue her dreams of competitive swimming. Years from now, I may have a chance to watch her in the Olympic games.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Criminal Courts Building(CCB)--A Short Story

This is the Criminal Courts Building, aka CCB. It has been the venue for famous trials, the most celebrated one being the OJ Simpson Trial. That trial was a big production. Though there has not been a trial as famous as the OJ Simpson trial at CCB recently, the edifice still serves as a venue for daily productions. I find it interesting that several trial attorneys, one of whom is a prosecutor, have said to me that the Law or the courtroom is not about truth.
I neglected to ask them what then are they about. For sure, the CCB building produces shows every day and I was privy to quite a show on Wednesday when I arrived for my progress report and hearing.

Yes, I wrote that garbage about inner growth and development in the previous post. Sure did and with all of the self satisfaction I could convey about my state of mind. Of course I never thought I would have to exercise that higher road of attitude and growth after the hearing. For sure the motion would be granted--after all it had been agreed to by all parties. Or had it? And when? After all, my attorney informed me that he only call the DA on the day before the hearing. Of course, they had over six weeks to get together to discuss this and and reach agreement in areas where there was none. If there was an objection surely a give and take compromise by both could be reached. But a 24 hour before court hearing phone call, there was not too much margin to handle any unforseen contengencies. Suddenly things did not feel so certain that Wednesday morning as I prepared to go to court and meet my fate. Suddenly an uneasiness lingered in the back of my mind, an unsettling feeling that things were not resolved as they should be.

Perhaps I was in denial. I wanted the end to be now. I had the nagging feeling that something was amiss but I prepared early and in detail. Nails were clipped and filed and shoes polished. I had no conflict preparing so meticulously for court. After all I was exercising a bit of discipline and was producing my own presentation--ME.

The Criminal Courts building is one of the constants in Skid Row life. Everybody on Skid Row knows where two buildings are if no other ones--CCB and the nearest County building--which in this case is on Fourth St. The CCB building is visited so much that if there were jungle foliage between Skid Row and The County building, it would all be dense, with the exception of a trail carved out by so many people going to court. Sometimes people go to court and do not return. That is seldom as most people decide the will not risk that and do not go to court at all. Eventually a bench warrant is issued for them and they are arrested and returned to jail or prison.

So On Wednesday, I walked that trail to CCB, no longer as certain of the outcome. Each step I took, the building seemed so increasingly ominious. But onward I went and
to my fate and to observe the Wednesday morning show. I had a feeling the production for the day would be exceptionally interesting.
I was not disappointed.

After making sure my appearance was up to standard--clean shaven, white shirt, blue club tie, gray suit and brown loafers--I made my way to CCB. In my early court appearances, I would get there at 8:30AM but the lines were always crowded. My attorney is always late so I decided to arrive there around 8:45 when the crowds die down. Sure, I may miss the first call of cases but they know I will be there.
I have been in that court room so many times it is like I am part of the family or production depending on the day.

This time things were a bit different when I walked in. There seemed to be a tension in the court room. It was crowded and usually that is not the case. However it was the second day after a Holiday--court backlog. The seeds of anxiety were were planted.

The judge came in and started calling cases and mine was called. Suddenly I saw the DA, who escaped my notice when I arrived by sitting in the corner, raising her hand to speak to the judge. She basically said that my attorney was there earlier but I wasn/t. Now I was there and he wasn't. I detected a bit of irritation in her voice. She obviously did not want to be there. The anxiety seeds were germinating rapidly as her attitude was not a good sign of things to come.

Then the courtroom show started. Having been in that court room many times over the last 2 years, I have come to know the judge's courtroom habits pretty well. I sat there and watched him and it appeared that he was irritated;the subtle rolling of his eyes towards a new clerk gave him away. Most did not see this but I was watching him very closely as this day was very important to me. He kept asking the clerk why certain files were on his desk. Then a couple of attornies walked in and said they were ready for court but they could not get a response from the judge. The the judge did something I have never seen him do before, or any other judge. He stood up walked over to his clerk and asked him for a date stamp. He grabbed one and started stamping his files. After doing that he turned to his new clerk and instructed him on how to stamp his files, where to stamp them and so on.
Oh my god, Walter. This is not looking good here. The judge is not pleased because his court is not running smoothly this morning and the new clerk is aggravating the situation by mismanaging the files. Do something to make sure all of this has as little impact as possible on you.

I got up and walked out of the courtroom determined to find my attorney who was somewhere in the building dealing with some other cases. I called his office and his secretary told me which court rooms to search as my attorney had to make court appearances other than mine that were in CCB. I searched around and in the third court room I found him.

"You were late he said. You have to get there early. The District Attorney was bitching and moaning about why we had to wait for you. And she is not going for any part of the motion. She said 'make him finish the classes'. Go back down and wait for me. I will be back down there in a minute."

Dam, I was afraid of that. Dam Walter, it looks like it is going to be one of those days. Just go back down there and wait for him. Shit.

So I went back downstairs and stood in the hallway for a minute. And the show got better. A black man was standing in the lobby about five feet away from me. Suddenly five police officers walked up to him, surrounded and handcuffed him. "What did I do?" was his question that went on deaf ears. They escorted him to the stairway where they were taking him to holding cell. His female companion kept yelling for him to call her collect so he could get out of jail later that day.

I went in the court room waiting for my attorney. When he got there, the DA was fuming she wanted to leave. Hearing some commotion, I turned and saw my attorney and the District Attorney arguing.
Oh my god, please no. not this. Dam, Walter you might as well forget it. The judge is pissed. The DA is pissed. Now she is arguing with my attorney and nowt about the case. They are fighting about not returning phone calls and waiting to be heard in front of the judge. This is Murphy's law unfolding right in front of my eyes.

They called my case and I rushed to the table to get the whole thing over with. In addition to the show my attorney and the DA were providing, I had alread seen a man arrested. That had never happened in my experience in that building. furthermore I had to watch a preliminary hearing in which it was clear the defendant was guilty. He was wearing jail house blues and that brought back flashbacks of the time I was in their custody. I saw the public defender that was able to get me released from jail. She had been on maternity leave since August. It was good to see her but seeing her added on to memories of the past and I wanted to move forward. Naturally feelings of the past and all of that pain fell on me like a never ending waterfall.

Oh God, just get me out of herein one piece.

We were ready to start my case. Or so I thought. The show had not finished. In fact it just got better. My attorney and the District Attorney were still arguing.

God, I don't need this. Michael, stop fighting with her. Please

Suddenly the judge's voice boomed over the loudspeaker "STOP BIKERING. IF YOU ARE GOING TO BICKER, DO IT ON YOUR TIME." I saw this coming all morning. The judge was already frustrated with delayed cases and poor file management with his new clerk. All of the attornies had excuses. The DA was pissed and my attorney was waging a never ending battle with her as if she had no bearing on my case. This was not a good way to begin the court proceeding. Well guess what, it got worse.

The judge began " Mr. Melton has attended 33 classes".
"36 classes, your honor," burst my attorney.
"DON'T INTERRUPT ME", shot back the judge, staring at him with unflinching eyes. The court room was shocked. Usually this type of admonishment was for the defendants, not the officers of the court.

OH no Michael. The judge is already pissed off. Jesus. Dont say anything else . Please

And of course, my attorney did not stop. He went on about something or another and then the judge told him "That is neither here nor there.:
"It IS what it is!!!" shot back my attorney.

Oh God, Michael. If you keep talking I might end up end jail. Why don't you and the District Attorney go outside and continue your feud and let the judge and I handle this.

The judge heard my attorney's arguments for granting the motion of reducing my felony to a misdemeanor. The District Attorney opposed the granting of the motion just like my attorney said. But she played dirty. She lied.

The show was about to get better. "After all your honor, he has a criminal history". That was a flat out lie. I had no criminal history whatsoever and she knew it. It was a bold face lie, an assumptive fact, that she threw into the game as a dirty tactic, to implant something on the judge's mind to influence his decision--just to get her way. Then she said it again. I reacted after all of this circus and told my attorney that she was lying. He said it didn't matter because the judge had already denied the motion. That part was true. But I was fed up with people saying lies about me during this two plus year time span. And the lies and the prisoner in the jump suit and seeing the public defender again reminded me of all of that.

Eventually the subject of the end of my probation came up. I was surprised that the probation period was over next July, in 2009. I thought it would be over in
2010. And the judge has scheduled for me to be in court on February 27,2009.
He turned to me after the attorney circus was over and he said, "Mr. Melton, please make sure that you pick up that completion later before the court date." The judge had said he was sympathetic to my situation. However his hands were tied. He was in effect saying, "Mr. Melton, I can not do this for you right now. If you were to mess up and do something wrong then I would have my ass in a sling."

Well, I walked out of the court room and, of course, was glad to get the hell out of there. I was glad the show was over. Of course, I walked out of there thinking the worse. That was not the worse of it. I had to live by the words I wrote regarding this inner growth. Of course, none of that made a damn bit of difference to me when I walked out of the court room. I had to find some one with whom I could vent. I vented for a while, ranting and raving about this and that. I got it out of my system and then realized that I had lost nothing. I did not get what I wanted but I got what I needed.

I do not have to worry about waiting. The end is end sight. It is one thing for me to talk about it but is quite another for the judge to talk about it. Then it hit me, it really is almost over, in more ways than one. So instead of worry about each class as I am now near the end, I can concentrate on learning how to improve my sharing with you. I did not waste time being down, I started experimenting with my writing. I used the italics as a way to share what was going on in my mind as the show unfolded in front of me. It was something new. Now I have experience at it. I must improve on it.

This will be the first time that I will not have to be in court in a couple of months since this time last year. So much has changed, and indeed, in the end, I have grown. Dont sweat the small stuff. Things may seem so life and death, and some do not see that that is not the case. They can be so close, so very close, and
and yet, fail to see it and then do something that ruins everything that they haver worked toward. Perhaps the use drugs. Perhaps they do not go to court on the next date. They give up. So what do I do? I shall do what I have been told to do since I arrived here. "Keep doing what you are doing, Walter. It will work out for you."
"Keep focused." It has and it will continue to yield results.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Growth Within is more important than Court Decision

These two photos are symbolize many things-The past and the future. The sunset reflects my past fading more into the past and it has a beauty within its own right. This city hall is a little bit different from all of the other City Hall photos that I have posted on my blogs. In the other photos, City Hall is all you see. There is nothing beyond it which is how I felt about my future--there was nothing beyond Skid Row. However in this photo, you can see the mountain peaking through the northern downtown Skyline. I can see beyond City Hall in this picture. I can see a life beyond Skid Row. It is starting to reveal its potential and eventual reality. Let me explain.

Last week was a big week for me. I finished my second column. Yes, perhaps I have not shared with you this new part of my life. I have been asked to write a column for a start up website. I can not reveal the name as it still has not been decided what it will be. A publisher of a downtown newspaper asked me to be a part of the project. It is a great opportunity to grow and develop writing and reporting skills.
At this time I have completed two columns. It was a different feeling writing those columns and it was interesting to be edited and to begin the process of learning about that relationship between writer and editor. That was the one thing that
Dana Goodyear, of the New Yorker, told me was essential in the writer's development path, understanding that relationship between writer and editor.

Friday, there was meeting with the publishers, editor and the other columnists. It was very interesting to feel myself be a part of a new Internet project and to experience and learn both the publishing and start-up website process.

This week I have a court hearing to potentially reduce my felony status a misdemeanor which changes many things, self-esteem not being the least of them. That court action will also lead the way for future expungement of this criminal thereby removing the case from my record. And, of course, I will attend my weekly, court required class on Friday. As of now I have completed 36 and have 16 remaining. I have paid, in advance,for 43 of the 52 classes. It is a long way from the time when I was desperate to find a place that provided these classes. There were places that offered them for free but they had a six month waiting list and they were many miles away. The court would have been satisfied with that signing up for them but it would have postponed further my freedom from completing these court obligations and thus restrict my life further. I chose to find one that was available and, luckily, I did. So each week, if nothing else, I know that after attending the class and paying for one more class, I am moving further away from the past and moving closer toward my future, while enjoying more the 'work in progress'.

However, this is what is so amazing. Although my life is changing rapidly with respect to opportunities and legal situations, which of course clears the way to pursue various different things and provides me with the chance to experience freedom again, THOSE ARE NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT CHANGES IN MY LIFE. They are a distant second to what I am experiencing inside of myself. That is what is so amazing. I am not concerned as much with the court proceedings. I have endured the test of time and requirements that were a component of the various challenges that this time presented. I am nearing the end of that tunnel and the light is getting bigger and brighter as each day goes on. Indeed I also feel various burdens lifting as the light becomes brighter.

However I am enjoying more what is taking inside of me. Perhaps it is from the passage of time, little by little I have seen my circumstances improve. But I have been working on my faith and belief that things will improve for a long time. But I also wanted answers, answers that did not come easy and the answers, many times, were ways to achieve a certain peace, acceptance, confidence and discover truth. I was willing to find and accept truth in whatever way it comes. However, at times I could not see things. Perhaps the psyche had to protect it self. Perhaps I was unable to see the connections of my behavior in producing feelings of resentment and hurt.

Fortunate enough, I felt deep inside there were things I would have to ask myself. There was something holding me back from condemning my sisters attitude toward me. Maybe some of it was unreasonable but hurt brings about attitudes that are self protective. It happened to me and no doubt over a two decade period the hurt I brought to her built layer by layer over time. Over course, I honestly did not know this. I did not see it. I did not see the brainwashing that consumption of drugs did to me. Brainwashing is a form of torture. It robs you of your values and implants others that go along with the morays and folkways self destruction and relationships.

My old friend, Kenny, who does not want to speak to me anymore is another example. I had known him for over 40 years and if there is anything in life I knew to be true, it was that I would never live life without him. I was hurt and angry when I heard that he did not want to speak to me. However, something inside, I guess it was from my father's training, told me to wait and consider. you do not have all of the information Walter. In this case, information could not be told to me, it had to be accepted or recognized because it was always there.

I did not abuse my mother, per say. No way did I do what the courts say. But I that is not important. What is important is that I robbed her of her feelings, hopes and dreams. Sure I restored what I could. sure she said to me " Walter, you matured right in front of my eyes." But how much pain and suffering did I put her through.

My father told me the night before I entered prep school this statement ," Walter, no matter what someone says to you or asks you, do not ever jump to the conclusion that he is a bigot. It may seem on the surface as such. However you do not have perfect information. That takes time. Many things go into a persons point of view and most of them happen before they are born. So if they say something and ask something it is because the are seeking your opinion because you are open and receptive enough to give them the strength to be vulnerable in revealing their doubts, questions and fears"." If you have 10 reasons to conclude something. Wait for another 5. Once you reach 15, wait for fifteen more. and even after that, endure the challenge of the quest of learning rather than the convenience of being right and thus prematurely wrong."

I used those that wisdom all of my life and I did not stop just because it would have been self fulfilling to swim in a lake of denial. To deny truth would hinder growth. With the roots of understanding digging deeper into my soul, after clearing away the weeds of retardation and stagnation disappear. The deeper roots give way to the blossoms of discovery and the lightness in spirit enables me to climb and see what I was not able to see previously.

That is what this move to this unit has been. I am able to understand the connections of my actions. From this phenomenon I have searched to find creative ways of understanding. Combined, the energies and efforts have paved the way for peaceful existence and confidence that I can learn, heal and live in sync with youthful goals in life. There is no conflict between desire and behavior, between perception and reality. I understand how my actions hurt myself and others.
I understand how being self abusive, by extension, leads to indirect and unintended disregard for relationships in ways that I did not know could have happened.

So perhaps now it is clear why this independent study, at this stage is so vital and fulfilling. The peace and confidence I gain from recognizing through self examination have a plethora of effect on me. This phase is paramount in the advancement of a process of self discovery. It also furthers the creative process in the production of life and the production of my presentation of this phenomenon.

Yes, the opportunities and the potential legal changes are important. But they would be shallow events if my advancement toward freedom would be not in total balance.,

See you after court tomorrow.