Why is being a jerk is so easy.

I have to work at be empathic. It does not come that naturally or easy. But I am making an effort to push myself to look beyond my little world which is relatively free from suffering. So the damage to all in the path of hurricanes demands my attention. If Puerto Rico is harmed, I am harmed. If refugees from war zones find no comfort and safety, I am harmed. If young Hispanics came to this country at a young age and now have no sense of security and stability, then I am harmed.
If I am willing to pray for the well-being of others then my prayers are the health, safety and welfare of millions I have never met who are in the midst of war, storms and famines.
If I am one who prays then I express gratitude that my family and friends are all relatively safe, have plenty of food and water and sleep in comfortable beds at night. It has come so easy to have my needs met that it is often hard to empathize with those who have not. I do not worry about where my next meal will come from. I worry about where I want to go for my next meal.
May God open my eyes and heart to the plight of my global neighbors. May all living beings, human and non-human who lack safety find safety and all who are hungry find food and all who suffer be free from suffering and harm.

Epilogue or Sowing the Seeds of Discontent

This is slightly redundant but necessary to the story. I offer a this story that originates in Hyde Park. When I was 15, I was expelled from a New Hampshire boarding school. I was from South Shore but my family had just relocated to Hyde Park. Upon my return to Chicago, I never stayed at home for long. I hated where I lived which was the Powhatan, which was nice but not home. So each day I would go to Kenwood High School and then walk a to 57th street and see who was around the coffeehouses, Medici and Ahmads. If I didn’t stay there, off I went to the Blue Gargoyle, a coffee house located in a church. When I first started going to the BG, it was the cheapest, warmest place to go without getting thrown out. (I was eventually banned from both Ahmad and the Medici)
I met a young Black guy named Tony at the BG. We were both runaways. He was running from the Stones around his house at 66th and Blackstone. I was fleeing my dad. We found different places to crash every night. Fraternity houses and the Quaker House basements, UC students’ apartments, wherever. At some point Tony introduced me to the “art” of burglarizing. Eventually we would rent our own place and survive burglarizing and selling drugs. The BG remained our main hangout.

I previously told the story of Loel Callahan but for filler, Loel Callahan was a divinity student and lived next door to the BG. He and Dwight Caswell founded the BG. They were good guys. Shortly thereafter they were joined by a staff member, Vic Bernstein. A square dude if ever there was one. Tall, Jewish, naive and a UC student, Vic was Loel’s backup. That meant lots of craziness all around.

A year or so later, when Loel secured a grant from the Robert Woods Foundation we started the youth program at the Gargoyle that I wrote about.

Like I said before in my previous blog, I was wanted by the police for some 50 burglaries and they were hot on my trail. (Ken Love knows more than most about that.) I had fled to San Francisco but had recently returned to help my pal Tony get out of jail, for burglary.

So, for whatever reason I decided to help Loel. Mostly because he described a program where we would do for ourselves with him as a kind of adviser. It seemed right. Shortly thereafter when we formed the Hyde Park People’s Organization (HYPPO) under the auspices of the University Church, Loel made sure we were autonomous from the rest of the Gargoyle. He convinced the church to let us take over the Blue Gargoyle 2 nights a week, running the coffeehouse and providing activities for youths. All youth related activities were run past us.

Now for the new part. Several years later while living on the North Side, I tried to start a youth program. I was 23 and wanted to help kids like Loel had helped me. I applied but couldn’t get hired by existing youth agencies because I had never completed high school. I decided to rent a store front on the north side with my savings and open a drop in center for teens.

But Hyde Parker, Tony Roberts insisted I meet him at the House of Tiki to meet another Hyde Parker named Kaye Hill. Kaye was a grant monitor for the Illinois Dangerous Drug Commission. She wanted to start a program for young at-risk girls. We talked that night and decided to work together.

Kaye convinced me that my plan was doomed to fail for a variety of reasons. Instead she taught me how to structure and organize an organization which would be capable of securing charitable donations. She taught me how to do research, write grants and more. We chose the Lakeview community to operate in. We named our new baby, Local Motion Inc. Kaye helped me write the bylaws, secure our 501(c)(3) and recruit the board of directors. I tracked down Vic Bernstein, formerly of the Blue Gargoyle staff, and now a PhD in Psychology and he became one of the first board members. He did not have the fond memories that I had for the Gargoyle but he came on board. (I just looked him up and he is shown as an Associate professor at the UofC)

Kaye and I modeled Local Motion, after the HYPPO youth program. I spent every day on the streets, seeking out the kids that were most alienated. I made contact with every street gang. About 15 of the kids I worked in and around died of gang violence in three years. Kids designed every program and activity we sponsored. We joined the Chicago Youth Network Council a coalition of independent youth service programs which was started years earlier by a group of youth service providers including Loel Callahan.

Our board of directors grew and became inhabited by community leaders/clergy, businessmen,  and neighborhood kids and their parents.

I resigned 3 years later and took a job as the Youth Service Bureau Director with the YMCA Southwest Youth Outreach Program at Morgan Park/Mt Greenwood. Once again I set out to prove that kids just needed a facilitator and they could blossom and be productive. It was also when I attended the Chicago State University, University Without Walls program and got a BS in Social Services.

After a stint in the business world followed by drug treatment, I became a drug counselor for Tapestry Youth Services, operating out of the University of Chicago Social Services building at 61st and Ellis. My area of operation was Woodlawn, reaching out to kids and their families. Doing house visits could be unsettling just parking my car back then.
I was recruited a year later to open the Hyde Park Hospital’s Drug Detox Center at 58th and Stony Island. (Now closed) The year I served as a drug therapist at Hyde Park Hospital I had a daily routine of walking ambulatory patients to Wooded Island behind the Museum. http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/04/25/old-hospital-in-hyde-park-is-now-a-memory/

One year later I left to attend law school at the John Marshall Law School. Upon graduation, I solo practiced for 13 years specializing in adult criminal cases and juvenile court abuse and neglect and delinquency cases.

The Blue Gargoyle went through many permutations over the years. Loel left to work overseas. The BG tried in vain to find staff who could control the youth like Loel had done. Myself and Sam D’Orlaque and friends along with the help of some other tough kids, physically and psychologically intimidated everyone who followed for the next few years. The Church brought in a social worker, then a hippie commune and then an ex-con to manage the Gargoyle and us. But no one ever engendered the loyalty of the original BG staff. HYPPO fell apart under adult interference.

This Blue Gargoyle story has a million other stories which spring from it. Some of you worked there or volunteered there in later years.

Footnote. The Hyde Park YMCA contracted around 1972 with the BG to start a youth program at the 53rd St. Y. Their programs had been destroyed by gangs. The BG had developed a reputation for its gang neutrality and excellent work with teens. The Gargoyle sent me to the Y to start a program. Among other things, I approached the Chicago Police Department Youth Division at 29th Prairie for help. They had some resources like mobile health care units and other services for youth at their disposal. They liked my presentation and their help seemed imminent. But they notified me that they were canceling their planned participation in any effort because they found out I was with the BG. The officer said that it was a known left-wing organization which housed radicals with a sketchy reputation.

This is my story and I am sticking to it.

The truth behind closed doors

As I grew up in Hyde Park, my dysfunctional self discovered the University Church for the Disciples of Christ at 5655 S. University around 1970. There was a coffee house inside the church, called the Blue Gargoyle.  It was intended for University of Chicago students but many a wayward youth stumbled upon it. Cheap food, no one hassling us and beautiful Gothic Church ambiance drew us there. And keeping us under control was a resident divinity student, Loel Callahan.

Loel had spent time doing community organizing under Saul Alinsky and working with the street gang, the BlackStone Rangers. He was very measured in his dealings with us wilder kids. We used drugs in the cubby holes and broom closets we found throughout the 3 story church building.  We initiated fights and friendships there.

I was 17 years old when I had to leave Hyde Park for a while. Seems a misunderstanding between a homeowner and I about his missing property led the police to my location. A literal dragnet was cast around Ahmad’s, a Persian restaurant. I escaped by minutes. It became quite clear that a trip out of town would be well-advised versus a trip to prison. So off I went to San Francisco to enjoy the hippie revolution.

Much took place between the time I left for SF and the time I came back to Chicago, but that is another 50 stories. This story is about how Loel Callahan started a youth program at the Blue Gargoyle. He came to me on the streets one day. I had recently snuck back into town and was agitated at the time, trying to figure out where I could steal enough money to get back to SF before the police discovered I was back.

Loel convinced me to stay and help him at the church. He said he wanted to start a youth program run by the youth. He promised me that we young people could develop and run our own program. Kinda of the people, by the people, and for the people. It hooked me and I was soon lost in my head with ideas about the possibilities. Shortly thereafter, I became the first kid elected president of church’s newly founded youth group, Hyde Park Peoples Organization (HYPPO). As an aside I was elected by my peers while I was sitting in the police lockup for some misdemeanor.

As part of my new responsibilities I went out and recruited everyone I could to participate. Besides kids from Kenwood High School and the University of Chicago High School, I brought my older pals most of whom were either drug addled and/or criminal but enthusiastic to be part of something. See my blog on Tiny.   https://lawdisorder.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/dedicated-to-my-friend-tiny/

We did some truly cool stuff. We became part of the secular community at the church. We initiated and ran programs for younger kids as well as dances and jazz nightclub nights for our peers. We took over management of the Blue Gargoyle food service two days a week. We provided security for other groups at the church like the Gay Liberation and Women’s lib organizations which had taken up residence there. (They had no idea in most cases what we did for them behind the scenes. Many of the University students behind the organizations were too naive or too arrogant to know how often we intervened to avert criminal acts against their property or persons.)

The kids in HYPPO who gathered together at the Blue Gargoyle were as diverse and eccentric a group as I have ever been part of. We were smart and street wise. We rubbed shoulders with brilliant students from the University. We invited prominent local jazz performers to entertain us, listened to Chaka Kahn and her sister sing in the sanctuary after school and watched a young big afro wearing Jessie Jackson drive by in his Eldorado cadillac with his entourage.

HYPPO members ranged in age from 14 to 27. They were Black, white, Hispanic  and Asian, students, car thieves, bank teller, burglars, drug dealers, former military and draft dodgers. We had females and males, from rich families and poor. Some of us were homeless at times. I rode herd over this rag tag group and discovered the power of empowerment, the path to self-esteem, and the value of team work.

I was slowly embarked on a course of action which brought me to a transformation of sorts. I decided to model myself on this Reverend Loel Callahan. But it would be 7 years before I would go to the community of LakeView and start Local Motion Inc, a non-profit organization. I designed it to teach youth how to design, develop and implement programs for their own enrichment, entertainment and growth.  It would teach street kids how to serve themselves in a positive way. And I was looking, always looking for some kid like myself who could be motivated to bring his/her friends, enthusiasm and imagination to my program.

The police never did get me for the burglaries. I grew up with only a modest arrest and conviction record. Nothing which stood in the way of becoming a lawyer and bringing that sense of empowerment to the courts on behalf of my clients.