Who am I?

If there is a me, this might be. Can you summarize a life? I did so much living, I cannot recall half of it. But memories flow when I find that those memories may be helpful to others. I also realize that all I am in many regards, is memory. This moment fades immediately into a memory.  Here I lay out the substance of memories which comprise the path I follow to freedom from suffering. I have learned studying the Buddha that the most precious moment in my life is this moment. If you read through I hope it will be worthy of your time.

I am 66 years old. I am recently identifying as a lawyer, meditation teacher and  recovering addict. I relate to Marilyn Monroe when she said, “I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.”

I arrive here by luck and by being very street smart.  I spent most of my teens on the streets of Chicago, as a runaway from a physically abusive dad. While my family was affluent, I chose to live in poverty and crime, sometimes living on pieces of foam in the basements of apartment buildings and churches. I spent my teens stealing property, selling drugs, hitching rides and evading pedophiles.

Fightin’, killin’, wine and women gonna put me to my grave
Runnin’, hidin’, losin’, cryin’, nothing left to save
But my life
Stood on a ridge and shunned religion, thinking the world was mine
I made my break and a big mistake, stealin’ when I should have been buyin’
Uriah Heap

Probability of survival, low.

When I was 23, I created the nonprofit youth agency called Local Motion Inc. because it was the only way I could get a job working with teens. All the established youth programs I applied to declared that my lack of any formal college education disqualified me. So I hired me, I learned how to write grants for funding, and spent most of my time working in the streets with the toughest kids I could find. I was drawn to spending nights on street corners inhabited by gang members. My goal was to draw them away from the violence and facilitate their productive participation in society.

I dropped out of high school at 16. I tested and received a GED, high school equivalency when I was 18. I didn’t see the inside of a classroom again until 11 years later when I began a college program called University Without Walls. I spent 2 years in (and out of) the program getting a bachelors degree. My college program was interrupted when I went into drug treatment. After being clean of drugs for a year I returned to college and social services. Got my addictions counselor certification and my Bachelors in Human Services.

In 1985, at the age of 33, I enrolled in the John Marshall Law School. I was awarded a law degree 2.5 years later. I continued to work as a social worker with high risk populations in the inner city until I began a solo law practice in 1988. My own experiences as a street urchin and a drug abuser made me feel drawn back to the streets even as a lawyer. I could stay with what I had come to know the best, the streets! I have learned most of the tricks of survival by always bringing my work to the streets and the streets to my work.

I have been in numerous life and death encounters, including being shot at a few times. I have been witness to or involved in probably 100 violent incidents. Some days I saw multiple assaults. I have seen hate and most of its permutations. Probability of survival, low.

I am licensed to practice law in Texas, Arizona and Illinois. I studied law with some of the best trial lawyers in America including Gerry Spence and Racehorse Haynes. I loved doing trials and represented clients in all types of criminal and civil cases. I am especially proud of my representation of those accused of murder. The stakes for the accused are almost incalculable.

Moved to Dallas TX when I was 43 with my second wife. She was a corporate executive and I started the DFW Gun Range and Training Center,  the largest firearms training center in Dallas. Studied handguns tactics with some of the best, Thunder Ranch, Gunsite Academy, and the Executive Protection Institute among others. I was certified by the state of Texas to teach police and security firearms and the laws of use of deadly force. Survival odds, improved.

I made a best friend of my little brother Ricky when I became a Big Brother of Chicago over 35 years ago. He was 8 years old then.  My second and best wife and I became foster parents to Danny, an 11 year old I met when the juvenile court in Chicago assigned me to assist in his criminal defense.

I have owned 7 businesses including 3 nightclubs. I regard nightclubs as a world infused, infested with drugs, alcohol and pain. Probability of survival, low.

So let us summarize what I think I am. I do fail more than I succeed but my failures are so delightful to others that I enjoy sharing them when opportunity knocks. So I identify with my failures. At the same time, my failures were harnessed to create subsequent successes. I identify with that.

If I get past labels, it is because I realize that saying I love biking Dallas or hiking Tucson AZ. is not satisfactory. Teaching Buddhist meditation for several years at the Buddhist Center of Dallas and being present for my daughters/family Annastacia and Alexandria, does not explain who I am now.

Should it be a thing that I relapsed on drugs for 10 years but in 2007 I reengaged with and remain in 12 step recovery?  Does my study of Buddhism help sketch out who I am?

Funny story. On my way to losing a fortune during the economic tsunami of 2008, I befriended a Buddhist monk from Thailand who was living in Tucson Arizona. He and I hiked hundreds of  miles of mountain trails discussing and learning meditation the next 2 years. Then I ordained as a novice Buddhist monk and lived in his monastery for a little over 4 months. That monk, Ajahn Sarayut, taught me how to meditate and then to teach.  Odds of survival, very good.

I eat healthy, treat the Earth with respect and seek the companionship of great spirits. I have two mottos. Do no harm. And, Be humble, because I may be wrong.

I do wish to label me not. I prefer to be what I can be as the moment dictates what is true and right. My study of the Buddha taught me that the path of virtue, concentration, and discernment would lead to a state of calm well-being and to use that calm state to look at all experience in terms of suffering and freedom from suffering.

I am certain that I must be accepting of everything. I may not approve but with a gentleness I never knew, I must accept the pleasure and adversities and how fleeting both are. Drug addiction was a quick way to allay my emotional discomfort. Meditation is a slower, safer more skillful way to free myself from the very torment that drove me to abuse chemicals, relationships and money.

The time I spend trying to be certain of the solidity of things and thoughts the more suffering I have. When I bathe in the uncertainty of everything including myself, while it is bewildering, it is liberating. When I sit a look closely, there is nothing I can cling to with certainty. I was asked to challenge myself as to where my thoughts began and where the went when they left. I was challenged by my teachers to show that my thoughts and emotions were mine to possess by adhering to happy thoughts and pleasant emotions. I accepted the challenge and discovered I could not successfully cling to my thoughts or emotions.

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” Abraham Lincoln.

If I fail to stand for what I believe I would fail to be who I think I am. When I act mindlessly, not mindfully, when acting selfishly not selflessly, and when my intentions are unwholesome, then I am not who I want to be.

Who am I? Have not a clue. I no longer intend to let the armor around my heart remain there. I have been letting go of the pain of life’s encounters which close me, protect me and subvert me when I wish to love. Breathing in I am mindful I am breathing in. I practice in meditation to be aware of the physical sensation of the breath, in and out. When I am fully mindful, meditating  the sediment of mindlessness settles. There is then a clarity which I never had of this moment and all the pain of yesterday and the anxiety of tomorrow is dissolved. I am free to love my family and friends and even strangers without the rubbish of judgment and opinions I love attaching to.

 

My first acid trip was a trip!

It started as a trip to the north side with some guys for a party in the summer of 1968. I was 15 and had recently returned from boarding school after being expelled. I went with some guys from a nearby high school. I don’t remember a whole lot until the moment that one of the guys, Eric opened his wallet at the party and in the plastic photo section displayed a blue tablet he said his older sister had given him. She told him it was LSD. We all stared at it. There was certainly a lot of interest since most of us had never seen LSD. Eric said he was scared to try it and so I volunteered to take right then and there to see if it was for real. I had never done hallucinogens before nor had anyone else there. But I swallowed my apprehensions and my fear along with the LSD. We stayed at the party a while but I didn’t feel anything. I remember calling some guys, Jimmy and Tom from University of Chicago Lab School. They were not friends but guys who had professed to have done acid. They said if I hadn’t felt anything already it was probably fake.

So we jumped in Eric’s car, a Fiat Spyder, and he even let me drive. It seemed uneventful going home to Hyde Park except when we arrived at the next party my foot was all tingly like I could still feel the Fiat motor purring beneath it. I began to feel real weird. I went to the party at 5000 East End and had my first encounter with the Hyde Park counter-culture. Preppy kids and hippy kids all twisted up in this hi-rise lakefront apartment. It was the first time I met the notorious long-haired hippy kids I had been warned about.  I remember we got in an elevator to leave and someone screwing around had pushed every button for very floor. I felt claustrophobic and wanted out. But there was nowhere to go.  I recall the relief I felt when we finally got to the ground floor. I walked home to the large lakefront apartment of my parents which was on the 18th floor.

It was in a great old art deco building called the Powhatan and it was a beautiful place with a view of the lake and downtown Chicago. I had heard the building also hosts the only 24-hour elevator operators in Chicago. I had my own section of this great big apartment. I snuck into my room that night and tried to relax, listen to music and chill. But I was real antsy and dreamy at the same time. It was late. I called Lynda, a friend from a suburb, Kenilworth. She was the logical choice because she was the only one I knew who had her own phone in her bedroom, so I wouldn’t wake up her family and get in trouble.

We chatted for quite a long time. I will have to call her soon and see if she remembers what we talked about. Before we hung up she asked me if I would be all right. I assured her I was fine. But shortly after we hung up I got antsy again. It was about 4.30am by now. I went to the back door. The front door was a manual elevator, which required the elevator operator. He would be the night man and would be sleeping on the couch in the lobby by now. I could ring him with the elevator bell, but I figured he would wonder about my timing and my mental condition. So I walked down the 18 flights of stairs in my socks, holding my shoes to muffle my footsteps.

As luck would have it, after all that, I tripped as I approached the building’s front door and woke up the doorman. He looked at me quite curiously (or it was the LSD) and let me out and off I went into the night/morning. It was dark and quiet. I had no idea where I was going, None, Zero.

But off I went. We were new to the area, had only lived there a few months. I was home for the summer from boarding school and really hadn’t had time to get that familiar with the hood. I had often visited friends in the area but it wasn’t my home turf yet.

 The weather was lovely. It was a Chicago summer and that hour brings the best of the cool breezes. I walked away from the lake and towards the central part of the neighborhood. There was a commuter railroad that ran through the area. Its rails ran above ground level but to cross over the neighborhood you had to find a viaduct that went under the train. These were not unlike the tunnels that one traveled under the main road to get out to the lakefront. They had their own ambiance and sound, a good place to whistle and late at night a good place to get mugged. As I approached one of these viaducts I saw two people walking up ahead, a guy and a gal. They looked back towards me and for some reason it just scared me. Not hard to do to a kid on his first acid trip. I looked around, spotted a Yellow Taxi nearby and flagged it down. I jumped in with no destination in mind. Upon quick reflection I directed him to take me to a restaurant back in my old neighborhood, further south at 71st and Jeffrey.

  The restaurant at 71st street when I was growing up had always been called Peter Pan’s.  The new name was the Orange Pig. They probably changed it to reflect the changing racial composition of the neighborhood from white to black. It probably wasn’t the smartest place to go. But it seemed the right thing at the moment. I had grown up only two blocks from that corner. We had only moved out recently. But it had been a long time since it was safe to be out late at night in that neighborhood. As indicated, the neighborhood had been in transition from white to black. Didn’t bother me much but when the cab pulled up to the restaurant on the corner of 71st street, I suspected I should have stayed in bed. The restaurant was all plate glass in front. It seemed everyone in the place looked up at my cab when we stopped. As I paid my fare I looked at a sea of black faces. They certainly had reason to look. I was indeed the only white face around and I was only 15 years old and it was now 5.20AM. I know the time because while I hung around outside the place afraid to go in, I looked at the bank building across the street and it was supposed to give the time and temp. But right now it was only giving the temp. There was a black man standing nearby who answered when I asked him “Isn’t that sign supposed to give the time also.” He replied as he looked at his watch, “Sure is and I am tired of waiting for this lady to show up. It is 5.20 young blood.”  And so we struck up a conversation. I remember that he was a medium complexioned black man about 25 years old. He was wearing a straw wide-brimmed hat, not unlike the Chinese bamboo ones you see in the movies. He had a goatee. He wasn’t a big guy. He laughed easy as I made wise cracks, which is what I do whenever I am ill at ease or just plain scared. I was wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt, a blue jean jacket and a metal peace sign hanging around my neck from a leather strip. My hair was long by the standards of the day although I was a long way from the hippie hair I would soon adopt.

He asked me “Are you high on what I think you’re high on.” I asked him what he thought I was high on. He said, “You know, the big L”. I replied ‘I don’t know what the big L is so I couldn’t tell you if I was high on it.”  He laughed and said, “You know, LSD.” I got real scared and thought this guy might be a narc.  But for some reason I answered him truthfully, that I was in fact high on LSD. He laughed again and said he had once smoked some LSD.

Shortly thereafter he said he had to go in and eat his breakfast and bid me goodbye. I purposefully followed close on his heels, through the revolving doors into the restaurant. I did so that it would appear I was with him or knew him. I was trying to make it to the counter to sit down and evade the stares. When he got to his table where a friend of his was sitting he noticed me behind him. He asked me if I wanted to join them. I was grateful and of course I accepted his invitation. He introduced himself for the first time and then his companion. He was Eugene Hairston and his friend was William Throop.

We had only been sitting there a moment when he excused himself to make a phone call. I got real scared again. It occurred to me that he was a narc again and he was calling for police to come get me.  I was distracted from my reverie when William called for the bus boy. The bus boy came over and asked “Yea brother?” William stared hard at him. The bus boy said “Yea man?” but sounded a little strained. William stared harder and said with intensity “Stone run it!”  The bus boy said, “Yea, Stone brother, stone run it.” William spoke harshly, “Where’s my steak and eggs?” The bus boy looked scared and said he would go get them right away. Before it all had sunk in, Eugene returned to the table. We began to chat. He asked me why I was there. I explained that I grew up there and used to live right down the street. He then said “Oh, you got the Stone in you.” Oblivious to its meaning we chatted on. When he asked why he had never seen me around I explained it really wasn’t safe to come around anymore because of the gangs. I told him that even though I had grown up there the local Blackstone Rangers had taken over and could be dangerous. He asked me my name again and I told him. He asked if I knew anyone from the gangs. I told him I knew the former branch leader J.B. but that I had heard JB had quit and in fact that was why it had gotten dangerous for me. He smiled and asked “You really know JB.”  “Yea” I replied. He asked whom else I knew. “I know Paul Gibson too. “ He smiled and said “You know them huh? Yep. Then he asked me if I knew who he was. I replied he was Eugene. He said, “I am Eugene “Bull” Hairston. And this is my warlord Bull Sweet Jones“ (AKA Sweet Pea), pointing at William.

I knew the name of Eugene, aka Bull, Hairston and it seemed unlikely he was who he said he was. The name had been in the papers constantly because Hairston was on trial for solicitation to commit murder. It was alleged that he paid three 12 year old boys to shoot two drug dealers who had failed to get permission to operate in the Rangers territory. The murder attempt failed, the boys were caught after shooting and wounding the 2 dealers and they had given up Eugene.

So I put foot in mouth and accused this man of lying.  “So you mean you are Bull Hairston from the newspapers? I don’t believe you.”  He got agitated for a moment. But then he said, “You a funny little white boy. You tickle me.”  After some back and forth he pulled out his wallet and showed me his driver license.

I was having breakfast with one of the two most powerful guys on the south side of Chicago. This was one of the two original leaders of the Blackstone Rangers, the most powerful street gang to ever exist. His co-leader was  young man by the name of Jeff Fort who himself has been serving time in prisons for over 20 years. At the time it was estimated that the Blackstone Rangers numbered over 30,000 members.

I couldn’t believe it. I asked for his autograph. I was having breakfast with Cappo di Cappi of  Black Chicago gangs. He laughed some more and instructed William to write me a note. William complied and a moment later wrote me as follows. To a fellow Stone. ABSR signed William Throop. I believe ABSR meant All Mighty Black Stone Rangers.

I paid my check and went outside. William had gone to get the car and bring it around for Eugene. It was a clean white Cadillac. Before Eugene got in passenger side, he patted my head and told me to come back next week and have breakfast with him again.

I noticed as we left the restaurant that he did walk with the air of confidence that accompanies power. And when he paid the tab he had a roll of money. Course I now understood why the busboy was terrified and why “Stone” was the only acceptable response to William. “Stone” was the common reference to the gang and “Stone Run It” was their battle cry. Lucky for me that even though my old classmate JB had in fact quit the gang, he was still respected by OGs (Original Gangsters) like Eugene Hairston. The name of JB got me in good with Eugene and saved my ass just as JB had when I used to call upon his assistance in high school to ward off bullies.

I had every intention of going back the next week to meet them. But midway through the week I read that Eugene had been convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison. A war for control of the Stones broke out and William Throop survived an attempt on his life when he was shot 7 times in a motel on the south side. His girlfriend died in the barrage of bullets.  William Throop did not survive the second attempt on his life.

Eugene was shot and hit three times shortly after he got out of prison on parole. He survived. They say it was a warning from his successors to stay away. In 1988 his luck ran out when he was gunned down in a south side housing project. The papers conjectured it was gang-related.

As to that note that they wrote me, I tucked that in my wallet like it was a get out of jail free card. Remind me to tell you how that worked out when I it was discovered on me by Chicago Police officers.

As acid trips go it was pretty fulfilling. I took a cab home to Hyde Park after the sun had come up. My head was ringing and my eyes burned with fatigue by the time I got home. I was worn out from the hours of sleeplessness and psychological hyper-awareness that I had paid to trip the light fantastic. I would soon become a full-blown acid-head, ingesting untold amounts of hallucinogens over the next two and a half years. I would trip in a variety of places like Kenwood High School, Museum of Science and Industry and a lakefront location called The Point. Every trip was weird and of course under a variety of conditions but I doubt I ever brushed up against the likes of Eugene and William again.

 

Is a Ghetto always to be a Ghetto?

Just returned from Chicago and I was reminded why I left. The traffic, the cost and the crime. I was there to work.

So I am working a case of a police officer shooting and killing a 20 y.o man who I shall call Damon. The bullet entered in through Damon’s back. The young man was allegedly shooting at the plain-clothed police officer, but no gun was ever recovered. No debate that the officer fired 16 times at Damon. No debate it was his bullet which killed Damon. No doubt that at some point Damon was running away from the cop. He died about a half block from where the officer says Damon was shooting at the officer. But this post is not about Damon per se, but about where he lived.

My investigation took me into an area of Chicago which is depressed. It is called West Englewood. Up until the early 70s I believe it was a white community. Now it is 98% Black/African American.

Where my time was spent is an area of mostly single family homes. Some homes were so very well-kept. Many others were boarded up. I interviewed about 20 people or more. This is what struck me. Most of the residents have been in prison, which includes men and women. Most are jobless. Most know someone or themselves have been shot. Most would probably qualify as suffering from some level of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder based on experiencing or witnessing traumatic events.

This community and many others have been distressed a long time. It is brutally ugly to come face to face with. I ask, where are the governmental concerns, plans and objectives to improve the community. Why would Chicago news media not have constant stories about the task forces, resources and enhancements to the community? Why are the lake front and the North Side so gentrified and beautified and the South Side so bereft of assistance? When school gets out in Englewood, there are yellow- vested personnel everywhere who are part of Safe Passage. http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/19113214-418/cps-to-hire-more-safe-passage-patrols-to-watch-over-kids-going-to-different-schools.html#.VE7Q8_nF98E

The reason for these people is that as schools are closed and students transferred their lives are in jeopardy. So, these Safe Passage folks have to try and facilitate the safe transit of these children. A neighborhood so dangerous that people are hired to stand on the street and try to get the school kids home safely!!!

Well Chicagoans often can be heard bemoaning the prevalence of guns in Chicago. Those are not ghetto folks generally. You can’t hear the bemoaning emanating from the inner-city. It is drowned out by tears, poverty and violence. Where is your fucking indignation at the conditions that your fellow Chicagoans are living in? How can the mayor advocate for health, safety and welfare of his town without holding press conferences about the persistent, consistent and massive efforts to help those in poverty?

I see it this way. A prison record can hamper someone from getting a job. Lack of jobs requires resourcefulness. Drug dealers are resourceful. Drug dealers get busted and get prison records. Prisoners become ex-prisoners who can’t find jobs. Jobless people get hungry and are required to be resourceful. Resourceful people often become drug dealers. Drug dealers get busted.

Good houses must be boarded up as soon as they are vacant to prevent being sacked by thieves. Boarded homes are unattractive. Property values are not as high in unattractive communities. Lower property values in neighborhoods where local citizens can’t afford to buy property leads to predatory practices by outside landlords. Ex-cons without jobs sit on stoops drinking beer all day. Fathers are in prison. Children grow up without dad. Boys without dads often land up in prison. 4 generations later, boys have no relationship with Middle America. Their relationships, value system, and education are derived from their experience in prisons and streets. The prevailing social system in prison is gangs. Gang members return to the community and further blight the already depressed community. They prey upon other gangs and the innocent. The innocents move away or join gangs for protection. They adopt the values of the gangs. They are no longer innocents.

Stores have a higher cost of operation in the inner-city because of crime and poverty. So major stores abandon he area because of the difficulties associated with operating there. Instead, small convenience stores owned and run by daring immigrants become the primary providers of dry goods, prepared foods and restaurants. They charge more money because they have less buying power and more risk. The people in the community have less spending power, spend more for what they do get and have they fewer choices in products.

So the politicians convince the Haves that the Have Nots are a burden on society. They convince the Haves that the Have Nots are just sucking at the tit of society, parasitic and ungrateful to boot. The solutions is often to cut welfare as if then poor people will suddenly jump in their make believe cars, drive to the make believe jobs and bring home the make believe pay. Notwithstanding the lack of education, mobility and money, what could possibly be wrong with such a plan?

If we start right now, it will take generations to unravel the Gordian knot which is the inner-city. You can hate Blacks and other inner-city dwellers. You can cast aspersions on their ethics, values and lifestyles. But if you do not expend the resources to bring up the least of us the chickens will of necessity come home to roost. Inner-city dwellers have higher birth rates than others. They have a greater propensity for violence and crime. They run the drug trade at the street level. At some point you will be unable to gentrify them out of existence. They will not leave the city to become farmers nor will they relax and while away their remaining years on the porches of the new suburbs you push them to.

So if it were up to me, I would harness the best brains and capital and I would invest in these communities. I would empower the people to work and derive income in their communities. I would make it so attractive to businesses to relocate and hire the locals that someday, some day in the future, the mindset of the inner-city dweller would be very much like that of people not confined to the ghetto and gangs. In a future I may not live long enough to see, there would suddenly be born a generation that breaks the inclination towards incarceration. Someday, a new generation would adopt a value system and pride itself on education and production. Someday we would have a generation where gang kids are an aberration not a logical outcome of the environment.

The people I interviewed were just lovely.  Most all had been convicted of crimes thus they were criminals by societal definition. But all were more likely to know their neighbors than any other community I have worked in. These persons who were generally kind to me, a stranger, were used to gunshots. They expressed fear of violence and theft. They shared a sense that cops were there to protect society from them not protect them from predators.

 I do not have the psychological mindset to face, as a lawyer, a system that lacks concern for the salvation of the lives brought before it. It is a system which emphasizes punishment at every turn versus rehabilitation and reformation. Hell, you should be very afraid of all the convicts and ex-cons who have been required to survive an environment where dog eats and rapes dog. Some of my clients deserved prison but most didn’t deserve to be sent to a hell which was controlled externally by the government. The crimes which loom largest are those of a government which makes laws which work to the advantage of criminal cartels and their bankers.

Oh well, I am tired and you have read stuff like this many times before. I didn’t write anything new. Just cannot understand how years and years go by without the recruitment of the best minds, (not political hacks) and a monumental commitment of financial and intellectual resources to solving the dilemma that is our entrenched acceptance of persons residing in poverty with its attendant assault on the mental, psychological and physical well-being.

Thus was I told….

I met this nice lady by the name of Winona at a counseling center in Dallas. I asked her could she help me with what was a difficult adjustment returning to Dallas from Tucson. I was getting angrier and angrier at the driving habits of people in Dallas. I felt on the edge of violence. Winona thought I had PTSD from watching serial acts of violence when I was young.

I made the comment that I was hardwired for aggression. I said that because it has been my default position for so long that I assumed its truth. I have experienced so much violence but more so imagined so many acts of violence. I would draw upon the fantasy life I have, from the teaching of deadly force to others,  and to revisits of my own real life experiences. Winona replied. It was something she said which I probably heard others say in other ways. But this time it sunk in. Winona said, “it is not a hardware problem, it is a software problem.”

And I knew its truth and I have been working diligently to reprogram. I had a good start with my Buddhist studies, my background in social work and my upbringing in Hyde Park in the late 60s and early 70s. It was there that LSD and the hippie movement introduced me to universal love and respect. It was then and there that I learned to resist killing others in the cause of spreading democracy and freedom.

But something was terribly wrong in my head. My heart was good. But man oh man could I go to dark places, hang with rough crowds, and slip in and out of violence as readily as some people sat for lunch. I thought nothing of threatening violence. I thought nothing of having it threatened upon me.

When I was 19 or so, a man working as a cook at the Medici in Hyde Park threatened retaliation against me for threatening him. I scoffed at his threat. He replied by suddenly taking out a gun and pushing it into my forehead. My response was “you better shoot me now or I will find you, take your gun and shove it so far up your ass it will blow out your throat.”

I was scared but my street ethic prevented me from responding with fear.  That ethic served me well at times. Kept me safe in dangerous situations. Made me formidable as a social worker and as a lawyer. In the main, as a life attitude and response it did me poor emotionally. But I didn’t know I was writing the script to my own play. I didn’t realize I could change the way my stories unfolded. I didn’t believe there was a more appropriate or more sensible approach. I believed my own lies about my life and my lies became my truths. Hard and fast did I cling to these values and behaviors.

So I know another truth. I can change the story.