Saturday, August 01, 2020

United States, 1970-1980

After graduating from high school in 1970, I decided to take a tour of this country's places of incarceration. Here is a list of the ones I visited between 1970 and 1980, and the number of times I had the pleasure of going there. 

PG County Upper Marlboro MD 1 
Washington DC 1 
New Orleans Central Lockup LA 3 
New Orleans Parrish Prison LA 1 
Tucson AZ 2 
Phoenix Maricopa County AZ 1 
Berkley Campus CA 1 
Bay St Louis MS 1 
Austin TX 1 

They were brief stints, with the longest being 6 week in NOLA Parrish Prison.

Those were tough years and I still sometimes grieve for the kid who who had to go through this horror. Since that time I had a satisfying career in computers and have many people in my life, including a loving partner. And music. I am grateful.


Tucson, 1976

Okay, so. S***. Another story. This really happened to me in 1976. I had managed to hustle up a little bit of money, so when I return to the abandoned complex called Thurber courts outside Tucson, AZ, I was able to entice a young lady to join me for a night in a motel room close by. Her boyfriend Albert would be none the wiser. Thurber courts was a cluster of abandoned adobe homes that a bunch of hippies had moved into. There was no electricity but someone had bypassed the gas meter so we had gas for heat and hot water. When we returned the next morning, we discovered that the following had transpired the previous evening. Early on a nineteen year old girl Candi Lee Newman enticed a guy in a Cadillac to wait outside while she supposedly went in to cop some heroin for him. The usual suspects were sitting around getting drunk, and Candi announced that she had a guy outside with money and wanted help robbing him. Albert Urbanec got up, grabbed a baseball bat, went out the back door, snuck up in back of the guy and crushed his skull with the bat. They then loaded his body in the trunk and took off for Mexico, planning to sell the car for heroin. Someone immediately called the cops and were eventually apprehended. When Albert's girlfriend and I arrived back at thurber courts the next morning, the cops were there and interviewed us. They brought gifts. Bottles of wine. I was never asked to testify. I'd told the story a few times but had never found evidence until I found this article

New Orleans, 1972

We (the freeborn fuckups, a name i came up with) were hanging out in our room at the Eltro hotel, a derelict building on Decatur Street in the French Quarter where we were squatting, drinking vast amounts of cheap wine as per usual. Suddenly someone came in with a vial of pure adrenaline and a syringe. So of course we passed the vial and needle around. I have to say it was an interesting rush. Definitely pure adrenaline, no changing any other kind of perception, just massive heart beat increase. To be honest i found it unpleasant. We were doing tiny amounts, about a tenth of a CC. Much more than that would probably have been dangerous. Then our friend Easy walked into the room. Easy was a big giant easy going guy, mean looking, bearded, a little bit dirty, shy as can be. We told him what we were doing and he said let me have some. So he took the vial and syringe and went into the other room alone and did an entire CC. When he walked back into the room he was stammering and his face was flashing red and white in time with his heartbeat and you could see his heart thudding in his chest. He had IV'd an entire CC. It was pretty terrifying. Fortunately that stuff wears off pretty quickly and he didn't die. He may have done some permanent damage though. We all may have.

Chicago, Washington DC, 1979

I was living on the west side of Chicago in a run down 6th floor walkup. I was making a few bucks now and then as an under the radar roofer's helper (under the radar here means paid in cash, no insurance, no healthcare, doing really dangerous work). I had also hooked up with some pretty high rolling drug people so i was having an ok time, at least based on my standards at that time. That's a completely insane story for another time. Fucking mayhem. Anyway, suddenly Paul burst into the room all wild eyed and threw a baggie with an ounce of coke on the table. He and i had hitch hiked from Portland OR 6 months earlier (a number of completely insane stories there) and he had been my connection for work and drugs in Chicago. He and i had bought a battered old Buick with holes in the floor and ripped out the back seat so we could haul around roofing supplies. I loved that guy like a brother. But he had disappeared 2 months prior and no word from him until now. He told me he had seen a cousin of his that had just gone through a divorce. She had gotten some money and a house in the settlement. He had started her on cocaine, they got in a sexual relationship, and in two months everything she had went straight into their veins. Then prior to showing up at my place Paul had been at a coke dealers house and the guy had had an ounce of coke sitting on the coffee table. On impulse Paul had punched the guy in the face, grabbed the goodies and ran out the door. No car, no cash, no weapon, no plan, no nothing. Just an ounce of really good coke. Then he had high tailed it straight to my place. He and i immediately started in on the ounce. All mainlined. We decided to head for DC where i knew people. On the way to the bus station i stopped and bought a very large folding knife and kept in in my pocket until we got to DC. Shit, another story if i get around to it. It was a night bus and all night Paul and i kept getting up, going back to to the bathroom and shooting more coke, bigger and bigger doses every time. We had planned to sell some of it to give us a leg up in DC but within a few days of our arrival it was all gone. We ended up sleeping on a good friend's floor (a massage parlor prostitute and her biker boyfriend. she would give you the shirt off her back with one hand and rob you blind with the other. we had nothing to steal so we were safe). Within a week Paul took off for new Orleans. I had some pretty terrible associations in my mind with NOLA, some nasty shit had gone down, and so opted out. This was the end of my life on the road. Soon, after a few less major shenanigans, and with lots of help from loved ones who hadn't abandoned hope in me long after i had, i checked into rehab.


New Orleans 1974

I was in Orleans Parrish Prison in 1974 for "possession of greenish brown vegetable, probably marijuana." It wasn't actually marijuana, it was bits of bugler tobacco they found in the bottom of my pocket. They just made s*** up to get people they didn't like off the street, and I had been definitely causing trouble on Bourbon Street. I was on a "tier" that consisted of a single gigantic room housing about 70 men. They consisted of! murderers, rapists, muggers , dope dealers ... and me. One part was beds, the other the day area with steel picnic style tables, a TV. The first night I discovered that I had crabs. So the next morning, I walked up to the bars naked except for a towel wrapped around my waist and waved the guard over and whispered to him the nature of my dilemma. He yelled out loudly "you have crabs?" loud enough so that everyone on the tier could hear. I looked around and everyone - had turned from what they were doing and stared at me. Later they brought me the shampoo, and there were no negative repercussions from the incident, with the exception of one guy who was in there for murder who whispered to me in private that if he caught crabs in there he was going to kill me. After a week I heard the guard announce "Ralph Crawford, roll out." My heart leapt. I gathered up all my belongings and walked up to the bars ready to be released. The guard looked me in the eye and said "m*********** you ain't never getting out of here." So I returned to my cot. There was a guy on the tier I only knew as pops and he ran an under the radar commissary. I bought a couple of packages of tobacco from him. After I had been there about 2 weeks, word got out that pops was getting out the next day and that someone was going to take over his commissary. There was going to be an "election" that night. I overheard someone talking about sharpening their shiv. I was in terror of going to bed that night. Later that afternoon, though, thankfully, I once again heard Ralph Crawford roll out, but this time I was released for real.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

God's Law

In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

(It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Conservative Confusion

As a liberal leaning American citizen, I'm confused by all of the contradictions in the conservative movement's platform.  They claim to be pro-American, but from my viewpoint they seem to be more anti-American. Please inform me of anything that is not correct, or anything I left out.  Flames will be filed in the circular file.

The conservative movement...

claims to be the one that holds the higher moral ground, yet they...
  • are more likely to support bombing countries, which always leads to civilian deaths, in order to keep themselves safe
  • are more likely to stay in a war that costs the lives of countless brave American soldiers in order to keep themselves safe
  • are more likely to support the erosion of the rights of American citizens in order to keep themselves safe, even though they're far less likely to live in a place that would be a target of terrorism (New York and DC, for example)
  • are less likely to want to help the poor with health care
  • are less likely to want to help feed the hungry
  • are more likely to be in favor of denying rights to their gay and lesbian fellow citizens
claims to be the one that supports small business owners and working Americans, yet...
  • are more likely to support tax breaks for mega corporations who ship American jobs overseas
  • are more likely to support tax breaks to corporations in general, to the point where there are so many loopholes that they pay almost no taxes at all
  • are more likely to deny working Americans any recourse against unfair treatment by corporations through unions
claims to be the one that most reflects the beliefs of the founding fathers of America, yet...
  • the first two American presidents (George Washington and John Adams) would both today be considered liberals, establishing the federal tax system, the national bank, and a standing army for the defense
claim to be against socialism, yet...
  • drive on public roads, including interstate highways
  • go to, and send their children to, public schools
  • use the public post office
  • counts on the FDA to insure that they're not being robbed or poisoned when making purchases
claim to be for a balanced budget, yet...
  • don't object to spending hundreds of billions (more than $830,000,000,000 as of 7/2010) on the Iraq war, which has made the world an even more dangerous place for Americans than it was prior to 9/11
  • are more likely to support giving extra tax breaks to the very richest Americans, leaving the bulk of the tax burden on the working class, and lessening the chance of ever balancing the budget
claim to be for religious freedom, yet...
  • are more likely to be distrustful of their fellow Americans who are Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, or atheist
  • support teachers leading classrooms full of children of diverse religious backgrounds in Christian prayer

Monday, October 20, 2008

Music, music, music!

A few years ago I read a piece in the Onion about broken dreams. Discarded musical instruments played a large role in this. It made me think about the false starts I've had trying to learn to play a musical instrument. I also pondered my advanced age (53 at the time, 56 now) and had an epiphany that it was time to try again, this time for real. I got a mandolin and started learning.

I had to discard the idea that I'd be able to play an instrument quickly, and instead resigned to long weeks of hard practice with no sign of improvement. I'm good at math and enjoy repetition to an extent.

I'm happy to report that it's going well. First and foremost, I'm really enjoying playing every day. Looks like this one will go in the museum of realized dreams.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bored of the Rings?

In a word... no.

I read the JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings as a teenager. I remember liking it, but I'm not so sure I "got" it.

I did a stint in my life as a street hippie, and adopted the name Frodo for a while, then Stryder (spelled "Strider" in Tolkien's books).

Prior to the release of the movie The Fellowship Of The Ring, I reread the trilogy and really enjoyed it. But I still didn't really follow it nor was I prepared to delve any more deeply into the Middle Earth and it's geography and people. It wasn't until I saw all three movies twice and re-read the trilogy for the third time that I saw the real magic. I've been taking some of the tours on The One Ring and reading some of the exemplary materials on LOTR on Wikipedia. Wikipedia has articles not only on the books but on individual characters and geographical locations - wonderful stuff.

I have to ask myself, of course, whether this is a cop-out. Shouldn't I be studying up on contemporary politics, or at the very least the arts? The fact is I do that also. But the brain occasionally needs a little good old fashioned intellectually challenging fun. This is mine, at least for now.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My Morning

I had a kind of a neat morning, but not the kind you'd talk to just anybody about. So I thought I'd come to you, my closest friend, and tell you about it. No big deal, just a series of events that seemed to convey a common message.

On the way in I heard a great song for the first time, Waltzing Along, by James. Kind of inspiring, and it made me feel good.

Tomorrow's Veterans Day, so tomorrow's the beginning of a 3 day weekend. Veterans Day is always important to me. It reminds me of the price that was paid for my freedom, and helps keep me from taking it all too much for granted.

Anyway, I figured I'd stop for coffee in Roslyn, VA, which is right across the Potomac River from Washington DC. As usual, parking was tricky and I ended up parking right in front of Freedom Park, a small elevated walkway set among the skyscrapers of Roslyn. As I got out of the car, I saw a woman walking her dog. She looked fairly happy and non-descript, except for the fact that she had no arms. No big deal, in and of itself.

I decided to take a stroll through Freedom Park. While there I...

  • Stopped in front of an actual section of the Berlin Wall and thought about it's history and the millions of lives effected.

  • Stood behind a bronze casting of the cell door where Martin Luther King was held in Birmingham, AL, and considered the price paid (and still being paid) by champions of human rights.

  • Took a stroll on the actual cobblestones of a pre-World War II Warsaw ghetto and thought of the millions of lives destroyed by Hitler's "final solution" and the incredible struggle that ensued to stop it.

  • Stood in front of a replica of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue from the ill fated demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Peking, and thought about the hundreds of millions of people who suffered and continue to suffer under communist China's iron rule.

Finally, I went and got my coffee. As I walked back to the car, I passed a man who, again, looked fairly happy and non-descript, except for the fact that he was in a wheelchair and had no legs.

I'm not trying to give a single message by this blog entry. Suffice to say that, as I walked the three blocks from my car to work, I felt a little prouder to be a human being than I normally do.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Maryland Renaissance Festival

Recently my wife and I attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It was our third time.

The festival is a whole lot of fun. It's an excuse to drink and eat in excess, to dress in weird clothes and to oggle fellow festival goers.

The location of the festival is a small-town-sized complex with permanent buildings and lots and lots of beautiful shade trees. It's populated by a large number of actors and acrobats who stroll about in fantastic costumes (here is Jane Seymour and her lady-in-waiting being wooed by a pirate).

A lot of the attendees also dress up, most of them in period dress but a lot of the kids come in their goth attire, complete with black capes and multitudinous piercings. It's people watching at it's best. I got to wear my beautiful renaissance period Scottish fighting jacket and tucked my black jeans into my boots, and my wife wore a gown and a large cockroach pin, very lifelike.

Musicians wander about playing period music, and there's a schedule full of dramas, comedys, acrobatics and music on 3 different permanent stages.

The arts and crafts available here are serious including renaissance and medieval weapons of all kinds (only actors are allowed to carry these however), sumptuous clothing, and jewelry. I almost bought a sword, a replica of the one Strider/Aaragorn carried at the battle of Helms Deep.

We're looking forward to doing it again next year. What a great way to take a vacation, not just to another place, but to another time.


My wife and I are back from Alaska. We did lots of neat touristy stuff in Fairbanks, but the BIG deal was a trip to Bettles. Bettles is a town 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It was an hour small plane ride north from Fairbanks.

Being totally cut off from civilization in terms of electricity, phone service, radio and television, they've had to come up with ways to supply that themselves. It has an airstrip and as such functions as a gas station for planes and helicopters. It has a lodge which is where we stayed. Because Bettles isn't connected to Alaska's road system, you don't need a license to drive there. It's a genuine frontier town and the people that live there exude the independent spirit required to survive in such an environment.

Oh, yes, and the weather. In the winter it gets down to 160 below fahrenheit. Guess you'd need a windbreaker.

While up there we chartered a plane to take us flight trecking for an hour and a half into the Brooks Range. Above is a picture of what we saw. You can see the tip of the wing at the top of the photo. The plane was a little 5 person job, narrower than a car. It was a bit scary but we had confidence in our pilot. Most of all it was spectacular.

We saw the Northern Lights on 3 separate nights while we were there.

The trip to Bettles was something I'll never forget. It's one of the coolest things I've ever done.

Warn A Brother

Nothing in particular to say. I just thought this was funny.