My Life - part 7
It's been a long time since I last sat down to focus on writing more of this story. So I thought it was about time that I gave you all the next chapter. During these past months of writing I have come to a better understanding as to why some autobiographers say that they go through a very trying soul searching experience. Mine has been that and much more. I have to admit that at the time I have felt like trashing the whole deal, asking myself, "What's the use?" Thinking to myself that no one really gives a damn. Like looking in the mirror at times and wanting to smash it. Not in aggression, or then, maybe so. Because as moments, even I don't like what I see. Yet I know that it is a must that I continue to dig...
So I strive forward in my own way, searching and seeking out answers as to why we exist. As to why I exist. For answers as to what caused me to get off track, and more importantly, answers as to how might my mistakes be used as a tool to fix the problems that continue to lead others down this same path to self-destruction. I must also search for the right words to express my thoughts, or I risk being totally misunderstood.
I would like to send out a Thank You to each and every person who has sent a message of hope, prayer, and encouragement. I also want to say Thanks to all who sent messages to let me know that through these writings they have come to have a different and better outlook on life. In your own way, you make the struggle seem all the more worthwhile…You allow me to see the limits which can be reached. Even from behind these prison walls. Thank You! I also want to send a Special Thank You to my many friends and loved ones. Your understanding and support is outstanding and unbelievable. In your own way you help me to stand when at times I don't feel like standing anymore. I do hope that as I continue to search and dig that you will keep in mind and recognize that I am only human, and thus I too have my many faults…
On the bus ride Bamm and I didn't talk too much. We were on the way to face a place neither of us knew much of. I don't know about Bamm, but I was lost in my own thoughts. Don't get me wrong, we did talk some, it was a long bus ride. Here I was, 16 years old - just dropped out of school and was on my way to a place I had been looking forward to ever since I heard about it. I mean at my age the idea of going to school and getting paid to go had been appealing to me. However in some way I knew that this was a very important part to the rest of my life. During the summer I had held a job at the Ben Taud Emergency Hospital (The Best Trauma Center in the World as far as I am concerned) through a Summer Works program and was really starting to learn just how hard it would be to make it in the working world. Not that I hadn't been growing up through tough times damn-near all my life. But it's something different about it when faced with actually having a chance to be a part of the working world. So as my bus ride approached its final stop, I knew that I must approach this as my final chance to get my education. To make it, or at least to have a chance, I knew I needed to get a GED and Trade to get a job. And not just any job would do for me. But one that could support the type of lifestyle I had begun to crave.
For me to be accepted into Job Corps I had to be between 16 & 21 and my family had to be at or below a certain level of poverty. It was that or to have been sent to the Court System as an alternative to Juvenile Hall or Prison. So already there's a certain element in place. One was either poor or had been in trouble with the police. In most cases it was a little of both.
Once we made it there we went through a week of orientation where they gave us a whole bunch of "Do's and Dont's," explained what would be expected of us, and took us through classes on topics such as Drug Awareness (Just say NO!), Sex Education (It's against the rules, but they knew better), Personal Health Awareness, Dental Health Care, and well, a lot of other topics. They also warned us against breaking any laws and institutional rules. They spent time explaining to us how the attitude points system worked and why it was important, 1.0 being the lowest and 5.0 being the highest. Which is important because what we are allowed to do can depend on one's attitude level. Having a low attitude rating can get one put on all types of extra detail work, and it could cause one not to be allowed to leave campus to go into town or get a weekend pass to go home. Having a high rating had its rewards…To miss curfew is considered to be AWOL, for which one could be written up on what is called a 12.88, and getting 12.88's could cause a drop in attitude points, and getting too many 12.88's could get a man sent home. And of course getting into the wrong type of trouble could get a person kicked out too. Or sent to jail for that matter. And they did have security, a type of police system for this small town of Gary; their jail was placed right smack in the middle.
And the end of the week, we were all assigned to dorms; there are 24 of them, each housing up to 100 people. Some open bay, some closed, some all male, some all female, and some co-ed. All co-ed dorms are closed bay with men living on one bay and women on the other bay. To be in a co-ed dorm one must maintain a certain attitude point range which I believe is between 4.0 and 5.0.
The second week we went through OEP (I can't recall what it stood for) where they offered small working examples of what each trade course would be like and we'd choose by the end of the week which one we wanted to take. They offered a wide variety of trades to choose from. From Nurses Assistant to Heavy Machine Repair, Meat Cutting to Brick Mason, Welding to - well it's just too many to name. I signed up to learn electrician. And by the third week it was time to start going to classes.
Let me take a minute to try and explain how the school worked. The institution recognizes that each person learns at his or her own pace. So there is no timeline, or system by which a student is pushed or rushed forward. To advance to the next level in your classes or your trade you must pass handwritten tests. It doesn't matter if you are able to do the work on the next level or not. If you want or need help understanding something there is a teacher or instructor there to assist at all times.
September 1989. So there I was, finally at Gary Job Corps in San Marcus, Texas. And things started off well enough for me. I was going to my GED classes in the morning where I was advancing. Not at a fast pace, but at a steady pace. Going to lunch around noon and then to my trade class where I did start off at a fast pace. I already knew a little something about working with electricity, so that was a plus on my side.
Once classes were over I was free to do whatever I wanted as long as I didn't leave campus without permission, and as long as I was back at the dorm by curfew. And my options were many when it came to things to do when class wasn't in session. They had two gyms, a weight room, an arts and craft wood shop, a pool hall, two swimming pools, a track with a football field, and plenty of basketball and volleyball courts. And during the weekends they would open a movie room during the daytime hours, and at night they would open the gyms to allow dances. Of course on the weekend there was also the option of going home if you had the money to buy a two-way ticket and at least a 3.0 attitude rating.
It didn't take long to learn the happenings as to who was who and what was what. And those same rules that applied to the streets in Houston also applied here. But here more attention is paid to where one is from, and as power comes in numbers. Houston, known as The House (short for The House of Pain), or H-Town was in power. No, it didn't take long to learn what the scene was about nor did it take long before I became a part of the whole scene. Now, unlike Bamm (who I still remained close with), for me becoming a part of the scene also in a way marked the time when I stopped focusing on my GED and Trade classes. Bamm, who was living in a different dorm than I, was still doing well in school and in his welding class…
I don't know if I just got bored with the classes or if I had just lost my focus. But my attention wasn't in the classroom anymore, which is why my instructor started to get upset with me. I had come in and shown that I was capable of doing the work and passing the tests. But then all of the sudden I stopped. I stopped caring about the whole deal. I started skipping classes or I would do just long enough to be counted. Or I would go to class and not do anything. My concerns became more about hanging out: listening to my music, spending time with my girlfriend (whoever that might be at the time), hanging with the fellas, and looking as clean as possible.
We could be doing nothing more than roaming the campus, going from the gym to the store to the pool hall, looking for something to get into, a basketball game or whatever. And don't let no girls be around when a game was being played!!! Everyone tried to play extra hard then…And me, I was looking for someone to dunk on. While playing basketball I felt like I was in another world…Either way, going to class didn't hold my interest anymore.
As I became more and more known around campus, I started to get into more things, having my fair share of fights and being involved in my fair share of riots. I had never been the cause of any riot there, and I even have to admit that there were a few times when I didn't even know what the fuss was about. I only knew that I was from Houston and would support the House in all matters. Right or Wrong. Unconditional Support. I was there when one got started though…