Monday, May 31, 2010

The Gift

On the inside
It can never
Be fixed.
I can rise
Above it.

Learn to
Your way
Out of this one.

My skills
And crafting
My words.
My blood
Pour out of me.
And onto the page.

Flooding back
In flashes
Of imagery
And feeling.
By something magic
When my pen
Touches the paper.

Like a bleeding
Paper cut...
Like an open
And bleeding
Hole from
The spike...
Dripping blood
So quickly
As I try
To lick it all up.
There might
Be a little bit
Of dope in there.
Metallic taste
In my mouth
Still turns me on.
Like a vampire
I like the taste
Of blood.

In the words
Of that moment
In history.
So caught up
My breath
And my heart
But, my skin
Can only feel
The present.
And my memories
Look more blue
From where I stand

My paper
Is tinged
In my blood
There are drips
And spatters
All over my story.
My soul spills out
And colors
The paper with both
Good and bad.

Yes, I have
A lot of regrets
But I do not
For one second
The person
I have become
Each and every
Trial and tribulation.

I do believe
For a reason.
Had it been
Any different
I might
Be here...
For this gift
Of story
I am blessed.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Life in ABCs...A Montage

Anticipation about giving birth makes my heart jump so fiercely in my chest that it feels more like the tiny foot kicking my ribs just below the surface of my swollen belly.

Balconies with a jungle of hanging plants overlook Bourbon Street where the girls who work at the oldest strip club in America stand outside sweating in the heat trying to entice customers into the darkened interior.

Cocaine rings in my ears from a fat shot, sounding like an alarm that keeps wailing on my brain.

Drinking Jameson from behind the ancient wooden bar with its creaking beer coolers and various colored bottles illuminating the sparsest light, while the brown liquor warms and coats my throat all the way to my stomach.

Ecstasy eyes flicker back and forth through hazy vision while my whole body is humming with warm, wet, organic motion.

Falling out of grace and tumbling down a twisted tube to be thrown out in a completely altered world where it seems I am looking down a rabbit hole.

Girls with the appearance of feral cats prowling rabidly around in search of their next meal slink through the dark nightclub wearing only g-strings and high heels.

Hallucinations dance in front of my eyes as LSD bombards my mind with colors and flashing lights.

I wake up, disoriented and reeking of Irish Whiskey, to find myself behind a Plexiglas window with only a metal toilet and sink to keep me company.

Jarred by reality and bright sunshine that beats down on this balcony overlooking Esplanade Avenue, I am astonished too see the streets have morphed into rivers.

Keep fanning yourself in this unbearable August heat and humidity that clamps down on a city with no power and in desperate need of a shower.

Lifeless body, blue and swollen with water, weighs down heavy and stiff on both my back and my soul.

Manic fear sets in and grips my entire body with panic tainted anxiety as those tapes of the storm keep playing a flashing montage of images inundated with water over and over in my head for months.

Nervous people stand in line at the methadone clinic each morning, twitching for their next fix while with every moment their eyes grow wider from fear of the sickness.

Opening his perfect little blue eyes that look just like mine only adorned with the longest lashes, he smiles sleepily and my heart melts.

Perforate the skin with a needle that glides in like slicing warm butter, while I pull back on the trigger and watch my blood blossoming as if its a poppy flower.

Quiet fills the tiny cell after the solid metal door slides mechanically shut, clinking into the locked position, and I realize how horribly alone I am.

Reciting my marriage vows on the beach, clouds grow ominous and dark while the sky opens up to pelt us all with hard raindrops.

Stars appeared to me for the first time in those pitch black nights in New Orleans where the city lights no longer had the power to upstage the twinkle in the night sky.

The dope hits your veins, and warmth spreads from the back of your neck and slides down throughout your entire body all wet and fluid like an orgasm.

Under heavy influence when I stumble to the downstairs door, I am surprised to have a gun pointed in my face as they drag me up and force me to undress.

Veins pulsating and screaming for more as the pain of withdrawal settles down to annihilate my body and mind with its madness.

Words flow out once more, crashing onto the paper like water from a burst pipe that is finally released from captivity.

Xanthic liquid bile ejects from my stomach, burning my throat as the poison is purged from my body while I shiver and sweat with jerky, cramping legs.

Years of wasted time and unsaid abuse ignite a fire that burns bright red with driven passion exploding in sparks and slivers of light as my pen touches down on paper.

Zigzag papers lie open on a hand me down table while hopeful college kids giggle as they exhale, filling the room with a sweet and pungent smoke that reminds me of nature versus nurture.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I first met Smitty when I started hanging out at The Abbey. I remember passing The Abbey quite a few times when I first moved New Orleans, and I was always struck fact that people where always spilling out of there at six or eight in the morning. There are always a few gutter punks hanging around outside of The Abbey in their dirty Social Distortion t-shirts and their leather and chains. Dirty Mohawks mingling with a rockabilly pompadour and pork chops.
Smitty was one of those characters that one came to know the more you hung out at The Abbey. The Abbey is one of the coolest bars in the Quarter, with its darkness and grime. It is always dark in there, no matter how light it might be outside. The doors never closed, and for years I never even realized there were actual doors there. In the door hung a plastic curtain like you find in a restaurants walk in refrigerator, which kept it real cool in the summertime.
When I met Smitty, he was sixty-three. He was balding on the top, and the rest of his thinning tresses were tied back in a small ponytail. Smitty had a face full of hair with a thick and shaggy beard. He was thin, and looked many years beyond sixty-three. At first, Smitty reminded me of an old biker with his black t-shirt and jeans. In the winter, he would wear a jean jacket with the fake wool fur around the collar. He was always there; every day he went to The Abbey.
He would show up sometime between six and ten in the morning, and that is where he spent the day. He would order a tall blonde and a short redhead, which meant he wanted a Miller High Life in a bottle and a shot of Cinnamon Schnapps. Sometimes he would order a shot of Jameson instead, in which case he asked for a tall blonde and a shot of (wink) Jameson. Have one with me, he would offer the bartender. And, of course, any Abbey bartender would take a shot with the old man.
Smitty had once been a merchant marine, and he was tough as they came. He often spoke of all the places he had been. He did not brag about his escapades, but the stories just came about as he talked. He was gentle and kind with his raspy voice and harsh laughter. He had been married to several strippers along the way. My best friend referred to him as “the last American badass.”
Smitty was witty in his old age. He was the first to pipe up if someone was talking nonsense at the bar, which happened a lot in the daytime at The Abbey. I worked that day shift for a while, and some days I would swear that a cuckoo had made a nest on top of that building on Decatur Street. All the cuckoo babies were missing the nest and somehow landing in the bar. Smitty knew them all. He knew all their stories and could decipher all of their strange languages. You would be surprised how many truly crazy people will show up at certain bars in New Orleans during the daytime.
I remember one Monday morning I had just come onto my shift, and it was just me and Smitty in the bar. We talked over our usual ten am cocktails, him drinking High Life and me Woodchuck. The next customer to come in had a baby face and was dressed in a nice sweat nylon sweat suit. He had a boyish grin and was constantly giggling. Smitty rolled his eyes as this customer walked in. I think his name was David, and Smitty told me that. David ordered a gin and tonic, giggling as he sipped his cocktail.
Then, next enters James. Now James I had met before, and thanks to Smitty I was finally able to decipher his drink order. James was a thin black man I would guess to be about fifty. He always had on a childish baseball cap on that reminded me of the kind with the propeller on top turned backwards. James did not speak very much and just signaled for his drink. Smitty told me just to give him a vodka and cranberry when he made that chopping hand gesture. On the occasions that James did speak, it often did not make sense. He told me he lived on a spaceship in the Mississippi River, and God said I could come visit it because I was so nice to him. Smitty told me he had once been a top waiter at Pat O’Brien’s when his wife left him taking the kid. Shortly after, James started cracking up and was eventually reduced to talking nonsense.
About the time James starts talking his nonsense, I finally hear David speak aside from ordering his drink. “Sounds like a big ol’ fart to me,” he says out of nowhere. He starts giggling worse than before. His rosy and plump cherub cheeks remind me of a mischievous child. I turn to look at him, also giggling and I see Smitty is just shaking his head. Periodically throughout his stay, David would lift the back of his hand to his mouth and blow with all his might emitting a very loud fart sound. He said little else, but his fart sounds would send him into a fit of laughter.
Next walks in Jason, who is otherwise known as “The Copper Cowboy.” It happens to be Jason’s day off, so he is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. His fire red hair sticks out from a brown cowboy hat and his coyote in the desert tattoo peeps out from his shirt sleeve moving slightly on his well chiseled arm. Jason is a street performer who wears a copper painted cowboy outfit and paints all his exposed body the same copper. He stands completely still in Jackson Square on a crate until he sees an unsuspecting or interested passerby when he springs into action with his cap gun making gun noises with his voice. People drop money into his copper spittoon. He really is a good performer as far as mimes are concerned. It is weird to see him in normal human colors because I am so used to him painted copper.
Jason comes in already half lit and in full throttle. He recognizes the crazy faces sitting there at the bar, and he starts fucking with them. Before Smitty and I realize it, Jason has challenged these two to a run down the block. Winner gets a beer from the losing two. Suddenly, the three of them outside are talking shit and making farting noises when they start racing down the block and back. Jason breezes past the other two, sprinting back into the bar minutes ahead of both James and David. The two loonies come panting in behind him, claiming that the cowboy has cheated. Jason just challenges them to another race, with a third beer being at stake. Smitty is just shaking his head.
Before they return, the mailman walks in also shaking his head. He has a look of both amusement and bewilderment on his face. He looks at me and says, “Zembower will just let about anyone in here these days, huh?” Zembower is the owner of the bar. The mailman just sets the mail down on the end of the bar and walks off still shaking his head. The sprinters return much like before, and Jason wins three beers from James and David. Smitty knows this is not out of the ordinary for a Monday.
Smitty had been hanging out in the day, drinking on the lower end of Decatur for so long he knew all the weirdoes. He acted like the liaison, telling the bartenders of all these crazies’ quirks. Smitty was a fixture there, selling nickel bags of weed to supplement his social security check. Sometimes Smitty would sell various prescription medications, and he could always be counted on to point you in the direction of any drug you desired. Smitty would take an occasional bump of cocaine, and back in the day he had done a lot of heroin.
I remember Smitty told me one time that he still had his old kit in case of emergency. He finally had been accepted into the subsidized housing for the elderly on Frenchman Street. He finally had his own apartment after crashing on couches for years. He said in his bathroom he had his old kit containing his works and a bag of heroin. Just in case he got too sick one day and could not take care of himself anymore, he planned on just taking a fat shot and peacefully drifting off and out. I imagined his needle to be an antique metal one that fits over your fingers like the kind a dentist uses to give you a shot of Novocain. It sounded like a good idea for an old person whose health could fade any time. Little did I know he had probably thought a lot about getting sick.
The last year I knew him, Smitty was almost blind. He had been living on Frenchman Street for several years and knew the path between his apartment and The Abbey by heart. He guided himself by the sounds of the city, and he would never appear blind to a stranger passing him on the sidewalk. He recognized people he knew by their footsteps only sometimes, and he would ask if that was you as you approached. I had not seen him in a few months, and he still heard me coming calling my name as he approached my path. He never carried a cane; instead he just walked slower with more measured footsteps.
No one knew Smitty had cancer. Not even Gracie, who was his closest friend and was more like a daughter to him. Smitty had been getting sicker and sicker, but he refused to show it. No one noticed, except he was a little more tired, as he started retiring to his apartment earlier and earlier. He did not see doctor near the end because he did not want die in a hospital. He did not want to leave the comforts of the bars on Decatur Street to lie in a hospital bed.
He came to The Abbey one day when Gracie was bartending. She said he had his usual tall blonde, but refrained from the short redhead. In the early afternoon, Smitty lumbered over to the booth in the corner. He indicated to Gracie he was just going to lie down for a few. That corner booth was often known to have a nap or two hosted there, and Smitty had been known to take a nap from time to time. It did not seem unusual even when Gracie woke him up at six just before she went home for the evening. She walked Smitty home, telling him to get some sleep and she would see him in the morning. It was nothing out of the ordinary, really.
The next morning when Smitty did not show up by noon, Gracie started to get worried, and she headed over there in the early afternoon. It was nearly two o’clock and Smitty had not been by The Abbey yet. Gracie knew something was wrong. Smitty had been at The Abbey before noon almost every day for at least ten years. Gracie found him sleeping peacefully in his bed. He did not wake up. He was almost seventy years old.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Is worried
Her baby
Is sick.

He is
So little
Only 14
And a fever
Of 103.

Is worried
Cannot sleep
I keep
To see if
He is
Just let him
And wake up
All better.

Is worried.
Her baby
Is sick.

He is
A man now
His life
With heroin,
And meth.

Is worried
Up all night
Of what ifs.
He might be.
Just praying
God, let him
Wake up
All better.

She knows
It doesn't
That way.

Is worried
Her baby
Is sick.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dear Diary

I just realized something about myself. I am too accommodating. It is almost my initial reaction to just accommodate others. Almost like I am too meek to say anything. Like I am afraid to say no. Here is the situation...
My 92 year old grandfather is sick and in the hospital. My uncle is up from Florida, and we are all making frequent trips to the hospital. We are back and forth from the hospital. My mom and my uncle offer to bring a bunkie mattress to make my son's twin bed real low to the ground.
Earlier today, they said they would bring it maybe tomorrow. Then, after we leave the hospital, have lunch, and come home. Lucien is sleeping, and my mom calls and says they could bring the furniture anytime, but hinting it might be better right now. Maybe she wasn't even hinting, and I just took it that way. I immediately said...OK, right now could work, too.
I did not really want her to come right now. I am getting ready to write. My son is finally asleep, and his father is going to soak his sore shoulder in the tub. This is my time, and no...I do not really want them to come over here now. But immediately I answered in the affirmative.
I did, after a moment, say that it is not good right now...Lucien is sleeping. But my immediate and unthinking reaction is to just say yes. I am used to trying to accommodate others. Maybe I am afraid not to accommodate others.
I realize as I think about it that I do this with a lot of people. Almost everyone. I recently was involved in helping a friend with childcare and it had become too much for me and my son. The hours were too sporadic, and my son did not need his schedule rearranged around her. (She was not paying me very much for three kids.) But, I couldn't say anything to her. I can't explain it, but I just would keep accommodating her. And putting myself out.
Finally, the situation blew up when I started to feel like I was being taken advantage of. But, I did nothing but accommodate her, even when it was not good for me and my son. And unlike my with my mother, I really have no ties with this girl. Yeah, she is a friend. But if she were really a good friend who cared about me, she would have been at least more appreciative of all I was doing for her for practically nothing. I owe her absolutely nothing, yet I am accommodating.
I wonder where this comes from. I see this trait in almost any relationship I have with people. I need to start putting myself first, and being adamant about it. Have I always been like this? Just letting people run me over? I am afraid to disappoint people, I am afraid to say no.
That is what it really all boils down to. Sometimes I have a really hard time saying no. And there are lots of situations where it is okay to say no. I need to work on that. I need to be assertive. I hate confrontation.
I may be a good communicator in the fact that I am a good writer, and I could give a speech to hundreds of people. But, I am terrible when it comes to communicating with people face to face. And I need to work on that. I need to be able to do what is best for my son...and sometimes that means saying no.
My son is everything. And I am working on it. I need to be the strong mother I am...and only accommodate him.


The wheel
Once more.

It's been
A long, long

Seat belt
And I'm movin'

In my hair
Of the road

I am
The future

Once more...

Are finally
In place
For me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Squandering Time

One lesson I am thankful to have learned is the lesson about the frail, preciousness of life. Living in New Orleans during Katrina, finally showed me how precarious life really is. It can all be taken away in an instant. Thousands, never seen alive again. And thousands more displaced forever as a result of the storm. New Orleans, as a city...will forever be altered.
For some reason, those of us caught up in the cycle of addiction rarely see how precious life is. We do not seem to care about this because we give up all pieces of life as we once knew it. We disconnect from our families, and we do not even notice that life is passing us by. And if we did notice, most of us would not even have cared. It is hard to see out of the rabbit hole. A lot of us can thank Hurricane Katrina for breaking that cycle for us. Sometimes it takes something that epic to make someone see the light.
When I talk today with the people I once used with in New Orleans, we all feel similar about certain things. One sentiment I hear a lot is that we feel like we squandered too much time. We feel like we took things for granted, and we did not enjoy life's gifts as we had them. For instance, I feel I did not take full advantage of what New Orleans had to offer. I got so caught up in heroin that I forgot to relish in the moment, and the beauty of the city. I would love to be standing on the banks of the mighty Mississippi right now, just breathing in that sweet and humid air. I wish I could feel the breeze coming off the river, or smell the spicy seafood. I wish I could walk through the Quartet right now, and I would soak up all the live music I could. I would look up at the beautiful balconies, noticing the architecture and a million other things I never noticed before. I regret that I did not soak up New Orleans in all the years I lived there. I could have taken notice of her beauty, and cherished how much I loved the city...but instead I took it all for granted. And now, it is gone from my life. Katrina has displaced me. Drugs have displaced me.
Now, I try to remember to take notice of things. I notice the sunset, as the horizon gets cooler and grows more black against the buildings of the city. I look my son right in the eye, and I watch him like a hawk...I do not want to miss a single precious moment. I make an effort to spend several hours of quality time with him, where all my focus is on him. I notice the breeze when it blows, and I smile when I hear a trumpet on the radio. I hate to watch is just a distraction to taking it all in.
I guess it took a tragedy to make me notice. I almost feel more sorry for the people who are not stripped of their lives through something grave and terrible. I see it all the time...people just letting the small things in life pass them by because they are just self absorbed. Too bad they must deal with great loss to ever realize. A father comes home, tired most days. He always sits in front of the tv, unreachable to his family. Or he goes in his room and takes a nap, only to emerge at dinner. Before you know it, the kids are all grown up...and you never even saw it happen. Or worse yet, something happens to one of those precious kids- and that is time you can never get back.
I see it all the time. Young people in the business world, rushing from place to place. Jet setting and hanging out at a posh martini bar...while the real stuff in life is passing you right by. Or a mother, consumed by depression. She cannot even be present when her child needs her. Or a man so filled with anger that he cannot allow himself to feel any joy. Angry, furrowed brow just wearing away at the world around.
I guess I am just lucky. I will never take life for granted again. When something is gone, that is when you realize your mistake. I miss the things that once irritated me the most, now that I know I can never have those things again...they, too, are the things I miss. I am lucky to be alive. And well. And I am lucky to be taking it all in. Many of us New Orleanians can thank Katrina for showing us all we took for granted.


My mind
Rips it
From me.
Me to shreds.
I cannot escape.

My body
Rips it
From me.
Leaving me
And broken.

In time
This former
Image of
As I scream
No sound
Comes out.

Years ago
And miles away
I still
Want out

This battle
Rages on
In my mind
And heart
And soul.
The clinking
Of swords.

Will I ever be free?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


As the sickness begins to set in, my heart begins to panic. At the first scratchy sign in my throat, I begin to get nervous about the impending doom. It is like my whole body is starting to get foggy, it is starting to feel really weird, and I am getting more and more anxious with each and every step.
I have been standing at this bus stop for at least an hour. I am standing at the corner of Louisa, right across from Markey's Bar. I pretend like I am waiting for the bus, but really I am waiting on dope. Every ten to fifteen minutes when a bus passes by, I casually walk off the corner, away from the stop so the bus driver will not think I am waiting for the bus. This does not help the anxiety, this standing on the corner for hours.
It should be any minute. If I was reliable enough to keep my prepaid cell phone on, I could just have him call me as he gets near the corner, and I could run out and meet him without hanging around waiting all the time. I would still be waiting, but at least it would be in the comfort of my own home! But, alas, I call the man from a payphone around the corner...and I wait on the corner for as long as it takes. Today, it has been a little more than an hour.
My stomach feels queasy, I think. Or is it just my mind, fearing withdrawal that is tricking me into being nauseous? Anxiously, I look towards the left because I know the man will most likely be coming from that direction. Ah-ha...I see a golden ray of light! It seems to be shining down on the sleek, black rays fro heaven, my wait is over!
I hop in the front seat, clutching my cash in my hand. "I will take six of them, " I pant. I had over the crumpled and sweaty bills. He peels them apart to count them. One, two, three, four, five...they are all there. He reaches into a plastic baggie that is full of carefully folded tiny foils. There must be a hundred of them in there. He hands me six. I get out of the car, waving. My stomach and throat instantly feel better. I look down at the foils, and they do look fat!
I am finally, alone, in the bathroom. The door is locked, and I have a minute to breathe. I finally have a minute to relax, although I cannot relax as the symptoms of the sickness are creeping up. More slowly, strangely enough, since I felt the foils in my hands. Once I know I have the dope, the panic begins to subside.
I am anxious...

And just like always when I am anxious, I cannot find a vein. Or like when I am cold. Or like when I am dehydrated. Or like when I have been shooting too much coke. Or like much of the time now days. I poke, and I prod.
I know my veins so well. I know which ones are decent, and which ones need special coaxing. But , lately it seems like they are hiding. They go deeper and deeper inside me to evade the invasion. They are running scared from all the abuse. They are like an puppy that was kicked too many times, they just shy away from all contact now.
On my wrist, if I hold it straight up, and let the needle hang down towards the ground, I can hit that tiny, tiny vein. The needle, suspended upside down in the air just fills like a cup. In my forearm, there is a nice big thick one...but it is deep. If I can hit it, it spews like a water hose. And is I hit just a little to far on one side, my arm twitches and jumps slightly and hurts like hell, an electric I have hit a nerve. On the underside of my forearm, a nice long one, running in a really tender spot. It hurts there if it is now just right.
I wonder, briefly...what am I doing to my body? And then the determination and the desperation was stepping down on me...I had to get this fucking shot. I needed it. As I look in my arm, needle tightly in my mouth as I bite down. I focus, like my life depended on it...and I guess, in a way, it did.
I did get it, after much poking and prodding. The invasion of it all. The constant intrusion to all parts of my skin, my flesh, my veins, my blood, and let us not forget my mind. Constantly intruding on myself, the rush outweighs it all.
Sometimes I think, well...if I could just put down the needle, then I would get better. All the good parts would come back to it, like the days in the very beginning when it was all love and innocence. Sometimes, I would is all really just the needle.
And it was the needle. Not because of the invasion as much as it was addiction to the needle. I mean, Let's face is the ultimate rush. Certain combinations in certain places with certain moods, the rush is just fucking awesome. You get addicted to that rush, the rush that only comes from shooting intravenously.
That rush where your head really spins and hums with this orgasmic feeling of warmth throughout your entire body. It usually starts in the back of my neck, and then engulfs my head. My ears sometimes ring, and my entire brain is firing off in a thousand directions. So warm throughout my whole body, it almost feels as if I have just peed on myself. I reach down, casually, and check. Good, I am cool. There is no other rush like shooting heroin, or cocaine...but each for different reasons, and together they are awesome.
It was the ritual that came with the rush that only the needle provides. There is a certain amount of practice and dexterity that one has when they shoot up several times a day. There are certain parts, like the sweet smell of heroin and water cooking in the spoon, and the way coke just melts into it. And when you see the flash of blood, and your heart nearly skips a beat because it knows- YOU ARE COMING HOME.
It is all I know these days. It consumes my entire day. Everything that I do, is centered around dope. I do not get even a minutes freedom from this all consuming addiction. This all consuming hunt and search, for money and drugs. Money to do drugs, and drugs to do. What can I get into tonight? What combinations of ingredients can I mix up with a little water, and cook it up in a shot. How fucking high can I really get tonight? As fucking high as I can, that is for sure. Whatever it takes to get there, my friends.


In my head

And forth.
My brain
Just like
Some kind of
Deja Vu
Or some
Kind of memory
Back up
To the surface

Of sharp needles
And high heels.
Of tiny pieces
Of tin foil
Full of wonder.
Of water,
Water waist high
Of chaos
And mayhem.
Of death
And the smell
Of the dying.
Of a body
And stiff
Lips and face
With water
And death.
Burned in my mind,

They are
Deep and embedded
And other times
They come
Boiling up.

To just keep
All my shit
In check
These days.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Shobar

Thoughts lately are taking me back to a time and place that now seems to be long ago and far away. There are so many pieces of that life that are dark, sad, and miserable. There are also pieces of that time that I loved, and parts of it that are even missed today. Most of the girls I was tight with at these times also agree that this was a sad and miserable time for everyone involved. Yet, when I remember...I miss it, too.
I do not miss the drugs. And I do not miss the addiction. I am not really sure what it is that I miss. I miss being thin and feeling pretty. I miss the attention and the money (although I wasted all the money too quickly back then!). I think what I really miss is the camaraderie, the friendships. I look back fondly on those friendships that were forged out of need, yet they remain even today out of love. This piece is dedicated to Alicia...whom I am overjoyed to have found once again.
I also want to dedicate this piece to Quentin, who has been my rock. already know how much I love you, but I just want to reiterate my undying love and respect for you. You were always there for me when I needed you, and also when no one else was willing to stand by me-you never left my side. For that I will always be grateful. You were never judgemental, and you always seemed to understand me. And now, you relish with me in all my new found wonders. Quentin, you are a strong and a constant in my life, and for that I owe you everything I am today. Thank you for always being there for me.

325 Bourbon Street. One of the most infamous addresses in my old junky mind. I spent a whole lotta time at 325 Bourbon Street, working to pay for my expensive lifestyle. I can see the interior in my mind, as clearly as if I were still there. The place has changed since the Hurricane, which is a shame because there is so much history there.
325 Bourbon Street was where The Shobar stood for years and years. It is rumored that this site was the first strip club in all of America, and it most certainly is the oldest one in New Orleans. Its history undoubtedly dates back before even the Storyville times, and the club lies just on the edge of what was once the infamous Storyville. Walking inside, the feeling of its checkered past becomes instantly obvious.
The windows on Bourbon were painted over so that the inside is no longer visible to the street. I like to think that once upon a time, these windows revealed a little of the dark interior to the street. The gold paint now covers them over, reminding me of a bordello or a western type saloon. I could be wrong about those windows because my memory does not often serve me well, and I did not spend very much time on the outside of those windows, looking in. I spent much of my time in the darkened interior of the place.
The double doors stood receded from the street a little. Cheap, fake green grass covered the stoop leading up to these doors. The doors were just the regular double doors with window panes on each piece. If I recall correctly, they were probably once white but had since yellowed with age. Just inside the doors, was a tiny little foyer, equipped with a couple of bar stools for girls who needed a little escape from the interior. And two more doors opened up into the club.
The door man stood on the street just outside the doors, barking at people walking by...enticing them to come on inside. Sometimes girls would join him on the stoop, hawking at men on the street in attempts to get some more business inside. The girls were not supposed to leave the club, and most often they stood in the foyer, just inside the door.
This did not mean that it was impossible to leave, as I, once known as Scarlet, can attest. I would often have to make a dope run just before the night shift really got cranking. The most frequent door man in those days was Jeff, who was also often in need of dope. Jeff would cover for me, and the other door men would allow me to give them a couple dollars to keep my secret safe.
Looking back on it, I am sure my little runs were not a secret from anyone, but it is always nice to keep up our images. I would put on one of my street worthy stripper outfits. Generally, it was my black vinyl nurse uniform with the red flames accompanied by my knee high black boots. I would step out the front doors, bullshitting for a few minutes like I was hawking for customers. Then, I would turn to the left and dart down Bourbon to the corner. Turning on Conti, I picked up the pace as I rushed to meet the man with no less than 200 dollars in my boot(often times I had much, much more). Turtle often met me right on Conti, just a block away from Bourbon on Dauphine. I would hop in the car, and quickly make the transaction. Hugging tightly to numerous little foils full of my precious dope, I would head back down Dauphine towards Canal a block until I turned on Bienville. Walking up Bienville to Bourbon, passing several bars and fine dining restaurants...I made the block at Bourbon and was back inside the club lickety split. And I was also greeted by anxious eyes, waiting for their precious packages. Gathering in the dressing room, I distributed the foils like gifts on Christmas morning. Let the money-making begin!
I remember the very first time I worked at the Shobar. It must have been in 1999, and I had just moved to New Orleans. I was cocktailing at the Casbah, and I decided to go ahead and dance at The Shobar. Liam and I were broke, and he wasn't getting a check for several weeks. We needed the cash, and although I had agreed to give up stripping before we left North Carolina...I had to do something.
The first thing that struck me about The Shobar was that it paid the dancers a shift pay. This shift pay had ended by the time I started working there again, but in 1999 I was paid a shift pay. Also unlike in NC, the girls get a cut of the drinks that a customer buys for them. Two dollars per drink. If all other tactics failed, one could still make money drinking with customers. A win, win situation for someone like me who could really slug them back.
The second thing that struck me as odd was the house mother. Her name was "Mama", although she was not really a woman...but most people could not tell that right off the bat. Over my years at The Shobar, I experienced quite a love/hate relationship with Mama. There were times I know she hated me, and I felt like she was just bitter and jealous. Then, she would always surprise me by doing something that showed that she really did care about me.
Mama was a fixture that had been left over from years past. The Shobar had at one time been a strip club that featured drag queens, and Mama was one of the dancers. She would often refer to her days as a dancer, and according to Mama things were very different then. Once, during Mardi Gras when some of the girls went upstairs to a part of the club that was no longer used, we discovered a bunch of really cool, old, elaborate headdresses that drag queens used to wear. Mama no longer danced, but she ran a tight ship...and she knew how to work her tip. She just demanded it.
I can still see her in my mind. She was often wearing a long skirt and a very conservative top. She often reminded me more of a cheap saleswoman than of someone who had always worked in a strip club. Her thick make up hiding her manly features, and her long hair falling onto her shoulders. I would not say Mama was pretty, but she carried herself with the confidence that she exuded. In the end of both hers and my years at The Shobar, Mama was always on my case...she wanted me fired! But, it just did not happen. I am sure it really burned her up.
Once you entered the club from Bourbon Street, you stepped back in time. It was dark as hell in there, and the interior was dark, wood, and burgundy. It was an adjustment of one's eyes, even from the nighttime neon of Bourbon Street. Once your eyes grew accustomed to the dark, the interior of the place was really neat. It was old school, and you could tell it had remained unchanged for years. I think it is sad that it was completely gutted and changed after Hurricane Katrina.
To the right was the bar. One end of the bar was almost on top of the window that faced the street. This was the open end, where the bartender could come and go as he pleased. The phone was back in this corner, and I made and received many calls about dope from that phone. I even made a few calls from jail to that phone.
The bar itself was made of dark wood, smooth from years of customers and sloshing drinks. I can still feel the edge of the bar underneath my fingers as I think about it. It was an old bar, and it had that raised edge that went all the way around. The wood was soft from age, and I often used to put my nails into it, almost digging out small little pieces. It was a nervous habit I acquired while sitting there.
The other end of the bar, opposite the window and the phone, met up with the stage. This allowed the bartenders to keep an eye of the stage from where he stood to mix drinks. Sitting at the bar, even in the daytime, one would notice how dark it was. Sometimes it seemed so dark that I could barely see the bottles of liquor behind the bar. But, that was not an issue because I knew they had Jameson. From beyond that darkness, one would often see Quentin's face looking out from the bar.
Quentin would often bartend, or at least help out Gregory and Mikey. Both Gregory and Mikey were from Greece, as was the owner of The Shobar. Over the years, I came to love all three bartenders. We saw each other almost every night, and I made a lot of money on that club...which meant more money for them. If Quentin was not bartending, he was sitting at the bar chatting with the girls. Q is the best kind of guy to have a a strip club because he makes friends with everyone. He can cheer up a sad dancer, listen to a frustrated one, and even diffuse many crazy situations that occur in a roomful of half naked women.
All the chairs at The Shobar were very straight backed. On the wall in front of the door were several chairs with tables that always kept the person who was seated there in an upright position. It was impossible to just kick back. On the opposite end of the stage were some banquettes, covered in a burgundy fake leather that was easy to wipe clean. There was a round table with chairs opposite the stage where the drug dealers would generally come sit. Bob would often sit there, as the girls would come up one by one and receive their dope. Behind that table was more banquettes that were separated for dances. All the girls and their customers would be piled on top of one another, pretending that they are alone.
The private room was really not very private at all, as it was only separated by a beaded curtain at the entrance. There was an old couch on this room that had years of dirt and cum, I am sure. I was sometimes afraid to stick my hand too far into the seam of the couch for fear of coming up with a used condom. I will say, though, when Jeff would open the club early for day shift, we would often search the cushions of the couch for money. Dollar bills wrapped around thighs and ankles would often peel off unbeknowst to the dancer while giving a private show. Sometimes Jeff and I would discover enough money back there to get a bag of dope for each of us. That was the best way to start the day!
The stage at The Shobar was my favorite part about the entire place. It was old school and looked exactly like I had always pictured a stage of a strip club. The reality is that most strip clubs today try to be so ritzy that the stages do not look like the ones you see in movies or the ones we form in our minds.
The stage was also old wood, but a lighter color than the bar. The stage also had the same kind of beveled edge as the bar, only wider. This serves to separate the customers from the stage a little. There is also room for drinks on this edge. Drinks are an integral part of the strip club. Behind the stage is all mirrors, and the pole comes up somewhere near the middle.
The pole was also old and worn. Its goldish bronze color was faded from years of use. And in the middle, there was always a little grime from years and years of dirty, sweaty hands spinning around it. It was not an extremely high pole, which did not allow for a lot of crazy tricks. But, except for Blue...most of The Shobar girls did not have a lot of fancy pole work.
One would enter the stage from the dressing room, through a deep burgundy velvet curtain. I used to sometimes wear these really cool black fairy wings that someone had left at the club. I loved those things. They looked so cool on stage, when I would make them flap like real butterfly wings. One year during Mardi Gras, those wings were my money makers! I had to be careful going on stage with them because it was easy to get them caught on the curtain rod as I emerged onto stage.
There was a jukebox in the dressing room for all of our music. I liked this about The Shobar. So many other clubs I had worked in had DJs to handle all the music. You could pick some of it, but you could not always pick what you wanted to dance to. With a DJ, you never know when a song could be abruptly cut short and then you are left still dancing on stage...looking like a fool. I liked picking my two songs just before I went on stage. I liked my music to reflect my moods, and reflect what I may have been feeling just seconds before I emerged into the stage lights.
"Happiness is a Warm Gun" was what I always played when I was waiting for the dope man to call. If my body had any lack of dope in it, I played this Beatles tune. "I need a fix 'cause I'm going down..." Another of my favorites was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A set of "Road Trippin'" and "Could Have Lied" was my mellow, sexy Peppers set. While a set of "Scar Tissue" and "Sir Psycho Sexy" revealed a playful mood.
I always think of Barbie when I heard "Baby Bitch" by Ween. I often borrowed this song, and played it for myself. I also think of Barbie when I hear "Pussycat", which is not a song I ever borrowed from her. It fit her perfectly, but was not my style. When I heard AC/DC "Big Balls", I always knew Sophia was on stage. And many of us passed around Evanescence's "My Immortal", Blue, and Suzi to name a few. I know that there are certain songs that no matter where I hear them, I will always be taken back to those days at The Shobar.
The dressing room was probably my favorite place (besides the bathroom, of course!) The dressing room at a strip club is where the good stuff always happens. This is where the camaraderie begins. This is where it all begins, starting with make up and hair.
Just like the rest of the place, the dressing room at The Shobar was also old school. It had mirrors along the wall opposite the door. Just like one would expect, there was a shelf for make up against the mirrors and chairs pulled up. The lights above the mirrors were the big, naked, round bulbs that one would expect to find in any strip club. The lights were not bright like those in some of the dressing rooms of the newer clubs I have been to. The lights seemed to be yellowed with age, like so much of the place was. This is where all the girls would take their put on make up, to eat, or just to chill out.
The walls were the same yellowing color of age, scrawled with graffiti from decades of various dancers making their mark. The carpet was so old and worn that parts of it did not even resemble a carpet anymore, but looked more like a hardened splotch of gum that had been rubbed in. The carpet was grey with dirt and age, and I noticed the funky smell it carried when the dressing room was first opened in the early day. One door lead in and out of the dressing room, and another lead to the stage. Lockers lined the walls in random spots.
The dressing room was a gathering place for the women who worked there. There was often a blunt being passed around, and we all shared alike. Some of us may not have contributed weed, but we always chipped in a little money or offered up some of our other goodies. I often ran to the dressing room after my dope runs, handing out bags like it is a free lunch for the homeless. Hungry junkies grabbing at my tiny foils.
The bathrooms were such an infamous part of The Shobar. The Shobar was often the place that all those into heroin would work. I do not know if it was because it was too hard to follow the rules at other clubs, as it often was with me...or if we just tend to gravitate toward those we are alike. I bet those bathrooms had more drugs spilled on their floors than most users see in a lifetime. I spent many hours in there shooting up.
I hear that the bathroom are just the same today, even after the entire place has been remolded. I find that entertaining because the bathrooms were always one of the worst parts of The Shobar. The swinging door leading in creaked as it opened, alerting anyone inside to a new presence. Those of us who did a lot of drugs in there always announced ourselves as we came in. "Its Scarlet," let the person behind the white wooden stall door know that it was only me and they could continue with whatever illegal activity they were involved in.
The lights in the bathrooms were fluorescent, and were the only lights in the whole club that did not have a yellow glow. These lights were brighter, and slightly tinged with blue. Sometimes when a bulb was dying, one of the lights would gently strobe, making it nearly impossible to find a vein quickly. Granted a lot of needles were used in that bathroom, you still had to keep it somewhat on the down never knew when Mama or one of "her girls" might walk in.
Often we would get in the stalls in twos. Sophia and I spent a lot of time in there together. After getting my shot of dope (and also coke sometimes) cooked up, Sophia would join me in the stall as I took off my choker. I pushed my hair to one side, tilting my head to reveal the veins on my neck. Sophia was good; she was in and out of the jugular in seconds...and my head was instantly swimming. The two of us were thick as thieves, and we used to do a LOT of heroin and coke in those bathrooms. We would emerge back into the club, heads spinning with a big fat speedball, to sit on the burgundy vinyl banquettes sweating our asses off. Just thinking about it now, and my heart's pace has quickened slightly.
All night, in and out of the bathroom. Back and forth, pacing the floors of the place. I spent a lot of hours in that place, drinking, getting high, and making money. I made a lot of my lifelong friends at The Shobar, and I am happy to say I still keep in touch with quite a few of those people. I do not miss being strung out, but I do miss The Shobar. It is the only strip club I have ever worked at that was not overrun by catty women. It is the only strip club I have worked where most of the girls have tattoos and piercings. It is the only strip club I have worked at where you were encouraged to be yourself, and it felt like family. I miss it dearly, and I do wish that it was still standing in its same dilapidated, yet unique way. It really was a cool, cool place.

Giving Back

It brings tears to my eyes to know that I can help others. I hope that people out there can read my work, and it can bring them hope when there was none before. The horrors of addiction are deep and wide, and the damage can be severe. Thankfully, there is redemption...and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
My sister told me several months ago that she believes my trouble actually saved her from a life of trouble as well. I have for so many years lived with the regret of not getting to know her when she was little. I felt bad that my addiction had led me so far from her, and from my father. When she told me how many times she had said "no" because of the pain I caused my family, I felt relieved. At least all the shit has had some positive impact on the ones that I love. (And the ones that I hurt through my addiction.)
It is healing to know that I can now give back. I hope my words can offer some insight into the mind of a recovered addict. I hope that I can offer some hope to families who struggle with addiction. It has taken me quite some time to put the pieces of my life back into perspective, but it can be done. And now, looking back from this vantage point...I see that my parents were right all along. I now see the insanity of it all, where previously I had no clue. Heroin takes your sanity and your reality, replacing it with bravado and a false sense of invincibility...all the while it is breaking down everything you once were. But, recovery is possible. And it is WONDERFUL.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I do not know if statistics are wrong, or if it is just my experiences. I hear all these statistics about how few heroin addicts actually return to the land of the living. But, from my experience...a lot of people get better.
I have reconnected with so many people on Facebook, and I am always delighted to find that many of my old drug buddies are also clean and prosperous now. I am not sure if it was because so many of us endured the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, and our lives were changed. Or maybe I just hung out with some really good junkies!
Anyway, I just reconnected with a dear friend whom I have often wondered about. Now, I can add her to the list of recovered addicts...and that makes me smile. To all the parents of addicts who may read this blog- there is hope!!! More people recover from heroin addiction than the statistics show. At least that is my experience.
So many of the people I once used with are now clean. Many more than I expected, but not quite as many as I had hoped. The statistics are grim, but aren't statistics really grim anyway?
I am rejoicing at finding another dear friend to now be clean!!!
Sometimes I notice that I am still always harboring certain addict traits...I guess it is just a part of me. The boredom creeps in as I am stuck in the house, alone with the baby. I am lonely, and I am bored. Boredom was once the number one reason to "do a little more dope."
I call a friend to come over, and she is always. I sit and wait, reminded of all the time I spent waiting. And the reaction now is still the same. I find myself looking out the window every ten minutes or so. I live on a busy road, yet I keep thinking I hear a car in the driveway. I am getting more and more anxious...I feel like I am waiting for something to arrive.
Pacing a little, I am brought back to the days of waiting. Waiting at the street corner, waiting at the bus stop but never getting on the bus. Always waiting; sometimes sick and other times well...I used to always feel like I was waiting for something.
My body still reacts the same way, as my mind is so bored that I let it wander. Back and forth between past and present...waiting, waiting, waiting. I get the urge for a glass of wine, and for a cigarette...just side effects of all this waiting. It is weird to me so many miles away from addiction to be reacting like I am waiting for drugs. Maybe I am just impatient.


I just want to give thanks. Thanks to God, or whatever life force you believe is up there. I do not claim to know what to call it, this mysterious life force that guides our lives if we let them...and even guides our lives when we do not let them. But, I do claim to know there is something out there that is greater than us all. Or else I would not be here today. I have almost died a thousand deaths before.
I want to thank God for the life I have now. I want to thank him for my beautiful son, who has changed my life in so many ways. He has given me hope, and he has given me a breath of life I so desperately needed. I want to thank God for my family, and for being clean.
I want to thank the power above for all these gifts. I am so thankful that my son is the driving force in my life. I am so thankful that I had him after being clean for several years because it would really kill me if I lost him in any way. Caught up in addiction, so many mothers lose their children. I think of how that would kill me...and I realize what a powerful force addiction really is.
Not that I did not realize it before when I traded everything I was for drugs. But, the thought of not having my son with me everyday just terrifies me. Also, the thought of using now terrifies me. Don't get me wrong, the thought has crossed my mind. And then, I see a flash of the result. The obvious result is addiction. Then, I think...I will be that junky that takes a shot after so many years clean and it will kill me right away.
I see the scenario in my head. I sneak the dope and the needles because, lord knows, I wouldn't want anyone to know I was doing it. My son would be there because he is always with me. Then, I shoot up...and it kills me. Then, I see my son trying to wake his mother up. Hours and hours pass as he is left alone with his dead mother. He is crying, and he does not understand why Mommy won't wake up. Then, someone eventually comes home to find this horrible, horrible scene. IT IS JUST NOT WORTH IT.
I look at the face of my little angel, and I know I will never put him through this. I am a mother who is both strong and constant. I have spent enough of my life being so selfish, and I am thankful that season has come to an end. I am so thankful that I have been given this precious gift of life again. I feel more alive than I ever did when I was using.
Thank you, dear Lord, for this gift of life. For another chance. For a beautiful son.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I am thinking about family today. Family is a powerful thing, and it becomes such a driving force in our lives. I have been thinking about my family, as well as the families of others suffering from addiction. Addiction is also a powerful thing that can really take its toll on families.
I know it took its toll on my family, and I am so thankful that all that has been put behind us. I am so thankful to have my family back in my life, and I regret not having realized sooner just how important family really is. I know there were times I put my family through hell, and there were times I was convinced they were only out to get me. As the storms of addiction have finally blown past my family, I am thankful that the dust has finally settled. And I am most thankful to have them back in my life.
Today, I am feeling guilty because I have passed a stomach virus on to my entire family. Now that I am feeling better, my family is sick in bed. I keep thinking that maybe I should have just stayed home when I felt bad instead of calling my mom to help me with the baby. I keep thinking that I should have kept the baby at home instead of visiting my sister on the day before she moved away for grad school. I feel terrible for making everyone feel so bad.
Then, I look back. I made them feel terrible for years and years. Months and months went by without even speaking to them. I am sure there were times that my mother feared the call that I had died each and every time the phone rang. For all the years I was absorbed in my addiction, I barely spoke to my family...and when I did it always ended with anger or sadness. My mom had almost given up on me, I think. I know she had refused to help me anymore. No more money, and no more agreeing on anything. But, that was over four years ago.
I know my family is not angry at me because they are sick. And I know that they are just happy to have me around again, even if I come bearing illness at times. I know they would not trade seeing their grandson several times a week if they could have avoided a stomach virus. I know that my family would rather have me around, and everyone getting along than anything else. I know they are thankful that I have returned to their lives. They are so proud to see me returning to school, returning to my former self, and growing into a wonderful mother.
Still, I feel guilty they are sick. I feel more guilty about this than I do about all the shit in the past. I am not sure why that is. Maybe in my addiction I was so detached and so self absorbed that I still cannot feel bad for their pain. Maybe it is better not to worry about things I cannot change, and just keep moving ahead.
My mother can be a tough cookie sometimes. When I was in the throes of addiction, I hated her sometimes. I was sure that she did not care about me, and that my best interest was always a step behind everyone else. She had long since cut me off, and I was convinced that she was just a selfish bitch. How wrong I was...
There must come a point for every mother to throw her hands up in the air. Sometimes there is nothing more a mother can do but detach...and in the long run the detachment is the best thing for the precious child. There comes a point in love when we still have to take care of ourselves, or else we will never be able to take care of anyone else. My mother had thrown her hands up in defeat with my addiction. She was finished with my shit. And now, I cannot say that I blame her.
An addict's mind is full of lies. We lie to ourselves to keep the addiction going. I need to use because of this, that, and the other. My parents don't care about me, or else they would do what I want. It is all so unfair. An addict is such a victim...poor me, poor me, poor me. Couple all this with anger and frustration, and there is a ticking time bomb.
I was reading a blog yesterday, called Mom vs. Heroin, and I was reminded of my own mother. This mother says she does not care anymore because she has thrown her hands in the air with frustration. I am sure my mother felt exactly that way so many times. The mother from the blog is dealing with a much more complicated situation than I put my mother through, but the feeling is the same. I am sure she still cares, but the caring just hurts too much. There comes a time when a mother of an addict must detach. My mother never stopped caring, but she sure did act like she did. And she sure did say she did. I believe this mechanism enabled her to survive the whole ordeal of heroin addiction.
Now, my mother and I are closer than ever. It has not been an easy road that has gotten us here, but it has been worth every grueling part. The bond with my mother, and my precious son are the two most important pieces of the puzzle that keep me sober. These two things have become so important to me that I would never trade them to get high. And I realize now, through the trial and error of getting clean over and over again that I cannot use even once. If I get the urge to use today, my mother and my son are my first thoughts. And I immediately say "No is just not worth it." My mother was once an excuse to use, and no she is a deterrent.
When I ended up in jail, my entire family refused to bail me out. My husband left me, and my mother was not about to bail me out. It was one of the most lonely times I have ever endured. I was angry, and I felt so victimized. But, now I see it was all for the best. Now, I do not disagree with my mother's decision. At the time, though, I was convinced she was wrong. And I was convinced she was just thinking about herself. It was a muddy, muddy situation.
I will say that once I was able to pull my head out of my ass, things began to change. Once I was serious about sobriety, and serious about getting my life back together, my mother has not left my side. In my mind, there were other times I had been serious about sobriety...but I had always failed.
I realize now, that those times I was not really serious about sobriety. I thought I was, but I was just not ready. Unfortunately, I had to lose almost everything before I became serious about sobriety. I am just thankful that I did not have much to lose at the time. I am thankful I did not have any children involved in the situation.
I want to applaud my mother for never giving up, but yet never giving in. If she had bailed me out, if she had given me more support...I would probably still be using today. It was through her love, and her hard nosed frustration that I can stand her today-sober and HAPPY. It is only with her loving support that I remain clean. And it is through her example that I know what a good mother should be. I am so thankful to be given the chance to be a mother, and I hope to do as good as a mother has.
The road of addiction is rocky to say the least. I am sure it is much harder on the parents of an addict than I can imagine. I can also say that without the support of my mother, I would not be here today. I can never thank her enough. Although, I suspect that by me being clean, a good mother, and a productive member of society I am thanking her enough. I know that is all she has wanted for me for so long.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Scholarship Essay

Here I sit now, in the present. I am looking down on my one year old son as he sleeps peacefully in my arms. I look down at his eyes, examining his eyelashes in wonder at how long they are. His little button nose and his rosy cheeks look so smooth and soft. His little ringlets, forming around the base of his perfect little head, fall across my arm. His little lips, so perfect and plump, remind me of a heart sitting on top of a smile. He is perfect in every way.
My heart is enlightened now, and it jumps inside my chest as my lungs fill up with air….I take a deep breath. The world is once again full of so many possibilities. Those possibilities lie within my precious son, and as his mother I am obliged create a world for him where anything is possible. He has once again renewed my lust for life, and my quest to live the best life that I can. My ultimate goal is to give this precious angel I have been blessed with a wonderful life.
My mind shudders as it flashes back to the past. It seems like so many years ago sometimes, and then other times those images are as sharp as if they were still right in front of me. My mind and body were bruised and battered in so many ways, and I was wandering lost along this continuum that I called life. It has been a long and sometimes harrowing journey to get back to the light, but now I am exploding with flashes of blue and yellow.
August 28th, 2005. The skies have become haunting, a foreboding grey color with bits of light flashing through. The sun has just come up in the Quarter, and its light is an eerie white color. It seems bright, but yet at the same time it seems dark. I think I remember my mother saying this was the type of sky you see when the devil is beating his wife, almost like the sky when it is both sunshine and rain. The clouds are thick, and you cannot see the sky. The wind gusts from time to time, picking up pieces of trash and carrying them down Bourbon Street.
I am tired, but I do not want to go home. I am wasted, and I do not really have any idea what time it is. I worked at the club on Bourbon Street last night, slugging back about as many drinks as I served. The drugs were flowing freely as well, after all this was a hurricane party. After I left the club, I was wandering the Quarter in search of some dope. I could not very well be stuck inside for several days without my dope, facing withdrawal and this hurricane at the same time.
I am in no position to leave the city of New Orleans. I am a broke junky, who is crashing with friends because I do not really have a place of my own. For the past year, I have been living in various motels and crashing wherever I could. I am spending a hundred dollars a day on heroin just to keep myself high. I would need several hundred dollars of dope with me to go anywhere comfortably, and I do not have any. I am not taking off to some random place where I have no idea where to find any dope. Staying right here in this city and its dark alleys that I am familiar with gives me the best chance of avoiding this impending withdrawal. I am not going anywhere.
After work, I wandered the Quarter until well after ten in the morning. Stopping at all the usual bars, I was looking for anyone who could score. I saw people that I knew, and we talked only of the hurricane that is headed this way as we sipped our cocktails. Ecstasy and cocaine were practically being dropped onto the bar floors, but there was no heroin to be found. Defeated and already starting to feel sick, I headed back through the Treme to ride out the storm.
I was staying with a friend who lived on Esplanade Avenue, just past Claiborne where the I-10 crosses on the other side of the Treme neighborhood. As the alcohol and cocaine started to wear off, the absence of my beloved heroin had become quite apparent. My nose was running, and my stomach had started to churn as the fear of impending doom began to take over. I went straight to the bedroom, took a serious sedative and passed out.
I slept restlessly as the winds and rains howled outside, hearing all the madness outside swirling around and sometimes crashing into the window above my head. I remember when the power cut off because the window unit blasting freezing cold air into the tiny dark bedroom suddenly cut off. I remember thinking, “Uh-oh. It is really going to be hot now.” Alone, in the dark, absorbed by the storm going on in my mind and body I was hardly aware of the storm that raged on outside.
I finally came to after the storm was past, and the water was almost as high as it was going to get. Not out of the fog of withdrawal, and aching with the need, I stopped by the bathroom to clean myself up before heading out to check on the rest of my crew. I knew I would not be the only one suffering from this lack of opiates. I walked carefully up the steps, pained by the lack in my system. Emerging from the darkness of the basement floor, the sun became apparent as I climbed the steps to the third floor. Reaching the top, the sun shines so bright you do not even notice the power is out.
Walking out onto the balcony overlooking Esplanade, the sun is almost blinding. The skies are bright blue, and the weather is absolutely beautiful. Then I glance down from the sky, and gasp because everything is covered with water. There are rivers where the roads had once been. People were wading through up their chests. Eyes wide, I just stood there in disbelief.
It was thirteen days later that I finally climbed into a military vehicle and began my trek to get out of the city of New Orleans. Those thirteen days changed my life forever, and I have never been so profoundly affected by the things I witnessed. I was lucky to be alive, and I did not want to exist inside such a fog again. I realized how precious life really is, and that it can be lost at any moment. I had vowed to start anew, and to stop wasting my life away. We are only given one chance at this thing we call life.
Walking away from drugs and addiction is not as simple as just turning around and never looking back. It is a process of trial and error that is often riddled with relapse. After Hurricane Katrina, I went in and out of being clean. I would stay straight for a while, and then I would venture back to the drugs and alcohol. I would get clean again, and then eventually something would always lead me back to my addictions. I ended up in Williamsburg, Virginia drinking excessively.
I wake up one morning with no recollection of the night before. My head is killing me, but hangovers are nothing new to me at this point. My breath still tastes like last nights Irish Whiskey. As I open my eyes, I am become slowly aware of my surroundings. I realize that I am in a tiny cell with a metal toilet and sink. I am in jail, and I am not even sure what I may have done.
As it turns out, I have assaulted a cop in a drunken rage. No one is willing to pay my bail to get me out of this one, and I have no choice but to just do as I am told. My mind is reeling when I finally realize that I will not be out of jail in a few hours. I am not sure how long I might be here, but it will be at least a couple of weeks. My breath quickens in a panic over this situation.
I am finally thrown into a cell in the middle of the night after going through a series of checkpoints, rendering part of myself to the authorities at each checkpoint. One guard took my clothes, another forced me to wash my hair, and a third drew blood for some medical tests. I just want to lie down, and I am begging to go into the cell at this point. Lying on the top bunk in the dark, the sound of the door locking behind me sinks me heart.
The only window is a very narrow glass pane, and I cannot tell if the moon is out. It just looks pitch black out there. I have no idea if I am looking at the concrete parking lot, or if I am looking into the forest behind the jail. The only light in the room is a dim, yellow bulb behind a plastic shield inside the ceiling above the metal sink. My face is only about a foot from the ceiling. I lie on my back, looking up and looking back at the same time.
It seems as if I am peering at life through a rabbit hole. All around me is really dark and cold, and at the very top there is a tiny light shining. I am not sure what is up there, and I am sure there is nothing down here. I cannot get out of this tiny space if I want to. I cannot eat a snack if I want to. Someone else has to watch me use the bathroom. I am all alone with only a thin mattress, a rough blanket, and an orange jumpsuit. I have no idea when or how to get out. I am surrounded by complete hopelessness.
Suddenly, the urge to write takes over me. I have not written much in the past few years, as I will go through spurts of productivity and then many, many months without even picking up a pen. My mind begins to race with all the thoughts I want to put down on paper. Ideas begin swirling around in my head, and it seems as if they are almost ready to explode out of my hands.
It takes an agonizing two days to get a pencil and some paper. When I finally sit down to write, the words just come flowing out like a gushing wound bleeding all over the paper. I do not have enough paper for all the things that are spilling out of my soul. And that deluge has not stopped, I have been writing ever since.
I have been clean now for four years. I was in outpatient rehab for over a year where I learned an amazing amount of things about myself and also about addiction. In that year, I spent a lot of time looking very deep into my soul. With everything I learned, I began to rebuild my life one brick at a time. Until one day I was walking into the hospital with three years clean, no police record, and an enormous belly… I was ready to give birth
Looking into my son’s beautiful sleeping face, I think about the type of mother I want to be. I want to be able to provide him with everything that he needs to be the best that he can be. I want to be able to afford soccer, guitar, and summer camp. I want to take him on vacation, and to give him his own room. I think about the type of mother I want him to have.
I want my son to think of his mother as a woman who followed her passions and made a living doing something she loved. I want my son to learn from my example that one really can follow their dreams and become successful. I want to be an inspiration to my son to become whatever he dreams is possible. I want him to know from my life that it is never to late to make your dreams a reality, no matter how buried and dusty they once were.
My passion is writing. My dream is writing. I just want to be able to provide a good life for my son by the hand of my pen. I want to use my own talent and passion to provide my son with the ability to make his own dreams come true. I want my education to give me the tools I need to use these passions and skills to make a living. I hope my education will be the stepping stone of this wonderful life for both my son and myself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Panic Sets In

To death,
As sickness
Sets in.

My heart beats
Once again

Thump, thump

Thump, thump

I promise myself
Over and over
I will never
Do that again.

Dear Lord...
Or whatever entity
May be out there.
Because I'm not
Really sure.
If you can just
Make it OK
This one time.
Dear Lord,
If you can just
See that
I make it through
This one...

I promise,
I will never
Ever...use again.

Right now,
I don't even
Want to.

The sun rises
Over a horizon
Or two.
The sickness
And disease
Fade away.

Crisis averted
Emergency over
Racing thoughts,
Just dissipates.

And I think,
Well, maybe...
Just one more time.
A little down the road.
Are right.
I will wait,
Then just a taste.

Yes, that's it...
I will wait,
And then just a taste.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Description of the Storm

Darkness surrounds, sitting over the city tight like a glove. Cramping down on every heart and every mind as our eyes are filled with terror- and the city is filling with water.
The clouds have subsided, and the dreaded winds, lightening and rains have moved past the Gulf Coast. The sun comes up, bright and clear…it is always calmest after the storm. The light reflects and refracts as the rushing water keeps rising, and rising. Although the sun is bright, darkness settles down on every heart. Fear is also mounting in our hearts, exploding in our brains and ejecting from our mouths. It seems as if everyone is screaming.
Panic rises like the flood waters, slowly at first then quickly escalating to the tantamount of chaos. Breaking glass and people rushing into abandoned buildings like pirates raping and robbing for their booty. We are all reduced to the primal instincts that are ruled by only survival.
Questions begin rising as quickly as the water. What will we do? Will we survive this devastation and its impending aftermath? Food, liquor, and drug supplies will soon run dry. Piracy becomes the only option.
We are rushing into darkened supermarkets and pharmacies, just like everyone else in the city. Floating a trash can through the water and muck; a vessel to keep our pilfered booty dry. Food and liquor have both become necessities at this point; one to nourish our bodies and the other to make it possible to deal with the issues clouding our minds. Windows breaking and shattered glass is everywhere. People are climbing through broken windows and emerging with whatever they can carry.
This valiant city is reduced to a war zone. And everyone is struck by the diseases of pure madness and complete insanity. The mental switch from rational thinking to sheer panic mode runs amok, and the primal instinct to simply survive stirs us all into madness.
Canal Street is soon littered with broken glass and mismatched tennis shoes while all the Foot Lockers stand in complete ruin. Pirate booty is left abandoned all over the streets. Wandering in and out of these busted doors and windows, I see that most of these stores are left in an empty destruction. Everything is gone. All the drugs have been ripped from the shelves of the pharmacies. All the liquor and cigarettes have been lifted from the convenient stores, leaving behind everything that is soggy and wet.
Looking around, it seems that everything is soggy and wet. We are all wading around in the waist deep, murky water. Tired of being cooped up while the storm outside was raging…we venture out to explore the city despite the miles of dirty, daunting water. It takes an hour to push our way through the waist deep water to the Quarter from the Treme, where it only took twenty minutes just a few days earlier. As we wander, we keep getting lost because the flood waters have also taken our sense of direction. We wade through rows of houses, watching the street signs because these are the only two indications of where the streets once were.
The French Quarter is mostly dry, but it is scarier than anywhere else. A spooky silence has settled down in the air, and the streets are completely deserted…the normal bustle of Bourbon Street has been silenced for the first time in many, many years. The only noise in the entire Quarter comes from Johnny Whites on the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter. The bar has been open throughout the storm, and people have begun to meet and gather here…trading information and stories. A lone pay phone across the street rings out. Apparently the only working phone in the city is a random pay phone across the street from the only establishment that seems to be open in the French Quarter.
The sun begins to set on this first day of chaotic madness. The Quarter not only lies silent, but now it is dark. The neon lights of Bourbon Street have gone out with the power, and the street lights no longer illuminate the city. This deadly dark and eerie quiet settles deep into my heart, leaving it cold and shivering. For the first time since the storm began, I am truly terrified.
As the sun completely disappears, the water that is all around grows darker and more ominous. It reminds me more of an oil slick than water; it is so fucking black. The moon, thank God, is nearly full. Its light reflecting and refracting on the water as the breeze causes the ripples for the moon to illuminate.
For the first time ever, the stars appear in the sky above New Orleans. A whole slew of them, and I am struck with their overwhelming beauty. I have not seen the stars in all the years I lived in New Orleans. Something about the stars reminds of me of my faraway home near the mountains, and calm overtakes my heart. My heartbeat returns to normal for the first time all day, and then its pace slows further. Serene, calm, and peaceful as I take in the stars in the perfect silence.