Monday, June 25, 2007

Old Challenges

As I watch the seasons make a feeble attempt at changing--solstice passed and still it rains and rains and rains--I am faced with some old challenges. Again I am stuck in the middle of something that it difficult for me to deal with. I'm going to go out an a limb here and hope that a certain someone is not reading. Or maybe I'm hoping she is because, obviously, I don't have the cajones to say it to her face.

The saddest thing about it is that it directly involves my son...

I should begin with some recent history.

As some of my "readers" may remember, part of the reason I took a hiatus from school is that my 16 year-old son was hell bent on trouble. He was doing things that, although I did them when I was his age, I had hoped that he would take a different path. This child was born when I was still a child (see one of my first posts, called "Tibial Tuberosities and Trivial Tubers" on January 25, 2007). The truncated version of that story is that my father's brother and sister-in-law adopted my baby when he was 2 and so began a whirlwind cycle of love and anger that continues to this day.

My son, Zack (for some reason they changed the spelling of his name to Zach even though it's a "k" on his birth certificate), has been a troubled child for most of his life. It seems that, for my aunt and uncle, when he was a cute baby he was the cat's meow, but as he grew older and his issues began to surface he wasn't so cute anymore. He was an angry child. Given what he'd been through as a baby and toddler, there's not a question about the origin of those anger issues. He started getting into trouble at school when he was in kindergarten. He was very forward about his anger and had a lot of difficulty controlling it. He has never done well in school and is one of those kids who gets caught for every little thing he does--even when it's really not his fault. Other kids will pick fights with him and he gets in trouble for it because he can't control his anger.

The other side of this is that he has an older brother through his adoptive family. The brother never got caught for any of the mischevious things he did and thus was treated as a saint. There was a lot of inequality between the two of them. The brother is definitely "the golden child," and Zack is clearly "the black sheep." One example of the brother's nastiness comes about when I was pregnant with my second child. I was at a family function, about 8 months pregnant, and the kid walked up to me and said, "You're not going to dump that one on us, too, are you?" My jaw about hit the floor. I couldn't believe he said that. He apologized at the demand of his mother, but there were never any other consequences. If Zack had done something like that, he would probably be banished from every teenaged leisure and made to work in the yard for a week. That might be an exaggeration, but as I watch things unfold, I see that it's not all that far from reality.

To the brother's credit, he has, in the recent past, been trying to make up for all the shit Zack went through while growing up in that house. Because, frankly, the brother wasn't very nice to Zack, either.

It seemed that, as Zack began to cost more money in therapy and lost work time, my aunt and uncle began liking him less and not being shy about showing it. I can't remember the last time I witnessed my aunt being nice to him. It's like a war between Zack and his mom. Things are very tense and cool and she's begun dropping bombs.

Fast forward:

Zack began his high school career in 2005-2006 with a reputation for trouble and quickly found the crowd that he fit in with best. He began skipping school and never turned in his homework, even when he did it. Before long he was gone from class more than he was there and he was failing in all his classes. It took summer school last year for him to make it into his sophomore year, and even then he was still behind by a credit or two. By the end of fall of last year he didn't care at all about school and was using the school bus merely as a means to get into town from his county home, only to run off with a group of friends to get high and walk around town.

My aunt and uncle went to court and had Zack declared "Youth At Risk," and he then had a legal obligation to stay in school and behave himself. Having been a wild child myself, I knew that this would only give him the opportunity to brag to all his friends about going to juvenile detention. When you hang with that particular crowd, going to "juvy" gives you status, makes you cool.

Of course he went to juvenile detention.

Twice. For a week each time.

At this point there had been talks about Zack going to Job Core (Corps?) as a way of helping him get on the right track. I have always felt that putting him with a bunch of kids that are also troublemakers would be a bad idea because it's what he wants. He wants to be the bad kid at this point. It's attractive to him. One evening while he was hanging out here at our house, talking about how cool all those kids are that live on the street and have nothing, the kids who live in Compton and South Central L.A. and Long Beach--gangsters whose only way of living is selling drugs and staying with their gangs. So I told him that I know people in Long Beach and Compton and if wants to go there I put him on a train. He thought that was a great idea. He actually thought I would do it. I tried to explain to him what it's like. To walk down the street with you eyes to the ground, hoping that no one asks you what the fuck you're doing there. The streets might look appealing until you're looking down the barrel of a gun (which, yes, I have been in that situation).

Anyway, he went to Job Core. He was there for 6 weeks or so before he got booted. He fell in with a group of like-minded kids and so began his downward spiral. Ultimately, he found himself in the parking lot of a grocery store on a day pass from campus, asking people to buy beer for himself and a friend. When finally he got he alcohol, he decided he wanted some candy and entered the store with no money. He got caught shoplifting and tried to run, but in the process he knocked down a female employee at the store and was subsequently apprehended.

So he's been home now for a few weeks. He's been working, doing random landscaping jobs that my uncle has set up, until my uncle got fed up with trying to get Zack to do the job the right way. Now he has to be babysat, which is why he's here at my house, weedwhacking my sizable yard. When he was dropped off, the instructions my aunt left were that Zack was to be outside all day, rain or shine, working, doing whatever I want him to do with only one 15-minute break so that he can "learn what it's like to be in the real-world work force."

Um, auntie, we live in Washington State in the USA, which means that there are labor laws. Allow me to explain:

1. Any child under the age of 18:
a. has to be in school (I think)
b. cannot work more than 20 hours per week

2. The law states that, for every four hours worked, there is one 10-minute break allowed; for every eight hours worked, there are two 15-minute breaks and one half-hour break allowed.

Anyway, things are coming to a head. He's going to be 18 in 1.5 years and he will be able to leave for good. Do I hold my silence about the things I disagree with? I am afraid that they won't let me see him anymore if I speak my mind--I know they won't take it well. It is my honest opinion that they are mistreating him by taking away all priveleges indefinitely--he isn't allowed to play video games or watch movies or TV and isn't allowed to go anywhere. He's basically supposed to sit in the house doing nothing unless he's outside working, which it sounds like he has to do a lot.

Ok, this rant is officially over. Please, PLEASE send me some advice. I don't know what to do. Let me know what you'd do ideally and in reality.

I've decided not to edit this post for content or spelling because it has exhausted me. It's not complete--there is a lot more that I could say about it, but I'm hungry and upset.

Thanks. Love.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Yes, I'm at it again.

The bar that I used to work in has been re-opened and I have been re-hired.

Sort of.

I walked out last July due to rubber paychecks and a boss with a habit. Among other things. Not long after I left, the bar and restaurant was shut down due to non-payment of state sales tax and the owner disappeared. In February or March it was purchased by some member of the community and renovated. The mice were eliminated and they cleaned the hell out of the place and opened in early May. I spoke with the bar manager (who was the manager when I worked there before) and offered to be "on-call." He gladly accepted and I worked my first real shift today. It felt good to be there. I saw a lot of regulars that I've missed and loved the feeling of the rediscovering of mixology.

Yummy margaritas!

I will work there very irregularly until I go back to school. Although school is looking a little farther away. I will probably go back when the class I started with are seniors. I miss those ladies...

Friday, June 1, 2007

High Up In The Eastern Rockies

Pearl Street. Boulder, Colorado.

Pearl Street is an avenue that runs through the heart of Boulder. It is strictly pedestrian; no cars allowed on most of it. Boulder is really a beautiful town and I wish I had the time and frame of mind to really enjoy it. Unfortunately, most of my time spent there consisted of freezing my ass off in a warehouse or begging for change. My most memorable meal there was at a homeless shelter where, disgusted by the maggots in my salad, I decided to be hungry instead.

It was winter in 1994. I was 19 years old and had nothing but the clothes on my back and a crappy boyfriend who was all about the hustle. We stayed in Boulder for a couple of weeks, but when Tom had exhausted all the kind people we encountered, we had to go elsewhere. He had somehow hustled a car--a Datsun 510 (the first of many)--and we decided one day to head up Highway 119 into the mountains to see what we could find. We had heard about a town called Nederland, about 20 miles west of Boulder and thought it might be nice to see what was up there.

To the right of the reservoir you can see Highway 119 winding westward. At the end of the water you can see the tiny town of Nederland (Ned). We quickly found the Youth Hostel and sought refuge from the cold there. We were able to work for a room, courtesy of the guy that owned a bunch of buildings there, named Pete. We spent about a week there, helping Pete remodel a restaurant he was going to call the Restbite Mill. It may have been spelled Respite Mill--I can't remember.

Anyway, after about a week, we were asked to move on. We went over to the grocery store to beg some change for gas when we enountered a lady who asked us if we would be willing to work at her house for room and board. We agreed and she put a little gas in our car to get us up the hill to her house.

The place she took us is somewhat of an enigma. I've tried to Mapquest it and look it up on Google Earth, and it is completely different now than it was 13 years ago. The town is called Wondervu. No, I didn't spell it wrong. Check it out: Wondervu, Colorado

Anyway, when we were there, there was a cafe called the Wondervu Cafe and some kind of lodging. But that's about it. The lady's house was on a dirt road called Jennie Lane. It was a sty. She was a single mom of two kids, and later we found out that she was crazy as well as a drunk.

When we arrived, the lady (I can't remember her name so we'll call her Wonder) showed us to our was a family room in her daylight basement so cluttered with crap that it was difficult to move around much less find an appropriate place to put a bed. There were about six or seven boxes of old Rolling Stone magazines. If I'd known then what I know now, I would have taken all those mags when we left. They were all in a pile of stuff she was going to throw out. Issues dated back into the early 1970s. However, as you'll find out in a later post, those magazines wouldn't have made it home with me anyway.

I think we only ended up staying there for about two weeks. Maybe three. Wonder turned out to be quite a wingnut. She kept yelling at us for the most random reasons. She got mad one night because I let her son take a bath. I never could figure that one out. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and I didn't know Tom then the way I know him now. It's absolutely plausible that he could have been doing something bad...

At least Tom had a job at a restaurant down in Ned. One evening, when Tom was leaving for work, Wonder started screaming at him for something (I don't know what), and he hollered some obscenities back at her so she told him not to come back. He told me that he would come back for me after work and we'd go somewhere.

And I was left there alone with her.

Eventually, I decided that I had to leave before he came back and I loaded everything I could onto my back, carefully taking our most important posessions (which were few) because I knew that I didn't want to come back.

And I started walking into the February night.

Mostly what I remember is being cold. I couldn't remember how far it is from Wondervu to Nederland, but I remember walking for a long time. When I googled it, it came up as 11 miles. It was the beginning of February and there was still feet of snow on the ground, and it was night time. The only human life between Jennie Lane and Ned consisted of a few farms scattered along the road.

And a restaurant called the Blue Danube.

After walking for hours along the darkest stretch of highway in existence, I arrived at the parking lot of The Blue Danube. There were two cars in the lot. To my delight, a man came out the door and saw me there. I asked him which way he was going and he said he was going down to Ned. He asked me if I needed a ride.

Did I need a ride!

His name was Joe and he was a cook getting off work from the restaurant. He was very nice and assured me that he was not going to hurt me. I was happy when I arrived in Ned unharmed.

That night we knocked on the door at the Hostel and were given a room to stay in with the promise that we'd have jobs and pay for our room. The next day we made our way back up the hill to Wonder's house to pick up the last of our things. Luckily for us, she wasn't there and her kids were gracious enough to let us in to get our stuff.

I got a job two days later at the Texaco station at the junction of Highways 72 and 119. A month later, our car dead on the side of 119, we hitchhiked into Boulder with my last Texaco paycheck and put a $100 downpayment on a 1968 Plymouth Satellite Stationwagon.

Although not the right color, this car looks very similar to the one we bought. Yes, the same make and model as the car that took us from Bellingham to San Francisco--just a few years older.

Upon arrival with the car, we packed it up with whatever Earthly belongings we had--a quilt, a few clothes, a few gifts we still had from Christmas, and the odd trinket here and there that we had picked up on our adventure thus far.

And with the sun nestling behind the Rocky Mountains, we would our way down Highway 119 toward Central City--a route we had only taken once before on a gambling adventure. From there we turned even further south on Central City Parkway toward I-70. Not long after dark, we turned east on I-70, heading for more adventure. Danger, hippies, gangsters, gutter punks and hillbillies.