Carlos – Part 4

 

 

 

Part 4 of Carlos’ story from the book “A Snowball’s Chance.” 

High school dropouts tell their stories.

Arrests and Probation

I’m on probation because I was drunk and got caught with a gun. A couple of nights before the arrest someone had broke into my house. Normally, I don’t ever have to carry a gun. I’ve got someone with me riding shotgun. After the guy broke into my house, I began to carry my good old .40-caliber.

Amelia, the kids, and me went to a family function at the Casino Ballroom. When we walked in there were a couple of girls I had messed with. They called out my name and my wife said, “Who the hell are those bitches?” I’ve always been up front about myself. I’ve never hid anything from my wife. She knows I was messing around with other women. She knows I was on the street hustling. But it’s like if you love me, then you are going to be with me. I told her, “This is the way you met me. This is the way I am. If you don’t like it, go and kick rocks. I’ll find someone else.”

I hadn’t seen the girls in a long time. That didn’t make it any easier on my wife. We had a couple of drinks. I was drinking Coke with Mexican brandy. She kept going off about it. I got to a point and said, “You know what? Grab the kids. We are going to leave.” We left and I got off at the Circle K. I told her, “You take the kids home.” I had a cousin that lived across the street. I was going to go to his house. She took off. I walked into the Circle K.

I was wearing a see-through shirt, and I had my gun with me. I grabbed a twelve-pack and went to pay for it. The guy didn’t want to sell it to me. He smelled alcohol on my breath and said, “Sir, I can’t sell to you.”

“What the hell is wrong with you? Don’t let this little six-dollar-an-hour job get to you. Man, I’ve got enough money to buy half of this store. Are you going to sell me this twelve-pack? You know what? Take this and shove it up your ass. I’ll just go to the next store.” I walked out and there were police cars in the parking lot. A security guard in the store called the cops. I had enough time that when I had seen the cars, I took the pistol and threw it. They asked me what was going on. “Nothing, I just came to buy some beer.”

One of the officers had arrested me when I was younger. He remembered that I was a convicted felon. He said, “You are not supposed to have a gun.” They booked me into the Pima County Jail. That night they charged me with prohibited possession. The next day I woke up with the biggest headache and the biggest hangover.  When I went to court, the judge read off three counts of attempted armed robbery, three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and prohibited possession. That’s six felonies! Three of them are Class 3s, and three of them are Class 2s. Class 1 is the highest you can get—it’s like a murder.

I’m in the jail cell. I said, “God, what did I get myself into?” That was the point where I made myself a promise. I was done. I can’t live like this anymore. Not only was I putting my wife through a lot, I was putting my kids through too much stuff. I have five kids to think about.

I had my own lawyer—someone I used in another case. The way I got my money to begin with was not right. If I wasn’t careful enough to set money aside,  then I would never be able to afford a lawyer. I would have been represented by the state, and I would be in prison for a long, long time. My first plea bargain was seven to twenty-one years. I turned it down and they came at me with five to ten years. “What are you guys talking about? I didn’t rob anybody. I didn’t hit anybody.”

My third plea bargain was under the bracket they were supposed to give me. It was below the bracket two to five years. I was still fighting it. My lawyer met with the prosecutor. They reached an agreement and gave me “probation available.” I went to my sentencing. The judge gave me four months in the county jail and four years of probation. The first year started off as intensive probation. If I violate, I go to prison. They could aggravate my sentence and give me the max—twenty-one years.

My probation officer is wonderful. I look at him like a father figure, as an uncle. He is understanding, and I’m blessed to have an officer like him. The worst part of intensive probation is that I have to have approval for everything. If I want to go somewhere with my kids or go out with my wife, I have to get approval. Yet, if it wasn’t for intensive probation and what I’ve gone through, I would not be the person I am now. I wouldn’t have so much hunger for success.

The last time I was locked up was a turning point. I knew that my daughter was looking at me. That’s a feeling I never want to have again. Seeing her come to visit, and I was behind that glass. Her expression nearly killed me.

 

 

 

Carlos – Part 3

Part 3 of Carlos’ story from the book “A Snowball’s Chance.” 

High school dropouts tell their stories.

Juvenile Detention

When I was about ten or eleven years old, I had my first run-in with the law. It was a curfew charge. I was out on the streets late at night. They arrested me and took me to juvenile. I was there for eight hours. I was put in a program called diversion. All I had to do was complete some community service hours and go to a Scared Straight type of program.

In junior high I was labeled a “bad ass.” I was in and out of the principal’s office so many times that whenever anything happened, they’d automatically come to me. I was such a bad ass that the school resource officer, a police officer that worked at the school, actually tried to run me over. I had a mouth on me, and I wouldn’t take no shit from nobody.

An assault charge came next. I got into a fight with a kid at Doolen Junior High. After that there was a theft charge for a stolen bike. I bought the bike for twenty dollars from a kid that stole it. The next thing I knew, the cops were at my house. I was kind of dumb. I tried to hide the bike. I took off the tires and made a pit in my backyard. I doused the frame with gas and lit it. I was trying to strip the paint. Next thing I knew, the fire department was at my house. I said, “I’m trying to take the paint off my bike.” They looked into it a little bit more and arrested me. I went to juvenile for about two months.

God, that was the most humiliating, horrible experience in my whole life. It was de-grading. The staff looked at us like we were the worst kids. I loved the food but hated the constant confinement. We’d come out of the cell for two hours in the morning to go to school, get locked up again, go to lunch, and go to school for another two hours. The rest of the day I was locked in a two-man cell. The room had cement walls, a big steel door, and a four-inch window.

Juvenile was bad. I was knuckling up—always fighting. There were kids from ten to seventeen years old. A lot of kids label others from where they live. You might not be a gang-banger, but if you’re from the south side, you could easily be labeled a Crip. If the kid was from the north side, there were more Bloods, but Crips as well. Kids had to stand their ground and let others understand that they were not going to get punched or pushed around. The first time a kid bowed down to the next man, he was labeled a punk. He’s going to be fighting all of the time. Eventually, I went to Project Rise. It was a juvenile school, and the classes were smaller. There were outside probation officers breathing down my back. I had bus passes, and the officers always checked attendance. I’ve been arrested a good twenty to thirty times. My juvenile record was kind of stupid. It was for stealing and a couple of times where I took the rap for the older guys from the gang. That was for possession of marijuana, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, and firing a gun in city limits.

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

I always wanted to go into the military service. I wanted to know what it would be like to travel and to have a uniform on. I’ll never be able to do that. There are little things that bother me. I love guns. I like shooting guns. And I know that I can’t have one legally. There are different jobs that I’ll never be able to have. I can’t have a government job.

I have a saying that I believe: “You gotta be tired of being sick and tired.” Regardless of what anybody tells you, regardless of what anybody shows you, you are not going to make a change until you want to make that change. It’s like being a drug addict. Until you reach rock bottom, you are not going to change. No matter what the situation is; no matter what a person is going through, there is always hope. There are different programs and resources that can help people. A lot of times we have problems and we don’t realize help is out there.

Drugs

I was the pot head of the century. I started messing with weed when I was about eleven or twelve. For the first couple of years I really didn’t like it. Weed made me break out in hives. I kind of left it alone, but peer pressure got to me. When I was fourteen my homies were bugging me, “Come on, let’s smoke a joint. Smoke this splif.” I tried it when I was older, and I didn’t get an allergic reaction. I liked it.

We got weed from everywhere. Tucson’s real close to Mexico. This town is so full of drugs, and most people don’t realize it. Sometimes I had to pay for weed. The guys from the gang would always have it. When I was in school, I used just weed. I tried cocaine a couple of times, but I didn’t like it. I was smoking about an ounce, which is twenty-eight grams, every two days. Weed slowed me down and gave me short-term memory problems. I couldn’t remember anything. It made me slow and tired all the time. I was going to school as high as a bird.

I used to carry a little bag around my neck. It was a Walkman carrying case, but there wasn’t a Walkman in there. It was full of bags of weed. I would go to school with two ounces of weed a day and an eight-ball of cocaine. I broke the cocaine down into quarters—quarters are little twenty-dollar papers. I’d make between two and five hundred dollars, depending who I was selling to. If it was a dumb kid, I would sell him a little, a little bit and tell him it was a full twenty. It would be only a five-dollar piece.

I was a hustler. I would make anywhere from one thousand to three thousand dollars a week. For a high school kid, that was good money. I had two apartments and took care of three or four girlfriends. And I was taking care of my family, putting food on the table, and buying clothes for them. My mother knew where the money was coming from, but she’d just turn her face.

I would move a kilo every four days. Once I got into the hustling business, it was almost like figuring out the location of the nearest Circle K. I knew every drug house. When I was in the ninth and tenth grades, I was still doing weed, and I started hustling coke. I was moving about an ounce and a half every three days. When I dropped out of high school, I was running four crack houses. I was moving a kilo of coke every four days. The wholesale price of a kilo goes for about $12,500. I could make about $30,000 once it was broken down.  

I had four cars—an Astro Van, a ’64 Chevy Impala, a ’77 Cutlass, and a Grand Prix. Shoot, I didn’t even have a license. I had girls driving me around. I didn’t think about getting caught. I was in the fast lane.

When I first started out, I was the kid pushing the dope. After a year I moved up. I had another kid pushing my product. All I had to do was buy the product and weigh it out. I went from powder to crack cocaine. I would cook my coke and drop it off at my crack houses. I would relax and go back every few hours to see how my guys were doing. I’d get my money and drop off some more.

Through the grace of God, I don’t have a drug charge. Weed is addictive, but there aren’t any withdrawals. It’s like a cigarette. People desire it, but it’s not intense like coke. I had no remorse about selling coke. All I cared about was, “Make sure you have my money on the table.” There were times I’d drop off crack and the conditions of the houses were horrible. There were kids running around in the houses. All I cared about was my money. Actually, selling drugs and doing drugs—you can get addicted to both.

When I was out there hustling, doing my do, I realized that as quick as I made a dollar, I could spend it. If money is flowing and flowing, you don’t appreciate the value of the buck. I put money away. I had seven bank accounts under different family members’ names. I had a guilty conscience and didn’t want anything in my name. I figured that if something happened to me, the government would take my money. An account in someone else’s name was safer.

Carlo’s story will continue in Part 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carlos – Part 1.

                “A Snowballs Chance” High School Dropouts – In Their Own Words.  That’s the book title of real-life stories told to me by eight students I met at Pima County Adult Probation (Tucson, AZ). As an adult ed teacher I taught reading/literacy, English language acquisition, and GED preparation. I’ve decided to post one or two chapters. The stories are too long for a one-and-done post, so I will share them with you in segments. My students were amazing young men and women who derailed for many reasons and had second chances to get back on track—some did and some didn’t. Instead of jail time, a Superior Court judge might mandate that an individual with a low-level felony charge and no high school diploma attend classes for at least four hours each week.

CARLOS

 I’m thirty years old. People mistake me as looking like I’m still in my early twenties. I didn’t mess up my body too much. I’m about 5 feet 9 inches, 185 pounds. I was born in Nogales, Arizona. I have twenty-five to thirty tattoos. Most of them are concealed. I don’t want to give a bad impression about myself. I like to represent myself as being neat, clean-cut. I feel a person’s physical appearance has a lot to do with the way we perceive that person.

I love clothes. Clothes and jewelry are my passion. I’ve got a barber I’ve known for more than fifteen years, maybe twenty years. I started going to him when I was ten years old. As fads come in and out, he has always taken care of my hair. There is a fad now that has intricate designs. He likes to use me as a piece of advertisement.

My Family

I don’t know too much about my ancestors. I know a little bit about my father’s side of the family. They were Puerto Rican but not that close as a family. My father was born in San Juan. I know that his mom, my grandmother, was involved in witchcraft and voodoo. She was an evil woman—a really evil woman.

My mother’s side of the family is from Sonora, Mexico. My grandfather was in the United States. He fell in love with my grandmother and brought her to Nogales, Arizona. Then he took off for the war—World War II. When he came back after the war, he was a totally different man.

In the Beginning

When I was in the fourth grade my mother went back to school. She was a high school dropout and went back and got her GED. My father . . . I never had a relationship with my father. He was an abusive dad. My mother and father broke up when I was a year and a half. I didn’t grow up with a father. I have one older brother, two younger sisters, and a younger brother. There are five of us altogether. My parents never married. It’s funny because my mother had bad luck with men. All of my brothers and sisters and I, we all got different dads. Every single one of them turned out to be a woman beater. Every one of them beat my mom.

When I was in third grade we took a family vacation in Mexico. We went to Acapulco, Mazatlán, Guaymas, and other places. That trip was beautiful. It was the first time I actually remember that we were a real family. We were all together at one time. It was rare to have my brothers, my sisters, and I on a vacation with my mom and stepfather.

Elementary School

From kindergarten to third grade we lived in Phoenix. We lived in the projects, and it was a three– or four–mile walk to the school. It was a rough place—the Duppa Villa Projects. I remember a couple of times walking to school and seeing women get beat up. The school was kindergarten to the twelfth grade. The older kids seemed so much bigger than I was. I had a second-grade teacher, Miss Glenn. She was remarkable, a really, really nice teacher. To this day I remember her because she was so nice to me. She was enthusiastic and made learning attractive. That’s the type of teacher she was.

We moved to Tucson when I was ten because all my aunts and uncles were here. I started school at Ochoa. When I did go to school, before I started messing up, I was pretty good. In the fifth grade at Davidson, I realized the street way of things. I started realizing that we were broke—we didn’t have any money. Why were we the only kids wearing the same clothes from the year before? Why were we the only kids wearing the same shoes from the year before? I was only eleven but realized that kids were wearing better things than I wore.

When I was in the seventh grade my mom’s last husband molested my sister. From the seventh grade through the rest of my school years I had that anger in me. I felt like I could do something about it because I actually busted him in the act one time. I told my mother, but she didn’t really do nothing about it. I always had that guilt inside me—that rage and anger.

. . . to be continued.