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 2.

    “High School Dropouts — In Their Own Words”

 Carlos continues and talks about his education, parenting, and jobs.

I dropped out of Rincon High School when I was a junior with sophomore credits. What I loved about school was hustling. Making my money was what I really liked about school. I would sell drugs or whatever I could get my hands on. There was a time when I would go to the 7-Eleven and steal NFL pencils and Garbage Pail Kids stickers. I would sell them at school.

I felt that everyone else had a good family, a nice home. They would always bring up, “Oh, I’m going to go with my father this weekend to play basketball or go watch a game.” I kind of rebelled because I didn’t want to feel the feelings of loneliness anymore. I was never the type of person who could accept authority figures. The teacher would say, “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you doing your homework?” I’d feel like, “What’s wrong with you? Who do you think you’re talking to?” That’s what I didn’t like about school. My family issues were too hard to deal with. There were too may things going on, so I couldn’t focus in school. I was always thinking in the back of my mind, “What’s going on at home?”

Dropping Out

I didn’t just wake up and say, “I ain’t gonna go to school no more.” I started messing up little by little to where I was missing too many classes. Finally I asked, “Why am I gonna go?”

What led to the final decision was being caught up in the street life. I was too caught up in my little hustling and trying to make things better for myself. From the age of about thirteen I didn’t stay at home anymore. I paid for my own apartment. I had the place under some girl’s name. I’ve always had a way with my mouth—a way of manipulating people to do things I wanted them to do. I had older girls, college girls, who felt attracted and did things for me.

My mother rarely saw me. When she did, she’s get on her knees and cry. She’d tell me to stop doing whatever I was doing. I was so full of rage, so full of anger. Much of that anger was toward my mom. I thought, “Why aren’t you making it better for us? There are people who come from different countries and have businesses. You just sit at home and don’t do anything.”

I was a welfare baby, and that made me angrier at my mother even though she went to a career college. After the molestation of my sister, it knocked her back down. Now that I’m older, I realize that my mom just wanted to be home and take care of us. She felt bad for leaving the house after what happened to my sister. At the time I dropped out, it was the only thing I could do. I have two young sisters and a little brother. Seeing the look on their faces when I would bring them new shoes, clothes, when I put money in their pockets. That’s all I could think about.

The ‘Hood

I didn’t have many friends in high school. There was a group of kids that lived behind the junior high. We all stuck together in our own gang, clique. We were called the Helen Street Posse Bloods. For some reason growing up I never wanted to go outside the little clique. Whatever we would do, we would do together. We started out with about ten kids hanging around together. Little by little, their cousins started coming around. My cousins came around. Other kids from the school learned about what we were doing and wanted to fit in. That was when selling drugs, messing with the girls, and crime activity came into play.

It was the late-eighties, early nineties when Colors, a movie from Los Angeles came to Tucson. Everyone jumped into the colors—it was like a fad. Either you were a Blood or a Crip. We never went outside the clique. We knew what would happen. We were going to get jumped or have to start shooting somebody, or somebody was going to shoot at us. I always carried a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson with two clips—fifteen rounds. I would also carry a little .38-revolver. The reason I would carry my thirty-eight is that if I had to shoot somebody close, the bullet casings would not fall out. If I had to run and shoot back, I’d use my automatic.

The parents of the kids where I hung out behind the junior high didn’t pay attention to us. They thought that we weren’t doing as much as we were doing. They didn’t under-stand. The parents of those kids were from Mexico. The gangs in Mexico were nothing compared to the gangs around here. It was easy for us to hide what we were doing.

Becoming a Father

I was nineteen years old when my first son was born. Lydia was my high school sweet-heart, and she had my first two kids. I was supposed to be such a bad guy, and I ended up with a preacher’s daughter. She moved to California, but I still see the kids. They were here all summer. I have them for Christmas vacation, too. I never want my kids to have the feelings I had growing up—the feeling of being lonely, the feeling of wondering if I was wanted, the feelings about poverty and living in a poor place. I bend over backwards for my kids. I don’t have any child-support issues. My kids are my life. Two of my boys are in football. The boys in California are in honor classes. My baby girl is my shadow. I’m giving them what I never had—discipline and structure.

You know why I have so many damn kids? I always wanted a daughter. The only kid I ever wanted was a baby girl. When my wife found out she was pregnant, we decided that no matter what the sex, it was going to be my last kid. Not only was the baby my daughter, but she was born on Valentine’s Day. I’m fixed, and I can’t have any more. I’m done. I’ve hung ’em up.

I met my present wife through a friend. From the very first day I met Amelia, we have spent almost every day together. I call her my wife. She’s my fiancée.  I proposed to her on Mother’s Day and bought her a big, bad rock to make it official. We plan on getting married in September next year.

High School Diploma and Work

I studied for my GED through the probation department. I went to GED graduation in June 2005. I’m thirty years old. I’ve made a lot of money, but I don’t have anything to show for it. Now I’m at the community college, majoring in theater arts. You need that for a job that’s not out in the sun, breaking your back.

At the most, I’ve had about five jobs. I got my first job at sixteen, bagging groceries at Fry’s. The reason I had the job was not because I wanted to work or needed the money, it was because I was on probation. My officer said, “Either go to school or get a job.”

I’ve done construction. At one point, I made enough money to open up my own business. I used to have a clothing store in Tucson. I’ve been a rapper—performed in front of large audiences. I’ve cut an album with my group. Now I’m just a full-time student.

To be continued with “Felony Chargesand much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonoran Desert Companions II

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More images of animals that live in the Sonoran Desert. Coyotes, bobcats, roadrunners, and gila monsters must have moved along — haven’t seen them in a while.  I live in a fairly high-density Tucson neighborhood with vehicle traffic at peak hours. In search of food, wildlife is smart enough to travel the washes and desert trails. They can reach the Santa Catalina Mountains from my area. Coyotes and bobcats will leap walls to grab a small dog or an outside cat. Rattlesnakes will come into a yard and make a deadly strike. Life in the desert, any desert, comes at a price.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

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.