Category Archives: Uncategorized

Closest I’ve ever come to heat stroke.


A friend (scowling, right) called me out to work on one of his jobs today. 106 F, 10 hour day (May 30, 2015). I was fortunate it was an easy, ground floor to ground floor gig with a good crew and genuinely nice clients. This was the first really hot day of the Summer and only the second day I have worked this year.
I was crying and dying. Closest I’ve ever come to heat stroke.
What got me was that my friend kept apologizing for the wage; $20 an hour. It’s a little less than what I was paying him almost 15 years ago.
I explained to him that I was tickled shitless with $20 an hour. No job I have applied for in the past few years–with a new diploma and 30 years of sales and management experience–paid anything even near that.
It’s not the money I used to make. It is considerably harder to do in my condition and at my age. It is miles away from my career goals, plans and projections. It is a younger man’s work and it has a very real possibility of killing me.
However, given the alternatives, if he calls me again……….
I’ll try and post pics.


“We aren’t even doing dope anymore. We’re just shooting……..chemicals.”

fat curt


“We aren’t even doing dope anymore. We’re just shooting……..chemicals.”
Shooting heroin and morphine provided a rush too, but nothing like this. Opiates provide a rush that tapers into a nodding, semi-lucid dream state that lasts for hours. The good part of an opiate high lasts, and it doesn’t require anything to amplify it or counter its unpleasant aftereffects. Those effects are cumulative. You can only do so much heroin. IV cocaine, on the other hand, is short lived and expensive enough ($50 dollars for a half-gram slam) on its own, but even more spendy when you try to counter the unwanted wired and paranoid with opiates, barbiturates, sedatives, tranquilizers and alcohol. The end result is a primary addiction to the coke with multiple co-addictions to all the things required to ameliorate the downside.
One more reason for my shift in drug preferences was that heroin itself had changed. The black tar heroin that I had used for over a decade was giving way to synthetic heroin. The new stuff was essentially Fentanyl, a pharmaceutical grade narcotic painkiller that was exceedingly potent. The downside of that potency lay in the average street dealer’s inability to accurately mix and dilute something so condensed into standardized dosages. One bag might be 10 times stronger than another. Addicts were overdosing and dying at epidemic levels. This was the same drug that killed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman thirty years later, and for the same reason.
My problem with it was not so much the varying potency and risk of death as it was the fact that it was not heroin. It got you high and it got you well, but it was not the same high as tar dope. It had an empty, sterile, chemical feel to it. It wasn’t even like morphine. It was…… kissing-your-sister dope.
Years later I would hear a heroin addicted character named Fat Curt on the HBO show The Corner describe what I felt perfectly
“We aren’t even doing dope anymore. We’re just shooting……..chemicals.”
This new habit was a big shift from the heroin addiction and alcoholism that I was used to. It was a busier habit, a needier one. A $50 bag of heroin left me high and happy for hours. A $50 dollar blast of coke rang my bell for a minute, but sent me out after the next one with no grace period, no moment’s rest. I had to ramp up my income, which meant ramping up my crimes, four or five-fold as well.

Zen Moving

jw zen text

Zen Moving was something I made up in a joking effort to keep my moving crews from killing my customers.
“We are service professionals. We are the Warrior Gods of the Relocation Industry and we are held to a higher standard than the lesser trades. The onus of that professionalism is that we are duty bound to comport ourselves as larger beings. The Zen Mover knows that the job is everything. And nothing. We embrace the chaos of transition and strive for oneness with the monkey and the football.”
That is something of a difficult management skill to codify. More difficult still to impart in its entirety in a resume.

“None of my guys never stabbed nobody. On the job, at least.”

The gist of my explanation to my crews was that no matter how onerous, obstinate or obnoxious a client may be, we only had to deal with them for a day or two once every five to ten years. I could handle moving Donald Trump or Leona Helmsley if the money was good and I knew I never had to see them again. It worked.
I spent nearly thirty years navigating those limited engagements. I could not imagine going to the same place with the same people to do the same thing every day. I am not wired that way. My limited experiences with corporate environments have shown me clearly that I would not survive a day there. I am an old dog trying to learn new tricks, but I know my limitations.
I am also instinctively, reflexively, inherently and absolutely a boss. I would much rather bear the consequences of my own bad decisions than to wait powerlessly for the fallout from someone else’s. Even before going into business for myself formally, (I have been in and out of the entrepreneurial since age 13) my best work for others has always been in an isolated, compartmentalized capacity. Give me the tools and materials and a room and say “Do this thing for me” and I will meet or beat any expectations.
This lifelong predilection for working independently has added to the difficult adjustment I have had with college and its focus on group work. I have pulled countless professors aside and said,

“This won’t end well. I am more of an “Army of One” guy. I will be more than happy to be my own group and do the project by myself.”

No such luck.
All of this brings me to writing for a living. The social mechanics and creative dynamics are perfect for me. The scheduling fits my 10 days on/10 days off firefighter’s preference. The training and aptitude are…………more or less there. All that leaves are; what to write and how to make money at it?
Freelancing, at least the reasonably profitable type, is not going to happen with my current lack of published work. Many of the applications I have submitted specifically excluded eBooks and ad-driven sites like Yahoo Contributor’s Network. Adding insult to injury are my pedestrian scores on grammar tests that many employers use as a barometer of a writer’s skills. I have been speaking the King’s English for better than a half-century. I can avoid using a dangling participle, but I cannot define it per se, no less pull one out of a multiple-choice lineup. The language I learned, and learned well, was learned on the playground, not in the classroom. I was doing the New York Times Sunday crossword–in pen–long before returning to college, but I have never seen an opening in a job app to trumpet that skill.
Technical writing has proven to be much too……technical. The Do-it-Yourself market is flooded with free stuff or product-placement promotional free stuff. My area of expertise, furniture moving, is ably represented in blogs and YouTube videos and web pages, all with infinitely spiffier graphics than I could ever put together. They are mostly inadequate, inaccurate or patently wrong, but the reading public does not know that. Only I do. And no one will listen to me. This occupational psychosis is probably my biggest Achilles heel as a writer. I sell the steak when I should be selling the sizzle. I focus on the factual, the professional, the things that my peers would look at and say, “He is absolutely right. That is exactly how it should be done.” I am instinctively writing for peer approval, when I should be writing for my real audience, the reading public. I am adjusting that focus as we speak.
Building on that messianic sense of my own unassailable correctness, I looked at the books on Amazon that were selling, and selling well. First and foremost was Fifty Shades of Grey. This is execrable writing. How could something so horrible be so horribly popular? I knew it was not a genre I could pull off. I went further into the bestsellers of late and got stuck on A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. This was, again, horribly written, woefully inaccurate and……wildly popular. I honestly had a problem just getting through the excerpts without screaming “BuuuuuuuuulllllllSHIT!” out loud. I was not critiquing his writer as a writer; I was critiquing it as a recovering heroin addict….who was trying to be a writer.
I compared his work to that of Stephen Reid, former Stopwatch Gang bank robber, recovering addict and author of Jackrabbit Parole. Reid is an infinitely more accomplished criminal than I ever was and a much, much, much better writer than I am. I can’t go back in time and rob 100 banks to bolster my bona fides, but I can improve my writing skills. The thing that I walked away with was that if Reid and Frey could do it, then I could too.
My newest plan, and graduate school focus, has been memoir writing. I am not enough of a narcissist to think that my experiences are that interesting or entertaining. My intent, which I am hoping is more realistic, is to use what and where I was to supply the color; the crime and sex and drugs and jail and violence. That more marketable content will hopefully generate enough appeal to get to the where I am part that details the long-range effects of felony convictions on an aging population of unemployable workers.
I am some 10,000 words into that memoir/personal essay and I haven’t made it past the age of 14 yet. I started writing this in what has undoubtedly been one of my best writing classes to date, certainly my most real world-applicable course. The course was taught by an accomplished author who brought his experiences and connections to bear throughout the semester. In addition to his own insights, he also provided guest speakers in the publishing industry and the opportunity for his students to read an excerpt from their writing at a bookstore where he read from his latest book. Perhaps the most impressive thing was that he staged a practice reading with an audience of other writing professors and more impressively still; a public speaking/performing arts coach to aid us in our delivery.
This was some rock star stuff. I definitely got my money’s worth out of this one. The access to inside information from publishing professionals convinced me that the eBook thing–a thing I had largely given up on–was a non-starter. The fear of rejection from publishing houses was at least ameliorated with the knowledge that there were newer, smaller independent publishers out there who might be more approachable. This dead, lifeless thing of an ill-conceived project was brought back into the realm of the possible.
When the class concluded and the instructor asked

“Does anyone have any final questions?”

I shot back, hoping to salvage every possible piece of usable information I could from this semester-long watershed moment.

“Yes! How do we make money at this?”
He replied with neither malice nor mercy.

“There is no money in writing. You’re still gonna have to move furniture to make a living.”

Where is it You Think that We Go?


“My friend Jerry G. West is not *just* a writer, he is a master wordsmith. I urge you to read a bit and see for yourself.”…/where-is-it-you-think-that-we-g…
a book inspired by my experiences with long-term recovery from heroin addiction. Where is it You Think that We Go? is a 120-page memoir by Jerry G. West. Follow Where is it You Think that We Go? on Inkshares.

Great material for my OTHER Facebook;

halal fake news

Great material for my OTHER Facebook;
BFNN (British Fake News Network) is an Onion-esque satirical site that goes after the right wing Britain First crowd—and others—by way of fighting fire with fire with a deftly crafted form of click-baiting mirror imagery. The name BFNN is clearly designed to be misinterpreted as Britain First News Network. They match the incendiary content of rabble-rousing,hate-spewing, anti-immigration, hyper-nationalist neo-fascism with counter-incendiary posts of equally rousing tenor, but in a somewhat deceptively veiled reflection that shows the glaring insipidity of the original post…and audience.
I get to see a lot of this sort of humor courtesy of my British Facebook friends. While many of the cultural idiosyncrasies are lost on me, I have to give them two thumbs up on their mastery, if not invention, of dry humor. No one, but NO ONE, does dry humor like the British.
The real beauty of this type of satire lies in the heartbreakingly sad reflection of us, the audience, to be found in the comments section. While the tone deaf and clueless reception by zealots and true believers is equally hilarious and saddening, there is no greater testament to the satirist’s joke than having that joke retold by those who don’t realize it is a joke.
To me, the real point of satire or dry humor like this is like the true goal of mastering the Dim Mak Death Touch; It is not just a matter of knowing your adversary will die, but when? How long will they be able to walk around, blithely unconcerned and unknowing, before the blow takes its toll? When the dead men walking of the Internet comment sections feverishly rebut the well-intentioned rebuttals that seek to inform them that they have been played, this is tragicomedy on the grandest scale.

“This time I found a lot more familiar faces in the detention center.”


This time I found a lot more familiar faces in the detention center. One in particular, Mark “Angel” Foust, I was a little surprised to see out in the open here in the juvenile equivalent of “General Population.” I had met Angel my first time here. He was roughly a year older than me but already had close to a full beard and looked and carried himself like someone years and years older than his 15. I had met his father at a commune I lived at in Tucson, where he caused something of a stir owing to his carrying two pistols, one auto and one revolver,
“In case the auto jams”
tucked behind his belt. I had seen Angel a few times on the street, in black leather biker jacket, Levis and white t-shirt, like someone caught between decades and identities, but we really didn’t run in the same circles.
His name had been making the rounds as the shooter in the death of the president of Phoenix’ biggest motorcycle gang. I kept my mouth shut when I heard the rumors, especially after making the mistake, one time and one time only, of saying
“No, no way man. I know that dude.”
One of my friends all but put his hand over my mouth as he pulled me away and said
“No, no you do not know that dude! You’re gonna run your mouth and get your punk ass shot. There is a bounty on that guy.”
He was right. There was a lot of drama going on at the time. The guy that got shot, and his club, were a constant presence in the circles I ran in. I saw them occasionally, but didn’t know any of them personally. But the people that I knew, and got drugs from, very definitely knew them personally. Who did what for whom and how all of these things were interconnected was well above my pay grade, but I was dead certain about the pecking order. I did not want to get on the wrong side of this.
I had a hard time believing Angel would do something this stupid. I had no problem believing that he killed someone. The first time we were locked up together he told me that he shot and killed a guy in self-defense. People in jail talk a lot of shit. Some of it is just that, fanciful storytelling. Some of it is more tactical in nature, to build a reputation as a defense. I met a fair amount of killers, and I met a few murderers. The guys who had actually killed someone rarely bragged about it. They had a matter-of-fact way of describing what happened
“He pulled his. I pulled mine and we started shooting. He died.”
Angel had that attitude about the first guy, but when I asked him about the biker, he did a 180 in tone.
“I didn’t mean to do it, man. I was tripping my brains out, riding with a friend. Two guys on motorcycles ride up alongside us and he looks at them and starts freaking out and says
“Those guys are fucking ******** (another motorcycle club)!”
He hands me a sawed off (shotgun) and starts yelling
“Shoot them! Shoot those motherfuckers before they shoot us!”
“I didn’t want to do it man. I swear! But he’s yelling at me and I’m so high I can’t even tell who the fuck these guys are, so I point the sawed off out the window, look away and pull the trigger. I didn’t even know whether I hit anyone until I heard the bikes crash. I didn’t find out who they were until the next day.”
I’m dying inside for this guy. My problems are trivial compared to what he’s facing. We both know he fucked with the wrong people. We both know, whether he meant to do it or not, how this is probably going to end. He has no illusions either.
“The charge was plea bargained down to manslaughter, so they waived the death penalty. They are not going to remand me to adult court. The problem is, if the judge sentences me to anywhere in the Southwest, where the club has chapters, I’m a dead man. I told the judge that if he could not send me somewhere out of their reach, he may as well send me to the chair!”
We spent another week or so at detention together, before he finally rolled out. He had been uncharacteristically shaken while he waited to find out where he was going to be sentenced to. It was painful to watch. It was worse when I saw him staring at his papers.
“Where’d you get?”
“Fucking Tracy (California). I’m dead.”
We were cut off by the guard yelling
“Foust! Roll up!”
I didn’t get a chance to say another word to him as the guards took him away. The look on his face made him as close to a dead man walking as I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe that he was being sent to a place that anyone in law enforcement and corrections knew was a death sentence. California had more bikers both in that club and in their better-known affiliate than anywhere else in the country. It was the exact wrong place to send him.
He had his day in court. He proved lack of intent. He plead guilty. He beat the death penalty…in court, but not in the real battle with the correctional system. He went through all that and survived, only to receive a clerical death sentence from someone who either had their own agenda or was too far removed and disconnected to understand the real life effects of their choices.
A little over a month later I got word that he had been stabbed to death in Tracy.