I write books and articles about people’s lives through my eyes when I used to be a firefighter in Providence. Sometimes I just write about thoughts I’ve been thinking. My words elicit an emotional response at times because I tell the difficult truth. Gang members, illegal immigrants, LGBT, homeless, executives, battered wives, abused children, rock stars and housewives all have stories, thoughts and feelings. They all struggle from time to time. I never question their beliefs.
Every time, without fail I refuse to go along with people who insist on forcing covid shots into children, or question vaccine mandates for health care workers, or mention Biden’s failures I am attacked, deleted, erased, cancelled and ridiculed. I have dissapointed countless people because they thought I was “one of them.” Funny thing is, I am one of them, I just think different.
Truly strange days we live in.
Thanks for tolerating my occasional foray into politics. I see things the same way I have since high school. I equate conservatism with freedom, always have. Just makes sense to me. I do not mind, even a little, people who think different from me. Everybody forms their view of the world through their life experience and the things they find interesting.
We are all good people, well, most of us anyway. There is plenty of room for all of us.
I was a little over a year old. A man made a speech, and they talk about it still. I need to reflect now and then, and keep in mind how things were.
My grandparents were alive and thriving when black people, or “coloreds” had their own bathrooms, sometimes a plank over a creek, surrounded by poison ivy, and had their own entrances to movie theaters, their own restaurants and their own place.
Had I not worked in the inner city for a few decades, I might feel differently about race relations. I have a better understanding of the rage and indignation felt by my “colored” friends now, simply because my life experience allowed me to get know them, and find out just how equal we are, and how badly their family members were treated.
Because times have changed, and everybody uses the same doors now does not change the fact that it was their parents and grandparents who felt the brunt of a racist culture, and their experiences growing up in the sixties were a far cry from mine, where I sat in the backseat and listened to the adults talk about equality, and how the country was going to hell on the coattails of a visionary named Martin Luther King, Jr.
They felt hope. We felt fear. They and We have managed to survive, but it will be generations before true equality exists, and the ghosts of past injustices can be forgotten.
“One adult, five children in Rescue 1, six adults and five more kids outside.”
Those standing outside of the impromptu shelter shivered but managed to look cool doing it. They were teenagers for the most part and didn’t want to hang with the firefighters or little kids. Oh well, their loss. We were in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Providence, or anywhere.
My newfound crew sat in the back of Rescue 1: five girls, between ages five and 11. There were three sisters, a cousin, and a neighbor. The boss was with them, a woman of about 35, keeping the girls in line. They listened to her, for the most part, but as the incident dragged on and the shyness disappeared, things got more interesting. I often wonder if people here notice how white my skin is or if they just accept me into their neighborhood and don’t give it a second thought. I think the adults are more aware of racial differences, and if the kids are, they certainly don’t show it.
“If you had to do this all over again, what is the one thing you would take with you?” I asked.
“My puppy!” said the littlest.
“You don’t have a puppy,” replied the eldest.
“My jeans,” from one of the sisters.
“You got them on, girl,” said her sisters.
“FOOD!” shouted the cousin, and all of them agreed boisterously.
“I told you to eat before all this!” said the boss, exasperated.
“My phone,” one of them said.
“You have your phone,” said another, pointing to the phone in her friend’s hand, and everybody laughed, even me.
“The refrigerator!” said the neighbor.
“Perfect, we have a winner!” I said, before things got silly.
The girls carried on, asking questions, touching things, touching each other, giggling, squirming, and asking more questions.
“How come we had to leave our houses?”
“Because your street has a gas leak.”
“How’s a street leak gas?”
“When can we go back?”
“When the gas stops leaking.”
“When’s that going to be?”
“When they fix it.”
“What’s it do?”
“Starts your heart in case it stops.”
The Canteen Truck arrived on scene. A group of volunteers operate a rehab unit that responds to major incidents in and around Providence. They have cold water, Gatorade, and hot coffee and sometimes crackers and cookies. They bring sandwiches, soup, and chili to lengthy responses and are always a welcome sight.
“I’ll be right back,” I said and darted out of the side door of the ambulance. The Canteen arrived just in the nick of time; the questions were getting pretty darn tough.
The folks at the Canteen gave me a box of assorted cookies and crackers and made six cups of hot chocolate for the refugees. I was about to become an instant superhero. I loaded the bounty into a cardboard box and returned to my refugees.
“Anybody spills the hot chocolate is going out in the street,” I said in my best “Dad means it” voice.
The kids went bananas. You would have thought I brought them the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory. I sat back in the captain’s chair and watched the party. They laughed and carried on and shared the cookies with each other, some crackers here, some Oreos there, a little peanut butter for you, some cheese for the little one.
If I could take one thing with me after 23 years of mayhem, it would be that very moment.
Hot day, old truck, partner detailed from Engine Co. 3 for the day. It’s busy, but it’s always busy. We are tired, just trying to get through the shift. A call comes in for a “woman down” in a field off of Route 10, near 160 Benedict Street.
It’s an old hi-rise, ten, eleven, maybe twelve floors, filled with people who are either old or disabled. The old ones are always nice, the disabled not so much. I know that sounds cruel, but that is how it is. Disability beats you down little by little, robs you of your worth and leaves an empty bitterness where a soul used to be.
Our “woman down” is new to me, which is unusual, women down in a field are normally one of the same eight or ten regulars. She is high on heroin, kind of pleasant in a homeless way, filthy but oddly attractive. Or maybe I’m just tired.
We do the dance, I let her lead, she convinces me she is okay, just enjoying the sunshine, and getting some rest.
I left her. Alone in a field, baking in the hot sun, high on heroin.
Eleven hours later, at eleven-thirty PM, I’m with a different partner, on a different truck and maintaining the zombie-like state of consciousness I’ve been in for far too long. It’s a call for a DOA at 160 Benedict.
They found her. Dead. Stuffed into a shopping cart and left in an elevator. Nobody recognized her. Nobody knew nothing.
At midnight it hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. When your soul returns to a dead body, it is unforgettable.
I remember thinking it might be better to be dead.
It’s a little cold, a little dark, a little late and a little snowflake landed on Mr. Wilson’s nose.
“You know what that means Mr. Wilson?”
“That, and somewhere a little snow angel flew to heaven.”
It’s a little less cold, a little less dark, still getting late but me and Mr. Wilson looked toward the sky, and thousands of snowflakes began to fall, and a lot of little snow angels found their way to heaven.
Back in the day things were different. We couldn’t get in trouble because we had to be in when the streetlights came on…
“At least it wasn’t a rock,” I thought when the sting died down. An acorn to the forehead hurts plenty though. One of The Zola brothers caught me beside the garage and made me pay, but that’s okay, my brother went inside to get the Daisy. I picked up a small rock, and went hunting. Fat Dean appeared next to a tree, a slingshot in his hand, pulling back, ready to let whatever he had inside the leather ammunition holder rip. It looked like Opey O’brien was the intended target. I reared my arm back, ready to protect my guy, but Crazy Tony broke cover, drew back his string and shot Fat Dean right in the stomach with an arrow. Dean screamed, and blood flew, and her ran away, probably toward home and no doubt a ride to the ER.
Grub Williams sat at a picnic table in the schoolyard, and my brother hid behind the schoolyard fence, gave the Daisy ten pumps, aimed and fired. Instantly Grub shook his head, jumped from the bench, saw blood streaming between his fingers and ran toward us. The Zola’s had us in a crossfire, their acorns now big rocks, and they hurt alot when they struck bone. We broke cover and ran around the house and into a hail of bb fire. Dave Dirt and The Other William’s Boys were staked out in their garage, and opened fire with their guns, mowing us down.
We weren’t quite sure whose side Crazy Tony was on, but hoped it was ours. His bow and arrow set was a little more than a toy, and he had a shitload of arrows in his sling. Darkness descended, but not quickly enough, the streetlights wouldn’t save us, we had to fight, or die. Surrounded by Grub, The Other William’s Boys, and The Zola’s things looked desperate. Even Crazy Tony seemed to be on their side, and started slinging arrows our way.
“Where’s Billy and John when we need them?” I thought as I shook off the sting of a dozen bb’s. Our last neighborhood war ended when Bill ran out of his bulkhead armed with a water extinguisher filled with gasoline. Somehow he managed to get the flamethrower working, and after a little scorched earth and a fence on fire the war ended with no signifigant casualties. John, on the other hand was our munitions expert, and saw nothing wrong with wrapping six bic lighters and six M-80’s with duct tape, atattching a fuse and bombing the enemy. Luckily, only one of his bombs actually worked, and that was thrown into a dumpster a minute before exploding. The dumpster lid flew thirty feet in the air and landed on a cop car, but by then the streetlights were on and we were safely at home, watching Happy Days on TV.
“Surrender or die!” came the shout from The Other William’s garage.
So we surrendered. It wasn’t a big deal, there were lots of acorns left in the trees, and another war would begin tomorrow. I just hoped that Crazy Tony would be on our side this time, and maybe even The Zola’s, they were pretty dumb but could take a lot of BBs and rocks before quitting…
Yup, those streetlights kept us out of a lot of trouble.
If it wasn’t for the, perhaps, 1 percent of humans who over the course of our history have created things that allow me live in the comfort I greatly enjoy, life would be far different.
I live in a home that I did not have to create by felling trees, cleaning the branches to make logs and then piling them on top of each other, hoping they didn’t tumble down and crush my family.
Whatever is happening outside weather-wise is handled easily by turning a dial — warm to the right, cool to the left. Water, hot or cold, appears by lifting a handle. I can fill my refrigerator by using my phone to pick from millions of life-sustaining items that can appear at my door within 24 hours.
I had the luxury of access to education. It would have taken me three lifetimes and immeasurable injuries to understand that I will never possess the aptitude to do most of the things that I have allowed other people to figure out for me.
I like nothing more than to envision myself the great survivor — a person for the ages, one who leads, invents and survives. Truth be told, without the 1 percent who actually do invent, I would be living in a dilapidated lean-to, or worse, I would be skinny as a rail because I have never hunted or killed anything on purpose, don’t know an edible mushroom from a magic one, and probably would be relegated to eating bugs and pine needles. As for leading, my guess is I would lead myself to ruin as soon as I figured out how to ferment wild grapes and berries.
I enjoy the luxury of existing on a Paleo diet, complemented by a gym membership that allows me the luxury of simulating a great hunt that provides me with the meat and greens that cavemen once had to eat to survive. I drive a shiny, quiet, fuel-efficient and completely magical vehicle two miles to the place where I act like a caveman by lifting heavy things over and over, and then spend half an hour running four miles on a treadmill.
Without the gathered knowledge of the brilliant 1 percent who made all of this possible, I would in all likelihood be forced by my own ineptitude to live like the caveman I try so hard to emulate.I suppose if I had good weather and a few thousand years I might actually create something of use — to me, anyway. But what could I, without the collective inventiveness of very few people who came before me, expect to offer the world? My guess is, not a thing, so busy I would be trying to survive.
I probably wouldn’t even be able to attract a mate. One of the most important things women look for in a man is competence, followed by good grooming. To be competent, one must be able to provide food and shelter. My fishing skills consist of choosing wild-caught as opposed to farm-raised salmon. As for offering shelter, protection and safety without carpenters, plumbers, electricians, the police and U.S. Marines, any fortress I actually had the luck to establish would easily be overrun by a mob of two.
I will never build a computer, a television, dependable watch or a light bulb, never mind shampoo or cologne. I might manage to pull off the creation of some pottery and a comfortable chair, but I wonder if I would even try.
Thankfully, the 1 percent have greatly contributed to my standard of living, which is quite modest by today’s standards but would be considered obscenely luxurious for 99.9 percent of the time that human beings have existed. They have afforded me the opportunity to find out what I am actually proficient at, and to hone those skills without having to worry about the basics.
It is the Foster families that are the engine of the Pet Rescue world. These are the people behind the scenes whose names and faces are relatively unknown, whose Facebook pages don’t get dozens or hundreds or thousands of likes, and who do the hard work of taking care of the homeless twenty-four hours a day while working, raising families of their own and being productive members of society. These are the people who make all of the great work that the rescues do possible, and without them the lives of thousands of animals would be forfeit. Every day.
Cheri, the lady from Arkansas who fostered Mr. Wilson had him for over a month, and a bond between them was formed, and Tippy, her “other” dog loved him as well, but they had to let him go when we found him, and that was hard for them, but they went through with what they had agreed to, and made sure Mr. Wilson made it to the vet, and packed his things and put him on the bus up north, in Wilson’s case Alpha Dog Pet Transport.
Ten years and a few months have passed, and we still call Cheri now and then, or she calls us, and we share pictures between us, not always of the dogs; for there are gardens growing here, and there, and family things, work and the effort of living to share. Invitations have been extended for “up here” and “down there” and we hope to someday meet in person.By fostering a homeless dog Cheri has also fostered a friendship between people.
There is kindness in this world, and a great way to find it is by being involved in something bigger than ourselves. Mr. Wilson may be tiny in stature, but the spirit that resides in him, and transcended thousands of miles, and while doing so connected people in his path is immense.
Nothing on the floor but dirt, roaches and him. The carpet was stained beyond repair, food, beer, piss and shit mostly. That would have to be replaced in a few weeks when they finally got rid of the tennant. Three weeks at the most, probably one or two, it wouldn’t be long, now.
“Jake” stood guard. The smell that nearly knocked me over didn’t bother him, he circled his master, protecting him from the intruders.
“Easy Jake,” said Richard from the floor. Eighty pounds, bald, yellow and brown underwear and nothing else, no blanket or sheet to cover him, no pillows or other comforts, spilled warm cheap beer next to him, some old smokes in an overflowing ashtray,Lynard Skynard cranking from the Sylvania Hi-Fi in the corner.
“I got cancer,” he said.
“A lot of people have cancer, sir.”
“We have to get you to a hospital.”
“Been there, ain’t going back. Me and Jake till the end,” he grinned from his spot on the floor. Jake wagged his tail and enjoyed the massage from the bony hand between his ears.
He wanted to get back in bed, where the remote was, and the piss bucket, and the warm 12-pack.
“If shit didn’t stink I wouldn’t bother to get out of bed.”
“I’m not leaving you here.”
“The fuck you ain’t”
Jake eyeballed me suspiciously when I moved toward him. The dirty little terrier had some heart, I’ll give him that.
“What am I going to do then, let you die on the floor?”
“Put me back in bed and let me die there.”
I got him onto the bed, gathered some pillows and blankets, put his beer in arms reach, moved the piss bucket closer and fed the dog.
“Turn that up!” he said when Freebird came on. “I love that song!”
I lifted the cover to the console, saw the eight-track in it’s place next to the turntable, found the volume knob and turned it up.
I think we are all getting a taste of the misery that is addiction. I know that social media is a distraction on its good days, a compulsion most of the time and an absolute obsession when things in the real world turn upside down.
We all have an opinion, and we either cannot stop ourselves from expressing it, or if we are not good at articulating our thoughts we fritter away precious time scrolling away searching for validation. Even when our take on the day’s events are unpopular we can always find others who think like we do.
We know that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google have far more power over the dissemination of information than is prudent, and a rational response to the invasion of privacy perpetrated by those entities would be to simply disengage, but we not only do not, we actually cannot.
We are addicted. And the ones who are not are the ones who are not reading this because they figured out how to live without the burden of endless information, most of it contradictory and inflamatory.
I despise addiction, and have battled it many different ways and have managed to keep the monsters bent on killing me at bay. But this one, this addiction is proving to be the most persistant, invasive and dangerous one yet.