Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Gunpowder and Acid Incident (Part 1 of the Josh was Dumb in School Saga)

In the course of my so-called academic career at Madison Public Schools, I learned something at a very young age: It doesn't fucking matter. Until the 6th grade, I worked my ass of and several times was vocally refereed to as the "head of my class" by authority figures who cared to measure such things. However, with a school-system that was hesitant to teach evolution, and only did so as one of "multiple options you can go into yourself", 90% of what they taught was either bullshit, or far, far below anyone with a brain. As a result, I grew tired of their system and began to rebel against it (I went into detail some of the schools issues in this blog). For what it's worth, my grandfather (father's father), the once superintendent of the school system attempted to make this broken mess into something. This story is the first of three blogs I will be publishing about my major dealings with the powers that be during my Middle to High-school years.

Personal issues at home that I have spoke at length about in other blog posts combined with my having zero respect for such a laughable fucking school resulted in a heavy amount of early, outward rebellion from myself. Many people in these days were shocked by my disregard for the establishments rules and regulations, I however then and now, maintained that I was just ahead of the curve.. an early bloomer if you will. Anyway, this lead me to be very "experimental" at a young age, hence some of my many adventures.  One of the first major things my group of friends and I (more about them here) got into were explosives. We, as many other teenage boys at this age, greatly enjoyed occasionally blowing the shit out of stuff. Some of the gang would steal bottle rockets and such, but I always brought the gold as my Grandpa (Moms Dad) was a bit of a gun nut and thus, had plenty of artillery.

My Grandpa and I never had much in common. He drank alot and occasionally just wanted to argue about meaningless shit. He did love me, but being a battle-hardened, slightly crazy war vet, we really had fuckall in common. That is until the day I watched him blow up an old stuffed rabbit with a homemade artillery shell. Instantly we had what would be a lasting mutual interest in something... blowing shit the fuck up. Nearly every weekend we would cram some innocent toy and stuff it full of highly explosive materials hooked to some sort of detonation device and blammo! It was launched into a fiery oblivion. He introduced me to bottle-rockets, M-80's, black-cap, fuse, and most importantly... black powder.

Of all of the shady people I knew, James was the only one of them seemed as if he wasn't a total piece of shit (again, went into detail about him on this blog). James often bragged about his exploits with the older kids and one day in music class he made the mistake of talking about his experiences with acid. As soon as I caught wind of this, Nash and I immediately hit him up to get some. He quoted me a figure of way more money than I had access to at the time, but then asked me what I had to trade. The M-80's I had immediately came to mind. Unfortunately, he had a few already... but he did want something bigger. That's when I remembered my Grandpa's stash of black powder in the back of his closet. Nash and I then bartered 4 hits of acid (one for each of my friends and I) off of James for one full cup of pure black powder, and the exchange was set to take place the next week.

That weekend, I went to my Grandparents house with a much different plan than usual. Normally on these weekends I would wait till they were asleep and steal a few Miller Genuine Drafts from my Grandpa's drawer in his fridge, this time however, was different. I went to the cupboard to find a container with a top so as not to spill any in transport, but all I could find was my little cousin's sippy-cup. So making do, I grabbed it, went into his closet, filled it halfway up with black powder, and hid it away in my bag.

Seeing as how I lived in the country, did not have transportation, and lived 10 miles from him, I took the sippy-cup filled with gunpowder to school that Monday morning. In the middle of the day I quietly gave it to James and he hid it in his locker, promising to bring me acid the next day. As far as I was concerned that was the end of my involvement with it. It had left my hands and I assumed that he was smart enough to handle himself with it... boy was I wrong. What I didn't know was happening on his return from school would drastically change my life.

Somehow, the seemingly street smart dude dropped this container on the floor of the bus on his way home. Furthermore, he must have told at least a handful of people as to exactly what it was, but not necessarily what it was capable of. As the story from him goes, when it hit the floor on his bus trip home, a decent amount of it spilled out and a mutual friend of ours, Shawn, gathered it in a piece of paper and folded it up. Although I trusted James with this powder, I knew better than to give it to anyone with Shawns reputation, and he should have too. As soon as he got off the bus, a few of the "bad kids" all gathered round as Shawn put his face a foot above it and lit the paper.... thus igniting it directly in his eyes.

Now Shawn didn't sustain any permanent damage due to this, but he burned the shit out of himself and it effectively removed any and all hair he had on his face. To make a long story short, the ambulance came and treated him, the cops at the hospital made inquiries, Shawn rolled on James, James rolled on me, and the investigation officially began. Drug dogs made a sweep of the bus and positively identified there being residue of explosives. The cops intercepted James at school, made their formal arrest, put him in the car, and then came looking for me, ironically enough, in music class where the whole damn thing started.

They interrogated me for two hours with the assistance of the principle, the whole time of which I denied it... until they brought James out. James walked into the room, eyes swollen with tears, and he told me that it was over and that they knew nearly everything. The cops gave me one last chance to come clean, and in return, they would let my family collect me and not pull me out of the building and book me for the entire weekend. Fine, fuck it, I did it, I confessed. But with James standing there, I figured I'd do us both a solid and alter the storyline while I had him in the room. I explained to them how I sold the gunpowder to him for $20, and I saw him nod in approval, after all, why complicate this situation with the unnecessary addition of drugs.

They hauled him to jail and my parents hauled me away to the house. I was expelled, but seeing as how there was only two weeks left in class and I had A's, they went ahead and passed me with a C+. At home I endured the entirety of my family railing on me about what I had done. My Mother’s side of the family were more disappointed that I stole from my Grandfather than anything else, a fact of which I agree and am ashamed of. What really sucked is hearing my Father and his side of the family preaching to me about destroying my Grandfather's legacy (he had long since passed) and "ruining" the good Roush name in town (something they repeatedly did WAY better than I ever could a few years down the line, but that story is for another time).

I got a call a few days later and the court date was set (about a week and a half after the incident). My mother and I agreed it was best if I was represented by a capable attorney, so much to my father's disappointment, she called up the man that had represented her in their divorce. The man was damn good, and based on their prior experience, even agreed to represent me for free. Even though this good show of faith, my father refused to speak to the man or shake his hand. That was my dad.

I arrived in court with lawyer in tow, and we sat down in the cramped waiting area. We noticed the other families that were involved with this incident present as well. I darted my eyes a few times to avoid Shawn's scorched face, but eventually got up the balls to go and awkwardly apologize to his family. James' family and lawyer were also in attendance, though he was oddly absent (I later learned he had been in custody the entire time). Also gathered in the all-too-small area were a handful of miscellaneous witnesses to various pieces of this incident and their families. After several intensely awkward hours, we were all finally put before the judge.

We all had our time in front of the judge, Shawn got off completely due to the fact the judge decided he had learned his lesson. When it was done, his family got up and walked directly out... that's when I witnessed something that made me cry. James was brought before the judge in cuffs, his mother wailing hysterically, and his father shooting me a look of death. It was a terrible, horrid sight, which was made worse when it was all said and done. See, this wasn't James first offense.... nor his second. James was then scolded and sentenced to two additional months in Juvenile Hall, and I broke down when I saw this tough man walk out sobbing.

Then came me. My name was called, I raised my head up high and sat down next to my lawyer. I wasn't a tough guy, at least not yet. But be damned if I was going to let them see MY emotions. I sat down like a man to that table and expected to be carted off right after James. My lawyer got up, made my argument, stated this was my first offense, and made one king hell of a noble effort. Between the good lawyer and my clean record I got dealt 400 hours of community service and yelled at by a judge. It could have been much worse.

The judge then asked me if I had anything I would like to say, so I did. "I deeply regret my actions, and shall not do them again." I honestly told him. Then I continued, this time lying through my teeth, "I now have one hurt friend, and one jailed directly due to my actions, for that, I am deeply sorry as well."

Now, why was I lying through my teeth? Was I not emotionally impacted by the things that had happened to these two boys? Of course I was, and I was damn sorry I had to go to court because I stole from my Grandfather. But MY actions did not put them in their predicament, my terrible judgement merely enabled them to make bad decisions. Shawn was a nice kid, but at the end of the day he stole something he knew was dangerous and used it in a retarded way. And James? Well to quote Quentin Tarrantino, "He should have fucking better known better." He rolled on me, and although I hated to see an otherwise alright guy be put away, at the end of the day he still turned me in. Hell, it didn't even take him much coercing and he still got busted for the same crime at the end of the day.

THAT is the lesson I took away from this situation: What little you gain by rolling on a friend is nothing in comparison to what you lose within yourself.

Next time, The Marijuana Incident (Part 2 of the Josh was Dumb in School Saga)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Small Town, Small Corupt Minds In Power

Alot of the stories I tell are about my raising hell as a teenager. I was never a "rebel without a cause", I had a cause and I was damn sure it was just. Perhaps some... ok, alot of the time I didn't channel my anger and rage toward the correct subjects, but I'm beginning to learn how to. This blog is a big part of that, I write not only in an attempt of exorcizing my demons, but also to point out the wrongs that I have long quietly sat back and dealt with.

I grew up in Madison Township, a little rural area right outside the City of Middletown Ohio otherwise known as "living in the country". Middletown is a small, shithole of a city so named due to its proximity between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio (the area had it's "15 minutes" when this appeared as a question on Jeopardy). It's one of the many cities in the United States that grew exponentially with the once prospourous paper and steel industries densely located in the area. However, as these companies prodominetly began to move overseas, the jobs went with them.

Whats left today is a battleworn shell of the area's former glory. An all but abandoned downtown sits largely vacant where the locals are more likely to rob or proposition you then they are to provide any legal service. Once upon a time these buildings were hot commodities and the entirety of the town came to the area to do their day to day business. Today, the local industry is mostly located outback of Central ave where the toothless, meth addled prostitutes service the town's men in the back of old rusted out pickup trucks. This begs the question, how do once prosperous towns get in this shape?

With small towns either everyone cares about the business of the city and perticipates in the local government, or no one does and leaves it up to the jackals that flock to the potential oppertunity that only being in power provides. Unfortunately, Middletown/Madison seemingly fell into the former category (although Madison wasn't big enough to be bothered with any real politics). There are many, many examples of this particular brand of small minded, self-entitled thinking to be spoke of, but due to the nature of the blog format, I will only list a few, particularly viscous cases.

The first is of local "entrepreneur" and "humanitarian" Perry Thatcher. While serving his elected duty heading the Middletown City Council, he owned about 112 acres of seemingly useless real estate. No one thought much of this until he and his partner received about 5.5 Million dollars in taxpayer income when the board he was member of voted to purchase the land and build the new city hospital there. Thatcher claimed to be "hands off" with the deal. Unfortunately that seemed enough to passify the public as he pocketed nearly 2.25 Million Dollars of their hard earned money without a conflicted-interest.Yes, a few people raised issue with this, but no one cared enough to be vocal on the subject.

Thatcher donated alot of money to local charities, many of which were designed to help the local economy and promote the growth of the local artistic community. That would seem to be completely contradictory to his position of removing the "punk rock element" that "plagued" a venue of which he owned. Enter, the Hoosegow, a local studio that hosted some of the hardest working local bands of the area. The place was located in a nearly abandoned area of downtown Middletown located next to the local homeless sanctuary and even the bank sharing its corner had shut down. This "detriment" of a musical showcase had both local and national acts that toured in it. However, Thatcher deemed it a public nuisance and successfully seeked to kick out the local inhabitants. After a brief and well deserved riot protesting the ending of the only local strictly musical venue happened, he had the property turned into a much more profitable endeavor. A parking lot. In an already vacant area. (One day, when certain unnamed statute of limitations run out, I will go more in depth on this event)

But Middletown wasn't the only source of corruption, it branched out into the country as well. Madison School system and the powers that helmed it for several years were just as corrupt.. Every 2 years the school begged the community for more money due to needing "increasing infrastructure, facilities, and faculty". Horseshit. I used to watch as the teachers would take publicity photo's of "overcrowded rooms" and not having enough desks for students. Do you know how these photo's were accomplished? Piling 3 different classes into one half vacant classroom. I was there, I saw it happen, and it wasn't just on one occasion.

Furthermore, when ever it appeared that a new budget increase would not go through, the powers-that-be threatened to pull the only thing that the school had to offer, the football team. Now, the coach was a piece of shit as were most of the players, but to speak honestly, football was the only activity in Madison that MADE the school more money than it shelled out. Now, why would a school threaten to remove a program that actually benefitted it financially? Because they knew they had the community by the balls and there was no way they would let their prescious football program go by the wayside.

Worst place ever? Not by far. Middletown/Madison has plenty of amazing humans who care deeply about one another residing in it. These are but a few quick examples of the corruption that unfortunately plague the area. One is left to wonder if the area would be in the shitty mess that it is neck deep in at the moment if greed, power, and money weren't the primary concerns of those governing. Many of us are quick to blame the economy for the conditions of our beloved hometowns, but sometimes, you have to place the blame within yourself for not rising up and pointing out the corruption right underneath our noses. I for one am tired of sitting backseat as some greedy, cash obsessed asshole helms the wheel, only to tuck and roll as you are sent off of the edge of the cliff.