I love my city. Springfield, Massachusetts. There really isn't much to it. It is rather small by city standards. Sure we have the Basketball Hall of Fame, Smith and Wesson, Merriam-Webster and some fine Institutions of higher learning. But by city standards it is not very large.
It has it's unique neighborhoods, some are a little better off and well heeled than others. What makes the city so civilized, and others would disagree with my use of that word, is that even in the worst areas of the city there are strong healthy neighborhoods inhabited by decent people who care. But what is unique is the whole city offers living space, hence the moniker - City of Homes.
Look at Forest Park, for example. I used to live and conduct my business in "The Park" It really has a beautiful, heavily forested park. In Forest Park you will find a very metropolitan mix of folks. There is a historic district, which is very upper-middle class. Politicians, lawyers, business people who commute to Hartford on a daily basis all inhabit the Historic District south of Sumner Ave. There is a nice Farmer's Market at the Trinity Church on Tuesday and carillon concerts on Thursday in the same location. Forest Park is where the X, the intersection of Sumner and Belmont Avenues and Dickinson St., are located. Let me talk about some of the other neighborhoods in the City of Homes.
As You drive East on Sumner you head toward East Forest Park, not quite as tony as Forest Park proper but the neighborhood is strong and safe. East Forest Park turns into 16 Acres, where the homes are not built quite as closely together. If you follow Parker St. from 16 Acres center you will end up in Indian Orchard with its thriving new businesses such as Gus' Auto Repair a newly furnished Hampden Bank, Gallery 137 and of course my home base of operations the Indian Orchard Mills, which houses artist studio spaces as well as industrial space for all sorts of operations and chicanery.
If you drive up the hill, along "Monsanto Ave." and take a left, you will end up in the densely populated East Springfield. If you choose to exit Indian Orchard on Berkshire Ave. you will pass through Pine Point and eventually Mason Square also known as the Old Hill Neighborhood and Winchester Square. This is near the Armory. Wedged between Mason Square and East Springfield is the Hill-McKnight neighborhood. There you will find mansion sized dwellings bordering on low income neighborhoods. If you go down the Hill you will hit Main St. A left turn will take you through the South End an old Italian Neighborhood with specialty food shops and bakeries. A right turn onto Main St., will take you to the North End where the Latino population is predominant. And then there is the neighborhood where I live, the old Irish neighborhood Hungry Hill. Past the hospitals and medical campuses, and past Atwater Park and between Carew St.
Now to break this up in traditional way. The Forest Park Neighborhood, south of Sumner, the Historic District is mainly the NPR contributing liberal types. East Forest park is solidly middle class. North of Sumner is mostly inhabited by the lower income crowd. As is the South and North Ends, and the Old Hill Neighborhood, Indian Orchard and parts of Hungry Hill .
Needless to say, you knew this was coming didn't you ... you just didn't know when I was going to bring it up or where I was going to put it. These are the sections of the city where the drug trade is most prevalent. And when you have drugs you have all of the other good things that go along with them. All of the components which keep the drug economy viable. Components such as tricks, hustlers, schemers, scammers and manipulators and thieves.
In my active addiction, my MO was to find a trick to procure my drugs if my regular connection was unavailable or in jail. This seemed like the best bet because ... A) the last thing a Puerto Rican drug dealer wants to see a big bald headed white guy walking into the hallways of his building. B) the Big Bald Headed white guy who looks like a cop doesn't want to get shot walking into said dealers building, and C) A hustler does just that. You are lucky if you get your drugs at all never mind getting at the very least ripped off by paying too much or at the very worst, getting stomped, stabbed or shot before they take your money, wallet and car.
So, the tricks seemed like the best bet. Yes, they may rip you off, there is always that possibility, but once you establish that your intention is to get them high if they cop your drugs and you really are not all that interested in paying for sex, the playing field is leveled. They won't rip you off because you just gained a little bit of their respect with their realization that you are just like them ...an addict trying to get through the day using all of the ways and means and resources at your disposal to do so. Another addict, just trying to get that next hit, no matter what.
It is then that they tell you their real name. Do you think they are really named, Peaches, Star and Candy? They'll tell you how many kids they have and more often than not their hopes that they can get away from "the lifestyle" because they know that they can only run so long before they end up in jail, or dead. It seems odd that my motto in my active addiction is the same as my motto in recovery ... "Just for Today."
With all of that said, I guess I can't really feel too bad about what I'm about to tell you.
I was hanging out at my favorite convenience store on Monday night at about 9:45. I was there with a bunch of other people who are closely associated with the franchisee either as friends, employees or both.
A male about 6 foot 1 with a black doo rag and a gray t-shirt covering his face came in with a gun. He began shouting over and over, "Give me the fucking money!"
I was petrified. All I saw was the gun. After everything was said and done, nobody got hurt. The robber got a little bit of money, enough to get high at least. When the police showed up, they were, pretty much, incredulous that I didn't get a "good look" at the guy. I'm sorry officer, but all I saw was a fucking gun ... pointed at me and my friends. When I was copping with one of the ladies they would say ... "Whatever you do, don't eyeball this dude." So that's what I did. I looked at the gun long enough to see what it was and that it could kill me. I saw the guy's basic height, weight and ethnicity, but in the end, I followed the previous advice and looked away.
Sure, the scenario's were running hard through my head. I could have taken the fire extinguisher next to me and sprayed him in the fucking face with it, before I heard that wonderful hollow pinging sound of bone stopping a recently evacuated hollow metal cylinder cutting an arc through the CO2 dusted air. Yes, that melodic resonant ringing tone, as the extinguisher I was swinging found its home. But that would have been messy and a little over the top as far as heroics go. Not my style.
I was up all night processing the information of what I had been through in that very short 45 seconds, and was pretty screwed up the next day.
What I had to accept and reconcile in my own head was that guy with the gun was just like me. I have never done anything close to an armed robbery to feed my addiction. But, what if I hadn't found recovery when I did? I could have easily gotten to the point where I could have done something like that. We all could, if we are desperate enough.
Perhaps in a few years, I will hear the robber's story in a meeting, as he is trying to work through the wreckage of his past and find recovery. There may be some jail time for him between now and then. Perhaps he won't be so lucky and rob someone who also has a gun, one that is loaded, who wants to send the message - "Don't try to rob that guy he is a maniac and blew some one's head off last time they tried to rob him."
Take it down to another level, perhaps karma will come back to bite him in the ass in the worst way, as he uses the measly chump change he robbed from the store, far less than $100, to get his fix. Perhaps it will be his last hit of crack before he has a stroke and experiences irreparable neurological damage. So damaged, that he becomes a ward of the state - just another number in another nondescript underfunded institution. Maybe the insanity of his disease has already taken him to the needle, where he will be alone and frightened when he uses, perhaps that one bag too many, as he drifts into the big sleep, only to have his breathing stop.
These situations, I do not wish upon anyone, they are the sad facts of living a life in active addiction. You act out beside yourself. Nobody wants to mug, steal, or shoplift as ways and means to get by in active addiction. The amount of money he stole, would just get him through the night, and what is he going to do in the morning? Try the same thing in a different location? Insanity. No woman wants to hop into your car at 5 AM or worse after you get out of the bars at 2:30 when you are at your best. Insanity. They call getting high, a chase, for a very good reason.
Yes, I'm no better or worse than that guy who robbed the store. I just have some different shit to deal with than he will, if he finds the right path, as I have, and begins the walk down the road of recovery. The best part is, anyone can do it, even that guy.
Just for Today ... I'm Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats