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Thursday, March 9, 2017

True Story© On the Public Speaking Circuit

                When I came home from jail and following all of the legal wrangling following my last run-in stemming from the D.A.R.E. program, I found myself without job and made ends meet with day labor, odd jobs and handyman shit.  The military was still doing me filthy after my time in Vietnam, so I got little help on that front.
Eventually, I parlayed my experience with what was THOUGHT to be addiction (but was really dealing) to street drugs and the violent rage that had landed me in a bad place as a result of it into some speaking engagements.  Basically, some non-profits got wind of me and my situations and wanted to talk to me about them.  After I described to them what I had been through and what it had brought me to, their line of questioning turned more to what I had learned from it all and they decided that they may be able to sustain me by letting me tell my stories.

                With them handling the scheduling of their events, transportation and a per diem wherever I was dispatched to speak, I was on the road and telling the story about how the DARE program influenced me to sell dope and landed me in rehab despite NEVER having used in my life.
In other speeches, I revisited how I carried the anger of the stint in rehab in 8th grade with me deep into adulthood and wound up assaulting an actor from a DARE short film thinking he was a real drug dealer and how that landed me in jail.
I explained how I could have made better decisions with what I had chosen to be influenced by and how I was working now to write and apply those lessons as best I could with what I had brought myself to.  I couldn’t frame myself as a victim, as it was my decisions that brought me to it, so my message was more about making better decisions and better thinking through of these situations.

                Everything went smoothly, I gave basically the same line of speech about twice a week for a few months and word got out about the group that was working me and we were booked for children’s and young adult’s groups.
All good, right?
WRONG!!!


I don’t know if y’all realize this, but little kids are ASSHOLES!!!
A major difference between kids of 1988-89ish and kids of 2014-15ish is the nature of the media that we took in versus what they did.  One could surmise they were desensitized to things we were told we should be afraid of.  I mean, why should they fear a debilitating heroin addiction when every rapper on the radio is making $8million a year rapping about having JUST that?  So while I am talking to them about making better decisions than I had made in order to succeed, their idols are making WORSE decisions and doing better than they can see me doing.  That said, they were completely uninterested in anything I might have had to say to them and as with any group of kids, the instant their interest was lost, so was their attention and respect for the speaker.

For a couple of appearances, I didn’t let this shake me off of message but at about the fourth school appearance I did, I just couldn’t keep it together.  As luck would have it, the local news was shadowing me this particular day, videotaping for their YouTube channel and FaceBook feeds and hoping to get me profiled in the newspaper the next morning.
Y’all can imagine that this would get kind of interesting REALLY quick.  A full third of the kids are snickering at every description of my situations, one third is engaging in animated conversation with one another and the last third are fucking with their cellphones.  After about 10-15 minutes, I become fed up and JUST as three news cameras change focus as I switch up how I was sitting, it happened.

“Y’all know what?  Sometimes I wish I HAD dropped out of school and sold dope.  Y’all ever watch Breaking Bad?  The only thing Walter really did wrong was letting greed turn him bad.  I figure now, knowing that fact, that if I had the opportunity to turn over generational wealth for my family and future family and operate largely undetected then maybe I should.  I would get in, turn over several million as quickly and quietly as possible and move on into some legal endeavors.”

EVERY adult in the auditorium gasped loudly.  Three parents sought out their children and beelined for the door.
I wasn’t done.

“The world at large doesn’t care much about you.  Your dreams, concerns, worries…  ALL of that – that’s YOU!  Play it as close to the vest as possible.  You really can’t trust anyone with your deepest secrets for anything more than they can benefit themselves from it.  Look at the DARE program that got me tied all up in this.  They didn’t and don’t care about keeping kids off of drugs.  Heck, y’all know that the 13th amendment basically keeps slavery legal as long as it is a prisoner they’re working, right?  They need SOMEONE on drugs so they can arrest someone for selling them to keep getting that good cheap labor that prison provides.  The DARE program was a slick little lie to get impressionable minds to start snitching and feed the pipeline.”

Apparently, someone had had enough, because my mic went off and I was ushered off of the stage.  As I was being escorted from the building, I heard some lady apologizing for the speaking going off-script and that they would be ending dealings with him (that would be me) as soon as possible.
In the car on the way back to my own car there was mostly silence, only broken when the driver’s phone rang.  His conversation was mostly “mmhmm,” “yes” and “okay” but nothing in the way of actual conversation to try to decipher.  When we got back to my car, I put my hand on the door handle and asked “so I guess I will hear from the director in the morning?” and he just kind of half-nodded at me in response as if he really didn’t have the information I was seeking.


Needless to say, I would never hear from them again and this would be the end of me as a public speaker.  Sucks, because I never got the chance to get deeper into some things I needed to get out into the world.
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