Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Short Story Corner: 3:37am

06/23/2015
By: Lucky Smith
It’s 3:37am. Bed sheets wraps around my legs, arms and neck. Jumping out of bed, and waking in terror. The unknown fear suffocating me with the shadows in my room. Panic is striking my stomach. Waking up alone at 3:37am reminds me that I am vulnerable.  I have no control. No control means terror for most people in a capitalist individualism society. Control being the falsehood of achievement. Painful voices reckons my mind echoing conformity accompanied by solidarity. Sweat dripping down my back, salty drops are running from my forehead into my eyes.  I check the website. That blasted, cursed website that is bookmarked on my phone. Relief no changes. For right now I do not have to run and hide. Hiding in the outskirts of society like a sewer rat. Protection for the victim can become punishment. Racing back to the little person I have vowed to protect, and love. Comfort for the moment my child is safe. Fire burning in my furnace of hate. How can I protect her when none of this is within my power. Plague with awkward inquietude from quasi paranoia furnished by being without control. Forcing myself to trust a judicial system that often failed me. Justice and fairness has became my Utopian dream. Except sleep has been my absent lover. Dark bags under my eyes branding me as crazy, insane and off balance. What is a normal response to danger? Fear robbed me of sleep. I begged, prayed, and how for sleep to return.  Sleep how I long for you, and on my knees for her visit to be more than a dashing friend. Sleep and I once had this amazing agreement that I would let her take over for 6 to 8 hours of life. The contract was violated by tragedy. Anxiety, which is fear being the uninvited guest that rudely refuses to leave. Then fear turns into anger and harsh resentment. Fuck, this is one of the reasons I quit meth over 13 years ago. My love affair with sleep. I crave her company. I hated the long hours of the night that turn any house I occupy into prison walls. I loathe the racing thoughts that jump from subject to subject like a grasshopper.  Now those familiar feelings  oppression are invading  my life again, except this time without the dope. Over and over again my mind would not shut up. Reminded again why I do not want to relapse. I do not miss the nonsense of distorted reality. Post traumatic stress syndrome requires herculean efforts in order to function with ordinary daily life. Herculean efforts that fails to gain  empathy from the able bodied community because others disabilities are without having to provide the burden of proof.  I’m at sixes and sevens why I acquire this disability now. Digging in my  garbage of lifetime memories. As a child I have had upon two different occasions a load gun placed on the side of my head. The cold steel next to my temple by men robbing me of my agency. Still I thrive to move forward. I have ran into burning forests and my physical life was constantly endangered. Yet those moments fulfill my altruistic desires. I carry a crew member who died in my arms off of a mountain. Yet I learned to respect life. I can not see the beauty in his garnishment of me. Scars that will never fade.

The monstrous tragedy harms my child. Grief stricken by obligation as a mother within my duty, and parental agreement to promise  my child, no matter what. She would be safe. Yet I have failed. She is the reason why I breathe. Teenage pregnancy burglarize my hope for selfish freedom. Tornadoes of doubt, fear and worry haunted me for 9 months. Nonetheless, all the anguish disappears the moment I saw my daughter for the first time. This Brobdingnagian love for my daughter became the passion for my life.  Nonetheless PTSD has stolen from me the final seconds to reach for hope. 

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Flash Fiction: 13 Hours

06/09/2015
By: Lucky Smith

Luck is death being swift and quick. I was never lucky.
I have had over 3,000 hours of fire hours. I know my number of hours cause I was paid $1.00 per hour on a fire call. In the shadows of the fireline, high in the mountains are men and women in orange nomexs. We are prisoners, who volunteer for this program.  Cutting line and fighting forest fires along with state and county firefighters. Most of us were  incarcerated for drug related crimes.  At the end of the day none of it matters. Who, why, what and when. Rehabilitation is an individual private matter that has to be self-driven. It is personally created by ourselves. The past can be unapologetic filled with confusing realities. Plus the recurring fact no one gives a shit about life before fire camp.  In thirty days I will be home with Maria. She was my girlfriend who faithfully visited me every weekend, sent care packages and wrote magical love letters. I was in-loved with every idea of her. We shared so many promises, plans and dreams that returned to becoming lies I was not equip to fulfil.
As we hike into the small brush fire; my life was mapped out. The fire was tiny only an acre. Mild winds and fire season was starting late this year. A quick in and out assignment. That acre became the devil for me. The letters of recommendations from fire captains, certificates from forestry and my spot on the waiting list to my career path. The prize was become a  smokejumper. Those are the firefighters that jump into the fire. Funny how one fire can transform heights, skydiving and death into crippling fears.
The fire was 80 percent contain, suddenly the winds picked up. The battalion chief radio to the captain for us to hike back down to base camp. As the winds blew a burning tree that flew into Mona Gray. She was walking behind me as her body was rolling down the hill into dry grass. She was surrounded by the grass fire. We ran after her into the fire. My captain and I dragged her burnt body back into the burn. Burning flesh is a smell that warns everyone all hope is gone. The winds graduated the baby one acre fire into a complete soulsucking monster.
Captain Fuller called in for help. Echos of the fire burning uphill. There was no way out but walking through the burning flanks. Mona cried as we laid her down applying pressure to her wound. The tree puncture her right side below the ribs. Most of her legs had third degree burns. I tried to put Mona down, as I searched in my backpack for my canteen. The water should help with the wound.
Mona cried out to me, “Roubsouay, I don’t want to die alone.”
“You are not going to die.”- I said.
“You are a terrible liar”- Mona replied
There wasn’t much we could do to comfort her from the pain. Supplies were limited. The winds were blowing at 60 mph and the dry brush made the situation worst. Walls of fire with waves of heat dancing around us. Crew members took turns nursing Mona switching out the handmade bandages out of ripped t-shirts and bandanas.  Mona’s head rested on my lap the entire time. About 45 minutes later the helicopter blades cutting in the sky towards us. The fire grew and the skies were engulfed in smoke. We watched as the one hope for help crashed into the mountain side and the explosion vomited pieces of fire and metal to the ground. Mona turns her head to face me.
“This is one way god is telling me it’s my time.”- Mona
Walking through the ashes of smoke was CO Gonzales aka “Ninja Turtle.” I gave him that nickname because his obese body in riot gear makes him look like a Ninja Turtle.  Captain Fuller ask Ninja Turtle what he was doing up here.
“I wanted to make sure the girls know not to try to smuggle any of the marijuana plants that are illegally being grown up here. It will be a new charge for all of them. We spotted a large size of plants growing in this area.”
Captain Fuller throws his cigar to the ground, his pale face  turned bright red.
“Did you fucking see the helicopter that crashed into the mountain? Do you understand that means casualties? Do you see an injured firefighter with 3rd degree burns with a puncture wound who needs immediate help. And you're worried about these firefighters getting stone. You are proof that correctional officers are stupid.” -Captain Fuller
Ninja Turtle punched Captain Fuller in the face. As the men started fighting Ninja Turtle wrestled Captain Fuller to the ground. He handcuffed Captain Fuller. In the midst of the madness, Mona’s attention was diverted from the pain and tragedy of the fire.
“Ninja Turtle is leading us out of the fireline, now we are all dead.”-Tina, the crew leader announced.
“I am writing you a 115 when we get back, Roubsouay”- Ninja Turtle
“What the fuck? I haven’t said shit or done shit this whole time.”- I argued
“It is because of you, every inmate calls me Ninja Turtle”-Ninja Turtle
“No, it’s because you look funny in riot gear”-I said
She started to laugh instead of crying out in pain. Mona loved it when Ninja Turtle and I would argue. We stop argueing as more trees starting to crash to the ground. The winds picked to 80 mph and the fire was headed back towards our direction. Captain Fuller was taken out of handcuffs. We had been on the mountain for 4 hours. The clouds of black smoke made it impossible for us to walk out of the mountain.
Roubsouay, be smart. Deal with your demons. You have been a solid crew member and a good friend. You’re just a kid, go to college, get a job and stay out of prison. Fight for something worth your passion. You are 18 years old. I have kids your age. Learn to love yourself and fall in-love with life. I mean real love, not this situation you have with Maria. The woman is 39 years old, that is just a twisted relationship. I might die here but at least it wasn’t with a needle in my arm.” -Mona
Those were her last words to me. It took a total of sixteen hours before we were able to safely walk out of the fire. Mona bled to death in the total of 13 hours. I watch her slowly die and felt every moment and second of those 13 hours.



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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Start Over News Magazine: Thought Corner: Crime, Addiction and Violence It I...

Start Over News Magazine: Thought Corner: Crime, Addiction and Violence It I...: 06/07/2015 By: Lucky Smith  Upon average the most common crimes across the nation according to the FBI UCR (Uniform Crime Reports) states...

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Thought Corner: Crime, Addiction and Violence It Is A Community Problem Not Only A Personal Problem

06/07/2015
By: Lucky Smith
 Upon average the most common crimes across the nation according to the FBI UCR (Uniform Crime Reports) states:
"The FBI released Crime in the United States, 2013 today, which shows that the estimated number of violent crimes in 2013 decreased 4.4 percent when compared with 2012 figures, and the estimated number of property crimes decreased 4.1 percent. There were an estimated 1,163,146 violent crimes reported to law enforcement last year, along with an estimated 8,632,512 property crimes."
Furthermore the FBI UCR:
"During 2013, law enforcement made an estimated 11,302,102 arrests (including 480,360 for violent crimes and 1,559,284 for property crimes). The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,501,043), larceny-theft (estimated at 1,231,580), and driving under the influence (estimated at 1,166,824)."
The highest number of arrest were for drug violations. Many of crimes commit can related to combating with addiction. For example, an individual may deal with the strain of needing to feed their addiction by criminal activity in order to supply the cost for the drugs or whatever it is that they are addicted.
Across the board from most sociologist, psychiatrist, therapist, criminologist, and psychologist will confirm that many addicts have unresolved trauma and childhood abuse that is the recurring emotional pain that these individuals are trying to escape from. That is why no amount of incarceration will rehabilitate these individuals addictive behaviors.
The problem is the rest of society is  at risk to being victims to these individuals. Well the best way to combat addiction and prevent addiction is to deal with the source of addiction.
First of all, childhood abuse happens for numerous of reasons. One way of combating child abuse is the training on the application on the policies currently in place for victims of domestic violence, addiction, and low income areas on all levels within the government agencies and institutions.  For example, on the level concerning government agencies are one of the biggest problem. Many times social workers often dealing with more administrative paperwork than actually trying to apply the programs created to resolve child abuse, poverty, domestic violence and drug addiction. Next is local law enforcement whom daily job activities appear to be more like social workers than police officers. Now that is a gigantic problem because cops are trained to know the law, and uphold the law not to resolve family disputes, search for signs of hidden child abuse, and find solutions for social causes for crime. As for social workers that are trained to deal with social issues within the community. Social workers should be advocating for victims rights, children rights and placing more programs into the inner community. However, most commonly that is not the reality. Many social workers first complaint will be there are budget cuts and not enough resources. Their daily task are not geared towards  helping people directly thrive but being the city's  paper pushers.
The biggest issue is the way policies are being applied in  the first place, LACK OF RESPECT AND UNDERSTANDING FOR CIVIL SERVANTS, these jobs are needed but the most underpaid and very poor communication skills with the public and internal administration levels. Lack of respect for example, the average income for a cop is about 60 thousand dollars annually. Along with teachers and others city positions that are unpaid. That is disgusting we as a society justify paying police officers, social workers, and teachers the least. No wonder as a society we are having to build more prisons than colleges. Take a look at what and how we invest our monies. We want to punish and incarcerate but we don't put inasmuch of an effort into rehabilitate and prevent.  The easiest way to combat addiction and crime is by stop dehumanization of children within the inner cities. Help with the strains that families of poverty face that are not as common to the middle class and affluent families. This in turn will help protect the middle class and affluent families as well from being victims of crime.
The stress needs to be place back onto the communities. By having more classes and workshops available will stop and prevent most crimes. There should be without having to have a court referral for counseling centers, therapist, treatment groups, and mental health experts employed by the cities to help community members employ healthy parenting skills, stop family violence, and use effective life skills.
By addressing that child abuse is a community problem. Child abuse roots are the parents inability to provide a healthy, safe and rich environment for the child from lack of knowledge, past experiences and active addicts. Drug addiction is a community problem. Remember the drug addict you may or may not know would most likely be the one to rob or burglarized you. Domestic violence is a community problem. Children who witness such acts of violence may become future victims and abusers of America. Domestic violence homicides often involves police shootings, killing of nearby witnesses and friends of the victims. Therefore we need to have more treatment programs that are free to the public that are not court order for advocates, support group and outreaches. Many of the centers in place work for the court and are reactive to the problem not preventive. Stop with blaming the victim ideologies. Finally, the biggest issue with domestic violence is the power and control that many times traces back to oppressive gender roles that only benefits most of the time males.  To PREVENT THE PROBLEM MEANS ALLOWING THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE WITHOUT THE SITUATION BECOMING FATAL.
Many of these parents may need to learn better parenting skills, deal with their own addictions and help to learn how to provide a safe environment for their children.

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Short Story Corner: Mokalia

06/07/2015
By: Sunjay Smith

It’s the start of a bright new beautiful day.  The grass is green, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming.   Yes, today will be a good day.
I just got myself out of bed, and I’m ready for today. I’m so excited because today isn’t just any ordinary day.  Today is the festival of Mokalia.  It is the one-day of the season when all of the Mokos villages comes together and celebrates having each other.
Ever since I was very small, we would celebrate Mokalia every season.  The whole village Mokos would come together and share their talents with the community. There would be singing, dancing, games to play, food to eat from our famous chef, art to admire from our famous artist, and plays to enjoy.  And finally, at the end of the celebration, we would all sit around a stunning centerpiece made by Clora.  Because she is beautiful, elegant, and radiant, the mokos gave her the task of making a centerpiece as beautiful as she is.   We would close the celebration by singing one final song to end the day.
I was so excited when I went out the door of my home anticipating the festival of Mokalia.  I enjoyed seeing all my fellow mokos preparing for Mokalia.   We mokos are a race of enchanted tigers that live in villages apart from human societies. Mokos are creative creatures; they each have a unique talent that contributes to the entire village. Mokos can walk on four or two paws, depending on their mood.  They have a third eye on their forehead that can reveal the future or past.  However, it takes intensive patience and practice to see through the third eye, and many are not yet able to do so.
As I saw everyone preparing for the celebration, I wanted to join in on the preparations.   So I started by asking the baker if I could help him make pastries.
“Hello Baker,” I said.
“Hello Tojuhwa!  What a fine morning we have today, wouldn’t you say.” he replied.
“It sure is going to be a great day today,” I said.  “I wanted to know if you need some help with your pastries.   After all you make the best pastries in the world!   They’re so warm and mouth-watering that they just melt in your mouth.   They taste good, they put you on cloud 9!”
“Well, thank you!  It’s always good to hear a fellow moko appreciate my work.  But no, my pastries need a delicate hand and a keen eye to make them perfect.  Besides, you might get burned and we don’t want that.   Maybe the artist needs help.  You should ask him.” 
 I proceeded towards the artist.
“Hello Artist!” I said.
“Hello Tojuhwa. I’m very busy right now. What do you want?” asked the artist.
“I was just wondering if you needed help with your art.   After all, you are the most renowned artist of the mokos and your art is so vivid and life like that it looks real!  I just thought you might need some help so your artwork can look its best.  Can I help you?” I asked.
“No, no, no! My masterpiece demands perfection and creativity to bring out its glory; you would just mess it up.  I also wouldn’t want you to end up with paint all over yourself right before Mokalia!  Maybe the builder could use your assistance.”
All of these rejections started to make me  feel a little discouraged.  I wanted to help like everyone else!  Why does everyone always think I’m going to get hurt?  But I went to see what the builder had to say.
“Hello builder,” I said.
“Hello Tojuhwa. Wonderful morning we’re having!   I bet you can’t wait for tonight.  It’s going too be a lot of fun,” he replied.
“Yes, it will be,” I said.  “Do you need any help?   You are the most creative builder in the village.  Your contraptions are always extraordinary fine works in fine working order, no matter what anybody says.  I thought your 30-pawed backscratcher was awesome!  I don’t know why everyone else doesn’t see your brilliance.”
“Nope I’m good.  I have to make sure the contraptions work for tonight.  It is very complicated to make them, and I’m afraid you might get hurt.   But thanks for the offer! Why don’t you go help your best friend Clora? I’m sure she could use your help.”
Dejected, I went to see if Clora needed help. Clora and I have been friends for many years since we were toddlers.  When I was in kindergarten, I was considered an outcast and nobody wanted to play with me.   One day, I was sitting alone, feeling very excluded. Clora was playing blocks, and she noticed I was unhappy so she came over and asked if I would play with her. I was overjoyed that somebody noticed me, and after that day we became the best of friends. 
Clora was standing by the flower table when I approached her.
“Hey Clora,” I said.
“Hey Tojuhwa! Great day to go flower picking, don’t you think?”
“I guess so.  But I don’t like the idea of pulling plants out of the earth,” I said.
“Neither do I, but it’s for the village, right?” she said.
“I guess you’re right.  Do you need any help with your flowers,” I asked.
“Not right now.  First I have to sort the flowers out.  Then I have to decorate the centerpiece ,“she said.
 “Well I guess I’ll see you around.”  Even my best friend Clora didn’t want my help.
I went down the street to my favorite spot to think, when my other close friend, Rector, ran into me.  Rector and I have been friends since as early as I can remember.  We always give each other a hard time, but we also stand by each other no matter what. One time when I was at the park, all the other mokos had someone to play with and left me to play on my own.  Rector came from out of the blue just to play with me so I wouldn’t be alone.  And when Rector got depressed, I would tell him stories to cheer him up.

“Hey Tojuhwa! Me and the guys are going to throw paint balls at the painter’s house. Want to watch?” he asked.
“Nah, but thanks for asking.   Make sure you get the house very messy,” I said.  All of this rejection had put me in a bad mood.
“No problem; I’ll see you later.”
I headed to my favorite spot down by the river.  This was a special place for me.  Rector, Clora and I would come here when we needed a quiet place to think or a place to escape our worries. In the summer we would come here to hang out, fly kites, play limbo, have races, play “I Spy” with the clouds, skip rocks on the river, and tell stories at night.  Sometimes we would camp out or we would have picnics. I rolled to the edge of the river, looked into the water, and pondered at my reflection.
“What a joke.  Here I am offering to help everyone and just look at me – paralyzed in a wheelchair.  I must’ve been out of mind to think I could help, but what help can I give anyone?” I said to myself.
Just then, Corla approached me from behind. “Hey Tojuhwa, what are you doing out here?  Why aren’t you helping with the festival?” she said.
“No one wants my help.  Even you don’t want me help!  Everyone thinks I’m so different even though I have the same skin and bones as they do.   So I came here to calm my head and gaze at the water.  I like the water -- it’s so gentle like lotion soothing the skin and yet so powerful that it can carry boats or crash them if it chooses.  Water can travel to far away lands without any restraints.  I wish I could be like the water.  I know everyone in the village wants to protect me.  But then they never let me do anything to contribute.   It’s so frustrating!”  I kept staring at the water.
  “I understand,” said Clora.  “People think I’m fragile too just because I’m a girl.”
“It’s not the same thing,” I said.
“I know it’s not the same thing, but I understand what it’s like to be discriminated against.” 
“Well, it’s just not fair.  Why did you come here anyway.  I thought you were busy with your centerpiece.”
“I’m not very good at decorating, and I was hoping you would help me,” she replied.
“Why didn’t you ask the artist?  I’m sure he’d be a better choice for this,” I said.
“He’s too busy finishing his masterpiece to help.  Besides you have a very good eye for detail.” she answered.
It’s hard to stay mopey with Clora around. “All right, let’s go,” I said.
 We went back to the village, and then we proceeded to the flower table to finish the centerpiece.  I rolled to the edge of the table.  With Clora right beside me, I would tell Clora where she should put the flowers.  “The roses should go over there.   The daffodils should go there.  The tulips should go over here by the buttercups.” When we finally finished the centerpiece, it looked so glamorous that the king himself would consider it a valuable treasure.
Clora exclaimed,  “Wow! I knew you had it in you! I bet the artist would be so jealous. The centerpiece looks so incredible – far better than his so-called ‘masterpiece’!”
Then, Rector joined us.  He looked amazed at how great the centerpiece was.
“Hey guys! There you are!  I’ve been looking all over for you!   Great work on the center piece; it will be the highlight of the festival,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said happily.
 Rector grinned.  “So let’s get some good seats before the festival starts.  It should be beginning any moment now.” Rector said.
The festival started at nightfall when the sun started to set.  There was a gentle breeze in the warm milky air.  The glistening stars began to shine one by one. There was singing and dancing.  People played games like scavenger hunts and races.  There were snacks from the baker to munch on, there were art displays from the artist to browse, and there were performances to watch. My friends stayed and helped me participate during the whole festival by encouraging me to sing with them, by twirling and dancing with me, by being patient and supportive during the games by planning and discussing with me during the scavenger hunt, and by pushing my chair so I could go faster during the race. We grabbed some of the baker’s goodies and browsed the art from the artist while munching on our goodies.  Then we checked out some of the performances on the stage. Close to the end of the festival we all gathered around the centerpiece and told stories.  I started to feel more comfortable, so I told one of my stories about ordinary folks accomplishing extraordinary tasks, even when they may have disabilities. I felt confident about my story and everybody else seemed to enjoy it.  They even applauded and came up to tell me that my story was the highlights of the festival.  They also said how grateful they were for having such a unique artist as myself as part of the community.   So I felt very proud of myself.  After the storytelling, we all sang one final song to congratulate everyone for her or his hard work that made the festival possible.
 When the festival was finally finished. Clora yawned, “Boy what a great night. I’m tired; I’m going to pack it in.”
Clora then left to go home.  As she was leaving, Rector laughed “What do you mean, great night?  It’s been an incredible night!  But I’m tired too. I guess I had better hit the hay. I’ll see you tomorrow, Tojuhwa.”
As Rector started to leave, I also left for my home.  As I got ready for bed and tucked myself in, I thought to myself, “Today has been a good day.  I have some great friends, and I did great work. Good night and happy Mokalia!”   



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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Short Film Corner: Recognize



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Friday, May 29, 2015

Thought Corner: Music Video "Truths About Non-Visual Disabilites"

UC Riverside MCS 106 Final
Credits:
Grace Choi
Jauice Mok
Richard Chun
Minki (Eric) Lee
Erica Khamvongsa

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