Author Archives: Jack

The Boston Marathon, My Experience

By Jack Kelly

Last Monday, on April 15th, 2013 I awoke with butterflies in my stomach.  The butterflies I felt were a mix of nervousness and excitement.  For anyone who has ever played a sport or a gave a big speech or an important presentation, you know the feeling I speak of.

I had these butterflies because I was about to run the Boston Marathon.

This would be my first time running and I was unsure of how I would do or even if I could finish.  The night before I hardly slept and could not stop thinking of what it would feel like to cross the finish line.  But crossing the finish line was certainly a non-guarantee.

Without a complete rendition of the whole grueling training process it takes for one to run 26.2 miles, my experience was subpar comparatively speaking.  I was hampered by a pesky calf injury that stubbornly refused  to allow me to run anything more than 13 miles. I ran over 13 only one time when I was able to run 15 after receiving a steady diet of A.R.T. therapy.  (a painful type of super deep tissue massage using a metallic instrument to loosen up your legs and muscles)

So the point of all of that regurgitation was to highlight my misgivings about finishing.  Sure, I portrayed bravado and self-confidence, but inside was less than sure.  In addition, when walking over to the Hynes convention center on Saturday to get my number and other assorted BAA blue and yellow marathon gear, I aggravated the calf muscle and slightly pulled it again, causing bruising on my right leg.

I was able to research online about what one could do in such a circumstances and found a product called KT tape.  This, along with compression socks, were my only hope of holding the calf together so I might have the opportunity to finish.

But that is another story, for another day.

On the morning of this now infamous day, I nervously walked around my house looking for things I would needfor the race.  In typical ‘me’ fashion, I forgot several items once I left my house.  I was picked up by my mother and was accompanied by my friends and fellow runners Kate Caruso and Emily Bryson who both lived close to my house in Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston

We had a quick ride into the Boston Common, where busses would transfer runners to the starting line in

Hopkinton, MA.  During the ride, all three of us spoke about the task in front of us.  Emily and I were first timers, while Kate was a veteran, running not only Boston several times, but also several others.

I distinctly remember thinking that these two young ladies were going to absolutely crush me time wise and it was quite possible, I could not finish at all, while they thrived.  For someone who is socially conscious surrounding issues about equality in a political sense, I chuckled to myself thinking “the woman’s movement is certainly on display right now, and I’m just a cog in its rising domino.”

Of course, it was a light-hearted thought, but the spirit was clear that morning on the bus.  We were all nervous 0and excited but more importantly, we were piqued and supportive of one another for even being able to attempt something such as this.

It was a very distinct feeling of camaraderie.  All the training in the cold, the injuries, the sleepless nights were culminating on this very day.  In a short amount of time, we would be lacing it up and running towards Boylston.

As we arrived at the village in Hopkinton, our spirits were further uplifted.  It was essentially, a healthy version of Woodstock.  Instead of people passing joints and beer around, they were passing oranges, bananas and water.  People were lying around on the ground; stretching, talking, listening to the music playing, but overall, mentally preparing for the journey ahead.

We briefly stopped at the local police station to stretch more and linger around with other runners who were cops, mostly from Newton.

Then we walked back towards the village to drop our yellow bags off, which would be retrieved when we finished and got our medals.

Our wave started at 10:40am.  I verbalized how I would finish farther back from them as it was clear my time would be far off from theirs.  We all agreed to find each other at the finish line and depending on how we felt, meet up with all of our families and other assorted loved ones.  At least to briefly say hi and congratulate one another.

As 10:40 neared, Kate and myself left to go the bathroom one last time.  I was nervous but feeling confident.  My calf felt great, densely wrapped in the KT tape and compression socks I had on over them.

I devised a plan to run cautiously slow.  My normal training pace was about 10 minute miles, but I would scale it back to 12 1/2 or even 13 minutes.  I was still very concerned about my calf holding up and had never once trained on hills.  So I knew keeping my body strong was the most essential component for finishing.  If I went even a second too fast, my calves could easily ‘pop out’, especially once I hit the hills in Newton.

As the race started, it took Kate and I roughly 7-10 minutes to arrive at the “starting” line.  Once we did, it took some time to gain enough space to find room to start a slight jog.  Once I started jogging, I became euphoric. I was overwhelmed with the crowd and journey ahead.

Every initial forward distance was filled with spectators who were fired up and cheering the runners on.  After a few miles, my euphoria dissipated and I regained my focus and started to enact my plan.  I felt great both physically and mentally.

0-2

As I ran, a certain feeling began to develop within me.  I started to notice the spectators more and my fellow runners.  I would see a random T-shirt in front of me of someone who lost a child and was running in their name.  I started to see people with all sorts of disabilities running beside me and at times, past me. (Which was a regular occurrence.  I was an equal opportunity ego boost for my fellow runners)

One man in particular had an amputated right leg and was just plowing through.  I looked at his face and it was a face that symbolized determination.  I could tell he was not a celebrity disabled runner we sometimes see, who can train for such an event and has the best prosthetics.  He was just like me, an ordinary guy, only he was  conquering an unordinary feat under extraordinary challenges.

Suddenly, that “calf” injury I had been worried and complaining about for months was laughable.

I was now adamant I would finish this race!

As I ran further, the race and all of the training I had endured had nothing to do with me.  This race  started symbolizing something much bigger than me as an individual. I was apart of an international community called humanity.  This race was everything good about America and people in general, before the tragic events that had yet to unfold.

As I ran through Framingham and Natick, I high-fived’ and fist-pumped’ kids of all nationalities and ethnicities.  I had a shirt on that said “I’M RUNNING” with my Twitter handle on it @Jackkelly111, which had people yelling my name with words of encouragement in both English and Spanish phrases.

As I continued to progress, I started to slowly experience every famous aspect of the marathon and more.  I hugged and kissed the famous Wesley girls and other random bystanders partying along the route.  I took water and oranges from little kids who were with their families celebrating.  I briefly stopped for pictures and pumped my fist and arms in the air when encountering a rowdy group of young revelers who were cheering me on.

I suddenly forgot I was nursing an “injury.”  As I made my way into Newton I saw a gigantic hill.  Up to this point, I was feeling confident and momentarily sort of ‘freaked.’  But that feeling of ‘fear’ was tempoarary.  I simply pushed on.  Never even thinking about the hill.

I falsely assumed Newton had only 2 hills, Heartbreak and the one before it.  It turns out, Newton has many hills, I counted at least 5, or maybe 4, although it could have been less.  It certainly seemed like 20.  At this point, my body was starting to alter down a negative path.  I knew from here on, if I were to finish, my mind would need to take over.

After ‘conquering’ another hill, (did I mention how many there seemed to be) I asked two ladies beside me, who looked to be in their mid-thirties, if the next one was the infamous ‘Heartbreak.’  One of them slightly chuckled and said “sorry to give bad news, but you still have 2 more.”   I instinctively yelled “F#(|{ me,” as a little kid was walking up to me, trying to hand me an orange.

I looked at his mother, who was laughing hysterically and said “sorry” and she said “no problem, that was great, you’re almost there!”

I “carried on,” like that great song by Fun, which happened to be playing on my iPhone at the time.  It was on in the background as I had my headphones on my shoulders so I could hear the people cheering me on.  I also started thinking of Matt Brown, the hockey player from Norwood who suffered a serious neck injury.  I attended his gala the week before at Fenway park and the song used in his tribute video was “Carry On.”  And I remember him saying at the end of the video something to the effect of “I will carry on!”

This is the point I want to emphasize.  For one of the only times in my life, something so physically and emotionally challenging was being impelled, not from myself, but of thoughts from other people and their challenges in life.  As the race became more difficult, the bystanders, the other runners, their reasons for running- plastered all over their T-shirts, etc, were propelling me to keep pushing forward when my body wanted to simply shut it down.

I finally encountered Heartbreak hill.  I looked to my left and saw a young girl running at the same pace as I.  I asked her, quite desperately, if this were Heartbreak hill.  She smiled and said “yes!”  I almost tackled her in excitement, only I would have probably fallen over if I had tried.

Roughly a quarter of a way through, she started walking and she yelled “go for it!”   I ran for another quarter of the way up and decided to walk the rest of the way.  One of the the pieces of advice I received from my PT and other veteran marathon runners, was to walk up Heartbreak.  At that point, I had not yet stopped running, accept to briefly stop for water and some”homo-sapian sanitation cleansing.”

I was so close and did not want to ‘blow it’ now.

After reaching the top, I grabbed some water and an orange  and proceeded to move forward.  I immediately was overcome with a sense of confidence.  I started to feel “it.”  My body felt terrible, but good. (people who have run this thing will know what I mean)

I knew I was going to make it.  I ran through some marketing stretch of what I thought was peanut butter Powerbars.  Guns’ and Roses’ “Welcome to The Jungle” was playing.  I was singing the lyrics and jamming to the solo by slash as I ran.

I was feeling great, and I was going to finish.  In my head I could see Boylston.

Unknown

I started to embark on a downward stretch. I would later come to learn, that this stretch was Boston College and was another infamous part of the race where you eventually filter into Cleveland Circle and start the final embark to Boylston.  Or otherwise known as the longest 5 miles known to man.

Or at least I was told it was.  I would never experience it.

As I ran down this stretch with BC on my right and the usual cascade of drunk college kids and enthusiastic onlookers, I noticed to my left, a biker cop frantically jump on his bike after talking into his radio attached to his right shoulder.  My initial thought was someone must have fallen down or had a heart attack or something.  At this point in the race, people becoming ill is a somewhat common occurrence.

So I thought nothing of it and continued on.

As I continued to run, a photographer was kneeled down to take a picture of me as I ran.  Throughout the race, this is a common occurrence.  Paid photog’s, as well as media outlets, litter the race taking pictures of everything.  As he kneeled down, I started to hear police sirens.  One at first in the distance, then it became more pronounced as it raced towards me from my backside.

I turned to my left and it was racing by me, followed by several others.  It almost knocked over the photographer who was taking a picture of me.  I knew something more than an injured runner was causing this.  I was certainly alarmed at this point, but not in a way where I felt my safety was endanger.

As I ran, I heard a radio broadcast emanating from a spectator that was saying something about “bombs at the finish line” in a panicked voice.  I could not believe what I was hearing and kept running.  I was trying to reconcile what I had just heard.  There was no way what I had just heard was real.  And to loosely quote David Ortiz, there was just no “Fucking way” someone had really bombed the finish line.

It had to be some mistake.  A false alarm.  A drunk idiot acting stupid.

But then, it happened.  As I came to a crossroad, ready to pour into a bowl that seemed to be entering the start of the finish embark into Cleveland circle, I encountered a barricade of cops and a scattered assortment of other runners.

We were stopped at the St. Ignatius Church at Boston College.  We were eventually brought into the church and tended to by earnest and exceptional first responders, firefighters and cops.  At every stage, people were calm but alarmed.  I immediately recognized one of the cops and a friend of mine who worked at the T.  I was told of the truth of what had happened.

That someone or some group or something, had set off bombs at the finish line and people were dead and gravely injured.  I immediately panicked.  I was horrified.  All I could think about was my girlfriend Lisa, her friends and my mother and father and other friends I had waiting for me at the finish line.  Because of my location and the tracking device on me, this is precisely the time they would arrive on Boylston to watch me come in.

I had over hundreds of text messages and Facebook messages and direct Twitter messages.  Because I use my iPhone as an iPod, my phone was with me.  All of the messages were concerning my safety.  But, I knew that I was safe.  My only concern was to find out about my loved ones.  I spent a frantic 30 minutes trying to reach anyone who could give me information by phone.  Finally, I saw through the hundreds of text messages, a message from my Dad asking me where I was.

This message seemed to indicate he was at least ok.  But it wasn’t until I received a call from my uncle who was not at the finish line, to tell me everyone was ok.  They were close to the bombs, but had been far enough away and were heading home and ok.

Eventually, as other runners frantically called their loved ones or tried to find out more information and were loaded on busses to head to some unknown destination, I was picked up by my brother’s girlfriend Sara who lived in Brighton.

When I arrived at my house, I hugged everyone and sat down to watch the news.  I could not believe what was happening.  I was in physical pain because of the race, but I was more shocked.  I was still unsure if any of the wounded were personal friends of mine.  My phone continued to receive text messages for hours asking about my safety.

Like everyone else in Boston and the world, I could not comprehend what had just transpired.

As the following week ensued, we saw the insane media circus and the manhunt for the terrorists who had done this.  Rumors swirled wildly on Twitter and Facebook and main stream media outlets, who will shall we say, did not have their finest hour.   Fingers were pointed, theories were put fourth as to the why and how.

But, the worst of the carnage started to illuminate itself.  I saw the pictures of little Martin Richard and the pretty freckled-face girl named Krystle Campbell.  I personally knew people who knew the Martin family and Krystle.  We eventually found out of the name of the Chinese B.U. student, 23-year-old Lu Lingzi.

We all saw the horrific injuries of hero 27-year-old Jeff Bauman Jr, who later provided key information to authorities.

The following days, I attended the now famous Bruins game where the fans of Boston sang in harmony during the National Anthem.  I attended that game with a friend from Dorchester, where Martin Richard lived.  I attended the vigil and even stood up and was part of a standing ovation during that aforementioned Bruins game because I was a “runner” in the marathon.

I watched the interfaith service where President Obama absolutely hit a grand slam and gave our city a much needed collective psychological boost.

Eventually, I went and picked up my medal, but It all felt empty.  I have spent this week walking around in my marathon shirt.  I felt the spirit of my city.  I felt the pride we all have as Bostonians and Americans.  I also felt the human spirit.  However, I also felt sad and forever changed.

As I stood looking at my medal, all I could think about was how I had spent months training to obtain this piece of metal.  I was doing it for a personal, some could even call it a selfish reason.  Sure, positive, but selfish nevertheless.

Now, as I sit here writing while simotaneously looking at this medal, all I can think about is Martin, Krystle, Lu Lingzi, Sean Collier and the victims like Jeff Bauman Jr.  This medal no longer represents an individual accomplishment.  This medal is something bigger.  And, when I look back at my experience during the race, the Boston Marathon was always about something bigger than an individual achievement.

For those who do not understand Boston, we are a big city squished into a small town. We are pragmatically liberal in our politics, at least collectively, but ‘hippies’ or naive fools we are not.  We are tough and resilient, but also compassionate and caring.

After the manhunt ended, I wrote this on my Facebook wall:

I am so proud to be from Boston. The first responders, doctors, the BAA volunteers, the heroic cops, the nurses, the bystanders, the runners, the firefighters and yes, the good work of our Mayor, Governor and President and anything and everyone in between. I have never felt so connected with people from my city than I do now.”

It was a remark born out of emotion and relief.  I was happy a symbolic end had transpired with the capture of suspect #2.  Like everyone else, I was frantically following Twitter and the news during the week, culminating with the event in Watertown.

 

As far as the suspects are concerned,

WHO???!!!???

 

I cannot believe that as I sit here and write, that it was exactly one week ago that I sat in this same spot on my couch.  Continuously massaging my right calf thinking “I hope it holds” so I can raise my arms and slap the hands of my loved ones and friends as I run down Boylston Street towards that iconic finish line.

Unfortunately, that moment never came to be.

The healing has just begun for many of us, especially the families and victims of the attack.  I know personally, people very dear to me who were close to the bombs that day.  They have a long journey of emotional healing ahead as well.  This event touched us all.  We will heal together and be there for the people recovering in our hospitals and families of the fallen.  We will attend fundraisers, and hopefully, be kind to one another and appreciate the preciousness of life.

So next year when I lace up my sneakers in Hopkinton and embark on that long, arduous, but beautiful 26.2 mile journey to Boston, I will slap the spiritual hand of Krystle, Martin, Sean and Lu Lingzi as I race down Boylston towards that still iconic finish line I could not cross this year.

I await the day when, one by one, the victims leave the hospital and I have the pleasure of lacing up my sneakers with them to reclaim a spot in Boston that is rightfully theirs, and finish the marathon.

I love my city and despite the evil we have encountered, we shall continue to pursue the light, as one!

 

#BostonStrong

 

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Working For Mayor Menino

 

By Jack Kelly

(former Neighborhood Liaison for Boston Mayor Tom Menino)

As the news filters through Boston and the rest of the country, of the impending retirement of Mayor Tom Menino, a variety of thoughts and opinions’ flood my mind.  Love him or hate him, the impact of my former boss is immense.

Politics, by its very nature will render passionate feelings towards the individual who wears The Crown.

In this case, Mayor Menino certainly had his detractors throughout the city.  But a debate no one could effectively articulate is his historic impact on not only Boston, but the American political landscape.  This is a man who Presidents’ of past and our current one, called upon to deliver actual results, most notably in neighboring New Hampshire.

And results he did deliver!

He was a force throughout all of New England in Business, development and impact.  If Mayor Menino supported something, it became a virtual guarantee that, that something would come to fruition.

Again, love him or hate him, it is impressive.

Like many other’s past and present, I had the opportunity to spend 5 years working for him.  I had a unique seat at history working for this man as his Charlestown liaison in the Office of Neighborhood Services.

This seat at history was always apparent within me.

I remember the first time I met with him about obtaining the neighborhood liaison position in his administration.  I sat on a very uncomfortable leather chair looking at a painted portrait of what I perceived to be Harry Truman, hanging above his desk and nervously glancing out the big window in front of me overlooking Faneuil Hall.

I was 25 and on a well-known comeback from a serious substance abuse problem.  At that time (and still) drugs were destroying lives in not only my community, but all of Boston.   In spite of the lucrative real estate development and stable housing prices in Charlestown, drugs were still inflicting an enormous amount of moral and financial damage.

I was coming out of that hellish world and trying to help change it for the better.  As I later became aware, the Mayor was told of my past troubles and on the account of many other’s who recommend me to him within the community, he rolled the dice and took a “shot” with me.

I can’t think of many politicians who would have appointed a kid with only 3 years clean and sober and a small arrest record to such a public position.

But he did.

I no longer work for the Mayor or City Hall, but will forever be grateful to him for that opportunity as it has personally and professionally taken me to places, which  never  could exist without the most powerful person in Boston rolling the dice and “taking a chance” on a reformed kid.

Cheers to you,

Jack Kelly

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Matt Ganem The Poet

 

I heard of Matt through a colleague who was “raving” about this poet who wrote about addiction named Matt Ganem.  I started following him on Twitter and really enjoyed his teasers from his poems.  After messaging Matt and having the pleasure to chat with him I became more impressed.  The kid has talent and is pursing a dream with passion and purpose.

I will always be a fan of someone who strives for such a high ideal!!  Here is some of his work, enjoy and vote for Matt as Boston Best Poet right here and his website http://mattganemthepoet.com/

 

Chipping

Lock pressed in on the bathroom door
Turning the shower on for added noise
I told myself I wasn’t gonna do this anymore
But I gave in when I heard temptations voice
Dumping a little powder in a bottle cap
Making sure I save some for later on
Pulling thirty CC’s back

Sweating, cause I know what I’m doing is wrong
Its been a week and half out of detox
And my family thinks I’m doing good
Bought me some clothes and a fresh pair of Reebok’s
Taking care of me cause they think I’m doing what I should
I can hide the tracks in my hands

Little nicks I can claim were from work
Pinned pupils will be covered by Raybans
But I gotta high first
Push the needle in
Draw back a little blood
Here we go again
This is how an addict makes love
With a rush of euphoria

All the pain is taken away
An artificial utopia
A peaceful place I wish I could stay
Rinse the syringe out
Splash some water across my face

Now I’m floating through the house
Higher than outer space
Smiles at the dinner table
While I’m fighting a nod
Selling the pills that are suppose to save you
But swear suboxens must have been a gift from god
I’m chipping

Haven’t caught a full blown habit
Its sickening
Inside the mind of an addict
Its not a problem until handcuffs are involved
And I still have a room at my parents spot

Even though my money is starting to dissolve
The consequences haven’t forced me to stop
My disease is starting to sink in its teeth
I don’t like who I’ve been seeing in the mirror
I was hitting a few meetings a week

Now its an excuse I use to leave and meet my dealer
A keen ability to manipulate my circumstance
Using people that care about me like pawns
Everyone thinks I’m giving sobriety a chance
I’m just another victim of how rehab has gone wrong

Those Sobos I sold for pocket money
Were suppose to be for cigarettes and clothes
But you can’t trust a junkie
Instead I bought injectable gold
The high is worth the world to me
I’m willing to sell my soul for a fix
Fuck over my own family
I really don’t give a shit

Withdrawals have me home from work
Staring at my mothers check book on the counter
Looks like I’m hitting up checks cashed first
To find the substance with the healing power
Now I’m off and running
It’ll take at least a month before my parents will know

Started off chipping at something
Before I fell into this black hole
My whole world is crumbling down
In a gas station bathroom
I got tackled to the ground
By what looked like a bunch of goons
New pair of bracelets tightly wrapped around my wrists
Boston police had me cuffed and stuffed
So much for fooling my family on this sobriety trip

Chipping was never gonna be good enough

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In Search Of Hasia

(Copyrite to Jack Kelly)

CHAPTER 1

 

Octavius always hated his name.  “What kind of people name their kid after a fucking Roman emperor?”  But he shrugged  it off and on this night, his name was neither a point of frustration or any assorted problem.  As Octavius walked on this breezy, but warm September night, he held in his pocket, that if real would give him everything he had ever wanted.  Octavius was 28 and had a life that seemed interesting to many outsiders, but to him it was a dull and purposeless jaunt through history.   He always felt like something was missing, no desire worth pursuing.

He loved this walk at this time of year.  He could hear a Jack Johnson song playing at a nearby bar and it had a calming effect on him.  But tonight it seemed to have a greater sense of importance.  After tonight, no longer would he have to think of his parents or his sister Jolene.  3 years earlier they had died in a plane crash and his father was considered a hero by many, because one of the passengers said he saved her life when she was escaping the rear of the plane.  And because of who his dad was, the “hero” story was spun and pushed out to any fool who would believe it.

Octavius’s father was a long time Congressman from Boston and everybody loved his dad.  Especially now that his dad was dead.  As he would always say to his friends, “America loves you when you’re dead.”   But the pain was very severe even as he spent most of the time hidding it.  The loss of Jolene was especially painful.  Octavius had a special bond with her.  Jolene understood him more than anyone on Earth.  One of the last things she ever said to him was “some day you will do something great.”

He never understood what it meant, but the motion of her lips and the espressions of her face were blazed into his memory.   He started laughing thinking if what he had in his pocket is what she was referring to.  But he knew that answer, because it was because of her that he ended up here, instead of a downward spiral through life.

When the news hit of the plane crashing, Octavius was at his sometimes on again, off again, back on again, let’s just fuck one more time, sometimes ex-girlfriend’s house, when he saw the news on the TV.  He was enjoying an after sex cigaret as he laid on Jamie’s bed.   See, Jamie was in some ways, just as twisted as Octavius.  He liked her for that, but they could never marry or really take each other serious.  They were not necessarily friends or fuck buddies, but more of a refugee for one another.

Octavius started to look for his shirt when Jamie started screaming and yelled ” O.V., O.V., LOOK, PLEASE COME HERE AND LOOK.”  O.V. was what she called him, not sure why she did, as she was the only one, but he yelled back slightly annoyed “What the fuck are you freaking out about?”

“JUST COME HERE, PLEEEAASEEE” she said.  Octavius walked slowly into her living room and saw smoke coming from the ground with some reporter on TV talking about a plane crash.

And then he saw it-

His father’s face on TV  with the words “Congressman Casey and his wife and daughter were killed in today’s plane crash.”  He felt numb- Jamie screamed and tried to hug him but he shrugged and pushed  her off.    He couldn’t stop looking at his sister’s picture.   He finally fell on the ground and started screaming NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!! He grabbed the TV off the stand and he hugged it so hard, he ripped it off the stand the plug almost got ripped out of the wall.

He thought of that moment and a tear slipped down his right cheek, but he was no longer sad.  As he continued to walk, he looked out at the beautiful sky line of Boston.  All he could think was how pretty it looked and how this will be the last time he will ever see it like this.  It will be all different after this.  He had an hour to kill before meeting his two mysterious friends he had met one week after the plane crash.  These two mysteries friends were really not mysteries at all, but two regular flesh and blood souls like himself.  Just trying to live the way they should have always been living.

And like them, he was now living the life he was always supposed to live.

One week after the crash and a day after the funeral, Jamison and Elisha knocked on his door, which was on  the North End Waterfront of Boston.  Octavius opened the door and saw two very attractive people outside his entrance.  At first he thought it was a couple assholes from the media trying to interview him about how he felt.  As if someone really needs to ask such a question.  Octavius  would just say to them” How do you think I fucking feel?  I just lost my whole family? Asshole!”  But something seemed different about these two.  He couldn’t quite figure it out, but something told him to open the door.

Jameson had brown hair and a rugged look.  Seemed to be about 34, give or take a few years.  Elisha, was exotically interesting.  She had hazel eyes, dirty blonde hair and was about 5″6′ with a slender body, and a nice smile.  In hindsight, she was probably the sole reason he opened the door.  His father would always say, “a pretty girl can cause a man to knowingly walk off a cliff .”  I guess that was one thing he had in common with his dad.

As he opened the door, Octavius asked what the two wanted with him.  Jameson, with a sort of twisted Fight Club Brad Pitt type style smile said ” Octavius Casey, Can we come in?”  Octavius at first said no, but just as he said it, Elisha gently walked past him and into his house.  Octavius looked at Jameson and he simply said “I know dude, it’s not fair” and then Octavius gestured for him to come in.

Elisha said, “wow nice place and a great view, must be cool to be you!”  Octavius was annoyed but also quite interested in this whole scenario playing out in front of him.  He said, “What do you guys want and who are you?”  Jameson and Elisha just smiled while looking at each other and then Jameson said “what if we said we could change your life and give you everything you ever wanted.”

Octavius just laughed and said “I thought I had a bad week.  Do you guys just smoke dust and walk around saying crazy shit to random strangers while sitting in their living room?”  Elisha said,” Good, one O.V., but you will like what we have for you,  if you can be patient.”

Octavius was confused that she called him O.V. since Jamie was the only one to ever do that, but Jamie had some crazy friends, so it was completely logical she told one of her crazy friends about him and her endearing nickname for him.

But, seriously even if so, why would these two people come over here?  To taunt him with some dumb nickname as he just buried his parents?  It made zero sense.  Octavius asked both of them in a serious tone, “C’mon guys, what is this about?  If Jamie sent you here to fuck with me, at least light something up so I can enjoy the foolishness too.”  Elisha, smiled and says to Jameson “I told you how cute he is.  Then she walked up to Octavius and said ” we have a gift for you.  It is a place, a state of mind.  A place you have been searching for all of your life.  You can’t go yet, but soon, if you are patient we will take you with us.  But on one condition; you never tell anyone that you met us, ok?”

Octavius was irritated by this.  Sure it was intriguing, but what kind of bullshit was this?  Who was this little fucking girl to walk in his house and start saying crazy shit like this, while at the same time being totally memorizing?   Octavius replied harshly ” What place?  when, where?  This makes no sense.  Just speak in in English!!!  Damm it”

Elisha then said “Octavius, just trust us.  We were just as surprised by this as you are now.  But, like you are feeling now, we knew we had to just go with this.  The place we speak of is everything you have ever wanted.  A place where no one judges you.  A place where you can love freely and pursue all of your dreams.  We picked you, because like all of us, you have the right spirit to join us.  But before you can come, you must realize that spirit within yourself and apply it in this world.  Once you reach that point, we will come back in two years and take you with us.”

Octavius was somehow riveted by Elisha and he had no idea why, but he believed her, even if he didn’t realize what or where he was suppose to believe he could be going or what it was.  Finally Jameson jumped in “You should believe her man.  It is all true.  Octavius then says “Ok, Ok, even if I do believe there is some place that has all of this cool shit, whatever that cool shit maybe or means to me, where is it and what is it called?”

Elisha said “It is called Hasia!”

“It is of this world and very real, but like all of us who live there, you have to earn entrance.”

Then Jameson says to Octavius ” we will call you in about a year, if it ends up working out and talk once again.  O, ya, shit, I forgot to mention this.  But Octavius, there is one thing we can tell you.  I knew Jolene before I went to Hasia.  She helped me get there. Just follow her advice and go become great like she said you would be.”

And with that Elisha and Jameson walked out of his house.  Elisha looked back at Octavius and gave a reassuring, yet tender smile that made him feel oddly comforted, if one could be after such a barmy encounter.  As Octavius closed the door, he walked over to the couch and laid down facing the ceiling.  He was exhausted, drained, confused, sad and lost.

As Octavius faced the baby blue white ceiling that looked like the oceans of Aruba, all he could hear was his sister Jolene’s last words to him,

 

“Some day you will do something great.”

 

 

 

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World AIDS Day and The Fiscal Cliff

By Jack Kelly

As another World AIDS day comes to fruition and slides into history, it is important we rediscover our complicated relationship as a human species with HIV/AIDS.   In my lifetime, no disease or virus has had the psychological and collective impact as the “virus that causes AIDS” has.  The “virus” as it sometimes called, both negatively and endearingly depending on the messenger, has been in my life almost since inception.

I can remember the moment in finite details.  I was up the Boys and Girls club in Charlestown (a neighborhood in Boston) and the TV was ‘illuminated’ as I saw Magic Johnson on TV looking solemn.  It was On November 7, 1991, which would have made me 10 years old.  At such a tender age, medical details and situational circumstances of how Magic contracted this “thing that was making him look so sad and other’s around me stare in disbelief” were elusive.  However, the impact of that moment was persistently burned in my psyche.

On that fateful November 7th day when Magic shocked the world and announced he had tested positive for HIV,  it had the impact of a seismic earthquake in the collective psyche of America.   His declaration was pertinent for a variety of reasons, most notably for ushering into the fabric of the country and the world, a new cultural shift.

Before Magic stepped to the podium on that day and uttered the words “I have HIV,” the perception of HIV/AIDS was of a deadly disease that would never inflict a “hero” like Magic Johnson, or a ‘normal’ person such as myself.

Whatever normal is or defined by those who aspire to be it.

As time and I ticked forward, more details became available about the “Virus.”  As with all things born of ignorance, some  dispensatory information was flat-out insane and inaccurate.  But the basics seemed to reside on a few points; many young gay men and IV drug users were contracting the virus and because of Magic, we were finally seeing and being told that HIV was not biased.  Meaning, HIV is a truly bipartisan and non-racially caring entity, unlike us humans.  As a virus, it only concerns itself with invading the human body.

ANY-body!

 

Your sexual preference, political views, racial identity or musical tastes’ are not considered when trying to enter.  HIV simply wants in.  If you’re human, it loves you.  In some ways, we as a species could learn something from virus’s such as HIV, but that is a subject for another time.

After Magic, everything changed.  Doctors, community health centers, politicians, the government, both locally and federally albeit slowly, became fixated on the virus.  HIV/AIDS became the trendiest disease in the country.  Sure no one necessarily wanted it, but many, and for good and altruistic reasons, wanted to be apart of the movement.

“The movement” was varied and nuanced.  Some were trying to find a cure.  Some focused on awareness and educating people about practicing safer habits, such as distributing condoms.  Others were concerned with finding effective treatment for those who were HIV + and slowing the progress of the virus as to not cause AIDS.  But what all of these collective efforts had in common was trying to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Since the time of Magic, so much progress has been made in the fight against HIV, it is possible that all of the aforementioned efforts helped me and countless other’s from contracting it.

As any reader of mine knows, I battled drugs and more specifically needle specific heroin addiction.  How I ended up being addicted to heroin is a longer story for some other published time.  But the point being, when I was that 10 year old kid watching Magic up the Boys and Girls Club, I could have never known how much that announcement may have had on my actual life.

As a result of my addiction, I participated in every high risk behavior one could ever involve themselves in.  And yet when, by the grace of some higher entity that some refer to as God, and on occasion I do as well; I somehow  separated myself from the most powerful entity one could ever encounter and I was not HIV positive.

AND,

I was not the only one.  Many other journey challenged souls also were negative.  But how?  We had just engaged  in one of the worst drug epidemics in American history and no one was HIV +?  I mean, it’s not like we were specially immune individuals incapable of  contracting anything.  After all, I did have Hepatitis C and many of them did as well.  So how did such a miraculous thing occur?

Turns out, nothing miraculous occurred, at least not in the biblical sense of the word.  The ‘miracle,’ was actually cold hard cash and people power that had been dedicated to solving the many issues the HIV/AIDS outbreak caused.  Because activists, donations and most importantly, the government made fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS a priority, people such as myself are allowed to continue the journey of life without HIV/AIDS.  In addition, those who do have it, are allowed to live a full and promising life because of the medical advancements.

HIV is no longer a death sentence.

In my title, I mentioned the “Fiscal Cliff.”  It is a political term concerning a budget fight between President Obama and congress.  Without boring you with all of the details, the fiscal cliff, if not averted will cut billions of dollars from programs and automatically raise everyone’s taxes to pre-Bush levels.

One particular item that will be dramatically effected will be funding for all of those aforementioned life saving,  HIV/AIDS programs.  According to the Boston based group ACT UP, “more than half a billion dollars ($659 million) from domestic HIV/AIDS programs that fund services such as HIV counseling, testing, case management, nutritional and housing assistance. And Massachusetts is facing state level cuts amounting to $5 million, which will decimate state HIV/AIDS programs. In Massachusetts alone there are an estimated 28,000 people living with HIV and over 650 new HIV diagnoses each year.”

Specifically, this means those who are poor or lower middle class, will have a difficult time receiving their medicine, thus allowing HIV to develop more rapidly into AIDS.  So beside the obvious moral imperative, cutting these programs will halt the progress we have made as a society in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and helping those who have it.

Solving the fiscal crisis of our country is important for a variety of reasons, but doing anything but increasing funding for HIV/AIDS programs is illogical and immoral.  (What would Jesus do????)

Over 21 years ago as an innocent 10 year old boy, I watched a basketball legend announce he had HIV and it seemed likely he would soon die.  But not only is Magic still alive, but he is thriving and inadvertently saved my life and millions of others.

Don’t let DC cut those programs.  Who knows, it may save your son or daughters life someday.  Strange how this thing called life sometimes works.

 

 

Now enjoy this classic U2 song about a girl who was hooked on heroin, called “Running to Stand Still/Dirty Old Town” Live in Dublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

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