It is something not often spoken of seriously and, as this is a work of
fiction, some seriousness may be missing from the pages that follow.
But, this thing, kids and young adults locked up in jail, is quite real,
and ultimately quite tragic. But along the way, between awareness and
tragedy, there is a great deal of humanity, pathos, complexity and even
humor. It is these things that occupy the walls of the Crowbar Hotel and
are captured herein.
Soon, you will meet Sammy. Sammy could be anyone of thousands of kids
born into a world of urban poverty, drug addiction and neglect. Used and
abused at home, such children hide from stoned and violent adults who
often grew up the same way themselves. School isn’t too important,
especially when there is a need for petty thefts, drug trafficking,
welfare dodges and the demands of social workers, parole agents and
It is a great day that goes unnoticed as such when kids like Sammy come
to jail and go to school; when they eat well and sleep clean and safe.
From this, perhaps even opportunity and transformation can take hold,
providing that teachers and others nurture the process.
There is another phenomenon at the Crowbar Hotel too. What about the
kids who have never had much school, became successful in their own way,
and then get arrested and wind up in jail? Let’s say that a very
pretty girl, maybe two, drift into the oldest profession… at age 13,
did well for a few years and then re-entered school as high school
seniors with sixth grade skills? Having done so well, as they certainly
thought they had, how can a high school teacher sell the virtues of
education as the ticket to a good life? Not usually easy!
And what about kids who regard the Crowbar Hotel as if it were some sort
of spa with bars? It isn’t even a matter of escaping the cruel
realities of the road, but a practical matter with annoying
prerequisites; in order to gain entrance to the spa one had to go out
and get himself arrested! For a high school teacher charged with the
taskofspreading literacy, such students imply many motivational
challenges! After all, these kids, two in particular who emerge often in
the pages that follow, really did want sort of a spa treatment! They
wanted a few months of steady meals, a clean and warm place to sleep,
enforced sobriety and some medical attention. Going to school could be
endured, if needed, to gain the other perks.
Perhaps the shortest distance between awareness and tragedy, the most
obvious and stunning, is the plight of many a girl beset by emotional
baggage and vulnerable to the deceits of older men. These older men
understand the utility of such girls very well. Such girls can be lured
into crime with only the illusion of love or respect. Such girls, if
arrested and sent to the Crowbar Hotel will do minimum time compared to
what the adult male might have to do in prison. And, because such girls
are blinded by the love they think they are getting, they are loath to
squeal on their men.
As these girls get used to their new surroundings at the Crowbar Hotel,
the boyfriend is long gone, sometimes with the booty realized from the
last crime. Demoralized from this realization, some girls just give up
and give in to a life without esteem and without hope. Such a girl, if
in a former life was even an average student, may rediscover her
potential in school and even find a better way. But it is a tough thing
for a teacher to till such sterile and dormant ground in the context of
a high school classroom.
So, many a teacher at the Crowbar Hotel start out with the skills they
have in the 3 Rs and find out that the prerequisites include oceans of
compassion, patience and more than the rudiments of psychology. Some
teachers can do this well and some become burned out by those damned
kids and just move on.
Yes… they are damned indeed, by the circumstances of their lives, most
of them, and the Crowbar Hotel can do little about it other than provide
a brief respite and a peek at an alien lifestyle. But for some …
“Sclerotic, rusty and unused gears in Sammy’s mind creaked a bit,
and then creaked a little more. And then in the middle of the night with
a full moon pouring in through the bars and painting dark shadowy
stripes on his cell walls, shadows of the bars that contained him, the
gears completed their first full turn ever. An embryonic plan had
hatched and had started to grow inside Sammy…just a little.”
Welcome to the Crowbar Hotel!
Excerpted from "Checking in at the Crowbar Hotel" by Gary Delanoeye. Copyright © 2015 by Gary Delanoeye. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.