Perhaps the reader has been to the Crowbar Hotel before, but perhaps not. No matter; Crowbar Hotels don’t change too much except of course, for the clientele; those damned kids who keep getting themselves locked up. Those kids have so many names too! No one can seem to decide. “Inmates” for those who embrace the idea that kids and adults share the same responsibilities for their crimes. “Wards” for those who think otherwise. “Students” for the optimistic, and “clientele” for the undecided and politically sensitive.
This Crowbar clientele, young adults in the 15-22 age range, came and went and some did both multiple times. Some say these students had become harder to handle; more criminally sophisticated; more damaged and dangerous. Most of the kids seemed destined to be there; kids from deep in the city and deep into poverty, drugs and gangs. Often, all these things were part of the same kid; sometimes all it took was one. Sammy had been one of these kids, but without the drugs. He turned out OK. Most, by some accounts, do not.
Many of the kids, wards, inmates or whatever had lived by their wits and bodies on the streets. Some did well at this, or thought they had, like Denise and Yvonne. These teenage hookers, as gorgeous as they were dim, had for a while a moneyed lifestyle they could never have predicted, planned nor sustained.
Others, like Corea, did OK out there, but not for very long and never for very much money. Rolling old guys, blurry on beer, by knocking them in the nuts and then splitting with their pants and wallets, was crude, bold and effective. Corea was not yet 17 when busted and sent off to the Crowbar Hotel. But Corea turned out OK too, confronting her fears, pushing them away when they appeared and getting on with her life. And doesn’t that sound like what many people do; pushing fears away and getting on with it? Or at least isn’t that what we all want to be able to do?
But it was getting tougher to get locked up on purpose when before, it was just another way that some kids at the Crowbar Hotel got by. Getting locked up on purpose was strategy, guile and very often a damn fine idea too!
As the years went on, bikers like Harly and Rage would have become disappointed. They had been able to duck out on meal or bar tabs, their formerly effective method, get arrested and come to the Crowbar Hotel for a few months to dry out, clean up and fatten up on decent food. And, if they failed to get busted the first time they ducked out on a dinner tab, then what the hell? They just would do it again and again until they got arrested!
Lately, though, guys like Harly and Rage would have to endure less predictable justice and less predictable sentencing. After all, they had engineered exactly the kind of time they wanted to do; just enough to rest up and clean up… maybe six months tops, and then back on their bikes and back on the road. They really were quite brilliant at survival; thriving by the standards of their peers, out there on the road unencumbered by possessions, ambitions or conscience.
Other kids, like Dinah and Byron, were petty in their crimes but persistent and therefore annoying to the public. These kids had less to overcome on the road to legitimacy; kids that some just called “immature.” Dinah became mature and was OK. In many ways she always had been, except for a fatal flaw in her character and behavior that was beyond the pale of polite society.
Byron never would be OK, it seemed. He was absorbed by the streets after parole and was never heard from again. And for some, this was particularly poignant and tragic because Byron had a voice that could reach deep inside the souls of others and high into the heavens. And yet his operatic talent, trained and practiced for years, had been silenced by temptations beyond his control… temptations both consuming and ruinous.
Byron disappeared into the streets and his voice was silenced and he never surfaced again.
Excerpted from "Letters from the Outs" by Gary Delanoeye. Copyright © 2017 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.