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
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
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
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.