Brass knuckles, Traci Lords and your gun is for fun- how the army saved our lives

army reception docWhen  you joined the US Army, at the reception station, they gave you one last chance to drop in the Amnesty Box (no questions asked) all your contraband  — your brass knuckles, Oui magazine, num-chunks [sic] etc. — this was back in the day when soldiers would be escorted from the barracks in handcuffs for adultery, gay soldiers could get locked up, soldiers were administered Antabuse if they got in trouble for an alcohol related incident, when we ran our two minute mile in combat boots, toilets –20 in a row –had no partitions between them, a sergeant with two other troops would smother a knucklehead soldier with his laundry bag seconds before he passed out,  we worked out with barbells made of two coffee cans filled with cement with a bar in between them, you joined up with fingers orange from weed roach stains your recruiter telling you to lie because weed use would mean a meeting with a psychiatrist, dogs would run through the barracks on surprise middle of the night inspections sniffing for Amsterdam bought hash (Larsen Barracks, Kitzigen West Germany), we chanted on basic training runs I don’t know but I’ve been told Eskimo pussy is mighty cold and If I die on the Russian front I want to be buried in a Russian cunt, our SMART book (kept at all times, constantly, in the right cargo pocket of your BDUs) advised us to carry a small pebble in our mouth during long road marches to prevent dry mouth, we lit Kiwi cans on fire for a better polish, slept nude in those extreme cold weather sleeping bags, heard rumors constantly about saltpeter and undercover CID agents, called AFN Ain’t Fucken Nothing so instead bought Traci Lords videos at the PX before she would’ve landed you in prison as a Chester, had mo-gas blow up in your face in one of those field hot water drums, knew what lifer stood for (lazy ignorant, etc), knew the maximum effective range of an excuse, wore our gas masks in the field outhouses, got stuffed, really really stuffed in actual cattle cars when we were transported around.

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The real disaster of bureaucracy during Hurricane Sandy; an insider’s glimpse

On Monday during Sandy I worked a 19 hour shift for OEM (medic like stuff) at the evacuation shelter for medical needs at John Jay College west side in the 50s – didn’t handle many many people but there were so so many supplies, tons and tons of everything – food, water, med supplies, personal hygiene stuff, blankets, everything, pallets and pallets of the stuff.

And some school shelters serving as evac centers turned into and remain real homeless shelters for a real hardcore dysfunctional homeless population; same problem I wrote about last year during Irene   no-seinfeldian-glee-temporary-storm-shelter-john-jay?page=all  (okay I suck at a lot but I’m  good at a few things, this being one, so I single handedly was able to  clear the whole homeless population from Norman Thomas high school last year so it could open the next day).  That’s not a policy, that’s one guy with street charisma on a mini martyr trip who happened to be volunteering.   And non homeless folk are not going to want to share evac shelters with serious homeless people during a future disaster, even on just simple hygiene issue problems.  Evacuees  were faking illness this year to move into the nicer med evac center area rather than stay in general population.

On Thursday I went to the Lower East Side/Chinatown on my own, by Jacob Riss school, Catherine Street, near the East river (supposed to be an evac center but it never happened, not sure why, no Tues it’s still closed, presumably because of damage).

Insane – hundreds and hundreds of people lined up (Chinese and black and Latino folk from the nearby Smith projects) for promises of food and water for hours and hours, holding buckets and pots for water– they had nothing, little children and old people filling up and drinking out of fire hydrants, small children half naked using the streets as a toilet, old Chinese women burning newspapers in large flaming cans in the streets — absolutely no one there (volunteers, OEM, FEMA, city – FEMA had one big truck elsewhere in Chinatown, all they had was a power strip to charge phones for people) — nobody there to give them anything or tell them anything, know one knew anything – only a huge police presence at the distribution center and one man from the Salvation Army doing nothing (all those supplies from John Jay and likely the same supplies at many other evac shelters in upper Manhattan that didn’t need them – they could have easily been positioned or sent down there to LES/Chinatown if there was any proper or good coordination).

Up by blacked out 1st ave and the 20s in Manhattan where I live here was a one legged man in a wheelchair seemingly disoriented in a traffic. Turns out he was three days without the heavy methadone dose he takes daily (think he said 150 mgs) and also Xanax – withdrawing, weak, freaking out, crowds of people he couldn’t navigate through. He said he needed to get to Bellevue for the methadone; I pushed him like 12 blocks hard to even push him through all that chaos and when we got to Bellevue he saw the people who run the program in the lobby – they told him the program was shut. What do I do he asked? Um, I think you have to go up to Metropolitan hospital (in Harlem) and I think their meth program is working, they said. 100 blocks and many avenues. How am I going to get there? He asked. The clinic people, health care professionals said, “Um maybe you can find someone who’s going and get a ride with them.” Yeah, right. No handicap transport van, no transport ambulance offered, The guy was screwed so bad. I asked him if he wanted money for a cab and he said no that’s alright and I left him there as he was talking to them about how anguished he was and how much he hated himself.

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Grace Amid Chaos and Desperation: Medic Inside A NYC Hurricane Shelter

I spent 41 hours over three days working for the city during Hurricane Irene.  I wrote about it for Capital New York.

This is what it was like:

http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2011/09/3212810/no-seinfeldian-glee-temporary-storm-shelter-john-jay

heldman hurricane photo

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