Found myself awake through a variety of circumstances, including a conversation with my friend in Australia (I think it was about 2 P.M. on August 5, 2013 there), as blue light began to filter through the blinds. So I decided to get crazy and drive some place high to watch the sun rise. I’m fortunate to be in a place with tall geologic features and tectonic-scrunched ridges to the west and east.
As I drove down Highway 12, I scarfed a banana, tore off the sticker, and flung the peel out the passenger window into one of the myriad vineyards along the side of the road. Heading up the side road toward a mountain county park, I was confronted with a perfect juxtaposition, two of our culture’s worst pathologies, on opposite ends of the spectrum–right across the street from one other. On the right was a ritzy, high-end winery with a huge ornate building reserved solely for tasting. Could’ve been a filming site for the movie Sideways. On the left: Los Guilicos Juvenile “Justice” Center and the Sonoma County Juvenile Court. As I drove past, I flung out my thoughts to them, pitifully, impotently, and gave them a lachrymose internal thought: Be strong, brothers and sisters. Be strong.
These young people, teenagers, go through some of the most hellacious things imaginable in this country, usually for petty charges–shoplifting, marijuana possession, fights–and then they’re thrust into this despicable, savage environment. From people I knew in adult prison who had been through juvie, they universally said juvie is worse. The inmate codes of conduct are supposedly not nearly as important. It’s chaos (the diametric opposite of anarchy, for the record). Stabbings. Rape. I’ve heard that every single person–no matter how tall, how big or strong–enters and shuffles through the showers with their backs against the tile wall. Protect your ass.
And then as these young men and women, boys and girls, suffer terrible loneliness and gut-wrenching anxiety about their next court date, their future, how their mothers will handle it all, across the street yuppies smell and sip expensive wine (the grapes of which are usually harvested by immigrants), and then spit the wine out. Then pay $6 and up for a glass of premium organic wine, and feel terrific about themselves because they’re responsible citizens. They’re doing their part.