Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New Life for Women (Feature Cover Story)

I won't say much about this one, except that New Life for Women is one of the worthiest causes I've ever seen. It was brought to my attention by my friend and neighbor, Debbie Parks, who introduced me to the people who run it. Debbie graduated from New Life several years ago, but not before the damage was done. She had cirrhosis, which turned to cancer, which killed her a few years ago. But she was clean and sober from the time she left New Life until the end. They're not just good people; they're the best.

Planet Weekly originally published this with all the women's real names, but enough time has passed, and I think it likely that some of them may not want their names bandied about on the Interwebs. As such, I've changed their names - out of respect for who they are, and where they may be at this time in their lives.

New Life for Women was founded in 1988 as a secondary treatment program for homeless, chemically dependent women. According to co-founder and current executive director Melanie Parks, women who complete primary treatment for chemical dependency – which consists of detoxification and about 30-45 days of treatment in places like Harbor House – typically return to their same places, people, and situations that caused the dependency, and are successful in maintaining long-term sobriety only about one time out of ten. Secondary treatment helps the women maintain sobriety at a much greater rate. Parks estimates that after 90 days’ treatment at her facility, or one like it, their chances rise to six out of ten, but she does admit:

“I don’t think there’s been any empirical data put together about that, but it would be interesting to know what the numbers are with the support systems established through an agency like this one.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

"Geek Flag Ideologies" (Column)

This one turned out to be one of my most popular columns online - and nobody made fun. It turns out that lots of our readers were geeks. Big surprise. It turns out that lots of people nowadays are geeks. And why not? Geeks really do make the world go 'round. We actually had a love-fest online for about three weeks as people shared the stories and admitted which Doctor they loved best. It died out eventually, as all good threads do, but this throwaway column became one of my favorites because I found out how many of these tough, mean-spirited Jacksonians proudly flew their geek flags.

Keep in mind that this was written before the tremendous Matt Smith/David Tennant/Christopher Eccleston "Doctor Who" revival, before J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot, and before George Lucas sold the "Star Wars" franchise to Disney -- with promises of new movies to come.

I might as well get this on record first: I’m a bit of a geek. I read science fiction and fantasy. I have a full run of Babylon 5 on tape. I swap Dr. Who references with a few fellow (possibly mentally ill) fans. I have pretty much every Batman and Justice League collection DC Comics has printed in the past ten years or so. I played Dungeons and Dragons for years (actually, I played 2nd Edition AD&D, mostly in the “Forgotten Realms” setting, for those fellow geeks in the know), and I enjoy dabbling in both the Star Wars and the Star Trek aspects of fandom.

I love the brilliance of Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, yet I can still put up with the overly purple prose of Roddenberry’s Trek, the derivative technobabble of Next Generation, and the insipid dialog of Lucas’ Star Wars.

Around the survivors a perimeter create, indeed.

"The Healing Power of Violence" (Column)

This one led to a message online that read, "I guess all liberals aren't alike. I suppose I'd better leave that big stroller at home." I responded that I didn't mind the big strollers, so long as he left them in the street with the other SUV's. A few months later, at an art event, I met the woman who wrote the message. She was geniunely funny - and had a ginormous all-terrain stroller.

As much as I would like to see the idea of death handled with a bit more finesse, I have to admit that I have a warm place in my heart for a spot of fisticuffs. I believe in the healing power of violence, the soothing joy of a butt kicking; I buy my cans of Whoop-Ass® 24 at a time at Big Lots. I believe that planting a fist six inches deep through a person’s face really does solve certain situations best.

As I grow older the criteria I use to determine who deserves a box on the ears has gotten looser. Times past, I’d believe in giving a drubbing only to a select few, but now I’m getting older and crankier.

Cell phone shouters – those people who feel that they have to raise their voice in the most public places to be heard at the other end of the line – well, simply put, each of them deserves a quick smack to the back of the head. Winn-Dixie managers who keep four lines open during the day when there is no one inside except the four cashiers staring at other, and then close all but two lines at five o’clock when the crowds roll in? The tried and true swift kick in the ass seems apropos for this situation. Those yahoos who cut you off in traffic and then immediately slow down? I believe every citizen has the right to act as a police officer in this case: pull them over, tap on the glass, and bang them in the head with a Maglite.