#daniel dart

What is your favorite place? Mine is on the third floor.

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San Diego State University, located in beautiful southern California, like most other big universities, has a giant library. It sits at the center of their campus, only accessible to the normal person by foot, right near the central food court. As you enter, you pass through glass doors before seeing a set of elevators that can take you up to any of its many floors. If you’re ever in the area, I suggest you stop by and give it a look for yourself. If you do, let me know what your favorite part is. Mine is on the third floor.

When I was 19 and 20, I would sleep there during the day. You see; I couldn’t sleep at night, not with how cold it was outside. I had to keep moving, keep walking, just continually smoking cigarettes. I would ask for change from strangers to get a 99¢ tall-can of Steel Reserve to help take off the edge and give me a bit of warmth. The cigarettes, most of them would be half smoked ‘re-fried’ ones that I would pull out of ashtrays I’d found in businesses smoking areas. I had my entire routine, in both the night and the day.

I would make my way to the back corner on the third floor, grabbing a few big books as I walked through the aisles headed toward the desks they had tucked in the back. I’d pull the books from the same section, that way it would be easy for any passerby to instantly recognize what I was ‘cramming’ for. As I got to the desk, I would open the books to similar chapters as if that was the exact part I was studying; it had to be self-explanatory. It had to be. I couldn’t risk losing the safest place I had to sleep. It was the only spot I had where I could disappear for a few hours in total safety. 

After opening the books, and laying them out just right, I would then take a few of the chairs and push them next to each other, this way I could tip over on my side and get comfortable so I could partially lie down. Then, when I had the scene set up perfectly, I would softly close my eyes and drift off to sleep. If anyone asked, I would say I was cramming for a big test all-night and just dozed off. I couldn’t help it I’d say; I was just another college kid working hard to pass the big test.

I did this off and on for over a year, and it must’ve worked, because no one ever bothered me, questioned me, or woke me up. I like to think it was because I had them fooled, but for all I know, there was a librarian there who knew exactly what I was – a homeless kid who wanted nothing more than a little space to sleep, and the safety to do it. I didn’t go to the university, but I kept my few pieces of clothing – and the canned food I got from the church down the street – tucked away behind a dumpster a few blocks from the campus. On some nights, I would lie behind that same dumpster, with a shirt wrapped around a rock I used as a pillow, and just sleep there. But, I would never get the good safety type of sleep behind the dumpster, it wasn’t anywhere near the feeling of those desks in that back corner.

I think about that library often. One day I will go back there and see if the same desks, and the same chairs are in the same spot – next to the same books. I wonder; is there another abandoned kid who finds shelter in there today? Is there another broken soul that a librarian looks after without anyone ever knowing?  I hope not. I hope the kid can find a real home to sleep in, a real place to be safe to be. That would be so much better.  

It hasn't even been 3 years yet.

Photo: Chris Swainston

It hasn’t even been 3 years yet. As a matter of fact, it’s been exactly 30 months since I came home. Wow. It feels like it was yesterday – at the same time it’s like nothing more than a dream, one you can’t seem to put your finger on. Waking up in the middle of night, sweating and short of breath, you swear it was real, only to find yourself lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling.

I still don’t feel like I’m safe. I still find myself having mild panic attacks, all alone in the middle of a crowded room. I find myself reminiscing about the ‘yard’ and the fellas on it. I find myself both lost and renewed at the same time.

When I was first in LA County Jail almost 6 years ago, an older inmate described to me the hardest thing for him accept about himself, was that after spending years in prison earlier in life, he came to the realization that some of the best times in his life were behind bars. He told me that when he looked back on his life, he looked at some of those times so fondly that he’d sometimes wish he could go back there to live them again for the first time. To appreciate them for the great times they were. I never thought I’d ever be able to relate to this on a level where I might agree. In this, as well as many other things in life, I was wrong. He was right – sometimes I too miss the times on the yard.

I don’t look back on my life as I thought I would when I was a child. Reflecting on my accomplishments and my achievements, it is not the awards I am most proud of. It is my ability to get beaten up – emotionally, physically, and mentally – and still hold my chin up high that I’m most proud of. I sure can take a hit. I can withstand a beating. I’m not made of glass.

This is what I get the most courage and power from. When I get anxious and nervous, when I second guess myself and think I simply cannot go on. When I stop and think of how badly I have been beaten and ravaged, and how I’m still here. How I am still breathing and trying, fighting and scraping. I am proud of myself. I have not lost hope. I sure can take a hit.

I still search for tomorrow. I still search for love. I still search for happiness – for so many things that I find fleeting. I search for something better, running from something worse. I search high and low for something wonderful. Some days I do it with a smile on my face and some days with a frown, but I do it everyday. That’s why I’m proud of who I am today. I have not given up.

I sit here in my apartment – typing and thinking – utterly at peace. I have exactly what I have been searching for tonight. I hope you too can say the same. I want you to be happy. I want you to find peace, and I want you to find love.

Life is the journey; love the destination.

I hope we both find our way there.  You’re not made of glass either.

 

For me the glass is never half full… OR empty.

I can’t do the philosophical things that some people can. It’s just not how my brain works. I search for more than “questions.” I search for answers. I search for formulas.

I know when people ask if the glass is half full or half empty, they’re usually asking in rhetorical fashion, I understand this. But to me, this has always been a literal question. I have never liked asking questions just for the purpose of asking questions; to me the goal has always been the answers. The destination. I never get lost in the journey, although I do enjoy it, I enjoy the journey because I'm headed to the destination, because I have purpose and meaning.

So when I'm asked about a glass of water, I break it down like arithmetic. If the glass started full, then you drank from it or poured out half… then it is half empty, because it is now less than the original amount. But if the opposite is the case, and you filled it, and it only made it to halfway and have yet to take any from it, then to me, it is half full. This is how I break it down, how I find logic in the question. I can take it many steps further and explain to you why I believe my reasoning is sound, but to most folks, it just gets a little too serious. They explain to me this is not the point of the question. The question isn’t a serious question, but a question for "questions sake." They explain that it’s the process of questioning things that is the answer in itself, but for me, that just doesn’t work.

This is not the easiest way to be. It's why I find myself so often disconnected from others. They want to just play it by ear. I can’t, or shall I say, I don’t know how. I need some sort of guidelines. I need some sort of structure, even if it’s no structure at all. If you tell me there are no rules, then stick to that. I don’t do well with inconsistency… because I have found that few people really have matching understandings of what “go with the flow” means. What usually happens is I try to go along with the “flow” only to cross an imaginary boundary that I didn’t know existed. I end up offending people and then am told I should feel guilty for breaking these nonexistent rules.

 I over share; I’m told that’s a bad thing.

I want to be a man of action. I value actions so much more than words. Maybe I should tell people, “Don’t listen to what I say; watch what I do.” I might be better off. Because sometimes I feel like I’m not supposed to tell you what I think, because what I think might not be “approved,’’ it is too “sensitive.” But I don’t think seeking answers should be something that makes people feel uncomfortable. I think we should all aspire to better understanding, better clarity. My life is valuable, and so is my time. I have so many things I want to achieve. I have so many worries, and offending people over petty misunderstandings is not something I want to spend my time with. I want to worry about the big things.

I want to have a bigger purpose - this is why I’m always seeking answers. I want to find a way to improve the lives of all those around me. I’m living for me and for you - for all of us. For the children we haven’t had yet - for their children too. I need to make a plan for this, and I need answers. I do not have the time to just sit around and question things, I must find out which questions need answers; then find out how we’re going to answer those questions.

I do not need to know what “one hand clapping” sounds like. That is something someone else can think about. It does need feed the poor, nor clothe the needy. And it reminds me of the first question which sparked this piece: the glass full of water. And for me it comes down to this… I do not care if your glass of water is half full or half empty; all I care about is that the water is clean, and accessible to all. So next time someone asks you, I hope you say the same thing. Instead of questioning whether it’s full or empty, we question why everyone doesn’t have a glass? (I promise I’ll go with the flow if it helps us answer that question.)

Written by: Daniel Dart

The sound of my heartbeat.

I think my heart might beat right through my chest…

BOOM – BOOM – BOOM

My legs can’t carry me any faster. I’m pushing myself harder than I ever have before. But why? It’s like my mind has no control over my body, my legs. I’m running.

I’m in the desert somewhere but am not sure where. It is like an old roadrunner cartoon. I’m racing. Something is chasing me. As it gets closer and closer, I’m getting closer and closer to the edge.

I can see the cliff on the horizon, 30 feet away…20 feet…10 feet…

I jump. I actually fucking jumped. What the fuck am I thinking! I just fucking jumped.

BOOM – BOOM – BOOM

I think my heart is going to rip right through my skin.

I am falling through the air, falling fast towards the valley below. My eyes are watering as I scream through the air, yanked down by gravity – a force I can’t control. I am going to die. There is no way I am going to live through this. I can’t believe I actually jumped. What the fuck was I thinking?

The ground is coming fast, I close my eyes and brace for impact…

Awake. Bolting up in my bed, I am soaked in sweat… again. I am out of breath. I look around to make sure it was only a dream. That is wasn’t real. That is was only a nightmare. I look at my phone; 3:13am. I’m still here, still alive.

But the tightness in my chest doesn’t go away. The nausea remains. She is still there. I just almost died from jumping off a cliff and the first thing I think of is her. Waking up from a nightmare, into a nightmare. I try not to think of her, but I can’t change the beat of the song. Drumming in my brain is her tempo. Bang, bang, bang. She beats in my head every single day.

She was like a song, beautiful with a magic rhythm. I want to dance to her tune every single day. I want to waltz with her in the ballroom. I want to save her from the dragon and climb the tallest of towers. I want to learn how to ride a horse, just so I can be her knight in shining armor. I’d do whatever it takes…then I would do even more.

I close my eyes. I breathe in through my nose, slow, deep, telling my subconscious everything is going to be okay. Trying to believe it’s all for the best. The future has something mighty in store for me. I breathe. The moment passes. I breathe. I slowly remember I’m an eternal optimist. I slowly remember that I do believe that things will get better. And I slowly start to relax. I feel my shoulders release the tension, my heart begins to slow and I begin to feel calm again. Because I remember, tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is another day, and I am not on a cliff.

 

Trump: An Emperor with NO Clothes.

“German tanks rumble on moonlit roads outside Paris in 1940, but the city still parties like nothing is wrong." - GOP Strategist Rick Wilson

In November we'll take to the polls, voting in our first new president in 8 years. Some will vent their anger - a disaster took their homes, a foreigner took their jobs and a politician stole their future. Their vote will be "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore – enter Donald Trump.

Trump has now shown up, and similar the fictional story, "Emperor's New Clothes", he has impressed the angry masses with his own beautiful "best of everything” and “wildly great success” in everything. But in truth Trump has nothing anyone wants, and just as the emperor "had no clothes" Donald is only his own imagination.

Now the voters will give the "job creators" a good riddance statement... knowing the 1%er's are now the only ones with anything left to lose.

Wealth is now created by legislation, our laws creating advantage to those few that have access. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Big business has been given local, state and national tax advantages.  Small businesses along with a shrinking middle class are carrying a larger burden, and with all of this upon us, the Naked Emperor (Donald Trump) has come in and seized the moment.

The Republican Party is owned by the 1%, the status quo that refuses to lift minimum wages, provide affordable college or allow you to install solar.  

Elections have consequences, for 7 years votes have had no value. But once again, this November, they will.

Obstructionism cannot be categorized as maintaining status quo, it is depriving those of us that do pursue, peace, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...as stated in our "Declaration of Independence". These are our "unalienable rights".