Friday, April 4, 2014

The Body

This next story is one that comes from the same book as Shawshank but is something COMPLETELY different. When you think about it, it's more about youth & mortality. Coming face-to-face w/ life and death at a young age. Life's moments are revealed in one minute. This story is how one trip changed 4 boys' lives forever. From author Stephen King, here is The Body.

Originating in a tree house that over hung a vacant lot in Castle Rock. The four boys inside were playing blackjack. Playing for pennies w/ a nickel limit. Aside from playing cards, the club was a good place to go smoke cigarettes and look at "adult" magazines. There was Teddy Duchamp, Chris Chambers, Gordy Lechance. They were in the club on a Friday morning, dreading the end of summer and school starting. Playing cards and telling the same old jokes. In spite of his glasses & the flesh colored hearing aid, Teddy always kept his ears covered. One day when he was 8, Teddy's dad got pissed at him for breaking a plate. His mom was working and unavailable. Teddy's dad took him over to the big wood-stove at the back of the kitchen and shoved the side of his son's head against the burner plates and held it there for 10 seconds. He then took Teddy by his hair and did the other side. After that he called the Central Main General Emergency Unit and told them to come and get Teddy. After that atrocity, they had a hearing and sent him to a VA hospital in Togus. His dad did storm the beach at Normandy. Despite what his dad has done, Teddy was proud of his dad.

Coming in through the trap door of the clubhouse was Vern Tessio. He pulled himself in, he was COMPLETELY excited and out of breath. He seriously ran all the way from his house. Vern wanted/asked the guys to camp out in his backfield. That summer at home Gordy had become the Invisible Boy. It's been six months in April and Gordy's older brother, Dennis, had been killed in a Jeep accident. Vern introduced the idea to go and see a dead body. The body of a missing boy, Ray Brower. Those boys followed the story closely because he was a kid their age. Vern was under his porch digging. Four years ago, when he was 8 yrs old, Vern buried a jar of pennies under his porch.He was playing a pirate game and the pennies were to be his treasure. He drew a treasure map so he could find them again. A week or so later, his mom cleaned out his room. He tried to find the spot from memory. NO Luck! He gave up for the day but tried off/on ever since. . . . It's been 4 years later. You didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Thanks to this Vern had a nickname, Penny Tessio. He was up in the morning before anybody after his rituals. He was under the porch to have another dig at the pennies. Vern was under the porch hearing his brother and his brother's friend, Charlie Hogan, listening to them discuss the news of Ray Brower. After hearing them discuss it, Vern ran over to his friends at the tree-house. They tried to figure out the distance of how far Ray Brower had actually gotten. They were guessing 20-30 miles. Figuring that if they found the body, they'd be notoriously famous heroes. They figured they wouldn't get into any trouble when they returned because everyone else will be so relieved at what they find. Gordy's dad was retired. Vern's dad worked at the Mill. Teddy's mom had a house and took in a boarder whenever she could. Chris' dad was a mean drunk who was on/off welfare. But he spent most of his life drinking. Chris didn't talk much about his dad. We all knew why. Chris was really smart; but was always truant.

The year before, Chris had been suspended from school for 3 days. A bunch of milk money "disappeared" when it was Chris' turn to collect it. Even though he swore he never took it, he was somewhat stereotyped because he was "one of those low-life Chambers kids". After that incident w/ the milk money, Chris' dad put him in the hospital. Chris came from a bad family. Everybody thought Chris would turn out bad just the same. They had their plan set for the next day to find The Body. Around 10:00P, they went home to confer w/ their parents. Gordy's dad didn't particularly care for his son's friends. He thought his son could have better than what he/dad described as "a thief and 2 feebs". His dad thought Vern was feeble minded to be 12-yrs-old  and still be in the 5TH grade. His dad always judged his friends. He was 63 years of age. When Denny was alive, Gordy was constantly ignored. After he died, Gordy didn't exist.

The night Dennis graduated high school w/ honors Gordy played sick and stayed home. He had a friend's older brother buy him a bottle of Wild Irish Rose. He drank 1/2 of and puked it up in the middle of the night. Gordy couldn't go into Dennis' room unless it was a necessity.  He just kept envisioning being told that: "It should've been you, Gordon." On the morning of their venture, Gordy began heading out into Summer St. and onto a vacant lot to Carbine. He was heading up towards Carbine towards the clubhouse. He was met up by Chris who had his Boy Scout pack and what he would need. In private, Chris had pulled out a pistol to show Gordy. He had hawked it off his dad's bureau. It was a .45. Chris had also gotten the rest of his father's shells. His dad would be thinking he was shooting cans when was drunk. After accidentally squeezing the trigger and gun shot, it scared them both, "Gordie Lechance is shooting up Castle Rock". Chris truly didn't know the gun was loaded. At the tree-house, Vern & Teddy were waiting. They began their venture on how to get their. Taking the train tracks all the way there!

Planning the trip was easy, except for one thing: How were they going to survive and eat? They began counting what change they had.
Chris - 1.02
Teddy - .60
Vern - .07 - he hadn't found his pennies yet.
Gordy - 2.37
Gordy would try to make do w/ what they had. Gordy then put his hands on the tracks. TRAIN WAS COMING. Teddy thought he could dodge it. The others tried to get him off the tracks because he was being stupid. A fight somewhat ensued after Chris saved Teddy's life.

They arrived at the dump at 1:30P. There was a left security fence surrounding it. They climbed the fence and jumped over. The dump is one of the strongest memories of Castle Rock. It looked as though NOTHING belonged there. The dump keeper, Milo Pressman, was never without his dog, Chopper, at his heel. Legend had it Chopper was the meanest dog for 40 miles around. The most common urban legend was that Chopper was trained, not just to sic, but to sic specific parts of the human anatomy. Therefore an unfortunate kid might hear the dreaded cry: "Chopper! Sic! Balls!" Milo was a half-bright working joe who supplemented his small salary by fixing things people threw away and selling them around town. There were no signs of either Milo or Chopper that day. You could clearly see the maturity that Gordy & Chris had that Vern & Teddy didn't and that they lacked.

Gordy and Chris raced to the pump. Chris tossed Vern his canteen. Refilling their canteens and walking over to the shade. Talking about how great their lives are. They knew who they were and exactly where they were going. It was a grand moment in their lives. They sat under a tree for awhile just shootin' the shit. After acknowledging the time of the day. Vern seen they had to hurry for provisions before the dump opened at 4:00. They didn't want to be there when Milo or Chopper made the scene. So, they flipped coins to see who was going. The first call was 2 heads and 2 tails. They flipped again. This time it was ALL 4 tails. That scared Vern due to a childish urban legend that meant very bad luck. Vern sincerely didn't like hearing the story. Vern flipped his coin again but w/ reluctance. This time he, Chris & Teddy all had tails while Gordy showed Thomas Jefferson on a nickel. That meant Gordy would be the one going to the market. The rest of the guys would wait by the train tracks awaiting his return.

Gordon Lechance ran down the road w/ change in his pockets. He bought 3lbs. of hamburger, some hamburger rolls. 4 bottles of Coke and a .2 cent church key to open them with. The owner knew Gordy as Denny Lechance's brother. The owner knew Denny and thought Gordy was a spitting image. The total for Gordy's order added to $2.13. The owner thought it was $2.29. He thought Gordy was being a smart-ass to correct him. But, Gordy was being honest. In mistaken anger, the owner threw Gordy out w/ his items. He compared Gordy and Denny. ("Your brother wasn't no smart-ass.") Gordy cursed him and ran like Hell out of the store. He went back to his friends' location. He was about 50ft. from the fence of the junkyard. Almost out of the clear when he's heard/told to get away from the fence. Gordy ran like hell to the fence. His friends awaiting the other side. Milo yelled for his dog, Chopper to sic him. Behind him, Gordy could hear Chopper coming. He was able to quickly climb the fence. He almost landed on a laughing Teddy. At the same time, Chopper it the fence behind Gordy. After he turned around and seen Chopper, Gordy got a lesson in myth and reality. Instead of a huge, raving beast they expected to see, what the boys seen was a medium sized mongrel dog who was grasping at the fence. Teddy began mocking invoking and teasing the dog. Soon Milo Pressman came on the scene. Chopper soon went nuts. Milo soon went berserk w/ rage. Milo quickly soon identified who the boys were. He began taunting Teddy due to his dad was "a loony up in the nuthouse in Togus." Milo triggered and pushed Teddy's button. Vern & Chris had been laughing the entire time. Gordy had to pull an enraged Teddy off the fence. Nobody could understand and figure out why Teddy would put up such a fight for his dad who practically tried to kill him. Gordy couldn't give a shit about his own dad who hasn't laid a hand on him since he was three.

As they were finally leaving the dump grounds, Teddy shot Milo the finger as they walked away. No more was seen/heard of Milo Pressman and Chopper that day. After the events that had already happened, they still wanted to venture on their trek. When it came to Teddy, Chris did his best to try and make peace. He had a way about it. He tried to Teddy look at the bright side of the situation. Teddy's crying mellowed. It was only 2:45, but it felt much later. It was too hot and too much had happened. They weren't even into Harlow yet. They were going to have to make some REAL miles before dark. At around 3:30p, they came across the Castle Rock trestle.

Looking at the trestle, the boys felt a sudden fear. They tried to calculate 2 things: the shortest-to-longest way to get there and when the next train was due. Teddy wanted to take a shortcut. Gordy knelt down and took one of the steel rails in his hand. The rail was mute. They went out to the trestle single file: first Chris, then Teddy, then Vern w/ Gordy at the tail end. They walked on the platform cross-ties
between the rails. Chris & Teddy were a long way ahead. Vern was tottering slowly along. Peering studiously at his feet. Slow-poking worse than ever. Chris & Teddy were almost all the way across. Gordy squatted down and made a fist around the rail on his left. It was thrumming like a bundle of deadly snakes. The vibration from the rail sank so deeply into Gordy's hand when he took it away still vibrating.

Gordy's last thought broke paralysis and he just shot to his feet. But, he did break the surface and screamed "TRAIN!" Everything calm fell apart and they just fell ran. Once Gordy began to run, they all started to run faster. Soon Chris was safe. He/Gordy was right behind Vern. Being halfway, they began to actually hear the train. Beginning at a slow volume and rising higher. Running faster and screaming as the train came. Gordy was driving Vern in a faster direction. The train was very loud at this point. Chris was below them at the right. Teddy was right behind him. The trestle began to shake at the train charged across it. They jumped. Vern landed full length in the dust. When the train was surely & sincerely gone, at least they knew knew when the next train was due. When Vern sat up finally, shaking all over, Chris thought they should enjoy the Cokes. They could've all used one.

When it was all over & done, they just laid back, not laughing about it anymore. Just drinking their Cokes and being quiet. Gordy's body felt calm, warm & at peace. He always seemed uncomfortable when the talk turned to Gordy's stories, although the others seemed to like them. That was the cool part. It was cool that his friends requested and wanted to hear Gordy tell a story. In his stories that he told, he always used rounds. Never bullets. Gordy began making up and telling a story of an extremely overweight kid that no one liked named Davie "Lard Ass" Hogan and a pie eating contest. After hearing the story, it was still bright daylight outside, so they went walking. It was shortly after 5:00P, Vern & Teddy were walking discussing after summer and life plans. Gordy in his college courses and the others in their remedial classes. It was like God gave Gordy something, all those stories he can make up. "This is what we got for you, kid. Try not to lose it. But kids lose everything unless somebody is there looking out for them." Chris was only 12 when he said this to Gordy, but he KNEW what he was saying. It somewhat scared Gordy because he KNEW Chris was RIGHT in his words of wisdom. He spoke as if he had been there before.

Chris stated he already KNEW his fate in life due to how others viewed him due to his last name. Chris Chambers. Kid brother of "Eyeball" Chambers and Frank Chambers. He KNEW an example of his fate when it came to him being made an example out of when it came to supposed "stolen" milk money at school. Chris NEVER THOUGHT a teacher would call or make him out to be a liar. It really hurt him to be betrayed by a teacher that way. He was in tears. Chris wanted to get out of Castle Rock, go to college and never see his dad or his brothers again. He wanted to go somewhere where NO ONE knew him or of his family's legacy. A chance to start out before it began. Chris thought that out of all 4 of them, Gordy was different. He had a chance at life, but him, Teddy & Vern drug him down. They went for another mile and then camped out for the night.

They were now in the woods in Harlow by this nightly point. After a fire was gathered & made, they split up the already bought hamburger and cooked it over the fire. Unable to wait for them to finish cooking, the boys ate medium-cooked burgers. They were good. After dinner, Chris brought a finishing box of Winston cigarettes that they split. No inhaling. Just drag & blow. Nothing like a smoke after a meal. They talked for the night. The kind of talk before you discover girls. Just shootin' the bull. After they were out and asleep, Gordy began dreaming of Denny. He was disoriented and could've sworn he was in his bedroom. But he wasn't. Someone was holding him in a mighty bear-hug, someone else was pressed against his back. Gordy wondered 'What the Hell?' It seemed to come from Vern. It brought Gordy back into the focus of reality. Vern was gibbering in his sleep w/ an equivalent of a prayer for him/Vern. Gordy was still sleepy and disoriented. A long and hollow scream rose from the woods. Vern was whimpering w/ his voice high and filled w/ tears. He began to get closer to Gordy. They thought it was Ray Browers ghost in the woods. After some mild guessing, Teddy went looking for the location of the screams. Chris & Gordy stopped and hauled him back down. Teddy struggled to get up. The wild cry arose again, cutting the air like a knife, freezing the boys in motion w/ their hands on Teddy. The screams came again w/ a crazy ease through different octaves. Hanging in there for a minute, then down again, followed by a burst of what sounded like mad laughter.

Chris proposed they keep guard and sleep in shifts. They all agreed to that. Gordy got the first watch and Vern got the last. Chris began having a recurring dream in his sleep. Envisioning Teddy & Vern drowning at the local pool. He's only about to grab a couple of hairs or fingertips and down they go. Gordy was up and asleep multiple times in the night. With his last waking, Gordy looked at his watch at dawn. It was 4:45A. He could feel his body awaking for the day. It was a fine feeling. Gordy had some time to himself sitting on the rail tracks. He was in peace and about to get up when he looked to his right and seen a deer standing in the rail-bed not 10 yards away. He/Gordy didn't move. They had a moment looking at each other for a long time. Then the deer turned and walked off the other side. Seconds later, the rail of the track began to thrum under him. Gordy sat mesmerized. He never told anyone about that moment. That was one thing on the trip he kept to himself. The trains slow fright awoke the others. Throughout his life during tough times, Gordy mentally remembers and sets himself back to that moment w/ the deer. They were headed back on the tracks at 8:00A.

The last day of the heat was the worst of all. After all they have been though this far . . . . seeing the body of Ray Brower went from a necessity to a MUST! They went from peering the tracks to DETERMINED. A small creek trickled into the far end of a pool. Since they knew it would be gone soon with the railroads increasing, they tried to take a swim in it. Chris checked out its depth. After checking, they all jumped in one after another. Hitting the water was clean, cool & fantastic. Having fun and goofing off for 30 minutes before realizing the pool was FULL of bloodsucking leeches. They frantically pulled themselves out of the bank. Frantically pulling them off their bodies and each other. Gordy was beginning to relax a little until he seen the biggest one on his male parts. He tried to speak but couldn't. He reached down again and pulled it off w/ blood on his fingers. He began to cry. Eventually, they were all off everyone and they got dressed.

Ray Brower
They continued to walk further down the tracks. They were only 10 miles from Ray Brower's location, with 16 miles to walk. It would around 4:00P when they arrived. What they didn't know was that Ace Merrill, Eyeball & the others were on their way to the body as well. They tried and came by car. They were burning up the road in the Castle Rock to the Back Harlow Road when Gordy and the others were getting close. At about 3:30P, they found the Royal River. They got a second wind and went faster. The weather was threatening a thunderstorm. Vern screamed in a high, fainting voice. Gordy looked in Vern's pointing direction. He was w/ Teddy. He began to screech in excitement of seeing Ray's location. It would have been better to see the whole body at once, but they only seen a hand hand and fingers first. The rest of Ray Brower was coming.

Rain was beginning to start. All at once the storm came. They jumped to the side. Chris and Gordy were the first to reach the body of Ray Brower. He was face down. Ray must've been down there trying to get out of the way when the train came knocking him over his heels. Ray had been knocked out of his Keds just as it had knocked the life out of his body. It rammed it home. The kid was dead. Stone dead.

The boys turned Ray face down in the bad weather. Teddy and Vern stood right behind Gordy and Chris. The first to show show up was Ace Merrill and Eyeball Chambers. Chris was staring at his brother. Chris called 'DIBS'. It became a war who was going to report the body. It wasn't  fair. The younger boys walked while the older ones drove. Ace asked them to politely surrender." He/Ace brought Denny into the conversation. THAT WAS IT! Then Gordy told Ace to "suck my fat one. You cheap dime store hood." He/Gordy went dead cold. Ace was surprised. Gordy was really ready to fight.  But Chris fired the pistol that he hawked from his dad. BAM! The others were really shocked & surprised. Ace didn't think a 12-yr-old kid would shoot him. He/Ace stopped and retreated once he seen they were SERIOUS about shooting him. Ace was terrified. He didn't think they had the sac to shoot a woodchuck.

NO ONE WAS KIDDING!! They were BOTH SERIOUS!! In a fit of rage, Eyeball began to come for Chris. Gordy fired a shot in nearby water. Eyeball jumped back - cursing. After Gordy instructed them to leave, Ace PROMISED revenge. Vern came in first w/ a wailing scream. Teddy held out a minute longer until running after Vern. Ace began to grin. He looked at Chris a minute longer than left. Gordy stood his ground w/ no one but Ray Brower by his side. Chris eventually returned. Now what to do with the body? They were supposed to be heroes. They were different. Seeing death in their faces. Teddy REALLY wanted to claim the notoriety of this finding. NO ONE was calling dibs. They ventured on their way home! Ray Brower's appearance STUCK w/ Gordy. They got back to Castle Rock a little past 5:00A on Sunday, the day before Labor Day.

Gordy's head was pounding with a headache. They figured to walk across the tracks to get home. No train came. They took the same trek back without trouble. When they came back into town, they parted ways. First Teddy & Vern. Soon later, Gordy & Chris. The back door was locked and Gordy let himself in. The kitchen was clean and empty. He changed his clothes and cleaned himself up. He began to make eggs for breakfast. When his mom woke, she asked Gordy his whereabouts. He told her the drag race story. She told him of how she missed Denny in the mornings. Although he was trembling, the story never got out. Neither their gang or Ace's crew got credit. An anonymous phone call was the best thing to do. One day neat the end of the month while walking home from school, Ace and his hood caught up w/ Gordy. He dropped his schoolbooks and ran. Ace hit him and Gordy went into the pavement. Ace's crew wailed on him. His nose was broken. His eye was busted and more. Mrs. Chambers came up and threatened to call the law. They let him go and backed off. Aunt Chambers came down and seen if he/Gordy needed help. She did help him w/ aftercare from Ace. Although slowly, Gordy managed to get home. His parents took him to the doctor. He was given some painkillers for his pain. When he got to the doctor, Gordy didn't give up any names. Chris was bleeding from both ears. He had a temporary sling across his chest. Billy laid into Vern when he got home knocking him unconscious. Three of them caught Teddy on the way home. He was punched and had broken glasses. The 4 of them (Gordy, Chris, Teddy &Vern) stuck together at school for awhile.

When everything healed, the boys seen less-and-less of each other. Vern & Teddy drifted away. They took command of younger kids. Vern was killed in a house fire in 1961. In 1971, Teddy was killed in a car crash. Chris enrolled in the college courses in his junior year. He couldn't take the hounding from other people. Both he and Gordy studied every night. He eventually went to college and became a lawyer. Near the end of 1971, Chris was in a restaurant. Just ahead of him, 2 men began arguing. One of them pulled a knife. Chris tried to make peace. He was stabbed in the throat and died almost instantly. Gordy was teaching high school English. When he heard news of Chris, he cried for him alone. Although he hadn't seen him in almost 20 years, Gordy will forever miss his friend. He never had any friends again like ones he had when he was 12. Jesus, does anyone?

In 1986, a coming of age CLASSIC film was made based on this story. It was directed by Rob Reiner. The film starred Wil Wheaton as Gordy, River Phoenix as Chris, Corey Feldman as Teddy, Jerry O'Connell as Vern (Verno) and Kiefer Sutherland as Ace.

 This book and the film are BOTH INCREDIBLY REMARKABLE!!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

This story comes from a book that holds a collection of short stories. From an author that has become a one-of-a-kind CLASSIC, Stephen King, here is the story of how "some birds just can't be caged. Their feathers are just too bright." This is the story of Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption. Narrating this story is Lloyd Ellis "Red" Redding. He came to Shawshank prison in 1925 when he was just 20 years old. He was different from all of the other inmates. He committed murder. But he hadn't planned on getting caught. He was given 3 life sentences, one to run right after another. While his crime was a truly heinous one, it is also in the past. It wasn't so much about rehabilitating himself, but more of adapting to his surroundings. Sometimes you can get used to just about anything if you have to!

Red has been at Shawshank for nearly 40 years of his life sentence. He has been "the guy who can get it for you." It may include time in solitary confinement, but it's the risk you take when you're the guy who can get it. Why does he do it? He has a reputation and he wants to keep it. He will help bring in what they wish - within reason. Yes sir, Red is a regular Sears & Roebuck. He begins to tell the story of an actual innocent inmate, Andy Dufrense, who was found guilty of murdering his wife and the fellow she was cheating with.

Andy came to Shawshank in 1948. He was 30 years old. He always looked clean as though he should be wearing a tie. On the outside world, he had been VP in the trust department of a large Portland bank. Andy's case came in Portland Superior Court was a big juicy one w/ all the right elements. Andy's wife, Linda Collins Defresne, expressed an interest in learning the game of golf at the Falmouth Hills Country Club. She did indeed take lessons for 4 months. Her instructor was the country club golf pro, Glen Quentin. In late August 1947, Andy learned that Linda & Glen were lovers. On the afternoon of 9-10-1947, everything came out to fruition. Linda told Andy that she planned to obtain a Reno divorce. Andy expressed "he would see her in Hell before he would see a divorce". Linda went off to see Glen Quentin at his bungalow not far from the golf course. The next morning, the cleaning woman found them both dead. They were each shot 4 times.

Newspapers dubbed Andy as "The Even Stevens Killer". Andy was/still is completely innocent, but ALL signs pointed at him. Andy took the stand in his own defense and told his story calmly, coolly & dispassionately. Giving his testimony, Andy spoke in the same calm, remote voice. If he cried on the stand or even raised his voice to the Washington-bound D.A., Andy probably wouldn't have gotten the life sentence he did. Even if he did, Andy would have been in jail until 1954, then released on parole.

Andy stated he had been drunk that night, that he more-or-less drank since August 24TH. He was also a man who didn't hold his liquor well. Andy took just 4 drinks a year in all the time that Red knew him. Red's commission for liquor in Shawshank was/is 10%. Andy told the jury that on the night of the 10TH, he had been so drunk he could only remember what had happened in little snatches. He had gotten drunk drunk that afternoon before going home to Linda. Memory is a pretty subjective thing. But, by midnight Andy was sobering up. He was feeling the first signs of a bad hangover. He decided to go home and sleep it off. Thinking about the matter of his wife in a more adult fashion the next day. As he was driving home, Andy thought the best & wisest course of action was to divorce his wife and let her go.

Andy turned down the defenses argument that murder was his divorce. He told the jury that the bought revolver was due to feeling suicidal. Instead, Andy threw his gun into the Royal River on the afternoon of Sept. 9TH. The D.A. hammered at Andy for 2 days.  The case went to the jury on a snowy Wednesday afternoon. They found him guilty. (If Maine had the death penalty, Andy would've been at the chair right after the guilty verdict.) Andy was condemned to spend the rest of his life in Shawshank; the part that mattered. Five years later, Andy was up for parole hearings. He was turned down like clockwork, in spite of being a model prisoner. 16 years later, Andy was still in his same cell. By 1975, Andy was 57. You get sent to prison for life. That's exactly what they take.

rock hammer
Red knew a guy named Sherwood Bolton and he had a pigeon in his cell. From 1945-1953, when he got out, he had that pigeon. He was just another inmate who had a pigeon, Jake. He set Jake free a day before his release. Red remembered the first time Andy came and got in touch w/ him for something. In the summer of 1948, Andy came around for a rock hammer. Andy had a reputation for being a snob and a cold fish. People were already saying Andy thought he was better than most. With Andy's language & dialogue, he could see why. Andy wasn't kowtowing to Red or sucking up and Red respected that. Andy wanted a rock hammer for shaping and polishing rocks. In his old life, Andy was a rock-hound and would like to be again on a limited scale.

The interesting item piqued Red's interest. Andy stated he had NO enemies on the inside. Red liked Andy from the start. This item cost Andy $10.00. He did explain to Andy the results of what happens if getting caught. When the rock hammer arrived, Red finally got the joke. It would take a man just about 600 years to tunnel through the wall using this tool. Andy had begun having trouble w/ The Sisters. After Red had slipped Andy the rock hammer, he didn't see it again for 19 years, but by then, it was already damn near worn down to the numb. During this time, Andy's encounters continued w/ The Sisters. He never said anything, but the abusive evidence showed. In spite of the problems Andy was having, he was going on w/ his life. Keeping up w/ his appearance and not letting himself go. Over the next 6 months, Andy spent ALOT of time in solitary confinement. The Sisters were after Andy the day he walked into Shawshank prison. He tried to fight the good fight until they left him alone. But, prison is NO FAIRY TALE.

Andy punched back and bloodied up the lip of of a big inmate, Bogs Diamond. Bogs promised to get him/Andy and he did. Andy went through it alone until he decided to fight. The Sisters didn't put anything forcibly into Andy, but they beat him within an inch of his life. Bogs was found in his cell badly beaten one morning in early June. Back in 1948, each cell-block, had it's own turnkey. A guard could have been bribed real easy to let "someone" - maybe 2 or 3 "someones" - into the block and even into Bogs Diamond's cell. Prison economics are on a smaller scale. A $1.00 in your hand looks like a $20.00 did outside. After the beating; 3 broken ribs, the hemorrhaged eye, the sprained back & dislocated hip; Bogs and pretty much everyone else left Andy alone. That was the end of Bogs Diamond. But it wasn't the end of Andy's troubles w/ The Sisters. A small break, but it picked up again, although not so often. There were easier pickings than Andy Dufresne.

Rita Hayworth
Andy always fought them. He would turn up at times w/ fresh bruises on his face every once in a while. Solitary wasn't really a hardship for Andy. He got along w/ himself, (which if you think about it, "If you're not fit company for yourself, you're not fit company for anyone else".) After he adjusted to The Sisters, in 1950, it almost stopped completely. In 1948, Andy asked Red for a rock blanket. Red charged his usual 10% and not a penny more. Five months later, Andy asked Red if he could get him Rita Hayworth during their monthly movie night event. At the time, it was Rita that was the pin-up queen. The prison administration does know of the "market" inmates use of their care packages. Rather have them quiet than an exploding inmate. You learn to make allowances. In May 1950, Andy's 3-year series of skirmishes w/ the Sisters finally ended. It was also the same time that eventually got him out of the laundry and into the Shawshank library, where he stayed until he left.

Andy Dufresne had a mystery about him. He fascinated Red. In May 1950, the roof of the license plate factory needed resurfacing w/ roofing tar. They asked inmates to volunteer for a week. More than 70 men asked. Andy & Red were among the names chosen. There were 6 guards on the projects, all picked due to their seniority. Instead of inside work, they could be outside in the May sun. One of the guards watching, Byron Hadley, who had been at Shawshank a long time, had gotten amazing news he was upset about. For Byron Hadley, the glass was always half-empty. While explaining his madness, the inmates were overhearing. The story that Byron had told was that his older brother had gone off to Texas 14 years ago. His family hadn't seen/heard from him since. The family figured good riddance. A lawyer called and informed him that Hadley's brother died a rich man. Oil wells and courage. Leaving his family close to a million dollars. Hadley was set to inherit $35,000 of it. To anyone else, it would be like winning the lucky sweepstakes. Anyone else they figured to have won the lottery. But Byron only seen the tax that came w/ the money. All the troubling chain that comes w/ acquiring an amount of money that large.

Andy layed out that game plan for him. Byron explained the consequences if Andy were wrong. Everyone understood it. So, on the second-to-last-day of the job, the convict crew that tarred the plate factory roof in 1950 ended up in a row at 10:00AM, on a spring morning, drinking beer supplied the hardest crew that ever walked a turn at Shawshank. Although lasting 20 minutes, they felt like free men. Only Andy didn't drink. He sat in the shade, watching them and smiling. They wondered why Andy was sitting back: Maybe he did it to be accepted. Maybe he did it to be free . . . . if only for a little bit. Either way, Andy earned their respect.

By 1950, NOBODY laid a finger on Andy the way The Sisters did or the guards heard about it. Andy went his way and The Sisters went theirs. Andy was now working in the library under an old, tough con; Brooks Hatlen. Brooks had the job as librarian due to already having a college education. He came to Shawshank in 1905, he was made librarian in 1920. His degree was in animal husbandry. In 1952, Brooks who had killed his wife & daughter after losing a streak at poker, was paroled. The state had let Brooks out after any chance for him to be a useful member of society was gone. He was a 68-yr-old used up old con w/ arthritis in both hands, probably couldn't even get a library card if he tried. Brooks was in Shawshank for 50 years. It was all he knew. In Shawshank, Brooks was an important man - an educated man. On the outside of the prison, Brooks lasted 6 months longer than expected.

Andy soon became Brooks successor. He was librarian for 23 years. Andy used the same will of force as he'd had w/ Byron Hadley with succeeding for an actual library in Shawshank. Gradually, Andy turned one small room lined w/ Reader's Digest Condensed books and National Geographic into the best prison library in New England. He did it all a step at a time. He took up a collection w/ a suggestion box. He wrote to the major book clubs in New York and got 2 of them to send editions of all of their  major selections at a cheap rate. Andy discovered an educational hunger for small hobbies and got all books he could on small subjects.

Andy began to write to State Senate in August 1954. Stammas, the Warden of the Prison, thought Andy was crazy. But he told Andy to go ahead, write the Senate. He would even mail them for Andy. The requests were turned down routinely until 1960. It wasn't until 1962, he received $400.00 and then $700.00 for the rest of the decade until the matter was closed. By 1971, it had risen to an even $1,000. By the time Andy left, that one paint locker turned library expanded to 3 rooms. If you couldn't find it, Andy could get it for you. Word got around that Shawshank was housing its own financial wizard. In the late summer and spring of 1950, Andy set up trust funds for most of the children of the Guards. By 1951, Andy did 1/2 the taxes for the crew at Shawshank. In 1952, Andy did them all. There was a need for Andy's services. They took him out of the laundry and installed him in the library. Andy was set up to wash dirty money instead of dirty sheets. He funneled it into stocks, bonds & more. All the stuff Andy was doing on the inside wasn't all that different from what he was doing on the outside. Andy explained the whole entire process of this funneling system throughout Shawshank.

On the outside, Andy was an honest man; straight as an arrow. Following the law to-a-T. He had to come to prison to be a crook. Andy was able to do all this work in the prison due to one reason: he worked cheap. In 1957, Byron Hadley had a heart attack and took early retirement. In 1959, a new chief and guards arrived. A new staff. For 8 months, Andy was just another con again. In 1955, Rita Hayworth hung in Andy's cell. After Rita, then came Marilyn Monroe having the ICONIC signature scene still from The Seven Year Itch. After Marilyn came Jayne Mansfield in 1960. Soon after Jane came the lovely Raquel Welch that lasted 6 years. The last poster to hang on his wall was Linda Ronstadt.

Andy said these posters symbolized freedom. Being w/ whomever at that particular place. A terrible thing happened to Andy in the spring of 1963. By that time they had a new warden, Samuel Norton. Sam's major innovation was to make sure each inmate had a New Testament. He believed in 2 things: discipline and the Bible. Sam Norton was the foulest hypocrite seen in a high position. He instituted the "Inside-Out" program. Under EVERY project - there was Norton, skimming off the top. Prison labor is slave labor. Norton passed thick envelopes under the table during his tenure as Warden. How the money rolled in. Andy was Norton's right hand in all of this: his/Norton's silent partner. The prison library was Andy's hostage to fortune. Norton threatened to diminish the library if Andy quit. The library would get a new set of books & literature. If Andy "helped" Norton, Norton "helped' Andy. Andy didn't see just how bad things could get.

Tommy Williams came to Shawshank in November 1962. He was 27 but had already done time all around New England. He was a professional thief. A married man w/ a 3-yr-old son. Life would enrich them all in Tommy's life if he got his high school equivalency. After his wife talked him into it, Tommy began visiting the library regularly. Andy didn't need much when helping Tommy. The important thing was that Tommy went to Andy and that he came to like him/Andy. Tommy came to realize how smart Andy truly was. Andy wasn't the type to tell him. When Tommy asked someone else, he got the shock of his life. Andy blew his lid after hearing one big budget of information. It came from a former inmate of Tommy's, Elwood Blatch. Blatch had been busted w/ a weapon and serving a 6-12 stretch.

Blatch revealed his plan of action that led to his committing murder. The REAL story of what happened the night of the murder Andy was accused of. Of course, there were inconsistencies in Tommy's story. After hearing this news, Andy went to see the warden. The Warden began dismissing Andy's claim then threw him into solitary for a month. He was patient. It got to be summer. Kennedy was now President. The Beatles were on the rise in America. Tommy Williams is gone from Shawshank. As long as Warden Norton was at the prison, Andy was NEVER leaving Shawshank.

Andy told/promised Norton that the dirty dealings are over. Norton sent him back to solitary for another month. Norton threatened Andy that if the deals stop, all prison extracurricular's were GONE! Andy will lose EVERYTHING. So, Andy kept up w/ the dirty dealings. But, he was different. He wore his freedom like an invisible coat. He never developed that prison mentality. Andy's dark mood broke around the time of the 1967 World Series. Red soon had an anniversary coming up; 30 years in Shawshank Prison; 60% of his life spent. Andy explained the life that was waiting for him and his plan once he gets out and free. Outside those walls, there's a man that no living soul has ever seen face-to-face. He has a SSN, a Maine's driver's license & birth certificate. Name of Mr. Peter Stevens. Red asked about Mr. Stevens. It was all completely 100% legal. Andy explained how/what came behind all of this. The logistics. He told Red about a hay-field in the town of Buxton. At the end of the hay-field was a rock wall, right out a Robert Frost poem. Somewhere along the base of the rock wall is a rock that has no business unlike the others. A piece of volcanic glass, until 1947 was a paperweight on Andy's desk. There was a key underneath the rock. The key opens a safe deposit box in a Portland branch of a bank. All under the name Peter Stevens. Creating a new life on the outside while still inside Shawshank. Red explained he's too institutionalized. He couldn't imagine getting along on the outside. But Andy made Red feel it was possible. Freedom was just over the horizon. You just have to walk it.

As far as it came to jailbreaks, they didn't happen at Shawshank. You couldn't go over the wall at Shawshank Prison. Red explained past examples of those who have tried and failed. When you take away a man's freedom & teach him to live in a cell, he seems to lose his ability to think in dimensions. More often than not, a con will do something on the outside to be put back inside. Back where he understands how things work. Andy was NEVER that way; but Red was. Andy had brains and he had heart. Warden Norton was DETERMINED to use one and crush the other. He COULD NOT do ANYTHING without Norton watching.

In 1975, Andy Dufresne escaped Shawshank and hasn't been recaptured. He doesn't even exist anymore. On March 12TH, the cell doors in Cellblock 5 opened at 6:30A.M. as usual. The inmates stepped forward and step up to the main cell gate, where they were counted off by 2 guards before being sent down to breakfast. It was routine as usual until the count at cellblock gate. Instead of 27, there were 26. The captain of the guards came down to Cellblock 5 right away. After re-opening the cell doors, commonly it would be a sick inmate or dead. Instead, they found NOTHINGLITERALLY! It broke routine due to Andy's absence. What they seen was what they got. A COMPLETELY EMPTY cell. After looking at the poster that had been on the wall for 26 years, they were in for a surprise. Norton hit the roof. You could hear him clear down to Records & Files. NO ONE knew what happened. Every prisoner was accounted for! Dufrense was locked up last night and somehow gone in the morning. It was impossible!

At 3:00P, Andy was still missing. Norton went into Andy's cell, just as he'd left it. His eyes fell on the Linda Rondstadt poster. Soon Norton began ripping it off the wall w/ a simple swipe of his hand. It revealed the gaping, crumbled hole in the concrete behind it. Norton ordered for him to go all over the prison searching. HE WAS GOING CRAZY!! As it turned out, Norton got someone of Andy's height & build to go into the hole. Red was sent down to solitary and stayed for 15 days. He spent that time laughing thinking of Andy heading for the Pacific. Beside the jagged hole in the pipe, they found Andy's rock hammer. Andy was free, but it wasn't easy.

Andy was in that pipe that emptied into a stream 500 yards beyond the prison. 500 yards. The lengths of 5 football fields. He swam through the most foul-able shit imaginable. At the end of the pipe, they found a set of muddy footprints. 2 miles from there a search party found his prison uniform. 3 months later, Warden Norton resigned. Andy Dufrense truly got the best of him. Andy had graduated from the University Of Maine's Business. Geology became Andy's chief hobby. Andy was interested in rocks and the walls of his cell. Red thought of the tasks/wants Andy wanted. Things slowly clicked. It took Andy rock hammers and 27 years. He worked mostly at night - late when everyone slept. Emptying the concrete pieces out into the yard from his feet outside. Cascading out of his pant legs as he walked. Doing this over a period of years. Tunneling through the wall would take a man 100 years. Andy did it in less than 20. Andy breaks into the sewer line, crawls  through 500 yards and comes up against a heavy mess at the end.

On 9-15-1975, Red got a postcard from a tiny town in Texas. A town on the American side of the border. The message was completely blank. Others remember and have tales of Andy. Some birds just can't be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. In May 1977, Red himself was released from Shawshank prison. The parole committee set him up w/ a job as a grocery bagger/"stock room assistant" at the local grocery. It was Red's toughest adjustment. Being on parole, Red thought to do something to go back in. Andy had a new identity and ALOT of Warden Norton's money. Red began taking Andy's advice on going to that rock wall. Get bust livin' or get busy dyin'. Red's new hobby was looking for Andy's rock. After taking the trip, he found it. NO MISTAKE. Red had/did look what was underneath for a long time. It was an envelope wrapped in a plastic bag. It was a letter from Andy w/ 20 NEW $50.00 bills. Red hopes and does join his friend down to their destination and shakes his friend's hand.

In 1994, a film was made based on the story in this book entitled 'The Shawshank Redemption' starring the 2 Most REMARKABLE actors in the film; Tim Robbins as Andy and Morgan Freeman as Lloyd "Red" Redding.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Laying Down The Law

This book is about how one man, who in matter of one school year, fought to keep the doors of an inner-city school free from a state takeover. He also fought to keep his students safe, in doors while trying to keep criminal activity out. With some detail on he met the modern crisis in education, here is the story of Joe Clark and how he saved Eastside High.

Joe said it best, something I have personally tried to convey to others, as well as, is also a FACT. The cure for ignorance is education. Patterson Eastside High School in New Jersey. A microcosm of the conflict, turmoil & violence in U.S. schools. That is the best definition to describe the ULTIMATE chaos of Eastside High B.C. (Before Clark) Bedlam reigned. The teaching staff was in a state of terror. The hellishness had been escalating at an alarming rate. (Since the start of the 1978 school year, dope rings, sex rings vandalism & violence.) At this time, Eastside was a disgrace! Joe was asked by the superintendent of schools, Frank Napier, to take over Eastside. Frank thought that Joe was the only one who could make a REAL difference. Joe Clark was too outspoken and too radical for many officials in the Patterson school system. Frank agreed w/ Joe's philosophy and KNEW he/Joe could put this plan into action! At first, Joe declined the offer.He had his own children to think about. With Joe's current position at PS 6, he could manage and not feel he's slighting either the school kids or his own. But Eastside, that was a monster. Eastside High remained a virulent microcosm of all the malignant forces in present day American schools.

Joe Clark
When the position began in, Joe accepted on account of loving a challenge and that his own kids would have graduated that June. Joe knew Eastside and knew what he was getting himself into. He loves education & a challenge. Joe couldn't change these kids' situations, but he could re-enliven them to dream. Shortly after arriving at Eastside, Joe tried to put himself into the shoes of his students. He grew up in one ghetto, spent much of his professional career in another. He overcame both. Because he accepted the challenge, Joe went to Eastside and created a school.

At the time when Joe took over, his BIGGEST problem was hoodlums. When Joe was being questioned by the Secretary Of Education, he was TRUTHFULLY answering their questions of his taking back order at Eastside in JUST ONE DAY, but it seemed as though he was being "ostentatious" about his work when he was being STRAIGHTFORWARD & HONEST. They seen that Joe's work was done through thorough management. Joe had visited Eastside a few times toward the end of the 1981-'82 school year before his appointment as principal became public. On his first visit to Eastside, on the afternoon following a conversation w/ Dr. Napier, Joe spent time standing unobtrusively in the school parking lot looking at the school building.

Eastside High School
The school itself, the damage, graffiti and more; enated desolation and was a reflective of the city's soul. Darkness filled the parking lot and the school became an arena for demonic activity and the building itself was a target for abuse and burglary. EVERY gang code, grotesque & obscene depictions, imprecations & denigration of students/staff and MORE! Joe stated to himself that it was the graffiti that was leaving the school, not the books.

One of the FIRST things Joe did that summer was confer w/ the head of maintenance for the Patterson school system and rented a capable sandblaster. Graffiti goes up, comes off the next day scouring that building clean. Joe was giving the building the appearance of respectability. It was VERY MUCH a matter of image, rebirth & pride. No sense in doing things half-ass. Before the end of June, the Eastside High that was so desolate was/is buzzing w/ the activity of renovation. Trucks were always arriving and dumpster-after-dumpster was filled w/ debris. The building itself was/is to invoke respect, orderliness & decorum. Joe added amenities, because school for all of it's necessary discipline, should never become a place of drugery, added various forms of pop music to be played over loudspeakers. He had had plants placed about the building, a fountain & a penny pond in the main corridor. Joe spent hours establishing numerous new before-and-after school programs and clubs. As of trophies & awards, Joe had them cleaned and put back in a clean display case, and NOT in the office or a dark closet in fear of being stolen, Eastside's glory was back in the glass cabinet. Keeping quiet about your plans is a better tactic than telling your plans and having them ruined and all shot to Hell.

To begin the job at Eastside, Joe assiduously studied the staff and seen he HAD to regroup w/ a WHOLE NEW set. He prefers to work w/ women, believing on the whole women are more likely to see the sense in complete loyalty to him & his program. Not every staff member was new. Joe needed some people who were familiar w/ all of the intricacies of Eastside's administration. One had been Joe's chief assistant at PS 6 and one was as able as any administrator in the system. Another woman was a veteran of Eastside and had distinguished herself as the Head Of the Science Dept. Joe was there every day for anyone in the building or connected w/ the building. NOTHING was to surpass Joe during business hours. The chain of command was to BE IN EFFECT unless a DIRE EMERGENCY. Joe wanted the staff to be accessible. He wanted them out patrolling the halls and at least half as visible as he would be. He promised the staff/teachers that as long as they did the job, he/she would have his FULL SUPPORT.

Joe was tired of the way things were run. At Eastside,  they tried it their way for years, AS OF NOW, THAT WAS OVER!! The new rules were to be ENFORCED without exception. By August, Joe was able to mail his staff and teaching corps. the newly drawn up Eastside High School Suspension Policy for the upcoming year. Each student received a copy on the first day of classes, and duplicates were posted throughout the building. Something Joe merited to be discipline were hats. Hats lead to murdered youth because the hat identified them to a particular gang. Others disagreed. Joe was outraged and gave some examples of his meanings. He also informed the teachers of his plan to make them his assistants for in-building security, which surprised and worried them. Joe presented the staff w/ a dress code that was not universally appreciated.The staff didn't quite trust Joe yet. There was usual skepticism & cynicism. The hope for change was gone. Joe was receiving death threats and he KNEW more were to come.

On Joe Clark's first day, bullhorn in hand, he was inwardly excited about his first day as Eastside principal. The school had been CLEANED & SHINED. Teachers were cordial and skeptical. Joe had NO illusions and no honeymoon period. In the past, it was the kids who ran Eastside. They had the power. Within a few minutes, Joe sent the message: Education was about to recommence at Eastside. The staff DID NOT like Joe Clark taking charge. Directing the students where they needed to get to! When the students arrived, they seen a lean man in a suit, standing like a drill sergeant, wielding a bullhorn and looking serious business. What used to look like a stampede was NOW a model of orderliness. For teacher, student & administrator, the tone was set for the rest of the year. A calm, firm tone of order. Teachers, on the whole, were astounded & appreciative. People were going to start to hear different about Eastside High. That first day marked the end of the Eastside High drug market. Joe's program involved making a fortress that drug pushers couldn't penetrate.

Joe began implementing ID cards and made sure the rule was enforced! It still works today! Drug dealers have been permanently shut out from Eastside High. He was about halfway through his first year as Eastside principal. He thought a teacher assembly was in order. Although positive change had been accumulating, it took several weeks for teachers to see the change and a newly established order. A change to slowly show results. Vandalism from different properties ceased. Drugs, alcohol & sexual assaults had disappeared from the school. Disruptive wildness & chaos vanished. For the first time in 20 years, the corridors at Eastside were quiet. Teachers began to unlock and open their doors during class. The staff thought it was prove too onerous a task for Joe and the teachers to make up in the in-building security team. After seeing how things have gone, they were happy with the change.

Bonds w/ the students grew stronger and promised a continuation of growth. With guards in the building, adults (teachers) are again in control of the building. The students are able to respect you now. They can listen to, and learn from someone they respect.

Learning and getting an education is what the great majority of kids want, and they do not mind the discipline it takes to get one. Now the teachers who cherish and value their work can now teach.  Don't think they're weren't teachers who challenged Joe. They saw it to their advantage to do all they could to derail Joe's program of reform. The staff was ordered to wear proper attire w/ jackets & ties or dresses and proper suits. He outlawed jeans, sweatpants & sneakers. Teachers who didn't care for the new regulations eventually seen the sense to it. Joe appeared powerless because teachers were tenured and could not be fired. (Keyword being - appeared) Joe offered and advised the teachers to apply for transfers in order to keep the peace and not jeopardize the revival of Eastside. But they refused.

Joe checked the staff's attendance sheets and each of their lesson plans personally. He DEMANDED PERFECTION w/ the lesson plans. Eventually, all of the staff's resilience wore down. Joe was prescribing a dress code because he wanted everyone to project an image of dignity, self-respect & professionalism. (For example: a slovenly, sloppy boy as an example of how NOT to dress. Self-respect permeates every aspect of their lives.) The kids are wanting someone to look up to. if they reject the positive influences, they're more likely to chose the drug dealer in the gold chains. Joe's standing policy regarding insubordination is a "three strikes, you're out". Rarely has he had to go there. Joe demands ALOT from his teachers. It is his duty and his responsibility to the students. He is an organizer and a fair man, came in w/ a plan and turned everything around.

Joe was EVERYWHERE around Eastside. Someone attached a pedometer to him and seen that he covered 22 miles on an average day just walking around the school. In addition to seeing, Joe wanted to be seen. He wanted students/teachers AWARE of Joe Clark and that he was everywhere. In addition to being seen, the principal has to be heard. The bullhorn has been Joe's trademark. He always carries it. It is to magnify the voice of authority. Other principals learned and follow the same technique/tactic.When chaos reigns the hall, he can direct and get order.

Joe waited to make a large impression, one of folklore proportions, if possible, upon the youths and their parents. The message got through for the parents to get serious about the children getting to school and acquiring their educations. When Joe took this job, he KNEW it would be a war and KNEW that the parents, if he could rouse them, were his natural allies.

Joe inherited a student body shot through w/ the diseases of the ghetto and the street, an infected student body in need of a serious purge. He did that by the absolute dismissal of 300 so-called students at Eastside. They were all expurgated. Dismissed and out of there FOREVER! 500 parents were there for Joe because every day, he was there for the children. They didn't know Joe, but they KNEW of the work Joe was doing and the change he was making. In some cases, his reputation garnered support. Joe went against the grain of a decadent liberal policy. For more than a decade, lacking administrators & teachers had been passing untaught kids to the next level. Joe began holding students back, doing it himself personally. He refused to allow a teacher under his tenure to promote an undeserving student.

Joe thought he would receive having to hear it from parents for that, but instead received massive support. They wanted and welcomed REAL education. One of the first things Joe did to reach out to the community was to formally introduce himself and his program at neighborhood churches. If you persist, you will survive. If you work hard and do NOT give up, though the obstacles are many and the road is hard & long, you can advance, you can succeed, your life will have meaning -even joy. Joe continues to tell of the education that is slipping in America and how easy things have worsened as time passes. People use facts & history as a point for a cop-out and just NOT TRY. GREAT leaders from various points on the political spectrum ALL denounced this terrible habit of self-degradation: "Why try? This is the life for us." and more identifying yourself as a stereotype. YOU CAN BE MORE!! The only valid hope is quality education and striving for it without the help of many strong families. At Eastside, Joe sees to it that education means more than just book learning. Eastside is a starting point for rebuilding an inner-city community. It is a battlefield to fight the good fight. In tempering tough discipline w/ benevolence, Joe more than tripled the number of after school clubs, increases & en-lived assemblies covering a whole variety of subjects initiating numerous extracurricular activities. Asking and receiving help from the community.

Parents NEED TO KNOW their community, each other and their school. That's what Joe Clark was doing. Not only was he restoring a school, he was restoring a community. Homes were abuzz with what was happening at Eastside. Joe Clark meant business. Parents seen change w/ kids. They seen what many haven't seen in a generation. Looking neat and being responsible was on the rise. Eastside was becoming the home these kids never had.

Although movie still, it's a clear description of Joe actually doing this
Joe knew when he took the job of principal at Eastside at times he would have to be the role of a somewhat surrogate father to his students. Every principal-ship has some degree of parental surrogacy built-in. One Saturday, Joe was in his office doing paperwork. One of the security guards escorted a young female student in w/ a problem. Joe recognized them both. The girl was sick of everything and wanted to kill herself. This wasn't her first time. She was referred to a special unit of Guidance Dept. called Choose Life, a program Joe had set up in the 1980s. It didn't affect her. Yet, she did come to Joe and he would NOT let her down. Joe DID NOT FUCK AROUND. He gave her a REALITY check he NEVER forget. (He took her to the roof of the school, told her to look down. She did as told while trembling. He reiterated the facts and told her to jump. He would have saved from the jump if she was actually to move forward. She was REAL quick to soon change her mind backpedaling to the center of the roof.) The girl went on to finish that school year and to graduate later on. She is still alive.

It occurred to Joe that this girl's situation was symbolic to ALOT of problems faced by teenagers in the inner city. At Eastside, Joe was their last change before being faced w/ the REAL REALITIES of ACTUAL life. He got involved w/ students lives both personally & professionally. Since he had been at the helm, Eastside has had a vibrant, on-going campaign to keep the kids in school. They drive the message home. One of Joe's innovations was the Virgin's Club, a support group that let teen girls make their own minds. It was a tactful ploy to bring down the rate & population of diseases and teen pregnancy. Joe also had to grapple w/ the proposal for a day care center at the school. After debating it for a few days, Joe was against it. He WAS NOT trying to keep things the same. He was making things change. He was trying to break the chain of early pregnancy. Joe had driven drug sales and drug use, all of it, out of Eastside High. But, Joe is NOT stupid. It's a battle he KEEPS on FIGHTING. He's on CONSTANT vigil pumping the message home.

When a student informed Joe, who himself discourages informants, informed Mr. Clark of another student hiding drugs in his locker. He went to the locker and made a request to the hall monitor. Joe asked for the fire emergency closet to be opened and to be given the ax. The halls went quiet and in shock. Joe handed his bullhorn over to another teacher and received the ax. He TOOK CHARGE and seen no reason to go/follow through. After 5 whacks and the door popped feebly open. Everyone was impressed and flabbergasted. Searching every locker and addressed everyone! No contraband found. His informant was mistaken. But, his purpose and determination was RIGHT! These students had something they never forgot: the vivid shocking image of a man, in a 3-piece suit, their high school principal, wielding an ax striking against the evil monster of drugs himself. When all was said and done, Joe apologized to the student for bringing suspicion upon him. You have to reach their hearts and turn them around. They have the energy, intelligence & the courage.

In the spring of 1983, still within his first year as principal, some concerned parents and Joe spearheaded a drive to institute a uniformed dress code at Eastside High. Joe addressed it best by saying:"They have Calvin Klein jeans on their behinds and nothing in their minds." He meant it to address those students too hung up on their appearence & look, rather than their education. Many more parents added their support, several claiming the expense was more than they could bear. Others cried of the freedom of choice. Joe drew up a crystal clear report and presented it to The Board Of Education. The Board applauded his efforts to implement a dress code until a committee studies the matter more. A parents' committee was formed, studied the question and opted for voluntary uniforms, promising to make outfits available at a set price. All seemed to go well. Until big businesses would be taking from the small ones. September came and Eastside students were in new uniforms. Joe took the opportunity to help institute the trend & dress code. He banned jeans, miniskirts & profusions of jewelry. He was denied! The choice of dress is still in place at Eastside. Throughout the years, they are winning the war. Students got the message. The dress neatly, conservative & casual. A businesslike atmosphere, where education is taken SERIOUSLY!

In late October 1984, Joe's third year at the helm of Eastside, on a Friday after classes, a fight erupted between a black student and a Hispanic student. Joe was standing in the outer office looking over a report when a student burst in and informed Joe of the fight in process. He ran out of the building and over to the fight. Joe pried his way through the on-looking crowd. He seen, stopped in his tracks, stung by the feeling that a bloody race riot was about to erupt. Just a few feet away, another black-Hispanic fight had begun. Joe entered the explosive circle just as squad cars were arriving, while on-lookers were along the street. Joe grabbed ahold of one of the fighters. (The police wouldn't let him handle it alone. Yet, later on, Joe received admonition from the mayor for going outside of his jurisdiction.) Joe took note of all the kids that were present. Several of the youths he recognized as novice members of a cult or a gang that was infiltrating the school since the previous year.

Joe had great respect for the Muslim community. Islam teaches you that you must work for what you desire, and that you do not drain the system. Something Joe is in FULL agreement. The students at Eastside were showing a new manifestation of the same disease that always lurked among the world's dissatisfied. One of gang, The Five Percenters, were so presumptuous as to call themselves gods (the boys) and queens (the girls) and give themselves names.

inside Eastside High
Joe had underestimated this groups influence at Eastside, and this violent face-off took him totally by surprise. It made Joe wonder, "Why begin and fight over words one has said, but you're not willing to fight for your education?" Numerous fights were breaking out in all sections of the city. it became a wild & shameful night in Paterson. One of the students moms called Joe and kept him updated. Joe was heartsick, as well, each time he thought about the effect of all of this upon the school. Two years of peace, quiet & academic improvement could all be shot to Hell. Joe was BOUND & DETERMINED for that NOT to happen. Joe thought of Dr. Napier's disappointment if the school should fail. Joe knew of racial turf between black & white, but NEVER viewed black Hispanic hostility as a REAL threat. Being principal of Eastside is a full-time job. Joe took a janitor on a somewhat tour of the neighborhood. Just across the street stood a row of 70-80 year old houses in severe disrepair. He pointed out that he can and will do battle against ignorance. Including fights neighboring from one town crossing into another. Due to the reigning violence in the neighborhood, morning attendance at Eastside, normally 90% plummeted to less than half. Fearful parents kept their children home. Joe KNEW he had to do something.

Joe was a realist and realized Eastside could lose all that they have gained. How could he properly discipline the wrongdoers if Dr. Napier, under pressure from an angry City Hall and an "I-told-you-so" school board were to waiver his support? There would NOT be any FEAR STALKS EASTSIDE AGAIN headline. Everyone thought Eastside would reign as it once did. Everyone - EXCEPT Joe. The police finally acted. They ordered loiterers to move along and spot-checked various characters. 10 arrests were made for drugs, weapons & more. They were providing the sort of preventative measure the community needed and deeply desired. Joe rallied together a meeting for frightened parents. He wore off gangs & violence within the school. If a fight were to break out, Joe challenged them to fight with him!

Joe seen that the students DID genuinely care for him. The large turnout at the parental meeting came to 300 parents. Joe thought it might be a display of faith in Joe and in Eastside High. He then went over the facts of the Eastside progress. He reminded parents that he COULD NOT do it alone. After the meeting, attendance by students was up 90% where it has stayed. The panic died down as quite as it came. There were no further incidents at Eastside. The police special patrol ceased on that same Friday. The Patterson 5 Percenter craze soon weeded out after these events.

Joe made a VERY IMPORTANT point on 12-9-1987 when he dismissed and permanently suspended 25 students there to waste time. The next day The Board Of Education demanded that they be re-instated at once, due to not following due process. Not only did he NOT follow guidelines, Joe also suspended another 41 procrastinating students. The media came out in force, several of them, stating that Joe Clark had gone too far and was now going to pay for his dictatorial methods. The Board focused on menial subjects instead of focusing on the REAL issues at hand. The president of Patterson Education Association vouched for Joe and seen what he was trying to do. Instead of focusing on the state's credit system of 110 to graduate, some students w/ 4 years of high school had 50-65 credits. But the media focused on "heartless Joe Clark who put out poor kids" or "Joe Clark won't heed his supervisors". Joe answered the Board's ultimatum by permitting 10 of 66 to return, because these 10 made efforts to contact Joe and continue their education.

The Board had NO DESIRE to compromise. They were determined to show Joe who was boss. Joe had to contemplate a middle ground of compromise. He announced to the media he would comply w/ the Board and re-admit the suspended students. But, they would not be permitted back to class. He housed them in the auditorium until they got alternate forms of education. The Board kept focusing on the students' rights to education. They avoided the issue Joe was initiating for the need for alternative education programs - entirely. Dr. Napier wasted NO TIME that Joe Clark wasn't the problem. It was for the lack of alternatives. Joe said he would be willing to compromise if the Board let him. He re-admitted 18 kids to class from the auditorium. That left 48 kids expurgated.

The halls were abuzz at Eastside w/ reporters and rumors. When he wasn't being hounded by media, Joe was finding himself surrounded by hyper kids wanting to know if Joe was continuing as principal. As he walked the halls, continuing support flowed for Joe Clark. It showed Joe that he still had plenty of allies, more than ever, if it was ever necessary to bring community pressure upon the board. Meanwhile, newspapers were trying to get the stories of the re-admitted students. With another 10 in the re-admitted returning, Joe moved all of these students from the auditorium to the library. From there, Joe extended to them the possibility of returning to classes.

Then something unexpected happened. An ABC News team that was part of the media blitz at Eastside, videotaped the doors of an exit chained shut that aired on the evening news. The fire chief and the mayor were BOTH furious. The mayor liked Joe and for what he has done for Eastside and all of Patterson. But he could not allow him to get away again w/ chaining the doors. Joe had that order placed for years, as an efficient way to keep crimes and miscreants out of Eastside. Joe knew it was wrong and knew he was breaking the law. but, Joe DID WHAT HE HAD TO DO ! Joe DID HAVE alternate plans in case of an emergency. A viable contingency plan.

Through a clever ruse of the inspectors, photos were taken of the chained doors in 1986. Joe Clark and the Board were brought to court and fined $1,000 for each of the doors chained. Joe was promised he wouldn't do it again. Now that it did, there was talk of him being charged w/ contempt. Joe petitioned the Board several times for electronically locked doors that could be controlled by a single switch in Joe's office. But, the Board's lack of finances.  If OFFICIALS got involved due to the chains on the doors, where were they when Eastside was full of drugs, violence & crime?

Then the following Wednesday, a shock since Joe came to Eastside, a student assaulted a teacher. After that incident, Joe decided to stop trying to compromise w/ the Board Of Education. They had better take their measures against him and Joe would give it right back in their faces. Thanks to the Board's involvement, chaos was slowly reigning again. Since Joe couldn't run Eastside, the way he needed to, he seriously considered resigning his position. Due to his threat of resignation, all of the pent-up excitement from Eastside burst into a huge display of protest & solidarity. The students began at once to organize a protest march on the offices of the Board Of Education. If the Board disregarded these necessities, then the undersigned were prepared to leave Eastside at once. The protest was scheduled for that following Monday morning.

The mayor was demanding for Joe to be held in contempt of court. Frank Napier suggested that Joe turn the big march of kids into a big rally for Eastside and for Joe Clark. He wasn't going anywhere. Dr. Napier promised that if Joe were to go - so would he! When Joe walked out on-stage w/ a baseball bat in hand, since he wasn't permitted to chain the doors and the Board won't help, "They used to call him Crazy Joe. Now they can call him Bat Man. He's got thugs, drug dealers and miscreants of all kind tryin' to get into his school." The rally was a positive & invigorating event. On that same Monday, a Superior Court judge set 1-7-1988 for a non-jury, contempt of court trial for Joe and The Board of Education. Staff members, teachers & supporters once organized a Joe Clark legal expense fund. On 12-23, The Board Of Education held a closed meeting to discuss the possibility of suspending Joe. Everything resumed on the night of January 4TH.

Joe arrived w/ his lawyer to a great deal of applause and vocal encouragement. He was accused of not following due process. He had 20 days to respond to the Board's actions. If he could not find sufficient reason to stop it, a suspension, if not dismissal, would follow. On January 7TH, Joe was in court for the contempt charge, The day before the court appearance, Joe received/accepted an invitation to the White House for a possible position in The Board Of Education or in President Reagan's Office Of Policy Dept. He turned the offer down. He wanted to stay and fight for Eastside. He plead guilty to breaking the law, and stated his reasons. The judge dropped the contempt charges, and pleaded that he follow the fire code. Joe gave his word. Case closed. This emasked national publicity. Joe continued the fight the good fight.

Despite all of the media attention Eastside had received over the past several years, they still work mostly in obscurity. The process of education is always full of obstacles to overcome. And the inner city environments increase the difficulty. At Eastside; they sink, they swim, they rise, they fall; they meet their fate together. One of the initial and most crucial problems Joe and the staff encountered at Eastside was the loss of actual classroom time. Before Joe, very little learning went on. Hours of lollygagging and hallway conversing went on ramp-idly. Joe came in, restored order, and set about putting those lost minutes back in place - learning in the classroom.

If Joe had stopped only at discipline, chaos would still reign in the classroom only to not learn and goof around. EVERY MINUTE TO LEARN AND TEACH IS BEYOND VALUABLE! Joe began initiating that both Mondays & Fridays part of the educational school work. (He meant that in a term because of the laziness or lollygagging occurring on those days due to the past/presence of a weekend.) He would no longer tolerate any teacher, student or administrator taking it easy on those days. They are not running a part-time school. Joe wanted tests and longer homework assignments on Fridays, reports & quizzes on Monday. Every teacher is going to be monitored to ensure FULL usage of those days, or every other day.

After putting plans into action, Eastside had REAL 5 day weeks and FULL 40-minute periods. Teachers were supposed to teach their courses in a cramming rush and fake their classes through an impossible schedule. Not a proper time frame in which to teach their courses. Instead of having two months to have students on prepared subjects, they were given 2 weeks. Homework was treated as an ultimate joke and not as a valuable lesson plan. Joe also resuscitated the term paper and long range project, something that hasn't been assigned in Eastside for 3 years. They now have students taking the SATs. Those scores have inched up since 1982. Eastside graduates are ready/able to snap the ghetto's vicious cycle and become good, productive citizens. Eastside has a computer club, a job seeking club & a forensic club just to name a few. The school newspaper cranks out an issue a month. Once a year, in the spring, Eastside celebrates Career Day. In the fall, Eastside celebrates College Day. Some of these programs Joe rejuvenated, some he inherited and some he invented.

Joe made a way for students to better enrich their young lives, especially for those wanted to better their educations and themselves. The Ghost is Eastside High's emblem. Their school colors are orange & blue. Joe implemented ACTUAL & GENUINE school PRIDE to flow throughout Eastside. Everyone in the school had to know the school song and sing it upon demand or suffer dire consequences. They had to know their alma mater. It was an enlightened tool to use for students learning to memorize. Most importantly, the adult emphasis on the school song fosters SERIOUS pride in the school and all it stands for. Every Wednesday is school colors day. Students were encouraged, not required, to display school colors. Eastside High abounds school spirit. But, it's more than that. It's conducive to education & self-esteem. It's more than rituals & symbols. It's TRADITION, something ALOT of schools are lacking, showing TRUE & GENUINE school pride.

Students of Eastside are proud of the honorable reputation they have earned, and have begun to understand what you do reflects on  the community. The simple positivity of education is infectious. Just watch & learn. The focus for these young people had switched from drugs/crime to success through diligent striving. The neighborhoods & Eastside have done a complete 180*. What was once riddled w/ hoodlums is now associated w/ decency and is welcomed throughout the neighborhoods. Schools are wonderment to be accepted and embraced and NOT "something kids feel is to be dealt w/ just to get it over with". A good principal must reach out move the whole community; letting students, parents & businesses know that the school is not just 8:30A-3:00P, but a vital & vibrant part of their lives.

In 1986, an NBC News team was at Eastside, working on Connie Chung's special about Eastside and Joe Clark. (That media story eventually led to the film Lean On Me). One of the NBC production team people congratulated Joe and what he's done and accomplished. It wasn't just your usual 1980s high school story. Considering their environment, Eastside was like a savior. The City Of Paterson has a drug awareness program that now functions in all of it's schools. During school hours, there is at least one designated adult (teacher or administrator) available in the building whom the student goes to at once, The door is always open. The meeting takes TOP PRIORITY. NEVER postponed or delayed.

The discipline of Eastside High is meant, as well as, to teach of your self-discipline. Self-discipline is HOW YOU GET THE JOB DONE! Complete effectively and overcome your obstacles. Joe gives a motivational message every morning. He does not let up, the street is too close at hand and he never lets up. He/Joe Clark is a proven commodity. The kids believe in him and he has their best interest at heart. Providing ANY type of help/assistance to those who need it.
Kids perk up when they see/realize that grown-ups TRULY DO care. They wake up to education and plan their futures.

One of the teachers started a choir. Independent from glee clubs. The choir is for anyone who wants to sing. It has been a marvelous success. Musical assemblies were unthinkable before their reforms, because chaos was too dominant. Now they have weekly musical performances. Joe does NOT want to re-enforce the myth that the only way out of the ghetto is a sexy voice or a good right cross. During the first few years of Joe's administration, he received numerous death threats over the phone and in the mail. He still gets them every once in a while, but at the time, a regular occurrence, thanks to the drug dealers and their associates. Joe even came close to a "bomb threat" brought on by a student trying to pull the wool over Mr. Clark's eyes.  What he stood to gain was well worth the risk. In April 1988, Eastside held a carnival fundraiser for extracurricular activities. It proved a GRAND affair. A few officers directed traffic outside the grounds not to keep the peace or make any arrests. NO negative incident or discard whatsoever.

The old Eastside High produced drug addicts, criminals, unwed mothers & welfare cases. Youths lacking direction & skill were put upon Patterson. The new Eastside turns out responsible drug free young citizens ready to contribute to society. Joe Clark's management made it happen. REAL leaders are born. NOT made. Despite growing up in the Newark ghetto, Joe was very fortunate. He made the right choice to climb out of poverty and want but, also make/do good for other people. Before choosing education as a career, Joe seriously considered criminology, because he detested someone else cashing in on another man's money. He talks about his own youth growing up and what made him choose education as his primary choice. A dedicated educator could probably do more to improve the lot of the innocent than a crime fighter. A educator can be instrumental in laying the foundation for decent homes. Joe became an educator. He was meant to be a leader.

On the first day of classes in 1983, an Associated Press reporter covering urban school openings got wind of Eastside to get a few things down. He was very impressed and decided to do a FULL story on Joe & Eastside. The evening news at CBS read the AP wire and made arrangements to interview Joe. He was mentioned on various news programs, even a call from the President Of The United States. By presidential invitation, Joe went to the White House for the first of several visits.  A movie producer caught on to the news stories and showed up at Eastside, in order to catch some of Joe's time. Joe's victory led to his being on the cover of Time Magazine. It caused Warner Bros. to stop looking for a major star and soundtrack to carry the "Joe Clark movie". Lean On Me starring the remarkable Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark.

 Lean On Me movie trailer