jlsathre

jlsathre
Location
Illinois,
Birthday
July 30
Bio
I'm a lawyer in my past life, who got the kids through college and decided to try something different and a little more fun. A used book store sounded like a good idea, so that's where I am for now. I just hadn't counted on a recession or E-readers and am a little afraid there's going to be a third act. In the meantime, I have plenty to read and a little time to write. Not a bad way to spend a day.

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Salon.com
MAY 3, 2012 9:49AM

Life Is Good

Rate: 25 Flag

 

There's a brand of clothing called "Life is Good." They make T-shirts and flip flops and pajamas and lots of other clothing and accessories. My niece likes to wear them and my sister likes to buy them for her because they're colorful and happy, with cute images and sayings. 

Indeed, it's a company with a fairly inspiring story, built by two young men dreaming big dreams, who started off hawking t-shirts at street fairs. Their web page is littered with bright sayings, like "spread the power of optimism" and "face the bumps with a smile" and "the world is yours." It's a feel good, success story. If you buy something, your purchase helps kids in need.

I see the clothes around a lot, and I can't help thinking of all the people I represented for drug problems.

When I moved from St. Louis  back to my small, rural, southern Illinois home town, I started doing public defender work because it seemed like it might be more interesting than the divorces and land disputes that were the meat and potatoes of a small town law practice. I anticipated defending DUI's, batteries arising from bar fights, and the occassional more serious crime usually attributed to outsiders coming into a town that sat on the edge of an Interstate highway.

I didn't anticipate the crime wave that was about to overwhelm the two counties I served as a result of the meth production and addiction that swept through the Midwest.  

In less than a year, criminal courts in my counties were inundated, seeing case loads double and then triple and then quadruple. Jails were overflowing, Children and Family Service caseworkers were overworked, and drug rehab facilities were overwhelmed and without the resources or knowledge to treat the strong additcion of meth. Public defenders found themselves in lock up rooms with neighbors as clients, trying to understand it.  

The idyll of small town life that I had returned to seemed to have gone the same way as the small family farms that used to be enough to support a family. As I looked around, I saw that jobs were scarce. Opportunities were rare. Schools were providing access to college to students who went that route, but little to those who didn't. The end of high school all too often became an entry into a world of additction, criminal courts, jail and prison.

Across the table from me, the clients I represented over the course of a decade had lost weight, lost teeth, lost families, and sometimes gained paranoia. They didn't always provide much insight into how they had gotten there. Or why. But, over time, and listening to individual stories, it became clear that the turn towards meth was a reach for a slice of "life is good."

At a time, and in a place, where opportunities were lacking and time was long, they tried meth. And all of a sudden, life was good. Not for a long time usually. But for the length of a high, they forgot that they were unemployed, with no good prospects and no dreams. And so they tried it again. It's not a defense and it's not a solution.  

But it helped me to understand. We all want it.

"Life is good."  Unless it's not.

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Comments

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Hard to tell what is paranoia and what is reasonable suspicion,in that sytem. I have a few of those "life is good pieces." They make some cool clothes.
Love this piece. I so look forward to you writing more about your time as a pd. What a world of material to be found there. My experience with them was beyond depressing. I never did drugs but never saw most drug addicts as criminals either. Life is too rough for some and jailing doesn't seem the answer.
Excellently written and so true. I am a bit older. Reminds me of when we became swamped with cocaine cases in the Northern District of Iowa back in the late eighties.
You nailed it. Life is good. Unless it's not. And sometimes it's a mix.
i held my breath the whole time reading this, jl. i look at my boy and his friends and i wonder - what are they going to do? say they get that diploma, say they even finish college? then what? and i dont see an answer. its nothing short of greek tragedy, what has been done to this country. thank you for doing your part to help, and to understand.
Most crime in our region can be traced back to meth in one way or another - you are right - the cheap escape it provides those who don't have a Life is Good t-shirt to cling to.
You tell such compelling stories! This is a slice of life nobody wants to see but it's there, it's real, it's not good, and it's not going away anytime soon. I think I want the shirt.
fernsy--Thanks for reading. In this case paranoia is a fairly common side effect of long term addicition to meth.
Brassawe--Thank you. And, yeah, cocaine got a lot of people too. But I think the ability to easily produce meth resulted in more wide spread harm.
Mary--Thanks. I agree--probably some sort of mix for most people.
jane--I wish I had answers.
LammChops--The meth definitely has a long reach.
Our small town of nineteen hundred is surrounded by family farm land and ranchs. When we moved here it didn't take long to see the hold that meth had upon the inhabitants...young and old.

Yes, I believe that many turned to Meth to get that "Life is Good" feeling, no matter how fleeting. To me though attaining that "Life is Good" feeling does not come that easy. It is something that demands a lot of work, sacrifice, and yes, even suffering to earn. I guess it is human nature to want to take short cuts.
nilesite--Thank you. I pick the shirt too.
toritto--The drug "wars," like a lot of things, aren't always fair. Domestic violence is a little more clear cut.
The yin and yang of Mayberry.
You must have had a fulfilling and frustrating job as a defense attorney, but you tell the story with heart, compassion and humor. R
Yup, we all want it. And there but for the grace of god, etc.
Gosh I hate what meth is doing to our smaller communities. I am so naïve about this stuff. A few years ago I used to stop late at night after work and give change to two young guys panhandling in downtown Denver. They held signs that said, "Need money for meds." It wasn't until later that a colleague informed me that they were meth heads, and bore all of the outward signs: they were painfully thin, disheveled, and had those strange sores on their faces from the meth "ticks." They looked like broken down old men. I stopped giving them money, and started giving them food.
Absolutely!
Living in a small midwestern town, I have seen my share of people ravaged by meth. You look at them and you know, in your brain, that they are only 16, 17, 18 years old--but their empty eyes and their faces make them look 40 or 50. So, so sad.
David--I'm sure you've seen it and I agree with you. I just don't know how to instill or teach those values to people who seem to have given up.
Chicken Maaan--I couldn't have said it better.
Gerald--Let's just say that I'm having more fun at the bookstore. And thank you.
Jeanette--Amen.
Deborah--The food is a good and generous idea. It really is a devastating addiction, to both individuals and communities.
This is a sad eye-opener. When i lived in the VT countryside meth hadn't yet arrived.

r.
While we are a state apart, our state has the same problem with meth. I wrote about a consequence of it today, that I can no longer answer the door to strangers. Scary times we live in.
Our schools are doing a disservice to the kids who are not college bound. They need to do something, but we don't know what. My understanding is that the skilled trades like electrician and plumbing are often going begging looking for people. I'd like to see our high schools do a whole lot better job steering the kids in wood shop, metal shop and so on to low-cost community college programs. But no one has any money, shop classes are getting cut, there are no jobs, community college costs are rising.

Everyone wants that "life is good" feeling.

Thanks for that job you did.
Pensive--It is sad. And sadly, widespread.
Jonathan--I hope it never reaches you. It does seem to finally be on the downswing.
Amy--I read your piece and both enjoyed it and identified with it.
Froggy--I think trades are the way to go and that it should at least start in high school.
The people that have the least amount of happy/stable in their lives seem to be the ones most open to jumping for the slightest chance at good. Usually only to fall farther down. :(
Life is good..... and thank you!
Julie--Good point. I think you're right.
Brazen--Thanks for reading.
I get here so late that everything has been said, already.

R
Meth is rampant in the U. P. of Michigan.
You offer a dose of reality. Life can be good. Unless it isn't.
I wonder if meth use will abate in the same way the crack epidemic came and went (sort of). I guess the difference is that meth ingredients can all be acquired legally. Has pharmaceutical restriction on the purchase of, is it epinephrine, had any effect? I'm wondering about how certain communities in certain areas get hit by this and others don't. Don't know if anyone knows.
Phyllis--Thanks for stopping by. Late is fine.
John--It doesn't seem to have missed too many places. Sorry to hear it found it's way into an area that I think of as pristine and idyllic.
Lea--Thanks for reading.
Manhattan--Rural communities were hit hard, at least initially, because of the availability of anhydrous and open spaces. The purchase restrictions have had an impact, as have special task forces,
somewhat better treatment and understanding, community involvement, and stricter enforcement. But it hasn't gone away and better and more treatment options are still needed.
Sad but true. Great article.
my sis got a bumper sticker on her suv.
it say, life is good
and it is for her, finally, is why
i dont demand her to un stick it
...it also has breast cancer stuff and the local university football
stuff on her bumper..

big industry these days, charity is.
"spread the power of optimism" and "face the bumps with a smile" and "the world is yours." It's a feel good, success story. If you buy something, your purchase helps kids in need."

mm hm. maybe.

i would rather spend my money on local poor unfortunates.
of which there are too many.
buy em a meal.
or at least a cigarette,
or that fee they charge to
apply for public d status...in our court...our superior court..
jail is a big industry here too.
money is scarce. why shouldnt the jailees get some,
as they and the sinners
(drinkers, smokers, drug users) are funding our middle class
lifestyle?
So insightful and touching. I was watching a documentary about the increased production and consumption of Meth in Thailand, Burma, and Laos last night, coincidentally. It's awful what this drug can do - and at the same time, as you point out here, for many people, it's a way to feel, for a time, pure bliss. That anyone would need a drug to feel this, breaks my heart, and fills me with understanding. Thank you for being their voice with this post.
My first encounter with a "tweeker" was sometime in the early 2000s in a county where all of the textile mills had closed and cooking meth had become the chief enterprise. The woman passed me on the fourlane, reached for her cigarette lighter in the passenger seat, went into the center median, struck the median, rolled the car and somehow ended up right side up in the lane behind me. She was unhurt and the car frame was bent. She got out of the car, a skinny acne ridden bleached blond, wanted to know if I knew whether the insurance company would get her out from under the car loan, wanted me to put some framed pictures in my car, called her boyfriend to tell him that she'd had the wreck, listened to him scream because she had taken the tag off of his car to put on her car. All of that in about five minutes. Then the police stopped and took her off my hands. Funny but so sad. R