Fifty guitars (at least) hang on racks at the Guitar Center…where I sat on a stool and plucked a few strings on a robin’s-egg blue Fender Stratocaster, watching young people pass by

Rockers with ripped-sleeves jean jackets and flannels tied around waists…black-wearing techno-types…speed-metal sorts, sports jerseys and long hair in loose pony tails

I was waiting to meet Charles Hoke, co-founder of Hustle 2.0…he and I have decided to start a band

That’s a joke! Charles was renting a sound system for a two-day coaching event at High Desert State Prison, about ninety minutes north of Reno, in the town of Susanville

Soon enough, we had loaded up rented speakers and stands in Charles’ truck, and he & I sped freeway-north

I drove a truck, once…sixteen years old—a red Ford pickup, into which I’d load my guitar and drive to Mike Benson’s house…his stepfather built him a mini-soundproofed studio for his drum kit, off the garage

Mike played the skins quite well, whereas I never practiced much…still, we had a lot of fun, Mike and I, and I flailed at a fancy red Kramer guitar, the same kind Eddy Van Halen plays

Other guitars inhabited my childhood home…my father played and sang songs to me, sitting on the edge of my bed

At seventeen years old, I packed my red Kramer into an airplane overhead bin…leaving home to start at college—thanks to my parents having encouraged & supported my earning a college degree

One weekend, freshman year, my girlfriend Gina and I rode the Greyhound bus to Reno, her hometown

She’d made me a tape (maybe you’re old enough to remember making cassette tapes)…I’d listen over and over to one of the songs, “Man with a Gun,” by Jerry Harrison 

It’s a beautiful tune to listen to, haunting, like the sun setting and rising over the desert

We’d rather risk it all…roll the dice, let them fall

Of course, the guitar solo does not necessarily rival that of a young Ed Kressy’s (that’s another joke)

One day, Gina got me a “surprise”; she took us to tourist Fisherman’s Wharf…to a “recording studio”, a novelty place like a karaoke bar, except you get recorded singing

I remember being so upset, incensed really, that she would drag me to a date like that…yet all went well, and we recorded our duet of “Just the Way You Are,” the seminal Billy Joel song

From Guitar Center, Charles Hoke piloted us past Reno at night…from the highway, it’s like hovering above another planet, staring at an alien base (they wouldn’t be aliens on their own world, of course)

Until our turning wheels got us close enough to read the neon outside the casinos, and I imagined young couples inside, celebrating at the gambling tables

A couple sunsets later, in the gym at High Desert State Prison, the event having wrapped up, I broke down the speakers…if you’re wondering, why a rented sound system in prison?

Cat Hoke, the event facilitator (side story, Cat and Charles were indeed once married, now are business partners) leads exercises through a microphone in the cavernous gym

As the exercises can be intense—topics of forgiveness, overcoming shame…discussions of circumstances that led the men to become incarcerated—those exercises are broken up by music, and dancing (again, hence the sound system)

Not all the tunes are hip-hop danceable…in fact, earlier in the day, the deejay had played—wouldn’t you know it—“Just the Way You Are”

As I broke down the speakers, I reflected: on February 28th, I was turning 50!

Half a century…incredible…and as I was thinking of life’s many blessings, in that prison gym, a Maverick named Jason approached me (a “Maverick” is a program participant in Hustle 2.0)

Jason was smiling and solid, like a boulder solid on a mountain and with a grin, and emitted a light, a vibrational frequency of goodness

We got to talking (note: To protect this Maverick’s privacy, I’ve changed his name, and compiled his story from those I’ve been told by other Mavericks)

When Jason was a teenager—after his father left his family—the gangs had come for him, waiting outside his childhood home…his choice was to join, or get stomped

The gang became his family, and seeing no use for high school, he dropped out

His girlfriend was sexually assaulted by her close relative, and in the ensuing circumstances…which involved Jason…a gun accidentally discharged, killing the girlfriend

Jason is serving a long sentence…he admits his actions were wrong, and owns up to his role in the tragedy

Yet after speaking to him for a short while, getting a feel for who he was, I had to conclude…had his socio-economic stratum, skin color, and birth circumstances been the same as or similar to mine?

Society would’ve conveyed upon him the same unfair advantages I received…and he would’ve been taking down speakers and stands, readying himself for a highway drive back home, instead of a walk across a prison yard, home to a cell

“It’s all about perspective,” Jason told me, speaking about his incarceration. “I chose to see this place,” he gestured at the impenetrable gym walls around him, “as an opportunity for an education, a place to learn.”

Jason became a minister while serving his sentence, and helps men at High Desert transform their lives, pursue paths of spirituality

Fifty years is a long time to walk this earth, without learning a lesson from a Maverick incarcerated in maximum-security prison

By now, you’re no doubt asking yourself: “Ed…how do I go about giving you a birthday present?”

(Yes…yet another joke)

Well, rest easy, my good reader friend: You can extend your birthday wishes by buying a copy of my book here

Ten percent of profits go to Defy Ventures, an organization similar to Hustle 2.0…and, your support of my work allows me to further serve individuals such as the Mavericks

Who in turn educate me, and hopefully some of their wisdom gets passed on to me…so that I use what small talent I may have for writing, to pass along to you

Regardless of whether or not you buy my book, I’m grateful you take the time to read my work here

As you inspire me to further use the gifts of my history, to bring some degree of benefit to the world around me

Thank you!

Resources For You

If you know or are a person who is struggling, check out my free PDF: Ten Helpful Questions to Ask When Someone You Love is Recovering From Addiction

Simply go to my website, and hit the “Download PDF Now” button in the lower right. When you enter your email, you’ll be signed up for my weekly newsletter, Meditations on Meth. Feel free to unsubscribe if you don’t want it.

3 Responses

  1. Beautiful interweaving of narratives, Ed! It seemed a bit like a guitar solo: lyrical, uptempo, humble, unguarded, and snapping shut at the end, leaving the audience with something to ponder. Thanks for the music, brother:)

    1. Brother Theo, thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback! You’ve given me some wonderful insights upon which to meditate. Much appreciated, I love your wisdom. Thanks too for the birthday wishes!

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