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September 2, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Crusty Punks in Tompkins Square Park, tell stories of their sometimes dangerous lives on the highways and trains, in rehabs and unconventional families of America.
posted by Potomac Avenue (81 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
This guy's clothes look like very carefully orchestrated and designed shabbiness.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:31 AM on September 2, 2010


Having had a lot of contact with crusties, much of it bad, this absolutely jibes with my experience of them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:34 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy's clothes look like very carefully orchestrated and designed shabbiness.

They also look very worn. You don't have to buy clothing to look "carefully orchestrated." And I wonder what happened to his kid.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of uprising, just folks trying to make it for themselves.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:35 AM on September 2, 2010


This guy's clothes look like very carefully orchestrated and designed shabbiness.

A man can't express himself?

Having had a lot of contact with crusties, much of it bad,

So we can now write them all off as single sub-group?
posted by philip-random at 11:36 AM on September 2, 2010


Great stuff, thanks.
posted by The Straightener at 11:36 AM on September 2, 2010


Good find. Another thanks.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:39 AM on September 2, 2010


So we can now write them all off as single sub-group?

"Much of it bad" does not equal "writing off," and I am not sure what you mean by "writing off" anyway. I'm not asking for them to be expelled from humanity. But if a scene starts to have to strong a crusty or gutter punk element to it, I will leave that scene. I have been burned too many times.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whether by accident or (I suspect*) design, the writings have a lovely minimalist element to them.

*Not that the interviews are fake, just highly polished.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:50 AM on September 2, 2010


This guy's clothes look like very carefully orchestrated and designed shabbiness.

If you took the requisite ninety seconds to read what he wrote about his life, you would probably want to retract that flip dismissal. Or not. But I would hope that you would:
My father was an attempted cop killer, he was doing twenty years to life for shooting a police officer three times. He was serving five years in CCI corrections and my mother met him visiting my uncle who was an incarcerated Hell's Angels. As my mom would tell you, she fucking fell in love with a felon. Got a petition with three thousand signatures on it and got my dad released in five years served, five years probation. He got out impregnated my mom. I was born two months premature and I was dying.

I got into punk rock music and squatting when I was thirteen years old. By fifteen I had been in jail, was kicked out of high school and I had a son on the way.

...

When I was seventeen years old I was at a punk show in my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. A straight edge hardcore guy named...approached me from behind and tapped me on my shoulder and said my name. When I turned around he grabbed my by my shirt, stepped on my feet and he smashed my face in. I had three thousand dollars of reconstructive surgery putting my nose back together. Putting my eye socket back together. Half of my face is metal. I have screws and brackets in my face. When I woke up I didn't have a nose. I didn't have an eye. My eyeball was loosely hanging out of my socket. Everyone kinda likes to joke that I'm the man with the metal face. Six years later after I got my face busted in that same guy he got stabbed nine times by a Nazi and his car was set on fire.
Dismiss the clothes on this guy if you must, but have a little fucking empathy, man. Not everyone in a CRASS t-shirt is a trustfund poser. Indeed, not most (in my experience).
posted by joe lisboa at 11:52 AM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Crusties aren't posers. HOWEVER, they need to neuter their fucking dogs.

And AstroZombie, I'm with you. Being part of the punk scene in Portland in the early 90's I dealt with the gutterpunk/crustie scene and it was often a total shitshow.
posted by josher71 at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just kind of amazed at how few of these portraits include dogs, honestly.

Tempe was a big crusty hangout in the winter when I lived and worked there. One day I was going down the street from work to the bank, dropping off the deposit, and this girl came up and asked me for some change. No problem, here's some change. Lord knows I knew about being broke, if not that broke. So on the way back from the bank, she comes toward me again, and my immediate response was to think "is she fucking kidding me?" But no, this time she asked if I had a tampon, because the reason she'd asked for change in the first place was for the machine in the fast food restaurant, and it turned out to be broken...I gave her one and she offered my change back to me but I let her keep it. Guilt tax, for feeling so put upon by the threat of being asked for money, when I was nowhere near and never would be so desperate as to have to "spare for tampons" on the streets.
posted by padraigin at 12:06 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Am I missing something or is there any reason to believe their stories?
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:09 PM on September 2, 2010


Is there any reason not to? There might be some exaggeration in there, but a lot of it jibes with what I have seen.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


The book Stranger to the System is somewhat related (and very good), as much of the focus is on the residents of Tompkins Square Park.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2010


Thanks for posting this. I think folks that have decided as a conscious effort to drop out of society are interesting in some regards and look forward to delving into this a bit more when I have time. Normally there seems to be quite a bit of overlap between traveling kids and crusties, so it'll be interesting to see how much of that is written about here.
posted by friendlyjuan at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2010


On the blue I've noted in the past there is usually a hate fest pile on re crusties. I wonder if the ones with bios on this site do not have Borderline Personality Disorder or are the children of parents with BPD or another Personality Disorder. It just seems these kids' lives are packed wall to wall with criminal activity, mayhem, addiction, suicidal ideation and misery.

Based on that speculation, it might not be safe to spend up-close time with them.
posted by nickyskye at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2010


Am I missing something or is there any reason to believe their stories?

You live here - head on over to 7th&A and try doubting them. I certainly don't.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2010


I don't think it's dangerous to be around them because some of them are almost certainly mentally ill. I think it's dangerous to be around them because an disproportionate percent of these young people that I have come in contact with are drug addicts who have no problem with casual theft and a taste for violence.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:21 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I moved to New York City at the age of seventeen with no money, no plan, and no contacts apart from a sole romantic one. I ended up spending a lot of nights in Tompkins Square Park and in squats in the surrounding neighborhood. Apart from all of the naive romantic notions that motivated my move and remain couched in some sulci of my brain, I have some nice memories: wizened if not wise, older crusty guys who gave me tips on staying safe, where to find free food and shelter from the rain, etc. Then there are the not-so-nice memories: the huge numbers of addicts and psychiatrically-disturbed individuals, the prostitutes advertising their abused and decrepit bodies, the robberies and assaults, the cops pretending not to see...everything.

On balance more bad than good but I doubt that is surprising to anyone, or at least anyone who has read Don DeLillo's description of it in Mao II.
posted by inoculatedcities at 12:21 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Am I missing something or is there any reason to believe their stories?

Sympathy, and a shade less cynicism.

What is hard to believe in these stories? The fact that someone writes (and possibly edits) them and takes well-framed pictures with a decent camera and a flash doesn't make this fake. Some of the posing is more of a VICE Mag article than simply sharing some interesting stories, but that doesn't make impossible that their stories are real.

Unstable families, personal instability for one (or a few) of so many reasons, and some discontent with being tied down to anything, and these are real stories. I volunteered in a juvenile corrections center for a while, playing games or watching movies with the good kids (if you behaved for a while, you got more opportunities to stay out of your cell), and even line dancing with them (no boy/girl dances and no physical contact). This isn't the mid-west, and country music was not loved by all, but it was something to do, and a chance to be outside a bit more. Some kids told me of their families, some of their plans for what to do when they got out. I've seen some around town since, a few at a fast food restaurant or just downtown, but I've seen one girl who looks to be going into the gutter-punk lifestyle. She seemed really sharp, and she was able to pick up line dancing patterns and remember them really well, even helping some of the other kids learn their steps. I didn't really know her, but I thought I saw enough that I could imagine something better.

Some of the gutter punks are spoiled kids trying to rebel, but a lot of them have messy lives. Getting them to pose and say a little about themselves doesn't make them fake.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:25 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Based on that speculation, it might not be safe to spend up-close time with them.

Pardon me if I'm misunderstanding, nickyskye, but isn't the point of the link you posted that Borderline Personality Disorder does not correlate with Antisocial Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

I mean, sure, it's probably not safe to hang out with homeless heroin addicts, I'm just not sure if the link backs that up.
posted by Myca at 12:25 PM on September 2, 2010


Am I missing something or is there any reason to believe their stories?

As much reason as there is to believe anyone's story. Which is to say there is some reason to believe some of everyone's story, but no reason to believe all of them.
posted by The World Famous at 12:31 PM on September 2, 2010


Other than the fact that one of them burned me for $20 worth of dope in the park once the only complaint I have about the crusters is the time Leftover Crack played there at the height of summer it fucking stuuuuuuunk so ungodly that I couldn't hang and totally had to bail.
posted by The Straightener at 12:35 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before they were "crusty punks," they were called "bums," and some of them struggled to lift themselves out of bumhood. Others had legitimate mental illnesses, and we used to hospitalize them. Now we do neither. Now they're crusty punks and we co-opt their fashion sense.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:40 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


it would be nice if the gutter punks would volunteer a little bit of their time, as much of it they spend jobless, panhandling for high life and heroin
posted by plexi at 12:43 PM on September 2, 2010


Am I missing something or is there any reason to believe their stories?
2bucksplus, I'm honestly curious about why you'd ask that. Can you point to a particularly unbelievable story? Everything I've read (and I haven't read everything) seems plausible.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:43 PM on September 2, 2010


Is there any reason not to?

Some of their stories come across as a form of boasting in a quest for authenticity. Each person had it tougher than the one before and at some point it becomes sort of absurd. And many of their stories revolve around some perceived slight and their reaction to it.

Take this guy:
I was doing really good in school. Actually I had really good grades and all of my teachers that I worked for their classes loved me. But I didn't get along with the religious department and I didn't get along with any of the security. One day when I was wearing my old vest that had a giant fuck you back patch on it and a bullet belt security cornered me on school and said that I wasn't allowed to dress on school the way I was dressed. I wasn't allowed to speak my mind. And it came to me like well I'm paying what twenty five thousand a year for an education in a system where they don't even respect who you are. I'm not going to take that bullshit, fuck them. So I grabbed my shit. Walked to my teachers class and said, "thanks to your security guards I'm dropping out of school." And I turned my back and walked out of the classroom.
So, he dropped out of school and gave up on his dream of becoming a public defender and environmental lawyer because of what a security guard said to him once? It's this desire to be the most authentic, most principled individual meanwhile blaming "society, man" for your lot. Meanwhile I imagine 90% of the problems that lead to their homelessness could categorized as substance abuse/mental health or sexual abuse in origin.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:43 PM on September 2, 2010


OK, so I know I will probably be demolished for this, but I have little to no respect for people who choose to "drop out" of society. I have, and will continue to volunteer at homeless shelters, and support any group that helps homeless people improve their quality of life. But someone that chooses to live this way?

If someone is truly in need, as in: they have been laid off and cannot find work, or tragic events have occurred in their life that prevent them from maintaining some form of income, then I have absolutely no problem helping them out with whatever money I can spare at the time.

But I feel like someone that chooses the life of a transient should leave the people who have not, the hell alone when it comes to financial support and/or sympathy. Hey that's great that you've decided not to have a job and live on the street. Apparently I'm a sucker for working my ass off in a 9 to 5 job, and I should help you out because you made the choice not too????? And what about someone who is homeless because they lost their legs in a random accident, or fighting in Afghanistan. What do you think they would give to be fully ambulatory again and be able to do the things that these drop outs refuse to do because they got pissy about a dress code:

One day when I was wearing my old vest that had a giant fuck you back patch on it and a bullet belt security cornered me on school and said that I wasn't allowed to dress on school the way I was dressed. I wasn't allowed to speak my mind.

So I grabbed my shit. Walked to my teachers class and said, "thanks to your security guards I'm dropping out of school."

I feel like that's a slap in the face to someone who is really struggling to participate in society like most of us, but can't because of a handicap, the economic devastation caused by the right-wing bastards, or some other reason. Maybe I've officially turned into an old fart, but none of this makes sense to me.
posted by dr. strangelove at 12:44 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I guess I'm getting old and judgmental, because reading this stuff just makes me sad. There's a lot of romanticizing going on for very bad situations:

"A straight edge hardcore guy named...approached me from behind and tapped me on my shoulder and said my name. When I turned around he grabbed my by my shirt, stepped on my feet and he smashed my face in."

Maybe it's time to, you know, re-evaluate your lifestyle when this happens? But from his tone, I get the impression that telling this story is like showing off a merit badge. For getting your face smashed in. It's not noble, it's stupid. Stupid to continue hanging around the sort of crowd that sometimes smashes your face in on a whim.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:45 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another elite professional artist exploiting others' misery and profiting from our voyeuristic weaknesses. I prefer Mike Brodie's approach to the subject (he seems to walk the walk), but I don't see Brodie teaching at the Parsons School of Design or Pratt Institute.
posted by squalor at 12:50 PM on September 2, 2010


But someone that chooses to live this way?


I'm not sure it's a "choice" for everyone, the way it might be a "choice" for you or I, given the extenuating circumstances of abuse, addiction, abandonment and/or mental illness that usually accompany the "choice". It must feel empowering to believe it is purely a conscious decision to live that way, and no doubt for some people it truly is a true choice with no baggage.
posted by padraigin at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some of their stories come across as a form of boasting in a quest for authenticity.

Well, yeah, but honestly, so what? We all self-mythologize to a greater or lesser extent. It's how we tell ourselves that there's anything different or interesting about us that's not exactly the same as 6 billion other people. It's part of being human, it's not something to dismiss them for.
posted by dersins at 12:54 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Tompkins Square Park has an inglorious history of association with societal dropouts. It's pretty much the epitome of the tension between "authenticity" and "progress" that NYC has wrestled with over the past few decades.
posted by mkultra at 1:00 PM on September 2, 2010


So, he dropped out of school and gave up on his dream of becoming a public defender and environmental lawyer because of what a security guard said to him once?

Well, that's not the real reason, obviously. The real reason runs much deeper than that and may well have something to do with a pathological distrust of authority figures, etc. But having known and worked with lots of people with similar stories, I don't doubt that some version of those events actually took place and that he really was that dumb and really did make decisions that bad. It's probably a good thing that someone with such stupid ideas about the world and with such poor decisionmaking ability is not a public defender.

Can you imagine being charged with a crime, with no ability to retain a lawyer of your own, and being represented by someone with judgment as bad as that guy's? According to his own version of his story, he went to a religious university and had such horrible judgment that he wore an "old vest that had a giant fuck you back patch on it and a bullet belt" and was then surprised when he got in trouble for it. Seriously? That's not just dumb - that's a serious psychological problem. In all likelihood, he knew very well what the outcome of his decision would be, at least in the short term.

I went to a fairly strict religious university. On the continuum of strict religious universities, it certainly was not among the strictest, though students often fooled themselves into thinking it was (I suppose they just didn't understand how open-minded our religion is when compared to many others). And I knew people who were kicked out of the university for violating the school's draconian rules regarding conduct, clothing, etc. And every single one of them knew very well that they were pushing against an immovable object but chose to take that risk anyway. When a fashion statement becomes so important that you're willing to severely disrupt your career goals, etc. for it, it's not actually a fashion statement. It's a proxy for deeper issues.
posted by The World Famous at 1:02 PM on September 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


OK, so I know I will probably be demolished for this, but I have little to no respect for people who choose to "drop out" of society. I have, and will continue to volunteer at homeless shelters, and support any group that helps homeless people improve their quality of life. But someone that chooses to live this way?
What do you think they would give to be fully ambulatory again and be able to do the things that these drop outs refuse to do because they got pissy about a dress code


Just as you and I probably couldn't stand it if we didn't bathe for six months straight in the middle of a shithole squat, there are many people who cannot stand authority, often because their only exposure to it has been profoundly negative (think abuse).

I'm no fan of crusties, personally, but the idea that no one should ever choose to drop out of society is ridiculous. Society isn't for everyone.
posted by vorfeed at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


'Freedom.' 'Live free and die.' Freedom from society? From the rat race? From rules? (But remember: free from domestic/sexual abuse.) But living off of dumpster dives and spare change isn't being free from society, any more than getting a prison sentence is being free from having to work a day job. The ghost that haunts the graveyard is not free from death...

With apologies to my main main Friedrich, even if you are free from, what are you free to? What is your freedom for?

I'm grateful to have read this.
posted by mister-o at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Where do you think runaways go when they leave their drunk/abusive parents?

I became good friends with a couple of usually-homeless ~18 year old punks when they moved in to our house for the summer, and spent a lot of time around some really messed up kids in Boston as a result. It was fun for a while, then my roommate OD'd and rather than calling EMS they called *me* because my wife was an EMT and things started to get way too dramatic The depressing stuff I heard (and unbelievably crazy/stupid/sad stuff I saw) make me believe most every word I read there.

If you don't believe it those stories, or think these people are stupid for being part of that community, just try to imagine what happens to a kid that grows up in a hyper-abusive house, starts doing heroin at age 12, runs away from home at 15 and falls through the social-services cracks for a couple years. They get indoctrinated into whatever family of outcasts takes them in and this shit becomes the new normal for them. They have a "choice," sure, but the choice is between staying with a group of people that accepts them or rejoining a society that's actively hostile toward them. I can't imagine why you wouldn't feel empathy for someone in that situation.
posted by pjaust at 1:10 PM on September 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


I knew people who were kicked out of the university for violating the school's draconian rules regarding conduct, clothing, etc. And every single one of them knew very well that they were pushing against an immovable object but chose to take that risk anyway. When a fashion statement becomes so important that you're willing to severely disrupt your career goals, etc. for it, it's not actually a fashion statement. It's a proxy for deeper issues.

Or maybe it's simply a conscious choice. I've "disrupted my career goals" over what you'd probably call "a fashion statement" more than once before, and I don't regret it, nor do I think it's a symptom of "deeper issues". I simply don't consider any one particular career goal to be more important than living the way I want to live. And I was right, because I have a great career that's compatible with me, despite being told since Junior High that I absolutely had to stop doing T, U, V, X, Y, and Z to be employable. Win/win.

I'll bet money that most of your friends from religious school went on to live good lives of their own. Chances are that they just weren't cut out for religious school... and in a lot of ways, it's much better to find that out in college than to find that out when you're 45.
posted by vorfeed at 1:20 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's some weird thing going on in the texts where there are oral artifacts such as "uh" and "like" that indicates that these are transcripts of interviews -- but also some common spelling mistakes, which makes it seem like the subjects typed these themselves. Could well be that the photographer/writer in question didn't see the need to subject the texts to rigorous proofreading, but it's a bit jarring.
posted by Shepherd at 1:23 PM on September 2, 2010


I'm not sure it's a "choice" for everyone, the way it might be a "choice" for you or I, given the extenuating circumstances of abuse, addiction, abandonment and/or mental illness that usually accompany the "choice". It must feel empowering to believe it is purely a conscious decision to live that way, and no doubt for some people it truly is a true choice with no baggage.

Every person who suffers from a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder is free to wrestle with managing their disorder on their own terms. Many of them talk about this, "I don't want to get clean," "I'm supposed to be on a methadone program but whatever," "I had a couple months clean but for now I'm chipping." As someone who works in mental health and addiction I support their decisions to forgoe the treatment apparatus. Not everybody wants treatment and those who don't want it can't be forced to take it. Some of them mention having probation issues, but that was their decision, too. You don't have to take probation if you don't want, you can take your jail time. If you take probation, you agree to certain stipulations. If one of those stipulations is treatment and you choose not to go, now you're in violation of that agreement and if picked up you'll go to jail. It's very simple and clear cut.

The problem with people trying to live outside the system is that many of them engage in behavior as a result of mental health and addiciton disorders that many would consider endangering public safety, be it copping dope or trespassing and sleeping in abandoned buildings. Some people would consider such violations as not endangering public safety but in support of social repression. You can argue that all day, but at the end of the day the law is still the law and a lot of these kids are going to wind up in the system on drug charges or other related "quality of life offenses," and something tells me that they'll own that as a natural consequence of the life they live. Trash Can wrestles with this fact in his testimonial. If at that point they were to agree to treatment as an alternative to incarceration like the program I work for, I think they would benefit from it, and personally I would love to work with every single one of these kids if they wanted to work with me but they don't, and that's cool. Shine on you crazy diamond. But, you know, if you're in a manic episode and stab someone or smash someone's car window to snatch their GPS behind a bag of dope and get busted, expect to do some time. As long as you're cool with this equation, and I suspect most of them are, then I personally don't see the problem, though others likely disagree.
posted by The Straightener at 1:34 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or maybe it's simply a conscious choice.

Yes, that is what I was saying. It was a conscious choice.

I've "disrupted my career goals" over what you'd probably call "a fashion statement" more than once before, and I don't regret it, nor do I think it's a symptom of "deeper issues".

As I said above, it's not actually "a fashion statement." It seems to me that by characterizing it as "what [I'd] probably call 'a fashion statement,'" you are agreeing with my point that it is not actually about a fashion statement, but is a conscious choice based on deeper issues.

I simply don't consider any one particular career goal to be more important than living the way I want to live.

"Living the way you want to live" is a career goal. Living in whatever way authority figures force you to live when you knowingly violate their draconian rules is, I would posit, not a career goal.

I'll bet money that most of your friends from religious school went on to live good lives of their own.

Most of them certainly would say that they "have no regrets." Some of them have good lives of their own. Some of them, because they chose to make their lives all about fighting authority rather than about living life on their own terms, have pretty crappy lives by any standard. In terms of you betting money, I guess your odds of winning that bet depend on what you mean by "most of your friends" and "good lives of their own." My friends who chose to leave the religious school on their own terms and live their lives according to their own chosen path have gone on to live far better lives than those who chose to get kicked out and live the rest of their lives in constant struggles against authority figures of all kinds.

Chances are that they just weren't cut out for religious school

Yes, and that was part of my point, as well. It wasn't about fashion. It was about deeper issues significant enough that they would consciously choose to engage in conduct that they knew would get them kicked out. When I'm being judgmental, I think they were stupid and cowardly not to take control of their lives by doing what they actually wanted to do, rather than put themselves in positions where authority figures would make those decisions for them.

There's a huge difference between making your own decisions about how to live life and passively making decisions that forseeably cause authority figures to punish you out of situations that you find distasteful. Unfortunately, a lot of facets of society operate in a way that makes getting kicked out a much easier prospect than voluntarily quitting. It's a lot easier, culturally, to get kicked out of a religious school than it is to drop out and explain the decision to peers and family. Religious schools and religion are, obviously, just one example of something that is present in a lot of things. Religion gets trotted out as the big example of that all the time, but it is certainly not the only thing like that.
posted by The World Famous at 1:38 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect it depends on whether or not you're the person getting stabbed in the equation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:38 PM on September 2, 2010


The Straightener's equation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:39 PM on September 2, 2010


What do you want to do, lock people up because they might stab somebody?
posted by The Straightener at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2010


No. But I am saying that it's not a very palatable equation.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2010


Borderline Personality Disorder does not correlate with Antisocial Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder

It doesn't have to correlate to ASPD or PPD to still be unsafe to be around up-close. The author of that comment does say in his analysis that in people with BPD "I did find significant positive correlations with Jeffrey Dahmer in the Existential/Motivational domain and an overall significant positive correlation with serial Killer Joel Rifkin."

Reading that comment on the Borderline site I was interested to note the use of the BRACE Character Profile in relation to criminal profiling, which I had not heard of before. Thought it was worth including in my comment.

Being a runaway myself from age 13 on, I understood immediately what danger I was in on the streets in 1967. Since then I've felt sympathy for runaways and their plight. It was very dangerous at 'home'. Had to get out to save my life (ASPDed momster). I perceived my choices to be either with other kids in crash pads or with older men. Tried the crash pad thing, it was a really dangerous drug scene, friends (now all dead) using heroin, injecting speed etc. or using Freon. At 15 I moved in with a man 11 years older. That saved my life. At 17 with a man 9 years older, also life saving. Stopped taking any drug recreationally at 16, which was lifesaving. I feel deeply fortunate to have the motivation to save my life by doing what seemed practically constructive at that time.

It's hard to make well thought out decisions as a teen, hormones raging, the need to rebel, anti-authoritarian bitterness against all the hypocrisies of the grown-up world or the world experience to have perspective about everything. Not having money to make healthier, safer choices. Add being a runaway into that mix and it's almost a death sentence.

By great good luck the two men who took me in and fed and sheltered me for five years approximately were basically honest, loving, kind, educated and patient. With them I was able to find the basics of an inner steadiness, valuing personal integrity, a love of literature and became interested in the world at large. I'm still in touch with them decades later and thank them for their kindness.
posted by nickyskye at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


The only set of Crusties I know are the ones in Long Beach, Calif, who by and large have ceased traveling and are mostly settled in apartments or a set of amusing squats. The most amusing of the stories was from 2004-2005, when they as a group broke into a long empty warehouse, took a left soft drink vending machine and repurposed it, and lived there for nearly a year before the landowner & real estate brokers noticed.

The best part is that they filled the drink vending machine with Pabst Blue Ribbon, reprogrammed the machine to charge a $1 a beer. Enterprising.

Mind you these were Crusties who were 25-35 and were in bands. They ended up getting kicked out because it was noticed by the LBPD and landowner that they were having all ages band nights in the warehouse.
posted by msjen at 1:51 PM on September 2, 2010


But I am saying that it's not a very palatable equation.

Of course not, but it's the same equation each of us faces every day, we simply chose not to challenge the powers that enforce it. Why would you? Who wants court dates and felony records? But everyone measures these consequences differently, if they didn't, we wouldn't need law enforcement or a court system to impose order on society. Every single person has the choice to break the law or challenge the forces that impose order whenever they want. These kids challenge it constantly. They measure the consequences differently. That may be as a result of a mental health disorder, but it might not. Mental health or drug issues may be a mitigating issue when they come before the court, they may not. Sometimes their violations might be petty, sometimes they might be severe. Penalties will be always be imposed. They know this. But you can't tell which of them are violent offenders until they offend violently, that's kind of the issue. There are no preventive criminal charges that stop people from being violent before they become violent. There are social programs that aim to acheive this, but you can only benefit from them if you voluntarily engage, and they don't want to.
posted by The Straightener at 1:59 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the most monocultural group of New Yorkers I've ever seen.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:13 PM on September 2, 2010


There are no preventive criminal charges that stop people from being violent before they become violent. There are social programs that aim to acheive this, but you can only benefit from them if you voluntarily engage, and they don't want to.

Understood, but (rhetorical question) do you believe that enforced hospitalization is warranted in any case? Previously, you said "Every person who suffers from a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder is free to wrestle with managing their disorder on their own terms." Which indicates that you would answer my rhetorical question with "No, there are no imaginable instances where we would lock someone up and impose treatment for their own good."

That's where I will disagree with you.

Society can say, "You, over there, drunk in public. You have not yet climbed into your car and plowed into a school bus, but your drunken state indicates to us that you might, so you will be arrested. We may or may not impose criminal charges. But you're gonna sleep it off." We already agree on this, an example of mental impairment (in this case, induced by drug) requiring the action of a peace officer.

Suicide is illegal -- there's another example, without a drug requirement, or the requirement of any outside agent.

IMO, the same concept should be extended to the mentally ill. "You, over there, throwing puppies off the bridge. You have not yet thrown yourself off the bridge, but your visible behavior indicates to us that you might, so you will be arrested. We may or may not impose criminal charges. But you're gonna sleep it off. Oh wait, you can't sleep it off. OK, let's go to the hospital and see what they say..."

Now, where those lines get drawn is another question. I don't have to re-read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to recognize an avenue for abuse.

But I contemplate there exists a binary jumping off point between "struggling with mental health" and "struggling with mental health to the point where they are a danger to themselves and others."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2010


I envy those who think these stories sound implausible.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


*anti-authoritarian bitterness against all the hypocrisies of the grown-up world or not having the world experience to have perspective about everything anything.
posted by nickyskye at 2:25 PM on September 2, 2010


That's where I will disagree with you.

You can disagree with me, but you don't understand the systems you're talking about so it's sort of a moot point. Yes, there are extremely rare instances where civil mental health courts can impose involuntary commitments to psychiatric facilities. But that isn't treatment, it's detainment and observation. Nobody is treated against their will, treatment by it's very definition is a voluntary process. Those who are detained and observed against their will typically reject treatment as soon as their freedom is granted to them. In the meantime, they cheek their meds when the nurse gives them and spit them out two seconds later. Once they are out on the streets they are free to resist treatment until they do something that brings them back into contact with law enforcement, which may lead to another short stint of detention and observation, or perhaps just incarceration.

What is you conception of an involuntary commitment? Do you imagine that people are strapped down and injected with medications they don't want? Because that's not how it works. For someone to be forcibly medicated at least in the State of Pennsylvania at least two doctors need to appear before a judge and petition for it. This basically never happens, the court is set up precisely to prevent it from happening except under the most extreme circumstances.
posted by The Straightener at 2:28 PM on September 2, 2010


IMO, the same concept should be extended to the mentally ill. "You, over there, throwing puppies off the bridge. You have not yet thrown yourself off the bridge, but your visible behavior indicates to us that you might, so you will be arrested.

Wait, seriously? You're suggesting "You look like you might commit a crime so we're going to arrest you just in case" as codified law enforcement policy? That's... um... a little dystopian, don't you think?
posted by dersins at 2:40 PM on September 2, 2010


Wait, seriously? You're suggesting "You look like you might commit a crime so we're going to arrest you just in case" as codified law enforcement policy? That's... um... a little dystopian, don't you think?

It's reality for quite a few people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:45 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I met an Anarchist in Tompkins Square Park.
He was an angry man, spitting words so dark.
He called for death to rich men.
Death to yuppies, too.
Death to art fags, bourgeois blacks,
death to landlord Jews.

--Bongwater, "Folk Song" 1990

posted by applemeat at 2:54 PM on September 2, 2010


As I said above, it's not actually "a fashion statement." It seems to me that by characterizing it as "what [I'd] probably call 'a fashion statement,'" you are agreeing with my point that it is not actually about a fashion statement, but is a conscious choice based on deeper issues.

No, I'm not. Not unless people who choose to wear bright colors or high heels or ties with prints on them are also making "a conscious choice based on deeper issues". The idea here seems to be that there's a line beyond which people who don't wear typical clothes must be choosing based on Deeper Issues™, whereas everyone else isn't. In my experience, this dichotomy does not hold -- witness almost any askme thread about work clothes. Deeper issues are all over the place when it comes to fashion, but that doesn't mean that fashion is "not actually" fashion.

In terms of you betting money, I guess your odds of winning that bet depend on what you mean by "most of your friends" and "good lives of their own." My friends who chose to leave the religious school on their own terms and live their lives according to their own chosen path have gone on to live far better lives than those who chose to get kicked out and live the rest of their lives in constant struggles against authority figures of all kinds.

I'm not talking about who lives the "better" life -- that depends entirely on who you ask. What I mean by a good life chiefly depends on whether a person is happy with who they are and what they're doing. If "most of them certainly would say that they 'have no regrets'", then I think it's safe to say that they have good lives, if not the "best" lives by whatever outside metric you choose to use.

For some people, constant struggle is a positive thing. A lot of people would probably say I live that way... but I felt as though life was much more of an active struggle back when I was still trying to conform. Being looked down on by authority is an easy trade for living in a way which makes you want to look down on your own life... and to be honest, I've had fewer actual problems with authority this way. Trying and failing to fit in brought way more trouble and drama into my life than the equivalent of the "fuck you" backpatch ever did.

When I'm being judgmental, I think they were stupid and cowardly not to take control of their lives by doing what they actually wanted to do, rather than put themselves in positions where authority figures would make those decisions for them. There's a huge difference between making your own decisions about how to live life and passively making decisions that forseeably cause authority figures to punish you out of situations that you find distasteful.

Maybe what they did was what they actually wanted to do. Maybe they considered leaving voluntarily to be the "passive", "stupid", and "cowardly" choice. This depends entirely on perspective; what's passive to one individual may seem extremely active to another, and vice versa (just ask any two people whether being a deserter or a draft-dodger is brave or cowardly, for example).

I think the assumptions and judgments you're making about these people say as much or more about your own issues than about theirs.
posted by vorfeed at 3:09 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plexi, how many wall street investors volunteer their time? I don't understand what everyone expects from these people.
posted by wayland at 3:11 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, seriously? You're suggesting "You look like you might commit a crime so we're going to arrest you just in case" as codified law enforcement policy? That's... um... a little dystopian, don't you think?

It ... happens ... every ... day. Legally. Usefully. I can point to any number of "public intoxication" laws on the books designed specifically to address the dangers and public nuisance of someone displaying behaviors where they appear to be in an altered mental state and bothering others.

How do you think a drunk driver gets pulled over? Except for someone going, "You know, that guy looks drunk."

You can disagree with me, but you don't understand the systems you're talking about so it's sort of a moot point.

Single greatest hand-waiving dismissal I've ever seen. Thanks. Why do you enter into online discussions with strangers if you're not open to having your ideas explored and possibly challenged? Did I miss the "welcome to the echo chamber" sign on the way in? Do you always meet disagreement with "you don't know what you're talking about?" You must be real fun at parties.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:24 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do you think a drunk driver gets pulled over? Except for someone going, "You know, that guy looks drunk."

Right. That's how they pull them over. Question them. Test them. Interrogate them sometimes. But they can't actually, y'know, legally arrest someone unless it's for an actual crime that's been committed (or is in process of being committed. That's not to say some law enforcement personnel don't stretch the facts on occasion to find an excuse to, um, "legally" arrest some suspects, but it sounds to me like you're saying they shouldn't even have to invent a crime that's been (or being) committed-- that you're suggesting they should be able to arrest someone for a crime that might be committed.
posted by dersins at 3:48 PM on September 2, 2010


The idea here seems to be that there's a line beyond which people who don't wear typical clothes must be choosing based on Deeper Issues™, whereas everyone else isn't.

Not "must." May. And in the case of the specific individual being discussed, clearly was. I'm not describing a dichotomy. I agree with you.

If "most of them certainly would say that they 'have no regrets'", then I think it's safe to say that they have good lives, if not the "best" lives by whatever outside metric you choose to use.

You're making a massive assumption about people you don't know based solely on my own assumption about one sentence I suspect they would say if asked whether they have a "good life." And my assumption that they would say that is based entirely on my observation that "I have no regrets" is a mantra most frequently repeated by those who recognize that they would be happier and/or better off had they made different decisions previously. Maybe we can just agree that the question of whether someone lives a "good life" is basically meaningless if it is defined solely as a reflection of the person's own statements about their life.

Maybe what they did was what they actually wanted to do. Maybe they considered leaving voluntarily to be the "passive", "stupid", and "cowardly" choice.

Well, as I said, that was me being judgmental. I have no doubt that other people could be judgmental in ways other than mine.

Nevertheless, since I actually know the people I'm talking about and you don't, you'll just have to believe me (or not) when I tell you that what "they actually wanted to do" with their lives didn't include getting kicked out of a major university, no matter how much they may have attempted to justify their actions to themselves after the fact. To the extent that you're talking about some deeper motivation, then you're again agreeing with me when I refer to "deeper issues."

I think the assumptions and judgments you're making about these people say as much or more about your own issues than about theirs.

I'm not sure what issues of mine you think are evident in my assumptions and judgments about people you know virtually nothing about - particularly where you have made even bigger assumptions without even knowing them. But, based on your statements, it looks to me like you actually agree with the point I've been making. Just know that, even if you don't think you agree with me, and in spite of your attempts to argue with me, I agree with you completely.
posted by The World Famous at 3:56 PM on September 2, 2010


O.G.
posted by partywithoutboundaries at 4:37 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those are some sad stories.
posted by Daddy-O at 5:02 PM on September 2, 2010


Wait, seriously? You're suggesting "You look like you might commit a crime so we're going to arrest you just in case" as codified law enforcement policy? That's... um... a little dystopian, don't you think?

Have you ever leafed through one of the eugenics books from the Victorian era? The ones from the U.S. or the U.K., the eugenicists were not by any means only in Germany.

They talk about how the heredity of the lower classes is inherently flawed and some people are so bad that they will inevitably live a life of crime. And of course there are a number of ways to mark that sort of heredity physically. Why you can even tell by looking at a child whether he's worth the effort to help him up to a better station in life; it's of value to know these signs and characteristics because some children are not worth it.

That sort of thinking is by no means gone.
posted by XMLicious at 6:57 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to put anyone down, which is certainly not my intent, but it was much, MUCH worse at the park in the 1980's. Life was very rough back then as I am sure it is now. my heart goes out to these people.. I know what it is like.
posted by circa68 at 8:00 PM on September 2, 2010


This is a great set of first person narratives from folk who don't usually get much of a chance to tell their stories except to each other. Some of it's sad, some of it's funny, some of it's more than a bit horrifying. But all of it's damn interesting. Thanks Potomac Avenue.
posted by Ahab at 8:27 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


nickyskye, I really don't see the borderline personality disorder characteristics in these short bios. Self harm? No. Unstable sense of self? Who knows. Impulsive? Well, seems like most of them made impulsive choices at one point, but so do people with ADHD, and teenagers, and people who are just impulsive. Dissociation or paranoia under stress? Who knows. Unstable relationships? Who knows.

I could keep going. Then there's the fact that people who are under the influence aren't diagnosable anyway because who knows if these moods and behaviors exist in the person when they're sober.

Please don't be cavalier with diagnosing people with BPD based on short interviews, or pretty much anything else that you can gather from them via the internet, as a non-professional. It is the equivalent of diagnosing someone with

Even if they do have BPD, the vast majority of these people are victims of abuse, one of the suspected contributors to the development of BPD. The idea that it is physically dangerous to be near someone with BPD does not follow from what I know of the disorder. Self-mutilation, suicidality, and threats of same are a lot more likely. Not only that, but--and this is just in my experience and based on reading but is not anything I've seen proven--people with BPD tend to reserve the more intense and disturbing behavior for people they depend on, people who are very close to them (emotionally), and people who they're sleeping with/dating. I don't think that hanging out with your typical person with BPD for an afternoon would necessarily be dangerous.

I understand that it can be disturbing, unpleasant, and traumatic to deal with people with borderline personality disorder. At the same time, it's a very real disorder that no one chooses to have. It is curable with the right treatment. Many (probably the vast majority of) people with BPD seek treatment because they want help.

There are people here on Metafilter who have borderline personality disorder, who are probably reading this (and who read your comment.) There are people whose loved ones have BPD. There are people who don't know much about the disorder, who will go on to spread the information that you're putting out there.

I'm not saying that you have to be positive about BPD or pretend like it's awesome and everyone who has it is easy and friendly and calm. What I am asking is that you please be considerate about what you're writing and ensure that any negative generalizations or stereotypes you have of BPD sufferers are accurate, fair, and relevant to the topic at hand.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:24 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Should say:

Please don't be cavalier with diagnosing people with BPD based on short interviews, or pretty much anything else that you can gather from them via the internet, as a non-professional. It is the equivalent of diagnosing someone with Stage 2 colon cancer--the fatality rate is approximately the same. Again: you are diagnosing someone with a devastating and sometimes fatal disease.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:26 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


General stuff from my experience as a former homeless guy who's been friends with and professionally helped out these kind of folks:

1) Yeah, a chunk of crusty punks are slumming. They tend to concentrate in the mid-late teens and early 20s, which are prime drop out times. That young woman who took wilderness survival courses from Tracker Tom? Almost certainly slumming. I knew a woman who got into this from the same Green/post-Left anarchist angle; her dad was a VP at one of the largest banks in the world, so it was pretty easy for her to get off that ride. At the same time, slumming kids are fairly indispensable to that community, so it's not all monied parasitism. The ones simply blazing a trail away from something intolerable are a flood, especially in shitty little communities where that last dollar to get out through some approved method just isn't coming.

2) Hopping trains is a big status symbol because it's fucking hard to do and links what you're doing back to a politically charged tradition. Aside from "You can die," freight rail adapted to the hobo and post-hobo culture with different car designs and policies. Hopping is also something you can pretty easily pretend to do, so I'm inclined to think it's fronting, half the time. There's a big 'ol pile of bullshit mythology around the whole thing.

3) Meth (and other drugs) seems to be one of those things that cuts right down class lines. If you're slumming, then you get on a bus or plane, get dried out by the folks and act like a sanctimonious twit about the experience with your new friends. If you're some poor guy from Michigan you quickly turn into someone people other than professional caregivers should not be around. Drugs are what lead to stealing each other's shit. BPD is an easy pop psych call for any manipulative behaviour, but the main trigger of this shit is drug abuse. When you have to answer questions like "Can I pawn this because I'm going to steal in anyway?" you are basically one beat before the really bad stuff happens.

4) Lots of these kids (both genders) do sex work. It's not the kind that people get book deals over thanks to the shocking openness and genteel wit.

5) Political rhetoric comes down the line as a sort of class-enabled broken telephone. This means lots of them have facility with revolutionary politics totally out of line with the bigoted invectives they might launch when provoked. These folks are not necessarily rooting for your utopia.
posted by mobunited at 10:35 PM on September 2, 2010 [3 favorites]




I worked with runaway teens in the mid-90s, and these stories sound about right, except for one glaring omission: then, at least in California, several of the proto-crusties were runaway teens from LDS families in Utah who were suspected of being gay. Many of the teenagers I met then weren't so much runaways as thrownaways or escapees: young people who managed to flee lock-down facilities, where they'd been placed because they didn't fit into their home culture. I don't think many of them wanted to be homeless. As pjaust said upthread: their home environment was so hostile that the families found on the road were a much better option.
posted by goofyfoot at 1:09 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I greedily read the whole blog. These folks remind me of some of the people I know, and a lot of people I used to know (maybe with a little more in the way of mental-health and/or chemical-dependency issues). Thanks for posting it.
posted by box at 4:06 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Excellent post. I teach art to kids in a maximum security mental hospital. Many of whom have committed horrible crimes. Many of whom have had nightmare upbringings. They would relate to these young people instantly.

The nature/nurture question is one that gets evoked daily and rarely has a succinct answer.

However, the one thing you can count on is there will always be people who address the underbelly of society with cynicism, snark and nastiness. It's an inevitable consequence of the blame culture. The poor are poor because they're lazy. Most of this kids are probably rich kids slumming. Posers.

Yet another consequence of corporate/business culture, right wing thinking.

It's no small irony that such a grossly unequal and corrupt society created by this merciless system begets these young people in greater and greater numbers. Then we're led to believe that they are there by choice instead of necessity.
posted by Hickeystudio at 5:15 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


now that's a blog. Read every entry. Thanks for sharing Potomac Avenue.

I've also enjoyed this comments thread in that it gives a decent sampling of the level of empathy the general public has for these people.

One problem I see in this particular traveler/homeless culture is that the youthful longing for adventure that drives some of them eventually wears off leaving an extremely drug-addicted person who then has a difficult time breaking out of the culture. I'm detecting from their words that after "traveling" this way for so long, it's impossible to imagine themselves doing anything else. If this was something one could do for a while to get away from a bad situation or gain some space needed to heal from some bad shit, than I would be all for it. The problem is not only kicking the traveling habit, but all the habits that come along with it. There needs to be a place for people in our society who just need to be left the hell alone for a little while so they sort themselves out. How such a program or place would actually function, I have no idea.

I've been a gnat eyelash from living this life. My heart goes out to them.
posted by archivist at 6:39 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


One problem I see in this particular traveler/homeless culture is that the youthful longing for adventure that drives some of them eventually wears off leaving an extremely drug-addicted person who then has a difficult time breaking out of the culture. I'm detecting from their words that after "traveling" this way for so long, it's impossible to imagine themselves doing anything else.

This is every culture. You do something, and you do it long enough, eventually it gets ingrained into you. I'll talk shit about Aristotle, but he had one thing right- we become what we repeatedly do. I've known people who worked blue-collar all their lives, got some money, and signed up for college, only to discover they couldn't adjust. I've seen people working office jobs retire and have no idea what to do because they no longer had any functioning outside of the 9-5 world. Anything you do long enough becomes difficult if not impossible to stop doing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:56 AM on September 3, 2010


Haven't settled down to archive-binge on this blog yet, but thanks for posting. Wondering if I'm gonna see any of my East Coast friends!
Am I missing something or is there any reason to believe their stories?

Before they were "crusty punks," they were called "bums,"

it would be nice if the gutter punks would volunteer a little bit of their time, as much of it they spend jobless

Stupid to continue hanging around the sort of crowd that sometimes smashes your face in on a whim.
Wow, this sure is a friendly room.
posted by jtron at 7:03 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is every culture.

I agree, but I wouldn't necessarily compare someone who can't adjust to college or retired life to these traveling kids. And the reasons why are found in what they say - almost all of them are running from bad stuff (even if it is just from themselves) and need help. I'm not sure comparing them to maladjusted retirees is appropriate, but I see your point. Change is hard. Especially when there are little or no resources available to support a desire for change.
posted by archivist at 7:07 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I imagine they also have a hard time breaking out of the culture not just because they can't imagine themselves doing anything else, but because they lack a support system that most of us take for granted.

Parents' house when you need somewhere to stay a while, someone to teach you how to drive, your birth certificate or social security card so you can get state ID or fill out employment forms, somewhere to keep your belongings until you "settle down"...

Not having a family to go to is really rough, and our society doesn't make it any easier. Health insurance in your early 20's? Get it from your parents. Applying to college? Fill out the FAFSA--your parents are supporting you, right? I could go on and on.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:08 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Most of this kids are probably rich kids slumming. Posers.

Yet another consequence of corporate/business culture, right wing thinking.


Not most, but not an insignificant number, either when you're talking about Crusties vs. the general homeless population. I remember down at Evergreen in Toronto it was pretty much expected that a huge chunk of the "homeless" population would be going back to home and school at the end of each summer. But this is a situation with mixed results, since posers have kind of a niche in the ecosystem, so while they bring a more articulate consciousness and more stuff, they're also easy to point at as an excuse to dismiss the issue. What it comes down to, really, is a failure in North America to deal with class head on. Instead we have people who have a vague unease with their privilege merged with people with genuinely shitty lives, and no acceptable way for the former to become "allies" in any formal way -- just posers or agents of institutions.
posted by mobunited at 7:22 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: They also look very worn.

Actually, I was in part reacting to the fact that although at first glance the clothing seems worn, on closer inspection they look made to look worn. Notice the designed fringe around each patch in the patchwork jacket and the "distressed" bill of the otherwise perfectly formed baseball cap. Looks "fashiony" to me.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:01 AM on September 3, 2010


really don't see the borderline personality disorder characteristics in these short bios

Please don't be cavalier with diagnosing people with BPD based on short interviews

My first, second comments.

I said, "I wonder if the ones with bios on this site do not have Borderline Personality Disorder or are the children of parents with BPD or another Personality Disorder. It just seems these kids' lives are packed wall to wall with criminal activity, mayhem, addiction, suicidal ideation and misery."

Italics added now. I was not diagnosing, I was wondering. Extensive comments of mine on the BPD topic before here on the blue.

My comments in this thread were based on many years of personal contact, years of experience and trying to help kids like these kids on the site; one who just did three years in prison for smashing a person she was trying to mug in the face with a crowbar. She is herself a victim of sustained parental abuse, long term hard drug abuse. She is a victim of victimizers who were once victims, who became a victimizer herself.

I do wonder if the kids on the Tompkins Square site are BPDed for the following reasons, they say that they: are alcohol or drug addicted, have unsafe sex, are reckless in general, self harm (especially with reckless behavior), have black-and-white thinking, extreme feelings in general, feelings of fragmentation or lack of identity, have feelings of victimization and perceived failure, have impulsive behaviors, are insecure, avoidant, tend to view the world generally as dangerous and malevolent. The accumulation of these symptoms are indicators of BPD.

You said, people with BPD tend to reserve the more intense and disturbing behavior for people they depend on, people who are very close to them (emotionally), and people who they're sleeping with/dating

Exactly. It might not be safe to get close to BPDed people. Not people who simply have PTSD because of abusive parents and were misdiagnosed by a lazy/irritated/impatient therapist but BPD. As far as I know all people diagnosed with BPD are victims of abuse, abuse themselves, but that does not mean that people with BPD may not be dangerous to be around, especially in close contact.

You said, It is curable with the right treatment.

No, I think that is a misstatement. Some of the symptoms of BPD are treatable with psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Schema Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These are treatments that might help the kids on the Tompkins Square site, if they were able to kick their hard drug abuse and work for years on healing in a more stable environment. To the best of my knowledge, a personality disorder is rigid, inflexible, all-pervasive and not curable. Yet.

It is my speculation that what is now poorly labeled as BPD, will be, in the revised version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, divided into a number of categories such as Self-Harm Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which are not harmful to others. And people with a type of destructive-to-themselves-and-others disorder which has a heavy emphasis on promiscuity, addiction, chaos, dramarama, manipulation, betrayal, is narcissistic, includes both violence to self and others and may include a sort of cat-and-mouse enmeshment with the police, repeatedly having tangles with law enforcement.

To the best of my knowledge, though flawed in the past and maybe flawed now, Covenant House is the only real resource for runaways/teen homeless kids. If any Tompkins Square Park homeless kid is reading this and wants to work on a safer, healthier life, go there, 460 west 44th Street. St. James Church at 865 Madison Avenue has a quiet homeless shelter and offers homeless people a mailing address if you need one for forms etc.
posted by nickyskye at 11:47 AM on September 3, 2010


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