If you were to pass Kevin Parker on the street, you probably wouldn’t look twice.
It’s doubtful that you’d think there was anything wrong. He’s a normal guy with a few tattoos and some piercings. Nothing too out of the ordinary.
But Kevin Parker has one hell of a story to tell.
A middle-aged man, he’s lived life a lot differently than many of us. It’s a life filled with some amazing tales of overcoming many pieces of adversity.
And it’s a life filled with drugs.
I’m sure that many of you who read this won’t have a clue who the hell Kevin Parker is. Until this past December, I barely had a clue who he was, either. I knew him as Jack Trades, a crazy dude who worked for Squared Circle Wrestling (2CW), an independent wresting promotion based out of Syracuse. We had seen him a few times at cards and never spoke a word to him.
A geocaching buddy of mine, Mike, told me he was pals with “Jack Trades” and said to say hi to him at a card we attended in Syracuse.
We did and chatted with him for a few minutes.
That night, I took a pretty sweet image of him in the ring talking to the crowd. I texted it to Mike, who, in turn, sent it along to Parker. From that point on, I got to know Parker – both as himself and his alter-ego Trades. What I found was one of the most interesting people I have ever met.
He had such a story and I was enthralled.
I’m working on a much larger project with Kevin and soon enough, his full story will be told. It’s something else. But a few weeks ago, he was going to tell a portion of this story — a recent story — at the Utica Firefly Series. This series is a storytelling one where people gather in a coffeehouse setting and have an “open mike” type situation.
The week Kevin spoke had no theme, so it was anything goes. He also led things off, and what a way to start.
The setting was the Tramontane Café – or The Tram – an intimate coffeehouse in Utica, New York. The lights were dim and the people were close to the front so they could really get a feel of the people speaking their stories.
Some were funny. Some were serious. Some were too long. And some, well, left you wanting to leave. That’s how things are with open mikes, though. Some of the stories seemed like they were off the cuff. Some a little more prepared. There was even an appearance by, who I was told was a well-known Utica person named Rainbow. And he told a story about getting hit by a bus. Crazy.
Some people were nervous and rambled. Some were sharp, crisp and to the point. Some just kept talking and talking, not even thinking about the 5- to 10-minute time limit on things. And you could see what happened when that happened as other people in the crowd started to look around and lose interest.
In situations like this, if you go over the time limit, you have to capture the crowd. If they are bored, you need to end and move on – not continue.
Especially with the intimacy that the Tram offers.
The place is perfect for an event like this. Most of the chairs were mismatched. There are couches and comfy chairs. Folding chairs and others that look out of place. But the ambiance was excellent.
Before the show started, people sat around with their coffee, mingling or playing on their laptops. Some surfed Facebook, others appeared to be working. It had the feel of a new-wave hippy sort of place.
At the back of the “stage” was an old piano and other knick-knacks that fed to the ambiance of the place. Photos and signs of “The Tram” were spread around the walls. Inside, a news reporter for a local TV station set up a camera and tried to figure out the lighting so she could get things rolling when Kevin got on stage.
He was the opening speaker. In the end, he would prove to be a hard one to follow.
See, this story goes behind rolling a doob here and there. It goes to something that is overtaking the news when it comes to drugs, recently. Bath salts.
I have to be honest – I have heard of bath salts and knew it was some wacky drug that made people do odd things in some cases. But overall, I have no idea about these things. But I do know they are apparently legal because of how they are made and packaged.
And that’s scary.
According to Wikipedia, bath salts (which are a designer drug, not the things you actually put in a bath) can have the effect on people like amphetamines and cocaine. These items can be swallowed, snorted, smoked or injected, giving a drug user many ways to get the drug into their system.
Finally, the real scary part is what can possibly come from these drugs. Things from hallucinations and paranoia to violent behavior, heart attacks, kidney or liver failure and suicide have occurred. There’s also an increased tolerance of pain.
Even more scary, right?
Well, Kevin was on bath salts. And he got bad. He was homeless. Doctors told him if he continued on this path, he wouldn’t live much longer.
He was ready to cash it in. He was ready to leave this life. He wasn’t eating. Basically, he was going to die.
Then something happened. There was a reason to fight. He wanted to get off these things.
And despite working on a bigger project with Kevin where I hope to help him tell his story, I think in this situation, it’s better to let him tell this particular story.
Do yourself a favor and watch this 10-minute video. It’s well worth your time.
The crowd was mesmerized. People, including me, were on the edge of their seats. There were looks of shock when Kevin fessed up and said he was “Jack.” And when he dumped out all those used packages? More stunned looks. And there were tears in the crowd, too. People dabbed at their eyes.
This is real life.
In a world where movies and fictional books are ways to release, this is real.
Way too real.
But the best part of this is the hopeful happy ending. July 4 will be his 75th day away from this crap. He went cold-turkey and he’s staying clean. Many props to him and here’s to him staying clean and helping others get away from this ugly drug!
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