5 First Hand Accounts Of Different Life Experiences

April 17, 2015 | 8 Comments » | Topics: Answers, TRUTH

What does it feel like to murder someone?

Without a doubt this is probably the most personal question I think I could ever answer. This is a question I have been asking myself for a very long time now, and just coming to grips with the answers I have found. To say my answer is complex, and that I am going to have difficulties expressing exactly how I have felt, and still feel about murdering someone, is an understatement. 
I guess the beginning would be the best place to start. When I took another man’s life I was just nineteen years old. Looking back now, I can honestly say I felt immense peer pressure to go through with the murder. I felt like I would be seen as a weak punk if I let another man get over on me. I was a drug dealer, and I felt I had a reputation to uphold. I can see all this now, but at the time I could see none of this. I realize now I was in a very bad place in life. I was in the midst of a serious drug addiction. I felt worthless and unworthy of love, so in return I placed little value on my life or on the life of anyone else. All of these feelings made me feel so powerless in life, I lashed out.
My lashing out cost another human his life. I am ashamed to admit it, but at the time I felt a great weight was lifted off my shoulders when I pulled the trigger. I felt like I had finally stood up for myself. I was completely irrational. I realize now it is like my friend David Monroe always says, “hurt people, hurt people.” I was really hurting and I didn’t know how to ask for help.
I continued to justify my actions for a long time, but somewhere deep inside I have always known that there was never any justice in taking someone’s life. Admitting to myself I was feeling scared, lonely, unworthy of love and respect was just too hard. Also, by admitting these feelings, I would also have to come to grips with what I really did, and how I affected the world. This was a hard prospect for me, but I am finally there over fifteen years later.
Now I feel sadness over murdering someone. I feel I have robbed my victim’s family of the most precious thing in life. I feel immense sorrow for this. I feel I have robbed my family out of truly ever knowing me. I feel like I have created fear in my community. I feel that I have done the world a great disservice, and that I owe a debt that I can never fully repay. I am full of guilt and shame over my actions. I never want anyone else to feel the way I do. 

– Tommy Winfreyinmate San Quentin State Prison


What’s it like to be a member of the Triad?

My involvement began in high school. There was nothing dramatic about it, I just became friends with a bunch of people I thought were cool and one thing led to another.

High school gangs are like triad training schools. They are not part of the triads per se, they’re more of a triad Mickey Mouse fan club where a group of young wannabes strut around pretending to be something they’re not. You’d be surprised at just how many of these there are.

The leaders of these high school gangs are usually affiliated with a low ranking triad member, called a 49 in triad lexicon. These are the foot soldiers. The 49 functions as big brother whose help the boys would call on in case of trouble, but big brother is also a scout who kept an eye out for promising young talent.

I must’ve seemed like one, because I was soon introduced to the 49er’s tailou (big brother), who was also a 49er. We met a few times at a local disco, snorted cocaine, gargled ketamine, popped ecstasy, and soon he trusted me enough to put me in charge of a few high-school gangs.

The triads are structured like a MLM scheme. At the lower levels, the more followers you recruit, the more powerful you become, the higher up you climb. The people above your rank are referred to as tailou or ____ ko which means elder brother, and your followers are referred to as DauGei, or children. 

It’s all about the organization. So we organized. 

We recruited the same way ISIS and Al Qaeda does: by giving disaffected and disenfranchised young men a sense of belonging. We start off by convincing the kids that we were cool by bringing them alcohol, drugs and other illicit goods. Then when they have issues they’d come to us for help and we’d help them. Many of the kids I recruited were bullied in school and looking for some revenge, and we’d give the kid’s bully a thorough trashing. 

Some of the kids would naively come to see us as these cool guys who were looking out for them, and they’d seek to be a part of our circle. Once we got the kids on hooked on the illusion of brotherhood and coolness, they’re ours to keep. And they’ll bring their friends as well.

We went around the schools settling petty disputes such as who stole whose girlfriend – at the high school level, everything is petty- , and we enforced pax triadica with our fists. We demanded discipline from our members, and if one of our own went out of line we’d beat him up ourselves. We were a group of young bullies with our own set of rules and standards of behaviour. My recruits unwittingly traded one bully in school, for circle of friends who bullied one another.

From petty disputes we graduated on to settling disputes between local businesses. Unlicensed bars, moneylenders and illegal gambling dens would pay us a set fee, and in return we’d step in if they have problems. The money was terrible, but for a young kid, having adults and business owners turn to you for help is a huge ego trip. 

I was able to grow the organization effectively because I understood the principles of peer pressure and groupthink. So if you’re a parent, I would advise you to obsess over who your teenager is hanging out with; there are many manipulators like me out there.

I must’ve been a pretty good recruiter, because the boss took me under his wing and introduced me to his boss, Suen Ko. Suen Ko was a hung kwan, or a mid-level lieutenant in the triad hierarchy. This is where I started to get involved with the actual organization. We had a short initiation ceremony in a karaoke room, and I became a 49 under Suen Ko.

Suen Ko owned a few nightclubs and bars, and virtually every night we’d be in one of his fine establishments drinking, partying, and partaking in every drug we could get our hands on. Our sort attracted a certain sort of girl, and there were girls aplenty. The bars were a money maker, but Suen Ko’s real money came from selling bootleg CDs.

At the time, bootleg CDs and eventually DVDs were an organized crime gold rush. This was before napster and way before bittorrent, and demand was so high that we filled up entire shopping malls with outlets selling pirated movies, music and software. A common joke was that if Bill Gates ever visited our malls, he’d have a heart attack on the spot.

For about 5 cents in costs for a blank CD, we sold the end product to the consumer for 15 local bucks a pop. Not even cocaine had that kind of margin. We were selling the bootlegs as fast as we could print them, and best of all piracy was perceived by the local cops as a low-impact crime and as such wasn’t rigorously enforced. Heck, many of our regular customers were cops. At the time, you could drive up to a police checkpoint with a stash of bootleg CDs on the backseat, give cheeky grin and a thumbs up, and the cops would just wave you through. 

Suen Ko made millions within his first year.

I was good with computers, and I became his IT department. I helped him organize his production, and in return he gave me a handsome cut. I made quite a bit of money in my teens, but I quickly blew it all on drugs and girls. 

The biggest eye opener was during the annual company dinner. They had to construct a tent hall on an empty field to fit all 5,000 of us in, and there were local politicians and community leaders on the front row tables. That drove in the impression of just how big the tree was, and how deep the roots went.

If I made the triads sound like corporations, that’s because that’s what they are. We were even registered with the Registrar of Companies as a multimedia company and we paid our taxes. The big bosses looked just like any other middle aged Chinese uncle you’d meet at the local supermarket. The best way to avoid detection is to be in plain sight and blend into the background. The so-called gangsters you see on the street strutting their stuff are amateurs; many of them are just aping what they see in the movies. The pros keep a low profile and get on with making money.

Once you go far enough up the hierarchy, violence is actually pretty rare. For the most part, being a triad is just like working in any other corporate job. 

But when violence does occur at that level, it’s freaking terrifying.

Roundabout the end of my first year, there was a war. The politician who Suen Ko worked for was at odds with another politician from the same organization. There were a few shootings, grenade attacks, and choppings, but it didn’t affect me directly at first so I didn’t give much thought to it. Then a call came one night. All hands on deck. We dropped everything and converged on the HQ. 

Pardon the expletive, but it was scary as fuck. There were a hundred or so of us milling about an office block, and someone started handing out machetes and sashimi knives. Suen Ko took me up to the office, and there were hard looking fuckers at every corner. The air was so full of cigarette smoke I could barely breathe. Everyone looked grim. Apparently we were expecting an attack.

I was a skinny teenager, and I was out of my depth. Till that point, I’d been involved on the white collar side of things. The guys I saw that night had the word hard etched on their faces. I’ve never felt more scared than I did that night. 

We stayed there overnight, but no attack came so we went back to our branch office. They attacked us there. A dozen or so guys rushed in and we fought back with chairs, clubs, machetes, boxes of A4 paper, everything we could get our hands on. It was a hazy frantic panicky desperate fight for survival. We were cornered and if we lost it would’ve been game over. One of theirs died in the melee.

The police arrived fairly quickly and I went to jail for a bit. It was in a cell that I resolved that this life wasn’t for me. For some miraculous reason, I got off scot-free. I went home, packed my things, and left everything behind to start a new life.

So how did it feel like? Terrible. 

It’s not a healthy way to live one’s life. It got to the point where I was so paranoid that whenever I went to a restaurant I’d sit facing the entrance so I’d know who was coming in. I saw potential threats everywhere, and I carried symptoms of PTSD for a long time afterwards. 

It took me a very long time to put my past behind and to learn to live again without fear like a normal human being. I had cut off all ties with everyone I knew, and have difficulty trusting people. Till today I know many, but am close with very few.

If there’s any teenager reading this who is in a similar situation as I was, know that the world is vast and there are opportunities everywhere. The cool kids you see in school are anything but.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did

– Anonymous


What’s It Like To Get Signed To A Major Recording Label?

Today I want to talk about piracy and music. What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist’s work without any intention of paying for it. I’m not talking about Napster-type software.

I’m talking about major label recording contracts.

I want to start with a story about rock bands and record companies, and do some recording-contract math:

This story is about a bidding-war band that gets a huge deal with a 20 percent royalty rate and a million-dollar advance. (No bidding-war band ever got a 20 percent royalty, but whatever.) This is my “funny” math based on some reality and I just want to qualify it by saying I’m positive it’s better math than what Edgar Bronfman Jr. [the president and CEO of Seagram, which owns Polygram] would provide.

What happens to that million dollars?

They spend half a million to record their album. That leaves the band with $500,000. They pay $100,000 to their manager for 20 percent commission. They pay $25,000 each to their lawyer and business manager.

That leaves $350,000 for the four band members to split. After $170,000 in taxes, there’s $180,000 left. That comes out to $45,000 per person.

That’s $45,000 to live on for a year until the record gets released.

The record is a big hit and sells a million copies. (How a bidding-war band sells a million copies of its debut record is another rant entirely, but it’s based on any basic civics-class knowledge that any of us have about cartels. Put simply, the antitrust laws in this country are basically a joke, protecting us just enough to not have to re-name our park service the Phillip Morris National Park Service.)

So, this band releases two singles and makes two videos. The two videos cost a million dollars to make and 50 percent of the video production costs are recouped out of the band’s royalties.

The band gets $200,000 in tour support, which is 100 percent recoupable.

The record company spends $300,000 on independent radio promotion. You have to pay independent promotion to get your song on the radio; independent promotion is a system where the record companies use middlemen so they can pretend not to know that radio stations — the unified broadcast system — are getting paid to play their records.

All of those independent promotion costs are charged to the band.

Since the original million-dollar advance is also recoupable, the band owes $2 million to the record company.

– Courtney Love 


What’s It Like To Suddenly Become Attractive?

I feel as if I’m a pretty extreme case.

Picture of me from middle school:

Picture of me in a Victoria’s Secret Show:


I didn’t technically start being bullied until my super awkward high school years where I all of a sudden found myself at 5’9″ and 89 pounds. I’m still scouring my things for photos from during that time, but they seem to have disappeared somehow. 😛

It’s been strange having people regard me at such extremes throughout the course of 15 or so years…  I was a late bloomer.  Didn’t really start looking like a model until after college.  So it’s been a rather jarring experience having people see and treat me the way they suddenly do now.

I was bullied and often friendless throughout puberty because people automatically judged me as being someone I was not.  Ok, sure…I’ll admit that I’ve always been a nerd, but I like to think I’m a pretty cool nerd.  The difference between then and now though is that back then, they wouldn’t give me the chance to show them that I was kinda cool, and now they readily give me a chance…and are then often disappointed that I’m kind of a nerd. 😉

Same is true now as it was then — I (like everyone else I’m sure) am judged on sight.  But it’s nice to now have that perspective rare to the newly beautiful — the world is a super shallow place, yes, but it’s pointless to take their snap judgements too seriously because no one deserves to be treated differently based solely on their appearance.

The perks of being good looking: People offer me a lot more freebies,  I make money off of my looks through modeling, strangers talk to me more often, more people listen to me and laugh at my jokes, and I even have the occasional suitor…all good things.

On the other hand: Would-be catcallers will sometimes skip the compliments and just call me a bitch as I walk by, some women (although very few) are very catty to me from the get-go, and many people are shocked to find out that I’m anything other than an airhead…that I was a comp. sci. major and that I program iOS apps, for example.  Sometimes it all makes me very, very angry.  Sometimes even a complimentary cat-call can make my blood boil.  Sometimes I feel as if I have to prove myself now just as I felt I had to prove myself then.  Can’t catch a break, I guess. 😉

I clearly take advantage of my looks.  I’m a model for pete’s sake…  And in general, having beauty and intelligence is super useful during occasions that require me to assert a bit more authority.  When I need to feel most powerful, I’ll do my hair, throw on a nice outfit, put on a bit of makeup and it helps a disgusting amount.  In general, I feel extremely lucky to have been granted this new super-power.  But when I’m home and completely myself, when my hair is a mess, when I’m wearing my now broken glasses with the tape in the middle, and I’m up coding at 3 AM, I could give my middle-school self a major run for her money.  I have to wonder, why didn’t they like me then when I’m still the same person now?  Why do they like me now?  How do I know that they like me now?  Does anyone actually really even like me now?

Some things don’t leave you.

Lyndsey ScottModel, Actress, App Developer


What is it like to be black in America?

Before answering this, I just want to say that I love being black, I love America, and I love being black in America. Most of the time I am just another person in this great country. But, in the recent words of one of my close friends, “Every now and then you get a reminder that you are black in America.”
I got a reminder just two weeks ago on Christmas Eve. My best friend, who was in town from Atlanta, wanted to go to a local mall just to hang out. He invited me and another good friend to meet up with him. 
So that’s the setting: three clean-cut, college-educated black men in their 30s at a nice outdoor mall the day before Christmas. We were dressed fairly conservatively, wearing sweaters, jeans and dress shoes. We were all done with our Christmas shopping, so we were just strolling around the mall to be around people, enjoy some snacks, catch up with each other, and just feel the winter air. 
After a few hours, we decided to leave. While walking out, we noticed that people were standing outside one of the businesses as though something had just happened. Mall security was busy taking witness accounts. We went in for a closer look. We overheard a witness say that a man was beaten up. Tragic, but honestly, it’s the kind of crime that is common around the holidays, especially in malls. 
We headed to the parking lot. I arrived at my car first, so I said my goodbyes and they walked towards their cars. But before they could go thirty feet, several police cars sped in and surrounded us, lights shining bright on our faces. We had no idea what was happening. An officer started barking orders at us. “Turn around!” “Hands up” “Show me your hands!” They made us come over. 
They then started giving us conflicting orders. One officer would say, “Put your hands up.” We put them up. The other would say “Put your hands down.” We put them down. But then one would say “Who told you to put your hands down?! Get your hands up!” Back up go our hands. I felt like I was doing the Hokey Pokey dance. 
They asked us questions about where we were at a specific time. We had an alibi: we were at the Yard House and had the receipts to prove it. But that wasn’t enough. The questions continued. We asked if this was about the assault that happened. The questioning officer then acted as though our knowledge that a crime had occurred was an admission of guilt. He threw accusations at us and began a very aggressive line of questioning, hoping to get us to confess to being involved or catch us in a lie. 
They repeatedly made us show them the front and backs of our hands. The idea is that if we had been in a fight, our hands would have been bloodied or bruised. Our hands were clean. But that didn’t stop them from making us show our hands several more times, as though the blood and bruises would suddenly appear.
After an unnecessarily long questioning, they finally left us. No apologies. No “Merry Christmas.” Just gone. That was when one of my buddies, shaking his head, said, “Every now and then you get a reminder that you are black in America.”
I later shared this story on my Facebook and told some friends and family. The reaction to this was surprisingly insightful. Without fail, my white friends heard the story of our harassment and they were all upset and outraged. They felt that we should file a complaint with the PD. My black  and Hispanic friends weren’t surprised at all and just shrugged it off. And this is a simple difference in the experiences of races. My white friends have never had to deal with police harassment, and most never will. My black and brown friends, unfortunately, are all too familiar with police harassment. In a few cases, they have experienced police brutality. Something like this happens to me maybe once a year. If ever a crime is committed and the witness description turns up the words “black male,” every brother within twenty miles will have to answer for the crime, regardless of age or specific appearance. 
Harassment by authority extends beyond the police. In a post-9/11 world, it’s pretty well known that anyone who looks remotely Middle Eastern will get harassed by TSA when trying to board an airplane. What most people don’t realize is that pre-9/11, it was black people who got that treatment. Every time I tried to get on an airplane, I was the one who got “additional screening,” sometimes to the point I felt kinda violated. I had no criminal record, but this was a regular thing. I thought I was alone until I ended up on a flight with a college friend and the same thing happened to him. He told me how he had experienced the same thing since he was a teenager. He rang off an endless list of friends who went through the same thing on a regular basis. It was depressing, but I guess it was also good to know that I wasn’t alone. 
I want to make it clear that I don’t hate the police or any other branch of law enforcement. I find that most police officers are just decent people who have a tough job. But man, it would be nice if I didn’t have to hold my breath whenever I see a police cruiser with its sirens on. Most of the time it will pass me by. But every now and then…

Aaron Ellis