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Who is Occupying Wall Street and DC?
Adara Scarlet, for one.
Born and raised in Denver, the 27-year old headed east once she heard about the occupy movement.
Her mother died at age 40 of cervical cancer. Adara was 10 years old.
“She was one of those anti-vaccine kind of people,” Scarlet says of her mom. “She thought you could cure everything through holistic means. She tried to meditate her cancer away. It didn’t work. She could have been treated. She had many opportunities to be treated. But she waited until it was too late. She decided to do the chemo ten days before her death. It was too late.”
Adara and her sister moved in with her dad – Martin Goldstein. Her parents had divorced when the sisters were younger.
Goldstein graduated from the University of Louisville School of Law. He was a member of the Colorado Bar. But he found out that he didn’t like practicing law – so he did odd jobs – as a stock broker, taxi driver, and dispatcher.
When he lost his jobs as a dispatcher, he lost his health insurance.
But he had this amazing ability to count cards at the Blackjack table.
So, starting in 2000, Marty would go almost every day to Black Hawk, Colorado and gamble at the casinos.
And he made on average $200 a day.
“He had an amazing memory,” Adara says. “He was a walking talking encyclopedia. He taught me how to count cards when I was ten years old. He could beat the system and he did.”
Adara says that it’s a myth that counting cards at a casino is illegal.
“It’s just something you are doing in your head. He would go there and win around $200 a day – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.”
“Back then, there was a $5 betting minimum and maximum per hand. If you were to do this today, he would be much more prosperous. Now you can bet up to $100 per hand. Back then, it was just strictly five dollar ante.”
“And he played blackjack. He was clearing $1000 a week. The rent on the house was $1195 a month. He never seemed to have a problem with the grocery shopping. And buying clothes for me and my sister.”
He was able to pay the bills – including $600 a month to Kaiser Permanente for health insurance for himself and the girls.
Then Goldstein started getting sick – and running up medical bills.
“He was having a whole bunch of medical problems,” Adara says. “They never figured out what was wrong with him. We never found out.”
The illness started in about 2000 or 2001.
He smoked a pack a day – menthol cigarettes.
What were the symptoms?
“Legs swollen,” Adara says. “Calves were so swollen they were bigger than his thighs.”
“And he couldn’t eat. He couldn’t keep food down.”
“His circulation was all screwed up, so he was always cold.”
“Kaiser bounced him around to a whole bunch of specialists. But nobody could figure out what was wrong with him – they pretty much gave up after a certain point.”
“Kaiser said – we don’t know what’s wrong with you – now give us our money.”
“But he said he was not going to pay them. He thought he could win in court because they never did anything for him and he was continuing to get sicker. He lost a whole bunch of weight. He was overweight most of his life. He actually got pretty skinny toward the end.”
“He got fed up with Kaiser. He paid all of this money into the system. Not only the premiums, but the co pays. He said – I’m not going to pay this bill – you haven’t figured out what is wrong with me.”
“I assume they wouldn’t cover him anymore, or he just refused to give them any more money.”
“Kaiser said he owed them about $10,000 for all the tests, CAT scans, MRIs. The bills kept piling up. He couldn’t pay it.”
“It was something around $10,000. He couldn’t pay it. He refused to pay it.”
“Kaiser sued him. He went to court and fought them. But Kaiser won the lawsuit.”
“But he didn’t pay. He couldn’t pay.”
“They put bill collectors on it. He was in debt to them. He had bill collectors calling him.”
“Kaiser Permanent is a horrible horrible company,” Adara says.
In early April 2003, Marty Goldstein was eating a bowl of chili in the kitchen. And he said to Adara that he was going to kill himself.
“It was the most casual thing,” Adara said. “He said – I want to talk to you about something. I don’t want you to tell your sister because she is kind of emotional. I don’t want her to get bent out of shape. But I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“And he said – I’ve decided that I have lived my life, it’s time to go, I’m going to stick around for one more birthday.”
“His birthday was April 30.”
“My birthday is May 11.”
“He was 53 that year. I was 18.”
“My response was to freak out and tell my sister, which was exactly what he asked me not to do.”
“He was sitting there eating a bowl of chili while he was talking about it. He was just blowing on the chili, eating the chili, like it was nothing.”
“I went down and told my sister – Dad is talking about killing himself.”
Did he say how he was going to do it?
“No he didn’t. He just said – it was time to bow out. It was so casual.”
“He said that he had lived his life. He said all he had done was get himself into debt. And there was no way he would be able to pay Kaiser. He said – what do I have in my future other than bankrupting my family?”
“He suffered from depression. I’m sure if we had a better mental health care system, he wouldn’t have thought this was the only way out.”
“When I told my sister, she panicked. We went upstairs and cornered my dad and said – you have every reason to live. That kind of thing.”
“He acted like we convinced him. After we were at it for a while, he said – you are absolutely right, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was just talking crazy talk. And he never brought it up again.”
That was April 2003.
Did he say anything after that date?
“Never. He never brought it up again.”
But less than a year later – on February 4, 2004 – Marty Goldstein killed himself.
How did he kill himself?
“He shot himself in the head. I got a call from my aunt. It was the cops who called her. He had left a note. He called 911 first. He said – I’m about to kill myself. Please collect my body so my daughters don’t find it. He left a short note for the emergency people. He said – here are the keys to the house for my daughters. He even said what day the trash pick up was. He said – please don’t let my daughters find my body here.”
Did he leave a note for you?
“Yes, a long note in a sealed envelope. It was a 22-page hand written letter.”
“He said when bill collectors come around, they can come and collect my TV, bed, everything like that. I have a small life insurance policy that will pay collectors off at about 75 cents on the dollar.”
“I guess he must have been about $40,000 debt in total, because it was a $30,000 life insurance policy. The life insurance company of course managed to screw us – we didn’t get that.”
“He had actually gotten life insurance with a company that covered suicide. God knows where he found that. It was some place out of Texas. He had done that specifically in the early 1990s.”
“He had this policy for years. Maybe he had suicide on the back of his mind.”
An aunt told Adara that her father’s bills wouldn’t pass on to the family.
“But collectors called me and my sister anyway. They tried to trick us into thinking that we owed it. I’m really glad my aunt told me – you don’t owe anybody any money. Don’t let anyone talk you into thinking that you do. My sister and I just hung up on them. And finally after about a year, they quit calling.”
Adara believes that if we had a single payer national health insurance system, her father might still be alive.
“He was really depressed and he considered suicide as a possibility. But I don’t think he would have done it. The Kaiser Permanente bills were on his mind. He didn’t want to burden his family with bills.”
“My dad’s main killer was depression. And no health insurance. If had been able to pay those bills, he would have stuck it out.”
Adara says she was a changed person after her dad died.
“I was a selfish asshole before he died,” she says. “I had a lot of friends that I would just kind of talk at. I had boyfriends I would use and walk all over. I was not a good person. I hate myself looking back. After my dad died, I had this moment of clarity that life was more important than that. So, I wanted to make amends with everybody I had ever screwed over. And I wanted to apologize to them. I tracked down some people who I had long since lost touch with. And I just apologized.”
“Even though my politics were liberal, I was a hateful person – or you could say an angsty teenager. I hated the cheerleaders just because they were cheerleaders. That kind of thing.”
“I didn’t realize how stupid that was. I waited tables and told horror stories about my customers all the time. I wouldn’t hang out with myself from back then. I was a really negative person. I was a drain on people. I was always complaining about something. And I sort of realized that and wanted to change that after my dad died. It was a slow process. But now I’m pretty much the opposite of who I was back then.”
“Earlier this year, I saw a youtube video of Dennis Trainor. I saw this video where he was inviting to people to come to Washington, D.C. for October 2011. I just decided I had to come. I was already enrolled in college classes.”
Adara slept on Freedom Plaza in DC for a week. And now she’s heading up to Occupy Wall Street.
“Everybody who dies from lack of access to health care is a real person,” Adara says. “And everybody who dies in a war is a real person. I try to keep in the back of mind all of the time – I am not any more important than anyone else.”
One more thing about Adara. She has inherited at least one thing from her dad – his amazing memory.
One of her favorite days is March 14 – Pi day.
As in – 3.14.
Off the top of her head, she can reel off Pi to about 200 digits.
Russell Mokhiber edits Single Payer Action.