Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back Again

A friend mentioned to me yesterday that I haven't written anything in a while. I am sorry about that, but I have been busy with other things. I am selling stuff online via eBay and Amazon, and it takes time to list things. If you knew everything that I had, you would understand. I have also been making several trips to storage to get things out. Without a car, I have to do it bit by bit. Usually the equivalent of two boxes each time. The books and tapes are heavy, but I now have all of the cd's and dvd's moved. Half of the records. A third of the video tapes. And a majority of the books. All of the clothes. A few of the posters. None of the furniture. So, it is a long process. A friend said he would rent a truck to help out, but that remains to be seen. Also, I started writing a book about my experiences being homeless. I think I will have to write it over, since some people don't want to be in it, despite my changing names. Maybe, I'll get it written one day. One friend told me not to put it off, because it would be hard to remember things, but I think that will not be a problem. I have a fantastic memory. No real job to speak of yet. But, I do have a lot of meetings with the housing people, and they are helping me apply for disability. I have trouble seeing thanks to cataracts. Maybe, if I get approved for medicaid, they can be removed. We will see (no pun intended). I have been blessed in the last few months. I do not take anything for granted. So, don't think I don't care about my readers. I do very much. And, thanks for caring about me. It means a lot.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day. A day we remember our fathers or honor our fathers. It is a day that is not qui9te as big as Mother's Day, although I really think they should be celebrated together. After all, about 99.99999% of babies born in the world have had a mother and a father. Maybe those folks from test tubes or artificially inseminated could question the motehr and father theory, but for most of us, we had a mother and a father.

I have written here before about my father. He wasn't around a lot, since he was working. I didn't really realize until much loater in his life exactly what an impact he had on others. We really didn't see eye to eye on most issues, and quite frankly we fought a lot. But, he was still my father.

When I went off to college, one of the questions they asked you was the furtherest you had been. At that time for me it was California. My father had taken us to Disneyland and San Francisco, when I was 5. It was our cross country vacation. Some people in my college class had not been past Atlanta. I thought that was strange. Didn't everybody have vacations to California? Didn't everybody travel to 29 out of the 50 states? Didn't they? Well, we did. And,
I didn't realize how special our family was. I didn't realize how special my father was. I kind of knew about my Mother, but not Daddy. I just knew him as my father.

He is in Heaven now. I have learned much more about him over the years. I won't bore you with it, but just to say that we had a good life in our growing up. We had good parents. I wish more could say that, and then maybe our world would be a better place.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Birthday

Contrary to popular belief, I still think about my blog. It has been over a month, but it is on my mind from time to time. I really should write more, but I am doing other things now. For example, I am writing a book about my homeless experience, which thankfully has come to an end. What?????????????????? No longer homeless??

Yes, I said it. I am now living in an apartment, thanks to some very helpful people. Some people who said yes to me. Now, I am trying to figure out how I am going to get all of my stuff in it, but it is a luxury that I can enjoy. The place is kind of small but livable. It is near two bus lines and a grocery store. The location is very good, and it is relatively quiet. All in all, I am blessed, and it is a true answer to prayer.

So, now we come to today. It is my birthday. At least, the one on my birth certificate. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have 2 birthdays. Today and January 4th. But, today is the one we are celebrating, and it is a very happy day for me. I am not in love, but short of that, it is happy, because I am no longer homeless. I think you can be happy for me too. I am no longer looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. I am out of the tunnel and into the light. I don't have a conventional job yet, but I am selling my stuff on the internet once again. Another blessing.

So, if you see me smiling, you will know why. Others will just think I'm crazy. Let them wonder why. You will have a jump on them. God has been good to me. I hope He will be for you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Caring Souls

Last week, I got an email on my Myspace page. It was quite unusual, because I really don't use Myspace much, and the emails I usually get on there are spam, so this was quite unusual. The email was from a place called USC Supportive Housing. It is an arm of the USC School of Medicine, and their goal is to help homeless people with housing and counseling. I had been there before with a friend but had not applied to them personally. Why? I don't really know why. But, they wanted to talk with me. The only contact I had had from them with anything was that they ran the winter shelter, where I spent two weeks.

So, last Friday, I went to see them. I met with the guy who oversaw the shelter, and the first words out of his mouth were that there were a lot of people who cared about me. I know that people care, but I have been told no so many times during this homeless ordeal that I have become a little less trusting. So, I have to be reminded about those who care. He told me that a friend in city politics contacted him on my behalf. I did not request this person to do anything for me, but she cared. So, I was put on the fast track to get housing that could be permanent.

I have met with the man once since that initial meeting, and we got the ball rolling. My church is filled with caring souls. It looks like I will be able to get into a place soon. I was to have another meeting today, but it was postponed until Monday. I should have a more clear picture then. But, I am deeply humbled that people care about me. I have gotten some criticism about my being put on the fast track. You know the old saying--It is not what you know, it is who you know. I am deeply sorry about this and maybe losing some friends over it, but if they were in my position, they would have done the same thing. No, that's okay. Let someone else have the place. I'll just wait my turn. Well, guess what? It doesn't work that way. Life is sometimes unfair.

So, I thank God that there are caring souls out there. I just hope that I won't let them down. And, if I say thank you so many times that you get tired of it, then so be it. Thank you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Being Outside

When I first started writing my blog an eternity ago, I tried to do it daily. In recent weeks or months, that has become increasingly difficult. It isn't because I don't have anything to say. The trouble is that I have too much to say. The trouble also is that some of what I want to say is stuff that may not be so pleasant to read. Or perhaps, the reader will have a hard time understanding or identifying with what I am writing about. So with that in mind, try and picture some of this stuff in your mind. Maybe you have seen some of it on TV, although it doesn't do it justice. Maybe you have seen some of it in real life, but you don't know what you are seeing. What is the reality? What is the truth? Can you really know what goes on out on the street? I would like to humbly say that you don't unless you have lived it yourself. And, don't tell me that you lived on the street as a social experiment one night with your church or school to experience what it is like to be homeless. That just doesn't cut it.

I really didn't want to write about sleeping outside, as there is a stigma to it. At least in a mission or homeless shelter, there is a roof over your head and a bed in which to sleep. So, you are not quite homeless, even though the government classifies you as such. But, when you are out on the street, sleeping under the stars, it is an entirely different matter. Such was the case for me about two weeks ago. I found myself with nowhere to go. No shelter. No mission. No friend's place. I can't tell you where I slept, because it is an unwritten law among the homeless not to divulge your sleeping place. Why? Others may want to use it too, which would get kind of crowded. Or, the police might find out and want to move you. So, I will just refer to it as Hotel California.

The place was not far from downtown in a residential and commercial area. I had thought, when it was presented to me, that we had permission to sleep there. I found out later that this was not quite the case. The property owners knew we were there, but they didn't like it. After a night or two on the streets, I saw why some homeless people are paranoid or mentally disturbed. There are so many things that one must consider just to lay your head on concrete. First is the place. How secluded is it? Can you easily be seen? Second, you must have a sleeping bag. It is better if you have a pad under it. Unfortunately, I don't. So, my 56 year old joints hurt all the time from coming in contact with concrete. And, forget about rolling over in your sleep. That is extremely painful. Third, you need to have one or more people sleeping in your area. I am fortunate in this. I have two friends who are very concerned about my well-being. I am protected. This is good in case another human happens to come by. Not so good if that human is a policeman. Fourth, you need somewhere that you won't get rained on. Although some homeless people use the rain as their bath. I choose not to do that. I have learned the fine art of finding a bathroom somewhere and washing in their sink. No, it is not the best solution, but at least you can stand downwind of me. One downside to all of this is the pesky mosquito. Insect repellents don't work too well, so you just have to grin and bear it. My right hand swelled up last week as a result of insect bites. One person suggested to me today to get a net and put over me. I think that is a great idea, and when I get some money, I will invest in one.

The police are going after the homeless now. I don't know why. Most of them are very calm souls. Yes, some do drugs and drink, and I guess that is where we get our bad reputation. But, I see many more who just want to sleep for a few hours and carry on. I have seen a drug deal go down with a backup car filled with guys with guns. I have seen people wandering around talking to themselves. I have seen a community of people within our city. And most are nice and ask how you are doing. So, don't look down on these people, because they should get your respect. Whether they be illiterate or well-educated. For example, I talked with a guy today who knew the songs Glenn Miller did. Does that sound like a homeless guy rambling? It wasn't.

I am hoping not to be living outside much longer. There is a move afoot to get me a more permanent place to live. But until then, don't step on us in the dark and say a kind word. We may not trust you at first, but maybe at least we will nod or smile back.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pants Down

The title sounds kind of sexual, but I assure you that this blog is nothing of the sort. It is about fashion, or the lack thereof. My father was a stickler for always looking your best. From the clothes you wore to your hair. Everything had to be in place. He insisted that we carry a comb around with us, but I didn't like to do that. I was a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. But, I also knew that there was a time and place for what to wear. The times have changed for some people.

Case in point: I was riding on the bus this morning, and a guy got on dressed in jeans, shirt, jacket and cap. Nothing out of the ordinary there, except his jeans were pulled down over his butt, and we could see his underwear clearly. The good news is that is underwear was bright red which matched his bright red cap. Even his belt had red in it, so at least he was color-coordinated. However, no one wanted to see his butt. Covered or not. If he had pulled up his pants, they would have been more like capri pants, so I got to thinking.

I was a buyer for a large department store. What we bought was based on what we sold. So, if a clothing buyer saw that they were selling a lot of jeans of a particular size, they would buy more of that size. But, if the customer was buying jeans that were too small or short for them normally, just so their butts would show, the buyer would assume that a convention of short squatty people had bought their jeans. Do you see how this would mess up an inventory? How can 6-foot tall men buy jeans made for 5-foot tall men without messing up an inventory?

I am not the fashion police. After all, I don't pretend to wear designer clothes. Nor, do I subscribe to GQ Magazine. But, I do not what looks good on people, and this fashion trend just doesn't. Without being racist, I would assume that it is inspired by some rapper or something, but it just looks wrong. There really needs to be someone to come along and tell these clueless individuals that they look stupid. And, how do they run? They can't. It is more like a waddle. Or else, they just fall on their faces.

Pull your pants up. Please!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bus Pass

If I write politically charged blogs, I tend to censor myself, because I don't want to offend any relatives or friends that it might directly affect. I used not to be this way. When I was in school, I used to write things all the time that were controversial. As I got older, I became more aware of how my words would affect people close to me. However, today I must revert back to those school days.

The Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (CMRTA) runs our buses. It used to be run by SCANA, which was the local elcctric company, but the buses were taken over by this entity several years ago. One plus was that the buses followed their schedules more closely. One minus was that some routes were eliminated. All in all, I have had a positive impression of the bus system, until last week. Because I have to ride the buses, since my car blew up last year, it has been my major form of getting around. I walk a lot too. In order to ride the bus, you need either cash (you better have exact change) or you need a pass of some sort. Generally, there are two kinds of passes. The first is a monthly bus pass. This costs $40, and it entitles you to ride the buses for a month, no matter how many times. The second pass is the 10-ride pass which costs $12. Since it costs $1.50 to ride the bus each way, the 10-ride pass basically gives you one trip free.

So last week, my monthly bus pass ran out, and I needed a new one. I took my $40 to the transit station downtown (which is the only place one can purchase a pass), and I was told that they didn't have any. Upon further discussion with the worker there, I found out that they only have 10 of these passes per employee shift. They had plenty of the 10-ride pass, so I bought one of those. I used it up in two days. I went back to the station and was told they still didn't have any month passes with the same excuse. I had seen others with these passes riding the buses. How could they get them and not me? I had to buy a 10-ride pass again. I used it up in 3 days. So today, I went back to the transit station to see about a month pass and was told to come back at 2, when the employee shift changed, and maybe I could get one then.

I was livid. So, I called customer service for the CMRTA. I had actually done that last week too, and left my name and number for them to get back with me, since they are too afraid to answer the phone, but no one got back with me. I emailed them too, with no response from them. Of course, today the customer service supervisor didn't answer her phone (her name is Brittany), so I left antother message. This one was a bit more terse, even though I apologized to her if I seemed rude. But, she hasn't called back. What does "customer service" mean? I did it for 30 years and won awards. Does it mean that they just sit back in their offices and do nothing but get a paycheck and go home? Who cares about the customer?

With the economy being as it is, a lot of people are riding the buses now. I know that the $40 bus pass does not generate as much revenue as the $12 pass or the $1.50 cash ride, but it is convenient to use. I wonder if they trust their employees not to handle large amounts of cash, as they sit behind a bullet-proof glass window at the station. And, why does one have to go to the transit station to get a pass? Why can't you order one online and have them mail it to you? And, why do you have to use cash? Why can't you use debit or credit cards to purchase these passes. They know they have me over a barrel here, because I am downtown, and I am staying 10 miles away. I could walk it, I suppose, but they know I won't, so I will pay whatever they want me to pay.

People need to wake up and see how this company treats its riders. Their customer service is a joke. Now that I have vented, I will return to more nice thoughts. Maybe.