New Digs

Hey ya’ll if there’s anyone out there loony enough to be still following this blog, I’ve got new stuff cranking out at riostringer.wordpress.com  .. love you guys, see you there!

cheers

the Victory Lap

I went for a run on Sao Conrado beach in Rio De Janeiro the other morning. Sao Conrado is down-coast from the more famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, near the edge of the city — and a hell of a long way from my night at the emergency shelter back in the grim old days.

The sun had recently taken its place in the morning sky. The waves rose blue & sky high & pounded mightily into the shore. I’ve never seen waves so tall — a phenomena not lost on the surfers who plied them.

To my left, away from the beach, mountains covered in lush green jungle darted up toward the sky. The mountains are part of the world’s largest urban wildlife preserve. The house where I stayed was nestled in those hillsides, a mile from the beach, up a winding canyon road. At night I would perch on the house’s balcony, the twin peaks of Pedra da Gávea and Pedra Bonita towering above, and marvel at the quiet in the forest that engulfed us; surrounded though we were by one of Earth’s great metropolises.

I’m not much of a runner. I do it whenever I can muster the get up-&-go — but most days, no get up. Not go. And when I do get up, I don’t go far. Oh and I run pretty slow.

Something about my surroundings that morning bid me to pick up the pace. I broke into what amounted at best to a pretty pathetic sprint. It felt good though. I wasn’t giving it my all, maybe, but I gave it more than usual. I ran hard for a few dozen yards, then slowed. But the Voice in my brain would have no part. It screamed. GO!

I ran harder, all the way to the end of the beach, where I paused to take in the scenery. In front of me a majestic cliff crashed into the sea. The waves roared. The sand glistened. The jungle-covered mountains..I was surrounded by an embarrassment of riches, which in that moment felt oddly unsatisfying.

I am a big fan of stunning natural beauty. Yet in the midst of it all, i was overcome by a powerful hankering for some genuine urban grit.

That voice in my head — the one that screamed GO! — wakes me up every morning at daybreak. Sometimes it says something, like “run Mike E, run!” Most days it wakes me silently. I don’t know how it gets my eyes to open. But I know what it wants me to do. Run. Even though I am far more inclined to go to sleep, than wake up, at daybreak. And once awakened more inclined to sit there & not do anything. Wake up and run? You got the wrong guy. I’m the guy who used to stay up all night so I could throw eggs at joggers in the morning!

Yet this voice — despite its relentlessness — it is friendly in tone. Perhaps it wants what’s best for me. One could go so far as to call it a Guide, or an ally. Nevertheless, when it wakes me at daybreak — it feels like my enemy.

It is, for good or ill, an easily disposed of enemy. Most days the voice is readily silenced by a few more hours of sleep. I even smile smugly, sometimes, in a snotty, “can’t make me!” kind of way. But then I feel out of sorts, when I wake up. Like I’m in the wrong place at the right time, already — before I even get out of bed.

I knew I was in the right place at the right time, when I woke up in Rio and saw a streak of dawn’s light in the sky. I don’t wake up in Rio every morning & there are only so many hours in the day. I leaped into my running shoes & bolted a mile downhill to the ocean. Ran to the other end of the beach. And felt out of place in the midst of all that early morning beauty.

Something was missing; something I hankered for wasn’t there.

“Look!” Said the Voice. “Grit.”

My head turned and my eyes rested on the hillside that rose to my left.

Rocinha.

I had seen it before, from a distance, at night. The favela, or Brazilian slum, appeared more brightly lit than the affluent Sao Conrado neighborhood it towers above. More vibrant & alive. By day Rocinha was a colorful mis-mash of many thousands of dwellings crammed precariously onto a steep hillside.

My local friends had assured me that the favela was dangerous — somewhere I should not go. I ran toward it as fast as my skinny legs carried me.

It is true that Rocinha is controlled by gangs of machine-gun wielding drug bandits. I saw a different side of the neighborhood, at 7:30 that morning. I ran uphill, against the human current, while thousands of adults & kids walked down on their way to work & school.

Rocinha is bisected by one main road — Estrada Das Gavea — which climbs the hill in a series of steep switchbacks. Most of the favela has no street access; it is reachable by a labyrinth of alleys and stairways. I stuck to the Estrada, on my first visit, running in the street as hundreds of blaring-horn motorcycle taxis — the local’s preferred mode of transport — cranked by.

I didn’t need the voice in my head to make me go — this time I wanted to run. I did slow down, a couple times, figured I deserved a break, but it seemed to take more energy to walk than to run. So I pretty much hauled it the whole way up.

By the time I reached the top, I’d begun to understand what the Voice is all about. It is about what I want ultimately — even when I don’t see it that way. In this case it was about the endorphins — them little doohickies in my brain that reward me for running at dawn. Reward me the old fashioned way — by getting me High. As a loon! With a tremendous view of my new favorite town to boot.

So I did what any self-respecting buzz junkie would do. I grabbed a motorcycle taxi down the hill — like a backwards ski-mountain chairlift — and ran to the top again.

Vroom.

“I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

“It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one and another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

“Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ day is not.

“So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

“What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

“And all music is.”

–Kurt Vonnegut jr.

Night At The Emergency Shelter

The homeless shelter in Brattleboro — like in most rural areas — is tough to get into. It can take weeks. The procedure is to call in every morning until a bed opens — however long it takes. I’ve tried a couple of times, for lack of anywhere better to go, to get into the place. It’s hard, though, for me to maintain the sustained effort required. Not here in my hometown, where I generally can find some place to stay — stressful & wearisome as finding someplace to stay has become after all these years.

Mind you, there is a real short list of places I can stay. 2 of my friends who generally welcome me into their homes, most anytime I need, are out of town at the moment. That makes the list critically short. In fact — last night at least — the list was non existent.

They’ve opened an emergency overflow shelter for Brattleboro’s homeless this winter. I could have hung around the bars — tired as a dog & with no money — and eventually someone may have put me up. Like I said I end up somewhere most nights. Most, but not all. Last night I was plain not in the mood to spend hours hanging around the bar with no money hoping I would end up somewhere warm. Some nights you’re just not in the fucking mood.

I remembered about the emergency shelter. It opens up during snow & ice storms and when the temperature drops below 20 degrees F. — basically the emergency shelter operates when a persons life is threatened were they to sleep outdoors.

It was mighty cold last night. The emergency shelter was open — from 7PM to 7AM. They have it in a church basement on Main St.

12 people found refuge at the emergency shelter last night. 10 men, one woman — and one undecided. Looked like a chick last night. Yet despite the high heeled boots looked quite like a dude in the cold light of day. Anyway.

The accommodations were comfortable enough; blankets, a pillow, a sleeping pad & a spot on the carpeted floor. My only complaint, shared by most others in my vicinity, was that someone’s feet reeked. Unfortunately those feet were mine. I left the last place I stayed in a hurry and was forced to wear my boots without socks. I was tempted to leave my boots outside the shelter but feared they’d be gone in the morning. I wished I’d taken my chances.

Other than that it wasn’t too bad. They fed us beef stew in the evening. I fell asleep almost immediately. In the morning there was coffee & donuts.

The biggest drawback to the emergency shelter is the 7AM check out time. Actually it was better this morning, being Sunday. On Sunday, while they make you wake up and put your bedroll away before 7, folks are allowed to hang out in there the basement until 9:30 — when church begins.

Good thing. Sunday is a rough day to be homeless — Sunday morning especially. With the library closed, there’s not much to do when you’re broke on Sunday besides just kind of walk around & try to stay warm.

Which I did for some hours. Eventually I occupied a table at a coffee shop. Though I could not buy a coffee, people who work there know me and left me alone. It’s uncomfortable though, being in a place where people buy things, with no money. I didn’t stay long.

Once outside I ran into a friend. Bummed a smoke off him. He then blessedly offered to buy me breakfast. Then we went to his place for a few bong hits. By the time I came back out the Bar was open, and now here I am. 24 hours later, wondering if it’s cold enough for the emergency shelter to open tonight.

Wishing I had some socks.

Truth is.

I believe I would surely have killed myself, perhaps long ago, without all those illegal drugs to cheer me up along the way.

Yeah. But my life was saved by rock & roll. 

Aliens On CNN

I realize I’m a little behind the game on this one, since those UFOs in Texas haven’t been on CNN for weeks. But something I saw when they were has intrigued me ever since. 

The experts were all on Larry King, talking about how the Government doesn’t want us to know that Unidentified Flying Objects fly regularly through US airspace with impunity — and reportedly have for decades.

Now. Regular speedWay readers know that I delightedly eat freeze dried alien turdz for breakfast, whenever I get the chance — and am therefore unsurprised to learn that they saw a UFO down in Texas. It was interesting to see them talk about it on Larry King though.

One of the guys on there was talking about how he used to work 60 feet below ground in the control room of a nuclear missile launch silo. He said that one night the above-ground guard at his facility radioed him. The guard, agitated, jabbered about something he saw in the sky. The control-room guy asked the guard to identify what he saw. The guard could not. All he could say was that some kind of object kept flying by.

And suddenly the silo was disarmed.

This was back in the late 60′s. Inside the silo a nuclear-tipped missile was pointed at Moscow. But the launch-guy — the dude on CNN — could not have nuked Russia if he wanted to. A UFO flew by. The silo was disarmed. No deals.

Kind of gets me to thinking. What are those UFOs doing here, flying with impunity through US airspace — and why does the Government want to cover it up?

Here’s a theory:

Sometimes I am utterly amazed that human beings — well equipped as we are to — have not blown ourselves into a giant shit-puddle already. Strikes me as likely that our dumb asses would — if only inadvertently.

Well what if we…can’t? 

What if aliens, aided by superior technology, simply won’t allow us to?

What if, were we to try, those aliens would go ahead & benevolently disarm the launch mechanisms of our ICBM facilities? 

That would have made the whole Cold War into a bit of a very expensive yet politically expedient Farce — and surely answer that “Why the Cover Up?” question.

Grove St. Inn

They say you can’t believe everything you read on open container speedWay. Actually I said that. You can’t believe everything you read here on open container speedWay.

That’s a fact.

George McGovern, the one-time Democratic nominee for the presidency, also said that you can’t believe everything you read on the speedWay. Actually that’s not true; but he would have if he ever happened to read this pile of blog doo.

George McGovern did –really — say that Hunter S. Thompson’s novel Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail was the “least factual, but most accurate” thing written about his doomed 1972 candidacy.

Thus the good Doctor achieved the highest journalistic ideal:

Clarity.

In the interest of clarity:

I did not email Clark Hoyt to demand immediate payment for One Stinking Dollar, or I would take my story elsewhere, thanks anyway dude. I thought about it though — big time. Everything I said in the email was true. I do direly need pay. And if another publication wants to buy that story I’ll owe it to myself to sell.

Because I really do need a place to live more than anything on Earth.

At the same time, Clark Hoyt says that, while he can not at this time guarantee Dollar will run in the NY Times Magazine, he assured my phenomenal new agent that it “looks promising.” For that reason I’ve chosen to let One Stinking Dollar run its’ course, deserved or no, on the Public Editor’s desk — a fine place for it to be.

So the email was never sent.

To solve my immediate cash flow catastrophe I’ve opted to pitch a different story to the Valley Advocate. While there’s more to tell — I hope they’ll let me double the word count — here is a brief-as-feasible synapse of the article I want the Advocate to buy instead:

In August, 2007 my friend Sophie and I approached a staff member at the Grove St. Inn. We have both been homeless – living in Sophie’s car mostly — in the Brattleboro area for 3+ years. A bit of bad luck — $100 worth of old parking fines which needed to be paid immediately to keep Sophie’s car out of impound – had recently stranded us in Northampton with no gas money.

Since we’d both long been fed up with our prospects for self-betterment in Brattleboro, we decided to see what Northampton had to offer the homeless. I used my one worldly possession – my laptop – to locate the [local homeless shelter] Grove St. Inn.

We were greeted coldly at first; Sophie & I were turned away before we even got out of the car. We drove off. I got angry. We drove back. I went into the shelter and politely asked the woman who had just turned us away if there was a waiting list we could sign on to. She said yes. And then, as we spoke face to face rather than through the window of an obviously lived-in car, the woman warmed up to me.

She listened while I explained we were not on drugs. That we were both survivors of childhood sexual trauma and our lives were messed up from it. I grew misty-eyed then – no longer angry but profoundly sad.

“We just need some help.” I pleaded.

And she – it seemed miraculously – agreed to take us in.

We would sleep on the homeless shelter’s couches. Wonderful! There is a “Home Sweet Home” sign hung above the Inn’s front door. After 3 years sleeping in a car…what a gigantic relief.

This was on a Friday. The woman did our intake and told us to relax; we were in a safe place now. We did our laundry & showered & stretched our legs out the whole way on our couches. We were in a homeless shelter. It was awesome.

I checked out the Help Wanted section of the local paper, over the weekend, and was thrilled to see a far greater number of job opportunities than exist in Brattleboro. I resolved – aided by a roof to sleep beneath each night & a shower to take in the morning – to go out & find work first thing Monday.

But when Monday rolled around we were informed, to our utter shock & dismay – not to mention the shock & dismay of the Inn’s other guests – that our stay on the couches was only authorized for the weekend. There were no issues of misconduct. Nevertheless those couches at the homeless shelter remained empty once we were inexplicably booted back out in the street.



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.