Archive for September, 2007

So We Beat On.

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

>>F. Scott Fitzgerald

As for those vanished trees — I say good riddance.

I’ve lived in bucolic Vermont my whole life. As I write, the leaves on all them frikkin trees around here burst irrepressibly — irrepressibly as death itself — into whoop dee doo color. A local woodland transformed; it will be a brief leafy fireworks display. One people — we call them Leaf Peepers — come each year from all over the world to see.

Jaws will drop awed by the beauty.

Whatever.

I’ve lived among Vermont’s abundant forestry for the better part — well, let’s instead say the bulk — of my 36 years. Now I am dry heave sick of trees. I think they’re all retards.

And I sure don’t give a fart about no pretty leaves!

Shit these days every time I lay eyes on a tree all I see is a building waiting to happen. A real tall fucker. YES. Skyscraper! Lit up like a disco ball blown from a cannon.

That’s where the action is.

Good thing for the trees that I am human and thus essentially decent. At least — so goes the theory. I believe humans — one & all — are a good & worthwhile being.

Every human alive is good for something.

My friend paddymac points reassuringly out:

The fact is, anger and negativity are reported on often because they are news; they are not the norm.

I dig that way of thinking. I believe the human folk are genetically hard-wired for Goodness. We’re compelled to be Good. Because we want to live. And we’ll need cosmic jackpot-loads of essential goodness to side-step our species’ hard-looming self extermination problem. Self extermination is not good. Concur?

Goodness is the solution.

Hell I’ll go so far as to try to believe in the essential goodness of trees.That don’t mean I’m gonna hug the dumb looking things. But I respect trees. I won’t cut them down just because I don’t like their attitudes.

I know better.

I know better enough to know I am no better than a tree.

Come to think of it…I like trees.

My true beef is not with the trees themselves but with the scenery. I direly need a change of scenery.

Dig:

Nestled pristinely amidst the Bronx’s abundant green spaces (the borough is fully 25% City Park land) is a 50 acre tract, on the banks of the Bronx river, of deciduous forest — astonishingly untouched since precolonial days.

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That’s so awesome it’s berserk.

Outside of the California Redwoods I’ve never personally seen a grove of original growth trees. Not in Vermont for certain. The state was entirely clearcut for timber. As — save precious few exceptions — were all early America’s vast Northeast woodlands. But down in the Bronx — the mo’frikkin Bad Newz Bronx! — some wizened soul had the foresight to finagle this miraculous preservation.

Just upriver from where Fitzgerald imagined a fresh, green breast of the New World — perhaps where her lips may be — an ancient forest lives. She lives! And whispers still.

A rare kind of gift; bequeathed to a stranger’s great grand children’s grand children. A gift from human kind to their own.

Evidence, I submit, of the categorically irrepressible goodness — or at least the randomly occasional good sense —– of people.

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Win Or Die.

Tonight I walked in to my local poker hall with 30 dollars. I was excited to play. 20 minutes later I was broker than a dead dude.

It was as much fun as the soggy butt end of a Marlboro Light cigarette that slides unexpectedly across your tongue out of the dog-hair swig from a half full can of flat beer you cooled in the freezer to enjoy for breakfast after someone neglected to finish it the night before.

A Marlboro fucking Light!

It’s hard to rely on won money as my sole income source. But what choice do I have?

I’ve lamented in other posts about how I am persona non gratis in the local work force. Time was when I didn’t work because I didn’t want to. Or so I thought. Truth is I sold shrooms & shit for money most of my adult life. Tell you what: when it was excellent selling shro.., er um Alien Turdz. When it ruled the alien turd biz was most like Bill & Ted excellent dude. When it was awesome it was a day dream come true.

But it was work. Largely a shipping quandary, to get them buggers Fed Exed all the way from the Pluto. But you got to pay the bills. And for a while the Alien Turdz adequately did.

Until I quit the racket for reasons of stress reduction. The United States has a trade embargo against Pluto so it’s real scary when you have to pick up mail sent from there. You never know if you’re going to wind up in jail — for perhaps years — just for picking up some crap in the mail.

Lucky for me no one ever once figured out those letters originated on Pluto. Still I didn’t want to push my good fortune. Mainly I could no longer tolerate the stress. My stress bucket runneth over; like a dixie cup filled over the rim with water — pressure-gushed from a fire hydrant.

In retrospect there was at least one gigantic up side despite the stress. I could pay the rent. It is no coincidence that I have been homeless precisely since I quit the Turd biz.

Jobs are tough to come by where I live. There are no help wanted signs. The newspaper’s classified is a particular point of depression for any job hunter. Business where I live is such that there’s no need to hire some random jerk off the street. Rather positions are filled on an Invitational basis: the boss informs employees of openings. Employees alert a friend who needs a gig. That is if the boss doesn’t have someone lined up already.

Now. I ask for work. I would love work. Frankly I don’t want a permanent job any more than a permanent job wants me. Though I’ve tried for them. But it’s futile. I have a bad reputation insofar as my employment history. Fact is: How the fuck would anyone know squat about my employment history? I have not worked for someone who actually hired me for near a half decade. Maybe my reputation isn’t bad. But for whatever reason they never think to hook me in when they round up the morning work crew.

Sometimes I think I’ve out lived my usefulness to my community since I quit the Alien Turd hustle.

Is that true? Could be but I’ll get no answers here. On account of how my little pile of blog doo we got here is not real popular with the local folk. I’m not sure why that is. But I think because I’m homeless. So what? Good question. Maybe they’re prejudiced against me for it. I don’t get that. Mind you there are days — more days than not lately — when I do not want to talk to anyone who lives in a house. Talk about what pray tell? We live on solidly different planets. I know what happens on your planet. Do you know what life is like on mine?

To explain a quandry enlightens. It’s why I am super down with the friend who wants to know about my homeless quandary. Yet it seems sometimes like fantastically few do.

I say: It is not merely worthwhile for someone who wishes to be my friend to wrap their brain around my homeless quandary. It is from this paragraph forward a prerequisite to friendship with your friend Mike E.

To be friends we must talk openly of my life with no home. It is a very big deal. Homelessness may take my life. Did you know that? The average survival expectancy for an American homeless man is 10 years. I’ve been homeless off & on in my life for…I just counted 11.

That’s been on my mind lately.

Could be why I’ve resolved to buy my way off the street with money I win from gambles. For my homelessness must cease this moment. And Won Money alone comes that fast & easily. This is not to suggest that I’ll turn down work for pay in favor of an afternoon at the OTB. I never say no to money. Nor am I one to work all day only to blow my pay on a fast few ill placed bets.

Not me. Know why? I never get to work for money.

No one offers me work. And that is not a lie. It’s really fucked up. Total straw sucked bullshit really; hurts my feelings.

Most every one I know is wholly dependent on their job to provide inescapably needed income. What would one do if they had none? Ask around for work. Like I do. But what if none were forthcoming? What if your attempt to secure work for pay failed abjectly? Perhaps folks around you would conclude that you simply don’t need to trade work for money. Or didn’t want to — despite your persistent efforts.

I do not beg. Yep. I am one worthless bum. Too proud to ask a stranger for pocket change. I’m thinking about adopting a foreign child though. Because I have empathy for the plight of an orphan. Plus it could beg for me!

Just kidding. About the foreigner. But not about the work. There is none for me. Perhaps potential employers reasonably wonder whether I can reliably perform work duties. With no where to sleep that is. Who knows? No one hires me. I do know that a community feels obligated to the Employed; couches to sleep on are made available. Showers are a matter of course. Rides are arrangeable. Whatever you need to get to work in the morning is dutifully & rightfully provided.

Is that why there’s no work for me — because the community does not care to obligate itself on my behalf?

I wonder. I want to figure this out. I must.

So I write. To solve my conflict. I don’t want to die from homelessness. But it kills me. Kills me to know the things I dearly want to do with my precious time are shelter dependent activities. Like how I want to study mathematics. And learn piano. For years on end I’ve wanted to learn piano & math.

I’ll get to though. This may kill me. I’ve realized. But you may die of a freak methane explosion the next time you fart. Big fucking deal!

All I’m saying is that unless this kills me I will learn math & piano with the money I win from race horses & Texas Hold ‘Em. I will. I can. I make every bet count like it may save my life. When I win it will.

Cause when you’re 5 dollars down
What the fuck you gonna DO?


One Stinking Dollar

“I’m sorry sir.” I respectfully informed the bus driver. “But I don’t have a dollar.”

My next line was well rehearsed. I’d gone over it time & again in my mind. Not so much to memorize it as to talk myself through a crisis of confidence. How would I get on the bus with no dollar? I panicked. Then reassured myself thus:

When I see one I know it – I’m a connoisseur of these things – and I happened to have handy a smashingly good excuse.

“I’m homeless.” I explained. “And literally on my way to church.”

How bout it? I ask you. Is that a good reason to ride the bus for free?

“No.” Said the bus driver.

Maybe he thought I was lying. I admittedly didn’t look like I was on my way to church. I looked homeless. I smelled. And probably came off a bit crazily.

But Quakers – the self-anointed Religious Society of Friends — are exceptionally good people. I trusted them to accept me as I came; as a friend in need.

I had a pitch, also well rehearsed, that I wanted to make them. Quakers have an admirably deep sense of Service; theirs is a people devoted to peace. They’ve worked tirelessly to end the Iraq War. That is tireless work I admire. Alas for all their tireless work the war rages on unabated.

I know how it feels when one’s benevolently tireless efforts fail. I’ve had no success in my own quest to stop another, equally frightful, injustice: homelessness. Specifically my own.

Now. Maybe it was a long shot. But I thought the Northampton Quakers – do gooders that they are – would want to do a bit about the homeless problem in their own community. I genuinely believed they’d appreciate the unforeseen chance to help me.

And thus gain a boost in confidence, from one problem well solved, that may help them bring more peace.

If not – no matter. The hour of communal silence that is a Quaker Meeting for Worship would be reward enough for my journey; provide me with the strength of spirit required to contend with my plight. Because in the midst of their silence, at least, I am not homeless. Not hungry. I am among friends.

And friends don’t let friends go homeless & hungry.

I asked the bus driver “Please?”

I aimed admirably to better myself. Was mine not a compelling case of need?

The bus driver said no. Fair enough. This is America after all. Where nobody rides for free.

“I know!” I tenaciously proposed. “I’ll ask someone at church for $2 bucks! And pay you for the round trip when I ride back to Amherst.”

Maybe the Northampton Quakers couldn’t help me not be homeless that particular Sunday. But pay my bus fare? I personally guarantee it!

Again the bus driver said no.

I grew flustered. But quickly regained my composure. I am after all a professional journalist. And if this jerk wouldn’t let me ride a near-empty municipal bus to church – I suppose that’s the Story.

I tapped the lap top computer – my one worldly possession since I lost track of my clothes – that was slung in a bag over my shoulder. And informed him that I was writing an article about homelessness for the Valley Advocate [local free/leftist weekly].

“Look.” I proffered smartly. “We can do this the easy way. Or the Other Way.”

The other way, I promised, would be hard for us both. Because I’d have to hitch hike to church. And he’d have to Deal With what I say about him in the article I suspect he did not believe would be written.

I pointed my thumb to Northampton. And I thought I should seriously thank my new bus driver friend! Because writers need dumb snot butt wipes like him. To excentuate our Point. Prove us right. And help us sell stories.

No one picked me up hitch hiking.

I struggled beneath the awkwardly gravitated weight of my lap top computer. Slung in a one-strap bag. First across a painfully slumped shoulder. Then across my other. All the way to Northampton on foot.

It hurt.

I’d not slept. Nor could I remember the last time I’d eaten. The no food thing worried me. I grew aware that I lacked the recent caloric intake required to comfortably fuel the demands I placed on my body. I’m very skinny. And not as young as I used to be.

About the same age, I realized, as Neil Cassidy – when he died in mid step on a long walk after some nights of no sleep and who knew how long since he’d eaten.

But there was no turning back. No time to rest. Not even a sip of water to drink. There was only me & the Story. And to sell the story I’d need Proof. A witness. Who would verify my unavoidably late arrival at Quaker Meeting that day.

I had to show up before the last Quaker straggler closed & locked their Meetinghouse door.

To professionally cover the story.

The last straggler was friendly. Gave me apple juice & a snack & patiently heard my tale of woe. I’m certain she would have gladly tossed me a buck for bus fare, as well, but I forgot to ask.

Somewhere along that 10 mile walk back to Amherst I decided not to thank the bus driver after all. Because every homeless person who can’t ride the bus will not write an article about it. And the article may not sell.

But every homeless person has somewhere better to go.

The Northampton Quakers may have helped me. Who knows? But for my lack of one stinking dollar I might be already home.