Hiding in Plain Sight

It is no secret that the police in Marin are on high alert concerning the Homeless.

As soon as the sun fades they are out in force to move you along to nowhere. It’s very intimidating.

Well I am a newbie…so I decided  hide in plain sight. One block from Starbucks right in the middle of town.

Dropped my 200 pound pack and laid out my bag on the grass of this office complex.

That’s the beauty of it. No one would ever look there…it’s too obvious.

Slept like a baby.

I know what yer thinking…”can he get away with it for a month?”

Naw….no way.

But it was good and fine last night. Coo-coo….snore.

From the Sublime to the Utterly RIDIC

A few days ago I was trying to sleep on a dead airbed (not made for 330 pound  mutants it last ten days before exhaling its last) and having to get up and wee at 4 am on the bushes in Petaluma.

The last two nights I have had my own room on the top (27th floor) of a building on Lake Merritt whose penthouse can only be accessed by a key.

My parents are house-sitting for friends who are away at another of their houses. My youngest sister is in town from Nairobi and we are all going to meet her new beau at a brunch at 12:30, which I am sure will be fab.

The entire Bay Area is my skyline this a.m. and it has been a very good two days break (mind, spirit, heart and family) to be here and much needed relief for my benefactors in Petaluma, who, like most people, find my a lopsided blessing and curse

Camille, Aubree and Fred.

Time with my father and step-mother has been very easy, and the night before last Adam came over with 3/4rs of his bike and Camille brought Aubree. Both Camille and I had seen Shutter Island a few times, so at one point we just fell asleep holding hands.

I have the best children in the world.

Kookachay with his bike.

So I sublimely slept in the penthouse after a great showing of The Taking of Pelham 123, and a wonderful salmon dinner prepared by Dee (who is the best cook I know).

.

And now back to the Utterly RIDIC. Homeless and wanting a place to rebuild.

All Along The Watchtower

Being homeless is all about being street-level. So you meet people you would otherwise ignore. Sorry…it’s that simple.

So I met Philippe from Fiji outside the Grocery Outlet where I knew I could get wifi and also there are milk crates you can sit on…and unofficial office. But Philippe was sitting on two of my milk crates. I had to take the one left over.

Casual talk while his wife sat across the way uninterested. As we made friends she decided to come over. He gave her a milk crate. She asked “Do you believe in God?”

“Yes, I believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. More important they know me.”

Philippe seemed oddly pleased. She was not.

“I want to give you this pamphlet.”

“So you are both Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I say. (you can tell immediately given the flowerily bad artwork).

So I just cut to the chase “Jesus is God, so says John and that’s a reading from the original Greek and not from your 1951 New World Translation which has a  mistranslation that omits what is clearly in the Greek text.”

“You can choose to disbelieve that Jesus is God (a great many people do)  as stated in the text, but don’t try and pretend that isn’t what is said. I read ancient Greek.”

He seemed amused…she was not.

“Will you read this pamphlet?”

“I will on one condition. If you agree to go home and, together, read St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians and discuss it amongst yourselves”

Then I ask them to pray with me. She refuses but he takes my hand. I am careful to direct my prayer to the Father…Jehovah…Yahweh….

When they leave, I read the entire pamphlet (I promised I would). It is nonsense and wrenches biblical passages out of context and ruins them. Yet I am reminded that we are not “saved” by what we know, but rather by Who we know, and more importantly, Who knows us.

Waiting for Cotdot

I was told when meeting with COT that I could check in for a six moth program (which is terrifying for someone like me) if I came in   sober and clean. I was ready at 8 a.m. and called in.

“We have no beds today.”

I conferred with Miles and Alexis who really wanna see me get placed there….they said best to dump me on the doorstep tomorrow at 8 a.m. and see what happens.

I’m game.

Meanwhile I had to do my paperwork (hours) to get my $90 a week) from the state for …I dunno…underwear, a razor,  I applied for all available jobs I was qualified for (25 a week). The most surprising was “Bouncer”.

I would make a  good bouncer actually. I have the size, authority and am not easily incited. I also want the best for people. There is also a sort of fearlessness in the face of real threat I have had since 1986. I am not afraid to die. Actually rather be shot trying to help someone than die in most other ways.

So no…guns do not scare me. Nor does taking a few hits…but then no one ever wants to hit me when they up lose.

They do not know (and I will not be telling) that I have studied Jesus and Gandhi and MLK. I won’t hit back. Don’t need to.

So Friday I apply for a bouncers job alongside as UI designers, technical writer’s and program director’s jobs.

Perfect.

In the meantime…It would be nice to get into COTS. I assures my sobriety and turn me into a better man in 6 months.

Now the Merton quote has stayed with me for 25 years. How a man or woman can be stripped down to a place of utter spiritual nakedness. I am not there yet, but I can attest I am far closer right now than I have ever been.

Every word Merton says is true. I will confirm that. It resonated in me at 28 and I now have to live it at 53. Alone…naked…but not alone.

I do now. Do you?

Two quick errors can be the DIFF

Caught near Crissy. Things started to unravel quickly. I sat down to take in the Bay and when I turned, someone have ripped off my big orange back filled with replaceable, but not easily so on my budget, items like a towel, sandals, gym trunks for after my swim, some food.

Gone. Who steals from the homeless?

This reminded me (this is ironic later on) of when I parked my Jeep along Golden Gate Park and homeless folk broke in a took my bags…one was a gym bag…the other was a “Mac Bag O’ Fun” which means it had an antique Bingo set (made out of steel and wooden balls). They broke a back side window to get in and I had to painstakingly replace it in the parking lot of the Youth Hostel I stayed in last night…about 7 years ago.

Two Mistakes Can Cost Your Life

Two errors. One was my phone going dead. Well, you cannot predict that. The second was be misdirected to the wrong bus stop.

So it is July the 4th and no one is leaving the City. Believe me I asked. Finally a bus driver told me I was at the wrong stop…but it was now too late to catch a bus over the bridge.

No phone…trapped in SF and it’s starting to get dark.

WARMTH

I have often said that one of the most underrated inventions of humanity is a hot clean shower. Think of it….for most of history this has not been available yet you can take one or two every day if you like.

I’m born under a water sign (Cancer) and I am drawn to it. True…I also tend toove sidewise…but that is another story for another day.

On this day all I wanted was to throw myself into the Bay and get really salty. That didn’t happen given the above.

But I remembered well the scuba training my son Thomas and I received years before when it comes to warmth. About 70 percent of the body’s heat escapes through the top of your head.

So when it becomes 1 a.m. in Golden Gate Park and you are dressed in swim trunks and a hoodie the most important think for survival is the hoodie covering your head.

The rest (at between 4-5 am) you must simply endure. It’s not pretty or for the squeamish.

Of course other bad things had happened in between 1 and 5 a.m

The worst was walking down a darkened path, tripping over a cypress burl and falling headlong with glasses thrown off into some distant bush never to be recovered.

So now you are blind (or at least blurry being nearsighted) in the dark in the park.

What can you do but move ahead?

Of course your chances of tripping again have now increased exponentially. And this happens about 30 minutes later.

But this time you have the good fortune to land in a 7 foot long by 5 foot wide small ravine.

Unharmed and surrounded by tall bushes. Wisely, you decide NOT to get up. No….here you will stay until the songbirds begin their warblings and the sky begins to turn slightly grey.

The COLD

But it is effing COLD as darkness gives way to dawn. I knew enough to keep my upper body warm and the hoodie saved me. But I had only a thin towel for my naked legs.

I have only been colder once. Art age 15 I hitchhiked to Yosemite and hiked way too high up with an inferior bag. Worse, I did not have the “natural” insulation I have now.

You do not wanna ever be that cold.

STARBUCKS

In New York the homeless ride the subways all night. In California you just wait for a Starbucks to open.

Being the High Tech Homeless Guy means that even without a phone I am drinking coffee and networking with folks all over the US by 5:45 a.m.

An ex-girlfriend lives a few blocks away. But let’s be clear: It is UTTERLY inappropriate for me to ring her doorbell at any time.

Still, I could have died (That morning’s SF Chronicle told of a homeless man who was stabbed 37 times not seven blocks from where I slept). So after coffee and networking I thought “um…hat in hand….and only three rings then walk away…be a gentleman.”

Gracious woman on ring  three as I prepared to walk away.

And she told me her story which I will never discuss with anyone xcept to say I learned a lot sitting and listening (for a change).

Week Two, Day Four: The Village & No.6

No. 6

I was supposed to be at the beach today, but I didn’t go. Some small part of my headspace was going a different direction. Alone all day at Crissy with the water and my food stamps card I felt that I might decide to finagle a bottle of wine into my diet. Instead, I planned to go to the AA meeting Jospek at Ritter Center hosts at 2 p.m. every Thursday afternoon.

Better choice. No good could come from the other even though I would easily “get away with it”. Fact is, at this point “I’d KNOW” so, that is not getting away with anything at all. Plus it is never just “one day”. That is simply a self-told lie.

Some of it is there are few things more enjoyable than working on free wifi at the café at Crissy, then having a simple lunch of wine, cheese and bread, a dip in the Bay, followed by some layng out. Then another dip.

If only life were that way. It isn’t for those of us with this disease.

The reality is after two weeks of complete sobriety my life has gotten much better even though there is a very long way to go.

Waking up as No.6

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I regard the old The Prisoner series with Patrick McGhoohan as still one of the most subversive and fascinating series ever placed on television. I am a huge fan, so it was with no small bemusement that I arrived back yesterday to find they had re-numbered the beds and that I was now the new No.6. I protested “I am not a number, I am a free man!” No one in the office laughed. Most anyone in the Gang (Bob, Bill, Eric and Joshua) would have busted up.

Unfortunately, my first act as No.6 was a dipshit move. You don’t lock your locker so much to keep other guys out as you do staff from looking in. So when all the lockers where being swapped out (in a great whirl of confusion), my stash of important snacks and condiments were discovered (I have been a bit like Richard Dawson ‘s character “Newkirk” from the old Hogan’s Heroes)

The Diet

Last night I cut the fat off my ham, cut the rest into pieces and sprinkled it over salad and used the low cal dressing I bought. I skipped dessert entirely. For lunch I had salad. Today I had a turkey wrap and an apple for lunch. I have another apple if I need it later.

I am gonna try and ask a good friend to collect the bike and sell it for me so I can buy a simpler one here.

I was tired and fragged out last night when I got back from my many adventures. Eric noted that I almost seemed like I was in “a bad mood”. We shared a laugh because it is not like either of us to be so. In fact, the Gang are all highly intelligent men with wicked humor. Mornings are like a party of sorts. It’s fun and funny. Josh and I walked down to Peets this am and hung out for awhile. I enjoy his company as I do the others. In the evening at dinner Eric and I did James Bond trivia from both the books and the films. He is formidable.

Then, after dinner, came the Great Locker Debacle. It is not impressive on the surface. In fact Eric noted in the morning that Joshua the Younger had the “perfect response.”

“What was that?” we asked.

“None at all.” (laughter follows for awhile).

Not unlike No. 6 in The Prisoner, the captives are, in this case, smarter than the captors. Yet sometimes we make a mistake, like I did.

Family Dynamics

Apparently my parents attempted to drop some stuff of at Mill Street on their way to the family cabin. Of course this involves both reason and practicality, so they were refused and sent on their way.

I have mixed feelings. Admitting you have this disease is a double-edged sword. People who know what it really is, applaud your honesty and respect your actions; those who do not have an insane number of responses all like landmines which will blow your Recovery all to hell.

They mean well. Good intentions often lead to bad decisions. Personally, I have learned what so many know…only others in Recovery really understand. You don’t have groups of cancer survivors meeting with those who know nothing of the disease or have never had it.

Same basic deal.

So I do better alone when it comes to family because they often, despite their intentions, do far more harm than good. Then they blame you because you are an alcoholic despite your being more sober than they are in any given month.

Blame and shaming are huge family dynamics. My response is the same I have for enraged women. Total avoidance. “Go take crazy somewhere else”.

I am reminded of a defining bible verse from the aged Apostle John who said “My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring” (1 John 3:18)

Many will say many words and talk up a storm. Watch what they do. This includes me of course.

Thanks

The old saying is “it is not until you are grateful that you have truly received the gift”.

Jan has send both money for Mill Street (the Shelter) and also a Walgreen’s card for all the incidentals (of which there are many).

Leslie continues to pay for basic phone service on the “Family Plan” (which is why you can call me, but not text me) and also send camping equipment as a backup.

Two people who love in action because the want and choose to. I am deeply grateful both for the help at such a time, and also for the emotional support, advice and encouragements. Others have written notes.

I am not suffering. I am rather intrigued. Joseph (Ritter House) and I have talked about my donating time when I am on my feet doing what I do best…content creation and attracting an audience for this essential ministry to raise money. Without Ritter House and St. Vincent DePaul the situation for the homeless would be a living hell.

I look forward to that day.

Mac Out

Week Two, Day Two (Tuesday)

The Diff. The thinner shot is after the other one (Thank God)

Last Night

The first thing I noticed when I got my food stamp card yesterday was I was less hungry all day. Just knowing you have some control over your caloric intake and what you decide to eat makes a huge psychological difference for some people. You move from a place of perceived scarcity to one of abundance (or at least if you already get breakfast and dinner). I can choose to pass on the huge amounts of pasta served nightly if I want to and focus on salad and purchase proteins.

I can also (so long as I am willing to share) “donate” things I want available (like light ranch dressing today). I can also stow away (in my locker and in my private bag) things like Starbucks double shot light cans, what I call Vincent D’Ofrio instant espresso, some sugar free cookies (so I do not get sucked into sugar-infested products that are everywhere). I also can go down to 7-11 and get a cold soda after dinner when it is hot.

All of these things are basically health issues as well as self-esteem issues.

As I had an extra $40 on the card from the end of this month, I splurged and treated others to melted brie on Waterford crackers with spreadable blackberry jam from France.

Today a Decision Day

I have to show up at what people simply call “The GA”. This is important if I want an assured place here while I look for work. It basically gets money to the Shelter. If not I have to look at other options with my “counselor Mr. T. He is dismayed by both my poise and lack of depression. As you might expect, this results in actual better treatment.

Still I need to get the GA taken care of (and going at 8 just places me in a stand-by mode…like going to an airport in hopes someone gets bumped from a flight). Then I have an important errand to run for my son Adam, then hopefully either to Larryboy’s to make some cash for laundry, or to Starbuck’s to do job search/appeals.

Wednesday I plan on going to the beach. Serious. They have free wifi at Crissy Field; the Safeway is nearby and now that I have the card (FS) I can buy a sandwich and a drink and sit for a good long while; work…then throw myself in the Bay before busing home. The bus ride is about 20 minutes.

MacWaterboy really needs that right now. It’s getting hot here, my bike is in Carmel and I need a change of scene for my head. I can also catch a meeting at what is literally named the “Dry Docks”.

It is unfortunate, but Iam back being the right-side guy and I am exercising a lot. It is all that from here on out no bad carbs, no sugar…etc… If I could get my bike either up here from Carmel or sold so I can buy one for Marin I would be totally set till rainy season.

But I am receiving no cooperation from down South. Just emails about getting into Recovery…which at this point is like telling a daily golfer “Dammit! You really need to think about taking up golf!”

So it goes.

The nice thing is I know that with diet and exercise I will drop right back down to 265. And I can stay there.

One funny story (among many). The other day a guy was standing in the office and I can up behind him to wasit my turn talking to staff. He turned expecting to exit and BOUNCED off my like a wall. He started cracking up. I am WAY toooo BIG. But that is the least of my problems and I am addressing it (thus the audiacity of publishing such a horrific picture. Note it is the same shirt).

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