Waiting for GA

Food Bank on Fridays on West MacArthur near freeway.

Food Bank on Fridays on West MacArthur near freeway.

(Monday)

General Assistance takes a week of running around and diving through hoops to apply for; then another two weeks to get ; then it’s three months assistance (at $336.00 a month that you have to document you really earned by trying to find work. Then you have to pay it all back.)

So why do it? Operating capital – bus fares, additional food, shaving kits and toiletries, a sweater when it is cold, an umbrella or a dress shirt for an interview – BART tickets or Good Lord, maybe to splurge and take your daughter to the movies on a weekend.

One of my two guardian angels, Fred, tells me NetZero has a device for under $200 and a low monthly to deliver wifi anywhere anytime. That will leave me $135 for the month for all other expenses (which ends up really being food and coffee for the most part as I need to control breakfasts and lunches or balloon up on really unhealthy bad food full of sugar and other crap). That’s enough with foodstamps and is I start making some bank freelance.

Only once have I really needed GA before – in San Rafael (the last time I got it actually, years ago – to buy a small ASUS laptop – a little 10 inch unit that served me faithful and fast for years. It was the whole check but it covered it. It was very specific assistance and critical.

*******

(Tuesday)

There are people who have it ten times worse than I do – maybe a hundred. This is so often the case. Bernie (I will often change names) is very sick right now. He has walking pneumonia. He sits in Starbucks in a daze – not complaining – just looking like he wants to keel over. The dangerous thing about homelessness in the Fall and Winter is getting an upper respiratory infection. It is way too easy. I tale col meds constantly just to keep my chest clear. I have the sniffles a lot. If you get really sick, but not sick enough to be hospitalized – you are in for some real agony.

I talked with another guy – Stephen – who had just been kicked out of City Team. It was not for using but for some personality class with a staffer. This does not surprise me as half the guys over there seemed highly combative and prideful – the other have the opposite. I really liked Mark – he was a real pro. The guy behind him? A total Pharisee. – just looking to kick people out on an infraction. For drugs or alcohol? No for food.

Smart. Like the priest who had a problem with harvesting the heads of grain on the Sabbath – this guy is way too concerned that the Sabbath be served by Man and not that it serve man.

*******

(Thursday)

I was running seriously out of dough and afraid I was gonna have to ask the folks for more assistance – which at 57 does not sit pretty with me (nor has it ever to be honest). They have been most gracious and helped me get here and I have been frugal/careful. But you need things like “chines” – I mean some things just cannot wait y’know?

And I wanted to take the Jedi out to the movies today or to lunch – that’s a huge expense in my situation ($20) – but more hugely important.

Well the Department of Social Services came through after all my hard work (and I was slavish in my relentless pursuit to get them everything and follow up. It could have been weeks but $261.00 of my GA (pro-rated) came through yesterday which solved my other real problem: wifi time.

When I transferred from City Team over to St. Mary’s it was a huge improvement in every category but one: worktime. There I took at 35-plus hour a week hit. At City Team I was at my desk at Starbucks at 5:30 (from St. Marys? 8 a.m.). At City Team I could check in at 6:30 p.m.; at St. Mary’s I have to leave downtown at 3:30 p.m. to get back by the 4 p.m. class (mandatory). That is 5.5 hours a day,or around 35 hours a week in productive work hours.

Given my near military precision in Santa Cruz (that got me out of homelessness in 43 days) 35 hours is like putting on lead boots. It F’s everything up.I cannot get a regiment like I had in SC going when my day abruptly stops at 3:30 in the damned afternoon every day. [Like right now it is 2:40..I have to think about packing up. No worries..I can work from 5-9 tonight if I have the energy.]

So yesterday I purchased a Virgin Mingle Hotspot for $50 (not $200) and 1.5 GB of download time($25). I will prolly need more. But that means when I am at St. Mary’s I can get online. Huge hole filled. So now I have a locker, , food covered (pretty much) etc…everything but sleeping on a cot that is leave me a quadriplegic eventually (zero padding and it is not wide enough for a mutant). I am not complaining. Of ALL the situations I have been in the last 6 years this is the best i many ways – rivaled only by Mill Street in San Rafael.

I just cannot believe I am back here again. I gotta get outta here soon.

I heard back from BON.tv on my last story for them. Still not good enough. They are very unclear on what they want – just clear o what they do not want. So they have given me a new assignment. Okay. Worth a go. This one I am gonna really totally re-write – just take the original material as source only and do a completely new thing and make it sing. If that doesn’t do it then I really have no idea what they really want. Not a mind reader.

On Saturday I, mercifully, interview a long-time homeless guy here in Oakland for a newstory to be submitted to the main free newspapers in San Francisco (my buddy Fred has connections). It will appear here so we can STOP these stories being about ME.

Senior!? OMG!

Pic-01142015-008Senior!?

“One senior,” I said sliding the dollar toward the open machine on the bus.

“You’ve got to be joking,” the female bus driver said grinning, ”
how old are you?”

“I’m 57,” I said defensively. Then I realized she was flirting.

This is going to take some getting used to. I mean I am in a “Seniors Homeless Project at St. Mary’s. I can go to McDonalds and get specials. I ride the bus for a buck and when I went to the Goodwill and picked out a hoodie for $6.99 I tried it on them.

Is there a seniors discount?”

“Why yes there is.”

Hoodie was a little over $6 bucks.

I have real mixed emotions about this.

Okay, it helps that most of the women I go out with are in their early to mid 40s. Why you ask? Mid-life crisis (senior crisis?) Um no. Fact is I need someone who can keep up and is not winding down. You would have to admit I will be charging uphill for a good long while. None of this “retiring nonsense. I’m already planning on losing another 40 pounds. Why? because guys my size only last another 30 plus years if they are thin. Check it out, do the math.

Am I afraid to go now? Naw…happy to go anytime. I’m just not done yet. More trouble to cause. God has gone to a lot of trouble to keep me around and train me.

Is it possible that is alone (sans a partner? Yes. I give it odds at about 60/40 against. But that’s still pretty high.

******

Clarification of Non-Violence and Being Menacing

Being non-violent and committed to it does not mean being a doormat. And I know the distinction well. I was a doormat all my growing up (physically) and often relationally up through my 40s. I don’t do that anymore in any realm.

Take this morning. There is a loudmouth guy two cots over who likes to get into everyone’s business in the morning and is very verbally abusive and a semi-threatening way (certainly checks his body cannot cash).

Well this a.m. I am minding my own business, as I always do, quietly putting my stuff together and a little miffed at myself for not watching my stuff a little closer (my hoodie and my shaving kit have both been stolen). I walk off with my bag to deposit it on the far table and this guy pipes up about my cot saying (as he looks off NOT at me but off to nothing) “Pretty boy better get his bed put up or there will be trouble.”

Then he walks off to the locker room.

I never wait anymore.

I walk in and stand with one locker’s breadth between us to give him some space and growl low “I’m glad you know I’m pretty (pause) Best you mind your end of the street and let me mind mine.”

“Oh I wasn’t talking about you,” he stammers and tries to fill in with a bunch of nonsense blah blah blah.

I ignore. “Best to leave all of that to the staff as they seem more than capable,” I say and leave.

He is silent the rest of the morning.

No threat, no hint of violence. Just direct confrontation ASAP and if any implication at all it is that confrontation of this sort will be immediate ALWAYS. No fear.

It’s just not worth it. There is no “goodie” in it for them.

I wish I had learned this a LOT earlier in life. You cannot let things START. But I did not. I know it now and it is mostly for other people’s benefit now. Good enough.

*******

I landed at St. Mary’s because God sent two men to get me: Fred and Errol. I’m serious. Usually it is me who gets sent to go after folk – but I was lugging that huge bag and needed a case worker and all kinds of help and I had met Fred and Errol briefly one morning at Starbucks. Days later they got up at St. Mary’s and felt like “Hey..we gotta go find that Big Guy…he needs to come here.”

So they came looking for me – all the way from 22rd and San Pablo the the Starbucks on 8th and Broadway – and they found me and convinced me to come here. I had paid for that night at City Team but was NOT happy there. Same ole City Team addict mentality (which I suppose they really need to have but it really does not work for me – worse, I am almost completely out of money (last $38 and at $5 – and General Assistance still two weeks off minimum – well do the math). St. Mary’s is free).

In turn I am now able to help another brother (today) get into City Team.

It is amazing how people really do try and look after each other – the ones who are not looking to steal your stuff.

Now, at St. Mary’s I have a locker – so I am down to the backpack during the day and totally mobile. I got my Social Security card today and my replacement bank card (lost wallet) so now all I need is my denial from unemployment and 1) I can get my GA; and 2) I will be done with the bulk of my massive running around (still need a doctor). I can then finally begin the massive assault on getting a JOB (after 14 days of rigorously attacking the WALL that is the system.

Which means I am right on track. That is exactly how long it takes (and how long it took in Santa Cruz).

My spirits continue to be very high (no doubt bolstered by my visit with The Jedi Tuesday) but they were not low prior at all. I am content, making new friends and my stress level is very low.

People live is so much fear and only now – by having some of my worst fears realized do I see how really silly some of them are, and how little we really need to be happy. Of course many people have said this before – odd that so few people really believe them. Maybe you just have to see it for yourself. But I can honestly tell you, tonight my stress level is possibly lower than yours, and I might be happier and sleep better.

Weird huh?

Long term..I will need a bed, a good lamp to read by and some control over my own meals and life. But Jesus said to be content for today if we had food, some housing and what we needed for today. No one takes Him much seriously on such things – they pick and choose. They also don’t take serious when He said “the birds have nests and the foxes have holes but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Church people follow a Homeless man they would surely shoo-away from their services.

The Advance

Pic-01082015-005

The line to get in the line to a get a number to sit in line at the Oakland Social Security office at 360 22nd Avenue.

“It is the blog that never ends,

It just goes on and on my friend,

Mac started writing it not know what it was

And He’ll continue living it forever just because

It is the blog that never ends,

It just goes on and on my friends…

Oakland – January 12, 2015

It doesn’t matter how I got here, only that I am here, rebuilding finally in the right city – one with a future and no triggers and booby-traps. I ahve made sure to leave those in the dust bodily, mindfully, existentially and spiritually. Santa Cruz is a dead zone to me. I may never go back., not even for a visit. It smells of death there to me.

Meanwhile, while hardly comfy I have made massive gains in the Bay Area already in just 14 days. I’m involved in the ground level of a new (incredible) church in SF (Glorysf.org), am involved in homeless ministry on Oakland (recruited by a nun) and starting to get services today via St. Mary’s (who works with Seniors in placement and services (I found out – much to my outrage that I am now a “senior” – wtf?!) The hell I am (but I’ll take all the benefits please.

So I will be homeless again for two months and must report on the daily interactions that are already so piled up I will never catch up.

It’s such a privilege and I love these folks and I also am them. People just do not understand. “Of I dunno how you handle it – such a stressor, while they live on total fear of their bosses, and of their neighbors and of most everything else – fear, Fear FEAR.

I do not live in fear. I am not stressed. But that is because I am a veteran and know exactly what I am doing. Five years ago? It freaked me. Now? Peh.

No drama…no trauma.

*******

Peacemaking…

Ethyl’s eyes are bugging out like Marty Feldman’s at the Social security office at 360 22nd Street in Oakland. You can see the line (above). Ethyl’s eyes are bugging out at the white security guard who she was arguing with. Things were escalating the way things to do which were going to end up in her expulsion and possible arrest.

I interceded with humor and asked her to tell me a story. Ethyl looked at me suspiciously, but I said something about the security guard looking alike a fat Alec Baldwin and she relaxed. I was only then I realized he was only eight feed away right by the column and probably heard me say it (crap). For the next two hours I concentrated on Ethyl and her stories. Some were quite good , funny and not a few instructive for my own situation. One had me literally laughing out loud hard.

One of my favorite moments though  was when I mentioned paying $2.10 for busfare. “Didn’t you say you were 57?” Ethyl said.

“Yeah. I’m 57.”

“You’re a senior you dumbass.” she exclaimed eyes all wide.

“Shut your mouth wo-man!” I said in mock horror “I am NO such thing! I am too young and beautiful!”

She laughed and I said seriously “I never thought of it…damn.”

Later on that evening I was back at home base recharging my phone at Starbucks (they have wifi rings that do this – good thing cuz I cannot find my recharger) and a nun walked straight over and started talking with me about the homeless situation and said I should be a part of a new project.

How do they know?

Oh I am supposed to be here. Santa Cruz is a distant and bad memory (except for the Great One and a few friends. It looks like my new love interest is bailing – I’m fine with it.  I can feel it. I’ll miss her. I liked her a lot. But I’m cool with it.

Most people do not understand that it is adversity that reveals who you are, not prosperity.

I have a bright future here. As I laid on my cot at City Team the other evening and thought about my place in Soquel with the queen sized bed, privacy, my art on the walls, private bath etc…I saw how clearly this (right now) is a huge advance forward. Most if my former life is gone. I don’t care. This new life is better- right now. Can you imagine how good it will be in a year?