Monthly Archives: December 2016

14:32

Friday, October 6.

I arrived at the shelter where I stay at 14:32.  There was no line of people waiting admission.  They nominally open the gate at 14:30, but in fact sometimes do at 14:15, 14:00 or even 13:00.  When I later asked what time they’d opened today, I was told 14:30.  That can’t be factual, though: given current intake procedures, they can’t possibly have processed 30+ persons in two minutes.

Marvin arrived at the same time.  I stayed outside to finish a cigarette, and he slipped in in front of me.  He got assigned #41, “my” bunk, a bottom bunk.  I got assigned the only available remaining bunk, #40, a top bunk and thus much less desirable.

If I had arrived only 30 seconds earlier, I would have been assigned “my” bunk, a bottom bunk, the one much more desirable.  I found myself scouring my memory as to anything I could have done to have left church even 30 seconds earlier.  I would recognize the mistake of looking only at my last activities before leaving; whereas 30 seconds at any point during the day would have made the difference.

I would recognize that I was “bargaining.”

Continue reading 14:32

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Giving it all away

(Originally published 05/09/12 at Trojan Horse Productions.  Republished here 10/30/13.)

At work on Tuesday 05/08/12, the radio station they had on the PA played Genesis’ “Giving it all away.”

People see things different ways given their personal circumstances.

I know nothing about Phil Collins personally. But in all likelihood, were he to “give it all away” as he understands it, he would probably have a lot left.

Not I.

All I own is the contents of two heavy bags. Giving it all away would be a simple gesture. And afterwards, I would have nothing.

———— ♦ ————

That afternoon, as usual, as soon as I got to my bunk I sat down and got out my medications for the evening. The guy assigned to the bunk above me was a newcomer, real clean-cut, a Jake Pavelka lookalike.

“Got any goodies in those pill bottles?” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“It’d been cooler if you’d said yes,” he said.

As usual, I put my meds back in my zipper bag when I finished, and, as usual, I locked it.

Because of guys like him.
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Forgiving the cosmos

For years, I’ve had a special sensitivity to reports of child abuse.

This one may give you nightmares for the rest of your life.

victoria-martensVictoria Martens

According to the police report, on her 10th birthday, the mother’s boyfriend and his female cousin injected this little girl with drugs “to calm her down.”  They proceeded to strangle, torture, rape and dismember her.

While her mother looked on.

Where is God, or what is God, when such an event can occur?

Continue reading Forgiving the cosmos

I really have nothing better to do

(Originally posted 10/12/13.)

(Transcribed from a letter to my mother dated 25 September 2007.)

This conversation yesterday with a co-worker astonished me.

“Peaches” is a 42-year old, very short woman, certainly a grandmother and very likely great-grandmother, who has about half her teeth.  She works principally as a cashier, and is a really good worker and co-worker.  She constantly teases me by pretending to flirt with me.

I was stocking the trash bags shelves, and became aware that she was in quite a pickle.  Her shift was over, and she had appointments she had to keep at a certain time across town; but she also had assembled this bag full of items she needed to buy at once and before leaving the store.  And the line at the cash register was quite long.  (Long lines at cash register are a constant, intractable problem at this store.)

I told her facetiously, “Just go down there and push ’em all out.”  She said, “No, that would be unmannerly, and that’s not like me.”  (Conduct that can be called “unmannerly” is a big, big issue in this community, and a big issue for me personally since I see so much of it and find it offensive.)  She went on: “Now, I like your manners.  You speak to the customers …”
Continue reading I really have nothing better to do

Forgiveness

Friday, October 14

At the homeless shelter where I stay, bunks are supposed to be assigned daily strictly on a first-come, first-served basis.  But they try to give each man the same bunk as he had the night before.  It’s an imperfect system.

About a month ago, we got a whole new crew of peacekeepers.  They have their own favorites, and I am not among them.  About ten days ago, Kelvin and Marvin were in line behind me.  Steve, who was assigning bunks, sent word out to ask if they were there.  They got called in and assigned their bunks.  I got turned away.

Continue reading Forgiveness

What a homeless man dreams of

(Originally posted 10/11/13.)

Having several interviews in quick succession has raised my hopes and made my dreams more vivid.

I can hardly wait to become a taxpayer again. This has been on my prayer list (I pray for it daily.) for more than two years.

They pass the offering plate at church, and now I’m wanting each time to put something in. If either of these jobs works out, I will be able to tithe, use my offering envelopes, and give $30 or $60 each week.

I dream of having a kitten, and cleaning the litter box each day. Seriously: I dream intentionally of playing with the cat, and cleaning the litter box. The point: I will have bought and paid for the cat, its food, the litter box, the litter, and the rent on this apartment, all with my own hard-earned money.

I likewise dream intentionally of washing dishes; sweeping and mopping the floor (normally on my hands and knees); and doing laundry. I take joy in these for the same reason: I bought the pots, food and dish soap; I bought the broom, dust pan, mop, bucket and detergent; I bought the clothes; I pay the rent, all with money I earned.

In my view, these dreams constitute prayer.

The biggest difference between me and most people around me is that they love to get things, but I love to create things. Thus they may like to gamble, for example, whereas I’d rather write or garden or cook.

There’s no end to what a single man can accomplish with one two-quart saucepan. It serves as cooking pot, serving dish and plate. Unless I change my ways, I’ll wash and scrub it thoroughly before each use (sic).

Not everyone will find my favorite dishes appealing, but these are things we never get at the shelter, and I dream about them often:

  • A big pot of green lima beans with butter. With bread or baked potatoes on the side, this can last three or four days.
  • A pot of spaghetti, into which I’ll stir a big wallop of peanut butter and slices of cheddar cheese. That will probably be consumed the same night.
  • Popcorn: Melt two tbsp. of butter in the saucepan, add the yellow corn and cover. Once three kernels pop, remove from heat for one minute. Upon return to heat, after about one minute the remaining corn will all pop at once, with no unpopped kernels and no scorching. It’s already “buttered.” Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.
  • Chicken livers!on air talent, radio talk show, talk show host, the homeless blogger

Shortbread. Anyone can easily make at home, world-class shortbread equal to the best of the best. I’ve done it many times. Two parts sugar, three parts butter, four parts flour. Knead with a fork until it becomes flaky. Press into a pan and bake.

Yeast breads. In 2010-11 (the year before I became homeless) I was routinely making breads of bakery quality; I could have gone into business. I will use the old-timey method, saving a lump of dough from one batch to use as yeast for the next.  See “Jesus’ outrageous parables.”

  • I’ll make cinnamon rolls at least once a week.
  • A peanut butter and jelly roll need not be cut into slices; I’ll just put the whole loaf in the loaf pan.  Fresh from the oven, it will be hard not to consume the same night.

Then I dream some more about playing with the cat.  Four legs of female in bed every night — the biting, the clawing, the scratching — Oh, what a feline!

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