Friday, February 17, 2017

On The Road With Al & Ivy: A Literary Homeless Journal 2/17

 

"And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep...tired...or it malingers"

"I am no prophet-and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat,
and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid."

-T.S. Eliot (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

...freeloaders and other terms...

One of the biggest arguments against the homeless is that they're a bunch of freeloaders. Secondary argument that's sometimes applied to them is that they "don't pay taxes," and live off society.

The argument that they don't pay taxes is generally based on whether they pay state or federal income tax. The fact is around 50% of the population doesn't pay federal income tax or live off of some sort of government assistance...not to mention that virtually all tax cheats are from the non-homeless population.

The homeless, regardless of how they get their income, if any, pay most of the same taxes as most respectable society. They pay sales tax, tolls, and various fees. Most buy goods and services like everyone else, and contribute to the economy. The homeless who panhandle aren't doing it to amass a fortune, they're doing it to buy services and goods. They don't hide it overseas to avoid taxes.

If it is for drugs, they're patronizing the same distributors who serve respectable society's needs, and are rarely the prime customers. 

Which I should add, it's a business that in many cases has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Mexicans and Americans in drug wars over market share and contributed to massive corruption in society. Most Americans buy drugs that has blood on it.

Most Americans don't realize they are also technically "freeloaders." That is to say, "subsidized" services. Though I'd rather term it as interdependence.

If you take a look at the average bill of somebody who sends their kid to a private school, that's closer to the actual cost. Most schools wouldn't survive without bond measures, property taxes on people who don't have kids, government subsidies, and people willing to buy candy and other consumer goods for school fund raisers.

Most people wouldn't have health insurance if the people who were healthy weren't paying into the system. People in their SUVs don't have to wait in a gas line, or endure gas rationing, thanks to the government spending billions in the Middle East and sacrificing the lives of soldiers, many of whom are from the poor, not the upper class, to preserve the oil supply from the Middle East and to avoid putting up with unsightly oil platforms off the Malibu coast. It won't be the elite whose water supply is destroyed by fracking.

If everybody had to pay for the public street in front of their homes and apartments, our neighborhoods would be a checkerboard of concrete, gravel, and dirt. Somebody, somewhere, is helping to pay for that pavement who isn't benefiting from it, due to the nature of the tax system.

Virtually all Americans are benefiting from cheaper goods manufactured by overseas factories that hire people for wages no American would ever tolerate. That also goes for our food.

The list could go on, and the list wouldn't be complete without the billions, and probably trillions wasted by government officials in their everyday duties and corrupt deals that the population shrugs off and generally tolerates as being out of their control. 

There's a lot Americans working in government funded projects that are unnecessary, or for devices and weapons that will never work as advertised, or see combat. These people are not perceived as crooks, or people ripping off society, but as hard-working people just trying to make a living...at taxpayer expense. It's a matter of perception, and often are class notions of what's respectable or not.

Without taxpayer help through disaster relief, there'd be hundreds of thousands of people added to the homeless population after each hurricane, flood or tornado. The distance separating the two groups is smaller than one might think.

...the homeless aren't all saints...

That doesn't mean that every homeless person is a worthwhile human being, and contributes to society, but that goes for members of respectable society.

To their credit, most Americans don't view homeless as worthless, vermin, or freeloaders. Such terms are generally applied by trolls, and a certain segment of the population that is self-centered, and lacking empathy for their fellow man.

America was built by homeless people having to leave their countries to start a new life, and who came willingly or unwillingly. Notwithstanding the fact that the process involved screwing over a lot of native Americans, the important point is that even the richest American are only a few generations removed from people who were often not much different than at least some of today's homeless, and in more than a few cases got their fortunes through criminal activity or labor practices that are now outlawed.

The sympathetic Grapes of Wrath image of the homeless workers came later. In their time, they were called "Okies" and more often than not, looked at with contempt. Acceptance came later as these Americans were finally seen as human beings.

...perception counts...

We're entering an era of change with AI and robots that will be as most momentous and cruelly Darwinian as the Industrial Age...the younger generation is moving into the mainstream workplace and replacing older workers, and rightly so, it's their turn...big business is working overtime to make humans obsolete...the old Robber Barons and Captains of Industry made very little attempt to mitigate the effects of change, as it wasn't their concern, and the high tech visionaries who dream of an automated society aren't giving much thought to what humans will do without a job or relevant job skills.

The only help many of us will get as society changes will be from other ordinary people, both from direct help and in forcing governments to do their job of seeing to everyone's welfare and not an elite.

If treatment of homeless continues its current trend towards trying to force them into an already overloaded social services system and unregulated shelters, it'll be like refugee camps and badly run jails...if society doesn't begin to recognize that the homeless are a diverse group and need a variety of effective services and shouldn't be lumped into a media defined rabble, then the institutional knowledge won't be there to handle the large groups of people who will be displaced by the technological changes in the next decade.

I think it starts with casting aside the various media images, and humanizing the problem...the difference between thinking homeless people are losers or parasites, and viewing workers displaced by robotics and AI tech as regrettable casualties of progress will be very slight, as the contempt shown to those two groups will be the same in nature once poverty takes hold, and the unemployed begin to overtax social support systems and the remaining taxpayers begin to feel the pinch. Political liberalism can become social conservatism when the tax rate begin to climb.

If you wonder how the economic elite views the future; it's a vision that sees millions on welfare, and the rich living in bunkers and in offshore havens to escape the wrath of those affected by the obsolescence of human labor. These are the future visionaries.

The rising cost of sending a kid to college should have been a warning to society that entry into the future economy would only be available to an ever shrinking number of  people who could afford it. That, and many other things will be the legacy of generations that preferred spending money on big screen TVs and cheap overseas labor to social infrastructure.

...the gift to be simple...

One of the foot homeless around here is an old timer...you can tell because instead of a single cart he pulls along a train with a two wheeled baby bike ricksha as a caboose. Looks around 60 or so, well tanned from the elements and with a trimmed beard.

He hangs around outside of the various stores on the benches, and drinks white wine. Sometimes there's others there and they just hang out, or he sits alone quietly looking very tired. Doesn't openly panhandle, so there's store regulars he depends on to spot him looking desolate or he knows by experience who to hit up for cash. 

Everything about the guy shows experience at survival at this level, right down to his train being properly tarped before rain hits.

He's one type of homeless that scares me the most...his life is a possible outcome...without ambition or dreams, I could just become another adept survivor who lives in a small world with bottles of cheap wine as my milestones. There must have been a time when he wanted more, and there must have been a moment or series of events that crushed that hope. 

Everyone has moments of self doubt, or fear...mine is that I haven't recognized where I'm really at and that I'm really a mentally ill homeless person living in a dream world, though Ivy reminds me three times a day that I'm really a dog feeder...a brutal reality, but purpose does give meaning, no matter how small. I'm not the first person whose sanity was saved by a dog.

Those who think that God, dreams, ambition, or goals are meaningless in the face of "reality" or that life has to have winners and losers just haven't seen enough of life yet. This guy still can drop further till they have to pick him up off the grass in the downtown park. He's moving downwards and like many in the real world, thinks things are under control and continues the slide. He's the same as all of us, he's just further down the hill, and what direction you're going in still makes a difference.

...my one year anniversary...

Update 2/20: Today is the one year anniversary of the day I became homeless. My first thought was to treat it like my birthday, that is to say no big deal, but it's also a day of thanks...I'm sitting in the second of three storms due this week, in a car with my dear friend Ivy, and while it isn't exactly a wonderful day, it's far from a bad one.

The insurance company granted me an extension on my policy, adding their prayers for my situation, and a recent flow of donations ensured that Ivy and I have decent food and water...it may not feel lucky to others but I've been seeing what these storms have done to other homeless, moving about in raincoats and some not, and I know it could be a lot worse. Saw another guy eating out of a garbage can last night, but as I approached with the intent I'd giving him a few dollars he took off, probably in fear, there was three highway patrol cars nearby, and I know the feeling and thoughts that might have been running through his mind. That plus no one likes being seen rummaging through a garbage can.

I saw something yesterday...I was in the lot doing the promo work and it was extremely windy. A hawk appeared in front of my car, and then just hovered, facing south, and just climbing and hovering higher and higher, did that for a couple of minutes. The thought came to mind, "a hawk soars higher in a strong wind," and it is similar to Native American thought that hawks were messengers from the spirit world, and in the Bible, from Job 39:26 King James "Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?"

I doubt that it means I'll win the lottery :-) and a strong wind means that there's more to endure, but there is a strong possibility of relocation south to Castro Valley this week and a haven where I can work on my new business and book, I'll know more Wednesday. So I think it's all more of a sign that my path is going to move further South again.

I started out homeless with very few friends and only the family being my daughter...in Silicon Valley, you lose a lot of friends after a layoff, though I'd hesitate to call such people real friends.

I spent the first few months making all the usual mistakes a homeless person makes, and hiding due to the usual embarrassment and shame...I punished myself after the usual new tech job contract didn't appear within a couple of months and ran afoul of the CHP and ended up in Gilroy...one of the things that changed was that I outed myself as homeless and asked for help, and found a world full of caring friends who've literally kept Ivy and me alive and in an independent shelter of a running car...I think that I'll be out of homelessness this year, it feels like it's nearing an end of a phase, and when that happens, I'll tell everyone who'll listen that it wouldn't have happened without the help of hundreds of people who help...none were rich or famous and none had anything to gain by helping and no one would have noticed if they didn't...the goodness of people is something I've seen and am convinced exists and it motivates me every day to keep trying...I've been able to avoid drugs and booze, and the crippling apathy of hopelessness, and self pity. I'm glad that Ive seen the things I've seen this year, I'll never be the same person I was a year ago, and I thank all of you for that.

-Al Handa

ontheroadwithalandivy@gmail.com


On The Road mini blog on Twitter:

@spaceageoracle


Main Boogie Underground Twitter:

@alhanda


Please consider a contribution to keep this blog going and support my activities:


My intent isn't to become a donor funded homeless blogger, I'd like to do much more...until then, a donation would help Ivy and I to survive and continue efforts (like seeking work, etc) that can bring us out of homelessness as opposed to dropping further down into a transient lifestyle.


The Al & Ivy Homeless Literary Journal Archive:


THE IVY CORNER: Ivy seen below in various ads in her new job as shih tzu supermodel for Boogie Underground Media...very fun to be working her as a partner in this new venture.

Here's the blurb for Boogie Underground Media:

Boogie Underground Media promotion.

Email techmek@yahoo.com for list of services and prices starting from only $5.00!


Yes I have said over and over again that video was coming but I haven't worked out all of the bugs yet :-)

A SPECIAL THANKS TO THESE PEOPLE WHO'VE HELPED SUPPORT THE BLOG BY BECOMING EARLY CUSTOMERS OF THE BOOGIE UNDERGROUND MEDIA MEDIA VENTURE:

 

Author Eric Wilder
"Ghost Of A Chance" 
now only $0.99!
Paranormal Cowboy #1
http://amzn.to/2aTPfy3



Pure: Book 1 of an exciting paranormal series!
#fantasy #romance and #urbanfantasy. 
https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Book-ebook/dp/B004XJ7NQI.



Stories with Humor, The Impossible, and Love
DISCOVERY AND LOVE...IN GETTIS Available NOW!
http://www.gerribowen.com/

 

Tia Shurina's Journey from half happy to all in happiness, Everything and a Happy Ending!

https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Happy-Ending-Tia-Shurina/dp/0578166038

Friday, February 3, 2017

On The Road With Al & Ivy: A Literary Homeless Chronicle - Feb 3rd


 

..."in exploring the physical universe man has made no attempt to explore himself. Much of what goes by the name of pleasure is simply an effort to destroy consciousness."

- George Orwell (Pleasure Spots 1946)

Getting near the start of my new social network promotion business, centered on Twitter, sometime this week. I've got five clients already so I'm looking forward to a nice start this month. 

It's felt good to be productive in this new venture, and producing some income, though the recent donations have helped me a lot...I'm hoping the balance will be tipped towards self sufficiency by the end of February, which is also around the one year anniversary of becoming homeless. 

Like any small business, I'm sure it'll be long hours and some hard times, but I'd rather have my problems be of a greater magnitude than bare survival.

The atmosphere around here is moving back towards a tougher time for the homeless...not coincidentally, the "caravan" that I've described in an earlier blog entry is back and taken over a section of a nearby parking lot, so there's several homeless vehicles loosely associated around, drawing in backpackers, and of course the police, who seem to be pulling over lots of homeless.

My mistake though; I got absorbed in this new business and became careless and was driving around on city streets near Hwy 152 and 101 (a known drug corridor) during a time that caution and staying off the radar is the sensible thing to do.

One other thing...if you've been homeless long enough, you realize that some are territorial. I've seen that at a rest stop where a large group lived, where they'll even slam a door into your car if they don't want you in that space. 

I woke up one morning last summer to find myself next to a vehicle that always drew a line of young campers from the levee area, and afterwards had a regular stream of bike riders (couriers) ride by at all hours, many making loud sudden noises, looking into the car,  and even making racist remarks...it settled down once it was obvious that I wasn't a possible snitch (I guess) but that's why many homeless aren't open and friendly, or are suspicious until they really know you...when there's a lot of fear around, the less you know the better.

There's other signs; the area around the levee and fence is repopulating with partiers and transients. There's a new hole in the fence, as wide as a door. That probably means bike deliveries, as smaller more discrete holes are the norm, and the stop I was involved in wasn't a standard warrant/DL stop...it was an obvious scan for drugs, and interest in me fell off sharply after seeing my car clear except for the usual homeless type items on the floor. 

However, if drugs are coming back into the area, that's too much trouble comes by for my taste. The ATV and dirt bike crowd are back using the slough and buzzing the parking lots...summer is coming early this year.

To me, the key is this new business...it's the one thing I can do now that can affect my future the most...if the car gets impounded before I can get a replacement or fix it, well, I have my scoot bag and will just have to deal with it, but being forced to go on foot isn't the apocalypse it seemed like a few months ago...not that it's desirable, but with the business and book, I'm finally heading somewhere...if it has to be without a car, then the path is just going to be a little longer...I don't make it very public, but I've been a Christian for decades. I've always believed it's better to manifest one's beliefs than vocalize, so I consider it a private thing. 

Some of the other old timers have already cleared the area, and I'll probably head south this week since I'm now under police scrutiny, though they cut me slack today; I did get the tacit warning that a crackdown is probably coming. The Gilroy police are very kind, and compassionate that way.

There's been a path laid out for me now, so I'm no longer overly fearful of the present; that's also a change in me from a few months ago...and I have Ivy and a lot of friends, so that path won't be lonely or harsh. I'll pray for an easier road though...

"My little rough dog and I
Live a life that is rather rare,
We have so many good walks to take
And so few hard things to bear...

And we travel all one way;
'Tis a thing we should never do,
To reckon the two without the four,
Or the four without the two."

- Excerpt from a friend of Lincoln Newton Kinnicutt (To Your Dog and To My Dog)

"Stay here, I'm going in to start the laundry and I'll be back"

Ivy gives me her "ok boss, glad you let me know because I was going to open the car door with my paw and leap out of the car" look, and resumes her nap.

Living with an animal is partly an unspoken bond between two living beings who develop an empathy that doesn't need words, and partly talking to one's self a lot in the pet's direction...it's the age old collision of science versus metaphysics.

Science used to be the notion that what one could observe was real, and life was about discovery, till there was good money to be had; then it became a saint that could perform miracles for cash, or in other words, the successor to the medieval Catholic Church.

Metaphysics used to be the belief that connection to God was an individual experience and senior to the Church, till Saint Peter knocked some sense into the believers and restored the capitalistic verities of the Greek religion.

The fanatics in these two forces of life have been going at it ever since; one side providing reasons to kill each other, the other dedicated to making it an ever more efficient process with better and better weapons.

None of this helps Ivy and me, of course, we're still stuck together like tar babies in an old Cadillac and luckily God made it easier for a man and dog to coexist than with a human female.

To my credit, I realized a long time ago that telling Ivy not to leave the car was really silly but since she'd been hearing that phrase for so long, the real point is that it's the same collection of sounds she hears when I leave and because of that, knows I'll come back...I have no idea how to reduce that to dog sounds, so the phrase became our language for "I'll be back, I'm not abandoning you and the car to continue a solitary journey in shorts and a Ramone's t-shirt." Luckily she can't read my thoughts.

My guess is that Ivy's real thought is "if you leave who's going to feed me"?

Well, she should have finished school and got a degree so she wouldn't be dependent on a guy...

Hours of sitting around in each other's face has resulted in the evolution of a language...we've developed what I call "Lurch talk," named after the famous Adam's Family butler who used to groan a lot...it started off as a game, when Ivy would groan, I'd groan back, and then she began to tie sounds together into sentences, and now when she wants to eat or go outside, she groans the appropriate phrase...I don't encourage her to do it with strangers, as it often gets mistaken for growling, though no one's ever become frightened by it either. 

I imagine that if she did want to growl, it'd be frustrating to have people laugh at how cute it is...kinda like how women feel when they get pissed and the guy tells them they look cute when they're angry...and they don't have the option to go nuclear and bite or sleep with their furry white butt on my pillow.

Having your dog thinking she can talk is a mixed blessing, but having her as a road buddy isn't...

...emergency and disaster preparedness for the homeless...

In some ways homeless emergency preparedness is a simple subject...we're already in a disaster and live our lives by the emergency measures in place beforehand...but let's move off the materialistic view and assume that within this new universe, greater disasters can occur.

I'm sure most of you've read some material on emergency preparedness and have measures in place for the worst case scenarios in your region...I spent over 12 years in the security field and as a supervisor had to take a multitude of courses that made me a Red Cross medic, a low level but full suited chemical handler, anger manager, and of course, a sort of expert in emergency response.

Very little of it applies to homelessness, but some basic principles apply. You should be prepared for the worst case scenario and your supplies should reflect what you'd do first (more steps can be implemented if you have the cash).

 A cynic might say that our first basic emergency would be how to get drugs when flat broke...and truth be told, I imagine for some homeless that would be the worse case scenario...a meth head that's crashing won't think of much else, and the proper ERT response would be panhandling or some sort of street crime, though given the cost of meth, it's not as common a reason to commit a crime for as heroin or crack, but that can change once the person moves into the more refined vintages of speed and crank.

Meth is relatively cheap and simplifies life, though a meth head might want to spend a couple of hours explaining why...but emergency preparedness is simple; what's the big disaster and what measures do you take to cope with it.

One problem is that some prepper entrepreneurs have turned survival into a uniquely American trip, that is to say, into a boutique industry where even the most basic gear can be rediculously expensive and in many cases, too complicated or unrealistic...expensive dehydrated meals when clean water might be scarce is a good example, and a real life example was third world babies getting sick on US made formula that required mixing with water.

The ultimate fetish is the "scoot bag," a pack or bag with basic stuff that can be grabbed in an instant when suddenly having to leave a place or finding yourself in a survival situation.

Being a gadget geek, of course I have one...I've spent many happy hours contemplating various scenarios and configuring my cool little bag of tricks to ensure mastery of the situation.

Luckily, as time has passed, I've become more sensible about it and sold off the Bear Grier Super Duper survival knife and other stuff like that...I realized that my chances of being stranded in the middle of the Amazon jungle was slim, and it's easier to just carry matches in the handle of a ten dollar Bowie Knife than bang a 50.00 knife against a flint to make fire...though I admit that the Bowie knife isn't in my scoot bag anymore as it's too heavy and keeping a cheap butane lighter is even cheaper...I still haven't figured out why I'd want to create a fire within city limits though...

The operative word is cheap...the scoot bag has stuff you'll probably never use, so keeping items like a 50.00 knife or really nice lightweight jacket in it is really more of an upscale hobby.

In my case, my scoot bag doubles as a light hiking bag/whatwouldiwantonmeifmycarisgonewhenigetback type thing, so it's a gaudy collection of cheap stuff, my devices and battery packs, useless paracord knife (kept losing it so putting it in the bag keeps it in a safe place) that'll I'll probably replace with some loose paracord, a Cliff bar, dog dish, water bottle, flashlight, and so on...it varies according to my current state state of paranoia and weight considerations if it gets annoyingly heavy on a walk where I'm already carrying Ivy, whose weight fluctuates.

It's the fun bag...there's a more serious backpack in the trunk that I can grab if need be if there's time and I'm caught out in walking clothes in the winter...but the scoot bag has the key stuff; my papers and phone. If I'm caught with just my beloved scoot bag, the last thing I'm going to be thinking of is survival in the cold...I'm going to make sure I can call for help and communicate till it comes. 

If I'm living out in the boonies, then it might be a different situation and I'm sure there'll be many happy hours spent creating the perfect scoot bag for that situation.

There's really only a couple of basics...if you're in a car, then make sure it always has a full gas tank and always have a working phone with plenty of backup power...everything else is a distant second.

-Al Handa

ontheroadwithalandivy@gmail.com


Please consider a contribution to keep this blog going and support my activities:


My intent isn't to become a donor funded homeless blogger, I'd like to do much more...until then, a donation would help Ivy and I to survive and continue efforts (like seeking work, etc) that can bring us out of homelessness as opposed to dropping further down into a transient lifestyle.


The Al & Ivy Homeless Literary Journal Archive:


THE IVY CORNER: Ivy seen below in various ads in her new job as shih tzu supermodel for Boogie Underground Media...very fun to be working her as a partner in this new venture.

Here's the blurb for Boogie Underground Media:

Boogie Underground Media promotion.

Email techmek@yahoo.com for list of services and prices!


Yes I did say video was coming but I haven't worked out all of the bugs yet :-)

A SPECIAL THANKS TO THESE PEOPLE WHO'VE HELPED SUPPORT THE BLOG BY BECOMING EARLY CUSTOMERS OF THE BOOGIE UNDERGROUND MEDIA MEDIA VENTURE:

 

NEW RELEASE!

Eric Wilder's "Blink of an Eye"

#Paranormal #mystery #thriller

http://amzn.to/2eBvyuC


 


Catherine Mesick's Pure: Book 1 of an exciting paranormal series!

#fantasy #romance and #urbanfantasy. 

https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Book-ebook/dp/B004XJ7NQI.


 

Angela B. Mortimer's sexy SciFi meditation on sacrifice, rites of passage & illumination!

https://www.amazon.com/Angela-B.-Mortimer/e/B00C8G2RGE


 

Stories with Humor, The Impossible, and Love

DISCOVERY AND LOVE...IN GETTIS Available NOW!

http://www.gerribowen.com/


 

Tia Shurina's Journey from half happy to all in happiness, Everything and a Happy Ending!


https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Happy-Ending-Tia-Shurina/dp/0578166038

Friday, January 20, 2017

On The Road With Al & Ivy: A Literary Homeless Chronicle - Jan 20th

 

"The mind is it's own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven."

- Milton (Paradise Lost)

"I live all the daytime
In faith and in might:
In holy rapture
I die every night."

- Novalis (Hymns To The Night)

Most people rarely see the night...in fact, if you think you see it, it really isn't night...probably the false dawn of dustant city lights or the poetic pale glow of moonlight.

Real night is pitch black, can't see your nose pitch black...most people have seen night in some partial form during a power failure...building or house going dark, street disappearing, something like that.

In a power failure, how dark it gets depends on where you are. In a small town, everything disappears as there's no other section of town that might be unaffected and give off a glow...the worst is in a storm; you leave a coffee house with it's emergency lights on, thankful that somebody in government could have cared less about the business world's gripe about over excess regulations and made sure every building has lights that go on after the power cuts out, and make your way to the car with umbrella closed as the wind's too gusty. Struggling with the old car lock and slippery keys, I hear the familiar complaints from Ivy about the delayed bathroom breaks.

I do look at the driver side floor before entering...our tacit agreement is that's the bathroom if nature overcomes my little shih tzu's willpower...it's all clear and I make a mental note to double her night time supper ration in gratitude, even if that creates more problems later.

Ivy does let me know what degree of emergency it is...she hates rain too, so if a trip can be delayed, there's a low groan but she stems the flood by taking a nap...if she acts like a little child having to wait in line at a county fair outhouse, then I get the leash...we'll live in the present and deal with her smelling like wet hair later.

My fetish about flashlights began during my nine years of security work in the 80s...on graveyard, on isolated night watches, we'd discuss flashlights at length...The then new long handled Mag Lights were revered as the ultimate expression of maximum illumination and phony tough weaponry...a nightstick light just like the police had.

I preferred to be different, and constantly searched for the perfect small flashlight, though I briefly flirted with the night stick type by constructing my own with a paper towel tube, duct tape and the inerds of a nice flashlight that was accidentally broken when it fell two stories off a roof. Lasted over two weeks too.

Nowadays you can go to a hardware or sporting goods store and see a hundred different flashlights, perfect for any situation both real and imagined, and in a wonderful variety of colors and light type.

Back then, finding some exotic new type was like finding a first edition a John Steinbeck book in a thrift store...you bought it and decided if you actually liked it later.
 
I wisely took my flashlights with me when Ivy and I hit the road. My illumination kit wasn't extensive, due to the innervating effects of civilization, and a preference for guitars I rarely played, but pretty complete. 

There was a heavy duty tripod mounted LED light that could last 24 hours that I got as a gift, a small baton flood light and emergency flasher that replaced those roads flares that always ended up faded and useless (precursor of the military type that supposedly can blind an attacker), a small keychain type that has lasted forever, and another keychain light that could be recharged by turning a crank; which no longer works unless you keeps cranking it, but worth keeping as it'll always light up a place even if now requires both hands to use. I'd buy another one but it broke so soon, why waste money on another...the one I have is good as a last resort type thing. I also keep a small cheapie just in case, and it's used the most often to save the batteries on my heavy hitters.

I eagerly pull all of my hardware out in the pitch black car...time to get my money's worth...sure, you can use your phone, with that silly battery killing flashlight app, but Ivy needs to go out in that rain and I still need my iPhone to complete my book and my working phone can't be risked in a storm.

I chose the small floodlight for the task of escorting Ivy to a suitable dumping ground, and after returned to the comfort of a car lit up by the tripod light, set for max endurance as it's main task is to illuminate the rear area until Ivy goes to sleep...she's a few generations removed from her wild ancestors and will occasionally fall off the seats if it's too dark.

Making our way back to the sleeping area is tricky as cars are driving about and as usual, going too fast...headlights are less effective in a pitch dark storm so it's better to drive slow and take a back route away from the main stream of cars leaving the parking lots...my main concern is the highway 152 intersection, but the storm has a sobering effect on traffic and people go into uncontrolled intersection mode...when it's my turn I hold back and cross with another car beside me, motorcycle style, and get back to the side street that's my sleeping quarters without incident...cars are pulling over and maneuvering around so I park between an RV and a semi that's wisely keeping it's lights on, and until traffic clears, I do likewise...other homeless are arriving and many prefer to park between large vehicle so no point in being parked without lights, making the area look like an open space...it's worth a half gallon of gas to stay visible a while longer.

I turn on the tripod light again and get out my iPhone and kindle and begin my routine of reading and writing a bit before turning in...my flashlights are working fine and my former life as a gadget geek was validated by a mastery of the sudden descent of real night...

...being safe and the law...

There's no denying that the homeless life can be dangerous...the only thing that saves car homeless from being constantly carjacked is that we generally drive hopelessly bad cars...a carjacker might not be able to go further than a block or two due to mechanical failure or a chronically near empty gas tank.

Depends on the area; in some areas we're just the people in junkers out on the side street or far end of a parking lot, and in other areas like parts of San Francisco, we're often mistaken for middle class and subject to a smash and grab for our clothes, pets, or any object of value. I've never met a car homeless who's been to a place like San Francisco or Stockton and eagerly wanted to go back.

In warmer weather the homeless come out of the shelters and the local truckstop area and begin mingling with the RV and car homeless, and start camping out in the slough banks and tree lines...many would prefer to go back to the shelter at night but even the minimal supervision there has an inhibiting effect on social activities like drug taking...plus the summer brings the young users out to slum in camps and one can possibly get lucky with a pretty young thing if you're carrying.

It all may seem like a low rent Sumner Of Love, but it's a potential hotbed of trouble...when even a moderate number of drug users and parties begin to congregate they tend to think that by doing it behind the fence line it's a big secret...in reality the police know all about it and the patrols become more frequent and the informants are out and about.

Like any other activity involving humans, you get the cretins who get stoned in secret, forget caution, and come out to enjoy the high in the nearby streets and parking lots; plus there's the issue of finding more cash to keep that serotonin flowing...plus if you get very very lucky, most of the young women will insist that you do the exchange in a parking or or semi-public place and there's police and sheriff deputies out looking for that.

The smart homeless stay away from that, or if unavoidable, at least stay away from the inevitable routes of transit that spring up...it's nothing you'd see on a roadmap, but you learn that certain parking lot corners or breaks in the landscaping are in a direct line to the homeless camps and unless you want a constant stream of stoned people looking in the window it's best to park elsewhere.

In the areas I've been in, a car homeless is pretty safe, except from some of the mentally ill...as a rule, most homeless don't victimize other homeless...we're the most likely to help one another, and in an extreme, are regarded as people who have nothing to lose by retaliating...I'm careful to never provoke another, and if the person is stoned, nuts or being abusive, they're freely given their psychological victory over their retreating foe as I get the hell out of there.

If you're sleeping out in a car all night, yes, the odds go up for such things as car jacks, mugging and burglary...but one thing I've never seen, unlike the movies, is people coping with the risk by openly arming themselves or showing a macho attitude like in the movies...there are warriors out there and most won't last long, and like any other trouble, they're given a wide berth.

It's not that I don't believe in the concept of  law...but the law is a veneer or social construct doesn't really protect anybody...the whole idea of due process is to protect the defendant and that concept goes back to an earlier one, which was to protect people (mainly the nobility) from one of the main tools of a tyranny, which was using the justice system to eliminate enemies.

Poor people, though often mistreated, were often safer from the law than nobles who could pose a threat to a ruling class or family...serfs and slaves were the economic engine in the old agrarian culture, and most punishments were more likely to be due to cruelty by sociopathic nobility or perceived heresy than class notions.

It's more specific; it goes back to old English law, back when kings were actually pretty impotent like a Japanese Emperor with a Shogun looking over his shoulder and needed the various Duke's money and soldiers. Which often led to intrigues and backstabbing...the Magna Carta was an agreement by the king to not use the law to imprison and execute the various lords. It was later taught that it was a first step in the road to democracy but it was nothing of the sort, and really only a weakening of the King's power in England. There wasn't a single lord in England who thought the ordinary peasant was his equal, even in church. The French king, for example, was pretty impotent until maybe after Joan of Arc, and only because she chose to back the king (who as we know, betrayed her).

Yes, we learned in civics class that due process was to protect every individual and it sort of evolved to do that, but the intent was never safety...it's always been liberty over safety. It's a highly intellectual concept, and in fact, probably one that wouldn't be duplicated by more modern men trying to create a constitution.

In other words, it's a political concept...murder is a moral crime with a law attached...but politically it's OK to kill for state reasons, and the way our justice system is set up, there's nothing stopping anyone from killing another except the possibility of punishment or moral training...if you're willing to pay the price, you can kill someone, and in the case of stranger killings, the arrest and conviction rate gives you favorable odds of getting away with it.

The founding fathers created the constitution to guarantee that the government couldn't create a Tower of London to stick political (and economic) prisoners...as far as every day safety, your only real protection back then was societal restraint or a musket. 

The system didn't prevent lynchings, passion killings, or any crime except with those afraid of punishment and with a moral predisposition to be nice people. This is why the poor get jailed and the rich get off in most cases; it was designed to protect the rich landowners who organized the rebellion against a possible future king and so it can take a lot of money to get justice.

A true system with a safety first philosophy would have to be fascist and willing to monitor people everywhere with plenty of devices and people to step in to stop every crime...high tech will probably achieve such aims as most people don't realize that fascism is ideological and not political, and will not realize that Big Brother will be implemented by those saying they want to protect you rather than a bunch of Nazis and KKK.

When I'm sitting in a car at night, I trust the car...it's more protection than the law, and my escape...when I see a policeman drive by, I know I'm reasonably safe for a few minutes until he or she leaves the area, then criminals know the area has been called in to headquarters as quiet, though the smart crooks allow for overlapping patrols, etc.

I also trust the people in the area...if it's obvious that they aren't the types who'd hurt me, I'll stick around...if I don't know them, I watch for a couple of hours, and if the place feels dicey it's time to relocate. 

People are the real law, and anyone who thinks it's otherwise are taking a big risk.

I'm more likely to screwed over by by respectable folks like bankers, politicians, unscrupulous businesses than a meth head who prefers to panhandle for his cash...maybe elsewhere it's different; in which case it's a good idea to move on while you still can...

...rage, bullying, perception and power...

Most homeless have had the experience of being chewed out like a little kid in public by some policeman, store manager or even a passerby...it's easy to see that as a prejudice against the homeless but it's important to understand that it's often not about that at all...it's really about how some people handle power, or misdirected anger...it's very similar to road rage.

It's important to see that, so a resentment or misunderstanding about society doesn't develop and turn into an anti-social attitude that hinders attempts to climb out of homelessness...you won't get anywhere engaging in conflicts with the police or business owners, and being like that ignores the fact that most ordinary people are sympathetic.

One example is a police officer who orders you to move on from a street or parking lot...it's easy to feel put upon and perceive it as an act against the down and out...but being able  to see both sides helps...the officer could easily just cite or arrest you for vagrancy, trespassing, or have the car impounded but in most cases, the officer is actually sympathetic and is treating you as leniently as possible...and believe me, there's plenty of voices shouting in their ears to come down hard on the "vermin," and such, and rounding us all up would get plenty of support in many communities.

Seeing the whole picture makes complying and moving on a smart move...when officers clear an area out it's common to see many of the old timers do so politely and even thanking the officers...I've been on the receiving end of someone who had power over a homeless person and used every bit of it...catching a break is a mercy.

It's about power...some people, if given power, will use it and in a way to blow out their frustration or anger, or bolster poor self esteem...some homeless of course are just asking for it, but most are only interested in being left alone. 

Having a lot of homeless around can create annoyances and even crime...it can be frustrating for a society, business owner, or ordinary people, and that can be expressed as hard treatment aimed at someone they can do something about...a run down down area where there's lots of drug users (who happen to be homeless, but not the same as other homeless) can generate anger that hits the wrong people hard.

At one parking lot area, the drug scene and homeless camps generated a lot of resentment, and triggered a crack down. The "cleanup" mainly hit car and RV homeless, many of whom worked and stayed out of trouble...vehicles were tagged, in some cases towed, driven away and by the end of the week the looked nice and clean...except that it didn't clear out the camps in the levee and tree areas, so the parking lot filled up both day and night with drug users and panhandlers who filled the vacuum.

The area became so dicey that I avoided it at night. It was a cosmetic move that hit the quiet ones as they had vehicles, and thus could be leveraged with action against what was essentially their homes and it had virtually no effect on those who had nothing to lose in the camps. 

I'm not saying that nothing should have been done if the parking lot had become a problem...my point is that the show of force to satisfy the store management and property owner was directed at the most quiet and peaceful, who were often part of the service economy in the community and merely made a lot of lives more miserable to little effect. 

It also changes little to become angry about it, or to rebel or engage in passive aggressive behavior like dumping RV sewage onto the pavement...there's people in this world who'll attack the homeless like they would a little child or dog...if you see it's about power and personalities, then it'll be easier to see the sympathy that really does exist all around. Reentry into the mainstream will be easier for those who want that, and a more peaceful life for those who choose to stay out.

...just singing in the rain...

One of the things that become important when you're shuttered inside a car during a multi-day rainstorm is the sense of smell...things get damp, odors start to come out of the carpeting, upholstery, and of course, Ivy and me.

The other night I had settled into the sleeping bag and noticed an unmistakable scent of dog pee...since Ivy hadn't been left alone for more than a few minutes due to the weather, it wasn't clear where the aroma originated.

There was Ivy's little organic amonia patch that I'm still trying to locate, but this was different...it was as if she had made water on my head...it wasn't easy to locate the source in almost pitch darkness, but it became obvious that the uric acid particles had now established themselves on my sleeping bag, which could only mean that the source was the pillow being used to fill the bucket seat under me.

Still damp too...I ascertained that the pollution was confined to a corner, and more aromatic than wet, so it was tossed into the back seat where Ivy immediate took possession of it...I realized that my hair also reeked of kidney juice and found that my prized travel pillow had a sheen of dog wee wee...the late night investigation found the source to be a section of the passenger seat, and in the one section that hadn't been covered by the sleeping bag, pillows, and sweat pants.

Unlike the new ammonia factory, this was solvable, so I took the Arm & Hammer Dog Spray out and soaked the offending section of leather upholstery...I'd have to give the product a C+ for it's performance on leather, and it'll smell like a kitty litter box for maybe a couple of days.

Ivy knows when I'm cleaning up one of her admittedly rare messes, and sits up and turns on the charm, smiling and wagging her tail, and reminding me that next time I want to leave the car for a few minutes, even on an emergency trip to the bathroom, to observe the order of precedence and to make sure she doesn't need to go first.

During sustained rainy periods, I adhere to a rule that nothing she does is to be punished, even with a reprimand...it's close quarters and we have to go out during lulls as much as possible, which disrupts her normal break schedule and some accidents are unavoidable. Besides, she doesn't listen to me except at mealtime.

However, it does seem like this whole affair was to manipulate me into giving her a new pillow and maybe even the biggest prize of all, my beloved travel pillow she lays on at every opportunity...I'll take the travel pillow, which is actually a bag containing a comforter to the laundromat, and she can then watch me enjoy the last comfort granted me by the canine tyrant who rules the back seat area.

...a few words about my book in progress...

The team has been formed! Editor and author Jenna Brooks and author Melodie Ramone will be helping and guiding me with the completion of my book, which I hope to get done in 2-3 months. I have two chapters almost complete with several more in various stages of development, I'm projecting it to be about 10-12 chapters in length, maybe 60,000 words. I'll give out more details in the next blog entry.

...promo for the promo...

The new venture, Boogie Underground Media, which will be a promo service for social networks  entering on Twitter will be officially starting in February...I'm hoping this will become enough of a success to begin a rise into self sufficiency for Ivy and me, I'll give out more details in the days ahead, but here's some of the prelimary promos coming out now:

 

 

- Al Handa

Please consider a contribution to keep this blog going and support my activities:


My intent isn't to become a donor funded homeless blogger, I'd like to do much more...until then, a donation would help Ivy and I to survive and continue efforts (like seeking work, etc) that can bring us out of homelessness as opposed to dropping further down into a transient lifestyle.
  
The Al & Ivy Homeless Literary Journal Archive:



THE IVY CORNER: Ivy seen here in an outtake from her second professional photo session for the ad layouts for Tia Shurina's book, Everything and a Happy Ending.

Yes I did say video was coming but I haven't worked out all of the bugs yet :-)

 

Please consider a contribution to keep this blog going and support my activities:


My intent isn't to become a donor funded homeless blogger, I'd like to do much more...until then, a donation would help Ivy and I to survive and continue efforts (like seeking work, etc) that can bring us out of homelessness as opposed to dropping further down into a transient lifestyle.

Many thanks to these contributors to this blog!



Voodo chile Ivy finds it easy to love Eric Wilder's Big Easy!



 

Tia Shurina's Journey from half happy to all in happiness, Everything and a Happy Ending!


https://www.amazon.com/Everything-Happy-Ending-Tia-Shurina/dp/0578166038

Sunday, January 8, 2017

On The Road With Al & Ivy: A Literary Homeless Chronicle - Jan 8th

 

"Like all men in this land, he had been a wanderer, an exile on the immortal earth. Like all of us, he had no home. Wherever great wheels carried him was home."

- Thomas Wolfe (Of Time And The River)

...the new kid in town...

...a new face, possibly Middle Eastern, which is rare around here...I recognized myself in him him because he was acting like I did a few months ago, he had found a spot, a haven, possibly after some aimless wandering about to avoid being seen by those he knew.

The first stage of homelessness is the worst...everything looks big, every problem crushing you and what was your life is now gone...it's a rebirth but it doesn't feel that way because it feels more like death.

In the tarot, the death card is actually a symbol of rebirth...which I knew due to being a tarot card reader on the early internet when it called the usenet and mainly consisted of discussion groups and ftp sites.

I went by the name of Magus Fool, and buying a reading from me included a package of the reading and a free subscription to my tarot newsletter...early tarot web sites later carried it in their search for content. I did pretty well, it supplemented the lower  midwestern pay in my two years in Elkhart, Indiana, as I did my early CAD drafting work drawing up structural plans for RVs and shuttle buses during the day, with night work doing ink drawings of furniture for a small company for it's product catalogue.

It was a busy time. There was also my blues newsletter that had transitioned into an ezine but neglected...because being a small time publisher was a labor of love...being a mystic paid better.

My clients were mainly women, and they all wanted to know the same thing...did their man love them?

I eventually had to quit, because the tarot cards can't divine such a thing...it can only help the person externalize what they already know, and as the clients generally knew the answer already, who wants to be the messenger in such a situation?

It was a fun time though...I met all sorts of metaphysical types, from astrologers to the various types of psychics, one of which correctly predicted that there would be a time when women would be my best allies, which turned out to be true. Any man who raises daughters will be at least a little bit of a feminist...Mario Puzo, author of classic The Godfather, once said that God was wise to entrust our children to women, men would have screwed it up a long time ago...the reason women are better is because men think action and brains is the key; women add heart, and that creates real strength.

The most misunderstood card is the Death card, which was really about rebirth or the end of an old life; though in tarot, the cards can end up meaning anything the reader thinks it means...the best readers are extremely intuitive, the worst are egomaniacs that think that whatever thought comes up is inspired.

The whole idea that tarot cards can predict a future is arguable but not likely...true divination, or oracles, are very rare...rare enough that the true seers are all famous...most divination is really the subject's inner thoughts pulled out into the open and thus a course or future is clear...which is, of course, a talent that's alarmingly close to a con artist's ability to tap into a sucker's greed or vulnerability.

So a newbie homeless is someone who's drawn the Tower card, which is catastrophe or upheaval, and against all normal logic, needs the Death card to comprehend the situation and find a new self...that's one way to look at it anyway.

The main thing lost was a home, which is both a physical and metaphysical concept...the thing that began stabilizing my situation was to quit moving blindly about and find a spot, a haven that may not have been a new home but where the visual confusion of a constant stream of new scenarios could stop and the mind could begin to work.

In other words, get to a place where you can stop reacting and think.

I found my island at a rest stop up north near San Mateo...the nature and isolation of the place meant that the other homeless lived in cars and were similar to me...and I went through the same stage the Middle Eastern new comer was going through.

He's an older guy, a bit older than me, which means a radical change in life is occurring without a younger person's sense that there's plenty of time left to start a new life, though a younger person may need to be told that by an elder. Life is a circle...

He parked in the same parking area for a couple of weeks...same as I did, and gradually expanded that to a couple of other spots. It took him about a week to begin walking away from his car for reasons other than to go to the bathroom, etc., and about two weeks to stop driving off to another spot if someone parked next to him. Which I didn't do, since at the rest stop there was only a couple of areas a newbie could go, there were cliques in the other places that marked off turf and could get hostile if you invaded their space.

I would just try to become more invisible...

The car feels like a protective shell, like a womb where the new self begins to form...that new self can simply to be the old self that realizes that after all the chaos of becoming homeless, you're really the same person after all but simply without a roof over your head, but now with a chance to actually be that same person but without the baggage...that might sound like a circular argument and maybe it is, I don't think I've found out who my original self is yet...

This week the newbie has reached the point where he's coming in at different times and parking pretty much anywhere...he watches the others more, and has begun to look at the outside world again. I don't know what his next step is, but hopefully he knows the difference between a safe haven and a home...it's too soon to decide that he's found a new home.

...singing in the rain...

People like to wax romantically about the rain, but then, most people can walk away from it and go indoors...I can, sort of, but see it pitter pattering away all day on the car windows...you see diverse behaviors out here; people trying not to get wet, getting irritated, tunnel vision aimed at the nearest door, and the occasional Gene Kelly type dancing in the downpour (but definitely because of drugs).

Even the most downtrodden homeless person pushing a cart makes sure they have a raincoat...a cynic might remark that it's a rare chance to wash, but that's not how rain works...unless the person wants to strip naked for an extended period of time and enjoy their new status on a sex offender list.

In this world, rain has a silver lining...as nature sheds it's tears on a thirsty world, the temperature goes up 5-10 degrees and cold cars become stuffy and comfortable even on a windy night.

Seeing all that water come down pounds home the point that I could be out there miserable and cold with a dog that looks like a chihuahua when her fur is soaked. It's a pitiful picture that inspires gratitude and relief.

There is a discipline involved...the real world has places where one can shed the wet clothes and shoes and not track it into the house...in a car, you want to keep as much of the water out as possible...damp air makes feel colder inside, damages devices, and in a rain that lasts days, could invite mildew...also I move away from trees, otherwise the raindrops that collide in the branches come down in bigger drops and can sound like a steady stream of rocks pinging the roof.

I'm lucky my little buddy Ivy hates rain...when she hears it coming down, it brings out a rare patience about going outside to pee, and we both wait for lulls in the downpour to go outside.

Since some coming and going is unavoidable, my wardrobe changes...I prefer trunks, T-shirts and sandals unless it's too cold, as wet clothes don't dry fast in a car...bare feet and skin can be dried off with a towel faster than wet denim and leather. I'll wear a vest or jacket mainly to not attract attention to this kook who's walking around like it's summer, and an umbrella is essential.

It's a car routine for rainy days...if Ivy and I were on foot and had to seek shelter under an overpass, the procedure would be different.

I keep most of my food in the trunk, but if rain is coming then there's a second smaller pantry on the passenger side floor...the trunk has become a drawer, so opening it in the rain means bedding and clothes get wet, and can still be damp and wet in the evening when it's time to sleep. Ivy and I can eat for days from that smaller pantry.

Garbage is dumped daily, and I make it a point to keep it up front...there's a lot of trash in parking lots these days, and homeless are often blamed for it...if an officer looks into my car, I want it obvious that my trash isn't part of the squalor outside. 

I use wipes to clean up every day, and in rainy weather switch to ones that have alcohol, which dries faster and keeps the windows from steaming up. Not that the extra privacy from the steamed windows isn't undesirable, but steamy windows attract extra attention from passing police and security thinking that some sort of fornication is going on...that it could happen in a homeless car is a pretty funny idea when you think about it...not even homeless women will pick a homeless guy in a car as a first choice for a partner, at least one that isn't a druggie...if you see fogged up windows in a homeless car, it's more likely to be pot smoke or wet clothes warmed by body heat.

Rain is often looked at in absolutes like something to get out of, needed but best enjoyed in someone else's neighborhood, or to be endured...but it's like any weather, nature always makes sure there's a silver lining in any of it's offerings.

...it's all about power...

One of the cool scenes in the Apollo 13 movie was where all the people are arguing about this or that in trying to save the astronauts, and the young guy shuts everybody up and says that all that other stuff didn't matter, it was all about power, how much electricity was left in the batteries...without it, the spacecraft wouldn't be able to land.

The scene was about what a key issue is, the essential truth, and it applies to life and homelessness...in a car, it's all about keeping it running...once the car stops running, the whole life can collapse, and end most thoughts about the future, and drop you down to the next rung.

Tow truck drivers will tell you, the start of the rainy season is one of the busiest times...mainly electrical systems that fail in the damp and wet weather.

I pay attention to the electrical system and ignition when it's raining. Casual things like running everything at once in a older car is like a drunk sailor with a months pay in a foreign port, it can lead to a dead battery, and immobility at the wrong time.

That means avoiding such things as the temptation to constantly run the car to warm it up...it has to be done once in a while of course, but my rule is use only one thing if possible at a time; if the lights and heater are on, I don't charge devices, and I try to get one of those other two things off as soon as possible.

It's not a solution per se, but a discipline...keeping stress off the battery and alternator keeps power at a good level in case the inevitable goof up occurs like leaving a dome light on...a little care can mean forgiveness later for violating Murphy's Law.

- Al Handa 1/8/17

The Al & Ivy Homeless Literary Journal Archive:



THE IVY CORNER: Ivy seen here in her first professional photo session for the ad layouts for Eric Wilder's book, Big Easy. I'll be starting a new project Media-Entertainment project in February, more on that later!

Yes I did say that video was coming but I haven't worked out all of the bugs yet :-)

 

Please consider a contribution to keep this blog going and support my activities:


My intent isn't to become a donor funded homeless blogger, I'd like to do much more...until then, a donation would help Ivy and I to survive and continue efforts (like seeking work, etc) that can bring us out of homelessness as opposed to dropping further down into a transient lifestyle.

Many thanks to these contributors to this blog!

 

In a sales slump? Need your books to stand out from the crowd? Up Your Marketing Game with Book Banners Etc.



Voodo chile Ivy finds it easy to love Eric Wilder's Big Easy!


 

BEST NON-FICTION 2016 AWARD
a memoir about transition, transformation & living our truth
#RayRomano

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On The Road With Al & Ivy: A Homeless Literary Journal

 

So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irridiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight."

- Milton (Paradise Lost)

There's a street Ivy and I walk along most mornings, and while it's hardly the weirdest street in the country, it's inhabitants have provided sights that even this jaded wanderer has never seen.

The oddest sight is people who walk their dogs with their car...the dog wanders down along the sidewalk, lightening it's load and the owner drives along side on the street...in one instance, the person is elderly and probably can't keep up and is simply ensuring that fido has the kind of full life it deserves, but in another case, it's a woman in her 30s who even lets the dog frolic in a parking lot under mobile escort. On Christmas morning they pretty much had the parking lot to themselves and it appeared to be a playful time with the dog and car taking turns leading the search for the perfect potty spot. Add a woman who walks her dog in an electric cart every morning and you have a pretty heavy traffic area.

Once after a rain, there was around two dozen snails crossing the sidewalk from the grass to an ivy patch...Ivy and I stood and watched for a few minutes, but while it was clearly a compelling matter of life and death to get to the safety of the bushes, their pace was on a much slower cycle than mine and I made a mental note to see how it all played out the next day, and to watch my karma to avoid coming back as a snail.

Most made it, and the few that didn't failed due to the relative ability nature endowed them with...there was no sign that birds or kids had intervened, which indicated that the people along this street who walk their dogs here had a truly larger picture of life and let the snails have their shot at survival, each according to it's ability.

About half way down the sidewalk, along a large vacant field is a clump of bushes that's home to several feral cats...people from the RV park across the street lay out dry cat food at regular intervals, and it rarely results in a mess, as the felines don't appear to be wasters.

The cycles that play out here have a different sense of time, where even snails aren't messed with...it's a neighborhood where everybody minds their own business and is as close to nature as an urban street can get, as the ecosystem isn't about nice scenery but of the timeless intersection of natural cycles, each to a purpose.

...coming in from the cold...

For most people, night time is when it gets dark and cold. Those who go camping or live outside know that it's more complex than that, and is a cycle where the temperature will drop continuously during the night.

The one thing I didn't realize is that the temperature in a car recedes more gradually...one thinks that once the car is parked, and the heater is off, that the night temperature will be maybe a few degrees colder than how it feels at 9pm.

What really happens is once the car stops running, the engine is still very hot and can radiate heat like steam pipes...not enough to make the car toasty, but enough to keep the car a few degrees warmer for an hour or two and make the night seem milder than it really is.

I didn't bother with a blanket and even took my shoes off on that mild winter evening in February, and went to sleep early around 10pm...the car cooled off about the same time the temperature outside dropped and I turned into a popsicle in 30 degree cold at two in the morning.

A lot of adjustments and experimentation occurred since then, but the main axiom became get warm and worry about refinements after. That meant some nights with several blankets, jackets and sweaters piled on me at some points...all after a disasterous couple of nights made a sleeping bag seem like the wrong solution (at the time, I know better now).

The problem with a sleeping bag is that it's very bulky and clumsy to use in a car...part of that is adjusting to functioning in the dark and realizing that all the things in the car that look organized during the day get knocked over or spilled at night when flopping around in a sleeping bag.

The reason I say get warm first, then adjust, is that it keeps you from making dumb decisions while trying to get feeling back in your hands and feet; like drinking hot liquids that make you have to to the bathroom in the cold at 3am, drinking booze, or other useless actions.

I've learned to park the car at night differently in winter than in warm weather...in the summer, it's best to park where the shade will be in the morning. When it's cold, park where the first rays of the sun will light up the interior and start warming it up...in most cases it'll be warm enough to have to open windows a bit within a half hour, even if it's still freezing outside. Cheaper than running the car to get the heater going or power a cigarette light electric blanket...as usual, nature provides the simplest solution.

Sleeping in a car is about beating the cold...everything else is a distant second.

...the doors of perception...

I had a sense of curiousity about the homeless scene at first, even amidst all the turmoil and confusion of one's own entrance into that world...it becomes clear why the old timers and other denizens rarely exhibit any curiosity; the struggle of life is best served by prioritizing attention to one's own world, as revelations about the scenery is like most knowledge; it's nice to know but ultimately irrelevant. 

I think the best way to approach homelessness is to recognize that one's immersion will come in stages; from self absorbed fear, confusion, and dispair to a certain level of mastery over the lifestyle that can lead to a freer state of mind where goals feel attainable...a return to the normal struggle of life.

The tricky stage is mastery over the lifestyle. I avoid learning certain skills and the tricks of the trade because one can get so into mastery that it leads to an attraction for the lifestyle, and make no mistake, it has some attractions; not the least of which, and I hear it from a lot of the old timers, that the lifestyle is a kind of freedom from the various boxes that society puts or forces people into. 

It's like the guy who spends decades building a life; with a wife and kids, nice home and career, and then dumps it all for a Harley complete with young girlfriend and a new self centered philosophical outlook on life...he thinks he's now free of the cage a lifetime was spent building with all the trappings of success; until a mid life crisis points them towards hedonism adorned with the trappings of faux liberation...a prison breakout that only turned into the pathetic box of an aged hipster chasing a wasted youth.

A wise person will see homelessness as a process of change that was probably initiated as much by the self as external forces, and realize that the freedom of being out of society's boxes should be embraced, but to be used to come to an understanding about why it happened and to make critical choices about the future in a window that will close the instant that free state becomes baccanalian; most of us aren't fated to become acetic gypsies, so if clarity comes, it's a rare opportunity to chart a future that isn't reentering the downward spiral at a higher point. 

...you have to walk that lonesome highway by yourself...

Weighty questions indeed...maybe illumination will come during today's hike, maybe not...in any case, I decide to walk the 2.5 mile route that goes through vast acres of vacant lots, now lush meadows, with a good view of the mountains on all sides. A perfect blank canvas.

Music is a common way to pace a walk that's purely for fitness...it's often used as an energy that stimulates adrenal production, or to create a rhythm to walk by, which is in essence a march...I use it to provide a soundtrack as Frank Zappa would describe the practice of using music like clothes to color the scenery.

That means as I look out at the mountains on one stretch, I don't automatically hear a pastoral acoustic guitar or the high and lonesome sound of the Appalachian fiddle...thanks to the modern innovation of random shuffle, the magestic panorama of the now green hills can echo with the stately overtones of John Fahey, exude the relaxed joy of Ali Campbell's UB40 reggae, or thunder with the pounding of AC/DC or the Ramones...the mountains don't change much on my walks, at least in the time cycle I live in, but music can give the view a different look each time, and to vary the look of the scenery crosses over into a psychedelic view of the world.

...electric kool aid pioneers...

By that I mean as the psychedelic movement was when it started, at least in it's modern incarnation starting perhaps with Huxley, and later pioneers like Timothy Leary or Ken Kesey.

Of course most of you would immediately think I'm talking about a world seen through kalaidescope colors and immersed in the music of artists like Jimi Hendrix. 

In other words, what Americans tend to do with any sort of spiritual idea, which is to turn it into a revenue producing amusement park.

All you have to do is look at the New Testament, which isn't a perfect record of what Jesus said but clear enough, to realize that Christianity is really a pretty simple creed, and revolutionary for it's time...the notion that one's betters are not really better was, and still is, an outlook that runs totally counter to man's Darwinian nature.

Mankind's solution to live the words of Jesus was to externalize it into a church, with it's own social layers and rituals and concepts borrowed from the ultimate capitalistic system, the Greek religion where worship was essentially a business transaction...Many people even now prefer a God that will reward fidelity in real terms, like winning the lottery or scoring a touchdown, and to let the truly pious (or at least the loudest) be recognized for the achievement of being better than the next person (whose going to hell).

In terms of what the psychedelic movement was trying to do, the focus eventually became a sort of hip hedonism where being stoned in a light show and screwing like rabbits became freedom...in America, that was a product that sold itself.

Guys like Kesey understood that the shamistic consumption of mind altering manna was hopefully a door to another level of consciousness...that is an aim that goes back through centuries of seekers.

In the east, the early psychedelic movement would have been understood as a mere first step in a journey that could take centuries...in the West, it generally came to be about externals like clothing, music, or hallucinating...it's the virtue, and fault of the American adherence to the seeing is believing mantra.

The whole Summer Of Love thing potentially was a recognition that that mankind can construct boxes and control systems that are simply a web of ideas that a person can walk away from...if they don't mind the appropriation of their peers...once again, a simple idea, but devilishly hard to pull off...

In a way, guys like Kesey or Leary did succeed...though their time is mainly remembered as a stoned sowing of oats, the basic idea of changing one's world by changing consciousness is firmly ingrained, however imperfectly, in modern society.

It may be as small a step as reading a self help book, changing one's hairdo, not staying in a lousy relationship, or quitting work and starting a travel blog, but the one thing that the psychedelic movement did was break the old American mindset of conformity and that's evident even in our fractured political landscape that so many bemoan as a country "divided" against itself...it's not a pretty sight, but it's better than a society that exalts conformity, which isn't a political sensibility but philosophical...there was a time that a woman being beaten by her husband would be told to try and be a better wife...the concept that she should walk away from the situation is as much a change in consciousness as any LSD trip ever was.

That's not a small thing...not everyone may like your lifestyle, and society can, at times, go on it's witch hunts, but in an earlier age, people like me could easily have ended up in a debtor prison or shipped off as a indentured servant by my betters...the chaotic range of views about the homeless may hamper efficient action to solve the problem, but it also prevents society from simply seeing us from a single view, like assuming we're just losers, and efficiently disposing of us like the country did with Native Americans.

So, yes, the psychedelic movement turned into nostalgia, but it did change minds and that can't necessarily be said for all the impressive high tech we see today, which may be enevitable as a part of life, but nothing any person needs to accept as a truth.

Freedom is an old idea that pops up regularly and high tech innovations may bring about a new conformity and but also the seeds of the rebellion against it.

...back to music...

So...music that colors the landscape...that's not a far fetched idea, and the concept goes back to the most basic premise of any consciousness raising doctrine; that everything you need to learn is already inside the mind and simply needs to be seen.

Whether it's a mantra, Acid, sacraments, ritual, or a book, the idea is that it merely opens a door or points your attention to the revelation that's already there.

The flaw, of course, is that it may not be there or that the prophet's words aren't understood because how the language changes over time. 

It's extremely common in Christianity where Jesus' concept of love is mistaken for having to like everybody...that transforms the simple concept of respecting the humanity of others into the nearly impossible task of liking everybody, including jerks.

In Buddhism or in various New Age systems, the concept of denial can become an ever difficult effort to stay in a perpetual bliss state, which can become as weird as being stuck in anger. Science doesn't help by making it all about hormones, which is what drug addiction is all about. 

When I say that music changes my perception of the mountain, it probably means that it brings about different associations from the past and present and I'll be the first to admit that the mountains being there could be purely incidental...it does make each walk in the outdoors a different experience and is a way of being able to see the world from different viewpoints.

Each of us inhabits a different world, or universe...our interactions are meetings or collisions...a person can believe he's Mickey Mouse, and will only get in trouble if he tries to impose this view on others...for some, there's only one Mickey Mouse, and he ain't it...but the principle is sound, and that ability to make one's own world is what makes a dream possible. If you can see yourself succeeding at something, then it's possible.

Obviously I'm oversimplifying for the sake of brevity and blog pacing, but it explains what I'm doing on an otherwise monotonous hike.

...the hideaway...

On one hike, the music put me into an inquisitive mode about hiding places...that's a strong instinct in kids, cats, and various animals that are low on the food chain...we build forts, form clubs in secret hiding places, and play house.

I remember as a young boy being a member of a secret agent club...there was only two of us, but we had the Man From U.N.C.L.E. guns and a whole slew of secret ways to communicate. We would spend hours after school going on missions, looking for enemy agents, and got very good at spotting secret hiding places that could keep us in stealth mode. 

I'm sure more than a few neighbors wondered what those two kids were doing hiding in this or that tree or behind their tool sheds but a lot of kids learned a lot about themselves in these rich fantasy lives. Same with activities like the Boy Scouts, for example, much of my respect for nature stems from that experience.

...recon...

On that particular hike I began to notice all the places a backpacker homeless could hide, and quickly assessed whether it was a good lair. 

What was interesting is that the early childhood logic had reversed...the best places to possibly sleep were now the worst. Too obvious, and a likely place to be surprised while sleeping. Certain places were only good if you had a partner or belonged to a group...the best places were the least obvious because the real factor is what everyone else sees, or can't see at night...if it looks good during the day, it'll be seen and possibly visited during the night by others.

All of the various creek beds and flood control ditches and levees were struck off the list...underpasses in this rural area were already inhabited and that meant possible turf issues, and the two bridges had gang markings all over...most of the time these places are safe, but as far as a place to sleep, it's better to play it safe and move closer to groups only after knowing who can be trusted or not. In the long run, it's best to find a group or at least an area where you know the other loners. It's not much different from how to live safely in a car.

I eventually spotted a good place...it was out in the open in a very large vacant field where the wild plants had grown over two feet high, away from the local landmarks like mounds or trees that can attract people who want a windbreak and you could run in all four directions to a place where there were people even at night (it was near a large plant where I could see they had security guards).

Luckily there was no need to use the new hiding place but it was filed away for future reference...most of the panic and fear from a new situation is the unknown...if I ever lost the car, and that's not an unrealistic fear, then in the worst case there was a place I could go till things could be sorted out.

It's a safe place, tucked away in the mind and like a first aid kit, hopefully never used...

It's an odd way to look at a hike, but for me it beats obsessing about how my abs are going to look after the workout...

- Al Handa

Note: The Ivy Corner will be back in January...I'm rethinking the format due to the good response she is getting on Vine, and am considering making it a video segment.

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