Monday, May 8, 2017

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


"...Presently Jason understood the Pythoness to say that the voyage he must undertake would be renowned in song for unnumbered ages, if he took the precaution of sacrificing to Apollo, God Of Embarkations, on the day he launched his ship and on the night of his return. Then she lapsed into nonsense. The only recurrent phrase he could catch was that he should 'take the true Jason' with him..."

- Robert Graves (Hercules My Shipmate, aka The Golden Fleece. Quote abridged from book)

The month of April was quite eventful. It's well documented in my gofundme updates, so I'll just summarize:

I was offered two places to live while getting a fresh start in the Midwest. One in Wisconsin and the other in Illinois. The idea was to shuttle between both for a couple of months, with one becoming permanent if all went well. It included a one way airline ticket, so one major cost was covered.

The offer was one of a few ideas I looked at on how to proceed into summer, and it was the only one that put me into a room right away. 

All the other paths would have involved staying in the car for a few months, and given the housing situation in the SF Bay Area, probably much longer than that.

My old Cadillac was leaking gas, the tires were shot, the transmission was slipping, there was both a loss of compression in the engine and plenty of smoke. Enough smoke that a mechanic said the car would never pass smog without repairs. 

It wasn't a car that could transition from being a shelter to a commuter car, so my first priority would have been to get another vehicle, further extending the time to get indoors.

I decided that getting into a room was the priority. After 14 months I had overcome some obstacles and felt as "normal" again as I could be, even after the loss of Ivy, and felt that trying to go another summer (and fall) would become a diminishing return situation...looking back at the summer of 2016, when I was in a car that was stuck on a street for almost two months, I realized that in many ways I'd been very lucky to get through it without some sort of trouble from the various populations that roamed and camped there. 

Part of that luck was some old timers spreading the word that I was OK, and the other part was my little friend Ivy. You'd be surprised how often her cute presence diffused an otherwise serious situation.

For the summer of 2017, I was looking at a situation where Ivy and all the old timers I knew were gone. I suppose I'd have survived it, having gotten reasonably good at being homeless, but the Midwest offered a safe room, and what looked like a good job market. 

So I went. 

I'm about four weeks in, a couple of weeks in both places and found that there are a lot of adjustments to make, and those are coming along. I'd lived in the Midwest before so it wasn't a culture shock. I kept wearing Tshirts, trunks and sandals for way too long though, in the colder weather. Old California habits die hard.

I'm still in transition, I'm working hard on my book, "Hide In Plain Sight," and as an immediate job, or at least a source of some income, expanded my Boogie Underground Media promo venture. I'm starting to take on some charity work with it. One is Muttville, a dog rescue organization based in San Francisco.

The book is in the second pass, and I hope to have it ready for line editing within weeks. When I have the book far enough along, I'll begin a serious job search, though next week I figure it'll do no harm to start trying to get some freelance CAD work.

The subject matter of this blog will still deal with homelessness. There's still sections that were written or I planned to write about homelessness that didn't fit completely into the book, and I also wanted to be more topical about the issue in future entries.

There's still plenty of thanks to give to all the people that helped me. I know plenty have been given in the updates, but I'll cover the more in detail in the next entry. 

Future updates will be shorter, and come out more often. Maybe every 7-10 days. The blogs were long in the early days because it was a rehearsal for a book, and the aim was to get used to writing chapter length pieces. Which isn't necessary now, and I'd like to do blog entries more often.

I've seen many things out there, including the death of my dear friend Ivy, that won't be easily forgotten, and I pray that reading about what I've seen out there in this blog and my book will be as close as any of you will ever get to that kind of life.

...airports, and notions of time...

I was in the airport about 12 hours before the flight because it seemed like a good way to minimize Murphy's Law (which it didn't do, I covered that in detail in my last gofundme update) but also because it was a better place to be than a parking lot in Salinas. 

The opportunity to crash out legally and safely in a public place was too good to pass up.

I knew the hours would pass quickly, or more specifically, without any sense of it being a long wait. The flight, which was about four hours, no pun intended, literally flew by and as we touched down in Milwaukee; the wait in the terminal and flight, all that seemed like one big moment.

One of the things about adjusting to a more normal life is regaining my time sense...the world that runs by the clock disappears after 14 months in a car. 

There was a sense of forward motion but it tended to run from event to event, or location to location. There was day and night of course, but as I write this, I still don't have a sense that this or that day is Sunday or Monday or if it's a holiday. 

As a homeless person, having time just float by feels different. Life is a series of cycles that have a beginning, middle and end, and in between is the daily task of survival.

The flight didn't feel like four hours of time. It was a period of intense relief and tears, disbelief and then realization that I was heading thousands of miles away, wonder at how the country looked from so high up and how I could easily find my location using Google maps, sleep, fear and uncertainty about my decision to head east instead of staying, happiness at a safe landing and intense curiousity about my future. The clock said four hours had passed, and that's the other way to look at it.

...landing in Milwaukee...

Once the airliner landed in Milwaukee, time started to come back. It was like entering into another world. Many of the feelings that came back were familiar, some a shock to the system. More than a few times I've sat there on a chair or bed and tried to comprehend where I was.

The parking lots and streets I'd escaped seemed very far away, like waking up in the middle of a dream except that I'd become the person in that dreamscape and only my surroundings had changed. changed sense of perception...

I was mowing a lawn in Wisconsin, in wonderment at the normalcy of it all, then a man walked by wearing a backpack. It only took an instant to recognize that he was homeless. 

Earlier, in Illinois, I walked by one that was sleeping on the sidewalk near an area with rail and overpasses and wondered for a moment why he didn't sleep back there...there's similar places in Gilroy that's got a few camps, then I realized that it must be safer to sleep out in the open where he was. Maybe hobos, maybe gangs, something made it a better bet to sleep near the downtown area, but then, that's how a homeless person look at a place and instantly size it up and have a picture of where's it safe to sleep and where it isn't. 

You take in details like the graffiti and can tell if it's by gangs or just taggers, even if the markings are local and I don't have a clue as to the meaning. 

I see some markings that are just wannabe stuff or trolling, and other signs where I make a mental note to avoid the's not expert knowledge, or street heraldry. Just instinct, and empirical wisdom passed on to me by others who'd been out longer than me.

What is different now is that these perceptions can hit me while simply walking through a downtown area to visit a used book store. 

I pass a CafĂ©, admire some antiques in a vintage store window, walk further and see people sitting outside talking and laughing, then look down an alley and see signs of a homeless crash pad, then continue along and see who's coming to perform on an auditorium marquee. 

I sit for a while looking at the neighborhood, the place where I'm staying is off about a quarter mile. I see the streets, lots, overpasses, and in a few moments I've marked out in my mind all the areas to avoid at night, where I'd check to see if a car could park, a good place or two to hide if I were a backpacker, and any areas that looks "inhabited." Most of all, any area that flashes a danger sign in my subconscious.

I'm not sure it's a reflex that will ever completely disappear, not in a mind that's as busy as mine. The trick won't be to blank it out, but to let it flow in and out of my consciousness without effect...for now...after all, nothing's certain in life, and I might need those instincts again. 

However, I didn't not want those festering or just below the surface. It keeps the other baggage that needs to be worked through too close, and in too many dreams at night. All wisdom is empirical, and thus paid for, so there's no point to throwing it away like a three year old computer, but not all of it needs to be kept around.

...a word about ear plugs...

Wearing ear plugs was a habit I originally started to block out noises while trying to sleep during the day. It was a practice that I continued in the car.

I'd experimented with just using cotton balls or loose cloth but I preferred the superior noise blocking of ear plugs. 

Even if there was no sound outside, the plugs were like a blanket that blocked out unwelcome noises, like arguments but not sudden sounds I needed to hear like sirens and impact noises.

The world outside is only as private as people let it be, but blocking out sound is a temporary blind. Open ears can pick up sound and force me to react, blocked ears can't hear, so it's a form of escape and respite and let's me let go of the constant's not really safe to do that at night. It's a calculated risk, a break from the world.

- Al Handa 

...cover reveal for Hide In Plain Sight...


This is the cover for the upcoming book, Hide In Plain Sight, designed by Jenna Brooks, supervised and edited by Mutiny Rising Media.

-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:

Here's the blurb for Boogie Underground Media:

Boogie Underground Media promotion.

Email for list of services and prices starting from only $5.00!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

On The Road With Al & Ivy: A Literary Homeless Chronicle 3/26

"I'm gonna tell you so you'll know
That old Blue's gone where the good dogs go
Singing ya-ho Blue, you good dog you"

- Traditional

"When I get to Heaven first thing I'll do
is grab my horn and call for Blue
Bye bye, Blue
You good dog, you"

- Roger McGuinn (Old Blue)

"Me and old Bugler, we'd run wild 
Blue tick hound and redneck child
We thought we were birds of a feather

Bugler's voice like Gabriel's horn
Up in the cypress all down through the corn
Golden sounds, yes to treasure

Bugler, Bugler bless your hide
Jesus gonna take you for a chariot ride
Say goodbye, say goodbye..."

- Larry Murray (Bugler)

Ivy passed away suddenly on March 17, 2017. This is my obituary on my best friend who was with me for so long and through so many tough times.

I adopted Ivy in late October of 2008. The big recession was starting to hit the solar industry, where I worked as a drafter. Two weeks after Ivy's adoption I was laid off. It began a futile year where I was talked into trying to get into a nursing program when thousands of women were out of work trying to do the same thing.

Ivy was estimated at between two and three years of age, and had spent that time as a breeding dog in an illegal shih tzu puppy farm that specialized in mating runts to breed "teacup shih tzus."

She spent that time in a cage, not shown affection, and when I got her, was distrustful and skittish. For the first two months she ran away at almost every opportunity until I began to understand that it was an escape reflex.

It was a panic reaction and that once she'd run a certain distance, she'd stop and try to get back. Sort of like a dog panic attack. The SOP became to follow her, catch her if possible, but just keep her in sight till she stopped. That was the best way as she was amazingly fast and agile.

Ivy eventually learned to trust me, and perhaps because I was her first human owner, became very attached to the point of having separation anxiety. Because of this, cage training was impossible as she'd try to chew her way out of the steel bars.

I eventually discovered that being in the car was calming to her so got into the habit of taking her wherever I went. I decided not to deal too much with the separation anxiety as it was a relief from what felt like an endless series of high speed chases. It also subsided with time.

The 2008 recession was tough, and we found ourselves in varied situations like a warehouse space in the Central Valley, to crowding together on a cot in a garage in Sunnyvale. 

Though times got tough, Ivy was always so full of cheer and happy to be in our pack that no mood ever stayed dark. When I read about therapy dogs, I know it's all true, their friendship is better medicine than any tranquilizer.

There eventually came a few years of prosperity, and Ivy only made it feel better. We saw many places together; from beaches down south, forests in the Sierras, hot dusty places like Bakersfield, and colder climes in Monterey and Capitola. She was a perfect traveling companion, never complaining, and very rarely any trouble.

We became homeless in 2016, due to a variety of factors and our travels started north in Marin county, and ended up in Gilroy and Salinas.

If anything, she got better at traveling, and she spent a year in the back seat of the Cadillac without ever becoming neurotic or temperamental. More than a few times any impatience or frustration at my situation would dissolve after looking at her relaxing and enjoying her pillows both as beds or toys. 

Humans often tend to feel that our supposed complexity entitles us to regard a simple enjoyment of life as the domain of the animal world, but I think that Ivy was maybe more attuned to the simplicity of life, and more into the moment.

 We put so many futures or pasts out there, color the world with labels of success or failure, and regret this or that, and don't realize that just relaxing on a bed or chair, without a care at that moment, should be simply enjoyed without the need for an explanation, dispensation from the Puritan ethic, or consumerism in the form of paid entertainment or chemicals.

She passed away on March 17th, and I know I'll miss her terribly in the days ahead.

I'd like to talk about what she meant to me and her legacy.

There wasn't a single day, even during her first two months, that she didn't make me smile or laugh. Even on the day of her passing, amidst all the tears, some memory or thought would bring a smile. Thinking of her now, sad as it feels, is still a pleasure and my thoughts are warm and loving, and as I look at the many pictures of her, so many of those showed how much she loved me.

In many of my projects, she was a key element. She had a flair for modeling, and showed an impressive variety of emotions and expressions. She had real charm, and knew it, which made it even more charming. She was my model as I learned photography and image editing.

Ivy was very smart, and developed a vocabulary of sounds and expressions, and constantly imitated any sounds I made as if to learn new words. She could read my moods, and would do things to make me laugh if I seemed irritable and if I seemed depressed or sad, she'd always come up and look as if to ask, what's the matter.

She and I were a pack, and whether it was our daily hikes or occasional sharing of a baked chicken, it was always a sweet sight to see her smiles and wagging tail when she saw a favorite activity was coming. She had a countless number of cute mannerisms.

One thing I'll miss is her night sounds, from her loud, baby like snoring, to her low groans to ask to be taken out, and conversations of repeated short grunts that she kept going as long as I replied. 

She enjoyed being tucked into bed, and liked a belly rub at bedtime, purring almost like a cat as she stretched out and soon it would turn into snoring as she drifted off to sleep. During the night if she woke and saw me having my usual difficulty sleeping, she'd move over near to my head and make herself available for petting, which I found was doing me a favor, not just her.

The night is very quiet now, and that's when I'll miss her the most. I put her tags on my backpack. People used to remark that they could always tell Ivy was coming because of the tinkling sound of all her tags and St. Christopher medal, and hearing those bell like sounds on a hike will be like having her spirit watching over me, a sound better than any song on my MP3 player.

I'll always see her in my mind, feel her presence, enjoy the time I spent with her and the lessons learned about unconditional love and forgiveness, and hope to blessed with an occasional visit from her in my dreams. You'll continue to see her here and elsewhere, as there's no reason she should simply disappear. The soul still echoes in this world.

Ivy was a gift and my time with her a pleasure to be cherished. If there were so many tears at her passing, it was because the love she gave and left behind was so deep and great.

God bless you Ivy, my best friend and companion. I was determined to take you out of homelessness with me, and I still intend to do that.


...gimme shelter...

One of the well known institutions of the homeless scene is the "shelter," which has become a term like "jail" or "natural food," which to say a generic term that nobody thinks too deeply about. People tell this or that homeless person to "go to a shelter," without realizing that it can be like "going to a restroom" and finding that it's a overflowing outhouse.

Shelters are a classic "solution" type fix by society, related to disaster relief measures to temporarily house large numbers of displaced people, and can vary in quality, as with any charity, society will rarely tolerate any complaints about their generosity.

A solution fix is where a problem is resolved by the giver, based on their opinion of what's best for the greatest number of people for the money available. Shelters are popular, except when located near nice neighborhoods who object to seeing human flotsam lowering their property values or on sites that turn out to have profitable potential to developers.

This is the reason that so many solutions suggested by activists, who tend to have actually talked and listened to homeless have ideas like tent cities and modular units shot down. That's why asking the age old question "do you have a solution" is futile...there's a lot of good solutions out there already for that single problem, the real question isn't even about money. A ton of money is being spent now on the problem, and all it's done is create both a class of dependents and what amounts to a Balkanized bureaucracy.

It's not an issue of whether to help the homeless...even the most rabid homeless hater would gladly see tax money spent to put the flotsam put at least somewhere else...the problem is that in many urban areas the available land has become too valuable to seemingly waste on homeless when it can used to turn a profit.

That's the reasoning behind gentrification, right back to days of old where Americans felt it was OK to wipe out or screw over the seemingly lazy Native Americans who just lived on land that had gold, rich farming soil or where the government needed a place to put poor whites.

The problem will always be "where," and the default generally is some building that can be turned into a shelter like a National Guard Armory that developers have no chance of getting their hands on, or old buildings in the ever shrinking warehouse districts. It's the biggest bang for the buck, and often can be done at least for a while before anyone notices and objects.

Best of all, it gives society a "go to" solution, like a jail, where one size fits all and the problem can be quickly put out of mind.

It's a great temporary solution when hundreds or thousands of people need shelter after a disaster, but will quickly come apart at the seams after a few weeks as a permanent living situation. You're sticking a multitude of unvetted personalities into close proximity with nowhere near the supervision of a jail or a department store. Even a jail will try to make sure the nuts and aggressive ones are kept away from the rest.

Even in a prison, where rigid supervision is possible due to a partial suspension of civil rights, it's simply impossible to control every type of behavior that can be hidden from view.

A good way to see how you feel about a shelter would be if you had to send your teenage son or daughter to one. It goes without saying the place would have to be checked out.

But what if the parent was told that the place would have a large number of males who would be living in very close proximity, some mentally ill, others who are active drug or alcohol users, some with felonies on their rap sheets, and that the shelter didn't have enough personnel to ensure the teenager's safety and that there was no guarantee that other users of the shelter would intervene to help if there was trouble? Keep in mind you'll always be told that there's proper supervision and so on.

Of course the answer would be no, but we herd people towards shelters all the time without a second thought and never worry that people are being sent into a refugee or concentration camp type situation.

I'm not saying all shelters are like this. Some have better funding and supervision, and will kick out the violent ones if they can catch them in the act.

The other problem with the shelters is that it's perceived as a uniform system like hospitals, but really isn't regulated as such. Each shelter is more likely than not an ad hoc implementation of the standard temporary disaster relief camp, and can vary in quality, and is essentially a random crowd situation that can evolve into an anarchy or jail yard politics in a short time,

I'd have to go a step further and say that imperfect as the system is, at least for now, it's probably better than more expensive programs that try to build housing units of various type in competition with developers in areas where real estate values are high or scarce, or even housing vouchers unless there's enough units available to make that program work.

I remember over a decade ago when Willie Brown suggested creating a tent city on public land as a possible way to ease the homeless problem, and the reaction became a microcosm of what drags most attempts at homeless solutions into inertia.

In short, the dialogue became a swirling mass of objections and arguments from trolls, homeless activists and organizations pro and con...with no polling of the homeless who would certainly have supported the idea, which I know because ad hoc tent cities are one of the most common forms of illegal homeless camps.

People argue that drugs and other illegal activities can be controlled better by legalizing and regulating it. Running a tent city on public land is essentially turning illegal overnight sleeping into organized camping and can regulated as such, and cheaper than trying to rent or buy real estate in a hot market.

One argument I often see in the troll section of most homeless articles is that such solutions are killed by homeless organization objections and activists, and there is a germ of truth to that...though it's often more a case of diverse groups fighting each other for influence and funding like a bunch of rats climbing over each other's backs to get at the feeder. The problem isn't sincerity, it's just human nature when any area, unregulated and Balkanized, is run by people who are unelected and often can't separate their egos from the cause.

That, and the usual "the benefits become a magnet for the homeless." The people who say that sort of thing are generally the same types who used to think property values went down if African Americans moved in or support's just class based thinking and even if the phrase  has some truth to it, it's no more objectionable than people who knowingly buy homes in areas where federal funding will cover damage in hurricane zones or forest fires that cost millions to contain.

The fact is, the simplest solutions tend to work best, and in the case of shelters and tent cities, those form naturally, and if properly managed, would probably do more good than programs several times more expensive. begins by saving pennies (phennings) one becomes rich from a lifetime of application - Frederick Forsyth (Dogs of War)

One of the skills that I've developed on my long hikes with Ivy is becoming an expert at terrain. I'm looking at the ground all the time, and after a year I've learned to read it like a book. I'm not sure I'm at the level of an old time apache scout, but I do notice things.

One thing I've noticed is people leave money on the ground.

I think the days of finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk is pretty much over, since everybody's looking for such things, including the homeless. I do notice that pennies and nickels, and occasionally quarters, are almost always lying on the ground. I see a couple or even a few on almost every walk.

The thing about a penny is that the copper that used to make it is probably more valuable than the face value of the coin. Of course it's illegal to melt pennies down, and turn them into ingots, but from what I've seen at recycle centers, and reading the constant stories of people stealing copper wiring, it would seem like that would be a natural progression for a coin that is almost worthless.

I made a habit of picking up the coins, because I figured at least it would make the walks profitable.

A year of hiking has netted me approximately six dollars. Two were one dollar bills, so I treat those as manna or thunderbolts from heaven, and not part of a serious search, and so estimate a four dollar profit from my labors.

I invested part of it in used books at the Salvation Army, on half off days, and have four books to show for it.

For the record, those are Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, the Penguin Portable Beat Compilation, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and John Keegan's The Price Of Admiralty.

Those are pretty good titles, and I probably beat a dozen EBay resellers to the punch there, but I've always had a fool's luck in books, guitars, and old records.

I'd put the total Ebay price at around 20.00, or more in a used book store. The Keegan book could be even more than the ten dollar value I assigned it. Military history books are always popular.

I suppose that if I had the same razor sharp instincts in the stock market, I wouldn't be writing this blog, but Nature makes us all different and I guess that back when the first amphibians crawled up on the beach, I was off collecting sea shells or something...I'm sure that my hiking will someday yield up a bonus worthy of the effort expended.

...instruments of the broke and homeless, the charango...

I started this journey with an instrument collection roughly valued at around 16,000 good instruments are quite liquid, though often not at the so called collector value, those were among the first to go when things got tight. Musicians have been selling their instruments to pay rent or eat since time began, or at least when they first thought it could actually be a living, so it's hardly a homeless trip.

There are survivors even in the worst massacres, and my instrument collection is no exception. My gear still includes an electricronic drum pad and Fender amp in storage (safe from me), assorted used harmonicas that no one in their right mind is going to buy, and the crown jewel, a vintage charango estimated to have been made by a Andean native in the 1980s.

Like with most vintage instruments, it's fun to believe the mythology.

My charango survived for two good reasons; one, almost no one knows what a charango is in my neck of the woods, and two, no one would buy it until I dropped the price to 20.00, and broke or not, I couldn't stomach that.

The origins of this ancient Andean stringed instrument are clouded in mythology, but ranges from being a copy of guitars and lutes brought over by the Conquistadors to being a outlaw instrument banned by the Spanish government bent on eradicating native music, and made small to be easily concealed.

I choose to believe the latter explanation as it adds mojo to my charango and is perfect for the image of a homeless guy hiding in plain sight. 

I do hide it, but for the more mundane reason of preventing theft. Plus there's always going to be an idiot out there who'll insist on playing it, showing off, and damaging it. For many musicians, letting someone else play their instrument ranks only slightly below sharing a wife or girlfriend, but above lending money.

Charangos are basically a ukulele strung like a lute, with double strings called courses, like a 12 string guitar or mandolin. I'll spare you the technical details like how it's tuned, as I don't tune it the standard way, but suffice to say, it sounds like a mandolin but with nylon strings.

The originals were made with an armadillo shell as the body, or bowl, and in modern times feature all wood construction. Some say wood sounds better, and to modern ears used to guitars or ukes, it probably does. The main reason wood is the most popular material now is that Andean Armadillos are now endangered and are embargoed.

The armadillo shell type does sound different. It's less rich sounding, and has a tone that's closer to a harp than a guitar. It has less volume than a wooden model, so when strummed hard it can sound more trebly, and it's harder to record properly.

I've played modern charangos, including a 1600.00 concert model (bought used) and ended up keeping the native made vintage version. It's harder to play, doesn't stay in tune really well, but of all the ones I've owned and played, it's the one that has the sound I hear in my brain. 

That, plus no one around here will buy it, so it stays, and it's survival in my collection smacks of destiny or God's will, and that only adds to the mojo of this outlaw instrument.

Here's an instrumental I recorded with my charango some years back:

A Charango Is Born In The Andes (by Handa-McGraw & The Internationals) backpack needs to go on a diet...

I talked about scoot bags in my previous blog. The one I use currently is a single strap type, a nice little one made by the Swiss Army Knife guys that I was able to buy because of a donation specifically for a backpack.

The reason I prefer a single strap is because it's easy to swing one around while walking to get something out of it, as opposed to unstrapping a standard two strap type, and it limits the load that I can carry.

Load limit is important, because the thing about a scoot bag is that it's supposed to hold everything you need theoretically for a dire emergency. In my case, there would be various reasons why I could come back to the parking space or street, and find that my car gone. 

In that case the question is; what I would want out of that car if such a thing occurred.

The problem is that the bigger the pack, the more you think you need in a dire emergency. When I used to carry a regular backpack, I eventually loaded it up till it weighed almost 20 pounds. Which of course meant that I stopped carrying it on hikes.

The scoot bag is primarily a psychological tool to make you feel better. Since the contents will virtually never be used, it's really more like an anxiety medication.

I won't list out all the contents but suffice to say, if I came back and found my car gone, the pack would contain food and water to survive for three days, plus emergency shelter, power for my remaining devices, important paperwork, and sufficient weaponry to fight off wild animals.

Obviously in even in the most dire circumstances, I'm not going to go off camping for three days, but it's like having a computing device that has more capability than a normal will ever use, it just feels like more bang for the buck.

I remember in the ERT class the firemen who conducted the classes would say that no matter what your precautions, or what you think your emergency procedures are, the most important thing to realize is that in a major disaster, assume that you might be on your own for at least 24 to 48 hours. So that's the situation I load the pack for.

Still, a 12 pound pack gets heavy.

So I got rid of a useless plastic whistle, and had to use the camouflaged waterproof power pack so that got taken out. I also changed the three day food supply to one Cliff Bar, but kept the three day water supply since the cool puncture proof water envelopes are the reason I originally bought the survival kit in the first place. 

I struck grizzly bears, crocodiles, and rabid packs of wolves off the list of dangers, so I was able to reduce my arsenal to one small but very cool Old Timer sheath knife.

I kept the super duper compass with lame fold out 4x binoculars, and the admittedly heavy Klean Kanteen as both add the aura of survivablity to my kit. Believe it or not, I've had to use the compass a couple of times when lost out in the boonies or mountains when the cell phone signal went away. It's like waterproof matches, you never know when those will come in handy.

I'll let you know next month what the scoot bag configuration has been changed to in the ever evolving landscape of survival in the streets.

...some social commentary...

When tech people rhapsodize about AI, and robots, just tell them to get spell check working right first...

...cover reveal for Hide In Plain Sight...


This is the cover for the upcoming book, Hide In Plain Sight, designed by Jenna Brooks, supervised and edited by Mutiny Rising Media. I think it's an absolutely perfect image.

I'm working on Chapter 11 of the rough draft, which will run 13 chapters, and am getting more and more excited as the book is taking shape.

Mutiny Rising Media had me start an author page on Facebook, and I'll begin putting on shorter items that came up in research for the book and pictures on that page.

Hide In Plain Site page on Facebook:

-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:

Here's the blurb for Boogie Underground Media:

Boogie Underground Media promotion.

Email for list of services and prices starting from only $5.00!



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


A broken woman confronting herself & finding redemption, traveling back in time to 19th Century Ireland during the Potato Famine.


Author Eric Wilder
"Ghost Of A Chance" 
now only $0.99!
Paranormal Cowboy #1


Pure: Book 1 of an exciting paranormal series!
#fantasy #romance and #urbanfantasy.


Stories with Humor, The Impossible, and Love


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

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 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 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. 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 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 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 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

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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 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 :-)



Author Eric Wilder
"Ghost Of A Chance" 
now only $0.99!
Paranormal Cowboy #1

Pure: Book 1 of an exciting paranormal series!
#fantasy #romance and #urbanfantasy.

Stories with Humor, The Impossible, and Love


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

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 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 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'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'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 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 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

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 for list of services and prices!

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




Eric Wilder's "Blink of an Eye"

#Paranormal #mystery #thriller


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

#fantasy #romance and #urbanfantasy.


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


Stories with Humor, The Impossible, and Love



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

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 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'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 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 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 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'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 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 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 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 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'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 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'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) 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'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'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's really about how some people handle power, or misdirected'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 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'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 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 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 was as if she had made water on my 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'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. 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!