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!