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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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 :-)



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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 :-)




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#fantasy #romance and #urbanfantasy.


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