Monday, August 30, 2004

32 going on 16…….

I arrived home at 9:30 PM from my Lafayette AA meeting. The first thing I usually do is check my phone message machine. There were 6 messages in an hour and a half. I pushed the button and one by one worried calls from my mother and father rang out over the speaker. Calls such as….

“Andrew, call me when you get in. I was concerned that it was after nine and you were not home. Love, Dad”

“Andrew, this is your momma. Call me when you get in. I am worried because you didn’t come over tonight to see me.”

“Andrew, call us when you get home. We are worried something happened to you.”

I stood there tapping the top of my entertainment center until the last message had finished.

I usually go and sit with my mother every night until my father comes home from work. They forgot that Lafayette is on Central Time and where we live is Eastern Time so that made my meeting an hour later. My meeting didn’t end until 9:00 PM my time and I had to take a friend home after the meeting so I didn’t arrive home until 9:30 PM.

I kind of chuckled and felt like I was sixteen all over again. Geez, have things changed as far as my relationship with my parents goes. A few short months ago, we didn’t even speak and now they freak out when I am out past nine. Keep in mind that I am a thirty two year old man. I am not complaining though. I am glad they care so much about me now.

I was starving when I arrived home. I ate a quick bologna sandwich, a banana, and drank a glass of apple juice and then walked over to my parent’s house. The door was open so I walked in. Dad was sitting in his pajamas watching the republican national convention.

“We were worried sick about you. What happened?” Dad decreed.

“Dad, you know my meeting on Monday is an hour later. They are on Central Time. I am fine and there is no need to worry.” I said.

“Well, we were just concerned. It is not like you to stay out late now.” He replied. “Wouldn’t you rather us worry about you than not worry as before?”

“Dad, I am glad you all care. Just remember I am a grown man and not a child.” I said as I laughed.

“Well, we are just glad you are okay.” He replied.

I sat for awhile watching John McCain talk about what I do not know. I was not too interested in politics tonight and was more interested in petting the cat. The RNC served as a good tranquilizer and I was soon yawning every few minutes. I said my good byes and walked home with the intent to head for bed.

It has been a very long time since I felt like I was truly back in the family. The way my parent’s acted tonight was odd for a man my age but it was endearing to know that they care about me so much now and take such an interest in my well being. I will have much more space when I move into my new home and am not practically living in my parent’s back yard though. Maybe I should call Charlie and ask him how soon I can move in. 8^) Good night and I hope you all have a family that cares about you as well. Life can get awful lonely without loved ones to surround ourselves with. Believe me, I know.

What is up with her?

I bet some of you long time readers are wondering what became of my ex-wife. If you are a long time reader then you know she was a major source of contention and resentment for me. I had to let go of a lot of pain over her to get better and to turn around my life.

We no longer talk in person but she still keeps up with me. I asked her to no longer call me or bother me and she has complied. I had to be devious and threaten her with a fraud call to social security but she has left me alone. She goes by my father’s pharmacy every week to keep tabs on me though.

My father once told me many months ago some interesting advice. He said, “I know you are angry and hurt with her but the best way you can get back at her is to turn around your life. It will drive her crazy when she hears you are doing well.” He was right. It has driven her crazy and she is very jealous of my turn around. She took joy in knowing that I was ill or not doing well. She felt justified in throwing me out of the house and getting everything I had.

She drove by the drug store last Friday to ask my father about my new house. My father said she wanted to know all about it and he told her that, yes, the house is almost a done deal and that I was going to be a new homeowner. She also wanted to know if I was still drinking and my father told her I had been sober for quite awhile now and was very active in AA and seemed to be very happy. He said I was a changed man and that my car was fixed and that I was going back to college. She really was being nosey and I told my father not to divulge so much information. He told me to let him handle it and that she needed to hear these things.

Yesterday, I was over at my soon to be new home helping move some things and as me and Charlie were moving out a table to the truck, she drove by. My home is miles away from where she lives. I think it caught her off guard that we were there. She acted like she didn’t see us and drove on. It kind of shook me up to see her and my old car with our dog sticking his head out the window. I could feel those old resentments rise up and I had to stifle them.

I do have a new apathy towards her now. I realize what we had is long gone and I have to go forward with my life. I could never stay sober if she was active in my life. I am no longer mad or angry and use her as an excuse to get drunk. I wish her the best and hope she goes on with her life as well. Cya Rachel and farewell.

Admitted we were powerless…….

Yes, I was one of those “bad” homeless people; the statistical homeless person who was addicted to alcohol. Being homeless made the situation all the worse. As I sat out in my tent with nothing to do in the cold, alcohol helped me cope and to feel better. It made me feel warm and powerful. It allowed me to forget about all my pains and losses for a few short hours a day until I was so drunk I passed out and went to sleep and woke up and did it all over again. The situation exacerbated itself. It took many months after my family helped me find a home to really get sober. I don’t think I could have done it while I was homeless. I feel a certain affinity for all the bums and winos of the world as I can understand their plight.

Having a mental illness and a tenuous hold on reality didn’t help. Alcohol calmed the voices and I thought it made me think more clearly. It thought being homeless was part of some grand scheme to make me tough and resilient. The only grand scheme I was a part of was one of my own making and I couldn’t see it at the time.

One of the hardest steps for a new person in AA to work on is step one. Step one reads,”We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.” It is a hard thing to be humble and admit you have no control over a certain something but there is something incredibly liberating when it finally sinks in. To realize you have no control over this allergy of the mind and spirit and you can give away that control and find peace is a great feeling indeed.

Last night at my AA meeting, we had a fellow from Montgomery Alabama drive up and spend an hour telling us his story. At the end of his drinking, he went 63 days without sobering up and spent much of the time in a blackout. Can you imagine? Can you imagine spending almost two months of your life so inebriated that you barely remember it? It is hearing stories like this from people who almost didn’t make it that gives you hope. You think, “Hey, if that drunk can get sober then surely there is hope for me!” That is why I go to AA meetings. To find hope and to not be alone during this time of getting sober and re-evaluating my life.

Well, I will quit rambling on as I must go get some breakfast started. I just needed to put some of these thoughts down as they were rattling around in my head. Good day and be well.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

A long time reader’s opinion on Mr. Barbieux, The Homeless Guy……

After two years, (and $250 I might add), I think I may be through with supporting a homeless man in on the internet, financially or by any other means.

He's quite famous, he says. Jane Pauley reads his blog. Sent a television crew to see him. He was quite excited about it initially, and then it appeared that having to follow directions given by the producer during a taped interview was just too stressful. The producer wanted our protagonist to use simple declarative statements using the words "I" and "me." (The gall!)

Our man dropped the whole issue of the television interview, making bitter comments about the shallow American media. Perhaps Jane Pauley and her producer figured this homeless man's story had too many holes in it; that's the thing about journalism (as opposed to blogging), if a question comes up while going through the facts, the question has to be answered. You can't just skip over it if you don't like it.

I'm not surprised the t.v. crew abandoned the story. An outspoken and belligerant advocate for the homeless, this homeless man occasionally wigs out and begins attacking his readers, many of whom have been loyal followers and contributors to his Pay Pal account. He sometimes attacks readers who say they're homeless, questioning their "homeless cred." After all, if you're homeless and don't have a blog, or if you're homeless and drink, well, you're just one of those "bad" homeless people.

He's made many a good point about bashing homeless stereotypes and stubbornly points out that he doesn't drink or do drugs and never did. He's homeless because he's different, you see, unlike those other mean, bad homeless people. He proves that he's different and sensitive by displaying his reading list on one margin of his blog; Thoreau, Kerouak, Bukowski, Steinbeck, etc.

-- Dweeb

Putting my thoughts down on paper…..

I have had a wonderful weekend in the country. I spent my time reading, reflecting, and thinking on top of taking care of my Great Aunt, cooking and sleeping. I was trying to put into words why Kevin pushes my buttons and I think I finally got into words why I am so alarmed by much of what he writes. I wrote this comment today and sent it to Kevin via blogger comments and email. He most likely will delete it or not read it so that’s why I post it here as well. Tell me what you think or if my reasoning is flawed. I welcome all comments whether negative or positive.

Kevin,

Okay, let’s stick to talking about homelessness. This is coming from a formerly homeless man who has worked hard to rebuild his life. I know I will just be summarily deleted without consideration but I need to talk about this and I will post this on my blog as well. This is as much for me as it is for you to read because I know you will not take it into consideration.

A public webpage is not a like a private person’s home. These two things are vastly different. Anyone in the whole wide world can visit your blog if they have internet access. Only a select group of trusted individuals can visit my home. You see, I have a key that locks the door. You too can have a key to your blog and it is called a password. That way you can have just who you want to see it to view it and comment. I think this would go against your agenda of public and press recognition though.

Now to my main point about homelessness and your blog…..You have a great responsibility to the homeless community and I don’t think you realize this. When anyone types in “Homeless”, “Homelessness”, “Homeless Guys”, etc. into a search engine, nine times out of ten your website is going to be at the top of the links on the first page. I am sure you have tried this and revel in the publicity.

The first experience for most people about homelessness comes from viewing your blog. They read what you write and develop opinions about homelessness. I and another homeless blogger have talked extensively about this on the phone. When people read your site, they take from you their perceptions and ideas of homelessness. Often what you portray is not healthy or beneficial to the homeless community. You come across as anti-work, anti-establishment, radical, and anti-social. These things are not very endearing to the majority of the United States population. It is not what most people should view homeless people as. Most homeless people work, try really hard to get ahead, and never catch a break.

I will continue to read your website to monitor what you write and write on my blog any rebuttals to what you are portraying as the typical homeless guy. You speak only for yourself and not homeless people in general. Most of us want to work, to reenter society, to get clean and sober, and have a home.

Andrew

Friday, August 27, 2004

Thoughts on college……

I am sitting here with a piping hot cup of coffee browsing the web looking for more information on social work. I am seriously tempted to go back to school to become a social worker. I realize that it will be a sometimes trying job especially with court ordered clients but I want to help others. I have learned lately that one of the best ways I can help myself is through helping others.

What other fields deal with helping others such as social work or rehabilitation? If you have any ideas please post them. I would be interested in exploring my possibilities.

I don’t have the stamina or money to be a psychiatrist. That was my first choice but I must be realistic. I don’t think I could make it through medical school. That and I don’t think I could secure the loans and pay them off this late in my life.

I wonder if there is such a thing as a mental health counselor or I could be a therapist. Those are things that have just come to mind. I will do some more surfing and see what the World Wide Web puts before me. I am very excited and motivated for this.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

This too shall pass……

I had a shaky AA meeting tonight. On Thursdays we go around the room and introduce ourselves. Two people in the room said their names and introduced themselves as addicts. Several long time alcoholics anonymous members basically told them that they needed to go somewhere else for help and both addicts got up in a huff and left. I felt sorry for these people and wanted to help but felt my opinion was greatly outnumbered. I didn’t want those two people to use this confrontation as an excuse to go out tonight and use.

This made me really uncomfortable and I said so when it was my time to speak. The “Old Timers” spoke of our singular purpose as alcoholics to keep the discussion to strictly alcohol. Now, I have never had a problem with “drugs” such as cocaine, marijuana, or methamphetamines. I have only tried marijuana very few times in college. My drug of choice was alcohol but I felt we could help these people and at least let them stay and listen.

When it came my time to speak, I remarked that alcohol is a drug and we too were addicts and several old timers scoffed at my remark. I also stated that modern medical science has shown that alcohol affects the same nerve receptors in the brain as most other drugs. This little fact didn’t go over too well either and I heard a few men grumble as I said it.

It seems to me that some of these old timers have become arrogant and uncaring to others with other problems. It’s as if alcohol has become this exclusive club that only they can be a member of. Good thing these “Old Timers” don’t come very often and I don’t have to put up with their narrow mindedness on a constant basis or I too would be tempted to get up and leave.

One thing I want to make clear is that I will do anything I have to do to keep sober and stay sober. My life has been better and my mind more clear these past few weeks of me earnestly working my program than it has ever been before. I will not let a few, old, crotchety drunks keep me from working my program and push me out of the program. They have their opinion and I have mine but I will be damned if I am just going to sit there and not voice my opinion on the matter. I am sure I burned a few bridges with a few of these old farts but I believe I am right. I will continue to go to my meetings and listen to the good people I have come to trust and admire and use their success and sobriety as something to emulate.

The ball’s a rolling……..

Well, I went down to Opelika today and went by the Social Security office. They are setting me up in the ticket to work program. This will allow me to work part time for up to $600 extra dollars a month for a total of $1400 dollars maximum. They are going to call me back when everything is set up and then mail me my ticket.

I then went by Alabama State Vocational Rehabilitation and got set up for an appointment for an interview. I was worried as to what disabilities would be accepted in the program. As far as the receptionist let on, schizophrenia is an excepted mental disability. They are going to call me back to set up an interview.

I noticed that my neighbor from down the street works there. She drives the Easter Seal/Achievement center bus and is also a counselor there. She was glad to see me and told me she would help me out in any way I needed. She told me I could ride with her on mornings to any classes I needed to take at rehab. I thanked her as the gas will start to add up once I start driving down to Opelika every day for rehabilitation.

I am very excited and want things to progress quickly. As with anything dealing with the state or federal government, the process can be slow so I must be patient. At least I got the ball rolling and the process started. I pray that I am accepted for rehab and that they will help with going back to school. I also want a part time job while I go to school to bring in extra money. I hope they help me with placement and with an employer who will be accommodating to my disability and understand my limitations.

Thanks for sharing the ride and reading along. It helps to know I have somewhere where I can talk about these things. It helps me to organize and put down my thoughts on “paper”. Thanks for reading and hopefully this success story will continue to evolve.

I would have never thought 7 or 8 months ago when I was homeless that I could have come so far in such a short time. It has taken hard work and diligence though. Nothing comes for free. I am just glad I have a supporting family now and I have a home as a base station for starting all these endeavors. Take care and I am going to take a nap. It was a busy morning and I am zonked out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Risperdal, Risperdal, where art thou Risperdal…….

Yes, today was that day, my bi-weekly injection of bliss and joy. I drove down to my father’s store to pick up the injection at 9 am. My father was off today but his co-pharmacist was there.

“Oh hey Jonathon, what do you need?” She asked.

“I need my happy shot!” I exclaimed.

Everyone laughed out loud.

“I need one of those this morning as well.” She said as she laughed and handed me the box out of the refrigerator in the back room.

I opened the box and showed how long and large the needle was.

“On second thought, I don’t think I need it that bad.” She said.

The pharmacy technician shivered as she looked at it.

I continued my journey down to the doctor’s office. I signed in and as soon as I sat down they called me. This was a record for my doctor’s office.

“Laurie has quit.” The nurse said.

Laurie has been giving me the shot for months now and knows the procedure.

“What happened? I liked Laurie.” I said.

“They are working the shit out of us here. The hours are too long and everyone is going elsewhere.” The nurse told me. I knew her from high school so the curse word was okay. She knows me well.

The doctors are Indian as in the continent India and they have a super human work ethic that doesn’t jibe with the American work ethic. The nurses are finding jobs with less hours and equal pay elsewhere.

“Do you know how to do this?” Michelle asked.

“Yeah, I will show you how. It is not as complicated as it looks.” I said.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Reflections on an AA meeting…….

I have been struggling with my desire to drink lately. I find I have the hardest times in moments of melancholy and despair and those have been frequent lately for some reason. I have decided to go to ninety AA meetings in ninety days. The Lanett clubhouse doesn’t have meetings on Mondays and Wednesdays so I had to find an alternate meeting for those days. I found one in Lafayette Alabama for both those nights.

I drove to Lafayette Alabama to the AA meeting last night. It is about a twenty minute drive so it is not bad and the gas not too expensive. I was nervous as I walked in the door and sat down at the meeting table. I did see a few familiar faces but most were strangers. I have always been nervous when entering a room filled with strangers and unfamiliar faces.

Last night’s meeting was a twelve steps and twelve traditions book study. The twelve steps and twelve traditions are guidelines that a recovering alcoholic must work through to stay sober. I found it a much needed topic and the hour flew by.

We talked about step eight. Step eight states… "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all". I started to make a mental list of all the people I had harmed through my drinking and the list soon grew beyond what I could remember mentally. I also struggled with the issue of people who had hurt me as well and I thought about it but another person started talking about this and it made things more clear. We are not to dwell on who hurt us but whom we hurt through our drinking.

The time came for me to talk but I felt uncomfortable and just said…..“Hi, my name is Andrew and I am an alcoholic. I am new tonight and new to a twelve steps study so I will just listen tonight to what others have to say.” Everyone thanked me for coming and said hello to me by name. That is one thing about AA meetings. There is no such thing as a stranger.

After the meeting, I had several people come up and shake my hand and further introduce themselves. One lady came up and gave me a big hug and a welcome. I needed this tonight as I tend to be solitary and needed a room of caring people to welcome me into their fold. I did stay sober yesterday despite having a tough go of it and to me that is a miracle and so is the program. That old drunks like me can find friendship and solace amid a group of strangers and walk out in an hour as friends. Thank god for the program and especially last night.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Exploring memories from my youth……

There are several places near Waverly out in the woods on dirt roads that my father would take me and my siblings to for fun as children. I wanted to find those places again and see what they looked like and to go exploring. My great aunt takes long naps in the afternoon and that gave me ample time to go adventuring.

Sliding rock…….

This is a place I remembered from my childhood. I endeavored to find it this past week one afternoon. I remember it being off a dirt road that is now private near the railroad trestle that the army put up about ten years ago when the old wooden bridge over the rail line burned down.

It had been maybe twenty years since I had been there but I had a good idea of the location. I sat out to look for it and did find it. The road had almost grown up with pine trees and underbrush and the area around it used to be a local swimming hole and the underbrush had grown dense from lack of use. I had to park the car and finish my trek on foot. After walking what seeming like an hour, I heard the rush of water growing ever louder and that was my cue and I narrowed in on it. I finally broke out of the brush and sliding rock lay before me.

It was as I remember it. It is a large area of bedrock exposed with a large creek cascading down into a deep dark pool at the bottom. It was maybe a 100 foot 45 degree drop to the bottom. The rocks were covered with algae and mosses and it made for tricky footing. I almost busted my ass several times as I slowly made my way across the slick rocks and swift water to the middle of the water fall. The water was cool and comforting to my bare feet.

As a kid my father would take us and we would slide down these rocks at great speed into the waiting pool below. I, my brother and sister would have a great time doing this. He would always bring a picnic basket full of picnic foods such as pimento cheese sandwiches, potato salad, and such. It brought back a lot of memories me sitting there next to the falls to the sound of roaring water. I sat for the longest time in the shade of an old loblolly pine with my feet immersed in the cool water.

Snail creek…….

This was another favorite spot to visit when I was a child in Waverly. I remember it was a creek bed off a dirt road not too far from my great grandmother’s and great grandfather’s old farmstead. I drove out the old dirt road kicking up great clouds of dust behind my truck as I went. I almost missed it but remembered that small wooden narrow bridge with no rails that went over the creek. The old bridge was still there and serviceable. I put my truck in 4 wheel drive and eased out onto the rocks next to the creek and slowly drove down into the basin next to the falls.

My father said that when he was a child, the black folks would all drive there cars down here to wash them on hot summer days as you could still get a regular cars onto the rocks next to the creek back then. I could imagine old 1930 and 1940 era vehicles sitting out here as there owners used buckets of water from the creek to wash them.

The creek was as I remembered it. It is full of little conical, unicorn horn like snails that give it its name. They clung to the rocks in the swift water grazing on the algae that grew there. These snails fascinated me as a child and I loved to see how many I could gather before we had to leave and father made us put them back.

There is also a small waterfall on down the creek bed and I walked down the rocks with bare feet ever mindful of water moccasins to view it. An old fallen tree had lodged itself near the falls that you could walk across to the other side. A big pool formed at the bottom and you could see minnows and small fish swimming about. I ambled about for a long time and then headed back to get supper started. I plan to camp out here soon in the next few weeks.

Well, that was my two big adventures this week. I had fun finding these memories from my youth again. If I ever have kids I hope to bring them to these places and let them appreciate the beauty and the fun I had as a child. I wish my digital camera was not broken and I could have taken pictures. I will try to save up enough funds to buy a new camera soon.

Where have you been?

Hello all. Well, I have been very busy this past week. My great aunt has been ill and I have been staying in the country helping with cooking and cleaning. She is doing much better and I am home until next weekend. I had a restful week of quiet and much solitude. I read many, many books that I have been meaning to read over the years. Her television is broken and alas, there is not internet. I felt completely cut off from the world and it was nice.

I just wanted to drop a quick line and tell everyone hello and what has been going on. I will try to get back into a normal blogging schedule this week.

As for myself, I am doing okay. Feeling okay that is. There is nothing like a quiet, uneventful week in the country to bolster one’s spirit. I have several stories to tell and well try to write them down after I get some rest and take a break today. Take care and some writing will commence soon.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Lessons on feeling grounded…….

I will start this post with a quote that sums up this weekend well from a book I read in just one day yesterday…..

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. It is not important that he should mature as soon as an apple tree or an oak. No face which can give to a matter will stead us so well at last as the truth. This alone wears well. Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make believe.

This quote is from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. As I read this book yesterday these words just leap off the page into me and I sat the book down and thought a good long moment about me and my life. I thought about what I want and what would make me happy. I found a little bit of that happiness I seek this weekend.

I spent the weekend at my great aunt’s house in God’s country (Waverly Alabama). I needed to get away from the city and tone things down and live simply for a few days. No internet, no television, no traffic or the noise thereof, no outside influences other than nature. The sounds that filled her open windows were of a bob white in the clearing next to the woods near the house or the lonesome crow as he called to his brethren; the sounds of song birds and the breezes gently blowing called to me as well.

We had a good time and I had many moments of quiet contemplation and thought as I read a book I had been meaning to read for years. Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon reading and taking long walks into the woods as I smoked my pipe and took in my surroundings. My great aunt stayed at the house doing her usual busy work of cleaning and canning. We had a simple supper of buttermilk cornbread, streak of lean, boiled squash with onions, and English peas with pearl onions. We sat a long time after supper on the porch watching a most beautiful sunset and went to bed after the sun disappeared. It grew quite chilly last night and you could feel the first influences of fall air here in the south.

We both got up this morning at six o’ clock as the sun was first rising. I slept very soundly to the night time sounds coming from an open window. I fixed a breakfast of home made biscuits that I had prepped the night before, pampered pork sausage, hickory smoked bacon, and strawberry preserves. We both halved a steaming hot percolator of coffee until it was gone with liberal dollops of fresh cream.

After breakfast, my great aunt wanted me to drive her down to Gold Hill, Alabama to pick pears for preserves and pickles. We spent several hours filling an old laundry basket full of ripe pears from a friend’s house. He also gave us a basket of ripe, fresh tomatoes from his vines in the back yard. We then headed to another neighbors house to pick fresh figs. I found out that picking figs is messy and sticky work as the white, gooey sap ran from the stem and onto your hands.

We then returned home and she taught me how to make pickled pears and pears preserves and how to can them to last the winter. She left the figs in the panty to ripen some more for a few days. I love learning these kinds of things. I do not want this kind of knowledge to be lost. She also showed me how to wrap some of the less ripe pears in newspaper to quicken the ripening process.

I had a great weekend and didn’t want to come home. Life just seems so real and yet so simple there in the country. Everything just feels and smells difference. It brought peace to my soul and a much needed respite. I am going back on Wednesday to spend the night as well. If it were up to my great aunt, I would be living with her but a few days a week must suffice. I must go get some supper started so I will end this post here. Good night.

Friday, August 13, 2004

The survivalist……

I have been gone all day. I have been in the country trying out some things. I wanted to see if I could build a fire by using the US Armies field guide to survival. Was I successful? No, lol, it was a failure but I tried. I did learn some important lessons though.

I was trying to make a classical fire starter. The one with a bow, stick, and plank of wood. You had to scrap off fine shavings of bark onto a plank with a depression for the friction stick and then continuously row the bow until you got a good spark. I bet I tried a hundred times to no avail. I did get lots of smoke but no fire. I finally gave up after my arms grew so tired I thought they would break. The arm that I broke a few months ago is sore as heck.

I did see a large group of turkey hens and their progeny. I was sitting in a clearing by the pond smoking my pipe. I was being real quiet. They walked out of the woods and began to drink. I sat there paralyzed. I was afraid that if I moved so much as an inch I would scare them off. I felt a sneeze coming on in the bright sunlight and I tried to stifle it. AAAA-CHEW!!!!!! Turkeys went flying everywhere. If I were a hunter, I could have gotten off some good shots though. Note to self……If you need to hunt, hunt near a water source such as the pond.

I am home now but wish I were elsewhere. Having a car lets me go so many places and do things that would otherwise be out of my reach. I am seriously tempted to take a road trip next week but I must take my great aunt to get groceries Wednesday and spend the night. My responsibilities here keep me from going out of town. I will just have to wait until the opportune moment arrives.

Well, let me close. I have a pot of strong coffee percolating and my pipe waits. I am going to sit out on the porch and enjoy the night time sounds. After that, I am going to crawl into the bed and start a new book. Sounds comforting don’t it? Good night and take care.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Darkness falls; a ride entails……..

I got my car back. Am I ecstatic? You bet your damn boots I am. I am a proud owner of a fourteen year old car that needs much attention in the next few weeks. I need a spare tire. I need a new headlight. I badly need a wash and wax job. All in all though, she is road worthy and the most pressing problems are fixed.

Alaine called tonight to see if I got my car.

“Did you get it back?” She asked.

“You are damn straight I did!” I said excitedly. “It cost me a fortune but I am back on the road.”

“Take me for a ride tonight with the convertible top off.” She asked.

I hesitated. My car looks like junk and needs some serious cleaning after sitting up for a year.

“Doll, it is very dirty. I need to clean it up before I take it on rides.” I said.

Hey, a guy wants to impress his date don’t you think? I didn’t want her to ride around in what looks like a piece of junk.

“I don’t care. Take the top off and let’s go for a ride out in the country.” She pleaded.

“Okay, okay, I need to get some gas and will be by in just a few moments.” I replied and hung up the phone.

I ran to the bathroom and put on some more deodorant and brushed my teeth. I then ran out to the car with a trash bag and tried to make it as presentable as possible. At least it was night and things weren’t so apparent.

I then quickly drove to a nearby gas station and put in ten dollars of gas. I was almost on empty. Shit, I forgot to take the top down and quickly took it off. I then drove over to pick her up. She and her mom were standing outside to great me. Oh great! I thought. I have a reception. Alaine got in and off we went.

I drove out towards Cusseta Alabama and all the back roads. I was worried about being pulled over with an out low beam. My high beams work fine. We drove out into the country towards Waverly. I put on my favorite top down, road trip CD; Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home. I brought back a ton of memories from my college days in this car.

I pulled into a dirt road and up by the huge old, dead oak tree that has stood there since my youth. I turned off the car and the lights. You could see a thousand stars amid the clouds as we looked up through the open top.

“It’s amazing isn’t it?” I asked. “You can see so much more out here in the country.”

You could hear a mournful whippoorwill off in the distance. The sound of katydids filled the car and drowned out the CD.

“It is a beautiful night but chilly.” Alaine replied.

She was losing her gusto for a top down ride.

“I will put up the top. Give me a second.” I said.

After ten minutes of fiddling with the top and getting it back up, we headed back home. I cannot say how overjoyed I am of being back on the road and mobile again. This opens up so many opportunities for me. I plan on taking advantage of them all. Good night gentle readers and may you rest well.

Life amongst the lowly……

As I had stated yesterday, I am ready a very interesting book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Racism is still pretty prevalent in the south. I might even be so bold as to say it is just as prevalent on the black side as the white side or even more so.

Last night, I was upstairs looking through some of my Grandmother’s things; letters, old books, and what not. I found my father’s old high school year book. It was 1964; the year he graduated. There was not a single black person in his class. Times then, in the south, were still segregated.

I am pretty familiar with the history from around here. The middle school I went to as a child used to be the old black high school. It was also home to the black swimming pool. Black people couldn’t swim with white people and vice versa nor could they go to school together.

As I have been reading this book, I have often thought to myself, have things really changed that much? One thing that has changed is that black people are no longer owned by another person. One thing I have noticed though is that poverty and crime is still rampant in the black community. They are still oppressed even though technically they have their freedom.

This morning, I walked down to the Piggly Wiggly as it opened to grab some bacon for breakfast. As usual, George and his friends were sitting out front on the benches drinking coffee and smoking. I actually wanted to see George this morning and find out his feelings on some things. George may act dumb but he is not. He is in his late fifties to early sixties and well remembers the days of segregation.

I sat down on the bench with George and we struck up a conversation. We talked a long time about segregation and racism. George filled me in on the black perspective of things around here. I learned a few important points from him.

  • 1. Black people are still very suspicious of white people and tend to mistrust them.
  • 2. Black people don’t feel they have been adequately compensated for slavery and years of oppression.
  • 3. Equality is still a pipe dream and a class system is still very prevalent here in the south. Covert racism is the norm.
  • 4. Black people want power and want to control the local schools and they have succeeded according to George. George even went so far to tell me that they are not doing a good job of schooling either.
  • 5. Crime is prevalent in the black community because of anger and oppression according to George. I tend to agree somewhat but he took offense to me saying that a lot of it had to do with how they were raised and the lack of a nuclear family in most poor black communities. At least we got to discuss this matter in a friendly and non-hostile manner. We just choose to disagree.

Keep in mind that this is just one black man’s opinion on matters but I found these things deeply interesting and it make me think. I plan to read more about slavery and segregation down at the library this week. We all have a tendency to forget the past and repeat our mistakes. History is ripe with stories of doing this. I just want to be informed and able to debate and discuss this topic and issue.

Well, enough of my rambling for now. Hopefully, I will get my car back today and am impatient. I have some great road trips planned for later in this month. My little exploration of urban homelessness is my first journey. I look forward to investigating and writing about this adventure. Good day and until next time, be well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Damage control or the day after…..

I feel much better today. There is nothing like a good night’s sleep and a comforting delicious breakfast to get a new day off to a good start. I awoke around 8 AM to the sound of the phone ringing. It was a good friend and we had a good talk. She had read my blog and wanted to talk to me about what was going on. To you, my friend, and you know who you are, our conversation this morning was nice and I appreciate it. I wish there was a way I could pay you back for the charges.

Days like yesterday do pass. I just had to weather the storm. I have pampered myself today and have tried to make life as comfortable as possible. I fixed a large breakfast of a ham and cheese omelet, buttery grits, and some toast. I topped it off with an ice, cold glass of Orange juice courtesy of concentrate.

I then walked upstairs and ran the tub full of hot, very hot, water. I brought along a book I am currently enjoying and soaked in the tub for a good hour. I know taking a bath instead of a shower is wasteful and not frugal but I do treat myself on occasion. I deserved a hot, sudsy bath and I took one.

After bathing, I fixed a lunch of two grilled cheese sandwiches, a dill pickle spear, and some ruffles chips. It was comfort food and I needed comfort. For supper, I made some homemade vegetable soup which simmered in the crock pot all afternoon. I ate that with a hot, steaming pan of buttermilk cornbread spread liberally with butter. Food for the soul has been the motto for the day. I was not worried about calories or gaining weight today like normal.

I feel much, much better tonight and am enjoying a good movie this evening that I have “acquired”. We won’t go into any details on that. Well, I must close but I did want to check in. I am reading a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Amongst the Lowly. It is a fascinating book that deals with slavery in the pre-civil war United States. I had some thoughts I want to share and will endeavor to blog a post about my thoughts on this matter tomorrow. Good night and be well.

Damage control or the day after…..

I feel much better today. There is nothing like a good night’s sleep and a comforting delicious breakfast to get a new day off to a good start. I awoke around 8 AM to the sound of the phone ringing. It was a good friend and we had a good talk. She had read my blog and wanted to talk to me about what was going on. To you, my friend, and you know who you are, our conversation this morning was nice and I appreciate it. I wish there was a way I could pay you back for the charges.

Days like yesterday do pass. I just had to weather the storm. I have pampered myself today and have tried to make life as comfortable as possible. I fixed a large breakfast of a ham and cheese omelet, buttery grits, and some toast. I topped it off with an ice, cold glass of Orange juice courtesy of concentrate.

I then walked upstairs and ran the tub full of hot, very hot, water. I brought along a book I am currently enjoying and soaked in the tub for a good hour. I know taking a bath instead of a shower is wasteful and not frugal but I do treat myself on occasion. I deserved a hot, sudsy bath and I took one.

After bathing, I fixed a lunch of two grilled cheese sandwiches, a dill pickle spear, and some ruffles chips. It was comfort food and I needed comfort. For supper, I made some homemade vegetable soup which simmered in the crock pot all afternoon. I ate that with a hot, steaming pan of buttermilk cornbread spread liberally with butter. Food for the soul has been the motto for the day. I was not worried about calories or gaining weight today like normal.

I feel much, much better tonight and am enjoying a good movie this evening that I have “acquired”. We won’t go into any details on that. Well, I must close but I did want to check in. I am reading a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Amongst the Lowly. It is a fascinating book that deals with slavery in the pre-civil war United States. I had some thoughts I want to share and will endeavor to blog a post about my thoughts on this matter tomorrow. Good night and be well.

Friday, August 6, 2004

Riding the rails or a dream comes true…..

I have had a long time love affair with railroads. Something draws me to the rails like a moth to a flame. I love to watch a big freight come roaring by through down town West Point, Georgia. I have often made clandestine rail trips via grain cars. Today was a real treat and legit.

Today, after riding over to the car shop, I stopped by the local rail yard to watch the Friday local pick up the empty lumber cars. I was just mulling about when a switchman asked me the magical question……”You want to take a ride?”

“You sure bet I do!” I replied.

“We are headed down to Opelika to pick up some loaded lumber cars and bring them back up to West Point. You can get back off here.” He said.

“Are you sure? I won’t get you in trouble, will I?” I asked.

“Hell no, fuck CSX, they don’t know their ass from a hole on the wall.” He said as he patted me on the back and laughed.

“You sure the engineer wouldn’t mind?” I asked again. I didn’t want to get in trouble.

“You ride in the second unit in the cab. You have nothing to worry about.” He replied.

I walked up to the second unit and climbed up the steps. It was a GP38-2 locomotive made by EMD. I sat in the engineer’s seat and reveled in my surroundings. The air conditioning felt good. There was a fridge on board filled with bottled water. I took out a bottle and drank a long draught. I was in heaven. This was a dream come true.

Before long, we hooked up the last string of cars and waited for the green signal light. A big through freight passed and we were on our way. The sound of the big locomotive was deafening. My heart raced as we picked up speed.

I got to see all the back parts of town and the long stretches of countryside beyond the city limits. You see things differently from a train. We finally made it to Opelika after about an hour and picked up a big string of loaded lumber cars filled with pine wood. I just sat in the engine watching the men work. Before long, we were headed back to West Point.

I hated to get off. This was a dream come true to sit in a real locomotive and enjoy the trip in comfort and not at the back of the train trying to hide myself. I got off the train and said a big thanks to the switchman. He just waved and said goodbye. At least, my wanderlust for the moment has been quelled. I had a great time and wish I could go back out tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe next week, they will let me ride again. I pray and hope so.

The getting back on the road checklist…..

I’ve had a busy day and accomplished much. I rode over to the mechanics on my bike early this morning and they have my car running and she is running well. Now, all they have to do is fix an exhaust leak and replace that damaged wheel bearing and I should have my OWN car back on Monday. How sweet it is!!!!!!

  • 1) renew license……..done
  • 2) get insurance………done $245 every six months
  • 3) get car running……..done
  • 4) get wheel bearing replaced…….working on it, should be done this weekend.
  • 5) get exhaust leak fixed……….same as above.
  • 6) get tag renewed………..will do this once it is drivable again, got to go to the county courthouse for this in Lafayette Ala..
  • 7) Wash and wax……..this will be a labor of love, she looks like she has sat up for years. She certainly needs some TLC.

I have all kinds of inexpensive road trips I want to take. Ideas are swirling around in my head. I will be so nice to have my own set of wheels again. It is a 4 wheel drive truck and I cannot wait to hit the back country roads and do some exploring. I will take the convertible top off and let the wind rip and roar through my hair and soak in the sun and crank up some good tunes.

One trip that I know I will take is to drive the 3 hours up to Springer Mountain Georgia. Springer Mountain is the start of the Appalachian Trail. I am going to take two weeks and enjoy the beauty of the north Georgia mountains this fall. I want to go when the leaves start to turn and the weather turns colder. I hear the fall foliage is breathtaking during late October.

Another thing I want to explore is urban homelessness for a few days and to see how it compares to my experiences of rural homelessness. It will be a project that I am going to write about on this blog. I will tell you all about it when I get back. I am thinking of driving up to Nashville were I already know of where to stay and where to eat by reading Kevin’s homeless journal. I feel I never got a good understanding of urban homelessness by reading his blog. He never writes about the homeless people who surround him and how they act. I want to find out for myself. I am not too interested in meeting him though. I find him a scary individual with a nasty streak and would rather stay away. If I see him, I will just act like just another homeless individual and keep my distance.

Also, today, I had an interesting little trip on the rails that I will write about later. It took most of the afternoon and was a blast but dangerous. I will share about it after I eat some supper. I have a ham steak waiting to be baked and some potatoes ready to be mashed. A homemade pan of biscuits is on the menu as well. See you all in just a bit.

The missed dentist’s appointment……

Yes, I escaped going to the dentist yesterday morning. It is an interesting story. I awoke around seven AM and took a shower. I then got on the computer to pass the time as my appointment wasn’t until eight AM. About ten minutes till I called my folks as my mother was going to take me. My dad’s best friend has my late grandmother’s car.

The phone rings.

“Hello?” Asked dad.

“Hey dad, who is taking me to the dentist this morning?” I asked.

“Your mother is. I have to be at work early.” He said.

“Okay, I will walk over in just a second.” I replied.

I made my way over to my parent’s house via the back yard. The garage door was letting up as I walked up the steps to their house. Out walked dad in his pajamas to turn the sprinkler on to water the back yard.

“Is mom up yet?” I asked.

“Hell, I don’t know. Let’s go upstairs and check.” He said.

We walked through the basement and up the stairs to the top level of the house. We both walked down the hall to my mother’s bedroom. She was looking for her keys and something seemed amiss.

“Martha, you awake?” My father asked her.

“I can’t find my keys.” My mom mumbled.

She was clearly on autopilot and something wasn’t quite right. Her words were slurred and her hair was amiss. I and my father spent a few moments trying to wake her up and get her going. We walked back down to the car to start on our way. I knew something was up as she was talking funny and acting as if she was still asleep.

“Dad, mom is not fit to drive. She is going to have a wreck.” I whispered.

“I know, I know. Let’s just wait a moment to see if she wakes up.” He replied.

“Why don’t I drive?” I asked.

“I don’t have you on our insurance yet. I am going to do that this afternoon.” He replied.

Well shit, I thought to myself. Here is where things get interesting. Mom started to back out of the garage and narrowly missed hitting the car’s mirrors on the side. After clearing the garage, she just kept backing and backing.

“Um, mom?” I asked sounding alarmed.

Then the sound of crunching bushes as we backed over the shrubs that line the driveway. That was enough for me. I reached over and put the car into park.

“Mom, get out of the car. We are not going this morning.” I said.

“Why? I am okay. I can take you.” She replied in slow motion.

“No, no you’re not. I am just going to call and tell them we can’t make it.” I said.

My dad then walked out of the garage to see what had happened. He was shaking his head.

“We are not going to be able to make it this morning.” I told him.

We, all three, walked back inside and I called the dentist office and explained the situation. They were nice about it and we rescheduled my appointment for the 12th of August.

Later in the day, my mom called me. She asked if she had forgotten to take me to the dentist. She didn’t even remember what had transpired that morning. She called two more times asking me about what had happened. I tried my best to reassure her that everything is okay. It is just too much on her to do even simple things. All she can do is just lie in the bed all day. It makes me sad and I feel so sorry for her. I keep hoping that one day she will wake up and start being like the mom I grew up with.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Stay the course and George resurfaces……

I am slowly putting together a project I had planned for this week. The project is getting my car back on the road and making everything legally roadworthy. I got my Geo Tracker 4x4 towed yesterday to the shop after sitting for over a year at my ex-wife’s house with a bad wheel bearing. Today, I worked on getting affordable insurance for it. I got a great deal at cotton states insurance. My premium is $250 dollars every 6 months. That is for liability only though. My car is paid for and is a 1990 model so I just couldn’t justify full coverage. At least, I will be legal as it is against the law here to drive without, at least, liability coverage.

This afternoon, I walked down to wiggling pig to buy some sodas. They have Fanta 2 liters on sell for 67 cents each. I just couldn’t pass that up. As I walked up to the store, I recognized a familiar car and voice. Yes, it was George all right. I got to find out what really happened to him last week.

“George, where in the hell have you been?” I asked with a smile and a hand shake.

“George be locked…..” Slop started to say but George cut him off.

“Shut up nigga, its my story.” George cried out at Slop.

“Well, what happened man?” I asked again.

“I gots busted for drinkin in publics again.” George said.

“Slop said you got busted for pot.” I replied.

“Slop be a lyin nigga and he knows it.” George said while giving Slop a nasty look.

Slop just shrugged his shoulders and giggled. He apparently was enjoying this exchange.

“Man, haven’t I told you about drinking out here in public in front of this store? You always get busted when you do that shit.” I said.

George just laughed and said, “Fuck dem police man. They just out to keep a brotha down.”

“What were you drinking anyways?” I asked.

“The rose man, the rose.” George replied.

“The rose?” I asked not understanding.

“Wild Irish Rose.” George blurted out.

Wild Irish Rose is an extremely cheap and potent “wine” (if you could call that nasty stuff wine) sold at the Pig. The stuff is like drinking cough syrup and has a reputation of being preferred by winos.

“Jesus man, that stuff is nasty. No wonder you got busted as that stuff will mess you up.” I said as I laughed. George just laughed along with me.

“Well, let me grab my stuff and head to the house. It is hot as hell out here.” I said.

“Lata my brotha. Lata.” George replied.

As I started to walk away, Slop broke in with a question.

“Could you spares me a dolla friend?” Slop asked.

This happens everytime with Slop and it gets old.

“Shutup nigga, that white boy ain’t given you shit.” George hollered as he took off his cap and hit Slop on the head with it.

I just laughed and went about my business. I was glad to dodge that question. I was also eager to get out of the heat as it was sweltering today. I bought my sodas and headed back to my cool apartment.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Going back in time…….

I just got home from staying at my great aunt’s house in Waverly Alabama. I cannot stress how much this experience is like going back in time. She doesn’t have cable television. There is no internet. She rarely even runs the air conditioning in this god awful hot weather.

I had a good time though and it brought rest and peace to my soul. We ate lots of country vegetables and spent long hours talking and reminiscing about times past. I worked out in the yard some getting her shrubbery shaped up. I also got the old 1962 Studebaker cranked and running but it needs new tires. The ones on it have dry rotten and are not safe for the road.

Last night I sat out on the front porch drinking a cold glass of sweat tea and smoking my pipe. I looked up at the stars and was astounded. You don’t realize how much light pollution there is even in a small town like Lanett until you get out in the “real” country like Waverly. The sky was filled with twinkling jewels of light and I wish I had a telescope to explore the heavens with last evening. It was a beautiful and mind settling to see.

After sitting on the porch for a bit, I slowly and quietly made my way to the bed. I didn’t want to wake Myrtis as she goes to bed very early. I turned the box fan on high and finally drifted to sleep despite the heat. At least the windows were open and that helped.

I almost hated to come home tonight. I really enjoyed my stay. She needs me and I need her as well. I think this will now be a weekly routine for me. Good night friends and I hope you rest well tonight. I am off to escape into my dreams……