Thursday, September 30, 2004

A walk to the park, eh, I mean to the pig……

I stayed up late last night. I didn’t get into bed after midnight. Despite that, I got up early this morning. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and walked to the refrigerator. I stood at the fridge with the door open pondering what to eat. “Grape jelly and toast?” No, I am hungry and that wouldn’t fill me up. “Eggs and bacon?” No, I am too sleepy and tired to cook. I ended up boiling some water and fixing some instant oatmeal. It was a compromise.

After breakfast, I decided to walk down to the pig and buy some celery and an onion. I wanted to make some homemade spaghetti sauce for lunch. I scrounged up some change and put it in my pocket and set out down the road.

When I arrived at the store, a few of the groupies were sitting out in front. It was still early and second shift hadn’t arrived. Slop was out there with a brown paper bag in his hand with what was most likely a beer. Cap with tag guy was leaned up against the wall listening to his walkman. He was nodding his head to whatever music was blaring out of his head phones. I went on in after nodding hello and bought my items. I also bought a little chocolate milk as a treat.

I stepped outside the store and sat down next to Slop on the bench. I lit up a cigarette and opened my chocolate milk. The smell of body odor almost made me throw the chocolate milk away. I drank it quickly.

Damn it, Slop. Take a fucking bath.” I thought to myself.

“You seen George?” I asked.

“Naw, he mos likely be sleepin’ still.” Slop replied. His breath reeked of alcohol.

“Slop, who do you stay with?” I asked.

“I be stayin’ at my sista’s crib.” Slop replied.

As we were sitting there, a beat up, raggedy, early nineties model geo metro pulled up. A young white lady got out who had the classic chicken head crack whore look. She and Cap with tag guy walked to the other side of the Fanta drink machine. Cap with tag had just earned his lunch money.

“Does he ever get caught?” I asked Slop.

“Not dat I have eva seen.” Slop replied.

“Well, let me get home and get some lunch started.” I replied.

“Man, I sho could use somethin’ to eat myself.” Slop said.

“Cya Slop.” I said.

“Hey, could you spare a brotha a smoke?” Slop asked as I got up to walk away.

I handed Slop a cigarette, he put it into his mouth and asked for a light. I lit the cigarette and started on my way to home.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Working less, having less money, and living better?

(Okay, this is one of my rambling and thinking posts so bear with me. It really helps me to put my thoughts down in writing.)

The above question is an interesting one. It would seem that working less and living better goes against what we have been taught about the American dream and gaining status in society. I know I was taught by my father to work your ass off and you will have a grand and fulfilling life. That is not always true though as there are a lot of variables that can come into play to screw up the so called American Dream. Many of us can live a fine line between living that Dream or having a financial disaster. All it takes in one major illness or bad luck and you are screwed.

I am a long time lurker at several frugal living message boards and enjoy reading these boards very much. I like to make frugality a game and not a burden or “poverty”. I find it interesting that a growing minority of people are bucking this tread to work more, gain more, and live better. I read many messages were people are willing to work less, live on a stricter budget, and have more leisure time. This is their American dream and they are working towards attaining that goal.

These people are doing many things to change their lives. Here are some common trends I am reading about.

1) Selling that new, high interest loan SUV or car and buying a smaller, used,
compact car with saved cash. The idea is to get rid of the interest bearing loan, save money on gas, and become more environmentally friendly.
2) Selling that large, heavily mortgaged house and buying a smaller, more
economical house that is much more frugal with many times half the former
payment. The main goal is to get it paid off as soon as possible and to
save on utility costs.
3) No longer aspiring to keep up with the Joneses. This is a big topic of discussion on many boards.
4) Finding frugal hobbies that take a learned skill and are creative. This means no
longer sitting in front of the TV or using passive things for entertainment such
as movies or expensive past times.
5) Stepping out of the consumer hamster wheel and becoming frugal and wise about all spending habits.
6) Putting all available resources on paying off credit cards and canceling them.
7) Learning what truly is a bargain or just an impulsive buy in the name of
thrift.
8) Learning to eat very well on very little money. The means fixing your meals and not eating out 4 times a week. You would be surprised at what I can buy on $55 dollars but I don’t buy pre-prepared convenience foods.

These things are recurring subjects on many of the message boards I frequent. I find all of this fascinating and would like to incorporate some of these ideas into my future lifestyle. I practice many of these things out of necessity but would like to practice them out of choice some day. I honestly think you can live better on less or at least it makes me feel better to say it. I don’t feel like such a poor bastard. lol

The only thing that worries me is what if most Americans decided to live this way? Would our economy come to a crashing halt? Could we find equilibrium in our economy where working less, buying less, and living better would work? This is a moot point as this will never happen in my life time for sure but I like to ponder such issues. I just sometimes worry that if we keep going on our present rate of consumer spending and economic growth we will all have to live this way out of necessity like me and not choice. Nothing is finite including the growth of our economy. There are only so many resources and they can be stretched only so far.

________________________________


Another subsequent thought, does a lot of keeping up with the Joneses have to do with marriage, sex, and procreation? I know if you had a high paying job, large home, nice car, nice clothes, and expensive food it would make you look more attractive to a potential mate. That person would see you as a good investment into their future and their potential off spring.

That worries me about people like me who cannot afford these things. Will they ever find another mate that would be willing to live the frugal lifestyle like me? Could she see that it could be just as advantageous to live frugally and have lots of money set aside?
I do think that such a mate would be in the minority and hard to find in today’s society. It is very much a game of chance and not choice. Oh well, more food for thought this afternoon.

I will quit my incessant rambling and go get to work on a few projects I have planned today.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Problem solved……

It was my Linksys router. Man, this sucks. I have no way of buying a new router. I have had the thing for years. The warranty has long expired. This means no hardware based firewall and that I have to rely on the crappy built in firewall of Windows XP sp2.

I ran the network cable directly from my computer to the cable modem. I then called my ISP and read to them my new MAC address and they updated it. I rebooted my cable modem, computer and presto, things are fine now. It is always the simplest thing first when working on computers. I was thinking it was my ISP’s fault but it was my router.

This sucks because I use my router to network two computers. One computer I built myself out of parts when I was a truck driver and had a good income. The other computer was an older one that my neighbors had put by the roadside. All it needed was a new ATX power supply that I had on hand from another junky, non working computer and it booted up fine. It looks ugly though as the power supply just dangles outside the back of the case as it would not fit the proprietary design. But, hey, it worked well for being my word processing, blogging computer and just an internet browser.

____________________________________


I got my weekly allowance yesterday; the grand total of $75 bucks. I spent $55 dollars on groceries and I spent $17.99 on a carton of cigarettes. No superfluous things for me this week as I am broke until next Monday. I am going to have to borrow $5 bucks to get enough gas to get to Waverly next Saturday. I hate borrowing money. Mom offered to give me $20 dollars but I declined. She thinks my father is giving me too little money. I think it is a good thing as far as the no drinking thing goes. I have no money to tempt me. I either eat well or I can be stupid and get drunk. The decision is simple.

I am waiting for my lunch to finish. I learned from my grandmother that you can take a cheap cut of meat, add some onion, salt, and pepper and boil the shit out of it. It will taste delicious after about three hours.

Today’s menu is country style ribs that I picked up reduced for quick sale @ $2.49 a pack. This will feed me two times and I will freeze the rest for next week. I am going to fix some “starch in a box” mashed potatoes and some biscuits. I am hungry and ready to eat. I am going to finish it up now.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Chicken N’ Dumplings……

I had a great stay over with Myrtis. We both worked together on how to fix homemade chicken and dumplings. A good chicken broth is the key with chicken wings, onions, celery, pepper, and salt. She let the chicken cook until it was tender and the broth had concentrated.

Next, she showed me how to make the dumplings. She made the dough with two cups of flour, one cup of whole milk and a scoop of shortening. We rolled out the dough and cut it into strips and put it on some wax paper on a pan and put it in the freezer to freeze. This was a little trick I was keen to learn. After the dough was frozen it was very easy to work with. You could just break it up into chunks and place it into the boiling broth and it didn’t just fall apart and it stayed dumplings.

We cut up a nice ripe cantaloupe and then had some lemon meringue pie for desert. The pie was not homemade. It was made by Mrs. Edwards and sold via the local grocery store. It was good though.

After lunch, I spent a few hours trying to watch college football on the television. My great aunt takes long naps in the afternoon after lunch. I had to constantly fumble with the rabbit ears and it was aggravating. Hey, at least I had a TV to watch. The one she had was broken for the longest time.

I got up pretty early this morning to head back home

Friday, September 24, 2004

Court Ordered Influx……..

I have noticed that the court ordered AA people come in spurts. This tends to stir up a few old timers like poking a stick in a hornet’s nest. I asked a fellow about it and he said that they schedule the DUI classes at odd times out at the mental health center and they are required to attend AA. They bring a little sheet that the chairperson has to sign. Some of the old timers don’t want no stinkin’ court ordered slackers coming to their meetings!

After the meeting, I stood out on the back patio and smoked a cigarette listening to two old timers arguing over this. I found it amusing that just the simple act of having a few extra bodies could stir up so much animosity.

“They don’t even care about getting sober. They HAVE to come!” A lady said.

“Well, maybe it will sink in if they come enough and it will help them.” A guy said.

“They do not participate.” The lady replied.

“I think that it’s a good idea. I often enjoy it when one of them gets up the courage to speak. They are going through a rough time and need our support.” The guy said. “All they do is just sit and listen and then you have to sign a sheet at the end. There is no harm done.”

“But just because you get a DUI doesn’t mean you are an alcoholic!” She protested.

I chuckled at this but hid it. As if being an alcoholic was some badge of honor or exclusive club. I could picture this scenario happening.

“I only drink one whole bottle of wild turkey a day.” The newcomer says.

“Sorry, you have to drink two to be a bonafide alky!!!! You have to go to AA lite.” An old timer replies.

There are some really cool people that go to AA that I admire a lot and have enjoyed getting to know. I don’t want to paint the picture that AA is full of close minded nitwits. One of the main reason’s I go now is to have a place to talk about my problems with people that understand. I have made some good friends and we talk often. I try not to let a few bad apples spoil the whole lot. I DO find some of the politics involved amusing though. People love to draw lines in the sand.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

What is going on and what makes a good blog good for me…….

I have been busy behind the scenes this week. I know I have not written much of what is going on with me. I am trying to accomplish just a few positive things everyday. Here are the things that got accomplished this week.

1) Got reregistered to vote at my new
address.
2) Drove by the local community college and found out what I need to take that will transfer for a degree in social work at Auburn University. I also got a bunch of financial aid forms and have filled them out.
3) Found out what I need to do to get a social worker/case worker. I now have to
work of the courage to call the number given to me. (This suggestion comes
courtesy of Dweeb.)
4) Deposited $25 bucks in my emergency savings fund.
5) Called social security to try and figure out why my ticket to work still has not arrived by mail. I now realize that I will have to drive down to Opelika to get
better results. You would think they would be falling over themselves that
I am trying to go back to work.
6) Managed to get a fair amount of future meals cooked and put up in the freezer.


As you can see, I have not just been sitting in front of the computer all day like I have a tendency to do.


What makes a good blog, good for me?

I was thinking tonight about what is that magical property that makes me visit a particular blog on a daily basis. I have hundreds of blog links saved in my favorites but just a handful that I will visit everyday. I’ve kind of had the internet blues lately and have been looking for good blogs to read. What makes a blog author good? Here are a few things I thought of that apply to me.

A) They write well and are articulate with what they write. I can find some of the most mundane parts of life interesting if the author writes well.
B) They update often and, many times, once a day.
C) It is a subject that is dear to me such as mental illness or homelessness. (I
can read what I consider bad or boring blogs just due to the subject
matter.)
D) They can get personal on their blogs and I get to know them through their writing. I enjoy reading about someone else’s actual life and not just what restaurant is hip or the latest
escapades of the cast of survivor.
E) Political blogs bore the shit out of me. I have seen enough of the same
rants and rhetoric to last a lifetime since I have been blogging. I read
one politically based blog and it is written by a homeless
man.
F) The younger the age, the quicker I am to hit my favorites in my browser. I am not interested in what manga or anime is hot. I like video games but have yet to find a blogger that writes well about them. I don’t particularly like
reading about the poster collection on the walls of your dorm room. (Nothing
wrong with younger bloggers. I just find that the majority of them are
interested in things I could care less about.)


Well, this is just a start. The list may grow if I think about it longer.

Finding a God of my understanding…….

This is a central tenet in AA. It has been a recurring theme in many of my AA meetings lately. Last night, we all talked of finding a God of our own understanding. We went around the room and I heard each person’s perspective. It finally came my time to talk.

“I use the collective of this group as my higher power.” I said among other things.

“You will soon find a God of your understanding.” An old timer replied in response.

“I have found a higher power and that is the knowledge and wisdom from all of you.” I replied.

This sparked a fury of discussion after the meeting. Everyone wanted to share their experience with God and how it has kept them sober. A few got downright preachy.

“Only through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, can you have the power to keep from picking up that bottle.” One fellow preached.

I listened to everyone who took the time to speak to me. I knew it was futile to argue about something as subjective as religion. I also like to remain anonymous about my mental illness in my real life. You see, I have to be very careful when it comes to religion. Because of my illness, I can quickly get carried away and have in the past. This is coming from a man who thought God was sending him messages through the television. I choose to remain agnostic and non-practicing when it comes to organized religions.

I visit some forums discussing alcoholics anonymous and sobriety. I was trying to find more information about agnosticism and AA. Many threads I was reading quickly became train wrecks when religion was thrown in the mix. Everyone has an opinion and many times a different view of how religion should be applied to AA. I quickly came to the conclusion that I will just have form my own opinions and find out what works for me by trial and error.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A boring night…….

I had all my camping gear packed up. I was about to put on my Kelty redcloud backpack and head out for a few days. I really needed a break. I stood at the door contemplating what I would do. I was standing there thinking about it. What did I do? I sat my pack down by the door and decided not to go. Maybe tomorrow, I thought to myself. I am really getting soft here. I feel the need to stay comfortable with sleeping in a tent and a sleeping bag. I also enjoy it but for my drinking inclinations. Camping was the perfect excuse to get drunk while sitting around a campfire.

I fixed a big percolator of coffee and sat on my porch. I watched with amusement as the neighbor’s dog proceeded to torture himself. He is a yappy little mix of a wiener dog and keeps me up many nights barking on their porch. He was chained to the ornamental pear tree in their front yard. He would see something that caught his eye and run full tilt until the leash’s slack ran out.

YANK!

I chuckled and took another sip of coffee. It was just punishment as this dog has driven me crazy for months barking.

Look! A bird!

YANK!

Mr. Squirrel runs across the yard.

YANK!

He would take a moment to collect his composure and then…..YANK!

You would think that this dog would figure out that running as fast as you can in a certain direction on a tether means pain.

My neighbor finally realized this dog was going to self destruct any moment and walked out and let him off his leash. What did he do? He sat in the front yard and barked forever. I muttered, thanks, under my breath in a sarcastic tone.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Politics, sometimes you hate it but you have to be well versed in it……

I don’t talk often of politics. I have said many times before that it aggravates me and bores me. I do keep up with what is going on though. I am well versed in the issues that all parties are bringing to the table.

Last night, I was sitting on the front porch. I was drinking my coffee and smoking my pipe. I was being a nosey bastard as four police cars were out in front of my neighbor’s house. Up drove my father and Charlie to bring some outdoor furniture for the porch (Charlie is buying my late grandmother’s house and has started to move things.) After moving the furniture, my father sat down beside me in a chair. We got on the subject of politics and the election. After discussing some issues, I got popped the question I knew was coming.

“So, who are you going to vote for in November?” My father asked.

“That’s a no brainer for someone on disability like me, Dad.” I said. “I would be stupid to vote for Bush.”

“Well, you have a good point there.” He said.

“I will be voting for Kerry. I see it as the lesser of two evils.” I replied.

“Well, you could vote for Nader.” He told me with a smirk on his face.

“Yeah, and in my opinion that would be just the same as voting for Bush.” I replied. “In such a close race, Nader is the best thing to happen for the Bush campaign so far.”

“Nader means well. He needs to stick to consumer advocacy though. That is his forte.” Dad replied.

“So, who are you voting for?” I asked.

“As a small business owner, I should vote republican but I am not sure. I still haven’t decided.” He replied.

“Keep in mind the strong republican ties to corporate interests. They may be more likely to support Wal-Mart or CVS over you.” I said.

“Yeah, that is true. I haven’t thought of that.” Dad replied.

“Mom is going to the polls with me.” I said with a smile on my face.

“Why is Martha going with you?” My dad said.

“She will vote for whoever I tell her to. I will get two votes for the price of one. Mom probably doesn’t even know who Kerry is. She sure wouldn’t go to the polls unless I dragged her along.” I said.

There was a big laugh between us.

“Your brother did that once and got her to vote for Bush Jr.” Dad replied. “He took your grandmother as well. I got a big chuckle out of it.”

One common thing I have noticed is that your situation in life determines your politics. I have never heard of a homeless person saying they were voting for Bush. If a homeless person is voting for Bush then they are either A) crazy or B) just plain ignorant of the issues involved. Having a mental illness or being homeless at one time or another will, many times, make you have left political leanings. I was always a republican in my youth and younger days. What has happened to me in the past few years has drastically changed my political views.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Positive things that got done today…….

1) Called and found out what I needed to do to
get a case worker/social worker. This was a suggestion of
Dweeb. I now just have to get the courage to call the number given
to me.
2) Went by my local community college
and found out what classes I will need to take that will transfer for a degree
in social work at Auburn University. Got some paper work for grants and
such.
3) Called Social Security to find out why
my ticket to work has not arrived yet. Got the run a round but they say
they will look into it. I may have to drive down to Opelika and talk to
someone in person. I find that, many times, this gets better
results.
4) Cleaned the extensive debris from
hurricane Frances out of my yard. The pile by the road is as large and
tall as two of my trucks parked end to end. I am completely
exhausted and I never want to use a band saw, rake or wheel barrow again.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

College Game Day…..

I was gone all day yesterday. We left at lunch and I didn’t get home till after 10 AM. It was a LONG day but a good day.

It was a classic, epic southeastern conference defensive struggle on the field. LSU was the defending national champions and southeastern conference champions as well. LSU drove down the field on the opening drive and scored a touchdown. I thought to myself that this was going to be one long, disheartening game. We quickly toned down our blitz and took control defensively. We started to make in-roads in their offensive line.

The stadium was filled to capacity with over 86,000 maniacal Auburn fans. There was a sea of orange as everyone had worn their orange shirts to show support. I had not been to a college football game in years and forgot how deafening the roar of the crowd can be. My ears were ringing hours after the game.

I am not nuts about college football like my father and brother but really got into yesterdays game. There is the sense of euphoria that the crowd takes on as a whole and it is contagious. I looked around at 86,000 people crammed into this relatively small arena and thought of the Roman coliseum and the days of the gladiator. It was much the same as two foes fought it out on the field and the crowd hung on every occurrence that happened between them. When Auburn’s field goal kicker kicked the winning extra point the crowd went absolutely crazy. Everyone lost their sense of boundaries that we all keep and everyone was hugging strangers, slapping high fives, and screaming their lungs out. It is hard not to get caught up in the moment. I am still hoarse from yesterday’s game.

Afterwards, we ended up going out to eat at a little religiously inspired chicken finger restaurant. The sign on the restaurant has the Jesus fish and under it says, “Jim Bob’s Chicken Fingers” with a bible verse quoted. I got the full experience of two of the south’s major religions yesterday, college football and Christianity. All in all it was a good day and one that I will remember for a long time.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Rachel, how art thou……

My phone has been ringing off the hook today. I am about ready to slam it against the wall and unplug my answering machine. I screen my calls to see who is calling. I wait for the answering machine to pick up before I answer. I got a call from my dearest ex-wife. I also got a visit.

“Jonathon, doll? You there?” Rachel asked over the speaker of the answering machine.

I stood at my entertainment center and hesitated. I hate that she still talks to me in sentimental terms. It really pisses me off in that she left me in the woods for many months. Doll? Sweetheart? Fuck me!

“Sweetheart, pick up if you are there.” She said.

I picked up the phone in a huff.

“Rach, what is it?” I said gruffly.

“You don’t have to sound so mean.” She said.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to be an asshole but I am tired.” I said.

“Can me and Otis come over for abit? I need to talk to you about some things.” She said.

“We can just talk on the phone. What things do you need to talk about?” I asked.

“I talked to Phillip today and he said you are doing well. I am proud of you.” She said.

My father was right. I doing well is really pissing her off. She is wanting back in my life and homey don’t play that. I would rather sleep in my own shit than get back with her.

“I went by the drugstore today and your dad says you got the house.” She said.

“Yeah, I got it.” I said.

“Can I come by sometime and look at it?” She said.

“Rachel, what is going on? Why are you asking me such things? You left me in the fucking woods and didn’t give a shit about me when things got tough. Why are you acting like you care now?” I said.

There was a long pause. I heard her sniffling over the phone. I know I am sounding like an asshole. You just have to walk a few days in my shoes. I am also one of the world’s biggest pussies when it comes to women.

“Can I just come over? We really need to talk.” She said.

“Okay.” I said as I hung up.

I paced the floor drinking coffee as I waited for her to come over. I heard the distinctive sound of our Volkswagen beetle as it pulled up. I heard the car door open and shut. There was a knock on the door.

“Hey.” She said as I opened the door.

The smell of her as she walked by me brought back a hundred memories. Otis came rushing in and went straight for my puppy. There was much ass sniffing until they decided they were friends. Rachel ran over and picked up the puppy. Otis went absolutely spastic as she picked him up. He was jealous.

“How did you get a Boston pup? He is darling.” She said as she stood there holding the dog.

“Alaine bought her for me. I am still trying to decide on a name.” I said.

“She loves you, doesn’t she?” Rachel said.

“Yeah, I hope so. She means a lot to me.” I said.

“I never meant as much to you as she does, did I?” Rachel said.

“Rachel, don’t start, okay?” I said.

Rachel sat down in my hand me down lazy boy holding the puppy. I sat down in a chair I pulled out of the kitchen. We stared at each other a few moments. She stood up and walked over to me setting the puppy down.

“Give me a hug, okay?” She said.

I gave her a hug and those familiar smells overwhelmed me. I could smell her shampoo and perfume. I had to drag myself away. I wanted things to be like those first giddy days we met. I wanted to be on our honeymoon in Washington DC again. I knew in my heart that those days are long gone.

“Rach, what is really going on here? I don’t want any bullshit.” I said.

“I can’t live alone. I am so tired of waking up in an empty bed.” She said.

“Rachel, you will find somebody else. What will happen if I get sick again? Are you going to leave me standing out on the doorstep?” I said.

“I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Your dad says you don’t get sick on your medicine now.” She said.

I just sat there mulling over what had been said. I was trying to find a way out of this situation. I should have never answered the phone.

“Come home tonight, okay? I have to work this afternoon but I will be home around ten.” She said.

“Rachel, I think it is best that we stay separated. I need to be alone for the time being.” I said.

“I will be home waiting if you change your mind.” She said as she got up to leave.

The last thing I will do is come over. Once bitten, twice shy.

Welfare recipients could be tested for illegal drugs…….

I came across this today and it kind of stunned me. I was unaware of many states previous attempts at trying this out. I can see why the ACLU jumped on this and filed a lawsuit. I don’t have much to say as I am very biased since I am a recovering substance abuser. I will say that I was shocked at the estimates of the cost to implement this. 5.9 billion dollars was set aside to implement a pilot program and that is just the pilot. No telling how much the real program will cost.

Couldn’t that money be better spent on solving the problem proactively with treatment instead of punishing people with problems after the fact? I would not want my tax dollars going to keep up a person’s addiction but still wouldn’t want 5.9 billion dollars spent for drug testing of welfare recipients. 5.9 billion dollars would get a lot of people help through treatment or counseling and still work on solving the problem.

“But a number of Republicans on the committee argued that it's an important way to get low-income adults on the path to self-sufficiency.”

I can think of a lot better ways of getting low income people back on the path to self-sufficiency with 5.9 billion dollars. How about better funding job training and rehabilitation? How about putting some of that money in education for low income people? Better education many times equals better and higher paying jobs.

I do wonder what they would consider a drug. I consider alcohol and nicotine drugs but I am sure these are not tested for since they are legal but are very expensive for someone on a fixed income. My presumption is that they are going after crack cocaine and marijuana users (or similar drugs). I wonder how they deal with legal prescription narcotics or the abuse there of? Where do you draw the line? I hate to say it but this would be an ideal way to discriminate against minorities.

Thanks…..

I just wanted to say thanks to all who posted comments. Taking the time to comment means a lot to me and I do appreciate it. I am feeling much better today after a very good nights rest.

The power ended up being off for most of yesterday. My great aunt slept after lunch and only got up a short time before going back to bed for the night. I ended up sleeping most of the day as well. I was really tired. The rest was much, much needed. I had kind of gotten off my whacker for a few days there.

My yard looks like a disaster area. There are huge limbs down everywhere. Many of them are too large to pull by hand to the road. I am going to have to hire someone with a chainsaw. Well, anyways, I will leave you all with a story written this morning about last night when the power came back on. I will take some time today to get back to some of you. Also, today is a very special day for a good friend of mine and that post will follow soon.


The storm winds down…….

I was sitting in my junky, old lazy boy reading by the light of my butane lantern. The thing is amazingly loud. It hisses like a snake. Alaine was sitting in the old chair next to my entertainment center. She was reading a copy of In Style magazine by candle light.

“How do you read that shit?” I said.

“Well, you are reading a magazine about toys for grown men and you need to watch your language.” She said.

Touché was what I thought as I laughed.

“Model Railroading is a serious hobby. It is not just for kids.” I said with an extremely serious tone and trying to keep a serious face.

“Yeah, whatever, you hungry?” She asked looking over the magazine with a smile. Her face was lit up in the bright yellow/orange glow of the lantern beside me.

“A little, are you?” I said.

“Yeah, just a bit.” She replied.

I walked into the kitchen holding the lantern and fixed us some graham crackers with peanut butter for a snack. I put them on two paper plates. We both opened a diet sprite and toasted our glamorous meal.

“Do you think the worse is over? I really need to get back and check on mom.” Alaine said. Alaine had been over for most of the evening.

“Yeah, it is winding down.” I said.

As we sat back down, I heard the familiar sound of my computer firing back to life and all my appliances coming on. My 3Com cable modem made the comforting and familiar connection established sound. The power had come back on.

“Well, it seems, we are back in business!” I exclaimed.

“I really need to head home now. I know you are just going to sit in front of the computer the rest of the evening.” Alaine said.

I turned on the outside lights hoping they would not wake up my great aunt who was asleep upstairs. Debris was everywhere in the yard and on the driveway. I had to move some limbs so Alaine could back out. Fortunately, our cars were not damaged.

Alaine left to head home and I didn’t sit in front of the computer. I took a zyprexa and crashed. I was dead to the world. I didn’t wake up this morning until 10 am. Man, I needed that and feel a hell of a lot better this morning.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The storm is a brewin’ both personally and outside my windows……

The wind and rain has really picked up here. There are many limbs down in the yard. The worst for us is expected this afternoon especially if the storm curves on a more easterly course. If you don’t see me post for a few days or respond to your emails then understand that I may be without power. Most local news organizations are saying that power outages are a strong and likely possibility. Don’t fret, I am well prepared. I have all my camping gear ready to go. I have a butane camp stove and several cylinders of butane. I also have plenty of canned goods and food that is frozen. I have a whole box of candles and a butane lamp. I took some time to fill up the bathtub with water. I am not an alarmist but think it is wise to prepare for the worst case scenario.

My great aunt has come to stay with me to weather the storm. She got a ride with Charlie yesterday afternoon. I am going to get us some lunch started in just a bit. I defrosted some chicken legs and will fry them and will cook a pot of beans. I worry that I will have to entertain her and I am not feeling well and am obsessing over it.

I know I rarely talk about my mental illness. I do not want any sympathy. I also don’t want to be taken lightly. I don’t want the reader who visits my blog to be tainted by the presumption that I am just completely nuts and everything I say is suspect. If you would meet me lately in real life then you would find me very normal as far as what I portray on the outside compared to many months ago. This new medicine has made a world of difference in me.

My illness tends to be cyclic. I have noticed the past few days that things are tending to flare up. I keep having the delusion of grandeur that certain phrases on my computer screen are highlighted in very bold text and have a significant hidden meaning that I must decipher. I have the strong urge and tendency to copy and paste them into a word file for later perusal. It doesn’t help that I have been keenly interested in debates between theists and atheists lately. I can spend actual hours reading these debates on certain web forums.

I know the warning signs of a flare up and last night threw up a big red flag. I usually sleep and rest on a very fixed schedule. I stayed up till past 3 am reading debates and am absolutely exhausted this morning. What was the first thing I did this morning? I went straight back into the debates and began reading again. I do not want to get on one of my “causes”.

I have also had a phobia about my blog. I am so afraid to check my email or look at my blog for the fear that what I have posted is dribble or gibberish. I fear that I will get unkind or scolding comments or people will take out of context what I am trying to say. I will actually have butterflies in my stomach as I watch the comments and emails download into my inbox in Microsoft outlook. I know this fear is irrational but is very real in my mind. If I ever take a while to respond to you then you know what is going on. I have yet to check or download my email this morning out of that fear.

My best case scenario would be to take a Zyprexa and sleep for the rest of the day. Zyprexa is an atypical anti-pshycotic that will absolutely knock me out. It makes me so sleepy that I cannot function but I rest very well. I can’t do that today as I have my great aunt to take care of. I know I must get us some meals together and at the very least, go upstairs several times today and sit with her. I know I must weather this personal storm much as I must weather the storm that is beginning to rage outside my windows. I must just wait it out.

After the storm…….

The wind has blown like crazy today and they are still blowing something fierce. My yard looks like ground zero. A huge limb from the pecan tree broke off and narrowly missed the house. It is much too big for me to move by hand. I am going to have to get someone with a chainsaw. The grounds are littered with what is left of the leaves from an over hundred year old oak tree by my driveway.

We were without power for most of the day. It just came back on and I blew I sigh of relief. I heard my cable modem connect and jumped for joy. I forget how much I rely on the internet for reading material and entertainment. Sitting today, I realized how little I use my computer for other than surfing and browsing the net. Video Games hardly do it for me anymore but I did beat Ice Wind Dale: Heart of Winter out of my boredom today. The final battle with the Ice Dragon was truly epic. My level 20 Ranger fought valiantly.

I decided to check on my truck and walked outside. I walked around to the back to check my windows. All my rear windows are plastic and my top is a convertible soft top.

“Goddamn, son of a bitch!” I hollered to myself.

I grew sick at my stomach. I had left my rear window unzipped and we got over 6 inches of rain. I opened the driver’s door and there was a puddle of water in my floor boards. Oh well, you live and you learn, I thought.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Season Tickets…..

I got a call tonight that made me almost shit in my pants. It was my father.

“Do you want to go to the game this Saturday with me?” He asked.

My father buys two season tickets to Auburn football games and he is very selective as to he asks to go with him. He reserves that extra ticket for his buddies.

“Dad, I would love to go. Are you serious?” I asked.

“Come over to the house and we will leave around noon. We will grab some lunch at the Red Lobster in Auburn.” He said.

I was dumbfounded. College football is some serious shit in my family. My brother lives and dies by what our team does. He lives in San Diego and still manages to catch the games on the east coast. My father will actually cry if Auburn loses.

“Dad, I will be over at lunch for sure.” I said.

This is kind of like the holy grail of father and son bonding. He actually asked me to go to the game with him. We play LSU on Saturday and it will be one hell of a good game. I suspect that we will lose. LSU is ranked number three in the nation and we are ranked eighteen. I am glad I will have the chance to watch it in person. I will be the first person to stand up and scream support if we get a touchdown.

WAR EAGLE!!!!!!!

The good and the bad……

First, the good……

I have some good news. We finalized the cost of my new home today. It is a complicated deal that is being brokered by my father and Charlie. The asking price is $35,000 and that is what we got. Keep in mind that real estate values are laughably cheap here where I live. I put some numbers in the windows calculator trying to estimate my monthly payments. I have not added the interest for a 30 year mortgage. My monthly payment for a thirty year mortgage will be $97 bucks a month. With interest, I surmise that it will be closer to $200. I also have to think of property taxes and home owner’s insurance. The costs are quickly escalating.

The house is a cute little brick house with two bedrooms, a bath, kitchen, and a den. It is very small but will serve my needs. It has a really large front and back yard which I will enjoy. I plan on having a large garden this summer to can food for next winter. My frugal instincts are really coming into to play here. I will have to live on an extremely strict budget and it depresses me. I only have $837 dollars a month to work with. I cannot afford my love and hobby, Model Railroading. I cannot afford to buy new clothes or expensive food. No Abercrombie and Fitch shirts or ribeye steaks. I guess GoodWill will be my friend and flank steak will be on my plate if I can cut it.

I did find out something really cool a few weeks ago. My grandmother left all her furniture to her grandchildren. My brother and sister deferred it all to me. I get some really nice antiques and a very nice Kimball piano. She also left me lots of kitchen stuff like appliances and pots and pans. This will go a long way to helping furnish my new home. I have called and emailed my brother and sister many times thanking them.

The bad…..

I opened the TV application on my computer to check on the hurricane today. I got to channel surfing and the multitudes of commercials got me down. All these things that they are telling me to buy and that I would enjoy. I cannot afford them. I can only afford the most basic of things. I will have to be one, tight ass to make this work. I do not want help from my father as far as money goes. He means well but he uses it as a way to control me. He thinks money can solve or fix anything. I disagree.

I have to get a part time job to really make this work and it scares me. I haven’t worked in over a year other than my short stint as a yard laborer just before my accident. The Social Security Administration is a fickle organization. I am worried that if I start on the Ticket to Work program they will try to drop my benefits. Alaine, who works part time, has had a hell of a time with this. They have tried to cut her off several times.

Vocational Rehabilitation is playing phone tag. I call and get the receptionist and she says she will forward a memo. They call and leave a message but never set up an appointment. They want to talk to me and somehow I am never home when they call. Hell, this is screwed, as I am home almost all the time. I hate it when government programs make things so hard or complicated. It is almost as if they do this to deter a beneficiary. I hate the prevailing lackadaisical attitude in most government run institutions. I cannot complain too much though as SSDI has made a world of difference in my life. You just have to play and use the system carefully.

Well, I will quit bitching. I am going to walk down to West Point and sit by the tracks. A good book and few trains passing by will make me feel better. I have much too much on my mind today and need to unwind.

Monday, September 13, 2004

George and the gang….

I have not seen George in a long time. I no longer go to the Piggly Wiggly since I have been able to drive. There is a much nicer, family owned grocery store across town. Well, I had an encounter with George and the gang today. I had to run down to the Piggly Wiggly and buy some half and half for my coffee. I didn’t feel like driving across town. George and the fellas were sitting out in front of the store as usual.

“Well, son of a bitch, look who da cat drug in.” George said.

“George, long time no see.” I said.

“Yo brotha must not like you too much as he don’t come and see ya.” Slop said.

All the black guys started to chuckle after Slop said this.

“Shut up nigga!” George hollered.

I started to walk on in the store and George grabbed me by the arm.

“Come here. Come here. I gots somethin I needs ya to do fo me.” George said.

George always needs something. These guys are professional, full time panhandlers.

“Buy me one one of dem ice beers. I is thirsty. A six pack would be real nice about now too.” George said.

I knew if I bought him a beer then someone who knows me or my family would see me and it would get around. That is just my luck.

“George, buy your own damn beer man.” I said. “I know you have some money.”

“Ah, come on, helps a brotha out.” He said.

I patted George on the back and said no again and continued on into the store. I grabbed and paid for my crème and headed back to the car.

“I am gonna comes and see you soon!” George hollered at me as I walked across the parking lot.

“George, I am damn glad you don’t know where I live.” I said as I laughed.

I was damn glad that George doesn’t know where I live. The last thing I need is George showing up at 3 am in the morning drunk and wanting to party. It was kind of good seeing crazy old George again though.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

A journey’s end……

(First off, I want to say War Eagle!!!! to any Auburn Tiger fans who happen by. College football is the only sport that I really get into.)

Well, I have made it back. Birmingham sure is a long drive and I am tired. It ended up being a work and not a leisure trip. Charlie drove the drug store van behind us and we had it filled with stuff to take to my sister. She had just bought a new house as she started her residency at UAB. I and Charlie went to work putting up a bed and hanging pictures. We moved in a large drop in freezer Charlie had bought her as a gift. I also got her computers connected and her wireless internet system working. She had a ton of medical programs she wanted downloaded to her palm pilot and I got that accomplished as well. My father went and bought groceries and cooked all the meals. We worked hard but were well fed.

I and my father got a hotel room together last night. It has been a long time since we had lots of time to just talk. We both lay on separate beds as my favorite britcoms were airing on the television. I finally felt that we were talking on a level playing field. He was not speaking down to me.

“You are so different and I am very proud of how far you have come.” He said. “You used to couldn’t do all this and not get sick or slip out and disappear for a drink.”

“Thanks Dad, I am really trying hard. I have lots I want to strive for and live for.” I replied.

“You know I care about you just as much as the other two. I know I have done a lot for them lately and I will see that we all pool together and really fix up your new house.” He replied.

“You know I love you and always wanted to make you proud.” I said.

“You still have many chances left to do that. I hope to live a long time.” He said as he turned over and turned off the light.

We said our goodnights and I lay there thinking about my new home. I have so many plans. I have so many hopes. I envisioned seeing myself sitting on my little screened in porch, smoking my pipe, and sipping on a robust cup of dark roast coffee on a cool fall evening. I dreamed of what my yard and garden will look like next summer. I finally drifted to sleep with thoughts of home decorating on my mind.

The next day, we continued with what we started. My father cooked a delicious rump roast with carrots, onions, and potatoes. We had butterbeans, deviled eggs, and corn bread on the side. Finally, the day started to grow late and my sister had to work the night shift at the hospital tonight. We gathered our belongings and hit the highway to head home. I am glad to be home so I will bid you all goodnight as I make my way to my welcoming bed. Good night.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

A journey’s beginning…..

Today is the day that we take our trip to Birmingham. I have been mulling over what to take all morning. I really need to iron some shirts and will do that in a moment. I have my suitcase out on my bed and have gotten started. I have till 2 P.M. to pack. Dad had to work today so that has delayed our leaving. We are only staying one night so this shouldn’t be a big deal. Our original plans were scrapped when my father couldn’t get his fill in pharmacist to work more than just this weekend.

Last nights AA meeting was interesting. I struggle with fitting in. I sometimes feel I do not have enough sobriety to know what I am talking about when it is my turn to speak. Last night I was having a having a hard time and felt as if I didn’t belong. There are not any people of my age group that go. The majority of the people that go are way past their forties. Many of them have years and years of sobriety. I am the new kid on the block so to speak.

At the end of our meetings, we stand around in a circle and hold hands as we say the Lords prayer. There was a lady who was court ordered to attend the meeting last night. I had never seen her before. As we stood there holding hands, she started to caress my hand with her thumb and forefingers. I got totally freaked out. What in the hell was this lady doing? I always seem to get the interesting characters in AA. Luckily, the Lord’s Prayer is not that long so I didn’t have to bear this uncomfortable occurrence very long.

Everybody in AA is pushing me to get a sponsor and to make phone calls. I hate calling and bothering people on the phone though; especially about my personal problems. A long time AA member told me last night that the only way I will stay sober is with the help of a sponsor. It was not what I wanted to hear. I tend to be a loner and have a touch of social anxiety. This is part of the program that I am extremely uncomfortable with. I will just play it by ear for a while longer and see how it goes.

Well, I must go iron those shirts and finish packing. I look forward to this trip and the break in my monotonous routine. It will be fun to get out of the house. I hope you all have a great weekend and take care!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Andrew is going on vacation…..

I will be gone for four days so there will be no updates to my blog. My sister has asked me to come to Birmingham and stay the weekend with her. Her husband is going on a hunting trip. My father has decided to come as well and we will drive up in his car. (Thank god) Charlie and his family has decided to tag along too so they will make the trip that much more fun. Charlie is the life of a party.

I caught myself in a mode of mania yesterday. My doctor put me on wellbutrin for some of my negative schiz symptoms such as depression. Medicine sometimes reacts weirdly with me. I went all day non stop yesterday and was exhausted as night fell. I ended up sleeping much later than normal. I have noticed this going on all week and have decided to come off the medicine. I am not going to take it for a few weeks and see how I do. I was on a constant big high and then would hit a low.

I am cooking my monthly meals today. I try to cook ahead and freeze meal sized portions. I have a meatloaf in the oven. I also have a huge pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove and the wonderful smell of it cooking is filling my apartment. I am going to fire up the grill this afternoon and cook some pork chops and hamburger patties. I think a grilled hamburger for supper will fit the bill. I am marinating the pork chops in some Italian dressing.

I really don’t feel well today but doing these things keeps my mind off of bad things. I try to stay busy when I am having a hard day. I really need to wash and change my sheets but don’t want to fool with that today. It has been two weeks since I changed them though. Well, I better go stir my spaghetti sauce and turn it down some.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Homeless Guy in NYC and few opinions on the war on drugs…..

James is now updating his blog more regularly through his associate pastor. It seems that James got himself in a pickle. He is looking at an in house treatment program or over three years in jail. He is hoping the district attorney will put the treatment option on the table. I hope very much that he gets treatment and not jail. Three years of jail is not a good way to get a substance abuser some help. Drugs and alcohol are, despite what most people believe, readily available inside the joint. James needs a good treatment program to help him get on his feet and to not spend three wasted years sitting in a jail cell.

I have strong suspicions that the charge was drug related and not alcohol related. Public drunkenness would have just meant a few nights in jail and a slap on the wrist. A drug charge carries much stiffer penalties.

James has had several blogs over the past few years. Most people do not know of his very first blog. It takes some googling to find it. I have lost the link but will post it later if I happen upon it. In James’ first blog he was very honest about his lifestyle of promiscuous sex, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse. He lived a very chaotic lifestyle of bouncing around with multiple partners, sleeping in rail stations, and partying at different bars. In his subsequent blogs he really toned down what he wrote about his life.

I have a strong opinion on this matter. I think the war on drugs is the most misguided attempt at social reform this century. Our jails are filled to overflowing with people nabbed on drug charges. Very often, a drug charge carries much stiffer penalties than more traditional crimes such as theft or assault. The authorities can take away every thing you own if you get caught with a certain amount of controlled substance in your possession.

I am all in favor of overhauling the current way drug offenders are dealt with and prosecuted. We are spending billions of dollars on the war on drugs and the war will never end. That money would be far better spent on treatment options than just putting these people in jail and letting them languish for many years. I also believe it would be far cheaper to treat these people for substance abuse than keeping them incarcerated.

A good lesson to learn about this matter was our nations foray into prohibition during the early part of this century. Prohibition exacerbated the problem of crime and alcohol. The market for alcohol went underground and kept going despite the governments attempt to ban the sale there of. Many organized crime families built their great wealth and power moving around and selling bootleg alcohol.

Will legalizing controlled substances work? I think so. I think by creating a free market economy for the sale of drugs, their prices will drastically deflate. The easy thing about alcohol was that I could get drunk on $5.99 a day. Most drugs cost many times that amount. I think the high cost of drugs is part of the crime problem associated with them. If drugs were legally sold and regulated like alcohol then a lot of crime associated with them will dissipate. I know for sure that it would free up huge amounts of people in our prison populations.

My main point I wanted to get across was the treatment option instead of incarceration. If we spent half the money we spend on the war on drugs in a proactive instead of reactive approach then we would go a long way to helping with the problem. Giving people the help and means to get cleaned up and sober and not just locking them away out of sight and mind will go a long way to solving the substance abuse problem that is prominent in many of the poorer neighborhoods in our country. Proactive treatment not reactive incarceration is the key. Okay, I will get off my soapbox.

The Undertaker……

(I wrote this early yesterday morning. I thought it was deleted but I found it in My Documents in a MS Word file. Blogger was having very large teething problems yesterday and I thought it had gotten deleted. I won’t send any nasty emails to blogger support like some other person I know. 8^) I am posting it now.)

I have a visitor staying with me. I came home from my meeting last night to all the lights on in the house. It was almost dark outside. My great aunt decided she needed to go to the ophthalmologist this morning to see about a cataract. She caught a ride with Charlie who commutes to and from work and goes nearby her house everyday.

I knew to set the alarm clock for 6:30 AM. That is 5:30 AM her time. She gets up at the crack of dawn. I walked outside in the pre-dawn dark to see if the lights were on upstairs and they were. I gathered a frying pan, some bacon, eggs, butter, wheat bread, milk, and apple juice and carried them upstairs to cook some breakfast. Breakfast is her biggest meal of the day.

After cooking breakfast, we both sat at the kitchen table sipping on hot cups of coffee. She was telling me all who had died recently and what has been happening in Waverly. My father calls her the walking obituaries.

“Ole Robert Lacy of Camphill passed away yesterday.” She said.

“Who is Robert Lacy?” I asked.

“He used to run the five points grocery store in Waverly across from the house. During the war in Europe he and his wife had the prices so high that people couldn’t afford to eat. They took advantage of the rationing and price gouged. That’s how he got rich.” She said.

I just chuckled and thought to myself that my great aunt loves to embellish. She can also hold a grudge over something that happened 50 years ago.

“Well, he didn’t get to take it with him.” I said.

She just nodded her head and took another sip of coffee.

“So, has there been anything interesting going on in Waverly this week?” I asked.

“The undertaker is back on the job. He took a vacation and is back at work.” She said.

I got a hearty laugh out of this. The person who my great aunt calls the undertaker is a mid-sixties man named Ken Mangram. He reminds me of Carl from the movie Sling Blade. There is something not quite right about Ken and he has, for years, stood in the old Waverly cemetery and watched the cars go by all day. He has been a fixture in the cemetery since my youth. When I was a child, we would pass the cemetery on the way to my grandmother’s house. Good old Ken was always standing out there. My father used to tease us that the undertaker would catch us and bury us if we weren’t careful or acted bad. We would squeal with protest and it would make us shiver.

“Well, there was something never quite right with Ken.” I said.

“Willie Mae said he got hit on the head when he was a baby. He was never the same since.” She replied.

Willie Mae is my great aunt’s 83 year old cousin. She is the proverbial dirty old lady. She will slap me on my ass and tell me how cute I look. One time, Willie Mae told me, “You know, if I was fifty years younger, I would jump your bones.” I almost threw up when she said it. I take everything Willie Mae says with a very large grain of salt.

I finally got up and washed the dishes. I was still very tired. I got up way before my normal time. I am going to go crawl back into the bed and get another hour of sleep. Good morning and be well.

A meeting of a different kind……

I had a strange meeting last night. I drove up to Camp Elba and there was one unfamiliar car in the parking lot. As I pulled up, a man who I will call Tony opened the door to greet me. We shook hands and I walked inside. He had one of the heaviest southern black accents I have ever encountered. I had a hard time understanding what he was saying. I had to listen very carefully to keep up with the conversation.

I kept hoping someone else would show up. Tens minutes till seven and no one came. Five minutes till seven and still no other members. I was starting to get worried. How were I and this guy going to have a meeting and fill up an hour’s time between the two of us? I could barely understand him.

Finally, I heard the crunch of gravel under the wheels of a car. It was a regular who I will call Randy. I was still worried though. Randy’s mind is completely fried from years of extreme drug and alcohol abuse. He has a hard time talking and concentrating. He is also hard to follow in a conversation.

It was fifteen minutes after seven so we decided to start the meeting. Tony wasn’t sure of what he was doing and things quickly got confused. We have a lot of material to read before a meeting and I realized that both of these guys could barely read. Tony started to read How It Works and quit. He turned to me.

“I sho would likes it ifs you be a readin fo me.” He said.

I kindly said sure and reached for the sheet and read. Next it was Randy’s turn to read the Daily Reflection out of a little devotional book. He struggled through the first few sentences and it took several minutes. I tried to help him along but he gave up.

“My mind is fucked tonight. I can’t read those small words.” He said as he handed me the little book.

I finished reading and we continued on with the meeting. Tony ended up talking for over 30 minutes and I still don’t know what the hell he said. I just sat there and nodded my head at what seemed like appropriate intervals.

It is hard to believe that in modern American with publicly funded free education that people still cannot read. These guys were very embarrassed by it and tried to play it off as they were just having a hard night. I felt so sorry for them but also felt a lot of compassion. I didn’t mind reading and I know if this happens again to just grab all the material and read without putting them on the spot. It was, by far, the strangest AA meeting I have ever attended.

Monday, September 6, 2004

A freak happenstance……

I just had a visitor that shook my very foundation. I am still reeling from what happened. My old way of behavior would be to buy a case of beer and get drunk. Feelings have a way of getting pushed to the side and being brought back in full force. Boy, did they come to the forefront this afternoon. I still have butterflies in my stomach.

I was sitting here listening to Edie Brickell’s Volcano CD. I was enjoying a cup of Maxwell’s French dark roast and browsing my favorite web pages. I was having a grand time until the world around me went out of control.

There was a knock at the door and it surprised me. I kind of jumped as I had my music turned up loud. I turned the music down. My first thought was Alaine and I got up to answer the door. It was my ex-wife Rachel. She had brought our Boston Terrier Otis. She let Otis off his leash and he came storming into my apartment and began sniffing around.

“I brought the rest of your clothes. I hope you don’t mind.” She said. “Is it okay if I come in?”

I opened the door and stood there dumbstruck. I squeaked out a hey Rach. I really didn’t know how to handle this situation. We haven’t seen each other in months. She came in and sat down in my lazy boy recliner. I pulled a chair out of the kitchen and sat down in front of her. There was this uncomfortable silence. I sat there looking at my hands and twiddling my fingers.

“So, how have you been?” She asked.

“I’ve been doing good and you?” I replied.

“I have been okay. Your shirts are in the trunk. I brought all your sweaters too. I know it will get cold soon.” She said.

“I appreciate it. I am going to need them.” I said.

“Can I be honest with you?” She asked.

I took a big swallow and said yes.

“I miss you. I miss you so much.” She said as she started to cry.

She reached forward to give me a hug. I just sat there confused. My world swirled out of control. In one instance my confidence was shattered.

“Rach, you know we can’t live together.” I said.

“I am tired of being alone. I want you to come home. I don’t care what happens, I just want you home.” Rachel cried.

I started to cry as well and I put my face in my hands.

“Your dad says you are doing well now. He says you no longer drink. Is that true?” Rachel asked.

I just kind of nodded yes and kept my face in my hands looking at the floor.

“I can change if you can change.” She said.

Otis was sitting at my feet looking up at me for attention. I picked him up and put him in my lap. He exuberantly licked my face and wiggled as if I was the first person he had seen in years.

“See? Otis still misses you as well.” Rachel said.

I just sat there without saying anything. I have missed Otis so much and was enjoying seeing him. Rachel stood up and reached into her pocket. She held her hand out towards me.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“The key to our house. If you change your mind, come and get in the bed with me tonight.” She said.

I sat there and held the key in my hand looking at it. Rachel put Otis on his leash.

“Come out and get your clothes.” She said.

I walked outside and gathered all my shirts and sweaters and brought them inside.

“Will I see you tonight?” Rachel asked.

I didn’t know what to say. I told her good night and thanks for bringing my clothes. She got in our Volkswagen and drove off. I think it is a good time to go to an AA meeting tonight.

Tropical Storm Panic…….

As I am sitting here writing this, four deer are casually browsing on the grass in my back yard. Seeing this has become common as of late and I see more deer here in town than I do in the woods. They are oblivious to the coming disaster that the news media is speaking of.

It seems the media wants to whip everyone up into a frenzy on what is really a very large rain storm now. What is left of Hurricane Frances is headed our way and from the looks of the radar there is much ado about nothing. So far the wind has picked up here and it is spitting rain on and off but nothing really interesting. We are getting the first rain bands from the storm.

I opened up the TV application on my computer to see what the local news organizations were saying. The station out of Columbus Georgia had a newscaster out in the field and they were swaying and acting like they were having a hard time keeping their footing. The lady was holding on her rain hood with her hand and talking really fast and frantic into the microphone. I got a big laugh out of it. The local news is really trying to hype this up. I live only 30 minutes from Columbus and it is quite pleasant weather here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a very large wind making machine out of range of the camera to add more drama to the report.

I was out of crème for my coffee and needed some diet cokes so I decided to drive down to the Piggly Wiggly. The place was packed and every check out line was full. I picked a bad time to get just a handful of things. There had been a run on loaf bread and milk. It looked like it does when the local news says that dreaded word here in the south….Snow. I have never understood the southern storm milk and bread phenomenon. Common sense would tell me to buy non-perishable items like canned goods in case the power went out and you were stuck in your home. A camp stove and a hand operated can opener would be wiser investments as well. Say the word storm and it seems common sense goes out the window.

After getting my half and half and two 2-liters of diet coke, I managed to pick the worst line. A young African American lady had stopped up the works. She had a basket full of groceries but they were separated into four different orders. She wanted to pay for them all separately with different WIC vouchers. Things quickly grew complicated and confused as the cashier, who was not the brightest bulb on the block, got the young ladies orders mixed up. On top of that, the young customer was checking every receipt with the scrutiny of a corporate trial lawyer. Two very redneck looking fellows were behind me and I could hear their whispered conversation.

“Goddamned niggers and their food stamps.” One fellow said under his breath.

“I work for what is mine and they should too.” Said the other fellow with a muted voice.

I turned around and told them that it was WIC and not food stamps. She was buying this food for an infant child.

“Still welfare in my book.” Said one of the guys.

I just turned around and ignored the rest of their conversation. There was no use in arguing with ignorant buffoons. One of the rednecks finally got tired of waiting and said, “Fuck this shit!” He sat his basket down on the floor and walked out. Everyone overheard him and turned to stare. I was glad to see his narrow minded ignorant ass go. I was tired of hearing him. Luckily, here in the south, people like this are becoming much less common.

Patience is a virtue and soon it was my time to check out. I paid for all my items and walked back to my truck in a drizzle. I remarked to myself how much my behavior has changed as of late. Used to, a storm would be a good excuse to stock up on beer and cigarettes instead of things I actually needed. I would drink all day watching the weather and radar hoping the bottom would fall out. Now, I buy crème and coke and don’t have to wake up tomorrow morning feeling like complete and utter crap.

Well, let me go batten down the hatches and prepare for the storm of the century. It just started to drizzle again and that must mean ominous weather is ahead. I think I will go hide in my walk in closet all day and read a good book. You can never be too prepared. I hope you all catch the sarcastic tone in this last paragraph. 8^)

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Have you found Jesus?

Well, I made it back but I am tired. I didn’t sleep well in the stifling heat last night even though I had a box fan blowing on me. The TV worked even though it has sat up in storage for years. It is a 1988 vintage emerson model. I could barely watch my programs as the picture was very snowy but I did enjoy them none the less.

This morning my great aunt went to church just down the road. I stayed home and fixed Sunday dinner. I fried the chicken and then mixed the biscuit dough and rolled them out on a wooden cutting board. I cooked some beans and made a bowl of mashed potatoes. I then started on my gravy with the pan drippings from frying the chicken. As I was making a roux for the gravy, I heard a car drive up and then a knock on the door. It was a long time friend of my late grandmothers named Vivian. I have known her since I was a small child. She looks just like a shorter version of the late Julia Child and talks much like her as well.

Vivian is a southern Baptist missionary for several Caribbean islands. She is 83 years old and has been a missionary for over 50 years. She spends her summers at home in Waverly and her winters working in the islands. I invited her to come on in and sit down as I was in the middle of preparing lunch. She came in and sat down at the kitchen table.

We mainly made small talk like how are you doing and what our families have been up to. I was hoping to keep the conversation away from religion and her tendency to preach but was unsuccessful.

“Jonathon, I don’t mean to be blunt but have you found Jesus?” Vivian asked.

I have never lost him was what I wanted to say but I knew that would be rude.

“Ms. Vivian, I am just not a very religious man. I tend to be agnostic.” I said very carefully.

“God has a plan for you and you need to follow it. He can work wonders in your life if you let him.” She followed.

I wanted to say that the biggest thing that has changed my life was putting down the booze but I was trying my very hardest to be nice and show her respect.

“Yes, Ms.Vivian, I know.” I said.

“I’ve got something I want to give to you.” She said.

She reached into her satchel and pulled out a palm sized version of the new testament.

“I want you to read just one chapter a day and you will soon see the Lord working miracles in your life.” She said. “This should be the only book you will ever have to read.”

I wiped the flour and grease off my hands and took the bible and placed it on the kitchen counter and said thank you.

“Why don’t me and you go to the living room and get down on our knees and pray together. We can ask our lord and savior, Jesus, to enter your heart.” Vivian said.

Okay, that drew the line. I was not about to get on the floor and pray for my salvation.

“Ms. Vivian, I appreciate you trying to help me. I will read the bible you gave me and will think about what you have said.” I said as I lied.

I hate lying but I had to be nice. She was very dear to my late grandmother and she does mean well but it is damn uncomfortable to have to sit through this. I successfully changed the subject to how it has been in the islands and she finally got up to head home. I gave her a big hug and helped her walk back to the car.

In AA they teach you to be rigorously honest about everything. I hated having to lie to her but what could I do? I couldn’t tell this 83 year old friend what I really thought. I couldn’t tell her that I thought she spent 50 years teaching hocus pocus to a people that already had an established religion and that she should respect that religion. Oh well, life is never simple and there is a fine line between being too honest and lying to protect the feelings of a friend.

Friday, September 3, 2004

A view of the world from the other side of the tracks…….

A fellow who goes to the AA meetings has started to call me for rides to Lafayette recently. How he found my unlisted phone number I have no idea. He is the only African American fellow in our group. He has lived an interesting life. He is 55 and lives with his elderly mother. He is a huge, muscular guy who probably weighs 250. He was a marine in the marine corps and got honorably discharged. He was in prison for over ten years. He has been shot several times and has shown me the bullet holes in his abdomen. He was homeless for a year and slept in an abandoned house. We have had some interesting conversations lately as I have gotten to know him.

Wednesday he called for a ride and I told him I would pick him up to ride to the meeting. I drove by and he got in the car and we headed on our way. I tend to be outspoken and I asked him straight out a question that has been on my mind.

“Did it make you feel uncomfortable being the only black man in AA here?” I asked.

He laughed and said he was glad I asked him that. He said that all the other white AA members tip toe around him and he was glad I was straight up with him about things.

“I felt uncomfortable being in a room full of white muthafuckas. I ain’t lettin no cracka keep me from stayin sober though.” He said in a good natured tone of voice. “I was tired of bein sick and tired and I was tired of bein hooked on rock (crack cocaine).”

We both laughed a good deal about the room full of white mother fuckers part and that no cracker was going to keep him from getting sober.

We drove on up to Camp Elba were the meetings are held but the gate was locked. We still had 30 minutes to pass until the meeting started.

“Take me on into Lafayette to my wife’s house. I will gives you a few bucks for gas.” He told me. “I tries to get up here everyday to check on things.”

I told him to keep his money and that I didn’t mind to drive a few extra miles. I was glad to have something to pass the time and we drove north to Lafayette.

Lafayette is an almost dead southern town of a few thousand people. The population is majority African American and the town is filled with signs of poverty. There are no jobs or industry. The big employers are the county courthouse and the county jail. Downtown is like a ghost town of closed or boarded up store fronts. Stray dogs wander the streets everywhere looking downtrodden and hungry with their tails stuck between their legs. The infrastructure of the city is falling apart and the streets are crumbling.

He gave me directions to the housing projects and I took him there. We pulled up to a really dumpy looking apartment and got out. Kids were running everywhere unsupervised and lots of people where sitting on their front porches drinking and smoking. I know what they were thinking. The only reason a white man was in the projects was to buy drugs. They were staring at me as if I was the first white man they had ever seen. I felt uncomfortable and as if a thousand eyes were studying me.

He finished what business he had with his wife and we got back in my truck to head back for our meeting. I really admired him for being able to stay sober under such situations. He is surrounded by substance abuse and poverty all day and he has been sober for over a year.

“How in the hell do you stay sober being around that kind of shit all the time?” I asked.

“You gets used to it. I have been around that bullshit all my life and you gets numb to it.” He said. “It did make it hard at first cause everyone around you is fucked up all the time and dey wants you to be fucked up too.”

“You are a better man than me.” I reflected.

“Nah I aints. You just learns to deal, you knows?” He replied.

We drove on back to Camp Elba and had a very good but small meeting. I had a new found respect for this guy. I thought to myself that living in a tent in the woods would be much easier than dealing with that crap everyday of your life. Alcoholics Anonymous has become his sanity in an otherwise insane world.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

An email from a reader…..

I get emails from time to time from readers who ask certain questions or want to talk about something privately. I got an email this morning that I wanted to share. I asked the author’s permission to post it and they reluctantly agreed as long as I edited out the contact information.

-----Original Message-----
From: ****** ******** [mailto:**********@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 1, 2004 8:15 AM
To: Jon ******

I
think you posting of Kevins comments is unethical and lacks rispect for his
wishes. You of all people should understand what he is going
through. You were homeless as well.

If you have read his blog
the past few months then you know he has hard a hard time lately and needs
support. You should be writting about what he can do to help himself
since you were able to find a home and now the system. You could email him
and share with him how you got a home.

Kevin has no money and has
no home. He is just a homeless man trying to have his say in a very harsh
envirement. I hope you will try and help him instead of trying to keep him
down.

Peace out,

******



Dear ******,

First off, the comments posted on Kevin Barbieux’s blog are not under his copyright and are not under his ownership. I never even entertained the idea until he started rabidly censoring long time readers and supporters comments. A lot of these people have given him lots of money through his pay pal account and he showed no gratitude what so ever by deleting their supportive posts with no explanation. He doesn’t even say thanks to his supporters or donators.

I think you are suffering from fanboy/fangirl syndrome that I think we have all experienced at one time by reading Kevin’s blog. I give credit when credit is due and his blog was the first experience I had with web logs and he inspired me to write about my experiences as well. I emailed him several times offering to send money (I had almost nothing to give) and some computer parts for his laptop. He ignored me. I also sent many emails about section 8 and local mental health programs in his area that were very low cost or free. He ignored those as well; no thank you or even a reply. This was before I pissed him off by asking him why he didn’t do what it takes to support his children despite his ex-wife. My ex-wife couldn’t have kept me from my kids for any reason. I would have fought like hell to be apart of their lives. I would have at least sent money as much as I could for clothes or food. Children only grow up once.

Kevin is very adept at playing on people’s sympathies through using the homeless card or through religion. You have fallen hook, line, and sinker into his web. I was once there as well but “saw the light” and wizened up to his game. He speaks of how harsh or hard his life is but never does anything lasting or proactive to get out of his current situation. He dangles moments of hope and a homed lifestyle before us but it eventually cramps his “style” and it’s back to blogging in a coffee shop all day and sleeping in the rescue mission at night. How hard of a life can that be? He is not going hungry by any means I assure you. He has said himself that you have to be pretty clueless to go hungry in America and I agree.

Kevin has never sought help with his mental illness or tried to get involved with the many, many programs available to help people in need. I live in a rural location in the south and I was still able to get my (very expensive) medications for $2 dollars a bottle and see a psychiatrist for free at the local county run mental health office. Kevin lives in a large urban location with a much broader network of support available to him. He has countless options to try such as HUD/section 8, food stamps (if you are homeless/indigent they have an expedited program that gets you food stamps in SEVEN days in most states), vocational rehabilitation, county mental health, social security disability. The list could go on and on.

Kevin is not as disabled or helpless as he leads his readers to believe. He once posted in a forum that he has received over $5000 dollars in donations from his pay pal account in the past two years. That is more than half my yearly income through disability and Kevin didn’t have any bills or utilities to pay. One man alone, Mr. Cheng, sent him a $1000 dollars in one day. (Another homeless blogger, Sullivan, broke this story and then he (Kevin) had to admit it on his blog. The shit hit the fan on his now defunct forums after Sullivan posted this.) What did he do with it? He got a cheap hotel room and squandered it. He could have saved that money by continuing to stay in the rescue mission and eating at the churches/mission. When I was homeless, a thousand dollars would have gotten me off the street that week. I would have found an apartment or a room to rent and put a deposit down and had money for all the deposits on my utilities and probably have money left to spare for groceries.

Kevin, nor I for that matter, were/are very good representatives of the median homeless population. If you met him on the street you would never know he was homeless. He is not unkempt and dresses well. He is obviously well fed. He panhandles on the internet and not the street corner. He spends most of his days with a donated wireless laptop in an upscale coffee shop. He doesn’t live the life of a typical homeless man. Kevin is more akin to a starving artist who chooses to be homeless for ideological reasons and not a typical homeless man who has lost his job and home to a layoff, just plain bad luck, or through substance abuse.

If you think I am full of shit then no amount of writing will persuade you. If you want other opinions from other people then here are some links for you to read. One is from a long time supporter/donator and two others are from a homeless online diarist in Tampa Florida. I am not the only one who shares these views.

Sincerely,

Andrew

Open thine eyes and thou shalt see…….

I have a hereditary deformity of my corneas called karatocona. I have been to the eye doctor many times trying to get some help with blurred and double vision despite wearing my glasses. It got to where it was dangerous for me to drive at night because of the extreme glare from lights and headlights. A few months ago the doctor finally figured it out when he took out my father’s chart and looked at it. He stood there looking at the chart….

“Hmmmm……..” he mumbled.

“What is it Doc?” I asked.

“Put your face back in the scope and let me look at your eyes again.” He said.

I leaned forward and he sat down in the chair putting his face to the contraption.

“I now see why you have been having so much trouble with your vision. You have karatacona like your father. It is hereditary and sometimes hard to catch.” He replied.

“Does that mean I will never be able to see well again?” I asked.

“We can correct it but you must wear hard contacts everyday. It is going to take some getting used to.” He replied.

“How much will this cost?” I asked.

He told me the round about price and my heart sunk. There was no way I could afford that at the moment.

It has taken many months to save up for the contacts. They are very expensive and I could only put aside twenty dollars here and thirty dollars there. I finally got up the amount and called to order them. They called me this morning and told me that they have arrived from the laboratory.

I went by this morning to pick them up and try them on. The technician showed me how to put them in. “DEAR GOD!!!!!,” was my reaction. It really was that dramatic. I didn’t realize how bad my vision had become. It was as if I was blind and was given sight. Everything was clear and bright and I could read signs and words from across the room.

I am reveling in my new vision this morning. I am noticing little things that I have not seen before. I no longer have to sit right in front of my computer to read what is on the screen. I can see it from several feet back. I also noticed that my carpet needs vacuuming very badly. LOL I need to get to work. It is just so novel to be able to see so well again.