Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A lesson in not drinking and driving…..

(Also, an introduction to DJ RapStar, a new addition to the Piggly Wiggly groupies.)

As I was taking a fellow AA member home tonight we came upon a discussion about George. It started out with talking about going to the Piggly Wiggly today for things.

“You ever see George down there?” I asked.

The Guy laughed and said, “You mean ole’ taxi drivin’ George?”

“Yeah, that’s George all right? Did you see him today? I haven’t seen him for awhile and was wondering what was up.” I replied.

“Ole’ George got a DUI a few days ago and is in jail.” Guy replied.

“I should have known. He had it coming.” I replied.

“He ain’t got no money for bail and his mother won’t bail him out.” Guy responded. “He be goin’ to have to sit in jail until his court date.”

Well, no more George posts for the time being as you can see and I don’t have to worry about drunken visits in the middle of the night either. Okay, on to my writings about today’s newest Piggly Wiggly Groupie. I had seen him down there as of late and he is hanging out with the crowd and is worth an honorable mention. DJ RapStar is what I will call him.

The reason I call him DJ RapStar is, you have to picture this in your mind, he is trying to become a rap star and dresses and acts like it. He strikes rap artist poses a lot at people and is always jamming to his walkman. He has on tons of bling-bling (garish fake jewelry and adornments) and wears NBA athletic style jerseys and shorts. He also has a Mercedes icon on a huge, fake gold chain around his neck. DJ RapStar struck up a conversation with me today down at the Piggly Wiggly after talking to George about me.

“Yo, yo, yo, my brotha!” He said. “Give a brotha a minute.”

“What’s up man?” I replied.

“George be sayin’ dat you be the computer man.” DJ RapStar said. “He be sayin’ you could hooks me up.”

“Great!” I thought. George is telling these guys about my personal belongings.

“What you need, man?” I asked.

“I needs you to sho’ me how to mix music on a computer.” He replied. “I is gonna be the next Puff Daddy.”

“Sure!” I thought. The next Puff Daddy. Hanging down at the Piggly Wiggly ain’t going to cut it if you want to make it big.

“I don’t have a program to mix music on my computer. You need to buy one and they are expensive.” I replied.

“Shit Dog, dat be wrong.” He replied. “How much it be costin’?”

“Just a guess but I bet around $500 bucks for a good piece of software and you would need a MIDI capable sound card and such.” I replied.

“Man, dey always be tryin’ to keep a brotha down.” He replied.

“Well, I have got run bro.” I replied.

“Keep it real dog, keep it real.” DJ RapStar replied and he walked over to a car that pulled up and leaned into the window.

I knew what was going on. He was selling crack. I was glad to get out of the conversation. I was getting weird vibes from the guy. He was kind of shifty. I think he is giving Cap with Tag Guy a run for his money on crack sales down at the Piggly Wiggly. I can picture a soap opera kind of scenario erupting with Cap with Tag versus DJ RapStar. Only time will tell.

Dogged Determination…….

I had a whirlwind of a past few days. I have not had time to post to this blog. My life has grown so busy lately and sometimes it is hard to cope. A few months ago, all I did was go camping, fishing, and sit in front of my computer. Now I have a lot of responsibility on me and it can grow tiring. I want to romanticize about my earlier days of wanton laziness. Sometimes I just have to sit down and take a break for my mental health. It helps me to organize and collect my thoughts.

I had a crisis yesterday where my college advisor called me and told me there was a problem with my transcript and they were dropping three of my courses. I scrambled into action and took care of the problem. Apparently, their records were old and they now keep the transcripts in a computer database. My grades for all my classes I took at Montevallo were not posted in the computer. I had to drive to Wadley, Alabama to the records office on the main campus and get a hard copy of my transcript for my advisor to see. She then approved the three courses. Why she couldn’t just call and get the grades I do not know. Maybe it was for legal reasons and they were covering their bases. I find college to be highly bureaucratic. There is a highly complex hierarchy and it can be frustrating and difficult to deal with sometimes. I am doggedly determined though and will jump through any hoops that need to be jumped through.

The plumber aka roto-rooter came yesterday and cleared my drains. YES! I can now go back to taking showers and using the toilets. I am officially spoiled now with these modern amenities. When I was homeless, I would drive over to the truck stop on the interstate and pay to take a shower like truck drivers do. I learned this trick from my truck driving days. The only catch was that it was expensive and I could only shower every four or five days. I am now accustomed to getting a shower everyday in the morning and feel I cannot get going with out it. Yes, I am spoiled.

As you previously read, the accusation for the clog in the sewage pipe was placed squarely on me and my old habit of smoking a cigarette in the bathroom with the vent fan on while I read a book. The idea that a couple of cigarette butts could stop up a foot diameter sewage drain was preposterous to me. The plumber ran a camera down the drain and the clog was due to an abnormality in the pipe and very sharp ninety degree curve towards the road. I was vindicated and exalted. This little deal did cost $110 dollars though and it only took the guy 30 minutes to unclog the drain. I wish I got paid $220 an hour. I would be set for life.

As far as my family goes things have been kind of hard lately. My father is in some kind of post surgery depression and hyper scared of his heart. He thinks that the littlest murmur or heart burn is foretelling a heart attack. I hate to see him this way and it makes me uncomfortable around him. He has acted really surly and distant lately and I fear that I have done something wrong and tend to internalize it. My father is usually tough, resilient, and cocky. I hope he will return to his old self.

My mother, on the other hand, uses me as her psychiatrist and constantly talks of her and my father’s problems. This makes for touchy situations and I, quite frankly, do not want to get caught in the middle. My mom treats me more as a peer than as a son and it is weird for me to deal with. She is often like a small child that needs to get constant attention and affirmation; most of the time I just listen and do not comment. I am the only one in the family she can talk to about these issues as I understand her point of view and how her mental illness affects her.

Well, enough rambling. I sometimes use this blog to organize and collect my thoughts and did so today. You are more than welcome to read along with me as I ramble. If you find this kind of everyday kind of stuff boring than stop back in later to catch a Piggly Wiggly groupie post or ramblings about homelessness. I am now off to take my father to the doctor once again. Good day.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Disaster strikes at the abode of Jonathon…….

The day was going well. I had got a lot done and was proud of myself. I spent all afternoon cleaning my truck inside and out. For being fourteen years old and with 165,000 miles on the clock she was looking great. I was dead tired and plunked down in front of the TV to catch the weather channel and kicked off my tennis shoes. As I was sitting there entranced by the gorgeous lady meteorologist, I heard a strange noise. It was a gurgling noise coming from the bathroom. It sounded like a witch’s cauldron bubbling. I also caught hint of a nasty, putrid smell. I walked into the bathroom and panic struck. Raw sewage was spewing out of my toilet and the drain in my shower.

“Dear God!” I thought.

I scrambled into action and ran upstairs and turned off the washing machine. I had been washing the seat covers to my truck and the towels I used to clean it with. I ran back down stairs to see if that helped. The swelling up of raw sewage had stopped. The smell was horrible though and my bathroom floor which is the lowest floor in the house was covered in over an inch of shit and debris. My heart sank as I tried to organize in my mind how to begin to get this mess cleaned up.

I decided to call Charlie; the fellow who is buying this house and whom I have bought his. I didn’t want to drop this calamity on my father just a few weeks after major heart surgery.

“Do you have a wet/dry shop vac?” I asked.

“Yeah, what has happened?” Charlie asked.

“You don’t want to know. You really don’t, Charlie.” I replied.

Charlie drove over with the shop vac and took charge. We uncovered the drain outside and took off the cover and tried to vacuum out all the junk. Shit spewed everywhere and all over us as well. Bucket after bucket on the shop vac grew full and we emptied it into the back of the yard. It was a messy and disgusting job and one that I want to forget but probably never will. Charlie saw a cigarette butt pour out with the mess with one bucket and turned to me with an accusation.

“You have been smoking in the bathroom and flushing down the cigarette butts haven’t you?” He said.

I no longer smoke cigarettes and only smoke my pipe. I grew angry at the accusation as I knew where this was going. Jonathon is always to blame and not the shoddy plumbing job put in a few years ago.

“Today’s modern toilets don’t flush well. They are only one and half gallons as opposed to the toilets of old that flushed with four. You can only put shit and toilet paper in a toilet now days!” He exclaimed.

I bit my tongue and held my temper at bay. This guy was covered in shit like me and was working his ass off to help. I couldn’t be an asshole but I wanted to be.

“Okay Charlie, only shit and TP from now on.” I replied with a sigh.

We managed to clear the sewage pipe from the house to the road but the clog was deeper into the main. We are going to have to call a plumber in the morning. We managed to use the shop vac and with copious amounts of bleach to get the bathroom clean and the smell out of my apartment though and for that I am grateful and relieved. I just don’t have a way to go to the bathroom till the morning. Oh well, in my homeless days, great wide nature was my bathroom. I guess a quick run to the back of the yard with some toilet paper will not do much harm as there is enough shit out there to fill a hundred toilets at the moment. That is just one part of my homeless days I do not want to relive.

Thanksgiving gave me a weird vibe…..

I had a nice thanksgiving but I couldn’t help but feel guilty. We had a traditional thanksgiving meal at my parent’s house. Our family friends pitched in and brought us all the food as my father is still recovering. My mother is not allowed to cook. We had two turkeys (one smoked, one deep fried), a humongous pan of dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, etc. I sat in the living room with the smell of all that wonderful food infiltrating my nostrils and listening to my family members cajole and converse. It felt good to be home and to be accepted again. It was like old times.

I also couldn’t help but feel guilty in a way. There were a lot of people this holiday that had to do without or who had to rely on others for their well being. Here I was with all this good food and good company. I watched football on television. I and my brother in law talked a long time about college football and the upcoming bowl games. Everything was right in my world but terribly wrong for many in other parts of the world outside my little life. I thought about those people and hoped that they found some comfort these holidays.

Something else that miffed me was the mad scramble after thanksgiving to shop. In subsequent years I had never given it much thought. I did always know it would be foolish to try and participate in such craziness though. I saw in the news reports of people lined up for blocks just to enter stores to shop. People scrambling down store aisles as if they were on speed or crack grabbing at items off the shelves as if this was their last chance to obtain material things. The whole affair kind of put this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was all of this necessary? And when did a holiday about being thankful for the good things we have get turned into some materialistic mosh pit?

One thing I have learned from my hardships I experienced this year is that the simple things are the things I am most thankful of. I drew up a list the other day of the things I am most thankful for to illustrate:

1) Three square meals a day.
2) Warmth on a cold morning or day.
3) Shelter on a rainy or stormy day.
4) A warm, DRY bed.
5) My beat up but beloved old truck.
6) My sobriety.
7) My family, especially my crotchety old father.
8) The internet and my two computers.

These are all the things I need to be happy. I don’t need expensive cars or huge houses. I don’t need to shop till I drop on the day after thanksgiving. I don’t need, many times, useless material things to make me happy. I am thankful for the simple little things in my life and they make me feel fulfilled.

I am not trying to say that it is not okay to have nice things if you can afford them. If you work hard and want something nice then I believe it is okay to treat yourself (think moderation though and not the crazy crap I witnessed on TV the day after thanksgiving). I am just trying to get across my own view that the little things in life can make you most happy. I have met many people in my life with great material wealth and poor emotional health. I have just learned a new way of living and new found joy and wanted to share it. For the first time in my life I am happy and I am also dirt poor! lol It is kind of strange to say that but it is true. I have learned the great value of the simplest things that life can offer. If there is one lesson I have learned in life that is most important then I think this is the one. I hope you’ve all had a good holiday and that your families are well.

Friday, November 26, 2004

A meetings end……..

I went to AA tonight. The usual cast of characters was there. I enjoyed hearing what a few people had to say. I did not speak tonight as I just wanted to listen and I just sat there and drank my coffee and constantly shifted my legs from crossed to uncrossed and watched the clock on the wall.

Much of what people say is always the same regurgitated AA propaganda. I am of the serious opinion that AA is a cult and some of these people are completely brainwashed but I do enjoy going for the camaraderie. It also helps me fell not so along when I am having a hard time. There are certain things in AA they have become mantras for the members such as…..

1) Take it one day at a time.
2) This too shall pass.
3) Principles over
4) Live and let live.
5) Don’t pick up that first drink.
6) The big book is mentioned often as well. I call it the AA bible.

These lines are constantly spoken and it sometimes gets old. Some people often speak just to hear themselves speak and they say the same things every time. I find myself zoning out and daydreaming when certain old timers get on their soapboxes and begin to preach. I enjoy hearing about people’s everyday struggles and the ways they find to help them get through the desire to drink. I do not enjoy the endless AA propaganda that some seem to spout on a regular basis.

We have this particular little old lady who comes on a very frequent basis. I find her highly amusing and I get the vive that she gets on the other member’s nerves. She never talks about the night’s subject of discussion. She always goes off on long rants about what her cats and dogs are doing. Sometimes these rants and tales last for ten minutes or more. Apparently she is an eccentric old lady that has a home full of cat and dogs. Everyone is too kind to say anything and they put up with as she is a sweet little old lady.

Well, enough of me rambling. Sorry I don’t have much to write about tonight. I am having a bout of writers blog and they day has pretty much been uneventful. Now, I just need to figure out what I am going to do till bed time. I need to wash my dishes in the sink but that thought is unappealing. I also need to go fold and put up all my laundry. Nah, those things can wait till tomorrow. I am going to have a “does nothing” night tonight. :^)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A post from last night……

I am too kind for my own good sometimes. I didn’t want to publish this post as I feared that some of you would think I was stupid or na├»ve. I can report that George left early this morning after making amends with his mother and went home for thanksgiving. We will just have to wait and see if I get unannounced drunken visits in the middle of the night. To be honest, George is really a cool guy when he is sober and we had some good conversations last night. Here is what I wrote last night and was too embarrassed to post……

The heartburn that brought on an interesting situation….

I had terrible heartburn tonight. I felt as if my esophagus was on fire. I shouldn’t have eaten that can of Hormel chili but I was being lazy and didn’t want to cook. I decided to walk down to the Piggly Wiggly and buy some Alka-Seltzers. I love those things especially the Alka-Seltzer cold version with the lemon flavoring. I bundled up, put on my fleece overall and my gloves and headed down the road on the sidewalk. It was still very damp and cool outside. I refuse to drive my car just one mile to get something that costs me less than three dollars. I would rather walk than put that wear and tear on my feeble car and waste that gasoline.

Upon arriving at the pig after walking up the stairs past the flea market, I saw George. He hurried over to me and began to ramble. Surprisingly enough, he was sober.

“I needs yo help my brotha.” George said.

“What kind of help?” I asked warily.

“I needs a place to stay tonight. I ain’t gots no home.” He replied.

“No home? What about your mother’s place. I thought you stayed with her.” I said.

“Dat bitch threw me out. Said I stole twenty dollas out of her purse.” George replied.

“Well, did you?” I asked.

“Shit naw. She be senile. She don’t be knowing what she be speakin’ about.” George said.

I have met George’s mother one time when I drove him home since he was so drunk I thought he would hurt himself or others. Yes, she is very senile and she is very outspoken but I thought she was a nice lady.

“Can I stays with you tonight?” George asked.

A thousand horror scenarios went through my mind. Should I let him spend the night? Will it be the worst decision I have ever made? Would George make my home the hangout for the Piggly Wiggly groupies and other sordid characters? My first thought was to blind fold him and take him home as they used to do on the old Batman and Robin shows from the sixties when they didn’t want to reveal the location of the bat cave.

“George, hold on a second and let me go get what I came for.” I said.

I walked inside and bought my Alka-Seltzers and also a bottle of Sunny Delight. They had the Sunny Delight on sale for 79 cents. I walked back outside and resumed our conversation.

“What it be?” George asked.

“Okay man, I am going to do you a favor and I do not want to regret it.” I said. “You have to promise me you will be cool and will not tell Slop, Cap with Tag, and Weasel where I live. You get it?”

“Old George be yo friend. I won’t say shit.” George replied.

“You can sleep upstairs in my house tonight but you will have to call your mom in the morning and make amends.” I said.

“You is my brotha. Lets go get in the car.” George replied.

We walked over to George’s car. He got in the passengers seat and I got in the drivers seat. I drove us home to my house and parked George’s beat up old Dodge diplomat in my driveway.

George is currently sitting in my lazy boy in front of the TV, watching black entertainment television, and smoking a cigar. I am sitting here in front of the computer finishing up this post.

Will I regret this? I have no idea but at least George is sober and acting cool. He is just glad to be out of the bad weather and to be in a safe place. I hope he goes up to bed soon and will call his mother in the morning and make amends. I may have created a monster though as he now knows where I live. It will make for interesting blog posts but trying real life experiences I fear. I will just hope for the best and I take solace knowing that I helped a fellow man. Well, I think I will go watch some rap videos on BET with George. It is not my favorite kind of music but I can adapt.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Of storms and urban homelessness……

We are really getting a storm this morning. The rain is coming down in blinding sheets and the rumble of thunder is almost constant. I can hear the tornado warning sirens wailing off in the distance.

The hard thing about urban homelessness is there are no shelters. If you are not lucky enough to find shelter then you have to tough it out and brave the elements. Luckily I had a very nice sturdy tent. I have a Kelty expedition style tent. The same kinds of tents used by serious mountaineers and wilderness backpackers. It has tie down hooks were you can run extra lines to trees or such to anchor it in high winds.

During my stint in homelessness in the winter here in the south, I quickly learned to take the time to use those tie downs to secure my tent after I had moved it to another location. I also learned to always seam seal my tent on a regular basis. Seam sealing is where you use a water proof paste to seal all the seams that are exposed to the weather. Nothing sucks worse to wake up to a freezing cold morning after a storm front blew through and your tent had leaked and your down sleeping bag was wet. Down doesn’t insulate well or if at all when it gets wet. That would make for a disaster and a very cold, miserable homeless person.

The storm today brings up memories of one very stormy night that I got caught off guard. I had been cooking a supper that consisted of freeze dried beef stew. I had built a big fire and used my little camp stove to boil some water. I had neglected to check the weather band on my radio. I was listening to NPR’s all things considered.

Soon, the wind began to pick up greatly and the temperature started to drop very rapidly. “Oh, Shit!” I thought. A big storm was on the way. All the signs were right. To make matters worse the sun had almost set and it was growing very dark. I thought about getting on my motorcycle and driving over here to the house but it was a 45 minute ride and I would be up shit creek if I got caught in the storm while riding.

I scrambled to get my backpack and all my gear inside my tent. I checked my guidelines and made sure they were secure and taunt. Then, the sleet started and the wind picked up to gale force. I crossed my fingers that my tent would hold. The lightening would light up my tent in great, instantaneous flashes. The only way I could stay warm was to layer my clothes and get in my sleeping bag and bundle up.

I laid in that bag for hours filled with anxiety hoping a limb wouldn’t fall on me or that my tent wouldn’t rip open or fly off. I also prayed that under such a deluge my interior would stay dry. Luckily, I made in through in spades and chalked it up as a good learning experience. Always check the weather band on a daily basis. Don’t fool around with mother nature.

There was also this adrenaline rush I experience that is hard to describe. I was out in nature and experiencing its full force. I was at the mercy of the elements and reliant upon my skills as a woodsman to survive. Would I want to do it again? Maybe not under such adverse conditions but I have camped in some pretty heavy summer thunder storms after I had gotten my home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More memories from the past….

I know I wrote earlier that I was tired and that there would not be much blogging today. As I was standing outside on my porch, I was reminiscing about my days and nights in the woods homeless and it spurred me to finish smoking my pipe and to come in and write about it.

I have been in a nostalgic mood lately. I was thinking this evening about my day’s being homeless and some of those lonely nights. I sometimes even think back about them with fondness. Things were so harsh but so simple then. I had very few responsibilities other than getting myself something to eat, avoiding extreme weather, and to do what I could to stave off hypothermia.

There were many nights I sat around the camp fire, listening to my little battery operated radio, and drinking beer. I would fight off the chill by layering my clothes and keeping a roaring fire going. The canopy of the pines above me would be lit up with the flickering glow of that fire. The fire was my safe zone; almost as if an imaginary boundary surrounded it keeping me safe from the scary unknown that lurked out in the dark beyond its comforting glow.

One of my greatest joys was viewing a clear, moonless night sky out in the country. The sky would be filled with millions of twinkling stars. I would ponder about those stars and if there were other similar beings to me making revolutions around these stars on distant planets. I would think, “Are they like us? Do they have emotions? Do they band together into cities, counties, and countries?” I would think long and hard about such questions. It made me feel less alone to believe that there were billions of beings and civilizations going about their lives above me in that deep dark void of space.

Before bed, I would drag my down sleeping bag out of my tent and unfold it. I would hold it close to the fire to warm it up and then zip it up quickly. I would then hurriedly place it in my tent and get in. I learned pretty quickly to sleep with my clothes on. I would put my shoes inside the foot of my sleeping bag to keep them warm. Nothing was more uncomfortable than putting on cold, damp shoes, socks, or blue jeans on a very cold morning.

Well, enough reminiscing tonight. I think I will go fix a pot of hot tea, smoke some more from my pipe and then sit down and write a letter to a loved one.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Writing about memories past…..

I have often spoken derogatorily about my ex-wife in the past. She caused me great heartbreak and I felt she abandoned me when I became very ill. I would have driven across the country and spent my last savings to see that she got the help she needed if she were ill. The wedding vow “in sickness and in health” echoes in my thoughts when I dwell on this matter.

I was thinking just a moment ago. What if I dwell on the good moments and write about them sometimes? We had some very good times and those are the things I should dwell on. I will always feel a certain kindness towards her despite my consternation when it concerns her. My dream is that I would someday become very wealthy and take care of her monetarily. I would never want to live with her again or be her husband but I would like to make sure she was always taken care of and had a good home, good food, and a good car.

Here is something I wrote this afternoon reminiscing about some of those good moments:

It had been a long day. The wedding went well but I was dead tired. There were so many people and so many to greet, shake hands with, and to welcome at the following reception. The time had come for us to make our departure and leave. Everyone stood outside with rice bags in hand as my father’s BMW waited under the portico of the church.

“Are you ready to get on a train?” I asked Rachel quietly standing at the door.

“I am SO ready for me and you to be alone.” She replied.

We walked outside and everyone cheered and threw their rice. We waved to everyone and quickly ran towards and climbed into the car with Charlie already in the driver’s seat.

“You two love birds ready to get on a train and start your honeymoon?” Charlie said as he grinned looking over his shoulder.

“Mr. Chauffeur, drive away!” I said goodheartedly.

My father had bought us train trip and vacation to Washington DC for our honeymoon.

We drove up to Atlanta and boarded the train at the Amtrak station. Before long, we were on our way and the train started to roll. It had become very dark and we were both very tired. We had a private room on an Amtrak sleepliner and were glad to have some privacy. Our little room was small but had two small bunk beds and a sink and toilet. I was just exhausted and climbed into the top bunk after putting on my pajamas. I could hear Rachel moving around and getting ready for bed and she turned off the lights. She was really grunting and making a lot of noise.

“What in the hell are you doing down there?” I asked as I laughed.

“Oh, just something.” She said.

“You sound as if you are in a straight jacket and are trying to get out.” I said and I could hear her laugh at what I said.

I lay back down and tried to go to sleep. The rocking of the train and the clickety clack of the rails was hypnotizing and I become so drowsy and had almost nodded off.

“Jonathon?” Rachel asked.

I didn’t answer. I was almost asleep.

“Jonathon!” Rachel said loudly to wake me up.

“What.” I mumbled

“Roll over and look down here for a moment.” Rachel said as she turned on the little light above her bunk.

I looked over the edge to find her in a drop dead see through negligee lying on her back.

“You didn’t think we wouldn’t consummate our marriage night did you?” She asked.

How with both fit on that little bunk and made love I will never know but we did. It was one of the most special times of intimacy I have ever had. We ended up sleeping the rest of night together on that cramped little bunk but slept in each other’s arms. We arrived in the morning to beautiful Washington DC and began our honeymoon.

The Homeless Guy, the Con...

(I visited Kevin’s Christmas Wish List Blog this morning and with not much surprise see that he has taken his comments down. All the comments were positive even though I and Pipe Tobacco made a shameless plug for our blogs as well. I also see on the front page that he has changed his profile description to describe his advocacy work but why doesn’t he ever write about that work in depth? This guy is a master at marketing his blog and promoting himself. It is my strong opinion that he is not really a homeless advocate but an advocate for Kevin Barbieux. He also added some really cute, feel good, Christmas graphics to the wish list blog to put you in the Christmas giving spirit. I am not a Christian but I so wanted to play the “Christmas is about Jesus’ birth and not giving card.” lol)

I will now share what I originally wrote this morning and almost published and have debated over it all morning.

I feel uncomfortable giving my limited resources to just one man on the internet. I would like my limited money to help a great deal of people and not just one. I did some research this morning and this is what I found.

Why Kevin never links to these types of organizations sometimes baffles me. These good people will be supporting him and feeding him throughout this long winter ahead. He has often extolled the virtues of this organization on his blog and could really do some good advocating for the homeless of Nashville by encouraging people to donate and giving this charity some recognition with his large readership.

The cynical and biased side of me fears he does not do so because people will give to these organizations to help him and not give to him individually. I fear he is only interested in personal gain from that blog.

Keep in mind when you give to this organization you help a lot of homeless people in Nashville and not just Kevin. If you have read Kevin’s blog a long time and want to help him then this is a good way to do it. I know I will follow through and do so as well and would like to put aside my ill feelings for the guy and help him in some small way. I will not be sending him any computers, camcorders, or DVDs in the mail though. I just don't think those things will help him get off the streets or that he will use them wisely to advocate for the homeless.

Here are a few ways to help the homeless in Nashville and Kevin as well:

A link about the Campus for Hunan Development and what they do:

Room In The Inn

How to donate or how to volunteer if you live in the Nashville area:

How can I help?

If you don't like to follow links on blogs, here is an address where you can send your contributions:

Campus for Human Development

P. O. Box 25309

Nashville, TN 37202

Arguing Relatives…

I awoke this morning to a startle at 6:30AM. What the hell is that? I heard extensive arguing going on upstairs. Yes, my visitors are still here. Most of the times when you think of very elderly people you think slow, mainly quiet and reserved. Not my relatives I assure you. I thought maybe something bad had happened such as a fall or a broken hip. I had put a phone upstairs just for this reason just in case they needed to call 911. I ran upstairs to find out what the commotion was about. I feared something very bad had happened. Keep in mind that they are both extremely hard of hearing and everything they say is a yell.

“Damn it Jessie, I am tired of waiting on you hand and foot.” Bob exclaimed. “And no, we are not buying this house. You couldn’t make it up all the stairs.”

“Buying the house?” I thought and my heart sunk. Good thing I am moving out soon and Charlie is buying this house and I have bought his.

“I am not getting out of bed and I want some breakfast.” Jessie retorted.

“You can get up and make your own damn breakfast. I am not your servant.” Bob decreed.

“Folks, folks, lets calm down.” I said. “I will fix us all something to eat.”

“Well, I am going to ride over to the house and see about the Goats.” Bob said. “I need to cool off and get out of this damn house.”

Jessie and Bob have four goats in their backyard in the city limits. I am sure this is against the law. Bob says they keep the yard clean so he doesn’t have to mow it or clean it. In reality they have turned his backyard into a brown, desolate wasteland. Goats will eat anything and everything. I find this entirely amusing. They also have a dog that was raised with the goats and thinks he is a goat and herds with them. His name is Lucky. A better named would be confused.

After Bob had left, Jessie resorted to her sweet, little old lady persona for me. Well, it was as sweet as Jessie gets. I helped her up out of the bed and grabbed her cane. I went into the other room as she got dressed.

“That Bob sure is hardheaded.” She said.

“Come on, lets go get some breakfast and we will all feel better.” I replied.

I cooked a big pot of coffee, made some grits, and some cheese toast. Bob came back over and we all sat quietly and ate as if nothing had ever happened. Just another day here at retirement home Jonathon. They may be moving back home today since it is Monday and the company called and said the part came in and they will get to work this morning. I can only hope.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A few thoughts from today…..

Okay, the Auburn/Alabama game is over. We won and now have bragging rights for another year. That gives us eleven wins and zero losses. The SEC championship is next and we play Tennessee in Atlanta. We creamed them in Knoxville earlier in the season and it will be an interesting game. Will Tennessee step up to the plate and make the second game more interesting? Only time will tell. In the southeastern conference you just never know what will happen.

On Saturday mornings I have a ritual. There is a flea market next to the Piggly Wiggly and they let individuals set up stalls outside and I like to walk down and window shop. I rarely if ever buy anything. What astounds me is the amount of software, movie, and music piracy going on in some of these stalls. A few people have learned how to use internet newsgroups for their gain and profit. They download stuff, burn them, print some nice looking covers, and then sell them at a greatly reduced price at the flea market. They have current, in the theater, movies, really cheap popular CDs, and software at a greatly reduced price. These folks were making a killing today and I wonder when and if they will get caught or shut down.

I saw Cap with Tag Guy today. George was probably nursing a hangover at his mother’s house. Cap with Tag did his usual nod hello. He was standing up against the wall listening to a walkman and you could hear his music blaring he had it so loud. He was nodding his head to the rhythm and the tag on his hat was bouncing all over the place. I have rarely, if ever, heard him speak. He reminds me of a black version of Silent Bob from Kevin Smith’s movie Clerks. I give him an A+ for dedication. He has to be the most dedicated crack dealer in this country. He is always on the job. It never fails that he is down there when I go to the flea market or the Pig.

Well, let me quit rambling. I have to help my friend, Chad, type up a professional looking business proposal and need to get started. I am going to go pick him up and bring him over here so we can work together. He wants to entice a family member to co-sign on a loan to finance buying an acre of land, drilling a well, and moving his paid for mobile home onto that property. His trailer park lot rent is killing him. They are charging him $250 a month just for lot rent. That is more than my house payment. That is ridiculous and I told him I would help him in any way he needed me. Let me quit writing about it and go do something about it. Good night.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Behind the scenes with a confessed blogger……

I was talking to Crystal tonight on the phone. She is the same person who writes The Thoughts and Opinions of a Formerly Homeless Girl. We talked a little bit about how what you see and read about us on a blog or journal is one dimensional. You only get to read what we share with you. Believe me, there are many things going on behind the scenes that are either too mundane to talk about or too personal to share and I choose not to write about them. Our lives are definitely three dimensional and our blogs and journals are sometimes one dimensional.

I also write a ton of shit that I never publish or take down within minutes after publishing. I call it diarrhea of the keyboard. I read something or something happens. It sparks an emotion or comment and off I go to write. I then think carefully of the ramifications about posting such things and read over my posts and many times I take them down. I realize I actively censor myself on a constant basis. Some of you who visit often have caught me doing this many times.

There is also this compulsive need for me to hit the publish button in blogger. It is almost a release and I feel that I have given away or shared something of myself. Sometimes it brings anxiety as I go back to read what I have published and it comes across as too harsh or too judgmental. You will find me quickly backpedaling and hitting the draft button to remove it. Maybe it would be an interesting experiment for me to share these posts and see the reaction. Are my fears unfounded or are they real?

I will share a post I wrote today but I then choose to censor myself after publishing it. People read when I vent on certain subjects and think I am obsessing over something too much. Believe me, it is a spur of the moment thing. I feel the urge to write and vent and do so. I do not spend my whole day worrying about what the homeless guy is doing. I probably hit his blog maybe once a day now but it often spurs me to write and spurs an opinion. I feel I have the moral and ethical obligation to write about such things being a formerly homeless man and I want good things to come from homeless blogs. I hope that what I write about will influence a few people who are interested in this issue. At least, they will get to see a dissenting view; the view from a man who was also homeless.

Well, here is that post in its entirety. If I published everything I write then I would have tons of content.

Looking back at yesteryear

It is almost that time. This time last year I became homeless and it invades my thoughts a lot recently. That is why I have been so interested in homelessness recently. I had just got back from a vacation to London. It was a gift to my ex-wife that was coerced out of me. She actually used my future big SSDI check to finance it. She put it on our credit card with the hopes that when the check of over $5000 dollars arrived it would be paid off. Little did I know that within a week of arriving home from London I would be homeless. I would be living in a tent in the woods. My whole life would come crashing down around me.

I was very Ill at the time with my mental illness. I refused to take my medications out of the fear they were controlling my thoughts and mind. I was seeing things and getting messages from the television. I thought God was sending these divine messages with great meaning that I would soon decipher and help the world. I was very delusional.

I also began to withdraw from life and shut down. Little things grew hard for me to do such as bathe and brush my teeth. I was always a spiffy dresser and I found myself just putting on old t-shirts and old shorts. I would not get a haircut or shave. I also turned to heavy drinking to quell my illness and my despair. A found a friend in that beer can and congregated with him often. That supposed friend would turn out to be one of my biggest vices.

I will never forget that day the police came and escorted me to the curb in front of an old, dumpy convenience store. I sat out there for days crying and lost. People would drive by slowly and stare. I knew what they were thinking, “That is John Minter’s son and he is nuts and homeless. It’s sad. He comes from such a nice, prominent family.” No one stopped to help though. I finally came to the realization that I had to get off that curb and get out of sight. I had to find a safe place to regroup and collect myself. I managed to get my motorcycle and headed for the woods with all my camping gear in tow. It would turn out to be five long months.

I will never forget those long, cold, lonely nights tucked in my sleeping bag trying to stay warm and that spooky, still quietness that fills the forest on a very cold, sub freezing night. That far off lonesome cry of a coyote as you lay there with nothing but your thoughts to keep you company. I will also never take the convenience of a stove or refrigerator for granted again. Cooking and trying to get up meals on a campfire is not fun to do all the time. The smell of a campfire still brings back a thousand memories. I spent many hours trying to gather the wood to keep myself warm.

My one safe haven was my grandmother’s old home where I currently reside. At the time no one lived here and it was used for storage. I had an old key and luckily it still worked. My apartment was filled to the brim with old antiques and boxes of old memories and books. I barely had a place to sit. I managed to get my computer from my ex-wife and set it up down here. I also managed to coerce her into keeping the internet bill in her name and that I would pay her monthly. She was always very lazy about taking care of things and I knew she would not likely go to the trouble to call and cancel the internet bill as long as she got the money from me. I moved over the cable modem and it worked despite being across town and in a different house. I was back online. About that time I discovered blogs and started one of my own.

I remember sitting here in front of the computer. The temperature would hover around fifty degrees inside but there was no wind like outside and I could stay reasonably warm. I learned to heavily layer my clothes and to wear thermal underwear. Coming over here during the day let me escape from the harsh reality that had become my life. I could get online to read and pass the time. I learned how to write about my experiences and to read others as well. The internet was one of my only pleasures and it made a big difference during that time.

I also remember the constant fear of getting caught over here. I took great pains to never move anything around or change things. Everything was left looking as it did before I arrived. Nothing was kept out of place down to the smallest details. I was on constant lookout for someone driving up and would run hide in the shower or the walk in closet. I had a few close calls and I will never forget that cold, rainy, blustery night that I gave in and decided to forego my tent and sleeping bag and sleep in the closet on some quilts. I needed some comfort so badly. My heart froze as I heard my father open the door and step in. I heard his footsteps outside the closet within feet of my head. I just knew I had been discovered and was going to jail for trespassing. My family feared me and didn’t trust me.

I learned a lot from those experiences and my life has changed much in a year. Yes, some good things came out of being homeless. The changes would take another post just to list but here are some important things. I no longer take things for granted and relish the little things in my life that went over looked before. I cherish and actively work on my relationships with my family. I care about them and support them and they do the same for me. I understand the value and importance of money and manage it wisely. I have a burning desire to go out and help others in need. For the first time in my life I have a calling and real goals. I could go on and on about how much I have changed but just let you read these few I have listed.

I have much more to work on and still have many faults and failings. There will be times you will read and wonder if I am getting off course but I hope this does not happen often. Please remember that I am only human and am fallible. I hope to share with you readers many more successes and accomplished goals ahead. The next year shines bright ahead and I am excited. There is so much I want to do and change and to grow on. I hope in the months ahead you will be reading about a burgeoning social worker and his desire to make a difference in the world. Thanks as always for reading and the kind support you have shown me. If there is anything I can do in return then just ask.



Dear Homeless Guy,

I saw a comment on Pipe Tobacco’s blog about a certain Dear Abby post Kevin made. It piqued my interest and I navigated over to check it out. After reading it I felt alarmed and concerned. This is what I originally wanted to write in response…..

Dear Homeless Guy,

I want to ask you to please refrain from giving advice about maladjusted twenty something year olds. I know the mother did ask you but my personal opinion is that you are not trained or proficient in dealing with such situations. Please refer future cases to someone professionally trained to help and give advice in such matters. I feel that would be the best way to help the mother and son.


I felt for the mother whose son seems to be teetering on homelessness. I would like to urge the mother to seek out professional help for her son such as a counselor or therapist and not just some homeless guy who happens to write a blog. Someone trained in family therapy and who might not have all the answers but who could help guide the mother and son. They could help find resources and avenues that have not been explored. I really want to lean on the verge of not offering advice in this matter other than seeking trained, professional help. Do that and go from there.

What alarmed me the most was that this mother was actively seeking help on the internet and found a very prominent website dealing with homelessness. I assume she searched in a search engine about homelessness and as always “The Homeless Guy” pops up on the first page of links. I guess she assumed after reading that this guy writes pretty well and sounds intelligent so maybe he can help. My opinion is that someone whose track record is being mainly homeless for a very large extended period of time and who still happens to be is not a good place to go for advice on getting out of homelessness or staying out of it. Even I who have managed to work my way out of homelessness am not a good avenue of advice as each situation is extremely unique and requires professional help. There are people such as caseworkers, social workers, doctors, counselors, and therapists that have years of experience dealing with such issues and could better guide people to the resources and avenues of help they need.

Geez, I get diarrhea of the keyboard sometimes. I read something and off to write I go. It feels so good to get my thoughts down though. All these thoughts whirling around in my head and then I take the time to put them down and organize them. It is almost as if I get in a trance and look up after writing awhile and thirty minutes have passed. Well, let me go get a shower and head out to the clinic. I am running late today and need to get on the ball. They are expecting me this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A blast of heat

It hit me as I opened the door. A blast of heat emanated from the door as I opened it actually causing the night time air to shiver and wave around me as if I was looking across a scorching desert landscape. I had driven over to my friend Chad’s house to deliver that computer I put together for him. I had just arrived home.

Upon walking upstairs my fears were confirmed. They had the thermostat set on 82 degrees. 28 degrees for you Canadians, eh? I normally only use a small efficient gas heater in my little apartment in the basement and it is very cost effective. I am apt to just put on a sweater or fleece pull over and like my apartment to be cool. I do have central heating and air but it heats the whole, large house and I never turn it on. I could picture the gas meter needle spinning around wildly in a circle as my monthly budget goes to hell. I have to keep in mind that there are three very elderly people staying with me tonight and their comfort levels are very different from mine. But 82 degrees? Don’t you think 76 or 78 are a little more reasonable? Sigh, oh well, they will only be here for a few more days and hopefully my gas bill will not be skyrocket high.

I managed to get us up a good supper though. I had the good fortune of a large pot of dried black eyed peas soaking in the fridge. I was going to cook them and freeze them in individual freezer bags. I cooked those and made some meatloaf via a tried and true recipe from the Baptist Bounty cookbook. I also made some mashed potatoes and a pan of cornbread. Everyone seemed pleased and Bob even ate thirds.

Hopefully, my visitors are now blissfully asleep. I think I still hear the dull drone of the TV upstairs though. Maybe they went to bed and left it on. I am tired and think a nice hot shower and a few chapters of a good book are in order. I think I will even smoke my pipe inside tonight. Hell, its hot enough in here that the tobacco may just ignite without using a lighter. I am going now to close off those vents and get it cool in here before bed. Good night.

My Great Auntie Myrtis

(Just some daily rambling here today)

I had a visitor last night. My great aunt came and spent the night with me. I had to take her to the ophthalmologist this morning and then go order her some new glasses. She lost her old pair. Those responsibilities are taken care of and she is now sleeping away the afternoon upstairs. She has elevated pressure in her right eye and will have to put in drops three times a day. This is going to be interesting. I watched as she tried the drops but she couldn’t get them in her eye. Her hands shake too badly and it, nine times out of ten, lands on her cheek. She lives 45 minutes away from me in another town so it’s not like I can just hop in the car and go put them in. I couldn’t afford the gas and I doubt she would pay me to do it. Besides, it would be hundreds of miles a week and my old car would most likely disintegrate on the roadway. I am keeping the thing running and together with duct tape and bubble gum.

I realize I am going to have to hire someone to come by everyday and put in the drops. I will do some calling around to some family friends and see if I can procure somebody. My aunt will not want to pay them and has already argued with me about it. I told her she will loose the eye if she doesn’t get serious and put those drops in. That quelled her protests for the time being. The main problem is that she is cantankerous and ornery and most people actively choose to avoid her. You run the risk of getting accused of various sundries if you hang around too much and our family friends shy away from her. Good thing money talks and people listen. That is the only way someone would come and see about this for me. I hate calling people on the phone though and asking for favors. It makes me uncomfortable but I have to do what I have to do.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sticking to it…

I am tired. It has been a busy day. I stayed up too late last night goofing off and reading the internet. Before I knew it, I was after midnight. I spent all morning over at my house painting and doing little odd jobs to get it ready. I take great satisfaction just being over there and looking around. I think, “This is my home; my very own home.” It makes me proud and excited. I like watching it come together and slowly but surely things are starting to look great. I hope to move in around Christmas if all goes as planned. My father’s illness and surgery kind of set things back a bit.

Volunteering was good today. I sometimes wonder if what little I do is helping. I do mainly secretarial type tasks. I do realize that the clinic has limited resources and my time is a valuable resource. The little tasks I do free up someone else’s resources and time to do more important things. I enjoy sitting outside and talking to the people as they sit and smoke waiting to see the doctor or a counselor. I get to hear some very interesting stories. You think you have had a hard time and then you hear people talk about their lives. It makes me realize that we all have struggles and obstacles to overcome. Some have more than others.

One thing I do like is using my sometimes vast seeming days doing something good. Before I started work on my home and started volunteering, I had huge amounts of time on my hands. I have little money and gas is expensive so I just couldn’t get out and ride around all day and go places. That meant I was stuck here at home with little to do but get on the internet and browse. I used to enjoy camping all the time but it triggers my desire to drink. Camping out was prime time drinking time for me. Maybe some day I will be able to camp again but doing so sober and still enjoy it.

Things will only get busier as I start school after Christmas. I am taking 15 semester hours and my days Monday through Thursday will be filled with class and volunteering. My nights will be spent studying I hope. I do so hope I am diligent and stick with this. My fears want to trip me up and stifle me. I fear I will not be able to transfer to Auburn; that they will not accept me in. I fear that like many times in my life I start out gung ho and eventually run out of steam. Take it one step at a time, Andrew, just one step at a time. Yes, that is going to be my mantra for the next few years.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Pilot Light Conspiracy

Spending what I did today has my mind turned towards money matters and budgets. What did I do tonight that is also expensive? Well, read along as I explain. (This is mainly just written out of boredom and I felt like writing.)

It has turned very cool here in the south. I am sitting here watching my gas heater burn. I broke down tonight and turned it on low. Let me paint a picture of what this looks like to me……

Picture an animated burning dollar bill. I couldn’t find one on the web but I only searched like 1 second. I am being lazy and do not want to have to upload it to my FTP server and then link it so bare with me and use your imagination. Come on, you know it is fun. Did you picture the burning dollar bill?

You have to picture my apartment here. If you remember some of the pictures I uploaded and showed on my former blog then you know it is full of windows. These windows are of some 1960’s design and are glass slates that are opened with a crank. You can see my blinds move with the slightest breeze outdoors as they do not seal well.

Tonight I turned on the heat. I am being a wuss and it is really chilly in here. The ambient temperature was in the fifties Fahrenheit. (Around 12 degrees Celsius for you Canadians, eh?) Normally, I just put on some long johns and a fleece pullover but tonight I gave in. I have gone countless times to stand in front of that gas heater and warm my hands and butt. It is very comforting but my budget this month is going to hell.

I have learned one trick. I unscrewed the grate on the heater and light it with a lighter. I do not use the pilot light. I think the pilot light is a conspiracy by the gas company to make a few extra bucks per customer per month. It is convenient but expensive. Me? I just lift the grate and use a cheap 35 cent lighter to ignite the heater; watching that pilot light burn makes me cringe.

Luckily, my new home is very well insulated and efficient. I am ready to move in and be more comfortable. Well, I better run. This is just a quick peek into the life of a cheap bastard. Hehe :^)

Two trips to Wal-Mart in one day are hell

I needed a printer for school and I got a sales paper from Wal-Mart in the mail today. Their little marketing strategy worked on me. It was $39.63 for a Hewlett Packard deskjet 3740 printer and it was listed in the sales paper. Wow, that is cheap I thought. I spent over $100 for a printer for Rachel when I was married. I didn’t need anything fancy; just something to mainly print papers for school. I will also have to register online for the spring semester and will have to print out my class schedule from the internet.

So I drive all the way down there and pick up one of those printers. Did I mention I hate shopping and I especially hate Wal-Mart? Yes, this was a trip out of utmost need. I would never go down there unless I absolutely had to have something. This was the first time I have been shopping in months and months. I get everything home and unpack the box. WTF? No USB cable and no black print cartridge? Ah, I thought, no wonder this printer was so cheap. I should have read the fine print on the box but was in a hurry to get the hell out of that place.

I get in the car and drive back down there. A USB cable was $12.99 and the black print cartridge was $18.74. This little sale was quickly growing expensive. No way was I going to pay for that Belkin USB cable. Surely the cable from my old scanner that I haven’t used in years will work. I gambled and it did. I did have to buy the black print cartridge and that ate into my weekly grocery money. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be on the menu for a few lunches this week. Those print cartridges are such a rip off and by the look of the size of that thing they don’t last very long either.

I also needed paper and it was $4.74 for a pack of Hewlett Packard brand inkjet paper. I looked around and they didn’t have any generic brand packs of paper. I decided to check Family Dollar and hope they might have inkjet paper on the way home. Good news! They had 100 page packs for $1 each. At least I came out good on the paper front and the cheap paper works just fine.

The Total Bill ------- $65.20

That little sale of $39.63 almost doubled. That’s why I hate shopping and know that sales are rarely really bargains. I should know better but I did have to have that printer for school.

Work Place Politics

This is one of my major concerns about going back to work. I know I am jumping ahead and do not even have a degree yet but I am thinking about these issues. I saw this personal code of conduct in the workplace and wanted to share it. I found it on the New Social Worker forums. Some of these would be wise to implement in any work setting.

(When I worked at the University as a research technician, the work place politics baffled me. I now think that I would still have that job if I followed some of these guidelines.)

1. Never talk about any colleague in any way ...no buts, complaints, compliments, nothing.

2. Never "play along" with someone else who talks about a colleague. Don't agree, disagree, or anything. If they are complaining about, criticizing, or otherwise demeaning the person, ask if they have documented evidence. If they say "no", tell them you don't want to hear it. If they say "yes" then tell them they need to take the action they feel is appropriate. (Judgment call on whether you should support them in follow up, keeping in mind that you don't have the documentation or know if it is valid.)

3. Always follow up on concerns over ethical issues. When I have genuine, documented concern, I take it to the appropriate person (which, may or may not be the person I am concerned about). Often, this can be clarified and shown as reasonable.

4. Always remember that the client is number one. Their safety comes before my comfort. This does not mean to jump into someone else’s intervention!

5. Always consider what others tell you as confidential...unless they say, specifically, that it is not. Even when they do state that it isn't, lean on the side of caution and consider it confidential. Their tales are their tales.

6. My colleagues are not my best friends. My close friends are drawn from my Church/Mosque/Clan and my neighborhood. I appreciate colleagues on a different level.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

On Blogging and Homelessness

Somehow blogging got misconstrued as some private endeavor that should be treated as such. I disagree. A blog is a public space on the internet where people congregate to read about each other’s lives and their thoughts and ideas. It can be a powerful tool for getting your voice heard or causing change however small. I found the biggest change coming from my blog in me. I have learned to think and put down my ideas in a way where others can read them. I find it very therapeutic to be able to organize and write down my thoughts and aspirations. I also have the ability to get comments from those of you that have read. Sometimes they are just support and encouragement comments and other times they have been suggestions and advice that I have put to work in my real life. Through the comments, I have learned to listen to what others have to say and to use advice and not always think that my way is the only way.

When I was homeless and would ride over here everyday on my motorcycle to get on the internet and get out of the cold, I would eagerly anticipate the comments I would get. Sometimes it would even make me nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. Here I was writing about my life and very personally for all to see. I shared some of my best moments and some of my hardest as well. All in all people were kind and supportive and you don’t know how much that meant to me. To log on and find out that people were reading what I had to write and they wanted to see me overcome the obstacles in my life. That meant a lot to me and I appreciated it very much. I still do and will never forget it.

When we write a blog and start to garner a readership you take on a certain amount of responsibility. Especially when you write a blog that has central theme such as mental illness or homelessness. People begin to expect certain things out of you and hope you make the right decisions. When I first started blogging, I wanted to be a homeless success story. I didn’t want to be like the many homeless blogs I had read where the person flounders in squalor and homelessness. I wanted to show you all that it could be overcome and that with hard work and diligence I could change my situation. I am proud to report that things have come a long way but still have a ways to go. I am still embarking on that journey out of homelessness. But now I have some great successes under my belt and it instills confidence and a drive to go ever onward.

Okay, so I have written a little about blogging and what it has meant to me and what I think about it. I have also written about comments and the responsibility that comes with a blog that deals with a central theme such as mental illness or homelessness. I now want to steer my course to what I mainly wanted to talk about today: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! There seems to be this invisible boundary that we are afraid to cross when it comes to asking a blog author questions about his experiences and what he is doing to help. It is as if we will come across as rude or nosey or if a blog is this personal sacred space that shall not be desecrated. A personal warning sign that pops up now for me is when a popular blog that deals with a very sensitive or controversial subject does not have comments; especially when they are using that controversial subject for gain and claiming to be an advocate for that cause or subject. Immediately little red flags pop up in my head and I grow wary.

You have a right to ask questions and get answers especially when it is a blog based on a subject that effects a great deal of people. I wish people would ask more questions that need to be asked such as the ones below and these are some questions I need to answer as well…..(these are just some general ideas)

a) You claim to be an advocate for the homeless, what are you doing and how are you helping? What are your ideas for lessening homelessness in our cities?
b) How are you putting the funds and material things generated from your blog to work helping the homeless and others? Have you ever given monetarily to the very shelters and systems that support you?
c) Mental illness is a touchy subject with many and people tip toe around the issues. How can you better make people understand that by talking about it we can remove some of the stigma involved and get people help?
d) You want a computer from your readers and claim it will help in your advocacy work. How will you use this computer to help advocate for the homeless instead of just personal gain or entertainment? Give us some tangible ideas and then write about it so we can see it implemented.

I will reiterate again, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I would expect these same questions to be asked of me as well. It is your money and your good will that is being used here. Would you not expect a shelter you gave a large sum to, to be accountable for that generous offer? You would want that generosity going to help people as you intended and not just to make the shelter workers more comfortable. I know I would want to be able to step into a shelter and see my money going to good work and any shelter that has nothing to hide would welcome you in and show you around. They would encourage you to get involved and to ask questions.

Well, I will close as I am starting to lose my train of thought and this essay is spinning out of my control. I am starting to lose the focus that I began with. Don’t forget that you have a right to ask questions and that a blog author who is using a controversial subject as his central tenet has a responsibility to you and others and should be forth coming about his blog and what he is doing to help. I would expect no less from my self.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Computers for friends in need

I got off on a tangent this evening instead of my regular routine. My friend Chad is deeply interested in trying out this internet thing. He is stuck at home with no car and nothing to do but watch television all day. We reacquainted recently out at the mental health clinic where I am volunteering. He gets his meds and sees the doctor out there.

I was talking to him about blogs and all the neat things you can do with a computer nowadays this evening on the phone and he badly wanted to get involved. I managed to piece together a computer out of parts that I had lying around. My ex-wife recently brought a whole box of my old spare computer parts. I was an avid computer builder when I had my truck driving job and a good income.

Here is the box I put together and got running. I feel very satisfied with my accomplishment tonight.

AMD Athlon 1600+ processor
Old Antec case and power supply
512 MB DDR266 ram
Maxtor 7200rpm 10 GB hard drive
Abit nforce2 motherboard
ATI Rage pro 32 MB video card
Sound blaster Live! sound card
Old generic 56k modem

Everything is working perfectly and I got windows installed. I even managed to find drivers for that old modem. I cannot wait to get him hooked up and on the web. I also cannot wait to see his face when I bring over the computer. It will be a big surprise for him as he is on a very limited income as I am. The only things he will need are a keyboard, speakers, and a monitor. I am going to hit the local thrift stores and goodwill and see if I can find some used ones Monday. If not, maybe I can persuade him to spend a little money at Wal-Mart for a cheap monitor, keyboard and some speakers.

Who knows, we may have the next blogging hit on our hands. Chad has an interesting story to tell and has had much life experience. I think the internet will be time much better spent than sitting in front of the TV drinking beer and smoking cigarettes all day. At least he can interact and learn via the web. I look forward to showing him the ropes and helping him start out exploring the internet. I also look forward to sharing some of the wonderful blogs I have encountered over this past year as a new blogger user.

A return to Protestantism

I was asked a simple question yesterday by my grandmother.

“What religion are you? And have you been going to church?” She asked.

“I am a secular humanist. I do not go to church.” I replied.

She looked kind of confused and her face was contorted.

“You mean you are not a Christian?” She asked. “Everybody is either a Christian or a Jew in America.”

I love my grandmother but her ignorance on religion in America astounded me. I started to explain that there are many other religions other than Christianity and Judaism practiced in our country but decided it was a lost cause. In her case the old adage you can’t teach an old dog new tricks ringed true.

My grandmother was fervently caught up in the religious right movement that swept the south that has always historically voted democrat. She was one of the staunchest Bush supporters I met during the campaign days. She would ask me who I was voting for and I would just say that I was undecided to stay out of a fruitless discussion or argument.

“What is a secular humanist? Sounds like atheism to me. I call a stone a stone.” She said.

My grandmother couldn’t come to terms that her oldest grandchild was not a Christian. I explained in round about terms what a secular humanist is and what I believe in. For those of you unfamiliar with secular humanism, here are some guidelines I go by:

• A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
• Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
• A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
• A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
• A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
• A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
• A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.

One of my biggest fears is that America is shifting back to Protestantism not like the 1930’s but more like the 1690’s! I see an eroding of the separation of church and state. The issue of creationism being taught in our schools is often on the local school board agendas. There is also this underlying chord of intolerance that scares me the most and I fear much of it is fostered by fundamentalist religious thinking.

Our conversation turned to morals.

“You cannot have morals if you are not a Christian. That concerns me Jonathon.” My grandmother said.

One does not need to have religion to have morality I explained. I do not just go out and kill someone because no one is looking and I can get away with it. I know that murder is wrong despite not being a Christian. I do not need some arcane commandment to tell me the difference between right or wrong.
My grandmother finally gave up trying to convert me and I could see the pain in her face. It was not an easy moment for me or her. I told her I will always love her and I am a good, moral man. Being a secular humanist does not make me some evil, immoral atheist. Sadly, the majority of less informed Christians would think so like my grandmother. I am slowly coming to the realization that in the current grassroots religious movement and the renewed focus of religion in mainstream politics that it is better for me to keep my views on religion to myself. I fear the intolerance I have often seen will be turned towards me and my views and I will be ostracized. This is one of the problems living in a small rural southern town where there is a church in almost every neighborhood and everyone is a Christian.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Gaining from homelessness

One of the reasons I originally took down this blog was I didn’t want to be grouped with “homeless bloggers”. I saw no real benefit for the homeless coming from some of the more popular blogs and it alarmed me. It helps the individual homeless person but not the homeless as a whole. It takes the actual person who is homeless or formerly homeless to go out and make a difference and not hope that difference will find you on the web. I fear people read these blogs for entertainment value and very few readers are actual advocates or people trying to make a difference.

I do read several homeless blogs mainly out of curiosity even though they sometimes irritate me. I have to keep in mind that blogging is a personal endeavor and the blog is an outward extension of the individual with all their faults, failings, and successes. The homeless guy, for example, is a blog written by just one guy who is homeless in Nashville. He is not representative of the homeless population in Nashville at all. He is articulate and savvy with marketing his blog. He is able to reasonably put his thoughts down for you to read. He is atypical in that he doesn’t suffer from some of the more hardcore problems that many homeless people face such as addiction, cold, hunger, and isolation. But there I am generalizing. I only know him through his writings and not the man himself. For all I know, what he writes and who he really is are vastly different animals. You really can’t experience or understand homelessness just through one man’s writings on a blog. Homelessness is multi-faceted and varies from situation to situation. My situation, Crystal’s situation, James’ situation, Morgan’s situation, and lastly Kevin’s situation are vastly different. Our experiences with homelessness were completely different other than one single factor: We didn’t have a home to call our own.

I have often thought about what bugs me so much about Kevin’s blog and others. At first, maybe I thought it was jealousy but I put that down quickly. I do not desire to be the internet spokesperson for the homeless nor do I want to gain things from you out of pity or persuasion. Gaining things: that hit a nerve with me as I wrote it. I guess what alarms me that there are millions of people stricken in poverty and who are homeless and one guy who has gained an audience is using homelessness for his own benefit and not the real benefit of others. Maybe I am particularly sensitive since I was homeless for a time as well and know what it feels like to be hungry, cold, and so lonesome that you cry around the hour and wish you were dead. I want to cry out in disgust when I see him ask for and get such things as computers, DVD’s, and other non essential things and he is still homeless. I don’t mind the guy getting things but I wish they where things that would actually help him get off the streets and not make him the avant garde equivalent of a homeless Hollywood director or artist. So many people are hurting and living without and some guy is using homelessness to gain stupid things; things that only go to make him more comfortable and do nothing to help the homeless. I want to cry out to these kind people that are giving and tell them to help all homeless people, give to a shelter, give to a food bank, give something to help all homeless people and not just one savvy, articulate guy on the web.

I have noticed that this is a touchy subject with many of you who read his blog as well. I often get lots of emails when I post about this subject. A lot of people who also have blogs (some homeless and formerly homeless) are quick to agree with me and to encourage me but never write about this in their own blogs. It as if they are afraid to tell the truth or fear the guy for some reason. Kevin thinks that it some kind of honor to be linked on his page if you are a homeless or a formerly homeless blogger. Maybe some are afraid to bring about his internet wrath.

People are quick to use the Mental Illness card on me when it regards Kevin. They tell me I should be more understanding and kind since I too suffer from mental illness. That’s just it, I do understand. I understand that I have a responsibility to myself and others regarding my mental illness. I have a responsibility to seek out help and to obtain treatment. I have a responsibility to my family and my friends to do what it takes to stay healthy. I should not use it to play on your sympathies or to gain things from you. There are millions of people who suffer in some form of mental illness or another. They want one thing: To get well and live a good life. I have a good notion that Kevin cringes when he reads anyone sticking up for him because he has a mental illness. I have seen this done often.

I hope this little essay didn’t come off as a rant. I didn’t write it with feelings of anger or resentment. My main feeling was concern; concern for all the homeless people that have no voice or who cannot write a blog and gain things such as Kevin. I feel safe in saying that the majority of homeless people could not do what he has done. I want you all to remember as Christmas approaches that there are plenty of homeless people to help and not just Kevin and his blog. People with no families and homes will go without this season and need your help for simple things. These people do not want computers or DVD’s. They want your friendship, a good meal, and warmth. They want to know someone cares enough to extend a helping hand. The money spent on one computer to the homeless guy could feed a whole shelter full of people Christmas dinner. Please think of all homeless people and not just one homeless guy who happens to be very visible on the internet. If you want to help Kevin, help him by helping local churches and the Room in the Inn program. Donate to help all the Nashville homeless. That is where you can make the most difference and you can help “the homeless guy” as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Walking a day in my shoes

I am bleary eyed and wasted this morning. I only got 3 hours of sleep last night. I think it was because my medication had run out. My appointment for my meds was last Thursday and we had all those medical things going on with my father and I had to reschedule. I tossed and turned and just laid in the bed thinking until 4 AM this morning. I hate nights like that. I felt like I was running out of time and that if I didn’t get to sleep soon my whole day tomorrow would be shot. I watched as the hours and minutes ticked by on my bedside alarm clock.

My risperidone shot was this morning. Thank goodness as I could very much tell the absence of my medication. One of the last things my father said to me as I left his hospital room yesterday was to be sure to go and get my shot in the morning. With all he had going on and not feeling well, he was determined I get to Dr. Kamath’s office and get that injection.

I was a guinea pig today as I had this new, young nurse. She opened the box and looked at all the miscellaneous pieces. It can look daunting the first time. She sat there and read the instructions for the longest time. I finally spoke up.

“You want me to help you with that?” I asked.

“You know how to do it?” She asked back.

“I have done it countless times.” I replied.

I proceeded to make up the injection and prepare it. She watched as I deftly put everything together.

“You make it look easy.” She said.

“It really is easy after you do it once or twice.” I said.

The hardest part is to bare my ass to a stranger. I am very modest when it comes to exposing myself. I have learned to wear loose fitting pull up athletic shorts to make the process easier. All I have to do is pull down my pants slightly to one side and do not have to do the full moon.

“Big stick!” The young nurse said.

No matter how many times you get this done there is a short moment of anxiety and tension. Sometimes the injection is very painful and other times you barely feel it. I never know how the experience will unfold.

“All done, hon.” She said.

I pulled up my pants, said thanks, and headed back to the reception area to schedule another appointment.

On my drive home, I thought how much this simple act of going every two weeks and getting this shot has changed my life; a change very much for the better. I remembered all of the anti-psychiatry and anti-medication websites I have read and thought, “If you could only walk a few weeks in my shoes.”

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Not so race relations

A few words to describe my great aunt first: She was born in 1918. She was the youngest child of 8 children. She grew up in the great depression and times were tough. This has had an enormous affect on her and still to this day influences her. She always lived with a family member such as my great grandfather, her brother, or her sister. She never married and never once dated. These last few years since her sister died is the first time she has ever lived alone. She also has a lot of out dated, prejudiced, and old school beliefs that were characteristic of the lower class Deep South from her generation. I always have to keep this in mind with dealing with her.

Lately, she has had an older black man coming around to do odd jobs for her around the house. Mainly outside work such as raking leaves and trimming the shrubs. She pays him in the odd dollar amount or through homemade canned items or preserves. She calls him “that little nigger boy, Jerry” even though Jerry is in his fifties and quite a bit older than me. I cringe when she says this but there is not much I can do.

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the back parlor reading a book, I heard a knock on the door. It was Jerry. I opened the door but he would not come in so I stepped outside.

Jerry was dressed in some heavy denim over alls over a white long sleeve t-shirt and wore heavy worn work boots. He had graying hair and a two and three day unshaven stubble on his face. His eyes were the yellow color of old, worn ivory.

“Hey Jerry.” I said as I shook his hand.

“Ya got some work for me to do round here today?” He asked.

“I will ask my Aunt, Jerry. Hold on a second.” I replied.

My great aunt came shuffling slowly to the door. I stood to the side and listened.

“Mrs. Myrtis, I need a few dollars and was wondering if you would let me do an odd job around the house.” Jerry asked.

“I don’t have any money.” My great aunt said and she was lying. “I will pay you in 4 jars of peach preserves.”

Jerry looked forlorn and this was not the answer he wanted to hear.

“Mrs. Mrytis, I need some cash so I will walk on over to Chuck’s house and see if he needs some work done.” Jerry said.

My great aunt recapitulated and gave in. Her little bargaining strategy didn’t work.

“Alright, Jerry, I will pay you ten dollars to get up all the leaves around the fruit trees. I don’t want no nigger man taking advantage of me so you get up the leaves and I will pay you ten dollars afterwards.” She said.

I sighed loudly when my great aunt said this and Jerry looked at me with a smile. Jerry accepted the offer and headed out across to the barn to get a rake and drop cloth. I walked out with him to have a talk with him for a few moments.

“Jerry, don’t you let her talk to you like that and use you. She will if you let her.” I said.

“I know Mrs. Myrtis and she don’t bother me. Everyone in town knows how she be.” Jerry said.

I slipped Jerry another ten dollars and he graciously accepted.

“Jerry, you are a better man than me and twenty dollars should be what you get paid to get up all those leaves. Just don’t tell my great aunt I did this.” I said.

A little while later, I got out and helped Jerry finish up. I knew if my great aunt saw me helping Jerry then she would not want to pay him. Luckily, she was taking a nap.

Not so race relations

A few words to describe my great aunt first: She was born in 1918. She was the youngest child of 8 children. She grew up in the great depression and times were tough. This has had an enormous affect on her and still to this day influences her. She always lived with a family member such as my great grandfather, her brother, or her sister. She never married and never once dated. These last few years since her sister died is the first time she has ever lived alone. She also has a lot of out dated, prejudiced, and old school beliefs that were characteristic of the lower class Deep South from her generation. I always have to keep this in mind with dealing with her.

Lately, she has had an older black man coming around to do odd jobs for her around the house. Mainly outside work such as raking leaves and trimming the shrubs. She pays him in the odd dollar amount or through homemade canned items or preserves. She calls him “that little nigger boy, Jerry” even though Jerry is in his fifties and quite a bit older than me. I cringe when she says this but there is not much I can do.

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the back parlor reading a book, I heard a knock on the door. It was Jerry. I opened the door but he would not come in so I stepped outside.

Jerry was dressed in some heavy denim over alls over a white long sleeve t-shirt and wore heavy worn work boots. He had graying hair and a two and three day unshaven stubble on his face. His eyes were the yellow color of old, worn ivory.

“Hey Jerry.” I said as I shook his hand.

“Ya got some work for me to do round here today?” He asked.

“I will ask my Aunt, Jerry. Hold on a second.” I replied.

My great aunt came shuffling slowly to the door. I stood to the side and listened.

“Mrs. Myrtis, I need a few dollars and was wondering if you would let me do an odd job around the house.” Jerry asked.

“I don’t have any money.” My great aunt said and she was lying. “I will pay you in 4 jars of peach preserves.”

Jerry looked forlorn and this was not the answer he wanted to hear.

“Mrs. Mrytis, I need some cash so I will walk on over to Chuck’s house and see if he needs some work done.” Jerry said.

My great aunt recapitulated and gave in. Her little bargaining strategy didn’t work.

“Alright, Jerry, I will pay you ten dollars to get up all the leaves around the fruit trees. I don’t want no nigger man taking advantage of me so you get up the leaves and I will pay you ten dollars afterwards.” She said.

I sighed loudly when my great aunt said this and Jerry looked at me with a smile. Jerry accepted the offer and headed out across to the barn to get a rake and drop cloth. I walked out with him to have a talk with him for a few moments.

“Jerry, don’t you let her talk to you like that and use you. She will if you let her.” I said.

“I know Mrs. Myrtis and she don’t bother me. Everyone in town knows how she be.” Jerry said.

I slipped Jerry another ten dollars and he graciously accepted.

“Jerry, you are a better man than me and twenty dollars should be what you get paid to get up all those leaves. Just don’t tell my great aunt I did this.” I said.

A little while later, I got out and helped Jerry finish up. I knew if my great aunt saw me helping Jerry then she would not want to pay him. Luckily, she was taking a nap.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Mrs. Complicated

I only wanted one simple thing. That’s all. Just one simple phone call and things got complicated. Why I didn’t just make the phone call myself, I do not know. Maybe is has to do with my phobias surrounding the phone or maybe I was just passing the buck.

“What are you doing over here?” My father asked from his chair in the den.

“I need mom to do something.” I replied.

“You are treading in dangerous waters, son.” He said as he laughed and I walked on by ignoring his warning and should have known better. Nothing concerning my mother is simple.

I walked down the long hall to my mother’s bedroom. I opened the door and walked to the bedside. My mother’s cat stared at me warily whilst lying atop her side. I call her possum as that is what she looks like; grayish white with a striped tail and big, round nocturnal eyes.

“Mom……” I said.

The cat looked ready to bolt any minute; her gaze watching my every move.

“mmmphhhh.” Was the mumbled reply after a few moments of standing next to the bed.

“Hey, are you with us?” I asked loudly.

Mom sat up abruptly as if alarmed sending the cat tumbling to her side. The cat was not amused and scuffled off the bed and under it.

I knew mom had an appointment to get her hair fixed at 3 PM and my appointment to get my hair cut followed hers. She had made the appointment with the hairdresser for us without asking me. I thought it would be simple since she knew Rhonda, the hairdresser, for her to call and cancel for me.

“I need you to cancel my hair cut appointment.” I said.

I really didn’t want a hair cut appointment with Rhoda anyway. She always gives me a funky haircut. She gives great little old lady hairdos like my mother prefers but sorely lacks in the men’s department. I prefer Jim, my barber, instead. He costs $5 bucks whereas Rhonda charges $13 bucks for an inferior haircut. Hey, and Jim trims my sideburns just right every time and gets them even.

“Why?” She asked.

“My dandruff is acting up and I am embarrassed about it. I need to wait a week until the shampoo does its thing.” I replied thinking that was a good excuse and that was partly why. I didn’t want to just come out and say I hated Rhonda’s haircuts.

“Okay, I will make you an appointment for next week.” She replied.

“Don’t worry about it. I will take care of the hair cut myself.” I said.

“You need a haircut so let Rhoda cut it next week. I will call her right now.” Mom said.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I thought to myself. Why did something so simple have to be so complicated?

“Mom, I just need you to cancel. Okay? Please? That is all I need.” I replied.

“Do you not like how Rhonda does my hair? I think she gives good haircuts.” Mom asked and stated.

I had to choke back a laugh after she asked this. It reminded me of the Carol Burnett Show sketch were Carol, her husband, and their child were sitting in a school counselor’s office. The counselor shows Carol a drawing by their child. There were two crude large stick people representing mother and father and a little dot representing the child. The counselor’s point was that the child was expressing through the drawing that he felt left out, small, and inferior. Carol looked at the drawing and said incredulously, “You mean my hair really looks that bad?”

“Just forget it and go back to sleep.” I said amused.

“Well, okay. You sure you don’t want me to call?” Mom asked.

“I am VERY sure.” I replied.

As I walked back past dad to head home, he asked, “What happened?”

“You don’t want to know.” I replied.

“I told you so!” He said as he laughed.

I walked back home to make the call I should have made in the first place.

The morning after

I awoke this morning feeling weird. It’s hard to come face to face with a family member’s mortality especially someone you thought would never get sick and live to his nineties. I know he has a 99 percent chance of recovery but still, open heart surgery is serious business. I had a dream last night that they had dad on the operating table and they lost his pulse. I awoke suddenly to sweaty sheets and a wet pillow and it was cold in my apartment. I trudged sleepily upstairs and got in another bed to sleep the rest of the night foregoing my wet and clammy bed downstairs.

Last night was a hard night as I had all these thoughts going through my mind. Under times of stress is when addiction can really rear its ugly head. I wanted a drink and I wanted one badly. I wanted to escape in a bottle and drown my fears and sorrows. To forget about everything for a few short hours. In my mind, I started to romanticize drinking until a sobering thought came to mind: What if someone called and needed me last night and I was drunk? That would go over like a lead balloon and all the bonds of trust I have built up would crumble in an instant. I fixed a pot of hot tea instead and spent the evening drinking warm tea, browsing social work forums, and obsessing over my upcoming class schedule trying to get my mind off of things.

One thing that I have found is that having someone with a major illness in the family tends to put things on hold. I feel guilty if I even think about college or the upcoming months as if I am being selfish but thinking about these things takes my mind off the current situation. It feels as if I am sitting here with abated breath waiting for Monday to roll around and to get the surgery over with.

This morning I am trying to go about my schedule as normal. I am sipping my coffee, browsing the web and waiting for last night’s episodes of Eastenders and The Bill to download. I am completely addicted to British television and love that there are no commercials within their broadcasts. I found a website were you can download current British television the same night it airs and have quickly become an avid watcher of several programs. I rarely, if ever, turn on to watch American television anymore. The elections were an exception.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Having responsibility thrust upon you

Today was a strange day. I awoke at 6 AM and my father picked me up at 6:30 AM to go with him to the hospital. My father went for a routine heart checkup after a negative stress test and he now has to have quadruple bypass open heart surgery on Monday. He has not had any negative symptoms and seems to be in good health for his age of 58. He has 95% blockage in one of his arteries and over 55% in the remaining three. This came as a complete shock to me, my family, and all our friends. The doctor said he would have had a heart attack within 6 months time if this blockage was not caught and remedied.

My brother is a medical officer and a physician at the naval medical center in San Diego California. My sister is completing her residency in the ER as a physician at The University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center. They both have no way of getting off or coming home as their schedules and responsibilities are grueling and relentless. My mother can barely get out of the bed or feed herself so this leaves the majority of things up to me. I am going to do my best and do what I can.

I sat down at the hospital for most of the day as they ran tests and x-rays then drove dad home. I ran by his business and filled his prescriptions after we left. Dad managed to secure a stand in pharmacist for two days a week to help his assistant pharmacist which made both of us feel much better. He is going to have to be off for over a month. He has never been off for more than a week in 32 years of owning his business. He is deeply concerned and this does not help the situation. He has rarely been to the doctor in his life and has always shied away from them. Now, he has to have major open heart surgery.

I ask for your thoughts and concerns in this matter. I hope that things go well in the surgery Monday. My father is a hard ass but is also the Rock of Gibraltar in my family. We all rely on him for support in many ways both mentally, physically, and emotionally. I shudder to think what would happen if dad succumbed. Things would be in chaos as my mother cannot even write checks or even knows anything of their financial affairs. He has a 99% chance of success and recovery and I do hope all goes well. I will step up and do my part to see that everything is taken care of and seen about. He has busted his ass for over 35 years professionally and now it is time for him to take a break. I am not a religious man but if you are so inclined your prayers would be welcome.