Wednesday, December 29, 2004

My butt is on fire…..

(Just a boring, run of the mill, blog post today but I felt like writing and rambling.)

Yes, today was the day of my bi-weekly risperidone injection and for some reason today was especially painful but I am a big boy and survived. The nurse apologized profusely. I guess she just hit a nerve. As usual, I had to help prepare the injection as they forget the procedure almost every time. That or I get a rotating slew of nurses unfamiliar with how the injection works.

I did have to wait an hour to be seen. A very elderly lady recruited me in helping her mark out the mailing labels on some magazines. She brought in stacks of large print reader’s digests and I used a black marker to mark out her name and address. She was donating them.

I know I don’t talk about my illness much. It embarrasses me. There is much more of a stigma associated with mental illness then with other diseases of more mundane body parts. I also dislike reading a blog where the author continually complains of their physical ailments and a few I read do this constantly. It gets really old and makes me think that the author is sympathy mongering.

They have a large screen television in the waiting area at the doctor’s office. It was tuned to Fox News. They repeatedly showed pictures and amateur videos of a tsunami that hit Southeast Asia ad nauseum. I do not watch much television, especially the news, so I was unaware that this happened. They did their part to sensationalize this event to its fullest. It hit home to me why I do not watch live commercial television or visit websites such as CNN, Fox news, etc. The media in my opinion thrives on disharmony, war, disaster, and death. My life is interesting and hard enough with out adding a daily dose of depressing news to the mix and the news is nine times out of ten going to be negative.
I wish they had a positive news network. I might just watch that but in all reality it would fail due to poor ratings.

Today is supposed to be a beautiful day and will get well up into the sixties. I am going to use this opportunity to get all the leaves up in the yard. I have been procrastinating over doing this project. I was telling myself that I was waiting for all the leaves to fall so I could get them in one fell swoop. The two large water oaks in the back yard are refusing to drop any more leaves for the time being so I guess that is no longer an excuse. I dread this but it needs to be done. I am tempted to go borrow my father’s mulching mower and just mulch the shit out of them and be done with it.

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A rant about the vagabond that is my neighbor’s cat…….

He is now spending more time at my house than theirs. He will sit outside the door and cry until I let him in. It will drive me crazy. I now know why my neighbors do not let him inside. He is, by far, the most vocal cat I have ever experienced. He cries constantly despite having plenty of food, water, and warmth. If I even move and he notices it he will cry for my attention. There have been quite a few times that I have gotten fed up with him and shoved him out the door. The only time that he will be quiet is if he is in my lap but he feigns nursing so hard that it is very painful as his claws dig in. I think I may have just inherited the world’s most needy and aggravating feline.

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A short commentary on The Homeless Guy™ aka Kevin Barbieux……

(These are just my opinions so take them for what they are worth. I just wanted to air them and to think about this.)

I thought it interesting that he closed one of his latest blog posts with, ‘FYI: My Birthday is January 5th’. He is milking this cow for all it is worth. I find it interesting and noteworthy that he had a more expensive Christmas than I did and I have a home and a stable income. The problem is that his popularity is waning and only so many people will give and many only once. Once the cash tree has been shaken and all the money has fallen to the ground there will be no more. I wonder if he realizes this and if he is planning ahead or just living in the present without thought for the future.

I was talking to a friend on the phone the other day about him. I said that Kevin had won the homeless equivalent of the lottery. They got a big kick out of me saying this and agreed. He just happened to be quirky enough, odd enough, and in the right place at the right time. He was also savvy about marketing his blog. He left a trail all over the internet in forums and other blogs promoting his site.

I find that he has carefully pandered to a certain type of reader for the past few months and the material on his blog has subtlety changed from counter culture, anti-job, anti-consumer, anti-capitalism, and anti-mainstream material to more mainstream appealing fare. He often uses religion to garner support and sympathy and this has become a recurring subject. It is my opinion that readers of a Christian mindset are more likely to give if you pander to their sympathies and beliefs. You will also find that he rarely writes about the realities of the streets. If you have been a long time reader of my blog and kept up with George and the Piggly Wiggly gang, you know that life on the streets is harsh and not so feel good. There is panhandling, racism, cursing, stealing, conniving, addiction, and drug dealing. Kevin carefully omits these kinds of details about the streets and sugarcoats his blog to cater to his intended audience.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold for sure and I will read along. I look at it as an interesting experiment in online panhandling and he has been very successful at it; only time will tell if he uses the good will and support thrown at him to get off the streets. I fear that in a year’s time he will still be blogging in internet cafes and libraries and sleeping in the rescue mission. He will lose his voice and identity if he gets a home. It is my opinion that he feels he will become just another cog in the machine that is society. As “The Homeless Guy” he stands out and has something to write about and can also gain things from others.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Talking about porn and strange black men……

First off, I want to say thanks for all the comments about college. They were very helpful and helped me make up my mind on what to do. Thanks, Aaron, for the suggestion about used text books. I will endeavor to look into that before the January 6th opening of the campus book store.

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Today, I walked down to the Pig to buy a bag of potatoes and some onions. I was cooking a pot roast and already had some carrots in the fridge. I donned my day pack and set out down the road for the grocery store. After I had done my shopping, I stepped outside and sat down at the bench to read the local paper. Someone had left a copy on the bench. Slop sat next to me. As usual he asked me for money but I brushed him off. I was not interested in Slop or his completely nonsensical conversation. I happily ignored him and read the paper. After a few moments a strange man walked up to me.

“Bro, dat man down dere wants you.” He said and pointed to a tall black man in a leather coat leaned up against the wall by the flea market. I looked down there towards him and he waved at me signaling for me to come over. My spidey sense went to tingling. Something didn’t feel right about this situation.

“Fuck that!” I thought.

He either wanted money or wanted to sell me drugs. I sat at the bench and ignored him. Before long, I could see him walking towards me out of the corner of my eye.

“Hey muthafucka, why you be tryin’ to diss me?” He said.

“I don’t fucking know you. That’s why.” I said.

“I needs yo help.” He said.

“No, you want my money.” I replied.

Slop started to laugh at our exchange. I gave him a stern look to let him known that I saw no humor in this situation. I felt threatened. This strange man reached into his pocket and held out several gold chains. I surmised that they were fake or plated.

“$20 dollars each.” He said.

“I wouldn’t pay a dollar for those chains.” I replied.

“Come on bro. I need the money.” He said.

“Sorry man, but the last thing I want to buy is cheap or fake costume jewelry.” I replied.

“Well, fuck you, you white ass cracker.” He said and walked off.

I asked Slop if he had ever seen this character before as Slop is down at the Pig everyday. Slop said today was the first time he had ever seen him and he had been out here all day. Good riddance is what I said in return. I need to find another grocery store to frequent as the Pig seems to attract undesirable types for some reason. It must be the neighborhood. I hate having to drive across town just for a few things when the Pig is a 15 minute walk from my apartment though.

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This evening I had a call from my friend Chad. He said he was having problems with the computer I built for him. There is a big back story to Chad that I will not delve into at this time. To be succinct, we went to high school together. At one time he was my roommate in the early nineties when I worked in the cotton mill driving a fork lift. He lost his job and I ended up supporting him for several months. We recently reacquainted as he gets his meds out at the mental health clinic where I volunteer. He is bi-polar and has psychotic episodes. I tend to keep my distance but do try to help him out some. He lives in a destitute situation and is extremely isolated.

Not long ago, I built him a computer out of spare parts so he could get on the internet. I had hoped he would use it as a tool to help himself or to express himself. He initially showed an interest in blogging. I also gave him lots of websites that were resources for the mentally ill. His mother is paying for his dialup internet access. Tonight, I found out what he was really using the computer for…..

After driving over to his trailer, I stepped inside and asked him what it was doing.

“It is slow as hell and I can hardly browse the internet.” He said.

I sat down at the computer and after looking around I realized it was filled with spy ware, auto-dialers, and ad ware. Every time I opened internet explorer tons of pop ups would fill the screen.

“What sites do you visit regularly?” I asked.

“Oh, just regular websites.” He replied.

I looked into his internet history folder and it was filled with porn sites. This guy had been very busy visiting some pretty sleazy websites. It was not what I intended the computer to be used for. I told him to download spybot search and destroy and to run it. I also told him to run the antivirus program I had installed initially when I built it. I was kind of pissed about the matter. I was tempted to tell him the computer was broken and I need to take it home as it was now useless. My better nature got the best of me though.

Maybe I am weird or abnormal but I just don’t get the allure of internet porn or most porn for that matter. Out of curiosity I have looked a few times but was completely disinterested. The women in these pictures and videos seem fake to me and are not attractive. I know that a woman like these women would be unobtainable so I don’t even fantasize about it.

Shitting in my pants……

Due to the wondrous modern marvel of the internet, I can do most things online now. This has helped a great deal with college as I can log in and drop/add or find almost any relevant information. Today, I logged into my account to look for what books I need to buy at the bookstore. It showed me my books and the total cost…….I like to shit in my pants at the amount. It was $495 freaking bucks!!!! That is just for the books. Three of my textbooks cost $98 dollars a piece! It is time to do some thinking and to compromise.

I have decided to drop math for this semester and use that money for my books. Math was causing a great deal of anxiety and I was being way too optimistic by taking 16 semester hours right off at the start. I have a tendency to jump into things and to get over my head. I am going to be sensible about this. I will just take the elementary college algebra this summer along with a lighter course load so I can give it my full attention.

In other news, the neighbor’s kids got a dune buggy like go-cart for Christmas. They have continually gone around in endless circles in the backyard and that thing is loud as a chain saw. It is driving me crazy. I don’t mean to be a scrooge but I hope they run out of gas soon so I can have a little peace and quiet.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Pre-Spring cleaning and a meal fit for a king…….

Not much to report today. I have spent all day on a cleaning frenzy. I washed my sheets. I mopped the kitchen and the bathroom. I cleaned out my fridge. I vacuumed my floors. I also polished all my furniture. I am not very “domestic” so this was a major accomplishment today. There is something to be said for having a completely spotless apartment. It just makes me feel better. I love the lemon smell the furniture polish emits into the air and it makes my apartment smell clean. There is also the pine scent of pine sol after mopping my floors.

I am treating myself tonight with a special meal. I am going to grill two rib eye steaks on my charcoal grill. I will complement it with a baked potato, sautéed mushrooms, a salad, and some toasted garlic barbeque bread. This is part of my Christmas as I would never normally be able to buy such expensive cuts of meat. Grilled steaks are, by far, my favorite treat.

Well, let me get back to working math problems. I am debating on whether to drop intermediate college algebra (math 100) and take elementary college algebra (math 098). The only problem is that math 098 is 4 semester hours and math 100 is 3 semester hours. That means I will have to pay an additional $90 dollars for that extra semester hour. I don’t feel comfortable asking my father for more money than he has already spent for college. He has already spent $1400 dollars and that was the majority of my Christmas.

As I work more and more problems I am realizing how math illiterate I am. I doubt my ability to be able to catch up by just studying on my own. To demonstrate my illiteracy, I am using flash cards to relearn my multiplication tables. I know I will be able to use a graphing calculator in class and in exams but this is such a basic skill that I need to know. Fourteen years is a long time and I have forgotten even the most basic principles.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Back into exile……

Christmas was wonderful and one of the best in years. It felt so good to be included in everything. It made up for last year’s debacle. Christmas night last year was spent in the woods all alone with nothing but a twelve pack of cheap ice beer, my little radio, memories of Christmas’ past, and a fire to keep me company. Christmas supper was reconstituted freeze dried spaghetti in a foil pouch. I will never forget lying in my sleeping bag and crying hysterically in a drunken stupor until I grew too tired to cry any longer. I thought it was the end of the world and I felt I had no reason to go on.

My father had asked me a few weeks ago what I wanted most for Christmas. My reply was that I wanted a spare tire for my truck (mine is flat and dry rotted) and a $100 shopping spree at the grocery store. He laughed at first until he realized I was serious. So I got a spare tire and no longer have to worry about that. I’ve been driving without one for months. He also took me to the grocery store and we went shopping to stock my freezer. I put in my weekly $40 dollar grocery money from my budget and that gave me $140 dollars. I bought things that I could never usually afford such as steaks, roasts, ribs, frozen pizza, name brand bacon, tenderloin, and the list could go on. I now have a fridge and freezer stocked with rich people food! 8^)

Tonight I am feeling sad and melancholy. I have just arrived home from a Christmas party at Charlie’s house (Charlie is my father’s best friend and the fellow who helped me get my new home and sold it to me at a ridiculously low price of $35,000. He is more of an uncle to me than my blood kin uncles.) He and his wife gave me a really nice fleece jacket for school. Luckily, it was from the big and tall men’s shop so it fit my 6 foot 4 inch frame perfectly. I am enamored with this jacket.

The reason I am feeling sad and melancholy is that these wonderful past few days are over. I loved being around all those people the past few days and didn’t realize how isolated I can be. My social anxieties faded away and I felt comfortable in a room full of people.

Tonight as me and my parents were driving home. I turned to my father and said….

“I dread going home to that quiet, empty apartment.”

“Son, you are a different person. Used to you wouldn’t make an effort to be with us. I like to hear you say that.” He replied.

I told them all Merry Christmas, got out of the car, and slowly walked up the drive to the house. I turned and watched them drive away watching as the car crested the hill and disappeared. A dark and lonely apartment awaited me.

Friday, December 24, 2004

You’re getting to be a habit with me……

I have found that writing has become a habit of mine. Lately, I have grown bored with much of the internet but I still find myself sitting in front of the computer. This leads to me opening up a Word document and to start typing. Sometimes I don’t even know where this will lead me but I feel compelled to put my thoughts down with my digital quill.

I have been doing some brainstorming this morning. I am an avid reader of http://prisonpete.blogspot.com and find it amazing that a man in prison can write a blog. I was thinking about what if I could contact http://thehomelessguyinnyc.blogspot.com, formerly the homeless guy in NYC, and he could continue blogging via long distance correspondence. He could give me the username and password to his blog and I could post his letters after I transcribe them into a digital medium. That way his blog could live on despite him being incarcerated much like Prison Pete. I will endeavour shortly after Christmas to contact Dustin and see if James wants to communicate about this. At least I could give it a try. I think this would be a great avenue of expression and artistry for James as he sits and languishes in jail. It would give him a goal and purpose. I would also like to see his voice live on.

Well, my bags are all packed and I am all ready to go to my sister’s for Christmas. I just have to wait for my father to get off of work at 2 PM as he is going with me. I am going to drive the two hours to Birmingham this afternoon. I am kind of nervous about going for some reason. I have butterflies in my stomach. Lately, social situations fill me with a lot of anxiety for some reason and I have been avoiding them. I much prefer the calm and quiet confines of my little apartment and my solitude. I hope this doesn’t foretell me becoming a hermit of sorts. I guess starting school soon will force me into social situations and I will grow more comfortable with them. I hope I am just out of practice.

One last thing before I close: I got an email from a reader who stated that it was somewhat hypocritical of me to celebrate Christmas when I am not a Christian. I thought long and hard and will continue to over the holidays and will post a reply to this statement for you all to read. I have some interesting thoughts going on in my head and they have sowed the seeds for another blog post Saturday night or Sunday when I return.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A dark night…..

(This post is sort of an expose. I read many blogs and I feel that for many of them there is more going on in background. I am not a saint and I have sometimes written about my ex-wife in an unfavorable light. Tonight, you can see me in an unfavorable light. It is only fair.)

This post is about some of the hard times I have endured. We, as blog writers, often paint a rosy picture to our readers. There is often another side of life that is never written about. Tonight I will share a darker side of me and a side I would rather forget. This happened many years ago and I hope I am a changed man. This was before I became homeless.

I had been drinking all day. Rachel was at work at the library. I was out of a job and feeling sorry for myself. I made a feeble effort at cooking supper. I burned the bread and the rice in my chicken and rice was undercooked. I stood in front of the stove with my head swimming from the alcohol. I looked up at the clock in the dining room. Shit, she would be home soon. It was almost 10 pm. My hands shook as I poured more water into my concoction to try and get the rice done and I turned up the stove. I looked out at the driveway and could see the head lights of our Volkswagen Beetle. Zero hour had arrived. I quickly ran into the den and put in some gum to mask the smell of alcohol. As I did this I heard the back door open.

“Doll? You there?” Rachel asked as she stepped in and took off her coat.

“Yeah, I am here.” I replied loudly from the other room.

She walked in the room and took one look at me and knew that I had been drinking.

“You’re drunk, aren’t you?” She asked.

“I’ve had a few beers.” I replied.

She went screaming out of the room and called her mother. I hastily ran outside and cranked up my motorcycle. I wanted to be anywhere but here. I wanted to escape. I couldn’t see straight though and knew if I got on that motorcycle I would be dead. By this time she had locked me out of the house. I banged on the back door to no avail.

“Rachel, please let me in. It is cold.” I decreed.

“Fuck you. I just want you to leave.” She said from the other side of the door.

I sat down on our back deck’s steps and pondered…. Why did I have to do this? If I was so miserable why didn’t I just leave? Why did I have to drink like I did? I was a completely miserable son of a bitch.

By this time I was completely drunk. I had the grand idea that I would thrust my hand through the window, reach up, open it, and crawl in. I walked up to the deck and with all my strength smashed out our back window on the deck. A piece of glass fell and severely cut my wrist. Blood gushed everywhere. I panicked. Blood was dripping all over our deck in great pools. I ran to the back door and banged on it with my good arm.

“RACHEL, I NEED SOME HELP. I THINK I NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. I NEED STITCHES.” I cried at the top of my voice.

There was no reply.

I slumped down in front of our back door and started to cry. I held my wrist as tight as I could with my other hand to stop the bleeding. The blood trickled out around my fingers and finally stopped.

Several hours later after I had almost fallen to sleep and was freezing cold the door opened and I almost fell backwards into the kitchen.

“Are you sober now?” She asked.

“I just want to go to bed.” I replied.

She opened the door and I crawled to bed. I have a huge scar from that cut and I have nerve damage and cannot feel my right hand thumb. It is completely numb. That is how deep that cut was. I was too drunk to get to the hospital and when I sobered up I didn’t want to tell what had happened.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Looking out at the back yard……

The neighbor’s kids are playing in my backyard as I write this. I enjoy hearing their banter and squeals of joy as they play and cajole. I enjoy the break from the solitude I have to endure for most of this week. For the longest time, they would knock on my door and ask my permission to play. I finally told them that they didn’t have to ask and were always welcome.

A moment ago, I was standing outside drawing on my pipe and enjoying the warm sunshine. The day is turning out beautiful and warm. A group of four deer came bounding through the yard and out of the little bamboo forest on the periphery. They flew across the yard between me and the kids and bounded over a six foot high hedge.

“Holy shit, did you see that?” The youngest kid cried in excitement and then clasped his hand over his mouth as he looked at me. He looked as if he had committed a carnal sin. I just had to laugh at the look on his face. His tense stance eased up when he realized I wasn’t going to get on to him. All the kids ran as fast as they could up the yard to try and catch a last glimpse at the deer but the deer were long gone.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A wayward friend returns home….

My neighbor’s cat has become a frequent addition to my home. I have a big bundle of feline themed matter in my lap as I write this. My apartment has become a way station of sorts on his daily rounds to mark his territory. The name on the tag attached to his collar is “Rancho” and beneath it is a phone number. As I smoke my pipe outdoors, he frequently stops by and paws at the door to gain entrance and to get warm. Tonight I was feeling frivolous and he had the good fortune of eating a gourmet can of tuna in olive oil. I was saving that can for a special tuna salad recipe. I am such a pussy when it comes to pets and animals. That can cost me $2.25 and much above just your standard tuna in vegetable oil. Oh well, a friend in need is a friend indeed as the saying goes. He is returning the favor by vigorously “making biscuits” (feigning nursing) on my fleece pull over as we speak whilst sitting in my lap. His purring breath reeks of tuna.

Now onto a post I wanted to write tonight; a humorous and romantic (in a guy way) post about my first Christmas with my ex-wife. I am trying to be positive and not dwell on the bad times. Here is that post:

I had spent all afternoon stringing the lights upon our mock pear tree in the front yard. It was Christmas Eve but I had been on the road for weeks and was just now getting to this. If I saw Key West one more time I would scream and was glad to be out of that big rig. I was glad to be off the road and the drudgery of driving hundreds of miles everyday. Rachel walked out into the yard to view my progress.

“It looks good doll. Thank you for doing this. I know you are tired.” She said.

“I couldn’t let the neighbors out do us could I?” I said and laughed. “The lights can stay up till new years.”

Rachel leaned over in the yard to pick up something and broke some wind. I caught this little discrepancy. My eyes lit up and a smile grew on my face.

“Did you just fart?” I asked.

We had been married three months and it was the first time I had heard her break wind. The look on her face was not one of amusement. She didn’t share my humor in this situation.

“You did, didn’t you?” I replied.

“Jonathon, just drop it okay?” She said as her face blushed red.

I ran over and grabbed her around the waist and picked her up in a big bear hug while laughing. She struggled in protest at my actions.

“Please, just drop it. Pleeeeeeassssse?” She said.

“You realize that this is your first fart with us together and it is at Christmas!” I exclaimed with jubilancy. Rachel, by no means, saw the humor in this matter. I thought it was hilarious. Tears started to well in her eyes and I realized I better cut it out.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” I said. “It is not that big of a deal. Guys just like farts.”

I grabbed her hand and lead her to the front steps of our house. We sat down and I pulled her into my lap and wrapped my arms around her.

“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I just got carried away.” I replied.

“If you ever tell anyone about this I will divorce you. You get that?” She replied.

“Yes maam.” I said in all seriousness.

“You can be such a shit sometimes. You know that?” She responded.

It was the first and last time I ever heard her break wind in three years of marriage. Oh, by the way, Christmas was cool and we had a good time despite the “tragedy” on Christmas Eve. 8^)

YES! Payday…….

Monday is my “payday” and boy did I need some money. I was completely out of food, drinks, and tobacco. I drove down to the bank and gleefully cashed my weekly check I make out to myself.

As I rode through “the strip” in downtown my stomach was grumbling mightily as I passed all the fast food joints. Dollar menu here I come. I ordered two one dollar double cheeseburgers with extra onions and devoured them in my truck. I then made a beeline to the grocery store and stocked up. I managed to get a fair amount of groceries for forty dollars. Buying meat is so expensive though and I was hungry for some beef. I compromised and got some cheap cubed steak that I will simmer a long time in gravy to get them tender this afternoon. I also bought some ground beef for spaghetti for tomorrow night. A pound of ground chuck cost $3.29! OUCH! At least that spaghetti will feed me up to four meals.

After unpacking my groceries and putting them up, I decided since my truck was still warm that I would drive out to the lake and the dam and take a long walk. It was a cold walk but I enjoyed getting out of the house and the lake was beautiful. I was the lone person out there and had the park to myself other than the ducks that looked very cold nestling amid each other at the side of the lake.

After arriving home, I worked for two hours on scientific notation and working with radicals. I am trying to do one chapter everyday from an online tutorial that I found. I have fifty more chapters to go and then will take a comprehensive online exam. I am feeling better and better everyday about taking algebra this spring. Math is like building blocks and each concept builds upon the other. I am finding my fear of math to be slowly dissolving as I relearn these basic building blocks.

I had a call from a friend in AA today. They were concerned that they haven’t seen me in a week. I explained that I didn’t like the religious aspects and I felt I was trading one addiction for another. I talked about AA feeling like a cult and the members seemed to be brainwashed. I also want to take responsibility for my actions/addiction and I don’t feel like throwing them off on some “higher power”. I do have power over my addictions and have a choice in drinking or not. Thinking this way goes against everything taught in AA and my friend felt concerned for me. I told him not to worry and that I still wanted to keep in touch with him. It is doubtful though as I will know be seen as an outsider and probably off the wagon and dangerous to their sobriety. I did express lots of gratitude for their call though and was very nice and polite with my explanation even though I knew it would go over like a lead balloon.

Well, let me get back to studying. Math problems here I come. I just felt the need and urge to write a few short moments and get some thoughts down.

A very cold morning……

As I write this, the first orange glow of dawn is on the horizon. The air has grown still and nothing is stirring outside. The current temperature is 19 degrees Fahrenheit. I made it through my cold night outdoors.

Last night we had a very narrow pressure gradient over us so the winds were very brisk. The sound of the wind buffeting my tent would tend to wake me up. I did have a hard time keeping my feet warm last night especially when I first got into my bag. I wore my thermal underwear, a knit cap, and some thick socks to bed. I awoke very early this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep so I came on inside and fixed some coffee. All in all though I stayed toasty warm except for the exposed portion of my face. At least now I know I can do it if I have to and feel reassured in the capabilities of my gear.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Great Back Yard Camping Expedition….

I have been watching Ken Burn’s American Experience special on Georgia Public Broadcasting. It inspired me to sleep outside tonight in remembrance of the great explorers that helped found this country. They braved unspeakable hardships in the quest to find the Northwest Passage. I am speaking of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery.

I have my tent set up and my sleeping bag and liner in place. I am going to sleep outdoors tonight and see how I fare. The predicted low tonight is supposed to be 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8.33 Celsius). If it gets too cold, I always have my warm apartment to escape to.

I have this innate desire to keep abreast of my survival skills. I want to be prepared if I am ever homeless again. I wish I could turn back the clock and travel back in time to the days I feel that I could fit in and survive. If I had the means I would build me a cabin up in the Appalachians and live off the land. I would be so much happier living with purpose and living off the sweat of my deeds and my brow. Good night and I will report on my experience in the morning.

Another year is almost done……

I have a lot of spare time recently and things have slowed down in anticipation of Christmas. No volunteering this week and school doesn’t start until mid January. I am longing for some structure in my life and it is lacking lately.

Today is a case in point. I have nothing to do today and am restless. It is the end of the week and I am broke. I do spend a lot of time reading online and off but my eyes grow tired and constantly being online can give me a headache. I am struggling with things to do today and have grown bored and restless. My apartment is clean. All my clothes are washed and folded. There is nothing to do. My father always echoes his mother in saying that you should never be bored. There is always something to do. Not for me today.

I did spend the morning going over practice math problems and the rules for exponents. I have 7 sheets of paper filled with worked math problems to show my progress. Math is so tedious to me though and I do not enjoy the subject. I look at it as a necessary evil to overcome. I do take satisfaction in working the problems out to a correct solution though. I was especially surprised on how well I did this morning simplifying equations. That was always a hard thing for me to do. I have found that now that I am older the concepts are not so hard to grasp and I feel better about taking college algebra this spring.

We have a strong cold front pouring in from the north and the weather should turn very cold over night. The forecast lows are expected to hit 17 degrees Fahrenheit. That is about as cold as it gets here in the Deep South. The abnormal weather excites me and I hope for at least some snow flurries over night. Just one flake falling would fill me full of excitement. There are even rumors of a white Christmas this year. All the local forecasts are predicting snow showers on December 25th and the 26th. If these forecasts hold true then it will be the first time in my 32 years to have snow on Christmas. I will also be the first time it has snowed here in 3 years. (As you can read, I am obsessed with frozen precipitation and the weather.)

This Christmas will be spent with my sister in Birmingham Alabama. Birmingham is about a two and a half hour drive from my home. Traditionally we always have homemade spaghetti on Christmas Eve and a big Christmas dinner that entails a honey baked ham and all the fixings. She said she was going to make sure to keep our traditions intact. I am going to drive up and spend Christmas Eve night at their house. I do so very much appreciate them inviting me. I am sure we will have a good time. I will be on my best behavior. 8^)

Well, let me go see what I can find to do. Shall I take a nap? Shall I study some more? Or shall I just goof off on the internet? Such hard questions to answer. (Sarcasm) I need to just be thankful for having a home and to have the good fortune of being bored. Those are signs that life is easy and that things are going okay. Good day.

Friday, December 17, 2004

After a funeral and a moment of weakness…..

I had to attend a funeral today and am feeling out of sorts. I watched as they laid the lady to rest in the cemetery on a cold, blustery December afternoon. I looked around at the family and they had tears in their eyes. It made me sad for them and as a relative I felt bad because I didn’t have any real emotions over this woman. I knew her only vaguely and had only talked to her a handful of times in my life. Many crows sat in the trees and gawked and called at our procession. It did hammer in the importance of my life and how mortal I am. As a secular humanist I feel you only have one life and you have to make it count. There is no heaven with streets lined with gold where you can converse with your long departed relatives. I feel we have one shot at life and through our progeny our genes live on and we have a sort of immortality.

This afternoon was a struggle as I wanted to get drunk. It has been such a long time and I wanted to be inebriated and to sleep away the rest of the afternoon. I sat out on the streets and down the sidewalk for a journey to the liquor store. I had made it all the way next to the Greyhound bus station when a familiar voice called out to me.

“Andrew!” The voice cried.

I looked up and it was my father in his car. Seeing my father reminded me of how far I have come and jolted my one track mind in a different direction.

“Where are you going?” He asked.

Traffic had begun to back up behind him.

“Just walking. I needed to get out of the house.” I replied.

He pulled into the parking lot of the Greyhound station and asked me to get in. I stepped into the car and sat down.

“Are you okay? I just found it weird for you to be so far from home and not in your car. Has it broken down?” He stated and asked.

“I am fine dad. My truck is fine. I just needed to take a long walk and think.” I replied.

I couldn’t tell him that I was headed for the liquor store to get drunk. It would destroy all the trust I had built up the past few months.

“Do you want me to take you on home?” He asked.

“Sure, I need to get home and get some supper started. I am tired of walking.” I replied.

Dad drove me on home and it was a quiet ride. He reached over and grabbed my hand when he pulled up in my driveway.

“I am proud of you. You have come so far and I do not tell you enough.” He said.

A tear erupted from my eye and ran down my cheek and around my mouth and dripped off my chin.

“I know.” I said as I wiped the moisture from my face and tried to play it off.

He gave me a hug and I stepped out of the car and into my house. I watched as he drove out of my driveway and towards home.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A busy day comes to an end…….

Much has happened today and I am glad to see the sun go down and the day draw to a close. This evening I needed just some time for Jonathon so I fixed a big percolator full of coffee and smoked my pipe as I caught up on my favorite British television shows. I feel refreshed and renewed after a much needed ritual.

This morning I walked down to the Pig to buy some bacon and a fresh loaf of bread. I had my great aunt coming to stay with me tonight and I needed something for breakfast. I have gotten out of the habit of fixing and eating breakfast lately and usually just drink a pot of strong coffee.

The cold weather has chased all of but the most dedicated Piggly Wiggly groupies inside for the time being. Cap with Tag was on the job and busily peddling his usual wares despite the cold. I have said before that he is like Silent Bob of the movie Clerks as he never utters a word. I have also described him as the most dedicated crack dealer in America. Today he actually spoke to me and it took me by surprise.

I walked up past the flea market and he was leaned against the wall listening to his walkman. As I passed, he nodded his head in greeting and said…….

“Whazzup!”

I retorted back with a, “Not much man, not much.”

He quickly went back to listening to his walkman and shaking and nodding his head to the beat. The tag on his cap was dancing wildly around to the rhythm.

My volunteering session today was mostly uneventful. I do feel a certain tension in the air as Christmas approaches with the clients. There were several heated exchanges between the young black lady at the reception area and several persons. The agitated persons felt they were being neglected by the “system”. I can understand their sentiment.

It seems that Christmas is a hard time for many and not the season of giving and receiving. Old family tensions arise and old wounds and hurts reemerge. It can be especially hard on the mentally ill as many of us are already on the fringes of society. It is as if we are standing on one side of a glass panel watching Christmas unfold and can’t participate. I am lucky this season and so far Christmas is proving to be beneficial for me.

This evening I drove to Waverly Alabama to pick up my Great Aunt. She was in an unusually chipper mood but as always talked about who had died that week. My father affectionately calls her the walking obituaries.

“Elnora died last night in the nursing home.” She said.

“Oh, I hate to hear that about Elnora. She was a kind lady.” I replied.

“Her husband Crawford was in the hospital for a hernia when she died.” She replied.

“I hate to hear that about Crawford as well. He is a good man.” I replied.

“You know Crawford has a daughter who lives in Camp Hill. Did you know that?” She replied.

“No, I didn’t and I have known Crawford since I was a little boy.” I replied.

“They no longer speak and are estranged. I wonder if she will come to the funeral.” Myrtis responded.

Thus went our conversation about these and many other individuals as we made our way to my house. It was a long 45 minutes drive. It is enough to make any man grow depressed. She is now fitfully asleep upstairs and I am not far from going to that place as well. Good night and be well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

She says, he says……

“Will you please just come to bed?” Rachel exclaimed and asked.

“One more minute, doll, we are playing a league match.” I said and I turned my attentions back towards the computer in front of me. I had a great deal of responsibility on me.

Rachel walked out of the den in a huff and slammed our bedroom door shut. I continued to play the online computer game that had sucked up so much of my life for the past year. We won our match and all my online friends congratulated me at my excellent defense. I felt elated as if I had done something really worthwhile. We were undefeated for the longest time and reigned supreme. Now it was time to face reality.

I opened the bedroom door and peeked in. I could hear the snores of our dog Otis as he lay amid the sheets. I crept silently towards the bed to get in.

“Doll?” Rachel asked. “Is that you?”

“Yeah, it is me. I am coming to bed.” I replied.

Rachel rose up and looked at the clock. It was almost 1 AM. I cringed as to what would happen next. She rolled over and looked at me as I took my clothes off.

“I wish you loved me as much as you loved those people and that game.” She said.

I sighed as I sat down and took off my jeans. I only played the game a few hours every night. She had the rest of the day with me when I was not at work. I couldn’t understand her jealousy of a few online friends and a game we liked to join in on.

“I will try to play less Rach. They are just my friends and we have a good time together.” I replied.

“You could have a good time with me too.” Rachel said.

“We have good times but sometimes I need to be with my friends.” I said.

“They are not real though. That is just the internet.” She responded.

I crawled in the bed and didn’t want to argue. I just wanted to go to sleep. I had a full day of work ahead of me and needed to rest.

“Do you love me?” Rachel asked.

“I love you with all my heart.” I replied as I rolled over and held her.

Rachel could be so needy and complex. I am still baffled by much of our encounters after our divorce. I think back on it all and how complex and convoluted our relationship could be and I wonder how I made it through it.

“Good night, sweetheart.” I said as I kissed her on the cheek.

The only sound to follow was the sound of her breathing as she fell soundly to sleep. I laid there relieved.

Christmas lights everywhere……

I just had to pound my chest and share some machismo. There is nothing more manly to me than getting out in the yard, organizing, and stringing up shit loads of Christmas lights on the hedges. It took me all afternoon but I am finished. I did this over at my parent’s house as a favor for my father. Every year he has an elaborate but tasteful display but couldn’t do it this year due to his recent illness. I have taken on little projects around his house to repay him for helping me go to college and for helping me get a home. This project turned out to be a big one and took a good part of the afternoon.

The front of the house has four very large hedges that look like Christmas trees. They go almost twenty feet up to the roof of the house. I had to use two different ladders to get all the lights strung up and my fear of heights kicked in several times. The gangly ladder would begin to wobble and a plethora of curse words would escape my mouth. I would scramble to steady myself.

The very last hedge is situated at the corner and the steepest part of the house. It was almost 30 feet up and I looked up with a gulp as I stood there pondering how to tackle this last obstacle. I extended the forty foot ladder and leaned it up against the house and climbed up to the roof to begin. It took me five stringers of lights to cover the hedge. I was never more glad to be finished than I was with that last one.

Right now I am waited for darkness to descend and I am going to walk over and check out my handy work. I wish my digital camera still worked. I would have loved to share the finished product with those who would like to see. My words and descriptions will have to suffice. Well, let me bundle up and get ready for a light show.

Cold weather survival tips…..

I had written up several essays on surviving rural homelessness in the winter. Today after last night would be a fitting time to post this. It got down into the low twenties and we had our first frost last night.

I did go last night without heat. The little gas heater in my apartment will not stay lit. I could go turn on the main furnace that heats the whole house but I was being cheap and wanted to see how I would fare. It was so cold in my apartment this morning that you could see my breath. I did have an electric heating blanket on my bed and was toasty warm but getting out of that bed was pure torture this morning. I will not even try to describe my very cold and very quick shower. I think after posting this I will bite the bullet and go turn on the main heat. Here is one of those short essays:

One of the hardest aspects of last winter and living in a tent was the cold. Cold is a relative thing when it comes to where you live though. I was lucky that I lived in the Deep South and most days in the winter it would crawl into the fifties and feel down right balmy once you became acclimated. And you do become acclimated to the cold. You would be surprised how warm a high forties or low fifties day will feel if you spend much of your time outdoors and in the elements.

The most dangerous times were at night and early morning. This is the time when temperatures are at their lowest. I can vividly remember a few nights were the temperatures got down into the teens. On these days I would sometimes lay in my warm sleeping bag until the sun got very high and the day had a chance to warm up some.

The trick is being prepared and having the right gear. I had a really good goose down sleeping bag that was rated at zero degrees Fahrenheit. I also had a fleece bag liner to add another layer of insulation. Layers of insulation are the key. You want to add as many layers of insulating air between you and cold night air to stay comfortable. Staying dry is also important so cotton apparel was a big no. Cotton garments have almost no insulating qualities when they get damp or wet and are slow to dry. They are also not very good at handling perspiration. You would be surprised at how much you can perspire even on the coldest days with moderate exertion. Try to stick to wool or synthetic garments.

I also learned to sleep with some of my clothes on and to put my shoes inside the sleeping bag with me. That way they would be warm and dry in the morning and ready to use. Nothing is more painful than putting on cold, clammy shoes or garments on a subfreezing morning. Especially with shoes as once your feet get cold you will have a hell of a time getting them warmed back up.

Here is a list of my most comfortable garments and these were sometimes lifesavers:

1) A wool toboggan and a fleece baklava.
2) A heavy wool sweater.
3) An expedition style cross county skiers jacket with a zip in fleece liner.
4) Polyester heavy weight thermal underwear.
5) Mittens not gloves. I found that if you did not need dexterity then mittens kept your hands warmer as your fingers could make contact and they insulated better.
6) Thick wool socks with cotton liners to keep your feet from itching.
7) Insulated hiking boots.


This is just a short list but these garments were invaluable to keeping me comfortable on some very cold days.

Another trick that was great both physically and psychologically was to have something warm to drink such as hot tea or coffee. You don’t know how much of a comfort these can be on a very cold morning. I had a little white gas camp stove and could boil water in just a few minutes. I also had a small aluminum coffee percolator that came in real handy on those cold days where I needed a boost.

A good fire can help keep your extremities warm but I found it biggest benefit to be psychological. I would keep two fire pits; one for the evening and one for the morning. Before the sun set the previous evening, I would have my morning fire ready to go so all I had to do is get dressed and walk out of my tent and light it. Within minutes of facing the brisk morning air I would have a roaring fire going. Keep in mind that there is a certain art and skill involved to be able to consistently light fires so if you want to experiment with rural camping in a winter setting you would be wise to practice a lot in warmer months.

Well, these are just a few things that I found important. I could probably go on for many more pages. If you are interested into looking into some of the gear I have mentioned and want to see what kinds of hiking gear is available then I suggest the following website to get started:

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Christmas shopping is done….

I just wanted to air with proud feelings that all my Christmas shopping is done and all my presents are wrapped and ready to ship. I did manage to stay within my budget and got everyone nice and practical presents. I am not the best present wrapper and have to muddle through it but it is done.

This afternoon will be spent on remedial online math courses. I found a great college math lab website and am going to review my math basics. My upcoming college algebra course scares me as I have not had any math in fourteen years. I just want to be prepared and to review the basic stuff. Well, off I go to spend an afternoon in math academia.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Hard times can hit any of us…….

Today broke my heart. Normally the panhandlers down at the Piggly Wiggly get on my nerves but they have learned that I am no gravy train and they leave me alone. Monday is “payday” for me as I give myself $75 dollars a week in spending money so I walked down to the Piggly Wiggly to get the provisions to make some homemade spaghetti. I was almost out of things to eat. I also wanted to treat myself as this is my favorite meal.

I saw George which was surprising as I thought he was in Jail for a long term. I wrote a story about it but will post it later. I walked on in the store and bought my groceries and walked out. This guy standing outside made a bee line towards me. I have seen him hanging out in front of the store the past few days but he is shy.

“Sir, I don’t mean to bother you. I don’t need much.” He said nervously.

He was definitely not one of the regular, hardened Piggly Wiggly Groupies so I took the time to hear his spiel and story. He went on to tell me that he had advanced AIDS and had just got out of the hospital and had no where to go. He still had his hospital band around his wrist. He slept on the bench in front of the Pig last night and it was darn cold. His family doesn’t understand HIV and they think you can get it by contact and they are afraid of him.

“All I be wantin’ is some groceries or something to eat.” He said.

He was tall and as skinny as a rail and looked hungry and not like the other Piggly Wiggly panhandlers. George, Slop, and Cap with Tag are all not missing any meals.

“Walk over with me to Wings and Things and I will get us both a bite to eat and we can talk.” I replied.

We walked over and sat down in the restaurant. They have a special this week on a burger, fries, and drink for $2.99. I ordered us both each a special. We talked for a long time and I shared my story with him. He asked me a lot of questions about how to get help and I told him how to apply for disability as I am sure he would qualify with having AIDS. I told him that I would print off some resources and phone numbers from my computer and bring them down to him tomorrow in front of the store on my daily walk down there.

I felt so sorry for the guy but felt so helpless as there are no shelters or soup kitchens around here. A similar thing happened to me last year and I had to sleep in the woods. I was lucky I already had an income and good camping gear and was prepared to some extent. I still can’t get the look on that guy’s face out of mind. It will haunt me for the rest of the evening I fear.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Last Wednesday night was camping out night…..

I went camping last Wednesday night for the first time in my new found sobriety. It was a long 5 mile trek out spring road to my favorite camping spot. I had my pack full of all my gear and my Kelty tent. It must have weighed 80 pounds. My favorite camping spot is a creek fed pond amidst hardwoods and pines out in the country on the edge of town.

It was abnormally warm that afternoon and the skies threatened rain. The temperature was hovering around 75 degrees (24 Celsius) and it was muggy. I knew a big storm was coming from reading the weather forecast but decided to go anyway. I love camping in acclimate weather.

Upon arriving at my favored spot I pulled off my pack and begin setting up my tent. I prepared for the worst case scenario and used all my tie downs on the tent. I then got to work gathering up the wood for a large fire and for cooking supper. After gathering the wood, I made a ring of rocks to define the fire and scraped away all the nearby leaves and debris. In good time I had a roaring fire going.

That night I brought along all the provision to make hoboes; my favorite camping food. It is a large beef patty smothered with onions, carrots, potatoes, and a mixed sauce of ketchup and mustard. I prepared all this before I left home and had it packaged in zip lock bags. I put it all in some heavy sheets of aluminum foil and placed it in the coals of the fire to cook. It took almost two hours to get good and done.

In the meantime, I sat by the fire listening to my little am/fm/weather band radio and taking long draughts of tobacco smoke from my pipe. The fire flickered and glowed in front of me. The heat wafted up and made the orange/red foliage above me shiver in the heat and the light. I sat for the longest time getting lost in my thoughts and listening to the constantly repeated weather report on the weather band. There were all kinds of weather warnings being put out.

By the time my supper was finally cooked enough to my liking, the sun had almost set and you could see bright flashes of lightening on the horizon. It was still too far off to hear the rumbles of thunder yet. I cleaned up my mess and trash and got all my gear inside the tent. It was too hot for my down sleeping bag so I just slept in my fleece bag liner on top of it with it zipped up.

I couldn’t go to sleep. This was where my old stand by, Southern Comfort, would come in to play in subsequent camping trips. I would drink a pint until it was finished and I was comfortably numb. It would help me go to sleep. So that night I just lit my candle lantern and read The Last of the Mohicans. It was a fitting setting for reading about Native Americans and helped me get into the feel of the book.

Around midnight, a huge storm had blown up upon me. I could hear the thunder and see the lightening vividly for an hour preceding it. Boy, it was a big one with very strong gusts of wind. I lay in my tent with the sound of very hard, beating rain falling on its lining. Man, I love times like this I thought. I felt so alive and at one with nature. I also get scared as well but that is part of the adrenaline rush. I got worried my tent was going to leak and all my gear would get wet. Luckily, I had the foresight to bring my nice Kelty expedition tent and not my cheap Wal-Mart tent. She held up just fine and I was high and dry in the morning. I ended up eating a lukewarm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and hiking the five miles back to home just in time to go to my volunteering session. It was a good time and one that I will remember for many days to come.

Lots of thoughts so I will be rambling today to catch up…….

I have had a busy week full of volunteering, hiking, and camping so I have neglected this blog. I feel like it has been some lost neglected step child of mine and it is now time to go back to being a parent again. Sorry for my absence but I needed some time to collect my thoughts and regroup.

I spent all day writing and stuffing Christmas cards with my father today. I was helping him out. We ended up with over a hundred cards, signed, sealed, and delivered. I had a good time and we told a lot of good hearted jokes. Tomorrow will be spent putting up all the Christmas lights on his house and his hedges. He is unable to do it this year so I volunteered and he will supervise so it goes up to his liking. It will be an all day job.

I have set aside Tuesday morning to do all my Christmas shopping. I hate shopping and just the thought of doing this is overwhelming for me. I have given myself a $200 dollar budget and this will come out of my savings. It is going to be really hard to stretch that $200 to buy all the presents I need and get them shipped. I will make a go of it though I am sure. Last Christmas I was homeless and things were horrible. I am just glad I can make this Christmas a different Christmas than last year.

Exploring average everyday blogs……

This evening and most of the night I went searching for normal everyday blogs and diaries. I stayed away from the popular ones. I wanted to find out more why we have this need to publish and share our most secret thoughts and desires. Most people who write blogs want to share their feelings and ideas and have a need for others to view and read them.

Following links on the internet is like an endless game where you just keep going and going. I find that linking through blogger’s comments can take you to some interesting pages. Most people who choose to be completely anonymous write some pretty interesting stuff. Topics varied wildly from sex, relationships, work, school, popular culture, religion, etc. Some of the blogs even made jaded old me blush at times. I found that a lot of the more risqué blogs about sex with female authors attracted undesirable types and saw many posts from the authors about these “perverts”. They were getting an audience other than the one that was desired. Sorry ladies but if you write about what you do with yourself in your free time (hint) then perverts are going to read and get off on it.

On my relationship front……

My ex-girlfriend has started a new flurry of activity to woo me. She came over four times yesterday and calls endlessly. I want us to just be friends and we are close ones and that is nice. I find the intimate side of our relationship just mucks things up and makes them too complicated. That has not stopped her endless innuendos as of late.

She even offered to take me to Europe with her this spring break and she would pay. I politely declined and told her I would rather go on my own merit. She said she would just go alone trying to pressure me like she did when she went on a Caribbean cruise this past summer. I will just wait and see what happens. I just do not feel comfortable going on expensive, paid for vacations and me being on disability.

Catching up with ‘The Homeless Guy’……

I was catching up on his blog after not reading for quite awhile. I see he is taking a new direction and is going to start selling hand made craft items on his blog to raise funds. I applaud him and think this will be much healthier than straight out panhandling for charity.

The dubious, realist side of me is very skeptical of his success though. I wouldn’t doubt that he will get more sales do to pity about his homeless situation than due to his craftsmanship or skill. In this late day and age of the internet if you could make $300 to $400 a week selling knitted scarves on the internet then someone would have already thought of that and cornered the market. My ex-girlfriend is a master at knitting, crocheting, and cross needlework and only makes a pittance doing it. I do wish him success though.

(Some of my camping experiences this week will follow when I get more time to write.)

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Setting out for the Evening…

It is lightening outside as I write this. The weather had been so weird lately here in the south. You can hear the far off distant rumble of thunder. This kind of warm weather helps me save on my natural gas utility bill. I do not have to use the heat. I just put on extra layers of clothes to stay warm. I find that my tolerance for chill since last year has greatly decreased. I used to could sit here in this apartment in 50 degree temperatures and stay warm and now it feels too uncomfortable. I have grown accustomed to a homed lifestyle and it has spoiled me.

Last night I went camping. I had to get out in the great outdoors and be one with nature once again. It felt good but I didn’t have my old crutch of alcohol to rely on. It was much harder to get to sleep without the numbing affects of my substance of choice. I awoke very early in the morning to the rumbles of thunder and a hard and heavy rain beating on the lining of my tent. I laid there in my sleeping bag listening to Mother Nature pitching a temper tantrum outside my safe confines. I felt at home and had a certain calm come over me. I felt grounded and needed this.

Last night as I sat by a roaring fire and thinking, I watched as the sparks from the fire floated gently upwards through the leaves of a young oak tree. The updraft of the fire made the remaining leaves shimmer in the light. I thought of how much my life has changed recently. Things are growing ever more complicated and full of responsibility. I sometimes feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and it can tell on me. So many people are watching me and relying on me. They expect such great things to come from such a simple man. I want to live up to their expectations and prove all the nay Sayers wrong. I want to show the whole world that a man can rise from being homeless and destitute to changing the world around him and making a difference.

After the fire died down, I crawled into my tent and lit a candle. I lay in my sleeping bag reading The Last of the Mohicans by candle light until I grew sleepy and the candle had almost burned out. The act of my camping led credence to the book and made it all the more enjoyable. I found myself lost in the words on the pages.

Today my legs ache and moan from the past two days of exertion. I hiked many miles to and from my destination with a very heavy 80 pound backpack. My hiking legs have become soft and unaccustomed to great labor. I need to get back in the habit of hiking everyday for exercise. I had forgotten how settling and grounding it can be. At one time my legs were like the oaks that I like to have as company.

Well, let me close and quit rambling. My legs feel like Jell-O and a good hot bath will sooth what ails me. I am going to trudge upstairs, get in the bath, and read a good book. Good night.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

A library in the garage……

Today I went spelunking in my parent’s garage. I was looking for more reading material. I just got finished reading The American Indian in the Southeast and The Last of the Mohicans. I have been on a Native American kick lately as far as books go.

You have to picture my parent’s garage. It is huge with two car bays. Every nook and cranny is filled with bookshelves and books. There are thousands of them down there. Every time I go and look I find little gems to take home with me and to read.

This area is rich in Native American history. All the local names are Native American such as Opelika, Chattahoochee, and Tuskegee. Today I am setting out to look for artifacts. There is a huge wooden area with a creek nearby my home. Where there was a consistent source of water there were Native Americans. This area frequently floods and exposes new ground. I am going to don my backpack and load up some provisions and head out in just a moment. I will report my findings when I return.

A defining moment…..

I cannot sleep. I had the TV on just for noise. I rarely watch it for entertainment. A commercial was aired with the repeated call of a whip poor will. It brought on a flash back to my homeless days and I felt a need to post about it.

Definition:

\Whip"-poor-will`\, n. (Zo["o]l.)An American bird ({Antrostomus vociferus}) allied to thenighthawk and goatsucker; -- so called in imitation of thepeculiar notes which it utters in the evening. [Written also{whippowil}.]


I will never forget those lonely cool nights where everything grew still. The only noise was of the whip poor will; a far off cry of a bird that would wander and sometimes grow closer. It was one of the most lonesome sounds that I remember from my homeless days in the woods. It sounds just as the name implies: whip poor will.

Monday, December 6, 2004

Nightly weather report: Spring is in the air.

Sigh, winter always comes with a whimper here. The trees are just now losing their leaves and the grass is still green. I was reading on the Frumpy Professor’s blog about him getting a nice snow today. It makes me long for more northern latitudes. I would want to experience a good snow at least once a winter. We maybe get snow every 5 to 6 years and only around 2 to 3 inches. Everything has to be perfectly aligned with the weather for us to get freezing precipitation. I guess people in more northern, snowy latitudes would consider us lucky.

I just walked outside and it is very warm and muggy. The current temperature is 75 degrees (24 degrees Celsius) according to my thermometer and it is overcast. The tree frogs are busily peeping and the summer time nocturnal insects have made a brief reemergence to call their mating calls; one last ditch effort to procreate and spread their genetic material.

A secular look at alcoholics anonymous…..

I am holding the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions in my lap as I write this. Step two states:

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity.”
What can we believe in? A.A. does not demand belief; Twelve Steps are only
suggestions. Importance of an open mind. Variety of ways to faith. Substitution
of A.A. as Higher Power. Plight of the disillusioned. Roadblocks of indifference
and prejudice. Lost faith found in A.A. Problems of intellectuality and
self-sufficiency. Negative and positive thinking. Self-righteousness. Defiance
is an outstanding characteristic of alcoholics. Step Two is a rallying point to
sanity. Right relation to God.

This passage is directly quoted from the book. Look at the very last statement. Right relation to God. God with a capital G implying a Christian god. What about those of us of other faiths or beliefs? Can we make A.A. fit our needs? What about the Buddhist or closet Islamic alcoholic? What about the secular humanist? Can A.A. work for them? I can only share what has worked for me on this matter.

One of the biggest issues I struggle with when it concerns A.A. is trading my dependence on a substance to a dependence on meetings and a higher power. I worry that we are trading one dependence for another and see hints of this in those that go to meetings religiously. I battle with the idea that I am powerless over alcohol. Sometimes it can feel really demeaning. I feel that I am not taking responsibility for my addiction and substance abuse. I am urged to turn over that responsibility to a higher power and am trading one dependence for another. Step one states: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.” Step three states: “Made a decision to turn over our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.”

I have learned to use the collective of the group as my higher power and this perplexes some long time Christian A.A. goers but it works for me. I find solace and companionship in going and not being alone. I enjoy talking about and releasing my everyday struggles. I listen to other members and gain from their experiences. I came to believe that a Power greater than myself was the collective of the group and it helped restore me to sanity.

To close….what about the effectiveness of A.A.? Are there statistics on this? A quick google search turned up these results. In my own experience, I find many, many more people coming and going than staying. The same core groups that I started with is still there that was at the beginning but we rarely get lasting newcomers. What do these people do? There were obviously having problems with substance abuse. Surely many of them have found ways to stay sober outside of A.A. I wonder what their secrets are.

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Trying to understand Islam:

I feel we are being taught or urged to fear or hate Islam in our current society. They are our new national enemy much like the communists of old that have now faded from prominence. My opinion is that we use a common enemy to unite the populace and to justify our actions and insane military budgets. I remember growing up as a child during the height of the cold war and looking up at the sky and seeing the contrails of jets. I feared they were the contrails of nuclear ICBMs and were going to foretell world war three. I was too young then to understand the complexities of the cold war.

I like to understand what I am being urged to fear or hate. I wanted to understand Islam from the view of a Muslim or ex-Muslim. I did a lot of research tonight and gained some insight into the minds of Islamic fundamentalists and Muslims. Here are some things that I learned about the religion:

To understand Islam you have to understand the basic holy texts and what is in them. There are three prominent texts which are the Quran, the Hadith, and the Fiqh. The Quran is believed to be words spoken by Allah (God) to Muhammad (his prophet). The Hadith is regarded as the words and deeds of the prophet as reported by followers down through the generations. The Figh is the work of Muslim scholars on Islamic law as they understood and extrapolated from the Quran and the Hadith. There are numerous translations and interpretations of these basic texts. The two main sects called Sunnis and Shiites disagree on which text is the correct version especially when it regards the Hadith and the Fiqh. The Sunnis are the majority. There are also many more minor sects that I will not go into here. They all have different views especially when it regards the Figh and Islamic law.

Here in most western countries we hold democracy in high esteem. I would argue that we are more of a republic than a democracy but that is another matter for another day. What about the countries in the Middle East? Would democracy work? It takes a deep look into Islam to find out. The more you look into Islam the more you see political as well as religious overtones. According to Islam the only person able to rule is Allah and Allah only. There is no democracy and the governments are founded on Islamic law. These laws are set by the Quran, the Hadith, and the Fiqh. Young people are indoctrinated and taught these ideals and laws from the beginning. The only decisions that rest with people today are those about which the decisions have not been already made because the problems did not arise for earlier Muslim generations to decide.

Well, enough for tonight. I enjoy learning about these kinds of things. Tomorrow or the next day I will reveal what I learned about Islamic fundamentalists and what in the Quran spurs them to die and kill so willingly for the cause of Allah. This kind of fanaticism is a big harbinger of our fears.

Going in a new direction:

The days of this blog getting 200 hits per day are over. I am no longer interested in gaining a large cross section of readership or pandering to that. I am going to use this blog to discuss issues and ideas that interest me and that I am endeavoring to learn about. I will post from time to time about my aspirations for becoming a social worker and my new life in college for those of interested in keeping up with me. I feel I have an obligation to my long time readers and my internet friends to do this. I will try to keep posts away from too many personal details about my life though. Those make me uncomfortable and make me appear to be wishy washy as I constantly post and retract. If you would like to read about my learning and research endeavors then I appreciate you following along. My interests vary daily from fossil hominids, creationism vs. evolution, religion, debate, the bright movement, atheism, secular humanism, social justice, social work, homelessness, and to astronomy etc.

I want this blog to become something constructive and good for me. I do not want it to constantly be a liability and worry. I have dear friends and family reading along with me now and they grow concerned if I post too many personal things. Things that would be better kept to myself and only confided to the closest of friends. Those of you that have read a long time have learned a great deal about me through my postings. You have been able to glimpse into my world; the world that is me. This blog will now change directions and go a different course. It will be my opinions and what I am researching on a daily basis.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

The perils of keeping an online public journal……

I struggle with this issue as do some of my online friends as well. I can count many blogs I visit that have been compromised by a family member and another individual. They are either gone or are no longer posting. I often censor myself for the fear that I may harm another, compromise some of my real world relationships, or compromise myself as well. Maybe I made a mistake by never being anonymous on this blog and thus tying my hands for the foreseeable future with regards to this blog.

One thing we have to realize when we journal about our lives in an open, public forum is that sooner or later we will draw detractors or dissenters. Not everyone will hold or share our beliefs. Not everyone will believe the validity of our websites and what we post. Not all comments will be kind or supportive. It is a very real risk we take when we talk about our lives openly for all the visiting public to see. The anonymity of internet makes it very easy for someone to post what they like or say what they want where in real life most of these people would be more restrained.

I feel that blogging/journaling can be a great tool in and of itself. It can be an awesome tool for self expression. On the other hand, I have seen and read where it can cause great personal strife in your life as well. What is this intrinsic need to share such personal details for all to read? I believe much of the need resides in our egos and our need for acceptance. I also believe there is something liberating about sharing your life with total strangers in, what can seem like, a safe environment. That liberation can sometimes come at a great cost though.

That said I want to conclude this post by saying that I am struggling with the issue of this blog and of continuing blogging. I am not going to yank down this website like I did a few months ago and will still post from time to time. I am just not going to use blogging as an emotional outlet any longer and at least try to succeed in doing this. I will try to find safer more constructive ways of sharing my feelings and my life. Something a little less public and that will still satisfy my need to share my thoughts and feelings with others. I will continue to think over this issue for the next few days and see where more thoughts take me. For the immediate time pending, I am going to take a short blogging break.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Times gone by……

“You think I look okay?” Rachel asked.

“I think you look gorgeous.” I replied as I swiped the hair out of in front of her eyes and put on her glasses.

We sat on the couch waiting to go. It was a sad time and a time I do not want to remember. Rachel stood up and walked to the mirror to survey her dress and her appearance.

“Doll, you look wonderfully fine. You are beautiful.” I said trying to reassure her.

“I just want your family to accept me. I don’t want Jennifer (my sister in law) to out dress me.” Rachel replied.

I sat there with tears in my eyes pondering the experience I was about to undertake. So many memories were at the forefront of my mind. Could I be a man? Could I not cry like a child? I hoped so and put on my best front.

“You ready to go?” I asked Rachel as she continued to preen herself in front of the mirror.

“I am ready. You okay?” She replied.

I thought she would never ask. Today was the funeral of one of the most special persons in my life; my father’s mother, Mrs. Sally Lou Minter. I was her chosen one and the first grand child.

“I am fine. We need to hit the road and head up to Waverly though.” I replied.

It was a long drive up to that little town. Rachel let me listen to talk radio instead of her usual classic rock. She was trying to be at her most understanding. I smoked many a cigarette on that long drive. Upon arriving we were greeted by Brother Ed.

“So sorry to hear about your loss. Your grandmother was a wonderful woman.” He said as he shook my hand and we made our way into the church.

I was surprised at the amount of people sitting in that little church. There were people standing along the wall. I watched as the rest of my family drew in. They sat down one by one with somber faces. The service was to start soon.

Brother Ed got in the pulpit and preached fire and brimstone and made me wince in true southern Baptist tradition. At one time he pointed at me, my brother, and sister and said, “They have to carry on the will of God as well. They are wavering from his path.” I grew angry at what he said and turned to my father.

“That son of a bitch didn’t say what he said did he?” I asked.

“Just ignore him. He was who your grandmother wanted.” My father replied.

My wife clasped my hand tightly and soon the service was over. It was time to make our way to the cemetery. I watched as my grandmother’s casket was carried out of the church into the awaiting hearse. It was a long one mile drive to the cemetery.

Upon arriving I saw my in-laws standing next to the grave. I and Rachel parked and walked slowly over to them. Terry shook my hand and Rebecca gave me a hug. It was our closest contact in me and my wife’s three year marriage.

“Thank you two for coming and being here. I appreciate it very much.” I said.

They told me condolences and were nice.

The crowd grew near as we laid this great woman to rest. A huge number of people had formed and filled the little cemetery of Waverly, Alabama. Brother Ed said a few words and we laid her to rest. The crowd dispersed as we all got in our cars to head home.

“I love you.” Rachel said as she clasped my hand. The tears were rolling down my cheeks as I got in the safe confines of our car.

“I love you too, doll.” I said as I cranked up the car and drove off towards home.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

A different perspective on homelessness….

I always enjoy a different or dissenting view on things. It makes me think and sometimes opens my eyes. It allows me to see the world from a different or broader perspective.

I found a blog today randomly searching for homeless blogs and I was captivated by its material and the author. I ended up reading the whole blog in one sitting. I find such moments like finding a small gemstone amid a sea of sand. I love it when I find a blog and it sucks me in and doesn’t let go.

I am not a judge of homeless bloggers and I do not proclaim to know the authenticity of the blog or its author. I will let you, my readers, be the judge for yourselves. I think the guy has good intentions, is a good author, and has interesting subject material. He also writes on a frequent basis and that is a big plus in my book. Nothing is more frustrating when I find a blog that I like and the author does not have the time or the inclination to update on a frequent basis.

On a side note, I have been struggling lately for coming up with material to write about on this blog and this other blog has inspired me. I find my daily postings of just my daily activities to be boring for me and I am sure some of you as well. I am going to write a multiple part series on surviving rural homelessness in a camping setting and will get to work this afternoon. I will try to post an article every few days as my free time permits.

Here is that other blog about homelessness that I wanted to share. This guy has a different and unique perspective that I think is though provoking and worth a read.