Monday, January 31, 2005

Deep, dark despair…….

What a somber title for a blog post! It is how I am feeling now. I have had a wave of pictures come in from my sister-in-law on the west coast. They all seem so happy and little Lilly seems so content. I feel despair in that I may never get to experience the joys of child birth or a “normal” marriage. I look at the pictures and tears stream down my cheeks. I break down in great sobs.

I feel as if it would be unfair for me to pass on my genes to my prodigy. I do not want to cause further harm. I think that my father, if he knew what he knows now, would have stayed away from my mother. Then again, two great doctors and two great people were birthed from that relationship.

Genes and genetic heritance can be such a game of Russian roulette. My brother and sister had things come so easily in my eyes. I knew from an early age that they were destined to great things. Humble old me inherited the faulty genes in the family. I inherited a genetic illness that has kept me down for the past ten years. I struggled from the earliest age just to keep up.

I try so hard to stay upbeat and positive but the facts can wear you down. You want so hard to achieve something worthwhile. I just want to be normal. I want a little girl or boy to call my own and to raise and cherish. I fear I can never have that though. My lot in life has been predestined by my genes. I must be content with helping others through the same experience I have endured. That is my lot in life.

Maybe, just someday, before I die they will develop a gene therapy that solves my problems. Maybe when I am forty or fifty, I can have a wife and a family. I do keep up my hopes. Research goes on never ending and who knows what future doctors and researchers will discover?

The jewels that are homeless bloggers…….

I think that main thing you will notice is that we were all distinctly different. We each had/have our own way of doing things. Some of us got a home. Some of us continue to be homeless. One thing you will have to admit that homeless bloggers are at least moderately intelligent folk. We didn’t fit the stereotype of the average homeless person. I think it takes a special person to be living in such dire circumstances and to still be able to get online and share it with others. There is just something so human about reaching out to your fellow human beings in your darkest hour. For just wanting your voice heard. For just wanting a simple comment on a simple blog/journal that said, “I hear you! You are not alone!” I received this gift many times when I was homeless and I thank those who contributed.

Mr. Fred updates regularly and I want to hear his voice heard. His voice is unique and a different take on what it is like to be homeless in Nashville. There is something innately human about his blog that I do not feel when I read http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com. He may never have the internet clout of a Kevin Barbieux but he has a loyal reader in me as I like his style and his openness. I also appreciate his ability to join in an online community of bloggers and share and contribute through comments. Somehow this aspect escaped “The Homeless Guy” with all his marketing and advertising savvy. There is this feeling of stifled opinions and closed doors when I stop by “The Homeless Guy”. As I mentioned earlier, different strokes for different folks and he is well within his rights to do so. It just clashes with my style and makes me vent vocally on my blog sometimes. Before I get ten emails as usual sticking up for Mr. Barbieux and telling me to focus on college, I didn’t write this as a criticism of “The Homeless Guy” but as a little note to bring some notoriety to a homeless blogger whom I think deserves it. Good luck Mr. Fred and may your blog prosper, grow, and thrive.

http://homelessnashville.blogspot.com

Staving off the psychology blues……

(I wrote this as I was sitting in my psychology class at lunch time.)

We are watching a supposed psychological thriller movie. It will take up two class periods and we are not even being tested on it. It is too far late for me to drop the class and get any of my money back so I am trying to use this time wisely. Most of the period, I sat and made an outline of chapter three of my textbook. Chapter 3 deals with evolution, genes, and their effects upon behavior.

Earlier, I arrived an hour and a half before class and sat in the student lounge enjoying a coke. I used this time to make an outline of chapter two. I am trying to get caught up on and to understand the material. Here are some interesting quotes from the summary of chapter two which deals with critical thinking and how psychologists do research:

“Be cautious about correlations. We said this before, but we’ll say it again: Many statistics in the news are correlational, so you can’t be sure what’s causing what.”

“Arguments over public policy often take the form of shouting matches about numbers. People on the right and left are equally likely to misuse numbers to promote their political causes. Many Gay men and lesbians protested new evidence that homosexuality is statistically much less common that Alfred Kinsey reported in 1948. Many conservatives protested the evidence in the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2001 report showing that “abstinence-only” sex-education programs do not lower rates of teen pregnancy; birth control information does.”

I find this type of stuff fascinating and it reinforces my long held beliefs about certain things dealing with politics and popular media. There is so much crap floating around on our airwaves that it can be a daunting task to discern what is statistically accurate or what is statistically fiction promoted by a biased group. This makes me fear for the average individual who is not trained or learned in critical thinking. I fear that the majority of our average citizens buy the junk that is spouted in the popular media and by our government hook, line, and sinker. I urge everyone to maintain a healthy skepticism about what you read and hear. Asking sometimes hard questions can be a good thing and can broaden our horizons.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Box office madness……

(I am bored and just need to ramble. Feel free to read along.)

It seemed everyone and their grandmother decided to go to the movies tonight. I sat in the car, listened to the radio, and read Plato’s The Apology of Socrates for World Literature. Not one movie interested me and I pocketed that $8 bucks. I did go in and make sure Randall found his theater and a seat. He was carrying a newspaper clipping of the movie listings and had picked the worst film in the theater. (He has an uncanny knack for doing this.) I had to talk to a manager for them to let me do this but upon hearing Randall speak they realized that I was just being a Good Samaritan and helping out a friend who was disabled. The rest of the evening was uneventful and without any hiccups. We came, we saw, we bought shaving cream, mouthwash, and a talking Elmo doll.

There has been some minor drama this week within my family. They think I am not eating enough as I have lost a tremendous amount of weight the past few months. Mom has been trying to slip me twenty dollars here and there but I refuse. I am adamant that I try to be as independent as possible. I really haven’t been trying to lose weight. It has just been happening. I guess I do need to try and eat better and eat more well rounded meals.

I think maybe I have put myself under too strict of a budget. All my money from work goes into savings and will pay for part of my future car payment. My goal is to have several thousand dollars saved up for emergencies. I want to have enough money in an emergency fund to survive for many months without any income or assistance. I vowed long ago to never fall into that trap of homelessness again. The next time I would be well prepared but maybe I am suffering unduly in the present to stave off this possible future occurrence.

As I sat in the car this evening passing the time after reading my material, I was thinking about how we define mental illness after hearing a short segment on the radio. It is easy to point out a text book case of schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder and cry, “Mental Illness!” I am also starting to form my own definition of mental illness as enveloping people who consistently make bad choices and decisions in life. Some choices I see people make including myself in the past could easily be mistaken or classified as madness; a definite misfiring of sane mental processes.

The recent event of privatization of social security accounts being brought in to the lime light has piqued my interest. I have read countless articles and editorials on the subject and they run the gamut of wild extremes of opinion on this matter. Much of it seems as spin from the left and right camps. I am unsure of what to believe. Some say that SSI will be solvent until 2049 and who knows what will happen with the economy and budget in the mean time. Others portray the situation as if millions of pensioners will be cut off in as short as ten years and the system will collapse. My opinion is that statistics show that Americans are loathsome when it comes to personal savings. Much of our nation is in extreme debt due to credit cards and such. What makes Mr. Bush think that magically our young citizens will turn into dutiful savers and put money into personal savings accounts? I think they will more likely use that money to pay off their current debts and for immediate needs. Don’t we already have 401ks and Roth IRAs for this type of savings for retirement? I once had quite a nice 403b but cashed that sucker in a moment of stupidity and lack of foresight but I was not vested yet.

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What is happening with school?

Music Appreciation:

We are studying medieval music and the effect of the early Christian church on music. I find Gregorian chant soothing and the modal scales involved intriguing and have been listening to my text book accompanied CDs quite often. I also found a copy of Hildegard Von Bingen’s Canticles of Ecstasy on the alt.binaries.music.classical newsgroup. If you are unfamiliar with her, she was a German woman that was a true visionary in her time when it came to music. Somehow she escaped any scathing from the early church despite her being a women in a time where women had little rights. The early church recognized her brilliance and left her alone to pursue her creative efforts.

Biology:

Organic Chemistry is the words for biology. We are studying the macromolecules such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. I much more enjoy inorganic chemistry over organic but I have a firm grasp of the material.

Psychology:

As usual not much of note is going on in this class during lecture time. Our instructor mainly talks about “pop” psychology during lecture time and we have yet to really go over any material in the book. I have been neglecting the material the past few days in my textbook and need to get on it tomorrow.

World Literature:

I am enjoying this class but we move at great speed. I have a lot of material to read and keep up with. This week’s readings were:

Plato’s The Apology of Socrates
Virgil’s The Aeneid
Ovid’s Metamorphoses
St. Augustine’s Confessions
Parts of the New Testament


I found the Apology of Socrates to be fascinating reading. Well enough of me rambling on. I have spent 30 minutes on this post and that is time wasted. I am going to crawl into bed with my Psychology book and read chapter 3. Good night.

Venice as a puzzle…..

Well my planned day of study got diverted. I did get all my biology notes typed and printed out and put in a notebook this morning and it took hours. Dad called around lunch and wanted me to come and eat. He had cooked a rump roast, potatoes, carrots, peas, corn bread, and congealed salad. Charlie and his wife came as well. Afterwards, I drove over to Charlie’s house to help them put together one of those 3-D puzzles. Charlie putting together a puzzle intrigued me as the man is so busy he hardly ever sits down. He cussed and carried on but we managed to get a good part of Venice erected and standing on its own.

This evening, I have to take Charlie’s autistic son who is a year older than me to the movies. He has a routine and must go see a movie every Sunday and then must go buy a plush stuffed doll of some sorts at the mall. We then go eat at Wendy’s and he gets the same thing every time; a classic single with cheese, small fry, coke, and a small frosty. Charlie is paying me twenty dollars to go do this and I also get to see a movie and get dinner paid for. I do not mind as me and Charlie’s son grew up together and I know how to handle him if he pitches one of his tantrums. Charlie credits me for getting his son to talk and interact with other children as I was the first kid to ever make an attempt to play with him and not be afraid of him.

Well, I must jump into the shower and get dressed. I then have to go pick up Randall and head down to Auburn and start our routine. Good day and be well.

Sunday Lazy Day Blogging……..

We averted a disaster with yesterday’s ice storm. It could have been much worse than it was. Atlanta just an hour up the road got hit hard with numerous power outages and impassable streets. They even closed down Hartsfield International for most of the day. I do have several very large limbs to clear away when the weather warms. I will have to get a chainsaw to cut them up and move them to the road for pick up by the city.

It is odd how something that looks so beautiful can be so debilitating. The trees were covered in a coat of ice and glistened in the light of the day. Everything had this beautiful, white coating and the landscape looked so cold. We rarely get frozen precipitation in the Deep South and I enjoyed the change up in the weather scene. I just wish we could have gotten a harmless snow and not an ice storm.

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Struggling with studying……

I have tried so hard lately to study hard and in earnest. My mind wanders a lot though and I worry about the efficacy of my efforts. I have had a damn hard time concentrating this weekend. I know it has to do with my illness. Everything just seems so daunting and I am having a hard time effectively managing my time and what I am doing. Am I over doing it? Should I just take a more breaks like I am doing now and just chill out? I worry if it is this difficult in the early stages what will it be like in my more advanced major centric classes at Auburn? I guess I will just have to stay on target and focused and jump those hurdles as they arrive. One day at a time, Grumpy. One day at a time.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Computer work……

I think it was Pipe Tobacco that had asked me a while back what installing WindowsXP entails. Well, I spent most of the afternoon getting my back up computer cleaned up and with a fresh install of Windows. I built this computer out of parts when I was driving a big rig and had a steady income. I spared no expense at the time. I haven’t been using it to “save” it in case my junky hand me down computer broke that I found on the edge of the road after my neighbors threw it out. Here are the specs on my “good” computer…..

Pentium 4 processor overclocked to 2.86 ghz/ hyperthreading enabled
1 gigabyte of ram overclocked to 220 mhz/dual channel enabled
2 x Western Digital Raptor 10,000 rpm serial ATA hard drives in RAID 0 mode
4 x Maxtor 7,200 rpm parallel ATA 60 gig hard drives.
ATI All In Wonder Radeon 9700 pro with TV tuner
Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS

Friday, January 28, 2005

New Homeless Blog…….

I am always on the prowl for a new homeless blog. I think these people deserve a voice after all they have to go through. I have never understood why “The Homeless Guy” with all his internet clout doesn’t give these folks some attention as he is aware of many of these blogs. This guy is also homeless in Nashville and blogs using the public library system. He would probably be thrilled to get a supportive comment and some readership. He seems to be prolific in his updates.

http://homelessnashville.blogspot.com

I got another letter to James Christian aka The Homeless Guy in NYC in the mail this morning. I am still waiting to hear a word back. I hope we can start a dialogue and let him air his feelings on a blog ala Prison Pete.

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On the injection front……


I had a bad experience today and bled all over the place again. Blood was all over my sweatpants and in a puddle on the floor. It was also very painful. I think we may have to start trying my other butt cheek and see if that alleviates the problem.

The nurse freaked out on me but I stayed calm. She was so apologetic and even called me and my father after I had left and arrived home. Dad is now worried that the solution got injected into my vein thus the blood and the pain. We will just have to see over the next few days if any symptoms arise. They are afraid to give me another injection as if the first one did take then it would double my effective dose of Risperdal from 25 mg to 50 mg. It is going to be a wait and see game. I feel completely fine this morning.

Freezing Rain?

Sure, we can get freezing rain but we can’t get snow. It is now currently sleeting at a good clip outside. We are under a winter weather advisory. I can picture the local grocery stores now. Old women making frantically mad dashes to stock up on bread and milk as if this was the second coming and end of the world. That always makes me smile. I will avoid the grocery stores today.

Well, I am off to go get my bi-weekly injection. It has been extremely painful the past few times so I am apprehensive about it. It must be done though as this is the cornerstone to my recovery. Good day and may snow blow your way.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A busy day and yet more to come…….

I walked out to check the mailbox this afternoon. I opened it and there was one solitary letter inside. I pulled it out and it was from the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama. My hands shook as I held it and cautiously opened it. I kept my fingers crossed that this wouldn’t entail drama. That is the last thing I need in my life at this time.

They wanted me to sign a form and release my medical records to corroborate some claims my ex-wife has made about me. I refuse to release my private medical records to a group of people whom I will not know how they will use it. I fear it may come back to haunt me. I just tore the letter up and placed it in the large trash can outside my apartment. I could care less about those proceedings. I don’t care if she does get an annulment. Whatever floats her dingy. I wish they would just give it to her and quit sending me endless amounts of paperwork and forms to sign which I ignore and throw away anyway. She wants to get remarried in the Catholic Church someday. I hope she will be able to but I will not compromise myself for her to be able to obtain this.

Tonight was my first exam and I had a tremendous amount of pre exam anxiety. It was my first college exam in a very long time. The exam was hard and I immediately know of four questions that I definitely missed. One asked, “What was the largest family of instruments in an orchestra?” I absentmindedly wrote woodwinds when I should have put strings. DUH! I knew that as I enjoy and listen to classical music often. Twenty questions were terms and we had to write the often lengthy definitions by memory. That was the hardest part. Two I went completely blank on.

Now after the experience is over, I feel kind of ambivalent and I think I might have made a C. At least now I know what to expect out of future exams and will know how to study for them. I do get to drop the lowest exam grade. This is where the perfectionist in me howls and rages in his cage urging to be let loose. I cannot fall into that trap though. My father calls it my A or Fail syndrome.

Folks, I am just brutally tired and I still have to study for my psychology exam tomorrow. I do feel better after getting my thoughts down with this digital medium though. It is a release for me and helps me dissipate mental energy. Thanks as always for the many great comments from those of you that take the time to do so. I appreciate it very much and it makes me feel as if I am not on this journey alone. It is good to know that someone is reading along with me.

Pipe Tobacco: I especially wanted to single you out for your great advice on how to handle the learning aspects of my psychology class. I appreciated the lengthy comment very much. In fact, I print out two copies and put one in my notebook to remind me of my goals and the other on my desk. Thank you dear sir!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Just a few words before bedtime…….

I have received several emails lately from readers trying to urge me to write about different things. Some want me to write more about college life as I like to do as well. Others think I am not being an effective advocate for the plight of the homeless, mentally ill, or for substance abuse recovery. Let me put this plainly upon the table. I have never claimed to be an advocate and do not think a blog is a good place to advocate. The majority of my limited readership is very knowledgeable about homelessness, mental illness, etc so I feel I would be preaching to the choir so to speak. I do my advocating in the real world by working in the mental health field and with me trying to obtain a major in social work. This is just a personal journal and a way for me to creatively express myself with words.

One reader misses the posts about George and the Piggly wiggly groupies. To be frank, I grew tired of my interactions with George and company and have distanced myself from them. I also do not go to the Pig much anymore as my free time has grown much more limited. George and the gang could be comical but they are like a broken record as well. It is more of the same old, same old. I grew tired of writing about it. There is only so much you can write about a mute crack dealer, a drunken pseudo cabbie, and a morbidly obese panhandler.

Student lounge = bad idea……….

Oh well, you live and learn. I tried to study in the student lounge but my fellow African American students kept coming in and cranking up the rap videos on Black Entertainment Television. I don’t have anything against rap per se but it is painfully hard to study by. I don’t see how they were doing it. Each to his own, I guess, as they must find it relaxing. I found it distracting. There was not much I could say as it is a student lounge after all; a place for students to congregate, grab a coke, and relax in between classes. I packed up my books and headed on home. I will get far more accomplished here.

Today was my weekly “payday”. I have started to give myself an extra $10 dollars a week for a total of $85 to pay for the gas for my truck. I gleefully made a quick jaunt through the Piggly Wiggly to stock up on this week’s groceries. There was not a Piggly Wiggly groupie in sight as there was a police car sitting in front of the store so no hassles. It almost felt abandoned or closed as I walked to the automatic doors to step inside without George and the gang standing out front.

Pipe Tobacco: Thanks for the suggestions about Psychology. I will take them to heart and that is similar to what I have been doing. Professor Larkin assured us that the study guides were our tests word for word today during class. All we did today was go over those study guides and I liked to have fallen asleep I was so bored. Everyone else in my class is perfectly happy with the arrangement as it is a guaranteed A. I will try and take the glass half full instead of half empty mindset in this matter and make the most of it on my own.

Old times just like she wanted…….

This is a post from last week that I was too afraid to publish. I thought it seemed corny or too personal to post. I will bear all tonight in my throes of insomnia. Now I must get to bed as tomorrow will soon dawn and I don’t want to be a zombie. Sominex work your magic.

My girlfriend came over tonight to help me study psychology. She insisted as she was a psychology major in college. I tried to reassure her that the class was not a threat in any way. The professor gives us the actual exam to study by. It was just good to spend some time together and we quickly got diverted from studying to other matters.

“Come play the piano for me some.” She said as she held out her hand towards me to get me up.

Charlie had moved over one of his pianos the other day to my grandmother’s house in preparation for our moves. Luckily, I was in class at the time. I don’t think my shoulder that was once broken would have held up to the task.

“Oh, I haven’t played in ages. I can’t play anymore.” I replied sheepishly.

“Come on. You can still play.” She said with a pout on her face.

“It’s cold upstairs.” I replied.

“Quit making excuses.” She responded.

We both walked upstairs and I turned on the heat. The temperature was at 62 degrees and chilly. We then walked into the front living room and I sat down at the piano.

“What do you want to hear?” I asked.

“Something in the Way She Moves.” She replied.

She had heard me play this before. My current repertoire consists of a few James Taylor songs, Peanut’s tunes, and Amazing Grace. It is all I can remember by heart after years of tutelage in piano.

I began to play and sing along to the tune. She sat down beside me on the bench and put her head on my shoulder.

(Me singing in italics.)

There’s something in the way she moves……

…or looks my way, or calls my name………

……that seems to leave this troubled world behind……

I then looked away from the piano and to her face looking up at mine.

…If I’m feeling down and blue, or troubled by some foolish game, she always seems to make me change my mind.

I then royally screwed up and missed a key note and it sounded horrible. She said I had the funniest look on my face after this happened. We both got to laughing hysterically and couldn’t quit. I could no longer play I was laughing so hard.

Confessions of an insomniac…..

All the Greek tragedies I read earlier in the day piqued my interest in Greek culture and history. I walked under the basement to smoke a bowl and what did I see? A large green tome about the Parthenon. On the cover was scribbling by my brother as a child. He had drawn an epic space battle of opposing triangles with circular gun emplacements. I knew it was his as he wrote prominently his name Alex amid the drawings.

There is a veritable library under my grandmother’s old home. These books are mildewing and growing warped with moisture. I need to get under there and bring them inside my apartment and clean them up. I fear they will just be thrown away or discarded.

I lay in bed for hours reading this book infatuated with the many pictures and the interesting text. I looked over at my bedside alarm clock after several hours of reading and it read 11:30 PM. Jeez, I need to go to sleep. I have a busy day tomorrow. I got up to take a drink of water and wandered over to the computer to write this. I am now going to take a couple or four sominex (sleeping pills) and try to drift to sleep. My mind is as busy as a hamster on a exercise wheel at midnight. I must….get….to…..sleep!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Why are you not a better advocate…..?

I got an email tonight from someone who claims to be a long time reader though I have never seen them comment or have gotten an email from them before. Here is a quote from their lengthy email to sum up their concerns. I thought it would be interesting to post my reply publicly. This only took a few, short minutes to write but I found it interesting and will soon head to bed.

“You want to be a social worker then why are you not a more active advocate for homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse recovery on your blog? Lately, you just write about going to school and eating filet mignons at expensive restaurants.”

This is simple. It’s a personal blog/journal. I get less than one hundred hits a day from an audience that is already well informed about mental illness, homelessness, etc. I would be preaching to the choir. The majority of the people who read my blog have read for a long time and I think they feel a certain vested interest in keeping up with how I am doing. I rarely draw new readership anymore.

Also, I feel that to be an effective advocate I must learn and grow and talk about my own experiences. How can I best help someone to get sober? By getting and staying sober myself. How can best help someone find a home? By gaining and keeping a home myself. How can I best help someone with a mental illness? By exploring and navigating our complicated mental health system and sharing what works for me.

I also find most blogs as ineffective ways to go about changing something. Very few have large readership or an audience in where you could make a difference online. Do you want to change something or make a difference? Get out and volunteer. Go to school and get a degree that will allow you to make a professional difference. Sure, you can write about it on some obscure blog but you gain far more ground making a difference in the real world. This is what going back to college means to me. To have the opportunity to learn from some very accomplished and knowledgeable people who have years of field experience working with mental illnesses, homelessness, and substance abuse. This blog is nothing more than just a place to talk about and express creatively the journey that I am currently on. Nothing more. Nothing less. I do all my advocating in the real world by going to school to learn and working in the mental health field.

The tragedy of Greek Tragedies……

I had over one hundred pages of Greek tragedies to read for class tomorrow evening. I made myself sit down to read the whole lot this afternoon. I can proudly say that I am finished and caught up. Man, those things were hard to read though. I guess it was the translation and style of the prose. Each page had nine or ten numbered annotations and they were distracting as I felt the need to read them and then I would lose my place on the page after looking down. I am glad I am finished.

Okay, now for a little apartment cleaning and getting some laundry for next week started. I am then going to study for my psychology test next week and follow that up with studying for my music appreciation class. A hot pot of coffee and my comfy lazy boy waits to cradle me as I endeavor to be a good student. Off we go…….

Saturday, January 22, 2005

From homelessness to opulence……….

Well, not really opulence but it feels that way sometimes compared to where I have been. I have been reading over the hundreds of past blog posts from my former blog Homeless and Disabled in Alabama. I kind of chuckled and reminisced over how much my life has changed in little over a year. This time last year I was sitting in a tent during a very cold winter wondering what to do. Now I am enrolled in college and soon to have a modest home and car that are in very good shape. If you ever find yourself homeless or destitute never let anyone tell you that it can’t be done; getting a home and turning around your life that is.

I am sure there would be some that would be quick to point out that much of this is due to my families and my friend’s generosity and that is true to an extent. A lot of it also had to do with me getting stable on my medications and staying consistently sober for my medications to work. Staying sober and getting stable on a medication that works for me was, by far, much harder than going back to school or gaining a home. Without those two things none of this would have worked. It showed my family and friends that I was truly trying to improve myself and they soon realized that with their help I could succeed. I was the one that had to do the hard work though.

Tonight’s upcoming cold front reminded me of those colds days last winter trying to stay warm around a campfire. I remember vividly dreading such changes in the weather as they brought discomfort and inconvenience. Now, all I have to do is shut the door to the cold and turn up the heat. I no longer have to resort to crawling in my sleeping bag early in the evening even though I wasn’t sleepy to stay warm. Many hours I spent laying there in that bag with nothing but depressing thoughts and seemingly insurmountable obstacles on my mind.

The other day I was cleaning out my camping backpack and organizing all my gear. At the bottom of the main compartment of my pack was a notebook where I had written handwritten posts sitting next to the campfire when I was homeless to be transcribed into my blog. Many of these never made it to print as I would forget the notebook back at my campsite or wouldn’t have the energy to transcribe them once I arrived here and snuck into the house. Here is one of those posts. Please don’t laugh at my amateurish writing. Much has changed in a year. The only corrections I have done are to fix the many spelling errors and to clarify a few things.

I can’t describe the cold this morning. It was brutal. The little, clip on thermometer on my backpack read 26 degrees. I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag but I was hungry and hoped a fire would warm me up. I had a fire ready to go for in the morning but I had a hard time getting it lit. The kindling and branches were covered in a heavy frost. Finally, after much cursing and a sore thumb I got my bic (lighter) to light the pinestraw and I started to pile it on to get a fire roaring.

A five star restaurant down in a shack by the lake…….

I got coerced into going out to eat with my family last night. I was already tired from working, studying, and a long week of classes and didn’t really want to go. Dad chose the Hunter’s Pub Steak House which is a little hole in the wall type place out by the backwaters near Columbus, Georgia. I had never been and it looked like a dump on the outside. It really looked that bad. It was an old 1950’s era gas station that had been converted to a restaurant and rather shabbily I might add. It was out in the middle of no where at a crossroads.

“It’s the best goddamned steak you will ever eat.” Dad said as we drove our way there in the car.

I just had to go on his recommendation. The amount of cars and trucks lined up for miles along the road leading to the restaurant gave a hint as to how good this place was. We ended up having to wait for an hour and half to be seated. There was a line forty people long going out of the restaurant. It grew very chilly standing outside after the sun had set.

We finally sat down to eat. There was Dad, Mom, my sister, my brother-in-law, Charlie, his wife, and his son. I picked up a menu to scan the offerings…..

Filet Mignon $24.95

Petite Filet $19.95

Rib eye $18.95

New York Strip $18.95

Ground Sirloin Steak $7.95

It looked downscale on the outside but was definitely upscale regarding the menu and the prices. I had my heart set on the ground sirloin that was $7.95 as I only brought twenty dollars with me. The waitress came to take our order and I stated what I wanted and dad interrupted.

“He will be having the Filet Mignon with garlic mashed potatoes like the rest of us.” He said. “I am paying so it will be one ticket and we also each want a fried lobster tail as an appetizer.”

The steak was delicious and one of the best I have ever eaten. I now see why people would be willing to stand an hour in the cold just to take a seat and eat. The lobster tail was overkill but good. I could barely eat all I had but managed to put it all away despite a balking, distended stomach. It was 10:30 PM by the time we had finished our meal and began to make our way home. I was so full I could not sleep and ended up reading for several more hours in my lazy boy until I had digested enough to be comfortable. I then crawled into bed and slept until 11:30 AM this morning. I was absolutely exhausted from the busy week that was now behind me. I have felt tired all day and have gotten little accomplished despite sleeping so long last night. Hopefully, tomorrow I will have the energy to study hard and in earnest. Today was not the day.

Friday, January 21, 2005

A haircut at gossip central…..

I got my haircut today. I decided to use my mother’s hairdresser instead of Jim’s Barber Shop. There were four older ladies cutting hair and they were busy. I had to wait for almost 30 minutes to take my place in the chair. One thing I noticed was that these women gossiped about everyone and everybody in the small town I live in. I now see why my mother goes and gets her hair done twice a week. If you wanted sordid details about a certain person’s life then this was the place to be.

They also had a long conversation on why they wouldn’t touch a black person’s greasy, nappy hair for anything. Apparently, a young black woman had called earlier and asked about walk ins. I felt very uncomfortable during this exchange. I doubt I will go back. It will be Jim’s for me for now on and Jim’s is half the price as well. She charged me $13 dollars for a 10 minute hair cut and my hair wasn’t that long.

Tonight I am going out to eat with my sister and her husband. Dad and mom and Charlie and his wife are also tagging along. We are going to eat at the Hunter’s Pub. They have fantastic grilled steaks and I am going to splurge tonight and eat a juicy, medium well rib eye with a baked potato. Can’t wait till this evening and it will nice not to have to cook supper and have it brought to me on a platter.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Room with a view no longer……..

I can tell a big difference in the level of warmth in my apartment now. I only have to burn the heater on setting one to stay warm instead of setting three. I no longer feel a drafty, cold breeze when the wind blows. There is one problem though:

I had a beautiful nighttime view out my window beyond my computer. I could look down into the Chattahoochee river basin and see the lights of downtown West Point, Georgia. That is now replaced with a milky, opaque view of distorted lights beyond a plastic cover. Oh, what we have to give up for mere comforts and cost savings. I miss my nighttime view of small town America. I am tempted to go rip one window free of its plastic sheeting to be able to see the view that I have grown accustomed to. It is definitely a quandary; warmth or a room with a view?

Waiting to hit play…….

As I write this, I am waiting for my beloved British soap opera, Eastenders, to download. How I got hooked on a soap opera from another country I do not know. It is just one of those weird quirky things that happen when you involve the internet and have way too much free time on your hands. It is the only television show I watch now and it is only 30 minutes long without commercials so I do not feel guilty for indulging. It is something I look forward to every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. A guy who lives in London uploads it so we call all download it like clockwork an hour after it airs on BBC1 in the evening. London is five hours ahead so that means I get to download it around 8 or 9 PM which would be well after midnight London time (GST).

Tonight, I had my music appreciation class. Even with all my experience and background in music this is proving to be my most difficult class. My instructor played for years in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as the 1st chair French horn. He now plays in the local Lagrange, Georgia Symphony Orchestra. He also teaches grade school students by day and his evenings are filled with college music classes at two different campuses. He is a very busy man and extremely passionate about music and his zeal to impart this passion onto others.

This evening we studied in detail the different kinds of instruments that can make up a symphony orchestra. He had brought in several for us to hold and even play if we didn’t mind swapping digestive juices. I enjoyed the hands on aspect of this as I have never held an oboe and seen the double reeds close up that are so hard to master.

We then went on to listen to The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra Op.34 (1946) in its entirety by Benjamin Britten. I also enjoyed this very much and followed the score in my book intently. I recommend this orchestral piece highly for those of you that want to familiarize yourselves with the different instruments that commonly make up an orchestra. It was based on a theme by Henry Purcell, a great English composer of the seventeenth century.

Our first exam is next week we learned tonight. The exam will consist entirely of essay questions and he will provide terms and we have to write the definitions. We will also have to listen to several orchestral pieces and identify them by title and composer. The class groaned in unison as they heard him tell us this. I will have to study hard for this exam to learn the myriad of definitions that I will have to know. I am excited though and his passion for music is rubbing off on me.

One thing I am noticing about college is that the instructors/professors vary wildly from class to class as far as what they expect out of students. Take my psychology class for example. (And this is a key class related to my major.) It is a joke compared to my others. Professor Larkin just gave us the actual exam to study by word for word and it is a multiple choice exam via scantron. He went so far as to highlight the correct answers as well. This is in stark contrast to my music class as you can read above.

Next week will be interesting as I have my first two exams. I will be sure to post my results as soon as I learn them. I feel it will be a true measure of my mettle in this matter. Hopefully, I will have good news to share come next week. Now, I must crack open that Music Appreciation manual and listen to some music to familiarize myself with its contents. Good night and be well.

Too busy for 7:00 AM……

(This will be a multipart posting as I had several things I wanted to express and talk about. I will break them up by subject.)

I will first say that I am not a “morning” person. This morning I was lying in bed and I heard something loud outside. It was loud enough to wake me up earlier than usual.

*SMACK!*

I rolled over and looked at my bedside alarm clock and I still had thirty more blissful minutes I could sleep before my alarm would sound.

*SMACK!*

Damn, there it went again. I dragged myself out of the bed and pulled on my robe and slippers to investigate the noise. I walked into my den and saw Charlie outside a window up on a ladder hanging plastic sheeting and power stapling it to the wood work around my windows.

*SMACK!* *SMACK!*

This month I had complained to my father of my previous month’s gas bill. It was abnormally high. Charlie had overheard and decided that hanging plastic over my drafty windows would solve my problem. Bless his soul; he was out in sub-freezing weather putting up all that plastic before he had to go to work. I got in the shower and then got dressed to go help. I couldn’t do much as I had to meet four of my fellow students on campus in the student lounge to study this morning at a predetermined time. I thanked Charlie profusely for going to such trouble on my behalf. He was cursing and bitching good heartedly at me as usual. I then had to take my leave for school.

We had a good study session at school. One of my goals with going back to college was to not only learn but gain some friends as well. I have lived a very isolated existence this past year other than my family, my girlfriend, and the Piggly Wiggly groupies. I think I made four new friends this morning. They were impressed with my understanding and knowledge of the material and we all exchanged phone numbers so we could keep in contact out of class. I drove home very pleased with our accomplishments this morning.

___________________________________



Ode to my family……

This weekend I had sort of a hiccup with my illness. I had gotten on what my father calls a “high” and it is a type of mania. I was going a hundred miles and hour and not sleeping well. The next day I called my mother and told her I didn’t feel well. I asked her if she would call my psychiatrist and have her call me in something for my nerves. I needed something to calm me down and to help me get some much needed rest. Well, mom told my father and everyone rallied around me and helped support me. A year ago they would have scorned me and kept their distance.

“From now on, you are not going this alone.” Dad said. “I got your brother and sister through medical school by basically talking them through some tough times. I am going to do the same with you.”

Mom came over and brought me some medicine and two barbeque sandwiches. I was just starving and consumed them ravenously. I had forgotten to eat since the day before. I took two zanax and went sound to sleep until the next morning. My family has continued to call to keep tabs on me and how I am doing. They have been so supportive lately and it makes a big difference in my progress and my recovery. I now see your family unit as being an integral part of getting out of homelessness or getting support for an illness. It is nice not to have to go it alone.


________________________________________


Car Search IV: A New Hope Dawns……..

As many of you long time readers might know, my car is, excuse my French, a piece of shit. It is fourteen years old and has almost 180, 000 miles on it now. I no longer have a rear window as it is plastic and has disintegrated from age. This makes for some cold rides down the interstate in the morning to school. It also makes for wet rides in the rain. I will have a puddle of water in the floor board on rainy days. A new top has to be special ordered and it will cost almost $300. The car is probably not worth $500 so I refuse to put any money into it. I just drive it as it is and keep my fingers crossed that it will hold together.

With my new job, I had hoped to save up the money to purchase a newer, used car to get me through college. All I needed was something basic, fuel efficient, weather tight, and reliable. I had my sights set pretty low for my next vehicle; nothing fancy just basic transportation. All of that changed this morning as I was standing in my father’s drug store just checking in with him.

“Don’t get too excited but I talked with your mother and we are buying her a new car next month.” He said. “I will give you her current car at a price you can afford. You just name a price that you think is reasonable and within your new budget since you are working now.”

I was almost beside myself with glee.

“Youre fucking kidding me? Right?” I asked.

“It may take a month as I am not decided on what to get your mother and we are still looking and deciding but it will soon be yours.” He replied.

I stood there kind of dumbfounded as this all sunk in. I didn’t see this coming at all. I wouldn’t have thought of this in a million years. It never entered my mind.

This solves one of the biggest obstacles with me transferring to Auburn University in a year or so. I will now have reliable transportation. The car is a 2000 Honda CR-V 4X4 with only 69,000 miles on it. It has power everything and it will the nicest car I have ever owned other than the 2001 VW Beetle turbo I bought for my ex-wife which she kept in the divorce and took over the payments. All my personal cars have just been basic transportation to get by with. This thing has everything and is loaded. It should last me at least for another eight to ten years.

I just don’t know what to say about my father’s generosity in this matter. I feel as if I have won the lottery. I damn sure will take good care of it though. This thing is my ticket to a degree and I will cherish it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A tale of a time by the lake……

(This is a post from my memory. It may be fraught with inaccuracies. You may even enjoy it. I write it as my memory allows. Read along and we shall see where it ends.)

It’s cold tonight. I can feel the creeping, insidious cold through the window slats and under the gap of the door despite the towel I stuffed there to stop it. It is a good night to write about a summer’s past. Maybe writing this will warm my cold heart and hands.

_______________________________________


I stood outside smoking a cigarette to the staccato sound of a summer cicada. Will she ever arrive I thought as I looked at my wrist watch. She is ten minutes late. I flicked the cigarette butt off into the bushes and started to step back inside. As I opened the door, a blue Volkswagen Golf pulled quickly into the driveway.

“Hey you! You ready to go?” She asked as she rolled down her window. She had on a pair of dark sunglasses and a tank top.

I grabbed my fishing rods and tackle box and put them on the back seat.

“I am ready if you are.” I replied as I sat down in the passenger’s seat.

She cranked up the car and off we went. She rolled down all the windows and the brisk wind whipped my hair and hers into frenzy. You could smell the summer time scents as we made our way out to West Point Lake. She pulled up into a parking spot out at Moss Point. She handed me the picnic basket and I carried it over to the picnic table.

“Will you get the charcoal?” She hollered back.

“I am on it.” I replied and walked back to the car.

I grabbed the bag of charcoal and carried it to the grill. I poured out enough to make a good fire and I lit it. The charcoal sprang to life. We waited until the coals had become white hot. Alaine then put on some burgers. Maybe twenty minutes had passed until the burgers were done. We sat at the table and ate.

“You know, I still haven’t cast out a line.” I said as I grabbed my fishing rod.

I sat on the bank and cast out my line. She sat down behind me wrapping her legs around me and embracing my waist with her arms. Before long, I felt a tug on the line. I reeled in furiously and out of the water came a bream flopping upon the ground. She squealed and got up and ran.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Excuse me sir, but could I ask a question? I am lost…….

A brief segue and then to my main post. I really appreciate when long time readers take the time to send me an email. Have you all seen the movie A Beautiful Mind? There is a scene were Dr. John Nash (Russell Crowe) asks a student if someone is real and the student replies, “Yes, sir, he is real.” I received an email and it made me feel the same as Dr. Nash. It was kind of a call to reality. Sometimes with schizophrenia reality and imagination can become blurred. You need a trusted outside source to tell you what is real and what an illusion is. Thanks for that email and you know who you are.

The topic of this blog post was the main theme for my music appreciation class tonight. In 1990 and 1991 I was a music major at the University of Montevallo. I auditioned for a scholarship with my high school choral teacher and my piano teacher accompanying me and I got it. My major was in voice performance and my minor was in piano. I also took 13 years of piano as a child so I am no novice when it comes to music. I was still lost tonight. It had been a long time. Somehow, long ago, I sat my musical talents aside and never picked them up again. I just don’t have an interest in it any longer.

Tonight the instructor went full speed on forms (patterns in melodies and harmony). We spent a majority of the class studying the sonata and rondo forms. We listened to several classical pieces to hear the themes, bridges, developments, recapitulations, and codas. I looked around at my fellow students and saw that everyone else was kind of lost for a beginning introductory music course. I am amidst a young crowd and they were afraid to speak up. I held my hand up.

“Yes?” The instructor asked as he pointed to me.

“I have had two years of music education at a college level and this is pretty deep stuff for an introductory music class.” I replied. “I need to know if this kind of material will be on the first exam so I will know what to study.”

The instructor laughed nervously and smiled pointing to me again.

“That is a good question.” He said. “You will not be tested on this kind of material until about late March or April. This will not be on your first exam.”

A collective sigh of relief arose from the ranks in the class.

“I just want you all to start early with getting familiar with the forms of music. I have found that if I start now you will not be as lost come two months from now when you are tested on this.” He further replied.

Sometimes it pays to ask hard questions and when you feel you are taking a risk of looking stupid. I didn’t give a shit thought. I was a music education major years ago and this was the only class I was starting to grow nervous about and it is a subject I have a lot of experience in. I knew all my other fellow students were even more lost than me.

Biology fun and a study date……..

I know some of you do not like it when I get off on one of manic tangents like I did the past few days. I apologize. At least, you are getting to read an accurate portrayal of me and what is going on with me. I am fallible and very much human and not just words written in some little known blog amid millions on the internet.

A reader emailed me and wanted to hear about my classes and more of my college experiences. Here was this morning as best as I can recollect it…..

I feel much better today. Yesterday, I was just tired and hungry. I followed some sage advice from my late grandmother. She would say, “Hon, eat you something good, drink a glass of tea, and take a nap.” That and a couple of zanax helped as well. I slept for over twelve hours and awoke refreshed and ready to start my day. I was in a completely different frame of mind.

This morning I had biology and I enjoy it. I have a knack for certain subjects and this is one of them. The professor put a chemical equation on the board and asked the class what is was.

Carbon Dioxide going in and Oxygen as a byproduct made a light bulb go off in my head.

“Photosynthesis!” I said.

“Yes, you are correct sir!” My professor replied.

We then went on to discuss ionic, covalent, and hydrogen bonds. He drew up several water molecules to show how the hydrogen bonds give water its unique properties. I found all this fascinating. He then wrote on the board the compound with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. I immediately recognized it as methane and blurted out the word.

The last hour was a laboratory where we are basically just learning how to use the metric system. It was pretty standard stuff and kind of boring. I am ready for dissections and experiments.

After class a young woman walked up to me as I was standing outside. Thursday we do not have class as our instructor has a previous engagement.

“Are you John’s son?” She asked.

“Yes, I am.” I replied.

“Hi, I am Brandi.” She said and we shook hands.
We made small talk for a little while. Her mother used to work for my father for years and she knew my father well.

“Would you like to meet me in the library to study together Thursday morning?” She asked.

“I would be delighted to.” I replied.

“Shall we say regular class time then?” She asked.

“Regular class time it is then.” I responded.

We both smiled and said our good byes. I walked into the parking lot and made my way on home with a big smile on my face.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Blogging, OCD style…….

I could not sleep last night; I lay in the bed tossing and turning until 6:00 AM this morning blogging in my head and going over ideas, forming blog posts, and opinions. I got up several times to go write more but took a drink of water and forced myself back to the bed. I fear I was in a mode of mania and lay there with my mind going a hundred miles an hour and my body at a dead, tired rest. I assure you I am successfully medicated as I have a large red whelp on my right butt cheek from a painfully large injection to prove it. I looked back on what I wrote yesterday and my writing was all over the map.

That is one of the reasons I have tried to wean myself from reading that other homeless related blog. No other blog provokes such strong emotion and extreme opinions out of me as that one consistently does. I wake up in the morning and sheepishly open my blog to read what I wrote the previous night and feel dirty about it. Are my emotions unfounded or baseless? Why does a simple blog push my buttons in such a way? Maybe you have to be formerly homeless to understand. I am not the only formerly homeless blogger who feels this way I have learned so I know I am not a total aberration in this matter.

Part of it is that it is so frustrating for me to see a very smart and intelligent person squandering their life away in squalor when they have so much to offer society and only have a simple web log to make a difference with. I feel that through a web log you are only seeing pieces of a larger, whole puzzle and it is almost impossible to portray but the most basic aspects of the homeless condition. As authors we selectively share what we want you read as if blogs were personal propaganda platforms. I didn’t share all the nights I paced back and forth in my apartment just a mile walk and five bucks away from losing my sobriety. I didn’t share the many obsessions/delusions stemming from my mental illness about my ex-wife and frightfully real imaginary conversations I had with her that are still indelibly imprinted in my memory. She had no idea of what I was talking about at the time and was frightened of me. I didn’t share the extremely painful experiences of me having to swallow my ego/pride, conforming, and asking for help from family members that detested me and were afraid of me.

Part of me wants to drive the day drive to Nashville and help this man get off the streets. I want to take his hand and lead him to help. There are countless resources and avenues of aid that he never explores. We could get a case worker that will assist him in utilizing resources. If he does suffer from social anxiety which is a recognized mental disability then would get to a clinic and get him some medications to help at little to no cost. We could use the Americans with Disabilities act as an asset to obtaining a job and the laws would be on our side. We could start the process of obtaining disability benefits. We could apply for section 8 housing. We could sign up for vocational rehabilitation that would provide job training or tuition assistance. We could get a volunteer position that may lead to future employment as it would give a potential employer the chance to see that he is intelligent, punctual, hard working, and reliable as I did. I could go on and on with different things we could do to help that I don’t see him exploring.

One of my greatest fears about becoming a social worker is that my own life experiences will negatively affect my professional decisions. Will I become too attached to my clients and let it affect my judgment? Will I let my own personal biases and strong opinions determine what course I take instead of a professional detachment? Where do I draw the line? I know I will be often confronted with the situation where I can put every resource and asset in front of a client and only they can choose to use them. I can show them how they can get help but they have to do the hard work to obtain that help and utilize it. Luckily, I have four more years to grow, learn, and mature on these issues. I just hope I have the intelligence and capacity to grasp the ethics of these issues when it comes time for me to help a client dependent upon me for aid.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Now this sucked….

Okay, I walk the mile to the Piggly Wiggly to buy some pipe tobacco (I know, I know, don’t tell me to just quit cause I am not.) What happened? I get asked for an ID and I left my wallet at home. I just completely forgot about it and left it lying on my bedside table. I have bought Sir Walter Raleigh probably 20 times from this same clerk and she has checked my ID many times as well. Did she relent? Nope, I had to walk another mile back home again to get my license. The lady is named Virginia and she is a surly, old cow.

“Virginia, I just walked a mile to come get this. Can you let it slide just once?” I asked.

“Sorry sir, it is the law.” She replied with a smug grin. She was very much relishing her control over me and the situation.

I did get my revenge though. I had a ton of spare change in a large zip lock bag on my dresser. I counted out the exact amount of purchase including tax in quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies, and put it in a zip lock bag. I then got in my car and drove back down there. I was not about to walk another two miles.

“That will be $21.59.” She said as she handed me the can of tobacco after checking my ID.

I handed her that heavy zip lock bag of change with a smug grin on my face knowing it would take her a good ten minutes to count it.

“Have a nice day.” I said as I walked on out the door.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A long walk around town……

My sometimes girlfriend is a fitness buff. She works out everyday at the gym and walks religiously. Have you seen those power walkers that look kind of silly? She is one of those. She called tonight to see if she could start walking with me in the evenings. I still try to walk at least once a day for exercise. I used to hike my ass off with a heavy backpack but no longer have the time to do that.

“Is it alright if I start walking with you?” She asked.

I hesitated as I find my walking alone is a good time for me to think and meditate.

“You know I walk in the evenings and it is going to be cold tonight.” I replied trying to dissuade her. She hates the cold.

“I don’t mind. I think it will be a good time for us to talk.” She said.

“Well, come on over then.” I replied and hung up the phone.

I put on a warm pair of sweat pants and a sweat shirt to get ready. I sat in my lazy boy until the lights of a car lit up my apartment from the driveway. She had arrived. I stepped outside to greet her.

“You know I don’t walk as fast as you do but I do keep a brisk pace.” I said.

“I know. Don’t worry about it.” She replied.

We walked down the driveway and made our way down towards Cherry Valley Shopping Center were the Piggly Wiggly resides. The night was clear and the air was crisp. We passed countless houses were you could see the glow of television sets flickering in the windows. All those people shut up inside and snug in their homes. I enjoy this time of the evening when all is still and quiet and there is little to no traffic. In a small town such as mine, things tend to shut down after dark. A long while passed until the inevitable conversation ensued.

“I want to talk to you about something but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.” She said.

“Like what?” I asked warily.

“It’s about us.” She replied.

“Go on then.” I said preparing my self for what was to come.

“Do you think we can ever go back to the way we once were?” She asked.

We walked for several hundred more yards as I pondered over my reply.

“Well?” She asked trying to provoke a response.

“Me and you both have disabilities and a full plate. I just think a committed relationship is too much for the both of us at this time.” I replied.

“Am I a burden on you? Are you embarrassed by me?” She asked.

“No, not at all. You are taking it the wrong way. I am not embarrassed by you at all.” I said with a smile and gave her quick embrace.

“Then why can’t we be together like a normal couple?” She asked.

“What if I got sick again and things turned for the worse? Would you want to be with a guy who couldn’t get it together? And what about you? What if you got really ill again and couldn’t work or your medications stopped working?” I replied.

(A brief segue to explain a few things.)

To fill in new blog readers about my sometimes girlfriend: She had severe grand mal seizures for most of her life. She couldn’t drive or live an ordinary life. A few years ago they did a radical surgery and removed part of her brain. Not quite as drastic as a lobotomy but she lost her sense of smell and has a speech impediment because of it. The casual observer would think she was mentally retarded. To the contrary, she is quite brilliant and can drive and do most things normally now after her surgery. She graduated from college and her seizures have stopped. We met online by accident and she called me on the phone. It went from there and that is another story for another time.

(Now back to our dialogue.)

“I would take care of you and you would do the same for me I hope.” She said.

My heart melted at her saying this. I don’t know why I am so afraid to be committed. I worry so much that we could not take care of each other or that our conditions would exacerbate themselves.

“We will see.” I said as I held her hand. “We will both just have to see.”

“You know I love you and I would do anything to see about you.” She replied. “I would never do you like Rachel did.”

“I know you wouldn’t and I would do the same for you.” I replied as a tear erupted from my eye and ran down my cheek.

We made our way back to my house and stood in the driveway by her car.
“Call me when you get home. I want to know you are safe.” I said.

“I will and you slept tight and have a good night.” She replied. “I enjoyed spending time with you.”

I stood in the driveway and watched her drive home. I walked inside with a hundred emotions whirling around inside me. I do love this woman but I do not want to hurt her. I would do anything for her and I want her to be happy. I am just scared. Scared of the unknown and scared to commit to someone again after my first disastrous marriage.

Rambling about procrastination……..

I can remember my brother when he was in college at Tulane. Any holiday you would find him sitting at the kitchen table studying often times very early in the morning. He got his degree in Bio-Medical Engineering and graduated with honors. He went on to be a Physician in internal medicine and an officer in the Navy. His diligence and discipline still, to this day, astounds me.

My sister was more of a party girl and was president of her sorority at Tulane but she also did very well. My brother used to drag her to the library with him and make her study until she cried about it. She majored in Anthropology and went on to be a Physician in internal medicine as well. She is currently doing her residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center.

As you can see, I come from a family of high achievers and this puts a lot of pressure on me. I called my brother this morning in San Diego over at my parent’s house to get some tips and advice on studying. His basic advice was to hit your local library where there are no distractions and give an hour to each subject a day and sometimes multiple times a day. He said to study as you go and do not fall into the trap of trying to cram for an exam.

Well, what am I doing? I am sitting here writing about it and not doing it. I shall now go take a hot shower, put on some clothes, and head down to the local library and delve into my books. I am going to try and take his advice to heart. Here at the house there are too many distractions such as my computer, the phone, and the TV. It is time to cast away this vice called procrastination.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Welcoming an old friend into my home…..

Tonight my on and off girlfriend called me and wanted to come over. After she drove up, I welcomed her inside. We hugged each other and sat down to talk. She was lonely and needed a place to feel safe. She was scared in her empty house by herself.

“I get so scared staying by myself.” She replied.

“You are safe here so stay the night.” I said.

She walked back out to the car and brought in a duffle bag with clothes and such. She brought it inside and sat it down on my bed.

“You sure you don’t mind?” She asked.

“No, doll, I do not mind. You just get ready for bed. You are safe here.” I replied.

“I really need a shower.” She responded.

I walked into the bathroom to get a large bath towel. I also turned on the heating fan to warm the bathroom up.

“The soap and shampoo is in the shower. Here is a towel to dry off with.” I said as I handed her the towel.

“Can I have one of your t-shirts?” She asked.

I walked into the bedroom and got one and handed it to her.

Before long, I could hear the sounds of cascading water as she took a shower. It was really nice having a woman in my little abode. My apartment was filled with the smells of Irish Spring soap and Clairol conditioner.

She walked out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her head. She was wearing my t-shirt and a pair of panties. She crawled into my lap and laid her head on my shoulder.

“Is there a chance for us?” She asked.

“There is always a chance.” I replied.

“You know I still and will always love you.” She said and she started to cry. “I love you so much.”

I held her close and wiped the tears from her eyes. She held me tightly and sobbed. I used my hand and held her chin and pulled her face close to mine and kissed her. The kiss soon became much more passionate. She grabbed my hand and put it on her breast. I grew extremely nervous and my hands shook.

“I am tired will you come to bed with me?” She asked.

“You go to bed and I will be there soon.” I replied.

I followed her into my bedroom and she crawled into my bed and pulled the covers over her. I sat on the floor and held her hand. Before long she was asleep. I sat there and looked at her face in the glow of my bedside table lamp. She looked so peaceful. I reached over and brushed the hair out of her face as she slept. I do love this woman. I love her very much. I am just afraid that two mentally disabled people will have a hard time in life. I am afraid that I cannot give her the life she wants.

Well, it is time for me to quit lamenting and get to bed. I am dead tired. I think I will take my chances and crawl into bed with her. It will be nice to wake up in the morning with someone by my side. I am so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Queue Braveheart soundtrack……

I cry, “Freeeeedoooommmm!!!!!!”

My first week of class is over and I have a long four day weekend ahead of me thanks to the late Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow will be a day of sleeping late, rest, and recuperation. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday will be spent studying. I have much reading and organizing of my hand written lecture notes to get caught up on. I like to type them into Microsoft word and make them legible and organized. I then print them out and put them neatly into a notebook organized by class.

Want some reflections on this past week? No, probably not. This blog has turned into the adventures of college guy. It is all I have to write about as that has been the focus of my life this week. Little else other than work has gone on and work has been routine.

The rain is softly pattering outside as I write this. You can see a few far off flashes of lightening in the distance. I like a rainy night sometimes other than the inconvenience of getting out in it. I can feel an enjoyable and relaxing evening coming on. I shall fire up my pipe, pour a hot mug of coffee, and sit out on the porch to the sound of falling rain. Sounds like a good plan and I shall now go and implement it. Now, where did I put that latest issue of Model Railroading that remains to be read……

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Just checking in……

Sorry for little to no updates. I have been extremely busy the past few days. I have to relearn the skills of time management. I have had to read TONS of material lately to keep caught up. My World Literature class is the main culprit as the instructor moves fast and we have lots to read. We are studying things such as Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Old Testament, and etcetera. Biology has also been stressful with lots of material to go over and keep up with. I think I am doing well though. Luckily, I have a long weekend ahead of me so I can get caught up and study.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dreaming of another time…..

Tonight was warm. (23 degrees Celsius) I sat on the porch drinking a cup of strong black coffee, smoking my pipe, and looking at the stars on a clear night. The neighbor’s dog barked intermittently but all else was still and quiet. I surveyed the constellations and felt a certain kinship with them. Last winter when I was living in the woods I could tell how soon dawn approached by the position of the stars overhead. I would poke my head out of my tent still wrapped in my sleeping bag to smoke a cigarette and could look up through the puffs of my breath on a cold evening and see how late or early it was by the nighttime sky. Nature had become my timepiece.

I sometimes miss those days as all was very simple then. Life consisted of a very few motivators. Sleep was one. Hunger another. And don’t let me forget pleasure. I tend to romanticize those harsh moments of last winter as I feel it sometimes defines me as a man. It helped mold me into the person I am now. Whenever I feel a pity party coming on I reflect back on those days and my spirits are lifted. I also feel a certain pride for being so resourceful despite the odds and surviving it. There is no obstacle I cannot overcome after surviving such deep despair and isolation.

Okay, enough of my rambling about times past. I will bring things back to the present. School went well today and I am growing more confident. My great aunt is staying with me tonight and she is asleep upstairs. I have to take her in the morning to get blood work done at the hospital and then go get my bi-weekly risperidone injection. After my injection, I have class and then work. Tomorrow will be busy but I look forward to it. I have had my share of idle time and am glad to be rid of it. (These words will come back to haunt me soon I suppose.)

A heartwarming experience….

I know this blog is turning into a mundane journal about my college experiences. You will just have to bear with me on this. It is exciting for me and much is going on. After all, is that not what journals are for?

I enjoy having a few friends stop by and read but I am not inclined to have a large readership. This is definitely not going to be a top 100 blog. I write what pleases me and what I get satisfaction out of doing. If I did not then I most likely would not be writing.

Last night, I had put on my pajamas and had settled into my lazy boy to read sipping some hot green tea from a mug. The phone started to ring and then rang many times. I had calls from Charlie, his wife, Dad, Mom, Anthony, my brother, my sister, and Chad. The phone just kept ringing and the show of support from my family and friends was heartwarming. Everyone wanted to know how my first day was and it was encouraging that so many took the time to care and call. A year ago people would have been keeping their distance from me as good old Grumpy spelled trouble.

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A moment that makes it all worthwhile…

The college is nearby my father’s drug store in another town down the interstate. I usually stop buy the drug store after class to grab a coke and talk to everyone since I am so close. Dad pulled me to the side today.

“Sandra (his pharmacy tech.) was just saying how good you look and how nice you dress now.” He said. “She said you really seem to have it together.”

“She did?” I replied as I blushed.

“Everyone notices a profound difference in you these past few months and everyone is complimenting you.” He said.

It is times like these that make all that hard work done this past year worth the effort. I worked hard to stay sober. I endured the tedious drudgery of sitting an hour just to get a painful 10-minute injection every two weeks. I was patient and saved my money by living on a strict budget. I worked hard on improving the relationship with my family members and their trust in me. It is all starting to pay off. My ex-wife should have stuck around and helped me. She is missing out on a pretty damn good guy these days; a guy who is going places and is going to make a difference in the world one day one humble life at a time.

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Car talk………

If you have read awhile, then you know I am using the income from my part time job to save up for a better used car for when I start Auburn University in one to two years. That problem is now solved as well.

My father buys my mother a new car every four years like clockwork. He is fixing to buy my mother a new Toyota RAV4. He has offered to let my buy my mother’s current vehicle at an amazing price that fits within my budget. It is a 2000 Honda CR-V EX 4X4 SUV with 79,000 miles on it. It is in mint condition both inside and out. I am ecstatic and can’t wait to take ownership. It will be the first car I have ever owned that has power windows, power steering, power brakes, power locks, cruise control, and the likes. His reasoning was that he always kept my brother and sister in a good car for college and he wanted to do the same for me.

I was completely floored by his offer this morning. It came from out of the blue and I would have never expected this in a million years. This solves one of the biggest obstacles for me as far as going to Auburn is concerned; a reliable and fuel efficient vehicle. I am completely bouncing off the walls I am so excited about this. Well, let me go get some laundry going and then do some more reading.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Day one completed…..

I am dead tired. I mean dead, dead tired. My upper body is also extremely sore from trimming my father’s gigantic backyard hedge this morning. I foresee a bed being in my very immediate future. I do have a lot of reading to do for World Literature so I will do that in bed. I now see why people eat out so much. After you have been busy all day it is hard to muster up the energy to fix supper. I made do with just a bologna sandwich, some chips, glass of milk, and a banana. It was bland but filling.

The majority of my fellow students are all female nursing majors. Male students were by far the minority my first day. Ages ranged from 18 and living at home to 48 with grown children.

My first class was Psychology and we mainly just introduced ourselves and went over the syllabus. Most of the students pleaded with our Professor to let us go early. We took a vote and I voted to stay for the full class time. I wanted to get my monies worth from the get go and to start the first chapter today. I was the only student who voted yea for staying. I was outnumbered 40 to 1 by those who said nay. Oh well, at least I tried.

My second class, World Literature, was more interesting. We shortly discussed the syllabus and then our instructor asked us to write a one page essay on what made a great piece of literature stand the test of time. It was to be graded and everyone moaned and complained. I foresee this large class to grow thin soon as I could hear several students saying they would be sure to drop it tomorrow. I actually enjoyed it and discussed the merits of a recent work I had read. We then could leave after we completed and turned in our essays. I do realize that my handwriting needs work. I rarely, if ever, have to write by hand and do all my journaling and correspondence in front of a computer now days. I wrote slowly and diligently to keep it very legible.

Did I mention that I am sore? I haven’t been this sore since youth. I didn’t realize how hard I worked this morning to trim that entire damn hedge. My muscles in my arms and shoulders are balking and aching. I need to go take some Tylenol, turn on late night talk radio, and settle into the bed. Good night and thanks for reading along.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Conquering that daunting hedge….

I know I am writing a lot these past few days. I may not have the energy and zest to write as much as I have done in the foreseeable future. The time has come for me to apply my full focus on work and school. I will still update from time to time to let long time readers know what is going on with me. I doubt my updates will be as frequent as they have been. I feel I am almost at the finish line when it comes to blogging and this is my last 30 yard sprint to win the race.

I spent this whole afternoon trimming the hedge in the back of my father’s yard. It is huge at 8 feet in height and 4 feet in girth. You have to use a step ladder from both sides to affectively trim it square. Dad still cannot do much yard work after his triple by-pass surgery and has relied upon me to take up the slack. I do it willingly and without griping as he has done so much for me lately in helping me get back on my feet. He has cast away his fears of me and my illness and has also watched me struggle and try so hard. We have a new found respect for each other and are able to talk like we use to before I got very ill.

After finishing the hedge, he came out into the yard to look at my handy work.

“Damn, that looks good.” He said.

“It’s kind of lopsided at the end though.” I replied.

“Nah, it looks good to me.” He replied. “Supper’s ready. I got the chicken just right tonight. I marinated it in Italian dressing to change things up.”

We both walked together up the back yard, up the deck steps, and into the kitchen and sat down to eat. My mother had decided to stay in the bed.

I was a sweaty mess and dirty. I should have gone home and taken a shower before eating but I was starving.

“Don’t get too excited about what I am going to tell you.” He said as we sat there eating.

“Tell me what?” I replied. My interest was piqued.

“I am buying your mother a new RAV4 and I am giving you her old car.” He said. “It was Charlie’s suggestion to do this.”

“You’re kidding me!” I replied.

“No I am not. I bought both your brother and sister a car for college and I am just treating you like I treated them.” He responded.

T-minus one day and counting….

Tomorrow is the big day; my first day in college since the early nineteen nineties. I am rip roaring and ready to go. I’ve gotten all my school supplies from my father’s drug store. I’ve got notebooks and two really nice mechanical pencils. I also stopped by this morning at the dreaded Wal-Mart and bought a cheap school backpack. My nice Jansport day pack would have been overkill for school and I don’t want to wear it out.

I have also read a number of chapters from my textbooks in preparation. The only book I haven’t touched is my Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. It is filled with individual works of literature (1500 pages worth) and I did not know which pieces my instructor would pick to study and read. I did find out that I have my old grade school English teacher for World Literature and I know him fairly well. He is friends with my Father.

I kind of know what to expect tomorrow. The first day we will receive our syllabuses and the instructor will talk to us about what is expected over the semester. It will be interesting to see my class sizes and who is in them. I am hoping for more “adult” students who are like minded as me.

Here is my schedule tomorrow…….

Gen. Psychology from: 12 PM to 1:15 PM

Work from: 1:30 PM to 6:30 PM

World Literature from: 7:00 PM to 8:15 PM


I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow but look forward to it immensely. I cannot wait to take my seat in that grand adventure that awaits me. I am going to learn and not focus on just getting good grades. I want to expand my knowledge of the world around me. Good grades will come as a side bonus if I keep my focus in this matter. Well, I am off to go iron my shirt and slacks for tomorrow in preparation. I want everything to be just right. Good day.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

Loneliness is…..

Sitting here on this stupid computer reading about other people’s lives and feeling left out.

Having so much to give and no one to give it to.

Being in a crowd of people and feeling uncomfortable about it.

Listening to your favorite song and others think it is crap.

Not being in a majority.

Having five dollars in my billfold until Monday.

Having someone say they love you and you don’t feel the same in return.

Looking up at a dark winter’s sky and realizing how small you really are as an individual.

Cooking a great meal and there is only you to enjoy it.

Lying in a warm bed late at night with only your thoughts to keep you company.

Having a best friend that is a cat whom you do not own and he drives you nuts.

Watching your neighbor’s friends come and go by the number of revolving cars in their driveway.

Looking in the mirror and realizing you have aged.

Getting all dressed up with no where to go. (I do this often.)

Picking up the phone and having second thoughts about calling.

Turning on the TV just for background noise.

Having an illness that few understand.

Being in a family of extremely social ladder climbers and you are afraid of heights.

Thermometers are not always right….

I like to think I am pretty proficient when it comes to cooking especially when it comes to grilling out. I did the majority of the cooking when I was married. After I had lost my job as a long haul truck driver due to medical reasons, I was stuck at home and wanted to pull my weight. I would sit down every week and plan out menus for our meals. I tried all kinds of different recipes and they came with great applauds from my then wife. One of her favorites was my rendition of chicken cordon bleu. She got breakfast and dinner prepared every day by me for the longest time so she could concentrate on work and graduating from college.

Tonight, my mother invited me over for dinner via a phone call.

“Your dad wants you to eat with us tonight. He is grilling teriyaki chicken and we are having baked potatoes, salad, and toasted barbeque bread. He even made a home made blue cheese dressing for the salad.” She said.

I told her I would love to come and eat and then I hung up the phone and got in the shower. I then walked the two hundred yards from my house to theirs. Upon arriving up on my parent’s back deck, Dad handed me a pair of tongs and asked me to watch the chicken on the charcoal grill for him while he finished the rest of the meal.

A few moments passed until they were growing very brown. I stuck a fork in one and could tell that they were almost done. I walked into the kitchen to tell my father that I was taking them off.

“No, let me use my meat thermometer. They should be at 180 degrees before we take them off.” He replied.

I kind of shrugged my shoulders and said okay. He walked outside and stuck the thermometer into a breast and the temperature sat at around 170 degrees. By this time, I continually had to turn them to keep them from burning.

“Dad, I think they are done.” I said.

“Let’s wait for the temperature to rise.” He replied.

“You remember the last time we relied on the thermometer, don’t you? You and mom were cooking the icing for a cake and you went to the hard ball stage and not the soft ball stage and the icing got too hard to spread on the cake layers.” I responded.

“The thermometer says that poultry should be cooked to 180 before we take it off.” He replied.

Ten more minutes passed and I was now sure the chicken was over cooked. I walked into the kitchen and got a knife. I walked back outside and cut open the thickest breast and there was no pink inside and the juices ran clear.

“Dad, they are done. I am taking them off. They are getting too dry.” I said.

He agreed and took them off. We ate our meal and the chicken was as tough as leather. We had grilled six chicken breasts and chicken breasts are not cheap. He got upset about it. He was tempted to go to the grocery store and buy more chicken breasts and charcoal and try again but I persuaded him not to do so. It had grown too dark outside to see well to grill.

After eating, he looked at the magazine that he had read that day for answers and he realized his mistake. It said 170 degrees for white meat on a grill and 180 degrees for dark meat on a grill. He had a eureka moment and declared that we will be having grilled chicken again tomorrow evening. This time he was going to get it right.

The chicken really wasn’t that bad after all. I enjoyed the meal and our conversations afterwards. Dad can just be a perfectionist about things. The home made blue cheese dressing was delicious and he got that recipe just right. I especially enjoyed the toasted barbeque bread and that was a treat. Well, it seems that grilled chicken is again on the horizon tomorrow. I am sure tomorrow nights meal will be prepared to perfection at last. I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world.

Friday, January 7, 2005

A fortune in chrome and rubber……

(Warning! Profanity ahead as this is a Piggly Wiggly Groupie post!)

It had been a long day at work. I was tired and grumpy. I was out of whole milk so I stopped by the Piggly Wiggly to grab some on my way home. I needed it for my cereal in the morning. I parked the truck and got out walking towards the store. Slop made a beeline towards me.

“No!” I said as he walked up to me.

“I didn’t even ask.” Slop replied.

“I don’t give a fuck. It is still no.” I responded and kept walking past him.

“All I need be a dolla to get a drink.” He replied loudly after I had walked past him.

“No, no, no, fucking no.” I exclaimed as I turned around while I was still walking. “What part of no do you not understand?”

I was tired and not in the mood for panhandling tonight. Slop continually asks even though I have never given him a dime. It is his standard line for everybody. He walked back to his bench and left me alone. I walked into the store and was greeted by several long lines parading behind the cash registers.

“Jesus!” I muttered under my breath as I stood there and surveyed the situation.

I went into the produce section and got some bananas and made my way over to the dairy section trying to take my time hoping those lines had diminished. After checking the dates on the jugs, I found a suitable half-gallon of milk and made my way back to the front to wait my turn in line. Luckily, things started to move fast and I was soon on my way out the door. I was greeted by a surprise as I exited. It was good old George. He was parked in front of the store to show off his new rims and tires.

“Wazzup!” George hollered at me and waved for me to come over.

I walked over and stood looking at George’s greatest blunder yet.

“What ya think?” He asked.

“How much did those cost?” I asked in return.

“Dem rims and tires cost a thousand.” George replied proudly with a smirk.

George had spent a thousand dollars to put chrome rims and expensive tires on a 1981 Dodge Diplomat that is probably worth $500 bucks. I didn’t even want to know how he came into that kind of cash. I just stood there wondering what in the hell had gotten into his head to do such a thing. A thousand bucks is a lot of money.

“Dem rims is gonna bring me tha pussy.” He said and laughed while patting me vigorously on the back.

All I could think of were the nature shows I have seen in the past where male peacocks were busily and gaudily displaying their feathers for a mate. In my mind it mirrored George and his new chrome rims. I wished him the best of luck and drove on home. I couldn’t help but smile about tonight as I drove up behind the pig and towards my house.

Stopping the Bum’s Rush

As someone who is dependent upon social security for part of their upkeep and income, I want to educate myself more thoroughly about the system. Recently, a large amount of rhetoric has been coming out of the White House on how the system will soon grow bankrupt and will be insolvent in my lifetime. I see it as the same sort of fear mongering that pushed us into a dangerous and costly situation in Iraq. I did some research and found a good article and an essay that I wanted to share about this issue. This article and essay will take a time investment on your part but you will find it an informing and good read on this issue.

Unfortunately, the NY times editorial is a must register to read item. I will post the full article to read and if you are so inclined can register and read the rest of his well written articles on this issue. A link to a much longer essay by the same author continues afterwards. The essay is a .pdf file which requires Adobe Acrobat.

I normally do not like to post new articles such as these as people such as myself dislike having news forced upon them by individuals. If posting this long article offends you then you have my apologies in advance. That or navigate away until tomorrow and another post with be at the top.

Stopping the Bum's Rush
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: January 4, 2005


The people who hustled America into a tax cut to eliminate an imaginary budget surplus and a war to eliminate imaginary weapons are now trying another bum's rush. If they succeed, we will do nothing about the real fiscal threat and will instead dismantle Social Security, a program that is in much better financial shape than the rest of the federal government.

In the next few weeks, I'll explain why privatization will fatally undermine Social Security, and suggest steps to strengthen the program. I'll also talk about the much more urgent fiscal problems the administration hopes you won't notice while it scares you about Social Security.

Today let's focus on one piece of those scare tactics: the claim that Social Security faces an imminent crisis.

That claim is simply false. Yet much of the press has reported the falsehood as a fact. For example, The Washington Post recently described 2018, when benefit payments are projected to exceed payroll tax revenues, as a "day of reckoning."

Here's the truth: by law, Social Security has a budget independent of the rest of the U.S. government. That budget is currently running a surplus, thanks to an increase in the payroll tax two decades ago. As a result, Social Security has a large and growing trust fund.

When benefit payments start to exceed payroll tax revenues, Social Security will be able to draw on that trust fund. And the trust fund will last for a long time: until 2042, says the Social Security Administration; until 2052, says the Congressional Budget Office; quite possibly forever, say many economists, who point out that these projections assume that the economy will grow much more slowly in the future than it has in the past.

So where's the imminent crisis? Privatizers say the trust fund doesn't count because it's invested in U.S. government bonds, which are "meaningless i.o.u.'s." Readers who want a long-form debunking of this sophistry can read my recent article in the online journal The Economists' Voice (www.bepress.com/ev).

The short version is that the bonds in the Social Security trust fund are obligations of the federal government's general fund, the budget outside Social Security. They have the same status as U.S. bonds owned by Japanese pension funds and the government of China. The general fund is legally obliged to pay the interest and principal on those bonds, and Social Security is legally obliged to pay full benefits as long as there is money in the trust fund.

There are only two things that could endanger Social Security's ability to pay benefits before the trust fund runs out. One would be a fiscal crisis that led the U.S. to default on all its debts. The other would be legislation specifically repudiating the general fund's debts to retirees.

That is, we can't have a Social Security crisis without a general fiscal crisis - unless Congress declares that debts to foreign bondholders must be honored, but that promises to older Americans, who have spent most of their working lives paying extra payroll taxes to build up the trust fund, don't count.

Politically, that seems far-fetched. A general fiscal crisis, on the other hand, is a real possibility - but not because of Social Security. In fact, the Bush administration's scaremongering over Social Security is in large part an effort to distract the public from the real fiscal danger.

There are two serious threats to the federal government's solvency over the next couple of decades. One is the fact that the general fund has already plunged deeply into deficit, largely because of President Bush's unprecedented insistence on cutting taxes in the face of a war. The other is the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

As a budget concern, Social Security isn't remotely in the same league. The long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts is five times the budget office's estimate of Social Security's deficit over the next 75 years. The botched prescription drug bill passed in 2003 does more, all by itself, to increase the long-run budget deficit than the projected rise in Social Security expenses.

That doesn't mean nothing should be done to improve Social Security's finances. But privatization is a fake solution to a fake crisis. In future articles on this subject I'll explain why, and also outline a real plan to strengthen Social Security.



The rest of Mr. Krugman’s articles can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/paulkrugman.

The much longer eleven page essay can be read at this address: http://www.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1048&context=ev