Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Although it may seem a hackneyed device from an old fifties movie ("Guys and Dolls," anyone?) but religion and attempts to save the unrighteous from the Godless streets of the ghettos, 'hoods, heights, boroughs and projects are multitudinous. We see it all here, and experience it as well. At least, I think we are experiencing it. It may be that I have not experienced it enough yet. I'm sure I'm slated to see the light now, any day.

All kidding aside. There are factions and people here who are extremely devoted and Christ-like in their ministrations to the poor and homeless. Then there are the other kind. Church pimps, savior hustlers, and the usual shell-game, fire-insurance barkers. Being Catholic by religious upbringing, I tend to be a bit on the reserved side when it comes to outbursts of the Spirit. I'm not sure what this would be like, but I think that after nearly six months spent learning to walk again, I don't need to be rolling around in the back yard, shouting hosannas. Besides, the bedbugs have a newly installed annex there, and I don't care to visit... yet.

Anyway, I find it interesting and fun too, to watch the different flavors of religiosity at work. This is akin to having the ol’ Trinity debate, which I used to liken to 3-in-1 oil. One day, I got busted in Catechism with a cootie-catcher by Father Jeff and I came up with the starting answer of “Green Stamps” when asked what the concept “Redemption” meant. Father Jeff went into a medium-deep despair over me, I think. At least he didn’t have to listen to my definition of the Episcopalians (Catholic Lite: All the ritual, only half the guilt.) My mom nearly had a bird when I offered that outlook to a visiting Anglican priest at some kind of Ecumenical shindig.

But, I digress. What I have seen is that the experience of a religious conversion here is a bit more raw and earthier than a conversion among the Frozen People of the First Presbyterian Church of Grosse Pointe Michigan, perhaps. I know I've mentioned the two houses side by side here. The north house (the "ladies") and the southern house. This is a half-way house for the men. Some are on parole, some are dealing with health and mental problems. It is certainly lively over there. Our house shares the house phone with that house, so occasionally, one might find oneself over there to make a call. I haven't had to in months, and I am not sure my life is richer for that lack. Maybe a bit safer, but certainly more blah.

One evening, I was on a long-distance call to my friend from high school, P E. The usual carrying on in the background was going on, and she could hear:

"...and Randy Smith takes one to the ol' brisket! Down he goes!"

"Fuck you, you fucking fuck! I tol' you he was going to get knocked out!"

"Oh yeah! Well, fuck you and your dog!"

"Up yours! You suck your dog's balls!"

"Yo momma!"

"Jesus Christ on a cracker; don't you be bringin' my momma into this!" 

Blah-blah. Repeat one hundred and forty-three times.

Back in late November 2010, I had only recently arrived at Happy Acres and was making my first call to P from this environment. I explained that this was the combo Bachelor-Pad, 24-Hour Frat Party with the "guys." She said, "Gee... I thought they were all studying to be ministers." Oh, mirth and merriment ensued; it's still one of my all-time favorite moments. Of course, I had to share this with all my housie friends here and they think it's hilarious. Recently, P called me and several of us were outside during this call. There’s nothing like a group-participation phone call and we all “participate” in one another’s phone conversations. One of my dear, dear friends J said, "Be sure and tell P the Rehab Ministers had a knife fight on Sunday." Hoo-hah! More laffs! And so it goes. 

In reality, there is a tremendous amount of support here from various religious organizations. Food programs and regular "feeds" abound here. Metropolitan Ministries, Deeper Life, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army organizations are all within walking distance. If one is hungry and desperate, there is at least one good, hot meal per day to be had. There are shelters for people and families to sleep in, vocational rehab programs for retraining and newer job skills are here, too, along with classes on Parenting, Money Management, Life Management. People who are serious about going back to work and regaining or in some cases, gaining for the first time, some normalcy in their lives do have to commit to the programs, and invest their time and demonstrate their commitment, but these things are here for all. They also all have waiting lists for occupancy. The system is just plain overloaded with people who have lost so much. In that regard, I am one of the lucky ones. I do not have children to worry about. I also have no siblings and my parents are deceased, so it's just my plain, old self I have to worry about. I am lucky that way. I have a very, very dear friend, who has a nine year old daughter (my goddaughter) and her elderly husband. He is in the early stages of Alzheimer's and is in Assisted Living Facility. Every day, Kat visits her husband, takes her daughter to school and helps her elderly mother. She is inundated. She is also one of the most boundlessly optimistic, spiritual and joyful people I know. I look to her as an example when I start the pity-party. It helps after the regulation self-flagellation period ends. Just kidding.

Well, this entry didn't quite go where I thought it would when it started, but that's okay. It's kinda like life. Heh. Anyhoo, the good guys are here, the black hats are here and the wait-and-see people are well represented too. The Soul Winners are the ones who bring us all the Willie Wonka Chocolate candy stuff and Juice Packs. That's how I can tell them from the rest of the pack. I'm still waiting for my official Confessional Absolution Kewpie Doll. That's all I'm saying.

We had to take the number 32 Bus that runs East-West on Martin Luther King (aka "The Happiest Place on Earth" and, silly you thought it was Disney World.)
The 32 Bus boasts some of the unhappiest, crabbiest drivers in the entire history of Rapid Transit. This is the bottom of the line. Route 32 is where you go after you've alienated every other passenger on every other Bus line in Hillsborough County. After sending them hate mail, kidnapping their dogs, infecting their PCs with computer viruses, you go to line 32 as a sort of Bus Gulag cum-Purgatory way-station. Route 32 is situated along "Psychiatric Row." Every crazy, bat-shit, cat-collecting, bag-toting, babbling, one of us has a psych Doctor on MLK Boulevard. If you are one of the drivers on this route, you have committed some horrific crime indeed. The next stop is the 9th, or maybe the 14th Circle of Hell, if such a thing exists. And of course, the typical Bus antics from the HARTline clientele reflect this. In between “customers” using the bus straps to swing down the aisle a la Tarzan, game boy blips and bleeps and bloops, kids crying like banshees, drunken adults babbling about lunch with Jimmy Hoffa and Judge Crater and miraculous healings of the various Mystics who ply this route, we have as counter-point, the mutterings of the disaffected bus drivers. There are only two guys driving this line, I think. The westbound driver looks like the offspring of a disaffected Truman Capote, and that kid from “Deliverance.” I can hear dueling banjos in the background every time I get on the bus. If you dare to ask him a question, he launches into a diatribe about how he just drives the bus and doesn't get into destinations. Asshat. I've retaliated by letting everyone know every time I ride this bus that he hates everybody. 

At least he didn't tell me that he couldn't be stopping to pick up people all the time. I actually had a bus driver tell me that when I got on the bus once. Oh really? So, what are you picking up Mr. Bus Driver? Androids? Cats?

The eastbound driver looks like Don Rickles, after chewing lemons. There isn't a flat plane on this guy's face. He's just one big pucker. I've also never heard him speak a word. Maybe English isn't his first language. 

We had a couple of birthdays celebrated here over the weekend. One of them, for B included a birthday cake made for her by one of the other housies, D. D's birthday was also on this day, and she was going to celebrate come Hell or high water. She wanted that pineapple upside-down cake. The cake itself was tastefully decorated with some random red gel crap left over from Christmas, and looked like a bad crime scene. Apparently, B decided that she wanted her cake all to herself. She lives in another house that is part of the Happy Acres Happy Family. This house is about a mile north of us, also on Nebraska Avenue. Well, B showed up on Friday night, just prior to when the cake was to be presented and enjoyed by all. B went into the kitchen and found the cake on top of one of the refrigerators and pulled it down. B then made off with said cake in the company of two friends. J was in the kitchen when this occurred and said the resident roaches had been having a ball on this cake. "That cake has been walked on, stomped on, chomped on, spit on, chewed on, shit on and screwed on. It's a happy humpin' day for them roaches!" He allowed as to how he was glad to have been spared the opportunity to share in the "enjoyment" of the cake. While I was rolling around on the porch laughing at what he had said, D showed up and wanted to know who stole the cake out of the kitchen. When J told her that B had come and taken the cake and caught the bus back to the other house, D just looked at him and said, "Thanks for knowing." I'm still pondering that one.

B brought the cake pan back today and told J to let D know that she had returned the pan. 

Pre-roach cake

Post-roach cake

For right now, that's all the hoo-hah from Happy Acres. One of these days, I'll get to "Shit I Found on the Sidewalk." Peace out and take care, y'all. 



Saturday, August 20, 2011

BEDBUG APOCALYPSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SHIT FOUND ON SIDEWALK POSTPONED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well... This could be a deep subject and I don't quite know how to start this. I have not posted in a while, since August 6th, I believe. After having gone through some near-death experiences in the last ten years and some very profound life-changing, and other hyphenated-type life-style stuff and seeing a very dim light at the end of this Stygian tunnel, we (read "I") have been thrown a truly horrific foe. A foe of unimaginable, diabolical, hideous existence and other descriptive type words. Just get yourself a batch of bad-sounding, momentous-like words and stuff and apply to this feared enemy. Are you all terrified, yet? 

Me neither. I am however, just sick and tired and kind of depressed. We have a HUGE bedbug infestation here at Happy Acres, in both houses. What a mess! We have toted our stuff out into the back yard, slept on the back porch, toted our stuff back into the houses. We have washed clothes, burnt mattresses, bombed rooms, gassed the furniture, microwaved the rugs, unwoven and re-woven the towels and shower curtains, done Santeria rituals, sacrificed small animals, and performed the Wave. All to no avail. These little bastards are still running around. They have opened up restaurants and are riding the Bus. They buy little bedbug Bus tickets and mock us. We see bedbugs in our dreams, our hair, in the streets, working in Super Markets. This is truly something. They laugh at our feeble attempts to gas them. I think the Ghost Buster Guys are slated to come in tomorrow and try to "exterminate" the little boogers. There are fewer of them. That's the only good thing I can say after several weeks of fighting this scourge. Unreal.

In other Happy Acres news, we have discovered that Alchemy is a Chinese Religion that was founded in the 10th Century. There are several founts of wisdom who are gracing us with their timeless knowledge, profound thoughts and vivacious presences. Other things we have "learned" recently include:

After downloading an Ethernet Card from the Internet, one can download dinner and save time. I understand that the ability to shove paper money directly into one's CD Rom drive will let one deposit money directly into one's bank account. This wonderful time-saver is just around the corner. I can't wait for that app.

God is scheduled to change the rainy times here from 5:00 pm to earlier in the day, so that the "Pimp My Ride Guy" can get home from work without getting wet. This should occur within the next week or so, according to him. Pretty soon, I understand God is going to bring everyone here at Happy Acres a house and a pony. 

I was going to have my eardrums removed so I didn't have to listen to the deranged and cretinous monologues of "Pimp My Ride Guy," but then I talked him into getting his rectum removed so I don't have to listen to his shit anymore. He thought this was a fine idea until I told him what a rectum is. He asked me if he would get to keep his balls. WTF? 

The Black Helicopters have been especially active and they're focusing on these houses. Several drone 'copters have also been sighted over Nebraska Avenue. You can tell them apart because the drones are red. 

Did you know that you can use one of those cheesy fiber optic lamps with the changing hues in Aroma Therapy to enhance the experience? Neither did I. Maybe Lava Lamps would be helpful during Rolfing sessions. 

I've mentioned that I do try to use humor, satire and a wry view point in my postings. Being homeless sucks. It really does. I am working my way back to independence, but will never be able to do the things I used to do and did well. At least, not full time.  There is a horrible stigma regarding being homeless and I am very aware of how "society" judges homeless people generally. We're already disenfranchised and marginalized. Having health problems is hard enough for most of us to accept. I have a hard time accepting the fact that I can't see, can't drive and have a ticking time bomb in my chest. I know I've lost much materially, but I am so, so grateful to be alive. I revel in every day now. I have lived over half my life (please God, I don't want to live to be 111) and I feel such a deep appreciation for this chance to live independently and happily. Life is very, very vivid and very, very precious. Hackneyed as this sounds, it is oh so true. I laugh harder, work harder, and cry harder. I am not one whit closer to understanding the "meaning of it all" and I don't really care. I do care about the things I can do and am determined to experience and do them with all the passion, excellence, energy and wisdom I can bring to bear. Soon, I will be able to start playing my viola again. I can't wait. It's going to suck and be slow going, for probably quite a while. That's okay. It's going to be great to play again, even if it's just for me now.

Anyway, where this whole screed is trying to go is this: I hate like hell when people start knocking the homeless as shiftless, addicted ne'er do wells, that are just sucking the tit of Public Assistance. Like anything, the truth is much more complicated. There are certainly many who do take advantage of the system. There is also tons of waste on the bureaucratic side. The whole thing is bloated and is prone to corruption. But there are many people like me pulling an oar in this boat. Unable to pay half a million dollars for hospitalization and rehabilitation, I was taken under the wing of Hillsborough County. All bills paid. I am one of many in this situation. After thirty-plus years of working hard, I have come to this. Self-esteem and any sense of security are pretty much tattered. 

To that end, I want to acknowledge Mr. Robert Lee Haycock and Ms. Lyn Griswold. Robert was my High School valedictorian and someone I have always had the utmost affection and respect for. After a particularly horrid day of dealing with the system and listening to narrow-minded, self-satisfied people advising,"retraining" (retrain my health?) I was feeling very low. Robert responded to a post I had made, and I can't find the damn quote now, but the fragment, ", and love some more" made in reference to that post was a boost. He's always been encouraging and kind. Robert, thank you and much love to you.

I worked with Lyn for three years in a home-based virtual call center, after I gave up my driving privileges. She has always been there for me and is very encouraging, kind and funny. She has also defended me and understands. Lyn, thank you and much love to you. 

I'll just leave you all with this:

No, wait. I meant this:

Intrepid occupant and very happy here at Happy Acres!

Peace and love, love, love to you all. I'm gonna go love some more. Can't promise "Shit I Found on the Sidewalk" next, but I'll try.
P. S. Check out Robert's blog at


Saturday, August 6, 2011


So much for starting "Shit I Found on the Sidewalk," today. One of the things I have tried to avoid is any type of social commentary regarding homelessness and the dis-advantaged. While I am not completely used to being homeless yet, I am no longer as terrified, humiliated, depressed and just plain sad over my circumstances. I am also afraid to leave here; I feel safe here. I have said little about how I ended up here at Happy Acres. My journey to this place includes timing, economics, bad choices and bad health. At one time, I had two very challenging careers concurrently. I worked for IBM and then Verizon as a support engineer, while free-lancing around the south-east as a violist/violinist, and I did this well for several years. I loved doing both things. 

Long story, short and succinct. After my mother died, my then-husband decided to return to school for his B.S. in Psychology. I was still traveling, playing and working at Verizon, feeling tired and depressed. Only child, no kids, no parents and an "I, I, Me, Me" husband. More weariness, depression, hubby gets a girlfriend while I am in the hospital for CHF and blood transfusions. I left him, divorced and was in the process of trying to buy a house in Tampa and working in Customer Support from home. By this time, I was effectively blind and could no longer drive. I still played in Opera Tampa and could teach from home. Upshot; I invested about 20k in this house on a lease-to-buy. The owners filed for Bankruptcy and I spent two years in court trying to assume ownership. The banks got the house; money trumps all else. Rented a little dive with cockroaches and was living with a "nice guy" who became abusive as finances tightened. Skip ahead eighteen months; in the hospital with severe malnutrition, blindness, cognitive disabilities. I had ulcer surgery in 1985 and have a malabsorption problem. It took several years to rear its ugly head. So, here I am, through my own stupid choices, but also from circumstances that were really beyond me. I have never NOT worked, until this past year, and it is, indeed, strange. 

I spent five weeks in Tampa General Hospital, and then, five weeks in Fletcher Physical Rehabilitation Center, learning to walk again. Then I was sent here to Happy Acres. Homeless Recovery of Hillsborough County paid my rent and my medical bills, which were and still are, astronomical. I have been going through intensive therapy for my right hand. Two knuckles were smashed when I fell just before I was taken by TPD to the Hospital. I hope to play my viola again; I think I will be able to do so; the thought of doing so makes me feel wonderful. I am not a drug addict, nor am I an alcoholic. I watched my father die of alcoholism and it is a terrible disease. One of our "housies" here, died less than two weeks ago of it. She was forty-eight and was nice to me. I will always have that haunting, niggling feeling that I should have stepped up and done or said something. But what?

Who would I have told? Her own mother couldn't make her stop, nor could her daughter. So, we all stood by and watched, knowing how it would end. To witness this is so diminishing; I feel and so do others here, that we are so helpless; we feel so much at the mercy of forces that we cannot see, and do not always understand. For some reason, the last stanza of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" resonates, as does the following:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing."
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Yes, there are people here who do nothing but sell and take pills, buy dope and drink, but about half of us here do not share those vices. We try to give our existences some meaning and structure. I have lots of plans; they're just more "non-scheduled" now. As J says, "This place will make you cuss, smoke or drink, if you didn't already." That's one of the reasons this blog is here in cyberspace.  Smoking and drinking are out; I already cuss, so I'm good to go.

Enough; I am so not interesting, as a sole topic of any type of writing. I do want to mention Lyn Griswold. She is responsible for me going down this path. I do use humor, sarcasm, irony and spite as tools to hide my fear and sadness. I will rarely admit to it, however. I wrote this in response to a comment Lyn made on FaceBook to another member, regarding homelessness. Lyn, thanks and I love you. I wish we still worked together.

Now, enough navel-gazing or introspection or mental masturbation or axe-grinding. Back to drivel.

Okay, I "saw" the eye doctor; I think I'm going to see if my Primary Care Physician will give me a referral to the witch doctor. That would be about as useful. I have not had a stroke; he told me my brain is "normal." (WTF??) I almost asked him when the Mother Ship was returning for him. I have housies who are on heavy, heavy meds, and they think I have something seriously wrong upstairs. I have "20/20 vision in each eye, but 20/40 collectively..." What? In all three of my eyes? Shouldn't that be 20/60? "Collectively?" Are you part of the Borg Collective? Are you sure you're looking at my charts and stuff?I STILL CAN'T WALK ACROSS THE FLOOR OR THE STREET WITHOUT FALLING DOWN! HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU PROPOSE TO FIX THIS?

"Oh, we'll take some measurements and RELEASE THE LEFT MUSCLES OF YOUR LEFT EYE!" (emphasis, mine) This is said with the insouciant emphasis of "let's just change your left sock." Lovely. So, he sticks some prisms over my eyes, mutters a few incantations and tells me to come back in a week. I think he wrote down his findings, but I couldn't swear to it. I was too busy contemplating the "fix":

I have told both Drs. Grimm that my BRAIN perceives two of everything, and has since 2003. Even though I show no evidence of stroke, I still have cognitive problems. Aphasia and short-term memory loss being the two other most noticeable changes, along with perceiving two of everything. It's like a carnival funhouse run on a shoestring.

Jesus. And no, Doctor Jekyll, I do NOT want to see my brain pictures. I don't want to look at my heart pictures Doctor Hippy, or my upper right gizzard pictures, Doctor Gassy. I don't want to see my veins or corollaries, or whatevers in my legs, Doctor Frankenstein. I know what all that goo looks like; I don't want to admire my own innards. Years ago, I had a doctor show me my brand-new patched up stomach pictures x-ray thingies, complete with staples!?!? I almost passed out. I'm not squeamish; I worked at the U of M hospital in Ann Arbor for five years, next to the ER Head Trauma unit and I saw gruesomeness up close. I just don't want to see my own gruesome. Call me a coward.

So, that's my muse for Saturday. People ask me all the time (okay, they never ask me) where I get my inspirations. I'm tempted to tell them I buy them at the Family Dollar store, but I mostly think up this shit in the shower. Next entry I promise, real pictures and Shit I Found on the Sidewalk. I know you can't wait. Peace.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Okay. This is kind of a quick post, but I swear to God I couldn't conjure up this shit. Actual conversation:

E: "Ah, M, I see you're still looking like a million bucks; I always loved blonds."

M: ....? 

H: "Hey, dumbass, she's a redhead."

E: "Well, I was looking at her with my bad eye. She looks blond." (Proceeds to move eye patch from left eye to right eye.)

E: "Oh, I see; yeah, she's a redhead."

M: "What was that eye surgery for again?"

E:  "Cataracts, but it got botched up..."

Me: (Thinking "Wow, are they installing new color wheels in eyes now?") Me saying aloud, "Wow, are they installing new color wheels in eyes now?"

Sarcasm is completely lost on E. 

E: "Yeah, it takes four to six months to get it right." 

Maybe he had it done at Home Depot. Who knows?

He just needs a parrot and a peg leg. He's apparently got the rum part down pat. No more commentary needed.

In other swell and eye-related news, I received a call from the Brothers Grimm this morning, aka the Brother Eye Doctors. I have an appointment tomorrow. At 10:15 AM. At their Clinic. Last time this happened, I had to go screaming off to Tampa General Hospital for a surgery I knew nothing about.
Apparently, they think I have some sort of cosmic ESP and have no time or the ability to make my own appointment. Or maybe that short-term memory thingie is getting worse and I forgot. Or maybe I did call, but then canceled. And then called and rescheduled and forgot the whole thing. Maybe I should just start calling once a week to keep track of them. 

We have a new "housie" here at Happy Acres. I have never, ever in my whole life met anyone so dyspeptic, unpleasant and vituperative... ever. In my whole life. He is the wart on the  hog. He has systematically managed to piss off everyone in this place, which actually is not that hard to do. There are lots of folks here who are unbalanced mentally, usually for very significant reasons. When Mean Mr. first moved here, he came out on the porch without his shirt. There is a house rule regarding proper dress; shirt on at all times when outside. H tried to tell him nicely that he needed to go inside and put on a shirt. Mean Mr. acted like H had just called him a bad name and was going to soap his windows or something. Jerk.

My turn in the barrel came last week. There is a porch on the back of the house which the owners added. My room abuts this porch at the back. Every jack-leg, douchebag, blow hard, and/or babbling wino sits right on the other side of my bedroom, right where the head of my bed is situated. Last week, Mean Mr. etc, was on the porch, bellowing on his cell phone at about 6:30 am. Woken from a fairly sound sleep, I cranked my window open, and asked him to please be quiet, not once, but three times. I got very cranky at the old crank.
Mean Mr. completely ignored me and kept bellowing away. I had to get one of the "enforcers" to tell him to get the hell off the porch. Mean Mr. blah didn't take too kindly to that, but he left and went off somewhere else, to plague someone else's existence. 

I found out later he has Parkinson's Disease. Now, I feel for anyone who has any type of physical affliction, but this does not give the sufferer a license to be an asshole.  I asked him the other day if he contracted asshole-osis at the same time he developed Parkinson's.  I have been singing "Mean Mr. Mustard Man" at the tops of my lungs every time he is within my vicinity. Heh. I'm pretty sure he hates me, but he already hates everyone else, too. I'm so going to Hell.


Anyway, you all have a good week and take care. Coming up next entry is, "Shit I found on the sidewalk."

Peace to you, and love.