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. 



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