Crises without End

January 21st, 2009

I’m in trouble. Not again. Still. What changes is the amplitude. It is modulated. Only a few percent. I’ve never known when it wasn’t this way. The AIDS pandemic, doesn’t have to be this way. I don’t know about my crises. Fifty years and a dozen ‘mental health professionals’ have been to no avail.

I am not one of The Organized.

I missed an appointment with Lauren. She had offered me a Home Start planner book. I appreciate the thought, but I’ve been that route. During one of my many ’bouts of unemployment, I decided I needed a planner book. $50. Way too much for an unemployed guy. Then too none of the layouts seemed right. I went to Bob Slate’s, Harvard Square’s premier stationary store. For $17 I made the most beautiful planner book in the history of planner books. It had just the things in it that I needed. It was great – my creation. It helped me do stuff. It made me a better person without even being reincarnated. I liked it. I felt it was my friend.

As time went on I found that I hadn’t quite got it right. Was I wrong initially or had my needs changed? I don’t know. It became an obsession – finding the design that would achieve my real goal — programming myself to perfection. It became a burden – an albatross of my own making. It became my enemy. Finally, I rose up. I revolted against my own creation – an extension of myself. I haven’t used it since.

I am not one of The Organized. I misplace things. I lose things. I forget things. It has gotten worse over the years. In the last 6 years, I was in ‘private’1 housing.  It got a lot worse. My roomate made no attempt to make room for me to put my stuff. Instead he blamed me for being disorganized. Even The Organized would have had a hard time using only the interior of the rooms. But then The Organized don’t admit to mistakes. They lie. And my roomate was not one of The Organized. He just lied.

I think homelessness has made it worse. Carrying all your worldly possessions on your back means constant packing and unpacking. It’s easy to loose things. But I’m too disorganized to be sure. The Organized were unable to tell me how to connect with Lauren over the holidays. It took me four tries. Wait ’till the New Year. The Organized equivocate.

1I don’t have time now to give the Lockean justification of private property, as portrayed to tens of thousands of Harvard students by Professor Micheal, the thorough trouncing it deserves. I’m in crisis, still.

The Homeful are Crazy

January 5th, 2009

I used to sleep at The Station when it rained. On a clear night I could sleep out in the open. I slept near The Monument, but not in it. I didn’t want to upset the families of those who went. I didn’t go. But those who went did not object to me being there. I asked. They didn’t say nothin’.1

Some of those nights were glorious. Orion the Hunter, visible to almost all of the world’s people2, stood guard over me. I was outside for the largest full moon of the year. My favorite is when there are a few clouds – not enough to bring rain – just enough to the dance over moon. But rain means having better gear. I was working on a bivy, but I was also in a race to keep the loft of my sleeping bag ahead of the dropping temperature as winter set in. I never did get a good seal.3 Hence, the Station.

Why not just stay all the time at the Station? The Homeful.

They’re waiting for trains until midnight.4

You can sit on a bench with them, if you are careful to blend in. If you lie down, the jig is up. The security guard will come and ‘ask’ you to leave. At midnight, after the last departure, the guard closes The Terminal. You have to go outside. One night a drunk refused to move. They dragged him by his hands out on the platform. The EMT’s came. They offered him a cigarette if he would get up and walk away. No deal. They strapped him in and rolled him off.

Read the rest of this entry »

Invisible Faces, Invisible Places

December 31st, 2008

This colleague of mine is well prepared – fiberglass reinforced polypropylene tarp, heavy wool blanket, synthetic fill quilt. Organized. He makes camp after the homeful have left for the night and is up before the homeful come in the morning. I was a little later on New Year’s Day. I saw him breaking camp. We must be invisible to the homeful.

The homeful let a lot of us sleep late on New Year’s Day. That’s a luxury. Usually, if your sleep get’s screwed up – by the weather, some ruckus among colleagues, or the ire of the homeful – there’s no way to get caught up until the next night, if then. There are those among the homeful who will feed us, but no one will let us sleep during daylight – except on a holiday.

Sleeping upright on the main landing of the Harvard Square T station

Madonna and Child

December 22nd, 2008

She looks to be late 60’s, but is only 53. The street can do that. She has a round face and white hair. He’s young – perhaps twenty. They’re always together. One night they came into the terminal and stopped by the other end of the bench I was on. She meticulously laid down newspapers then sat down. The young man rolled their upright carryall up to her left arm. She got out a roll of toilet paper and placed it behind her neck. He sat down to her right and curled up to her with his head on her shoulder. Family.

They kept me awake one night. They were arguing – loud, passionate. They were circling each other on the platform. Spiraling in to make a point – retreating when overmatched. I overheard only one thing other the throbbing of the diesels1. The woman said, “who told you to stay outside.” Your guess is probably as good as mine. Staying out as it gets colder requires increasing amounts of insulation. At 20 degrees you need almost 3 inches. More as it gets colder. They don’t have enough gear. There are blankets – good ones for outside, dacron, stays warm when wet and dries quickly – waiting for them. If the young man won’t go in, he has to take the gear.

“Don’t need no ticket. Just get on board.”a

1“All you need is faith to the hear the diesel humming.” a

a‘People Get Ready’ Curtis Mayfield 1965.

Play it. Play it again Sam!

August 27th, 2008

Cambridge feeds the homeless through a loosely woven network of volunteer organizations. Community dinners are done by the churches. Tuesday night is at the Unitarian across from Harvard. Last night got off to an untidy start with a loud profane argument at the next table which continued when the self appointed ‘peace-keeper’ continued to swear and fuss after the original offender was removed. But after that brief interlude, the customary calm prevailed. Then an unusual blessing. A mother and son team took over the grand piano.  Ann guided her son through a number of classics. When they got to boogie-woogie I asked for more. The son’s name is Sam.