Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Habitat for Humanity"

I applied for an "Habitat for Humanity". house when I was in Indiana.

  I didn't qualify, because my income was TOO LOW!. In March I made a similar inquiry in Baltimore.

. Leader said that the orientation (for interested prospective tenants) is in Sept. and that I would get an invite in the mail. By 9/7, I still hadn't received the formal invite, so I called h for h to find out when and where the orientation would be.

When she told me the location I was very worried. Very dangerous section of the city, would take 3 buses to get there and I have no $ for a taxi. So I called h for h to see if they could arrange a ride for me. The first woman I spoke to said no , so I asked to speak to her co-worker.

 She said "No one can give you a ride, it wouldn't be safe for us to help you because we dont know you!"

I replied, "Well it's too dangerous of a neighborhood for me to be on buses." She said: "But this is the neighborhood where the h for h houses will be built, on Chester street!."

I thought, this is so complicated and stressful and I know I don't want to buy in the city, so I won't go. On the 11 news that night, I heard the following: "Chester Street fire claims lives!"

"Practice Peace"

Anyone can practice peace no matter where they live. One very small way I practice peace is that I thank my bus drivers when I disembark.  Few riders thank the drivers. Even if the driver was hateful to me, or otherwise abusive, it is the rare, rare driver who can resist being thanked by a passenger. I also feel that this is a tiny way to break down the racial barriers in this city.  I get very very little joy out of life, but , I'm doing my damndest to live an ethical life and make a small difference in the lives of the people around me.

"My prison cell"

                                                                 THE POVERTY TRAP

  When I was applying for social security disability, an 8 year wait, I was told that I am not permitted to earn monies while waiting for the disability decision!   I completed my first disability application in 94 but didn't win until 02.

  The "prohibition" to earn monies; implies that applicants are supposed to live on the street, or have a rich relative care for them. (I know many people who are being cared for by their families financially)  For part of the time I was applying for disability I was collecting unemployment. The unemployment people have a rule that "you must make 2 job contacts a week to keep collecting unemployment"  The unemployment rule is  "you must look for work" and the SSA rule is "you are forbidden from seeking employment."

The only people I knew who were winning their disability cases were winning because their parents were paying for their apartments and totally supporting them. So the people who need disability monies the least, get it the fastest! Maddening!

I've been very despondent as a result. I awaken each morning with dread and fear. I'm in work mode nearly 24/7.

I still have some city fines to pay as well.   One was the "car abandonment" fee, (due to my 03 inability to pay for the car repair) and one is a 32 dollar parking ticket that has accrued to 800 dollars!  This is really unfair , yet there is no point in fighting because I'll never win.

  I could move out of state to escape the fines.  BUT  if I move out of state, and drop my apt. I''m at very high risk of yet another episode of homelessness.

Staying at my apt. could get me killed. If I install a deadbolt lock, management will break it, then send me a lease infraction.

  If I put all of my belongings in storage, keep paying the rent on my current subsidized apt. and go to a safe house, I'll be accused of welfare fraud, as you aren't allowed to have a second address!

  If I stay where I live, my belongings will continue to disappear and my life will still be at risk.

In 95, my one bedroom apt. in Hampden cost 400 dollars, that same apt. now costs 850, and wages are stagnant.  Poor people are imprisoned, and no matter how intelligent they might be they  face nearly impossible odds.

I know this piece may be a tad bit redundant, but so is poverty.

More than an acquaintance, less than a friend!

Yes, I need a new category. There are many people in my life who, when they bump into me in town, they embrace me with a hug, or in today's case, ask for a kiss on the cheek! These aren't people who I can call on if I need someone to talk to , or need a favor. They aren't even people who I do activities with, they are people who love me from a distance...... more than an acquaintance less than a friend.................

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"My 'hood"

A week and a half ago I was on my evening walk. I was right across the street from my apt. when I saw a well dressed African American man about my age picking up trash. I told him: "I used to do that when I lived in Hampden."

Brad*   " Baltimoreans have no respect for their environment and litter openly"

E-.     "Are you a homeowner?"

. He pointed to the home he owns.

E-  "when I moved into the 'hood, I asked other Cedarcroft residents what the deal is with crime. That was 28 months ago.  Here's what I was told:  "The only crimes in Cedarcroft are opportunity crimes where folks leave valuables on their car seats."

I asked Brad if that neighbor was telling the truth. He laughed sarcastically and went on to say:  "I was broken into in the middle of February.   I came home from work to discover that my door had been completely REMOVED! and there  was snow on the ground!"

E-"How did the police handle it?"

B-"Oh don't get me started. I had to call the cops 8x before they came out. Meantime I was stuck outside in the snow for hours. The cops said that it took them a long time because they were on a shift change! I was furious!"

I told Brad that after dark in Cedarcroft  I can't see my feet below me, everyone is too cheap to keep their porch lights on. That sure doesn't make me feel safe!

B-The break ins happen during the day!

E-Do you feel scared in Baltimore?

B-"No, because I'm from the Bronx. My siblings and I were not even allowed to play outside without an adult!

E-Wow. How many home break ins have their been in the last year on your block?

B-"Ten, on my street alone"

E-What's the answer?

B-I had to spend alot of money for new windows and move my nephew in for added security!

I told Brad of my predicament and gave him my email and website address. A 43 year educated African American male who is afraid to live alone. If that doesn't illustrate how sick Baltimore is, I don't know what does!

"Day to day in section 8"

  If I stay in section 8, I could get murdered.

Before I retire each night I barricade my door with a box of approximately 100 lbs. of books.  I know it won't STOP  a break in, but perhaps it might slow one down.  The maintenance men are coming into my place, (unauthorized every time)  at least 2x a week.

My subsidy is 700 a month. If I break my lease I may never get a subsidy again. Torturous decisions. If I leave my apt. even for 1 night, management leaves threatening and abusive letters saying things like: "You didn't get such and such paper work in on time!"

  I'll use any resource necessary to get a normal life going.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"My Horoscope for 9/12"

"Your tribe is to be more scrupulous in your data gathering than the rest of the population! I suggest you regard yourself as a role model whose job it is to demonstrate the beauty of thinking deeply!"

(courtesy of Baltimore City Paper)

"Boxing up my belongings"

I'm forced to put all my belongings in storage and interview for emergency shelter.  I can't cope with one more day at this apartment.  I'm basically "doubling as a security guard" for my life and my belongings.

  As I said, the officer last friday said that unless i put out a warrant for the arrest of the maintenance men, the thefts are going to continue. I told a few folks about this and they all had essentially the same response:

"Don't go to court, you'll put yourself at risk of retaliation"

 (that is why i haven't taken legal action thus far)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"I've been "away"

On Wednesday night I received a notice under my door stating that "there is a 25% chance that HUD will inspect your apt. on Thursday, Fri. AND Monday."

Here's how that translates. As you know the maintenance men have been robbing me blind.  (This does not negate the fact that there are others breaking in also)

  In the last few days I've discovered jewelry, toiletries, and a very valuable scrapbook missing. So, the times when I'm most likely to be robbed are between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, when the maintenance men are on duty, however the worry is 24/7.

The worry doubles when we're (we the tenants) are told that HUD might enter our homes at any time.  It's like this. In public housing it's not really your home. You are given no privacy, no safety and a host of unrealistic rules.

  Management hasn't helped me with any of my concerns, nor have the police, the media, or my local politicians. (Therefore I decided not to vote on 9/11. It was the first time in 26 years that I didn't vote.)

On the days when HUD might come, you can't be in the shower, engage in the unthinkable, or lead any kind of a normal life at all. In general, Mon. thru Friday anyone can walk in on you..................and if you leave the house, HUD might rob you, or god knows what else....  Go through your underwear drawer? This isn't a home.

Each time I leave my house I spend up to 30 minutes hiding stuff. When the officer saw my door she agreed that the lock is worthless. I told her that we don't have permission to install a deadbolt, and even if we did, we'd be required to give the thieves (the maintenance men) a key.

About twice a month, I find a trail of blood running through the lobby, in the halls, etc.

The noise pollution is maddening.

And I must get out before I get murdered.

So, in addition to playing security guard for my own apt. over the last few days, I've been busy compiling a list of safe houses. I have one emergency shelter offer thus far.    For example, you aren't allowed to set up a second address even if where you live is deadly. If you move out, you lose your government subsidy and your chance to get a subsidy in the future. There are strong penalties to going back to work, including losing what is pretty good health insurance.

But I must do what I have to do to stay alive and increase my chances at a normal life.

Are you beginning to get a feel for the poverty trap now?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"I' love npr"

National Public Radio.  The other day, they interviewed Alice Cooper and played his music. He's one of my favorite artists. His real name is Vince.

Do you listen to NPR? I find it very exciting and enriching.

"Why I keep truckin'"

One of the biggest reasons that I keep trucking is because of the uniqueness of my homelessness survival story and my burning desire to share it with the world. I have a feeling that the telling of the story somehow is going to pull me up and out of poverty.

  I just found a 10 page letter that I wrote to a friend while I was homeless, detailing my 4 hour round trip bus commute to my part time job at goodwill and the last 3 shelters I had stayed in. I read this letter and thought, I've got to get this story to Hollywood somehow.

  I asked my friend, an English professor,  how realistic he thinks it is that Hollywood would want my story? I read him the letter, and he said that it is highly realistic to think that Hollywood would want it, it perfectly encapsulates the day to day life of a homeless person.

I know that a story has to be put into screenplay form before it can be pitched to Hollywood. I have to contact Augusten Burroughs and ask him how long he had to wait to get paid for the movie rights that he sold to Hollywood for his book: "RUNNING WITH SCISSORS"

I plan to get back on Craigs List and see if there are any screen play writers who would want to partner with me............................

Take The Greyhound"

Of course I've seen Jodie Foster in many flicks.    I'm pretty certain that she is 44 like me. Anyhow, I saw the part of the trailer were she is on the subway and a guy with a gun and a guy with a knife threatens to kill her. I thought, "Oh, just like my life here in Baltimore, don't need to see that movie"

  My friend Dan said that he was on the subway train here in Baltimore when a gang surrounded him and unsuccessfully tried to steal his wedding band"


story 2/the bookstore

A customer heard me telling Andrew* the barista about my day on the bus.

  Another customer finding the conversation interesting had this to say:

 "I took a bus ONCE!  It was 20 years ago in Florida. I was visiting my best friend down there and she had to drive me to the Greyhound station. The driver warned my friend of how dangerous and scary the Greyhound would be, and that the station they are driving too is also very dangerous.

  My girlfriend pulled a gun out from under the driver's seat of her car to  show me how she protects herself. (the woman relaying the story to me said that she had no idea that her best friend carries a gun!)

Anyhow, the woman relaying the story, we'll call her Mary, said to her best friend: "I'm sure riding the Greyhound won't be a big deal, I'll just read a book and not make eye contact!"

I smile, realized that something crazy is coming in this woman's story. Mary said that she sat in the front of the bus in the handicapped seats and buried her head in a book. Suddenly a woman starts yelling:


Mary looks up from her book to see that a male passenger has pulled his penis out and is peeing in the aisle!


This weekend I found a tape that I made on Christmas Eve  1982 at the age of 19. The tape length was 35 minutes.   On it I was  singing and playing gospel piano, then describing my life as a Born Again Christian.

In the background the land line phone was ringing and ringing.  A sound from the past that is now virtually extinct.

While listening to the tape for the first time in 25 years the other day, I heard someone ask me a question (it must have been Steve my boyfriend) All I can hear on that segment of the tape is me asking: "what?" hearing a mumble in the background and then me answering in a Baltimore accent, "yeah" (yeee-uh) is the way a Baltimorean sounds.  Thank goodness the Balto. accent is long gone.




Now, 98 rock is playing. I'm playing you the music of 1982. ("House of the Rising Sun")






Oprah's 9/11 special from New York City

Did you see it? So powerful, so moving. She interviews the children of September 11th. First the children of the WTC disaster, then the children from the other disasters, the plane hijack and the Pentagon incident. Very moving episode.

As far as terrorism is concerned, for many Americans especially poor, carless Americans in cities, there is much, much more to fear in our own neighborhoods, then from terrorists and I had the same thought back on 9/11/01.

Here in Baltimore it seems like everyone knew someone killed on that day. I guess that would be largely true  for many East Coasters. Most of us knew someone that knew someone who died.

Has your life changed since 9/11/01? Mine hasn't changed much at all. I was scared before and I'm scared now and that has nothing to do with outside threats.

An Impressive Commercial

Have you all seen the United Way commercial? I just saw it today and thought: "wow!, that's powerful and that's exactly the way I think"

It showed a woman in the self check out aisle in the grocery store. Each time she scans an item, an automated voice comes on that says for example: "Four dollars and ninety nine cents, that's 1 hour at the minimum wage."

It continues like this and the woman looks distressed. The male voiceover says:


Bravo, I say. Now although the United Way is not one of my favorite charities, I'm always pleased at any device that communicates the message of what poverty is like.

Have you seen the commercial?

"Extreme danger"

I can no longer cope with the extreme danger that I am in at my apt. bldg. Someone (you and I both know who) was in my apt. again on Friday. The officer would not take a report, would not test the blood streak, and would not test for fingerprints. I told her who it is and she said that I would need their last names. I told her that the management company hasn't given us any last names. She asked me why not? I thought that was a silly question,,,,,,,,,,,,because they're totally unprofessional, that's why. The officer (she) said that there is nothing she can do to help me if I can't give her a last name.

I was incredulous. I tried to explain to her "well if you won't help me then who will?" She said that I can call an officer again on Monday morning and have him get the last names for me. Then she said, if I want the robberies to stop, I'm going to have to go to 500 Calvert and put out a warrant for their arrest.

Already, I fear the stress of living like this is going to prematurely kill me, and don't think it's worth hanging around. Obviously however a disability paycheck is not enough to afford fair market rent, and I don't have the voucher that I was supposed to be given in 2004, that allows me to move into subsidized housing anywhere in the u.s.

So, I've come up with another creative idea to solve my housing needs. I am interviewing the men on the chatline to see who wants a housemate, compiling a list, conducting phone, then in person interviews. I'll compile an emergency list of safe houses in MD, PA, DE, NY and NJ.

This is what every day is like for me since 1993. It's 24/7 work. Wish me luck.

Friday, September 7, 2007

On "Getting There" and trying for a better life

There are two Baltimore programs where if you jump through lots and lots of hoops and are on Social Security Disability and meet lots of other qualifications you can ride taxis anywhere in Baltimore for a 3 dollar one way fare. I tried for two years to get into this program with no luck, but I tried again today, and I think I've got a real good shot this time.

This could really better my life.  With the buses being so exhausting, and the streets being so dangerous, I rarely get to travel outside of a 6 mile radius. Additionally, there have been thousands of jobs I couldn't get because I didn't have "reliable transportation."

These taxis are very reliable and could really better my chances of being able to get and maintain meaningful work.

Wish me luck!

"You are more then your job title"

If there is one thing I've learned in the last 15 years, it's never, ever judge a person by their job title.

 Some of my most rewarding social interactions I've had have been with taxi drivers.  Most are very educated! Take Hank for example. Hank is about 65 ,  owns a Baltimore theatre, writes screenplays and sends them off to his son who is an actor in Hollywood!

And Mike, I just met him a few days ago. He's my age, African American and grew up in the south. He is writing 2 books.  the subject matter is "sexual molestation in the African American community.  In that 4 mile cab drive, I attempted to get him connected into the Baltimore arts community.

When he dropped me off, he asked me if he could read me one of his poems.  The subject is suicide.   In the poem he wrote, he purports that so many smile their way through the day, but are deeply hurting on the inside. He also told me of a wealthy woman who sponsored him for a summer camp when he was 17. She sent him to a special survival camp where he learned how to survive in the wild!

5 years ago, I had a Starbucks clerk named Sarah, who was a voice major at Peabody.  I attended her concert and she had one of the most beautiful voices I had heard in my life!

   She was due to move to New York City to work as a singer and sadly I never heard from her again.  My friend Arlene asked:

 "Why bother investing in a relationship if they're just going to move away?"

 (Because I like the excitement of meeting new people, even if there is a chance the relationship will be short lived)

WE ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN OUR JOB TITLE! WOULDN'T YOU AGREE? I'd love to hear your story of someone you met who was so much more then their title!

"Blood test results"

 I was worried that my Lyme Disease was progressing rapidly, so I  had a bunch of blood tests done.

albumin level was low

  No surprise really. in that I've incurred years and years of severe malnourishment and severe food shortages.   My lyme disease test came back as negative.

  Are you confused? There are different camps of thinking on Lyme. Some believe that even when a blood test shows up negative you may still have Lyme. My current doctor adamantly disagrees with that and says that I absolutely do not have lyme disease.

I am borderline anemic, so I should increase my iron levels. 

  My B12 is normal, that was a surprise.

  My thyroid was normal and that was a surprise.

  There is an auto immune test that they do that is called ANA and I can not remember what those letters stand for. It was positive and that isn't good, but my Dr. is not worried.

Regarding the terror  over my nerve damage and the fact that my limbs have 24/7 pins and needles, numbness and frequent falling asleep, my doctor wants me to see a neurologist.

 He said he can't make predictions such as whether or not I'd end up in a wheelchair, and doesn't want me to worry, but to have the neurologist look into the ANA thing further, so I can find out the source of the nerve damage, which I assumed was the Lyme, since it is a Lyme symptom.

This is the best health care I've had in 20 years, and it's been a long time coming. I'll keep you informed on the outcome of my upcoming appointment with the neurologist.

How to cope with being "stood up"

On taking risks on meeting new's worth it. Even though 90% will stand you up. At least that's been true in my life experience. It's been just as true with making new women friends as it has been for making new men friends. Let me provide my own definition of being "stood up"

I'm going to broaden the definition for the purpose of this piece. Stood up means, at the last minute they don't show. They may call you at the last minute or they might not call you at all. It's no fun, but here is how I cope.

I was supposed to meet a "new friend" today for lunch. When I called him to tell him that I'd be there in 15 minutes he said: "oh, didn't you get my message?" "I can't be there"

So as to not be crushed by these frequent last minute cancellations and no shows, I have people meet me at a place that I'd be at anyhow. I had planned to have lunch at one world even before the meeting was scheduled. So, no great shakes. Yeah, it'd be nice to have the company, but the no show has not inconvenienced me.

I don't really "date" I just kind of do something like this: "Hey Mike, I'll be at Starbucks from 8 to 10 p.m. on Tues. night. I'll be wearing a green t shirt and burgundy pants, come by if ya like!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Hey, you're kinda cute, are you single?!"/The month of September

About 10 years ago a psychic told me that MY month is September. Not much of a surprise to me in that it is my favorite North American month, since I love fall and the crisp clear blue sky. More specifically she said that if good things are going to happen to me in love and in money it will be in September.

I met my last boyfriend Gene, at a party on the last day of August 2004. Although we only "dated" for about 6 weeks, it did prove true that the relationship essentially started in September.

One of the healthiest work environments I've ever been in was the Young School which was in Columbia. They hired me as a Spanish teacher for preschoolers in 2000. The job started in September 2000.

So, carrying on here with my September theme, on the morning of September 1st (2007) I went to Brick Wall Pharmacy to pick up a few things. As I started to do some shopping it hit me that I forgot my debit card. I had 5 dollars in cash on me. As I put my stuff on the counter, I asked Andrea (my favorite cashier) to itemize for me.

  A very attractive man in front of me said to Amanda "just go ahead and ring up the entire order!" She said: "pardon me?" I was also baffled! He said "ring up the entire order!" I turned to the man and said: "don't worry sir, I live next door I can always go get my money." He smiled looked at the total and gave Amanda exact change! Amanda and I were stunned. It's the rare man whose looks make me look twice but his did. And even though it was only for five dollars and twelve cents, it made Amanda and I's day! Before we could snap our fingers the man was exiting the drug store. I yelled: