Saturday, October 27, 2007

"The California Wildfires"

It's been really heartbreaking to watch this on t.v., read about it in the newspaper, and listen to the stories on n.p.r. Ironically, about a month ago, I was sitting on the front porch of my favorite bookstore and talking with my acquaintance Jack. I told him that CA is my dream place to live, but with global warming, each region has it's own sets of challenges and we can't really count on a normal climate anywhere, not even San Diego.

The barista,  from Southern CA interrupted and said: "I can assure you it will be many years before CA or anyplace sees the effects of global warming" This girl has a real difficult personality; if you say the sky is blue, she will say no it isn't it's orange.  I said nothing in return as I didn't want to argue with her.   and I thought: "She hasn't seen the documentary: "An Inconvenient Truth."

Perhaps many Americans won't make the connection between the wildfires and global warming, but according to Gore, there is a definite connection. yet two of the fires are being investigated as arson.

Just like with Katrina, I was hoping to get involved with this disaster too, by providing emergency counseling, a listening ear, and help for folks looking to get connected to resources. Hmmmm. Perhaps I'll advertise on Craig's List. I'd love to help. If anyone knows what homelessness is like, it's definitely me!

Do you know anyone affected by the evacuation? Ellen Degeneres has her dad and stepmom staying with her, they are evacuees, however she hasn't said anything about them losing their home, so I hope for the best..........................

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I lived in Lafayette, Indiana on 3 seperate occasions. Altogether I lived there for 6.5 years. For most of those 6.5 years I wondered: what in the world does THAT t-shirt slogan mean? (go ugly early) I found out that it was Harry's pub's way of encouraging college students to come into the pub and start drinking early. I never cared for the slogan, none the less, when i saw a man in the baltimore library today with the t-shirt, i had to speak up!

"I haven't seen that slogan since I lived in Indiana!" I exclaimed.

"I went to Purdue U." the man replied.

"Wow!" "Me too, what class are you?"

"class of 04 he exclaimed" (perhaps we passed each other in that small town since i did live there from 03 to 05)

"What's your degree in, and did it serve you well?"

"This degree, (pointing to the pub logo on his shirt!) served me well!"

"You know what I miss about Indiana?"

"what's that"

"Not having to watch my back constantly,,,,,,,,,,,,soo safe!" I exclaimed.

"You got that right" he said. I asked him how he's adapting to that aspect of things. "I'm adapting, but it's like night and day with the crime thing"

"Yup" I said.

"Well, have a good one" I said.

"Yes, you too and good luck with everything" he replied.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Author Augusten (Augie) Burroughs"

That's got to be one of the most meaningful book reading/tours I've ever been to. I absolutely believe that you can easily love people that you have never met. There are quite a few authors who I feel a strong connection to and even love for. I felt such a strong connection with Augie after reading "Running with Scissors"

He said for example that he is one of the rare authors whose not had to worry about upsetting or offending family, since he doesn't have any and never felt part of a family. (I could and can strongly relate to that) He has always hated Christmas, and I can strongly relate to that too. I think one of the character traits that A. and I share is that we both feel there is no time to feel sorry for our difficult past, so we try to put as much energy as possible into creating a rich now and a rich future for ourselves. (for as cheesy as that might come across!)

A. said that he almost died from  alcoholism and that was o.k. because he was ready to die. Except, that he knew he was supposed to write a book, so that kept him pushing on.

I have a dry sense of humor that people don't always grasp.    Augie was the same way last night. Hilarious, but people didn't always pick up on it immediately. I love how raw and real of a person he is! He talked about how he goes to his job where he's a great success, wears Armani suits, but since he is a bed wetter, lets his bed dry out while he is at work during the day! No one in the audience laughed at him, probably because we love him and respect how open he is!

His literary agent requested him to turn over his adult journals (that was how I always assumed initially that I'd do things, I'd just publish journals) so he turned them over and his agent said you must turn this into a book. So the first book he wrote was "Dry."   When Augie saw how excited his agent was about his adult journals, he excitedly proclaimed:


Augie's agent said: "then write that book after you write "dry!" That was his second book and movie: "Running with Scissors"

Augie said he never felt complete or whole as a person unless he was drunk. He also said, he knew he was in trouble when he realized: "I'm 30, and I've never experienced sex as a sober man!"

One of the other things that made me fall in love even more with Augie was how gracious and kind he was to his audience. He got silly questions, smart questions, not so smart questions and even questions from a mentally ill woman.   The audience , sadly, made fun of her, but Augie treated her and everyone else with the utmost of respect, treating no question as if it were a stupid one. The sick audience member spoke in labored speech, asking if the A.A. program is comprised of a 12 step program as well as asking him if he made amends to people he has hurt in the past.

Another woman, who was pretty charming, said: "Augie, all of the other questions are so intelligent, and I can't think of any intelligent questions, so I want to thank you for "running with scissors," and "Dry" and since I can't think of anything more profound, I was wondering:

"What is your favorite color?!"

Augie replied, "brown....................and blue, he smiled graciously and the audience laughed (not at, but with the woman asking the question)

I said in yesterday's blog...... "no romantic overtones suggested because augie is gay" but on second thought I'd like to revamp my statement!

"Darn it! Augie is gay!"

(Augie is one my biggest literary and human influences!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Serendipity and Augusten Burroughs

You know it's quite an ordeal to run any errands at all on the buses, and I always have a difficult time planning how to get anything done at all. I was really unsure as to whether I wanted to hassle with my bus errands today or put them off until tomorrow. I decided to get them done today, and had I not, I would not have had this amazing night!

At about 3:45 p.m. I was proceeding North on York Road on a #8 bus. What I read on the Towson University marquee made my jaw drop. I turned my head around struggling to read the sign as the bus passed. I considered getting off at the next stop just so I could read the marquee, but decided to run my errands first. Here's what I saw:


And that was all she wrote folks! I wondered if he was on campus today. He's one of my favorite authors, one of my biggest inspirations. After I read "Running with Scissors" a few years ago I thought, wow, I have alot in common with this man; he's my literary soulmate of sorts!

He's been on my mind, and I've been wanting to email him to ask him his opinion on what he thinks the chances are that my story on homelessness could be made into a movie. About a month ago, something possessed my friend Adam, to send me back the 11 page original copy of a letter I wrote to him while homeless in 1995. I read it to my friend John, and said:" you know this letter may be very valuable someday. I can see this turned into a screenplay, can you?" "That's a distinct possibility" he replied.

Well, serendipitously, (and this is the only day I had the letter on my while out and about) I had 2 copies of the letter in my backpack today that I was planning to mail to 2 friends to have them keep it safe for me. And one of those friends is a professional writer, so I was going to ask her whether or not she thinks its good screenplay material or not.

I ran my errands, went to the Towson public library googled Augusten Burroughs to find out if he was on the Towson University campus today and found out that he is!

At 6:15 p.m. I got in a line with about 200 people in front of me, waited an hour, and got 90 seconds to excitedly tell Augusten about what we have in common, give his hand a squeeze, and hand him a copy of the (previously mentioned) letter to hang on to, with a quick explanation of what I had in mind. On it, I wrote my email address and my blogsite.

Wow! I got to meet Augusten face to face! He did a reading from the book "Dry", talked about his life, and took questions. He said that he turned his journals over to his agent and that was the impetus for his first book. I asked him, (during formal q and a time) what the chances are of that happening for me?   He said: (and I paraphrase) "don't worry about statistics and chances, if your heart feels you've really got something special then just do it."

Have you read any of his books? I have not yet seen the movie: "Running with Scissors", have you?

"Alert the Media"

You hear it over and over again from me. How deadly Baltimore streets are.   I'm too scared to stand at light rail stops alone even during daylight hours. Last week a woman was raped at the light rail stop!

  So he wouldn't kill her the victim  jumped into a river. Later she got out nude, flagged down a passing car and had the driver call the police. This man had assaulted before, finished his jail time and was back out raping and threatening women's lives again.

Even though I've lost/had stolen most of my worldly belongings in the last 14 years I know it's a miracle that I am alive, and that's what's getting me through the material loss.

By the way, I have alerted 4 local t.v. stations as to what is going on in my bldg. The death threats, the thefts. I just did this today by email. I'll let you know the results as soon as they come in.

Jumping through hoops/crumbs from the rich man's meal

After  5 years of trying, it appeared I had finally been accepted into the Taxi Access Program. Taxi Access allows one to take taxis affordably and could significantly raise my quality of life. But, like most programs, it is such hard work to get into the program that I only know one person who was accepted into the program!

I received the paperwork telling me that I had been accepted into the program. Or so I thought. It said "welcome to the taxi card program" I re-read the letter about 100 times but it still didn't make sense to me. The taxi access program allows you to go anywhere in Baltimore County or B. City for 3 dollars one way. But this letter stated "you send us your monthly payment of 6 dollars and we will put 18 dollars on your taxi card"

I read and re-read the letter. My interpretation of the letter was that for every 6 dollars I give the taxi driver I get 18 dollars in service. No, it turns out that you ONLY get 18 dollars in service per month! But that's nothing like the taxi access program I had heard about. Why? Because taxi access and taxi card are 2 different animals I would find out.

To get taxi access you have to ride mobility vans for 90 days,  interview face to face with an M.T.A. rep,. then have your doctor fill out medical reports. There is quite a bit of stigma involved in riding the vans, and the tenants as well as the maintenance man would know all of my comings and goings.

Whether the programs for the poor are governmental or not, I liken the results to eating the leftover crumbs from a rich man's meal. You work your ass off for crumbs. You're thankful for any crumb you can get but you wish you really had something to show for all of your hard work and hoop jumping.

I have not made up my mind as to whether I want to put myself through the stigma of riding these mobility vans............

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Flood of Murder"

I'm watching alot of t.v. And I feel all emotions very deeply. I cry for joy, I cry for sadness I cry when the person on t.v. cries. (and mostly I watch non fiction shows) Just call me an HSP; a highly sensitive person!

Last night I watched a show that I laid awake all night thinking about. Did you see it? Called "Flood of Murder" I never got the opportunity to visit New Orleans pre-Katrina. Now, it's very similar to Baltimore.

I laid awake all night thinking about Devon-te (was that his name? he was only 25 when killed) and Helen Hill who was in her 30's. It's so painful to think about their lives being cut short. It's so painful when people who are doing so much good in the world have their lives stolen. Life is so much about luck. Helen had such a happy life. I feel so deeply sad for her husband.

Helen and her husband were friends in college (Harvard) and moved to New Orleans after college. About a year later they lost everything in Katrina. About a year after that despite Helen's mother's objections and H's husband's objections H. desperately wanted to go back to New Orleans to rebuild the city and her prior life. She was murdered in her own home, and the murderer tried to murder her husband but was unsuccessful.

Devon-te was an activist who grew up in New Orleans and was helping put music programs into schools as an alternative to violence. He was murdered just days before the instruments he ordered arrived at the school. He was so beautiful, the pictures of him were so beautiful.

I'm not an idealist any more. I'm not invested in Baltimore city. I want a good comfortable life in a safe rural or suburban area. I've lost enough years here. I'm so "lucky" to be alive, as I consider B-more to be just as dangerous as New Orleans, and I want out while I'm still in one piece.

"Where has Elana been?"

It is still true that I am barely leaving the house.    If I leave the house between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on a weekday I'll be burglarized. Every day I find something else that has been stolen.

  I have just gotten over a debilitating headache that I had for 5 days. It's excruciatingly painful to sit for more than 10 minutes in anything but a very well cushioned sofa (I need some serious chiropractic care but don't have a car to get to the chiropractor)

I can't take the bus after dark (6:30 p.m.) because the streets and the buses are so dangerous. So the ramifications of leaving my house on a weekday are very, very high. In the meantime, I started an aggressive and alternative housing search about 6 weeks ago. I've only interviewed 2 people so far face to face. Both interviews were for the purpose of renting rooms in someone elses house. One person has a house in Middle River (there is nothing I can walk to in his neighborhood) and one person lives in an area so safe he doesn't lock his doors,(Chestertown) but I had strong concerns about the personalities and lifestyles of these people so I didn't accept either situation. For as horrendous as my situation is, I need to remember that it was also horrendous before I got my federal subsidy, so I have to be very very careful. I am still considering intentional community. ( and

I have to find somewhere that is cheap enough that I can buy a car and get back to work. You already know that I have some Baltimore city fines that will seriously delay me being able to get a car while living in Maryland. Ironically, one of the fines is for 800 dollars. It started out as a fine for 32 dollars and I didn't have the 32 dollars. I was parked in a 2 hour parking space near hopkins university (in 2003) and overstayed my 2 hours by about 10 minutes. The other city fine is because while I was homeless in 6/03 my honda was broken down in balto. city and I didn't have any friends that I could tow it to (to store for me while I get the money together for the repair) So, the city towed it, impounded it and sold it. They are charging me about 900 for all of that. They ended up auctioning my honda off for 15 dollars. That's right folks, 15 dollars!

As my Urbanite article suggests, there is no joy in living, but I do still have a glimmer of hope.

The only good news is that I have pretty good health insurance (which I risk losing by going back to work)and have an MRI scheduled. They are checking for lesions on the neck part of my spine, as my neurologist suspects that might be why I have the numbness , pins and needles in my extremities. Miraculously, insurance will cover every penny of my visits to the neurologist and the tests and on a pretty day I can walk there in about 75 minutes.

It's quite the balancing act to try to get ahead financially once you are on disability. When I lived in Indiana, (from 03 to 05) I fell behind in my rent and was evicted (in 04) As a result the social security administration reduced my monthly benefit to 200 dollars a month. I was shocked. They didn't give any warning at all or any letter of explanation. When I asked them about it they said well now that you are homeless you aren't paying any rent so you don't need the extra money, that is why we reduced your check!

Speaking of sick societies, I can't wait to see Michael Moore's new movie "Sicko" Have you seen it?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"Mostly homebound"

You can probably imagine what it is doing to my psyche to realize that everytime I leave my apt. on a weekday before 6 p.m. I will probably be burglarized. And even though I have most valuables out of the apt., it is still traumatizing to be robbed no matter what they steal. They've taken all but one fork, one knife, and one spoon. I had to buy another cooking spoon to replace the one they stole, and now they have stolen that too. So creepy.

My friend Diane has encouraged me to buy one of the braces that you can use to secure your door when you are in your home. I hope to order that within the next few days. At least that alleviates some of my fear.

In the meantime, I run housing ads daily and conducted two interviews last week. 

Watching Ellen and Oprah are pretty much my only breaks from reality. Went to a Jewish singles event mainly to see Arlene. That was about 2 or 3 weeks ago, and it felt so foreign to laugh and feel so free. We played a board game called "taboo" which was really fun with the exception of one very drunk guy's presence!

Today was payday so I have a little more energy than usual....................

"Just got published!"

And I'm thrilled. My circumstances aren't much better than what you'll read about in my article, but I'm elated to get the word out about poverty and homelessness. I hope to banish myths about the poor and/or homeless by sharing my story. Here goes.




My JOB  is to get out of poverty. The list below illustrates a typical workday for me when I was homeless and didn't have a penny to my name.


Hitchike or walk to businesses with bulletin boards. Post flyers: "Woman needs housing immediately, has references." Find public or university library. Log onto Craigslist and intentional communities website. Read housing ads for Maryland and beyond: perhaps I can barter in exchange for shelter. Post and read classified ads on intentional communities website. Find cafe or restaurant to search for a secondhand newspaper for classified ads. Whole Foods has a free phone for customers; however it is not adequate for making a series of calls.


Hitchike to welfare office to apply for food stamps. They ask me to come back tomorrow. But I'm hungry today! Hitchike or walk to Towson Town Center. Hit the mall for free coffee. Ironically in the self-serve cafe (for free coffee) the clerk eyes me suspiciously. Still hungry, I go to each food stand in the food court and ask for a sample from the vendors who seem willing. It's not enough food. If I have the strength, I can hitchike over to Whole Foods and get some more free samples.


I brainstorm about public places that have a free phone. Oh yes, the bank. I walk the two miles to the bank, sit down at the phone with newspaper in hand, and begin making calls. I immediately become very discouraged. Many ads say "must have car," "must have reliable transportation," or "no bus serves this area." I call the first one I circled but get voicemail. I'm only at the free phone for about four minutes when the bank manager comes over and says, "I'm sorry, but this phone is only to be used for business. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Physically, psychologically, and emotionally exhausted, I return to my friend Marnie's. She can put me up for one week. Tomorrow, I go back to work:

1. Find shelter.
2. Find food.
3. Find a job.
4. Maintain glimmer of hope.
5. Don't postpone joy.

Elana Snyder currently resides in public housing in Baltimore City. She is working on her first book, a memoir titled: ONLY THE DESTITUTE WALK.