Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The 20/20 t.v. documentary "Working Girls Speak"

It was absolutely amazing. After my partner and I broke up while living in Melbourne, Australia in 3/94, he dropped me off at a hostel that was alot like a homeless shelter. I learned within a week or so that the tourist district of St. Kilda is the same street as the red light district! I ended up staying/living on Grey Street for 9 more weeks. When my passport expired I was forced to return to the states.

One day I noticed a bunch of cameramen on Grey Street. I asked them what they were doing. They said they were filming Melbourne's first documentary on prostitution! Advocates for the prostitutes (The Prostitutes Collective of Victoria) would walk around giving everyone (not just prostitutes) a bag with condoms, and a free magazine (called "Working Girl/Working Boy") which I still have to this day. The PCV had all sorts of ways to try to keep the prostitutes safe. (hmmm, and they probably have a website by now.)

I was surprised that the doc. made me so emotional. (It took 20/20 two years to finish this documentary!) It opened in Las Vegas. I learned that Nevada is the only state in America with legalized brothels. I didn't really even know exactly what a brothel was! One of the brothels featured is called the "Bunny Ranch" The prostitutes must have a full physical and a weekly test for s.t.d.'s before they are allowed to work there.

There is a receptionist who has cameras in all the rooms. She times the "couples" ( after all the men pay in advance for a specific amount of time.) The girls say they are flexible with their pricing. One thing that really surprised me and Diane Sawyer was that two of the most popular things that the men "order" (just like on a menu) are the G.F.E. and "conversation!"

Many men pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the gfe or conversation. The gfe is the girlfriend experience. So all the prostitutes are required to do in the "gfe" is cuddle all night, talk, watch a football game with the man , etcetera! Confirmation that there are alot of lonely people out there I reckon, and confirmation that talking is a powerful way to connect with other humans.

One employee (prost.) at the ranch is a millionaire, (from her proceeds) and is building a beautiful mansion which she let 20/20 and the viewer tour.

Lest prostituting sound glamorous, 20/20 found that all the girls who have street prostituted (prostituted illegally) have been victims of violence as a result. They are not happy.

It's always blown my mind and very much angered me that when I look through the newspapers, the best paying jobs for women in our society always involve some sort of"carnal sacrifice. " Nude modeling, erotic massage, being an actress in porn flicks, for example.

Diane asked one prostitute what's worse, marrying for money or prostituting?

Another fascinating thing that the documentary reveals is that prostitutes come from every walk of life. One was highly educated and articulate with a degree in the arts. Her full time job in the arts isn't allowing her to meet all her expenses so she is selling her body as a side job. In her case she picks 2 to 3 clients who she maintains a very long term relationship with. For example an unhappily married man who pays her 3 million a year for her services!

They interviewed one woman my age, whose situation is closer to my own then any white woman I've ever met. She is 45 and has been steadily homeless for 14 years. She lives in an "abando" (abandoned house where man prostitutes live) So 20/20 toured a few of these. It reminded me of Jonathan Kozol's book: "Rachel and her children, homeless families in America"

The documentary was phenomenal but I wished it had expanded more on the interviews with the prostitutes who specifically said that they are only doing this kind of work because it's all they know that pays a living wage.

I also saw a bit of myself in "Roxie" She has a bachelors in music so Diane asked her to sing. She chose a song that I just love to sing from Phantom of the Opera (Music of the Night) As soon as she got done that song she ran off "to work." The reason I see myself in her is because she has largely had to put the joyful things to the side in the name of survival. No one has seen Roxie after she appeared in the doc. 20/20 had a hard time finding many of the girls, (post documentary)

Did you see the special? Should prostitution be legalized? I was moved by the way it ended. Diane Sawyer read the famous biblical quote: (i paraphrase it here) "How can you judge the speck in your brother's eye when you have plank in your own?"

It's called "dressing street"

I didn't even know there was a name for what I've been doing for the last 13 years or so until a few days ago. I was reading the Baltimore Sun, specifically the Dan Rodricks column. The article was about a man who moved to Baltimore so he could rent a 2 bedroom apt. and take in a street couple for free.

Anyhow the man says that when he gets home from work he walks through the tent towns of Baltimore city to talk to and learn about the homeless and their stories. These tents are temporary shelters for the homeless people. When he mentioned that he changes when he gets home and "dresses street" before going out, I thought, "who knew it had a name!"

But when I found myself cycling in and out of homelessness in the deadly Baltimore region in summer of 95 and carless I quickly learned that it's important to look really plain, wear good walking shoes, no jewelry, and nothing that anyone else is going to want to steal. Sometimes it scares me to get complimented on something I'm wearing, (someone might want to steal it) This came true recently, as someone complimented my bus pass i.d. holder that I wear around my neck. I thought, "uh oh" And in December it was stolen right here in the library of the university! I have not replaced it. Carlessness is such a close kin to homelessness and is a strong motivator to "dress street" even though i am no longer technically homeless.

What a challenge it is to dress for the weather, dress for the muggers, and dress professionally if you have to go to work! When I see women dressed up, in flip flops, in high heels etcetera I always think how spoiled they are to not have to "dress street!"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"I'm Still Alive!"

and I've been busy "working." No, I haven't made any money yet, but as I indicated in October's Urbanite article, I spend 7 days a week, "working." I try everything from the mainstream to the "way outside the box" to try to get out of poverty. Some of what I try you'd approve of, and some you wouldn't. Like I know you'd approve of the fact that I am interviewing as a live in nanny. I had about 4 telephone interviews this month and 2 face to face interviews. As far as the nanny thing goes, there is only one parent that I like! She lives in Northern CA. It's a 56 hour a week position!

It's a big leap for a 44 year old to move in with strangers, but my quality of life is EXTREMELY low here so I have to keep trying stuff until hopefully I succeed at something.

An example of some of the out of the box stuff I try, would be, last week I answered an ad for "companion" for an elderly man. I knew it was a bit risky to approach it in the way I did, (I asked if there was a car I could share, otherwise I couldn't live in that safe area) but if you want a better life you have to take risks. I'm going to remain a bit "detached" as I describe the situation to you, until after I do or do not get the offer.

The man lives in a very safe section of Balto. County. He is 74, and uses a walker. I knew I couldn't take the job unless they had a car they could share with me. So I told them I was in need of a car to share and that I would share the expenses.

The t.v. is on literally 24 hours a day, just like it was in my parents home. He sleeps in the living room in front of the t.v. instead of going to bed. The master bedroom is gorgeous and big, but cold, the heat doesn't reach that room even though these condos are fairly new. I'd have to make sure that he eats brekkie everyday and I'd have to prepare a very simple dinner. I'd be allowed to work and use his car, which of course would hopefully become a tool to get re-employed. He keeps his door unlocked, and visitors just walk in on him so he doesn't have to go to the trouble of getting up to let them in! (I'm intentionally leaving my opinion out of this piece while I wait to hear back on whether or not I get the "offer.")

A maid comes once a week, the condo is immaculate. (I am very chemically sensitive, and use few chemicals in my own apt. For example there is a cleaner called "Simply Green" which smells really nice and does not bother my respiratory system.) His shower is off my master bedroom, there is no bathtub off my bedroom (I'm more of a bath person largely because I'm in chronic pain with this fibromyalgia and tailbone injury)

I'll let you know if they offer me the"position". In the meantime, as you can tell from my resource list a few months ago, I'm always trying something new, and I am not to proud to ask for financial help (even though I haven't gotten it!)

The university's spring break is over and the library is nooooiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssyyyy! I can't wait to live in a safe enough situation to own my own computer. Then I'll blog every day! And check the craigs list jobs openings more frequently. (Don't cha just love craig's list?)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Betcha don't know I'm a classic rocker!"

I have thousands of fave songs. here are some of them and the corresponding you tube videos that I saw today

MEATLOAF-"Paradise by the Dashboard Light"
CHEAP TRICK-"I want you to want me"
STYX-"Too much time on my hands"
"Come Sail Away"
KANSAS-"Dust in the Wind"
"Carry on my Wayward Son"

(Tried to find some video of another one of my fave groups "Queen" but had no luck with that)

"Beast of Burden"

You Tube is amazing, and quite the education for me. Because I might know the words of a song from the radio, but can't always identify who did it. Or I might be able to pull the group name out of my head and not have any idea what they look like. You Tube ends that mystery for me.

"Favorite Quotes"

"I don't believe in entering into merger negotiations unless there is a lifetime investment." (man's response to why he never married) the show "lipstick jungle"

real ad on the chatline: "umma switch up ma ad cuz I'm gettin' too mini replas from "mall rats"

"Goodby misery I don't ever want to see your ugly face again." ("raisin in the sun" she's moving from an apt. into a house)

"I'm really sad. I just need you to come home, read me a book and tuck me in." (kevin O' Connell's 5 year old son said to him on phone)

"My life was hard with a capital H" (9 year old Dominique, whose mother was murdered)

"I'm a good person stuck in a bad life." (Kristin is trapped in poverty in Atlantic City)

real chatline ad: "I like my women packed and stacked, especially in the back"

Post Sept. 11 Society/Harder to gain employment/no privacy anymore

I've noticed since Sept. 11, that it is much tougher to gain employment. We are so high security and paranoid as a society that we are expecting too much from applicants. For example, in the 2 years that I was in Indiana, I was not able to so much as get a job interview at the mall. Most companies wanted to do a credit check. (which I can't pass)

Everywhere now, we are warned not to give out our social security numbers indiscriminately, yet, if you don't, the employer will just hire the next guy who comes along who "isn't so difficult."

One day I asked the employer why they were checking my credit. (For god sakes, it's a minimum wage job!) He replied: "Well, if the employee has bad credit then we can't trust him to run the register, he might steal from us."

My thoughts. So the logic is that if you are poor, you are unethical? That's not fair! Even if I hadn't eaten in 3 days I couldn't steal. And I have been put to those kinds of tests already in my life!

I've filled out some awfully intrusive applications in my life, but the one I had to fill out last weekend for a nanny job, took the cake.

1. what does your mother do for a living?
2. your father?
3. do you have a boyfriend?
4. what is your health history?
5. what medications are you on?
6. what has your address been for the last 7 years?
7. are you hiv positive?
8. what is your mother's father's and siblings health history?

Apparently, it is an organization online called nannies plus, who are providing these apps. My friend, a therapist said to me what I always think: Elana, it's not even legal for them to ask you this stuff.

I replied: But if you don't answer it, then they'll just go ahead and hire someone who will!

What are your thoughts on this subject dear reader? Have you noticed how much more difficult it is to get work post September 11th? Or in general?

Monday, March 10, 2008

An Historic Fixture Reopened/Sportsman's Hall Roller Rink

I had a rental car on Sunday, and drove to Carroll County for a live in job interview. After taking highway exit to 30 N it didn't take me long to realize where I was. That's always comforting to realize that you aren't on completely new terrain. I immediately had fond memories of "Sportsman's Hall" roller rink. I first went there in '75 for a 7th grade field trip. I was in love with Sammy, but he didn't love me back, so I did not work up the guts to ask him to skate with me for the "ladie's choice" segment. (He ended up marrying his high school sweetheart and I think they are still together.)

When I first got my driver's license, it was one of the first places I drove to. In "Boring" Maryland! Near the Boring Church! You know the boring church! We've all been there! Anyway, Marlin told me about 3 years ago that they were shutting down permanently and it broke my heart.

I think they opened in the 20's but I'm not sure. A boy got kicked out in the 90's so he burned the place down. A year or more later they reopened. Business dropped significantly because of the reduced popularity of roller skating. Business closed. But Oila! They are open!

Yesterday my rental car started acting up about 5 miles from my job interview, just a hop and a skip (and a skate) away from Sportsman's Hall! I was panicked, but thought, "well if a girl has to break down she might as well break down near the roller rink!"

Stunningly, I had just passed it, and the sign was still intact! WHAT! THERE ARE TONS OF KIDS IN THERE! IT'S REOPENED, IT'S REOPENED!

That thrills me! SPORTSMAN'S HALL once won an award for best roller skating light show in the United States..........................

(Hmmm, I'll have to check and see if they have a website!)

Roller skating, anyone? ;)

(p.s. the rental car made a full recovery and I did not have to call for service!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"Getting There/Job Interview" 2/08

___The interview for preschool teacher______________

12:50- Sherry picks me up for job interview. The interview is about 11 to 12 miles from my house and off of the bus line. We arrive 35 minutes early. I've filled out the app. which takes 1/2 hour. I'm looking forward to meeting the interviewer as she was lovely over the phone. Another employee, F. says that the interviewer left half hour ago on an emergency! Oh no, I think. She tells me not to worry, as she will interview me.

The waistband of her slacks is down at her pubic bone and a huge naked pot belly is hanging out of her sweater and over her slacks! I've seen men with huge pot bellies hanging out, but NEVER a woman, especially an interviewer.

For the first 5 minutes or so she read my app. This is one of the hardest interviews I've ever had. She leaned into a desk to read the interview questions. I struggled to hear, reading her lips and continuously asking her to repeat the questions. I had long silent delays, really preferring to answer: "I don't know, I don't know."

Here are some of the questions she asked:

1. What would you do if an 18 month old was biting another child in your class. How about a 4 year old? (wait, i thought this was an interview on being a 4 year old teacher, i think)

2. What would you do if you were alone in a classroom with a 2 year old who collapses and his eyes roll back in his head?!" (Oh, that happened just last week! wink wink)

3. Walk me through your class day schedule wise. (I haven't been in a classroom in 6 yrs. so I feel
unprepared for these questions)

4. What kind of science lesson would you create?

5. How would you handle an irate parent?

6. Do you have a reliable means of transportation? (I will if you hire me, I said)

(She kept getting interrupted by the phone. I didn't mind at all given how poorly I was doing. Surprisingly, she has called me back for a second interview)

When the interview was over with @ 2:30 I debated........ should I call L. and see if she can take me home? but she doesn't get off til 3, I think to myself. I can't hitchike with a parent, cuz they'll tattle on me for hitching, then I won't get the job. I'll walk to the front of the building where there is a fitness center and see if any patrons are leaving. No, just people working out.

Should I walk the 1 to 2 miles to the light rail? Better not, I don't see sidewalks, so that's not going to be an option. I start walking through the business park which takes up 1 to 2 blocks, looking for an office worker who might be driving south.


E-"Miss, do you happen to be driving south?"

Miss 1-"Yes, but I'm in a huge hurry, so I can't take you. I'm goin to a drs. appt."

E-(I'm thinking, well if you're going my way , why wouldn't you take me?)

E to Miss 2-"Miss, do you happen to be driving South?"

Miss 2-"Actually, I'm not driving anywhere."

(I see some work trucks and work men inside. Wonder if they'll be finishing up soon? Wonder if they'll take hitchikers? Should I call a cab, I wonder? Better not, I'm running low on $. There's a man getting into his car, I run over.

E-"Sir, do you happen to be driving South?"


E-"Because I'm trying to get as close to my home as possible."

Sir-"Where is that?"

E-"Towson Circle" (that's not my home, but it is my destination)

Sir-"I can only get you to Hunt Valley"

E-"That's fine"

(He's a professor at a local college it turns out, so he's pretty unlikely to kill me. I RARELY ride with men)

E-"Can you get me to light rail?"

Sir-"Sure. Sorry I can't do more."

There's no one at light rail so I do not feel safe. Maybe it would be safer to walk over to the mall and hitch to Towson Circle from there? I think. But it's soo cold. I'l go ahead and buy a ticket just in case. I fiddle with the machine for 5 to 10 minutes, but it is not working. If I get on the train without a ticket I'll get fined. I'm beginning to panic. An elderly woman approaches. She tries the machine for me but also has no luck. She suggests trying the other machine.

E-"I want to go South. Where should I stand?" (it's not clearly marked at all)

She does not give a clear answer.

Finally I ask if she is going South? "Yes" she says.

So, I'll just follow her , I think. It's brutally cold and windy. The bench is too cold for my butt, so I opt to stand. Thank goodness we only wait 10 to 15 minutes. I want to go to Towson Circle but I might as well forget it since light rail doesn't go near there.

on the train and feel isolated, unsafe. Initially, it's just me and one homeless man. I wasn't sure where to get off. Which one of the 3 stops is Bangles Books? Is it the Timonium stop? the timonium business park stop or the Lutherville stop? (For those of you who aren't from baltimore, Timonium and Lutherville kind of melt together with unclear boundaries) Maybe I should get off at Mt. Wash? No, cuz then I'd have to hitch home from Whole Foods and the one controlling employee there isn't going to let me.

E-(Turning to a group of 3, hoping they don't lie just to be mean. I've had that happen on more than one occasion.) Does anyone know which stop is Bangles?

Man 1-I think it's Lutherville, but I'm not sure.

About 1/2 hour later we arrive at the Lutherville stop. The man was right. This turns out to be the right stop. I walk the 5 blocks to Bangles to get a hot cocoa. Then I attempt to hitch to Towson circle with a female bangles customer who might be going my way. I discreetly stand at the exit, asking every female who exits the store if she is going my way. I do this for about 15 minutes. They all say they aren't.

Defeatedly, I walk the 5 blocks to the bus stop, where I normally feel very endangered. This time I don't feel endangered because the two people waiting with me don't give me a "dangerous" vibe.

Normally, the ride south isn't too oppressive 'til we get near the mall. At that point many people board with a boatload of shopping bags that they always hit you with or swing in front of your face. It's not unusual for me to feel like I'm suffocating.

The entire ride home took 1 hour and 50 minutes. That covered 12 miles. Normally a trip like that would take much longer..................................................

(I decided not to accept the position I interviewed for. Trying to go back to work full time is too ambitious for right now, so I'm focusing on 1/2 time positions. And as you know, I have excellent health insurance. Going to work full time might jeopardize my insurance, ironically)

"Please, spare me the small talk"

No, I did not get a new hairstyle. Yes, it is cold outside. How am I doing you ask? If you're going to bother asking, then please don't yell the question at me from across the street, as I don't like to yell.

"A Perfect Heart"

Well, the results of the echo. have come back, and i have a "perfect" heart! Well, they can't tell whether or not your arteries are clogged, they can only tell how the ventricles are working. I'd love to know how my arteries look, wonder what test that is..........cholesterol? My Dr. said that normally the echo. turns up "something" but in my case, the heart looks very healthy. I told him I was surprised given everything my body has been through!