Tuesday Tuneup 59

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Killing time.

Q. Have you ever really stopped to think about that expression?

A. What expression?

Q. Killing time?

A. No, not really.

Q. Well, think about it!  How can time be killed?

A. But — it’s only an expression.

Q. Why do you not answer my question directly?

A. All right, all right.  Literally speaking, I have no idea how time can be killed.

Q. Then what makes you think you can kill it?

A. That would seem rather presumptuous of me.

Q. So!  What are you really doing here?

A. Waiting.

Q. Waiting for what?

A. For it to be 11:24.

Q. What time is it now?

A. 11:05.

Q. What happens at 11:24?

A. The bus comes.

Q. Are you sitting at the bus stop right now?

A. No, I’m sitting in the Courtyard Cafe with my computer.

Q. How long will it take you to get from the Courtyard Cafe to the bus stop?

A. About two minutes.

Q. Then shouldn’t you have said you were waiting for it to be 11:22?   Won’t you miss the bus if you wait all the way till 11:24?

A. All right, then.   I’m waiting for it to become 11:22.

Q. What time is it now?

A. 11:08.

Q. So for how many more minutes will you need to keep this up?

A. For 14 minutes, sir.

Q. Why did you call me “sir?”

A. I don’t know.  It seemed — courteous.

the GADFLY - Music Venues - 117 Elm St, La Grande, OR ...Q. But what makes you think I’m a man?   Couldn’t I be a woman?   Why didn’t you call me “madam” instead?   Why did you assume I am a man?

A. I don’t know — uh maybe some kind of unconscious sexism of some sort?

Q. Sexism?   Don’t you believe in equal rights for women?

A. Equal, uh, er, rights, yes — and equal opportunity — but perhaps not equality in terms of — of —

Q. In terms of what, may I ask?

A. Well, I mean, anybody knows there are innate differences in the way men and women process information . . .

Q. Are you saying that women are less intelligent than men?

A. Don’t put words in my mouth!   I said nothing of the kind!

Q. Well then!   Just what are these innate differences you’re so convinced exist?

A. Um . . . for one thing, it’s well-known that men are more solution-oriented, and that women are — are —

Q. More problem-oriented?!   Is that what you’re suggesting?   That all we do is cause problems??

(Awkward pause.)

A. What time is it?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to be asking you the questions?

A. All right, it’s 11:14 already.

Q. And just how do you propose to spend the next 8 minutes?

A. In total silence, preferably.

Q. How the hell are you going to get that to happen?

A. Probably only if one of us stops talking.

Q. And who might that be?

A. I would hope that you would be the one to stop talking first!

Q. And if I don’t?

The Answerer is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Inequity (Part Two)

Another function of long-term homelessness — at least of the kind of homelessness that I and others experienced in an urban environment as part of an intentional homeless community — was that it was hell trying to get off the subject.   Of homelessness, that is.

Phrased positively, it was always refreshing when I found myself engaged in happy small talk, say at a McDonald’s or a Starbucks early in the morning.  These were spots where those of us who were homeless would eagerly gather come daybreak, these being the two places that opened the earliest.   Of course, our motive was to get out of wandering mode and become situated within a seemingly normal context.   If we were lucky, we might even blend with the early risers having themselves emerged from the indoors.   After all, what was to distinguish us from those who dwelt inside?   Maybe an unkempt appearance, possibly a smell.  But we were usually pretty good about taking care of that stuff.  And in a college town?   You didn’t really expect everyone to be doing the three-piece business suits.

Now, the Starbucks was a different scene than the McDonald’s.  I needed more money to get in, and it opened a half hour earlier (at five in the morning, rather than 5:30.)   There was no such thing as a Senior Cup for 65 cents.  I had to at least get a tall coffee, and probably spend $1.75 at the time.   But there was also the advantage that, once I had consumed the coffee, they were in no particular hurry to kick me out.  The McDonald’s, however, had a twenty minute sit-down limit — obviously targeting the myriad homeless people seeming to invade the joint upon opening.   And while others were permitted refills, they had an unwritten policy not to give a refill to a homeless person.   So obviously, the MacDonald’s was the less savory — though less expensive — of the two options.

At times, I had the advantage of owning a laptop I could plug in at the Starbucks.  Once I was working away, I differed in no discernible way from an older student, or perhaps a professor.   If I happened to be at the counter, and no one was around to “out” me, I stood a good chance of blending.   I recall once a fellow sat near me on the counter with a newspaper.  He nodded at me, “Good morning!”  I did the same.  I liked that feeling.  No wall had yet been erected between us.   We were just two human beings, and the homelessness of one of the two human beings had not yet been so imposing as to have erected one.

“You following the Warriors?” the man asked casually, looking up from his paper.

“Not a big basketball fan,” I replied.  “I hear they’re having an unusually good season.”

“Yup.”

So far so good, I thought.   Waiting a moment or two, I decided to comment on the music being piped through the Starbucks speakers.

“I love this Wagner, Symphony in C Major.   Seems to match my mood swings somehow.”

“Oh really.  How so?”

“Well you hear it — it’s almost dissonant, then lands on these big blasts of major chords — you enjoy classical music?”

“Not so much.  The wife always gets me to go to the San Francisco Symphony.”

“Ah, Michael Tilson Thomas.”

“I guess,” he replied softly, looking back down at the paper.

Returning to my work, I felt a clear sense of satisfaction.   Almost ten minutes had gone by.  I hadn’t managed to out myself, and nobody else had come by to — uh, oh here comes Hunter, I thought, literally worried that I was thinking too loud.

“Hey Andy, do you have any change?”

“Am I going to change?” I replied, dodging the question.  “No, I wasn’t planning on it.”

“No, I mean, do you have any change?  Have you even been at your Spot yet?  Oh, never mind.”

Obviously having displayed some familiarity with me, my friend walked away quite randomly.  But it wasn’t random at all to the fellow with whom I’d been chit-chatting.

“You’re HOMELESS??!!” he cried out.  

“Well, uh, yeah,” I admitted, still trying to keep things “low key.”

“Aargh!” he barked.  “Well, here’s what you do.  You dial 2-1-1, you do know about 2-1-1, don’t you?”

Of course I knew about 2-1-1, but that’s beside the point.  The wall had been erected between us, that wall has proven to be virtually insurmountable, and it would be downhill from here.  I’d thought I’d been going to get away with having a normal conversation for once.  But I thought wrong.  As soon as I was outed, and my homeless credentials revealed, the subject reverted back to the usual topic of homelessness.   And it might have been very fresh for the one who picked up that ball, possibly even an exciting first-time conversation.  But to us it was one we’d heard all too often. It was one thing to be living it 24/7.  It was quite another to be expected to talk to every Tom, Dick & Harry about it, total strangers that we would literally meet off the streets, daily.

“You know, you don’t look homeless.  I’m having a hard time believing you’re really homeless.   It just seems like you don’t belong there, and there must be something you can do to get yourself out of it.  Ever think of that?”

Nope, never thought about it once at all!  I mean, really!  Can you imagine if I had been Black, or Hispanic, or any other easily recognized minority in such a context?   Would a stranger, on realizing my ethnicity, immediately launch into a monologue about my being Black or Hispanic, and what I ought to be doing about it?  Of course not!  But that’s the extent to which homelessness is unrecognized.   When one is homeless, one is not generally recognized as representing a legitimate minority in our culture.  This is why a stranger with no true knowledge of the homeless person’s individual circumstances will often feel qualified to lecture the homeless total stranger on how they are to go about living.  It stems from a lack of respect for the obvious human fact that the homeless person has a right to govern their own life, no more and no less than any other kind of person in society.

Until we honor this basic human fact, and respect each homeless individual’s right to have made choices that have seemed most prudent to them under the circumstances, no real progress will be made in solving the “homeless problem.”  This is because the essence of the problem is in the dehumanization of a massive group of human beings in our culture, those being they who are without homes in society.   If many of us extended to a homeless person the same courtesy and dignity we might extend to one of different race, gender, genetic culture, or sexual orientation, we might be surprised at the results.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Psalm 52

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
     The loving devotion of God endures all day long.
Your tongue devises destruction
     like a sharpened razor.
     O worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
    falsehood more than speaking truth.

You love every word that devours,
     O deceitful tongue.
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin;
     He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent;
     He will uproot you from the land of the living.

The righteous will see and fear;
     they will mock the evildoer, saying,
Look at the man
     who did not make God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his wealth
     and strengthened himself by destruction.

But I am like an olive tree
     flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in the loving devotion of God
     forever and ever.
I will praise You forever,
     because You have done it.
I will wait on Your name–
     for it is good–
     in the presence of Your saints.

— Psalm 52 BSB

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Justice and Righteousness

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD!
     Why would you have the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, and not light;
     as if a man fled from a lion,
     and a bear met him;
or went into the house and leaned
          with his hand against the wall,
     and a serpent bit him.
Is not the day of the LORD darkness,
          and not light,
    and gloom with no brightness in it?

“I hate, I despise your feasts,
     and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies,
Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings
          and cereal offerings,
     I will not accept them,
and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts
     I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
      to the melody of your harps
      I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
     and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  

–Amos 5:18-24 RSV

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

The Refuse of the World

For who makes you so superior?
What do you have that you did not receive?
And if you did receive it,
why do you boast as though you did not?

Already you have all you want.
Already you have become rich.
Without us, you have become kings.
How I wish you really were kings,
so that we might be kings with you. 
For it seems to me that God has displayed us apostles
at the end of the procession,
like prisoners appointed for death.
We have become a spectacle to the whole world,
to angels as well as to men.

We are fools for Christ,
but you are wise in Christ.
We are weak,
but you are strong.
You are honored,
but we are dishonored. 
To this very hour we are hungry and thirsty,
we are poorly clothed,
we are brutally treated,
we are homeless. 

We work hard with our own hands.
When we are vilified, we bless;
when we are persecuted, we endure it; 
when we are slandered, we answer gently.
Up to this moment
we have become the scum of the earth,
the refuse of the world.

–1 Corinthians 4:7-13

Homelessness and PTSD

Trigger warning: some people may be triggered by information contained in this entry that pertains to personal violation.  Please proceed with caution, and read at your own risk.  

Earlier, when I created a talk on this theme, I did not believe I could capsulize my thoughts into a single blog post.   So I talked for a half hour instead.

I’ve since changed my mind.   It’s taken over a week for me to discover how to present these ideas more succinctly, in a logical order.  The first thing I would like to address is that people are generally unaware that homelessness — with all its confusing, unpredictable, and dangerous components — is as much a breeding grounds for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as situations arising in combat or from having been physically or sexually abused.

PTSD is triggered when something happens to remind a person of past trauma, the memories of which are often buried.  When the reminder occurs, one leaps into the context of the trauma formerly inflicted.  And then, one begins to relive the entire circumstances involved in that traumatic event.

See the source imageSevere abuse comes with the homeless territory.  A person who is exposed, out in the open twenty-four hours a day, is a visible target.  This person is made even more vulnerable when they are sleeping.  When I was homeless, I was pistol-whipped, subjected to strong arm robbery, sexually abused, subjected to arson, and physically abused multiple times.  Any one of those situations can lead to PTSD — let alone all of them in confluence.

Because the first of these traumatic events was a sexual violation that took place on a very hot day when I could find no way out of it, I have been triggered on extremely hot days when I was lost and did not have clear directions to where I was going.  My PTSD counselor and I worked out a series of steps that I would take automatically if I felt that the PTSD had been triggered.  I would stop and take a number of deep breaths while looking for a shady spot.  Then I would sit in the shady spot, no longer moving around or looking where I might go, until the PTSD had subdued.

The reason for taking such steps is because I was reliving the horrific event of a sexual assault.  When the horrible event was over, and the rapist disappeared, I was so freaked out that I ran five miles in 90F degree weather.  That single event has affected my sexual attitudes for life.

But that was only a solitary example of numerous violations that were to ensue during the twelve years when I was homeless and “borderline-homelessness” — by which I mean staying in motels, residence hotels, and other sketch indoor situations.   The overall experience of homelessness carried with it its own set of triggers.   By and large, these were based on two things:

(1) A sense of inequality with, and inferiority to, the people around me.  

(2) A sense of being fully exposed in a context where most of the people were concealed.  

An example of something that triggered me was the event of having a story of mine published on a news site that permitted comments from its readers.  All of the readers had usernames and avatars.  One of them referred to having known me personally — but I had no idea, nor was I able to learn, who this person was.  This bore enough resemblance to the homeless context that I began to relive my homeless experience.

More information about PTSD triggers may be found here, for starts.  An excellent article exploring PTSD among the homeless may be found here.  And of course, further information on the Homeless Experience can be found all over this blog.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1221

1. Slept well, got up at 4:00 am exactly.

2. Daily money manifested at around that time, and this time I was able to hold off on coffee till I got to the Courtyard (where the coffee is free).

3. Nice breakfast at Courtyard. First time in weeks I’ve been able to finish the whole breakfast.

4. Weight was up two pounds at the doctor, which is okay, as I had been losing rapidly. Heart still 56, blood pressure 108/60, temp 97.2. Finally, after three years, all vital signs are down to what they usually were in Berkeley.

5. Doc prescribed Trazodone for insomnia and (hopefully) sleep paralysis.  My daughter says it’s effective, and it appears it may be the lesser of evils. I was honest with the doctor about use of benzos and cannabis, past and present, respectively.  Well — I’m not convinced how much of the solution can possibly lie in the medical realm, but I’m grateful I made it to the appointment anyway, like a responsible human being.

6. Worked the door again last night, great young band from Vancouver, fresh out of high school, advanced garage band style. Brandy gave me a $40 gift card.

7. Nice weather this morning 69F degrees, breezy, conducive to brisk exercise.

8. Nice talk with my friend Kent this morning.

9. Made another speech, again spontaneously, though this one has some undeveloped themes and must be re-done.  I’m calling it “The Perception of Inequality.”  I posted it here before deciding it falls too far short of my artistic standards on too many levels for it to be live in its current state.   So I have pulled it until it has been rightly adjusted.   I took eight lengthy notes for an expanded revision, and am hoping to post the updated version on Wednesday morning.

10. Though still hung up on “Oracle,” the vocal score revisions are proceeding aright. I feel on track with all my homework, actually, if for no other reason than that I no longer shun or shirk the task. It helps to enjoy what you’re doing. God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.