Friday, November 10, 2006

Life Can Be Scary

The young lady walks through the living room wearing black sweatpants and a string tank top. “Excuse me,” she says politely, as I watch that perfect little body go by. Every time Eva B. passes, thoughts of malevolence run through my head. She’s a fine looking lady, an addict at least a decade younger than Dan M. I have to constantly reminding myself she’s his girlfriend. It’s good to exercise one’s daemons. It teaches you that morality is not inherent.

Lying in bed, nearly falling back to sleep way too early in the evening, thoughts of June W. run through my head. I couldn’t stop the anger from building up in me from the day before. June had said we’d have time to spend together that evening, or so I thought. There are so many feelings about her that are coming to the surface that I wanted to discuss with her. But then she changed her mind and decided she didn’t have time to spend with me because of an important party she’s throwing for her boss and colleagues.

With June it’s always too early to discuss our current relationship. She doesn’t even want to admit we have one. My belief is that there’s always a relationship between two people, any two people. If the human mind is the most complex thing in the known universe, the relationship between any two must be the most complicated protocol known to man. The fact that she is not interested in expending one ounce of effort to try to understand or define it after our divorce is so negligent.

Then it clicked! What really makes June tick: money. She’s attracted to money. That’s what attracted her to me. I was a Software Engineer (well, I guess I still am) who made a decent wage. And at that time, before the technology bubble burst, anyone in the computer field had a promising career ahead of them.

However, June never could understand what made me tick. I never got into the computer field for the money. I love programming computers. After the technology bubble burst, many surviving companies decided the computer field would be measured by the bottom line. That’s when outsourcing the technology trust became a popular choice for American CEOs. Programming computers for the fun of it was now relegated to the technology centers around the nation, like Silicone Valley.

I never would’ve imagined that my job would be outsourced to India. Now American’s complain that they are discussing their private financial records on an over-seas call with someone who’s native language is not English; how secure is that?

So Wax falls back on this first love, what he majored in college originally: photography. And what better way to get your feet wet than to work in a photo lab. Being constantly depressed about my situation, I looked forward to going to work instead of the harsh reality of my life.

Being turned down for the Photo Lab Manager position was not devastating. I really took away from that experience a healthy lesson in failure. We must reach for the stars if wish to travel to the Moon. I had my regrets afterwards, which made me question motives of The Store. But the complicated machinery of a highly successful corporation is not always understood by one cog.

Soon, I fell back into my old comfortable position of the repairman, a habit that dies hard. I was always trying to fix things in my marriage, not realizing that when June was complaining about problems, she didn’t always want her man to fix them; sometimes it was enough just to listen. But sometimes she did. I never could distinguish which though. At work, I distracted myself by making sure all machinery worked flawlessly. It’s a busy job, but it paid off. As a consolation, I was moved full-time to Photo Lab, instead of two day there and three days in Electronics.

Simon P. called while I was working frantically in the lab. “Hey Wax, when you get a chance, please stop by my office.”

“Is this about that dreaded news you’ve been scaring me with?” I jest.

“No, no, nothing like that.” Of course, no more detail than that. He’s got something important to tell me, but it must be face-to-face.

“Okay, I’ve got a half-dozen one-hours to process. Can it be in thirty minutes?”

“Sure, whenever you finish, come meet me in my office,” he says.

It’s fallen on Simon to discipline me for working way past my scheduled hours. It’s got to be that. Simon is the executive in charge of Photo Lab, its manager’s boss. He has a keen interest in making sure the lab runs smoothly and has thanked me on several occasions for going above and beyond the call of duty. In fact, he’s the only one who appreciates my efforts. Who else better to deliver bad news?

“Latisha, can you hold down the lab for a little while? Simon wants to see me in his office,” I ask.

“Is it good news,” she asks with a shit-eating grin on her face. She knows something. Latisha A. is their choice for Photo Lab Manager, one made more for her leadership skills then her photography.

“Now how would I know what he wants me for?” I reply.

Simon invites me into his office and shuts the door. “How would you like to be Photo Lab Manager?” he asks.



Without Wax,

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Don't Have To Drink About It

Briefly, I didn't get the promotion. I was disciplined for staying late to fix a major problem with the printer. I basically feel unappreciated. I really want to find a meeting.

However, I must run because something good has happened: My protein levels have risen high enough for me to donate at City Plasma!

So, all have a safe and happy Halloween. I, on the other hand, am going out tonight to capture party animals in costume. I know it’s neither safe nor sane, but I really missed St. Patrick’s Day with my camera.


Without Wax,

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It’s A Banana Stand

“I was wondering what that was,” Dan M. said.

“It’s a banana stand,” I explain. One of the many things I chose to unpack from the efficiency apartment in order to make our kitchen feel a little more like home seems to work. After finding a coffee cup hanging from it this morning, I felt it was time to go grocery shopping. Saying that I’ve moved into a guys house is an understatement. No one in the house understands the concept of no drying important cloths completely. Everyone smokes inside the house, except myself. They’d probably freak if I produced a salad spinner.

Dan is the owner of the Flower House, a sober house of his own creation, one light on restrictions: No drugs, no booze, no shoes, and clean up after yourself. A man my age fighting hair loss with hair plugs, his addiction is coke. However, to meet him, you’d think that he was on coke constantly and that if he ever did stimulants, he’d pushed into psychosis. A constant coffee drinker, he’s definitely what you’d call an A+ personality. All things considered, I had a good feeling about him when I came to move in nearly a month ago.

He must’ve scene something in me to, because it cost me a mere $100 to initially move in. Since then, I’ve made rent on time and paid $100 towards the $350 deposit I still owe him. I haven’t missed a day of work and haven’t drunk at all. I’m coming up on three months sober.

I also haven’t been posting many blog entries either. But today it’s important. I’ve applied for the manager position of the Photo Lab at work. The executive team lead that interviewed me for the promotion asked me to work tomorrow morning on my day off. We have an inspection tomorrow that we failed in the past and he feels I should be there. Later on that day, the decision will be made as to who will fill the manager position.

Although the cards are not stacked in my favor, I have a feeling I may end up becoming the Photo Lab Manager. There are six other candidates applying for this position, all of which are internal. There are only five other employees who work in the Photo Lab, so I can only imagine every one of them has applied. Every one of them also has more experience than I. And I’ve only worked at The Discount Store for merely a month and a half, not even having had a 90-day review. However, they are looking for someone who is passionate about photography, and I was told in the interview that I am.

I’m the right age for management and I’m ready for this at this point in my life. One of the first thoughts I had when considering this position was that I could never come in hung over. I told this to Dan and he made the pat A.A. response, “You’re planning your next drink.” The fact of the matter is that I could care less if I have another drink or not. I don’t care if it means I restart my sober day count. I’m not going to stress out about whether or not I drink again. I’m worried more about the consequences of my actions, of which there was be many, if I drank again.

I’m ten days away from being three months sober. During this period in my quest to stay sober, I have not worked the program. That is, I have not read the Big Book, gone to meetings, gotten a sponsor, and in general have not worked the steps. I thought about going to a meeting last week, but since I’ve moved to the dreaded East Side of Saint Paul, many things are distant. Just traveling by bus to work takes one hour. When I discovered there’s not an A.A. meeting on the East Side of Saint Paul, the disillusionment for me increased ten fold.

Now, after having my first permanent full-time job in over two years, I’ve found something that’s been missing from my life. That is frankly, a job that I take pleasure in. I actually enjoy going to work. In fact, at the time I’d moved in, I was so down about everything else, I looked forward to avoiding the depressing state of my life by escaping to work. Although this is not the apartment I fell in love with, I do feel this is the place I should be at this point in my life.

One major reason I feel happy about myself is that I stayed sober enough to hold a job long enough to replace my digital camera. Using the store discount, I can afford the Canon PowerShot A540. It, like everything else in my life lately, is a compromise. It doesn’t completely replace the PowerShot G1 that I shorted out, however it has nearly twice the mega pixels. I love it though.

Another was the incredible day that I had with June W. the day I purchased the camera. She cashed my paycheck and drove me to pick up the camera at another one of our discount stores. I couldn’t buy it at my store on account that I’d sold all the A540s currently in stock. I’d experienced two distinctly opposing emotions from June. First when I paid her the first $100 towards what I owe her; I saw in her eyes a range of emotions from financial relief to respect, and a closeness I’d longed for. Then she bit my head off for whistling at her. She grabbed a cart right when we entered the store and started off in the wrong direction. I called her name, she didn’t respond, so I habitually whistled. She said she felt like she was being treated like a dog. The way she responded reminded me of one trigger for drinking. When she gets that angry in a public place, she actually looks ugly. I’ll never whistle for her ever again.

Tomorrow I open the Photo Lab on my day off at the request the man that interviewed me, which is a good sign. There will be an audit by the same district manager that gave us a failing grade last month. Sometime afterwards, the decision will be made as to which candidate will become the Photo Lab Manager. I’m prepared for either outcome.


Without Wax,

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Digs

In short, I'm living in a new house with sober guys. Half past midnight, I come to my new home after work, put away my bike, dress for bed, and pray for those less fortunate. Having only to relieve myself before crashing in bed, I dress somewhat appropriately. Opening the door of my bedroom, I run into a beautiful half-naked dish-water-blonde, whom I can only assume is the owner's girlfriend. She's got the same idea I do, which is dash to the
bathroom as fast as possible.
Dressed in only a man's flannel shirt, she smiles and apologizes. I shut the door in embarrassment instead of introducing myself.

I think, this place is not that bad.




Without Wax,

Friday, September 15, 2006

James’ Bun In Oven Not Worth Two In Proofer

Somehow, James idea of living in my previous precious little apartment has come to the same conclusion as my Deli job. All risen bread needs to rise, usually in a proofer, as I have risen to the occasion of finding two fine jobs I can work with. However, all cannot happen at the same time without honesty.

James failure was not being honest about his live-in girlfriends rising belly. Mine was not making the grade at the Deli. I guess my bread rising skills suffer.

Bertha W.’s upset with James because he moved in with the intention of having his momma-baby live there permanently. He put her on the mailbox, but not on the lease. I can see Bertha’s point of view: Having a ready-made illegitimate family in a one-room efficiency apartment. What next: a cat?

A landlord with honesty. She asked me for strict rules: no pets, don’t give your keys out, don’t copy keys, no subletting. I obeyed. So, I called her.

One, two, three, four, five rings...I’m expecting the answering machine to pick up. A groggy voice answers, “hello.”

“Hello, this is Craig,” I announce. “Bertha?”

“Yah?”

“Hi, this is Craig,” pausing, wondering why not an angry response. She’s familiar with my Caller ID, so why the slow response, I think. “Um, you asked me to call you about the apartment and I was wondering how James was working out?”

And now is the time I always dread: listening intently to those who ramble trying to get to their point. June W. always told me I was a good listener. That was because; well, because a lot of things, mostly because she has the sexiest phone voice I’ve ever experienced; anyway, listening for things.

She’s slow, definitely no anger in her voice, but displeasure at James way of deceiving her. Something about diversions in Vegas, women, lying about workdays, etc., things a normal landlord should not be concerned with, but she did come to one point: There’s a woman living there who was not on the lease, and she’s five months pregnant. How that measures on the Bertha anger scale of having violating the pet-clause is no man’s guess.

Introducing a pet into an apartment is much like having an unplanned pregnancy. You fall in love, playfully, touching, petting, snuggling, then something happens. You fall; either in love with the pet, or madly in bed with the woman. Either way, something unexpected happens that you have to live with for seven to eighteen years of your life, depending on the species. It’s only then that you think to call your landlord to get permission.

Five months is a little to late for Bertha. When you fall in love with a pet, you call to find out what the pet-deposit is. When you rent an apartment, you better not have plans to move a five-month pregnant woman in without putting her on the lease. You can always decline the pet.

Which reminds me, Darla V. asked me if she’d like to move in with me. I didn’t mention it to Bertha when she brought the subject of a second tenet up, but at least I know how to handle it: upfront and honest. And I’m not sure how I’d feel about Darla living with me. We’re only somewhat compatible, and she has different hours. She’d have to have her own keys, so she’d have to be on the lease. Her father has told her she has to move out, so she’s motivated. It’s not ideal. We’re not that compatible in bed, and it’s be awkward at best to have another sleep over.

The pressing need to escape The Mission leaves me with violent solutions to this morning’s shave. A black man, all up about himself that he must put down every white man he meets while showering and shaving confronts me with violent threats while I’m trying to shave. This is so fucked! This little boy of a man needs to be taught a lesson, I’m so thinking. He pushed me aside to intentionally anger me so we couldn’t share a mirror, which he then smears with water just to piss me off. Teach this guy a lesson. Take his knees out! Reminding myself that I don’t know how to fight, that I’ve been trained to disable an attacker, I choose to acquiesce to this rude man’s demands. However, it does not stop me from staring him down. I wonder, how can a man be so cocky about living in a place that you cannot call home?

Oh, this violent mirrored racism pours over to the bus I board. I hear from the black back of the bus the all too common black racist complaints usually reserved for the late evening. However, this morning, a black girl speaks out load, “Black people don’t usually read papers anyway!”

I reactively stand up to confronter her and find a black woman just across the isle also standing in protest. She was ready to get into it! We look at each other with mouths open ready to attack, when both become smiles. At the same time, a black woman and a white man stood up on a bus to protest this lame bias. We both smiled at each other, realizing the polarization of races was both correct and incorrect in the same audible space, and both laughed it off and smiled. The crass young black girl eventually was asked by the bus driver to stifle her words or get booted. Shit like that happens all the time in the back of the Saint Paul busses when black people ride together. I call it Jim Crow Back Lash. Hopefully, eventually, it’ll stop. But most most of my friends feel that Jim Crow will not halt in their life time. I, unfortunately, agree.

It’s amazing. Not too many cities name a street adjacent to their capital after Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet, black people from the south think we’re still prejudice. Arizona was denied a Superbowl because they refused to acknowledge this important holiday. I was blown away! This group of football jerks thought that it was important enough to respect this man’s great thought to pull the most financially beneficial nod to their city because of...of what? Well, because race is only an issue, if you make it an issue.

I met same good friends today in search of my next bed. Many of them black. They never hesitated to acknowledge me, and I knew them, but didn’t know their names, nor where I’d met them. There’s been so many places that I’ve lived in Saint Paul. There’s been so many that I’ve like to forget, yet there are people I’d like to remember.

I hate looking back, but I chose to live in Saint Paul.

It’s my only day off. It’s good though, since I really only have so many things to do, and so many hours to work. I need the hours.

Riding up the steep capital hill, I remember...just that evening before, arriving on the LTD bus just past the capital building. I’d missed my stop and arrive at the bus stop that places you right in front of the state’s capital. Explaining, in vain, my mistake not to pull the stop trigger in time before the bus diverted from it’s normal route, I’m left pulling my bike from the bus in a completely unpopulated area.

The bus drives away. I’m left standing in front of a fully lit capital building. All her marble exposed to the retina in 11”x14” splendor, actually better than that. She, unlike other great photographers, who usually wear glasses, I’ve been blessed with perfect vision. So, when I stepped off that bus, all I saw was beauty. Crystallized marble in all directions in a manner of resolution that you can only imagine in the finest film, yet it was in person, in front of my eyes, fully lit, ready to be captured. And me with no camera.

It reminded me of a tour of the capital I once had that disclosed the fact that Abraham Lincoln was out first president. I was exposed to his image, without trademark hat, in a senate room. The tour guide had said, “This is our first president.” Okay, he’s great, but he’s not our first, I thought. Then he explained, he was our first president that we’ve elected. That made me very proud to live in Minnesota.

The capital’s image has been latent in my retina; I’m sure it’s be replicated on film soon. Digital will not do it justice. But, there are so many other things I could do with her image, I know.

Sleep has become the major factor, as it has been in the past. Only now, I have little control over it. I share a bed next to a bunk that has a man that clearly has anger issues. Round about 3:00am he goes into these fits where he talks in his sleep. He acts out violent encounters. I mean it’s like you’re their and defending yourself. In the morning, he wakes and acts like nothing happens.

I can’t sleep like that. I need another place to sleep at night.

I finally got all my hour for the next two weeks from The Discount Store and they leave me with almost 40 hours of work, which I needed, and a schedule I can present to The Deli. However, that’s too late.

I will wait out my schedule and find another job that fits my Discount Store schedule. Until then, I’ll just sit tight.

So many things happened today that I used to instinctively know how to handle, yet felt a need to rethink how I should respond to them. Much less, towards June, but much more towards others. I’ve done wrong, and I may have already paid for it, and may be able to correct it, but I have to continue.
I have found God, in the unlikeliest places, but he’s there. Jesus, I’m pretty sure, is his son. The rest, I’m not so sure of. I’m not really sure if that’s all important to life on Earth, but I know that people search. That’s what we do. Whether God or science, we all look for an answer. It’s the marriage of the two that perplexes me, why not?

I am blessed with the best ears for my struggle through this strangely sobering experience. I can’t say that I have the feedback of the worst of my protractors. What I’ve done is made a mistake in the eyes of every expert when it comes to twelve steps. That’s fine. I haven’t backed these twelve steps, as I shouldn’t. I’ve failed.

But, I’m ready to sleep on it. Tomorrow, I’ll go to work.

I love the fact that I can just type out what I think, before I go to any meeting, before I go to work, before I get on any bus filled with racist blacks angry at the white man in the North. I can just let my mind put myself back to sleep.

Tomorrow, I’ll solve the suburbs’ photographic world’s problems. Tonight, I’ll merely solve those of a man who can’t find the fine difference between a line and a fine lady.


Without Wax,

Friday, September 08, 2006

More Landlord Trouble

Working the register, my former landlord approaches me. “Find another place yet?” Bertha W. asks.

“No, I haven’t. How’s James working out?” I’m referring to the tenet she had replace me. Had she not had a guaranteed tenet, she probably would’ve worked with me.

“He’s not,” she angrily responds.

“Would you reconsider renting to me?” I ask.

Considering this, she replies, “We’ll talk about this later.”

This is the first time she’s been civil to me for months. Part of me wants to tell her to shove that little apartment up her patooty! However, after the Thursday layover in downtown Minneapolis surrounded with farmer’s market flowers and vegetables, wanting to take them home and make myself a wonderful home cooked meal...well, you get the idea.

I really am getting tired of The Mission.

Later,


Without Wax,

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Job at One Month Sober

After a surprisingly good rest last night, I woke up early, skipped the shower, ate breakfast, and left The Mission to plan my day. Having a few hours to relax, I delved into my next novel, Dan Brown’s Deception Point. After finishing his prequel to The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, I’m starting his second of four novels. I’ve read all the others and wait impatiently for his follow up to The Da Vinci Code.

While reading this excellent novel, I think of sending a text message to June W. about my one month of sobriety and first day of work. But before I can, she sends me a text message:
GOOD LUCK TODAY! Stay calm,
You will be GREAT!
-- June

This refers to our last in-person conversation about how we both this might be the causes of loosing four previous jobs. My inability to know when I’m being over-confident, appearing too cocky. Just stay alert, pay attention, let people know when you understand enough to work on your own, and always remember to be of service to all around you. No one likes the carry the burden of a slacker. By doing your job fast, efficient, and friendly, you help everyone on the team.

Playing a shell game between my old apartment’s storage, and the lockers at The Gym and The Mission, I planned to get the right stuff in all the right places for this evening’s Job Orientation Meeting at The Discount Store. I wanted cleans cloths and shower supplies at The Gym, along with my laptop. My bicycle was moved from The Gym this morning to The Mission. I accomplished this today with one fare and six bus trips within the allotted two and a half hour expiration of a transfer. With all appropriate tasks performed, I finally had a huge lunch at The Mission, took an extra long shower at The Gym, dressed for work, then walked my laptop across the street to The Café to relax before heading off to my first day on the job at The Discount Store.

Fighting for hours at The Deli is something that makes me uncomfortable since that’s how I lost hours at The Pizza Joint. Unfortunately, Wednesday mornings are when the schedules are made, and Wednesday night is when I find out my schedule for The Discount Store. I guess it doesn’t matter, since any hours I get at The Discount Store will trump The Deli. After making a call for hours, I find they haven’t even scheduled me for anything this week; just the same as The Pizza Joint. That’s unfortunate, since I’ll miss out on tips and will have to rely on plasma money until I get my first paycheck.

However, this does make things at The Discount Store honestly simple. I currently have no conflicts with the other job. The Discount Store knows of my other job, but not the other way around, and I’d like to keep it that way. So, when I talk to the manager of The Deli, I’ll have a schedule I can work around.

I’m ready.


Without Wax,

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Short Sighted Future Endeavor

Heading out this morning, into the wake of the early morning’s storms, I find the sky mindful of unsheltered travelers. She’s rained on my bicycle, which I abhor, yet it was necessary. Spending the night at The Mission, I sacrificed my bicycle’s health for my own in buying a $6 bed to the night. Having stripped her of every possible item that could possibly be stolen, I left only it’s frame and wheels chained to a bike rack yards away from any window or door. I did not feel safe.

Living on the street, this time, with my yellow bicycle as a supplemental form of transportation, has proven both a asset and a burden. I can carry so much more, but I must worry more about her. As I said to Robert R., “Possessions possess you.”

He responded, “Yah, well, I’d never thought of it that way. Yes, they really do.”

Seated across from me at The Café is a lady in pleated wool skirt, tight white blouse, long legs, pale skin, pert lips, brunette hair, dark eyebrows, reading the Star Tribune so elegantly. It’s picture I just want to snap against pale yellow wall. I think my mind is setup to work in still photography. Ever since I lost my digital camera, life has lost it’s meaning. I want to capture life in images, then document them.

It’s not like she’s striking. But she has a tranquil peace about her. It’s a Sunday morning, and she’s just relaxing at her favorite little café reading a paper. It’s a perfect image, with no depth, a flat wall. From a distance, she could be years younger, but in abstract, she’s simply a beautiful relaxed woman. It’s a shame to have to capture it in words instead of images. I really miss my digital camera.

I will buy one soon if it means not eating.

When I came to wake at The Mission this morning, I found my old friend Robert R., on all things, on the thrown. My dorm was out of toilet paper, so the man told me to visit the next dorm and borrow some, “from Peter to pay for Paul.” Well, Peter was out, and I found Robert with a handful of napkins. Evidently, he’d thought ahead. Nearly all the toilets were depleted.

Robert R. is a gentleman who reads a lot of detective novels and speaks easy of others. A tall slim man, with silver hair, a gentle demeanor, he’s respected by all he encounters. When he swears, which is rare, he always catches himself and apologizes. I don’t know who he’s apologizing to, but God.

I told him of my homeless plight, and he filled me in on the ways and means of living an extended life without a home. We originally met just before starting this blog, before I ever had the idea of journaling my experience online. It was the first time I’d connected with an individual while on the streets.

Dark crime novels were my only escape at that time, eclipsing movies, music, and television. They encompassed both the darker side of my anger, and the vigilante urges that motivated me to stay alive. I saw so many moral crimes that I knew would escalate into violence that I felt, at that time, I could prevent them, given the right moral pressure at the right time. Everyone, except the totally immoral sociopath, will succumb to reason. I felt, that being of sober mind and body, I could change the path of some of our darkest neighbors.

There are lines that are drawn in crime. Lines of stealing, burglary, assault, rape, murder. As these crime escalate in the mind of the criminal, the moral value of man’s mind changes. The line in the sand that’s drawn changes. What’s he’s ready to do next is shifting. If he’s ready to go to the next step, it’s easy for him, but terrifying on the community.

All these things enter your mind when you live on the street. You want to know who you’re sleeping next to in a dorm full of 38 men who happened in that evening. Even then, I opened myself to a few men with property such as mine, (a cycle, bags, etc.) and they told me, “Don’t trust anyone here. They’ll earn your trust, then steal you blind.”

I don’t believe that. I cannot believe that. I will not believe that. I know I’m not protected by God, but I’m not ignorant of the fact that so many things in my life will be pulled out from under me. I cannot live that way.

I also don’t believe that God has a master plan for us all. No! People that believe that are numb to this world.

This is what I believe: God is all around us, and binds us; it shows us everyday what we are made of, the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. All of these elements are still not within man’s control. Instead, we are meant to understand how these elements co-exist with us. When something unexpected happens, just try to understand how this could possibly be in tune with God’s idea of his learning experience for you.

But, just never, ever think you’ve got his plan down pat. Just continue on. Remember, if you’re not dead, there’s still a plan for you. Thy will be done, not yours.

Okay, enough of the finer things.

I slept Friday night at the apartment, against landlord Bertha W.’s will. She said, “I’ve alerted the police.” Yah, right, I thought. It worried me enough to sleep at a local church for ten minutes until I had the wicked urge for vengeance. Knowing that the police are not going to be staking out an empty apartment for a dead-beat tenet, I took it on myself to exact my revenge for her insinuate behavior.

Just before leaving that evening, she’d taken a plaque off the wall of the Serenity Prayer. Handing it to me, she said, “God is a crutch.” My jaw tightened! June W. gave this to me years ago when I was going through my battle with alcohol way before moving to live with her. It meant to much to me then. Years later, when I’d moved to be with her, I’d hung it in the guest bedroom. One weekend, when her brother Mark U. came to stay with us, he’d taken such a liking to this inspiring plaque that he’d asked if he could take it home with him. He asked us both at the same time. Mark is a very imposing man, I would normally say yes to him, but I just looked at Lori, and knowing what it meant to me back in Los Angeles, she answered for me, “We just can’t. It really means so much to us. You understand.” Shocked, he answered slowly, “Um, yes, I do.”

When Bertha held it in her hands and declared it’s weakness, I knew it was time for revenge. I took it from her, packed in a bag I knew would eventually end up in June’s hands, I plotted my revenge. Nothing too evil, but vengeful, just the same.

So, being pissed that Bertha wouldn’t allow me to sleep in a vacant apartment, resting at a church instead, not being able to sleep, I did it. I planned my evening.

Using reverse telephone lookup from the Internet, I’d determined that Bertha’s home address was just a few miles from my apartment. Knowing that I had the right tools at hand, I headed towards her piloted address. Already knowing the cheap nature of the woman, I’d expected her to keep her vehicle on the street or driveway; anything but garaged. I wasn’t disappointed.

When exacting revenge, one must always account for payback. If you allow for the variance of chance, one can always disable a victim without them even being aware. Valve stems are one of these attacks. My bicycle has inner tube caps with value stem removers. By removing or loosening a valve stem, you make a completely functional tire appear flat. All it takes to repair it is a pump. But, to the untrained eye, you have a punctured tire. One flat tire means you have to install your spare. Two means you need a tow truck. Unless, of course, you realize, that all you need is air. If you don’t have a pump handy, you’re screwed. Hence, you need to call a tow truck.

It’s the simplest way of saying, “Possessions posses you.” I slightly released one valve stem, the let out a little air out of another tire. When she arrived, she had no clue what had happened. She’d installed the spare, instead of inflating the perfectly fine tire, and drove on the low tire. She never suspected that I’d been the culprit. I felt better. I don’t want to say the God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes Karma needs some help.

To this day, I don’t believe she’s spent the $250.00 to file for eviction. I’d asked her, but she said, “I’m not telling you.” If she hasn’t, all I have to do is pay off the utility bills and I might be able to rent again soon, once I get back on my feet.

Back at The Mission, I ran into so many old faces, from before I’d started blogging. It was difficult to remember their names, but was said a lot that there are so many people who choose to live this life. I was just happy having a place I could call my own, one where I could make a healthy BLT! It was fine by me. I just dropped the ball as far as keeping a job to support rent.

Again, many of the same old faces. It’s hard to believe that after almost a year, these people choose to live this life. Not having a place to call home is taxing on a man. I don’t know how I can live like this for long.
Faced with a 50-something old man wearing an Eddie Bauer T-shirt, I’m struck with the culture clash. My mind works it out: It’s funny, but sad. Young people, who can’t make it, exchange their cloths at The Mission for other clean cloths, and so do everyone else. So, older men, which mostly populates The Mission, end up with trendy T-shirts.

I see all these old faces from just nine months ago, and I wonder how they continue. I’m depressed from not moving forward, and now actually moving backwards. They all seem happy by simply skimming the surface.

All I want to do is catch up. I want to find a way to live a life where I can choose where to go next. I want to stand on my own two feet. I fell this time. I wish I could say I know how to avoid it, but I don’t.

I know this: It’s not that I don’t have a sponsor. It’s not that I stopped going to meetings. It’s not that I stopped reading the Big Book. It’s not that praying morning and night. It’s something deeper, and more in tune with my nature.

A.A. meetings teach you that anyone that’s against recovery is wrong. It’s not as simple as that. I wish it was, but it’s not.

It was simple, when all I knew what that as long as I stayed sober, everything else would somehow fall into place. That blindsided me from the truth.

The truth is this: In some communities, you will find groups of people that will help you stay sober, if you follow their rules explicitly. Then, when you do, if you don’t follow their way of life, you’re out. Then you’re either a drone, or you’re not supported my the group.

If, however, you find in your own friends, a way to communicate that you have a problem with alcohol, and you’re willing to be honest with them, they will help you. They won’t trust you, as far as they can throw you, but that is best. They’ll at least know you. They’ll know you’re spirit and willingness to contribute to the whole. And at another time, they may come to ask for your help in the same embarrassing manner.

I’ve trusted gung-ho A.A. enthusiasts, only to find their exotic remedies too extreme. Sobriety is simply a choice. Your friends, true friends, will always be there to tell you when you’ve had enough. And, if you’re a true friend to them, you’ll muster up enough courage to say, “You know, I believe you’re right. Here’s my keys.”

I remember. I remember a small period of time when June W. and I, and our friends, had that relationship.


Without Wax,

Saturday, September 02, 2006

First Homeless Day

First day homeless in Saint Paul again leaves me sneaking back into the apartment with a set of keys I made without permission. I knew no one would be there. I didn’t sleep at all. The closest I came was at 2:00am when the neighbor came home and slammed the door. I never got back to sleep. Setting the alarm clock for 6:00am, I wake at 5:59am and turn it off. Make the last of my tuna salad sandwich, I leave for Boyd Park to capture maybe 45 minutes of sleep; it doesn’t come.

I call landlord Bertha W. at 7:00am as requested to complete moving the rest of my property into the storage unit. She agrees to meet me at 9:00am, but runs late because of a flat tire.

Surprisingly, my belongings almost all fits in the small space. What’s left are cloths that should probably go to Goodwill. However, I have to go through them because I know there’s some jewels amongst them. She says I can keep them there for two months.

Since I’m writing this from work, I’m going to keep this brief. I went to The Mission and booked a room for evening; it cost me $6. Reading the description of the place, I was heavily disappointed to learn that I won’t be able to come there for a bed tomorrow night after getting off work at 3:00am. However, when they learned of my job, they said it would be no problem.

I’m heading home to a bed tonight. They say that after staying five consecutive days, I’d be eligible for a locker. There’re pretty big too, however I didn’t have time for pricing. I just barely had enough time to shower. Actually, I didn’t, since I missed my first bus and had to cycle to the next transfer.

I’m really tired and just want to sleep in a real bed.

And I’m missing June W. something fierce.


Without Wax,

Friday, September 01, 2006

Last Post from The Apartment

I'm checking out of the apartment today. I'll be living on the streets of Saint Paul once again. I'll be in touch when I can.


Without Wax,

Monday, August 28, 2006

Negative Drug Test Result

Monday morning begins with trekking to City Plasma to learn the results of my blood work, and hopefully allow me to donate. I could really do with $25.00 today as well as being able to donate locally instead of spending five hours traveling to Suburb Plasma.

The dreary drizzle sets the tone for today’s news. Instead of cycling, I choose to walk it the half-hour in light rain. It gives me time to prepare myself for the bad news, which could be either they won’t let me donate because I’ve donated in less than a week at another plasma bank, or my blood work results indicate low protein levels. Needing the money, I can’t help but feel depressed. I haven’t heard from The Discount Store yet; I was hoping I’d hear good news by now.

Bertha W. called me for her eviction reminder. Oddly enough, she’d stopped calling daily since she learned of my recent job offers. It may be that that old witch as a conscience after all. However, after speaking with her, she’s convinced me that she will not sway when it comes to me leaving at the end of the month, just a few days away. My neighbor said he’d talk to her and try to convince her to change her mind, but she’s accepted money from the new tenet. I don’t think she’ll go back on her word. Frankly, I’m not ready to move out and live on the streets again.

Arriving at City Plasma, I sign in as normal, hoping that everything will go as normal. An hour later, I’m told that my protein levels are still slightly below normal. I’ve been sober for three weeks, so I take another test. This time, they say to come back in one week instead of two. This is very bad news.

I return home, get the mail, and I’ve got a letter from The Discount Store. Fearing bad news, I get settled in the apartment before opening the letter. The interviewer said that the store would not contact me directly if I was turned down, but rather the corporate office would do so, probably by letter. If I were accepted, the store would call me. So, I’ve been waiting for a positive local phone call, but fearing a Minneapolis letter or phone call.

Opening the letter, it reads:

RE: Negative Drug Test Result

That’s it, I’m buying a bottle and just get plastered. I read on...

The Discount Store has received information confirming that your recent drug test is negative.

That’s it, negative. Everything is showing up negative today. I might as well get drunk and call in sick to The Deli! I read on.

You have passed the drug test.

Oh, that’s right. Negative test results in medicine are positive news. Taking a deep breath, I go to fix lunch and prepare for work this afternoon.


Without Wax,

Without Dripping Wax

In celebration of the third week of sobriety, I've launched a new Weblog, Without Dripping Wax. It's an outlet for my more eccentric mind drippings, which has little or nothing to do with staying sober. Please check it out!

Thy will be done, not mine.


Without Wax,

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Darla’s Disappearance

Neon signs plugging beers and better times illuminate the only visible signs of life through the windows of the Hunan Garden, across the street from the 6th & Cedar bus stop in downtown Saint Paul. As the current transit station for our fair capitol city, I imagine a temptation for many a recovering alcoholic is inherent, since you can’t go anywhere in Saint Paul without traveling through this junction. FYI, it’s soon to be replace by the Smith Ave. Transit Station.

One evening, what seems like years ago, yet only months, I felt strong enough to venture into The Garden before heading back home to the halfway house. Armed with only a black trench coat, my copy of Angels & Demons (which I just learned, and expected, will become a movie in 2008 featuring Robert Langdon, our fearless symbologist from The Da Vinci Code.

Really craving the company of the bar atmosphere, I felt strong enough in my sobriety that I could sit with my book, reading glasses parked on my nose, studying the exotic lexicon Dan Brown is known for, sipping club soda. A fine young lady across the bar kept eyeing me while text messaging someone. Noticing her noticing me, I played with my eyes behind the glasses, always keeping attention on both her and the book. Something told me she’d come over, and she did, to sit next to me, but with two other men. I think it was an excuse to get closer.

We ended up talking, sharing text messages under the table as she smoozed the older gentleman buying her drinks. I bought her one strong drink as well, and wanted to buy more, but I was short on funds. The old guy (relatively) kept buying, so I just let it happen. At one point, I knew she was leaving with me; where to, I had no idea, since I lived in a halfway house, populated with men, where woman are tolerated, but not allowed to spend the evening.

Her passion shown through when at one point I was messaging her feet at the bar while she winced. It felt good to know that a beautiful young woman, such as Darla V., could be aroused by a man twice her age. It wasn’t until she got up to leave that I knew the wrong I’d promoted.

Darla stumbled. She had grabbed my hand when the other gentleman had left for the bathroom, looked at me and said, “Let’s get out of here.” Nodding my head, batting my blue eyes, I responded with a resounding, ‘Yes!’ But when she stumbled, I felt pangs of guilt for contributing to her intoxication. Being of sober mind and body, I switched to protector mode.

At this point, I knew enough about her that she admires strong older men. Being as sober as I’d ever been in my life, I knew I had to act quickly, yet subtly. I had to get her car keys. How does one meet a total stranger at a bar and convincer her in the short distance to her vehicle to relinquish her car keys so as to drive them home. Please remember that at this point, Darla has no idea that I’m sober. The bartender has been my ally all this time, serving me club sodas at first, then switching to cola when Darla drank rum & Cokes with me. Bartenders know and respect when a man wants not to drink at all, and will serve them for free most times.

My mind, being clearly present, went into overdrive. How do I get these keys away from her? I knew how: Use your charm. I simply explained that I didn’t want her to find any trouble this evening simply trying to get home. All I wanted was for us to leave downtown for a friendlier environment. I pulled out all the stops, things I normally would use to seduce a woman, but now I knew I was doing God’s work. The only agenda was for her not to drive home. I felt guilty, since I’d contributed to her intoxication, and even encouraged it. Now it was my turn to step up to the plate and make sure this fine young lady made it home safely tonight.

I got the keys! “Take care of my baby,” she begged. Since she lived in Hudson, WI, across the border, she didn’t want to go home. She gave me directions to a friend’s house not to far from downtown. Her directions, as I’ve learned from drunker days, have often led to a cop stop. Sure enough, it almost came to that. We were driving down Summit Ave. when she realized she didn’t know where she was and asked me to make a U-turn. I smelled, ‘drunk friend directions’, getting me pulled over. Just as this happened, a cop appears coming the opposite direction towards me just before I make an illegal U-turn. I stop in time to make it into a left turn, and the cop passes. Hiding my fear of being arrested for driving without a license, I turn to her and explain, “I know where you want to go. Let me take you there.”

We arrive at Robin’s house. There are many young people doing all kinds of recreational things. Actually, it was very tame, but I noticed that Darla was having a problem with pot smoke. Long story, short, she confessed to me later that she’d been through a six-month religious-based recovery program (probably Teen Challenge) for marijuana addiction.

It didn’t stick. She started lighting up trees faster than a forest fire. When she started rolling them in the apartment, I put my foot down! I told her, “This is my sober house! Can you imagine what would happen if a sober friend came over, found a pot seed, then relapsed? You never asked, and I never gave permission. Don’t bring that it in here.” Oh, my God, she was pissed. It was like she was told she can’t smoke weed in her own home.

Then I drank. It wasn’t long after this incident that I’d decided that I could have a drink and be normal, just like Darla said. Oh, God, I was buying into her belief: that she’s cured and so am I. All this time, my boss at the Pizza Joint is not calling me back for hours. Since he wanted me for morning openings, and Darla was working late night hours at bars, and crashing at my place, I started pushing the limits of sleep. Waking with a hangover was all so familiar, but being sober for seven months, I’ve learned that the body and mind play a cruel game of cat and mouse in the waking hours. It begs the question every morning, ‘Are you really sober?’

This feeling, like many others of my brothers can attest to, basically sucks! I mean, it’s bad enough to have using dreams, but to wake completely sober and feel hung over is just a cruel way of saying, “You’re never going to be normal again, ever.” I get it. I also get that my friends, family, and former lovers, will also never accept me as normal ever again.

So, why not got to a bar where nobody knows you?

Okay, I laid down the ground rules, then broke them. .
Then I lost my job, not for drinking, just hours dropped off.

She started spending more time here, sleeping mostly. The pot took all of her energy out of her. She just slept off of the time. My so-called sober house ended up being a flop-house for her. I catered to her, made her breakfast, lunch, wonderful dinners. But there was always this one thing that was more important to her than anything else: weed. If she couldn’t find it, she’d get pissed. When she was high, she was never fully present. It ended up where she simply slept here, that’s all.

This screwed up my schedule, since I opened at the Pizza Joint. She’d get in at 3:00am, then snore all night long. She ended up so high that she couldn’t function in bed. Then, she’d get pissed that I wouldn’t let her roll her joints in my apartment.

It ended with a text message: “I’m being evicted.” She never replied. I always thought she was a taker, not a giver. My only regret is that I never taught her that it was so obvious.

As far as June W. is concerned, she will always be the ideal woman for me. However, it’s clear that she either doesn’t realize that, or feels so strong that she can get past her the love of her life. I don’t know what she wants in life. All I know, is that I’d love to spend the rest of my life with her.

There is one other issue: My ability to pass on the Wax family name to a male offspring. I can’t do that with June, since she’s had a hysterectomy. I didn’t mind when I married her, and I don’t mind now. But, one has to ask, “Am I supposed to pass on the Wax family name?” Three sisters, one boy. Two brothers, two girls. No Wax men to pass on the family name.

Am I supposed to find a young woman, and finally father a child? Is that what I’m supposed to do? I love children, and I’d love the opportunity; but, I don’t see his mother in my minds eye.

Some commenter asked me about asking my friend to be my sponsor. I have to say, I’m burnt out on sponsors; either that, or their burnt out on me. I’ll get back to you on that. The bottom line is that he as better is a sponsee brother than a sponsor.

How did she disappear? I simply told her, in a text message, that I was going to be evicted. She never called back. She’s a taker, not a giver. This was a life lesson.



Without Wax,

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's My Blog And I'll Play What I Want To



I have no idea why I like this video. Oh, that's right, I'm a read blooded American male.

I was in the midst of journaling a very depressing thought that occurred to me, until I came across this video and felt like sharing. It shook me out of my depression. Although the job prospects have been pouring in lately, I’m less than optimistic about my future.

I really won’t feel comfortable until I’m hired full-time at The Discount Store. The Service Station career path is tenuous at best. The Deli is going to be another Pizza Joint as far as fighting for hours every week. I need a predictable schedule. I don’t mind working extra shifts; I’m more worried about not depending on hours.

For example, I have three days until I work again at The Deli. I’ve got money in my pocket. The readers that comment on this blog know what’s next. If you do your algebra, money + free time = booze - lost time, the common denominator is a degraded morale. This is how it happened the first time when I was working at The Pizza Joint. I lost hours, had money, and decided to buy a bottle, my first. I thought, I’ll just sober up when they give me some hours. I liked wallowing in my self-pity so much that I never picked up the phone and asked for hours. Now I know you have to fight for hours at these food service jobs and be ready to work at the drop of a hat. You don’t have the luxury of a day or two to sober up.

Running on three hours sleep, I came home from Suburb Plasma, ate a big meal, and fell asleep. When I woke, I’d turned on the TV to discover Northfield’s being pelted by baseball-sized hail. The clock reads 8:14pm, past closing time for liquor stores. I felt sad instead of relieved. Remember last time you tried to drink between plasma donations? Yah, shut up. My protein levels dropped and I had to find another plasma donation facility.

Wednesday I had an interview with The Service Station way out in the suburbs. Although the store I applied at is walking distance from home, I have to trek all the way out to the ‘burbs for an interview. It took five hours of travel for a one-hour interview, but these are the things unemployed men do, especially when they don’t have a car. The bus route that takes me to the interview in the morning does not take me back until 4:00pm. So, I mapped out a return route that would involve some cycling until I got to a bus route that would take me back home.

I was asked the all too common question for a man of my age: “Are you looking for a manager position?” I am, after all old enough to know Doris Day before she was a virgin. Instead of shying away from these questions, I entertain them, as I did in this interview.

All went well during the interview. I’d parked my bicycle far enough away from the office so that my interviewer would have no idea I don’t have a car. There’s a service station adjacent to the office the interview is held in. When it was over, I jumped on my bike, pedaled off, then when I was far enough away I looked at my map. There was something wrong. From the bus map, it appears that the bus should’ve dropped me right in front of the office, but it turned the other direction. This threw off my sense of direction. Since I had to pee, I thought I’d return to the service station, get directions, and relieve myself. I got directions and found a line for the restroom. I thought of leaving my bike helmet on the bike so I don’t look geeky, but thought I wouldn’t have to wait long. Out of the restroom comes the gentleman I’d just interviewed with. He said, “Hi,” but then hung his head as he returned to his office. I could tell I’d just blown it. Corporate people like that don’t hire assistant managers who can’t manager their own lives enough to own a car. I don’t think he’ll be calling back.

Oddly enough, another manager from the same company called about the other Service Station I applied at. It turns out, although both these service stations with the same name are just a few blocks away, they’re not managed by the same company. If the other guy doesn’t call back, I might call this one. Again, the interview is out in the suburbs, only I have a feeling the bus route will be kinder. Another advantage is that this other service station is closer and in a nicer neighborhood.

The problem with The Discount Store’s background check is that it could take too long. If I’m hired by them before the end of the month, I might be able to convince my landlord not to evict me. It’s what I’m most worried about.

Well, it’s time to sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll call the Deli for hours on Friday and Saturday, big tipping days. I’ll also do some chores, like dishes and laundry.

Good night,


Without Wax,

Minneapolis Central Library

Minneapolis Central Library has got to be the most restrictive library in the entire Minnesota library system. I only have an hour before my bus transfer expires, so I thought I'd check out Dan Brown's
Deception Point, then update this blog. Well, they don't have that book. And I can only use the Internet for 30 minutes, as opposed to 60 minutes in Saint Paul. Since I'm short on time, I really didn't want to get into it with the clerk about why someone who lives in 'The Other' Twin City couldn't obtain a Minneapolis library card, nor use their existing one.

I have a Ramsey county library card, which I understand is the problem. I explained that Saint Paul is in Ramsey county, but he thinks for some reason I should have a Saint Paul library card. Whatever bureaucratic bullshit floats your boat. It's a shame that such a beautiful library should be wrapped in red tape.

60 minutes is not enough time to explore this facility. I'll have to come back another day and spend the entire day here.

Every exterior wall is glass. Most of it clear, but some are etched with snow and tree scenes. I just hope no one gets the idea to throw rocks.

Job hunting update info: A large service station franchise interviewed be yesterday. They asked if I'd like to be assistant manager full-time with benefits. They're going to call me back after a background check and make an offer. Then I'd go for training. There's a lot more about this company and the interview that I'll expand on when I return home.

Right now, I'm running on three hours sleep after working ten hours last night until 3:00am. Unfortunately, I only earned $9 in tips since a lot of co-workers were clocked in, even though most weren't really working. Therefore, our tips got split pretty poorly. It sucked, because when I called for work, the guy making the schedule said that a new hire called to cancel last night, so I took his shift. Then he comes in anyway for a bit and he gets a full share of the tips.

I'm in between transfers right now, coming back from donating plasma. I have money again, and the urge to drink is stronger once again. If I don't bug The Deli today, I won't work until Sunday. That's three days of drinking...YAH! No! I have to donate Saturday morning, else I won't get paid $30. Just a sip, I'm thinking. Stinking thinking is what it is. I'm tired and should just go home, put in some laundry, a good movie (maybe rented from the library), make soup, and crash.

Sounds like a plan.

Signing off!


Without Wax,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Two Jobs, One Week

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you’re just wanted? My simple interview turned into a four-person meeting. I spent so much time interviewing that I barely made it back home before my transfer expired. Arriving back at my apartment, I witness landlord Bertha W. arriving. Normally, I’d avoid her, but I’m on a mission.

I enter the apartment building right after her and surprisingly I don’t run into her. Tossing leftovers in the microwave, I jump on my computer and map out my next destination: drug screening. I’m not even there for more than a minute before she’s knocking on my door. “Hi. Come on in,” I respond.

“I’m not coming in there,” she insists.

Suit yourself, I think. Leaving the door open, I return to my computer, concentrating on choosing which of these drug-screening labs would be the quickest route. She predictably walks right in as if she owns the place...oh, that’s right, she does.

“I see you’ve made headway in packing up,” she says. Astonishingly civil today, I attribute it to the dress shirt and tie.

“You’ll have to excuse me. I just got a job offer from The Discount store and I now have to take a drug test,” I say.

“Well, I hope you’ll pass.”

“You know I will,” I persist.

“I don’t know. You still have to be out by the end of the month. I’ve given you enough chances.”

“I know,” I reply, not looking up from my screen. Thankfully, she leaves on that note, allowing me to concentrate on my trip planning. She seems much more courteous than in the recent past. It makes me think there may be a way to convince her to allow me to stay and pay back the back rent. But having to plan for all contingencies, I know better.

The Discount store offered me a full-time position, two days in the photo department, and three days on register. They want to give me more time in the photo department, but it’s not currently available. There’s also the matter that I have no actual photo department experience, but I convinced him that my experience building my own darkroom, high school and college darkroom experience, and my professional wedding photography experience convinced the interviewer that I was competent to do the job. I also expressed that I believe I could service the company well in the electronics department selling digital cameras. He was very receptive of these ideas. He asked me my rate of pay at The Deli and Pizza Joint, and he responded, “Oh, I think we can to better than that.” Far out, my smile expresses. He did show concern about my current employment at The Deli, but I assured him that this is the place I intended to work full-time and that The Deli hired me on the spot, meaning I worked the same day I was hired. I will gladly adjust my schedule to accommodate The Discount Store.

I have to wait a week for the background check before I can start working. The drug screening comes back in a few days. The interviewer asked me about the DWI I disclosed on the application. “What consequences became of your DWI? What have you learned from that mistake?” he asks.

“I learned that I’m through with drinking and I’ve been sober for nine months,” I fib. No need to discuss my latest relapse and its consequences. With corporate don’t-ask-don’t-tell attitude, he doesn’t dig deeper. Most people would ask if you’re in A.A., attending meetings, maybe even ask if you have a sponsor, but I’m glad he didn’t expand. I want to keep this interview positive.

After reviewing the possible schedule I’ve been asked to accommodate, I may have to drop most, if not all, of my hours at The Deli. No need to alert them until I’m officially hired. Working a normal first and second shift at The Discount instead of the third shift at The Deli solves another problem: where to sleep. By working only first and second shift, I can either sleep and eat at The Mission, or find shelter at a halfway house. Working third shift leaves me no bed.

My plan this morning was to sleep in, go to the interview, and visit The Pizza Joint to see if I can get my morning job back. Having spent most of the day dealing with this new job offer at The Discount, and running on only three hours sleep, I decide to buy something to treat myself, go home, and relax. I passed so many liquor stores, and with money in my pocket, I was tempted. However, I decide on Kung Pao Chicken. It wasn’t until arriving home that I discover my choice was poor. I don’t recommend the Tia restaurant at the corner of Selby and Dale. I ate this over-priced meal, the entire thing, and then fell fast asleep thinking of the one-liner; “Jeffrey Dahmer once ate an entire Chinese family and was hungry an hour later.”


Without Wax,

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Are These Men Sober?



Just for fun! Thank you MS FIT!

My feet hurt from working on them for over ten hours at the new Deli job (no pun intented). So, I'm going to let these guys do the foot work. But, I don't feel too bad. I earned nearly $30 in tips and brought home two sandwiches.

But I must sleep fast, since I've got six hours to sleep before having to prepare for my interview at the Discount store in the morning.

Good night.




Without Wax,

Two Weeks Sober


Deli Sandwich
Originally uploaded by ew4n.
Heading out this morning, into the chilly wind, the short bike ride to the bus stop did not prepare me for the day’s accomplishments. Starting the morning with a large meal and packing a large lunch, I examined my wallet to verify I had both bus fare and enough money, combined with today’s Suburb Plasma donation, to buy 500 minutes of pre-paid cell phone time, now down to only three.

Looking into my wallet, I can’t help but calculate how many 1.75 liter bottles of whiskey I could buy, and amazed that I’d lasted two days without buying at least one. Many A.A. people speak of the subconscious planning the next relapse. I remember not too long ago when I we never nervous about thinking of a drink; it just would never happen. Now, it’s on my mind constantly. It’s Saturday and the liquor stores are open, which later will play a role in the day’s events.

I’ve gotten so used to this bus route, that near the end, I looked up from my novel, examined the surroundings, then my watch, and feet we had gone astray. We’re not in the right place for this time. Placing the bookmark, I move to the front of the bus where I discover the on-going conversation with the driver and a rider iss actually a training session. “How late are we?” I ask the driver.

“We’re not late”, replies the student.

I explain my reason why we are, stating that we’re not even at the next checkpoint, and we’re ten minutes behind. Both driver and student are dumbfounded. Okay, whatever; I just have to book to my appointment. I arrive just on time.

Donation goes off without a hitch. Again, I look into my wallet: I’ve got $60.00, three bottles of whiskey. I’ve been waiting two weeks to recharge my cell phone. Without that phone, I can’t get a job, call A.A. for help, nor communicate effectively. Right now, all I’ve got is e-mail. When I’m homeless in a little over a week, I’ll have little opportunity for e-mail access. Scarfing down my lunch on the bus, I think of how to best to spend the rest of the day.

Back in Saint Paul, the first stop is Wal-Mart to purchase 500 minutes of cell phone time. They charge $48.67 for a $50 phone card, which comes to $52.08 after tax; the best deal in town. What’s left is just enough bus fare for Thursday’s donation. Come Saturday, I’ll be able to pay the gym bill, so I’ll have some place to shower and change. The Monday after that, I’m going to try to donate locally at City Plasma. If they suspect I’ve donated someplace else, they’ll defer me for a week. But, I have to try.

The rest of the day is devoted to job searching. I apply at a nation-wide discount store on location at their kiosk, since I’ve tried online and they don’t have Internet job applications. There’s even a Website devoted to complaining about this national discount chain’s lack of online job applications. It’s a good thing I was dress fairly well, because as soon as I completed their job application, I had an interview with the hiring staff. They are looking to hire immediately, and I’ve found that there’s an opening in a few weeks in the photo department; something I might be able to move into.

Sprinting home for a pit stop, I change shirts, and plan to hit the small local retail outlets for job applications. Rushing to avoid running into my landlord, since she called and left her daily mentally degrading voice mail, I know she’s on her way over. I quickly change shirts, and prepare to walk out whatever door she doesn’t knock on. This apartment, unlike most efficiency apartments, has a back door. She usually parks near the front, but today, she didn’t. I hear her rapping on the back door and I silently squeak out the front. I don’t want to deal with her crap today. I’m on a roll. I want to look for work with a good attitude.

Finding four small retail stores that are hiring within walking distance is a good sign that school’s back in session. An ice cream parlor is hiring. My old pizza job is looking for a morning cook, so I’ll stop by there tomorrow and speak with the manager again. The Deli next door is also hiring for 3rd shift; I’m told to fill out the application and come back at night to speak with the manager. And finally, the local liquor store is hiring. Okay, not the best choice, but I’d rather be selling it that drinking it. I’m told the hiring manager will be in early Monday morning.

Evening comes and I’m back at The Deli. It’s late at night and, to my surprise, they’re still open and full of activity. The late evening crowd is a little too jovial; I witness one man bitch-slap another, and you’d think a fight would break out. But it didn’t, so I guess he really is his bitch. Speaking with manager Ryan B., who’s a hard-working man, I discover that he’s looking to fill out his employee roster. He asks if I’m willing to work 40 hours, and I agree. It’s a little busy, but he takes the time to go over the schedule and finds several openings for me. “Can you work tomorrow night?” he asks.

“Sure can,” I reply. I’m given a W-4, the menu to study, and a firm handshake.

“I’ll give you an extra $20 just for memorizing the menu. See you tomorrow night.” I’m employed! With a mental check of my wallet, I’m tempted to purchase a sandwich to go, but that would deplete my bus fare. Not wanting to beg for one, I think of the tuna sandwich I can make at home. I’ll probably go home tomorrow night with a meal.

Closing my thoughts, I’ve staved off a liquor purchase, recharged my cell phone, started The Deli job at night, and possibly will be working at a large discount store next week. Now, if I can only convince my landlord to keep me on. Because there’s a conflict with my new job: I can’t sleep at The Mission at night if I’m to work at night.

I'm looking forward to my next A.A. meeting.

Update: The discount store called for an interview Monday morning!


Without Wax,

Friday, August 18, 2006

Suburb Plasma

When all else fails, punt. City Plasma doesn’t want to allow me to donate for over two weeks while they send out my blood to an outside lab for testing, fine. I found another plasma bank in the suburbs on the Internet. I researched their Website; found out everything I thought I needed to know to attempt donating at this plasma bank outside the capitol city limits. Only having 10 minutes left on my cell phone, I decided not to call for answers, since all they’d have to do is put me on hold and my phone would be useless. A pre-paid phone with no minutes disables voice mail. There were some unanswered questions, but then, aren’t there always?



Monday:
Suburb Plasma is open Monday through Saturday, and closed on Sunday. My plan was to map the closest bus route at three one-hour intervals, leaving approximately at, 8:30am, 9:30am, and 10:30am. No matter how you slice it, it’s a three-bus, approximately 90-minute ride with a five to ten minute bike ride kicker.

University of Minnesota Alumni Building

The second bus leads me from the darkest parts of Saint Paul to the structurally blissful downtown Minneapolis. I’m dropped off on Nicollet Mall with a long wait for my last bus. I’m in awe of the way people are dressed, some stylish, others in business attire, still others in wild summer outfits. Everyone’s busy, talking, and happy. Yes, there are black people here, not as many as downtown Saint Paul, but they’re all wearing ties.

I hear dinging to my left. It’s the light rail, just yards away! This is the first time I’ve seen it in daytime. I rode it one night, but you really have to see it in the daytime. I have thirty minutes until my next bus; maybe I should ride it for a few minutes, then back. Well, maybe next time.


IMG_2633.JPG
Originally uploaded by Peter Lemon.
To my right, I see the Federal Building with its parabolic inverse arch of windows. This building housed the Minneapolis Central Library between the time the original was torn down and the new one erected in its place, which is just down the street.
All of these changes in architecture were just starting when I used to work downtown as a Software Engineer. I’m really missing my digital camera now.

Halfway there, I realize I forgot to bring a postmarked utility bill for proof of address. Oh well, I’ll just use the ID I have from The House. Although it’s not my real address, who cares? In retrospect, I’m thinking: Are you stoned or stupid? Being sober, I don’t even want to entertain the alternative.

My bus arrives. After a short ten-minute bike ride, I arrive at Suburb Plasma. My first impression is, so plasma banks do actually look clinical. Suburb Plasma looks just like a regular doctors office you’d find at a clinic. City Plasma, on the other hand, looks more like a fast-food joint (i.e. White Castles). There were young healthy Caucasian looking donors in the waiting room instead of poorly dressed, malnutrition blacks or white-trash smoking outside waiting to be screened. The staff members treat you with respect and are very professional. At City Plasma, if you’re not being hit on by staff, it usually means their simply having a bad day. It’s very relaxed there. If there’s not a non-politically correct comment being floated every few minutes, it’s usually because they’re actually dealing with an emergency. I mean, you can say things in there that would get you fired or sued for sexual harassment in the corporate world. It’s really like a singles bar, only drawing plasma instead of pouring alcohol.

The only differences that really matter is that they don’t appear to have any qualms about accepting people living in treatment facilities. This is good, since my latest ID has the address of The House, which is a halfway house. That and they pay less: $20 + $30 for two donations per week compared to $25 + $35 at City Plasma. That’s $50 instead of $60 per week. Beggars can’t be choosers.

In the process of my initial mini-physical, it comes to mind that there’s going to be questions about the injection sites in my arms. I just won’t tell them about the low protein levels. They ask me how I got the injection sites and I tell them about City Plasma. They contact them and discover I’ve donated six days ago. I cannot donate until after seven days from donating at another facility. I go home empty handed.

Tuesday:
After checking in, having passed the customary verbal and blood screening, I continue onto the initial mini-physical. No more than five minutes in the nurses office and I’ve misspoke. The nurse was asking why am I traveling all the way out to the suburbs to donate instead of donating at City Plasma. Not wanting to reveal that my quarterly blood screening came up low on protein, and eventually having to lie about having just recovered from binging, I said I was looking to move to the Minneapolis area and that “I spent the night there last night.” Why I lied about that, I do not know.

Well, this opened up a huge can of worms. “Where did you spend the night?”

After actually spending the night at home, I found myself recovering from this lie pretty poorly. Fumbling for another lie, thinking of Mark J.’s place, a recovery center that could easily pass for on office building or apartment, I gave the street name. Well, it turns out that although that street is named after an adjacent suburb, when it passes through Minneapolis, there’s nothing but recovery centers dotted along its path.

Why did I lie, why did I lie in the first place? I thought. She was about to permanently defer me when I convinced her to have her manager talk with me. After a lot of non-eye contact ass covering, we agreed that I would simply come back with proof of residence in the form of a utility bill postmarked less than 30 days ago.

Seeing that I’d traveled so far twice to donate, the manager paid me $20 for the effort, what I would normally be paid had I donated. That was very kind of him; something City Plasma would never do. They asked when I’d like to schedule the next visit, maybe Wednesday, but I opted for Thursday since I had job interviews that day. I’d planned on donating Tuesday and Thursday, the usual 48 hours apart.

On the ride home, I thought why this happened, why I lied in the first place, why I didn’t trust good people anymore. All I could come up with was that I was in such an untrusting mood after being hounded by my landlord, Bertha W., everyday. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but her constant daily borage of complaints, letting herself into the apartment without being welcomed, while I showering or sleeping, pounding on the door everyday asking for rent; it’s just got me in a paranoid mood.

Wednesday:
Having thought long hard about making up bogus mail for a previous address, I came to the conclusion that this would be simply digging a bigger hole for myself. Suburb Plasma keeps calling to confirm the appointment and I simply let it go into voice mail since I’m now down to eight minutes on my cell phone. Answering their calls and actually talking to someone in a vain attempt to cover up with another lie was just as horrific as facing the truth. The manager said that if I lied about my address, than not only will I be permanently deferred, but that City Plasma will also be notified.

City Plasma does not have my current address either; they have June W.’s address. It was the only picture ID I had at the time. I still have it and considered using it, but Suburb Plasma states on their Website only a valid drivers license will be accepted. Since mine is clipped, I’m afraid that will lead to my DWI, alcoholism, and eventually deferment. That’s why I used the ID I had for The House. On their Website, they don’t disclose that if you’ve ever been to a treatment facility, you’d be exempt. Had they recognized the street address of The House on my ID, they would’ve deferred me.

Seriously tempted to simply take that $20 Suburb Plasma gave me, buy a huge bottle of whiskey, cancel my appointment and crawl into that bottle, I instead resolutely decided to purchase a $10 cell phone card and some grocery staples (milk, butter, bread, mayo, mac & cheese, etc.). I put off the $10 cell phone card a day. I went home, made some mac & cheese, sealed the windows and turned on the gas...well, made mac & cheese, my comfort food.

Thursday:
Heading out for my Suburb Plasma appointment with proof of my current address, decide to buy the $10 cell phone card, but the usual stores don’t have that denomination. With time running out, I head for the bus stop for my second bus (it take three buses to get there, but the second bus stop is not too far away). It happens that there’s a cell phone store at this bus stop that has a $10 cell phone card. I’m early and can catch the next bus, so I’ve got time. Should I buy the phone card, call Suburb Plasma, explain my situation, plead pure stupidity and mistrust, and ask if I would simply come clean, give my actual current address, may I donate. I take the chance of never donating anywhere ever again.

That can’t be. Coming clean, telling the truth, being honest; these are things that will get me in trouble? How can that be? All I’m trying to do is donate plasma, something most people would never consider doing because of the implied risk.. Something is telling me this is not right. The clerk at the cell phone store is jerking off his computer for some customer. The first bus is arriving. I can buy the card, make the call, and catch the next if they say all if fine.

Or, I can give it up. I think, Thy will be done, not mine. I get on the bus. Whatever happens is meant to be. Diving into my Angels and Demons novel, I put the consequences out of my mind.

I get off the bus, jump on my bike, and the chain derails. I just roll my eyes. Is this a sign? I quickly put the chain back on and make it there just in time. I find some new people working the front desk. I take a deep breath, take out my bills with current postmarks, and approach the counter. “Excuse me, I’d like to update your records for my current address.”

“Certainly,” the clerk responds. As he asks for verification, I catch an error: he forgot to include my apartment number. He apologizes.

Okay, so that wasn’t so hard.

The rest of the mini-physical goes completely normally, mostly because I didn’t have to deal with the same nurse. We even joked about AIDS being discovered in 1977, when both of us were going through puberty and wishing the bar scene wasn’t so dangerous when we grew up. I have two much older brothers who frequented bars, brought home women, and enjoyed good clean fun sex. I looked forward to this pleasure, only to find that by the time I was of legal drinking age, the stakes of the game were raised, mostly due to the AIDS scare. I answered all questions truthfully, except for the fact that I’m an alcoholic.

There’s a very important reason why plasma donation centers are not willing to take alcoholics. An alcoholic can become positive for Hepatitis B from liver damage alone. I learned this in treatment, where they tested me for the disease, and which it came back negative. So, when asked if I’d ever tested positive for Hepatitis B, I honestly answered, “No.” My urine test passed with flying colors. They’re looking for common recreational drugs, alcohol, and unusually high or low levels protein and/or insulin. This means that my liver and kidney are functioning well enough to donate plasma.

So, this last relapse was not as much damaging physically as it was financially. Actually, I think it was more of an emotional and spiritual hit than anything else. I lost my way.

Donating plasma in the suburbs is more like you’d expect a clinic to look like. There were no movies playing, so I read my book mostly. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off the actual machine that extracts the plasma. It’s a vertical machine with all its parts exposed. The process extracts your blood, separates out the plasma, then returns your blood cells, then repeats. It did this a dozen times, which is twice as often as City Plasma’s machines. You can watch how your blood mixes with the anticoagulant. Then it spins in a centrifuge in order to separate blood cells from plasma. They have a different twist in that the centrifuge has a filter was well. I could tell it made a difference because my plasma, as well as others around the room, was much clearer. The staff was also much more knowledgeable. At the end, you can watch the 500 ml of less-than-body-temperature saline (0.9% sodium chloride) drains back into your body to replace the 880 ml of plasma extracted.

I check the bus schedule, and I’ve got just enough time to check voice mail using the center’s phone. Afterwards, I signed out, made my next appointment for Saturday, and as I was unlocking my bike, the cash register clerk ran me down and gave me the $20 I’d earned, but forgot to take. After all that, I’d forgotten the money.

I bike to the bus stop just in time for this hourly bus. Feeling light headed, I eat a tuna fish sandwich I’d prepared before hand and slices of a cantaloupe that June W. gave me the last time we saw each other. You know, cantaloupe doesn’t taste as bad as I’d thought it would.

On Saturday, I will donate a second time this week and earn another $30. Overall, they will have paid me $70 for the week. Subtract from that the $13 in bus fair, that’s still $57 for the week. I’ll wait until Saturday to buy a $50 cell phone card worth 500 minutes, the best deal available.

With the rest of the time left on my bus transfer, I head to The House to eat a free dinner. I talk to my old advocate there and he informs me that starting September 1st, alumni are no longer allowed to eat meals. That coincides with the time I’ll be living on the streets again. I guess I’ll be eating at Salvation Army.

I’m in the neighborhood, so I stop in at the gym to check my account. I’m a few weeks late on my quarterly payment of $27 and am not allowed to use the facility until I’m paid up. I ask if I can make that payment a week from now and they agreed; this will have me pay up through October. This is important, not only for the physical exercise that really helped me stay sober, but also to be able to shower and dress for work at any time of the day. If I can afford it, I could also rent a gym locker.

With a full stomach, money in my pocket, and a little more hope for the future, I head home. I do not stop at a liquor store, nor do I feel the need to. I slept hard for the first time in a long time.


Without Wax,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Eviction Decision

I was prepared to move out tonight, but something happened that made me change my mind. When I went to donate plasma yesterday, I was deferred. The reason is that one of my blood samples tested low for protein levels. I know why: a donation I had given after a dry-out day when I didn’t eat. The test results won’t return from the lab for two weeks. That’s about $150.00 I won’t earn from plasma donation over that time; money I desperately need right now.

If I’d had that money coming in, I could live on the street, shower at the gym, look for a job, sleep and eat at The Mission. But, now that’s not possible. I have $8.00 in my pocket. I need a job before I can leave this place. If I had the plasma money, I’d feel like I could survive on the street. So, I’ve decided instead to use this time to stay sober, find a job, and take the financial hit incurred by a court eviction. That gives me 18 days to improve my situation before the sheriff evicts me.

I spoke with several people at the plasma bank about low protein levels. The nurse said, this might be due to malnutrition. But, it’s what Dave W. said that most concerned me. Dave is an employee at the plasma bank that I’ve known since I started donating. We are movie buffs and talk about them all the time. Whenever I discuss certain movies; old flicks, party films, complex plots, etc; he occasionally has memory problems due to too many drinks. He used to donate, until he started working at the plasma bank. That’s just policy. But I found out today, that’s not why he started working there. It’s because he couldn’t donate anymore. He had several consecutive low protein tests due to heavy drinking and not eating. When you drink heavily, you can’t eat food for days.

Dave W. was a binge drinker, but I do not see him being an A. A. He talks about having a beer after work from time to time, but I don’t think he’s binge drinking any more. If he was an active A. A. member – a friend of Bill W. – I think I’d be able to tell.

I made this decision sober. I did not buy whiskey. Even though I had enough for a small vodka bottle, I did not buy any on Saturday.

I came to this decision after packing up the storage unit. I’m not ready to be homeless yet. I hope I made the right choice.


Without Wax,

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Apartment Last Days

I’m seven days sober, haven’t been to a meeting in weeks, lost my sponsor, haven’t looked for another for fear of rejection, am unemployed, have nine cell phone minutes remaining, and although I have an eviction notice for the 31st of this month, my landlord, Bertha W., wants me out today, Saturday. She claims, yesterday, not to have filed for a court eviction. Up until know, I was under the impression she had already filed, since whenever I’d ask Bertha if she’d filed eviction, she’d reply, “I’m not telling you.” The only reason I believe that she hasn’t filed a court eviction is that she said yesterday that she didn’t want to spend the $250.00 necessary. That’s money I will eventually have to pay back. I’ve never had a court eviction, and if I can avoid one, it would make life much easier once things start going my way. She has a renter that wants to move in before the end of the month. My inability to make rent has added to her financial woes because she has a 3BR that hasn’t rented in two months. She evicted them also.

Bertha is retired and rent probably makes up most of her income.

I’m leaving to donate plasma this morning so I can earn $35.00. Trudging commented, “If you are anything like me, the self pity thing can really get you drunk.” I’ve been thinking about it. With that money in hand, there’s a liquor store down the street from the plasma bank that has a 20% off sale ending today on Black Velvet. I could buy two - 1.75 liter bottles after donating. I’ve been thinking about it. I used to think about it until recently. It sucks that I now think of drinking after getting money in my pocket.

June W. is coming over this evening to pick up some property that I think she should have. I will not drink around June, but that doesn’t mean I can’t save it until after she leaves. Right now, I don’t want a drink, but that could change.

Bertha is offering me two storage closets in the basement to store my stuff, but know her, there’s a catch. Like paying back rent until I can have access to it. Who knows, she may even charge to storage. I may never see anything I store in there. She’s really flaky and sneaky that way. She took the mattress back just so she could store it in the garage. I’ve been sleeping on the floor. She let herself in while I was out of the apartment without my permission. I caught her while she was leaving, but didn’t have the will to do anything about it, like call the police. It’s not her mattress either, it’s property from some other former tenet (probably evicted). Her garage is filled with former tenets’ property.

What I want to do with this money is save it to add to the Tuesday’s $25.00 plasma donation, and then purchase a $50.00 pre-paid phone card, giving me 500 minutes. The $25.00 card only gives you 160 minutes and isn’t worth it, so I’d rather wait.

I also have to consider a $27.00 payment to the gym to cover the next three months. If I’m going to be homeless, having a place to shower and dress while homeless can be critical to sustaining unemployment.

So, I have choices to make. Most important of which is whether to clear out of the apartment this weekend, or wait until the end of the month and risk court eviction. If I stay, I could more easily obtain a job before loosing the apartment. If I leave now, I can eat and sleep at The Mission, while looking for a job.

I may be able to apply for Rule 25 again and move back into The House for three months while looking for work. I wouldn’t be on the street, tempted to drink.

It would be wonderful if I felt my Higher Power looking over me, but I don’t and haven’t throughout these last few months. Probably because I haven’t been making meetings. The pink cloud’s way gone.

Well, it’s time to motor. I’ll most likely post again tonight.


Without Wax,