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?”


“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.


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:
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,