My Homeless Life Is Better Than My Home Life.

WorriesThat’s true, too. There are many ways being poor and homeless is preferable to having a job and a home. Let me count the ways:

  1. Job worries. I probably lost the hair on my head because I worried if I’d get fired and not be able to pay the rent. We know that you don’t have to do anything bad at work to be fired. People are let go every day because of downsizing, outsourcing, getting older, etc., all conditions outside of anyone’s control. And of course, there are those of use who are prone to saying the wrong things at the most inopportune moment in front of the wrong supervisor and get let go because of that. These days, belief in certain religions or ideologies can get you the axe, too.
  2. Transportation worries. Just getting to work in the morning can be an unending nightmare for a lot of people. It’s bad enough that you have to deal with Jetsons-like traffic; you often have to contend with road rage and those who simply don’t respect the rules of the road. I swear. Every time I get in my car here in Seattle I feel like it’ll be my last time behind the wheel. Aurora Avenue has a 40mph speed limit but people zoom up and down it at 60mph routinely. Some streets with schools have speed bumps or warning lights that say “20mph when light is on.” Not everyone respects that. I’ve seen people driving past stopped school buses with their stop signs sticking out in the road. The common mantra in Seattle is, “Outta my way! I’m coming through!” When I lived in Manhattan I kept my nursing job in Far Rockaway which took me 2 hours to get to during the week and 2 1/2 hours on Sundays. Ridiculous. A complete waste of 4/5 hours every day just for money to pay the rent. I should’ve just lived in a car. Ever slept in one during a rainstorm? The pitter patter of those drops on the roof lulls you into a coma. It does me, anyway.
  3. Home worries. You’re sleeping soundly in your warm, fluffy bed and suddenly the neighbor’s tree falls through your roof, or grandma comes driving through the living room because her gas pedal got stuck,  or a fuselage from a passing jet falls through the kitchen, or a burglar/rapist is breaking in through the basement window, or some kid slips on the ice on your driveway and breaks his leg, or bullets come flying in through your bedroom window because the neighbourhood thugs mistook you for someone else, or your landlord sends you a mail one day that says, “In two months your rent will be raised by $200”, or that dreaded “Your house has been bought by the bank” letter finally arrives, or the toilet backs up again during the latest rainstorm and now you have half of your neighbors’ poop floating around in the muck in your bathroom, or that black mold you’d meant to get rid of in the bedroom made your asthmatic cousin as sick as a dog, or those dagnabbit locusts are back to eating your house, or the roof flips right off during a hurricane (this happened to us in Trinidad), or that front porch camera fails to show you the face of the jerk who stole your mail or peed in your gardenias.
  4. Freedom worries. When you’re chained to a job, chained to the kids, chained to a mortgage or rent, chained to a wife, chained to your car notes how much freedom do you really have? You’ve gotta pay $4 for that gallon of milk or the baby will starve. You’ve gotta pay $4 for that gallon of gas or you and your family will starve. You’d love to take the kids to the movies more often, or to Disneyland, or Universal Studios Hollywood, or the zoo but sometimes you have to make a choice between entertainment and food. Tough choice. Personally, I choose both, and yes, both costs me nothing. I eat at food banks and read books in libraries.  This laptop, my main source of entertainment, I got at a discount. I just had to prove I’m poor. Easy enough. I get food stamps and Medicaid because I’m crazy. Actually, it’s ABD – Aged, Blind & Disabled. That’s kinda long so I prefer crazy.
  5. Medical worries. Really contentious debate here in the good ol’ US of A. You have a little bit of money saved. Should you spend it on that new Xbox you’ve been eyeing or that tooth extraction you’ve been avoiding for years? New pants or new glasses? Antibiotics or tumor removal? Beer or cough drops? You’d sure love to have that way overdue physical exam done but you should probably spend the little change you have on a pain reliever or headache medicine rather than a bus trip across town. And what about that body rash you just inherited from the latest clothes detergent you just tested? The cable bill is due, the light bill is due, the phone bill is due but the rash is driving you crazy so maybe an emollient is in order. No? You decide.

 

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Shoaling. Fish Do It, Why Can’t We?

dollar1You’ve seen it before. Swarms, or shoals, of fish swimming through the deep and moving in perfect synchronization, their collective intelligence morphed into one hive mind. In the movie “Finding Nemo”, the clever school of fish (zebrafish?) even go so far as to create one giant directional pointer with their bodies and even mock Marlin the clownfish’s dour appearance by encouraging him to smile by their collective example.

This business of swarming makes me wonder – is mob mentality shoaling behavior? When everyone speeds up and down Aurora Ave. at 60 mph when the speed limit is 40 mph, is this shoaling? A resident was complaining to me just now that a stranger on the bus was rude to him and even went so far as to strike him with her pocketbook. Probably shoaling behavior based off the well known “Seattle freeze,” the collective coldness native Seattleites bestow upon unsuspecting strangers.

I spend a lot of time exploring and dissecting human behavior because, well frankly, you guys perplex me. How can you convince a group of people to form an army, march into innocent lands like Hungary, Poland and France, and systematically slay any man, woman and child that don’t fit the Nazi ideal? How do you convince half of the citizens of one nation to slay the other half like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge did with Cambodia from 1975 to 1979? How did Genghis Khan convince his soldiers that it was okay to slay 40 million people or 10% of the world’s population? How can the members of ISIS sleep after brutally removing innocent people’s heads with a half-sharp blade? How does one rape Nanking? Maybe all these killers didn’t have to be convinced. It’s probably just in their nature to be ultra violent and this business of peace must be some kind of aberration.

Being me, being autistic, I don’t “feel” any social connect to the rest of the world. I don’t “get” genocide. I don’t “get” rushing out to see the new Star Wars movie or buy the new iPhone or the latest fashions from North Face. Hell, I don’t even “get” office parties, weddings or funerals. Mourning someone’s dying? Couldn’t this exercise in futility be done in the privacy of your own home? I wonder if there is some gene in the limbic system or amygdala of normal, neurotypical, people that doesn’t exist in autists? I don’t “get” hive mind behavior. I don’t “get” marching to the beat of someone else’s drum. Interesting. I don’t follow popular trends because I’m a Jain and I can’t follow popular trends because I’m autistic. Be rude to you on a bus? I’d rather give you a dollar. Generosity. Pass it on.

 

Still, life.

Still life with musicYou know, it’s a shame life is so fleeting; so many albums left unheard, so many photographs left unseen, so many goals left unattained, so many cases left unsolved. Here, in the twilight of my life, I am grateful for having been alive for a short while. I may not have lived as a prince or an admiral or even a married NT, still, I had life, not as bad as the people the Khmer Rouge massacred, the people of Pompeii burned in the path of Mt. Vesuvius or the people frequently swallowed whole by the earthquakes in Chile. Still, I had life, the greatest gift anyone can receive, polished by freedom, unstained by wisdom, enlightened by music.

The Joy Of Owning Nothing

BlankWonderful concept, ain’t it? Owning nothing. Nada, zilch, duck egg. Nothing to protect with my life, nothing that would burn up in a fire, nothing that anyone would be jealous of, nothing to refrigerate or it will spoil, nothing to keep buying food and comfort items for, nothing that’s dependent on electricity. Yes, we Jains call it aparigraha and it’s one of the ideals that our ascetic brothers and sisters strive for. I do own a few things now (my used car, this used laptop, 6 shirts, one pair of pants and sneakers and a couple of cans of peas, beans and corn) but I’d like to transcend that into owning nothing. Of course, walking around naked here in Seattle like a Digambar monk would get me arrested, so I gotta do like the Romans when you’re in Rome. I just won’t do it extravagantly.

Attacked For My Religion Today

StrangerI knew this day would happen; I just didn’t know when. I was helping a woman in the Wallingford library download music off I-Tunes when she noticed the picture I use for my laptop’s desktop – the Jain symbol with the swastika on it. She was immediately offended and started telling me so. She said the symbol was evil, our non-acceptance of Jesus as our savior was an abomination, we’re Satan worshippers, I need to stop following that nonsense and I should disband Jainism immediately. Sorry, sis. Not gonna happen. I don’t have that power anyway. That the Nazis misappropriated the swastika has no relation to us. It was used for good things for thousands of years by many cultures and I do not plan to write to the Council of Jains to have it removed from our dharma.

I’m glad that that stranger ripped me a new one for my beliefs. Why? Because it illustrates how bigotry, ignorance and small-mindedness still exists, and will always exist, in this violent world. It shows me, though, that I should be careful letting people see my desktop because they might find it offensive. I suppose a Jewish person would find our symbol distasteful; hopefully, if they can accept my explanation, they’ll understand its use. It also shows me that I should shelve my idea of trying to introduce Jainism to the Western world because it is so contrary to their beliefs that they probably would start burning down our temples or graffiti them like the temple in Bothell.

I consider today a turning point because, for the first time, I feel how Muslim women who wear the hijab in public feel. Just for walking down the streets with their headscarves elicits responses like “Terrorist!” or “Hijacker!” I also now feel how Sikhs who walk around with turbans feel when people roll down their car window and yell “Bomber!” The fear is real. The anger and hatred is palpable. Luckily, I do follow a religion whose main tenet is non-violence in thoughts, words and actions, so the tongue lashing I got today was a test of my faith. I will harbor no ill will towards that woman; in fact, I thank her for allowing me to test my resolve. Stranger? You make me more of a believer and I thank you.

Autism, School Shootings & Gun Control – The Interview

The HulkQ: Thanks for coming by on such short notice. I know you’ve been busy lately.

A: Yeah. Heading up to Montreal for a conference soon.

Q: Did you notice that, this morning, POTUS is planning to issue some kind of executive decision on gun control?

A: Oh, yeah? The President of the United States? What’s he planning?

Q: Strengthening background checks, making it more difficult to buy guns…

A: You know, you gotta be real careful about disarming law-abiding citizens.

Q: I don’t think it’s about disarming people.

A: The criminals are getting their guns dropped to them from the sky like pigeon poop!

Q: Oh, come on.

A: Yep. I’ve seen it. These single-passenger, one-engine planes come flying across the border dropping contraband out in the fields where people just drive up, pick them up, and drive off.

Q: Scary.

A: I know, right? And Joe and Mary in Peoria is supposed to leave themselves vulnerable while the criminals are shooting up the place?

Q: You know, you digress.

A: Why?

Q: This interview is supposed to be about the myth of autistic school shooters.

A: Oh. Okay. Well, what do you want to know?

Q: I’ve read in different places that the biggest school shootings in the U.S. were perpetrated by autistic young men.

A: Yeah, I’ve seen that, too. I don’t give much credence to these rumors, though. Just hearsay.

Q: Can you tell our viewers what has been said about it?

A: Sure. They say that the Sandy Hook, Columbine, University of California, Virginia Tech and Umpqua Community College shootings were done by autistic young men.

Q: And you don’t believe that?

A: I don’t.

Q: Why do you say that?

A: I’ve been studying autism and Asperger’s for quite some time now. I think autistic people are an untapped potential. Their focus and determination on getting a long and difficult job done is legendary. I think they’re finding out now that some of the greater creative minds in history were on the spectrum. I guess, for good or bad, once they’ve set their minds to something, they don’t stop till it’s complete.

Q: You got any examples?

A: Sure. You got composers working tirelessly through the night to finish their magnum opus; scientists eschewing sleep in favor of discovering that new vaccine; Victor Frankenstein not resting until his monster gets up and starts walking…

Q: Frankenstein was autistic? He’s fictitious, dude.

A: True dat, but the model was based on odd individuals who spent inordinate amounts of time tying up that last stitch, crossing that last ‘T’ and dotting that last “I”.

Q: And what does all this have to do with school shootings?

A: These bullied kids felt rejected by society; that’s what some of them wrote in their manifestoes anyway. [They’re] freakish outcasts who couldn’t get laid, get invited to the prom, skipped homecoming, had no one to relate to, and so on.

Q: So they go on killing sprees? That makes no sense.

A: I never said it did, but these are young developing minds. They don’t have a mature grasp of the consequences of their actions. They feel like society is iceberg cold so they exhibit their detestation by shooting up the place. And you know what? All this talk about gun control won’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes to these guys. Taking away their guns will mean nothing. They tend to think outside the box. Hell, there is no box as far as they’re concerned. Remember that Jeff Bridges movie, ‘Blown Away’, where they said the terrorist was such an expert he could make a bomb out of Bisquick?

Q: So, basically, you’re saying not to get an autistic kid pissed off?

A: Well, you can, just don’t do it when I’m in the room with you.

Q: Oh, come on.

A: Hey, I’m being honest.

Q: So what should be done?

A: Recognize that autism isn’t a disorder. It’s just a difference in the way their mind is wired. Work with them. Foster their creativity. Don’t try to change them and force them into this world, this society. If your son writes with his left hand would you cut it off so he’s forced to use his right? No, so you help him embrace his uniqueness and not make him feel like an unwanted reject. Like Bruce Banner said, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Q: Scary.

A: True dat.