Port Townsend is a boat building, Victorian, seaside arts community that is popular with the retirement set. I’ve been here for one month and so far I have mixed feelings about it. Some people I’ve run into are outright friendly; others give me the feeling that they’re undercover racists but are too ball-less to show it. I could be wrong; wouldn’t be the first time, but that gnawing feeling one gets when one is stared at by strangers in public emporiums and other places seems to invade my thoughts negatively every so often. I’m holding out hope that, being homeless, I’m just accidentally running into the dregs of society and things will take a turn for the positive once I’m domiciled.
As far as the city proper is concerned, it is a small town so I wasn’t expecting wall to wall excitement. There are a lot of parks around, enough so that I can find places to doze off, in my car or out. They have quite a few restaurants, too. The problem here is they’re all expensive. Average meals range in price from $10 to $14 as opposed to Seattle where I’m used to $7 to $12. The two libraries I’ve been to are par for the course. Architecture here is great if you’re into that sort of thing. Crime isn’t frequent or intense here. About four to six people end up in jail every day because of crimes like drug possession, misdemeanor assaults and driving violations. I did notice an apartment complex that, while not ghetto, did seem ghetto-ish from outside. It has a pretty name, too: Nor’West Village. My name is on their wait list but I hope they don’t pick me.
The beaches here are pristine, almost as if no human has ever set foot on them. That was a surprise given how people love to graffiti and litter at every opportunity. I’m still in the shelter and probably will be for the next month or two. I try to come in late and leave early as much as I can because some of the clients rub me the wrong way. There is no lack of negative personalities here, that’s for sure. Next week I’m driving down to Poulsbo to pick up my bi-pap machine; people complain a lot here about my snoring so the machine should help. So far, I’m surviving. Things could be better, things could be worse. I’ll give the city another a month or two. If things don’t start looking up I may reconsider shooting back to Seattle. We’ll see.
Living with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is like having a well-armed bank robber stuck in your body 24 hrs/day. The “money” he steals from you is your freedom, energy, future, pride, time and confidence. Can you imagine? You’d like to get into a relationship with someone, but just the thought that you’ll ruin it somewhere up the road, or it won’t last anyway, is enough for you to turn away any possible suitors. I know better than to write novels as quickly as I do, but the chance that I may not live to see tomorrow means I have to quickly hurry up and write, edit on the fly, and hope what I publish on the internet is as good as books that took years to write.
PTSD doesn’t allow you to get close to anyone. How can you when you’re capable of such little trust? Is that guy trying to hurt me? Maybe. Is that woman trying to hurt me? Could be. Should I trust the smiling man talking to be in the mall? Probably not; he may just be looking to empty my wallet of every penny in it.
Time is one of PTSD’s bigger thefts. It tells you to forget about acquiring long-term housing, like a mortgage or beach-front property. Why should you? Something bad will happen and send you back out on the street anyway. And with me, I’ve spent so much time on the street that the thought of moving into a place is really not first and foremost on my mind. As I’ve said in the past, I’ve been undomiciled more than I’ve been domiciled in my life. Maybe I was a stray cat in one of my past lives, digging through garbage cans for my breakfast, lunch and dinner, constantly being chased up trees by the neighborhood canines.
I’d sure love to know that I have the time to write a novel the best way I can, but good ol’ PTSD would never stand for that bit of courtesy. Why should it? It doesn’t consider my writing as important as, say, constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m not in somebody’s cross hairs.
And I don’t want to be homeless anymore. I can’t stand it. Last week I smashed two windows of a bank to get myself sent to jail because it was freezing and I had no place to sleep. (I’d accidentally locked my keys in my car – and my car was running all those three days I was incarcerated, too!) The judge said, “Eh, you’re not a criminal. You’re just crazy,” and released me. Maybe he’s right; maybe he’s wrong. I’m no criminal? The PTSD bandit in my head begs to differ, but then he thinks that he is me. My PTSD is me. That can’t be true. I hope not.
Robin is happy. Very happy. Up until a few days ago, most of my books were available only in Kindle editions. Amazon now lets writers issue their books as 6×9 paperbacks. So, these past few days, I reformatted my books for paperback. Took a while because I had to create new covers, reset line spacing, reformat indents, etc. I thought the reformatting was going to be a piece of cake. It wasn’t. I’d say it took me 5 days to reformat 5 titles. “Wetland” was already available in paperback. When I get money, if I get good money, I’ll purchase my paperback editions and try to get them sold in stores around here.
In other news, when I went to see my disability lawyer, the rude receptionist told me don’t bother them because they’re swamped with work and they’ll email me if something comes up. I have half a mind to pull my application from them and just deal with SSA myself. I can’t stand rude people. What is it with people that they feel they have the right to condescend to the poor and homeless? The homeless are people, too. I guess when you’re looking down on us, we just seem like the lower caste, the untouchables. Very disappointing.
Would you believe those words came out of me after being handed a cold 16oz can of Olympia beer? I was here at the food bank yesterday and this guy offered me a one. I uttered the words above then, after remembering those on the street who do continue to drink regularly, I accept it for them. The stranger actually gave me two cans of Olympia which I then promptly brought to a homeless guy I know who “spanges” outside the QFC up the block. (“Spange” is a portmanteau of “spare” and “change”). I’d say that was a pretty good test as it was the first time I’ve actually held brew in my hand since giving it up July 26, 2014.
In other news I have a new friend now, Travis from Bozeman. He’s pretty cool. Homeless like me. As a matter of fact, quite a few similarities to me except the gay bits. (Nothing a cold pint can’t cure, though). We walked to the Seattle Scrabble Club in UW yesterday and played a few games. I lost both of mine; guess it’s time to dust off an old Scrabble board if I can find one.
Life hasn’t been too bad, really. I have new shoes, new pants, a new shirt, new sweater and a new cap. (Well, they’re used and in good shape but new to me). I recently contacted the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce about sweeping up the main drag through town, 45th St. They haven’t gotten back to me yet but this street can use a good cleaning. It’s not as bad as Thayer St. in Providence but it could use a little straightening.
Yesterday, a drunk couple that spanges outside the QFC broke into a man’s car on Meridian, just down the block from where I park my car. That’s bad because it gives the Wallingford homeless a bad name. The yuppies are moving into town in droves and they’ll use their monetary influence to push anyone out of town who doesn’t suit them, that is, the homeless. Now, I have extra work – make sure the local homeless don’t do anything that jeopardizes my opportunity to stay in Wallingford. I like this town and will most likely die here. Everything’s within easy reach as I’m surround by parks, the food bank and library, restaurants, my doctor’s and dentist’s office, quiet streets to park and sleep on, public showers, etc. No complaints from me. Can’t let the riff raff homeless ruin that for me, though.
There were three. Kinda reinforces the fact that, well, when it comes to round holes I’m the perpetual square peg.
- I tried hanging out with the homeless in the pavilion of a park close to where I sleep in my car at night. When I walked in they looked at me like I was Ed Gein, human mask and all. I was only looking for an outlet to plug in this laptop but the cold looks I got could freeze a polar bear in its tracks. Goodbye, pavilion.
- I went to a drop-in center for the mentally challenged earlier this week to maybe watch a movie on this laptop, eat lunch and help with the dishes. I was attacked by this heavy set woman. She yelled, “Don’t brush up against me!” as I walked pass her. Mind you, I was no where near this woman, but her challenge was unnecessary. I’m trying my best to avoid any kind of confrontation so her vitriol caught me off guard. I’m homeless, dammit, and I’m just trying to make myself useful. Anyway, the center was too noisy and emanated too many bad vibes. Goodbye, center.
- I went to see a few of my street friends down at a local park last night. They were hanging out with other homeless folks cooking around an outdoor pit. Yes, they were smoking weed. That didn’t bother me. What caught me off guard was I suddenly wanted to drink because I wanted to join in their party. The feeling was unbearably strong; also, because there was more people in attendance than I’d like, I bounced. Going down there was a mistake. Almost brought me back to drinking which, in essence, would’ve brought me back to drugging. Goodbye, homeless folks huddled around outdoor fire pits at night.
That’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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
My job at the Aloha Inn transitional shelter is giving out applications at a church in downtown Seattle for the homeless to apply to live temporarily at Aloha. A family of three came in today. And they were exhausted. The mother, who was filling out the application, fell asleep on it. She said they’re all tired because they were only able to nap in parks, Safeway, etc. Every place they’d called promised to call them back but they never did; consequently, this left them out to the elements. The mother started crying and the father was visibly angry. It was a very sad sight to see. Their 9 year old daughter was fairly oblivious to their angst. In the end the family might have to split up – the mother and daughter to a women’s shelter and the father someplace else. It’s one thing to read or hear about the homeless. It’s something else to have them cry in your presence while asking for help. The sight can break your heart. It did mine.