(now beginning the second part of my autobiography of the last 10 years — Faith Rediscovered.)
I landed back in the Old Dominion in the city of Charlottesville.
I had a friend who lived in the city and they told me that I could stay for two weeks and two weeks only. I filled out job applications by the dozens: mostly restaurant work. I even went in for a couple of interviews, but there were no offers. Not that I was all that keen on finding work anyway. It was a full-time job drowning in depression and wallowing in self pity. Oh: and staying drunk.
Well, I stretched it to three weeks and then I left. It was April 2007. I got to Hampton. It was rainy and cold. Mother told me that she couldn’t help me with rent money. Now for the first time in my life, I was truly homeless.
A great comedian and social commentator, George Carlin, once said that “homelessness” is a misnomer.” Those to whom we refer as “homeless” are in fact not home-less. They are “house-less.” A home is a state of mid or emotion. A house is a physical structure. By calling them “homeless” we remove from ourselves the responsibility for doing anything about it. You cannot fix a state of mind or emotion. But a roof is doable.
Homelessness (Houselessness) is a condition where there is no place you can sit or stand that you cannot be made to leave without even a moment’s notice. Without any bad act, you may be forced to vacate any position you hold without explanation or exception, whether it is a bed in a shelter or a standing spot on a street corner.
It is the ultimate in dehumanization. A human being is relegated to the social status of a stray dog and even worse. There is more humane treatment given to a stray dog than to a houseless person. We will immediately house the dog. To the houseless man or woman we turn up our noses and say “get a job.” Even in the most extreme circumstances, we will euthanize the dog. The human is forced to live a live of degradation and suffering.
Are you listening to me? I know whereof I speak. I have been and currently am there. It is not romantic! There is no social redemption from a death like this. Jack Kerouac went home to Mémère and wrote about it well fed in a cozy room.
The true Houseless in our society are not heroes and heroines. They live dirty, abject lives in some of the most degrading and dehumanizing conditions imaginable. They die anonymous, unsung, and unloved. politicians, movie stars, and royalty die and the media rhapsodize their lives for days, weeks and months. Meanwhile, 15 more homeless people died today (and yesterday and tomorrow) and the only people who know about it are the morgue wagon attendants who haul their corpses in black vinyl body bags from damp, filthy, rodent-infested alleyways and from railroad underpasses. Many many go and their names are never known—just another Jane or John Doe.
“Homeless?” Give me a break. Give me a roof and something at least semi-soft on which to sleep and then come to me to talk about feelings of “belonging” and the romantic ideals of “hearth” and “home.”
Don’t you just love a little social commentary thrown in with an autobiography? I know I do. Thanks for letting me indulge. And to all you speed readers out there: you’re missing some really good points, ok?
Where was I? Oh yeah . . .
For the first time in my life I was truly houseless. I walked the streets day and night. I huddled in public bus shelters on cold and rainy nights. I didn’t sleep and I didn’t eat. A few times I did out in the public library for a few hours at a time, but the temptation was too great to fall asleep and the fear of being thrown out and barred was enormous. The conflict of the fear of expulsion with the sleep imperative was too great to bear. I stopped going to the library.
Meanwhile, filthy and approaching sleep deprivation psychosis; something had to be done. I was no longer drinking, but not from choice. It was necessity. I was utterly penniless. I didn’t know how to panhandle and didn’t want to learn.
I thought that death must be coming. Its approach was slow and uncertain. The run up to its arrival was painful and hellish long to endure without willingly hastening its arrival by my own hand. This was something that I knew (at that time) that I could not do. Today I know different.
That new found knowledge is a major theme of Closing Remarks.
My last hope was to find a charity that would shelter and feed me long enough to regain my strength and so I could return to the street where I could continue the process of dying which I so desperately craved.
First I went to the rescue Mission in the neighboring city of Newport News. I stayed there about two weeks in absolutely horrid conditions. It was straight out of Dante’s Inferno. I was warehoused in a bug infested environment with hard-core drug addicts and last stage alcoholics. It lacked all the charms of a correction department forced labor camp in the Deep South. I was fed City Jail slop twice a day and was subject to imminent threat of violence in the dormitory by night.
One evening I came back to the “Mission” just before curfew. Five police cars with flashing lights surround the house on two sides. A knife fight had erupted in the dormitory. Two bull queers had a severe difference of opinion over which of them owned the rights to the sexual favors of an effeminate little queenie who sat on a cot while his (her) gallant knights crossed blades in a duel for the damsal.
Romantic? Not in the fucking least.
Horrific? Now we’re getting closer.
Terrifying? In the extreme.
The two gallants were removed in irons. The sought after prize was ejected from the premises. Three bunk bed cots became immediately available in the always-at-capacity domiciliary. I checked out in the morning, providing a fourth.
As I shouldered my meager possessions and headed back to the asphalt, four more doomed souls were ushered inside and inducted into Perdition.
Three others were turned away.
I headed for the bus stop.
(to be continued)
click link to continue reading Part VIII