Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Saturday, December 27, 2003

after xmas trash

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It's fortunate, and rare, when trash day's the day after xmas. Many exotic, twinkly surprises await the trash picker.

Most of it's wrappers and used alcohol containers, of course. But, occasionally, even they are worthy of rescue. Interesting ribbons, ornaments, etc. I found a nice wine bottle yesterday: nothing outstanding; it was only Gallo. But it's reasonably large, without looking like a wino's jug, and it has a fine cork. I washed it and have it drying upside down in the ring of a stove burner now. I'll use it to store beans or rice, or even small pasta. Quite attractive.

My trip this year gave me food. That almost never happens in the war zone; people there tend not to waste food and, if an accident does happen, it's generally fed to a dog or a chicken. Anything that resembled food which one finds in the trash there must be avoided, generally. The exception is greedy slumlords, who throw out vast quantities of canned goods and other well-wrapped nonperishables. They're too lazy, usually, to set them outside the dumpster, and way too selfish to offer them to the needy. But slumlords seldom live in the war zone; their behavior is not normal.

Up on Silver Street yesterday, I found nearly 20 lbs. of potatoes, still in their sacks. They were idahos, fit for baking and white potatoes, great for soups and mashing. There was nothing wrong with either bag of potatoes: no marks, no shrivelling, not even sprouting eyes. I will store them as I found them. When I need to use some, I will soak them, momentarily, in lightly-bleached water to disinfect them. Then, I'll simply rinse them, rub them, pat them dry and use them.

I also found three tangerines, still in their bag, in perfect condition. I love tangerines, and was sorry I didn't have any for xmas. I'll bleach them, too, right before use.

I found 2 new loaves of some earthy, whole-wheat bread. They're from a commercial bakery that's trying to appeal to "health conscious consumers." I make up stories about what I find. I made up the story that Mom came to visit and brought the bread, trying to help her savage, hippy children out, but that the brand of bread was too politically incorrect for the ungrateful heathens. And, rather than putting it in the alley for the homeless or putting it in the compost pile, they just chucked it in the garbage!

I removed the bread from the outer bag, which I washed. One loaf is out for sandwiches; the other is in the freezer, for toast, later.

I found two very remarkable things.

Both were in boxes from the local alternative to Starbucks. One contained cinnamon rolls. But these were made of flakey pastry, jelly rolled with chocolate chips! I estimate they cost around two dollars each. There were about eight of them, carefully sealed in ziplock bags, inside the box. Half are frozen; half are sitting out.

The other I don't know how to describe. They are like huge drop biscuits, a little lumpy and stiff in the crust, but moist and airy inside. But they're made with a shredded, cheddar-like cheese melted on top and small dices of it inside. They have bits of diced, green hot chilis, possibly jalepeno. And each has one fairly large hunk of tomatoe, baked somewhere inside. The unwrapped ones became dog food; Porkchop loves them. And, my one cat who loves carbs eats small bits, too. The ones in zippy bags are mine.

I also found shampoos, conditioners, bubble baths, rolls of toilet paper and soaps from someone's move out. In that same trash, I also found a bottle each of: soy sauce, barbeque sauce, squeezable mustard and a brand new, large bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's pancake syrup. Good thing; I was starting to run out!

I found an enormous wok, with burner ring stand and aluminum lid. These had been badly abused and neglected by someone who obviously didn't know how to care for them. I scrubbed grease from all of them. I scrubbed rust from the wok. I massaged it with oil, set it on its ring, and seasoned it, over and over again, until the bottom was well blackened and all the residual rust was wiped out with excess oil. It has wooden handles, is well constructed and is large enough to hold an entire chicken.

Last week, I'd seen a large soup pot, sitting on its side, in front of an apartment. I thought, perhaps they're draining it and will bring it in later. So I left it be.

This week, it was still there. It's obvious the apartment's vacant. I took the pot. I soaked it in boiling hot dish water with bleach. It holds five gallons or more.

I now have three large soup pots, in graduated sizes. This last is the largest. They're very useful for baling emergencies, leaky rooves, doing hand laundry or boiling something nasty on the stove. They're great for mixing up a batch of pet food, shampoo, soap,, plaster of paris, paper mache....they're very useful for a number of things besides soup. I'd lost my old one, back in the war zone; I've missed it; it's hard to get things done without it. So, I'm very happy now to have three.

I also found a pair of Nike airs in my size. I would never buy them, given their labor practices and all the hype associated with their faddishness. But they'll make good walking shoes, once I've washed them.

I found an inflatable mattress, which I can use on the twin futon frame I found last month, to lay out in the yard on warm nights.

I found a black bed sheet. I found a canvass tarp which I'm using to cover up where the homeless guy's blankets are stashed.

I spent the day today, arranging my tiny kitchen to accomodate the large pots. I arranged things more to my convenience, while I was at it.

I also put up all my xmas decorations. I don't like xmas stuff after xmas. Beating a dead horse, as my father called it.

It absolutely amazes me what people waste!

Friday, December 26, 2003

Pretty sunrise

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Oh, I can tell it's still bitter cold outside. When the heater kicks off, a chill backdraft snakes low through the apartment. Most days, my heater only kicks on about three times a day. It's fired up five times this morning!

That poor homeless guy, sleeping in the yard of the vacant house across the alley!

I just cleaned mascara smudges from my eyes with a swab dipped in hand lotion. I've got my first cup of coffee. I'm threatening to get dressed.

Today is the first trash day after xmas: a lucky one, as xmas was yesterday. I must go trash picking! But I'm dreading it.

My legs and back are stiff and sore. I stood too much at Joey and Stu's house last night, because chairs hurt me. And I was wearing heeled boots. True, the heels were only an inch. But the toes were pointed. Something about the way I had to stand in them affected my entire skeletal structure and caused pain in areas unfamiliar with standing in heels.

I love those little boots. I rarely get to wear them, as they're no walking shoes. They're made for women who are transported by automobile. But they look like Victorian boots. They're black suede, with eyelet cuts over the instep. They come just above the ankle and tie like skates.

They're my Little Women boots. Whenever I wear them, I imagine abolitionists and suffragists. I imagine the Alcott women, the Grimke sisters. I always wished I could have lived then. I admire those women, more than I can say.

So, every year, I find one occasion during which I can wear my little boots without killing myself. I carefully brush them with soapsuds on a finger nail brush, pat them dry with the softest kitchen towel I own.

They're so close-fitting, they can only be worn with stockings. Last night, the stockings were white, with white, embossed doves with tiny, rhinestone eyes at the calves.

Today, I'll carefully stuff them with plastic grocery sacks, so they'll maintain their shape, cover them in loosely-tied bags, and replace them on my shoe rack, high up, where no other shoes can touch them, until the next time I can wear them.

I've owned those boots for ten years. I found them in the garbage one day, when I first moved here.

I suppose they're Mexican cowgirl boots here.

But they're my Little Women boots.

The sun's up now. The pink overcast has transformed into pale, blue skies with whispy clouds.

It's time to bundle up, grab the dog and the cart, and head out to trash pick.


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Porkchop, the porno reindog

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I'm desperate for money. So, Porkchop and I headed out with a cart full of arts & crafts to sell. Nobody bought anything.

I stopped at Smith's, looking for marked down food. I found a string of xmas lights for my garden for seventy cents. I found 2 lbs. of hamburger meat. I found a candy bar cheap. And I found a WHOLE POUND of assorted sushi, with wasabi, soy and pickled ginger, for four dollars! Sushi for breakfast! And lunch; I'm eating some right now.

Yesterday, Martha Stewart had a guy on, talking about Dom Perignon champagne, and how it goes with sushi. My mouth was watering so hard, I had to change channels! Screw the champagne; gimme sushi!

THe butcher swore it's safe; says he eats it all the time.

Well, I stopped at the Family Dollar Store on the way back, looking for marked down xmas replacement lights for the strings in my garden. No luck.

I parked my cart and Porkchop by their dumpster. It's inside a concrete housing with metal doors, so I can shut one door to hide them.

I found something in the dumpster. It's a cheap, red, crushed velveteen bra and thong set. The tops of the bra cups and thong have strips of white, downy feathers, shot through with mylar tinsel.

Well, you KNOW I'm not going to wear no damn THONG! And the bra was TINY! It was also padded. Trust me; I don't need padding!

So, I put them on Porkchop! I put the bra on the right way. I put the thong on backwards, so as not to obstruct his penis or anus. The center elastic of the thong I arranged to go over one butt cheek, next to his tail.

I want you to know the cars on the street damn near wrecked! I was dressed in a gawdy, beaded sweater, green pants and a red, black and green "Indian blanket" jacket. The cart is covered in toys, mylar, beads, silk flowers and my Barney pinata on a pole. And here comes Porkchop, with decked ....um, halls.

It was a hoot!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Yay! Mad Cow!

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You're gonna think I'm sick. And that's ok.

First, let me offer my condolences to both the cow, and the rancher, where in mad cow disease was detected in the USA. I'm not being cute. I really feel bad for both.

HOWEVER! For me, this is very good news! Yuppies will now panic and stop buying beef. The prices will drop!!!

So, I should be chewing some disgruntled...if not mad....cow soon, perhaps as soon as next month's food stamps!

"Avoiding Holiday Excess"

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That's the title of a "news" item on the MSNTV home page. Apparantly, gluttony, selfishness and conspicuous consumption have been so ingrained into winter festivities, that it's becoming a health problem.

I'd argue that it's also an environmental problem. I go through your trash after xmas; I see what useable goods you throw away. I see the yards of wasted: paper, lights, garlands, ribbon, trees, fabrics. When I can, I rescue them and reuse them. And I always wonder: how can people justify compromising their children's futures by discarding so much decoration for one day?

Here's how to avoid holiday excess. And I think it ought to become a winter holiday tradition.

Wash, dry and fold up your old blankets, clothes and shoes. Tuck them in clear, plastic bags. Make sure you label them, including gender and size, where appropriate. Set them in alleys, under bridges, in front of food pantries and shelters, in front of social services offices: anywhere low income and homeless people show up.
Make sure you put a sign that says, "free."

Now, clean out your refrigerators, freezers, cupboards. Bag everything you won't eat up and do the same, handing the food to people where ever possible. Mark the date on perishable foods, so people will know if it's safe to eat.

Resolve to do things differently next year. Don't buy fancy wrapping papers and ribbons that can't be reused. You can make your own, without using up much time. There are lots of instructions on the 'net for potato printed papers and such. Martha Stewart's a good place to start.

Stop buying cheap, over-packaged crap from wal*mart, just to check off a name on a list. Wal*mart is a bad place; stop going there. Buy hand-made stuff. There are craft shows, seniors' and other community center gift fairs, etc. You'll have more fun shopping; you'll help people who really need the money; you'll find unique stuff; you'll keep the trash down because there's less factory packaging.

Buy decorations that become family heirlooms, not cheap junk made by prisoners and child labor. Keep it simple; the less you have to put up, the less you have to take down. Before you buy something, really think about whether it'll go in the trash or go into storage for next year.

Home cook more foods. You don't need gravy in a can; it only takes a minute to make gravy from scratch. Same with other treats. The amount of time you'd waste in a fast food drive through line, searching for parking space in a big box store and fighting crowds, etc. can be better utilized with friends and family, making stuff yourselves.

Remember why you're celebrating the holiday. It's not so the kids can return to school with the latest fad clothing or toy. It's not to show the neighbors how extravagant you can be with the electric bill and decorations. It's not to impress coworkers with your catalogue skills and internet shopping.

I seem to remember a story about an unmarried, homeless teen mother. I seem to remember a story about oppressed people, without even enough oil to keep the temple lamp lit.

Your very religious traditions admonish you to see real value and not be seduced by excess!

Start a new tradition. Don't participate in excess. Make the winter holidays an opportunity to SHARE your blessings and priviledges!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Green Eggs & Ham Pasta Salad

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My latest invention/accident/discovery/recipe


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FIVE loads of laundry, including 4 blankets! Temps. never got much beyond fifty degrees. But it was sunny and calm.

Took me five hours.

But the bed linens are changed. The Oriental rug I found in the garbage is washed, rinsed, and hanging to dry. I cleaned the box fan I found in the trash and greased the spoke with petroleum jelly; it DOES operate, it was just filthy.

I'm in my baby blue, flannel-lined night gown, under the covers, with Miss Thing curled by my knee and Porkchop at my feet.

Just finished a nice lunch of those WONDERFUL pickles, ham, black olives and the BEST macaroni salad I ever made! I'll share the recipe later.

My back, shoulders and legs are SCREAMING in pain.

But the weather report predicted possible snow showers in the next, few days. So today was my big chance to get the laundry done, while it's sunny and dry.

Every stitch of clothing, every sheet, pillow case, blanket, shoe, towel in my house is clean.

As soon as the new rug is dry, I'll roll up the old, dirty one in the kitchen, scrub the floors, and lay the new one in while I soak and clean the old. But that'll take days for the drying, so no hurry.

After about three hours' work, the animals gave up. Even Porkchop wanted to come back in for a nap!

I listened to carols and folk music from the college radio station as I worked. It was very cheerful. Eyed my garden, thinking what to plant in spring.

While everybody else in the bldg. recovers from hangovers --it sounded like a mental hospital out front last night-- I was singing and working and chopping vegetables and playing with cats.

I'm watching the cooking shows on PBS until a comedy movie comes on in about fifteen minutes.

It's "Mexico: One Plate At A Time." He's saying, if people grew their own foods, rather than eating processed, not only would their diets be healthier, but they'd get exercise, too. I'm just grinning!

I just brought in my last, four tomatoes today, the day before Winter Solstice! Parsley's still growing outside, under the leaves my neighbors threw out and I'm using for mulch.

The plants in the green house are healthy and happy. I'm pleased to see two catnip seeds have sprouted and are strong.

I have lettuce, chive, parsley, garlic, onions, cabbages, kolrabi growing in my window sills for winter.

So, while it's hard to walk, my balance is iffy, and my eyes are so tired it's hard to focus, I've had a most satisfying morning.

I'm done for the day, I hope, and plan to spend the afternoon and evening cuddling with my critters, snacking, surfing and watching tv.

Who's crazy?

Friday, December 19, 2003

Oh, boy!

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I woke at 4:30 am, troubled by a financial burdon, which I'll discuss later, once I'm more awake and less emotionally vulnerable.

I fumbled in the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and to warm a cup of old from the thermos.

I came back to bed to check email, post in blogs and newsgroups, and rest my weary legs.

I walked nearly ten miles in the last 24 hours. My legs and feet are hot, swollen, tingling, numb in patches and very achy.

I reached for my pack of cigarettes: only one left. Do I smoke it now, or wait as long as I can? I couldn't take a bus to the Pueblo Cultural Center for three and a half hours, so...

Oh, boy! I bought a pack at the convenience store yesterday! I've got enough to last the whole day, and part of tomorrow!

That means I don't have to go out in the cold of morning on sore legs!

I went to work on my blogs.

After an hour, hunger began gnawing at me. I thought of cereal, which isn't satisfying as anything other than a snack. I thought of a glass of milk, which only fills for an hour or so.

OH BOY! I have ham! I picked out three, small slices and ate them. No cooking, no eggs or anything else: just enough ham to stop the hunger pangs. No interrupting my train of thought and baiting my bad memory, in order to put together something to eat. I simply ate and went back to work.

It's nearly six am now. The fresh coffee's in the thermos. My duties at my blogs are nearly done for now. It's still dark outside.

I'm covered in cats and the dog.

As soon as this post is done and logged in, I'm going to turn off the MSNTV and the radio, and take a nap.

It'll be sunny and calm today, in the low 50s. As long as I stay out of the shade, where old snow lies, I should be plenty warm this afternoon. I'll have time to warm my muscles, puttering around here, before going out.

I took a shower last night, so my hair's clean; I won't need to leave the house with a wet head. I won't have to stagger in the shower on these wobbly legs.

The only unavoidable pain will be the 2-block walk, up the steep hill on my street, coming back from the bus stop.

Oh, boy! I'm going back to sleep!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Ham Kills!

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I have the ham in baking. In an hour or so, I'll throw in some baking taters.

Here's the ham: scored, to let flavors in.

Dumped a can of pineapple chunks in juice over it. Squirted a dab of maple syrup on it..JUST a dab, for flavor! Sprinkled with cardomon, powedered ginger, cloves, chili pepper flakes. Sprinkled with candied orange peel, candied ginger, candied cranberries. Splashed with a TINY bit of bourbon. Covered in foil, placed in 350 degree Farenheit oven until cooked through. I'll baste it for awhile, then flip it over, to make sure both sides soak in sweet and sour bourbon sauce and candied fruits.

When the ham is done, I'll stir some corn starch into cold pineapple juice and sloooowly stir into pan drippings, heated on stove, until thickened into glaze. It's kind of like Chinese sweet and sour glaze! I may even add some marachino cherry juice, and some orange juice!

AMMENDMENT TO THE GLAZE! I decided to save my fresh oranges for the fruit salad; I only have 2. Since I used all the pineapple juice in the glaze, I'll need more acid in the salad, to keep the bananas and apples from browning. SOOOO, I tossed in...are you ready for this?...about three tablespoons of orange marmalade in the glaze! I'm eating it right now. It's a cross between syrup, sweet and sour sauce and chutney. If you don't make this glaze out of your ham drippings, especially with the candied ginger, orange peel and cranberries in it, you are MISSING SOMETHING! I made about a pint of glaze. I'm contemplating bathing in it! LOL

Served with baked potatoes, stuffed with sour cream, butter and cream cheese.

Salad will be pineapple, banana, apple, orange salad with a dollop of whipped cream and shaved almonds on top!

I'm going to eat ham dinner for a solid WEEK! And ham sandwiches and ham, eggs and home-made waffles for breakfast...oh, it sounds SO painful!



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I saw other groceries had ham on sale for $0.79/lb. So, I thought, I'll bet Stadium has it even cheaper.

After a 2 hr. nap to recover from last night's insanity, I left the house this morning at around 8:30 with my cart and Porckchop to walk it. It's about six miles, round trip. The return trip is almost all up hill. ugh.

Sure enough, they had the exact same brand of shank ham for $0.59/lb!!!!!!

I got several pounds of bananas on sale. Cream was two 1/2 pints for a dollar. They had spaghetti and macaroni on sale. And I bought some Sewage Of Imperialism, ie, coca cola, on sale, too.

The minute I walked in the door, one guy shouted, "THERE's our favorite customer!"

Everybody looked at me.

I said, "Buddy, you're the first human being who's spoken to me since I got attacked in the convenience store parking lot at 3am, and the manager flipped me off when I asked for help! You don't know HOW MUCH that means to me!"

Everybody was smiling, the check out girls, the other box boy, the manager, even the customers.

Ah, the ghetto, where people appreciate hard work and honesty! A tight band of anger and frustration that had been compressing my chest all morning just disappeared and I could smile again.

The manager loaned me ten dollars, so I can buy cigarettes and an inner tube. The guy who greeted me "passed the hat" in the stock room and got me three dollars more!

Porkchop and I trash picked the whole way there and back. He's decked in green, velveteen christmas bows. I found more mylar and other, shiny stuff for my cart. I got 2 strings of xmas lights; one is shaped like Santa Claus. All it needed was new fuses.

I found a BIG box fan; it's really dirty and needs a good cleaning, but it works just fine! I found an Oriental rug to replace the one in my kitchen which needs SERIOUS soaking in a trash barrel full of soapy water.

I wash my rugs by laying them out on plastic sheeting in the yard, hosing them down, sprinkling with laundry powder, scrubbing with a push broom, wet-dry vacuuming, hanging to air dry with soapy residue, then hosing the hell out of em to get the soap out, vacuuming, air drying again for about a week. The new rug is much cleaner than the old one, so I'll soak it in discharged washer water for awhile and just hose off and dry. I should have it on the kitchen floor within a month. I'll wash the box fan in old laundry water, too. It'll need vasoline around the motor.

I'm resting from inhaling a slice of ham, soaked in syrup, and THREE fried eggs! I've been eating side dishes, except for the omlette, for three days. It's just not as substantial as protein.

I counted my food stamps wrong; after spending almost twenty dollars today, my balance is still TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS!!!


Tomorow, I'll go to the Pueblo Cultural Center for a $12.50 carton of cigarettes. I'm too tired today. It took me five hours to get to the store and back today!

Met a nice mother and daughter around Prespyterian Hospital today. Grandma's in the hospital. I told them almost my entire life story in about half an hour. They're going to need someone to care take her, so she won't have to go to a home. She escaped the last one she was in! LOL....they're intersted in hiring me! YIPPEE!!!

I told them my domain name, so they can find my email addy and contact me.

I'm just about ready to take the plastic off that ham, smother it in pineapple, balsamic vinegar, candied ginger, clove, candied orange peel.....it's in my turkey roaster to bake for the afternoon.

While it's baking, I'll shower and wash my hair in the warm house.

I am SOOOOOOO tired and in SOOOO much pain!!!!!!!

But I have lots of eggs now! I found an old, double waffle iron in the trash last month. I removed the electric part and just kept the irons, to set in cast iron skillets, to make waffles. They even have thermometers in the lids!

So, probably tomorrow, I'm going to make a huge batch of home made waffles to freeze. There's nothing better than ham, eggs and waffles for breakfast!

Today kicked my butt, but it was all worth it. I'd do it again tomorrow, if I needed to!

What a joy! HAM!

Women are not "liberated"

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You think you're safe, now that you have a credit line and a management job? HAH!

I had a bad dream tonight, brought on, I believe, by the abscess in my bad teeth. I'm running a bad fever, and I can taste the infection.

I did some chores and puttered.

I took out the trash, because this morning's trash day.

I decided to take Porkchop and walk to the convenience store, three blocks from my apartment.

The store is supposed to be open twenty four hours a day. When I got there, the door was locked and there was a hand-written sign which said, "Closed for cleaning; reopen at 3am"

Some college kids pulled up in a sports car. I gestured to my wrist and mouthed, "what time is it?" two thirty.

Then, they started, "hey, baby, you need a good f-ck? c'mon baby, party with us! C'mon you ugly b-tch!"

I was trapped between them and the locked door.

And I'd forgotten my knife.

I looked in my cart. Porckhop's old choke chain was in it. I got it out and brought Porchop up between me and them.

They opened all four car doors and started to get out, "you think you're going to do something with that chain, b-tch?"

I started pounding on the door, with the chain, with my feet, screaming, "HELP ME!"

The night manager came to look.


The car sped out of the parking lot, slamming doors as it went. The manager watched it go.

"YOU call the police, b-tch!" the clerk said, pointing at the pay phone on the end of the building.


He told me to go f-ck myself, flipped the bird at me and said, "you're trespassing, and I'M calling the cops on YOU!"

He wouldn't give me his name so I could report him to the district office. What's worse, a FEMALE employee, around my age, inside the store, wouldn't give me his name or let me in, EITHER!

I seriously believe I was on the verge of being kidnapped and gang raped, if not killed.

And the employees at the store not only wouldn't help me, ONE of them continued the abuse the boys in the car started!

This was a 7/11, in case you're interested.

These weren't crack addicts in the war zone; these were affluent, college kids: Asian, Black, Latino and white. These were YOUR kids!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Hanging on

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Ate the last, two eggs today. Also ate the last of the cheddar cheese. There's no meat left in the house. I'm running out of bread. All the pasta's gone.

Made a big omlette this morning, with the works. I figured, if I have to go without protein for two days, I might as well really enjoy the last of it. I mixed the cheese, some cream cheese, salsa, green onion, black olives, celery together in the food processor. It was lovely. I smeared it with sour cream.

I've only got about thirty dollars' food stamps left, and I'm trying to keep them for the Christmas foods' sales, starting this and next week, and also for after Christmas chocolate, if I can do it.

I have seven dollars. I'm five short of a carton of cigarettes. I need xmas lights, which will go on sale after xmas. I use them for night lights and out i my garden at night.

I'm completely frustrated.

Tomorrow is trash day, so I'll trash pick my way to Smith's to look for food. I'm taking my herbs, seeds and Fairy Rag Ladies to try to sell to passers by on my way.

My food stamps went from ninety, down to sixty five and then down to sixty dollars a month.

It's going to be very hard.

The Truth About Private Prisons

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Jenni Gainsborough, AlterNet
December 15, 2003
Viewed on December 17, 2003

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest operator of prisons for profit, is celebrating its 20th anniversary throughout this year "at both the company's corporate Nashville office and at all of the more than 60 prisons, jails and detention centers under CCA ownership and/or management."

No word on whether the prisoners will be celebrating with them.

However, a new report from Grassroots Leadership sticks a pin in their birthday balloon with a very critical look at the company's management of both its financial affairs and its contract prisons.

It is no secret that CCA has had its financial problems over the years. It came close to insolvency in the late 1990s after it accumulated heavy debt building expensive speculative prisons and restructuring itself as a real estate investment trust. After restructuring again, shaking up its upper management and spending $120 million to settle investor lawsuits, the company now claims to be in better financial shape. The report concedes that there has been some improvement but remains unconvinced about the company's long-term viability especially as many states are trying to reduce the size of their prison populations.

For those who are more concerned about the public policy implications of the CCA story than the ups and downs of its investors, the company's failures as a prison operator and its successes in influencing penal policy at the state and federal level are the most worrying areas of the report.

For-profit prison companies like CCA have always presented themselves as both cheaper and better than the traditional publicly owned prisons, staffed by state employees. However, from the mayhem and murders at the prison in Youngstown, Ohio, which eventually led to the company paying $1.6 million to prisoners to settle a lawsuit, to a series of wrongful death civil suits, and numerous disturbances and escapes, the authors document in detail a staggering range of failures of prison management.

failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners;

failure to control violence in its prisons;

substandard conditions that have resulted in prisoner protests and uprisings;

criminal activity on the part of some CCA employees, including the sale of illegal drugs to prisoners;
escapes, which in the case of at least two facilities include inadvertent releases of prisoners who were supposed to remain in custody.

Many of the company's problems are blamed on its labor policies.

Because prisons are very labor intensive institutions, the only way a company like CCA can sell itself to government as a cheaper option than public prisons while still making a profit, is by using as few staff as possible, paying them as little as possible, and not spending much on training.

From the beginning, CCA has sought to depress its labor costs by keeping wages low and by denying its employees traditional (defined-benefit) pension plans.

One predictable result of these policies had been understaffing and high rates of turnover at some of its facilities. For example, annual turnover rates at several CCA facilities in Tennessee have been more than 60 percent. Another, equally predictable, has been the opposition of public service unions to the spread of prison privatization. Criminal justice reformers, trying to reduce the use of incarceration in the U.S., don't normally find themselves allying with prison guard unions but in this fight they are all on the same side.

Despite this opposition, CCA has been quite successful in recent years in influencing the public debate and winning the support of legislators. Of course, it is not hard to win legislators when you back up your arguments with hard cash. The company spends hundreds of thousands of dollars during each state election cycle to try to gain access and build support for its projects. At the federal level, CCA has given more than $100,000 in soft money to the Republican Party since 1997 as well as political action committee contributions to individual members of key Congressional committees.

The presence of J. Michael Quinlan, the former head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, among CCA's senior executives has surely helped the growth in its contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the expectation of further expansion as more prisons for immigrants are planned. In its home state of Tennessee, CCA has enjoyed close relationships with many powerful public figures, including governors. And the for-profit prison companies have their own trade association lobbying for them on Capital Hill -- the Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations (APCTO).

While all of that might be dismissed as no more than the typical business-building efforts of any company looking to make a profit for its shareholders, there are other more troubling aspects to CCA's behavior.

One has been its use of research from dubious sources to push its claims of superiority and cost-savings for the private sector. Much of it is produced by researchers who are either funded by the industry or are ideologically predisposed in favor of privatization. For example, Charles Thomas, director of the supposedly neutral Private Prison Project of the University of Florida who was widely quoted as an expert on prison privatization throughout the 90s, served on the board of CCA and received several millions of dollars in consulting fees from them.

More recently, a study published in the Harvard Law Review was touted as an independent academic study of privatization. None of its boosters, however, mentioned that the author, in addition to being a graduate student at Harvard, is associated with the Reason Public Policy Institute, a division of the Reason Foundation whose purpose is to promote the privatization of public services.

Perhaps most controversial is CCA's close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a powerful force in the promotion of the conservative policy agenda among state legislators. One of its major functions is writing model bills that advance conservative principles and working with its members to have these bills introduced. CCA has been a corporate member and a major contributor to ALEC and a member of its Criminal Justice Task Force.

CCA executives have co-chaired the Task Force over many years. As a result of the model bills developed by the Task Force, ALEC claims credit for the widespread adoption of Truth in Sentencing and Three Strikes/Habitual Offender legislation. Through its support of ALEC, CCA is helping to create greater demand for its services as a result of changes in state policies that keep more people behind bars for longer periods.

Although this aspect of its work is not given a major emphasis in the report, it surely represents the most troubling impact of for-profit prison companies. With more than two million people behind bars and the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the U.S. certainly does not need companies with a vested financial interest in further growth influencing our justice policies.

As Grassroots Leadership's report so fully documents, CCA has little to be proud of in its 20-year-history. Unfortunately, the problems that have dogged it are unlikely to stand in the way of its growth, particularly at the federal level where its pro-privatization, pro-incarceration policies are mirrored by the current administration. Even at the state level, where the report optimistically suggests that declining prison populations will hurt the company, there are signs that cash-strapped state governments are again turning to the private sector to solve short-term problems without any consideration to the long-term impacts.

And even though CCA itself has pulled back from the international area after a number of well publicized problems, the model of prison privatization it developed is still being sold to nations in transition that can ill-afford either the social or economic costs associated with profit-driven prison growth.

CCA may believe it has much to celebrate. The rest of us have good reason to hold our applause.

Jenni Gainsborough is director of the Washington office of Penal Reform International.

© 2003 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 15, 2003


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Oh, the wind was hell today. I only went outside three times to get things stored in the yard. It was horrid. The cats stayed in all day. That's unusual for my cats; they generally love wind on sunny days. But this wind was lethal. Somehow, I've managed to put my tarps up so well, even sixty mile per hour gusts haven't ruined them! Wow.

I'm in SO MUCH pain! I worked on cleaning the house all day. I broke my vacuum belt, so I can't finish vacuuming until next month, when I'll be able to buy a new belt.

I didn't make a fire in the stove; I could hear wind blowing down the flu or is it flew? whatever. I didn't want to take a chance that wind might push sparks out of th stove.

I'm running out of stuff, and need to shop soon. But I'm not going out there until it's calm. I don't mind cold, but with wind, it's impossible and dangerous.

I'm waiting right now for the local tv weather report, so I can plan my week.

I only have five dollars in the bank, and two in my wallet. So I'm trying really hard not to take the bus anywhere, if possible.

Cold weather is so hard on me; I can't go out at all. That's why I was so excited about the scooter and why I'm so sad the inner tube popped.

I got invited to a concert at the university yesterday. It's only 3 blocks from here. But I don't know where the concert hall is. I can't see well and I knew I should save my strenght for walking to the grocery. So I didn't go. I feel bad about that; people don't invite me places. I'm afraid I may have insulted the person who asked me; he was playing in the concert, Handel's Messaiah. Damn. I'd have loved to hear that.

I'm crying a lot lately. The war, my frustration with my isolation and poor mobility, feeling helpless. I keep very busy, but I'm accutely aware of my outcast status.

To add to all this, and being alone during the holidays, my body is trying to go through menopause, but isn't quite there yet. The menopause part would be just fine with me. But I've got my 2nd menses in less than a month and THIS one is AGONY! It's not my uterus cramping which hurts; that's not happening. But that missing fallopian tube area is a HARSH and brutal pain. I favor it, but it doesn't help. Without warning, I'll get a deep and sickening pain that stops me cold. It hurts soooo bad.

Those bastards at that hospital mangled me!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

My Writing

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Written to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thriftylivingabq/

I have energy for developing this if you can't, Luiz.

Nice to meet you, by the wa and thanks for the welcome.

There's an alley behind my home. I talk to homeless people, almost every time I'm out there gardening.

I've been homeless. I did it before ordinary people were online. Scrounging up resources is hard without a phone or an address!

The library has computers they can use, but it's hard to get there.

I'm hoping that, between this group and abqfree, I can help hook people up to what they need.

I've also been working toward a book or newspaper column on living well with little money.

Many middle class people are in debt and stressed out. Some are downsizing: reducing their expenses and budgets, so they have more time for what's important to them.

I'm hoping my writing will help both populations of people.

You can see some of my stuff here: http://rriverstone.com/kitchen/index.html at least, I HOPE that's the right email addy!

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Pleading our own cause

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Pleading Our Own Cause
By Makani Themba-Nixon, ColorLines
December 9, 2003

Drawing its inspiration from the environmental justice movement and their efforts to advance a different analysis from the "mainstream" environmental movement, media justice proponents are developing race, class, and gender conscious frameworks that advance new visions for media content and structure. There are even plans for a Media Justice Summit in late spring 2004, the first gathering of its kind.

Says co-convener and technology expert Art McGee, "We're modeling the Media Justice Summit on the historic Environmental Justice Summit that occurred over a decade ago, in which people of color and the poor came together and made explicit their environmental issues and concerns, which had not been a part of the mainstream agendas of mostly white groups like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace. We're about to do something very similar."
Of course, media justice is not new. It is the logical outgrowth of the larger movement for justice. It is the microphone that helps us touch others when we are advocates, the mirror that reflects our dreams and fears when we are consumers, and the vehicle through which we actualize our stories when we are producers.

For media scholar and long-time advocate Mark Lloyd, the movement that calls itself media justice today is just getting back to these civil rights roots. "I think what is considered the media justice movement is less rooted in the consumer or public interest movement than it is properly rooted in a movement that began with the traditional issues and concerns of civil rights; a movement that is concerned with equality, with political representation, the impact of culture on institutions like media and schools."

Lloyd observes that this historical context is key to understanding the need for groups to create a media justice "space" outside of the traditional media "consumer" or democracy movement. "We have institutions like the New York Times, or The Nation, or foundations that are dominated by people who tend not to be people of color, and they do not see people of color as integral to this movement, but they see this 'public interest stuff' as separate or important and maybe see this 'civil rights stuff' as passe."

The failure to make these connections has dogged the "media democracy movement" for years. With Thomas Jefferson among their pantheon of heroes and the flag as the backdrop, it has been hard for many people of color to comfortably join their ranks. Add to that the movement's commitment to "content neutral" reforms and its focus on important but distant technological issues like set top (the little digital box on your cable TV), and you get an agenda that lacks what gets most of us riled about media in the first place: we care deeply about content. In fact, we care about ownership and funding and access so that we can get the mic, the Mac, the airwaves, and in the final analysis, own, create, consume, and even collectivize media that reflect our needs, our values, our image.

By ignoring content and retreating to the safer ground of consumer rights, media democracy advocates have been able to strike alliances among mostly white, mainstream groups that span the pink haired and pierced to right wing broadcasters. And like most big tent affairs, race and content issues are seen as divisive, unwieldy, and just not strategic.

It's ironic, as the modern day battle for fair media began in Jackson, Mississippi, where the African American community decided they'd had it with racist coverage and no access. They filed complaints and took outlets to court in a campaign that forged the policy framework on which most beltway lawyers rely today. Then, racist content and unfair treatment were more than mere distractions in the "real battle" for media democracy and regulation. It was the heart and soul of the movement.
This history is certainly front and center for media justice proponents of today. It shapes where we've been, who has been advantaged and disadvantaged, and where we go from here. Without a vision firmly rooted in this context, they say, we'll have better, high-speed resolution for the same old oppression.

For McGee, understanding the history also helps us understand and draw inspiration from the historic leadership role that people of color have consistently played in media work. "Black journalists, publishers, and activists have been fighting for media justice since before the birth of this country. For those who think that a people-of-color-led fight for media justice is new, just check out the history of both black people's overall struggle to have some degree of control over their portrayal as human beings, and the tireless work that countless black journalists have done to try to democratize the media landscape in this country. As Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm said in the premier issue of Freedom's Journal back in 1827: 'We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.'"

For more information on Media Justice and the upcoming summit, visit
MediaJustice.org. Makani Themba-Nixon is the director of the Praxis Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to capacity building, technical assistance, research, and training for community-based policy change.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

the Creeping Crud has found me!

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Oh, lord, I barely made it back from trash picking and shopping today! It was SO cold out there, my cheeks were numb by the time I got to the store!

I walked VERY slowly and deliberately. Couldn't risk a pulled muscle or a wrenched joint in this cold!

I found the cutest, black, wire bird cage. I found a good-as-new garden hose, to replace my patched, taped, hose-clamped, drippy, squirty mess. I found a sock doll with watermelon seed eyes, straw hair, and a heart-button mouth. I found a stuffed, pink pig. I found shelf brackets for my bedroom window shelf I want to build for more indoor vegetables. I found a foot-long, Philips head drill bit. I found a tire iron, small enough to carry as a weapon. I found a brand-new, black canvas bag for groceries. I found a new telephone cord, thank gawd; my other one's spliced together in three places!

And I found something poor, ol' Porkchop really needed: a new choke chain. His old one is so small, I almost pulled his ears off, taking it off his head! The new one is larger links, too. The old one was pinching all the hairs off his neck!

I found a midnight blue, velvet dress with white satin collar and cuffs. I found a flower-printed, black chiffon skirt. I found 2 wool cardigans: black and grey.

I found a bamboo box: strips of bamboo, basket woven, in the shape of a small treasure chest.

By the time I got everything put away and the cats fed, I was shaking, I was so tired and weak.

I lay down for awhile. I realized that, when I blink, my eyelids feel hot on my eyes. That means a fever, and a bad one.

So, although all I wanted to do was sleep, I hustled into the kitchen.

I made a big pot of turkey soup.

I chopped together: 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 giant sweet onion, the heart of a stalk of celery. I threw them in the water pot.

I tossed in a can of chicken broth, chili pepper flakes, parsley, black pepper, sage and tumeric.

When that came to a boil, I added rice.

I chopped up the last of the turkey and threw it in, along with the container of gelatin/broth/pot scrapings.

I have several cans of vegetables I found in the dumpster. I added a can of bamboo shoots, with the canning juice. I drained off the juice from a can of whole, kernel corn and a can of baby peas and gave the juice to the dog. That's an easy way to feed animals some extra vitamins; why pour it down the sink?

I'm not adding the peas until the rice is done; I hate mushy peas. Canned peas are bad enough, anyway. I don't buy them' frozen tastes better, if I can't get or grow fresh. When I have a can, I save it for a meal where I can hide it, like meatloaf or soup. But these are a "gourmet," organic brand. I ate one out of the can. It's not too grainy or pasty, and it's still sweet. But they'll go in last, right when it's time to turn off the heat.

It's all simmering on the stove as I write. I made about a gallon and a half.

The dirty dishes are soaking in hot water to wash later.

I'm very sick. I took aspirin. I filled my water filter. I have plenty of tea bags, honey, oranges, apples. I have sodas.

I hope I don't have this flu. I hope it's just a cold. But even colds, with me, turn into bronchitis and pneumonia easily.

There's a lot of physical work I can't, and want to, do: house cleaning, laundry, etc. I'd like to walk to Stadium grocery (apx. four miles, round trip) for cheap dog food tomorrow. But I don't know.

Today, I'm just resting.

But it feels like a "whopper" is coming. I'm glad I made myself cook that soup! In an hour or so, I'm going to be pitiful.

BTW: MSNTV SpellCheck doesn't recognize: tumeric, dumpster or meatloaf!

I just ate the world's best pickles!

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You know I rarely mention brand names, and buy generic whenever I can. I'm not getting paid for what I'm about to say, not even in pickles.

Well, Porkchop and I went trash picking this morning. We did pretty well; I'll tell you about it later.

I went to Smith's because they had milk and sodas on sale. They also had a brand of cat cookies my brats actually like, 18 lbs. for six dollars.

Back in the marked-down bin, I saw pickles. There were relishes, and I got 3 jars, cuz I'm always making salad sandwiches.

They had 32 oz jars of plump, pretty, Kosher-style dills.

And they had dill hamburger slices. Normally, I don't buy these; I find them flabby, way too sour, and salty. But these said, "Kosher."

Since the whole dills had a chili pepper in the jar, I thought, "what if?." Well!

Now, I haven't eaten the others, but, when I got home, I cracked open the hamburger slices. I figured, if any of them were going to be awful, these would be they.

I braced my self and licked the pickle. Garlic and onion, followed by just a twinge of chili, mixed well with brine and vinegar. They were PERFECT! An absolute JOY to eat! I stood over the kitchen sink and ate a couple dozen of them! I never eat more than one hamburger slice, with a meal to "dilute" the flavor, not to mention alone!

There are several more jars of them at Smiths, and I'll look for them the next time I go back. They taste like real, Eastern European, Jewish deli pickles, the kind that are preserved in brine and garlic. But they definately have vinegar, although not so much that my mouth hurts.

These are the BEST pickles I've ever not canned myself!

Speaking of which, I'm saving the brine; it'll make GREAT pickled eggs, onions, etc.!

Hunn's Private Stock

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The welfare state or "$48 billion in loose change"

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I'm not allowed decent, affordable housing, medical care, dental care, eyeglasses, accessible public transportation, medicines, wholesome foods or anything else that resembles a decent standard of living.

I'm a leach, living off the "welfare state." Yeah, right.

Here's the 411 on 911 you didn't hear. The events of that day made the following news null and void, as more money was quickly dumped into a Pentagon which seems to be run by the guys who brought us Enron, mutual fund milking and junk bonds.

Where's the money???

What ELSE slated for 9-11-2001?

The following, plucked from the obscurity of the CBS news website, is interesting in that it reveals one major item that was to occur on Sept. 11, 2001 -- a full review of the Pentagon's missing funds. "According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in [Pentagon] transactions,"
Rumsfeld admitted. But instead of ordering a full-scale review of the
missing TRILLIONS, the attacks happened.

We believe that the Green Party should raise this issue as part of the
Presidential campaign: "Where is the missing $2.3 trillion dollars?"

Where that investigation leads may prove to be interesting. (Better put on
yer bulletproof vests.)


The War On Waste
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 29, 2002

(CBS) On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war. Not
on foreign terrorists, "the adversary's closer to home. It's the Pentagon
bureaucracy," he said.

He said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat.

"In fact, it could be said it's a matter of life and death," he said.

Rumsfeld promised change but the next day �Sept. 11-- the world changed and
in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten.

Just last week President Bush announced, "my 2003 budget calls for more than $48 billion in new defense spending."

More money for the Pentagon, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports,
while its own auditors admit the military cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends.

"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions," Rumsfeld admitted.

$2.3 trillion �that's $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. To
understand how the Pentagon can lose track of trillions, consider the case
of one military accountant who tried to find out what happened to a mere
$300 million.

"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on," said Jim
Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Minnery, a former Marine turned whistle-blower, is risking his job by
speaking out for the first time about the millions he noticed were missing from one defense agency's balance sheets. Minnery tried to follow the money trail, even crisscrossing the country looking for records.

"The director looked at me and said 'Why do you care about this stuff?' It took me aback, you know? My supervisor asking me why I care about doing a good job," said Minnery.

He was reassigned and says officials then covered up the problem by just writing it off.

"They have to cover it up," he said. "That's where the corruption comes in.

They have to cover up the fact that they can't do the job."

The Pentagon's Inspector General "partially substantiated" several of
Minnery's allegations but could not prove officials tried "to manipulate the financial statements."

Twenty years ago, Department of Defense Analyst Franklin C. Spinney made
headlines exposing what he calls the "accounting games." He's still there,
and although he does not speak for the Pentagon, he believes the problem
has gotten worse.

"Those numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year," he said.

Another critic of Pentagon waste, Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, commanded the Navy's 2nd Fleet the first time Donald Rumsfeld served as Defense Secretary, in 1976.

In his opinion, "With good financial oversight we could find $48 billion in
loose change in that building, without having to hit the taxpayers."

�MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Mutant popover, German pancake

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As you know, I've been experimenting with traditional, European peasant foods -- nowadays called, "cuisine," particularly French.

It's the daily products of a small, family farm: milk products, eggs, grains, produce.

Rarely, there's a bit of meat, stretched as far as it can go, and used to flavor the four basics listed above. The meat's generally poultry, as fowl grow faster than four-leggeds and reproduce more plentifully.

I've been making lots of crepes lately. I remember them from childhood. They take scant moments to produce, especially if I use all 3 of my eight inch cast iron skillets. Two eggs, a dab of water, a tablespoon of cream, and about half a cup of flour will render about six to eight crepes.

Well, I'm wearing my floppy-sleeved caftain this morning. It hangs over the burners as I reach for pan handles. So, rather than risk spontaneous combustion, I decided to try something different.

I melted a thin sliver of butter in one of my well-seasoned cast iron skillets, turned off the heat and let the pan cool. I preheated my oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

I whipped up my crepe batter, but reduced the water. It made a thick batter. I added a dash of vanilla extract.

I poured the batter in the skillet and set it in the hot oven.

I started a pot of coffee, poked the fireplace coals, prepared the dishes to wash. By then, about twenty minutes, my concoction was done.

As I'd hoped, the egg had climbed the uneven surface of the skillet and made a huge, poofy cake. It was taller than the sides of the skillet and curling in on the edges, like a bowl.

It slid effortlessly out of the skillet onto a plate. I spread it with butter. I sprinkled powdered sugar on it. I squirted juice from a cut orange on it.

It's a small German pancake. It's a giant pop over.

It's spongy and fluffy, a bit crisp where it touched the pan. It's light and smooth and sweet and perfumed.

I didn't use a recipe. I just remembered what I knew about baking with eggs.

If you don't make one, you're not truly alive!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Sorry I Haven't Been Around

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I'm sick.

I'm also discouraged, because my scooter tire's flat, I can't replace it, and I can't get around in the cold. So I'm pretty much housebound.

And my bank stole $60 from me.

They let my account read "$3.00" for nearly a week. I took out $1 one day and $2 the next day, to buy cigarettes at the local store.

I'd have bought a carton at the Pueblo Cultural Center for $12, but the scooter was flat and the busses didn't run Thursday or Friday of Thanksgiving week, so I was stuck buying cigs for more than twice the price I normally pay.

The bank says each transaction was an overdraft, and charged me $30 per each.

They won't take off the penalties.

So, once I paid the rent, the MSNTV bill and bought a carton as soon as I could, I now have less than $30 cash left for the month.

And, of course, last month Food Stamps sent a letter, stating that I'm now receiving only $60/mo. instead of $90.

So, I'm very discouraged. I can' buy an innertube until January.

Several people said they were buying arts & crafts from me; I haven't heard from any of them again for over a week.

So, I'm doing the best I can not to get depressed.

Stu, a gardener friend of mine, took me to Stadium Grocery the Saturday after Thanksgiving and GAVE me $20. I got lots of eggs, fruits, vegies another turkey, more cream cheese and sour cream, etc., all on sale.

I made a turkey pasta with alfredo sauce. I've made turkey tacos and turkey salad. I don't get sick of turkey, and could eat it forever, as long as I can prepare it in different ways.

I'm making crepes and filling them with all kinds of different fruits, jams, etc.

I put my new blue tarp up in my back yard, which took me days to finish.

I still putter in my front yard and my empty lot garden, when weather permits.

And I'm doing some major house cleaning when the weather's bad.

I'm getting the house ready for some big sewing and crafts projects to tide me over until spring. I've found some Rubbermaid storage containers and a filing cabinet in the trash, so that's helping me declutter and organize my supplies.

I'm putting one foot in front of the other.

My food stamps come on the 8th. Normally, I check calendars every day at the beginning of the month, waiting for Grocery Day. Today, I don't even know the date, because I have plenty of food in the house and don't need to worry yet.

But I'll go soon, when the weather warms back up.

It could snow today, so the cats, dog and I will be working in the house.

My little garden is so weather proof now, Snuffy sleeps outside at thing in one of my covered cat beds. I think the furnace and fire place make it so dry in here, it's hard for him to breathe with his sinus condition. So, I'm working on a humidifying system, made from an old soup pot on a coffee pot hot plate, with my fan to blow the vapors through the front of the house better.

The back bedroom is the only room with the heater vent open, and I have a curtain across the door way, to keep the heat in the room better.

So, in a few days, Snuffy should be able to sleep in the front of the house, where it'll be cooler, but less dry. And the other cats, Porkchop and I can sleep in the back where it's warmer but drier.

Poor ol' Snuffy! His sinuses give him fits!

Monday, December 01, 2003

Count To 14

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Fourteen seconds. Count.

There. Another person is infected with AIDS.

Count another fourteen seconds. There. Another person is infected with AIDS.

Did you have a hard day?

I did. I'm emotionally exhausted, from telling a new friend, Stu, a little of my experience with homelessness and with losing my daughter, all the while being socially ostricized.

I'm physically exhausted from trying to do too much work outside, too fast, while the weather holds out.

I'm in a lot of pain.

But I am not an infant child, dying of AIDS, orphaned because BOTH my parents, and most of my siblings, died of AIDS, too.

I am not a raped woman in India, whose husband gave her the virus and then threw her out when she showed symptoms.

I am not dying of AIDS, alone, socially ostricised, hungry, homeless and helpless.

Count to fourteen. There. Another person is infected with AIDS. Every fourteen seconds.

Now, go here and donate one little dollar: 46664. That's Nelson Mandela's prisoner number.

You think you had a hard day?


Thank you,

Rogi A. Riverstone

Sunday, November 30, 2003

baby, it's cold outside!

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baby, it's cold outside!

Group: news:alt.discuss.clubs.public.arts-lit.writing.rriverstone
Date: Sun, Nov 30, 2003, 6:55am (MST-1)
From: (Rogi Riverstone)

But it's going to warm into the high fifties. So, as long as it's not windy, I can work outside today.

I found a blue tarp in the garbage a few weeks ago. I have a green tarp over my ard which is getting too sun rotten and is starting to fray from the wind.

I have 3 tarps over my yard: heavy grey, on the back side, the green at the angle of the L heading toward my door, and blue over the door and front entrance. I think it'll look more presentable to have matched blue tarps in front.

It's going to be a chore. The green tarp attaches to the grey right at the peak of the roof. And I only have step ladders. So, I'll have to use ropes, pullies and long handled brooms and garden tools to get the new tarp up and get the old tarp up.

While I'm up there, I'll hang that rainbow striped Hoby surfing sail I found last month, to cover the seam between the grey and blue tarps, and to add some color to my yard.

I've found two more plastic storage tubs in the garbage. One is a real Rubbermaid tub, with a lid, about ten gallons. So, I can organize tools into those.

I found 2 Rubbermaid under bed storage containers last week, with lids. They're large enough for me to store my video tapes. The storage containers the tapes are in currently can go outside for gardening tools, etc. They're not weather proof.

This is a small apartment, and I have lots of tools and art supplies which need storing between uses.

And I don't like clutter. So I'm always glad to find storage that can be made invisible by stashing it under furniture and such.

While I'm working in the yard, I'll do some laundry and other water chores.

The cats made it pretty clear, the other day, that they've missed helping me out in the yard.

I sure wish I had a ladder!

Saturday, November 29, 2003

#1 On Google!

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I'm so amazed! My Hood Life blog is now ranked #1 at Google, when people search for "hood life!"

THANK you for making my humble blog a special place on the internet!


I'm No Vegetarian!

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I finally got to a store today. Not Stadium; I don't even know if the Broadway bus comes on Saturday, and it only passes once every forty minutes on week days.

There are about six groceries, all independently owned, under Affiliated Foods. They all sell the same generics, and often share the same advertising that comes in the mail.

So, I went to Fair & Square, straight on the Central Ave. (which runs only three blocks from my house) bus line. I thought they'd have the same ad as Stadium, and I could get a turkey there. But they didn't. And what they advertised was scant and over priced: normal, for the week after Thanksgiving.


I forgot: chicken doesn't sell well Thanksgiving week. They had a dozen packages of whole, cut up friers, marked down to two pounds for a dollar! I got three, each less than two dollars. I froze two, and will fry one tonight. They had generic cigarettes on sale, too: still more expensive than the Pueblo Cultural Center, but enough to tide me over for a week.

I HATED getting off the bus there, a block from my old War Zone apartment, two blocks from the old boarding house. No trees. Bleak. Passersby on the street looking worn and crazy and depressed and frightened. It literally stank.

I got my food and walked to the bus stop, my hunting knife in my fist on the stroller handle.

A young Black man sat on a suitcase at the bus stop, head down.

I walked up and said, "Now, you've got your suitcase, and you're leaving this hell hole. Rejoice! You're getting out! Be glad! Get on that bus and NEVER come back here!"

He lifted his head and smiled. He got out of jail yesterday, came home to his wife and kids, and found her high as a kite on crack, the kids dirty, and THREE boyfriends in the filthy apartment! He'd spent the night in the alley behind her apartment, and was leaving now.

I shook his hand and said, "no place but up, Bro! I don't care WHAT you did that got you in jail, just don't ever do it again! Get you a job, even if it stinks. Get yourself a crib. Save up your money and get your KIDS BACK! Get them out, TOO!"

He nodded and laughed.

I recognized a lot of people, on the streets and on th bus. I didn't speak to any of them.

As the bus pulled out and passed my old streets, I waved and said, "so long, suckahs!"

I couldn't breathe easily again until I saw the cutesie college shops on my side of town.

I pulled up with my stroller, let my dog out on his lead, said hi to the cats and said, "it's so good to be home." And that word, "home," hung in the air like a chime. It's hard here, yes. But it ain't the HELL I endured for ten, miserable years over there! I sat out in the empty lot, looking at my dead garden and my frisking cats and dogs and just rejoiced, tears in my eyes. There are trees here. It's quiet here. My pets and I are safer here. There are options here.

I hadn't realized how small and frightened I'd become from ten years of that hell.

Now, here's my fried chicken recipe:

I mix some corn meal, flour and corn flakes (if I have any) with sage, cayenne pepper flakes, black pepper, onion powder and tumeric in a big, metal bowl. I smash the flakes.

In a smaller bowl, I beat an egg, add some water and just a sprinkle each of sugar and chicken boullion.

I coat the chicken in the egg batter. I put it in the flour and scoop flour over the chicken. I press it down so the flour sticks well.

Dip the floured chicken back in the egg batter, repeat coating with flour.

In an electric skillet (I like them because they have a thermostat), preheated to 350 degrees farenheit, I put just a dab of either vegetable oil or shortening. If I have some bacon grease, I'll add maybe a tablespoon or two of that.

I lay the chicken in so no piece touches another. I slosh the hot oil onto the sides of the pieces.

I fry, uncovered, until the bottoms are golden brown. Then, I turn the pieces and repeat.

Once both sides are sealed and crisp, I put the lid on the chicken. I open the steam vents, so the crusts won't get soggy. I cook until a meat thermometer, stuck in a thick piece of meat (breast or thigh, but don't touch bone, only meat; bones get hotter faster than meat), reads 180 degrees farenheit.

I put a wire rack over the pan and lift the pieces, one at a time, onto the rack to drain. Then, I lay the pieces on a plate, covered in paper napkins, to absorb any remaining oil.

Then I cook another batch. Don't crowd the chicken; it won't cook evenly, the crust will fall apart and get soggy.

I'm usually eating a piece as others are cooking. I just can't wait!

Off to cook chicken now!

Friday, November 28, 2003

Feeling Like A Loser

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I STILL can't get to a store with a cheap turkey! I walked to Smiths today, about 2 miles round trip and there's ice on the ground and wind.

They stopped selling cheap turkeys yesterday and I missed it!

I did do some trash picking on the way, though. I found a bag of gold and red glass ornaments, gold and red GLASS bead garlands, red velveteen bows and a small, spiral xmas tree with star and lights.

SO, I strung it all up outside my front gate, along the fence, and under the eaves of my kitchen, where it'll be safer from wind and theft.

I put a big, cardboard box on top of my wheelbarrow out there, covered it in plastic and covered that with a dark green table cloth with holly leaves woven in it, shot with gold thread. I weighted it with a concrete block inside.

I stuck the spiral tree inside a flower pot and covered the dirt with silver mylar tinsil. I stuck 3 white twigs in the pot, covered with velveteen bows and balls. I stuck 4 silk pointsetta flowers inside the spiral tree.

I put the pot inside a silver mylar shopping bag that says "season's greetings" in small, green letters and set the whole thing on top of the box.

I have 3 plastic candy canes, about big enough to use as walking sticks, that I set around the wheelbarrow tree stand.

The lighted tree arrangement is right outside my kitchen window, so I can see the lights at night.

I have a grape vine wreath I found in the trash last summer, with eucalyptus sprigs, silk flowers and a huge rafia bow in corn husk color on it. I put 4 sand dollars, a tiny music box, a corn husk doll and a fabric horse from India on it. I also have a miniature wooden embroidery hoop, holding a fabric picture of a cat, tied to the wreath. I put the wreath in the middle of my front gate.

Everything out there is trash I found, except the music box and the horse, which were presents from friends.

It looks like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy plus Martha Stewart out there, and it didn't cost me a damn dime! NOBODY else around here will have any decorations; it would take away from the BEER DRINKING time!

I burst into tears in the grocery store today, because I'd planned my food SO CAREFULLY this month, and there's nothing left in the house to eat except a frozen, 2 lb pkg of grey hamburger meat, labeled "dog food." I don't even have any bread or pasta, so I'm going to have to eat something made up. I'm thawing the dog food now.

No busses ran yesterday or today, so I couldn't get to the stores that still have turkey for thirty seven cents a pound. I'll go tomorrow. But it'll still take two or three days for the damn turkey to thaw!

Losing that innertube on my scooter has caused a BIG problem, getting any food on Thanksgiving weekend!

I ended up buying two more of those cheap burgers at Wendy's on my way home. I ate one already and, even though I'm hungry right now, I'm saving the other for later.

So, yeah, I started crying in the middle of the grocery store.

I could barely walk at all, yesterday, from pain.

I'm in SO MUCH PAIN from walking that scooter home uphill for three miles or more the other day, and another two mile walk today in the cold.

It's really hard not to feel like a loser.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving Breakfast

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Well, I've been feeling rather low, since my scooter tire popped and I couldn't buy another turkey yesterday. Feeling trapped and deprived, as I've only a dab of turkey left, and a frozen package of grey hamburger meat marked, "dog food."

So, I decided to make myself a cheerful, if decadent, breakfast of that French toast with cream.

I started the sausage frying.

I beat the eggs, whipped in some cream and some vanilla.

I'm out of bread! All that's left is a flimsy heal and a slice that's squished. Well, French toast was designed to use up stale bread, but THIS was DEPRESSING! Besides, I'd mixed enough egg and cream for three slices!

So, I added flour and milk to the eggs.

I made five vanilla crepes, fried in butter, in a cast iron skillet.

As I flipped each, I barely dotted it with butter, cream cheese and either blackbery jelly or orange marmelade. I rolled each in the pan and laid it on a dinner plate.

As I worked, I turned and saw four, brown bananas on my kitchen table. They weren't creepy brown. They were just really speckled and screaming, "This is IT! We're RIPE, already!"

When the crepes were done, I lowered the temp. so I could melt butter without burnig it. I sliced all four bananas into the skillet and flipped them once.

I've seen Bananas Foster made, once, but don't really remember how. Something about cognac. Yeah, right. Set on fire.

I have a bottle of fake Amaretto I got about six years ago. I dribbled just a TAD in the bananas; I don't want to overwhelm the banana flavor with the almond. And the amaretto is very sweet, as are the bananas.

So, to flame it, I tossed in a jigger of bourbon, tilted the pan and fwoop! Bananas flambe!

After the flames went down, I folded in oh, maybe an ounce or less of cream. I was gentle, so I wouldn't smash the nanners.

I spooned some of my Bananas Riverstone over the crepes, like gravy. Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Two sausage patties.

The rest of the banana will be eaten later.

I can't describe the joy of each mouthful! Each crepe is a different flavor, and a delight to discover under the thick, creamy Bananas Riverstone. The crepes are light and spongey. The cream cheese adds some much-needed sour to the sweet.

It took me fifteen minutes to make, and that's only because I was washing dishes as the crepes and sausage fried!~

Deprived? With THIS mind? Impossible!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Lily Tomlin

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I almost missed watching a PBS special tonight. I don't know why I didn't know Lily Tomlin received the Mark Twain Award for American Humor. It's the highest award given for humor.

They picked the appropriate recipient.

In the 70s, Lily performed in a benefit for the Los Angeles Women's Building. So did Cris Williamson, Margie Adam and several other women. We were raising funds to move the Women's Building to a new location.

My roommates were among the producers. I was living in a collective household of six, on a hillside in Pacific Palacades, CA. Seems the Reagans lived near by.

Well, I was too terrified of Ms. Tomlin to even speak to her, either before or after the performance. We had a lovely party at the old women's building afterward. I'd perch here and there, in the corners and the shadows, and just watch Ms. Tomlin. She looked my way once, questioningly. I was wearing a 1920s hand silk screened silk chiffon dress. My head was shaved. I'd wanted to wear that dress to my high school prom, but my mother wouldn't let me. I still have some scraps of it.

Lily is a magnificent talent. Of course, Jane Wagner puts most of the words in her mouth. And that's a monumental job. Ms. Wagner is very perceptive, ironic, dry. She's a lot like Dorothy Parker, minus the maudlin alcoholism. When Lily speaks a Wagner line, my heart literally exhults in my breast. I am thrilled to hear my truth spoken by two genius women in one body.

Lily can portray an outcast without contempt for the character. Most jokes about bag ladies make me furious. But Tess, and her later bag lady, make me proud. They're prophets, critics and clowns. Like me. I named a truck I once owned "Tess," for one of Lily's bag ladies.

Now, I sat here tonight, watching this tribute to Lily, and I felt very ashamed of myself. I felt like a complete loser and failure. I am a good writer. I am a good reporter. I'm a decent artist and I'm a damn good performer. Hell, I'm even musical.

Lily didn't come from the "good side" of town. She came from poverty, abuse, alcoholism, uprooted southerners, trying to make a go up north. Just like my family.

But she made it out. Whoopi Goldberg made it out. Roseanne made it out, but burned like a moth in a porch light. Rosie O'Donnel made it out, but is too nervous to enjoy herself.

What's wrong with me? How come I'm living like a hermit, in other people's pants, with broken teeth and a busted down scooter?

I tell myself I didn't try hard enough. But is that really true, or just the biproduct of living in the age of Rush Limbaugh style blame-the-victim syndrome?

I have volunteered in community groups my entire life. I've worked to publish magazines, produce radio broadcasts, research news stories, operate food pantries, start community centers, plant gardens, run churches, protect children, resist wars, harbor refugees, play flute in concerts.

All the while, I supported myself at menial jobs. They were all I could get; I couldn't afford any college education beyond two-year community colleges. Without a degree, all I could do was factory work, pizza delivery, house cleaning, janitorial, nurses' aid: minimum wage, no benefits. I'd come home so sick and tired, I couldn't even make supper.

And, speaking of college, I kept taking classes, anywhere and everywhere I could: all over California, in Kentucky. And I'd LOVE to go here; I'm right down the road from a community college. But I can't afford tuition.

I can't do the physical work I've always done anymore to keep a roof over my head.

And I don't know if it's these reactionary times, the conservatism and reactionary cliquishness of my present location, or if I'm just too "out there" for people to tolerate, but nobody here gives me even an opportunity to show them what I can do! I volunteer all over the place, but am not welcomed to stay and work. In fact, if I stick around long enough, they'll invent excuses and put up road blocks to keep me out. And I get angry, make a fool of myself, and get a reputation for being a crack pot, I'd have to assume. I don't know this; I'm guessing.

So, I'm a failure. My poetry is in foot lockers, unpublished. My art sits on shelves, unsold. My blogs and web pages go unviewed (about 10 visits per day, each). My love burns in my heart, unacknowledged.

My greatest fear, and I'm sure it'll come true, is that I'll die in here, all alone and my life's works will be thrown in the dumpster, unread, uncared for. My animals will be killed and I'll be a specimen at the medical school. And that's all I will have been good for. A joke about bag ladies.

Alice Walker wrote an essay a long time back, before she got too comfortable with new age and hot tubs. It was called, "In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens." Poor women don't have to grow flowers. We don't have to sew quilt pieces into patterns. We don't have to braid the bread for it to be edible.

We poor women who create do it to keep from going crazy. We're smart. We can't make ourselves small enough and dull enough to tolerate the monotony of day after week after year of drudgery, abuse, deprivation, taunts and exploitation without SOME beauty.

Our gardens are our art. ANYthing from which some color, some life, some joy can be fashioned keeps us from suicide or worse.

So, Lily Tomlin makes me cry. Because she made it. Some how. I don't know how, or I'd have done it, too. It's not like I didn't try.

Lily made it. For every Lily, Whoopie, etc. who made it out, there are approxemately three hundred million women who didn't, if the population of the planet is six billion, if half are women, and most of us poor.

I have an education. That makes it worse. It's the tortures of Tantalus, knowing how close I am to freedom, and how chained I am by prejudice.

I do try. I try damn hard.

I'm not lazy; I'm exhausted.

I'm not crazy; I'm scared.

I'm not weird; I'm wise.

I'm not a failure; I'm failed.

All my LIFE, I've been told, "you have so much potential! Why don't you DO something with it?"

I did. I survived incest. I survived abuse. I survived homelessness and rape. I didn't become a junky or a drunk or a hooker or a thief. I didn't die, even though there have been times when I sincerely tried to kill myself.

I don't want to be famous. I'd like to be successful. I'd like to make what's around me better, like I do with the animals I've rescued and the garden I've scratched out of hot gravel.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I'll spend it alone, without enough food, because I'm in too much pain to cook. I'll see the heart warming commercials about eating too much, spending too much, being a good, conspicuous consumer. I'll hear all about family love and friendships and children.

And I KNOW I'll cry. I cried tonight, for the military, stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. I cried for the helicopter pilot from Kirtland who came home for the holidays in a body bag. I cry for Lori Piestewa's children. I cry for the dead of Manifest Destiny: "Kill them all, big and small; nits make lice!" I cry for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the USA.

But I'll try to watch some movies on my VCR. I'll comfort myself the best I can.

I was so scared today when that inner tube popped. People jeer and throw things at me, when I'm on the scooter. I was in a bad part of town. I risked my LIFE, just to get some damn groceries, and came home empty handed! And exhausted.

No, I am not lazy.

I hereby present the Mark Twain Award for American Humor to Rogi Riverstone.

So, Lily Tomlin makes me cry. Because she made it. Some how. I don't know how, or I'd have done it, too. It's not like I didn't try.

It's not like I've stopped trying.

Tire Repair

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I think I just figured out what I can do to repair that tire, if the tube can't be patched. And, since I drove on that flat tube for about two blocks without knowing I'd had a flat, I'd say the tube's probably toast. I'm lucky I didn't shred the rims of the tire!

I will sew a donut. I have some jeans that reporter gave me. I'll carefully measure the width and diameter...or is it circumfrance?...well, you know what I mean.

I'll sew a tube of denim, about three layers thick. I'll fill it with sand. I'll sew another tube of that clear, vinyl shower curtain material and pack the denim donut inside it. I'll put the whole thing inside the tire.

The problem was how to evenly distribute weight on a moving wheel, so it wouldn't bump. Something like foam rubber is too prone to get a dent in it.

But a tubular sand bag wouldn't. The sand will distribute itself around the wheel as I go, compensating for any acute pressures, such as running over a stick or a rock.

I'll have to sew it by hand, with nylon fish line. I'll alternate the seams of each layer of denim..maybe I should either use two or four layers, to keep that even. The seams will have to be along the side walls, not against the road.

I'll have to take my time, make small, strong stitches in a double seam. Maybe I should paint the denim with some of that oil-based house paint, too, once it's filled. That would make it water resistant and help keep small particles of sand from escaping the weave. There's a park with a sand box not far from here.

It's going to have to be a snug fit. I don't want that tire sliding on the wheel. I'll measure by using the inflated tire on the front, minus the thickness of the other tire.

It probably won't last too long. I imagine the wheels can get pretty hot, because they're small and turn fast.

But I go slowly, usually because I have Porkchop with me. I take lots of breaks. I ride in sprints, not in marathons.

My longest trip is to the Pueblo Cultural Center, about 12 miles, round trip. I guess I could go back to taking the once-an-hour bus there. damn.

I knew, when I got this scooter, that it's a prosthetic device to enhance walking. It's not a motorcycle or a car. And I knew not to treat it otherwise.

I just put new tubes on the stroller/trailer about a week or so ago. One of those tubes is already popped from a goat head. It's just too hard, on thin tires, to get around this god forsaken hell hole town! You should see the beer bottles all over the streets!

I THINK this might work.It's definately worth a try.

I'll still remove the tire tomorrow for inspection. But, frankly, patching a load-bearing tube sounds pretty iffy. Maybe I can swap it with the FRONT tube. That might help.

I'm too tired to care.


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It happened just as I predicted, and just where I'd imagined.

I got a flat on my back tire on Edith Street, about three miles from home.

I couldn't get the fix-a-flat nozzel onto the valve stem. So, I folded up the scooter, took off the seat, put it in the stroller and walked it home. It was uphill most of the way.

Porkchop was a real sport about it, considering he was walking three-legged most of the way, because of all the goat heads everywhere. Poor guy!

We took only one, real break: in front of the convenience store, about four blocks from my house.

I broke down and bought four dollar burgers at Wendy's.

The busses won't run tomorrow, because of Thanksgiving, so we'll be stranded. I only have enough turkey left for two more meals.

I bought a 2 liter bottle of Coke on sale for a dollar, too.

It was quite windy out. My lips got chapped and my spit was thick. I was pretty dehydrated and very hungry by the time I got to that store.

Porkchop knew it when we got about a mile from the house, even though we took a route we've never taken before. He took the lead and trotted ahead, meaning business. He wanted to go to sleep. He had four water breaks on the way home. I had none.

He's at my feet, snoring peacefully.

As we came up the alley, I saw a big, black plastic trash bag, next to the dumpster next door to me. That's always a good sign. Someone in that apartment leaves out decent food (earlier this year, I found a frozen turkey!). I've gotten a lot of canned and dry goods that way.

Well, the bag was TEN pair of sweat pants! Brand new; the fleece is still fleecy; with pockets; they're my size. They smell freshly washed.

Usually, I'd throw them in the washer before wearing them, but I know they're clean. I'm wearing a pair on my aching, throbbing legs right now.

Normally, I'd have to sew up crotches, clean stains, sew holes, etc. in sweats; people don't usually throw them out until they're not fit for cleaning rags.

Sweats and stretch pants are the only pants I can wear. My genitals are mutilated; my mother tried to tear them off with her fingernails when I was very young. Non-stretchy pants are too stiff in the crotch and cause me a great deal of pain. So, I mostly wear skirts and dresses. But, on REALLY cold days, my legs are always cold in even the thickest, longest skirts.

And I can't wear skirts on the scooter.

I'm too tired now. But tomorrow, I'll take that back tire off and survey the damage.

I'm thinking of forgetting about replacing the inner tube. I ride near the shoulders of the roads and on sidewalks, occasionally. I'm always dodging bottles, broken car glass, stickers, etc. I really need a tubeless tire, especially because it's the back, which takes the most weight.

But I won't be able to buy anything online from eBay or a manufacturer for months; I just won't have the money.

So, in the mean time, I'm thinking of stuffing the tire with something: perhaps towels, wrapped around a "donut" of hard foam rubber, or something. I wish there were some sort of self-healing gel innertube I could use that doesn't deflate. I avoid pot holes and bumps, so I don't need the shock absorbing quality of air too much.

I'm grounded until I can either patch the tube, find a replacement locally, or invent a substitute.

There's another grocery, on the main bus line that's two blocks from my house, which sells the same cheap turkeys and stuff this week. I'll have to go there.

Porkchop rode in the cart most of the way until we had the flat, so he didn't have to run or walk six, whole miles. He only walked a little over three. And my pace is slow, so it doesn't wear him out to walk with me.

But I know he's just as glad to be home as I am.

Hopefully, my legs will thaw out in these sweats. My butt's cold again!

I think I need a nap and probably a good cry. I was really looking forward to another turkey for tomorrow!


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I'm exercising every day. But I'm weak.

Yesterday, I washed 4 loads of laundry, mostly blankets, and hung them to dry. I watered and cleaned my garden. I worked on my "basket fence," added a small section of garden border, harvested my gourds. I tidied my little yard.

I made a big pot of animal food from the turkey carcass and a bit of old ham, chopped up. It's on the stove now, warming, so I can add cornmeal. I'll bake it tonight into kibble.

I need to go to the store today for another turkey. Everything will be closed tomorrow and drunks & out-of-towners will be on the roads, so I don't dare get on my scooter then.

I'm taking two and three hour naps, every day. But I'm always tired and sore.

I have the house warm, so I can shower. I'm waiting until after noon, when it's warmest out, to run my errand.

But I'm a little scared to go out there. If the scooter broke down, if I fell, whatever, I don't know how I'd get back home safely. I can't walk very far and I certainly couldn't push the scooter very far.

But I've got to go. I need at least one, possibly two, more turkeys, while they're so cheap.

It's been a week now, and I've almost eaten all the first turkey.

I made a new batch of mashed potatoes yesterday. The stuffing's almost gone.

This second turkey will be baked like the first. But I'll eat it differently. It'll be taco salads, turkey salad for sandwiches, barbeque, etc., to add variety of flavors and side dishes.

But I'm so weak!

I'm hoping I did more yesterday than I realize, but I honestly think I should have been able to complete yesterday's chores and still had enough strength for other projects.

Part of it may be that, after a three month break, I have my menses again. Darn! I was hoping that was over with.

A neighbor had to move suddenly, over in the war zone. She had a bunch of merchandise at her house, to sell at the flea market.

As she was leaving, she hollered out to me that the house was unlocked and that I could take everything they'd left, except the television and the microwave, which went to another neighbor.

I brought home at least two pick up trucks' worth of stuff, including a case of sanitary napkins. I thought at the time they might last me through menopause.

Well, that was about a year and a half ago. I've still got about a hundred pads left.

I literally moaned as I pulled another package out of storage, eyed the few packages remaining, and thought, "I don't ever want to have to buy these damn things again!"

So, maybe the assault to my body from that has weakened me.

I never had any trouble with my menses, not since puberty, anyway. Not until my baby died. Since then, it's been very VERY painful, especially on the left side of my abdomen, where my fallopian tube is missing now.

Every menses since has been torture and a hideous, physical reminder of the loss of my daughter. It's not nearly as painful as the first time was, but it's bad. Close enough.

So, maybe that knocked the wind out of me.