Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Monday, May 31, 2004

I have killed myself

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I've been working on my little yard, getting it ready to be an outdoor kitchen. I have all the large furnishings in place.

And, yes, I moved the damn washing machine..ugh.

I brought my patio table back inside my little yard. It'll be necessary for chopping foods, stiring stuff, etc. I put my beach umbrella in it; helps hold up the tarps and provides extra shading.

The cats are, of course, thrilled.

I managed to make space on the concrete slab for an old refrigerator, if we can find one. Since my utilities are included, and I don't use much electricity, I won't feel guilty. I'll throw an old blanket over the top, front and sides, to insulate it from heat. And it's in the shade, so that's good. We only need it to cool produce, mostly. The freezer will be handy, but even it doesn't need to run at full blast.

Now, to find a refrigerator...

I need one, anyway. When I find stuff on sale, etc, I could use the room.

It was all hideous, hard and painful work. I've been out there for about three hours. I can't do another thing for awhile. Besides, it's getting pretty warm out there.

I left some things out in the "empty" lot, but should be able to pick them up this evening, when it's cooler.

I'm really hurting. And I need a shower, but it'll have to wait 'til I rest up. It'd be dangerous for me to get in the shower now, as weak as I am.

Things out there look nice, neat and tidy. I can get to everything easily, too. That's the hardest part, of course: arranging things in a tight space so I don't have to unpack tons of stuff to get to one thing.

Between the barbeque, the hot plate, and the electric oven, we can do a lot outside. And I have my oven and stove inside, too.

I have a caddy with my cooking utensils in it; it can move back and forth from kitchen to out doors, I think.

I keep thinking it's Sunday all over again, for some reason. Guess cuz I'm not at the station? Whatever.

Well, I think I'll rest my tired, old body for the rest of the day.

I even walked to the store for a bottle of soda pop. I'll be danged if I'll work THAT hard without cola! LOL Iced tea is fine, for regular days, but hard work needs serious caffeine and sugar! Plus the burp factor. Breathing hard, I swallow air; soda helps me burp.

Ok, I'm going to watch Martha Stewart now and rest up for a shower...

boy, am I getting worked

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I woke at 5, but just lay around for a bit. Mugwart jumped up on my shoulder, sneezed and slobbered all over me and stomped and purred.

Soon, Miss Thing came up, got on the pillow beside me, and buried her face in my hand. More slobbers, as I stuck my knuckle in her ear and scratched it. Miss Thing likes sticking her head under the covers, and damn near scratched my arm off, trying to get in.

Now, Osa is on my chest, grinning and purring. She's being an absolute pest, tickling me with her long hair and dancing.

They've missed me.

Three of them sauntered out from their hiding places, under sunflower plants and the salt cedar, yesterday, when I came back from Food Not Bombs. They're so glad to see me, they don't even wait for the car that drops me off to leave. They never would have come out into the open in front of strangers, let alone a car with the motor running, before.

I got the rest of the fire wood moved from the corner in front of my door. I moved the milk crates of canned goods and the shelving boards to that spot last night.

I'll have enough room to move the washing machine onto the concrete slab/sidewalk area now. It is currently sitting on uneven ground, with bricks and boards under it. When it spins, it moves around until it trips its "tilt" switch and shuts itself off. So, the level concrete will be a blessing.

I found a plastic dog house in a dumpster about a year ago. I'm going to put it out in the "empty" lot, under the tree. Mostly, it's a cat house. Porkchop doesn't really understand getting inside something to sleep; he seems to think it's a trap.

He'll get in the dog carrier, on the scooter trailer, but he always gets back out as soon as I'll let him.

I'm going to have plenty of room for a Food Not Bombs kitchen, but it's a job. Lots of heavy lifting.

I can do it, but it's painful. I did something nasty to my left shoulder yesterday; it's very tender and the arm is weak.

So, I have my work cut out for me today, too.

We cooked at Steve's house yesterday. It reminded me of my boarding house & what I tried to do there. THey even have chickens, like I did. I miss it.

I'll get out there soon and start working, while it's nice and cool.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

it's Sunday

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The critters and I watered last night. Ordinarily, I'd do laundry, too, while the hose is on. But I really needed not to schlep heavy baskets of wet clothes and hang them.

So, we watered. I mean, I SOAKED the garden.

I pulled some weeds: about ten by three feet. Baby elm trees are too well established; I waited too long. So, I used the pressure sprayer around them, to really inject water and knock dirt loose. I'll pull those tonight.

The whole, back side of my large bed is weedy. I just didn't have time to fix it.

But it's cleaning up a lot easier than I'd have thought. If I can just devote some time to it this week, I ought to have it done and planted soon.

I think I'll put corn, beans and gourds back there, out of the way. The area needs to be terraced, to prevent water running into the alley. I have old boards and bricks for that. I have 10x25 sheet plastic I can fold, to line the fence and borders, to keep water in at the bottom of the hill.

I see a parsley plant is about to flower and seed. That's good. So is one cabbage from LAST year!

I have baby tomato plants, about two inches tall, in a container. I'll need to transplant them into the caged tubs and buckets soon. I'm going to plant some in the flower beds outside KUNM, too, so we can have fresh tomatoes with our lunches.

I didn't get the tire off the scooter last night. I'll try again, either this morning, or tonight.

Today's Food Not Bombs: the last day with the old crew.

Next week, the food gets stored here, and I transport it to Roosevelt Park.

I've decided soups are out, unless made with soy milk or somethign; I don't need to transport heavy pots of water.

Better to make casseroles, stir fry, etc. Pure food, no water. Less weight.

I've already started redesigning my back yard to accomodate. I can probably have most of that done by next week.

I've moved almost half the firewood out, so I can build shelves for kitchen stuff, where it was.

I've moved 2 trash barrels, in which I store stuff, to the outside garden, to make more room inside my gate.

So, I have plenty to do around here this week.

I owe National Native News, and, therefore, KUNM, one story this week.

That's only about 2 days' worth.

It'll be a busy week, what can I say?

I'll just have to pace myself, so I can get it al done, without hurting myself.

Saturday, May 29, 2004


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The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign joins with
organized labor and people across the hemisphere in
rejecting the "Central American Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA), which is to be signed by the governments of the US
and Central America in Washington DC today. As a movement of
poor people, unemployed, landless and homeless families,
small farmers and farmworkers across the United States, we
have lived first-hand the devastation that NAFTA has wreaked
on our lives and communities. We know that the deadly
conditions caused by mass downsizing, privatization of
health care, loss of land rights and social services, that
we and our Canadian and Mexican brothers and sisters have
suffered over the last ten years, will be made more severe
by the introduction of CAFTA and the proposed FTAA. Our
lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters, the poor of
Central America, are literally in danger as a result of
these agreements.

We urge everyone to join in the fight to stop CAFTA and the
FTAA, and to demand the basic economic human rights of our
families and communities and of all peoples of the Americas.
Please contact your congressperson next week and urge them
to vote NO on CAFTA.
La Campana de los Pobres por los Derechos Humanos Economicos
se une con el movimiento sindicalista y con nuestros
companeros de todo el hemisferio en rechazar el Tratado de
Libre Comercio de Centroamerica (TLCAC - conocido en ingles
como CAFTA), que se esta firmando hoy en Washington DC. Como
movimiento de los pobres, de los desempleados, de familias
sin vivienda y sin tierra, de campesinos y de trabajadores
de campo de todas partes de los Estados Unidos, hemo vivido
la devastacion que el TLCAN ha traido a nuestras vidas y a
nuestras comunidades. Sabemos que las condiciones de miseria
y de muerte causadas por las despedidas masivas, la
privatizacion de salud, la perdida de derechos a la tierra y
a los servicios basicos, que hemos sufrido junto a nuestros
hermanos y hermanas de Mexico y de Canada durante los diez
anos pasados, se haran aun mas graves a causa del TLCAC y
del ALCA. Nuestras vidas y las vidas de nuestros hermanos y
hermanas, los pobres de Centroamerica, estan en peligro como
resultado de estos acuerdos.
Urgemos a todos a que se unan a la lucha para rechazar el
TLCAC y el ALCA, y para exigir los derechos humanos
economicos basicos de nuestras familias y comunidades y de
toda los pueblos de las Americas. Favor de llamar sus
congresistas y decirles que se opongan al TLC
Centroamericano y al ALCA.

Almost everything I need!

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Oh, what fun I had!

Stopped at a chain drug store. Got 2/1 sanitary pads. Got new batteries for my transistor radio & my cordless Webtv keyboard. Got a bottle of a THOSUAND asprin, thank you!

Then I went to the Chocolate Cafe. Had a breakfast burrito. Ate half a cheese Danish. Took it, and a Triple Sec chocolate/orange cake to go.

Bought all that with "bad" checks, waiting for the bank to open.

Walked across street to bank when it opened; deposited a hundred; kept sixty.

Decided to walk back to Yale, in case I saw something good to buy, or in a dumpster; I didn't.

At Yale, I stopped at Campus Pharmacy for those cheap cigarettes. A carton was TEN DOLLARS!!!!! That saved me ten bucks over the Pueblo smoke shop, plus $4 in bus fare, for two months! I bought four cartons. That's about a month and a week's worth of smokes.

Well, I went to the duck pond. I found two eggs. I walked to the hall where I thought my meeting would be; it's NEXT week! LOL I studied during breakfast, and EVERYTHING! shoot....

So, since I was already tired, I walked to Smith's. They had Dryer's ice cream on sale, so I got me a big tub of chocolate...should make nice milkshakes, with the bananas I froze. Found a marked-down sirloin steak, too. And got another pound of butter on sale.

Stopped at Family Dollar. Got aluminum foil, 11 cigarette lighters for two fifty and dollar charcoal fluid.

Walked back. Found the other bicycle shop on Central. Their slime is three bucks cheaper than the bike store by my house, and he'll put it in, so I'll wait 'til I repair my inner tubes and take them back to him on Tuesday.

Bought 2 tire patch kits: one to replace To's and one for me.

Stopped at Jasmine's, the Middle Eastern...I think they're Egyptian....restaurant. BOught me a lamb shish kabob sandwich, with extra: pickles, turnip, olives. And I've always wanted a big slice of that bright orange, coconut cake. Their son waited on me. He asked if I wanted cheese filling or custard. I asked him what he likes; he got wide eyed and said, "CUSTARD!"

Well, it comes drizzled in something; can't tell yet if it's sugar syrup or oil. Something thick. I had a nibble, when I got it home: the "cake" is almost PURE shredded coconut! DANG, it's GOOD!

So, I'm home. I'm still full from breakfast, so the lamb sammich can wait awhile.

My plans for the afternoon are to lie here, under the air conditioner, resting, watching tv, blogging, and, of course....EATING!!!!!

I'll water my garden and fool with my tires this evening, when it cools off.

It's nice to have sanitary protection that doesn't dance around every time I move.

Oh, and I bought me a damn COKE! LOL

I got lots of change, so I can pay everybody back all the money they loaned me this month.

By Tuesday, I SHOULD be back on my scooter.

Now, if I could just find me a lounge chair I can lie down on, to take to KUNM, I'll be perfect. I need to rest my legs there, somehow.

Only bought what I needed, really, except for the food. But, dang it, I never to to restaurants. And I worked SO HARD for that money. The burrito was only two dollars. The sweets were extravegant, but screw it!

If I'd remembered that meeting was next week, I'd have taken Porkchop. He'd have had a blast!

Now, I'm just letting my heart rate lower, my body cool and dry, and my head stop throbbing from walking so far.

I didn't buy insoles; they're TEN DOLLARS! and they only had man's sizes. I'll make my own, thank you. I have rubber mats around here I can cut up.

A movie's on in less than an hour; guess I'll get into the lamb then....

It was SO NICE to take care of myself so well today, even if it DID wear my ass out! WHEW!

"women think in a circle"

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Well, I got up late, for me: 6am.

I'm listening to the hippy show, New Dimensions. The guest is a midwife. She worries me. She's WAY into hormones.

Hormones have been men's excuse to belittle and marginalize us forever.

When she said, "women think in circles," I thought about the women at KUNM. I CERTAINLY don't feel supported, as a woman, by the other women at the station!

The grrlz on da 1st floor, yeah: ordinary, working class women.

But that academic elite upstairs? I feel constantly pressured, jeopardized, judged and disenfranchised from THOSE women! The MEN upstairs are more supportive! Go figure...

Anyway, this woman is scaring me. 'course, she deals with women on a very fundamental, intimate level: child birth.

So, I'm trying to hear her without wanting to strangle her. I wonder if she's right. I wonder if she's selling us out. I wonder if BOTH are right, and, therefore, she's betraying an ancient, female secret...

I just don't want men to have more excuses to confine women to second class status....

My old body is protesting. But she's got to go to the bank this morning, whether she wants to, or not.

And, apparantly, there's some "penalty" for "unexcused absence" from this volunteer meeting. I have NO idea what that means. But it's a helluva statement to make, if one is soliciting RSVPs to a non-paid event!

So, if I DON'T show up this morning, it might be JUST the excuse they're looking for. Who knows?

I know I can't trust people at the station. Isn't that a sad thing to say?

It's hard to be assertive with my interview subjects. It's hard to announce a story idea, or any other idea, for that matter, when I feel prejudged and criticized before I've even opened my mouth.

Well, Scary Woman does have stuff to say. I recognize stuff she's saying. Yes, they've announced her name twice, but I haven't heard it. Told you she scares me.

Take what you need, and leave the rest, I guess.

I need more coffee....

Friday, May 28, 2004

$ fantasies

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I've just been lying here, fantasizing about stuff I want to eat tomorrow. I want a green chili cheeseburger with fries dipped in nacho cheese and jalepenos for breakfast.

I want some chocolatey, fudgey cake to bring home for later.

I want donuts, particularly French crullers.

I want a THICK chocolate malt, made with real ice cream.

I'd love a pastrami sandwich, but good luck, finding THAT in Albuquerque!

I just want to eat and eat and eat! I've been SO careful about stretching food!

I want a REAL Coca Cola. I know: sewage of imperialism, but that gingery after taste is so nice.

Unfortunately, I can buy almost everything I just mentioned, walking back to campus from the bank.

I will get the burger, at Frontier Restaurant.

Maybe, by then, I won't be so desperate for the rest?

But would one slice of fudgy cake from that Chocolate Cafe be SO terrible?


I could just wait 'til Monday, and go shopping at Smith's.

For what I'd have spent on restaurants, I could buy most of the ingredients, make it myself, have something better than restaurants serve, and have a lot more of it!

I could buy ice cream. I also have real whipping cream in the freezer; I could make a mousse.

The problem with being a good cook is: I never want to waste money in restaurants, when I could do it myself.

I do want to buy some of those gel insoles, for my shoes.

I'm waiting for .... to get back from CA to see if he brings me a bottle of Strega.

I should go to sleep.

But I can't stop dreaming about food.

I can actually take a bus tomorrow! I have exactly one dollar left, not countin the two in the bank. Give my feet a break.

I'm taking my collapsable stroller, to haul stuff around tomorrow.

Good thing I took a shower and washed my hair today.

I'm dressing up and putting on make up and everything.

Yes, I'll be careful. I'm desperate to get out from under that friggin bank.

But I am going to enjoy some of that money tomorrow.

Gawd knows, I earned it.

And, yes: somewhere along the line, I'll either get a lamb sandwich, or I'll buy lamb to barbeque, and buy Jasmine's home made pita bread, to eat it with.

I just want to feel animal fat in my mouth again.

...and chocolate.

FSRN check came!

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Dang! I coulda gone to the bank today! I wasn't really expecting it 'til Tuesday.

DANG! I coulda picked up the Wimin Fest comp!

Oh, well...

There's a meeting of KUNM volunteers tomorrow. I promised I'd give a thumbnail of 2 workshops I attended, during the broadcasters' convention. Free lunch.

So, I'll get up early, take my notes to study, get duck eggs, go to the bank and go to the meeting.

I MIGHT take my self out for breakfast!

Man, what a relief.

If the bank doesn't cash it, I'll have a damn fit. jerks.

I got more propoganda from Social Security today, about Bush's illegal legislation to support his pharmacutical buddies. All about how the drug companies can exploit me for "drug benefits." oh boy.

I'm still very sore.

At least I finally found the new walking shoes I found at the duck pond. I'd put them in a plastic grocery bag, to bring them home from the station, and buried them in dresses!

So, walking won't be as hard as it was the last, two days.

I'm SO tempted to take the motor off the scooter and put it on a bicycle!

I can buy some sanitary pads. And ASPRIN!

I feel so spoiled

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I sauteed a salmon today. Had some with brown rice. Been eating lots of yogurt, just cuz it tastes and feels so good.

Had a long, warm shower with my clean towels. The air conditioner's on, but I keep turning it back off, cuz it gets cold in here! LOL They say it's ninety one degrees Farenheit out there, but I'd never know it.

Almost all the clean and dirty clothes from the past 2 weeks are organized.

Mostly, though, I'm just laying around, buck nekkid, watching tv.

My body's still tender, but much better.

Just this one, half day of rest has made quite a difference. I almost feel human, instead of like a desperte savage.

Oh, I also made marinara sauce and noodles, with a can of tomato chunks. tastes quite lovely.

If I had money, I'd get me a lamb sammich....

Well, I'm pretty proud of myself

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I've managed several chores. I put the clean dishes away and washed almost all the dirty ones. I've sorted laundry to wash, and put away two baskets of clean.

I have fresh towels, hanging in the bathroom and kitchen.

I can actually see parts of the living room floor again.

I even took out a bucket of compostable materials.

I'm hurting and it's bad.

But I don't want to stiffen up from sitting still all day, either.

I blogged a lot this morning, too. My "in" boxes might not be empty, but they're smaller.

I'll just have to pace myself: work a bit, lie down a bit.

I feel a lot less overwhelmed now.

I have a post card: "If I do a little every day, soon, the task will completely overwhelm me."

That's what I was feeling... I didn't think I could ever catch up.

I HATE neglecting my home, and my body, for radio, but I made good money this week...when ever I get to see it. And I produced useful stuff for the listeners.

And, get this: someone from the Albuquerque Journal "googled" "rogi riverstone" last night, from a Pacific time zone! Guess they're on vacation, or something.

I hope it's an editor!

The Trib. interviewed me, not the Journal. So, I don't think it's the reporter.

But someone at the Journal knows my name.

One of the reporters at KUNM is working on a print piece for a local paper. They pay ten cents a word, and the reporter has 2,500 words. THat's two hundred fifty bucks! And it'll be a front page feature!

If I'm patient, and keep working my butt off, I could do that!

OUCH! I'm having spasms in the area where my missing fallopean tube should be! Better take it easy for awhile....moan.


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I'm still pretty crippled up. I found 3 remaining asprin, and just swallowed them all.

I can't afford bus fare, sanitary pads, asprin, nothing.

I'm using cut-up dog diapers again this month. JEes.

There's so much around here that needs doing, but it hurts to walk.

I'm puttering, but slowly and carefully. I've got to be very careful, how I move and how much I do.

I posted the National Native News announcement with my story highlighted in red. It's over in Daily Rogi, if you want to see it. I can't read their website well from my WebTV, so I don't know if you can access it in their archives. I'll have to look at it from a computer at KUNM.

I'm going to have to call Dean at KUNM to tell him I can't use the pass to Wimmin Fest; I'm too weak to walk all the way down town. And I KNOW I can't get rides, late at night, home. Damn.

I guess I could get there, pick it up, and SELL it for half its value. That would get me some money 'til my checks arrive.


I feel so trapped by my body and my poverty. I'm almost completely immobilized.

How will I pick up food? How will I cook? Do laundry? Garden?

I'm TERRIFIED someone will see how cluttered my apartment is right now, judge me as "lazy," and get me evicted. I'm just telling myself: it's a weekend holiday; nobody's coming here; I can get away with it 'til I feel better. BUt I'm worried.

All I can do is all I can do.

My apology to Viet Nam Veterans commentary appears on KUNM.org tonight, five pm Mountain Time, if you want to hear it. I didn't get to FTP it to my domain yesterday; I could barely think. dang. sorry.

I need to ask Bert how to best put sound on my web site, without eating up all my available bandwidth. Think I'll post it in his alt.discuss group as soon as I finish this post.

I'm really in bad shape. The thought of standing at the stove, long enough to fry an egg and bacon, just overwhelms me.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

did all I could

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I've been having uterine contractions, all day. It's as bad as my miscarriages, but without as much blood.

I was in so much pain today, I literally couldn't think.

I managed to reedit the Memorial Day commentary. That's pretty much it.

I boxed up my junk for the move tomorrow.

I brought in a 2 liter bottle of sugar water for the humming bird. Susan, the executive producer of Native America Calling, volunteered to keep it in her refrigerator, and feed the hummer while I'm gone tomorrow through Monday.

Hilda sold me a bowl of home made posole stew and a tortilla for lunch, on credit. I shouldn't have done it, of course, but she's so wonderful, I just can't resist her.

I spent the whole morning pretty much stunned and in shock.

Leslie gave me a ride on her lunch hour. She promptly locked herself out of her car, in my alley.

Fortunately, she'd left her window open by about an eighth of an inch. Tried wire, coat hanger, a piece of wooden lattice, and finally the bracket for a political yard sign, which worked.

My neighbor poked at the window button, 'til it unrolled and she could get in. Poor Leslie!

I immediately lay down. I watched about half an hour of General Hospital, just for the hell of it, but couldn't stay awake. I napped fitfully for about four hours. I have a bad fever and was sweating profusely, despite the air conditioning and my fan, both on full blast.

I got up at six, freezing and covered in clammy sweat.

I'm staying in bed for the evening. My legs barely work. That neck/shoulder/head thing is bad and don't get me started on my belly and back!

I got an email last night from KUNM Operations. I was the first caller for a free pass to Wimmin Fest, an arts/comedy/music/performance weekend at various venues downtown this weekend.

I pick up the pass tomorrow night at six pm. I don't know how much I can go; I have no money for bus fare. I've always wanted to go to wimmin fest, but never could afford it or get to it. It's billed as, "something for every woman;" should be changed to: "for every woman with money and a car." I don't think any of the events are free, or sliding scale, either. What ever.

I don't know if I can do my blogs tonight. I'm really in bad shape.

bad muscle cramps

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Yesterday, while removing headphones from my ears, I felt a really bad pain on the left side of my neck, from shoulder to top of my head. It's not going away.

I slept fitfully, with recurring cramps in my calves.

And the tampon is causing really bad problems from my belly all the way around my back.

I suspect the configurations of many women's organs are not conducive to wearing something internally during menses.

I suspect that's why so many women complain of cramping that it's an industry.

These are the first tampons I've worn in twenty years. They're thin and short, but they still hurt very badly.

I ALSO suspect the "feminine" hygeine industry KNOWS their products cause pain. After all, they ALSO manufacture Midol and other products to relieve pain.

If you can cause pain by a product you sell, you can also make money on relieving that pain.

I'll wear my last, three pads today.

I shouldn't go in today. I literally can barely walk. And I can't manouver the heavy doors and carrying so much stuff around, if I walk with my cane. Today, I'm in great danger of falling and really getting hurt.

But I promised I'd interview the guy from the Gallup Independent today.

And Renee handed me a flier yesterday: the author of Lame Deer: Seeker Of Visions is speaking in Albq. on Sunday. It's one of my favorite books. I still own a copy, thirty years later. SHe let me call him to interview him. It was a real treat! And the guy's ninety-one years old!

So, I have to put that together to get it on the air tonight.

I want to reedit my commentary; I'm using the song, "Mothers, Daughters, Wives," written by Judy Small and performed by Ronnie Gilbert. Over night, I thought of a verse I'd prefer to open with. So that needs redoing.

I CAN'T come tomorrow. There's no WAY.

So, I need to get it all together today.

The newsroom will be closed on Monday.

I have no asprin left.

I'm in BIG trouble.

I'll hope Leslie is going out for lunch, so I get a ride home early, but I'm not counting on it.

THat's if I can get it all done by noon.

WHich ain't likely.

So, I'm prepared to be stuck there until Danny leaves at four or five.

This is bad.

I have food left there, at least.

I'll just have to be careful. I don't know how I'll take care of myself, but I'll just do the best I can.

I'm really weak.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I'm too tired

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It was a useful day, but danged I'm in pain. Even my arms, from holding them up to the keyboard.

I didn't get to lie down at all today, either.

I produced a commentary for Memorial Day weekend: an apology to Viet Nam Veterans.

I'm very proud of the way I produced it. It's in .wav format right now. So, tomorrow, I WILL transload it or FTP it to my domain, so WebTV users can hear it.

Eventually, I'll have to zip it, for storage. But someone makes "unzipping" tools for WebTVs, so I'll learn how to do that, so people can unzip them.

I've got to be careful about bandwidth! At the rate I'm writing stories, I could fill my domain VERY quickly with audio. Tristan told me a minute of .wav is about five KB of space? Maybe that's wrong, I don't know.

It was a traumatic day. With all my preparations for a long day, I never considered the possibility of getting my menses today...

As my genitals are scarred, I seldom wear under pants. So, I had nothing to which I could attach a sanitary pad.

I spent all my remaining change in the sanitary vending machines, in all women's bathrooms, on all three floors. They were all empty.

I was then reduced to going from office to office, panhandling Tampons.

They hurt me. My uterus is tipped and tampons touch my cervix, which causes pain and cramping.

But I couldn't sit down and work unless I had protection. I would have ruined my dress and humiliated myself.

Men made jokes. It was humiliating.

And I had to explain about not wearing underwear, which was embarrassing.

A woman in the Purchasing Dept. on the 1st floor needed to buy herself some. On her lunch hour, she went to the local drug store. They were on sale: 2 for 1. So she gave me a whole box.

Plus, a woman on the 2nd floor gave me her entire emergency stash: trust a Native American gal to have a huge, zip lock bag, full of just about every configuration of santitary product ever devised! LOL

My belly hurts from wearing the damn things. But I have no money for pads, so I will just live with it.

Laura bought me the BEST home made burrito today, made by a tiny, Guatamalan woman named Hilda, of all things, who sells them door to door from an ice chest. It was Carbon style, with jalepenos. and MAN was it GOOD!

There's nothing like home cooking.

Hilda gushed about my dress: yellow cotton, white lace, hand embroidered yarn flowers, with a handkerchief yolk and hem, from Mexico. She has a good eye. Of course: she's Guatamalan! LOL

I think I did a good job on my commentary.

My piece on domestic violence for NNN aired today. Tina asked me if I heard it...no, since I work at KUNM, I hardly EVER get to hear the radio any more! LOL

Katie made the BEST home made cookies for the KUNM general meeting tonight. I struggled through the first two agenda items, but bowed out of discussion of programming changes. It's just too intense, charged, emotional and dangerous. It's none of my business, either, yet. Some day, probably. But not yet.

Leslie gave me a ride home. We stopped at Smith's and I got cat food! One of the construction workers, who are remodelling KUNM, volunteered to loan me five bucks 'til my check comes. I didn't ask. He offered.

The cats were very happy to get it! Their old stuff is stale, I think. They eat it, but not happily.

I need to sleep soon, although it's not nine thirty yet.

I'm watching the thing on PBS about Samuri. What a hard culture! I wonde where the Japanese learned fascist cruelty?

feeling alone
like floating weeds
cut off at the root
I may just go
where the water takes me

a Haiku they just read.

I totally need to sleep.

Leslie's coming for me again in the morning, bless her heart.

The pain in my belly is now migrating to back pain: back labor. It's nasty.

Strega Liqueur

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This is Strega.

It's VERY special to me.

I threw together a web site, so you can see the bottle.

Click the bottom link, to see the logo large & read about it, if you wish.

It's really something.


Thanks for considering getting me some. I haven't tasted any since I left Kentucky. Must be about fifteen years now.

And I've definately earned a bottle!

Liquor distributors in New Mexico don't carry it. Believe me, I've tried. sigh....

Have a beautiful time in California! Eat a Crab Louie for me.

I'm so home sick.



Having trouble, walking

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I'm really hurting.

I found a six foot by two foot "body pillow" in the garbage awhile back. It's covered with a nice, plush velour.

I'm going to take it with me in Leslie's car today. It'll fit on one of the wooden "park" benches, down on the patio.

I'll take a smaller pillow, for my head.

The only way I'll make it today is to lie down from time to time.

There's a volunteer meeting tonight at KUNM. So, I'll be putting in about a fourteen hour day, with no guarantee of a ride home tonight.

I cooked up the last of the beef roast last night. I sliced it and sauteed it in wine. I also made a big pot of brown rice. I'm taking the last of the macaroni, too.

I guess I'll just spend the day, researching other stories, once I finish the stuff for Tina.

Nothing today is really urgent.

I shouldn't go in, at all. I should stay home, at least 'til Monday, to recover and to get stuff done around here.

I also promised Danny I'd help pack the newsroom, to move it across the building, on Friday. I may have to bow out of that one.

Yesterday was Laura's birthday. She's one of the grrlz on da 1st floor. I'm bringing my Fairy Rag Ladies in today, so she can pick one out for herself.

That cold-hearted vocational rehabilitation councillor wrote me back. She seems to be under the impression that I'm a malingerer, and haven't done anything to improve my employability. I got no reply to the part of my email about them stranding me, half way across town, because they had no bus tokens.

She's not a bit cooperative, supportive or helpful.

It's very discouraging.

I need a shower and some breakfast. I just made more coffee. A pot a day is too much, but whacha goin' do?

THe grrlz had their geek check out that computer yesterday. Seems there's nothing wrong with it; he found the "glitch" in the Windows95 system, got something out of his bag of tricks, and fixed it.

So, Danny can haul it home for me, soon.

I need to make space for it on my living room table.

The farther I am from that newsroom, the more often, the happier I'll be.

Off to the shower...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


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Julie, the book keeper, just wrote me back. She's cutting the check & mailing it TOMORROW!!!

I might have the money by MONDAY!!!!!

LEt's see: today's the twenty fifth. Monday's, what? The 31st: three days before my disability check arrives! I can reduce my debt by at LEAST a hundred forty dollars, right away!

That's fourteen dollars' fees I'll save: almost half!

By July, I'll be paid off! Knock wood...

I'm going to make it! By the skin of what's left of my teeth!

If I can write a story a week for NNN, and one big story per month for FSRY, that's three hundred sixty extra dollars a month!

That would bring my income up to poverty level, which is a thousand a month for a single adult.

And the government's "poverty level" is middle class, by War Zone standards. It's wealthy, by third world standards.

I can start saving up for a rent deposit, to get the hell OUT of here!

I might even buy me some shoes and insoles.

Oh, please: don't let things at KUNM degenerate until I have to leave the station! PLEASE let me MAKE IT! PLEASE! DON'T take THIS away from me, TOO! You got my daughter, you got my health, you got twenty years of my damn life. PLEASE let me support myself, so I don't die in some state run facility, tended to by resentful, ignorant minimum wage workers who abuse the vulnerable!

PLEASE let me go into old age in some PEACE and SECURITY! PLEASE!

E-mail to my News Director

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I think I know why I'm not getting emails from you: I tend to delete as spam stuff without something in the subject! We have a new function, by which I can put a green dot, next to your name, so I can "delete unmarked," but not delete you. I'll do that when I finish this email.

Angela? I think her name is? brought up the subject of my freelancing. I'd met Beaver downstairs, and I told her about NNN on the way up, since she is thinking about learning to write news, too. She told Angela.

Angela and I met at the broadcasters' conference and attended the session on independent production of documentaries. She's very curious about independent production.

That's why she was asking me detailed questions about selling stories to various markets. She even asked me pay rates, how long until the check comes, etc.

If she was supposed to be doing something else, or if Beaver was, I didn't know about it. If they needed to rehearse instead of discussing freelancing with me, it's their responsibility.

I was hurt that your comments were directed at me and not them. I was also hurt that your criticism is usually public. I don't handle that at all well, especially when others are doing exactly the same as I.

I'll try not to curse, but everybody else does, so it's hard to remember that I have to comport myself differently than others.

I was waiting for Danny to give me a ride home. I have no place to wait, except the news room or that lobby area.

Apparantly, just the sight of me, waiting in the Volunteer Room, offends the sensibilities of certain staff or something. I've been asked by the Volunteer Coordinator not to spend more than just minimal time there.

That news room was so boisterous tonight, with everybody excitedly talking about all manner of stuff. I didn't think my few comments about my story were inappropriate, under the circumstances.

Please remember: I've been screamed at, cursed, hit, shunned and gossiped about by paid staff at that station. I, on the other hand, have tried to restrain my impulses to anger. There are people in that station who, were they to approach me in the War Zone as they have at that station, would be literally snatched bald. I wouldn't do it. And I wouldn't encourage it. But, by the standards of the 'hood, such abuse would be met with retaliation.

But I've comported myself in as lady like a manner as I could manage, under the circumstances.

I do, however, tell these people, at length, what I think of them -- and their mothers -- when I'm not at KUNM. Not to their faces, mind you, as I don't wish to alarm or alienate them any more than they already are, but I do vent, once I leave and feel safe.

So, I'm sorry I irritate you. I truly am. I genuinely respect you and value your feedback and support. I felt a great deal of satisfaction when you read my copy today, for instance and had few changes to suggest. Your opinion is important to me on several levels.

Angela, I hope that's her name, and I can make arrangements to discuss these issues at other times, or she could drop by earlier than assigned on her news reading days, so we can talk.

I feel very satisfied by the work I accomplished today. I'm almost up to speed, and soon should be able to complete an assigned story in one day.

I had to leave when Danny was ready to go. And it was so close to air time, I didn't want to interrupt by saying my good byes to every body.

Until I get paid, I have to rely on rides from Leslie, Danny and Rachel.

By the way, FSRN.org DID air my piece on Weapons Grade Uranium, YESTERDAY! I found it in their archives today. And, yes, I've submitted and invoice already!

So, next month, things ought to be MUCH smoother for me, financially and, therefore, otherwise.

Thank you for writing. I do appreciate it.



$210, on its way!

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Well, I produced the Domestic Violence story for National Native News today. They're airing it tomorrow. A longer version was broadcast on KUNM tonight.

The Weapons Grade Uranium story aired yesterday, on FSRN. Found it by surfing their archives. Sigh.

Here it is, for those of you with mp3 capabilities, which WebTV doesn't have, sorry to say.


The Gallup Independent never contacted me re: underrepresentation of People of Color in their newsroom. I'll have to telephone the editor tomorrow. mumble.

I got a LOT done today. I'm glad to say I'm nearly up to speed. Soon, I SHOULD be able to complete an assigned story the same day.

I still have some stories to follow up on, too.

The FSRN piece is worth a hundred sixty; the NNN piece is worth fifty. And I'm doing another NNN tomorrow, hopefully. So that's another fifty!

Guess I'll have me another lamb sandwich from the Middle Eastern joint, soon's I get paid.

You realize, don't you, that, if I submit 2 stories to NNN this week, by next month, that friggin' bank will only be into me by forty bucks!

I'll be able to unload their blood sucking butts WELL before August, when WebTVs won't be allowed to do online banking with their arrogant butts any more!

I'm going to see about a credit union or something: some place that invests in GOOD stuff, not Coke, McDonalds and Halliburton!

Stinkin vultures!

too much pain

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If I had the option, I'd stay in bed today. But I've GOT to go earn some money.

I'm worried about my legs. I should be lying down today, resting them. They're throbbing, feel hot and I can't explain the pain. They're the worst, but every joint in my body is painful. It hurts to type.

At least I have fresh coffee.

Once again, my home gets neglected, so I can work at KUNM, but it can't be helped.

I'll have to sneak outside in a few minutes, once the sun starts to rise, to attach my hose to the spigot. I have to water my poor garden.

I don't know how to do all I need to do.

I noticed the front tire, not the tube, on my scooter is losing its shape. That must mean it's wearing thin and will get a hole in it soon.

I'm afraid to look in the hat to see about the baby bird.

Hold on...I'll go look.

...Nope, it didn't make it. I just put it outside the gate, so I can throw it in the trash later.

But I did everything I could.


oh, shut up and go away! The sound of his voice gives me a sick feeling. He even SOUNDS like a cold-blooded, abusive bastard. A cross between a fundamentalist preacher and a wife beater. or both. He's careful to ennunciate when he's laying down the law, but can't pronounce "nuclear." He speaks to reporters as to naughty, slow children.

ANd what's the alternative? Kerry? Hell, he's the same thing: rich, priviledged, white, male, Skull & Bones...what's the difference? Just Kerry had the huevos to actually see combat in 'Nam and then protest against it.

The only thing bush ever protested was personal accountability.

I shouldn't have to listen to bush...iraq so early in the morning, when I'm not feeling good.

Sun should be up soon. I'd better dress and get ready to go out there.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I'm a mom

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Mike works at KUNM. He showed up this morning with a baby sparrow that had fallen from its nest.

I mixed: mango juice, some of the artichoke/spinich cream cheese and peanut butter in a cup. I sucked some up a coffee stir, tapped the baby's beak and he let me blow some into his mouth.

By the end of the day, he chirped and begged normally when I fed him. Or her?

I've been diligent about feeding it: at least once an hour.

When I got home, I tossed a one inch chunk of raw beef roast into my food processor, and blended it with a raw egg. I'm feeding him with a hypodermic syringe now.

I walked. I tried to patch the tube with a piece of old inner tube, but it went flat.

I dumpster dove on the way. I found really NICE girl clothes, including sexy undies, belts, and 2 pairs of above-the-elbow gloves, one black, the other white.

Dave, our "geek," had an old mouse with the right connector for the old computer the grrlz on da 1st floor are fixing for me. Their "geek" needs the mouse to troubleshoot the Windows95 on it.

Tina James Tafoya gave me 2 stories: domestic violence among Natives and lack of racial diversity/representation in newspaper staffs. The highest-ranking paper was the Gallup Independent. Most of their readership is Native and Hispanic; the entire staff is WHITE! And they even have a Navajo boy on their masthead!

I interviewed the woman who conducted the domestic violence research project. I've got her on digital audio.

I should have that story tomorrow: four minutes or less for KUNM, 1 1/2 for Tina.

I worked on the 2 Native stories for most of the day.

I also kinda got a "scoop." A guy from the UNM PR dept. called to tell us about a new book coming out, written by the chair of the anthropology dept. She was also president of Amnisty International. The book's about human rights violations.

She has a lot to say about the prisoner abuse issue.

The PR guy also sent me the link to a story about it in the Alb. Tribune last week.

I'm going to score a preview copy of the book, interview her, and do: a report for KUNM News, a report for FSRN, and fifteen minutes or so for Women's Focus, once I talk to the head of that. I don't see why they wouldn't want it.

Leslie's picking me up in the morning; she lives 6 blocks from me. Danny gave me a ride home, and doesn't mind giving me rides home this week.

I'm tired.

All I've eaten today is 2 duck eggs & 2 slices of bacon for breakfast, and a little over a cup of my mac & cheese.

I'll cook some vegetables and a few slices of the beef roast for supper, after I rest awhile.

I'm so so tired.

Tina sends invoices to Alaska this Friday. It should only be about 2 weeks 'til they pay me, but Leslie said once, it took sixty days her to get a check! eep.

If I can just hang on a little longer, my disability check will be here.

But I'm running out of cat food.


How not to panic?

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I woke up worried. I wasn't even awake enough to know why.

Then, I remembered: oh, yes: scooter tire, no money, how am I going to get food? How am I going to sell a story?

I'm too tired, really, to tell this story & do it justice, but I'll give a thumb nail.

THat pole barn I lived in, up in Pekin Indiana, the KKK town: they sold it out from under me.

I had to move, fast.

THe Winnebego wasn't near ready enough; I was stripping out the interior to rebuild it into an empty box.

I'd go out at dawn, work all day in the hot, muggy sun. I had no money and was running out of food.

I had crap from the bible thumpers' "food" pantry: stale bread, canned vegetables, potted meat, etc.

I lived on so little food, I can't believe it now. Especially since I was doing HEAVY, HARD work!

I had no telephone to receive calls from potential landlords.

I needed to move back down near Louisville, about 40 miles south.

I would drive my pick up truck down, once a week, to TRY to find a place, without a phone.

I had two weeks to finish the camper, pack everything and move into a new place.

I would work in the heat 'til I couldn't anymore. THen, I'd come into the shade..remember: it was a pole barn; it was just as hot in there as it was outside, and no breeze. I'd pack stuff for awhile, as a "break" from the harder work.

At night, I'd lie down to sleep.

My mind would be running: how will I? how can I?.....

I knew I needed sleep and that worrying would mess me up.

So, I'd tell myself:

Rogi, you've done absolutely everything you can today. Your poor body is exhausted; it needs rest. There's nothing else you can do today. And you can worry while you work tomorrow, not now. Don't keep yourself awake. You need rest.

Somehow, that worked.

I got everything done. I found a place. Yes, it was just another slum lord, and that place, too, had serious problems.

But I got out of that KKK town without losing any possessions, without being hurt or killed by some red neck or by working recklessly.

I have used that method often since that time.

SO, this feeling of doom, as I awake, is not unfamiliar.

And it'll certainly get me out of bed quickly. I hit the floor, running.

No, it's not comfortable. It's not pleasant.

But it's just another emotional response to circumstance. Emotions are instincts; they exist for preservation of the organism. I can let them interfere, or I can harnass the adrenaline and other hormones and secretions and focus them on my goal.

Anger and fear are very powerful, if I can step out of myself just enough to recognize them and utilize them.

So, here I am, preparing to TRY to patch another innertube, take a shower, and get to the eggs and the station.

Of course, it'd be nice to lie in bed. It'd be nice to get drunk or high or eat up everything in the house or... whatever.

I chastize myself for being impulsive. But, compared to people I see around me, I'm one of the most self-disciplined, committed, focused people I know.

Years of rationing: food, money, strength, etc. will do that to you.

So, I'll get off my own back and get back to work.

I said I wanted out of poverty. Realistically, I don't KNOW if I'm strong enough, smart enough, lucky enough, etc. to do it. Really. I don't know.

There are more factors involved in overcoming poverty...especially THESE days, when it's institutionalized for the benefits of corporate leaches...than the myth of the Puritan Ethic.

Hard work does NOT guarantee success. In fact, hard work is looked on as freakish, weird, crazy, etc.

My resourcefulness, creativity and determination are looked on as a threat.

But I come from people who raised, butchered and cooked their own foods, made their own clothes and bed linens, constructed their own tools and furnishings, etc. We could take raw trees and build refuge.

It's what I know. It's my talent. It's my skill.

If I'm really lucky, it'll work.

No, I DON'T know if I can pull myself out of this trap. It's a TRAP, y'know???

But, if I DON'T try, it WILL destroy me.

If I have to gnaw my own leg off to get out, I will.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

this is the best macaroni and cheese in the history of the universe!

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It's so good, Mugwart's begging! He doesn't beg, except for pig or turkey. Never for cheese or eggs.

I tossed a glob of that artichoke/spinich "dip" on top, too, to melt over it.

This is truly a masterpiece! I'll tell you: if you ever get to cook with brie, DO IT! I know, you're supposed to eat it at room temp, but this is magnificent!~

Started to panic about food.

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I know, it's probably stupid. I have 2 whole salmons, some chunks of ham, a whole rump roast, a steak and 2 packages of hotdogs in the freezer.

But, when it's still so long 'til the 3rd of next month, and the food stamps have run out, and I only have 2 dollars in the bank, I can't help it.

Especially since I'm pretty much single handedly responsible for FNB now.

HOW will I pick everything up and bring it home? HOW will I cook and carry it all?

SO, I sort of freaked this afternoon, when I was HUNGRY after FNB!

I made GOOD Mac & Cheese:

4 eggs, a package of cooked macaroni, a tub of "artichoke/spinich dip" (which is actually cream cheese), some left over brie from last week, some left over sharp goat cheese from last week. Mixed, baked in the oven.

I have to wait 'til the 8th for more food stamps.

So, whatever meat, fish and cheese I have will be all I'll have until then.

Even if I can't get my scooter running, I'll have to walk every morning for eggs. I'll need them.

I'm running out of dry cat food, too. They'll have to eat some eggs, I'm afraid; even the ones who don't really like them.

That DAMNed bank! CHanging their policies with only two weeks' notice! I couldn't plan a better budget, two hundred dollars short!

I'll walk to the station tommorow, too. I've GOT to pin Tina down about writing a news story for National Native News! That's fifty dollars, right there. She said she'd email, but hasn't. SHe just forgot. I'm new.

I don't WANT to walk all the way to that dang station! I want to REST! I'm TIRED and I'm in pain.

And, if it's like today, it'll be a hot, sweaty walk, even early in the morning. And I really stink, when I sweat...and my hair turns funny; it kinks up.

You KNOW I don't want to show up there, stinking, salty and dissheveled!

Well, smells like the macaroni's done; I'm going to eat now.

Food Not Bombs, Albuquerque falling apart!

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The 2 main guys just can't keep doing this. The other volunteers are on again, off again.

And we lost the use of the kitchen we were borrowing.

So, next week is our last week, feeding people down town.

I'm going to pick up food at the Co-op on Saturdays, and at the restaurant Saturday nights.

I have a "summer kitchen," in my back yard.

So, I'll be collecting, cooking and moving the food. I have to use Roosevelt Park, on Sycamore, SE, near Coal or Lead or whatever, cuz it's close to my house.

We're already warning people next week's the last week downtown.


I don't know how to get people to understand how important this is...

The front tire on my scooter's flat again. It's a patched tube. I've been too busy and it's too hot to check it out right now. But I think I'm screwed. I don't have any more tire patches. I don't know if a piece of old innertube would work. BUt I'll try. I'll work on it tonight, when it's cooler.

Dang. I wish I could afford a patch kit and some of that slime stuff, but, unless FSRN pays me for that story, I'm screwed until the 3rd of next month. I only have 2 dollars left in the bank.

I found a huge, hand painted canvas the Vortex Theater threw out. It's a road, through mountains. On the road, there's a burro, with a little boy sitting on it. I hung it on the fence in my garden. It's signed and everything.

I'll write more later. Someone from Rowen's is WAY too interested in my makeshift gate...

Up early again

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I mean, it would've been nice to sleep in, but I guess I'm sleeping enough: six hours/night.

When my body wants to wake up, it just does. Can't reason with it: it's Sunday; there's nothing good on the radio; I have to cook today; I don't have to hurry to collect duck eggs this morning, cuz nobody's there on weekends; blah, blah.

So, I'm up.

I'm going to try to keep it simple, today, if I can. I've been so busy this week, I didn't even have time to wash out one of FNB's soup pots that had rice in it. I used up the rice, but it's been sitting there, with rice starch in it, for a week. I don't have space in the sink to soak it for washing, and scrubbing sounds horrible.

Guess I could take the dirty pot to FNB and wash it there? Sigh...

I have to remember: I have forks to take. A couple of weeks ago, I had to eat soup with a knife. THAT's fun!

I hope plenty of people come, and that we have plenty of food.

I'd like to leave early today. Cooking, serving AND washing up are just too much!

I have GOT to work on my poor ol' house!

I put a length of old grape stake fencing across the "driveway" to the "empty" lot. Rowen has this dyke friend who obviously can't drive worth beans. Her truck is all banged up: bumpers, fenders, which indicate SHE hits things. She parks funny in the lot, knocking over my plants, breaking flower bed borders, blocking the whole drive, so I can't get my scooter out, or even walk. She leaves the back end sticking into the alley, making it hard for cars to pass by. Sometimes, the people in them give me dirty looks, thinking I'm the one doing the bad parking. Plus, she screams. Scares the snot out of me.

And Rowen's back to letting those vicious dogs out without leashes again.

So, I strung that rickety fencing up.

Nicole, my neighbor who is actually the only person authorized to use that driveway, is in New York right now. She locked her gate from the inside, so will be unpacking from the front, not back here.

I'd have preferred to wait, 'til she got home, do discuss this with her.

But Rowen's little tribe is invading again, and I have to stop them before they ruin my garden. Or her dogs kill my cats.

Eventually, I'd like to fashion the fencing in such away that it serves as a more substantial gate. It's held up on one end by a bungie cord, so it can be opened and closed.

THe wind, in that alley, gets pretty substantial at times, so I'd like it more secure, or it'll get the hell knocked out of it. It's pretty "floppy" right now.

But it was sure nice to let Porkchop off his long, outdoor leash yesterday. He liked it, too: no tangling, no dragging debris, total mobility in the "empty" lot, easy access to the house when he gets tired.

I'd never leave him out there, alone: he'd charge at passers by and knock down that fence, easily. BUt it's nice to let him be "free," while I'm out there, working.

While the city repaved the roads, Rowen and her friends parked 3 cars back here, without permission. They blocked Nicole's gate, so she couldn't park her own car there. Nicole wouldn't have minded, but they didn't even ask first. And, of course, Rowan left her old jalopy sitting there, weeks after the road paving was done. I couldn't weed or rake out the mulch pile. I couldn't walk around it easily and Porkchop was always getting his long lead stuck on tires.

So, my garden's more secure from Rowen's little clan, from drunks who want to sleep it off here, from marauding dogs...mostly Rowen's. And it's more secure from wind-blown trash, a constant struggle.

I like early mornings: it's quiet. No screaming, music, loud traffic, sirens.... I can hear the wind in the trees. I can hear the birds, when they wake up. I can even hear the cats, walking under my window.

THe first, pale light of sunrise is coming through the branches of the elm on the far side of my yard. Off in the distance, I hear a robin chirping its morning call. I hear cars passing on Interstate 25, about eight blocks from here.

It's a nice time to be alone. Everything's anticipatory and the day's full of potential.

Soon, I'll put on my cooking clothes for the day. Porky and I will cruise the duck pond. We'll come back and I'll collect stuff for FOod Not Bombs, have a last cup of coffee, and slowly pick my way through debris-strewn streets on my scooter to go cook.

I'm very careful with that scooter, for obvious reasons. I even avoid larger cracks in pavement, to cause less shock to fragile tires.

I can make out the shapes of things right outside my window, under the sun shade I built there, now. It's still pretty dark and I don't hear the local birds yet.

Soon, though.

The scooter & trailer are looking good; should be a more pleasant ride. And Porky should be happier about getting in the dog carrier, once we get to the pond, since the door swings freely now and he doesn't have to squeeze his shoulders and big butt through...

He's a good dog, putting up with me.

'course, I'm a good dog owner, putting up with HIM!


Saturday, May 22, 2004


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Well, I guess I killed myself today. I'm sunburned. And boy, do my arms hurt!

Nothing good on tv, so I guess I'll crash. I managed to stay awake 'til a reasonable hour, anyway.

I gotta stop waking up so early. Yawn.

Gotta cook tomorrow, but danged if I feel like it.


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Oooo, baby!

Porky and I got duck eggs this morning. I could ALMOST catch them in my bare hands, if I dared. I caught the turtle this morning. It's very pretty. Not a red ear, but similar. Has a red belly. Silly thing came up for a slice of bread I was wiggling in the water...turtles like wiggling food. As it ate from one hand, I carefully lowered my other hand in the water, 'til the turtle was standing on my fingers. So, I picked her up and examined her. Felt good to hold a kicking, scratching, hissing turtle again. I put her back. And the silly thing came RIGHT BACK for more bread!

I left her in the water.

THere's a BIG ol bullfrog, somewhere on the island. and MAN can he CROAK!

I could catch some of the fishies by hand, too, if I wanted....

...animals love me. Well, at least, they're not scared of me, like silly people are.

So, we came home for a cigarette and a cup of coffee.

Then, we headed over to Smith's. I wasn't sure how much I had left in food stamps, but I thought I'd just cruise around.

Butter was on sale!

And there were 2 packages of rib eye steaks, about three dollars a pound. That's an exceptionally good price, for rib eye.

I got both, assuming I could probably only afford one, plus the butter...but why not see?

Well, I could only afford one package of steaks, without butter.

But the cashier did the nicest thing: she made up the difference. It was only about a dollar.

So, I just had me an almost-raw rib eye, blackened with that char rub I found in the garbage, quick-fried in a very hot cast iron skillet with bacon grease. I slathered it in horseradish and mayo...more horse than mayo, btw.

Ate the whole, damn thing. Its sister is in the freezer.

I took the seat off the scooter; I don't use it, and it hurts me, if my leg bumps it.

I took off the trailer and rearranged it and reattached it with a nice chain and fittings I found in some trash, once.

I took off the running board: the bolts didn't have nuts, anyway.

I took the top off an old table. I put the running board on top, centered. I spray painted around it and in the screw holes, to mark everything.

I can't hand saw. So, I got out my electric drill, with the fattest bit. I drilled new holes to fasten it with wire, instead of bolts, to the frame. I drilled the entire outline of a new running board. This one is nearly twice as wide as the old one. I now have a surface area the width of a toilet lid, rather than only the width of a skateboard, to stand on.

I have some rubberized mat. I think it's a hall runner liner, or something. It's about six feet long, and two feet wide. I folded it into 3rds. I strapped it onto the new running board. It curls under the edges, so I no longer bark my shins on the gas pull cord or bruise my ankles on the running board.

It's so SOFT! and BOUNCY and shock absorby! It's a true pleasure to stand on now.

So, my scooter and trailer are much happier and healthier now.

I had 2 wire baskets with hooks on them to hang them from wooden shelves. I pushed the hooks through the air holes of the dog carrier, and turned them into "saddle bags," on either side of the carrier.

They have Porkchop's water, toys, bowl, etc. in them, as well as my spare coat, a shower curtain to protect the scooter from sudden rain, extra plastic bags to pick up dog poop, etc.

This put a lot of weight off the BACK basket, onto the front of the frame, still over the trailer tires, though, to save weight on the scooter tires.

It made the trailer tip down, forwards, like I want it to. Before, I'd have to weight down the trailer by putting stuff inside the dog carrier. ANd the carrier door didn't open all the way: the tow bar and chains were in the way.

Now, I can get into the dog carrier more easily, and so can Porkchop!

I'm pooped, though. Sawing a thick board with a drill ain't easy.

I spaced holes, about half an inch apart, all around the edges. Then, I'd reinsert the drill, rocking it back and forth, until it ate away the divides between drill holes.

My lil armies are mighty tired!

ANd I STINK! It was HOT out there!

Waiting to recover, iced tea in hand, yogurt tubes at my side, under the air conditioner, before I attempt a shower. Don't want to kill myself.

Let the steak and yogurt hit my blood stream and let the tea rehydrate me, first.

Wanna know a secret? I was much more relaxed, calm, focused, full of energy and good ideas, etc today...because I was away from that....station.

As soon as I can get that computer home, I'm going to try to avoid the station, except in early morning hours, as much as I can.

It just tears me a new one, being perceived of as The Enemy so often.

I'm getting too angry, resentful, paranoid....

I'd rather spend my time with gadgets, critters and plants.

People drive me crazy.

These aren't exceptional people; I never do well in groups. It doesn't matter what kind.

So, before all you rednecks start pointing and shouting, 'aha!' at the hypocracy of so-called "progressives," acting as they do toward me, just remember: the Baptists, the Hillbillies, the Republicans, the Klan, etc treated me MUCH worse than THESE people are!

At least these people are TRYING to do something positive.

I hesitated, writing about my experiences at the station. I've tried to be careful about details, for the most part.

But this blog is MY experience. I'm not a representative of the station; I'm representing mySELF!

Nobody else is going to do it, so I have to.

And, I think it's important to be honest about stuff like racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, etc.

Nobody's perfect.


Friday, May 21, 2004

email to my Department of Vocational Rehabilitation "councellor" (sic)

You are reading http://livinginthehood.blogspot.com

Yes, I forgot to call you. I have memory problems, particularly under stress. I did go to the station today, and became very involved in writing a news story. I'm now a reporter, not just a commentator.

I'm in severe financial distress, caused by a predatory bank that changed its policies before I had a chance to adjust my income for the month.

I have waited four months for Voc. Rehab.

On the day of that psych "evaluation," I had neither an operating scooter, nor funds to repair it, nor bus fare, nor strenght to walk across town and back. I also HAD to deposit borrowed money into my account that morning. So, I walked seven miles, round trip, to my bank, which is HALF the distance to your offices.

The day I DID see you, I explained I needed a bus token, in order to return home. Your office had none. Nobody seemed concerned for my health or my safety, so I didn't bother asking to borrow a dollar from any of you. Besides, none of you offered, although you knew I'm disabled.

So, I left and broke the Mayor's new law: I panhandled a dollar to get home. As I have a warrant out for my arrest for being beaten and stalked by a mental patient, I avoid potential encounters with the police. But there was no way I could have walked home.

I couldn't have made the psyche appointment and kept my bank account valid at the same time.

The appointment would have been five hours long. By then, my bank would have attached a thirty five dollar "fee" to my account.

I am volunteering in a completely alien environment, where I'm viewed with, at best, skepticism and, at worst, blatant disregard.

I don't know how to operate Windows, use the voice mail, work the fax machine, etc. Yet, I'm speaking to Senators, Congress members, nuclear physicists, members of the Albuquerque School Board.

I'm writing scripts for my news reports, editing the audio, handling the recording studios, and putting together news reports which my News Director says are worthy of journalism awards.

She cannot hire me as a reporter; I'd have to have a Bachelors Degree.

Now, if you are able to assist me with returning to University, despite the fact that I defaulted on my student loan, because my mother burned my deferrment papers, I'd be interested in talking with you, rescheduling a psyche "examination," and proceding with whatever beurocratic steps are necessary.

But I cannot put my physical or mental health in jeopardy to accomodate DVR's assumptions that I'm capable of meeting the demands of middle class standards.

I eat trash. I wear trash. I drive a toy. My internet appliance is a toy.

I can't get into a car, or onto a bus, without money.

I missed a good class in audio, back in April, because this psyche "examination" couldn't be scheduled before two months from our initial meeting, for which I also waited two months.

I don't need more people telling me how inadequate I am, while I'm talking to movers and shakers for news reports.

I am an incest and child abuse survivor. I've been treated like garbage my whole life.

I am trying to dig myself out of this bottomless pit I've been sledge hammered into, by the skin of what's left of my teeth, and my own native intelligence.

I will not be "medicated" with mind altering chemicals. I will not be further abused.

Where I'm working, I get yelled at. I've been hit. I've been insulted and humiliated.

And I KEEP going back, so I can get OUT of POVERTY.

Some weeks, I put in fifty hours, if I can.

I didn't call you back because I'm a flake. I didn't call you back because, frankly, DVR has been so LITTLE a reality in my life, when I saw your name in my email "in" box today, I forgot who you were, and thought it must be spam. I completely forgot I'd agreed to call you today.

I'm trying to write stories on: homeless women in Albuquerque, the new Department of Defense budget congressional vote, underrepresentation of Native Americans in news rooms, nanoenergetics and weapons-grade uranium storage.

I understand the subjects; I can write the stories.

But I can't work the fax machine, and I'm treated like second-class white trash by several of the paid staff.

Those are the facts.


Thank you,

Rogi Riverstone


I just wanna go to SLEEP!

You are reading http://livinginthehood.blogspot.com

I WILL stay awake!


Ok, tire went flat on the way to the duck pond. I just put in some fix a flat. It held 'til the duck pond.

Got ten eggs. Almost caught a turtle, but thought better of it. Coulda caught some baby ducks, too; they came right to me when I threw in some old crackers I found.

But I think my net plan makes more sense; can get 'em all at once, more or less. Don't want 'em hearing their brothers and sisters screaming! LOL

There was a wild bird at the pond. I don't think it was a crane. It was fishing, though. Also saw something that looked a lot like a sand piper. ANd I saw a swallow, eating bugs out of the air.

I found a good pair of shoes and an ugly, but new, tee shirt at the pond. I can wear the shirt when I work in the yard; it's good for getting filthy.

The shoes are comfortable; it was much less painful, standing on the scooter.

I burned a disc with all my stories and commentaries on it and removed them from 2 computer hard drives.

Marcos took jpegs of my scooter yesterday. I put one on the computer I use most as a wallpaper! But, damned! I forgot to email them to myself, so I can put them on my blogs! Sorry; I'll get to it.

I've started research on several new stories.

I cleaned my food out of the refrigerator. I gathered my notebooks, discs, a film I want to watch, etc.

I even blogged a bit at work.

I took most of the time I was there to work on the tire, so I wouldn't get too hot, tired, nasty or dirty. I brought the tire, wheel, innertube, liner in and washed them in the bathroom. I left them on a towel, on a table, to thoroughly dry in the sun.

The innertube had a flaw: it seperated at a seam. I'll try to patch it.

Once everything was dry, I put one of the tubes I'd patched in it and put it all back together. It's fine, for now.

I watered my plants on the patio at KUNM: I collect air conditioner drips in buckets and bowls, to water with.

I found: shampoo, body soap, towels and a foot callous emory in the trash outside a dorm today.

Renee wants me to go to UNM hospital, to sign up for some health plan, to get an accurate....hah!....diagnosis, etc.

I HATE UNMH!! They treated me like GARBAGE when my daughter died!

And, after I was beaten by that stalker, I went in, complaining of head and neck pains...which still bother me. THEY said it was "depression." Not even a damn exray! The next year, the TOOTH HE BROKE FELL OUT! I didn't know it was broken, of course.

Now, ALL my teeth are falling out.

Yeah, go to UNMH! GREAT IDEA! My cocaine addicted, drunken neighbor, Raoul is an EMERGENCY ROOM SURGICAL NURSE THERE!

Yeah...go to hell.

But I'll have to go, or she'll think I'm lazy or malingering or some crap.

Gotta tow the line and all...

I volunteered to help with election day coverage...I'd really like to do that. Was turned down.

uh, huh....

I'm being told I'm being paranoid about the Rogi Ghetto. I probably am, but why should I trust anybody's motives?

I still say: if I'm segregated, I can't learn as much or do as much. It'll restrain opportunities.

It really scares me.

But it's "for my own good," since I have trouble concentrating.

Uh, actually, I have trouble remembering what I'm doing, when people scream, throw things, cuss loudly, crank up the radio, etc.

But I'M the loud one. mmmmmmmm

Ok, maybe I'll start treating them the way they treat me: I'll gossip, hit them, accuse them of stuff they didn't do, yell at them, ignore them, laugh at them, dismiss their concerns as petty, blame them for my mistakes, feel superior to them, interrupt them to get what I want, not let them finish a thought because I think I know what they're going to say, make them stop working to let me, etc.

Apparantly, that's the way you're SUPPOSED to act in an office!

Yes, you read right: I was hit.

And if it EVER happens again, they'll find out what hitting IS! I was raised by a raging psychopath; I KNOW how to hurt people...BADLY, VICIOUSLY.

And yes, it really hurt: I was backhanded by someone wearing a jeweled ring. Made a big scratch across my upper arm. It bled. Yeah, it hurt. And yeah, the person meant to hurt me.

And it was something I said in innocence.

I'm trying to forgive it, but I'll NEVER trust that person again.

I have good reason, turns out: the person is unpredictable and chemically dependent.

ANYway, while they're judging me, pointing fingers at me, feeling superior to me, I'm still sharing food, complimenting people's appearance, offering to help, inquiring after people's health and loved ones....

I haven't yelled at ANYbody, but get yelled at regularly. I'd NEVER hit one of them, unless they hit me again.

I'm sure I've interrupted on occasion; when I have a thought, I tend to blurt...memory problem: I'll forget it otherwise.

I've never cranked up the radio. I've never thrown anything. I only mumble curses, generally at the computer, but I don't shout them.

I haven't threatened to throw out anybody else's belongings, either. But mine were threatened.

So, I've pretty much stopped talking to most people there, unless I need something. Except my buddies. I talk with them out on the patio, or in the volunteer room as we prepare our food.

If I can't figure out how to use equipment, I just keep trying. If it breaks, it breaks. But that'd be easier to handle than the usual resentment when I ask.

As soon as the newsroom moves across the building, I'm bringing my office chair in from home, so I have something to sit on that doesn't leave me limping. I'm just going to roll it from place to place.

I'm sure SOMEONE will complain the wheels make too much noise! And I bet I know WHO!

I'm just not speaking to the beeyatch. Don't even look at her. In the 'hood, her snotty head would be snatched BALD, the way she acts!

You think you're better'n me? Bring it on!

So, the Big Solution is to foist me off on the medical prostitutes...uh, professionals.

I'm a Problem; I must be Solved.

Solution: essense, diluted in water.

Good luck.

I don't think I'd be too useful, watered down.

It's a Clockwork Orange kinda day....

Across The Great Divide Of Class

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Across the Great Divide of Class
Brent Cunningham, Columbia Journalism Review
May 21, 2004

In the Jan. 19 issue of The New Yorker, Karl Rove told the writer Ken Auletta that President Bush thinks the press is "elitist," that "the social and economic backgrounds of most reporters have nothing in common with those of most Americans." For decades now, the political Right has made considerable hay out of the liberal elite bogeyman, and such a sentiment from Bush might be dismissed as mere culture-war blather. But class, which is what the president really means, will play a role in the coming election: tax cuts, unemployment, corporate greed, health care, the echo of John Edwards's "two Americas."

And Bush is right.

Sort of. The class divide between journalists and the poor and working-class Americans many of us claim to write for and about is real, though it has little to do with political ideology and is more complicated than the faux populists of the Right would have us believe. Russell Baker, the former New York Times columnist, got closer to the mark in the Dec. 18 issue of The New York Review of Books.

"Today's top-drawer Washington news- people ... belong to the culture for which the American political system works exceedingly well," he wrote.

"The capacity for outrage had been bred out of them."

So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. As Baker points out, we are the comfortable.
The demographics confirm it. We are part of the professional class, reasonably affluent and well educated.

By 1996, for example, the last time the American Society of Newspaper Editors conducted a broad survey of the U.S. newsroom, 89 percent of journalists had finished college.

Meanwhile, only 27 percent of all Americans have four or more years of college, according to the latest census.

Yet numbers alone can't explain the uneven and often subtle contours of this story. The press has the power to shape how people think about what's important, in effect to shape reality.

But whose reality is being depicted? This is how the class divide between journalists and a large swath of the populace comes into play.

Just one example: Andrew Tyndall, a media analyst who began measuring the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC in 1987, finds that since then coverage of economic issues has steadily skewed away from stories of poverty and toward stories concerning wealth. Thus, the poor have become increasingly invisible. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the social justice arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported in 2002 that its annual survey of American attitudes toward poverty showed that "the general public substantially underestimates the dimensions of poverty in the United States." Most respondents, it said, "maintained that poverty affects some one million people in this country." The real number is thirty-five million.
This divide, this inability of one America to see and understand the other Americas, has something to do with the collective howl from the mainstream press over the "offshoring" of white-collar jobs -- turning Lou Dobbs into a protectionist -- after years of writing off blue-collar job losses as the price of progress. And with why the Democratic candidates' anti-poverty policies were all but ignored, despite the fact that both John Edwards and John Kerry had extensive "urban America" proposals on their Web sites.

And with why Philip Hersh, a Chicago Tribune sportswriter, wrote in January that the disgraced skater Tonya Harding "grew up in an environment that ... reeked of white trash," and when called on it by a reader and the Tribune's public editor, replied that he had "thought long and hard before using it. The term fit Tonya Harding perfectly."

The divide helps explain why Frank Gilliam, a political scientist at UCLA who studies issues of race and local TV news, was told by residents in both a poor black neighborhood and a poor white neighborhood in Indianapolis that the press "only focused on the bad stuff, that they had no access to the media, and were not treated with respect by the media." It also helps explain the growth of ethnic newspapers. And it has something to do with why Abby Scher, who runs the New York Office of the Independent Press Association, got the following response from a magazine editor in Chicago when she told him, after graduating from college in the eighties, that she couldn't afford to take a job for $8,500 a year: "Can't your parents help you out?"

We in the press have a responsibility to engage everyone, not just those readers and viewers with whom we share cultural and economic touchstones. The good news is that the best reporters and serious news outlets find ways to bridge this divide.

The bad news is that we don't do it often enough, and our reluctance to talk about class -- in the newsroom and elsewhere -- makes it hard to change the equation. There are consequences to the fact that millions of people in this country see little of themselves and their lives in the media, unless they are connected somehow to a problem. It may have something to do with why the press is so disliked and distrusted; or why daily newspaper circulation has been in decline for twenty years. Every reporter has his blind spots. But when we all share many of the same blind spots, it makes it difficult to see the forty-four million people who lack health insurance in this country, for example, as anything but the face of failed social policies -- important but abstract.

In Search of the Working Class

Anthony DePalma, who has been a national correspondent and a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and now covers environmental issues, says that for years he felt as though he had "snuck my way into the paper." DePalma grew up the son of a longshoreman in Hoboken, New Jersey.
He recalls seeing his father sitting at the kitchen table at the end of a workday, in T-shirt and reading glasses, paging through the Jersey Journal. "I never saw my dad read anything else, but he would spend forty-five minutes with the Journal every day," DePalma says. "It sent a semiconscious message about a newspaper's ability to reach a wide audience."

DePalma graduated from Seton Hall in 1975 (the first in his family to go to college), married, and went to work unloading trucks for UPS on the overnight shift. During the day, he freelanced.

In 1986, after doing quite a bit of work for the Times over the years, he was hired as a reporter in the real estate section. "The lowest rung, the backdoor, whatever you want to call it," he says.

Inside, DePalma felt the divide. "The Pulitzers, the Ivy Leagues. I felt it very strongly," he says. "You have to understand, the Times never crossed the threshold at our house, growing up."

The very idea of class makes Americans, including journalists, uncomfortable. It grates against the myth, so firmly ingrained in our national psyche, that ours is a society of self-made men, with bootstraps. This idea persists even though upward mobility, in any broad sense, is becoming a myth. It adds a moral tinge to discussions of poverty, a notion that the poor must shoulder much of the blame for their plight, and the corollary, that the wealthy should be credited for their success.

Class is also difficult to discuss because it has become so connected to the polarizing issue of race. When Alexis Patterson, a black seven-year-old from Milwaukee, and Elizabeth Smart, a fourteen-year-old white girl from Salt Lake City, vanished within a month of each other in 2002, the press turned Smart into a national crusade while few people outside of Milwaukee ever heard of Patterson. Race had something to do with why, as did the circumstances of each case; Elizabeth's abduction from her bed, which was witnessed by her terrified little sister, arguably made for a better story than Alexis, who vanished on her way to school. But class played a role, too. Patterson came from a poor neighborhood, and her stepfather had done time on a drug charge. Smart's father is a real-estate broker, and her uncle a photographer with the local newspaper.
Class is problematic, too, because we don't agree on how to define it. Is it about education? Income? Where do the swelling ranks of the working poor fit in? Under the headline "What is Rich?" a Houston Chronicle article last year illustrated how "in one of the world's most affluent countries, few seem to see themselves as rich, even if they're in the upper-income brackets." Michael Zweig, an economist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who directs the Center for Study of Working Class Life, defines class based on power. Using data from the census bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, he designated occupations as working class, middle class, or capitalist class by the relative power each job affords. A truck driver is working class, for example, but a truck driver who owns his own rig is an independent contractor and is therefore middle class. By this measure, Zweig says, 62 percent of the country's workforce is actually working class. "That's eighty-five million people, hardly a special interest group," he says.

Zweig's formula resonated with Paul Solman, an economics reporter on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, on PBS. In the spring of 2003, Solman was doing a series of reports on the jobless recovery, and he interviewed Zweig.

With the camera rolling, Solman said to Zweig, "By your measure, I am middle class, right?" Zweig agreed, then nodded to the cameraman behind Solman, "And he is working class." Solman looked over his shoulder at his well-paid cameraman, "Is that true, Kevin?" Kevin thought for a minute and said that it was. "Why?" Solman asked. Kevin answered, "Because I can't say 'cut.'"

Says Solman: "I was struck by that because it suggested that the variable wasn't income, but power, and to a lesser extent security."

Yet in our national discourse, we are a middle-class country, period. In polls people tend to identify as middle class, regardless of what they do or how much money they make. (Zweig notes that poll respondents are rarely given the choice of "working class," but when they are, more choose that than "middle class.")

From a journalistic standpoint, the working class has historically been linked to organized labor. As labor's numbers, and thus its political power, declined, so did our coverage of it. With its most important public countenance fading, the working-class perspective largely disappeared, too.

DePalma recently got a taste of just how difficult it can be to recapture that perspective in any consistent way. When the Times began its "Portraits of Grief" project on those killed in the World Trade Center, DePalma volunteered.
"They were people I knew," he says, "and I realized that this is a world I had been running away from all these years." DePalma wrote a portrait of someone who had gone to his high school.

He wrote six portraits of fellow Seton Hall graduates.

Afterward, he discussed his experience writing portraits with Jonathan Landman, then the paper's Metro editor. "Jon said there are all these people out there who we never write about," DePalma recalls.

"People who basically play by the rules, don't make huge demands on public services. We ignore them except when they die in a tower." Together they decided that DePalma would take on a new beat that sought to fill this gap in the coverage, a working-class beat.

From June 2002 to August 2003, only two of DePalma's stories from this mini-beat -- he was still a general assignment reporter -- made page one.

The centerpiece was a series about a block in Ozone Park, Queens. DePalma wrote about Rosemere and Danny Messina, who were struggling to save ten dollars a week to celebrate their son's first Holy Communion; about Joseph Raia, retired on permanent disability, who agonized over whether to raise the rent on his long-time tenants -- a couple with two young children whom Raia is close to -- in the face of the city's property tax increase; about Antoinette Francisco's frustrating effort to care for a neglected tree, which the city eventually cut down.
In September of last year, DePalma got a fellowship at Notre Dame, and handed the beat off to a fellow reporter to tend in her spare time until he got back. When he returned in January, no stories had been done, Landman had been promoted, and interest in the working-class beat seemed lacking. "It had tremendous support from the Metro desk, but it is hard to see how that support was carried out more broadly in the paper," DePalma says. "I always took that to mean there was a discomfort with terms like 'working class', and attempts to define class in meaningful ways." DePalma chose to move on.

Landman, now an assistant managing editor, disputes the notion that the beat had little support beyond Metro. "I never heard anybody express or signal discomfort with the idea of reporting on class," he said via e-mail, noting that "support in Metro is what you need to succeed in Metro," anyway. As for why the beat was dropped, Landman says that DePalma asked for the environmental beat when he returned from Notre Dame.

For his part, DePalma doesn't hide his disappointment.

"The idea was to expose our readers to a world we normally ignore, the same way we would with villagers in, say, Suriname," he says. "It is fairly pitiful to compare the working class in this country to villagers in Suriname, but they are almost equally unknown."

'A Secure Lodgement'
Contrary to the comforting notion of the press standing firmly behind the little guy, there was never a Golden Age when American journalism consistently sided with the powerless against the powerful. By 1927, H.L. Mencken was already lashing the press for what he saw as its upwardly mobile ambitions. "A good reporter," he wrote, "used to make as much as a bartender or a police sergeant; he now makes as much as the average doctor or lawyer, and probably a great deal more. His view of the world he lives in has thus changed. He is no longer a free-lance in human society, thumbing his nose at its dignitaries; he has got a secure lodgment in a definite stratum, and his wife, if he has one, maybe has social ambitions."

There was once, though, a prominent strain of American journalism that was much more organically connected to the poor and the working class. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, for instance, Appeal to Reason, a socialist weekly out of Kansas, drew hundreds of thousands of readers with its scathing indictments of the inequities of unfettered capitalism by the likes of Upton Sinclair and Eugene Debs. In the 1940s, the short-lived New York paper, PM, was a more mainstream incarnation of this same spirit. Its motto: "PM is against people who push other people around." In the years before Rupert Murdoch bought it in 1976, the New York Post made something of a last stab at bottom-up journalism. By the 1960s, though, TV was on its way to becoming the dominant journalistic force, the newspaper business began hitching its star to Wall Street, and the age of corporate media was under way.
The path to a journalism job led, increasingly, through journalism school, and thus began a new round of professionalization in the business.

Meanwhile, in the late 1960s the Republican Party began recasting itself as the party of the hardhats, those angry white men (mostly) -- real Americans -- who resented the decade's emphasis on the struggles of blacks, the poor, and the spoiled hippies who were against the Vietnam war. Part of this strategy was to portray the press as members of a liberal elite, the New Class, that was out of touch with these real Americans. This charge, remarkably, has kept the press more or less on its heels ever since.

The soul-searching on display in a column Joseph Kraft wrote in the wake of the 1968 Democratic National Convention -- "Most of us in what is called the communications field are not rooted in the great mass of ordinary Americans ..." -- echoes today in the press's paralyzing fear of being accused of liberal bias. By the time Ronald Reagan was elected and began vilifying the poor, the press -- increasingly corporate and cowed -- was in no position to resist.

In the 1980s, the gap between the haves and the have-nots widened -- and journalists were increasingly among the haves. The middle class split, as blue-collar manufacturing jobs disappeared and were replaced by a tide of low-paying, insecure service sector jobs and an expansion of the professional class.

Under Reagan, the country sprinted into the ample arms of a shiny new money culture, offering salvation through free markets (and later through technology). Media deregulation launched a leap-frogging series of media mergers that culminated -- for the time being -- in the ill-fated AOL purchase of Time Warner in 2001. So as journalists joined a broader professional elite, the companies they worked for swelled into corporate behemoths.

In the 1990s, the Internet economy and its overnight millionaires sharpened the wage envy of the new generation of journalists for their professional-class counterparts. David Denby's new book, "American Sucker," about his own sad money chase, lays bare this phenomenon of irrational exuberance. So many journalists either bolted for the Internet ether, or threatened to, that some newspapers began offering stock options to hang on to their talent. The divide got a little wider. "A world where money is a marker and all comparisons are directed upward makes it hard to understand people for whom a million dollars would be a fortune, or those for whom $10,000 would be the difference between affording college or not, not to mention those for whom $246 is a full week's earnings, before tax, at the minimum wage," wrote James Fallows in an essay called "The Invisible Poor," published in the Mar. 19, 2000 issue of The New York Times Magazine.

Later in that same piece, he wrote, "Compared with the software elite, the professional-class American finds it easier to imagine financial ruin .... But there is a great similarity between the view from the top and the view from the next few tiers: the increasing haziness and 'Oh, yes, now that you remind me' nature of the view of the poor."

The evolution of journalism as a profession -- with its higher ethical standards and emphasis on expertise, good writing, and analysis -- was crucial for the press to keep pace with the world. But it came at a cost.

When the barriers to entry into journalism were lower, newsrooms were open to people who brought a wider range of life experiences to their reporting and editing than we have today. To be sure, that era had its problems. It was inhabited almost exclusively by white men, for one. But an interesting thing about that ASNE survey, mentioned earlier, is how so many attitudes cut across age, race, gender, or ethnic lines. What diversity there is, it seems, is only skin deep.

Empathy and Imagination

The opening scene in Alex Kotlowitz's 1991 book, "There Are No Children Here," offers a hint as to how we might begin to bridge this divide. It starts with a group of boys from a Chicago public housing project hunting for garter snakes in the weeds beside some train tracks. Even for someone who didn't grow up in public housing, this is a familiar scene.
And that, says Kotlowitz, is the point. "The obvious place to open it is with a scene of violence, because there is violence all through the book," he says. "But instead I began with this benign moment, to show that even kids whose lives are so precarious find refuge in some of the same things we all did."

Kotlowitz's subjects were poor, not working class, and in some ways the press does a better job of covering poor people and their issues. The poor have agencies and policies and activists to create pegs for stories. We have a public discourse about poverty in a way we don't about the working class.

Still, that discourse is too often one-dimensional: The poor are a problem, victims and perpetrators, the face of failed social policies.

Such stories need to be done, of course; news is often about problems, things that are broken. Yet for those of us who are lucky enough to have health care, plenty to eat, a home, and a job that gives us discretionary income, the news has a lot to offer besides problems. We see our lives reflected in the real estate section, the travel section, the food section, the business section. When was the last time you read a story about how to buy a good used car for less than a thousand dollars?

The press has difficulty seeing, as Kotlowitz puts it, what is familiar about the poor.

"There are so few reporters who spend time in these communities, that when they are there it seems exotic and foreign," he says. "We are so appalled by what we see that we are only looking for what is unfamiliar." This makes it hard to empathize.

Fear, too, makes it difficult to see what is familiar about the poor. Most people working in journalism today grew up in a society that taught us that housing projects were only dangerous places to be avoided. As Jamie Kalven, a Chicago-based writer and public housing activist, put it in Slate in 2002, fear "blocks our capacity for perception, for learning. When mediated by fear, ignorance can coexist with knowledge, blindness with vision. As a result, decent people find it possible to support indecent policies."

In an interview, Kalven amplifies the point. Fear, he says, makes us hostage to a "one-dimensional moral geography" composed of good places and bad places, and "somehow people who are decent and morally sensitive are able to read The New York Times and listen to NPR every day and still hold this notion."

This flattened coverage is evident in the press's treatment of Chicago's massive "transformation plan," which began in 1996 and involves razing all of the city's public housing high-rises and replacing them with mixed-income developments. The plan represents a fundamental shift in the way the city houses its poor, and a number of cities around the country are following Chicago's lead.

There has been a fair amount of coverage over the last seven years, both local and national, and some of it has been important and thoughtful. For example, a series by the Chicago Tribune in 1998 showed how, contrary to the goals of the plan, many displaced public housing residents were ending up in neighborhoods that were just as solidly poor and racially monochrome as the ones they left.

But much of the coverage is top-down, focused on the problems and the process, and heavy with official sources. It is full of middle-class assumptions and fears, including this from a Nov. 10, 1999, USA Today piece on the new mixed-income developments: "The wealthier families bring a greater work ethic and sense of community pride to once-desolate neighborhoods, officials say."

Against this backdrop, Mary Schmich's columns in the Tribune on Cabrini-Green, one of Chicago's most famous projects, stand out. Since May 2000, Schmich, a Metro columnist, has written two dozen columns on various characters tied to the closing of Cabrini. Those characters -- from three black girls saying goodbye to their old school and hello to a new one, to a young white couple who bought into the new, mixed-income Cabrini community -- spring from the page fully formed.

As one of the schoolgirls, referring to her anxieties about going to school with white kids for the first time, said to Schmich, "We the same kind of people inside." It was impossible not to feel a connection to these people, partly because Schmich refused to romanticize their situations. But she also showed us their insecurities, their prejudices, their joy. "Too often reporters who want to write about public housing have very fixed ideas of how to write these stories," she says. "They have the characters in their heads, because they watch too much 'Law & Order'."

Schmich, who has been at the Tribune since 1985, says three things allowed her to feel as if she weren't writing about "someplace else" when doing the Cabrini columns. For starters, she lives in an affluent neighborhood that abuts Cabrini, and has been "hanging out" around Cabrini for ten years. She also grew up in Georgia near people who were poor and black, and her own father had, as Schmich says, "numerous jobs and we were often broke. The differences between me and the people in Cabrini is that there were patches in my childhood when I wasn't so poor, my parents were educated, and I was white, people helped me out," she says.

"When I did these columns it wasn't anthropology, but rather from a sense that these were my neighbors."

Her main criticism of how her paper covers the poor in Chicago is really a criticism of journalism broadly.
"I think this paper has a very deep commitment to covering the whole range of people and issues in Chicago," Schmich says. "But it is a question of how we do it. We bite off a huge project every few years, and that has the effect of reducing the poor to a problem. Then they disappear largely until the next big project."

'What If'

There are consequences to covering the poor in this one-dimensional way, consequences that the more affluent subjects of news stories can avoid. "You're dealing with a population that has extremely limited resources for self-representation," says Jamie Kalven. "They have no mechanism for holding folks accountable."
In a Newsweek article on the Chicago transformation plan from May 15, 2000, for instance, Mayor Richard M. Daley is quoted as saying, "What people want is education, jobs and job training." But in a survey that Kalven's organization did in 2000 that asked residents of the Stateway Gardens housing project what they most wanted for their neighborhood, three of the top five answers were related to better health care, but the other two were "more activities for children" and "more cultural activities," like theater and music.

Says Kalven: "These people were asserting their dignity as human beings. Our entire discourse defines them as problems, and they quietly resist it, but no one is listening."

All this would seem to suggest that if we want more nuanced coverage of the poor and the working class, then we should hire more reporters and editors who come from poor and working class backgrounds. But, as many good reporters continue to prove, you don't have to be a coal miner's daughter to write well about Appalachia.

Kotlowitz, for example, grew up comfortably middle class on New York's Upper West Side. In fact, being an insider can bring some unexpected problems. Wil Cruz, a Newsday reporter who was born and raised in the LaGuardia Houses, a public housing project on New York's Lower East Side, knows something of this.

"If you and I were to go cover a story in the south Bronx, they would see you as official and treat you with some respect," he says. "They would be more comfortable with me, but I'm not sure that works to my advantage. They might see me as showing off my success."

Reporters do, however, need to be motivated to get beyond our assumptions. To do that it helps, as the St. Paul Pioneer Press's Maja Beckstrom says, to be able to imagine "What if?" An interesting thing emerged as I interviewed reporters for this piece: A large number of them were raised by single mothers, including Beckstrom, the author David Shipler, The Washington Post's Anne Hull, and The Guardian's Gary Younge. All said something similar, that experiencing the fragility of a broken family -- no matter how quickly or comfortably things settled -- allowed them to imagine how close they are to those in society whose lives seem, from the outside, to be nothing but problems. Hull, a national features writer at the Post, isn't sure just how her background shaped her as a reporter, but says this: "I'm much more comfortable around these people than I am being at, say, the courthouse, or places where everyone wears a suit. Maybe I'm intimidated by power. I don't know."

"These people" Hull refers to include the young immigrants and children of immigrants in Atlanta whom she wrote about in a four-part series in late 2002. The original idea, not surprisingly, was a piece on the growth of Latino gangs in Atlanta -- a problem. But Hull came back with a richer story about kids who were caught between their desire to escape the world of their parents and an American society that often failed them, either in the classroom or on the streets. "A lot of writing about immigrants today is really precious, and reduces them to a single dimension: hard-working," Hull says. "But they're real people, with flaws. They make bad decisions."

It takes time for outsiders to write these stories; Hull spent sixteen months on her Atlanta series. That may be an extreme, but to do these stories right requires that such coverage be a newsroom priority.

The Obstacles

Spurred by its 1998 project on poverty, the Pioneer Press created a poverty beat and gave it to Maja Beckstrom. In 2002 she went on maternity leave and the beat died, a victim, she says, of the paper's "effort to rethink priorities of coverage given a tight budget." Once back at work, she was given the choice of a twenty-something lifestyle beat or one on parenting and families. Beckstrom chose the latter.

Even if reporters are attuned to the complexities of life for the poor and the working class, they face a number of obstacles to getting those stories in the paper or on the air.
The profit expectations of newspapers and television news operations have had a dramatic and well-known effect on the quality of journalism: shorter stories, fewer reporters, and a focus on those readers who appeal to advertisers.

"There aren't too many publishers who come striding into the newsroom demanding more coverage of the ghetto," says Walker Lundy, a former editor of the Pioneer Press and The Philadelphia Inquirer, who is now retired. "You can't sell many ads when your readers don't have credit cards, and thus some readers are worth more than others."

The priorities of corporate media aside, the very ways we define and deliver news today work against the kind of coverage Hull, Schmich, and the others are after. Our devotion to the ideal of objectivity produces too many stories that are so concerned with "balance" that they end up saying very little. The pace of the news cycle, as well as the shrinking newshole, foster a way of thinking about the news that doesn't lend itself to nuance and complexity. We are trained to find the quick hit, not to connect the various dots and reach conclusions. For example, a new study of how New York City's daily newspapers covered the city's post-9/11 budget crisis, commissioned by the nonprofit Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, found that the coverage failed "to clarify the stakes of policy decisions on various socioeconomic classes." The coverage, the study concluded, suggested that "everyone's interests are identical." Not surprisingly, the sources used to delineate and explain those interests were mostly politicians and government officials.

For David Shipler, the former New York Times correspondent whose latest book is about the working poor, it took a newsroom strike to free him of the confines of daily journalism. "I was in Moscow with the Times when we went on strike in 1978," he says. "For three months I didn't have to write for the paper, and I stopped thinking in terms of the seven-hundred-word story. I began to notice things that I hadn't stopped to consider, to see patterns and connections. That's why I was able to write a book. I got a different lens. When your antennae are highly tuned for the 'good story,' these things go by you. Unless a paper is willing to give reporters the freedom to not write every day, then it will be hard for them to find a new lens."

Dale Maharidge, who won a Pulitzer for his 1989 book And Their Children After Them, about rural poverty, never found it difficult to see the world from the bottom up. Since taking his first journalism job at The Gazette of Medina in Cleveland, his hometown, in 1977, Maharidge has been referred to by editors, somewhat derisively, he says, as the "bum writer."
He was the son of a steelworker who had a side business at home, grinding cutting tools for industrial use. "I literally grew up breathing steel dust," says Maharidge. His new book, Homeland, due out July 4, is about an undercurrent of working-class -- really working-poor -- anger that Maharidge says predates 9/11. The book highlights the kinds of stories the press misses because of this "lens" problem Shipler talks about.

Among the people Maharidge introduces us to are a mother and son who live together in Bridgeview, a blue-collar neighborhood in Chicago, where, following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, a white mob marched on a local mosque, threatening to burn it down. In 2002, on the first anniversary of the attacks, there was another march in Bridgeview, and Maharidge was there for it. He saw the mother and son, carrying an American flag, being chased off by the police, and he followed them and got their names and address. A few days later he went to their house. Two hours later he had a deeper understanding of the anger on display in that march, and it wasn't as much about anti-Muslim bigotry as press accounts surmised. The son, who was in his mid-thirties, couldn't work because of a heart condition. He showed Maharidge a grocery bag full of medical bills -- $200,000 worth, the son said -- that he had no way to pay. The mother, who needed knee-replacement surgery that she couldn't afford, lifted her shirt to show him a pain patch on her back.

She worked for seven dollars an hour at J.C. Penney, but had no insurance. "Would they have still been racists if they had jobs and insurance?" Maharidge says.

"Sure. But would they have been out there marching? Maybe not."


There are things that we could do to address this class divide and get a news report that is, as the Columbia sociologist Herbert Gans put it, "multiperspectival."
The most obvious is to broaden our diversity recruitment programs to include a specific focus on class. Efforts to bring racial and ethnic diversity to the newsroom have struggled, and this one wouldn't be any easier. But Tim Rutten, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, cautions against fatalism on the question of building socioeconomic diversity. "I worked with the first black in the L.A. Times newsroom, the first Latino, the first woman editor, and the first woman on the masthead," he says. "All those things are commonplace now in journalism, but there was a time when each seemed an impossible social barrier."

Editors might do more to encourage reporters like Newsday's Wil Cruz as he struggles to figure out how to use his background -- he dropped out of high school before eventually getting a degree from New York's City College -- to inform his reporting on his new beat, education. "I don't know if it gives me power," he says of his atypical path to journalism.

"If it does, I haven't been able to channel that advantage into my stories. But I need to, because I see it as a responsibility to do it right."

Newspapers need to play to their strengths, and stop trying to compete with the electronic media on every breaking story. The ability of even the sharpest journalism to effect real change is incremental at best, but the stories that have a shot -- the scoops that matter -- are those that go deep and tell us important things about the world, that challenge the way we think about something. David Barstow and Lowell Bergman's Pulitzer-winning articles last year in The New York Times said something important about worker safety in this country, but they took seventeen months to complete and involved a dozen reporters, researchers, producers, and editors. As important as those stories were, though, they are indicative of how the press approaches the poor and the working class. As Mary Schmich says, we embrace the big project, then ignore them until time for the next big project. Day to day, their perspectives and concerns are missing from the media.

A bit of outrage would help, too.

Russell Baker says that outrage has been "bred" out of us, that we come from a class for whom the system has largely worked, and he's right. The working class has all but disappeared from our pages and no one seems to notice. We report on the poor, but do little to empower the poor. That's what makes the recent crusade by the New York Daily News to raise the state's minimum wage so noteworthy. Not only did the paper have a reporter dogging the issue from the field, but its editorial page hammered away at it for months.

Anthony DePalma says that the outrage is still with us, but that it takes a crisis -- a pair of kids starving to death in Newark, an innocent man being shot forty-one times by the police in the Bronx -- to draw it to the surface.

Well, how about this for a crisis: We are the richest country in the history of the world, and we tolerate thirty-five million of our fellow Americans living in poverty; we tolerate forty-four million without health insurance.

Meanwhile, Gannett pays Larry Miller, its outgoing CFO, $600,000 a year for an open-ended "consulting" contract, in addition to a car and golf club membership.

Brent Cunningham is the Managing Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review.
� 2004 Independent Media Institute.