Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


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

Dear Ma,

In all this panic about what I didn't know, I went too
crazy and called you "selfish," because I didn't get
some information I'd needed.

Well, we dropped the ball. Not just you: both of us
screwed up. Yeah, you knew more about what was going
to happen, but I didn't press the issue and make sure
I was informed.

I'm very sorry I called you selfish.

I was standing in the kitchen just now, blowing
cigarette smoke out the back door. It's seriously too
cold out there to go outside. It's already below
freezing and may get below zero tonight.

Most nights, this house is cozy. This sofa is RIGHT in
front of a heater.

But tonight, it's so cold, I'm shivering. I'm not
cranking up the heat because that just seems wasteful.
Even though I've weatherproofed the windows, doors,
etc., it's just a really cold night and my heavy
sweater vest, sweats and sweater just won't do enough.

The only solution is to get under the covers with a
pile of cats and dog and snuggle myself to sleep --
just as soon as The Simpsons is over.

Well, I was standing in the kitchen and thinking. I
have a big chunk of brisket, thawing on the counter. I
plan to make burritos with it. Today, I ate cooked
chicken I'd thawed.

It's nearly the end of the month. My food stamps don't
come for ten, more days. Usually, by now, I'm down to:
potatoes, pasta, bread and cereal. That's all.

The freezer's still full of food, honey. I was
thinking yesterday that, even when the food stamps
come, there's nothing I really need, except some fresh

All I've bought since you've been gone is 2 bottles of
soda pop. I have everything I need here.

The reason I could embroider that scarf for you is
because I have glasses now. I haven't been able to
embroider for nearly fifteen years. Now, I can see.

The pets have food.

I have what I need to start independent radio

I'm not going without anything.

In fact, I bought myself a treat this month. You know
I'd been looking at pad and cork "tune up" kits for my
flute. Well, they cost about seventy dollars. Hiring
someone to actually tune it for me would cost about
two hundred dollars.

I found a real, concert flute on EBay. It's a
Gemeinhart: a concert, rather than a band, flute. I
bid on it, last minute. I got it for eighty two
dollars, including shipping. It's on its way from

I will be able to play along with the holiday music
specials on public tv. I'll be able to play to my
records and tapes.

So, here's the thing.

You've been very good to me. And I do understand and
appreciate that.

Now that I'm not panicing anymore, I can see beyond my
terror and see how much you've changed my life for the

I mentioned the tangible things. But there are dozens
of intangibles, too. Just the warmth of your presence,
the silly jokes, your nerdy fussing, your glee at the
simplest things.

I felt so seperated from you during this present
crisis. I was in deep grief.

But, now that the ickiest part is past, and you're
coming through ok, I can feel you again.

The cold binding I felt in my chest is loosening. I
feel warmth around my heart again. You put that there,

I was literally disabled by my fear this past week. I
went back to a survival mode of bleak isolation. I
became bitter and vicious.

Like I was before you ever met me.

It was familiar, true. But it was miserable and small
and hard.

Now that I can feel you again, I'm relaxed and calm
and hopeful and happy again.

I may not be lost without you, but I sure got confused
there, for awhile.

Ma, you're the best thing to come along in my life in
a very long time. And I love you beyond reason.

Now, take very good care of yourself for me. I need
you back here healthy and ready to resume this
ridiculous dance I got you mixed up in with me.

Please: be well.

All my best,


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

hunkered down

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

Well, Ma's been gone for a week now. She'll be back at the end of December.

I made us a whole Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner before she left, all from scratch. I baked a turkey. I made wheatless stuffing. I made fresh cranberry relish. I made cheesy mashed potatoes. I made flourless gravy. I made sweet potato/orange casserole. I even made pearl onions in cream and butter.

It was great! I froze some. But we ended up eating most of it before she left.

Since then, I've bought two, more turkeys on sale. One's frozen. The other, I baked with pineapple, apples and oranges for a friend of mine who came to lunch. I fed him all the side dishes, too.

Turkeys were only thirty-nine cents a pound, so why not? Cats and dogs are eating, too.

I'm building my radio recording studio while Ma's gone. It's really looking good, too.

I hope to sell a story or two by the new year.

I got myself all psyched out, thinking I couldn't do it.

But Ma bought a software program for her computer. It records phone calls in .wav format, so I can transfer them to the digital audio program to edit. Easy as pie.

I still have a "loaner" minidisc recorder and two microphones. I can do field work and live interviews with them.

I'm looking at microphone stands, minidisc recorders, etc. over at EBay. By the first of the year, I should have some nice stuff.

I've been secretly saving up money to buy Ma some new clothes, accessories, etc. I've managed to save about three hundred dollars in three months! Living here is saving me a fortune.

So, clothes from Pakistan, India, China, Ireland, England.... are arriving almost daily. I'm washing stuff up. Then, I'll wrap each item in pink paper and lavender ribbon roses, hide them around her room in the places they belong, and let her discover them all when she comes back.

So, I'm alone again over the holidays. But I'm very busy.

I talk to her every day by cell phone and, soon, she'll be able to email.

I do miss her, though.

I don't need a dang thing. I'm cozy and warm with a ton of food and supplies.

Tomorrow, a guy from the radio station is picking me up to go to their house for Thanksgiving. And I've got a return invitation to Christmas dinner at another friend's place.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

how to save apx. 6,000 gallons of water per year

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

Dear Ma, I THINK I've had a brilliant idea.

We're saving about 15 gallons of water when we each shower; that's about how much the tub holds that we stand in to shower. Each of us only bathes every other day, which saves, too.

And we've been saving our dish rinse water, also. That's about another gallon or so.

All that gets used to flush the toilet.

So, we're saving about 120 gallons per week, doing this.

BUT: I've been using fresh tap water, through the garden hose, to run the washing machine. And, even though that water gets discharged into the garden, it's a lot of water. Each washer load is about thirty gallons: wash and rinse.

Well, we usually have leftover water from our showers. We often have a LOT of it: about ten gallons. We just don't need to flush the toilet that often.

So, this morning, I added a few drops of bleach to the last tub of shower water. I filled three of those --what? maybe three gallon? -- buckets we use to flush the toilet.

I put them in the WASH cycle of the washing machine!

Why not?!

So, I can take a shower later today, and the tub won't be half full of cold water from your shower!

I've still got enough left to suppliment another load of laundry.

And here's the beauty part!

We can keep water in the washer tub and emmerse that water bed heater overnight, so the pump and hoses don't freeze and break! It'll keep the whole thing above freezing! And the machine will already be partly full of warmish water, next load of laundry!

I'll only use the waterbed heater when temps. fall below freezing, though.

It'll also conduct heat down the garden hose I use to fill the washer, to keep that from freezing.

So, we CAN keep the washing machine on the back porch, recycle the water into the garden, keep the clothes clean, recycle water and live happily ever after!

Not bad, huh?


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Faith in [U.S.] America

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If you don't vote today, I have nothing for you.

Paul Krugman: 'Faith in America'
Date: Tuesday, November 02 @ 10:04:42 EST
Topic: Election 2004
By Paul Krugman, New York Times

Florida's early polling was designed to make voting easier, but enormous voter turnout swamped the limited number of early polling sites. Over the weekend, people in some polling places had to stand in line for four, five, even six hours, often in the hot sun. Some of them - African-Americans in particular - surely suspected that those lines were so long because officials wanted to make it hard for them to vote. Yet they refused to be discouraged or intimidated.

Here's what a correspondent from Florida wrote to Joshua Marshall, of talkingpointsmemo.com: "To see people coming out - elderly, disabled, blind, poor; people who have to hitch rides, take buses, etc. - and then staying in line for hours and hours and hours ... Well, it's humbling. And it's awesome. And it's kind of beautiful."

Yes, it is. I always get a little choked up when I go to the local school to cast my vote. The humbleness of the surroundings only emphasizes the majesty of the process: this is democracy, America's great gift to the world, in action.

But over the last few days I've been seeing pictures from Florida that are even more majestic. They show long lines of voters, snaking through buildings and on down the sidewalk: citizens patiently waiting to do their civic duty. Those people still believe in American democracy; and because they do, so do I.

In truth, I wasn't sure what would happen in Florida this year. After all that has gone wrong with voting in that state, it seemed all too possible that many people would simply give up and stay home.

But it's already clear that the people of Florida - and, I believe, America as a whole - have refused to give in to cynicism and spin.

Far from being discouraged by what happened in 2000, they seem to realize more than ever - and better than those of us in the chattering classes - what a precious thing the right to vote really is. And they are determined to exercise that right.

And it's not just in Florida. Similar stories are coming in from across the country, wherever early voting is allowed: everywhere, huge numbers of voters are coming to the polls, determined to exercise their democratic rights.

Of course, most Americans won't get their chance to vote until today, but I have no doubt that they will turn out in record numbers. I don't think the rain that will blanket some parts of the country will deter them. Regardless of their politics, most Americans understand that this is a crucial election, and that never before has their vote mattered so much for the nation's destiny.

The talking heads on TV will no doubt frame all of this in partisan terms: light turnout favors one party, heavy turnout favors the other. True enough.

But this isn't a zero-sum game: the more people vote, the more vital is our democracy.

By coming to the polls, citizens are literally giving a vote of confidence in American democracy. And in so doing, they are proving themselves wiser than some of those they elected.

Those who govern us seem to have learned little from the 2000 electoral debacle: voting machines are still unreliable, voting officials are still unforgivably partisan.

But the public seems to have learned a lesson. Instead of becoming cynical, people seem to have become motivated.

After an election in which a few hundred votes determined the fate of the nation, after four years of an administration that has demonstrated, for good or ill, that it matters a lot who becomes president, citizens know that their votes matter. And they are determined to cast those votes.
What will happen when they do cast those votes? I don't know; neither does anyone else. That's how democracy works.

Regular readers won't be in any doubt about who I want to win, though New York Times rules prevent me from giving any explicit endorsement. (Hint: it's the side that benefits from large turnout.) Above all, though, I want to see democracy vindicated, and the stain of 2000 eradicated, by a clean election in which as many people as possible get to cast their votes, and have those votes counted.

And all the evidence says that's what the American people want, too. May all of us get our wish.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com
Copyright 2004�The New York Times Company
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