Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


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

I just discovered a reason why I haven't been writing in my blogs much lately. When I first started, I was writing from a webtv: turn it on, log in, type "blogger" into my "goto" function, hit "new post," start writing. It was pretty fast.

Now that I'm using Ma's computer, it's harder. Turn on computer; wait for it to load. Type in password; wait for personal settings to load. Click on NetZero; wait for ridiculous, hiccuping commercial to finish, click on "connect;" click on "favorites;" click on "Rogi;" click on "writing;" click on "blogger dashboard;" click on "hood life;" click on "new post;" write.

EACH of these steps can take upwards of thirty seconds, sometimes more. I'm not too with it, first thing in the morning. One morning, Ma woke me with, "I couldn't sleep, so I put new tires and tubes on your bicycle..." I said, "don't say anything complicated." She loves bicycles, and could spend at least an hour, describing the blow-by-blow details of this procedure. She understood.

But computers don't understand. Sometimes, it's all I can do to sit in this chair and watch that damned hourglass spin, as I wait for this and that to load. It's Ma's computer, so I can't exactly throw a brick through the monitor. So, sometimes, avoidance seems the best tactic.

Oh, sure, I find things to do so I don't have to just sit here and stare: let chickens out, got to bathroom, pour coffee to warm in microwave; feed dogs; water cats; water garden..... I'll do all these, between steps on the computer, as I wait for things to load.

I guess that's multitasking: going on with your REAL life, while you wait for the damned computer to percolate...

The heat wasn't so bad yesterday, not until around 3pm, anyway. I transcribed another Peace Talks for http://paulingles.com Paul Ingles. I puttered with some minor chores.

Ma and I walked to the store for filtered water (they have a vending machine; we have our own, 3 gallon jugs) and assorted groceries. I scored a 99 cent-per-pound brisket. I'll throw half in the crock pot today and freeze the rest. Makes great tacos, taquitos, burritos... But you have to cook it for a loooong time, so it'll fall apart. Otherwise, brisket is meat chewing gum. And floss: it always makes strings that get caught in teeth.

Memorial Day is coming. Ma has the day off. She wants us to go to a movie on bike and scooter. Busses don't run on holidays. We live near the museums, Old Towne (an affected, English spelling of an ancient, Native and Spanish area of the city), the Biological Park, Zoo, Aquarium... lots of touristy things. I've never been to any but the Zoo and the free parts of the museums. I'd kinda like to go. We have a planetarium within walking distance, too; we walk past it on summer evenings all the time.

I had an old bike I'd found in the dumpster, next to my last apartment. The handlebars were crooked; the gear chain had derailed; the tires were flat. Ma fixed it up for me. I think it's actually for little kids. It's a VERY small mountain bike, eighteen speeds. It's in almost-new condition. And, since it's so small, I can dismount without killing myself. Hell, my feet actually tourch the ground.

So, it's her mission in life to fix it up so I can ride bikes with her. Oh, she thinks the scooter's ok, for long trips, but she's absolutely tickled that I might actually ride bicycles with her. No, I don't know why.

But bicycle people are peculiar. It's like a religion. But it's a private religion, for the most part. Yes, I see gangs of spandex people in melon helmets, their skinny hipbones jutting with each peddle, speeding along on weekends. But that's rare. For the most part, I only see individuals riding on errands or to work. Many are alcoholics who've lost drivers' licenses. Many are Mexican and other immigrants, earning minimum wage, just trying to survive. Mostly, the white, middle class people have the religious aspect to bike riding; everybody else is just trying to get to a dead-end job on time.

It's also like a drug addiction. Ma and I went into a bike shop, near the Guild Cinema (we'd seen a double feature Orson Wells, the week after seeing his "The Trial," written by Kafka--which is the story of my life, actually...). Anyway, that bike shop had the damdest wastes of money I ever saw: every contraption you can THINK of to cherry out a bike, a bicyclist, or anything remotely related to bicycles. Ma bought one, little part: a bike seat shim. It cost TEN DOLLARS!!! Paraphenalia.

Ducks and chicks, dogs and cats, gold fish are all fine. When my strength returns, I must line my pond and fill it.

Right now, though, I'm about conserving my strength, keeping my animals and garden alive in this heat, and laying low.

The heat really knocked me off my feet. And, yes, there was a fire in the bosque (Spanish for forest) yesterday. It was small, thank heavens, but still....

I'm sewing some sun dresses for Ma and I. Hers is lime green with lemons printed on the bodice. I got some chickens; I'm making a pinafore from them. I got some cats, too. Haven't decided on those yet... But some new dresses were in order. I guess I could finish the straps and hem on Ma's today. Maybe...

I got the sewing machine working again; it's poorly designed and the thread can wrap itself around one of the take up clips. I finally bypassed the clip. I got the tension properly adjusted. I oiled everything. It's a crappy machine and doesn't do much, but it keeps things sewn up.

So, if the damned thing doesn't drive me bonkers, being finiccy and breaking threads, I'll work on dresses today. Maybe...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


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

Two times, during the year, I'm reminded how far above sea level I'm living.

One is the dead of winter, especially on a cloudless night. I feel only the thinnest veil of atmospheric protection from the infinite, bitter cold of outer space.

The other time is summer, about mid afternoon, when the sun is much too close and much too strong. Plastics disintigrate in a season. Plants struggle for air and water.

We're having a too early, week-long heat wave. It's been over ninety fahrenheit, every day. The evening temperature was dropping enough that my fans could pump in some cool air overnight, which I would trap behind closed windows and doors for the day.

But last night, it never really cooled. The collected heat in the earth radiated out all night. The air was still. I literally whimpered as I tried to go to sleep.

It's dawn now. The thermometer reads over seventy, which is an ideal daytime temperature. But it's not enough to collect inside the house to keep it cooler than the outside air at midday.

It's going to be miserable in here today. And forget working outside.

I'll keep the fans on high speed for a couple of more hours. Then, I'll turn some off, to save electricity. The others will work at minimum, just to stir the air.

The ducks are nearly adults now. The chickens are dwarfed by them. The chickens have their feathers now, but they're only a quarter the size of the ducks.

The ducks have their fat pads, for floating. They feel the heat worse than the chicks do. They pant. They spread their breasts and bellies in any shaded, especially damp, ground.

I water every night. This heat came way too early for my sprouting garden, and for the clover seed I sewed in the front yard. Tiny sprouts struggle, just to stay alive. I shredded old newspaper in my cross cut paper shredder. I sprinkled it on the parts of the garden that are most exposed to the heat. When I water, the paper absorbs the moisture and releases it overnight. It shades tender sprouts. It reflects sunlight. Some mornings, I find the ground still damp until nearly noon.

I need to finish the duck pond soon. I'm drying it out in this miserable and indifferent heat. Then, I'll layer it with old sheet plastic for insulation from sharp rocks, twisted metal, broken glass and other debris in that back yard. I'm planning to line it with a swimming pool cover I bought on eBay.

I've stacked large slabs of our old, concrete driveway. The city subcontracted street renovation. I asked the guy with the jack hammer to save me the slabs. Ma and I dragged the heavy monsters into the back yard. I built lawn chairs, a table, and the base of my pond's waterfall with them.

I'll cover the stacked slabs with plastic, and cover that with pretty, pink flagstones I've collected from the neighborhood. I'll run a swamp cooler pump hose up the stack. The pump will sit in the water, at the base of the "fall."

It should look nice, be a good home for my gold fish, and provide swimming space for the ducks. Digging the hole was miserable, but we loosened the earth with the rototiller we rented, back when it was cold enough I was rototilling in a hail storm.

The heat is taking its toll on me. I'm weak and dizzy. I'm drinking fluids all day, to stave off dehydration (about three litres per day). But when it's this hot, my aging, sickly body just can't cope.

Yesterday, it just gave out. I napped for four hours. It wasn't restful. I battled heat in unconsciousness and woke dripping with sweat and weak.

I only hope the forcast for next week provides some relief.

We had so much spring rain that weeds have grown to outrageous proportions. They'll dry in the heat. A passing car, a thrown cigarette butt, and the whole city could catch fire.

It could be a bad wild fire season, if this week is an indication of the summer to come.

I've let all my ducks and chickens out into the yard for the day. I have fifteen, collectively.

Now, I'll go hoe away some of the piles of dirt from around the pond, so I can lay the plastic and then hoe the dirt back to weigh down the edges.

All I can do is wait for this to pass. But the misery makes patience difficult. I'd kill for an air conditioner.

Monday, May 09, 2005


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

This has been a difficult period of adjustment for me: the idea that I have a stable, safe home that won't disappear overnight, due to the whims of forces I can't negotiate with, let alone control. So much of my life has been devoted to hustling to keep a roof over my head. I've had to placate landlords, dodge crazy neighbors, sell plasma for rent money, guard my place with crowbars and baseball bats, cajole cops who assume I'm suspect because I live in a bad neighborhood.... blah, blah, blah.

I still freak out every month when the landlord comes for the rent. He's a prissy, snotty, negative closet queen. He lives with his mother. He has a chihuahua, which he treats like a fragile jewel. He's a devout catholic. He REAKS of overpowering aftershave. And he's a bimbo. I can barely stand him. And he always has something negative to say. Last month, he sneared because I've planted marigolds. Go figure.

I'm always sure I'll have to pack to move, every time he's coming for the rent. I let Ma deal with him, mostly. The best I'll do is put in a guest appearance, so he'll know I actually live here. Most months, I hide in the back with the sequestered cats, dogs and chickens.

Once the ducks are big enough, there will be no hiding their quacking, of course.

The baby ducks & chicks are doing fine and growing like weeds. Soon, they'll be big enough to let run free. I'm waiting 'til they can't squeeze through chain link.

Anyway, my point is: we've lived here nearly a year now. I'm just now getting my head around the concept that this is my home, that I have every right to be here, that "they" are not going to bust in here at any moment and order me to move on.

Because I'm starting to relax, to trust my security, old traumas are surfacing: crises that demanded my clearest thinking and wit. These were times when I just had to solve the problem of trying to keep myself, my stuff and my animals safe and alive. I couldn't afford the luxury of freaking out, crying, getting angry, being scared, etc.

Now, I'm remembering those times and feeling the emotions. It's pretty difficult, but I figure it's healthy and healing, in the long run: no sense trying to avoid it, anyway; it'd take too much energy.

The same is true of Ma, of course. I'm starting to understand how she ticks, and she I. We still have some rough patches. I often feel cheated of her time and attention; her job drains her something awful.

I'm alone here a lot. When she gets home, I'm full of things to tell her. And she just wants to get her clothes off, throw on a bathrobe and slippers, and veg out in front of the tv.

I don't want to socialize. I don't want to drive around on my scooter. I don't want to expose myself to other people's damage. I want to stay home.

But it means I try to dump all my stuff on Ma, who can barely handle her own stuff.

I'm trying to be patient, both with her and with myself.

I have a very active mind, and a lot of ideas.

Which is why, of course, I should be writing more.

I've been putting in the garden. Last weekend, Ma helped me cut corrugated, metal sheeting into panels and assemble a roof on our back porch/animal kennel. Looks very good. And it's more substantial than the sheet plastic I put up last year.

And I found a game I bought: Speedy Eggbert and Speedy Eggbert II. They were bundled by egames.com for twenty five bucks. Yea, it's a lot of money for a silly game, but I just LOVE it! I come in from working hard outside and try to solve the colorful, noisy puzzles. It's a series of mazes, with booby traps and treasures. Nobody gets killed. There are weapons, of a sort (if you can call glue bombs weapons). But nobody dies -- not even the adversaries. It's cartoonish and clever. I can design my own mazes. And it's challenging for memory, logic and precision skills. I'd buy it for any kid. It must be relatively easy, as I can do it -- with great difficulty. By the time I'll have finished II, I'll have forgotten most of I, and can go back to play it all again.

It's a catharsis, really: my whole life resembles Speedy Eggbert: I'm just trying to go from Point A to Point B, without getting clobbered on the way.....

Anyway, I have a back porch to organize now, and plants to water, and laundry to finish. The sun's finally up, so I'll be starting now.

Y'all have a good day.