Posts Tagged ‘homelessness’

Eleven

January 18, 2016

For eleven.

I got my eleventh star this eveningIMG_8287

I think she’s pretty.

IMG_8293

Courtesy of Danny Boy Smith @ Let it Bleed.

Deep in the heart of the Tenderloin.

Wow.

Not much has changed and so much has changed.

I am beyond grateful that the reason I was in the Tenderloin was to score a new tattoo.

Not to score.

I haven’t been over to Polk Street in quite sometime.

I used to live up at Washington and Taylor and would frequently ride my bicycle up Polk and then up further, up, up, up California Street, then onto Washington, ending at Taylor.

High.

Up above the crack smoke filled streets and the dirty self-medicating junkies and the cross dressing prostitutes.

I was surprised to see a couple of girls working the streets.

I mean.

I should not have been.

It is the Tenderloin.

Maybe it was just that I haven’t seen a working girl where I live in some time.

Not much action going on in the Outer Sunset.

Although I’m sure things are shaking and moving in and out of the 7-11 parking lot just down the street from my house.

I was glad to walk the streets and not be a street walker, to be coming from my last hour of classes at my first weekend back to my second semester of my graduate school program, to be heading to get a tattoo to celebrate my eleventh anniversary without picking up.

Rather than picking through the garbage strewn gutters or standing under an awning smoking a cigarette and wondering how the hell it all went wrong.

Instead.

I find myself wondering how the hell it all went so wonderfully right.

Graduate school reinforces that premise every time I walk the halls of the university.

Every time I sit in class and raise my hand.

Every time I have a positive interaction with a professor, a student, a fellow in my cohort.

I am full, constantly, of wonder and awe.

Not withstanding I am also a little tired, it was a big weekend, but I did it, I’m through, and I don’t know if it’s an actual lighter reading load then last semester or that I am used to doing the work, but it feels easier.

Perhaps I am just easing into it.

Gratefully so with much surrender.

And.

Really.

Just a stunning amount of perpetual incredulousness that I have made it this far.

I really should not be here.

If life were fair.

I would be dead.

I also have been recognizing, noticing, and in great awareness around the myriad of strikes that have just been against me for so long.

Poverty.

Drug abuse.

Alcohol abuse.

Sexual abuse.

Neglect.

Trauma, trauma, trauma.

I don’t think about it often, I don’t need to ponder the mysterious ways of the Universe, it was just brought home today in my first class of the morning.

I shared about not having real health insurance.

I have Healthy SF, in case you were wondering, but though it provides a lot of the things that having health insurance covers, it’s not the real deal.

And as I explained to my class over a discussion about what it is like to live with the constant, chronic, high level of poverty and what it was like to grow up–though I did not see it at the time–in that dire place of not enough, I realized it was a miracle, a fucking huge ass miracle, that I got out.

The cycle got broken.

I emerged.

A phoenix from the ashes of a crack pipe.

I mean.

Let me not put to fine a point on it.

But the affects still linger and I don’t always realize them.

The shame that comes from being poor, the hot lunch program at school, the American cheese in a box, being the scholarship kid, the kid in need, or the homeless teenager, who despite having a full ride to her first year at university, couldn’t keep it together to keep food in her dorm fridge.

The constant stress of not having the money to afford health insurance, with a few exceptions here and there, worrying about if I would get sick or hurt.

I related how when I did get hurt, my ankle injury, and how I was out of work for six weeks I was blessed with amazing friends who came out of the woodwork to help me.

The GoFund me that someone started so I could pay my rent that month.

The anonymous twenty dollar bill I found in my messenger bag one night.

The rides to and from places.

The gift card for the grocery store.

I have a community of love and friendship that I leaned into really hard.

But the affects of being raised with the absence of so much, I never really contemplated until, irony, no?

I got into graduate school.

Which is a privileged place to be.

Granted.

I am.

Again.

A scholarship kid.

No shame in that.

Although, yes, I admit,  I am loathe to share it with my cohort, I somehow, still think that I don’t quite deserve it and somebody will take it away from me.

In class today the lecture covered what happens to people who live under that kind of stress, who live with PTSD, poverty, drug abuse, alcoholism, for those that self-medicate in the streets, for the homelessness and the racism that we inflict on each other.

And I just felt like gasping for air.

My palms got hot, I got hot, my flight or fight or freeze got activated.

I was alive and charged up and saddened to hear what was being said and then reacting too, to some pretty naive comments made by some well meaning, but hyper privileged classmates.

So.

I shared.

I shared what it was like, what it is still like–do you know that I will get penalized by the government when I go to file my taxes for not having “real” health insurance–to be a person without.

The thing is.

I don’t believe I am a person without anymore.

I have so much.

Love.

Abundance.

Joy.

Stars–like eleven!

I have a good job, I am in graduate school, I live in San Francisco (still, haven’t gotten priced out yet!), I eat organic food and drink expensive coffee.

What I found fascinating, though, in class, from a very astute and experienced PhD professor, is that the affects of poverty don’t dissipate for about three generations.

A lot of the stress that I carry with me, even when I am flush, may well continue to be with me, to be in my body, to just be there.

I have felt it.

I have put name to it.

I have done inventory.

I remember once writing the fear a letter, saying, “dear fear, I hear you, you may be right, but I promise, I will take care of paying rent, you wont’ be homeless this month.”

I had it taped up to my wall by my writing desk for months.

It was when I was living up in Nob Hill.

I don’t know if those affects will always be there, as so much as been lifted, so much space has been made in my heart, in my body, so much psychic change has happened for me, that I believe these intergenerational traumas will end with me.

That is my belief.

And not only that.

The experiences, the wealth of knowledge, the how I got through, the how it works, the passing it on, they are the true measure of my abundance and ability.

These things mark me, but they are not me.

I am more than the sum of my parts.

I am the light that shines around the edges of those black stars.

I go forth.

Into this furthering light.

Into this ever expanding place of being held.

Always.

Further.

Into.

This deepening love.

 

 

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The Kindness of Strangers

December 13, 2014

And those not so strange.

Perhaps I should just entitle this blog, “The Kindness.”

It has been a strange run of hours, surreal, be-spattered with rain and heavy tears.

Sorrow and grief and shock and then sleep and more tears and more rain.

My father is in the ICU at a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska.

A hospital I am on the way to.

I’m writing this blog from 10,000 plus feet on my connecting flight from Seattle to Anchorage. A flight, the kindness of strangers, that I should not be on.

“Stop, you don’t need to say more,” Rebecca at Alaska Airlines said to me, as I struggled to get out the words.

I had gotten off the plane from San Francisco and used the bathroom in the Seattle airport and figured I would find a snack or some dinner in the airport before connecting to my Anchorage flight.

However, the flight I was supposed to be on was showing a delayed boarding of more than two hours, add that to the two-hour layover and I was suddenly stranded in Seattle for four hours.

I’m only going to be in Alaska through Sunday night, I thought to myself and I walked in circles with my mom on the phone nattering about this and that and trying in her way to be supportive of me and my actions.

It’s not everyday a girl packs up her suitcase to see her father who she hasn’t seen in twelve years.

I finally saw a free agent at the airline and asked him for suggestions, he told me to head to gate 16, tell them that I needed to fly standby and see what they could do.

“My maiden name, Martines,” the woman at the airline counter said, followed by, “I just lost my father last month.”

We both teared up.

I had nothing in common with this woman, yet I had everything in common.

“I’ll get you on.” Rebecca said, “Go stand over there.”

And she did.

In effect saving me not only the two-hour delay on my flight, but gaining me an additional two hours to be in Alaska.

It’s not as dire as my blog sounds.

And it is.

I received a message from my uncle, as I was, irony? Heading into General Hospital, the locked down psych ward, with my boyfriend who does service there once a month.

I was going to assist and be sharing that evening.

As I reached for my phone as we headed into the doors, I heard a little ping.

Normal behavior?

Ignore it, turn off the phone, I have things to do, places to be, experience to share.

But as the doors locked behind us and we headed to the secured elevator, something prompted me to check the message.

“Emergency, call now.”

Followed by two numbers.

I called my uncle.

My father was in surgery, it didn’t look good.

Fact is.

My father hasn’t looked good in a while.

“Where’s my sister?” I asked him as he stood leaned against her apartment door building the winter of 2002, I had come back to surprise my friends and family in Madison from a recent move to San Francisco.

“I’m babysitting for her, she’s out,” my father said, sheepish in the light coming from behind him. My heels crunched in the snow, I felt the slip of ice under my feet, I had already lost my “snow legs” after just a few months in California, the ground wasn’t holding firm.

He smelt.

Beer.

Sweat.

Cigarettes.

Pot.

Fear.

And under the rank and file odor, he smelled like home, like my papa, like my dad, but I hadn’t called him either of those monikers in a long time.

He was Michael and he became that to me at an age when most kids are fostering a relationship with their fathers, not wondering where their dad was.

I have since grown up a lot.

However.

I have not sustained a relationship with my father.

He has been too active in his disease, that of alcoholism, and whatever else that has served to numb out the pain of existence.

I stopped engaging a long time ago.

I cut him out.

I cut him out with a machete.

I dropped a wall.

I said, I don’t ever want to see you again or speak to you unless you are sober.

He has not ever gotten sober.

But I did.

And in those moments of clarity when I look back I can see I was protecting myself, but maybe, just a little too fiercely.

Maybe just a little too hard.

“He thinks the world of you,” my sister said last night, sobbing when I told her the news that I was going.

Insert the kindness of those not so strange.

My employers.

They gifted me their frequent flyer miles.

I did not pay for this airplane ride.

I am still in shock at the largess of the gift.

“What! You have to take it,” she said to me over the phone as I sat numbed out (but warm—oh the loveliness of a car seat warmer) in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car.

“They want you to have it, they really do.” She continued.

And I realized, right then, right there, she was right.

And I wanted, no, I needed, to go.

I also decided, at that moment to grow up.

I called my grandmother, I got the name of the hospital, I called the hospital, I talked to the nursing staff, and I got the news.

The doctor was smiling, but the news wasn’t good.

He was alive.

But they don’t know, they wouldn’t know the extent of the brain damage for a few more days, he suffered blunt head trauma, they had removed a large clot and stopped several other bleeders, but “your dad’s a very sick man, he has a very sick brain,” the nurse said.

I think he may have been referring to more than just the trauma he had suffered.

I don’t know how the injury happened.

I have some suspicions.

Suffice to say, that’s not important now.

My dad came out of the surgery alive, with the brain swelling alleviated, they took off part of his skull to let the pressure go down, he was in a coma that from what I understand was medically induced to help with pain (but folks, I may be wrong about the details, the fog of grief makes distortions, it does).

He can track with his eyes; he can squeeze the doctor’s fingers.

I don’t know what to expect.

My heart aches.

I have hope.

One small sliver of hope.

He’ll recognize me and know I forgave him a long, long time ago.

That I love him.

Always have.

Always will.

And maybe

Just maybe.

He’ll squeeze my hand too.

Try It You’ll Like It

May 13, 2014

That’s the problem, I thought to myself as I walked past the man in the doorway at 19th and Valencia, I know I will like it.

That’s why I got to say no.

I was pushing the stroller anyway.

Not the best time to take a hit from a proffered crack pipe.

Ah.

The Mission.

You can gentrify it the fuck up.

You can take stupid photos with a stuffed gorilla at Beta Brand.

You can get your Marina eyebrows down at The Balm.

You can eat your overpriced, albeit, I hear quite tasty tacos, from Tacolicious.

I still will always prefer El Farolito.

I remember, all too fondly as I don’t eat them anymore, the taste of a super quesadilla suiza with carne asada and salsa and hot marinated carrots and jalapenos and corn tortilla chips, fifty cents extra, shit, I remember when the chips were free.

But, you can’t quite get rid  of the crack heads in the door ways.

I was actually surprised to be offered a pipe.

A. I was pushing a stroller

Then again, I know there are some crack mamas out there, I am well aware from my own personal experience, that yes mom’s can smoke up some crack.

But.

Still.

B. That anyone offered it to me.

When I hit the pipe, and I hit it only a handful of times, but more than enough to know that stuff is cray cray, I was not interested in sharing it with anyone once I got going.

I was interested in hiding the fuck out in my room.

Or plywood shack, as the case may be, which it was when I was 19.

C. Because I have never been offered a crack pipe hit before.

Yes, even in the Mission.

I have scored crack.

Good old 16th and Mission BART station.

Where would all the heroin mules work if they didn’t have that little crossroads of hell?

Actually, crack is the only drug I have scored on the street.

I never did heroin–although it was offered to me on Market Street once.

I never bought a bag of pot from some one on Haight Street offering, “kind nugs”.

I don’t even like pot any way, but when I did smoke it, really quite allergic to it, so the only time I ever did was to convince some guy I was dating that I could rip a bong hit too.

I had a cocaine habit, though, yes, yes, yes, ma’am I did.

But I was all bougie about it.

I had my drug of choice delivered.

And he got it to me damn quick.

I can only recall a handful of times that I did not have bag, or bags, in hand before I could have gotten a pizza delivered to me.

The best thing about it, the being offered the crack pipe, is that I didn’t want it, I wasn’t interested, I was so neutral, “no thanks,” I said, and walked past.

I remember once, about oh, 9 years ago, fresh sober as a new souffle wobbling from the oven, walking down Valencia Street and smelling crack.

I freaked out.

I got so spooked.

It was like I went from 0 to homeless in 60 seconds.

I got on my phone, made a ton of phone calls, prayed, tried to not pee my pants, tried to get the whiff of it out of my nose.

I have since smelled plenty of crack in the city and I will say, it can be disconcerting and I don’t enjoy it and I recognize it like a bomb sniffing canine int he airport, but it doesn’t make me freak out.

I just would rather not be around it.

For those reasons, and perhaps a few more, I don’t say, hang in the Tenderloin.

Not really my scene.

What struck me too, today, as I walked about the Mission in search of a park that had some shade for my little bunny to play in, is that the veneer of high-tech and gloss and art is a thinning patina of slap together condominiums that actually look trashy and tacky and dumb down the reason why the Mission became gentrified in the first place.

It had some character.

The character is still there, but it is caked over by tourist and junk.

I hate it when the neighborhood starts selling junk and trinkets.

I don’t want the neighborhood that I birthed my San Francisco self into to become a tourist destination, even though it already has.

I am not a grouchy displaced Missionite either, don’t get me wrong, I will still hang in the Mission and I still belong, but I don’t want to live there anymore.

I couldn’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t have wanted to live there.

And I still do kick myself, a teeny tiny, bit for turning down the large studio with huge corner window on the second floor of a building at Valencia and 22nd above Herbivore that I could have gotten into for $850.

The window looked out over to Jay’s Cheesesteak and the studio, well, it wasn’t just big, it was huge.

But the floors were carpet and I was smitten with the studio I had found in Nob Hill, which had crown molding and pressed tin panels and Victorian details and polished wood floors.

I took the smaller, more expensive, studio in Nob Hill.

And that’s ok.

It is what it is.

The Mission is different.

The city of San Francisco is different.

And frankly, I am different.

All of the above is ok.

I get to live here and I am lucky to have gotten to live here for as long as I have.

Being crack free probably has a lot to do with that.

You know, probably.

I think, anyway.

So, yeah, dude in doorway was right.

I would like it.

But I got a taste of something even better.

And I like that so much more.

So much more I can’t even express it.

It is the bees knees.

The cat’s pajamas.

And all that jazz.

I really like it.

I really do.

 

Now, That’s Good TImes

April 3, 2014

I thought to myself as I watched the guy ahead of me in line at the 7-11 swipe his card for three packages of HoHo’s and a bottle of white wine.

Dude.

That’s a party.

Not a party I will be RSVP’ing for anytime, but I have to admit I was amused.

7-11 in general amuses me.

I don’t often shop in them, never really have, but there’s one of the corner and my friend down the block with the foot in cast for two months peeped me for some Coca Cola two liters and so I just went over to procure said carbonation.

I can’t remember the last time I bought soda pop for myself.

Yeah, I just wrote soda pop.

Pop.

I used to drink a lot of Coke, I did, before I snorted a lot of coke.

Very rarely did the two mix.

I was not a fan of sweets, much, when I was drinking and using, I got all my sugar from alcohol.

Although there were occasions when I would indulge in something sugary, but it was usually something I was making, not something I was buying.

Until I stopped drinking and using, then the wheels fell the fuck off with the sugar thing.

Glad to not be doing that any longer either.

There really is not much for me to buy in a 7-11 for myself, but I did manage to snag a little something.

A scratcher lotto ticket.

I didn’t win, but it was fun for a moment to fantasize about a little extra cash.

I am going to need a little extra cash this month.

I did my spending plan and the scooter costs bit more out of my budget last month than I was thinking it would.  There was also the additional add-on of the bicycle ticket that I paid out and also my Healthy San Francisco was due.

I got the courtesy e-mail from my bank telling me I had dropped below $25 in my checking account yesterday.

That’s good times too.

But I am not too worried.

Why?

Why be worried.

I paid my rent, I paid my student loan, I have groceries, I have plenty of toiletries, I have all the things that I need to get through.

Granted I don’t like having $23.56 in my checking account, it’s cutting it a little too close.

But, hey, I didn’t bounce any checks and I got paid for three days of working, plus tomorrow I will get paid for my solo gig in NOPA and then again on Friday up in the Castro.

It’s not the optimum set up for me, but I know things are working out.

Plus, I am not bat shit crazy yelling at the guy behind the counter at the 7-11 because I am convinced I won on my lottery ticket.

That was happening too, while Mister Hostess Treats and White Wine was paying, there was an elderly, intoxicated, Asian man arguing with the clerk, who finally ended up screaming at him.

I mean screaming.

Then, he pushed the old man out-of-the-way, and said, “next,” and waved me over to check out with my two liters of Coca Cola.

“Uh, I’ll take a lottery ticket too,” I said and pointed to the one that said “Rockstar.”

He rang me up and I headed my way.

Convenience stores are good times.

Just flashing back to all the ones I have been too.

A highlight reel if you will:

Circle K in Homestead, Florida.

It was just off the Lake where I camped, otherwise known as, I was homeless living in a tent, when I was in my 19th year of life on this planet.

I would go there for cigarettes–Doral’s when the money was tight, which it often was, I mean, read previous sentence about camping I was not really rolling in dough.

Although a splurge would happen now and again and then it was Pall Mall Gold Light 100s in a box or Camel Light 100s.

Jesus, there’s something else to be grateful for too, I don’t smoke anymore.  It’s been just shy of 9 years since I have had a cigarette.

Wow.

I was also introduced to roller hotdogs at this particular convenience store.

Hot, juicy, sweaty, logs of pork, one can hope, tucked into a white steamed bun covered in ketchup and dill pickle relish and mayonnaise and cheese.

Do not put chili on my dog.

Do not put mustard.

Do not, I repeat, ever, use sweet pickle relish.

Gag.

And last, but certainly not least, Bartles and James wine coolers, pink lemonade please.

Tasty goodness.

Oh dear Lord, the things I put into my system.

And these were all legally obtained items.

Yick.

The other convenience store that comes to mind for me, like I said, never been around a 7-11 before, was the PDQ in Madison.

Which, I believe, stands for “Pretty Damn Quick”.

Not sure if those bad boys are still around.

My mom would write me a note and send me off to the PDQ for her smokes.

Merit Menthol 100s in a box.

Classy.

I mean, she wrote me a fucking note.

“To whom it may concern, please sell my daughter one pack of Merit Menthol 100s (in the green box), Trish M______”. Her signature scrawled out at the bottom of the page along with a home phone number in case the clerk had any misgivings about selling a pack of cigarettes to a little girl in third grade.

I don’t believe any clerk ever did.

I also remember an ex of mine who swore by getting a Hot Pocket from the PDQ after playing a round of frisbee golf out at Heistand Park, followed by an icy cool blue raspberry slushy.

Double gag.

I can still smell that Hot Pocket and taste the damn slushy.

It was usually too sweet for me to choke down and I usually turned down the Hot Pocket on principle.

But I must have eaten one at some point because I have a taste memory of the weird things.

“That is so white trash,” my friend said in response to a story I was telling him about living in a trailer park in Stoughton with my pregnant teenage sister, her boyfriend, and her best friend.

I hadn’t really thought I was white trash, but I may have some roots down in that muck, I may.

The only other PDQ story I have would have been from living at that trailer for a few weeks while my sister’s best friends parents were out-of-town on vacation in Mexico–it wasn’t even our trailer, we were squatting–and we ran out of money and went to the convenience store in the middle of the night.

I remember it was cold and the heater in the Monte Carlo was slow to produce any warmth.

I remember the weight of the sandwich baggie of pennies, with a dime or two mixed in to add up to the prerequisite $1.80 a pack of cigarettes cost, in my thin coat pocket.

And how the cigarette tasted when I lit it up and blew the smoke toward the cracked window of the car in the back seat, the maroon leather the color reminiscent of dark, dried blood, the frost on the window, the scuttle of clouds over the moon, the dark trees rushing past.

I don’t know how I got from there to here.

But I am damned grateful that I have.

Now, excuse me while I wrap this up and head over to bring my friend some pop.

Soda, that is.

Rolling out this bitch 7-11 style.

 

 


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