Friday, April 11, 2014

100 bucks

Miami Jim walkin' the tracks.
Talked with CJ for a while. He just got out of prison. He can't sleep, and he's focusing on his family. He's telling me this in between puffs of his cigarette, which my wife will smell on me later. He talks of work prospects at factories here in Akron and somewhere out west. Good money, he says, but he has to protect and calm everything at home first. He says that when he came home from prison he stepped into a world of chaos back home. A disaster that he says will never go back to the way it was 100%.

"I think reaching for 100% at this point is a little too much to ask," I say.

"Right. If I can just get to," he searches, "get to 50%, I'll be happy."

"Yeah. And then, when you feel like you have things under control, when you have some money coming in, when you have a stable place to live, then you can reach for the other 50%," I say.

CJ switches the cigarette to his left hand and reaches his right had out to me. I shake it, and we smile, and CJ and his hodgepodge of a family, hop into the back of a moving truck that houses all of their belongings.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Step-in Shoes

Once a vibrant tent city, now a ghost town.
JimJam came stumbling toward us from his apartment wearing slippers, or as he called them, his Step-in Shoes.

"I'm gonna beat him. You have no idea. No idea about my world. You gonna step into this?" JimJam said, nearing his angered face toward my crooked glasses.

"What are you talking about?" I asked, placing my hand on his shoulder, "Why do you want to beat me up?"

JimJam's face quickly softened into that of the most sympathetic I have ever seen. "Oh, no man. I love you. You're so kind," JimJam said, pulling me toward him for a hug, his long lion's mane covering my face. I could taste his hair product.

"Why do you have this slippers, man?" I asked.

"There not slippers," Jam cried, utterly annoyed, and then his mood changed once again to confrontation. He pulled back into some martial arts pose, and his face turned demonic. "Theses are step-in shoes, so when I need to I can whoop his ass, man."

I still didn't get it. "Why not wear shoes?"

"I can just step outta these and, wham!, chop him in the neck."

"So they should be step-out shoes."

Jam's face wrinkled with rage once again before quickly transforming into a face of loving-kindness and another hug.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lunchtime heals headaches

Dirk's Head
Met Larry. He's a vet. Fought during the Persian Gulf War. Prior to that, Larry trained the Contras in Honduras. He spent a couple decades laying flooring, but the poor economy left him broke. In January, he ended up in the Haven. His family has no idea. He's working a temp job. Waking at 3am. Waits at the temp agency. Pays for a ride to his job, and pays for a ride back, returning late in the evening. There's no time for anything else--finding a long term job, taking classes, cleaning, building a resume, spending time to think.

Met another Larry in the alley. He's just been released from jail. He and his wife are spending the night in a motel but have nothing decided for tomorrow. He says he'll ask around at the library tomorrow for some ideas. I tell him not to forget us next week. He seems happy that I'm open to talking and interested in talking more next week. He thanks me.

Thursday, March 6, 2014



Lizard frog turtle rattle snake foot prints in the snow graffiti under the bridge Shirley Temple dusty Mama from a bottle not as easy as jumping in a car and going to work perspective basketball football Speedway. By the way, we came to the realization last night that our minimally funded public transportation further runs a divide between the haves and have nots. The bus routes are so convoluted that it takes several buses to get from here to there, so time becomes a factor. A slave to the bus times.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beet Pasta

Presenting Pampers
I couldn't help noticing baby Jesse's tiny fingers naked in the frigid air, exposed to this savage winter. And then I thought about the food he has available to him. I know for a fact, it's a poor diet, like the one Braiden eats. My thoughts drifted to Braiden who we had seen earlier, and I couldn't help but dwell in a moment of sadness, while laughing fun continued around me. I snapped from the distractions in my head and rejoined the joy of the crowded alley, refocusing my efforts to stick with my current duty: bringing joy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Empty Alley

I caught Betsy frantically waving for me out of the corner of my eye as we drove down Main St. Moments early, we found ourselves lonely in the alley, wondering where all of our friends were. 8:20pm on the dot. "Weird. Where is everybody?" Seems the weeks of frigid temperatures and snow days has thrown our off our "schedule." I made sure to tell Betsy to let others know that we'll be in the alley next week.

In the meantime, during an impromptu stop, Tommy approached us from the dark speaking in tongues and smiling all the while. He stayed with us a while, thanking us, and we took a group shot.

We saw Mark for the first time in a while. He's been staying safe in his cabin in the woods, reluctant to risk the climb up the snowy hill. He's burned plenty of wood to stay warm. "It never got colder than 40 degrees in my place," he said when I asked about some of those sub-zero days. I shivered at the thought of it.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Still Sub-zero

Frozen tent city
Sub-zero temperatures forced three straight snow days. We stayed home, warm and comfortable, lounging on the couch, free from the stress of school. In the meantime, our friends found refuge from their frozen tents and other makeshift homes, packing themselves into the Haven, where they slept crammed on mats. Other usual "outdoorsmen" moved into friends houses for the short term. Others remained stranded in their low rent islands, cut off from distant bus lines that would take them to civilization, jobs and groceries.

We set out early to beat the dark and the coldest temperatures. We took to the streets, where we found several bundled souls flying signs. We handed Susan a sleeping bag and Monty some sandwiches. We hiked into the woods and found some civilization without civilians--packed away warm somewhere, I'm sure.

As a result, we visited none of our housed friends this time, spreading just as much disappointment as joy.