Sunday, April 26, 2015

Before and After

I have a lot to fill you in on so I apologize if this post becomes long and garrulous but a lot has been going on.

After Gold died I found KL in the county jail. I sent her a letter to let her know that Gold died and that I missed her and wanted on her visitors list. She called a few days later to let me know I had been approved for visits. I did my best after being approved to visit every weekend. I think the first visit was the hardest. I hadn't visited anyone in jail in a looong time and I didn't know really what to expect now. I was intimidated by the cold and harsh atmosphere in the jail and the cops. I still really, really hate cops. Seeing KL was surreal. Unable to touch her through the glass it was hard to believe it was really her.

After that first visit I became accustomed to it. All of our visits were like very little time had passed. We spent more time laughing about the dumb shit we did than anything else. Visiting KL brought my street life back to me and made it real, instead of just some silly story I wrote. It was bittersweet. It felt so good but painful at the same time. I don't think anyone laughed so much in that jail before though.

Something I never realized before visiting KL is on the building there is an Martin Luther King Jr. quote carved in the cement. It's one of my favorites and says, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It made me sick to my stomach to realize those words were etched into a building so filled with injustice.

Did you know it costs money to put funds on an inmate's books? I tried to put $10 on KL's books and it was going to charge $4. Then you can pay for longer visits that you can have on your computer at home and you can spend $15 for a ten minute phone call. Our “justice” system is so broken you have to buy time with your loved ones. If that's not the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of I don't know what is.

I didn't want to support this system so I refused to do any of those things but I was always torn. Do I cut out time with KL to prove a point? I was about to cave when I got the best wake up call of my life last night. KL had been early released into treatment.

She now gets to call me every day and we get to visit without glass between us (starting next weekend). In two weeks she'll get passes to go out with me. I get to bring her clothes and books and a copy of the blog. Most importantly she gets to get the help she needs so that in three months she can start a new life. I can't wait to show her how good life can be after.

When my best friend Nat came to visit for my birthday two weeks ago I spent the first day showing her downtown Portland. I pointed out other landmarks as well but I took her to all the places that meant so much to me as a street kid. I showed her the day programs and pointed out the building that the shelter is in. I took her to the library and told her about all the time spent there. I showed her the church where KL and I slept; Hell where I napped, everything. I even showed her the blue wheelchair we stole.

She said it'd all make a good movie, especially the connection between KL and I. Being able to share all the intimate details with her about all experiences was incredibly healing for me. They were no longer secrets. They weren't a burden I had to carry alone any longer.

Since Nat visited I have been thinking about the differences and similarities of those relationships. I call them both my sisters. Nat is my sister from before. KL is my street sister. I was saying while she was visiting, that without Nat the rest of my life doesn't feel real. Nat has been there to be a witness to most of it, and she keeps me grounded that way. We remember different things. She can remember who I had a crush on when I was eleven and me dragging her to the Pentecostal church whereas I remember the look on her face when she opened her Christmas present in 2009 and dragging her to Unitarian church.

KL makes my street life feel real. It's hard to keep everything that happened straight even with the blog. So much happened in such a short amount of time. In the aftermath of getting off the street I buried everything that happened. I had a lot of harsh reality checks. Having KL back has caused me to have to face these things. This is proving to be good though, I think I'm beginning to come to terms with things.

Outside of those who lived through it (ie: KL, Nat, anyone else around at that time period) I have two friends who know vaguely of my street life. They don't know a lot of the details, just that it happened, that KL was missing and now she's in treatment. They have been hugely supportive. I've been able to get a fresh start. I have been able to erase my past and start over. KL will get this too.

Sometimes I miss sleeping outside. I miss waking up with the sun on my face and the way Portland smells in the morning. I miss the lack of responsibilities and all the time I had to write. I miss the feeling of community there was between the street kids. I miss waking up to every day being an adventure.

Even so, the street life is not one I would willingly go back to. I don't miss the way my body ached, not knowing what to expect, living in fear that those I loved would vanish or get arrested or get killed. Life before the streets wasn't easy. Life on the streets was brutal. Life after the streets can be good. It's not easy but it can be.

I had to fight for the life I have now. The culture shock when I moved off the streets was jarring. I didn't know how to have regular relationships or how to act in normal social settings. I was still hyper vigilante and ready to attack and fight on a moment's notice. I was suicidal. I had survivor's guilt.
It took years to learn I don't have to fight everything. Shit, I'm still learning that to some extent. I am learning how to have healthy adult relationships. I'm learning how to let other people take care of me, instead of being the one constantly taking care of everyone else. It is the first time I've had the opportunity to allow that role reversal. I still have a hard time with certain relationships but I'm learning.

My life is good and happy. It's hard to believe it was only a few years ago that I was so close to giving it all up. It just goes to show it does get better.

Before the streets I was naïve (as hard as it is to believe), I was hard, I was unloving and untrusting. I was broken and angry. After the streets I'm probably still a bit naïve, a bit hard but I'm learning to love and trust. I get to be "Auntie" to baby (now toddler) Cire. I have a chosen family. I'm really, truly, happy for the first time in my life.

While Nat was in town I played this song for her and told her it summed up my experiences for the last two years or so since I got off the streets. It really captures everything I could say about my life the last few years much better and much more concise than I could.

Finally, I want to say that I feel I offered a rose tinted view of the homeless life. I had a lot of support that others didn't have. I had two years of college when most of those kids didn't even have their GED. I had the resources to escape on those occasions when I couldn't take any more. Those are things the average street kid does NOT have. So as difficult as my experience was it was a lot easier of a reality than what the average street kid is living in. I guess what I'm saying is I am not a spokesperson for street kids. These are my experiences and mine alone.

I'm not sure what else there will be for me to say on this blog. My life is very removed from my street life. I've come to acknowledge that  the life I lived then is a past life. It was something I lived while I was a different person.  I'm finding healing and closure now. I'm moving on, though these experiences and those kids will come with me.

I leave you with two quotes:

“Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It's an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way or she is right here and now.” --Mr. Rogers

“My responsibility in the past when I was sleeping outside every night was just to survive. My responsibility now is to stay real, stay grounded, and just tell the truth.” --Jimmy Wayne

**I actually got into two spats with the police officers. The first was when they tried to say I wasn't on KL's list because it wasn't under the name on my ID. This was resolved when I called the cops' boss and explained that the name on the list is short for my birth name. He told the idiot cops to let me in.

The second spat happened when I was told my shirt didn't fit their “dress code”. It's absolutely ridiculous that there is a dress code to visit inmates. It's as frivolous as saying your collar bones cannot show and you must be wearing underwear but that underwear cannot be visible. When they pitched a fit about seeing my collar bones I went and bought a new shirt but then I refused to wear underwear to every visit there after. I have to have my little rebellions somehow.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Treasure lost

Saturday March 14 was Gold's birthday. It was also her funeral. She died Monday, March 2. I don't know how. To say I'm devastated is an understatement. Of all the street kids she was doing well. She was off the streets, working, doing everything right. I was saying the other day, you expect street kids to die; by overdose, foul play, suicide, illnesses, accidents, any number of things. You expect this and prepare yourself while they are on the streets; you aren't prepared when they've gotten off. Shock doesn't even begin to describe it.

I found out Thursday that she died. I ran into another street kid on my last break from work. He gave me a hug, pulled me aside, and said, “Did you hear about Gold?”

I said, “She's doing really well.”

He said, “No, she's dead.”

I refused to accept it until I went to the day program where he said he was told. I went to the back offices and buzzed the door. A woman in a business suit opened the door and with the annoyance palpable on her voice said, “Can I help you?”

I stumbled over my words until some variation of Gold and died came out. She gave a curt nod, and told me she would meet me at the day program side of the building. When I buzzed myself in there I saw her sending some other man to tell me yes she was dead, no they had no other information. The man who told me had never even met her.

I've been an absolute wreck. My doctor prescribed me Xanax. My friends have been almost babysitting me. I couldn't make the funeral which has left me overwhelmed with guilt.

Gold was a Treasure. I was so lucky to have her in my life. She was one of the first people to reach out to me when I was first homeless and terrified. When I was with her we laughed a lot. She brought life and excitement to the shelter which is no easy task. I think I was drawn to each other because we had so many similarities. She was a strong, independent woman who could stop and be nurturing too.

My favorite memory of Gold is when we were talking about Baby Mama going into labor in shelter. I said I was terrified of the thought. Gold said, “Naw, I'll be the midwife. I've got some herbs. We're good!” And even the shelter staff laughed.

The best people in the world are the ones who can look upon and live in adversary but still smile and laugh. Who can be facing their own demons and help people face theirs. Gold was one of those people. I don't know how we managed to lose her so soon but trust me she will be missed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


I've been thinking a lot about the whole concept of healing lately. I'm going through some things in my own life. One of my partners just left the Mormon church and is trying to deal with years of sexual repression as well as the pain of losing what's been his entire life for twenty-three years. My best friend back home is dealing with a pretty bad break up.

We all have things we need to heal from. There are demons in everyone's closet that we'd like to lock away and hide the key. We all have arrows sticking from our hearts where we've been hurt. And we all must choose, do we walk with them still sticking out or do we learn to heal them? If we choose healing how do we heal our wounds?

Of course we must face our demons. We must acknowledge our arrows. We must push them out. That's all part of the process. However, I'm coming to the belief that the real healing doesn't come from wrestling with our pasts. I believe the healing comes when we learn to let ourselves be loved.

I recently had a partner call me “a wreck” in the most terrible of contexts. He followed it up with, “you have all these health problems, and you drink, and....” It went on way too long before he stopped and said, “Wow, I just labeled you with a bunch of really negative stuff. I wish I could take it back.”

This guy claims he wants to be “a healer”. So far, there has been nothing healing in our relationship. And this is why.

Healing doesn't come from pointing out someone's weaknesses. It doesn't come from judgment toward their lifestyle. It definitely doesn't come from name calling. And it doesn't come from focusing on the negative.

Healing comes from love. It comes from acceptance.

I sent my friend a text message and told him what this partner (ex?) said to me. He called me and asked if I was okay. Of course I said I was but my friend said, “No really.”

“I was just starting to do better. I was feeling like myself again. Then this guy turns around and tells me he can't cum because I'm a wreck. Are you fucking kidding me?”

And my friend almost started laughing, “You are not a wreck. For everything you've been through you're doing pretty well for yourself. I love you, just how you are.”

That's healing.

My best friend and I went out to lunch later that day and I told her what was said, “It's true, you are, but who the fuck cares? It doesn't matter! We love you anyways!”

That's healing.

Healing comes when your friend is spending her day off in the emergency room with you and you're both laughing so hard when she breaks the heart monitor while the nurse is in the other room (the beeping was annoying) the doctors don't believe you're sick.

Healing comes when your friend gets mad you take the bus to the ER at 4am.

Healing comes when your friend takes you home because you've gotten too drunk and lost your keys and you wake up on his floor hung over and confused but with all your clothes on and despite how needy you are when you're drunk he still wants to hang out with you after.

Healing comes when someone else loves you when you can't love yourself.

Healing comes when your friend is late to work so he can have a beer with you and he gives you a kiss on the forehead and says, “Love you doll” before he runs out the door.

Healing comes when your friend spends Christmas day in the emergency vet's office with you and pays for your cat's euthanasia because you can't pay for that and your rent.

Healing comes from laughter.

Healing comes from realizing you can finally say, “I'm weak.” And your friends will carry you.

Healing comes when you surround yourself with people who love you how you are, faults and all. When you're with people who love you when you can't love yourself. Who see in you what you don't see in yourself. It's hard to find those people and you won't know you have them until you're at your lowest low but find those people.

When you do, the healing can begin.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

unexpected but kind of expected loss

Today I lost a friend to a drug overdose. It was no one mentioned on this blog but instead a friend where I saw and watched the warning signs and said nothing. We used to get beer after work and while I bitched about our crazy boss he tried to be the devil's advocate.

He made me laugh and kept me from going crazy in a job I hated.

I remember one day when he was fairly new I told him,"Sam I like you, you make me laugh so you can stay."
He responded sarcastically, "oh good now that I have your approval I can sleep at night".

I've already been struggling this week due to other things but I just don't handle death well especially under the circumstances. I hate myself for sitting by and watching those signs day after day but doing nothing.

I got word while working my other job. I abandoned my desk and went outside and confirmed it wasn't a joke then started crying. I tried to regain my composer but I walked into my boss's office and began immediately crying. She told me to go home and take tomorrow off.

I've been drinking since I got home and trying to get myself under control. Ive had almost half a bottle of vodka and an anxiety pill but I feel nothing.

I don't know how it is I seem to find these broken people but I know that every time I go through this it hurts more like I should be able to stop it some how. I don't understand. I hate myself for it.

At this point I'm just ranting. I'm just so heart broken and feel so alone.  I'm trying to keep it together because other people need me right now but I have needs too and I just can't right now.

Fuck. I need more vodka I'm about to start crying again

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kl returns (again)

Kl is back in Portland, safe and clean. You can imagine my surprise when I saw her at work the other day. I was training a new staff member but I forgot her as I dropped everything and hugged kl repeatedly. I kept hugging her and rambling not knowing what to say. I was afraid if i let her go i would never see her again. I admit I am still afraid of this but she was on her way to the court house to deal with her legal stuff so I had to let her go. I sent my employees on break so I could smoke a cigarette and regain my composure. Seeing her soothed a lot of my worry though I do worry she will disappear again. I hold on instead to my belief that in the end everything works out as it should.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Snow Days

It's snowing. Not like flurrying, that us Portlanders pass off as snow and make a big deal about. Real, live snow storm. Four inches was the last report I heard. Which to people used to snow sounds like nothing but for us, who freak out when there's just a light dusting this is a big fucking deal.

Personally, I've never seen anything like it. I didn't even see snow fall for the first time until I was eighteen. You know, California doesn't do the whole snow thing. If we wanted snow we had to drive three hours to see it and then it was already fallen and hard. I didn't care for it much.

Snow falling is still new to me. So, four inches in unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it in my life and I keep making excuses to go outside and see it. I've built snowmen in my front and back patios. I've bought winter boots and scarves and hats from Walmart. I've made snow angels. And work has called me telling me not to come in because of the storm. I've baked more cookies in the last two days than I have in months. I've made soup and cooked fish steaks and twice baked potatoes. For this first time I'm running my heat. Because you know, I have the option to just turn up my thermostat. Sure, I pay for it later but I have the option.

And while this is all fun and games for me I know it's not for everybody. While I was on the back patio this afternoon watching the snow fall my new roommate came out. I rather dislike her and avoid her at all costs but with being snowed in I'm starved for human contact so I conversed with her. As always a mistake.

Her comment, “I wonder what the homeless people are doing right now.”

Of course, she doesn't know. But even so I wanted to punch her or knock her over. They're freezing. That's what they're doing. I don't have to wonder I know. If this storm had been last year I could have easily died of hypothermia. I know they've probably opened up extra shelters but I also know there is no way the city has provided a bed for everyone who needs one tonight.

Have people already died from the storm? Will everyone make it through the night? We'll never know because those that don't make it in the snow won't be reported. No one will care. And here I am safe and snug in my warm house while there are people sleeping in the snow.

I am ashamed. I know and understand the concept of survivor's guilt and imagine that is what I'm experiencing but I honestly have been tossing and turning unable to sleep because I know there are kids on the street, looking for shelter in doorways and under bridges. It's not fair that they should struggle in the cold and I'm here. If this storm would have been a year sooner it'd be me out there.

Crazy thoughts have crossed my mind like letting strangers stay in my house to keep warm or going to sleep outside myself. But I don't have the means to make my home a shelter and sleeping outside myself would do nothing to help. I think instead I will collect up my extra blankets (I have an overflowing closet full of blankets I kept for such an occasion) and take them downtown tomorrow and see where there is a need for them.

I ache for the children who are cold tonight and for my inability to do anything for any of them.And I hate that their struggle is coming at my delight to play in the snow.