It’s the End of the World As We Know It…

21 Mar

And I don’t feel fine.

I’m amazed how fast things changed.

I have to admit, just a few weeks ago, I was in the camp that this was going to blow over and it wouldn’t be a big deal.  I was wrong.  This spread so fast, and in the past few weeks, our government, mostly on state level, has reacted with extreme (but needed) precautions.

I get this whole need for social distancing and sheltering in place.  This self-quarantine.

But it sucks.

If this had happened some years ago, it wouldn’t have been much of a change for me.

For a time, I never left my apartment anyways.  I lived in deep depression, and this wouldn’t have been a lifestyle change for me.

But I spent years overcoming my depression and isolationist behavior, and re-entered the world.  I developed a structure of fellowship and support, which involved being around other human beings as a vital aspect.

And now I don’t get to go to AA meetings.  There are online meetings.  There are phone meetings.  Both miss the vital aspect I need.  That half-hour before the meeting.  The fellowship.

My church has also stopped meeting.  No coffee hour.  No bible discussion.  I can drink coffee alone.  I can read the bible alone.  But I miss the gathering.  I even miss the uncomfortable arguments that would come from so many different people coming together.

I’m stuck at home, realizing that despite my mental health/recovery supports, I never re-developed a social circle of friends. I am alone.  And that was actually okay.  I didn’t mind that I spend most of my time alone, because I got to have those meetings and coffee hours.  As an introvert, I would go and spend an hour with people, and that would fill my need, then I was able to go home and be alone again and that was okay.  Now grocery shopping is my only real interaction with other people.  I sit home watching the news, and our president won’t tell the truth, because he thinks he has to exaggerate a positive spin for us, but I just want honesty, because honesty is safe.

It’s also been an awkwardly weird few weeks for me for other reasons, that this pandemic just has topped it off.

I was working at a shelter.  A few weeks ago a guest punched me.  Rather than being supportive, the bosses at the shelter chose to attack me.  I consulted with several other people in the field, people who work in equivalent roles to my bosses.  They all agreed that I handled the situation commendably, and that my boss was ridiculous.  Realizing that I was in a toxic, abusive situation with my employer, I quit.

But meanwhile, I had been, with the shelter season ending, applying to other jobs.  Five jobs I responded to all contacted me in at the same time.  I spent two weeks (yes, during this crazy pandemic), interviewing.  I expected that maybe one might offer me a job.

It has been a weird few weeks for interviewing.  One job decided after the interview to halt the hiring process until this pandemic crisis is under control.  In another interview, we all had to sit six feet apart, and definitely no hand shakes.  Meeting with an HR representative, she wouldn’t let me in the building, and made me fill out the paperwork in my car!

So of the five jobs I applied for:

My top choice is peer support specialist for ServiceNet Recovery Zone in Greenfield.  They are still checking references to my knowledge.

My second choice was for recovery coach for Community Health Center of Franklin County.  They are the ones who halted the hiring process until the pandemic is over.

My third choice is for office manager for the Recover Project.  I have to go back on Tuesday to take a computer test.

My fourth choice is for overnight staff at the Greenfield Family Inn.  They are supposed to be getting HR to reach out to me, but that hasn’t happened yet.

My bottom choice is for overnight relief staff (seasonal) for the Interfaith Cot Shelter.  That is my bottom choice mostly because it’s only two nights and the job ends April 30.  But ironically, it’s the one I’m closest to getting.  I filled out the hire paperwork with HR.  They are just waiting on me to get fingerprinted, my direct deposit info, and my CORI to come back.

The other major lifestyle change is that I got a car.  Yes, I got a car, that I have to make payments on, then I quit my job!  But, if I hadn’t gotten the car, I wouldn’t have been able to attend these job interviews.  And the car has been so helpful with being able to go to the grocery store, so that I’m not paying for overpriced food at the corner market.

So…  I’m really missing my meetings and church stuff.  I miss the fellowship.  Oh, and movies.  I miss going to the movies.  Watching TV is not the same as the movie theater experience.  But… It’s not much of a lifestyle change for me to stay home.  It’s not much of a lifestyle change for me to be alone.

I saw a meme on Facebook that said “I picked the wrong year to get my shit together” and that really sums it up.  When I was living with depression and isolation, none of this would have really affected me.  But now that I actually am getting back out into the world… Sorry, the world is closed.  The moose out front should have told you.  (Who gets that reference?)

 

The Return of Random Facebook Posts

15 Feb

I used to have a series on this blog where I would just reprint my random Facebook posts.  So here you go…

Happy singles day to all my single friends. And to all my friends in relationships… well, I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day I suppose.

Last night I felt like death. But after some ibuprofen and several cups of coffee I feel great. I got to pee a lot though.

Kids from a local elementary school made joke books for our shelter. Since I’m willing to do anything to stay awake I decided to read it. Definitely elementary school humor. Very cute jokes. It’s very nice of the students to compile these books for the shelter.

An exhausting shift at work tonight. My whole body hurts and I just want to sleep. But still got another seven hours to go on my shift. I’m getting too old for overnights. Just three more months of this shelter season and then I think I’m no longer going to do overnight shift ever again.

Lately, all I want to do is sleep. I think I’m getting too old for working 12 hour overnight shifts.

Pastoral care

8 Feb

Although I haven’t been involved in CITN during the week I am still practicing pastoral counseling.

Though I have a strict policy at work and in life in general to not introduce religion into a conversation, all the guests at the shelter know of my role at Cathedral and so they come to me regularly to engage in spiritual and theological conversations, and I don’t shy away from those opportunities.

I’m also able to use my role at the shelter to sit and listen as people share their stories with me. My desk at work substitutes for the wall at First Churches. And I’ve also had the opportunity to help several guests find housing, and to access health care and other services.

So I’m not squandering my calling. This new job as Assistant Manager at the shelter has expanded my opportunity to serve God. And I’m also learning so much that I hope to carry back with me to my work at Cathedral.

The Turning: A Review with Spoilers

1 Feb

Image result for the turning

It was terrible.

Image result for the turning trailer

First off, the trailer.  The trailer made it seem like it was a movie about evil kids torturing and murdering nannies.  It wasn’t.  They spliced bits of dialogue out of context to sell a different movie than what it actually was.

Image result for the turning ghost story

So it was a mystery… that was never solved.  It was a ghost story, or maybe she was just crazy… but we never find out which.

Image result for M. Night Shyamalan

The ending was supposed to be all plot twist like M. Night Shyamalan, but it was just confusing.

Image result for The Turning Mannequin

If she was crazy, that means all the ghost stuff was in her head.  But then the director seriously fucked that up.  Because there were haunting things that she didn’t see, that were only seen by the kids or sometimes just by the audience.  If it was all in her head, everything should have been seen by her.  A mannequin turning it’s head after she leaves the room, where only we the audience can see, is not in her head.

It feels like the director filmed the whole film, then made up the ending at the last minute, and forgot everything he previously filmed.  It was lazy directing.

Image result for The Turning the kid from Stranger Things

Even the kid from Stranger Things couldn’t save this film.

Also, the writing was terrible and the acting was terrible.

Image result for Batman Martha

I’m not a film hater.  Unlike a lot of fanboys, I actually love movies.  Even the ones everyone hates.   I liked Batman V. Superman.  I liked the Star Wars prequels.  But this movie actually made me angry.   I felt like the director wasted my time.  I tried to be invested in this mystery, despite the film being boring, and in the end, there was no payoff.  It was like I was sucker punched in my brain.

Image result for counting ceiling tiles

Don’t watch this movie.  Don’t rent it.  Don’t stream it.  Don’t catch it on cable.  You have better things to do, like counting ceiling tiles.

2019

21 Dec

After a few rough years, 2019 was a spectacularly good year.

I had a Dorian Gray chronology published in the anthology, Dorian Gray: Darker Shades, and have since gotten another story picked up for an upcoming anthology from Wild Hunt Press, and I’m working on several other writing projects to be published early next year.

I got to visit my son in South Carolina, and meet the people in his world, and watch him walk down the aisle at graduation.

Then I had my own graduation from the School of Lay Ministry.

Following that, after nearly two decades, I finally had back surgery, which had miraculous results on my physical condition.

I then had an article published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

And finally, and most recently, I was hired as Assistant Manager of a homeless shelter, allowing me to finally get off of disability, and my income has doubled.

I couldn’t have had the great success this year without the support of God and the friends and family God has placed in my life, and my church and other fellowships.

Let’s hope that this trend continues into 2020.

New Strategy

15 Nov

Hi, Folks. I thought I’d share with you whatever happened to the follow up Crossover Encyclopedias. As you may remember, I decided to tackle cartoons next, with a future look towards tackling Sci-Fi, then doing a HCE 2. The cartoons drove me mad. Horror was so easy. Most things worked within a single continuity, only ocassionally having to reconcile or shift to an AU. But cartoons are so bad at continuity. Even within a series. And crossovers are so iffy within cartoons. Is Mickey Mouse an evil corporate monster? Are Disney princesses in alternate worlds or do they all hang out in Toon Town? I tried tackling it in so many different methods, while trying to maintain the standard of the horror book. It was just impossible. I hate Family Guy now. I really, really hate it. So I’ve decided that soon I’m launching a series of TVCU books regarding classic television, using my original TVCU post format, and I will instead do a similar project for classic cartoons. I’ve decided also to move on to the Sci-Fi Crossover Encyclopedia, which will resemble the Horror Crossover Encyclopedia in style. Also, because of the crossover overlapping between sci-fi and horror, I will likely consider sci-fi the HCE 2 instead of doing a separate HCE 2. (Maybe someday I’ll do an actual HCE 2.)

So I got this neighbor…

13 Oct

So I got this neighbor…

… I’m sure I’ve mentioned her before.  Her name is Hildegarde Freeman.  I don’t mind using her name publicly, particularly when I woke this morning to her spelling my name out to the police.

So let me back up.

Hildegarde moved in here a few years ago.  I’ve lived in this building for 12 years.  I had three different downstairs neighbors before her.  Even the last one, who had her drug dealer son living with her, was so much better than Hildegarde.

The first day I met Hildegarde, she gave me her resume and a packet of old news articles about her when she was a professional singer.  I thought that was weird.  Those went into the recycle bin.

Soon, she was knocking on my door and slipping notes under my door several times a day.  She would wait by her door for me to come into the hallway so she could come out and talk to me.  She would be upset because I had places to go.  Imagine that!  I was leaving my apartment because I was going somewhere.

Eventually I told her she needed to stop.  Stop with knocking on my door.  Stop with sliding the notes under my door.  It needed to stop.  I like living in a locked building.  I don’t need a built-in stalker.

So that’s when she tried to get me kicked out of housing.  She told them that my cat is violating “quiet hours”.  She told them that my cat is doing flips and acrobatics in the middle of the night.  Now I’m not dumb.  Cats do run around in the middle of the night.  That’s what cats do.  So I went to housing and talked with them.  I told them I asked my cat to stop, but he looked at me as if he didn’t understand…. because he’s a cat.  The lady at housing laughed.  I told her the entire stalking story, and she had me put it into writing, and after that, Hildegarde was powerless to use housing to harass me.

So she found a better way.

She calls the cops.  The first time was several months ago.  She called the cops on me to quiet down. So they came at 1 am and woke me up to tell me to quiet down.  Because I had been asleep for three hours at that point.  Hildegarde said I came home after midnight, and was making a lot of noise.  I had actually come home at 7pm, sat on the couch until 10, and went to bed.

Fortunately, the cops were nice.  They knew Hildegarde.  They had dealt with the same stuff where she previously lived.

So today I woke up to her talking to the cops about my cat.  Yes, she called the cops on my cat.  I told them the whole story again.  I expressed how she is now able to use the police to harass and bully me.  They had empathy but they were powerless.  Every time she calls, they have to come.

So the issue was that she thought my cat was in the hallway, which he was not.  She had been coming upstairs and spying on me, listening at my door, and going through my stuff (and apparently that’s okay).  So after the cops apologized and left, I went out on the porch to see what she had been talking about.  And I was crying.  I was crying because I feel I’m powerless over this constant harassment.  She came out and asked me why I was crying.  I said “because you are a mean bully.”  So she called the cops again.

The cops came to tell me to stop crying.  It reminded me of my father shouting “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

I’m being traumatized by an old woman who bullies me for entertainment because I had expressed a need for boundaries.  The police acknowledged I was correct in saying that she is using them as a tool to harass and bully me, and they stated they are powerless to do anything about it.  They have to come speak to me every single time she calls.  It’s the law.  The system is in place where she can make my life miserable legally.  I’m completely powerless.  There’s nothing I can do…. other than make sure that the whole world knows what is happening.

Housing won’t move me to another building.  I’m too poor to move on my own.  There’s nothing I can do, but tell my story.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

17 Sep

It’s not that I can’t afford stuff, though not being able to buy toilet paper is a thing in my life from time to time.  It’s not being able to eat out, though having to limit my meal choices to eating at a soup kitchen or eating dry cereal at home is a thing in my life.

Mostly, it’s the way I get treated.

And as a person who is poor, but educated and articulate, perhaps I take it harder.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps I just put in words while others just feel in silence.

I’ve been honored to be invited to meetings where issues of homelessness and housing are discussed.  I’ve attended meetings where mental health and addiction are discussed.  Most people there are professionals.  They are paid to be there, while I am not.  They are well dressed, well spoken, and well educated, but often lack the life experiences of the people they are there to discuss.  So to avoid talking about “those people”, they will invite me, the well spoken token poor person.  They probably think they are doing awesome by letting me be involved, but then they treat me like a poor person.

I’ve been to these meetings, where I throw out an idea, and it’s immediately dismissed.  Then a moment later someone else will literally throw out the same idea, word for word, and everyone will think it’s a great idea and write it down.  That happens a lot.  Sometimes the other person is simply echoing my idea because they heard me, and they wanted to make sure others hear it too.  But that fact that I need someone else to say my idea for it to be taken seriously is insulting.

I’ve been asked to do things on behalf of organizations I represent, only to then have to have someone else who isn’t a poor person call and verify that what I said was valid, because a poor person can’t be taken seriously.

I don’t need to get paid to help people.  That’s not what this is about.  But in another lifetime, when I had a good paycheck, when I was a homeowner and a a car owner, I showed up at meetings and people wanted to hear what I had to said.  People came to me with their problems because they knew I could take care of it.  I was well respected.

I miss that.  I miss being heard.  I miss being taken seriously.  I miss the respect.

And the fact is, I’m the same person.  The only thing that has changed is my income level.  People judge my character and my skill level based on my bank account.  Liberal people.  Social workers.  Therapists.  City officials.  People working in the fields of recovery.  The people who spend all their time “helping” the poor, yet treating them like they are less than.

And I have a gift of words.  And I know what it’s like to be on the other side of this.

So how does someone who doesn’t have the words react to this?  I’ve heard from people in shelters who were sexually abused by the shelter staff, and heard professionals in that organization say “Well, you can’t take what those people say seriously.” when it was reported.  I’ve been in a shelter myself where I’ve been treated poorly by staff because they have the power to treat me poorly.  And then I’ve gone to meetings where those staff members talk about how great they are doing.

I’ve been in meetings with police officers where, as an invited member of the discussion, I’m treated with respect.  And I’ve been seen on the streets as a voiceless poor person by the police and been treated rudely for no good reason.  I’ve seen from my own experience of walking in both worlds that we get treated differently based on the context of how we are seen.

And this is as a white male in this society.  If I were black, or a woman, how much worse would it be?  I can pretend that I can imagine, but there’s no way I could ever really know.

Today, I live in low income subsidized housing.  I’m disabled, which is why I’m poor.  I finally got the paperwork in the mail that housing needed to renew my lease.  I went to the office that serves my apartment complex during their posted hours.  Nobody was there.  They left a note saying they aren’t there, as if I couldn’t tell from the fact that nobody was there.  I called to leave a voice message, and their voice mail greeting said that I should come to office during their office hours.  I was at the office during office hours.  Nobody is there.  So I went to the office that handles another apartment complex under the same umbrella.  Somebody was there who is supposed to be at the office that I was just at.  She said I’m not allowed to turn in the paperwork at any other office but the office that she’s supposed to be at but isn’t.  She said that the posted office hours aren’t really the office hours, and that we should just keep showing up until we find someone.  I said I left a voice message a few days ago saying I was coming with the paperwork during their office hours.  She said that they weren’t in the office because they were handling an emergency, which is not what the note said.  The note talked about previously scheduled inspections.  Also, she said she wasn’t in her office because she was doing these off-site inspections, but I was literally talking to her at the other office and she was trying to tell me she is somewhere else as I’m talking to her in person.  She finally said she’s only there on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursday from 1 – 3, but it was 1:30 on Tuesday.

The point to all that is that we get treated like this because we are poor, and therefore the view is that we don’t matter.  She even said she wasn’t in her office all last week, and they haven’t checked voice mail in over two weeks.  Wow!  That’s your tax dollars.  And yet, society blames us poor people for the bad economy.  It’s not us.  It’s them.

Last year, we got a notice that our apartments would be entered on a Tuesday, and that we were receiving the legal 48 hours notice.  The letter was dated for the Friday before.  But they didn’t give us the notices until the Monday before, in the late afternoon.  When I asked them about violating our tenant rights, they said they recognized that they were violating my rights and didn’t care.  They said “It’s not like you have anything else to do.”  Well, I did.  And after a quick conversation with someone I know at city hall, suddenly they were rescheduling that entry into our apartments.

And what sucks about that story is this.  If it hadn’t been that I am willing to speak up and advocate, if I didn’t have the connections and the words, then they would have just violated our rights, because they can.

People get tired of hearing me whining about being poor.  It’s not greed that motivates my complaints.  It’s the way we are treated.  “Oh, we can stomp all over you.  What are you going to do about it?”  Add to the poverty issues surrounding mental illness for instance, and valid self-advocacy goes unheard.

We should not be defined by our bank accounts, our titles, or our clothes.  We all matter.  We all deserve to be treated with respect.  Our ideas should not be weighed by our financial earnings.  Our contributions should not be filtered through green colored lenses.

No lunches

28 Aug

Starting in September all manna meals will be at 6pm. There won’t be lunches. (Saturday is the exception. Lunch will still happen on Saturday.)

They have a legitimate reason. The St. John’s construction isn’t finished and the parent center is starting back up at Edwards so they just don’t have a space for lunch.

Unfortunately that’s going to have some negative impact on the community. Panhandling is likely to multiply as people are trying to get money for lunch. People hanging outside won’t have a place to go during lunch hour so they will be on Main Street hanging out hungry and angry as some people won’t be able to eat all day until 6pm now. That might lead to more negative encounters with pedestrians, store owners and the police. And the haymarket common account is likely to get overextended which will dip into profits and become more costly.

Some folks who don’t panhandle regularly have already expressed that they will have to start doing it daily to eat. Others who can are going to try to bus to Amherst for lunch, which will also then impact their attendance numbers and resources.

A lot of folks are stressed. As I said, Lee is doing his best under unforeseen complications but I wanted to make everyone aware so the city can be prepared and brace for the ripple effect.

What am I up to?

22 Aug

Well, not much lately.  I sit on my couch watching movies most the the time.

Over the last few years my writing has slowed down due to my efforts to be more involved in helping the disenfranchised in my community while also dealing with my own health problems.  Recently I had surgery that really halted me in my tracks.  I’m only now starting to get back to normal.

But I wanted to update you all who follow me on that status of projects that I’ve been working on.

The Television Crossover Universe — My original blog that I started in 2011.  I haven’t updated it in a while but I’m still working on both new posts and updating older posts.  Within the next few months you should start seeing activity picking up there.

Television Crossover Universe:  Worlds and Mythology Volume II — I haven’t touched it in a while, but actually it’s not that far from completion.  I expect it should be published by the end of the year, at which point I hope to start working on a different TVCU series focused on classic television series.

Cartoon Multiverse:  The Cartoon Crossover Encyclopedia — I’ve been working on this one since the Horror Crossover Encyclopedia was published.  It’s been stalled many times.  I decided to take a different approach.  This one is actually one of the few projects that I actually worked on more after my surgery.  (Mostly watching a bunch of Family Guy and taking detailed notes.)  This one might be out next year, fingers and toes crossed.

Wild Hunt Press Projects — So recently I did a Dorian Gray timeline for Wild Hunt’s first anthology, and after Wild Hunt announced more anthologies I thought I might try returning to writing fiction.  I very enthusiastically signed up to contribute many stories really not thinking my surgery was going to be as hard as it was.  So these stories are still ones I want to write, but they probably won’t make it into the intended anthologies.  Some of them are linked to each other, and I’m really excited to write them (one I’ve started), so I will finish them and then submit them to Wild Hunt for first crack at publishing them in whichever future book they see fit, or if they pass I’ll probably self-publish them (but I really prefer when I have a publisher that’s not me, because it’s less work for me.)

Cathedral in the Night — So I’ve been having some meetings with Pastor Stephanie Smith about writing a spiritual blog (and perhaps a book) with her about our experiences over the past eight years at Cathedral in the Night, an outdoor ministry in which I currently serve as a lay minister.  I’ve been wanting to start writing something that is fulfilling and could help my community in some way.  This is a charitable effort on my part.  All my royalties will go to help Cathedral in the Night’s mission of supporting the homeless in our community.

Super Entertainment Presents:  Overthinking from the Couch — So over the past year and a half I’ve made an attempt that’s almost complete to watch every movie based on an English language comic book.  So this was just for my own enjoyment, but along the way I’ve taken notes (because that’s what I do).  So a friend suggested I post my thoughts on YouTube, so I will sporadically start doing this, probably not until the winter though.

Speaking engagements — I’m doing some minor speaking events.  I’m doing my annual participation in the Smith College orientation’s “Be the Change”, and I’m also going to be a “human book” for an event at Forbes Library co-sponsored by Northampton Connects.

So those are the current things going on in my world.  I’m slooooowly getting back into things.  For a while I thought my muse might have left me, but inspiration and energy is starting to return as I continue to recover.  Thanks to all the folks who support what I do.