Archive for December, 2011
Life goes on, though Chad thought I paid too much attention to Paul and not enough to others. He didn’t want me talking, smiling or breathing his air. “You look bad; you should go home.”
Mark knows its time to try Act One.
Amanda has enough self-esteem to put on eye liner. She has a court date at 1:00pm for a disorderly conduct that occurred over the summer. This state, which puts public order above all else, charges Dis Cons as a misdemeanor. That means if you use a vulgar term (whatever that means) in public, you could be charged with a crime. No offenses here. “Who’s your attorney,” I asked? “Just some Public Defender….” I didn’t shoot, because I wanted her to see my reaction. “Sorry,” she said.
Her boyfriend can still balance himself and climb like he did as a boy.
New guy, Gravel, is a traveller. Gotta love the guys who ride the trains. Adventurers, all. Hey, dude. I hope to have the time to speak with you. In the meantime, he needed shoes. Sharon and I got him shoes at the Shuk, the thrift shop at our shul, OZ. The proprietor charged us full price, even though we told her we were buying them for a homeless dude. “I have to payoff a $70,000 loan I took out to build this place.” So let me get this straight. Someone donates clothing for the poor. She put up money to fix a charity shop. I bring in clothes and make donations, too. I pay her $15 for a pair of used boots to give to a person whose feet will freeze without them to pay off her loan, which the shul has not absorbed, even though its mission is to do acts of kindness and benevolence. No wonder I don’t belong to OZ, right now. She threw in two pairs of ratty socks someone had the audacity to donate. When we found him, someone had given him boots, already. I found another person who needed boots. Two men took the socks.
“I wear 8 1/2-9.” “Take the 10s dude,” the traveller said, with an implorring voice, “no one wants their toes to freeze.” Joe draws. Earned commissary money in jail doing portraits of other inmates. Wants to have a show, but isn’t exactly motivated. Hasn’t even come up with a piece of his art to trade for a photo. There’s still time, dude.
He’s on his way to the Labor Department. To stay out of jail for not having paid child support, he has to get a job. Now, there’s a Hobson’s choice or some other quaint homily, simile or metaphor. There are no jobs. If he got one, he has to pay back payments for some kid he had as a kid when he felt feeling himself come inside someone who wouldn’t have an abortion was a cool thing because she was either on the pill, infertile, or just had her period. Now, in these times of economic turmoil when people with degrees and resumes cannot find a job, he has to go find work in VT in the winter, to support himself and his family from whom he is separated.
I worry that he could be next. In Paul’s final days, Eric dragged him to Act 1. He knew Paul was a mess, but he didn’t give up on him. Now he has no one to hang with or care about.
Eric went home for the holidays. Street workers/outreach say Mom calls in everyday. No room at her house for him. Brother home after some financial disaster, according to Eric. They let him take a shower. Gave him a hat, two pairs of socks and food. He doesn’t want the kind of help that he would get if he had a reasonable diagnosis. “I am 30. I got years to go before I’ll admit to any disability.”
Jim always tried to help. He stopped a woman from being groped on a bench. Cleaned City Hall Park in the early mornings. He looks out for his daughter, Amanda. He picked Paul off the ground, several times. Last week, he knew Paul was in trouble. “His color wasn’t right. He couldn’t walk. Wouldn’t share a beer. Not right what happened to him…. We have lost a few recently. Got to keep walking to stay warm.”
Yeh. No one wants to freeze to death. Cold ain’t as bad as dying.
Who is looking out for Jim?
Chief came by to wish Paul a Merry Christmas.
“Did you see Rita Markle? COTS would not have taken him in if he was drunk. I told Tim and Wayne that he was dying. His lips were blue. He couldn’t stand or breathe…”
Chief and Jason built the memorial. Someone stole the sign and the Buddah. Paul’s friend from the store across the street gave them the sticks to make the cross.
Paul sat on Cherry St after he woke up, whatever time or day it happened to be or when he wasn’t in jail (criminal trespass and open containers) or at the hospital (car accident, beatings, or falls). People walked by. Some gave him money. Some gave him food. He was always courteous. People who don’t know each other have lost something in their lives without really knowing what it was or how to replace it.
Autumn bought votives and candles.
She wanted to take him home, but he wouldn’t get clean.
Very sad, both said, and not fair.
On her way back to treatment, fourth time since I have known her. “You only want to do this once,” I tell her. She’s not connected now, but, luckily, not broken. She winces in the cold. Nothing we can do for her. Conditions of release prevent her from drinking. “I don’t want to spend Christmas in jail. Can’t drink because they can breathalyze me for no reason.” If only sobriety were so easy! She does fine in treatment; doesn’t do well when she returns to the hood. Same place. Same people.
I met OB on Cherry Street paying his respects to Paul. He gave Paul a few bucks every once in a while; Spoke about life with him. “A blessing and gift you gave me,” he said when he looked at my image. “I needed to feel a real emotion about this. Too often we walk by people with a false smile on our faces. I’m not feeling so alone, anymore.”
I wonder who will be next in line?
He’d sit on Cherry St, just up the street from Rite Aid. Before the Gear Exchange moved to Church St, the yellow jackets would chase him from under the enclosed area in front of the door.
Sometimes he put his crate near the wall near the grate so he could stash his beer (avoiding a ticket for an open container) and his litter (so he wouldn’t be burdened during travel).
Told not to block the sidewalk, he’d sit close to the street, putting his box or his butt in a place where cars backing into a parking space wouldn’t hit him. He’d also chase the sun.
He usually travelled with his friend, Eric.
He went to the park occasionally. He didn’t like the drug scene, the phony friendships, or the antics. Eric learned from him, helped him and was with him close to the end. Eric is now alone on the street.
Someone found Paul dead on a grate in downtown Burlington, probably in the same place I had found him time and time again. I just wasn’t around this time. Many tried to help him, too. They weren’t there either. Come on now; we all got lives. His sister, Mary, and Matt Young had a plan in place to put him back in treatment. He went to FAHC, I am told, and wasn’t able to deal with the protocols. So he died, needlessly, or so it seems. So it goes, Vonnegut would say.
No one has published a book for do gooders, especially those who don’t expect and aren’t interested in thanks for their charity. We do mitzvot because we can, not because we want something in return. Let us thank others for the chance to give, before we ask for thanks from those we serve.
Others out there who are also in need should not suffer the same fate. While we can never do enough, we should not stop trying, despite the best efforts of those in trouble to resist or obstruct. Our community is only as good as our committment to those least desirable to help.
You might think our friendship wasn’t worth the effort! Could be. But, I will do it again, gladly. And may God comfort his family among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Amen, brother.
4,500 dead if you only count Americans or people fighting on behalf of the Armed Forces? How many Iraq people? How many Vermonters who died in an uneven proportion? Enemies increased from both the ones who hated the US and the ones who didn’t yet know they did. Living there didn’t get much better; neither did living here. Sectarian violence no one counted as a civil war ripped communities apart. Robert Moses did the same thing. Killed some of the bad guys too, and more innocents than anyone wanted to admit to. Yeh? Economy dead here, but no passion for the people who played by the rules or played by ones which should have been. Lost the higher road in the world. No more common sense here or real community. Everyone smiles because they don’t want to share the truth, unless they don;t know it. No taxes to pay for a war; a rate reduction that didn’t trickle down; excessive greed and theivery which went unpunished. If I paid for it, the war and the rest of the ills of society, I should have been given the opportunity to voter for it, yes? No. Democracy as we were taught be dead. A trillion $ for no reason, except to protect the gas in the Emirates and Saudi land and to supply the bombs, food and the bandages. Remember Coppola’s gem? who built the bridges and the airfields? Who worked for companies that benefitted the war who served in the executive. How many just injured, mentally or physically are we going to pay for? All I hope, but not until someone tells them why they have been left in their present conditions. No jobs for the vets. No money to send them to college. And if the money were found, it would come with some sort of hooks, preventing the people from getting jobs. If the reason to depose Sadaam Hussein was because he was a tyrant, a denier of freedom and a committer of genocide, and that reason was acceptable, then go after all the others, assuming that here in America we treat everyone fairly and equitably, too.
So, we didn’t know him, yet. He ran a song store which probably sold songs in a wide variety of sizes and forms. People said he was good guy.