Great News From World Homeless Day Representative

I’ve already mentioned that I’m collaborating with many other activists and contributors on World Homeless Day, coming to a city near you on 10/10/10.  One of the main organizers is a good friend of mine in Ireland and yes, I will be posting an interview with him eventually, but it’s looking like it’ll be pushed back a couple of weeks since he’s been so incredibly busy – representatives have been joining up from many countries globally, as well as representatives from nearly every U.S. state so far!  You can find more info at:

http://www.worldhomelessday.org/

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=252124162444

There is fantastic news from Jim Niffen, a WHD rep in Kansas City, MO.  He just found out that at 10 a.m. on 10/10/10, to commemorate the first annual WHD, the city mayor will be present at the launch of a new donated facility Jim will be running – 47,000 square feet housing a clinic, several local agencies, barber shop and salon, computer lab, and donated clothing shops for homeless men and women.  The facility will cater to between 1,000-1,200 homeless people per day.  Think of the difference that will make for so many down-on-their-luck people in that metropolitan area alone.

Congratulations to Jim and Hope Faith Ministries (anybody in the KCMO area interested in helping out can contact them here), and thanks to Jon Glackin/Dominic Mapstone and associates for coming up with the WHD concept and putting it into practice.  All of your tireless organizing is really paying off – believe me folks, the Kansas City facility is only one of several amazing results so far of the campaign (and there’s still 6 months to go yet)!  A lot of very noteworthy and influential people are coming on board the project and this is helping to increase exposure greatly for the issue.  The amount of work these guys are putting in is incredible; I don’t know when they sleep!

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On a slight tangent, this really has nothing to do with homelessness, but it does have to do with civil rights issues in general, specifically one that affects several friends and a family member of mine:

The Lutheran church has voted without dissent to abolish all anti-gay policies, effective immediately. All members and their families – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer – are now considered absolutely equal in the eyes of the church and of their god, and are even allowed to serve as church leaders.  This is progressive.  I’m not Lutheran (or any religion), but regardless of whether I ascribe to any religious position or not, this is something I can get behind, and think all churches should get behind.  We can only hope.  This is an example of people of faith adhering to the spirit of what they preach, showing true love for their members without judgment, hypocrisy, or discrimination.

I’m a fan of that in any forum.

On Friendship, Health, and Jethro

Waiting to see Dita Von Teese (my dream!) in Vegas - thanks, Brandon!!!

He said/You’re really an ugly girl/But I like the way you play/And I died/But I thanked him…

Something you don’t always realize the value of, whether you’re homeless or not, is friendship.  I’ve always been more of the “lone wolf” type, partly because of my crippling shyness, and partly because I just don’t always like/trust people due to an iffy past with them.

More and more, I’m figuring out just how many good people there are out there.  Recently, I’ve been trying to spend more time hanging out with others and opening up to them, and I’m seeing that they’re not all that bad!  One evening, after hanging out with some friends both old and new, I had to sit back and ask myself, “why don’t I do this more often?”

Sounds like the world’s dumbest and most boring epiphany, I know.  But perhaps you have no idea what it’s like to feel reviled and alone and evil for a few decades and then suddenly realize:  These people like me.  Or at least, they’re willing to give me a chance.  They don’t hate me.  They don’t think I’m stupid.  They actually seem to enjoy my company enough to invite me to hang out with them again.

Even people from high school, who I haven’t seen in about 8 years, have dropped back into my life recently to say hi and make overtures of friendship, and these are people I never even realized I made an impression on back then in the first place.  I guess you never know whose life you may touch for whatever reason, or why.  But it’s a good feeling, and it’s one that I need.  I’m grateful to those who have made such an effort to include me lately and bolster my spirits with fun nights out – whether that be at Dave ‘n Buster’s with some old WCC crew, or go-karting with Brigitte, or Las Vegas with Brandon, or roller derby with Amy and some new awesome people, or Olive Garden with Ben and Aubrey.  Even if at the end of it all, I go and hole myself up for a few days again in the trailer for some alone time and book writing, it’s good to feel like I can hold my own on the social front for once.  That’s something to strive for.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be a “people person”, but I hope so.  I think it will make me feel like a better person, that’s for sure.  Here’s a bunch of photos with the great people I’ve been hanging out with lately:

With Brigitte at K-1. You can’t tell from this photo, but this is right after my car flipped up on top of another go-kart driver on the track who spun out, so I’m pretty shaken up.

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Another thing I’m very pleased about when I see these pictures is my weight.  I haven’t been happy about my body for a long time, and living off cheap fast food while in the Walmart parking lot definitely wasn’t doing my figure any favors, among other factors, both medical and lifestyle.  I didn’t realize how badly I had ballooned until I saw myself on TV and burst into tears (yes, yes, I know the camera adds 10 lbs., but still.  I was looking pretty darn bad).  The sad thing is that I look back at old photos of me from 5 or 6 years ago and realize that I was actually very cute, had flawless porcelain skin and teeth, etc.  But I didn’t believe it at the time, because all I had ever been told over and over, since I was a child was that I was fat and ugly and pasty (and perhaps next to my waifish, tan, very conventionally pretty sister, that was true.)  Now I look at those photos and go “but I was a size 6!  I was fucking adorable, as chicks go!  I wasn’t Cindy Crawford, but I danced and exercised, and got flirted with and hit on nearly every freaking day, even if I was too naïve and innocent to realize it at the time!  Why couldn’t I have enjoyed it and had healthy self-esteem back then when it was actually warranted?” Also, the thought that I may again next year have to go back on TV to promote the book is a major motivating factor to get looking damn good, damn soon.

And yes, I know that it’s important to be happy and proud of yourself, and have good self esteem, regardless of your body type.  And I’m trying.  But, it would make me incredibly happy to feel like my outside matches my inside again.  So, over the past few months, I’ve been making major dietary and lifestyle changes (gave up Starbucks and fast food completely, for one thing, and haven’t looked back!) but I wasn’t seeing it reflected in the mirror because I guess when you have to live with yourself every day, it’s just not as noticeable.  A couple of people commented on the weight loss, but I assumed they were just being kind.  I didn’t figure it out until I started seeing photos of myself recently, in which my waistline and double chin are, slowly but surely, whittling down and receding.  This makes me super excited and has been fuelling the drive to get back to that size 6.  I’m down 6 pants sizes now since January (from a size 18 to a size 12), which is halfway to where I’d like to be.  It’s not as fast as the fruit/juice crash diet (I did this once and shed about 30 lbs. in a matter of weeks), but I know that it is far healthier and that the results will be far more permanent, because I’m making actual long-term, ongoing changes to my day-to-day routine instead of relying on a temporary fix.  I also know I wouldn’t have realized just how dramatic the results were, or been able to keep the new lifestyle up, without the support and encouragement of my friends.  So, thank you guys.

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Last, but not least, Jethro went to his new home in NorCal on Friday.  We had many, many adoption applications for him; thank you to all who applied, and to Sage and Tera from DPS for all of their hard work to find him the perfect home!  Here are some photos of him with his new mom, Robbie, who adores him and has renamed him “Logan”.  I may have misted up a bit when I had to hand him over to the transporter, but I know it’s for the best.  He will make Robbie and her children the best dog in the world.

More on Guillermo Reyes – Please Help, Readers!!!

Hi all,

As a couple of my readers suggested, I sent an application to Hoarders regarding Mr. Reyes.  Now, I don’t know if it’s too late to save his home or not, but from personal experience, I know that publicity can do wonders for such things…so, I would appreciate it if my readers would contact Hoarders as well!

Here is the form:  http://hoardersdocumentary.com/machform/view.php?id=3

If you don’t know the answer to a question (i.e., address, phone number, etc.) choose a response or list your own contact info – or mine – and then explain in the boxes below that while you do not know Mr. Reyes personally, you are a tGGtH reader, concerned for his welfare, and would like to see him helped – by Hoarders, if possible.  Perhaps if enough people write them, they’ll get involved.  Even though he’s already been evicted, there may yet be time for him to get his home back.  If not, perhaps an outpouring of support and publicity will garner assistance for him in some other way; perhaps somebody can arrange for an assisted living situation for him.

In any event, it took me about 5 minutes to fill out the form (when it asked for descriptions, etc., I copied text from the news article into the box and dropped the link there as well).  Please, please take a few minutes out of your day to submit a letter regarding this gentleman!  Perhaps we can make a positive difference in his life, one way or another.

Hoarding is a particular pet issue of mine, because my grandmother has been a chronic hoarder for decades…and sometimes I get dejected or depressed, and then I start to be a slob, and then I get paranoid about the tendency one day manifesting in me.  So I really feel for this man’s plight.  He should be spending his golden years in comfort and safety, not in a hazardous garbage dump of a house or out on the streets alone.

Local Mentally Ill Man Made Homeless; Two Doggies Need Homes

Image credit: DailyBulletin.com

This story is local to me, and it’s very upsetting.

Guillermo Reyes is 78 years old and mentally ill.  His hoarding is a side effect of dementia.  Of course he refused treatment.  Many mentally ill people refuse treatment because – wait for it – they are mentally ill and don’t recognize that they have a problem.

This is a well-loved man who bought his house with cash in 1976.  It was his house, fully paid off.  Through this crazy, twisted series of events, he’s been evicted from his home and made homeless because he hasn’t eliminated the results of years of hoarding.  The entire neighborhood feels for him and is stepping up to help him, but the chances of him actually getting his home back are slim to none.

I understand that when hoarding becomes such an issue, to the point where it is a safety hazard to the owner and to the community, something must be done.  But surely putting a mentally ill, nearly 80-year-old, 30-year-resident out on the street is not the right thing to do.  Surely there must be another way.  Anybody have any input on this?  Possible alternative solutions?

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In personal news, I rescued a dog recently, and he needs a home – any takers in SoCal (or even NorCal could probably be arranged)?

I was leaving the gas station and this poor, skeletal boy circles near my car, looking confused and frightened.  It took some coaxing, and the help of another woman in the parking lot, to get him into the vehicle, but I felt I just couldn’t leave him in that condition.

Sage pulled over 30 ticks off him, hosed him down and gave him a flea bath, and he never flinched or made a peep.  Just stood stock still.  He’s a 1-year-old Yellow Lab/German Shepherd mix and he’s been sleeping in my trailer soundly and quietly throughout the night.  He does great with other dogs, children, and other animals (he hasn’t even shown any interest in the chickens or cats on the lot).  Not an aggressive bone in his body.  He’s fattening up nicely (maybe around 57-60 lbs.), and we used a free voucher to have him neutered.  I call him Jethro, because he looks like a dog named Jethro that should be lying at some old guy’s feet on a porch as he plays the banjo (the guy, not the dog).  He’s very low-key and loving, very much a “velcro” dog (wants to either be where you are, or else out playing with other dogs during the day).  He’s housebroken, knows “come here”, and is learning “sit” very quickly.  Rides well in the car and walks well on-leash.  We took him to an adoption event and he had several parties interested in him, but the three ladies who filled out applications were all told “no” by their husbands (who hadn’t seen or met him).  Go figure, right?

So, he still needs a home now, as I can’t keep him here long term.  However, I’d rather not take him to the Humane Society where they’ll stick him in a concrete cell for however long it takes to adopt him out.  He’s an absolute love and if I lived in a house and not a trailer, I’d absolutely keep him.  But with Fezzik and potential upcoming book promotion, etc., I know that wouldn’t be in his best interests.  Anybody out there want the greatest dog in the world?  This really is a fantastic boy!

If smaller dogs are your thing, Sage also has one other dog for placement at the moment.  His name is Ross (she found him in a Ross parking lot), he’s 2-3 years old, and from what we can tell, he is a mix of at least two of the following:  Rat Terrier, Boston Terrier, Chihuahua.  Which two he is, we’re having a little harder time figuring out.  But what is certain is that he’s adorable, with a big personality that belies his small (5-6 lbs.) stature.  He’s very much a cuddler and a clown, warms up quickly, loves everybody, and gets along with other dogs.  He’s also very quiet, not a barker at all, and has been crate trained and housebroken by his foster mom.

Both dogs available from Doggie Protective Services (DPS) in Palo Alto.  More info on Jethro and Ross, including video, at the following links:

http://www.adoptapet.com/pet3628198.html

http://www.adoptapet.com/pet3604108.html

If you’re interested, please contact Tera at rescuenoca@aol.com for an application!

Woot for Health Care!!!!!!!!!

OK, so I realize I’m totally inviting dissent from those with different politics than me, and I’m hoping the comments section on this post won’t devolve into arguments and mudslinging, but seriously:

Hooray for health care!

In case you haven’t heard, the health care reform bill was narrowly passed today and is expected to be signed into law by the President soon.  It’s not perfect yet, but here’s hoping this is the first giant leap towards all Americans, including the poor and homeless, having affordable health care.  As of this moment, I have none, so if I get sick or hurt I’m screwed…but I sure as hell would love to be covered.  Fingers crossed.

Also, this guy is an utter douche clown.  That is all.

*Does the healthy dance*

Happy St. Paddy’s Day From the Trailer!

Sorry about the glare and wet hair :-"

Happy St. Patrick’s to all!

Sage is making corned beef and hash and potatoes and other such things for the occasion, and the 10 or 15-ish people here on the lot are joining in the festivities, so I’m off to that in a few moments.

I actually do have stuff to post in the next couple of days, mainly human interest stories on homelessness that have captured my attention, and also updates on World Homeless Day and an interview with the founders/organizers.  Not much going on personally, except feverishly working to finish the book by deadline (June 1st, although I’m aiming for sooner) – somewhere my editor is screaming at me, I can feel it.  Also have begun construction and planning on the new domains that you will eventually find at briannakarp.com, which is currently merely a placeholder, so don’t get too excited juuuuust yet.

Yeesh, did you know everything that’s involved in going into business for yourself?  Incorporation paperwork, business plans, investor meetings… this is gonna be fun!  Let’s rock ‘n roll.

Also, I found adorable sparkly gold ballet flats at Goodwill for $1.50.  Sparkly gold ballet flats make the world a better, less daunting place, and me a happier person.  Sparkly gold ballet flats make everything OK.  It’s the little (and frugal) things, really.

P.S.  My full-blooded Irish friend Jon (from, well, Ireland!) gave me this yesterday.  Tell me this isn’t freaking hysterical!!!

Cue the Quarter-Century Crisis.

Om nom nom.

Om nom nom.

…Ish muh 25th berfday!!!!!  Exclamation Point Central!!!!!

Plans include frolicking in the rain with best friend Brandon Quan, formerly aka Dwight on this blog (will we go to Disneyland again for their “get in free birthday club”?  See “Alice in Wonderland” in 3-D?  Grab a Subway sandwich and a boba tea and sit around his apartment watching “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” for the 18th time?  Who knows?!  The mind boggles to think of the possibilities! It’s so great to have a best friend you can count on!) and also German Chocolate Cake with candles from Sage (my first birthday cake!  Yay!)

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There is also a special little quarter-century crisis gift to myself…I’ve traded in my mechanically unstable, inherited piece-o-crap truck for something older, cuter, cheaper, longer-running, easier to fix, and much more uniquely “me”…

I have named him Kermit. Kermit Kafka. If you don't know why Kafka (Come on, I assume you must know Kermit!!!), read more classic literature! Or, you know, just Google Kafka. We live in the information age, right?

Old cars make me happy.  And I’ve wanted a Bug for about a decade.  So now I have a little 1968 coupe. Just need to learn to drive stick, which Sage (proud owner of a Miata) has generously offered to teach me. Several years ago I drove a motorcycle as my sole means of transportation for two years, so I imagine it’s much the same principle…just using completely different appendages to operate everything.  Should pick it up in no time.  (Right?  Right???? – Gaaaaah! Terror!!!)  Plus, the engine on it has just been rebuilt, so yay!  No worrying about that for a while.  Whew.

Thanks to Sage and her mechanic friend Charlie for checking the car out for me yesterday!  It feels good to have somewhat reliable transport again, and something that doesn’t guzzle gas or pour clouds of black smoke when started.  Thanks also to the very kind sellers Marvin and Marjorie, who even knocked a few hundred dollars off the price for my birthday!  You guys rock, and also have the most lovely house ever (they built it themselves, and it’s chock full of antiques and much other loveliness).

Back To Life, Back To Reality…

Waking up to the California Sunrise...is not too shabby.

Well, I’m back in California this morning!  After sleeping off all my jet lag last night, I seem to be right back on PST time – albeit an early riser at 7:30 a.m., which I actually consider a great thing!  The lovely, one-and-only Sage picked me up from Ontario airport last night (thanks, Sage!)  She says I look like I’ve lost weight since she saw me 2 1/2 months ago, but I think she’s just being sweet.  Still, it’s definitely on the agenda, perhaps inevitable when you look at how hard I expect to be working in the very near future.

Very much missing Vicki Day and her daughter Alice Smith (along with tiny Mr. Biggie Fudgecakes the Chihuahua), who put me up in London, as well as Keith and Christine Best, the owners of Dunedin Guest House in Huntly, Scotland, who put me up there.  All of them did me so many kindnesses that I do not take lightly and will not forget.

While gone, I had let another homeless gentleman stay in my trailer (don’t worry, he’s since found another place to stay) and I gotta tell you, he’s awesome!  He rearranged everything in the trailer so that it feels much more spacious and open (flipped the bed around so that it seems like I have an extra room instead of just a platform with a big bed on it, etc.)  Man, I’ve got to take some interior decorating tips from this guy!

Something else I also need to do is get my butt in gear.  I’ve already started constructing briannakarp.com, which I’m hoping will launch soon-ish, and can be the central hub for several other sites I’m interested in opening.  Going into business for myself is also going to be possibly even more work than a full-time job, which is great for me – I love to work and keep busy.  Just have to figure out all the intricacies, keep my steam up, and not allow myself to get burned out.  Should be helped a fair bit by the fact that I’ll be (hopefully) making decent money to do things that I love, so you can’t really put a price on that, can you?

Weather here in CA is just as crisp and cold as in London.  I love this because it means I can snuggle up in some of my vintage coats, which I rarely get a chance to wear here.  I am SUCH a cold weather girl.  I love layered, winter looks.  Old coats are probably my favorite fashion item besides bright 1940s-1960s sundresses.  This is one of the main reasons I don’t know if I’m meant to be a California girl forever.  As much as I love my home state, I would rather be too cold than too hot.  You can only strip off so much in public before it becomes indecent exposure.  But you can continue layering clothing ad infinitum until you’re warm, or at least until you run out of clothes.  Believe me, I know.  At one point in Scotland, I was wearing every item in my suitcase – about 12 layers of clothing (including several pairs of jeans and pajama pants one on top of the other) and looked like a butterball or an oompa loompa.

Ooh, there’s another thing.  My mother texted a couple of days ago.  No greeting or anything else, as is her wont, just “The Memorial is on March 30, 2010″.  The Memorial, in case you were wondering, is the only ‘holiday’ type event that Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate.  It’s considered the most important date of the year to them, and even many inactive and disfellowshipped JWs show up for it.  If you don’t show up to the Memorial, then you’re really a lost person.

So here we get to the crux of it:  My mom was happy to abuse me, happy to lie to me, happy to attempt to steal from me, happy to chuck me out homeless, and happy to tsk tsk about me being lost to Satan, but like all JWs, she feels that dropping a line once a year to try and entice me back into the flock is her duty (not sure how enticing that’s supposed to be though…usually people like it when you at least say ‘hi’ to them first and chat about your lives before putting on the pressure of emotional blackmail).  So at least she can wash her hands of it and think “there.  I did my part.  My conscience is clean.”

Mom, I know you read this.  Or rather, I know Brittany reads all of this and sends it to you.  I won’t discourage you in your pursuit of  voyeuristic thrills – indeed, I suppose a small part of me is proud that you’ll still read an “apostate” website or book when it suits you – it shows that you’re not yet completely under the mind control yet, despite the threat of disfellowshipping, you still have some personality and choice of your own.  To me, that is commendable, that’s the first part of the battle.  And I do love you, despite it all.  You’re my mother.  That’s life.  I am bound to love you in some way, whether that’s healthy or not.

You know I’m apostate (which by the way, is simply defined as “a person who leaves his or her religion”, no more, no less.  Certainly without all the perjorative associations that Jehovah’s Witnesses ascribe to it).  I can only say this so many times before realizing you’re too in denial or too brainwashed to get it, but I left because I don’t believe in it.  Let me repeat that:  I don’t believe in it.  I don’t believe in it.  I.  Don’t.  Believe.  In.  It.  IIIIII DOOOOOON’T BELIEEEEEEEEEVE INNNNNN IIIIIIIITTTTTT.  I never will.  Knowing what I know, I can’t.  You do.  Therefore, we are at an impasse, aren’t we?  If and when you ever admit that you need professional help as many have advised you, and if and when you realize that you’ve been raised in a cult which has admittedly played a mind fuck on you and 7 million other people and decide to actually get said professional help…then perhaps we can talk.  Until then, there’s nothing to say, is there?  I will never attend another “Memorial”, another “Assembly”, another “Meeting”, another bout of “Field Service”…ever again.  So I respectfully request that you cease asking, if indeed you consider a seven-word text “asking”.

Whew.  Rambling over.  And now, I think it’s time for me to get outdoors, get some sunshine, see everything there possibly is to see, work hard, and enjoy life.  Who knows how much longer we all have to live?  As the old cliché puts it, this is the first day of the rest of my life.  Don’t know about you, but I want to get out there and make the most of it.  Keep up with me if you can, world!

Happy First Birthaversary, tGGtH!!!

One year ago today, a very scared girl with a lot of bravado opened a plain little no-frills blog and tapped out the following:

“In three days, I will be homeless.”

As they say, what a long strange ride it’s been.

I could never have foreseen the interest tGGtH would generate, the places it would take me, the doors it would open, the opportunities it would provide, and most importantly, the wonderful people I would meet and friendships that would be developed in the process.  I truly believe with all my heart that I have by far the best readers and friends a woman could ever ask for.

It’s a year later, and I’m more excited than ever about all the work yet to be done advocating for homeless people and against homelessness.  As you may know, I’m currently in London on business, and one of the projects I’m working on with the inimitable Jon (BeatOnTheStreet), whom I’m proud to call a friend, is World Homeless Day, coming to a city near you on 10/10/10.  I’ll blog more about it in an upcoming post, but it was such a pleasure and an honor to meet Jon in person finally, as he’s been a constant supportive presence in my life almost from the very beginning, a year ago.

More projects I’m working on include expanding and creating other sites along the full range of my interests (though of course homelessness remains my pet project and I’ll be maintaining this blog as well for all of my activism/advocacy stuff), finishing the upcoming book, as well as consulting on the movie rights currently in talks, and taking better care of myself and my health.

And of course, my ultimate goal (the apotheosis of my ambition, so to speak, as it’s difficult to imagine anything more glorious to which to aspire) is to own my own home…free and clear.  Eep.  Better get started on that one.

So please feel free to stop by in the comments and wish a very Happy Birthaversary to the Girl’s Guide to Homelessness!  It is my most fervent wish that there be many, many more and that the site will continue to inspire hope, understanding of, and assistance for ALL homeless individuals.  Thank you again to all of my friends, readers, and especially the fellow activists with whom I work in tandem – I can only dream of reaching the bar of super-powered awesomeness you have set!

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(Stunning) photo credit all goes to: Alice Smith, http://www.puresauce.co.uk/; Amy Norris, http://eightsixty9.com/ – Thank you, ladies!

Just So You Know…

Sigh.

So, I’ve just been notified that an article in News of the World was published yesterday, ostensibly about my personal life (the title of which contained an incredibly volatile and insensitive slur against homeless individuals).

I was contacted by the writer, Siobhan McFadyen, quite some time ago and declined an interview with her. Looks like she just went ahead and wrote one regardless.

The article is laughable at best, containing numerous inaccuracies and flat-out lies.  Interestingly, whomever was named as “a source close to Brianna” clearly has never spoken to me before in my life, as this anonymous (and, I assume, nonexistent) person got just about every fact under the sun wrong.

Only a small handful of my closest (and most loyal) friends know the true circumstances of my trip and my breakup, and that is the way I would like to keep it for now.  As I said in my past blog, please no questions about it.  I won’t answer.

Nice to see that Mr. Barnes isn’t above shelling out a few quip quotes to a trashy tabloid for pay, though!

Meanwhile, I’m having a fabulous time, taking care of both business and pleasure in London.  Will have lots to tell you guys about that later!