Homelessness, NIMBYism, and Golf – George Carlin Tells It Like It Is

My friend Jon in Ireland (aka “Beat on the Street” on various homeless forums) posted this on my Facebook today.  If you are wondering what the heck homelessness has to do with golf, here’s your chance to find out.

There is a fair amount of the standard salty George Carlin language in the clip, so if that offends you, you probably shouldn’t watch.

I have to agree with him on golf, though (and I just know somebody will skewer me for this) – but golf is THE most boring game on the planet.  I NEVER got the point of it.  Same as baseball, which is supposed to be the great American sport.  Like golf, I can’t watch baseball.  It’s like death by tranquilizer.

Give me basketball any day.  There’s a game that makes me want to jump through the TV and land in the middle of all the action.  THAT should be “America’s sport” (OK, let the flamings commence).

New Chapters

I posted this update over at Homeless Tales, Matt’s site, and wanted to repost here to fill everybody in on what’s been going on with the two of us (to make up for my somewhat vague update a couple of posts ago).

* * * * *

I will start out with Matt’s joyous news – Wednesday, October 28th, at 9:25 AM Scotland time (2:25 AM PST), Matt’s daughter was born via Cesarean section. Her name is Kelsey, after his grandmother, she weighed just about 6 lbs. even, has bright blue eyes, and undetermined (but darkish-seeming) hair. She’s absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think Matt wants to post photos/video of her online, understandably, but if you’re interested in seeing her, perhaps he can e-mail you privately. That’s his call, though, and she pretty much looks like… a baby.

(Since you’ve likely guessed by now that I wasn’t the one giving birth, I should probably head off any negative knee-jerk reactions at the pass, so: No, there was no infidelity involved; yes, there was protection being used; and no, there is no ill will on the part of any parties involved).

Matt and I found out about Kelsey’s impending arrival a couple of months into our relationship. For a girl who decided at about age 9 that she never wanted to have kids (I mean, look at the role model I had to go on!), it was something of a shock for me and a lot to take in, and Matt graciously gave me the option of backing out. But I love him so much, and I know I’ll love his daughter, so I stuck around, obviously. Now I’m nervously prepping for the responsibilities that come with being a stepmom, and eventually a full-time mother, since we will likely have children ourselves one day.

Life-altering event #2 came the day after Kelsey’s birth, when I received an offer for a book deal (thanks to my brilliant agent, Chris Schelling, who also represents the famed Augusten Burroughs)! Chris is clearly the most awesome evil genius ever; the preparing of the contract and such details takes a few weeks, but upon signing, I receive a decent advance. It won’t buy us a house or anything, but it will rent us an apartment and should also clear up my debts, opening the way for us to get a home loan, we hope! There’s also talk about potentially turning the story into movie-ness, which is kind of mind-blowing to me, so I’m just kind of trying to study up on the various options one day at a time and make sure Matt is involved in all decisions, since it’s his story, too!

So where do we go from here? Well, for now, I’m still in the trailer, waiting on contracts and such to be ironed out. But upon receipt of the advance, we are likely going to look into relocating to upstate NY – towards the small, tree-covered town where we’d like to settle permanently, when we have the means – and yet within a couple hours’ drive of the city, for when book promotions and such things start, which I get the feeling might be largely NYC-centric.

Matt and I would also like to get married, although we still need to bat around immigration red tape, and now with Kelsey thrown into the mix, options are further narrowed down, so that’s just one big wait-and-see game. I imagine once Matt flies back to CA, there will be lots of running around and spazzing out like decapitated chickens, trying to get things planned and settled. I’ve entered that phase already, truth be told, but not much I can do about it for several more weeks, so I’m probably just stressing myself unduly.

In case you can’t tell, I never in a million years imagined something like this would happen to us, and I’m sort of floored and flabbergasted and quasi-in-denial. I don’t feel like an author or the subject of a movie, or anything grand like that, which kind of makes me feel a little like a fraud. I’m still very much “just plain me”. I keep wondering whether they’ve just got the wrong person and haven’t realized it yet. Or I keep coming up with “what-if” scenarios and future disasters like “what if it all falls through and they change their mind before the contract is eked out?!?!?!” Which is unlikely, I know, but still, what can I say? I’m panicky and uncertain right now. A large portion of my life I’ve been told that I’m untalented, uninteresting, a disappointment to my family and to God, and ugly to boot; it’s still so hard for me to imagine or accept people being interested in me, much less enough to ask me to write an entire book about myself.

* * * * *

I can’t say it enough; I am so grateful to my readers, friends, and the Street Voices and Twitter communities for having my back for so long.  Things are finally really looking up and there’s no way that I would have gotten to this point without the online support network that I’ve been lucky enough to find, as well as the utter kindness and generosity of E. Jean Carroll, ELLE magazine, and the most fantabulous Chris Schelling.  Thank you all, guys.

Life-Altering Stuff

Hi all!  Quickie update  :)

Life-altering things have happened this week.  I need to check and find out what and how much I’m allowed to say, but looks as though I’m on the brink of exiting homelessness for good, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Other than that, keeping on keeping on.  Matt’s still in Scotland, and is likely to be for about another month or so.  He’s working super hard keeping up HomelessTales.com, as always, and we’re still batting around red tape and fun things that have to be settled before we can marry or anything.  Still in love and so happy about it though, and that’s going a great ways toward keeping my spirits up.

I may have stable housing soon but will still, of course, continue advocating for homelessness, on this blog and elsewhere!  In fact, I’m glad to have recently done at least a little bit for a couple of girls on the east coast who were thrown out by their parents due to their sexual orientation, and are now living in a car in freezing weather conditions.  An appeal on Twitter brought a lot of fantastic suggestions for shelters, programs, donations, and just ways to keep warm in their current situation.  The girls wish for their names and location to remain anonymous, understandably, but I wanted to give them a shout-out on the blog and let them know that there are so many people rooting for them.  I also want to thank everybody on Twitter who reached out to help them, many mere moments after I posted the plea.

So, yep yep.  Thanks to my loyal readers for sticking around!  Also, I’m in the Guardian today, apparently.  I did this interview quite a while ago, and had assumed that it wasn’t going to go to print, since I didn’t hear back for so long.  So, an extra little bonus surprise today!

CNN’s Young People Who Rock

Well, here’s the video of my CNN interview with Nicole Lapin, on her weekly segment, Young People Who Rock.  It was supposed to be a bit longer, but Obama decided to give an employment update right at the same time my interview was scheduled, so that delayed it several minutes, and bit a chunk out of the time that I was to be on the air, so I had to try and cram a lot of the info I wanted to get in there into a smaller running time.  Therefore, I’m talking really fast, and barely letting poor Nicole get a word in edgewise.  Still, seeing myself on camera or in photos mortifies me, so I suppose it’s one of those blessings in disguise – less of my chunky face on TV, woohoo!

(I’m now seriously considering actively eating healthier; seven months of sustaining myself on cheap-ass food has not been kind to my figure.  I’m not quite as big as I appear on TV – the camera adds 10 or 15 lbs., and most of them seem to be in my face – but I could still probably stand to take much better care of myself).

Matt was there for this interview, so it was his first time on a TV set (the Today Show wouldn’t fly him out to NY as well along with me, so he had to stay behind and await my return, blegh).  I felt a little better and more confident with him there.  Less nervous.  I don’t think I’m quite used to being on TV, nor will I ever be, likely, but I was more at ease this time around.

And now to embarrass Matt a little with photos of his cute self on the set of YPWR.  This is history, folks.  Matt NEVER gets his picture taken.

Nicole was so super awesome and friendly, chatting with me in the makeup room along with the awesome hair/makeup artist, Jennifer, whose Herculean task it was to transform me into a raving beauty (kidding, but she did do a fantastic job!  I got airbrushed!!!!!)  Jennifer is having a baby pretty soon, so congrats on the new kid, Jennifer!

But yeah, Nicole was great at setting me at ease; she’s a total sweetheart and a damn fine reporter – she has this informal, approachable thing going for her, which I think is a great bonus when it comes to reaching out and reporting to our generation.  Nicole is right around my age and clearly she’s super intelligent – I can’t imagine what it must take to be a respected CNN reporter at so young.  Her segment has been going strong for 2 1/2 years, and I’m honored to have been her guest.

So, thanks so much to Nicole, and to CNN for having me on again!

Those Who Aren't So Lucky

Something I think it’s always important to point out:  Compared to many, I have been and continue to be damn lucky.

I was fortunate enough to garner some media attention that has brought me opportunities.  True, I’m not in a house/apartment of my own just yet, but I’ve taken tremendous strides forward from the Walmart parking lot, and new possibilities continue to pop up here and there.  I am light years ahead of where I was, and the vast majority of it is due to sheer, dumb luck.

Not everyone is so lucky.  Most don’t get this kind of media attention, they go unnoticed.  And many are in very dire circumstances, much worse than my own.

It’s a double-edged sword, this good fortune I’ve had.  On the one hand, I’m very woohoo, perhaps my ship is finally coming in! On the other hand, I’m just one person.  It makes it all the more depressing to read about or even receive emails from hundreds more homeless people, many in far more horrible situations than mine ever has been, who need help.  I want to save all of them, and since I clearly can’t, perhaps the best I feel I can do is continue to try to make others aware of their plight, add their voices to my own.

On CNN Again; More Quickie Updates

Hey guys,

So, this afternoon I’m going to be on CNN again.  This time, though, it’s gonna be live!  *eep*  So tune in or set your TiVo to record CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” segment with the awesome Nicole Lapin at 12:30 PST!

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for over a week; the new job is fantastic and has been keeping me challenged/on my toes.  Plus my commute is four hours round-trip per day, and when I get back to the trailer, all I want to do is crash and unwind.  So I’ve been procrastinating, and I’m sorry.

I’m still on the back lot in Riverside, although that’s still a much huger step out of this.  In fact, it feels as though I’m in a bit more of a limbo between “homeless” and “not homeless”, by virtue of the fact that now I have some utility hookups, meaning that unlike living in the Walmart parking lot, I can flick on a light switch, cook, use the restroom, and even take a (cold) shower!  This is major progress!

Matt’s flying back home to Scotland on Monday, so I’m going to be spending all of my time this weekend with him – if you don’t see me around, that’s why!  This time, he won’t be able to make it back to Cali for probably 2 or 3 months, so that’s going to suck.

I swear though, after Matt lands safely in Scotland and I can stop chewing my nails over it, I’ll post a more comprehensive, detailed update.  I’ll also try my hardest to keep posting more often!

Love ya,

~Bri

Radio New Zealand Interview; CNN; Today Show

Interview – Radio New Zealand (Nine to Noon)

Above is the link to the audio file of my interview Tuesday with New Zealand’s NPR show Nine to Noon.  Sorry, my cell phone connection flickered at a couple of points, but overall I feel like I did decent.

Surprise; CNN news anchor Ted Rowlands called in the morning and asked if CNN could come film a segment.  Thinking he meant in a few days, I said absolutely.  Come to find out, he meant in about 2 1/2 hours!  Panic mode.  Dude; Ted Rowlands and his awesome camera guy were in our trailer today.  Very surreal.  They were fantastic, by the way.  Very personable and set me at ease, so I barely noticed that I was in front of a camera.  They stuck around for about an hour and a half; not sure how long the segment itself will be.  It might air Wednesday morning or (more likely) Thursday morning.  If I get any more info beforehand, I will post it; otherwise, I’ll embed the video on the blog.

In about 5 1/2 hours I fly out to New York, where I be on The Today Show Thursday morning with E. Jean Carroll (my first time meeting her in person).  I can confirm that we are scheduled to be on around 10:30 a.m., and we are being interviewed by Hoda Kotbe and Kathie Lee Gifford.  Will try to get and embed this video as well in a post, if you’re not able to watch.  Sadly, Matt will not be able to accompany me to NY, although I tried my darndest to get them to fly him out as well.  Sadness.

So, yep yep!  After my Today Show appearance, I will be attending a couple of meetings in NY, and then leaving Manhattan to fly home in the early evening.  Should be back home by midnight, Friday morning.  Very, very busy.  And tired.  But all super exciting.

* * * * *

Confidential to Stacey Niffenegger in Gilroy, CA:  I just received your very touching letter in my P.O. box.  Besides thanking you for your very kind and personal words, I wanted to tell you that you are fantabulous and I know you will do superbly at finishing out college.  Your determination to commute an hour each way to and from school to better yourself each day is inspiring to me, as I have yet to finish college myself (or indeed, to attend any classes other than community college ones).  Keep up the awesome work, and know that it’s OK and normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes, especially with a mountainous task like higher education before you.  You rock, chika!

~Bri

P.S.  There is a rat or mouse in our trailer.  We’re not sure which, but either way… gross!  It got into a bag of chips and a sack of potatoes.  Ewwwww.  I hate killing things, but traps must be bought!

Bragging Rights…

I know, I know, I’m sorry, but I can’t resist.  I swear in the morning I’ll go back to trying really hard to stay humble.  But tonight, two things:

First of all, BBC News blog Magazine Monitor has posted about Matt’s article this evening.  I found out when I checked my site analytics and suddenly there was a rush of people referred from the BBC website.  They’ve linked to my latest posting, “Bittersweet”.  Awwwww. *blushes*  I headed over there and found the blurb:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/2009/06/web_monitor_30.shtml.

Needless to say, my reaction went something like this:

O.o

Matt LOVES the BBC.  In fact, much of his visit here was spent lamenting that American news stations don’t cover as much international news and topics as the BBC.  I think a little part of him died every time he saw a major news channel run something along the vein of Twiggy the Water-Skiing Squirrel when he was thirsting for more information on Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, etc.  So I just know he’ll get a huge kick out of this.  I’m frantically trying to text him awake and tell him, but I suspect his phone is off.  Still, it’s almost 8:30 a.m. in Scotland, so I imagine he’ll be up soon enough, and will get my messages.  Graaaaah, wake uuuuuuuup, Matt!!!!!  :)

Secondly… I just found out that I am the #3 search result on Google for the search term “homelessness”.  I freaked right out, let me tell you.  I’m right after the Wikipedia entry and the HUD (U.S. government department of housing).  I also discovered this indirectly through my analytics.

…When the hell did this happen?!  Oh my god.  Ohmigodohmigodohmigod.

OK, I’m done patting myself on the back for now.  Sorry.  Just got super excited.  Now if Matt will just wake up already so I can tell him!

California Meltdown… Should I Be Getting The Hell Out Of Dodge?!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31381205/ns/politics-washington_post/

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31001101/ns/travel-news/

News like this makes me think maybe I’m on a sinking ship and should get the hell out of here before it gets worse… Mind you, there are always “crisis” scares just before everything seems to right itself and sail straight, but something tells me perhaps they’re serious when they’re saying the state government is 50 days away from a complete and total meltdown… what does that mean, anyway?  It doesn’t sound good, that’s for sure.  I’m starting to think perhaps we’ll all go bankrupt and I’ll never get my retroactive EDD benefits after all.  Ever.

Well… fuck.

*hurriedly looks up homes in upstate NY*

EDD Hatred Level Escalates; Awesome Book; Religious Past

Today was a day that was mainly frustrating and exhausting, for personal reasons.

In addition, yesterday I gasped with joy as I opened my P.O. box.  A beaming, glowing ray of light fell upon the envelope from California EDD.  The angelic chorus sounded.  For a brief moment, the world was so very lovely.  Finally, finally after hours of fruitless phone calls trying to get through, several e-mails begging for a response, with only maddeningly robotic (and clearly deceptive) “we will get back to you within 48 hours” automatons to appease me…  FINALLY!!!!!!!  My claim forms for my extended benefits had arrived (in case you haven’t yet read my previous post on this subject, I am now owed several months’ worth of retroactive extended unemployment benefits, prior to my getting a job.  Sat down recently and tallied up the amount owed from the day that I filed.  Turns out I’m owed in the vicinity of a little over $5K at this point, which would take me 1/4 of the way towards accummulating the $20K I recently found out I need to pull out of my bum to get this house so that I can then start the whole fun part of seeing what’s involved to use it for transitional housing purposes to take in other homeless women/children (that’s a story for another post, but soon, I promise).

Ripped open the envelope to find… a (second) “approval” notice letting me know that yes, I am eligible for extended unemployment benefits (well, duh, same exact notice I already received waaaaaaaay back when this crap saga started)…

There were no claims forms included.

None.

Zilch.

Aaaaaaaaaand………… yeah.

Seriously.  I know they’re backed up because CA is now like the poster child mascot of insanely skyrocketing unemployment rate states (OK, besides Michigan), but what the eff?!?!?!?!?!

WHERE are my UI benefits?  With those I could at least start the process, combine those with the money I have on me now and I’d be $6K down, only $14K to go.

* * * * *

In other news, stumbled upon this book called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, by Kyria Abrahams.  She was raised in the same religion/cult/whateveryouwannacallit as I was (won’t reference it here, you’re welcome to look it up if you like, but if you’re a reader and a devoted member of this religion, I’d really appreciate you skipping the part where you leave me comments telling me how wrong I am about the organization, wrong for leaving, assuming you know everything about me, assuming you know everything about your own religion/cult/whatever, assuming you know everything period, etc.)

I read the first couple of pages and identified so strongly with it (plus it’s hysterically funny – the chick has mad sarcasm skills, which is kind of my M.O. too, so I liked her right off the bat) that I had to stay up all night reading it.

It really brought back waves of memories for me – I left the organization at 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, although while staying with them they insisted on dragging me back, which I put up with to the best of my ability… zoning out, which I’ve perfected the art of.

Kyria really got the language and syntax and feel of what it’s like growing up as a member spot on.  Many of our experiences were alike – particularly the one where she swallowed a bottle full of pills in a failed suicide attempt and her parents ignored it, didn’t drive her to the hospital, nothing.  Left her to either get over it or else face the consequences of her actions and die.  That struck me so because I had such an eerily similar experience – at 14, in a fit of hopelessness, I impulsively swallowed a jumbo bottle of Tylenol (yeah, go ahead and laugh – but ODing on Tylenol causes liver failure, it turns out!)  My family’s tenant found me in the bathroom and called my mother, who blithely told him “have her stick her finger down her throat”, hung up and drove to Palm Springs with my sister for the week, leaving me to be sick and/or die while said tenant, also a member of this religion, shrugged his shoulders and went back to bed (turned out I was just in agony all night and the next morning.  Nothing major.  I was lucky.)

Now, clearly I got over the whole idea of death after that… agony like that made me decide it really wasn’t in the cards for me.  Nope, never trying that again *shudder*.  But still, it was scary.  And finding out that there was someone with a childhood so similar to mine – let alone her writing a book that is breaking into mainstream literature! – was kind of an eye-opener for me.

The last part of the book is the darkest.  This is where our life experiences varied more (and Kyria admits she has some medical/mental issues such as OCD, etc. that didn’t help with some of the more naive/destructive choices she made in her desperation).  She married super-young to someone she had nothing in common with, as children with our upbringing are wont to do (no premarital sex, and no secular “dating”.  “Dating” = “Marriage”).  She was, unsurprisingly, miserable, and started cutting, using drugs, and sleeping around to escape her marriage (adultery is the only valid and accepted reason to divorce, in this religion).

OK, slightly different from me – I never dated boys from my congregation.  I didn’t want to.  Was never interested.  There were, as she points out in the book, very few prospects, and I never felt like settling for a pale shadow of the real thing, just so that I could have sex or play house.  I knew even then that I wasn’t wholly and completely invested in my religion.  I think to some degree, I was always looking for the time when I could bolt.  I was attracted to men and dating and life outside of my super-narrow, controlled little world.  I saw hypocrisy and abuse everywhere I turned; not only in my own family, but in others in the congregation.  To have admitted so would certainly have meant trouble for me – even complete shunning from all I knew, including my own family.  So, when I turned 18, I simply disappeared.  I didn’t take any of the complicated channels that the heads of the congregation, or “elders” pretend are mandatory.  I refused to be labeled, refused to be shunned, I simply up and left and nobody ever questioned it.  Nobody ever really wondered where I’d gone or why, or what I was doing.  Nobody cared to investigate, they just made their assumptions and moved on with their lives, zealously preaching to anybody who would listen.  One more fallen angel.  Oh, well.

On the few occasions my family dragged me back this year, I was generally regarded with unease and suspicion, which amused me more than anything else.  You could tell it was in everybody’s mind that I must have turned into some little Satanic whore (paranoia and fear are big there).  Nobody knew anything for sure, and I didn’t volunteer any information on that score, neither confirmation nor denial, even when prodded, but some form of “sexual misconduct” was widely assumed, it was quite obvious.  After spending several years away, I had come more to grips with the knowledge that these people didn’t truly have any claim to me or sway over my life (in stark contrast to the certainty I had held in my childhood, that they could ruin me – or rather, that they could have God ruin me).  Now, to a degree, I enjoyed being the boogeyman, responding cheerfully yet bluntly when I spoke at all and seeing the awkward shifting and furtive glances at my outspokenness, my complete and utter lack of “spiritual” thoughts and goals, at least as far as they define such.  I had always been something of an oddball, even when a child.  I was disarmingly perceptive and never quite took things at face value as much as I “should” have.  I had opinions and ideas of my own, questions even about things in the Bible that made me uncomfortable or curious.  I was mildly bothered by the idea of “proving” a scripture by reading another scripture.  To some degree, I wanted to look at and hear all points of view before coming to my own conclusions.  This was highly frowned upon in the organization – looking at outside points of view was considered falling prey to Satan.  We were only to accept what we were told at face value by the heads of the organization, all mere men who were supposedly being “inspired” by God.  Chastised often for this moral failing, I did what I could to sublimate it, bury it, bend my will and conform.  It was embarrassing to be scrutinized and looked down upon.  It was embarrassing to be different within the organization, and also to be different outside of it – in school, and at work.  But, when it comes down to it, I was never the conforming type.  Now, I can find humor in my role as fallen, sinful, devious skank-ho; even relish it a little.

It wasn’t always like this.  It took a lot of struggling and therapy.  And reading Kyria’s book brought a lot of it back in a flood; despite the barbed humor which had me laughing my arse off, the feelings and pain beneath it were refreshed.  I don’t think anybody who breaks free from that kind of past ever fully gets over it.

Anyway, it was just kind of crazy and surreal seeing that there was someone else like me; someone who fought back (although sometimes in different ways) and got up the courage to leave.  We both had to learn to live in the real world – you’re not prepared for it at all when you come from that background.  You’re taught to fear the world, flee from it, dangers lurk everywhere ready to pounce on you.  In an interview, Kyria made a point that struck me as all too true – you are told by your family, your friends, your fellow congregation members that life isn’t worth living outside the organization.  That if you leave, everything will go horribly for you because you’re defying God, slapping him in the face, and being punished for it.  The irony, of course, is that initially that does often happen, your life does go sort of wonky – but not for those reasons.  It’s not difficult so much because the real world makes it difficult and you are being punished.  It is difficult because, never having lived in the real world, you have no idea to go about it, and have to start from scratch, teaching yourself and painstakingly learning through trial and error.

Six years later, and I’m still nowhere near done learning to adjust.  I don’t think I completely ever will be.  But… it’s a start.