Matt Home, Raising Money, New Homeless Tales Authors!

Matt’s home!!!!!  I’m so excited  :)   At LAX, there were a ton of paparazzi hanging around the international arrival gate – David Beckham was supposedly arriving.  Also, Eric Dane (from “Gray’s Anatomy”) and Rebecca Gayheart (from “Dead Like Me”) got off while I was waiting.  I didn’t recognize them, because they were wearing sunglasses and scarves and things, but jillions of flashbulbs went off and people were following them around.  Then Matt came out and I hurled myself into his arms and it was all very cute-ness, once he figured out that the blurry ball of redhead bouncing at him was me and that I would indeed stop just before knocking him over at full speed.  I am soooooo happy he’s back.

We’re staying in a trailer on the property where Fezzik is being boarded, so that’s exciting.  It’s a farther drive to work for me, but it’s slightly more practical for two people and we get to spend time with Fez.  We have a camera now (not just my crummy, fuzzy, pixelated phone camera) so I will try to post pics and video of Matt, Fez, and the area we’re staying.  Work changed their mind about using Fez in a commercial (this is the third time they have asked me to participate in a commercial and then backed out, so I don’t think I’ll say “yes” next time).  This means I just get to relax and spend time with him now instead of trying to get him to do things for the camera, which is something of a relief.

Spending the next three months fundraising; ideally, we’d like to purchase our house right before Matt has to head back to Scotland (he has to return every 90 days due to visa waiver reasons, and stay for a week or two before returning).  That way I could move in, get things settled and all, and then he could come back the next time to a real, legitimate home for us.  So, my retail site should be going up soon.  Besides my very cool vintage clothing collection, we may also be looking into selling vintage books, as well as the trailer and my car.  So, if you need/want any of these things, they will soon be available.  We are currently building my new website and I’ll post linking to it hopefully sometime this week once I’ve got it a bit more established and polished  :)

Also, I’m very excited about all the discussion going on over at Matt’s site, Homeless Tales.  There are several new authors and comments have really picked up lately.  People are having some really thought-provoking ideas and, even when they don’t agree, some really respectful and healthy debate, which is awesome.  It’s so great to see so many homeless and formerly homeless individuals from such varied backgrounds and perspectives coming up with plans and approaches with which to combat the problem.  Please go check out the new articles there – I was blown away by the depth and preparation that obviously went into each of them.

Photos/Video of Fezzik (per request)

The photos are from when I first got Fezzik (he’s filled out a bit since).  You can click to enlarge them.  The video is at the dog park, before I became homeless.  I filmed it as an update to Karma Rescue, from whom I adopted him.  Sorry for the poor/blurry quality, the video camera on my phone is, as on most phones, über-suck.  And yes, the baby-talk mode into which I lapse in the presence of my ginormous lug of a dog does embarrass me a bit.  But I don’t care.  I luuuuuurve him.

[Edit: Sorry, had to remove video for the time being. Didn't realize that by using a video from my Facebook page, my full name and link to my profile would be shown on the vid. Couldn't figure out how to remove just the name, so had to scrape the whole thing.]

Livid.

So, radio interview with Jennifer Westaway went well, I think.  Not sure how long we talked for, must have been a good half hour or so, although all that needs to be edited down to about 3 minutes before being broadcast.  Still not sure when it’s going on the air, but she’s going to let me know as soon as she knows, so I will link to it when it happens.  You should be able to reach it here though when it does happen:  http://www.cbc.ca/radio/

Fezzik is not looking well.  He’s lost a lot of weight, which really bothered me.  I asked them to ramp up his feeding.  They go “oh, so would you rather we give him two feedings a day instead of one?”

Um… you’ve only been feeding my dog once a day?!  He’s used to twice a day.  How much have you been feeding him?!

One cup of food a day.  That’s all my dog has been getting.

Just for reference, adult Neapolitan Mastiffs should be eating 8-10 cups of food per day.

What kind of fucking morons are these people?  And now they want to charge me extra for extra feeding – isn’t that why I’m already paying more to board him than smaller dogs?!?!!?!?

He was very happy to see me, but he seemed depressed and lethargic, not his normal upbeat self.  And I can’t blame him, poor thing is STARVING.

Also found out from the teenager at the desk (contrary to what I was told when checking him in) that he is NOT being exercised daily, apparently that costs extra too (they told me when I first boarded him that it was included).  He spends his days in a 4′ x 12′ dog run, and his nights in a 4′ x 4′ cage.  At least with me, he had a 30′ trailer to roam in – more than twice the space he has now.  I didn’t want to make a scene, especially with a reporter there, but I’m livid.  Just insanely livid.  For the time being, they’ve promised to feed him more, but tomorrow I’m starting looking for somewhere to move him.  Seriously.  Who feeds a giant breed dog ONE cup of food per day?!  GRAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!

He’s lost a ton of weight and he’s blowing coat and his nose is raw from rubbing it on his kennel door… I could have cried, it makes me so angry to see my dog rapidly decline like this.  He was SO much better off with me, and yet I’m paying $600/month for them to starve him.

So, looking for a new place ASAP.  A place that will let him play and interact with other dogs, take him for walks, and freaking FEED him – they’re out there, I know, I interviewed at one once.

I’m tempted to give out their name and location so that they get credit for being assholes, but I’m afraid of giving away my own locale at this juncture, until I get off the street.  If anyone knows anywhere in Orange County (I don’t care which area, North or South, I’ll travel!) or even as far as Long Beach/Lakewood area, please give me a recommendation.  My dog can not stay at this kennel.

*cries*

Actual Sequence of Events

~I sit at Starbucks all morning waiting for someone to get my frantic e-mails.
~Dwight gets on gtalk around 1:00 p.m. and I fill him in.
~Dwight calls the gas station again for me to see if my phone has been turned in. No dice.
~Dwight comes to Starbucks to take me to Sprint to replace my phone.
~On a whim, we use his cell call my phone to see if the dirty bastard who stole it will answer.
~Aishwarya picks up on the other end of the line.
~General confusion ensues.

What happened was this: some nice guy (Richard) found my phone at the gas station restroom and was apparently answering all the incoming calls to see if I would call. Aishwarya didn’t hear from me in the morning like she was supposed to, started worrying, and called. Nice stranger Richard answered and explained what happened. He then proceeded to meet her at a local movie theatre and give her the phone.

Aishwarya still had no way to find me – she hadn’t checked her e-mail yet – so she went on to a barbeque with some friends, at which point Dwight and I called, and were very confused to hear her voice on the line.

So – yay!!! All worked out well.

Dwight took me to the Wal-Mart parking lot, at which point P. came out of his RV and mentioned that he had also called my cell, and the same Richard guy had picked up. He had left a note on my dashboard with the guy’s phone number.

I drove back to Starbucks, and Aishwarya met me there in a few hours after her barbeque was done, and gave me my phone and Richard’s phone number. So now I need to call and thank him so, so very much.

The other new development is that starting tomorrow I am going to board Fezzik. The Sam’s Club parking lot is not particularly safe at all (P. mentioned that he had sent another RV-er out there to drive by and see if I made it there OK, and they had seen the jillion random men hanging around my trailer, and were concerned). Wal-Mart is in a much safer neighborhood and the other members of my little RV community are around to watch out for me (I’m actually really touched that they cared enough to drive by Sam’s Club). Anyway, P. told me to come back to Wal-Mart after a day or so and just try to leave every couple of days for a few hours, and then come back and park elsewhere. However, now I’m paranoid about Fezzik attracting attention, so I am going to board him. Dwight has been super-kind enough to front me the money for one month of boarding, for which I am eternally grateful. This way, Fez doesn’t have to be confined all day while I’m at work, and he’ll get to play with other dogs and have people loving up on him, but he can still come home with me when this is all said and done.

Sigh. It will stretch things a bit, but Fezzik is worth it.

Also, I want to give a shoutout to Matt from Homeless Tales, who made the front page of Digg TWICE in two days!!!!! How awesome is that? I say, pretty awesome.

Also, thanks to Danny from Take Part – Jon (Beat on the Street) from Street Seen alerted me to your post on me. Thanks so much for the boost, and for thinking I have something to say. I saw that you guys are linked up with the movie “the Soloist”, and that’s so freaking cool. I just bought that book a few days ago, can’t wait to read it, and for the film.

Anyway – don’t worry everybody, I’m OK! :)

Thoughts on Having a Pet While Homeless

I’ve already mentioned my dog several times in previous posts, so I thought I’d put a pic up so you can see him, and that he is indeed ginormous.

That’s my baby, Fezzik, with me on his adoption day (I’m the anonymous-esque one behind the green circle). Fez is named after André the Giant’s character in The Princess Bride, and if you know the movie, you can see why (many people, especially younger people, don’t get the reference, so I have to spell it out for them… argh!!! I’m so disappointed in my generation). He’s got that gentle giant thing going on, but you wouldn’t know it to look at him. Since this photo has been taken, he has filled out a bit – he was underweight when I adopted him.

I know that, if this blog gets off the ground and establishes some kind of reader base, I will have people questioning my responsibility and/or sanity for keeping an animal while homeless, especially such a giant breed dog. There are many that would call keeping a pet in these circumstances irresponsible and selfish, and I can understand that – where do I get off, anyway? How dare I drag a helpless animal with me into this?

In most circumstances, I would agree with you. I’m no PETA activist or anything (apologies in advance if you are, no offense meant, I just like me some steak), but I am all for animal rights, and for the right of a pet to be not only loved, but well-cared for. Many individuals convicted of animal cruelty or hoarding love their animals very much, but do not have the means or knowledge to properly care for them. I want to say this right now: I do not believe that if you are homeless, you should run out and get an animal as a companion during this difficult time, or as a means of protection. To do so for those reasons alone is selfish and wrong. Likewise, if you have a pet that predates your homelessness, you may need to look into adopting it out to someone in more stable circumstances. It is a heartbreaking thing to give up an animal that you love, but if that is the best option for its welfare, then it is absolutely necessary. You may love your dog more than anybody in the world, but that’s not going to mean a whole lot to him if he’s starving because you can’t pay for his food, never mind your own. If your situation is that dire, you need to make the choice to focus on yourself, and give him the most important gift that you can – stability, with someone who will love him as much as you. And feed him. And pay for his vet bills.

That said, there are several reasons that my situation allows for a dog. First of all, I have a source of income. I am on extended unemployment for the next 8 months, and now that I don’t have a home, I also don’t have rent or utility bills (which were the bulk of my financial responsibility). This makes it even easier to save money and use it to pay for the things that matter. I am fully able to pay for my dog’s food, treats, toys, and even vet bills, should the need arise. Secondly, I have shelter. Living out of a 30-foot trailer is a luxury that many homeless people do not have. I am not keeping my dog cramped up in a car, or on the side of the road on a leash. He has a crate as his den, and a nice wide trailer to stretch his legs in. Third, I live within walking distance of a very large park with a lake, to which I take him daily. There are 8 acres of trees and grass for him to sniff, ducks for him to look at, and nice fishermen/children to pat his head.

Finally, if my situation were ever to deteriorate and become more dire, I would immediately contact the rescue from which I adopted Fezzik and make arrangements to return him. I love my dog. He is a source of companionship and comfort right now, and he is DEFINITELY a means of protection for a woman in a vulnerable state (people give me a wide berth on the sidewalk, you don’t want to mess with a dog that looks like Fez). Pet ownership is a commitment that I take very seriously, and as long as I am fully capable of handling it, Fezzik will have a home with me. But when it comes down to it, I would send him back in a heartbeat if I couldn’t provide for his needs. So far, he has not had to endure a single day without food, water, exercise, and love. Hopefully that will always be the case.

Anyway, if you’re homeless, give careful consideration to your situation/assets/resources before you make a decision involving keeping a pet. There is one homeless shelter in California that accepts homeless men and women with pets. That is PETCO PLACE, at the PATH homeless shelter in Hollywood. And if they’re full, you and your pet are out of luck. The only other such shelter in the entire nation, to my knowledge, is located in Florida. Animals do not make the decision about who adopts them; they are at your mercy. If you are in any way unable to meet a pet’s needs, it is animal cruelty. PLEASE think about this before making a decision based on emotion and loneliness. Love is not a valid justification for stupidity or bad behavior.

Initiation

In three days, I will be homeless.

This is not by choice (although many individuals before me have chosen this lifestyle and enjoyed the freedoms that it can offer, and if that is what works for them, kudos!) Personally, I enjoy having a permanent residence and the sense of stability and security that it gives me. I look forward to living in an actual house again. However, it is what it is – in three days, I will be homeless. There are no caveats here, no “maybe” or “unless” or “possibly I can come up with something before then”. Come Thursday, February 26, I will be making my way on the streets of Orange County as best I can, and I will be considered that most stigmatized of people – a homeless woman.

Initially, the idea of this terrified me. Here is a summary of the commentary that first ran through my head: This would never happen to me. I am not the kind of person that lives on the street. I have a life, I have friends, I have a dog, I have stable employment and residential history, references, education, skills, talents – I have worked hard all of my life to ensure stability for myself. How did this happen, HOW CAN I DO THIS?!?!?!?!

So, I cried for a few hours. I cried and I let the panic run its course. Then, I started planning.

I wonder how many other people like me are out there. People who had the stereotypical idea of a homeless man or woman, who believed that it would not, could not, happen to them. The truth is, we never know the whole story. We don’t know other people’s circumstances. You can speculate that the wino sitting outside the 7-11 begging for change is there because he’s too lazy or stupid or uneducated or selfish or mentally ill. But will we ever truly know? Look at me. I’ve worked hard for all of my adult life (and all of my adolescence), sought out a college education, worked for corporations and executives, built a life and a “secure” foundation to fall back upon. Yet, here I am. So, now what?

You may wonder how I got here. I will give you a summed-up, generic background on me:

I grew up in Orange County, CA. I got excellent grades and tested in top percentiles at school. I was considered a precocious student and skipped a grade. I taught myself to read at 2 years of age, and I read newspapers, novels, anything I could get my hands on. My family situation was never the best (I have a mentally ill parent who has rejected consistent diagnoses, medication, and advice from various friends, doctors and therapists. It all boils down to the fact that you can’t help someone who refuses to admit that they have a problem). I was subjected to various physical/mental/emotional abuse for the majority of my life, and sexual abuse from an estranged family member while a toddler. Despite all of this, I strove to rise above my personal situation. I created a mental image of who I wanted to be. I fought, and continue to fight, to live up to that image and resolve some of the less savory tendencies that I have, whether they are biological or learned from the examples that I witnessed growing up. I am proud of the progress that I have made and the life that I have built. I am proud of who I am, as well as who I am evolving into.

I started working “under the table” at 10, as I knew how to pass for older than I actually was. I got a legal work permit at 12 years old and went to work full-time in addition to schooling (how many 8th grade students do you know with two secular jobs after school lets out?) I supported my parent and younger sister from ages 12 – 18. At two points as a teenager, I was physically thrown out of the house while my parent was in the throes of a bipolar depressive episode. Both times, I was on my own for a couple of months, until said parent tracked me down through school, reported me as a runaway and sent police to retrieve me from the friends’ house where I was staying.

At 18 I left for good and got a roommate. Over the next several years, I enrolled myself into college and worked my way from entry-level, minimum-wage jobs into administrative and legal secretary positions, then onwards up to an Executive Assistant at a major corporation. For a long time, I always had at least two jobs, sometimes three. When I landed my Exec. Asst. gig, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had arrived, I could concentrate on only one job, I was earning the means to live on my own, in my own house, sans roommates. I rented a cute cottage towards the beach area and enjoyed the little life that I had built for myself. I got myself a dog. I dated. I loved. I worked. I had fun. Even with the occasional disappointment or blip that happens to everyone, life was good.

In July of 2008, my corporation had mass layoffs. The economy was beginning to crumble, and the auto industry was the first to be affected due to the skyrocketing prices of gas. Over 280 out of 500 employees were laid off, and I was among them. The company that I worked for was enormously kind and fair to each and every one of us, and compensated us well with a severance package, so I was OK for a while. I did some temp-to-hire work for an environmental engineering company for a few months, but they ended up having layoffs right before Christmas 2008 and again I was out of a job. Since then, I have been searching for employment without success. I am on extended unemployment benefits, but I prefer actual work. Salaries have been slashed by at least 20% (often more) so I have no hope of making what I used to, but that is to be expected – I’m in good company, at the moment it’s a status symbol simply to have a job at all.

In the past three months I have sent out several hundred resumés and applications, some as far away as Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Whereas it used to take me a matter of days to find employment, it is now rare for me to even receive calls for interviews – there are simply too many people out there responding to every advertisement. I do all that I can to make my application stand out, but when it comes down to it, hiring managers must sift through hundreds of resumés for every single position. My chances are severely handicapped at this point, but all I can do is forage on.

Against my better judgment, I moved out of my cottage and in with my bipolar parent at her suggestion. I figured that it would be relatively temporary and would cut my living costs dramatically while I continued to search for unemployment. For just over two months, somehow I made it work. Until two days ago. On a downward bipolar cycle, my parent attacked me and ordered me out of the house. I have been told to leave immediately, but police informed me that I could require a 30-day notice, which I waived as long as I had five days to find other arrangements.

Could I ask friends for help? Possibly. However, my closest friends have so many problems of their own right now – many of them are out of work, or live in small apartments, or have various other personal problems and I am certain that I would be a burden and an imposition on them. There is also the problem of my (very large) mastiff, who I would not dream of selfishly dragging with me into someone else’s home.

So, here I am.

Luckily for me (and my dog!), I recently inherited a truck and travel trailer. Around New Year’s Eve, my biological father committed suicide. I had not seen or had any form of contact with him in over 20 years. There was no suicide note, and it fell to me as the eldest child to divy up his assets (of which there were few) among his four surviving children (my sister and I, and two half-sisters from a second marriage, whom I had never met before). This successfully accomplished, I was left with the aforementioned truck and travel trailer, both of which have registration and insurance paid up through July.

If you are an individual in a similar situation (especially a single, vulnerable woman), I hope that by detailing my experiences in this blog, I may help you come up with tips and ideas for survival and safety for however long your present circumstances may last. Perhaps you didn’t choose for this to happen, but it is what it is. It is happening and you must stay strong and level-headed, so that you can make opportunities happen for yourself and dig yourself out of this hole.

Perhaps you’re not homeless, have never been homeless, and are currently not faced with the threat of becoming homeless. Maybe you are reading this because homelessness is a topic close to your heart, or maybe you just feel that you should cultivate some knowledge on survival skills, because with the economy the way it is right now, who knows what will happen in the future? In any event, I hope that my postings will give you something to think about and/or something to laugh about, for humor can be mined from even the most dire of circumstances.

I have just over $300 cash to my name, in addition to various personal belongings. I have three days to take my plans for the coming weeks/months and put them into motion. I have never been homeless before and I will not deny that I am afraid, but I plan to face this with humor and dignity. I can do this. I can do this without becoming a casualty or a stereotype. I can be homeless and still clean, nourished, confident, well-dressed, dry in the rain, and warm at night. I can make wise and preventive decisions that will help protect me and keep me safe in tenuous circumstances. I can and will continue to bring in revenue, interview, and locate permanent employment. I can be a tall woman with flaming red hair, a jowly and imposing Neapolitan mastiff, and a 30-foot RV in tow and still manage to remain inconspicuous and under the radar (…right?). I think that if a wussy chick like me can do all of this, then anybody can.