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!

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.

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! :)

In Which ~B~ Finds Herself Alone In A Parking Lot

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone? I’m getting old and I need something to rely on.

* * * * *

My fellow mobile homeless have all taken their RVs and fled… not sure why; Wal-Mart/police haven’t bothered us since talking to the manager; at least not to my knowledge – and no notes or tickets have appeared on my windshield. I knew P. was leaving for Lake Elsinore in the next couple of days – he found a campground out there and it’s much closer to his 13-year-old daughter. But the rest, I fear, left because they thought they might be towed :`( This is so sad to me – there are so few suitable alternatives out there; if these people couldn’t afford a campground and had to stay in a parking lot, where else will they be able to stay?

In any case, I am the sole trailer left in the parking lot (although there are still a few homeless left, all in cars/vans). I feel very naked, vulnerable, and stand-out-ish without a sea of trailers to blend into. Hopefully a few more will show up soon. I need cover. Plus, I got the opportunity to meet several of them over the last few days, and they were super awesome people. One was even a former dentist who spoke four languages!!!

* * * * *

Through newfound work connections (that’s right, 2 days in – I waste absolutely no time), I seem to have possibly sorta maybe found someone who can get me financed for the house. He pointed out loopholes – as a first time homebuyer, I only need to come up with 3.5% down payment, and apparently there’s some FHA program where I am allowed to ask for a seller’s contribution of 6% of the sales price to pay all of the down payment and some or all of the closing costs. He also seems to think that the credit/debt won’t be too much of a problem; thinks he can help me repair it in 35-60 days, especially now that I have a job. Downside of this is that I would have to schedule closing for at least 75 days out (leaving a buffer for any unexpected delays), but since the house is a short sale anyways, it’s likely to take at least that long, if not longer (could even be 6 months), so that doesn’t really make a difference. Please, please cross your fingers for me!!!

My bestest of the best friend, “Aishwarya” (she declined to pick her own pseudonym, so I named her after the most beautiful Bollywood star out there!) has a Human Services degree and is a certified grant writer. She is now the second personal acquaintance to be let in on my current situation. We went and had pina coladas on Monday to celebrate my new job, and just generally shot the breeze. Somehow, we stumbled upon the idea of having her write up a grant proposal to have the government give me some money to restore the house and use some of the rooms to accommodate 2-4 homeless women and children at a time, sort of a halfway house type thing (the home is pretty ginormous, like bed and breakfast big).

We’ll see. I hope I hope I hope.

Playing Catch Up

The last couple of days have been insane and I’d really just like to relax, so here’s a catch-up recap:

Two nights ago, came home to notice taped to the window of my trailer threatening to “evict” me: “WAL-MART DOES NOT ALLOW OVERNIGHT PARKING!!!!! MOVE OR YOU WILL BE TOWED!!!!!”

Well, um, actually… yes, they do allow overnight parking. In fact, I called in advance and spoke to a manger, making sure of it.

Turns out some newer moron did some really stupid things, such as running his noisy generator around 1 a.m., littering all around his trailer (we’re talking paper trash, bottles, even socks!), and unhooking his trailer from his vehicle and leaving it in the parking lot while driving around in his truck, thereby technically “abandoning” a vehicle. Not only did he do all of this, but he did it while Wal-Mart corporate was visiting the store, and they took notice.

Long story short, five or six RVs fled that night in search of greener pastures, with no idea where to go. A few others and I stuck around, and two of us (myself and P., the “mayor” of the Wal-Mart parking lot, who has lived there for 4 months and counting) went into Wal-Mart in the morning to speak to the manager. We showered and put on business suits before going in.

The manager lady was nice (although she had to point out that we didn’t “look” homeless. Well, duh. That’s kind of the point). She said that corporate had visited the night before and that when they visit, they always send someone out to post those flyers on the long-term residents’ RVs (although they leave the homeless living out of cars and vans alone, which is lucky for them).

P. showed the lady all of the Wal-Mart receipts he had accrued, demonstrating just how much business Wal-Mart gets from allowing him to stay. I explained that we were quiet and kept to ourselves, never littered, etc. I also told her that I have a full-time job and am not a “bum”, I just need a place to park while I transition out of this, and had called ahead to make sure that would be OK.

She told us that we seemed nice and respectful, and recommended we just stay in the parking lot. She said that the store managers would not call the police on us or have us towed – they don’t want to have to pay to tow giant RVs out, plus, they really have no problem with us being there as long as we don’t draw attention to ourselves. Really, it was just the corporate office’s beef, and they’ve left already. She said that if someone filed a complaint with the police, or the police came by of their own accord to speak to us, they would only ask us to move, not ticket or tow us. She said that if that happened, she would recommend moving to another Wal-Mart a few cities over, or to Sam’s Club, for a night or two. Then we could come back.

So, we have stayed, and no problems so far, for the past couple of days. I feel really bad for the people that they scared out of there with those mean flyers, though. Where will they go? Sadly, the Lord of the Generator was not one of the ones that left, you’d think he could take a hint. P. went over to his truck and tore him a new one, and there has been no late-night generator running since, although there is still litter around his trailer. What a slob. The parking lot is FULL of trash cans. I swear, it only takes one inconsiderate moron to ruin it for the rest of us.

* * * * *

First day of work today, and I think it went pretty well! I love the people that I’m working with, they seem very fun-loving and laid-back. The job itself is busy, but not particularly difficult, or at least I’ve been able to pick up everything quickly so far. The company works with about 500 mortgage lenders, so I may be able to find financing for my house through them, despite weak-ish credit due to about $10K in debt (incurred when I turned 18 – not great, but it could be a lot worse, right?) Two of the marketing girls actually recommended me to one lender, so here’s hoping!!!

I used to drive by “my” house (my best girlfriend calls it my castle; it’s this giant Victorian fixer-upper with a big, gnarly chery-blossom tree in the front yard, and at night it looks like the Haunted Mansion) every couple of days to remind myself of what I was working towards, but I stopped doing it about a week and a half ago, because for a while it just seemed like there was no way it would ever happen and it was too painful – I started to fear that maybe I’d drive by one day and see a “SOLD!” sign on there, and break down and cry, knowing that I had missed my chance forever. However, it looks like there may still be a ray of hope left, so maybe I’ll drive by again and give myself a perk-up.

Goals are important. If I can get the ball rolling on this house, I don’t even care if it takes the full 6 months to purchase (short sale, they can take quite a while). I’ll live in the trailer for 6 months, cheerfully waking up at 5 a.m. every day to drive to the gym and shower, so that I can head off to work and never tip off my coworkers that I’m living in a parking lot. I’ll do it all with a smile on my face and never complain once, I swear, if it means that I can have my house (P.S. God, take note of the preceding. I know I don’t particularly believe in you, but I swear I’ll at least make the effort to, if you help this happen for me!) ;~P

Not Much

Very little to report today. It’s raining again, so I’m happy! It’s all nice and cool and refreshing outdoors, and I’m camped out at Starbucks in my snuggly plaid PJ bottoms and year-old Sweeney Todd sweatshirt, passing as just another college student.

I was called for an interview tomorrow, huzzah! This will be the one. I can feel it. Well… I hope so, anyway.

Random Lighting Tip: If you are living in a car or an RV without electricity hookup, you can have enough light to read by at night. Purchase one of those bigger flashlights (the really chunky ones!) and stand it on its end. The light will reflect off of the ceiling and illuminates far better than candles (safer, too – candles can accidentally set stuff on fire). Plus, the batteries in those suckers last FOREVER. I have been using mine all week, and still running great!

Fezzik isn’t a fan of the rain. It means no park visit for him and he’s gotta stay in the trailer :`( Poor boy. I woke up this morning to a giant, droopy, sad-eyed face peering dejectedly over the side of the cot, as his tail thumped out a funereal mantra. He knew. Sigh.

So yeah, not much today, and tomorrow is going to be crazy busy with multiple errands, and Friday is my birthday; I’m taking full advantage of Disney’s new “free admission on your b-day” policy, so I may step off my soapbox for a day or two, and just drop in the occasional quick update. I don’t know that I have many readers just yet, so probably no psychostalkers out there, but if there are, now you know my exact location on Friday – Disneyland (where I would never actually pay to go, I used to work for The Mouse via subcontractor and hate them with a passion… but who am I to pass up an opportunity to mooch free stuff from them?) Anyway, if you’re a psychostalker looking to chain me up in your dungeon and make me your unwilling sex slave, good luck finding me among the other 20,000 people there! *sticks out tongue and blows raspberries in the face of danger*

Actually, that was probably unwise. *hastily takes back the raspberries*

* * * * *

Edit: My pal Dwight just texted to me that he got a new job!!!!! Congratulations, Dwight! Here’s to being well-paid in this crap economy! Now let’s go out tomorrow and get that house! We won’t take “no” for an answer!

* * * * *

Edit 2: Oh, man. I so wish that I had patience for working with people who hate/scream at me. Because I could see this being an incredibly interesting job:

http://orangecounty.craigslist.org/npo/1060413314.html
http://dreamlifeguardian.com/employment.html

Alas, probably not my area of expertise. But still, can you see a job like this ever getting boring?! It’d probably be like working in the Winchester Mystery House!


Road Trip and General Thoughts on Police

I spent my first official homeless morning watching the sun rise over the Colorado River.

It’s a beautiful day.

I know I’m not a hopeless case (Thank you, Bono).

* * * * *

So, I am officially a gypsy, a nomad, a wanderer, whatever romantic crap I need to tell myself to get through this. Sometimes that’s the only way to deal with stuff. Homelessness is serious business, but if you don’t laugh about serious business, or find the romantic/fun/noble in it, then you will just break down and cry and feel dejected and hopeless, thus wasting valuable time that could otherwise be used working towards getting back into a house. Sarcasm and humor are my weapons.

So far, towing a trailer is not as difficult as I expected, which is excellent! I’ve only taken it about 6 miles, though. I’m stopped at the local Starbucks recharging my phone and posting on my laptop. It is going to take me considerably longer to get back to Orange County than it took to get to Blythe (which was about 2 hours, 45 minutes). I’m looking at a 4-5 hour return ride. My trusty mastiff Fezzik is with me, so at least I have company. Poor thing, I think he’s mildly confused about what’s going on. But he likes the car ride and being around me, so he’s pretty happy.

Trailer smells funky (like fat, greasy man and dead animals/fish – the dude apparently did a lot of hunting and fishing) and has a lot of junk in it that I’ll have to dump today so that I can fit my own boxes and Fezzik’s crate in there. I’m less bothered by the smell and the mess than by the idea that I’ll be sleeping on the bed that my pervert, drug-addict sperm donor used to jack off in, before he blew his brains out with a Remington 12-gauge. Ew. But, c’est la vie, have to roll with the punches, Oedipal/Electral undertones aside. First thing though, I’m stripping those bed linens and putting my own blankets on.

Was stopped by a police officer 5 miles outside of Blythe for speeding. Argh. Anyway, I know that I just spent the entire last blog telling all of the homeless women out there to come off as strong and independent and fearless, for protection. However, there are times when a general air of innocence and naïveté can serve you well. Learn when those times are. One of them is while dealing with police, which is likely to happen at some point.

Police officers can be assholes, I think most people will agree. But when it boils down to it, they are usually just doing their job, have a quota to fill, and all that jazz. They could possibly be more sympathetic, it’s true. But you will not earn their sympathy if you give them attitude. Know your rights, and assert them if necessary, but always remain calm and sound appreciative, even if you aren’t.

If you are pulled over by a police officer, the first thing that you should do is roll down your window and put your hands on the frame so that they can see them. The most dangerous moment for a police officer is first approaching a vehicle. They don’t know if you are armed, so this is always when they are the most nervous. Putting your hands clearly in view so that they can see you do not have a weapon is a very reassuring gesture, and more than once a police officer has let me off with a warning based upon that alone. Don’t cry, either. Officers HATE it when women cry. Not only does it make them feel a little bit like jerks, they also feel like you’re manipulating them.

Pick your battles. If you do get a ticket, don’t argue or get angry/defensive. This will not help you. Many officers have control issues, and enter the police force at least in part so that they get to exercise that aspect of their personality often. You can always go to court to try to argue the ticket (half the time, officers don’t even show up and the ticket is automatically dismissed). If an officer catches you sleeping in your car and asks you to move along, either go (you can always find another parking lot) or, if you are parking at Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, politely say “Thank you for your concern, officer. Wal-Mart management has given me permission to park here overnight, as it is a private parking lot and that is their national policy. I would really appreciate it if you could check with them to verify that, before you ask me to move”. It is important that you keep a sincere and humble tone here. Don’t be snarky or triumphant. Always be sure to let them know that you realize they are doing their job and are grateful for the job they do to keep the community safe. It is OK to assert your rights, but if you’re a jerk about it, they may ask you to move on, anyway. If politeness doesn’t work and they ask you to leave anyway, just do it. It’s not worth it to piss off a cop and end up in jail, or having your car impounded.

Being articulate and well-groomed always helps. It’s sad, but officers are more likely to respond well to you if you don’t seem like the stereotypical vagrant. This is unfortunate, since the less articulate/educated, more despondent homeless are the ones who really need the kindness and understanding most. But, it is the way it is. Use your intelligence and coherence to your advantage.

Naïveté will also work wonders for you. People, especially men, generally want to do whatever they can for a helpless female (even more so if you’re cute!) It’s a chivalry thing. Don’t overdo it, just learn to be a little wide-eyed and lost, ask for help/advice because you’ve never done _______ before and you don’t quite understand the process. Sometimes you can use this to explain away a traffic violation or other mistake. Or, you can use it like I did today – getting park rangers to help me hitch up the trailer to my truck, and connect the turn signal wires (because I sure as hell didn’t know how). Learn when to be independent and when to use your natural feminine wiles a little (for good, not evil!!! Don’t be Machiavellian, and try to stick with innocence and sweetness and cuteness, NOT sex – which is another post in itself… maybe I’ll go into that tomorrow, but now I have to hit the road and get back to Orange County).