Saturday, October 27

Pulling Free




I told Rick this morning our stay at the shelter was beginning to feel like a stationary orbit. There are times we resemble the Robinson's in the old "Lost in Space" series. Out of our normal place, faced with uncertainty and sometimes danger (real or imagined), and no fuel in our spaceship to take us back home. "Oh the pain, the pain. . ."

I hate to think it's something as basic as money that is the answer. Right now, though, it really is. More money would give us opportunities. We aren't seeing a goal, we just see what is. Goals require imagination and, though I hate to use the word, vision. I have to be able to create a vision of where I want to be and what I want my life to look like. I think I know it. I think Rick knows it too, but it's hard to sustain a vision when you know you will be pulled back into the reality of everyday.

I have to beleive that things will get better. I have no choice. If I continue to think things will stay the same, then I'm not exerting any influence over the outcome. Shame on me.

It pains me to see Rick burdened with some of this. Twenty-four year olds should not feel like they on Sisyphian adventures. But at 17 I was faced with the loss of a father to cancer, a mother with a "Mrs." degree, two car notes and a mortgage to pay. Maybe it was simpler because there were no choices at the time. I had to work because there was no failing. There were days I didn't know what to do except keep moving. Forward motion, in any direction, was OK. So I worked, I went to school, I studied, and I got more efficient. I found I even had time for a boyfriend. OK, it wasn't the best of relationships, but I maintained a momentum, I wasn't locked in place.

Today I need to find some lift. (No, I'm not going to sing that insipid Bette Midler song. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Bette -- I'm gay for chrissake, it's a law to love her -- but that song. . .) And I know it's got to come from me. I'll find it. I have before.

I will again.

Friday, October 26

It's The End of The Week As We Know It

I can't think of much to say this morning. I used to equate Friday with a sense of release. Now Friday is just another day. There's really no end of the week right now. The end I seek is still out of reach. On Friday I used to take stock of the week. What had been accomplished, what not, what to do next. Was it a good week? Lately it's been hard to tell.

Friday used to be the beginning of something fun. Something fun, "in the day," often equated something destructive, personally. So, today, I'm glad Friday doesn't have the same meaning. Today Friday means I have the day off, I got paid, and unlike so many Fridays of late, neither Rick or I have ulcers building over whether we will have funds to stay where we are. Paychecks are wonderful things. Bosses who pay you once a week are Gods.

There is a "make do" scenario around the shelter that many people fall into. Rick and I once thought seriously about doing this until providence or sheer will always seemed to pluck us from the abyss once again.

A man pulls around to the shelter at 5:30 a.m. each day in a large panel van. He recruits guys to service paper routes. It's pretty much back-breaking, all day work. I consider it the modern day equivalent of ditch-digging - the fate my father said awaited me unless I did my Algebra homework. For their work they are paid $25 per day. You get cash the first day (the first one is on me. . .) and then the rest at the end of the week. A week's work is worth $125. That's about $4 per hour, below the minimum wage, but in California the minimum wage is a non-consideration anyway -- no one can live on a minimum wage job in the bay area.

This morning 11 men walked into the truck, each of them desperate to make the week's program fees to remain in the shelter. Their money is due at the end of the day today. Some will make it; some won't. Some will say "fuck it" and decide anything (at the moment) is better than schlepping papers around. They'll soon know how cold the November nights are, even in California.

As I watched the truck fill this morning, I said a prayer of thanks. Thanks that I didn't have to get on that truck. Thanks that Rick didn't. Thanks to my current boss who likes me and pays me a decent wage. Thanks that the problems that robbed me of my money for so long are not raging. Thanks that I can keep us safe for a while longer.

I guess it has been a good week.

Thursday, October 25

A Little Night Music

One of my favorite songs. A group Rick introduced to me.

Eve 6
Here's To The Night
My Oh So Called Life

Things are looking better at the moment. My normally mercurial mood has been stable for the last 12 hours. What's happening?

I'm concerned I am becoming accustomed to this current lifestyle. What I originally hoped would be temporary is taking on a semi-permanence. Course correction needed now. I hear stories from others and wonder if my life will ever be that way again. This morning a friend related a tale of being taken out for dinner. To hear of a restaurant, where one can choose (not just be handed) what to eat, was almost amazing. Were I to have choices, I'm afraid of the ones I might make.

As you can see from the links I have on this page, I once new a more prosperous life. I won't say better because prosperity led me to some things I shouldn't have done. I was reckless with money, negligent of responsibility, and addicted to alcohol. Add to that mix an ailing elderly parent, an unfilling career, and a mentally and physically abusive personal relationship and the plot sickens quickly. Today I have to face and live with the aftermath. Consequence, I've learned, is a wicked master.

I don't intend to let this continue, however. My life is fulfilled today, but it comes from different sources than it did before. Today small gestures of kindness -- actions I would not have even thought about before -- are often transforming. Rick sums it up best: he serves food in the kitchen at the shelter every day because it is currently one of the few things he can do that is positive. His dilligence is inspiring. And as down as he can get, he is still there, ladeling soup or pouring juice or handing out sandwiches.

So will I go back to feeling fulfilled only when my boyfriend takes me to a $650 dollar a night resort or spends $200 on dinner? Yeah, I will. But I'll also feel that way when I helped improve someone's life.

Wednesday, October 24

Wednesday. What Else Is There?

Nothing new except a new emotional low. Trying to think of alternatives, but few come to mind. None seem plausible. Caught in a spiral of having to survive here while wanting to be somewhere else. Relocating takes cash. Cash requires a job. A job (a real job) takes a miracle. I'm not seeing any of these on the agenda today.

It's evening now and things seem less dire than this morning. I realized today how much of this lifestyle I have assimilated. The shelter in itself, eating at churches and other shelters (One volunteer once prided himself to Rick that "he knew what the homeless like to eat." Apparently it's hotdogs. Lots of them. My low paying, no respect, does nothing for my self-esteem night job wasn't too horrible tonight. Though I hate the job, I like the guy I'm working for and he appears to like me. And, I get paid once a week.

Tuesday, October 23

Another Day, Another Resume

Job hunting is now so serious that I'm almost frozen with fear of failure. Rick resorted last week to wearing a sandwich sign touting his availability as a Biz Dev Guru. He got some interest and the promise of some interviews. Not being able to claim gurudom of any sort, I am keeping with the tried and true. We are both tried and tired.

We currently live in a shelter/transitional housing facility. Beats the streets, but not by much. I used to live for the season. I had autumn plans, etc. The shelter has redefined my life so I now live by the week. Weekly is when our rent is due, no cash, no checks, no credit cards, just a money order please. My life is now colored by my ability, or sometimes lack of, to raise $45, a sum which used to be spent on a haircut.

And so how did I get this way you ask? A love of the grape and the grain. For Rick, a spiteful friend and a bit of a misspent youth. Cocaine really is God's way of telling you you make too much money (thanks, Robin Williams). Yes, we are getting something of what we deserve, but not this much for this long.

So this is where we live. Yeah, vacuous.

Monday, October 22

What to say?

This starts what will be a series of musings on life not only on the west coast, but specifically in Silicon Valley. My friend Rick, a native New Yorker, calls the area "vacuous." That proves Rick to be a generous and almost polite New Yorker.

We are both looking for jobs. At 24, Rick has never known a world without readily accessible employment. He's been plucked from jobs at IPO parties in the same way apricots were once gathered in Sunnyvale, yet it was a harvest he savored in better jobs each time he was lured away. I, however, being the elder statesman (venerable as Rick likes to say) have known nothing other than the "send us your resume, we'll call you" approach, though I have often benefitted from not what I knew, but who. Today is different. We do a lot of emailing of resumes. We are learning to accept new frustrations as they arise. The "e-age" brings a new speed to rejection. No less painful, just faster.

Adding to this is our living situation: homeless (gay man is not meant to dwell in a shelter: too much linoleum); our financial situation: penniless (hard to buy those A&F gladrags); and our emotional situation: depressed and bemused (well, a lot of us have spent years to get there). When Rick's down, I bolster him, he likewise with me. Hard work in itself when the world looks bleak and the chill of the oncoming winter can be felt in the air. What to do. . .what to do? Like Blanche, we may find ourselves having to count upon the kindness of strangers.

We are staying afloat, albeit marginally. Part-time jobs, occasional paid focus groups, serendipitous employment sources currently provide. Things will get better I believe; I just don't know when.

This page will document our search. For those who happen across it, I hope they'll get a look at what two educated, talented, stylish, witty, yet unemployed, gay men (yes, I know that's redundant) do each day in Silicon Valley. We look for jobs in new ways: we take the current health of companies by counting the cars in parking lots once flush with luxury vehicles; we scan building directories looking for enticing names like "verioscopic.com;" we revise resumes we previously thought perfect; we walk into reception areas hoping to leave favorably lasting impressions with receptionists. We do it every day. We have to.

This is not a whine, it's a vent. There is a difference. This is a time like no other for many of us. Somewhere the frustrations have to come out. Otherwise, I make mad noises at unsuspecting public transit riders. And if I don't, Rick does.

John Doerr once emplored people interested in the new economy to "get themselves to the valley." (sic) I'm sure he still tells people to come -- he just doesn't expect them to stay, or work, with him right now.