Tuesday, November 13

Is It Real?

I'm still not believing that what happened yesterday is real. There have been so many nights I have dreamt that Rick and I were on our way that I'm not going to believe this until we are up there, in the hostel, sleeping when we want to, etc.

I don't want to sound ungrateful for what I've received over the past 13 weeks. I am very grateful. A warm, dry, safe place to sleep is something I will never take for granted again. And as much as we have desperately wanted to get out of here, there are things I will miss. There are the people who have been important to us. Some of the greatest generosity I have received has come from people who have had little to spare or give.

Phrases such as "we won't forget" or "this will never happen again" easily play into my language right now. Truth is, I may forget some of this because it wasn't particularly pleasant. I will remember what I want to and what I need to so the second phrase holds true. But what I have learned from life is you can't predict what will happen. I've learned that one of the greatest myths of homelessness (one I held for many years) is that people choose to be this way. Some do, no question. Others find themselves on a slippery slope into a demoralizing and often humaneless existence. Whatever the reason, once you are there it's a cycle that is extremely hard to break.

Tomorrow we board an Amtrak train to Truckee, the closest station to the resort. The trip will take approximately 5 hours as the train gradually climbs out of the valley and into the Sierra.

Symbolic, huh?


For those who are interested, curious, etc., I've added a link to the left of the web cam in Squaw Village.

Monday, November 12


"There are some things swinging a cat by the tail teaches you that you can't learn any other way." -- Mark Twain

As I start to write this, I almost can't believe it. This morning we left San Jose at 2 a.m. and drove up to the Squaw Valley ski resort for a 7:30 a.m. interview. We were delighted to be offered jobs. It's a change of venue, a change of focus, and finally a sense that something is going right. I think the first two things are important for both of us right now. Our friend James, another resident at the shelter was key in making this happen for us. He was hired last week and suggested we come up there. His boss liked us and the rest is history waiting to happen. Let's just say it will be an interesting way to spend the winter.

As desperate as we have been over the past few weeks, there is a little twinge of sadness in leaving. We have made some wonderful friends there -- people who have helped us out when we were down. As the quote above mentions, we had to go this route in order to learn some valuable lesson.

We aren't out of the woods, though. This job is not a big money maker, but it is full-time and there are some respectable benefits re: food and clothing discounts. I'm not a big skier, but even I know the gratis full season lift ticket is not to be ignored. We actually will be in a similar living situation to begin with, but without the restrictions of the shelter. We hope to find a shared housing situation within a month. We won't be frittering our money away on needless stuff or adventures because there isn't a whole lot to do up there that isn't ski related.

So our world will now be filled with boardbitches, snowhunks, and skistuds. Hmmmm, I smell a boyfriend in the air. I've likened this move as the second season of a TV show. Somewhat like Laverne and Shirley -- if there had been a serio-comic version -- when they left Milwaukee for California. Some of the same old characters, but new ones to make the plots interesting. At the very least, Rick and I have a new audience for our schtick.

The day was a mix of emotions, however. We learned about the American Airlines crash just as we arrived into Tahoe. The first news reports we heard were sketchy -- the plane was arriving, not departing, the type of plane was in question, etc. -- but the underlying theme was there: it's not over. Upon hearing the news a knot formed in my stomach. No matter how much we rail against it, terrorism is a hands-down winner. My life will not be the same no matter how much I try to push ahead "normally." I can't board an airplane the same way, I can't fly in peace, I can't even open the mail anymore without second, third, fourth thoughts. Though it looks like the accident was just that, we can't hear news as such without an emotional toll.

Then we learned of the passing of Carrie Donovan, the "Old Navy" lady ("I'm MAD about fleece!"). CNN's article described her as a "fashionista" whose home "on New York City's Upper East Side had red walls, red furnishings and leopard carpeting, and she sprinkled her speech with French phrases." This just confirms what I always suspected. Drag Queen. Big Ole Miss Thang (BOMT). You'd have to go to England to find a bigger Queen.

Not that there's any problem with that. No. Not at all.

Sunday, November 11


Something I've learned to appreciate lately. When my life is filled with so many black and white absolutes, it's hard to notice or appreciate the less obvious things.

One of my favorite columnists is Adair Lara. Her straightforward and meaningful style has a distinct elegance. One of my favorite columns you can read here at the S.F. Chronicle page. Adair appreciates the subtleties life brings, in fact she wrote a book about savoring such moments, "Slowing Down in a Speeded-up World." She asked her readers to write in and let her know what they did to find a little peace each day in their lives.

There is a resident at the shelter who has taken on the task of running the kitchen. He is no different from any of the other residents, in that he gets no payment for his daily "chore." He rises each day at 4 and goes to bed most nights after 11. Occasionally there is time for a nap during the day, but the majority of his time is spent in the kitchen. He coordinates the serving of meals (on an average day 450 people eat there), intake of food donations, and deals with the volunteers from outside organizations that serve food. He could easily just put stuff out, but John always takes it a step further. Is there enough to drink, is there bread, will there be enough salad? Questions he often can't answer himself, but at least he thinks about them. He adds an element of respect to what can be a humiliating situation for some. No one leaves the area hungry, unless the food is gone. You wouldn't always know it from looking at the chaos that often descends upon the kitchen, but John takes on this task because it is how he finds his peace in the world. Feeding people and providing service nurtures his soul.

Subtle. Important.


Tomorrow we are off early to interview for the out of area jobs, so probably no time for a post. A full report on Tuesday.