Friday, March 14, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 65

  One day while standing in the Billy Sunday room at the mission, I was looking out the clear glass section the forms a cross behind the steel podium. On the cement sidewalk that circles the courtyard I saw a small black fluff that I knew in an instant was a bird that had hit one of the many huge windows. Looking like an upside down comma, it's beak aimed up... beyond the roofs edge, I could feel it's wonder... up there, I just want to go up there, into the sky... why is this even a question? Why won't my body respond? I should just be up there, effortlessly, pop my wings and shoot up, arc over, head home, miles from here in minutes. I'd be glancing down at things absentmindedly as they are no hindrance... normally... shouldn't be, wouldn't be, not like this! What is this? I want to be... up there!
   Then I noticed I wasn't the only one to see this lil drama unfolding. They where to the right of the bird, in the day room, probably behind the very window the wounded fluff hit. A couple of homeless dudes, in situations that shouldn't be, unable to fly, watching with compassion, the fellow fallen for a spell.
   I wonder how often they, like me, look at the folks living life in a normal kind of way and think how they too just want to be... up there...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 63

   I'm sick as a dog now, and have felt it coming on for a while now. You would think that living in a building with 600 guys that head out into the city every day, crawling into all kinds of nasty spots and dragging it all back here with them, that this would be sickness central but his is my first cold here so far. Maxamino, on the top bunk across from me, has been sick for a week, coughing and puking, so it was only a matter of time for me. Max was found by a lady living in a park, he knows English perfectly well but pretends that he doesn't, angry and arrogant, I don't know how he has made it through the program this far. At times he is very quiet, then at others he will be singing in Spanish very loud, it wasn't till much later that I found out he was drinking the whole time he has been here. Ok, not the whole time, just when he was singing.
   I rode with Clarance yesterday and had a lot of fun, we seemed to agree on a bunch of stuff. He has a funny way about saying things, like when a girl driving a car made a left right in front of us, he leaned forward and said emphatically, "YOU... ARE... A BUTT!" We got comped some big ol burritos at a Chipotles, and where did that place come from anyways? I had never heard of it before I came down to the mission! The food is fresh, chopped and mixed up every morning, I've seen it being down, but the interiors of the restaurants is very stark and industrial for some reason.
   Why are the bridge towers so plain on Lake shore drive, flanking the river? They are just big, blank blocks, so dull compared to all the other ones in the city with fancy metal roofs and bas relief  sculptures. These dull monoliths make the view out onto the cold lake even colder.
   Lil Ed is gone, got kicked out for fraternizing with a woman in the elevator. many of the women end up here due to abusive situations they had been in, they shouldn't have any fear of that here, and frankly, Ed was a strange little guy, enough to freak out any woman. He knew better, he just has some damage.
   Today on route A5 we went past a place the Sharon and I used to visit, the general area where her mom lived. It's like a dozen scattered data points fit a memory and bam, I knew it. The buildings all have more stuff on them, some colors have changed and the trees are bigger, but that is it for sure, even after 26 years, I know it. Hard to believe that was my life as I look back now. If it had worked out, we would have been long married, a combined income of easily over 100K and have kids of drinking age now. Dang.
   Oh hey, got some cool news, I'm going on the trip to Oklahoma on the 23rd! Last year there was a Bible camp down there for kids that got some damage from a tornado that the mission has some connections with. After some planning, the mission sent a van full of guys down to help rebuild.  The group I'm going down with will be the third trip, and lil Ed had been on the list to go for some reason, which would have driven all of us nuts. Seriously, is a guy like that one of the guys you want to represent the mission?? In the immortal words of lil Pimp Ed, "You ma nig!" Yeea yeea!
   Got a weird idea for a plot device for a movie. In Revelations 9:5-6 it talks about being stung by locusts like a scorpion does and they shall seek death and not find it for 5 months, that death will flee them. I could see in a movie a guy allowing the sting so he could be invulnerable to death for 5 months. A horrible existence, for sure, but able to do things the rest of us couldn't. Oh, we also need to search the Euphrates for the four bound angels, set in place 1 year, 1 month, 1 hour before killing a third of mankind, Rev 9:14-15, a bit of a paraphrase, I admit.
   Many of the doors can only be opened with key cards, which is really pretty cool for a homeless shelter from a security point of view. In practice, these guys are forever forgetting their cards. As I write this, there have been 5 guys banging on the dorm door, and it's not even noon yet. Good news is I'm over the cold now, slept 12 hours, missed breakfast, so hungry now.
   A week ago, Angel got put in Office C and to mess with him a bit, I asked for form 43c and for the 8th month test study guide. He stumbled a bit and looked bewildered and finally admitted he didn't know where they where. (They don't exist, lol). Today I related the story at lunch to Phil, "Froggy" H, and not realizing I was talked about a joke, took it for real. Fred was at the table and joined right in, telling him you need to memorize Psalm 119 (The longest verse) and John 11:35 (The shortest verse), LOL. I later asked Angel about the 8th month test and he said someone came in asking about it, and that he still couldn't find it.  I laughed, stomped my foot and said, that's because I made it up! LOL.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 62

   My Dad worked for a guy that knew how to make money. Marvin befriended an old man that was on his last legs and when that old man passed away, Marvin inherited a warehouse full of old pluming supplies. Marvin didn't know much about the hands on end of the business, but knew my father did, so he talked him into working for him. Marvin was ruthless, and why not? That is what business is to him. If you're short on payments for your big boat down at your second house in Florida, you lay workers off, so what if it's a week before Christmas? My father took me to Marvin's house one time and I saw how the hall ways where lined with expensive statues of horses rearing up magnificently and lions roaring with raised paws, trimmed with gold accents, like a storage room in the back of a museum. We hung out with them once down ion Florida where I got the tour of his small yacht of 45 foot. I never liked the guy and his gaudy dressed girlfriends, I never understood how his wife put up with him.
   Years later I'm washing clothes at a laundromat, talking with the Muslim owner about life. He and I didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we could have deep discussions on them. Looking back I can see he was being diplomatic, I came in and made him money every week, so he took everything I said with a grain of salt and let it go. In our far ranging discussions I let on about how I would go to the gun range from time to time, and he started acting unusual. He started dancing around some thoughts... how a girl he knew had something wrong done to her, what would I do in such a situation. A while later he steered it back to that idea and how someone could make some money with a gun... when it dawned on me he wanted me to be that someone that rights a wrong for the girl, I had to get my stuff and leave, fast. He came out to me in the parking lot, laughing in a queer way, saying that is not what he meant and not to worry about it, but I just got in my car and never went back.
   That was too bad, I enjoyed our conversations. he was rather new to this country and I helped him understand some of our ways. heck, there was a night when we where talking and I looked up at the TV that was always on and saw a familiar sight. It was a news report about a house burning down in a wealthy suburb, flames shooting out of big windows. In one of those windows was a statute, an ornate one of a horse rearing up on it's back legs, gold hanging off in tiny chains, the gout's of fire about to consume it. I knew exactly who's house it was, even though I hadn't been there in 20 years, I knew that horse! I called my dad as soon as I got home to let him know, and we followed the news for the next few weeks. Marvin finally learned the hardest way, that when you don't care about the people you step on, sometimes they kick back. Turns out it was a man that was a glass sculpture they had hired shot them and burned the house to try and hide the crime. Apparently he knew about the large sums of money the sometimes eccentric couple kept under rugs and in boxes. They were worth more than $10 million and had an extensive art collection that included a Frederic Remington sculpture, well-known paintings and even a doll collection, according to news reports. I feel bad for what happened... to the artwork.
 Lots of transitions here in the Pacific garden missions Bible program. You start out on a top bunk, exposed to the lights, climbing a ladder and having no where to sit normal. About a month in an lower bunks open up for you to move down to and then you can put up a tent and hang things to make space. Normally it's 6 to 7 months before they shift you over to dorm 3014, but now they are sending guys with just 3 months over here and jamming us up which is an irritation. Guys just keep coming into the program in huge numbers, and it's not even cold outside, so we are thinking the economy is worse than the media is letting on.
   Once you get to 3014 your on a top bunk again, worried that your feet might hit the guy in the lower bunk, lol. I was lucky in that I was only on top for a few weeks, but the new guys are looking at being up there for months if the graduates over in 3017 don't get jobs and move out. The lower bunk I got is against the wall, so in theory that side of me should be quiet. Unfortunately, one of the louder and more gregarious guys, Wayne R is now working in security, and they got tired of hearing him, so now he is stationed outside the mens main door, which is 3 stories below, and directly behind me. Yeah, I can hear him pontificate on everything all day long now, through a brick wall. I like the guy, but don't want to live near him ever again. I had to write him up once for being to loud in 3026, well, I should say he demanded it. Part of the responsibility of being an IC was helping to enforce rules, and so over in dorm 3026, when the volume started getting to loud, I'd walk around and see if there where any guys trying to sleep. If I saw guys laying with their hands half over their eyes, looking at me in a pained way, I'd seek out the loudest guys. The other IC's would just yell 'LIBRARY QUIET", which I thought was kind of backwards, but they didn't like confrontation I guess. Normally all I'd have to do was the hand motions of lower your voices and the guys where cool. They know some of us work nights, but just get carried away talking, no biggie. Wayne had a bunk way in the front of the dorm, mine was in the back, so he pointed that out when I was quieting some guys down. I replied to him, 'How come I could hear you from all the way back there then?" He got mad, started chirping about all kinds of stuff and in his blur of words told me I should just write him up. I sighed, went back to my bunk, sat down and got out my write up sheets. He had followed me back there, yelling about this and that, and when he noticed the paper, asked me what I was doing. I just looked up and told him he got his wish, I'm writing him up.  A lot of these guys got through life by doing what they call "a lot of woofing". I didn't grow up with that happening, so, like an insult from a different era, it doesn't phase me much. Call me "yellow bellied", I might laugh in other words. I have been here long enough that if you tell me to "move around", that can get my hackles up. I guess this old dog is learning new tricks, maybe even how to woof back.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 61

   In the bible program at Pacific garden mission we have a class on Hermeneutics taught by Donald Connolly. Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word ἑρμηνεύω (hermeneuō, 'translate' or 'interpret') and we use to it understand the Bible better. It's a fascinating class, once he gets done introducing himself for the first 10 minutes, lol. In the last class he asked a question to the guys and went around the room looking for answers. Why did we come to Jesus? many of the guys had decent answers, but I was having trouble with it. I could drag out my testimonial and say how I screwed up I was and how I saw the light, but instead gave a Biblical answer in that God had chosen me before the foundations of the earth (Eph 1:4). Donald challenged that pat answer, and in a way, he was right in that the question was not about what God did, but why did I come to him. I thought deeper about it, was it because I admire Christ and what he did for us? Was it something inherently inside me that said it was the right way to live? Then there is the idea that just because it's one of the more dominate religions in the USA, you're bound to get into it, but I've studied many of the belief systems in this country, even took classes on them in highschool. Then this morning I had a thought, that Jesus had been with me all through my life, beckoning for me to come to him, and I was finally so worn out that I got tired of fighting him. Maybe I humbled myself, but even that implies too much of what I have done. I'm like a wild horse out on the plains, fighting the bridle even with the oncoming freezing blizzard, like a wary wild Mustang circling the man with the soft voice and outstretched hand. I found him later in the week and told him about the battle in my mind to get my hands around the thought and told him straight up, I never came to Jesus, I simply quit from turning away from him.
   I always get a bit of a laugh when I am out and about walking and a beggar asks me for money. My normal reply is, "I'm PGM." Most get it, some are like, what? So I tell them ,"Pacific garden mission." A few, upon hearing that, looked like they wanted to give me money, lol. I had one guy ask for money while holding a smart phone and texting, I told him, pointing at the phone, that he had more than me! And why is it always some odd number? "Can you give sityfye cent?" Round it up already, you ain't foolin me. Then there was the day that a guy tried to sell me a copy of the Onion. I told him I don't like that rag, and he got indignant and said, "Man, it's to help the homeless", and I fired back, "I AM homeless." He looked at me like I was lying, cause, you know, I'm white.
   On Monday I rode with Dean on an AM route, starting way deep in the city, inside the sub basement of the Hancock building. Built in 1965, the 1,127 foot tall building is a landmark on the north side of the Loop, to be able to go in it was awesome for me. The hall ways where extremely tight, with boxes of stuff along one side of every wall. We pick up donations from the freezers of some restaurant there, filling plastic bags with blocks of frozen soup while waiters, cooks and people with two wheelers try to get past us. It's exciting and irritating for me, I try to keep small, but the designers of these termite tunnels didn't think ahead enough, everything is so compressed.
  On this run we also stop at a K.F.C., a steak house and a couple of Pizza huts. I've been in a lot of back areas of restaurants now and there seems to be a basic theme to them all. Unlike the areas where the customers sit and relax, the backs areas are all tight quarters, those dirty hanging plastic wind stop strips that you have to push through, really cold areas, rich smells, people that know the areas really well weaving in and out quickly, stainless steel everywhere, power cords dangling from things, stacks of half crushed boxes of produce and it's sweet earthy smells, long shelves of huge amounts of stuff and always, always, loud Mexican music. Many have patches of rubber mats with round holes in them, huge stainless steel sinks with over head hoses held up by springs, chrome racks with every kind of ingredient they would ever need in rows and never a hall way that is free of stuff against the walls. Then there are the walk in coolers made of silver metals, patched from years of people ramming carts into them. They all have those big pull handles that slap back loudly when you let them go and often have the tiny windows so you can look out and scream if you ever get locked in.   Those back areas are jammed, built for a purpose, not for comfort, and yet so many live out half their lives back there, running, sliding, washing and cooking for the rest of us.

Stories from the Mission... bit 60

   Back in 1983 I was a bouncer at a church. Allow me to explain, lol. After highschool I went to collage for just under a quarter, and dropped out. I worked some odd jobs, but I was doing so many drugs, it's kind of a haze now to me. I and the group I was running with got an invite to a party out in Waconda and it sounded like a road trip, so I was in. This one seemed more organized than the usual parents are gone, come on over and ruin the house type party, this one had fliers with directions. Back then we all had long hair and wore some kind of leather jackets, and we piled into my 1968 Mustang and head out into the night. The fliers seem to have a flaw, the street names aren't quite right and we drove past the first few till we realized the mistakes. I'm thinking it might have been done on purpose... Plausible deniability? Noooo officer, that is not MY house, we don't live on THAT street. Or it could have been the person doing the fliers was stoned.
   So, we arrive at what to us was a rural area with large houses spread fairly distant from us, and this particular one had a big gravel parking lot. Hmmmm. We each pay $20 to get in, get a Solo cup and can hear a live band playing rock and roll somewhere deep inside. The inside of the Waconda party house is dim, dank, wooden and complicated. I suppose you could say it was a Frank Loyd Wright design without the vertical features, or many windows. It is a 10,000 square foot, $395,000 (Back in 1981) mansion, with a built in swimming pool, stage, sauna, bars and dance floors. The walls where lined with heavy duty, carpet covered plywood benches everywhere and the place was a maze that wrapped around a central indoor pool that reminded me of a dungeon. There seemed to be nooks and crannies for sitting and drinking all over and the main room had a bar big enough to be at an Applebees, just walk up, set your red Solo cup down and they fill it, for the duration of the night. The bathrooms cracked me up as they where big, like you'd see at a bar downtown, but felt like something you'd find in a residence. I became a regular at the Party house and the bathrooms often turned into mini parties where folks had the expensive drugs out as the doors all had good locks.
   Of to the right was the stage room where the bands played, and I once saw The Radiators blast a party out in there. There was one room that had a foosball table and some kind of hockey game, maybe some beat up pin ball machines. Then there was what I called the living room with it's sunken pit lined with the benches and a table in the middle. Often where the times that groups would hang out in there, chain smoking and drinking the brains away. That room had a large window that looked down on the pool and I so recall one evening seeing a naked guys clinging to the small ledge of the sill, above the pool, inching his way to the deeper end to jump off. A girl sitting below the window looked up, got disgusted, and smacked the window really hard right where his junk would have been, causing him to fall in, LOL! She had a cup in one hand with a smoke, and barely missed her stride in her conversation with us. The pool was fun, when you could get people to go in. It wasn't fancy, it kind of looked like a flooded basement, but I always brought a suit.
   There was a second floor, I was up there just once, but all of the parties where confined to the first floor and basement. That was another maze of rooms of random sizes. The dance room had huge speakers and a lighted floor light Saturday night fever and I have a fond memory of watching people in there as the Talking heads 'Burning down the house' played 5 times in a row. One room had a small table with a mirror built into the top that people made the mistake of doing coke on. Want to have 17 people you don't know talking about the weather and laughing at all of your jokes? Put some coke out in a public place then.
   In my 5th or 6th weekend of going to the party house, I started to be more accepted by the son of the owner. I never made any trouble and was gregarious, so soon he wasn't charging me an entry fee, as long as I would help him out if there was any trouble. They never carded anyone, so often there where a lot of rampant, drunken teens, I suppose it helped him to have me looming near by if anyone got out of hand. One night we where walking down a hall in the basement that I had been down a bunch of time before and he asked me if I wanted to see his place. I'm thinking, how long of a drive is that? I wanted to stay here at the party and tell him that. He laughs a bit, takes out a small block of wood from his pocket, touches it to a wall, and a section moves in a bit. It's a freaking hidden door! He and his wife have their own apartment in the basement, and I had never known it! We hang out for a bit and I find out that his dad is a mail order minister for the Universal life church for just $30. That is how they have been getting away with this... this is supposedly a church!
   I stopped going after a while, they where in court to keep from being closed down and I was sure that sooner or later I would get a DUI leaving the place. For some reason I would go through three packs of cigarettes a night there and the idea of getting knifed just for free beer lost it's allure.
   Moral to this story? Hmmmm... watch your kids maybe, there are false gods out there and people willing to give over their entire house to make a buck off them. I get the feeling that if it can happen in the sticks outside of Chicago, it has happen in a lot of places. Out of the many hours I went there, I can only recall bits and pieces.

Stories from the Mission... bit 59

  I had a little run in with an over night guest the other day. He has been at the mission, here and when it was over on State street, for over 30 years. He feels like the rules don't apply to him and I see not following basic rules as one of the reasons a lot of end up here. Being here longer than me just means he messed up sooner than me, not that he is any better then me. 30 years. For a short time, later in my time at the mission, I worked on the second floor, signing the overnighters in at night. It was a madhouse... three guys, each with piles of paper and coat hangers, would call a guy over, ask for his name, date of birth and last four numbers of his social security number, and write all the info down. They say it's in case there is a fire, we would know who all was here and how many. Some of the guys I worked with at that desk would yell at them to get them over to be signed in, which I thought was uncalled for. Most of guys might be sleepy, but all you had to do was look up and wave a bit, they knew what to do. The thing that really killed me though was hearing the dates of birth. 3/22/54, 9/17/73, 4/2/65 and so on. I'd think, that is not what their parents had hoped for them back then... born with so much potential, what happened to end up here, year after year? Sure, there are guys new to the mission, but there is a rather large core of guys that know the routine all too well, I wish I knew a cure. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the lumbering white guy that dresses like he used to be part of a country club and now is silent to the impish grinning lil ol black guy that smiles with few teeth. There is the one guy that wears a suit that looks like it's from the 20's and is a bit too small now, showing more than the tops of his socks to the guy with dreadlocks wearing a military uniform. I once saw a guy that looked like a muscle bound Charles Bronson carrying a duffel bag on his back big enough to hold me in it. 
   One night while doing search, I saw this one gentleman had 8 flash drives in his bag. I asked him why so many? He tells me he is a writer and in the coming weeks we have more conversations. Turns out he is a fairly famous writer, doing stuff for Rolling stone, the New Yorker and other high end magazines. They even fly him to far flung places to do reviews on art galleries, like Paris! I got his name and looked him up on-line and saw his body of work, really impressive. He would show me pics of his young Asian girl friend, lol. Happy go lucky, interesting guy to talk with, he was excited the week before Christmas that his family wanted to see him, that he was going there for the holidays. Then, come Christmas day I saw him in the hall, looking dejected. We sat down for a bit and talked... he hadn't gone because he got drunk again, he looked so sad with himself. He was a well educated, eloquent and fun guy to be around, yet he let the booze control who he was around.
   I admire the guys in the program. They may not all make it, and some are downright irritating, but they are trying. It's like the saying, "I may not be sinless, but I try to sin... less." We had a guy come in, John O., that was a real hard head. John had arms that looked like thighs and threw words around like bricks. His head sloped toward his face and he let the tooth pick in his teeth show what direction he was going. He was a walking Howitzer, loaded for bear, and wasn't timid about where he aimed it. On one of his first days he got into an intimidation stare down with four senior program men that had been through hell and lived to tell, yet he wouldn't sit in the front row like the rules say. Pastor Green had to come in, wave him out and after a while he came back in to sit in the front row. He had a huge anger demon on his back that he barely contained, and while he, um, impressed me with his restraint, I admired him in the fact that he did. I got to know him over time, but like being around a tiger, I felt more at ease when he wasn't near by, lol. John didn't talk about his past much at all, but one time let on in an impassioned way about a subject and let slip that he might have been involved with some horrific events in a matter of fact way. Yet here he was now, wearing a tie every day, attending classes, working his job in the Mission... trying.
   I have to be honest here, transcribing this in 2014, that in this section of my journal I was a alot harder on the guys. I saw so many guys that I had gotten to know over a year, fall and backslide, guys that seemed to be always trying to find a way around the rules instead of humbling themselves to the rules. It can be very frustrating to see so much growth and then to slam into stupid. Looking way back at myself, I'm sure I was the same spectacle to my parents at times. Heck, I bet I've been a disappointment with some here in 2014. There is another saying, "God doesn't make ugly." Society does. Society says if your hips are an inch too big, you're fat. Society tells you're no fun if you don't get drunk. The society that John came from told him he was a wuss if he wasn't ready to kill. Our society tells us there is no grey areas any more, we all must conform to set jobs with the constant threat of being fired. It's almost like this society can't work unless there is a layer under us like grease, to be examples of what happens to those that can't fit in. 
   Ironically, after getting done with this part of the blog yesterday, I saw an article a few hours later that had this in it:  Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called "greater worker insecurity."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 58

   So, lets see, Pedro Velez got a copy of my Giant lego spaceship and wanted to incorporate it into a video project he was working on called "The program", so he sent me an e-mail asking for permission. I was like, sure, just give me credit and all. Pedro was part of the FGA and the program was a video about 6 hours long that people could let play, forward or rewind it at whim. A lot of weird stuff on it, lol. He invited me to his opening at his apartment and I had my first exposure to an art show party. I remember people asking me which artist I came with... heh, I guess I didn't look the part yet. I learned how not to be diplomatic when I made some comments about artwork in his place, so stoned I didn't realize they where his, heh. Still, he invited me to be a part of a shindig called the Stray show, in it's second year, 2002.
   The Stray show brought together many smaller galleries in one big warehouse to show artwork that might have been missed in the scattered places where the galleries are located out in the city. I embarrassed myself right away, lol, as I had a new cell phone and frankly never got any calls. I was about to be introduced to the people running the show and got a call from my sister Leslie. Family is important, and being that I never got calls, knee jerked the phone into my ear, lol, kind of rude to people that could have been a connection. I had a lot of fun looking at all the other artworks, I was too new to be jaded, yet too new to know the intricacies. I was showing at the Joymore booth and Nick Black had these balloons with eyeballs he was handing out. pretty cool to see them walking all over the place, looking at stuff. I had nothing better to do, so I started helping him, learning along the way that he was going in for surgery the next day and had no one to do the balloons for the rest of the weekend. I happily volunteered. I had fun handing them out on Saturday morning, but I'm never one to leave well enough alone, lol. I was soon daisy chaining them together (He had left me with a huge tanks and boxes of balloons) into long and longer strings. Soon they where getting 30 foot high in the big warehouse, you could see them from across the room like a land mark. it became it's own bit of performance art, this looming tower of bulging eye ball balloons.
   By the end of that long weekend I managed to sell one print that I called 'Toy shelf' and was exhausted. Artists, well, I tend to spend a lot of time by myself, doing the artwork, so to be out in the face of crowds and talking, is taxing, but necessary. I am gathering all my stuff up, carrying it across Kingbury street to my PT Cruiser and getting ready to head back to the Burbs when I get invited to a party. I don't know the city at all, but they say it is informal and fun, writes the address on a scrap of paper and heads off. I get all of my stuff squared away, sit on the tail gate of my car and think about it. I look down the street facing south east at the Chicago skyline, reach into a compartment where I keep a small flask of Dewars and think, why not?
   I drive on down to Pilsen on the south side of Chicago, find a place to park and try to find a door into what they call the whale. It's on the corner of Canalport and Halsted, a big white house with dark windows. I spot another person that seems to know whats going on and join them in going around through and alley to the back door. The houses I grew up and knew in the burbs are all neat and square on the inside, in the city they are much more random. The Whale is full of odd shaped openings, artwork and slightly warped floors, with complete strangers that barely notice another stranger has entered their house. To my right is a bench built along one wall facing a table, and at the end of that table against another wall is what seems like a shrine of random strangeness. Maybe it's because it was the end of a long weekend of drinking and what not for most of them, but they all seemed kind of flat. Then again, to me this was all new and exciting, and to them, old hat.
   They have this kind of ritual where they all read out loud a series of sayings, based on some object in the shrine. At some point they named me "Adjutant" (which I find they do to any new person), which involves getting a huge sombrero and a thick steel chain as a necklace. I'm told that I am to preside over the festivities and that they have to do what ever I say. I test this by tell everyone to leave the room. They do, with no complaints... which is weird, lol. I tell them right away to come back and we continue on like nothing happened. Part of the tradition here is to do artwork based on a word provided by the last weeks Adjutant. Each person takes a turn to show and describe their piece and some are really good. One girl has a video on her laptop of photos of the group and the song
"Push th' Little Daisies" playing in the background. Other people show small paintings and drawings while one guy each week has really well made statues of found objects that showers hate on the Catholic church. I was there to meet artists, not to talk politics, so it surprised me at the undercurrent of bitterness. In a way, I felt like Jane Goodall, accepted, but not really exactly the same, I watched and learned.
   I went to many gatherings there over the next few months, met a lot of people that didn't like to shower and some that where strung out. As I said, these get togethers where late on Sundays, so many like arriving at a bar at 2 in the morning, I was seeing a side that had run it course those nights.
   Standing on the roof deck one night at one of the pig roasts they would have, I could see the top of the Sears tower glowing impressively. Little did I know that within 8 years I would be living less than a half mile away, a completely different life. Living at the mission is hard, but I really feel much more at home, much more accepted, we all know we messed up, so we are all at the same level.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 57

   Just got back from my walk, and while most of the guys head towards the Loop and flashy, I explore in every direction. This time I went down 16th street to Halsted and found that there are art galleries all along there! I'll have to try and get my stuff in them somehow. That artist group, the Lampreys, was located down that way I think... did I write about them yet?
   Back in 1990 or so I was into building spaceships out of Legos. Big ones. The first one was about 2 foot long, and cracked in half when I tried to pick it up. I got more focused on the structure and built the next one bigger and better. I called it the Pangea, named after the super continent when all the continents where connected. In the early 90's I was living in Bellwood, a third floor apartment with Sharon, and getting as stoned as I could, all of the time. So, I build this 2 and half foot long spaceship out of Legos and get the great idea of video taping me crashing into the floor to watch it in slow motion. I do like 5 hits off my 5 foot bong, set up the camera and crash it, loudly! I forgot to tell Sharon... she freaks out a bit from the next room. I laugh and tell her what I did, walking over to the camera... and get that sinking feeling when I realize I also forgot to record the crash. ARRRRGH!
   When I get an idea in my head, it's pretty near impossible for me to let it go. I start building the next Lego ship, bigger and better. I name this one after my favorite unsung hero of the 85 Bears, Dan Hampton. This one is about 3 foot long, has side pods, guns all over it and small detachable fighters. About a week later, I clear the furniture from a corner of our apartment, set a small scrap of paper on the carpet as a target and start the video camera recording. Double checked that this time. Off screen you can hear me say, "We entering the planets atmosphere, we're going to crash sir!" trying to sound like Scotty, "No No NOOOOOOOooo! AAAAAA!!" The ship enters the scene form the right at a steep angle, misses the scrap by inches, and positively explodes on impact, just like you'd hope it would! Pieces fly off, ricocheting off the walls, bricks crumble under the simulated mass... so awesome! I still wonder what the people downstairs thought about that noise... LOL!
   So, now I am hooked on building bigger and badder Lego spaceships. Sharon was studying to be a nurse and I didn't like going out to bars and stuff without her, so I spent a lot of time on the fleet. I was working as a mechanic at the Walgreens warehouse just down the street, so I could afford to buy buckets of bricks. By the seventh ship, the Dynonochus, I had quit drinking and getting high for a period, and had also developed several techniques in constructing large Lego structures. First tip: Buy a large plastic garbage container and a king sized sheet. Lay the sheet out on the floor where you plan on spreading the legos, this will keep them cleaner and aids as a quick pick up at the end. By grabbing the corners of the sheet and lifting in one fell swoop, place them into the plastic container for storage. BAM. You go from a million scattered bricks to slid into closet when company stops by in less than 3 minuets.
  The structure of the Dynonochus, at over 7 foot long, had to be strong, as I don't glue them together. I found that by making an elongated pyramidal shape, making sure that any gaps of one row are spanned by the next, works best. I made a double layered version of this as a test, thinking it would use too many bricks. When I saw how solid it was, I just bought enough bricks, lol.
   I video tapped the entire build of the Dynonochus, from the deconstruction of the ship before it, the Vendeta, to the cleaning of the bricks, sorting of them by color and size, all the way to the day it was done. I also kept a note book, documenting each day. it took a month, 40 hours a week to complete, as I worked my normal job hours.
   When I got it done, I bought more king sized sheets to use as a back drop and a good set of lights for filming. I set in on a cement pillar I had, set a sheet across it to keep dust off it and went to bed, looking forward to filming it the next day. I was awoken by a loud, sickening crash early in the morning. Seems the cats where playing and somehow dragged it off the pillar... and there it lay, all twisted up in the sheet, mangled. No, I didn't kill the cats. I kind of went into denial for the next week, stepping over it going about my days. Then I thought, no... if I want to be able to market giant Lego spaceships to rich folks, I need to know how to fix them. The idea was, if you're a multi millionaire, how many Lego kits can you buy your kid? Buy them a giant Lego spaceship!
   So I sat down and made a plan. I realized that the original design had gotten too long, that it would fit out of the door of my apartment. I needed to make a way of disconnecting the engine section from the front, and I needed a way of transporting it all. I think I bought $100 worth of the parts I needed and started the fixing up. The main castle with it's double pyramid construction had held up pretty good, with just the aft engine area had snapped off. I felt like I was studying an airplane crash, going through the wreckage. I think it was rebuilt in about two weeks, about an extra foot in length. Luckily, the 144 Christmas tree lights in the engines still worked fine. I then constructed out of plywood two carrying cases that it would all fit into like a puzzle, safe and secure. I made a way to display it more securely at work from an old industrial fan base that weighs around 60 pounds. It has a plate of steel on top as a cradle and two geared motors that can tilt it end to end and side to side.
   I then took all the hours of video and edited together and set it to the music, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" as a 17 minute documentary. I took that video, along with sections of other Lego projects on it, and sent off 35 copies to various art galleries all over the place. They all rejected me. it doesn't matter how cool it might be, with no track record, you don't exist. 
   Fortunately, a guy by the name of Pedro Velez was at the Chicago museum of modern art asking if they had any wild video tapes he could use in an art project he was working on. They gave him mine... and that was how I was 'discovered'. lol, more on this next time folks...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 56

   I didn't tell anyone it was my birthday yesterday, but my sister called and left a message about it and Renard from office C told all the guys as we gathered at 5:15 in the Billy Sunday room. Imagine having 70 guys in suits singing happy birthday to you, lol.
   Bentleys look so hot! I got the March Car and Driver yesterday and had a good laugh. They road test a brand new Camaro ZL1 against a brand new Shelby. The Shelby with winter tires, and not performance tires is .4 seconds faster in 0-60 and over a half a second faster in the quarter mile, yet they declare the Camero the winner because it took turns better. Hello? Anyone buying these cars are only going to be doing straight line racing on the street, Shelby wins, period. Heck, the Shelby has a 20 mph better top end and gets 7 more miles to the gallon.
   After a while, the Program becomes something like the TV show Survivor. Vince got caught with porn and lost 6 months from his time here, got 2 weeks over night status and 30 days restriction. Dave was also involved but got mad at Pastor when he said he couldn't have certain books up on the dorm. You don't yell at Pastor Green and expect to win. Dave ended up getting dropped from the program on what would have been his one year anniversary. Then, Curtis got caught red handed stealing and also got caught watching porn in the computer room, but got only 30 days restriction. Maybe he was more humble when confronted by Pastor.
   There is a beautiful girl working at the Starbucks at 70 west Madison- blonde, nice figure pretty face but deeper than that is how nice she is. The first time I saw her I knocked a coffee mug off a table that was for sale in the middle of the room and she was so gracious about me not worrying about it. I was so embarrassed, and as I was picking up the pieces and offering to pay, she was very kindly saying, don't worry, it happens all the time.I wonder if she knew it would have taken every last penny to my name to pay for it.Very professional and hard working, she just has this aura about her, and today I found out why. She asked me how my weekend had gone and I mentioned, without thinking that most people wouldn't know what it was I was about to say, that I was reading James from an ESV and a KJV to compare them. She didn't miss a step and said that she likes to do that too and how we need to be grateful for all we have. I stood there a bit verklemmt. She is pretty, friendly and a Christian that studies her Bible! Sounds too good to be true... and it was. The ring. Ah well, I'll respect that and God know, I guess not her, but someone like her would be very nice indeed, lol. besides, who am I? Me, the broken down homeless guy, trying to rebuild my life in Jesus, I don't deserve a dream like her yet at all, and I'd be too afraid of goofing it all up. Like when they find a big diamond in the rough, they might take months studying it before they even consider cutting it to get it right.
   While driving around today and girl watching, I told Cleve that I like all three food groups, Black, White and Asian!  I also said I want to open a clothing shop for women called Purse and boots.
   I'm reading Proverbs 23: 1-9 and was surprised by it, "When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. 3 Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive." I did some research on the section and wrote out my thoughts. #1. Don't be blinded by who rich folks are, keep your wits about you. #2. Don't go shopping hungry, you'll end up buying a lot of stupid stuff. #3. Delicacies can be like fishing lures, be careful. #4. Don't try too hard to get rich quick, in all of your wisdom, it never worked for you before. #5. you can't have your cake and eat it too, why try so hard for something that never lasts? #6. fancy foods offered to you make you feel indebted, that's the way evil works. #7. See him for what he is, know what your getting into. #8. those temptations you give into will come back to haunt you, just like a bad hang over, a bill you will need to pay. All of Proverbs 23 rocks! I used to flash over Proverbs and be like, Yeah, that was obvious, written for a simpler time. But now that I have a deeper acceptance of it coming from God, I look into them more deeply. They can be like shingles on a roof, look at the top one, take it in, read the next one and realize it is layered withing the top one. Each part does not stand alone, but is woven in.
   Maybe I wrote about this before, not sure, but the Bible is like reading Shakespeare in that it might not read smoothly at first, but when you do get it, wow!

Stories from the Mission... bit 55

   One thing you learn around here is forgiveness. Jesus teaches us that even while he was on the Cross, he forgave those that did it to him, and I've learned to apply it through the guys around here. Cleveland and I had an argument 2 hours ago at breakfast, it was stupid stuff, I could see he was getting mad, but I was so right, lol. So here I am now, sitting on my deck (top of 3B(4t)) and writing and he walks by and tickles my foot. I show him some of my artwork that I post on my locker every day, the Cobalt, and he says that it looks like I am good for something other than aggravating him and then he laughs in his gravely voice.
   Hmmm, the Cobalt. It's a space ship I made in Bryce 3D whose basic shape was a mistake. It's a longish gold and blue, single seat space craft. I was working on a completely different project where I had 5 spheres in a crossing group. I went to elongate them and by accident had them in what they call world space instead of object space, so they distorted differently than I had planned. It looked neat, but it was not what I needed, so I was about to undo it and looked at it again. The shape had possibilities! So I saved it as a separate file for a later time. About a month later I dragged it out to fulfill it's mission. While it's basic shape is unorthodox, it is beautiful. I added many accepted style of details, guns, engines, a metal paneled surface and a cockpit, some of the others things I did just to tweak the viewer. The cockpit dome is too low to see out of, but it looked interesting, the blue color between the smooth panels has an odd bump map giving a nice contrast to the mirrored gold and the engines have no discernible glow or exhaust.
   I used to spend hours glued to a screen, hands moving in small movements, index finger clicking hard enough to smash ants. I would lock into an idea and ferret it out, no matter how long it took. My job stood in the way of it many times. The only break I got was how long it took to render an image. I used to laugh when I'd talk with guys about the latest and greatest processors (Heh, I distinctly remember tell someone the new 450 mhz possessors looked good. dang, not even a full Ghz), and know it alls would tell me how people don't need all that power. I'd tell them that when I'm rendering an image it can take over an hour running the processor at 100%, let alone when I want to do it at full size, it can take over a week at times. I look forward to the day they come out with a 100 Ghz chip.... naw, I'd still want more prolly, lol. (and I go on for a few more paragraphs on stuff most people won't want to read about, lol.)
   I went to New Eden church last night. They send out an old school bus that is painted green with little people holding hands as a trim near the top in white. The first seat on the left has been removed and fitted with a church type podium so a preacher can start  the evenings fun right away. He never stays at the podium, but walks up and down the isle, blasting out a sermon as we fly down the highway. I also like the hymns we sing on the bus, such as "Give me that old time religion". The church itself is an 60+ year old house located 634 W 59th on the south side of Chicago. The Black guys that know the area kept betting Jason $50 to take a walk a few blocks down saying he'd never make it back. This is a guy that once took a kick to the crotch for $20 and some chicken... he didn't take the walk. It's a good little church, everybody was really friendly to me there, just a wee bit more hard core than what I'm looking for.
   What is it with eyes and the mission? There are at least 5 guys here with just one and another 4 or 5 with eyes so crossed I'm not sure which one to look at when I'm talking with them. It's a hard road that leads here, not having all your senses can't make it easier.
   Note to future self (Sitting here an typing this just now, I realize, whoa, that's me!). At around Armitage and Bissell are a bunch of nice old houses with really nice paint and those half turrets with windows all a round them. I now make a note to myself to get back there and take pics.
   Wabash and Chicago has some of the most amazingly beautiful women in the city I have ever found! I saw 6 stunning darlings in the tiny Starbucks alone! It's a really wealthy area, so if you're looking to meet a girl, not a bad choice. Then again, maybe that is why there is such a huge amount of pretty women there... and they ain't looking for a homeless dude... much the opposite, lol. There is a Bentley dealership near here and I've seen a brand new Adventador parked along the tight streets there, then saw a Murcielago cruising down the street, bat wing engine intakes raised up, both of them in a bright super hero orange. This is not a normal Chicago weather at all.
   Robert G had disappeared from the program a few weeks ago, which was a big suprise to all of us. I mean, he was always so full of the spirtit, just glowing and up beat, a real good guy. Now he is back and the rumor mill is running at high speed. It's giving guys a chance to learn, I keep telling them, we weren't there, we don't know what actually occurred. Mississippi left out of the program around Christmas, got sloppy drunk and beat up, he hadn't known the good from the bad areas of the city. I thought how he always got by on his big smile and happy demeanor... and it was then I had an epiphany... I had always gotten by on just my mechanical skills and their ability to make me enough money to keep me off the street, but not to really grow as a worthy person. There are millionaires out there that are no better than a homeless dude in a box if they didn't have that cushion of inherited cash. What I had thought of as a gift, had kept me from really growing. I have dozens of ideas for inventions, things that could be worth millions, but if any of them had come to fruition before now, I'd be a stoned, charred husk, my brain pickled with booze. I might have gotten one or two inventions out, but not the rest, or would I have applied any of the profits in the right way. I see now the Lord placed me in the mission, not just to get myself right, but to get to know this neglected work force down here and to seek a way to help them some day. The only way to get this economy running again is with products people want to buy. I can do that... I just need some help.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 54

  I had a cool idea for laptops today as I was running in and out of the Starbucks. Right now, as people sit and do stuff on their computers, it's a very personal, kind of isolating experience for a person is so public a place as a coffee shop. The idea is to add a second screen on the back of the screen you look at that would face the rest of the room. You could show off artwork, photos or anything you want to the world as you sit at Starbucks. You could let people see the process as you make stuff or use it as a way of sending a message to someone you see looking at you, lol. In my journal at this spot I then say a little prayer, that the good Lord that gives me these ideas will help me find a way of profiting from them.
  I and a bunch of other guys here are going to Moody tomorrow night for founders week and I hear that Ravi Zacharias is going to be there! If you've never head him preach, he is amazing, I highly recommend seeking his stuff out on line.
   I don't see many Mustangs in the city, which saddens me. The Mustang is my team! I had a 1968, and 1986 Mustang and dream of some day getting a new one. The 2012 Boss 302 puts out 444HP, about the same as the old LS6 1970 Chevelle, but weighs a lot less, has much better handling, gas millage, breaking and way less pollution. Then there is the new Shelby Mustang putting out 662HP, from the factory! The dang thing has a top speed of 200MPH! You do see a lot of the fugly Porsche Panameras down here, and while I admire it's 550HP and $180,000 price tag, I can't help but think it was a swype at the stereotype of Americans being fat that they named that fat car after us. Lets see, I think Lincoln should come out with a new Cougar with at least a 400HP Ecoboost and Ford should come out with a new GT-40 with a better name and the 662HP motor. Ok, check this out. If I had the money to do a crazy car, I would take two of the new Taurus SHO engines and drive trains out, tweak them a bit to around a nice 400HP. Set one in front of the other, put a seat in between and build a frame to fit. Those motors are V6's with twin turbos and a transaxle putting out 365HP from the factory.  Imagine 800HP, all wheel drive, and if you want to save gas, turn one off. The body... I still haven't made up my mind... something un expected would be fun... like a mini van, LOL.
   Pastor McNeil is an impressive man. There are no gray areas with him, except for his hair. He firmly believes that breaking the rules is a sin and is unequivocal about it.  I don't think I could ever be as firm and solid in the word as he is, but I'm glad someone is. He is also very funny when he teaches his classes, and can get the whole class laughing or he can excoriate the hardest hard-head to silence, an old school reminder of the fathers we used to have. He mixes up the solid, verbatim verses with examples of how he knows where we are coming from as he was there. "Oh yeah, I used to be a real good liar and people would believe me" he'd say, sitting half on the desk in the front of the room, hands together in front of his neat suit, locking eye contact for a second, then clicking on the next guy, "Oh yeah, I tell them straight up, come on over here and let me lie to you." at which all the guys would crack up. "When you used to want drugs, you where dedicated to getting them. People would ask me, where are you going and I'd tell them I don't know. And I didn't know. I just knew I was getting my drugs." At the end of each sentence he would stare at you to punctuate it. He is also very open about being a heroine addict when he first came to the mission back in 1989 or so, and how giving his life over to God has cleaned him up. He likes to relate things to you to help you understand life, like gardening, or keeping cars running right, and in his tiny, clean office he has at least 20 clocks of many designs and keeps the lighting warm.
   man, I hate to say this, but Ravi wasn't that great. The sermon he gave was bits and parts of stuff I've heard already and much of it didn't seem stitched together right. Maybe it was an off night for him, or maybe I just saw a great man past his prime... what a shame.
   It got cold today, the coldest it's it's been all winter, but at 10 degrees, I've been in worse, much worse. Back in 1994 it hit -21 around Chicago, so cold that my Doc Martin boots relatively soft rubber soles would click on the cement. At night it was so cold that you could spit and it would freeze before it hit the ground. A guy I knew, Tony (I wish I knew his last name now, lol) and I had refurbishing the loft in the old corn crib at the farm so volunteers could have a place to sleep on weekends. The lofty was above an area used for a surgery ward, but fill mainly with donated blankets and the indoor area for Chloe the cougar. We had sealed all the many open slots in the walls, cleared out all the old junk, ran some lights, built a ladder up into the rafters for sleeping areas and installed a nice wood burning stove. This was done just in time for the freezing weather to hit. I was working 2nd shift at the Walgreens warehouse in Berkley, maintenance department and would rive up after work on Fridays to get there around 1AM. It just so happened that this weekend some very wealthy donors showed up and Jill let them have the loft all to themselves. I wasn't too happy as Tony and I had to sleep downstairs in the surgery ward with only a crappy old kerosine heater that did more stinking than heating. It was a tall, chrome and purple glowing thing I called the cloaking device. We kept every bit of our winter clothing on, covered ourselves with old blankets and still almost died. if you moved your arm, it was like touching ice. I told Tony, who was sleeping a few feet away, that this was dangerous cold... it's so cold dude, that to stay alive... to keep from dying, two guys... after not completing the sentence, Tony asked, "two guys would what?" I stammered a bit and said, "Naw, if I'm gonna freeze to death, I don't want to be found frozen to another guy." LOL


Friday, February 21, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 53

   A friend from the mission on Facebook (Thanks Lonzo) posted this yesterday,
Psalm19:14 Let the words of my mouth,and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight,O LORD, my strength,and my redeemer.
   It brought back a flood of memories. You see, every day in 8:00 class there are traditions that give us a connection to the guys that came before, a brotherhood of sorts. One of those is that new guys have to sit in the front row, period. Second row is ok, if all the front row is taken up by other new guys. To start the class, a guy will get up and lead the class in at least two songs, hymnals having been left on the first tow rows to help the new guys. After the songs, the guy that led them will look around and point to a guy saying something like, "Mr Joseph Thomson, lead us in prayer!" Sometimes the selected guy is surprised, which is half the fun, other times that guy is really into it and does a rousing prayer for the guys. All the guys in the auditorium will then sit down as one of the guys that work in Office C will get up to read the announcements.
   Office C has to be a rough assignment. 3 or 4 guys get selected by Pastor Green to work in Office C to be the buffer between him and us. They set up the schedules, take phone calls and try to settle disputes that are bound to spring up in such a hardheaded crowd. Like any job, some guys can be cool, while others let the power go to their head, big time. They have so many guys all day long trying to get over on them that some of the office C guys start think we ALL are, which is sad. I made it through the program with just one write up for not having my bed made right, yet some of the guys in office C later in my time there acted like I must be doing something wrong. Maybe I take things to heart too much, but that hurt.
   Anyways, back to the traditions of 8 AM class. Office C will read the basic announcements, the same thing every day about the rules we all must follow, and then make some special announcements.  They read off the list of guys that have to do search that night, and the selected guys will react, in various howls, cries and for fun, outright joy, lol. Once that is done, they will send for Pastor Bower to come in and teach the basics of our Faith, answering questions and making funny observations. Once he is done and leaves, we all stand, 70 to 100 of us, and say the whole Armour of God, loud and strong. (Eph 6:10-18)
 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
And then guys will yell ARMOR!
   The line,  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, means so much to me. It has helped me see the truth behind so many situations where guys will be arguing, but the reality is that they are being used by satan. Once you point it out to them, most of the time they all back down and see it for what it is. I've seen this happen many times at the mission, some of those little miracles we shouldn't ignore.
   During the whole armor, most of the guys up front hold their bibles open to read it, while as you get further back many have it memorized. Then there might be a guy or two that say it while walking in the back isle, looking up or out the doors at the street, things weighing deep on their minds. Been back there myself a few times.
   After that is done, Pastor Green will come in and all the guys will sit more upright and attentive. he will then do his 20 to 30 minutes, always on different subjects and at the end will have us all stand up and say,
Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight,
my strength,
and my redeemer.
   Most of the guys will file out the doors, heading off to jobs or studies, but some will stay and form a line in front of the podium where Pastor will stay standing. One by one guys will approach him to shake his hand, do some small talk or ask him about personal situations. The rest of the day you have to go through one of the office C guys to be able to talk with him, but at the end of 8:00 class he will talk with anyone.
   Traditions are good. When I first got there I thought I would never fit in. Then, after a while, I learned, I humbled myself and eventually helped pass the traditions down. I'm intrigued as to how they start, and saddened when I see one end that I liked. They become a strengthening fiber that comes from the past and into the future through us, binding us, letting us know that we are a part of something bigger that has withstood the test of time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 52

One of the stops on my route is on South Water street, east of Michigan avenue, so it's all reclaimed land. What was 200 years ago lapping waters of lake Michigan or perhaps a swampy are near the mouth of the river was filled in with debris from the Chicago fire to create new land east of Michigan avenue. I bet it was nasty that first few years, jumbled bricks and charred wood, bent metal reaching out in odd directions, melted by the heat of the flames. Dig down deep enough I bet you can still find it like a thick K/T boundary, it might even have hundreds of animals skeletons from the cows and horses that couldn't get away. Now, a good 60 feet above that layer, maybe more, is what most of the people that visit the city see as street level. Underneath is now a maze of at least three layers of streets, parking lots, ramps and steel. Lots of steel. So much steel has been brought into the Chicago area, that never used to be there, I wouldn't doubt that the migrating birds get pulled off course a bit on the way south.
   The reason I bring up the layout of south Water street is that there are guys living there on one of the ramps. One group lives about 100 feet past where the road ducks under, on the south side against the wall. That area of the sidewalk is pretty much blank for about 500 feet and they just set their bedding up not more than 4 foot from the passing cars. I've seen as many as five guys hanging out, the beds neatly made with many layers of blankets, personal belongings taking up space between them and at times with decent looking bikes. Every once in a while the city will be having an event near by so they send a crew down to clean it all away, and within a week, they will rebuild in the same spot. At first I couldn't figure out why they would want to be right there, but besides being a dry place, they are close to one of the wealthiest areas in the city to beg. Just up the ramp is also the location of a little known resource for guys with no money... it's where all kinds of smokers come out to get their fix, and many times toss half smoked butts laying on the ground for them to swoop in on.
   One day the guy that was my driver wanted to make the run in at south Water, and so I sat there in the idling van, looking into the cavern under the east side of Chicago. I could see one of the homeless guys walking down the sidewalk behind me in the side view mirror and I thought that it must be hard to be living like that, out in the open. I noticed a lady following him and she was mad, her head popping back and forth as she berated him, not letting up till they stopped at one of the beds. I thought, oh my God, not only is he homeless, he has a nagging girlfriend too! Ugh, lol.
   Near the end of my time in the program we got a second pick up at the same spot. A restaurant, new to Chicago, was donating all the sandwiches made that day and not sold to the mission, very cool. We would come out with two garbage bags full of individually packaged sandwiches and have to count them to keep records. One of the ramp guys noticed what we where doing, and we offered up a couple to him and his buddy. It felt good and I told them about the mission, maybe they would come in. The next day there where 4 guys. By the end of the week there where 10 and they where getting picky. we had to stop, this stuff was being donated to the mission to be distributed there in a reasonable manner. If they wanted them, they'd have to go there for now on.
  The most annoying guy in the program, by far, is little Ed. He can be like a broken record, spitting out the same thing repeatedly. "You dig?"(pronounced you deeg?), "like a rivaaah", "Question is?", "Whoop, there is eizz", "Hey tight suit, "you be my nig" and "I be pimpin" I talked with him on the last two a few times. I'd be like, dude, your in a Bible program, why would you keep saying you're a pimp when all they do is make slaves out of women? He would turn his head, and with glazed eyes agree... then start doing it again a half hour later. Folks, drugs, and the damage they do, are not glamorous.
   I'm getting tired of the food they serve here at the mission. Sure, it's better than the plain rice or oatmeal I was eating before I got here, so I guess I am complaining like the Israelites in the desert with Moses. Still, a glop of yellow egg stuff with a scoop or rice for breakfast? Rice and watery beans for dinner? Then there is the constant prison baloney and soup for lunch, occasionally with a slice of pizza... one slice. Being in the transportation department has changed all that for me now. It's bound to happen, you have guys that where perhaps living out of garbage cans now in vans out away from the mission looking at trays of pastries and bags of food, we're gonna graze. I found myself partial to the pink cake balls on a stick from Starbucks. We make pick ups from Chipoltes, random bags of chopped chicken, beans, shredded pork and sometimes corn salsa. I wait for a small bag of the shredded pork, push the air out of it, flatten it down and lay it on the dash to heat up in the sun. I'm thinking I need to start hitting the tread mill again now, lol.

Stories from the Mission... bit 51

On my new route we pass a spot that I visited 25 years ago. It was in the summer of '86 and I went to go see the Grateful dead with my roommate at the time, Jim. We got a ride to the show from two guys that I really should have looked at closer as I at the end of the show I didn't know what they looked like.
   This show was down in the city at the UIC Pavilion. We smoked so much pot on the way down, I felt like was tripping already. We all had piles of Mardi gras beads that where left behind by an ex girlfriend of mine, around our necks. The Pavilion is a  huge indoor stadium, with an exposed beams ceiling arcing over us and hundreds of crazy dressed kids running around. Turns out we had front row seats on the first balcony, near the middle. Not long after we had gotten there, Jim had scored 4 hits of acid called 'Superman'. He offered up a hit to each of us, but the other two guys didn't want to do it, so, Jim and I each took two.
WOW. That stuff hit fast... within a half hour I was seeing things, dark things like hairy shadows crawling around in the support beams of the roof. Kinda freaked me out, so I tried to not look up again. The light show was incredible, throbbing to the loud music, and I'd never even listened to much of their stuff before, so it was all new to me. I could see the entire audience moving in rhythm with the sounds and it got me thinking, maybe that wasn't a band on the stage, that glowing orb of light down there... maybe it was an alien that had put us under some kind of control, reaching out with plasma colored threads to each of us, looking into our minds. Then the spotlights came on, moving across the crowds like a giant probe. When this circle of light passed over each person, they'd jump up into the air like a moving bubble on top of the hundreds of heads. Then the spot light hit us... I swear I saw my feet out in front of me, like I was levitating, only to drop back into my seat with a thud when it passed, leaving us in the dark. Wow. The next thing I remember is a girl doing the zombie dance on the walkway in front of me. She was wearing a tie dye T shirt, and it pulsed it's colors at me as she danced back and forth, her arms looked like a blur of stalks of hay sticking out to the sides. I kept glancing over to see Jim's grinning face, then to look back at this apparition in front of me. Presently, she was gone, time moves differently when your tripping, you barely think, you absorb, see and hear. Your physical body melts away to you just being thoughts and visions. your world was an egg shaped ball with the band at the small end that you faced. Like a million fireworks shows, I let it all flow through me like wind through a screen window. It's like your seeing all your favorite movies at once, your senses are overwhelmed, so you open them as far as they will go. I felt like I was going to become a spark of energy, swirling off into the cosmos, never to return. It was a higher level of existence that I couldn't fully comprehend, like a cave man in times square on new years or on the strip of Las Vegas, bewildered, yet extremely absolutely, happy.
The show ended and we where walking through the crowds. I don't know where the guy that drove us was, I just knew that when I looked over, I'd see Jims grinning face, and so we stuck together. Walking out into the darkness and street lights, I saw a rather fat guy laying on his back on the ground. He had an all black T shirt except for a blotch of colors with sparks coming out of it in little spurts as he rolled back and fourth moaning. I turned to Jims and said, man, I hope that doesn't happen to me! I think we crossed a busy road as I recall horns honking and blurs of shapes, how we didn't get killed right there Ill never know. We where in a dazed phase, stunned by the last few hours of loudness and light, now wandering down a darkened sidewalk, to where, we didn't know. We just kept following other people. At some point, I realized we where in a bad part of town, the west side of Chicago. 25 years ago that was a dangerous area to be out in late at night. I mentioned this to Jim, looked down and said, 'and we are wearing jewelry!" We began ripping off the Mardi gras beads and throwing them to the ground.
   We where lost, and didn't know what to do. We found a highway entrance ramp, and looking down it, Jim pointed and said, 'Home'. If we had a car, we might have made it there that way. Instead, we kept on wandering till we came by a store and spotted a pay phone. We could call someone to come pick us up! Then, as hard as we tried, we couldn't string two numbers, let alone an entire phone number. I kept saying to Jim, "I don't want to wake up in a gutter down here dude, I don't want to wake up in a gutter!"
   Across a dark parking lot, we saw a taxi cab, so we headed over to him, but he wouldn't open his window, the jerk! There was a second cabbie nearby, and he said he'd give us a ride home. The thing was, he didn't know where Elk Grove was. He talked on the radio in some foreign language for some time, then said yes, he'd take us there. This guy seemed to have his finger in his ear most of the time he drove, digging for what, I dunno. For some reason, he took us around O'Hare airport's ring road a few times, the back end of the car sliding out a few times in the damp night, Jim was in one corner, I was in the other, our hands splayed out to hold on as best we could.
We finally made it home around 5 AM... the cab cost like $77. I don't think we slept till noon.
   Normally I try to not glorify my old days of drug usage. We adults have a bad habit of relating the fun we had, but not all the down and dismal days also. And even if we do try to tell kids about the consequences, is that what they will remember form the discussion? Here I am at the other end of that wreckage, living in a homeless shelter not even a mile away from where this story happened, but what part of this is going to stick in your head an hour from now?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 50

Then there is the abandoned hulk of the old post office, straddling the congress highway. I read where they thought it was big enough to put an airport on the roof when it was built. Now it just gets used for an occasional exterior shot in some Batman movie. I read in the paper that there are plans to use it as part of a large complex with two towers bigger than the Sears, but plans like that come and go in Chicago. They where going to build a 2,000 foot Chicago spire on Michigan avenue and the river, but all they got done is a huge, round hole that looks like a home for dragons. Even some of the ones that do get built, get scaled back, like the Trump tower. It was going to be 1,500 foot tall, but after 9/11 he got scured and cut it to 1,389 feet so as to not be the tallest target in Chicago. I kind of call it stumpy now, lol. Further west I can see part of the blue Ogilvie Metra train station standing proud at the end of the rail line that you can't see as they are under the roads there. We have a Caribou coffee shop we pick up from there on the second floor that is near a sky bridge to another, older building near the river. I mention it because it's always a challenge near rush hour, it feels like a bust open ant hill. Everyone must be late the way they frantically run by, eyes wide, sweat breaking out on their faces, worried they won't make a train. I'm a big dude, but I still feel like a salmon trying to swim up stream, they just don't care. Even old ladies cut too close to corners as I try to make a right, which when making a right should be my side to be on. A trick I am learning is to hold your arms out further than you normally would to look bigger, then at the last second pull them in to get past the rushers without hitting them too hard. I also try to not make eye contact as they know this means you see them and will try to give them room. Pretend to not see them and they will avoid getting hit more. When your in the city walking, or on public transportation, your personal space starts just under your clothing, and even then that is debatable to some.
   Occasionally, the smell of a restaurant will hit you like a ton of bricks. It's bitter sweet in that it brings back memories of BBQing with buddies, but I have no money to go and actually eat that BBQ.
   Riding with the Boz has been a blast! Shaped like a cube, his head always seems to be tilted forward a bit and his arms never touch his sides, he is constantly evaluating who is around and what to fire back. To ride with the Boz is to become part of a Chicago circus act on the street. Every pretty girl is a chance to tap the horn and wave. Every breathing female becomes a chance to tap the horn and wave. He did it once to a lady with very grey hair and as he saw the look on my face, he said "Well now, I gotta get the senior vote!" LOL. Looking Black, but being half Puerto Rican, he seemed to relish the chance to shock those that thought he wouldn't know what they where saying. Then at times he would let on that he was in the military and for a moment the clown would go away... but then he'd be off on a new tangent about some Blue tooth headset he got or the glasses with the video camera built in. Boz was the main driver of the missions bus, taking the choir group to small towns all over several states. He ran it like the captain of a ship, and had too at times.
   I just recalled a story of when I was riding with Dean. He was a nice easy going guy and one day he took me for a tour of where he grew up on the west side of Chicago. This was out where the houses grow in little clusters, like weeds in the cracks of a sidewalk. Then you realize that the spaces between them are where houses have burned down, like the gaps in a fighters teeth. Many of the remaining houses have boarded up windows and he points out the group of young toughs sitting on a porch while one stands on the outside of a fence watching the traffic going by, the dealers and look outs.  He spots the hookers right away, and they don't look like they do in the movies, lol. At one point he shows me a corner lot with a sunken center and tells me that is where he had his first beer on his 21st birthday. Then he tells me that his friend got shot there that night, and then they burned it down. Dang. I look at Dean and say, "I'm enjoying this trip down memory lane with you, but I'm really happy this is early on a cold, Monday morning, and they can see you are driving." Later on that night I tell Errol from security about the excursion and he says, "Oh? you went to the ickies?" and he lets out a huge grin. LOL, you gotta like these guys.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 49

   Saw a girl singing last night at praise and testimony... wonderful voice, very cute and petite and I thought how nice she would be. Then, between each song she spoke how much each one meant to her and how each one glorified God. I couldn't help but think, I wish I had that much zeal... but I don't. Would I be comfortable with her?Why not? Am I really saved if I don't feel as strongly as her? I know if I ask people, some would say I worry too much, but salvation is the most important thing in life... knowing if your going to heaven or hell for eternity should be important enough to think about a lot.  I wish I had that blessed assurance, I wish I could hear that small still voice and know for sure. I wish I knew what to pray for, as I just have my doubts about me. I know that if I where to leave here now I would eventually go back to all of my old bad habits, on my own, I wouldn't be able to resist it. Only through God can I do it. Strange how an all powerful God can be thwarted by my weak ways when it comes to me. That was not easy to write, and I'm not even sure if it is right.
   I'm like a pin standing on it's point in a hurricane, like a tooth pick holding back a freight train. All things are possible, no matter how improbable with God.
   I'm sitting on my 'deck'. ok, it's not really a deck, but it's the top bunk above mine and since there is no one living there, I go up to read on my 'deck', lol. Behind me, in the distance, the expressway sits higher then the rooftops and is crowded night and day with cars and trucks, a constant flow that reminds me of the scenes from Star wars. To my left I can see a chunk of the skyline, the base of the Sears tower and 311 S. Wacker. The names might change, but it will always be the Sears tower. A company might buy Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon, but they will still be Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Canyon. In all my riding around the city, I can hear at least one person a day say, The Sears tower, but never hear it by that interloper name. All in all, I really like to sit on my lil deck, cross legged, and read my Bible and write in my journal. I'm near the front of the dorm and can watch guys come and go to pass the time.
   Next week I am riding with a different driver. I had been with Cleveland, and things have gotten better between us. He is a short, gruff, and given time, affable Black dude that talks like he has a mouth full of gravel. He has always been a truck driver, and maybe that is where he will feel best, out there on some long highway by himself for long periods of time. Then again, he is like a cat... if you get him to like you, that is pretty cool, lol.
    Even though I had been on the central Loop route for about a month now, I'd still have a hard time getting you anywhere. So many things to take it, so much noise, so many distractions... so many pretty girls! An amazing variety of beauty! Hot ones, tall drinks of cool water, adorable cute short ones, long legged, classic statuesque trophy wives, haunting dark haired hunnies that hurt your neck as you turn to take them in as long as possible. I don't think I ever saw the same one twice, the city is huge! How do you get to know a route when the main thing you see isn't in the same spot the next day?
   The next driver I will be riding with is Bosley, the Black Rodney Dangerfield, and on a new route in the northern Loop areas. This is going to be interesting. Boz don't take crap from no one, and I will have to be sitting within 2 feet of him for hours, I have to make a good first impression and not make my job a nightmare.
   It's February in Chicago and the weather has been good, not going down to freezing much and at times going up to 50. I saw a guy the other day riding a bike in the Loop wearing shorts. I also see 5 or 6 guys and girls a day on skateboards or Razors. It's fun to see a dude gliding down a sidewalk (or at times, the middle of an empty street), serenely curving around corners and people like a seagull down a beach. So effortless, often with the hands tucked in pockets instead of outstretched for balance. Every once in a while you'll see a gray haired Grandma on a Razor, a bag of groceries on the deck between her and the handle bar upright. I guess the skateboarding thing started over 40 years ago... time moves on.
   From the big window at the end of the third floor hall, you can see the new DeVry building off in the distance, between Wabash and Michigan avenue, a prominent spot in the skyline. It was a skeleton of steel girders when I first got here, and then I watched, week by week, the two shades of blotchy blue windows go up. At first I didn't like it, but now I enjoy it's distinctiveness. One of the best views of it is from down on Wabash, looking north as it forms a zig zag blue streak into the sky, highlighted by the red CNA building behind it just down the way.
   Then there is the square cube, the Union Station power plant, a Art Deco edifice from the early 30's. Tall, dark windows accentuated by the two huge smoke stacks and 3 smaller ones aimed straight up like battleship cannons. Those stacks have a wonderful ruddy rust color late in the day... I wish I had a way of capturing it, or to at least find someone else that appreciates it.
   You can see the Chicago board of trade building with it's robed statue figure on the top... have to find out what it is some day. (and a note from a few days later, saw in the Suntimes that the building was sold for $160 million. The statue on top is of the Roman goddess Ceres, who was in charge of agriculture, grain crops, fitting for a building built on the trade of such things). The CBOT is on Jackson and Lasalle, ironically close to Financial street and VanBuren with their cool, dingy old restaurants and dives. I like the idea that the old school feel of at least part of the Loop is still there, a real slice of the late 60's in the south west corner of one of the financial hubs of the world. Lasalle street, or as they call it at this end of the city, the Lasalle street canyon, is famously used in a bunch of movies. The Chicago board of trade stands proud at the southern end, flanked by the Federal reserve on the west and the bank of America on the east, followed northward by a parade of banks from around the world, oddly close to a giant homeless shelter.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 48

  Now that I'm in transportation I get 2 days off a week, something I haven't had in 6 months. Now that I have the free time I've been trying out the other churches that the mission brings guys to on Sunday, besides Crawford that I have been attending. Broadview has an amazing choir, a lot of women, but it felt sterile to me, the building is so industrial. Moody has all kinds of ambiance, red brick, lots of wood inside, a wide variety of women... but I'm afraid that the two times I went, I feel asleep during the service... not a good sign. Today I went to Christ Bible church and really liked it, the choir is good, lots of women and the message was great. Pastor Ford is a really good preacher, no doubt. I've been to New Eden about 5 times now, a real experience. The bus has a podium in it and they preach to you on the way to church! Loudly. I'd call it a hard line southern Baptist church, situated in what used to be a home. If you want to see what church was like in the 1850's, go there in the summer when the AC isn't working. I still haven't found a church that feels right for me.
   Random thought that I've been meaning to write, the guys that ran the conduit in this building where masters! It's run like art! I find myself looking at the exposed pipes and am impressed, I even found one pipe that has 7 bends in it! (In the stairwell, second floor, above the door).
   7:00am The smell in the bathroom of dorm 3014 reminded me of the farm. Must have been back in 1996, the Bulls where starting the second three peat, I'd get up to the farm on a Friday night with no one around. I had a favorite tiger of mine, Kiesha, that had a cage in the main barn. She had been abused by a guy in a red baseball cap and would go nuts if anyone walked by in one. I mean, she would let out the chainsaw from hell roars! I was one of the few that could calm her down by saying her name loudly and chuffing to her. She'd look at me, chuff a bit, get mad at the red hat person again and so I'd talk with her more till she let it go. I've always loved hammocks, so I set a couple of big hooks into the beams above the walk way in the barn in front of her cage. On those special Friday nights, I'd hang the hammock, turn on a radio softly, listen to the game and talk with her for hours. Eventually the game would end, so I'd turn off the radio, lay back in the netting, close my eyes and explore the farm with my mind and senses. I could tell by the sounds of each big cat where they where, I had gotten to know them pretty well over the last 3 years. The occasional Ruh ruh ruuh of Chloie the Jaguar, the moans of one of the tigers betting up, the cougars getting playful in the cage at the end of the barn. The best was what I call the chorus. One tiger or lion would start, a low groan and then ruh ruh ruuuh ruhhhh. He'd repeat it while a few more joined in and it would build till all 30 plus cats and even the dogs would join in, each distinct, roaring, ruuhing, barking and howling, declaring to all the world within ear shot that this is their territory! Sometimes it would last 3 or 4 minutes, but seem a lot longer. Magnificent. It would happen mainly in the evenings and hit some notes that where sub sonic, traveling through the ground for miles. I know as it would vibrate my air mattress when I was sleeping in the tent. It might wake you up, but it was never a bother. I was doing what most people only see on TV. Another thing I would take in while laying in that hammock where the smells. They where heavy, musky smells that would tinge towards nasty if they didn't come from loved ones. That was years ago, as I swayed in the hammock on a far off farm on a Friday softness... and the memories come flooding back due to the stank in a mens bathroom... LOL.
   Another graduation tonight, they have three a year and 10 to 12 guys make it at a time. I've seen probably 500 guys come and go so far, so the odds are not high for anyone to make it through. I try to not think about it that way.
   I've been riding with Cleveland lately, which started out great, but he has just been crabby lately. Seems like anything I say is wrong, so I've been getting crabby too and just trying to not say anything. That is one thing I am getting better at, not responding to irritating people. I'm becoming one of those zombies.
   I have an inventive streak and sometimes I have big, outlandish ideas. What Chicago needs is a gondola ride and today I figured out where it should run. You might laugh, a gondola ride in the harsh Chicago weather? Think though, they have them at ski resorts all over the world, in much harsher conditions, all the way to the tops of mountains. If they can survive there, they can work here. I propose to run one from Riverside plaza on the south branch of the Chicago river, up to Wolf point, turning east towards Marina city, Trump tower, all the way along the river past Dusable park, heading northwards to go out to the end of navy pier. It would clear some of the traffic from the lake front and give incredible views of the breath taking tower tops along the river. I would have the run in one direction up high enough to be able to see the spires and the other, using the same towers, only about 40 feet up to be able to see the people and traffic along the river walks. Eventually, another run could be made from the pier to Soldier field and the museum campus. The views would be spectacular and it would become a world attraction to Chicago. Dear readers... if you have any connections to make this so, go ahead and run with it. It's one of those things where I just want to ride it too, lol.

Stories from the Mission... bit 47

   I've been running loops around the Loop for a few days now. I'm in the transportation department at the mission now and my route sticks mainly to the very center of the city of Chicago, and I am loving it! Down there, most of the time, all you can see of the sky is a slot of blue in front of you, the people stick to the bottom edges of the towering canyons of sky scrapers like dirt along walls. It's been a new information overload for me, so much to take in. From the now familiar homeless sleeping in the dark places, a blanket between them and the old, cold cement to the almost other worldly beauty of the expensively attired, long legged, flowing haired fashion modelesque women sitting in the Merchandise mart. Stoic businessmen in fitted grey suits and hair live in a different reality to the two adorable Asian girls in wild outfits speaking a language I've never heard at the Starbucks under the L on Lake street. I don't know how anyone can know where they are there is so much distraction happening, you're not on the outside of the city where you can see the landmarks, but in the dense roots of it all. To those that have lived here long enough, they become jaded I'm sure, but I'm like Dorthy, going from the black and white farm to this Techno color vibrancy of life, steel and stone. Luckily, I am not driving, but I am busy running. My driver, Dean, is really laid back, grew up on the west side and is a lot of fun. I think he understands how overwhelming it is for me, so is cool about me not remembering where everything is right away. Some of the places I go are in one door, head to the right, up the stairs, then to the back, ask at the counter, then stand by the doorway to the back till they bring it out to you. On that way in and out I'm weaving between the swarms of people in their own busy lives. The crowds in the Starbucks are all pretty much the same, screens, skinny and beards. I've seen couples sitting facing eachother, laptop screens touching at the top like they are playing a game of Battleship. I thought by now everyone would be using Tabs and iPads, but like radio, laptops just work right for what they where designed for.
   Revolving doors suck. Well, I should say the old ones do... heck, most old doors of all types do down in the old Loop buildings. With the revolving doors, it's like a gymnastic event, they aren't like the big comfy ones I grew up with out in the Burbs, but small phone booth sized ones that don't spin easy. I am carrying a donation tray, light blue, hard plastic, about 2 and half feet long, foot and a half wide and 7 inches deep under my arm. It's filled with donated pastries as I look at the door, getting the timing just right as it's spinning, you jump in and start shuffling hoping the tray doesn't get jammed behind you and then jumping out quick or you'll be in the way of the person trying to get into your wedge. Then, as it flicks you out, you have the cross currents of people on the sidewalk that don't care if you couldn't see them coming as you play frogger to the van waiting for you to open the back door, place the tray in, close it and climb into the passenger seat to head to the next stop.
   Then there are those behemoth slabs of strangely hinged architecture made in the 30's that look really cool, but weigh as much as a Studebaker. They are very pretty, made of solid brass and steel but move as stubbornly as a garbage dumpster. There is one that I have learned to get my footing just right as I approach it and brace myself to get it open. Maybe times I'll see people struggling with it and help them and as I go in I can feel the wind pull through, blowing peoples newspapers and hair.
   Driving along under the L on Wells is cool. The weather has been good enough to have the windows down and feel like a part of the city. So many pretty girls! Don't bother twisting your head if you missed one, there are a lot more just ahead! Dean plays V105, loud, and I'm loving it. In the van you ride a bit higher than the peoples heads on the side walks, great for taking in the expressions. My favorite so far is the glow of new folks, "I'm in the city" eyes looking upward.
1/21/12<--- Wow, A Rush album, lol.
   Part of the struggle that I was going through during the 'gap' in my journal was when I progressed from dorm 3026 to the next level dorm 3014. They always give you an upper bunk in a new dorm for a few weeks till lower ones open up, so it can be rough. The lower bunks have more privacy, the uppers leave you exposed to the world and I always feel like I am intruding on the guy in the lower bunk when on top. Sleep tends to come through exhaustion. My new lower bunk is nice as it is up against an outside wall, so at least one side should be quieter, lol. I grabbed two milk crates to make shelves over my feet to put my books on, and I made some shelves behind the lockers at my head. Under the bunks are drawers to put stuff in and a space that most guys slide a pair of shoes into next to it. I made a cardboard box that extends as far back as possible to be able to fit more shoes in. I'm still making those red Crosses for guys to brighten their bunks. One nice thing about this newer dorm is that all the guys in it have been here for 6 months. In 3026 you had a lot of new guys coming in all the time that had nothing, so anything you left out might disappear. To the man with only pennies, your dime looks awfully good. By this time I know the different personalities in this dorm, who to say hi to and who to just avoid. Unfortunately, one of the louder, opinionated, arrogant and loud power hungry I.C.s, J.W. is in the bunk towards my feet. He loves to gossip for hours after lights out and there is nothing you can do about it, he is the one I heard say he likes to step on mens necks. Ah well... I did this to myself.
   I saw that Kurtis took the red Cross I made for him, put it on a beat up Bible and trashed it. Hard to believe by the looks of it that it is only a week old.
   Now that I am out of the building more, the more I notice the smell downstairs... kind of a cross between smelly feet, Fritos and ass. It's hard for them not having a laundry. The guys in the Program get stuff done once a week, which is one of the major benefits of being in the program. Eventually I'll be looking for a job and can't imagine how hard it would be wearing dirty clothes. Thank God there are places like this to help us get back on our feet!