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!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 46

   One of the great things about this place is seeing the cool side of a guy suddenly. I mean, you know that they are decent and all, but to see a beautiful side come a round, a deeper connection to God, a part you'd be proud to emulate in yourself. Mississippi is a good guy, full of energy and a happy accent from down in his nick name going on. When he first started here at the mission, I asked him if he had ever been up here for a winter, to which he replied he hadn't. I laughed and told him what I tell all the guys from down south, "You're gonna freeze yer sin off!" I've always enjoyed his company and helped him one time when he was going through a rough patch and talking of leaving. Then, today, he said a prayer and it wasn't a basic, get it out of the way thing, but more like he was greeting some close old friends. It was heartwarming in appeals for healing, sincere in asking for help, and afterwords said how he loves to fellowship with the guys. Coolness y'all!
  Been doing some more thinking... I know I have the basic male problem of looking at women in a way that is lustful. I see a cute girl here and my mind so easily goes off into the ruts it used to know, the ruts that this society encourages you to do at every chance. It's become a foreign to try and not look at women that way, an odd thought in this day and age, who could it hurt? Looking back at the dozens of relationships I've had that started that way, it has hurt me and all the women I've known that way, just keeping it real now.  Heck, in other areas, I've had to rewire what I thought gave me joy, like I can never get stoned again, I can never drink again, I know how that is such a slippery slope for me, just writing it I could hear the battle in my head. Oh go ahead, go smoke some buds, get a bottle, you'll be able to handle it... but no, I know where that road leads... it led HERE. I do have the luxury of knowing that a year or two from now I will be free to look for a wife, which brings me to a new found compassion for the gay guys at the mission that choose to walk this path.
   There was a big gap in my journal here, if you notice the time tag. Being an I.C. wasn't easy for me at all. I've never been a boss before, so I probably don't have the skills yet in those areas. Then there is the idea that many of these guys are right out of prisons, street gangs and worse, they didn't want to listen to anyone tell them what to do in the old life, even with guns aimed at them. Simple things like having a staff member tell me to never clean the windows with newspapers as it scrapes the glass into swirls, and then me relating that to these guys became me saying they didn't know how to clean windows. I could handle that stuff a few times a week, but it became 5 times a day. Then, every time I'd have a guy come around and back me, he would get transferred to another department. Finally Pastor Green had a sit down with me and the entire crew to air things out. I sat back and let them have their say as they shot themselves in the foot one after another. Pastor then brought up what I had even thought of. He told them how he had been watching, and hearing from staff all over the building. He laid it right out, was it because I am white? The room got quiet. I had been thinking it was a real thing, that I had been not relating right, and didn't think it'd be as stupid as my color. So, to break the ice, Pastor said to me, "Now Zackary", he and my Mom are the only two people to ever use my full name often," Zackary, you do know that when they are doing stuff right you have to let them know." Here he was throwing them a bone, and two spoke right up saying, yeah, he does that all the time, lol.
  It all looked like it was going to be ok after that meeting, my foreman and I had a talk and he was sorry. Then, the next day, Pastor transferred my foreman. All I could think is that this was going to keep repeating. I saw how if I was an I.C. for the next 7 months, there would be a steady flow of new guys coming off the street, constantly attacking me. That was it, the great experiment was over, I'm glad I learned what it's like to be a boss, but I don't want to be one. Some guys love it, they take right to the power of being able to, as one said, step on their necks, but I don't. I had to talk with Pastor a few more times, and then he transferred me to the transportation department., the best department to be in here.
   Pacific garden mission feeds, clothes and sleeps around 650 people a night. That takes a lot of food to accomplish, and we don't get any money form the government. Most of the donations are from people that listen to the radio show Unshackled around the world, but there are also a lot of people that drive up every day to make donations of clothes, furniture and toys for the kids. Most of the food gets donated by restaurants all over the city, and that is where the transportation department comes in. we have a cube truck and three vans that spend they days heading out all over the town, stopping at Starbucks, Chipotles, Pizza huts and other places that donate the food that is from the day before. In each van will be a driver and a runner, and have it's own route to follow each day. Load up around 30 empty blue trays in the back, grab some black plastic garbage bags, pray in and head out. After being inside that mission for 22 hours a day for the last 7 months, this was a revelation!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 45

While sitting on my bunk, living in a homeless shelter on the south side of Chicago, I thought about another life I had lived.  Back around 1987 or so, the girl I was living with, Sharon, took me to a place in southern Wisconsin, just west of Lake Geneva called JES Exotics. (The name is now Valley of the kings for some reason).  The owners, Jill and EJ rescued big cats from bad situations and gave them a nice place to live out their lives. They never bred them as there are too many in captivity already, and when they died they never even thought about pelting them for money as they respected them as family. I found the place was a lot of fun, and a real experience to get that close to a tiger, of which at the time they had over 14. To look into the eyes of a tiger sitting less than a foot away from your face, through a fence, is profound. Power, calmness, vast abilities with no pretense... it is the closet thing I can think of to looking God in the eyes.
   I learned a lot up there, like how dangerous cold weather can be. There was a cold January night, where the only warmth to keep me alive was a distant light across a field of deep crunching snow, the earth a blank white jabbed with dead random sticks with stark black sky filled with gleaming stars that don't care if you survive or even know you exist. Bound up by clothing that fights your every movement, boots that weigh you down and a searing in your nose from the frigged air bringing tears to your eyes. You have no choice but to suffer, no option but to push on, in the distance you see a car pass along a country road, a warm cocoon of light, comfy and headed home, you think I will never taker that for granted ever again.
   The old farm was a group of variously sized buildings arranged by some long forgotten reason in occasional patterns, big here, small there, like a rocky outcropping in the middle of a corn field savanna. Since the changeover from a home for cows to cats, a second silvery webbing of chain link fences have grown between them, confusing any rhyme or reason to the original layout. I think back now and see that I have been drawn to many intricate places like this.
   On one trip up to see the big cats, I came across a man and a woman digging a hole. It was in the courtyard formed by the side of the farmhouse, some large cages and sheds, all nicely manicured with flowers and stuff. The hole they hole digging was big... 6 foot by 6 foot big, so I asked them what it was for. They said one of the tigers had been very sick and would soon pass on, so they where digging the hole to bury it. It was one of those moments in time where your eyes open up and your life changes. I looked around and saw that it wasn't just a pretty flower garden, but a well maintained grave yard, all nice and neat. The people doing the digging where older than me, and I wasn't helping by standing there, so I jumped in. Thus started my volunteer work at JES, helping to clean pens, give tours and all the basics at the beginning. That first year I would drive up on Sundays to do what I could around the place and visit with my favorite cats. Then, as the weather got better, Jill mentioned that I could set up a tent out in back and stay over if I wanted.
   Ahhh, those summer nights in the tall grass between the back fence and acres of young corn growing and swaying in long rows, with nothing but my truck and the occasional chorus of roars from the lions at night, vibrating my air mattress beneath me. Back then, out in the country like that, I'd have my old 30-30 lever action Winchester close by as I slept. Waking late at night, I'd crawl out of the tent to relieve myself, not worrying where it hit as I look up at the thick carpet of stars glowing in a stunning explosion of silence overhead.
   Oh great, it's getting late and I feel like I could write for hours. It saddens me to think I might not be able to pick up this rhythm again, but I can't go back to how I used to be, sacrificing everything for my own selfish wants. I have a job here and need to learn a new balance and moderation in my life.
   Glad I went to bed at the right time last night, thank God I learned that lesson! My I.C. (At the mission, I.C. stands for In Charge, some say it means In Christ, but all the guys just know it's the program guy that is in charge of a set work group.), so, yeah, My I.C., Cook, went and messed up big time and got dropped from the program. The rumors are flying about backsliding and I feel bad for him, the temptations are strong. The thing is, I am now next in line to be the I.C. of my crew. that gives me an extra $5 in my gift money, but most importantly, I get a two hour walk instead of just one. This is a whole new kind of stress... I've never been a boss before, and this is a tough crowd.
   Let me go back to my early days at the farm. EJ and Corey, his son had set up a shooting range way out in back of the farm with a pile of rail road ties on a berm as a back stop. I enjoyed seeing the lions and stuff, but it was really nice to be outdoors and do some target practice too. I'm not even close to being a marksman, but I like the amazing workmanship that goes into the guns. My Smith and Wesson 686 revolver has a side plate on it that you almost can't see till you take the screws out and tap on the opposite side. At the end of the day of shooting, I would dig through the logs looking for slugs to see how they performed upon impact. My dad had guns, but my mother had him sell them off when I was around 5 years old. It's too bad as I have seen many fathers and sons that grew up with tight relationships through the hobby of guns and the trust that comes with it. My Dad and I did a lot together, that has served me well over the years, like fixing cars and repairing things around the house. But those where things you had to do, not things you chose to do.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 44

 I'm looking out the window at the end of the hall, it faces north, towards the south end of the Chicago loop as it rises like the other side of a valley. There is something so magical about seeing a flock of birds, probably sea gulls, soaring in a group about 20 stories up off in the distance. The haze of a mile gave scale to the distance, with the buildings forming a cliff behind them, as they climb from what might have been a meal, they make their way between some towers, off to do what birds do. I've seen birds above the beaches of Florida, streaking along from one end of my vision to the other, intent on getting somewhere, on a mission, lol. So many details in that skyline of Chicago to take in... I long for the day when I can stand on one of those lofty balconies in the morning with a cup of coffee warming my hand as the cool breezes bring in the morning air from the lake.
   Now that I am foreman, guys that used to walk right by me are saying my name and overnight guests are giving me fist bumps. Big deal, lol, I just make sure guys clean toilets in a homeless shelter right, lol. I suppose it's like any other place, gossip runs fast and maybe it's like sports teams, people like to know rankings.
   Pastor Green talked about starting prayer groups at class today, so I mentioned it to Fred. So far, he, Ron and Richard want to do it, but work schedules conflict a lot. I suggested we name groups by the time they meet and go to the ones we can. From time to time, prayer circles will pop up in random places. I've seen it happen a few times in 3026, 4 or 5 guys will start, and others will jump in, holding hands, eyes closed, heads bowed and prayers said, asking for help to get through, help for those who have left and peace between a lot of hard heads.
   Chris, the guy that started the same day as me, is officially gone now. He got a job and took off... gonna miss him. He could do impressions of most of the pastors, really funny. I felt like I could always go to him about things, but that is the nature of this place, guys come and go. I went over to look at his empty bunk and commiserate with the guy that has the bunk across from him, Richard. Now Richard is a nice gentleman of about my age, he started the program about two months after me and is not irritating, which is to say, he hasn't pulled attention to himself here. Then, one day after noon stage, he showed me his deeper side. we are supposed to come off the main stage after services and head to a prayer room across the hall in case any of the overnighters needs some help, needs the good word, or best of all, wants to be saved. unfortunately, many of the program men are too new and shy, or they have been here too long and have become jaded. Give them a chance to pray out and run, they will. On this day we didn't even get a chance to pray out... in a whirlwind I found myself watching them all leave the room except for Richard and one forlorn older man. Richard was holding both his hands, their heads bowed as he said some words of comfort, praying for the mans difficulties. I walked over, setting one hand on Richards back, and the other on the overnight guests back and dropped my head in prayer with them. Rich may be short in stature, but huge in heart. the three of us talked for a bit, then headed off for lunch of some pizza and soup. As we walked down the hall, he related to me how that was the most important thing we could do here, to do Gods will and to help the less fortunate. Since that day I have made it a point to notice Richard more.
   So, back to sitting on the bunk, talking about Chris who left, I could see that Richard was struggling with some old plastic framed glasses. I asked him if he could even see them, and he laughed and said he was having a hard time. My mechanics side took over and I had a look. The hinges where missing many pieces and he had no money for new ones. Then it occurred to me, I still had my old ones! I popped back to my bunk, grabbed them and brought them back to Richard, and sure enough, he can read with them just fine! So often, even when we have almost nothing, we need to keep our eyes open to the possibilities of ways to help. Richard even had a tie that worked well with a green shirt I had, heh.
   One day in class, the pastor asked for a show of hands from the guys that used to smoke Crack and 15 hands went up. The guys I knew had been clean for at least a month now and it kind of surprised me. I had always been under the impression that Crack was a try it once and hooked till death kind of thing. For so many to be able to kick it here and not being going through any obvious withdraws is a testament to Gods healing powers!
   During search last night an overnighter dropped a Crack pipe... it looked to me like a broken off Bic pen. Earl got excited, lol, and kept saying things like, did you see that missile? That thing was H.E. tipped!
   On a note to the readers of my blog, I see according to the stats I have over 30 of you within a few days of posting each piece. Thank you!

Stories from the Mission... bit 43

   Reflecting back on my life, doing some thinking about my old ways. I thought I was cool, a real road warrior that fought great battles with booze in one hand and drugs in them other. We drank beer by the case, tried to smoke more than Cheech and Chong, we partied till we puked, a lot, and thought we had really accomplished something. My thing was to hit as many bongs in a row as I could and drink fast to be Mr. Gusto, I'd even take pride in saying that I can only remember the first five minutes of a lot of parties... which is in reality a sad thing. All I really was doing was erasing big chunks of memories from what should have been the best part of my life... I had robbed myself. If I had been in a nightly coma and just woken to head to work, it would have cost less. I talk with people from my past and it's like reverse Alzheimer's.
   As of today, I have a full week in of getting myself to devote at least an hour reading the Bible every day. I plan on reading it from the front to the back, all the way through. No, it's not a deep study, we have classes for that, I just want to be able to do it at least once, then go back for deeper self studies. It's going to take a while, but it's the least I can do for the one who gave me all.
   Want to have a laugh, read a verse in a King James Bible, The song of Solomon, 2:12. Ok, I'll write it here for you, "The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;" Can't you just see the little turtles, raising their heads to sing for you? this is a prime example of how the every day words we use now might be the same as way back when, but they might have different meanings. The turtle they speak of is what we call now a turtle dove, almost like if I where to say drive my Mustang instead of drive my car.
   Today Pastor Green talked to us in class from behind the podium, then from down in front of the stage next to the grand piano (That he makes look small) and then at one point, back up on stage, he grabbed a chair and sat on it near the front edge. He talked about how cigarettes and crack don't have any life till you give them yours. I've gotten to know a lot of good guys that had used the hard drugs and are now fighting those urges, I can't imagine how hard that must be.
   Many guys work the night shift here at the mission, so in the dorms there is a rule called library quiet that is hard for the guys to follow. Your living in a close quarter communal thing, it shouldn't be hard to respect your neighbor, but then again, not respecting the people close to you is probably one of the things that brought you here.
   Yep, praise the Lord new glasses! For the last year or so I couldn't see clearly at all, now I am looking at the skyline anew tonight, seeing details so crisp, things I couldn't make out at all before. Reading my Bible has been so much easier, I don't need to get perfectly aligned with the lights anymore.  My whole being is feeling better, to where my hearing seems to have bumped up a notch, lol. I can't describe how good it feels, thank you Lord!
   In other news, my score on the four month test was 96%! Woo hoo! I had a feeling I passed, but didn't expect it to be that high. Robert, who I have always respected for his knowledge of the Bible, was a point ahead of me, I never thought I'd be that close.
   I became foreman of my work crew today, so I'm going to pray for guidance. The guy above me, Cook, is a laid back and slick. Everyone wants to be in charge, but it's never as cool as it may seem.
   I walked outside yesterday and looked at the changing color of the trees and thought how much I miss the smell of burning leaves or the smoke from fireplace chimneys. I'm not a big fan of my nose, but these are a few of the things I miss with it. It's like someone popped a video in and those wonderful memories come flooding back in techno color. Oh great, perfect timing, just now, to my right, a guy was opening the door to the bathroom to go in when the sound of a man farting came echoing off the ceramic tile walls nice and loud. The guy holding the door, let it go and promptly did a U turn. I shake my head...~sigh~ I did this to myself.
   Saw a new girl here the other day, short, Asian or Hispanic, slim and well proportioned. I couldn't stop thinking about her the rest of the day she was so cute. It got me thinking of how much of my life was goofed up by being blindly in love with just the visual of a woman, a tiny part of who she really is. I had been considering changing the church I go to because there are so few women even close to my age, but now I'm thinking it's a good thing till I get my body more under control. I should be looking deeper at the parts that you come to live with, not just the wrapper. I just know if I go to church like Broadview, with what I hear about all the pretty women there, I'd be going nuts, head on a swivel, never learning a thing from the pulpit. ~you're like 151 Rum, you're making me dumb~ lol.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 42

When you join the Bible program at the Pacific garden mission, you sign an agreement concerning some ground rules. One of them is giving up your electronics so you will focus on your Bible studies, back to basics kind of thing. They bag and tag everything and put in into storage for you and if you have an emergency, you can get access to it. It's not easy to walk away from that stuff in this day and age, but they don't make you join either. On the third floor where the program men live is a TV room with set hours and rules on what can be watched. There are piles DVDs that Pastor Green has approved, but for live TV, it's pretty much just sports... the guys need an outlet, heh. There are staff that live on the third floor also, so they keep an eye on things. They've been through the program too and know how the temptations can be. I've always thought that some day I would find more sports DVDs to send to the guys, especially Chicago oriented ones (Yep, that is a hint to the readers, lol). They keep us pretty busy, so it's not like there are guys sitting in there all day long doing nothing. They have you memorizing verses, a 4 month and a one year test, plus I've heard that they have even more going on now. Still, it's nice in the evenings to go watch a bit of Basketball with the guys for a spell.
   The TV room is full of sunlight. Open on the north, south and west with rap around windows about 4 feet high, the lower section frosted so you can't see out unless you stand on a chair for some reason. The walls are white and the floor a robins egg blue, at times the colors remind me of an indoor swimming pool room. A low definition big screen TV sits at the south end, getting it's picture from an antenna next to it. Odd thing is, I can look out the windows behind me and see all the tall buildings where they broadcast the signals from about a mile away, yet we get stumbles in the reception... nothing but a mile of clear air in the way, why is that? Do they do it on purpose to encourage people to but cable? Solder filed, where the Chicago Bears play, is just a mile east of us and when watching the games in the afternoons, the clouds will cast shadows over the field on the screen about the same time they hit us making a connection of sorts.
   Other things in the room are some other non working big screens that have been donated, an non working air hockey game, the Foosball table, a Domino's table and a really beat up Chess set. By beat up, I mean at least 7 of the pieces have tape holding them together, chunks are missing off most, one is wooden and the Rook is from a tiny chess set. All during the time I was there you'd sense the pitched battles in idle conversations about the chess games, the trash talking pecking order of who was best. I played when I was younger, but to me it became too much of a not messing up feel, rather than a pass time.
  Heh, it's funny how these guys can go from suited up, sharp and spiffy, get into the dorm and minutes later be in boxers, T-shirts and black socks. I suppose women are the same way, fashion can be such a thin gauze. As I walk through the dorm these days I can see many pieces of my artwork brightening up guys bunks, cool! Oh, I had found a big, seemingly trashed study Bible that Big Tim left behind when he left. The inside was fine, but the outside and binder where worn out nasty. I took one of my red Crosses (#10), some wide clear packing tape and some sheets of typing paper and totally rebuilt it. It feels so good to give it a new life and now I have done a cross I will keep. (As I transcribe this in 2014, I am happy to say that once I got my phone that has an application called 'My sword' and 7 Bible commentaries, I gave that study Bible away to a guy that needed one. The last thing you ever want to do is become greedy with the word of God.
   Made my fourth month on Sunday and took my four month test today and it was stressful. I do my memorization of verses by walking the hallways on the third floor from end to end, carrying a sheet of paper with specific verses. I've found that if I hit just one verse at a time, for about 20 minutes straight while walking, I can get them down, while reviewing them all at the end of the week. Long term... they tend to drift, but I understand the gist and can look them up when needed. The four month test takes place in the classroom off of office C and this time there where just three of us in there, me, Robert and lil Ed. Ugh... the guy can't sit still. I've heard his background story of doing way too much crack, getting beat up and left for dead in a field in Indianan, so we know there is some damage, but man. We get just 45 minutes to finish the test and he starts eating something, smacking his lips and making all kinds of noise behind me. I had to turn around and tell him he sounded like the sound tract to a porno movie before he got quiet, lol. I'm pretty sure I passed the test, I just wish I had more time to fully fill out the essay questions at the end. The first thing I did when walking out of the room, after handing in the test, was to ask for the one year test study sheet.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 41

   I was just sitting in the cafeteria when I head a lady start singing... wow! See, we get volunteers, and she was standing in the severing line, scooping soup for the overnighters, one of six ladies there in the kitchen. She was belting it out like Ella Fitzpatrick! I just had to go over an listen to that Gospel music! She was glowing from ear to ear, happy to be helping, soothing with her song. Many of the volunteer groups come from churches and I have a feeling this church has a wonderful choir. The other night on stage the preacher was from a small affiliated church called New Eden and he brought with him 8 women of the choir from there. When it was their time to sing, they all stood up, got in formation and started clapping and singing a song perfectly together. In crisp, clear unison, clap, stomp, clap, stomp, they sang the Gospel songs like they must have been doing for years... you just had to be there!
   New guy Fred (Friedo) is really cool, he makes you feel good just by talking with you. Pastor Green has such trust in him that he has put him in Unschalcked after being here only two weeks! the guy just grows on you. This part was written 8 hours after that last, in the midst of Praise and testimony, Martin came to a group of us and asked if we'd help out in the overflow area. Overflow is in the day room where the overnight guests sit that can't fit into the main auditorium, so they get a service too. Dave and I say yes right away and head out with Martin, and Fred joins us. I slap him on the back in the hall way and say, "I should have known you'd help out." In the day room, there is no stage for us to be on, so we are at the same level as the guys, it's much more informal and personal. The four of us lead the hymns like we knew what we where doing, Victory in Jesus, Nothing but the blood and Amazing Grace. Then, Martin has Fred get up and do a testimony and the guy is just so personal and real, leaning forward on the podium, he tells of how he ran through all of his money getting drunk. Sold an air-conditioner off his house, and woke up at a bad motel. He walked down the street, saw a church and went in. They gave him bus fair to the mission, and he is making a come back now. The preacher that was supposed to be there didn't show up, so Martin opened his Bible and read through a chapter in Mark. He didn't necessary preach, but told it in a sing songy way like a story, relating it to us in an awesome way. Martin works down in Unshackeled and reminds me of Mr. Sulu from Star Trek, kind of a syrupy voice and gestures.
   Humans are odd creatures. They stand around and project vibrations from the breathing hole at eachother for long periods of time. It might be communication.
   Politics. Some people see the left, the Liberals, some people see the right, the Republicans. Me, I see and up and a down. Look at the Cross, he has nails in his Left hand and in his Right hand while his feet have a nail being held by satan. Neither party can really help us, the only direction I see that can help is upwards to God.
   Johny is quick to provoke, but also quick to forgive. Then there is old Mike, a bitter man, his face pulled down by the perfect furrows along the sides of his nose to the sides of his chin, a living caricature of a Charles Dickens school marm if she was Black. he had long ago been in a terrible car accident and had related to everyone how it had peeled the skin off his face and had many surgeries to fix it. he also had a knack of throwing smack around that would have gotten it peeled off again if he was out on the street. He and Johnny got into it one night up in dorm 3026 and the anger was flying like bats out of a cave. Explosions of insults, deep digs and tellings off erupted for what seemed like an hour. The next day Johnny apologized to me and a few other guys about the way he acted, he doesn't want to be that way anymore. It happened again a few days later, but this time Mike got put overnight, which means he had to stay with the overnight guests for a few days off the program. One of the conditions of his return was Pastor Green had him stand up in front of the 8:00 class and apologize in the auditorium. he made a decent speech, but what really made my day was that Johnny came up from the back of the class, walked across the front of the room and gave him a big ol hug to show forgiveness! The whole class got up and cheered. A few weeks later and old Mike was gone, he just couldn't let go of his bitterness and humble himself.
   Security Mike on the other hand is a stocky, jolly fellow and very easy going. One night before search we where at the abandoned kiosk on the second floor. He waked over to a beat up office chair and plodded down on it. Seems it didn't have any screws left holding it to the base, so he promptly and in slow motion rolled backwards and over sideways onto the ground, landing like a sack of sand. All was quiet for a few seconds till he let out a good natured, slow laugh. It has to be one of the funniest moments I have had here!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 40

   Did I mention that my bunk-mate Timmy got here by hopping a freight train? He is the second hobo I have met here. The first was a guy that thought he was frank Sinatra, he had an easy going, devil may care attitude and always dressed crisp like an old movie star. He explained to me how he hopped a boxcar somewhere in California and rode it to Chicago. Along the way, he spent three days non stop in the mountains, cold and lonely, with only an opossum skull on a stick to keep him company that he named bone head. His plan was to get his feet wet here in Chicago and then move on to New York. He and another guy got throw out of the program after he got caught stealing the other guys cigarets. I saw him again about a month later as an overnighter, said he was thinking of coming back, but never did.
   Timmy, on the other hand, came here by faith. See, a few years ago he met some hobos and traveled with them and learned from them on the east coast. Sitting here at the bunk, he just told me how you'd hide near a bend in the line, watch as the engine goes out of sight and then run for an open car. He emphasized that you have to jump, get your feet off the ground, before you grab onto the train or you will fall under the train, maybe under the wheels. Timmy related to me how he had ridden a train to Chicago once before from where he was from, Pittsburgh, so to get there this time he was at the same spot and time. Still, they don't post on the train where each is going in plain view, so he had to have full faith in the Lord to guide him right. Tim cracks me up in that he sometimes talks sideways, crunching his eyes like it pains him to say stuff. He has a great ability to memorize things, within the first week he had the whole Romans road down, and he can draw! He has a natural talent that I am trying to encourage, he doesn't see it, but I do.
   It's strange, after all this time here and all the things I have learned about God, I still have dark thoughts of ending it. Maybe because I have come so close so many times in the past, it is a worn thin spot in the floor of my mind.
   And now to lighten it up with some ramblings, lol.  Sneezes are Hilarius! you can't control how you do them and there is so much variety to them. cats are all cool, calm and collected, then explode a few times, lick and go back to Joe cool. Dogs just blast your bare leg and then get happy you noticed them. Guys sneezing can make me laugh when I can't even hear them, lol. In the courtyard here at the mission are 12 river birches, very pretty and all, but not the best selection for the middle of the cement jungle. Each one has a bag near the base that they fill with water occasionally to keep them alive. It's nice to come out to study in the courtyard, surrounded by the trees and four walls of the mission. There is a sun dial in the middle, donated by the builder, and it shows the right time. On Saturday, while working with the new guy Joysay (Spelled Jesus, but that's not how he pronounces it), we sand 'Amazing grace' all the way through while cleaning the transients bathroom. I've seen time and again, how guys in bad situations can somehow stay happy.
   Well, got 10 hours sleep last night, had no stage or search for a long time, so now after a month of hell, I'm starting to feel better. I feel like all my high points that give me trouble have been filed off. I just hope I haven't lost my joy.
   Pastor Green has his time in the morning, right after Pastor Bower teaches, for about 45 minutes. Some guys call it the scolding, and the guys that say that, need it, lol. He will slowly make his way to the podium, look out at us all as the guys all sit up in the seats, trying to look awake. he will talk about following the rules, how you're doing it for God and not your I.C. I've heard him take on gangs, by name, saying how they have no place in here and he will throw them out if they try to recruit. At times he will read a letter he has received, sad news of a guy that was doing so good, then got some money, ran out, got his old habit and was found dead in a motel room alone. Other times he will relate what he learned in his devotions that morning, Bible verses that stood out to him and how they relate to this day and age. We've laughed as he acts out some bit of a story, his facial expressions, as he turns his body to one side, looking at us, are priceless! And sometimes, near the end of class, he will get very serious about infractions that have occurred, leaning over the podium, glaring out to make sure he makes eye contact with those he knows are guilty. He will let one and all know that he will throw people out if it continues... then smile hugely and say, "Jesus loves you." An amazing man, well suited for a rough crowd, gotta love him.