30 December 2010

Mad World

I have always been uncomfortable with anger. It's not an emotion that I often feel (except, historically and mysteriously, with both of my brothers). When things don't go the way I wanted, or when something dangerous is closely evaded, or when someone tricks me, or when I am denied something I desire, I feel disappointed, relieved, embarrassed, or frustrated. My reaction to these feelings is usually a strangely mis-fitting pleasant attitude, an even-keel calm, some distracting humor... but rarely anger.

So, door slamming, raised voices, shaking fists and red faces were always frightful and foreign to me because I didn't understand them, and didn't know how to interpret them, accept them, or respond to them. This difficulty was amplified in my employment, where I had to sort through the meaning and motivation of being swore at, stormed out upon, and glared into the ground. I didn't take it personally, and wasn't hurt by it; if anything, I was baffled and amused. But my amusement was not constructive or helpful, so for the past 3 years, I have been observing and interpreting anger in order to react to it well, and respond to it helpfully. Today's observation brought a particularly helpful amount of understanding.

Pamela was the first person in front of my office this morning at 8 AM, with 3 tired children and an apathetic boyfriend. She immediately stated her demands (none of which I could meet (at least right away)), and towed her crew into my office with a slammed door, a raised voice, a shaking fist, and a red face. I watched with a strangely mis-fitting pleasant attitude and even-keel calm (trying to suppress my humor reflex), as she yelled at me the injustice of my inadequacies. I could see pretty clearly that it was not the lack of a 30-day Bus Pass that was boiling inside of her, but the disappointment, the embarrassment, and the frustration of a mother who felt unable to take care of her kids; a woman who was being mentally abandoned by the man who was her greatest sense of comfort and support; the child of a mother who belittled her for her dependency, even if it was temporary.

I began to understand that anger appears stronger than embarrassment or defeat. Anger is powerful, not vulnerable.

Pamela is angry because her and her 3 kids are staying in an emergency shelter, and are shooed out during the day into the elements with no transportation. She's angry because she doesn't have anywhere to go. She's angry because her boyfriend is going to leave and go back to his mama's house in Benton Harbor. She's angry because she just wants to play with her kids, to take care of them, to be able to get what she needs, to be secure, to know what will happen tomorrow, and next week, and next month, and to be able to put down her bags in a place where they won't get stolen, and feel like her kids are safe even when she is not holding all of their hands, and cook the way she loves to, and relax her muscles, and slow her mind, but she can't. So when her boyfriend leads the kids back to the waiting room and closes the door behind him...
... she lays her head on the desk and weeps.

23 December 2010

A Thrill of Hope

Mario always reminds me that he is not an artist, he is an artisan. He is a 60-year-old cancer patient at St. Mary's who lives down the street from my office, and continually supplies it with new art for it's walls. Often, he will visit me to make long-distance calls to his family who own a flower shop on the other side of the state ("Our last name means 'Beautiful Flower' in Italian," he reminds me), and each time, he brings something shockingly original.

Currently, I have a framed tissue paper collage, his pastel self-portrait (complete with a pair of real, lens-less glasses stuck onto the paper), a brick with crayon-wax-dipped sandwich skewers mimicking a bouquet, and a metallic Christmas "wreath" made from permanent marker-colored parts of a grill. The guy is astoundingly creative.

For Christmas, I wanted to make him something. I have pretty limited artistic abilities, including some debatable photography and ability to knit without pattern with varied success. For Mario, I decided to transcribe the verse of a Christmas song, one that reminded me of him. On a small sheet of posterboard, I caligrified the following words:

"A thrill of Hope!
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!"

Below it, I drew a simple sunrise. I laminated it, and waited for him to come in this week.

When Mario arrived, he insisted on giving me a gift first. True to his name, he gave me a small clutch of dried flowers (to add to my collection of dried roses and lillies I have hanging by my desk, taken from who-knows-who's garden.)

With hesitation, I gave him the gift I made him.
"I'm no artisan," I said.
He read it a few times, and through his tears said,

"This may be the only Christmas gift I receive this year, but even if it wasn't, it would still be the best. I'm putting it on my wall as soon as I get home."

The weary world rejoices.

15 December 2010

Joann Gets a Life

On the sign-in sheet outside of my office, people can sign up for assistance with whatever they want. There is a previous post on this blog about particularly creative and bizarre requests, but today I got a new one worth noting:

Joann --- Needs a Life

She was the last one on the list, and I only had 5 minutes before we close. I wanted to make it good, and against her expectations, take it seriously.

"Sit down, Joann."

I got out a piece of paper--she stared at me in amused disbelief, but her face was still overwhelmed with sad, hopeless boredom.

"Number One: You need a hobby. What are your hobbies?"

"I don't have a hobby! I'm homeless! I don't have any money!"

"Hobbies don't have to cost money. Do you like to write?"

"Yes, but my bag was stolen, and it had my paper in it."

"Well, if this is going to be your hobby, you need a notebook, and you need a really nice pen." (I'm passionate about journaling with nice pens.) I found a notebook, a rockin pen, and put them both in a bag, on the desk between us.

"Number Two: You need some people. Who are your people?"

"Got no people."

"Family in the area?"

"Well.... I have three children."

"Are you on speaking terms?"


"Speak to them more often." (I noted this on the piece of paper next to '#2')
"Number Three: Do you have a library card?"


"Learn something new. Think about a new thing each day. Journal about it."
I wrote this next to '#3', and handed Joann the bag.
"There it is, Joann. That's a really good start."

"But... I need that paper. My list."

"Right!" I wrote JOANN'S LIFE at the top of it, and put it in her hand. She looked at me again, with a few layers of her hopeless boredom melting away, revealing just a little bit more of that amused disbelief. Then she walked out of my office.

Our office just closed: Joann walks out with a life.

13 December 2010

When the Door Closes

When she's in the open, when there's people swirling all around and so many sounds and conversations, then everything is as it always is, and nothing has to be different. There are enough distractions--enough reasons not to cry, or acknowlege the truth, or was it just a rumor she heard? When she's walking the streets, she thinks about how cold it is, about her fingers and toes, her watering eyes. Numb and numb.

But when she comes into a private office, and when the door closes, then her sister is really dead. She's really gone. Her favorite one, the one who liked Law and Order, the one she fought with the most, and respected the most. She thinks about it now, feels it now, and is now allowed to show her tears (in a place where they won't be talked about, and they won't freeze to her face).

Now, she knows that she had been looking for a room to enter, and a door to close--one that didn't contain a toilet. They're hard to come by in this neighborhood, but they're necessary, because everywhere else, the noise never stops, and her sister is somewhere, somewhere.

11 November 2010

Love, God and Philosophy, by Joachim Bajema

Joachim walked in and got right down to business. He whipped out a photo-copy of a cover of a book: Love, God and Philosophy by Joachim Bajema.
“I’m Joachim Bajema, and I wrote this book.”
I don’t know if he knew where he was or who he was talking to, but it seems like he did, and maybe it’s true, that philosophers can sense each other somewhere in their cheekbones. We talked some about Love (and so some about God by default), but mostly about philosophy, and his resume. He gave me three different addresses to put in his file: One in Switzerland, one in D.C., and one down the street, on the street. He came in every day, and we talked, and I asked about the strange, small silhouette of a dog on the cover of his book, and he dove into some crazy theory about the spirit of Love and God in Dogs (and yes, the lettering had something to do with it), and then left again.

Later that week, the FBI arrived (they come frequent enough not to scare us; infrequent enough to still clear the place out) with a large, photocopy of Joachim’s grinning mug shot.

“Have you seen this dangerous man?”

Dangerous man. I had seen him, yesterday and the day before, and we were talking about Love doggone it.
He had brutally murdered his father, his mother, his grandmother, the neighbor who tried to intervene, and the police officer who arrived later. They “WANTED” him.
I told him that he was either in Switzerland, D.C., or down the street, on the street.

Knowing I wouldn’t get to talk to him again, I tried to figure out how to get a hold of his book.

06 November 2010

The First Snow with LaTasha Roe

... and as we stood outside her new apartment--her nearly-empty, save a sleeping bag, new apartment--the first few flakes of snow drifted down, and around us. I have never seen her smile like that: her eyes so squinted (just like mine) showing both rows of teeth, the wrinkles around her eyes delighting in the chance to bear witness to the occasion. Because this time, this winter, as the snow continued to fall and accumulate, LaTasha could go inside whenever she wanted, to a place that was hers, where no one could tell her to move along.

Knowing that this was now true, that everything had changed, we chose to stand outside just a little longer to watch the snow, pausing to look at each other with memories of the last 2 years of her struggle in both of our eyes.

There was nothing for me to say to her, in all of the holiness of that moment. But LaTasha never lacked words:

"Damn, girl! I forgot how cold this shit is!"

05 May 2010

A Year, Here

My goal was to write this blog, at least semi-consistently, for a full year. The year has ended, and for now, I am content with leaving it here as it is: a free-standing record of the colors and sounds and troubles and joys of a year, here, on South Division. I hope that you, whomever you are, have enjoyed reading it.

And for anyone who wonders, the current score is Anna: 12, Mr. Robertson: 4.
(But that one wasn't even a math problem. It was a picture he drew.)

08 April 2010

Free Parking

Recently, the city of Grand Rapids decided that Cherry St. needed to be straightened out. Before, it would be interrupted by our building; Cherry St. ran straight east into 144 South Division, and then continued next to it. It was a bit of a traffic mess, so construction workers re-designed the street so it curved southward before it hit Division, making it possible to continue straight ahead, next to our building. The southward curve cut out a bit of the parking available on the southwest corner of Division and Cherry, so I assumed that the space created on the other side would be used for parking. But instead, it was made into a park:
Two intersecting multi-leveled circles of benches and bricks and shrubs, crowned by a bus stop. It's beautiful! And all winter, it was left empty, because it was cold, and because there were rumors that the police installed cameras and microphones, somehow, in the bricks. But the sun and 60 degree weather pushed out the paranoia, and recently, the park has been packed.
Now, I overheard someone say,
"It makes me so mad that they are filling up that beautiful park!" And I could not help but say,
"Why? it's a park! It was made for them!"
"For homeless people?"
"For people."
Most of their day is spent being kicked out of places because they aren't theirs. Finally, here is a space in the neighborhood that isn't pre-owned. A no man's land is the closest thing some of them have to a home. So why would that make someone uncomfortable? That "they" are using this park?
Maybe because you relize that you can't claim it, own it, or make them leave. Maybe becaue you are getting a little taste of what "they" always feel--that it's not yours, and you're not exactly invited, but I suppose you can come.

07 April 2010

Doing The Math, with Robert Robertson

You know, I have a calculator, right in the "Start" menu of my computer desktop. So I'm the go-to person for calcualation... of monthly benefit amounts and subsidized housing percentages and how-much-do-I-owe-that-guys. I've got that stuff down. So when Mr. (he has this beautiful Latin American name, but he refers to himself as) Robert Robertson came in with a math problem, I whipped out my Windows Caluclator. Bring it on, Mr. Robertson.

He gave me something really complex; something that didn't seem to have anything to do with rent or debt or bottle deposits... and when I finally finished it, he just looked up, looked down, looked up again, and said: "Good Job." Not, "That's what I thought," or "Oh, that's not good," or "I can handle that," but "Good Job." He was quizzing me. "No calculator next time."

It took me until my fourth math problem (I would get them about twice a week, when I didn't appear to be busy) to realize that Mr. Robertson did all of these problems in his head, and graded me based upon his own mental calculation. Some of them, I would spend a brain-bending 15 minutes on, giving him back a scrap of paper full of scribbles with an answer circled. He would look at my work for a while, and then give me his oral review.
"Good Job."
"Oooooh veeery good job."
"No! You make way too hard! So easy! Look different!"
The last one was factoring a quadratic function. Where does he get this stuff?

So we're keeping score now, and it's currently
Anna: 7
Mr. Robertson: 3

But he's stepping it up, now. I think he's going to even out the score. Behind that greying matted hatted hair and stretched-out Florida t-shirt, there is quite a mind. We'll see if this college grad can keep up.

31 March 2010

My Old Man

I have always called him "Tricky Dick" because of the time I caught him stealing my dry erase marker and he claimed that it, in fact, did belong to him, but that he would give it to me as a gift. Everyone else simply called him "The Old Man". Once in a while, I would call him "My Old Man"; his usual streetname with a posessive paternal spin. I love him.

I saw him in my office. We talked about his favorite Biblical passages and his favorite sacreligious interpretations of them. We called his siblings who lived in far away cities and looked up pictures of their hometowns on Google Images so he could imagine where they were. We talked about how the police always picked on him because he was missing a few toes from the war and consequently always walked like he was drunk, and then the irony of the fact that he really was always drunk.

I saw him outside of my office. He liked to use this old broomstick to hit on fenceposts and to pretend to cut down trees. He was really going at it on a sapling in front of the bank, so I sat him down and gave him some iced tea and told him to give the trees a rest for the sake of preserving the earth for my future offspring.

Someone left a message for him on our universal message line that his brother had died. I was nominated to take the old man into my office and tell him, because we realized he had no one else here to tell him. We talked about his brother, we called his sister, and called his sister again. We looked up pictures of where his brother used to live, so he could imagine where his brother's body would rest.

And then Tricky Dick didn't come back for a long time. I thought about him, and about him thinking about his brother. I thought of him pretending to cut down trees somewhere as an attempt to ease his broken heart. I we were weeding out old mail one day, mail we would have to return to sender because it had not been claimed, and I found a letter sent to him by his sister. I kept it in my desk, in my top drawer, for months and months hoping that he would come back and that I could give it to him and that it would give him some hope. Yesterday, he did.

As usual, there were a million things going on, and I was in the midst of placing mental bookmarks next to two other requests while I focused on a third... but when I saw him, the rest of the world blurred. I stared at his old and tattered and weathered and wrinkled face and shook my head.

"There's my old man. I have something for you."

I gave him the letter that had become the inner decor of my top drawer like it was some kind of certificate of merit. I held my hand on his shoulder for a minute, and felt like I was about to cry for relief or joy and grief for my old man's life, what I know of it and what will come of it.
He thanked me, and the moment passed, and the other demands flooded back in as Tricky Dick stumbled and tipped his way back out into the street.

05 March 2010

Doctors, Patience

It has been sunny this week, but not warm.

I don't know where they came from, but people have started wearing medical facemasks (you know, blue paper, elastic) to keep their faces warm. There are quite a few of them right now wearing medical gear, not because they're sick and want to keep the germs in, and not because they're healthy and want to keep the germs out, just because they're cold. But I've never seen something look so out of place.

I didn't like it for a while, because I thought that people looking at them would think that the masqueraders behind them were diseased--people who already view the Heartside population as defiled and infected. I can't stand this, and don't want any visual reminder to stimulate it.

But then I asked Dave why he was wearing one.
"I've got this until something better comes along," he said, "I'm just waiting on it."

And then I relized who else wears these masks: Doctors, surgeons, the world's definition of success and progress and respect. Something better.
When I see these masks now, I forget who is behind them, and who could be behind them. I think about the fact that something could be different. That one thing in the early life of this person could have caused them to wear this mask for a completely different reason, a different necessity.
(And something later in life could do the same.)
There is no division.
It's just a street name.

02 March 2010


64 : People came through my office yesterday. That is the information that we will give to the board, the donors, report to the public.

46: In the morning
18: In the afternoon

32: Utilized the ID Program
32: Utilized the Referral Desk

4: Needed transportation to get to an appointment
1: Needed transportation to get to employment
4: Needed Degage ID's to utilize neighborhood services
5: Needed housing assistance
4: Needed to search for local employment
2: Needed help filling out an application
3: Needed to make a long distance phone call
1: Needed furniture for a new apartment
2: Needed help filling prescriptions
23: Needed help attaining State Identification
9: Needed help attaining their Birth Certificate
12: Needed... something else

: Gary had to call his friend in Muskegon, because he just had to get out of here. Just for a minute.
: Jackson has been suffering from gout for so long. Today one of his hands was completely swelled up, "But!" he exclaims, "It makes me look years younger! No wrinkles!"
: Nelson just started school, but has no way to get there every day.
: Austin could pay for an apartment if someone would overlook the fact that he was evicted from one once.
: Ralph just needs someone to vouch for him. Needs someone to say that he's been doing okay, that he's been treating people respectful. Needs to be respected.
: Mr. Sartini had his medical coverage cut off because he didn't mail something in time, and now his extensive nerve damage is killing him with pain unless he can find a place to get his prescription.
: Jack is sure that this resume, this employer, this is going to work.
: David can't figure out what to change his password to. It's always been "password", and he doesn't know if he can remember anything else.
: Tanisha is 56, and tired of sleeping on the floor.
: Tom's parents just won't anwer the phone. No matter what time of day, they just won't answer.
: Sarah's kids were taken away, but not for long. You can't separate a mom from her kids. "They said they didn't weigh enough. What's enough? I just don't have the money to fill them with food."
: Henry is going back to school, "but is it a problem if you have to help me fill out the application? Will that disqualify me?"
: Reggie just got out of prison and has no idea who he is or where he is or what comes next.

(Alyssa is liberated because she changed her last name, and now she doesn't have to think of her dad everytime she gives her signiture.)
(Shayla performed her pantomime act at a restaurant, and they loved it!)
(Demi is trying a new hair color.)
(Alex is not a failure.)

15 February 2010

The Night Shift

I have had the pleasure and privilege of doing a few shifts in the overnight women's shelter in our building during the last few weeks. I had never been even remotely interested in working in the middle of the night before, but if I have to do it, I'm glad it's here.

I have not been a fan of sleepovers ever since abstaining from them didn't result in losing all of your friends, so I had forgotten what the atmosphere is like, and didn't consider the fact that I would find it in a shelter for women in a state of homelessness. But as soon as I obediently interrupted the silent darkness with "Good morning, beautiful women. It's Anna. It's 6:00. Now shield your eyes", I was greeted with a whining mixture of "Why did you wake us up so early!?" and "Why did you wake us up so late?!" along with the beginning of the morning-after-slumber-party routine. A little more complaining, and a lot of hairstyling (and those who had taken their hair off the night before began to re-attach it before my widened eyes ("Awe, Anna! Didn't you know us black women borrow our hair??)) The group in the bathroom covered about a 40-year age span, but they could all do perfect imitations of the voice of Elmo (and those who couldn't shot them perfect looks of disgust). The pillows and blankets were put away while some traded socks and some exchanged pictures of their sons or boyfriends or themselves on their cell phone camera. There was the hurling of hairbrushes and undergarments and jokes--everything that makes waking-up-women feel like they're in a place they're supposed to be.

And then, one by one, everyone left the homey, predictable, well-lit domain of estrogen to descend the stairs into the real world, where no one really knows what the day will hold (but they know it will be invaded by men). At this point, I noticed something: Every person who left the floor told me they were leaving, and said goodbye. I don't know if this is a rule, or a tradition, or if it's just because it's nice to tell someone you're leaving, and have them tell you they hope your day goes okay. Notifying someone that you won't be there anymore makes it feel like it's a place in which you belong, at least for now; a place where someone knows and cares that you are there, and no longer will be.

I was the visitor that night, that morning: Warmly welcomed.

10 February 2010

Why I Have a Business Card

I just checked my voicemail, and this was the only message:

"Anna, this is Papa John's Pizza over on... that place... ah... we got your order for an extra large pizza with um... 300 toppings. You have quite an appitite. We are all talking about it. All of our staff over here. But we wanted to tell you that you have to give the money to Mr. Fredrickson. Pay him for your really... huge pizza. I'm just kidding. It's Mr. Fredrickson. You know I love you. Trust in Jesus. He knows your heart. I love you. Bye."

I recently re-designed my business card, but I still had about 25 of the old ones left, so I waited to print the new ones. I waited about 3 months. I don't give my business card out very often. This is a "give me your word" kind of neighborhood, not a "give me more thin, small easy-to-lose items to keep track of" kind of place.

But some people will ask for my card, and some of those people really mean it. I think there's just something about having someone's number in your pocket... you have something tangible to show that you've got people, and those people have got your back. I've been asked to laminate my card on more than one occasion.

That's why I have business cards: so people who don't have a whole lot of names in their address book can put mine in their pocket, so they know they have something, they know they can call somewhere.

I would feel really bad if Mr. Fredrickson didn't have any phone numbers to prank call.

29 January 2010

Trust and Obey

Mr. Nkrah is famous for singing: loudly and not always soberly, in a beautiful East-African accent, in a suit he has worn every day for a month. He claps, he stomps, and hymns fill the air. I think he is told to "shut up" more than anyone else who visits us on a regular basis, but I don't see how anyone could be annoyed by that kind of joy.

I had not seen Mr. Nkrah for a while, since before Christmas, and when he came in my office today, his joy was gone. As he was walking in, I realized how different he looked when he was not smiling, when his shoulders were slumped, when his eyes were turned downard instead of upward. He was a different man.

He slammed four quarters three nickles, and nine pennies on to my desk, and then, as if apologizing, slowly and silentely arranged them in small towers.
Then he said:

"I need mo-ah."

"That's not what you need, Mr. Nkrah."

I started tapping my hand on the desk, in a slow steady rhythm... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

and then started humming... ... ... ... ... ...

and I watched a miraculously beautiful change in Mr. Nkrah's whole body. First he started nodding, then his whole body started rocking, then his glowing teeth emerged and his eyes came alive, and he slowly started singing:

... "when we walk wit da Lord
in da light off His word
what a glo-ry He shed on a-wa way!
when we do His goodt will,
He abide wit us still,
and wit all who will trust and obey!"

He got louder and louder, and by the last line, he was banging my desk...

"Trust and o-bey! Dere is no otha way! I am hap-py in Jesus! Trust and o-bey!"

He stood up, scooped up his change and said,

"Anna, ok."

27 January 2010

Your Birthday

It's your birthday.


1. Secure a safety pin to the front of your shirt.

2. Draw attention to yourself.

It doesn't matter who likes you, or how popular you are, or how nice the shirt is that pin is stuck to, because it's your birthday, and that means by mid-afternoon, you will have money pinned to your shirt, and by mid-evening, you'll have yourself a candy bar, or a drink, or whatever you want. Everybody who has a dollar adds it to the pin, because everyone understands birthdays. Everyone knows that it's a big deal that you're still here, and despite how bad every day has been leading up to this point, this day is going to be better. One day out of the year, it's going to be better. This day is yours.

(Last week, Gary had seven dollars on his shirt. "I've gotten so much, people are using my shirt to make change. Sure, I got change for a five. It's my birthday." I watched Gary. He didn't go to the gas station or the liquor store, but he ran his fingers over those dollar bills, counting them and re-counting them, as if they were proof that he mattered, that someone paid attention. Gifts. I think Gary decided that you couldn't put a price on a reminder like that. They'll stay in his empty cigarette box, at least for a while.)

18 January 2010

Mark's Living

The current discussion in the waiting room revolves around the cardboard sign Mark has tucked in his shirt. You've seen it:

"Homeless and Hungry"

I called him a con-artist. (Nods and laughter).
My co-worker said she was going to beat him up with her bare hands. (More nods, more laughter).
Because we all know Mark, and we all know the validity of his first descriptor, and the complete absurdity of the second one.

Okay, Mark. Defend yourself.

(his intermittent exclaimations are edited into the following paragraph): "I don't know how they still fall for it, but it makes more money than any other sign I've held. I don't even think they think I'm hungry. If they do they must be from out of town. But it's how I make my money, it's how I make my living."

But it's a dishonest living, Mark.

"Because of this, I'm still living."

We beg to differ. How much of the money you're given goes to life-promoting things? Things that bring you closer to life instead of bringing you closer to death?


"I don't make them give me money. I just ask. I'm not tying no one's hands up. It's still a choice."

People often ask me if they should give money to people who ask them for it on the street. It's always up to them, but I think it helps if you try to figure out why you're doing it. If you are giving money based upon an arguement presented to you, always admit the possibility that the reasons presented are false.
If you're giving it to make them go away, to ease your guilt, make them happy, then it will probably work, depending on how much you give.
If you are giving it to love someone, and to love them by giving them what they really need, then most of the time, giving them money's not going to do the trick. The problem is, though I believe that you will love most people best by not giving them money, you will not show them love in a way that they will understand and receive it. This is an issue I can't claim to have solved, but the following advice is something I believe in:
Stop walking, look people in the eye, ask their name and give them yours. Whether you give anything else is completely up to you.

Mutually recognize each other's humanity. Everything we do should probably start from there.
I volunteered a few other descriptors for Mark's sign. My favorite was:

"Homeless and Human"

He thought it was okay, but that it probably wouldn't bring in as much cash.


I take pride in giving good directions, especially when I am giving them face-to-face. First, I write them out, including both right, left direction and North, South, East, West direction. Writing them is usually enough for most people, but I don't stop there; I draw them as well. I draw every street, every cross street, surrounding streets, labeling names and directions. I draw stoplights, major landmarks, and usually a pretty good compass rose. If I have the paper space, I do my very best to draw it to scale. If someone asks me for directions, I want them to get there. I believe my integrity depends on it.

I gave someone directions to a local factory today.
He was so impressed, that when I was finished, he exclaimed,
"My word, lady, you should work at a gas station!"

Best compliment I've gotten all week.

13 January 2010

People All Around


"I'm just having a bad day."


Just needs a break from people, but there's people all around. Everywhere someone can be, there's other people being. I need my own place to be.

I can't hide in my radio all the time.


07 January 2010

All Together Now / Things Fall Apart

I have witnessed two marriages in this neighborhood in the past year.

For one wedding, I was the photographer, but there was hardly any room for me to get around to get a good angle--the place was packed. It was a different kind of wedding; the matron of honor was texting during the ceremony, and the best man was taking pictures of himself by holding a disposable 35mm out in front of himself with his left arm. After a near-deafening chorus of Amazing Grace, they exchanged LiveStrong bracelets, and went on their honeymoon in their friend's apartment down the street.

We saw Sabrina and Cash almost every day after that, or at least one of them.
We heard:
"That b**** don't understand what it mean to belong to a man."
(Met with many an expletive from my wonderfully blunt feminist co-worker)
"He's making me sell myself again... and give him the money."
(But Sabrina, he always did.)

And then they moved to Saginaw, and we didn't hear from them as often.
This week, Cash came back for the holidays, with a picture. Their daughter. They are still together.


The first time I met Julia, she asked me if I had a space heater that she could bring to her storage unit where she kept nothing but boxes of books so that she could read them all night and not be cold.
The first time I met George Anthony, he was wearing a long black trenchcoat and carrying a briefcase and 'representing' a client in my office.
They had their pre-marital counseling in our waiting room--their marriage was in a courthouse.

I saw them a month later, together, hauling a executive desk up Fulton hill to their apartment.
I saw them both two months after that, apart.

George Anthony says she was more loyal to her psychotropic medication than she was to him.
Julia says he was committed to the bottle (and that he started studying Hitler).

Today, she told me they are getting a divorce.
He's Nazi-ing it.
She's not seeing it.


"I have heard that the easiest way to get out of here is to get married to someone and share their stuff and make sure no one gets played or killed or stole from, and you have your attitude higher because there's someone else that helps get it higher, and they say nice things to you that make you want to get up and do something good, but I want to know, married to who? Who the f*** are the people in this story married to?"