Third day in a row of sweltering temps.
If I was truly virtuous, I’d be out the door at 7:30am when temps – still in the 70s – are manageable. Since I’m deeply flawed, I don’t manage to get out till 8:30am when the mercury is up over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. And I berate myself throughout the entire course of my run/fast tromp/crawl/whatever you want to call it. I cut the run/fast tromp/crawl/whatever you want to call it short. From three miles to a mile and a half. ‘Cause I don’t want to die of heat stroke.
Of course, if I was mentally healthy, I’d be congratulating
myself for getting out the door at all.
‘Cause it’s not as though I like
exercise. When I was younger, I liked it. Now? The best I can say is that I don’t mind it. Now, it’s something I do – like brushing my teeth, like drinking lots of water – to stay healthy.
On Friday, B sent me an email. LOL
read the subject line. Ran into strangers in Catania today
, he’d written.
With this snapshot:
On the train ride back from Chicago, I amused myself by looking out the window, by chatting animatedly with a portly but attractive lawyer, and by reading Matthew Desmond’s exceedingly brilliant book, Evicted
The lawyer was the spitting image of Godwin. No, not Godwin as he’s likely to be now
– although truthfully, who the hell knows
what Godwin looks like now? If I had to guess I’d say that he’s grizzled and that he has wiry grey hairs
sprouting unattractively from his ears.
No the lawyer looks like Godwin looked approximately 35 years ago when he was as pink and plump and creaseless as a newborn baby, and I was flirting with him. This was odd
because I reckon the lawyer and Godwin are approximately the same age.
The lawyer was extremely well spoken. Good with puns. Good with banter. At some point after we had wrung all the humor out of our mutual dislike of airports and TSA, and our speculations about how Amish men managed to keep their hats on when they fall asleep on trains, the lawyer tapped my book lightly: “What are you reading?”
,” I said. “Excellent
investigation into one of the leading factors that keeps poor people poor in this country. Did you know that most poor working
families are living unassisted in the private rental market and are spending half to three-quarters of their income on housing costs?”
know that, as a matter of fact,” the lawyer said. “I used to be chief counsel for the NYC Housing Authority. At the point in time when housing projects had fallen into massive disfavor so we were shutting them down. And, of course, theoretically, many people who were eligible for public housing in projects should
have been eligible for housing vouchers. Except at that particular point in time, we were gutting the welfare system. So…” He shrugged.
read this book!” I screeched. “I should
be finished with it by the time I get off in Poughkeepsie –“
“Well, then, we’ll trade books!” cried the lawyer.
Except I wasn’t
finished with Evicted
by the time I got off the train.
The lawyer insisted on giving me his book anyway – a first edition omnibus of three Flashman
novels. It had obviously occupied a place of pride in somebody’s library for many years.
“Oh, you shouldn’t
,” I said.
“Oh, I should
,” he said.
He also gave me his card.
He kept touching
my hand when I said goodbye to him. Our farewell, in fact, had the feel of two old lovers who’d been meeting once a year for a day of hot sex in a hotel for decades and decades.
And now I’m gonna have
to read the book. Even though I have absolutely no
interest in George MacDonald Fraser. Because when someone gives you a book, it’s like a bookclub selection from God.
It wasn’t just my white liberal guilt that made me respond to Evicted
Long-time readers may remember that a mere five years ago I was living in absolute squalor in the Cement Bungalow 10 miles outside of Ithaca in a town called Freeville, then as now the capital of Tompkins County’s thriving methamphetamine industry.
I had to maintain a house.
After vanishing completely off the face of the planet for four weeks, Ben had magically reappeared with a new girlfriend
who was so in-LUV
that she was willing to let him crawl into her life like a hermit crab. She was footing all
the bills. And Ben had decided to take me to court for custody of Robin. Now that he had a girlfriend that could afford Robin’s standard of living.
This could have been a joke
Except that it wasn’t.
There was no fucking way I was gonna let Ben have custody of Robin.
Because I was determined
that Robin was gonna graduate from high school, and I didn’t trust Ben to see that through.
So, I took Ben to mediation and I won. Lucky me! A surly teenager! All mine except for visitation.
I snagged a horrible minimum wage job that paid $850 a month.
And the rent on the Cement Bungalow was $650 a month.
Yes, yes, yes – I certainly had the qualifications and the resume to snag a better
job although at that point in time, I was so broken in mind and spirit that I think any interviewer would have called Security to have me forcibly ejected from his/her office after the first round of questions. (And what do you think you have to contribute to [Corporate Name Goes Here]
Everything I owned on the planet was in storage in Monterey.
costs money – which eventually, after I used up my small savings, I could no longer pay.
The role that storage facilities play in homelessness is one of the scenarios discussed at some length in Evicted
Long story short – my friend Susan (Max’s godmother) who owns a lot of real estate in West Oakland told me she would take my stuff and store it for me in the basement of one of the properties she owned.
Except that she didn’t
She and her husband Jeff (whom I do not like), and Marybeth and her husband Kim (the perps in the photo above) and Max went through the stuff, loaded up a small part of it. Max put that small part in storage in San Francisco where it remains to this day.
The rest got auctioned off. I assume.
I could just imagine
their conversation while they were doing it –
“Poor Patty! Why
did she ever start that business in the first place? I could have told her it was doomed
to failure –“
“It’s not that she’s stupid
. She’s smart. But she’s got no common sense –“
“And what the hell is this
? Why did she put this
into storage? Why didn’t she just get rid of it?”
"Why didn't she have a rainy day fund?"
Etcetera, ad nauseam.
Oh, I tortured
myself pretending to be a fly on that
The utter humiliation of it. The shame
Sort of as though your closest friends had all of a sudden decided to conduct a colonoscopy on you. For kicks.
There was really nothing I could do. I didn’t have any money. Money
is really the only thing that protects you. Don't have it? Better convince yourself that you like
the feeling of free fall.
Susan and Marybeth were actually doing me a favor.
And yet I felt so betrayed.
healing because it made me realize that this horrifying experience that had shamed me to my very marrow wasn’t unique but evidence of a pattern of systemic societal failure. In my case, when a bunch of Wall Street bankers decided to get rich by loaning money to people who didn’t have any and selling that debt – bam! Twenty percent of the American economy had to be surgically amputated. I was part of that 20%.
The families described in Evicted
just had the misfortune to be born poor.
Don’t kid yourself: There’s plenty of bank to be made exploiting the poor.
Anyway, I have
made it up into the middle class again. By dint of a lot
of hard work.
But I will never speak to either Susan or Marybeth again.
Max tells me they are somewhat mystified by this.
Seeing that photo of Marybeth and Kim did make me cry, though.