Showing posts with label Louisville. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louisville. Show all posts

01 February, 2019

Your Eight Cups Runneth Over - The Annual Count


It is this - that everyone in the world is Christ and they are all crucified. That's what I want to say. Don't you forget that. Whatever happens, don't you dare let yourself forget. ~ Sherwood Anderson

Eight of Cups
In my 20's and through most of my 30's the tarot card I associated myself with the most was the Eight of Cups. It cropped up a lot in readings, though in different contexts, which -- if you put any credence in that sort of thing -- can change the meaning. It's a card full of disappointments, abandonments, desertions, and disappointments. Cups, as a suit, are associated with water, and, being a Pisces (the most waterful of all the water signs), this appealed to me on multiple levels. Not that I ascribe any particular magic to the cards; if nothing else, I think they tend to reflect the energy of the person that uses them and can sometimes provide murky, if not downright fortune cookie-like guidance to wrangling questions that are probably better answered by detachment rather than focus.

Lately, though, The Hanged Man is more in my thoughts. And while I haven't indulged in tarot in more than 20 years, I still find the metaphors meaningful in a sort meta-psychological way. Like many literature majors in recovery, I am a symbol junkie. and because I'm a symbol junkie I know symbolism can be found anywhere, and nowhere -- other than literature, tarot decks, and The Freemasons -- can more symbolism be found than in government. The same is true of the annual count.

The annual count is an exercise in futility; for any number of reasons the count is always inaccurate, and generally used as a PR device by the city to trumpet their "responsible" stewardship of city resources. But like most forms of futility, it must be carried out anyway. Local media often frames it as a huge undertaking done by the Coalition to better assess and provide resources to the homeless community. The Coalition doesn't necessarily discourage this view, though it doesn't endorse it, either. At the Wednesday night training, for example, the facilitator stated that the reason for the count was so that the Coalition could have up-to-date numbers for it's annual grant application. This annual grant is worth $10 million.

So, basically, as a volunteer for the count, I was there basically as an unpaid census worker.  Unpaid... but they WERE going to provide breakfast after it was finished.

I went out on a team of 4 with Amanda and two other very nice ladies, one of whom is a regular volunteer with the outreach organization I also volunteer with -- an organization that DOES NOT see any of that $10 million.  Our route was a short one, maybe a little over a mile of Bardstown Road. This was an advantage. We would be able o scour a relatively small area pretty thoroughly. This was also an advantage, because it's a route Amanda and I went out on often on weekly outreach... so it's one we already knew. This would help not only because of time -- we pretty much had from 4am to 6am -- but because the overnight/early morning temperature was -5.

Amanda and I decided it was best to leapfrog the area. Park, walk a few blocks and look for people, then circle back to the car and drive up to the furthest point we walked. This would keep up near the car, and allow us to keep warm. Our partners appreciated our plan, though initially thought we were being a little silly since our route was  "only about mile."

We made our way up and back, up and back, and up and back. Walking in the cold reminded me of my time on the street in Chicago -- which makes me both love and fear that city with a symbolic and mystical equity. Other than the 4am staff at Cafe 360 and one guy who was couch surfing (so, by definition of the grant, not technically homeless) we didn't run into anyone. I was glad, too. And so was Amanda. It was too cold and that stretch of Bardstown Road is too far from resources to be there in that weather. But we also knew that if anyone was on Bardstown Road, it was not going to be in that area, which is all business and residential. Our section from Bonnycastle to Winter Ave was a high traffic area during the day and prime panhandling real estate; but even the homeless don't always live where they work.

We are, after all, a nation of commuters.

After we finished and went back to the hotel, we checked in and left our partners to the provided breakfast -- which, we had already heard, included some very suspect eggs.  Before Amanda took me home and went to work, we had time to grab breakfast at Waffle House where the eggs were not at all questionable and the hash browns were smothered and peppered.

And here I come back to The Hanged Man. Often portrayed as a willing sacrifice, occasionally
portrayed as Judas, The Hanged Man is also associated with Christ and with Odin, both of whom, according to the stories, hung themselves on trees -- one as a sacrifice for all mankind and the other to gain all knowledge and wisdom. I think of The Hanged Man as maybe the most overlooked, most misunderstood card in the tarot deck that, along with the Death Card, have been woefully abused by movie and television scribblers for years. I think of The Hanged Man and I wonder, as the numbers are compiled and fed into the Public Relations machine with the same efficiency that they'll be plugged into the Coalition's annual grant application, who is being betrayed, who is being sacrificed and what wisdom is being gained.





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16 January, 2019

from Record of a Pair of Well-Worn Traveling Boots -- Anticipation

I was traveling when my wife and got together. Our courtship was one of distance and of patience: letters, emails, phone calls when a charged battery and available cell towers permitted. The pattern of my leavings started even before that, though, back when we were still just friends, still in our 20's, both of us, I think, still searching, though for very different things. I remember going to tell her I was going to drop out of college. It was a deliberate trip out to see her. I went alone because anything I said I only wanted to say to her. She greeted me in a gorgeous sun dress and when I told her I was leaving, the light left her face like the sun disappears behind a storm cloud.  

But because our courtship probably would not have existed without my leavings, they have been a part of our relationship from the start. 

She knows I have to go from time to time because the ticky-tock thing in my gut won't stop long enough for me to stay home like normal people do. I call that behavior normal because it is the most common, and for those who choose it I say have at it. I love my wife and I love my home -- Louisville, Kentucky breaks my heart like no other place I have ever lived. But still, when the wind kicks up, the current shifts, and urge to go sweeps up upon me, it's bad business to ignore it. And though I've written about it before, I feel like I need to reiterate: traveling as I do is not the same as a vacation. It's true that I often visits friends when I travel. But a vacation is, by definition and practice a respite from normal living to go and do something outside of the daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly routine for the purposes of being able to reintegrate back into that same routine with renewed vigor.

I decided that was bullshit 20 years ago, and life has done nothing to change my mind.

And while it's true that I love being home when I am home, I always feel like I'm in between trips. No matter how present I try to be, no matter the fact that I love my life, my wife, our home, and the grand art we are creating in building our life together, the fact is I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to better perfect my pack so that when I go, I'm as streamlined and prepared as possible. I buy clothes based on durability and utility (pockets).  It's not even an active thing on my part. It's just how my brain is wired.

So when the wind kicks up... I go.

But I always know the way home, even if it's the long way.
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04 January, 2019

from Field Notes: 3 Jan 2019 - Those Isaiah Moments

I did it to myself. I should know better than to not ask more questions. When a last minute metro council meeting to talk about the city's half million dollar PR band aid came up, I should have known better. No one tossed me under a bus. No one tried to surprise me. No one but me, anyway. Me and my Isaiah moments. Me and my  "Here am I - send me" arrogance that put me on a dais with the mayor, two councilpeople and the usual suspects for a grand public circle jerk featuring Mayor Greg Fischer and Wayside Mission's Dominatrix-in-Chief, Nina Moseley
.
Though to be fair, it may be not appropriate to call it a circle jerk. The Victorians had a name for it. The medical cure was  "Hysterical Paroxysm" - or, an orgasm achieved when a (male) doctor administered a "pelvic massage" to a female patient suffering from "hysteria" (being human.)

It was my Isaiah moment, my urge to Do Something that did this to me.

I was mentally prepared for a committee meeting. This is a scenario in which I am very comfortable speaking. Public meetings, metro council, committee, open mics, performances -- I'm very comfortable. The easiest place to hide is in front and up on a stage, because no one actually looks at you when you're in the spotlight. People see all the things they carry with them, all the things they expect. The most invisible spot in any room is in the spotlight.

And that, Dear Friends and Readers, is where I thrive, most of the time. In the land of ghosts.

But it was my vanity, my ego, and --more importantly -- my sense of Rightitude that suffered when, at the behest of a councilwoman who is acting like she wants to be mayor, I took to the dais in a show of "solidarity" for the city's new half-million dollar band aid to the homeless situation here in River City.

I was planning for a committee meeting.  What I walked into was one of the mayor's political dog and pony shows.  He spent a good deal of time talking about what great mayor he is and all the good he's done and to make some unnamed (well-deserved, I have to add) digs at Bevin and Trump. Then one well-meaning bureaucrat got up and laid out the details of where the cash is going and two more politicians talked about how much this is going to help. 

There were two of us on the dais who were not, in some way or another, directly employed by the city. The other guy was the head of another small homeless outreach organization. When the press asked for one of us to speak to some of the issues, I stepped up... I guess, because, you know. Ego. Vanity. Urge to Do. Whatever. And all of my Isaiah moments came crashing down because I spent the whole time, listening to everyone pat themselves and Nina Moseley, whose homeless shelter is as overrun with abuse of power as it is bedbugs. And when I was done stuttering through an answer to some question about there's absolutely no way the city or any outreach organization can convince people to go inside when they're more afraid of the mold and bedbugs and questionable administration practices than they are the cold.

I said it more diplomatically. Which is to say, stilted. And I was ushered off by the mayor who always knows he knows me but isn't sure how so that Nina Moseley could do her best humble brag because Wayside, (not) inexplicably, is getting the lion's share of the money.

So I there I was, on the dais, trying to be diplomatic, trying to show "solidarity", when, in fact, all I was there for was window dressing so the mayor could try (again) to seal his political legacy, so a councilwoman could gain a little political capital, and so the Queen of Bedbugs could be hand massaged by the Mayor of Louisville.

And yes, it will, as a by-product, help some of the city's homeless community. And what will we have to show for it? Some good programming, a bit more outreach, and a big PR band aid for a boondoggle of what is supposed to be a homeless shelter. 

And what will I have to show for it? Nothing. Nothing but the difficulty I'm having forgiving myself for standing on the dais in some bullshit "show of solidarity" when the offense against my sense of Rightitude was so palpable that at least two different people on the dais noticed. 

What I will I have? My inability to forgive myself because when I did have the opportunity to speak, I did not call for oversight and accountability.

May God forgive me, because I don't know that I can.

All the words in the world
matter nothing if they echo,
fade and forget their own meaning.


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26 December, 2018

On meditating with your demons

Learn to meditate with the monsters.
Sit down and sup with the demons.
But don't let them feed you.  - from Field Notes: 26 December 2018


Zhong Kui, the Demon Queller
One of the things you hear in the rooms is that holidays create resentments, which end up leading alcoholics back to the bottle. My family is pretty supportive and not as dysfunctional as other family situations I've heard about in the rooms and on the streets. But there are times when life jams up and somewhere between the anxiety of trying to be a good guy, a decent husband, and an empathetic listener, it's only with the grace of God, a loving wife, and a good sponsor that I managed to stay sober.

Coming home from my latest trip west, on another failed trip to find the real Los Angeles in the glitter that is LA, I threw myself into the list of Things That Needed Doing. It fell sometime while I was traveling eastbound through Missouri that the wife and I were going to host Christmas dinner with my family. Now, this isn't exactly a stressful thing, in and of itself. My immediate family is smaller than some and none of them are particularly taxing. But it falls at a time when there is a lot going on.

Specifically, my father-in-law is dying. 

This spreads out in several different ways. Everything is being done to keep him comfortable and right now, he's doing as well as can be expected with Stage 4 Large Cell Carcinoma. In other words, lung cancer -- the kind not brought on by smoking, but as a side effect of the anti-rejection drugs he takes so his body doesn't reject the kidney transplant he received 6 years ago. My mother-in-law is approaching the whole thing with as much stoicism as she can, which is in her nature, and my wife is trying to follow suit, though stoicism is not in her nature at all. 

For me, Christmas is mostly about keeping things moving -- 10,000 wheels all in motion going in different directions -- through the season. I'm trying not to focus on my own issues wrapped up in all this, or the feelings it brings up about my own father's death and my general anxieties about people I love dying. 

Yes, I know it's natural for people to die. I can intellectualize that all I want, but that doesn't change how I feel about any of it at the moment.

But I am learning how to sup with my demons. There really isn't any choice. And one of the people teaching me how to do is, oddly enough, my father-in-law. I don't want to dismiss his experience -- an experience I know nothing about, really -- but I do think of all the people I have seen in the process of dying, he is probably the strongest person I've seen. He doesn't always bear up well. He gets tired and cranky and I think he's probably as tired of being fussed over as he is of the cancer. But he doesn't just give up, either. He's resigned, I supposed as much as anyone can be. But there's a resilience to it all, too. He's waiting. He's tired, but he's waiting. He carries it all because that's where he is right now.

 I was asked as recently as today if the holidays made me want to drink. I can honestly say they don't. I don't miss drinking as much as I miss not feeling. But I know what happens when I try to manage my feelings with artificial means. So I pick them up, my little demons, my little monsters.  The ones that used to hound me minute by minute of the day. That's where I am right now. I pick them up, and take them with me and hope we all learn, them and me, how to get through this world that seems so much more appealing in the absence of feeling.




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30 November, 2018

Rubber Tramp Stories: The Story of R (Retread)

[I first published this story on my old American Re:visionary Blog. But, as I grow and expand my Rubber Tramp Stories, I thought it was appropriate to include them all under one tag on one blog.]

The train station in Carlinville, Illinois is nothing more than a ventilated brick box. Cement floor, a single bench, no heat for the winter and not even a fan for warmer weather. I got there around 11:30 in the morning. The train to Chicago wasn't going to arrive until 3:30 that afternoon. The sky was cloudy, the temperature cold, and it was spitting a particularly unforgiving rain that made me grateful for I didn't have to walk the miles from Litchfield.

Nothing about Carlinville impressed me enough to get wet wandering around to explore it. I noticed one clearly No-Tell-Motel on the way into town. (The sign listed a price differential between single and double beds, and the ambiance suggested that there should have also been a price differential for hourly and nightly rates.) I also took note of several bars, none of which looked trustworthy enough to carry my pack into. Other than the rail, which rolled by a deserted grain elevator, there was very little left to describe. Like every other town that grew up along Route 66, it was impacted by completion of the I-55 corridor. And it was clearly impacted again by changes in the railroad industry.

I was alone in the brick box for about 20 minutes before he hurried in and asked if I had a cigarette. And if I was slightly inclined to dig deeper into Carlinville -- named, according to an optimistically written Wikipedia page, after a former Governor -- talking to R would have changed my mind.
He assured me that if I was looking to get laid, that all I had to do was walk down the street.

"Ah," I said. "So they're trying to fish outside of the gene pool?"

"Gene pool. Yeah, man You got that right!"

A man on the run from something has a distinct body language. Jerky movements. Disheveled look. Given the mostly pale demographic of the town and -- except for the Indians who worked in the hotels and the Mexicans who did the service industry grunt work -- R stuck out simply because he was black.

After I was unable to give him a cigarette, he asked where I was going and where I'd come from. So I gave him the quick and dirty version. Hearing that I walked from Staunton to Litchfield elicited a wide-eyed shake of the head.

"Why'd you do that?"

"I had to get here."

"You didn't have a car?"

"If I had a car, I wouldn't need to catch a train."

That seemed to satisfy him for the most part. It also gave him a door to prove the current events of his life more interesting than mine.

R was not from Carlinville. He was from Springfield, Illinois, but came there via St. Louis. And he did it for a girl. The part that seemed to surprise him, even though he was standing in a brick box train depot waiting for the train that would take him back to Springfield with his few possessions in a 33 gallon garbage bag, was that it didn't work out.

"She's a white girl," he said. "And she's... you know... not thick." He repeated this several times throughout the story, as if he was trying to convince himself that it should have, and for those very reasons.

The story unfolded something like this: he met the woman he was trying to escape the day after he got out of jail. R explained that yes, "It was drug related stuff," but that he had cleaned up his act since and was no longer doing whatever it was that got him locked up. But, he admitted that, upon his release, he was on the hunt for the one thing he couldn't get while he was incarcerated. And it just so happened that he got call from a former cellie who had a girlfriend who had a friend.

"I was looking for a one night stand," R maintained. "But it didn't turn into that."

Upon his release, R had been sent to a half-way house to ensure that his rehabilitation would take. After one night with this girl -- whose name, I have to admit, I don't remember -- she took it upon herself to harass his Parole Officer and the Missouri State Department of Corrections to secure his release from the half-way house so that he could move in with her. When calling St. Louis didn't help, R, said, she drove from Carlinville to St. Louis five days a week in order to visit him and track down the dodgy P.O. Naturally, the development seemed to work to his advantage, so he didn't argue. And while he never uttered the word, the confluence of events must have seemed to him, at the time, serendipitous. And when his parole officer secured his release from the half-way house... making it clear that his only reason was to get the woman off his back... R thought he'd stumbled onto the love of his life.

His first indication that something was amiss was when he showed up in Carlinville and discovered that not only did his true love have two kids -- from two different fathers -- and that both of them were medicated for educational and developmental issues, but that she also lived with her sister, her sister's flavor of the week, and HER two kids.

To hear him tell it, his one true love did nothing except sleep all day, eat ice cream and want to fuck. She didn't want to deal with her kids. She didn't want to deal with her sister's kids. Apparently the sugar she ingested while watching Maury Povich was only to be used in the pursuit of more ice cream and sex.

To hear him tell it, she screwed him raw. And in every way possible. And when he was too exhausted to get it up "I'm not as young as I used be, you know" she would insist that he do something else to fill her appetites. And then she expected him to take care of the kids, who wouldn't listen to him. And then she expected him to make her a sandwich. And then clean up the house. And then go buy her some ice cream.

I was waiting for him to admit to something involving a ball gag and a french maid's outfit.
Instead, he told me about changing the sheets on the bed.

Apparently, there was a day when his own true love actually left the house -- for reasons he didn't explain -- and he took it upon himself to change out the sheets on the bed. She had told him he could find clean sheets in a Santa Claus bag in the hall closet. He found the bag and starting digging through pillow cases and sundry unmatched soft goods until he stumbled upon something that wasn't so -- soft.

Actually there were several.

"I'm telling you," he said, "she could open a dildo flea market!"

He found out later, however, that not all the dildos were for her. Apparently she was hoping that R's time in prison made him a more amenable catcher to a stiff pitch.

He reiterated several times that he might have loved her "a little," but "The bitch is crazy, and those ain't my kids!" And while he never said so, I'm sure the Santa sack of toys didn't help,

Even love has it's limits.


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12 November, 2018

Letters from Trumplandia: Invisible City, Part 4


Two people in as many days have died on the streets as Louisville settles into the first cold snap of the year. One of them died next to a local homeless shelter that, in theory, provides overnight protection from the elements for the city's homeless.

The first cold snap is hard because no one ever seems to see it coming -- in spite of past precedence. I see this as a fundamentally positive thing about human nature... it's our ability to hope for the best regardless of experience. But when it comes, no matter how much those of us engaged in homeless outreach try and plan for it, it still hits like a steel toe boot to the nuts.

We did a better than average job planning for it this year. I'm not the only one who obsessively watches weather patterns, so between the merry OCD/ grumpy old men in our group and the lovely folks that donate there money and donate supplies for us to pass out every week, we were able to get a few things together.., hand warmers, sternos, some coats and blankets and sleeping bags.

But there are moments in outreach when the wheels and cogs are laid bare and there is nothing to do except embrace the sadness and anger just so you can find more people before the hot meals get too cold and the supply of socks and handwarmers run out.

We've been serving a younger couple on our regular route for a few weeks. He's a more or less fresh out of a detox program. They say they want to get to Florida, closer to family. Last night was a White Flag night here in Louisville, which means the temperature is cold enough that shelters will open up and allow more than the usual number of people in to get out of the dangerous temperatures.

Unless you're on the Permanent Ban List.

And when we mentioned that it might be a good idea to get to a shelter, even it meant being separated (because none of the shelters here have facilities for couples or families, which means that couples are separated and fathers have to sleep in a different space than their wives and children). But he told me that since he was on the permanent ban list, he couldn't go in. Not even on a White Flag night.

As far as I know, this couple made it through the night. But the temperatures this week aren't going get better.

Later that night we met up with other outreach volunteers near a new encampment. Another couple.
They had a tent, at least, but no blankets, no sleeping bags, no kind of heat. And meanwhile, outside of the Wayside Mission on Jefferson Street, people were sleeping on the sidewalks, some without blankets, and a few with no shoes.

There's nothing worse than feeling like you fell short even when you do your best. And even if there wasn't such a thing as a Permanent Ban List that includes White Flag Nights, the fact is there isn't even enough beds for people willing and able to get into the shelters. The number of homeless folks on the street are up and it only breaks into the public conversation as something unsightly that people don't want to see through their NIMBY sunglasses.

There's nothing like the sick brick I get in my stomach when I see someone out on outreach knowing they may not survive the night. There's nothing like the dread of knowing that the odds are someone will find them in the morning, dead.

And someone finds them... anger and sadness doesn't quite cover it. Not by a longshot. And when they're found footsteps from a place that, in theory, should have been able to prevent it

Anger and sadness don't feel like nearly enough.



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24 October, 2018

Letters from Trumplandia: Invisible City, Part 3

Letters from Trumplandia
Part of outreach means we end up seeing some the same people over and over. Sometimes we don't see certain folks for a span of time because they went inside, or got sober, or started getting treatment for their mental or addiction issues.  And that's always a good thing. I'm always happy to see our folks, but there's a few that I would be happier to never see again, if only because they need to get off the street for their own safety or health.

But sometimes we don't see people and we feel the dread in the pits of our stomachs.

The area around Wayside Mission is a heavy population area, not just because of the homeless shelter, but because of the large homeless population that lives adjacent to the shelter. Some of them won't go in -- concerns over safety, petty street feuds that spill over or are exacerbated by the shelter's policy of giving some residents the job of policing the others, regardless of their capacity to be able to do so, and the shelter's policy of splitting families --  and some of them can't because of legitimate bans due to violence or drug use that endangers other people.

Amanda and I hadn't served down there in a while because of shifts in the population and changes in the routes over the last year that we hope does a more effective job of serving as many of the community as possible. Historically, people have been run off from the downtown underpasses and around the shelter at three watershed moments here in Louisville: before Derby, before the State Fair, and when cold weather sets in. The motivations for these are different, but not really. The city likes to "clean up" it's image for big money events like Derby and the Fair, and whitewashing the city's homeless community is one way, besides planting more rose bushes and cutting the grass along the highway, that the city does that.

LMPD annually engages in a more focused harassment of the city's homeless at the onset of cold weather, apparently for the benefit of the homeless. By all accounts, the thought is that by putting pressure on the community to move on, the city is helping push them to the shelters or other services.

Mick Parsons, blog, TrumplandiaThis sort of thinking is an example of the staggering disconnect between the bean counters in Metro Council Chambers and reality.

But as the official and unofficial sweeps continue, it never ceases to amaze me who is able to fall through the cracks. This past week, Amanda and I went with the route that currently serves the underpasses as extra support and to make it easier to pass out meals and supplies.

We were also tasked with finding a family that had been in the area the last few weeks -- a couple with two small children. Usually, we serve them in their vehicle, but they have insisted to outreach workers in the past that they go into Wayside at night. This isn't the first time we've heard this, or seen it in practice. The city has very limited resources for homeless families. So when they do go to shelters, families are split up.

This is one of those cavernous niches that the homeless fall into; because even when there aren't any children involved, and even if they can prove they're married, couples are separated -- effectively isolating them from the one person they count on for mutual aid and survival. And while this can sometimes help vulnerable people escape dangerous situations, the families are collateral damage.

We didn't find the family. Their vehicle was not even parked out front, in spite of the fact that it was spotted earlier that afternoon when the kids were riding their bikes on the street. If we had seen their vehicle, that would have meant they were at least in the shelter waiting room before the staff at Wayside split them up for the night. Because it wasn't there, there is no telling where they were on a night when the overnight temperatures were going to reach freezing.

Sometimes it's who you don't see that gets to you.

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10 October, 2018

Letters from Trumplandia: Invisible City, Part 2

[This is Part 2 of a series that I'll add to intermittently. It may come in waves of two or three posts in a row, or it may be weeks or even months in between. The focus of 'Invisible City' is my experience working with and around the homeless community. The first part is here. Thanks for reading.]

In addition to the usual route paperwork, I carried a list of 100 or so names. 

These are the names of people whose camps were scheduled to be cleared as of Monday October 8th. As of this writing, the three camps in question are cleared. Although there's a certain inevitability to this, it's hard for me to ignore the timing. Not only is it running up to an important mid-term election, with the mayor up for re-election, but -- more importantly -- cold weather is coming. And although not everyone had moved as of last Sunday, I wanted to carry the names of the people we will need to look for -- our organization and every other outreach organization that serves the Louisville's homeless community. 

With cold weather coming, the main thing at the front of my mind is that once again, there will not be enough beds, even for those willing to enter the shelters. The city will say there's enough, because they always do... or actually, they say nothing and point to the various shelters with an inferred, collective shrug that allows them to pass the buck. After all, the homeless don't vote.

But we didn't find anyone on that list this past week. We may when we go back out to serve. While there are some factors that make how camps disperse somewhat predictable, the truth is it's hard to predict what any one individual will do. We did find a guy in the middle of a seizure. We saw him on the sidewalk on a side street, and when we checked on him, my wife realized she knew him from her job at a local men's shelter. He was prone to seizures, and because the homeless in Louisville no longer have someplace to store their things.

While we were there with him -- he was in the process of trying to stand up and get his bearings back
-- one woman yelled down to us that he was on spice... which he clearly wasn't. Another drove by and asked if we needed him to "dial 5-0" and we assured him we did not. The only reason we hesitated in dialing 911 was because the man was in the process of getting back up on his feet and would have turned down transport to the hospital, anyway. As if being out on the street in Louisville isn't scary enough, he's got to deal with frequent seizures that leave him incapacitated for short periods, increasing his vulnerability. He's in the process of trying to get disability, but there is no streamlined process. And, because he's homeless and has no where to store his stuff, he has to carry his entire medical history with him ALL THE TIME.

Then, adding insult to injury, the default position anyone might take in seeing him is that when he's in the midst of a seizure -- a condition that is not his fault -- he will be mistaken for a drug addict. Because that's where people's minds go, almost every single time.



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04 October, 2018

Letters from Trumplandia: Invisible City, Part 1

Trumplandia, Mick Parsons, Dirty Sacred River
Bone thin and tiny even before she tried to fold herself into the air, her eyes were large, dark, and brimming.  She looked young; too young to be living under an underpass or in a camp that is slated for clearing by the city. It was Sunday night and she looked like she needed to be somewhere rushing through homework she'd put off all weekend instead of looking towards one more night in a homeless camp.  Her eyes told me she was almost as scared of being found as she was of whatever led her to where she was at. She hadn't found short term ways to coping -- the shit spice (lately mixed with Fentanyl)  available on the street for 50 cents a hit, or booze, or the needle. The outreach workers who found her said she wasn't alone. That some guy had been hanging around and disappeared when they approached.

I'd seen her some downtown, and she was rarely alone.  Some of the other outreach workers wanted to try and find out if she was, indeed, underage. And even if she wasn't underage, we were all concerned that she was a victim of trafficking... or that if she wasn't then, she would be soon enough. It wasn't just idle. The camp where she was staying has been the root of several reports of what looks like trafficking. But stories aren't proof and proof is hard to come by.

The city's recourse is to clear the camp, which it has started the ball rolling to do. The outreach
Louisville homeless compassionate city not
organization I volunteer with and other small organizations try to work with the Coalition for Homelessness and the city to find them resources, fast track them for housing (if possible) and at least keep in touch with them so that when they move, we can find them.

People who don't know that I do homeless outreach talk about the increase in Louisville's  homeless population. Part of that is due to some recent, temporary, policy changes on the part of the city. The annual clear outs for Derby and the State Fair did not happen this year thanks to a ton of negative press the city garnered for razing a camp with no warning last year. But that sort of thing doesn't last. Politically rooted compassion lasts as about as long as the news cycle -- which here can only bear so much content that verges somewhere near actual news before it implodes under the weight of college sports, and whatever new that falls under the flag shadow of Trumplandia. There are a fair number of people here that want to complain more about bike lanes that aren't really bike lanes and play partisan politics rather than actually fix things... and several of them keep getting elected to Metro Council.

There was no way to prove she wasn't underage, and CPS rarely, if ever, works on a Sunday night anyway. I suppose we could have called LMPD, but it's crap shoot with them. If we get a good cop, they will try and help. If we don't, they'll just slice and dice people's tents and ticket them for littering. We were able to at least get this young woman to agree to go find the resources we pointed her to.

Most of the time, that's the biggest win we get in those situations.


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24 September, 2018

At Home Along the Dirty, Sacred River, Part 1

Where we love is home -- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.



Ohio River at Louisville and Jefferson, IN. 1928
Home has traditionally been a complex issue for me. I've written before about how home is a person, not a place, and that is still very much true. But it also follows that while I have settled down... which is to say, I'm stationary far more than is natural for me... the truth is that the concept of home is one that I continue to struggle with. In particular, other people's notions of home have given me nothing but vexation for decades.

Yes. Decades.

Let me explain.

I live in Louisville, Kentucky. I like it here. Of all the places I've lived, it probably best matches the landscape inside my head. It's both rural and urban, straightforward and urbane, full of possibility and weighed down with deep dark problems that infiltrate nearly every good thing that happens within its borders. Louisville is a small town with a few tall buildings; not because of its size, but because of the way it functions... and sometimes the way it doesn't function. I've lived in other places in Kentucky, from as far East as Menifee County to the rolling hilled-hypocrisy of Lexington. I've travelled the state over, too, from Covington to Corbin, from Morehead to Middlesboro, from Paducah to Pikeville.1 And except for a decade on and off, I've spent most of the last 30 years here. Kentucky is one of the few places where -- for the exception of  Lexington, which I can never quote forgive myself for -- I have always felt at home. Calling Kentucky home brings up all sorts of complications, the second most challenging being that it's the sort of home you're expected to leave and (maybe) eventually return to.

The most challenging part of being at home in Kentucky is that Kentucky is more or less particular about who it claims.

I run into this problem often in literary circles. It's increasingly common enough to NOT be from Louisville, or from Kentucky. But in literary circles... probably because Kentucky writers are once again an exportable commodity... because of or in spite of our Tin Pot Governor's dismissal of the arts... there's even more of the sometimes overt, sometimes covert protectionism of Kentucky culture and geographical identification.2

To be fair, I haven't been EXCLUDED because I'm not from Kentucky. That would be like saying no one reads my shit because I'm just one more cis-gendered white guy in America.3 I haven't been excluded, but living here creates a certain bias on the part of others about what kind of writer I orta be. Literary event organizers here tend to look for that commercially consistent version of "authentic" voices -- authentic but pedigreed, of course -- and while I can claim a lot of experience, many miles traveled, and a regional upbringing, the abstract lines that make Kentucky separate from the other cleaved pieces of geography that make up the Ohio River Valley delineate the cultural boundary, too.

Or, simply put: I'm from Ohio.

True, it's Southern Ohio... Southwest Ohio, to be exact, which is about as culturally divergent from the rest of the state as Paducah is from Pikeville. Ohio, like Kentucky, could be split into (at least) four different states if you look at geography, culture, and other demographic points. Actually, you could cut the Southeast corner of the state and slide it nicely into a larger state called Appalachia... a state that would include not only part of Ohio, but a fair chunk of Kentucky and Pennsylvania too, along with West Virginia.

For me, though, the map as drawn has less to do with the culture of where I live than geography, which transcends... and sometimes confounds... cartography. The dirty scared river's long and storied history as a major commercial artery that eventually opened up the West to the trials, terrors, and seeming inevitability of Manifest Destiny have made permanent imprint on the geography of the nation. And while it's true that the Ohio River isn't as prominent a commercial artery as it used to be, the fact is that without it there would have been no place for wagons, trains, roads, or interstates to be laid. The river, diverted as it is, still runs and still has a say over everything from where people live, how they get back and forth to work, and sometimes, how the weather impacts the area.4 So, I will never be a Kentucky writer. But every breath, drop of blood, and bone in my body is from the river valley.

And there's something to that, too.

________________________________________________

1. I even went to Fancy Farm once. There is no better explanation of the political landscape of this Commonwealth than Fancy Farm.
2. This actually has much deeper roots than Herr Bevin. He's just one more in a long series of yahoos and crankyanks who think they know what's best for Kentucky without ever actually spending any time in the state's underbelly.
3.I recently had coffee with another writer here who made that kind of observation, but I don't agree. There's room for everyone and all the voices need to be heard. I'll keep scribbling in my basement, unabated.
4, Watch a tornado laden storms hit the valley and split in half just to pass over Louisville. It happens. A lot.



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15 January, 2018

Every day is a title fight, Part 3: A Winter's Tale

 The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches. - e.e. cummings

Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.  
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love. - Kenneth Patchen
Since we hit black ice a few weeks back and totaled (effectively) my car, I'm finding myself more reticent than usual to go out into the weather. It's nothing near the random anxiety attack I experienced before crawling up into the eaves spaces of our house to fix a hole in the roof. No lights spots, heart palpitations and sweating, or vertigo. Nothing like that. Something like that might be acceptable ... at least more acceptable, anyway. An anxiety attack feels more like a condition -- and therefore not my fault --  than just having to admit that I'm scared.
It's not like I haven't slid on black ice before. I once spun a car 360 degrees on black ice in in the middle of a major intersection (if there is one that can be called that) in Mount Carroll, Illinois. My only saving grace then was that  
  1. it was a small car
  2. it was late and so there was no traffic, and
  3. I didn't hit anything.
I was in the car with my second ex-wife. We were driving home from having dinner out (I think) and when we hit the ice, I did what I always do in that situation: I took my foot off the gas, avoided the break pedal and tried to steer out of it.

Luckily, we did. But we did rethink going out in weather after that... if for no other reason than that Chevy Aveo was not built for northern winters.

I remember that one being more fun than frightening, though. It's not that there wasn't an element of danger. We were close to houses and electric lines and things that make little plastic cars crumble when hit head on.  I suppose I could blame bravado on my part, or the fact that my second ex-wife never really knew how to handle any displays of fear or sadness -- probably because I used to police those kinds of reactions religiously and when I didn't, she was taken so aback that she thought I was a pod person. It could also be that the only thing the men in her family cry about is when the University of Kentucky loses, and I've never been much on college basketball.

This wreck, in some ways, not much different. We were in what is normally a high-traffic area (I-71 southbound near the Kentucky River) , when we hit a spot of black ice and the rear end of the car spun out in front of me. Luckily, there were no other cars around, but there was a guardrail that stopped us before I could manage to spin out of it entirely and straighten the car.

Amanda and Stella were both in the car with me, and other than a few bruises, we all walked away from it without injury. And for that, I am eternally grateful,

But I find myself more than a little hesitant to go out when there's even a little snow or ice. Not having a vehicle with 4WD is part of the reason. Mostly, I worry about other people's driving to the point that my stomach turns into a rock and I have to avert my eyes from road just to stay mostly calm.

I've had nightmares since in which the incident did not have such a positive outcome. And I find it difficult to block them from my mind when the topic of going out into the weather, even for the best of reasons, comes up.

The part of me that wishes I were wired a little differently tells me I should just be grateful and embrace the fact that we are all still alive. And I am grateful. I'm even more grateful that Amanda and Stella weren't hurt.

Perhaps the oddest thing about sorting through my emotional reaction to the incident is the fact that the only thing I'm afraid of is losing them. Politicians and powermongers don't impress or scare me, in spite of their reach and in spite of how difficult my indifference to their perceived authority sometimes makes my life and the lives of people I love.  What scares me the most is losing them. That's not the same as being alone. Being alone doesn't bother me. Being without my family -- or even the thought of it -- scares me more than I can articulate. I'm scared of losing them, and scared of the rage that loss would unleash. A rage that, like love, is all consuming and would burn the heart and soul right out of me.

Which is why, when pedantic, small-minded people like Vicki Aubrey Welch try -- badly -- to wield political power like a Tammany Hall gangster, my initial reaction is incredulity.

That's also why it doesn't surprise me that the local Democratic Caucus, now bound to support the incumbent that was not groomed for the position like a puppy farm poodle, is working on every back door plan it can to make sure they don't have to support him.
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15 December, 2017

Every day is a title fight, Part 1: the applicants

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.~ Pericles

Politics is the attempt to achieve power and prestige without merit. ~P. J. O'Rourke
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight part 1
The day of the interview, we sat in the 3rd floor conference room at city hall along with the other distinguished candidates.   Everyone -- well, mostly everyone -- was friendly and polite. Chase Gardner had his game face on, and John Witt ... a notorious Beechmont crank -- sat in the corner as if he was worried about something rubbing off on him. But the presumed front runner, Nicole George, brought a box of chocolates, which showed not only a certain amount of class but also that potential political appointees and recovering addicts have something in common; namely, both groups rely on chocolate as a way to curtail the cravings. And apparently chocolate works both for booze and for blood cravings. 
I mean, who could have guessed? It does give a kind heart hope.
The pleasantries dissipated quickly after initial greetings and meetings the hopefuls broke off into their subsets: the political movers, the local activists, one crank, one cop's wife, and the rash outsiders. George and former horseman Bret Schultz, the lone Republican, commiserated over the ineffective advocacy of $500 per plate political fundraisers. The activists banded together to talk about everything but politics and the unspoken competition for a metro council appointment that might, if levied correctly, help any number of causes. Witt sat in the corner and spoke very little, except on points of procedure. At one point the topic of South End economic development came up and Witt said only that he was opposed to more traffic and liked being able to get to the grocery store without dealing much with it.
The rash outsiders -- Amanda , me, and Nikki Boyd  sat over at the end of the table, having very little to say about $500 plate dinners or the various and noble projects and organizations we should be involved with that the three don't know about because we're ensconced in our own projects and organizations.
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight, part 1I knew I didn't have a shot. Not really. The odds were so far out there that only a gambling addict would put a borrowed quarter on me. Amanda didn't think much of her chances either, though I thought that between the two of us, she would have the better chance for a whole host of reasons. Nikki Boyd just seemed genuinely happy to be there and was, from what I could tell, a very nice person who also questioned her chances simply because of the number of politicos in the room.

Then the interviews started. We were sequestered until our turns so no one would know the questions asked by the metro council members who came out to see potential appointees kick at the clouds as they hanged.
I was nervous when it was my turn. I don't get nervous speaking in front of politicians. I've spoken before Metro Council twice before as a concerned citizen, most recently in response to the city's treatment of the homeless population. But I wanted to put a more conciliatory foot forward. After all, I wasn't there to try and admonish or cajole them. In spite of the long odds, I felt like there was a real opportunity to be in a position to help not only the neighborhood I live in, but the homeless population I serve.

Of course, this would be no Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But what really is, after all? Life isn't a Frank Capra movie.


When it was my turn, I introduced myself and answered a couple of thoughtful and useful questions. I was nervous, but I was doing ok.

And then spake the Wicked Witch of District 13, Vicki Aubry Welch, who had already come out for the presumed, chocolate-toting front runner.




Now, did she attack my lack of political experience, my past and current activism, or some perceived questionable moral fiber?

No.

Instead, she decided to focus on the fact that both my wife and I were applying for the same political appointment.


I'm still not quite sure why she would find it difficult to understand that each person in a married couple might be interested in applying for the same political appointment. I can only assume that such thing would never happen in her marriage -- which would make me feel sorry for her if it wasn't clear from the rest of the video that she found some way to go after almost every other applicant ... except her pick.


 
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07 November, 2017

Just yesterday morning, Part 3

All things are made bitter, words even / are made to taste like paper, wars gets tossed up / like soldiers used to be/ (in a child's attic) lined up / to be knocked down, as I am... ~ Charles Olson
The life of reality is confused, disorderly, almost always without apparent purpose, whereas in the artist's imaginative life there is purpose. ~ Sherwood Anderson 
Daylight Savings Time, Marriage, Art
Give it about 30 years and no one will even talk about Daylight Savings Time anymore.

Seriously. As annoying as it is, as pointless as it is, and as completely illogical as it is, it will cease to be the topic any real discussion.  
This won't happen because the powers-that-be will suddenly come to their senses and realize that moving the hour hand backwards or forwards doesn't actually extend or shorten the day. As a matter of fact, if anyone talks about hour hands, it will be in the sense of a quaint curiosity. Like jewelry made out of the hair of a dead loved one or the concept of privacy. All things fall into the dust of quaint curiosity shops of the mind -- including curiosity shops -- so seriously, don't put too much stock in the illusion that you're getting an extra hour sleep when we  FALL BACK IN THE FALL.

Don't worry about it. The Internet of Things will do it for us. We won't have to think about Daylight Savings Time because the ability to think about anything -- like the ability to read a clock or have a private thought that can't be described by a meme -- will have disappeared and we will have the IOT (Internet of Things, or, as we'll maybe call it NetStuf) heft the apparent burden of consciousness for us.

But if this Internet of Things... I mean, NetStuf... is so damn dandy, why can't it fix the hole in my ceiling? It can, apparently, predict what kind of advertising I'll respond to based on (really, very) random keyword searches. It can tell me who I was in a past life. It can tell me how I'm probably going to die and -- based just on my Facebook profile picture -- tell me where my ancestors came from. This Internet of Things assures that I'm instantly and permanently connected to countless facts, factoids, fake news, friend updates, new business connections, and scores for everything from the little league game (in languid immobile Summer, anyway) to World Cup Soccer.

But it can't crawl up into the very small and sort of claustrophobic space under the ceiling awning off the attic and repair a hole. It can't climb up on the roof and make any necessary repairs. It's 2017 and there are robots that can vacuum your house while you're gone... not that we can afford one or could even make use of one with three dogs and two cats to either hunt it, stalk it, or asphyxiate it with the endless trails of shed fur.

Ok, I know. I signed up for this life on the margin, right? Making Art out your life isn't easy, nor, I suppose, should it be. Though I'm still unsure of why. And I feel like I've been asking that question a really, really long time.




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11 September, 2017

Sacred Moments in Profane Times: dads, daughters, remembrance as practice / practice as activism

We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.~ Thomas Merton

We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

My daughter came home one evening after work last week and told me she watched a man get stabbed at the bus stop.

She said a man walked up to another man standing next to her at the bus stop, stabbed him, and ran away. Stabbed him like he was just looking for a place to put his knife away. The police were called. The ambulance came. She told me she thought the man died because when the ambulance left, the lights weren't on and it wasn't in a hurry.

The week started with celebrating her birthday. She turned 23 this year. Most days I'm amazed that I have a child who's old enough to drink. I'm also daily amazed by the way she's choosing to walk through the world.

We celebrated her birthday with a short hike near this waterfall where Amanda and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Actually, we celebrated her birthday over the entire long weekend -- her birthday fell on Labor Day this year -- with a vegan chocolate raspberry tart and a meal at a Morels Cafe, a local vegan restaurant known for its "Farby" Sandwich... which is a surprisingly accurate vegan version of an Arby's roast beef sandwich.

Amanda and I aren't vegan, but my daughter is. We end up eating a largely vegetarian diet, but we would do that anyway.

I always enjoy my daughter's birthdays. Because I wasn't the custodial parent when she was growing up, I take special joy in spending them with her now.  I was glad we spent it as a family. When we were at the waterfall, I mostly watched her from a bit of a distance, watched her taking everything in and soaking in her happiness and satisfaction. I enjoy watching her explore and grow into the beautiful person she is -- striving to find the path of her best possible self.

Even if it means eating a (surprisingly convincing and delicious ) vegan roast beef sandwich.

I enjoy the moments with my daughter -- or sometimes, just around her -- as she reaches out, tries to grow in spite of all in the world that would drag her backwards. When she came home from watching a man get stabbed, it was all I could do not to hug her forever. The world is a dangerous place. It's good that she knows this. I just wish she didn't have to.

Remembrance is such a heavy word. When I think of it, the word is burdened with religious connotation... which isn't surprising for a rural small town boy.  Lately, though, I've come to think of remembrance as something more akin to what Buddhists and monks and other Religious have described as practice. This means not limiting my acts of remembrance... my practice... to one day or to specific times. Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton describes the contemplative life as one in which a person works to make each moment a prayer, each moment a moment in the presence of God. In Sign of Jonas he refers to a monk's life as full of hard work, but also one of peace. A peace that is earned by daily work and by daily devotion.

I'm no monk, and thank Christ for that. I'd be a lousy one. But as I work to keep my writing central -- and what is writing but one form a contemplative life takes in the physical world -- I remind myself that I need to strive in each part of my day, in every aspect of my life, to make each action a kind of prayer. The world isn't designed for this kind of thing, of course. I'm supposed to be about the business of making money and doing my part in the great capitalist machine that's been built up around us. A machine that's choking out the very sound and light of God in the name of power and money.

When I think about how to mediate the world... in the current state of the world... I'm reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's statement in Living Buddha, Living Christ that it's not simply a matter of choosing whether to be engaged with the world or to have a contemplative life, but deciding how to engage and still have a contemplative life. I've met a lot of people who are engaged.
The tree remembers the shape of the ground.

I tend to struggle, though, when their insistence on engagement -- usually limited by adherence to concepts rather than a clearer reality -- cuts into my contemplative life.  I'm always struggling with where I ought to be -- especially in these days when the New Wave Fascists are in the news, running over protestors, claiming to defend history without realizing -- or caring -- that they are on the wrong side of it.

And while I feel like I've been clear on this point, I'll keep on it for another short paragraph:

If you aren't Antifa, you aren't paying attention. Being Antifa doesn't mean you need to join a group. You don't need to dress in black. You don't need to be a socialist. Or a communist. Or an anarchist. You just need to understand that fascism is bad and is a threat to America and to the Democratic experiment. There's historic precedence for it.

And once you understand that, make it part of your daily practice. Like prayer. Like meditation. Like breathing. Like an old sycamore tree that remembers the shape of the ground washed away by the ebb and flow of water, hold to what matters.

Do this in remembrance of your children. Do this in remembrance of the sacrifices your grandparents made. Do this in remembrance of the remembered and forgotten dead. Do this in remembrance of a world where knives are not sheathed in people at bus stops. Do this in remembrance of the living who should not have to bleed so the war machine can keep spinning. Do this in remembrance of the radical idea that all people are equal.

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11 August, 2017

Save me from philanthropy: cultural preservationists versus the martyrs

'...if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing' ~ Michel Foucault


When I was growing up, I was told all I needed to succeed was a pair of bootstraps and the sheer determination to pull my feet up over and behind my shoulders.

You know. Like a double-jointed hooker.

And although no one said it, the fact has always been understood that success in America means being able to face the system that's screwing you rather than taking it face down in a stinky foam pillow.

We put so much store on success -- and by success I mean not having the misfortune of being considered a blight or inconvenience to someone else.

Working in homeless outreach, I've heard it all. A lot of people -- so many that it sometimes causes me to despair when I ponder the future of the human race -- view the homeless as a blight, like aggressive red ants or the ever-increasing clouds of Africanized bees. People on my neighborhood association page regularly put the homeless in the same category as car thieves and drug dealers. Stigmatized as violent criminals, they're treated like a scourge that needs to be gotten rid of.

It doesn't do any good to explain to these preservers of a homogeneous and non-existing (not to mention never-existing) culture who say these things that homelessness is not moral judgement; people have been treating homelessness, poverty, as well as mental and physical disabilities, as a moral judgement for centuries.  The rampant spread of literacy and access to the most recent research in economics, mental illness, addiction, and disease doesn't seem to have any impact on these self-appointed pillars of culture and society.

Then there are the martyrs. They see the homeless and equate them with the sad-eyed animals they see in PETA commercials. It's not that they're any less repulsed. They see a problem that needs to be fixed. They see something broken that needs to be healed. The actual story, the actual reasons, the actual complex details behind someone's homelessness, don't really matter. The complex ball of issues -- economic, psychological, physiological -- don't matter. They read articles about how other cities here and abroad take the homeless and put them in the empty houses. They see this as a solution. Or they want to build more homeless shelters -- having never seen the inside of one themselves.They see themselves as the saving crusaders of the homeless. All they need is a job. All they need is a place to live. All they need is to see their doctor, or their shrink.

The world is full of well-intended and soft-hearted little fascists that would save the homeless-- whether they want to be saved or not-- just to save themselves from the awful inconvenience of having to be reminded, daily, of their existence.

Outreach only works when you embrace the belief that you can't save anyone. If, in the process of serving them, they decide to take it upon themselves to pick themselves up, you are there to lend a hand and help. They are not broken toys that need a little glue and dusty shelf to sit on.

Compassion is a PR word here in Louisville... at least among the elected leaders. The drive is economic and the homeless are treated with derision and apathy as people seek to "solve" the problem of homelessness without increasing funding or improving access to the institutions that over-burdened and underfunded while other organizations (one in particular) get the lion's share of public money to lock the homeless out of the one place most "regular" citizens say they belong -- in a shelter -- while managing to exploit them for profit in the name of "saving them."

At least there are good people here who counter-balance all this cynicism. I meet them all the time, work with them on outreach, hear about them from the folks on the street when I serve. I know they're out there and it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to do right by our brothers and sisters without the burden of ego and the paternal tendency to believe they can't speak for themselves.

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