Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pursuit of Life

Every time I leave the Marshall House in the morning, I think of several things, a scene in the Paper Chase where the two law students leave a chaotic dormitory so they can study, a dormitory at Princeton University that has similar stairwells, and the dormitory called the Quadrangle at Penn. In various ways, I am reliving my freshman year at Penn. There is one difference:I am focused. Extremely focused and I get more focused as I go. It is a very excited feeling. It started when I was triathlon training.

I received a message from Randy's secretary at 8 this morning that my teeth were ready. I had things to do so I went to Chrysalis and followed up on some administrative work I had to do and could only do on the computer. I learn so much each day on it I hate to leave each time when it is time to go.

I noticed that time was getting away from me so I ran back to my "dorm room" and took a shower, got dressed and made it to the bus stop. I just missed my bus and I had to wait a long time for it but finally it arrived and I grabbed a seat in the back where I could think.

I flashed on all of the pictures I had taken since I purchased the camera. Moments in time, emotions, incremental growth. Indeed, a mozaic of my journey on skid row was recorded. .

Many thoughts ran through my head as I went to get my teeth. How far I had come and how much I looked forward to the feeling of having finally achieved something that would open doors for me.

People told me not to worry about my teeth when it came to job interviews. Who were they trying to kid? Not the jobs I was trying to go for. No way. I know some of them really believed that it would make no difference but I knew different. One had to make a good presentation, on all levels. If not, you would not be in the game.

I waited awhile for Randy to finish and the teeth fit. He was concerned that they would need some minor adjustments beyond the scope of his instruments at the office. He is a surgeon and he only did it as a favor for me. Randy has one hell of a heart.

He dropped me off in the Crenshaw area. Stop lights prevented us from catching up with the bus and he had to drop me off at the end of my mother's block on Martin Luther King Blvd. I simply reached into my bag, took out a camera and took a picture of the street that I have known all of my life. I saw a brass lettered sign that said "Leimert Park", snapped a picture of it and made my way to the bus stop.
I thought that latter picture would be appreciated by the publisher of He stumbled across my blog and liked what he read. He wrote an article about me as I grew up in his neighborhood and encouraged me to keep writing.

I jumped back on the bus and rode it downtown. As I rode I realized that I did not have to worry about obstacles that I had to overcome just to be able to be considered for employment. I have the proper appearance and attitude now, confident for any challenging interview.

I made it to my interview at 3:00PM. We did not talk long but it was a good conversation. I like the man and we can do things together. We have to figure out how to make it work because he can only pay me on a commission only basis.

He was a bit surprised at my honesty as to how I landed on Skid Row. We talked about my teeth because he had to get his redone. Never before have I had such an interview.

Here was another first. We both laughed when I realized I was wearing mix matched socks. He would not have noticed them but I pointed them out to him. It was symbolic as to how comfortable I felt with him.

We agreed to touch base next week. He gave me a promotional hat with the name of his business on it and I was out of the door. I walked to the Transition House.

I wanted to see Ms Falice. I was her first client when she started there as an employment specialist. She has always worried about me.

First I went to see Eric, the computer teacher. He just stared at me for a few minutes."Walter, you look like a completely different man", he gasped. "You wear that suit well." I had on the second of my two suits: dark grey, wool, double breasted.

Eric just looked at me, trying to figure out something and then he yelled'"Your teeth. You have your teeth." He was so excited that Ms Falice heard him and ran into the room. She looked at me and tears filled her eyes. She eyed me from top to bottom. Finally, I smiled. "Walter, I am so happy. You were able to do it. You have your teeth fixed. You are REALLY in the game now. God, you have made me so happy. You have come so far. I know you are concerned about this week but your family will be proud of you. I know it. Just hang in there."

She was right. I am concerned about this week. I have an interview on Monday but the real day is Thursday. I wonder what will happen. Will they lift the order? Will they modify the order? If they modify the order, to what extent will it be modified?

The whole neighborhood seems to think that things will go my way. I have stayed on course with a new lifestyle for over a year but they have not known me that long. What they have seen is a man who has come to understand things, or accept things about his past and the responsibility he played in the evolution of things in general.

Sometimes I marvel at it myself. I have pondered the past year. At times, I shake my head when I remember moments of pain, of fear and the heavy feeling of feeling helpless to do anything except endure the intolerable.

The most important thing now is the future. I must plan it. I do not know what the future holds but I love learning things everyday. I see so much more than I ever saw. Someone once told me that I was looking at the world with different eyes.
That was true but now, those eyes, are attached to the body, in which, there is a healthy soul and spirit. "The Glow" is there and it is growing in ways that reveal themselves to me everyday.

All of this reminds me of a time when my mother told me of a time when I was unaware that my sister had come into the house. I was on the phone laughing loudly and my sister heard it. She had not heard me laugh like that in a long time. My mother made a point of sharing that with me. I am only now beginning to understand the lessons contained in the remarks made to my mother from my sister and the remarks made to me from my mother.

The last few weeks ended with new teeth on Friday. All of the work that I have done for several years, has culminated in a new healthy attitude. Sure, there are moments of concern. However, the best news is that I no longer worry about what I can not do. I dream about the endless things that I can do or will discover that are out there to do.

Ms Falice and Eric, the computer instructor commented on how far I have come. I have done that as well. That is no longer a focus of my attention. Now I want to see how far I can go.

It starts this week. I have the interview and a court date. I shall not worry myself to death about either of them. I will concentrate on opening new doors.
It is a funny thing when you realize that you believe good things can occur. It allows you to enjoy life and the process of pursuing it. That is what is happening here. It is happening with me. It is happening with others in this neighborhood. i am pursuing life. Whatever happens this week, I will continue to pursue with abandon.

Enjoy the superbowl.



Walter ...
The second I saw your piture I called Kevin over to the computer-- "He got his teeth" I said...WOW you look WONDERFUL! Nothing can stop you now. You always had a great smile but held back alittle on it. I can't wait to see you again in person to see that BIG smile again!
Feel the spirit!

L.A. Woman said...

Love the picture with the building reflected in ... the building!