I was compelled to take this picture of this pillow and blanket. When I moved into the Marshall House, this pillow and blanket were there. They were left by the previous resident. I did not have a pillow or a blanket so I had to use them. I was grateful at the time.
At one point I had the money to purchase a new pillow but I did not. I held on to them for several reasons I believe. I was probably playing not to win but to not lose and in doing so was subconsciously preparing myself to lose. "Walter, you can not get rid of this pillow because if you do and if you get fired, you will not be able to get another one." That is not a healthy way to live, planning for success and developing behaviors that are embedded into the psyche that are ingredients to a loosing attitude. It is another way of staying in prison.
I have been thinking about that pillow and blanket for a couple of weeks. Finally, today I came home from grocery shopping, looked at them and decided today I was going to let go of more of the past.
Immediately, I walked to Los Angeles Street and found a place that sold pillows. Two pillows for five dollars was the price. One dollar each for the covers.
I grabbed my two white firm pillows and covers and headed east to my room. I had to get rid of the old pillow and blanket. I had to get rid of the past.
Every time I looked at it it reminded me of when I moved in this building and my mental and emotional state. In one way I had to laugh because every morning I lay on that pillow and talked to Jose Egurbide. At one point every morning, I started ranting and raving while I was on that pillow. I am sure Jose would prefer that I not remember the past and concentrate more on enjoying the present and planning for the future. How he tolerated my ranting, I will never know
It felt good to toss this pillow and blanket out. I know longer have to keep imagery of the past in my subconscious each time I see it. I also get more comfortable in letting go of the past and reaching toward the future. Also, the purchase of the new pillows are symbolic of success building on success. These are mine. No one gave them to me. I bought them after a successful completion of many processes. Each time I come into the door in the future I will no longer have a brief flash back of the depressing outlook I had of the future when I moved in here.
Now, I am creating my own future. I am sleeping on success.
Let me explain something to people about pillows and pillow cases in Skid Row.
Many people take them very much for granted in most sectors of society. However, on Skid Row, pillows are very symbolic. Unfortunately they are symbolic of things that I feel destroy the spirit of many men.
First of all, in jail every week, you must strip down your bed and turn in the sheets, your white clothing(socks, underwear and teeshirts) and pillow cases.
They are tossed on a pile in the middle of the floor. Then every one must line up and parade, when ordered, in a circle, in their underwear, to receive their week's issue of laundry. Each week you can see how it eats away at the spirit of the men.
however, that is jail. It is worse in Skid Row. You must do the same thing with respect to exchanging linen every week. On the evening after you turn in the linen, you line up to receive your issue for the week.
I refused to do it. I was able to get away with it. After a while no one monitored me and I knew the person in charge of the linen so I was able to store a supply of linen in my locker. I did not have to stand there and wait for some one to pass linen out to me. I was not going to let that feeling penetrate my system. No way.
Each week I would see grown men, stand there in line, waiting for their linen or their food. Each week it seemed as though they slouched more and more. It ate at them. That process ripped away at their self esteem and how they perceived themselves as men. I was not going to let that happen to me. I never had to wait in line for food because I volunteered to work at the guard shack every day. All day. Therefore, I ate before everyone.
Some men accept that they will live like that, being told what they can eat, when they can eat, and how they can eat. Others do not care. They do not want to do anything for themselves. They have no self integrity and they are happy to be able to behave and act like a little kid. For those men, the system acts as enabler. They are not required to change their ways because they can always return to the same place and register again and be welcomed in. They incur no cost in their decision to use drugs. No cost that they can see that is. It is sad. "Walter, I do what I want to do", they tell me as they go into a dormitory of 200 men as if that is a badge of courage.
All over Skid Row men stand outside places and wait for food and linen. It is very much like being in prison or jail and in many ways they are. Some are being conditioned to accept this as normal. It is pathetic.
I can not fault the organizations for doing this procedure. It is just that it rips away at one's self dignity to stand outside of a building and wait until they are told they can come in and eat.
When I walked into one of the missions one day. I noticed a picture on the wall. It was taken around the mid 50's. It showed men standing in line outside of the building waiting for their food. That was over 40 years ago.
It is too bad that things have not changed. It is too bad that things have not improved. Is it enough to shelter men and give them food? Is that doing good?
I submit that that alone is killing them in more ways than drugs. If you feed a man fish you must feed him every day. If you teach him how to fish, he can feed himself for life. Which one is better? I believe the standard of Skid Row must change.
They must not be satified in feeding men. They must become satisfied in teaching men the importance of feeding themselves. They must show men that it is important for them to develop themselves so that they do not have to stand in lines for food and linen. They receive the linen but lose their dignity.
Perhaps you can see why I went out and purchased my own pillows and pillow cases.