Friday, May 30, 2008

"Quiet Integrated growth.


As you can see, things in the room are a bit more orderly than they were a couple of weeks ago.
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The Strive Program had another graduation today.
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Jose Egurbide, deputy city attorney, is searching to discover programs to help people get out of Skid Row. There are few public servants as dedicated as he.
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Progress. It is a funny thing to experience it. The photos that you see show progress. On the surface they just show a room that has a few things put away. In reality, it is more than that. Beneath the surface, like computer programs working in the background, a structural change has been developing over a long period of time. It is a mind that has been building discipline in its procedures and keeps o behavior on track with constant, vigilant monitoring.

No longer is a clean room just a seasonal, temporary change, where, before long, chaos would return because it WAS the normal way of life. breakthoughs have been made over a long period of time and now, what was temporary and seasonal, is now structural. It did not happen over night but suddenly it was there, strong and everlasting.

The change was slow. The growth that has taken place to a long time to marinate
but when it was done. The cake was ready. You know it when it happens. You feel a warm richness inside of your heart telling you that everything is just right.

Growth is something that does not take when you are distracted by substance abuse. Indeed, everything one does is contrary to growth and progress. Sure, we learn things things in college but that is not growth if we do not integrate that knew knowledge into our lifestyle. Sure, one can advance in his career, make nice pay checks. I know how that feels. But there is nothing inside that is growing. There is not growth in discipline. Instead, it deteriorates and corrodes. There is no money in the bank account, though money is coming. in. it drains out of the wallet to a lavish lifestyle of parties and decadence.

The problem is that you do not see it, the overall decline because the trappings of success draw your attention. Fool's gold. It comes in many sizes and shapes but it is there. Always there.The signs of self destruction.

The problem is that the disease of denial is there. Sometimes we are misguided by misplaced values of success. In other cases, we just do not know. We just do not know any better. And then at other times, we know, but it is a race to see what is going to win: Will we get a grip on reality and put the brakes on our path to destruction or will our bad habits, years of running away from the truth, catch us and create and design one's personal scenario of catastrophy.

It does not matter if it is drugs. We all have different types of drugs. To some it is sex. To others it is money. Power can be the drug of choice still for others. We neglect the solid virtues and principles that give us peace and joy.

I mention all of these things because I have experienced growth and it displays itself in many ways. My room is now, not just in order but it is an operation center for communication and a library center for research. It is a small gym for fitness. It is a tool that I am using to get some where. For years I tried to achieve this goal of a condensed operation center at my mother's house but it never could quite get thete. I still violated the canons of discipline and virtue.
I was not focused on development. I thought I was but I was so far from it I did not realize that development was something you did not learn. It was something that was felt and applied.

Finally, on Skid Row I have turned my little room into a place of study, research, communications and health management. I feel myself growing and preparing to go places. In the past, I was so busy trying to get there and paid no attention to the hard work necessary to get to my destination.

Every thing was bravado, the close relative to fake, shallow and arrogant.

If I had not done the hard work, the work necessary to prepare to focus, I would not be close to appreciating what focus is. I would be trying and not doing.

I would not have a communications system in place. I would not have an interactive editing system in place in my "virtual office" with friends with whom I am engaging in various projects. No, I would be running around crazy. I would not be able to utilize this laptop computer that was given to me so I can continue to grow.

Greater economics of scale have been founded from the integration of the systems that have been developed and the discipline embedded in order to maintain and operate them. Indeed, it is fascinating. If I had not grown as a man, no computer could help me when accomplish what I want to accomplish. I would be distracted. Instead of focusing on ways to improve on my systems and develop opportunities or increase my knowledge base, I would, instead be looking at nude women on dubious websites.

This is an exciting phase because it is the first time in my adult life where I am not only working on my development but devoted to it 100 percent. I am less concerned with getting to the destination than I am with enjoying and relishing the process of discovering what the destination is and keeping an open mind to opportunites that I never would have considered in the past. Hell, I did not even give myself a chance to investigate new things and, in turn, grow because I closed myself off.

I did not give myself the chance to learn new things, appreciate certain beauty in art or learn the miracles of science because I was too consumed with negative behavior that, at times, does not reveal its cost until it is too late.

If you recall, I said, after 8 months of living in Skid Row, I knew nothing about it. Different facets of Skid Row reveal themselves as time goes on and that is a function to the range to which one exposes himself to the different components that comprise Skid Row.

There is one component of which I feel competent enough to discuss with a certain degree of insight. I am talking about the drug client.

It is important to understand that I did not do drugs down here on Skid Row. I did not come here for drug treatment. I was court ordered down here for other reasons. Of course, if I had never done drugs, I probably would have never been ordered down here. Of course, if I had done drugs, my life would have been different in a great many ways.

That said, the fact is I was in a shelter that doubled as a drug program. Many people come there and detox. They may leave or they may go to a program. They may finish the program. In Skid Row vernacular, it is called graduation.

"Walter, I am a graduate of this program." "Walter, I am a graduate of that program". It has fascinated me that someone has graduated from 5 or 6 programs.
And yet, they return to the same program or enter another one. Why?

These men and women return and read some more books. They read more feverishly than the previous occasion. They learn a great deal. They can quote you many things from the text of these recovery books. But they return to the same place, hampsters running on a treadmill. I ask myself why.

I believe it is because no one helps them to grow. In many of the meetings that I have seen, the lecturers speak of tools that the people learn in the course of their stay at the facilities. They give them many facts but those facts are not converted into application. If they were converted into application, that would demonstrate growth.

There is not discussion about growth. I believe that people do not know how to recognize growth or know that growth should be pursued in addition to knowledge and there are certain behaviors that are recipes to growth. Those are the areas that are not mentioned in the meetings. Interesting enough, in private conversations with people who have returned many times to these programs, they have always told me to keep doing what I was doing.

It just came to me that these speakers mostly tell you what not to do. I surmise that no one told these returnees to do continue to do the things that granted them success. They figured that out after the stopped doing what they were doing and got distracted and discontinued the behavior patterns that were going to lead to growth. However, attaining the incremental plateaus of growth can be painful and the climb can bring about insecure moments. I know. I seeked external confirmation because I did not have, at one point, enough success to provide the internal confidence that brings about security and peace.

There is a great deal of knowledge in Skid Row. There is a great deal of wisdom in Skid Row. Most obtained that wisdomed after they resolved that they were not going to grow in ways in which they would have preferred. Acceptance is growth in and of itself.

For the first time in my adult life, I am actively, consciously pursuing growth. Furthermore, I am pursuing growth, not only as a totality, but in certain areas and I have the time and means to do so. I am grateful.

I can focus and learning how to focus has been a growth process. The more you focus inward, the less you are distracted and the process of self discoveryh unfolds like a rosebud in the spring sun.

One can learn without growth and one can not grow without learning. Interesting.

There are those that teach and devise programs in Skid Row that have grown in understanding that more is needed in areas that have been neglected. These areas are essential to keep people from being in the revolving doors of frustration, returning to drugs and despair.

Those teachers and program administrators have talked to me about what I think. In fact, in many ways I believe they were able to try out their own theories on me to give them information that hey could not get within the parameters of their jobs.

Many times those policy guidelines forbid certain relationships. Those relationships treat people as human beings and develop confidence and trust between parties. Those are the ingredients that provide mutual understanding and growth.
Let us not forget that Skid Row is a place of human beings. It is not just a spot on the map to be discussed and tossed about in each other's laps as situations arise, politically. Let's hope that the policy makers grow to understand that they need to listen to their subordinates for it is they who are in the field and see what works and what does not. It is they who are so frustrated with seeing failure that extend themselves to another human being and they want to be viewed as A CARING HUMAN BEING as well.

I have been the fortunate recipient of this unique outpouring of human compassion.
It has worked for me and they gave me the tools to give me the strength to perservere long enough so I can experience growth in its splendid manifestations.

I believe from our relationships, new ideas and programs will be formed. They will push the envelope to change things as they want to see people experience success and they want to know that their work and commitment means something.

In the meantime. I am elevating myself internally. I am transcending Skid Row spiritually and mentally. That is vital for if I do not do that I will not be able to sustain success when I leave this place physically. I have felt the experience of growth and through that the motivation to continue to grab on to more success because I believe it is there to be had.

I am lucky. I have had the opportunity to have people who care about me and who believed in me.

Through nurturing and patience, these people gave me the strength to keep pushing, to keep fighting. Writing this blog, something that I fought to continue to do, has led to other projects. Those projects are with people near and far. Growth in discipline has enabled me to utilize the knowledge of things learned years ago in business school and in the work world. I never woould have been able to utilize these skills had I not grown in many ways.

Einstein once said that with difficulty comes opportunity. I have survived much difficulty and coming out of it I see opportunity. I do not see where precisely. I just know it is there. I just know that I am studying and preparing and communicating and researching and developing myself to take advantage of these things.

That is why I call this the University of Skid Row. It can develop one. It can have that quality of beauty in the experience. One can find enjoyment in the quiet process of growth and the integration of the components of growth. I must go.

I must learn how to use the Windows Workspace software as a person is waiting for my comments on a document. Afterwards, I must research out some writing lessons.
After that I must look at areas of website development and networking purposes.
Finally I must read and look up the definitions of at least five words. Yes, I am going to absorb every thing I can. There is much growth to be done. There is more to understand about this Skid Row experience. There is more to discover about myself. A work in progress. The beauty of my Skid Row experience.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Skid Row Campus




More pictures from a different perspective of the area

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Awful Grace of God

It is past mid night. A candle is burning and a flicker of light dances along the wall. It is quiet. It is a time to hear my heartbeat. It is a time to feel what is inside of me.

Memorial Day compelled me to revisit the past. I was home on Sunday. I am getting used to having my mom ask me questions like "Am I older than you".
This is my mother asking me that. It is a stark reminder what the disease of dimentia/Alzheimer's does to a person. She asked me about my wife but I do not have one. I wonder if I should correct her or let it go. To correct her would make her feel self conscious. It is a balancing act to figure out what is the right thing to say. Or should I say nothing. I find that I just enjoy the being around my mother.

I helped my sister do some work but at the end I did something that drew criticism.
I was upset at her comments for a good while until I let it go. That is the one thing you learn while building a new, healthy life. It is important to let things go.

Last year I was in a guard shack and sleeping in a dormitory of 100 men. At least I thought I was sleeping. I did not realize I was not sleeping until I came here.
I was scared to leave the place where I lived as I told you. I thought the world was so cruel.

I wanted a chance to study and learn to fulfill an insatiable need for intellectual stimulation and nourishment. It was not something I was fortunate enough to receive where I lived last year. However, I must admit. I was challenged intellectually to understand what people were telling me about being patient, about believing in a higher power, about the future getting better.

Recently, I was given a tool by some people to help me learn, to help me develop myself. Each morning I wake up and marvel at the fact that I have this machine and I wasted no time in researching things. Anything. I just wanted to grow.

Two days ago I met someone, on the net, in a recovery room. She mentioned that she blogged and a conversation began. As it turned out, she teaches literature and english and was so gracious as to begin to mentor me on the art of writing.

All of a sudden, I am receiving direction on a discipline of which I have had an interest for some time. After writing for some years on paper, I began this blog. The blog has led to the desire to grow more in the art of expression and I have invested money in books that will help me learn and hopefully improve my craft.

My new mentor asked me to write a essay, using imagery, to describe the beauty of Skid Row. I thought about it for quite some time. Sure there is beauty in Skid Row. I have mentioned that. However, when one must paint a picture then it becomes more challenging. It is like writing a business plan versus telling someone about your plans for a business. Suddenly, trying to put something on paper is not as clear as you thought it was.

Does she want to hear about people, places, experiences? She said take my pick.
I still do not know where to start and I will not endeavor to do it now.
But it has me thinking about and remembering the past and envisioning the future.

Skid Row is a funny place. It builds character. Perhaps that is the beauty of it.
I know it is creating something in me. It is teaching me how to let go. It is purging sickness out of me and every day more leaves me. I surround myself with things that induce me to think about the future instead of dwelling or obsessing on the past.

I have been given a chance by people to develop. When they gave me this machine they gave me access to knowledge and along with everyone else I have met someone who can assist me in the pursuit of knowledge.

It is not unsual to receive help in Skid Row. It is unsual to be in an environment where you can contrast so vividly the different qualities of life. That is the beauty in many ways of this environment. It presents to you a glaring contasts in quality of life, direction of life, and choices we make.

It may not be beautiful in the traditonal sense of the word but it is reality. Stark reality and in that sense, reality is beautiful because it is honest. Honesty is what you see against the backdrop of the invisible lies that hover around the community. Don't ask me what they are, the examples of dishonesty. Just know that they are there. I do not know but I feel it like I feel the wind blow against my face or the heat of the sun on a hot day.

I see people like Connie grow and become healthy while I see Sue destroy herself.
Connie did not know if she would ever learn how to work with the computer and she left creating masterful presentations on Powerpoint. That kind of accomplishment provides me with the strength to endure and grow in this writing craft. Yet, she calls me the roll model.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is an experience. It is a very personal thing. I came here a man who was filled with anger and fear. Sometimes it scared me. I wrote about fear. I wrote abou anger. I wrote about despair. That is all I could see. It was all I could feel. That is how I felt about my station in life and my future. When I walked around the area, it did not help to see people lying in the street, defecating in the street, and urinating in the street. I cried myself to sleep at night.

Today I saw someone. If you did not know it you would think that this man has been on the streets for years. He had no shoes on. He was filthy. He was dazed. he had cuts and bruises. He smelled of urine when you walked past him.

Last week that man was in a computer lab on Main St. He looked at me with confession in his eyes. "YES, I made the wrong decision". That was printed all over him.

Robert Kennedy once said that he learned alot from his brother John's death. He said it was the awful grace of God. He got that quote from a quote from Camus.

"the awful grace of God." Profound.

Seeing that man, barefoot and a skeleton of what he was just one week ago, was an honest depiction of the frailty of life. In all of its ugliness, the truth had a certain amount of beauty to it.

At this point in my tenure here on Skid Row I marvel at these types of revelations. I marvel at the fact that I rose from the ashes and am recreating myself.

I am astounded that people take an interest in me.

Everyday I let go some more. Many times I wonder if that real estate license was a security blanket that would hold me back from diving head long into the world of creative expression, whatever the form.

I am building and I am learning and I strive to be more honest with myself and I think that is what growth is about.

People say that I will not be around here long. They never used to say that. Maybe they see something in me that is happening that they have seen before in others. I just know that I am breathing new air. It is a beautiful thing.

Skid Row teaches you to focus. It teaches you that you have to move forward even if others fall. Understand why they fall but keep going.

There is beauty in these lessons and anyone here will recite the same lessons learned. It is inescapable.

I know I am going someplace. Skid Row has prepared me in the cruelest of ways to be ready. It is teaching me to be focused. It is teaching me to pay attention. It taught me this through the endurance of pain. To overcome the feeling of despair to live to see the light of the present as well as the future.

There is beauty in that. And yes I am talking about the beauty of the experience in the cruel way it comes to you, but there is beauty in that.

I have not explained the beauty of Skid Row in the imagery that she wants. I am preparing to do that.

To create such imagery demands honesty. Honesty that I may not be read to accept in many ways. To accept something is to understand the dynamics of the phenomenon and there is so much phenomenon in Skid Row.

I am in my study lab. Where I go I do not know. But I am here as Robert Kennedy said " by the awful grace of God"

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial DAy. and yes it is a memory



Waht you see is my very first desk and my first and only chester draws. Both of those items have been with me all of my life.

My sister and I moved the chester drawers into my mother's bedroom and I saw the burn marks. Those drawers have decals on them. On one side, you can see two of them. They are a kick boxing decals when I earned my Silver gloves for Savate which is french kick boxing. The other is a K Swiss decal that was sent to me when I received clothing from them as I was a ranked player and a well known tennis intructor and coach. The other side has a Warehouse sticker. Yes the warehouse record store. How many people remember when they first opened up and had their records piled up on the floor on La Cienega Ave. IT was during the late sixties and early 70's. My decal has a saying on it "Ecology or else".

When I got that decal I had just started smoking grass. The Vietnam War was at its peak. IT was 1970 and in that year more US Serviceman and women were killed than all of the other years combined. An horrendous amount of body bags.

Decades later and I started leaving burned pipes on the furniture. I will get the furniture redone. However when I saw it, I just looked at it, remembering the insanity of my life. I moved away further from all of that, letting go of things.
I gave some more stuff away and through things out. No need to hold on to them. No need of keeping the confused negative energy that they contained around me and burdening me, invisibly, but burdening me none the less.
As someone told me today, I am a work in progress. It is funny because it is so true. Every little thing makes a difference. Today I washed my clothes and folded them immediately. Sounds basic. IT is basic. However, I used to wash them, dry them and throw them on the bed because I had to get to a library to blog. Or I had to get to a computer to see about a job.

Perhaps I could have stayed in the room and organized things first. But I was not ready. I was not ready to start and complete something. It does not matter if you start and complete things that you enjoy. IT matters when you complete thoroughly the process that you do not enjoy. And yes, I say that because I could have been using the "need " to get to a computer as an excuse to stay stuck in the past. Staying stuck in a prison of behavior I do not know or postpone movement forward because I do not know what it is and I do not have to stretch for "peace" because I do not know where it is and do not want to search for it. That is when one is not ready. You are not remembering the past and learning from it. The past remains as your present and hinders ones progress toward the future.

So yes, I let go a little bit more. STep by step. And now I must get to work on time. ON time is the operable phrase. IT will be the thorough completion of a mornings work and it will get me further away from the past and closer towards where I am going.

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tenacity

This morning, I see my mother again. I saw her on mother's day.

A great deal has happened since then. Pushing forward. Moving forward. Seeing her, feeling her provided me with the nourishment to push an endure. I


Tenacity is what it is called. It necessary to conquer so many things. It is necessary to move obstacles out of the way outside of oneself. It is necessary to move obstacles out of the way inside of oneself. Sometimes it is necessary to exercise the discipline of tenacity when patience is needed.

So much has happened since I last saw my mother. I continued to push forward, like Rocky Delgadillo told me to do when I first met him. I was overwhelmed with the changes but now I am managing the changes in my life better in order to move forward.

It is interesting that I saw my mother on mother's day. I have noticed that I have been surrounded by mothers and other women as of late. They have been there for me. They were tenacious in their support and patience. They have been and are tenacious in their belief in me.

I am lucky to have them in my life. Their friendships have shown me what true loyalty is. So I go to see my mother and I once again get a chance to get that feeling of belonging that is so important and that I missed for so long.

Everything is pointing to an end of this episode in my life. It has been horrendous, grueling, and challenging in every thing I have ever known. but as a woman who has known me for a long time told me, everything that I have gone through is relected in tremendous growth. I hope that is the case.

I feel it. I am in the process of harnessing this feeling, along with the energy that I receive so unselfishly from my friends, and manage the navigation out of this storm of an episode in my life. The more I receive the support, the more I marvel at the amazing strength and power that women possess. The have a tenacity that is so direct and efficient and I am learning from them every day. I always knew how smart they were but now I understand how amazing they are. They have been navigating me out of this and towards something during this whole time.

I see the calm waters in the distance. I know they are there now.
I will continue with unwavering tenacity to reach them.

It is time to go see my mother. She needs me and I need her.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Anger

It is about 8:30 in the morning on Friday, May 23.

It is quiet as I sit in the room and begin this post to you. It has been a long time since I blogged in the morning. When I first started blogging, I was relentless in getting to Chrysalis each morning at 8am. I wanted to make sure I was able to secure a computer. There was one on the second floor where I live but it was erratic and would cut off unexpectedly. I mentioned many times how I had to repeat a posting several times. I was determined that nothing was going to stop me.

At Chrysalis, in the morning, coffee is made available for the clients and people who are in the office. Many of the people are homeless and drink the coffee to keep warm and seek a respite from the streets. Everyone stands in a line to sign their name to avail themselves of the services. Invariably someone does not want to follow the rules and when is called back to stand in the line instead of letting him proceed to the coffee, he starts yelling and cursing the staff.

I experienced a lot of anger as a woman was so frustrated that something happened to her possessions where I work. People in this neighborhood are extremely frustrated and angry. They strike out at anything or anybody. Anger fills the air.

Last night two men walked into the place where I work with ugly black eyes. One of them had his arm in a sling. I saw two or three other men with new casts on their arms, a trophy from fighting. Casts on arms are common as men brake their hands all of the time from fighting or just hitting walls out of frustration.

I enjoy sitting here and blogging because it lets me get away from the anger. I am learning how being around this much anger is stressful.

Two nights ago, a man tells a seven month pregnant woman that he will slit her throat if she does not follow his orders. Five minutes later he speaks to her softly, asking her if she wants something to eat. I look at it in total bewilderment.

My new computer affords me the opportunity to stay away from all of that as much as possible and go inward to hear my heartbeat. It fascinates to hear what it is telling me.

Many times I have said how much Skid Row is a mirror of our society. People here want to feel a part of something. People here have health issues. Our nation has health issues. People in Skid Row are angry. People in the country are angry.
The sources of the anger may differ but it is burried within us and more is piled on every day.

Even Walter Moseley, an accomplished novelist, discussed his anger in his instruction book about writing a novel. He said that each day he becomes angry and if rules where not in place, he would express his anger or act upon it. Fortunately, he said, the laws are a deterrent because he does not want his anger to cost him his freedom.

I worry about our anger. Anger is another description for frustration or fear.
It gets stored up inside of us and many times is not released in a healthy way or it is triggered by something that would not seem to be associated with it or have the power to ignite behavior to express it.

Every day I see it and wonder about it and its crippling effects on us. I believe it has the power to destroy us, like nuclear bomb or terrorist attack.

It is not only dangerous in Skid Row, it is dangerous in otherwise peaceful environments where it springs up unexpectedly--places like Columbine where our teenagers are acting out to being bullied or from other societal malady or Virginia Tech where a person has even more "freedom" to express his anger destructively because he has more latitude, including lenient gun control laws.

It frightens me that there is so much hidden anger amongst us. The visible anger is bad enough. It is ugly. Very ugly. However the more someone yells and screams, I surmise that the person is less likely to pull a trigger or stab someone with a knife.

I talked about Sammny yesterday. He is on one path. Not too long ago, I mentioned how Connie, a student at the STRIVE program overcame so much and has learned how to master some of the applications on the computer. She is very calm. She has found a a great deal of peace. She used to live in the streets, homeless for many years while in her crack addiction. She said she saw so much anger every day and that she swore she would get away from it. She found a way to insulate herself from it physically, and when she could not do that, she discovered how to not let it effect her new happy spirit.

Connie is graduating from the University of Skid Row today. She finished the STRIVE program yesterday and she is leaving and going to another state to live. I am happy for her. For a brief moment I felt she was leaving me behing in this anger but she has taught me not to look at it that way. Also I have had a great deal of experience with people moving on.

But this is different. Connie symbolizes a period in my life on Skid Row. I met her when she started her computer class and she was wondering if she would ever be able to learn any of it. I saw her burning desire to learn. I encouraged her to stay with it.

Connie told me I was a role model for people in the program and those words gave me the strength to keep searching for a job, to keep doing what I had to do to get through the court system. She told me to not be angry about things, just learn from them.

I believe I am. So I am happy for her. I am spending time in my room away from the anger. I am learning how to be gentle with myself as I dig deeper into myself and focusing on the requirements of self development.

It is funny that now I have a pen pal and my pen pal is a respite from this anger. Every morning I used to go to Chrsysalis and the public library to blog. Everyday for 9 months. Every day, my pen pal from Kazahkstan near mongolia, goes to a train station where she can use the old, slow computer so she can write me. She is so open and not scarred by the frustration and anger of people who have little to look forward to in the small towns in her region.

She has this pure, soft gentle spirit that wants to discover the world. I worry about her because she is exploring the world through the internet and in that part of the world there is so much anger and cruelty and the slave trade is a big industry. I do not want her to get tricked by someone on the internet.

But every morning I wake up and see her email to me. it is the first thing I see when I wake up. It is my respite from the anger that I hear outside on the streets of Skid Row. I picture her rushing to get on the computer with fierce determination. She explained her procedures but she did not need to because I am intimately familiar with it. I admire her determination to accomplish her goals.

Listening to her and her gentleness contrasts so much with the anger that I witness every day. I see it on the streets of Skid Row. I see it on the television news.
I see it in our elections. A good percentage of the time we are angry and elect people out of office more than we love the person that is going in to office.

We must find a way to conquer the anger. It is inside all of us. If we do not come up with answers, there will be more shootings and stabbings on the street, more drive by shootings is neighborhoods, more domestic violence, more wars, more Columbines and Virgina Techs.

So, at this time, I am enjoying my time away from all of the chaos that I see and I am able to study these questions on the internet. Anger, what is it?
What is associated with it? Where is it going to lead us as a society? How do we get rid of it?

Anger is a big ingredient in Skid Row. It needs to be illiminated. If the problem can be illiminated here and can be eradicated in our society.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sammy

For days, I have been thinking about different people and what I have learned from and experienced with them while I have lived on Skid Row.

I walked out of the building after taking notes from my conversation with Aaron. Aaron is my boss and he said I could share his story. I walked across the street to get some coffee in the mom and pop community story when I saw Sammy. I really did not want to talk to him but he spotted me from the distance.

"Maybe I could get a favor returned to me now" was his opening gambit, a Skid Row sales strategy that has been in practice forever. You present an image to the person that what you did was incredibly valuable to extract a favor from the person. Invariably that strategy is used when the person is up to no good-when the person is on a mission- when the person is on a search and consume mission--for drugs.

I met Sammy at the Transition House. He moved in there a couple of months after I did. He worked in the kitchen and he had a job at Farmer Johns. He would stop by the Guard Shack every day on his way home. I was in there every day when he came by, writing on long hand my observations on Skid Row.

Sammy was a man on a mission. He was saving money and was going into the music business. He started out at the Union Rescue Mission and for some reason tranferred to the Transition House. He wore jeans and a T shirt that appeared to be bursting at the seams as Sammy was a body builder. Whenever you talked to Sammy, no matter where you were in the Transition House complex, he would suddenly drop to the floor and do twenty pushups. All day long, you would see him going up and down, up and down.

He was in great shape and he had the skin tone and bone structure of a man who was from East Africa--perhaps Kenya, Ethiopia or Somalia. He spoke about health and always carried with him a large plastic bag of fruit.

A few weeks ago I saw him and he looked like a ghost. He was walking up and down 5th street looking for somebody. Anybody who has seen that behavior knows what it means. It is not that he was looking for somebody. It is not that he was looking for drugs that made him stand out. It was that he had to see someone that owed him some drugs, a fellow user, or someone that pledged to advance him something that was disconcerting. It was clear that he slid down the hill of life quickly.

Today, his face was gaunt. His hands were black, fifty shades darker than his carmel complexion and he is a shell of his former body building self. He no longer carries large bags of fruit. He hand grip tightly the little plastic bags of crack, holding the bags so tight that it seems like his life depended on what was in his hands because he was not going to let go of it for anything in the world.

"When are you going to stop doing this Sammy? Aren't you tired of this?" were the first two sentences out of my mouth.

"Next week. On Monday."

"That is what you told me last time".

"But this time I have no choice. If I do not go to a program I will go to prison."
" Sammy, a program does not mean you will stop. You know that. A program can not make you stop doing drugs. You have to want to stop. "

" I know. I know. You are right. "

He was taking a folding chair out of its case, one of those that you purchase at a sporting goods store and take to the park or tailgating parties at football games.
He automatically assumed that I knew what was going on. I did not even notice what
he was doing until he told me I was right.

"What is the favor that you need? You want me to buy this thing?", I inquired, knowing the answer before he asked, but I asked anyway saving him the embarrassment of having to start his "cold call". His could not look at me in the eye and he kept polishing the metal leg stands so he could avoid looking me in the eyes.
I wondered If I should buy the chair. It was the exact replica of one I purchased before I came to Skid Row. I remember my mother sitting in it watching television with me in my bedroom one night.

It was new. It was five dollars and I had only five dollars in my wallet. I did not want to give the money to him as I knew he was going to purchase some drugs with it.

On the other hand, I am guilty of making that assumption. I am guilty of drawing that conclusion before I communicate and receive that information. I am wrong for doing that. What a dilemna. No matter how I look at it, I know I am enabling him to purchase the drugs.

Someone walked up to us on the sidewalk while I was deciding what to do.

Sammy was talking to him. He was sincere in what he was saying. " I am so proud of this guy. I am not a hater. When he and I were in the shelter together, I was in the position he is in now. I was in the position to help him and now he is in the postion to help me. I am glad for him. I do not hate him for it."

"Hating" and "hater" are terms created in the inner city that describes people who are jealous of others that are making progress in their lives and who appear to be doing more or having more than the person who is doing the hating. The person doing the "hating" usually makes negative comments about the person who is progressing.
The "hater" will backstab the "progressor".

It could be construed that he was trying to butter me up but I know he was not.
In the end, I went inside the store and took out the five one dollar bills that I had in my wallet and handed them to him.

I remembered the man who brought fruit to me while I sat in that guard shack every day. It was this time last year when I was struggling with being alone and detached from my family and everything that I knew. His daily gifts to me, along with his conversation kept me going.

He was one of the many men whom I met that took the time and extended to me the generosity of their hearts. They gave me the will to continue to fight my loneliness and broken heart for another day. One day at a time. One minute at a time. One second at a time.

I remember when Sammy moved out of the Transition House. I felt another person was leaving and moving onward in the world and that I was being left behind. I experienced that sickening, lonely feeling each time someone left. Yes, how can I forget those feelings. How could I deny Sammy? I could not. I would not. He knew it when he saw me.

His opening sales approach, " maybe I can get a favor returned", was forgotten.
Sammy did do something that was invaluable and even vital for me. You know, as I sit here, in the room, in the dark, at 4 in the morning, I remember a war movie where a man kept an orange wrapped up for two weeks. He was in a prisoner of war camp. Nobody had any fruit. Other POWs offered him cigarettes.
The key cigarette trader offered him a blank check of cigarettes so he could have the orange. However, the soldier would not yield. He kept the orange and, finally, one day, he set the orange on a table and everyone circled around him. They watched wided eyed as he unwrapped the priceless piece of fruit from the newspaper that encased it and removed the paper from the table. He pealed it slowly and divided the orange into sections. Everyone's mouth was drooling, and they all believed that that was the closest they would get to that fruit.


The soldier picked up the first slice and handed it to the closest man next to him. He continued that process until each man had a slice. A couple of the men assumed the soldier was going to eat the orange by himself. It was his to do what he wanted.

What the soldier did was an act from the heart. He gave from his heart. He did not have much but he gave each man more than a slice of an orange. He gave them the gift of hope.

Sammy, like many others, gave me that gift of hope, the first time he gave me that orange on a hot day in May of last year. The Transition House was MY version of a POW camp. Sammy was just like that soldier in the movie. He gave me the orange and something a great deal more. He gave me hope. He gave me the will to search inside of myself and understand the beauty of what was taking place.

Sammy walked in the store and as I stood in line to get my coffee, Sammy went to an aisle and grabbed a couple of items to eat. He pulled out 2 dollars and paid for them. Most people on a search and consume mission would not spend two dollars to buy food if they were selling goods. The five extra dollars that they would receive would go towards what was needed to get the drugs.

I had no right to draw conclusions without asking. I remember posting a blog about that very same concept. A friend of mine assumed that what he heard was true regarding certain things without talking to me at all. I have not spoken to him since I came down here and most likely never will.


I will debate later if I enabled Sammy to use drugs. I just know that he needed me. That is what I KNOW. I know I could not deny him. He played a part in my being here right now. Please be careful out there Sammy. Please go to that program. Please complete it so you do not have to go to prison. Please stop using cocaine.

Good night Sammy. I love you.

Shedding and DEVELOPING

I can not go to sleep. I have not slept in going on 36 hours. I dont know why. I just can not seem to close my eyes. I believe the excitement of being able to be so much more productive has gotten me so wound up.

I find that I am planning and learning ways to become more efficient and organized so that I can spend time not only searching for opportunities but studying the many things to learn out there.

Last night I read quite a lot about the International Space Station project and watched real live footage of the D Day landing. there is so much good information about things.

I guess it really comes down to devlopment. And slowly, I am letting go of the worry that something is going to happen to me to lose my job. There is a person who gives everyone a hard way to go with whom I work. He does not work for the company but he calls himself being the eyes and ears for the boss. He is actually causing a lot of problems. Every day we walk in and this guy makes up more and more stories about what is going on at work. It got so ludicrous that now we do not have to worry about our boss believing him. If he has not already, he will lose his credibility shortly.

Do you remember how I talked about abormalities. Well, it was abnormal for me to work at a job without worries, though I strived for it in the past. I am conditioned to worry. I am shedding that behavior pattern. One of the main reasons is that I am not doing any cocaine. Doing something like that tends to leave something on someone's mind. It is like always looking over one's shoulder.
You become used to it. It is a terrible feeling but you think it is normal. The more you get away from it, the more something else comes along that allows you to continue the behavior. Usually it is a compound behavior.

For instance. A man has promised to help me with the taxes. I took his direction immediately and filed for my taxes. At that time, a cluster of breakthroughs were occuring for me. I did as I was directed and put something behind me. Created a new behavior, filing taxes on time.

However, I still had years of back taxes to worry about. he told me to sign some papers. I saw all of the acronyms on the sheet and procrastinated. More things were piled on my plate and I kept shoving this little task aside. THAT, in and of itself, has always been an old habit. THAT creates the second habit, to worry about what has not been done.

EVen though it was halfway done, I did not complete it. I was not ready to give up the prison that I already knew to the new freedom that awaited me. I had something to worry about. A subtle illness that I have been battling for years. I was used to it.

However, I have had a primal drive for freedom for years, and the more I experience, the more I want. The freedom of blogging right here in the middle of the night to you is a beautiful feeling.

I actually thought I had mailed the papers in but realized after searching that they remained burried under a pile of other things.

Now, however, the drive for freedom is greater than the lack of will to break out of the prison of the known quantity. So I rush the papers to the gentleman.
I did not fill them in. I noticed that I signed them and that was enough. They could type them in and they would look more professional. that was probably what he wanted anyway. I just could not see it.

that type of scenario occurs every day. only most people do not recognize and change the behavior pattern. AS you progress, the affliction becomes more subtle and one would not recognize how embedded and transferable the behavior is and that it can manifest itself in many forms, like malignant cells.

I am so glad I took the time to monitor myself when I was triathlon training.
That is where I discovered all of this. That is why I was able to make the permanent breakthrough.

I just was not ready, to let go and move on and not worry about something that has been a source of worry for so long. However, I finally did let go.
=============

That is characteristic of this phase. I am dealing with the wreckage of my past and doing what it takes to put it behind me and free me in so many ways. I just realized that doing so frees up that space within so I can put something in there. something can be absorbed. maybe some knowledge. maybe a way of being. Maybe something can pop up that is not blocked that will be an idea or a solution for something.

The more I realize this, the more eager I am to clear the debris. It is interesting how the more that happens, the more I begin to move forward in ways of development.

I called this place the University of Skid Row. At universities, people learn. However, people also develop. It is a subtle but very distinct difference. I am finding that now I am beginning to clear enough debris, to naturally flow through to the development phases.

No matter how hard I tried, when I APPEARED to be normal and healthy, I could never progress. To much was on my mind and weighing me down. I was in invisible handcuffs.

It is clear that this blog is going to evolve from a man talking about what he learns and observes while struggling in Skid Row, but also how he evolves and develops, step by step while here. I said that Skid Row is a mirror of society.

Well I think that what I am experiencing must be the same path that others before me have experienced as they heal themselves from whatever to develop into whatever they want to develop into.


And that is what I find so important. HOw bad do you want it? That means so much. How bad do you really want whatever it is you say you want to not let anything stop you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Discovering self and Downtown LA


I have waited a long time to do this. A very long time.
I started blogging on September 25,2007, the day I moved into the Marshall House. It took se veral attempts to complete a blog as the computer kept going on the blink. I had to get used to its personality. I blogged on the computer many times. Many times it took more than a few attempts to complete the blog. I could not upload pictures, I could only do text. Many times I would run over to the Transition House to upload a photo and finish with the text at the Marshall House orthe library.

My daily attempts to post my blog where like running an obstacle course, only I never knew from one day to the next if the obstacles were moved like they move the hole every day of a golf tournament. Don't get to comfortable with the environment you are playing in today because it will change tomorrow. If not then, then the day after that.

I wondered what it would feel like to blog in the middle of the night when I could hear my heart beat and nothing would distract me;No person arguing with another at the Central Library for the use of a computer; no rap music blasting from another terminal as the listener not only wanted to hear the music but the attention that he never received from whatever source that he deemed should have given it; no time deadline that would cut short the flow of creativity.

Editing my blog, are you kidding? I was happy just to get it posted. Many times I did not complete the title before the time deadlines at the library and it vanished in front of my eyes. Even if another computer was available, I had used the time alloted for each cardholder. I could not use it again to operate another computer until the next day.

Over the last few months, it became a contest. Determined to not let the time remaining impact greatly the detail of my writing, I focused harder to maintain the flow that at times was created.

I am not a writer of accomplishment but there are times when I felt that there was a certain fluidity that was coming effortessly. Those were precious times and times that needed to be absorbed for future duplication.

I walked marathon miles to do my blogs, at times feeling that I was not penetrating the surface of expression because I could not penetrate the depths of my soul and bring to the surface a well spring of descriptive presentation.

Due to changes in my circumstances, I am able to write at home. It has created many efficiencies and I am not yet accustomed to them though I shall work diligently to that end.

I have been so much on the go that I have not had the time to read other blogs. For the last few months I have kept my head down and just plunged away, trying to get to certain places, certain plateaus. Having accomplished a few things, I have a chance to learn how to manage my new situation.

It was great to see other blogs and hear the voices of people that I have met over the last few months, people that encouraged me to keep writing. It was also nice to see new names and read what their voices had to say.

In short, I felt a part of a community and as I said in the previous posting, feeling a part of something is a healthy and anchoring thing. I felt that warm feeling tonight and I could not rush home fast enough to capture the feeling.

I rode my bike down the street in a leisurely mode passing people who nodded to me along the way. I talked to the building manager outside of my building like a neighbor would talk to another in a small country town-not what you would expect on a Skid Row street.

I ran up the stairs with my bicycle, put down my bag,grabbed my camera and made my way to the roof where I took these shots.

I came back downstairs, uploaded the pictures and my fingers starting walking across the keys in a monologue to the people of downtown. Yes, to the people of Downtown Los Angeles. It is what I felt tonight- the community in its diversity and complexity. A beautiful tapestry of people, indeed.

I imagined myself sitting in a huge loft with a view of the city skyline and writing about them, telling stories about people, interesting people that live and work in the core of the city. I imagined being on the radio with a microphone, talking to people and wondering who, in the glitter of lights, would be listening to me as I spoke with love of my native city.

It is a nice feeling to feel what I feel now. The lights are off. I only hear the whir of the fan as it keeps me cool. People are on the streets walking to the bars. People are walking to their apartments after a night of gaity. Some are standing on street corners with nothing to do but alot that needs to be accomplished before they can rest their heads for the night. Each intersection of downtown is like a sibling with a different personality. Sometimes they get along wonderfully and sometimes they fight like worst enemies.

But we are family and I feel that tonight. This is where my journey has taken me.
I am peaceful tonight. It has come from a great deal of work and a great deal of help from other people. I am humbled by their many expressions of confidence in me, their trust in me.

It encourages me to trust myself and my future. Those words do not sound like they are coming from the same man who started talking to the world a few months ago.

But it is. The same man who is different and feels so different and sees things in different ways. There is much to discover in oneself I have learned. There is much to discover in downtown LA. It is a community that shines bright in its beautiful darkness at night like an outpost in unexplored land. There is much to discover and no doubt I will discover more each day. I worked hard to do so.

This is Scribeskidrow saying good night downtown Los Angeles. I love you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Belonging, BAm-bam and togetherness



The Al-Ilympics were held on Saturday. it was an event that had the attention of everyone on Skid Row. Apparently it has been an on going event.

This year, like the last 4 or 5 years, it was held at Compton College. AT least a thousand people were there. Most of the different missions and non-profit organizations were represented in the different sporting events. I did not go but I heard a good time was had by all. Everyone came back in there blue teeshirts as if the came from a family reunion.

There is something that must be said here. I have said it in the past and I say it now and will most likely say it in the future.

When there is collaboration in Skid Row, something happens that is magical. Not only do things get done but everyone is uplifted. Just like the shooting of the Soloist. It was a team effort and everyone was involved. Everyone had to be involved for the undertaking to be successful.

I trust that this kind of cooperation inter-organization cooperation will continue
and expand into other areas. I believe that if all of the organizations banded together, some way, Skid Row could have a company located down here that could provide jobs--perhaps in the "Green Industries". Incentives could be created by the public officials, and the companies would enjoy tremendous goodwill.

Now don't ask me who, how or what. I do not know. I have some ideas and working on them. But it is just like anything else down here on Skid Row.

When I came here, I had nothing. I mean nothing. Five cents in my pocket and the clothes on my back. A year later and I have a job, and am in possession of my real estate license again. A year ago I thought life was hopeless.

Most people think that Skid Row is hopeless. And yet there are individuals who are working together to improve the community who are not listening to the prevailing status quo opinion.

The Skid Row Basketball League is a good example. The people feel a part of something. Everybody needs to feel like they are a part of something.
As each day of our lives comes and goes, it seems like we become more isolated. We become more lost out here.

The latest craze on the internet are networking sites. People join softball leagues and other categories of clubs of mutual interest to be around people--to belong.

I was in court one day and the lawyer who spoke my behalf spoke about how it was essential to connect people on Skid Row with their families to insure their continued recovery. At the time I understood what he was saying, vaguely, but I had no appreciation at all for it.

Two things happened that changed my total perspective.

I wrote a post about Steve Lopez. I basically commented on what I thought of his warmth and sincerity that he displayed on the Tavis Smiley show. About 3 weeks later I happened to notice that someone left a comment that I had not seen before.

I opened it and read the comment. It was from a man named Bam-Bam. Bam-Bam lives in the Lamp project on San Julian ST. He shared with people on my blog how he was a featured background artist on that movie set and how it changed his life.
Well, I was on that movie set and I watched every day what was going on.

Some of the extras were asked to do certain things and they did them. I walked up to Joe Wright, the director, and I told him that the reason the extras gave so much of themselves was because the crew treated the extras with extraodinary respect. I had been on many sets. I worked as an extra for two years while in between jobs, and in many cases you have a schism between crew and extras. It all depends on the attitudes of the star and directors. They set the tone of community or lack there of.

From day one Joe Wright and every part of the crew went out of the way to make everyone feel that they were respected and that their opinions and insights were needed.

There were people from the Lamp project who were given more latitude and had freedom to roam around all parts of the set. Joe Wright made a point of including them. You could see how they felt better about themselves, increasingly so, as each day went on. I am talking about people who have been physically, and thus, emotionally scarred. I am talking about people who have been excluded from feeling like they belonged to anything. I am talking about people who were disenfranchised from even those who have perenially been disenfranchised.

They way Joe Wright treated them, you could see that they had never been treated with such coutesy nor had they been embraced with such warmth and sincerity. Bam-Bam
said that that movie shoot changed his life forever because of the way he was treated.

I began to have a clue after I read his comment. Afterwards, I had my own experience. I saw my mother. I had not seen her in over a year. Had not spoken to her in over a year. It was a situation that I never could have imagined.
I felt a part of me had been cut out and

I have talked to many people on Skid Row. I talked to many men while sitting in jail. I was shocked at how common it was that men had not talked to their mothers in 10 to `15 years. I asked them were they estranged from their mothers and the ansswer was no. We all know of people who are estranged from family members for one reason or another. But these men told me that they just lost touch and many of them did not know how to get in touch with their mothers. It was something that was beyond my comprehension especially when I could not see mine and wanted to do so in the worst way.

While talking to these men, it was clear as the conversatons progressed that by not having that connection with family, these men had no connection with self. Many of them, I believe felt it was so natural because they came from communities where people felt disenfranchised from America at large. Therefore it was just a progression. As that progression continued so did their deterioration.

I was wrong when I said that mother's day softened people in Skid Row. I was talking from the perspective of a man who sat in the guard shack at the Transition House. That was the only perspective I had. At that time I never went out of the Transition House unless it was to the library. It was my sanctuary and security blanket.

When I returned from seeing my mother, I walked down San Julian streets. People were smoking crack. But they were not smoking crack like they usually do. It was frenetic. It was desperate. It was as if they were trying to dull a pain that surfaces every so often. I believe it is the pain they feel from dealing with something that is not a part of them any longer. It is the relationship between them and their mothers.

Men and women smoked back to back "hits". They rushed across the street to buy more if they had no more. I had never seen people smoke with such abandon like that before. They have not smoked like that since that day.

People who use drugs become used to separating themselves from themselves. The same thing holds true with people who abuse alcohol and prescribed medication. One becomes so separated that it becomes the norm and the norm is a feeling of constant internal chaos and like of piece.

Sure, I realized after time had passed how I not only separated myself from myself but I separated myself from my family. Of course, I did not know this while I was intoxicated. It was only after the fact that I saw the damage that had been done. But I did not come from an environment where separation was normal. Therefore it was easier for me to feel the profound abnormality of the experience of the people who have made a choice to disconnect from their families and thus from society. And they do not know how to get back.

When I came back home from mother's day there was something different I was feeling.
I feel it every day. I feel that what was cut out of me is returning. Not only the reconnection to my mother but a reconnection to my family. There has been a feeling reseeded of belonging. I no longer have the sickening feeling of being in forced exile. I slept better and that visit provided me with the fuel to keep striving. I was a part of my family again with the new insight as to what that means as it relates to responsibility and obligation-something that is performed with pleasure. I have also been more productive.

The Al-ilympics provided people of Skid Row with the feeling of belonging to something. The filming of the Soloist did the same thing. The set created a sense of family that is common on many sets where people have been together for any length of time. Both of these scenarios were came as a result of collaoratives efforts by the powers that be.

I believe strongly that the powers that be can collaborate on bringing corporate america to Skid Row. Think outside the box. Be creative. Be daring. Be fearless in the pursuit of change and lasting change at that.

People drive by Skid Row and they see people on the streets like the people in these pictures. But what they do not see are the people who are in programs who sit there every day and are learning how to work with computers. I was impressed with a student named Connie. Connie was a crack addict. She said she had to change her life. A couple of months ago Connie joined the Strive program. Connie had never touched a computer. I personally helped her set up an email account.

Over the last few weeks Connie has been working on a presentation. On Friday she unveiled it to me. It was done on Powerpoint. It was powerfully creative and she used advanced Powerpoint applications.

She is trying to find a job. There are many people like that on Skid Row that are not on the streets buying and selling drugs. Those that can bring about change must learn about the Connies that are doing their best to change their lives. And Connie had doubts about her ability to operate the computer. You would never know it by the presentation she produced. It was magnificent.

I have seen people change their lives. I have seen them change their lives while feeling they were a part of something. In the past I saw people change substantially from before the started boot camp and when they came out.
There was a sense of pride, a sense of camraderie that was embedded in their souls.
They belonged to something.

I see where Connie and others, as they progress in the STRIVE program, bond with each other. They start out as homeless individuals but they become a team, a force that is greater than themselves.

I believe that a company that plants itself on Skid Row will do so much. It will be a force greater than themselves. It will give people a sense of belonging.

The Skid Row Training programs can be a feeding mechanism into these jobs that need to be field. That is why cooperation, collaboration and integration of these programs is so badly needed. It will create a synergy that has not existed before.

There are many Connies out here. There are many Bam-Bams out here who are waiting and who are preparing themselves. These men and women are a part of society. They must be embraced. For if they are not, we, as a society, will not move forward.
We, as a society, will have something that is continued to be cut out of us and thus cut out of our soul. We can not be in denial of this. For if we continue to be in denial, that denial will destroy us.

Let us work to bring an industry or company down here. There is a growing labor force that is ready willing and able to prove themselves. Let us find a company or lets find a consortium of companies who are willing to take on a pro rata share of the risk, perceived and real, to embrace these men and women into society. It will be the beginning of something that will heal all of us whether we know it or not.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Clear Skies



Yesterday was my birthday and all of this week, the culmination of hard work has yielded so many changes. Wave after wave of change has come from planting seed after seed over a long period of time. There is constant overlapping and suddenly you look around or should I say I look inside and I am startled that I am at certain points.

I took time to clear out some things after I got the job, my license and some new clothes. all of those changes across the board is a tremendous manifestation of forces at work and they do have an impact. They have an impace on perspective and perspective has an impact on confidence and both of those drive improvements in productivity.

And that is what I am experiencing. And yes for months I could not figure out how to get those quotes. Each time I saw Don Garza's blog, with those quotes, I would say "Dam, I does he make those quotes." Every day I looked at the production bar and saw those quotes and it drove me crazy. It reminded me of how I could not upload pictures for at least a month when I started blogging.

I struggled to get my blog going for months. I walked all over downtown to make sure I posted my blog everyday. Sometimes I had to visit 4 or 5 computer labs every day to make sure things got done. I had to post. It kept me focused. It was also an avenue for growth. It would later turnout to be an indirect method of networking-another bi-product of the internet.

That discipline along with others across a horizontal category plane have eventually led to results. If you recall, I said I had to clear away the debris so I can see where I am and experience the benefits of the production of months of labor
and surviving shear terror. Many nights I wondered if I was going to make things happen.

I took that time off and streamlined my physical space and thoughts. Suddenly, while sitting down, an idea came to me, a simple idea that could answer my question about the quotes. And to be honest, it was obvious. I just was not ready.

I learned from that and I recalled many of the same types of examples that reinforced that lesson. With that breakthrough others come and the are built upon the previous work and the successes from that work. As I said previously, it is incredible to watch the discoveries, experience the growth and associate the concepts of economic development mentally, spiritually and tangibly. Things I learned sitting in class in college but now applying them step by step

It is amazing how the skies become clearer every day. And each day quantum leaps are taken.

I had the opportunity to have lunch on Monday with an extraordinary woman. She is very accomplished in her profession. She is an editor and a writer. She asked me,
"Walter, what happened to all of those people you knew when the crisis came? I tought that the old boy school network would rally around you. That is how I understood that it was suppose to be". She understood correctly as her background is the same but from the old girl school network point of view.

I thought about that for the last several days. I forgot that I just did not call anyone. I was embarrassed and I also wanted to do this alone. I did not want to cut corners. I also was afraid that I may not be able to cut corners. In the end, I am glad I made the decisions I made and perservered. Of course if it were not for the people I have met along the way, I do not know if I would be here now saying this.

I made my debut at an alumni event a few days ago. It was time. It was easy to do and the building blocks were in place. With that other things are beginning to take place. From the development of my communication and management systems, coupled with work in each separate aspect of my life, I am now able to contribute to Skid Row in a different way.

I have been talking with City Officials, and business leaders that I know to bring about industries to this area. I believe it can be down. I believe that they components are there. Now that I do not have to concentrate so much on myself, I can put energies into things that can help others.

That is the beauty of staying here for a while and progressing. The skies become clearer for me and I am able to see the pieces more clearly that need to be assembled for productive gain for the community. I would love to see jobs here. JObs make people feel apart of something. Jobs get rid of that frustration and anger.

Clarity is coming each day as to how to bring components together down here to make things happen. Some people are working on the streets and with city officials. Some people are communicating with city officials and business owners. All are constantly developing financial alliances to access necessary resources when the timing is right when the long complex process of development and bonding has matured to the point that warrants commitment from the vital parties.

Economic Development and Regional development were courses I loved at Penn. I see the process in me and can see it unfolding in the community. There are clusters of nodes of strength that are slowly being linked together. Many times the vital links come from outside the VISIBLE area but within the immediate area of impact. That is why Skid Row is an example of how EVERYONE HAS TO WORK TOGETHER TO BRING ABOUT Change that is lasting.

That is why I never called anyone. I wanted to grow up and mature and see things and experience things within myself that are vital. They are the invisible and vital tools that build character and creativity. Necessity is the source of invention. Is that the statement? IT is close enough. If I had called people to come to my rescue I would not have had the opportunity to go through the pain that brings about growth. I would not have the opportunity to develop confidence in an area that I never needed before. or should I say I did not know I needed it.

I needed to find a way to survive emotionally and in other ways. I survived those periods. Skid Row has to endure and survive. It will take collective creativity to correct these problems as they are ever present in this community. They are ever present in our society. Skid Row mirrors are society and is the measure of how successful we are in working withourselves and eachother: cooperating with ourselves and eachother: in order to understand ourselves and eachother.

I made a commitment to myself. Others made a commitment to me. We all were making a commitment to our community and to our society. We all have to live with ourselves. We have to live with eachother. We must help eachother and prove that it can yield results. That is what I did for myself. That is what people did to help me and give them the confidence to commit more of themselves- so I can have the confidence to commit some more of myself to grow and integrate our resouces for the betterment of our communities.

When the skies are clear you see the details of this beautiful mosaic at work. This process is about seeing the trees through the forest--understanding the components that are essential to build a healthy self. From there it is easier to see what is necessary to build a healthy community.

When the skies are clear, you see the links clearly. You see the passages that lead to destinations, and the necessary vehicles that will facilitate a successful journey.

It is nice to see what clarity brings. It is nicer to feel it. I desire to feel more. I desire to see more. My eyes are open as well as my pores. Lets see what is absorbed. Lets see what can be shared. Lets see what the increasing clearer skies tells us to do, TOGETHER.

I have experienced solutions to problems that baffled me for months.
Suddenly ideas popped into my head and I was able to get things done. Simple things. But for some reason I could not resolve the problem.

For instance, the very first time I wrote some material that was put in a blog it was for Eric Richardson on Blogdowntown.

When it was published, Eric put my section in quotes in block quotes. The writing was identifiable by the indentation and separation of the material. That application is very common and is on the production bar of most content publishing software or applications. However, I could not figure out how to do it. I made all of my quotes.

It has been like that in a horizontal sense, in different categories of life, sinc I landed downtown. Sooner or later an answer came that was strong and lasting.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shooting on San Julian.



On Tuesday night, after leaving work, I passed this corner on 6th and San Julian St. I turned north onto San Julian and rode 20 yds. That took approximately 2 seconds. It is not very clear but the picture at the top shows the man laying on the ground.

I heard a loud pop. I turned around and a man was laying on the ground. He was shot. There were about 70 people standing around the area at the time of the shooting. They were buying, selling and smoking crack. That end of the block is the crack corner. I was told by someone that that used to be called the "Thieves Corner", the place where you would go purchase goods that had been stolen by someone.
I was told you could get anything you wanted and if you did not see it, just place an order for it. Orders would be fulfilled between the 20th and the end of the month when cash ran out.

People stood around the man and from a distance I thought they were trying to help him. It became clear that was not the case. They started removing his watch and wallet and searched him for any money.

The ambulance came and took him away.

I found it interesting that the street had no pedestrians after the ambulance came. Everyone cleared out.

In the aftermath, several community activists investigated the circumstances and ascertained that it was a crack deal gone bad. The concern was that there would not be an upsurge in drive by shootings and gang violence. I found it interesting when he said to me on the cell phone.
"Walter, I am here on the corner. I am not worried now. It is business as usual. Everyone is buying, selling and smoking crack. If no one was there, I would be worried because it would mean that outsiders did the shooting and everyone would worry about drive bys. That means everybody would not be on the block unless they went and retrieved their guns. that is the danger. So now that I found out everybody is smoking crack, I can go home."


Wow, isn't that a unique perspective. I know that this man hates crack in the area. Yet is relieved that people are smoking crack now as it signals to him that the neighborhood is safe from other dangers.

A Skid Row perspective. unique

Friday, May 9, 2008

Growing up

Sunday was the culmination of a lot of years-a lot of work. Not just the time that I have been down here. But all of the years before that. The decisions to change my life. The baby steps taken to beginning that process. These were things that developed over a period of time--like not going out past midnight to get anything to consume. Even that was not the starting point. The starting point was something along the lines of not going with someone, that I don't know, to some place where I have never been, in a car that may not belong to them for some drugs.

Then the bottom, etc. but it has been an ongoing process.
And yes, I was right when I said I needed time to let the air clear after obtaining a job and getting the license back and preparing to see my mother. I had no idea how stressed out I have been for such a long period of time.

Since coming back from my mother's house, there has been a sense of calm about me. A since of reuniting. not just with my mother but that reunification was the glue that bound other things together and brought other feelings and discoveries to the surface. And all of this happened on mother's day. The meaning of that day has so many different shades to it now.

I also worked alonside my sister to clear out some things. So yes it was a big step for the family.

But as I was saying, there has been this sense of calm. I looked at the room this morning and all of a sudden things were cleared away. Working day after day has yielded results. I could use the push up bars that I purchased. However, becareful what you wish for because the first ten pushups were a struggle. But so what. I do not mind starting out with a struggle. I have struggled before and look where I am now.

I checked out craigslist and found some opportunities. All of those days that I worked on my resumes--first breaking through the mental and psychological walls were worth it. I can assemble things together with aplomb and put in my bid and wait and see what happens. My renewed broker license adds to my credentials. So it is coming together.

I am beginning to see what they meant by things opening up. Just be patient. It was hard but things are opening up and I developed a system of management that placed and maintained building blocks one step at a time and one day at a time. A learning process, a process that taught me more about myself than anything I have ever been through.

Yes, the University of Skid Row has been an experience. It has let me mode my own curriculum. The beautiful part about it is that it is not over.

With this new attitude, coupled with my management and communication systems in place, it is easier to explore opportunities and discover opportunites. Clarity brings about creativity as well.

Yes, as I told an official at the University of Pennsylvania the other day,
I have finally grown up. I was talking to a friend yesterday. We talked for hours. I could not put my finger on it until now. But that, in essensce is what has taken place. I have grown up. MOre on that topic later.
I grew up at the University of Skid Row.

a great day.

My sister opened the door for me when I was approaching the house. I stopped outside for a moment and just started at the place. My sister had done a beautiful job refurbishing it.

I was excited and nervous.

She told me mom was in the bed still. I took out three different groups of flowers and spread them across the coffee table. My sister told me to be quiet and surprise her. Then, I took out the teddy bear and it took a couple of minutes for me to regain my composure. finally I walked in the bedroom and gave mom a big hug.

That is how it started. I am too overwhelmed to go any further. I will tomorrow.
I wanted to write really creative prose but I am unable to go there.

I just know that today was a very good beginning for me and my family. My sister worked together to clear some of the stuff out of the house. That was great.

It is the start of a new chapter for the Melton family. It really is. I felt a need to say certain things but it is ok. I love my family and I really love my sister.

Her husband drove me back downtown.

Sure, tears came down when I was leaving. I had to leave before I started crying too much. I have work to do before I see mom again in two weeks. I have planning to do. I have work to do.

I have ideas.

I am going to my room to read and get started. It was a great day.

I

I am preparing to see MOM

Last you at this time, I remember I was miserable.

One thing for sure. Mother's Day is a sacred day on Skid Row. People hussle around and go see their mothers. I remember when I was living in the Transition House. Every person was making plans. The men were going to see their mothers, wives and girlfriends. The women were excited that their children were coming to pick them up. Some were expecting to see their boyfriends or husbands, who were hoping that the women were going to stick out the programs that they were in.

I can tell you I was in the guard shack. No doubt I was writing away on sheets of paper. The guard shack was my sanctuary except for the advertisements that came on the television about mother's day.

I hated the commercials. Everyone was going to see their mothers and I couldn't see mine. I could not write mine. I was miserable. I cried most of the day, no doubt about that either.

Mother's Day on Skid Row is different than any other day on Skid Row. Nothing compares to it. Even Christmas. It is second place to mother's Day.

Why?

It softens people. It is hard to decribe but it softens people. All of the
"bad boy" personality that is in anyone appears to be exorcised for at least 24 hours.

It is amazing. If you are not going to go see your mother, you arer admonished by everyone. The mothers in the shelters are served dinner by the men. It is that kind of day.

Yes, I remember last year. God do I remember it. 13 months ago was the last day I saw my mother. I rode my bike away from the house and was extremely upset.

I discovered I had a flat tire and it was difficult riding all of the way back to Skid Row. I stopped several times to smoke a cigarette and to collect my thoughts.

I was so upset that I was glad to get to Skid Row. Even at that time, I can still remember being relieved that I was back at the compound where at least I was accepted.

My mom wanted me home but their were others that did not. The court certainly did not want me home.

Now the judge is like my best friend.

I went today and I totally fixed my bicycle. I cut off the old locks. I put on a new chain and tire. I did some maintenance that gave the bicycle a new look.

Today I cut my hair in anticipation for seeing my mother.
It feels good to be able to be a part of the holiday.

I have emailed a couple of mothers. I want to email all mothers and tell them Happy Mothers Day. I am happy and tomorrow my mother will be surprised and happy to see me tomorrow. IT will be the start of a new life.

Happy mothers day.

Bear for my Mom

This is the most important picture I have posted on my blog. I am planning my visit to my mother. For those of you who have been following my story, this is the first time I will have seen her in over a year.

It is a very emotional time and another benchmark of beginnings. If you have any ideas on what you think I should get her, please email me.

Also that "I love you " message is how I feel toward all of you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

IT came



it is official. I finally received my license and got a frame for it.

Now I can write about other things. Writing about myself and my journey can get awfully boring.

However, it is exciting to explore opportunities again.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Studying tonight-NO Procrastination

"I look forward to hearing your story tomorrow, Walter." Those were the words of the Vice Dean of Minority Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. I was referred to her by a woman who was a classmate of mine who has worked for the university ever since she graduated.

I did not think I was going to talk to Penn before some time next year but I am compelled to continue clearing away the debris that is in my way. For years I would sit in my room --and I mean for years(year after year) and get depressed thinking about the mess I would have to unsnarl. I did not think I would see myself clear for at least 2 decades./ So what did I do. I escaped more and more. More cocaine. More depression. More cocaine. I was so worried that the response would be so bad that I would procrastinate.

Yes. Procrastination. It was the very first word my father made me look up in the dictionary when I asked him what it meant. I was six years old. We were playing chess. I remembered all of this while reading the book by Stephen Carter. Chess was one of the things that I had in common with the characters.

So now I do not procrastinate. I just plow on and move forward. I have built up an internal mechanism on how not to worry about myself sick until I speak to the woman. I have become accustomed to this feeling of freedom and I want more of it.

So I will relax and talk to the dean tomorrow and she will tell me what my academic options are at Penn, if any.
--------

"Ms. Delaney, do you remember me? This is Walter Melton." We both laughed. She is the collection manager at Penn. She has known me for over 30 years and is the person I need to speak to to get my transripts. I never thought I would speak to anyone in that department for at least a year and never thought I could get my transcripts for at least 5 years. Of course, I thought this AFTER I stopped getting high. In fact the whole time down here on Skid Row, I thought it was impossible to ever get my transcripts and go to school. Of course those very thoughts are what drove me to make wrong decisions and bury myself in a room with a crack pipe and cocaine.

I told her everything. Cocaine and all. Did not surprise her about the cocaine because I had a reputation as a voracious party person on the campus. In fact her office is next door to La Terrasse, the restaurant/bar that I have talked about which was my office. Ms. Delaney would see me sitting at the bar holding court for years, after she got off work. In fact I took her and other members of the collection department to lunch one day when I made my first leasing commission.

It was great talking to her and as she said, her faith in me was not in vain. So tomorrow, I will speak to her. If I can not finish with a Penn degree, I am already planning to be able to finish someplace else. I am indeed surprised.

Someone said to me that I could accomplish alot in a year. He is proving himself to be very much correct in that statement. I am looking for jobs on university campuses around the state. I love college environments. That is why I was in no rush to leave the Penn environment.

However, when I was training for the triathlon at USC, I found myself in the law library studying constitutional law. My socializing was now at the swimming pool and library instead of bars and apartments around campus partying. Yes people do change.

I hope to socialize one day having coffee while discussing an essay assignment with a fellow student or with a professor. Dont tell any one though, none of my friends would ever believe it. They may even faint if told. It might be too much for them.

Must go to work and study. yes. I am outlining the book on how to write a novel. No need in procrastinating. My as well start studying now. Thanks Steve Carter and every one else

tomorrow I will write on "anger on skid row"