new year's resolution: Launch!
Table of Contents
- My New Residence
- Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
The End of Phase I
- My First Termination
- Paradise Lost Revisited
- Idiot Tritt - My First Probation
- A Matter of Cologne
- My Expulsion
- A Phoenix Rises Out of the Ashes
- The Fat Cook Who Snored
- In Search of a New Roommate
- The Smoking Hut
- The Quinn Affair
- Nigger, the Word
- A Coup Was Staged
- My Second and Final Termination
- A Badly Needed Preface
- A Stroke of Vengeance?
- Joe-Style Reconciliation
- The Smoking Hut Revisited
- Savings Petition
- My Second Probation
- A Patch of Blue in a Forever Overcast Sky
- The Downpour
- The Bi-Polar Charlatan
- Last Hurrah
- The Conversion - Step One
- The Conversion - Step Two
- The Conversion - Step Three
- Other Footlights
- The Basement of Savery Hall
- America's Lost Identity
- Literary Edification
- Godfrey Higgins
- Bonn Eusebius
- David Stockman
The Beginning of Phase II
The End of Phase I
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
After three years, one month, and five days I have obtained a new permanent address that is my own and not virtual in nature.
Ironically, I have returned to First Hill where I am now resident atop the hill rather than on its downward, downtown slope. I now occupy a one-bedroom apartment rather than a studio with a large closet, and I now enjoy a much better view on the sixth- and top-floor overlooking Madison Avenue. Previously I occupied a third-floor, second from the top, overlooking the alley-way behind the Sorrento Hotel. Although I have sacrificed much in name -- Cabrini Senior Housing as opposed to Paul Revere Apartments --, I am now paying only 15% of my previous rent with a rent-free community space that can be reserved for large social gatherings. Finally, as the US Post Office, Century Link, Amazon, and everyone else only cares about the street address, I write the building name as The Cabrini, refer to my apartment as a suite, and leave the Senior Housing aspect of the official name for use by building management and my fellow residents. What is more, my view of the Sorrento Hotel is now much better.
Furthermore, a somewhat thorough search with the DuckDuckGo (Google without a cookie) search engine reveals that the name Cabrini is associated with a German retailer, a Catholic saint, and an Italian football (soccer) player among others. It is even the name of a university. So, nominally speaking my residence is competitive with the Sorrento. Unfortunately, my kitchen -- if an upgrade from my previous residence is what this entry is about -- offers little improvement. Although in better condition than my previous First Hill residence at the Paul Revere, it does not offer a garbage disposal, dishwasher, microwave, rotisserie oven, soft-close drawers, three-door refrigerator, counter cloud with dim-lighting, party lights, or any of the other amenities that made my self-designed, custom-built Saudi kitchen so absolutely cool.
Has the upgrade from Paul Revere Apartments to The Cabrini been worth the preceding three years worth of suffering? Absolutely not! Then too, what were my alternatives? Fortunately, I have not allowed this ordeal to set me back entirely, for much has been accomplished in the advancement of my long-term business plan in the interim. Hopefully, it will become, at some point, a pleasant reward for my having endured over three years of shelter living, transitional housing, and couch surfing. Indeed, my decision to choose living accommodations over work-environment did pay off, for now I have both within a period of time that likely could not have been realized while still under the burden of an obsolete MacBook and iPhone.
What makes my material situation particularly awkward is that I am living with the still unboxed half of my recently closed storage locker that now pays for my private, high-speed, internet connection and once monthly delivered bottles of Mountain Mist mineral water. To my chagrin a boxed library is a lot like a smartphone without an internet connection and is painful to view each and every day while seated at my desk. Fortunately, the boxes in my bedroom are only seen in the early morning and late evening when drowsiness plays to my advantage. These latter are retained until I decide that The Cabrini is where I wish to remain until I am once again free of government dependence.
Indeed, the story is not entirely material, and I would be foolish to believe that I survived my three-year ordeal in the best of mental and physical health. Not only have the past three years impaired my ability to focus, but they have also changed my world view -- this despite, the vast amount of work that I have been able to accomplish while those with whom I shared by place of rest and not a few meals were spending their time watching videos in the public library, promoting false Robin Hoods in a local Starbucks, or indulging in who knows what sort of recreational drug on the street corner, in a toilet stall, on a beach, or in some other outdoor facility provided for the general public on its days off.
Even my new environment is momentarily contributing to my disorientation. Where before the transition was from serene productive solitude, it is now from always in the presence of gruff strangers often troubled with mild to severe mental disorders to what is an uncanny, humbling sense of loneliness. Further, my current material surroundings no better match my current, disposable, liquid worth than did my previous surroundings match my life-long accumulation of human capital. What is more my level of available credit keeps rising, temptation is every where, and my weakened focus makes it difficult to resist. To this end the case of Las Rocas that I recently purchased has been very salutary, for it diminishes the endless temptation somewhat cheaply, so that I can better focus on the means to rid myself of the temptation altogether. A punctuating safeguard against a downward spiral into depression was my first successfully completed delivery from Amazon -- an alternative kick to push my psyche into the opposite direction should the alcohol become overbearing. Unfortunately, I have been recently denied that one important physical aid that had sustained me emotionally throughout the trauma of the past three years -- the weight room at the downtown YMCA.
No, I am not particularly worried about any of the above, as I survived three years of homelessness without so much as a toke, snort, or needle-prick. Although my enthusiasm for podcasting diminished as I immersed myself ever more deeply into the creative magic of web programming, once I am fully settled I have little doubt that I will finally launch. My important take away from my three-year ordeal is political -- my first passion and primary reason that I returned to the United States in 2015. In the long run the past three years will likely prove invaluable. Certainly, I have no expectation that the current transition will last forever.
Fortunately, my lesson in drugs was obtained at a somewhat early stage in life. And yes, it was simultaneously comforting and disturbing to see so many of my younger shelter-mates experiencing what for me was a very distant past. In the end, however, each of us must learn for himself, and some learn better than others. Suffering is a good teacher, but only for those who truly want to learn. As a proxy for experience and the wisdom that sometimes comes with it, I may now confidently state that age does make a difference.
What is standing between me and new bookshelves is the need for a new computer and smartphone. Both of my current machines are considered obsolete by Apple, and my browsers are being phased out by many online firms. In short, my online presence will not survive the onslaught much longer. Fortunately, I have a strategy to overcome this dilemma.
In the end, the transition into a one-bedroom apartment has been much easier than the one from my former studio apartment onto the street. Still, I have not abandoned the HUB discussion table and continue to supper in the late afternoon at the St. James Cathedral Annex with the homeless.
Paradise Lost Revisited
As I relate what follows, please keep in mind the nature of the Aloha Inn's residents and the Inn's formal organization.
In regard to the latter, the Inn was once described to me as "a sloppy democracy headed by an autocrat". This statement came from a former resident and CCS overseer of the Inn's operations while I was resident at the Inn. He occupied an office at Catholic Community Services (CCS), an organ of the Seattle Archdiocese, in Seattle's Central District. The Inn's residents -- who like to think of themselves as the cream of the homeless population -- are better considered shelter rejects who have sought refuge at the Inn. They are too weak to stand up to the rough and tumble of shelter-life, lack the humility and respect necessary to get along with stronger shelter-mates, are missing the social skills necessary to out-maneuver their societal adversaries, or exhibit the traits of manipulative psychopaths who feed off society and their fellow humans like bedbugs off a naked body.
Yes, there were some genuinely nice people at the Inn, but they were rare in comparison and either did not last long or barely participated. These latter also tended to be my friends. Alas, after more than ten months of Inn residency I am in a much better position to characterize the Inn's organization and behavior than I was slightly more than a year ago today.
Firstly, the Inn is funded through a combination of private and government sources -- a careful blend of church and state, a direct affront to the American tradition of their separation.
The Inn is a converted motel situated along a noisy, six-lane highway called Aurora Avenue North somewhat distant from Lake Union. From the fourth floor you can see the lake and ask yourself how you ended up where you are. Northern Queen Anne, where the Inn is located, is a fairly wealthy, residential district of Seattle proper -- a fact that surely accounts for at least some of the modern liberal, pseudo-RobinHood ethic that forms the underlying philosophical basis of the Inn's modus operandi. In practical terms, this means that your personal plight is heard far better than you can tell or prove it. You are treated as a victim of the system, else you would not be at the Inn. And, government is the solution to your plight, if only it could be made to function better. If you were running for public office and you came from the Inn, you would surely advocate more spending, more taxes, and more government employees who believe that they know better how to serve their respective communities than the communities themselves. Above all, you would demand more for the needy homeless regardless of their moral integrity, social predisposition, or criminal-like behavior.
This modern American tragedy and philosophical perversion of classical liberalism derides the idea of making yourself an example of how to compete effectively in the market place as arrogant and heartless. Rather, it insists that you should set aside any and all ambition, lower yourself without condescension, become one of the miserable herd, and lift collectively your brothers and sisters out of the muck. This, of course, amounts to banding together politically to use the heavy hand of government to rip off the entrepreneurs and workers who create the wealth that this self-righteous, morally perverted, hypocritical herd so dearly covets. The net effect of this effort is to raise taxes to pay for the mud-puddle around which everyone in the herd sits and commiserates about each other's and society's short-comings. In other words, everyone is to be treated equally except those in charge and those who suffer more than you, and these latter you must accommodate no matter how miserable it makes you. Then too, if you do not literally cry and complain like everyone else, you are not deemed to be suffering, and woe be unto you, if your suffering turns into anger, when you tire of the endless drama and relentless disorder that such a social philosophy breeds.
At the Aloha Inn emotion reigns over logic and compassion over self-reliance. What is more, any and all desire to rise above this emotional quandary is viewed with circumspect -- and this, despite everyone's expressed interest in wanting to leave the Inn as quickly as possible for low-income housing, the consumption of the fruits of others' labor, and not having to return to a shelter. In short, a step-up on the ladder of increased welfare entitlements and greater social dependency.
Before you enter the Inn, you are screened by the Inn's residents and a senior staff member. During this collective interview you are told that the quality of the Inn's residents are a cut above the average homeless person. The reasons given for this are that all Inn members are required to demonstrate some sort of income, many of the members work, and alcohol and drug consumption is prohibited. These reasons would, of course, be largely valid, if the Inn's members were held in compliance as stated in the Inn's rulebook. Not surprisingly, just before I left the Inn in late June never to return, close to half of the Inn's members were out of compliance due to lax enforcement by the Inn's management -- including both CSS-hired non-residents and residents elected by the Inn's membership to the screening and executive committees.
No, Aloha Inn-mates are not a cut above; rather, they are shelter rejects who find it difficult to get along with others at the bottom rung of American society. Moreover, they are dissatisfied with their current level of government entitlements that are generously provided by the many genuinely concerned groups and individuals in the private sector who voluntarily donate their time, money, and effort to relieve a truly miserable swath of American society. After having spent three years in American squalor I can only well imagine the horror that the tens of millions of Middle Eastern and North African refugees, who have been displaced by US bombing raids, military invasions, and village raids in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan, are suffering.
That I not allow myself to wander from the topic at hand, as I am loathe to judge a part of the world in which I am only partially familiar after having spent four years in Saudi Arabia.
To be blunt, if you do not suffer from some mental disorder or physical disability that sets you apart from what the Inn calls a standard set of circumstances, then you are placed at a marked disadvantage vis-à-vis the Inn's management and its residents. For, not only are you viewed with relentless suspicion, but you are considered alien, because you do not participate in the compulsory activities set aside for non-standard residents. The Inn is filled with alcoholics, former drug addicts, the battered debris of failed marriages, and people suffering from some sort of medically assessed mental disorder. This is to say nothing of the Inn's heavy dose of modern liberal sexism, racism, and whatever other -ism you can possibly imagine under the rubric of modern liberalism, the ignorance that it fosters, and the morass of competing special interest groups that vye in Washington, D.C., State legislatures, and city councils around the country for their fair share of the unAmerican spoils system thus obtained.
Unlike a shelter where you spend the night with barely a trace of your having been on the following day, at the Inn you are under constant surveillance by other residents who stand ready to write you up for any perceived slight, and who have the ability to drag you before the Executive Committee -- a group of privileged residents who obtain their post in regularly scheduled "sloppy" elections in which one is nominated, seconded and then voted into office with neither debate, nor discussion. As these elections are largely popularity contests of the moment that often depend on who is already seated on the committee, they often result in the absence of any contest at all. Thus, the quality of those seated on the committee is generally poor. The content of the incident reports that result from this system of democratic arbitrage are highly personal in nature, generally contrived, and often creative and sometimes even well-written given the education level of most of the Inn's members. I suspect that much of the content comes from the frequently watched films, reality shows, and relentless gossip that are the staple of entertainment of most of the Inn's residents. Never in my life have I encountered so much self-pity, fear, paranoia, and vindictiveness among so many people in a single location.
Although the author of a so-called incident report is required to appear along with the person whose character he or she seeks to assassinate, it is nearly always the author's word against his victim's, and there is nothing you can say, nor any evidence that you can show, that will convince the Executive Committee to rule in a manner that would counter its pre-formed opinion of who you are -- a reputation generated through unending gossip driven by the same self-pity, fear, paranoia, and vindictiveness just described.
As my reputation was intentionally soiled by a false accusation within weeks of my arrival by an alcoholic named Michael McKee, who was subsequently awarded the position of a paid, in-house, staff member, I had little chance of ever clearing my good name, even after this same individual was later terminated for having drunk alcohol in his room -- a taboo that necessitated immediate termination. Although many applauded Michael's departure, the damage that he had caused me was by no means diminished, for his accusation coupled with my first appearance before the Executive Committee set the tone for the rest of my stay at the Inn.
At the meeting there were four women seated on the committee and the operations manager who was a rather heavy-set woman. I had gone to the committee to report a stolen jacket, whereupon the operations manager offered me a coat to replace the hooded zipper jacket that I had received as a gift from the branch manager of Galvanize somewhat before I was terminated by my former friend and former personnel manager at same. The jacket was the only real outer covering that I had with me at the time, and it was cold outside. Whereas I was concerned about retrieving my jacket, the operations manager -- bless her heart -- was concerned about my facing the elements without it. When she offered what I though was one of her jackets, I quickly assessed her size, thanked her for her offer, and commented that the jacket would be much too big. Whereupon I was accused by the entire Executive Committee of insulting the very person that was trying to help me and severely admonished for being an ungrateful, insensitive brute. As this was surely not my intention, I replied that I was only stating an observed fact, and that my intention was to explain why I was declining the manager's kind offer. They insisted that I was rude.
Later I would learn that the jacket that had been offered was not that of the operations manager, but one of many differently sized jackets held in storage for just such occasions. In addition, I would learn that the operations manager had had her stomach stapled and was in the process of losing weight. Now, not every heavy-set woman is concerned about losing weight, and I had had no knowledge of the store room when I approached the committee about my stolen jacket. There was another matter, however, that made me unsympathetic to the committee's reprobation -- the committee's reluctance to investigate the identity of the thief.
There were only three possible, easily identifiable suspects. Everyone else was at the General Assembly during which the theft took place. All of this was completely verifiable, because everyone was required to sign in and out when leaving and entering the Inn, and registering your presence at the General Assembly was mandatory. Indeed, one had only to discover who had signed in at the front desk, but was not in attendance at the meeting.
As I had arrived several minutes late for the assembly and no one had entered the building or the assembly after me, the matter would have been cut and dry. For, I had left my jacket in a rest room while relieving myself before attending the assembly and immediately returned to the restroom after the assembly to retrieve it. Only the two people working at the front desk when I entered the building and one other, who had decided not to attend the assembly, were suspect.
Apparently theft was common behavior at the Inn, and identifying one thief when there were so many others, was apparently not worth the Executive Committee's effort!
Three days later, after I had purchased a new jacket, my Galvanize jacket appeared in lost and found at the front desk. The return of my missing jacket had no affect on the committee's opinion of my person. In fact, it likely worsened it, as the manner in which the jacket had been returned made it appear that the jacket had never been stolen. In short, I was made to appear as a liar and trouble-maker.
Nor, did the return of my jacket change my opinion of the committee.
The next ten months would be insufferable.
Of the four roommates that I had while resident at the Inn: one suffered from depression, one was diagnosed as bi-polar, and one was an overweight divorcee who complained of alimony payments. This latter snored so obnoxiously that you could hear him from the hallway with the door closed as he slept. The fourth was a no-account, elderly refugee who lied profusely and bad-mouthed one part of his family while spending endless hours on the phone with the other part. For a time he had even convinced me that he had been an officer in the Ethiopian navy! Ironically, this charlatan turned out to be my best roommate.
After all, he did not suffer from any of the mental or physical disabilities that plagued the majority of the Inn's resident staff and membership, and the thrust of his story -- despite all of the phony ornamentation with which he adorned it -- was shown eventually to be true. He was, indeed, a political refugee who had escaped imprisonment, perhaps even death, for being on the wrong side of a political coup of which he was not a direct participant. Then too, having learned several second languages myself, I understood well his tendency to let told falsehoods persist. Indeed, he had a need for communication and a dearth of vocabulary and grammar to engage in it without putting his conversation partner asleep while he bent over backwards to tell the truth.
We had both been in need of a new roommate. I was attracted to him by his frustration with American society, and he was attracted to me by the fact that I could easily find his true homeland, Eritrea, on a map. Unfortunately, he soon left for a single room at the Inn when his number came up, and I was compelled to find still another Inn-mate with whom to share the night. Indeed, I know of no one in the Inn who was not eager for the privacy of a single room.
At minimum, a psychiatrist is professionally trained to deal with emotional disorders, is paid for his services, and gets a break at the end of the day. As a standard resident of the Aloha Inn with no special training in psychiatry I received no compensation for my reserved indulgence and only rarely enjoyed a vacation away from my "patient". In fact, I was expected to treat all of these non-standard social rejects as normal when I was the victim, and as troubled individuals deserving of lenience and compassion when I was the accused.
I even recall one of the Inn's residents bragging to me that she could make her psychiatrist cry.
What resulted, was a strong desire to spend as little time at the Inn as possible -- a behavioral pattern that I had followed while sleeping in shelters, and that I believed upon initial entry into the Inn I would be able to break. Oh, how I had been deceived. Alas, my frequent absence played well into the hands of my political enemies, because I was never around to defend myself against their relentless gossip.
The overriding assumption at the Inn was that, if you were homeless, there must be something wrong with you. As a result, whatever made you unique was identified as a symptom of some underlying illness. From there it was all imagination. And, with all of the mental disorders concentrated in one location, there was no dearth of imagined mental disorder. As a consequence, it was only a matter of time before you were pegged with some aberration other than your being normal in a house of shelter rejects. Accordingly, once the agreed, collective diagnosis was settled, you were tagged and placed on the defensive whenever you dared to communicate your true feelings about the Inn or any of its management, staff, or members.
In my case, the symptoms were an expressed dissatisfaction with the general level of incompetence in the performance of requisite house duties, an aversion to the overly strict adherence to petty rules whose enforcement often led to the exact opposite outcome for which they were originally designed -- group harmony --, and a sincere desire to correct these shortcomings as they occurred. The resulting diagnosis was an inability to accept authority, arrogance, and willful intent to do others harm. And, the clinical and legal term that these dedicated derelicts attached to this fiction was harassment. From their point of view it was the perfect label. For, every time I sought to correct any of the aforementioned nagging defects I was accused of harassment and my accuser escaped any and all misstep in mine or another's regard. Eventually, I would then be harassed by the Inn's kangaroo court -- read Executive Committee -- before which I was repeatedly dragged for rehabilitation.
Joshua Tritt was surely a shelter drop-out. Initially at the front desk where I first made his acquaintance he landed in Jason's kitchen before quitting the Inn because he could not get along with his roommate. I can only imagine the gossip with which he filled Jason's nicotine-filled head in an effort to prevent me from preparing and serving morning breakfast one day a week -- an activity that would have been well-received by most members of the Inn, but one that Jason absolutely refused despite the appearance of posted kitchen openings for which I signed up. I do not recall Mr. Tritt having ever cooked a meal the entire time that he was active in the kitchen -- not even boiled eggs. Every morning after arriving a half-an-hour late for duty, a habit apparently approved by Jason, he would bring cold food from the refrigerators, place it in the counter wells, and retreat to his corner in the back of the kitchen. There he would cover his ears with headphones so that he would never feel compelled to respond to special requests from the kitchen counter several more than yards distant from where he was sitting. Yes, Mr. Tritt was a case, and I was his first formal victim.
The first of two write-ups that he wrote arose from his inability to find my key on the rack behind the front desk. As he was new and unfamiliar with the system I indicated to him verbally where he could find my key. He took umbrage against my unsolicited instruction. Granted it was the responsibility of the head of security to train him, but there was hardly an Inn member who had not told me while seated behind the front desk where to find his or her key. It was simply a matter of efficiency. The keys were often not hung where they were suppose to be hung, and it was fairly easy to recognize one's own key hanging on the rack from the opposite side of the counter no matter where someone had placed it. Each key had its own colored tag, and many residents went out of their way to make their own key easily identified and retrieved. When I tried to explain to Mr. Tritt that no ill-will was intended, he began swearing and told me to stop messing with him as he handed me my key. I thanked him and left with no inclination to offer an apology. That evening I saw something in my mailbox and discovered a write-up.
When we appeared together for the summons he swore to the entire Committee that he would punch me in the mouth the next time that I messed with him. Whereupon I suggested that his comments were inappropriate, and he was gently reprimanded by the Committee. Several more questions were asked and answered, and we were told by the chairperson to wait in the hallway why the Committee deliberated. When I returned I was told that I should expect a restraining order in my mailbox within the next couple of days.
In the order I was told to keep clear of Joshua Tritt for the next month, else I would be removed from the Inn.
Never had I raised my voice to Mr. Tritt. Never had I sworn or threatened him with physical violence.
Goldie, my good friend while at the Inn, was seated in the kitchen a week later, and I was standing between her and a service table. Although there was room for two people to pass, it was tight and all that was required was a simple, "Pardon me, I would like to pass" in order for the other to make room. Mr. Tritt approached and said nothing. When I said nothing in return he pushed his way past. I made no effort to resist and simply let Goldie bear witness. Until the Quinn Affair I had never submitted an incident report against a fellow Inn-mate who was not superior in rank and clearly in violation of the rules that they were otherwise suppose to enforce. I was not about to start on account of the likes of Joshua Tritt. He simply was not worth the time and energy.
After the restraining order had expired; however, this same paranoid idiot wrote me up again. This time it was for providing instruction to his desk-mate at the front desk. This latter indicated that he did not know how to run the printer in a matter that would produce the result that I requested. So, I offered my help, and he agreed. As I was passing through the gate, Mr. Tritt told me not to enter, as I was not on duty. It was house business, but I had no desire to argue with the jerk, so I provided the instruction from the other side of the desk. Though I was no longer paying attention to the idiot, my instruction must have enraged him, for on the following day I found a write-up in my mailbox in reference to the preceding evening.
At the summons the person whom I had helped was called as a witness. He confirmed before the committee that portion of my testimony to which he could honestly attest, and I believed myself to have been exonerated. I was grateful for my Inn-mate's testimony and later thanked him, for he, too, worked at the front desk, and Mr. Tritt had not yet left for the kitchen.
The Idiot was called from the hallway before me, and I understood this to mean that I was still in trouble. I had come to know well how the Executive Committee functions, but was not expecting what followed.
Mr. Tritt did not look pleased when he left the room, and this provided me with some comfort. Accordingly, I was invited by a friendly smile to enter the room and sat down. Whereupon, I was told by the committee chair that the committee had decided to place me on probation.
Come again? On what grounds, pray-tell?
In effect, I was being accused of harassing Idiot Tritt and told that I would automatically be removed from the Inn, if I were to receive another write-up within 30 days after receipt of the probation notice. There was obviously something more to this decision than Idiot Tritt.4
Still, the committee's decision was difficult to grasp, as everyone whom I knew felt about Mr. Tritt similarly to the way that I did. The fellow had serious mental issues and was best avoided. Indeed, the rumors flying about after the meeting suggested that the Executive Committee was preparing to place me on the chopping block, and that my probation was the preliminary first step for my imminent departure.
I was not nearly so concerned as my friends appeared to be, for the simple reason that my biggest antagonist Michael McKee had finally been caught drinking in his room and terminated. Apparently his roommate had snitched on him. Further, I had just survived a far more serious interchange than that between Idiot Tritt and me.
Now, I am loathe to relate this tale for the simple reason that I was embarrassed by the outcome. Although I fared well, my antagonist, the current Front Desk manager, and one of my two bosses, suffered far more dearly than she deserved. In the end, she was a decent human-being who went out of her way to make things right for everyone. Simply she was busy making everything right in the wrong way and got caught between Her Empress, Terene Salvano, who had just made her debut on the Executive Committee, and me.
I do not take kindly to the abuse of authority, no matter who the source, and my boss had mistakenly sided with Terene Salvano, the newly elected prima-donna on the Executive Committee, against me. In self-defense I went to the Operations Manager and railed about what had transpired. Two weeks later I learned, while I was still on probation, that my former boss would be leaving the Aloha Inn for Portland, Oregon with her daughter. Her reason for leaving? To escape the Aloha Inn and Seattle. Apparently, she had been so humiliated by Ms. Salvano and the Executive Committee that she simply could not bear the Inn any longer. Although I only know what she told me, it appears that it was this incident that would eventually turn Her Highness, Ms. Terene, into my new arch-enemy. Alas, Ms. Salvno was very good at finding fault with everyone else, but herself, and my former boss became Ms. Salvano's first victim.
Still another episode in the 24/7 soap-opera called the Aloha Inn reality show.
Returning to the issue at hand, I did not appeal my probation, because: one, I had discovered that the Operations Manager was approachable after all; two, I did not wish to push the matter of my probation to a level of absurdity beyond that which it had already reached; and three, I had observed that my own reputation was improving among my fellow Inn-mates while that of the Executive Committee's was deteriorating. In essence, the enemy cabal that had been organized and led by Michael McKee had lost its leader and its members were no longer so well-organized. Joshua Tritt had simply been a tool of the cabal in search of fame.
After a long back-and-forth about whether music should be played at the front desk, it was finally decided that during any single three-hour shift, the one could listen to her choice of music during the first 90-minutes, and the other could enjoy his quiet during the second half. Whereupon the female half of the agreement decided one day that she would listen to music during the second half, rather than the first and offered no warning in regard to her unilateral change of sequence. Whereupon I was left to wonder why there was silence during the first half of my shift, and then suddenly subjected to noise during the second half when there was supposed to be quiet. In the name of sanity I stood my ground and three weeks later, after numerous heads were bounced, someone else was finally found to replace her. This someone was the same house-favorite whom I had long suspected, among two others, of stealing my pull-over three days after my arrival at the Inn and not returning it until I had purchased a new jacket to replace what had been stolen.
This was OK, however, as now I had two pull-overs one for the university where I spent most of my time, and one for the front desk at the Inn where I assiduously performed my duties as telephone receptionist or security guard depending on the day and time. What is more, it had only been a suspicion, and the individual was, indeed, likable. This said, he did have one habit of which I was not at all fond -- a steady, heavy use of men's cologne that made his presence inexorably felt.
Happy to be finally rid of the female nemesis who had actively sought to make my life as miserable as possible, I decided to remain silent about my new counter-mate's cologne. Everything was fine until Jeff, the Inn's self-appointed buffoon, complained about my desk-mate's cologne while seated in the dining room, and I took it upon myself to deliver the complaint to its proper target. Whereupon I was told to mind my own business, as if the air that others breathed were not their own -- a shared commodity. Alas, I had done what I could, and if Jester Jeff was so intent on the matter, he could bring it to the attention of the Executive Committee. Alas, alas, it was clear that my desk-mate was not about to change his habit without a fight, and I had already resigned myself to his narcotic-like scent, anyway. So, I let the matter drop and returned to my former position of tolerance.
On the same evening, it came about that a fan placed in a certain position became a source of disturbance to the source of excessive cologne. Whereupon I graciously changed the fan's location, and in so doing reminded my desk-mate of the complaint that had arisen in the dining room against his excessive use of cologne. Umbrage was taken, my desk-mate stood up, walked up to my person, placed his left hand on my chest, and told me that the matter had been settled. Whereupon I told him to back off. As he complied, I thought the matter ended. He had reaffirmed his position and acceded to my command in pretty much the same breath.
Unfortunately, the matter was not over. For, while I was being confronted, my roommate, the obese divorcee whose incredible snoring had driven me on several occasions from my own bed, and who was being trained by my desk-mate at the time of the confrontation, picked up the telephone and called staff. Whereupon, my desk-mate excused himself and left his post. Within minutes staff arrived, and I listened as my roommate explained that my desk-mate had reached for a knife in his back, right pocket while his left hand was still on my chest. Whereupon staff encouraged me to write an incident report. I declined, with the simple explanation that I viewed the matter as closed. My accuser had relinquished his hand in the moment that I demanded, and I was already resigned to his use of cologne.
As my roommate was new and apparently frightened by what had happened, he was easily baited into writing an incident report. For the next two days my desk-mate and I sat next to each other at the front desk in good humor, while the apparently panic-stricken staff prepared for our mutual expulsion. As word about what had happened had not yet time to circulate among a majority of the Inn-mates, most continued to view us, my knife-totin' desk-mate and I, as a happy pair of front desk co-workers who, indeed, we were.
Within two days the Executive Committee called an emergency summons whereupon Jeremy and I, together with my roommate, were dragged before the Aloha Inn's kangaroo court to both of our dismay.
The hearing began with the incident report written by my roommate. It was very positive in my regard, and certainly accurate with regard to those matters matters in which I was directly involved. The initial complaint about the fan, its relocation, and my having reminded Jeremy about his cologne were all very accurate. Even those parts of the direct confrontation to which I was privy were without error.
When my roommate had finished I was asked to present my side of the story, whereupon I simply stated that the report was accurate, that I knew nothing about the knife, and believed the matter to have been settled when Jeremy relinquished at my command. Now, it was Jeremy's turn to speak.
He denied everything that my roommate had just reported. Either he was a victim of too much CSPAN, or he understood far better than I that you never admitted anything to the committee that you did not want to be later used against you. Alas, the same person whom I had just excused and whom I would have continued to defend before the committee was now portraying me as a liar. I could no longer support him.
After everyone had spoken my roommate was excused, and my accuser and I were asked to wait in the hallway while the committee deliberated. After some time I was asked to reenter the room whereupon I was handed my termination and told to leave on the following morning. I was accused of provoking Jeremy to false action.
Knowing well what I was up against, I simply asked to be reminded of the procedure for appeal, looked my enemies on the committee in the face, and thanked the others for their consideration. I had declared war.
When I returned to my room and told my roommate the decision of the Executive Committee, he was taken aback. All I could do was remind him of what I had told him after I learned that he had submitted his incident report -- namely, that submitting the report was a bad idea.
It was on March 15th that I left the Aloha Inn.
I had been accused of provoking a fellow Inn-mate, told to pack by bags, and leave by the following morning, else the police would be notified, and I would be removed by force. Knowing well that the Executive Committee's decision was based on personal dislike rather than factual evidence, I obtained an appeal form, called my good friend, Chris Barnett, and asked if he could fetch me and my belongings that evening. When asked whether I could stay at his place for approximately a week while I completed my appeal, he said no, but did offer to receive my belongings and drive me to NightWatch as it was already quite late.
So, while setting aside those things that I would leave at my friend's residence I proceeded to pack all that I had, thoroughly sealed and labeled each and every suitcase and box, and placed the resulting entirety into a storage room bin to which only Inn staff had access. I then took photographs of what was deposited and descended to the lobby. When Chris arrived several minutes later I had only my essential clothing, toiletries, computer, and we sped off to his apartment. As more than one person had a key to the locked storage room, I could not have been too careful.
When I arrived at Nightwatch, I was treated as a known entity by the front desk and allowed to reenter the system without a referral -- a letter of reference from one of NightWatch's participating shelters or other affiliated organizations. The NightWatch management team had changed hands during my long absence, and Big Al was no longer there. Only Jim remained, and I was lucky. That night and the following two weeks were spent at Friends, the Quaker shelter that I had forgone when the Boat Street shelter was closed in August of 2017.
Big Al, a fellow genuinely concerned about my welfare, had insisted that the First Presbyterian Church would be a far better alternative to the Friends Shelter and had provided me with assurance that I would be able to return to NightWatch and then on to Friends were the First Presbyterian Church not what Big Al imagined. It turned out to be far worse, but this, of course, is another story of, already, a long time past.
When I told my fellow Inn-mates what had happened before the Executive Committee, I was encouraged to visit Catholic Community Services (CCS), the organization that oversees the Aloha Inn, and ask for someone named Doug McKeehen.
As Doug was not there when I arrived on the following Monday I spoke with one of his colleagues who listened to my story. She told me that she would share it with Doug when he returned and provided me with his email address that I then used as a means to pursue further my visit with his colleague. This follow-up took the form of an email in which I introduced myself, informed Doug that I had met with his colleague, and requested a meeting. Friday morning past and still I had not received a response. As there was an established window during which a former Aloha Inn resident could appeal his termination and that window was rapidly closing I called CSS. I could not get through and decided to pay another visit. Luckily I met Dan Wise who oversaw the entire CSS for the Seattle Arch-Diocese at the time. She agreed to speak with the Aloha Inn staff on my behalf. Whereupon I was invited to appear before the Executive Committee several days later.
The meeting began with an invitation to return to the Inn, and I realized immediately that my two trips to CSS had paid off. When I asked to have restored my five three-hour work shifts that I had worked so hard to acquire and maintain, the committee balked and offered no guarantee -- this, despite my effort before my departure to insure that they would still be available were I to return. Rather than make a deal with the devil, I insisted. Whereupon I was asked to return to the hallway and wait while the committee deliberated further. After some 20 minutes worth of deliberation and occasional laughter, I knocked on the door and complained that it was getting late, and that I had to return to Nightwatch. Whereupon I was told to wait just a little longer. Within moments the door reopened, and I was told that my appeal would have to go before the General Assembly. I smiled, thanked the committee for their reconsideration, and said good-bye. I had achieved my goal and won my first formal battle against Her Highness, Ms. Terene.
On the following Sunday I appeared before the assembly to make my case. And, make it, I did. By the time the meeting was over not only had I been readmitted to the Inn, but I was now seated on the very committee that had forced my departure -- the High Council of Kingdom of the Inn -- albeit opposite Her Highness, Ms. Salvano.
The Fat Cook Who Snored
During my nearly two-week absence from the Inn, my roommate -- in the belief that I would not return -- switched beds. He took my preferred placement next to the window, and I was compelled to settle for the bed closest to the heater. As he did not offer to switch back, what was I to think? Maybe he had been part of the plot to have me removed.
Within a week of my return I discovered that my roommate had fallen asleep while watching a video. In so doing he had failed to turn on his C-Pack machine and was snoring so loudly that I could hear him before I entered the room. Although I could easily turn off his video, getting him hooked up to his machine would be a different story. Reluctant to wake him, because of house policy that rewarded snoring as a customary human condition, I returned downstairs and asked for advice among my friends seated in the diningroom. Jester Jeff suggested that I have the front desk call and wake him, and thereby provide my roommate with the opportunity to rectify his own negligence without my interference. What a great idea I thought; the Kingdom's self-appointed buffoon did have his brilliant moments -- well, until the front desk informed my roommate that I was the one who had requested the call.
When I returned to my room, I was accused of having rudely awakened my roommate and was set upon. Whereupon I asked him whether my own inability to sleep was ever a factor in his consideration and blame. When I further pointed out that he had fallen asleep with his video still playing, I was told that it was none of my business, how he fell asleep. Alas, I stood my ground and remained silent, as I was accused of every wrong-doing imaginable. I was not about to be bullied by his negligence, neither was I going to engage in a heated argument that would deny me the very thing for which I called -- life's feast, my badly needed sleep. Finally, realizing that he was not about to engage me in irrelevant argument he became irate, rose from his bed, threatened me with an incident report, pushed me out of the way, and left the room in a huff. I offered no resistance and undisturbed by his theatre quietly retired.
On the following morning I noticed that something had been placed in my mailbox while I slept. Sure enough it was the promised incident report. Curiously though, it was not from my roommate. Rather, it had been written by the same pathetic, battered, Lesbian divorcee (this is not made up) who would several weeks later accuse me of tormenting her at a General Assembly that Her Majesty, Ms. Salvano, would chair, fail to maintain order, and then blame me for her failure.
So, why had the incident report not been written by my roommate -- the pretended, offended party?
Surely, as the security person on duty when the call was made, this pathetic divorcee had been a witness to my requested call. As the security person still on duty when my roommate descended upon the front desk with his complaint, she was also the person with whom my roommate would have had to file his report. My conclusion, though I cannot swear to its veracity, is that she volunteered to write the report in an effort to soil my reputation, in the moment that my roommate realized how absolutely childish his behavior in my regard had been. Important is that the divorcee and Ms. Salvano were good friends.
The charge against me? Well, harassment, of course.
It turned out that the Executive Committee understood that the divorcee had no grounds to write the report, and that the plaintiff was, at best, the witness to an incident that the victim failed to document. Fortunately, Ms. Salvano was compelled to recuse herself from the Committee by the Operations Manager, and I was already established as a valuable member of the committee that was now judging the complaint against me.
The charge was dropped.
Within a few days after the incident I learned that my roommate would be leaving the Inn. The stated reason for his departure was that he did not like the Inn and had received an invitation to share an apartment somewhere else with a friend. Yes, I was elated because I would no longer have to go to sleep to the sound of his C-Pac machine. This said, his departure was a mixed blessing, for I did not know who would become my next roommate: a gay suffering from depression seeking his way to happiness via daily doses of trazadone, another habitual liar from Eritrea, or a snoring pig who knew how to please the dining room as a fat, professional cook, but left my own sleep in shambles as I was compelled to choose between his obnoxious snoring or the relentless rhythm of his breathing machine.
In a way I should be thankful, for all of my roommates were relatively clean and in the end appreciated the fact that I hardly used our room or the Inn, for that matter, as little more than a place to sleep and store my luggage -- psychologically speaking, a costly shelter of convenience.
On the day of his departure Clark Schosser took with him the large, white fluffy, bath towel, that I had yet to use and had left hanging, unused, on the bathroom door as a source of pride since the Christmas holiday. That I may recapture the original meaning of the word pride from the throes of the modern liberal, gay lexicon! The towel had been one of two Christmas presents from the Inn that Chris, one of my front desk counter-mates, had found unclaimed behind the desk on the day after Christmas. Taking one for himself and offering me the other he sealed our friendship.
For six months my desk-mate had accused me of lacking compassion for my fellow Inn-mates. Then, one day, the miserable wretch who had brought about this prejudicial determination on the part of my desk-mate, and about whom many thought so highly because he had made himself a constant thorn in my side, revealed himself to my desk-mate in the same way that he had once revealed himself to me within days after his arrival at the Inn -- a dishonest spinner of tales who had no respect for anyone who did not fall victim to his physical disability that he used as a tool to obtain undeserved sympathy and unfair advantage in any game that the forever conniving rascal sought to play. Indeed, Chris's presentation of the large, fluffy, white towel was an expression of his contrition and a solid vindication of my own integrity and character.
You see, Chris suffered from his own physical disability -- a failed kidney that compelled him to sit with a dialysis machine for two to three hours three times a week in order to clean his system of the toxic build-up in his blood of which his kidney was no longer able to rid him. This routine turned him into a zombie three times a week, and one had no choice, but to feel sorry for his condition. Like the charlatan, Chris felt singled out and in need of special handling. Unlike the charlatan, however, Chris neither used his disability to seek unfair advantage, nor did he feel entitled to the extra kindness that he received because of it. Rather, he was grateful for the kindness that he did receive, and if he did not receive it understood that it was up to him to manage without it.
When I complained to Claudette, the Inn's Housing Manager, about the stolen towel, she offered to speak with Clark before formalizing his departure from the Inn. Several days later she told me that my former roommate insisted that the towel belonged to him, that he had not stolen it, and that I was lying. As this was pretty much par for the course at the Aloha Inn, I let the matter drop and said nothing to Chris about his stolen present.
Was the stolen towel an omen of what was to come?
In my search for a new roommate I fell upon two candidates: one, named Owen, and another named Stephen Caro. I preferred Owen, because he was upbeat, and I knew him to be even-tempered, studious, and clean. What is more, he was not a part of Seattle's modern liberal establishment; he was from Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, he kept telling me to wait until I could not wait any longer. His hesitation ruined our friendship.
Stephen Caro was hermetic, but we shared something in common that made him stand out -- an appreciation for classical literature.
Each Inn-mate was required to complete a 15-hour work week at the Inn. My work-shifts were timed so as to coincide with the Inn's evening meals and regularly scheduled weekly meetings of the Executive and Screening Committees. By the time I was first terminated, I had managed to schedule four of my three-hour work shifts between the hours of 6:00 and 9:00 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The fifth shift, although often a double-shift (back-to-back with another shift), was somewhat flexible and on occasion took place between 6:00 and 9:00 PM on Sunday. This time-frame was ideal because it allowed me to spend my days at the university and economize my waking time at the Inn. Dinner-time, if it were served, was always at 7:00 PM, and the mandatory summons from either the Executive Committee or the Screening Committee often took place within these time intervals as well. This meant that I could obtain dinner during my 15-minute break, and would not have to waste time sitting in the hall-way while waiting for my name to be called to attend a summons. In this latter regard, when the appropriate committee needed to see me, I was always available; they had only to call the front desk, and I would appear. As the front desk was usually manned by two people, one could easily go missing on account of Inn business, and the other would cover. As I was frequently summoned (harassed by the Executive Committee) at the request of my political enemies, I did everything that I could to preserve this schedule.
Until I actually sat on the harassment committee I rarely sat at the large table in the dining room. After my election to the Executive Committee I no longer sat alone or with a friend at one of the smaller tables off to the side. It was during the period, before the election, that I got to know Stephen, for inevitably you would find him sitting by himself in the dining room with a book. One day I noticed that he was reading Fiodor Dostoyevsky in translation. I did not recognize the title as a book that I had read, and asked him about the book's subject matter; it was The Brothers Karamazov -- one of Dostoyevsky's most important novels. As Stephen was eager to answer my questions, and I was happy to find someone who appreciated classical literature, we became acquainted.
No, he was not Owen, but his lack of interest in the daily drama of the Inn suggested that he could make a good roommate. At first, he was hesitant, but his roommate had recently departed, and like me he did not know what chance might bring him -- a recovering drug addict, an alcoholic, a bipolar manic-depressive, a paranoid jerk, or maybe even an incessant liar. In any case, the chances were biased toward the lower end of society's misfits, and I was now a member of the Executive Committee. So, I asked him, if he snored, and he replied, somewhat sheepishly, that no one had ever complained to him about his having done so. I took him at his word, and we submitted the necessary request forms to the Operations Manager and Executive Committee.
As I was a member of the Executive Committee I was not permitted to preside over our request, but my enemies on the committee were. Our request was denied, and we were both told to wait. For what? I immediately appealed the decision with a scathing, but factual, appraisal of what had transpired at the summons in which our request for a room change was heard. Stephen would later inform me that he had never read my appeal -- this, despite my having placed a copy of it in his mailbox. This made me feel uncomfortable; it were as if he did not really care with whom he roomed.
Within days after my appeal was submitted, Stephen Caro and I, for better or for worse, became roommates.
It did not take very long for me to realize that Stephen Caro snored. As his snoring was not anything like the snoring of Clark Schlosser, and Stephen had volunteered to sit on the Screening Committee that would soon be reviewing my appeal for financial salvation, I did my best to ignore it. As a result, it was not always easy to fall asleep, and I became sensitive to the sometimes very loud, after-hours chatter that emanated from the Smoking Hut.
The hut was a somewhat large, open, wooden edifice with a wooden roof and wooden benches that could seat at least eight people. I cannot remember ever seeing more than eight smokers at a single time, but it just seemed that it could hold more. It was there where the Inn's alcoholics went to imbibe in their most favorite substitute drug -- nicotine -- and spread their nefarious gossip.
Please do not misunderstand; not everyone who smoked in the hut was an alcoholic, but why ban alcohol on the Aloha Inn's premises, when nicotine was routinely abused. The asocial personality of an alcoholic does not disappear simply because he is not drinking, and the habitual craving of a nicotine addict is hardly more socially conducive. Nor, does habitual smoking contribute anything to the healthy social ambience that banning alcohol was suppose to create. Then too, such blatant contradictions were common at the Inn, and probably went a long way toward insuring that never more than a third of the Inn's residents made it through their two-year contract at the end of which housing was not guaranteed, anyway. Insured was a return to the street, if housing could not be found by the time that the contract expired.
In any case, there were noise guideslines in place that were rarely followed, and a mechanism was needed to enforce them.
Until I was elected to the Executive Committee and Stephen Caro became my roommate I had pretty much ignored the Smoking Hut. My room was on the third floor in the middle of the building, and the smoking hut was located at the end of the building on the other side of a parking lot that my room overlooked. When I was bothered by the chatter, it was because I could overhear in excruciating detail what was being said; nearly always the detail consisted of the nefarious gossip to which I have already alluded.
Still, I do not ever remember complaining to anyone about the chatter, because like so many other things at the Inn complaining was just a grown-up way of crying and achieved just about as much -- misguided sympathy or derision from one's neighbors. No, at the Aloha Inn, the way to get something done was to throw a temper tantrum, make a big-ado about nothing, and then quiety disappear behind closed doors with one of the higher-ranking staff members. For there one could spew falsehoods about one's fellow residents free of recrimination from the target of your malicious intent.
Further, of all of the residents that I ever saw seated on the Executive Committee during my somewhat more than 10-month residency at the Inn, I do not recall six who were not chain-smokers. And turnover on the five-member committee was significant.
One of my first tasks at the first and only General Assembly meeting that I chaired during the nearly three weeks that I sat on the Executive Committee was getting the Inn's residents to agree on an enforcement mechanism for taming the after-hours chatter emanating from the Smoking Hut.
Jason, the Kitchen Head and my next-door neighbor on the third-floor, had been complaining at each and every General Assembly meeting for the previous several weeks about the noise emanating from the Smoking Hut.
Now, Jason was clearly a member of the remnant kitchen cabal organized by the already long-departed Michael McKee. His dislike for me was surely complemented by his being the roommate of the wretched, miserable Rodney Peterman who had so easily turned my desk-mate, Chris, and so many others against me. Yes, Jason's dislike for my person was based solely on heresy and his own character deficiencies, for I had never sat down with him in a real conversation. Of course, what I knew about Jason was similarly skewed by what I observed and overhead while sitting at the front desk 15 hours a week. In the end, however, it was his repeated rejection of my offer to work in the kitchen as a breakfast time, short-order cook three-hours a week that turned me against him. For, Jason was allowing the Inn's residents to go without a cooked breakfast once a week in an effort to keep me out of the kitchen as anything more than a mop-boy.
Indeed, while at the front desk I learned from his own miserably wretched roommate, who would eventually become my nominal boss as Head of Security, that Jason was lazy. This observation was confirmed while I was on security duty by Jason's reluctance, or even failure at times, to act when his intervention was absolutely needed. No, volunteerism was not Jason's strong suit. Listening to Jason complain as he repeatedly fled the Inn on his way to the smoking hut during meal times, one quickly came to learn that Jason wanted everything to run smoothly under his command, but that he was either unwilling or incapable to do what was necessary to insure that it would. Jason was also vindictive as were so many of our fellow Inn-mates. Rather than filling in when his own ktichen staff failed to show up, he would simply shut the kitchen down against the Inn's rules and impose collective punishment.
Indeed, while he was Kitchen Head there were always job vacancies that reflected the general reluctance to work in the kitchen while he was its head -- this, despite all of the food perks that one received for such work.
When the General Assembly was thrown open to general discussion, Jason came forward with his complaint. He was not invited to stand before the chair and committee, and he certainly did not ask. He simply took it upon himself.
I said nothing, for I knew that there was no better place to be heard than where he stood, and he had a right just like everyone else to register a formal, oral complaint. When he was finished presenting his case he began fielding questions. This is where I stood up, thanked him for his input, and asked him to please sit down so that the committee could perform its task. Jason sat down. Still, he did not return to his seat. This too, I approved, for afterall, it was he who had initiated the complaint, and it was about his complaint that the subsequent dialogue would be conducted.
After some fifteen minutes of discussion during which Jason remained silent, I asked, if there were any more input, summarized what had been said, and offered a solution. There was no objection. Whereupon I asked Jason, if he were not satisfied with the outcome. He indicated his satisfaction, stood up, and returned to his seat. After the meeting I formulated my suggestion and posted it downstairs as a new General Assembly rule. For several days, perhaps weeks, there was no complaint from anyone about noise emanating from the smoking hut.
My success, however, as most good things that occurred at the Inn depended on the cooperative spirit of the entire membership. I will return to this matter later.
Now, if you understand gossip as an unfounded majority opinion created to insure community where none would otherwise exist, then you can easily understand how certain individuals outside of your artificially created circle of like-minded conspirators become the common enemy that binds you together. In effect, you create of others a bogeyman in order to satisfy your own need for fellowship amongst those with whom you would otherwise share little in common. This was the essence of the Smoking Hut -- a common addiction in need of a common enemy that was not the very nicotine to which each smoker was hopelessly a victim.
My name was called, and I responded. It was on the fourth floor after having just concluded a brief meeting with Annaka about her new post as Orientation Head. It was Anaka. When I arrived, she told me that there had been a fight, and I asked her to call security while I sought to resolve the matter as the only member of the Executive Committee (EC) present at the time.
What Annaka had witnessed I will likely never know; what I witnessed is clearly spelled out in two documents: one, the only incident report that I ever wrote against a fellow Inn-mate who was not my superior; and two, the rough draft of my defense in favor of the rebellion that eventually led to Ms. Serene Salvano's usurpation. The part of this latter report relevant to this section is entitled The Quinn Affair. Important is that I was now being accused by my enemies of having interfered with the work of security on the one hand, and of unjustified bias toward the assailant who was removed from the Inn by the police on the other hand.
It was relatively easy to determine who the authors of the gossip were as two of them filed an incident report against me. In the first instance my accuser failed to produce any evidence and appeared silly even to the committee when confronted with the substance of my incident report against Quinn -- the physically harmed, likely deserving victim of the incident. Then too, the committee appeared to hold Alberto, my accuser, in lower esteem than it held me.
My second accuser, Armani, did not even bother to appear when it was time for her to present her incident report. And, it is unlikely that she would have faired any better than her occasional lover, Alberto, who had testified just before she was scheduled to appear. Although Armani was good friends with key people in the Inn, she did have the reputation of a house troublemaker that would have played well in my favor. Her charge against me, of course, was one of harassment. Armani had felt insulted when I, the only member of the EC involved in the Quinn Affair, told her to return to her station at the front desk, when she suddenly appeared before the elevator to inform me that Jerry, a truly no-account staff member, thought it best that I return to my room.
Quinn had just threatened me with physical violence in front of the dumpster where Alberto, the security person who had alerted me to Quinn's behavior, and I were investigating the contents of a bag that Quinn had just tossed into same. As nothing came of the threat and the contents of the bag were clearly identified as the belongings of Quinn's roommate, there was nothing more for me to do, but wait until the following day when the Program Manager would undertake her own investigation of what had transpired the previous evening.
I tarried for some time in the parking lot with a former member of the EC whom I believed to be a genuinely responsible, fellow Inn-mate and explained to her what had happened. As I was passing the front desk on my way back to my room, I overheard No-Account Jerry discussing with Alberto that both Quinn and I should be removed from the Inn so as to insure the safety of the other residents. As I found the suggestion simultaneously absurd and amusing -- par for the course at the Aloha Inn, if you will --, I simply passed the two in silence and proceded to the elevator. While I was waiting for the elevator to arrive Armani appeared with her missive.
If I may venture to guess, my presence in front of the elevator suggested to No-Account Gerry what I had already decided to do on my own, and Armani volunteered to inform me about No-Account Gerry's brilliant idea to have me return to my room. Her act of volunteerism was surely to become a part of what would eventually become a carefully constructed smear about my comprehensive and assiduous handling of Quinn in the Quinn Affair.
Idiocy and wanton emotion are brother and sister of the same modern liberal, bastard parents and in abundant supply at the Aloha Inn.
Another easy to identify author of the gossip and resulting smear was, of course, Quinn -- still another troubled gay resident who probably would have been fine in a room unto himself, but simply could not control his pride in the presence of a reserved, religious Muslim who found Quinn's sexual habits haram, if not outright disgusting. Then too, this is what the Inn was all about -- a microcosm of America's never ending struggle of minority interests seeking to impose their own beliefs, speech, and behavior on the otherwise silent majority in the name of social justice and equality. Indeed, when Rebecca, another troubled Inn-mate, left the Inn for an apartment in a home for the mentally troubled, it was joked that she would not only have a place to herself, but would likely find her new housemates to be far more amenable company. And why? Because competent people would be present to oversee the home and its residents' short-comings.
Yes, Quinn, was a real treat. Someone to whom you would say, "Hi!", and observe as he walked past you, as if you were not present. Someone who would push you from behind, if he thought you were in his way. And, someone who would threaten you with physical violence, if you did not meet his undeserved entreaties. The only times that I heard Quinn speak at length, was when he stood before me with his bloodied lip, as if it were the end of the world, and spun his story of how his roommate had punched him while he lay on his bed. And then again, before the Executive Committee when he spun his tale about how improper it had been for me to seek out his garbage after I had been clearly alerted by security that he had likely thrown his roommates's belongings into a parking dumpster after being instructed by my person to leave them in his room until things could be sorted out at an emergency Executive Committee meeting where the matter between him and his roommate would be decided.
Unfortunately, his first story neither squared with the raucous that I heard just before Annaka called me from the hallway in front of his room, nor with the undisturbed bed that I discovered when I entered the interior of the room and his roommate pointed to the blaring video screen. Certainly Quinn's behavior, after the police had left, matched well his roommate's belief that his roommate had been on some sort of drug at the time. But, like most things at the Inn the follow-up drug test that I had recommended to No-Account Gerry, the only staff-member present at the time, was never administered -- neither by the staff member, nor the Program Manager on the following day or next General Assembly.
How does one explain such a failure? Was Quinn befriended with No-Account Jerry? Was it because I was the one who had recommended that a test be administered? Or, was it because No-Account Jerry was simply lazy and considered the matter settled by a 10-minute, on-the-spot determination made by two police officers brought in from the outside with little or no understanding of the Inn or its residents? When I asked the Program Manager at the subsequent General Assembly whether a drug test had been administered, she indicated no knowledge of such a request; this, despite reassurances by No-Account Jerry that a test would be administered.
Yes, No-Account Jerry, was the same whom I had once asked how to turn off the door alarm when someone opened any of the Inn's secured doors by accident or with malicious intent. Firstly, I was told that I should call staff. When I reminded him that this is exactly what I had done, but that it took Gerry a full ten minutes to appear, he replied that I should just let the alarm ring, and that it would shut off automatically. Yes, this is, indeed, what occurred. Now, the alarm was quite loud, like that of a fire alarm or a security horn under the hood of a parked car, and it only sounded at the front desk. Obviously, No-Account Jerry would not be disturbed; his room was very distant from the desk.
I never did learn how to turn off the alarm, and fortunately, it was never sounded again while I was on duty. This said, one can only wonder why front-desk security could not be told how to turn it off once sounded. Did one really believe that Aloha Inn, in-house staff could be any better trusted than the Inn's residents?
With the exception of the Program, Operations, and Housing Managers, there were only one or two other staff members who were paid social workers from the outside. The entire rest of the staff were former graduates of the Inn -- what were called the Inn's residents who managed to survive the Aloha Inn gong show for the full two years. That these latter were designated as in-house staff and awarded free lodging speaks volumes about their lack of competence, perverted social skills, and authoritarian pre-disposition. Each of them had honed well the art of always saying yes to their boss and no to their fellow residents. Each had mastered the art of finding an excuse for whatever damage their own negligence or procrastination could bring about. And, none of them had to sit before the Executive Committee for their extraordinary lack of competence. Their real utility appeared to be that of a buffer between externally hired management and the Inn's residents. As these in-house lackies took turns at always being present, the Inn's real managers were able to achieve their daily reprieve, weekend vacations, and extended holidays.
In the end, I had fulfilled my obligations. I had
Responded to a call of distress from a fellow resident and asked that she notify security.
Intervened between the two altercating roommates to insure that no further physical violence took place.
Obtained the agreement of the one roommate to forego his own bed that night in favor of a cot in order to secure peace between the two.
Did not interfere with Quinn's right to call the police -- this, despite my advice that it would not be necessary and would reflect poorly on the Inn.
Remained with Quinn's roommate until the police arrived, while security remained with Quinn.
Oversaw the police investigation and offered what evidence that I had about the altercation.
Informed Quinn that he was not to remove his roommate's belonging after the police had left.
Secured those belongings when Quinn refused my counsel and security notified that he had taken them to the dumpster.
Remained on the scene until staff (No-Account Jerry) finally arrived.
Informed staff about the possibility of drug abuse.
Returned to my room having fulfilled my duty as the only member of the EC present at the time of the incident.
Submitted an incident report several days later about Quinn's failure to follow a necessary and reasonable EC instruction
How this assiduous and thorough effort would eventually turn my fellow residents against me can only be explained by gossip and another incident that I am about to relate.
I had been a resident at the Aloha Inn for nearly nine months, and only once had I experienced race as a source of contention. It was a casually formed, strategically targeted remark that sought to entice me into a discussion that I did not wish to enter. I simply looked the person in the face, said nothing, and never heard it again.
My second roommate had been from Eritrea. The fellow whom I courted to replace him was from Puerto Rico. My comrade-in-arms at the Inn, Goldie Holmes, was likely a descendant of West African slaves, although I never asked. And, my desk-mate who had accused me for six-months of lacking in compassion only to present me on Boxing Day with a large, fluffy, white towel and sealed our newly won friendship, was racially negroid. This latter's origin -- not any of the Americas -- I never truly understood. Even the fellow who would eventually defeat me in my first attempt to recover my seat on the Executive Committee was likely of slave descent, and we managed to remain friends after my defeat -- this, despite my misgivings about his lack of good judgment about the nature of the EC. What is more, of the four people to whom I could have gone to have my bi-monthly exit plan reviewed two of them were light complected and two dark. I chose Claudette, a dark-complected American, with an ever so slight Southern draw.
Indeed, the absence of racial hostility at the Inn was one of the few positive features that it offered. For, when I compared the Inn with what I had experienced in the various Seattle shelters and so-called soup-kitchens that I had frequented, I was overwhelmed by the civility, cooperation, and mutual support among the various racial backgrounds represented at the Inn.
This is how things were until the External Screening Committee invited two racists into the house -- both likely of West-African, American descent. Although I got along well with the first of these for some length of time, his attitude toward me and the Inn in general underwent an abrupt change over time. I could think of nothing that I had said or done in his regard that would have brought about the change, and he did not appear to care, for he became racially speaking increasingly hostile at the General Assembly meetings. In the end, I did not bother to pursue his change, as he insisted that he no longer wished to communicate with me.
Things were different with the other Inn-neophyte, as I had more insight into what had likely gone amiss in her case.
In general, discovering the truth about anything at the Inn was nearly always a demanding task and only truly worthy of pursuit when your status could be seriously damaged, if you did not. In this case, it was not so much my status, but my role on the Executive Committee that concerned me. Part of the reason that I joined the EC was to make the Inn function better, and part of my job on the EC was to get to the bottom of things. Being the troubleshooter that I am, I took my responsibility seriously and found my new job both difficult and rewarding. For the first time since I arrived at the Inn I found myself in a position in which I could actually realize the change that I had previously encouraged others to bring about, but seldom saw implemented.
Another of my responsibilities on the EC was to arbitrate the kinds of disputes of which I had repeatedly been a victim time and time again. As I was adept at troubleshooting, it was pretty easy for me to separate fact from fiction when all sides to a disagreement were seated before me. This, of course, did not insure that I would always secure the outcome to which the truth pointed. In fact, a clear, factual understanding of what likely happened in a given incident was rarely ever what decided the committee. There were also several cases that I found impossible to adjudicate, for the two sides to the reported incident were so verily contrary, and there were no witnesses to either verify or contradict the provided testimonies. In these matters the committee would simply choose whom they liked best, for the staff person who oversaw these meetings insisted that no one could abstain. Indeed, cases on which no vote should ever have been entertained were voted on, anyway.
When a friend of someone sitting on the Committee was the accused, neither was there any guarantee that I would not be purposefully blocked in my endeavor to discover the truth. This said, I gave my reasons for voting as I did, and did not insist that my vote was more important than the vote of others. No, this modus operandi was that of Her Imperial Highness, Missy Terene, whom I actively opposed wherever she went into a temper fit in an effort to impose her will. My goal was always to win over the majority of the committee to my side, and finally reveal Ms. Salvano for the self-righteous, conniving tyrant that she truly was. Indeed, at times she would go into such a rage that she would even forget what initiated the rage. These moments I found particularly sweet, for she would leave herself helpless in the aftermath.
By my third week I understood well what was wrong with the way in which the Executive Committee operated, but my insight would never see the light of day, for Her Highness perceived a threat to her own perverted mind-set and emotional outrage and conspired with the Program Manager to have me removed while the Operations Manager was away on holiday.
I will return to this matter later, as well.
On the surface the incident report was about A's concern that B had mistreated C and was herself reprimanded by B for not minding her own business. The question then being whether A had a legitimate concern about B's treatment of C.
Now, there was a lot of foul language used at the Inn, and the use of the word nigger is hardly a rare event within the homeless community that is disproportionately represented by American citizens who can trace their roots to the ancient and not so ancient institution of slavery. Ironically to some, easily explained by others, the word is not used in the way that many in the mainstream media would have us believe. In fact, during the entire three years that I spent as a homeless person, the only time that I ever heard it spoken was among those of the same racial background. It were, if you will permit, as if those who used it took pride in the fact that their ancestors were once slaves and called niggers by those who once enslaved them -- a fact, that any sane person would prefer to leave in the past and only remember in a manner that would insure that it did not happen again. The frequency of the word's use in American society today, however, reveals a very different approach to a thoroughly understandable, albeit unfortunate, social, political, and economic institution based on the needs and mores of the time.
Without seeking to justify the institution in its historical context I cannot overemphasize that we not confuse what our ancestors were once called with what we call each other today. To be clear during the three years that I spent in the homeless community never once did I hear someone who appeared as if he might have been the descendant of a former slave master call someone who appeared as if he might have been the descendant of a former slave, a nigger. Not once!
Given the historical nature of the institution of slavery and the ongoing racial tension in the United States today I would not, as the descendant of a former slave, be running to those who appeared to be the descendants of former slave masters to intercede on my behalf when someone who looked as if he might also be a descendant of a former slave called out another of similar appearance for a deeply felt injustice with an epithet that reminded me of my own ancestral past. Rather, I would speak directly to the person who used the epithet, explain to him or her why I felt offended, and ask that he or she not repeat the word in my presence. This, however, is not what happened, and for good reason that I will explain in a moment.
Important is that I did not know this reason when I sought to facilitate what this misguided neophyte did not seek out on her own accord -- namely, a conversation with B whom I knew to be a gentleman with an unfortunate foul tongue.
I went first to my newly found friend, Chris, and asked him for a clarification of what had happened. Although he added much that was not included in the report, his side of the story largely matched that of his accuser. I learned that Chris had been genuinely offended by the person whom he called nigger and that he took offense when the neophyte took the side of his offender. So, I explained to him the probable concern of his accuser and asked, if he could promise not to use the word again while in her presence. He agreed.
So, I went to the offended Inn-mate who had written the incident report and asked her, if she would withdraw her complaint, if Chris promised not to use the word again. In order to obtain her consent I explained that Chris had been genuinely offended by the individual whom he called nigger, did not consider himself to be an African-American, had no stake in America's Black-White paradigm, and could understand why she had taken offense. In a further effort I mentioned that African-American males use the word nigger in common dialogue and that the word is not uncommon in modern rap music. Further, I reminded her that the word had not been directed at her, and that the previous resident who had offended Chris had since been banned from the house for his ill-behavior toward others. She agreed to withdraw the report, and I promised to arrange a meeting between her, Chris, and me.
Hooray! Hooray! One less modern liberal issue to have to deal with in the Executive Committee with Madame Impératrice.
On the following day I was approached by the Inn's Program Manager and told that the incident report would not be withdrawn, that the Inn should not appear to be shirking in matters of racial discord, and that it would be incorrect to allow the one, but not the other to submit an incident report for whatever reason. I explained to her that the withdrawal would be voluntary, and she replied that I was not to say anything more about the report until the summons. The report would not be withdrawn.
I smelled a rat and began preparing for the worse.
In his own defense Chris wrote up a three-page report about all of the ways in which he had been offended by his accuser over the past several weeks. I was astonished and could only wonder why neither he, nor his accuser had said anything about these interchanges when I sought to intervene in an effort to settle the matter out-of-court.
It was never made clear who had gone to the Program Manager. The offended Inn-mate was still new to the Inn, and there were plenty of others who could have helped her along the way, if it were, indeed, she who had actually presented her case to the Program Manager before the summons.
After the neophyte presented her case, and I offered Chris the opportunity to read his defense, I was told by certain members of the committee that his defense was irrelevant to the problem at hand. Oh really? Why had this matter not been discussed before the convened committee had opened the door to the summoned? Looking back I should have exercised my authority as chairperson, excused the two summoned parties, and discussed the matter with the committee before continuing with the proceedings. Alas, it was my first time as committee chairperson, and the matter was not something that could be discussed in the presence of those summoned.
As I was not yet on the receiving end of the committee's machinations, I was slightly amused and asked Chris only to address the use of the word nigger. Whereupon, he admitted that he had used the word, but only in self-defense and that it was not the business of his accuser to become involved. Whereupon I turned to Chris's accuser and asked her to explain her involvement. She demurred and insisted that the word should never have been used. So, I asked, if she were unable to place herself in the position of a male of similar racial background who did not buy into the American Black-White paradigm. This created a stir amongst the committee members, and Chris's accuser responded that it should not make a difference for this was America, and that the word had no place in modern American society.
How this matter would finish, I had no idea, but I was no longer interested. I was not about to be told by the conniving Inn-mate seated before me what it meant to be an American and asked her the following: "Are you not hung up on a word?" It worked. She stood up in a frenzy, called me a racial bigot and started to walk out. Whereupon Her Highness, Empress Terene, called me out and told the offended woman to return. As I was not about to have my position as chairperson usurped by Her Highness, I excused both of the summoned and invited them to wait in the hallway until the committee had reached a decision. I had learned my lesson.
Unfortunately, the committee saw itself, not so much as an arbiter to mitigate conflict, but as an oversight committee to enforce Inn-mate speech and behavior. In this regard I was at odds with my fellow committee members and was well supported by several of my fellow Inn-mates.
In the moment that the door closed, Ms. Salvano accused me of being a racial chauvinist who was insensitive to race and the needs of women and did not belong on the committee. Her Highness was mad, but this was hardly anything new. In fact, her outrage was well anticipated and was a primary motivation for my having sought to keep the summoned out of committee.
How many of those seated on the committee had read Chris's several pages of self-defense was difficult to say. Likely few. How many of those seated at the table had ever experienced race relations in a context outside of America's Lyndonian Check Boxes was surely zero. That any of them had spoken French with Chris as I had often done was surely not the case. To my pleasant surprise, however, the person seated on my right, two males distant from Her Highness, and the only person on the EC -- including the on-looking Program Manager -- who could not be easily labeled a white supremacist by US congressional race-baiters, sought to clarify my motivation for asking the now departed drama queen whether it had ever occurred to her that someone of similar racial appearance might not buy into the Black/White paradigm that she had promoted before the committee. I was momentarily overcome with a feeling of having been understood and asked myself whether the committee was entering into discussion that moved beyond the narrowly defined shackles of the modern liberal microcosm of which I was inexorably a prisoner. It was a momentary high. For, as soon as Her Empress felt the sides of her racial check box being pealed away by one of her own comrades, she took refuge into the adjacent box, reminded the committee of the drama queen's outrage, and accused me still again of being a dispassionate male chauvinist.
Seated opposite Her Highness and to the right of Missy Terene's slowly defecting comrade was Jeanette, the Incorrigible Authoritarian who did not give a hoot about anyone who did not bow to her less than eminent will. She was the same who had accused me of being an insensitive brute on my third day at the Inn and the same who chaired the committee that rejected my initial request for a new roommate after Clark Schlosser had departed with my fluffy white, never used present from Chris. Immediately, the conversation shifted from the Black-White paradigm to the feminist-chauvinist paradigm and the fact that the committee's chairperson -- namely, I -- was insensitive to the needs of women by virtue of the fact that I was not a woman and chairing the meeting at which women were participants.
Other than the fact that the sudden change in topic was promoted by Her Highness and The Incorrigible I was taken by surprise by the sudden willingness of the majority to shift gears.
I had only been on the committee one week before the male-female balance shifted from a clear male majority to a clear male minority, and I became the minority whip, if you will. This sudden shift in the committee's composition occurred, when one of the male's resigned and was replaced by none other than The Incorrigible, who probably could not bare the fact that I was now on the committee, and she was not. In fact, I recall only one vote during the entire three weeks that I sat on the committee that I promoted what could have been construed as a gender-related proposal -- namely, to have a basketball hoop and backboard mounted on the far end of the building just above the parking garage and opposite the Smoking Hut. During that discussion the objections that were raised had to do with potential noise complaints and safety issues. That the male members of the Inn would likely make greater use of the new facility than the Inn's female members was never brought up.
Nevermind, Missy Terene was determined to have me removed from the Committee and would run with any opportunity that could possibly place me in a bad light. For all practical purposes everyone -- being the modern liberals that they were -- were my natural political enemies. It did not matter that I had not voted for Donald Trump, but it made all the difference that I had not voted for Hillary Clinton either. That I would dare to defend the current president on any issue, no matter the issue or the probable good that it would bring the country, made me a political outcast worthy of derision. Indeed, it took several months for these wretched social misfits to understand that my insistence on practicing written Japanese at the front desk was a temporal investment made to advance my business and not a personal affront against their ultra-feminist political predisposition. No, I was up against losers -- par excellence.
As there were several other matters on the evening's agenda, and I was eager to move on, I finally conceded that the drama queen still waiting outside in the hallway was possibly more sensitive to the word nigger than her male counterpart who was also still seated outside, and did, therefore, have the right to bring the matter before the committee -- not, however, in the form of a Summons via an Incident Report, but as a Request for Audience. Silence.
The drama queen was excused from waiting. Chris was invited back into the room, slapped on the hand, and told not to use the word nigger at the Inn or face serious consequences. In so far, as he had already pretty much agreed not to use the word, the past twenty minutes of nonsense to which we had just been subjected by Missy Terene, the Incorrible, and yes, the program manager who had likely failed to delve into the matter deeply enough before nullifying my effort to convene with Chris, the now clearly unmasked drama queen, and me.
So, there I was, portrayed still again, as an insensitive brute; labeled an anti-gay by Quinn, the sniveling coward who had called the police rather than live up to his own provocation and well-deserved punch in the mouth; and pronounced a racist by the self-serving, racially-fixated drama queen, whose only real goal appeared to be the embarrassment of my friend, the committee, and the Inn itself. And now, the Committee had clear evidence that I was a male-chauvinist because I realized that I was outnumbered and had sought to move the business of the Committee forward so that everyone could retire at a reasonable hour.
In the end, this entire proceeding taught me the best definition of the word nigger that I had read up until this point. It is from Urban Dictionary:
A word that caused numerous school districts to ban the great American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
On the following Sunday the Operations Manager took a brief leave of absence, and the Inn's only senior ranking manager left to oversee the General Assembly was the Program Manager -- the same who had overseen the previous week's drama queen episode. Now, the Program Manager was the highest ranking officer at the Inn, but she was relatively new in her capacity. As a result, she tended to observe more than participate in the daily goings-on of the Inn's residents. This said, she sometime's served as a final instance of appeal when the other managers and in-resident staff fell short of an Inn-mate's expectations. Her chief role, however, appeared to be public relations and financial oversight, for she served as the liaison between the Inn and Catholic Community Services (CCS), the organization ultimately responsible for the Inn's existence. Still, everything of much consequence had to pass through her. In this regard she was pretty much a bureaucratic rubber-stamp who more often stood in the way than facilitated important community matters including the approval of community legislation, amendments to the Inn's guide book, and similar matters of some urgency that required more insight than she could possibly have.
Ms. Salvano appeared to have a close working relationship with the Program Manager, for what the former was able to do on the fateful Sunday that I am about to describe required a sympathetic ear from the latter.
I joined the Executive Committee unafraid and with the specific intent of reigning it in. Still I had to respect the majority will of the body and was not about to apply the same suffocating tactics of my chief adversary on the committee. My remarkable rise to power, effective handling of committee affairs, ability to deal with Missy Terene constructively won high praise from the Operations Manager who oversaw my performance. No, in this latter's eyes I was no longer the brute that she once believed me to be, and just before her departure she admonished the committee for seeking to frustrate my every proposal, word, and action.
It was thirty minutes before the General Assembly meeting, and everyone was present with the exception of the Program Manager on whom we were all waiting. Neither Ms. Salvano, nor I, would be chairing that evening's meetings, but I was well-prepared and ready to guide the meeting in the likely event that the designated chairperson was herself not prepared. Little did I know that Ms. Salvano and The Incorrigible had a special undisclosed agenda that would be forced through with the help of the Program Manager.
As soon as the Program Manager arrived, Her Highness asked me to step outside, as she had something very important to discuss with the Program Manager. Sure, but why could that discussion not take place at another time? The Program Manager had been nearly ten minutes late, and we only had twenty minutes left to prepare for the post-Assembly summonses. Then too, why was I being singled out and not to be made privy to the substance of the discussion? I resisted and turned to the designated chair who appeared indifferent. I was told again to leave the room and reminded Her Highness that she had no authority over my presence or absence on the committee. She insisted still again, and I turned to the Program Manager who was seated directly across from my adversary. She appeared under stress. When I turned to the chairperson, she indicated that I should go. Something was afoul, but rather than make a scene I stepped outside. Ten minutes later I was invited back into the room and told that the committee had taken a vote of no confidence and that I would be replaced that evening. When I asked on what grounds I was read a list of some six or seven items in quick succession, given no chance to provide a defense, and told to leave. I turned to the Program Manager. Nothing. Once again, I turned to the designated chairperson. Nothing. I looked at Per Petersen, my only real friend on the committee, and he shrugged his shoulders. With only five minutes remaining before the beginning of the General Assembly I knew that I would not have time to clear the air without offending the entire Inn. So, I accepted my fate, asked for a copy of the charges, was told that I would receive them in my mailbox, and left the room. I quickly decided not to attend the General Assembly and left for the university where I managed to achieve a full evening's worth of work.
Upon my return I asked who had replaced me on the Committee and learned that it was the same person who had taken my shifts when I was elected to the Committee. I was in luck, or was I? For, the person who had taken my shifts was the same who had written up Clark Schlosser's complaint against me when he failed to turn on his CPAP machine one night, and I had the front desk awake him, so that I could obtain a fair night's rest.
Woe unto me and the Inn, for this same no-account, female chauvinist, busy-body was now seated on the Executive Committee!
No matter, life must go on.
So, I asked the Head of Security that my work shifts be returned to me, and he declined. I indicated that he was unreasonable and cruel, and he walked away. Two or three steps later (I was not counting) he turned around, and told me that he would try to arrange something. He knew that there were few people at the Inn who even wanted the post, and that there were still fewer who were competent enough to fill it in his absence. Allowing me to take back my position would make his own job easier. Just what had been said at the General Assembly, anyway?
The counter was divided into two posts: Front Desk and Security. Though I failed to obtain my two shifts at Front Desk, I was able to recover all three of my shifts at Security, plus one additional shift to make up for my loss of two shifts at Front Desk. Clearly humiliated, I had salvaged nearly all of what was most important to me and earned the respect of my friends for having done so.
The vote of no confidence charges leveled against me never appeared in my mailbox.
That week, there was a lot of talk among the various Inn members about what had happened, and my friends and I began conspiring for the next General Assembly.
Although it had been determined by several members of the Inn that: one, three of the five Executive Committee's members were up for re-election; and two, Terene Salvano was among them, it was also rumored that Ms. Salvano was planning to remain on the Committee without running. So, my allies and I began planning for her exit at the next General Assembly. Our planning was hardly conspiratorial in nature as there was no agreed course of action. We did, however, gather data, confirm the scheduled end of Ms. Salvano's term in office, and determine my eligibility for re-election.
Yes, there was mention of a vote of no-confidence in the Inn's manual, but there was no mention of what constituted proper procedure. We only knew that what occurred in my case could not have been proper, and that I could be voted back in with an eligibility waiver from the General Assembly. Mind you, I was not eager to go back with Ms. Salvano still on the committee, but the challenge of returning to the committee excited me, whether Her Highness was on it, or not. It is true, I had retrieved my front desk shifts and could easily absorb the humiliation. This said, I am not fond of injustice, especially when I am the victim. What is more, there was something at stake that was greater than my own contentment: Ms. Salvano was dividing the house, and I sensed a call to duty.
The General Assembly was conveniently chaired by Her Highness, Ms. Salvano. Three open elective offices were listed on the white board when we entered the Assembly room. Only two of these included positions on the Executive Committee. The remaining open office was for a seat on the Internal Screening Committee -- the Inn's second most prestigious committee. Our suspicion was confirmed. Ms. Salvano had no intention of running. What followed was simultaneously methodological and spontaneous.
I waited for the first of the two new members to the Executive Committee to be elected before throwing my name into the ring for the second. My idea was to eliminate some of the competition and soften the ground for the rubber-stamp procedure that I hoped would follow. There would be no need to remove Ms. Salvano from office. All that was needed was someone to check her self-righteous and imperious ego. In the end, Ms. Salvano was a social activist, whose energy, if properly channeled, could make a valuable contribution to the Inn. Further, so long as the Operations Manager continued to support me, Ms. Salvano would be compelled to abdicate her position on her own free will, or learn to accommodate my renewed presence on the Committee. What I did not want to happen was to see her continue in her place in my absence. And yes, I was prepared for a more direct confrontation, if need be.
As anticipated, in the moment that I stood and volunteered to run I was told by Ms. Salvano that I could not.
Not only was Missy Terene wrong, but both she and management had the bad habit of reading the Inn's rule book in a manner that suited their own agenda. On this issue, Goldie Holmes, my sometimes reluctant, sometimes eager, unofficial legal, assistant and I were like sister and brother.
Goldie had prepared me well for this moment. Though she did not always interpret what was written in a manner that made sense in the context given, she most assuredly knew where to find the relevant rules. Indeed, she knew the Inn's rule book better than anyone at the Inn. Like me, she had too often been a victim of the Executive Committee, and the rule book was her only real defense against a management team that, according to Goldie, wanted to see her gone.
The manual advised the Assembly to wait for 90 days before re-electing a defrocked Inn-mate to a committee from which he had just been expelled on a vote of no-confidence. The final decision in this matter was the Assembly's, however, not the Executive Committee's.
Now, the members of the Assembly were poorly versed in the rules of the Inn, and had little patience for long, logically ordered text -- especially when it was written by other Inn-mates with grammar skills no better than their own. Missy Terene was surely relying on this fact to ramrod through her no-election edict. A clear reading of the rule followed by an easily understood explanation of what it meant would be required. So, I objected and stated that I would like to read the rule.
I was denied and immediately appealed to the Program Manager -- the same who had failed to intervene when I was improperly expelled from the Committee during the previous week. She remained silent. Nothing new, but this time there was an audience. And, her failure to respond left the door open for me to proceed.
I was not six words into the rule when I was interrupted by one of the Assembly's members for contradicting the chair. I continued reading. Whereupon, a second Inn-mate shouted at me to sit down. Things were becoming hectic, and rightly so; the rules were not being followed. Several others insisted that I be aloud to continue, and this is what I did. When I had finished reading, I summarized the rule as above and sat down. Whereupon things calmed down, and a brief discussion followed.
It was decided that I would be able to run for the last advertised seat on the committee. This was not the first time that I had won a significant victory against Her Majesty, and it would not be the last. To my dismay, however, the tumult inspired JoNathan, a fellow Inn-mate, to run against me. As we stood in the hallway waiting for the ballots to be cast, I asked him why he had chosen to oppose me. He replied for the sake of peace. I told him that he did not know what he was getting himself into, and he laughed. He was an amiable person and someone with whom I knew I could easily work on the committee were I to regain a seat.
Having been humiliated by the Committee with a vote-of-no-confidence and knowing well that my reputation had been tarnished by the gossip surrounding the recent Quinn Affair and Drama Queen event, I suspected that JoNathan had a good chance of defeating me. In anticipation I decided my next move.
JoNathan won the election, and one week later resigned from the committee. But, let us not jump ahead!
There was still the vacancy on the Internal Screening Committee, and this seat would have to be filled before I could make my move. What I did not anticipate was my nomination to this committee. I politely declined. No one else could be found. I was nominated again, and someone seconded the nomination. I declined again and explained that the work of the External Screening Committee should more properly be conducted by senior staff -- not fellow residents. I further argued that I no more wanted to pry into the private business of other residents, than to have them pry into my own.
To be clear, the work of the Committee was highly invasive, entirely inappropriate for fellow residents, and something better left to the Inn's senior staff who were trained social workers. Not only did Inn-mates seated on this committee have access to a resident's private financial situation, but they were privy to each member's private medical records, mental health issues, employment status, criminal record, and a whole host of other highly personal information. What is worse, the committee did not perform its job.
Just before I was expelled from the Executive Committee it was determined that a full quarter of the Inn's residence were out-of-compliance -- i.e., they did not meet the minimum requirements set forth by the Inn to remain resident. Still, they remained, and I, who was in compliance, was gone before they.
More cajoling took place, but I was no longer the object, and someone else volunteered, unopposed.
Ms. Salvano thanked the house and declared the elections over. Whereupon, I stood up, still again, and asked her if she did not intend to run again. She feigned ignorance, and asked me to clarify what I meant. She got what she requested. She denied any knowledge of her term's expiration, and sought still again to move on to new business. It was in this moment that Goldie stood up and explained to the Assembly how it had been determined that Ms. Salvano's term was up. I quickly added that the rules of the Assembly required that Ms. Salvano stand for re-election. The Assembly was focused on the rules, and Ms. Salvano realized that she could not hide any longer. Whereupon she explained that the Program Manager and she had entered into agreement that Ms. Salvano would remain on the committee longer than her term permitted in order to maintain continuity. It was argued, that there would be no one to guide the committee were she deposed -- not a risk that the Program Manager wished to run.
My suspicion about Ms. Salvano's intrigue with the Program Manager was confirmed, so I stood and insisted that it was not a matter for either Ms. Salvano or the Program Manager to decide. It was a rule created by the house, and the house was the authority in the matter. Whereupon I volunteered to run against Her Imperial Highness, was nominated, and seconded in rapid succession. Victory! Two more battles to wage.
Ms. Salvano's argument about being indispensable because she would be the only one with both experience and competence on the committee had quickly dissolved. Yes, she had sat on the committee longer than I, but one had only to compare her performance as Chair of the General Assembly with my own to know who could do a better job.
Now, Missy Terene was no dummy. Intelligence was not her problem so long as everything with which she had to deal fit well within the sides of her own little box, and she was in command. She called for a vote. Already, I could taste the blood and insisted that I be given a chance to clear my name before the vote. In effect, I wanted her to explain to the Assembly what had happened on the previous Sunday, twenty minutes before the General Assembly meeting. I was denied a hearing, and she insisted on a vote.
No one objected.
Up until that moment I had remained assertive and civil, and I was not about to lose my cool. This said, I could feel my own anger swelling up inside. So, I walked out in a manner that everyone could see and several Inn-mates followed. My action appeared justified, and my anger subsided. Unfortunately, my frustration remained.
I went straight to my room to prepare for my departure to the university. As I was checking out downstairs, I learned that the meeting had been adjourned immediately after my departure, that no vote had been taken, and that Serene Terene was in crisis. Although very happy that her shenanigans had failed, the detail about her imperial crisis were not offered, and I cared not to inquire. I simply needed to distance myself from the Aloha Inn as quickly as possible.
I skipped dinner and left for the university. That evening was very productive, and when I returned to the Inn several hours later I was told that Ms. Salvano had been seen in tears after the meeting and would likely resign her post on the committee.
Missy Terene resigned.
As we were allowed to skip one General Assembly per month, I skipped the following week's assenbly, and someone else was elected to fill Ms. Salvano's vacant seat on the committee. My friends who had encouraged me to run asked me why I did not, and I explained that I had had enough for the moment and would run again at a later date when things settled down. Yes, we had succeeded in bringing down Her Highness, but that was not something that everyone wanted. As I was now the de facto leader of the opposition, I would surely be blamed for the division, and I could not see how my presence on the committee would improve its effectiveness -- at least not for the moment. Until the outstanding gossip had cleared, and my reputation restored, I would remain at the front desk and observe as things unfolded around me.
Although Ms. Salvano had resigned her position, she remained on the committee as an advisor until the newly constituted committee could be properly trained. I do not know how this occurred and will not offer any speculation into the matter. I only knew that it was to the advantage of neither the Inn, nor me, and would result in business as usual -- not an outcome that I could easily embrace.
A Badly Needed Preface
One might wonder why I would spend so much time writing about such a tortuous experience. Surely, I have asked myself the same several times as I write. The best answer to this question is a fundamental fascination with the human condition, an obdurate commitment to myself and my readership to cover the past year's events, and the wonderous comfort that all about which I write is finally behind me with a completely unexpected and significant reward for my suffering.
Then too, the purpose of my annual reports is to sort out the past in order to provide a clear path into the future. In this regard, the Aloha Inn experience has been an odyssey in modern liberalism played out at the bottom rung of American society. As such, it serves as a strong motivation to rid American society of its scourge.
Finally, the Aloha Inn has survived as an institution for several decades, and thereby demands an explanation. Now, I do not pretend to know all that is knowable about the Inn, but I dare say with some confidence that its founders would no more recognize what it has become than would our nation's Founding Fathers recognize what the United States of America have become. Indeed, the Aloha Inn is a sign of the times, a state of despair, an ongoing tragedy, a society gone awry.
Jean-Paul Satre once wrote in his well-known classic Huis clos that other people are a hell that we cannot escape. In my youth I had read many works by Satre until I realized that he offered no solution -- only endless, insightful description of humanity's short-comings. All of this reading was reawakened in me while at the Aloha Inn, for never had I experienced concentrated in a single geographical and temporal space so many of a society's short-comings. Although this same concentration likely existed in all of the shelters that I inhabited during my three years of homelessness, these short-comings were only in a few cases given the opportunity to surface to such a degree. This is because in a shelter everything was provided and one's sole responsibility was to conform to the wishes of management or be expelled.
On the one hand, I was completely free to leave the Aloha Inn at any time; on the other hand, I was trapped by my own implacable fascination with the bizarreness of my societal situation. It was a film by Federico Felini, but without Felini's direction. What made it finally possible for me to escape my this entrapment you are about to learn.
It is difficult to understand the behavior of another human being when so little is known about her, and communication is, but seldom. This said, the human mind is in need of order, and without a strong motivation to understand the other, the mind settles quickly on a familiar explanation whether it can be accurately applied, or not. Matters become worse, when one perceives that other as a personal threat for whatever reason. Apparently I had become this misperceived, personal threat.
So, once again, I was seated before the Executive Committee written up by the same woman who had several weeks prior taken it upon herself to have me summoned on behalf of my former roommate for having had the front desk call him so that he would attend to his own neglect, and that I might obtain the first of two benefits that made my self-entrapment at the Inn worthwhile -- my, whenever it finally did occur, sleep. This time though, things were different, for my assailant had written the summons on her own behalf. Surely, the now deposed Serene Terene, the poor wretch's previous mentor on the Executive Committee, had goaded her into writing the summons. For, the issue had to do with the General Assembly at which I had led the rebellion against Ms. Salvano's autocratic rule and compelled her to resign.
Indeed, this No-Account Loser, my current accuser, was the same who had replaced me on the committee after my expulsion and, like JoNathan, did not last a week in my old post on the committee before resigning.
Apparently, this woman had been so traumatized at the assembly that she later broke into a severe skin rash and was compelled to seek medical treatment in order to stabilize her fragile psychosomatic condition. Alas, she was blaming me for her failure to cope in a confrontation in which she was only an observer and free to leave at any time. In fact, I could not even recollect her attendance at the meeting. Apparently, she had been seated at the front of the room off to the side; I was seated at the very rear.
Indeed again, this was the mindset of the Inn. No matter how misconstrued the interpretation of your words or action, so long as these could be perceived as a source of discomfort -- either direct or indirect -- to anyone, then you were considered a threat, and therefore danger, to your fellow Inn-mates and worthy of admonition and/or punishment.
The best that I could figure was a deeply felt empathy on the part of my accuser for Ms. Salvano's crushing defeat, a deeply felt suspicion for the opposite sex, a sincere emotional reaction, and an intense need to seek retribution against Ms. Salvano's victor. Fortunately, Ms. Salvano was no longer seated on the Committee, and I was genuinely permitted to defend myself against my accuser at the summons.
After both of us were heard my accuser was dismissed, and I was told to wait in the hallway while the Committee deliberated. When I was called back into the room, I was told that I was not to be blamed for the suffering of the poor miserable wretch that had destroyed my evening by hauling me before the Committee, but that I would be summoned later to account for the disruption of the Assembly.
In the summons that followed I was punished with nine work hours, three of which I worked off as a mop-boy in the kitchen. Six of which were finally excused out-of-committee as double time for time that I had spent at the front desk while still officially on the Executive Committee.
At the promised second summons I shifted gears and focused on the paramount issue of the modern liberal mind that is not subservience before the state -- equality. Yes, I did insist on reading the rules to the Assembly against the will of the Executive Committee, but neither did I act contrary to the wishes of the Program Manager (no wish had been expressed), nor did I shout as two others had done in their effort to thwart my reading. Not even had I resisted the head of security who approached me, but in the end failed to take any substantive action.
Alas, the Committee agreed that I was not the only person who had engaged in disruptive behavior, and that the two residents who sought to shout me down were, indeed, out of order and would be similarly punished. Hooray! Equality! This determined, they did not dare contradict the Head of Security who had been called as a witness and who insisted that he did what he clearly did not do: ask me to leave the room. In fact, I eventually left the room on my own, so as not to lose my cool when I learned that I would not be given the opportunity to clear my good name before the vote. Looking back I am surprised that I was not blamed for having brought an abrupt end to the meeting by walking out. After all, had I not walked out would the others have not followed? Who knows, maybe they were grateful that Missy Terene no longer sat on their beloved committee.
No, the nine-hours that had been decided were not negotiable -- only more pain for everyone else involved. This was the Aloha Inn.
Two weeks had past since the infamous Rebellion and Terene Salvano's fall from grace; I was once again settled in my role as a semi-normal resident. I fulfilled my duties as prescribed by the manual, refrained from involvement in any Inn activity from which I could not directly benefit -- namely, food, sleep, and a place to store my belongings --, and satisfied all of the Inn's mandatory financial conditions for continued residency including the totally unproductive savings rule that I will bespeak later. I had even performed three of my nine punitive hours assigned to me for leading the rebellion.
Somewhat before the General Assembly that week I was told by Joe, the new lead on the Executive Committee that I would be reinstalled on the committee. The reason given for this action was the failure of the previous committee to follow procedural guidelines with regard to the Vote-Of-No-Confidence that had led to my dismissal. In short, Missy Terene's coup had been nullified, and I was invited to regain my position on the committee. Mind you, this was the same Committee that had recently assigned me nine punitive hours for insisting on regulatory order, bringing about Ms. Salvano's abdication, and causing untold distress for her sycophant side-kick.
Though on the surface the invitation to return was a recognition of my personal integrity and relentless industry, in reality the committee had a severe need for a person with these qualities amongst its members. Unfortunately, the underlying political machinations were less clear. Firstly, the new committee was reconstituted under the guidance of Terene Salvano; and I was not invited back to the committee until after she was finished with its reconstitution. Indeed, my reappointment appeared to be an afterthought. Secondly, rather than allowing me to reestablish my presence on the committee before my being subjected to re-election, the committee counted my time off the committee as time on the committee, and the day that I returned to my post, I was up for re-election. I felt like I was being manipulated.
As I was not at all sure that the negative gossip that had grown up around me since the Quinn Affair and the Drama Queen Debacle had dissipated I was leery about what would happen, if I were opposed in the election.
When my name come up, I was challenged by none other than Jason, the rather incompetent Kitchen Head -- the very same, who had spoken against my reentry into the Inn after my first termination, and whom I had helped constitute order in the Smoking Hut when he affronted me while I was chairing what already seemed a very distant General Assembly meeting. As I had faired well against his opposition before, I did not perceive him to be a viable election threat until I was denied the opportunity to campaign on my own behalf and clear the air about what had led up to the Vote-of-No-Confidence. Rather than risk still another election defeat, I simply resigned on the spot and insured Jason's election victory. My resignation was completely unexpected by the several members on the committee, and after the meeting my friends asked me why I had done it. I explained that I would run for election at a later date, when my reentry would be less in question. Simply I needed more time for things to settle down, and the committee was well deserving of Jason.
It was simply too early to return.
One evening, unable to fall asleep because of my roommate's snoring, I called security from the telephone in our room, and complained about the chatter in the smoking hut. Now that a firm rule was in place, why not exercies it, I thought. The chatter was clearly audible and led by none other than Jason's roommate, the charlatan whose once phony interpretation of events had helped in establishing me as an uncaring, arrogant brute who should be checked whenever possible. This phony was called Rodney, the name by which only the government calls me -- a name of which Rodney Peterman was apparently very proud. Sigh, I quite enjoyed calling him by that name for I have little respect for the US government and the American bureaucratic state in general. Whether Rodney's entry into the Inn was a simple coincidence or a coordinated effort on the part of the External Screening Committee to neutralize my presence, is difficult to say. If Rodney's entry were purposeful, it backfired in one way, but succeeded in another. Who cares? But, really!
As a plaintiff against my person Rodney was second to none after Michael McKee, the paranoid alcoholic who, in the second or third week of my residence behind the front desk, falsely accused me of going through his mail. In reality, all that I was doing was checking to see that it was not his roommate's mail that I was giving him. Michael McKee was the same who would later be terminated for drinking in his room. If I got the story straight, his roommate, a nicotine addict who claimed to hold a Ph.D. in Russian, but depended on his roommate to write his employment resumé for him so that he could obtain a job at Seattle's famed University Bookstore, ratted on him. Well, Joseph never got the job, but he did snitch on Michael for whatever reason. When I heard the story I could not help, but think that they were made for each other.
When I called downstairs to report the very audible chatter, I was told that I could not be audibly heard. Although it was true that I was speaking in a soft voice so as not to disturb the serenity of my roommate's obnoxious snoring, my voice was very audible to me, and I could not understand why it was not audible at the other end. Having already worked at the front desk for many months I was pretty familiar with the phone system and what one could hear and not hear. In any case, the person hung up on me, and I called again hoping that I would not be compelled to descend and talk in person. This time someone else answered the phone, and I was told what could be understood and what could not be understood, and realized that indeed I was being understood. After repeating several times, I tired of what appeared to be a game, hung up, and began preparing for my descent. While I was dressing, I heard a knock on the door, and it was none other than Dawn -- the neurotic, battered, lesbian divorcee who had dragged me before the Executive Committee in an effort to blame me for her emotional discomfort when I challenged the dishonesty of her precious Ms. Salvano in front of the General Assembly several weeks prior.
I was already angry, and answered the door half-naked with my bare chest exposed. The feeling inside was one of infuriation. Still I kept my calm, and when asked, "If anything were wrong?", I coldly replied her knocking on my door in the wee-hours of the morning was disturbing. Whereupon she left. I finished clothing myself and proceeded downstairs to the front desk. Upon my arrival I was greeted by the aforementioned Dawn and another woman, who had been readmitted to the Inn after having already exhausted her two-year contract many months, maybe years before, and for whatever reason was still unable to secure a lasting residence.
I was on the opposite side of the counter from which I normally worked, and knew well the responsibilities of both the receptionist, the woman just mentioned, and the security person -- Dawn, the neurotic, battered, lesbian divorcee who had volunteered to fill a post that she should never have been awarded.
What I remember best from the rather short interchange was the receptionist arising from her seat, retreating to the other end of the counter, and making a call to the department head in charge of security -- my effective boss. This was all quite fine except for the fact that there was a telephone located on the desk directly in front of her, and she had no need of the security desk phone. Certainly, I was the last person who would have prevented her from calling the security head no matter the telephone used, for clearly neither she, nor her desk-mate was doing her job, and someone was needed to insure that it would be performed.
While the receptionist stood waiting for the department head to be aroused from his sleep by the repeated ringing of the phone, I was told by the neurotic, battered, lesbian divorcee that she had been to the hut, and that the only voice she had heard was that of Rodney Peterman, the very same whose voice I had complained about in my two telephone conversations with the front desk before my descent to the front desk.
As the author of the enforcement mechanism that regulated audible chatter from the smoking hut, I knew well what was required of the woman who was defending Rodney's presence in the hut. Rather than doing her duty and asking Rodney to leave the hut or redirect his conversation away from the Inn in the direction of the forest behind the hut -- an act that surely would have absorbed the sound and removed the irritant --, she defended his non-right to disturb the Inn's membership during the wee hours of the morning and built still another phony case of harassment against me.
The matter ended when I was told by the receptionist who had just completed her call that the Head of Security had told her that I should not be present when he descended from his room. As I was reasonably sure that the message just relayed was genuine, and that my boss would adequately address the issue, I returned to my room. By this time, my roommate had apparently awakened, for he was no longer snoring, and I quickly fell asleep.
On the following morning I discovered, not one, but two write-ups in my mail box: one from each of the previous night's front desk personnel. Sure enough, I was charged with harassment, but this time from a double-barrel shotgun.
At the Aloha Inn, even highly controlled anger directed at a fellow resident for failure to perform his job is considered harassment depending on the author of the anger. Never mind that the angry individual had good cause, applied no physical agression or use of foul language, and was respectful of the general order of the Inn. His victim had only to state that her ill-constructed self-esteem had been somehow diminished, and immediately her imagined assailant became the victim of her own perverted negligence!
What happened during that wee hour of that fatal morning was not only typical of the daily on-goings of the Inn, but it set the stage for my eventual and truly badly needed, early departure.
In quick overview, the Aloha Inn is a focused microcosm of everything that is wrong with the Modern Liberal mentality of entitlements, state dependency, urban tribalism, and egalitarian social dysfunction. In such a world self-defense in the face of wrong-doing is no longer permissible. This is because self-reliance is no longer considered virtuous. These values have been replaced by the state to which we should look up and turn whenever we are in pain, feel ourselves in danger, or have made a clear mess of things. Accordingly, the market place, in which the individual is effectively held responsible for his errors, both accidental and intentional, through competitive industry, trial and error experimentation, and reputation, is blamed for all misfortune that does not arise directly from nature. Government is considered the necessary good -- just the opposite of Thomas Paine's notion of a necessary evil -- that protects the individual from his or her own wrong doings.
This sense of utter dependency on the state and the idea that everyone is responsible for the feelings and actions of everyone else is breeding a mental disease that is corrupting the American spirit and the sovereignty of the American people.
On the one hand, it has become fashionable to criticize government for all of society's short-comings (National Public Radio), and on the other hand, it is considered our duty and obligation to turn to government to fulfill all of our needs and short-comings (the welfare-state that supports NPR). Modern liberalism has taken the voluntary hand of the Catholic Church and turned it into the iron hand of the coercive state that sits above everyone with its bullies ready to bring down anyone who would dare stand for his own person or extend a helping hand that is not deemed someone else's -- namely, that of the state.
Rather than filling the ranks of government with honorable men and women who understand the law and have a strong appreciation of the primary goal of government -- namely, defend the person and property of the individual when he is no longer able to protect these by himself, government has become a refuge for failed academicians, young idealists, visionless do-nothings, self-serving sociopaths, pseudo-Robin Hoods, well-intended social planners, and a plethora of other failed Americans who have been trained by the state in state-run schools designed to fill the ranks of this market cancer called the modern, progressive state.
In the absence of competition the state grows and grows until it becomes a burden on its citizenry rather than a source of their protection. Whereupon it insists upon its own survival by creating problems where none existed or by insisting on the solution of problems that in the past were managed by the citizenry among themselves through market interaction and free industrial, social, religious, and political association.
The Aloha Inn claims to be a community, when in fact it is little more than a poorly run asylum for shelter misfits and rejects.
In effect, there can be no community where the individual is not allowed to assert him- or herself and build relationships of trust among those of the community who appreciate his or her worth, understand his or her weaknesses, and depend on him or her to perform his or her duties in a manner that is conducive to the community as a whole. In such circumstances everyone is not equal. Some of us are leaders, some of us are followers. Some of us are good at oversight, others are good at execution. Some of us are good at soothing, others are good at sorting through emotion to get to the facts. Then too, there are those of us who are ambitious and seek to be the best in all that they do, while others are satisfied just to get along and have fun.
Finally, there are those driven by envy, sleuth, and intrigue who seek to bring down, or obtain the wealth of those who work hard and advance far beyond the industry of those who would bring them down. Indeed, there is nothing easier than organizing against these individuals when you have the iron hand of government to back you.
As the goal of the Inn is to get one into low-income housing -- the one thing at which the Inn truly excels for not all, but many --, there is very little ambition in the house that is not petty in nature. In this regard, I was surely the number one Aloha Inn misfit, the Inn's nail that stuck out and needed to be pounded down. And, pound the Inn did until I realized that the Inn was simply not worth the pounding. Never while I was there was I able to achieve the purpose for which I had entered, and my situation changed greatly in the meantime.
I had erred. Stephen Caro snored. No, his snoring was not nearly as bad as that of the Fat Cook, but it was nonetheless disturbing -- especially, if it occurred before I fell asleep or in the middle of the night at the top of my sleep cycle. So, I brought his snoring to his attention, and he thanked me for being forthright about the matter. Several days later he purchased some sort of minimalist bandage that was suppose to mitigate the problem, but the bandage turned out to be of little use and was eventually abandoned. I did not pursue the matter -- well, at least not right away -- for there was something far more important than an occasional loss of sleep.
One week after I was expelled from the Executive Committee Stephen, the Inn resident who repeatedly stated that he had no interest in participating in the politics of the Inn, and whose behavior appeared to confirm his words, volunteered to fill a vacancy on the very same committee that I refused to sit on -- the Internal Screening Committee. What prompted my roommate's decision to accept this position was never made clear, for when I reminded him of his often stated disinterest in the politics of the Inn, he simply replied that he was in need of a change and wanted to help. Who knows, maybe I had genuinely inspired him to become active. Still, I was suspicious. Had I not grounds for suspicion? In any case I did not pursue the matter, because I saw an opportunity in my roommate's presence on the committee that could actually compensate for his snoring.
Several days after he assumed his new position I presented him with a savings petition that I had prepared in an effort to relieve at least one of my financial obligations and provide myself with some consumptive breathing room or even free up enough income to invest in new office space. He reviewed it, suggested that it would be to difficult for him to handle in the Committee and recommended that I simplify it. This I did.
On the day of my regularly scheduled appearance before the Screening Committee, my roommate was seated as the committee's chair directly across from me. Missy Terene, who had since migrated to the Internal Screening Committee from the Executive Committee was seated to his right directly across the table from Sandra Meers, the Program Manager. Sandra was seated to my left. Two others were present including Allison and Jeff -- neither friend, nor enemy. In fact, Goldie, one of my strongest allies at the Inn, was one of Jeff's closest friends. In contrast, I found Jeff to be a troublesome buffoon who did not know when to be quiet. Apparently Goldie, who had a far more easy-going personality than my own, found him amusing.
After it was determined that I was in compliance, the Committee wondered why I lingered in place. As Stephen Caro said nothing, I turned to the Program Manager and asked her, if she had read my appeal. She indicated that it was not for her to decide. In anticipation of my roommate's probable lack of leadership and the strong likelihood that the only person besides Sandra who had seen my petition was whoever emptied the Committee's mailbox (Missy Terene?), I had brought with me to the meeting enough copies for everyone present. After presenting each member with his or her own copy, I presented with the utmost clarity what I was proposing and what action I would like the Committee to take. Everyone objected, but Stephen, who remained silent the entire time.
All of the arguments were filled with blame, for this was the Inn's way of insuring what they did not want to do would not get done.
Ms. Salvano began by accusing me of backing out of my contract with the Inn. I tried my utmost to be civil and suggested that a mutually agreed change in the articles of a contract is not the same as a unilateral decision not to comply with the agreement. Once again, the purpose of my petition and continued presence at the summons was to seek the committee's agreement. Whereupon I turned to the entire Committee and promoted the idea that I would not be the only person who would benefit from my proposed changes. Surely, I argued, there would be others who would come to the Inn with outstanding credit card debt and find it financially smarter to pay down their outstanding balance than to watch as the purchasing power of their compelled savings fell over time. In a further effort to bring my point home I stated that cash from a savings account would be no more valuable than payment from a credit account when it came to paying bills. And yes, if cash were truly needed, it could always be made available, albeit at some additional cost to the borrower. Notwithstanding, the savings obtained from paying down the outstanding credit would well compensate the additional charge of borrowing cash -- an event that was by no means guaranteed in any case. Further, I asked, what difference did it make to the Committee whether the Committee watched with a fellow resident as his saving grew or his outstanding credit balance shrank.
As I finished, I turned to the overbearing, always well-intentioned, self-righteous Ms. Salvano, who had listened intently, only to hear her reaffirm what she had stated at the outset -- that I was seeking a breach of contract, and she would not allow it.
As the Committee remained silent, I asked everyone seated at the table, if the Committee were advocating that the Inn's residents subsidize America's corrupt banking industry. My question was not lost on deaf ears, but I could hardly believe what followed, and even questioned what I heard to insure that I was not misinterpreting what was being said.
No, there was no mistake. Allison, who was seated to my roommate's left, was telling me that I had erred in taking out such expensive credit and was now paying the price of my poor judgement. Even after explaining to her that my company would not have survived, had I not taken advantage of the credit that First Premier had offered me, she insisted that I had erred and asked what income my company had fetched for me in the interim. Although a fair question were my company not still in a state of development, it was clear that she had never sought to go into business herself and was viewing me as just another foolish, over-consumptive Inn-mate who had been taken in by market usury. It was difficult to bear. So, I traded lectures and explained to her that the high rate of interest that I was paying on my account was not some bank taking advantage of my stupidity, but my having to pay for the failure of its other clients who had failed to meet their payments, went into default, and never paid back what they had borrowed. This was obviously too much for her zero-sum approach to market transactions and her Modern liberal ethic that assumes that success in the market place is always at someone else's expense -- namely, the uneducated poor.
Well, she was surely among the uneducated poor, and I was now the victim of her ignorance.
This is when Jeff, the Inn's self-cultivated idiot, chimed in with the statement that he, too, had once had an account with First Premier, and that he quit the account as soon as he could.
Understood, Jeff. You quit your account as soon as you could, but now you are advocating that the Committee should deny me the ability to do the same? Have I understood correctly?
Likely in the belief that I was now harassing the Inn's buffoon, the very same whom I had defended when he complained about Jeremy's heavy use of cologne at dinner time many weeks prior, Ms. Salvano interrupted and insisted that I quit trying to change the system. Whereupon I turned to the committee's current chair, my roommate, for intercession. Nothing. This was the Program Manager's cue to intervene, and she asked, if it were not time for consideration and that I should step outside and wait for the committee's decision. Mind you, this is the same woman who had sat in silence when I asked for the opportunity to defend myself against Missy Terene's misconceived accusations that nearly brought down the house many weeks earlier.
As soon as I had closed the door behind me, I new that my petition would fail, for it was not my roommate's voice that I heard, but Ms. Salvano's.
When he returned to the room later that evening, I asked my roommate why he had remained silent, and he responded that it would not have done any good for him to have spoken up, for I was up against an implacable bureaucracy. Whereupon I asked him, if he were not a part of that bureaucracy. He smiled.
That night I could not sleep. Somehow his snoring sounded louder than it had ever sounded before.
A week later the roof fell in.
When it was time for the summons, only one of my two accusers was present, and I was allowed to explain to the newly constituted committee that it was not I who was harassing the neurotic, battered, lesbian divorcee, but that it was she who was harassing me via her relentless write-ups (three in all): once, for an event in which she was only an observer; once for an event in which she was an indirect participant; and the current event for which she was a partial contributor. Indeed, it was only this latter event in which she had become a direct target of my easily explained and well controlled anger, and even then she was in the company of someone else who managed the whole affair for her.
When the summons ended without punitive action against me I felt greatly relieved, and quite believed that things had finally settled down. Looking back, however, my relief appears to have been unjustified, for it seems, after careful reflexion, that the Committee had been simply waiting for my second accuser before it decided what action to take. As a result, my guard was not as high as it should have been when my accuser's front desk-mate was given a second chance to present her side of the story.
As I had since met with my second accuser under favorable conditions on several occasions after the incident, I asked her to let the matter drop, and she replied that she would. So, when my name appeared on the summons board still again, and she was listed as my accuser, I approached her somewhat before the hearing and asked why she had not withdrawn her accusation. When she replied that she had forgotten, and I reminded her that it was never too late, she replied that she felt duty-bound. I was overcome with a sick feeling and remained silent.
Was her previous agreement just another Aloha Inn veil to avoid forthright discussion? Had she become part of the ever-changing political cabal that had been seeking to have me removed since I arrived. Or, was she a pawn in someone else's game, and her bureaucratic sense of duty was a noble, personal, character trait that someone else was exploiting? Obviously her word could be taken lightly. Then too, she was an Aloha Inn graduate-returnee -- a simple fact that left the door open to just about any explanation imaginable....
I had heard over and over again from her that she was seeing a psychologist and wanted to avoid stress. It was this that she, having once been a member of the very committee that she constantly criticized, gave as her reason for not seeking election to the Executive Committee despite her clearly expressed desire to seek it. Just another story in a house of endless story-telling? in any case, sitting next to her at an Executive Committee summons was certainly no additional stress to which I was looking forward.
The meeting transpired quite perfunctorily. The story that she related largely agreed with my own interpretation of events. And, those aspects of it with which I was very familiar and knew to be very different I corrected. In the end, despite the further elaboration that she offered, and with which I could easily concur, there was no contradiction between what I had told at the first meeting and this one. What did concern me was that certain parts of her story were obviously agreed fabrications that she and my former accuser had worked out in advance.
When our two sides of the story were completed, I was told to wait in the hallway while the Committee deliberated. My accuser was dismissed. The deliberation was long, and when I heard light-hearted conversation emanating from the room, I feared the worse. It was the Committee patting itself on the back for having made still another difficult decision and rendered justice.
When my name was called, I was told that I would be placed on probation for the second time, and was once again charged with harassment.
Having finally sat on the Executive Committee and experienced first hand how it works, I simply asked, if THE Committee did not understand that harassment is a criminal offense that assumes a persistent intent to cause harm to another individual. I further pointed out that the only persistent pattern that had revealed itself during the previous incident or the just transpired hearing was that of certain individuals and the Executive Committee seeking to have me forcibly removed from the Inn. I looked each in the face, thanked the Operations Manager for her presence, and left the room.
The Modern Liberal ideology was firmly in place. One could change the people, modify the rules, even perform the requisite work, and there would be no change -- the mind-set was fixed, and I was a constant threat to the established that must be removed.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, I had discovered a new enemy on the committee, another estranged female who viewed every unmarried male as a potential threat to her existence. We did share one thing in common, though, her stated claim that she had once gone without food for 21 days. Whereas she had done it to clean her leaky gut, I had done it to preserve my lodging, my company, and a way of life. In the end, I suppose things could have been worse, for Jason was not present at the meeting. Perhaps he had been told by the Operations Manager to recuse himself. No, his presence would be saved for a later date.
Probation was a tool used by the Committee to insure that the Inn's members would not rock the boat of insanity that was the Inn's natural state. Anyone who insisted on order that did not emanate from the Executive Committee was considered out of order and to be disciplined. They kept preaching community and social harmony, but had little idea about how to bring about the latter, and simply could not understand that the former was pretty much a self-regulating entity in which each individual carved out his own niche in cooperation or disagreement with each and every other. I had broken no rule; rather, I had sought to have one enforced -- the very same to which the community had agreed under my leadership while I was still seated on the very same committee that had now placed me twice on probation.
So, once again, I found myself in the vulnerable position of having to take everything that was thrown at me by my fellow Inn-mates with zero recourse to my own self-defense. In light of the fact that my position at the front desk was one of security, and that such vulnerability actually impaired my ability to perform my task, I began preparing an appeal.
And, then something happened. I received notification that an apartment for which I had applied nearly three years before had just opened, and that I was first on the waiting list to fill it.
I let the appeal slide.
Elated with the idea that I could soon be leaving the Aloha Inn for a dwelling of my own, but fearful that it would turn into just another mirage like so many opportunities before it, I went to Claudette Thomas, the Inn's Housing Manager, and asked her how to proceed. She expressed tempered excitement similar to my own, and I knew immediately that I should follow her advice closely.
So, I filled out the initial application that provided Quantum Management with the information and written permission that it required to perform the various background checks that have become commonplace in the city of Seattle and likely elsewhere across the United States, and that can surely explain why a large number of US residents are without a dwelling that they can call their own.2
Yes, my preliminary application failed, and I was happy not to have announced it to anyone, but my roommate -- a courtesy given that he might better plan his own future at the Inn. No, I have no criminal record, neither am I listed, likely much to the chagrin of my enemies at the Aloha Inn, as a sexual predator. This said, I was justly evicted from my apartment in September of 2016, because I could not meet my rental obligations.
When I left my apartment, the amount of my outstanding rent was somewhat under USD2,500. When I saw the credit report associated with my failed application for which I had waited nearly three years, the amount had grown to over USD10,000. How it grew to that amount remains a mystery, but I did notice, when I prosecuted the undercurrents at Surf Incubator in the summer and fall of 2017, that my failed Request for Reasonable Allowance at the King County Superior Court had led to additional court activity to which I had received neither formal notification, nor an invitation. Alas, I had rejected the idea of using my business addresses as a forwarding address for my non-existent home address. In no collective workspace that I worked during the three years that I was homeless did I ever feel comfortable that I would be able to remain at my work station by simply paying my monthly rent, and I was not about to jeopardize my business reputation with legal matters that I could not afford. My idea was to dig my way out, not be swallowed by the muck never to return to financial and economic health.
In addition there was a delinquent Comcast payment that even I could and finally did pay, if that had been all that mattered.
It was at this point that Claudette told me that I should speak with Sandra, the Program Manager -- the same who had done nothing when I was twice unscrupulously man-handled by the modern, female, liberal establishment of the Aloha Inn over which she presided. I was not at all keen on the idea, but heartily encouraged by Claudette's reassurance that it was the proper thing to do. So, I held my tongue and watched over a period of several days my outstanding rent obligation magically disappear before my eyes. My incredulous elation was indescribable. I finally understood why everyone who knew anything about the internal workings of the Aloha Inn clung so dearly to their membership. Even my three-week stint on the Executive Committee and my visit to Catholic Community Services had not revealed this, not at all insignificant, missing puzzle piece. Indeed, not only did the Catholic Community Services finish by paying for my outstanding rent and court obligations, but they also promised, in the form of a legally binding promissory note to Quantum Management, the management of my prospective new residence, to pay for my first month's rent and initial damage deposit.
When I asked Claudette about my outstanding Comcast debt that had also gone into collections, she smiled and replied that CCS could only help with rent default and other charges related to my entry into low-income housing. Whereupon I called Comcast, explained my situation, and finished by paying only somewhat over 60% of what I owed. Thank you, ComCast!
And, thank you to all of the parishioners of the Catholic Church who voluntarily contributed and continue to contribute to ease my burden.
To those who have given reluctantly to my welfare through the heavy hand of government, I only ask, where were you when I gave you the opportunity to give freely, and you refused? This said, I have not been ungrateful for the awkward pittance that I did finally, and continue to receive, despite your contempt for my plea and generous offer of self-sacrifice. For, I have kept my promise despite your reluctance to help yourselves and me at a time when the stakes were clearly much higher and the reward potentially much greater as a result.
It was a bit difficult to believe, and I can only guess how it happened.
Firstly, the apartment that I was invited to inhabit was not ready for inhabitancy as the current resident had yet to vacate. Secondly, I had warned the manager that I held outstanding debt and was concerned that my application would be rejected. She replied that there was nothing that she could do until the background check were completed. Further, she stated that it would take no more than two to three days, and that I should wait. This I did. Whereupon several telephone calls were made. No response. Even she did not respond to my recorded messages. I visited during her posted working hours. No one was present. After two weeks of non-communication, I interrupted my own schedule to arrive at a time when I knew that she would more likely be present. I was informed that my application had been declined and was showed a sealed envelop containing my letter of rejection. When she offered to put it in the mail, I declined and said that I would take it as is. Before departing I asked if the apartment were still available, and if I could appeal the decision. She answered yes on both accounts and explained that the tenant had moved out. I was hopeful and departed. When I opened the letter to see the stated reason for rejection, I noticed that it had been signed and dated three days after my initial visit.
On the following day I presented the letter to Claudette, the Housing Manager at the Aloha Inn, and she arranged for my meeting with Sandra, as explained above.
With Claudette's further guidance I took advantage of the appeals procedure and was pleasantly relieved by the outcome. Still, it took two weeks for my appeal to go through, and the apartment for which I received my initial invitation had been let to someone else. One could not know how long it would take for another apartment to open, but I left my third meeting with Cabrini management confident in the belief that I was still number one on the waiting list.
Several weeks past and I met my friend, Vicky, who works at the Cabrini. She was coming down the hill, as I was going up. I was on my way from the YMCA, where I regularly worked out, to the St. James Cathedral where I often ate late afternoon dinner at the Cathedral Kitchen with other homeless and low-income, semi-institutionalized beggars like myself. Vicky was likely on her way home after a long day's work. We paused briefly, and she told me that I had better visit the Cabrini office. On the following day I performed as instructed and discovered an important change -- there was a new vacancy.
When I arrived at the office, I was challenged as if I had no business being there. This is when I discovered that I was now number three on the waiting list.
Well, it was fairly easy to understand that my initial offer had been given to someone else due to negligence on the part of building management, but how was it that two people were moved ahead of me on the waiting list while my subsequent appeal was under consideration? No explanation for this unusual outcome was offered. When I asked, I was told that I would be notified when I was again eligible for a new vacancy. So, I asked what the likely waiting time would be and was told that during the previous year there had been only two vacancies; but this year there had already been five. Was this suppose to provide me with comfort?
I did not tell her what I am about to tell you, and what I wrote to her boss -- well, at least, in part.
I make no apology for what follows, but I do confess error.
It was one or two weeks after my most recent monthly appearance before the Screening Committee. It was the meeting over which my roommate Stephen Caro had presided, and in which I had sought to modify the way in which my savings requirement was being handled in an effort to minimize my financial load and still satisfy, not the rule, but the goal of the Inn's requirement.
After that meeting my roommate's snoring became increasingly unbearable, and I made one last effort to eliminate it before taking the matter up with staff and the Executive Committee. Rather than lie awake and torture myself with the thought that I would have to continue paying USD 75 plus every month on an outstanding credit card balance with an APR of 34%, I decided to accompany my snoring roommate with a cacophony of sound equal in measure to his own until he awakened, stop snoring, and I could fall sleep. As I did not wish to become a snorer, myself, I did not simply mimic his rude, obnoxious noise-making, rather I sought to gain access to his frequency and play on it until he awoke, whereupon I would try to fall asleep before I was beset with another onslaught. The idea was to awaken him without him clearly knowing the source.
In a shelter I would never have attempted such a tactic, because it would surely finish by irritating others impatient with the outcome and make my own misery worse. In a room with only two people, however, the only person whom I could bother was my own tormenter. It actually worked for awhile, but as time past either he caught on and increased the volume of his snoring purposefully, or his snoring had been naturally fashioned so as to block out unwanted sound and increased all of its own. Whichever. My audio counterposition was becoming increasingly difficult, and I was becoming increasingly annoyed with each passing day.
One evening my roommate and I met in front of the 4th floor elevator in the presence of a new member to the Inn. My roommate said nothing. Rather than turning to the new member and striking up small talk at which I am not very good, I also remained silent. The elevator was long in coming. In most cases, I would have turned away and taken the staircase. Something held me back. As we all stood in silence, the contradiction of my roommate's relentless snoring at night when I would have most appreciated his silence, and his silence in front of the elevator, when his sound would have been more appropriate, welled up inside, and I stated with the utmost reserve, "While awake, a soft-spoken woman, while asleep, an obnoxious pig". This, of course, was heard by the new member for whom it was clearly not intended, and apparently far more humiliating to my roommate then he let on in the moment that it was said. Having cleared what had welled up inside, provided me with the freedom to part, and I headed for the steps. On the following morning I discovered still another write-up in my mail box.
As Inn management considers snoring one of those things that is naturally unavoidable, rather than consciously correctable, my sleep was once again being sacrificed by the sleep of another. Indeed, I had been told by management long before that, if I could not accommodate the snoring of my roommates, then I was welcome to return to shelter-living. The idea appeared to be that snoring in a shelter was far worse, and that somehow the non-snorer at the Inn would always find a way to accommodate his snoring roommate. The underlying notion and motivation appeared more like: room changes are a bothersome task for management, everyone snores, and that management did not want to be bothered with the task of matching snoring with non-snoring residents.
While still in the shelter scene where the turnover of occupants was much higher, there would often, but not always, be someone whose snoring was like that of the Fat Cook -- utterly obnoxious. When such an individual was present, I would spend the time that I could not sleep on the internet researching this somewhat prevalent human phenomenon called snoring. What I discovered was that only twenty percent of the American public snores on a regular basis. What I concluded was that the remaining eighty percent were being made to suffer by lazy shelter management teams. At first, I could not understand why I was forever being told that I was the only one who complained about snoring, but after time realized that this is what everyone was told in an effort to make the plaintiff appear as some sort of troublemaker and source of his own problem. Then too, it was likely true that many did not really care, as they would soon adopt the obnoxious habit in their own self-defense, or simply shrug it off as another night without sleep that they could recapture in some public place later in the day. For, in the end, among the homeless population the only real schedule that many kept was meal and bed times, and in this regard I was still, once again, the odd-man out.
What the Inn management did not seem to understand was that snoring from the one and only other person in a make-shift motel room for two is not the same as snoring in a dormitory where the number of people snoring is usually several and produces a kind of white noise. Indeed, it is reported that marriages have been destroyed because of snoring. Further, as snoring may or may be not be a conscious act -- despite management's insistence that it was everywhere and always something that could not be helped --, one could never know how much of that to which one was subjected was unintentional and how much was actually intended. Personal experience had taught me that snoring was, depending on the nature of the snorer, something that one can consciously correct, especially with the aid of the willing victim.
Unfortunately, I now viewed my roommate as a drag on my personal well-being, and I was caught between a rock and a hard place.
In hind-sight I could have said much worse -- something more in line with the language of other members of the Inn in their daily social intercourse. In any case, the truth would out, and I had the terrible need to make public what I had been suffering in private. Alas, I had just suffered enormously under the snoring regime of the Fat Cook and had gone out of my way to find a roommate who did not snore. This said, my effort was now a sunk cost, water under the bridge.
My roommate's write-up was very competitive with those from Joshua Tritt who had the honor of being the first to accuse me of harassment in a formal write-up.
Our mutual preference for classical literature must have inspired Stephen Caro when he sat down with pen in hand to compose his write-up, for the combination of reality and fiction that resulted was incredibly good reading, if you were not the victim of his hand. What disturbed me most, however, was the way in which the summon's procedure that accompanied my roommate's penmanship was handled.
Before proceeding it should be noted with what ruse my roommate, staff, and the Executive Committee handled the matter. Firstly, I did not receive a copy of my roommate's write-up until the morning of the day before the summons. Secondly, the summons was posted on the same day that I received the copy of the write-up. Thirdly, when I returned from the university on the same day, my roommate had vacated our room. He was gone!
At first, I thought that he had left the Inn, and I was elated that the summons would be voided. Stephen had told me earlier that he had found an apartment and would not be moving until the following week. I concluded thereby that he had somehow managed to move earlier. Still I was suspicious. Never let good fortune pass you by, but never depend on it for your success, I thought. And, in my wisdom I checked the Inn's log book. There I discovered that Stephen Caro was still in the Inn. But where? No one seemed to know.
Only later would I discover that his new roommate was Jason, the failed Kitchen Head who now sat on the Executive Committee. This was the same Jason in whose favor I had resigned my position on the committee only weeks before when I was denied the opportunity to campaign on my own behalf. In effect, Stephen had fled to the enemy camp and replaced the recently departed Rodney Peterman as Jason's new roommate. No, Rodney was not dead; he had simply found lodging somewhere else where he could create more havoc.
To my surprise, when I appeared before the Executive Committee, my accuser was not present. This meant that his fictitious write-up could not be properly vetted. It would be my roommate's written fiction against my oral testimony for which I had not been given proper time to prepare. So I requested that the meeting be declared void, and was told by the Operations Manager in reply that my roommate had been excused out of fear of testifying in my presence. Oh, really?
Only once had I ever raised my voice to anyone at the Inn, and never had I raised a hand or threatened anyone with physical violence. This said, I had been verbally threatened by a fellow resident before the Committee, physically threatened by a knife-bearing desk-mate, and pushed by three of the Inn's members: Idiot Tritt, the Fat Cook, and the Sniveling Quinn, the same coward who had called the police after his roommate had punched him in the mouth for having done to him from the front what Quinn had done to me from behind -- apply physical force to clear his way. Never had I responded in kind to any of this aggression, but I had been repeatedly brought before the Committee on false charges of harassment, and I was now being made to defend myself against a phantom adversary, who himself had recently found an apartment and would be leaving the Inn within the week. If this were not bad enough, within less than two months I would become eligible for my own room and my inability to cope with any roommate's snoring would cease to be an issue.
Accordingly, I requested time to provide a proper written response, but was denied this too. My inclination was to simply walk out, but the glee in the eyes of three of the Committee members told me that it would not make a difference when the summons were heard, as the Committee's decision had already been made.
You see, I was on probation and outnumbered two to one, for seated before me were the Drama Queen nominated for office by my good friend Goldie, Jason, the Failed Cook, Angelika, Terene Salvano's self-righteous, modern liberal, feminist surrogate, and Joe, the very same who had rigged my previous return to the Executive Committee and chaired the summons that had placed me on my second probation. Only the committee's chair and the Operations Manager could have been considered neutral, but the Operations Manager had already bought into Stephen Caro's phony ploy of being too afraid to appear before the committee while I was present.
As I had admitted to having insulted my roommate in front of another Inn Member, it was decided that I must be made to pay for my transgression. In effect, I was no longer worthy of the high-standards of, and continued residence in, the Aloha Inn House of Horrors.
So, I turned the table and reminded the three most outspoken members of the committee of their own recorded personal and social transgressions. This released a barrage of antipathy in my direction. Not only did they swear at me, but they raised their voices, pointed their finger and insulted me with epithets far worse than anything that I had ever said, did, or even thought since having arrived at the Inn more than ten months prior. It was a colorful display of the ludicrousness of the charge and impending punishment. As I stood up to leave, I saw that the Operations Manager was genuinely amused and sat back down. After all, she had seen everything that Her Highness, Missy Terene had thrown at me while I was still on the Executive Committee, but still finish with success.
What followed was barely productive, and when it was time for the committee to make its decision, I was asked to leave the room. While in the hall way I encountered the woman in whose presence I had insulted my former roommate. I asked her why she was there, and she responded that she had been told not to speak with me. I asked her, if she were a witness, and she stated that she was simply doing what she had been told. She held nothing against me personally.
When I was invited back into the Committee room, I was told by the chairperson that I had been terminated and given until Friday to pack my bags and depart. When I asked the Chair on what grounds, and he told me that I would receive written notification, I asked, if he had anything more to say. He replied, no. Whereupon, I replied, that I had much to say, but that it would not be here. I then explained that if he and the committee believed that they could terminate a person from the Inn based upon a true statement, no matter how poorly it had been received, then he and the Committee had much to learn about the power of the committee. Whereupon I stood, acknowledged the Operations Manager, left the room, called my good friend Chris Barnett, and left the Inn the very same evening. There was no need to wait until the end of the week.
Ironically, the committee's chairperson was the same whom I had met over the telephone when he was still seeking entry into the Inn, and whom I had requested to replace Berhané, my Eritrean roommate, when he left and was replaced by Clark Schlosser, the fat, snoring cook. Did the Chairperson snore? I bet he does, but no matter. The reason he never became my roommate was because the person who had promised that he would do so quit her post in frustration about the way the Inn was managed, but failed to inform me of her decision before she left. By the time I learned of her departure, it was too late. The chairperson who had just pronounced my second termination had been assigned to another room.
After my first expulsion from the Aloha Inn I went to Friends where a reluctant effort was made to accommodate by wounded right arm -- namely, assignment to a bottom bunk. So, on the morning of my return to the Aloha Inn, I notified the shelter that I would not return that evening. As most people who leave a shelter do not bother to say good-bye, my gesture was not only appreciated, but remembered. Still, my return to the Friends shelter was anything, but easy.
When I arrived at Nightwatch on my first night, I was asked for a referral. In response I explained that I did not have one, but that I was well known at Friends. That was not good enough, and I was made to wipe tables anyway. Because my right arm had still not healed, I wiped the tables with my left. When my name was finally called, I asked to stay at Friends, but was told that there were no bunks and offered a mat on the floor at the Bread of Life Mission. I demurred, as it was my belief that the Mission would refuse my entry. I was then offered a bunk at the Union Gospel Mission as the only alternative, whereupon I decided to give the Bread of Life a second chance. After all, I was not without friends at the mission, my chief antagonist had been severed from his post several months before, and the second-in-command, who was second most responsible for my expulsion from the mission many, many months before, would likely not be present during my intake. I figured the worse that could happen would be another night at the iHop on the corner of Broadway Avenue and Madison Street -- a forty-minute walk up a very large hill.
Although I was heartily welcomed by all of the humans who recognized me from my previous sojourn and residence at the mission, the mission's bedbugs must have smelled trouble. For, within minutes after my shower, while I lay on a thick, cloth mattress, my legs and feet were poured over by what must have been famished vengeance. For, it brought back memories of that dreadful night at the mission already some 33 months past. So intense was the infestation that within minutes I got up and went to the Mission's lobby where I sat on the window ledge wondering what my next move would be. I decided to remain, but only if I could find a chair on which to spend the night. I did not want to risk still another act of bedbug retribution on the floor. The only chair that I could readily find was at the night desk somewhat distant from the front desk and lobby. There I found three chairs stacked on one another and no attendant. The redundancy suggested that I could take one, and nothing would be made of it. When I lifted the top chair from the stack, I discovered a long knife that had been hidden between the two top chairs in the stack. Having spent my first six months of homelessness at the Bread of Life Mission (BLM), I quite understood the safety precaution and simply placed the knife next to the attendant's log book and covered it with whatever was lying on the table. I then absconded with the dismounted chair placed it in the lobby where I could not be seen and spent the entire rest of the night unnoticed except by the passers-by on the street outside. No, I did not sleep, and the following day was not easy, but at least I had been spared being further feasted upon by the Mission's renowned bedbugs.
Was it better than the iHop? I saved a little money and did not have to make the long trek up First Hill.
On the following night Nightwatch offered me an opening at Friends, and I readily accepted it. By the time I received my confirmation ticket, the last shuttle-bus had departed. I did not care, as I had no more desire to sit in a confined space with fellow shelter-mates than I had to sit with them while waiting for my ticket. Already I had been infected four times with scabies, and I was destined to become infected still again before my last evening at the Friends shelter was confirmed several months later. So, I made, on foot, the somewhat lengthy trek down South Jackson Street from 14th to 5th Avenue where I boarded the 512 Express Bus up to the University District. It was a double-decker bus and completely free of homeless rabble. It was also a straight, non-stop run on the I-5 expressway once the downtown area had been traversed. I have never been fond of bus travel, but for short distances. The route suggested by Nightwatch was long and lugubrious, and I much preferred the extra distance on foot over having my conscious awareness beaten into oblivion by the repetitive stop-and-go of any of the local routes that the homeless population found preferable. Then too, my backpack was not heavily burdened as is the case of many in the homeless community, for my non-sleep, essential belongings were stored at Chris's residence.
It was late when I arrived at Friends and was assigned a floor mat as all of the available lower-bunks had been taken. This time it was a sniper attack, but not nearly as painful -- this, despite my assiduous effort to wipe down the mat and spray the floor around the mat with disinfectant. Still, I was exhausted and did manage to sleep -- well, at least I remember having lost consciousness.
On the following night things were pretty much the same. As I was not yet on Nightwatch's pre-print list, a list that insures automatic accommodation in one's preferred bunk in one's preferred shelter, I was compelled to arrive late. When told that I would be assigned to the same mat as the night before, I protested, stated that I would seek lodging at a friend's house, and expressed hope that they would find for me a lower bunk on the following evening. Not only did this assure them that I would return, but also that I was sincere about my need for a lower-bunk. The next day I obtained what I wanted -- well, sort of.
When I left the shelter I caught a bus to the International District where I sought refuge at the Hong Kong Bistro. It was the same place where, a year before, I used to pass the time between the hours of 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM waiting for the Galvanize staff to go home so that I could retire on my preferred couch on the fourth floor. Once arrived at the Bistro, I called my friend, Edwin Yasukawa, an old acquaintance from before I had become homeless, and asked him, if he would not like to come to the International District and have dinner with me. I knew that he would be awake, and surely interested in meeting with someone that he had not seen in several years. It worked. So, I ordered a hot pot of tea and waited for my friend to arrive. Each ordered his favorite meal, and while we waited, I explained that I had been homeless for the past several years, was very near to finding a new residence, and asked, if it would not be possible that I could spend the night at his house. After dinner he agreed, and our friendship was renewed.
On the following day he drove me back to Seattle, where I spent a typical day at the University of Washington shuffling between empty classrooms while developing the Grammar Captive website.
That night when I arrived at Friends I was assigned to a lower bunk in a corner room adjacent to the main dormitory room. I was pleased -- well, at least for the moment.
I had just wiped down my mattress with a Lysol spray purchased for me by Chris in order to insure that I would not spend another night with uninvited, malicious guests, when a stranger appeared. I was standing near the door and struggling with the zipper to my backpack in an effort to return the can to a safe location. I had never seen or met this fellow before and soon wished that I would never have to see or meet him again. Only later would I learn that his name was Adolfo. We greeted one another and with the expectation that he would allow me to finish closing my zipper or even help, if he were so inclined, I took offense when he began pushing me aside in order to get through. I asked that he wait, and he suddenly became vulgar and intimidating.
Now, I had had many encounters since I began my miserable, nevertheless productive dual-existence as self-employed entrepreneur by day, and homeless vagrant by night, but this was by far the most threatening -- even more threatening than my altercation on the corner of 2nd Avenue and South Jackson Street a year before. This fellow not only twice knocked my spray can out of my hand, but he would not permit me to exit the room without the use of force and likely physical altercation that would have resulted in severe damage to one or both of us, and more likely me than him. This fellow was short, stocky, and built with a thick neck and arms to match. I had an injured right arm and zero desire to enter into physical combat. So, I held my cool, made every effort not to engage him physically, and responded civilly to his every third or fourth vulgarity in an effort to calm him without submission.
Although barely noticeable, he appeared frustrated by his inability to assert his dominance and appeared to be tiring. So, I attempted to exit the room and was able to pass without mishap. He did not follow -- likely satisfied that he had chased me away. I went to the front desk, reported what had happened, and was genuinely surprised by the response. I was asked what action I would like the front desk to take. It was a genuine expression of willingness to help, but stated in such a way that I quickly realized that the front desk was no more a match for my new roommate's behavior than I was. So, I returned to the room.
Adolfo began again. The only other person in the room remained silent and observed. At least, there would be a potential witness to the incident. This time, however, Adolfo began by stating that he was a former convict -- something that I could hardly doubt --, and indicated that I should not dare to mess with him. I continued with the preparation of my bunk. Adolfo would not relent and told me that I had better watch my back as I slept.
As it was becoming clear that I would not be able to obtain any rest that night were I to remain in the same room, I returned to the front desk -- this time with a solution. I asked for another lower bunk and was immediately reassigned. Apparently, the front desk had had time to consider an appropriate solution. In the meantime, Adolfo must have realized that my absence was not being spent at the toilet, for just as I was parting the front desk for my new bunk assignment, Adolfo appeared with a big smile on his face. He had obviously taken seriously my warning about reporting him to management, if he did not desist. Although his presence at the front desk made it easier for me to make the transfer, I could well imagine what lines of nonsense Adolfo was now feeding the shelter's staff.
When I entered my new room on the opposite side of the building I was asked by the only occupant present at the time, if I were not in need of protection and how much I would be willing to pay. He was tall and of slight build, and obviously not the one who would be providing the protection. Yes, it was funny, but more importantly it demonstrated how loud Adolfo had been.
Ironically, the new bunk that I occupied was the same that I had occupied prior to my entry into the Aloha Inn many months before. Only this time it was the less physically demanding lower half. Several days latter I also learned that it was the same bunk that Adolfo had occupied before his relocation to the room from which he had just driven me. The irony was uncanny.
By the time I had prepared my new bunk and laid my body to rest, I could hear Adolfo's voice accosting still another shelter-mate in the same way that he had accosted me. This time, however, the other fired back in the same vulgar speech and with equal volume. Shouting matches are not uncommon in the homeless scene, and I did my best to avoid them. For once you start engaging in the same vulgar way that you are engaged, you begin to acquire the same kind of vulgar speech and behavior -- the kind of which I was constantly accused at the Aloha Inn, but neither acquired, nor exhibited.
I do not know how the new confrontation played out, but ten minutes later it was finally quiet. Alas, it was just more of the same, and I did not pay attention. Rather, I decided to escalate my complaint and was contemplating how best to proceed. On the following morning I encouraged the front desk to notify Nightwatch of Adolfo's behavior. On the same morning I contacted Nightwatch, obtained the email address of the new head of the Dispatch Center, and wrote a letter in which I recommended Adolfo's removal. I then sent it with a follow-up telephone call and waited. On the same day I received an email back in which I was thanked for my detailed description of my encounter with Adolfo and was told that the matter would be investigated. That night was peaceful, as well as the next two evenings whereupon I asked my friend at Nightwatch's front desk, if he knew of a homeless person named Adolfo. As he replied that Adolfo had been temporarily suspended from the program, I knew that Tonette, the new Head of Dispatch, had acted, and I said nothing more. About a week later Adolfo reappeared at Nightwatch, but I never saw him again at Friends. On one occasion I even sat at the same table for dinner as he, but without incident. He simply got up when he was finished. My concern had dissipated.
Several weeks later I was asked by Tonette to participate in a short documentary that would be used to raise funds for Operation Nightwatch. I could have easily declined, but did not want to appear ungrateful. So, I agreed under three conditions: one, my face would not appear in the documentary; two, I could use an alias; and three, I would be able to view the final product.
Although touched by the professional character and message of the final product, the true character of what was being sold was something very different from what I had experienced. The deception was anything, but accidental, but how else was Nightwatch to sell itself to a community of donors who wanted more to feel good about themselves, than do anything to correct the woeful situation in which homeless vagrants typically find themselves. And then, who was I to complain, for I was a daily recipient of this feel good spirit, and until I could rise above it, I had only to remain silent or quit life altogether. No, for better or for worse, I had recommitted, and now I was stuck and doing my best to dig my way out.
By the time the videos appeared I had already been notified that a new opening at The Cabrini had occurred, and that I would soon bid farewell to my three-year ordeal as a homeless beggar and become a ward of the state. I no longer cared that the film-makers had not kept their promise; it would make for a good record of my horrible experience.
Those who succeed in life are those who make good on their mistakes.
On the night that I parted from the Aloha Inn for my second and last time I asked my friend, Chris, if he would not allow me to leave my things with him and do as we had done after I had been terminated the first time. He readily agreed, but did not appear happy when I explained to him that I would not likely make an effort to return to the Inn. I reasoned that it was simply not worth the relentless emotional frustration and time required to resolve the endless petty exchanges no matter how genuinely interesting it was to observe the banality of human folly that the Inn was about. Yes, it was true that I took pleasure in my ability to defeat my enemies no matter how much trash they threw at my feet and me, but I had finally discovered a reasonable strategy forward that would not only allow me to escape the homeless scene, but finally launch Grammar Captive, the very same project for which Chris had already provided enormous technical support and was truly very helpful. That he would only allow me to do as he had done before: use his residence as an easily accessed depot for my belongings -- one of the three reasons that I had remained at the Inn for as long as I had. The other two motivations were sleep and regular meals that could be achieved at NightWatch and the Cathedral Kitchen with no loss in quality. Indeed, the quality of the former at the Inn had, in any case, greatly diminished during the past several months. I then explained to Chris the underlying motivation for my request and my intended strategy forward, and he reluctantly agreed.
On the following day I set up an appointment with Doug, the Coordinator for the Aloha Inn at Catholic Community Services, and we met in his office. Obtaining the appointment this time was much easier than the time before, but the appointment itself was a great disappointment reminiscent of what I had experienced four years earlier in the office of Jeff Deist at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. What I had hoped to achieve at the meeting was a non-starter from the outset. In other words, the decision had already been made before the meeting took place, but I was led to believe that it had yet to take place. In Doug's case he did not want to turn the Aloha Inn into a refuge for clearing outstanding debt. It took a full ten-minutes to get him to make this statement and for me to realize that he had already made his decision before I arrived. Indeed, I had prepared him well for our meeting by sending him a copy of the savings petition that I had presented to the Screening Committee chaired by Conniving Caro. When I asked Doug why he had even bothered to entertain our interview, he told me that he was compelled by policy. In short, my trip to CSS had been undertaken on his behalf.
During our rather brief meeting we never discussed my second probation and subsequent termination. As for me, any effort on my part to return to the Inn rested entirely on the outcome of our meeting. As we parted, I explained that I did not wish to appear ungrateful, but would have felt much better with a simple no at the outset. Whereupon, I thanked him and CSS for having paid my outstanding collections balance and having issued the not-yet-used promissory note and parted never to return.
As I was on my way to the university, I pulled out my new iPhone 5 and transferred my entire Capital One savings balance to my Bank of America debit account. Three days later I paid down my entire outstanding balance with First Premier and observed several weeks later as my CreditWise credit rating improved from FAIR to GOOD. My strategy was working, and the welts from the Bread of Life Mission's bedbugs had nearly disappeared. I was ecstatic and sent a screenshot of my achievement appended to an email to Claudette, the Housing Manager, at the Aloha Inn with the subject title, "The Benefits of Shelter Living". In my email I suggested that she share it with Sandra Meers and the Screening Committee over which Missy Terene was most assuredly now presiding. I do not recall exactly how Claudette replied, but it was something akin to LOL. I was pleasantly amused.
It had taken more than two additional months of renewed shelter living before I finally received notification that another opening occurred at The Cabrini, and that I was once again number one on the list. I am sure that Chris shared my excitement, because he volunteered himself and his son, Andrew, to help move my belongings from my storage locker in Federal Way, where they had been held for more than three years, to my new apartment on First Hill. I was in no position to make the move on my own, because of my still nagging shoulder injury that was improving, but still not ready for such a rigorous work out.
When I arrived at the Cabrini I was not handed a key, but several empty forms that I had once completed several months before. Several days past before I was called again and then sacked with a quarter-inch stack of additional documents that must have required some 20 signatures on multiple-page documents whose both regular and fine print I left nearly completely unread, but whose basic purpose was briefly explained as we moved from signature to signature. I now understood how many in Congress must have felt when Madame Pelosi infamously stood before Congress and stated, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it". It was a clear warning that leaving the shelter in favor of government-subsidized, low-income housing would be a mixed-blessing. In clear fact, I was trading my shelter freedom for state-provided comfort and the opportunity, not a guarantee, that I might someday free myself from the stigma of receiving the state-expropriated income of others.
I would continue to attend the same gym, eat my evening meals five days a week at the same Cathedral Kitchen, and be contantly reminded that the street was only six-flights of stairs away by the police, fire, and ambulance sirens that populate the Madison Street Corridor at any time of day or night. No, one does not live in a large city and easily escape these sort of emergency alarms, but Madison Street is a six-lane undivided thoroughfare that offers a straight run for any vehicle with a municipal permit to blare an alarm. I have since nicknamed the street Siren Lane and use the sirens to remind me of the looming economic and political crisis that America necessarily faces, if it does not soon return to our nation's founding principles that James Madison, after whom the street was named, and others set forth when they drafted our noble Constitution.
Where before my eighty-plus dollars of sushi-money was spent on sushi, now it would be spent on uncooked, organic rice and my own-prepared protein topping. The source of those dollars had not changed, nor had I lost my taste for sushi; rather eating sushi no longer brought me the solace of irony that it once so dearly engendered. For now, not only have I become a ward of the state, but the transfer of wealth of hard-, and not-so-hard working Americans from one government agency to the next is being poured into the hands of an invisible landlord in a city whose ever-rising property prices is fueled by an unconstitutional, government-sponsored, banking cartel.
In effect, a transition that would probably delight most American homeless is, for a US patriot, loyal to his nation's founding principles, an uncomfortable situation, and one in which I am eager to exit. Certainly, it is not a satisfactory finish and not one that I intend to pursue. This said, it does signal a close to a very difficult episode of my life from which I will require some time to sort through and hopefully recover.
For three nights I occupied a sleeping bag on the floor of my new apartment. It was to buy time until Chris and Andrew could more comfortably help me with the arduous task of hauling box after box of bounded books and files whose history went as far back as my early college years. The more essential task -- namely, the loading, transport, and unloading of my IKEA-built apartment furniture that I had assembled for use in my first apartment on First Hill, and then disassembled and repackaged for storage while I waited for my unexpected second apartment on First Hill -- was surely the easier of the two tasks. Reassembling my furniture in my new apartment over a three-week period so as to allow my injured shoulder an opportunity to heal after each new assembly was a cathartic triumph. Because of its size my bed was one of the last pieces assembled, but the mattress on the floor was, nevertheless, an important upgrade from the sleeping bag on same. As soon as I was finished, I shared my newly discovered material pride with my friends in a series of photos that I appended to an email.
It had never been my intention to remain homeless for the rest of my life; in this way I differed from nearly all of my friends at the St. James Cathedral Kitchen. For three years I had encouraged them to be like me, and for three years they viewed me with skepticism. Then, one day, I stopped appearing at the kitchen with my back-pack, and they wondered what had happened. I do not know what they are thinking now, but I continue to encourage them while seeking not to flaunt my still questionable good fortune in their presence.
Chris and his daughter, Isabelle, were the first of my friends to visit my freshly assembled apartment. She had returned from Paris to spend the Christmas break with her family. So, I prepared freshly ground, organic coffee with the equipment from my first Amazon purchase successfully delivered to my new address -- well, sort of, but this is another story. Isabelle, had a glass of cool Mountain Mist mineral water served in a goblet that doubles as a wine glass, and Chris had his coffee in a Starbucks mug purchased in Paris on a flight to the United States from Saudi Arabia in the spring of 2014. Isabella complimented me on my red entry-carpet, and I thanked her. Whereupon, I asked myself, when the last time was that anyone, including myself, had remarked about my living conditions in a positive way?
Chris had brought me a birthday present - a Calphalon frying pan. It was my 70th birthday, the year was ending well, and Chris could easily claim to have played an important role in my success. The pan was my reward for having made his effort and sacrifice worthwhile. To this day I am not sure why he did what he did, but I will be forever grateful. Without his help everything would have been so much more difficult. For three weeks I was afraid to use the pan, and then I understood and use it today several times a week.
Thank you, Chris!
It was just after my birthday in mid-December when I decided to go for it -- a USD 4,000 CIT-Apple business lease that would bring my obsolete hardware and similarly out-dated software up-to-date. For the past two years and even before I had watched as website after website became dysfunctional within the parameters of my own browsers. New functionality that I found on the internet and would have greatly aided my ability to work was simply prohibited. I was fearful of the near fatal day when my only access to the internet would be my tiny iPhone 5 or a Windows operating system on a public desktop in the Seattle Public Library amidst one disturbance after the next with no ability to get up and move without significant interruption in my work flow. Even the fear that I would soon no longer be able to sustain several of my online accounts due to my technical inability to make online payments was growing. My MacOS was six years behind the current version, and my iOS not much younger. The world was passing me by, and my ability to get ahead was quickly dissipating before me. It was all very scary.
My CreditWise rating was now on the borderline between FAIR and GOOD, so I skipped Thanksgiving and my 70th birthday in an effort to push it into the GOOD zone. EXCELLENT would never be within my reach under my current conditions, but a rating of EXCELLENT was not what was needed. Twice a month for the past three months I had checked my rating, and now I was checking it once a week, if not more. For three long years my rating had bordered between POOR and FAIR, more recently between FAIR and GOOD, and Christmas was rapidly approaching. And, then it happened: GOOD! I was ecstatic. It was time.
So, I notified the Apple Team at CIT, an unknown bank on the East Coast, and managed to establish contact. I provided them with the name of my company, my credit rating, current income flow, and a question about the advertised USD 4,000 minimum. The initial reply was discouraging, if not insulting. I was asked, whether nudge.online was even a company. Whereupon I called CIT in an effort to determine whether I was at the proper address. I was not about to be subdued by my number one social enemy next to Modern Liberalism -- mediocrity. Memories of my recent experience before the Aloha Inn's Internal Screening Committee were now displaying in my conscious awareness. The comments of Allison, Jeff, and Missy Terene, the silence of Courageous Caro, and Sandra Meers' suggestion that it was time to deliberate and vote -- all of these were flashing billboards in my mind's eye. Even my telephone conversations with micro-lenders and my trip to the SBA just before I was thrown into the street several years before were pounding in my head. I became restless, irritated; my anger was beginning to well. I had to act quickly, and act I did.
I picked up my tiny iPhone 5, though it was somewhat bigger than my iPhone 4 had been, and in the most polite language I could muster, asked to speak directly with the source of the mediocrity with which I had recently been confronted. He was not in. That's OK, I stated. May I speak with his boss. I waited for a moment, and Joseph Leahy came on the line. I told him about my disappointing correspondence and asked, if he or someone else could not respond to my email in a manner that addressed my concerns and not further frustrate my objective.
When the preliminary approval for a loan went through a week later, I was very excited and texted my friend Chris. My strategy appeared to be paying off. On the following day I payed a visit to the Apple store in Seattle's University Village, spoke with a sales person, and created a preliminary wish list that fell short of the USD 4,000 minimum. I returned home.
Did I actually have a residence that I could call home?
Had the free market ghost of property rights actually returned? Well, kind of. At any rate, I had obtained a glimpse.
Knowing that the Apple business loan would permit hardware and software purchases from other manufacturers recommended by Apple I went to the internet and decided on a Hewlett Packard (HP) Pagewide Pro MFP 477dw. This device would surely help me in dealing with the government in both matters of business and my new residence, and it would generally make it easy to convert between digital and non-digital media. Marketing and sales are a very important part of doing business, and I wanted to be ready for whatever market avenues might become available. I could feel the HKLNA Project from yesteryear coming back to life. Because this machine was recommended by Apple, I was fairly certain that the electronic interface between my new Apple equipment and my new multifunctional device would be smooth. My final order took the following form:
A 27-Inch iMac
An iPhone 11 Pro
A 10.2-Inch iPad (7th Generation)
Final Cut Pro X
HP Pagewide Pro MFP 477dw
the cost of the above was approximately that of a café latte a day, a sacrifice that I could easily make, if for no other reason than to allay my fears about my future on the internet being destroyed by hard- and software obsolescence.
Up until then I had been spending a dollar a day on drip coffee with half-and-half at the City Grind in the basement of the Henry Art Museum and purchasing, once a week on Monday when the City Grind was closed, a four-dollar plus café latte at any place where there was not a long line -- mostly at the Café on the Ave or Bulldog News. So, yes, some financial adjustments would have to be made. This said, I was now working from home, and the need to find refuge in a café once a day was no longer present. What is more, because I would be funding my new equipment with a business lease, rather than a personal loan, I could write off my fictionally foregone monthly dose of café lattes as a business expense.
As I was left with some hope of delivery before Christmas, I had everything in place that had been requested two days before including:
A copy of a voided, blank check.
A copy of my driver's license and social security card
The contract deposit fee.
Shortly after Christmas I was told to furnish additionally a copy of my business license that could have been easily found on line, if one had only taken the time to look. After all, I had provided my Washington State business license number with a link to the Washington State Department of Revenue. No, this would be too much, and it was I who wanted the lease. So, I made another trip to the UPS Store in Harvard Square and sent a fax.
The first delivery did not appear until just before the New Year. Wanting to savor each of the newly received items separately, as I had done with each unpacked and newly assembled piece of previously stored IKEA furniture, four days had passed before I got to my already four-day-old, recently delivered iMac.
So, on the morning of day five, that I pretended was Christmas morning, I unpacked the device and proudly set it on my desk as the main entrée of an exquisite holiday meal, and pressed the button. Nothing. I pressed the button again and heard a fan. Optimistic, but concerned that my brand new retina display had still not appeared, I restarted the machine still again, and tried to activate the wireless keyboard and mouse. No. Santa Claus had long departed, and no amount of self-delusional pretense could bring him back.
The New Year past. The missing AirPods at that point were not a big deal, as I well understood the expected February delivery date. So, I called Apple and explained what I had experienced and was told to return the machine. As it was Friday, January 3, 2020, I was also told that I would have to wait until Monday before I could receive the shipping label. So, I redressed the machine in its original packaging, set it back in its box, and waited.
On Monday I received the shipping label, printed a copy on my new HP Pagewide Pro, set it on the same Pierre Cardin pull-cart with which I had lugged legal documents numerous times between MaOnShan and Wanchai one zodiac cycle prior, and took it to the UPS store in Harvard Square on Broadway. Google estimated a nine-minute walk. I did not pay attention to the time, as I was busy watching that the yard-wide box on my 12-inch wide pull-cart did not fall to one side or the other as the wheels fell into each and every crack of Seattle-city sidewalk pavement along the way. Fortunately, the case of wine that I had purchased a month earlier to celebrate the holidays and my financial victory had prepared me well for the journey. Simply the case of wine was not nearly as wide as the dysfunctional iMac that I was returning.
When I arrived at the UPS store I was confronted with a high curb and no ramp in site -- a parked vehicle with no driver was blocking the only ramp available. The pavement was wet, my right shoulder was crying out, and the Patagonia side-pack -- a gift from a previous Friends' shelter-mate who had since traveled to Boston to shovel snow and in which was packed my Shedrain umbrella that I had purchased at Nordstrom's to replace the one that another shelter-mate from a different shelter had stolen already a year ago -- was not cooperating. Do you remember Adolfo? In any case, when I rolled my box up to the counter and asked, if they would accept a FEDEx pick-up I was politely told that I could achieve my goal at a Walgreen's Drug Store only a block away. To this day I do not understand why Apple ships with UPS, but accepts returned items only through FEDEx. As the interior of the store was surrounded by windows, they must have seen me struggling. For, in sympathy with my plight, the store clerk pasted my label on Apple's shipping box, added shipping tape that I did not have with me when I repackaged the machine, and pointed me in the direction of Walgreen's.
As it had started to rain, I took out my umbrella, and pulled my newly purchased, dysfunctional iMac one block up to Walgreen's. I was confused about which arm to use to hold the umbrella and opted for my left, as it was the strongest and a better deterrent against a sudden wind.
On the following morning my package had still not been picked up, whereupon I called Walgreen's and learned that I had missed the 10:30 morning deadline by more than an hour on the previous day. Alas, rain had prevented me from going any earlier.
That evening I learned that the pick-up had succeeded, but that the method of shipping would be GROUND. Whereupon I called Apple and asked, if I could receive a new iMac before the start of the Chinese New Year in mid-February. My true intention was to determine whether I might receive some sort of compensation for my suffering -- like a case and digital pencil for my new iPad! I was told that the delay was due to the holiday season and that I should be patient. I did not bother to remind them that they had led me to believe that there was some possibility that I could have all of my equipment before Christmas. Instead, I received my AirPods early.
It took a full three days for my machine to arrive at an unknown location in California, and two additional days for the new order to be processed. On day eight, nine, or ten -- I no longer remember -- my new machine arrived in Seattle.
It was somewhat after 10:00 in the morning that I noticed that my order was in the neighborhood, so I went downstairs and waited in the lobby. At 10:30, when it was time for me to head up to the University of Washington for the ALI Discussion Table, I observed management departing -- not toward the street, but toward the elevator and likely her apartment. It was not luck that told me to skip the Discussion Table, as Ms. Alred-Paiz had taught me well not to rely on her for anything, but rent collection.
Alas, had I not still been waiting in the lobby at 11:15 AM when my package finally arrived, there would have been no one there to receive or sign for my new machine. Fortunately, it worked, and I was truly happy to have not only forestalled still another pending delay, but to have taken a great step forward.
No, no one could have understood the joy that I felt when Catalina Island first appeared on my monitor -- at least of all my best friends who had been so unable to understand the pain that I felt when they refused to extend a simple good-bye when I needed it most several years before. So, I celebrated alone and stumbled to finish my annual report before the beginning of the Chinese New Year.
Never has completing an annual report been so troubling.
In the moment that I had cleared CIT's initial credit screening, I knew that any further hurdle could be overcome. I had only to remain alert, cooperate in every matter necessary, and insist that I was worthy.
I took my foot off the break and treated myself to an organic goose from WholeFoods, a bottle of Pasquinet, French cognac dating back to the French Vichy government, a large scented candle, and a case of Las Rocas, from the San Alejandro distillery located half-way between Barcelona, Spain and Madrid. This was to say nothing of the organic trimmings including red potatoes, varietal carrots, cilantro, cranberry, and cane sugar. Simply there was no desert. The goose-fat that remained from this Christmas feast lasted all the way until the beginning of the Chinese New Year. These and other expenses comprising durable goods purchases that will reduce my long term consumptive costs and medical bills including a coffee beaker and boiling pot from Ovalware, an InstantPot Duo Evo Plus, Ex-Officio underwear, a Libman Tornado floor mop, and other similar itms were all purchased with credit that will take me until July or later to pay back on my current, somewhat over USD 800 monthly budget plus EBT. It is, of course, my hope to convert my recent investment in new Apple and Hewlett Packard hard- and software into an ever increasing income flow that will accelerate repayment. Then too, I have lived frugally for the past three years, and I can surely hang on a little longer.
So, Monday evening of the 21st of December, the evening of the 2019 winter solstice, I began a 10-day vigil that would carry me through the Christmas holiday into the New Year when the Star Sirius would once again appear dead center on the horizon in celebration of the first day of the New Year. It was a holiday tradition that I was forced to abandon when I became homeless, but one that I was able to reawaken in the comfort of my new residence.
Due to an overcast sky and eventual rain, neither Sirius, nor the year's first sunrise were visible from my early morning outpost across from the University of Washington's HUB on the other side of Stephen's Way. It rained nearly the entire time that I was there, and at daybreak a small patch of light gray turned light blue where the sun was suppose to be. This, of course, was not what Apple Weather had predicted when I left my new residence some two to three hours earlier in search of a good vantage point from which to watch the sunrise. And, as the morning progressed Apple weather simply stopped predicting. The Apps resignation was a clear admission of failure.
Disappointed by what I found to the east I walked across campus to Red Square and looked to the west. Although the sun was not visible, the sky was well lit and Mt. Olympia could be seen in the far off distance. The irony of George Washington looking westward over the empty Sound, away from the land that his people once conquered, and whose principles they were rapidly abandoning, had never been so clearly evident as it was on that morning.
So, I headed South toward Husky Stadium and the Link station where I would catch the train back to Capitol Hill, and from there make a brisk ten-minute walk to First Hill. I had not yet reached the fountain when I looked up and was greeted with a beautiful patch of blue and brightly lit clouds. Before me were only darkened clouds where Mt. Rainier should have been clearly visible. No, Apple had gotten it all wrong.
Still, there was a feeling of exhilaration, whereupon the only seagull in the sky flew over my head, turned, and flew back toward the East. It reminded me of my mother's funeral in 2005 when a caged pigeon, released to symbolize the freeing of my mother's spirit, performed a similar maneuver.
Like her mother before her, my Mom had elected to die from starvation rather than hang around waiting to perish in a bed that was not her own. A tear came to my eye, and I thought what a beautiful way to start the New Year. Indeed, I had been there, had listened to my mother's last heart beat, alone by her bedside, when she passed away. It was the chronology of nature that in the absence of war or natural calamity, we should all be able to expect.
I was lucky.
The Basement of Savery Hall
Savery Hall is the home of the University of Washington Economics Department -- the same department to which I applied for entry into a Ph.D. program in 1987 only to discover after I had arrived that I was in competition with every other Master's candidate for entry into the same program into which I thought I had already entered. Three years later, in 1990, I left the program with the equivalent of a third M.A. degree and my first published paper in economics, but no Ph.D.
Although I had past the mathematically more rigorous macroeconomic prelim, I was unable to pass the microeconomic prelim after three attempts -- this despite high course grades in the relevant material. My petition to take the examination as many times as required until I passed was denied, and I was dropped from the program. That same year the UW Economics Department was subject to a national or regional review -- I can no longer remember --, and its rating dropped from among the top 30 in the nation to some abysmally lower ranking. My petition was part of that review process. In preparation for the petition I had spent many hours acquiring data about my competition.
The analysis concluded that I had only a 3 percent chance of succeeding in the graduate program at the time of my admission. So, I was chided for having used a statistical technique with which the defense was unfamiliar.
What prevented me from passing the micro-prelim is still difficult to explain. Mostly fear of failure, and a feeling of alienation, I suspect. As old as I was (40 years), I did not really fit in.
When I returned to Seattle from Saudi Arabia in 2015 I went to the University of Washington, obtained a copy of Eugene Silberberg's primer on microeconomic theory, refreshed my understanding of the calculus of what twenty years before had been the cutting edge of contemporary, microeconomic, mathematical formalism, and wrote a paper that codified Friedrich Hayek's famous -- well, at least under Austrian economists -- triangle. Although properly formulated and useful insofar as it went, the paper fell short of becoming the basis for the future dynamic modeling research that I had hoped. So, I took it to the now Professor Emiritus Stephen Turnovsky, my former professor in, and once chair of, the Economics Department, in the hope that I could obtain some feedback on how to proceed. As my paper was highly critical of the modern economics profession, I was rudely brushed aside.
When I entered the Aloha Inn three years later as a homeless person and discovered what I had hoped to achieve at the Inn -- namely, a stable residence from which to continue work on Grammar Captive in still another collective workspace -- would not be possible, I returned to the University of Washington and turned any empty classroom that I could find into semi-private office space. Although I could have worked in the graduate library, there was no escape from the other vagrants, and shuffling between classrooms once every 50 minutes kept me alert, active, and conscious of my own productivity. When the herd moved I moved with it. I felt a part.
Though it was clear, at first, that my squatter-presence was not appreciated by many a student, faculty, and staff, I dug in and tried to make my presence as little obtrusive as possible. In time I was able to make the acquaintance of several language instructors, economics students, and social science professors, and was even recognized at some point as a benign presence by the basement staff. So, from September 2018 until October 2019 I spent every day from early morning until mid-afternoon shuffling from one empty classroom to the next in search of privacy and a solid internet connection. On those evenings that I did not fill a work-shift at the Inn I would return to the basement before 8:00 PM and do pretty much the same until well past 10:00 PM. Although my weekends were very much like my week days, there was less shuffling. How I managed this feat I am not really sure, for if I had been part of the university administration and discovered a vagrant such as myself occupying empty classrooms, I would have expelled him.
In no way was I ungrateful for such privileged office space, for I created a special section on the Grammar Captive website set aside for language and academic tutoring and advertised my services on every available bulletin board in Savery Hall, the Quad, several student centers, and Café on the Ave -- a popular off-campus coffee shop. Only once during this entire period, however, was I approached about what I was offering. Looking back I am not even sure that the inquiry was not someone on a phishing expedition with no real intention of hiring me. In any case, this effort provided a sort of raison-d'être for my ever-presence in the Savery Hall basement that likely made it more easily tolerated among the staff, faculty, and students.
In the end, among all of the vagrants that populate the university's public places I was probably considered one of the least untouchable. Indeed, the problem in Savery Hall's basement was especially problematic on the weekend, when the vagrants no longer had to compete with students for empty bathroom stalls and benches in the hallway where there were no cameras to observe their goings-on. Being a homeless person myself I quite understood the physical needs of these vagrants, but sleeping in broad daylight on the open benches, cooking on tables set aside for research and study, and bathing in toilet areas designed for temporary relief and the washing of one's hands was not something I could engage in. In fact, I likely found the presence of my homeless colleagues more disconcerting than did university management, for I feared that their abuse of the building facilities would eventually lead to my own dismissal.
In the end, my concern was likely poorly founded, for no one seemed to care, but the janitors who had to clean up after them, and many of the students were just as abusive. Alas, the things that I observed in the basement of Savery Hall during the little more than a year that I occupied the building were mind boggling.
No matter, the money that I was able to save by not having to rent a roaming seat in a collective work-space allowed me not only to pay down my outstanding credit balances and improve my credit rating, but it permitted the purchase of hamburgers and gyros with real, meat, a weekly meal at an off-campus Korean restaurant, and alcoholic beverages that made the late evenings and very long weekends more tolerable. My favorite was a cooled, boxed, white wine from Liberty Creek.
As my on-campus marketing effort did nothing to improve my income flow, and my several additional attempts to find part-time work on and around the campus also proved unsuccessful, I developed a different strategy.
In the spring of 2014 it was clear that I would soon lose my teaching post at King Abdulaziz University. Numerous applications to prominent universities in Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and South and Central America failed, and I was left with a choice between returning to Thailand, where I pretty much knew that I could find work as a teacher in a Thai grade school or the United States where my future was far less certain, but sense of mission greater. I chose to return to the United States.
Initially my goal was to check the American empire, and what better place than in its heart. Although I have adhered to this goal with the utmost tenacity, the mission has undergone significant modification. More than ever it is to save America from itself; it appears oblivious to its own condition.
The alarm went off with the Tragedy of 9/11, and then I hit the snooze button.
I was in Hong Kong at the time, the weather was pleasant, and everyone's windows were open. I heard a lot of commotion coming from my neighbor's apartment and went to the window. The entire family and more were seated around a television set whose screen was clearly visible from my vantage point. Everyone was talking at once, and I could not hear what the announcer was saying. A very large building was collapsing. OK. But, why? So, I went to the internet and discovered that it was the Twin Towers in New York. The Twin Towers? What were they? Indeed, I had not been to New York since my undergraduate days at the University of Michigan in the early 70s. Then too, I did vaguely remember having read an article long thereafter about a bombing in the basement of a large building in downtown New York City.
When I boarded the bus to The Chinese University of Hong Kong on the following morning, I recognized one of the university staff and sat next to her. During our conversation we discussed the previous days events, and she wondered about the true cause of the collapse of the Twin Towers. I speculated that the steel had weakened due to the intense heat caused by the burning jet fuel. It would take eight more years before I would learn that my speculation was fully in error, that the heat from the explosion was not sufficient to weaken steel, and that no steel-reinforced structural high rise had ever fallen due to an office fire -- no matter how it was ignited. Several more years would pass before I would even learn of the collapse of Building 7. Technically speaking I had grievously erred. Politically speaking, though; I had been much closer to the truth. I simply could not believe the explanations being spun by the international press about the Saudi nationals, and I began my search for the true motivation. I had not yet reached for the aforementioned snooze alarm.
It had been a very long time since I had paid much interest in the Middle East. In fact, the last time had been just before I applied for work with the University of Maryland's Overseas Division to teach economics on US military bases in East Asia. I was at Vanderbilt University in my fourth Ph.D. program in economics and very skeptical about its completion. My decision was made easy when I was told by the university that my hoped for scholarship would no longer be possible. Apparently the university's funding had been compromised by the S&L Crisis that followed in the wake of the 1987 Stock Market Crash. As I was among the most recently admitted, I would be among the first to go. It became my first real world experience with the accounting practice of LIFO (last in, first out). No matter, the first Bush Administration had just circumvented the United Nations to launch the United States' first major overseas military venture since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 -- Operation Desert Shield. I simply could not bare still another simulated cross-hairs and televised destruction of a massive piece of Iraqi infrastructure on national news. So, I obtained a letter from Vanderbilt's Economics Department that I was leaving in good standing and headed off for East Asia where I remained for the next seventeen years largely oblivious to what was happening in the United States that did not affect East Asia. On only two occasions during this period did I return to the US -- each time for a week or less: once, somewhat after my father's funeral; and once, to sit with my mother during her final hours. On both occasions I was treated as a tourist by my own countrymen; on the last occasion as a renegade by members of my own family.
It took 9/11 to reawaken my interest in US foreign policy that did not involve Japan or East Asia. Unlike most Americans, however, I did not view America as a victim of disaster, rather as the cause of its own victimization. Or, had it been something different, altogether?
As I followed the invasion of Afghanistan, I researched the history of Central Asia, Israel and the plight of the Palestinian people. The good feeling toward Israel that I had acquired when I was still in high school and later as an undergraduate in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan quickly dissipated. The Sound of Music, Exodus, and Ben Hur -- movies created by Hollywood to inspire sympathy for the courage of Jews persecuted over the centuries by one hateful enemy after the next simply did not hold up against The Nakba and the effect that it had had on Israel's neighbors. The bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem suggested a source of Middle East terror very different from that so often attributed to Palestinian leaders like Yasser Arafat.
Yes, the Cold War played an important role in the tension, and the US government had to take sides, but I was not yet sophisticated enough in American history to understand that the nation that I once believed to be the bulwark of freedom was little more than just another emerging world empire in a long series of imperial thrusts. Even Operation Desert Shield had not awakened in me what the US Government was truly about. Oh, there was so much to learn, but I was busy with economic survival and pressed the snooze alarm.
Indeed, it would not be until 2008 with my return from my first sojourn in Saudi Arabia that I awoke again, and my passion truly began to take hold. For, it was then that I learned from Kenneth Smythe, a retired engineer, at the French Café in Berkeley, California, that the attack on the World Trade Center was likely not from the outside, but from within. I became one of the earliest petition signers of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (ae91truth.org) and have not let go ever since. It was on this occasion that my focus turned inward to the truth of America. Where before I felt deceived about what to think about others, I now felt deceived about what to think about myself. Just what did it mean to be an American, anyway?
So, I had chosen the United States over Thailand and had now to make good on my decision. I had returned home to check the empire, and was myself checked in return. Truly, the last three years has been long and woeful, as these few tens of thousands of words clearly suggest. Amazingly, though, I have not surrendered. In fact, I have grown stronger in my resolve despite my having been rudely crushed by the system.
Perhaps, the most visible sign of my resolve is the University of Washington HUB Discussion Table that I created in late summer. It had been four long years since I had stood before a classroom of students and dearly missed their company. With no family of my own my students were those with whom I most closely bonded. Yes, I had always been able to find friends at the gym, but I was never responsible for their success or failure. We shared in a common activity and offered mutual support, but our only real bond was the time and location of our work-out. At school the relationship was different, for I could help or hinder a student's forward progress and was responsible for the maintenance of a standard that was greater than myself. I enjoyed watching my students grow and the feeling that I was responsible for the future of a society of which we were both a part. Most important in view of my current situation, the classroom was a live, interactive, immediate environment whose success demanded a spontaneous, direct, and genuine response to each and every student's want and need.
Alas, I was bereft of an important human tie that had motivated me in countless ways over the years and helped me to spend my time in the best and most productive way possible.
My countless attempts to find employment through normal channels at universities and colleges across America had failed, and my more informal, but very direct attempts to find employment at the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Seattle Central College also were in vain. I had been driven from the labor market by my age and an accreditation industry that placed greater emphasis on statistical profiling and certificates of achievement than the reality that their statistics and certificates were purported to represent. No, I had been working in the field too long to allow my professional pride to be crushed in addition to my material and physical well-being. This is when i stumbled on the idea of America's Lost Identity
An important part of my motivation for the ALI discussion table was a homeless person who camped in everyday, from the time the building opened early in the morning until it closed late at night, in one of the many cafeterias that constitute the University of Washington's student union (the HUB). I simply could not believe that a university would tolerate such behavior. How often he took a bath was difficult to know, and what he was doing there was all too obvious.
Unable to find an empty table one day, I went upstairs to the HUB's student lounge and found it filled with homeless vagrants very much like the one in the cafeteria I had just left. Couches that were surely designed for students who commuted or found dorm-life to be more like a prison than a home-away-from-home were occupied by scruffy-looking, middle-aged men. I was aghast and understood soon enough that, were I a father or mother, I would not want my son or daughter studying at a university that had turned its campus into a homeless campground. But, who was I to complain? Was I not doing the same as they? Well yes, in some reductive legal sense of the word squatting. In the end, however, I was an alumnus and using the university for it original purpose -- intellectual edification and social advancement. These vagrants, in contrast, were the same who would keep me awake at night playing video games and watching porn videos in the shelter. And why? Because they had spent their days sleeping in the very places where I and others were seeking to edify and advance ourselves and society.
Alas, part of the reason that I had moved to the basement of Savery Hall was to avoid the same sort of behavior often found in the Suzzallo-Allen graduate library. Even more disgusting was the thought that this riff-raff comprised the benchmark with which my own presence at the university was being compared and judged. To be sure, these were the same social outcasts that had five times inflicted me with scabies and unending bedbug encounters. Verily, these were the same rabble that had placed me on 24-7 alert in an effort to avoid physical confrontation, and whose unending deceit made me realize that one could never know who was truly in need and who was not. And, they were the same who could not peaceably share a table together in a house of worship and consume a free meal without engaging in fist-a-cuffs and shouting matches.
Already I was in disbelief that my presence in the basement of Savery Hall was as well-received as it was, but what I witnessed in the HUB simply overwhelmed me with contempt. Would I have remained silent as an undergrad, if confronted with the same social conditions? The answer was an indefatigable negative. Yes, there was something behind the homeless presence on the UW campus that went beyond any act of human kindness, but I could only surmise what it was.
What I needed was a platform. So, I investigated the registered student organizations and selected those that might be interested in something other than a modern liberal perspective. Only one appeared even active -- UW College Republicans. I attended one of their meetings and was invited to speak. In an effort to test the ground before I spoke, I created a quiz that I asked the club's leadership to administer to their membership. Whereupon, I was told that they could not subject their membership to such an undertaking. No explanation was given. Whereupon the club changed its meeting time, and I could no longer attend.
Those in attendance at the meeting that I attended had been few, and my idea was to trade venue for membership. I would provide them with a lecture series that would attract new membership, and they would provide me with a venue to be heard. When they refused even to promote my exploratory quiz, it was clear that my lecture series would not be accepted either. So, I abandoned the effort. This is when I fell upon the idea of creating a discussion table in order to: one, take advantage of whatever privilege the homeless person day-camping in the student cafeteria was using; and two, provide a public free-space to discuss openly political, economic, and social matters that were actively suppressed by the university's modern liberals and their more militant socialist counterparts -- likely the same who supported the homeless camp-ins.
Several weeks after I had been rejected by the UW College Republicans, they set up a booth at the library's end of the broad sidewalk that cut through the large expanse of lawn separating the HUB from the Suzzallo-Allen graduate library. I was on my way from Savery Hall to the HUB in search of lunch and noticed a large crowd surrounding the booth. While I was still courting the club's membership I had been told stories about physical attacks on their booth. So, I paused, but not for long as our relationship had turned cold. On my way back to Savery Hall I noticed that the crowd had grown, the press had arrived with camera's, and nine campus police officers were now present. So, I stopped and listened to a debate that was being filmed somewhat distant from the booth. As it hardly seemed worthwhile, and I could see from the various placards that the UW College Republicans were under siege by a common enemy I decided to lend a hand. In effect, I went from one placard holder to the next and asked what it was they were protesting. Some would not speak and others were eager. So, I listened to those who were eager and agreed with many of their grievances. This took them by surprise. Simply, we disagreed on the method of resolution. They were young, they were passionate, but they lacked both knowledge and experience, and just needed an adult voice to guide them.
After several discussions I began to understand the underlying motivation for the students presence and was truly glad to have joined the fray. Although they shared the same target, their grievances were different and varied. As a result, what was being generally advertised as the reason for the protest -- the socialization of education -- was easily set aside.
There was one group of students that I found of particular interest: a mixed group of Asian-Americans led by a fair-haired, blue-eyed undergraduate who was charging the College Republicans with racial discrimination for having sought to disrupt a nearby group of Pacific-Islanders in their celebration of their Oceanic heritage. He was by far the most intelligent and best informed of everyone with whom I had spoken during the approximately forty mintues that I had already participated in the protest. After some fifteen-minutes worth of additional conversation in which this lad sought intelligently to make his case, I asked him what it meant to be an American, and he could not reply. He was so taken-back by his own inability to answer that he melted on the spot and withdrew in shame. As I turned to walk away, a police officer with a West African countenance was looking directly at me with a big grin on his face. I smiled back. Apparently he had overheard the entire conversation. The now disenfranchised group remainder started calling me a racist, and I turned to confront their charge. Was there no end to American racism? Unfortunately, their motivation seemed only vengeful in character; certainly they were unable to bring anything substantive to the table that their vanquished leader and I had not already covered. Whereupon two male students who had overheard the name-calling came up to inform me that the College Republicans had not obtained university authorization to set up their booth.
The little bit of experience that I had with the College Republicans suggested otherwise, so I headed over to the HUB, found my way up to the Student Affairs office, and inquired. I was immediately received as one of the protestors and told yes, that the club did have permission, and that a warning had gone out to the various university departments that a confrontation were possible. I thanked my interlocutors for their information and wondered whether the university had not intentionally set the stage for what I had just experienced. When I returned to the protest, neither the male students who were spreading false rumors, nor the Asia-American feminists who had been accusing me of racism were present. Did they really believe that they had driven me away, reached the climax of their participation, and moved on to better things in celebration of their victory? No matter, I had already spent much more time than I had expected.
Later I was sent an invitation to join another College Republican event, but simply ignored it. No, I had not participated in the protest to defend the College Republicans who had rebuked me only weeks before, rather it was to defeat a common enemy.
Somewhat after that experience I noticed a picture of my friend, Robin Koerner, posted on a bulletin board in Savery Hall along with an advertisement of a talk that he would be giving on campus. So, I texted him a copy, but received no reply. I attended his talk anyway and was happy that I did, for before he even began to speak, he was told by a member of the audience that his presence was not necessary, that the freedom of speech was alive and well on the UW campus. I stayed for Robin's entire presentation and watched as those opposed to his presence waited for an appropriate moment for a dramatic exit, stood up, and walked out. After the presentation I lingered in the hallway with Robin and listened as he sought to discuss rationally with an irrationally obsessed member of his audience. Robin is very people oriented, quickly accepts intellectual challenge, and was just coming off a speaker's high. As it was reminiscent of what I had heard ad infinitum only weeks before, I turned to another, and we left together. Whereupon I was asked, if I would not be interested in attending one of their meetings. I said, sure, but advised him that I was not a member of the university per se. So, I took his information, followed up about a week later, and never heard back.
At the outset I believed that the first six weeks of my discussion table would serve as a trial for the fall term. It was during the summer, and I observed more overseas students prepping for the fall term than American students enrolled in summer school. By the time the fall came I had gained some experience both about tabling and getting my message out.
About half way through the fall term a female undergraduate approached the table and sat down. Within a few minutes of our discussion I asked her, if she had not been homeschooled. She confirmed my suspicion and asked how I knew. I explained to her that she enjoyed a perspective that few other students shared. We had a good discussion, and she suggested at the end that I create a webpage. Although I did not act on her suggestion right away, I did begin thinking about what would make for an attractive and useful site. As I was already spending an hour a day at the table and another hour in travel time to and from the university, I was loathe to spend very much more time with the project. After all, the chance of it ever bringing me income was small, and the table was not nearly as active as I had once hoped. Still, I wanted to do everything I could within reason to make it succeed.
During the Thanksgiving break I set to work and within a week both site and the webpage were completed. Having worked so hard on the Grammar Captive website for so long, creating a brand new website from scratch was pretty easy. So easy, in fact, that I created a data base to make it easy for students to register their support for the course that I hoped one day to teach, and for me to collect data about what interested them most about the topics that changed each week at the table.
Although the webpage was ready by the end of the fall term, what I had thought to be the last week of classes turned out to be finals week, and most students had already gone home for the Christmas holiday. The bad timing told me that I had better give the discussion table one additional quarter's worth of trial and error.
Well, the fall and winter terms have come and gone, the Corona Virus (CoVID-19) is upon us, and I do not believe that I am going to achieve my goal. Still, the daily signal that I sent out does not appear to have gone to waste. On the one hand, it was difficult to skip the main message as you came into the cafeteria. And, you could not stand in line in front of Starbucks without a clear view of my weekly thoughts. I am sure that I reached many people. For a brief time I also created a safe space for liberty-minded students to discuss political, economic, and social issues openly on a campus dominated by the modern liberal mind-set.
The true fruit of my labor would only appear later.
Once it was determined that I would not be able to have both: a bed that I could call my own and a presence in a collective workspace, my life became split between the Aloha Inn and the basement of Savery Hall. As the former was pretty much a poorly run asylum for the mentally and emotionally challenged and the latter was filled with students interested in second languages and the social sciences during the week and with Christian worshippers, socialist zealots, and homeless vagrants on the weekend, I quickly became distracted. So, I split my time between web-development during the day, and social philosophy on my free evenings and weekends. I used the shuffling between classrooms during the day as a sort of work discipline to keep me focused on the Grammar Captive website.
In effect, I had reentered the world of modern liberal academia in which I was weaned as a second-class citizen and would now attempt to fill the gaps between my early modern liberal formation, my Northeast-, East-, Southeast-, and Southwest-Asian cultural odyssey, and the wealth of philosophical, historical, and economic information that I had gleaned from the internet and numerous books of my own choice about the nature of the state, the school of Spanish-Austrian economics, and American history. My biggest challenge was to close the gap between the development of property rights and the evolution of free markets and the modern liberal insistence that collective value was the future of humanity. In order to close this gap I simply started writing.
Although it was clear what had to be explained the explanation was hardly automatic. Somehow I had to go from the notion that everything short of one's loin cloth was owned by everyone to what Hans-Hermann Hoppe summarized as the right to oneself, the acquisition of unclaimed property, and the freedom to exchange what resulted.
It was about this time when in my parallel life as a homeless vagrant that I renewed my relationship with Edwin Yasukawa and was invited to attend a John Birch Society meeting somewhere in the north of Seattle. Two meetings later it became clear that I did not really fit. Although the politics of the John Birch Society were very close to my own, it was difficult for me to join in the religious celebration, and felt that it would be disingenuous for me to become a member. So, I stopped attending the local meetings and expressed a wish to attend the events that the society hosted for the general public. Edwin became my liaison.
My first event was a talk given by Alex Newman, a rather prominent figure of the society who was on vacation in the western United States. Unfortunately, Edwin brought along with him his imperious sidekick, David, and this put a damper -- well, at least for me -- on the occasion. Still, I was able to make the direct acquaintance of Mr. Newman and was invited to participate at a dinner that was given in his honor after the talk. It was at dinner where I met a newly joined John Bircher who appeared to be acquainted with the society's local head. He was Jewish and expressed an interest in theosophy (the philosophy of God). As he was outspoken and expressed a political philosophy antithetical to my own, we entered into discussion. I simply could not understand his interest in the John Birch Society and inquired about his interest in theosophy instead. He recommended a book by Alvin Boyd Kuhn. As he was an amiable fellow who took an interest in my person and appeared sincere in his intellectual pursuit I decided to follow up with his suggested reading. After all, I was rapidly becoming a ward of the Catholic church and was in need of philosophical diversion.
So, I made use of my borrower's card and obtained a copy of Shadow of the Third Century: A Reevaluation of Christianity from the Suzzallo-Allen library. After about a hundred pages or so I discovered a sort of mantra -- a repetition of the same claim and with each new iteration a referenced source. Although the name Kuhn -- albeit, a Kuhn different from the one I was currently reading -- was familiar, I had zero familiarity with this Kuhn's many references. Needless to say I was entering into an as-of-yet unexplored conceptual realm, and it was kind of fun. Had I received with each new iteration of Kuhn's mantra a good explanation as to how each cited work contributed to his argument, I probably would have finished the book. Of value was that certain sources were repeated more than others, and I decided to begin exploring them instead.
To be fair the mantra was a repeated exposition of a very clear argument made at the beginning of the book. The argument was a juxtaposition of an ideology that Alex Boyd Kuhn called Christianism and a belief system that Kuhn described as a way of life -- namely, Christianity. After one hundred pages I no longer needed to be reminded of the argument, however, and decided upon Godfrey Higgins as my inroad to Kuhn's understanding of his own argument. Higgins was esoteric, but nevertheless insightful, and in this regard more enlightening than Kuhn.
In effect, Mr. Higgins was proposing an important factor in the development of human social evolution that had largely escaped me during my own writing -- the arrogance of intelligence and the development of what Mr. Higgins called a priesthood. These were a class of citizens who separated themselves from the ignorance of the masses, but were esteemed just the same, as they provided guidance in return for special privileges that other members of common society did not enjoy. Indeed, so focused had I become on the transition from collective to private material property and the political economy that must have resulted from that development, I had completely forgotten to consider intellectual property. This embarrassment caused me to read past Higgens's endless esoterica, and I explored further.
I began with Higgins' Anacalypsis: An Attempt to Draw Aside the Saitic Isis; or an Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations, and Religions.3 After many tens of pages of what appeared to be an attempt to explain the evolution of human thought and culture, I set down the Anacalypsis and picked up The Celtic Druids, another work by the same author to which Higgin's repeatedly referred in the Anacalypsis.
Unfortunately, I was not able to return to the Anacalypsis as my entry into The Cabrini was extremely disruptive to my routine of the previous three years, and there was much to do in order to adapt to my new situation. This said, I was able to make good headway into the Celtic Druids.
Important to note is that Higgins (1772-1833) wrote during a period of literary history called the Englightenment. It was during this period that philosophy and science took on a popular character promoted by independent thinkers, writers, and researchers who colluded with established academicians and public officials to educate the general public about the nature of science, religion, and the state. Science and religion were becoming increasingly antagonistic, and the relationship between the church and the state was in turmoil. It was believed among many that the church had to be taken down in order for science to succeed, and in order for the church to be taken down its chief proponent, the European aristocracy, had to be dismantled. Setting aside the narrow boundaries assigned to the Englightenment by historical and literary academicians this period of history appears to have been a very long time in coming. In the broader historical perspective of human social development it appears yet to have run its course. Today it is barely even thought about, but the struggle continues.
The science of archaeology was still in its infancy when Higgins wrote, and the Bible was then, as it remains today, a highly respected book that was not easily discounted. Accordingly, Higgins believed in the Great Flood. Even my friend, Edwin, has several books that attest to its plausibility and offer factual evidence of its occurrence. So, I played along and was taken on a journey that I found of particular merit. Indeed, for the sake of inquiry I will accept any assumption as fact, if the conclusion is good and the argumentation that follows from the latter and leads to the former is both valid and useful in explaining the reality of my existence.
Now, it is surely the case that Higgins's narrative would be different today, as we know so much more now than we knew in his time. Then too, I am fairly certain that archaeological science has developed its own narrative that closes, as a matter of methodology, the door to the kind of knowledge that Higgens advances. No, Higgens is not always convincing, as his audience appears to be those who are already familiar with the many works and evidence that he cites. Without such knowledge the contemporary reader can easily become disillusioned. Further, I do not have the time, nor sufficiently compelling interest to explore his many resources. As a result, I am too often compelled to take him at his word. No matter, his discussion is genuine, and his insight sufficiently powerful to compel one to re-examine knowledge that many modern scholars appear to take for granted.
Perhaps Higgens's greatest challenge in this regard is his disdain for ancient Greek writers who, according to Higgins, openly admitted that much of what they knew did not originate with them, but then flagrantly expressed everything that they knew as if it were their own invention. Higgens's frustration with the ancient Greeks is not something that he goes out of his way to prove, or perhaps he did, but I simply have yet to find his elucidation on the matter. Clearly evident is Higgins's conviction that the academic scholars of his own time were blind-sided by the writing of the ancient Greeks.
In brief, Higgens hypothesizes that the great, ancient civilizations of India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome all share the same origin as that of Ireland and the British Isles, and that this shared origin has its geographical roots among the ancient sheep herders of north central Asia. His most powerful argument in this regard is the commonality of the alphabets of these early writing systems. Indeed, he demonstrates that they all share important elements of the primitive Druid alphabet. Further he shows that these more ancient writing systems were all based on the same primitive counting system and concludes that counting necessarily arose before writing.
More important to the question of theosophy that initiated these readings was Higgins's discussion of the ancient gods that are shared across these civilizations. It is in this discussion that Godfrey Higgins takes the greatest umbrage with the ancient Greeks. For today, as was true at the time that Higgins wrote, we believe that the notion of one God was the invention of the Jews - a theosophical advancement over the pagan Gods of ancient Rome and Greece. When, in fact, Higgins demonstrates that the notion of one God was already well in place before the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, and that it, like the Ancient counting and writing systems, was not only shared across all civilizations of the Euro-Asian continent and North Africa, but was also derived from the same belief system that originated in North Central Asia.
It was at this point that my reading was interrupted by matters of a more practical nature. Neither was I able to finish Higgins's The Celtic Druids, nor was I able to return to his Anacalypsis. Maybe someday again in the future depending on how successfully or unsuccesfully I am able to free myself from being a ward of the state -- my first priority after finishing this already very belated annual report.
It was during my reading of Alvin Boyd Kuhn that I also became acquainted with the work of Bonn Eusebius. Just as Godfrey Higgins was often cited by Kuhn as an important source of information for his conclusion, so too was Bonn Eusebius often cited by Godrey Higgins for his. Both Higgins and Kuhn appeared to agree that the popularly celebrated Christianism of today and the also popularly celebrated Christian belief -- namely, Christianity -- of yesteryear were, indeed, two very different phenomenon. So, I decided to absorb Eusebius as well, but likely gleaned from my reading of Eusebius something very different than did Kuhn.
Eusebius's work, History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine that I read in translation from 4th century Greek into English by G. A. Williamson, was my first choice of the several translations that I found in the UW library. I was greatly disappointed at first, because neither the author, nor his translator, ever questioned the story of Christ -- only its interpretation by various others. Christ was a given, the Son of God who was crucified and ascended into Heaven. I decided to read the book anyway, because I was more interested in how the Christian church established itself as the official religion of the Roman empire, than I was in the veracity of Christ's existence as the Son of God.
Bonn Eusebius in translation was a much easier read than Godfrey Higgins in the original. Like Higgins, Eusebius cited many authors and works with which I had no familiarity; unlike Higgins, the content of what Eusebius cited was easier to understand. The content of both works appeared to have been well researched, and Eusebius's translator appeared to have done his homework. So, I felt confident that I was not reading someone else's fictional recount of how the Christian church developed.
My most important lessons from Eusebius can be summarized in several lines. Firstly, early Christians were hesitant to evangelize beyond the Jewish community, because they held to the idea of the Jewish old testament that Jews were God's chosen people. After being thoroughly trashed by the Jewish community, however, they extended their reach beyond the Jewish realm where they were better received. After all, they were Christians by faith and only Jewish by language and culture. The first among those converted outside of the Jewish community were the ancient inhabitants of modern Ethiopia; their descendants are known today as Coptic Christians. Once the Christian community understood that it was Christ to whom they were loyal and not Moses, Christianity quickly spread throughout the diverse cultures of the Roman empire.
Secondly, except for certain epochs during their three hundred year struggle to establish themselves throughout the Roman empire and beyond it was rarely the Romans who were the principal adversaries of the early Christians. Rather, it was the Jews and other ethnic groups under imperial Roman rule who rejected the Christian presence and sought to have it removed via the Roman authority present in the location in which the rejection was prosecuted.
Although Eusebius offers little insight into the motivation for the persecution of Christians, I suspect that it had to do with the way in which male youth were inducted into society on the one hand, and how they were inducted into the Christian faith on the other. Whereas Christians baptized their new converts with water, everyone else used blood -- namely, the pubescent and pre-pubescent right of circumcision. As the shedding of blood is a far more onerous task than being immersed in water or having water poured over one's head, one can easily imagine how Christianity could be perceived as a corruptive practice.
In short, those who would demonize the Romans as the chief persecutors of Christians are poorly informed.
Indeed, there were numerous appeals on the part of Christians for Roman intervention in an effort to secure the safety of Christians from local persecution. In general, Christians were good Roman citizens, although they worshipped a god different than the emperor, they did not stand in the way of imperial Roman rule. Unlike the Jews they refrained from violence, paid their taxes, taught their children behavior that accommodated Roman law, and enforced discipline on their own community through prayer and other communal events.
Thirdly, their most persuasive tool of conversion was their refusal to engage in violence no matter what violence was perpetuated against them. Although they succumbed to enormous brutality simply for insisting that there was no God higher than their own -- a God whom anyone could embrace, if they so elected --, inevitably they prevailed. Although easily made the fool in the moment of their torture, their perseverance resulted in their victory. For, they showed to the world that no authority, no matter how brutal and corrupt, could stop them from their message of peace and social harmony. It was in this manner that they eventually gained the respect of imperial Rome, and became the official religion of the Roman empire. For what better way to maintain order through a vast empire than to support a religion that rejected violence on the one hand, and was open to all languages and cultures on the other?
Still, there was the defense of the empire against external forces that made Christians poor candidates for defense of the empire. The more modern notion of the separation of church and state surely had very early origins.
This sally into the history of the Christian church prompted me to write a letter to the head of the St. James Cathedral. For, after all I was now indebted to the Seattle Archdiocese for my new lodging, weekday dinner, and opportunity to embark on Phase II of digging my way out of the societal muck into which I had been driven three years earlier by American society. Although I was well-received by the good father, my proposal was rejected.
Ironically, the two things that I was so eager to leave -- a church in which I could no longer believe and a state that was always at war -- some three decades earlier have now become my life-line while I struggle to release myself from their awkward embrace.
Alas, I had returned to America to fight the empire, and now I must reap the consequences of my decision. Some would call it delusion; I regard it as heroic. Maybe my parents allowed me to read too many Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern comic books when I was a kid .... I am sure that modern liberal psychology must have a name for my pathology. Woe be unto me for performing my civic duty!
When I first returned to the United States in the spring of 2015 I listened to a panel at that year's Austrian Economics Research Conference. Although I no longer recall who the seated members of the panel were, I did come away with the understanding that there was an important, informative work out there that was worth reading. Having recently finished Alexis de Toqueville's second volume on De la démocratie en Amérique I was in search of something new to pass the time between the Aloha Inn and the University of Washington. I was torn between reading more about life in America during the era between the inaugurations of Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and Abraham Lincoln in 1861 or reading something more contemporary. My Twitter account provided the solution. Someone whom I had been following made a reference to David Stockman; a buzzer went off and a light went on. Although I was unable to find a copy of Stockman's work at either the UW or the Seattle downtown library, I was able to download all 743 pages of his book The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America at no cost to myself and dug in.
I managed to read over 550 pages of this mammoth work on my tiny iPhone 5 while in transit every morning between the Aloha Inn and the University of Washington and later between Mount Baker and the University of Washington. This feat is one of only two good things that I have to say about Seattle's LINK rail system. The other good thing is that I was once able to recover my computer after having negligently left it on my seat while disembarking. This event alone greatly elevated my opinion about that portion of Seattle society that makes use of the LINK. It seems like so long ago, though. Still, the memory is indelible.
Unlike others who discount the Federal Reserve System as having been a sinister creation from the very start, David Stockman assumes in his book that the institution was created in good faith, but corrupted over time. Although he does not dwell in his book on Roosevelt's coercive dismantlement of the US domestic gold standard, he does make reference to it in the run-up to our leaving the international gold standard in 1971 under the reign of Richard Milhous Nixon. The book is so full of information that one can hardly do it justice in just a few paragraphs. Still, I will list my most important take-aways.
Firstly, the idea of going off the gold standard was politically motivated. Nixon was preparing for his 1972 re-election and wanted to ensure that he would finish his first term on a positive economic note. Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and the Vietnam War had been very expensive, and the United States was having severe difficulty in honoring its gold commitments.
Although leaving the gold-standard offered a temporary economic reprieve and secured Nixon's re-election, its long-term results have been devastating. Milton Friedman who was a strong proponent of free markets encouraged the idea with apparently only minimal thought given to the way in which other governments of the world would implement the not-so-free, free currency exchange that resulted. Rather than conforming to Friedman's theoretical model in which each government behaved independently of every other, and all were subject to the same global market discipline, something quite different occurred. Yearning for the price stability that was in place under the gold standard, many government pegged the value of their currencies to the US dollar, thus establishing the dollar as the world's new gold standard. Unfortunately, there was nothing golden about it, unless you consider, of course, the greatest theft in world history worthy of this noble metal's name. For, leaving the gold standard enabled the US government to print ever greater amounts of paper with little fear of market recrimination. Trading military aid for loyalty to the dollar (the petro dollar) further cemented this skewed relationship, and rapid industrial growth throughout the newly industrializing world insured that the US government would continue to spend beyond its means indefinitely.
With the world currencies no longer pegged to the price of gold a new market opened in which money -- previously a medium of exchange and store of wealth used to facilitate the allocation of resources, the production of new real goods and services, and their equitable distribution -- was set aside and replaced with government-issued counterfeit currencies that became a vehicle for wealth transfer. Indeed, rather than producing new goods and services that could enhance the standard of living of everyone, the new focus turned to the creation of financial instruments that would better transfer real wealth from those who did not understand this new monetary system to those who did.
In order to make this new market transfer of wealth from the many to the few succeed, another form of wealth transfer that was more political in nature was required. Somehow it had to be made to appear that government was not only in the business of making the rich richer, but also there to help the poor. These latter transfers were achieved through numerous government handouts that, if not designed to benefit those in the private and public sectors who distributed them, were surely promoted and abused by them. The welfare state became an indelible feature of American society.
The most egregious abuse of these wealth transfers took place in the housing, construction, and real estate industries where the US government provided a variety of economic incentives not only to potential homeowners who did not have the wherewithal to sustain a mortgage, but to the private agencies and banks who made the mortgages available. In so doing, a fully sustainable, private industrial complex that understood well what was affordable and what was not was quickly destroyed and then reconstituted as a costly ward-of-the-state funded by the public purse. The government waived costly down payments that once protected banks and helped to insure that only borrowers, who could sustain their debt and thus retain their new home, were properly selected. When it was later discovered that a borrower could not sustain his debt, the government would then step in and pay it for him with public money. This free money made the purchase of a new home ever more attractive and the demand for new housing ever greater.
Even when the money that was allotted to government agencies for the purpose of facilitating the purchase of new housing dried up, there was plenty more available on Wall Street. For there, the government was propping up an already overextended economy badly in need of a correction with free loans (ZIRP = zero interest rate policy). Indeed, why would a little bank want to compete with other little banks for scarce government funds that were once, but no longer abundant when large commercial banks were eager to sell loans to any buyer who could produce a government-backed guarantee. Not only were these large commercial banks willing to lend money cheaply, but they were also eager to purchase the mortgages outright. For, once purchased they would repackage them into larger financial bundles of varied risk composition that were then sold overseas to investors who had only a poor understanding of the true market value of what they were buying.
So, housing prices soared as more and more mortgages were sold and the demand for housing increased. Fees were collected at every step of the way, even by those with little or no experience in the residential housing market, but knew how to sell whatever needed to be sold to whoever wanted to buy. When the bubble suddenly burst, as all properly inflated bubbles must, the value of the outstanding mortgages was much greater than the value of the underlying assets. As a result, those who were supposed to be helped by the government's promise to make The American Dream possible for everyone were crushed, and Wall Street was bailed out.
What appears to be a common term in financial parlance today was never mentioned during my six years of graduate economic training at the Universities of Oklahoma (1983-1986) and Washington (1987-1990). Then too, the applied wealth effect introduced by Alan Greenspan after the S&L crisis was treated with good theoretical and mathematical precision by the modern economics world as the wealth effect. What we were not told and what was not being modeled in the classroom was the enormously disruptive effect that lending money into existence at extremely low rates of interest was having on our own and the world's national economies.
Interest rates are the price of sacrificing today for a better tomorrow. If the market is given a free hand, then interest rates become a useful market indicator for balancing between current and future consumption. They regulate automatically a market balance between those who wish to consume today with no thought for tomorrow against those who are concerned about what tomorrow will bring.
When interest rates are high, people save and there is plenty of real wealth to invest. When interest rates are low, there is little incentive to save. In the absence of real saving there is nothing to feed, clothe, and provide shelter to those who toil while new investment is undertaken. It takes much time for a new investment to bear fruit.
In today's world we tend to believe that money -- in reality, counterfeit currency -- is everything. In effect, those who have it can do what they want, and those who do not must struggle even to live. This focus on obtaining money, rather than producing real wealth and services, is not only a flagrant perversion of the free market system, but it is destroying it.
Indeed, this notion fails in several important ways: one, money is neither something that you can eat, nor something that you can serve in the hope of satisfying another's hunger, if there is no food; two, you cannot be forever pumping money into an economy without serious negative ramifications (the creation of boom and their subsequent busts); three, tampering with interest rates -- this is what it means to control the money supply -- disrupts our natural preference for current and future consumption that in turn regulates how fast we grow; and four, whether the money is issued with the creation of new debt or simply printed, it represents a form of counterfeit, is immoral, and has negative social ramifications that go far beyond the markets in which it is used as a medium of exchange. Now, this is not the place for me to elaborate on these concepts, but if you are interested, David Stockman considers each, if not separately, then in the overall context of what he reports.
My interest, in particular, was the lucrative carry trade made possible by the FED's zero, or near zero interest rate (ZIRP) policy. It comes in different forms, but levers on the idea that you can obtain short term interest loans at zero or near zero cost and use the cash thus received to purchase or borrow long term financial instruments with a higher risk and yield. Alternatively, with the same funds you can issue new risky long term loans at a higher paying rate of interest. This sort of trading in the absence of a central bank that insures that you are always able to obtain as many funds as you need at zero or next to zero cost is extremely risky and would not otherwise be undertaken.
Borrowing short and lending long is what brought about the S&L crisis under the Reagan Administration. The problem arises with the fact that you borrow in a market that is different from the one in which you lend, that each market is subject to a different set of stimuli, and that different markets react differently to the same stimuli. The goal is to keep an even spread, but this is not easy to do if both sides of your market do not behave similarly. In the case of the S&L crisis, the price was fixed by government regulation in the short-term borrowing market and offered, as a result, no flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in the much longer term lending market.
It is the aforementioned carry trade that made Michael Milken infamously wealthy, and it is this carry trade that contributed significantly to the 2008 housing crisis.
These carry trades offer no useful economic value, because their market participants take risks that they would not take under normal market conditions. In effect, they obtain freely issued counterfeit from the FED and extract with it enormous sums of real wealth from the real economy. Not only do these trades serve no useful economic purpose to the economy as a whole, but they cause enormous damage to it. In effect, they amplify malinvestment in other artificially inflated markets. Worst of all, this investment destroys our nation's natural time preference for current and future consumption and places the fate of our national economy in the hands of Wall Street and District politicians and bureaucrats. If this were not bad enough, we are taught in economics classes around the world that all of this is being performed in the name of the efficient allocation of capital. In fact, it is redistributing real wealth from the hands of the hard-working many into the hands of the very corrupt few.
Now, you might ask why our government has allowed this to take place. And, many reasons can, of course, be given. The simple answer is that Wall Street now controls the decision making process of the US Treasury, the FED is a useful political tool of the White House, and Wall Street is an important source of political campaign donations.
Although David Stockman approaches the current financial dilemma in which we find ourselves today from a large variety of perspectives, all of these are related to the same financial problem -- our corrupted money supply, I will let Mr. Stockman speak for himself and encourage you to read his book.
The Beginning of Phase II
The phrase dirty break can mean a bad stroke of luck. It can also mean an incomplete break or tear in which the severance is only partial. Then too, it can mean a break or tear that is not uniform across the full width of the severance. Whatever its meaning in the current context it was the phrase that entered into my conscious awareness when I started this section.
Alas, whether this term is applied to my tooth decay, my torn shoulder, the insurance required to cover each, my electricity bill, the address used by Amazon to deliver my packages, my credit rating, the contents of my previous storage locker, my diet, my online overseas experience, and any of the numerous other matters of lesser importance to my success or lack thereof, the conclusion is the same. It was much easier becoming homeless than it has been in returning to what most Americans and others might call normalcy in modern American society.
Please do not misunderstand, becoming homeless was brutal, and the uphill struggle of maintaining my dual life-style as a homeless vagrant and web-developer was not easy. At times I truly wanted to quit. In between these moments, however, my life was compensated by the simplicity of my life-style; my food, my lodging, my healthcare were all taken care of by others -- a kind of parasitic paradise in which all I had to do, if I had wanted, was to complain about the quality of the service and what was provided and keep my distance from those about whom I complained. Indeed, this is what most of the people, with whom I was compelled to pass my time, did. The only real exception to this pattern of things was the Aloha Inn where everything that used to be simple suddenly became extraordinarily difficult.
Throughout the entire three years my greatest enemies were mediocrity and a nagging feeling of alienation: whether it came in the form of bureaucratic lethargy, a lack of philosophical depth, or a general feeling of discontent with no real desire to bring about change. With few exceptions those who controlled my venues, provisions, and social interactions were simply uninspiring. Then too, there were the abrupt changes that resulted when someone on whom I relied to make it all work suddenly dropped me, as if a burden too great to carry.
In the end, I had only to tolerate the intolerable, role with the punches, punch back when it was tactically expedient, accept what was freely given with a smile, and say thank you. And, so long as I could shuttle between my two worlds of homeless vagrancy and web-development I had a reliable source of vacation from each -- well, at least, until I was tagged as not being truly of either, and I would be compelled to find a new vacation resort.
Now, I am stuck in the one world with all kinds of unwanted ties to the other and with no opportunity to leave the one for the other. Certain the four cases of Las Rocas that I consumed between October 16, 2019 and March 6, 2020 have provided salutary relief, but their retardant effect is hardly a solution to propel me forward, only one to prevent me from utter derailment while having to deal with what it means to be normal in an abnormal situation.
Ever so slowly I am learning to reconcile my abnormal situation with my own normal state.
Winter Solstice Holiday
Although I am not at all sure that he understood the entirety of my holiday celebration, there was one aspect of it that my good friend, Chris, declared as "the first American thing I have ever seen you do". Although he said it with a smile, I understood well the sincerity of what he said, and I fell silent. I felt ashamed.
Not including the time that I watched him enter and leave his private alcove on the fourth floor of Galvanize, I have known Chris for a little more than two years. In contrast, he has held American citizenship for more than a decade.
Now, having spent more than a third of my life overseas with as many as nine years in the same country, I know well the special insight into American society that my good friend must have that few Americans can boast. Although he was surely referring to an aspect of American society that he enjoys, it is an aspect of American society of which I am generally very critical. This said, my embarrassment was offset by my own indulgence.
The likely unintended consequence of his comment did serve, however, to keep my joy under control -- truly a blessing of our friendship.
So, what did I do that Chris thought was so American?
I splurged. I spent several hundred dollars that I did not have on purely consumptive items and dug myself more deeply into debt than was required for my recovery from hard- and software obsolescence. My only justification for this wanton act of self-indulgence was three-plus years of pent-up restraint, new surroundings that did not reflect my current level of income, and my newly won self-respect for having conquered the corrupt financial system that had made me homeless in the first place -- and all of this, in the belief that the thin financial rug on which I am currently standing would not be pulled out from under me by the very spoils system against which I continue to struggle.
Just before my departure from Saudi Arabia in the spring of 2015 I had my teeth cleaned at a dentist recommended to me by my good friend, Hazim Al Ghamdi.
Somewhat before the Chinese New Year when my new iMac finally arrived I began exploring new social networks in anticipation of my expected 2020 fall launch of Grammar Captive and rediscovered Hazim. While I was homeless he had risen from a neophyte officer to a captain in the Saudi police force with many stories to tell. We are now friends again, and I have found a new dentist.
Several months after I entered the Aloha Inn I lost a filling. I had been working the host tooth with my tongue for some time, as if I were cutting teeth. When it finally fell out I was reluctant to entrust my tooth to just any dentist, delayed, and eventually forgot that it was missing. What I did not forget was that I needed to see a dentist.
Several months later while still at the Inn I noticed pain in the approximate area of the missing filling. This time I did not hesitate and began looking for my former Seattle dentist. The last time that I had seen her was in 2007, and she was no longer among my current contacts. Alas, I was still working with obsolescent equipment that I had rebuilt after my iMac crashed in 2018 never to recover, and it would have taken many hours to search her down in my old contact information. As I believed that I could find the building in a much shorter time, I made a special trip to the approximate location and walked around until I found it. In the lobby I discovered a list of the buildings tenants and took an elevator up to the 15th floor. The names on the door and the name on the list downstairs did not match. So, I photographed the information from the lobby registry and left with the intention of calling building management. At approximately the same time I also contracted a urinary infection.
As I trusted well my doctor at the UW Hall Health Center, I set up an appointment, paid a visit, and agreed to a lab test. I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection that commonly originates in the base of a root canal. Within a few days the pain in my urinary tract and mouth had both subsided. My investigation revealed a strongly magnified image of a bacteria that has no ability to move around on its own. So, I mused to my physician that the probable dual infection was good evidence to the health of my circulatory system. This latter for him was nearly always a concern, for me rarely ever. He would not comment on the source of the bacteria.
As the pain in my mouth appeared to resolve on its own, I decided not to take further action. No, I had not forgotten my decision to see a dentist, but my going would have to wait until after I had entered my new lodging that had since become imminent.
I called the number that I had photographed many weeks before and discovered that my former dentist had since retired, and that she had sold her practice to two Korean-American dentists. As I could not imagine her having sold her practice to just anyone, and as I had had a very good experience with a Korean cardiologist while still in Seoul many years before, I asked, if I could set up an appointment. When I explained that I was homeless and did not have private insurance I was told that I could not be treated unless I paid cash up-front. I explained to her that I had both Medicare and Medicaid and asked the good secretary what private insurance provider she would recommend for someone in my situation. She offered three names. Whereupon I returned to my residence and spoke with the building's services coordinator.
After several telephone calls, a waiting period of several days, and more than an hour's worth of literature, I decided upon United Health Care (UHC). So, I called UHC and was rattled off a long list of benefits all of which would cost me nothing, if only I would surrender my Medicare and Medicaid policies to UHC.
Now, I had never heard of UHC until just a few days before, and I was nearing the end of a 40-minute conversation of which a good 20 minutes had been spent trying to penetrate the phonetic and grammatical barriers presented to me by my interlocutor. Under normal circumstances just trying to understand the dental insurance industry's interpretation of common English words would have been challenging in and of itself. I was confused and exhausted.
Practically speaking I had spent twenty-seven of the last thirty years -- not including my last three years as a homeless vagrant in Seattle -- outside of the United States. Only once, since having arrived in the US in the spring of 2015 had I ever felt that I was not still living overseas, and that was while I was still homeless. So, when the sales lady asked me to sign up, I declined.
Now, I am fairly certain that she was just as worn as I, for it was late afternoon when I called. Indeed, somewhere in the midst of our conversation I had determined that she was resident in the United States somewhere east of the Rocky Mountains. So, I thanked her kindly for her effort and information and requested a soft copy of what she had just explained. That evening I discovered an email with what appeared to be a play script of what had transpired earlier that day. Although I was now confident that I had successfully conquered the linguistic barrier, I was no better informed than I was before she had sent the script.
It was early December, and I wanted to make my first dental appointment in five years my birthday present. It was not going to happen.
On the following day I called UHC again and spoke with a gentleman whose accent I was much better able to handle and with whom I was able to clear up all of the matters with which I had struggled on the previous day. I was then told that I could sign up immediately, that the insurance would not go into effect until January 1, 2020, and that I could back out of the agreement at any time before then. I was further told that I should wait a few days for my application to be processed and approved. So, I accepted and waited.
Within two weeks or so I received a copy of my policy with a large packet of literature telling me how great it would be and what benefits I could hope to receive. So, I called the clerk at my old dentist's office and asked, if I could not arrange an appointment for the first week of 2020, and she said no. The reason given was that she had no evidence of my policy in her data base. "Are you certain", I asked. "Did you not tell me that the good doctors had an agreement with UHC?" She replied that she did, but that UHC has many policies. Confident that I still had a week before my policy would kick in, I called UHC and discovered that at least one of the two dentists who now resided in my former dentist's office was on their list.
Still, I was told by Dr. Kim's dental clerk that it was too early, and that I should wait until 2020 to set up an appointment. She had no record of my health insurance.
Several days into the New Year I called the clerk still again, provided her with the numbers on my UHC membership card including the numbers of my health and group plans, my member and payer IDs, the name of my insurance plan, as well as some other numbers that to this day I still do not understand. She appeared satisfied, and we set up an appointment.
Under the assumption that the secretary had not told the dentist that I was homeless vagrant, I dressed up for the occasion, and underwent a well-conducted examination with x-rays and a careful physical inspection of my teeth and gums: the latter by a dental assistant, and the former by the dentist himself. Four problems areas were identified including excessive plaque, one cavity, one missing filling, and a cap that needed to be reconstructed. After the examination I discussed the approximate cost and was cited a figure slightly over USD 3,000. Thinking that my comprehensive dental insurance would pay for most or all of the work, I ventured to ask for what portion of the total I would be directly responsible. Whereupon I was informed that comprehensive policies typically paid the full costs of routine examination such as the one that I just completed, but only half of any major work. Having seemingly penetrated the enormous distress that I was feeling in that moment she offered to submit a request in order to determine exactly what portion of the total would fall on me. She further reassured me that UHC had many policies, that my policy was new to her, and that I should not lose hope. I thanked her and departed.
Comforting was the determination by the good dentist that the overall condition of my mouth was good. I did not offer an explanation as to why I had waited five years for my visit, but I did reassure him that it would not happen again.
Under the assumption that the secretary knew what she was doing, I began thinking about how I could cover the 1,500 dollars worth of uncovered dental work. Surely, my GOOD credit rating would be devastated, and I would be burdened once again with very high, monthly interest payments. At least, I consoled myself, I knew that my mouth was not nearly as bad as I had sometimes imagined, and that I had found a dentist of good reputation.
Still, when I left the United States three decades prior, the word comprehensive meant all parts of a whole. You know, comprehensive, everything. Now, it appeared to mean only that part of the whole that was covered comprehensively. Certainly, I had learned in my graduate economic studies at the University of Washington that common English language words often took on special meaning in the field of economics. I had also learned during my defense before the university's grievance committee, my privately conducted legal investigation that led up to it, and my numerous conversations with various university officials that mastering the search for truth also meant honing the art of obfuscation. I was now the ignorant consumer, the secretary was the master of the industrial jargon, and I would wait until the results from her inquiry were returned.
When the results were returned I received a call from the secretary as promised, and was told that everything was pretty much what she had explained two weeks before. In short, the word comprehensive had been redefined by the medical insurance industry to mean partial. What followed next was both difficult to believe and truly cool.
It turned out that my dental plan was not among those for which my new dentist was already contracted, and that I was now liable for the USD 350 that comprised the cost of my initial visit. And, the real work had not even begun!
In effect, the clerk had not checked, as she said she would do. She had taken my word, and I had been misinformed by UHC! I was caught in the middle.
Fortunately, I had been already once anesthetized to dental insurance outcomes, and the grief that I felt in that moment was not nearly as great as what I had felt two weeks prior. Also, comforting was that tooth decay was a slow process, my new cavity was not far along, I had already survived for nearly a year without a new filling, and nearly five years without a thorough cleaning. Alas, it was not the end of the world. Grammar Captive remained a bright star on the horizon.
Then came the good news. My dentist understood well my plight, would forego payment of the USD 350, and my X-rays would be sent to my dentist of choice free of charge. But, my dentist of choice was the one offering to send my x-rays!
Thank you, Dr. Kim. Still another wonderful gesture of voluntary charity from an American citizen. My struggle was far from over, but I had renewed strength.
I called United HealthCare, and three different departments later had some idea of what had gone wrong. I no longer cared and just wanted to move on. I had learned during my 30 years in Asia how to deal with government bureaucracy in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia -- to say nothing of my previous experience in Germany and France already 20 years prior to the three decades worth of experience just mentioned --, and now I was confronted with American corporate bureaucracy. Yes, I was still learning how much America had changed during my three-decade-long absence.
No, in these regards America was no different and certainly not any better than anything that I had experienced overseas. Alas, bureaucracy is the same wherever it is found, and after a certain point, the more that you have, the worse things become. This is one of the most important arguments in favor of free market competition. Indeed, so long as the little guy has the chance to become big, the big guy will always be under pressure to remain small. Bureaucracy is self-serving, and the customer whom it is meant to serve is quickly forgotten. And, unlike government with the power to tax, forgotten customers mean lost revenue and eventual business failure.
Those who worry about big business ruling the world, should be focused on the separation of business and state, for no large corporation can ever survive in a world in which free competition prevails. To be clear, government and business work hand-in-hand to keep corporate bureaucracy alive, and corporate bureaucracy encourages more government bureaucracy. For, it is government bureaucracy that makes corporate bureaucracy possible through the former's endless un-legislated rules and regulations, corporate bail-outs, and overseas promotion. Unfortunately, there is little indication that things will not become much worse before they become better, as governments around the world are becoming increasingly involved at every level of market participation.
What appeared to have changed since my absence was the creation of a carefully constructed two-way mirror consisting of the latest internet technology and public relations algorithms -- a kind of behavioral plastic taught to government and private sector frontline employees to deal with an anonymous public. No, this plastic was not the century-long cultivated aisatsu of Japan seemingly designed to hold alien gaijin at arms length; nor was it the similarly assiduously nurtured blessings from Allah shared by Saudis in an effort to maintain a clear separation between true believers and non. Rather, it was a recently introduced government and corporate modus operandi used to deflect objection, filter out aberration, and reward obedience while gathering as much information as possible about whoever might be knocking on the door of the department or agency in demand at the moment.
When the IT works and is well designed, you do not mind being treated like a machine, because, after all, you are dealing with a machine. More importantly, you get to where you want to go quickly. When the IT is poorly designed, improperly implemented, or both -- surely more than a third of the time, maybe even two thirds -- you just want to hang up. Even worse is when the IT in place places you on hold and transfers your call to a living zombie who reads from a pre-formatted script that works well when your need matches the script, but ruthlessly stalls your best intentions when it does not. It is at this point where your reluctant smile turns to stern, but refined diplomacy as you delicately render stupid your interlocutor so that you can advance your way up to the next layer of similarly constructed plastic.
Things really become painful when these pre-formatted behavioral patterns are relegated to non-native English speakers who may or may not be resident in the United States. Rather than interrupt the conversation with useful questions about what they do and do not understand these frightened, sometimes arrogant charlatans prey on your human compassion and national vanity and compel you to repeat everything until you finally stumble on a word or phrase that they can veritably understand. The number of meaningful iterations required for eventual comprehension is, of course, inversely proportional to the linguistic competence of both interlocutors. And, this is to say nothing of the hidden, but soon discovered cultural barriers. Things can become worse, though. Rest assured.
Accent is a revealing phonetic tool that can readily identify you with a government-created, media-promoted, American racial, gender, or ethnic group that can automatically pit you against an ardent modern liberal ready to teach you his or her own accent and provide you with a lesson about whose group is boss in America. And, be careful that you are not misled, redirected, or the connection suddenly fails when what you say is perceived by your fellow American interlocutor as insensitive, insulting, arrogant, or generally counterproductive, because you have not been funneled through the same protocol training that he, she, or something different has been trained.
Saving the best for last, what do you do when you finally realize that you are little more than the object of a like-me sales-pitch employed to insure a high score on a post-conversation evaluation rating?
Having finally discovered the Wisconsin dental department responsible for my dental insurance in Seattle, I asked UHC for a list of dentists that would accept my health care plan. After nearly 30 minutes of deliberation with someone who had likely immigrated from a Balkan country in the not so distant past I was provided with fourteen names. Whereupon, I called Dr. Kim's secretary, thanked the office once again for having waived my examination fee and the cost of my X-rays, and asked, if Dr. Kim could find any dentists on the list whom he could recommend. Somewhat later I received an email with a single name: Dr. Marashi, whom I would later discover to be a most reputable dentist who lectures dental students at the University of Washington. So, I looked up the good doctor's name on the internet and discovered that his practice was located two floors higher than that of Dr. Kim's in the building adjacent to that of my own residence! Not everyone can have a dentist as a next door neighbor, I thought, and I began dressing for a visit. Several minutes later I was standing before another counter in another dentist office speaking with still another receptionist.
I explained to a rather plump fellow named René that I had been referred by Dr. Kim's office and had already received a preliminary examination and X-rays. I also explained to him that several problems had been identified and asked, if he could arrange for me to meet with Dr. Marashi as soon as possible. Whereupon I was told that Dr. Andy Marashi -- likely, a first generation Iranian-American -- was not receiving any new patients at the time, but if I would not mind waiting until May he could likely fit me in. So, we set up an appointment for May, and I promised to notify him were I unable to make it.
May? That would be another four months! The cavity revealed by my missing filling was closing in on the nerve! No! No! No! I could not afford a root canal on top of what I would already owe were I to be properly treated and my comprehensive insurance to cover the cost.
As soon as I returned to my apartment I called Dr. Kim's office and asked, if it would not be possible for Dr. Kim to add my health plan to those that he already had with UHC. On the following day I was told that a query had been made and that I should wait until the end of the week for a response. When Friday afternoon arrived, I called and learned that UHC never returned the secretary's call. So, I said thank you, requested the number that she had called, and called UHC myself. Whereupon I learned that no provider would ever be approved in under 30 days, that the three-day waiting period told me by Dr. Kim's office was unreasonable, and that I had been misinformed. After further deliberation I discovered that Dr. Kim's secretary had not called the proper number in any case and asked for something more appropriate.
So I called the new number and was told -- as anticipated -- that I was not a provider, rather an insured UHC member, and given another number. I explained that I understood my relationship with UHC, but that my provider was apparently having trouble making contact with the appropriate office. Sorry. You are not a provider ....
So, I called again, but pretended this time that I was a provider. Fortunately, the IT portion of the enveloping plastic was unable to distinguish between a true provider and me. So, rather than entering a provider number as requested, I pretended that I was an unregistered provider and managed to secure a conversation with someone who was well informed about my dental plan and what Dr. Kim's secretary must do in order to obtain UHC's sponsorship. Whereupon I composed an email, in which I included the telephone number and a brief explanation about how I was able to speak with a knowledgeable agent, and sent it to Dr. Kim's secretary. I waited. In the end, tooth decay is slow and dental receptionists are sometimes very busy, I reasoned. Several days past.... Hello!, did you receive my email? I left a message. Before long I received an email telling me that it would take 45 days to process the application with UHC. Whereupon I asked, if still another dentist could not be recommended. The answer was negative, and I asked that the application be submitted.
As René had placed me on a waiting list for cancelled appointments, I decided to return to Dr. Marashi's office and check my status on the list. It was the end of the week, René had the day off, and sitting at the front desk was a dental assistant. I explained the purpose of my visit and the very long wait ahead. The response was absolutely delightful. René had erred, and I would be able to see the good doctor much sooner, as I had a known treatable condition.
Two weeks later I was in Dr. Marashi's dentist chair with my X-rays brightly displayed in front of me. The missing filling and cavity were both found, but rather than having the separation between each tooth and gum measured by a hygienist eager for a deep-cleaning, this aspect of the examination was performed by Dr. Marashi. The number five never appeared in the conversation between the good doctor and the assistant, and I can remember mention of only two fours. The whole rest of my mouth was ones, twos, and threes. Without leaving my chair I received a normal cleaning -- albeit abnormal for the hygienist. By the time the procedure was over I had made a new friend, and left Dr. Marashi's office with two appointments one for each side of my mouth, both in the third week of March -- alas, two months past January, but two months ahead of May. No mention was ever made of the need of a restructuring, but mention was made of cracking. Notwithstanding, that mention had already been heard more than a full Zodiac cycle before.
I was delighted and am looking forward to my return to a regularly scheduled, six-month check-up.
Physically speaking, however, all is not rosy. My life in the shelter and experience on the street had caused me to become overzealous in the gym.
It was in late spring or early summer when my first visit with Brendan Cassidy in Physical Therapy (PT) at Hall Health Center took place. I had already met with Dr. Jacokes who gave me two choices: go straight to PT or speak with a sports physician and then go to PT. As PT would be the ultimate destination, I selected PT.
After six months my condition improved greatly, but my wound was still not fully healed. There was a nagging problem that would not go away. In fact, it was the same problem that I had felt since having taught myself to hit an empty can of tennis balls on the other side of a tennis court with about the same frequency as a tennis neophyte teaching himself to serve a ball into the opposite court. In short, my service was good, but I was self-taught and pretty much went by the dictum no pain, no gain -- this, ever since I rowed bow for the freshman crew team at Purdue University way back in the academic year 1967-68, and we all took pride in our newly bloodied hands at the beginning of each new rowing season. Although the pain that resulted from my diligent practice on the tennis court appeared minor at the time, it grew incrementally over the years. It was never enough, however, to truly get in my way, but it did put a damper on each subsequent success. I finally went to see an orthopedic specialist in Saudi Arabia, and he offered to have an MRI performed that I gladly accepted.
I have always been a good friend of the medical profession and actively seek out the best physician for my needs. When the MRI was completed, the report was written in a language that I could barely understand (medical English), and the good doctor's recommendation was essentially to desist. I was not at all happy with his solution to my problem, but I did follow his advice and obtained a pharmaceutical cure called glucosamine that would help lubricate my joints. I was getting old and needed to resign myself to the fact. The effect was entirely amazing, and in six weeks I returned to the gym. Not so old, after all!
When I returned to the United States in the spring of 2015 I renewed my subscription with 24-Hour Fitness where I continued my physical training. My last subscription with the gym-chain was in 2009 just before I exited the United States for the fifth time since having worked in a Ford Motor Co. Ersatzlager (spare parts warehouse) in Köln, Germany shortly after my high school graduation in 1967. My first exit was in search of adventure and celebration of my father's German roots. Every exit thereafter has been in search of professional advancement, economic survival, or simply frustration with what America has become -- a far cry from what I had ever been taught while still in grade school. No, I have not given up, but my level of trust in my fellow Americans to do the right thing has been greatly diminished.
No matter, I cultivate good relations with those on whom I depend and keep my distance from those on whom I do not. The medical help that I have received at Hall Health Center, Sports Medicine, and the Medical Center has been excellent.
When I became homeless in the fall of 2016 I left 24-Hour Fitness and found refuge in the YMCA. For, it provided me not only with a place to work out, but also a place to shower and shave and change my clothes on a daily basis. It was there where I turned my original injury into a physical crisis.
One day I was lifting 35-pound barbells alternatively, and my right arm suddenly quit. I could not move it without causing myself pai. In some directions I could not move it at all! It were as if it had suddenly frozen. By the time I met with Dr. Jacokes several days later, the frozen character of the arm had somewhat diminished, but certain motions were still impossible. Several more days past before I finally met with Brendan, and he agreed to help me recover.
Six months past, and tremendous progress was achieved, but still I felt that my arm was not where it needed to be, and I was afraid to return to the weight room. So, I returned to Dr. Jakokes and was referred to Dr. O'Kane at UW Sports Medicine. I was elated that I would be able to meet with a Sports Physician, and not just any orthopedic specialist. Although Brendan and I had worked for a long time under the assumption that my arm was suffering from shoulder impingement, there were other sources of pain emanating from the bicep, the tricep, and elbow. In contrast, Dr. O'Kane was quick to diagnose only impingement, and I agreed to an ultrasound and a somewhat complex steroid shot. As I was able to watch the ultrasound while the medication was being administered, I asked Dr. O'Kane to explain what I was viewing. He pointed to my supraspinatus -- a muscle to which Brendan had often referred -- and a very swollen bursa. The pain subsided immediately, and I continued my training until I could meet again with Brendan two weeks later.
It was decided that I would try to return to the weight room, but start with light weights, and that we would work past the remaining pain so long as it did not increase. I truly felt that full recovery was in sight. As moving even the 45-pound bar on the bench press with both arms was reminiscent of the pain that I had already felt while still resident in Saudi Arabia, I dropped down to 5- and 10-pound barbells on an ordinary flat bench. As no pain was felt, I believed still again that it would be just a matter of time. Brendan was a good therapist who always encouraged me with new suggestions and remedies. Above all, he taught me to stop hurting myself intentionally.
Physical therapy is tedious. So, throughout the latter half of my nine-month healing period I had trained myself to shoot baskets with my left arm and well succeeded in keeping buoyant both my physical and mental well-being.
After the steroid shot, several weeks had past, and the pain in my right arm was fairly well constant. Further, the mobility of my right arm had nearly returned to normal. Still, I was fearful of lifting any amount of weight even close to what I had been lifting shortly before my arm froze some nine months prior. Alas, having made really good progress shooting baskets from the collegiate, three-point, green line with my left arm I began alternating between both arms.
One day, I noticed that what little pain I was feeling during each practice had no longer disappeared before each new practice. As a result, I tried the one motion that Dr. O'Kane had used to determine that my shoulder was suffering from impingement. Hit hurt. The impingement had returned -- well, at least, so I thought.
As I recalled that Dr. O'Kane had told me that a second shot may be required, I returned to him and explained what I had been doing for the past three months. During the discussion I told him for a second time about the MRI that I had had in Saudi Arabia, and he agreed to administer a second provided that I would commit to full recovery of my arm including surgery, if it became necessary. Whereupon, I agreed. The results of the MRI were mixed, but damaged cartilage and a torn supraspinatus were clearly identified. On April 7th I returned to the UW Sports Center and have agreed to surgery.
The nine-month break from the weight room, my physical therapy, and my new lodging had greatly changed my gym habits, and for better or for worse I fear that I will never be the same. Before my hunger strike in 2016 I was pressing more than two 45-pound plates on either side of a 45-pound barbell. During the three years that I was homeless I could not return to that level. And, now this. Only time will tell. Another story for next year's annual report.
It would appear that I have grown so use to living a dual-life that I now actively cultivate one.
Before closing I would like to spend a moment on what I believe -- well, at least for the moment -- to be the salubrious outcome of this trend and how the past three years have made this outcome -- well, at least for the moment -- a reality. I apologize for the redundancy in phrasing, but it serves well to emphasize not only the binary world that has become my presently conceived reality, but also the tentative character with which I regard it.
Unlike all of the work spaces that I occupied as a single occupant in a large collective setting, staying at the Aloha Inn compelled me to perform as part -- in a very loose sense of the phrase -- of a team. This necessity awakened my long, purposefully suppressed, political instincts. Further, shuffling between classrooms at Savery Hall forced me to become sociable in a way that I had never been at my fixed desk in any of my other work places.
Although still an alien I felt more at ease in the basement of Savery Hall than in any of the collective work spaces where I had worked during the previous two and one-half years! After all, I had spent nearly my entire professional life working with college youth and now they were all around me. Also, my interaction with the various faculty whom I met was very different than what I was accustomed in the collective work spaces. In these latter spaces I was the aged misfit trying to accomplish the impossible. In the basement of Savery Hall I was an intellectually spirited anomaly with whom one could easily enter into knowledgeable, intelligent discussion. This political and intellectual stimulus, the prolonged previous absence of student-teacher interaction, my close friendship with Chris who stands on the opposite side of the modern left-right political spectrum (he likes NPR), my patriotic commitment to wean America of its imperial ambitions, and my dependency on the Christian church for food and shelter gradually melted into a single important distraction on which I decided to take action. This is, of course, what gave rise to ALI, but it did not stop there.
As soon as I realized that I would be able to obtain an Apple lease and borrow all new Apple equipment, I set to work on rebuilding the small business setting that I had created while resident at Paul Revere Apartments. There were several important differences, of course, including a much smaller budget, nearly complete dependency on church and state, a melting pot of emotion, intellectual stimulation, and innate political genius, an up-coming presidential election, three years experience as a homeless vagrant, and a very enlarged understanding of web- and software development. Putting this all together I have decided to split my time between completion of the Grammar Captive project and a possible bid for the 2022 general mid-term election.
Whether I decide to run or not will depend on my reception during what I hope to be a very long series of presentations at various locations throughout my US congressional district. The service coordinator for my building has already agreed to host my first presentation entitled A House Divided.
The purpose of these presentation will be four fold: one, soften the ground for anyone wishing to promote the ideas presented on the ALI website (I even changed the domain name to accommodate the change in plan); two, make myself known, should I decide to run; three, preserve my sanity through the current election period and another four years of Donald Trump; and four, provide hope to other patriots who, like me, view the free market as the only true solution against the tyranny of government and in favor of the stifling of government and corporate bureaucracy.
In order to make this sally into the modern liberal urban landscape of Washington State's 7th District additional new equipment is required. Having only expended a third of the investment capital made available to me by CIT I have decided to purchase an Epson portable projector, two Saramonic Wifi Microphones, an Apple Pen, and two tripods with special adapters for the recording and delivery of presentations at any venue where a flat surface and seating can be found. My new iPhone will be used to record each presentation, and my new iPad will be used to project each presentation via WIFI or cable to the projector. The advertisements that will be posted prior to each presentation will be created on my already purchased HP Pagewide Pro MFP 477dn/dw.
I also intend to build a new webpage that will use the same domain name used by the ALI subdomain -- namely, ourseventh.org.
In the meantime I will continue to move forward with Grammar Captive, and as soon as I have corrected several software deficiencies left over from before my transition from homeless vagrant to government dependent I will begin creating podcasts. I am currently shooting for early May, if not late-April.
After having lived in the darkness of hard- and software obsolescence for more than six years I have a lot of catching up to do. Firstly, I must learn how to synchronize three new Apple devices, an HP multifunctional device, and the iCloud with a much older Airport Extreme router and storage unit.
Secondly, my iOS is new, my MacOS is new, and I have never owned an HP printer in my life. Then too, I will soon have a new Epson projector and will have to learn how to syncrhonize it with my new iPad using still more new software from Epson -- and this both on and off the internet. For, I must be ready for whatever circumstances might present themselves when I go to give a live talk. Then too, there is Final Cut Pro -- a world all of its own -- and newer versions of GarageBand and Keynote.
Thirdly, there is the task of setting up a new local test server so that I can work off-line when my server goes down, or I am on the road. This is to say nothing of my having to accustom myself to working in a completely new MacOS environment with BBEdit and GIT. And, all of this while I complete the software repairs that were interrupted when I made my move out of the shelter and into my new residence.
Fourthly, I must free up and downgrade the operating system of my now obsolete MacBook in order to make use of my already obsolete, but still very useful Adobe Creative Suite software. If this were not enough, I must also refresh my knowledge of how to create proper RSS feeds, learn how to sync Matomo with newly created podcasts, and discover how to upload these to the websites of a large variety of popular podcast hosts. Alas, I must also rewrite the software that was long ago suppose to make creating a weekly newsletter easy. At the time that I wrote it, I had not yet discovered how to coordinate multiple languages in a MySQL database including Arabic (right to left script) and Japanese (CJK fonts).
If I were to perform only the above, and nothing else, I would be lucky to launch by the fall of 2020. This assumes, of course, that I do not discover some new, nifty function and allow myself to become distracted with still adnother new software package that I really do not need, but might so desire because of its imagined benefits at the time of discovery.
Having finally settled on a schedule that will accommodate all of the above I will soon find my arm in a sling and have to perform everything as if I had only one arm and hand. Although I recently taught myself how to shoot baskets with my left arm, learning how to do the work of two hands on a keyboard with only one is not a new trick that I relish learning.
Another important hurdle is advertising. There are many alternative ways to advertise when you do not have sufficient working capital. Probably the most important among these is social media. Cultivating a reputation in these media that would attract enough attention to pull fellow participants into visiting the Grammar Captive website, however, is time consuming. So, in the short run I am hoping to convince several former students and their friends in Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to sign up for online English lessons and then spread Grammar Captive through word of mouth. This strategy would generate immediate cash flow that would relieve part of the heavy financial burden under which I have placed myself and that serves as a damper on just getting by from day to day. What is more, it is something that I could more easily perform while my right arm heals from what is likely expected to be two months or more of healing time.
Then too, I would very much like to free myself from the status of societal dependent as soon as possible. Each step that distances me from my previous life as a homeless vagrant would be of tremendous help psychologically. Fortunately, my biggest steps in this regard are now behind me: first, a residence where I can sleep as long as I require; second, an office in which I am unafraid to speak out for fear of being stigmatized as homeless and then driven out for same; and third, three annual reports written to document each of the past three years in an effort to sort out what has happened to me, how I have contributed to it, and what needs to be corrected in order to move forward.
Financially speaking, my immediate goals are not to miss a payment on my outstanding debt, pay down as much of this debt as possible in the shortest amount of time, continue to make payment on my rent and the several important user fees that go into the maintenance of my residence cum office, or office cum residence depending on how the IRS and I perceive these combinations in the moment that we are thinking about them. Certainly my first reported income tax statement will make clear how the government conceives them. Then too, what does the government know about what I am doing when I am not online, near my iPhone, or engaging in a bank transaction of some sort? In the meantime it appears that I will be spared taxes for sometime ahead, as my new equipment lease with Apple and long-term equipment loan with CIT are expected to provide immediate and soothing tax write-offs.
To what extent I will be able to convert my friendships into a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and liquidity is difficult to predict -- and this, for several reasons.
Firstly, I advertised my tutoring services in the basement of Savery Hall and elsewhere in and around the University of Washington for nearly all of last year. Not even a nibble. This effort included an original flier posted in three buildings on every publicly available bulletin board on every floor. Surely, this effort may have been compromised by my having likely been viewed by many students as an unwanted, homeless-vagrant presence. No matter that I, unlike all of my other homeless comrades, was offering a useful service. Was it because I was an oddity, and the modern liberal mentality demanded that everyone be the same? No, I do not know the answer. Maybe I am even asking the wrong questions. Of what I am sure, however, is that I was severely disappointed and at times felt genuinely insulted. For, I had only to read the bulletin boards in the classrooms in which I worked to understand how useful my service could have been, if only a few or even many students had taken advantage of what I offered and was able to give.
Then too, where else was I to find the free, private, office space that allowed me to pay down my outstanding credit balances and have a meal out once a week? For this, I can be nothing, but grateful -- this, despite those who actively resisted my presence.
Alas, my posted fliers did receive attention, but not the kind for which I had earnestly hoped. Indeed, they were often removed during my absence. This theft inspired me to post more, and with each new effort to remove, displace, or soil my publicly posted property, I replaced each abused flier with a fresh one and multiplied its number in return. So, effective was my effort that by the end of the fall term, when I received my call to enter my new apartment, my fliers were left untouched for an entire month. Still my persistence was in vain. Never did I receive an engagement, and only one inquiry over a period of 18 months!
Secondly, the idea of posting my services on university bulletin boards at the University of Washington had already begun while I was still at Galvanize in Seattle's Pioneer District and could make use of the various conference rooms that were included with my membership fee. For six months I posted my services in eleven different buildings at Seattle University, but did not once receive an email or telephone call. Nothing. Unlike at the University of Washington where I used the bottom of Savery Hall as a development lab, I only used Seattle University as a place to post my fliers. Still nothing. Although it is true that the university's provost, Dr. Lawrence, knew that I was homeless, it is difficult to believe that this information had permeated throughout Seattle University's entire student body.
I even posted my fliers directly across from the Office of Foreign Student Affairs at Seattle Central College. As always, nothing.
Posting these fliers was costly. Firstly, each was in color and, even when purchased in bulk, was expensive. Secondly, I was compelled to replace them once every month at Seattle University, and once every two weeks at Seattle Central College. There was also the cost of worn tennis shoe treads -- to say nothing of the loss of time that could have been better spent developing in front of my computer. Worst of all, I felt more like a student than a university instructor as I trudged from building to building, bulletin board to bulletin board, in search of open bulletin board space. It was embarrassing, but what else was I suppose to do? Often when I return weeks later what I had posted was no longer even visible. The competition was fierce.
It is already April of 2020, the CoVID-19 virus is raging, and still I have not returned to Grammar Captive. I am both saddened and delighted. For, I have finally completed my annual report and relegated my perpetual state of homelessness to its proper place in history -- the past.
This is the easiest ever. Launch and never again feel compelled to write such a report.
Word Count: 64,298 Page Count: 143 Printable PDF Download (306 MB)
In liberty or not at all,
Roddy A. stegemann
Happy New Year!
1 There had always been night and day, and in places distant from the equator some notion of what constitutes a year. Then too, the planets, like the celestial patterns that accompanied them in the night sky, would come and go, but none with the easily perceived regularity of the moon. Indeed, next to our fingers and toes, that surely formed the basis -- base 10, in fact -- of our seminal, universal, counting system, it must have been the moon that provided us with our first universal notion of a cycle that was not binary in nature. It took roughly 28 days for the moon to go from full-moon to full-moon or new-moon to new-moon and achieve either of these full lunar cycles in four half-moons (two waxing and two waning). Well 28 days divided by four half-moons provided us with the universal notion of the week, and anyone who knows anything about Moses also likely knows where that got us -- six days of creation and a day's worth of rest. Well, thirteen months times twenty-eight days comes pretty close to 365+ does it not? Alas, this is not what the Chinese settled on. No, a different route was taken -- one totally foreign to the world that most inhabited both then and now.
Indeed, it took the Chinese to reinvent the decimal system that was a means to account for whatever units remained when one whole number divided into another whole number did not result in another whole number. (See Godfrey Higgins for an explanation of the word reinvent in this context.) Only in this way could anyone have stumbled on the notion of pi (𝚷) -- the number three with and an infinite remainder obtained when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter, the line that divides a circle into two half-circles.
No, the idea of sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, and two twelve hour periods in a full diurnal cycle is hardly coincidental. For, sixty times six obtains 360, the number settled on, as the number of units in a full cycle of that one unifying geometric shape along whose circumference every point is equidistant from the center -- the perfect circle.
What would have become of us without some notion of numerology?
Yes, it took several millenia to finally understand that there was something more to the celestial universe than what the incantations of elaborately clothed priests or government bureaucrats were able to conjure up when they were not begging for food or taxing their citizenry. Then too, with the technology they had, they did manage pretty well, did they not? For, where would we be today without a measure of at least approximate time? Little technological advancement, but a wonderful world filled with inquiring minds and the magnificence of biological and physical nature. I will close here with an answer to my own question.(Return to Text)
2So long as housing is scarce and those seeking housing are numerous, landlords are under no pressure to receive potentially risky tenants. As a result, anyone, of good character or bad, who has a blemish on his publicly accessible records is considered risky, and not worthy of further consideration. Even those with no public record at all are considered risky, because they offer potential landlords no basis for judgment. This was my situation when I returned to the United States from overseas after having spent some twenty-seven of the previous thirty years living abroad.(Return to Text)
3The word anacalypsis appears to be of Godfrey HIggins own invention and means something akin to the unveiling of a historical cover-up. The word calyspsis means to veil or cover. And the prefix ana- means back, up, or again. So, one goes back into history to lift a veil, about something that should be retold again. The Saitic Isis surely refers to Isis, an ancient Egyptian god, who was once worshipped in Sais, an ancient city of the Nile delta located somewhat closely to the modern-day city of Alexandria. (Return to Text)
4It should be noted that the comical names used in this report have been created for the sole purpose of lightening an otherwise wearisome and tedious tale of woe. These names were not used by me to interact with my fellow Inn-mates. (Return to Text)
The world wide web (WWW) is an amazing place where content is often freely and voluntarily exchanged. I am proud to have provided much free content of my own, and I offer this as part of that exchange.