Journal Entries for December 2011.

DECEMBER

Thursday, December 1st–I applied for all sorts of welfare benefits with the Texas Health and Human Resources Department, or whatever the fuck it’s called. This was hugely embarrassing….

Friday, December 2nd–I woke up this afternoon with a powerful need to piss, got up, did so, got back into bed, and cut the shit out of my knee on a spring that had busted through my mattress.

It hurt, but I went back to sleep. I didn’t discover how badly I’d cut myself until I finally got up. I later stripped my bed, located the spring with surprising difficulty, yet failed to cut it off. I eventually flipped the mattress to the other side and hoped for the best. Being a bachelor, I saw no need to bother laundering the blood out of my sheets.

I got up, walked Belle in the drizzle, and think I heard some asshole frat boy neighbor call me a bag lady.
I dropped off some bills at the UPS Store and bought stamps, then got some food at the dollar store.

Later, I learned that Tom H__, father of my friend David, died the other day at 76. I lit an online candle and put his name on prayer lists for the Sisters of St. Paul and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Saturday, December 3rd–It rained most of the day. I spent much of my time reading.

Sunday, December 4th–There was rain pretty much all day. I finally finished Denton Welch’s amazing “A Voice Through a Cloud.” I started “Dream I tell You” by Helene Cixous.

Monday, December 5th–

Tuesday,  December 6th–

Wednesday, December 7th–Today was the day for Tom H___’s funeral.

James told me he was coming into town and said he might come by and take me to my appointments. When it came close to the time for him to do that I got a bad feeling and called him. It turns out he had two other errands to run before he met with me. He hadn’t bothered to calculate how long they’d take to do, and it became obvious to me he couldn’t do them and get me where I needed to go in time. He tried to palm this onto me, and made the specious claim this wouldn’t be a problem if I had a cell phone. I was furious.

I left the house, checked the mail, got a check, cashed it at the bank, took a bus into town, dropped off some books at the library and checked out more, took another bus up to Hyde Park, saw a neighborhood newspaper that announced the death of one of my Citysearch Freelancers, ate at the New World Cafe, strolled around, ducked in briefly at Fresh Plus, then waited around outside La Dolce Vita gelato and espresso place for my Professional Writers of Austin networking meeting to start.

I don’t know as I made much of a showing at this meeting, as they asked what I’d been doing since March and had nothing much to tell them. There was one guy who seemed fascinated by my stories and thought I ought to post them on a blog. He gave me his card, and turned out to be a recruiter. I need to check out his job site.

I told them about that realtor this summer who wanted me to wear so many hats. They laughed and said they’d had similar things happen to them–employers wanting something–or too much–for nothing.

A lot of them spent a long time talking about social media. The coffee house was very loud and I couldn’t hear much of what anyone said. I left extremely depressed. I’ve been sore and exhausted all day from the long walk involved.

Thursday, December 8th–I woke earlier than usual for my phone call with the gal from the welfare office.
Because I have no money they like to expedite the process as fast as possible.

As I figured, I don’t qualify for TANF (Temporary financial assistance for my bills) because I have no kids. I also don’t qualify for Medicaid for the disabled, though that is the thing that’ll take 45 days to process.

I do qualify for Food Stamps, but what I send them will determine what kind I get. I can automatically get three month’s worth one time only over the course of three years, OR if I get a doctor to prove a diagnosis of disability I can get six months worth, with an option to keep renewing. The latter is necessary to prove my ability to work is impaired, as otherwise, work is required for Food Stamps. I would also need to register with the Texas Workforce Commission. TWC does provide some sort of training, but what kind I am unsure.
They weren’t much help on my agoraphobia or other psychological problems. I explained I didn’t get much out of MHMR, and it turns out the clerk used to work for them and she said that that’s a common observation–that MHMR is pretty ineffective.

They suggested I look into applying for RSDI, a form of disability benefits through Social Security. (I later learned this is the same thing as the next-to-impossible-to-get SSDI.)

…I need to get them all the info within ten days. I also need to get a doctor to confirm the disability–be it an MHMR doctor or my current one. I called MHMR to get the ball rolling, then, cross-eyed with exhaustion, I went back to bed.

As far as applying for disability benefits, it might be better to get an appointment with a licensed psychologist and have him test me so he can say, “Yes, this man has agoraphobia, etc.” It might carry more weight.

And SSDI cases almost never get approved without the help of a disability lawyer.

James sent me a link to some County services. I need to read more in depth on that.

The clerk on the phone today said my case is by no means unique. She does have well-educated people applying for benefits and having trouble finding work. She dealt with someone with a Master’s degree the other day. And as far as TWC goes, she does encounter a lot of people who have been having the same trouble as I have–lack of qualifications for decent jobs.  So she implied the training available included stuff for better than just low-wage manual labor jobs.

I did mention that I still wanted to have a career and not just become, for lack of a better term, a “professional disabled person,” and I heard her typing after I said that.

So, the game plan:

1) Gather paperwork to send to SNAP (Food Stamps) and MHMR to get extended benefits.

2) Apply with TWC to see what they can do about training. (Although my problems getting out of the house might complicate that at this point.)

3) Look into County benefits, if any. (James’ experience is they don’t help financially unless you’re already way behind, which won’t help if I have an eviction notice on my door.)

4) Look into applying for RSDI.

5) The only thing missing is I’m not getting treatment for agoraphobia and other problems, which directly have a bearing on my getting out into society, especially since I keep having panic attacks, getting angry, or feeling like I’m about to burst into tears in public.

After my nap, I walked Belle, went to Petsmart, bought dog food and treats, then got some stuff for myself at the dollar store.

My friend Don, former […] Music Editor, former full-time and current part-time rock drummer and also now successful realtor, is a co-founder and former president of the SIMS foundation, a local charity that offers low-cost mental health care for local musicians. There’s also a group called HAAM–Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. These groups exist because musicians tend to have little or no insurance. They have hugely popular fund raising concerts, etc.

Anyway, I told Don I wish there was a similar group for Austin’s “creatives”–writers, artists, and actors–and he thought it was a great idea, very easy to do in this town, and might help me get out of my shell. He said SIMS/HAAM would certainly co-operate with something like that. I know Matt brunches every weekend at the cafe at Whole Foods with the city’s movers and shakers. If I could get him to return calls I might bounce the idea off him.

Anyway, it doesn’t affect me immediately, but it’s a thought.

Friday, December 9th–….

Saturday, December 10th–….

Later on I finished reading Helene Cixous’s “Dream I Tell You.”

Sunday, December 11th–

Monday, December 12th–

Tuesday, December 13th–I dreamt I was in front of a tall, old, red brick office building in Dallas. There were fields and vacant lots all around. Different sections of Dallas were off in the distance.Though I dreaded the long walk, I decided I’d best walk over to the old downtown part of Dallas, that I’d be more likely to see interesting things there.

A black guy in his 20s or 30s offered me a ride, and strangely enough, I got in. he pointed to a road bridge and said we were headed that way. I got suspicious. this isn’t where I wanted to go. We got to the bridge and I saw a sign that indicated we were going to “Toymoor” or “Troymoor,” which was a notoriously dangerous rural area of Dallas, populated with blacks who were known to kill white people. I began crying loudly, “You’re taking me to Toymoor! Why? Why do you want to kill me? You don’t even know me!”

I then found a long, printed slip of paper on the dashboard and read the account of what was to happen to me. This guy would kill me with a blunt object–I forget what it was called in the article, but just at that moment the guy pulled out a tire iron and set it down on the dash.

We arrived at his remote, run-down farm. He was in no hurry to kill me. He did get onto me a bit because I had neglected to take his car stereo out of his car and bring it into his house and set it up there. (I guess I was supposed to figure that out on my own, without instructions.) This was his only source of music. I think I passed out in one of the rooms from fear and exhaustion, because I remember the next morning, wondering when he’d finally kill me….

Then there was a dream where I watched a little black girl child born into illegitimacy, then develop quite rapidly, until she was speaking in an articulate, rather adult manner while still a baby.

In the next dream I walked in, with a good number of friends, to a sort of upscale Denny’s-type place that specialized in breakfast foods. The manager saw me, thought I was there to apply for the host/maitre d’ position, and told me I was hired. Though I needed a job, I didn’t want to work there, so I just ignored him.

A little later someone came over to tell us our table was ready, the manager saw me, told me rather sharply to “seat these people” (my party), and I just accompanied them and we all took our seats.  I sat at one end. One of the gimmicks at this restaurant was they left hamburgers or sandwiches at your places or on little shelves built into the backs of your chairs, for you to enjoy as appetizers. But if you took the sandwiches with you or ate them, you’d still be charged extra….

Wednesday, December 14th–It was a short day. I got up, walked and fed Belle, ate, read in Chesterton in the living room for awhile, then my eyes got tired, and I went to take a nap at 6pm and wound up sleeping for eight hours. It misted or rained much of the day and night.

Thursday, December 15th–I received an invitation today to join the Austin Pink Hat Meet-Up Group, for women under 50. I have to assume they just sent out a mass invitation to all Austin-area Meet-Up members.

Friday, December 16th–I dreamt last night that I hired an assistant.

This was odd, seeing as I’m broke and have no income. But my assistant helped me in my activities, drove me around, cooked and cleaned, was a sounding board for my ideas, did my legwork for me, and all sorts of things like that. Something of a cross between a friend and employee—Watson to my Holmes, Archie Goodwin to my Nero Wolfe. (About all I would need from a human significant other, for that matter.) The weird thing is the assistant’s sex kept changing back and forth from male to female and back again.

This morning I went to the UPS Store and mailed off paperwork to the Food Stamp and MHMR places, then called the former to tell them they’d probably not get the paperwork in time for the December 19th deadline. They wouldn’t give me an extension, but did note I called.

I began to sink into stress and depression….[I received several pieces of bad news.]

My head was aching….Then James piped in with more discouragement. I was practically in tears. I almost cried after coming back inside from taking Belle for a walk.

Saturday, December 17th–

Sunday, December 18th–

Monday, December 19th–It continued to rain today. It’s been raining a good deal lately. I finally finished Kurt Vonnegut’s “Look at the Birdie.”

Tuesday, December 20th–

Wednesday, December 21st–Today I dreamt that all the important books were downloaded into peoples’s head. It took me a long time to remember the name of an important book I wanted to read. I tracked down the person who had the book in her head, only to discover that someone in charge had erased her memory of the book. Some evil, important force was deleting all the great books systematically—but who was behind it? There seemed to be plenty of crappy books left behind, so most people didn’t notice there was a problem. I woke up before I could investigate any further….

Thursday, December 22nd–….

I gathered up a bunch of old clothes that I’ve mostly not worn since I moved into this apartment 7 1/2 years ago, and stuffed them in plastic bags so I can take them to the bin on the corner, donate them to charity, and free up some room in my closets.

Friday, December 23rd–….I did, however, get some Christmas cards, including one from one of my Basset fancier friends, who sent along $10 so I could buy Belle a treat! At last–Belle would have a Christmas after all! I lugged the two heavy bags of old clothes over to the donation bin on the corner, then went to Petsmart and bought Belle a stocking filled with treats, and a candy cane-shaped chew the length of my forearm.

When I got home I gave her the cane, and she ate half of it before I even noticed. I finally took it away when she wasn’t looking, because I don’t want her to overdo it and get sick.

Saturday, December 24th–Well, it’s official–Christmas is going to suck this year….It’s perfectly in keeping with the overall shittiness of this goddamnable year. I am just beside myself with anger.

At least Belle gets a Christmas, which is all that really matters.

Sunday, December 25th–I finished Hunte Yuang’s “Charlie Chan: The Untold Story Of The Honorable Detective And His Rendezvous With American History.” It covers a lot of ground, including biographical profiles of the real-life Chinese-American detective who inspired Charlie Chan and the mystery writer who created him.

It discusses 200 years of Hawaiian history, with an emphasis on white versus non-white race relations, life in a Chinese village, the Chinese presence in America from the Gold Rush on, the laws that were enacted to discriminate against the Chinese, Asian stereotypical figures in Nineteenth-Century America, including “John Chinaman,” the Siamese Twins, and Bret Harte’s “Heathen Chinee” Ah Sin, Charlie Chan in books, films, and other media, the background to and influence of that other Chinese fictional icon of the Twentieth Century–the villainous Dr. Fu Manchu, early Asian actors and actresses in America, the actors that played Chan, the use of “Yellowface” in Hollywood–that is, white actors playing Asian roles, the reception of Chan in both America and China, American nativism, the influence of Orientalism on American thought, how the Cold War caused an anti-Chinese backlash in America, and the reaction of Asian-Americans towards Chan in recent decades.

The author even provides glimpses of his own life story, from a childhood in a small Chinese village, to protesting in Tiananmen Square, to working in a small Chinese restaurant in Alabama, to grad school, and finally globe-trotting as a successful professor. Amazingly, Huang manages to discuss all these matters in about 300 pages. The chapter about the Massie rape-murder case in 1930s Hawaii was especially fascinating, and a shocking incident about which I’d not heard of before.

Monday, December 26th–….

Tuesday, December 27th–I slept late, well into the night…..

Wednesday, December 28th–I got my checks, but didn’t get the mail until late.

Thursday, December 29th–After taking care of Belle I went to the bank ATM, deposited a check, took some money out, went to McDonald’s for French fries, apple pies, and a mango smoothie, was given a Dr. Pepper instead, went to Barnes and Noble and bought the latest issue of “Afar,” went to HEB, discovered I didn’t have enough to get all the groceries I’d collected, left some on a shelf, and just managed to squeak in under the line with pennies to spare.

I got home, over-burdened with the weight of the bags, and stressed out. Belle barked her head off when I returned. I walked her, showered, and finished Ian Fleming’s “Doctor No,” my last book of the year. I concluded the bedroom carpet does indeed have mold, and tried to figure out a cheap, dog-safe method of cleaning it.

Friday, December 30th–I puttered around and watched a Charlie Chan movie: “Black Magic” (aka “Meeting at Midnight”). I also spread lots of baking soda over the mold and piss stains in the bedroom carpet.

Saturday, December 31st–I got up close to 9pm, walked and fed Belle, ate, vacuumed the bedroom carpet, then scrubbed it with hydrogen peroxide and hot water. At midnight I kissed Fred’s picture and then Belle (who had been sleeping). I started the first book of the year, Jean Genet’s “Our Lady of the Flowers,” but soon grew tired and went to bed around 4:22am.

My 2011 Reading List
This mostly represents my reading from April through December, as I didn’t read much the first three months of the year. (I spent March writing a 928-page book of my own.)

Antoine de Saint-Exupery–The Little Prince
Bill C. James–Jim Miller: The Untold Story of a Texas Badman
Glenn Shirley–Shotgun For Hire: The Story of “Deacon” Jim Miller, Killer of Pat Garrett
W. G. Sebald–Austerlitz
John Fante–Ask The Dust
Knut Hamsum–Hunger
Knut Hamsun–Dreamers
Christopher Isherwood–Christopher and His Kind
Christopher Isherwood–A Meeting By The River
Christopher Isherwood–Mr. Norris Changes Trains
Christopher Isherwood–Good-Bye To Berlin
Christopher Isherwood–Prater Violet
John Fante–The Brotherhood of the Grape
Aldous Huxley–Crome Yellow
Evelyn Waugh–The Loved One
Julia Child–My Life in France
E. M. Forster–Where Angels Fear To Tread
Dore Ashton–About Rothko
Caroline Seebohm–Boca Rococo: How Addison Mizner Invented Florida’s Gold Coast
Evelyn Waugh–Vile Bodies
Christopher Isherwood–Lions and Shadows
Kurt Vonnegut–Deadeye Dick
Philip K. Dick–Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Kurt Vonnegut–A Man Without A Country
Dorothy L. Sayers–Clouds of Witness
Saul Bellow–Ravelstein
Nancy Horan–Loving Frank
Adam Bertocci–Two Gentlemen of Lebowski
E. L. Doctorow–Homer & Langley
Erle Stanley Gardner–The Case of the Lame Canary
Kurt Vonnegut–While Mortals Sleep
Zane Gray–The Fugitive Trail
Marguerite Duras–Writing
Aldous Huxley–Along The Road
Hilaire Belloc–At the Sign of the Lion
Erle Stanley Gardner–The Case of the Fabulous Fake
Dorothy L. Sayers–The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
Denton Welch–A Voice Through A Cloud
Helene Cixous–Dream I Tell You
G. K. Chesterton–As I Was Saying
Kurt Vonnegut–Look At The Birdie
Yunte Huang–Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History
Ian Fleming–Doctor No

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