Journal Entries. (January 15-31, 2012.)

Sunday, January 15th–Amazingly enough, I didn’t have a nightmare about that dog getting killed, but I did have my recurring nightmare where I have to go back to work at Half-Price Books. I also dreamt I moved back to Huntsville, and was in an uncomfortable arrangement, sharing a crummy apartment with a room-mate. After he moved out I was trying to figure out if the apartment was crummy or actually not all that bad.

I watched the season finale of “Sherlock:” “The Reichenbach Fall.”

Monday, January 16th–

Tuesday, January 17th–I got little sleep last night. I got up at 8am, walked Belle, ate, packed up, made copies at the UPS Store, took the bus downtown, went to the library, dropped off some books and checked out more, went to the Fed Ex store, made a print-out, but was unable to make others, got another bus, went over to East Austin, got some junk food at a corner store, and had a long wait for the bureaucrats at MHMR to stop stuffing themselves and allow me inside their offices.

After an hour of filling out forms and answering questions, I was told  by a case worker that though I definitely still have serious psychological problems, they are full up right now, and have a waiting list two-to-three years long, because there are so many more applicants than there are doctors and case workers to serve them.
He suggested MAP, which he said could at least give me meds for medical and psychological problems. (Not that I want meds.) I’m not sure if they offer counseling as well or what. He did say that therapy place I used to go to was the cheapest in town.

I went to another building on the MHMR campus to find out why they’d sent, as HHS put it, “inadequate information” on my case, and who I needed to get to fill out the full medical permission forms. I was told since I’m no longer with MHMR, my case was considered closed.

So I went over to MAP, 60 feet away, and signed up to set an appointment. To my great shock and surprise, I won’t have to wait a whole month the way I have in the past–I have an appointment for tomorrow. I don’t know how long it’d take me to get an appointment with a MAP doctor, though. I think I mentioned they have a new MAP clinic in my neck of the woods.

I got home and STILL had no SNAP card, so I called to see what the deal was. Apparently it went out in their out-going mail on the 13th, so maybe I’ll get it tomorrow.

I also asked what it would take to get them to declare me disabled so I can try for the 6-month renewable benefits rather than the 3-month non-renewable kind, and they said any doctor can write me up.

Wednesday, January 18th–I woke up well before my alarm, walked Belle, ate, puttered, got two chocolate eclairs at Randall’s, took a bus downtown, took another into East Austin, got some Fritos at a corner store, applied for and got my new MAP card, took another bus back downtown, missed my connecting bus by seconds, sat at a bus stop reading for about thirty minutes, took a bus back to my neighborhood, ate at McDonald’s, went home, found no Food Stamps in the mail–yet again, greeted and walked the delighted Belle, called the Austin Diagnostic Clinic to see if my doctor could diagnose me as disabled and was told no and referred to some shrinks, then discussed the matter in an e-mail with my mom.

Thursday, January 19th–I made a bunch of calls and e-mails, trying to secure medical documentation of my Bi-Polar condition so as to get the TWC off my fucking ass. I think I succeeded. Now I just have to get an appointment with a MAP doctor and have him pronounce me disabled so I can try to extend my Food Stamp benefits.

I still didn’t get my Food Stamps today.

I was just walking Belle around my apartment complex.

I saw a maintenance man standing on an apartment balcony, throwing armloads of a family’s belongings onto the ground, while another was driving away in a truck which was pulling a huge trailer heavy-laden with more belongings. A third maintenance man was wiping his brow explaining, “We had to do an eviction.” It was horrible to see.

If they ever had to do that with me they’d break their backs with all the books. And they’d slip in all the blood I’d left behind.

Friday, January 20th–Well, I FINALLY got my goddamn Lone Star Card/SNAP Card/Food Stamps! I called it in to get it registered, then worried I’d de-magnetized it up by setting it for about a minute on top of my computer. I went first to Randall’s and bought about $18 worth of food there to try it out, and it worked fine. Then I went over to HEB and bought $161 worth of food–still barely putting a dent in my shopping list. It took me 45 minutes of agony carry all those heavy groceries the one mile between HEB and home. I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow.

So now that I get Food Stamps, does that make me a welfare queen, according to the standards of the GOP and the Tea Baggers? I don’t have a Cadillac, a crack habit, or illegitimate children, so maybe I don’t quite make the cut.

Saturday, January 21st–I spent most of the day recovering from the agony of lugging all those groceries, though I did run over to the dollar store and buy $38 worth of food there, and the bags were heavy from there as well. Apart from that I mostly sat around with Belle and finished Quentin Crisp’s “The Naked Civil Servant.”
The book was amusingly written, though depressing.

Years ago I read “New York Times” profile of Crisp, which described his rather empty life and grim apartment. I thought it was a sad way for anyone to wind up, but according to this book, his life was pretty much always like that.

Crisp was born Denis Pratt in 1909 to middle-class parents, and early on showed eccentric, effeminate tendencies. He had a lackluster academic career and showed no talent in art school. Eventually he wound up in London, where he hung around other young homosexuals and either worked as a commercial artist, collected money from the dole, or starved. He spent most of his life living in a series of filthy one-room apartments, and never entered into any serious relationship, though he was at times sexually promiscuous.

Eventually he found work as a model in life classes at state-run art schools (hence the book’s title). He eventually became something of a London “character,” and knew some important people in art, film, and publishing. Crisp’s strange notoriety landed a contract to write his memoirs (of which this is the first volume). The book, and more importantly the made-for-TV movie of it starring John Hurt, made him famous in the UK and America. More books and another biographical movie followed.

Crisp emigrated to the US, moved into another filthy apartment, and became a fixture at New York parties. He wrote more books, did speaking engagements, and appeared on TV and in the movies, most notably as Queen Elizabeth I in the film version of “Orlando.” He died at the age of 90.

Crisp was often referred to as a “gay icon,” which is true in the very broad sense of someone who was famous for being gay for a long time. But he was filled with self-loathing, and his homophobic observations angered many younger gay men, who regarded him as an embarrassing throw-back to the “bad old days.”

Early on in the book Crisp makes it clear he hates (and here I switch to the present tense) animals, art, music, culture, reading, and cleanliness, which pretty much killed any chance of my warming up to him. Though he is clearly educated and cultured, he seems to disapprove of those qualities. He also has no apparent inner life or interests; when he’s not sitting in cafes talking about himself, he sits at home, daydreaming or at best working on a crossword puzzle.

He appears to be at least somewhat interested in the stories and foibles of other people, and very tolerant of them, even if he doesn’t like them all that much. What I can’t seem to figure out is how anyone can live for ninety years without really being interested in anything, without having any strong reason for living from one day to the next.

I can sympathize with that dichotomy in his personality that allowed him to be both self-loathing and egotistical, but at least I attempt to restore a sense of balance by also hating the rest of the human race. Crisp’s job and money woes, and long-standing lack of hope that he can better himself also hit me a little too close to home.

Another thing I don’t understand about Crisp is his passivity. In one part he meets a homeless laborer, invites him home, and the man winds up living with him for three years, despite the fact Crisp continually urges him to find a new apartment of his own. One of Crisp’s female friends becomes a nun and asks him to visit her ex-boyfriend in a mental institution. Though he dislikes this man, he visits with great regularity, and when the man is released, he lets the guy live with him and even have sex with him.

I just cannot understand a person who is not forceful, who doesn’t stand up for himself and prevent others from running over him. It’s not as if Crisp possesses any noticeable martyr complex, thinking that putting up with crap from other people will make him a saint. Nor can I understand someone who is so casual about sex that he does it with people to whom he is not even attracted.

The majority of Crisp’s problems are connected to his appearance and behavior. Much of the book is devoted to accounts of how he is insulted, spat upon, followed, beaten, denied jobs, and even arrested because of the strange way he dresses. He briefly indicates that early on he did this to announce his homosexuality to the world–as if with him it wasn’t already quite obvious–but since he is full of self-loathing and doesn’t believe that homosexuals deserve rights, and describes the orientation as an abnormality and an affliction, any attempts he makes to paint himself as a crusader seem at very best disingenuous. He claims he dresses the way he does because he is being true to his personality, but it seems to me that when your self-expression is putting you in physical danger and causing you to starve, then it’s time to rein it in.

Perhaps Crisp suffered from undiagnosed depression. I can’t come up with any other reason why a reasonably aware person would go through such a long life with absolutely nothing worth living for.

Sunday, January 22nd–I slept as late as I could, then got up, walked Belle, and helped an online British friend brainstorm for ideas for a school paper. James and Nyssa came by, took me by Petsmart and bought some dog food and a Petsmart card, then took me to dinner at Chuy’s. I went to the MT (Asian) Market and bought $121 worth of wonderful groceries, then went to a nearby HEB and bought $38 worth of food there.

Monday, January 23rd–I talked to a dog-walking neighbor this evening and learned a few things. The Pit Bull I saw killed on the 14th was named Bruce. Apparently the family wanted the cops to dispose of the dog’s body, but the Austin cops don’t do that service on the weekend. So the man who tended the most to the dying dog, who comforted him and wrapped him in a towel, took him to a local wilderness park a few blocks away, buried him there, and marked the grave with a cross.

My neighbor said that until Christmas there was an eleven-year-old girl living in the complex with her mom and the mom’s boyfriend. My neighbor knew the girl and let her play with her dogs, but she suspected something was off about her. Now she’s been hearing that apparently the little girl was raped in the woods nearby by two thuggish teenaged boys who still live in the complex. She’s been calling around to get the incident reported, but keeps running into bureaucratic obstacles.

The girl and her mother left their apartment suddenly over Christmas and are supposedly living somewhere with the girl’s grandmother. The boyfriend stayed on until fairly recently. Earlier this past week I was walking Belle through the complex and saw one maintenance man throwing armloads of possessions off an apartment balcony, while another was driving a trailer-load of them off somewhere. (It reminded me of the scene in “The Grapes of Wrath” where the banker comes to evict a family off their farm, and has a bulldozer knock the farmhouse down.) This was the little girl’s apartment. The complex evicted these people and trashed everything they owned–furniture, toys, games, the mom’s art supplies. It was disturbing and raw–sort of a slap in the face.  
Tuesday, January 24th–Tuesday morning there were hail storms, followed by rain. I went to the TWC for my meeting but arrived early. I went over to Highland Mall so I could find a quiet table to spread out my stuff. I’d not been there since 2006. It’s on its last legs now, most of it’s boarded up, and it’s going to be sold to ACC and turned into classrooms. It was the first place I looked for work in Austin, that very first day I arrived back in 1989. Now we’re both busted.

I went to my meeting. I showed the Case Worker all my paperwork about my condition, but initially he was going to turn me down. I asked him why I’d bothered to bring all the paperwork, then. So he went to talk to his supervisor, and I guess she decided I was a good risk, so he said I was okay and they’d send Health and Human Services their paperwork to say I’d satisfied my requirements with them.

I’d been worried that I might not have done the job-hunting requirement correctly, but he said it was perfect, and I got the impression that’s usually not the case with his clients.

Then we moved on to my agenda.

I discussed how I used to go to their old location in 2003, to Job Club, etc. He said the Job Club is still pretty much the same–all people in high tech talking that special jargon I don’t understand.

I told him how since 2001 and even before I’ve been trying to get career advice, to no avail, that when I talk to successful friends or others about where to go to find leads, they always change the subject and start talking about resumes and how to behave in the interview. (In the orientation two weeks ago he said the best place to get a job is through personal contacts.) I told him of how a personnel lady at ACC was unable to help me two years ago, and that I’m just not getting any decent answers. Where could I go for career advice? He didn’t know.

I rattled off some of the three dozen alphabet soup-like computer skills I always see mentioned in job notices in my field, and asked where I could go to find out which ones I really needed. He didn’t know.

I explained that my learning style is such that for subjects with which I have difficulty, I need to be in a classroom with an instructor. I pulled out the half-dozen flyers for tech schools I picked up in his lobby on my last visit–some schools advertising financial aid and scholarships “to those who qualify.” I asked which ones he recommended, but he only knew of one of them, explaining that most of the men he deals with are looking to go to school to become truck drivers.

He said that with my psychological problems and rather narrow job skills it was going to require “a very precise fit” to find me a job in which I could thrive and succeed. He suggested “some business that has a marriage of writing skills and high tech,” like Facebook or something, but said I’d need to get more skills before I would become attractive to such a company.

[I told him of my recent career ups and downs, offers dangled, then withdrawn.]

And so he sent me on my way. He said I’d satisfied TWC’s end of things, but that I’ll have to still get diagnosed by a doctor, who will have to sign my official medical forms for the HHS.

The appointment lasted from 2:00 to 2:30. I stopped off at Randall’s on the way home to spend the last of my Food Stamp money (the last until February 7th), then got home and walked Belle, finishing up slightly before 5pm.

While I was in the bathroom, Belle got into a bag of trail mix. I couldn’t tell if she’d eaten some chocolate chip or some carob chips, and so I panicked. I called HEB to get them to check the ingredients in their bulk food area, but they wouldn’t. Since I had no money for a cab to an all-night vet, nor a way to pay such a vet, I was afraid I might have to spend the night watching Belle suffering and dying, but she got through the next 24 hours with no trouble, though she did poop some “nut logs.”

Around 8pm I lay down for a nap, since I’d gotten inadequate sleep the night before. I only slept about three hours, though.

Wednesday, January 25th–I was nauseated all day.

I finally finished John Waters’s “Role Models.” It was an entertaining book, though some of the essays were too long and needed to be cut down. (I’m thinking especially of those on Manson follower Leslie Van Houten and outsider pornographers.) His anti-Catholic screeds were tiresome, especially because they were the same-old, same-old handful of attacks ex-Catholics and anti-Catholics have been making for years. (There are few types of people more wearying than ex-Catholics.)

Nor did I understand in his essay on the Comme des Garcons fashion line his enthusiasm for expensive, yet ill-fitting, unattractive clothing. Expensive I could understand. Well-fitting and attractive I can certainly understand. But I’ve never been able to get my mind around what I call the “anti-aesthetic,” the elevation of ugliness.

Still, a fun read.

As I was getting ready to go to bed I was seized with food poisoning, and it assaulted me well into the morning with vomiting, diarrhea, dry heaves, chills, and sweats. The dry heaves made me feel as if I’d been hit repeatedly in the belly with a baseball bat. I think what made me sick was the microwaved felafel and HP Sauce I’d eaten earlier, though I think the salad I’d had before that did some damage.

Thursday, January 26th–I awoke from my sickness stinking from shitting and puking and sweating to find an unpleasant phone message and a couple e-mails….

Later on, I watched “The Art of Love,” with Dick Van Dyke and James Garner, a movie I’ve loved since childhood, but hadn’t seen in years. The video quality was rather poor, though.

Friday, January 27th–Much of the day was spent prepping for and cooking a large soup which contained two 42-ounce cans of Thai vegetable soup stock, two pitchers of water, five chopped carrots, five brown potatoes, six cups of white rice, one head of garlic, a couple handfuls of seaweed, two chopped white onions, four stalks of lemongrass, two pinches of dried red chiles, eight ounces of vegan imitation pork chunks, one daikon radish sliced, one yucca root cut into sticks, and one-and-half pounds of bean sprouts. I think that’s it. I was going to add dried mushrooms but the pot was already too full. The daikon and rice were added in the last thirty minutes of a ninety-minute cooking time.

Later on I nursed indigestion and read.

Saturday, January 28th–Today is Belle’s second “Gotcha Day,” the second anniversary of her entering my life! I gave her lots of food, treats, and attention, including stuff I bought for her at Petsmart not long after I got up. She had her usual dinner of chicken breasts, carrots with butter, and vanilla ice cream. I spent the day farting around and reading.

Twice when I took Belle out she saw a couple walking their black, scary-looking dogs. Poor Belle got scared and headed back to our door.

Sunday, January 29th–I woke up after 8pm.

I made a point of taking Belle on a longer walk, outside of the complex. I don’t want her being afraid to go outside and walk around on account of those scary dogs. she needs her exercise. And she doesn’t need to become agoraphobic the way her Daddy is….

I finished Denton Welch’s “In Youth Is Pleasure.”

Monday, January 30th–I woke after 8pm or so. It was raining.

[The day was full of bad news.]

If [I don’t get a good job]–what then? Will I get training for some boring bullshit job I don’t really want, and plod through that for years until I’m mercifully taken by death?

I finished the last of that soup this morning.

Tuesday, January 31st–I read and slept. I tried to find shrinks who would re-diagnose me with Bi-Polar Level II so I can get an extension on my Food Stamps.

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