It is also possible to save money at museums. I spend an afternoon at the Met every week and can do that for a 'suggested donation'. I suggest $1 each time I go, as opposed to the $25 adult asking price - and I know adults who could easily afford that price weekly who can't tell you much about the Met at all - but I find there is no excuse for being culturally poor at all. I was also invited to MoMa by a member one day and that gets the job done for $5. She was oddly amazed at how much I knew about the collection already - but that museum is like a carbon copy of all sorts of things that have driven me to a life of art and literature and all the stuff I like. Seeing it just makes me happy.
Sympathetic is an operative term. When looking for help one wants to appear sympathetic enough to engender assistance, yet not so dependent so as to project that you will never rise out of the mess you are in. And so life becomes a series of baby steps. Baby steps towards achieving a life again that once seemed so easy. Today, with $18 in my pocket, I will attempt to open a bank account. The account fee is $3.99 per month. Silly. I never paid a fee for a bank account in Korea, Vietnam or Germany. What is it that makes American banks charge you money and not pay you interest unless you keep $1500 minimum in an account? (Greed?) That's what Chase Bank wants ($1500) - and the funny thing is that Chase is the bank that supervises the EBT (food stamps, public assistance, etc) program, but they won't give poor people an account otherwise. Once you're poor as a church mouse (and living in a church) you find all sorts of sh*t like this.
I posted earlier about how people on food stamps are able to buy food, but not hot food. Only cold. I wonder what it was like to have been in the meeting where that decision was made. "Okay Bob, I can see giving these peasants something so we don't look like complete asses, but let's make sure the food is cold, so they don't feel like they're getting such a great deal, okay?" Or something like that. Who knows. Kim Hopper, in his book, Reckoning With Homelessness, quotes a woman who lives at Grand Central Station. "It must be some kind of experiment or something, to see how long people can live without food, without shelter, without security.", she says. And so it goes with the hot food issue. But I've found a loophole. If you buy cold food at 7-11 you can then put it in the microwave and make it hot - but don't make it hot first, or you're f*cked - clerk won't put it on your EBT card. And another thing: He also won't put a Monster Energy Drink on your card, but he can do a Coke. Energy drinks are considered health food (with vitamins and stuff) and Cokes are not - so you can have junk food, but you can't have healthy food. I'm sure that was covered in the same policy meeting as the food temperature issue.
So hot food becomes a luxury - a luxury I was fortunate enough to enjoy on Christmas day. After taking a stroll downtown to see the tree at Rockefeller Center (the ice rink is much smaller than you think it is on TV) and St. Patrick's cathedral emptying out after a noon day mass, I was off to Yonkers to a private home for dinner. A host described eclectic group of folks including a career journalist, a retired judge, a professor and his wife, an architect (hum tune to Gilligan's Island in background) myself and a psychiatrist settled down to what would amount to a heart-stopping freight train of culinary richness that started with a pretty exotic cheese selection and worked its way through a pastry-wrapped honey-cured ham, a sinful mushroom and butter quiche, a triple creme gorgonzola spiked risotto and ended in one's choice of apple pie or cheesecake. The seemingly disparate group turned out to be pale in comparison to the feast - brought to its knees by the likes of the ghost of Julia Child - equalized by a dizzying palette of flavoured cholesterol. It was f*cking fabulous. Throughout the meal we talked of each other's pursuits and passions. It was noted that I had made a Super Bowl commercial once - which is kind of like being a football player at an intellectual smorgasbord. I think it was also noted that I had owned an agency in Korea - but no one knows quite what to do with that one in an intellectual dog-sniffing contest. But at no time during the day was it mentioned that I was, in technicality (living with OWS), homeless. Not until it was mentioned that I had a blog, and was asked to write it down for someone. I'm always curiously aware of the facial expressions I see when people read the name of this blog. It's not what they were thinking about me when they met me. But my explanation of things seems to settle down what is viewed to be an unsettling topic.
When you return from sixteen years overseas to the highest unemployment rate you have ever seen in your lifetime, have no income, and live in either a government or some other kind of group housing situation, you are in essence, an apt representation of the Nouveau Poor - and by definition, homeless. And you hate that term. But you make peace with it because you don't see it as a permanent state - which may or may not be true.
Homeless for the Holidays
One of my hobbies has always been architecture - an odd pursuit for a man who currently owns none. When I was a teenager I had inquired with my father about being an architect but was informed that it required a lot of math and I, at the time, was not so good at math. In the end, with computers and CAD programs and whatnot, the need for math skills had diminished but the time passed so that I became a weekend student of the art of architecture and never pursued it professionally. This makes me curious about all kinds of buildings. Last week I visited the Francis Little House installation of Frank Lloyd Wright at the Met and every day I make notes about buildings of note. Two that have caught my eye on Broadway have been The Ansonia and The Doralton. But one is famous and the other, almost considered an eyesore in its day. Both are exercises in excess in the Beaux Arts style and The Ansonia is the famous one and considered - " The second most famous building on the Upper West Side after the Dakota". It once housed Babe Ruth, Igor Stravinsky and Enrico Caruso and was most known for its infamous gay bathhouse , the Continental Baths , during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977, the club became Plato's Retreat , a heterosexual swing club. Bette Midler started her singing career at the Continental Baths, with Barry Manilow as her accompanist. Today the Ansonia stands in some disrepair while the Doralton, still not famous, seems to have worn its years in better fashion with a 5-storey bay window facing Broadway, adorned by two double life-sized Grecian ladies at the window's base. On its corner stone is mounted a Tiffany's brass plaque describing the building's history. No one famous is listed on the plaque. Both buildings make the National Register of Historic Places and both remind me of our old apartment at the Belden Stratford in Chicago. It was Beaux Arts as well but reasonably less grandeur than either of the Broadway buildings - way off Broadway.
Later, I was able to visit the Soldiers and Sailors memorial monument designed by Paul E. Duboy (1857--1907) who was also the architect for the Ansonia and hired by William Earle Dodge Stokes. Stokes would list himself as "architect-in-chief" for the project and hired Duboy, a sculptor who designed and made the ornamental sculptures on the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, to draw up the plans. A contractor sued Stokes in 1907, but he would defend himself, explaining that Duboy was in an insane asylum in Paris and should not have been making commitments in Stokes's name concerning the hotel.
One thing I do realize being back here is that virtually every day is like living in a museum. If you simply walk, and read the plaques on buildings, you can have a guided tour of some pretty spectacular stuff, every day of the week.
How Am I Doing So Far?
I have mentioned before that I was born on the upper east side at 86th street with a plastic spoon in my mouth - courtesy of the Catholic Charities and their home for unwed mothers, the Guild of the Infant Saviour. Now I live in a church on West 86th street, along with 70 or so, other occupiers. There must be some poetic reasoning for that in God's script.
I will take the baby step of trying to open a bank account today. I hope they recognize my EBT card as proper ID. Today also I received a weekly Metrocard today from one of my working groups at OWS, so that's another baby step done as well - and this week also I was honored by Karen who sent me $100, putting me at nearly 1/2 of the monthly budget I had set in my holiday fund raising drive. I am still waiting on word on the two possible phones that could be donated and am still looking for a used Mac. Please keep the Mac in mind as new computers may have come as gifts making old ones obsolete to some.
But most of all I am feeling better. I made the mistake of drinking a few beers one night this week and while that allows one to feel pretty damn good while the drinking is in process, it just makes you feel like sh*t the next morning - not so much from the hangover as from the realization that you only had temporary fun - then it's time to get back to being whatever-less (home, job, etc.) you started out to be.
Happy New Year all. Here on December 30th I can be relatively sure that this week will have been the last not-so-great-depression of 2011 and get to making 2012 a whole new beginning.