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2005-04-22 @ 1:47 a.m.
section eight doesn't always mean you're crazy



RAIN!


Yup. After 3000 15 days of sunshine disguised as a apocalyptic drought, we finally got some rain last night. The local weathermen were practically peeing their pants in excitement. It was the longest stretch of dry weather in 28 years. Can you imagine 15 days of sunshine being a record?

Today was a good day though. This morning I went to a focus group. I actually had a choice. I could have either go to an hour seminar on emotion regulation and earn my usual $8/hr. or go to a focus group and pretend like I'm all intellectual and listen to people using phrases like comprehensive intellectualization and manifesto profundity (hee hee. I just made that up) and earn $25. Can you guess which one I did? Go ahead...guess!! Ok, since I’m such a total money whore, I went for the $25 tax free stipend. Woo hoo!

So what did I have to do to “earn” (ha, ha) my generous stipend? I just had to sit there, eat cookies and nod my head thoughtfully. Yeah! Can you believe it? And I’m so good at that. I do that a lot. The nodding thing. I’m like queen of the nodders. But do you want to know what I was really thinking? Man, what a racket. I could so do this for a living...go to focus groups on all different subjects, you know, since I’m so incredibly worldly and knowledgeable....and then nod my head thoughtfully and eat cookies. I mean, what the hell. Would that not be cool? Especially the eating cookies part. Like, sign me the hell up. Get me some new business cards: witty Mc Snerkowitz, professional focus group participant extraordinaire/cookie eater/nodder. And I wouldn’t even need to update my resume!

Ok. I’m through. I did see the woman who was so rude to me at the Crazy Crazy place a couple of months ago. She was the one who when I walked in had said that they were closed and then I said, “Well, can I at least say “Hi” and she said “No!” and I was really pissed. I had told my boss this little story because we deal with her agency on a regular basis, so the first thing I see her, she says, “I hear you’re mad at me.” Gah. If I’m queen of the nodders, I’m definitely queen of the not wanting to confront somebody I’m angry withs. Although my anger had pretty much faded, since it was really fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. So, since she brought this up in the lobby of our office and I pretty much knew she was probably there for our focus group and we’d all be squeezed into some tiny room with no windows together for 2 hours, I said yes. And then I explained why. And she apologized. And I was like “Wow. Is that how that works?” Anger. Apology. Resolution. Amazing!

I was a little perturbed however, that something I told my boss in confidence was blabbed to the person that it was about. That was not very cool. It kinda made me feel like I will probably never share anything in confidence with her again. Its no wonder I don’t trust anybody.

After a quick lunch I headed to my appointment at Section 8. Of course, this was my second time there this week. On Monday I went, missing time at work, only to be told my appointment was cancelled with no explanation. The woman at the counter told me to come back Thursday at 2 p.m. On Wednesday I got a letter from them saying “sdorfgowi owtwrtifbjb”. Heh, heh. I guess you can say, I didn’t exactly read it, because after I got there today, signed in, watched all the jetsam and flotsam flowing through there for about 45 minutes, I started to wonder why no one was waiting on me. The woman finally called me up to the window and asked me when my appointment was. I said “Thursday...2 p.m.” and pulled out my letter. She then took the letter and said, “I’m sorry, but its NEXT Thursday, see the date.” Fuck!

But miracle upon miracles, she let me fill out an application and then led me to this darkened room where I got to watch an epic video about those of us who are lucky enough to get Section Eight, with a whole, incredibly well acted section on how not to screw it up by getting busted for selling drugs out of your house. And for that they showed an African American man getting tackled by two cops out on the front lawn of a nice suburban home. I’m guessing that he lived there and was not just robbing a house to support his crack habit. A little prejudicial? Yeah, just slightly. But that’s really just my ever so humble focus group opinion. The real star of the Section Eight film, however, was a young black woman with a very winning smile named Verna. Ok, I just made that name up. But she was very winning. You were just rooting for her to do everything right, like when she was looking at her first “nice” apartment with her white landlord. Did I mention that all the white people in the video were either landlords and police officers? As in people in power? Hmm. That seemed a little prejudicial too. Black people= drug dealers and poor people seeking government money for housing. While white people= Landlords and police officers. Hmmm.

Of course the entire time I was in the Section Eight Office, I only saw one white person out of about 25-30 African American people. The entire office staff who worked there was Black. My case worker was Black. The office which was up on the 9th floor of this building, overlooked this large apartment complex which was teaming with African Americans. I actually kind of felt like a freak being white, but hey, I’ve been waiting almost 4 years for this help, and it will make my life infinitely easier money-wise. Because, well, maybe I’ll have some. Because other than underwear and snow boots, I haven’t bought a new piece of clothing in close to five years. I buy clothes at thrift stores and garage sales. I just don’t have the money. So getting some rent assistance will hopefully enable me to be able to put a little tiny bit of money aside for when my car poops out again, because as it is, every car repair usually totally wipes out my bank account.

But first things first....clothes. Just the other day I was standing behind 3 women at Subway. The only frivolity I do with what little money I make is an occasional lunch out. So I was just standing there looking at these women and noticing how nicely colored and stylishly cut their hair was. And what nice clothes they had on. No faded colors or pilled material or frayed edges. Each of them had really nice leather purses. New ones with smart designs with zippers that worked. And the shoes. Wow. Shoes that I can’t even imagine ever owning. Or even trying on because I might fall in love with them. I wouldn’t even dare ever dream of having anything like them because I know I would be disappointed. You just don’t find shoes like that at garage sales.

I then looked down at my clothes. I had on a wool coat I had gotten for a dollar at a garage sale. My Reeboxs were dirty and worn. My jeans were really worn and frayed on the bottom. I had gotten them for $2.50 at a local Rescue Mission Store. My purse, which has a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, is worn and the handle is starting to rip off. All my earrings and necklaces are from garage sales. My hair? It has its own zip code. I’ve only had it cut once in the last 3 years. I do my own dyeing. My last dye job, which should have looked really cool (I dyed it Egyptian Plum), washed out in less than a week. My hair, which could be my best feature, really needs a lengthy afternoon in a beauty salon. But all this stuff takes money. Money I haven’t had since I’ve been in disability. Ha. I actually didn’t even have it when I was working either.

Right before I went on disability, I was working 3 jobs. I worked full time at a newspaper. I worked part time for Married Guy. And I also cleaned offices. And I still would frequently run out of money. I’ve just been perpetually poor, most of my adult life. I used to try really hard to be a success and to make money and to get promoted in jobs, but I just never was. I was never aggressive enough to be a success and I was never mercenary enough to marry a guy for money. I remember once when I was feeling really frustrated with my lack of money and with Married Guy, I wrote him an e-mail telling him I was going to hunt down a rich guy so that I could have a better life and a big fancy house, and he didn’t talk to me for like three weeks. The truth hurts, huh?

I guess a little of this has to do with the fact that I grew up rich. We had a fancy house in Marin County. My Dad had a Mercedes. We had a cabin at Lake Tahoe. We took vacations. I had my own car at 17. I had credit cards. My home life totally sucked, but hey, credit cards, woo hoo!! But then my parents got divorced. My Dad did pay my rent for a while, but once I started working in one of my many low paying jobs, the gravy train stopped. My Dad would help out if I needed it, but I had such low self esteem, that I would practically have to be eating cat food before I would ask him for help.

And I’m still that way. I’ve almost had my power shut off twice in the last three years. I’ve had to go to food pantries. I’ve been down to like $2 in the bank. I’ve been without transportation. But did I ask for help? No. Not until there is so much stress that I’m about to crack and go on a shooting spree (if I could afford bullets that is).

It does get tiring after a while though. Once in a while “A” will say that I act like I’m “entitled” and I always have to chuckle. Entitled? Hardly. There are days I barely feel entitled to breathe. So today when I was told I would be getting my first rental assistance check in June, I was just numb. I just couldn’t believe it. I had been on a waiting list for almost four years. And yet I felt unworthy. And then I felt like, oh shit, what if I fuck up and they take it away? (cough...drug bust for cocaine...you know how I am). And then I felt like what if they made a mistake and just spelled my name wrong and I’m NOT really eligible. And then I felt, what if I go through all this and my stupid grumpy ass old landlord won’t fix a $25 repair and I have to move, and I don’t have any money to move and I only have 60 days to find a rental that takes Section Eight and then I move, and I hate my new apartment because its in a ghetto neighborhood because that’s the only place I can go that will take Section Eight, because, you know, after all, all poor people live in crummy neighborhoods and deal drugs and steal cars and are lazy because they are being supported by the government, yada, yada, yada. Well, you probably know by now, that I’m kind of a fatalist.

I did take some paperwork over to the landlord’s tonight and I pretty much got that very argument. Grumpy Corleone looked at me suspiciously and then started spouting off at how he had been talking to his friends (he has friends??) and how they had told him that Section Eight had made them make very expensive repairs to their properties and if that were the case, he would NOT take it. And I was just wanly standing there smiling saying, “Well, your apartment is in really good shape, so everything should be okay”, while internally thinking “You scummy cheap ass Eye-talian bastard. You probably wouldn’t even buy me a 9 volt battery for the smoke detector if the house was on fire.”

But after I got home, with the document safely signed, I felt about 5 minutes of pure elation. And it was a weird feeling. I’m not used to that. You know...happiness. In fact, I was so freaked out by it, that I had to take a clonopin and lay down.

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