From BTT, I landed in some trash motel rehabbed into a crappy place for addicts to put their lives together. On the bus ride there, I watched a mother and her son raid a dumpster behind a 7-11, tossing what they could find into a battered shopping cart. At my stop, I walked past boarded up houses and apartments, fields filled with burned-out cars and the wooden bones of abandoned furniture. My destination was a halfway house where I finessed my way in by testing hot for weed, a designation that made me immediately suspect since everyone else was just out of prison or on suboxone.
The Level One program was to be crammed into a single room with four other guys until I got a job. After settling in, holding my backpack to me like my newborn baby, it was apparent that I needed a job immediately. Unfortunately, I also needed fresh clothes, not the shorts and t-shirt and sockless Chucks I’d worn the past four days. Drawers were a primary concern—my junk wrapped with sweat and the remnants of expulsion added to the horrific funk enveloping me.
The next morning, I applied for bus vouchers at the same counter where I presented my THC-infused urine. With my poor-person tickets, I made my way to an agency that promised to clothe me.
I wrote about that episode in real time, raw stuff, coming more from rage than skill:
The room I’m in is about 15 by 20, two bunks, four men, one bathroom, the largest room in a bungalow for what had to have been the scariest resort in the southwest. Leatherface and bloody chainsaw scary. The three other rooms (all smaller than the walk-in closet I was using about a week and a half ago) beds two men. Everyone complains about the rules but no one wants to return to bus stop benches, bridges, dope houses, abandoned cars or recycling bins. In my case, there’s no way I’m going back to N.
Kicked out on Labor Day, sheriff’s deputies enforcing an Order of Protection that she had sworn out. Apparently, my yelling in the heat of an argument was reason enough for a judge to sign an order that ultimately made me homeless. I hate to say it but things will not go well for my son’s coach who, when his players didn’t clear off the field quickly enough, screamed, “Get back here, you knuckleheads!”
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies, probably frustrated they weren’t bagging a Mexican for Sheriff Joe, gave me almost no minutes to pack my things as they had fucks to give about my welfare. In the age of Black Lives Matter, I’ve come to view cops as shitbag bullies and the two armed roid monkeys who sent me packing (but not packed) did nothing to change my mind. The very large one with a dip-filled lip and sneer of cold command (shiny gun, recent mastery of the alphabet) stooped his pumpkin-sized head beneath the bedroom doorway and declared that I couldn’t gather my things, that I needed to go now. The smaller, less smart one, bobbled assent like a bowling ball on a bed spring, “I dunno, I dunno, I dunno,” dribbling down his cop shirt to his tin star ba-ba. It would not have surprised me if both had expended the extent of their vocabularies during our very brief encounter.
The equation, at that moment? Two large gym rats with guns vs. me, Slenderman-sans-violent-mythos, 6 foot something and145 pounds with pocket change, a guy who hadn’t used his fists since he’d spent an embarrassing amount of time face down during his high school boxing section of PE. Violence has never been something I’ve condoned much less participated in and, to be quite frank, I’ve relied on a semi-quick wit and half-dollar words to get me whatever three steps were needed to head toward the door. Needless to say, state-sanctioned child murderers intimidate the fuck out of me and the only way I was able to get out of the house with three t-shirts, my laptop (pretty much always at my fingertips) and a copy of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” was to drop my drawers in front of the cops and wave my dick at them; hey, I was still in my house and if they were going to encroach on my space, they were getting the full tour. They were not amused which put us on some equitable emotional footing. Unfortunately, it didn’t buy me much more time and, intimidated to the point of nearly expelling everything below the waste, my mind wasn’t clear enough to gather up as much as I needed.
Suffice it to say, I’m still wearing the same cargo shorts and underwear I had on when I left the house. Uh, yeah, that was not even some clever turn of phrase to indicate anything other than what it reads: The internet is on notice that I haven’t changed my underwear in nine days. And no, I’m not the commando type, sorry. While I could have sworn I packed drawers enough for a few days, when I wound up checking my bag a few hours later, I discovered that my brush with the law had resulted in extremely poor planning. Of course, all that would be academic had I demurred to the point of sending Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber reaching for their tasers. The boxer briefs I’m currently wearing are happily shit-free and (as far as I know) aromatically inoffensive.
At least none of my halfway-house roommates have made mention of my hygiene but then again, they’re not in on this undie secret we’re sharing. As I type this on the light rail, the guy sitting next to me hasn’t curled up towards the window with a pinched nose (not a read-over-the-shoulder type, apparently). To my credit, I make it a point to try shower every day; walking Phoenix streets all day long makes that as necessary as oxygen. Unfortunately, standing naked under streams of water isn’t all that easy if your bed is an old couch in an alley and unless you’re good with catching indecent exposure charges. While I’m not that desperate, bathing feels more and more irrelevant as my undershorts take on a life of their own. Frankly, I’m astounded that the funk hasn’t made me a fly magnet and I’m seriously beginning question everything my mother ever told me. Interestingly enough, unclean underwear has not turned me into a leper or poo-poo pariah.
Not that I advocate not changing underwear but (to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson) it’s worked for me, at least to the degree that I seem to be the only one bothered by it. First things first, as they say in AA, and this light rail trip has been a mission to secure at least ONE pair that I can wear so I can wash the other in the sink.
Despite the tawdry past I imagine for our bungalow (or maybe, because of it), I refuse to walk around with my junk on display while the old pair dries. As such, another pair of cotton briefs or whatever will give me the freedom to at least wash the last week and some days from what’s been holding in my boys. As you may well imagine, owning new underwear is not just essential, it’s well worth the three hours that a social service agency will take out of my day — five minutes to get the underwear, an hour or so to ride buses and trains and walk a couple miles, well over two hours for the agency to determine that I won’t be using the underwear to complete a meth cook.
Assuming this half-day excursion results in some Fruit of the Looms or whatever, my plan is to spend a couple of hours in Starbuck’s and leech wifi, check out job postings, and see if I can start clawing my way out of this hole — one I unwittingly dug so N could kick me into it.
And write, right here, because there is so much more to tell about what got me here along with what happens daily on these hot, dirty streets, without a net or filter.
"Rage raw" sounds like something Scooby says when Shaggy drops his weed in the toilet but that's where the piece came from.