Update: February 7, 2017

Where to begin. Left The Hood on Ridgeline Drive the day before Thanksgiving, 2013. Moved back in with my fiancee for life, My Valerie, her roommate Ally and Ally’s freaking dog, off Tuckerman LN, The Gables. Rents reflected the name, $1,900/month + utilities. Burned thru most of my inheritance from my Mom’s estate, covering the Rent and Utilities. Me and My Valerie moved to Fireside Park Apartments in November, $1,250/month with Gas Heat and well insulated Brick and Block construction. $150/month combined Pepco and Washington Gas bills in January. Much better than the $450/month total (bullshit) electric Heat Pump “Das Vinter Haus” on Tuckerman.

Got out of the Hood just in time. The Daughter came home from her facility for wayward youth a few months earlier. The Son who got thrown out of his “wife”‘s place moved back in. The place on Ridgeline became “the place to be” in The Hood, 24/7/365. Blasting Rap music, dysfunctional Reality TV shows, drugs, and lots of pellet gun firing practice out in back of the apartment, and 10s of “guests” on the floor, out back, wall-to-wall. The Son’s 4-year-old son dumped off every weekend by Son’s would be ebony supermodel “wife” so she could party party party til she drops. Little Travon on his own, no food, no water, daddy passed out on the couch.

So, my Golden Years. Early Social Security retirement, $1,400/month after Medicare deduction. Medicare B and D cost almost twice what my Gov’t subsidized Obama Care cost me. It don’t go too far. At least now, with the more reasonable rent, me and Val aren’t rationing food or deferring minimal material needs.

My well-off Little Brother [big bucks IT manager with Symantecs, the Norton software guys] out in California and my sons have helped me out with cash when times got critical during the past several years. It’s good to have successful and financially secure grown children. My youngest gave me his 2006 Toyota Corolla in early November. (My 2000 Saturn L1 and former “Mobile Home” during my homeless guy days) died in Feb, last year. My very rich (well, not Trump rich, maybe a 5-percenter, not a 1-percenter) Little Sister and her hard working general contractor husband have a beautiful farm out near Poolesville. My Number One Sister, guaranteed job for life/lucrative retirement (retired) teacher and her even more lucrative guaranteed job for life/retirement (retired) Federal Civil Servant hushand are retired and living good. The hubby is working part-time. hoping to Double Dip by qualifying for Social Security, on top of his lucrative Federal retirement. Hey, it’s free money and you can’t be too rich. Get on that teet and suck it! My Middle Sister and her husband, retired teachers, are doing all right.

So, for a first-born Son in a big Italian-American family, held up as the one to be like, it’s been a humbling fall from grace. My assessment: (1) poverty really does suck, (2) being homeless makes it suck more, (3) rich siblings who loved you when you were helping them out financially/emotionally/and otherwise may not love you as much when you need help from them. In fact, that $500 that would let you keep your health care for another month (MHIP), buy your meds for diabetes, high Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol, for a month, or even just let you buy some groceries, that $500 may just be too much to ask of said siblings. ‘Big Bro, you gotta pull yourself up by your own boot scraps, like we did…’

Maybe the thing that sucks the most about poverty, the harshest lesson I’ve learned from my little unplanned, unwanted, and unanticipated Poverty Experiment, is enduring the harsh judgement of those who loved you and really know better, fellow liberal Democrats they all are. The shame and humiliation of begging for money to live another month, from people you loved, helped raise, lent and gave money to, for the decades you were rich, it is a bitter pill to swallow.

And now we have a filthy rich, vulgar, likely mentally disturbed, idiot in the White House. God help us all. OK, there is no god. It’s just an expression that means: We in some serious shit now!

Peace out…

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Update from Ridgeline Drive, May 1, 2013

Well, it was a little dicey there for a while here in The Hood. I thought I’d be moving back into my 2000 Saturn L1 “mobile home”. The woman who’s place I’m crashing at had told her 15 year old daughter last month that she would sign her out of the place for wayward youth she’s being held at if she could make it to Level 2 (of 4). I was a little surprised when the girl’s treatment team let her mom make that promise, given that there is no way they would agree to it, but I imagine they figured nothing else was working so what the heck. When we met Monday morning, the team let the mom “decide” to keep her daughter there to complete the program. Of course her daughter flipped out when they brought her in and had her mom tell her she wasn’t going home. (Her sixteenth birthday is this month.) But her toddler-appropriate emotional response—an infinite loop of “It’s not fair / You lied to me / I want to go home now”—was mostly sadness and despair without her usual violent threats and histrionics.

The staff had fully explained the state of the art, no tolerance, behaviorally based program to my friend when her daughter was first committed in December as I have several times since. At the intake interview they said it was possible to complete the program in 12 weeks but that a reasonable time frame was more like six months. My friend heard this as “She’ll be fine and ready to come home a manageable child in 12 weeks” and her daughter heard: “I only have to resist this for 12 weeks and I’ll be back ditching school and running the streets with unemployed 20-something year old men.” Reality and its constraints are not part of either’s belief system; magical thinking and instant gratification without personal responsibility or consequences are their way.

I’m a brutal reality kinda guy. I don’t just accept reality; I love it and its constraints. Reality is a nice frame of reference and its constraints provide some useful boundaries to operate within. Living here has been a rude awakening for me. As a trained social psychologist and informed liberal Democrat, I knew all about the dysfunction of the underclass intellectually. But to actually see it and live among it is another thing entirely. My three now grown children had more self-awareness, impulse control, and functional life skills as toddlers than these people may ever master.

I am constantly reminded of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” and extended by him and others to understand human curiosity. His fundamental insight was that there is a hierarchy of human needs starting with Physiological needs like food and shelter. If these are not met, a person cannot attain the next level, Safety needs: security of body, employment, resources, mortality, the family, health, and property. Until physiological and safety needs are met, a person cannot attain the next level: Love/Belonging: friendship, family, sexual intimacy. Only after these three needs are met can they attain Esteem: self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect of and by others. Finally, once all four needs are met, can one achieve Self-Actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts/reality. I learned of his work as an undergraduate Psychology major at Purdue University when I was 20.

For most of my Upper Middle Class life, I had never met anyone who’s Physiological and Safety needs had not been fully met. Maybe a third had not achieved Love/Belonging, which helped me greatly appreciate my upbringing and family and realize what a blessing this was. Perhaps half had not achieved Esteem, and most were certainly not self-actualized. I loved Maslow’s Hierarchy, a useful tool but more than a little self-serving since it puts people like me on top. It explains why many people are not living productive lives and helps me have compassion for them. [Before you think: “What a privileged self-absorbed jerk!” let me add that hubris is a constant struggle for me. I’m a high functional sentient/intelligent guy, but no saint or sage.]

I was pretty confident that the staff would not—probably legally could not—prematurely release my friend’s daughter. But letting her mom voluntarily face the reality that she needs to finish the entire program, with no short cuts or easy out, while wildly risky from my perspective, paid off. I was surprised at my friend’s resolve and clear rational thinking in the face of her daughter’s pleading and wailing and complimented her.

So the good news is that my friend has accepted the reality of this situation and her daughter will have to complete the program. My friend will have to attend a number of mandatory family counseling sessions and learn some functional parenting and human being skills. They both may have a shot at a productive, or at least not completely dysfunctional, parent-child relationship and this precious almost 16-year old child a productive or at least not completely wasted life. Oh, and also, I have a place to live for at least another three months…