Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I've spent the better part of this week working on outlines and hypothetical plot lines in the course of making a time in my life humorous, and in doing so had a revelation of sorts. Some things no matter how they play in your head as amusing simply can't be conveyed without revealing that they're simply not funny at all. Some of the posts I've typed into here have been knee jerk reactions or impulsive thoughts that practically type themselves, fall into place, and at very least can make me laugh in retrospect; What I found while opening 'this can of worms' is that it's impossible to find anything humorous that doesn't reek of utter depression or at very least isn't at the expense of humanity and the real people who can sometime's be forgotten or swallowed up by the world.
Time after time and more so VERY recently I've received news of someone who was either present during this time or is being affected by not so much the 'Recyclable Industry'. I was referring to aluminum but in light of current events seems that aluminum IS recyclable, but for one reason or another? Some people aren't afforded that luxury and can't be redeemed for even a nickel in societies standards. It's been years since I've either picked myself up or been picked up and evolved beyond what I can now consider a dark period in my life that I had chosen to shed some light on. To hear that people who were once walking among us in those cold, unforgiving elements surrounded by even colder people have passed away is a sad state IN the world. To hear that people who were once walking with me are STILL struggling out there to me seems a bit more sad. That they're not only still there but are remaining optimistic in a world where it becomes more and more obvious everyday that they're either considered 'less than' or not even considered as people should be seen as a challenge that any person should ponder.
'What would I do if it were painfully obvious that I've been forgotten?' or when the very real idea that if you suddenly 'Fell off the face of the earth either no one would notice or you'd be doing society as a whole a favor' isn't a funny proposition, it's a sad commentary on the state of not only an area, a community, or a country, but to civilization.
In many social internet formats the idea is proposed that we can cast our emotions onto animals be they sheltered or in need and much is done is the way of protecting these harmless creatures who've done no wrong other than being born into poor caregivers, poor living situations, or have been for one reason or another cast aside. That it's easier to lament animals who've done no wrong is understandable but it does NOT provide you with an excuse to not care about people who have also been born or cast into the same conditions. Before you make the excuse that people are smarter than animals, I will have to agree with you. People are smarter than animals and with that comes the sometimes overwhelming awareness of not only their situations, but also having to acknowledge how they are perceived by other people.
Animals, unless they are photographed and have sympathetic captions conveniently Photo Shopped onto their pictures constructed to humanize them have an advantage over people who are consistently dehumanized by themselves and others who are quick to blame 'lost people' for their disadvantages.
To be aware that the premise 'you're situation is poor by your own design' is proper; It's an important life lesson to take responsibility for your actions. To know this and to recover without the help of anyone but yourself is an impossible thing to ask of even the most well adjusted and successful human being. When you're expecting anyone to help themselves out of any position you yourself have never experienced, take some time to think of what you can't accomplish alone in your meaningful life. Everyone counts on other's for small insignificant reasons that are hardly pondered and also to the very existence of happiness in their life regardless of possessions and fortune. No matter what your station in life, it's not uncommon to take your wealth and status for granted, but also your support system that reassures you that you are safe in a VERY uncertain world.
Imagine for a second not having that reassurance to rely on a daily basis, or in some cases moments as required daily on an as needed basis. Know that no matter what you have to offer to the world, without a support system to regularly acknowledge your ability to contribute to society and to bolster any form of self esteem you think you have you'd probably fare even less successfully than people who've had to learn to accept life with none of this. No one deserves no one.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Cell Phones with 'no minutes' serve as more than just paperweights. Our alarms would be set anywhere between 12:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. depending on which neighborhood we were set to pillage, adding in of course the time required to secure a rogue shopping cart, plastic bags, and safe arrival time. The most lucrative addresses were normally gang safe houses; Biker's occupied one form, Men Who Wore Red or Blue (Crips/Bloods) resided in the other. Neither was a safe place to be after dark.. or during the day for that matter if you weren't invited. After the risk was assessed by the Raccoon, he and the Scout had the daunting task of making a withdrawal after the lights were out.In the likely event there was to be climbing to a second floor balcony, it was to the advantage of the Scout to be a smaller frame than the other members. That made it easier for him to climb to where he
needed to be, easier still for the Raccoon to 'hoist' him to where he needed to be, and then would begin the struggle between productivity with regard to low noise levels. His size would later be a major disadvantage when he was captured, cornered, or when he would disagree with the decisions made by the Raccoon.
One group of favorite spots were massive party houses, they were organized by the owner's <everything in tidy piles>, there was enough loot to make any vagrant drool, and they were likely guarded by a 'Trespasser's Will Be Shot' sign. It was a deterrent to some, but not to those who knew most times these signs were as accurate as a McDonald's catchline. No one goes to the 'Golden Arches' with the inner thought 'I'm Lovin' It'. It's a last resort and everyone including the people who lick your cheeseburger before you eat it are in on the false advertising, they just hope you're stupid enough to
'buy it' in every sense of those words. In time after time, night after night, we'd risked the sign and found they were camoflage at best; Our camp site had many of them surrounding our campfire. They made us feel somewhat safer.
The first times we'd gone to these locations, we'd worked the kinks out and streamed lined the process, since most of the loot was next to the houses we'd work to bring entire stacks, bags, and barrel's to outside of the yard and make the necessary arrangements to affix full plastic bags to the cart.
Physic's rules apply here, the Ox can only fit five dollars of cans into the 'basket' of a shopping cart. When it's bottles he's reduced to four dollars in the easiest compartment, and he gets the added bonus of waking EVERYONE in earshot up as he makes his way as far from the original destination.
Though I don't believe in magic I do believe in organization, physics, and creativity. That we <I> could commonly manage to fit and tranport over a hundred dollars of all of the above on a banner night defied all of these conceptions.
Bonus 'finds' were always appreciated. Not only would some people leave their empty container's in ridiculously open spaces in eyeshot, there were essentials that couldn't possibly be overlooked, or left behind. Rewards in the form of unopened beer in coolers, portable radio's, and yes even the
occasional clothing item from a clothesline were reserved for the limited basket. Surrounded by empty 'decoy' booty we roamed the area knowing we'd make less noise when there was weight in the cart and items were concealing and minimizing the 'shock value' of bottles rattling in the wee hours of the morning. In the likely event we happened on more than 12 unopened beers work would be suspended until said containers were empty and once again had only the recyclable value of the other occupants. It's an unsuprising fact that after a number of beers during crucial concentration time, we would not only get careless regarding noise, we'd also get rather cocky so far as minding the decibels or 'p's and q's' for that matter.
I've said and will repeat the streets on these mornings were full of other occupants doing the legal version of what we were doing. 'They' would open and reseal bags of trash on the sidewalk, removing the three to ten cans that were often surrounded by used kitty litter or even worse. 'They' would be concerned with not tearing into the plastic bags so 'they' could be re-tied and no one would complain about the mess, 'they' did it quietly so no one could complain about the noise, and 'they' weren't completely repulsed by sticking their entire ungloved hand into a used diaper so long as up to fifty
cents was the reward for covering themselves with someone elses fecal matter or rotten casserole. That these items were more regularly collected and shared smell and frequency upon discovery was what turned our operation a bit 'shady'. If there is a 'gray area' to be found, I'm admitting that our gray area was dark, very dark indeed. But, it was night and everything out there was dark, so who's vision is so
sharp that the difference between 'smokey gray' and 'onyx black as night' is easily guaged? We weren't subtle at all, and when we 'celebrated' finding beer that required it's own form of recycling we were less subtle. Heart attacks are more subtle declarations than we were at times like this.
Mistakes would be made, both by the group and by it's individual members. The Scout would NOT be allowed to leave a balcony until 'every single can' was retrieved no matter how many lights came on, dogs barked, or people yelled out windows. The Raccoon was ruthless that way and wouldn't offer the 'help' down or out of these areas until the job was complete. The Raccoon might even threaten to leave
you there, and without his protection the smallest member of the organization would be left to the original owner's of the aluminum, usually with horrible physical harm resulting.
We had three different 'Scouts' that summer, including one that returned after such a night; His memory either hadn't fully grasped how terrible was his fate that night he left or the injuries erased said memories, for not closely
following the strict retrieval rules of the Raccoon was punishable. That the Raccoon was ultimately
revealed to be a dictator is another chapter. You're not the only one who's surprised this chapter never became very humorous. I'm working on it.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
I remember 'canning' or 'trolling for the nickel deposit on empty bottles and cans' for cigarette and vodka money during a rather 'odd' time in my life. Though I'm sure most people would rather omit this particular adventure from their memory, I choose to reserve a spot in my heart for it in the 'you-can-find-funny-anywhere-you-look-once-you-set-your-mind-to-it', but that's entirely different subject fodder.
Life is something that should be embraced in it's entirety, and if you've never been down and out? You simply haven't lived enough. If you've never been down and out and are now NOT currently down and out? You simply don't know if you can overcome enough, do you? I did, I laughed then, and I'm hoping we can all share a common thread of humor about it now. See what happens when you take criticizing yourself to a whole new creative level? 'Redemption' ensues... "Worst Pun... EVER!"
Three of us had paired together to form the 'Canning Team' that would redefine the entire scope of the task. From the attitude's of the people who did it singularly to the non-suspecting homeowner's who would ultimately rethink where to stash their bags of recyclable's, in a matter of weeks no one would be simply parking their cans under their back porches or balcony's. We were clever. We were thorough. We were tenacious. Frankly speaking? We were thirsty, nicotine addicted, and a bit selfish at the time. The money was there, it was nearly a 'victim-less crime', and there were so many other people doing the legal version of the same task it was nearly impossible to be caught, let alone prosecuted. If you have a modicum of pride you'll understand in our twisted way that 'working' for money is still more respectable than holding a sign at a red light that says 'Will Drink For Food'.
Corny names detract from the story, and I'm not clever enough to conjur psuedonyms that are realistic sounding, so we'll reduce them to abbreviations and then to animals, shall we?
'R.M.' was the 'Scout'. His task during the sunlight hours was to roam the neighborhoods peering over fences and in general being on the lookout for bags under porches, stacked in backyards, or sheds that were either unlocked or had flimsy locks with plastic bags contained. The deduction was simple. If 'trash pickup day' had passed and these bags weren't picked up? There's a 75% chance that someone was
saving their recyclable's until they had an amount that justified a trip to the recycling center. There was a chance they had compost, leaves or debris, but that chance was slim and we had all nite to follow up on locations that were worthy of a thorough search.
'B.Y.' was the 'Raccoon'. His task during the night hours were to lurk into the aforementioned yards, assess the risk in a sad equation format (movement sensitive lighting) + (proximity to the house) + (amount of loot) was combined with our (necessity and talent) + (how daring we were on that
particular night) = SCORE. If the chance of reward was equal or greater than our likeliness to be caught? In a nod it was decided that it was a 'done deal' or just a 'pass by' until the reward grew or the risk lessened to acceptable levels. Even homeless alcoholics don't wontonly relinquish their freedom when three dollars of loud glass bottles could ruin your future plans to marginally exist within the confines of the few creature comforts you were afforded.
'B.L.' was the 'Ox'. It's not only important to have a brawny guy who can push a shopping cart full of recyclable aluminum for miles; You also need someone who can affix plastic bags in a 'tetris like' manner to every available surface of said cart in a timely manner and who will NOT abandon the cart or group when 'capture' becomes a distinct possibility.
Every great equation comes equipped with a 'variable'. Our's was simply the fact that even if we were caught, most times not only were people not prepared for a prowler, but the sheer fact that in the middle of the night finding three physically imposing, stereotypical appearing creepy 'homeless ogres' would in general cause whomever discovered us to a quick retreat back to safety.
Initially we weren't reduced to flaunting our 'physical powers of persuasion', but in a timely manner we learned it was to our advantage. In the time someone hastily returns to their indoors and calls 911, it's possible for three guys to not only stash the loot but change or remove identifying clothing, and break into three separate character's melding into the surroundings. 'Playing dumb' came naturally to most of us and was mastered by the remaining members.
I know it doesn't sound funny yet, but all great stories require some background. All you have to do now is inject the <impossible to ignore> Stooge like qualities of the characters and situations and this poor allegory turns into an humorous anecdote.