“Amy” Tale of Petersburg Told

While stuck in Petersburg, VA I made reference to an story that would be shared later. The local paper there printed the story, so now I can share it here.

Link to the original 

To the Editor:

Though I once was a columnist for a newspaper up in Maine, I thought I might pass on a tale of unexpected serendipity from the town of Petersburg.

I’d been up in the mountains of Pennsylvania for a few days, hiking on the trail. One disaster beget another, so I fled the mountains with a speed that would make you think I was being chased by an angry redhead.

I wound up in Petersburg after a 50 hour stretch with no sleep. A buddy of mine (my former editor – how many columnists can claim that) wired me the cash for a bus ticket on to Florida.

Even still, the strain of an 11-day journey involving trains, trails and a bus routing nightmare left me sitting outside your transportation center with a look on my face you’d see if you shot somebody’s dog – then offered them a puppy.

I was exhausted, spent. A local woman we’ll call “Amy” to protect her anonymity saw that on the streets of your town, there was someone worse off than her.

She immediately guided me through the streets of your town to the local library, which I couldn’t have found without her help. I was able to charge up a dying laptop and phone, and work out the arrangements for that bus ticket.

Someone from your town that had nothing, not even a place to stay herself took a visitor under her wing, guiding past the weird and the strange, pointing out a local chicken place that would take my debit card.

Find this woman, and help her to get a place to call home. She put the shine on the apple of your city for a stranger in need. She deserves no less.

Bob Higgins

Portland, Maine

A Week In

Just gathering some random thoughts that occurred to me over the last week or so that I’ve been here. One night while sleeping under the stars, I was woken by a flock of honking geese flying overhead in the typical “V” formation.

Then it occurred to me. Just when do they know its time to STOP flying south…when they start seeing Che’ and Fidel posters?

Job is going well. Some big doings coming up in a couple of weeks, so they are trying to make sure I’m all trained up.

Had several good column ideas today. Fairly quick, I’m going to have to start pitching them. Just running out of library time and personal time.

Note: I should wander to the beach this weekend to grab some shells and stuff to send to my buddy Finn. That, and random Florida stuff. Hard to believe I’ve been here over a week and STILL haven’t been to the beach yet.

Of course, I didn’t do it that much in Maine, unless there was whiskey or fire involved.

What? No Beer?

Of note and interest. I’ve been dry as a bone since leaving Philly, somewhere around the 2nd of the month.

I didn’t set out to quit drinking, that was the furthest thing from my mind. I find myself now surrounded by drunks and SPICE addicts.

Sorry folks, no Gonzo here. I’ve far too much at risk at this point to screw it all up. After a few weeks, when I get my own place, then the shenanigans may continue. Till then, I’m on the wagon.

OK. I may make an exception when the Sox win the World Series in Game 4. That is worth a couple of quick shots.

Hat/Tip to Craig Conley, who shot me some bucks via Greendot. It’s still all FUBAR, but I’ll get it all figured out.

13 Hours on the books so far..headed into week 2! Plus, it looks like both the Snowbirds AND the Circus Folk have started to show up.

Yes, I can hear the jokes already, how you always knew I was Circus Folk.  Let the jokes fly!

 

Redemption, And New Beginnings

There was chance, a slim hope. Slim hopes are better than no hope at all.

I had checked in with the local homeless aid group, who gave me a locker to put my pack in. While the events of the day before had me at the end of my rope, I had to keep kicking.

I KNOW that I left Portland with my birth certificate. It’s gone, likely lost somewhere along the mountains of Pennsylvania.

In sheer desperation, I hit several of the local cleaners, begging for day labor to pay for a bus ticket to anywhere. Most of them were drop stores, not in need of my services. All had seen the sad tale before, and i could tell from their expressions the future looked dim.

I hit one last place about 4PM. The manager came around, and was obviously not into the idea. He did tell me he’d talk to the owner, and to come back Thursday morning, and he’d see what he could do.

I headed out of town. Sarasota is in the middle of a homelessness boom. The locals report that if you are caught sleeping anywhere in public after dark, you get locked up for a minimum of three days, no questions asked.

Hey, I desperately wanted to avoid any legal complications. When I did get the stink-eye walking down the road at 3AM, I made it very clear to the cop giving me the fish that I “was curious, how far down this road is the next city?”

That let him know I was not planning on sticking around.

Wednesday night, still seeking to stay off the radar, I took the last bus out of town, crashing in the fenced off area behind the local Wal-Mart. Folks of a certain political persuasion can say what they want about Wal-Mart, but their unofficial policy of an open parking lot for weary travelers needing to catch a few winks before plowing a car or truck into a bridge abutment has saved more lives than snarky, shitty comments from ThinkProgress.

I got three surprises. The first came at roughly 3:30AM when the sprinklers came on.

The second was missing my 530AM alarm, and being woken by the sound of the dude cutting the grass going by on the mower. I knew if I was still there on the return trip a few minutes later, I’d be deep in the shit.

The third came later in the day. It seems baseball sized colony of hitch-hiking red fire ants had decided that my small day-pack was some sort of Dreamliner or other form of transport.

CRAP. It was 8:15, I’d missed at least three buses, and the place was at least a half-hour bus ride away. So much for making a good impression.

I finally got in. The manager said he’d not had a chance to talk to the owner. He clearly was uncomfortable, but understood. I used every bit of charm I had, and he finally said he’d give me a shot. I offered two hours of work for FREE…If he still didn’t think I could do the job, come to me at the end of that two hours and I’d shake his hand, no hard feelings, no payment or expectation of payment.

He sent me over to the pants press, the same gig I had in Portland. The press had one pair half-done, another on the topper waiting, and a third on the side for touch-up. He watched me go in, glance at the controls, and without even a question get to work.

Within a half an hour, he came back over after inspecting my work. Was I REALLY serious about a bus ticket out of town? If not, he wanted to hire me full-time right now. He was gearing up for what looks to be a busy season, and it looked like I had the skills he could use.

By 2PM, he had repeated the offer and pointed me towards some local housing options for folks in my situation. He asked me to come in early in the AM to get the paperwork done, and to keep working.

I told him I’d be in around 6. That drew even more shock.

Freshly showered, freshly employed in 96 hours, more or less. I almost feel human again, because somebody decided to take a risk. In all my rantings and ravings, one thing becomes clearer.

For those that want to try, it can be done. This is the type of country we were MEANT to be. Take risks.

The Sarasota Observer had a story today about the explosion in the homeless population here. This week, I’ll be approaching them with this story about risk…and hoping they take a risk on me just like that small business did.

“Your Papers Are Not In Order”

Both job opportunities in Sarasota fell through, and the third in Tampa isn’t returning my calls, or my numerous frantic emails.
For those following along with the “Play At Home” game, an old joke comes to mind. “What do you call a busload of lawyers going over a bridge?”
“A good start.”
For me, the same thing could be said about HR hiring managers. We have created in this country the ultimate oligarch position, that of gatekeeper to getting or finding a job. There is one opening, yet the average HR manager will interview thirty or forty candidates before settling on one.
In truth, they are there to PREVENT you from getting a job. Yes, I have limited certified qualifications. I’m in front of you. I’m ready to work. I have NEVER been arrested. I’ll pass any drug test you put in front of me.
Just with those three, I’m ahead of 70% of the population…but it still isnt enough.
If the job becomes vacant within a year, it was obviously the WRONG one. IF you own a business with more than twenty employees, and it takes your HR staffer more than a day to fill a vacancy, fire them. Hire the next person to walk through the door. They may not have all the qualifications, but they’ll be a damned sight more grateful…and loyal.
Radio buddy Chuck Igo passed along a posting from Journalism Jobs for a gig here. I sent in my resume, and got an email back. They’ve already focused on two candidates, but remarked I had the oddest cover letter they had ever seen. They want to talk tomorrow about some possible freelance work.
Sometimes, it pays to be odd.
I’m sitting at the local Labor Ready franchise, hoping to get re-registered today and get some day work. Later when it comes to find a place to sleep, I’ll have to drop back five yards and punt.
Coffee, it is my friend.

Last night, I ended up crashing behind another LR type franchise, waiting for them to open. When I finally got in, the dude confessed that he din’t have much work, and that half the guys sitting there were not likely to get out today.
More words about the Florida state bird, the mosquito. These smart ones seem to have found the perfect spot for biting, that area just above the cleft of your ass. That single spot inflicts more itching than anything I’ve ever seen before. They seem to have bitten me all along the sweat-line of the frame pack.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep trudging along, hoping to find a gig. Hat Tip to Rebecca for sending me a Dunkies gift card.
I’ve even started looking at the local shelters. I don’t WANT to do this, but the reality of getting by on a few hours or less a night is starting to zombie out my face a bit. I’d take a pic, but it’s too close to Halloween to be frightening the children.
No lizards last night, but a feral cat did wander up to the tiny area behind the labor place that I had crashed. Seems even feral cats know cat people. She got some slim-jims.
Today’s hat tips to the folks at Guy Force Cycle in Bradenton that let me charge up my laptop and phone for a half hour. I’ll be asking Jason Grimes of Northeast Chop Shop to buy these guys a few beers at bike week.
UPDATE: The newspaper job already has two candidates in mind…and there is no way to get there. Labor Ready was a bust, seems the fine folks at the Portland location managed to FUCK UP MY PAPERWORK. Yes, I’m partially in the system…but not enough to get dispatched.
Of note: There is nobody in the state of Florida that will employ you without a copy of your Birth Certificate. I had one with me, but now its among the missing items. Damn pixies. In a state obsessed with birtherism, you’d thing a drivers license, a state ID, a passport and an immunization record would be enough. NOPE. They nned to see an “original” copy of your BC…begging the question.
JUST EXACTLY WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE POINT IN E-VERIFY!
Coming to the end of my rope, and my patience.

Laundry In A Strange City

   Walked out of Tampa, headed towards Bradenton. The walk was a bit longer than I expected. I managed to make it part of the way (13.7 miles) in five and a half hours, before coming to a collapse behind a Wal-Mart in Gibsonton.

   Monday morning, I caught a regional bus that dragged me a bit further down the road. When catching a regional transport, pay close attention to those tiny maps. There was a missing section on mine…which led to a potential walk down US Route 41 of about 26 miles.

   After about five of them in the Florida sun, I was spent. Climbed off the road into the puckers and set up the hammock to grab a few hours of sleep. Note: Even when you hang your frame pack in a tree, you still end up with a few thousand extra fiery red hitch-hiking ants.

   Another note: There must be something in the New England bloodstream, a collection of the fugitive red dye from the hot dogs and the remnants of B&M baked beans that turns the Florida Mosquito into a blood crazed zombified relentless eating machine. More so than normal, the first one seemed to grab a quick snack, and suddenly holler out a wolf-whistle alert to a few million of his cousins.

   Hat tips to my friend Ted for roadside assistance, ditto to Curtis for what he called “Appalachian Trail Rescue Service.”

   After that nap, the road seemed endless. A woman saw my sign for Sarasota and road me the entire 20 miles I had left to walk…more road angels coming to the aid of a foolish man.

   It’s 12:30 at night, and what am I doing? I’m sitting at an all night coin-op laundry on Route 41 washing out the fetid remnants. I couldn’t resist a jump in the bay, even after dark. It seemed funny looking West at the water instead of East.

   Interview in the morning for the new gig. Yes, the world spins quickly, and long walks make it spin faster.

  Still can’t get over all the damned lizards. It’s like being stuck in a live action version of “Rango.”