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Over Easy: Embracing Bohemianism

4:46 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Stray Shopping Cart

photo by timbrauhn on flickr.

Good morning everyone. Since we were having internet broadband connection problems last night, I am re-posting this non-fiction essay from last year, and I hope you enjoy it. It is on par with some discussions we were having last week at Over Easy, about homelessness and poverty in general. Please feel welcome to share your experiences. Off-topic is welcome as well.

Embracing Bohemianism

There was a time, early in my dumpster diving and scavenging life when I clung to the notion that somehow, some way, I would have a lot of money, and things would be wonderful. By scavenging, I mean this in the truest sense. There was a Labor Ready close by, but it was always packed, and if you were not a connected regular worker, days could pass without work and so, I looked for coins in the street. One coin leads to almost always another nearby. Fast-food drive through windows were the best places to search for breeding loose change.

My feet hurt all the time. There is no real place to sit in any given urban area. It can take all day to put a meal together because this place that has this thing for these few cents can be very far from that one. Sometimes I would sit, on a curb, to rest my feet and study people. Here is what one who fits into society puts into a shopping cart at the grocery.

Weekend shopping carts were the best to watch because many people with lives shopped on the weekend. They could not only afford to eat, they could also afford to wash clothes. They had dishes and they could wash them. They rushed and rushed, all the time. Groceries, appointments, lessons, kids. Rush, rush, drive and park. Rush in and rush out. In and out the aisles, up and down the stairs, a non-push push here, a little shove there, rush, rush. Everyone had a phone and every call was as if it were the last phone call ever to be placed; everything was important to everyone.

I studied and studied: There is what one wears. Here is what one drives. Here is one who maintains a lawn. This one has made beds and not just mattresses. Everything matches. There is never, ever less than everything. Everything for the car, everything for the kid, everything for the home. I’ll just bet, I would think to myself, that these are some underpants people. One clean pair for each day of the week, I’m certain of it.

I studied and studied, so that someday, when I had a life just like those people, I would be ready. I would know what to buy, and what to wear to buy it, and how to cut my hair and what toothpaste to use for the whitest teeth, what car to be seen in, what gym to be seen at, what detergent for the most gleaming clothes. I could drink with the shopping cart people someday because the ads everywhere assured me I could. Casually not checking the level in my glass, I could drink and be younger and thinner and sexier and funnier, because people who fit into society, of course, don’t have a half gallon of Popov vodka under the kitchen sink, and they are not sitting in a room, in a worn-out recliner, twisting the window shades shut to make sure the passing public is not aware.

I studied and studied, so that someday, when I had a life, the only thing that I would ever be tired from would be my wonderful, lucrative job where I was admired and constantly promoted. I would go out to dinner, go to the park, attend important meetings where I would make important decisions, supervise people and projects, tell people that my schedule was too busy just now, could we do this say, next week. I would drink designer cups of coffee with all the right people in all the right places and plan more coffee time with more people.

I would have people in my life who would ask, so that I could tell them these things and make these plans.

During my studies, my curb was not always solitary. But it was always anonymous, which was absolutely perfect, because the non-distance distance allowed me to shock, comfort, and then leave the company of wandering curb dwellers. I could say anything from So how much time did you do this last time, to Boy do I ever remember living on a plane all the time. I could curb-blend. I had no idea how to blend in with the socially acceptable groups I studied, but this was minor. It would come with time, teeth, looks, youth, money, and a home packed with beautiful things and visited by gardeners and housekeepers.

On my curb, I was lower than some and higher than others, and a perfect judge of everyone.

The shopping cart underpants people were a blast to judge: I’ll just bet this one is sleeping with that one and lying about it to this other one and milking this from that one and cooking the books and showing up a little too late and a little too hung over. Well, they kind of made it easy to be supreme judge because they talked about themselves all the time and always loud because I was just a nobody on a curb, who would shut up for that? The lower people were no match for my curb-gavel, I mean, I’ve hit the skids, but at least I’m not walking around the park asking strangers for money.

I did not know any of these people and I judged them all, every last one of them, from my curb courtroom. The court of last resort. I judged the cart people because I wanted to be the cart people. That way, other cart people would like me.

Today, I subsist on what people throw away. I do not have the wonderful job or the money or the possessions that I once wanted and thought I needed. I notice more because I am not in a hurry. I do not judge people anymore. I am just fine, being who I am, and being poor. It is more than enough.

Bohemianism and its elements.

The Blue Taffeta Dress

5:38 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Alice Heun: The Corn Crib, 1934

Alice Heun: The Corn Crib, 1934 photo by Smithsonian American Art Museum/flickr

note: I don’t have any money, but listening to this guy makes me want to find some. Check this out, great way to raise money BTW:

This is a story from the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of three organized community activities in a small rural farming community in Missouri during the 1930s.

The Blue Taffeta Dress

While we worked hard on the farm during the drought years in the mid-1930s, we also set aside three days each year for entertainment. These days were community organized and structured fun that everyone looked forward to and talked about all year.

Each autumn we had a pie supper at the rural school that served as our community center. The idea was that a woman, or usually a girl baked a pie, and the pies were auctioned off. The auctioneer, who was sometimes my father, would hold up the pie and chant, “Now what am I to give for this pie, ten cents who’ll give me ten cents, ten, and raise it to fifteen, ah fifteen and twenty, twenty cents over here and thirty thirty do I hear forty…” A girl would want a good price for her pie, and she may say, “My, they paid a dollar for my pie!” Many of the pies were milk-based custards because mince was too expensive. Pumpkin, squash and apple pies were popular, and on occasion when someone could afford raisins, there was raisin pie.

The rule was that the man who bought the pie shared the pie with the girl who baked it. The quality of the pie didn’t have much to do with the price of eggs, it was the gathering and the fun that mattered. The people would gossip about the drought and gossip about their kids, and interject with who bought what pie for how much by saying things like, “Yeah, you know, he bought her pie.” Nobody ever kept any of the money for the pies. The funds went into the school.

On the last day of school, every woman in the community brought something to eat to the annual basket dinner at school. Women took a great deal of pride in what they brought, whether it was pickles, beans, apple butter or other dishes, so the basket dinner was both contest and entertainment. The women put the food out on the ground for all to enjoy, and we ate on the ground. Some of the coal miner kids were too poor to bring food, but the country people were very generous, so the kids all got to eat.

There was no separation of church and state back in those days, so the next big event, the Christmas program, was held either at the school or at the church, and everyone started planning for it in October. We had an old piano with missing keys and back then no one looked askance that we sang religious songs and Christmas carols. The kids gave speeches and participated in plays that were read from a Depression-era book with scripts. The dialogue was humorous or it delivered some sort of a lesson, but it was all copied, sometimes from Charles Dickens and often from other sources. The names of some of the plays were: Mr. Dash Goes Shopping, Tramp at the Picnic, Change of Heart, and Too Much Spending, but there were others.

I often had a part in the Christmas play, but I never had any decent clothes until 1932 when my Grandpa went blind. My dad took him to California on a train because it was better for my grandfather to be with kinfolks in California who had a little more money. My dad returned with two avocados. We had never seen an avocado and did not quite know what to do with them, so my mother cut them into pieces and put them in the flour bin. We would get a piece, shake the flour off and cut it into bites. My cousin in California with money gave my dad a blue taffeta dress for me, and this put me in a world of my own. It had a lace collar and lace cuffs and nobody that I knew ever had a blue taffeta dress with a lace collar and lace cuffs. My cousin did stage dancing, so she had plenty of access to nice clothes.

I decided to wear the dress for my part in the Christmas play.

The play said that I had to have chewing gum, so I got a stick of chewing gum, but I did not know what to do with chewing gum, so I rolled it on my fingers. The gum got stuck on the blue taffeta dress. I was frantic and nearly forgot my lines, the dress was not washable and I did not want my mother to know, but I had to tell her. My mother figured out that if we put ice on the dress it would freeze the gum so that I could pull it off. So, I am in the back yard with the blue dress in the snow because we did not have any ice to put on the dress.

I wore that blue taffeta dress until I could no longer squeeze myself into it, and years later, I visited my cousin in a nursing home, and told her how much that blue dress meant to me.

note: The scripts in the playbook from that time are fascinating, and will be the subject of a future essay, as they reflect the culture of the time.

A Kernel of Wheat

6:21 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

This is a true account of two farming community events during the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87

Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939

Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939 By americanartmuseum
Smithsonian American Art Museum, creative commons, flickr

Author’s note: For those of you following the current drought, here are some corn and soybean pictures I snapped yesterday, in Western Tennessee, at the Kentucky border. Thrashing of the wheat, an activity that is one of the subjects of this post, is something I had to ask my mother about. I was not sure when they did this, because we are not seeing much wheat these days.

Drought Stressed Corn Western Tennessee/Kentucky Border

Corn, Drought2012, click to enlarge. Or not. It’s pretty sad.

Drought soybeans

soybeans, Drought2012, click to enlarge.

A Kernel of Wheat
Western Missouri, 1932

Of all farming activities we performed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, two were notable because they involved the whole community: thrashing of the wheat, and butchering the animals. Summer thrashing of the wheat was the most exciting time of the year because it was a social time rolled into sustenance activity.

The thrashing machine, or, in modern spelling, threshing machine (or simply thresher), was a machine first invented by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for use in agriculture. It was invented (c.1784) for the separation of grain from stalks and husks. For thousands of years, grain was separated by hand with flails, and was very laborious and time consuming. Mechanization of this process took much of the drudgery out of farm labour.

Source.
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Seasonal Farming Tasks in the Great Depression

8:00 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Old Horse Drawn Corn Planter

old horse drawn corn planter by Colbyt69, creative commons, flickr.

This is a true story from the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of various farming tasks during the historic drought years of the mid-1930s.

Seasonal Farming Tasks in the Great Depression

In the spring of each year, the community farmers watched the sky and talked with each other in church about when to prepare the fields for planting. For corn, the fields had to be plowed and harrowed, and then the rows were set. The implements used to plow, break up and smooth the soil and form rows were horse-drawn. After the fields were prepared for planting, corn planters were also hitched to horses. A container on the corn planter was set to click open every three feet or so, and release three kernels of corn to the soil. So far, we are talking about mechanization.

The mechanization ended after the planting of the kernels. The next task involved human hands that belonged to kids, for the most part. Once the corn plants were about two inches tall, the kids in the community crawled up and down the corn rows, inspecting each three-plant corn hill, taking visual inventory. We crawled down each row with a knife and a bucket of kernels, to see if three plants were in each cluster. Less than three plants in a hill meant that there was a cutworm in the soil, dining. We dug and chopped the worm, and replaced the eaten kernel with the new kernel. This task was called “replanting the corn,” and if you were a kid, you got that assignment. Replanting the corn was labor intensive and ritually performed every year. In church, farmers would ask each other, “Did you replant your corn yet?”
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Days on the Farm in 1934

5:48 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Dust

photo by Robb North on creative commons, flickr

This is a true story from the Great Depression, as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of days on a small Western Missouri farm during the drought of the 1930s.

Days on the Farm in 1934

Mom had malaria fever and we had to have her outside. Old Doc Martin, the county doctor, had visited and given my mother quinine. He told us that we had to keep her cool, and that we had to have a block of ice. On the rare occasions that Doc Martin visited, he left with a chicken because we had no money to pay him. Sometimes, he politely declined to take a chicken.

After the doctor left with his chicken, we decided to move outside because we did not have ten cents to buy a block of ice for Mom. The farm houses during the Great Depression had small windows because there was no insulation and no such thing as double-paned windows. Some rooms in the farm houses had no windows at all; there was no breeze in the house. We had no electricity and no fan.

We moved a mattress outside to underneath a tree for Mom. Pop and I moved our comfort and pillows outside as well, and we stayed next to her. We did not have mattresses. There was only the three of us now because my siblings were older and they were gone. That left Mom, Pop and I to tend to the farm. Mom was born in 1889 and was now 45 years old. I was nine. My responsibility now was to care for Mom and for the small animals on the farm. Pop told me not to worry about the big animals, so, during the day, Pop tended to the fields and to the cows and horses, and I tended to Mom and to the chickens, ducks and geese.

On her mattress, Mom would rave and cry and thrash. She was out of her mind and she didn’t know me. She had a roaring fever and there was nowhere to get cool. It did not rain that year until the first snow fell in the fall. Since we did not have ice, I would lower rags in a bucket on a rope into the well to cool them, and then I would wash Mom’s face and hands with the cool rags. We shared the well with the snakes that had gravitated there out of thirst. The well was our refrigerator.

During that summer, also know as a historic Dust Bowl year, we had 53 days that exceeded 100 degrees. Today, every acre is planted, but back then there were not as many roots in the soil to stabilize it; the wind roiled up large clouds of dust. Every living thing on the farm was thirsty, and while my dad was in the fields I dipped well water for the chickens, ducks and geese, and also for Mom. We lived like this, just surviving, hour after hour, day after day. My mom was so sick there were days she didn’t remember.

One day, I thought my mom had died. She was unresponsive to me, and I was so scared. I ran, terrified, to my dad, who was plowing with the mule on the back forty (literally). Pop tied the reins- the mule was a good mule- he wouldn’t go anywhere- Pop tied the reins onto the mule and we both ran back to Mom on her mattress. I was too young to see my mother suffer and die like this under my care. I was so scared because I was responsible for her and if she died I had only myself to blame. Seeing my mother like that haunts and saddens me to this day.

Mom was not dead. She was very hot. We shook her and rolled her and washed her face with cool rags from the well. Eventually she recovered and learned to walk again, but the malaria symptoms recurred in the following years.

During those hot and dry days on the farm, it wasn’t just me and Mom. All of the animals were thirsty and hot- the cows, calves, horses,chickens, ducks and geese- I dipped the well water for them all. My dad was a saint. He never got angry and he never asked for help with the big animals. He told me not to worry, he’d take care of the cows and horses. Pretty much all we had to eat was cornbread, and Pop often made the cornbread out of cornmeal, soured milk and flour in the mornings. At some point, he was able to save enough to get some coal oil burners.

Mom lay on her mattress in her ragged dress and she cried. Pop washed her face and held her hands. His real name was Olando John, and there was never a better man the good Lord ever made.

note: The Dust Bowl years were three consecutive years of drought during the Great Depression. On the description “53 days over 100,” go here to view historic records compared to present day.

Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by a protist. More here.

Also, the picture above has the following caption and description:

Dust

The human crisis was documented by photographers, musicians, and authors, many hired by various federal agencies. The Farm Security Administration hired numerous photographers, giving Dorothea Lange her start, in which she made a name for herself while capturing the impact of the storms and families of migrants. The work of independent artists such as folk singer Woody Guthrie and novelist John Steinbeck grew out of the events of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Go to the Ant: Our Summer Dumpster Diving Update

11:54 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Ant

photo by jasonbolonski under creative commons, flickr

Proverbs 6:6 HNV
Hebrew Names Version
Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise; Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

slug·gard/ˈsləgərd/
Noun:
A lazy, sluggish person.
Synonyms:
idler – lazybones – slacker – loafer – slug

For folks who do not know us, we self-describe as poor but not miserable. Like many others in America’s ninety-nine percent, we cope with ongoing issues associated with an economy in decline. We consider ourselves fortunate to have our health. Mason received his Medicare card today. I thought that meant that he has health care now, but there is no coverage for medication, so, you know. I suppose if he gets his head chopped off, he can go to the hospital. But whatever. We are happy to have that, at least.

Since November of 2010, we have been eating out of dumpsters. We quit scrapping for metal a while back, and our vehicles now are a motorcycle and two bicycles. We continue to eat well, and we have not been sick since we started dumpster-eating. ‘Our’ favorite food dumpster is dive-friendly, so it receives many visitors.

Yesterday’s dive was a near disaster, because when we rolled in on our motorcycle and parked, the chicken lady was already there. We’ve seen the chicken lady before, driving a long bed pickup truck, but this time, she had a van. We call her the chicken lady because she claims to dive this particular dumpster to feed her chickens, because it is so expensive to feed chickens. Of course, and the chicken lady admitted as much, chickens don’t care for the likes of huge bags of red potatoes and assorted working, boxed, new-with-tags kitchen appliances, but it is none of my concern, really, who eats what. Unless, that is, there is nothing left for our small backpacks.

Me: This is a disaster. It’s the chicken lady.

Him: Yup. And look. She’s got a van.

Me: She’s gonna fill that van like a bank robber. We’re not gonna eat tonight unless we do something.

Him: Like what?

Me: Park this thing. We’ll sit on the curb right next to the dumpster with our little backpacks and just, like, look pathetic.

So, that’s what we did. The chicken lady is really sweet, by the way, red-cheeked embarrassed, always explaining her hungry chicken situation, but I have to say, she puts seasoned dumpster divers to shame. She is extremely thorough, like that other guy I dive a different dumpster with who always shows up packing and gives away everything he collects to needy children. He does that, BTW, when he is not in Nashville, making his records. Turns out, he is a singer. I will not name him, but I say this only to put the lie to any dumpster diver stereotypes that MSM may want us to conjure in our wildest imagination.

What are we eating this summer? Well, I have stuffed myself sick with strawberries, for one thing. The rest of the list: apples, red onions, potatoes (red and bakers), cauliflower, broccoli, bagged organic salads, bread, hamburger,hamburger buns, thin-sliced steaks, London broil, stew meat, ground chicken (you have to be careful with poultry in the heat, but we got this still cold), top sirloin steaks, carrots, beefsteak tomatoes, oranges, cantaloupe, pears, zucchini and yellow squash, danish sticky buns with nuts, soda, hot dogs, hot dog buns, kielbasa,chips, salsa, cheese puffs, crackers, onion ring puffs and blueberries. Oh. And that to-die-for Fage Greek yogurt. I am almost sorry I found that yogurt because it is so unbelievably good that I now buy it when we have money. Better than sour cream, I could almost swear it is mislabeled sour cream.

What else? Well, garbage bags are expensive, even at the Dollar Store that isn’t really the Dollar Store. It is the Six Dollar Store. So, I visit a dumpster where donated items have been emptied from black bags, and I re-use the dry bags. The last time I was in a dumpster with my singer friend, I actually got, believe it or not, garbage bags, along with as many books as I could stuff into my backpack. As long as I am in confession mode, there is the toilet paper issue, which I would not mention but for a conversation we had with our neighbors (working poor) who mentioned occasional visits to a local fast food chain store that I won’t name, to get toilet paper. After our neighbor confessed, we also confessed, and learned, thankfully that we were sometimes visiting different places for this item of need, and it made me wonder how many ninety-niners are raiding the likes of local chains and big boxes for pockets of paper towel strips.

Driving home after one of these dives, we look like pregnant hippies: Mason has all this shit stuffed in his shirt- he drives- and I lift up his heavy pack and stuff more shit underneath it. Thank goodness for one of those, what do you call them? A sissy bar. Or else I’d be in the street, flat, with a pack full of fruit.

Yesterday, Mason unpacked his backpack and found an ant. He said, “We have to take this ant back to his dumpster. This is not his community. We have to take him back.”

“Put him in this jar,” I said. “I’ll put a snack in the jar with him and we’ll drive him back.”

But, the ant died in the jar, because it turns out there was some liquid, probably cleaning fluid, in the jar.

“Your ant died,” I reported to Mason. “And we’re both going to Hell. We are going to Burn. Like. Twigs. Right there in Hell, waiting in line at the AT&T store to fix our phone bill, in line for hundreds of years with the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. Oh, yes. Hell. The both of us. With the length of Satan’s boot right up our asses.”

Mason was near tears.

So, today, when we picked up our apples and squash and hot dog buns and all, we were very careful to leave the ants, in their own community.

The Lavender Ribbon

7:38 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

This is a story from the Great Depression, as told by Letty Owings, age 88. It is a true account of country school and community.

A one room schoolhouse in the forest.

Photo: James Davidson / Flickr

In rural Missouri during the Great Depression of the 1930s, each elementary school was different. Rather than fit into any pattern, the one-house schools were community governed, and each community had a social stratification. Mine was a mining-farming community, and the farmers lorded it over the miners, even though, in some cases, the miners made more money.

There was supposed to be a county school superintendent, but there was never any factual supervision because the superintendent only visited maybe once a year. Each community had its own clerk, and the school board, which consisted of a half a dozen farmers, decided who was hired in the schools.

The school was supposed to be in session for eight months, but this never happened, because the kids were needed on the farm to work. Usually the school session ended in April, and kids would begin farm work at sunrise.

The school had no electricity, plumbing, or central heat. There was a coal stove in the floor, and if you got too close to it, you roasted. If you got too far, you froze. There were 42-46 kids in the class at any given time, often sharing seats. The room smelled. Impetigo and bronchitis were common and chronic. Kids had sores and coughed all the time. We all shared one dipper, in a cistern. The toilet was an outhouse that was built when the school was built. We sometimes had a Sears Catalog to use in the toilet, but often not. The toilet was never cleaned, because there was no real way to get water to it.

We were not grossly unhappy as school kids. We didn’t know anything else. We did not see ourselves as different compared to others. There was nothing to compare to. There was no radio, TV or newspaper. Nobody ever thought about poverty. It may seem unbelievable to us today, but back then, we never saw anything else. We were six miles from the closest paved road.

It was a stratified society with the miners at the bottom. The miners were often known to drink and beat their wives, but they went to work in what were nothing more than tunnels in the ground. There were no safety regulations, just tunnels. Kids were sent in, and injuries were common.

I rode with my dad, who was a farmer, on a horse, through the community, to record the names of kids who were supposed to be in school. Often, the miners took to the woods when we showed up, or claimed they did not have any children. We knew they did. Many of the homes had no flooring, and one family had buried their dead twins in the floor of the house. The level of humanity was beyond what we can imagine today. We did not think anything about it. Life and death was just all a part of life.

There was no playground at the school, but sometimes the kids had a rope to play with, or, if a kid got a set of jacks for Christmas, we shared those. Tablets cost a nickel and pencils were scarce, so most kids went without. When a pencil got down to the nub, we attached a stick to it. Lunch might be a syrup bucket or an occasional boiled egg and home made bread, but certainly no butter. Kids were often hungry.

The library was an old bookcase in the back, with mainly old agriculture books; the school board decided to have them instead of encyclopedias. Teachers were only required to have some kind of schooling for one year, it didn’t matter what kind of schooling, and there was no certification for teachers. When I was five, I started school, but, the teacher was mean, so I left school and returned in the second grade, which was okay because I could already read.

There were four of us in school who stayed together: Norman, Betty, Pete and I. School kids were constantly in and out of school, with the miners sort of in the shadows, but the four of us stuck together. Norman and I were related. We met when we were both five; his father had gone blind. Betty’s father was a mine superintendent and an alcoholic, and Pete’s mom and dad ran a store in a clapboard shack that they lived in back of. The four of us were inseparable.

The men in the community often went to the pasture to play baseball on Sundays during the Depression, and the kids would go to watch. One Sunday, one of the men hit a ball and then he threw the bat. The bat hit Pete. Pete developed meningitis, and we were never allowed to see him when he got sick. The men would ride on horses around the community to report on Pete’s condition, and we heard of the seizures that would twist his spine. Back then we called them “fits.” There was no medication.

Pete died in August. He was eight years old, and his death affected the whole community. It affected me because we had played together.We had lost somebody, and it was traumatic when there were so few people that we were close to.

I wanted so much to give a gift to Pete.

My mother gave me a nickel to buy a gift. I went to Hicks Store and bought a lavender ribbon. My sister and I picked some day lillies, and we tied the ribbon around them, real pretty.

There was no funeral and the kids were not allowed near the grave. We gave the lillies with the lavender ribbon to somebody to put on the grave, and we stood on the hillside to watch. They were the only flowers Pete had.

Now there were three of us.

Out Of The Dumpster And Into The Crock Pot

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

In a country where nearly forty million daily struggle to get enough food, millions of meals are literally being wasted.

Lost Calories: US trashes $ 1 Bln worth of food (per year, which constitutes 30-50% of produced food)

Please watch this 2 1/2-minute Russia Today clip, which discuses America’s throw away culture even as poverty rises, and features New York and Los Angeles dumpster divers:

Out of the dumpster at 2 PM and into the crock pot at 2:30 PM

This morning for breakfast I had a delicious egg white omelette sandwich, an apple, and coffee. For lunch I ate lean turkey Italian sausage. For dinner, I just finished some delicious leftover crock pot beef stew with sweet onions, spices and red potatoes, that started with Italian salad with caesar dressing. Later on, for desert, I am planning to eat some great big strawberries, because they are in season early due to the unseasonably mild non-climate climate change.

Everything was served on stoneware and eaten with flatware from dumpsters. The coffee brewed in a coffeepot from the dumpster, and currently, in the crock pot, also from a dumpster, is a ham roast so large that even with halving it and trimming it, the lid does not quite fit. After breakfast, I switched from coffee to iced tea; the two drinks I mention here are the only consumable items we purchased. The tea and coffee are always served, of course, in dumpster cups and glasses. Everything else came from the trash. Sometimes for fun, we pull out china and silver plated dinnerware, also from dumpsters, and eat off that.

The ham roast was pulled from the dumpster at 2 PM, and placed into the crock pot at 2:30 PM. We will put the pot on low, and begin eating the roast tomorrow.

To search for the YouTube video from Russia Today (RT), I used a back lit gaming keyboard called a Razer Lycosa, in perfect condition, from a dumpster. The keyboard retails or EBays for $79.99 USD. Then, I listened to the clip with padded Phillips headphones with volume control on the cord, Model SHP 2500, also from a dumpster.

We were beginning to worry. Competition for dumpster food is on the increase as it was with scrapping, which, as you know we quit because the gas was too expensive and the competition for scrap too stiff. By the way, we are saving a fortune in gas on this motorcycle. We do not miss the truck at all.

We know for sure that we have one major new competitor and probably more, at one of our food dumpsters, and while we welcome others who are poor and just now discovering America’s throw away culture, I will say this: Read the rest of this entry →

Embracing Bohemianism

3:13 pm in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Stray Shopping Cart

By timbrauhn under creative commons on flickr.

There was a time, early in my dumpster diving and scavenging career when I clung to the notion that somehow, some way, I would have a lot of money, and things would be wonderful. By scavenging, I mean this in the truest sense. There was a Labor Ready close by, but the place was always packed, and if you were not a connected regular worker, days could pass without work and so, I looked for coins in the street. One coin leads to almost always another nearby. Fast-food drive through windows were the best places to search for breeding loose change.

My feet hurt all the time. There is no real place to sit in any given urban area. It can take all day to put a meal together because this place that has this thing for these few cents can be very far from that one. Sometimes I would sit, on a curb, to rest my feet and study people. Here is what one who fits into society puts into a shopping cart at the grocery.

Weekend shopping carts were the best to watch because people with lives could not only afford to eat, they could also afford to wash clothes. They had dishes and they could wash them. They rushed and rushed, all the time. Groceries, appointments, lessons, kids. Rush, rush, drive and park. Rush in and rush out. In and out the aisles, up and down the stairs, a non-push push here, a little shove there, rush, rush. Everyone had a phone and every call was as if it were the last phone call ever to be placed; everything was important to everyone.

I studied and studied: There is what one wears; Here is what one drives; Here is one who maintains a lawn; There is one who probably has made beds and not just mattresses. Everything matches. There is never, ever less than everything. Everything for the car, everything for the kid, everything matching and complete for everything. I’ll just bet, I would think to myself, that these are some underpants people. One clean pair for each day of the week, I’m certain of it.

I studied and studied, so that someday, when I had a life just like those people, I would be ready. I would know what to buy, and what to wear to buy it, and how to cut my hair and what toothpaste to use for the whitest teeth, what car to be seen in, what gym to be seen at, what detergent for the most gleaming clothes. I could drink with the shopping cart people someday because the ads everywhere assured me I could. Casually not checking the level in my glass, I could drink and be younger and thinner and sexier and funnier, because people who fit into society, of course, don’t have a half gallon of Popov vodka under the kitchen sink, and they are not sitting in a room, in a worn-out recliner, twisting the window shades open and shut just to make sure the passing public is not aware.

I studied and studied, so that someday, when I had a life, the only thing that I would ever be tired from would be my wonderful, lucrative job where I was admired and constantly promoted. I would go out to dinner; go to the park; attend important meetings where I would make important decisions; supervise people and projects, tell people that my schedule was too busy just now, could we do this say, next week; drink designer cups of coffee with all the right people in all the right places; plan more coffee time with more people.

I would have people in my life who would ask, so that I could tell them these things and make these plans.

During my studies, my curb was not always solitary. But it was always anonymous, which was absolutely perfect, because the non-distance distance allowed me to shock, comfort, and then leave the company of wanderering curb dwellers. I could say anything from So how much time did you do this last time, to Boy do I ever remember living on a plane all the time. I could blend. I had no idea how to blend in with the socially acceptable groups I studied, but this was minor. It would come with time, teeth, looks, youth, money, and a home packed with beautiful things and visited by gardeners and housekeepers.

On my curb, I was lower than some and higher than others, and a perfect judge of everyone.

The shopping cart underpants people were a blast to judge: I’ll just bet this one is sleeping with that one and lying about it to this other one and milking this from that one and cooking the books and showing up a little too late and a little too hung over. Well, they kind of made it easy to be supreme judge because they talked about themselves all the time and always loud because I was just a nobody on a curb, who would shut up for that? The lower people were no match for my curb-gavel, I mean, I’ve hit the skids, but at least I’m not walking around the park on the fourth of July asking complete strangers for money.

I did not know any of these people and I judged them all, every last one of them, from my curb courtroom. The court of last resort. I judged the cart people because I wanted to be the cart people. That way, other cart people would like me.

Today, I subsist on what people throw away. I do not have the wonderful job or the money or the possessions that I once wanted and thought I needed. I notice more because I am not in a hurry. For example, where where I live, right on the main road in the middle of town, in a grassy area, are some graves. You can drive by this a thousand times and never even come close to noticing them. I noticed the graves, because I am living and noticing and not just reacting to the latest crisis.

I do not judge people anymore. I am just fine, being who I am, and being poor. It is more than enough.

Bohemianism and its elements.

Central City Concern Letty Owings Center

9:22 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

If you drive past the Letty Owings Center in Northeast Portland, Oregon, you may mistake the house for any other vintage neighborhood home. However, for the women and their babies residing there, the home is the beginning of a new life.

Co-founded in 1989 by retired English teacher Letty Owings and tireless advocate Nancy Anderson, the Letty Owings Center is a treatment center that is unique, in providing both long-term addiction treatment and living skills to pregnant women and women with children.

Mothers in the community mentor mothers at the center. Mothers in the center learn to cook, plan meals, clean house, and engage the children in age-appropriate play. Here is the website.

As of this writing, the Letty Owings Center has changed so many lives for the better that the second generation, the children, are themselves becoming advocates. Take a look at this:

Central City Concern employees work

collaboratively with inter and intra agency partners on the provision
of services needed in all life domains to promote recovery and self sufficiency, and ensuring services are
delivered in accordance to organizational policies and procedures, ASAM criteria, ISSRS, county, state
and federal contract requirements, and other pertinent standards.

We need more programs such as this. Co-founder Nancy Anderson, who has dedicated her life to changing lives, has made a substantial difference directly in the lives of more than 1000 women who would otherwise be locked up or dead, and also in the lives of the children, who would likely become motherless, or themselves addicted, incarcerated or dead.

Letty Owings, who is now elderly, voices concern about the center. Funding cuts may mean that the center will someday be closed. If that happens, many of the clients, totally without resources, may likely be reincarcerated, separated from their children or worse. Letty states, “How would this save any money?”

Put simply, the Central City Concern Letty Owings Center is a home of hope and documented mutli-generational success. It is a wonderful alternative to incarceration and cyclic multi-generational incarceration that is so known to be fraught with recidivism and tragedy.

If you live in the Portland area, please take a moment to learn more about the Central City Concern Letty Owings Center and join six-year-old Zoe in supporting it.

note: Letty Owings is my mother. She is not only larger in life to me. She has been a mother and teacher to many. Letty grew up in poverty, on a farm in Missouri. At age 12, she left home to pursue her education. She is the most amazing teacher I have ever had in my life.

She taught at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego for many years, the best years of my life. To this day we reminisce. The world was different back then.