Friday, December 28, 2012

Dec. 28. 1974 By James Schuyler

The plants against the light
which shines in (it's four o'clock)
right on my chair: I'm in my chair:
are silhouettes, barely green,
growing black as my eyes move right,
right to where the sun is.
I am blinded by a fiery circle:
I can't see what I write. A man
comes down iron stairs (I
don't look up) and picks up brushes
which, against a sonata of Scriabin's,
rattle like wind in a bamboo clump.
A wooden sound, and purposeful footsteps
softened by a drop-cloth-covered floor.
To be encubed in flaming splendor,
one foot on a Chinese rug, while
the mad emotive music
tears at my heart. Rip it open:
I want to cleanse it in an icy wind.
And what kind of tripe is that?
Still, last night I did wish—
no, that's my business and I
don't wish it now. "Your poems,"
a clunkhead said, "have grown
more open." I don't want to be open,
merely to say, to see and say, things
as they are. That at my elbow
there is a wicker table. Hortus
Second says a book. The fields
beyond the feeding sparrows are
brown, palely brown yet with an inward glow
like that of someone of a frank good nature
whom you trust. I want to hear the music
hanging in the air and drink my
Coca-Cola. The sun is off me now,
the sky begins to color up, the air
in here is filled with wildly flying notes.
Yes, the sun moves off to the right
and prepares to sink, setting,
beyond the dunes, an ocean on fire.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advocate for the Homeless

Please ask James Cappelman, alderman of the 46th ward of Chicago—WHY are you shutting down a program for elderly, disabled homeless men right now, in the middle of winter, at Christmas?

And if his office says they are not shutting it down but that the men can use REST, then ask the alderman WHERE will the elderly, disabled homeless men go during the day when they must leave the building?

And HOW the men with Stage 4 cancer and using walkers and canes will be able to do all this transitioning?

Ask James Cappelman: WHY are you shutting down an existing program that is already funded and in place and working well at CCO?

Tel: 773-878-4646
Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago supports Cornerstone Community Outreach and loves our programs!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thank You

The more I live, a little over 50 years, the more I am boondoogled, dismayed, broken and built up, discouraged to the point of wishing I’d never been born, left decrying America land of the free, suffused with gratitude, speechless at the kindness of strangers, the common heart that beats within all of us, the evil that resides in all of us, the sense that it is gonna take years for things to change, and wishing that things would stay the same, all the time and forever.

This year I have seen death, not just death but disappointment, people I thought I could trust turn against me, claim they never knew me—and people who never knew me give of themselves in abundance, the least of these, without any means, turn around and love me.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

You know who you are, all of the above.

And, especially Aunt Jean, whose benevolence to us all was exhibited in her stories and kind deeds.

Jean Merrill, author of The Pushcart War
 Her books embrace themes she was passionate about: the struggle of little people over larger powers, the need to preserve the world around us, and the virtue of non-conformity. These ideas resonate with children and The Pushcart War is still used in fifth and sixth grade classrooms around the world. It is considered a landmark children’s book of the 20th century.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Let's Talk About It

This is the AR-15 rifle also referred to as the .223 rifle, a civilian version of the U.S. military's standard-issue M-16, as intended "for law enforcement, security and private consumer use."

The Bushmaster .223 comes with a 30-round magazine, enabling the shooter to fire all 30 rounds, one for each pull of the trigger, in a minute or less. John Allen Muhammad, the D.C. sniper, and his youthful accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, used a Bushmaster .223 in nine of 10 sniper-style murders that terrorized the Washington area in 2002.

Many AR-15s have ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel pistoleros, including the Bushmaster .223 that was later used to kill four police officers and three secretaries in Acapulco.
Since the federal law banning assault weapons expired in 2004, the weapons are sold legally but the purchasers must sign a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives document saying they are buying the guns for themselves.

The NRA decries the name "assault weapon" and refers to high-powered guns as "modern sporting rifles."

Timeline of Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting:
9:30 A.M. gunman forces himself into building, armed with .223 AR-15 rifle plus handguns
9:36 A.M. 911 call received
9:38 A.M. by all accounts shooting spree ended, gunman plus 25 others dead or dying

So essentially 8 minutes is all it took for the .223 assault rifle to do its job.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Year Hence

It was one year ago December 11th that Dad passed away.
Just wanted to re-post my eulogy for him. Still coming to grips (gripes?) with his death and the aftermath. We weren't a tight-knit, cozy family and now there is very little that draws us together.

Dad--you are missed.

More on this Same Subject From a Fellow Blogger

This is from Jeremy Nichols @ Setting Prisoners Free

George: Homeless and Fragile...

My co-worker introduced George to me....

He looked like an fragile old white man; he was scruffy, pale and scrawny, he had a dazed and glazed look in his eyes and when he spoke, we struggled to find any rationality or logic in his words. George seemed to be unsure who he was, where he was and what he was doing.

And then there was something that made this whole situation worse; this fragile old man, who could barely stand up, was homeless! Yes, homeless! Homeless in the dead of winter! Homeless and struggling to survive. Homeless and lacking any sense of direction. Homeless and sick. Homeless and alone. Homeless and fragile!

As with a number of our participants, George carried a paper bag, (protected by a plastic bag), full of his myriad of medications. He had a host of medical issues that were triggered by a failing liver, kidney problems and sarcoidosis, causing this poor fragile man to be rotating in and out of hospitals. The cost of these serious sicknesses caused George to be a very expensive man.

On this particular day, he was scheduled to sleep with all the other men at Epworth Gym. Every morning and evening, these men have to walk a mile to and from their sleeping spot and our daytime drop-in center. As we observed George wandering aimlessly and missing vital check-in times, we knew the Gym wouldn't work for him and he needed to go to a Nursing Home. We honestly thought he had dementia. We knew, there was no way he would last at the Gym, so we made calls and got him accepted into a local Nursing Home...

...but there was one major problem! He didn't want to go, he blatantly refused and we can't force people to do what they don't want to do!

In response to this new dilemma, we had George to live on the 4th floor among our homeless families. For a few years, we'd been housing about 30 older, disabled and sickly men in 5 private rooms. I must admit, I didn't think George would last up there also, I thought he was too sick. Our plan was temporary and my intention was to convince him to go to this Nursing Home.

It took only 3 days for me to realize how very wrong I was. George immediately became my number one example of how important these 5 rooms are for elderly single men; I quickly discovered that he didn't need a Nursing Home; he needed rest, he needed to get off his feet, he needed routine so he could take his gobs of medication correctly, he needed a shower and he needed to regularly eat healthy meals. The beds on 4th floor did all these things and even more; what I witnessed, I'd seen with some other men, but George's transformation was truly miraculous! It took only 3 days and I was looking at a new man. Here he was, surprisingly rational and looking remarkably healthier.

What was also remarkable; during George's stint in our senior program, he hardly ever needed to go the hospital. The harm was being reduced and he was functioning well.

Unless you walk the walk of homelessness, or at the very least, view it first hand like I do every day, it's hard to comprehend the physical toll that never-ending wandering, lines and lack of sleep takes on someone's body. It's also hard to comprehend how devastating a lack of regular food and medicine can be on somebody's health, especially if that somebody anxiously sleeps in the park or on trains, especially if that somebody fears about whether they'll be attacked and not see the morning. The homeless lifestyle is hard enough on a healthy 30 year old, let alone someone older like George, especially someone who also lives with a severely compromised immune system.

read more here, also picture of George:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Screed on Ageism

It’s that time of year—when people decry the war on Christmas. Lately, though, I’ve been noticing another war, a silent war—on the elderly.

This is not exactly a marginal population, but rather a sizeable chunk of America. Actually world-wide demographics are shifting as young people are delaying marriage, children, often times full-time employment. The recession/depression probably has a lot to do with this. But the Baby Boomers were always going to get older, always going to suck the life out of Medicare and Social Security.

Between the shelter (CCO) and a retirement community where I write up resident’s life stories (Friendly Towers), I know quite a few seniors on fixed incomes. There really isn’t a lot of extra. This month both of these programs have been impacted by a war on the elderly.

At CCO the director has been very deliberate about going out to the parks, the loading docks of abandoned warehouses, searching under the city’s viaducts for people sleeping rough, out in the cold and all kinds of weather. She has had to convince many of these homeless individuals to come to the shelter. I really can’t get into all the causes of homelessness. There are many. But suffice it to say that many of these people just want to be left alone. They’ve been alone for years, and now many are aging out in the parks, out in the dark. Quite a few are dying. Cancer, etc.

After some coaxing Sandy Ramsey recruited a few of these individuals and allotted space at the shelter where they could live out their last days. Literally. Between ignoring health danger signs and the years of sleeping rough, many of these men and women are in frail condition. One problem is that quite a few of them have fallen into the cracks—of a government system set up with safety nets. For one reason or another they’ve been unable to collect benefits or have no permanent address in which to receive mail. Or have been cut off.

Now this program at the shelter is being shut down. Neighborhood politics, basically Not In My Backyard, has put external pressure on the shelter to clear out the older men. The alderman put a deadline: by the end of the year. Merry Christmas! and, by the way, good riddance. Sandy and other CCO staff have been working tirelessly to find studios, small subsidized apartments for these guys.

That’s the other squeaky wheel. Many of the units that once were available for those on fixed incomes has been consistently dwindling in Chicago. In the Uptown neighborhood alone there has been a marked decrease. There are senior buildings with long waiting lists and that require supplemental income. Anyone trying to survive on their SS check alone have very little choice. In addition, a real estate company has been buying up SROs (single room occupancy, perfect for individuals on fixed income, much like a hotel room) and converting them to FLATS. Which is what? It’s still just a small studio, literally a 12 x 12 room—for young renters looking for something a step up from a hostel, giving them flexibility without complicated leases and with all the modern amenities—cable and wireless. Some even come furnished. This is a great no-hassle idea—for about $1000 - $1,300 a month. Before the rehab they were maybe $350 – 400 a month—for our clients this was DO-ABLE.

At Friendly Towers many of the residents are seeing cuts in benefits, lose of food stamps. Without getting into particulars, it seems like a shame. Are these really the people to target to reduce government waste?

Now I’m hearing on TV that Congress wants to raise the minimum age for Social Security and Medicare to 67. Why not 70 or 79 or 100? Some of the seniors I know have been waiting years for health care, for dental work, for cost of living increases. They are just getting by. And, of course, I’m not getting any younger either. I’m at the tail-end of the Baby Boomer Boom, and will likely have no place I can afford to live, minimal benefits (if any), and a healthcare system riddled with co-pays and complicated paperwork. Thank God for generics!

So this season say a prayer for older people. The ones whose Christmas is looking a little shaky and the future not so bright.
Successfully housed

Thursday, December 6, 2012

“December” by James Schuyler

Il va neiger dans quelques jours FRANCIS JAMMES
The giant Norway spruce from Podunk, its lower branches bound,
this morning was reared into place at Rockefeller Center.
I thought I saw a cold blue dusty light sough in its boughs
the way other years the wind thrashing at the giant ornaments
recalled other years and Christmas trees more homey.
Each December! I always think I hate “the over-commercialized event”
and then bells ring, or tiny light bulbs wink above the entrance
to Bonwit Teller or Katherine going on five wants to look at all
the empty sample gift-wrapped boxes up Fifth Avenue in swank shops
and how can I help falling in love? A calm secret exultation
of the spirit that tastes like Sealtest eggnog, made from milk solids,
Vanillin, artificial rum flavoring; a milky impulse to kiss and be friends
It’s like what George and I were talking about, the East West
Coast divide: Californians need to do a thing to enjoy it.
A smile in the street may be loads! you don’t have to undress everybody.
                                    “You didn’t visit the Alps?”
                                    “No, but I saw from the train they were black
                                    and streaked with snow.”
Having and giving but also catching glimpses
hints that are revelations: to have been so happy is a promise
and if it isn’t kept that doesn’t matter. It may snow
falling softly on lashes of eyes you love and a cold cheek
grow warm next to your own in hushed dark familial December.
How many  of us have felt this way? A bit jaded about the holiday. Why not? I mean everyone else is so over the top. At least on TV or at the Target down the street. You almost feel like going to sleep and waking up in January--or spring--or in the Bahamas.

You might not start out this way. After a long drought and an even longer Recession, you may be ready for a chance to celebrate. But, soon, all the stress, the time constraints, the never-ending parties, all the eating, and requests for donations, cookies, cupcakes, and loud television ads, and annoying Facebook pop-ups, the incredible traffic at the mall, the broken ornaments,
and prickly pine needles, e-mail newsletters from old friends that always start off with all the fantastic things happening in their life: the trips, the kids, the graduations, the new jobs--and soon you feel like a total mess. And, on top, of that, you may be by yourself. You've lost both parents, your son or daughter isn't on speaking terms anymore, the divorce has separated you from the grandkids, and the few friends you still occasionally see are ill or struggling with health issues. Or voted Republican and can no longer abide the sight of you--after so many years. 

Yet. Even though--the weather is not cooperating and the mail doesn't bring cards and the stupid radio won't stop playing Rock'n Around the Christmas Tree and now it loops inside your head--you hear a faint pealing and look up and the bells at Saint Mary of the Lake are ringing and the pine tar smell of Christmas trees drifts over from the corner lot where old guys are hanging out and warming their fingerless gloved hands over a burning trash barrel, and for a brief moment your heart quickens and the Christmas spirit ever-so faint begins to flicker. 

You might return to disappointment, to kicking the radio down the stairs, to overeating without satisfaction. But, you will remember and know that underneath all the hype and the jingoistic Reason for the Season that hope indeed did come into the world.


Monday, December 3, 2012


Here is a timely word (see my last post) from my office mate Tammy Perlmutter with her poem introducing 
this Advent season--and HOPE
"A Hope That Doesn't Disappoint" By Tammy Perlmutter