Jan 27 2006

Roads taken, and not taken


It’s raining out and I’ve spent the last cent I have and can borrow on a room.

I just coughed, and (as I sometimes do now that I’m over 50) I soiled my pants.

And, I wondered, “What am I going to do?” as I remembered there are no toilets for the homeless in this town after 8pm, for twelve hours until 8am…maybe.

This time Ron told me as I was standing in line to sign up to sleep on a church floor that he had been told not to sign me up any more, and if I had any questions to ask Vicky.

When I did, she told me I WOULD be going to the armory, the church groups were for the ‘really sick’ and I wasn’t sick enough, and they wanted other people to have a chance to go on the church groups.

I told her I couldn’t go to the armory, and I believe she asked why and I told her because I can’t go that long without medicating, especially there. I also told her she had bankrupted me by forcing me to buy motel rooms with money I didn’t have rather than go the armory.

Yesterday, after sitting up all night on the street in the rain (with my laptop) rather than go to the armory, I went to Gigi’s, got a coffee and used their WiFi to look at my spending report from my credit card. I got a motel room on the 11th and 12th of November, and then on the 23rd and pretty much from then on. There were 8 days in November I didn’t buy a motel room rather than go to the armory, and 6 in December, and 6 in January. And I can tell you at a glance how much I spent for motel rooms in each month, the total now $3,000 – that I don’t have.

The day after I charged this laptop, I was told I couldn’t leave the lot after I signed on to the church group. This meant I had to go without medicating for 6 hours or more. And it meant I had to spend time during my precious few ‘free’ hours (when I’m not competing to sleep on the floor of a church) preparing my medicine and medicating – grinding the buds, rolling enough joints to get me through until I can roll some more, and smoking a joint or two depending on how bad things are and how bad I am.

I mentioned this to Marcus when I presented him with the fundraiser for the church groups a couple of days ago. He replied that people were complaining about ‘drug activity’ back there. If I felt like talking to him I would have said something about this but I wanted him to focus on the fundraiser and kept quiet.

I’ve been hypo-manic pretty much since before Thanksgiving thanks to all the tough love that’s been heaped on me. And I still wake up crying.

Three days after I got the laptop, after I had signed onto the church group (and it was raining) we were told the bus was broken and since they’d taken the seats out of the van they could only take 6, and I WOULD go to the armory. I put the laptop in a plastic bag, packed a pack as well as I could, and walked (crying) half an hour to the motel, where I got a room for two days. When I went back it was the same thing and it was evident I wouldn’t be going, so I got a room for another two days. When I went back, at 2pm, I was told they were only taking twelve, and there were more than that in line, so I got a room for a week.

Well, this micky mouse continued until I have now charged $3,000 (just on motel rooms) since Thanksgiving and am on the verge of bankruptcy. And if I can’t pay my credit card then this, my website, and I will disappear and no one will give a damn. I think about emailing Phyl and asking her to copy the genealogy…but I have the feeling she’d just as soon not hear from me.

I think a lot about roads not taken, specificly Carolyn Cortner Smith (Symthe), and about Aunt Agnes. Particularly around Thanksgiving, and have been meaning to mention them here.

I met Carolyn when I was on a music scholarship at Birmingham Southern. I was renting an apartment from her in Southside in Birmingham. She asked me up to her house, which was a stone mansion she had designed herself. She told me she was the first female architect in Alabama and explained the house was built with pipes in the walls – she was quite proud of it, and rightly so. She explained she opened the pipes in the summer and the convection kept the house cool and she didn’t need air-conditioning, and in the winter she closed them and the air insulated the house and it was easy to heat.

The living-room (banquet hall?) was lit with huge beautiful stained glass windows, and she explained they were the coats of arms of the seven royal families she was descended from and asked me if I knew anything about the royal colony in Dothan. And she was familiar with me, as if I was one of ‘them’. And now that I’ve had a chance to work on my genealogy, I see that I am – or as much one of ‘them’ as she was. We’re probably cousins and she probably knew this, or supposed we were.

She had a stack of canvasses in the living room. She’d just been to China (this was back around ’76 when you had to be SOMEBODY to get in China) and explained this was primitive chinese art – something which didn’t interest me but I did ask if my friend Jenks could see them, as he was an artist and would probably appreciate them. And Jenks was from an old family, Venable, that had a big house in Homewood so I assumed I wouldn’t put her in a compromising position…

…she asked me to live with her and I refused. I see now she was a patron, the thing I’ve been looking for all my life, and that more than one of her proteges are renowned artists.

This happened when I needed about $300 to finish the semester at Southern and had gone to my mother and her husband to ask for help, and had been ordered off the property and told I would be arrested for trespassing if I didn’t leave.

Looking back on it now, I know that I refused Carolyn’s generous offer because I was afraid if I lived with her she would learn I was gay, and would come to despise me and throw me out…just as my mother had.

And I think of Aunt Agnes.

Aunt Agnes spent seven years in Brice-Partlow, the mental asylum in Alabama, in electroshock therapy. She wrote me a letter about it once, lost now in one of my many moves, where she said what she suffered was worse than the Jews in Nazi Germany.

You see, Aunt Agnes got a job, as a nurse, and for this lewd and scandalous behavior her husband divorced her and got custody of their son. I was told she was sitting at the dinner table and went into a cataleptic depression, which lasted seven years I guess.

I remember as a child at one of my many visits with Sue, Bea & Agnes in the ‘old house’, Aunt Sue had said they were women’s libbers and when I asked what did they do, Bea said, well we got jobs. When they saw I wasn’t very impressed they tried to explain to me that the only job a women could get at that time was as a nurse or a school teacher and Bea got a job as a school teacher since she went to school – Paw Allred sent one girl to school at a time and since Sue didn’t want to go, Bea got to go. And Agnes got a job as a nurse.

Agnes didn’t say anything, but Sue finally said, “Well, times have changed and there’s no point bringing up the evil that is gone. Not even worth remembering.” And they all, Agnes and Bea particularly, visibly relaxed and kind of smiled in a secret way.

They had done quite a bit after all, it seems.

We grew up knowing about Agnes, and what she went through and why. And we knew her and loved her in her life time. She and her story were always with us – a silent presence always there for reference against our own actions and our lives.

I guess my mother learned one lesson and I learned another.

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