Lemme just stop you right there, dear reader. I know what you're going to say. I'm way ahead of you. You're going to say something smart-alecky about how I'm writing this, so how could I possibly have writer's block, huh? Aren't you?
I'm lounging on the bed in a cat-like pose, resting on my elbows which is terrible for my dry old-fogey elbow skin, thinking hard of something to try to entertain you people with. It's not easy, you know. People think it's easy writing this drivel day in day out. Except it hasn't been every day... it's been a while. Last time I actually wrote something that wasn't an instalment of 100 Records That Shook The World or a chapter of my novel was on the 10th, the 10th!! 13 days ago! So what to write about?
It is Tuesday November 23rd. Yesterday was my daughter Emily's birthday. She is now 11 years old. She's growing quite tall, now matching her mother in height - and her mother is no shrimp. Today is the birthday of both my friend Nick, and my father Alan. Happy Birthday to you both. It is my birthday on Thursday. It will be Thanksgiving also.
It is hard to believe sometimes, but at this time last year I was living in a homeless shelter in Gainesville, Georgia. I won't go into the circumstances surrounding how I got there, because that might once again force me into having to take down this post, for reasons I cannot fully explain, nor completely understand. It just does my head in. My question to the world in general is this though - what is the statute of limitations on this? When am I going to be allowed to say what I want to say about my ex-family in a public forum? When they're all dead?
When I was released from jail, where I had been for six days, I spent the night hanging around a shopping center, mainly at a Wal-Mart, until I could (a) get a hold of some belongings from my spouse, and (b) wait for a shelter to open. When I finally got into the Salvation Army shelter on Dorsey Street in Gainesville, GA, it was like a homecoming compared to what I had just endured. OK, you say, six days in jail doesn't sound like much, but to me, who has had very little legal trouble in the grand scheme of things, six days away from my home and family and familiar surroundings, spent in the company of some very unsavoury types, is a whole helluva lot.
That first night was great. The shelter had just receiver a large donation of food from Red Lobster - the very one where I had been a waiter (sorry, server) in 2006. So that night the food was amazing.
The place was full of characters, probably still is.
It was run a by a big jolly Hispanic man named Jorge, who was kind and understanding but didn't take no mess from anyone. If you screwed up by coming in late or under the influence, you were gone. Jorge's son and wife would help out.
Then there was Jay, a black guy from New Orleans, who did most of the cooking. He would rustle up wonderful Cajun-influenced grub from almost nothing. Sweetest guy, troubled by poor vision, seemed to do most of his cooking by touch and sound rather than anything else.
Then there was big, burly Steve, who cooked breakfast most of the time, and would come wake us up at 6 am with a loud, gruff, "Bre' fust!!" as he knocked on the door of the dorm and opened it. The sort of guy who could talk your ear off about almost anything, and sometimes nothing.
The people I shared the dorm with, those I remember, were interesting characters too.
Joe was a tall lanky guy who worked in construction, with a love of Southern Rock and a tremendous appreciation of Jay's food, and a liking for the comedy of Ralphie May. We were allowed to stay up till 10pm watching TV, and oftentimes it would be me and Joe and maybe one other person in there watching Comedy Central.
Ernie was like an older smaller version of Joe but with a coarser sense of humour. Always enjoyed watching things like Operation Repo and stuff on the Discovery Channel.
There was a funny black guy named Kirk who was there with his wife Jennifer. Kirk slept in the bed opposite me, and Jennifer of course had to sleep in the women's dorm. I snore quite loudly, and while most other people complained about it, Kirk went the other way. "You gon' sing me to sleep tonight, Bubba?" he'd say, as he settled down for a rest. Lovely guy.
There was Jose (or as Ernie called him, Jose-can-you-see) who slept in the far corner and liked to play his selection of ringtones for us every night. Oftentimes the bed would shake me awake, and I'd roll over, rub my eyes and see the shadowy figure of Jose shuffling back towards his bed, and I'd know he'd jolted the end of the bed to stop me snoring.
There was Willie, the taxi driver, who spoke with a kind of hurried sniffy stutter, and was completely into WWE wrestling, reading the autobiographies of people like Batista and Ric Flair.
And there was Louis, a Jewish guy from Noo Yawk, who loved English humour and wanted me to find him some more 'Essex girl' jokes for him to tell some other English folks he knew (In case you don't know, 'Essex girl' jokes are somewhat similar to Blonde jokes, but a bit cruder).
This year, even though I live in a country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the wonderful people at the Salvation Army shelter on Dorsey Street. Everyone with a roof over their head should be thankful for that fact. I never had to sleep on the street, but that freezing night at the Wal-Mart in my shorts and T-shirt was pretty damn close.