Sunday, March 20, 2011
"The end is ALWAYS near!"
From Fame to Food Stamps -The Novel
He felt an intense and irrational fear, because although he knew he wouldn't see them, he knew he would feel their stares from the shadowed windows...the stranger's eyes from next door and across the street, penetrating and peering into his soul. He felt ashamed, because he knew they would see his disgrace, the failure he had desperately wanted to hide from the world. He felt helpless, because he knew he couldn't hide or escape their judgment. They would know, and there was nothing he could do. And now he had to face them again.
He put on his black sunglasses and pulled his baseball cap down tightly over his forehead, then took a deep breath and silently opened his front door. Now the invisible eyes were wide upon him; he could feel their prying eyes as he softly closed the door behind him. He felt his beating heart pounding wildly inside his chest.
He turned the key, locking the door, and with his head down in shame, began walking towards the dumpster. He went through this horrifying ritual once a week, late at night, when most people were sound asleep. He walked the 50 yards to the dumpster, and heavily breathing, threw the large plastic bag inside, then quickly turned around and walked back to his apartment.
When he was finally back inside, relief washed over him as he pulled the cap off his head, grateful to be back inside the safe and familiar confines of his small apartment. He was almost certain that no one had seen him this time, although he was never quite sure. But it was a risk he had to take, until now. He had always hated this weekly chore, fearful they might learn something that even he didn't know about himself. But this time was different, because this week was his very last trip to the dumpster. He was grateful that he would never have to go through this hell again.
After that night, Bud Meyers had never taken his trash out again, but opting instead, to let the large plastic garbage bags just pile up on his balcony porch for the last three weeks of his life - - - until the day he finally picked up the 357 magnum and shot himself in the head.
At 55 years old, he had always had a job, ever since he was a senior in high school - and that was the reason for him dropping out of school, to work and be with his friends. Bud Meyers had never aspired to being a wealthy man, just to have enough money to say he was free and independent. Of course, at 17 years old, the cost of freedom was high without a college education, cash in the bank, or even a car. When he had left his father's home for the very last time, it was as a run-a-way.
At first he bounced around from one person's house to the next until he eventually found a place to live. His father had co-signed an auto loan for him so he would at least have a car to drive. The year had been 1973, the car, a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix.
Now 38 years later Bud reminisces and wishes he still had that car. Hell, any car would be nice right about now. The Chrysler Sebring he had been making payments on for the last three years had been towed away several weeks ago, just after he was evicted from his apartment. Besides leaving most of his other possessions behind, Bud had also left several large plastic bags of trash on his balcony porch.
Today he's living on borrowed time, borrowed from a stranger who took him in and fed him. He had been destitute and close to being homeless...or, according to him, dead. He had always claimed that being a homeless man was never an option for him. Then at the last minute, a woman who was familiar with his plight, took him in.
Bud now lives in a room with the TV that he managed to salvage, and he also has a computer that another kind stranger had donated to him after hearing about his close brush with the street (or death). The woman whose house he lives in also has a dog, a Chinese Shar-Pei named "Fu".
Considering the circumstances, Bud feels lucky to be where he is today, although he's now without a car, a job, or one red cent in the bank. Like 8 million other people, he's been unemployed for over 2 and half years since the start of the Great Recession, so his situation isn't all that unusual. Millions of average hard-working Americans suddenly had the rug pulled out from under them. Many, if not most, had lost their life's savings, their kid's college funds, their retirement funds, their cars, their homes, and many, their lives. So for now, Bud feels lucky because he's not a homeless man, and he's still breathing.
But because he's now without a car, and because he's 55 years old, and because his credit is no good now, and because he's been unemployed for so long, and because of the still weak economy, and because of his declining health, the odds are about 8-million-to-1 that he'll ever find gainful employment in his life ever again. Bud's future looks bleak; his life, as he once knew it, is most likely over - gone forever.
Despite all this, and the constant back pain and anxiety Bud feels every day, he still feels lucky. But just for now, because he lives from day to day. Last month he was approved for 6 months of food stamps, so for now, at least he can pay for his own food - but he's still at the mercy of this woman - who he hopes will never one day say, "I'm sorry Bud, but it's just not working out. Tomorrow you'll have to find another place to live."
But he has no other place to go - so essentially, Bud lives every day of his life just one day away from homelessness; yet he has always claimed that being a homeless man was never an option for him. So for Bud, every day "the end is ALWAYS near" - just one day away from death.
"Damn! I came so close!" he thought to himself after just waking up from a fitful afternoon nap. He had awoken himself while talking in his sleep, something he had been doing regularly for the past several months. While he didn't actually remember his dreams, or what he had been saying, he always woke up with a disturbing sense of doom.
Since Bud Meyers had first moved in with Tami, he felt like he had been living in a sort of suspended animation, almost like being frozen in time...between life and death. His past was gone forever and his future was as unknown as the Singularity, the exact point of time of the Universe's creation. For the last two months Bud has been living in a state of Limbo, half way between two forms of existence, on a high wire stretched between two tall buildings on a windy day, with no safety net underneath. Precariously balanced, both physically and mentally, with no control at all.
As usual, when he had woke up his TV had been on, and in his groggy state, had carefully maneuvered himself to the edge of the bed into a sitting position...his lower back throbbing with the consistent gnawing ache.
After a couple of minutes he used the edge of the nearby desk to help leverage himself into a standing position, then slowly, half hunched, he walked around the corner of the bed and quietly opened the bedroom door - and when he saw that Tami's dog was not waiting at the door for him to make his grand appearance, Bud then preceded to the front door to go outside and sit on the porch to have a cigarette.
He looked up at the sunny sky and noted that it was truly a beautiful Spring day, with wisps of white cotton clouds blowing slowly East in the gentle warm wind.
The front yard, and the immediate neighbor's, provided him with his current panoramic view. That's basically his whole world now - the bedroom and the porch, except for once a month when Tami would drive him to the store to buy food with his monthly allotment of food stamps. Most of his days are spent either prone in bed watching TV, or sitting in 30 minute incremental sessions at the computer to write and read - email, news articles, and blogs. Other than that, his waking hours during the daytime consists of a morning cup of coffee and occasional cat naps...until he falls asleep at night. His demons and pains constantly nag him, in both his waking and sleeping hours.
He doesn't live like a retiree, and although it's not house arrest, it is a form of confinement or imprisonment, with limited abilities and activities, restricted because of transportation, finances, and physical pain.
His latest battle has been trying to get free medical treatment, a gauntlet by anybody's standards...and then attempting to get financial help with Social Security disability. A HUGE battle that he can only pray and hope he will have the strength to mentally and physically to see through.
But other than that, it truly was a beautiful Spring day. He only wished he could better enjoy it. And just like his life, he wondered where the clouds would blow once they left his small world.
- - - On sale at a book store near you! - - -
"From Fame to Food Stamps" is a true account of a man named Bud Meyers who had worked as a casino bartender in Las Vegas for 20 years before Wall Street had looted America and crippled the economy...creating the Great Recession. After being laid off from his job, like millions of other jobless Americans, he too had lost everything. And like all the other unemployed people of the day, he had also been vilified, called names, insulted, and blamed for his unemployment...as though his fellow countrymen, those who still had jobs, had forgotten all about the gangsters who had destroyed the financial and housing markets. Bud had assumed that because average hard-working people couldn't exact their revenge on the big bankers (and maybe fearful of losing their own lobs), it was much easier to take out their frustrations on the most vulnerable...the jobless. For over two years Bud had endured their accusations and criticisms until one day, he had had enough. It was time for him to exact his own revenge. Only it wasn't the big bankers he was going after, but his tormentors.
"A riveting, gripping, fascinating, and insightful story of one man's struggle during America's greatest economic disaster since the 1930s." ~ New York Times
"A call to arms to the greed in America and those who would kick a man when he's down." ~ Time Magazine
"I couldn't believe the cruelty of our own people and sitting members of Congress towards those who had suffered the most during this most shameful time in our country's history." ~ The Huffington Post
"A real page turner - I read it in one sitting - I just couldn't put it down. I couldn't wait to find out how it ended!" ~ Oprah Winfrey
"Hold on to your seat, this is a roller coaster ride! The best hair-raising psychological suspense thrillers of all time, I can't wait to see the movie!" ~ Rolling Stone Magazine
"Just another lazy radical left-wing Socialist trying to destroy America, begging for a government hand-out, and wanting to spread the wealth around." ~ Glenn Beck (Corporate shill at Fox News)
Oprah Winfrey's BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB!
* 100 comments on this post will get you Chapter Three. 5,000 comments will get you all the way to the Epilogue.
* * Disclaimer: The "book reviews" are only a parody.