Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fourth Time's a Charm?

This is the fourth time I've been homeless since I moved here (this time around — I'm an intermittent native) from Seattle via Las Vegas back in May 2000, and looking back I see a progression from living on the streets being a fun adventure to living on the streets being a shameful and arduous lifestyle of boredom, fatigue, inconvenience, and peril.

My first stint as a City of Roses tramp was inaugurated by the Starlight Parade that greeted me when I stepped off the Greyhound bus. I had a few hundred dollars in my pocket and a check for over a thousand dollars waiting in the wings at a nearby temp agency branch office. Enough money to rent a cheap studio long enough to land a job, I was thinking; unfortunately, I was body-surfing a cresting wave of irresponsibility, aided and abetted by youthful good looks, charm, and luck. My dream of establishing myself as a blue-collar dish dog living with a cat in a quiet neighborhood in Northwest Portland evaporated when I encountered an old acquaintance from Seattle and moved into a squat with him and his coterie of punk rock junkies. From then on I fancied myself a Third Millennium Jack Kerouac, documenting the class war while soaking myself in beer and occasionally braving the highway to hitch-hike as far south as Eugene and as far north as Bellingham — hardly adventurous! Which rapidly spiraled downhill into spanging money for booze and passing out in doorways or beside freeways when I failed to seduce cute girls. It took medical detox from alcohol and subsequent clean-and-sober housing to rescue me from a soggy winter on the streets with nowhere to go because most of my charm and good luck had flown south.

Five-and-a-half years later I was at it again, after having managed to succeed gloriously as a 4.0 GPA student at Portland Community College. Alas, I'd also failed magnificently at being a boyfriend in my only long-term relationship, and at keeping the easiest job I'd ever had, pumping gas. My addiction to alcohol wasn't fooling me or anyone else anymore, and as such the carefree days of homelessness came to an end. Again, it started in May, this time in 2006; but summer was short-lived and before I knew it fall and winter had careened past me — in a fugue of malt liquor and Old Crow — and I'd even somehow managed to fleetingly enjoy four jobs and two residences, which I sabotaged almost as soon as I acquired. I even ended up in a psych ward at Providence for a week! Then I made a critical mistake, one that changed my life forever: I made the mistake of moving into a party house as an alcoholic, while relying on financial aid disbursed by Portland State University to pay rent. Three terms of dropped classes later I lost my eligibility to receive financial aid and owed the university over $2,000 and defaulted on my student loans, and of course I ended up back out on the streets, this time beneath an overpass for close to a couple years before moving into subsidized housing.

Which you'd think would have presented me with a golden opportunity to get it together. Indeed, that was the plan ... for the first two months, after which I succumbed to boredom and peer pressure and slid into the old familiar — and dismally comfortable — rut. Resulting predictably in me getting kicked out because of repeated drunken disorderliness. Which begs the question: Have I finally learned my lesson? As much as I like to think I have, it's a matter of time and convincing before anyone with any wisdom will believe so. I'm not going to beleaguer a jaded public with positive affirmations; we'll see in time. I am getting pretty damn tired of jerking at the rug beneath my feet every time I go to the liquor store!

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