HUD Leaves the Business of Housing

Alphonso Jackson is leaving HUD, and he’s leaving under a cloud of criminal investigation for corruption in the handing out of federal contracts…but there are a lot of other reasons he should be leaving which sadly aren’t getting enough attention in the press. As a political appointee, and therefore an entirely political animal, you could argue that he is simply following the party line, following orders. I think we’ve all heard that before. Why wasn’t he fired in 2006 when he boasted in a public speech that he had revoked a contract with someone when they told him they did not like Bush? Or when he was accused in a lawsuit by a local Housing Authority of trying to force them to sell land to a developer he knew, and then gutting their budget when they refused? Now he’s the one resigning, I know it’s under pressure, but clearly he’s been allowed to save face.

Still, the deeper, much more important issue here is the reality of a federal government steadily dis-investing in housing in this country even as real wages are falling, rents are skyrocketing, the population of homeless folks is being swelled by women and children, and almost everyone but the very wealthy are only a paycheck or two away from eviction. A serious illness in the family or a lay-off and many of us would be in trouble. Given the sub-prime mortgage crisis, many thousands have already lost their homes. So lets take a look at those lucrative New Orleans contracts that are currently under investigation, what exactly was the federal government paying contractors to do in New Orleans? It certainly wasn’t to build housing for the thousands of refugees spread across the nation. New Orleans is actually a perfect case study showing how the federal government is slowly withdrawing from public housing and leaving hundreds of thousands of citizens vulnerable to the bubbles of the market. And no one will be bailing them out.

In 1996 there were 13,500 public housing units in New Orleans. 9 years later, just before Katrina, that number had already been reduced by almost half to 7,100 through programs like Hope VI; 2,000 of those units were vacant, scheduled to be demolished. 5,146 families lived in public housing before the hurricane. How many have been allowed to return? About 1,000 families. And HUD continues to put forward the plan to demolish another 5,000 units, of which they are proposing to replace around 20%. The federal government will have gone from providing 13,500 homes for needy families to a grand total of around 2,000 homes, all within the space of 12 years.

I heard a lot of speculation on the news about the mindset of those people who had refused to leave New Orleans. Leaving aside the fact that many poor people did not have the means to get out of town, I believe this definitely bears out their fear that once they left, they would not be allowed back. Poor people aren’t stupid, and balancing personal risk with keeping your home is a dilemma that many would find very hard.

The other way, less direct way that HUD is putting people onto the streets? When the Federal Housing Authority insures the mortgage of a low-income home-buyer, and that home-buyer defaults on their mortgage, then the FHA pays the mortgage off and turns the property over to HUD. Buildings between 1 and 4 units are eligible for FHA insurance, so HUD receives a number of buildings with between 1 and 4 families living in them as tenants. Their policy is to evict all of the tenants, which they can do even in rent-controlled areas, and then auction off the building. The much-publicized wave of foreclosures and the crash of the sub-prime market has undoubtedly had thousands of silent and unremarked victims. I worked with one such building several years ago where we were trying to arrange the sale of a foreclosed upon 4 unit building to a local non-profit affordable housing developer. Our goal was to keep the tenants in the building as all four families had lived there for over 10 years, and one of the tenants had lived there for over 20 years and was incredibly active in the work to improve the neighborhood. We managed it in spite of HUD, one of their employees actually told me over the phone that they were “not in the business of housing.” There are a multitude of witty answers possible to such a statement, but my jaw dropped and I could not think of a single one. Still, the woman was right, it certainly seems true that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is no longer in the business of housing.

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L.A. City Attorney Forces $9 Million in Restitution from Landlord

Given that over 60% of Los Angelenos are renters, and far too many of them are paying far too much in rent for substandard apartments, why isn’t this being treated as much bigger news? It’s been a long time since a landlord had to dig this deep into his pockets, possibly never in L.A. We’re not known as a slum town, still, that is what much of Los Angeles is for a great many reasons (none of which include rent control). Essentially there is a great deal of profit to be made in renting to the poor; they don’t know what their rights are, and to keep a roof over their heads they’ll put up with pretty much anything. In Europe no one would believe me when I said that lead poisoning still exists in America. Or that kids are regularly bitten by rats. Or that I worked with a doctor who pulled cockroaches out of the ears of several children every week of every year. It certainly beggars belief. Until now it has been a handful of community organizations working with tenants high in bravery and low on resources trying to stop this from happening without being evicted.

Until now. After many years of pressure from community and tenant rights groups, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has finally turned around an atrocious record for the prosecution of criminal landlords profiting from slum buildings and illegally evicting tenants, and are showing what a city can achieve on behalf of its residents. They charged Darren Stern (also known as Henry Shalom), the owner of Landmark Equity Management Inc., with using a calculated and criminal strategy to empty out his buildings, thereby evading rent control laws to increase his profits. Some of the tactics he used, all too common in a rapidly gentrifying Los Angeles, were:

Illegally shutting off utilities
Entering units without permission
Refusing to conduct repairs, resulting in dangerous slum conditions
Refusing to accept rent and then trying to evict tenants for nonpayment
Harassment, threats, and intimidation

This case is groundbreaking not only as a civil suit conducted on behalf of tenants by the city, but also as an effective and holistic campaign to target the entire business operation of the minority of truly criminal landlords. Instead of prosecuting building by building and collecting fines that do not even cover the city’s costs, they have started looking at companies like Landmark that have engaged in illegal activities in the 850 units that they own spread across the city.

To maximize the strength of these cases the city is working closely with community based organizations and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles for the first time in a new and very exciting way. The Morrison Hotel served as the first test case for this new approach. Working with Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), the City Attorney took the criminal case to trial and won a precedent setting conviction of the owners on 21 charges which was based in part on extensive research and tenant testimony. In my time as lead tenant organizer at SAJE, this certainly counted as one of the high points where a clear victory had been won that would clearly have a strong ripple effect in the city. It is immensely encouraging to see that the City Attorney’s Office is working with many different tenant organizations, and truly pushing the envelope to try and solve one of the city’s worst, most intractable problems. This case has clearly taken the Morrison victory to another level with partners Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN) and LAFLA. Although much will depend on the actual enforcement of the settlement agreement, this is a huge step forward for the City Attorney’s Office and a meaningful victory for tenants across the city. There are a number of other landlords out there hiding the same illegal business practices behind the corporate veil, so I hope to see this work continue.

Shall we sum up this victory then? The City Attorney’s office had already filed a criminal suit for the code violations in the various buildings which was won in May of 2007, and resulted in a sentence of 150 days in jail for the owner, of which he served 30 days. The City Attorney’s office also filed a civil suit, and yesterday reached an agreement with Landmark Equity Management requiring Landmark to pay $1 million in damages to the city in addition to the city’s legal costs, and $9 million into a restitution fund for the tenants who they mistreated. Landmark will also be prevented from buying new buildings in L.A. for the next 4 and a half years, and is required to bring all the buildings it currently owns up to code. This sends a clear message that intimidation, slum housing, and illegal evictions will not be tolerated in our city of renters.

Want more information?
City Attorney’s Press Release: http://www.lacity.org/atty/attypress/attyattypress6938518_06142006.pdf

Need help enforcing your rights?

Los Angeles Community Action Network: http://www.cangress.org/

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles: http://www.lafla.org/

Strategic Actions for a Just Economy: www.saje.net

Need to know what your rights even are?

Los Angeles Housing Department: http://www.lacity.org/LAHD/ten_land.htm

also published at http://www.allvoices.com/users/Andrea#tab=blogs&group=2,widget=blogs&page=2&filter=popular

Press Take Some Interest in the Angola 3

When NBC asked Robert King Wilkerson what it was like to spend 29 years in solitary confinement, he didn’t know what to say. How can you sum up the horror of 29 years in solitary in one of the worst most infamous prisons in the nation? They asked him to do it in a few words, and “it was hell” made it into the edited version. In a nutshell.

Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox continue in solitary. They have been there for over 35 years. NBC’s nightly news picked it up as the cases of Wallace and Woodfox are set to come before federal court. The question NBC asked is can too much time in solitary confinement become cruel and unusual punishment? It’s a good question to ask, but then look how many questions we’ve asked about waterboarding and other forms of torture and it doesn’t seem to get us very far. I imagine that most would agree that days or weeks in solitary is incredibly cruel, much less decades. I don’t think there’s any way for us to even comprehend what that might be like. Wallace and Woodfox have been in soitary confinement longer then I have been alive…how can such a thing be possible?

The more vindictive among us will ask, hey, what did they do? Maybe they’re imagining Hannibal Lecter. I’m afraid it’s nothing like that. Horrifying conditions brought Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox together while in Angola to form a chapter of the Black Panther Party. They helped organize hunger strikes and worked to expose the conditions in the prison which included the open sale of prisoners into sexual slavery, a 96 hour work week for 2 cents an hour, segregated living quarters, inadequate food and medical care…their actions were enough to start some investgation and a series of hearings about the prison. Their actions were actually getting some heat put on prison officials and change was in the air.

I didn’t take long for Robert King Wilkerson to be convicted with another inmate in the death of a fellow prisoner. He served 29 years in solitary confinement. The courts released him in 2001 after overturning his conviction; 29 years in solitary for an innocent man. Woodfox and Wallace were convicted at almost the same time for the murder of a prison guard. NBC outlined the evidence showing their innocence, a commisioner has requested the courts to investigate the case, the guard’s widow is asking who really killed her husband. Angola prison seems to be a clear beneficiary, having cast aspersions on the three men’s characters and thereby their cause, and effectively isolated and silenced three voices for change.

NBC doesn’t go into that of course, does not mention the Angola 3 or the Black Panthers or the conditions that the three men were protesting in Angola, itself a former slave plantation…I suppose as always you have to find the real news in looking deeper into what they don’t tell you.

more info at http://www.angola3.org/

also published at http://www.allvoices.com/users/Andrea#tab=blogs&group=2,widget=blogs&page=2&filter=popular

i got the fallin’ downs

A rare joy in life is chancing a fiver on a CD and finding a true gem, I’m sitting here tonight listening to a compilation of bottleneck blues and the smile of pure gut wrenching happiness has not left my face…it’s amazing. Blind Willie Johnson…pure magic in his voice and his hands, Robert Johnson, Son House and Lightnin’ Hopkins of course, he’s fucking brilliant though I knew that before buying this, I’ve been listening to ‘goin’ away’ over and over the past few days, makes you close your eyes and sway back and forth and it does something to your insides like few songs can. Been in a Lightnin’ Hopkins – Steve Earle – Van Zandt sort of mood lately, sort of that bittersweet sadly happy kind of mood like the weather racing across the sky in sunshine and rain. Still, the sweetness is in the pain and the smiles in the song on this called ‘Hitch me to your buggy and drive me like a mule” can’t get better than that, until you get to ‘Busy Bootin’ with the line “Take it easy greasies, cause I’m busy bootin'” and “don’t you remember when my door was locked, I had yo mama on the choppin’ block” with a chorus of “I’m busy bootin’ and you can’t come in” How have I never heard the phrase busy bootin’ before? I know it’ll be a hit when I next slip the phrase I was busy bootin’ into casual conversation. Great song Fallin’ Down Blues, “I got the blues so bad, it hurts my feet to walk…Mama, I feel like jumping through the keyhole in your door…She caught the rumblins, I caught the fallin’ downs…” Dunno what the rumblins are but I catch the fallin’ downs from time to time, never knew what they were called before. The only hitch is that it’s a compilation made in the Czech republic where they don’t seem to believe in liner notes, sound’s not the greatest either but that could easily be the fault of the original recording so I shall give the Czech republic the benefit of the doubt, anyways, there’s a version of Statesboro Blues from 1927 with Blind Willie McTell playing and an unknown woman singing who is brilliant and I’ve never heard before, I shall have to see what google can do but this might be a bit beyond its powers.

This all reminded me of the liner notes from T-Model Ford’s album Pee-wee Get My Gun, a title in itself as brilliant as Burnside’s Ass Pocket of Whisky, but the liner notes are the best I’ve ever seen, they go “Years before, when I was a kid, I owned a little Ford runabout, a Model T. And I took care of that car as a man takes care of his love – for I did love it. I was and remain a Model T guy, more comfortable with imperfection than its opposite, cherishing the ability to discern and shore up a latent weakness, I knew the car wasn’t a Cadillac. Hell, what would a guy like me do with a Cad? It was a Model T, and I treated it good and it treated me good. When I sold it after two years of trouble-free driving, it was actually in better shape than the day I bought it.
Two months later it was in the junk heap.
Less than two months after I split up with Ellen, she was whoring.”

So I know I know my sense of humour is darkly twisted and politically regrettable, but I find this brilliant, besides being myself much more comfortable with imperfection than its opposite. Given the humour, I do thank the sweet lord I didn’t get that job with the feminists that I applied for, but after an interview where I discussed the evils of pornography with false enthusiasm and yet made the fatal misstep of saying the words fluffy porn upon which the room turned ice cold and my breath came out of my mouth in clouds I knew I wasn’t taking it even if it were offered which it clearly wasn’t going to be. All activists should be required to have a sense of humour anyways, the ones that don’t destroy the movement and make the rest of us look bad.

Right, I’m off to listen to my other find which is John Peel and Sheila – the Pig’s Big 78’s, random recordings off of random 78’s which is just my style and quite ridiculous but also contains another Lightnin’ Hopkins track I’ve never heard, and Sonny Terry…and then I’ll be busy bootin’ or, well, just thinking about it, I’ve got the wee single bed blues myself.

writing

Haven’t written this in ages, because I’ve been writing loads of…of…serious writing I suppose. And living brilliantly. But I had the perfect day yesterday, it was sparkling and glorious and included Hatch chiles on my breakfast eggs and incredible music and Iain Banks in the flesh and Macbeth performed on a jumping castle and activist writing and great company and drink and new friends and a drunk Welshman named Gary Cooper (!) and it went on and on, even continuing into this morning when I left folks sleeping as I headed out into the warm Edinburgh sunshine for my Glasgow bus, but a few hours sleep’s not quite enough and the day grew dark like the fog in my mind. Still I’m happy.

I was thinking thinking thinking about music and writing and wondered if poetry could always become song or song always be poetry, but that thought wasn’t deep enough for my mood and I sang to myself “I’ve legs to walk and thoughts to fly, eyes to laugh and lips to cry, a restless tongue to classify, oh I’m born to grow and grown to die,” which I love because the music and the words together turn my heart inside out and I think perhaps words demand their form as you write them and words meant to be sung must be different than words meant to be spoken aloud must be different then words written to be simply read by someone who can understand them. They all live in the spaces between people; to write for no one is to write words that lie dead. To breathe them life you must strip yourself bare, give everything, spare yourself nothing, seems to me music is the same, the hardest fucking thing you ever do and lucky there’s something driving you to it. And you truly love those few who have somehow found this immense generosity, you know them right away…yet still it is only between the one who gives and the other who truly hears that the greatness happens, I think that’s the beauty of the thing Es algo imprescindible. It’s a fierce rare joy to write something and get it exactly right, you ring golden like a bell, and you share its resonance then it becomes magic…songs, words, music, they are gifts, I saw it yesterday, think that’s partly why I am so happy. So tonight I’m wandering among some of my favourite words and tunes…and I have to say that without paper I would write my words into the sand even if I were the only person on earth, but it’s an amazing thing to give what you create, and to share what others have given.

At my window,
watching the sun go,
hoping the stars know
it’s time to shine,
the day dreams
aloft on dark wings,
soft as the sun streams
at day’s decline,
living is laughing,
and dying says nothing at all,
my babe and I lying here,
watching the evening fall
Townes Van Zandt

Lady in the frilled blouse
And plain tartan skirt
Since you have left the house
It’s emptiness has hurt
All thought
In your presence
Time rode easy
Anchored on a smile
But your absence
Rocked love’s balance
Unmoored the days
They buck and bound
Across the calendar
Loosed from the quiet sound
Of your flower tender voice
Seamus Heaney

Así te amo porque no se amar de otra manera..
Sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres
Tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía
Tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueno
Neruda

(I love you thus because I do not know another way to love
Only this way where I am not I and you are not you
So close that your..nhand on my chest is mine
So close your eyes close with my tiredness

the moon is hiding in
her hair
The
lilly
of heaven
full of all dreams
draws down.

cover her briefness in singing
close her with intricate faint birds
by daisies and twilights
Deepen her.

Recite
upon her
flesh
the rain’s

pearls singly-whispering

Possibly the most beautiful poem in the world, ee cummings

Begin
With singing
Sing
Darkness kindled back into beginning
When the caught tongue nodded blind,
A star was broken
Into the centuries of the child
Myselves grieve now, and miracles cannot atone Dylan Thomas

Las palabras fueran avispas…………………The words were wasps
Y las calles como dunas…………………….And the streets like dunes
Cuando aun te espero llegar…………………While i still wait for you.
En un ataúd guardo tu tacto………………In a winding sheet i keep your touch
Y una corona ……………………………….And a crown
con tu pelo enmaranado……………………..tangled in your hair
Queriendo encontrar…………………………wanting to find
un arco iris infinito………………………….An infinite rainbow
Mis manos que aun son de hueso……………my hands that are still of bone
Y tu vientre sabe a pan..…………………….and your stomach tastes of bread
La catedral que es tu cuerpo…………………the cathedral that is your body

No se distinguir………………………………I don’t know how to distinguish
entre besos y raíces………………………….Between kisses and beginnings
No se distinguir………………………………I don’t know how to distinguish
lo complicado de lo simple………………….The complicated from the simple
Y ahora estas en mi lista……………………..And now you are on my list
De promesas a olvidar……………………….Of promises to forget
Todo arde si aplicas………………………….Everything burns if you apply
la chispa adecuada……………………………the adequate spark
Los Heroes del Silencio

Forgive what I give you. Though nightmare and cinders,
The one can be trodden, the other ridden,
We must use what transport we can. Both crunching
Path and bucking dream can take me
Where I shall leave the path and dismount
From the mad-eyed beast and keep my appointment
In green improbable fields with you.
Louis MacNeice

Green improbable fields, damn I wish I wish I’d written that…and to end, all the things I try to believe in, Silvio Rodriguez, though cantera is hard to translate…talent isn’t quite it, ability perhaps…and masa’s hard too…dough might be better than flesh, corn flour mixed with water, but it could never mean the same in English

Si no creyera en lo mas duro…………..If I did not believe in what was hardest
Si no creyera en el deseo……………………If I did not believe in desire
Si no creyera en lo que creo………………If I did not believe in what I believe
Si no creyera en algo puro…………….If I did not believe in something pure
Si no creyera en cada herida……………If I did not believe in every wound
Si no creyera en la que ronde………….If I did not believe in what surrounds
Si no creyera en lo que esconde……….If I did not believe in what is hidden
Hacerse hermano de la vida…………………In becoming a brother to life
Si no creyera en quien me escucha…….If I did not believe in who listens to me
Si no creyera en lo que duele………………..If I did not believe in what hurts
Si no creyera en lo que quede……………If I did not believe in what remains
Si no creyera en lo que lucha………………..If I did not believe in my struggle
Ay que cosa fuera……………… …………..Ay what would I be,
que cosa fuera la masa sin cantera………What would the flesh be without talent
un amasijo hecho de cuerdas y tendones…A mass made of cords and tendons
un revoltijo de carne con madera…………….A mix up of meat and wood
un instrumento sin mejores resplandores……An instrument without greater splendour
que lucesitas montadas para escena………Than little lights staged for a scene
que cosa fuera, corazon, que cosa fuera…..What would I be, heart, what would I be
que cosa fuera la masa sin cantera……What would the flesh be without talent
un testaferro del traidor de los aplausos…A figurehead of the traitor to applause
un servidor de pasado en copa nueva………..A server of the past in a new cup
un eternizador de dioses del ocaso……….…An eternalizer of the western gods
jubilo hervido con trapo y lentejuela…Experience boiled with rags and spangles
que cosa fuera, corazon, que cosa fuera…..What would I be, heart, what would I be
que cosa fuera la masa sin cantera……..What would the flesh be without talent

Fucking hell this is long, inspiring at least to myself but long, I cannot be concise when this tired, and i can never tell whether what emerges from the fog is truth or rubbish…and there are so many lyrics poems words I love, better than sleep to read them but no, I’m off to my bed…

evening

I sit in the conservatory and the light is liquid gold, luminous, impossibly beautiful in those few minutes at close of day when magic seizes your heart and makes it whole…too whole, almost overflowing and the overflow is what you hunger for through your mundane hours, but this moment, glorious and still, like the culmination of passion, the peak of happiness, the eye in the storm it holds you and wraps you round and whispers to you in the falling rain and the world is perfect beauty even with you in it, as flawed and hungry and uncertain of anything as you are, and the moment fades to be replaced with a sadness, and dusk comes on surely now, the darkness creeping over green fields and the flowering apple tree, clouds lit up from behind in pale yellow and silver move swiftly across the horizon and just as you wonder if it is just over there that your destiny lies, the world lights up again with the moving clouds, a reprieve and a second golden time, a hint of blue sky on the horizon, golden light pouring like the rain around you, I love these days of rain and sun, love gold filled light and the pounding of water, it is luminous again, magical again, more beautiful after having prepared oneself for the dying of the light, it gives me hope. For what I don’t know, just hope is enough, a quiet undemanding sort of hope, the hope that carries peace with it, not the demanding torments of passion or desire or blind need.

The blue sky is now encircled by clouds, deep black heavy laden ones running low, a thin line of glowing white ones above. This place is beautiful. I am glad I am here, there is nowhere I would rather be. That makes me smile, it might be a bit sad my smile, bittersweet is life, I taste it on my tongue. I am always amazed at how fast storm clouds move, I remember watching them before the monsoons hit in Arizona, amazing that they race the same over desert and green farmland. Another thing bringing these two worlds together besides me, I have trouble sometimes reconciling myself with myself, I am too many things to exist in one person I think, but watching the clouds race calms me down, I lose myself in them like I lose myself in the light, my inner voice stills and finds silence and I am content. Even as the dusk falls surely now, the darkness comes…

leftover Chocolate Cake

The breakfast of champions!! Especially when thick and yummy with mum’s classic buttercream frosting, T actually called our mum two nights ago so he could make me a vintage Gibbons family birthday cake and it was perfect! He didn’t handwrite happy birthday Andrea in another colour of frosting, but I love those little sugar letters so it was just as good…and funnier than I am used to:

I have grown accustomed to being called the beast…though as lovely, fragile, and sweet as I am, I have absolutely no relation to the creature who lurked on the other side of the high fence in The Sandlot and ate baseballs. I have come to recognize that boys are irrational however, so I don’t mind, and I did love the “yippie” and the “woo”, apparently there weren’t enough letters to spell out the Robert Burns poem on the wee timerous beastie that T originally planned for so yippie and woo had to do. We had party food last night and they put up balloons on the wall for me, T put Marty Robbins on the Cd player for a bit of nostalgia…we grew up with marty robbins as he is one of my mum’s favourites, and all of us still tend to sing along when she plays it in the car, it’s very funny. Well, Laura finds it really funny, I find it absolutely natural and normal and cool. I got some Iain Banks books and a pair of shorts with my Mark’s and Spencers gift vouchers, I have every faith in my luck and global warming and can’t wait to wear them! T read me some of the stuff he’s been writing, 4 of the 6 of us in the family are aspiring writers, I think it must be a record…so much aspiration and so little accomplishment, though it’s only cause our genious goes unrecognized. Apart from Brian Adams who thinks we are the most intimidatingly brilliant family he’s ever met, and he told me that while drunk so I know it’s absolutely true. Dan can back me up on that, he’s Dan’s friend anyways. Besides, his name is Brian Adams, so clearly he has no problems or unrecognized genious of his own.

Well, still working selling underwear, though I need to come up with an alternate story, because when I tell men in the pub what I do they get this happy sort of glazed look and make bad jokes. But I am writing the best fucking story I’ve ever written, that alone has made this the best birthday of all time and entirely validated the mad decision to move to scotland to sell underwear…

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stunning

Today I wandered lonely as a cloud…no wait, that was yesterday, I didn’t work yesterday and luxuriated in blue skies and sunshine, it was fucking beautiful. I went for a run in the Maryhill Woods. Now when I say run, I mean something closer to a short run slowing to a short jog punctuated by long intervals of walking. I remember running back in the day before I ruined my shins, remember running in the dusk and the earth sped beneath my feet and it was effortless and I was motion and nothing more, the wind blew right through me. That was long ago though, now I’m finding running to be a bit more of a sado-masochistic activity, the best thing about it is returning home exhausted and virtuous and sleeping soundly through the night, I am missing my bike ride to work.

But yesterday, ahh, I stripped down to my tank top yesterday and found a new trail up along the hill looking out over Semple Loch and the second loch just to the south and the sun beat down and the wind smelled of spring and the birds were singing and I saw lambs gambolling about and they were so beautiful and I thought holy shit, I live in Scotland. I still can’t quite believe it. Every now and then walking down a Glaswegian street I shake myself and smile just at the thought of it. Especially when someone’s playing the bagpipes, I love the buskers here. You have the bagpipes of course, but there is an amazing reggae player, an old guy who plays old electric guitar surfer music, a 3 man band playing rock’n’roll, and a duo on guitar and accordeon. Last time I passed them they played the theme music to Amelie and gave me 5 minutes of magic on my way to work.

Ahh work, I knew there was a reason to go for that masters…I was not cut out for retail. I like people well enough, but to be all smiley and bubbly and friendly and repeat the same phrase a hundred times to a hundred different faces, well, it makes me want to spit. I am learning an immense amount about breasts however, principally that I am quite happy with mine. Oh, and that in spite of that they will actually get bigger. I do have to get pregnant first, that’s a bit of a downer, but apparently they don’t really look back after the first one. I am also now able to sing along to all of the pop hits, my repertoire of chatter on girly subjects has grown by leaps and bounds, and I am making friends, so on the whole as a life experience this is has been right up there. Still, I am more afraid of being questioned about nursing bras then I ever was to sneak into the Morrison hotel in the dead of night…a small character flaw when your fears involve underwear and not your physical safety. A wonder these genes ever made it as far as they did.

St Patrick’s

Hey ho, home early after a grand celebration, well, not so grand but good, very good, I’m quite happy at the moment…went out out to the Hamilton local, not the Bay Horse which is closer but rough, very rough, no, we walked all the way to ML3, it’s nice, quite nice. It was pouring down rain as we walked there, it came down in sheets across the street lights, lit up golden against the night sky and beautiful, and the wind blew mad against our backs and the trees sang above us and I was happy to be outside, happy to be walking, and I know it’s because I’m crazy, one day I’ll the man who finds that amazing even if I’m a stupid girl, and the world was beautiful and we sang nay, no, never, no never no more, will I be a wild rover…beautiful it was and we arrived in the torrent sopping wet, completely soaked, everyone stared at us and we laughed because life was in the process of being so well lived it was brilliant and I ran to the lady’s toilet and squeezed`the water from my hair so it wouldn’t keep running down my neck and soaking the top of my blouse and ran my fingers through it though fat lot of good it did, I just hoped for the best and figured that perhaps that fresh-out of the shower look was attractive to the occassional bystander because that’s exactly what I looked like, with the backs of my jean legs sopping and clinging lovingly to the backs of my calves and dripping to the floor…

A few drinks, some brilliant indy tunes with a bit of Pink Floyd thrown randomly in, I could have done with a strong dose of the Pogues but it was not to be and it didn’t matter, I don’t know why I’m so happy today but I am, happy. Life is brilliant…

nothing much really

I haven’t written anything for ages. I’ve been busy I suppose but can’t quite find that burning drive to write that hits me at times, I need my own place, want my own place, would do just about anything for my own place…living with relatives you learn quite a bit, mostly about yourself, I discover that I am quite impatient, more antisocial than I thought, not at all domesticated or housebroken, only appreciate dining or high tea formality on very very rare occassions…and of course I am again reminded how good men have it in the world. Why is it that my cousins can get away with letting all the women do the cleaning up so they can watch rugby? I want to watch rugby, and if only my aunt appreciated rugby at all, we would have done the washing up later, or had our lunch on paper plates so there would have been no washing up to do, or sent the boys off to do it, the game was fantastic. I watched the beginning of it as others cleaned around me and was smote mightily by my evil woman’s conscience, I wish that would just go away. Not that I mind cleaning, I just like doing it my own way and when I find it convenient…and the amount of dishes my aunt considers necessary for a meal is astonishing. It astonishes me. The amount of food as well, she loves feeding her boys! I ate more yesterday than I had the entire week before and found it a bit difficult to roll myself out of bed later. And I have not been able to say the word fuck for almost a week now, say what I’m actually thinking, walk around the house in my underwear, listen to music turned up really loudly, leave food on my plate cause I’m full, or fully relax for some time now…

But other than that things are going quite well, I’m meeting more folks, applying to jobs, now understand almost everything I hear unless it is coming from very old men without many teeth…I’m working on a small community online and paper news sort of thing with some folks which is great, and not bad at all for one month in the city, I’m rather proud of myself! And trying to decide how much of an activist I want to be, I’m not sure about that, I think I was actually quite burned out when I left and yet I still love talking politics and getting all fired up over pints in the pub and now have folks to do that with who are brilliant, so I’m happy. Hopefully staying with the brother tmrw, where I can say fuck all I want, and he usually thinks what I’m thinking is really funny and I don’t have to eat everything on my plate…the walking around in the underwear will just have to wait, but I’m not too fussed as it’s just a bit chilly…