Tag Archives: Homeless

Victuals and Vapors

We went out to dinner tonight. No, not Outback, Applebee’s, or Red Lobster. We went to the Homeless Shelter in Tin Town, a small neighborhood in Bisbee. The shelter helps a lot of people—they have a paid board, volunteers, and bunks for women and men. The homeless folks staying there are expected to help out too. Every Wednesday night they throw a huge supper and about 60 people come. You get a plate and hand it to the cook and he loads it up. Tonight we had chicken cacciatore loaded with fresh vegetables over pasta, soup, salad, bread, hard boiled eggs, and brownies. The food, prepared by a friend of ours who volunteers every week, was first-rate. There are long tables set up and you find a seat with friends or strangers. It’s free, but there is a donation jar to which we added $10. They also packed us up two more of these delicious meals to go. They get the food from food banks and donations, and you can sign up for free boxes of donated food.

Tin Town Homeless Shelter in Bisbee, AZ

People start lining up early, they open the doors for dinner at 5 pm. We met people we knew, and made some new friends.

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It’s hot and my car’s overheating. I worked in a couple houses this week with no coolers, so I’m overheating too. Most people don’t have air conditioning here, we have evaporative coolers, known as swamp coolers. A swamp cooler is a large box with vented sides attached to your house, usually the roof. It contains a blower, an electric motor with pulleys, a water pump, and evaporative cooling pads made from aspen wood fibers. The fan draws hot dry outside air through the vents and through the damp pads. Heat in the air evaporates water from the pads which are constantly redampend by the pump. Cool moist air is then directed through ductwork into your home. Moist air is blown in and cycles through the house by an open window at the other end of the house.

They’re wonderful in dry climates and cheap to run (80% cheaper than AC). They are so efficient that even hospitals here use them. Their one drawback is that they obviously lose efficiency during the humid monsoon season.

Many of the old converted miners’ shacks here don’t even have coolers much less AC, they just have ceiling fans. People who have lived here for a long time are totally acclimated to the heat—but I bet they don’t do aerobics in their houses in the summer, like I do when I clean.

Oh Great Swamp Cooler, We Praise Thee. We bow before you and beseech you to give us comfort in our time of need.

Swamp cooler pulley side. That thing way on top is a spider pipe assembly, two units deliver water to each of the four pads. The motor on top right runs the pulley. The bottom of the cooler is full of water and level-controlled by a float. The white tube on the left goes to your main water line.

Swamp cooler pump side. The submersible pump on the bottom right feeds water to the spider assembly.

Diagram of how swamp cooler works.

You'll often see birds perched on the sides of swamp coolers, trying to get water from the pads. I wish everybody would put water out for the birds and beasts.

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Some friends gave us a loaf of bread yesterday from Mexico. I’ve never heard of Bimbo Bakeries (pronounced beem’ bo) so I looked it up. Established in Mexico in 1945, it was sold and resold and is now a huge company that owns Friehofer’s, Arnold, Boboli, Oroweat, Thomas’, Entenmann’s, and many more. The parent company, Grupo Bimbo, acquired these century-old brands in the 1990s. The word “bimbo” doesn’t really mean anything in Spanish, but obviously would be offensive elsewhere.

Bimbo Bread

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This Could be You

Eddie with his dog Willie

As our economy collapses around us, homelessness rises. We have a higher rate of homelessness in Arizona because of the weather. Old, young, disabled, veterans, mentally ill, and entire families are living on the streets.

People are dumping their animals in alarming numbers in this depression, yet homeless people manage to hang on to their dogs. I met this man today resting in the shade behind a building while his friend was going through a nearby dumpster. Every dumpster behind every supermarket has foragers who depend on them for their lives.

This man’s name is Eddie. I walked up to him and asked him how he was doing. OK, he said. I asked him if $5 was a fair trade for a photo of him and his dog, whose name is Willie Nelson. Sure, he said. I asked him if he had enough to eat. Sometimes. I asked him where he slept. Behind Walmart. I asked him if there were a group of them who sleep there. Yes. I spoke to him for a few more minutes and snapped a few pictures. I pet his beautiful dog and asked if the dog got enough to eat. Yeah, he said, Willie eats before I do.

I thanked him and shook his hand and wished him luck. I kissed Willie Nelson on the head and once again felt disgust for our government. A billion here, a billion there. Foreign aid packages, oil wars, bailouts. But keep cutting programs that keep our people alive, because who gives a shit about us spoiled, greedy Americans going into foreclosure and moving into our new homes behind Walmart. Fuck you, US government, all of you.

Death’s Artwork

I promised Miss Stephanie at Be Kind Rewrite that there would be no evasion of assignments this week. These two pieces of short fiction are inspired by Inspiration Monday VII   and the prompt “Death’s Artwork.”

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Queen for a Day

Josie fiercely protected a shopping cart abundant with the priorities of her life—newspapers, cans, tattered old coats, and bags filled with carefully chosen bits of shiny detritus—castoffs from a world of excess. She had a life once, a husband, children. But that was before the illness and one by one they abandoned her, or maybe she abandoned them. She was not so much old as she was shrunken into a wizened floating sylph—life sucks and then you live. Though she muttered and raved, sometimes pure reason would erupt from her cracked lips, heard only by those who sensed the value of words spoken in cipher.

When I found Josie one morning stiff and cold in an alleyway behind my apartment, I knew there was one last thing I could do before they came to bury her in a pauper’s grave. I bathed her and brushed her tangled hair, discarded the rags and dressed her in a simple blue shift. With her face made up, the years dropped away.

The state provided a simple wooden box, in which I arranged her priceless treasures. A small funeral was held. Other street people came, and they all said that Josie never looked so beautiful.

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Interview with a Lepidopterist

Oh those butterflies are so beautiful! You must have worked on this collection for a long time.

I have. It’s my pride and joy.

You must know so much about butterflies. How do you catch them?

I use the traditional nets. I know just where to find the best specimens. I’ve been all over the world and have some very rare specimens—sometimes I even sell them to make money to further my art!

Wow. Are you a scientist?

No, it’s just a fun hobby.

What happens after you net one?

Well, we have these special pins we use to mount them for display.

No, I mean before that.

You mean how do I arrange them?

No, I mean how do they go from alive to dead? You don’t stick pins in live butterflies, do you?

Of course not, that would be cruel! I euthanize them first.

How?

There are a couple of ways. The most common is to squeeze their thorax. The force breaks their exoskeleton, but sometimes you have to do it twice if they survive the first attempt. The other way is the killing jar. I usually add a few drops of ethyl acetate to asphyxiate it, otherwise they beat their wings against the glass trying to escape, and that damages the specimen.

Oh.

What?

Why not just take a picture?

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