2008-2009

 

THE UNDETECTABLE HOMELESS:

ON SHELTER, SHARING, AND SELLING

 

 

I’m going to focus on some stories that reveal information which may be important now or in your future.  The topics are noted in the title. 

 

I (first) met Rhonda in 2004 while traveling through Massachusetts.  I had to wait for a traffic jam to move along, and I noticed a dirt road off of a state route with just a hint of a vehicle hiding amid a mass of trees.  I pulled out, made a U-turn, and headed for the entrance to the dirt road.  I didn’t want to go all the way to the motor home, so I parked and walked up to it.  Rhonda was seated at a folding table beside the vehicle, and looked up as I approached.  She wasn’t smiling, but she didn’t get up and go into the MH.  I made small talk about what a good, cool spot she had in which to park for awhile, and she motioned for me to pull up another folding chair and sit.  I did, and she didn’t have any problem with sharing her story.  Women usually don’t when they can see that I’m “harmless” and probably alone and just wanting company.  She excused herself after looking at her watch, and went into the MH for a few minutes.  She returned rubbing her side, saying that she hit the wrong place with the needle.  When she realized that sounded suspicious (drugs), she explained that she takes insulin for diabetes and doesn’t have enough fat on her body to pinch it for the needle, hence the pain.  What she told me then is now worth transferring from my recorder to this page since both sides of my family have the gene for diabetes.  I have had contact with her off and on within the last four years, and she has completed her journey in the MH and lives in Senior Housing in MA.   I believe that she is content.

 

          “I’m going to have to sell off my wonderful motor home and settle down in one place just because of this medical problem.  I’ve been traveling around MA and NH for a couple of years, and all kinds of changes have happened which demand that I be in one state and even one county….You see, I like the traveling, and I can make out with money by selling the fancy pillow covers I create out of llama hair and silk.  My son was raising them in NH until he moved to NV.  He sold the farm but insisted that the guy who bought it let me have as much as I wanted forever, uh, you know, of the hair, not the farm!  Actually, I could have made much more money if I didn’t have arthritis and my hands got to hurting with all of the handwork….I was making payment for a couple of years with one Medicare-approved company prescription plan, but they changed their rules and now they only serve two counties where I don’t live.  So, I have to find another prescription plan where I’ll be safe and can get the insulin – soooo expensive -- without spending thousands of dollars a year that make me absolutely broke….I’ve never seen such a pathetic mess that AARP has put us old people in.  An enrollment period and penalty.  I fall into a gap which means that I have to pay 100% of my medicines and it’s all because of the insulin.  I think the pharmaceutical companies ought to be sued by the millions of people who are paying such ridiculous amounts.  It wouldn’t hurt to shake the pockets of the heads of the corporations who get millions or maybe billions in salary and pensions.  Until I can enroll in another plan, I have to pay for all of my medications in full, and I have to do this quickly since I can only get a small amount at a time and the motor home is just not the place for me to be in now that I’ve passed 67….I don’t want to live in one room, but I see senior housing facing me.  What a bore!  I’m going to have to find new friends and never be able to travel to see my old ones.  I’ve made such good pals along the roads I travel.  Nothing like good friends to feel alive….

 

          These prescription plan companies are all expensive, but some are totally out of sight.  I don’t know how anyone who isn’t rich can afford the new AARP plans – or is it Medicare that makes the rules?  No; I think it’s AARP who has sold us out for their profits. Oh; aren’t they supposed to be a non-profit organization?  Sounds like corruption to me….You know, they don’t even let you know little bits of information that make you pay more – and that raises the prices every year.  And you have to give them months of notice that you will change plans even before you really know how much you could save or pay more.  I still don’t get any answers about why I am getting less from my Social Security check than I did a few years ago.  All I hear is that Medicare is taking out more than any cost of living rise by Social Security….

 

          I know that some of the plans are attached to health insurance, like a co-pay, and everyone should have a lawyer look at what you have to sign!  Talk about legalese!....but the worst is finding a good plan in the county and state where you want to live for over a year….So I have flyers made up to put everywhere to sell this home I’m made for myself.  I’m resigned to having a pretty lousy life from now on, and it’s all because of the need for high-priced insulin and the need for a place for it to be delivered, even though that’s a crock since it’s supposed to be refrigerated until used.  I was using my son’s address, but that’s out now.  I guess I should just be near a Wal-Mart and get it there since they keep it refrigerated….”

 

As the summer passes, I got a call from Sherry, whom I met while at a Rest Area in Connecticut.  She was driving by my area on her way to VA to live with a niece, and we got together for a day of reminiscing.  Those memories are not “normal” ones.  Sherry is one of the 9/11 “widows” who never was acknowledged as a true “widow” since she and her partner never married.  Therefore, she never received any compensation from her loss of a longtime partner.  In addition, she lost her furniture and other belongings when her “husband’s” children wiped out the condo they shared.  She tried to find a lawyer to retrieve the things that were truly hers, but at the time, every lawyer in the tri-state area was dealing with the survivor of a marriage.  She was living out of her SUV when I met her, and she kept in touch because we both attended the same college (not at the same time, though) and we had lots of gossip to share.  Now that she is 70 and no longer feels comfortable traveling full-time, she has decided to live in a house again, and fortunately, she and her niece like each other and Sherry will have a guest apartment over the garage.  I went with her while she did laundry at a strip shopping mall.

 

          “I’m not unhappy about living with my niece, but I sure would like to be with women who have shared the same kind of experiences that I had to.  Those times were so unique, and no one else can understand the horror of seeing those towers go down on TV every hour on the hour….You met me when I had only a few weeks in the SUV under my belt, and while I’ll never be normal again, I was getting used to a new routine and looking for ways to make more money than the Social Security check….I did find a part-time job doing baby-sitting for a child with special needs, but I admit that it was depressing.  As if I didn’t have enough to feel sad about….

         

          There were a lot of us, I mean, the women who were living with a man and never married.  I found two wandering around in RVs and we exchanged stories, feeling a bond that can’t be duplicated….It was good to cry with someone else, and maybe regular widows feel sad too, but not like we did and do….I put a couple of ads in newspapers for women like us, older and never given any attention like real married folk.  We all knew that our loved one was blown to bits or fried like fast food stuff.  OH! I’m sorry!  That sounded awful, didn’t it?  But we weren’t allowed to forget for one minute with all stations carrying the videos for weeks, months….

 

           The other women I did meet found some kind of job and they were just terrible jobs, standing on their old feet with bad backs all day, and then being miserable alone at night.  It occurred to me that if we could just get together we could make sort of a family.  You know, living and working together for some cause that we all felt made our lives worthwhile….Three women thought we ought to try it, and we traveled like a caravan, each of us selling something we made, either separately or together.  What came of it was the togetherness of making baby quilts for the girls in a convent for unwed girls….We were asked to speak to the girls about not feeling alone in their predicament, and how to share their stories and find solace if they were giving up their babies for adoption….Well, we made a name for ourselves with the quilts, and then we started to talk about finding a house to share and work from there.  We branched out and made other quilts, like for women in prison…full of flowers and happy themes….One by one, each woman finally married or got another male partner, and it wasn’t any fun making quilts by myself, sometimes with one other woman.

 

          We had been renting, and I couldn’t manage alone, so I went back to full-time RVing.  I feel the sorrow of not having a family anymore, and I’m going to try to start a kind of club for older women like us, and heavens, we all have some skills to make something useful and pretty.  I’ll stay with my niece until I can find a way to make another place for a family that has something to do with how I feel….Maybe the quilts will make a comeback for a purpose that hasn’t already been discovered….”

 

I’m not going to use the exact photo of where I met Corinne, but this looks very similar to where she parked her car farther along the path into the cemetery and slept in the opening at the back of the cement building.  This may be recognizable to people in that neighborhood, and I wouldn’t like to have anyone try to locate her.  It isn’t usual to have an opening, but the family expected to bury another very old person soon, so a kind of “door” was built in.  Corrine had been using flea markets and collectibles for money to add to her Social Security check, and had moved up in that world to enter some minor antiques shows because she happened on a very old store that had closed in a small town with a shop that specialized in fancy thermometers.  I’m speaking about antique thermometers, usually advertising some company and/or product.  They are highly desirable in the marketplace.

 

          “How in the world did you find me?  I was sure that no one saw me parking and then slinking in the dark into the crypt!  (I told her that I had stopped to eat by the side of the road and then took a walk around the interesting stones.  I noticed that she had hung a blouse out to dry on a stone, and naturally, I did some detecting!  I had a clue to a hidden homeless person, for this is not an atypical place to stay.  No one wants to notice others who are standing by a burial place during the day or evening, maybe praying.) 

 

          So now that you know I’m kinda living here, are you gonna tell?  (I assured her that I wouldn’t, and went to get my book and card.)  My neighbors are very safe to be around at night, and I know when the gardener is going to come and mow….I stay here for a couple of summer months ‘cuz it’s cool in there, believe it or not….My business is in surrounding towns since I do a circuit of fleas and sometimes local shows with inexpensive items….It was a fantastic find, those thermometers, and I set them out for a few shows with no intention of selling them.  But the other dealers kept asking how much I’d take for them, and I bought an antiques magazine that had a story about old mercury thermometers….I always wanted to live along the coast of Maine, so I drove up there last summer and showed my stuff to a good shop, hoping that I could have a place to sell.  I was asked to join the group immediately, and then all of a sudden, a law came out that thermometers with mercury couldn’t be sold anymore.  I was stunned, and I had sold most of my usual stock.  I didn’t know what to do then, and one night when I was feeling blue, I ate at one of my favorite diners on Rt.1.  (I knew it from my travels, and I had taken a photo of it just for my own use in a collage of pictures of one area.  This is it: Moody’s, a well-known diner that is a tradition among locals and tourists.  The large helpings of food are good, but for me, rather bland.)  I decided not to kill myself and think of how to get out of my new mess.  The dessert helped: a huge piece of lemon meringue pie and then a slice of apple to go….”

 

 

          “I recovered from basically no stock by starting over again at fleas and moving up the ladder to better fleas and shows.  I met a couple of gay guys who liked my stock and we got along so well, laughing at everything,, that we decided to share larger spaces and travel together to new places for me.  The had already been selling well, and it was just great to feel like I had permanent pals….We saw an old broken-down house for rent in a very rural area in Western Mass and decided to live together to have our own shop….Well, they took off after a snit about a year ago, and I need to find someone else to live and sell with.  It’s just not any fun being alone all the time, and when you have things in common, it’s almost like having a family….I’m advertising in all of the flea and collectible rags for at least one partner, and maybe I’ll get lucky again.  In the meantime, I travel with the weather, and I’ve found out how to sell the thermometers, laws or not.  Museums can buy them, and I guess many have a way to remove the mercury.  I still have quite a few, and they will make my next year….”

 

Family means more than blood relatives.  It is shelter, sharing, and in this case, selling to have a business – and money.

 

 

MEET HOMELESS PEOPLE WHO HAVE CREATED BUSINESSES

From Scratch to Success:  

 

IF YOU KNOW ANY TRAVELERS WHO ARE LIVING THIS KIND OF LIFESTYLE,

DO EMAIL AND SHARE STORIES!  THERE WILL BE MANY MORE STORIES OF

 SURVIVING WHILE BEING THE UNDETECTABLE HOMELESS,

SO KEEP AN EYE AN THIS SITE!

  islandr@goeaston.net

 

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