Friday, August 11, 2006

narcoleptic fullness and pubs

Wow ppl. Did I just have a great day or what?! So full of stuff- lovely.

It started out with me rolling out of bed at 8- after maybe 6 hours sleep. I met Judy in the Leverrett courtyard and we walked to the Cambridge Multi-Service Center where we attended this really cool monthly meeting of service providers in the city. On the way over there we bumped into a guest of ours who had just left the shelter the evening before (left for awesome things! :)). He was selling Spare Change newspapers and tried to get us to take free copies, but I insisted he keep them. (more on him later)

Pretty much everyone I had spoken with on the phone for different things for the shelter all summer was there. The first presentation was about MassHealth coverage reform and I pretty much nodded off in the middle of it. I wasn't too interested, but that wasn't really the issue- I just couldn't stay awake in a sitting position. After the third belly poke from Judy I decided to just stand up.

*Interruption: Dance Break- David Bowie's Queen Bitch- hooah!

K- So then there was a neat presentation about government system change being slow like a turtle and the lady presenting skillfully managed a potentially inflammatory situation with a client who was in attendance who had grievances about one of the shelters in the city. She even was able to credit him for making good points and tie his ideas into her own talk- impressive. Then on the way out I made a good contact with someone who I think can help one of our shelter guests out big time so that was a nice feeling.

Next, to a nice little café, to watch Judy tune out completely into a thesis zone while I read Foucault and drew her unwitting face in my sketchpad. (Did I mention that I've been keeping a sketchpad this summer? I am- nothing too impressive yet, but it's muscle flexing.) Stayed for another hour alone and had the brilliant idea of turning around to face sunlight strewn Mass Ave- brilliant. Then I had grilled cheese lunch with Rachel Bergmann one of our supervisors who is mega cool- (Josh you know her from Unilu maybe?), then met Sarah Satinover who is visiting in Cambridge for the weekend since Netivot, the Hillel Israel trip Josh was supposed to be on right now, was cancelled. We watched this funny, and, may I say, unskilled rower, get stuck in the shore. I can't remember the last time I saw an oarsman call for help like that. There was also a mysterious object floating just beneath the river's surface- or so it seemed.

Did some work at PBHA, managed a fundraising fiasco, and met a Judy to open the shelter with the dented white van. On the way to the van, we bumped into yet another one of our success story guests from earlier this summer. I was really proud of him because he had very maturely confronted someone who had taken advantage of him, and it seems, might have gotten himself into a really cool alternative, religious, farming, communal livingish type program for the next year- the place sounds like a pseudo hippie, commune, dojo- it's perfect for him.

Arrived a bit late to the shelter- only 4 guests left, but we spent the evening rather productively with each of them and not all the discussions/issues were that simple. The guest we met earlier this morning stopped by during dinner to pick up the rest of his stuff. It was one of the most emotional moments of the program. I really wished that I had a camera for it.

Some background. I love this guy. I call him Elmo, when no one's listening. He's amazing! SO sweet and grateful. He has more gratitude than - just about anyone. I can't speak with him, or even write this without welling up with some deep emotion- pride, awe, love- just - wow. He got so much out of the program, the rules were common sense to him and it was laughable that we had to have him sign them to begin with. He sounds like someone who must not have had that much to deal with, but he has actually dealt with some of the most serious issues of anyone in the shelter all summer. He knew what he stood to loose during this time and it was substantive for him. He's fragile and looks it sometimes. He's missing most of his two front teeth. And through it all he's had resilience of steel and a heart of gold.

Line of the evening came when I was getting him some toiletries to take with him to the long term transitional program he's heading to. He took some shaving cream and razors, some soap, etc. Then when I offered him some toothbrushes, he said "what do I need a toothbrush for? I've got no teeth!" and started to cackle- quite contagiously too as soon after Judy and I were soon yipping in straights right along with him. He gave me a big bear hug before he left- stringy and breakable as he seems.

After some laughs in Leverrett with my roommates I returned something from Judy to Talya at her apartment on my way to meeting my friend Shimon at a bar. We went to The Cellar- a really fun bar on the way to Central Square with fun bluegrass/ country/ funnish music. Shimon is one of the guys who I lived with in the apartment earlier this summer and it was really nice to catch up with him.

And now- to bed- and coffee with Michael Simon (Tegan's favorite stalker and Hillel's director of programming) in the morning. I love busy days when I can handle them- nothing fazed me today and I feel really satisfied.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

To the Big Apple and Back

I'm actually writing this on the bus back from New York. Kind of funny since I won't be posting this for hours. My mom and step dad (Iz) came up to the city for a wedding, so I took the opportunity to come down and it was a grand reunion. I stayed with my sister Leah in her apartment at 99th and Riverside- wow- when I'm older and have a paycheck- I want a place like that too.

When I arrived she had neglected to leave me a key under the matt per our usual, so I ended up talking with the building super and storing stuff in a laundry closet until her return. Friday morning I was slow to rise, and then headed down to 75th see my parents. I traipsed around for a bit with my mom, had coffee, and then we squeezed our way into the grocery that is Fairway. Man that place is intense! You need to fend other shoppers off like predators. It didn't help that we kept forgetting to buy things that we needed for Shabbat lunch the next day and so had to make a few return trips. By the last trip around 3pm, it felt more like laser-tag than shopping.

We had Shabbat dinner in Leah's apartment. She had bought almost everything for fear of having to cook in her apartment during the heat wave. By the way- it is ridiculously hot! Queens lost power for a week because of it. It was a real shame since I would have enjoyed cooking with her. Meh. Shabbos morning we headed to services at this funky minyan (prayer service) called Darchei Noam. They have a very minimal division between men and women in the room- a bit above waist height and also the curtain opens up funny on both sides of the middle table so as to allow men and women equal access to all the action at the center. While the service is orthodox, they maximize women's participation in the service by having them lead everything that they legally can- including being called to read from the Torah. This week was a good week for us to got there since the portion of the Torah that is read contains the 10 commandments and the Shema and my sister was honored with the Aliyah (blessing before a particular reading where you get to go to the center and stand at the table next to the reader and look and feel all special) that has the 10 commandments in it that everyone stands up for- pretty cool. Darchei Noam also has a great reputation for having amazing singing, but I was a bit disappointed on that front unfortunately.

We had a quick lunch in my parents' hotel room and then headed out to the Natural History Museum which we had bought tickets for the day before. Wow- that place is awesome. There's a giant sperm whale that hangs from the ceiling over you, they have the first discovered T- Rex skull- very cool. They also have tons and tons of stuffed dead animals- which are really weird granted, but cool too in the sense that we don't do that very much any more- so you can kind of reflect on the museum makers and what they were doing exactly. We also went to this exhibit on Darwin that showcased a lot of his personal artifacts. It was cool, but seemed to turn into idol worship about half way through. I understand showing gratitude, but this thing made him into, savior, lone genius, and selfless martyr all wrapped into one. We do the strangest things to our heroes.

So after an evening of wandering and apple pie, I'm on my way back to Bean town where shelter politics, staff and house meetings, and 10 more days of awesomeness await. (Where the hell did my summer go?)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Candy and other insanity


We're in high gear for our biggest fundraiser of the summer. We're selling candygrams in the back of Annenberg for a week and then door dropping them to summer high school students. That means we're postering the yard and that I'm going to have the amazing temptation to eat all of our candy before we deliver it all week. mmmm. candy! This also means that I get to deal with amazingly zealous high-schoolers all week. yay!

We also might have an in for one of our guests at a great transitional program in Cambridge this week. The only issue is who to give the spot to- not an easy question since they might not all be interested and if they are there is more than one qualified applicant = semi- pickle for Judy and I. Also, realizing this week that we don't have adequate addiction counseling in place to advise us has been really frustrating. It's not an issue I enjoy dealig with on the fly, though I made an inspired call to a particular service provider in the area who has been an incredible help and inspiration. So yeah- I'm learning.

Also today- HUGE HUGE grant application due by the end of the day- ACK! It should be alright, but I'm anxious about it.

This week has also been really difficult on another level entirely. I have a friend who needs a lot of help, but isn't able to accept it from anyone. This week I've told him that though I want to be there for him, I can't be the only resource he takes advantage of. The whole thing has put me under a lot of strain and I don't know whether this tough love stance is best for him or not, only that I can't be responsible for him alone when the stakes are so high. Grrr.

In simple terms- it feels like I may be losing a best friend for a while and that sucks big time. I feel pretty helpless about the situation.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Some Summer Background

I started this blog not actually thinking about the reality that if I ever got any readers I'd have to start updating it. Here goes.

This summer I am living in Cambridge directing St. James's Summer Shelter. We're a PBHA program and we operate in St. James's church in Porter Square. We straddle the line between being a trransitional and an emergency homeless shelter and as the summer progresses we start to lean increasingly towards the emergency side. My co directors are Eric, who went home to Georgia recently, and Judy H., who still remains to hold up the fort with me/in spite of me. Judy is great to work with, is an incredible friend, and also happens to be Josh's girlfriend.

We're both at the shelter Sunday-Thursday, 6-11pm. We set up the place, welcome guests, collect free dinner fromt he back of Annenberg, dish dinner out, save leftovers, play scrabble, and sometimes manage crises. We also have case management meetings with guests to talk about their longer term plans for housing, employment, addiction, etc. At 10pm we are replaced by two of our 14 superstar supervisors, who then stay on duty until 8am. There are also a corp of semi-skittish high school volunteers who hang out, wash dishes, play games, and talk with guests. They are a lot of fun and often have interesting/rediculous questions about college and Harvard.

Oh! Oh! I almost forgot. I drive an ENORMOUS 12 seater van. I love it. There are a few of them we rotate on each day with other PBHA programs, they are a pain in the ass to get a hold of sometimes, the creak, they slide, the brakes aren't great, they are scratched, they are very hard to back up in without hitting things. (especially when I don't tell Judy to stop in time ;) ) And- I love them. I fell like a monster truck driver in them- probably explains why Judy always wants to drive when we're together.

During the day. I am also really busy. Grants, fundraising, emails, interviewing applicants, supply shopping, managing the supervisor projects- that one needs more attention, writing recommendations for guests to longer term programs, tracking down a van for the evening, and just spinnning my head around what needs to be done.

Since Eric left I've been living in Leverrett House F-tower. Before that I lived for a month with my friends Shimon and Jay in Rabbi Avi, the Hillel rabbi's apartment. It was awsome living there! I had a kitchen! I cooked Shabbos dinner for 11 a bunch of times- chicken, gaucamole, rice, salad, veggies, brownies, the works- not to mention breakfast and general weekday cooking. It was amazing and I was very sad to leave the place. My sister even gave me a recipe index card container filled with great dishes for my 21st birthday- fabulous.

Ok- I think that's a decent backdrop for future posts. More soon! I miss all of you guys and love reading about all your adventures!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

what now?

The world seems so lonely right now. There are bright moments too, but the bleakness is certainly commanding my attention for the time being.

The problems the clients and applicants to the shelter are dealing with make my own issues pale in comparison. Addiction, serious mental illness, abandonment, childhood abuse, divorce, social ineptitude. I feel ill equiped to help these people. What's more- there are some of them who I desperately want to help, but have a tough time getting through the fact that they annoy me to no end! I want to help you, but I'm not your secretary! And thinking that someone like me will be that for you somewhat demonstrates why you are still homeless! It is maddenning.

And Israel! Oy Israel. Desperate homeland. sweet gem in an abyss. Chosen land. What is that? Such a designation. Things are sucking so muh there right now. 1 million people evacuated from their homes to bomb shelters. 90 rockets over the border in a single day. Druz and Arab kids injured and killed too. What a brotherhood. So what's the response? Well- let's trudge north, take out the missiles, and try to get our kidnapped boys again. Great plan right? Well... what if all that does is hurt Lebanese kids and keep them in shelters too? Maybe we get some missiles and militants too. Great. But maybe in the process we're pulling the plug on the only emerging democracy in the region, strengthening a terrorist organization, and forcing the middle class to emigrate out of the country so that it can be inherited by those who really can't tolerate us on their border. Now what?

So what do we do? Twiddle our thumbs while they threaten to launch south of Haifa? Level Hizbollah despite the cost to civilians in the crossfire? Not a picnic of choices. What's worse, I've been feeling that either way the world is a really whacked place. I've also taken to getting really teary eyed during individual conversations with shelter guests- also not ideal for case management.

Then sometimes I think of yall out there on wild adventures. And music. I remember music- and sing and smile.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

some pictures

Click here to get Google

Here I am in front of the Artists' Wall in Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv. Kind of Patriotic looking.

This photo really cracks me up.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Yay my blog

I told myself I was going to start a blog over break and here I am.

This vacation has been really great. I love Miami so much.