Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good Fences

What must my neighbors think? I am up all night and I sleep all day. I can only write with one pen, and I often leave my keys in the door. I am noisy and loud, and to make matters worse, I'm from New York.

I listen to one song on the radio over and over again. I take everything I own with me when I leave, and carry it back in when I get home. I am constantly tripping my own feet, and probably offend them with my politics, and I am not shy to say that President Bush looks like the Outbreak Monkey.

So my neighbors may not like me. But they don't know me. And they don't care. After being assaulted in my own home several years ago, I noticed my neighbor witnessing the event through his bedroom window.

When questioned by the police regarding his failure to act, he simply told them, "Well, as far as I'm concerned, good fences make good neighbors. " Well, fuck him!

Do you know how scary it is to be alone in a strange city? Afraid to leave, and, afraid to go home? To live in your car because it was the better option?

To come home one day and find everything and I mean everything you own was gone? Your birth certificate, your social security card, your grandmother's jewelry.

Where would you start? Would you know what to do? Would you ever go back? Would you ever feel safe again in your own home? Anywhere?

Whom would you trust? Whom could you trust?

You could trust me. Because this is who I am.

My neighbors don't know that I spend my free time volunteering at the homeless shelter or by myself. They don't know that I spent most of my twenties in constant fear and physical pain.

They don't know how it feels to live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I became a prisoner of my own making. I live in fear. Fear of fire, fear of chemicals, fear of the dark. Fear of spending the rest of my life with this damn disease.

I need a map to find my keys, and once I do, I have lost my phone. I like my car. I can see everything coming towards me, and I can always get away. I like to write in my car.

With one pen, and one song playing over and over again on the radio.

So as I accept the reality that I may never own property or have a place to call home, I can say with certainty that of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most!

"You may not care how much I know, but you do not know how much I care."  ~Elyssa

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tell Them Who I Am

Homeless at Home
March 7

CatherineGrison you tweeted yesterday about "TRUST" 
and that prompted me to repost this essay about #invisiblepeople!

Thank you for seeing me.  I am almost visible! @almostvisible

In addition to copies of my medical and financial records, I bring Michael Elliot's book, Why the Homeless Don't Have Homes and What to Do About It.

I skim the list of references and I see names I recognize: Jonathan Kozol; Faulkner; Foucault, and I know I am in good company.

I begin my second journey to the Multipurpose Center #54 on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens; I try to prepare myself for the four-to-six hour wait that inevitably lies ahead of me.

It is my hope that buried deep within these pages and Elliot’s years of experience and wisdom, I will find some solution to my problem.

After my first few days in New York City, I quickly learn that the homeless cannot vote nor can we obtain a library card. Knowledge is power. Information challenges the status quo. Books are my friends.

When I browse through Barnes & Noble, I often see titles that catch my eye; and though I know nothing of the content, I am inherently drawn to Night is Dark and I am Far From Home by Kozol, and Tell Them Who I Am by Elliot Liebow.

Today is March 26, 2001; My first journey to Multipurpose Center #54 was January 26, 2001: exactly 2 months ago; After many calls to NYC No-Heat Hotline to complain about the situation, I still have no heat. I have no electricity and no water. My caseworker did not tell me she would be leaving her position with Protective Services for Adults (PSA) and I have not been contacted by any with Health and Human Resources (HRA) since March 5, 2001.

On March 7, 2001, I drove my beat-up 1994 Honda Civic over to the emergency room at NYU. By the time I arrived at East 23rd pulled over and asked two officers in the 3rd precinct to please take my car and help me find my way to the ER since my panic was overwhelming and I had lost touch with my senses and felt I was a danger on the roads; I had now lost my sense of direction both in concrete terms and in the abstract vision I had painted of my life.

Officer Collins and her partner, Officer Gavin did not laugh at me; they did not tell me I was crazy or delusional. They let me catch my breath and miraculously managed to calm my fears and prepare me for the short trip in the ambulance to the ER. Officer Gavin's wife has four cats. Officer Collins was off duty, yet she stayed with me.

In the ER for what seemed like several hours. True to their word, they miraculously got my car out to Long Island where it was placed in a garage safe from the NYC Department of Finance.

I hate cops. Always have. Ever since I found out my Daddy was a Fed. But they were an exception to the rule. There is always an exception to the rule.

"Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."  ~Chinese proverb

Yesterday I was grateful for the sunny weather and a place to stay. Today it is snowing. Tomorrow I must return to Multipurpose Center #54 to file another application for Public Assistance.

The weather may be nice or it may be cold, but night is coming and I am far from home. And I beg of you, tell them my name.

Tell them I have a name. And last but not least, tell them who I am.


Or have some fun and catch me in the act at:

Slide Show II: Read Between the Lines

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The first course I took as a grad student in New York City was a fabulous seminar in public journalism. on the 4th floor at the infamous J-School located inside the cool steel gates separating surrounding Morningside Heights.

We would pass the men living on the streets each day, enter through the solid stone doors that were 12 ft tall, and write about them. With such eloquence you would hardly know they were homeless at all. I would enter at 116th Street. Homeless people leaned against the buildings asking for change I did not have.  We pretended not to see them. the were invisible people. If you could avoid making eye contact, you could pretend you didn't see them.

We exploited them.

The blocks surrounding 116th-120th where the young and talented get ready to take their place in society. Our liberal professors gave us just the right skills to turn us into experts.  Experts in public journalism, public relations, and media manipulation.  We were gifted with a card key to unlock the gates. That key gave us access and privilege.

Yes, membership does have it privileges.

All took was a swipe of the card and we could bypass security we had the power to get in. Tradition. The Ivy League way.

Just like Tuskegee exploited the Blacks, and the Army exploits the young and the rudderless, we exploited the sick irony of paying more per credit than they earned in one year on Veterans benefits or disability. We disgust me.

But Karma is a bitch, because less than 2 years later there I was,

I would sleep in the law school library, had a locker in the basement next to the the indoor pool, and University mailbox, and a beautiful smile. I had the power to get in.  

I “looked" good enough to pass through the gates. I still do, only now I am the invisible one.

I had the Ivy League pedigree. You can't take that away from me. It is written on my birth certificate. 

A power broker in the making... a would have / should have / could have / member of the ruling elite... The Powers That Beat.

Am I "Law School material?"

I have what it takes to get in on my own? So why question my heritage or my DNA? How is that relevant to the life I live today?  

What the fuck did they know? That cute little Jewish Girl from Long Island, the one from a "good" family... the Harvard Legacy with the beautiful mother dripping in jewels and fur coats received from her latest boyfriend or husband—that little girl was me. 

I should have been the perfect example of how a power player in the making the benefits from good breeding.

No one ever needed to know that beneath it all I worked my ass off to pay my way through my first two years of college.  No one cared and no one believed me anyway.  

Ultimately I managed to get a scholarship into the top ranked program in Sociology and Politics. Ranked at the very top of the list in US News and World Report. I can affect change.

The fact that I dropped out of high school at 16 could remain my dirty little secret.

And to this day, no one ever come forward to expose that little truth. Probably because so few people know—Maybe three or four So why on earth would I reveal such an embarrassing little detail of my personal life and risk my reputation on something I should have left behind me over twenty years ago?

[edd/eds Nov. 9, 2009: notes to follow... re: Enclave: Drop Dread]

Because it matters.

No one needed to know. I can get by well enough on my looks, I speak quite eloquently, and usually appear normal to most, but it is an important little factoid because people constantly judge ME based upon who they think I am – either the girl with the wealthy parents, or a lazy too stupid too get off welfare.

It matters because all too often, what appears to be and reality are two very different things. I am in fact, an Ivy League Alum. I did in fact get a full scholarship into the PhD program in Public Policy at a leading University.

Impressive? Not so much...

I am in fact unable to find employment and live on SSI (Supplemental Security Income) the lowest of the low. I am so far beneath the poverty level (already ridiculous) that I often wonder how I manage to live at all.

So that "legacy," the access I once had to the Ivory tower on the 4th floor we wrote is now gone. Not because they didn't like my work-- they loved it! Solid A in Public Journalism.

Well if I were in New York today, I would most likely be one of the people o the streets. Actually, I would probably be sitting across the street at the Bookstore just so I could stay close to the vast amounts of wisdom and philosophy within the hollowed halls as classes break for the summer. I would be watching people go in and out and be envious that they had the one thing that I don't: access.

So I made it through the very Same J-School where Pat Buchanan refused to speak to his Alma-mater because he once punched someone in the face on the 5th floor. I made it through despite the fact that I often times slept in my car in the middle of winter because I could not afford gas for the commute and eventually lost my apartment. I made it through having no electricity and frozen water pipes.

The question is: can I make it through this? I paid my dues.

I deserve a chance. Dammit, I deserve a chance. I deserve a job. I deserve a little credit.

Will our policy decision be based upon our need for reform or the ability to buy into the trendy ads that generating hate and intolerance. ANd to be clear, it is not just the insurance lobby.  It is ALL of US.

Dems, libs, pubs, non-profits, not-for-profits, even agencies and organizations I reluctantly support and/or promote for free: Despite the fact that i find their tactics both offensive and hypocritcal.

At Coulmbia, we used to joke about all the sell-out journalists who gave up on the news... peple like Pat Buchananan who took the same course, but into politics instead.  The whole bunch of them.  They crossed that fine line specturm.... speech writers, columnists; or even politicians themselves.

How did people like Pat Buchanan (a J-School alum) became so skilled at using their words to sell ideas in such a way that people actually believed the propaganda they were spinning?
After giving much thought to where or what I hoped to become, I am glad that we now live in society where all citizens can take place in reporting the news, watching the watchers, and participating in the democratic process where freedom of the press is the key to success...

Thank god all mighty.... because I have since come to the conclusion that the mediawhores feeding the machine are more arrogant and self serving than politicians they who have virtually no limits when it comes to feeding their ego in 15 second time bytes.

I think they become addicted to the their own power to manipulate people and they are willing to trade a little tarnished idealism for power and inflated self-esteem.

I am not one of those people. I care enough about the issues to take the time to examine them from all angles. I feel that the massive amount of money being spent by agencies that I hold in deep respect launching a counter-attack on the insurance companies and their ad execs will have serve to damage their reputation. I chose to volunteer with these agencies because I believe they are well informed and do a great job to involve the everyday average Americans like myself in the political process.

By spending $750,000 on advertising, these groups now seem to be on the same level as the insurance industry and others who exploit the poor and infirm at the mercy of the healthcare marketplace. 


So I take issue with this campaign. Let Rick Scott be heard. Using such tactics will make the good guys no better than the Insurance Companies that exploit us all.

Are these ads showing us: how to reform or how to perform? 
The large amount of funds being thrown (public or private) being spent on media fluff, and emotional being spent on media propaganda and 'skittles' on both sides of the healthcare debate.

I am offended by the huge amounts of money being spent on propaganda and skittles by both sides of the healthcare debate. Excessive, exorbitant monies being spent to manipulate the public through misleading ads, expert analyses, action alerts, and media manipulation: this is insulting at best.

Real dollars are being used to manipulate the public about real issues: the sick; the poor, the ignorant... We are skewing and spewing  bad data and information to those who need it the most.

Talk about adding insult to injury? I do hope the Center for Media Health Care for America Now, HealthJustice.org and others will reconsider this campaign. I am one foot soldier who is unwilling to participate in this one.   And these are the good guys... $750 MILLION?

Bottom line is this: we need to stop manipulating images and perceptions about the reality of healthcare, education, and social welfare in the United States.

All is not well in America. Not well at all.
And I am here to prove it!

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.
Anytown, United States of America


10/22/09 6:26am

Any day now. any day!

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20 GO TO 10
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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Between FaceBook & Twitter My Life's in the Shitter (via @BillZucker)

Tweet #32,000

I sure hope the new Healthcare Plan Covers TweeHab!     With Love, @ElyssaD