Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Who Are You?

Self image and public image are inextricably, and probably inexpressibly, tied together. Who you are is really a compilation of facts you know about yourself, the judgments you hold about those facts, and your perceptions and beliefs about the judgments others will make about those facts. You're a boy, you're a girl, you're a man, woman, white, black, hispanic, American, Israeli, cult member, body dismorphic, gender confused, homeless, rich kid. You're none of that? Okay, you are some other oddball collection of facts that will give instant rise to emotional response in everyone you meet. The whole point of this blog is to help you get control of who you are, what that response becomes.

If we were picking animal spirit guides, mine would be the chameleon.

I've been thinking about a strategy that involves appearing to be a tourist. If you don't have anything holding you where you are, no people, no job, no great love of the scenery, it could be worthwhile to move your homeless household to a new city, a new state, and keep your old license and your old plates. Tourists are well liked because they take little, and spend a lot. Police are said to favor giving "warnings" to tourists, because they don't want to give them a bad feeling about the city. Business owners roll out the red carpets. You can get away with a lot with a camera around your neck and a fold up city map in your hand. Asking for help is easy; you aren't expected to know the ropes. This isn't a game I've played, except that as a tourist I've always noticed that a smile and a thank you and a can you help me? have had plenty of cache.

Who are you, anyway? It isn't that collection of facts, but they are your social identity. Take over control of that collection, and make the impact you want to make.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Search Results

Someone tell me how this happens. I track referrers and search terms used to find the Survival Guide to Homelessness, and one that keeps popping up is a related search to adult gay and lesbian DVD's. That is simply bizarre to me. How did my site wind up related to porn portals?

My first thought was referrer spam, just as incognito suggests below, but it doesn't look like that to me. This is a search in Google for sites "related" to a result, and the original result is the DVD distributor. I did just snap to something, though. Could it be that I am related because of my scant references to sex lube as a substitute for shaving cream?

If only the rest of my key terms had such success in standing out. It would be nice to appear before the twentieth result page for the term homeless or homelessness. As it is, you have to add the term survival or surviving if you want to find me. On the upside, search for survival guide homelessness and I am the first result, so if you know you want me, you can find me.

Friday, February 18, 2005

OFF TOPIC: Birth Announcement

My son, Cheval, was born to us just after noon, Friday, February 18th, 2005. He was six pounds, nine ounces, twentyone inches long. He was four weeks early, but perfect and healthy, a bit thin, and looked like nothing more than a grumpy old man. Needless to say, I am proud as can be. Both mother and child are continuing to do well days later.

Of course this kind of thing places a family under quite considerable financial stress, so it is not entirely off topic. I'd love it if my readers could help by commenting with their best ideas for cheap baby stuff. Toys R Us could break the Trump fortune if a parent lets them.

Donations would also help... (ugh, I hate asking)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My First Rejection Letter

Cool Publishers Unlimited
A Division of WeGotWhatYouWant Enterprises, Inc.
PO Box 1234 SomeWhere Villa, USA
Phone: 555-NaNa Fax: 555-Neah


Dear Author,

We have decided not to pursue the publishing of your book. It's a good premise, but we don't think it is quite right for us.

A rejection letter has little to no bearing on the worthiness of a piece of writing. It simply means it won't work for that particular publisher. Finding the right match in a publishing house can be as important as the writing itself.

Thanks for thinking of us. We wish you the best of luck with your publishing ventures. I apologize for the canned response, but due to the volume of submissions, it is not possible to send personal responses.


Too Cool President

Right up to the last paragraph I was with these guys. I took some small comfort in the notion that it was a good premise, and that perhaps they felt it was publishable, but didn't fit their line. They could have left off by wishing me luck, but they had to keep going. They had to admit the response was canned, and therefore insincere. To top it off, they had to brag that they have so much good stuff to read, they haven't got time to give me a personal blow off.

Now I am disappointed, and I don't mean to seem bitter, but I could write a better rejection in my sleep. Never, ever, admit that you haven't written this letter personally and particularly for its recipient. Never.

Ah well. I won't tell him that. I'll just put it here, on the blog, drink a beer, and see if I can think of someone else to submit to. I just hope the next rejection I receive has the good grace to seem personal. Meanwhile, if I don't find some work, I think I'll be reading my own book for tips.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


You may wonder whether I vote Republican or Dem, Bush or Kerry, pro or anti. You may want to know where I stand on the issues, social security, capital punishment, the war, the economy, abortion, stem cells, gays in the military, Palestine or Israel? Am I Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindi, Buddhist, atheist? You may wonder. You may even think you know, but I'm not going to tell you, not on this blog with this pen name. Why?

Not because it isn't your business. Not because I don't have strong opinions that I would like to persuade you to adopt. I do. I wish you would. It just doesn't fit here. If I take a side on side issues, some of you will be alienated and I won't be able to share my ideas on homelessness with you. And that brings up another homelessness survival issue.

Do not put bumper stickers on your car.

Bumper stickers make people react to you. That is what they are designed to do. No matter how important you think the issues of the day are, you do not need to be noticed. Save it for the rally. When you are trying to get settled for the night in that nice conservative neighborhood, you don't need the people seeing Save the Whales, and Love Animals, Don't Eat Them all over your car. They will know you don't belong there.

New Blogger

There's a new blogger on the block, and I was really touched by her first post on the homeless experience. She is eloquent on the pain that lack of sleep causes, and on the topic of shelters. She does a beautiful job expressing how shocking the difficulties are if you have not prepared for homelessness. Check her out.

Alice on the Run

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Interactive List of the Best

I'd like your help with this post. I'm going to post some of my favorite things for travelers, the homeless, or just anyone, and I am going to post some categories and items that I need suggestions on. If you have a real favorite item, and I mean an unequivocal ten on a scale of one to ten, respond with it in the comments, or drop me an email, and I will revise the post, unless I disagree. Tell everyone what makes it a really good product. We can have more than one best in a given area, for instance, a best quality, and a best deal. I'd like to get a core list for homeless perfection.

Best All-Around Personal Care Product: Generic KY Jelly - There are lots of good reasons to make things slick, a waterless shave, a hair tamer, and of course there is the original use. No one ever felt cheated of their two bucks for a tube of sex gel.

Best Razor: There is no comparable disposable razor to the Mach 3 triple blade, but it is pricey at two bucks each, and it is only the first two or three shaves with each razor that are really good. For my money, I like the Gillette Good News razor with lubricating strip. It is a very high quality double blade, most shaves are bloodless, and at thirtyfive to fourtyfive cents each I feel okay about discarding them after two or three shaves, thus I am always shaving with a sharp razor, and life is good.

Best Portable Propane Stove: The worst is any of them that balance a single burner on top of a 16 ounce propane bottle. I used these stoves for years before I realized how annoying and dangerous they are. One little bump, an uneven surface, a badly balanced pan and over it goes, causing scalds and wasting food. I hate them. By contrast, Coleman makes a dandy two burner stove that folds up like a briefcase and takes up very little room in the car. It is usually sold for around $60, but the link I have provided is for a Walmart clearance that has them down to $35. Target and Kmart and Walmart continously knock off copycats that are just as good and sell them for under forty bucks. You are just looking for a two burner, briefcase style, propane stove.

Trial Sizes
: The best place to look for your hygiene needs is the trial size aisle or end cap at your local supermarket or drug store. You'll find all sorts of neat items, containers, travel toothbrushes, mouthwashes, picks, floss, shampoo, combs, brushes, razors, creams, lotions, antiseptics, astringents, analgesics, cold medicines, bandages, caffeine stimulants, and much more for pennies. It is a sort of mobile lifestyle treasure spot. Look for it.

Best Hot Water Bottle:

Best Hand Warmer: The EZ Heat Reusable Handwarmer is a real star. I had one of these many years ago and had not known where to find another until this reader suggestion. Click the metal disk for instant heat lasting more than half an hour, and boil it to reset. Enjoy the residual heat on both sides of the cycle. Oh! I so love this product. The best seven bucks you've ever spent. Do a quick Google search and you will find scads of sites selling them.

Best Road Blanket:

Best Car Cover: We're looking for one that is not very translucent, has good tie down points, and allows you to get into and out of the car fairly easily after it is installed.

Help me out here. Tell me your best tips. Only tens. No nines.