Panic at the Traffic Light (Part 2 – unedited)

Green light!!!! Okay, good, we are moving! Breathe breath. On to the free way.. just cruise, some music. Light a cigarette, and cruise to 38th street exit.
Wait how did I end up at Airport and 35th? oh shit! red light. can only turn east when I want to go west. Shit. Well, okay, I’m not lost, i jsut took a wrong turn. I know exactly where I am and where I need to go. No worries. This is going to be a long redlight. Oh man, okay….um more ac!! yes!! okay, no, no no, that is too much, turn it down. you know this music is too loud. maybe Iggy Pop isnt good music for a panic attack I shoudl reconsider my choices. Yes and you should also reconsider smoking that cigarette Nicole. Is this killing me or making me more alive? Jesus, I dont know. Okay, I’lll just focus on some music.. you know nicole, if you would quit smoking you wouldnt be having a panic attack about the potential health effects of your continued bad habit. and you know that is ALL that it is, it’s a habit. period. you CAN just change your mind.. you are free at anytime to do just this… to free your mind and make a new decision….

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The Exhibitionist Within (Part One)

My grandmother has a photo of me when I was in first or second grade. I’m standing at the front of a stage, with my arms thrown skyward, in sheer and total ecstasy. Beneath me, there is a sign hung from the stage and in large letters it reads: “Music Moves Me”. Nice to know your own destiny!

A friend of mine, who is a talented aerialist, would like to start a pole dancing studio. Sometimes her behavior makes me think she’d be a good Grifter. I’ve seen her in complacency and ferocity, and emotions in between.  I love her just the same. It’s not my job to change her; it’s my job to experience her as she is.

Today, I was listening to some music that led me to reminisce about the joys of pole dancing. The sheer JOY of it! Moving your body to the ebb and flow of the tune, that reverberates through the stage floor, through the pole, through stiletto heels, though YOU! A crowd cheering, clapping, coming to the stage to GIVE YOU MONEY!

THAT is what any woman who fantasizes about stripping is thinking about! THAT is the driver, the motivating factor. Its exhibitionism, its physicality, sexy heels, and adoration in the form of attention and cash! Ha!

No surprise that when I realized it was time to quit, the first thing I did was audition for a play. Not quite the same adrenaline rush as the strip club, but…it sufficed. For a time.

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Panic at the Traffic Light! (Part One)

Looking back I think I know what started it, but at the time…

6:45 pm = headed to the Local to meet with friends and long term acquaintances…

Upon arrival at the second intersection, I begin to feel slightly dizzy.

Oh god is that a shooting pain in my arm? no just a mild ache.

I think my chest feels tight. Green Light!

probably a muscular thing…yeah, but your heart Is a muscle nicole!

feels a bit fast…I feel kinda cold. dizzy…

oh no no non no, snap out of it, Nicole you are fine.

shit! red light!  oh god, cmon cmon cmon.

I tap my fingers on the steering wheel.

Oh god no no no no, dont pass out…

blood rushes to my head, my heart pounds or so it seems, I catch my breath!

Ignore it! youre fine youre fine. it’s not real. find something something something….

I look around…what?

deep breath.

something, there must be something, something interesting to focus on, something… oh god! None of this is interesting… but theres too much of it!!!!

Looking down, I jiggle the gearshift around in neutral with my right hand, glancing up at the red light, back at the gear shift, back at the light (green yet?).

Note the pattern of traffic…oh god, the perpendiculars are jut making the left and they go first….okay, hold tight, breathe breathe breathe…

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How Voter ID Laws Disenfranchise Individual American Citizens

I don’t really take in much news myself, but I have been hearing little snippets of interest regarding voter ID laws, and it occurred to me that some of you may be wondering: “How does having to show ID when voting disenfranschise whole groups of citizens?”  My answer is: It doesn’t. It disenfranchises more than a few individual American citizens. It makes me wonder how many non-citizens are trying to vote fraudulently when only half of all Americans actually bother to vote if they can’t hit a “Like” button. Everybody seems to be up in arms about whether this dispropotionately affects blacks and hispanics. Yes, it does. Just look at ANY other data related to almost ANYTHING. This is not news. What matters is that it affects American citizens, and that includes ALL of us regardless of race or ethnicity, and it actually has more to do with income level alone than anything else.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-25/news/sns-rt-us-usa-voterid-pennsylvaniabre86o1l1-20120725_1_pennsylvania-voter-id-law-voter-identification-legal-challenge

I have been employed in the social service industry for the better part of the last 12 years. One of the services every program I have ever worked on provides is assistance with obtaining Government Issued Identification, and over the years I have assisted hundreds of individuals with obtaining the documentation necessary to obtain the Government Issued Identification, so that my clients may then obtain employment.

Any time you start a new job, the first thing you provide is I-9 documentation. This is usually your driver’s license and your social security card. If you cannot provide these items, you cannot legally be employed in the U.S.

Since I reside in Texas, let’s just have a look at the documentation you need to replace a lost or stolen Driver’s License or ID.

Documents Needed To Replace Texas Drivers License 

When a driver visits the Texas driver licensing office, they must provide:

  1. Proof of identity
  2. Proof of lawful presence
  3. Proof of Social Security

So, one by one:

1. Proof Of Identity (must include full name, date of birth, and photo):  http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/identificationrequirements.htm

Texas Driver License or Identification Certificate
Yes, you need to use a Texas Driver’s License to replace your lost/stolen Texas Driver’s license…You may use an expired Texas Driver’s License or ID within two years of the expiration date to satisfy this requirement.
 Valid United States passport
I may be making generalities, but most low income individuals do NOT have a passport. They generally don’t travel abroad frequently, if at all. Seriously, they use Cap Metro and are lucky to have a bus pass, nevermind a plane ticket!
    Valid Military ID
My experience has provided me no familiarity with the process to acquire this document, but I DO have experience dealing with the Department of Veteran’s affairs and it is sorely lacking in efficiency.
United States Citizenship Certificate
My experience has provided me no familiarity with the process to acquire this document
Certificate of Naturalization
Same with this… I know what it IS, but I am unfamiliar with the process to acquire this document)
Valid OR Expired Foreign Passport 
I’m not sure I understand why the U.S. Passport has to be valid, but the Foreign Passport can be expired, except that you also need ADDITIONAL documentation when using a foriegn passport. Additional documentation is not an option with an expired U.S. passport.

2. Proof Of Lawful Presence (must include full name and date of birth):

Original or Certified Copy of Birth Certificate
You must order this from the Office of Vital records in the state you were born; Cost: $12-$20, and it can be done online if you have plastic. Otherwise, (by the way some people don’t have a bank card of any sort), you go to HEB and pay $.50 for a money order, then the additional $.44 for a stamp to mail it.
You can print the application from the website and here in Texas this can be done free of charge at any Workforce Solutions office.  You can also go to the library, though they may charge something for the printing, let’s say $.50 per page at two pages, so $1. Oh, you’ll need an envelope too, hopefully you have one around or have a friend who can give one up, otherwise you’ll need to purchase one (or several to get just one), but lets assume you can buy one at the post office and call it $.50
Cost if you have plastic: $12-$15
Cost if you do not have plastic: $17-$22
Time to receive: One to six weeks depending on the locality in which you were born.
Original of Certified Copy of U.S. Department of State Certification of Birth Abroad (Some people are U.S. Citizens with full right to vote, but were born abroad. My experience has provided me no familiarity with the process to acquire this document. I feel safe saying the monetary cost would be somewhat greater than obtaining a United States birth certificate)
Original or Certified Copy of Court Order (must show name and date of birth)
If you have been divorced and still have your documents around, you are in luck! Of course there are other types of certified court orders, and you can request them from any Clerk’s office for a fee. They usually charge around $5 plus the cost of making the copy. You would expect to pay about $11 if you didn’t have this or any of the aforementioned documents handy. These fees vary by state and locality.

Okay great! So hopefully you were born in the U.S. (not a military brat), have a bank or credit card, and have $12-22. If for some reason, you are lacking that $12-$22, well then you will just have to wait until you get your paycheck…

“But wait! I was actually trying to get a job, that is WHY I need the Birth Certificate. You see, my driver’s license was stolen because I live in the modern day ghetto, where everything gets stolen all the time. I am currently unemployed and I cannot prove my legal right to work in the US without Government Issued Photo ID (nevermind voting for now!). But to get the ID, I need a copy of my birth certificate. My mom said she had one, but her house was flooded last year and it was lost. As soon as I get my birth certificate, I can get my Government Issued ID, and go get a job and have the money… to get the ID…”

This is a scenario that is more common than you might think!

I think now might be a good time to go ahead and do the math to demonstrate what an individual WORKING FULL TIME at MINIMUM WAGE has to work with, financially. Here we go:

This is the minimum wage workers annual salary at 40 hours per week:

7.25 x 2080 (this is the number of hours worked in a year for a FT employee) = 15080. This isn’t very common and I can go into that in further detail later as well. But for now:

$15,080 Annual GROSS income. Let’s just not even assume any Fed taxes, BUT Social Security Tax (http://ssacusthelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/240/~/2012-social-security-tax-rate-and-maximum-taxable-earnings)  is currently 4.2%, so we will subtract that.

$15080 – $633.36 = $14,446.64 Net Annual Income

It is helpful to look at this monthly since we know what the cost of living is in our own cities, and the minimum wage is the same everywhere. So:

$14446.64/12 = $1203.89 per month.

I’m not fond of averages, so the MEDIAN cost of a ONE bedroom in Austin right now is $1034 per month.  (http://rentbits.com/rb/t/rental-rates/austin-texas)

You don’t even need to DO any math to understand why a person busting his ass at minimum wage might have a hard time coming up with the money to order his birth certificate. And by the way, he’s actually only getting 32 hours a week not 40, because that’s the maximum number of hours allowable before the employer has to offer him the same benefits as the full time workers at his company. That includes any Paid Time Off he might need to hang out at the DMV all day to provide this documentation.  AND, this isn’t even the only document he needs. Remember, we are still working on obtaining ONE item required by the TX DMV to relplace this gentlemans lost/stolen Government Issued ID. We STILL need:

3. Proof Of Social Security:

Social Security card
You need to have your birth certificate (see above)  and a certified court order with your name and D.O.B. in order to get the SS card if you do not have a Government Issued photo ID
 W-2 Form
You can get this in about one to two weeks from a former employer, or if you are super fortunate, online and it is FREE either way
1099 Form Most of the individuals who this affects work under the table, not as independent contractors. Did you give the guy you hired to cut your grass a 1099 at the end of the year?
Temporary receipt for a Texas driver license (needs to be actual receipt
I must be missing something. This is issued for use between the time you applied for your license and the time it arrives in the mail.

There is a whole list of other supporting documentation that you can use if you find yourself in a unique situation, but in all cases, acquiring the necessary docs to replace your ID costs two things most poor folks don’t have: Time and money. Incidentally, one of the supporting documents you can provide along with your birth certificate is a voter registration card. You can use your voter registration card to obtain your Government Issued ID, so that you can vote.

What groups can become disenfranchised due to lack of Government Issued ID? I know that nobody cares if the homeless, recently released from jail, and low income folks are disenfranchised, but those are not the only groups of people this affects. Think of the victim of domestic violence who finally had the courage to flee her home, leaving all of her possessions, including her documents behind. She can’t just go home and pick her stuff up without the risk of bodily harm. And even if she had a police escort, the abuser has most likely done away her personal possessions anyway. And today is voting day! I guess the message would be, wait until after the polls close to leave an abusive situation.

The homeless in our nation are also deserving of a vote. There are plenty of guys at the ARCH due to recent divorce and the subsequent depression that led to job loss, and further depression. A short downward spiral like that can put anyone on the street, and if you dont believe me, you haven’t lived much.

I once worked with a homeless man who had been a Marine Sharphooter during Vietnam. He was short little Hispanic man with a face like a cherub. He had worked as a bricklayer since his return from Vietnam. Now in his mid 50’s, his body was giving in from the hard work of laying brick and he was no longer able to continue in the only line of work he knew. In addition to that he was also suffering from severe anxiety and some depression, making it difficult for him to accomplish what would otherwise be simple tasks.

I assisted him with obtaining Government Issued ID after his had been stolen during his stay at the local Salvation Army Homeless Shelter (Sally, for short). He finally obtained employment as a cook at IHOP. His second day on the job, I receive a phone call from him. “Nicole, okay…I have all my clothes laid out on the bed to go to work, but I got a flat tire on my bicycle last night and I dont have any means of fixing it and I don’t know what to do next.” “Have you called in to work to let them know what is going on?” “No, I didn’t think…” I proceeded to walk this gentleman through the rest of steps necessary to get to work that day. Step by step, no detail left undiscussed. Do you think this man doesn’t deserve a vote? He is an american citizen, and so yes, he does. He also fought for our freedoms as have many, many of our current homeless population.

I can hear what you are thinking: “But Nicole, your programs offer assistance to these people to help them get the ID they need to vote! So, there is no problem.” Yes, you are correct, we can help with that at no cost to the client. You and I pay for it with our tax dollars, and that’s fine with me. Just tack on the additional week that it takes me to get the funding request approved. Please realize too that we do much more than simply assist individuals with obtaining Government Issued ID. That is just the FIRST thing we do so that our client is work-ready. I’m struggling with our budget, meaning there are some people who recieve assistance and some who do not, and the decision has little to do with the client. Those are the tough decisions, the ones that need to be made when there simply is not enough to go around, not enough to meet the need.

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/internetforms/Forms/DL-17.pdf

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Boy: Mommy what…

Boy: Mommy what is Tuesday?

Mommy: Tuesday is a day of the week, like yesterday was Monday, tomorrow is Wednesday…

Boy: But mommy, WHERE is Tuesday?

Mommy: WHERE is Tuesday? Tuesday is today.

Boy: But WHERE is it?

Mommy: It’s here, its now, now is Tuesday.

Boy: Oh…Where is Wednesday?

Mommy: Wednesday is tomorrow.

Boy: but where is tomorrow?

Mommy: Tomorrow is in the future.

Boy: Mommy, where is the future?

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July 17, 2012 · 5:21 am

This IS a fantastic book, and also EPIC, in my opinion!

A Million Worlds

Jitterbug Perfume

Tom Robbins

Summary

“Jitterbug Perfume is an epic. Which is to say, it begins in the forests of ancient Bohemia and doesn’t conclude until nine o’clock tonight (Paris time).” I don’t usually use the book’s blurb for my summary, but this one is what made me buy the book in the first place, so I can’t resist. This is a story about four seemingly unconnected characters in seemingly unconnected places, who eventually come together in their search for immortality and/or the perfect perfume, which are surprisingly related.

Thoughts/Comments

I bought this old yellow paperback at a used bookstore in New Orleans for two dollars– and like I said, it was the short little summary on the back that made me buy it, along with the very first line of the book. It reminded me a bit of Douglas Adams’ writing; far-fetched, oddly witty, and hilarious. It starts off…

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Hard Times Early Make It All Easy Later

Striiiife and Chaos!! Striiiiife and Chaos!! Fifteen kids (I ended up being the only girl), three instructors, 50 miles of Appalachian Trail (hiking), 250 miles of the Chattooga River (canoeing), after travelling in a van for an entire day to get there.

My probation officer and her coworker, picked me up from the girl’s home, where I had been residing for a few weeks, though it seemed much longer. It was early morning, and we had a long way to drive to Northern Pennsylvania, where I would be joining 15 other teenagers on a thirty day survival expedition. You’ve seen these sorts of place in the news. A few years ago a young boy died in the desert on just such an “adventure”.

I watched the sun come up over the ridges of rural Pennsylvania as we drove, for the most part silent. We arrived at a campground with several wooden buildings, cabins, I suppose. We stopped, and the large black man opened my door for me and ushered me into a small empty cabin. Milling about were mostly boys, a few case manager/probation officer types and the camp instructors. There was gear strewn about the room and all of us kids were lined up to get ours.

Gear included a large backpack, sleeping bag, coat, heavy pants, boots, socks, a small tin plate/bowl, a metal spoon and fork that came on a sort of keychain, a water bottle, a compass, feminine products for the three girls.

Very quickly, we were instructed on how to pack our gear in our packs. Once everything was packed, we were ready to set off. The only problem was, not one of us could get our pack on our back unassisted, and they were far too heavy, even for the strongest of the boys. Disinterested introductions were made amongst some of us as we were forced to help each other.

With that, we began what would be the first steps of a seemingly endless hike of the Appalachian Trail. For the next two weeks or so, we would hike from sun up until sundown each day. Rain, sleet, sun, or snow. Through ice, mud, uphill, downhill, over rocks, and along the edge of jagged cliffs.

Not too far at all from our starting point we encountered our first big steep hill. Three quarters of the way up, I just couldn’t take it anymore. My lungs stung with the cold air, and refused to let any more in. My lungs demanded room temperature air! I stopped, and slumped over, clutching some rocks in front of me. Tears streaking down my face, I cried out, “I can’t!! I can’t do this!!!”

I looked up to see the faces of 18 people staring down at me from above, some taunting, others smirking. Diana, our only female instructor yelled back “You have to! You’re just going to have to do it!” From Dave: “Come on, get up!!! It’s either this or six months in juvey, take your pick!”

“But I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” I whined. “We’ll wait then” Diana said. “Everyone we need to wait for the weak one!”. There was a lot of chatter amongst the other kids, 2 girls and 13 boys. All taunting, all uncaring, no understanding, no compassion. I put my face down the ground, gathering myself. When my eyes returned to the top I saw Mark, the third, or first, instructor, depending on where you begin your count. He simply tilted his head toward the top of the hill, as if inviting me to join them to play kickball at the nearest park. I think I knew then that I had at least one friend. Suddenly, it was easier to at least try.

A couple nights in, we were informed that the temperature that night would drop below freezing and we were instructed to sleep with our water bottles in our sleeping bags to prevent them from freezing. If our water bottle froze, we would not have any water until it thawed on its own. It seemed simple enough to me, so that night I simply put my water bottle at the foot of my sleeping bag and got some much needed rest. The next morning, I finally had a great laugh at everyone else, I mean, everyone, who had failed to follow this simple instruction! I was the only one with water!! And I sure wasn’t sharing! The rest were forced to eat snow if they were thirsty. Not that snow is all that bad when it’s freshly fallen in the Appalachian Mountains!

On and on we hiked. About four days in, my feet had developed serious blisters from the ill-fitting boots. Of course, this is what I had left camp with and there was NO possibility of getting a different pair. At this time, rural PA itself was “lucky” to have a Wal-Mart, there certainly want any in the Appalachian Mountains though I bet they have “super” one now. I began to count the blisters, and each day I had more. Thus began my sailor mouth! I cursed with each step for the remainder of my experience there.

After the first week, we were instructed that each of us would have the opportunity to lead the group, meaning that one day I would have the map and compass, and I would be in charge for the day. Until that day, we all had to struggle with everyone else’s leadership. One particular day, Steve was the lead. He was the best looking of the bunch, but dumb as rocks, I should have seen what was coming.

Skidding on our butts down this 85 degree slope we found a beautiful river with large boulders across. Each boulder had large Swiss cheese holes in it that we peered through to see the river rushing past.  For the first time we were enjoying ourselves and begged the instructors to let us camp there that evening. No such luck! We had to continue and finish the scheduled trek.

As we checked the map to complete a journey none of us wanted to complete, we slowly realized that we had gone the wrong way. Yeah, it HAD seemed wrong that we were sliding down a cliff to get to the spot we were in…but…well, we had done it anyway, gone the wrong way, and now the only way out was to climb back up the way we had come down. A slippery, muddy mess. All of George Carlin’s dirty words – straight outta my mouth!

Here we were with 50 pounds of gear on our backs. This was some heavy shit when you factor in the hill we were about to climb. I knew when I started, that there was no way I could finish! But there was no choice here. You either did it, or faced six months in some FACILITY. Fuck that! I’ll take camping and hiking and canoeing with a bunch of criminal teenage dudes over a fucking girl’s home any day!

I had a made my way halfway up the muddy slippery wall, when I was still far enough behind all the guys to feel embarrassed, yet again. It was cold; my frozen hands clutched all the sturdy vines the earth would offer. She certainly offered little else to cling to. My breath caught in my chest, icy, wicked, stifling. As tears finally began to stream, Mark came along side me, “Striife and Chaos!!!” Striiife and Chaos!!” he sang. I began to sing with him, in between sobs, choking tears back until we reached the top of the hill, where I wiped the mud and tears from my face and was finally able to smile an unspoken thank you. The lord had sent me an angel.

You know that thing in the movie “Cliffhanger”, where the rope is stretched over a deep chasm between two cliffs and they go across it with only a small clip holding them? We had to do that. I felt worse for the smaller size boy who was there than I did for myself as I watched the other boys swing that rope wildly as he went across, not giving him a break at all. The instructors stood by letting it happen as though it were some kind of social experiment. I could only imagine what those boys had planned for me when it was my turn. I guess they had gotten their rocks off (so to speak) because they let me pass, and were even silent as I did so. At the middle point we were instructed to let go and trust that tiny clip, the only thing keeping us from plummeting to our deaths. I guess back then I didn’t worry too much about death. I’m not sure if I would pass this test today.

Strife and Chaos!!!! Strife and Chaos!!! That hippie dude made me a soldier of life! I’ve been unstoppable ever since! And I still owe him one dollar.

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