There are moments in our lives when a sudden sinkhole will consume us whole and night becomes day in a nanosecond. This tormented soul, tainted with personal weaknesses and a mule train of failures (that would be me), it caused me to stumble and fall splayed and shattered at the feet of Supay, Inca god of the dead and the ruler of the underworld (I grew up in a country inhabited by descendants of the Incas).
I am trusting many of you generous beings that compare with this dreadful story that can contribute substance to help me avoid being yet another Vietnam War veteran de facto beneath a bridge, standing along a street corner holding a pathetic cardboard sign.
Gofundme.com contains one particular solicitation where “Gunnar’s Wheels” for a paraplegic dog received over $104,000 dollars. This drew my close attention and drove me to prepare this petition. Hence, this beg the question: is not a human life equally valuable? I don’t dislike dogs. My best and most loyal amigo was a Yorkshire terrier who died of old age. I miss him more than Madam "X" (read on).
When I was younger, I regarded anyone over 50 was simply taking up oxygen. At 70 years of age, now I am eternally ashamed and embarrassed of ever feeling this way toward our seniors. Is that egg on my face? More an ostrich omelet over my entire head!
I am the joyous father of a wonderful 8 year-old girl (my first and only). She was born as I celebrated 64 years of age when I never expected having children given that all of my lovers and ex-wives (two, soon to be three) used contraceptives.
I receive eviction notices each month like clockwork, but through dumb luck, small personal loans, yard sales, borrowing money from Peter to pay Paul... at last it has caught up with me; now on the periphery of sanity, the worry and stress on my daughter and me has been beyond unbearable. We feel forsaken by the world and “the system” and alone. (Yet the memories of the war still haunt me, causing me to feel always the outcast. I just can't get over it and move on!).
My daughters’ family reside abroad and are too poor to travel) and I don't have one. My girl’s maternal mother? (Scratch beard, rub chin.....; Hmmmmm….); (she remains my “wife”, so let’s call her Madam “X”) abandoned us months ago, and, wedded still, bore an infant of her own, a product from her relationship with a lover with whom she now lives with.
My miracle baby, one year old
A year following her birth I was fired by an IT (information technology) company in Northern Virginia (ensuing 15 years on the same contract and receiving good evaluations). Thus, when "X" went to work, I selected early retirement (now I was 66) to raise my baby. I treasured all the instances of sleepless nights, stressful hours, panicky intervals, and soon grasped the art of maintaining my breath like the Ama pearl diver mermaids of Japan, or the Haenyeo of Korea, when changing my daughters' soiled diapers. How is it that these little beings can stink so much?! The next time we fire off cruise missiles to an enemy, pack ‘em with dirty diapers and our foe will quickly throw in the towel, in this case, the diaper, and surrender!
My termination was caused by grievances I had filed for being passed over for promotion by a much younger person, and that I had over a decade of experience at the time, whereas the newbie had none. I smelled a rat! (or another soiled diaper). I was stunned! What devious reason did my supervisor failed to share the dozens of ‘thank you’ emails and telephone calls; compliments from clients whom I had done the extra mile to assist. My previous employer had presented me with plaques, letters of commendation; a “Five Star Award” for excellence from the president of the company. But this cretin with the new company at no time once offered praise or acknowledged any of them. I realized that my time was up; as I noticed I was being left out of new projects and retraining, and when the manager called me in to his office to consistently recite the same hostile mantra, “You are not required to work here.” “You can quit anytime.” “You are not obligated to stay.” No reason stated.
Shortly after a Team Leader was hired over me (I had been Team Lead and call center manager with the previous employer), I commenced to sense acute chest pains. The pain continued for a month. Unable to endure further, an endoscopy discovered not one, not two, but TEN ULCERS!
The fear of hitting the unemployment line was real; seniors typically are denied employment due to their advanced age in spite of Federal discrimi-nation laws. (Years later I could not even get a job delivering pizzas in Baltimore. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s are two examples when weeks after I had submitted my resume and application, signs outside their stores still read: “Delivery drivers Wanted.”
Fellow humans, I loathe sharing this personal downfall to the public. I am not seeking publicity by any means. Grudgingly, however, I am forced to eat humble pie (with a little blueberry filling), and appeal for help. Perhaps some will connect with this modest sincere man, flushed with dreams and aspirations still, over-whelming responsibilities, and guilt, and a graying beard, expanding waistline, and arthritis, age spots, enlarged prostate, failing eye-sight; requires a hand, a finger, a foot, (with or without socks, no matter) in the worst way. This is my 9/11, my Katrina, my South Pacific tsunami.
My sole income is Social Security retirement. I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) which embezzles my brain, generating a near-zombie state over my being (“brains, I want brains ….”) and to further my miserable condition, I have been diagnosed with low testosterone, mental exhaustion and PTSD. (It has been suggested by others that I may have been exposed to Agent Orange from the Vietnam War. But the matter remains unclear since I have yet to find another Seabee or Marine that have applied for disability from units stationed in the "I" Corps.)
Note the "Master Bush Pilot" wings. The pins read "Boycott Hanoi Jane", "POW's Never Have a Nice Day" and "Westy's Warriors".
Naïve and young (weren’t we all?), I separated from the US armed forces after 15 years wanting to find my own way.
I passed kindergarten with crayon colors when Roy Rogers and Buck Rodgers and Ginger Rogers filled my free time and imagination. I earned a degree in Journalism from Open University (now closed) of Washington (D.C.). During my lifetime, I’ve stopped two runaway cars and I’ve saved possibly the lives of up to seven people.
One late night last summer, I found a lost child in night clothes in the dark, crying out while wandering lost in the street with speeding headlights rushing by during a terrific rain storm. My daughter, who heard the cries first, she held the door open to our home and I whisked him/her in from the downpour. Once we dried the toddler off, we called the police and the mother retreived him/her when the police ascertained her identity. Does this also count? Which in case, that would be eight people.
I worked for Eastern Airlines and Pan Am. I part-timed as a freelance reporter and photojournalist. I served as vice-president of Chapter 43 of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), a lifetime member of the VFW. I can speak fluent Spanish and can meet and greet in 10 languages (excluding pig Latin and Esperanto). I do not use illicit drugs, drink alcohol nor do I daily smoke whole packs of cigarettes.
Following the monthly expenses I am left with nada (no relation to NADA, the car association). "X" hasn't contributed to our offspring’s health and welfare save for a few dollars here and there; paid child support, alimony, spumoni, rigatoni ....... .
We receive food assistance from charity orgs in the Baltimore area, yet it remains woefully short for our living standards. "X" once agreed to pay the rent and support money when she didi-mau, s’est enfui, harab, rante, took off and soon after reneged on all the promises. As a consequence, the SS check is the sole source to keep up with the bills and the care for my daughter.
I hear you shouting: “Why this damned fool didn’t take the wife to court?” Money, it takes good money to hire a committed divorce lawyer that sincerely wants to win your case. I managed to call and leave loads of messages to attorneys in the hood, but just one responded, and I never heard from them again. Apart from it all, dear reader/ contributor, I found it quite problematic conducting one’s personal affairs from the front seat of a car amid a pile of clothes, empty coffee cups, crushed cans of Red Bull, dirty tissue paper, McDonald’s wrappings, empty cigarette packs and the like.
TV and internet and telephone services were cutoff months ago, our cell phone service run out of air time each month, my car is running on vapors, and critically wanting of wheel bearings, tires, brakes, tie rods, tune-up, and a major league car wash.
The adulterous "X" now demands sole custody of my child. She took away my life, the furniture, the suit cases, she took my love and sacrifices, my strength, my dreams, and now she wants to take my daughter, my only family! She deceived me (again) and took our daughter following her desertion. Now "X" won’t permit my little girl to live with her dad. Is that “kidnapping”? “Seizing and abducting”? The woman feels that I am an useless moron that has nothing to donate to society or our only sibling. My little girl texted me a week later, “Mommy won’t let me see you anymore.” The following day, she wrote, “Daddy, please take me ‘home’.” I cried like a blubbering fool.
My princess insisted tying braids on her daddy’s hair. The result:
Of course we will all agree that yes, it is logical that my daughter should not live with me, having no home or money or a job. But, were it not 'X’s conduct that provoked this mayhem in the first place?
Fourth birthday. (Who is the smiling hyena in the picture? He appears suspiciously happy. Call Homeland Security!
There are two manuscripts I have been working on for many years. I have also put together a collection of small stories for another book.
The first manuscript is ready for publication, the second, remains incomplete; and, I suspect I have to die ahead of going to print (my autobiography covering 70 plus years). The first story, an offbeat tongue-in-cheek travel journal, I have not found the capital to pay for editing and publishing ($2,000 more or less). The title is, “Another Colombian Journal: Guerrillas in the hills, Alligators in the ponds, Ants in the soup; My search for El Gran Pendejo
”. Surely to be a bestseller!
One project I have in mind: a Financial Education School for children. In essence, a learning center where the ‘adult challenged’ can learn the basics of money, costs, savings, checking, interest rates, loans, investment, etc., yet in an entertaining and colorful manner. Money management, a strange science my parents did not teach me, is lacking in many children in America. If I am ever on my feet again, this agenda, if successful, will be my contribution to our nation’s future generation. I am not an academic, my math sucks, and I am certainly not a smart money manager, so it goes without saying that the learning center(s) shall require the minds of mathematical eggheads much brighter than moi. I will serve as the director and pathfinder. I said “pathfinder” not “PHILANDERER”!
Another of my humanitarian missions: How many people were killed in 9/11, including their nationalities?
1. United States 2,605
2. United Kingdom 67
3. Dominican Republic 47
4. India 41
5. South Korea 28
6. Canada 24
7. Japan 24
8. Colombia 18
9. Jamaica 16
10. Philippines 16
11. Mexico 15
12. Trinidad and Tobago 14
13. Ecuador 13
14. Australia 11
15. Germany 11
16. Italy 10
17. Bangladesh 6
18. Ireland 6
19. Pakistan 6
20. Poland 6
21. Israel 5
22. Peru 5
23. Portugal 5
24. Argentina 4
25. France 4
26. Lebanon 4
27. Romania 4
28. Brazil 3
29. Ethiopia 3
30. Guyana 3
31. Malaysia 3
32. Bermuda 2
33. China 2
34. D.R. Congo 2
35. El Salvador 2
36. FR Yugoslavia 2
37. Ghana 2
38. Haiti 2
39. Hong Kong 2
40. Jordan 2
41. New Zealand 2
42. Paraguay 2
43. South Africa 2
44. Sweden 2
45. Switzerland 2
46. Belarus 1
47. Belgium 1
48. Chile 1
49. Honduras 1
50. Indonesia 1
51. Ivory Coast 1
52. Kenya 1
53. Lithuania 1
54. Moldova 1
55. Netherlands 1
56. Nigeria 1
57. Russia 1
58. Spain 1
59. Taiwan 1
60. Ukraine 1
61. Uzbekistan 1
62. VZ 1
My vision is to establish a foundation to travel to each of these countries and place a memorial to their victims. Most of them have been forgotten too soon, and many families have moved on. Still, the least we can do is preserve the memory of the fallen from global terrorism. Let’s give these families a sacred place, a lasting evidence of one of the darkest days in the century. Remember, Americans were not the only who fell.
Once I am no longer able to travel, I expect that a younger ambassador will continue my legacy. Perhaps my little girl. September 30, 2017 UPDATE:
I was evicted four weeks ago. My daughter lives with her mother, and I live in my car parked on a Baltimore Wall-Mart lot. For months, I have placed phone calls, filed applications, emailed and pleaded for assistance to every charity group, social services in the area, to no avail. Incredibly, even the omnipotent VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) shut the door in my face!!!
Other rejection examples:
American Veterans Aid >
Thank you for registering on AmericanVeteransAid.com.
Based on the answers provided on your registration form the veteran or surviving spouse may not be eligible for the Aid & Attendance benefit at this time but may be in the future.
Others contacted without results:
I have uncovered that nearly all of the programs allegedly helping veterans, the homeless and the hungry; many offices and churches claiming to help citizens avoid eviction are A COLOSSAL LIE!!!
Now, for those that neglect the homeless and the hungry, the old and the lonely: those who opened their doors to me, who offered an occasional hot meal, a shower in which to bathe, a couch in which to rest, were (‘shudder’) the “illegals”, the undocumented immigrants, the “Wetbacks”, “Beaners”, “Taco jockeys”, meaning, those who felt my pain, those hiding in the shadows of American society in fear of exploitation and deportation. (I hold conflicting opinions on the subject of “illegal aliens.” Please, do not solicit a cemented impression from me on this topic. I will say this, however: those who helped me deserve better. Update: November 2017
- In the end, all of the resources from the US government and non-profit groups helped with zilch; I never received a penny from anyone. With winter around the corner, time again, the illegals came to the rescue when I rented a small bedroom in a house full of illegals/ undocumented people. Although I must say, the landlord is one pain in "el trasero." He is controlling despot that can make my life quite disagreeable when he so desires. He actually took a photo of the toilet to harass me about a pubic hair clinging to the edge of the seat! Since there are four people sharing the small place, I suggested all the men should drop their pants and hold a close inspection with a magnifying glass to search for a match to the offending pube. He failed to see the humor in it, but warned me that if I used the bathroom lights in the day, he would fine me $30 dollars, and to turn off all the lights in my bedroom when I went to sleep -- no matter if I couldn’t sleep -- and another stiff fine. (I am thinking now I mistakenly rented a cell in the "Dear Leader's" North Korean gulag condos).
Speaking for all of us subsisting under the carpet, these phony programs should be ashamed and make a public apology! There must be bona-fide transparency; where are the donations and the cash going!? Why are so many hurdles thrown in front of us seeking aid? “For those who qualify”. These four letters are the proverbial rusty knife dissecting and wounding many of us when denied assistance. If you we are to positively help the needy, expunge those ugly words and get moving, America; there are thousands of our citizens, thousands of veterans, dying of neglect at this very minute because we don’t “qualify”!
In view of my reception with “public assistance”, I conclude that hundreds or perhaps thousands of the discarded surely faced much the same fruitless and callous closed-fisted bureaucracies and remain shrouded in neglect.
I am not an alcoholic, I do not use illegal drugs, I do not gamble, I do not possess a criminal record, I am not violent, not abusive, and have at no time hit a woman or beaten a child. I would like to think that I am a good-natured out-of-style American patriot whose American Dream imploded.
To drive Hell’s wrath further, I have low testosterone, a hormone unbalance, and a prodigious pimple on my ass from stationary sitting in my car. Out of the three, the last one is a real pain in my butt (pun intended).
Accordingly, I seem to be drawn to people in need. A platonic friendship I hold with a mother of 2 children, the father (they never married. He lied that he would in time), receive no financial assistance from him. (In fairness, he enrolled the children with Medicaid.) He only pays the rent for himself. Social Services won't help due to some dubious legal matters, the the mother's meager income is simply that: meager. They have practically nothing and are marooned in a small one-bedroom apartment with mice and roaches. The children wear old clothes, all their toys are broken or in pieces, they do not have access to transportation and are stagnating home 24/7 barring school.
Here I come equally in desperation, despite my own hardships and uncertainties, to the rescue. Two years now, caring for them and the children now bawl when I leave for "home". Hugging me tight, they call me "Daddy" and "Papi" and beg I stay. Their callous father is a mean ogre that curses, gambles, and leaves for days on end to live with his other women while this family goes hungry. Through threats and intimidation he’s tried to force them in to the street for many months, yet failing to offer or direct them to a safe and sane venue.
It’s in my nature, I cannot stand idly by. Perhaps together, we can find a better life for us all. Moses leading the impoverished through the perilous wilderness of Baltimore to the Promised Land. Corny, isn’t it? But that is what it seems like. Thus, I support not only myself and my daughter, but my two "step-daughters," their mother. We form a tiny tribe of unwanted and persecuted with no place to go.
Through you, perhaps we can find wisdom, security, and a place we can call “home”?
Someday some rich individual may invite us on some fun activities that we are too strapped to afford. Perhaps an ocean cruise, a yacht, a boat-house on a lazy lake; fly to Disney World, London, Shanghai, Medellin, ride the TGV, a hovercraft across the English Channel, etc. Rent or borrow a motor home for a tour of Nova Scotia, or donate a 2018 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD to haul the family (I know, I know, it's a pipe-dream, but dreaming is free), so that I can drive for Lyft or Uber. (I am inclined to think that it may be my last vehicle given my age). Lastly, to live in a house no one will harass us or intimidate us or throw us out in to the street (except for the mortgage holder!).
If you find it in your heart, your mind, your liver, your kidneys, your wallet, to reach out and lend a hand so as raising my overtaxed mind and body above the murky waters of apathy and indifference, I will be indebted to you. Another kick-start to get me back on the groove is what I so truly desire.
In spite of my silly and possibly ill-timed humor, thanks to my “happy pills” (i.e. Prozac, it keeps me even keeled), this survival drama is truly and absolutely serious and authentic. Please do not imagine that I am amused by my despair; it’s a natural defense mechanism I have been blessed with in which to regulate my well-being in times of despair.
To know a veteran, if it matters to you, I urge you to open the following link. Folks, it never ends when we come home:
Peace, persistence, protein and platypus, (damned Prozac!)
Thank you, merci, gracias, спасибо, 감사합니다, arigato, grazie, dhanyavād, danke, shukran, dank u, terima kasih, 谢谢, nk-thay ou-yay, dankon, Solpayki Urpichay songoy!