"Hard Ground" Michael O'Brien & Tom Waits

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Gullivor
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"Hard Ground" Michael O'Brien & Tom Waits

Postby Gullivor » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:02 pm

Just got my copy in yesterday after tracking it for 7 days on a USPS journey from Arizona to Florida. It got held up in Bell Gardens California for 3 days and that dove me crazy tracking it through out the day with no progress.

I think it is an excellent book.
Consisting of mostly portrait photographs, by Michael O'Brien, of our struggling homeless with poems throughout by Tom Waits. I found the photos themselves shared their story while Tom Waits poems spoke thoughts the subjects and ourselves may share.

After studying the book I found myself tear eyed remembering my little 3 week homeless venture...
It was late October 2004. I was about two months sober. Backing up to getting sober in September I had "hit my bottom" and figured If I don't get sober I would be better off dead. So I made arrangement to go to rehab, let my employer know what was going on and told them I'm going to need about 30 days off and checked into detox. I found out my insurance was only going to pay for a short detox (3 or 4 days after a 150 mg methadone habit for a year along with daily alcohol intake) unheard of my Doctor mumbled.
Being released from care I called my employer to say I'm ready for work. They told me they had talked to HR department and they said it is too soon. I would have to wait 90 days to come back to work.
Well to make a long story sort I couldn't find a job, rent was due all my bills were due and the only vehicle I had was a company vehicle that I had to turn in. So needless to say I found myself on the streets of Fort Lauderdale...with my dog. All the people in my 12 step meetings kept saying over and over how much their life has gotten better since they got sober while I thinking to myself "not me, mine has gone to shit...its gotten worse".
It's rough on the streets. At first I kind of stayed around my neighborhood sleeping with my dog at the beach at night (which was kind of nice) and cleaning up in public bathrooms in the morning. Dogs are not allowed on the beach, nor in parks so after a few warnings from the cops I would keep moving keep walking was all we could do. If we would rest on a corner or some public bench a cop would shorty come being called by some upstanding citizen to complain I was loitering. "Move on, you can't be here. We can arrest you and your dog will go to the pound". Only one cop was nice. He offered to help, to take my to a shelter but dogs weren't allowed. He told me to hang in and things will change. I noticed a cross on his necklace as he shook my hand good-bye. Now I had a few friends that offered to give me a place to stay for a while but they were not allowed to have dogs. That was out of the question for me. The thought of abandoning my dog terrified me more then being homeless. So we kept on walking until we were in the bad side of town. It's even harder there but at least you can sit and not be bothered by the cops. The wrong people left me alone...maybe they were afraid of dogs? Other homeless people loved my dog. They would bring us food and we would have short conversations about god. I probably could of stayed there longer but I know I needed a job but I would need a safe place to keep my dog while working. I couldn't figure any safe place to keep my dog while I was working. I remembered a day trip I made a few months prior out of the city into the Florida country. I saw these shed looking things around orange groves. Old and abandoned pump houses. Some had doors. My goal was to get up there and find me a abandon pump house where I could safely hold Gullivor while I went out to work, come back and sleep until I saved enough money to get on our feet.

Did I Or Didn't I
Did I have it once and
Lose it lose it
Or did I look it in the eye
And choose it
Choose it

by Tom Waits

Waits_HardGround_Cover.jpg
http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/books/obrhar
Cate
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Re: "Hard Ground" Michael O'Brien & Tom Waits

Postby Cate » Mon Jul 15, 2013 5:20 am

Sounds like a good book Paul - I think that I might order it as well.

Is that what you did? Did you make it up to those shed where Gulliver would be safe?
even that would be hard because the fear of coming back to find him gone would be high.
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Gullivor
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Re: "Hard Ground" Michael O'Brien & Tom Waits

Postby Gullivor » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:28 am

No Cate I caught a break. Gully and I only got about 10 miles on our way. I thought I could hitch-hike my way up there, about 170 miles. I had given up walking and made a call to my friend "Frank" the guy I made the day trip up with a few months before to see if he would drive me.

Frank had about 24 years sober. He was the first person that reached out his hand to me in my 12 step meetings. He invited me over for lunch because he needed someone to make it for him. He was disabled from an overdose he had while in Bangkok in the late 60's early 70's. He had just finished college getting his degree in ocean engineering. He landed a job with Texas Instruments and was sent to Africa and Asia to search the coasts for oil. He was in Bangkok at his hotel's bar where he met up with some French tourists that had invited him to smoke some Thai stick. Well it ended up being laced with heroin and Frank overdosed. The tourists took off and left him there in his hotel room. The maid found him the next day. Choked on his vomit, stroked out and in a comma. Took him a year to be shipped back to the states where it took another 2 years inpatient rehab to learn how to walk again...several more years to finally get sober.

So I called him and apparently his sister had sold his house and the sale was final the next day and he didn't have a place to live after that night! He wasn't getting money for it for a few more days and was broke at the time. So he came and picked Gully and me up. We stayed at his house that night. And I filled his car with a few of his things and left the next day. We were offered a vacant condo to stay in for a few days and we stayed until his part of the money came in on the house then we headed up to Sebring Florida. He just wanted to get away from his sister until she left back to California.

We stayed together for a little over a year. I was his care taker in exchange for food, a couch to sleep on and cigarettes. It was the best year of my life. It was the year my life started changing for the good. I had a lot of time to focus on my recovery from Alcoholism and drug addiction. Got down to the causes and conditions of my drinking and drugging. Turned my will and life over to a "higher power". Took a hard look at the wrongs I did in my past and attempted to clean my side of the street by amends. Begged God to remove my character defects and shortcomings to no avail other then becoming aware of them. Spent a lot of time with Gullivor hiking through them orange groves and meditating, often breaking down crying out of pure gratitude knowing the torment of my soul was over. The whole year for me was like Leonard's song "love itself" http://youtu.be/4EtJ8hmz-1s
By the way Frank and I listened to tons of Leonard Cohen that year. I even made a fan out of him.


Almost forgot this is a Tom Waits tread (plug)
http://youtu.be/8uTARf5TzPQ
Cate
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Re: "Hard Ground" Michael O'Brien & Tom Waits

Postby Cate » Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:27 am

Tom Waits has the perfect voice for that song!

Paul, it sounds like both you and Frank were a godsend to each other, how fortunate that you made that phone call. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story, I'm so glad that Gulliver did not have to stay in one of those orange huts. Hope he's doing well.
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Gullivor
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Re: "Hard Ground" Michael O'Brien & Tom Waits

Postby Gullivor » Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:56 am

Im glad we didn't have to sleep in one of them huts either! :lol:

I'll know more about Gully tomorrow. :cry:

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