Archive for April, 2013

Bicycling!

April 29, 2013

Some would think I’m not really a bicyclist.  Actually I’m a die-hard bicyclist.  I quit driving in 2000 after having a second Ford product blowing up and remembering that if I took one more severe whiplash I’d look like Christopher Reeve.  My neck injury in a 1982 automobile accident is the cause of this diagnosis which I’ve ignored till 2000.

So let me tell you my experience of touring.  First off, my tour from Michigan to Florida.  I’ll cover my trip as well as the equipment I used for that trip.  Then, in a separate article, I’ll cover my trip from South Carolina to Michigan and back.  Lastly, I’ll cover my current bike and hopes for a future and hopefully final bicycle build.  Without further ado, I’ll start with the first of my bicycling articles.

In 1998, I lost yet another job and was not seeing a possibility of working again soon.  With the final check from a subcontracting job (not computer related), I purchased a reasonable bicycle (from Sam’s Club).  It was better than most from Walmart or the likes anyway, though not as good as the bike I once owned in California in my final two years in the Navy.

The bicycle I purchased was a Motiv.  I forget the model.  It was a twenty one speed mountain type bicycle with Shimano Altus components.  It really wasn’t all that much.  It didn’t have a rack nor at the purchase time did I have a set of panniers.  Those were purchased afterward at a local bicycle shop in my hometown of Three Rivers, Michigan.

From that point, I had to plan what I would take.  Since I was going to be pretty much homeless, I had to prepare for the trip with a minimalistic living style.  Of course I had a small tent and sleeping bag, but beyond that I had to have the bare essentials in clothing.  This amounted to four t-shirts, two pair of shorts, two pair of jeans, socks, and shoes for clothing (it was in the beginning of June that I left for Florida).  I didn’t pack much more than that because I had no room.  I was only running a rear rack and panniers for it.

Why Florida for my first choice of destinations you ask?  Simple.  My uncle god bless his departed soul had offered me two years before to come down to Florida to get further education at a branch of Florida Technical College where he’d become the only non-relative Dean.  The college was nationally certified and the head of it use to be Ronald Reagan’s Department of Education Secretary.  To me, that made this school a good bet.

The day I left Three Rivers, Michigan was a partly cloudy day that turned into a mostly cloudy afternoon.   I made good time the first day cutting across the northwest corner of Indiana and into Illinois.  My intention was to go visit my cousins in Pontiac, Illinois for a day or two before going on with my journey.  I made it into Valparaiso, Indiana before the bottom came out and rain ruined the rest of the day’s ride.  That night I spent a rather soggy nasty night under a park picnic area roof with the tent on top of a picnic table.  It was a rather stressful night to say the least.  By morning the weather had abated and I was off on my second day of travel.

The second day fared better.  I was finally able to make it to Pontiac where I was able to catch one of my cousins around and asked to stay a bit before moving on.  That turned out to be almost a week.  It was a time of discovery, learning, and re-association between myself and one of my cousins.  I still cherish that time I spent there and always will.  It was also a time of true relaxation.

After day two, days get jumbled together quite a bit.  However, I do remember rolling around St. Louis and down through and into Rolla, Missouri in about three days time.  I went this way in hopes I might meet up with a lady I’d talked to online.  Alas, it wasn’t to be so I continued my trek from there back to Kentucky and southward.  I pretty much followed the Mississippi after returning to the east side of it.  Crossing the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, Kentucky, I continued from there through Tennessee avoiding Memphis altogether.

It wasn’t even a week after leaving Pontiac, Illinois, that I made it to around Montgomery, Alabama.  This was via Kentucky, Tennessee, and the northeastern corner of Mississippi.  I vaguely remember staying in St. Louis and Montgomery for two days each to do laundry as well as rest.  From Montgomery, I went through Dothan, Alabama via the southwestern corner of Georgia and into the Florida panhandle at Monticello, Florida.

From Monticello, Florida, I turned south and east ending my trip in Winter Haven, Florida where I visited my grandmother on my mother’s side for a week before my uncle picked me up and got me started at Florida Technical College.  I actually ended up in Jacksonville, Florida where I attended that college branch where my uncle was Dean of for a short time before going back south to open yet another branch.  I traveled from Winter Haven to Jacksonville via my uncle’s car so that doesn’t count as part of my tour.  In all, I spent thirty days on the road.  Of that, I spent twenty-one days riding.  I figured it out to be a shade over two thousand miles one way.  Average mileage per day ended up being around a century a day with on long day being over a century and a half.  Not bad for at the time a thirty-eight year old man.

Next up, my trip from Columbia, South Carolina to Centreville, Michigan.  Different bicycle and equipment for that.  Stay tuned.

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Freedom of Speech! Freedom of Press! Obviously NOT in Columbia, South Carolina

April 24, 2013

Last week I saw a letter by a fellow homeless person in the Columbia Free Times newspaper under the topic of “Sound Off.”  This column is basically a letter to the editor item and the Free Times is of course a FREE newspaper in Columbia.  Does this mean that they believe in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States?  I guess not.

Compare the following copies of the same letter.  The first is the original that I typed up to submit to the “Sound Off” column.  The second is what was published today.  You be the judge yourself.

My version:

Dear Editor,

I’m writing in follow up of “Treat the Homeless as “You’d Treat Yourself” April 17-23rd issue.  Along with Mr. Brown (and I’m sure others homeless or not), I couldn’t have put it better myself.  A lot of these programs who benefit the homeless and needy are NOT  run by our illustrious mayor or city council.  No matter what they do, they’ll Never find a way to free downtown of those in need or the homeless. First of all, there are at least three local businesses that this city will find in disagreement with their thoughts.  They are businesses whom the city collects taxes from.  If they were to move with the homeless population out of town, then you’d lose those taxes as well as taxes the homeless DO pay into the system.  Of course this doesn’t count the other businesses who DO hire the homeless. Every year I’ve been here (that will be 13 years as of June 2013), I see the same thing no matter who is in city council.  City council, the mayor, or any other politicians ignore their constituency all to fill their own re-election coffers and hope they can fool the voters into re-electing them into another term just like those other politicians around the country.  In the almost thirteen years I’ve been here, I’ve been homeless for almost half of that or better.  The other half has been either living with a friend or in an extended stay motel.  I’ve witnessed each year the city council has GONE BROKE and had to raid some other fund (namely the water and sewer fund) to pay for schemes that didn’t bring downtown any business at all.  Prime example is the ice arena in downtown (which has been committed to again next year).  No one really has heard the total cost of that fiasco.  Your paper printed a story on the cost but left out one key expense.  That was the electricity bill the city paid for that rink.  I personally heard from a city employee who will go nameless that the rink was costing the city $10,000 per month in electricity that it was open.  This is just one of the many mismanagement issues I’ve witnessed. This city is in major trouble and not just locally.  Its infrastructure is a train wreck.  The city council and mayor are only interested in two things (lining their re-election pockets as well as their own).  What this town needs is three major items that will get EVERYONE off the street and help fill city coffers.  First of all, the city needs to rebuild its infrastructure (that means resurface roads, fix sidewalks, rectify the bus issue, as well as fix the sewer (using water and sewer fees instead of using them for other expenses).  You know it’s bad when the Environmental Protection Agency comes down and has to fix something that the city IGNORED.  Secondly, bring full time jobs (both technical and otherwise) into Columbia by completing the first item.  Third, educate those you have in the city instead of importing more and more people to perform the jobs that are brought into this city.  Fourth and last item, direct the police into their proper roles of protecting the citizens of this city instead of CONSTANTLY harassing the homeless.  The city could be wealthy if they were to properly enforce their traffic laws.   Every day I see people running red lights or stopping on the heavy white lines on the road meant as stopping points to protect the pedestrians of this city.  I’ve seen this happen not just when a police officer was not around but right in front of an officer and the officer never did a damn thing.  The more the Columbia police harass the homeless, the less time they have to do their appointed jobs.  Judges are getting pretty tired of the same thing year after year in their court rooms.  One judge was even quoted as saying to an officer a couple of years back, “Bring me someone who can pay their fines, instead of the homeless who can’t.” As to your other article “Councilman Calls for Homelessness Dialogue as Issues Boil Over” (same issue), you miss stated who actually ran the city’s winter shelter.  It was run by Christ Central and Jim Jones.  USC had nothing to do with that to my knowledge.  Also mentioned in this article are two meetings that city council has planned to hear in the near future.  I’ll lay odds that there might be one or two actual homeless people who show up.  The problem is they WON’T be heard by city council.  Matter of fact, I’d lay odds that city council won’t have more than one or two members show up for these meetings and they again will do what they want to do and everyone else be damned. If anyone is truly interested in the insights of homelessness in the city of Columbia, South Carolina, I personally invite them to my blog.  Just search for “touringfrog” via any search engine and click on the link with WordPress in it.  You’ll find a number of articles about homelessness there and what is actually happening in the city with the homeless and those that purport to help those who are on the street or those in need. Now I’ve stuck my two cents in, its someone else’s turn.

Sincerely,

Terry L. Parris (Homeless Veteran)

Published version:

I’m writing in response to “Treat the Homeless as You’d Treat Yourself” (Sound Off, April 17). I couldn’t have put it better myself. A lot of these programs that benefit the homeless and needy are not run by our illustrious mayor or City Council. No matter what they do, they’ll never find a way to free downtown of the homeless or those in need.

In the almost 13 years I’ve been here, I’ve been homeless for about half of that. The other half I have been either living with a friend or in an extended-stay motel.

Each year, I’ve witnessed the City Council going broke and having to raid the water and sewer fund to pay for schemes that didn’t bring downtown any business. Prime example is the ice arena in downtown. No one really has heard the total cost of that fiasco. Your paper printed a story on the cost but left out one key expense — the electricity bill. This is just one of the many mismanagement issues I’ve witnessed.

This city is in major trouble. Its infrastructure is a train wreck. The City Council and mayor are only interested in two things — lining their re-election pockets, as well as their own. What this town needs is four major items that will get everyone off the street and help fill city coffers.

First of all, the city needs to rebuild its infrastructure. That means resurface roads, fix sidewalks, rectify the bus issue, as well as fix the sewer — using water and sewer fees, instead of using them for other expenses. You know it’s bad when the Environmental Protection Agency comes down and has to fix something that the city ignored.
Secondly, bring full-time jobs Columbia by completing the first item.

Third, educate those you have in the city instead of importing people to perform the jobs that are brought into this city.

Fourth, direct the police into their proper roles of protecting the citizens of this city instead of constantly harassing the homeless.  The city could be wealthy if they were to properly enforce traffic laws. The more the Columbia police harass the homeless, the less time they have to do their appointed jobs.

If anyone is truly interested in the insights of homelessness in the city of Columbia, I personally invite them to my blog. Just search for “touringfrog” via any search engine and click on the link with Wordpress in it. You’ll find a number of articles about what is actually happening with those who are on the street or those in need.

Terry L. Parris
Homeless veteran
Columbia

As you’ll note, there was some restructuring of my letter as well as some severe deletions.  I’m not entirely displeased with the restructuring.  However, I’m very annoyed with a publication who is unwilling to reprint the original material I sent without chopping it all to hell in order to make me look like I didn’t even have an education.  It’s quite obvious that the publication is either checking my claims on some of what I wrote or they are just too damn scared to publish it in it’s entirety.

For the record, I’m a high school graduate who majored in English, Math, and Sciences in high school.  I attended Southwestern Michigan College for computer sciences (dropped out due to funding as well as burn out and grades).  I’ve also attended Florida Technical College (diploma in C++ and Java programming).  And this DOESN’T count my twelve years serving in the United States Navy fighting for the rights granted to me an all the others under the Constitution of the United States.  As if this isn’t education enough.

What happened here strikes me of George Orwell’s 1984.  Yeah, you guessed it.  No freedom of speech here in Columbia, South Carolina.  You have to mark your speech very carefully when talking about politicians in the press or pointing out errors in the press itself.  Maybe that is why I spend more time reading news on the web instead of reading the printed (filtered) publications.

Now I have no animosity toward the editor of the Free Times.  He has a job for which he is paid for irregardless of what he feels is right and what his publication requires of him.  However, it’s his publication for which I seldom read anymore that I find myself at odds with.  Obviously the “Free” in their title only refers to the cost of their publication and not to “freedom of speech.”

Thanks to the “Free Time’s” I’m now in wonder of just how corrupt the press really is.  I could understand something like the “State” newspaper in South Carolina just flat not publishing my letter.  Their a corporate entity.  I’m unfamiliar with who owns or operates the “Free Times.”  However, if they were unwilling to publish my letter as a whole due to some things I investigated, then hold it till they investigated it themselves.  Don’t butcher it.  In most cases, I don’t speak unless spoken to and I don’t say anything I don’t KNOW to be fact.

I’ll end this with but one thing.  It’s an age old saying.  I may not get it quite correct but it applies here.  “If you can’t talk nice about others, then don’t talk at all.”  In this case if you can’t print something due to unsubstantiated facts that you haven’t investigated, then don’t print it at all.  At least send me an email and explain why you won’t publish it.

I’ve Seen!

April 4, 2013

A couple of years ago, I lost my grandmother.  At 91 years old she’d said she’d seen enough.  Only this morning did it dawn on me what she meant by that comment before passing.  She lived through the Great Depression, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Dessert Storm and some of the current wars not to mention several years of vast change in this country including Women’s Suffrage  and the Civil Rights Movement.

I’m too young to remember a lot of these things.  My only recollection of things during my grandmother’s later years was of my uncle leaving for Vietnam (he did two one year tours there), my neighbor going to serve the National Guard during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and of course I served in the Navy during Dessert Storm.  It makes me wonder just what I’ll witness next.

These are but a few things I’ve not seen in my fifty three years of life so far.  I’ve seen many more things than I’d like.  Some I’d much rather not see, especially here in the United States.  At this point in life, I can honestly say I’m with my grandmother on what her last feelings were.  I’ve seen enough to make a grown man not just cry but to curl up and want to die.

I was once a proud citizen of this country I call my home.  Doing my patriotic duty serving in the U.S. Navy wasn’t something I did just for a job.  After all these years, I can’t honestly say I’m proud of this country.  Actually, I’m mortified.  The people (especially the politicians) should be ashamed of themselves for the treatment they give those that are in as well as those who have served this country in the military.  They gave their lives or part of their lives in order to keep this country the way it is no matter how messed up it has become.  Yet, they are looked at as second and often times less than third rate citizens.  The illegal immigrants get better treatment most of the time.

Greed seems to be one of the things I’ve witnessed the most.  The saying “competing with the Jones'” comes to mind here.  Everywhere I’ve gone, everyone I meet, and every job I’ve been in seems fraught with who can get what for little or nothing of his/her time.  My last job with Sam’s Club will attest to that.  I worked there not even a year before quitting.   I was USED by day shift and management (my immediate supervisors) to get ahead (advance up the corporate ladder).  What did I get out of it?  Nothing more than an “at a boy” and a pay raise of only fifty cents an hour (the only pay raise I ever got there though I increased sales in my section by 30%).  Now I’m homeless again for my NOT cow towing to people who use and abuse others for their own personal gain.  It’s shameful.

Worse yet, I’ve seen this same greed and treatment of African Americans by not just Caucasians but by other African Americans.  Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the distribution of illegal drugs.  Of course, this particular thing happens not just in the African American communities, but in other racial communities as well.  Drugs are not a racial discriminator.

Discrimination is probably the second most prevalent thing I’ve seen.  Nowhere have I seen it more pronounced than in the impoverished neighborhoods and in the south.  However, it’s not just the African Americans against the Caucasian Americans and vice versa.  I think the worst discriminating race I’ve met is the Asian Americans.  Not so much in the northern part of the United States, but here in the south it’s abysmal.  These people, if they could have it their way, wouldn’t associate with anyone.

Personally, I don’t look at the exterior of anyone anymore.  I look at what is inside.  The personality of the person I’m talking to or the person I care for.   Personality is everything.  What is on the outside doesn’t matter.  WE all BLEED the same damn color, RED!  Plain and simple, there should be NO discrimination anywhere.  Yet it still happens.

From there I’ll mention history.  Nowhere in history has any government lasted longer than in the United States.  No monarchy, dictatorship, or other form of government has lasted so long.  I’ve worked both sides of the fence and studied both sides for a long time.  This government is DOOMED to repeat the errors of the past by not looking at what happened to past forms of government.  Alas, history is no longer truly taught in the school systems.  For that matter not much in today’s school systems is useful with the exception of math and science (and the so called Christians want to remove science from the system as well) to progress a person to a meaningful life.  But history ought to be a required subject throughout a students scholastic years.  Fully half the politicians in our current government know little or nothing about history and how greed has been the downfall of most all governments.  The other half ignore history though they do know of it.   These politicians think they have a “great civilization.”  Yeah right.  For whom?  Them of course.  Not the average person on the street.

The two oldest professions in the book are politics and prostitution.  They actually are much the same.  The career politician is nothing more than a whore.  More so than the prostitute on the street.  I’ve read recently where several politicians sold out to a major corporate interest.  They voted to support the oil industry in certain claims because a large amount of their campaign contributions (BRIBES) came from that one industry.  Two are members of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C.  Another four to six are in the Oklahoma Assembly.  The exposure of this as well as that of several assemblymen in the North Carolina Assembly for taking large campaign contributions (BRIBES again) from corporations for votes proves my point entirely.  Just another thing that makes me wonder, “Have I seen enough yet?”

And while I’m at it, let me mention military procurement.  Everyone knows what happens to some extent there.  It’s in the news just how much the “Joint Strike Fighter” is costing the taxpayer.  This is but one example but let me use it.  Corporations are not only using retired military personnel, but also BRIBING active duty personnel to push through stuff the military doesn’t need or in some cases even wants.  Yes, I agree we need a joint strike fighter that serves multiple missions for all branches of the service.  Where I don’t agree is on the cost.  Currently, each JFS (as I’ll refer to them now) will cost the American taxpayer over $100 million apiece.  That cost is growing on almost a daily basis.  Now the Navy’s old FA-18 Super Hornet was around $85 million apiece to give you a reference.  Granted we’ve had advances in many things but do we need all those things.  Americans are fighting two wars of completely different propensities.  We are fighting terrorists and computer crackers (the correct term though the media uses “hackers”, the incorrect term).  WTF do we need a joint strike fighter to fight these wars for?

As I’ve said, I’ve seen many things.  Some things I’ve seen here in Columbia, South Carolina I’m shocked at since I would think I’d see them on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, California instead of in the Bible Belt.  Two things I witnessed here is just plain stupid even for a couple of homeless individuals.  First of all, two obviously homosexual men fornicating in front of a closed store at 2AM.  Secondly, a heterosexual couple fornicating in broad daylight under a blanket in the middle of a park.  Granted both situations involved homeless people and I’m ashamed to be mentioned in the same sentence as either of those four individuals.  Those four people have no sense of social dignity let alone anything else.  Of course, this is the only town where I’ve witnessed the aftermath of a knifing in as well.  Never did I witness these things in San Diego nor Los Angeles while stationed aboard two different ships going through the shipyards of Long Beach.  It’s truly amazing what you witness in a town of just over a hundred thousand people that you don’t see in cities of over four million people.  Need I say more?

I won’t say much more.  I’ll just leave you with a thought though.  When you’ve seen what you think is enough, just wait.  You’ll witness more.