Remembrance of One I Loved

December 12, 2013

Some might consider this a long overdue eulogy.  So be it.  To me it’s my way of having an ever lasting memory of one I love even to this day.  Yes, I’m talking about a deceased member of my immediate family.  His birthday is this month and I wanted to do something for him even after thirty (30) years of being long gone.  He lived for a very short forty two years.  Some may have called him every name in the book and then some, others may have called him a friend.  However, I’ve always referred to him as “father.”

For the most part he was a good father.  His only character flaw to me was his lack of showing how much he truly cared openly.  Don’t get me wrong.  There were plenty of times that he openly showed he cared.  It’s just those times were few and far apart.  Otherwise, his love was shown in the best way possible.  He was always understanding even when he didn’t voice his opinion.  My father was certainly supportive of his three children.  His one thing was we had what we needed even if he had to do without.

From the day my father left high school till the year before he died, he worked as a tool and die worker.  You may have seen some of his work when you climbed into your automobile or truck in the past.  He built the molds for a large number of plastic parts that went into those automobiles and trucks.  One such mold I remember him having his shop order a microscope so he could fix a mold someone else botched up.  It was for the Ford four speed shifter that was to go into the Mustang of the time.  Alas, this is but one memory of my father.  Not the fondest of memories but just one.

Probably the earliest memory of something my father did for us kids was when we lived at the house on Pulver Road outside Three Rivers, Michigan.  One year it snowed deep enough for him to come out and make us a snow fort semi-igloo with a snow shovel.  At the time we weren’t even old enough to handle a shovel all that well.  I think I was around eight at the time.  My other two siblings at the time were seven and five.  It was a lot of fun.  I think my father even got into a snowball fight with us kids.

The next fondest memory of my father was when we lived on North Main Street just a block outside of Three Rivers.  It was on a fourth of July.  At the time my father was big into muzzle loading guns.  He had ample amounts of gun powder in the house for shooting as well as testing barrels for some of the guns he build himself.  That fourth of July he took the time to make home made firecrackers and shot off his muzzle loading rifle out back sans lead balls.  I still think he had more fun than us kids that year.  It was the same year my mom’s oldest brother showed up with his family.  He had to show off to my father after seeing my father’s muzzle loader.  He brought out an old WWII vintage Thompson semi-machine gun and lit it off (shot it) in full automatic.  Needless to say we had police at our door ten minutes after my uncle put the weapon away.

By far the best times with my father were spent on our eighty acre farm he bought back in 1973.  It was almost half way between Jones, Michigan and Three Rivers.  We heated by a wood/oil burning furnace as well as a Benjamin Franklin style stove.  Many a times either my entire family or just my father and his two sons went out to cut wood for the winter.  He’d cut the trees down and cut them up so we could load it onto a trailer.  A lot of wood got split by yours truly as well as my brother.

Funny thing is I was not there for a picture my mom shot of my father when he wasn’t looking.  I believe she still has that picture today.  The picture in question had my father out in the driveway the day after an evening snow storm.  All the trees are covered in snow as well as the ground.  My father was looking off towards the woods to the south and thinking about what I don’t know to this day.  To me it’s by far the best picture of my father I’ll ever see.  I have one other of my mom, him, and myself that was taken around my high school graduation time but it doesn’t even compare with the one mentioned.  I think he was actually in his element when my mom took the picture of him in the driveway.

My last memory of my father alive was during a Christmas leave period (while I was in the Navy) in 1982.  I was home for his last Christmas as well as his last birthday alive.  He’d been diagnosed with a brain tumor just two months before and had come through surgery to remove some of it.  He didn’t go for full removal because he didn’t want to loose his mobility.  Instead he opted for the partial removal and to finish his life out making his final plans for his family.  When diagnosed, my father was given six months to two years to live.  He left my mother, my brother, and my sister but five months later in April of 1983.

It’s been difficult to write this short piece about my father.  My eyes are watering and tears are starting to roll down my cheeks.  My only wish is that anyone who reads this will remember what my father meant to me and think before they have bad thoughts about their own fathers.  Sometimes fathers do things for the strangest of reasons.  Most times they do them for the good of the family that is theirs.  For better or for worse, I LOVE YOU FATHER WHEREVER YOUR SOLE IS NOW I HOPE YOU SEE THIS.

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Needy, Greedy, and Fraudulent Homeless!

August 7, 2013

As you know, I’m a homeless veteran.  Recently I witnessed something that should not happen.  Actually two things.  I witnessed both greed and fraud at the same feed for the homeless.  I’ve pretty much covered greed before, however this is a different type of greed.  When I speak of fraud, I’m talking about those that come to those places that feed homeless and eat when they got food, shelter, automobiles as well as other items the homeless don’t have.

Let me talk first of those in the homeless community who are greedy.  These are the types who come to homeless feeds desiring to be the first in every line whether they need the food or not.  Many of these types come to multiple feedings per meal time whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner feeds.  They take what they want and then throw the rest of the served food away instead of offering to someone else who may need it.  This is wasteful and down right ignorant.  Those that prepare the food expect it to nourish those in need of this food.  Yet I see it all the time.  What’s worse is they like to jump lines of people already there waiting to be served or just waiting for a ticket to be served.  This doesn’t count the disrespectfulness towards those that prepared the food by throwing unwanted food out.

I had just that happen last Saturday.  A female who I’ve never seen at a local feed jumped the line that had already formed up for tickets.  Thankfully the person who I’d assumed had the tickets didn’t have them.  They were being doled out by someone else.  This person was wrong even though she was female.  I could have seen it if she’d had small children, but she didn’t have any.  It was pure greed.  This wasn’t the only thing I saw at that same said feed.

I witnessed two almost brand new sport utility vehicles (one Ford Explorer and one Mercury Mountaineer) pull up and have more than two people get out of each of them and grab tickets including the drivers.  These vehicles retail for around $40,000 each.  If you can afford to drive these vehicles and pay the gasoline bill for said vehicles, you should have a home (I’m sure these people did) and have food on the table.  Wrong again.  These people were frauds.  They are people who had everything needed but were taking advantage of free food.  This isn’t the only feed I’ve seen this at.  I’ve seen it at the Trinity Episcopal Church breakfast on Sunday’s as well.  This and the prior type people happen EVERY week there.

Though needy myself, I only attend the feedings I need to sustain myself.  I eat at most three times a day and sometimes as few as once a day.  Most of the time I’ll use the Soup Cellar for lunch and various feeds for dinner throughout the week.  On Saturday, I only eat at the Resurrections feed (often called the HotDog Man) feed during lunch sometimes but not always getting a second serving there.  Sometimes but not always, I’ll catch breakfast at a local park before the Saturday lunch.  Sunday’s I eat at Trinity Episcopal Church’s breakfast and eating only the supplied bag lunch later in the day unless I’m able to get and store additional food from the day before.

If I get a third meal during the weekdays, I get a snack at the coffee shop set up for the homeless.  It may not be much (usually amounts to a PB&J sandwich or some sort of sweet), but it gets me by till lunch.  Yes, I’m a caffeine hound.  This generally goes with at least three cups (6 ounce) of coffee.

For those that are homeless and read my blog, you probably have witnessed this type of stuff happening in your area or see various sources of food literally dry up because of actions like this or other actions.  My message to those homeless that get greedy, stop and think about others instead of thinking about just yourself.  You’re not gaining anything by your actions.  Should things continue to get worse around Columbia, you might even find yourself getting killed over your actions.  There are those that would consider this (I’m not one).

Now a message for the phoney frauds or those that are considering it.  Years ago in San Diego, California the state and the Internal Revenue Service (federal) caught a man defrauding the government for taxes as well as defrauding the state of California citizens.  He was imprisoned for his fraud and lost everything.  He was panhandling on a busy freeway on ramp.  This man was making in excess of $30,000 per year and driving an almost new Lexus, not to mention he was paying for a rather nice home this way.  ALL FROM PANHANDLING!  By now he is truly homeless for his fraudulent behavior after serving time in both the state of California as well as a federal prison system.  IS IT WORTH LOSING YOUR HOME, YOUR AUTOMOBILE, AND ALL YOUR OTHER POSSESSIONS TO DEFRAUD OTHERS? 

Part Time Work for Full Time Pay! Sounds Like Our Politicians!

June 26, 2013

When the United States started, NONE of our elected officials received any form of pay or pension.  They served in their positions as a service to their country and it’s people.  My, my, my, how times have changed.  Now some states politicians think and are getting full time pay for part time work.  Not just South Carolina either.  It seems just about every state has a session limit.

Now most every state legislature whether they be a senator or just a legislature has already got another life profession besides serving his or her state.  This is as it was back when this country was formed.  Most have their own businesses.  They already receive a full time check from those personal endeavors.  Then why is it they feel that they need full time pay for a part time job?

Looking at a list of session schedules throughout fifty states, some are longer than others.  However, NONE are full time employment.  Sure some of those legislatures staffs work year round and deserve a full time check.  However, greed and corruption have taken over with today’s politicians.  They seem to think their time is worth more than the full time salary they already draw from their personal endeavors.

If you were to follow just the federal Congress or House of Representatives on television, you’d find most politicians aren’t actively sitting on the floor of those establishments like they use to.  NOW they have committee’s to make the major decisions that were once argued out on the floor of those two houses.  Even then, not all the politicians show up for these committees.  I’m ASSUMING that this happens even at the state level houses.  If this is the case, then they should only get paid for their time actually sitting in on these committee meetings or full house roll calls.  But NO, they not only want but demand full time paychecks.

Ever notice how your elected officials seem to have a pay raise every year or two?  Yes, they get to set their own pay scale.  This happens at the federal and state level.  Other governmental employees don’t get this advantage.  This doesn’t even mention other perks as they are called.  Are their pay raises stopped due to sequestration.  Doubtful.  The voting public has no control over their politicians wages as do stock holders over their CEO’s.

Frankly, I think our politicians should only be paid for what time they are actually active in law making.  They should not be paid to campaign at all! They should punch a time clock just like everyone else does.  Salaried positions should be done away with unless it’s a corporation and they do it for budgetary reasons.

The worst part of all this is that they give themselves a retirement plan that gives them FULL salaries after serving one term here in South Carolina.  I’m uncertain if that happens in other states or on the federal level.  You and I have to invest our funds into a 401K plan which doesn’t always pay off not to mention Social Security which the Fed seems to rob every year. We’re not guaranteed a retirement yet our illustrious politicians who are already independently well off or wealthy get a full pension when they don’t DESERVE one at all.

The only way I can see change is to vote the career politicians out of office and set term limits on those that come into office.  However, the career politicians WON’T go for that whatsoever.  Even an amendment to our constitution WILL NOT work to set up term limits as it requires not only two thirds of voting citizens approval but also the approval of Congress.  And we already know where the Congressional decision will be.

Brooks Saddles, My Current Ride and My Final Ride!

June 7, 2013

I know, I know.  After my last post, I’m going to be asked what you’re riding now.  This is where I’ll tell you and of course the title tells you about my current and last bicycle saddle I’ll ever ride on.

My current ride is a 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker (from here out I’ll just say LHT).  It’s not stock anymore however.  I’ve changed the original Onyx brakes to Avid Shorty 6’s.  The handlebars and stem have been changed to a shorter stem (35 degree 80 mm stem from Dimension).  The handlebars are the European type touring bars for more hand hold positions.

Though not a bad bar, I’m not truly fond of the European touring type handlebars.  I miss what I had on my 2004 Gary Fisher 129 Dual Sport (flat bar with a Profile Designs Century aero bar).  It’s comfortable for most riding but not as easy for my gorilla arms when going down into a aero position for riding down hills.  Thus my next bike will have the same as the Fisher if I don’t do it to my LHT.  The only other option I’ll consider is getting what is no longer made.  They are the Scott AT-4 Pro handlebars that are no longer in production.

The reason I changed the brake is that the Avid Shorty 6’s were a bit lighter and actually had better braking ability than the Tektro Onyx, not to mention cartridge pads.  With these brakes I added a set of Avid Speed Dial 7 Brake Levers.  I’ve had these levers before on another bike.  They are ultimately adjustable and fairly light where as the original road Tektro brake levers weren’t adjustable.

Getting to my pride and joy, I’ll go a bit more in depth.  I’ve tried several saddles via the last few bicycles.  I can honestly say they don’t hold a candle to the Brooks I currently ride.  No it’s not the venerable B17.  It’s actually the B67.  I considered the B17 but opted for the B67 because of spinal issues.  Total comfort from shock was required.  Yes, all Brooks saddles are heavy.  But on a touring bicycle weight isn’t the factor.  Comfort is.

As to treating the Brooks saddles (all models), there are many theories.  Mine is somewhat out of the ordinary yet pretty typical.  My lubricant/treatment of choice is Proofide developed by Brooks themselves.  Below is how I treated my B67 saddle:

1.)  Right from the box turn the saddle upside down showing the rails on top.

2.)  Open the small can/tin of Proofide.  You either bought the 25 or 40 gram variety(at least I hope you didn’t forget a good leather treatment substance).  I bought the 25 gram.

3.)  Take a clean rag and apply liberal amounts of the Proofide to the bottom of the saddle.  Don’t worry about using a lot.  The initial treatment is the most important.  I used roughly half of a 25 gram can/tin.  If you like you can also put a thin coat on the opposite (top) side of the saddle.  Just remember to wipe the excess off before you ride it if you do this particular top coating.  Also, initially treating the bottom of the saddle makes it less prone to water damage from dirty water spun off the wheel.

4.)  Mount as you would any other saddle.

5.)  Take the spanner wrench you received with your saddle and tighten down the nose till you have approximately one fourth of an inch between the wires above the rails and the leather.  This will give your saddle ample give while you ride and prevent from bruising your nether regions on the wires supporting the leather.

6.)  Ride your saddle for at least 500 miles.  By then it will be form fitted to your posterior.

Special considerations with the Brooks saddles I’ve heard.  Some complain about the saddle bowing outward at the sides like a butterfly.  This is a natural effect to suspended leather.  There are fixes that I’ve heard but I suggest you leave it alone as it conforms to your thighs while riding.  Be very careful just how much tension you put on the nose nut of your Brooks.  Too tight and you may be returning the saddle to Brooks for repair.  Too loose and you’ll bruise your nether regions.  Leather that is treated correctly will soak up the treatment like Proofide or your personal favorite leather treatment as well as stretch (not all in one direction either (it’ll stretch in all directions).

Re-treatment should be done as necessary.  Time between treatments will vary depending on your climate for the most part.  Don’t let the leather become dry and brittle or back to Brooks your saddle will go.  Also, if you want to keep the top black as my B67 was when it came from the factory use only paste type shoe polish like Kiwi paste.  DO NOT USE LIQUID BASED SHOE POLISH FOR ANY REASON!  If you prefer an antique finish on a black saddle just ride it for a while.  The polish will eventually come off and you’ll get the natural coloring of the leather.  Continual treatments will give it the rustic horse saddle finish of old.

Now my final bicycle of choice will surprise many.  No the LHT will not be my final choice even in the disc brake model.  Personally, I’m eventually going to get a Surly Troll.  Two reasons for this.  When I had my Gary Fisher Dual Sport 129 I enjoyed the geometry better than my LHT.  In many instances it was more upright and a lot more durable off road.  Yes, I know.  The Fisher has a suspension fork where as the LHT has a solid fork.  With the Surly Troll I get a bike with a more mountain bike geometry as well as a suspension corrected solid fork (think less maintenance here).  The second and most important reason for choice of the Surly Troll is configurability and wheel size.  The Troll like it’s bigger brother the Surly Ogre can be outfitted with just about everything including the kitchen sink.  The wheel size on the Troll is 26″ and is very easily found in any store that sells bicycle goods including Walmart.  You can’t say that just yet with the 700C size wheels.

This is but the beginning.  I plan on configuring my Troll with a Shimano SLX kit in 2X10 instead of 3X10.  I don’t see the need in a very large tooth number on the front chainrings.  Speed is not of vast importance when touring anyway.  Yes, I’ll outfit my Troll with disc brakes vice rim brakes.  I’ve ridden both and prefer the discs for several reasons.  No, I won’t be going hydraulic after looking up the freezing and boiling points of mineral oil that is in the fine SLX hydraulic discs.  I intend to use Avid BB7 mechanical discs for on the road service capabilities.  The Avid BB7’s are a good compromise between rim brakes and hydraulic discs and fall between them for braking power.  Other components my Troll will have are riser bars with a Profile Designs Century aerobar for steering and a set of B.O.B. nuts for the mounting of my B.O.B. Yak trailer which I intend to pull behind me as well as panniers front and rear.  I found the flat bar or riser bar with an aerodynamic type bar like the Profile Designs very comfortable for my kind of long distance riding.  It provided me with many miles of happy riding when I had a similar setup on my Gary Fisher.

A little more on the B.O.B. nuts thing here.  If you haven’t pulled a B.O.B. Yak or Ibis trailer (the Ibis is more for off road loads as it has a suspension rear), B.O.B. makes two different mounts for the tongue of those trailers.  One is a custom skewer for your rear wheel or the B.O.B. nuts which mount on the framework of your Troll/Ogre.  They also mount on the axle of non quick release wheels as well.  The main reason I’m using the B.O.B. nuts is that I’ve bent two of their stainless steel skewer type mounts (probably overloaded the trailer and had too much tongue weight).  With the nuts mounted on the frame of the bike instead of through the skewer it will keep me from replacing skewers frequently.

As to racks and panniers, I prefer the Surly Nice Racks. They are well built and strong.  The panniers, I’m still looking into.  I know, people will tell me to try this that and the other brands.  I’ve tried Jandd’s panniers.  They are very durable (I currently have a set of Jandd Large Mountains).  I’m not enamored with the mounting system though.  I love the Arkel mounting system but I’m not enamored by the liberal use of zippers of any quality level.  Perhaps I’ll stick with the Jandd’s and just get the mounting rails from Arkel and mount them to the Jandds.  I’ll just have to look at that when the time comes.

Yes, I know some will ask why I intend to use both panniers and trailer.  Why don’t I use one or the other?  Simple.  The panniers are for my clothing while the trailer will be strictly for my camping gear as well as storage for a small laptop.  I don’t intend on putting a large amount of weight besides my own on my bicycle.  Clothing will be enough in the panniers.  Also, both panniers and trailer singularly put up wind resistance.  Not just against the wind or with the wind either.  You’d be surprised at what either will do with a cross draft from either side.  With both, I hope to alleviate cross draft drift by going with smaller loads on each instead of having a large cross section with just one or the other.  However you do it you need to check out the physics involved.

Now my one choice that some don’t care for.  I’m going to run clipless pedals.  Most choose not to run them to avoid having to keep two sets of shoes (one for walking and one for riding).  Myself, it’s another choice for performance over useless effort.  I’ve found that clipless pedals are much more efficient over standard toe clips.  You can put upwards of 75% or more power into your pedals with clipless vice 50% or less with standard toe clips.

Hopefully this article has been if nothing else entertaining.  I know several won’t agree with my choices.  That’s all a part of personal preferences.  For those that are not familiar with touring, I hope some of the information will be enlightening.  The best thing you can do if you plan on touring is to make your own enlightened choices of what works and what doesn’t.  However, the more you research (either while you ride or while not riding), the wiser choices you can make.  My personal choices are based on where and how I ride both locally and while I tour as I prefer to keep only one bicycle at a time.

A Visit To Mom’s!

May 22, 2013

My second tour of the roadways via bicycle was a trip to Mom’s about five years ago.  It was all pretty good up till the last four days on the road.  I’ll explain to you in depth in the following paragraphs.  However, I did make it back to Columbia, South Carolina.  Not necessarily in the best of conditions though.

I don’t remember specifics, but it started out shortly after I quit working at Sam’s Club.  I rolled out on my $1400 Gary Fisher Dual Sport 129 (http://www.vintage-trek.com/Trek-Fisher-Klein…/2004specmanualFisher.pdf‎)  with my B.O.B. Yak trailer (http://www.bobgear.com/bike-trailers/yak) fully loaded.  Yes, I did say trailer.  This may have been my second tour but I had to try something different for toting my stuff around other than panniers.

This time my route was totally different that before.  It was more mountainous as well.  My first leg took me from Columbia, SC to somewhere just north and west of Laurens, SC in the very first day.  My second day saw me almost out of South Carolina when I stopped on the northwestern side of Spartanburg, SC.  Next stop was somewhere in the vicinity of Cherokee, NC.

From Cherokee, NC, I got the fun of attempting the last of the Great Smoky Mountains on my journey into Knoxville, TN.  From that point on it was almost totally due northwest through the rest of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.  My course was pretty much following Interstate 75 via the side roads.  U.S. 25 was maintained till I hit Ohio.  From that point on it was following U.S. 27 from Cincinnati, OH to Fort Wayne, IN.

Now let me digress just a bit here as I forgot to mention that I did get a ride from some very kind folks while in the Smoky Mountains.  I was looking at several miles of two percent grade and fairly hot temps.  Not to mention I had failed to fill up water and was still about four miles from the nearest source of it.  I was exhausted and parched when these kind folks gave me a lift from some point just inside the North Carolina border and gave me a lift with their pickup truck to Knoxville, TN proper.  To this day I thank those folks and pray for them.  They saved me a nasty climb that I just wasn’t ready for.  Since then I’ve learned a different route altogether.

Getting back to where I left off.  From Fort Wayne, IN I took the county roads starting with the 3 moving to the 9 up through Kendallville, La Grange,and Howe in Indiana.  Once inside the Michigan border just north of Howe the 9 turns into M-66 and into Sturgis, MI.  From that point on it was relatively easy to get to my mother’s home in Centreville, MI.

All in all, it took me only ten days with numerous stops along the way.  Again, I don’t remember all my stops.  However, I do remember stopping at my sisters home in Covington, KY.  I was treated to a nice dinner with her and my brother-in-law as well as my nephew.  That is the night I remember being asked to try calamari.  I love seafood however, I draw the line at something that resembles rubber.  I declined the fried calamari my sister had even just for a taste.

My ride back was a similar route after spending a month or so at my mom’s home.  The only real differences were the weather, slight variation on route, and one very bad time before leaving Athen’s, GA.  Other than that, I made it back to Columbia in a little longer than it took me to get up to Michigan.  Along the way, I learned a very valuable lesson as well.  It’s one lesson I keep at the forefront of my mind while bicycling to this day.

The weather when I left my mom’s house was tolerable.  As I rode, it became increasingly worse as the day wore on.  Traveling back through Indiana and Ohio was more hell than was Kentucky and Tennessee.  I was fighting a constant fifteen mile per hour cross wind as well as temperatures dropping down into the lower thirties.  Thankfully I was prepared for the temperatures to the point of being sweating like a pig when I did stop.  Alas, this also led to some very intolerable times when I stopped without having some form of shelter.  Hypothermia could have been a real issue.  Of course riding in those conditions as well as sleeting snow drags hard on energy levels and makes the muscles groan even more when pulling around one hundred pounds behind a bicycle that is carrying your body weight (mine at the time was around 210 pounds).  Here is where I can honestly say training and preparation is a must.  That and a little motivation.

My only variance of routing on the way back was while I was in Tennessee.  Instead of turning back toward the Smoky Mountains at Knoxville, I rode on toward Cleveland, TN.  At that point, I changed over from U.S. 11 from Knoxville to U.S.64/U.S.74 through to the U.S.129 and into Gainsville, GA and then to Athens, GA.  There I remember is where I stopped for a cup of coffee at a local Waffle House on the east side of town as I was leaving via U.S.78.

It was when I took my coffee break that valuable lesson was learned.  ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS LOCK YOUR BICYCLE AND POSSESSIONS UP WHEN STOPPING SOMEWHERE!  EVEN IF YOU CAN PLAINLY SEE THE BIKE AND POSSESSIONS LOCK YOUR STUFF UP! I made the fatal mistake of forgetting to lock my bicycle and trailer up while stopped at the Waffle House in Athens, GA.  It was on the wrong side of town in what would be classified as the slums (crack alley).  Not only was my bicycle stolen but all my possessions that I wasn’t carrying with me into the Waffle House.  Yes, I did report it to the police.  Four hours later, there was still no site of it.  I decided it was time to push on for Columbia.

From Athens, GA to Columbia, I walked.  Three days worth along with three rides (two of which were by county law officers to the county border).  That equated to roughly one hundred fifty miles.  As I walked, I kept kicking my own ego for not locking the bicycle up.  I felt lower than whale dung in the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

When I finally made Columbia, I was exhausted, hungry (I’d not eaten much in those three days), and homeless yet again.  However, I did make it by sheer will power.  After five years of seeing that day happen repeatedly in memory, I still lock the bicycle I have now up no matter if I leave it for more than just a few minutes.  Lesson learned even though I’m still homeless.

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.

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.

Columbia, South Carolina state’s best city? NOT!

March 27, 2013

I found this rather interesting item in the news a few months back.  It was a determination of the United States best cities.  The survey was done by the Milken Institute and is rather informative.  If you’re not from the United States or even if you are you can check out your cities standings (if it’s listed ) at the following links.  This information is based on several factors and the determination is actually described by the institute’s site (first link).

http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org/
http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org/best-performing-cities-2012-large.html
http://bestcities.milkeninstitute.org/best-performing-cities-2012-small.html

The table below is just a standing for the cities listed from South Carolina.  It’s not the entire table at the links above.

2012 Rank

2011 Rank

Metropolitan Area

State

9

11

Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville

SC

35

114

Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill

NC-SC

52

113

Greenville-Mauldin-Easley

SC

88

77

Augusta-Richmond County

GA-SC

108

181

Spartanburg

SC

129

115

Columbia

SC

165

128

Myrtle Beach-North Myrtle Beach-Conway

SC

127

141

Anderson

SC

129

151

Florence

SC

131

155

Sumter

SC

I found it quite interesting that Columbia is one of three cities listed from South Carolina that actually fell from their previous years listing.  Of the cities listed it is in the bottom twenty percent and tied with Florence.  The worst city of course was Myrtle Beach/North Myrtle Beach/ Conway for obvious reasons.

Now as to why Columbia is failing to move up the listings.  There are several things that mark the decline of Columbia.  First and foremost is the number of jobs (jobs that pay significantly more than minimum wage) in this city.  The second and I feel should be the most important and will bring the first to this city is infrastructure.  Third is a friendly government.

Now let’s talk about infrastructure.  This should be a city’s first order of business since without a sound infrastructure jobs will NEVER come.  The city of Columbia is and has been in hot water with the Environmental Protection Agency over it’s sewage system.  Progress of repairing it has been slow at best and has cost the citizens of this city far more than they need it to cost.  Why you ask?  It’s because like all governments, the Columbia city council pools all the cities funds into one lump sum and spends it without regard to setting aside money for future needs nor repair of in use systems.  It’s why not only the cities sewage system is still in need of repair (even through not one but several water rate hikes in recent times) but the roads, parks and other things are in need of repair or proper maintenance.

Where is all this money going you ask?  Look around.  You see block parties (not necessarily for the general public (i.e. normal citizen), parades, and other nonsense things being supported by city council in order to draw people to a DEAD downtown.  Tourism isn’t happening in this city let alone this state because of several things that I need not mention.  Tourism is also a dead industry like manufacturing has become in the United States.

Roads are seeing very little repair outside that which the city spends from state and federal funds they receive.  One thing could help this issue other than further taxing an already burdened people.  Think before you make repairs of streets.  Two or three years ago, Columbia resurfaced several of their downtown streets instead of spreading the funds around the town on these projects.  What happened after the resurfacing?  Sure enough, not one month after the roads were resurfaced, the city started tearing up the NEW surface repairing stuff that could have been repaired before the resurfacing.  Now they’ll scramble for more state and federal funds to resurface the same streets they tore up again instead of fixing other more in need streets.  This isn’t new.  It happens in many a city.  Ill thought out maintenance and repair is killing things.

As to the parks, they aren’t getting but subsistence funding.  Meaning, they aren’t getting anything more than what they need for basic maintenance.  Water fountains in the parks aren’t being maintained where there are such.  Restrooms which need repair, maintenance, or just flat need replacing are not getting done to attract citizens to the parks.  The sad thing is I’ve talked to people who work these parks.  They request the necessary things needed but are denied what they need in order to make the parks a better place for citizens.

Now a word about public safety in the city.  Columbia has recently added several new police officers to their ranks.  However, they like other government employees don’t seem to be doing their job properly.  Granted ALL police officers are underpaid for what they do, but most here are NOT performing the basics and the police chief seems to be spineless in his dealings with city council.  What I mean by this is, the police chief’s officers are being redirected against the current homeless population by city council and not able or willing to perform the basic functions they are paid for (writing traffic citations to those that commit the simplest of crimes).  In other words if you are homeless in this city as other major cities have homelessness as well, don’t expect a police officer to help you.  If anything they’ll lock you up faster to get points with city council.  If you’re an automobile owner, you can do no wrong.  Run a red light, speed, wreck less driving, or hit a pedestrian, no problem.  It seems pedestrians as well as bicyclists have NO rights in this town.

For Columbia to succeed in moving upward, they need to first task their police for properly.  Secondly, think proper repair and maintenance of their infrastructure (funding for current and future).  And last, FIRE their current city council.  Then and only then will they have an efficient and well run city where government responds to their citizens instead of being self centered egotistical megalomaniacs  like most government officials are.  Maybe then and only then will the Columbia police force remove the tag for them as being nothing more than “Uniform Gang Members.”

Nutrition and being homeless!

March 12, 2013

This is a topic almost NEVER discussed and I feel it should.  It seems that NOBODY and I mean nobody pays attention to this topic at all.  Most people worry more about the nutritional feeding of school children than they do the homeless.  Aren’t the homeless a member of society too?  What puts more strain on the Medicare/Medicaid programs?

A while back, I did a posting on the various places that feed and shelter the homeless.  Unfortunately, I did not go into great detail on the feeding of the homeless.  I hope to correct that here with additional information.

It’s said around Columbia, South Carolina, that “if you go hungry around this town, you’re not trying to get food.”  This for the most part is true.  There are tons of places feeding at various times of the day/week.  I’ll list several here:

Oliver Gospel Mission (from here out known as OGM)

Ebeneezer Church (usually prepared by the Salvation Army)

Trinity Church

St. Peter’s Church

First Baptist

Soup Cellar

various other groups large and small

The three main groups here are OGM, Ebeneezer, and the Soup Cellar.  These are the people feed on a daily basis.  Well OGM and Ebeneezer do.  The Soup Cellar serves lunch during the weekdays but is one of the main providers of food.  Here is where I’ll admit even I don’t have all the facts.  However, I’ll tell you what I know about OGM and the Soup Cellar.  I’ll relay what I’ve heard about Ebeneezer (we call it Ebisqueezer).

OGM I know well.  You’ve read what I’ve already said about them as a shelter.  Now you’ll know what think of their food service.  My biggest complaint about OGM’s food service is not so much the food, which is often times donated and reasonably fresh (sometimes you get a meal that is prepared the same day, sometimes not).  My biggest complaint against them is with a cook that adamantly will NOT follow the Department of Health’s food preparation regulations.  But to talk of their food is another thing entirely.  Yes, there are times you get what is suppose to be nutritious and it is a balanced meal if nothing else.  Problem with any prepared food (most of their supplies come from U.S. Foods when it’s not donated), it’s not really nutritious at all.  It’s more like institutionalized food.  Over cooked and tasteless.  I’ve had vegetables there that were like mush.  Meats are mostly soy or fatty.  Donated meals are often overcooked as well.  Anyone in their right mind knows overcooking food ruins the nutritional value of the food not to mention fatty foods raise cholesterol levels.  Oh wait, they think pumping too much overcooked veggies into you to up your fiber levels will prevent this.  Bullsh*t!  This isn’t the only thing I’ve been served there while I did eat (I no longer go to OGM for anything) there.  I’ve actually had to eat or starve some stuff there that I wouldn’t slop a hog with and being from rural Michigan, I do know what they slop hogs with.

Now the Soup Cellar on the other hand does NOT serve anything but lunch Monday through Friday as well as most holidays.  For the most part these people are a group of churches in the community who provide lunch for the homeless as well as those needy people who are barely getting by.  Their lunch consists of two sandwiches of which on is PB  &J (you all know what that means), soup during the winter months, fruit cups during the summer, and cold sweet tea.  The bread here is generally fresh though at times it suffers.  PB & J is generally nutritious and not overly fat.  The soups during the winter are generally good though they tend to be either too much salt or too much pepper.  And, as God is my witness, they use far and away too much beans in their soups.  I can deal with green beans, Lima beans, or even butter beans in my soup but they’ve gone beyond even that making some of their soups totally inedible.  When you can pick up an eight ounce cup of hot soup and the bottom comes filled with no less than four kinds of beans (some of which I’ve never heard of or eaten before other than the ones I’ve mentioned) you’ve gone far to far.  Homeless people don’t need all the fiber and protein that they are getting fed.  Now where the Soup Cellar gets decent at is getting other things like pasta salad or bagels or things like that in to supplement their usual offerings.  I love pasta salad personally.  However, their pasta salad often has far too much oil (oil based dressing) and again beans in it.  The other pasta salad they serve from time to time is mayonnaise and mustard base.  This type is excellent for the most part.  But again, they ruin it by adding beans.   I don’t mean just any beans either.  I mean a bean that is red in color and leaves a foul taste in my mouth.  When they use this bean in the soups the soups often come out looking like human manure and tasting just as foul (NO I DON’T EAT HUMAN FECES ).  At least when the soup is good you can have all you can eat of it.

Ebeneezer, I’ve only heard minute things about.  Mostly the meals they are served are done by the Salvation Army or so I’m told.  When one hears of the Salvation Army, they think how good they help the community.  One only has to look at the South Carolina Salvation Army’s record.  Especially the fact that it fired one of it’s Major’s for embezzlement/fraud and said person is still in jail last I knew.  The only thing good I’ve heard about Ebeneezer is that they serve dinner at all.  The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that their portion size is way too small.  Go figure.  Sounds to me like the Salvation Army hasn’t gotten rid of their corruption issues yet.

There are other places to eat for the homeless.  These are the three main ones who serve a meal or sometimes two a day.  Others (churches, private individuals, and small groups) seem to do better than the larger feeders.  One church for certain takes precedence.  That is Trinity Episcopal  Church who does breakfast every Sunday.  It is at least a nutritious breakfast of grits, scrambled eggs, sausage, warmed apples, milk, and coffee.  The apples part is new as they use to serve baked beans and orange juice instead.  Personally, I welcome that change with the exception of dropping the OJ.

Sadly, the homeless AREN’T getting the proper nutrition for what they have to face on the street.  Often times the homeless are walking from one place to another to warm up in the winter.  Most of these places feed a high fat, high protein diet instead of getting these people what they need.  People burn a lot of energy quickly during the winter especially.  A high carbohydrate diet is called for in the winter for the homeless.  Fatty and protein rich diets do not metabolize quickly enough for the person to maintain energy for what they are doing.  I can see the high protein diet in the summer where the homeless are less likely to move during the heat of the day.

Proper nutrition is everyone’s concern.  Even today’s children are being fed better stuff in the school cafeteria now than what the homeless are fed.  They at least get more choices. The homeless get little or no choices in what they are served breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

The only way we can get people off the Medicare/Medicaid merry-go-round is to educate them as to proper diet (yes, advertising actually is getting better for food substances on this issue).  The homeless need better nutrition in order to face the environment (especially if they don’t go into local shelters).  A great deal of the food fed to the homeless is largely FAT, PROTEIN, and SUGARS. These are absolutely the last things the homeless need at any time.  Especially those that are diabetic as there are a large contingency of those that are homeless.  Feeding a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates (not over cooked vegetables), starches, and dairy products would go a long way in taking a number of homeless out of the health care system.

Far too often the homeless are getting fed some of the nastiest stuff known to man because it’s CHEAP and the providers can get away with extra money for themselves in return for providing a minimal amount of sustenance for the homeless.  All to often, some of the food is day old stuff (mostly baked goods from a local bakery) or stuff that wasn’t sold at a local restaurant.  OGM is notorious for doing the later as a cost cutting practice.  Is it better than some of the stuff the relief organizations feed the third world countries?  In one word NO!

We can do better than this in America.  Yes there are children still not getting their nutritional requirements at schools across the U.S.  But think about it this way.  Many who are homeless or possibly about to become homeless will be that much more of a burden to society if their health fail due to improper nutrition.  I myself have witnessed it’s effects on me.  At one time, my body was eating it’s own muscle due to improper nutrition.  Would you rather see children on the street the same way due to YOUR GREED! Enough said.