Silly Grins

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jane Doe 183

Jane Doe? That means she’s dead, right?

“No, that’s not her posthumous ‘name’. She’s been off the radar for quite some time now. An intentional move. A choice. She could possibly still be alive... maybe in a shelter.”

You’re talking about one of your aunts?


Not the one who married the Fro…

“No. From the other side... from out of the light, not the shadows.”

Go on.

“What I still find peculiar is the way things have kind of just happened. Like the last time I saw her, I don’t remember her even speaking to me. I could hardly recognize her through the window. Not that the fasting had changed her looks other than making her appear painfully thin, almost skeletal if it weren’t for her healthy color.

You see, she still was good about nutrition. Very careful in fact.

The 'her' I didn’t not recognize didn’t acknowledge me. We had no conversation that I can recall.

But, as it turns out, she’d remembered me because she left this…

Here’s her writing on the inside cover. 

Her message... her ‘recognition’ of me comes mainly from a time before I was even ten years old. And she still pegged it. Even after all that time... and this time.

When she first came to visit, before I was ten, her presence was discovered quite by accident. Behind a closed door of the spare bedroom was a steady and indecipherable voice that, to a child’s mind, at first sounded like some kind of alien.

"Pasted on the inside of the book was 'everyone'"

Despite being scared, we opened up the door anyway. Kneeling on the floor, hands on in the ‘prayer position’ on the bed, was a woman with her eyes closed and speaking in tongues. She was kind enough to explain that a little later when she had finished her communion or whatever it was.

During her ‘visit’...”

Wait, I thought you said she was homeless?

“Yeah, she’s been homeless for as long as I can remember. Homeless in the sense of having no fixed address and no more possessions than what she carries with her. Admittedly, she has taken advantage of shelters from time to time. Or a family’s hospitality. She knew people.”

About that visit?

“Okay... yeah… that visit. That was probably the first time I met her. Or even knew that she existed. Definitely different. Different for a number of reasons. But before I get into those, I have to thank her for taking the time out to recognize who I was, even at that age. I mean, nearly ten and with no brother around, I had no one to wrestle with. Wasn’t about to try that with Step-dad-one. At that age, most adults wouldn’t rough house with kids. But she would. Tough and strong. Now that I think about it, her survival routine would have kept her in very good shape. At least when she wasn't 'sick'.”

You once said she’d taught you things?

“Yeah. She taught me about carob and how to sing הבה נגילה.”

But you are גוי?

“Yeah, I guess. But there was other stuff.”

Like what?

“The big words that named the problems. Kind of like the art she left, pasted on the inside of the book.”

And she left you that book the last time you met?

“Yeah, the last time we met. When she didn’t even acknowledge me, so I thought. But she was speaking to her little sister, the one who ended up taking care of everyone. And I still haven’t got the stories straight.”


“Yeah. Like how nervous breakdowns seem to run in the family. 183’s father was 160, or somewhere around there. He’d actually belonged to the club, that roundtable where ‘intelligent’ people are supposed to sit. Only thing is, people were waaay too far into their own heads to really know how to communicate. No one would listen. Not where he was.”

That’s funny.

“Yeah. Peculiar. 183 was even brighter. Which is somehow related to her idiosyncrasies, her choice to ‘not belong’ to society. Now, her navigational skills may seem fairly remarkable to some, but when you live on the streets, you pay attention to when libraries are open where there is plenty of time for reflection. And she could and did read. Areas with mild climates allowed her to ‘live in the hills’ with nothing more than maybe a tarp.”

You’re laughing.

“Yeah. Just remembered how her younger sister said we weren’t to use the plastic blue sheet when we were painting. 183 had complained we were messing up her home. Apparently, that was her shelter for the hills. Where she lived.”

Why now? Why all these thoughts and memories?

“If I could answer that question… no… it doesn’t need answering. What’s important is that I am able to have these thoughts and memories. I hadn’t seen that book, really opened it, in quite some time. Only now am I able to kind of understand where everyone was coming from.”

Because everybody’s clock keeps a different time?

Yeah, and maybe this one too:


Something in the climate of a hammer
Struck him when young. Call a
Sparrow a lamp, you’ll still need
The liking of chairs to settle
What is at bottom only painted over
Cloth; and that flat cunning of plates,
How little it speaks above the soup’s
So roundly directional bravura. Count the sky
A pan, you’ll still be hard put to find
Any flash in its like. But ah, alas, alas,
Lottipo . . . the mushy marshes, those tree-lined woods,
The so-small journeying, and the trivial occupants thereof . . .
There, too, and all else, alas, are only real. So may we
Remember once again how the grasses cause the wind to move . . .
Ah, alas, dear Toppilo, what then is this realm that seems
So like a cell, without jail or judge, or witness even . . .?
And that we love! Is this not proof of something?
No, I admit – not necessarily of heaven . . .

 And now, for that song..."


  1. I remember anorexia being a bigger subject back when I was in high school about 15 years ago, but you rarely hear about eating disorders. Well... Except for the one where people stuff their faces with more garbage.

    I've thankfully have never been in contact with any family that had such a strong disorder such as this or alcoholism and I fight myself all the time to keep myself from flying off the handle even though I have absolutely no problem whatsoever.

    I guess the other issue you hit on is why so many homeless people have mental issues and are they homeless because they have the problem or does the issue get worse because they are homeless. If I had the choice, I would rather live in the hills where I could probably find more decent shelter than the bus bench at the end of the block where I see the homeless guy sleeping when I leave for work in the morning.

    But in the end I will assume I know the way that you write, and I hope I got the subject matter correct, but I would however just like to show the love and attempt to understand your always entertaining but sometimes difficult to understand subjects. omg, my punctuation is atrocious, though I don't see it getting much better in the near future.

    1. Self-imposed weight loss where the only nutrition was taken in in the form of vegetables isn't so bad when not taken to extremes that make concentration a challenge.

      Apparently, living a life where sort of staying awake for two days at a time is sort of the norm (without meth) puts a person in a different sort of cycle than everyone else who is still in the system. I have no way of knowing at this point, but I think Aunt 183's sense of time was geared to a forever kind of now state. Don't know. Maybe never will.

      Having witnessed a parent working within the social welfare system dealing with mental health issues during a time that includes the Reagan-era, the first noticeable homeless groups in the city consisted of congregations of Vietnam veterans who were simply put out on the streets. Eventually, people would be offered bus tickets to just about anywhere as an economical way of becoming a problem for someone else.

      Once a person crosses the line and goes out on the street, do things get worse? I imagine things can get harder for people to deal with. When alcohol and hard drugs become the default, it's got to be a hard life. I've never worked at a soup kitchen, so I wouldn't know. I have given out food during the holidays on an occasion or two through a church, but that was to migrant families who were already working while trying to cope with it all.

      You definitely 'got' the main part of the post. Dalida was an added bonus/twist. I'd simply been looking for a woman singing 'Hava Naguila' and ended up with a lady who happens to not be Jewish (183 wasn't).

      I recently read somewhere that Hawai'i is offering one-way tickets to a number of their homeless population. Kind of an updated version of what's been going on for ages. All of this I came across while trying to learn a little about EBT thanks to Xanax.

      If I was ever in a situation where homelessness might be considered an option, I think I would downsize first, convert a small bus or a van. Ultimately, I'd like to spend more time living with as little as possible in terms of possession. Not necessarily heaven...

      Yeah, right.

      Hadn't noticed your punctuation taking anything away from your posts or comments.

      Thank you.

  2. It's probably quite arrogant of me to assume anything regarding the state of mind of your average homeless person, but it seems to me that homeless people here in Japan differ from most in the States in that being homeless here seems more of a conscious choice. Homeless folks here are rarely seen begging and seem to be quite adept at getting by. I've been told there's an attractive sense of freedom that calls to many homeless here. I dunno... sometimes the idea of 'dropping out' for a limited time does seem appealing, doesn't it?...

    1. Your comment doesn't sound arrogant to me. People here have told me that they believe homelessness is a choice; they do appear to only hold people in contempt when begging is involved.

      A majority of the homeless people here who I've run across have been tidy and seemed to 'have it together' more so than what is seen in the US. My observations are only based on what I've been exposed to here, which isn't much. Still, there doesn't seem to be such a harsh edge to it in Japan, though I'm sure it's no paradise.

      Although the idea of 'dropping out' for a limited time does have a certain appeal to it, I'm the only one who is preventing myself from not already experiencing the freedom I imagine such an act of 'dropping out' would provide.

      I did meet a guy who had been living in his mini motor home next to a hot spring for a few months... he said he'd sold his place in Tokyo and had decided to hit the road and enjoy a bit of the country. He didn't appear to have any regrets other than not doing things a little sooner.

      In this day and age, if a person doesn't have any kids, there's really not much to lose in terms of pulling up stakes and living the nomadic life.

      Japan is pretty generaous in attitude toward people who want to spend the night parked in a rest stop, on the side of the road, along a beach, or pretty much wherever.

    2. "In this day and age, if a person doesn't have any kids, there's really not much to lose in terms of pulling up stakes and living the nomadic life. " - Check out Craiglist Joe, it can be done.

      I know a few chaps that decided to lead nomadic lives. James recently drove through my neck of the woods on his way to a festival with two other traveling young adults. I have been meaning to write about it.

    3. Just watched the trailer for Craiglist Joe - cool! I like the idea of using social media to connect with ideas through people. Though figuring out how do that in Japan isn't quite the same, if a person keeps their eyes open, there are definitely possibilities.

  3. "Yeah, she’s been homeless for as long as I can remember. Homeless in the sense of having no fixed address and no more possessions than what she carries with her. Admittedly, she has taken advantage of shelters from time to time."
    - This is an exact description of Andy's mother. And she has taught her, now 10 year old son that it is okay to be homeless and to take advantage of shelters. He actually told me that if we get kicked out of our apartment on account of his behavior, "It's okay, we can go to a shelter." She has also taught him that taking what one does not have without asking is okay. "But my mommy does it and told me if I need something and don't have money to just take it." These are the days I live now as step-mother to a child who was carelessly dragged around instead of being mothered properly. Funny the amount of Zen like moments I seem to slip away into when the shit hits the fans these days. Hubs has taken to the loud voice/threats of spanking approach. Maybe it is something of my youth coming back to snap me into my happy place when things are not right.As my hubs says, he thinks you are the good one and I am the bad one. I use logic, reasoning and the many tools that I picked up along the way as a failed psychology student still just a few classes shy of her bachelors.

    As for Mensa, didn't hear about it until I was an adult. At 15, the last time I was checked I sat pretty and quite annoyed at the series of tests at 146. A number, who knows how accurate of the truth, is probably why I have had a tough time of it all being a 'shiny happy people holding hands'. I think forcing myself to live the daily grind can account for some of my moments where I feel despair and want to run away. But then I think that running away, no matter how fast, I will always be there. Maybe there is truth to the saying ignorance is bliss. And looking in on that type of world can be angering, confusing and saddening all rolled into one giant burrito; often times with no one to share with.

    Kenneth Patchen, great poet.

    1. Wow, to not be too worried about having to live in a shelter, that's kind of... I don't know. Your step-son is so lucky to have a chance to experience stability at this age. When things get a little rough, your Zen approach of being able to step back from it all and stay centered is definitely a good thing. For everyone.

      That's gotta be a challenge getting through to a kid who thinks getting kicked out is no big deal. You've definitely got an excellent set of tools to choose from for this adventure. And probably a lot of patience too (for some things). Yeah, it sounds like step-son is quite a lucky kid to have the support he's got now. With time, hopefully he'll be able to add to his worldview in a way that doesn't cause too much damage to himself of others. Or at least he'll be well trained in cleaning things up after all the fun. Your husband definitely pegged the good guy/bad guy 'hurt and rescue' thing. Sounds like you've got a good setup for 'negotiation' and 'persuasion'. I sure wish I'd known more about this kind of stuff when understanding how to deal with and be around uncooperative people.

      Mensa... your number looks like it qualifies you for membership. Not really a surprise there. Stumbling into your account of the daily grind among happy hand-holding folk helps me keep things in perspective. Not that I am out of the daily grind 'cause I'm not. Being able to see how a person recognizes and chooses to deal with that which more blissful folk tend to overlook is reassuring - for me.


      Japan's got its 'shiny happy' turned up so high that you can read it with a Geiger counter if you haven't been blinded by the light. Craigslist still has quite a way to go before it really catches on in this land of bliss. And I'm not exactly waiting for it to happen. Life is way too short for that kind of patience.

      Thank you.