Tag Archives: SLO

Job interview-2004

I found this on my computer. It was written in March of 2004. I’ve been in SLO for 10 years now. It seems like a life time ago when I first got here.

March 2004

I went on a job interview today in SLO. It was for a job working with the homeless at a shelter. As I was driving into the parking lot (the main office is in a complex that reminds me of the ever present industrial parks) I heard myself say “what the fuck are you doing back here Houry?” I parked and took a look at myself in the mirror and just wanted to drive away. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life taking on the role of “social worker at large”.

Every time I see this in me, it takes me back to a day last summer at Gaspar’s house. His housemate worked in a day-program for years and years, and one day said “that’s it, there’s got to something else out there”. So he quit and got a job in the normal world. And on this day, we were standing around and talking about a new position I got through UCSF, which had me spending time with homeless people with mental illnesses who were participating in a research study to interview them-basically getting paid to hang out and drink coffee with the homeless-loved it!! So he says to me that life hasn’t been the same since he left, the world outside seems bland, boring, almost non-existent. And then he compared it to heroin- it eats at your soul the longer your in it and you get out and detox, and now your clean and in the real world and you know it’s the right thing to do because the toxicity of the adrenalin is killing you, you don’t know how to be with other people who aren’t in that place. So you go on with your life but the cravings kick in sometimes and you need your fix but you fight as much as you can but you’ll go back because it’s in your blood now and that’s where you think you belong. We laughed about it but it’s how it feels for me. I hate it.

I went in and did the interview. It’s funny coming in from SF into a small town. They have no more than 5,000 homeless people in the county of SLO and people are panicking. I asked them how many shelters there were and they said 3. I hope I had a poker face on because I just couldn’t even imagine what the fear was.

So I left and on the way home, I got thinking about this one man I met last August-Stan. It was a bitch trying to find him in the city. I knew that he was diagnosed with depression and that he was on heavy doses of pain medication. He had temporarily lived in a residential hotel, which by the way, I wouldn’t put my worst enemy in-just down right disgusting.

We finally met at the corner of Powell and Market-he was the guy in the black leather Giants cap. I was nervous, almost didn’t do it but what the hell right? He was homeless and had been since he got to SF after his wife died from cancer. He had had a really disgusting accident with some sort of snow truck in the dead of winter (east coast thing-I couldn’t picture it in my head) just before she died and is on pain killers-so he is identified as a junky with depression-lovely. Seems they were each other’s lives and she had always wanted to live in SF. And so after she died, he figured he had nothing left so he had nothing to lose. So we did the interview and when we were done, it is customary for some of these guys to ask me for more money than they get from the study, so I was prepared for it. But this one didn’t, he asked me if I had to get to work and if not, it would be great if we could finish our coffee. So we talked and it was nice until he told me about his life and the one thing that I was told never to allow myself to do happened, I felt the pain of this man and just burst into tears. Times after that, whenever I was in the area I would look for him just to see if he was all right and if he wanted to grab some coffee. I never saw him again.

Anyway, I hope that if they call me about the job, I am able to just let them know I’m not ready for another fix.

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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In 2010, National Geographic stated that San Luis Obispo is one of the happiest places to live. In 2011, Oprah Winfrey sent Jenny McCarthy out to SLO to do a segment about how it’s the happiest city in the US. After that, this town has used the “happiest place to live” as a commercial motto to bring in tourism, invite businesses in, sell homes at inflated prices, and make this little town into a very prosperous place to live; which makes people happier. So, yay Oprah and National Geographic for letting people know that we do live in a beautiful place with incredible mountains, clean oceans, clean air and (somewhat) controlled development. So yes, it is happy.

This isn’t about that. I see the positive aspect of taking on the role of such a title but then I also spend a lot of time walking in just about every part of this happy town, seeing the things people forgets to recognize when they are so focused on “happy” and meeting people who are invisible because they are reminders of what isn’t right in the place they live. There are little clusters of forgotten people who have made homes out of little corners of this town. Under the freeway overpass, under bridges, behind large multimillion dollar commercial spaces. People will find anywhere they can to make a home for themselves. As much as I find this the strength of the human spirit to survive, I always know that no man (person) should go without basic needs that help him look in the mirror and know he matters. Every man should have a place to lay his head, to wake up and be able to make himself something to eat, to wash himself, and make his way through his world as a member of the community he lives in. No man should be living under a bridge or in his own filth while there are those around him live with more than they know what to do with.

6 weeks ago, around 6:30am as I was walking to Black Horse on Marsh to get my morning coffee, a man literally stumbled into my life. He had a hurt leg, a walker, a backpack, and that was all. I ran to him to help him get up and the first words out of his mouth was “I’m not crazy, I won’t hurt you”. He was homeless and in pain. He is one person in a larger group of people who are disregarded, considered failures, who are put into a cluster of whatever view there is in the culture that blames a person for a bigger social problem that isn’t going to be resolved. So after helping him up and getting him a cup of coffee, we sat at the bus stop and talked. His name is Pauly. I laughed and told him that I live in the house of many Pauls. I told him I’d look for him and he told me the same. He seemed like the kind of guy who fell on hard times and hasn’t been able to get out of it. After that I looked for him when I was out but didn’t find him. I hoped that he found a place to live or was able to get out of town to a better situation.

Last week, I was walking to get my coffee and I looked at the place I saw him the first time and he was on the bench, weeping alone. I went over and said hi. It hurt my heart all over again to see a perfectly capable person unable to be capable because of his situation. I listened to him and tried to put together what his story is and figured out it doesn’t matter. He is a person and he matters. As I was leaving him, he said “I don’t believe in god anymore, I thought I should tell you”. I’m not religious person but I understand the need to believe in something bigger than oneself, to have faith in something to keep the spirit to move forward. When I heard that, I got angry. To lose your faith, whatever it maybe, means that you have lost faith in the people around you. This man needs a place to call his own and it shouldn’t be under the bridge. This man needs a door to walk through every night, and chair to sit in, a kitchen to make coffee in, a bathroom to…, and a job that he can work at to earn his living. But more than that, he needs to know that he hasn’t been forgotten because he matters.

What’s the point of all soap boxing? I don’t know. I just know that when I’m walking around and looking at all that is celebrated about living in this happy place, I also see a whole lot of people who would be happy with something as basic as a little acknowledgment that they still exist, even if they aren’t living the happy life we are selling to ourselves in the happiest place to live.


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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


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It’s been a week now and my body is readjusting to normal and my brain is getting off its high from my first half-marathon. The whole thing was an experience I never thought I would go through because it wasn’t ever an interest to me and I figured I can’t do it. Now I am working on my next one. This time with the intention of run/walking to set a baseline for my time. Yes, I said it. I want to set a time to work from.

It started months and months ago. One of the women I work with, Sheryl, kept telling me I should run a marathon. The thought of her really thinking that I could do it was really nice but to actually run anything was just not going to happen. I don’t know how to run properly, and I don’t like how it feels when I do run, which isn’t often. The only thing I found appealing about it was that the training would get me fit so I agreed to do it. After a bit of time though, as with most things I do, I lost interest and figured if she ever asked me, I would tell her I forgot. But she persisted and I finally went ahead and signed up for the SLO marathon/half-marathon. With two months ahead of me, I started following a training program half seriously but since I registered, I figured I should do something. I walked, walked, walked and walked some more, but it never went past 8 miles. I figured at some point I just need to accept that on race day, I’ll have to let momentum take over because I ran out of places to walk in town.

On the day before the race, I drove into the Madonna Expo to pick up my packet. My heart started racing and I got overwhelmed with multiple emotions and it finally hit me, I’m going to do a 13.1 mile race the next morning starting at 6:30am. Oh I forgot to mention that a couple weeks prior, I walked most of the route just to make sure I knew what was coming-no stone unturned in my life because I’m not a fan of surprise in anything.

The night of the race, I set two alarm clocks, asked small paul to put himself to bed and went to bed at 7:30pm knowing if I got an hour or two through the night it would be more than I’d had in the last three nights. I woke up every 30 minutes or so to make sure time was progressing like it’s supposed to, having short dreams of missing the race all together, opening my eyes to make sure I don’t miss the alarm. It was an OCD night. While this is happening, my brain keeps wondering if I’m going to be able to go to the bathroom before I leave the house at 5:30 because I don’t know if I could go in a porta potty. Seriously! This was a major concern.

I got up before the alarm at 4:30am. Got ready in a very surreal state of mind and walked up to the high school to the start location. It was completely dark out and my only guide was the distant voice of the announcer up the hill. The place was packed with some 2000 people. Some in groups, some alone, some dancing in place, others huddled to keep themselves warm, some cheering others on, others praying in groups. It was a wide array of people and I was alone. I wanted to do this alone to make it mine for me to take the experience without external motivators or detractors. But standing in the dark surrounded by people was very lonely. For some reason, someone else must have felt it too because out of the blue, I had a walking partner who entered alone as well. Her name was Sue and she lives up north. We helped each other keep going when it was hard, and cheered each other on when it wasn’t so hard.

It was an amazing journey because all of me was somehow changing as the race progressed. My first thought when the race started was immediate fear and excitement. There was no way to turn back at that point and the only way to go was forward. Being with Sue kept me in check. I had planned on running part of the race but knew that having not trained for it at all would be a bad idea and having her there not wanting to run made it safe for me not to. As we were going, a woman I know came riding by on her bike telling me she came to find me to make sure I knew I wasn’t alone. TRIP. I only know her from a couple of weeks ago but she was insistent on being a cheerleader for me. This made me want to do it more. As we hit the 2 mile mark, we were passing by my house. I thought about how cool it would be if the little guy was outside to watch me but I knew he was still sleeping, which made me think about how cool that is. Mom is out racing while son is dreaming about Star Wars legos I’m sure.

It went on and one. The sky changed from dark to light. The day started but 2000 people were already going. At around the 6 mile mark, I was rubbing my leg. It was starting to talk to me, telling me to stop doing this but I knew that at this point, I would merely feel the pain when I was done. Not too longer after that, something inside me shot me with power that I had never felt. It was so exhilarating and amazing. I wanted to run as fast as I could. This surge of energy was all I needed to stop any doubt or fatigue I had. It was amazing. As the road kept going I started having some serious questions about me. I questioned why it has taken me so long to start taking care of me, thinking about the things in my life that I shouldn’t have done and how those memories affect how I look at the world. I started to feel regret about those things that shouldn’t have been but then kept coming back to the moment and remembering that all of that shit brought me here today to do this. It’s my only to move forward and not dwell on the past. My brain went to the future and how much I could do from this point. I’ve made a wish list this year of things I want to do. They are no longer wishes but things that I need to do for me

I got to a point when I had to go pee. I saw a porta-potty. I had to do it but my hands where swollen. I’d been walking over 8 miles without stopping and I  knew if I stopped it would hurt me worse than not stopping. I told myself I was going to listen to my body and she is telling me it’s time to relieve myself. I did. Giggling about how silly I must look trying to do something I do several times a day. When I got back on the road, Sue was waiting for me. At that point, I wanted to confirm how important she was to me. I just let the words come out and told her that no matter what happens, she is going to be part of my journey because I don’t know what would have happened if she wasn’t with me. She told me her thoughts and without anything more to say we knew after we got to the finish line, we would say good bye and move on. It was one of the purest moments in my life ever.

At the 10 mile mark, I hit the wall. I could see the end. I know the route. It’s close to my house. My body just tensed up and it HURT. Sue gave me Gu and told me to slowly suck on it. It was gross. It was disgusting. It was crack in gel form and it was what I must have needed because as we were making it to the last mile, I was giggling and taking pictures of people and just not caring because I was going to be done and it was going to be NOW.

I did it. I know people have done it before me and they will do it after me. I know that our experiences will feel unique to us but we have all felt the same thing. I know that at the point that I crossed the finish line, I became a different person. I don’t know how to put words to it but I feel different. At this point, I won’t let me stop me from doing things I want to do. I can’t. I did something I was never going to do because it seemed too hard. Now I have no excuses

**I want to thank Sheryl Collmer for being the person who told me I needed to do this. Without her words and constant reminder of what I could do, I would never have done it.



Posted by on April 30, 2012 in in my head


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Step 1-the “just looking phase”

Today was the first day of our ‘just looking’ phase of house hunting and of the seven we saw, I really liked two of them. In fact, I was myself living in  one of them BUT that’s not the point of our ‘just looking’ phase. I was nervous on the way there and kept reminding myself that this move isn’t a major one into another city far away and even if it isn’t in SLO, the county is small enough so that I don’t have to alter my life that much. It went well over all. We are doing it again on Thursday.

That being said, while we were in this amazing house with stone floors in the living area and granite counters, textured walls and shiny new appliances in the kitchen and bedrooms with vaulted ceilings, I had a moment of memory of the year after Candy and I graduated high school (1986) and Glendale (CA) was in the process of putting in mansions on the pristine hills that were open spaces. The houses were a shocking $250,000. People were disgusted and drawn to them. Years later when development was just out of control, these houses were the “small” ones on the hill.

Being out of school and not wanting to go to college or work, we were bored and had way too much time on our hands. So we would go house hunting with Realtors who would show us these houses with the pretenses that we were buying. I mean really? Did we seriously think we looked like we were shopping for a house? I think we did! And did these women really think we would buy a home? I think they did!

I remembered that while sitting on the floor of the master bedroom of the house we were in today. It made me see how much fun this can be and even though it’s a major large step that could potentially paralyze me, knowing that I used to do this in pretend just to see what the inside of houses looked like at 18 years old, I know I can do it now for real at 41.

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Posted by on May 26, 2010 in First house


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