Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Adventure [Still] Continues …

I'm in Canton, Ohio at the home of a close friend, Shawn Frankly, I never knew how close we were until all this happened. Shawn is a photographer and we go back to around 1985 when he started his photography business. Now, he's one of the main photographers in Northeast Ohio. He's shot for all sorts of clients – ad agencies, magazines, companies, civic entities and others. Tomorrow, he'll start shooting the Pro FootballHall of Fame event. It's a gig he's done annually for the past 25+ years.

Shawn and his wife, Lisa, have been more than gracious. They took me in when they didn't have a reason to do so. I'm grateful to have a roof over my head.

My homelessness has provided me with new insights into gratitude, along with other insights. For example, I learned I don't really have a family. Sure, I have a biological mother, father and a sibling, but they don't want to know me. I'm not sure what I did but, apparently, it was bad. That's the thing. You try to do something good for folks and it backfires in your face. Nonetheless, I'll keep trying.

I'm looking for work. That's really a bit tougher than it seems. I'm trying to find some writing work on the Net. I don't have a car or work-type clothes, so focusing on working online seems like the sensible option. I had done quite a bit of writing for various Websites back in the day. But, they've all dried up and I'm back at the starting gate. So, it's trolling Craigslist, Indeed and Monster. I've gotten a couple of gigs but not enough to pay rent and such.

I am looking for an apartment. I'm not sure how I'll pay for it yet, but looking nonetheless. Foxhaven is a possibility. I used to live there a while back. It's a nice place and they have studio apartments for around $500/month. I can swing it if I can find a steady stream of writing gigs. Back to Craigslist, Indeed and Monster.

I can't help but think something will break … in a good way. I believe in karma and if I keep striving to do good, it will come back. I hope it doesn't come back and haunt me with a vengeance.

Right now, I feel pretty worthless. My family has tossed me aside. I can't find any work. I can do things that nobody, apparently, wants. I write. I design. Geez, I just re-read that and it really sounds pathetic. Speaking of karma, I must have done something really bad in a previous life.

I can't remember the last time I laughed or even smiled. The only thing I can do is keep on keeping on, try to be positive and look for opportunities. I've got an uphill battle to be what I once was.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Indiana Wants Me ...

I am truly humbled and appreciative of all the support and help given to me by people. Many of these are folks I don’t know personally. Some know me from my writing, others from the HOW Magazine (HOWies) crew, forums, Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to you all.

I own a specials thanks to Nicole Block and Stefan Mumaw. Nicole took me under her wing, helped me coordinate things and helped keep me remotely sane. Stefan actually went out and bought me clothes and other stuff and shipped it down to me in Fort Lauderdale. By the way, both Nicole and Stefan are HOWies and they’re a true testament to the heart-filled graphic design community. I am forever in your debt.

I’ve been remiss in keeping up with this blog. I apologize. It’s not that things have been chaotic. They’ve just been a wee bit overwhelming. First, I was invited to stay with a friend. He’s a [former] graphic designer I’ve known for about 15 years. But, we had never met in-person. I hopped on a bus to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

As a side note, bus travel is an … er … experience, but it gets you where you’re going. That is, if you

pay close attention. One guy didn’t and was left behind at a stop. It’s a little cramp and you’re lucky if the power outlets and wi-fi work. Nonetheless, good ‘ole Greyhound got me to Ft. Wayne in one piece. My phone doesn’t have a provider anymore so I rely on wi-fi. Every bus station we stopped at long the way had wi-fi, so it wasn’t a problem. Fort Wayne? Not so much. No wi-fi and no working pay phone (remember those?). How was I going to get in touch with Chris to let him know I was in? I had texted him from the bus, so fingers were crossed. Chris showed up in his Dodge Ram within a few minutes. Whew!

Off we went to Churubusco, a little south of Fort Wayne. It’s small, colloquial town that reminds me of where I lived in Ohio. Same type of architecture and landscape, albeit fewer hills. Chris has a three bedroom house on a little less than one acre. It’s all quite nice and beats the heck out of Florida
sidewalks. Northeast Indiana is a little colder than Ft. Lauderdale in May but I’m not complaining at all.

I’ve been looking for a job and have been doing some freelance work. It looks like I’ll be staying in Churubusco / Fort Wayne for a while. I’m in the process of looking for an apartment. I’m still feeling anxious but that should settle down once I find a place to live and get a full-time gig.

I’ve learned a lot through this experience so far. First, I really can’t count on my family. Second, I found that I have many, many friends and supporters I never knew about. In many ways I am blessed. Thank you all for your friendship and support. I don’t know what I would have done without all of you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Baby I'm Amazed

I’m stunned, amazed and completely flabbergasted by the graphic design community (a.k.a. HOWies)
and my blog readers. Their help and support is more than I ever would have imagined in my wildest dreams.

I sent a reluctant tweet out the other day about my homeless situation. I had reservations about sending it out. Frankly, being homeless is embarrassing. I never expected anything out of it –just a way to let people know. Shortly after I sent it, though, I started receiving donations.

A bit of backstory is in order. For years I was involved in a couple of online graphic design forums – HOW Magazine’s and’s Graphic Design Forum. At the time it was a lot of fun and I met some great people all around the world. Plus we did some amazing things we got together. We raised money for a guy who broke his arm and had no insurance. We managed to find a car and apartment for another guy. We stood up for designer’s rights and made some noise when needed. These folks don’t mess around.

One of the crew saw my tweet and pretty much ran with it. She posted on the HOWies’ Facebook
page and the rest is history. My iPhone suddenly started jingling with messages that I received a donation. It’s the next day and my phone is still jingling. I was so busy writing thank you messages I didn’t have time to post to my blog last night.

Right now I’m feeling quite blessed. I can start to see light at the end of tunnel. Before, I was convinced that light was an oncoming train. Fresh, clean clothes, a shave and a bed, along with the help from my astounding friends changed my attitude and changed my life. I am forever grateful.

As a result of those donations, I was able to get off the sidewalk and stay at a motel last night. It was so, so good to have a shower, eat something and sleep in a real bed. Plus, I get to do the same tonight. Woo hoo!

As an added bonus, I may have some freelance work, too. A couple of people mentioned needing writing and graphic design stuff. Also, one of my former clients got with me on Facebook and may be need some projects.

So, things are looking up. Never ever underestimate the power of community. You likely have friends you didn’t even know about. Also, whenever you see someone in need of help, help them out. Karmic law has a way of working to keep things in balance. Boy, I’m waxing philosophical these days.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Breathing, broke and hopeless

I made it through another weekend. It’s Monday and I’m still breathing. Reluctantly, but breathing. Last night was a headache and a body ache, for that matter, based on how I felt when I woke up. Trying to get something to eat was a challenge.

Since I’m broke, I had to resort to asking a friend for some dough. That’s always a convoluted mess as I’m in South Florida and she’s in New York and I don’t have an address. So, Paypal comes into play. Paypal isn’t bad and I’ve used them for years for client billing, selling stuff and moving money back and forth. But, when it comes to buying food, it’s another story. I find it interesting that buying food is a big part of what they promote. I guess it’s easier when one has an address.

My friend sent me $10. Now, I had to get it out of Paypal and into some usable form. That typically means a gift card. Where I sleep is next to a Target, so they seemed like best option.

I had thought about going to Red Robin. They tell me I have $21 left on a gift card. But I didn’t go. I ran into such a hassle last time I was there and tried to use the card. Actually, it’s not a physical card.

It’s digital. As such, it shows up in my browser, but Red Robin doesn’t have wifi. It’s a matter of remembering to take a screenshot before I go there so I have something to show. The hassle last time was due to writing down the card number in a word processor (instead of taking a screenshot) on my phone. Enter the headline for this post. I entered the number one digit off. A “7” instead of a “6.” I worked through it, for the most part, but I never finished my burger and fries when I found out I would have a card headache. Now I’m paranoid about going to Red Robin.

Back to Target. I fired up their site on my iPhone and bought a $10 gift card. All the while I’m thinking, “Is this really dumb?” Nonetheless, with the digital card on my phone, I took a walk to Target. I found some popcorn and something to drink and walked up the checkout register. My paranoia followed me entire way. Would they accept my digital gift card? Fortunately, they did and I left in a hurry, before they could change their mind.

I scurried back to my spot at the shopping center and nestled down for the night. By this time, it was dark. If you’re ever homeless, you learn pretty quick that the darkness of night and a tall hedge are a couple of your best friends. We don’t want to be seen. There are the gawking eyes, the sad looks and the occasional pedestrian asking questions.

Such was the case yesterday. A woman was walking from her car over the hair salon and saw me sitting on my concrete throne. She asked me if I was homeless. I replied, “Yes.” Like “Duh!” Then she proceeded to tell me about how I should be in the homeless shelter in Lauderdale where she worked. Nice idea, but it’s 15 or so miles away and I don’t have car or bus fare for that matter. She was a nice enough lady but didn’t offer a lift or any other help. I was just hoping she’s leave by a different path. I couldn’t bear the thought of another pointless conversation.

Popcorn is amazingly filling and goes pretty far. When you’re homeless, you really don’t think about
nutrition. You think about bulk and filling your gut. The Target popcorn hit the spot. Salty and buttered, no less. The only problem with popcorn, or any food, is that it conjures ants. They all came to last night’s party. Judging by how they enjoyed crawling all over me, they seem to like me.
Maybe it’s the stench they like. At this point, I’ve got to smell like a garbage can in the summer heat. I made the mistake of taking my sneakers off for a minute last night. I just about fell over from the smell.

In a strange turn of events, my mother called me last night. I missed the call. My phone uses an iPhone app for calls and it works only on wifi. So, if I’m out of range callers need to leave a voicemail. I called her back this morning from the sub shop with no answer. No surprise there. She rarely answers her phone. I don’t think she can hear it. She’s 85 or 86, I can never remember. I’ll try here again in a bit. She probably just wants to see if I’m alive.

It’s afternoon now. 1:11 to be exact and the end of the work day is looming. We leave around 5:00 and my ride drops be off at the shopping center. I’m happy that it’s Monday and the hair salon is closed. There should be little foot traffic. Then comes search of entertainment to avert the boredom. I play Solitaire and, if I’m lucky, watch something on my iPhone. I have the Netflix app and a friend gave me his access. I also watch YouTube.

Now I suppose I’ll try to figure a way out of this mess. I’m a wee bit options-challenged. If any of you have any suggestions, please add them in a comment.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I was thinking ... again

I wrote this last Friday, but didn't publish it for some reason. Probably just a little too depressing.
I was thinking … again. Yeah, I know. Dangerous. But it happened, none-the-less. I was thinking about how I should be pissed off. I didn’t do anything that I know of to get myself into this situation. I should be pissed off at the complex where my mother lives. They kicked me out with a police escort, no less. I should be upset with my family. My mother has never called me to see if I’m still alive. My father laughed at me when I called to ask if I could spend a rainy night at his place. My sister? Well, she’s part of the reason I’m homeless. A large part, actually. But, I’m really not upset with anyone.

I’d like to say my homelessness had lead to all sorts of wonderful stuff. I read about all kinds of miracle stuff that happens to the homeless. It hasn’t for me, though. Sure, I started this blog and it has given me an excuse to write. For me, writing is therapeutic. I’ve written four books so a friend said I should write a book about my experience. I may, but I don’t think there really a story. A lot of people are homeless and the topic has been written about to death.

I think (there I go again) I’m a wee bit depressed because it’s Friday afternoon. For normal people, that’s a time to rejoice. For me, it’s a bummer. It means another lonely weekend wondering what to

do with my self. Plus, I’m broke. So, it looks like I won’t be eating for a couple of days. Allow me to insert a shameless plug. Won’t be eating unless one or two of my wonderful readers feels compelled to send me a couple of bucks via Paypal. There’s a button in the sidebar. ———>

In an unwarranted change of subject, I am amazed that I haven’t had another stroke. My spot at the shopping center is across the street from a hospital. How handy is that? If I do have another stroke I can crawl over there. But, I probably won’t have a stroke or crawl over there. Also, it's a private hospital and I don't have insurance. Big surprise there.

That unwarranted change of subject is about to get morbid. To be honest, every night I pray that I won’t wake up in the morning. Death has an allure for me. I’m not sure if there’s anything after death, but it makes no difference to me. Closing my eyes forever means a way out, even if there’s no here after. I’m also not a religious person. But, I have found myself praying. Well, it’s mostly have a one-sided conversation with God. He doesn’t say anything.

I actually Googled “Is it possible to will yourself to death?” It’s not, which is a serious bummer. I’ve
thought a lot about suicide but it’s not a viable way out. It a bit of cosmic cruelty, suicide, for the most part, will cost you. You have buy drugs, a gun or a knife and, as I mentioned, I’m broke. I thought about throwing myself in front of a car, but, with my kind of luck, I’d probably just break a few bones or wind up in worse shape than now. So, that option is out.

Well, it’s 4:00 and the weekend is upon us. Soon it will be time to leave the sub shop and go to the shopping center. I never know what kind of surprises are in store for me. I mention the maintenance guy taking away my treasured bench. The ants are likely having a convention. But the hair salon closes early and that’s a good thing. Right now, I’ve got to figure out how I’m getting some food. Until next time, dear reader, have yourself a wonderful weekend and count your blessings.

Waxing Nostalgic

My step-mother. She’s religious. Over-the-top religious. Yet, despite her Christianity, she was the one who wouldn’t allow my father to have me over on a rainy evening. What’s that all about? She can talk up a religious storm, but when it comes to actually putting some Christ-like behavior in place, she turns away. She has been consistent through the years. I’ll give her credit for that. She doesn’t have an authentic Christian bone in her body.

Wow! That sounds bitter. It is and I guess I am. To my thinking, if you’re going to call yourself a Christian, at least put up an act.

Perhaps I am a little pissed off at my father. Maybe “pissed off” isn’t the right term. I have no respect for him. When I was a kid, I looked up to him. After he remarried things went down hill. His wife rules the roost and he does whatever she tells him.

I was married for twenty years. Some good. Some not so good. But, at least we had dialogue. We never argued. We discussed things and we each had our voice. It worked for the most part. At least for twenty … okay … maybe eighteen years, give or take.

I didn’t have any plans to write about marriage. I was going to write about last night, but nothing

much happened, save a lizard doing a dance. Alas, my entertainment. Cé la vie.

I hear a lot of guys complaining about their wives and vice versa. I wonder why they got married in the first place. Maybe it’s a guy thing or a human thing. I’m not sure, but it seems there’s an awful lot of animosity out there.

I had known the woman who would become my wife for a few years. Our first date was to New York City. Seriously.  We lived in Fort Lauderdale. I was a photographer and she was a model at the time. I called and asked if she’d like to go to the modeling agencies in the City. She said, “Sure,” and off we went. It was a good trip and she had a chance to meet my friends in Connecticut. We had a good time and the trip pretty much sealed our relationship.

Waxing nostalgic about marriage has me thinking about my life in general. People typically have all sorts of dreams as they grow up. I’m no different. When I was in my early teens, I wanted to be an airline pilot. I even took flying lessons for several years. Then, I was hooked by a Kodak Brownie
Camera. I wanted to be a photographer. I set up a darkroom in what once was the wine cellar in our basement. It worked great. Not a window in sight and the room was black as night. My photography obsession lead to art school and that, in time, lead to graphic design. I attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale when it was just starting up. Art school was a great, albeit strange, experience. The school was in the back of a Holiday Inn on Fort Lauderdale beach. I never quite understood the logic of putting a herd of horny art students in a Holiday Inn on the beach. But, alas, there I was.

When I got out of school I couldn’t find a job with a photography studio. So, I started freelancing. As luck would have it, I hustled and landed a cosmetics company as a client. I shot for them a lot. Ads, annual reports and the like. To be honest, it was more than a rush to see my work on the pages of Vogue, Cosmo, on billboards and on in-store displays. My wife worked for them, a bit, as a model. After all, we tried to keep it all in the family. As a matter of fact, it was her image on a store display that re-connected her with her estranged father.

Then I started Tortorella Design in 1986 or so. It was a graphic design firm doing all sorts of print and identity work. Our big client was Goodyear. You may have heard about them and their tires. I also did work for Volvo, Bridal Fair Magazine, Continental Tire, Mensa and some others. It was a lot of fun and lucrative.

But, as with most things in life, it went away in time. Now, here I am, homeless. It’s weird. You strive for your hopes and dreams. You reach some goals. Then, the hand of Fate whacks you across the face. Regrets? Yeah, I have a few. Boy, that brings a song to mind. My regrets are not planning better, not investing better and not asking more questions of the people who know a lot more than me.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The end of April

Chéz Tortorella had company last night. The seemingly ever-present ants and a mother duck. Ants are like a bad party guest. You know the type. They show up and bring all their uninvited guests with them. Last night, they just kept coming and coming and got into everything. I don’t have much, but what I do have I like to keep ant-free. To add to the fun these aren’t your typical picnic ants. Nope, these are red fire ants (Solenopsis mandibularis) and they bite. Here’s a lesson in Myrmecology (look it up). Fire ants don’t actually bite. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants bite only to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic alkaloid venom called Solenopsin, a compound from the class of piperidines. That’s a mouthful of biological and chemical babble. If you’re ever in the area, watch out for these nasty little suckers.

As for Mrs. Duck, she’s a Muscovy duck. Muscovys aren’t native to South Florida but they’re

everywhere. Like the pythons we have around here (yeah, pythons), these birds were introduced illegally and were released primarily by private individuals for ornamental purposes or as pets.

Mrs. Duck was sitting on her four eggs. There’s another one around the area with five ducklings in tow. Many people see these ducks as a nuisance. I don’t. Live and let live. They’re kind of cute and the ducklings are hysterical. Okay, so I’m easily amused. I tossed her a couple of cookies. The cookies the ants had gotten into. I made sure the ants were gone first. Mr. Duck showed up, too. He downed a cookie before moving on.

Well, that was my night and early morning so far. Now I get to figure out what to do with myself for the rest of the day and night. As I write this, I’m sitting in the dining court at the mall. It’s air conditioned, there’s food and restrooms. They say, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” “They” say a lot of things. I’m not sure who “they” are but they have some spot-on sayings and euphemisms.