Apparently, my homeless friend is in the process of getting a place to live.  The place he found is near the college he wants to start taking classes at.

The amazing thing is that it took someone (me) to simply say to him that his situation is unacceptable – for him.  For six months, he accepted being homeless for reasons I don’t understand.

Maybe sometimes people get so use to accepting a negative fate that they don’t see that that same fate is something that can be overcome.

Maybe some thing that to challenge and fail to change that fate will result in a worse condition than the unacceptable present.  I don’t know.

Either way, I’m glad I was their for him.

In my previous post, I talked of how I know someone who is homeless.  He’s a co-worker that I’m determined to help.  And it got me to thinking…

Each of us go through our private hells.  Whether it’s large or small, a sudden crisis or a long term issue, we all have to deall with tremendous difficulties from time to time.

It could be our health, or a concern about a loved one, a financial problem, a romantic relationship in trouble.  It could be something internal.  A crisis of confidence, a realization and acceptance of a long term or even permanent condition.  It could be based on something that can’t be reversed.

Right now I know someone who recently had a foot amputated because of diabetes, I know of a woman who had lupus and can’t find a job, I know of another woman whose mother as cancer, and I know a single mom of two kids who can’t make ends meet because her ex-husband is a deadbeat.

I got to wondering…why is it that so many of us almost willingly show no concern for our fellow man?  Meaning in general…many of us may show some sympathy to specific individuals who are struggling with life.

Is it because we’ve seen an overall breakdown of family that makes us less caring of our communities?

Is it because we’ve become to self-absorbed with trying to “get ahead” that we fail to take time to see deeper meanings in life?

Is it because we’ve used up some sort of sympathy quota that we have and wish to not spend any more time on it?

Is it because we want to stigmatize those that are struggling in order to position them as being “different” from us in order to reassure ourselves that we would never find ourselves in their position?

Is it because, for some, showing concern makes us appear to be weak?

I dunno…but I figure with all of the problems out there, one would thing that there would be a greater “brotherhood of man”.

Just sayin’.

A couple of nights ago I got in a conversation with a guy I know. He told me that he felt that he could put his trust me. We’re not really friends…co-workers for the most part.

He’s 43, Vietnamese American, about 5’2″ tall. He’s an extremely hard worker, one of the hardest I’ve ever met. Very professional. Very conscientious.

His personality – and his appearance – is similar to that of the minions in the movie “Despicable Me”. Tiny, determined, always willing to please. He’s the type of person that others will find somewhat hilarious…in an affectionate way. At his previous job, his nickname was – to no surprise – “Turbo”. He’s the type of person that most women would describe as being “cute”…most men may subconscioulsly think that as well, although we don’t use that word.

Last night he told me he was homeless. He’s been homeless since last August.

It’s been subfreezing here for about ten days now.

His biggest dream has been to get a four year degree in biology. I’m not sure why as I don’t know if he is looking to do something in related fields. I get the sense, at the very least, that it’s actual concept of having that degree. He’s determined to get it. It aches at him because he doesn’t feel complete. And I think that the reason that it aches him so much is because he’s lost both parents (something he often mentions) and he sees a degree as a way of fulfilling his own dream…a dream made possible through the sacrifices that his parents made by emigrating here years ago.

So each night, around midnight, he pulls into a covered parking lot of a gym, pulls out his sleeping bag that he says is made for temperatures that can get to -20 F and hopefully gets some sleep. He can shower in the gym because he’s a member…the monthly fee of $49 provides him this opportunity and is a de facto paying of rent. He’s got his rice cooker in his car. He still has his dream, but he has this fear that it’s slipping away.

And I’m the only one who knows this.

When I was a young lad growing up I developed a keen interest in my ethnicity.  Rhode Island is one of those areas of America where people can maintain their ethnic character and culture while carry with it a sense of pride, all the while treating others of different ethnic backgrounds as family.

I was quite often told I was “mostly Irish with some Swamp Yankee and a bit of Scottish”.  So I’ve always felt a certain sense of pride in this.

The shanty Irish were those early poor immigrants that came over during the potato famine and settled into the great cities of the Northeast and Midwest, changing the cultural face of America permanently.  Likely, I would hazard a guess, the same way Latinos are changing American these days.

Swamp Yankees were considered to be hard-working industrious rural folk, honest to the core.  Plainspoken, thrifty, and uncomplicated.

So tonight, after chatting on Facebook with a women who knew my parents, I decided to Google “shanty Irish” and “Swamp Yankee”.  Here’s what I came up with…

For the Shanty Irish, it was

“poor or disreputable People of Irish decent”
“also known as brick-throwing Irish””Irish descended people who live in filthy dwelling slums. They have a culture that consists of getting drunk until the room spins, surviving off of T.V. dinners,and counting their freckles”
Then a quote to describe them…
“Regular hooligans in their neighborhood bar…They smell like old baloney.”

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!!  What horseshit I thought…who writes this stuff??

I then began to think back of the stories that I heard about my great-grandfather’s drinking exploits, along with that fact that his brother was banned from the city of Providence for some reason.  How do you get banned from an entire city?

I then realized that those stories that I was told about my great-grandfather – that he spent half his money on booze, the his family (with eleven kids) were so poor that t hey had, um, baloney sandwiches for Christmas, that my own grandfather had to quit school after four grade to help support the family, that it was quite clear that there were many freckles counted at the Trenn household 100 years ago.

So I then looked up the term “Swamp Yankee”.  Here ya go

“New England trailer trash or northern redneck.”
“Someone whose family has been in America for generations (several of which may actually reside together) but has never gotten off the ground, couch, or smack long enough to build a functional family or become a redeeming member of society.”
Followed by a quote to describe them…
“I immediately noticed the unmistakable scent of pot after the Swamp Yankee drove by me in his rusty Dodge Monaco with a rotting muffler.”

Couldn’t get any worse.  We smell like pot and baloney.

I’m still proud though.  :)

So I took this online test from Time Magazine to measure my political leanings on a conservative/liberal basis.  I’ve always considered myself to be a centrist and this test confirms that.

I’m 43% conservative, 57% liberal.

Where I lean liberal, I:
- have a messy desk
- think self-expression trumps self-control
- like fusion cuisine
- think government should treat the lives of its citizens as equal to those of other countries (not really)
- use a modern browser
-  prefer the Met to Times Square (sort of, depends on the mood)

When I lean conservative, I:
- like dogs more than cats
- prefer action movies to documentaries
- think kids should learn to respect authority
- don’t think that a person’s partner should be looking at porn alone
- think that the world benefits from nations and borders
- am proud of my country’s history

The explanations don’t show how the test measures level of agreement with the statements offered, but the overall result does seem to be accurate.


On Facebook today I noticed a person I’m connected to mention that he’s still got the post Holiday blues and was wondering aloud how he could defeat them.  I answered that he might find some success by volunteering his time with an organization help the needy, especially children.

I need to look to do this too at some point.  Soon.  Even if it’s for one weekend afternoon  a month.

All too often we encourage young people to do such things…because it will “be good for them”.  I’ve always found that, while that statement is true, is also a cop-out.  It serves as an excuse to pass off charitable work on others who may be more compilable.

I wonder if I’ll cop-out here.  I hope I don’t.

Allan Arguello, RIP

This is a post I wish I didn’t have to write.  But I do.

A couple of days ago I had just parked my car and then popped open my smartphone to check email and Facebook.  I was stunned to see an update on my friend and former co-worker’s status.  It was the announcement of his death.  He had quietly passed away in his sleep at 33.

It’s not that I knew Allan extremely well.  I worked with him for four years at Cafe Deluxe in Tysons Corner.  His beefy presence behind the bar was a welcome sight.  I like and admired the guy.  He was real.  He was genuine.  He had a quiet dignity to him…a inner strength and a maturity that belied his age.  He was a class act.

One thing that stands out in my memory about him.  He had gone on vacation to his native Nicaragua where he took tons of pictures.  When he brought them into the restaurant, he wanted me to see them.  I loved that because I have a curiosity about the world and i was honored that he wanted to show me his homeland.  He was proud of his Latino roots…as he should be.

I don’ t know how old he was when he came to the States.  I do know however that he had fully integrated America into his persona.  He was a devout Redskins fan, driving around with those little flags/banners rising 3 feet from the front of his car while he was driving .   He also loved anything about the Maryland Terrapins.

One thing that I thought about him over the past couple of days.  I say t his from my own experiences and observations in my life.  While he never had the opportunity to become one, Allan would have made an excellent father.  His heart, his smile, his devotion to his family, and his work ethic tells me so.

I don’t know of a better compliment I could come up with from my own observations.

Rest in peace, Allan.  We’ll all miss you.


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