I live in all those California tensions @TheRestHistory was talking about. Glorious weather this morning. The wooded hills that ring the valley have not yet started to burn for the summer. There is a drought but we have water for today... Image
Heading into the office I need to run the familiar gauntlet of homelessness. The pandemic adds the strange iconography of medical masks as part of the normal shopping carts, feces and beer cans... Image
Because I'm a pastor, and have Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man haunting me I can't push it aside as nuisance or social problem. There are people living in and bringing the filth. Image
After years these aren't "random" individuals. We know each other. We are the strange sorts of friends who share stories over food, lend money, and sometimes put our friends into jail or locked psych wards.
There is a restraining order against this particular individual from being here. Three years ago he attacked an elderly church member who was moving much of "his stuff" to the garbage can. Image
He served some time for the assault and after I put him back in jail a few months ago has mostly lived at the grocery story next door. Yesterday I got an SOS text from our church plant meeting on the lawn. Drunk, despondent and scary to the young families.
When I got there he had already passed out and so I let him sleep. We chatted later in the afternoon. "Yeah, I'll go. But this is my home. This is the only place I feel safe! I kept an eye on the place when I noticed you were gone..."
So all the familiar choices I've lived with for 20+ years here are on the menu on my first day back in the office. 1. Clean the mess up myself 2. wait and try to get him to do it 3. text his probation officer (again) 4. Report to SacPD another violation of the RO
All of the options have relational/friendship and ministry implications. Why do I leave Billy undisturbed on the property and not him? D takes regular offense at this but Billy makes less mess, is out of the way and has never assaulted a church member.
Any of the options I choose are complicated and will lead to one sort of confrontation or another. I've become an expert at managing these confrontations but they are seldom satisfying or fully effective. We avoid catastrophe another day until death do us part.
So I'll go about my work in my office until he knocks on the door or I hear the familiar shambling outside the door or I smell the smoke from the weed wafting in. Then we're back at the game.
"Don't try to fix me" is his frank and repeated liturgy. At one point in his life he had a wife, four kids, and was a loyal member of the LDS church although there are many signs he's always struggled with stability and sobriety.
He's a musician and was an athlete in his youth excelling in gymnastics and competitive skiing. I regularly facilitate phone calls to his elderly parents in Utah and an occasional cash birthday gift to one of his now young-adult children.
He used to work for Sacramento county mental health. He has both run crack houses and worked with those trying to beat their habits. He regularly tells me "I use, I don't abuse" but it's a hard case to make when you're swinging from despondent self-hatred to productive euphoria.
He's a case study that psych meds can help even with good insurance and regular attention from the best resources Sac County has to offer our panoply of solutions is insufficient to hold him.
I had a hard time keeping a straight face when the intervention specialist I arranged to meet him afterward excused himself by saying "I can't talk to him he's crazy!" Um, well. What did you expect? Image
I've watched the decline for about a decade now. I wonder if he could manage this today.
Now at the age of 61 his body is no longer tolerating all the abuse he regularly gives it, or gives itself. He will pass like others I've known before. Gets hit by a car, then into some shitty nursing home until death.
I of course watched my father do this work before me. I didn't realize I was learning his craft as I watched him do it. I never thought I would pick up the trade. Image
He of course learned it from his parents. Feeding "hobos" at the kitchen table during the Depression. Welcoming the traumatized Dutch to Canada after WWII Image
What is the church but the place where this happens. The one door besides prison that will open when you have caused even your own family to throw up their hands. Image
He may not show up today. He might have figured out a way to get into the hospital or was arrested for violating his ban at all the local shops. If the mess sits two days I'll clean it up, throw it all out and when he gets out he'll scrounge all new bedding, etc.
One of his favorite lines is "I'm an asset, not a liability!" He's right, but really quite a peculiar sort of asset. Image
So read the whole thread media included I've put it on my Substack. paulvanderklay.substack.com/p/im-an-asset-…
Caught up with him this afternoon. He did go to the hospital, got some scripts for psych meds, promised to clean up his mess and be gone by morning. I'll see tomorrow if he does it. I'll check in with him behind the bushes at the grocery store if he does.
Most often when he comes by it's just to talk. Lots of repetition in his stories. He says his mother is dying. That's really complicated for him. Prompting more pressure, despondency. We do some processing of this.
He also managed his money poorly this month. It's only the 7th and he's nearly out of cash. He can burn through cash fast and when he's out he tries to resort to recycling and garbage picking. I often lend him money. He always pays me back.
I do suspect that part of the homelessness is a coping mechanism for him. Every month the gov't puts money in his account. His mail comes to the church but he does nothing with it. If he got a job most of his wages would be taken for back child support.
He owes no one anything, except me usually. He keeps his credit good. If he's angry he yells. If he's sad he cries. I've met him after weeks getting clean in the hospital and he's back at the street drugs within a few hours.
I'm friends with his drug dealer. Another interesting guy. We share life together. I wish I could deliver him of what he bears, but he takes much of it on himself. He's my friend. Image
He didn't sleep at church last night. He cleaned up most of his things. Still some (literal) shit to deal with but at this point it was a worthy effort. He slept behind a smoke shop down the road. You look for hidden nooks to sleep in. Image
A couple of years ago he was having trouble with a gang. They would take whatever of his they wanted. That got him off the streets temporarily. He found a garage owned by a Pacific Islander LDS leader. He lasted there for a month.
He shared that garage with a nephew of the leader but the nephew (according to D) would harass him. Steal his stuff. Turn on lights or music when he wanted, etc. He appealed to the owner of the house but got no where.
With the help of his Probation Officer we tried to get him in a group home near the church about a year ago. He got to the house and they took most of what he tried to bring with him. I can understand that. Most of is stuff is gleaned from neighborhood garbage.
After surrendering his stuff his potential roommate threw a fit yelling "COVID COVID" and acted like he was going to attack him. D said "f-this" and he was back at my office in a couple of hours.
His Probation officer is a good guy. We text when we need to. He's helpful getting him into psych hospitals at times. That's a revolving door though. He wants to go in today and then has an argument with staff and is back on the street.
Today we're trying to get more food into him. He knows he should drink less but this ambition is always a function of his bi-polar cycle. I know his cycle like women know theirs. 12 is manic, 6 is despondent, 3 and 9 are times we can make progress, maybe
He bought some food, gave it to me for my family, but I keep it here because he'll need it himself. I just made some breakfast for him. Someone commented about the milk. He uses milk to try help things go down.
He mostly drinks beer but when he wants more bang for his alcohol buck he cuts the hard stuff with milk. These days he struggles to keep anything in his stomach.
When I got here he was camped on the sidewalk. Chilly morning in Sacto today, about 50 degrees F. I thanked him for cleaning up and not sleeping here. The relationship with the homeowners around the church is a whole other issue. Image
He's been living more of less on this corner for 10 years. People recognize him and give him stuff. It's well meant but usually clueless. He hates wearing shoes and since he often has none people give him shoes.
They give him food, most of which he throws away because he can't eat it. Clothing sometimes helps but he goes through clothing like we change clothing. Right now he's got the hospital socks on his feet.
While he's sort of a pet to the broader neighborhood his a major nuisance to the direct neighbors of the church. On one hand they try to respect what I do with the homeless but at the same time it's a major bother.
In his bad moments he's violent. He almost always has a knife with him. One day I was moving his stuff in anticipation of an event we were having and of course he threw a fit. One bystander said "Pastor, he just threatened your life!"
Yeah, that's a weekly thing in our relationship. I'm younger, healthier and larger than he is. He gets angry with me for not letting him stay here, for putting him in jail, for not believing his lies, but I'm one of the few people he can talk to.
A couple of days ago he said he wants to be institutionalized again. He's conflicted on this point (and nearly every point in his life). He knows he's getting weaker. He can't eat. He gets dehydrated. He knows his lack of mood management is destroying him.
We have three bottoms for guys like this. Death, prison and the nursing home. One of his grandfathers was depressive and ended his life by throwing himself off the SF Bay Bridge.
"I hate life" is a regular statement when he's between 4 and 7 in his cycle. Years ago when I worked evenings because I homeschooled days, before the restraining order he'd huddle against my office door and curse his existence for hours.
I could hear the constant litany of cursing and profanity against himself. This is his internal monologue. I'm amazed he's not ended his life already. He's tried numerous times.
One evening I had a Bible study and he was raging around. I sent another friend who was also bi-polar, sometimes homeless, had a drug history out to see if he could do something so I wouldn't have to stop the group.
He came back and said he couldn't do anything. D ran out into Florin road, a busy street at night, and took on a car head first. Spent 4 months in the hospital for that. Bounced back to the lifestyle, living on the other side of my office door.
Death will take him though, like it has for many who I've known in my 24 years on this corner. I don't know if I'll hear about it. Dad used to do a lot of funerals for "potter's field" cases. I usually lose track of them before death finds them. Image
Time to bring this chapter to a close. Tried to have a conversation with @BenjaminABoyce and got some in with some interruptions. He wanted me to call 911. That would take hours. I brought him to the hospital myself. He'll be there for a couple days. Then we'll be back at it.

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More from @PaulVanderKlay

9 Jun
In today's video I comment on a video posted recently by @WisdomRebel which had a commentary between @fullydavid and @Jonathan_Rowson on the @jordanbpeterson phenomenon
@Jonathan_Rowson coined the term "Jordan Petersonitis" to label both the obsessive fascination with him that @fullydavid, myself, and many others had with him 4 years ago while others were repulsed by him out of hand. Now with some distance it's good to do some assessment.
In January 2018 @nytdavidbrooks reported a friend calling him the most influential public intellectual right then. nytimes.com/2018/01/25/opi… A quote attributed a bit ironically to "The New York Times" on the cover of his new book.
Read 32 tweets
7 Jun
How does the conscious realization of our assumptive embrace of a Christian ethic alongside skepticism about the underlying metaphysical and historical truth claims impact the ability to embrace the ethic moving forward? This seems the moment many are in.
.@jordanbpeterson called it "living as if God exists" but that sort of LARPING might begin to feel a bit nerdy "less than" like dressing up to go to a movie. This is what happens when you can't get a real date because you're living in your mother's basement.
Is all that remains a sort of aesthetic resistance then to Nietzsche? Will we quietly resort to a Nazi naturalism without the swastikas when nobody is looking or caring? I think this is part of the fear.
Read 8 tweets
26 May
Watch the politicized, media frenzy around any tough issue. The assumption is that political pressure plus money will produce "a solution". It might be poverty, racism, anything that can be categorized as "oppression"
The narrative itself demands "a solution" be found so once someone stakes political capital on it the narrative drives the stagecraft. War on drugs, war on poverty, war on racism... Wars, what are they good for? Absolutely nothing.
Now at the anniversary of George Floyd we see the same thing. We're just setting up more rage down the line. It's like trying to use a fire hose to battle erosion. "Look how clean the hillside looks". You've just seeded the next round of rage.
Read 8 tweets
26 May
The whole "social workers instead of cops" idea is hilarious to me. I've lived and worked in inner city communities all my life and I think a lot of people who write these things have near zero experience with households that call the police regularly.
A bit ago I had a homeless guy who was dehydrated, wanted to get into a psych ward, couldn't keep food down. Asked me to call 911 for him. I did. They were going to send the paramedics/fire dept. They ask me "is he violent?"... "sometimes".
"Does he carry a knife or a gun". "He's a homeless guy. He always has a knife." OK, we'll have to have the police come too..." (Safety). So 4 burly fire fighters sit by the curb waiting to treat this homeless guy for two cops to show up so they can watch them treat him.
Read 19 tweets
25 May
In today's video I wrestle with how the current super-nova of story publication is a gasping for air of a religio-starved culture after Modernity tried to convince it that oxygen was for dupes.
As the high tide of Modernity continues to recede the fantasy genre has never been hotter. Why is so much fantasy lit located in the Middle Ages? @richardrohlin re-asked this question in the Universal history convo with @PageauJonathan
The best answer seems to be that The Discarded Image amazon.com/Discarded-Imag… was the last time Western Civ had a fully integrated picture of a union of heaven and earth. That image has been discarded for something more resembling the Tower of Babel.
Read 19 tweets
4 May
.@jordanbpeterson is returning and did his first Q/A video. He clumped up the questions and the first one he dealt with was the religion question. It was one of his better answers to it. I needed to do a commentary video on it.
His address of religion was based on three questions. 1. How to believe in the divine even though it is a loose end 2. How has your conception of God changed in the last year or two. Has your wife's burgeoning conception changed you?
You said "the grace and mercy of God" in your return video... 3. Why do so many people follow an ideology blindly today as sort of replacements for religion, family or a meaningful life... 4. Why does your personal theology seem to align to Eastern Orthodoxy?
Read 24 tweets

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