So. Hello, Eddie.
Thanks for writing. One, I really appreciate your doing it. As I start this letter now, I’m reminded that sitting down and actually writing a letter to someone – as opposed to leaving a quick remark on a FB post, or sending a quick text/message/WhatsApp – is fairly daunting. I never do it anymore. I have friends in New Zealand who, basically, refuse to use the internet, so we exchange letters every now and then, but. . . . Anyway, point is, the effort is valued and appreciated. And, two, it’s nice to get mail!
I’m glad to hear from you. I was worried about you. First, because I was frustrated for you about the job situation and I was annoyed with the system for not better supporting you and I was worried about what it must be like in Lee, where there don’t seem to be any jobs and there’s not much to do otherwise. Then, you went quiet and I was really quite worried. I did Google, and I did find an article (I think from the Lee paper) about a ‘sting operation’, so I sorta figured out what was happening. I messaged your sisters (all at once, not separately) with a ‘light touch’ note asking about you, but they didn’t really reply. (They were all really sweet, just sort of skirted the question if you know what I mean. I wasn’t upset or annoyed. I understood.) So, anyway, I decided to do some more Googling. I found you on the Alabama DOC page, I think. I never knew a database existed, but I was very happy to find it, in an odd way. Obviously, it’s not where I hoped to find you, but I was glad to know I had found you.
What happened? You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. And, I sort of get the context, so you don’t need to explain that.
And, what’s the deal now? What’s your set up? Are you in a cell or is it more of dorm situation? Do you have visitors? You daughter and your grand-daughter? (I love your description of your grand-daughter! She sounds a bit like you. . . . J )
What are you reading?
I’m reading The Sellout, by Paul Beatty. Do you know it? I’m only a third of the way into it, but I think I’d recommend it.
Before that, I read To Kill the President, by Sam Bourne. (Sam Bourne is the pen name of Jonathan Freedland, a journalist for The Guardian, who, for a while was their political correspondent in DC). He’s a good writer, so it’s very believable, even if it is typical political thriller nonsense. It’s a funny one, too, because it is so very, very clearly about Tr*mp and B*nn*n and the rest of them, but he gets by with it. I don’t even know if that one’s out in the US – or if they’ve used the same title if it is. Very enjoyable, though.
And then, before that, I read Fire and Fury (Michael Wolff) which is the ‘behind the scenes’ account of the current White House. It’s the one DT tried to ban. It is, in fact, pretty trashy. And no really new info – most of what’s in there was either already known or you could have easily guessed it. But, because of my personal views of all of them, I did rather enjoy it. . . .
I’m just getting back into reading now. I couldn’t focus on anything last year. Between Brexit and DT, 2016 and 2017 were VERY, VERY bad years for me. I was basically out of commission for 18 months. Couldn’t carry a thought or focus or anything. So, I missed a whole year of reading. Trying to catch up now.
So. Paul and I have bought this place in Wales a few years before he died. It’s weird. The landscape is beautiful. Spectacularly beautiful. And we are right in the middle of it, if you can imagine that. We actually live inside a national park (Snowdonia National Park – the national parks are different here than in the US; they were founded a lot later, so people live in them, but there are really strict rules about building and development), and, honestly, it feels like it. And, our house looks like something out of a fairy tale. It’s an old farmhouse, so it’s not grand or anything like that. It’s four rooms – a big kitchen, a cosy living room with a fireplace, and two bedrooms, plus a bathroom and a conservatory (a glassed in porch, basically). The bedrooms are in the eaves of the house, and the door to our bedroom is only about 5 feet tall, so Paul would bang his head at least once a day and even I, as short as I am, hit my head once a week. There’s also what used to be a barn, but the people before us converted it to workshop, so we converted it a step further and use it as a guest space. Basically, the point is, it rather idyllic here, but it’s tough too. I’m not jealous at all of the people who lived here before hot water and electricity and heating. . . .
Anyway. It was good, while it lasted. But I can’t imagine being here now. Not on my own. Not without Paul. So I’m having to figure out how to sell it. And, then, of course, what to do next.
I hear what you’re saying about people saying just go somewhere else. It’s not that easy. People don’t get that. And, in truth, most people who say that have never really tried to do it. I’ve just saved an article from Reckon (al.com) that (I think, but I haven’t read it yet) is pointing to that very thing. It’s about the rural south and the fact it’s drying up and people are told to ‘move on’ or ‘just go somewhere else’ and it just does not work like that. I find it so frustrating and disheartening that people will say ‘oh, you can just move somewhere else’ or ‘oh, if s/he really wanted to do better, s/he’d move’, when lots of these people will not make effort the first to actually help someone.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was out of work and he was having a really hard time finding a job and he started actively seeking help from friends and acquaintances, particularly at his church. Time and again people told him ‘I’ll pray for you’/’You’re on my prayer list’, but no one offered a recommendation, contact, nothing concrete. And a friend of my mom’s is trying to start a charity to help – well, I suppose you and people in your situation – to help people who are just out of jail to find work and re-enter the mainstream and she cannot find businesses that will work with her.
Sorry. I don’t know what my point is. I’m not sure there is one. That’s the danger of putting me in front of a keyboard. . .I ramble. . . . J
Just so you know, and I think you do know, I didn’t send that pic of the land and I don’t tell you about the house and where I live to upset you. And if it does, I’ll stop. It’s just that what gets me through really tough times is my imagination. I’m not particularly creative, but I do have a vivid imagination and I indulge it when I’m going through a rough patch. I thought you might like seeing somewhere completely different from south Alabama to sort of give you somewhere to float off to.
(My favourite escape – and every person I know thinks I am completely bonkers for this, but I am completely bonkers, so I really don’t care if that’s what they think – is to look at houses and, specifically, floor plans of houses, so I can imagine decorating and organising and making every single room just as I would want it. Try it. It’s great therapy. And you can do it while you’re doing just about anything – exercising, working, tuning out a boring conversation. . . . J )
Okay, surely that is enough nonsense babble for now. . . . Hopefully, I’ve managed to entertain for a few minutes, with enough serious stuff to make it not all fluff!
Take care. Be strong. Smile a bit.
I put in another ‘story starter’ to fill in the pages. . . . Feel free to finish it if you want. 😉
I wasn’t surprised when I won the lottery. No. Not at all.
Actually, I was more often surprised when I didn’t win.
I had always known – well, no, I had not *always* known, I had long known that I would win. Not so much so that I quit my job and gave everything away like one of those Jesus-people who just have-faith-that-God-will-provide. Not like that. But I knew.
So. I wasn’t surprised.
I had planned it all in such detail for so many years, though, that the reality was odd. Dreamlike. And, of course, all my planning had been the inside my head variety. Not anything real. I mean, let’s face it, there are too many financial planners who are going to take a meeting with you based on your anticipated lottery winnings. So, yeah, there were a lot of details I hadn’t planned – keeping my name off certain lists, for example, and tax issues and trusts and that sort of stuff. But, I got through that stuff and even after having to give lots of it to this and that, there was still more than enough to do everything I wanted to do.
I hope it wasn’t overly selfish that I did decide to organise everything for me first. I read the financial pages and see about seven and eight figure payouts for executives or I read the glossies and see about celebrities who have more money than I can comprehend, more than I can comprehend even after winning more money than I could ever spend in my entire lifetime, and I just get so angry at the grotesqueness of it all. It’s obscene. I don’t know why we don’t riot. Why don’t we riot? Why don’t we turn it upside down. How do we sleep at night knowing kids are hungry while some banker fights with their ex over who gets the multi-million pound wine collection? But, the truth is, once I had it, I focussed on myself first. I justified it that I could do the other stuff better if I didn’t have any worries of my own. Maybe that’s true. I don’t know. I’ll tell myself it is.
So. Now. I have no worries.
Well. I have no worries about where I’ll sleep or if I have food and I can wear what I want to and I can definitely go for a couple of vacations every year.
And I don’t have to go to work anymore.
Everyone’s dream that, right?
And, in fairness to me, my work life was really not good. There are worse. That’s what they always tell you to tell yourself, isn’t it. It could be worse. Like the fact that it could be worse means you can’t acknowledge how bad it is. But, I guess, at the end of every day I just wanted to slit my wrists, I didn’t actually do it. So, yeah, it could have been worse.
Of course, I didn’t want anyone to know just how I was managing to quit the hellhole, so I worked my notice. I bet every single person who has fantasised about winning the lottery imagines the moment when they’ll walk in and say I quit and then march out the door with their sense of victory and justice. But, the truth is, people ask questions if you do something like that. Even if you haven’t made any friends at work, people still ask questions. Best just to keep your head down and serve out notice and know you never have to look back once it’s all done.
So that’s what I did.
Then I didn’t have to work. So for a while I didn’t. But, and this is something nobody ever tells you, then it gets kind of boring. Not working. It’s not the work I missed. It’s just having something to do with the day. I’m not really the type to go in for clubs and groups and social stuff. Just not my thing. And I’m not good at meeting people, really. I’m not a weirdo or anything. I’m just not easy breezy in unstructured settings. Like I’ve heard about people who met in a coffee shop or something and I wonder how on earth that would work. The only time I’ve ever exchanged words with someone in a coffee shop was if they were asking me if they could use the extra chair at my table or something like that. How on earth does that become a friendship. . . . And I do have friends. I do. Not many. But even though I prefer being on my own, I like spending time with other people too. But when you’re not working, most of the time your friends are. Because if you’re not headed toward that septuagenarian category, you’re usually still employed in one way or another.
So, I reckoned I might as well get to work on the next stage of lottery winnerdom.
Giving It All Away.