Good Jobs/Bad Jobs

Another perfect San Diego morning. Out on the Bay the sailboats are bright white. Too sunny for my taste but I slept through early morning rain so it’s my own fault. People from New Mexico should NEVER sleep through rain—we should be sloshing about the streets shouting with glee.

But about those San Diego/Escondido educational/professional adventures I had so long ago. Everyone wants degrees in areas where job security will be found, money will made—‘good’ money we say. My degrees haven’t exactly resulted in either but they do indicate an interest in worthy pursuits: BS in Secondary Ed/Social Studies and MSW (Social Work). I’ll use my job years in San Diego as an example of the worthiness of my interests. Besides they have a good story or two attached.

My first ‘job’ was actually a social work internship with an interfaith social services agency. I was just into a new track in my studies, from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and envisioning social work as an advocacy/activist/political crusader/do-gooder quest to realizing that, at SDSU, it was going to be all about becoming a therapist, possibly with an office in La Jolla as the goal. It did not take too long to guess therapy would not be a good fit but as I began the internship and met my first three clients. I was very excited. Client Number One was dealing with persistent depression, the second was an erotomaniac and the third a homeless alcoholic. I. Had. No. Clue. I was three or four weeks into this new vocational track and had just purchased my first DSM-IV.

The story goes like this. The depressive seemed to enjoy coming to our weekly sessions and declared herself better for them! I somehow doubted that but was grasping at any clues that I might eventually be good at this. The very pretty, very flamboyant young erotomaniac came to me for a few sessions but was referred on when I realized all I was doing was gathering ideas for future novels and really couldn’t help her. Although in all fairness to my potential as a therapist, she did like coming to me and sharing her fantasy life with the handsome Escondido nightclub owner. (He was not as into fantasy obviously, having taken out a restraining order against her nightly stalking.)

The third was my favorite. First of all he really did not need help. He was an alcoholic but of such long duration and so efficiently controlled that there was nothing a student reading chapters II and III of the DSM was going to be able to advise him on. Dave (I’ll call him—I don’t remember his name in any case) was a middle-age man with life so carefully and practically structured we might all envy him. There was one major downside to his situation—he was homeless. He lived in a grove of trees in front of the North County Mall between Escondido and San Diego. But he lived well, being very good at being homeless. Dave described his place in the trees as a two room abode, divided into sleeping and living spaces. He possessed a sleeping bag, few dishes, his clothes and most importantly his books. He did love to read. The agency where I was interning was nearby and they provided much of what Dave needed. Hot meals many nights, donated canned food and clothes, showers, and of course my expert counseling!

Dave received $100 plus at the beginning of each month as a social benefit. He spent this with more care and planning than most of us ever manage. First of all there were some items of food, maybe condiments or spices, and fresh fruit/veggies that never showed up among the agency’s donations so he purchased those at the grocery store nearby. Then there was an essential article of clothing, maybe a pair of shoes at a second-hand shop, and razors and shaving soap. After dispensing with those basics, Dave went to the used book store by bus and spent a fair percentage of the rest of his cash on books. Enough, he hoped, to get him through the month. He read much of each day because of course reading was not a pastime to be pursued after dark; had he kept any sort of light on he would have been rousted by the cops (which happened every few months anyway). Finally with his remaining loot, Dave got really drunk. He went to the same local bar where he felt safe or just brought it home to his lair. There was just enough of his favorite cheap booze to stay drunk for three or even four days. Then he was done until the following month. He did get beaten up or jailed once in a while during his drunks so obviously sooner or later something really bad would likely happen. I wonder how his story ended.

My therapy sessions with Dave consisted of some of the best literary discussions I’ve ever had.

That’s my story for today. I am saving tales from homeless women’s shelter where I was the resident supervisor for tomorrow.

Now it’s mid-sunny-breezy-lazy-morning, fifth day of my holiday. I am not counting the 15-hour driving day as part of it. Yesterday Scott and I went to the Fashion Valley Mall so I could have a therapeutic hour or so at Nordstrom’s. I shopped just a little but enjoyed every minute. Nordstrom’s is like Whole Foods. Nice stuff, nicely displayed and lots of helpful informed salespeople. Then lunch at the Cheesecake Factory which is the only restaurant chain with food that is better than mediocre. Today maybe IKEA. I really could be quite happy with a little more money—not that I’m not happy now it’s just that a week like this every other month would be good—and my kid won’t take me out to countless lunches, dinners, stores that often, he seems to think major birthday weeks every five years should do it. He seems to forget the countless Kraft Mac and Cheese dinners I slaved over for him.

Dumplings at the Cheesecake Factory.
Dumplings at the Cheesecake Factory.

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