Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ebony & Ivory (An Open Letter To President Obama)

Dear President Obama --

What in ach - ee - double-hockey-sticks were you thinking when you came up with this lulu:


This law is actually defeating what's supposed to be its purpose and is making life difficult for many law-abiding citizens (myself included).

I want to share a little bit about my life with you.

My uncle (Finley Jobe) proudly served his country in the Navy during World War II.  He continued to serve even during the post-war years as a Navy barber.

Sometime during that time (I'm not sure just when), he did some shopping while in Japan, and among the things he purchased was a beautiful ship that had a lot of ivory used it its creation.
This ship became a special family heirloom -- representing in a lot of ways the idea of having ones ship come in.

I had never thought the time would come when I would be even considering selling it (after my widowed uncle passed it on to me to take care of a few years before he passed away during open-heart surgery).

For awhile, I just kept it in a safe place (on display) in the area that had been a granny area for my uncle and aunt when they would spend time here after retirement, and I had plans to, eventually, put it into a lighted display case along with other mementos of Uncle Finley and Aunt Marce.

However, the unexpected happened, and I found myself going from a comfortable middle-class environment down to being included among the homeless population (officially homeless since September 9, 2013 -- though that didn't necessarily mean that I was out on the street, as I've managed to get by with a combo of couching with friends, occasional motel stays, and other forms of shelter with the most common being living in my minivan).

How I got into this predicament isn't something that I'm going to go into here -- except to say that I believe that some people will soon be held accountable while others might never see either a day of jail and/or repaying me (not to mention others who also fell victim to the events).

However, I remember leaving the farm where I had lived since I was a little over a year old (back in the late winter/early spring of 1954), taking with me what I could and simply deciding to always remember what I couldn't.

I had also made the decision to sell the ship (along with the other items I had decided that I could turn loose of), as I had heard that it would, likely, fetch me a five-figure amount of money that would come in very handy when it came to getting me back on my feet again.

Here is how I saw myself that early September morning:

I was, with God's help, going to be a survivor and go on with my life.

A few auctions and private sales, and I would be all set to take on the world and right the wrongs done both to myself and others.

I'd be traveling here and there; visiting with friends and relatives; and -- as I would also have my own laptop -- I would be doing some travel writing.

It had been a challenging past few years that included a couple of recent deaths (my mom and my aunt) that I've come to suspect very strongly were hurried with the motive being greed.  I also wonder if this might not be true of my dad as well who passed away unexpectedly in 2004.

However, things didn't turn out quite as I was expecting them to (low bids in the auctions I'd used that ended up resulting in a kind of eking out a survival course instead of getting ahead by much).  As for the ship, there wasn't even any place to take it to be sold.  It was all a kind of hurry-up-and-wait situation.

October started out beautiful and autumn-y, and it was easy to camp out here and there in relative comfort.

But, then, the days began to get November-chilly even before October was half-finished -- at least, that was how it was on this one October day when I was feeling especially discouraged.

A cold rain was coming down -- and, even though the temperatures were well above freezing, it looked to me as if there were some snow flurries mixed in with the liquid precipitation.

The heater in my minivan wasn't exactly in the dependable category -- that is, it DID work SOMETIMES but not always.

For some reason, it seemed to me as if my body temperature never became really warm anymore.

Although I always went to a place with indoor plumbing for number two, I could take care of number one in private places outdoors.  However, that wasn't true of this particular day, as the ground was far too muddy from the rain.

Besides, I also needed to do number two -- so I headed to one of my favorite convenience stores where I could both take care of business and gather together a picnic brunch.

There was quite a walk from the entrance to the restroom, so I was relieved to get to it and get arranged on the seat before ending up peeing myself.

I didn't hear anybody outside, so I was relieved to know that nobody seemed to be wanting the restroom.  Besides, if they did, they could always use the men's room if absolutely necessary unless it were occupied, too.  Still, I kept an ear open.

When I was over at the sink getting ready to clean up and change into some fresh clothes, I peeked outside to make sure that nobody was waiting before I began -- and I felt like kicking myself for not thinking to plug in my cell phone when I first arrived in there.  However, it wasn't too late to plug it in now -- especially, with nobody waiting in line for the restroom.  So I did.

After I put on my clothes and brushed my teeth, I decided to use the hand dryer to direct some warm air against my body -- once I had checked and still saw nobody outside.

It seemed to be one of my lucky days in spite of the weather.

I ran the hand dryer over and over again until my clothes felt as if they had just been put on me fresh from the clothes dryer.

Then -- of all things! -- I felt the need to pee again before exiting.

I had just unplugged my cell phone and was over at the sink rewashing my hands when I heard a knock at the door.

"Just a minute!" I called out while I gathered everything up and got ready to make my exit.

A peeved voice from the other side of the door responded with:  "You've been in there for thirty minutes!  That's long enough!"

If I'd known that the person was waiting, I would have shortened my time as much as possible, but I had no idea that she must have been waiting somewhere else.

How she called me out was rather insulting and depressing, but I went on out and began to gather up an affordable brunch to take with me to a parking lot (close to the museum of military history) where I would eat it in view of some beautiful evergreens.

My late mom and I enjoyed little picnics in this spot frequently, and, all at once, I just had this feeling all over me that could be summed up in one phrase:


My first thoughts were that, if I woke up and found out that all of this had been just a bad dream, it wouldn't make me unhappy -- but, then, I remembered some of the happy things (e.g. meeting new friends, good things happening to other friends, etc.) that would also be just a dream, so I knew that there was only one way to go:  forward...

Take it or leave it, this was the next chapter of my life...

Little did I know that, within a time frame of less than an hour, I would be blessed beyond my fondest dreams!

After I finished eating, I headed out onto North Broadway and began heading south.

It was then that I noticed somebody using a walker (as I do) and standing out in front of some building.

I assumed that he must be waiting for a bus to get somewhere, and I saw the opportunity to commit a random act of kindness and take him wherever it was he wanted to go -- after all, time was one thing that I had plenty of these days, and I was pretty sure that he wasn't standing out there in that chilly rain for the fun of it.

I turned around at Shadyside Park (across the street and slightly south of where I'd seen this person) and came back to pull into a near-by parking lot.

He approached my minivan, and I told him that I could take him to where he wanted to go.

He thanked me but said that he really wasn't wanting to go anywhere -- that he was in front of his apartment house and just like to stand out there and wave at all the pretty women driving by.

At that point, we struck up a conversation, and he started telling me about one of the things he also liked to do:  collect cans and save the tabs to give to Indiana's Ronald McDonald House that was down in Indianapolis close to Riley Children's Hospital.

As a writer, I saw another way I could help him out.  He obviously had a story that needed to be noised around (that he had, over the years since he started doing this back in 2003, saved almost ten million pop can tabs to donate to Ronald McDonald House over the years), and I had access to the Internet (even though I didn't have my own laptop yet and was limited to those times when I could use public computers such as in libraries and hotels) to where I could make him and his special project go viral!

I could tell you more about Larry Van Ness (a.k.a. The CanMan), but I'll just take the short route and say that he's taught me about lots of ways to help contribute to the good of others, even when on a very tight budget.

One of those ways, of course, is collecting cans to give to Larry so that he can use the cans to supplement his own fixed income and the tabs to donate to our local RMH's pop tab program.

If you go to the following link -- and explore the other links you'll find there, as well -- I believe that you'll get an even better picture of this hero for today:

But what does this have to do with the ship?

I was very ambitious about the ship at first.  Somebody had suggested to me that I should have the bidding start out at something like $300 and see what happened from there.

However, there was NO WAY that I was going to put this precious heirloom up to fetch (in comparison, that is) a dollar store payout.  The lowest I was going to go with it was $5000 -- which, in time, became $3500.  I was still wanting a five-figure amount, but was ready to accept a starting bid in the four-figures and hope it would end up higher, of course.

But there just didn't seem to be any place that was accepting the ship.

The son of one friend had tried to sell it, and, now, I was going to let my goddaughter have a try at it.

Even though I was still hoping for a five-figure amount (while, being realistic, predicting a four-figure amount, tops), I finally did what I'd never thought I'd do:  accept a starting bid on eBay of $300.

There's something about being homeless long enough that will do that to you -- like learning to live on less to where what was, at one time, too little begins to seem like quite a bit.

My goddaughter put the ship on eBay with a starting bid of $300.

A lot of interest was getting shown in regards to it from the get-go.  At the very least, I would have $270 more dollars (as I'd insisted that my goddaughter take 10% of whatever she was able to get) -- and, then, it happened:

The news that eBay had removed the listing and why...

Any kind of selling of the ship wouldn't be legal, and I didn't want either my goddaughter or myself on the wrong side of the law.

But what was to be done with the ship?

This wasn't just something I was using to get some money!  This was a very meaningful family heirloom!

I wanted it to be loved somewhere -- and I certainly didn't want to lose it due to somebody less scrupulous managing to steal it from me one of these days for the purpose of selling it on the Black Market.

Then I thought of Ronald McDonald House.

I had just recently gone to visit the one that Larry's tabs go to help, and it's an absolutely beautiful place!

An idea came to mind:

I would donate the ship to Ronald McDonald House where it could serve two purposes:

1. It would be part of the decor for this place where the people who spent time there needed to be surrounded by beauty.

2. But it could also be rented out (in exchange for donations) to people who might use it as a prop in a movie or video.  It would have to be used gently --that is, nothing like blowing it up or smashing it -- and returned intact to RMH when done with it.

What a wonderful place for Uncle Finley's special ship!  It would always end up right back at Indiana's RMH and would always have the purpose of making things (as Uncle Finley would often say) "more better."

However, upon closer reading of the rules you've put forth for items that are made, in part or all, of ivory, I wonder if I can even do that.

I'm all for not being cruel to animals and for saving endangered species, but that isn't what your ruling will accomplish.  All it will do is to tie the hands of people by turning honest actions into criminal ones!

Thank you for your time and consideration re: this matter.  I hope that you'll put this ruling you passed in February in the nearest trash can!

Sincerely Yours --
Ainsley Jo Phillips