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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Chill in the Air

Frosty Pumpkins

"Yep, it's November," I told the man at the motorcycle shop as I blew on my hands to warm them. "It's a bit chilly out there."

"Yeah, it's only 35 degrees right now," he said. "I'm surprised you rode today." He walked back behind his counter. "What can I do for you today? Here to put it away for the year?"

I nodded. "Yep. It's time to put it away for a while..."

Every year I take my bike to the local Kawasaki shop in the late fall and have them store my bike through the winter months. I don't have a door on my garage, and I don't like the thought of my beloved bike sitting in the cold all winter. It costs a bit for me to store the bike, but they put it in a heated garage, cover it, tend to the battery, change the oil, etc... It's worth it to me.

And I just hate the thought of my bike sitting in the cold.

The motorcycle man and I talked for a few moments about details of the bike's annual upkeep (I was sad to realize it's time for new tires already -- I had my heart set on some nice chrome doodads, but safety first I guess), then my beloved Austrian bride Dagmar pulled up in the car to give me a ride home. I kissed the bike goodbye and waved to the nice motorcycle man and got into the car.

"The end of the season is hard for you," she said. "Do you vant maybe a nice pizza or someting to get your mind off the bike?"

I shook my head no and pouted all the way home.

"Oh," said my vunderful vife as we pulled up to our house. "Look at our ferns. They're all brown and dying. It must have frozen again last night." Last summer she planted two big ferns in front of our house. They're nice.

"Yeah," I said. "Too bad we can't bring them in for the winter. I hate to see them sit in the cold like that. I hope they survive through to spring..."

I went inside and put my chaps and leather gloves away for the year, down in the basement in a plastic tub labeled "Summer Stuff." While I was in the basement, I figured I might as well get my winter coat out. It was in a plastic tub labeled "Winter Stuff." Odd how the "Summer Stuff" tub is full of fun things like frisbees, toy boomerangs, and leather chaps (if you can't have fun with leather chaps, you're not trying), while the "Winter Stuff" tub is full of naught but heavy coats and stern-looking mittens. I guess the lesson there is "summer = fun."

I went back upstairs to let kitty Fruitloop in. He's been outside long enough. It's too cold out there for little kitties who aren't used to being outside. When I opened the door the poor little fella fell flat on his face. He'd been leaning on the door from the other side, trying to push it open with his nose. I guess he must have been a bit chilly. I picked him up and plopped him down on the couch, covering him with a spare blanket.

It's not summer any more. I noticed there's frost on the two little pumpkins the nice homeless man left for us last week. (It took us a while to figure out where the two little pumpkins came from, but we eventually figured out they were a gift from the homeless guy who lives just down the alley. We leave empty pop cans for him every few days. He gets a nickel each for them.)

I thought about the homeless guy who gave us the pumpkins as I tried on my warm winter coat. I thought about how I hate to leave my motorcycle in the cold. I thought about how I make sure my cat has a blanket. I thought about dying ferns. I peeked out the window -- sure 'nuff, there were two homeless men walking up the street, heads down, hands in pockets, probably headed for the Soup Kitchen half a mile away.

I've heard estimates that over 2,500 homeless people went through Sioux City last year. Most live here, some were just passing through, but that's a BIG number no matter how you look at it. There are the modern-day equivalents to hobo camps along the railroad tracks over there by the Interstate. You can glimpse their tents through the trees if you look just right. Over a quarter of the homeless are veterans. Dagmar tells me that the social workers have noted at least one homeless Iraq War veteran in Sioux City already.

When we think of homeless people, we generally think of the men, but an alarming percentage of the homeless around here are women and children. You don't see them as much, though. The men don't hide.

In just over a week, Friday the 16th of November, roughly 350 people will be sleeping in the local ball park. Why? Well, we're taking pledges... We try to talk people into pledging a few dollars, then we go sleep outside for a night. The money all goes towards programs aimed at helping the homeless population here in Sioux City. We're hoping to raise $50,000 this year. It's a big goal, but one that's worth shooting for.

Dagmar participated in the First Siouxland Sleepout (I would have gone, but I misunderstood and thought she was going as part of a group from her work -- turns out anyone could participate). Both of us shivered last year in the Second Sleepout. This year marks the third time this event will be held, and we're planning to be out there again.

If anyone would like to pledge a few dollars (and trust me, every single little dollar helps!) please feel free to contact either Dagmar or myself. You can e-mail me at chris at radloffs.net (putting the @ in there). You can also PayPal a pledge to me at the same address if you choose. You can also donate directly through the Sleepout's web site -- www.siouxlandsleepout.com. The web site also has a list of which agencies benefit from the contributions, and photos from the last two events too.

I also have a few "Participant Packets" left, too, if anyone in the area would like to take pledges and come join us. We have hot chocolate and stuff. It's a pretty interesting event! Some people sleep under the stars, others in cardboard boxes. Me? I sleep in a tent. Dress warm. Just get in touch with me if you want to particpate and I'll set you up.

Again, you can learn more at www.siouxlandsleepout.com, and you can get in touch with me either through www.radloffs.net or www.hippieboydesign.com (chris at radloffs dot net).

Thanks for listening! I do appreciate it.

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8 Comments:

Blogger The Guv'ner said...

Wow that was an awesome post. AND went from laugh out loud funny (your depictions of Dagmar always floor me and the poor falling down kitty and your summer/winter clothes boxes) to really, really sad (the hobos).

During our transit strike a few years back I had to walk the three miles to and three miles back from work for four days in a row and it was 3 degrees F. outside. I passed several homeless people in the mornings, sleeping in doorways with stuff piled on top of them - any sort of stuff they could find. I was in the middle of a 3 mile walk with a hundred layers of clothing on and freezing and they were sleeping on a doorstep. I can't imagine how awful that must be. But you know...I was just overwhelmed by the fact there were human beings having to sleep in 3 degree temperatures on a city street because shelters were probably at capacity.

2:08 PM  
Blogger The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Hi Chris - Great post! Very moving.
I'm currently jobless and short on cash for donations right now, but here is what I am going to do: I'm going to pack up all of our old coats and blankets, wash 'em up and take them to our local shelter.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Guv -- To be honest, I don't think I'll ever know how the homeless survive a winter. It's COLD out there!

Lady -- Welcome to my humble blog! I understand being short on cash. Boy, do I understand being short on cash! That's a terrific idea to take your coats and blankets to the shelter! You know, now that I think of it, I have a couple coats that don't fit me any more... I may follow your example. (Oh, and I'm glad I read about your pet feeder's battery woes -- I just about bought one for Fruitloop just a few days ago.)

2:46 PM  
Blogger pistols at dawn said...

Look at socially responsible you! Well done, sir.

5:59 PM  
Blogger ~:*:*:Pixie:*:*:~ said...

As you know (or may not know), Gabby and I lived in my car at Apache Lake for four weeks. It was nice. I had an employer who allowed me to wear her to work (she was 6 weeks old - in a sling). All I had to do was put the driver's seat into full recline and sleep with her securely swaddled against me. I had full facilities there... running water (cold/hot - not an issue: potable, running water = good!), aluminum mirrors to make sure I looked pretty (buahahahahhahaaaaa)for work.

I was miserable.
I was hungry.
I thought the feeling of hot water pouring from a shower head was heaven... and she and I had it GOOD... Five star... in retrospect.

I can't come to Iowa... but I'm in... it's not much but it's every single cent I can offer.

Good on you.

LOVE.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous virginia said...

I love this fundraising idea...I am stealing it and sharing it with my networks in Peace Corps and AmeriCorp/VISTA and maybe it will plant seend for some variation on the same theme!

I swore in yesterday (VISTA! Yay!)and I am now an official warrier in the war on poverty...for this year we do our projects and must deliberately live on poverty level stipends (no part time jobs allowed)! At least there is no vow of celebicy! 8-)

Thanks for your great blog nephew - I just love my crazy, wonderful family! 8-)

Aunt Ginn
Read my Journals: www.pulverpages.com

1:15 PM  
Blogger The Guv'ner said...

I have a bunch of stuff to donate as well (winter stuff) including a couple of coats. I try to every year as we have an NYC Coat Drive thing where you take your stuff to a number of drop off points and they're given to the homeless. I can't even imagine being homeless let alone in WINTER.

3:31 PM  
Blogger ~:*:*:Pixie:*:*:~ said...

*waving and blowing kisses to Ginny*

Chris, I sent you PayPal info (gmail).

Everyone remember to hug a Veteran!!!

8:40 AM  

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