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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Omens in Boxes

31st December 2012
Dear Cassi,

What day has come when we find omens in boxes? Today Pickles had two Hammer Mill paper boxes sitting in the den and I asked where they had come from. Pickles said that Pony Girl had dropped them off. When I asked him why he said he couldn’t remember.
“It sounds to me as if you’re planning something and as it involves Pony Girl it can’t be good for me,” I said. I was using the real names of my siblings, but you know how I feel about that sort of thing.
Pickles then said that the inspector would come soon to look at the work that had been done by the contractor and that I had to make sure he could get into my lavatory. I told him that this was good to know and left it where it was for the day.
I took pains to get away from Pony Girl when she visited Pickles today. I decided to run out and buy root beer floats for all my homeless residents. This was a grueling thing to do on New Year’s Eve but I wanted to spend time.
Now I’ve got four cartons of Vanilla Bean Driers ice-cream and eight two liter bottles of root bear for my clients tonight. Let us hope I can bring joy even when I have none of my own.

Search your soul, Cassi,

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Birthday Stink

4th December 2012
Dear Cassi,
Today I have had more well wishes than ever before on the anniversary of my birth. They asked me why I came to work today and it never came to me to take the day off. After all, it would have been more hours at a different work but nothing in the way of leisure.

I clocked eleven hours today, as I was asked to work late to deal with a violent case. I have a knack, apparently, and I keep them from getting out of hand. So it was my lot in life to work late into the morning on my birthday, go home and sleep, then return to work again. This does give the gift of a larger paycheck, thus complaint is not my mean. At very least I feel needed, and that gives me some brightness to the dim.
My largest complaint is that the front shower at my work flooded soaking into the hall carpet and making a stench. All the restrooms open to clients are equipped with showers at my work. I arrived an hour and a half before shift to try and clean this mess and only managed to subdue it by half. The smell of mildew and rot is bearable if unpleasant.
This day is not without hope as my affairs are more in order today than they were yesterday. The carpets stand a hair cleaner and my bed is more comfortable. Today my life moved forward like a tall-masted ship first catching the wind in it sales.

Live better every day, little sister

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Remembering Mother

20th December 2011
Dear Cassi,

A picture of my mother as she
 would want to be remembered. 
Today I lit a candle in memory of my mother’s death. I observe the anniversary by the lunar calendar so the date changes every year, but the feeling is the same. I spent much of my day baking corn bread for a  mental health group, and I know that my mother would have thought that a fitting tribute. If there is one thing she loved it was to bake and share her baking with the world.
I would think it wrong to dwell like this, but I’ll give myself a few moments. The sun has set and the waxing darkness fits my mood as I sit in the dim light. This is a time for celebration for most, but the air is cold and there is no light labor for a winter.
In this a modern time there is no true season to that strange human animal and we spend our time wondering if retirement will come before our bodies give out. They say youth is wasted on the young, but who does the wasting? I spend my youth in hard labors and will spend my middle age there with little but the dirt on my hands and the perspiration on my cheeks to show for my works.
It is winter for us, Cassi, and the year is born in that winter. So let us hope that spring is all the things they speak of in its warm blossoms. How I would love to fall on to the warm grass and sit sleeping in the sun for a time. I feel as if my body is made of bedrock and carrying that stone has grown so hard.
The will to move on is all I have left to me in this dark place, but it burns like the fires of a great boiler driving me on against the hard currents. One day I will find what I journey for in this cold world. One day I will see the warmth that I once knew blossom again and grow.
Often folk look back and see better times. “The good old days” are things that live in camp stories. If things were always so much better in the past then why do we live for change? I know that things look better as you leave them, that the world of the past looks better than you know, but my honest finding is the future is the only place I have to go.

Stay safe, Cassi.

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What to Do?

22nd December 2012
Dear Cassi,
A man called me today wanting help with his twenty year old daughter. This is not to say that he called me but rather that he called my shelter hoping to find a way to impress upon his child the life of less fortunate folks. He did not tell me what sin she had committed that lead him to this idea, but I could tell he was at his whit’s end full of anger and frustration.
“This behavior needs to stop,” He said over and over. As a payment for this tour of the underworld he said he would buy groceries for the program. Mind that I start my shift at eleven in the evening and so this was the middle of the night. Normally, and by normally I mean during the day, I would refer this man to the donation department but the middle of the night is an inconvenient time for them.
I explained to this man that we can accommodate his need, but that he would need to call back during the AM hours. I told him what kind of program we run and what we do for the homeless. I further put forth that there were much poorer programs with less amenities, privacy, and lower quality food.

He then asked what he should do, and I was stunned by the request but made to answer him as best I could. I explained to this concerned father that he needed to take a stance of mutual respect because people you show no respect to will never properly respect you. He should make it clear that what he wants is not good because he wants it but because he honestly believes it is good for his child.

I told him he should be open to what she says and understanding. Further, I said that he should not expect her to change overnight but only to do better. Without knowing what she did I could only say so much.

In this world things are hard a family mending is tricky. I know this better than most as I have as little to do with my own family as possible. Sometimes we need to be strong and face the ugly truth. I know I did and it was the first real step to a better life.

Stay safe, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, November 11, 2013

Furry Lullabies

15th December 2012
Dear Cassi,
Almost the whole of my day was consumed by sleep and here it is I have work tonight. When I finally got out of bed Hide and Caramel crawled into my arms and made clear that they needed some companionship. These two of my four kittens are the more affectionate fur balls.
Hide with is pink nose and black and white pelt is one to rub against my face. He nibbles at my lips if left to roam around my physique and often finds a place so sit and purr on my shoulder. I often feel the wet touch of his nose when I sleep as he purrs for me a lullaby.
Hide and Caramel also have a love for jumping into my arms through use of my pant leg as a ladder. This action leaves a line of red marks on my legs that itch. I have never look after cats so small as this and it is a new experience but they are happy to be off the street and safe in my arms.

May your lullabies be as sweet as mine,

Richard Leland Neal

Friday, November 8, 2013

Paper and Poop

14th December 2012
Dear Cassi,
Today I donned gloves and took to tossing out the cat’s mess. The little things had pooped on some things I can never replace, but then if those things meant anything to me why were they on the floor?
Nothing helps a fellow to let go of the past more than cat poop. The first yearbook I ever owned from grade school was pooped on and in the trash it went. Paper and poop do poorly to gather, I’ll grant that even poop had a hard time standing up to pee. More than one thing has been trashed as it has been peed on.
I love my little kittles and would spend all the day with them if I could but cleaning up after them is work for healthy folk and my depression has simply got to go. The dark looming issues that stand over me are so strong in nature that they are like chains.

Here’s do being a good pet daddy,

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fish Mouths and Vacuum Bags

27th November 2012
Dear Cassi,
I spent what little free time I had today clearing out my bedroom. For the last few months it has been nothing but a room to store my bed and other piles of junk. Now the detritus is home to fish moths.
The little silver wingless insects are all around the dust and decay that is their food and I can only scrape at the trash that has become so much a home for them. It took hours to make ready for the vacuum as the broom had much work to do, but when the time came my vacuum did nothing.

The old dirt devil’s engine fired but the brush was still as death and the belt that turned it had now long snapped. This is the world of depression, little sister, to find that all things had sat so long they no longer work. The last time I went to use this vacuum the bag had been eaten to shreds by insects.
The bags I had in the closet to replace this had been eaten, holed, and covered in dust. To add insult to injury grocery stores in my area no longer carried vacuum bags. It took more than a week to get the vacuum running that time and by then depression had made me useless. 
How can a simple thing be so large an issue? When the energy of the body is little and the hours few every action is a trial. If I could clean six hours a day for a month without interruption I would have my home passable. Still, every time I start I run into delays.

Stay on top of things, little sister

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, November 4, 2013

Our Back

12th November 2012
Dear Cassi,
So I saw the back doctor today and found that once again I am extremely healthy for being a sack of lard. Apparently most people come to the doctor when they are in so bad shape there is nothing that can be done for them and I came to the doctor when the problem was just a nuisance.
My overall point being that the pain was not chronic but simply recurring and so it surprised folks that I was not in pain when entering the doctor’s office. It further complicated things that the doctor himself had some major back issues and had trouble sitting still for our interview.
In the end I thanked my luck that I was better off than him. He sent me home with some pamphlets and recommendations, but the largest change was a new perspective. I’m not all that bad off when compared to that fellow.

Live strong, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cheap Cold

8th November 2012
Dear Cassi,
Out where I live cold is almost a joke, and the word freezing is applied to temperatures well above water turning to ice. Still, I had to wash the kittens who had rolled in their breakfast and were all a bit brown with gravy. Feeling a chill on my own skin I turned the heater on to seventy and forgot about it as it had to do so little work to keep the house at this temperature.
Pickles had left the house as soon as the cooler temperatures started and so was not home when I turned the heater on. When he came home he told me that the inspector had advised us not to use the heater until the ducting in the attic was fixed. The kick in the teeth here is that one, he broke the ducts, two, he refused to get the heater fixed because he pays the gas bill, and three, we have used the heater for more than ten years with broken ducting.
This I can place as another of his attempts to be cheap. Cheap at the cost of others has always been the Pickles way of living and here we are again. Well, I’ll run the heater anyway and he can get the ducts fixed if it means that much to him.

Never let them grind you down, little sister

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


5th November 2012
Dear Cassi,
A point I failed to make in my last letter regarding the kittens is that all four of the poor animals were crawling with filth. Flees dotted their underbellies and little clots of dried blood gave their fur a sandy feel. To top it off one of the kittens, a black and white with a pink nose, had trouble breathing. They tell me he is not long for his world.
I named the kitten with the breathing problem Hyde for doctor Jackal and Mister Hyde. As the poor little fellow struggled for breath he frightened my clients. He cried and I held him making the client say he was just like a baby. I’d like to think that his breath came more easily when I held him but I think it more that he got a drink of milk.
Another of the kittens is a ginger cat that my clients called Garfield. This fellow having long hair and been the dirtiest was taken by a client and washed. I learned from Sister Margaret, our resident nun, that this may have lethal results for the poor cat. I held the cat to my chest until he was dry and he appears none the worse for wear but the seed of worry grows in my mind.

Live every second, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, October 28, 2013


4th November 2012
Dear Cassi,
The events of the day are those kind that are at once wonderful and terrible all at the same time. It was my pleasure to work overtime today and so came in for a three to eleven shift. Knowing that I was in for hard work I made myself ready.
I had come in to work only moments ago and just started my coffee, as is my custom at the start of my shift, when a man came to the front and told me that kittens had been left in the street. I recall that he had a gray beard about him and dirty clothes so I had the impression that he was a street man.
Now, you and I are folk who know good and well that those who have fought the hardest can often be the most forgiving of people. This man of the street had a desperation in his heart that could be read in his eyes to find someone to look after these animals. Why he turned to me is a question I never asked, but he did and all I could say was “let’s have a look”.

He ran across the street trough traffic and took up an orange department store bag that had seen some use and ran back to me. In this bag were four bundles of fur that had seen as many bad times at their ark and so I said I would see to the kittens.
I looked down at those four balls of fluf and could tell by the dry dark spots in the corners of their eyes that they had seen harder days. Thus it came to me that I would need to find them milk in the next six minutes. My first thought was the gas station and so I asked if they sold the nectar of a cow and was told they did indeed carry the product.
The poor homeless man who brought the kittens to me offered to buy it for me out of his own meager funds but I declined. In the end I handed a homeless teen a ten dollar bill and asked her to go to the local market and get me cream and tuna for the cats.
For the next eight hours the cats were a joy to my clients who took them into the lobby and played with the animals. The homeless have more love to give than many normal folks. Even the hard ones, covered in ink and scars, became as children in holding the kittens.
You know I have a chunk of ice in my heart and a sense of duty in my head that gave me no hesitation in looking after these animals. Even with this augmentation there was a part of me touched to see these proceedings.

Guard the tender spots in your heart, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Old Wound New Blood

1st November 2012
Dear Cassi,
A wound I have carried for some years now found new life this week. For once I speak of physical injury, but the origin of this wound is unknown. I think that it has to be a spider bite from some time ago and I have had it for a very long time.
I recall scratching at this wound in 2006 and making it come to life again with pus and inflammation. Then it had stood over my skin by a quarter inch for some days until falling back into a knot of scar tissue.
The other day it itched again and I scratched feeling dead skin come away. I looked down to see an open wound where a scar had once been. This was then sterilized with hand sanitizer and left the scar over. Never being a man to leave well enough alone I milked it of blood every now and then and only once did it give forth infection.
When I bathed the scab came free and left a wound that dried within the hour. I look down on it now to see the inflammation almost gone. Could it be that this would has finally seen to heal? I can only hope.

Hope and heal, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beast They Call Depression

26th November 2012
Dear Cassi,

What is this beast they call depression that makes so many simple things a trial? Even as I sit here I grapple with this apparition fighting to keep my eyes open and my head up. It feels as if I carry bags of sand with me wherever I go.
Today again I exposed carpet in my bed room and the bottom of the sink in the kitchen. How many times before have I done this, and how many times will I again spend a day of my life to accomplish this small act of civility.
Pickles is content to live among the dirt and insects, but the drain on me has become so hard to labor under. I feel as if I stand against the world even when I know the world looks on in indifference.
I would like to think that this world of clutter and dirt is the product of
some false self, some daemon to expel from my flesh. Then I need ask myself, what are the daemons of the mind? Are they any more than our memories haunting and howling in the nether twixt our ears?       
Daemon is then just a name I have given a part of myself that stands against my well being. As the much in our arteries needs to be worn away and the fat of my gut to be worked off so does this daemon needs righting.

Keep your head clear, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fatty and the Troll

31st October 2012
Dear Cassi,
A realization donned on me today and there is some shame that goes with my revelations. On the way in to work there was traffic because it was Halloween. In that traffic I did something foolish, and that was that I aggravated a man who was already angry and driving recklessly.
As he took the mentality that I had no right to merge into traffic, traffic was at a dead stop, and he would have sped up had he been moving. Again, I had as much right as any, but he didn’t see it that way and pulled ahead of me lurching and nearly hitting my car. He also yelled some insult that I couldn’t hear as he passed.
As the driver behind him was of a nicer sort I came into the lane directly behind him and followed him as a result of going in the same direction. At this moment I hadn’t been thinking, but I had tailgated him to make a point. He changed lanes likely fearing retribution and I pulled up alongside his car.
In the passenger seat there was what I can only describe as a transvestite prostitute. It could have been a transgender and it/she/he could have just liked makeup, but the combination is smoke if not fire. As the man driving had gray hair, and it was younger unrelated looking folks in his car, it looked like a street walker’s run to me.
I rolled down my window and informed his passenger that the fellow had committed vehicular assault and could be arrested. From the driver’s seat he yelled “Fuck you, you fat troll.”
At this I said, “why don’t you get out of your car and say that?”
“As if you could get out of your car,” he said and drove off with the green light.
Now all this gives me satisfaction, know that I made a rotten fellow like that have a bad day. However, the next time I may anger a person with a gun.
As it turns out, the exit I use is always where the traffic ends, and if I drove another mile down I’d bypass all this rot and gotten to work faster.
I see enough trouble to know that I should pass it on by so in the future that’s what I’ll do. I’m told there was a shooting in the night down here. I hate to die over using a freeway exit.

Stay safe, little sister

Richard Leland Neal

Saturday, October 19, 2013


23rd November 2012
Dear Cassi,
There is no dawn on the horizon as for the second day in a row Pickles fails to sleep. His paranoia as taken some rational hold over him and he thinks the voices are real.
He showered early today and retired only to wake again and wander the house looking for the voices that haunt him. I made chamomile tea and had him drink it with cream. Two glasses made him ready to try for slumber again but twenty minutes later he was up once more this time fully dressed. It was only moment until he returned to his wandering and looking for the sounds he knew only lived in his head.
This is a time that he should be somewhere safe and with folks who know how to handle these things. Normal people would call family at a time like this, but as that has never been an option for me I’m forced to see this along. Well, we greet the challenges as they come and live as best we can.

Live, little sister, live as best you can,

Richard Leland Neal

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Light on Dark Harbor

24th October 2012
Dear Folks at the Queen Mary,

I would like to thank you for a wonderful time at your dark harbor event this year. I have to say that I was impressed by the mazes and monsters. Your use of mirrors and the quality of darkness were truly disorienting.

On another note, I would like to know why I was not permitted to bring pens into the event. Again, why was my tool keychain also not permitted? I point out that this object had no knife and is shorter than the distance across the palm of my hand.

I happen to be a Security Officer with fifteen years experience. I know how hard it is to find good security people. This is why I will forgive the rudeness of the fellow who informed me that I could not have these items.

I would like to express to you that a security person, I will assume your folks did not have state certification, should be polite but firm. This would me that they should have apologized for the inconvenience, thanked me for complying with the rules, and referred to me as sir.

In addition, he should be fully knowledgeable and present useful information. “I’m sorry, sir, but our policy is that you may not have items of this nature. I do apologize for the inconvenience. You may return to your car to store these items or discard them.”

Finally, had I not purchased a special pass returning these items to my car would have been time consuming. It would only be proper to have offered me a special pass to return to the front of this line. I always have pens on me and my keychain is a common companion. Together these items are worth about thirty dollars. Whereas this is worth an hour wait to me it would have soured my evening.

Trivial offerings will often go a long way to pacify the irate guest. A front of the line pass for one attraction, for those who did not buy them, will cost you very little and keep folks coming back. For those in my situation with a front of the line pass already a coupon for a free soft drink would have more than made up for the inconvenience.

I will grant that you work with capacity crowds as is and have little need to better your event. Still, I attended nothing else from your events and have not decided if I will return next year to Dark Harbor.

Again, I can see that you have no need to step things up, but may I mention that in the whole thirty three years of my life no one has ever suggested before a time at your grand old ship. In no way are you just a hotel or park but a part of the culture of the great state of California. My experience at the Queen Mary was only so-so and it is truly a shame that you are not as wonderful as our ski slopes, mystical as our redwood trees, and well beloved as our beaches.

Make every voyage as worthy as the last

Richard Leland Neal