Boulder, CO ‘homeless advocates’ are batting .000

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

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The self-styled advocates probably think that free “feeds” for the homeless in public venues should be catered by upscale restaurants here. After all, dining on chateaubriand and shrimp étouffée is a human right! What’s that you say — it’s NOT? Dang it!

Camping in public parks? NO. Sleeping, bathing, drinking/drugging in Boulder Public Library? NO. Aggressive panhandling? NO. Using the McDonald’s on Baseline as a de facto homeless shelter overnight? NO. Trespassing on private property and typically engaging in loud, disruptive misbehavior? NO. Littering everywhere? NO. Smoking in Central Park, on Pearl Street Mall and in other areas where it’s prohibited by law? NO. Making all shelter beds available to transients year-round? NO. Apologizing/enabling all sorts of wrongdoing by people, simply because they’re homeless? NO.

With friends like Boulder Rights Watch, whose extreme positions on behalf of the worst-behaved transients has provoked a strong backlash from those in authority and ordinary citizens alike, the homeless people in Boulder, CO don’t need enemies. I categorically reject them as impostors — who do NOT have the best interests of most homeless folks at heart.

Unfortunately, members like Darren O’Connor, Mike Homner, Joy Eckstine Redstone (of course), Roger Wolsey,  et al are on a BIG EGO TRIP and really believe that the fumbling, bumbling incompetence they’ve displayed is having a positive impact. This is what we call, down on the farm, a big pile of manure:

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BTW, I’ll be on hiatus next week and not posting anything to this blog. Instead, I’ll be working on new ideas for short stories which may appear here in the future.

Tonight at my campsite: ham & cheese sandwiches, with cookies for dessert.

‘Bowling for Bums: My Life as a Charity Whore’ — an excerpt, redux

This post originally appeared on December 27, 2013 after I sought permission from the author to run an excerpt here. The entire book is available to be checked out at Boulder Public Library, and I highly recommend it. BTW, the Longmont, CO nonprofit profiled below is actually the OUR Center.

(Copied from Chapter Nine, “At Least People in Prison Have Some Place to Sleep”)

By A. Price

There is a Poor House in Longmont. Except unlike its counterparts in 19th century London, you aren’t allowed to sleep there overnight. No matter how poor you may be, unlike a real 19th century Poor House, in Longmont you are tossed out on your ass at 4 pm — no matter the weather.

The Poor House actually used to let homeless adults sleep inside if it was snowing or the temperature dropped below 20 degrees, but once they launched their four million dollar capital campaign to purchase a bigger building, they kicked the homeless out the door.

Apparently homeless people sleeping on cots in a snow storm makes a bad impression to major donors being enticed to support a nonprofit agency whose mission is assistance and self-sufficiency services for the poor. What? Say that again?

After I started doing time at the Poor House myself as a paid staff member, something strange began to happen. I started to think about what I was doing and began to wonder how the money I raised was spent.

I also caught myself putting on a little too much lipstick and digging out those little short skirts hiding in my closet.

Special Events are one of the nonprofit industry’s dirty little secrets. Take the Poor House Gala: It took three weeks for the volunteer gala committee to decide between the white cloth or the gold cloth napkins for the annual fundraising event. I was voting for the white. They came with the ballroom. The gold would cost $400 more to rent and honestly felt scratchy on my lips. The committee went with the gold and I had to add that to my bottom line.

After all I was working for the Poor House and the Poor House was supposed to be Longmont’s ticket to self-sufficiency. Perhaps the gold napkins would make a difference after all.

It’s a given that nonprofit marketing claim that all “proceeds” of a charity event go directly to benefiting the population they serve. At best, the national average is about 50% of every donated dollar raised through special events go directly to support programming.

That formula doesn’t take into account the paid staff time to organize the event. The 50% formula just accounts for direct costs like the ballroom rental, caterer, entertainment, etc. The hidden costs eat up much more of the proceeds than what appears on the spreadsheets.

Too often the cost of putting on the event, renting the space, catering the food, etc. eats up all the proceeds. And that’s still not counting staff time.

Sometimes the event doesn’t even clear its costs and nonprofits must spend money from the general fund to cover the tab. So not only doesn’t that charity benefit ticket actually help orphans or puppies, but it may require the use of other donated funds just to pay for a party.

Knowing what I know didn’t stop me from diving right in planning all those parties.

My first day on the job, one of the case workers was fired. Later I heard through the grape vine that she had reported the Poor House to the Colorado Department of Labor.

The Executive Director had been forcing staff to put in unpaid overtime under the guise of volunteer time. “Volunteer Time” primarily meant setting up and tearing down expensive fundraising events. She had been doing it for years.

There was a score card of staff “volunteer time.” If you didn’t clock in your required “volunteer hours” you would face the consequences. A couple weeks after the caseworker was fired the staff got a convoluted email saying that we were not now and had never been forced to volunteer, but that if we loved our jobs, if we loved poor people and if we didn’t want to become poor ourselves, then volunteering would always be appreciated.

“Let them eat Cake,” the queen said before she chopped off more heads.

A couple weeks after the Great Colorado Flood the headlines of the local paper proclaimed, “Local Nonprofits Fight for Flood Relief Dollars.” Well-meaning individuals and businesses are still raising flood donation dollars and giving the money, not to the people directly affected by the flood, but to the nonprofit middle man, or woman. The nonprofits aren’t providing any special support for flood victims. If the flood has cost you your job, ruined your home and destroyed your car, now you can get in line with all the other poor people who also need a hand. The Poor House is laughing all the way to the bank (emphasis is mine — MRW).

Recently there was a photo in the local paper of a Poor House employee standing in a room with donated clothing piled 15 feet high. He knows that most of those donations are cast offs that even a Dickensian rag and bone man wouldn’t take. It’s his job to take most of that stuff directly to the dumpsters after dark. He also knows that a photo of a humble janitor surrounded by others’ cast off generosity is bound to lead to more generosity in the form of real cash money.

The Great Colorado Flood will lift the sinking ship that the Poor House has become. While the mistress of the Poor House is seen as the queen of compassion, Mother Theresa of the high plains, turned wet lands, what she really is a scoundrel that would play well in almost any Dickens novel.

How did things work around the Poor House?

Every week day, while the employees hurry in the back door, a long line of low income or no income people form at the front door.

Even before the flood, people turned to the Poor House for free food boxes, eviction prevention, emergency utility shut off, social security appeal letters, and the other daily crises that defines what it means to be poor. People living in substandard housing or worse, homeless, came in daily to sign up for the waiting list of the waiting list to get on the official waiting list for housing vouchers.

You read that right: Two waiting lists before a person could get on the master waiting list. As it stands right now, it takes about five years from when you first get on a list until your case comes up for review. Some of the people who put their name on the lists manage to find someplace to live on their own. Some die before their name is called. Some age out of the original list, and now have to wait on a different list for low income senior housing, yet to be built, before they die too (emphasis is mine — MRW).

The first hurdle at the Poor House was proving that a) You are poor enough to receive assistance, b) You live in Longmont, c) You aren’t too poor to be beyond help, because if you were too poor you wouldn’t fit well in the self-sufficiency matrix.

If you are too poor the Poor House will probably give you a one-time only bag of emergency food, but won’t want to assign you a case number and add you to the client list.

The Poor House prides itself on being able to move people from vulnerability to self-sufficiency. Case workers don’t want to start with lost causes because it looks bad for their statistics.

So, despite all of the fundraising, the galas with the scratchy over budget napkins, the donor appeal letters, and the community food drives, if you were poor and needed help, the first hurdle was to prove to the gate keeper that you were just the right amount of poor to get in the door.

We promise donors that your donation will save lives and change the world one donation at a time. We don’t tell you that only some poor people qualify. We don’t tell you that most of what we say is a lie.

There were also other groups trying to get in through The Poor House Door: criminals and welfare recipients.

In Colorado and many other states, people convicted of anything from shoplifting to aggravated assault could often reduce their prison sentences and fines by volunteering at nonprofits willing to let them “work” off their time. The Poor House wouldn’t take child molesters or pot smokers. Everybody else pretty much got in.

It was the same thing with the Colorado Work Force or Welfare Recipients. In order to qualify for financial assistance or Food Stamps in Colorado, most adults have to put in as much as 35 hours a week “Volunteering” for a nonprofit organization. These individuals are also supposed to spend 20 or 30 hours per week looking for jobs or engaged in job training activities.

Both the Community Service criminal volunteers and the Welfare volunteers were funneled into the food warehouse and the federally funded soup kitchen. They were assigned hard time regardless of their age or ability. Sixty year old women with bad hips would work alongside 20 year old punks doing community service “Time” for rolling a bum or driving 80 miles an hour, drunk, in a school zone. No mercy. Do your time or your “time sheet” wouldn’t get signed.

And if that sixty year old woman, trying to survive on food stamps, wanted some help signing up for heat assistance or eviction prevention, she’d have to get in the back of that long line that formed at 8 am and ran until 4 pm.

The one perk of this “volunteer” assignment was people were allowed to eat either breakfast or lunch at the soup kitchen free of charge. The food, also prepared by volunteers, was usually pretty good and met the caloric thresholds outlined by the federal government. The “volunteers” forced to work for free to avoid jail time or an empty refrigerator, cleaned toilets, stocked the food pantry, cooked the meals and handed out food to people who are lucky enough to make it past the scrutiny at the front door.

Usually this is what the volunteers gave to the people who had food vouchers: two cans of soup, two cans of vegetables, one can of fruit, half dozen eggs, when available, and one loaf of day old bread. This was the standard issue for a family of four for one week. If they were still poor the following week, they could get back in line and start the whole process again (emphasis is mine — MRW).

If the family had young children, they could also qualify for extra fruit and a jar of peanut butter once in a while. And once a month each household received a can of USDA protein, which meant anything from a can of spam to a can of of spaghettios in meat sauce.

Throughout the year the Poor House is inundated by literally tons of donated food. Both large scale farmers and backyard gardeners bring in hundreds of pounds of fresh produce. A small amount of that produce was set out on trays for clients to take home. The rest was used to make the meals served in the soup kitchen.

Thanks to the conscripted labor of the court and state mandated volunteers, the Poor House got hundreds of hours of free labor each week, saving the organization thousands of dollars in payroll.

However, if you read the marketing and PR materials, the constantly growing demand for services led to higher staffing costs to try to meet the growing need. But in fact in 2013, four caseworkers left or were let go by the Poor House. These four caseworkers were replaced by only two new staff people and the workload for all of them increased exponentially.

And also in 2013, the Development Department increased from one full-time and one part-time staff member to now four full-time workers. Staffing decisions can be a great indicator of a nonprofit’s priorities. Offering less assistance to the poor, increasing the caseload of a shrinking direct services staff while increasing the budget to hire more fundraisers, says a lot about a nonprofit organization.

And that’s what the Poor House did.

Executive Director Edwina Salazar (R) accepts another donation.

Adopt a bum, redux

This post originally appeared here on May 8, 2012.

DONATING TO A NONPROFIT IS NOT THE SAME AS HELPING THE HOMELESS!

By Max R. Weller

(I’ve already been adopted, thank you).

Consider the abject failure of Denver’s Road Home, that city’s so-called 10-year plan to end homelessness; after 7 years and almost $60 million spent, Denver has more homeless people on the streets AND more “formerly homeless” people as permanent dependents of the social services industry than ever before! The situation there has reached a crisis stage, according to an editorial in the Denver Post, despite hundreds of Denver’s homeless using neighboring Boulder, CO as an overflow destination for shelter/services. (It must be noted here that emergency overnight dorms at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless will be closed as of May 1st, not opening again until October 15th). It’s just terrible, unless you’re employed in the industry and making a living from the misfortune of others; in that case, you’re sitting pretty.

Perhaps the biggest factor keeping the chronically homeless people I’ve observed in a “marginalized” state, here in Boulder and other cities I’m familiar with, is their isolation from Real People living in the Real World. Go down to Central Park, especially, and you’ll see the rat packs of transients who only associate with each other. They seem to fear approaching Real People for anything other than a handout, and tend to neglect personal hygiene since no social interaction is expected to occur. Of course, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy to the detriment of everyone involved, as the Us-Versus-Them mentality quickly takes over. Sadly, and I freely admit this also angers me, the Joy Eckstines of this world reinforce the homeless person’s isolation — all you have to do to confirm that dynamic is to watch what happens at places like Bridge House. “People hate us! They want to keep us down.” As if Real People in the Real World have the time for a conspiracy against the homeless, rather than getting on with their own lives in a Real Way.

All of which brings me to my proposal for caring folks, who are tired of the ineffective approaches used by the shelter/services industry, to adopt a bum. Just one homeless single adult, chosen by careful observation of that individual’s basic character over the course of days and weeks. Casual conversation is an important tool, because you certainly don’t want to get involved one-on-one with any homeless person who is suffering from mental illness or actively abusing mind-altering substances. You’ll discover that many are rational and sober, albeit somewhat defensive in their current circumstances. Be a friend; encourage them to talk about anything, especially subjects other than homelessness; take them to lunch once in a while; offer something like packets of Starbucks VIA instant coffee, a treat they might not buy for themselves; ask them if they might need a new winter coat or a monthly bus pass; if and when you become comfortable enough and you have the room, invite them to spend especially cold and snowy nights in your home. The list goes on and will vary, depending on you.

Yes, I enjoy being such an adoptee. In fact, I’ve been adopted by a family and by a few other individuals. It has given me tremendous peace of mind, having a personal family-like safety net to fall back on, and I’m finally able to avail myself of these kind folks’ compassion without being too self-conscious for asking. That took a while, given my status as an avowed hermit.

As to what they get out of it, that’s a question best left to them to answer . . .

You can’t save every homeless person, but you might help just one.

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What’s the fuss about another bear? And more

DONATING TO A NONPROFIT IS NOT THE SAME AS HELPING THE HOMELESS!

By Max R. Weller

“Why are all of these weird people looking at me? My kind were here in Boulder long before the wealthy white elites of today began to ruin it — just as Chief Niwot predicted.”

A bear as seen near 6th Street and Alpine Ave in Boulder on Monday

A bear as seen near 6th Street and Alpine Ave in Boulder on Monday (Paul Aiken / Staff photographer)

It’s just a bear. So what? Boulderites are such sissies, or at least many of them are. If it’s really necessary to “haze” bears and other wild critters and send them fleeing back into the mountains, the city should hire Kim Kardashian to disrobe in front of them:

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Read this story in the Daily Camera: Balloons over Boulder County: Hot air, high anxiety. Quoting from it below:

Lafayette resident Pam Elder said that when her dog Roxy was younger, a hot air balloon almost landed on their roof. Ever since then, Roxy has hid in fear whenever she senses the mysterious, flying objects pass by.

“Sky dragons, that’s the way Roxy thinks of them, breathing fire,” Elder said. “Now she wakes up in the morning kind of afraid when she looks out the window.”

I’m not sure about canine Roxy, but Pam Elder needs to seek counseling from a psychiatrist, who might prescribe appropriate meds. Sheesh!

Balloons prepare to launch from US 287 and Arapahoe Road in Lafayette.Charlie Brennan / Photo

Balloons prepare to launch from US 287 and Arapahoe Road in Lafayette. Charlie Brennan / Photo (Charlie Brennan)

The three incumbent Boulder City Council members seeking re-election are jumping for joy this morning, because they have it all wrapped up already: 19 candidates to vie for five Boulder council seats. From the article:

Comrade Keith Percy, a disabled queer poet and community activist, said he cares deeply about the city, but many of his friends have had to leave because they can’t afford to stay or because the social climate is not as welcoming and open as many wish to believe. Percy said when he talks to council members about homeless rights, police brutality, racism and housing, he doesn’t feel like council will take action to improve any of the issues he cares about.

WTF? Comrade, your friends are TRANSIENT BUMS, and the only thing the city should do is help them with bus fare on RTD back to Denver . . . What do you mean by “disabled queer poet” anyway, Comrade? I don’t believe your sexual preference is a disability per se, nor even an issue that anyone here in Boulder cares a flying fig about. Maybe you should work on your phraseology.

All alone at my spot in the 4900 block of N. Broadway yesterday, and on the corner of U.S. 36 as well — perfect!

Tonight at my campsite: Froot Loops, in honor of all those who provide material for my blog.

Tips to avoid being dehumanized as a homeless person, redux

After a relaxing weekend — notable for the lack of drama starring the usual suspects — I’ve decided to take it easy and repeat some previous posts which are still relevant now . . . This one is from March 16, 2015.

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

I’ve found these to be useful in my own life as the Homeless Philosopher here in Boulder, CO since early 2008, and I think they would serve anyone well no matter how long or how short a time they find themselves homeless.

> STAY CLEAN AND SOBER. Everyday challenges are so much easier to deal with when you keep all of your wits about you, and in wintertime it could even save your life.

> RESPECT YOURSELF, RESPECT OTHERS, AND RESPECT THE COMMUNITY IN WHICH YOU LIVE. It’s also expressed in the Golden Rule, and makes life much easier by greatly reducing conflicts with those around you.

> PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE DAILY. Yes, I certainly know firsthand that depression can lead one to neglect this, but pushing through that wall by taking a hot shower and putting on clean clothes can go far in lifting your spirits. Just do it!

> EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, EAT FEWER CARBS AND SWEETS. To make this possible, you’ll have to shop for yourself and avoid the free food giveaways — which tend to be heavy on beans, rice, pasta, and donated (stale) bread/pastry.

> SPEND YOUR MONEY, REGARDLESS OF ITS SOURCE, ON LIFE’S NECESSITIES AS THE FIRST PRIORITY. My only income is from generous passersby at a particular intersection in Boulder; this cash pays for my food and beverage, clothing, hygiene items, camping gear, books and newspapers, bus fare, etc. Plus, I’m able to save money for emergencies (currently $280 in my coffee jar “piggy bank”) and occasionally I can even donate to a worthy cause. I’ve never applied for nor have I received any taxpayer-funded benefits since I moved to Colorado over seven years ago. My quality of life, as I see it, is better than that of most other homeless people I see who have become dependent on the myriad of social services being promoted to “help” us.

> BECOME A PART OF THE BROADER COMMUNITY BY MAKING FRIENDS WHO ARE NOT HOMELESS. I can’t stress this point enough; the most effective dehumanizing process is for homeless people to become segregated, either voluntarily of by subsidized housing policy, into rat packs and ghettoes. This means that you can’t spend your days hanging out at Bridge House nor at the other popular homeless hangouts like Pearl Street Mall, Boulder Creek Path and Central Park, University Hill, etc. There’s a whole wide world of people out there to meet, and I can highly recommend it based on personal experience.

> THE LESS TIME YOU SPEND WITH UNQUALIFIED “CASE MANAGERS” AT HOMELESS SHELTER/SERVICES PROVIDERS, THE BETTER.* This type of do-gooder can cause a lot of harm to unwitting clients, who often aren’t in a position to distinguish good advice from manure.

There are other commonsense points, of course, but it’s not my purpose here to get bogged down in details.

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*Addendum August 24, 2015: I’m going to single out one of the Housing First case managers to illustrate my last point: Chris Burns. Not only did I observe this character, a few months ago, sitting on the corner of N. Broadway & U.S. 36 with a homeless alcoholic client who was panhandling there (1175 Lee Hill case manager ‘helps’ aggressive panhandling client at N. Broadway & U.S. 36 from April 23, 2015), he has on two occasions behaved aggressively while I was waiting to cross Front Range Dr. after getting off of the SKIP bus. I’m not about to step in front of his car — not even when he stops and stares at me — because I don’t think he’s playing with a full deck. I’ll either wait him out until he passes by or I’ll walk around behind his vehicle before I cross the street. Apparently, if you’re breathing and have a pulse you’re qualified to become a case manager at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless and 1175 Lee Hill.

Boulder, CO’s enablers

DONATING TO A NONPROFIT IS NOT THE SAME AS HELPING THE HOMELESS!

By Max R. Weller

Here’s my take on the situation:

Any homeless adult who comes to Boulder, CO is fed for free several times a day; see the list of sites for yourself. In addition, almost all homeless people apply for and receive food stamps.

Emergency overnight shelter is available from October 15th through April 30th at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless or Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow (dates will vary according to weather conditions).

Free blankets, camping gear, boots, and clothing are provided by Boulder County Cares, the street outreach of BSH from October 15th through April 30th.

In fact, just look through RESOURCES FOR THE HOMELESS IN BOULDER, CO — one of the Pages at the top of this website.

What does it all mean? It means that a homeless person in our fair city has all of his/her needs met, and then some, in terms of survival on the streets. Any disposable income that homeless individual may have, and everybody has something to spend, can be applied to cigarettes, booze, and dope. This leads to misery and death, as we’ve seen repeatedly.

It’s the law of unintended consequences in action: inappropriate compassion is killing the homeless in Boulder, CO.

When winter comes, why not hand out bus tickets to the transients who have no ties in this city to other cities in a warmer clime? Ain’t nobody freezing to death in Miami, along the Gulf Coast, or in Arizona.

All you have to do is ask any transient you see here, “Why did you come to Boulder, CO?” The answer is because this is the place transients from all over America choose to gather, and the lure of so-called legal marijuana is the most frequent response you’ll get:

Isabel McDevitt looks at the homeless people who come through the doors of her so-called day center, Bridge House, and she sees two things:

1) An opportunity for more Big Money projects to benefit only a select few of the homeless; and

2) The chance to cover herself in more glory as the Daily Camera’s go-to source in re homelessness (granted, the DC had to find a new “homeless advocate” after Jim Budd was convicted of rape and sent away for 25+ years).

The woman makes me physically ill, and so do all of the other do-gooders like her.

What can be done to improve the lives of homeless people who live in Boulder County, CO year-round? Two things occur to me:

1) Require valid photo ID showing a Boulder County address from anyone seeking homeless sheltering/services; and

2) Immediately begin construction of “tiny homes” to accommodate Boulder County’s own homeless single adults. See just one report on this growing movement in truly progressive cities across the country, Homeless People Say  These 99-Square-Foot Tiny Houses Are ‘Life Changing’ from Reuters via the Huffington Post.

In other words — let’s take care of our own ASAP. The fact is, with the millions and millions of $$$ being squandered by the local nonprofits (consider the 31-unit, $6 million Housing First project at 1175 Lee Hill), every single homeless adult in Boulder could already have been housed.

An excerpt, in slightly edited form, from a post originally published on June 16, 2014.

Transient dognappers, and more

A LITTLE MORE ACCOUNTABILITY, A LITTLE LESS ENABLING

By Max R. Weller

Read Boulder woman recovers dog stolen outside library as police seek two suspects in the Daily Camera. Quoting from the article:

Police searched the Boulder Creek Path, but did not find the dog. But [Boulder PD Sergeant Fred] Gerhardt said the owner — who was also searching — discovered the dog with the two suspects at the Bridge House homeless services center near Pine Street and Broadway three hours later.

As I’ve said many times, Bridge House is a Public Nuisance and it should be shut down.

What do you do during the day after partying and roaming the streets all night? See:

Woww, of Boulder, takes an afternoon nap in Central Park in downtown Boulder on Thursday afternoon. Boulder’s ban on camping in parks and other city

Woww, of Boulder, takes an afternoon nap in Central Park in downtown Boulder on Thursday afternoon. Boulder’s ban on camping in parks and other city property allows such napping, but prohibits people from sleeping with any kind of shelter or covering. (Ryan Gooding / For the Camera)

Self-styled homeless advocates in Boulder, CO are afflicted with a sense of inappropriate compassion due to ignorance, believing that all homeless people are warm and fuzzy but misunderstood. Darren O’Connor and others of his ilk are actively promoting the misbehavior of sociopaths. I’ve lived as a homeless man here for the past 7 1/2 years, and have NEVER slept in Central Park at any time. In fact, most of us who are homeless in Boulder have NEVER slept in Central Park at any time. “Woww” needs to get a clue, and move on down the road with the rest of the transients. O’Connor can leave with the bums.

Remember, these “fringe” candidates are helping the incumbent Boulder City Council members to gain re-election:

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Are they grown-ups or 6-year-olds who have learned a new dirty word? Cha Cha Spinrad and fellow Froot Loops are seeking to get on the ballot.

The outdoor life is the best life for me:

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That reminds me, I need a new tarp after last night’s rain leaked through the one I’m using now.

Tonight at my campsite: cheese and crackers.