5:04 am. The Candidate Never Sleeps. That’s Okay.

Dear Houston:

It’s still last night to me. Whether it’s a computer problem, another forum, another questionnaire or twelve, I’m just at it, for 18-20 hours a day.

And I’m dang tired.

My friends who’ve successfully made it into public office (and are doing great jobs) have told me that even on their hardest days, it’s nowhere near as bad as campaigning. And at this point, I truly believe that.

This campaign is honestly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if you know me, you know I’ve done some hard damn things in my life. Yet, for as much as it takes out of me, it gives back some fire. I go places and meet people and they help me learn and refine what I’m fighting for, which was always them to begin with.

The young people living with HIV. The homeless man I met two months ago, James, who works hard on his art and sells it because he’s a veteran abandoned by the system but he’s “gotta work to have a sense of self and contribution to the world.” (He created a beautiful woven piece in the course of five minutes from a fallen palm leaf, and when he tried to give it to a person five feet away from him, that guy gave him $10 for it because that’s all he had. James accepted the $10 with joy, and went to go get dinner and a bus back to the overpass.)

People like James are the ones I care so much about. I have so many homeless and formerly homeless friends – true friends – in Houston that I’ve lost count. The thing that brings me the most joy is seeing people like Paul, who people used to mock and refer to as “Forrest Gump,” resurfacing after a year with a modest bike he’d just bought with money from his job, and a dignified place to live, and clean clothes and clean hair and resources to help him get off of the substances he’d been on, and get to the business of living.

I’d thought about Paul every day for that year – he had a multitude of mental issues, and I saw the decent heart inside him waiting to get out. I couldn’t help him financially, but my now-deceased fiance was the first to reach out to him, and teach me a whole lot about the real meaning of loving your neighbor. (Paul has never forgotten Cliff’s love and appreciation, and I’m glad for that.)

When people talk about the future of Houston, we don’t really talk about people like James and Paul. We don’t talk about the guy who comes up and asks me for a cigarette outside of BB’s on $5 Gumbo Mondays – the guy who can’t remember his own name, but I remember his story every time because I’ve known him for years. We don’t talk about Virgie/Ahmed/The Artful Dodger, whose real name I do not know, but he’s one of the most talented performers I’ve ever known (he fooled 50 people into thinking he was a refugee from Kyrgyzstan, and never asked any of us for a cent… he just wanted love, a sense of belonging. When he turned up two years later as an Irishman, we enjoyed his dramatic readings of Dylan Thomas poetry that he’d memorized, and he still never asked for a cent.)

Houston is its characters. Cliff once said that “all love is built upon foundations of quicksand” – Houston, the city he loved as much as I did – is quite literally built upon foundations of quicksand. I was born in the swampland of Toledo, Ohio, and – God willin’ – I’m gonna die in the swampland of Houston, Texas. It just took me a little too long to get from one swamp to the other, had to pass through the Smokies for a few years.

Here’s one place where I disagree with Cliff, though, much as I miss him every damn day. Not ALL love is build upon foundations of quicksand… and he’d agree with me on this… if you love your city hard enough, your feet will never sink in so far that you can’t march forward.

And you can summon strength to lift people OUT of the quicksand, and put a good foundation under ’em. I intend to do just that, no matter what it takes.

Much love to you. Email me, even if it’s after November 5. ESPECIALLY if it’s after November 5. My loud mouth isn’t going anywhere.

XO,
-A.

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