For anyone who reads all of the comments on my blog posts, this will be a rehashing for you because this story was brought to my attention by my “top commenter,” Walt, in yesterday’s profile on my friend Alex.
I’ve never met Ira, a former social worker. But he’s a good friend to Walt (whom I’ve known for a couple of years now) who resides in New York City. I don’t have a photo of Ira, I found the artwork to the left when I went to Google Images and searched on the word “desperation.” This piece of art came from http://www.sito.org. Ira’s story isn’t all that unusual in “the land of the jobless,” sadly enough. And it sounds like one of very real desperation.
If you didn’t see the comments yesterday, I’ll let Walt tell Ira’s story:
“My oldest friend in the world, Ira, who has been my friend since fourth grade in P.S. 178 in Queens, NY, has been out of work for several years and is having a tough time.
“Ira has a resume that many would envy, he’s a college graduate, with a law degree, and supervisory experience in various social work agencies in the New York City area.
“Ira has written short stories, plays and poems. One of Ira’s plays is being staged in The Bronx in a couple of weeks, I’ve been to every performance of Ira’s plays. But he has realized very little money from these ventures. Ira has sold his car, sold his cat (!), sold whatever he can to raise money. When I meet Ira for lunch in Manhattan, I pick up the check. We don’t eat in very expensive restaurants.
“Ira worked for a few independent agencies that were almost totally dependent on New York state and city financial support. When that support dried up, positions were cut, and Ira’s line got chopped. This happened three times in the space of several years. Ira also had emotional troubles that landed him in the hospital, which was another nightmare. He’s been married twice, and is on good terms with both his ex-wives — something we have in common, although I’ve only been around the block once.
“He is over those problems and is the man I’ve known all my life; positive, upbeat, spiritual in his own way — he prays at the table before we eat our meal — and quite the ladies’ man. Always has been. I have often lived vicariously through Ira’s exploits with the fair sex. He has found new emotional resources as a writer, and no doubt, will grow and mature as a writer if he can keep house and home together.
“If Ira can’t find work in the field of social work, where he has experience up the wazoo, well, times are real tough out there. Ira has asked his landlord if he will accept partial payment for January’s rent, and is trying everything he can to raise money. I have helped Ira out before and I’ll continue to help him.
“I consider our friendship to be of utmost importance and I don’t want to take friendship for granted, it’s too precious a thing, especially since a good friend of 35 years died a few years ago and I have a very small circle of friends.
“Ira is my age (58) and has been through quite a lot in his life, many trials and travails. I am among the most fortunate of people in that I have a certain, though tenuous, degree of financial security, thanks to the savings and investments that my mother — RIP — left to me and my brother and sister.
“I don’t deserve this peace of mind, so many others are so much more deserving than I, but it is what it is, and I am grateful beyond my ability to express myself.”
Walt didn’t come up with a song to fit his friend Ira’s situation. But here’s one that I heard on the radio while driving yesterday afternoon, thinking about Ira’s story, that just hit me the right way. Talking about fighting for your meals …
Here’s a “bonus video” that won’t embed in this blog. Click here to watch it.
And when you’re done with that video, hit the “Back” button on your browser and watch this Bowie moment.
I would encourage anyone who knows people in similar circumstances — long-term jobless either now or in the recent past, aggressively searching in order to turn their lives around — to get in touch with me so I can share their stories as well. I’ll get into the causes of their unemployment, and — as I’ve shared so intimately in my own posts — the feelings that go on inside of them as they face their individual struggles.
If you know of anyone, send me a message on Facebook here.
This nation needs to start thinking about putting politics aside for good and start solving the problems for real.