a month ago i got an e-mail in my Law School account from the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at Texas A&M instructing me to fill out a general all-purpose application for scholarships.
i am already getting a full-tuition scholarship but i still have to come out of pocket for books, plus a little extra for living expenses would be nice.
also, my scholarship doesn't cover Summer or Winter-break classes and it would be nice if i could take some of those.
there were a lot of scholarships in the general application that i would not qualify for, like for engineering students or military members or people whos family went to A&M, but it said it was open to all students, even in post-graduate programs so eventually i sat down and found the time to fill it out.
there was basic demographic stuff and too short biographical essays.
i didn't take the essays too seriously because, fuck, i have so much other shit to do, but i rattled something off in fifteen minutes, just to have something to submit.
[see below]
my hope is that it is one of those situations where somebody will have money to piss away and nobody else will have applied and i'll get it by default.

the first essay asked me to “write about a significant action of yours and its results'”
i gave them the old song-and-dance about the PSE and my Big Lawsuit.
About four months into my relationship with the girl who would come to be as good as my wife, her mother committed suicide in the county jail in Reno, Nevada. My Partner's mother had made numerous serious threats and attempts to hang herself with the seat-belt while being transported to the jailhouse in police custody, the police had to pull over the transport vehicle and physically remove the seatbelt from around her neck, though, when they eventually arrived at the facility, they did not bother to report the attempt to the jail's mental health staff. This oversize was intentional, as failing to have a prisoner secured in the back of the transport vehicle is against police policy. Thirty-six hours later, my Partner's mother succeeded in killing herself by hanging. Some kind of injustice had to have been in play to make this happen. It offended me to let that stand.

My Partner was eighteen years old at the time of her mother's death. Her family did not have the means or wherewithal to begin to know how to seek justice. I was twenty-two at the time and living in my car, but I believed strongly that something ought to be done. I contacted every attorney in the phone book before finally reaching a civil rights attorney who agreed to take our case on contingency at significant cost to her herself and her co-counsel. Our case bounced around from District Court to the 9th Circuit to the 9th Circuit en banc and eventually all the way up to the Supreme Court before coming back down again and finally resulting in a jury trial. All the while our attorneys were kind and patient enough to allow me to have my hands in their work product. My Partner was much more comfortable having me deal with the attorneys and I was more then eager to do so because, like most people in their mid-to-late twenties, I knew everything. I would consult with the attorneys on strategy, read over their briefs and suggest edits, read everything I could about the concepts we were dealing with to serve as a kind of go-between to help my uneducated and disinterested Partner understand what was going on. I must have been very obnoxious, but the attorneys made me feel included because it meant their client being included.

Eventually our case came to trial in District Court. We lost. However, in the seven-year dance with the law, municipalities throughout the 9th Circuit changed their policies governing reporting suicidal ideation and removing the discretion as to whether or not to take threats “seriously” from officers. Knowing that I had some small part in the litigation that brought that about gives me satisfaction.

the second essay was biographical:
“there may be personal information that you want considered as part of your scholarship application. Write an essay describing that information. You might include exceptional hardships, challenges, or opportunities that have shaped or impacted your abilities or academic credentials, personal responsibilities, exceptional achievements or talents, educational goals, or ways in which you might contribute to an institution committed to creating a diverse learning environment.”
i blathered on about being poor.
I had the incredible good fortune to grow up in an upper-middle class family, though, after three semesters of failing my way through my first attempt at college, my Parents' money and I parted ways. I have been a poor man since I was nineteen and I consider myself fortunate for the experience. It might be unfair to consider myself a self-made man, I had the benefit of routine trips to the doctor and a top-notch public school education growing up, gifts many people do not get to enjoy, but everything except straight teeth and a high school diploma I have since had to earn on my own. This has given me both an incredible sense of pride as well as a sense of appreciation, affinity and common cause with the less-privileged among us that many of my upper-middle class-mates might not be able to understand.

I spent a fair amount of my time homeless. I lived in squats and in cars [station wagons!] though, I am fortunate enough to not have had to spend more then a few nights sleeping on the street. I have known the embarrassment of having to use my charms to convince a total stranger to let me sleep in their house. I have kept company with criminals and thieves and street people of all different stripes. I have had more then my share of free vegetarian meals from the good dumpster-diving people at Food Not Bombs and I have done my fair share of dumpster-diving myself, coming to understand the waste that consumerism sloughs off. In recent years I have taken to selling my body to science as a pharmaceutical lab rat. Several times a year I risk my liver and my kidneys to test some new experimental pharmaceutical at a Clinical Trial. I have met hundreds of other lab rats in my same situation, the working poor whos only way to support themselves and their families is to prostitute their internal organs for big pharma. Recently, my Partner has followed me down the creepy path of pharmaceutical clinical trials. It unnerves me to see her doing such dangerous work, but we are only just two or three steps removed from homelessness at any given time and I am really not in any position to object. When you begin your adult life with absolute zero, it can be a Herculean task to claw your way up to anywhere that allows you to live with some dignity.

My experiences on the wrong side of capitalism have given me an intimate appreciation for the struggle that a good hunk of the world has to contend with every single day. While I believe this is a lesson I could have appreciated intellectually from my original upper-middle class vantage point, it is not something I could have truly appreciated until I found myself in the thick of it. It is the difference between sympathy for the disadvantaged and empathy.

on the first day of Law School, i went in to the Financial Aid office, which is just one guy, a man in his early-sixties who wears bolo ties.
i caught him sleeping at his desk, sitting up with his eyes closed.
after i woke him up i asked him about the Texas A&M general all-purpose application for scholarships but he didn't seem to have any idea what i was talking about.
i'm just hoping that this sleepy motherfucker doesn't know what he is talking about and that maybe i can wrest a few dollars out of the Financial Aid coffers down in College Station.
i'm not too optimistic, but i can use all the help i can get.

//[onward ho!]

September 2017

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