Getting involved with computers--on the way to going broke again--death--old friends disappearing and new friends taking their place--life constantly changing but in many ways staying the same.
Though I didn't particularly like the job at The Crabhouse I did make a few new friends like Laurie, Bob, the twins and others plus at least money was coming in though, as always, I was spending money I didn't make yet plus the car was giving me a lot of headaches. In any case I ended 1997 with the following in my diary: "weigh less than I did a year ago--not a good year with being out of work so long--hope 1998 is better when I go into semi-retirement--well at least I start collecting S.S."
As I mentioned I talked to an accountant and I put in to collect Social Security starting March 1, 1998, when I would be 62. I ran into problems from the start in that I got a lot less than I expected because when I was a waiter in the late 50s and all of the 60s I did a stupid thing by not reporting all the income I was getting in tips and salaries at that time were really bad. Also the accountant 'forgot' to tell me about the more I made at work the less I would be getting in my SS check. Adding insult to injury a few months later I got a notice that I had been overpaid and owe about $780!!!
In January Perry Lee sent me a long list of subsidized housing in the 3 counties of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. I knew I wanted to stay in Fort Lauderdale so I looked at a place on Powerline Road which was very depressing with people sitting in wheel chairs in the lobby and everything with a gray look. It was a 6 story building and would eventually be spruced up when an administrator from Gateway transferred there but at that time I knew it wasn't for me. After that I looked at another building which was on Oakland behind a hospital and was gated and with my 'parties' I knew that wouldn't work. The third place I looked at was Gateway and I knew that was it! I asked about an application and was told that it might be 2-3 years before I could get in.
It seems, reading from my diary, things were 'normal' again--a few quotes--"Car in garage--gas leak"--"Bob, James, Don, Alex, Don and I went to see "Gerry's Girls' and then Lester's"--"I waited on Adam and his friend who sings on cruise ships --Adam was the former lover of Bruce who I worked with at Dan Dowd's and threw him and Andy a wedding at the Rooftop--small world"--"Got the car back--paid cash for rental car--Tom didn't charge me to fix the car"--"Lawyer won't press suit regarding car crash"--"On February 11 Bob, Jim, Don and I had dinner at the Olive Garden and then went to see 'Carousel' and cried like a baby as I always do in the second act" .
It was on Friday, February 20, 1998, that I got a call that Perry Lee had died from cancer. I didn't even know he had been sick as he didn't say anything when I called him regarding Gateway. We had been friends for 42 years and made up what was the beginning of Joe and Albyn's family referring to us as their sons. I have always been close to Perry Lee whether we lived in the same city or 1500 miles apart. We would not see each other for long periods of time and yet when we got together it was as if we had just seen each other the day before. When I think of Perry Lee I think of a whole group of people from my past and even today I silently thank him for being responsible for me having found Gateway and moving into a place that would save me in many ways.
The following week I brought my car into Johnnie and Mack's to be painted, rust removed and dents removed which would cost about $1,200 which--Surprise Not!--I would charge.
In March I put in my application to move to Gateway, had the car painted, went into semi-retirement working only Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Nancy was in town and we had lunch at 811 Bourbon (closed) while a few days later Juan came in from Memphis and he, Jim, Bob and I had dinner at The Ark (closed) and the following week my car died and had to be towed--the day before Juan was suppose to return to Memphis we went to Tina's (closed)--it was now 31 years, a lifetime ago, since I had joined Weight Watchers and I was wondering what the next 31 years will bring and where would I be in 2129--now that was being optimistic!