I promised my new friend I wouldn't share his name or his address.
He called and left a message for me at the Villa Terraza Restaurant last Thursday evening when I was there telling stories to people -- stories about the place that had once been the Old Vienna Gardens.
When I returned his call on Friday, he started telling me his problems.
Eventually, I asked him about the reason he left me a message. It had nothing to do with the book project we're doing or the storytelling session I had promoted on several Facebook group pages.
"I saw your Facebook page," he told me, "and read that you have PTSD and ADHD, and I thought maybe you could help me."
It took him about an hour to tell me his situation. It was like no story I'd ever heard.
Most importantly, I learned that a very shy man with very serious problems had decided to trust me, a stranger, and that I might be one of the only people who could learn the whole story.
I thought he was right.
I wrote a lot about him in this blog posting, but the details provided made him afraid that someone who knows him might recognize the details, put two and two together and then report him to the authorities for things relating to him being a hoarder.
So I've removed the rest of this posting.
He asked me to.
I obliged him.
If you're returning to this blog and find that it's different from when I first posted this, you're right.
You see, when I was a child, a dog followed me home. It was a very nice dog that I would liked to have rescued. But we already had a dog and I know it would be impossible.
So I climbed a tree in front of our house and waited for the dog to give up on me and go away.
I think it took an hour, but he finally left -- and I felt sad about that.
I still feel sad about that.
I think that the experience with that little dog stayed with me because I'm always ready to help some poor soul (not just dogs) who clearly needs help. I've been burned many times, but I figure it's all part of the life of someone who wants to help people.
A couple of years ago, I put on a GoFundMe page to raise money to help a woman find shelter and maybe save up enough money to move to another state and make a new start.
I gave her all of the money that people contributed -- minus the administration fee that GoFundMe takes before they hand over the money. But everything I got went to her.
Before long, she was telling the local police department that I was stealing her money.
She had trouble understanding that the website takes a piece of it.
That was the end of that.
With regard to "Carl," I turned down people's offers of money for him. Been there. Done that.
I wrote in this blog the brittle truth about Carl's situation. What I described was the worst I had ever seen. Carl was very unhappy when he read it because he fears that, despite all of my obfuscation, someone who knows him might figure out that it's him.
So I've taken it down.
I had asked for volunteers to come to his house this coming Saturday to help clean up his front yard. However, after very lengthy phone calls with him, I fear that I'm only asking for trouble for my volunteer friends and for me.
Carl has carefully read pretty much every comment that anyone has made about the blog entry I shared to different Facebook groups. He believes that the people who suggested the police should take him into custody for a 5150 mental evaluation are his enemies or just don't like him.
To the handful of people who said they would show up to help, he has called one of them and asked for help. Frankly, I told him that I wasn't happy having him contact my friends, but he has every right to do that. If I wanted to, I could block him from accessing my Facebook account, but I don't want to do that.
I heard from some mental health professionals, some law enforcement people and some health experts who educated me, based upon what I had written about him, that he is at a very high risk of major health consequences (both physical and mental) and could very well end up as one of those hoarders whose bodies are discovered among their accumulated trash (i.e. their treasures).
I care about my new friend, but I'm not able to convince him that he needs more help than I and my friends can give. He's on the verge of having one or more government agencies rescuing him from his house, condemning it and putting him into some kind of a facility.
He is quick to ask for help, but the help he needs could put the helper's health or life in danger, considering the toxic condition in which he lives.
He was hoping that I would bring a team of volunteers to his home on Saturday, but I cannot take the responsibility of putting friends' and strangers' health at risk.
I promised him three things -- and I'll keep the promise.
1. I promised to remain his friend, even when the hammer slams down on him -- which I believe is inevitable. I told him he could call on me and I'd be someone who would listen.
2. I promised him I would remove from the blog all of the details I first wrote. I've done that.
3. I promised him that, if he's in imminent danger of losing his house (or if he just decides to let us doin it) that The Endangered History Project, Inc., or 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, would allow him to store all of his and his father's photos, slides, films, etc., so that they will not be lost. I promised him that he would retain ownership while we kept them in safe keeping.
I'm not going to drop a dime and report him. I'm not going to give up his location or his identity.
One thing I AM doing for myself is this: I'm now starting to go through all of the stuff I've collected over the years with the belief that I might use them one day. I'm throwing away or giving away or selling my own clutter.
You see, there's a hoarder inside of me and I need to take heed of the danger signals I see in Carl's tragic life.
Last night I had a dream that somehow incorporated the theme of the Charles Dickens story, "A Christmas Carol." The only difference was that, in my nightmare, I faced The Ghost of Hoarding Past, Present and Future.