November 4, 2012
“Ooh oh oh oh oh I walk the way I want to walk…. Put on Your Best Dress Baby.”
Bruce Springsteen. You’ve never been on the street? I mean literally.. for breakfast lunch, dinner and nighty night? You won’t like it. Ever been in an EMERGENCY? When you’re living beyond the home, it’s “everymergency” all the time. Brushing your teeth? Where do you keep the brush and the toothpaste? It’s crowded in those socks and they’re kind of grubby at that. Got gum disease? You might. Eaten cat food? You might. Pooped in a bucket? Yep. Played a guitar at AM/PM? Done it. Bike with trailer? Check. Wash clothes in a bucket? Uh huh. Discover most of (Br)others are borderline felons with prison (not jail) records. Great. Women end up selling themselves for money and/or dope. The “guys” steal from each other, fight, do gang tackle shoplifting at convenience stores and get serious about obtuse priorities.
Anyone with a car is instantly transformed into an all hours ghetto taxi. Don’t want to cooperate? That’s going to be trouble unless you don’t sleep.
You won’t get much notice when you’re about to become homeless. There’s a better chance of finding a local elected official dishing soup at the Mission. If you don’t mind hearing a sermon, hit the local shelter, but they’re crowded and have always been a bit austere. Women and children get priority. Suddenly your voter registration and library cards are not important. Guess what. Darkness is so much scarier than when you were a kid. You always need sleep, but… there’s usually no room or money for the Inn unless you’re really lucky.
Apple, Google and Facebook don’t matter at all and neither does the middle east. Not so bad. Nutrition is a challenge. Hungry again. Everything’s an emergency. I promise. Washed the clothes and got clean somehow? Congratulations. Noodles and rice midday followed by a nap. Eggs for breakfast are a luxury and it’s better to be close to income, groceries and open fire capability unless you’re good at trapping, etc.. Camping? Every day. Economic survival for honest folks is scavenging, recycling and the top of the heap; odd jobs, which is highly dependent on referrals.
I wrote for a local newspaper before it went out of print; business and human interest mostly. In the “yard” where we squatted in squaller, I see my “landlord” talking to the landowner. I know the landowner! I interviewed him for a local story I wrote about water resources. He owns a vineyard and is now the director of the local water district. My”landlord” is surprised I know him. Good. He is reluctant to threaten me now, and has to leave me alone. A reprieve. I am a “yard dog” living on site in a heavy equipment storage yard. The other “yard dogs” steal water from a hydrant to put in a water truck. I get to drive the crazy military surplus clunker around the lot, dumping water on the silty terrain. Broadsliding a 2 ton 6 wheel truck is almost fun. When the sun sets, I’m sleeping in a clapped out motorhome, often waking to the quaking of 5 locomotives pouring on the coal trying to make 40 mph on the way out of the Union Southern Pacific yard.
In the morning before the melting heat near Van Buren and Jurupa, in front of my “rig”, I hold a sign; “Cans and bottles please. God Bless You”. My “rig” is a bike with a trailer full of cans and plastic bottles.
I’m pushing my “rig” through the parking lot of a “Popeye’s Chicken” and a guy pulls up in a dually truck, hands me a twenty, looks me square in the eye and says, “Get yourself something to eat, and… no drinking”. Next thing I remember I’m on my knees in that parking lot, thanking God I don’t drink and practically crawling into the joint to get what at that time would be described as a feast. In one years time, I am proud enough to say I never asked anyone directly for money unless in exchange for goods or services. I’m the guy that hands the homeless guy a dollar.