Homeless? Or Just Camping Outside In a Big City?
Last night I decided to turn down the offer from Couchsurfing. I would’ve only been staying there one night and I didn’t want to delay what I saw as inevitable. So, after going back to Marcia’s one last time to gather up everything and to pack my knapsack, I headed out beneath the lights of Venice Beach to find a place to ‘camp‘. — You’re never homeless when you realize the whole damn planet is here for you to live on.
So it isn’t being ‘homeless‘, it’s just that ‘you’re camping outside in a city for a while and your tent happens to be a tarp’.
My plan was to scout out the marina, see if and when a patrol boat went around, and then find a boat far enough out of sight that I could sleep without being disturbed. To get to there I took the bike path that goes past the bird sanctuary, hoping either I could get over the fence and into the bird sanctuary (I saw industrial-sized rat cages in there) or find a place off to the side of the bike path. The bike path is lined with bushes and there’s a small hill before one long fence that separates the bike path from private backyards. The whole area is dark and quiet and I saw plenty of bushes and trees that would’ve hidden me from sight and made decent places to ‘camp’. I thought about leaving my knapsack here while I went to explore the marina but I saw a couple of old food containers lying around with empty 40’s: classic homeless refuse. I’m by myself out here and I’m not sleeping anywhere near crack-addicts or the otherwise mentally-disturbed, let alone leaving all my meager belongings somewhere where these fine society-folk congregate.
I kept an eye out for places to hunker down, mentally marking the woods near a road-work site, dark spots on the beach and a little nook formed by bushes and tennis-courts. I made it to the marina around eight and people were out everywhere, out for dinner and out to get their shoes shined or whatever else the well-off and fancy do. Point is, there were a lot of people walking around and a kid with a big knapsack isn’t inconspicuous: getting onto a boat won’t be possible until much later at night. I told myself I’d wait till the morning when I could stash my knapsack somewhere safe and then go explore the marina. I went back to the nook I’d spotted.
The nook was just off the sidewalk, up a small hill of shrubs and behind a line of six-foot-tall bushes. The bushes began where the wall of a round, concrete building ended and I could see a small gap between the bushes and the wall for me to slip through. I hadn’t any idea what the building was, it was circular and concrete and had no visible doors or windows. On the other side of this building, though, were a couple of tennis courts, and behind the bushes the cornering of two fences from these tennis courts formed this nook. All of this was out in front of a very expensive looking hotel, one you would imagine had marble floors and chandeliers and famous people snorting very expensive cocaine from the asses of very expensive hookers in a hot tub in a crystal suite on the top floor (praise to the specifics!) This nook of mine was a twelve by five-foot concrete slab hidden from view from the hotel and the street. Better still, I didn’t see any empty 40’s or bags of trash.
I had way too much fun setting up ‘camp’. I felt like an eight year old building a blanket fort in his living room, except that I was twenty-four, had only a tarp and string and a sleeping bag, and was in fact sleeping outside in a city instead of a living room. But still, fun it was. I spent at least half an hour testing all the different ways I found I could string a tarp to a fence. I wound up stringing two corners of the tarp about waist-high to the fence on the right and tied a third corner to the fence in front of me, but way down at the bottom of the fence.
I stayed warm in there and fell asleep rather quick, but every so often I’d wake up with a sore hip or a sore elbow and have to shift around on the concrete till I got comfortable. And traffic kept coming by, which I’d expected, but I was hoping that from hearing it for the past two weeks in Marcia’s apartment it would have become something like white-noise. The brief periods of silence between waves of traffic were tranquilizing and I imagined a long stretch of empty pavement and streetlights in the dark and this is how I fell asleep. Until I woke again to shift around. I felt safe here, something I’d realized was very important, because the next morning when I went back along the bike trail I saw several people covered up sleeping. In a round thicket of rose bushes on the side of a hill and under a willow tree (it looked very romantic) I noticed a burrow had been carved out and in the opening I could see a purple bag. Someone was sleeping inside the rose bushes that I was so going to sleep next to.
I spent all day trying to find a job. Walgreen’s went well and the manager said she was going to hire me and then she mentioned I needed to take a drug test. This is when I realized I wouldn’t be a dazzling Walgreen’s employee after all. I spent the rest of the day hunting out places of employment and places of head resting. My spot to sleep tonight? Along a promenade on the marina is an apartment building with thick, tall bushes in front of it. There’s about four feet of space between bush and wall. That’s where I’ll curl up. Luckily, I found a big round roach on the sidewalk and stole some candy from the dollar store. Maybe I’ll be happy when I go to sleep tonight.
— Check back in a day or two for the next story in the Reasons To Run series.