The Wanderlust Misfit

Don't Run From Anything, Run Towards Everything

Archive for the category “Vagabonding”

Urban Wildlife

People travel to the African savanna to take safaris, to see creatures they’ve only seen on TV; company-planned excursions to the outskirts of the Amazon for a glimpse of a lemur and that time your aunt saw a moose in a state park. They ponder all the facts the tour-guides tell them, reading brochures and snapping photos, attempting to soak up the strangeness to forever keep in memory the time they stepped out of their living-rooms, through the door and visited the wild.

But if you’re up to it, you haven’t the need to get on a plane.

Los Angeles (and most other cities) is full of nomads, vagabonds, homeless bums and mind-bent street walkers; gypsies who prowl the streets and beggars sifting through dumpsters, the head-full-of-crack taking half empty sodas from the trash and the discontent youth combing the boardwalk for spare change. Call these the wildlife.

I managed to meet a handful of a people whose own innate discomfort with the world (be this insanity or simply heightened morals) have led them to their only available salvation: the wild. Here are a few of the more memorable folks, in no specific order.

1.) Geoffrey. He wasn’t poor, or even unemployed. Heck, if you’ll allow for a car you could say he wasn’t even homeless. So what was he? Extremely frugal. Geoffrey had dropped out of highschool, never gone to college, and now, at the age of 23 was filming commercials for companies like Apple and M&M Mars. He was making more money than both his parents — he wanted success out of spite. And he wanted to travel. To vagabond, to be precise, through southeast Asia for a couple of years. And so he was saving up; had bailed out the apartment he’d been chipping in for and sold off his belongings, hanging onto a few changes of clothes and his camera, eating peanut-butter sandwiches and dry cereal. He’d been at it for six months when I last talked to him. He’d spent the first week driving around after work to find a safe place to park each night to sleep. It was an abandoned parking lot and he’d been sleeping there every night for a couple of months, before anyone else began parking there. He woke one morning to find the lot full, and for weeks after that, every morning, the lot was full, people in suits getting out of their cars, standing around with coffee talking. There was even a security guard at the gate. For weeks the same car parked next to him and every morning Geoffrey would see the same guy there, and the guy always noticed Geoffrey though it took them a couple of weeks before they spoke. Eventually they said hello and as it turned out the lot was being used for the production crew of Californication. The man Geoffrey was talking to was the director. He thought it was awesome how Geoffrey was saving up: instead of being homeless because of addiction he was homeless out of frugality. Geoffrey got to be good friends with the director, and the guard even gave him donuts some mornings.

2.) Mark and Craig. These guys go together. They weren’t ‘to-gether’ but I seldom saw them apart. They were close buddies, and that’s how a lot of the guys (and ladies) out there go about it, by having someone to watch their back, because even in a place as laidback as Los Angeles, where even the hungry won’t hurt a fly, you still find the bat-shit-crazies who become ferociously indignant at the most innocent of offenses. These guys hungout a lot at The Talking Stick, a cafe in Venice Beach hospitable to the homeless. They only ever came on Mondays and Wednesdays though, the open-mic nights. Mark was on crutches, a bad fall from a fence that broke his ankle and had him wearing a boot. He was dirty, small jawed and grumpy. Craig was more amicable. The first time I met them I was sitting in the cafe writing and the two of them showed up and dropped there several bags right next to the front door. They were haggard, but they were out there laughing. Craig sat down and spread butter on a roll and Mark attempted to ride a skateboard. I scoffed at this and Craig saw me so I jokingly made the motion for him to shove Mark. Craig shoved the kid with the broken ankle on the skateboard. The open-mic began, terrible covers of The Doors and the Grateful Dead and an emcee who thought he was way more entertaining than anyone should have ever let on. Then Craig got up there, nice black dress shirt baggy and untucked and a dirty pair of baggy Dockers. He got up there and rapped and the place loved it. It was energetic, rhythmic and completely unlike anything anyone did before him. There was a girl sitting behind me by the door. She got up and started swaying around, dressed all in tight-fitting gray sweats, hood up, throwing her body this-way-that and really getting into it. Towards the end of Craig’s bit she’d begun knocking a stool around, holding the top of the stool and rocking it and as Craig picked up the momentum she wound up throwing the stool. She caught herself half-way but it was too late and the stool flew into the luckily empty stools next to it. I liked her. I thought she was mad. But back to Craig. So after he went the lameness continued and I sat there writing and at one point (the cafe was dark) he came over and squatted down next to me. I knew he wanted to say something so I began, ‘that was pretty sweet up there.’ ‘Thanks, I appreciate it. You a writer?’ — Well, this is how he asked me if I wanted to write something for him, which I never did (I was busy). He’d wanted me to write lyrics for him and after the cafe closed we were outside talking. He rapped around a lot, malls and cafes, nothing big, and just kept writing lyrics and trying to get himself out there. He had a wife and a daughter but he never mentioned where they were. Him and Mark had been homeless for a number of years and all he wanted to do was rap. And that’s all he did. I saw them around a number of times at the Talking Stick and they were always out front, their bags next to the door and they were always talking with people, always entertaining a crowd. They knew the usuals and had no problem walking in and striking up a conversation with, whoever. Even complete strangers. It’s how they ate. Call them con-men; they’d get a conversation going and walk away with half a sandwich. That’s better than I’d been eating. I admired it, the brazenness, even if I couldn’t agree with it, but if you’re hungry morals can wait. What I really admired though was the openness, the ability to be so open and truthful with any stranger so as to briefly let them into your life — even it was just a means to an end. He was into drugs though, they both were. You could see it in their pale faces when their eyes hung dull and open pimples wouldn’t heal, just get bigger and more red.

3.) Along one of the main streets was an abandoned auto-dealership on a corner. Right next to the front door, for a couple of weeks these two guys slept there. I never caught their names but we talked a few times. I saw them along the boardwalk one day and they were happier than I remembered. They shouted hey as I approached and said hello. There was a movie shooting going on and behind them in the parking lot was where the production crew was parked. The stars’ trailers were there and so too were tables full of food. They each already had a couple of styrofoam containers of sandwiches and crackers and eggs and bacon (it was the morning) and they told me what they did so I too could help myself. They showed me where to wait, just out of sight next to a bench where I could look normal and keep an eye for the table to be clear without seeming suspicious. That was it. Actually, I stood off to the side and they waved when the coast was clear. I hadn’t my knapsack with me (it was on a roof), and they waved and I casually walked over, took a styrofoam tray and casually but while trying to be quick about it, piled as much bacon and fruit and fried ham and eggs into this thing as I could. My heart was pounding in my stomach because I was new to blatant theft, but again about morals being useless when you’re hungry, and I got out of there and feasted with, Volt, I think, was one of their names, anyway.

4.) Tall Lanky Black Man. It was a rainy morning walking along the empty boardwalk in Venice. When I got towards the north end I began to see garbage all over, surrounding the garbage cans (of which there are many) as if someone had been pulling the trash out of each one. The boardwalk here was full of homeless folks, shopping carts with trash bags full of belongings and piles of dirty clothes. They sat in front of the closed shops, on the benches and the walls and they were all talking and hanging out. Well, a tall lanky black man and this small (by comparison) white man were talking. It was a calm conversation about what they each had to do that day. Then it got heated. The black guy said something about all of the trash and the white guy casually said he did it. The first guy told him to pick it up and the second guy said no, he had things to do. The tall black guy ended up putting his size to benefit, yelling and threatening this other guy who was the sole reason the boardwalk was such a mess, for he was the little asshole that’d gone and pulled all the trash out. I thought he was going to get his ass kicked, the way the black man got right next to him looking straight down at him yelling, shoving him and telling him he was going to pick it all up, right there right now. He did. The little white man began picking up all of the trash and when the tall guy came over to where the rest of the homeless had been sitting watching, the tall guy got much praise. ‘I’m a tall motherfucker. It’s good to put my size to work at times. It gets things done, and that little fucker is going to pick up every last piece of trash, so help me. This is our home. You can’t just come in and make a mess, I don’t care who you are.’ Respect.

I know people have wilder stories. Let’s here them! Comments or leave links, whatever. Converse!

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Walking

Last night I decided I would walk to LAX; it isn’t a far walk, I saw the map on Google and judged the distance myself: some buildings and streets here, a little swatch of bare ground there, and then the airport. Simple.

Well, it took me two and half hours longer than I’d expected, but I didn’t seem to notice. I have this thing where, once my feet start moving, so too does my head. My shoes’ll walk and my head’ll talk. Feet and networks of neurons wandering simultaneously. It passes the time quickly.

I wrote how, over the past few days, I was feeling rather morose, like stuck in the sludge of despair with no way to pull myself out. Walking turned that around. After about an hour I’d walked far enough south that I didn’t recognize anything around me and felt as though I were walking with feathers. Though, for whatever reason I decided to bring my knapsack with me, and that I regretted (it weighed in at forty-five pounds at the airport). But oh well. Walking gets me high, especially when I’m surrounded by things I haven’t seen before. Even if it’s just Starbucks and pizzerias and mundane city streets, the layout is different, the people are different, the whole place is different and everything feels, just, new. And exciting. And wildly breathtaking. So that after a while I’m looking with diamond-cut eyes turned up at the tops of the buildings and houses in a heart-pounding, nonsensical awe. But everything is absolutely wonderful. And everybody stops to talk.

Try this as a mind-fuck of a thought-experiment. Imagine yourself as being on an alien planet, without having ever heard of aliens or ever having left the neighborhood you grew up in. But the whole time you were desperately anxious for experience. And you find yourself on an alien planet where everything around you, the buildings, the plants, the geography, the creatures, everything is nothing you’ve ever seen before. Let everything absolutely, purely amaze you and fill you with child-like wonder.

Try it. Liquor and pot help.

Walking’s a blast. The mind and the eyes simultaneously scoping unknown regions of space and time and you become enthralled knowing that all exists. What’s down this road? What are they doing in this building? I wonder if they’re cooking dinner or fucking on a new bed? So many places of infinite possibilities. Keep in mind the idea that if you can’t see a region of space, than anything could be going on in there. I wonder what’s behind this door? It’s the reincarnation of Lincoln. Who knows? Wonder at it. And while you’re at it go read Reasons to Run. It’s just to the right   ====>

plane tickets and moving again: Replanning

I had been feeling pretty awful, not depressed or anything, just helpless. And I had lost all drive to write. It all stemmed from realizing the helplessness of my situation, that I was doomed to the street and would have to eat out of the garbage or panhandle and beg and that I wasn’t going to find a job because every day out here my clothes get dirtier. That’s what I was down about. I felt I no longer had control, was stuck in this, and this helpless feeling killed all drive to write — that’s how it works. Yesterday I was emailed a plane ticket back home. That changed everything. I didn’t feel proud about having to go back to my parents for help but if I didn’t want to eat out of a garbage, it’s all I had to do. The immediate effect on my mood was stark. As if a black shadow lifted off me I felt myself brighten, excited by the prospect of getting the fuck out of Los Angeles — as much as I love it. The helpless feeling that I’d been mired in washed away and suddenly motivation was driving me again. The only thing — I had to print out the tickets. And I only had one dollar left.

Of course this didn’t go over easily.

I spent an hour and a half in the public library trying to print out the emailed tickets. I had to wait for people to spend 45 minutes on the 15 minute computers, try to get the librarian to show me why nothing was working, argue to get my seventy-five cents back because the printer twice refused to print out a very important section of the email, and finally I gave up, left with half the email printed and only twenty-five cents left in my pocket.

My flight isn’t until Friday morning but I decided I would go today to the airport to work everything out, make sure I’d be able to get on the plane. The walk turned out to be a lot farther than I’d intended (about five miles). GoogleMaps seems to do that a lot to me. But walking lets me sort my head out, and here’s what I came up with:

I’m not proud about taking the easy way out; there’s a part of me that wishes I’d stayed and toughed it out, gotten a job and worked my way back east like I’d planned. But I decided this isn’t the time for that. I need to write, and spending all day looking for jobs and scraps of food isn’t helping. Hitchhiking out to California was absolutely amazing and I in no way regret coming out here when I did. I only wish I’d gone about it differently. What I should’ve done: been a responsible adult for once and actually saved a good amount of money while I was working in Ohio; then, either hitchhiked back east before the money ran out or spent the first week in LA doing nothing but finding a job. What I actually did: blew all my Ohio money on beer and spent the first week in LA writing instead of finding a job. So here’s the new plan: Go back east for the holidays to finish writing The Road Paved With Madness, like I had planned, but this time also finish up the series of short stories. I now get to start all of this a month earlier then planned, which means, come warm weather, I’ll be able to hitchhike back out to LA even sooner in the Spring. After I finish the series and the novel I’ll go back to Ohio, save up GOOD money, then hitchhike back out, immediately get a job washing dishes (not many places hire in the off-season, but come Spring…) and continue to live in the streets. I’m going to go all in, finally. I decided I enjoyed being an ever-filthy vagabond and that is was the being dirt poor broke that got to me, the not-having-food-to-eat. It’s amazing, really, because when you have food hunger is a lot less bearable; when you know you can’t eat you don’t get hungry so often. So, I want to live on the streets but have enough money to eat a little bit each day. So I’m going to work the minimum amount of hours I can. I’m only going to work to eat. Fuck rent. The bushes were free. I want as much time as I can possibly have to write write write and meet other writers and vagabonds and poets alike and wander the streets in a gorgeous daze feeling everything at once with the inside of my chest and only live and write. This is the only way I can see to do that. I’ll work maybe ten hours a week and live and eat and ramble with the wildlife along the sidewalks of Venice. And of course, blog it all.

Wednesday, Nov 7th — Ranting, Lunatics?

Last night after I realized I was stuck on the street, I cracked. I was piss-broke and I cracked and sent an email to my parents asking for a plane ticket home. The plane ticket came through this morning via email. I have to go print it out and hope that my last dollar is enough.

Yesterday after I showered at St. Joseph’s I signed up for a meal. I’m hungry and sick tired of peanut-butter sandwiches. I walked to St. Joseph’s this morning and the man at the counter gave me directions to a small restaurant a few blocks down. You can’t see the ‘restaurant’ from the street but it’s on a corner and I saw a couple of street-sleepers straggling around to the alley. I followed. In the back of the building is an overhang and then a door with a metal-bar gate. Some people were waiting around the door, sitting or standing and looking worn-out weary. A woman in front of me walks over to the gate and the man sitting closest to the door stands up and holds it open for her.

‘What, are you just opening it because I’m a woman?’ She puts her hands on her hips.

‘I’m being a gentleman!’

‘Yeah, but you’re not opening for everybody, obviously.’ She juts her hip out to the side.

‘You can hold it for me –‘ The man holds it open and I walk inside. The ‘restaurant’ is one room the size of a two-car garage. Tables are set out, napkins and utensils and chairs, but the room lacks the comforts and furniture, the nick-knacks and picture frames of a for-business restaurant. The place looks bare, naked. I see a man walking around setting out cups and I get his attention.

‘You have to wait outside. Are you signed up? Okay, yes, what we do is we have everyone wait outside and then at 9:30 we open the doors. And you can sit down where ever you want, we’ll bring the food out to you. All we ask is that you clear your place.’

I walk back out. More people have arrived. I walk through the crowd by the door and into the alleyway to smoke a cigarette. The woman is still arguing about the door. Her face is dirty, she’s mid-forties and she has thick, blonde hair past her shoulders. She’s wearing a jacket and a skirt, skinny smooth tan legs. She’s surrounded by men. They’re bickering about the differences between men and women, serious but joking in a flirtatious sort of way. She had a big mouth that didn’t close and she’d egg them on, then they would volley retorts and gender-specific insults, and the man who had originally held the door open, he wouldn’t stop talking and the woman would put her back to him so that she was facing the other men, twirl her hair and make her hand talk in mimicry. Then she’d say, “Yeah, right, Okay. Whatever. Mm-hm. Sure.’ She was loving it, egging them on to keep their attention, soaking up the attention like a school-girl being flirtatiously teased by the popular boys.

Along the back of the building was a fence. There was a man sitting here, perhaps twenty-seven years old. He had an average build, brown hair, a friendly face, and his t-shirt was worn thin and ripped wide around his neck, his baggy black pants covered in mud and ripped along the back of both pants from foot to knee. He was sitting on the fence talking and talking between periods of sedated concentration, but there wasn’t anybody in front of him.

‘How is it in the desert? How is the Salt Lake? Can you transmute for me? Transcend and send me the energy because I have none.’ He sat there talking as if it were an ordinary conversation, his face relaxed and serious. ‘Can you reach the Death Star in my dimension? I’m stuck here, transmute me the energy.’ Then his eyes closed and his elbow rested on his lap, his hand upturned as if a bowling ball were placed in it, his fingers straining against an unknown force and his face tightening to a strenuous grimace, his whole body began to shake. Then he relaxed. ‘I could not receive it. The energy was cut off by an unknown force. Destroy all life-forms in the empty void.’ Destroy all life-forms in the empty void. That really got me.

For breakfast we had Spaghetti Obama. I sat next to a tall black man who wasn’t much older than thirty-five. He told me he used to be a boxer. He was very friendly and spoke with an accent so that I assumed he had immigrated here when he was a teenager. I forget his name and he told me that boxing, that being in the ring and trying to read the other boxer while being punched, that this had knocked something loose in his head so that he could now read everyone, feel them, he said. He explained it like being in the woods and searching for someone or an animal. You can’t see them but all of your senses are heightened and you see over here and over here, everywhere at the same time. You cannot see but you can feel it, you can feel them and where they are. That is how it is, he said. He proceeded to read the three of us at the table with him. You, he said to me, you are out there. You, you will never change, and you are uninteresting. We all laughed.

Tuesday, November 6th

The job hunt is turning out worthless. And I’m just about out of money. Walgreens and Freebird Burritos have both told me I have the job, pending the return of my background checks. Freebird Burritos has been waiting TWO WEEKS for my background check. They emailed the head office, or whoever is in charge of the checks, and it turned out they never received it. So although I’ve been guaranteed the job, I can’t start there for another week at the least. Walgreens. It sounds like I passed the piss-test but them too, waiting on this damn background check for over a week! I”M HUNGRY! Just hire me already. Fucking bureaucracy bullshit. I went back to the Brick and Mortar restaurant, talked with the assistant manager (who was young and very attractive with a sleeve-tattoo, that’s the kind of cool-ass restaurant it is) who said she’d email me tomorrow about the job, busing tables. Only problem is the restaurant is about two miles from the marina and my clothes are really getting grimy — I don’t know if they’re expecting me to look clean and nice. I have one dollar left. I spent the other dollar on a loaf of bread and you bet I’m still looking through trash cans for food. Awesomely, I found half a pack of cigarettes in one of the garbages.

Here’s where I stand: hungry and worn-out, penniless and grimy and ready to get off the street. It takes a toll on you, the helplessness of the situation like a tide of stagnant sewage water that keeps rising when your feet are stuck in the mud. Sitting at the Talking Stick with my laptop I sent Marcia a text via Facebook.

‘hey. what time do you get out of work tonight?’

‘What is your cell phone not working?’

‘Nope. Out of minutes. I was going to see if i could come back to your couch. only for a couple of days though, i’m getting a plane ticket back. I stopped by earlier but i didn’t see your car so i figured you had work.’

‘Yeah… my couch isn’t available though… Sorry.’

‘Eff! what is someone else staying on it?’

I considered this the end of our friendship. I don’t know exactly what happened but it was very disappointing, disheartening. Knowing that I now had nowhere to turn and was stranded to the streets. Perhaps she thought I was using her for a place to sleep. Maybe she really took it hard when I told her she was overly pessimistic, a ‘debbie-downer’ with a total lack of self-esteem whose negativity was driving people away from her (I’d only said this to her after she’d lamented how her roommates kept moving out on her. She didn’t understand why and after spending a few days thinking it over, that was the conclusion I’d derived). Or, maybe it was because I told her I would totally sleep with her roommate, who she hates.

But mostly I think it was disappointment. I think she was imagining me as a sort of ‘knight in shining armor’ who was going to come make her happy, take her out to dinner and be real romantic and such. Text messages and phone calls over the past year and half have led me to thinking this. I think she was anticipating a romantic relationship between us, and once she realized this wasn’t going to be, that’s when she began to pull away, took back the offer of me riding her bike and soon thereafter, sleeping on her couch. This is all a bummer, but honestly, she herself was quite a bummer so I cannot say this is the most terrible thing, but it is saddening that I’ve lost a friend. Seems that changes in the past two years were not surmountable.

I’ll go curl up behind the bushes now.

Monday, Nov 5th — Surprise!

I’ve been worrying every morning that someone is going to see me and call security, or, even worse, the cops. So every morning as I’m crouching behind the bushes waiting and listening I see in my head how my sleeping bag and clothes are going to be gone when I return in the evening, how the hole in the bushes is going to be patched up, or how there is going to be a group of concerned citizens waiting for me with torches and tasers ready to fry the homeless kid.

This is the worst part of the day. The sun has just risen and the marina glows orange. The bushes are thick so that only a little light gets through and I’m crouching there in the dim shade, unable to see the promenade or if anyone is coming. All I can do is listen, listen and wait, hope for the coast to be clear. I hear two people coming up and I sit still, letting them pass. When I can no longer hear their squeaking shoes I make sure I hear nothing else — it’s just the rocking of the yachts. The branches swish and rustle as I crouch through the opening in the bushes and hop down from the wall; my sneakers make a smacking sound as they hit the promenade. Damnit! I’ve jumped out right in front of a woman walking her Scottish-terrier. Quickly I take out my cellphone and pretend to be busy, pretend there’s nothing wrong here; a nonchalant elbow resting on the wall. ‘Hey Mark, it’s Brian. Yeah. I checked the sprinklers, they all seem to be fine. Yup. The nozzles and pipes, got ’em. Check.’ The woman’s mouth fell open, red tongue white teeth, and she used her hand to close it, walking by with a quickened pace and never taking a second glance. She had jumped when I came out of the bushes and this rattled the big brown sunglasses on her over-tanned face. She left her glasses stay crooked on her face and she kept walking, too surprised to even look back. There’s no one else out yet and I get away without being seen twice. But I’m going to have to start waking up before the sun, I suppose.

I have a white plastic bag with me with peanut butter and bread in it. The St. Joseph Center, where I’d visited yesterday, opens at 8:30 and I planned to get there and see if they had showers. Their webpage said they did. I get down there around eight o’clock and I sit out on the front steps and make myself a couple peanut butter sandwiches, saying hello good-morning to the passers-by. Well-dressed employees are walking in and out and there is a couple homeless people gathered around, waiting for the center to open. One of the guys, he’s drinking a coffee and he’s one of those obviously insane homeless you see. He’s talking to someone who isn’t there, walking around doing stretches with his morning Starbucks in his hand while his other hand, the fingers gently dance and prod in the air as he talks and sings.

At eight-thirty I walked inside. ‘Hi, what can I do for you?’ asked the security guard at the desk. ‘Is this a homeless shelter?’ ‘We have services for the homeless.’ ‘Are there showers here?’ ‘No, but if you’re looking for showers, you can go here, to the St. Joseph on Lincoln.’ The guard slid a business card across the counter. ‘Where on Lincoln?’ ‘Just go out here to Rose, go all the way to Lincoln and make a right. It’s… two blocks down, on your left.’ ‘And they have showers there?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Awesome! Thanks a lot!’ I was looking filthy and  I realized I need to clean up before trying to find a job.

The St. Joseph Center on Lincoln is a featureless, square building with the front windows and door barred shut. It’s on a corner and around the side, in the back, I can see a handful of dirty-clothed people mulling around smoking cigarettes. I walk to the back and find the door, go inside and get in line. I’m standing in a square room with folding chairs lined up, a few tables to the side, and a line of homeless people waiting to check in at the front desk. The front desk is a podium with a computer chained to it, a young man with glasses taking everyone’s information. The podium is in a doorway and behind him I can see more rooms, a counter with a sink, cabinets and a telephone. There’s a security guard in a t-shirt standing next to him. I sign in, tell him I need a shower and to do laundry, and he tells me the shower is full for the day but that if I’d like to wait I can shower if someone doesn’t show up. Also, the washing machine is broken. Ok, fine, I say. Would you like to sign up for a meal? No, that’s okay. The man gives me a funny sideways eye when I said no, as if he all of sudden didn’t think I was homeless.

There were a few people I recognized, whom I’d seen walking around or hanging out at the boardwalk. Most of the people here were older, mentally deficient drug-abusers but there were a few younger people my age. I thought about saying hello, introducing myself and perhaps befriending a few people, but I was in my head, introverted and not in the mood to open my mouth. I watched the people come in and out, lolling about in line, feet up in chairs sleeping with jackets over their heads. This was a colorfully despondent bunch. Bicycles laden with spare toaster parts, filthy clothes and grime-stained duffle bags, baggy, ripped clothing and the smell of weeks’ old body-odor like a crusted layer of stench that reaches the nostrils with a head-shaking backyard-rotten stench. When the bathroom door opened you could smell the stale piss, and also I saw there was a shower in there. I grabbed my plastic bag, which was filled with toiletries as well as my breakfast, and I went in, shut the door and hurriedly showered. I was only in for five minutes, but still there was a banging on the door. I showered quick and cold, got dressed and slipped out the back door. Outside there was a skinny black man sitting on the curb, smoking a cigarette and yelling to nobody about the dangers of public urination.

 

Sunday Night

I kept my eyes open for food on my way to print resumes. I’d gotten thirsty, and with my water bottles empty I stopped when I noticed a fast-food soda cup with its top and straw sitting on a newspaper dispenser. I opened it. It looked clean, no junk in it and it was Hawaiian Punch. I took a sip. Mixed heavily with vodka. I thought about it for a moment, decided against it, and put it back down.

At Office Max they had a display of candy next to the register. I dropped the plastic bag I was carrying right at the bottom of the display and, after handing the employee my thumb drive for him to print from, I pretended to look through the bag and quickly knocked a container of gummy worms into it. Then stood back up, and feigned the realization that my wallet had been in my back pocket after all. I walked out feeling a little haughty, pleased with my craftiness… at stealing a thing of gummy worms. A bit lame, but I’m hungry and broke and I’ll take what I can get. But now, just like the Sunday prior, came the enticement of lascivious pleasures and I decided to delve into the Dionysian.

On my way back I picked up the Hawaiian Punch and walked over to the beach. I got a buzz while I watched the sunset and devoured the gummy worms.

When I’m drinking I often have quick thoughts, single lines that pop out of nowhere (or everywhere) and I’m often compelled to write them down. These lines usually have a strange way of describing the general feeling I’m in at the moment. Here’s one of the lines I jotted: The only ones who deserve everything are the ones who have truly had nothing. To get deeper into it, I’m going to go ahead and say that that line is an admittance of the perceived undeserving of so much prosperity, security, comfort and luxury. But this is all the topic of another post.

When I got to the promenade there was a nearby yacht with older folks hanging out on the deck, drinking and talking. I had to wait around for them to disappear, so I sat down on the bench and spent an hour filling pages in the notebook. Then I crawled into my bushes and slept away my drunk.

Sunday, Nov. 4th

Click-uck… tsssssss  

I’m laying in my sleeping bag in the dirt, using my coat as a jacket and my eyes open, wondering what the hell this sound is, and why I’m getting wet. Then I realize. I jump up and frantically look around, grab one of my gloves and stick it over one of the sprinklers that have just popped up out of the dirt. I can’t find the other glove. I’m getting soaked. Fuck it. I yank the tarp out from under my sleeping bag and pile it on top of the other sprinkler that’s getting everything wet. Then, wet sleeping bag and wet face, I lie back down and go back to sleep. That was five in the morning.

When I woke up again the sun was well in the sky. I got dressed quick as I could, pausing whenever I heard someone walking by. Climbing out of the bushes was a bit trickier because one of the sprinklers had built up a puddle in the bushes where I was getting in and out. I peeked out, waited till a jogger went past, and quickly hopped out. I walked over to Marcia’s apartment building where I was keeping my knapsack on the roof. I had that dim worry in the back of my head that someone was going to find it but I pushed it aside and sure enough my bag was fine, still hidden beneath the air-duct. I knew hardly anyone ever went up there and the bag was out of sight from the patio, and no homeless people, besides me of course, could ever get up there without knowing the pass-code. Worry for nothing. I dugout a plastic bag and threw in bread, peanut butter, water bottle and notebook. I wasn’t planning on job-hunting today. My legs were aching from foot to butt, stiff and sore from walking so much last night and I figured I’d take it easy, eat breakfast on the beach, nap, read, write, whatever I felt like. And I had to get more resumes. And sew my pants.

Other than sore legs I was feeling pretty good. I was getting good at the vagabonding. Last night had been a lot of fun, stealing pastries and old pizza and leftover soy beans. Walking down Venice Boulevard towards Abbot Kinney I kept my eye on the trashcans, and sure enough there they were: soybeans in a plastic container. It appears people in Los Angeles like to sell soybeans and nobody likes to eat them. I grabbed the container out of the trash and dropped it in my bag. I sat on a grassy knoll by the beach and made a couple of peanut butter sandwiches to eat with the soybeans I’d found. I finished up and walked over to the beach.

My pants, which were light gray and getting noticeably filthy on the thighs from the sweat of so much walking, were splitting open at the crotch. I’d sewn them up once before and out of laziness let the hole keep growing until it was all too large for decency. I laid out the small micro-fiber army towel Tony had given me and sat down to sew my pants up. It took about an hour and a half. Sitting there in short-shorts my glowing white thighs caught quite the glowing red burn. No big deal. I sewed the crotch and the hole in the front and got dressed. I was in bad need of a shower, I was getting filthy from sleeping in the dirt and I knew this would make it all the harder to find a job. A couple days before, after sleeping on the cement, I wiped myself all down with baby-wipes, the shower-in-a-napkin miracle. I had brought a bar of soap with me and I was going to shower under one of the shower heads they have outside next to the bathrooms, but I wussed out. I put my pants back on and went over to Office Max for more copies of my resumes.

Actually, I took a detour on the way to Office Max. I wanted to check out St. James in Santa Monica to see if they had showers. I saw online they had services for the homeless. What I didn’t see online was how they aren’t open Sundays. Not a big deal. 8:30 Monday morning I’ll be there. I took Rose East till it met with Lincoln. I was still keeping my eyes open for possible food and as I was walking down Lincoln I came upon a plastic bag sitting on a wall behind the bus stop. No one’s around. I open up the Styrofoam box inside the bag. Chinese food, still warm noodles and general-tsao’s. I’m real happy, now. I walk down the block in case the owner returns and I sit down and I feast for lunch, the food still warm and deliciously filling.

I don’t know how people go hungry on these streets — Pastries, pizza, whole dishes of beans and full containers of Chinese food. And I’ve been thinking that if it ever came down to it, and I’d have to be very hungry because I don’t like begging or panhandling, but as a last resort I could always stand along a block with a bunch of restaurants (of which there are plenty) with a sign that reads Please, Leftovers. I would get food in no time, and good food at that. I don’t know how people go hungry in this city. Honestly, people waste so much food in this city that it’s disgusting.

Well, okay, I guess I do know. There is an Hispanic man, tall with a flat face and simple, friendly features, black hair to his shoulders who roams around the Lincoln-Washington area with a shopping cart. He wears yoga pants. I saw him sitting on the sidewalk today with his cart today when a mini-van pulled to a stop along the curb. The driver rolled down the window offering food. The homeless man said Yeah! like a kid who beats a high-score, but he just sat there. The driver didn’t know what to do, the homeless man said Throw it, the food was in a container just that clearly throwing it would send food all over the sidewalk and the homeless man. Do you want it? Yeah! the homeless just sat there, staring blankly sitting cross-legged in yoga pants and a faded red shirt. The driver shook the food shook, the homeless man sat there, and eventually the driver pulled off.

This is why people go hungry: Because people abandon their retarded children like they do three-legged puppies.

Parenting FAIL.

Night Three

I had a good night sleep last night. Thankfully. The bushes kept me warm and the overhang kept the dew away. Better yet, no one bothered me and the dirt was a hell of a lot more comfortable than the concrete from the night before. I woke up at eight and got dressed, being as quiet as I could and standing still whenever I heard people approaching. I decided to leave my sleeping bag and a few other things, namely clothes, behind the bushes and to keep my knapsack on the roof of Marcia’s building. Her apartment building has a stairwell to the roof with a small patio that no one ever uses. I figure I can safely keep my knapsack up there, hidden behind the air-ducts. So, when the coast was clear I tossed my knapsack out of the bushes and hopped out after it. I looked around real quick and luckily nobody was around to see this. I dropped my knapsack off at the apartment building and sat down for breakfast. As I sat at the picnic table munching on my peanut butter sandwich a woman came up. She seemed startled to see me there, eyed my knapsack suspiciously. She had a ring of keys in her hand and went to open a storage closet next to the stairwell.

‘Do you live here?’

‘No. I’m just visiting someone on the third.’ I said this cheerfully, hoping it would disarm her. I was talking to the landlord’s wife. They live inside the building. She asked me then to help her move a box and that was it, no more questions. I finished breakfast, stashed my knapsack behind an air-duct and went back on the job hunt.

I walked a mile west into Culver City to deliver an application and nab some more candy. Then headed south with a notebook full of resumes and got onto Abbot Kinney, a main strip in Venice Beach full of novelty shops and swank restaurants and cafes. I walked all damn day. Visited at least thirty different restaurants and cafes and stores.

Seven o’clock and I was in Santa Monica, not far from the famed pier. It was dark out. Walking around I’d seen many people with badges hanging on their necks. I came up to the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on Ocean Ave. The front of the building was strung with banners of production companies and movie titles. People with badges were streaming in and out. I went in. There was a movie gala going on, the whole place full of movie writers and producers and whoever else in involved in these things. I wandered around the lobby and the lounge and everywhere, people in suits and sweater-vests and shiny shoes talking about movie scripts and drinking expensive beer. I didn’t blend in at all. I had on an Emerica t-shirt and dirty jeans, holding a crinkled notebook emptied of resumes. I wandered around and scooped up a few beers and two whiskey on the rocks, grabbing them real quick in passing whenever the owner of the drink wasn’t looking. Outdoors was a wide pool with flood lights, tables on either side. There was a hot-tub. The large patio was terraced with two lower levels. These had tables and couches on them centered around fire pits. Back inside, and a little tipsy now, I found a cart full of pastries and real quick grabbed four and dropped them in my notebook. I found another beer, the stairwell, the fourth floor, sat on a couch overlooking the ocean and the Santa Monica Pier and feasted.

On my way back to the marina I took Main Street and Abbot Kinney again. I stopped at a little pizza joint and found a hardly eaten slice of pizza — bbq chicken and red peppers. (I’m making myself hungry typing all this.) I passed the restaurant called Firehouse on Main Street. The whole way back I’d been ducking into restaurants to see if there were any empty tables that had yet to be bused. I didn’t get lucky. So as I was passing the Firehouse I see in the window, near the front door, a dish of soybeans, untouched. I ducked in and sat down and started shoveling bbq-sauced soybeans into my mouth. The beans were tough and stringy and I couldn’t chew them fast enough. A small Mexican man appeared at my side.

‘Is this your food? What are you doing here?’

‘I’m just finishing up.’ I took another forkful, chewing laboriously. Another, taller Mexican man, came over.

‘You can’t do this! This is not your food! Get out! What are doing? You can’t just do that!’ I heard people at another table laughing, surprised.

‘Sorry!’ I grabbed my notebook and took off.

I slept well last night, until five in the morning. When the sprinklers went off.

Second Night Camping Outside In Los Angeles

The marina in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles looks like a tree. There is one main waterway used for coming in and out and along this are several branches on either side. Along one of these branches is a public promenade, brick with a lovely view of all of the yachts. There is an apartment here, an upscale apartment building about ten stories tall and the length of two football fields. The buildings are lined with tall, thick bushes that have an overhang above them. I posted yesterday that I had found a way into these bushes and that there is a good four feet between the bushes and the wall. This is where I am going to be sleeping. There are lights every so often that are placed in the dirt and behind one these lights there is somewhat of a hole, a place where the branches of two bushes don’t quite meet. This is where I slipped in. Last night I got to the promenade around ten, waited till the coast was clear, heaved my knapsack into the bushes and threw myself in right behind it. The bushes are up on a four foot wall that has these green, squishy plants (I have no clue what they’re called) that droop over the wall. I crushed these somewhat and I’m hoping no one notices. I climbed in to set up camp. I have a tarp rolled up with my sleeping bag and I decided to use this to keep me out of the dirt, lying my sleeping bag on top of it. The tarp crinkles like every other tarp and I had to stop and be still whenever I heard people coming by. I got myself set up, grabbed my copy of A Farewell To Arms, my notebook, the roach and candy and crawled back out of the bushes and found a bench on the promenade that overlooked the marina. I re-rolled the roach, got stoned, and had something akin to a panic attack. Here’s what I wrote while sitting there:

There is a long dock in the marina lined on both sides with white, showful, fifty foot yachts. On the glittering stone dock just beside each lazily rocking yacht is a knee-high octagonal column. These columns have small yellow lights that show the beginnings of the arms of the dock which people use to access their yachts. As I’m sitting here writing I am alone. My sleeping bag and other belongings are behind the bushes that line the apartment to my back. This is a very proper, upscale promenade of little, manicured dogs and sweatless joggers. I can’t wait to see the reactions I provoke when I crawl out of the bushes in the morning.

    I’ve been thinking of a plane ticket home. It sucks out here. The vagabonding, at least. Perhaps I need to meet other vagabonds to show me the ideas. Or maybe I just need to dive into it like all the jumps to the fringe I’ve taken. I still have some money left and the real fear is this running out. I’ll see how it goes tomorrow and decide whether or not to wait this out until I find a job. Or if I should try to repair things with Marcia and be open with and see if she’ll let me stay till I get a job and therefore a room.

    Also, very importantly, after smoking that roach from the sidewalk I became sickened about the thought of living on the street. It was anxiety, the nervousness, that helplessness; that feeling that juggles in your stomach. All this disappeared when I began to write. Writing, which I do from the Universal, restored my Individual. This is very profound, because does not the Ego come from the Id? Did not the Founder of Hell fall from Heaven?

The point from this is that I was feeling as though I had lost control, as if I were no longer in control of the events that carve my destiny, therefore helpless. I felt without a will. Writing vanquished this feeling. Writing restored my Ego. I find that very interesting.

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.

Turns out I’m going to be HOMELESS

It sounds like I shall soon be sleeping in the streets. My tenure on Marcia and Isabelle’s couch has come to an end as Marcia’s mother is coming to visit and is taking over the couch. So, what to do? Well, I went on Couchsurfing.org and put up a request for a couch. There are a couple of different ways to find couches on the site; you can send out requests individually or put up a request for everyone to see. I did the latter, though probably the best way would be a mixture of both. Instead of trying to find a couches for one night at a time I set my duration for one week from November 1 to November 8. How many responses did I get? One. And it was only for one night.

But not to worry, my friends! I’ve been somewhat looking forward to living out on the streets, living outside and communing with the environment and generally doing whatever I want with my days. But begging, that’s not something I plan to do. There are plenty of places to find food: dumpsters behind restaurants (especially sandwich shops where they throw out sandwiches they screw up), you can walk into a restaurant and ask to wash dishes for a plate of food, you can walk into a restaurant and sit down at an empty table and help yourself to left-overs, or once in the restaurant you can scrape all the left-overs from the all plates you can and scrape them into a box and sit outside and feast, and continental breakfasts at hotels. Or you can steal. Fortunately, I have a job interview at Walgreen’s tomorrow so fingers-crossed that goes well and then I can just eat their food!

Where am I going to sleep? I’ve gone on Craigslist and tracked down lots of cheap housing where I would share a room or sleep on the couch and chip in with rent. That’s an option, but first I’m going to need that job. Another option is sleeping in a camper. Walking around Venice, and especially on Venice Blvd, I’ve seen a number of campers with For Sale signs. I’m hoping once I get a paycheck I can convince one of these people to let me pay to sleep in their camper. We’ll see how that goes. Other than that, I’m glad I’m in Venice Beach and not Downtown Los Angeles. There are a lot more places to sleep outside here and I’ve been mentally noting places this past week.

Here’s what I’ve come up with: under the pier, on the beach, in the grass by the beach, in the back of a pick-up truck at a car dealership (I thought this one would be particularly fun), in the bird sanctuary on Washington Ave, off to the side of the bike path that runs around the bird sanctuary, or in any patch of grass that I see. I know the code to get into Marcia’s apartment building and there’s roof access there, so I could always curl up on the top of a roof behind some air-conditioning units. I have a tarp rolled up with my sleeping bag and tarp tents are always very warm and cozy. Also, curiously, I’ve noticed that many of the homeless around here sleep beneath lights, whether streetlights or the lights over the front doors of shuttered businesses. I’m not positive but I think they do this to ward off trouble —  sleep in a dark, isolated place and you’re an easy target for theft, or a quick butt-fuck. I’m going to try and find fenced-in places to sleep. There are a number of large gardens around that are fenced-in. One of those would be perfect.

This site has a lot of great information and tips about vagabonding the streets.

So if you’re wondering how the hell it goes living outdoors in the City of Angels, check back in the next couple of weeks!

Beer and Books and a Thought

I bought myself an 18 pack PBR last night, got durnk (misspelled it but I like it and I’m going to start saying durnk from now on) and read Dharma Bums with every intention of finishing it. I got to the last chapter, smoked some pot, and fell asleep. So I woke this afternoon, drank more beer and stumbled to Kafe Kerouac where I drank more beer, offended the proprietor and finally finished Dharma Bums. Then I slept beneath a tree in the Oval at OSU. I ate a burger afterwards because I was feeling empty, a great greasy American burger and lots of peanuts and soda while I thought of nothing and felt sad. I was empty but not the good kind, the kind that makes you think of nihilism and feel like nothing no use trying. So I dipped the bun in the burger grease and slurped soda smoked cigarets felt fine. Then at Travonna’s a man talked about society controlling what people thought, defining who they were to make them think they needed everything oh so gratifyingly materialistic and shiny. While they controlled us. For their power. I agreed mostly with him,  thought him arrogant and foolish at times, but the overall idea was correct: society abolishes opportunity and possibility and the only free way is outside it, walk the fringes. So I decided I’ll never again be a part of society because who ever wants to be the person you’re told to be? Quit picking my bark; these branches must flourish.

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