The Wanderlust Misfit

Don't Run From Anything, Run Towards Everything

Archive for the tag “vagabonds”

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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Back to Jersey

Well, I’m back home in New Jersey. I’ve been here a couple of weeks, slacking off on my blogging save for the occasional short-story — which seriously, I’ll be having them out quicker, I swear!

Being home’s been kind of a speed bump, or more like tires stuck in thick mud after speeding down a highway. I’ve had a blast, seeing my home-town friends and getting irresponsibly drunk at the new bar that’s opened up in town and reconnecting with people I haven’t spoken with in years (though I can’t recall the conversations I’ve had). But still, I’m living at home now, and being in such a comfortable, quaint cozy place sucked out of me the urge to run, which is where I get my drive to write. The house I live in is very clean and proper, peachily decorated with knick-knacks and supplied with all of the modern technological distractions one could have. I have a large family, and we’re all squished into a small house. There’s always a lot going on here, and putting off writing to play the videogames I grew up with or to watch Star Wars and The Walking Dead all day — these distractions are difficult to endure, and being at home takes away my restlessness, fills me with content and the laughable tendency to lounge in comforting luxury. Indolent is what home makes me.

The above is a list of reasons I needed to get away to write; to live in minimalism, with nothing to do but to write. That’s what worked: having absolutely nothing and knowing that to ever have anything, the only thing to serve this end, would be to write. Having all the homely comforts I grew up with put a sludge on me creatively, motivationally. Over the weekends (that included Sunday) for the last couple of weeks I went out drinking, getting deliciously drunk and would spend the next day wallowing around the house with only a hangover to rationalize putting off work. Then I fell into a slump, rationalizing the slump with more bullshit. Then more drinking. Then Thanksgiving, more drinking, more bullshit rationalizing, and then the fear immobilization took hold. Thankfully. I realized I needed to get going again.

The best way for me to get back into writing? Get moving. I’ve been writing in a small room in the family basement, using earplugs to drown out all the noise from upstairs and a sheet serving as a wall to keep me out of sight from all the people walking back and forth. So this morning I got up and went right to the public library, my old ‘between the book-shelves’ stomping ground. I wrote well, and I’m pleased how it went. I’m filled with motivation again. Writing and moving has got me doing just that: writing and moving, productivity and the motivation to pull into existence the future I so desire.

This will continue to be a challenge for me though, and one I haven’t put myself to in a while. I will have the constant threat of complacency, bred from at-hand comforts and entertainment and easy intoxication, the whole of the time I am at home. And I will be at home until I finish these stories and this novel — only then can I get back to the road.

The time to discipline myself has come high and urgent. I must be out of here early enough to begin working, so that I might save enough to take to the road with enough money come the thaw of winter. It’s a race against time, and the discipline I must put myself through can only be of benefit. Each day I must have done a draft of a short-story, with the goal of having a Reason To Run published, at the very most, every other day. I need to blog every day. As well as comment on other blogs, that being the only important way to get traffic. I need to study, reading and analyzing other writers. And I found an online magazine called Vagabonds, an amazing publication, completely free and all about the re-emergence of literature in a new form (and the breaking away from that ever-more restrictive society you sheep are lost in 😉 )

I’m back to work! And it feels very, very good.

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!

Hitchhiking Lives!!

I made it!

After a week of rambling across the North American continent, I made it. It took me just over one week and it was one of the most exciting, desperate, heart pounding, soul freeing experiences I’ve ever had. I survived on peanut butter sandwiches and Pop-tarts and apples and oranges, slept in the woods and open fields and almost froze my ass off in the Arizona desert and I woke up on separate occasions covered in slugs and ants. But you know what, I met the coolest bastards and sang at the top of my lungs with rambling saints and rode with addicts and truckers and now it’s time to soak up the sun and liquor and good times on the gold coast.

I was picked up often by older folks who had gone hitchhiking themselves — albeit twenty, thirty years ago. They’d tell me how easy it used to be to catch rides, that they never had to wait — out of one car and right into the next. Their rides would even buy them dinner! These were the aging Hippies, the older folk who came of age when the youth roiled and searched. I thought I made pretty good timing myself, only taking eight days including the day I spent visiting a friend in Oklahoma. It was funny though, how some drivers would be surprised how fast I was getting around while others were surprised how long it was taking me. My average wait time? 30-45 minutes. There were a couple instances where I had to wait well over three hours, and other times when I caught a ride in under 10 minutes.

I’ve been told I have an addictive personality. Well, guess what, world! I’ve found my new high! because I know of nothing so freeing and spirit-lifting as hitchhiking, as living by your wits and sleeping under the stars, rising with the sun and spending an entire week outdoors breathing fresh air and truck fumes. It’s dirty, it’s tiring, lonely and sweaty and grimy and you’re a vagabond and a wanderer but there is nothing as exciting as seeing someone pull over, throwing your bag over your shoulder and sprinting over, clueless as to who the hell you’re about to spend the next two hours (or two days) talking to. And once you’re sitting there, sitting comfortably in a seat and talking with your driver, you look out the window at the passing scenery and a giant smile burns onto your face from the fire in your heart as you realize, I’m making it! I’m crossing a frigging continent! And this is what I’ve learned: that most people are good, with honest intentions. Of course there’s a lot of scumbags out there who look to take advantage, to rob and panhandle, but the vast majority of rides are people looking to pass forward some good. I got picked up often up by guys who’ve hitchhiked themselves and were trying to pass forward the favor. I got picked up by people on long, lonely drives, looking for friendly conversation and was even offered rides by folks on their way to work.

The looks on people’s faces when you tell them you’ve hitchhiked. They’re surprised, in awe, amazed that such modes of travel \still  exist and work and these big excited smiles stretch across their faces. Other people call you an idiot and will promptly tell you how many people get butchered on the road. Oh well, (for them).

I’ve had some people, usually young people around my age, say they’re envious about the lifestyle, that they wish they could get up and just go like that. I’ll ask them why they can’t, and this is usually the response: I’ve got work, I’ve got school, responsibilities, man. Bullshit! haha. Listen, if you want to do something you have to just get up and do it. You can’t wait around. You can’t plan. Draw a line on a map and stick that thumb out! (But, do a bit of research first. And okay, some planning.)

Anyway, I’ve decided that the reason behind my wandering stems from a feeling of being un-free. I felt a cog in the machinations of someone else, a marionette dancing to someone else’s strings and I was sickened by it, inflicted with malaise and apathy, listlessly going through the motions and listlessly following the necessary steps I’d been drilled into understanding were the only way to success and happiness: Graduate high school, graduate college, get a nine-to-five and car payments and a home mortgage, get married and pay taxes and have kids. Bullshit! There has to be something else and I grew despondent, wanted to rip my skin off for a desperate attempt to find something, something else! Anything! I was sick of consumerism and the disgustingly palpable corruption in Washington and the endless wars and I couldn’t deal with it any longer. So I decided to throw myself out there. Decided to explore the fringes of society. I decided to hitchhike.

People are sick of doing what they’re told, sick of sitting around and sick of not moving — there is a growing sense of despondency among the masses, I keep hearing about it and I know you do too; that feeling of dread that something terrible is going to happen and that we’re helpless to avert the coming disaster. People are sick of the rich getting richer, the middle-class shrinking and again, the corruption. Something has to give, and time and again comes the phrase, “We need a revolution.” People are tired of feeling like mindless gears in a machine they can’t control and the freedom that is no longer felt is in dire need of expression. Allow for a history lesson: The Beatniks in the 1940’s and ’50’s lived with the dread of knowing that at any moment, a nuclear bomb could fall and vaporize everything they ever new. They felt they didn’t have control, and a search for higher meaning, for freedom and control of the self began: the Beatniks began to wander. The Beat movement morphed into the Hippie movement — more people searching, grasping for a higher purpose outside of bland consumerism and war and political corruption. The Hippies traveled. They hitchhiked. The Beat and Hippie movements were both born of discontent, of youthful angst, of a feeling of dread and a desperate sense to once again feel ‘in control’ of their worlds.

But then it was silent. For forty years it was silent.

Now, in 2012, what do we have? We have incorrigible corruption in government, with no politicians willing to take a stand. We have an ultra-rich class that continues to grow richer while the middle-class continues to shrink. The Beats had the Cold War. The Hippies had Vietnam. We have the perpetual ‘War on Terrorism’ and the ever-present threat of indiscriminate bombing feeding fear and the need for spying on the public, indefinite detention, the TSA, the endless bombings of foreign villages.

People are sick of it. People are getting anxious. The youth are filled with ill-content and the desperate need to once again feel free is ripping out the hearts of young people around the country. People hear about hitchhiking and a big grins matches the excitement in their hearts.

People are beginning to search again, the road again filling with wanderers and the discontent youth.

So hear this, America: Hitchhiking is not dead! It might be a rusted shell of what it once was, but it sure as hell isn’t dead!!

Hitchhiking is making its return and the youth are beginning to search once more!!

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