"Like all men in this land, he had been a wanderer, an exile on the immortal earth. Like all of us, he had no home. Wherever great wheels carried him was home."
- Thomas Wolfe (Of Time And The River)
...the new kid in town...
...a new face, possibly Middle Eastern, which is rare around here...I recognized myself in him him because he was acting like I did a few months ago, he had found a spot, a haven, possibly after some aimless wandering about to avoid being seen by those he knew.
The first stage of homelessness is the worst...everything looks big, every problem crushing you and what was your life is now gone...it's a rebirth but it doesn't feel that way because it feels more like death.
In the tarot, the death card is actually a symbol of rebirth...which I knew due to being a tarot card reader on the early internet when it called the usenet and mainly consisted of discussion groups and ftp sites.
I went by the name of Magus Fool, and buying a reading from me included a package of the reading and a free subscription to my tarot newsletter...early tarot web sites later carried it in their search for content. I did pretty well, it supplemented the lower midwestern pay in my two years in Elkhart, Indiana, as I did my early CAD drafting work drawing up structural plans for RVs and shuttle buses during the day, with night work doing ink drawings of furniture for a small company for it's product catalogue.
It was a busy time. There was also my blues newsletter that had transitioned into an ezine but neglected...because being a small time publisher was a labor of love...being a mystic paid better.
My clients were mainly women, and they all wanted to know the same thing...did their man love them?
I eventually had to quit, because the tarot cards can't divine such a thing...it can only help the person externalize what they already know, and as the clients generally knew the answer already, who wants to be the messenger in such a situation?
It was a fun time though...I met all sorts of metaphysical types, from astrologers to the various types of psychics, one of which correctly predicted that there would be a time when women would be my best allies, which turned out to be true. Any man who raises daughters will be at least a little bit of a feminist...Mario Puzo, author of classic The Godfather, once said that God was wise to entrust our children to women, men would have screwed it up a long time ago...the reason women are better is because men think action and brains is the key; women add heart, and that creates real strength.
The most misunderstood card is the Death card, which was really about rebirth or the end of an old life; though in tarot, the cards can end up meaning anything the reader thinks it means...the best readers are extremely intuitive, the worst are egomaniacs that think that whatever thought comes up is inspired.
The whole idea that tarot cards can predict a future is arguable but not likely...true divination, or oracles, are very rare...rare enough that the true seers are all famous...most divination is really the subject's inner thoughts pulled out into the open and thus a course or future is clear...which is, of course, a talent that's alarmingly close to a con artist's ability to tap into a sucker's greed or vulnerability.
So a newbie homeless is someone who's drawn the Tower card, which is catastrophe or upheaval, and against all normal logic, needs the Death card to comprehend the situation and find a new self...that's one way to look at it anyway.
The main thing lost was a home, which is both a physical and metaphysical concept...the thing that began stabilizing my situation was to quit moving blindly about and find a spot, a haven that may not have been a new home but where the visual confusion of a constant stream of new scenarios could stop and the mind could begin to work.
In other words, get to a place where you can stop reacting and think.
I found my island at a rest stop up north near San Mateo...the nature and isolation of the place meant that the other homeless lived in cars and were similar to me...and I went through the same stage the Middle Eastern new comer was going through.
He's an older guy, a bit older than me, which means a radical change in life is occurring without a younger person's sense that there's plenty of time left to start a new life, though a younger person may need to be told that by an elder. Life is a circle...
He parked in the same parking area for a couple of weeks...same as I did, and gradually expanded that to a couple of other spots. It took him about a week to begin walking away from his car for reasons other than to go to the bathroom, etc., and about two weeks to stop driving off to another spot if someone parked next to him. Which I didn't do, since at the rest stop there was only a couple of areas a newbie could go, there were cliques in the other places that marked off turf and could get hostile if you invaded their space.
I would just try to become more invisible...
The car feels like a protective shell, like a womb where the new self begins to form...that new self can simply to be the old self that realizes that after all the chaos of becoming homeless, you're really the same person after all but simply without a roof over your head, but now with a chance to actually be that same person but without the baggage...that might sound like a circular argument and maybe it is, I don't think I've found out who my original self is yet...
This week the newbie has reached the point where he's coming in at different times and parking pretty much anywhere...he watches the others more, and has begun to look at the outside world again. I don't know what his next step is, but hopefully he knows the difference between a safe haven and a home...it's too soon to decide that he's found a new home.
...singing in the rain...
People like to wax romantically about the rain, but then, most people can walk away from it and go indoors...I can, sort of, but see it pitter pattering away all day on the car windows...you see diverse behaviors out here; people trying not to get wet, getting irritated, tunnel vision aimed at the nearest door, and the occasional Gene Kelly type dancing in the downpour (but definitely because of drugs).
Even the most downtrodden homeless person pushing a cart makes sure they have a raincoat...a cynic might remark that it's a rare chance to wash, but that's not how rain works...unless the person wants to strip naked for an extended period of time and enjoy their new status on a sex offender list.
In this world, rain has a silver lining...as nature sheds it's tears on a thirsty world, the temperature goes up 5-10 degrees and cold cars become stuffy and comfortable even on a windy night.
Seeing all that water come down pounds home the point that I could be out there miserable and cold with a dog that looks like a chihuahua when her fur is soaked. It's a pitiful picture that inspires gratitude and relief.
There is a discipline involved...the real world has places where one can shed the wet clothes and shoes and not track it into the house...in a car, you want to keep as much of the water out as possible...damp air makes feel colder inside, damages devices, and in a rain that lasts days, could invite mildew...also I move away from trees, otherwise the raindrops that collide in the branches come down in bigger drops and can sound like a steady stream of rocks pinging the roof.
I'm lucky my little buddy Ivy hates rain...when she hears it coming down, it brings out a rare patience about going outside to pee, and we both wait for lulls in the downpour to go outside.
Since some coming and going is unavoidable, my wardrobe changes...I prefer trunks, T-shirts and sandals unless it's too cold, as wet clothes don't dry fast in a car...bare feet and skin can be dried off with a towel faster than wet denim and leather. I'll wear a vest or jacket mainly to not attract attention to this kook who's walking around like it's summer, and an umbrella is essential.
It's a car routine for rainy days...if Ivy and I were on foot and had to seek shelter under an overpass, the procedure would be different.
I keep most of my food in the trunk, but if rain is coming then there's a second smaller pantry on the passenger side floor...the trunk has become a drawer, so opening it in the rain means bedding and clothes get wet, and can still be damp and wet in the evening when it's time to sleep. Ivy and I can eat for days from that smaller pantry.
Garbage is dumped daily, and I make it a point to keep it up front...there's a lot of trash in parking lots these days, and homeless are often blamed for it...if an officer looks into my car, I want it obvious that my trash isn't part of the squalor outside.
I use wipes to clean up every day, and in rainy weather switch to ones that have alcohol, which dries faster and keeps the windows from steaming up. Not that the extra privacy from the steamed windows isn't undesirable, but steamy windows attract extra attention from passing police and security thinking that some sort of fornication is going on...that it could happen in a homeless car is a pretty funny idea when you think about it...not even homeless women will pick a homeless guy in a car as a first choice for a partner, at least one that isn't a druggie...if you see fogged up windows in a homeless car, it's more likely to be pot smoke or wet clothes warmed by body heat.
Rain is often looked at in absolutes like something to get out of, needed but best enjoyed in someone else's neighborhood, or to be endured...but it's like any weather, nature always makes sure there's a silver lining in any of it's offerings.
...it's all about power...
One of the cool scenes in the Apollo 13 movie was where all the people are arguing about this or that in trying to save the astronauts, and the young guy shuts everybody up and says that all that other stuff didn't matter, it was all about power, how much electricity was left in the batteries...without it, the spacecraft wouldn't be able to land.
The scene was about what a key issue is, the essential truth, and it applies to life and homelessness...in a car, it's all about keeping it running...once the car stops running, the whole life can collapse, and end most thoughts about the future, and drop you down to the next rung.
Tow truck drivers will tell you, the start of the rainy season is one of the busiest times...mainly electrical systems that fail in the damp and wet weather.
I pay attention to the electrical system and ignition when it's raining. Casual things like running everything at once in a older car is like a drunk sailor with a months pay in a foreign port, it can lead to a dead battery, and immobility at the wrong time.
That means avoiding such things as the temptation to constantly run the car to warm it up...it has to be done once in a while of course, but my rule is use only one thing if possible at a time; if the lights and heater are on, I don't charge devices, and I try to get one of those other two things off as soon as possible.
It's not a solution per se, but a discipline...keeping stress off the battery and alternator keeps power at a good level in case the inevitable goof up occurs like leaving a dome light on...a little care can mean forgiveness later for violating Murphy's Law.
- Al Handa 1/8/17
The Al & Ivy Homeless Literary Journal Archive:
THE IVY CORNER: Ivy seen here in her first professional photo session for the ad layouts for Eric Wilder's book, Big Easy. I'll be starting a new project Media-Entertainment project in February, more on that later!
Yes I did say that video was coming but I haven't worked out all of the bugs yet :-)
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