Saturday, December 15, 2007

"with no place to lay his head"

There was a sight I saw in Guatemala when I was there a few years ago, as I looked out over the countryside from my perch high in the hills. I had gone with the usual suspects: a ministry team who would spend the day teaching local pastors. Walking along a worn path along the highway was an old woman with a load on her back, walking with a man and a child. She looked up at me as I stood in the most elaborate restaurant conference room in the area. Somehow I knew she and many like her had spent the rainy night sleeping under a tree. I did not feel sorry for her, for she had a good rest and was continuing on her way in peace. I looked out at her and desired to have what she had.

In the US, I don’t know if it is exactly illegal to rest wherever one finds a place comfortable enough. I just know that good citizens and often the police will weary themselves with questions at the least and harassment at the most, if one decides to do any sort of lengthy resting on property they do not own. I must say I have learned quickly the full implications of stranger caught in the cross-hairs of capitalist exchange. The hostile exchange sits oddly in one’s soul. I felt guilty for simply being. Then I felt an indignant responsive yet primal need to live, rise up inside from out of nowhere.

Since then I have developed this bad habit of attempting to sleep wherever I can. I used to brainstorm with my friend Greg, where all those places might be. On the livingroom floor. In my car. In the bed of my truck, with my truck parked various places. Once when my house was filled with single women and they kept coming back from a year, or several months overseas and they had taken up every nook and cranny in my house I decided I would sleep on a high shelf on my porch. I endured a summer and a winter there. My friend Greg was much more adventurous. He slept with the homeless folks. He thought about sleeping in the space just wide enough for a human, in the median on 35W. You would just dodge traffic late at night when it was sparse and then in the morning when you rouse yourself, you would persuade morning rush hour traffic to let you back across.

Now, whenever I find it pleasing to my budget to sleep in my car instead of like a more expensive accommodation. I have a particular modus operandi. I pick a neighborhood. A semi quiet one where people leave their car on the street. I visit a gas station or a restaurant before I go there. I do the usual at the restaurant or gas station. Brush teeth. Get into pajamas. Switch from contacts to glasses. I go out to my car and arrange everything for the night. I get out a dark sheet or sleeping bag for the back seat. Dark is better because it is less eye catching. I crack a window: street side or sidewalk side depending on whether it’s a more patrols on the street or a more pedestrians on the sidewalk kind of neighborhood. I get to the intended location. I park. I talk on my cell phone and scope my surroundings to loose any onlookers or suspicious folks. When all is clear, I dive into the back seat for a good night. The next morning is about choosing your moment dive into the drivers seat to drive away to find a gas station or breakfast place or park to use their facilities.

This can be done in virtually any major city. I have found the neighborhoods with high Latino density to be the most friendly. In San Diego, I stopped at a 7 eleven to use the facilities, late at night. I was turned away. I tried again at an obviously latino bar and restaurant and grille. I was welcomed at the door by a woman behind a counter, her hands in a bowl of masa. To my question she smiled and responded, “alla, a lado derecha, miha.” Music was pouring out the back room. I went to see what was happening. A band was playing last call. The man at the door let me through to enjoy. And the bouncer danced with a lady who knew him and asked.

Now lets not all rush out and do this or maybe lets...
One certainly encounters the environment much more tangibly. And I have never been caught and harassed for doing this.

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