About a week ago I woke up and got out of the RV, which I've had parked on the same street for the better part of the last five months. To my surprise there was ANOTHER RV in front of mine. It was a lot older, but about the same size.
I went to lunch, and as I returned I saw a man getting into the RV.
"Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood," I said jokingly.
"Hey there. How are you doing? Probably shitty like us since you live in an RV too."
His wife emerged from the RV. Her expression made it very clear that she hadn't smiled in years.
"No... I'm doing great. I love living in my RV."
He lightened up a bit after that. He was proud of his RV. It was a 1964 International that he'd personally done some work on. He popped the hood to show me the engine.
During our whole conversation his wife scowled. If the opportunity arose to be critical, she jumped all over it.
"It's 42 years old."
"NO it isn't. It's 43."
"It's a 1964. That's 43."
I couldn't help but think that he was doing "shitty" not because of the RV, but because of his companion in it.
Then again, I felt bad for her. I could tell that this wasn't what she wanted her life to look like, but that there wasn't much chance of it changing soon.
They haven't moved since then. Their RV is right in front of mine.
Last night I walked from the restaurant back to my RV and I noticed a brown van with a turtle top was parked directly behind me. As I worked in the RV I could smell their cigarette smoke wafting in through my roof vent. This morning I woke up and he's still there.
This isn't great. My one RV went unnoticed for months. Even two RVs seemed like it might be sustainable. I have the feeling, though, that three RVs parked on a tiny street in the middle of one of the best areas in Austin is going to be too much. I hope I don't have to move.
A bonus story...
Since I don't update much now I'll write another little story.
Todd and I went to Daily Juice the other day. If you're in Austin, you should be going here. They have absolutely anything you might want in your smoothie, from chocolate chips to oregano oil. True to their moniker, I go there pretty much every day.
Out in front there are two wooden chairs on the sidewalk. They're the types of chairs you'd expect to see on a big southern porch. We watch the people pass, say hello, and sometimes talk to them.
A man who was clearly homeless approached us.
"Do you have any money you could spare."
I've stopped trying to be overly polite to bums who ask me for money. Why say sorry when I'm not sorry? I don't want to give him money. I would say "yes, but I won't" if it wouldn't lead to confusion.
He decided that there was no way his "bum act" was going to work on us. He didn't tell us about how terrible his life was or that he was just looking for food. He was honest.
We chatted with him for the next half our or so, and it was absolutely fascinating.
He spoke frankly about his drug use. He was trying to kick heroin, but no hospitals would admit him. He'd been to them all before, took the methadone home, and abused it. His crying wolf of wanting to get clean had earned him a reputation.
He was sincere about wanting to quit, but just didn't have the motivation to do it.
Alcohol is the hardest, he told us. He felt like he could quit heroin, but not alcohol. He admitted that when people give him money, it always goes to beer. He told us a story of someone who walked with him to a restaurant to make sure he actually bought food with it.
He wasn't apologetic, just matter of fact.
I asked him where he slept at night.
"Oh, I don't have one particular spot. I sleep wherever I am. I have a few favorites, though."
This particular response was interesting. It actually sounded pleasant. Because he wasn't trying to get anything from us, he didn't try to play it up. He said that it was too hot for him, though. He likes it when it was in the middle of winter.
He had a job for a while, but got fired.
"I would have fired me too. I came in late every day and was usually drunk. They were good people. They gave me a lot of chances, but I blew it."
Surprisingly, he didn't even seem upset or depressed. He seemed content, or possibly even happy. It was interesting, because usually homeless people are trying to convince us that they're miserable to get our money.
The other thing that struck me about him was that life HAPPENED to him. He wasn't at all in control of his life.
When he left he told us, "I hope that some day god gives me the strength to quit drinking. I ask him to, but he hasn't yet."
"I think you just have to be strong and do it yourself," offered Todd.
"No. I need god's strength, and he's not ready for me to quit yet."
I hope he does get the strength to quit. He was definitely a nice friendly guy who could possibly shape up his life. At the same time, he probably won't.
Really I just hope people don't find some random sentence here and interpret it as me hating homeless people.
He doesn't like to call it a compound, so I won't. It does have 10 inch thick concrete walls, though. When I heard that Ed Brown was allowing visitors to his "home" in New Hampshire, I had to visit.
Ed and Elaine Brown are a pair of famous tax protestors who are evading arrest in a standoff with the feds.
I exited the highway and passed a Wal Mart. Soon the road became only one lane each way. Soon it was winding through farmland. Shortly after it became a dirt road. The RV hopped over the potholes as veered left onto their street.
There were about 15 stories between me and the concrete sidewalk, with nothing but a layer of air between the two solids. Occasionally you'd have a few heads that would stick up closer, but only just, and they were far and few between on such a slow Sunday morning. The weather was beautiful, but with it being a weekend, not many were headed to work. The streets were empty, and it was serene. For the first time in years I finally felt relaxed. My legs were dangling over the edge of the building, my hands resting on the ledge, leaning back and soaking up the sun. I wanted to enjoy my last few moments, and I couldn't have taken a better day. After decades of fighting with myself, I had finally over-ruled my previous decision to live, and take the route I always intended. I was going to kill myself.
30 years ago I had tried for the first time and very nearly succeeded. I was working and spent half of my shift preparing to kill myself at home, a few hours later. The pain became unbearable, and I instead decided to move the schedule up and just kill myself at work. I was going to be dead, what did I care where the mess was or who had to clean the mess up? While this was a great theory, working in a desolate building with no one in it on the weekends, it didn't due to one factor. The building wasn't empty. There was one person in an office that I was unaware of, and he walked by at just the moment I tried. I had filled a basin and was drowning myself, and he hauled me out of the water. 911 was called, an Ambulance brought me to a hospital, which discharged me almost immediately for being perfectly fine. Neither the Hospital nor my work knew that it was a suicide attempt, both assuming it was an accident.
When I told my best friend about it, he lost his mind. I caused him a lot of stress and heart ache, and I understood why, but he couldn't see it from my perspective. He kept saying that he couldn't understand how I felt, yet immediately followed it up with a request to not kill myself based on something from his perspective. Apples and oranges. It's impossible to explain it to him, because he doesn't feel the way I do. He doesn't feel the overwhelming, agonizing grief that I felt just existing and I'm glad that he didn't. I wish though, that just for a moment, he could feel how I feel and finally clue in to why I wanted to die. I spend each waking moment fighting for control over my own mind, fighting to sustain who I am as a person, and dealing with the internal conflict of trying to piece together exactly who I actually am. Having done it for my entire life, I couldn't do it anymore.
Then came the moment. The moment when he asked me to live. The moment when he made me promise to live. The pain I felt was immeasurable, but so was the love that I have for him, so I went with his position instead of my own. I lived for no other reason than he asked me to, and I think he realized that. The next few months were rocky, to say the very least, but he stood by me. I didn't have any energy to do anything, I quit my job, and I was homeless and keeping it from him. When he found out that I was actually breaking into somewhere I used to work to sleep indoors at night, he dragged me into his house and put me on his couch. He fed me, he kept me warm, and he was there for me.
Yet throughout all of this, I never felt any different. The past 30 years have only gone by simply because of that promise, and if he had never found out about my attempt and I had the chance to try it before he did, I would have without even a second thought. The pressure was on him, and he made it aware that he was uncomfortable with it, but what else could I do? He really was the only reason I was alive and although I tried to find more reasons to live, I never could. It was always him and only ever him.