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.
I found the young man, sitting low below the small bulb of the street lamp. He was homeless, his clothes disheveled, his eyes bloodshot, and his hair and beard caught and twisted in knots. I had seen him a couple of times before then, though never in such a state. He was...sadder than usual. I went up to him, and asked if there was something bothering him, more than the usual I mean. I made sure that I made that clear. He looked at me, his jaw slack, and his cheeks sunken.
“What...What time is it?”
I looked down at my phone and told him it was eight at night.
Upon hearing this, he put his head in his hands and began to sob.
I stood there, upset at myself for coming over to talk to him. What had I been thinking? What did I expect was going to happen? He stopped suddenly, his cries silenced, his breathing shallow. What he said next distresses me to this very day.