This guy, “The Office Hobo,” has been exploring what he calls a “home-free” lifestyle for the past several years. He started out sleeping in his office cubicle, renting out his LA apartment and working more than full-time to pay his bills. Eventually he gave up apartments and full-time jobs altogether. He couldn’t justify indenturing himself anymore to housing payments. Similar to a moderately successful blues musician friend of mine, the “hobo” lives in his truck, but he’s no vagabond. Our days are rich with time for walks, writing, awareness, rest. I’ve been on an all-out full-time job search for 18 months, so this nomad bit is not my first choice. But it sure feels good to just BE with what I’ve got. Which is spring wind, blueberry smoothies, and writing classes to teach for fall. A car that works. A bicycle. Stories to tell. Friends, prayers, coffee. And the option to hit the road today and hang with one of my many truly beloveds.
I have been sick at heart today anticipating that we’re not going to get the truth or any justice for Freddie Gray. Thank heavens, it’s been ruled a homicide. The story-makers have been following the same script since Trayvon: Dribble out speculation, change the narrative, let people’s passions get exhausted, focus on “thugs” and “looters” and “flawed black scary people”, lean on our incapacity and unwillingness to be in conflict with each other and our unwillingness to understand the depths to which our fellow Americans are being daily violated in flagrant defiance of everything we hold dear about our rights and protections as citizens. Create doubt: This young man probably severed his OWN spine. After all, he had all these pot-related misdemeanors! This time, Americans aren’t going to have it and “they” know it.
Today, for the first time, I’m thinking most specifically of the young man himself. The age of my own son. One minute running in full flight. Sometime not much later with a severed spinal cord. His agony. The moment someone snapped his spine and he didn’t die. That his mother will have to know there was no one to hold him in their arms that last week of his unspeakable dying.
I put a great deal of stock in the perspective of David Simon and the aims of The Marshall Project. https://www.themarshallproject.org/…/david-simon-on-baltimo… No matter how things unfold, please start learning. Please stay engaged. Please support the many organizations that are challenging the wholesale usurpation of American citizens’ rights. All of our rights. Please raise hell about The Patriot Act, Article 215, up for renewal on June 1st 2015. See John Oliver’s hilarious but dead serious coverage of Article 215 and what it means to us all and why we need to sit up, take notice, raise hell. http://safeandsavvy.f-secure.com/…/could-john-oliver-make-…/
I’ve taught a lesson for years in high school and college classrooms about how average people, not wishing to stand out or take social risks, can constitute the critical mass that make Holocausts possible. We’re the average people. Let’s not align with wickedness by our inaction or willful blindness.
In small towns and safe countries, people make eye-contact, smile, say Hello, help each other out. I remember the exhausted kids in my urban Toledo high school classes. Mean-faced, war-zone hardened. I would see those same kids smile and cry with relief when they were safe with their families. I got to thinking about the city-hard eyes some of us show inside our families.
In China, they used to bend baby girls’ toes under and bind them to their heels so that their feet would fold in half (excruciatingly painful), toes touching heels, into the fetishized”lotus” shape, about the size of a small fist. It was a sign of wealth and status — women with “delicate” lotus feet carried around by servants on a litter. I’m thinking really high, spiked heels are for women who don’t have to walk very far.
Man on the Train
I heard a business man-looking guy on the Amtrak talking openly on his phone about Baltimore, Ferguson, Trayvon, Michael Garner, burning cities and what principled Americans would have to do in the absence of justice. I was glad he wasn’t afraid. I wrote him a note telling him I appreciated his courage. I signed it “The Middle-Aged White Lady across the Aisle.” He smiled from his eyes and said, God bless you.
I like the idea that the physical universe is “God’s” infinite brain. That God is coming to know God’s self in the unfolding of the cosmos and our own consciences. That whenever creature souls connect in empathy, forgiveness, mindfulness, and grace-giving attention, it’s like a neuron/synapsis connection, a God thought process. Eckert Tolle says the declaration God made to Moses: “I am” is a pointer to a truth: All of us are “I am.”
So it turns out, at present, I won’t be living out the distraction and busy-ness of the career in educational leadership I thought I was supposed to be securing with my new degrees and certifications. I was sincerely hoping for the “cover” of a respectable position to make my son and parents proud (and less baffled by my life) and so that I wouldn’t end up being a nomadic blogger talking about God. But the sun is rising over the trees and I love riding the train.
Talking to Betty about this yesterday — this unexpected liberty — I couldn’t suppress a shit-eating grin. She caught it. She flashed a smile of recognition back at me. I think we both noticed that for once I wasn’t in a huge, blustery, impatient hurry. That I had time for a gentle conversation with my old friend. That we were both smiling. That I wasn’t afraid.
Chuck (on his way out the door to his part-time church job) to Auburn: I appreciate you so much for loving me. Even when I can’t do everything I’d like to be able to do for you.
Auburn: Pah. You do everything that’s most important, like adoring me unconditionally. And thinking I’m funny and smart.
Chuck: I’m learning that it doesn’t have to always be a performance. I think I’m growing up.
Auburn: Do you feel insecure about your worth when you’re not able to perform or provide something?
Chuck: Yes, that’s probably the crux of it.
Auburn: Well that’s dumb.
Chuck: It is dumb.
Auburn: It’s normal. But it’s still dumb… F–k normal.
Auburn: We applied for normal. Normal didn’t want us.
Chuck: That’s true. Normal rejected us.
Auburn: Yeah. So heck with Normal. There are a whole lot of really great people out here on the outside of normal.
Chuck: That’s exactly right.
I sleep in four regular places these days: in the loft of a 10′ x 16′ cabin on a pond in Findlay, Ohio, on Betty’s couch (a 98-year-old contemplative who first offered me sanctuary 20-odd years ago when I was exiting a destructive life-style) in Ann Arbor, in my son’s chichi 38th floor River North Chicago apartment with the spectacular view and at Chuck’s second-hand smoke-smelling, semi-retirement building in Akron with my piano, a dinky balcony and my own bathroom. This week, I’ll be up in Northern Michigan at a discounted hotel, hiking, writing, job-searching, and hauling a young, wheelchair-confined relative around to 12-step meetings.
It started in 2009 when Chuck was randomly assaulted, and we lost all the income, holdings and stature that make one middle class.
There are lots of us, it turns out — folks who’ve had regular houses and careers and neighborhoods, who now live in vans, cabins, tiny homes, storage containers, yurts, hostels, sheds, RVs. I’m looking in on my parents in one town, working my part-time teaching job in another, hanging with my grown son in another, performing live story-telling gigs in another.
I got another degree, have applied for over hundreds of jobs, networked, proposed multiple projects, and offered all manner of free services, but the stable, full-time work with health benefits I thought was surely coming my way has so far eluded me. When I’m not freaked out or paranoid about this, I confess to some relief. And a growing sense of mischievousness.
With wi-fi, a laptop, a functioning car, a few simple resting places and a circle of trusted friends, I find I can be at home in the whole wide world. I’ve got duffel bags, bananas, chargers and rainboots. I’m not tied down to stuff, debt, or indentured servitude to work that makes me mad.
I mostly just keep saying no to stuff that makes me tired.