Saturday, September 4, 2010

Homeless Gypsy


My great challenge yet came on Thursday night. After meeting my new artist friends at the University in Mankato and the eighty-year-old psychic healer at Cub, I was confronted with the reality that I had no easily identifiable place to pitch a tent that night. Let me reframe that: from the perspective of someone who is used to sleeping in places with the permission of owners or stewards, I had few options. From the perspective of a homeless person, there were plenty.

As I was leaving the University earlier, I'd spotted a church with a huge, moved lawn and a labyrinth of spruce pines. As I passed it, I thought it would be a great place to camp. So, I went back there and scouted it out. Yes indeed, I could pitch a tent there, but since no one was around to ask permission, I had to face the fact that staying there would be as a squatter, a homeless Gypsy. With few other options, since I picture myself as a more a Yuppie type than a homeless person, I conceded that this is what I needed to do. My choice was aided by the banner in front of the church, which read, "All Welcome." As I knocked on the front door, I also saw that they had Buddhist and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting there, and figured I could always tell the pastor, "I'm riding my bike across the country on a shamanic journey," and he'd understand and be cool with it.

The problem arose with what to do until it was dark. Squatting on private land requires a certain finesse, as explained by Jerry, a homeless guy I co-loitered with for about 30 minutes in front of Cub Foods while waiting for it to get dark. "I pitch my tent at about 11," he said with a craggy voice to rival Joe Cocker, "and take it down about 5." This was the most coherent sentence I got from the guy. Most of his speech was something like the following:  "Yeah, he told me that he so I didn't know but there was the other one so I figured..."

Jerry eventually got angry at me and left Cub Foods in a huff. I'd evidently offended him. In a discussion about my playing the guitar, I insinuated that the most important reason for wanting it with me was that I enjoy playing it. "That's not the reason you should have it with you," he said with no small measure of piss and venom, his scratchy vocal chords ratcheting the sounds. "People give you money if you play an instrument, you dumbass." I was happy to see Jerry mount his bike and pedal away, but in his absence, I was certain people now viewed my loitering in front of Cub Foods as a certain sign of my inclusion with Jerry as among the homeless creeps of the world.