assorted map pieces

Pack up That Old Kit Bag, Baby, We’re Going Home!

Maybe. Maybe we are going home. I can’t shake this feeling of not wanting to rely on things being ok for us and working out. That said, I am packing up. Two suitcases, a guitar in a soft gig bag, a bunch of books, a few bags of pantry items and food supplies, a couple of blow up mattresses, some bath and cleaning stuff. Two blankets. Four pillows. 4 pairs of shoes. One cuddly bulldog that cost me a dollar fifty in Daiso in Japantown. A bag of baseball gear. An exercise mat for the Boy and his dumbell weight. Not much. Not much to move, not much to have to haul, yet it is our entire lives. It feels like I am moving heaven and earth four blocks or so thataway. Moving my entire world a little closer to the sea. A little closer to the past. A little closer to Japan. It feels as if I am moving the universe, and to shift that kind of paradigm motion inches, millimeters, however much the shift is wanted, feels like a burden this beast cannot haul.

I have spent a life hauling. Hauling babies, hauling suitcases, hauling lives. Hauling water in earthquakes under the threat of Fukushima radiation, heavier than one woman should try to move. Hauling food. Hauling, and pulling and shifting and dragging my broken dead ass from this place to that. The camper made for easier hauling: everything was loaded up, compact, moveable without effort. Back on the power of my own two feet these last ten months, nothing is quite so easy. I miss my RV bathroom the most. I don’t dare go into SF public bathrooms. I don’t drink anything if I need to go out, so then I don’t need to risk the bathrooms which have mostly melded into one huge open room for men, women and others, no privacy or safety, or else remain dangerous places that one does not want to be caught vulnerable. I miss the RV…and hate it too. It leaked, it shook, it rocked and rattled. It was increasingly hard to find long term camping, and costs rose to the point of being unsustainable – $1000 a month plus just to stay in a spot that had showers and electric hook ups. Not only that, the rules mean that every two weeks everything has to be packed up and moved to another campground, because no one is actually allowed to live in these places.

There are more people living in campgrounds than vacationing. When the holidaying types turn up in summer, the year round people who live in the campgrounds get pushed out, swapping tips and hints about getting into places which have not pushed out the people that spend the most money of all in these campgrounds. When the pandemic rolled around, these regulars were moved out of their camping spaces, and told to find somewhere else to go. There was no where else for us to go – we were told to go home, but we were in our homes. The bathrooms got closed, the showers closed, eventually there was angry knocking on doors and little convoys of the homed in wheeled vehicles took off down the 101 trying to find a place to be.

Old people, families, children and dogs, all in their houses, trying to find a place to dump their black and grey waste tanks, a place to get hooked up to electric, a place to stop their rolling and camp. All of these campgrounds that housed regulars should have allowed their long term inhabitants to stay in these spaces for free. We could have spread out, holed up. Rotas to use showers could have been drawn up. Cleaning of bathrooms fixed. People instead were thrown out, and there was no way to carry on. Instead I ended up having to come to the shelter with the Boy. It was the best thing for me and him, with hindsight. It was not the easiest. That was yet another world shattering shift that I had to accomplish on the strength of my own back, hauling us from Oregon coast dehumanizing cruelty to the dangerous but more loving arms of my beloved city on the Bay.

The long taxi trip from Oregon to San Francisco was terrifying and necessarily awful. We were at the mercy of a speeded out meth freak who got lost and took 16 hours to drive an 8 hour drive. We held on, and took ourselves to a temporary airbnb, thankfully paid for by my best friend. When we were accepted at the shelter I was devastated. I always said no shelters, no rules, no hammering down on me as a human being. I have done it too many times. Still, I managed not to let my frustration and tiredness, upset and justified righteous anger show…at least not too often. I detest being checked up on, monitored, restrained. It half kills me to have to answer to other human beings as if I am somehow lesser and not able or allowed to run my own life. The thrice a day ‘wellness checks’ where we have to present as here, alive and correct and allow people into our space, every single day for ten months, has driven me to distraction. Sometimes it was needed. Sometimes I was there crying and hurting and you know what, it felt good to see people asking if I was ok, even if they were merely paid to ask, not wanted to know because they cared particularly for me. I will miss what I destest. Sometimes I swear I don’t know what is good for me. Sometimes as much as I don’t want help, I need it.

When I remember moving in here last November, looking out onto ___St, the alley with the ghostly graffiti and the tents, and the woman with a crowbar chasing a man laughing down the street and the dogs that bark, and the crackhead that growl, and the sad junkies sitting on the shit-stained sidewalk digging in their ulcerated legs for a vein that might work, and the trash that blows menacingly down the street, and the rats and the deprivation, the hopelessness and the confrontations; when I remember all of this, and pick up my guitar and pluck a few strings as tears run down my face, as I find some words I wrote long ago.

“And the rose of Sharon lies broken, and withered on the storm…and every sailor dies hoping their boat will see the morn.”


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