Wednesday, March 16, 2011

february log - part ii

I attended Sunday service at St Dunstan's again today for community credit. The Reverend David Marshall spoke to the congregation about transformation and translation and language, all of which have been on my mind of late, and he was right on target. He spoke about "the perfect" we are asked to achieve and what keeps us from that. He invited us to consider the things that keeps us from being perfect. He said if we wrote one obstacle to perfect down on a piece of paper and gave it to him, he would burn it in the columbarium outside and smudge it on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday in a ritual of release. Hey, this is my kind of place! I sat in my pew considering all the things, so many, that keep me from perfect. How to choose? How to condense? While the Reverend explained more about perfect and its meaning, I began to write. He said the Greek word teleioi, used in the Bible, means not perfect as we understand it in English, but rather perfect as in complete, as in brought to full development, as in becoming what we are meant to be. I could feel the translation filtering through the pews, happening in the bodies all around me, in the heart and bodies of the congregation, mostly gray-haired, but also families with children, all understanding, ahhhh, complete.

Grow Up
Then the Reverend told us about the theologian, Eugene Peterson, who wrote a colloquial translation of the Bible in which he says, “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects, now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:48, The Message). Shabang! That hits home. So, of the many things that keeps me, Mimi, from being perfect, I wrote this one: fear of success. Seems a silly thing to write. I thought it was a silly thing. I second-guessed myself. I don't know if I even believe it, but that's what I wrote and now it's in the basket and soon it will be burning in the columbarium and, if I come back on Ash Wednesday, the Rev will smudge it on me thus diminishing the wedge between me and my perfect self. Ahhhh, I will say, ahhhh, I am perfect.

It's All Up From Here
After church, I went to camp and got on my bike, my blue bike of transformation, with Ovid. I rode until Monte came along, "Have you seen Susan's painting? It's really good. You should check it out." Susan was bundled up and sitting in the community tent with her notebook. I went to see. She was painting a tent with a bunch of balloons tied to it. "What does that mean?" I asked. "They're for hope. That's our tent. Have you seen the movie Up? It's good. You should see it. In the movie this old man ties balloons to his house so he can fly to the place of his dreams. That's what I want to do. I'm getting tired of all these things encroaching on me." Susan has a quick hard smile, she flashes it periodically, she's got quick hard movements, she's lively and energetic. There is a lot of joy in her. I was struck by how odd her optimism seemed here in camp. Up! Susan and her partner make a strong team. They're on their way to freedom, recovery. "Today," she said, "marks day 36 for us. We have 28 more days before we can leave." "Spring is coming," I said. "I can't wait for Spring!" And do you know, there really are balloons tied to Susan's tent, purple and white balloons in real life, tugging at her tent. Not enough to lift it, not enough for a geographic shift, but enough to suggest it. The next day the balloons were tiring and slumping and bumping on the roof, but the dream was still in place.

Saint So and So
St Francis did it. St Anthony did it. Eschewed worldly riches, sold their belongings, became mendicants for the cause. Sounds easy when you say it like that, "gave up their riches." What does that mean? What are riches? I don't know, but say security, say safety, say opportunity, and that seems hard. Say start from zero. Say no help whatsoever. Say going down. To give away everything with no path is foolish. I've given everything away before, when I saw an opportunity, when I saw a path. What I want now is freedom. What I want now are choices. I met Beatrice today, an active proponent for Nickelsville. She's terrific, probably the best advocate the homeless have in Seattle. She's a slice of 7-grain bread. If I were in charge, I would put her in charge. I'd say here, you take over, here's your salary, make it go. Here's your Get Out of Jail Card. She is firm and compassionate, passionate and capable, informed and full of vigor. But everyone here is just fighting for a place to live, so her recompense for all that is a room with a lock. That's what she's working for, that and the hope for someone else in her shoes to also find shelter when they need it. I suppose the rest of us, in the larger world, in the world at large, forget sometimes that's what we're working for, a room with a lock, stability, security, community. I suppose that's why we sometimes go out on our porches and yell "We pay to live here!" I suppose it sometimes feels to us that a house and a community are our God-given right. I see now they are not. I see now they are things we work for and nuture and hand down.

Me, I want the mountains. I want the fields. I want the ocean. I want the road. I feel afraid for all the things I have to lose and I have absolutely nothing to lose. What is it I fear? Perhaps it's what I know, my ideas, my hopes, my understanding of the way things are and could be? I will lose these things if I go through with this, the path I'm on, this spiritual path, this path to me, to self-understanding. And so what do I know and what do I own? Nothing or very little. What might I lose? Only opportunity, that alone would hurt. Other things I do not have or do not need. I've been holding on too much to my limited notion of opportunity. What does that have to do with real opportunity? What is the worth of happiness? What is the use of stability? I drove Nicolas to Bothell to get $8 from his stepdad, the dad he grew up with, so he could buy cigarettes. He couldn't wait for Monday, so I got to meet his dad and his sister, nice people, friendly. They welcomed him in and even took photos. Strange to add in the family component, the extended family piece, to this homeless equation. It makes what is broken seem more urgent and wrong. But there must be reasons, mustn't there? There must be reasons. It's not for me to say or know. Perhaps there is healing there? Perhaps the fence at TC3 is about time and space for healing, for many, for most?

Healing Art
I am an artist-in-residence at Studio Current, an experimental performance space run by Vanessa DeWolf on Capitol Hill. Every month one resident artist leads a 3-hour workshop. The workshops are attended by the other residents and involved both teaching process and dialog. I led a workshop in late December about artist-to-artist collaborations. Tonight, Jessica Jobaris led a workshop on dance as therapy. Jessica is a gifted choreographer and dancer. I saw and championed her piece, "Imagine That Everything I'm Doing Is Exactly How I Want It To Be," the year before last at Sand Point. Jessica has since been studying with Anna Halprin, one of my very first female heroes. I saw Anna's film, Breath Made Visible, at NWFF last year and was sold on her genius at once, especially on her work with the San Francisco Dancers' Workshop. Tonight, in the studio, Jessica led us through a healing practice from Anna's book Experience as Dance. First we chose a conflict in our lives, then we drew it on paper and then we danced it. We devised language around our dance and identified some key phrases or releasing movements, then drew again and then moved from that. It was an amazing experience, for me, tonight, of transformation. Again that word. It keeps coming up.

I met with Amy Mikel, Arts and Entertainment Manager for the Seattlest today. Now that I'm nearing the end of my residency at Tent City, she asked what I've learned. O when people ask that, what I've learned, what I've done, I have no answer, none, no idea. What have I done? What have I learned? What do I know? Perhaps it's too soon? Perhaps it's too much? Perhaps it's not enough? I'm going to need time, thinking, writing and talking about that before I know, understand, all that's happened to me, in me, because right now I have no idea, none. I went to bed at 4am and woke at 8am for the interview. Amy is hands down the best interviewer I have ever met, a studied, introspective, open, wise interviewer. She is the first interviewer who has asked me, at the outset, "How can I help you?" Egads! I'd never hoped to entertain such a question from an interviewer. It gave me pause. I had to think for some time, a week or more, to know what that might be, how best a reporter might help me, this project. In our lives, as artists and not artists, we are not used to being asked How can I help? Amy is just now finishing a graduate program in Library Sciences at the UW. We got deep into dialog about what Song of Tent City might be. We talked a lot about the inner landscape of the artist, of my artist. I learned a great deal about what the project means to me and might become by talking with Amy. It feels so good to begin to process it.

At this very moment, I would like to retreat from everything I know and watch water falling downstream and get close to the grass and listen for the animals stirring at night. And I am going to, when I am done with this, I am going to. Who knows, maybe by then they will have me arrested and put in debtor's prison. Maybe I will be languishing in captivity there, writing a novel about all the things I had to lose and lost, a novel that unwrites itself as you go, becomes nothing with no afterword, poof. A homeless man walked around the café just now, he went table to table asking, "Will you buy me coffee? Will you buy me coffee?" The heads were shaking. No, no, no. It is snowing outside. Shake, shake, shake. No, no, no. I said yes. His name is Trent. I gave him $5. It is snowing. Where else would he go? I am going to be a pilgrim this summer. I am going to need help, support. I am going to flash my alms bowl. How can I live at Tent City, how can I work at Tent City, and not respond to this? It is snowing and I am different. Am I? We are all dying, everyone.

Lost and Found
I saw Trent again later in Subway, the sandwich shop, or maybe it was someone younger, a man hunched and asleep in his chair. At first I walked by then I turned and went back. Perhaps I have something, some information, for him, can tell him where to go? I went in and said his name and asked, "Do you know where you are sleeping tonight? Do you know the places, the shelters in town?" He smiled and said yes. It strikes, suddenly, that what I thought was compassionate, wasn't anything more than worry. It strikes me, suddenly, that this is what I may have learned, gained, a smidgeon of compassion. If each of us walking down the street were to check in on each other, make eye contact, give a verbal check—You ok? You look lost. What do you need?— And then listen. And then maybe provide that if possible, perhaps the problem would be solved or almost solved? Perhaps. No doubt I will look back at myself, at my me now, and think later, O, I thought I had compassion, but what did I have? I had only worry. I had a worry that went nowhere. And then, perhaps, I will have gained a smidgeon of compassion from some new experience, and I will think then I was half alive now. Perhaps. We are but carbon shifting. And I am going to TC3 tonight. And it is almost over. And we will be in the church tonight. And it has been snowing all day. And I have a security to fill.

Homeless is not a decision, but pilgrim is. Nomads are back and forthers, but bums stick around. Vagabonds are acorns. Wayfarers are winged seeds. I cut fresh flowers from the garden when I was living in Tacoma, when I was house sitting and watching Hayley's chickens. I cut the sunflowers that were bent and the mallows and daisies. I put them around the house in the kitchen, in the dining room, on the deck. My mother used to bring me lilacs from our yard. She would put them on the nightstand when I was doing homework. She'd bring in a plate of grapes. It was her way of saying I approve of what you're doing now. Now that we're grown, we can do this for ourselves, approve of ourselves, of what we're doing, make small gift, love ourselves. There, in Tacoma, in late August, I was doing that. In the mornings, on the covered deck with wicker couches, I spent my mornings reading and drinking tea. I worked in the garden in the afternoons—sweeping and raking and weeding—while the chickens nosed about the yard. In the evenings, I wrote and made meals. Having a home creates a calm abiding structure, a sense freedom that invites routine.

Calm Abiding
Calm abiding structure is what is missing at Tent City. Knowing what day it is, what time it is, being able to make and keep appointments, are all struggles, even for me, at Tent City. Having good and regular sleep, feeling alert, feeling at ease, sure, clean, comfortable and confident, all of this is missing, for me, at Tent City. I remember the magnolia tree in the backyard rubbing up against the roof, the long waxy leaves rustling and dropping in the wind and in the stillness, making noise throughout the day. I slept in the spare room, the upstairs room with the little leather couch. There's nothing like being a guest in a house with clean white sheets and dark wooden furniture and books on shelves you've never seen before. It's a lure to walk into a life, such a clean white life, and rest. I miss the garden. I miss the labor. I miss having my hands in the dirt. Have I really decided I am going there tonight, to Tent City? I need rest. I will not rest there. Hmm, I will decide as I walk to the car. It is cold. Hmm, I either am or I am not doing a residency at Tent City. Ooooo!!!

I did go to Tent City and, when I arrived, I was greeted by friends. Hello Mimi! I had a good long conversation with Jim who now tells me he has other names, but I think he is also Jim. I have always called him Jim. He was in a good mood tonight. He knows everything. He knows something about everything. He's got white hair and wears a cap. He is mostly quiet and always hunched and often angry. Sometimes he has rosy cheeks. His brother is an anthropologist. His sister is a doctor. He told me, once, about losing his family or being disconnected from them, alone anyway. We have talked about many things, standing in the dark, in the evening, around the community tent. Mostly I listen. Tonight we talked about end-of-life care and happiness and reincarnation. I like the unadulterated way he talks. No excuses. No apologies. "There's no reincarnation! You wanna know what reincarnation is? Well, let me tell you, it's genetic information passed down, on and on. There's a woman in NJ who's never been out of the small town she was born in, who never went to college, but she speaks perfect French and has an detailed and accurate memory of events that took place in France centuries ago. What is that? Is that past life recall? Is that reincarnation? No, that's a memory chip. Reincarnation is being remembered after you're dead, like that story about some grandmother you knew, who was just a wise woman, but not only intellectually, she had other kinds of wisdom and stories were told about her." Jim was talking about our humanity and I believed him. I asked him how he'd like to be remembered and he said he didn't know. That was up to someone else. We only have each other, and only for a short while.

On Waking
I grabbed my sleeping bag from my tent and went to the church. It's 22F with a lacing of snow. The puddles are frozen. I slept for 2 hours, did a security from 2-3am, then slept from 3-6am. Lights on!! How bizarre to hear Daren's voice in the morning, "Good morning, Mimi." I slept in the front row, on a pew, with my head under the covers for another half hour then left. The woman at the front desk looks spent. She looks so tired. Her replacement didn't show, so she's working overtime, hours after she was supposed to be off. All the other ECs who might have come to relieve her were also up until 4am or were next in line for work, so on she works. The commitment of the ECs, in the face of everything they have to endure and lose, is always surprising and always encouraging. The duty they show to the camp and their post is Napoleonic. And last night, I had a biscuit. Dinner was gone except for the biscuits. The fried chicken was gone. The mashed potatoes were gone. I saw a second tray of chicken behind the line, but if you go behind the line you'll get a permanent bar, so I ate crumbs. There were lots of crumbs. I heated them up and ate them with my hands. Yum.

Nice Vs Necessary
My mom has funny ways of showing she loves me. Six years ago she got me an i-pod for Christmas. I was in graduate school in New York City and struggling to make ends meet. I thought it was too big a present to be getting me. I have trouble with inequity, like not having money for the subway and owning an i-pod. How do you mesh details like that? I had trouble making sense of that. She also got me an electric toothbrush. I rejected both of those gifts. No, I accepted them with a sigh. Ugh, but I like the simple mechanics of a toothbrush! I gave the toothbrush to a friend. Now I think they're great. Now I think they clean your teeth a lot better than manual brushes, but then I was soo sooo poor. I was poverty stricken in NYC and poverty was all around and the sounds of machines were everywhere and I wasn't wanting an i-pod. I was wanting to hear and see everything around me just as it was. I didn't open the i-pod for a year. When was I going to use it? Where? I wouldn't think of blocking out the city sounds. I wouldn't use walking or biking, no, no, too important to hear those taxi horns. So I put it in a drawer and moved it with me wherever I moved. I used it for the first time this January, for the Song of Tent City show at Tether Gallery, to play the artist collaborations. I borrowed speakers from a friend and played the audio files on a loop on my i-pod. I was hoping it might one day be useful in this way and it was. At long last, thank you Mom!

The Night Jewel of Jackets
She got me two coats the winter before, a black Columbia jacket and a classic wool coat with a belt. The jacket was the kind ice climbers wear, with sealed seams and velcro closures and double zips everywhere. I never wore when I lived it in NYC even though it got into the teens and minus zero with the wind chill. When bums ask you for a quarter and you're wearing a jacket like that, what do you say, "I don't have any money?" But then I couldn't get rid of it because it was expensive and my Mom gave it to me so I carried it around for years and years. Burdens. Now that I'm at Tent City, seven years later, I'm wearing it for the first time. Someone said, the other day, "Nice jacket! Good jackets make a difference. Good jacket keeps you from getting wet," and all those feelings came back. My jacket is nicer than any jacket around. Everything I'm wearing is from the Goodwill, except that jacket. I have on the night jewel of jackets. I stood firm and tall and said, "My mom got it for me. It is a nice jacket. Someone stole the fleece liner, but the shell is still nice." And that's all. I moved on. At that moment I realized, and much more fully, how family keeps us, kept me, from falling in the gutter, which for most is terrible news (to fall) or terrific news (to be saved) except for the poet who might long for the gutter, who might wish to fall. Thank you, Mom.

A Different Place
I told Jim last night that we were all dying and he said, "That's right and if you can keep that in mind, if people kept that in mind, the world would be a different place." He's a wise man. He was spot on last night, spot on target. It makes me realize how all those people out there are so much more informed, so much smarter than I ever gave give them credit for. All those people know so much more about their situation than most of us do about ours, because they are out there, right up against it, seeing it all first hand, feeling life in live time, things we'll never see or feel or know. It's a tragedy or it's a release, it's one of the two or it's both. Either way, it's a terrible tragedy. If you are honest with yourself and the people around you, no one can take anything from you or hold anything over you. It seems impossible to be dishonest here, at Tent City. When I go away for my hermitage, when I splinter off into the unnamed woods, I will see what kind of honesty lives out there, in the solitary self. Tonight is the mandatory camp meeting. I hope to sign up for the security I owe. I need one more this week and two litter busters. The Wednesday and Thursday sheets are already full. The Friday sheet comes out at 9pm. I've got to get in line after the meeting and get on that list. I want to get through this.

I did a church security last night from 1-2am. When I saw the guy who was going to replace me go down to the bathroom, I asked him where he was sleeping so I could find him when it was time. He wasn't on the map. He told me, "I can't do a security. I'm sick." I said "Everyone who stays in he church does a security. You're signed up from 2-3am." He said, "I'll get my girlfriend to do it." Cringe! Later in the night, a woman came out to smoke. We say hello and I figured out it was the girlfriend of the guy I spoke to earlier. She said, "Yeah, he's sick. I'll do his security." I said, "I can split it with you." She's got her own security to pull. She's new. She hasn't got a clue about camp life. I can see they aren't going to last. I can always see that. And it aggravates me to see the women in the partnerships bear the brunt. I have seen that in other couples, her running around doing all the work and him copping attitude. That doesn't fly in camp for me. So I pulled a Mimi trick and sat all three securities, mine and his and hers, then went to bed at 4am. In the morning, while we were returning to camp, I saw them walking through the strawberry islands so I warned them not to do that, they obviously hadn't been told. He grunted and grumbled, "What can we do?!" There are couples where the guy takes care of everything and the girl acts helpless. It works both ways, I know. Either way it's not attractive and, at Tent City, all the unattractive things seem even more unattractive, because, just because, but the snooooow is lovely and, as with sailing, being up all night while everyone else is asleep is peaceful and free. It's a way of buying time. I think to myself, this is allll mine, ahhh! I took pictures of the snow and the sky this morning and the junkyard dog said, "She's taking pictures so she can write more mean things about us," which was frictive but I've got some sympathy for her now. She's been talking less. I see her struggle. She could be as beautiful as anyone, will be as beautiful as everyone, one day. Perhaps we all will be. Even me.

I told Nicholas I was worried about him. I asked him when he was going to clean up his act and get his life together. He said, "I need a girlfriend to spend all my time with so I don't get in trouble." You'd have to hear the voice. It's scratchy from smoking and slurs a bit and wavers a bit from the head injury, but it's lively and buoyant and simultaneously jovial and deviant. It always makes me smile. He could be such a beautiful guy, by which I mean happy and free. I said, "I don't think it works that way. I think you clean up first then the woman comes." He smiled and put his head to one and said, "That's what my dad says." I told him he had a beautiful life ahead of him if he wanted it. I so believe that. He's got a family who wants him back. He's got to make a choice.

A Blue-footed Duck
Since Nicholas is the kind of person who will say "Goodnight Mimi" across church pews, I asked, "Are you going to tell us a goodnight story?" And he did. I couldn't understand most of it, but when I realized he was going for a Scottish accent, I understood that he was telling a joke about flip, the flop, the Scottish guy's kilt and the sisters with the blue ribbon. I've heard it before. And that was goodnight. Hah! After running back to the security desk twice, I came in to sleep and Nicholas said, "Mimi, tell me a goodnight story." I told him an ornate tale about a group of people stuck in the snow who find a church. I told him about the blue-footed duck that followed them into the church, whispered things, and the sensitive young French man who listened to the duck and how the secrets of the blue-footed duck began to infect the group and how the group also began to whisper the same whispers in their sleep and how none of them knew the other knew it but how it came out as a song one day as they were hiking up the mountain to find a passageway and how this song was what opened the mountain top when they were stuck in the cave and though there was no hope and then, when the mountaintop opened, how they could see all the way to the green valley below where they are going to be safe. The end. The junkyard dog came in before I was done and I thought for sure she was going to tell me to shut up because she doesn't like me, but she didn't because she respects Nicholas. Ah well, my feet are cold. There is a lot of good to see in the world, even here, even here. Unhappy people require more time, more space. You can better see their good if you step away. It's the difference between mud-deep in TC3 and aggravated and oppressed and being grass-deep in Meadowbrook and at ease and caring. It is going to be 19F tonight!

I lost my buffer this month. I have $700 in my account and rent is due, which means it'll be month-to-month after this. No more buffer. Return to start. Zero out. And there's no guaranteed income on my horizon. I have one job at the end of the month, which pays $250, and a week of dog-sitting and two days of office cleaning and four days of house cleaning, but that's it. Scrape, scrape. And so this is me being the artist before becoming the janitor or the circus girl, which brings us to one of the most beautiful lines in the history of poetry, "The Circus girls are rushing through the night" by Kenneth Koch. And that's everything to me. And so I'll be fine.

My new favorite spot is first pew, left side. They turn out the lights on you and everyone settles in. You have to get up some time in the middle of the night to do a security, to sit in the lobby with a bright yellow vest on, looking official, looking like you might be able to handle whatever walks in, the devil himself if he happened to show up. There is a young guy in camp that has my brother's same name. His girlfriend is always coughing. She's got dark hair and hollow cheeks. They are both awfully nice and fun and probably in their 20s. What are they doing here? When I said I was cold he said, "If you want to be warm, you need a tent-mate and a ton of blankets." Young and wise. If you want to know how to be warm, ask a homeless person. If you want to know how to run a homeless camp, ask the homeless. If you want to help the homeless, ask them what they need and want. Doing anything else is self-serving. We all have the need to give, to appease our shame. It is possible to do both by beginning with ears and a question. And once there was a woman on wheels with cracked eyeglasses who had a dog. They rolled together, from city to city, getting barred first from one then the next place, but the dog looked warm. It had thick orange fur and ate human food. On Sunday, this Sunday, when I am done with Tent City, I'm going to curse and drink, not because I love to , but because I am not allowed to and that makes me want to. Rebel.

Holy Sleeping
I walked down 35th to 105th picking up trash at 11:30pm. I had a litter buster to complete before midnight. Not until my turn-around point did my hands start warming up from the work. I kept shoving them in my pockets. It was a very cold night. I ate a pint of cous cous salad and drank out of the faucet before I went to bed. The meal was fine, but I did not enjoy it. Foodschmood! I know I need food. I need food. I know. I went into the church and started on the floor by the piano. I'm not sure if I slept. The floor trembles when people walk by. Because it was so cold, there were more people inside. The floor trembled all night. Once you decide to welcome the noises, they become affecters, positive sensations. Sometimes I let them. After a good long while of looking and listening, my eyes at foot level, I felt like Andrei on the battlefield in War and Peace, I felt like I was on a battlefield, looking over at Imhotep and Patricia, then the other way to Summer, experiencing small waves of divine love for everyone I saw, through all the small annoyances of flashlights and plastic bags and heavier footfall and throat clearing and belches and foul smells. I moved up onto a pew before morning, let myself be cradled in the slope of it. The pew was the more comfortable of the two. Darren woke us up again with quickly rising lights. "Come on, Mimi, you gotta get up!" He knocks on pews and stomps on floors. He was in the military. Now we all are. I'm in a stupor. There is a grant due today. I should have written it. At 2pm I go back to do a last, group, litter sweep of the neighborhood, then take my magic blue transforming bike away.

Piling Up
I'm in my office now. There's so much to do, it's around me in piles. Don't I have a right to be tired, to refuse all this? I was supposed to be on a hermitage in January, nourishing my artist, after two years of endless scraping to make rent, to find work, I was supposed to be renewing. My first hermitage was to be in Mexico at Lake Patzcuaro. O! Peter the Painter in Seattle has an uncle there with land who agreed to let me hermitize it for a month. So I renewed my passport. So I got an International ID Card. Pricey little items. And I was ready to roll. Richie, my brother, was waiting in the wings, to purchase the ticket for my Christmas gift, but along came that damned performers insurance and I was required to purchase it. I'd gotten a grant from 4Culture for "Studies in Everything" and needed to show proof of insurance. Most artists are working with venues that have insurance that covers them, but I was out on the streets, in the parks. It seemed ridiculous at first, to pay $250 for an event in a public park that wouldn't collect anymore than three people in any one place. It stunned me at first, the insurance company said it would cost $500. I sort of lost my mind that night. I couldn't sleep. My mind was racing. After that, I didn't think I had the money to do it, to go to Mexico, to afford rent in January and February, and then a picture of Tent City blew in—crinkle crink—and a different path opened up, a sliding board to poverty and transformation. I wouldn't take it back, no, not at all, but still I need the hermitage. My artist needs a break. April. In April I will go.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the february log (part i)

28 January 2011
Tent City 3 is not a place you go to meet life, though you might meet life there, you might. It's an experience, but not a nourishing one. I was paired tonight with a young homeless woman for a walk-about homeless search for the One Night Count. We were all getting community credit for participating. Our group of 10 were walking around South Seattle at 2am with flashlights and maps and clipboards. As we swept our quadrant, we got to talking. I told her about my projects and asked about hers. Jesus Christ was her only answer, more and more it was her answer over the next hour, it was her answer. Grace and the bible, goodness, put it all in His hands. I tried to broaden our search to a larger spiritual, but she was strict in her line. God and the devil, good and evil, some war is justified, it's not murder, it's only killing. O my! After an hour of this little tug of war, I asked a bigger question. What are we all looking for? Bless him, Tarkovksy reigns supreme again. We both said it at once, it was our first mutual response, love, unconditional love. Tadahh! And right meets left and war meets peace and east meets west and John & Yoko win again. And love conquers us all at the end of the night. Tarkovsky was talking about the feeling of nostalghia that afflicts us all here on earth because of our separation from the creator, that yearning to go home that is spiritual in nature &the wholeness or love that will come when we are reunited with our maker, returned to that state.

31 January 2011
i'm sort of losing site of the art project (song of tent city) & i worry about that i need to meditate it's true i'll never have that experience i'll only ever have my experience but then we're expected to vote together and work together and make a nation together and a neighborhood &politics creep in everywhere

2 February 2011
damn but my life is filled with meetings 
about a project i am not yet deeply doing 
&it doesn't feel good
today is the day 
i am told 
i'll appear 
on the cover of Real Change 
the homeless newspaper
i haven't yet seen the image(s)
did a shoot with me 
a couple of weeks ago
i realllly like his work 
he &his friend spent 
3 hours w/ me 
all business 
even told me to fix my hair
i haven't brushed my hair 
in a few years 
when did that change?
i used to wear pink frost lipstick 
&curl my hair w/ hot rollers
now i have no time 
i want to sit in cafes &write
i can't write what i want to write
about yesterday
there's so much i have to leave out
vanessa suggested a private journal 
now is the time
if i post pictures 
i can't say we had beer
or that the police swarmed us 
or if i do it has to be supergentle
i can't say what i thought of the hotel room
that's not true i can say that
the posts are handed out 
to everyone at tc3 
on meeting night
tonight for instance 
people will be getting that last big post 
about being an EC
&there will plenty of negative comments for me
so be it
one of the women i was working with 
doesn't look at me 
or say hello when we pass
my hair is longer now than it's ever been 
& i do not like it it's problematic 
hats help
i haven't yet figured out how to cut it 
not how but by what means
since getting 40 people to cut my hair last year 
for studies in melancholy
cutting my hair at a simple old 
salon seems sorta dull
i'm thinking of asking a friend from camp 
to cut my hair
i'd call the piece "a
i'd give him inappropriate tools
the first of which is that 
he doesn't know how to cut hair
the second of which is  
he sees double from a head  injury
point being 
tent city is all about accountability
but the tools are not all there 
so you get what you get
i had dreams 
i only remember a bit of them
i was in a car with several people 
the windows were rolled down
it was night or dusk 
we were at some sort of check point
someone from camp was outside 
the man who is known in camp
as the person in the good mood 
the one who makes people happy
in my dream he was taking something from us 
official papers
the landscape was urban broken earth 
there was a house in the middle ground
everything was in black& white 
the others gave him their papers
when he came to get mine 
i saw that he was not himself
he looked sick emotionally &mentally sick 
&was embarrassed by it
he didn't want anyone to see him that way
he looked horrified that i had seen him that way
he backed away with flaring eyes 
the whole scene was full of fear

3 February 2011
i'm in my tiny tarp-covered tent 
after 2 hours on the bike reading ovid 
w/ spent legs now
&randy filled my nalgene bottle with water 
& i drank half of it
the rotary club 
was on the church corner when i arrived 
making hotdogs on the grill
what a home coming!! 
&everyone was in a good mood 
only 30 people in camp
they say at the beginning of the month 
everyone who is getting SSI 
gets their check
& goes off to do
whatever it is they do with their money 
&camp empties out
&Nicholas said it was good to see me 
every time he saw me 
like 6 times
&he agreed to cut my cut 
i said i want to film it 
i said i'm going to call it
he interrupted.. bald... 
no accountability
he said "you're lucky you're good looking 
cuz i couldn't shave you bald"
i laughed aloud many times 
this night
i had many lovely encounters tonight 
&camp is soothing
except for that one person 
who is ever rough to me
it's the first time
i've had my computer in camp
i brought it in to camp to show pictures
from the wedding

4 February 2011
The kids are coming down the street today with their teacher, waterproofed, in their little rain jackets and rain pants. The 5 and 6 years olds are straddling the gully in a line—left, right, left, right, left—wobbling back and forth, doing something I cannot do, at least for now, while I am a resident at Tent City. Me, I've got to stay on the street. I've got to behave. To be perfectly invisible. If I do anything, anyway, it must have a net positive effect. But I want to straddle the gully! I want to play in the rain! I want to be a little pirate and explore that ditch out in front of the house with the espalier. I want to! I want to!

I invited a friend from Tent City to dinner. He lit up a smoke a few feet from to the car. I said, Feel free to finish it before we go. We're not in a hurry. He snubbed it out on something, not his hand I hope, and put it in his pocket, just like that without a wrapper. No wonder he smells like smoke! On the way to the house, we stopped into the market to get food. He used his food stamps to buy us an avocado, a lemon, potatoes, ground beef, lettuce and bread. My other two friends, not "homeless" but "homed" friends, joined us. I hadn't seen them in over a week and so it was a nice visit. They brought steak and potatoes. What a feast! My friends and I shared several long hugs. We played with the doggie. We cooked. We had a sit down dinner. After dinner, we made a fire and roasted marshmallows. We each had four. My friend from Tent City watched movies nonstop. I asked him if he knew he brightened everyone's day, all the time, at camp. He's a smiler. He's a helper. He's a net positive force. He said no. When I offered him half a beer he said, No way, I won't be able to go back to camp. He's been living at TC3 for four years. He gets SSI because he cannot work. He used to own a business. He made decent money. Of all the people in camp, he seems the happiest to me. I asked if it was frustrating not being able to work. He said, Hell yes! He used to love to drive. He used to  hunt. He told a story about being surrounded by a herd of elk, trying to pick out the 3 point buck, accidentally making one little click while raising his rifle and, in a second, they had scattered.
5 February 2011
After breakfast I dropped my friend off at camp. He told me he makes $680 a month plus food stamps. Damn that twirls me into a firewhirl of confusion, because with that I could make this world fly. I am making nothing. But we must not forget I can work, I could work. He's lost his ability to. This evening I finally bought a Real Change and there I am. It's a silly picture and so many facts are wrong, but then every three paragraphs there's something meaningful and I forgive it. It is what it is, trust yourself, trust your path, all press is good press. Did I say that? I must have said that.

6 February 2011
first thing my friend says when i drop her doggie off is did you have a visitor damn
3 people called to let her know a man was standing on her doorstep smoking 
it seems you can't be near the homeless without getting in trouble
she wasn't upset i said yes i had a guest for a dinner with 2 other friends she knows
i felt strange then about that for a long while &struggled with it why
about having a friend over why because he is homeless why that's not true he has a home tent city why because he's dangerous no he's as sweet &thoughtful as they come why
i am learning am i where the homeless go there too goes suspicion
the eyes of the police the watchful forces of the public &the punishments
maybe more so than at tent city maybe more severe
each day i learn the more &much i have to know
i have to go back to tent city i have to find a way to end this project i'm ready to go back to my life whatever that looks like i have 18 days left ayieee

7 February 2011

i don't want to go to tent city i want to have gone to tent city  like running or going out on a rainy night i'm sure it'll be great once i'm there well not exactly great but growth anyway
it's the going that's hard i want to write i've been looking for the right ribbon i'm going to put rules in my hair &have people cut them out &call it breaking the rules
i was nervous about drilling holes last year in the concrete in fremont in the sidewalk in front of lenin i put it off for a long while i had the plaque in my car for months before i got up the nerve to do it guerilla art what if the police stop me cuff me take me to jail nothing like that happened no one even noticed me i used a roto-drill right there in the broad daylight &no one said a thing if you're homeless the police will swarm you for standing in the wrong alley if you're homeless people will call about you for smoking on a door stoop but if you have a home if you appear to have a home if you look clean if you look right you can drill holes in the sidewalk in the broad daylight ahhh considering now the positive things the not so positive things all the snowdrops &crocuses pushing up considering change from stasis regarding the windows &doors i have been working &avoiding tent city a well made home made well &everyone looked after is a fine fine thing the homeless man on my boat is going into an apartment tomorrow stupendous that's the 4th person this move to go into housing i put two guys up for a very short time when they got kicked out they say teach by doing i am mostly intent on learning i can't make anyone do anything i am most intent on learning

8 February 2011
i don't know what day it is
i am overwhelmed with work &worry
feeling as if i'm making bad decisions
feeling untruthful
i am tired
i am tense
each meeting it time away from myself
from what needs to be done
i'm on a deadline
i'm irritated by the small stuff
i feel targeted
my eyes are closing
i'm suddenly concerned
by the outpouring
&think to grab the life ring
when does fixing a problem become a problem?

I'm tired. It was a long night. There was drama while I slept. The ambulance was hailed for the drunk guy who passed out, who needed treatment, who went off escorted afterwards, strange life, strange waking life. I don't know exactly when I fell asleep. I was up for what seemed a long while waiting to get warm. When I awoke at 8 my feet were finally warm.

Lyn and I met for coffee. We talked about our struggles, mine and hers. Hers were better than mine. She's in full transformation mode. She said to me, in response to what I've been experiencing at Tent City, "You're a fugitive when you're a nomad." She's right. We talked about where you go to find honesty in this world. Where craziness is known and not denied. Where you can find some degree of authenticity, people willing to say it like it is. Tent City is one of those places. In a way, it's refreshing. It makes you question what's going on with the rest of the world, what's the point of gilding the lily.

I walked home from Capitol Hill, took an hour. I read Ovid on the way. Tonight it was Phaethon's ride, a wordy longish tale about father and son, Phoebus grants Phaethon one wish and of course Phaeton wants to ride his father's chariot across the sky, to herald day, but it's the one thing Phoebus won't allow, alas but he spoke too soon, he already promised. "My promise holds--but make a wiser wish!" So you can imagine how it ends: HERE PHAETHON LIES WHO DROVE HIS FATHER'S CAR; THOUGH HE FAILED GREATLY, YET HE VENTURED MORE.

It is 12:53am. I am crawling into my tiny blue tent. The only things I have here in camp with me are my sleeping bag, my bivy sack, my fleece pants, my snow pants and my water bottle. I don't think I've ever had a drink out of that water bottle, but I have worn the pants and slept in the bag. It's too tiny and the slope of the parking lot means I have to put my head up at the narrow end which means I can't sit up. I didn't think about that when we nailed down the tent. As I was walking into camp tonight, a man was  putting on a security vest. He staggered, slurred and muttered something. The EC on duty took him into the kitchen and made him walk a straight line, which he could not. He was kicked out of camp. He had a short time to get his things. Despite the blips, camp is running smoothly. The voices are low. The desk is clear. Several smurfs have been disassembled. The move crew has been working hard. I showed Janice and Arthur the slideshow of their wedding tonight. They were all abeam. "I still can't believe it. I can't believe we're married!" No wind, no rain, just footsteps. Just smokers coughing. Cool moist air. I am winding down.

9 February 2011
Cold night. Cold meeting. Snow pants. Winter gloves. Hat. Two sweaters. Down coat. Wrong socks. Wrong shoes. Brrrr!! We were over an hour sitting on milk crates, in the cold, talking camp business. I knew it would come to this, someday, I wondered what would happen when, if, there was no one to run the camp, no one to lead. Some of the nominees were ineligible and others were unwilling. I was unwilling. There was no one else left. We just sat there. Many long minutes in the cold air waiting, nominating, declining, nominating, declining, until finally two people changed their minds and then we went to the vote. There is a full ballot tonight. There must be seven nominees to begin the vote. Someone  not in attendance was put on the ballot, as per their expressed interest (they would, however, be in just a few short days permanently barred from camp, but what's that to this?). We're going inside tonight, we're sleeping in the church. God bless us all. Lows are expected in the low 30s. I've vowed to sleep on a pew. After the meeting, I took a 3rd bag of belongings to Janice and Arthur who have moved to Nickelsville. They were all smiles and warmth, clean and content. I'm back at MLLC now, pulling a security in the church. It is 5am. The world is frozen. The windows are ice. The clock on the wall is ticking its snow. The gentle orator from above is humming. I am in Rome now with Phoebus. Perhaps today will be the the day with no sun?

Mental Health
I was worried about you back in January, about your mental health, my friend said. Seems you're healthier now. How do you feel? Exhausted, over-extended, mal-slept, even now, but more so in January. I was trying to do three things. I was trying to fulfill my securities. I was worrying about rent. I was trying to maintain my little studio. I was working on a deadline. And, on top of all that, I was criticizing my own feeble attempts at everything, at every turn--not that, not this, not enough, never enough. There the student loan letters sit, unopened, on the desk. There goes my home. I loaned out my only home, my sailboat, to a homeless man. Trading places. Splash! Just for now.

Making Rent
Remember, Mimi, some of us cannot leave in March. Some of us are stuck. I am reminded of this, from time to time, from without and within. I know. I know this to be true. And how. We are in different circumstances. I will never know. I know. But then, am I not also stuck, in my own way, in my own life? Am I not also unfree? Or am I free? I am freer. I have more choices. I have family connections, however loose they are, however far away. Am I stuck, how stuck am I? Where, in the long run, will  I go? Will I find my home? What, in the longrun, will become of them, these strong-hearted people here in this parking lot? Will they find a home? Or will live here forever, in a parking lot, on a milk crate bed, in the rain? Will they live and die here? No. We cannot let that happen. We must protect us from this. This is our right. To live. Will they perish outside? Yes maybe, if we do nothing. And what about me, will I perish? Will I perish inside? Yes. One day I will. Will the hands of the homed and the hands of the homeless never meet, forever be reaching toward the screen, the window, the divide? Will I die before I find it? Or will I, in dying, find it? I will struggle to make rent in March. I have no regular income now. I have no health care. That went away long ago, when I decided to make art full-time. I am not collecting anything now. While my stomach is not starving exactly, my artist is. Art cannot thrive in survival mode. The Green Light Lady said to me, "These words alone are self-perpetuating. You need to paint your light green. Go." O boy. This project was never about being homeless, about becoming homeless, about pretending I could have that true experience. It was about serving an artist residency in an invisible space. About listening. What have I done? What am I doing? Have I done anything? Or have I done nothing? I am a witness, yes that, perhaps that is all. It feels as if I've done nothing until I decide that being is enough. Is being enough? I decide it is, from time to time, when I am in my self-protective mode. Next comes April. Who cares about March?! The ides will have their way. My last income was a Sprout grant in December in the amount of $1000. I am going into my 2nd month now with no income. My poor retired mother, who worked her whole life in data entry to put me through college, sent me $300 last month to help pay my rent. She followed it up with a voicemail a few day later, "I thought you were getting a job Mimi!" Sorry, Mom. I'm doing an art project. I'm living in a homeless encampment. Mimi, why? What is the worth of sacrifice? Who pays for the art in the long run? What have you gained? I sense I will know this only in the unfounded freedom of March, of April, of the forever more. What have I gained?

i am concerned as always about knowing myself
about fixing myself with a cosmic adhesive
about avoiding myself by injection about allowing myself time
&space about nourishing with the landscape
the complexity of mimi persists
what i am trying to do is change the world
i know what i'll end up doing is changing myself
i realize i don't have to do anything for that to happen
we all get the same results in the end the world is changing
but i know too &firsthand what i need to do
paddle climb swim walk
so on i walk one dung hill at a time
ok so not strategically but rather flailingly or erroneously
or flouderingly or confusedingly sometimes i feel errant
sometimes i feel deviant sometimes i feel less than free
sometimes i feel more than free
sometimes i feel like a poor guide of myself
whoever in this world knew what they wanted who ever ever ever knew who was free
o i can't wait for april i can't wait to be a hermit to work to rest to hear the coyotes &birds &chipmunks
to fear what is coming in the night to befriend again the moon
&all the little lights above ooo i can't wait i can't wait
the man on my boat his housing fell through so he is continuing on
off to city hall to be a poet off to cafe fuel to be a board member
off to tent city to be a resident today is a 4 meeting day whoooSh
someone turned on my processor & i am processing sooo much
most pressingly most dramatically the tent city diorama &my relation to it
that's what i need to make a tent city diorama to smallen it shrink it to size to something seeable
i thought it was a puppet stage but it's a shoe box with a hole in it for the eclipse
i went through an intense period of it last night
feeling targeted unfairly suppressed wrong &wronged feeling at risk
but nothing came of it i questioned my judgement
when ye cannot rely on yourself woe
i was alllllll knotted from within
&those things are more a reflection of who i am seeming
than who i am gads gads gads
i need thicker socks i need heat i need to sit &write
i miss my research i've put in my time a home is less important than the time to use it

10 February 2011
A very wonderful 12-year-old girl named Hannah made, delivered and served dinner tonight at Tent City 3. Greater Seattle Cares coordinates a hot meal calendar for Tent City 3 and various supportive businesses, organizations and individuals contribute their time and resources into providing one hot meal to the residents of Tent City 3 on an almost daily basis. Hannah's mother was along as a helper, as was her younger brother who served the cookies. This meal was part of Hannah's Bat Mitvah project. She's been working on it for months and was so happy and her mother was happy for her and proud and all of the hungry people at Tent City were pleased and thankful and complimentary. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of pasta and salad and garlic bread, standing in the parking lot at Maple Leaf Lutheran Church, in the streetlamp light under the night sky. The gratefulness a person feels for the hot food that comes in at dinner time, when they are with or without hope, is immense. I would like to honor all of the people who have brought in food donations over the past 3 months, including the Beardans, Upper Crust Catering, Our Lady of the Lake...

a pew has never been so comfortable i got up at 4am to go to camp
i did a security from 4:30-6:15 then slept until 6:45 on a church pew
it is cold outside every says so it's cold it's cold 
we are not looking forward to going back out
i am meeting with vanessa this morn a 4-hr meeting
as of 2 days ago i've been falling asleep in all the wrong places at all the wrong times
woah woah the sleep monster is coming
i'm on security at midnight more meetings meetings
an english fellow contacted me &wants to come for a tour
saturday is filled with vanessa &documenting 8 hours
sunday is church bless me father but i'm at tent city
&helping kate move furniture to make way for baby nathan
then i'm meeting with karen who says she has an idea when will i sleep
&what do i need time air green things a goal work hard hard work water the ability to come &go 
a community i can tap into variety some crazy formula of stability that i haven't yet found 

11 February 2011
night is a metal flashlight &the hamlet is far away &made of hair anyway i held the camp secure from midnight til 3am at 6 i pre-found dawn it was all a darkness i slept for 3hrs then in a sliderule balanced on a church pew my glasses on a bible i was woken by accident at 4am &realized i was cold my side was numb my freedoms gone my life done &everyone around me was shifting with this same news i could not sleep

all the troublemakers are inside i do not know how to write this up this incident i do not know how to get around it (rips paper) she told me a month ago when she was deaf she told me she was incapable of whispering (shout this into a tube) she told me to whisper it tonight shhhh she growled mister faulty is here too collecting nano-waves from the toilet door conferring with every pilot in town about how to avoid this pretense of life this is training for the end of time the big sleep if one is unable we are all unable we shall suffer together this bad heart 

this is the queen who stole the village fire this is the fire she sold to the poet this is the bard who bought it this is the queen the one sunning herself here before the fire which rises but also sets &so &so off with her head he said my head isn't right &so &so off with his head too i'm thinking of stepping down he said but before i do who should we bar let's get it done right i want to go to sleep soon hey i know i know let's lock them all out let's lock out the faithful if we can't curse then we should be able to pray nothing is going right anyway our bones are cold cold to the core

i'm going outside going to check on the dome does it even exist my flashlight is in a ditch where the water drips a permanent drip she knows better than that it's 2:40am time to disinfect the handles waking is smoking is pregnant is a host of halos is a hard rock running from the radio is the quietmakers union making quiet but the snorers too are raking in the rock garden we must protect their silver pillow i am percolating now with chemical heat my gloves are erupting into small blue planets at last the sirens are coming into the distance my left hand is improving me slowing me the coffeepot has its effect

life in tent city goes on and on and on and on and on
they make you wake at 6am for a 7am departure from the church ridiculous
it takes 2 mins to walk out the door depending on who's in charge things are gentle or rough
last time we had a gentle wake-up at 6:30 &left of our own devices at 6:50
this time it was brash at 6 so i bolted i was hiding on my way out cuz
i didn't do an hour indoor security & i felt certain someone would flip about that
but then i was only in the church for 3 hours it all breeds the worst in everyone especially me
at least we can say the folks at tent city say it like it is they're honest &nonplussed

i have had enough of tent city i had enough of it loooong ago
i have had enough of a lot of things but most especially tent city
i have 2 more weeks i am going to make it
i have hair that needs cutting maybe i'll cut my tent up &make a nest of that

the pew last night was cruel
it bit into my side
put my bones to sleep
&sleeping bones
as we know
talk to headstones

12 February 2011

i did a super litter buster last night from 9-10:30 
wore a bright yellow security vest walked up and down 35th 
picking up cigarette butts felt like a prisoner 
nicholas came with me though that was nice of him
walked up to the chinese restaurant where he ordered chicken wings
while we waited i pecked the spent butts out of the tree wells
slept at tent city it was a warm night & i was tired
i slept long with my head at the low end my tent is backwards to the slant of the land 
no way to fix it now it's all nailed down with a tarp atop
i woke to sunshine & busy talk about dismantling tents
the guy i was supposed to meet has twice canceled on me 
if he'd a lived at tent city he'd have lost his home
i didn't find the homeless writing group at vita so i sat &wrote
i am getting sick my head hurts i long to sleep 
my hands are cold i fell asleep with my head on the desk
for 15 mins my jacket &hat are still on i am slanting to the right

15 february 2011
i was 2 minutes from being bagged &tagged (kicked out) it was 11:58pm when i rolled in from my art gathering it was a studio day i was on capitol hill before that i was sick for 3 days head sliding from one countertop to the next before that i worked 11 hours i wanted to sign up for church on saturday but i was too sick to get in the car i wanted to go to church on sunday but i was too sick to get up i had wanted to sign in on sunday but i was too sick &tent city is the kind of place you have to be to be because who else will run it if not you sick people too make the camp run it's true i can leave this is the difference if you are not there you will be kicked out because the city needs guards and diplomats i am not a diplomat i am trying to live another life now to write to fulfill my obligations while i am taking a little i am also giving a little i do not eat dinner i do not take bus tickets i do not make trash i do not charge my phone i do not cause problems or do i

17 february
my mind body is flagging again after a sleepless night 2 nights ago
then a short night last night on a church pew but it was warm while it lasted
when this project is over i will be free in a way i never was nevernever was
it can be over when i say it is over yes i could stop right now
i could have stopped last week i could have stopped in january
why do i keep going when i am only half going
growing up we had to finish everything on our plates
my friend clinton doesn't understand what are you doing
why are you hurting yourself i laugh &say b/c i'm homeless
i had a bazillion dreams last night &can't remember one
the wake-up call was rude 6am lights up all the way
waking is such an important process &should be slow
&if not slow then gentle &if not gentle then respectful
the mtg last night was not so bad except the consultant to the camp
who is always in attendance has a unique way of dampening the rain
he brings an attitude &sense of shame with him
3 people were told their questions were imbecilic
i can't think of anything more hurtful to say
to a group of cold frustrated homeless people in a parking lot
i was on the verge of making a motion that no one at the meeting no one
be allowed to make shameful remarks to anyone about what they said
i considered my time remaining the job i had to do &held off
my brother reserved a new plane ticket for me to go see my mom
i didn't go home at christmas time but the date is wrong
he has me flying on the morning of the big tc3 move
from meadowbrook to cherry hill so i said no go
again clinton said wHat you helped with one move
you don't need to do another it's more important to see your mother
but the culture at tc3 is intense around issues of accountability
& i feel deep in it & feel i would lose so much of the work i accomplished
if i don't help with the move that was always the plan
ok it wasn't always the plan but it became the plan
to stay for one full move from start to finish 3 months it's most amazing to think
i haven't been barred or given extra securities most amazing
i have a huge knot in my hair i blame the beret i slept in my clothes
jacket hat brown cord pants wool socks i got 6 hours of sleep glasses on a bible
i did a security from 9pm-midnight
it was mostly it was good
but the accountant was in a bad mood &reprimanded me
for asking to take myself off the security list for tomorrow
seems my new saturday meeting counts for 2 securities
&with the one i am pulling tonight i'll have 3
tomorrow would make 4 i don't need it
he said you need to come to me to ask that question
that's what i'm doing i'm asking now
there are no special circumstances no no i understand
&there haven't been not for the poet not for nobody
i got someone to pick up the shift within a few minutes
then went out to pick up cigarette butts in a 4 block radius around camp
in prison mode in my yellow vest nice to be out walking
but freezing but the full moon but the smashmash moon
someone stopped me on 103rd got out of her car &shook my hand
said thank you for being here for all you're doing keeping the neighborhood clean
she gave me a piece of cake emily on 103rd that was nice
someone has been spitting their gum out in camp
roger & i used a putty knife to scrape up 15 coins of gum
just another night in tent city
i slept 6 hrs last night & not at all the night before
before that i was sick for 3 days i haven't bathed in a while

&we all stood around watching the moon
&it stood around watching us the pack of us
i asked someone what do you think the birds think 
when they fly over tent city
someone smiled & said 

18 february
i did another litter buster today wore an orange camouflage vest
you really only have to pick up trash for 20 mins but i went wild 
i went for 90 mins to 95th &30th &filled a bag
the world is once again hermetic zipzip i picked up cigarette butts
cans wrapper bits of foil lollipop sticks wet plastic bags
each time i bent down by a parked car
to pick up something small a bottle top
i imagined the home owner inside wondering
if i was casing the joint peering into his car
into his home preparing to come back
to break in i felt watched &criminal

i talked to my mom today we were good until just after hello
i told her i was 9 days away from being thru w/ tent city
she asked what happens then i'm a different person then that's what
it is winddddy today i am going to nickelsville at noon
for a long meeting called power lunch which happens every week
i am representing tc3 this week me &monte
it's where all the SHARE business happens or so i am told
afterwards i'll meeting with monte about his resource book
&about some other ideas he has

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

they're waiting still (to be released)

this is my tent mine it is the tiniest in town i don't stay in it every night now i am trying to take care of myself i am working in the world now i am trying to keep track of myself i am down to one sleeping bag in camp i am nailed to the floor my sky is a plastic sky the weather is balmy &my home is taking a slow breath this is my home i am not always there &there was never a home i was in always except that first home will there be another

there are fewer people milling around now fewer coughers it is the 1st of the month &those who could did those who couldn't well they're waiting still (to be released) waiting with me &ovid &io &jove &juno &isis

it is beginning to rain on my home my tarp is crinkling the television is chattering away i have a cotton shirt on &a jacket i am biking biking the breeze feels like spring but then afterwards i was cool camp is the kind of place i could stay tonight people are listening talking to one another putting puzzles together dawn &randy &rickey are pulling chairs close the tarps &tents are coming down 3 smurfs are gone now poof the tent over my bike is gone poof poof soon i too will go for good where to i have a security to do this week now i am claiming my outside work now i can substitute 2 litter busters for 2 securities now i can pick up cigarette butts in the neighborhood while wearing a bright yellow vest a yellow letter H

the rain is raining harder now it is coming down on the wind which is gusting the rain is pelting like almonds now i suspect the smell of dogs is somewhere rising the smell of sulpher from the roads the oil mixing slipping into grooves it is quiet for a long while it is quiet there is no other sound than plastic &the tv low &the voices lower &the footsteps on patrol like prison guards it is quiet quiet quiet at the perimeter a car passes like a bandwidth
then again from nowhere it comes a body of wind my ceiling collapses &fills it is 4:47am someone knocked the lid off the garbage can someone is putting it sloppily on someone is sliding the can outside my tent someone someone is coughing exhaling six convulsing broken lungs are coughing it is not raining there is no wind now i am not alone lake city is humming 5 blocks downhill someone is taking a pill someone someone is talking to a sick person this take this to the doctor tell him this is what you need someone is protecting us thank you the wind is someone too gently pressing on my tent 2 pills are sliding in a plastic bottle take them take them take them

Harry Potter
I've been driving an old borrowed car, a Honda Civic with peeling paint, but when residents from TC3 get in they all say the same thing--What comfort! Transportation by car is a rare treat. O the things we take for granted! I was invited, by a new friend, to go downtown to see a movie. Yes, I'd love to. I drove the three of us to town, dropped them off near the Compass Center to check their mail and cash their checks and parked uptown. I walked back in to meet them at the theatre. We ate popcorn, drank sodas, saw Harry Potter on the big screen--the normal life! It was a lovely outing. To think, it took someone asking me. How honored, to be called a friend, to be asked. Rowling, you know, was on social security and raising her daughter alone before the success of Harry Potter in 1997. She is now helping the homeless in Great Bristain. Four years ago, she allowed BISS to publish the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix before it hit the shops. When you get where you are going, remember where you came from.

The Order of the Phoenix
Why is it I've been swarmed, questioned and called out these past three months? Is it because of my relationship to the homeless? I have to wonder. It is ever so coincidental. I began to sense it, a kind of culture of difference, shortly after beginning my residency. "Are you safe?" they asked. "More than safe," I said, "I feel cared for." They cocked their heads. Hmmm. They don't believe me. After my last outing, I left my friends in a little urban park and walked up the hill to retrieve the car. One of the men is disabled and cannot navigate the hills. I told him--Wait here, I'll be back with the car. I drove around and saw them surrounded by bicycle police. O no! My friends approached with a citation in hand. Offense: Urinating in public. Blast! Shouldn't have had that second big gulp! He said, "First time for everything." I said, "You anointed one of my favorite places in Seattle." We laughed. Another outing, different people, also homeless, I was waiting in the alleyway while my friend picked up a dress from a daughter for a special affair. I was parked with my flashers on, three cop cars swung around, all at once, and swarmed us. Something was planted at the foot of the man standing behind my car. The female officer comes to my window. "Are you aware this man is a known narcotics dealer?" "No, I am not aware." No one asks who I am. No one asks for identification. After a brief interrogation, my homeless friends are released. They say that if I were not with them, they would have gone to jail. Or so they think. For what? The woman who made the call was sitting across the alley in an open car staring at us. Her hair was thinning. She had photosensitive lenses on. Shouldn't they post a warning: This Alley Is Hot. Linger Longer than Two Minutes and You Will Be Questioned. Anyway, what were we doing in that alley? A family member of the homeless woman lives there. Coincidence? Hmmm. A third incident. I invited a homeless friend to dinner. He joined me and my two friends at the house I am watching (friends on vacation). Because he smokes, he goes out frequently to the porch. Neighbors call the home owners to warn them someone suspicious is on their porch. Granted, this neighborhood has been vandalized in the past. My own car has been broken into right here, in front of this house, while I was sleeping inside. The neighbors are on high alert for difference, for people who look different, act different. What do villains look like? They smoke.