Monday, December 6, 2010


The strawberry beds are treasure islands in among the parking lot sea, but step on a strawberry and you'll earn yourself two extra security shifts. They're forbidden fruits in forbidden lands, the islands in the parking lot. I pulled two security shifts Friday night, 6-9pm and 12-3am (not because I stepped on the strawberries). Rules are rules, women are not allowed to go on neighborhood sweeps at night, which of course irks me, being someone who loves to walk, especially in a cold camp where walking is one of the only ways to keep warm. Alas though, I did sweep my first shift. I took a right out of camp and walked down 103rd to Ravenna and up 100th. I was warm by time I returned to camp to announce--All's quiet on the western front!

Afterwards, I helped unload the spaghetti dinner sent by Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. Four friendly men transported and served the meal to us. The line formed and cycled through and was opened for seconds. After seconds were served, I was again offered a plate. This time took it. It was piled with spaghetti, lasagna, salad and lemon cake. I ate everything and quickly and was warm the long evening because of it. Eat. Remember. Food is heat.


It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern our conditions;
Else one self mate and mate could not beget
such different issues.

--From Shakespeare's King Lear

Floating overhead, the democratic stars, the unconcerned birds and the cold and warm fronts with their thrifty clouds. Stars, so clear, push their way to us on earth, who, coldly shuttering, pull out our velvet purses. Roger and Roger and I stood gazing. Violin Roger oriented us before focusing on Betelgeuse, the red supergiant 640 light years away, which, he reports, will explode one day. By time we gave up for bed, there were at four others standing with us, looking up, sharing the stars.

Orion and I walked our last inside check at 3am, Sirius' sapphire now nosing up over the horizon. My boots clicked as I patrolled the docks. The barges are all tied together for the evening and creaking. While I walked, a thought formed in me and spread out like a ring. I thought it quietly, but it washed over me and made the whole camp sway. It was a simple thought--I care about these people. I've truly come to care for these people, lying on milk crates, behind tent flaps, in rows to right and left. They have names and stories and idiosyncrasies along with a whole host of lovable qualities. It felt good to leave the confusion behind. It felt good to be vested. Two days ago, I couldn't have said this. Since then, I've experienced the magic number of experiences, shared the magic number of minutes, looked into the magic number of eyes. And now I feel it. I've witnessed the tendernesses. I've seen people sharing the few goods they have. I've been hugged and smiled at and greeted. People have told me stories. Ideas have been tossed my way. Advice has been given, help been offered. Acceptance is everyday dredged again. You are who you are, where you are, and that's all you are. And, though there have been bars, there really are no bars, just obstacles we know we'll overcome, rocks in the stream to smooth and roll around.

I did not sleep a wink. Blink blink. Not when I first got into my bag for a three hour break, not after my second shift. I just lay down waiting for morning to come, in my sleeping bag, in a bivy, breathing my own warm air, atop a sheepskin, atop a thermarest, atop a plywood sheet, atop a pallet, in a parking lot in Meadowbrook. Strangely, my knees were cold this night. Less strangely, I felt a thrill. About? About life perhaps. I only know I've been roused. Traveling, as I am, one is often brought back to life. Then there's the scant sleep, which heightens things. Night before last, I stayed up writing until 5am at my office in Fremont. This morning, I woke to hoar frost on my ger and on the strawberries and grass and every shady spot.

I spent the day away from camp. What was to be a quick trip across town for 3 items, turned into a 5-hour conversation at Lighthouse Roasters on the possibilities for collaborative projects between artists in and out of camp. It all starts with a need. I needed coffee and a place to write. I'd planned to drink a coffee, write a bit, then head to my office. But then Clayton started a conversation, yet another old NBBJ architect. Then Josie Davis joined in. Then the woman at the next table, Ann Sloper, the producer of the Ice Queens, the fabulous paper dresses from the Fremont Solstice Parade. Ann asked what we were talking about and now she's on board to collaborate with an artist at Tent City. Then, just before I left, I saw my old neighbors, Mark and Jane. "We never see you any more." "That's because I'm living at Tent City." You should have seen her eyes widen and fill with horror, and me assuring, "as an art project, as an art project." They backed away, dragging with them their concern.

I dropped in on Clinton. He's hard at work on the poet's cape. He's making me a warm cloak to wear in TC3, to identify me as the poet, to let people know I'm working (the poet is in), so they can come talk to me. I've seen Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet  (Shakespeare) about 20 times. Mel Gibson plays Hamlet and delivers a force of a performance. Atop the richening experience of word play, I have salivated over costumes and set designs. I wanted to make myself a copy of Mel Gibson's sweater and cape. I froze the scene where he comes to the castle with The Players. He is about to script a play for them so as to expose the king. He is wearing a long, multicolor cape, which he draws about himself with a flourish. It is this cape we are using as a model. I need a cape to sit on the roof in. I need a cape to be out on the moors in. I need a cape to work and walk and sleep in. Clinton studied the frozen image and began to work out his own design. He started with the deer skin I'd bought last year at the Goodwill and was partway through when he moved to a different model using old sweaters. He bought 10 wool sweaters from the Goodwill, cut them up and is now sewing them into 10 long triangles which will come together to form a round cape. The piece is halfway done and gorgeous already! When I saw it, I said, "I can't own a coat like that and not walk across America!" One thing leads to another, I suppose, and who knows where I'll be in 2012, but really, with a coat like this, I'm rather certain of where I need to be, out walking with the people.

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