Friday, October 21, 2011

Living in Occupy Richmond

I moved into tent city last night. I was met by a move-in crew who helped me set up my tent. I had borrowed a tent instead of using my own and imagine our surprise when it turned out to be a ... hexagon. Once that hurdle was overcome I was given the ultimate Welcome Wagon gifts - a brand new tarp and some insulation sheets. Both went under the tent and I slept great.

The most beautiful moment of the day was when an artist whom we'll call Chad convinced me to move. Turns out I had dropped my stuff smack dab in the anarchist village. Chad said, "They're nice kids but you may want to..."

I got nothing against anarchists but I am almost positive we do not share the same sleeping habits. "Let's go!"

Chad gave me a tour of his neighborhood. It is not right on the walkway but it does have some art, a tree, the police liaison, and some adorable gay pride kids who spent the evening working quite hard to create their Betsy Ross lean-to. I call them the gay pride kids because they are young enough for me to have birthed them and because the only civilized aspect of their dwelling is the rainbow flag door. Such cuties.

Once I had agreed to move, Chad lifted the hexagon at the tip of its roof and held it over his head. As he moved me the 40 feet to my new neighborhood he twirled the upside down tent over his head. I couldn't decide whether it looked more like a balloon juggling or a super-human blown glass sculpture floating. He twirled and twirled and we all laughed and cheered as the move-in crew and I followed him to my new spot. It was a lovely little touch of magic and it made the whole evening great.

Since I've never met a stranger I talked to "Lauren" who has been homeless off and on since the 90's. She is greatly appreciative of the Occupy Richmond movement because she never knew that there were people who shared her concerns. They also gave her a brand new tent. She'd been sleeping on park benches.

I met "Dave" with the legal team. I am not sure what it is the legal team does. I told him I had a bail bondsman and he was very impressed. "You come prepared!" Not really. I just have a bail bondsman.

I met "Jericho" who is going into the Army soon but is hanging out at Occupy Richmond to learn about the movement and the issues associated with it. He really wants to stay but doesn't have a tent. I think he is not willing to take the risk, because as the Betsy Ross boys showed - you can sleep under most any kind of shelter. Or in Lauren's case - none at all.

I shared some candy corn with Chad before bed. We talked about the usual things protesters talk about (wink wink): our kids, places we'd lived, philosophy of free will, how comfy insulation sheets under a tent are, obstacles to independence. He and I both had work today so he said goodnight, jumped up, and walked the four steps back home.

My last thoughts before sleep were that people need tents. If you can't have a house or a family, a job or a calling, a car or a plan - you at least need a tent. I remember hearing about Gulf Coast residents who lived in tents on the slabs where there homes had been. In that sense, they were able to not be "homeless" and that was deeply important to them.

I hope my gay pride cuties make some improvements on the Betsy Ross lean-to and then get the word out on the construction guidelines. And whatever it becomes - it should be twirlable.

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