Sleeping Bags in the Park and Ethiopian Food

I found the public library, got a library card, and then checked out a Kerouac and Ensler book and almost cried with how high on life I was. I’m doing it! I’m living in a city right now! I have a library card for the capital of California! And how rough it was, too. People are sad. And happy in the strangest places. I’m starting to notice. We all are.

I stopped on J street, the main street, and looked a the light rail map. This basketball-player-tall homeless man sitting nearby asked me if I was a part of the weightlifting gym downtown. And I was like, no. I had had enough interaction with men for the day.

And then he was like, “Oh. I just thought maybe you were because you look really athletic.”

I said, okay. And walked away. Again, not taking in any information about the public transit system, as per usual. It’s all about the act that counts. If I find a map, that means I will make it home. Regardless if I read it or not.

I called Monica to see if she wanted to hang out, because I didn’t really want to navigate home all alone again. Even though I was prepared to do it. I would figure it out. Wing it.

But she ended up saying she wanted to go out to dinner, so I waited in the local park.

There were people in sleeping bags all over the park.

I sat down with all the homeless people. A community of people living on the streets. Sharing a day in the park. The same guy that I had seen at the train stop went past me once. I said, oh great.

Then five minutes later he went past me again.

“You cold?” He asked me.

“No.”

“Really? I’m from Miami. This is too cold for me.”

I decided to engage him. He wasn’t so bad. He was just looking for someone to talk to. There were tons of people around in this situation as well, and it felt safe.

“Why did you move out here?” I ask him.

“The Marijuana, honestly.”

He made a face, like he was a bit embarrassed of this statement. Then he went into his explanation. I couldn’t hear a lot of it, but what I did hear was that he was tired of people looking over his shoulder. Said he felt freer out here. I think there was some race, and class inequality mixed into it all. And it was pretty eye opening. And I was glad I asked. It is true, homeless people in California seem like they have more freedom than in any place I’ve ever visited. And it’s pretty decent weather year round outside.

After he was finished, he asked what my name was. I hesitated, but then told him. And then I asked him. And he said his name was Anthony. He said, now next time we see each other, we can say hello to one another. He said, “Bye, Annie.” And I missed a beat and then said, “Bye, Anthony.”

And it made me pretty happy. I mean, it’s just a whole culture of people that I have been warned about, but out here, in this city at least, they are so integrated into the fabric of the culture here. And who says you can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t have a home? You can at least wave hello and say, “Hello, Anthony, no?”

Monica arrived, and I walked across the park. And there was this other group of homeless people who yelled at me and said how I had it going on, and how my smile had just brightened their day. And yes, it was pretty much cat calling. And on another day I might have been pissed off, but at that moment I didn’t feel threatened. I just smiled and rolled my eyes and walked on. I had had someone ask to live in my house this morning- someone telling me again that I had a great smile wasn’t the end of the world.

That was my day.

What a strange day.

I have a feeling that’s how it’s going to be for awhile, though.

Let’s feel it out, I guess?

One day at a time.

Learn as I go.

Dipping my toes in the water.

Going to try to learn more about how to interact with this huge homeless community presence in the city.

I am high on life right now. As well as so frustrated with life. It’s a weird mix. Bring it on.

So we went out to eat Ethiopian food tonight.

Today was the best, but I got pissed off when we went out for dinner together.

I just really need a break from this group think.

The gossiping about people, the program, the team dynamics and drama.

It’s not enough that I have my own, but I really don’t want to sit at a table with three people from another team, and hear them tell their stories for two hours.

PLEASE.

People.

The food was good, though.

After I left Temple coffee shop today, I walked around looking for the library.

I saw signs for art museums, and I started to get really excited.

I am free!

There are so many things to do!

I can do anything I want right now!

Art museum on a whim! Afghan cuisine! Spoken word event by a queer feminist artist and a lecture by a former black panther leader!

I haven’t felt this all year, honestly. We’ve been in really isolated areas, and I didn’t know how easy it was to get away for the day. Or I didn’t have the ambition to in Sacramento before.

But now I do. Because I can’t do these people here anymore.

Not that they are bad. But it’s time for change. It’s time for being an adult. I am not a freshman in college anymore, and that’s what this whole year has felt like.

You freshman year of college is always cool, and I’ve had the opportunity to repeat it many times– dorms freshman year, Hastings house and living in England junior year, moving into Sunflower house coop senior year, then being a barista for a year and meeting people upon people, and then this program this year.

I’ve done it before, so don’t be offended that I’m backing out of the limelight now. It feels good to be embraced into a culture, but the people who know me best know I don’t like to settle down. I like to challenge myself to fit in, and once I do, or at least once I’ve given it a good try, it’s time to move on.

“I know that things can really get rough/when you go it alone/don’t go thinking you gotta be tough/and play like a stone/could be there’s nothing else in our lives/so critical/as this little hole” -simple song, the shins

Listening to music, the lyric seemed fitting at this point in my recounting the day.

I was reading my old journal from October yesterday. The first page is written in San Diego, during my layover to Sacramento. And I just kept writing about how I was alone. I am alone. I am alone. I am alone. And how freeing that was to me. How exciting. How I always feel in my element when I am passing through a city. Seeing all of these people from all over the world. And knowing that none of them know me, or have expectations of me.

I am tired of these people having expectations of me.

Because here’s the thing. I am there for them for A LOT. Particularly my close girlfriends here. And then when I was sick Friday and Saturday, none of them even asked if there was anything they could do for me. They even put expectations on me that night, and make me feel pressure to make them happy.

Which is just as much of my problem, maybe more so than theirs.

I put such unrealistic people pleasing expectations on myself. And then I have to run away to a new place that doesn’t expect.

My point being though, I’m always there for these people. Pretty much daily supporting them. So that they will support me when I need it.

But when I need it— when I was sick— there is no thought of how they can help me.

And I know I’m being nitpicky right now. Because they are pretty great people. But it’s about drawing that line.

I don’t need them.

Because they were not there for me.

And that’s where I’m at right now.

I’m a traveler. And they are trying to tie me down, and be friendship competitive. And it’s something I’ve been noticing for a little while. And am not all about.

So it’s not that I’m not going to be friends with these people anymore. It’s just that I’m going to lighten my expectations on myself to what I give to this friendship.

It’s not the end of the world if I say I don’t want to talk tonight. It’s not the end of the world if I say I don’t want to talk about how you’re lonely, but you’re having boys sleep in our room every night.

This is the definition of a rant right now.

And I’m sorry if you are reading this, because this is not me at my best self. This is me trying to get back to my best self. And make sense of the things around me.

But I’m too tired for editing tonight. And also I’m too lazy to come up with something other than stream of consciousness for blog tonight. I need more variation on writing style. Trying to write in all moods. I am not a perfect being, none of us are. And that is okay.

Point: I am taking more me time and walking away.

After we got back from the Ethiopian restaurant I walked off to get wifi, and probably won’t be hanging out with anyone until next weekend.

I’m not missing out on opportunity when I take off by myself. I’m creating opportunity. I already know how far conversation with these people take me. It’s where it’s taken me during all of my various “freshman” years. Fast friendships, fast expectations, too much pressure.

And me putting in much more than I want to receive or need to receive. Can you imagine if I put that into working in a homeless shelter? All of the emphasis on put on making my “freshman year” friends happy?

Monica, Joe and Hannah picked me up at Cesar Chavez park. And we went to check out my new home as of next week. It’s just across the river from downtown. And I was a bit scared as we drove along. It was four minutes away on GPS from the Ethiopian restaurant we were going to. And the restaurant was right downtown.

But we pulled across the river, which is right in the middle of the city, and took a left.

And there it was. Tucked away in the trees.

A little community!

There were about 15 trailer park homes, with litter gardens outside of them. We pulled in further, and there is a little lodge, and an outside classroom.

There are about 30 people sitting on tree stumps around an easel, having some sort of community meeting. City hippies.

And there were about 15 huge turkeys just wandering around the lodge. There were pet goose or ducks in people’s yards. And there were kittens.

I wanted to just jump out, and live there now. Find out what this secret easel meeting happening on the river under the cover of trees was.

Monica asked, “How come you guys always get the little hidden hippie communities?”

I really don’t know. And I don’t love the work we do, but I do really enjoy the experiences we’ve gotten to have. It all beats living in a isolated apartment building or hotel, even if my experiences were not perfect– I have to admit they were interesting.

So now I’m really excited about next week, and joining this new community!

We drove back over the river, now in the city again, and looked back on the place where we would be living. It was just a solid block of trees along the waterfront– you would have no idea that there were minds at work behind all the green.

Not even a four minute drive from our campsite is the “Loaves and Fishes” homeless shelter and community kitchen. Where I will hopefully be once a week.

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