Meet the American Nomads of Walmart’s Plentiful Parking Lots
By Jakob Schiller
If you’ve ever tried to sleep in your car on a long trip without planning ahead, you may have run into the law at some point. Each U.S. city has a different policy and tolerance for car-sleeping and it’s hard to find a legit spot if you don’t know where exactly you’ll be stopping.
What you can count on is one of Walmart’s over 3,000 stores being nearby. The company’s policy of allowing overnight stays in their parking lots is intended to boost sales, but has the tangential effect of creating a subculture around its locations (though they’re still at the mercy of local laws). Paste this url into you browser to read the rest of the story on Wired:
Complete Video of Making Canoe From Scratch
A great video made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota. Master woodworker Grant Goltz leads the team in the ground up reconstruction of an indigenous birchbark canoe. It helps to be in the northeast when you want to do this, finding a grove of birch in the Los Angeles area might be a little tough.
Filmmaker Michael Arth Spent Years Documenting the Drama of
A Homeless Camp in the Woods of Florida
His film, “Out of the Woods” is an engrossing study of the folks who live in a camp in the Florida woods. Some are drunks, fighting the demons created by alcohol; some are dopers, others just out of work or homeless with no place to lay their head at night. Dirty Dave Grimsly, who weirdly has a slight resemblance to George Bush (the Junior one), takes them all in. He feeds them, cooks meals, gives them a tent or a sleeping bag, and tends to them. Because of their emotional and physical situations, the people who live in the camp provide us with dramatic statements of the personal horrors and the angst they are going through. Michael Arth is to be honored for this timeless study of those who need a helping hand, but find that the there is none from the local government. For those poor folks, the last stop is a tent deep in the woods, in a camp run by a good natured alcoholic nick-named Dirty Dave. And if there is an unlikely saint in this film, it is Dave. Every day he lives through his own hell of being a drunk and an ex-con sent to prison for manslaughter But it is Dave who gives his love and attention to a squad of lost souls who occupy the camp. It will probably be a long time before you forget some of these characters and their sad and tragic lives. Filmmaker.Arth holds up a backwards-looking mirror in which you not only see them in the present, but you see them as children, growing up, handsome and beautiful, ready to jump into the American dream. The juxtaposition of their youthful years, so hopeful and full of life, with the shocking reality of their hopeless descent into the swirling hell that lies beneath the surface of our society, is a major achievement by Mr. Arth.
Mr. Arth made this film in part to promote the construction of a project called Tiger Bay Village, to give a last chance to homeless folks in the area, a place to detox and recover their health, as well as living quarters so they can recover their personal dignity. Michael Arth has been working for years to push through this project, which is still stalled by the local government. The pathetic, actually enraging and ironic slap in the face to the American people, is that when our own folks need this kind of help it is not to be found, and our own government, year after year dumps millions of people into the U.S. as “refugees” or for “political asylum”. As this is written, your tax paid mentally ill rulers at the Department of State are planning on bringing one and a half million refugees from Syria into the country. What for? We don’t need them or want them. We have our own to take care of. Every war that the CIA loses becomes another humanity dump of millions more into our decaying cities. With the jobs sent to China, and the banksters pushing millions of families from their homes into the streets, the homeless population is increasing at a rapid pace. Tell Washington to STOP NOW. Get out of these foreign countries, and please, no more refugees until the American born homeless are taken care of, and that includes our Veterans, 800,000 of whom have been waiting for years for their benefits. The smells in homeless encampments are nothing compared to the stink from the politicians in Washington, D.C., the world’s biggest sewage pit masquerading as a city. Those politicians are not fit to kiss the feet of a guy like Dirty Dave Grimsley.
Watch the film below, or find it directly on youtube: Out of the Woods
Contact the filmmaker Michael Arth at www.goldenapplesmedia.com
Check out the Tiger Bay Village site at www.villagesforthehomeless.org
Forced Homeless, Teacher Survives in Storage Unit and Friends Couches
About ten years ago I was living camped out in a back add-on building, called the ‘chapel’, of two story old house in the edge of Hancock Park, actually on the border of Korea Town, when the house was sold and I had no clear vision as to where to go. With my brother’s brainstorming help, I decided to put all of my somewhat gypsy belongings into a storage locker right off a main freeway in downtown LA…but still didn’t know what I was going to do next.
At the time I had my own business teaching, well, actually tutoring, doing educational therapy with kids of all ages with learning differences. My weekdays varied. I worked with my students, after school, at their homes, and in all different areas of the city, On a weekly basis I would drive from Malibu to Silver Lake, from Glendale to near LAX. to tutor academically and emotionally challenged children of mostly above average income parents. Since I had been doing this work for some years I didn’t mind driving and actually grew to feel like a taxi driver, knowing all of the short cuts and shops everywhere. I felt at home in all of the different areas of LA. My varied friends were also scattered throughout the city and the expanded metropolis.
When my friends heard of my new lifestyle they wanted to be supportive and to my surprise offered me the keys to their houses. Since most had a spare bedroom they were happy to have me crash at their houses one night a week. On the weekends I would visit my storage locker in order to get a change of clothes and different educational material that I needed for the week. I had part of the storage locker set up like a bedroom with chest of drawers highly organized into categories of clothes and racks of shirts,sweaters, pants and skirts from which to choose.
When I finished tutoring sometimes the parents would invite me to stay for dinner. In addition I soon discovered how to eat simply out of grocery stores and that McDonalds had the best chicken salad of all the fast food places. At that point I wasn’t fussy in my eating habits. After tutoring I would call my friends who lived in the area in which I was working and ask if I could spend the night at their house. Their answers were always an excited, “Yes, you have your key, just let yourself in and I will be back from ‘wherever’ soon.” Sometime they would welcome my company for a delicious dinner that they had fixed or an impromptu dinner that we co-created.
I was able then to visit my friends at night and in the morning, and quality time too. Invariably they had problems in their lives and they welcomed my counseling expertise. They seemed to at least listen to my input and It felt good for me to be able to help them.
I had known that I liked spontaneous living and that the word ‘plan’ wasn’t really part of my vocabulary, but existing in this ‘free-spirit’ way showed me just how content I was to simply be ok with what was. Actually the whole thing was more liberating and satisfying than I could have imagined. Well really, I did not go into the future enough to imagine anything. I didn’t do any planning, other than my students, and just went from doing one thing to the next. Since I love short trips and people, this life style suited me well. I learned a lot from my constant interaction with people…and that hiding within myself, in my room, wasn’t the most productive for me. I was amazed at how my self confidence and self esteem grew, just realizing that I was flexible enough to fit in anywhere. People seemed to value not only my counseling and people skills but my astrological knowledge as well. Everyone wanted me to look at their charts.
This experience was so positive I would love to do it again. Unfortunately, I now live in a cottage in Santa Monica that has rent control. and I am afraid to give up this low rent to venture into the unknown. Since I have temporarily abandon my nomadic ways and collected a cottage and a garage full of ‘tools of the trade’ and semi ’emotionally attached to’ precious possessions, I will continue to hope that someone reading this will be able to help me get unstuck. Suggestions and comments are most welcome.
Cool Story of a Couple Desert Gypsies from the May 1959 Desert Magazine. This wonderful magazine disappeared in the 1980’s, but once in a while you can find a few old issues in used bookshops. I also found an internet archive that you can download old issues for free, check out this great site: Desert Magazine Archives. If you like to camp out and have some desert fun, this is a great resource. Although some of the places in the deserts of the southwest are now off limits because of a Federal government land grab, there’s still a lot of places to go. The old Desert Magazine is also packed with articles on lost gold mines and places to pan gold. Don’t forget that until the early 1970’s gold prices were fixed at $35 per once, and now gold is over $1,750. Working hard to get a little “color” is a lot more profitable now.
Some of our greatest authors also loved the desert, a good example is Erle Stanley Gardner the great mystery writer. Mr. Gardner loved the desert and often went on long expeditions, even down to the Mexican bad lands. He also wrote some riveting books on “Hunting Lost Mines by Helicopter”, and books on exploring Baha, Califonrnia. There was actually a Gardner museum up in Ventura at one time, but the web site seems to be down, maybe the museum is gone. For a while it was in an old library bus, packed with Gardner memorabilia, and the bus would show up at schools and downtown Ventura during festivals.
Here’s a fan site that lists all of Gardner’s books on his gypsy travels: Erle Stanley Gardner Bibliography. You can see all the cool books he wrote on desert camping and exploration. I have read many of them and they are all great. Gardner really made a production out of his gypsy travels. He usually had his “cast of characters”, old friends, who traveled with him. He also brought his secretary and dictated some stories while enjoying the desert. Might as well turn that sand into some coin while you are at it!
“When one species disappears, others tend to follow.”
Old story from NY Times
In East Village, Harbingers of Spring Are Missing
Young, tattooed travelers gathered in Tompkins Square Park in 2009. The visitors have been absent this year.
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
Published: June 14, 2011
For years, warm weather in the East Village has been heralded by an influx of young, tattooed visitors carrying backpacks and bedrolls and wearing clothes so stiffened with grit that they have come to be known in the neighborhood as crusties.
On Tuesday, the benches were empty along a stretch known locally as Crusty Row.
Their arrival in Tompkins Square Park has become a predictable harbinger of spring, a surviving custom in a neighborhood that has undergone various upheavals and changes over the past several decades.
But this year, they have not materialized. People have reported stray sightings of one or two visitors, but nothing like what the neighborhood has come to expect. No one knows if they are simply late this year or if, for some reason, they will not come at all. Either way, their absence has been conspicuous.
“It’s like the birds aren’t migrating this year; the salmon aren’t swimming upstream,” said Chris Flash, an East Village resident who runs a local bike courier service and an underground newspaper called The Shadow. “The whole ecology of the neighborhood is out of whack.”
The visitors are seasonal nomads, crossing the nation in rough accordance with changing weather patterns, heading south or west in the winter and venturing toward the Northeast in the summer months. Many travel along rail lines like the Union Pacific and the Norfolk Southern, hoisting themselves into empty freight train boxcars.
Several cities are known to be relatively hospitable to the travelers, among them San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va. In New York, the group has become such a fixture in Tompkins Square Park that the area where members have generally assembled — near the park’s western edge, just south of the Temperance Fountain — is known as Crusty Row.
There, the travelers could typically be found relaxing on wooden benches and whiling away the hours talking (adventurous tales of illicit rail travel were popular), drinking (preferred beverages included cheap vodka, malt liquor or “space bags,” the name given to the silvery bladders found in boxes of wine) and smoking (self-rolled cigarettes predominated)
Dozens of the nomads would set up what seemed like semipermanent encampments along the row, at one point designating their territory with a black flag emblazoned with a skull and crossbones. Many would arrive at the park shortly after the 6 a.m. opening time and remain until the midnight curfew, leaving in between only to avail themselves of free meals handed out on Avenue A or to ask for spare change on St. Marks Place.
Last summer, a steady flow of the travelers frequented the park from May through September. During that time, a local photographer, Steven Hirsch, documented the visitors’ presence and recorded their stories on a blog, crustypunks.blogspot.com. This year, Mr. Hirsch theorized that the visitors were steering clear of their usual haunt to avoid a blizzard of summonses that he said the police began issuing late last summer for infractions like drinking in public or lying on a bench.
A street poet who goes by the name L.E.S. (for Lower East Side) Jewels, a Crusty Row regular who lives in New York year round, agreed with Mr. Hirsch. On a recent afternoon, he sat on a bench in Tompkins Square Park, away from the Row, and ruminated in rhyme on the absence of his more mobile comrades:
“It’s a park, it’s for all, for all to be,
and Tompkins Square now is just a memory
it ain’t like it used to be.
I’m sitting here in Tompkins Square,
drinking vodka like I do anywhere,
next thing you know you got a pair of cuffs on,
and those silver bracelets, they ain’t no fun.”
Over the years, some people who frequent the park have expressed distaste for the travelers, saying that too many drink alcohol openly and that they tend to create a disorderly atmosphere. Others have been more tolerant, arguing that whatever harm the travelers cause is only to themselves. Susan Stetzer, the district manager of Community Board 3, suggested that many East Village residents had accepted the visitors.
“People just don’t make a big deal about them,” Ms. Stetzer wrote in an e-mail, adding, “At least they are quiet.”
On a recent afternoon, Crusty Row was empty, save for a few parkgoers. Levent Gulsoy, 55, gazed toward the empty row of benches where the travelers used to gather. “That’s not a good sign,” he said. “When one species disappears, others tend to follow.”
Sharing a Part of Activist History in the East Village
By COLIN MOYNIHAn
From the street, the brick tenement on Avenue C looked like any other building. But inside on Saturday afternoon, about 30 people gathered to look at a storefront space covered with graffiti and murals.
“This is C-Squat,” Laurie Mittelmann explained to one of the spectators, “soon to be home to the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.”
That museum, Ms. Mittelmann said, was being established to, among other things, tell the story of how activists in the East Village took over abandoned properties and over the years transformed them into permanent housing or community gardens.
She said that she came up with the idea for the museum with Bill DiPaola, the executive director of an environmental group, Time’s Up, whose members participated in demonstrations to preserve community gardens and squats.
Some of those efforts were effective. Most of the East Village gardens became permanent parts of the neighborhood in 2002 after Eliot Spitzer, then the state’s attorney general, and the Bloomberg administration resolved a lawsuit Mr. Spitzer had filed against the Giuliani administration to prevent their sale to developers.
Although the police evicted many squatters, the city called a truce about a decade ago and about a dozen squatter buildings remained. The resulting agreement cleared the way for residents of those buildings, including C-Squat, at 155 Avenue C, to become legal owners.
Still, the neighborhood has undergone startling changes over the last three decades, and Ms. Mittelmann said the goal of the museum was to preserve the memory of its recent history.
Mr. DiPaola said that he was enthusiastic about opening the museum in C-Squat, perhaps the most anarchic of the squats, and home to members of local bands like Choking Victim, Banji and Dog That Bites Everyone.
Opinion about the museum idea varied among C-Squat residents. Ultimately, a majority decided that the project made sense, said Brett Lebowitz, who has lived in the building for 20 years. Residents said the museum would provide monthly income from a tenant that promised to reflect the philosophy that was an important part of the building and the East Village itself.
Last week, Ms. Mittelmann, a neighborhood activist who lives nearby, and Mr. DiPaola signed a lease to rent the storefront for about $1,700 per month. (Up to now, the space had been used mostly as a community room.) Over the past several weeks, they have been renovating the space and assembling photographs, artworks and other materials to exhibit there.
Among the displays are old issues of The Shadow, an underground newspaper published from 1989 to 2008, which reported on the evictions of squatters, the bulldozing of gardens, and battles over a curfew in Tompkins Square Park.
And Ms. Mittelmann and Mr. DiPaola recently looked at back issues of The East Villager, a free monthly newspaper published in the mid- and late 1980s, while sitting in the kitchen of a former editor in chief of that newspaper, Heidi Boghosian.
The issues contained photographs of the Gas Station, a performance space on Avenue B created by members of an art collective called the Rivington School; an article about a rally against the eviction of squatters from a building on East Eighth Street; and an interview with a resident at the Christodora House on Avenue B, a doorman building that some demonstrators pelted with pieces of concrete after the eviction. A Christodora resident, identified as Mr. X, is quoted as saying, “I was quite irritated.”
Ms. Boghosian said she would also make letters to the newspaper available to the museum. One of the letters was from the writer Luc Sante, who in 1988 called those campaigning against sidewalk peddlers “pea brains” and suggested that they might need to “take lessons in urban ambulation.”
In addition to displaying artifacts and pieces of art, Mr. DiPaola said, the museum will organize tours like the one on Saturday, which was led by several longtime neighborhood residents.
fter leaving C-Squat, the group made stops at a squat on East Seventh Street and two community gardens before ending at Bullet Space, a squatter building on East Third Street, where they looked at a display of bottles, clay pipes and coins believed to date to the 1800s and unearthed in a backyard dig two years ago.
Later, a C-Squat resident, Bill Cashman, said the museum’s examination of the recent past had motivated him to research the more distant days of his building using tax records and other resources. The tenement was built in 1872, he said, housed a pickle store, and went through various other permutations before squatters moved in more than 100 years later.
“I’ve always wondered what was in this building before us,” he said. “Who was walking these halls?”
American Gypsy Woman
Oksana Marafioti’s parents performed in a traveling Romani ensemble until she was
15, when they moved to America. Growing up, she saw the Mongolian deserts and
the Siberian tundra, watched her father get into bar fights with Nazis, learned about
sex by sneaking into illicit movies, and endured the hostility of school bullies. What
little Oksana and her sister, Roxy, knew of the United States they had learned from
MTV, subcategory George Michael. Not quite prepared for the challenges of
immigration. Marafioti cracks open the secretive world of the Roma and brings the
absurdities, miscommunications, and unpredictable victories of the immigrant
experience to life, one slice of processed cheese at a time.
Oksana spoke at Vroman’s Bookstore August 7, 2012 on her family life as a gypsy woman.
Video of the talk:
I Live In A Bowling Alley
My Life Went Down The Tubes
My name is Ben. I live in the San Fernando Valley. I’m retired now, but when I was working I had enough money to pay my rent, buy food, and have some fun, mainly bowling. I love to bowl. I mean I really love, love, love bowling. My friends even got to calling me “Benny the Bowler”. It is my passion, or I should say it WAS my passion. Since I retired and started collecting Social Security, my life went down the tubes, and bowling, among other things, went with it. Here’s my story.
The money I got from Social Security just barely covered my rent. And I didn’t live in a fancy place. Just a dumpy single apartment. Oh, the rent was more reasonable in the past, but it kept going up and up, until it was just under $900 per month. So there wasn’t even enough left for very much food. Some seniors get a lot more than me, they worked for the government or a big corporation and get a nice pension. Me? I started out in retail sales and stayed there.
My first job was a shoe salesman. I was good at selling shoes, but you need a strong stomach for it, smelling the stink of people’s socks and nylons. Shoe stores should have a heated pond when you walk in, sort of a mini-car wash for feet. You take off your shoes and then go through this little pond, which gently soaps up your toesies and gives everything a scrub-a-dub. Next is the warm blow-dry to get off the water and warm you up. Then, instead of wax, you get a shot of perfume on your ankles and feet. At that point, your feet are clean and smelling g-o-o-o-d! Then the shoe salesman sashays in, ready to show you some cool klompers. I might still be selling shoes if that dream was real. But unfortunately, it ain’t.
So, I decided to move up the sales ladder, which means move up the body so to speak. I got into a nice shop selling men’s wear, suits, ties, shirts. I liked the job, so I stuck around for 30 years until the owner died and the merchandise was taken away by the legions of unpaid creditors. Needless to say, I didn’t get a pension. But while I was there I made enough to have a very modest living and I could bowl my brains out.
I learned a lot at the men’s shop. I learned how to dress nice, the different fabrics, ties, everything about men’s clothing. When I first started working there, my boss gave me a pamphlet to read, called “How Clothing Symbolically Defines a Civilization”. It explained the psychology behind the design of men’s clothes. Like the businessman, who needs a conservative suit; the actor needs something sporty and stylish with a fun tie; the politician needs a power suit, not too conservative, power without looking too expensive; a banker needs a very conservative power suit, with a tie that jumps out and whispers in your ear “trust me”! Something for everyone, even clowns and their hip-hop imitators.
I Never Had Enough Food
After I retired, my small savings went quickly. The landlord took everything. I never had enough food. I started to obsess about food. There was no money for anything else, no more bowling, no more eating out, no dating, just trying to get some cheap food, which was usually junk stuff on sale somewhere. I got to the point of putting food purchases on my credit card, then I got behind in my payments and they tagged a high interest rate on me. Then they canceled the card and sent me to collection. This meant if I left the apartment for cheaper diggs I wouldn’t be able to get another one because of bad credit. Things escalated. I was dreaming about food, waking up with night sweats at 4 am. I dreamed I had become like one of the millions of starving people of Africa, like a skinny starving kid with my face on his body. But I had actually gained a lot of weight. Although my fear was starvation, it drove me to eat and eat. I didn’t have any money to go anywhere, so I just sat on the couch watching tv, drooling over the food commercials, and eating junk because it was cheap. I had turned into a sickly fat slob, riddled with fear – fear of when the next rent increase was hitting, fear of going hungry, fear of life itself.
I still had my old computer, and would send out a few emails, but I mainly used it to look for food coupons and market ads. I somehow stumbled on your gypsy cool website. At first, I didn’t pay much attention, I actually laughed out loud that there would be a website for someone living in a vehicle. What a joke, I thought. Then one morning at 4 am I woke up with the usual anxiety, sweating like a pig, my heart racing. I was at the end of my rope. What the hell was I going to do?
I remembered your website. Could living in a vehicle solve my problems? I somehow knew that I was finished at the apartment. I was done. Ready to take the pipe as they say. Life was no fun, no joy, I was miserable. I went back to the gypsy cool site, I started reading everything on it. I got out a notebook, and for the next week I made notes from your website and a few others that were similar. I was desperate, but reading about others in the same boat started to give me courage. I learned there are tens of thousands of people in America living in vehicles. Yeah, in some spots it’s illegal. So what? How “legal” was it for the stinking bankers to steal all the wealth of the country? Besides, the West was settled by people who lived in vehicles: COVERED WAGONS. Remember them?
I Decide To Go Stealth
I followed all your advice. Once I had made my decision it was full steam ahead. I gave notice to the landlord. I sold my car and bought a used van for stealth living. I put in carpet that I got used for almost nothing, then put down a pad and bedding. I got it fixed up like a mini RV. I rented a cheap storage unit and moved my dresser and some bookcases and my computer into it. I plan to get a laptop soon, but amazingly the storage unit has power, but no internet. I fixed up my unit like a mini apartment, since I have power I can use a hot plate and a small toaster oven. I picked up a small refrigerator and plugged it in, I’m just hoping they don’t catch on or care about that. Most of my clothes are in the storage unit, I found a couple of large cardboard boxes that had held water heaters and I rigged up a pole inside to hang suits and slacks.
Your articles mentioned a health club, so I joined one. I go there every couple of days for a shower. And since I’m there, a sauna and some exercise. Your advice about food was great. I signed up at the local senior center. They serve a hot lunch every day of the week for $2. It’s a nutrition deal, low calorie meals. So in the last 7 months, since I moved out of the apartment and started living in the van and eating at the center and exercising at the health club, I’ve lost a lot of weight. I look a lot better and I feel a lot better.
My budget is simple, no more rent or electricity. Only gas and occasional service for the van, which I had with the car anyway. So my Social Security check is almost all bottom line. My lunches at the senior center run $40-50 per month, the storage unit is $150, the health club is $40. I had a lot left over and I realized that I could easily get back to bowling! A wave of emotion ran over me, I literally started to cry. Years of my precious life had gone by. Now I could bowl again. I can’t describe my happiness about that, I know it must sound stupid, with all the things going on in the world, but there it is.
Most lanes charge by the game or by the hour. I could bowl for an hour a day for $15 bucks, meaning I could bowl almost every day, even on my s.s., and still be able to eat, go to a Dennys or a Sizzler once in a while. You get the idea. My life has totally changed. The sounds in the bowling alley, the balls skidding down the alley, crashing into the pins, the low murmur of the bowlers, the smell of popcorn. And then there’s the sports bar. A big-screen TV set to watch the games. I can duck in there on a hot day for a beer and watch baseball for hours. I thought life couldn’t be better. But it got even better.
I Live In A Bowling Alley
I was checking out bowling lanes all around the L.A. Area. Many have deals on certain days, so I travel around to different alleys, I now have kind of a “bowling route”. I got noticed by people and started getting some “students”, people who wanted to improve their skills, so now I’m making a little “geeda” on the side. I got friendly with some of the managers, and a couple of them let me park the van all night, so I’m off the street and snuggled up to the wall of one of the alleys. I’m living on the property, having fun, making extra dough, no more rent sweat, eating regular. Life’s so good I could squeal. Thank you gypsy cool for making my life fulfilling again!
Benny The Bowler (Once Again!)