Weather: Hot, sunny, occasional breezes turning into sharp gusts later.
Number of people: 9 stoppers, 5 walkbys, plus one person who thought I was selling hot dogs–we took an unusual amount of time to figure out what each other wanted.
Number of hecklers: 0!
Pages of notes: 8
Alternate Histories: 1, written collaboratively
People I met through the booth last year, who remembered me: 2
People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 1, but I sort of started it
Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.46, plus one peppermint candy
I tried facing east instead of west this time. Pros: sun on my back instead of in my eyes. Cons: the wind comes from the west and tries to blow the booth out from under me; people in cars, who can only drive east on Washington St., can’t see the sign; if there are cops in the park I can’t see them. It didn’t seem to make a difference in the number of stoppers.
It’s happened more than once that people have held up World War II resource-recovery practices as an alternative to how people throw things away now. I can tell that’s an oversimplification, but does anyone know how it became such a widespread and apparently appealing one?
It’s pigeon mating season again.
My children. Four of them. They were taken from me for being homeless. I don’t think people know enough about homelessness. They’re with foster families.
Is there anything underway to get them back with you?
I’m doing everything I can.
I’m worried about my SSI check. I applied, I’m waiting to hear. Waiting is hard. It’s not the money, I mean, money’s tough, but my girlfriend got money, I can get $200 from her if something comes up, it’s the waiting, not knowing.
I live in the forest in southern Oregon and each year, we get less rain than the year before. Two summers ago, it was raining embers from the Brimstone Fire all summer long. They said if visibility was less than half a mile, the air quality was hazardous–I couldn’t see 50 feet through the smoke. I don’t have anxiety, I have straight-up PTSD from these fires. Two months ago in Portland, Portland normally gets tons of rain, but it was just like this, the cherry blossoms were just like these. In March. People were saying they enjoyed the weather but they couldn’t enjoy it because they knew what it meant. There’s no snow in the mountains, and that means extreme drought, and that means extreme fires–forest fires there are like blizzards here.
What do you think might help people change what they’re doing, to try to stop doing the things that make this worse?
I think if people were to look at our planet from space, and see how tiny and precious it is, they might start to realize there isn’t any other place we can live … What’s causing droughts is deforestation, because Reagan deregulated the timber industry. They liquidated the timber stands in five years that were supposed to last for centuries, and that’s what caused this whole cycle. We know if you deforest–that’s where the rain comes from.
What about reforesting, are people doing that?
No, they’re not reforesting–they’re logging, because after there’s a fire they try to salvage the timber. It does cause anxiety. I’ve lived in these conditions for 25 years. This year is gonna be the worst fire season in history. In 2002, the Biscuit Fire took out half a million acres. I talked to the crew chief on that fire, and he told me their commander told them, when the lightning strike started it, to let it burn, because Bush had the Healthy Forest Act. He was sick about it. Mature trees are fire-resistant–leave those, take the small ones! Burn off the undergrowth every couple years–that’s what the Native Americans [sic]* did. That’s why the virgin forest was so beautiful. But they would do it in the fall when it was cool and damp–that’s the only thing that puts them out.
What would have to change for reforestation to really take hold?
The heads of the timber industry would have to not be in charge of it. It’s a conflict of interest. That’s what the Reagan deregulation did, it stopped everything that was preventing a conflict of interest.
[These two were a couple.]
Girlfriend 1: Finding work. I have a job, I wanna find a better one. More money, more stability. I don’t mind dangerous–I used to work unloading the freight when it comes off the 18-wheeler, sometimes it shifts around, you can’t just take it off however. I worked with electrical and manual jacks–you have to be certified, you have to know what you’re doing. I’m not too concerned about global warming. I’m concerned about my sister’s pregnancy–she’s had three miscarriages. I’m concerned about my girlfriend’s health, she’s sick right now. My girlfriend smokes and I want her to quit. I call her a dirty smoker–she’s dirty smokin’.
Does that make you want to quit?
Girlfriend 2: Yes.
It sounds like you guys are taking care of each other.
Girlfriend 1: Yep. We’re getting married, she’s not going anywhere.
I lost my dad and I can’t get over it.
Life. My boyfriend. He’s stressing me out about my past. He tells me what he thinks it is, and then he listens to other people about what they think it is. It’s really getting aggressive.
One thing you could think about is–
Do you have anywhere to walk to?
I’d concentrate on getting a place set up to go to, while they’re running their mouths.
I did it before.
Success. I’m trying to do good at carpentry. I got certificates from JobCorps, I graduated high school. I found $2700 on the floor–at the casino–and I got my license, my truck, I just gotta register it. I got my business plan, my references, my resume, in a book like this one [taps notes binder]. But I’m homeless, and that makes it harder. I got no mailing address.
Could you maybe ask someone you trust if you could use their mailing address?
I thought of that, but I don’t like owing people things. I don’t like asking people to do things for me.
Do you do things for other people if they need it though?
If anybody down here, if they ask for change, anything in my pocket, it’s theirs. But I don’t like it when it’s like … collateral, like, Oh, I did something for you, now you owe me.
I’m not feeling any anxiety right now because I just had a wonderful experience. I guess–difficulty believing in yourself. I try breathing, try to keep it at bay, I’ve learned all these techniques, but it never ceases to come back. Hanging on to solid fact is very helpful. I have a solid body of work, that’s a fact, but it won’t be a fact in three months because it needs to be better in three months. Right now it’s perfect. Nobody else is saying that, so I have to say it. People don’t really know how to read it. … I didn’t know I was gonna talk about myself, I thought this was about climate change, the end of the world.
It could be about that too.
What are some of the most common anxieties?
People worry about safe places to stay, about survival, about being able to make money, about taking care of the people in their life. For climate anxieties, a lot of people talk about their kids, worrying about how the world will be for their kids, and about the destruction of places they love–beaches, forests.
I worry about that too.
[When I said he didn’t need to give me a quarter:] I used to work for the circus. I set up for the g*psies, I know how it works. I put bikes together at the scrapyard, I fixed ski boats–I used to rent ’em out. I worked for everybody. I worked on that ship, Project Hope, went around picking up sick people, disabled people. I scraped it right down for everybody. We painted it different colors first, then we did whatever they wanted to do with it. I dropped out of school, I did everything, I was in the Peace Corps, Save the Whales … I’m 59 years old, I started when I was 13. I used to be a runner, like for a bakery company. Drunks would give you money to go buy ’em booze. I had so much money in my pocket …. I’d go into the bakery, get the broken cookies. I lived here all my life. I traveled to California, Mexico, Alaska–it’s beautiful. You get six months that’s darkness, then it’s always light.
What could I crumble
to bring you to me
to get your attention
the ground beneath you
could it be bad enough
swearing by all that’s friable
insisting on all that drifts
out or slips over
in pity and horror
the first beats of summer
we share the secret
of being alive at
the moment when
the hot tide turns
the moment given
a gift of poise
stability, more money
a tilt that can’t be bought
a pitch that sickens
the pigeons’ pickings
the bread and its water
the clapping sound their
wings make going over
the same air turning
like a phrase churned
up and muddied by practice
through culverts of speaking
the same difference
the unsafe house
where you hear something that’s
not familiar and shrink
back toward the walls even if
they’re the source
of the sound
the wind blows me around
or more the built things
that are part of me
while I’m here