Introduction to story
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine from high school had the misfortune of having his apartment building burn down. having his apartment building burn down. He didn’t have renters insurance and lost all his possessions, which included his music equipment. Being a musician, the fire wiped out his ability to make money, as well as taking most of his possessions and his residence. He ended up on the streets learning how to be homeless.
His pride was beaten down, but he refused to let most people know he was on the streets. He referred to his new living situation as “camping in the city” and set up a system of rules for himself which I am proud to say, he followed his own rules most of the time. He always appeared clean, wore clean clothes, and he always looked and smelled washed. Without knowing his situation, one would have no idea he was homeless.
My friend rented the smallest available u-haul space to keep what he owned and even though it was against the rules, used the room to change daily. He found places to sleep where he was safe and would not be arrested for vagrancy, and he found places to eat in trade for some small manual labor so that he didn’t have to beg. He tried not to rely on any one friend for too much support, paying back what he could when his monthly royalty checks came in. He did his best to make the best of a horrible situation.
I often wondered how I would do in the same circumstance. His situation was like many on the streets. Living paycheck to paycheck, then all of a sudden, that state of affairs becomes fond memories of the good, old days. One misstep or tragic event kicks you to the street and survival takes over as the primary need.
His situation always made me think about gratitude. But, at the same time, it also got me thinking about what I would do to find survival on the streets, if my life fell apart and circumstances changed. Would I be able to go “camping in the city”? Had my successful living robbed me of my basic instincts instilled as a child?
As a kid, some of the greatest adventures of my neighborhood friends revolved around finding new forts. I first had the connective thoughts between living on the streets and our old searches for forts twenty-some years ago. At the time, after moving back from New York, I found out that a different friend was living under a bridge for a while, on his way to hitting his bottom.
My other friend’s recent troubles ran all these old thoughts through my mind again and put much of these earlier thoughts about survival on the streets into clearer focus. Homelessness is no joke and I would never make light of their plight. If anything, these considerations put things into perspective for me. But for the grace of God, there go I!
This I do know, my youthful thinking is still always with me. To this day, I never come upon a spot that would have made a good fort, that I don’t stop and look at, thinking of all the pros and cons. All the same considerations go through my head before I even know it. How would I get in and out without being seen and would my stuff be safe? Is there any way to block the entrance so I can use lights? What would be my alternate escape route? Will I be sheltered from the elements? Will I be trespassing or more importantly, will I be prosecuted if caught?
I never want to find out how I would do in real life living day-to-day on the streets, but I can’t help but to think this way. I know I could survive, if it came down to necessity.
Over the course of the next few posts, I will share the story of my, and my friends childhood quests for the perfect fort. My goal is to capture the fun fantasies, the talents and ingenious adaptability of my group of friends. The joys of growing up outdoors instead of in front of a television or computer monitor still impact my thoughts and memories. Here is a glimpse at the ways our youthful choices affected our lives and the joys of finding the perfect fort.