May 12

Camping at the North Fresno Walmart

 

Camping at the North Fresno Walmart Parking Lot

by Skip Rorshach Freedman

 

Camping at Walmart

Camping at Walmart

You can smell the desperation in this place, like the heat that wafts off one of those old-time steam radiators. Tweekers, rednecks and illegal aliens make for an interesting melting pot in this central valley hellhole called Fresno. Even in mid-April, the afternoon sizzles at around 90 degrees – even with partly cloudy skies. There are at least a dozen people that call this parking lot and its environs home on a regular basis. There are probably at least another dozen that I never even saw. Maybe more.

Sunrise finds the lot moderately crowded with empty employee cars, except for five vans and one RV. People that were sleeping in the bushes are stirring and slowly milling around into groups on the grassy perimeter. The tweekers huddle together nervously in their own clic. Their eyes darting around like lizards, they contemplate what they’re going to do to survive another day in this dusty blast furnace. Some will start scrounging the local dumpsters, others will try to hustle people down on Shaw Avenue. This heavily-traveled artery cuts through extreme north Fresno from the 99 freeway all the way east to Clovis, where the locally-famous rodeo will get underway in a week and a half. An old-timer comes out from behind the building pushing his overfilled shopping cart/storage unit. He’s nicely grizzled and has obviously been doing this for awhile. He looks around 50, but is probably younger. This seems to be over twice the average age around here, most residents seem to be early- to mid-20’s. Several illegals have already headed over to the Home Depot down the street to find some manual labor for the day. The van people sleep in until around 8 or so, then slowly head over to one of the three nearby fast-food joints for a cup of coffee. The RV folks leave before 9. You see vacant stares as the tweekers walk by you; these are young lives completely devoid of hope before they even hit 30. You wonder if these people will even be alive in five years. The white security van starts making rounds up and down the parking lot aisles. They’re actually pretty cool here, for cops (which doesn’t happen very often). As long as you move your vehicle every couple of days or so they won’t hassle you. No idea what the record duration for staying here is. It might be surprising.

Once the sun is fully up and blazing, the groups begin to dissolve into the surrounding area for the day’s hunter-gathering. People move their vans into the shade to try to minimize baking, and a few kids mill around under trees to keep cool. The only folks coming here in the afternoon are customers: overweight suburban housewives, retirees, Armenians in scarves, and people just passing through the area.

It starts getting dark around 8, and a few guys straggle back to the lot with things like hoses, pieces of wood, and other objects they’ve scrounged from dumpsters or behind buildings. Groups reassemble and discuss the day’s catch or swap amusing anecdotes about people they met. The spring night winds kick up about an hour later, and the van people roll down their windows and crack their side doors to bleed out the day’s heat accumulation. Inside it’s usually around 100 degrees, even when they’ve been in the shade all day, so it takes a little while to make them habitable for the night. The customers all left by 10, but there seem to be employees there all night – probably restocking shelves and sweeping up the place. Just after 11 a lonely train whistle wails about a mile to the west, alongside Golden State Boulevard, signaling the end of another day of survival. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

 

Nov 04

Walmart Nomads

Meet the American Nomads of Walmart’s Plentiful Parking Lots

By Jakob Schiller

11.01.13

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:

http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2013/11/walmart-parking-lots/#slideid-94861

Jul 06

How To Make a Birchbark Canoe

Complete Video of Making Canoe From Scratch

furtradecanoemain150smA 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.

Jun 23

Life and Death in Dirty Dave’s Homeless Camp

Filmmaker Michael Arth Spent Years Documenting the Drama of

A Homeless Camp in the Woods of Florida

200px-Michael_E._Arth_5-21-09His 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 syrian_refugeeswritten, 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

 

Mar 26

Couch-Crashing In Los Angeles

Forced Homeless, Teacher Survives in Storage Unit and Friends Couches

by “Elisabeth”

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.

 

 

 

Nov 30

Desert Gypsies in 1950

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!

Desert Gypsies 1.pdf

Desert Gypsies 2.pdf

Desert Gypsies 3.pdf

Desert Gypsies 4.pdf

Desert Gypsies 5.pdf

 

 

Oct 29

Nomads Go Missing From East Village NY

  “When one species disappears, others tend to follow.”

Old story from NY Times

In East Village, Harbingers of Spring Are Missing

Bob Arihood

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.”

Oct 29

Squatters Victory in East Village

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?”

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