La vida de vagabundos Americanos

A few weeks ago while having a quiet drink with jb and a couple friends at a pre-prime time O.P. I ran into an old acquaintance, a friend really - but not one i ever spent much time with, one of those people though, that when you did get see each other it there was genuine interest in what each other had to say, maybe we were sort of fascinated with each other.

I had gone down to the OP for a drink cause i needed to curse and unwind from a rough week. At work i was getting pushed and pulled and bullshitted from every direction, meanwhile at home my dog was sick and i was constantly worried about him and his increasing medical bills. Those two stresses were spilling out onto Jenny, who was having her own time with assistant directing American Machine. So i needed to unwind.

L was only in Burlington for a few days cause being a hobo, you don't really stick around in one place for too long. But her boyfriend lived in Burlington as well as her dog. She was here to get the dog, and to say hi to a few of her more stationary friends, then back on the road.

As i sat there stewing over the minutia of my day and the contents of my life I started thinking about "Vagabonding" and what that was. What that consisted of, and while it's alot of different things depending on the circumstance, at that moment - i was thinking it seemed pretty nice.

So we talked about this and that, and she told me about her situation with her boyfriend, how he was in school here, or working, i can't remember, and i asked how it was that she could live her life, jumping from place to place, while having a steady. She said it was hard, obviously - and she said that they were monogamous, or at least, he was... she had had a few different flings out and about. I could tell that it was a sore spot for her, between them; she explained that there were alot of interesting people out there, and it can also be quite lonely.

Conversation moved on to dogs, and food - and how keeping a dog fed on the road isn't as hard as you'd think... they really don't need much food, and most of it you can scrounge easily enough, for the most part... She went on to tell me about how she would leave her dog with her parents when she knew she wouldn't be able to take care of him. I thought about something my vet told me about how modern dog food is so potent and nutrient rich that dogs are experiencing an obesity epidemic. I didn't mention it though.

We hadn't seen each other in maybe 4-5 years, except for an occasional nod on the street if she was back in town for a day, and frankly i hadn't thought much about her. A minor character in my book i guess. But as i told her about my life, my goings on - it really hit me just how much time had passed, and while 5 years ago i was ready to hit the road myself (and did, on a few occasions.) now - i was a regular square in comparison.

I started talking about my job, working in an office, with a paper shredder and an espresso machine. "Suits" and project meetings. I suddenly felt embarrassed and i wondered why, and i could tell my embarrassment was noticeable, so i countered it by explaining how I've always been a nerd, and doing nerdy computer things was what i was good at, and being good at it, made me feel good about myself. Whether or not this registered as a legitimate explanation, i don't know... L nodded and smiled.

I talked about Jenny, and Oldham... how great they both are; Jenny being this wonderful influence and brilliant girlfriend, and terrific friend - Oldham being this perfectly smart and cute puppy - New apartment and merging furniture; L told me about the various places in the states and Europe she'd been living, which towns were good places to be a vagabond in, (Asheville, Barcelona....) and which ones weren't so good. (i can't remember these.) and somehow i felt tied down...

We talked a bit more, but i was getting tired and a little bed ready. We had really run out of much to talk about and our other friends at our tables were more important anyway. So we said our so-longs and returned to our respective tableseats.

A few minutes later i headed home. As i stepped out onto the corner of pearl and winooski into a light drizzle and cool wet breeze all i could think of was how happy i was to be heading home to a warm bed and Jenny and my dog and my cat, and after that i shook my pack of cigarettes in my jacket pocket, that i had at least 6-7 cigarettes left.

But it was really nice to see L again.


jay said...

Great post. While I sometimes worry about the constraints of living a domesticated life with a corporate job, I then remember that the perks of a regular work schedule, paid-time off, health insurance & the ability to have a warm house, good meals & lots of toys is pretty much the only thing good about this country anymore.

Is it just me or do those vagabond pictures look like an Urban Outfitter catalog? I often wonder where people with no source of income afford cool clothes, tattoos, piercings, etc. Is it panhandling, trust funds, theft or a combination?

To each his/her own, though. I applaud anyone who can say "fuck off" to the established way of life and manage to be happy and persevere.

michelle said...

hi tanner. i really like this post too. you have a great writing style. i think you could make this into a short story.

re urban outfitter vagabonds: my initial thought are... one, this is the style u.o. tries to emulate. 'boho', 'hobo bags' etc. it's a strange thing, really, but i must say that i do like their style. just because you're homeless doesn't mean you don't have taste. :) also, it's crazy what people will get rid of (ie, waste) - clothes, food, etc, which you can then find for free. i can even do this in yuppie ann arbor at the trader joe's dumpster. and -- i'm sure most of these people haven't been homeless all their lives. maybe they are carrying things with them from a time when they were making money or lived with their parents. i'm sure some (most?) of them are hobos by choice - rejecting society and living off its excess. some might do it for years; others for weeks or only days at a time.

i liked looking at the photos. the half-dog in the first photo looks kinda like my doggie.

(mike and i were 'homeless' for a few months, but we had a car and slept in a tent in canada and alaska. we had jobs for part of the time while we lived in the city campground in seward, ak. we took showers at the rec center.)

Tanner M. said...

Thanks guys,

From my past experience, living with gutter punks, living out of the back of my truck, etc - i would have to agree with Michelle, it's not hard to find cool stuff for free, and providing you have a bit of interest in aesthetic flair, it's not hard to throw something together... beyond that i always find that people of the more "mainstream" persuasion will look at a vag or hobo, and assume either, mental illness or radical politics (or both), and if they don't maintain of of those persona's then they arn't real hobos - as though thousands of people can be so easily reduced.

I dug the photos too - i think trend-whores like to discredit the vag lifestyle as being a non-lifestyle, specially when it takes on the perceived trappings of a mainstream lifestyle (UO), even if only because of modern capitalism's culture savy propensity to absorb any trend it deems "Fresh" and market back to those same people, they prefer to discredit it as ingenuine.
And while their probably are some less than genuine hobos out in the world, it doesn't make that lifestyle anymore (or less) genuine for their being there.

wait. Ok, i've lost my train of thought.

Mandy D said...

my question is - where do all these guys shave? so many of them are bic-razor clean shaven!

i like this post. i had a short vagabond adventure when i was 19, jumping on trains, eating out of dumpsters. it wasn't that fun. i was happy to get back to oberlin.

Tanner M. said...

Mandy, contrary to your unique experience with beards, not all of us can grow luxuriant flowing face-manes at the drop of a gong.

Some men, (if they can be called men.) can't grow them at all. Sad i know.