Category Archives: homeless

Notes from the underground: Living in Nola

When Chris was 23 years old; he left his home and the lake of his home and took a Megabus to New Orleans. It was there he learned the streets and how to revel in some of the darkest places on earth. He spent only 4 months there until life came and swept him away. This is his story from the first four months of his solo journey to explore the world.

I had a backpack and a hockey bag filled with all my possessions when I got off the Megabus in upper Marigny, New Orleans. I was headed to a housing situation I had put together through Craigslist housing weeks before. The house was in Central City and on the other side of the French Quarter; maybe a 2 mile walk. I had been exchanging emails with a girl that turned out to be my age. She and two others had been working as a traveling punk rock band and ended up running out of money in New Orleans. They let me rent the middle room of their shotgun for 400/month. Walking across the French Quarter to this house was one of the riskier parts of my life, but at the end of my first night in Nola I had made it to a safe place to sleep, I had $500 to my name, and I was so motivated to live I could hardly sleep.

My first few weeks in Nola went so fast. I needed to find a job and so I bought a bike and spent my days handing out resumes and emailing for jobs from the public library. At night I would head to different bars in the city to get to know the locals. I started working at a local bar as a bar-back and was just finding my groove when I got in trouble with the cook for “not respecting personal boundaries”. I worked another job at this karaoke spot called The Cat’s Meow right on Bourbon Street, I hated this job though. I was the lowest position in the club and mostly just handled the trash. I quit working there as soon as I got a job delivering Pizza with my bike at Magazine Pizza. It was good money, I worked nights, and it was great for someone that wanted to get to know the city. All this in only two weeks.

Two Weeks in and at this point it was a full on Quarter Rat. I knew many of the local street people. On the nights that I wasn’t working I would go and explore the night life of Nola. Sometimes I would go out with 2 of my housemates. The drummer and the singer were a lot of fun and were invaluable for learning different and new parts of town. There was a third member of the band I was living with. She was younger and not as social. One night the three of us went out to this bar Tracie’s in the Irish Channel. Just down the street from where me and the band were living. We played pool and darts and through some other bar shenanigans I ended up doing cocaine in the bathroom with a stranger. It was some of the best blow I have ever done in my life and after that I bounced all of the bar and drank so much I felt invincible. The drummer ended up getting lost and so it was just the singer and I for the walk home. She was cute and I was attracted. There is a problem with cocaine though, and that is that it wears off. When it came time to make the move I could not, she wanted me to but I could not. The next day I was headed pee in a cup for a job working a pedicab in the Quarter. I failed that test for cocaine! The pedicab manager didn’t care. He let me take the test again so long as I passed; and that’s how they handle things down in The Big Easy. People rules are greater than market standards. And this is how I love to live.

It was the third and younger member of the band that I didn’t get along too well. I don’t remember what our disagreement was about but one day she kicked me out. I was out of the house and she threw all of my things on the street and locked the door. It was afternoon when I picked up my things and walked to the nearest hostel. They had a dorm situation where for something like $20 per night I could sleep in a bed in a dormitory and keep my things in a place where no one would steal them. I was picking up as many shifts from work as they would give me and I knew that I would be able to afford to rent my own place in only a week or two. I decided not to pay rent at the hostel in order to save more for the house. One morning at 4am a hostel employee came into the dormitory and yelled loud enough to wake everyone up: “Someone is not supposed to be here!” I admitted it was me immediately, got my things and left. That day I wandered down to the quarter to try and figure something out. I ran into my juggler friend who said that I could crash in this squat house and that night he took me to an old and abandoned house in the 7th ward. 

Back during Hurricane Katrina the levees broke and it was the lower class areas of town that flooded first. I was in Nola years after Katrina but there were still many houses that had not been renovated, many of which had become inhabited by locals. Rumor had it that if you lived in a single place for 4 or more years and no one came to contest your ownership, then you became the legal owner of that property. The entrance to the squat house that I stayed in was in a sort of back alleyway and there would have been no way I could have found it on my own. It consisted of three houses and a courtyard. There were maybe 5 people staying in this area. Some of whom I recognized from town. The houses would have been underwater during Katrina and the walls would crumble when touched. There were holes in the roof but with some cardboard on the floor it wasn’t the most uncomfortable place to sleep. 

I slept in the squat for one week and have never been more money motivated in my life. I was picking up extra shifts at work, looking for a cheap place to rent, and spending almost no money. I remember going to Subway where I had worked out the way to get the most calories for your dollar with getting the sub of the day and maxing out on the veggies. I found a second job that I would work during the day generating leads door to door for a security system company. It was these days that I would hang out in the quarter with the juggler friend who showed me the squat house. He had painted a large sign that said “Sidewalk Circus” and would juggle all day in the quarter. Me and a couple other street people would hang out in this group. Frank the French Canadian could play the guitar, Bobbie could do rope dart and walked around with a staff with real animal bones on it and was generally a legit shaman all in all. I would mostly just try and talk to girls. There were more of us and the adventures we got into were so much fun. One night we were out and in the chaos of the night I found myself talking to a girl who playfully called herself “Trouble”. I insisted on learning her real name but she was stern in not telling it to me. Eventually we went our separate ways. Out of nowhere came a guy, taller than me who told me to stop hitting on his wife. I opened my arms as if to give him a hug and tried to tell him not to worry. He punched me in the face once and tried to punch me again but I ducked and grabbed him. We would have gone down wrestling but the fight was broken up only seconds after it was started. I had a black eye for a week. I had an interview at a white tablecloth restaurant that I didn’t get, and I had to stop working door to door because the owner didn’t like sending someone with a black eye to the door of people he hoped to be handling their security. It was  a major setback but I was still able to find the perfect house to rent and had planned to get out of the squat house in only a few days. 

I had set up a space to sleep with cardboard and my sleeping bag in a corner to the squat house. I put my clothes and other things in a corner but there were so many strangers in and out of that place that many different people had gone through my things and anything valuable was taken. It wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t have much to take in the first place. On the best of nights spent in the squat we played banjo and drank whiskey random French Canadians; on the worst of nights I would do my best to be as friendly and non-threatening as possible as some more dangerous people would roll through. I would spend as little time as I could in the squat. One night I was out in the Quarter at a place called CheckPoint Charlies and to this day I have not seen a more raunchy bar. There was a punk rock show going on and I jumped in the mosh pit to have some fun. It was a dirty mosh and elbows and knees were being thrown left and right. At one point a guy behind me stood in a way where his crotch intentionally brushed near my butt. I turned and grabbed him and then threw him into the mosh. This started a new mosh where everyone was throwing each other and it was fun. Then, out of nowhere the girl that I had been speaking to a few days before, Trouble launched herself at me from the crown. She grabbed me and started biting and scratching me. I tossed her off then started throwing as many other moshers in between her and I as I could. Then, out of the crowd came the guy that had punched me in the face and in front of everyone pointed out the door. I now knew that he went by the name of “Trash” and at this point I was more than ready to fight and followed him out the door. A crowd of 20 or more people formed a circle around us and started to jeer. I made the first move stepping forward and taking a swing. He dogged me, pulled my coat over my head and kneed me in the face. I was stunned but was able to grab him and push him against the wall. We scrapped for a bit longer but he had won the fight. I left and he went back into the bar. I walked back to the squat house and tried to get some sleep. 

That night was the only time I ever got sleep paralysis. I woke up late in the night unable to move. I saw what I thought was a shadow thing that had me in its grip. I tried to move or make a sound but could not. The shadow raised a gun and pointed it at me. Eventually I was able to make a small squeak and right then the shadow disappeared and I was able to move. After that night I was left with a chill however, one that would last until I got my own house and was able to put a locked door between me and Now Orleans.

Bus Conversion Blog- Day 1

Yesterday I bought a full length (40 ft), yellow, school bus. I bought the bus off craigslist from a bus company called Park Adams Transportation for $1500 bringing my total expenses up to $1500 for the bus conversion. I met up with one of their employees who showed me out back where he had over 50 buses stored, only 3 of which were for sale. I learned that school districts are only allowed to run their buses for 10 years before they need to upgrade to newer buses. This makes it so that there is a consistently high turnover in in the bus world and thus is the reason why it’s so cheap to make a schoolie.

My main focus when looking for a quality bus was that the rust was in check (most important that the bottom of the bus is cleanish), that all the electrical systems worked properly (failed to see a faulty speedometer), and that the engine sounded and looked like it would last. As soon as I found a bus that met my specifications I made the purchase. It was nice that I felt that I could trust the guy that sold it to me and he assured me that if there were anything that turned up wrong that I could bring it into the shop and he would be able to help me out in fixing it.

Making the first drive was one of the craziest things I have ever done in my life. Technically you are supposed to remove all indications of it being a school bus and then get permission from the state for a temporary relocation before you can drive the bus, but the man who I bought it from assured me that for the first drive that it would be ok. I set off on a 14-mile drive to find the spot where the bus is parked now. It was a wild drive, though its not as hard to drive something that big as I thought it would be. Its important to make sure that you will clear each turn at to watch tail kick when turning as well. Eventually I made it to north mpls where the bus is parked in front of a park and not in front of private property.

Having parked the bus in a comfortable space I now am looking into removing the markings that make it a school bus, unbolting the seats, and getting the bus registered as a recreational vehicle. I also want to know more about what the laws are about parking a large vehicle on the streets for an extended period of time and am wondering if I am going to have to deal with people messing with me. I mostly feel like I am in over my head but for sure expected to feel like this. I am taking it one day at a time.

Tips and Tricks for living in your car

It’s been almost 5 months that I have been living in my car. There have been many upgrades that I have been able to make and have come a long ways from when I was sleeping in the back seat on nothing but the matting that is provided upon purchase. Now I live in a capable vehicle that can go from full size bedding to a 5 seater in less than ten minutes. The car community here in Seattle is off the chain as Seattle is home to more car campers than anywhere else in the country. My life is something that you would expect from anyone that lives in their car, although I must claim that I am faring better than most would be in my position. A few things that that I would like to talk about are; charging your phone, hanging out, and work.

First, as anyone can attest, we all carry around phones and much of our lives are devoted to the task of keeping the phone alive. For most people the day is started with a phone at full battery because it can be charged when asleep. For me it’s just the opposite and for a long time I would spend a good chunk of my day at starbucks for no other reason than that I would need to charge my phone, which could take something along the lines of an hour or more! Over the past few months I have realized the importance of batteries and the different ways to charge them. For starters I have a $20 batter that I picked up from Target that gets its power via USB which I keep plugged in to my car port and is good for a +30% after a day of driving. I also have a JobRocker Max which functions both as a battery charger as well as a boombox. It’s got a great battery life as and is good for maybe three or four charges when at max juice. I am not able to plug this in to my car as so simply look for opportunities to plug it into an outlet whenever I get the chance, but mostly I just carry it into starbucks maybe once every other week. I do not feel that it’s healthy to go in to a starbucks for the sole reason of charging the phone and I try to stay away from this with the help of these batteries. I also have a computer but don’t like to rely on it.

Hanging out in different parts of the city is the biggest advantage of living in your car. If I want to move to the north side it’s as simple as finding a parking spot where no one will bother me. This is a very simple to find but I will note that public parks are generally not open past dusk and even if the park does provide all the best places to wake up in the morning and pee, people will get annoyed and the cops will often be called. Shame really. On the real though, there is generally a solid place to park within one mile of anywhere in the city. I make it a point to schedule my life in a way where I can sleep in the most convenient of places and am able to drive far less than someone that needs to end up in the same place every night. I have made it a point to not park in the same spot twice though I do have a few favored spots.

A sub point that I would like to make that will look and feel a lot like bragging, but could provide some real use for anyone that is looking to use this as a model for building their own car type of living situation, is the point of the luxury type of living situation that I find myself in. In my center console I have all my grooming supplies along with various charging cables. In the compartment under the climate control I keep my weed, pipe, scissors and most other paraphernalia type equipment (pots legal in Washington, other stuff that I keep there, not so much). In the glove box I keep tissue and snacks, and behind the seats I use for storage by which I can fit all of my possessions. It helps coming into this lifestyle being a practicing minimalist. In the back I have laid a full size futon mattress that I got specifically because it is about half as thick as your regular mattress and so I am able to fold the seats up and down without too much effort. I keep the JobRocker Max in between the drivers and passenger seats at night and then move it to the back bed in during the day. It’s plenty warm with two sleeping bags and a blanket and I have more than enough room for two, which happens on occasion though not nearly enough! Another important point is that the back seat windows are tinted. This is something I did not think about when I bought the car but is something that has proved to be incredibly valuable as it protects the privacy of my room.

Last but not least I will speak on my job. Currently I am working as a ski and snowboard instructor up on the mountain. I am able to keep the board on top of the car and my boots in the front seat. The mountain that I work at is a good 40 miles away from anywhere that anyone would typically live and my shift are typically 3 or 4 days in a row. I am able to save on time and gas by camping in the region of my work which is not only efficient but also epic. It get lonely way up there in the woods but there are a few local bars that I can go into to make fun of the locals and to stave off the pain that comes with solitude. There is also all the greatness that comes with solitude as well. Books, meditation, writing, research, social media, building the consciousness of the future are all things that I have a passion for and all things that I find in abundance when living in my car.

Wake up call- From nothing to something

For any of you that have been keeping up with the blog and that may have read my last post, it ended with me heading down the coast doing gansta shit with a guy that I picked up in northern Cali on the weed farm. Maybe an hour after publishing that last post I learned that my partner had bailed on me with all my product as well as my cell phone and computer. I ended up having to pawn a camera just to get back to Seattle where I would be able to make a living once again. It was rough to learn but a good lesson. I know now better than ever that I need to keep to my own path and not let others dissuade me away from what I know is right. It was for sure a setback to have someone close to me like that do so much harm but here I am now back in Seattle and working my ass of for the next big thing.

Now I am back to the city life and what I know well. I have next to nothing and it is time to start to build which is one of my favorite places to be. I find myself more motivated and less distracted than when I have stability and for this reason I love where I am at. It’s the times that I have my basic need covered and I slip back into old habits that I wish to destroy everything and start all over again once more. There are no real start overs however. I cannot put aside all the faults that karma will not let me ignore but what’s more is that I have learned so much over the years making it much easier to go to the place that I want to be. I have vision and at the present I am working very hard to fulfill that vision.

To anyone that is going through something of the same I will now make a list of all the little useful things that I have learned while making my way from nothing to something here in Seattle.

Get some food stamps

-You may feel like living off the government is not something your parents raised you for but if you really have nothing then the food stamps program is for you. Literally, it’s built to help people who are struggling to get back on their feet and all it takes is a visit to the office in order to apply. The same day that you walk in you can walk out again with something like $180 per month. This can be key to getting your spending down to 0 so that you can save everything for dream fulfillment. The food stamps office is located here 2106 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121. Check it out.

The Compass Center

-Another huge resource for me was a mail deliver program. Not having a house I needed to find a place where I could get mail. The Compass Center of Seattle was exactly that place. I am not sure if I would recommend this over the post office (I never tried the post office) because there are almost always long lines filled with many people that are mumbling under their breath. Still, if you need mail this is a place that can do exactly that. I use this place as my address when filling out business forums and applying for jobs and such. There are other resources there too like housing if you’re really in a pickle. Its located right by the water front here 77 S Washington St, Seattle, WA 98104

Seattle Pedicabs

– This will be the easiest way to make money fast. All it takes is to walk into the office, find the phone number of whoever is running Seattle Pedicabs and then give them a call. They can get you on a bike and making cash within hours potentially. If you’re not working an event or on the weekends the money can be fairly terrible, but it’s better than nothing. I have seen many people roll into a pedicab office with nothing with the intent on making back to something. So much so that I would even say it’s the pedicab way for some. The phone number I found online is this (206) 708-1726. The office is located is Sodo just south of the stadium right by Krispy Kreme on Occidental. It’s a small garage door that is open when people are working there. Good luck. Do not tell them that you found out about pedicabs through this blog. That would get me in hella trouble.

 

Other than those tips there I can’t say much else of what might help. There are a few shelters around town that might be able to help with work, photo i.d. and maybe even sleeping arrangements. The sad part about this blog is that most of the people that really need to help I am advocating for do not have the ability to do so. I don’t know what it would take to lift the helpless out of their position but maybe this will do something for someone.