Crank was the first lesbian I ever knew.
That is not why she is my hero, of course. I did not realize Crank was a lesbian during all the time that I knew her and anyway, sex is not a heroic act. But looking back now, if I had to name one hero of mine – a single individual who stands mulleted head and flannelled shoulders above everyone else as a role model to me – there’s no doubt at all that I would name her.
Crank, well, she could take down half a dozen good-sized men while wrestling over a chicken bone and she could make a pair of waterproof boots out of absolutely anything. She could forecast the next two weeks’ weather just by breathing in deeply through those awful, hairy nostrils of hers.
And those are important and those are useful skills for any person living on the street. But mostly, Crank is my hero because a long time ago, she was the one who taught me the Fine Art of Dumpster Diving.
* * *
I was twelve years old during the summer of ‘98 when my parents died and I deemed living in abandoned cars outside downtown Houston as preferable to whatever the grownups might have in mind for me.
It turned out I was correct.
How did I know?
And I did not want to beg and I did not want to do those other things that girls tended to do in order to get food and money while living on the street.
With my survival options so severely limited, I took the sole culinary path left open to me: I raided the trash bins out back of local restaurants just after they’d closed for the evening.
Why, on the very first night, I found a Vietnamese restaurant that closed right around 3 a.m. Jackpot! I’ll bet that place threw away more rice in a single night than most people ever see in a lifetime! Endless mountains and mountains and mountains of rice, and much of it still warm. By the time I wandered back to my abandoned car – clutching a bottle of Thunderbird and with a cigarette butt dangling from my lips – I was just about as stuffed as I’d been in all my nearly-fourteen years upon this here earth.
Obviously, I went back the next night. And the next. I spent my summer nights gorging myself on discarded rice and my summer days reading books in the air-conditioned public library. I read Mark Twain that summer. I soaked in Poe and internalized Lovecraft that summer. My head napped upon the words of Henry James that summer.
I initiated a continuous internal dialogue with a voice that sounded a lot like Kurt Vonnegut that summer.
* * *
So Vonnegut was the voice inside of my head. But one night, during the trek back from my Vietnamese restaurant, I heard the strangest of voices outside of my head.
I heard the outside voice say this: “Pssst! Lil bug!”
I kept walking. I did not look up. There were three good reasons I kept walking and did not look up: First, I was only about 90% certain the voice I heard was outside of my head at all. Second, it sounded like a male voice Pssst-ing to me, and that was not good at this time of night. And third, I was very drunk on Thunderbird and feared that swinging my head around might throw off my fragile equilibrium.
But the voice said this: “Lil Bug! Do not go down that way! Suburban kids are rolling sacred cattle down there tonight!”
“Sacred cattle”?! But “sacred cattle” was the term that Kurt Vonnegut used when he was talking of the homeless. When he was talking of people like me!
I stopped walking. I looked up.
“What?” I said. I said it to the bag lady with the parrot on her shoulder.
I said it to Crank.
* * *
“Are you homeless, too?”I asked Crank while we were hiding in the alley, waiting for dawn to get there.
Crank spit. It seemed to me that the spit crawled away. “Never, Lil Bug! I am NOT homeless. Do not say that.”
Crank motioned to the big buildings around us. “My home is this city. My home is everywhere.”
Then she leaned down in my face and I could finally see her more clearly. She sort of looked like that woman from that movie, “Throw Momma from the Train,” except with a mullet and way fewer teeth.
“I am houseless,” she corrected me. “And houseless does not matter.”
Crank stroked the parrot on her shoulder. She said, “Life is too short to be spent inside of houses.”
(“Lesbian Dumpster Diving, Lesson Two” should be arriving soon!)
Beautiful. Sometimes I wish I'd had the guts to be houseless before I managed to create so many responsibilities for myself. And self-education is the best education in the world. No censors!ReplyDelete
The upside of sticking with a certain set of responsibilities is that you sort of have a measuring stick to see how you're life is going.Delete
When you get away from that environment, then... Well, it's like the blog I wrote a while back about St. Anthony of the Desert: He might be living as a hermit to attain enlightenment, or else he might be wasting his life alone in the middle of nowhere.
Plus, having health insurance is nice.
I'm quite frankly deeply touched and somewhat ashamed of my own sheltered upbringing. Commenting from my cell while lying awake at 3am...again.ReplyDelete
People work hard to give their kids a sheltered upbringing! It's an accomplishment...Delete
And your brain works pretty damn well for an over-educated sheltered guy.
There is a certain power in people who really have no use for material possessions. Maybe we should all be houseless...ReplyDelete
It does seem like this property-based thing has pretty well played itself out, doesn't it?Delete
I just haven't quite figured out an alternative that's applicable to everyone yet.
“I am houseless,” she corrected me. “And houseless does not matter.”ReplyDelete
Katy, I come here to read profound things.
You have not disappointed me.
Wow... Thank you, Will!Delete
I try to write a piece a week and I don't lecture about whatever is in the news, so the profundity levels vary a bit. If I can entertain myself enough to finish writing it, it is a HUGE success!
Reading this makes me think that you must have some stories to tell from those days Katy. Hopefully part 2 will include some of them :)ReplyDelete
ps my main coon cat is sat next to me and has just done the SMELLIEST fart.
Just needed to share that.
My life is dull.
I had a few things I wanted to accomplish in the two parts of this, and I got most of them in Part One. I'm going to have to rethink Part Two now.Delete
There is something to be said for "dull" lives. Lives that look interesting to people other than those living them tend to end too early to be appreciated by the living person...
That made sense in my had when I started typing it.
Impressive and pretty inspiring. Homelessness , houselessness should be mandatory part in anyone's life in my opinion. Like childhood, and adulthood and stuff.ReplyDelete
High school, military service, college, houselessness.Delete
Actually, that might not be a bad idea. Dana was telling me a while back about how many of the attorneys at her firm never had a job before they got their 6 figure law gig.
The people shaping society don't know the humiliation that is retail? It's like a different world...
I knew a girl who wanted to teach me about dumpster diving. I knew she was homeless, she just didn't talk about it. She was so beautiful. I never learned her name, although I considered her a friend. I wanted her to remain larger than a name. I loved her, and wanted to make her my wife. There's not point to this, by the way.ReplyDelete
"Larger than a name."Delete
That's a great phrase. I can understand the sentiment, too. There are folks who are of more use to my brain held in the abstract.
I got fired from my first job for being too sincere. Got to write about it.ReplyDelete
Haha... Was it because the over-sincerity make you come off as fake or as scary?Delete
I don't think "too sincere" is a problem for most people. Maybe you should be a politician after all!
i guess i am wondering if this is a led-zep-ish story or a real one. you my dear, have a cryptic way about you. not that i am insinuating that is bad, but i am curious...ReplyDelete
Haha... I like to keep people guessing to a certain extent, but I'll have "Classic Knot Re-Knot" as a tag when I am doing one of those.Delete
There are only about four interesting things about me. My penchant for living n the streets is probably one of them.
My kindred spirit Katy. There's something to be said about launching into early adulthood without the safety net parents provide. When you have nothing you have everything. I liked this story.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Rafa!Delete
Yeah, the parent thing DOES something to people. Most artists, for example, either lost a parent young or else had screwed up parents they couldn't trust.
I'll write and post the second half of this thing sometime in the next week...
I remember years ago George Carlin had a bit about homeless being an abstract concept, the problem was people were houseless. Clearly Crank was years ahead of George. I look forward to part 2ReplyDelete
I've never heard that Carlin bit.Delete
If I had, I would have used different Crank quotes.
I hate to sound derivative.
You are not derivative, ever! I am sure George got it from Crank.Delete
This morning, I am standing in the service lobby of the local Ford dealer trying to make arrangements for my house guest nephew to pick me up at the local Starbucks. After completing the phone call some small town redneck who overheard my conversation felt obligated to tell me "You know Starbucks is supporting gay marriage up in Seattle." Clearly he mistook me for someone who gave a flying fuck. A misunderstanding that was immediately corrected. Just to counter assholes like him, I bought a bag of coffee in addition to my jumbo coffee IV.
Nice! People need stuff to get angry over. I don't know whether their lives are too boring or what.Delete
I don't get outraged all that often. Every ideological group seems to have pretty much the same level of stupid.
A very true statement. A visiting grandparent was pissed he had to show ID at my wife's school today. He ended up shouting at the poor secretary who is just following he rules. Grandpa got called into the Vice Principal's office. What an ass. He needed to sign in, see his grand kid, then go home and kick the dog.Delete
Of course, that's the way The Man inflicts his crap on the rest of us: he finds faultless intermediaries who we feel too bad to browbeat sufficiently. That poor WalMart employee is only doing his job.Delete
But yeah... I think if you look at how we scream at each other over politics, you see a lot of passive aggression. I get called a traitor because my "opponent" failed to get laid last weekend...
Maybe Crank needs to have a talk with the stuck up suburban kids that live in this stuffy neighborhood of mine. They've never been without a house, or designer clothes, or $400 iPhones, or what have you. And if they don't listen to her, well, she can just give them a good old fashioned ass whoopin', which I would equally enjoy. Sometimes, this late in life, there's just no saving a kid who's that much of a selfish, snobby prick.ReplyDelete
Hey there! Like I said somewhere above, it's not that i think it's bad that someone's parents managed to ensure they always had what they needed.Delete
It's that many of those kids seem to think it's in the natural order of things. As though because they always had everything, anyone who is worth a crap always had everything.
"What's wrong with the poor, anyway? Why don't they just get what they need?"
There are so many people who spit in their food or blow their noses in napkins and then put it in the trash and you eat that.
Really? Who spits in their leftovers?Delete
Please post a list of places where you go to eat so I can make a mental note not to go there.
Katy, wow. So seldom do you read of two characters' dimensions so thoroughly expressed in a single, (literary) blog post. And there'sReplyDelete
Not only that, but you shared a perspective and dimensions of homelessness -- houselessness -- that so many of your privileged readers, myself included, have never seen before. Well done. I'm eager for Lesson Two.
Thanks, Ashley! This first part is not very long, but I tried to get a lot in.Delete
Sleeping in an abandoned car is actually a beginner's mistake. No one but a 13 year old would do it.
But then, maybe most people haven't had to work through that problem, either.
Dunno. Lesson Two, on its way. Eventually!
I simply have to meet you.ReplyDelete
When in college, I took a job as a dishwasher in a bbq eatery. The other dishwasher was an old black man. The first time I saw him eat off a left-over plate I was disgusted.
Two weeks later I was getting a free meal every night. We waste a lot of food.
What goes on out at the tables in the restaurants is often no worse than what goes on back in the kitchen anyway, haha...
Tons of food gets wasted. That's not so much a condemnation - "There are starving kids in China!" - as it is an opportunity for those who know how to use it.
I bet Anne Ramsay was a right little darlin` when she was 18.ReplyDelete
Dude, if you are fantasizing about Anne Ramsey, you need to find a girlfriend.Delete
Or at least a good fleshlight.
Katy, i`m really sorry, reading this post upset me, i had no idea that your 26 years on the planet so far had been such a murderous and unbearable "hell-on-earth". i genuinely hope that you live to be 100 and that the next 74 years turn out to be much more pleasant for you. You deserve to have a lot of good times over the next three-quarters-of-a-century.ReplyDelete
My life is fantastic.Delete
Everybody has bad things that happen. I'm not Ms. Positivity, but I really try not to bad stuff yesterday screw up tomorrow.
I hope the next seventy-six years are at least balanced.
Katy, i bet Penelope Sudrow and Yeardley Smith had the same favorite song when they were growing up, Janis Ian's "At 17" ! ! !.ReplyDelete
I am not sure what this comment means.Delete
Thanks for stopping by, though!
Katy, as i said, i was talking about the (possibly) gorgeous young bird "Anne Ramsey", not the hideous old slag "Anne Ramsey".ReplyDelete
OK. I didn't know her when she was young or when she was old. I can't vouch for sexiness or charisma or anything.Delete
She was great in "Goonies"!
Katy, have you read the "comments sections" over on Soiled Sinema's 3 latest reveiws (Island of Lost Souls, Hour of the Wolf, and Tokyo Elegy) ?, they`re a scream.ReplyDelete
Sorry, eddie lydecker. I have not had the good fortune to read them.Delete
Thank you for the tip.
I was houseless for only a short time, but it was an interesting experience.ReplyDelete
From what I can tell, people tend to find it dramatic and memorable. The kind of thing that can shake your head out of its routine.Delete
Katy, presumably by now you have got around to reading those comments sections i told you to read, if so did you fall about laughing when you read them like i said you would ?.ReplyDelete
I am saving them for a day when I really, really need a laugh.Delete
You wont be disapointed darlin`, those com-girl-ts represent me at my brilliant best ! ! !.ReplyDelete