Screening went great. This study was going to pay almost $7,000 which was more money than I’ve ever had at once during my life. I went to my parents’ and started hanging out. I’d been really active in Olympia where my younger sister was living, but now I settled into laziness. Lots of toast, downloading music, and Japanese horror films.
The Watcher in the Attic:
“The film is set in 1923 in a cheap Tokyo boarding house. The landlord, Goda, roams through the attic, observing the weird lives of his tenants through holes in the ceiling. One day he sees a prostitute murder one of her clients and decides that at last he has found his soul mate… Based on stories by the Japanese master of horror, Edogawa Rampo, the film features some of the most bizarre sex scenes ever, including the story of a man who hides inside a special chair, so that a naked woman can sit on him.”
Watching shit like that in the upstairs of my parents’ place is pretty much how I spend my time in North Dakota. I was bored and beginning to seriously regret not heading to New York. Was getting way too complacent here.
But I jogged a 5k race with my parents. Through parts of the summer I worked on my jogging in secret because the idea was to out of nowhere do a 5k with my dad and then beat him. Tortoise and the Hare revived in Grand Forks, North Dakota. My dad’s been an avid jogger for years and I wanted to defeat him without his knowing that I even jogged in the first place. Motivated myself by turning my father into an enemy. “Gotta beat that bastard.” “You’re going down, old man.” These were my prodding motto refrains. The antagonist of his jogging life was readying for victory and my dad didn’t even know it. So I jogged the 5k with him and my mother. He beat me by over four minutes. But I cold smoked my mom (who walked the whole time).
The Thursday, Friday, and Sunday before my study check in, Minneapolis had a series of concerts I wanted to check out: Best Coast, Free Energy, and The Flaming Lips. I’d already seen Free Energy and Flips twice, so don’t know why I was so driven to go to these shows. Minneapolis is five hours away and so for adventure, and to save on gas, I decided to be a concert going hobo for the weekend.
For years I’ve romanticized homelessness as something great. I always tell myself that it would be fun to voluntarily go homeless for a while. Sleep under bridges. Bathe in rivers. Sit on a sidewalk with a sign saying “Homeless Christan,” [sic]. In Olympia I headed downtown nearly every night to observe the hobos and transient kids. I walked up and down 4th street for sometimes close to two hours, eavesdropping on conversations, listening to the street musicians, seeing a hobo in a kilt get busted by two undercover officers. There was a young girl with a mohawk who played really great songs. Reminded me of Kimya Dawson, who lived in Olympia, and was in a free choir with my sister.
I met this dude, who I’ve named Keyboard Hobo. He was a younger ultra thing bearded guy who sat in the back of his bike cart. On his ride were cardboard signs saying “GET ME HIGH” and “WHERE DA KRONIC?” Dude liked to get high. Anyway, he sat on the sidewalk playing a keyboard set up on a skateboard while sporting a miner’s headlight. It was entertaining. I genuinely liked his songs. Some cute girl gave him pizza. He was so out of it he could barely mumble a thanks. When I offered him some (nonexistent) weed in exchange for me recording him, the dude declined. “Gotta watch out for my copyrights, don’t want my shit to end up on Myspace,” he told me. I respected that. But recorded him anyway, on the sneak, and threw it up on Youtube.
So I am fascinated by, and respect (usually), the homeless. Even if I do suspect one of them to have stolen my bike from the library this summer. (I was so sure of this that I used to regularly go down to the homeless shelter and look at the bike rack to see if my red Schwinn was there.) I mock them too much, but really do care and wish I could talk to more of them to find out their stories. Also, love reading about them. I’ll read anyhing about transient lifestyles that I can get ahold of. ANYWAY, since I have always thought that I’ll probably end up homeless, sleeping in my car in Minneapolis while in town for some rock concerts seemed like a good entry point to the lifestyle.
Got to Minneapolis in the afternoon that Thursday. I took an extra long shower before leaving, figuring it’d be my last one for days. On the drive there I saw a flooded rest stop and an abortion billboard. Billboard beside it was for Mukluks. Not sure why, but I found that funny. Left my car next to the parking lot where I saw Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros play in August. That was the best show I saw all summer and it brought back a ton of great memories. Walked the neighborhood which I already knew from Edward Sharpe and the time I saw Free Energy. That neighborhood has a lot of bars and Muslim shops, so you see a lot of wrapped women, and drunk kids, stumbling along the sidewalk together.
Didn’t really know where I was going to park my car for the night when I went to sleep. Figured I’d maybe stay near the Edward Sharpe lot since it was a semi-residential neighborhood next to some train tracks. I headed to where the concert was supposed to be: The Triple Rock Social Club (no handguns allowed on the premises, folks). It was just a block from where I parked. The place is a bar with a music venue attached. I’m a shy outsider creature so I hung around the doors waiting to watch people go in because I didn’t know which door to use and thought it’d be embarrassing to ask.
I have a long history of being embarrassed over mundane boring things. Whenever I’m dating someone and we want pizza I make them call the pizza place. When they’re on the phone I plug my ears and hum or go lay under the covers. Just hearing the call makes me feel awkward. As kids, when my sister and I went to our grandma’s, I always made my sister ask if we could watch cartoons since I was too scared to do it. Perhaps my grandma was going to stick me in a grain bin if I asked. Or make me go stand in the snow barefoot with her cats. Or maybe she would’ve said yes. I’m not as bad about the embarrassment thing now, but still dysfunctional in a lot of situations. ANYWAY, back at Triple Rock, I watched some girls on bikes go into the place and so knew what door to use.
Got my ticket (will call dude was reading a Discworld book which I thought was great) saw the place was empty, and so went back to my car. In the car I had packed my homeless supplies: a basket of clothes, blankets, pillows, toiletries, books, teddy bear, Nos, garbage. Even if you wouldn’t have pegged me for a hobo by sight (which you wouldn’t, I’m ultra handsome), a peek into my car would make anyone think some weird North Dakota transient had set up camp.
Got into the show. Place was a tiny cement bar with a crowd level stage.
Now it was really filling up. Lots of chicks; tons of people around my age (24). There was a sign on the wall saying MINNEAPOLIS FUCKING ROCKS. I enjoyed that. Before the show started I heard some guys talking about Neon Indian. I’d seen them at Bonnaroo that summer and wanted to chime in about my love for them but was too shy. Girl beside me told her friend she wanted to go into art psychology. I thought of starting a rumor that this concert was going to end with wet cement pouring down from the ceiling and that we’d all have to lock hands and swim out together. I didn’t, so instead sneak listened to some guys talk about a friend of theirs who snorted coke in the third grade.
Male Bonding opened.
They were alright. Introduced themselves as Led Zeppelin and wore Jaws and baked beans shirts. I have their album but hadn’t listened to it much. After they got off I watched some dude hit on the girl beside me. Chick was into it. Guess the guy worked for The Current, a great Minneapolis radio station. Hitting on girls is a skill I’ve never possessed. The girls I’ve dated or been with have usually kind of happened naturally. Any girl I’ve ever tried pursuing has never panned out the way I wanted it to. That’s the way it goes for your humble narrator. Fortune favors the rude, not the dude who can’t ask his grandma to turn on Scooby-Doo for him.
Best Coast got on stage.
Lead singer is buku cute. Told us a story about how the college they played the night before wouldn’t let them drink on stage. The guitarist, Bob, looks like a chunky T-Rex that grew its hair out. I spent much of the show watching him. I’m a sucker for most girl pop or rock, so had been listening to Best Coast pretty heavily for quite a while at this point. It was one of my summer 2010 jams. The show was fun, but not incredible. We all sang along to half the songs.
This buku drunk girl in a red cape in front of me laid her coat on the floor right next to the stage and refused to let anyone into that area. The Sacred Coat Zone. She kept on falling on people and making out with two scuzz guys. I nicknamed her E-Chest Dracula. The Gabfrab ex machina didn’t swoop in to stop her from embarrassing herself, but instead danced the best he could around the cape. Anywhere in this venue was a good view, but I was only a few feet back from stage. Could feel the bass in my feet and crotch. Made a mental note that I should start my own girl surf-pop band.
Concert let out and I hung around the venue. I watched someone tear down the MINNEAPOLIS FUCKING ROCKS posters. I guess Minneapolis only rocks a few hours a night. I watched people leaving — everyone with a group of friends or whoever they were dating. So many people making out, holding hands. It was time to go live in my car.
I talked to my ex on the phone, gave her all the details about the concert. Drove around a residential neighborhood with a Taco Bell. I would’ve stopped there if I hadn’t been chatting. Didn’t really think this girl would appreciate me hanging up to grab some 99 cent tacos. Yo quiero no more pussy?
Got off the phone and went looking for a good neighborhood. Hoped to find a hobo henhouse but had no luck. Tried the college campus where we’d parked when we saw Edward Sharpe, but campus security was driving around. Ended up by a park a few minutes from the concert place, a couple hours after the concert let out. One side of the street was houses, the other the park. I stopped parkside, figuring this would make it less likely for me to be spotted. Kneeling in my driver’s seat I turned around and made up a bed in the back. Listened to some music for a while. Turned off my car. No more heat. It was time to take homelessness out of the theory stage.
My car isn’t very big so the backseat didn’t hold me very well. I crawled back there over my middle console. The sweatpants I changed into caught on something. Now my ass half hung out. Got into the seat and laid down with a blanket over me and a pillow to support my neck. I’m almost six foot so had to curl like a baby in the crib. Kept my cell phone near. Put my glasses in the glove department because my thinking was that if someone saw them on the dash they’d automatically know a Nolan hobo was kicking it in the backseat. $300 eyeglasses: the telltale sign of a nearby vagrant. All I could think about was what if someone saw me. I’d slept in my front seat at rest stops a couple hours at a time while in transit across the country before, but never anything like this. I was cold but sweaty under the blanket. Had to stick my head out to breathe. Pulled my pant legs up to cool off. Every time a car drove by I panicked, thinking it would be a cop or some housewife who would walk by and see me. A sweaty face peeking out from under a black blanket. Clutching a little brown teddy bear.
I just could not sleep. Felt lonely and awkward. My ex had gone to bed and no one else was answering my texts. I had brought with me a letter my ex had sent that talked a lot about her and I and made me feel really loved. I pulled it out of my bag and read it over twice by cell phone light. I pretended the letter came alive and was now my friend, talking to me. Made me feel close to her. I was alone that night, but knew I had people out there that loved me. I paged through old texts on my cell phone. I always keep my favorite texts from people: ones from my dad saying “Morning son, I LOVE YOU! -Dad,” funny or loving stuff from the ex, my sister giving me updates on this lonely old man who stalked us or saying she missed me, goofy stuff from friends about old hags dying in hot tubs. Doing this text message gauntlet always makes me feel good. I drifted off to sleep. Maybe sleeping in a car wasn’t going to be so bad.
When I parked there was no one on the street near me. In my half sleep I woke up many times that night. Every time I did there were more and more cars around. Got up for good around half past seven. Found out I’d slept on a banana. Wiped its goop off the crotch and legs of my pants. Now the street was filled. Turns out there is a college nearby and this is where students park. I imagined all the young people around my age who walked by my shitty dirty car and saw this kid with vanity GABFRAB plates sleeping in his backseat. Did they really think I was a hobo? Would I be happy if they did? Some of them probably were at that concert. I tried thinking up stories in my head if anyone asked what I was doing or if I needed help. Should I tell the truth or make up a lie?
Prior to this homeless adventure I’d spent a lot of time reading about hobos. Found a great blog online about how to live out of your car. Read an autobiography of a train hopping yegg. Had all this info and theory. One of the key things I took away was to always have a story ready. I was so paranoid that a cop was going to knock on my window in the middle of the night. Cuff me to a tree and rape my ass. My story was that I was in town visiting my girlfriend but we’d had a fight and I had nowhere to go since I was from out of state. Seemed solid enough. I rehearsed the story out loud in my car. There are periods of my life where I have more imagined conversations than real ones. The imagined ones never come to fruition, or if they do, never go like I planned them in my head. No cop came, and so I never got to try out the girlfriend conversation either.
So that first morning I crawled back into my front seat, turned on the heat, and listened to some podcasts (Sound Opinions, for those curious). A girl looking for a parking spot thought I was moving and I figured she needed the spot more than me. I parked down the street and spent the morning sleeping in my reclined front seat with a blanket over me. For whatever reason it was more comfortable to sleep now that it was light out and I could be seen by all. Maybe people would think I was a kid resting between classes. I mean, I did have a ton of books with me. Some cute girl parked by my car and smiled when she saw me. That’s right baby, I’m homeless and haven’t showered. I imagined waking up to her knocking on my window offering me change, some coffee.
I had spent one night as a faux hobo and wasn’t into it at all. Felt dirty and tired. Maybe being a hobo wasn’t my life path after all. I couldn’t even make it through one night without paranoia and wishing I wasn’t alone. But I wanted to do it again. Today was going to be a second opportunity. Free Energy was playing that night just a short drive away. I was going to rock hard. But first, I had to brush my shitty teeth.