Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vandwelling in Philadelphia

For awhile there, I was living in a van. I took that show on the road. I started out by wintering in Key West. It was great. I drove to Oregon and made that state and my van a hideout for a few months. Home was an anxiety attack, so I made my way to anywhere else. Soon I settled down slightly, and realized I was in Philadelphia again.

I found a remarkable parking spot in Philly. I was in the center of everything, but when I opened my doors in the morning, my view was a grassy paddock with grazing horses. I could park there forever; friends and amenities were mere steps away.

For a young man with desperation in his heart, a better home could not be had. I never took pride in my ability to build or plan. My decisions were a shot from the hip. Recognizing my Jenga tower for what it was, I never stacked my blocks very high. Philadelphia gets cold and hot, and I never managed the energy to build or afford a system to cope with the extremes.

At a lonely time in my life, I turned to Craigslist for human contact. The title of the ad was "dude wants to meet eccentric people thru email." I like to write, and I didn't want more. I found a girl who had a light rattling in her skull as well. We exchanged words and stories for years. After several years and many pages, we did meet. When the weather was at its coldest, we shared her bed.

The winter in Philadelphia is bitter. I operate at a low percentage for the duration. When I got a call around 7pm, my heart raced. Another human was volunteering to cook for me. We could watch television afterward. We shared a warm mattress on the floor, and we never had to talk about sex. I hope she is doing well today. We haven't talked in years.

After winter comes Spring, and soon after that are the dog days of summer. The van would be a steam bath, and soon after the sun would rise, I would be compelled to do the same. I would sit up, scooch my bottom to the side doors, and open them wide. The cool ninety degree air would be a relief from the stuffy interior of my home.

In the summer of that year, I was fixing bicycles. A friend and I rented a small warehouse space. We bought bicycles in the suburbs, brought them to the city, performed repairs, and sold them on Craigslist. I'd done this for money before, and I was showing her how. Today she owns her own bicycle shop. I couldn't be prouder to have helped, because frankly I was somewhat of a wreck at the time. I thought there was pride and amusement in being a wreck, and I celebrated life within an inch of an impending alcohol dependency.

It was hot. For an additional $98, I rented more space in the warehouse. I lied about what it was for, and I had to cut the arm off a free couch to fit it through the door. I got my lip pierced. I got bright hearts tattooed on my right bicep - a monument to not yet understanding sex. I woke up with hot sand in my eyes, and I never removed a single bottle until the weather got cooler and I cancelled the rent.

The van was an essential component in meeting people who I still love today. If not for the manner in which I rolled, I would lack a critical enrichment which I hold dear. I cannot imagine my time spent vandwelling as any less than necessary. Without those lessons, I would merely be alive; a pulse. I brought my energy into the van, and inside that vessel, I was afforded the opportunity to incubate.

The van sits today. My name is on the expired registration, and the house I built is 100 feet away. The van hasn't run in six months, and soon it will be for sale. I am ready to evolve as a person. I am ready to wake up without hot sand in my eyes. I am buying a new battery, and the van will belong to a different person.

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