I am writing this on a Sunday morning, actually, Father's Day. That's a small patch of history behind us (you and I) if it's any at all (was yours memorable?) It's an overcast, quiet day and my neighborhood is still in that spot between an inhaled breath and exhaled one after an uneventful night, still except for the rattle-chink-clunk and stutter of a shopping cart being maneuvered between a parking garage and a Dumpster area. It's a no-man's zone or a real-estate company's zone, I suppose, that offers shelter from the alley (if you open some fuse/circuit-breaker plywood doors) and the rain-run-off pattern slides from the garage roof tiles to a kind of tool shed that during a rain offers up a subliminal and distant sounding tribal drumming of some Lilliputian colony from an island just off some imaginary shore that exists if you close your eyes -- as I do in my bedroom -- and imagine myself safe on some middle-class mainland where we all have cars and jobs and assigned Dumpsters, and those on the island, just off the coast, have nothing. They are pariahs, did not play the Mainland Game well and are enduring that society's just punishment. This homeless couple is new, and the only ones you will find if you police, say, the five-block area for "illegal lodgers." I consider them my secret denizens and their secret, illegal accomplice, their "king," in fact, because I told them about the spot Friday night last week. "If you just get, like, a shower curtain or something and string it between here and here, you can stay dry. You shouldn't be bothering anybody. This is a garage, and I've never seen it lit at night or any activity during the daytime. The property's for sale. On this side is the apartment complex, the garage is usually vacant, but not always. I don't know why. People live here but everyone wants the front spaces, even the street spaces because the alleys are ruled by dangerous, roving packs of thugs like you."
The couple I am addressing is in their early 20s, black, and have various metallic stud punctuations around their heads (lips, eyebrows, nostrils). Their clothes are dirty but not terribly so, and they are of some sort of classy, designer denim stamp. The girl (Linda?) wears bell-bottoms of the kind I used to wear almost exactly. I would allow mine to become much more in need of laundering before doing anything about it. The young man (I'll call him Drew) wears a white 'do rag around his close Afro. He is also in denim with jacket to match, and his Levi's are not bells but the other kind -- stovepipe or something they were called in 1967. His boots are tattered, but very cool at one time: Beatle boots of brown leather with the elastic at the sides. A piece of masking tape traces the right small toe to the instep. Drew has a fraying, bleached-out, once colorful collection of "friendship bracelets" popular in the 1980s around both wrists, which suggest to me, Sherlock Holmes--like and so invariably dead wrong, that Drew had hitch-hiked and student-hostel and student-train-bus-passed his way around a good chunk of geography, but not for a few years now.
Linda appears just trailingly younger but she probably always did and will be surrounded by people her own age. That is, if I figure her at 22, she's probably 20 or so.
When I first met them at a recycling depot where I bring my empty bodybuilding nutrient containers. I could see their nomadic disposition immediately, and they seemed so, well, nice; like some Disney Mouseketeer tryouts having failed a final audition and run through their last free Wendy's coupon and the Super-8 Motel Free Lodgings for Contestants. The question of harboring minors, aiding and abetting, good intentions, and the road to hell all, collage-like, meld subconsciously with my Good Samaritan spiel about if, "Heh-heh, say, if I were ever homeless? I'd consider this an unobtrusive spot more or less; and by the way, Linda? Don't mean to be rude, you have a fine figure but could you be pregnant?" It's the kind of question I ask with a potential non-boyfriend and have done some fast-talking away from the emergency room.
So, Friday night I noticed they were there in the spot. I was right; they were invisible from walkers-by in the alley, by car, and assuming they played not even relatively loud music and didn't light a bonfire, they could pass a night in peace, relative dryness, relative safety, bothering no one, reading Herman Hesse (Beneath the Wheel) to each other. And here they would take turns because Drew, it turns out, is a drama major; Linda, English lit. Both out of money and student loans. I didn't ask why. But, I clearly saw indicated a pre-natal literacy course. I could see this immediately as "Pre pre-school romance/heroism/ the traditions of the mythoepeic from pre-literary and phonetic primer introduction to the Heroic Couplet Format in...etc., etc." And here was my chance to make a difference.
That this involved both breaking the law in an unmistakable way and, I suppose, being subject to arrest for, I guess you have to say, aiding and abetting illegal lodging, I console myself with this: "The Backbone of the Caper" is how I imagine they'll refer to me when referring to that one night of gloom, but safety from a possibly questionable law, the law (I'm thinking "Caesar's Minion's" -- really S.D.P.D., of course).
And so on this Sunday morning, Father's Day, I can hear them over there but can't make out what they're saying. I hope, "Happy Father's Day!" is in there somewhere and a suggestion for the name of their child that maybe has bits of my own in there. Let's see, "Robert or Roberta O'Lara ... maybe or Robert Johnson Brizzolara."
Oh, whatever. You kids have fun. I notice you left the campsite neat. Thank you. Unfortunately, it is unlikely you will be permitted to return. The word on the street is that spot is to be quickly renovated and used for a long-needed Vietnamese/Tijuana chop shop to fill the city's and, yes, even law enforcement's automotive needs on both sides of the border.
Art and commerce, the old story. And to think that the creative as well as the mechanically facile have to be housed. I suppose so. Well, our city has one or two concerns before that, don't you? Hey, go Chargers! I mean, that library location thing is going okay and everything, isn't it? SO, GO YOU BOLTMEISTERS! May the upcoming season be as unstoppably upbeat as TGIF!