Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
MY LIFE AQUATIC
Okay, here's the deal: I don't really have a neighborhood. A description of my general place of residence would look something like this: Pacific Ocean, San Diego, CA. Yes, really. I would tell you the exact part of the bay-- and which one-- I live in, if it wasn't for the fact that residing in a boat (renting it like an apartment) is now illegal in San Diego. To be honest, outing myself with the details and risking the termination of my current pad is not worth the literary gratitude nor the potential prize money (if it were to come to that).
Six months ago, when I found myself hard up for cash and losing a financially crucial (yet annoyingly snobbish) roommate in North Park, I asked some friends to ask some friends about a cheap and decent place to live in this gilded town. Turned out that a friend of a friend of a cousin had a brother-in-law that had a boat docked here in SD and was thinking about renting options. I threw in my hat, and here I am, bobbing in the bay. My sea legs have become semi-permanent, yet the 150 dollars a month it costs me is quite worth the adjustment. I make sure my presence is low-key around the docks, so as to prevent any boat owners from being tempted to alert the authorities. I also have to keep the favor of local security personnel. Typically a six-pack or a bottle of tequila does the trick. The biggest downfall is the showering and bathroom situation: public. It may be a bit disgusting at times-- and it is-- but I've got my system down now.
You see, this is no yacht I'm renting out. It's a 20 foot sail boat. Aside from a miniscule monthly payment, my responsibility is to keep it clean. That's it. My dining room is Robertos (or any suffix "-ertos") taco shop. My living room is the nearest coffee shop-- where my bathroom usually is too. At times I feel half-civilized, half-pirate, and half-secret agent, which I guess makes me one and a half persons? That's kinda' how I feel, even as I write this. One foot in the modern So-Cal world, and one in an aquatic, semi-homeless "other". This space can be both freeing and imprisoning at times. It can be downright alienating and lonely some days. Yet with a good book and a trooper of a girlfriend, this place is paradise-- minus the exhorbitant San Diego price tag. Each day I step off land and look back at the lights. Here's the simple truth I see from my saltwater shelter: in this world-- in this town-- it seems to be the prices that are far more entrapping than a small boat could ever be. Most of the time, we have no choice but to be consumers-- buyers or renters. The prices are set for us. They surround us with an intangible, yet oppressive force. So my little slice of freedom has been to choose to live on a little boat that, for now, will remain unnamed to protect the innocent. And although I am certainly not innocent in the Biblical sense, I am no criminal either. Even though I am apparently breaking a law by sleeping here, my only crime is that I'm one step from homelessness, and two from complete conformity ...I think.