I camped in the Redwood Park in Arcata last night. This huge forest full of beautiful redwood trees. There were more than a few bands of homeless camping there, who evidently have been living in the woods for some time . . .
Which often reminds me of the story of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. Illegally living in Nottingham Forest and poaching the King’s venison (and watch out when the Sheriff of Nottingham pulls up in his squad car). . . When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that the Robin Hood story was about a bunch of homeless guys.
Anyways, this annoyed me. Last night around 10 PM, I’m hanging our amongst the redwoods in the deep, dark forest. And I had my sleeping bag laid out on the ground, and I’m sitting on a log drinking my last beer of the night and scrolling away on my cellphone. When these four guys wander by. Shine their flashlight at me. “Don’t shine your flashlight in my face!” I said, rather curtly. They proceeded to set up their tents about 20 feet from where I had planned to camp. Evidently it didn’t concern them that I had got to this spot first. They probably figured, there were 4 of them and only 1 of me, so too bad for me (I can guarantee they wouldn’t have tried to pull that shit if there had only been one of them). But what the hell. At least they offered to smoke some of their weed with me as a conciliatory peace gesture. Which I declined. I grabbed my sleeping bag and staggered off in the pitch darkness in search of another, more private, spot to camp . . .
You can get into some weird scenes dealing with total strangers in the deep, dark woods.
A friend of mine just emailed me a story from the Arcata newspaper. Headline: “Two Stabbed During Altercation Over Camp Site.” And yeah, it can get that way sometimes. It can get very primal out there in the wilderness. Like the Laws of the Jungle. A bunch of cavemen getting into territorial pissing wars. And what further complicates the situation is: none of us has a legal right to the turf. We’re all illegally camping. When you’re homeless, the only space you can claim for yourself is what you can carve out, and what you’re able to defend with your will and your cunning.