So anyways, a couple of mornings ago i packed up my campsite and headed on down to the creek (which I consider part of “my” campsite, by the way). The creek has been bone-dry lately — and it will be for the next 4 months. So I set up a make-shift “watering hole” for the local critters — this aluminum tray that i embedded into the dry dirt of the creek bottom, and I fill it up with a jug of water every morning. But, much to my chagrin, I discover this guy is camping down there by the creek. This young guy with horned-rim glasses and paranoid, worried eyes (here we go again, I think).
Now generally, I don’t say anything the first time somebody camps at my spot. Usually, they’re just passing through, and they’re gone by the next day. So I just let it play out by itself.
“I’m bringing some water for the critters,” i say to the guy, gesturing with the jug of water. I walk past his sleeping bag and fill the tray up with water. But with my body language, I’m also passing on this unspoken message: “I consider this space MY space and not YOUR space and I’ll traipse through it whenever I feel like it.” I also put out an unfriendly and unwelcoming vibe (hoping they get the message). Along with a slight hint of menace. This “I-very-well-may-be-a-crazy-fucker-so-you-might-wanna-keep-your-distance” vibe (a vibe I put out naturally and easily, ha ha). And head on down the trail.
The next morning I’m chagrined to discover that the guy is not there, but he left several large tarps splayed out on the ground. That means either a.) he’s planning on coming back (he’s an idiot), or b.) he just left some of his crap behind for somebody else to clean up (he’s an ass). Naturally I’m hoping it’s the latter.
So I wrote a message on a piece of paper: “NO OFFENSE BUT THIS IS NOT A GOOD SPOT TO CAMP. THIS IS PART OF MY CAMPSITE.” I put the paper on top of his tarp and weighed it down with a rock.
The next two mornings, the tarp (and the message) are still there, but no sign of the guy. So I figure he’s gone. I leave the tarp there for one more day (just in case he wants to come back and get it). And then the next morning i go down there with a garbage bag and pack up the tarp so I can get rid of it (the last thing i want is some obvious sign of a campsite which might alert the authorities that I’m there).
But as I’m packing it up, somebody calls out to me from up the hill on the other side of the creek: “HEY DON’T STEAL MY TARP!”
“I’m not stealing your tarp, I’m just packing it up. I’ll bring it up to you,” I yell. The guy has set up his campsite about 40 yards up the hill (I consider the other side of the creek, NOT my campsite, by the way).
So I climb up the hill. I’m eager to get a good look at this guy so i can get a read as to where he’s coming from. I may well be living along side him for some time to come. So if he’s trouble (which they usually are) I want to find out what KIND of trouble. So I’ll know what to expect BEFORE he makes the trouble (that way I’m always one step ahead of the guy).
I make my way up to his campsite. He has junk laying around all over the place, And five pieces of clothes hanging from a tree branch, clearly visible from the road (not a good sign).
“How ya’ doing,” I said. I hand him his tarp and shake his hand. “No offense, but I consider that spot by the creek part of my campsite. That’s where I hang out and feed my feral cats.”
“Oh, OK,” he said. “I saw your note. And I couldn’t tell what to make of it. Whether you were inviting me to hang out at that spot or not.”
(That’s a bad sign. How he could interpret my simple message of DON’T CAMP THERE to mean I’M INVITING YOU TO CAMP THERE is bizarre. This guy’s brain obviously interprets information with it’s own confused logic. Right now I’m intently gauging every word he says, studying the meanings to try and figure out where this guy is coming from. I’ve pretty quickly got him pegged as a nut. Now the only question is whether he’s a.) a harmless nut, or b.) a dangerous nut.)
“So how you been doing?” I said.
“Oh it’s been terrible,” he said. “I’m just trying to find some food to eat that won’t make me sick. I’ve got a big bag of bread with no nitrates in it. You want to come up and see it?”
“So are you planning on camping here for awhile?”
“Oh it’s been crazy around here lately.”
“What do you mean?
“Didn’t you hear the big crazy scene that was going on the other night? It all started with this woman I know from Gainesville, Florida. G-ville. They poisoned her and she ended up dying from alcohol poisoning. And then when I tried to get to the bottom of it and figure out what really happened things really started getting crazy. And then these other people –”
“Oh really,” I said. I cut him off mid-sentence because I could tell he was ready to launch off into some long and crazy story that made no sense. “Have you noticed if that other guy who’s been camping on this side of the creek is still around?”
“I have no idea. I’ve been too busy trying to keep from being crucified. I almost died just from the fumes of the Kentucky Fried Chicken that were leaking into my room.”
I’m quickly realizing this guy is completely nuts. Every simple question I ask him is met with some complete non sequitor. And the fact that, in the course of a short, casual conversation he throws in several references to violent death is not a particularly encouraging sign.
“Well, you take it easy,” I said. And I headed on down towards the road.
Meet my new neighbor.