The rain in May falls mainly on the pained

 

So it’s midnight and I’m at this sports bar nursing this beer for as long as I can, waiting for a break in the storm so I can make a mad dash to my campsite for the night. When I realize there ISN’T going to be a break in the storm. So I pack up my stuff and plunge out into the rain.

It’s POURING rain. The third day of a four-day storm. And I’m completely unprepared to deal with it. It’s the LAST thing I was expecting. A full-blown middle-of-the-winter type storm at the end of May. After surviving five months of winter storms it’s the LAST thing I was expecting this close to June. And it’s like one of those double-shock endings at the end of a horror movie. After experiencing horror through the entire movie, the horror is finally over and you finally can relax. And then they hit you with the double-whammy shock ending.

I race to the campus where I’ve got some blankets stashed in the bushes — periodically stopping to curse the gods at the top of my lungs. To get to my stuff I’ve got to walk down this steep incline that is covered with mud and slippery as ice. Of course I lose my balance and fall into the mud, slathering the side of my jacket and pants with mud. I let out a scream of anguish and rage that they could probably hear all the way to Oakland.

My blankets are stashed in one garbage bag — in the winter I always double and triple-bag them to keep them dry but I wasn’t prepared for this storm. So of course they’re soaking wet now. I stagger to a nearby doorway — cozy and well-hidden — crawl into my soggy blankets and immediately fall asleep.

Have this weird nightmare. I’m in anguish and I’m trying to explain to my friends that the only relief from my psychological despair is to get drunk (brief reprieve from my nightmare as I spend some time petting this beautiful multi-colored purple and green cat — a recurring theme in my dreams).

Wake up around 7. It’s just getting light. And, unbelievably, it’s STILL pouring rain. The wind is pushing the rain all over my stuff. It’s like waking up from one nightmare into another nightmare.

I pack up all my stuff. Head back up the muddy incline. Slip again, smashing and crushing one side of my umbrella. So the morning is off to a wonderful start.

Stagger down the trail. Hear a car approaching me from behind. And I know instinctively. It’s a cop car. The cop car passes by me slowly, the cop eyeing me with suspicion the whole way (sometimes it seems like I’m acting out scenes from the futuristic novel BRAVE NEW WORLD).

It’s summer break so all the buildings on the campus are locked. But then I get an incredible break. As I pass Wheeler Auditorium I notice a well-dressed woman peering out of one of the front doors. She’s probably waiting for a friend, preparing for an up-coming event. “Could I use the restroom?” I ask. “Sure,” she says. And just like that I’m inside a nice warm and dry building.

I go to the first floor men’s room. Wash all the mud off the side of my jacket and pants. Then I go back out and loudly shut the front door (so the woman will hear it and think I left the building) and then sneak down to the basement men’s room and spend an hour peacefully reorganizing myself. I even shave and trim my goatee and shampoo my hair so that I look reasonably presentable to my fellow humans.

As I leave the building I noticed it’s finally stopped raining. And I have that “the-worst-is over” feeling. So now I’m thinking a hot cup of coffee and a fresh apple turnover at the local bakery would really hit the spot. And I’m feeling strangely exhilarated. And just mad enough to be looking forward to experiencing another crazy day on the planet Earth.

Against all odds, the sun actually peered out from just behind all the dark clouds. And apparently, life will go on.

 

I can handle being homeless. I can handle being homeless in the rain. But being homeless in the rain AND being sick as a dog?? That’s pushing the envelope

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I’m sick as a dog. UGGHH!!

I fucked up. I got too drunk last night and forgot to take my sleeping bag to my campsite (uh duh). Shivered all night long under two ratty blankets. Woke up in the morning with the chills, couldn’t get warm. Had some kind of fever. And my entire body ached like somebody had worked me over with a 2-by-4. Laid there in a stupor at my campsite until 2 in the afternoon.

After much effort, I was finally able to hoist myself upright to a sitting position. When I stood up I was so dizzy I thought I was going to topple over. . . Dumped out a huge dish of cat food for my goddamn feral cats. And then SLOWLY packed up my campsite. Took me a half hour to pack up. It was like I was in slow motion. Then I staggered down to the campus, stopping several times to rest.

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And just my luck, a big 4-day rainstorm is just heading in. Which can be tough enough to deal with even when you’re on top of things. Let alone when you’re as sick as dog and barely have the strength to stand up. The entire campus is locked up for the Christmas break. So I’m desperately trying to figure out where I can hole up indoors for awhile and ride out this sickness before I get soaked by the rain and really break down.

And then I got a huge break (there is a God!). Virtually every door on the entire campus is locked. But I somehow managed to find the one door that was inexplicably and miraculously left unlocked. The backdoor of Dwinelle Hall. I curled up on this rug, hidden behind a barrier. And slept until 5:30 in the evening. And here I am.

I hid inside Dwinelle until 10 PM when it was finally late enough to hit the secret doorway on the campus that I crash at when it rains.

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Managed to dump out my blankets and sleeping bag and curled up there in the doorway as the rain started coming down. But I was so sick, I couldn’t stay asleep for more than 5 minutes at a time. And then I’d wake up and spend eternity tossing and turning back and forth — alternating between shivering from the fever, and then sweating like a pig from being too hot. Until I finally managed to get another 5 minutes of sleep. Then I’d wake up again and repeat the same pattern. Over and over. All night long. Which seemed to last forever. I remember looking at my cellphone at one point and it was 2 AM. And I was wondering if this night would EVER end. And the weird thing was, during my 5 minutes of sleep I would dream the same dream over and over and over. All night long. This banal, pointless scenerio — I forget what it was. But I kept repeating it in my dreams over and over. The same pointless dream. All night long. Like being stuck in this endless tape loop. It was like a form of mental torture. And I remember thinking: “Wouldn’t it be horrific if my brain got permanently stuck in this weird loop and I got trapped in this nightmare state for the rest of my life?” Stranger things have happened to people’s brains.

But the worst thing was, as I laid there tossing and turning all night long, that horribly inane song by Ringo Starr — “The No No Song” — kept going through my head. Over and over. All night long. I couldn’t shut it out. “No no no no I won’t sniff It no more. I’m tired of waking up on the floor.” It was like an endless hallucination. Sheesh. God I hate that fucking song.

Now it’s morning and I’m sitting somewhere in a daze. And I’m almost beginning to feel like a human being again.  So I think the worst is over. Knock knock . . . . .. .

The one time when I SERIOUSLY misjudged a winter rainstorm

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Definitely chilly tonight, with this icy-cold wind-chill factor. It reminds me of one of the coldest nights I ever experienced.

I was hitchhiking through Humboldt County in the middle of the winter, and decided to spend the night in Arcata, camping in the Redwood Forest. So I set up my tent — this cheap-ass 30 dollar tent — about a quarter mile into the woods.

It wasn’t raining when I set up my tent. But it started coming down by the time I got into my sleeping bag. And it wouldn’t stop raining for the next 2 days. I had never seen a storm like this. Non-stop sheets of rain and wind. It was relentless.

Within a couple hours my tent was hopelessly battered. And water was pouring in from everywhere. Pretty soon there was several inches of water on the floor of my tent. And my sleeping bag was soaking it up like a sponge.

So I’m lying there, shivering, in this ice-cold puddle of water. For hours. It was like trying to sleep, naked, on a block of ice.

And there was nothing I could do about it. There was no way I could hike back to civilization in the pitch-dark in the middle of this raging storm. And nowhere to go even if I got there. So I was trapped. It felt like being in a little rowboat in the middle of the ocean in the middle of a torrential downpour, as your boat is buffeted back and forth by the wind and the tidal waves, and you got all these holes in your boat and you’re taking in more and more water, and its just a matter of time before you go down with the ship.

During the course of the night I would slip in and out of brief periods of sleep. And I’d slip into this weird dream state. Though it was more like being in a coma than a dream. It was that bad.

But then finally, after hours of enduring this weird torture, I caught a lucky break. It briefly stopped raining. So I dragged my ass out of my tent. And I had this plastic shower curtain that i had on top of my tent for another layer of protection. And the wind had instantly dried it out. So I wrapped myself in the shower curtail and climbed back into my sleeping bag. And the shower curtail insulated me from my wet sleeping bag. And I slept relatively peacefully for the rest of the night.

The next morning when it FINALLY got light, I packed up my stuff and got my ass out of there. My tent had been completely torn apart by the wind and the rain, so I tossed it in the garbage. And I never used a tent ever again after that.

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Another time when I ALMOST got completely soaked

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On this date last year. True story.

I was drunk off my ass (who me?). Oblivious. Passed out at my campsite. And it starts pouring rain. I’m so out of it at this point, I’m the last to know.

Scaredy Cat (the feral cat) comes rushing up to my campsite and starts meowing loudly in my ear.

“MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!” meowed Scaredy Cat. Loudly.

Her incessant meowing managed to wake me up in the nick of time. I realized it was pouring rain. And i was lying there in my wet sleeping bag. And that I could have died from hypothermia (slight exaggeration) if Scaredy Cat hadn’t roused me from my drunken stupor.

In gratitude for saving my life I gave Scaredy Cat a bunch of delicious cat food, packed up my campsite, and got my ass to dry land. In the nick of time.

It was like an episode of Lassie the dog. Where Lassie heroically saves the day.

Except in truth. Scaredy Cat was mostly just waking me up because she was hungry and wanted to be fed before it started pouring rain on her. Ha ha. Cats.

But she DID save my ass that night. I would have gotten completely soaked if not for her.

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The one time I got really soaked during a winter rainstorm

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Generally, as a homeless person who has survived 14 winters (and counting) I generally stay one step ahead of the rain and cold. I closely monitor all the weather reports. And I get in “battle mode” all winter: “Its Me against the Weather!! And I ain’t goin’ down!!”

But every now and then I’ll get soaked.

This one time, I had survived one of the biggest rainstorms of the season. Three days of non-stop rain. We got about 6 or 7 inches of rain. But I managed to stay virtually completely dry. Nary a drop landed on my head (I’m so cool).

Then the storm FINALLY ended. So I crawled out from under the awning where I had been taking shelter for the last several hours. And I walked to my stash spot where I had my sleeping bag stashed in the bushes on the Berkeley campus (triple-bagged in three garbage bags to ensure maximum dryness of my sleeping bag — I’m on top of it, baby!).

But just as I was grabbing my sleeping bag, the sprinkler system went off. They had them timed to water the lawn every evening at this time. So I was trapped within this barrage of exploding water. By the time I had run across the lawn to safety I was COMPLETELY drenched. From head to toe.

Sometimes life can be so ironic, its sickening.

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Making it through the winter

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All of my feral cats (with the exception of Mini Scaredy who I hope was holed up somewhere safely) were waiting for me last night when I hit my campsite. I could hear them all meowing loudly off in the darkness as I made my way up the trail. It was like being serenaded. Meows that basically translated into English as: “WE HAVEN’T BEEN FED IN 3 DAYS!! GET YOUR ASS UP HERE!!”

I stuffed them with the usual catfood, and also these big meatballs that I ground-scored from this leftover catered spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner — they went nuts for those things! Their guts were bulging out from their sides by the time I was done with them.

Then they slept all night on my blankets and I fed ’em again in the morning. The rain started coming down just as it started turning light. So I managed to pack up my campsite and get out of there before I got drenched.

Anyways, this is a photo of Moo Car with her typical “It’s-about-time-you-got-up-here-and-fed-me” expression.

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