We’re back at our fair weather home again. Fair weather is definitely the correct description this evening. Today’s weather has been most agreeable. It looks like Spring has finally arrived. A sunny day, temps in the 60s, a light breeze, little bits of leaves peeking out of the buds on all the branches. Way cool.
CJM is quiet when we arrive. One content appearing young man who we sort of know is sitting in the back corner. We nod to him and set up a few chairs. Seeing as the air is wonderful and there’s no one around, the 1st Occupiers just sit down and check out the scene. A few street folks are walking by. A middle aged African American woman who has been around us for years exchanges pleasantries as she passes by.
A somewhat rough looking young white guy carrying a sandwich is being followed by another who says, “Hey where’d you get that? Can I have a bite?” When they leave the seagulls swoop down from the light posts to fight for any crumbs which may have been dropped. Food is always at a premium on Saturday evenings because the Mission doesn’t serve dinner on Saturdays.
As another Occupier arrives and so do a group of street people. We quickly set up the chairs, get the fire going etc. etc. There is some kind of ruckus going on but it takes us a few minutes to decipher things. A man is yelling at some guys sitting in the back corner. He says, “You piss me off so bad I’m gonna knock alla you all out! Sh*t! I’m so mad I’m even gonna knock myself out!”
It’s mostly black and Native men with a couple of women and everyone is yelling and posturing and acting like fools. A young woman we had met a few times last year runs up and asks if we have any sage. The smudge pot has already been fired and we hand it to her. She sits down smudges and says, “Everybody’s acting so crazy. Is it o.k. if I sit here where it’s safe and quiet?” We say, “Of course”. Within minutes the majority of the yellers come to our circle and sit.
We pass the smudge around and most use it. We don’t know any of the people who have come to join us but everyone seems to understand what the circle is about. The young woman and her much older boyfriend tell us about the apartment they have finally been able to move into. They are very happy as they have been homeless for quite some time. Everyone else is comfortably quiet, taking a break from the scene.
It appears there is something happening down the street at the liquor store. We can’t see it but people go out to look. Apparently the cops are involved so this brings more people coming up to the Memorial in order to escape the gaze of the DPD. Among them is a very large man who is making a huge racket. He is cussing at everyone in the street, using sexist and racist language and just about anything else he can think of to make the statement that he is angry as hell and no one had better mess with him. Some of the older men try to calm him down but he just gets up in their faces, attempting to intimidate them. They all back off. It appears everyone wants to make noise but no one really wants to fight. One angry looking older street man comes over to the circle. “I know this guy,” he says, “He’s not Native, he’s Hawaiian. He’s usually pretty nice so I don’t want to hurt him”.
One of our former female campers comes to sit on the side ledge. She is a veteran homeless person and well known on the streets and in the alleys. She usually has a group of younger people as an entourage. Tonight she is followed by a small group of girls. They are all very happily drunk and appearing a little worse for the wear.
A couple of young clean cut men who are probably not from the street are walking up the hill. The veteran woman calls out, “Hey, hey! Don’t go away. What chu what? Whatever you want, we got it!” The young men appear frustrated, angry, embarrassed and a little afraid. They speed up their step. The female Occupiers can’t help but smile. They feel sorry for the young men but know that this is what most women are forced to put up with every day of their lives. The women on the ledge call the veteran woman’s name and say, “Tsk, tsk”. She says, “Oh I know. I’m drunk. I am soooo bad!”
Then just as suddenly as all the people arrived, they all leave. The small group of Occupiers figure now might be the time to discuss a little business. An Occupier begins to tell the rest about the latest developments in the Northwoods Wolf Alliance when a few more Occupiers arrive. They have both been homeless for the last month or so and cheerfully tell the others about the new home they have found.
Then a conversation about the latest developments in the world begins. As one talks about what is currently going on in Turkey another says, “It’s happening all over the world man. There are riots and demonstrations everywhere. Mainstream media is just not telling about it”.
People are returning. Among them is the big, intimidating Hawaiian guy. The Occupiers look at each other and silently say, “Oh no”. However, as the dude sits down we see he is actually quite young. A few other guys who stayed at our former camp with us sit down too. Everybody smudges and we quietly talk about this and that.
The big guy suddenly says, “I’ve been married for 6 years and my wife just told me she’s pregnant with another man’s kid. I don’t know how to handle this pain. The only thing I know is to drink. How do I handle this pain?” He begins to cry. We don’t know his situation at all so have no idea what type of advice to give him. He says, “I don’t know why I’m crying; I don’t even know you people”. One of the older male Occupiers tells him its o.k., he can cry if he needs to. We then direct the conversation toward the other guys so as to let the big guy get a hold of himself. The older former camper is from the Ho Chunk Nation and he tells us a bit about his land.
It’s dark now, the fire is dying. We haven’t seen a squad car all night but now they begin driving around the block. We tell our guests we will have to leave as we don’t feel like arguing with the cops. We prefer to pick our battles. We give the remainder of the snacks to the homeless campers and say goodnight for now. The big guy comes out of his reverie and says, “How much does it cost to take the bus out to the western edge of town?” Someone says, “75 cents” and he says, “Does anyone have 75 cents?” We never carry money when we meet at the Memorial. The need on the street is huge. We couldn’t possibly satisfy it. However, realize that even as big as this guy is, he has little clue about sleeping on the streets.
We pack up and although this is something we rarely do, an Occupier puts the big guy into his truck and drives out to the edge of town where the large sized fellow lives.