Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 13: 7 December - Open House

When your "house" has no walls it is not so easy to keep out the elements!

Yesterday i went to the Obz Fest. It takes place every year in an area called Observatory; a street festival. I had made enough money on Long Street the night before to be able to take the taxi to and from Observatory. That was a huge relief because the sun was trying to make a statement yesterday! So i went to the Obz Fest and joined my friends who had a Mekasi stall set up. I also scurried around amongst the crowd and handed out fliers. Obz Fest had changed faces this year. In the years before it was a casual, laid back event, free for all, with the entire main road blocked, packed with stalls selling all forms of art, clothing, curios, antiques, hippie paraphernalia, and other random things. There were stages set up on each end of the Festival with free concerts on each end, displaying different genre's and different artists. People from all walks of life passed through; homeless, artists, yuppies, hippies, gangsters, white, black, yellow, light brown, dark brown, fat, skinny...you get the point. This year was different. The stalls were all set up in a particular fenced in area, off the main road; likewise the main stage was on a fenced in field of some sort. This year you had to pay 40 rand to hear the acts on the main stage, and 20 rand to hear the acts on the acoustic stage. This was not possible for a homeless guy like me. I feel like it was against the very heart and spirit of what i have always known the Obz Fest to be. Oh well. Things change i guess.

Anyways. The sun really gave me a pounding yesterday. As i said, it was almost as though the sun had some point to prove; like we had forgotten how powerful it is, and it decided to give us a reminder! By the time i got on the taxi to go back to town i felt like a zombie. It didn't help matters that I had gotten a total of about 7 hours of sleep if you combine the hours i had slept in the two nights prior. My exhaustion caught up to me and the sun took advantage of my vulnerable state! By the time the taxi reached the taxi rank i felt like a lethargic heavy weight boxer, in the thirteenth round of taking hard and heavy blows from his opponent! I saw some of the kids at the rank and they actually asked me if i had smoked heroin, though they know that i don't use drugs. I decided it might be best to just turn in early and go straight to the flower stand.

I sluggishly walked and could hear my feet dragging. As i came near the flower stand, i noticed they were setting up a movie set in my "back yard". It was an American film because they had American flags up, the street was blocked off and filled with American made cars, and other things you might find on the side of a New York street. It was kind of surreal. They didn't ask our permission to film right outside our house! I walked through the New York street and rounded the corner to the flower stand. Everyone greeting me with a smile because they could see how tired i was. I didn't not waste time finding a piece of cardboard and a little spot to relax. I think it was about 6:00 or 7:00 when i laid down. People came in and out, influenced by different drugs they had been using, making for interesting and sometimes nonsensical conversation. Xavier came and laid down beside me and talked for a while, but after about 30 minutes or so he had to get up and go make some money to support his drug habit.

A couple of fights almost broke out between a couple of different guys. A couple of people i don't really even know imposed on my privacy and forced conversation that i was not really in the mood for. And the heat! They heat kept pressing in on me! I could see the sun was starting to go down, but it had made such an impact on the day that it left a residue of heat that just hung in the air through the night; quite an impression! I eventually turned in. People continued to come in and out. I would occasionally hear "Ryan!" as someone would walk past. I could tell by the tone that they were not trying to get my attention but merely greeting. I would reply with closed eyes, in a tired voice, "Yes yeah!" and then fall back into a deep sleep. One thing that stood out to me is that when your house has no walls, it is impossible to keep out the "elements" of all sorts.

I could not go inside my flat and escape the heat, maybe lay on my couch and watch TV. I had to lay in the heat. And though i did not want the rats to chow my ears, i could not bear to put on my cap or put the blanket over my head. As i tried to relax people came in and out, bringing all sorts of different vibes and moods with them. When last were you sitting in your living room on a Saturday afternoon, chilling on the couch, when all of the sudden a guy sniffing glue enters the room, followed by a guy who had just smoked rocks, and in their paranoid state they fight over something only they can understand. You would probably move to a new house or increase your security measure is that happened! I also felt the need to sleep with heightened senses seeing that the guy who had tried to steal my bag the night before was lingering around all night. He had seemed embarrassed about the incident, and didn't seem like he would try it again, but you never know. But i am an adult and it is my choice to live like this right now. It may not even be a choice for some adults that live on the streets.

But children...children should not have the right to make a choice to live in a house with no walls; a house that leaves them vulnerable to all of the "elements". Children have the right to shelter, at least according to the Constitution they do. They have the right to four walls to surround and protect them from the elements and even parents, or "appropriate alternative care", to watch over them and also protect them from these elements, leading them towards good choices and decisions in life. But now, many of our children live in open houses, and the are open to the elements. And these elements have their way way those children!

1 comment: