Monday, September 17, 2012

Not a bad day to be homeless

Xavier, Annabelle, Jefferson, and dog
Fine summer weather, here in Portland on Saturday.  The sun was proud, but not tyrannical.  Young Abraham King and I took a stroll down to the river.

Quite a bustle in Waterfront Park as vendors and charity organizations prepared for the Race for the Cure which would occur on Sunday. The homeless folks were camped out all along the way.  Bedrolls on the grass under the ornamental fruit trees. Dilapidated shopping carts in the shady spots under the traffic ramps. Overfull with blankets, camping gear, sentimental curios

Homeless folks camped out in the planter above the restrooms near Hawthorne Bridge
Xavier played guitar while Annabelle and Jefferson sat with their backs to the safety rail that runs along the river-wall. Master King (a kind young man, he) tossed some change in the open guitar case while Xavier strummed.

Life looked easy and fine for them in their casual, loose-fitted summer clothes. A yellow-white dog, tethered by leash to Jefferson, stood patiently by.  The three were passing through Portland, thumbing rides to satisfy curiosities piqued by names on maps.

Xavier came from Michigan. Jefferson, Colorado. Annabelle, Missouri. The randomness of the road threw them together in San Francisco six weeks previous.

Concrete tanning bed
Annabelle was pretty and young and her summer-dark skin was clear. She wore a loose hippie dress: white daisies on a midnight blue sea. Pink vestiges of an outlandish red dye streaked through her blonde hair.

She'd left a bad home:  living in St. Louis with her boyfriend, her boyfriend's sister, and her boyfriend's sister's three children. The sister had a drug problem. The boyfriend had a drug problem. It got to be too much. One day, Annabelle just set out on her own.  Thumbin' it the whole way.

How did they find the vagabond life?

"Free and easy" Jefferson said.

Danger?  Violence?

"Not so far," Jefferson said.  Shadows flickered on their faces.

Not too difficult living without a home?

"I've got a friend up here."  Jefferson again.  "He let us stay in the dorm."


Annabelle nodded.  "So nice.  We slept on beds!"

Snoozin' on the sidewalk
Life on the Vagabond Trail might not be so nice in the coming months.

"We're going to hole up in Michigan for the winter," said Jefferson.

Xavier finished his song.  "Thanks for stopping to chat."  Smiles and handshakes all around. 

Marker on the riverbank
Abraham and I recrossed the river at Steel Bridge.  An enigmatic marker on the eastern riverbank bespoke some dim tragedy forever beyond our ken.  I wished I'd thought to give our three vagrant friends some money.

But at this point, hopeful wishes will have to do.  Good luck, friends.

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