When I was asked to leave one apartment because I wasn't welcome there, I chose to live in my mother's car to find places where I could sleep that were discreet, like spots near the river. It was a cold winter, and camping wasn't necessary, but the car didn't provide much comfort and the storage facility ended up with an awful lot of my money due to fees that I found unreasonable. Eventually, I found a new apartment, but I was asked to leave two others because I was dealing with harassment and reporting drug use that affected my breathing space which may have compromised the market value of the apartments themselves, so I thought about leaving the area.
On one occasion, I wheeled a dolly with a broken wheel out over door jams from the garage entryway to the sidewalk leading to the Greenway below, and part of my AI project went crashing to the ground. A broken bulb, which served as an eye, and pieces of the structure I used to fashion my version of Mechanical Mary dragging behind while close to a hundred people or more from the hospital next to my building were watching. I had no way to get them to the new storage facility a mile or two on the bike path below other than by using the dolly to wheel them there. I couldn't afford a truck, and didn't know where I would live, but the garden I tended for Sister's Camelot was right next door with a tool shed and water tanks to rely upon, so I slept there for the first two weeks or so.
(We moved Sister's Camelot and the Bare Bones Puppet Theater out of a plot near the Light Rail on Snelling Avenue and they built a housing facility called Rising Cedars for special needs clients. Apparently, my kind of Special Need, to stay sober and sane had fallen out of favor (or my kinds of objections to the threats we live with weren't welcome).
But I was soon discovered in the vacant lot too, and someone started ramming my lean-to with what sounded like a motorcycle, or RV, so I bugged out for Buffalo on a path along the Great Lakes. It wasn't a long ride on the train, and I liked the fact that it was near the birthplace of modern electricity. Love Canal, Edison, Tesla and the modern power plants had a very special appeal for me in that area. A shell of the modern art deco city it once was, with CGI suites in shopping malls serving to fabricate what once was didn’t really work for me. Walking by public venues that were only open if guests were inside I wondered if any would open up for me?
And, when I wasn't able to find housing there other than a room above a bar that I couldn’t afford, and strange people started making strange proposals, I returned to find a new place to camp. The next spot I tried was by Hidden Falls, close to the location of the annual Bare Bones Puppet Theater Extravaganza on Halloween, which was quite a way from the city proper, where my storage facility was, but I had an award to live on, and was eating on my own for a change. I didn't need to use the food shelves and supper clubs anymore, and it was a nice change of pace - one of the best summers of my life actually. And, once in a while, if I needed to take a break for a few days, I could stay in a hotel to clean up and tend to edits or plans that I couldn’t make while out and about.
I followed a creek under a rock quarry where the wates ran a milky white to find my tent at night. Some of the grounds I found and stayed in for short periods of time were so foul smelling it was unbearable, so I was grateful to find a spot that was cool and comfortable, even if it was in the middle of a poison ivy patch. The deer were fond of the spot, and a fawn took a liking to me though the buck did not. He snorted his disgust with my bluetooth headset, the light of which he could see at night, even if it was under the bramble I chose to hide under, so I learned to keep it turned off after I arrived. I also met many spiders in that location, one of which I swallowed inadvertently (they like warm moist environments, including mouths and nasal passages). I followed mayflies as they flew across the ground under the moonlight - only an inch or two above it, but graceful it’s light upon the water they flew, presumably out of an effort to find a midnight snack.
The kindness shown by the fawn however replaced my previous predatory fascination with slow moving does in the river. There was no sexual contact to speak of, but I was delighted by the give and take between us despite the fact that there was no sexuality associated with it. My preoccupation with the visualization of humans was replaced by a compassionate frolic for a while, and though I’m sure I didn’t have a sexual focus on the vulnerable creature, it became clear to me that the natural reaction of a fawn to just such an intention was to relieve him, or herself upon me, and the redirect was very useful to my understanding of the problem I have with myself on my own.
But the most compelling creatures of all were the Beatles with white collars carrying away what appeared to be a dead fox, or rabbit. I was saddened by the site, but my tent was nearby, and the spot under the bramble was impossible to duplicate anywhere else. It kept the tent colors from prying eyes during the day, and was easy to find by night. Hidden Falls must have been named by the strange way the sound of falls shifts and moves in the area. It's a deep canyon, and the cliff walls are shear at times creating echoes and resonance that’s hard to locate. The falls over the dam upstream are most likely to be the source of the sound, but it’s ever present, and moves without predictability to spots I could not follow. The falls from the quarry were never too loud, and the creek moved quietly to the Mississippi at night draining in under a little footbridge by the beach.
Gunfire from the campground next to the river motivated my departure, and I navigated the river northwards until I found a sheer wall by the University Hospitals that was quite a bit more secure than Hidden Falls. I walked that cliff ledge until I reached a park where the cement wall became a natural formation, and pitched my tent on a ledge below. From there, I was able to secure a spot in an office building just south of the city proper. I couldn't sleep there, but another spot along the freeway where I could sleep was nearby. There was a mole colony on the berm above that spot by a retaining wall that separated the parking lot behind me from the freeway noise out front. It wasn't a bad spot, but I tore my pants going over the fence many times, and the soil was so soft along that birm that I had to watch my step when I walked past to get to my tent.
Unfortunately, a front-end loader dumped the parking lot snow on my spot that winter and digging out took me several hours. The cold and wet conditions left me so cold, that I started looking in earnest for a new home. Living in shelters, and following a lead one of my old friends provided to a source of her trouble, I was able to apply for an apartment there. And, by using the same management company, I applied for several other apartments in the area. But my opportunity to rent again turned up as an apartment in the North Loop, where I took an efficiency to ensure my ability to pay come-what-may, but it proved to be so hostile that I wasn't able to stay.
So I returned to the park every so often to check my tent while staying in shelters, and to visit with the wildlife in the region once again. The chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits on the cliff bid me farewell the morning I left for my new place in the North Loop, and the rabbit looked at me very sincerely while cleaning his front legs as if to say: “Don’t worry, we’ll clean up after you do.”
I also met a tarantula on that cliff, and he turned out to be a pretty good friend. He warned me with a shudder when my head got too close to his lair under the corner of my tent a short while before I left as if to warn me: “There will be serious trouble out there son”, so I knew he cared about me. He bit me so many times that the tip of one of my toes turned black, but I never faulted him for the gifts he was afforded. He turned out to be too fast for me to capture on camera, much less capture or kill,
And, remarkably, the fox returned to pay a visit before I left, and a doe. It was so unbelievable, that I thought somebody must have contrived to do so for my benefit, but who could that possibly have been?
Camping locations described in this essay are listed here: Urban Survival Locations Mapped