I have this Saturday ritual where I go to Redway, buy the New York Times, and then drive down to lower Redway to read some of it in the woods by the water plant. Recently I've shifted it to parking in the Ray's parking lot to watch the people go by, lets call it my half hour a week of social life.
So there I am when “the guy” comes by pushing his orange cart which he parks in front of the store. (Remember? That guy who lived in the rain up above Dazey's hardware in Garberville for a few years?) Twenty minutes later he places a bag of groceries on it and shuffles off through the parking lot where he hesitates at the sidewalk, goes left, then decides right is the way to go. I follow behind, stopping to park a couple times, and stalk him down to Dazey's hardware. He parks the cart and goes in. A clerk comes out and I ask him what's the story with “the guy.”
“I never really got Tommy's story,” he said. “He's a vet.”
“Yeah well I was promised a quinoa cake if I interview him,” I said.
“Well, he's in there now. You could talk to him.”
“Nah, I haven't even had my breakfast yet. Where did he end up?”
“Someone gave him a backyard to camp out in near the substation. He's got a tent and a little camp stove,” the friendly clerk said.
Tommy came out and put a carton of bottled water next to his bag of groceries on the cart with a big grimace like he had a sore back or something. I took off and investigated the ramshackle houses up by the substation. I came back down and found him pushing his cart up the hill by DeMulling Park. I did a u-ey, stopped to watch him from a distance, followed him up the hill, then pulled up past the substation as he went between the buildings behind it. I doubled back after another u-ey in time to see him locking the mesh gate behind him. He eyed me for a second but I doubt if he realized that he was the subject of the Great Saturday Morning Stalking Project.
Now I know where he lives in case I want to interview him and then try to collect that quinoa cake from the friend who put me up to it. We had often talked about him and were curious. Is he a guru? How can he live like that? Isn't it boring? Does he have a smart phone?
There are many suffering out there in the cold and rain, most are hidden away but he was out there on Main Street for all to see and someone finally gave a shit and gave him a place. (That guy should be interviewed also.)