Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

First night...

Monday night:

I'm in my bus in the dark, at night, alone.

I'm 20 miles outside Charlotte, NC, parked on a road outside the campgrounds at the McDowel Nature preserve.  I arrived after dark, and Woody, with whom I had made arrangements this afternoon, neglected to mention that the gates would be locked after dark...
Partly my fault, because I said, at about 2, that I'd arrive in a few hours.  But then I happened to find Ikea, and couldn't resist a little yuppie house shopping for the bus.  I picked up a lovely six drawer dresser with very simple lines.  It was a terrific afternoon (see Bad gas, good gas thread) and I felt great.  I still do.  This is not so hard!


Uh-oh.  Cops.  I happened to be outside peeing, when two police cars pulled up and informed me that I couldn't "be in the park" after dark.  I gave a very polite and humble explanation of my situation, including Woody's name in case that detail helped, but no dice.  "Keep your hands out of your pockets" I was ordered.  "Sorry, I'm a little nervous."  "Don't be nervous" the officer said, and with that, the tone shifted almost imperceptibly to one of aiding a citizen in distress.  He suggested I go to the Walmart 5 miles back up the road, and I said "Sounds like a plan."

I had intended not to stay in the RV camper's traditional main fallback, Walmart parking lots, but it turned out to be not so bad.  The store was opened 24 hours and there was a security patrol.  I had gotten permission from the night manager, Terrasa, and introduced myself to the security patrol, giving her name, and they had radioed her to confirm my story, so as I nestled in for the night, I felt I had my own security patrol watching over me.

Jordan, the security officer patrolling in his little pick up had given me no smile in our first conversation.  But at 3:30 am, I woke up and stepped out to have a look around, and this time, I waved to Jordan as he drove up and he stopped, unrolled his window, and we had a nice chat.  He said he'd grown up in Charlotte in a house full of hippies.  He said it was not easy being a teenage liberal in NC in the 70's, with his hair down to his waist.  His mom, he said, dressed like Janis Joplin.  I liked Jordan.  I told him about my traveling, looking for work, hopefully in New Orleans, or out west.  He told me about his nocturnal habits and how he often watched the Discovery channel late at night on his days off, nights off that is.  He elaborated facts about a huge damn built in China by American architects.

I went back in, nestled in inside my 30 below Slumberjack sleeping bag (sized for two; hope springs eternally) and slept well until 7:30 or so.

Tuesday Morning:

I spent two hours this morning cleaning up the chaos that had infested my bus in my frenetic labors to load it and get on the road.  Order is now well restored, and I feel great.  I'm on my way to Columbia NC.  After I finish here at Starbucks, I'll be sailing down the highway again, singing made up words to gospel songs like I did yesterday.

I wonder where I'll sleep tonight?

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