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.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Pretty tired...

I've been on the road now since Monday.  This is just the beginning of my trip, but I am now quite tired.  Not only is there a lot of physical work involved, moving things around, stowing things, building in, driving, etc., but also it seems that every decision is consequential with few if any fallbacks available.  Is everything charged up; phone, computer, GPS, cameras?  Will I have electricity tonight?  Yes, if I find a suitable campground, but some are so skeevy (more on that in a minute) and the Walmarts have supplies.  Did I get everything I need out of that box before I strapped it down under those other boxes?  Do I have food?  Will it keep in the cooler?  (Last shopping, instead of ice, I bought frozen broccoli to keep the other stuff cool :-)  Should I wait here in Savannah for the weather to clear up, or press on to Tallahassee?  The stress of meeting all the challenges that come up is exhausting.  This morning, after my usual awakening to pee at 6 or so, I went back to bed and slept 'till 12:30 for the first time in years.

Last night I stayed in a skeevy trailer park...





I'm still near Savannah, GA, because the weather has been drizzly and I haven't had a chance to see what is reported to be a beautiful city.  After my previous night's pleasant experience I was thinking a Walmart would be fine again, but I wanted a shower and electricity.  So, after a GPS search for "camp", I set out for the Stony Crest Campground, 7.3 miles away.  I pulled into what turned out to be a classic trailer park of nightmares.  I did as I was told on the phone earlier, if no one was in the office, and with a little courage, I knocked on the door of the house.  Little dogs inside barked frantically.  After a few minutes, and the same at the rear door, I rang up the number again.  "I'm in the motor home, I'll be right down" said a woman's raspy voice, who I soon learned was Sylvia.  Her full, well styled, strong red hair was probably a wig over a thinner wisp more in keeping with her well lined face which, though well into it's sixties, still had the structure of a striking woman.  Sylvia led me around the park and let me pick out a spot from among the few that remained between the hundred or more trailers parked in neat rows, with typically only 10 or 20 feet separating each vehicle.  On the tour, she offered small talk about disappointments; her husband didn't finish the road work here, her son will be visiting for a few days after years away, she hasn't left the grounds for anything in years.  I uh-huhed and I see'd as best as I could to be uncomplicated; enough to be polite, but cautious not to elicit more.

I picked out a spot about 70 feet in width, between a dark trailer with no signs of life and another rusty one with a few meager Christmas lights.  Sylvia mentioned "the drunks" and "a fire later, like every night", and I thought it sounded fun, as we made our way back to the "office" where she stood behind a desk and said "21 dollars" which she put in her pocket before leading me back out.  I thought it funny that we had to go there and use the prop desk for the transaction to feel right.  We could have just as easily done it at the parking spot, but Sylvia does have some remnants of a more conventionally cultured former life, and this ritual was one.  I think I might have liked her former pre-depressed self.

I closed up the truck and went up and took the best hot shower I've had in years (first one in almost a week.)  I had first trimmed my beard thoroughly at the mirror over the sink, enjoying my careful grooming while I looked around at the yellowed walls, and even enjoyed the light chlorine smell of the recently washed old concrete floor, and the letters over the urinals.  "Do not throw cigarettes in the toilets" had been written in block letters on an earlier coat of paint, and the more recent paint avoided them in a neat rectangle that showed their history.  I decided to put all my toiletries and clothes on the shower vestibule bench, which was separate from the shower itself, as apposed to leaving anything at the sink.  Showering was great.  Zest suds head to toe, several times, then shampoo, which happened to be a For Kids brand in a simple white container I chose because I couldn't stand any of the swoopy shaped bottles and perfumed smells of the typical playing-upon-woman's-insecurities brands.

Back at the trailer, I discover the electricity doesn't work.  Crap.  That's my friend Jeff's favorite and only curse word; as foul as he will get.  From time to time, I borrow it when a touch of irony is needed in the face of minor adversity.  I turn to consider going to do laundry, when I notice an amazing sky above the camp.  I wonder about photographing it, hauling out the tripod and good gear...  I hear a couple arguing in the next trailer.  But this is part of why I am here.  I go inside, pick a camera and suitable wide angle lens from my camera store of photo gear, mount it on my carbon fiber tripod, preset as much as I can, and go set up outside in palookaville.  Soon, a slender possibly 30ish woman with a pony tail pops out of the trailer with the Christmas lights and saunters by, throwing me a look over her shoulder.  "Hi, how'ya doin?"  I say OK.  "Say, that is a nice sky!"  I say "Amazing sky."  She says "I'll bet you get lots of nice pictures of it with your nice camera..." and she trails off with some deprecating remark about her own camera while I smile and reply "Well, I'll try."  And still in continuous motion since she leapt from her Gerry-rigged trailer stoop, she sprang across the lot to another trailer diagonally opposite.  I finished my shot quite comfortably, silently admonishing myself for having assumed that I would be attacked by Hell's Angles the moment I was spotted.

I brought my camera cards, computer, and cell phone to the "rec-room" where I uploaded and edited the day's pictures a bit, and made a few New Years calls.  Then, back in the bus, I had dinner; cod (from Krogers, cooked), tomatoes, broccoli, and beer.

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