I thought you might like to read the preface to my new book….
Little surprises happen often, quicker than you expect, and sometimes they come in waves more than you can handle.
After having been homeless for so long, I finally had a 10 by 20 apartment of my own. An old converted garage that had been refashioned into a studio. But, it had everything I needed. A toilet, a stove, and even a little garden patch to call my own. It was a dream come true. Safely sitting in an area of Orlando that was beginning to grow, the price of the place had not yet reflected the trendy hipsters that had begun to move in. I came in just under the wire. After that? The vegan cafés popped up, the overpriced food trucks showed up….vinyl record stores became “a thing.”
My little space had few furnishings. I had a mattress on the floor, a stack of books that I used as a table, and a simple wooden chair to sit in, my laptop (ironically in my lap) so I could write. My yarn was in cardboard boxes, my clothes were stacked neatly to the side in piles that resembled the bourgeois table displays of the Gap. Those books rescued from a thrift store at twenty-five cents a piece, which I read for my entertainment, allowing my mind the greatest of escapes in fiction.
It may sound as though I had very little, but at the point, I had accomplished so much. Again, having been homeless, I had been knitting teddy bears to feed myself first, then begin raising enough money to get a place of my own. So many people later on began addressing, “How can a homeless man have a laptop? He can’t have been that bad off….” We’ll get to those comments in due time, but have here a 21st century life lesson in imposing homelessness. When I saw life crashing into flames I knew that having a laptop was much more valuable than having a phone. I could connect to the world, I could use the wi-fi in many random places, and list my little teddy bears for anyone anywhere in the world to buy. I could write with my laptop, and if given an opportunity, listen to the news through free streaming services. Oh, yes, should you be teetering down the hopeless road of homeless, take your laptop. Not your phone.
Within a year I had snagged that little place on Washington Street. The landlord took a huge risk with me. I had no job, no car, but did have a cat. All the sorts of things landlords don’t usually accept as viable tenants. But, I wrote her a letter, then spoke with her on the phone and the only thing I could use to convince her with was, “I just need someone to take a chance on me. That’s all I need. I’ve been dismissed, forgotten, exiled…I just need someone to give me a chance.”
She agreed to offer me a temporary lease to see how things would go. And the place was mine.
I was there for a year with my little mattress and my box of yarn, busy knitting and diligently selling my teddy bears online to keep myself fed and my apartment paid for. I had very few friends and contacts. When you get shafted by the world, it’s hard to invite people into your life. You have a tendency to recoil, not mistrusting, but avoiding pain in the days ahead when people fail you.
But, in so many ways, those days were quite romantic. After having been homeless, I was happy, beyond grateful for what I had. My blog was a place where I could talk, a journal that was left open for the world to read, an account of a man’s fight to find hope in a hopeless situation, a plea to the greater good for someone to hear my voice, when I had once been quieted, pushed aside. My little apartment was a home where I rarely wanted to leave. I had hot water. I had privacy when I slept. I had walls that could define me, a place to wash my socks.
So many years of being homeless, trench foot had begun to set in. I had kept my boots on for so long, so ready to leave at a moments notice, that I never took them off. And brewing on my soles was something not many have seen since World War II. Hence the term, “trench foot.”
I went to bed one night, boots still on (some habits are hard to shake after a trauma), my little cat, Mario coiled beside me, the windows wide and open. We relied one each other more than you’ll ever know. You see, I never felt that I could hit rock bottom as long as she was with me. I had a life that depended on me for it’s survival, and as long as I had that, then I could keep fighting. And she was the only life that had not turned it’s back on me. For that I’m eternally grateful.
I went to bed with Mario tucked beside me. The sound of the city growing dim. The sound of silence so different than the sound of trampling feet as they scurry by you, the sound of your stomach grumbling, the sound of laughter when you want to cry.
In knitting we have a term that applies to the thickness of your yarn. Patterns have a gauge to let you know if your work is too tight, or too lose to proceed with the project. And sometimes, your gauge is just right. Your knitting is just perfectly attune to your the movements of your hands, the tension in your soul, or the calmness in your life. Gauge is very important lesson to learn in such aspects of life. When you push to hard, or pull your yarn to tight, everything comes out wrong. But, if you sit quietly for a moment, and trust the quiet of your skein, the gauge comes out perfectly.
I went to bed with about $10 in my account that night. It had been earmarked for cat food for Mario and a bag of lentils for myself.
I woke up the next morning with $20,000. My life was about to change…and my gauge was about to be off…
Want to read more? It’s all in the book: “Man VS Skein-The Confessions of a Male Knitter.”