Back in Arcata there were new friends. But also old ones.
Karen was someone I had met before I left. But it wasn’t until I came back we spent time together. When I left she was dating another friend. But now she was single. She’s a smart and attractive woman. There was an attraction from the first time we met. I recall meeting her at a party. But she was drunk. The music was loud. We didn’t talk much. While I was away I stayed in touch online.
Before I moved back I wondered if anything was possible. However back in town the relationship with Simone grew. Karen and I grew to be close friends. We chatted about life. And shared poetry. When I tried to start my own blog. She was the other person on the team. There was a good connection.
If I look back to my accounts online I could pin-point when I met Milk. I know where I met her. Sleeping in my car of course meant no internet. So I would use the wifi at the Co-op. I wasn’t the only person using the internet. One night a strangely attractive younger woman was at a table. On the table was a half gallon of milk. I posted online about her. Did she plan on drinking the whole thing. Milk is gross to me. I will eat cheese and ice cream. But I will not drink milk.
Later we were walking out together. I started talking to her. Like me she was living in her car. We spent more time together. Got to know each other more and became friends. Things weren’t going well with Simone when we met. And there was a spark of hope for a new person in my life. But the winds changed with Simone again. And as a result the spark died.
For a while Milk was sleeping in my car. I offered her the space since I worked at night. And it was bigger than her car. On most days I would get off work, and get my car. I’d drive and park and we’d sleep for a while. Later I would take her back to her car. But one morning Simone wanted me to come over after work. I felt a bit like a jerk, but I had to wake Milk up. I didn’t want to drive back from Simone’s and it was too far for her to walk. Besides I wasn’t keen on the idea of Simone knowing Milk was sleeping in my car. We weren’t having sex. But it just felt odd.
There was no spark but we were friends the rest of her stay. We lived together in a small house in Manilla for a while. It was the house of a friend of her’s. We were house-sitting. It was a neat little place, and close to the beach. But the bathroom didn’t work and I drove into town for my business. One day we tried to have a party, but no one showed up. Simone came and a friend of Milk’s came: that was all. But I miss this time period. Again things weren’t going well with Simone and Milk was a good friend to me.
And she was a good adventure pal. She tried to help me learn French. She tried to get me motivated to jog. We would go on road trips to the coast and visit small towns. On one trip we went on an impromptu run. I’m not sure how long the run was, but it felt like miles. We also visited the redwoods, and once I took her to run in a race. I didn’t run, I took a nap while she ran. Then we went to Gaberville and had lunch.
It wasn’t just women. An important male friend was Dave. He was in his 50s. A homeless man who didn’t look homeless. I’m not sure what was his exact arrangement. He didn’t go to the service center in town. Though he told me at one point he had gone. He walked every where and just spent his days about town. There were a number of times we talked. He told me about his medications one day. And we talked about women and loss, depression and aging. It made me feel better. There were some times during my stay in Arcata I had strong doubts about my future. I felt like a loser. I felt like I would always be a loser. Alone and broke with no prospects.
Writing for the local news paper I covered the homeless service center. Something I shouldn’t have done since I was a client. But no one knew I was sleeping in my car. No one, except staff at the service center, knew I had gotten a camping ticket. And they had helped me get it removed. I had to serve community service, which I did at the service center. In Arcata this place was a point of a lot of debate. Like many other communities which want to help people. But also feel like the same people are dirty and cause problems.
The director wasn’t always a friendly person. While I covered the center and was a client he told people he thought I was a spy. One time I was talking to him about a flier for a public meeting. The wording seemed vague to me and I was trying to understand. This upset him, and he hung up on me. A move which I later heard upset a few people on the board of directors. One of the workers at the center was John, also the director’s name, but this was a different John. He helped me in a couple ways. At one point he talked about buying a local paper and hiring me to work. But it never came to be.
As a reporter I believe I wrote some good stories about the service center. I spoke with a wide range of people. And at one point got a statement from a city official critical of the center. Something my editor told me no one had done before. But I also talked to students, community leaders. And a couple of my new friends on the board of directors. The push while I was there was to serve lunch again. When it had been served before it had caused problems. Part of the issue was the center’s location. One it was in a building owned by the city. Two it was located next to the bus depot. And bus drivers said the clients caused problems.
They were granted the right to serve lunch. But soon after I left the center was closed.
Wendy is the wife of a pastor who served on the board of directors. Her heart was so open and caring. It made her attractive in a way you wouldn’t expect for a married woman at her age. We got to know each other talking about the center. But also a few other issues in the public debate. The begging issue was one of these. A law to limit the activity was up for a vote. While writing about the issue I talked to Wendy. It passed.
Towards the end of my stay I moved in with Simone. She lived outside of town. And I spent less time working for the news paper. When it came time to leave. I didn’t feel like I was leaving many people. But at work I had a good friend. We worked together for over a year. And we talked, and spent many nights working the same shift. Toward the end a new guy was hired. He was a bit of a drunk and a douche. I remember my friend telling me before I even talk seriously about moving: “If you quit, I’m going to have to quit too.” I didn’t think he meant it. But I talked to him later and found out he did quit.
Working at CVS was great for a few reasons. We didn’t get much theft at night. But when we did, against policy, we chased them down. One night my co-worker chased a guy down the street and into an alley. The guy heavy guy running with beer stopped. My friend had the phone in one hand, and his pepper spray in the other. The police later told my friend they guy wasn’t heavy. It was all muscle. Another one of my co-workers packed a gun under his shirt at work.
But it was also crazy. One night a guy was giving my cashier a hard time. I went down and asked him to leave. He resisted. I kept asking him politely to leave. But he was getting more and more upset. Until he finally threw his change at me and left. Another guy I tried to get to leave the store because he was causing a scene. We had to call the police. I don’t think people understand how easy it is to get removed from a public store. As the supervisor though I was the captain of the row boat. On most nights it was me and maybe one other person.
Then I got the job in Colorado.