August 26, 2011 - Thursday - Well, I'm in a furnished basement just outside of Madison. The bad news is that I'm in town where nothing's going on. The good news, of course, is that I have a roof over my head and the couple I'm boarding with are very nice. I paid them $300 to stay until September 24.
If I haven't found work and/or a place of my own by then, I'll have to seriously consider heading south for the winter (I lost all of my winter clothing when I left my Chicago apartment for the last time in July). The $300 rent has nearly killed my checking account, but I was not able to find anything else. Being on the street would quickly mean losing my laptop, which is a tool that I use to (a) make a little income and (b) look for work.
I was connected to the couple through my network. I'll leave it there, but suffice it to say that the network includes a very well known blogger in New York City and a political operative in Wisconsin. (If I tell you more that this I will have to kill you, and I don't want to lose any readers.)
I've been remiss in posting an update of my status, and I apologize for that. In my last post, I wrote that the room I'd been renting temporarily had expired. "The room I was renting for a few weeks at a frat house in Madison," I said, "had to be vacated at Noon on Saturday, August 20. That's when the frat members would start moving into the building. The new semester starts on September 3."
I left the frat house last Saturday, and went to a hostel in Madison for the night. The room was a bargain at $25, but on my limited budget even that was an extravagance. I slept well, but I spent Sunday night walking around looking for a safe place to sleep, a relatively clean spot where I would not be bothered by drunks, criminals, police or rain.
That's not as easy as it sounds, and it was not until 3:00 AM that I settled onto a metal lawn chair in front of the UW Memorial Union at 800 Langdon Street. There are chairs and tables in a little patio area, partially hidden behind a wall and shrubbery. Butt in one chair, feet propped in another, backpack next to me and umbrella at the ready. Nobody bothered me. It did not rain.
A crow woke me up with its cries at around 5:45 AM. I chuckled as I saw the "No Loitering" sign posted near the chairs and tables. Those chairs and tables are meant for people to loiter at, aren't they? Well, I was wide awake and needed to stretch my legs, so I watched a beautiful sunrise on the Union's Terrace, overlooking Lake Mendota. At 6:15, I walked two blocks to Starbucks for coffee, something I normally would not do but I was getting a caffeine withdrawal headache and needed the java right away.
I returned to the Memorial Union at 8:15 AM and intended to set up my laptop and use the free wifi there as usual. As a life member of the Union, I have that privilege. However, I sat down in a plush chair just outside of the study room I was about to use -- and fell asleep. That's when I had my first confrontation with an officer of the law, albeit with a University of Wisconsin cop. (That's another post, soon.)
That evening, I got a phone call from the couple who took me in. They were good enough to pick me up in front of the Union and take me to their home in a neighboring town, just outside of Madison.
The town I'm in (I'd rather not say which one yet) is clean, quiet and extremely boring. I've seen no homeless people in their "downtown." While it's good for any city to not have homeless people, it's sad to think that the reasons for this probably include the fact that there are no services here to help homeless people and the attitude toward homeless people here is unsympathetic. I have no doubt that some residents of this town have become homeless over the past few years, but they were either taken in by relatives and friends or, lacking that, were smart enough to go into Madison.
I continue to look for work and freelance assignments. I'm looking for just about anything that's legal and not unreasonably dangerous. In fact, I'll be dropping off application to a pizzeria here this afternoon. I am concernced that my decision to leave Madison may hurt my chances of finding better employment. However, faced with living on the street (with a laptop computer), the choice to take the shelter was irresistible.