Circa January 2014
After the police station, I had to spend all night in the Newark train station sleeping on the ground; yes near or with almost other homeless people, mostly men; non-sexual. (I realize now this sounds discriminatory but I was actually comfortably passed out on the ground; I was knocked out from exhaustion; near gates where the benches were; and where a lot of homeless people rested, until of course everything was locked down at midnight; and the gates pulled down. But I had approached the train station police person, well two of them, so train station police persons; and the first one wasn’t all that helpful; in fact the first one’s information led me to another pilgrimage escapade; but the second one was helpful. I know that it’s not their job to provide resources and/or referrals, exactly; but a helping attitude certainly makes a difference; I’m sure for anyone that inquires, and certainly for me, especially, then. So this is turning into a really long story, and isn’t exactly part of interviews; but like it is part of the pilgrimage, so I guess I should share it here:
So I had enough fare to get to New Brunswick, New Jersey. I hope it’s O.K. to say the location; I always worry about the people I interacted with while at various locations; I guess I’ve become even more concerned about this since completing the pilgrimage; like you know, I wouldn’t want to put them at risk, in any way, by just mentioning them here; even despite keeping their (full) names, out-of-it. So once I got to New Brunswick, I talked to the local train station person/cop, and it was interesting; because he was in his car, and people were glaring at me, as I spoke with him. You have to love passers-by who just stop moving, and stare, at literally nothing: me inquiring about something, (in this case shelter and sponsorship).
So like he directed me to a shelter, and I started the long walk there in the evening that turned to-night in New Brunswick; but neither of us called ahead-of-time, there. My phone was out-of-service, (after a period of not paying my bill); and he didn’t call either; I didn’t ask him to. So once I was on the street, finally; that the shelter was located on; the train cop had given me their name and address; but he also told me that it was a women’s shelter, open to any woman; I couldn’t find it, on the street; I figured it might have been hidden or something, for security. To make matters more difficult, all of the lights of the houses on the street were turned off, except for one. It wasn’t that late. If I had to guess now, probably it wouldn’t be accurate; but there is no way it was past you know like Nine PM, or something.
So because I couldn’t find it, and I had dragged my suitcase down the streets; to I’m sure people’s curiosity …
From my perspective, it was interesting to notice people on what I think was a Friday night; having their normal lives on-going, and even sea, (not a typo.), them experiencing joy; while I was without fare to get to my current final, but only temporary next destination, on-pilgrimage: Anywhere in Maine; and also while I was without shelter. (The attitude of having a goal of reaching some destination with sponsorship, but with the ultimate pilgrimage’s only goal to “keep moving” and survive a year; reminds me now of college; before you complete your degree; but while you study for both mid-term and final exams; all of them amounting only to small steps in progression to and until your final degree. My pilgrimage was something like my undergraduate experience in this way, but with much less relaxation.)
So for the reasons described up–there somewhere, the street with the one house with lights on, outside and inside; on that door, I knocked. When she answered, I told her my situation, and she asked me to come in and sit down; while she made phone calls on my behalf trying to find out more about the shelter. I realize that I’m the one that’s on-pilgrimage; well, was on; but I was always glad when I knocked on a door, when somebody did not ask me to come in; going into a stranger’s house, especially in something like a foreign part of the country, when you’re something like a transient; isn’t my idea of a secure situation for me to enter.
I have to mention this, because security I believe is so important anyway, but in a pilgrimage type of situation; the need for it only becomes magnified. I created my own security system, by checking in with local police and authorities in most locations, if not all locations, I was in; especially on the second part of my pilgrimage, where I was on-foot a lot; I often let them know my name, and also that I was a transient on-pilgrimage, without a set-up network. My family reported me missing, at the start of the pilgrimage; and when the police caught up with me in New York State, they had to call my family, and let them know that I was alive; and quite obviously, not missing. This was a strange episode for me. Since I had taken precautions ahead of time, to let my family members, a few of them know that I was travelling cross-country. After this episode, and in the second phase of my pilgrimage, I made myself more visible to the police, so that another episode like this would not occur. I also was concerned about resources mis-used to locate me on-pilgrimage, that could have instead gone to actual missing persons. Oddly, when I returned back to my home state, to stay with my family, and work for free as a volunteer; the news was all about how horrible the police were at-present; and I can’t say that this isn’t true ultimately, I can only say that the police did provide me with some security and even shelter on-pilgrimage, (and as I’ve already mentioned). So obviously, I thanked many of them, and was a little alarmed at the contradiction that was on the news to my experience with them largely; but certainly not my experience of them always. I felt also, as though my pilgrimage had taken place through time; where the cops helping me, for the most part were from something like a future reality; where they actually functioned in a supportive and security-ensuring role. From this last sentence, I’m sure it’s obvious I write fiction, also. …)