Late-night encounters with lunatics

I just stumbled across the photo of THIS nut on a local news site, loitering around at the Haas School of Business on the Berkeley campus. He was just arrested for “three unprovoked assaults.” And it reminded me of an encounter I had with him last month. . .

Back in December, in the middle of a torrential downpour one night, back when I still hadn’t come up with a reliable rainy night campsite spot, I decided to try crashing at this large complex of buildings on the far end of the campus. It’s a big pavilion, kind of like a catacomb, with all sorts of sheltered nooks and crannies that would make ideal crash spots out of the rain. Plus, the campus was closed for Christmas break as well as a partial Covid lockdown, so the whole area was dark and deserted and the buildings were all locked up, which made it ideal for my purposes. But — like with most things on the street scene — “you never know until you know” if it’s actually going to work. . . So anyways, around midnight I lug all my sleeping stuff up to this spot I had scoped out earlier on the second floor of the pavilion. I noticed two other homeless guys who had already set up their campsites in doorways nearby (including one who turned out to be the guy in the photo). They were both sleeping peacefully so I figured the spot might — “might” — be cool (famous last words). I set down my cardboard and blankets and laid down on top of them, and fiddled around with my cellphone for about an hour, but I kept my shoes on just in case this spot turned out to not be as cool as I hoped. Sure enough, THAT guy suddenly wakes up and starts ranting and raving loudly. I can’t see him — he’s down a ways from me — but I can sure hear him. He’s screaming and cursing, this complete lunatic madman rap, like he’s pacing back and forth and just seething with uncontrollable, murderous rage. After listening to that shit for about 5 minutes I decide to get my ass out of there. I quickly stuffed all my blankets into my garbage bag, and headed off into the rainy night.

It’s about 1 in the morning now, and I’m not sure where to go. But I did have this one other potential “back-up spot” that I had scoped out earlier in case I might need it. Which I now did. It was a front doorway to this building up a flight of stairs, the problem was that the awning above me was fairly narrow and only barely covered me, and if there was a strong wind, I’d get soaked. Also the spot was more visible than I liked — I was just barely covered by the shadows. But I didn’t have many other options at that point as it was really starting to rain. So I set up my cardboard matting and blankets there and went to sleep. Until about an hour later when I’m awakened by being nudged by the front door, which I’m pressed up against. Somebody inside the building is trying to open the door but he can’t quite open it because my bulk is wedged against it. Damn! I figure it’s the night watchman for the building. “Oh I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll get out of here.” “No that’s okay,” he said. “I was just checking to see if the door was locked.” Which was very kind of him (he had mercy on me on a cold rainy night). He shut the door. And I went back to sleep. And slept rather peacefully for the rest of the night. It was a nice cozy spot. And as soon as it started to get light in the morning I packed up all my stuff and got my ass out of there. Another surreal night on the streets.

But as soon as I saw that photo today I thought: “THAT asshole!!” And the whole story came back to me. It reminded me yet again what a homeless friend of mine used to say: “The worst thing about being homeless is other homeless people.” Ha ha. Not entirely true. But a good line nonetheless.

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