Chicken & Cigarettes - Pt. 9 - Raining In Baltimore  

Posted by Ben in

He demonstrated to a visitor how he sleeps in the rain, under a purple comforter and a brown tarp."This is how people sleep," Anthony said, snuggling up in his comforter while tucking the tarp under his wooden bench. Still, he said that when it rains hard, there's no staying dry. "That's when it's really terrible," he said.- Quote taken from the article in the Baltimore Sun.

Sleeping on a park bench is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Again, i cannot imagine doing it every night. It had gotten very cold that night, about 45-50 degrees. Not exactly optimal sleeping temperature, even for those who like it cold. It was quite astonishing just how cold it really was. I was wearing three pair of underwear, a pair of gym shorts, and jeans. On my torso i had two t-shirts, a sweatshirt, and a wool coat. I wore wool gloves and a wool hat. I had the thin but oh-so-helpful blanket Anthony had given me, and a rubber blanket we'd brought from Galen's. One would have thought all of this would suffice. It did not.

I woke up several times throughout the night. I wasn't too cold as i closed my eyes and fell asleep. But when i awoke the first time, to the sound of an ambulance driving by on President's St getting onto I-83, I felt frozen to the core. I woke up again to the sound of a man yelling, telling a story of two guys who had really upset him and that he was really going to give it to. Galen and I both awoke to this sound, and were quite worried for some time. We knew from the story those two guys couldn't be us, but this was just a situation which brought pure anxiety. The temperature was nearly unbearable as you shook and shivered, making it all the harder to get back to sleep.

I finally got to sleep about a half hour to an hour later. I would say I got another hour and a half of sleep before I awoke to the worst imaginable thing at that time.

Drip. (no way, that's gotta be dew falling from the tree)

Drip. Drip. (just go back to sleep, it will go away)

Drip. (see, it's just dew)

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip, Drip. (Oh crap, here it comes)

We had known there was a chance it would rain about 10pm-midnight. It had made it until 2am with clear skies, we had thought we had surely gotten lucky. Not so much.

I made my way back to sleep and hoped it would all be gone when i woke up in the morning, believing somehow that i would get another 4 or 5 hours of sleep if i got back to sleep. About an hour and a half later i woke up again to the sounds of morning traffic coming into the city for work twenty feet away. The rain had not subsided or even subdued, instead it had swelled to a point of downpour and the whole world around me was a swamp. I was small enough that i fit on the park bench alright and under the rubber blanket ok but, as Anthony stated, there was no staying dry. In fact i have scarcely felt more wet in my life. There was this hole in the middle of the rubber blanket so as to allow you to wear it as a poncho, and i had not properly placed it to where this hole would not be a factor. I had one section of my arm and torso which was drenched from rain making it's way through. I sat there in misery for an entire hour, feeling as though i was in a bad dream, wanting to be anywhere but where i was. I have never felt so rich and privileged.

I couldn't take it any more so i got up and began to walk around, trying to shake off the cold. It simply would not go away. I saw that the residents of the park had much more advanced tarps to keep the rain out. Oh how i longed for one of them. I got in my car and hit the road to attempt to get a little warmth and to find the bank. I had to have my car moved from the Church's parking lot by 8am so they could use the space for parishioners of morning mass. I got myself lost going in the wrong direction on I-83 with no map and no exits to be found. I got myself even farther lost after taking an exit, and that's when Galen called.

"Where are you?"
"I don't know, I'm lost. REALLY lost. I don't know if i'll ever make it back. I have tried three gas stations and no one speaks English, and if they do, somehow they've just moved into the city and can't help me."
"I would love to be lost in a car with you right now. Anywhere but here."

I eventually found my own way back, understand i mean no offense to those who could not speak english, it was simply the fact of the situation i was in. As i arrived at the park, Galen was now nowhere to be found. I called him.

"Where are you?"
"Outside McDonald's trying to get money for a hash brown. No one will spare even 50 cents so i can get a hash brown. They don't even ignore me or walk past, they just simply say 'no'."

I found him later and he looked the part; we both did. Our stomaches were growling as we had fasted the previous day. We walked to the bank so i could deposit checks and we could have some money for breakfast. It was still raining, still cold and we were still not dry, still not warm. We had to walk to the bank once which was about a fifteen minute walk. As we arrived, wet and cold, it was closed. We walked back to the park to find my car and deposit quarters into the parking meter. Another fifteen minute walk. We began the trek back to the bank. Another fifteen minutes.

By this point the cold and wet was almost unbearable. We got the checks deposited. We started walking back to the park. This would make an hour of walking back and forth in the cold rain just for depositing a couple checks. Needless to say we are frustrated. We had not gotten a good night's sleep, maybe 4 to 5 hours of total sleep, broken up ever hour or so. As we would attempt to cross the street while the little lit man said "walk" we were almost run over by the numbers of commuters who could not care about anything except making it to their destination. Apparently left turns take priority over a pedestrian who has a "walk" light. This was a recurring theme and eventually you just had to force your way out there and someone would be smart enough to hit their brakes. One street we crossed was particularly harder than others, with more stubborn drivers. Finally i pushed my way out into the street. A man almost hit me, slammed on his brakes, honked, and looked upset. As he drove passed i threw my arms up in disbelief and the police officer in the middle of the street who was supposed to be directing traffic began yelling at me because I was crossing while i had an orange hand warning me not to. There was no room for me to discuss the fact that she had not been doing her job, that i had been trying while i had a walk signal, and they had not allowed me to do so, and i was stuck in the middle of the road while it turned to a stop. I also had no patience to deal with this stupidity. I was very frustrated and in disbelief. But such is the cycle. I appeared homeless, they are a drain on society who collect welfare checks from people who work hard and that particular man was going to work to pay for my welfare check, so his need to get to work was more important than my need to cross the street. End of story.

And I get no answers
And I dont get no change
Its raining in baltimore, baby
But everything else is the same
-Raining In Baltimore by Counting Crows

"I long for the suburbs of Chicago to meet the slums of Calcutta. When the poor come face to face with the rich, riches will mean nothing and when the rich meet the poor we will see an end to poverty."

This entry was posted on Monday, July 14, 2008 at 11:09 AM and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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