It was a slow journey down from Albany. I struggled to work on my book, and remember the various places with visual cues, putting most of them together, but I needed more time. I had posted a couple of ads on Craigslist for temporary housing for a week, but there had been no reply. Moving down the Hudson, I had stopped at one hotel after another, sometimes in the middle of the night asking for 1/2 a night. The hotels had been empty, but they wanted $70/night to stay there. Where was the market?
Coming from a situation where I had been unable to make rent for a furnished room at $240/week, it made no sense. I was not looking for luxury, just a very green solution (no amenities), a bed, an occasional shower, and some space in a location where I could write with my dogs. The next step from being unable to make rent, could not cost twice as much as the situation one was previously unable to afford. I do my own housekeeping, and try to leave the room pretty much the way I found it with the linens that need to be changed in a pile on the floor, and the trash empty. There obviously was no need for my money from the hotel industry. In a free market, one had to be able to find some space of whatever quality that would correspond to the amount that I had.
It wasn’t possible. I moved up into the Catskills, testing the niche that corresponded to people who tried camping out, only to fail and end up in a motel (the motel is essentially competing with a tent). I find an older Irish couple, who let me come inside and chat with them for a bit. We talked about old Catholicism, the Irish potato famine, the war between the North and South in Ireland, the pros and cons of staying in a tent (colder, more space) vs. sleeping in the car (warmer), and after a couple of hours, they offered to let me stay in the car in their parking lot with the dogs.
I move on, eventually leaving the state, my book unfinished, my memories incomplete and deteriorating. No time to write as I work on simply finding a housing solution for me and the dogs. Why is there no free market? In the end, I conclude that the lower end of the housing market has been bought by the higher end, and in order to protect the high end of the market, they penalize the lower end, by making things so difficult (regulations, paperwork, references, long waiting lines, slum Lord regulations, housing ordinances, etc), that no one from the higher end of the market would want to go into the lower end of the market. The market isn’t free. It’s stacked.
I stop to attend the immigration reform rally in DC, picking up bronchitis, a heat rash, and bloody diarrhea in my dogs in the process. I suppose there are different definitions of prostitution, and at some point someone has decided that my body is capital for disease screening. I develop a fever, and worry that it will turn into pneumonia. We move down and over to the cooler mountains for a bit. The dogs being sick, I was careful to pick up after them, and not go into sensitive areas where wildlife might be hurt. I successfully resist the opportunity to work at housecleaning at one of the cheaper motels that was short on help. I didn’t want to risk spreading whatever I had.
Feeling the desperation of the immigrants fleeing poverty, famine, judicial systems, and disease from their home countries to come to America in one big sick pool, I decide to visit the Frontier Museum in Staunton, Virginia, to see what solutions had been innovated over time, and look for inspiration.
This museum has 8 different villages/homes set up outdoors. It is conceptually divided into a foreign side, and an American side with a border in between. I visited the African village, the German farmstead, the Irish farmstead, the British farmstead, and then crossed over to see the native American village, and 3 different American homes that went from a small hotel room size log cabin, to bigger farmsteads all without electricity. There was also a one room school house. As I explore the museum, stopping to walk an urgently vocalizing crated 2 week old lamb who had been rejected by her mother,
and look at the baby pigs on the Irish farm that I hoped, against all odds, would not end up on someone’s dinner plate,
I feel sheepish that I had not innovated more.
The inside exhibit showed a trunk that might have contained all of one’s belongings for the overseas trip.
I looked at the African village, carefully noting what they had used for construction material for their beds and roofs.
Most Africans would come with almost nothing – not even a trunk of possessions, and lose their families and freedom in the process. Not all, though. There is much evidence of African-native American integration, that was preColumbus. These immigrants also would not have had much in the way of physical possessions, but they may have left evidence of their boat culture among certain tribes in South America, and probably also pyramids and hieroglyphs. The above structures look to me like pueblo culture.
I would compare them with the Native American village a little later.
I move over to the German farmstead.
A woman whispers “Jemand kommt.” as I round the corner. Hearing her German, I addressed her in kind, and she gave me a wonderful tour of the Bauernhaus “alles auf Deutsch”.
I marvelled at the size of the stove (would heat not be lost by conduction?). Es gibt keinen Ofen. Fur Brot, mußt Mann den Teig zum Backer bringen dafür kochen.
Together, we looked at some very old German that did not have the ß (sZ) in it, and we lamented the fact that it was disappearing in newer German.
As she showed me the master bedroom, with its door frame containing wood nails, she pointed out the window, asking me if I remembered the old German saying.
“Sie können das Fenster öffnen, damit die Seele fortfliegen kann.”
I had forgotten the German word for soul.
I later move up high into the mountains where I had built my cabin that had been condemned five years ago by the city in West Virginia. Still intact, the roof still solid, it was object constancy in a way for me. Well built – level and square. I had built it from mostly recycled materials, and it was still dry enough to sleep in, with a raised floor, although the doors and tarps had been physically removed, and the fence taken down. I pick up an old Hebrew-English dictionary, a physics book, and a drill bit, that remained from when I had stayed there spending some time taking an anatomy course over the summer at the college campus one mile away.