Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Meet the strongest willed man in Charlotte.

At the risk of labeling anyone as something I would like to introduce to you a local bicycling homeless man named Tony who is in his mid 4th life, just 5 or 6 years my senior. Homeless, not in the perceived application but in the actual sense for he has not slept under roof in three years as of this month. Tony lives in a tent all year round within a few short miles from the big buildings under green cover and unnoticed. He has to be one of the strongest willed humans in town on a physical level that I have met. I have known Tony now for a better part of 3 years during which time I have seen him riding to his random jobs early in the morning, sleeping in the park, being arrested on South Tryon for peeing in public, out at the bar and like one day last week just hanging out near his bike on the square watching success flow as if it were the Colorado River. It was then that I told Tony about my blog and asked him openly if he would mind answering a few questions I had for the documentation of what it was like to watch the river having not. In a raspy, firm and confident voice he said that it would be no problem, he had time.

Billy: Tell me about your bike, what is it?

Tony: It is an ole Schwinn World Sport, probably 25 years or so.

Billy: Did someone give it to you?

Tony: No, I bought it from an ole boss man of mine, it was in his basement and I gave him 85 dollars as is.

Billy: Do you do your own maintenance?

Tony: Sometimes I take it to Lucky Bike Shop and sometimes I just buy a tire from them and do it myself.

Billy: Tony, how long have you lived in a tent here in Charlotte?

Tony: (coughing while hand rolling a tobacco cigarette) 3 years.

Billy: Not one night in a shelter?

Tony: Right, I hate being anywhere near those people.

Billy: What is in your tent?

Tony: Some of my clothes and my sleeping bag. I hide a radio, propane heater, solar lamp, small stove, cooking pot and some other personal shit close by, sometimes in the trees. Don't like anybody messing with my things.

Billy: How many tents have you gone through and how much have they cost you?

Tony: I'm on my 4th and I pay about 65 dollars for a good Coleman.

Billy: Do you work?

Tony: Yea, I do odd handyman jobs for a few contractors. Any type of labor is fine, I'm a good worker I just don't ever get full time, only steady work until they let me go.

Billy: Where do you get your water?

Tony: In the summer I keep clean with a hose pipe off of several buildings I know of. In the winter I go to the soup kitchen in the daytime and sometimes heat water on my stove.

Billy: What is the best thing about living in a tent in the QC?

Tony: Solitude, not paying rent.

Billy: What is the worst thing about living in a tent here in Charlotte?

Tony: Animals messing with my stuff, insects in the heat annoying me while I'm trying to sleep. This one time a rat came in on me during the rain and I threw him out, real fast. The cold, especially when it is wet.

Billy: How many other people are living outside and not using the shelter system like you?

Tony: (pause)Not many, I know of 4 but there is probably 12 or so.

Billy: Are you planning on living in a tent forever?

Tony: I hope not.

I am always fascinated by the people I meet on bikes in town, they all seem like such individuals. Here is a man that not many people know of or prolly care about for he never went after his material potential and somehow is still waking up every day, his will strong. I love sleeping in my yellow Eureka Alpine Light XT tent, it is solitude, self reliance, warmth, bright and all that is cleanly connected to landscape. I cannot imagine sleeping in it for I dunno, something like over 1,000 days straight. I sit here in the late evening in the relative warmth of my home and wonder what Tony is up to down in his tent spot.

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