[UPDATE: This has been reprinted at VICE, you can see that and a photo of me on NY1 here.]
Let me preface this by saying, I’ve been transitory most of my life, but prior to today I haven’t actually been homeless. I never went through a train-hopping phase, squatted in a hovel, slept in parks (intentionally) or did whatever it is that the kids are doing now. I have however packed up my things every couple of months, or had to move every few years; that’s the double-edged sword of having a father in the military. You get to travel and see the world, but you’re left with an inability to truly get close to anyone, a sense of restlessness, and are constantly trying to find a place that you can truly call home.
Which is why being forcibly evacuated from my apartment this morning was really fucking awesome. I woke up to the sound of both NYPD and FDNY knocking on my bedroom door. I didn’t respond because I thought it was my super, I haven’t paid my rent yet (whoops!), and I think anything before 9AM is an ungodly hour.
It wasn’t until I had my roommate forcibly shake me awake that I realized something was going on. Let me tell you, if the dude you’re living with Ausbergers is telling that something is going down, you listen. So I hopped in the shower, threw on the nearest, cleanest t-shirt and put a small go-bag of my toothbrush, laptop, cell phone and chargers, and then proceeded to have one of the shittiest days of my life. And because I like paying things forward, and I possibly can’t accept any more bad karma in my life right now– I’m gonna give you some tips on how to navigate your way out of this and/or help avoid falling into my current situation which is squatting on a couch in Bushwick.
YOUR PARENTS WERE RIGHT
Get renter’s insurance. It’s like $35 dollars a month (the equivalent of three packs of cigarettes, Smokey), and you’ll be covered up to several thousand dollars which is probably more than the sum estimated value of all of your possessions. They’re not going to ask if you were apartment is falling into a sinkhole, and if they do. Just lie. Just like I probably will when I tell my claims adjustor that I yes, I do have flat screen TVs’, a waterbed and a collection of rare, exotic fish.
LEARN TO LET GO
Everyone thinks about what they would grab if they’re building was on fire, but it’s another thing entirely when you’re being told by NYPD Community Affairs that you have thirty minutes to grab what is “essential” (the hell does that mean anyway, essential?), and that you might be displaced anymore from 3, 5, 7 days, possibly a month, who knows. Don’t be a dummy and have all of your documents like your passport, birth certificate, bank statements etc. scattered all over apartment. Get yourself a safe box, even if it’s a shoebox underneath your bed and consolidate your stuff in one easily accessible and unforgettable spot. You won’t regret it. Because otherwise, you’re gonna be all shakey and feel like you’re in fucked up version of Supermarket Sweep, trying to stuff as many things that “may need” into as many suitcases that you can carry with you. For example, I have no socks and I left my makeup bag in my apartment. Sorry coworkers, shit is gonna get real in the next week or so.
SCAM AS MUCH FREE STUFF AS YOU CAN
Take the Red Cross swag bag with deodorant and toothpaste. Resist the urge to slit your wrists with the tiny Bic razor that they also gave you. Eat as many shortbread cookies and cheesey crackers that you possibly can because you may not know where your next meal is coming from. In fact, just store some extras in your mouth for later. This is some FEMA type of lunacy that you’re dealing with, so just go with it.
ACCEPT THAT THE WORST IS YES TO COME
Yes, you will be transporting all of your worldly possessions with you. Yes, you will be caught in a hail storm on the way to the train. These things just happen. Sorry.
IT’S OK TO WALLOW
Because I’m a masochist, I spent an hour at work listening to Tom Petty’s “Refugee” on repeat at my desk until I was cry-laughing at my predicament. It’s fine; it’s better to let those feelings out now while you’re dealing with the situation at hand instead of repressing them until you’re twenty years down the line, drunk and are lashing out at everyone you care about at your daughter’s bat-mitzvah and no one knows how to deal with you.
ASK FOR HELP
Your neighbors will help you carry your bags to the train. The guys at your bodega will usually sympathize with your bad luck, and hand you a beer from the fridge. Your friends do love you, and will let you crash in their apartment.
Oh, and if anyone says “These things happen for a reason”, I give you full license to punch them in the nose. Seriously, fuck those guys.