Monday, November 06, 2006

Hobo Camp

One of the reasons I consider our new apartment so wonderful is that it's right on the Custis bike trail, which either allows you to loop down around the river to Georgetown or old town Alexandria, or back up 66 to Falls Church and all the way to Leesburg if you're feeling the "this isn't a hobby, it's a lifestyle" vibe. I only own one pair of bike shorts, so it's only a hobby at the moment. I crap out around Reston.

There are some interesting things on this extended bike trail, such as the Vienna Inn and a brindled cat in Falls Church that blocks the path unless you pet it (or run it over, depending), but right behind our apartment is a pedestrian bridge that leads from the bike path, over 66, and then... nowhere. I thought it would be a bike path out to a neighborhood or maybe Spout Run or the Potomac, but it's not. It goes to a hobo camp.

The first time I crossed the bridge, it ended very abruptly in a gate with a gravel path behind it. I didn't have a bike lock and I'm a huge pussy, so I didn't go any further. It looked like the gate to hell, if hell could be described as arboreal and full of wolves and giant spiders. Elven witches, etc. Not an inviting forest, is what I'm getting at. Last weekend, we were coming out of four days of rain and the first sunshine said that S___ and I should take a walk. So I figured that there are two of us, one will survive long enough to tell the tale before it passes into local legend. The gravel path splits off into two or three well-worn trails that go down the hillside to Spout Run or parallel 66. The leaves were still wet, so nothing made a sound. We were walking for a while when I noticed a ragged, bearded man on one of the paths below us. He didn't see us and we didn't move until he passed. We briefly had the jibblies. As we walked further, we saw sleeping bags and flannel shirts hanging on tree branches to dry. After walking past one makeshift tent, we came into a clearing with five or six piles of human/human accoutrement under tarps arranged in a rough scattered circle.

There's a hobo camp behind my apartment. As we made our rapid exit, we saw another man washing his clothes in Spout Run before coming out behind some other apartments a short while later.

I am weirded out because I've never encountered a total failure of government before, at least not on this scale. I see homeless people in DC, I can think that they have shelters to go to if they want. Arlington County, though... the social services are pretty good (it's a very wealthy, very democrat-leaning county) and here is an encampment of people who want no/can't have any part of it and live in a petty kingdom within the state. I suppose that's heartening if we ever need to live outside the known law for a while, but I have always imagined that requiring a trip to Nevada with a case of guns and a wind-powered generator and not a five minute walk from my apartment.

The mid-term elections are tomorrow and the hobo camp is a middle finger to the whole process. If you're a liberal, how can anyone want to escape the services set up for your benefit? Surely we know what we're doing? If you're conservative, on the other side of an earthen landscaping berm next to the camp is a cluster of multi-million dollar micro-mansions. These came with wooded lots that apparently are never ventured into. Hobos eat children; you don't hate *children*, do you? Paid for by Citizens for George F. Allen for Senate.

I'm no better than anyone who didn't give a damn about the homeless in that camp to start with; I know they're there and I assume that it would be immoral to change that situation without their consent, treading on the fine line between individual will and social health. That's a dick move, since winter's coming hard this year and no one could really want to be camping using plastic bags and old shirts. It's a hobo camp, not Walden pond.

Still, I'm voting extra, extra hard this yeard because the gay marriage amendment makes me physically ill and I want my brother at my wedding next year and not in a third tour in Iraq or, for fuck's sake, Iran. I suppose the Democrats are more geared towards addressing social ills, but I'd love to hear what any of the candidates could say on the people camped in the woods. No politician can talk about poverty yet, because it takes the electorate out of their comfort zone. My comfort zone is occupied by a stack of books, a cat, a quite beautiful woman, and the internet on a big screen. Foreign policy and "values" issues have succeeded in getting in my zone and apparently other peoples' as well. I suppose we'll see tomorrow night. Right now crushing poverty is about 500 feet away from me and maybe it will start to edge into enough lives that it will be an issue we can talk about.

Who can possibly wait for that to happen?

1 Comments:

Anonymous qkslvrwolf said...

I know its well after the fact, but at least we crushed the fuckers (the neocons, that is, not the hobos).

It remains to be seen whether the netroots can keep the candidates attention focused on helping people, though

9:25 PM  

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