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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Roughing It: After the Meltdown, Part I

And so we were homeless.

Briefly. But time is not the yardstick here. If you ain't got a home, you're homeless.

A favorite old song on the radio when I was growing up (the Fifties, before music was totally segmented, when novelty songs and doo-wop and rock n roll and ballads all poured out of the fabric-covered Norelco Radio): The Boll Weevil Song. A sung-spoken dialog between a scratchy-voiced cotton farmer and his nemesis, in which every one of the farmer's increasingly anxious pleas is answered by a basso profundo chorus by Mr Weevil, who rumbles:

"But you gotta have a home, you gotta have a home."

Brook Benton was the singer in the 1961 version, one of the earlier black singers to crack mainstream pop radio, I'd guess. The origins of the song go back to an Alan Lomax recording of Lead Belly in 1934. But it's older even than that.

Here's how it went for Missus Weevil and me. Jan 5, we lost the last job we had between us. By the end of the week, it was clear something had to give, and that something, I recognized, was our New York City apartment. We hoped to sublet and began the process of packing, stacking, sorting, clearing out existing mini-storage (the new American country home being the storage unit--unless it's your primary residence, as seemed to be case for a number of our fellow mini-members).

A showing of the apartment on Mar 14 drew one person who said, without recognizing the literary allusion: "What a dump." Thus was brought home the five-month tumble of values in Chelsea, NYC: an apartment that we were told would rent for $6K a month couldn't fetch half that (about what we paid, as stabilized tenants).

Now as the Boll Weevil said to the Farmer, "We gotta have a home..."

Our question was: where? And being incorrigible literary types, or typists, as they once were called, M and I immediately being looting our favorite books for examples, good or ill, of the kind of adventure we were about to set out on.

For the remainder of this blog, here are the books and films and media to be referenced as we wend our way from New York City to Palo Alto to Long Beach (Calif) to Honolulu and back to Palo Alto/ Long Beach and thence.... "Well, wherever there's a home, you gotta have a home."

Exodus. Robinson Crusoe. Typee and Omoo. The Mutiny on the Bounty. Huckleberry Finn. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The Long Goodbye. Pitcairn Island. Tortilla Flats. The Grapes of Wrath. My Side of the Mountain. Eat the Document. Mad Max. The Road. In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World. Castaway. And those merry pranksters, The Grateful Dead...

Let's see how long this plays out.

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