Home is where you lay your head at night
There is something to be said for being homeless. I no longer can hang that moniker around my neck, though I did for the first seven months of the year.
Fortunately, it was my choice. A year ago yesterday I flew back to the United States after having spent the previous four months in South America. With my bank balance near zero, I knew I had to return to a job I didn’t particularly like.
The thought of setting up house in the Bay Area or even worse, signing a long-term lease, made me depressed. There had to be some other solution while I was looking for a job.
I could commute to San Francisco from my parents’ place in the East Bay, but dad said I could stay only 30 days. Dad had given me a deadline to move out when I moved home after college and upon returning from Europe — I’ve never stayed long enough to know if his statement was a threat or a promise.
I put a note in the staff basket at work looking for housesitting gigs. I told my parents’ friends the same since I knew about some of their upcoming vacation plans.
And so my nomadic life continued. I was used to living out of a backpack, so why change? I kept the bulk of my stuff in storage.
You learn a lot about someone when you stay at their place — especially when they are not there. I didn’t go searching through drawers, medicine cabinets, or hidden crawl spaces.
The spice racks, cupboards, fridge, book shelves and CD collection are telling enough. Then there are the quality of towels, the type of artwork, the furniture. And the mail.
I didn’t charge anything, though professional housesitters can make good money. I did eventually take people up on their offer to help myself to food.
I was watching two neurotic cats — I’ve come to realize that phrase is redundant — for a conservative columnist at the paper. I expected a cool house in Oakland because columnists make good money. It was just OK.
I was going to make spaghetti, but realized the jars were filled with meat. There was some tomato paste and sauce to make my own. But when it came time to season it they had neither basil nor oregano. No fresh garlic, no garlic salt, no garlic powder. Pepper and more pepper — five containers of powdery pepper.
There was the awkward moment in San Francisco sitting for a colleague who is married to a former professor of mine. He and I stayed one night at the house together. I was in their bed, he was on the couch. But we had to change the sheets upstairs. It was all innocent, but it still felt wrong.
Along the San Mateo Coast, just north of Half Moon Bay was a little house with a sick cat that required daily medication. My hands felt raw from the clawing by the time the week was out.
I had no idea two people could live in such close quarters. The old detached garage was part garage, part office. They didn’t lock any doors. It was heartwarming to learn there are communities where you can still do that.
There was the yellow Lab in Clayton that was so needy I wanted to throttle its parents. Every 10 minutes it expected to go for a walk.
People often asked if I was growing tired of such an existence, if I was missing my stuff. No, was my response to both questions. Every place I went I was surrounded by plenty of material things. And some of it was better than what I was paying to store.
There was food, cable with 100 channels, homegrown veggies at some places, animals that were fun to care for, a good bed, a heater that worked, a phone I could use, and more often than not, a computer.
There was one thing I missed — my hot air popcorn popper. People seem to only eat the microwave variety.
I could live this life rather easily. That’s probably why I find myself housesitting right now for friends. Their cat Spencer gets along well with my dog Bailey so it’s no big deal. Plus, they have a Jacuzzi and I don’t.
Yep, I could do the homeless thing again. Maybe I should call my real estate agent to tell him I neither want nor need a permanent residence.
Kathryn Reed is managing editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She may be reached at (530) 541-3880, ext. 251 or via e-mail at email@example.com
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