Monday, October 14, 2013

We're a Happy Family

With so many people crammed into such a small place, I bet people may wonder just what the social scene is like here. That's right, “social scene”; when you rub elbows with neighbors as often as we do in this place it's inevitable that friendships and alliances, cliques, grudges and feuds, gossip, drama, and even fights arise as a result. The closest analog to a “normal” living situation would be a college dorm, as one of my friends has pointed out; though in this case it's probably more like something halfway between a squat and a barracks.

If I were to roughly classify the denizens of this building, I would separate them into the mentally ill, the addicted, the disenfranchised, the homesteaders, and the rare transient. As you can imagine there's considerable overlap, especially among the mentally ill and addicts. I'd roughly estimate equal parts of the first four groups, with the people who are here only for as long as it takes for them to crawl their way to a higher rung in society's ladder sadly the infrequent anomalies. I need to point out that I differentiate between the disenfranchised and the homesteaders by virtue of power of choice; the disenfranchised are here because they're significantly hindered from returning to the mainstream, whereas homesteaders are perfectly capable of getting out of here and eking out a respectable life among the hoi polloi. I suppose it can be said that we're each of us — or at least most of us — misfits in some way, by nature or inclination or definition; though, as this definition is imparted largely by society, and the word “misfit” is so subjective (and often implies stigma), I prefer appellations along the lines of “fringe-dweller”".

Where do I fit into this metaphor? I'm definitely here by nature and inclination, being that I've luggage collecting dust and moths upstairs and have always felt a deep-seated disdain toward how society in general operates and what its common values and established mores are — For many years in my youth I fantasized about living in the woods an hour or more out of town, and even as an adult urban centers tend to fill me with a vague restless unease. What made me homeless instead of a maintenance-drinking apartment-dwelling IHOP line cook is shoddy social skills coupled with an awful knack for irresponsibility. As a result of years of this I've become one of the disenfranchised; it will take me an awful lot of effort and luck for me to rejoin the work force even as a part-time janitor or prep cook, even if I manage to get my head more even-keeled and subdue my addiction.

Still, as much as this place aggravates and disheartens me, and as much as I refuse to call it “home”, it's actually a bit of a community. Well, each floor is a sort of extended dysfunctional family, with a few interstices between floors in the form of cliques bridged by one or two individuals. For example, I'm buddies with Skate Or Die and get along with the Pope, Bitchy, the Contender, Buzzbomb, Mathemagical, Soda Popinski, and Gas Crazy and his wife(?) Gasoline (who technically doesn't live here yet somehow manages to spend every night here), but I'm on no-speaking terms with Corndog and am actively feuding with my neighbor Poopsie; I hang out with Techno Destructo on the third floor regularly and am acquainted with many people up there, but I seldom venture to the fourth floor and don't know more than a third of those residents. It frequently makes for a colorful dynamic and we often joke that a reality show filmed here would be make a damn funny show.

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