“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Traveling Light, Part 1

Homelessness is Expensive.

The housed tend to think that having no mortgage or rent to pay would mean that one could live cheaply.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  With no home, one has no kitchen, and every meal has to be purchased at restaurant prices.  Even a meal from a deli or grocery store, a sandwich, a prepared salad or side order (macaroni or potato salad, cut fruit) costs a lot.  And with no storage, you cannot buy anything in larger, more economical sizes, let alone in bulk.

Big-box stores such as Costco do have great quality items at remarkably low prices, but one has to have a good deal of money in order to take advantage of the low cost.  You cannot buy a variety of foods, variety enough to provide a balanced diet, without spending over $100, and quite likely $200 or $300.  You have to have money to save money.  Those with limited resources who are trying to eat every day on as little as possible, scraping by in an attempt to save the "move-in" costs required if they are ever to return to the class of the housed, that seemingly astronomical first and last month's rent and security deposit, have to pay the highest prices for food and other essentials.

The world is upside down.

The poor have the same kind of daily budget, by necessity, as rich do, by choice.  When the rich travel for business or pleasure, every meal out, each night's shelter, is a one-time expense.  Buying things in small quantities over and over again (toiletries, laundry detergent) in the "travel" size is an uneconomical necessity for the poor, because they can only keep what they can carry.

When you find yourself lugging two or three pieces of luggage with you everywhere you go, you have to make do with fewer things.

Some Advice:
Keeping Clean: Dish-washing liquid will clean your body as well as your dishes. I bought a small bottle of Dawn (best grease-cutter around) for 99 cents about a month ago, and it still has about a week left to it. It does a great job as a body wash and is not at all hard on the skin. (Skeptical?  Just ask yourself what manufacturer would make a product that causes “dishpan hands”?)  You get scads of suds from just a few drops, and it rinses clean more easily than any other kind of soap I know of. So I carry one small bottle of Dawn and have no need for body wash, hand soap, bath bar, shampoo, etc.

[Note: the reverse is not true; you could not use body wash or shampoo to wash your dishes. Such products include moisturizers, conditioners, and fragrances that would turn your stomach should you try to eat off dishes washed in them. They do not rinse clean but leave one kind of film or another behind.]

Food Service: You don’t need plates. Anything you can eat off a dinner plate can be eaten out of a bowl as well.

[Again, the reverse is not true.]

And one commuter coffee mug can replace any cups or glasses. It will hold both hot and cold beverages, and with a secure lid you have the advantage of not worrying about spillage when the officious security  guard or the "po-po" (that is , the police) tell you to move along.

What's wrong with having a picnic (or even camping out) in urban settings?  Why would I have to drive for miles (assuming I had a car) to some "natural" place, set aside never to be used as part of real daily life just so that I can spread a cloth, enjoy a meal, and go to sleep looking up into the sheltering sky?  Why shouldn't I do so on any open piece of ground I can find?  Ah, the laws of private property -- we shall have much to say about that bit of evil in the future.