Thursday, October 30, 2014

The nicest birthday gift I ever gave myself!

It has been almost a year since Pavel the Homeless turned into Pavel the Yachtmore.

Living on a boat is beautiful, and in some sense it combines the spirit of camping with the comfort of an apartment (except for nonsense like bathroom, shower, electricity, or running water). Yet, I've been missing the GOOD homeless life: the freedom of picking a green spot on the NYC subway map late in the evening and going to spend the night there; entering an unknown place in the middle of night, pretending to be just walking around and suddenly jumping into the dark forest; sensing the strange energies around, feeling the fear and fear of the fear in my stomach and dissolving it – turning it into confidence while tasting the joy of fearless mind – the feeling so strong that those who taste it are willing to dye for it. Essentially, homelessing is like skydiving, except that it is free and ecological.

Last week a friend invited me for a dinner to Jackson Heights. First I thought it was too far - not really on the way to my boat. And then I got the idea of sleeping in the nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. That park had been on my ToDo list last year for a while, but then I got so busy homelessing in all the other parks and hosting CouchSurfers there, that I never made it to the Flushing Meadows. Finally, the time to explore it came!

After eating Tibetan food and having a beer in a fun Latin bar (I don't dare to drink more when going camping to an unknown place) I said good bye to my friend and took off to dive in a forest. Walking down the streets I felt like traveling somewhere between Mexico and Colombia – food, music, and life everywhere. Then I had to walk all the way along the park to the south part of it. It was a long way, unlike it looked on the map. All land was private here – museum, zoo, golf club,... and when I finally got to the spot which looked like a deep forest in the satellite map, I realized it was a lake. Heck, I'm not gonna sleep in a lake!

Huge park, but no forest to hide in! Besides, someone might have noticed me wondering around for a long time – I didn't act professionally this time! Hmmm, hmm, ohh YES – let's sleep in the bullrush...I could not thought of a better way to hide!

I set up for a comfortable sleep in my bullrush home. Perhaps it was my laziness (call it positive thinking if you want) that convinced me it won't rain. But clouds never lye, so soon after the rain started. And as it started, it continued all night. Sometimes more, sometime less.

I learned how to sleep in rain without a tent during my collage years in Pilsen (Yes, the Pilsner Urquell beer comes from there). The university was 100 km away from my hometown Prague. Sometimes I had exams in two consecutive days and the easiest way to safe myself a commute was to camp near the university. Only I had was a thin sleeping bag, alu sleeping pad and lecture notes. I rarely found time to read the notes, but they always happened to be useful in protecting my kidneys from getting cold. And then, well, there were nights without rain, and there were nights with rain. And since I had nothing to protect myself from the rain, I just closed my eyes, breathed deeply to keep drying the sleeping bag, and just ignored the drops falling on my face. Once the university opened at 6 am, I would rush in shivering, get hot coffee from a machine and start studying. Perhaps I passed my exams just thanks to the cold, because nothing else would prevent me from sleeping.

Unfortunately, the years of being young and stupid are gone – only the years of being old and stupid are left (unless I drink enough carrot top juice to brink my youth back). I can no more sleep under rain without bivy sack. I had one with me, but after sleeping in a comfortable boat for almost a year I became even more soft than I though. It was raining only on my face and hair that were sticking out of the bivy sack (I did something wrong, I think) and just that managed to make me uncomfortable. Luckily, I still managed to sleep, but it was not that deep refreshing sleep that one should have in a beautiful bullrush home. Besides, I was a bit nervous about my backpack filled with electronics (kindle, camera, phone,..). Hmm, the waterproof cover would be useful, why did I lose it already year ago!? I put the bag under my mattress and covered it by a jacket. Similarly I did with my shoes – that ended up full of water in the morning.

Raining, raining, raining, raining on my face, raining on my hair, I move the jack, I move the bivy sack, I turn over, raining, raining (repeat 10-20x)...I look at my phone, hey, hey, it's 6 am already, still alive and the beautiful rainy morning is here, wake up bastard!

The pictures tell the rest of the story :).

In summary, bivouacking in the Flushing Meadows Corona Park was the nicest birthday gift I ever gave myself!. PS. Great thanks to Lim, the Korean guy who cleans the Department of Economics. After he kicked me out of the university in the middle of the night during the first year of my PhD, we became great friends. Few days after my little adventure I saw him near my office. I was excited to see my friend and I rushed to say hi. He responded laughing: “Your office was full of mess, did you do it, hahaha, was it you Pavel?”
Feeling a bit embarrassed I responded “Uhh, yes – you know - I went camping, but you need to see the picture! now you understand how all the bullrush got in the office?”
“No problem, I cleaned it, hehehe.”
“But Lim, don't feel jealous – next time I take you with me!”
“No, no, please! I better keep cleaning the building all night!”

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