Thanksgiving dinner was GREAT! Nearly twenty of us showed up at the old Hull building on Flanders Avenue. I spent Thanksgiving '06 there the last time I was in this neck of the woods and it was nice to catch up with old vagrant friends and meet lots of new ones. The Hull building is wonderful because it's nestled in an old industrial complex, so there is little chance of disturbance, and the ceiling is very high. We could have built a bonfire in there with no worries. Our flame was a little more modest, but it really warmed the vast space up nicely (great insulation in the old warehouse, apparently) and more than half of us bunked up for the night right around the fire in the center of the room.
Since none of us could scrounge up a proper turkey, our dinner had a 'turkey theme' to it, and I believe nearly everyone brought at least one ingredient. I brought a half a can of olives and a half a jar of turkey gravy. We couldn't decide if they should be called Olirkeys or Tolives!
A wonderful evening. A man from Stockton named Banjo appropriately brought a banjo with him and we sang old tramp songs long into the night.
A question came up recently, not from a reader of this blog but from someone whom I socialize with on a message board elsewhere, and I promised him I would address the topic here today. That is the question of foodstuffs. Where do vagrants get their food if we have no money?
Let me answer that first by saying that it's not so much that we don't have money. As I mentioned in an earlier update, the vast majority of us find ways to earn some sort of cash money wage through labor or other means. A good 70% of our transactions consist of bartering, we'd much rather trade for a good or service than pay for it with coin. But the fact remains that sometimes you just need to lay down a few quarters to get something you want, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I certainly can't speak for every vagrant, but let me use myself as an illustration. On me right now I have $2.14. I expect that to last me through the weekend.
Just as valuable in my possession are items to trade. I have a nice faux gold band, some marbles, a quarter of a pack of cigarillos, a pornographic audio tape, some Christmas wrapping paper, a brand new pair of gloves, some matches, a small knife, an envelope of hot cocoa mix, a gold tooth, a fake ice cube with a spider in it, a padlock, a deck of playing cards, two oranges, a can of french cut green beans and a clean tampon. These items are in addition to my personal items that are not available for trade.
So how does this currency ensure I get food in my belly tonight? It really depends on how the next few hours go. Right now it's about 2:30 PM, and I am scheduled to meet some other vagrants down on Vine street around 6:00 for supper. We're going to cook up a nice pot of hobo soup.
Planning has a lot to do with surviving in this lifestyle. I know what my plan is for supper tonight and supper tomorrow night, as I will be meeting with others and we will all bring ingredients to share. The day after that I might need to provide for myself. By having an idea of what's in front of me a few days in advance I can ration my items for trade and make sure what I do acquire/purchase is appropriate.
The only thing I have on me right now that could contribute to the hobo soup are the green beans, but I'm hoping to do one step better. There is a Rite Mart a few blocks from here that I know gets new shipments of meat on Saturdays. I'm going to bet that there will be some cut of week old unsold meat that is on the verge of being thrown out. I might be able to get them to grind me up some beef hock that is on the verge of turning, and get a half pound for 50 cents. Or less. Again, it's all about planning. If the boys at the Rite Mart aren't cooperative, or that 50 cent piece is a little hard to come by this week, just check the bin out back after sunset. I bet there's all kinds of good stuff in there, just thrown out. I guarantee you won't taste a lick of difference between filet mignon and slightly fermented ass meat after you boil the bejesus out of them.
Canned food is no different, it's all about planning ahead. Can you get a discount at certain stores for dinged up cans? Many stores are obligated to throw out canned food after their "expiration", but really, do you think that stuff ever actually expires? I've eaten 8 year old canned peaches that tasted like they were picked yesterday.
And don't forget foraging! You can create a bountiful salad the hippies would pay $30 for simply by picking plants found growing within a 30 foot radius of yourself. Fresh greens, lovely color and textured vegetation. If you aren't a prude about picking through a trash can, you'll be ever-amazed at what people throw away. Plenty for this old vagrant to live off of, that's for sure!
Next time you see a recipe posted here, some things as-listed would probably need to come off a store shelf. But the beauty of a tramp recipe is that everything is exchangeable. Nothing is set in stone. Don't have a quarter pound of beef available? Find a recently-dispatched squirrel on the side of the road, clean it well and boil the piss out of him. Don't have apple sauce? Find a tree and get smashin! Get out there, enjoy the sunshine and make do with what is around you. If there's nothing good there than move on. That, my friends, is the very definition of transience.