Recently, I heard an interview on DNTO with someone who was described as a “professional house guest.” He has some very clear expectations for his ever changing housing: you offer him a place to stay, with a bed or couch, for a minimum of two weeks, and in exchange he has done everything from cooking and cleaning to washing dogs to home repairs and minor renovations. But he doesn’t stop there. He also has rent-free work space, which he got through bartering. He approached an organisation with a bit of extra space and offered up his services in exchange for a place to call his office. For them, he’ll stuff envelopes, do photocopying, and in general help with the tedious things that have to get done around the office but no one really wants to do.
When I heard this, I was amazed. By no means have I made formal arrangements with my fabulous friends who are housing me, but I have done a good deal of cleaning, cooking, and other errands (quite happy to chip in!). And, depending on when I start the count, I’ve either been doing this for three-and-a-half months or one-and-a-half, which corresponds to either ten or seven beds (excluding one nighters, such as spending a Shabbos night on a friend’s couch, then returning to my “regularly scheduled” friend’s motzei; Florida’s backyard or concrete floors; and the retreat cabins in Maryland). And I’m exhausted. Despite sleeping longer, and more regularly, than I have in many years, I’m definitely feeling the effect of not having a stable, regular place to call home. I shouldn’t be surprised – after all, only a few weeks ago, in Florida, I taught a lesson on the effects of housing or a lack thereof. But I really didn’t expect the results to be felt so quickly.
These past few weeks, I became intimately familiar with the I-95. Back and forth, Boston, to and fro, New York. It might not have been the most productive use of my time (though I did watch many movies, catch up on my backlog of podcasts, and write many a hand-written letter), but it had to be. I had hoped to be in NY for a couple weeks, visiting friends, interviewing, before doing the same in Boston. But, of course, interviews and social “obligations” in NY waded into Boston time. More time spent on the I-95. I came to realise that on a Sunday night, the Greyhound could leave Port Authority and reach South Station a mere 3.5 hours later. Unfortunately, I also discovered that a random weekday ride could stretch to nearly 7 hours.
These weeks have allowed me to catch up with so many wonderful people, I can’t begin to tell you. Unfortunately, the running around also meant that I couldn’t see as many people as I’d wanted to, nor for as long as I would have liked. But I will be back east, and hopefully with more time to spare. Highlights included beers and bocce in Brooklyn; a hasty retreat from a windy picnic in Portland; getting hooked on the Ultimate Spiderman series; being amongst many queer Jews (this ought to get its own post but, wow, was that great, especially after the long queerless months in Israel), doing Jewishly queer and queerly Jewish things; Paul Simon’s concert in Brooklyn, which made me feel utterly euphoric, happier than I had been in far too long; pastrami and knish adventures in the boros; taking dance tips from the old man at the Klezmatics and Joshua Nelson concert; ice cream; cuddles with Max and Benjamin; and walking to Brooklyn from the Upper West Side.
I’ve been in Seattle about eight hours now, and I’m already missing Boston and NY. I will return… soon. [photos here.]