Thursday, September 15, 2011

Catching a Stray

Before moving, I had talked with a friend from Raleigh, NC about his arrival in the country. He was "planning" on coming over with a one way ticket, a little bit of cash, getting in with the squatting community, and falling off the grid. It sounded like a perfectly reasonable plan to him, and we made plans to meet up in Soho on Saturday afternoon.

Brian looked as if he had slept on the street the night before:

"Tired," he responded, when I asked him how he was, "I slept on the street last night."

The poor guy had planned on meeting up with some friends of the family when he got here, only he had never met these people before. Turned out, they were unavailable when he got here, so he just spent the night on the steps of some museum, waking up about every five minutes to be sure that he hadn't been robbed. 

Brian is a tall guy, about 6'4" or so, frizzled brown hair, and carries the nickname "Shaggy" around Raleigh. I never knew whether or not he actually liked that nickname, so I just called him Brian. Today, he is wearing jeans, new hiking books, a bue Oxford, and a leather jacket. All he has is a shoulder bag that looks about the size of a briefcase. I asked him if he had anything else, knowing that he planned on being here for a long time, but he said no. Confused, I asked him to coffee. 

We talk about what his plans are for the foreseeable future. Over the past twelve or so hours, Brian has realized that his "plans" for the trip weren't as detailed as they sh/could have been. When he arrived at Heathrow, the immigration officer had made him purchase a plane ticket out of the country (he only had a one way ticket to London and no visa). That caused him some loss of valuable funds, and he was beginning to run low. His plan for getting a job was to walk around Soho and knock on doors - there's about 1,000 restaurants in a square mile, yet none of them were keen on letting him wash their dishes.

Kenz and I may have had a rough go of it so far, but it seemed like we were better off than Brian. I invited him back to stay with us. So, four nights in the country and we already had a visitor. It may not have been in his agenda, but it was nice for us to have a familiar face around. Brian stayed with us in the temporary "weekend" flat while our "real" one was being prepared for Monday. In fact, Brian stayed with us for another five nights after that, while he spent the days searching for a job and analyzing his motivations for his taking the trip in the first place. He and I spent the evenings talking about why he came, how everybody is in Raleigh, and what his next step was.

At the end of each day, he'd say that he planned on leaving the next day - not leaving the city, just leaving our apartment. He said he felt like an imposition and also that "there's no adventure if there's no risk." I could understand why he felt like an imposition - we were moving in and he was already crashing on our couch, but the reality was that Kenz and I were both mildly homesick and it was a delight to have some company that sounded like us - moreover an actual friend who was a good houseguest. But the "no risk, no adventure" thinking baffled me - the guy was talking about just bouncing and seeing what would happen without money or a place to stay. I mean, Kenz and I are, by many standards of measurement, having what one would call an "adventure" - we've pulled up stakes, moved to a new country in order to chase some dreams, and generally have little idea of what we're doing. But we've still built in some safeguards. It feels pretty damn adventurous. But Brian is talking about leaving the only friend he has in London and running out of money in a foreign country in order to let the adventure begin. I debate with him as to whether or not that may be crossing the line from adventure to irresponsible. He came around to the idea.

We had yet to buy anything for the apartment and didn't even have a blanket for him to use while on the couch. He didn't complain.

Eventually, Brian decided it was best to return to America, regroup, and plan a bit better the next time. The shame is that we didn't get an opportunity to take any pictures with him while he was here. He promised to be back, and left early on the next Friday morning. I expect he will return before we are done here.