homeless people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be – Key West

From Hidden In Plain View
From Nashville J yesterday:
Congratulations on getting a replacement for the computer from  hell – nice to have you back on line.  I’m sure some people would have hoped that you could not ever post again – but – they are SOL.  :-)
At yesterday evening’s School Board meeting, during citizen comments I told the Board members and Superintendent Porter that I hope they all get to see the Hidden In Plain View homeless art and poetry exhibition at Studios of Key West. I said I had seen Andy Griffiths at the opening. Robin Smith-Martin said he had made the opening. I said Erika Biddle had invited the schools to make field trips to the exhibition, and kids seeing the exhibition will let them see homeless people in a new light, and will encourage them not to be homeless. As will getting vocational training in high school, I also said.
On seeing homeless people in a new light, Erika forwarded this to me last night, which the author had posted to Erika’s Facebook page, where comments continue to come in about Hidden In Plain View.
Dorothy Jane Dankel
Hidden in Plain View
To the Editor, (Submitted electronically to the Key West Citizen Nov. 20, 2012)
To the Editor:
Last week on November 16th, my family and I (vacationing in Key West from Norway) were lucky enough to attend the opening of the exhibition “HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW” at The Studios of Key West. This show is about the homeless of Key West, beautifully portrayed by stunning black and white portraits of local homeless people and their stories, emotions, trials and tribulations through poetry and other forms of art. I urge the citizens of Key West to visit this exhibition to the utmost degree. Among the roles of art is to display beauty, provoke emotions and shed light on societal issues. “Hidden in Plain View” accomplishes all of these and more; I have never experienced such depth of theme and meaning in an art exhibition before. The portraits set the stage for the viewer to get a naked, uncompromised look at the faces of homelessness in Key West; the poems pulls you deeper into their stories, the “art-heart connection book” in the center of the exhibition colors dark situations and the collection of local homeless 5th graders soul-wrenching poems brought tears to my eyes. I had to slowly walk away from the book of children’s poems before I broke down in tears. Later, I was able to hold my 2 year old daughter’s hand and lead her back to the children’s poems, show her their drawings and be thankful for the opportunity to be enlightened about the serious social situations the Key West community, and all communities around the world, deal with everyday; and ponder on ways we can strengthen our “one human family” through awareness and compassion for our neighbors.
Dorothy J. Dankel, PhD Bergen Norway
In my last dream this morning, my younger daughter, who is an eye surgeon and sometimes shows up in dreams to help me see better, separated from me, got into a convertible, had a really long beard and looked like a sort of homeless fellow I met in late 2000 at the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen when it was still at that church on Truman Avenue. My daughter, the eye doctor, looking like Rudi Rozema, then started driving to my right and away from me.
Here’s a photo Rudi gave me some years back, shot by a friend of his in Maine, where Rudi lived when he wasn’t in Key West or traveling out west to various state and national parks, mostly.
Born in Holland, Rudi’s parents moved to America when he was pretty young. He had dual citizenship, was bilingual but I only heard him speak English. He had no accent.
Besides traveling out west each summer, Rudi’s passion was reading. He hung out around Indigenous Park and the Wild Bird Rescue Center, reading paperbacks. Every day it was open, he was in the Key West branch library, and whenever there was a book sale, he bought lots of $1 books and took them to the post office and sent them to his local post office in Maine.
The inside of his cabin in the woods, which he built, was lined with bookshelves filled with books. I once had a photo of the inside of his cabin, but the photo went by the wayside with one of my earlier laptops, when it went by the wayside. I found the photo of Rudi through Google, probably because I had used the photo in a post to goodmorningkeywest.com at some time in the past.
Rudi was educated, we had a wide range of discussions over the years I knew him. We often met on Higgs Beach to watch the sunrise. He came from his “crib”, I came from my “crib”. That’s what homeless people call where they stay at night. You don’t ask a homeless person where his, or her, crib is. Rudi told me where his was, and swore me to secrecy. He said he’d never told anyone where it was. And I have never told anyone where he slept nights, outside, when he didn’t have an arrangement with the used bookstore on Truman Avenue to sleep in its backroom.
Some years Rudi worked part time as the clerk in the bookstore, sometimes he cleaned up the gym in the back of the bookstore, sometimes he did handyman work fixing things in the bookstore.
Sometimes Rudi got maintenance work for local people, including David Wolkowsky, a Key West businessman of note. One winter David had Rudi doing maintenance and yard work on David’s island near Key West, and another time David had Rudi doing maintenance and yard work on property David owned above Miami, I think perhaps Ft. Lauderdale.
But mostly, Rudi hung out in Key West, sleeping nights in his crib, or in the room in the back of the bookstore. If I told you where his crib was, in plain view, you might fall out laughing, or faint. But I won’t tell you, because I promised I would not tell anyone else.
I heard Rudi stopped coming down to Key West for the winter after I moved back to Little Torch in the spring of 2010, which was the last time saw him, at Sippin’ Internet Cafe on Eaton Street, where he sometimes dropped by hoping to catch me, talk, play a game of chess. He might come back to Key West, and he might want to use his crib again, and he would not like all the world, especially the Key West police, knowing where he likes to sleep under the stars in plain view, if they knew where to look.
To make a little money in Maine, Rudi worked the potato and blueberry harvests. He had almost no home expense, his cabin was off the grid. Heated by a wood stove with wood he cut, mostly from fallen trees, with his chainsaw, lighted by fuel lanterns, water came from a well with a hand pump, perhaps here was an electric pump also, I don’t recall, powered by solar and/or fuel. He had no vehicle, got around by bicycle, walking or lifts in friends’ vehicles.
Rudi came to Key West on Greyhound. He took a meal every day at the soup kitchen, which led to one of the truly funny stories about him, which I will share with you.
The first winter Rudi spent in Key West, some years before I met him, he took up with a young woman, they had an apartment. Eventually, they parted but he always held fast to that memory because it was the last woman he was with in the man-woman sense.
Well, one winter, a really dazzling young East European woman came to Key West and somehow Rudi met her and they started talking and Rudi was getting romantic feelings and so forth. When she told him she was Buddhist, he thought to himself that he was going to test that and invited her to lunch with him at the soup kitchen. She accepted his invitation, but when the doors opened and the meal was served, she delined to take any of the food, said she didn’t want to take it away from a homeless person.
Rudi didn’t see it that way, though, because there was plenty of food for everyone to have seconds, even thirds, if they wanted. Rudi saw it as the drop-dead beautiful damsel, whom I had met separately and while they were together, was not a Buddhist after all.
Lament long and loud afterward Rudy did about how his scheme had cost him having a girlfriend again. I told him it was better that he find out if she was a Buddhist up front, than find out after they were paired up. He agreed, but the lament continued.
As I recall, I later told Rudi that his lost love became a Hindu, following an East Indian Key West disciple of Gurumayi, who was the yogi Muktananda’s hand-picked disciple. Then, the damsel left that ashram and went on to something else. Still, Rudi lamented. Neither of us cared for being monks was the sum of it.
Rudi was very shy, almost a hermit. I was the only person in Key West with whom he really shared much of himself. When we were together, talking, playing chess, if someone else came along and wanted to join our conversation, that usually meant Rudi would excuse himself and go elsewhere. However, there was a time in early 2003, when we were meeting for sunrise on Higgs Beach, that a fellow from New York State started showing up and doing sun greeting exercises, after which he played a flute like Native Americans made and used, or maybe like Japanese people made and used. He was quite good on the flute, and he started hanging out with Rudi and me every morning and talking about life. He and I stayed in email correspondence for several years, and he always inquired about Rudi.
Along about early May, Rudi would take Greyhound back to Maine, where he hung out for a while before taking Greyhound or Amtrak, if he could afford the train, out west for a summer of backpacking in the wilds, although one summer he and a Maine friend went to Alaska where the friend got a really high-paying job driving road equipment and Rudi made $18 and hour as a flagman on that road job. I think that was the summer he had a really unusual experience, which I will share with you as I remember him telling it to me.
After making all the money on the road job he needed, Rudi took off backpacking. One day, he found himself in a remote area where he saw a mother grizzly, the Alaskan strain, much bigger than the US grizzly, with two cubs off a ways eating blueberries. So Rudi got down on his hands and knees like a bear and ate blueberries, too, and nothing came of the bear encounter.
However, later Rudi wandered into an area where there was lots of bear scat, and he was disoriented and didn’t know exactly where he was, or how to get back to where he had come from. He said to himself, “This is really serious.” Then, out of nowhere, a double of himself stood right before him, and said, “Yes, this is really serious.” Then, his double pointed a direction and disappeared. Rudi walked in that direction for a while and eventually came to a stream, which eventually came to a logging road, which eventually came to people.
Quite a few times, Rudi told me of a dream he’d had about me, and it was just what I needed to hear in that moment. We were connected very deep in the soul. As if we had known each other before.
Quite a few of my friends who lived on the street, or in their vehicles, knew Rudi. But they did not know him the way I knew him, and they did not know me the way Rudi knew me. I told him many things about my life, human life, spirit life. He never blanched, even though he was not having those kinds of experiences. He took it at face value, what I told him, even as he confessed it was peculiar.
I supposed the used bookstore closing closed a chapter for Rudi, even before it closed. Somehow he knew it was coming. For several years he had spoken of not coming back to Key West the next winter. He would stay in Maine, do a lot of cross-country skiing, which he loved. Spend more time with his few close friends up there, whom he sometimes used my cell phone to call. He was a huge Boston Patriots fan, got really wanked out when they lost a game. He was a really different, really interesting fellow.
What I am wondering right now is, what message did Rudi have for me in my dream this morning? For that dream surely was about more than my writing about him as someone who might have played an important role in Hidden In Plain View, if he had been around for its genesis. I suppose I will know in good time what he came in a convertible to tell me before dawn this morning, which woke me up around 4 a.m.
Historically, 4 always means politics in my dreams, life. Was Rudi driving toward politics, or away? What various meaning could convertible have? I suppose I will know in good time.
Meanwhile, Ed Davidson talked a lot at last night’s School Board meeting. I have a feeling he’s going to talk a lot more at School Board meetings, and I have a feeling he’s going to put a heap of pressure on the rest of the School Board members, and on Superintendent Porter.
Meanwhile …
Me biting into a pulled BBQ pork sandwich – yum – wearing my Love Kills Slowly t-shirt at retired south Florida school teacher Mickey Foster’s wedding celebration at his and his bride’s home on Big Pine Key last Sunday afternoon. It clean slipped my mind to inquire if that pig what gave its life for the festivities was raised organically?
Sloan Bashinsky

About Sloan

That's what this website is about, also goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com. If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.
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