root - Posted on 01 January 2000

by Vlad Pogorelov

I stayed up all night before the eviction, listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony - “Ta-da-da!....” The sheriffs were supposed to come at 6 am. By 8 am I said to myself: “Fuck it”, and went to sleep. I woke up in a couple of hours, fixed myself a breakfast, had two cups of coffee. It was promising to be another decent day. I unlocked the gate and went outside.

There were 3 cars sitting in front of the house. A big sport utility vehicle, a locksmith’s van and a smaller car. A sport utility was occupied by a Filipino couple. The locksmith was in his van. When I walked out into the front stairs they all stared at me and stopped talking. There was something in their eyes, in their expressions which reminded me of vultures waiting for the dying animal to expire.

I came up to the SUV and asked the man if he was a landlord. He confirmed that. “Fuck you”, I said, “you gonna make me homeless. Fuck you”.

Then the locksmith came and asked me for the key. “Fuck you both”, I said and went back to the house.

My roommate Rob started to fantasize: “If sheriffs don’t come today then maybe they won’t at all, at least not before Thanksgiving...”
Poor Rob. He has been living in this little house for almost seven years. A long time , long enough to fill almost every square inch of it with hundreds, and hundreds of pieces of junk he found on the street -— TV’s, old record players, broken computers...you name it. And now he was about to loose his treasures. I saw this incredible sadness in his eyes. Just yesterday, upon learning about the inevitability of the eviction he threatened to commit suicide., and sheriffs department sent him to a mental hospital. They let him out ,however, so they can evict him properly.

“Maybe I can talk them out of it”, I told him. I went outside and locked the gate behind me. There was some commotion on the block — a few white official looking cars rolled in. Half a dozen of sheriffs with guns came out and joined the vultures. They all looked tense.

“What are you doing here?”, they asked me.

“I am here to watch you”, I told them.

“Do you live here?”. One of them pointed at the house.

“I was”, I told them,” until today”.

“Give us the key”, they demanded.

“I paid a dollar for my key. Have you got a dollar?”

None of them had a dollar. Greedy bastards. Or maybe they wanted to see the locksmith in action. Who knows...

A smooth voiced sheriff who called himself supervisor got on the phone and called Rob. “Come out Rob. We are not going to hurt you. We just want to do this eviction. It’s lunch time. The boys are hungry”, he said while looking at his troops.

“Come out with your hands up”, I joked.

The supervisor gave me a dirty look. “I would advise you to stay away”, he told me.

“Don’t do it Rob”, I screamed.

They negotiated with Rob for about half hour. Then I saw him emerging behind the gate. The sheriffs moved against the door. Skinny, little Rob—a strange Jewish guy who made his living by collecting junk—against 6 well fed, fat sheriffs with guns. He did not stand a chance. Suddenly, he became even smaller, as if he shrunk suddenly. He unlocked the gate. The sheriffs rushed in. “You have five minutes to get your papers, medications, etc. We will supervise you while you doing this.”

I went into my room and grabbed a female mannequin and a few books. I came out carrying the mannequin in my arms as I would carry a wounded comrade. “This guy is crazy”, somebody said. Then I saw Rob coming out of the house. He had a scarred cat in his arms. The cat really hated to be evicted. The sheriffs stood there in a circle, laughing. Fat, ugly bastards who are just doing their job and will go back to their families just like the Nazis did after torturing Jews at the camps.

Me and Rob shook hands. “Where would you go?”, I asked him.

“I don’t know”

“And you...?”

“I have no idea. Probably will sleep in my car”.

The sun just came out from behind the clouds. “A beautiful day to start a new life as a homeless person”, I thought as I was leaving a little white house in Potrero Hill— my home for the past 4 month.

Part Two

It’s only a few weeks later and I am already feeling like it was a few light years ago. My lifestyle has completely changed since I became an individual without address. For the first three weeks I had to sleep in my car, and later, thanks to a friend, I was able to move into a broken motorhome parked on a dead end street by the San Francisco Bay. Sometimes, I wonder if I am at a “dead end” myself. I was literally driven almost into the water and there is nowhere else to go but out of town.

Bad news for Rob—it is his last day to remove his belongings from “our house” as he calls it. And then almost immediately he would correct himself: ”Our former house”. It seems that he just can’t get over being evicted. Last night he started discussion about Sylvia Plath and her suicide. “I was thinking a lot about this subject”, Rob told me.

“You know Rob, I have a propane leak in my motorhome. You can smell it a block away. So, if you are contemplating to follow Sylvia—welcome to my place.” He only laughs: “I am too old for this kind of solution. After all I am almost 50. And Sylvia was this adolescent girl who never grew up.”

“It’s never to late Rob”, I am telling him while watching his reaction. But he only shook his head and doesn’t say much.

We drove to “our house” in Rob’s beat up van and started loading it in somewhat chaotic manner trying to save Rob’s treasures but he still had to loose almost ninety percent of his possessions after the deadline. About 4pm we decided to get some food and “recharge our batteries” for the final push. I volunteered to make a run to the local store and get us sandwiches. It took me about fifteen minutes. On my way back to the house I noticed that something was very wrong over there, There was a police car sitting outside the house and Rob was in the back seat of a cruiser, looking like a caged rabbit waiting to be used for some bizarre scientific experiment. I noticed two policemen and the landlords drugging a heavy garage door and trying to put it back on hinges. (We had to take the door off the hinges in order to move out some large objects.) After a collective of “real estate and law enforcement forces” finally succeeded in putting the door back in place they let Rob out. “You have thirty minutes to clear out”, the cops told Rob.
“We’ll check on you soon. If you are still here with your stuff on the sidewalk then you gonna loose it to the Street Cleaning Department.”

“You don’t have to do that”, he replied. “The landlord will call them for you.”

I saw landlords walking back towards their SUV and smiling with relief. Finally, they succeeded in shutting the doors of the house for good.

I helped Rob to load the remaining belongings into the van. “Why did they detained you?”, I asked him.

“They said, I was trespassing.”

“But you were not! You had until 5 pm. They cheated you of almost an hour, man!”

“They sure did. But I don’t feel like fighting anymore. I am about to give up and move far away from this nightmare, my friend. Maybe, even to the countryside...you see I am fed up with this city. This city is being sold to the highest bidder on a daily basis and I don’t want to be a part of this Sodom anymore. Count me out. I quit.” Rob was sounding tired and depressed.
“You see, I just was inside the house packing my stuff”, he continued,” and then the cops came and ordered me to come out immediately. Well, I invited them to come inside since I wasn’t trespassing but they only got angry and drugged me out of the house, searched me and took away my “Leatherman” tool.”

“Did you get it back?”

“No. But I am about to call Bayview Police Station and ask for it”. He got on the phone and called the police station. “...what do you mean, you don’t know who you send to harass people?...you mean you don’t keep records of which car was dispatched?...”, I overheard the pieces of conversation. “It is hopeless”, Rob conceded. “They told me, they have no idea who these policemen were.”

We sat on the curb for sometime, not talking much, contemplating our dim future. It was getting dark. We both looked at the house again as if saying last “Good bye” to the ordeal of the last two months, got in to the heavily loaded van and drove away towards even greater uncertainty.


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