Last Night San Antonio finally got a lot of rain…and wind…and hail. Good news for the Edwards Aquifer bad news for people like me living on the streets.
This thunderstorm was one of the first Spring fronts with substantial rain, hail, and tornadoes of the season. The squall line went from South Texas all the way up past Oklahoma. It carried some real punch that lasted most of the night.
After meeting Edison Young Life students for dinner, I had a choice to go to the outdoor shelter (where they would make us go inside where it would be safe) or find some other covering with men who live on the streets.
I went back and forth in making my decision, but I eventually chose the latter. This is the part of the blog where my mom will now call me…so pray…not for my mom…but for me…I might have better luck with the tornado!) I decided I would endure the storm with William and Company at the place he finds “shelter” most nights.
Come what may.
William lives in an abandoned shack near the 281 corridor. It used to be attached to a nightclub but the club burned down years ago. Only a tin roof shack remains on the unkept property. The grass around the barn is tall. The overgrown weeds provide nice privacy.
I arrived around 9pm…right before the first wave hit. Once I laid my mat down for the night, William wanted to go over to a music shop and listen to a women read Spanish poems with a jazz band. It was random…but he was the host…so I agreed and went along. The lady was good. I did not understand what she was saying…but she had a good cadence and presence. I guess that counts for something. There was also a man who looked like “Kip” in Napoleon Dynamite who read poems in English. The style was similar to how Mike Myers read poems in So I Married An Ax Murderer… but slightly more awkward and strange. He was okay…but it was starting to rain…so I convinced William to leave after “Kip” was done reciting his poem about “the orange haze inside [his] human subconsciousness.” So we left Kip at the club before the storm could trap us inside his tangerine filled brain.
When we returned back to his shack, he said, “my place is your place…this house has an open door for you my friend…my best friend. We will get through this storm together…come hell or high water, Jellybean.” (It’s funny. When he doesn’t call me by name, William either calls me Cowboy, Homeboy, or Jellybean in no particular order…I like that.)
After he said that to me, I realized that he was inviting me into his home to visit…just like my head pastor invites me over to his home for a Christmas Party or family dinner. This was his home…not just a place to ride out the storm. It started to pour down rain.
I started to ask myself…
Would I invite this man to sleep at my house for the night?
Would I open my door and allow someone to sleep on my floor during a dangerous storm?
Would I even allow someone to sleep in my back storage shed next to my lawnmower and broom during a storm?
I don’t really know what I would do…
Relatively speaking, his home is dry. It has some major leaks in one corner but only small leaks in the area where William sleeps on the floor. After observing where the drops leak through the tin roof, you can easily position yourself to sleep without getting too wet between the trash and wet spots. That process took about an hour. Trial and error is the best approach.
Once I found my position it only took about 10 more minutes to realize I was getting drops on my bag. The rain started to pick up and other leaks were revealed. After one slight adjustment, I was all set. Then the rain stopped.
William decided to light a fire to keep warm. This seemed strange but it was his place so I just watched him work. He got the wet wood lit after some time and had a good fire going. I was impressed by his Boy Scout skills.
I thought the storm was over…then my sister called from Bulverde to check if I was okay and she said the worst part of the storm was yet to come. I was thirsty and hungry so I ran to the gas station to buy a drink and grab a fried burrito called a “tornado.” I thought the name was ironic. (They are 2 for $2 at Valero…not a bad deal.) I knocked on some wood…or what I thought was wood. Once I returned, stage 2 of the storm was arriving. According to William’s hand radio, San Antonio was now in a Tornado Warning. The weather alert said a few tornadoes touched down near Divine and Castroville, TX. The storm was headed toward San Antonio.
By this time the wind picked back up and William’s fire grew pretty big…I was nervous. He didn’t seem to mind. But after some discussion about the possibility of our things catching fire, we found some creative ways to put out the fire for good. He called me the “Fire Marshall.”
Some time passed and the rain started to come down hard again. Lightning was everywhere. I wondered about the tin roof and if it was capable of attracting electricity. (I should have paid attention in my science class…) I got back in my sleeping bag and just listened to the storm. It was loud, bright, windy, and wet. William was listening to the static filled radio. Mist was coming in the door. He began to talk to himself (or me) out loud…I couldn’t tell…it was that loud inside the barn. The cold air started to creep in…so I got deeper into my sleeping bag and covered the end (by my feet) with a large plastic bag.
Hail started to fall on the tin roof. The storm was getting intense. I was actually getting nervous….but I tried to sleep. At some part of the night the wind was so bad it pulled up a corner of the tin roof and allowed the metal to slam back and forth on the ceiling. Now it was really loud…kinda like being on a train…but with a lot more leaks in the roof.
I wondered to myself what I would do if I heard the sound of a tornado. (Which I’ve always heard sounds like a train…) Where would I run to? How could I get to a safe place without getting hit by lighting or hurt by the severe conditions. It’s a helpless feeling. All you can do is hope for the best.
Bam! A limb hit the roof. I flew out of my bed. I could not sleep anymore. So I decided to break my rule and take some pictures. William gave me permission. Water started flooding into the barn, but not enough to reach our bags. The storm was shaking the walls of the barn so much I began judging if the old barn would hold up to the wind. I assumed it had made it through similar storms…we would be okay. I guess…
We just buckled down, got back into our bags and waited…
After the worst part of the storm had passed, I was able to get some rest and fall asleep to the rain. I had a few crazy dreams about the storm…but all things considered, I was glad I was able to get some rest and feel safe again.
The next morning I woke up to the sun shining through the cracks of the barn, William listening to the radio and smoking a Marlboro Red cigarette that a friend gave him at the music shop. It was good to see him dry, happy, and awake for a brand new day.
We were okay. For now…
My mom will call…but at least we made it past the storm.
(When I arrived at work I learned that one of our custodian’s’ sister’s home was destroyed by one of the tornadoes. It made me pause and think about the night. It was really a bad storm. We were lucky… Others were not. I believe the family is okay…but their home is gone. Days like this make you really appreciate your home…and the people who live inside the walls.
Wow! This would have been the night that I definitely gave in. I admire so much that you did not convince yourself that this night was an “exception” in your commitment. And I am thankful for the reflection it produced. Reading all of your posts has been so eye-opening. I am grateful for all you are sharing.
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