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Bamboo Charlie
July 5, 2010 2:43 PM   Subscribe

In a narrow plot next to the Los Angeles River, Charles Ray Walker, 59, has created a refuge of terraced slopes from toys and trash discarded by Angelenos.

It's his home away from homelessness.
posted by gman (25 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I will always hold people like this - self-sustaining hard workers who voluntarily carve their own niches mostly outside of society as we know it - to an almost religious level of admiration.
posted by mreleganza at 2:59 PM on July 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


What an awesome man.
posted by JHarris at 3:03 PM on July 5, 2010


mentally ill.
posted by billybobtoo at 3:13 PM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good for Charlie. Great post, it cheered me up.
posted by Elmore at 3:17 PM on July 5, 2010


I will always hold people like this - self-sustaining hard workers who voluntarily carve their own niches mostly outside of society as we know it

mentally ill.

Art: it's all about perspective.
posted by Elmore at 3:18 PM on July 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's fortunate that the owner of the lot didn't mind him staying there. A lot of homeless people would probably adapt like he did if they had the security of such a space to use.
posted by localroger at 3:20 PM on July 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


This seems like a good candidate for an Art Brut exhibit.
posted by Think_Long at 3:28 PM on July 5, 2010


I don't mean to Fix Anything For You, Elmore, but I'd just add:
Life: It's all about perspective.
posted by zoinks at 3:33 PM on July 5, 2010


This is just sad, incredibly sad. So something like this which is all about real courage, real integrity won't be going viral along with the dancing cats, will it?

Mentally ill? Perhaps, but only a little tweak in talent, or fortune or, better yet, marketing skills, is all that separates such people from the eccentric, and famous. His commitment and desire and energy should be worth more, and I think that once it was all by itself. Not always in the middle of the mainstream, but within the world even if on the margins, and granted dignity.
posted by Some1 at 3:35 PM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


> mentally ill.

Oh yeah? Well... black eyebrows. What's your point?
posted by heyho at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


The photograph of him sleeping with stuffed animals on his bed makes me sad and I want to forget that I saw it. Otherwise it's a very pleasant story.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:59 PM on July 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


The stills by Liz O. Baylen were uniformly very good, I thought - enough so that it made me check out her site, and jesus, but it's some good stuff in there!
posted by heyho at 4:04 PM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ugh, damn video links. NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE A VIDEO, PEOPLE. The first 5 or 6 seconds of this is a static shot of a shopping cart's bottom rack. It is not particularly informative. Just post some pictures.
posted by delmoi at 4:54 PM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Location on Google Maps.
posted by mattdidthat at 4:58 PM on July 5, 2010


Photos
posted by hortense at 4:59 PM on July 5, 2010


Oops! Here, I think.
posted by mattdidthat at 5:05 PM on July 5, 2010


I'm not sure this man is mentally ill, and I'm equally ambivalent that he should be thought unusually admirable. I think what's most unique about this story is that Charlie has this bamboo space and no one's fucking with him there. I hope that that continues, and that this LAT article doesn't draw him unwanted attention.
posted by applemeat at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've known people similar to this. Sometimes they are homeless precisely because they hoard too much stuff, and they get kicked out of their shared living quarters. Sometimes they make these bower-bird displays to convince property-owner's that they have value, and are not lazy. Sometimes they construct wildly meaningful assemblages, that do compete with more accepted artists.

For instance, Jason Rhoades.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:17 PM on July 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, no one is making you watch the video, and the second link of the post is a photo gallery. I liked being able to see some of the frequent sights that a homeless person would be in, and hearing Mr. Walker's voice. His voice is another dimension of the story, and I appreciate that we have the opportunity to listen to clips of it.

Like applemeat, I hope this story/article doesn't draw troublemakers to Mr. Walker.
posted by one teak forest at 6:33 PM on July 5, 2010


Nice digs.
posted by chance at 7:18 PM on July 5, 2010


It's his home away from homelessness.

So, uh, it's, like, his home, basically? (Also, bamboo ain't trees, LA Times.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:42 PM on July 5, 2010


My understanding is that some varieties of bamboo do fit the definition of a tree, and that being a type of grass does not preclude this.
posted by Stove at 10:21 PM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this guy was middle class and white, and had slightly less of a predilection for toys, would he be "radical downsizing" and "homesteading" and "embracing simplicity" instead of "homeless"?
posted by emilyw at 12:58 AM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Out of all the fine posts on the Blue this Tuesday morning, this is the one that grabbed me the most.

I've been homeless, occasionally for a significant amount of time. I've always lived non-traditionally when doing so (meaning, not your traditional idea of how a homeless person should live), usually in campers and motorhomes, once in a car, always with the permission of the owner of the place I parked. I was always a good neighbor, always watching out for other people and for the property I was parked on and around. I always did get the idea of stewardship, as in we don't really own where we are at any given time, but are given it to care for, that it might return something to us, something of often intangible value. Charlie definitely gets this.

I do have a couple of observations about his "situation" (for lack of a better word); I saw a couple of folks use the term "mentally ill" upthread, and I figure he probably has some kind of mental disorder or difference, but he's a lot less ill than a lot of people I have met with a house and two car garage. I admire the way he has taken advantage of something that before just sat there, overgrown with bamboo and trash. He civilized it in the best way I have seen humans civilize anything, he loved that place and it has loved him back.

When I lived rough, I would have given my left eyeteeth to have an opportunity like that. Remembering that brings me to another observation: non-traditionally housed folks nearly always violate several zoning, safety, and health codes. This usually grates on people, especially property owners. I have come to see that as a form of resentment, as in "...how's he getting away without paying! I work hard all my life to pay my bills and here's this dude living in his own place for free! Goddamn freeloader (rummages in pocket for cell, dials 911)"... I am thoroughly amazed that he gets to stay in the place he has carved out for himself, and I am convinced if I had tried something like this even with the permission of the owner of the property it would have lasted a maximum of 60 days. I've had to lay low so as not to attract attention, positive or negative, and that's the way it works out for most of us. When discovered, you promise the cop or zoning officer or neighbor you'll move along quickly, never dwelling for a moment on the thought that "damn, I got to have a right to set up somewhere".

It gives me hope that somewhere in LA, someone has managed to pull off something like this. I hope and pray all the attention given to this doesn't motivate anyone to go down there and "straighten it out". Past not hurting anyone, he's helping a lot. But knowing how things like this work out much of the time, I wouldn't be too surprised if a cop, a zoning officer, a social worker, and a city crew with weedwackers showed up about six months down the road.
posted by cybrcamper at 6:56 AM on July 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


more Jason Rhoades
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:59 PM on July 10, 2010


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