180 Days - A Hobo's Tale / by Anthony Brooks

6 months. 

If I'm allowed to say so, I'm rather impressed with myself. I'm someone who REALLY doesn't like to be around people for very long (especially if they're lazy and/or leeches) and so this trip itself has been rather... challenging? I haven't had my own place, my own designated bed, or for that matter a shelf in a fridge where I can count on my food being 10 hours later without supervision. Being me, there have been times where I could have easily just said: "fuck it, I'm done". Honestly, there were quite a few times where I was REALLY close to considering it. But, also being me, I can't quit something. Especially something of this magnitude. So, 6 months later, here I am. 

Another week

Last week, I talked a bit about working on some projects in the hostel. Small crafts mostly, but with nothing but hurdles making each small project a pain in my ass. Just trying to find the appropriate tool, material, or time to work without people in the way seems to make the smallest task feel impossible. It's one thing that I've learned while in Serbia. We're putting up a fence at the hostel (as we've been doing for the past few weeks) and we (an Aussie volunteer named Tom and myself) have run into obstacles every single step of the way. I'll lay this out in a list so you can see/feel what we're dealing with. 

  1. First, we had to cut the welds holding the square tubing to the corner post. The neighbor said that the fence crossed onto her property and though a new base had been poured to move the fencepost to, it couldn't be done without removing the welds first. Problem? We had no angle grinder, the hacksaw here is crap, and the tubing is rather thick. 
  2. Once removed, we needed a way to reattach the severed stock to the corner post. So we were looking for a) some steel to make into brackets OR b) some pre-made steel brackets. In the States, both of these would be readily available at any home-improvement store. Here, that was not the case. In the end, we found some heavy-duty shelf brackets that ended up working perfectly. 
  3. Our self-tapping screws weren't strong enough to make their way through the thick corner post. Even with pre-drilled pilot holes, the screws would just snap off and make our lives hellish.
  4. After looking for some stronger/higher quality screws, I found a cobalt 3.5 mm drill bit which allowed the old screws to be used (with caution and care during installation). Issue? While installing, the neighbor came back to the fence to say that even moved over, the fence was still on her property (it wasn't) and so we spent nearly an hour having her bickering with Branko (the hostel owner) about the positioning. In the meantime, the sun went down and we were left to finish attaching brackets in the dark. 
  5. While putting up the wood on the steel frame, we had to pre-drill every hole before putting a screw in and this was getting quite tedious. Especially when you factor in how many holes needed drilling and that our bit became more dull with each hole. We attached 1/3 of the timber fully and then just put the top screw in for the remainder. This way we could at least get the fence put into place and not have to see the neighbor whilst finishing. 
  6. The bit broke. As did the lower quality replacement that was our only choice from the nearby hardware store. We had to try a few other stores before finally finding one that offered quality options. It was just a bit further.
  7. The screws being used weren't stainless and we wanted a better, more permanent option. So we found some stainless screws that fit perfectly and hung the rest of the wood. 
  8. While installing the floodlight that would illuminate our sign on the outside of the fence, the psychotic neighbor came out, yelled and stole our screwdriver while also brandishing it like a dagger when we tried to get it back. We finished the electrical work and called it a day. 
  9. The letters that were supposed to be used were somehow lost some time in the past and nobody knows where to. So now we're in the stages of finding an alternative. So far, we're thinking of painting directly on the fence. 
  10. To be continued...

Besides that, I watched a documentary/biography about illustrator R. Crumb. Though many of you may not agree with his subject matter/depiction methods, his skills are undeniable and I find him extremely interesting. I have this habit of drawing while I watch movies and so I filled up a few pages of my sketchbooks with portraits from the film. His style is something that I strive to emulate and perhaps a point which my own evolution as an artist can build upon. We'll see. 

Day 179

My 179th day and the day that this blog was initially supposed to be uploaded was fairly eventful. The night of the 178th, the hostel was fully booked and all of the other volunteers booked an AirBnB. Besides Tom and myself. Tom stayed with his girlfriend of sorts, Jelena, and I figured I would have the entire commons room to myself. Lock the door, move the couches around, and watch some sweet documentary. Almost like having my own place for a night. 

Wrong. 

Instead, Saša (the annoying little prick who wants to manage the hostel, but instead just sleeps here and looks at dating sites while pretending to work at the reception desk (a place that he's not allowed to be due to piss-poor interpersonal skills)) was in the commons room with 7 other Serbs until nearly 2 in the morning. As was another American, James. A man of millions of words who will comment on quite literally anything. Not only that, but once you reply, you're stuck. He will quite literally talk to you for hours with little more input from you than a nod and occasional "hmph". Anyways, he was also in the commons room quite late. A place which TECHNICALLY closes at 11pm.

Meaning? 

Well, meaning that I couldn't change into shorts and lounge on the couch while basking in my short-lived personal space. Not that I cared much at first. I was working on my drawings (post above) and then finishing up my taxes so I could file them. It wasn't ideal, but at least it wasn't time wasted... Anyways, at about a quarter past 2 in the morning, everyone finally left. I was free to watch stupid animated films or whatever documentary caught my eye! Except I didn't... I talked to a friend for about an hour and then fell asleep as soon as I put my head down. 

(1 hour passes)

Prior to laying down and passing out, I had not only locked the door, but put the key in the lock so anyone outside with their own key couldn't just unlock the door and waltz in. After sleeping for a short time, I realized that I was unlikely to wake up before the cleaning lady arrived at 8 and since she would need in, I couldn't ensure my own privacy with a unlockable door. I removed the key and went back to sleep. 

(2 hour pass)

I was woken by the sounds of Slavic voices and loud noises. Soon after, the sounds of Fritz' toenails clattering upon the wooden floor. Surely it wasn't already 8 am? With my extremely heavy eyelids as my witness, I was quite positive that it was still early in the morning and these noisy intruders were impolite guests with an appetite. I was right. It was a Bulgarian group composed of two adults, and an endless number of children. And they didn't leave until 8:30. I didn't sleep more than 5 minutes while in their company. Finally, I had enough of it all and went to one of the dorm rooms to catch a bit of shut-eye. I wouldn't wake up until around noon. My quiet night to myself was anything but. 

Australians

Tom's brother (Tristan) and friend (similarly named Tom though called by his last name, Abbott) arrived sometime between my 8:30 bed transfer and noonish awakening. I wasn't sure if I was going to hang out with them or possibly do my own thing. This doubt was short-lived as going on an adventure with some Aussies definitely sounded better than wandering by myself. So we headed to the little-known metro station, bought some beers, and hopped on a subway car/train to Zemun (a nearby town/state/area just across the river). Though Zemun is just past Novi Beograd, the architecture is vastly different from anything seen on the Beograd side of the river. The buildings are reminiscent of the Austrian/Hungarian times where a different people lived here. That in mind, the lack of maintenance/care of said buildings also told a story of a people who don't exactly relish their region's history nor the historical importance of keeping these functional artifacts preserved/maintained. The buildings are quite literally crumbling more every day. 

Anyways, we grabbed some food/rakija at a quaint Kafana and then took a bus back towards the fortress on the Beograd side of the river. Oh, and on our way, I picked up two new frisbees for Fritz. We call these our Fritzbees. Somehow, the clerk running the cash register saw the two frisbees and the price written on the top one and just charged me for one. I don't know if she thought that they were a package deal or what, but I wasn't one to argue. Laughing my way out the door, we headed on. Once at the old city side of the river, we grabbed a few more beers and headed through the park to the fortress. Tom talked about the historical points while noting the death tolls incurred trying to take the fortress in the past. On our way back, we grabbed another beer and headed for Cetinjska, an old brewery turned ruin-bar stronghold. We played some pool, had a few more beers, and then headed back to the hostel as we had plans to go out later in the night and needed some rest. I should note, at this point, we were all well on our way to drunkenness and it was still rather early.

Back At The Hostel

Once back, we drank a bit more and socialized with some of the other volunteers, the owner, Branko, and his friend a hostel-regular, Pera. This went well into the night and around midnight, we were ready to go out. Except I wasn't. I was drunk and tired. Worst of all, I hadn't had a chance to post a blog update and in my current condition, I had no desire to. A drunken post would easily be worse than a delayed one. So in the end, I typed up a short NOTICE on Facebook, handed my ticket for the nights clubbing event to Jelena who said that she would sell it, and went to sleep. 

I was on my way to day 180.