You are only high up if you are looking down

Beverly Rampart and I are sitting in Batdorf and Bronson’s having a coffee and a heated agreement. Most people I know have heated arguments or heated discussions, but in the case of Beverly it is always a heated agreement, at least it is for me. The subject rolls around to bookstores, though it is hard to ever tell where one of these conversations will wander and where it will end up, or if it even will end up somewhere. Maybe it will just dangle to be picked up at a later date with pretty much the same results, unpredictable and always satisfying, unlike the new higher prices for the coffee at B&B, I guess they lost some business from smokers and loiterers so they have to make up the difference somewhere.

So on the subject of bookstores we naturally gravitate towards Last Word Books. Really there is no other bookstore, at least not in Olympia. Orca is, how can I say it, on its way to being soulless. Orca can dangle all the icons of Olympia before us, but they lack a certain conviction we like in a bookstore. Browser’s has its points especially if you like fiction. Don’t get me started on the big box bookstores, we don’t even want to go there, especially since this isn’t about bookstores at all, but I digress. Last Word is like being in my own living room. The people that run and frequent it are people I’d want to have in my own living room. The books, really all of them, if I had the room, would be in my living room. That is what I call a bookstore.

Beverly violently agrees with me. She has known nothing like Last Word since she left the gopher state. Tell me more, I asked Beverly as she sipped her newly overpriced coffee. She leans back and knows we are going to have yet another violent agreement. Arise bookstore, in the holey land, is very much like Last Word. Nothing I said about Last Word could not be applied to Arise. Beverly loved it, her son loved it, the people that camped on Arise’s roof in tents in the summer loved it. Now that was hitting below the belt. But that is Beverly, she pulls no punches in these heated agreements. A blow so stealthy, I hardly noticed it until I was reeling.

So this is finally the point of this article. Camping on the roof tops of bookstores in the summer. I looked outside the window of B&B and noticed all the vacant rooftops across the streets. Acre after acre of usable space where people would not have to sleep in the proverbial gutters of Olympia. It seems that the homeless were invited to camp upon the rooftop of Arise books in the summer. And why not? Didn’t hurt anyone. The owners encouraged it. So why not use this incredible and underutilized resource?

For certain not all roofs could support people sleeping on them. Other roofs would be too difficult for people to access. Indeed, some neighbors of the roof sharing people would be horrified at the notion of people sleeping on their neighbor’s roofs. You can even drag in the old liability issue, though I’m particularly sick of hearing about liability when one is attempting to do something good in this world. Liability is pretty much just an excuse for not doing something, there are plenty of excuses for not doing something good so I’ll just move along.

So here’s the thing, Arise makes it easy for people to get up on the roof. Dumpsters and other items are placed so that people can get up to the roof with their gear. Summertime is perfect for roof sleeping in the twin cities. Actually roof sleeping, albeit not by the homeless, is fairly common in many east coast cities in the muggy summers. We don’t know from muggy here in the northwest. Muggy makes you sleep on your apartment’s roof or fire escape. Look up and down some neighborhoods in New York on a muggy summer’s eve and you will see many people sleeping on mattresses on their fire escapes.

Seems to me that the poorer the neighborhood in NY the more likely you are to find people sleeping on roofs and fire escapes. Don’t these people know they are living in dangerous neighborhoods because there are poor people there? No telling what those poor people will do to someone with the sense to sleep on a fire escape or roof during a muggy night. I’ll tell you what these poor people will do, they join them for sleep on the roof, it is the only sensible thing to do and no sensible person would do such a thing if they thought it was unsafe. Actually in the summer time some of the city’s roofs will pretty much resemble a slumber party

People sleeping on Arise’s roof are not trespassing, they are on the roof with the permission of the bookstore. Beverly said that the roof campers were never a problem, indeed they policed themselves. There is something amazing and empowering about a bookstore that invites people to camp out on their roof. On the surface it might be considered a very small act, but one with profound implications. Besides keeping people out of the gutter, it gives them their OWN space. The users have a sense of ownership of the space and hence a sense of responsibility. It really is amazing.

Still weak in the knees from our heated agreement we exit B&B to loiter out in front and light up a cigarette. We walk by Nutter’s and he glares at us from inside his store. It seems that he does no business there and spends most of his time sizing up people that walk by his window, on “his” sidewalk. Beverly and I enjoy a couple of blocks of Olympia street life as we end up heading our different ways.

If Olympia wants to do something really terrific for it’s homeless I can think of no better thing than opening up some of the downtown roofs for camping. Maybe Tradition’s might consider such at thing. Think of the fine view people there would have of Capitol Lake. I think it could work in that location. Maybe the new owners of the Spar might consider such a thing. I know there are people out there saying, Sepulveda, you are crazy, like I haven’t heard that before. But I suspect there are a few of you out there that are in violent agreement with me. So light up a cigarette, loiter in front of B&B and look up at the roof tops around you. That is what this town needs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a member of the arise bookstore collective, I just had to put in my two cents. We ask that no one walk/sleep on the roof. A few years ago, a group of us put a new roof on the place ourselves (a LOT of work), and it's a really bad idea for anyone to be walking on it -- the rocks holding the tarp down could puncture the rubber and ruin the whole thing.

I'm not sure who said it was okay, but it most definitely is not okay! Please do not encourage it!

1:22 PM  

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