Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas on the River

It might come as a surprise to many who live along Murray Boulevard that just across the water are a group of squatters who have claimed as their homes, a half a dozen boats that have been abandoned in the Ashley River.
They are not the nomadic gypsys of the past, and for the most part just a group of young people who have shunned all forms of formal employment for a life of “getting by”.

The other day I talked with one of these temporary tenants his hair in dreadlocks his body piercing a plenty. All things considered, just your slightly left of center college aged kid. With a few major exceptions, he has no dreams or goals, no Christmas wish list. No need for the internet or an iPod and no plans for work any time soon.

The City Marina has threatened them with arrest for trespassing late at night. It seems they use the laundry from time to time and the marina showers should they find them unlocked. “We like hanging out here at night” my tattooed friend tells me. What do you do for money? I ask. "We collect bottles, the girlfriend waits tables sometimes, need someone to buy the beer the weed", he replies with a laugh.

The headlights of golf cart start moving down the dock. He excuses himself; “Man, I got to go that’s po po”, of course he means police. He disappears into the night and his unseen girlfriend exits to the shadows as well, and they both climb into a small john boat. They silently push off letting the current carry them away from the marina lights before starting the boat motor.

The stillness is soon disturbed by the rumble of “po po’s” golf cart. The police are really just marina staff with red polo shirts that say “dock security”.

Security has their orders; to keep the squatters out of the marina. On the other hand, the staff at The City Marina recently arranged transportation to MUSC’s emergency room, when one of them developed a foot infection.

As far as Christmas goes, the group plans a Christmas Eve get-together, a kind of a neighborhood open house. For all I know it will be a progressive diner moving from boat to boat with caroling along the way.

Should you find yourself out on Christmas Eve and hear strains of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and “Silent Night” wafting across the Ashley River, it might just be our local boat squatters.

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