The only thing standing between Corbin Pratt and his ramshackle bus is a parking spot and enough repairs to allow it to pass a state inspection.

In the three weeks since Pratt’s bus was towed from a South Portland parking lot and impounded, he has become a minor Portland celebrity, greeted by strangers who give him the thumbs-up or buy him a drink. Pratt said he never dreamed that he could cause such a fuss.

“I know what it is like to be a pretty woman now,” he said.

But at least one person who has extended his hand to the 29-year-old free spirit said his sympathy is wearing thin.

Pratt is the Kansas native in dreadlocks who rolled into Greater Portland on Aug. 15 in a rickety 33-year-old school bus that also serves as his home, after what he says was a meandering cross-country trip from Oakland, California.

He spent the next two months moving the bus – dubbed The Electric Mayhem after the rock band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem of Muppet movie fame – from parking spot to parking spot around the area.

The bus was finally impounded Oct. 22 by South Portland police in the Target store parking lot off Running Hill Road after a much-publicized standoff that Pratt spent hiding under a mattress inside the bus before peacefully emerging three hours later. He was charged with criminal trespassing and faces a Dec. 3 court date.

The vehicle, which is missing its headlights, sports several bald tires and needs to be hot-wired to start, was towed to Dick Stewart’s trucking business in South Portland.

In the weeks since, Pratt has been living the life of an urban nomad while he works 40 hours a week as a dishwasher at 3 Dollar Dewey’s, a restaurant in Portland’s Old Port. He spent a week at a Motel 6, thanks to a cash infusion from his mother. The rest of the time, he said, he has been sleeping rough, in out-of-the-way spots. On Saturday night he slept on a scaffold in the Old Port about 20 feet above the street.

“It seemed like a place where no one would mess with me,” Pratt said.

He said he plans to stay in Maine. He has registered for classes at Southern Maine Community College for the winter semester and wants to study horticulture and entrepreneurship. Next summer he plans to work on a farm somewhere in northern Maine.

The big obstacle to reclaiming the bus, Pratt said, is finding a parking spot. He said several people offered places, but in spots too far away for him to get back and forth to Portland. Plan B is to get an apartment for the winter, he said.

Meanwhile, The Electric Mayhem has been moved to an undisclosed location. And Stewart said he is finally beginning to lose his patience.

Stewart said that after an anonymous donor paid Pratt’s $125 towing fee from Target, Stewart called to ask where Pratt wanted the bus towed next. Stewart offered to tow it for free.

Pratt told Stewart he would get back to him the next day. Since then, Pratt has failed to return Stewart’s repeated phone calls. Stewart said that after a week or so he ran out of room for the bus at the cramped lot that houses his trucking business, so he moved the bus to another spot.

“I feel bad for the guy, but he needs to step up to the plate,” Stewart said.

He said he can believe that Pratt is having difficulty finding a place to park his bus. It would be rare people who would welcome the ramshackle vehicle on their property, Stewart said.

“Even if they had 50 acres, who would want different types of characters showing up lighting bonfires?” he said.

Stewart, 73, said some of Pratt’s claims do not add up. “That bus did not come across the country,” he said.

Stewart said the tires are so bald they would have blown out soon after leaving Oakland. He said the front wheel hub, which leaks grease, has been patched with duct tape that would have split from the heat once the vehicle reached 30 mph. Stewart cannot find the vehicle identification number for the bus, an International.

He said he doubts Pratt’s claims that police officers in other states shooed him along when he was stopped because they didn’t want the bother.

As a retired 29-year part-time officer at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Stewart said there is no way police would have allowed such a glaringly unsafe bus to remain on the road and pose a danger to other drivers.

“There are just too many ifs, ands or buts,” he said.

Nevertheless, Stewart said, something about Pratt continues to resonate with him. Stewart holds fond memories of the club he and friends started as students at Deering High School. The members wore orange-and-black jackets and called themselves The Nomads. Those happy memories, he said, explain why he still intends to give Pratt a break.

“He is just a nomad,” Stewart said.


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