Friday, October 10, 2014

Winter Adventure Plans 2014-2015

Our departure time is growing near. In one month, Kristin and I will begin a four month adventure of traveling around the southwest United States. My 1993 Ford Festiva will be our home and office. We will travel slowly through sparsely populated areas, visiting ghost towns, deserts, and wilderness. We will set our sights on oddities and unique places. The primary mission is to squander time, with the simple act of being away used as the measure of our success. We will escape what we can of the cold.

The trip is unplanned. We have only the thinnest outline. I have a short list of places I'd like to see, and even those are only vapors of an idea swirling like smoke inside my mind. We are leaving southeast Pennsylvania and spending time in California. The space and time between are as yet unknown.

The Ford Festiva is one of the smallest cars. I am tasked with figuring out how two people can sleep inside of one with supplies and equipment for four months of cheap humble living. Designs for customized interiors have been weighing on my mind for several months. I removed the back seat, which was a big step in the right direction. I sat for hours with scrap wood and a tape measure. Just looking.

I sat in the back of the car with the hatch open and tried to envision every possible way to create a platform for sleeping two people in a tiny car. One idea took the lead. The plan involved a cantilevered platform that would extend beyond the open hatch to create a sleeping area behind the front seats. Ideas for hinged plywood platforms swirled inside my head. Sleeping with the hatch partially open would increase our usable space, and our gear could be stashed in the front seats while we sleep. The downside is that the vehicle would look slightly more conspicuous, and we would need to find a way to fill the gap around the half-open hatch to keep out weather and maintain a minimum of privacy.

Without a final design plan, I decided to forge ahead in any direction, and hope that the momentum of building would lead to further inspiration. I built a small platform which filled the space from where the back seat used to be, up to the opening of the hatch. I made the top of the platform level with the opening, and hoped I could figure out the rest from there.

Months passed.

I will need to sleep in the car tonight, because I am attending a bicycle swap meet tomorrow morning. The swap is hours from home, and driving there before the break of dawn is not an attractive option.

Necessity is the mother of throwing something together. I adjusted my goal to simply finding a way to sleep fully inside the car tonight. With the back seat removed, the front seats can recline almost perfectly flat. In this position, the headrest is nearly in line with the platform. I knew this before, but the uneven curvature of the seat did not appear to provide a level and comfortable position for sleep. I reexamined this, and discovered I was wrong. Laying down along the fully reclined front seat with my upper body extending along the rear platform was far more acceptable than I envisioned. When I arranged some lengths and pieces of 3" memory foam along the seat and platform, it became downright cozy. Adopting this new sleeping arrangement would make the work remaining minimal indeed. All I had to do is affix the plywood top to the platform. I did so with hinges to make the space underneath accessible for storage.

I laid down again along the sections of memory foam, and I felt confident and sure that this would be perfectly comfortable for four months of travel. I hoped Kristin would agree.

Kristin has spent almost none of her life being a glorified bum. I've spent years of my time living in a van, months of my days sleeping in a bivy sack, and hundreds of my nights in improvised sleeping situations. For years, I worked a night shift job in an office where I would sleep up to four hours per night across three strategically placed office chairs. I'm pretty sure that during all of those times, Kristin just slept in a bed.

I feigned calm indifference and asked my love if she would like to lay down in the car with me and offer her opinion on comfort. She liked it. No problem. I rarely give Kristin enough credit. I see her choice of footwear, and I assume that she needs to be pampered. I notice how long she takes to get ready, and I equate that with a softness at odds with gritty adventure. There may be an element of truth to this, but to a degree far smaller than it would appear. In fact, it's usually me who acts like a big loud baby. I do a lot of complaining for a tough guy. Sometimes by comparison this girl seems positively stoic.

I think that after being together for a few years, I've gained Kristin's trust. My ideas are not simply daydreams cobbled from rough bits of hardship - as it may fairly appear. As unorthodox as my plans and activities may seem, I do have standards and a measure of common sense. To illustrate our shared status: we are living in an 8'x12' house and cooking on a camp stove. I think Kristin likes our house better than I do. And I think that's fantastic.

I'm ready to start driving in a month. Knowing that we can get a decent sleep almost anywhere has made me more excited about leaving, and less nervous that unfit accommodations may lead to an early return to the gray claws of winter.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

$14 per day + compound interest = retirement

I could think hard about all the different ways to implement a savings plan. I know the mechanics of what I want to accomplish. The goal is to save enough money now to create a seamless transition into a continued future horseabout. The best approach for non-rich Americans with no career is to sock money away in a Roth IRA and invest in index funds.

The hard part would seem to be done. I did the research needed to plan my approach. I know more than enough about retirement savings, index funds, and compound interest. The only thing left is to get actual money into my Roth IRA.

First, I considered setting up an automatic siphoning of money from my checking account into a savings or money market account. I got lost in the details because my brain decided to continue on a different tangent, and getting my brain on track is like trying to get a locomotive on track once it's already taken a wrong turn.

OK - simplify. I need to get approximately $14 per day into my Roth IRA. Or $98 per week. Or $200 per pay period. Or $5000 per year.

$14 is a lot some days. For some stretches of time, that's way more than I'm spending to eat and walk around. At other times, I make a large enough sum all at once that I would hardly notice if a chunk of it disappeared. An average of $14 per day will have me on track for a retirement that is at least as comfortable as my current low-budget lifestyle: and it's an amount that I feel like I can manage.

The time to begin is now. The longer you wait, the less exciting the readout on a compound interest calculator. Once I had $14 per day figured out, I just had to figure out how to put it aside.

This is an explanation of why I have $42 stuffed in a jar with a little printed-out calendar with X's on the past three days.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summertime Walk Along the Tracks.

It was a day of adventure. Overdue adventure. The plan has been in my mind for a couple years, but today I took action. I set out in the morning to take a long walk down the tracks.

Railroad tracks cut through Kennett Square. They go to West Chester in one direction, and disappear into Maryland in the other. They are still in use, but trains are infrequent and the goods they truck don't go far. The tracks can be accessed at Broad Street or Center - on Union the sidewalk goes over a bridge.

I started out with a coffee, and put on my hiking boots. I had two Peanut Butter Jellys in my backpack, and a yogurt so stuffed with oats that the consistency was lumpy clay.

The goal for the day was Oxford; about 18 miles down the tracks. I had no way to gauge if my legs were up for it, but I wanted to give it a whirl. The goal was a physical challenge and a curiosity to see where I live from the hidden perspective of the train tracks.

A cool morning fed seamlessly into a hot muggy day. Grasshoppers leapt the tracks, and summer sounds pulsed like a heartbeat. I was made to squint at midday when emerging from the woods.

I saw wide open spaces and some houses barely standing. I crossed back roads where I've never set rubber of any sort. I saw a thousand great places for a tiny house, because that's mostly all I see now. I see places to park a van for a good night's sleep. I haven't lived in a van for several years, but these secret spots always call out to me. The same is now true for tiny owner-built houses. My brain finds a way to put them everywhere.

I walked past the abandoned quarry in Avondale. A sign claims a large fine for any who dare to swim. A shotgun blast to the sign disagrees. A pavilion is so overgrown that a closer look would require bushwhacking or thorny cuts. I ate the oaty yogurt and pulled the last sip of coffee.

I walked above a particularly industrious mushroom house. That's what my area is famous for. Mushrooms. A pile of manure eight feet high was elongated and pressed into rows. From the end of the rows, dirty dump trucks are filled all day long.

I walked past where people sleep. I only suspect, but really I know. I'm familiar with the ways and means, and some places here are used for stealing sleep. I've seldom seen homeless folks and restless travelers here. We're too far outside the city. The presence of those with less can be felt along the tracks. Also the presence of destructive children and heavy drinkers. The tracks aren't well policed, and they're a fast path to the middle of nothing.

I resisted the urge to check GPS. I wanted an authentic something. I wanted to melt into the moment without looking at a reminder of the bigger world.

I checked the GPS to see if I should quit. My feet were starting to hurt, and my leg developed what I was finally willing to call pain. I was a notch past the halfway point, so I kept moving forward.

The railroad ties were uneven, as is their nature, and half the distance was covered with fist-sized gravel. The walking was mostly a challenge and vigilance was required to avoid a twisted ankle or similar. The final two hours of the walk were level on the ground, but straight downhill for me. A few miles from Oxford, my steps became tiny. My left hip felt like a hinge needing oil. I used my right leg pretty much as normal, but tossed the left one forward like a long sack of rocks. As is my custom, I ran out of water.

I entered the town of Oxford at a lame crawl, and drank about a gallon of water in the bathroom of Oxford Feed and Lumber. The walk took just longer than five hours. I took another nine hours to cross the street. I sat under a shade tree. I removed my shoes like I was pulling the blanket off a victim.

My next call was important. I dialed up Mom Cell and asked for a ride home. I only hoped that she was home and she was able to assist. Plan B was to live under that tree forever.

Thirty minutes later, a minivan pulled up. Both of my folks came to get me, and inside the black minivan was ice cold temps. My feet were sore for days, and I slept like a body under water. The sun cooked my back and left side, but left the rest of me alone. I got banged around a bit and it made me feel good.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sleeping in a Bus Conversion.

I slept on a bus a couple nights ago. Kristin and I went up to Boston for her friend's birthday situation. On the way home, we stopped by to visit The Anne Marie - a bus conversion in progress.

I've known about John's progress with horsing around for years. In 2009 he converted the bus to run on veggie oil, and he drove around the USA with other people coming and going. The location of the current building site was only a few miles out of the way. With that kind of proximity, you have to put on your social shoes and pay a visit.

Plus, pizza. John and Nishi had pizza pretty much ready when we got there. Additionally, there was a small pointy dog with excellent behavior. Once you break the ice for about seven minutes, these sorts of drop-ins are really fun. In no time, we were up on the bus's rooftop deck. It was a beautiful night, which afforded the four of us the most comfortable space to geek out about building stuff whilst hardly knowing how to.

Me and Kristin slept in the bus. John and Nishi are mostly still sleeping inside a house. The bus was great. There was a futon mattress, and the night air was cool and comfortable. It reminded me of the best nights I've spent in my van. I love it, I love it. Without delving into the details or reasons, I think sleeping in a vehicle is the best thing we can do as humans.

Remember: just because most people think something or do something, that doesn't mean it is the best option for all of us. Oftentimes, conventional wisdom is pure debunkable nonsense. Examples abound. Said another way: consider a return to the drawing board. Consider fighting for your best interests. If a mortgage and lifetime car payments sound like a burden, then start stabbing your way out of the suffocating bag of conventional wisdom. If you get stuck, then stab harder, or try flailing. Contact me for details.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Systematically Destroying Minor Tasks feat. Reckless Abandon.

I have irons in the fire. I have so many irons in the fire, I've had to start new fires for some of the irons. In a way, that's a good thing, as long as I can manage to chill the fuggout about it. Staying calm is the difficult part. If I could zen-out my brainhole, the irons would be dealt with in turn - like the small, systematically-destroyable minor tasks they are.

Here's the situation today. Kristin has officially joined me in the online reselling business. We have an office in the large house - as a temporary necessity - and it's a hellhole. I have a backlog of items that should probably be thrown away or burned, but since eBay is part of the business, we're heaving crap around with shovels and trying to find the carpet.

Once that's dealt with, we can go back to cherrypicking valuable books at a series of locations, aka living the dream. Meanwhile: mayhem.

I also have to work on the tiny house, so:

 - We can spend more time in it, since it is awesome.
 - We can "live" there instead of just sleeping there.

This plan entails more work. Lots more building, and to be honest, I'm running out of steam. I usually run out of steam when I'm around 7/8ths finished with a project, and that's about where we are in the tiny house.

We desperately need storage to:

 - Put our belongings where we live.
 - SEVER ONCE AND FOR ALL our attachment to large houses.

What I've failed to do is realize the magnitude of this undertaking. In my brain, somehow, if it can be written in 2-3 sentences, then it should only take... say... a week at most. I can't accomplish anything with this ADHD business, unless I take Adderall, which stokes the fire under my irons, but also tends to whip my perspective on life back and forth like a vigorously waving flag. It gets worse around 5pm when I begin to daydream about ostrich-ing my head in the dirt.

But it is Not All So Bad!!!

In a bid to improve her workspace, Kristin turned to Amazon, and seemed keen to purchase this apparatus: 

"Hold the fucking presses!" I thought. HERE is an opportunity to save $17. After a couple hours, I was able to counter with THIS apparatus:

DON'T WORRY. This is definitely the most effective use of my time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Waking up in an unmarked chapter.

The summertime is upon us, and this perfect weather puts a satisfaction in my heart, which I must admit is punctuated with an ominous question mark. I'm happy. I'm worried about how often I'm not happy.

This is a new chapter in my life. A book has chapters. Each chapter in life, however, does not come with a big convenient number attached. You wake up one day, and you realize that you're already inside of it. The transitions are vague.

Time passes with a plodding and almost frustrating pace. Time passes with an almost alarming swiftness. I am trapped and awash in conflicting perspectives. At times I find this almost rewarding in a perverse way. I am beginning to recognize that I need to find a way to exist in the present. I know by using logic that it is helpful to be in the moment. I know this, and I respect it as the truest possible fact. I fail at living this way, but I am relieved that I am at least able to recognize the value.

eBay and Amazon. Online reselling. I'm working hard at trying not to work very hard. I accept that starting a new business is difficult. I am aware that if life is made too simple, then there is little reward for progress and success. Still, I find myself regularly frustrated at the pace of progress. My income is a relative pittance. Even though I have plans to leave this area, I am still here for now. I wouldn't say that I'm trapped. I would definitely say that I'm biding my time.

You couldn't wish for nicer weather or prettier surroundings. (Not without being a greedy dick.) Biding my time here? I can accept this.

Daily, I am trying to line up my ducks. There are not enough hours in the day. There are even fewer productive hours. Maybe it isn't healthy to think this way. BUT: as long as I am growing a business to a low-reasonable income... as long as my tiny house is unfinished... as long as my savings goals are unreliable and abstract... I am having difficulty framing my status in any other way.

It's all up in the air. I have all of the ingredients (fantastic fucking ingredients!), and nothing in the oven. It's going to be good. It's going to be great. I think. I hope. I wonder.

For now?

I am.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Miniature Sprout Garden. Day 3.

Gardens are a huge pain. There are many variables to combat:

1) Having enough sun.
2) Varmint control.
3) Time commitment.

In spite of the current affordability of cheeseburgers, I've been wanting a garden anyway. Being that I'm heavily committed in many arenas at once, I didn't think it feasible. Then I remembered hearing something about growing sprouts and how easy it is. Being a fan of alfalfa sprouts already, I took a closer look:

1) They don't need much sun.
2) They can be grown in whatever; easy to protect.
3) They're quick n' easy.

That sounds like something I can handle.

I eat a lot of cottage cheese. I never get around to preparing any food. I wait until I'm so hungry that I have a headache and I'm angry at everything, then I eat half a pound of cottage cheese in about four huge scoops.

I bought half a pound of sprout seed mix: alfalfa, broccoli, radish. They said it was a good combination.

I poked holes in the bottom of a few empty cottage cheese containers using an ice pick. I put some soil in there, sprinkled in some seeds, and now it's three days later. I've been spritzing some water on the soil using a spray bottle - once in the morning; again at night - and today the first little sprouts started poking through. This is great. Free food is on the horizon, and I'm able to take credit for making an idea actually happen.

Note: you can also make sprouts without any soil. You just add water. Look it up. I decided not to go this route, because I get a huge bang out of anything miniature. Sprouts in soil is more like a miniature garden. I'm thrilled about this.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Time for a Psychiatrist. (Thanks Obamacare!)

Dear Brain,

Stop going crazy. Nobody is out to get you. Everyone doesn't hate you. Get a psychiatrist to help sort out your non-issues. You know you're not capable of much in the way or sorting. Stick to what you're good at and quit making up problems.

You are a ridiculous brain. Have a psychiatrist take a look. Most people with ADHD get a professional opinion about medicine dosage. Now that we have Obamacare, we can easily afford that. In fact, we're basically already paying for it. Times are different now.

Silly brain. You keep thinking you're in control. NO! There is no control. There is only matter of circumstance. Dummy. Just work on your easy little bits of work, and tell the mouth and hands to shut up.

The Rest of the System

Monday, July 7, 2014

Feeling Overwhelmed. Feeling Unwanted. Feeling clobbered and destroyed.

I am feeling so unwanted. I am feeling like a burden carrying burdens. I can only shrug my shoulders so many times until my back starts to break. I'm trying to pull myself together, but I'm being crushed by responsibility that I'm not even sure is real.

Little comments are being made, and I am feeling that I am getting severely in the way at the bigger house. It's a work in fucking progress. It's a GODDAMNED work in FUCKING progress. Believe me. I will move out the moment it seems possible. I will leave everything clean and organized in my wake. Give me ten more seconds and I will have my figurative shit together and my physical bullshit out of here.

Slow progress makes me look like an asshole. I'm not a typical American son who is going to finish college fucking ever. I don't see that happening. Why? Because college is fucking stupid. It's also a huge waste of money. Look at me. College is not doing anything for me, and you're going to have to trust me on that. Believe me. I know myself better than you.

I'm a big weird elephant whose bullshit is clogging other people's personal space. I don't understand why I can't just throw everything away and have every single area I inhabit clean in a day or two. This shit is taking me FOREVER. I know that. Welcome to ADHD. Why don't YOU try sprinting in waist deep water? Give me one goddamned more minute. I'm unable to breathe. I swear I will fucking leave. I always do. Remember?

Worry not, Chris Harne. Just remember that everything is as fake as it seems.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

This Moment is all that We Know.

At first I was afraid to die.

I could not comprehend the absence of being. The absence of everything. The house slept, but I remained awake and burdened. My heart pounded, and I began sobbing heavily. The room blurred, as my breathing became desperate. Tears became a flood, and I could taste acidic snot as my head began throbbing.

Though she might not remember this, my mother came to comfort me. My mom put her arm around me and spoke slowly. She told me to take a deep breath. This should not be a worry for children with a single-digit age. It would be a long time, she said. I would not die for a long, long time.

At such an age, a small person has a limited concept of time. Lack of perspective was most of the problem.

I am aware now that our lives unfold in chapters and surprises. My worst moments no longer occur almost every other day. I am aware of my inability to predict the future with certainty. I am aware more than ever of a looming ignorance which humbles me. Surprise is a gift from our lowercase god; ignorance is a blanket to cling to for relief. I take great comfort in my inability to comprehend.

I don't mean to say that I am not a curious fellow - I am in every sense - but I do not fret when I cannot possibly understand that which no human ever has.

It is mine to sit. It is my life to steer. It is all I have to choose any direction at will. I am moving forward toward the day I become mulch. I am suspended in space as I deteriorate.

I still cannot comprehend the absence of being. One day I will, or one day I won't. It is not my position to be the first-ever all-knowing. I would abhor such responsibility.

Relax, fellow human. Let out your breath. Look at your hands. At the absolute most, this moment is all that we know.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Say Hello To Skeletons.

In my middle twenties, I had fire beneath my feet. I had fire in my mind, and I could hardly sit down without burning a hole in my pants. I went on trips of all kinds and met a lot of people. I stayed low to the ground and associated with the easiest people to talk to. I met panhandlers, drifters, and people with a bag on their back. I talked to Rainbow Family, and sat with many chronic recreational drug users. Alcoholics and weirdos. I met the most and least intelligent people you could ever expect. I met people who I love today, and some who frankly scare me.

By thumb and train our paths met where I was by bicycle or van. These are not an exclusive bunch. If you quit expecting something of them and ask how their day is, you will see a skeleton populate flesh as an answer is yielded.

Desperate for human contact, I tried this trick many times.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Duck When You're a Target.

It's impossible to see your surroundings from every possible angle. It's easy to miss a glaring light if you close your eyes and turn your head. If you've lived in the same area all your life - there's a good chance that within a mile there's a stretch of road you've never set foot on. Not many roads? Then a stand of trees that you've never seen behind.

I don't have a cable TV package. I'm too smart for that. And by "smart" I mean "cheap," but in this case the outcome by any means is relief. I live in a tiny house, and by "live" I mean "sleep." For now, I spend a lot of time in the lumbering cacophonous home up the hill. The big house is a cable TV package. Between Cecily Tynan, Kathy Lee, and Brooke Baldwin: this house never shuts up.

After the morning and afternoon programming, then comes the shows about houses. How to buy them, how to fix them - and generally how to act like an asshole. I hope my brush strokes aren't painting too wide a berth. I'm nowhere above. I know about these shows because I've watched each and every one.

The lie I tell myself is that I'm better. I don't watch these shows; I sit in a room while they're on. You can tell yourself anything. Watching Mike Holmes retrospectively pinpoint the folly of a job gone wrong makes you no better than those who watch anything else. If you're on the couch when an ad squirts out for the series "Swamp Hicks" or "Fartin' Babies," they're talking to you. They have you pegged, and you are the target audience. I am the target. It's time to shut it down, lest we all get struck in the back.

I feel like I'm struggling to wake.


My plans are a process. Until I am out on my own again, I will be subject to adjacent programming. Until potato chips are out of arm's reach, I will have them with soda. It's time to go, and I'm ready. Me and Kristin are going to take my little car to California. And Arizona. Colorado. Oregon. There and on the way, we're going to continue our business as middle-men, and watch the sun rise and fall. I estimate October, but gosh himself writes the schedule. No more winters, and a short stint presently to get our shit together.

And we're off.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Four More Words.

Hey! Congratulations! I hear congratulations are in order! Do you have a date set?

Weddings are an enormous to-do. I knew I was getting married. I knew who I was going to marry: Kristin. There wasn't any reasonable doubt. The only missing element was the official asking: four words.

People tend not to blurt the four words out. You don't spill the question over oatmeal. Usually, you go skydiving, and somebody spells the words out with colorful flags back on Earth. Or you can make up a phony reason to get on tv and ask the question there. Much planning goes into preparation and venue.

What a to-do.

I built a tiny house, and by the end of last year, it was mostly complete. When I installed the final propane heater, there was no longer good cause to sleep in the giant house up the little hill. I moved the mattress to our loft, and though incomplete, our tiny home was quiet and cozy.

We had been in the house many times, but shuffling down the small hill in the dark was the first time we were going home. Our home; together. We sat on our little sofa. It was December 15th, and the air was brisk and silent. This was the test ride, but the product was sold. The home became ours the moment we crossed the threshold.

We sat close and watched the tiny flames in our scratch-n-dent direct vent wall mounted propane heater. The dim 12v light pointed up toward the peak of the roof; it cast romantic shadows. I began to recount the changes in my life over the past two years. I told Kristin how thankful I was that our paths had crossed; how grateful I was for her insight on being. As soon as I finished my thought, I added four more words.

She was startled, but her answer was immediately YES.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Complications of Simplification.

Everything is great. I have a tiny house that I built, and a plan to simplify my life. Naturally, it is much easier to say "simplify" than it is to make it so. To actually perform the act, I will need to throw away, donate, and sell a ton of stuff. I've begun.

Two trailer loads so far have gone to the landfill. I don't love hiding my mistakes and problems under a layer of earth, but it is an effective approach when it is not possible to travel through time and abstain from the initial acquisition. I have a tendency to hold onto items for later projects or other imagined uses. I've recently had to remind myself that I am full of shit. It is more important to be rid of this stuff. Some of it was big. Rotten siding and windows had to go; I'm not going to dismantle a desk to harvest the wood for anything. Got. To. Go.

I'm a collector - or at least I always have been one. I have half a closet full of Mad Magazines and ephemera. That was my first collection. Since then, I've started at least a dozen others. "Please Wash Hands" signs, from the time in my life where ripping signs off walls was funny. In that vein, I also have my collection of carpets with the logos of the businesses that I took them from. (This was a ballsy collection, but admittedly still a totally awesome one.) I also have about ten miniature guitars; none longer than 32" overall. I don't play guitar. Mini Band broke up in 2005. I have a world famous condiment packet collection. Most of them are preserved in plastic baseball card-style cases and sleeves. Thousands of packets didn't make it to the site before I quit. I had four medium boxes of full packets, some of which were starting to stink. I had unopened correspondence from admirers, and unanswered letters from children who love the site. It was heartbreaking to let this go, but those boxes had to go.

That might not sound bad. But - as you might guess, someone with that list of belongings probably has a lot of other shit lurking around as well. You would be correct. I do.

My belongings have become a burden. I need to let go to be free. I have an unnatural sentimental attachment to bullshit. I am hacking at these ties like a bushwhacker with a machete. 

By way of explanation for the last grim update here, I'll say that the ADD pills I've been taking might be partly to blame. I quit taking them when I suspected they might be making me angry-sad every time they start to wear off. The past few days have been better. My brain is still a muffin floating in cake batter, but at least I haven't been taking the fact so hard.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Call for help; take no action.

Call to action; take no help.

Bear with me while I cut out my guts and dissect this mess. No list of infirmities could explain this malaise. I trace in reverse to find where fantastic went astray. A definite and correct label would be a relief. Angles and facets, let alone the variables, sift through my fingers like sand. My task list strains buoyancy, as manic bursts vote to keep me afloat.

I know there's a pill for that. If the target is overshot, another pill can bring your brains back in range. If two pills mush your brains, then the third is to neatly congeal them. The fourth pill is free with the purchase of three, or you can exchange it for a frequent flier mile.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vandwelling in Philadelphia

For awhile there, I was living in a van. I took that show on the road. I started out by wintering in Key West. It was great. I drove to Oregon and made that state and my van a hideout for a few months. Home was an anxiety attack, so I made my way to anywhere else. Soon I settled down slightly, and realized I was in Philadelphia again.

I found a remarkable parking spot in Philly. I was in the center of everything, but when I opened my doors in the morning, my view was a grassy paddock with grazing horses. I could park there forever; friends and amenities were mere steps away.

For a young man with desperation in his heart, a better home could not be had. I never took pride in my ability to build or plan. My decisions were a shot from the hip. Recognizing my Jenga tower for what it was, I never stacked my blocks very high. Philadelphia gets cold and hot, and I never managed the energy to build or afford a system to cope with the extremes.

At a lonely time in my life, I turned to Craigslist for human contact. The title of the ad was "dude wants to meet eccentric people thru email." I like to write, and I didn't want more. I found a girl who had a light rattling in her skull as well. We exchanged words and stories for years. After several years and many pages, we did meet. When the weather was at its coldest, we shared her bed.

The winter in Philadelphia is bitter. I operate at a low percentage for the duration. When I got a call around 7pm, my heart raced. Another human was volunteering to cook for me. We could watch television afterward. We shared a warm mattress on the floor, and we never had to talk about sex. I hope she is doing well today. We haven't talked in years.

After winter comes Spring, and soon after that are the dog days of summer. The van would be a steam bath, and soon after the sun would rise, I would be compelled to do the same. I would sit up, scooch my bottom to the side doors, and open them wide. The cool ninety degree air would be a relief from the stuffy interior of my home.

In the summer of that year, I was fixing bicycles. A friend and I rented a small warehouse space. We bought bicycles in the suburbs, brought them to the city, performed repairs, and sold them on Craigslist. I'd done this for money before, and I was showing her how. Today she owns her own bicycle shop. I couldn't be prouder to have helped, because frankly I was somewhat of a wreck at the time. I thought there was pride and amusement in being a wreck, and I celebrated life within an inch of an impending alcohol dependency.

It was hot. For an additional $98, I rented more space in the warehouse. I lied about what it was for, and I had to cut the arm off a free couch to fit it through the door. I got my lip pierced. I got bright hearts tattooed on my right bicep - a monument to not yet understanding sex. I woke up with hot sand in my eyes, and I never removed a single bottle until the weather got cooler and I cancelled the rent.

The van was an essential component in meeting people who I still love today. If not for the manner in which I rolled, I would lack a critical enrichment which I hold dear. I cannot imagine my time spent vandwelling as any less than necessary. Without those lessons, I would merely be alive; a pulse. I brought my energy into the van, and inside that vessel, I was afforded the opportunity to incubate.

The van sits today. My name is on the expired registration, and the house I built is 100 feet away. The van hasn't run in six months, and soon it will be for sale. I am ready to evolve as a person. I am ready to wake up without hot sand in my eyes. I am buying a new battery, and the van will belong to a different person.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Keeping my head in the frogs.

I built a small home first, and now I'm finally reading Walden. That's the book where Thoreau builds a little house and talks about how everyone is wasting too much time and money on everything. I'm barely into this book, and I'm hooked. Thoreau is the 1845 version of me. I already suspected this, but the similarities in our thought processes are remarkable. I find it even more remarkable that he could be speaking about our society today. Everything is the same. Nothing has changed.

I find great comfort in knowing that it is well beyond my control to reverse centuries-old norms. This book lends me a perspective I've sorely needed. Humans aren't headed into the gutter - we've kinda been wallowing around it the whole time. Our masses have been complacently accepting a status quo of enriching the few forever.

I can exist on my own terms now as Thoreau did in his time. I can watch lunacy from the sidelines. I can keep my head down. That's where the frogs are anyway.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Post Bicycle Swap Meet eBay Selling.

This is nobody's business but mine, but let me chirp about it anyway. On eBay I go by the handle "Good_Machine_Hunt_Bargain." I sell mostly bicycle parts.

I made fewer purchases than usual at the last swap meet. I focused on hot deals, and left the warm deals on the table. I had a limited budget, and I needed a quick return on investment.

I photographed 95% of the items the day after the swap meet. Within two days, I started to see my first sales. As a departure from past norms, most of my listings this time are Buy It Now with free shipping. This allows people to make impulse buys, while also not doing math. I think it's working.

All of my sales have been for a premium "hopeful" asking price. The first round of listings always starts with the highest prices. Interest in individual listings can be gauged by how many people are "watching" an item. When a listing ends with no sale, you will still know if your price is in the right ballpark. No watchers? Lower the price. There is one more factor to consider: some obscure items only have a small niche demand, and will take longer to sell. Don't slash the price. Just relist until somebody needs it. If you have the only one available, then you will get the sale... but it might be next year.

I spent just shy of my $1200 allotment. In the week following the sale, I've made back about $900 after fees. I've only sold a small portion of the haul, so things are looking great. After 90% of the sales are complete, I should have at least doubled my money. The percentage of money netted beyond 2x investment is a good measure of purchasing acumen.

Buying better quality in smaller quantity is saving me a huge amount of work. With Amazon selling to fill the space between swap meets, I didn't feel pressure to maximize profits at the cost of a lot of scroungy work. (Extensive fixing and cleaning of parts.)

Early sales report:
I have many examples of tripling my investment. A portion of the "bread and butter" are small items I buy for $1-$5 and sell for many times that. These deals are abundant and low-risk. Even when people know what the item is worth on the eBay marketplace, they don't want to go to the trouble of taking a photo, writing a description, and then shipping it out. I don't mind. I've made a big effort to streamline those tasks. So when I buy a pair of Campagnolo crank bolts for $1, and sell them for $24.95 - it doesn't take much effort. Items under 13oz can ship First Class, which is a bargain. Knowing these details means I can buy a Ritchey headset cable hanger for $2, and I know that when I sell it for $24.95, I will only have to pay $1.93 to ship. (And $0.28 for the packaging.)

Dura Ace downtube shifters? $5 makes $64.95. (This is a case where some people have no clue what the demand is.)

My best sale this round (so far) isn't a bicycle part. A guy was selling a jointer plane, new in the box. How much? $5. I sold it in under 24hrs for $99.95. Making the sale felt good, but it is becoming almost typical. This is America. Somebody bought a gun book from me for $99.95. I paid a dollar.

The goal now is to stay awake and keep hunting.

- Good Machine

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hey... Remember Bicycles?

I moved out of Philadelphia before the spring 2013 became real. Since then, I've ridden a bicycle about twice. Less than two miles each time. I've done a fair amount of thinking about bicycles... but not much pedaling.

I couldn't put it off any longer. My bicycle begged me for new shifters and cables. I got some old Suntour XC Pro thumb shifters at the swap meet, and resale-value-be-damned, I put them on my own bicycle.

I added cables, shifters, Nitto northroad handlebars, and most importantly: a new-old-stock "tall cool" quill stem with the longer extension. The Hoopty "Tall Cool" Bicycle is ready again.

In order to ease myself back into mobility, I set a small loop of a few miles with rolling hills. Short and sweet. I rode the loop, and got back feeling like I'd been chased by a vampire.

Riding a bicycle again literally makes me want to puke. I've grown incredibly weak and slow, but my brain forgets. My brain yells "PUSH!," and I do. Minutes later, my stomach gets annoyed because it can't talk.

I rode the same loop today, and the first thing I noticed is that my buns hurt where they meet the saddle. Right. I have a thousands-of-miles broken-in Brooks saddle with springs - and my butt was a tad sore.

I intend to get back into reasonable shape. I don't need to be the Tarzan of bikes, but I'd like to stand up and assault some hills again some day. That's the goal here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Money For A Goal; Aspirations All-Told.

What does it take to make a thousand bucks on Amazon? I get earnings deposited into my bank account every two weeks. As a fairly meaningless measure, I set a personal goal of making one of those payments include four digits before the decimal point.

I have a lot riding on my Amazon business. Selling with Amazon's FBA program (fulfillment by Amazon) is the best way I've found to make money while still being a smelly fuck. All I have to do is buy cheap books and sell them for more on Amazon. If I'm buying books faster than I'm selling them, then my inventory is growing. If I have a growing inventory of good books (I do), my payments will get bigger. If my payments are getting bigger, then at some point I'll see a thousand-dollar deposit. That's what I'm waiting for.

This is getting pretty close.

Nope. I won't be rich soon. This is a measure which fails to factor in many variables. It doesn't factor in what I paid for inventory. It doesn't factor in any expenses. But it's a number that's getting bigger, and pretty soon - if I don't lay down across the tracks - it's going to hit $1000.

Today is the 10th, and it happens to be a payday. My hopeful goal was $860 to reach a personal best. But I sold an owner's guide for the M1911 pistol for a hundred bucks, and the payout tally shot past $900. Only chance will determine if I reach the 4-digit payout. The sales period will soon end - some time tonight, or maybe early tomorrow. They'll wave the checkered flag. Then we will see.

What does this mean?

I'm trying to get out of some sneaky recent debt. When I come up for air, I'd like to see that I have a semblance of a job and a method of making money. Finding books that I can sell for a profit is fun. It's the easiest job I've ever had, but it's not a passion. I want to make enough money to invest in some of the ideas that have been keeping me awake for years. As I advance my situation incrementally, I feel that I am edging toward the opportunity to create something that I am proud of. A business; a product; a community.

I am proud of my erstwhile travel, and I am proud of this little house that I built. Both have helped me grow as a human, but both have wreaked murder on my solvency.

It's the daydreams of product ideas that I want to see light. I have begun to recognize that I am capable of pushing a new idea into existence, and it is this itch under my skin that makes me fill big heavy boxes full of books.

A thousand bucks is a number. I roll my eyes that my mileposts have dollar signs, but the freedom to create and travel keeps me filling up boxes and clicking refresh.