Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vandwelling in Key West

I started listing suggestions for killing a billion hours while living in a van in Key West. If you email me, I will send you an invitation that will let you follow my progress. The writings are rife with references to sandwiches and dildos. So don't cry in your cereal about how nobody is writing anything abstract and tropical.

chrisharne@gmail.com

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Summing up 6 weeks.

I'm in Oregon
I traveled here in my van
Explain this to me

I am sitting here
Three thousand miles from normal
Witness to beauty

Get over here now
This is where you need to be
Ashland Oregon

Screaming, exploding
Describing various birds
Taking a deep breath

I will leave no trace
I will fade and disappear
I will keep moving

Friday, September 12, 2008

Boy, do I ever.

Boy, do I ever want to start being able to make some payments on some debts. It blows when you're unable to make a minimum payment, then you get throttled with late fees and percentage rate increases. None of the fees or rate hikes have stuck, but boy, do I ever need to make a lot of calls and keep a close watch on that stuff. It's like that game with the weasels or prairie dogs or otters that keep popping up and you need to slam them with a mallet. Wack-a-mole. This situation is truly bogus, and I scream it.

Someone suggested putting up a PayPal donation button. I'm not going to do that, because it tickles my gag reflex. But if someone wants to mail me $14,000 I'll take it. The donation is "tax deductable" in the non-traditional sense of those words. Debt is a pile of shit from hell. I'd like to trade my debt for an apple pie. I am aware that debt is boring and it's not worth talking about. I know. I made my bed, but now I cringe at the thought of laying in it. In my defense, I made the bed years ago when I was still an inexperienced bedmaker. I used mashed potatoes and burlap, because that's what I had laying around. This decision has proven regrettable.

Boy, do I ever enjoy seeing tiny little horses. Ponies. I was over at the Talent Harvest Festival, and they had little horses wandering around with kids on their backs. Talent is the next town over from Ashland. I like it over there.

Boy, do I ever like eating at diners. I'm one of the cowboys settin' at the counter. You can refer to me as 'folk,' and I'll accept that compliment with a knowing look and a nod. Biscuits and gravy. Don't make it snappy, ma'am. I'm aiming to waste some time.

I rented a movie from a Redbox location. They're in supermarkets, McDonaldses and other shopping places. It's always open, no need for an account. Return it at any other Redbox. I like it. There's not a very good selection of artsy or foreign flicks, but you don't go to McDonald's to get a cheeseburger.

I got one of those folding chairs that showed up all over the place several years ago. I'm talking specifically about the fabric folding chairs with the fabric arm rests and either one or two beverage holders. I think you call that fabric 'cordura.' Or it's similar to that. There are a few variations on this chair, and I got the cheapest one. This chair has improved my life. It's like having a mobile life-is-easy chair. It buckle-straps right onto my backpack, and barely weighs me down. I have half a mind to learn how to sleep in this chair, then get some of those glasses with pictures of open eyes on the lenses. That combo could really open up new possibilities for cheap travel. No tent - just some clothes, and you can zonk out in that chair wherever you want as long as you're wearing the glasses. I'd wear a cowboy hat too. You're less likely to get fucked with if you have a cowboy hat on. Especially if you're wearing those glasses. You could have a backup set of glasses with cat eyes for situations where you need to be more menacing and confusing.

This chair is great. Since Ashland is covered in electrical outlets and wifi hotspots, I can sit around on the internet anywhere for as long as I want, or just recharge all my stuff and read a book. As I said, the availability of free electricity in Ashland is astouding. As an example, I will truthfully state that there is an electrical outlet poking out of a bush in Lithia Park. You could charge up a moose in that bush, and nobody would know it.

An observation: In rural Pennsylvania, on the back roads around where I grew up, there are a lot of deer. Huge gangs of deer roam around at night, and stand in the roads. They get slaughtered by cars every day. The sides of the roads are figuratively awash in blood and guts. Everyone around there has either bonked into a deer, or knows someone who has. Hitting deer can kill you. None of this seems to make anybody drive much slower, as far as I've seen. The mentality seems to be that what's meant to be will be. The blame is typically shifted to the deer, even though they were there first, and they've never thrown the first punch. In Ashland and the surrounding area, there are similar numbers of deer, and similar crazy winding roads. I haven't seen one single dead deer. Everyone drives slow as hell. The following statement might be completely unrelated, but the deer don't seem to be afraid of people. They walk in the streets downtown, and lay down in front yards right next to sidewalks. I walked up to one to see if I could poke it, and that seemed to be the limit of trust. The deer edged away, and gave me a sideways glance that seemed to tell me what I already knew - "hey, there! boundaries! ... jackass..." It was the same thing that would probably happen if I'd approached a person with the same intentions. Boy, do I ever like the deer around this place.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Drug history of a happy mammal.

At 7:21pm I was washing dishes. Supposed to be off, but I'm covering for someone. I need money, and I barely mind.

I've spent enough time mentioning drugs, and not enough time yapping in explanatory detail about exactly where I stand. I don't like dancing around this subject, because I resent being a good person who is still made to feel like he needs to hide in corner to avoid people's stupid laws and stupid opinions. Outta my face with that nonsense. I'm of the impression that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want, as long as they're not hurting other people. I resent the paranoia and need to be careful when I'm not bothering anybody. I play along only because of my strong dislike of handcuffs. I think that laws are too often unconstitutional, tyrannical, and moronic. But in practice, I'm more of an optimistic realist than a whiner. I prefer solutions or acceptance of reality over copious dope smoke and boo-hooery. But that's there. I'm going to talk about here.

I just spent a day in the National Forest getting stoned as hell and climbing around on a mountain until my shoes fell apart. I got some very good pot from someone at work, and it's the best I've seen since I had the good fortune of enjoying the convenience of a delivery service in Philly. My thoughts on getting high as hell? Meh - okay. I enjoyed the part about listening to 10,000 Hz Legend by Air with my van all full of smoke - hidden on a mountain, looking out over a beautiful moonlit vista. I like smoking at night, and before movies. I like smoking with friends who I'm close enough to have comfortable silence with. Marijuana is basically harmless. The most derogatory thing I can say about pot is that it tends to keep people from standing up and going outside. That's why I don't enjoy smoking during the day when other possibilities are so ripe. My thoughts up on the mountain? Good times, but the pot isn't so necessary. I'll still be smoking before a lot of movies, and probably lots of other times. But it's not the same as it used to be. It's not a giggle-fest, and nothing is left to be discovered. There's not a whole lot to keep me smoking, except that I enjoy it sometimes. For all the fuss, it's a lot more benign and silly than alcohol.

I just got finished spending a lot of my years drinking. I fully intend to be finished with that chapter. I started drinking late in high school, and got off to a roaring start without realizing exactly what I was doing. I had no regular supply, so I bought in bulk when possible. Jugs of liquor. Jugs of rum. I had no gauge for normal amounts to buy or drink. Over time, every situation and activity became a drinking occasion. Getting plastered felt something like taking a deep breath. I quit several times - once for over six months - but otherwise only had the odd days off here and there.

I never tried smoking pot until well after high school. I said I wasn't ready, and I passed a lot of joints and bowls from all of my friends who were. I have never even come close to what I would consider being a pot head. I smoked every day for a long time, but I waited until night. It was more of a wind-down activity. I never understood smoking pot before going to work, or smoking early in the day. Not fun. I've never really liked smoking more than once a day. Seems pointless. Getting super drunk and high at the same time is another matter. I was always a big fan of that. Super drunk, super high. Pot alone is something that I'm not nearly as fond of. It has it's place, and should be respected and abstained from at all other times. Keep pot in it's place.

Now let me talk about all that crazy LSD I've done. One time years ago, and again more recently. Twice, total. One single tab each time. The first time was in college, in Boston, before I ever got high from smoking. I thought it was great, except that I couldn't fall asleep. I didn't know that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep for a long time. I also didn't know that it was unwise to take it the night before final exams. Fortunately, my classes were all pieces of cake and I got A's on everything regardless. My second time taking acid, I considered it carefully and was prepared, cautious, and respectful.

Mushrooms, I've done with a much greater frequency. I think it's a pretty safe drug. I honestly recommend it, which is something I won't say of any other mind-altering substance. I think there's a value to mushrooms. Things get funny and you can laugh or get emotional, or become introspective. It can present your existing ideas and circumstances in a new light. It can be a very positive experience. If you keep taking mushrooms, you probably won't keep pulling epiphanies off the shelf, but you're still probably on the safe side if you have a respectful and cautious attitude. I wouldn't recommend tripping massive handfuls like a jackass, but I don't think mushrooms are going to do anybody in. They are absolutely not addictive, and you wake up strong, smart, and sexy.

There you have it. I drank too much for several years, I've smoked a lot of pot, and I've hallucinated a little bit. I have never tried anything that is considered a 'hard drug.' I have never smoked an entire cigarette, and only had half of a flavored one before I got bored. I smoked a nasty cigar once, and puked. Alcoholic? In a technical sense. Pothead? Possibly laughable. Drug addict? A lousy example if that's what you're looking for.

I am a happy mammal. I'm deciding my path, and I'm loving life. I appreciate concern, and despise anonymous condescension. I cannot scream any louder about this.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

National Forests hate my shoes

I woke up and drove back to the free camping area during daylight. The view was much better. I parked in a spot off the narrow dirt road right in front of a fire ring, and shaded by two huge pine trees. My doors opened up to give me a nice view of the dirt road, and the mountains beyond it. On the other side of the van, the mountain continued up to a crest where three tall rock formations sat at the peak. It looked reachable, though no official trails were present to make it very easy. I went for it.

Though steep, the first part of the little trek was easy enough. The ground was mostly loose dirt with some rocks and small shrubbery. People talk about snakes being around, so all the little holes weren't comforting, but didn't do enough to deter me completely. I kept an eye out. Little pseudo-trails weaved around the brush and rocks, and every minute or so I stopped and looked up to find the next higher point that looked reachable. The terrain kept getting steeper, and about halfway to the rock formation I was trying to reach at the peak, I had to employ my hands to help me keep balance and gain altitude. I kept checking, and my van kept getting smaller and smaller. I didn't get to the top. I got high enough, decided "could if I wanted to," but was ultimately satisfied with the incredible view from the last perch that I reached.

The journey down was a trip. Within a few minutes, the sole of my left shoe detached itself from the heel all the way to the toe. My shoe was flapping around and I was taking huge steps and sliding down the dirt patches on the side of the ridge, trying to steer myself toward the van. It was a blast, but I was afraid that the sole would come completely off, leaving me with a kind of moccasin. I made it down fine. Both soles peeled off all the way up to the toe. They heated up, and the adhesive failed from the sideways pressure. Since my life is so awesome, I just stashed those shoes and went to my brand new ones that Matt Klopp gave me. He acquired them on the set of some photo-shoot in Brooklyn. My size, not his.

At 7:21pm, the sun had already gone behind the ridge of a mountain, and I was looking at a big pot of beans on my stove. Nobody else took advantage of the free camping, so it was just me up there. I took down my curtains, opened my shades, and let in the moonlight.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Night of Theater

I just got finished standing around the small outdoor stage on Pioneer St., around the corner from the movie theater. I have a ticket to Our Town tonight, and I showed up early to see the outdoor pre-show happenings. It was worth showing up early, because 1) I'm not up to shit-else that's worth a quarter of a slightly hot damn. 2) The improv group, Playback NYC, gave me plenty of smiles.

They ask the audience some questions, then perform their interpretation of the information that they got. Very good. This is one of the better things I've seen where anybody interested is free to gawk and enjoy. Happenings like this are one of the reasons that Ashland is so ripe and oozing with positive energy.

Our Town was good. I felt kinda awkward sitting around alone at the theater, but I felt better when the lady next to me gave me a Snickers bar with almonds.

I'm trying as hard as possible to destroy my sleeping schedule. No particular reason. This is day number one of my 3-day no-work-athon. I got a huge push-button mocha cappuccino, and headed to the Mt. Ashland National Forest about an hour after the play let out. I'm not a fan of night driving, due to the fact that I don't like driving when I can't see shit. I was on one of the wildest, rockiest, narrowest, and least guard-rail'd mountain roads I've ever seen. It was 2am. I missed the free camping zones, and eventually had to just pull over at the first spot that looked like I could jam a van into it. Fortunately, there wasn't too much jamming needed. I found a little pull-off with amazing views and plenty of space to park and walk around in the chilly, windy, crisp night air. I like to take every opportunity to make sure that there are still billions of stars.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bicycles, Vans & Land, man

That's a Bike Friday Tikit being ridden by Rob English, one of the designers, and an engineer / racer on staff. He's entering races with that bicycle, and placing respectably. All I can say for myself at 7:21pm was that I was washing dishes again. This photograph is way more interesting than hearing about carrot circles that fit perfectly into drain-holes. Those wheels are 16 x 1 3/8. This specific bicycle is decked out with a lot of options which would make it cost several thousand dollars - Campy Record brake/shifters, titanium seatmast - that kind of stuff. Washing dishes was pretty typical. Looking at this tiny pink high performance bicycle is exciting. It can fold into a very compact and secure package in 5 seconds according to Bike Friday - so maybe 15 seconds tops? No quick releases - it just snaps into a little package.

When comparing folding bicycles of several years ago, I would have said that the contest is between Bike Friday and Brompton for the best one. Choose a Bike Friday for performance and feeling the most like a "normal" bicycle - choose Brompton for the quickest, easiest fold into the smallest tightest package. It looks like Bike Friday made the Tikit to compete more directly with the Brompton. The Brompton sports the same 16 x 1 3/8" wheels, and both Bromptons and Tikits require no quick release fooling to fold. The Brompton has a variety of gearing options, but they're all based on either a single speed, or a 3 speed hub. The Tikit uses more typical gearing components (cassette hub), and the options for a build kit are close to infinite. If you can get by with the 16 x 1 3/8" wheels, it would seem to be the best choice. Those Bromptons look pretty classy, but in my mind, I think Bike Friday wins. I think the Brompton might have a little bit of a better fold.

I haven't ridden a Tikit yet, but I have ridden a Brompton. The steering is not the same as a big-wheeled bicycle. I think I would prefer my wheels to be at least 20 x 1.5" - and even then, you can't expect to ride hands-free. Something about the scientific gyroscopic-ness prevents it. Little wheels don't allow for much hands-free action. That said, I owned a 20" wheeled custom (bright pink) Bike Friday NWT, and I thought that bicycle was just awesome. It took me awhile, but especially now that I own such a small home, I'm finally kicking myself for selling it. At the time I sold it, I needed money and I could make great bicycles appear from thin air for next to free. Now I kinda want my little pink bicycle back.

As tempting as the quick fold and probably-awesome performance of the Tikit is, I'd probably prefer to stick with the 20" wheels and the somewhat slower fold. (Actually, I'll just stick with the awesome bicycles I already have until I'm rich again). That said - I'm a vandwelling person who requires an awesome bicycle and likes to travel. That smacks of the need for a really nice folding bicycle that can carry a load. Bike Friday. Until then, I'll keep my huge road bicycle beside me while I sleep, and my cheap travelin' bicycle strapped to the back of my house.

As my needs, situations, and land-owning status develop, I hope to move toward having one of these parked in the shade:

The ass-end of this house can store whatever bicycles I feel like having, which will allow me to silence myself and sit around a fire.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Solutions and a shower bag.

I worked, and it was kinda lousy. At 7:21pm, I was feeling authentically lonely and tired. It wasn't so bad, but I'm not interested in looking for any brighter sides.

There are other small sources of worry which did nothing to help my mood:

1) I've been waiting on a 'general delivery' letter from Pennsylvania containing my replacement credit card. It was sent well over a week ago, and should definitely be here. I need the credit card in case I don't have enough gas money to get to North Dakota for the sugar beet harvest.

2) I have not gotten final confirmation that I am among those who will be working this year's sugar beet harvest in North Dakota. I am awaiting this confirmation so I can put in my notice at work. I like leaving good jobs with the chance to continue operations seamlessly after I leave.

3) I need a fkn shower. My efforts earlier today were thwarted by a guy standing around. He looked like a hot shower sentry. I left as unclean as I'd arrived.

... from this numbered list, all issues and questions got a smart answer, and a bonus was served up from thin air...

1) The credit card arrived. Phew. Didn't feel like having it canceled and re-issued a second time. The timing would be too close for comfort. This is awesome. Big sigh of relief that general delivery is not a scam.

2) I got confirmation that I will be working this year's sugar beet harvest in North Dakota.

3) Solar shower. I have to admit that I had a solar shower sitting unused on the floor of my van in front of the passenger seat. It's been there on the floor for as long as I've owned the van. I had it during the era of Truck House. One might wonder why I haven't used it yet. I am beyond trying to answer such questions about how I operate. It takes me awhile to get around to the simple things. Examples abound.

4) Bonus: my parents got a letter from the New York City Court of Some-Such. We were talking on the phone, and I said to just open it. My trespassing charge has been dismissed. Now I don't even need to call anyone or sort anything out. Boom. Dismissed. Just like the cop said that it would be when he gave me the ticket almost apologetically. He said I'd have to show up and do something about it though. Now I'm glad I didn't even bother to do that.

All of my simple little difficulties had a solution. The solar shower was especially good. Now that I finally got around to trying it, I have discovered that it is an invaluable vandwelling tool. My test was incredibly half-assed. I put about 2 gallons into the 5 gallon bag, and left it on my dashboard starting in late afternoon as the sun was already making it's retreat. After 11pm, I drove up the mountain to a little spot I know, and hung the handle of the shower bag off the corner of my open passenger-side door. This put the "shower head" at about waist level. Good enough. My expectations were very far exceeded. The shower lasts long enough, and it made me feel clean enough. The water was warm enough. Now picture 5 hot gallons hanging from a tree.

Vandwelling? Get a shower bag. (I think I'm actually the last person on this boat, so it would seem that I'm only telling myself).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Poking around in the drain. PICS.

The other dishwasher got pinkeye. Now I got his hours. Now I'm poking my fingers around in the drain, removing saturated bits of vegetables, rice, bread, and paper.

It's a good night. I don't mind washing dishes at all. I hesitate to say that I like it. I might as well not like it, because I know this type of work gets old. When the music is my choice, and there's a steady flow of dishes without getting too wild: it's kinda fun. I'm still outta here.

I continue to not have any friends here. That's normal enough, but I'm constantly frustrated by my own shyness. By "constantly," I mean constantly. I wasn't always like this, was I? Didn't I used to be way awesomer? I realize that I probably was always like this. Maybe saying weird shit had more leverage in the past.

Here's some pictures:

Here's one kind of spot that I really enjoy. Hidden in plain sight. There are no houses to the right - it's a steep hill with a big tree, located behind a nice hotel. This is one block from the very center of downtown Ashland. This is where I slept after I went to the theater.


This is the view going down the hill toward downtown. This is behind the van in the previous picture, turned 90 degrees and facing east.


This is a picture showing my DIY van conversion skillz. I'm a whiz with a... a bungee cord... and a... sleeping bag. I'm as stealth as a bunch of shit thrown in the back of a van.


This is a view looking toward the front. Notice how cavernous a van is with no cabinets or raised beds. This is an option to be considered. That's the arm of the life-is-easy chair to the left, facing the doors. Those "curtains" are K-Mart "table cloths." That's my awesome foot.


This is my spot right next to the creek. It's a good place to cook, read books, or take a nap in the shade. If you stay late, you might get cops banging on your van. But to be fair, I slept around here multiple times before that happened. I was begging for a visit.


That's my roommate. That's the KHS Professional bicycle. 531 tubing, Phil hubs, 32c Pasela tires, Brooks, Nitto 177 bars, Kelly Take-offs with Rivendell 'Silver' shifters, and more. Phew. I like it.


Ok... I hear you bro. Tone it down a little? People are trying to sleep around here, and don't need you yelling. To be fair: I think everyone should do whatever they want - so okay.

This photo does not fit with the others. This scene occurred in Bar Harbor, and that's me being as dirty as dirt itself. On the left.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Socks with no feet

There's a nice lady sitting next to me on these concrete steps. She's using my laptop to search her email for the telephone number of a client. She is the type of person who might not like it if she were aware of me using the term 'lady' to describe her - but I use it now, regardless, and with no disrespect. It's 7:21pm, and I'm sitting in the narrow alleyway between a coffee shop and another shop, the wares of which I have difficulty explaining. Several fashion-conscious girls with tall boots and made-up faces have exited this store. There were scarves and accessories involved, which uniquely layered and individualized their wardrobes, setting them apart in certain ways, I'm sure. This store is one source of such items. A pair of long green socks with no feet caught my eye. Green tubes. "Those would keep my calves warm on a chilly night," I thought. Then I remembered that items have prices, and I dismissed them. "Footless socks are another man's purchase," is the adage I add when pondering such purchases.

I'm sitting in the alleyway between a store that carries green footless socks, and a coffee shop that makes it's own delicious bagels. The employee at the coffee shop who was performing the closing rituals was listening to The Dismemberment Plan, though he didn't know it. He's lucky to have friends who make good mix CDs for him. He took my chair and table at closing time, but I assured him that it was not a bother. In fact, I moved the chair and table inside for him, just to prove that my heart had no malice for protocol. The outdoor electrical outlet remained - my laptop is plugged in, and my phone is charging.

If there happened to be rain, which there is not, this would be an excellent place to sit. This small pedestrian walkway is completely covered from front to back. I am sitting in a walkway. This area which I am in is more accurately described as a walkway, rather than an alleyway, as I previously referred to it. When I think of an alleyway, I think of a stream of trash juice, a haphazard stack of cardboard, and a couple of dumpsters. Maybe some greasy five-gallon buckets. No - this is not an alleyway in that sense at all. This is a very nicely maintained covered walkway, and now that my table and chair have been taken inside, I am perched on the top row of a set of three concrete steps.

I'm sitting in a clean, covered pedestrian walkway, and the lady sitting next to me is using my laptop to check her Gmail account. She is using the search function to find a client's telephone number. Her husband is leaning on the wall of the coffee shop, which is now closed, and soon they will be going to the theater to see a play. A few minutes ago, this lady, who has short dyed blond hair, walked by on the sidewalk in front of this walkway, and turned back when she noticed me using a computer. She asked if I was connected to the internet. "Do you have the internet?" I explained that the coffee shop provided wifi, and yes, I was connected quite well. "Yeah, the signal is pretty strong here." She noted that the coffee shop was closed, and at that point I realized that she was looking for a place with a computer that she could use. I told her that she could use my laptop for as long as she needed it - I was plugged in, and on no time schedule whatsoever. It would be no burden. She found the telephone number of her client, and her husband saved it on his phone. She was very grateful, and thought herself very lucky to have found me there, sitting between the bagels and the socks with no feet. This was neither the first nor the last time I have lent my computer to somebody so they could check their email, or find directions. I'm a nice guy. In spite of the fact that I am a horribly unforgivable shower and bagel thief, I try to make up for it by not pissing in anyone's oatmeal.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

...of greater value

I woke up at the truck stop. You can park here. Everyone can always park here, sleep overnight, get wifi from the Super 8, have bathrooms upon waking up, and have breakfast in the morning served on an Iron Skillet. You are welcome to this. I did most of these things, but nixed the skillet for being too familiar. I'm the ambassador of strange happenings, and failing this, would at least prefer new situations, and failing that would graciously accept an opportunity to at least spend my dollars at a new diner. Preferably one with a guy in a bear suit waving me in.

Shortly after waking up, I decided that with the next three days off, I would be stupid not to head straight to California. I was loafing around, twenty miles north of the border, and I had a half tank of gas. I felt like I needed to at least accomplish something with that. Before plans materialized further, I was at a diner in Yreka California. I sat at the counter, 90 geometric degrees and two stools away from an older version of myself. More accurately, an old man two seats away reminded me exactly of my slightly younger self. He performed every bit of nonsense and mild antics to gain a little bit of notice or a crumb of spare affection. He secretely gained my affection and strong approval just by having an honest smile and a wife who seemed to have loved him for many years. I drank coffee, coffee, coffee, and felt blessed to be present, because that added a value to my day that I could never have extracted from any other source.

A plan sprang forth: Wondering how I was going to utilize the rest of the gas in my tank for more than it's monetary value, I arrived at an obvious, though embarassingly belated, realization which caused me to pull over with an abruptness uncharacteristic of my typical driving style. The west is covered in National Forrests, and you can camp for free in most of those. I goog-411'd myself over to the operator at the closest office, and asked where the free camping was. After describing my location, I was convinced to visit the office for a free map and directions. The office was only a few miles away, back in Yreka. (Why-Reek-ah)

I got my map, and a few supplies, and was on my way. Covering a majority of the distance on tiny roads, I went slowly and arrived at possibly the best camping site I have seen to this date. I settled in (backed up the van), cooked big food (pot-a-pasta), and was satisfied. My free campsite was only 20 feet from one of the cleanest streams possible. The water was as clear as glass, and if I could think of something clearer I would say it. At 7:21pm, I sat in my small house in the very rural mountainous region of northern California, reading Don Quixote. This book. Read this one. I was interested, but not impressed with the prologue. I distrusted the size and publishing date tremendously. No need. This is a simple story, easy to follow. The words are unbeatable. I look forward to reading all ten billion of them, because the order in which they are put is nothing short of remarkable. It's not famous for nothing, apparently.

The clear night and my location collaborated to make this one of those nights in which people famously realize how many stars there are. Big stars, smaller stars, and the mist of stars between. To avoid making it sound too enchanting for credibility: fuckin' mosquitos. I'm trying to read, here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

...of little value

I worked again. See how much I'm working? I know. Too often, and still not enough hours. I'm going to roll with it for now. I've already discussed this. 7:21pm: I'm working. I have lead coursing through my veins. It's a slow day, so I don't have 10,000 dishes prodding me to hurry up. With only a handful of dishes, I can't convince myself that I'm competing in the dishwashing Olympics. If this isn't the Olympics, then what's the rush? The time passes more slowly than I would like.

After work, I went straight across the street to the plaza to witness the drama continue to unfold. What a disappointment. Disappointment is inaccurate. More accurately, I observed reality, and I was maybe expecting a more uplifting version of it. I was there because I had nothing better to look at or listen to. I have nobody here to relate to, and sitting on the concrete down there didn't change that in the slightest, as maybe I wished it might. Of course I wished it, but did I expect it? No. I was there as a witness.

I sit and keep my mouth mostly shut, and don't even bother to introduce myself. I sat on the sidewalk in the midst of that scene, and was less than thrilled with what I saw and heard. I have met some really respectable and awesome people before in my life. I hope to meet many more. After this session, I felt a deficit. I need good people and positive energy to flick a hidden switch inside of me. This was a paranoid, accusatory, belligerent, and frighteningly psychotic visit to the plaza. My first inclination is to describe the whole circus. My second and final inclination is to forget it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Money, birds, and my future.

I'm really not getting anywhere financially. Obviously. I'm working some, but I don't think it's adding up to anything. Look at me - look how much I'm working. It's not adding up, I'm sure. These minimum wage jobs are way crazy. I'm happy that I'm making enough tip money for coffee and some food every day. I'm very happy that I get a free meal when I work - as long as it's $9 or less. I'm very happy with Ashland Oregon. This money situation is something else, though. I'm not going to get a new job here. I'm going to leave. I'm putting in my notice soon. Maybe today. Then I'm going to go to North Dakota and harvest some sugar beets, if I can make that work out. I have a line out in water over there.

I love Ashland. It's a beautiful place where you can act how you want, and to a very large degree you can do what you want. We have all types of birds hanging out on this wire. Kids are smoking dope in the plaza after dark, and there's a lady riding her bicycle around with no shirt on. I was standing six feet from a cop at a Food Not Bombs feeding, and she strolled right by on her way toward splashing around in the stream. We've got a lot of hippies with dogs around here. We've got older bearded cats and couples living in VW buses and Vanagons. We have every type of bird I've mentioned sleeping in the park every single lazy afternoon - moms, dads, babies, bums, and all their respective cousins. A small child in the library gave me his two coolest stickers, and then a third one as an afterthought. We have people taking time to wave to me across three people drinking coffee, 'cause one of my eyeballs peeped at their big beautiful dog for a second. Smile and wave. I have all day reserved just for that.

I'll almost be sorry to leave this place. I love it here. My desire to keep moving is stronger than my desire to stake a claim here at 25 years old. And I'm definitely not going to stake my claim in a half-eaten bowl of salad. I have a feeling that Ashland might play a role in my future. Or not. I don't have that planned. Pedicures, airplanes, and a macrobiotic diet could also play an unexpected role. Who knows? I haven't planned beyond my hope to work with sugar beets for a few weeks. I'm keeping my schedule open. I love all of you.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Way to be clean

Campgrounds and RV parks.

I called 1-800-GOOG-411...

"Ashland Oregon" I said.
"Camping" I said.
"Number one" I said.
"Details" I said.
"Text Message" I said.

"I'll connect you" the recorded Google voice said.

Some Guy: "Hello, _______ RV Park."
Chris Harne: "Hi - do you have tent sites, or just RV sites?"
SG: "Um... Yes, we have tent sites, too"
CH: "Do you have hot showers?"
SG: "Yes, we do"
CH: "Excellent - how much is a tent site?"
SG: "$21.75 per night"
CH: "Great - do you allow dogs?"
SG: "Yes, but they need to be on a leash and you have to clean up their poop."
CH: "Of course, umm - alright, that's awesome. I think that's it. Thanks very much."

Only one of those questions really mattered, but I didn't want to sound like a dude who was planning to head over there just to dance around in all of their hot showers. I had all the info I needed. I checked the Google-sent txt message, and put the address into my GPS. 5.6 miles away. Located right next to that beautiful lake that you can park beside. Since I'm a spy and I over-plan small missions and re-use the same themes in my activities, I'll continue to describe my admittedly ridiculous modus operandi. I drove into the place to scout out where the showers might be.

I always try to have some kind of story in place just in case anybody tries something silly, like talking to me or asking me any questions. Just in case: I was looking for Mark Peters who should be there by now. He's in a little Chinook, and we're meeting here and going out for breakfast. In case of anything else: "Damn. I don't know what's going on - I'll need to give him a call." Unrelated information adds authenticity to the story, and leaves any questioning ripe with opportunities for a subject change. ie: "do you know of any good breakfast spots in Ashland?"

The story part is completely unnecessary 99.9% of the time, but it's fun to make stuff up just in case you're required to open your mouth. I gave the place a once-thru and decided that the showers were probably located inside the men's room - I didn't see any other buildings that looked like they would contain a shower. I put my towel in my jacket sleeve, put my cell phone to my ear, and headed in. The cell phone on the ear allows you to put up your index finger ("one second") in response to anything whatsoever. No phony conversation. You're on hold - it's important. You can use this to avoid talking to any civilians in any situation. This is perfect for scouting around when you know what you're looking for, but not exactly where it is, or if it's possible for anybody to notice or care.

Warm showers. Right in the men's room. I probably should have been way less lazy and figured this out weeks ago. But now is just as good. I have a job now, and it's not a particularly clean job, and it's getting too cold to swim in the reservoir to stay clean. I enjoyed one hell of a hot shower. Now that I've seen the layout, I know that I can park somewhere else, wander in on a path towards the back, and not be seen by anybody who could possibly care. I own the world, I own all the bagels and breakfasts contained therein, and now I own all of the showers as well.

(Rewind 15 hours).

It's 7:21pm. I'm looking at myself in the bathroom mirror at work, and wiping my face with a damp paper towel. This is it. It's shower time. Tomorrow, I will find a shower. I've only had two showers since leaving Pennsylvania, if you don't count swimming in various rivers. Most people don't count rivers - but they should.

Another note on showers: I've been hanging out with the hobo squatter hippie punk homeless folks in the plaza downtown. Do they take showers? No. Or very rarely. Do they stink? No. They smell like humans. Showers are a luxury, and something that should not cause undue stress and worry when you need to go without. You don't need to base your life around showers. I like my showers because I'm a suave guy, and I like [needlessly] smooth [and simple] operations.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Working.

It's 7:21pm. I'm working. I'll be working every day until I'm dead, and thus don't need to be anywhere in particular. Boring? Yes. Read something else. Other stuff. I'm feeling defensive because of embarrassment. I'm not taking calls. I'm very busy considering starting Don Quixote. It's a fat book, so I might not be taking calls for a month.

I talked to the credit card people. Several months ago, I managed to cut down my debt on this line of credit to $10,000. Due to one late payment, my APR was raised to 24.9%. I called and talked and talked, but nobody who I got on the phone was able to hit the button to put my APR back at 9%. The guy at the desk on the phone literally was not given that option. I cross-examined several of those guys thoroughly. I moved the entire $10,000 balance to a new line of credit that boasted 0% APR on balance transfers for some number of months, 8.9% after that, no payments for months and months. When the payments were supposed to begin, I didn't have money. I got calls from a '904' area code starting at 5am sometimes. I got the calls frequently. A couple times a week, I answered the phone and explained that I was looking for a job. I had $130 to my name. They made a "note" in the "system." Their notes followed my progress, and eventually they formed a short biography. "Christopher Harne has only $130. Bianchi touring bicycles are certainly respectable. Now he's down to $11. He's looking for work as a bicycle mechanic. He said he was looking for work as a dishwasher."

I answered the call yesterday sounding indigent and miserable, but ultimately willing to work something out. How about this: $170/month, 0% APR for 12 months? That was their suggestion. Accepted. I have 12 months to fire bullets at that balance.

I'm not going to talk about being drunk or poor. I'm not drinking, and I'm working on it. I'm very busy, and my phone is made out of untouchable fire. My life is way too fantastically awesome to spend any portion of it weeping. I mean that. I am sincere in that statement.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fuka situation

I'm useless, and convoluted is my new favorite word.

"I... just... can't... fucking... stop." I'm bawling my eyes out, and I'm sitting on the toilet because I can't stand up. I'm crying the way that shakes a whole body, having the usual epiphany that only seems to happen when you've puked out everything you own. I'm almost surprised that Shelly can bear this, but I guess I'd do the same if she were ever as stupid as me. This occurred years ago, but it's barely in the past.

"If you ever see me drinking anything again, I think it's really bad." I said this last year when I quit once again. I said that to Gary, my endlessly wise and benevolent friend. I said it while I was tenuously sober, and God and I know the truth of those words.

I'm 25. I actually believed myself that I might quit drinking before my 21st birthday.

"I'm really starting to hate beer." I got those words from a friend, and we both know what that means. Everyone loves beer. When you take the first long, deep swig, you know the divinity of what you're drinking. An IPA. But to hate that mother fucking shit. But to hate it.

It's late at night. I'm sitting in the doorway of who-knows-what place in downtown Ashland. I'm puking acid. Is that a carrot? I can't read a street sign. Who needs a sign? I know where I am. I just can't stand up yet. I can't remember where I'm going. I'm wearing a t-shirt and shorts and I'm shivering because it's very cold outside. I keep puking. I didn't eat any carrots, that's a certainty. A guy tried to get me moving in the right direction, but I couldn't tell him where that was. He was the best type of person. I have zero hombres to drag me home, and I caught myself crying and puking in a doorway. Que tal? I'm fucked.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Busy Dishin'

I have a full rack, tall stacks. The shelves behind me to the left are packed with bus tubs, loose dishes, and hot skillets. I'm moving fast to get them clean and organized faster than they come in. It's a busy Friday. I'm starting to get my methods in place. I'm developing my style. I don't qualify as an artist or champion yet - but I can hold it down on a busy Friday, and that's what matters.

I'm standing at the sink. I have tall stacks of plates sitting in food-strewn dishwater. Every few minutes I need to poke my fingers around in the drain guard, and clear out the foods that are holding up the water. It's an ongoing tug of war. I've got separate stacks in the sink for big dishes, medium dishes, small dishes, and a corner reserved for tiny bowls and saucers. Glasses, mugs, and drink-related items get racked above my head. I'm giving each dish a final quick spray, and organizing it in a rack to my left. When I get a full rack, I slide it further to the left, into the steamy automatic dishwashing box, and close it in with a lever and hit 'start.' It gets blasted with hot sanitized water, then it's ready to be stacked up and put away. My area is small. I have maybe two feet to stand, with the rim of the sink in front of me, and the wall of the walk-in refrigerator behind me. I could lean with my back against that wall and still be in a good position to spray and stack dishes in the sink. But I don't do that. Too much adrenaline; I'm a conquistador. I don't have a helmet and a sword so I can lean around looking pretty. About three minutes ago, I started my music through the kitchen speakers. I view the music situation like a game of hot potato - any length of silence means that someone is fucking up. About three minutes ago, I broke the silence when I plugged in the new Les Savy Fav album. That album starts with a track called "Pots and Pans," which is a slick segue into more appropriately powerful kitchen-music. We also got some Halfway to Holland. We got The Dismemberment Plan. We got some Midiron Blast Shaft. Eventually we got the Minutemen in time for the mopping of the floors.

I got $19 bucks. I got an IPA next door. I got an IPA up town. I got to talk to Shawn A for 47 minutes. I got a very quick IPA at a third location. The third bar was where I went years ago with another guy, Brad, who was taking the bicycle framebuilding class with me at the United Bicycle Institute over across the train tracks. The bartender here was wearing rollerskates, and the 'brazing expert' from that class was there drinking with some other dopes. I put that beer down the hatch fast, 'cause I thought I saw a ghost. I got smoked out in the plaza down town. The kids are still sitting around down there. The kids are always sitting there with their packs. I like sitting around on grass. I like observing what's going on. I spied with my little eyes the beret of a caricature of a creature from the 60's. Dogs here curl up with me 'cause I'm not busy scolding them. I have a lot of positive input for dogs acting positive. I floated back to my van, getting a third night of sleep in the same place - amused to wake up to another loud $.75 sunrise vacuum job. Has my stay-put parking experiment begun? No. I am not a scientist. I just didn't feel like moving.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What I'm up to.

What I'm up to is screwing around in this awesome town in awesome fashion. The specific moment of 7:21pm caught me reading on a bench in the park. Still 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' - I'm almost done.

I blew all my money at the bar on Tuesday. I'm only talking about the paper money, though I did spend some coins there too. When I "blow all my money," I usually still have some change, or another part of the story. I have a big empty bottle from cheap Carlo Rossi wine. I cashed in all my change from that bottle before my bicycle trip, but now the bottom of the bottle contained a decent amount of coins again. Several bucks in change. I had two days off of work after Tuesday's karaoke Bud and whiskey reunion. Two days with no paltry tip-out cash, and no free meals. I had food in my cooler - pasta and cans of things like chili and noodle-meat combos. With a cooler full of clown food, I had no worries about starving.

I spent my first bit of change on some Old English toward sundown on Wednesday. $2.24. I would have invested in Steele Reserve, but apparently Steel was a very popular beer on Wednesday toward sundown. So I spent the extra $.20, and got 0.6% less alc/vol. Old English is slacking at only 7.5%. They might as well increase the alcohol content to match that of Steel and Hurricane (who hold strong at an impressive 8.1%). It's not as though Old English is perceptibly more palatable. I timed the slow finishing of my beer for the beginning of a movie. I'll just go ahead and point out that the door to the back theater here is always open, and there has never been anybody there even for the ostensible purpose of looking at tickets. So I got to see 'Mama Mia' for free. Then I went home and snuggled into bed.

I got up, and commenced with my endless walking. I got coffee with some change, and dicked around on the internet for many hours. I found the site with Jessica's Prius, which continues to bend my mind. I talked to Shelly on the phone until she went into Canada.

My plan was to wait as long as possible to cook food, so I could get away with cooking one big thing to cover the whole day. I got to where I felt hungry enough to cook around 5, as I was leaving the coffee shop. At the corner of the coffee shop's parking lot where it meets the south-facing wall of the laundromat, on a small patch of grass, was a takeout bag from a very nice pasta restaurant located a few buildings north on Main Street. Gnomes had nibbled at it until their little bellies were full, then they planted the lion's share for a big hungry man to find. The bag contained two Chinese-style takeout containers, each nearly full with different pasta entrées. Gold. Gold! I went back home and ate the first one, which was still warm and had delicious slices of spiced sausage, a big fat meatball, and a large untouched dinner roll. I was stuffed. I tied up the bag with the other entrée, and started counting out change.

I was able to purchase a Steel Reserve with a hot sweaty handful of pennies, nickels, and only a few dimes. I drank slowly, and went back to the movies. I planned to see "The Rocker," whatever that is - but nobody bought a ticket, so the movie never started. Blast. Back to Mama Mia. I watched it again, ensuring that all those songs are securely embedded in my mind. I'm forever thankful that I can amuse myself to the brink of painful grinning and much shaking of the head in disbelief. When food and fortune fall from the sky, I am one fucking happy spy. Apparently, I fell asleep for parts of Mama Mia during round one, so I got a chance to pick up what I missed. I went home and ate another delicious portion of pastafood - this time with emphasis on a cream sauce and a hefty helping of veggies. I didn't move my van. As soon as I parked there, I knew it would be a two night affair. I'm confident that I could stretch it to a week if I felt like turning it into an experiment - but the noise from the $.75 vacuums in the vicinity will send me looking for quieter pastures.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Listen: Move Into A Van.

I'm sitting in my life is easy chair, and I'm cooking noodles down by the river. I stopped worrying about cops again: back to normal. I'm keeping an eye out for a cop so I can have a conversation. I'm almost wishing one would stop by. Preferably the same one who visited a few nights ago. I bet the only reason that cop knocked on my van is because I was parked in a place that would be blocked by minor road repairs in the morning. That's a guess, and I think it's a good one. I would have preferred hearing that explanation at the time, rather than "ASHLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT!!!!," which does not explain much.

Now I'm sane about such situations again, and if more cops start knocking on my van I'll be more prepared to take it in stride. It's only natural to piss yourself the first time you have a grizzly bear pounding on your cabin. I'm parking in smarter spots again, but I'm not squeamish and I'm not over thinking stealth locations. I'm doing well enough, moving every night, and trying to park next to trees that will provide an extra hour of shade in the morning. I don't look over my shoulder while the sun is up. I sit around and cook and read in my house with the doors open. When I open my doors, my house becomes a porch. At 7:21pm I was sitting in my cozy chair on the porch right by the park. I was cooking noodles, and I even had tomato sauce, parmesan cheese and hot sauce.

I implore some people. Take action.

Move into a van. I, Chris Harne (with a silent 'e'), recommend getting off the fence about it. You don't need to be handy or inventive, or know anybody who is. I'm not handy, and I can be almost sinfully lazy. I'm going to summarize my experiences and recommendations here, so you don't have to sort through my past musings with squinted eyes and a fork. It would be smarter to review all information at cheaprvliving.com. That's a better resource. The following information is just one approach.

The first step is picking a vehicle. I love my van. I truly love my van as much as a person can love a vehicle. There are several aspects that I find particularly appealing. I'm living in a conversion van. The walls and ceiling are already padded, the roof is raised a few inches higher than average, and the floor is carpeted. It comes with a few cabinets already installed. There are ambient limo lights, and four bright reading lights that can be turned on individually. I didn't need to figure out how to install any of that - it came that way. Perfect. All of this padding and cabinetry and lighting served to make my van feel instantly like home. The padding makes the interior very calm and quiet, and also tends to decrease outside volume coming in.

I have not done a single thing to improve my van. I absolutely love seeing vandwelling setups that are planned out and organized. I love seeing kitchens with sinks, propane refrigerators, beds with storage below, custom cabinets, heaters, coolers, generators, solar panels, roof fans, and deep cycle marine batteries. I love those setups, but I have had none of that stuff for many months of vandwelling, and my cup still runeth over. Here's what I've got. I have my conversion van with the padded, lighted, living room feel. I put all the back seats in a dumpster. I used clips from Staples to hold up gossamer table cloths from K-Mart. The tablecloth curtains allow me to see out, and light to come in - but if you cup your hands to the windows, you can not see in. If police or other idiots shine flashlights in, they will not be able to see one centimeter beyond that curtain. That's enough for me. My bed is on the floor, and takes up almost the whole thing. I have three cabinets on the ceiling towards the front of my living space. One is used as a medicine cabinet with wet wipes, toothbrush stuff, deodorant, spare AA batteries, hair buzzer, etc. There's room for a lot more. The middle (TV) cabinet contains books and magazines. When I finish a book, I have a conversation with someone about it, and I give it away. The last cabinet contains socks and underwear. I have three small unused cabinets in back. One of them contains a stack of carefully flattened Life Cereal boxes. I'll file that under "unused." My pants and shirts get folded and stacked right beside my bed. I have 7 t-shirts, 3 long sleeve t-shirts, 2 hoodies, 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, rain jacket, rain pants. T-shirts and pants and shorts go beside the bed. My less-used clothing, and some winter gear is stuffed in a vintage hiking pack. I have bicycle touring and camping gear stuffed in bicycle bags - panniers - and that is laying beside the bed.

I have been very comfortable and stealth just like this. No need to wait until you can get a deep cycle marine battery, and a roof fan, and a working sink and all that stuff. Just move into the van, and everything you need will be worked out like magic. You'll change your organization a few times and get a good feel for what you DON'T need. Kitchen? No: camping stove. Sink? No: gallon jug of water. Part of the appeal of a van house is the simplicity. Don't complicate it by trying to jam an entire house into a cocoon. It's automatic. Your home will come together naturally as you realize your real needs vs. the previously imagined ones. Van life is easy.

It takes a few weeks of parking on the street and in various other places before you get a feel for your ideal kind of spot. I use small residential streets almost exclusively. It took a few weeks for me to adjust to being in a van with people walking on a sidewalk two feet from my windows, unaware that I was sitting an arms reach away. At first you can feel very exposed in a van. When cars drive close enough, you can hear them and they move your house a little. It becomes natural. It just does. I don't give it a second thought, and I've grown to love both of these things. Waking up, and stepping out of my cocoon in the morning has become something I love. I feel blessed and lucky.

I'm always seeing people who are "living vicariously" or are "on the fence" or are "planning to start vandwelling." Well, now is the time. Not later. The preparation can be zero. You don't need to have a setup that takes time and thought. You can just start sleeping in a van and work out the details later. I recommend a conversion van for a setup that's instantly cozy - but if you want to do the work on a stealth cargo van, go for it. I like having huge windows.

I spend all day at coffee shops and the library. I spend all day reading books in the park. I spend all day walking to the grocery store because it takes longer, and it relaxes me. I spend all day riding a bicycle and dancing on the pedals at a tempo that doesn't match that of the song on my iPod. I spend all day outside and I don't get cabin fever, even in the unmeasurable quantity that occurs whenever you see The Price is Right or an episode of Law and Order. This is good.

I have one last thought: A medium sized comfortable chair has been so much more valuable to me than any kitchen counter setup could ever be. My happiest times are sitting in my life-is-easy chair, looking out through my swing-out side doors. It's a porch. Enjoy a rainy day on the porch with the rain drops falling on your feet while you read a book. Shake your head and wonder why so many people are hiding in a house. Living in a van takes almost no planning. It's stupid easy, and you might fall in love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Warshing

I'm washing dishes. The music selection in the kitchen was a little wobbly - depending on scratched up cds - so I just put on some RJD2. It's on the first track, and now I'm ready to scrub a hole right through a plate if necessary. I'm bouncing around with some steel wool. The cook with that wild, nonsensical music is here - so I was kinda disappointed he didn't play more of what I learned was Dragonforce. Unfortunately, I think those guys are actually serious. I thought they just had a great sense of humor - but no. I think they're for real. I thought it was more like that band, The Faint, with the song that spells out "hospital" in ridiculous fashion. I don't know if those guys are being serious either, but I hope not. I think the best dishwashing music so far is Ratatat, though last night I also enjoyed Operation Ivy, and Jawbreaker among many other things. Jedi Mind Tricks. Got good kitchen music? Make me a mix. Nothing sleepy or "lame," or I could potentially lose iPod privelages. So far, I think I'm trusted.

After work I'm going to go back to that karaoke bar and blow all my cash. Don't worry, I don't have very much.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nice shaped head

It's 7:21pm, and I'm buzzing around in the vicinity of the fountain soda machine at work. I'm having a pathetic and impossible time remembering the names of everyone who works here. A really nice guy (which is everyone, really) is telling me that he doesn't think his head has a nice enough shape to shave. In a way, this is a compliment, because I'm bald now. When I try to start my own mohawk, and goof it up: bald time. My head feels a lot cleaner now. Hair was really starting to bother me. I wish I didn't chop off that hawk I had before coming out here - it would be incredibly stupid and rambunctious at this point.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hoopla and mustard

7:21pm. Washing dishes. I'm always moving, but I'm all caught up. That covers this blog's pretense. That fills the quota for the original concept.

The daily spillage of unnecessary personal information remains to be poured out. I don't think I have the words for it, and I definitely don't own a mop to clean it up. Aside from outward appearances, I'm not calm. I haven't been drinking for the sum of two nights, so I can't even fool myself into a phony calm. I'm not saying that drinking is effecting my calm, and I'd rather leave mention of it out of this completely. But I'm not writing fiction, and I'm on a weird mission to say too much, so it's in. I drink every day, and it's notable when there's a pause. Maybe that cop shook me up. Maybe the combination of the cop encounter and a lack of false booze-calm are turning me into a monster. But those maybes can be followed by any scenario. I think it's more like this: I think I'm walking on coals and I got distracted and stood in one place for too long.

My feelings about Ashland are the same. It's magic and hoopla and there's a creek. My heart is the thing which is exploding. Ashland remains much the same. Now I'd like to move on and witness the rest of the perpetually exploding universe with as little time for logistical preparation as I can muster. Now I'd like to witness a platter of triangle-cut sandwiches with many ingredients including vegetables and deli mustard.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Police, Petro, more scrubbing.

I've got a big wide open mouth, and a lot of confidence. I've been parking and waving banners and screaming about how easy life is. I've been bragging and slouching and drinking and giving advice. I've been wearing shoes without socks and going 35 in a 15 on a bicycle. The lifestyle of the tiny little rebel catches up to a man. I plead for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When my thoughts are calm and my pure heart is glowing, I get what I have coming to me. Bang bang bang! Flashlights! My shit's lit up like a disco, and the police are yelling into my house. I pull my invisibility cloak tighter around my head and try to calm my breathing. The fuck I'm gonna go outside and talk to a cop while I'm wearing boxers with little piggies on them. The fuck! I feel like my breathing and my beating heart are going to shake my van and make it obvious that someone is definitely inside. This cop could probably hear my heart audibly if he'd stop stomping and yelling and press his ear to the side of the cobra's head. I know that my curtains conceal me perfectly - but logic wavers when I'm afraid. My feet are exposed, and I feel like a flashlight beam equals an eyeball, and maybe the game is over. My side door could be ripped open, and I could be dragged out by the ankles. I picture it. I lay still and take slow deep breaths. After a few minutes it's over. After twelve hours, I'm still not perfect. I waited five minutes and drove to the truck stop several miles down the road. I read a book. I slept.

I had breakfast served to me on a little skillet. The skillet was possibly made of iron. I afforded this with money from a dishwashing tip-out.

Rewind. At 7:21, the kitchen is overflowing with dishes. Stacks of bus tubs are crammed everywhere, and catching up is not even a hope. I wasn't scheduled - but I got call at 5:23pm explaining that the scheduled dishwasher did not show up for work. Could I come in? Yes? THANK YOU.

It was a pretty wild situation with the dishes. Washing them seems like a strange skill to acquire. A dishwasher needs to have little personal systems of organization to move as quickly as possible with maximum efficiency. I haven't developed my methods yet, and though my arms are flailing around and I'm spraying violently with a clenched jaw, I still feel like I'm trying to run in waist-deep water. Nobody cares that I'm a little slow. I'm new, and they're all grateful that anybody showed up at all. I'm clearly doing my best, and everyone thanks me for being there. I get assistance from the cooks - experienced former dishwashers - whenever they have a chance. The shift ended like I knew it would. A shift always comes to an end if you can wait it out. You'll always go home afterward, and that's what I did. I was almost calm. I was laying on my back and reflecting on many thoughts. I knew from my breathing and the substance of my thoughts that I would drift off soon, though I was still too lucid for immediate sleep. At that moment, headlights pulled in fast behind me, and a car stopped very close. "Great" is the word that came to mind as I pulled my blanket over my head and rolled onto my side. A few seconds later, I got a "bang bang bang!" on the side of my house. Criminals.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The golden great dishwasher

It's 7:21pm. I'm moving fast. Absolutely ridiculous music is keeping everyone pumped. I speak of fast paced asinine heavy metal, which I believe is supposed to be funny. Such clichés of lyrics and instrumentation must require careful crafting. This music can't be serious. I'm almost sure that this is screaming ironic poetry.

I'm spraying dishes and stacking racks like a maniac. I've got a flow, and the minutes are flying by. It's my first day washing dishes as a profession, and I'm picking it up fast. Tubs full of dishes pour in, and I spray them off and apply elbow grease where needed. The shift is going smartly, and the only feedback from this crew is positive. I get a free meal at the beginning of the shift, and I get tipped out when I'm done with training. This is a good crew of cats, and I think I will be able to tolerate passing some time in this elite healthy restaurant by the creek.

I got a pillow top mattress topper that is going to bring up my quality of life several small notches. (There are numerous notches, and several is measurable.) Jordan didn't need it, so she gave it to me. Jordan is the girl who I met my first night in Ashland at The Black Sheep. At the bar next door to where I now work as a dishwasher (a dishwasher, dishwasher...) God, she's cute. I gave her the address of this blog, and my words are duly colored by the fact. But God, she is cute. She's also a lunatic. I don't mean it in a bad way, and in fact I want to hang out with her all the time. Still, she's an impish bottle of sex, and I'm not quite sure what to do with one of those. To hang out always would be a good start. One of the first things she said to me included something about Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley." And today she gave me that pillow top that's going to transport my bed to a whole new dimension. She also gave me a bigger cooking pot, groceries, and elite novels. We sat on rocks by the lake. I took an actual hot shower. All this occurred before I arrived for my first shift as a dishwasher (a dishwasher, dishwasher...)

After my first shift as a dishwasher (a dishwasher, dishwasher...), I drove to Medford, 12 miles away. I headed straight for a hick bar that was having karaoke night. Craigslist came through for me again. First it told me about the job opening for a dishwasher (a dishwasher, dishwasher...), then it introduced me to Shay through email. I hung out at a hick bar with Shay and her very small wheel-chaired girlfriend, Hailey, watching karaoke. Shay is a nurse, and now that I'm a dishwasher (!) we both have somewhat erratic work schedules. But it was determined that we could both find time to meet in Medford and watch karaoke tonight. She's kinda new to this area too. This day was one of the golden greats of the 21st century. Shay was cool, and we talked about plenty of things but left plenty more to speak about next time. I let her borrow the book "Life of Pi" before she left. She had to go earlier than me. I drank more Bud, for lack of a better tap. Then I slept on my new pillow top'd bed.

My van is organized like a bucket of nonsense. The cobra's head is packed like a hiker's waterproof stuff sack. If belongings could speak, you would hear not a sigh of relief, but the spastic gibberish of twisted cloth and folderol speaking in tongues, eyes rolled to the back of the collective head, moaning as well. I'm sharing my van with a bicycle. Since I'm smart, I brought two bicycles with me because I didn't know which one I would end up riding exclusively. Better organization is not only possible, but easily achievable. I've procrastinated and ignored the issue for a very long time. I'm still alive and twitching.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Asleep, blundering

I was asleep by 7:21pm. I ate reasonably well, and then I read, and then I slept. I felt like I needed a nap, but laying your head down at 7pm is likely to send you into the next day. It did. I slept forever, and woke up feeling great. I can feel the difference from a long sleep not preceded by drinking. I woke up crystal clear, feeling strong.

I'm happy to share the news that I did, indeed, lose another credit card. Who is even capable of such a steady flow of blunders as this? Surely only Christopher J. Harne is. I'm slapping down cards like a player of the game spit. I think the follies began in earnest when I got caught up in drugs. I know where I lost the card. I asked if I could have it back, but apparently the ATM machine shreds it if you don't retrieve it after completing your transaction. The frustration is almost enough to make me get "agro."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kids are hysterical

I'm sitting where the kids hang out. They could be 50 years old. They could be 1,000. They could remember when the dinosaurs roamed. But they're all "kids." Traveling kids, or more commonly "street kids." Some of them actually are kids. Most of them "spange" or somehow otherwise don't have jobs. There's a lot of exciting hair, body modification, natural body smells and earthy clothing. I'm getting shrooms for ten bucks. I'm talking to kids with dogs. At 7:21 I'm watching some "kids" get "agro."

"What... you're gonna mace me?"
"take a swing"
"mace me, you fat fuck"
"take a swing"
"mace me then"
"take a swing"

I had the pleasure of sitting idle, confident that everyone was pretty full of shit. Another old kid rightly pointed out that they should both shut the fuck up because the heat was going to be brought on all of them. To me it looks like Ashland doesn't have any heat. If there's heat anywhere around, it should be here on this constant gathering of kids.

Today was not a model of health. I drank way more than I ate, and then tripped. Hallucinogenic mushrooms are way too easy to find around here. I waited for four years on the east coast, and four minutes out here.

[editors note: I'm not getting "caught up" in drugs. Seriously. I'm not. Bye bye.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exchanges that happened

In Eugene, circa when I was there for a minute: I was standing outside my van, putting on my formal job-interview shirt. The side doors opened to a small patch of grass next to the sidewalk, obscured in both directions by a tree on either side. My curtain obscured the inside of the house. You could not see into the head of the cobra. An old man with wild teeth, carrying half a case of beer and some fishing equipment walked by slowly, limping with both legs. I greeted him with my typical friendly hello-with-a-nod, looking to see what he might be about.

"That's pretty incognito" he said, looking at my van, showing some interest.
"I like to keep it simple" divulging no specific info, but understanding that we both knew I lived in it.
"They won't spot you in that." he told me. "It's good."
"Well, you spotted it, didn't you?" I pointed out.
"They'll never chase you down in that thing." he said.

He told me about how his slide-in pickup camper was confiscated, and made mention of how he wished he had something like mine. That way he would still have a home. I felt bad for him, but not too bad. I felt angry at the system, but not too angry. I live under the radar, and I have a formal shirt for job interviews and fancy situations. He has beer and fishing equipment. I take care to park in new low-key unobtrusive places; I can only imagine he did something sketchy to get his home towed. But to take a man's home away is too much. How can you take shelter away from someone who has it? As I say, I felt some compassion and I felt some anger. I also understand a little bit of reality. I'm a lucky, white, well spoken, slightly clean, respectful young man. I want to scream murder in the face of evil who makes life needlessly complicated for another human. This was a friendly encounter, and I wished him a good day. This man left me with the happy image of the authorities literally trying to "chase me down" in my van, as he'd said. They have slow smoky vehicles with busted up axles, and thankfully they all forgot to release their e-brakes. To be unable to chase down my house is a classic mental picture. I'm warmed by his confidence. I'm always one step ahead.

In Ashland, circa coupla hours ago: I was upping my supply of incredibly affordable food and booze at the Safeway a couple thousand yards from downtown. Skater kids, with skateboards under arm, were meandering throughout the store. They'd put out a dragnet or something. I stood in a line that was long enough to reach to the center-aisle freezer section when a few of them had to break on through to the other side. I had two cans of chili (or similar) and a 6-pack of Ramen in my left hand / arm-crook. In my right hand, I held a 40oz Steel Reserve.

"Woah! two-eleven... you're living the gangster life!" commented the greasy blond skater teen.
"Ah, yes... the Gangster life indeed..." I replied automatically with a tone smacking of a well-bred gentleman recalling a polo match in his youth.

The exchange was brief and meaningless, and their laughter was immediate. My laughter came on strong about two seconds later. I don't know who was laughing with or at whom, but my heart was warmed because I'm always just trying to laugh at something.

Now, at 7:21, my gangster life commences. I'm taking swigs of two-eleven and my stove is waiting for my stomach to reach a boiling point. We're in cook-mode, and I'm typing up some remembered exchanges for posterity. I'm looking out my van doors now. I'm looking out as I type this. I can hear the creek. I can hear birds and crickets, as the sun descends and the brook babbles. Directly in front of me is a curb, immediately followed by mulch, shrubbery, trees, and eventually a path where only a couple people have passed in the last hour. Nobody seems to mind that I consistently have the best home location at the most affordable rate. I got a job as a dishwasher today.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Delicious nectar of life.

A positive title, for a day that ended on a positive note. Things are good.

7:21 found me escaping some rain. I'm sitting shotgun in my van reading my book. I made $30 earlier for building and fixing some bicycles at a small local shop that specializes in used bicycles and outdoor equipment. Friday is the usual payday, but I requested an exception with much sheepishness. I'm working again on Wednesday and Friday. Now at least I know I won't starve until I find a full time job. I was so financially confident that I even bought a sandwich with my 40oz beer.

Booze and a sandwich gets me pretty close to real meditation. That and a chair provides real satisfaction. After that, I went to the movies. This is where the nectar of life part comes in. I bought a ticket for a possibly lousy film. There was another lady standing at the box office talking on her phone about a ticket. I recognized her because we shared a table outside of Starbucks two days ago and talked until her ride showed up in a white pickup. She hung up the phone, and I walked over and said hello. I reminded her about Starbucks and then she remembered me too. She told me she had a free ticket for such-and-such that I didn't know about. I thought it was for a movie, but it turned out that it was for real theater. She said it was right around the corner, and she was trying so hard to give away the ticket. The show was in intermission. Being afraid that I'd missed too much, I asked what happens in the second half. "I don't know... MORE hilarious shit?" she said, almost flustered. That's when I got the picture. I saw myself clearly, and I was looking a gift horse right in the mouth. Free theater. What the fuck? I accepted the ticket with very much thanks. Did I still have her number, she asked? Yup! I've got it saved on my laptop. I traded my movie ticket for a voucher, and booked it around the corner. I heard some live music - James Brown. I didn't know where I was supposed to be going, so I asked a guy at the door "do you know where I go with this ticket?" He stood up straighter and was immediately friendly and at my service. "Here. Follow me. I'll show you." He led me inside and up a few long spiral flights of cement stairs. He led me through a door, and pointed out my seat. I was in a huge outdoor coliseum, the night sky clear above the huge multi-level theater. The stage was far below, and I couldn't believe that I'd hesitated to accept such a ticket. James Brown it was. A good impression of it, very theatrical. The hilarious shit had commenced moments before my arrival. The second half of the show was all mine to enjoy. It was a variety show - no plot being missed, as I had feared. It was The Daedalus Project, and I was fucking lucky to be there.

After the show I went back to my van, secure once again in the knowledge that my life is crispy and delicious. I laid in the van and I was happy. I was parked up a hill, only a few blocks from the theater. The night was authentically chilly, and I closed a few of my windows, letting a gentle cold breeze flow in the remainder. I snuggled into my blanket smelling the fresh scent of whatever flavor the cheap detergent was that I just used to wash it yesterday. I looked at the sky through my two small skylights in my hi-top roof, and imagined that I was looking through the slits of the eyes of a cobra. The shadows on my curtains to the front added to the image. I was inside the head of a cobra, looking out. I was still maybe a little bit high.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm moving under a pile of leaves.

I'm in my van. I'm pseudo-cranking Modest Mouse while finishing my Steel and coming alive on my spiral noodle meal.

Steel:
This sweaty glass bottle rings up at $2.04. At 40oz, 8.1%, this is as close to a $2 sixer as I've seen. Stamped: approval.

Noodle Meal:
1/3 - 1/2 of a box of spirals + $.34 tomato sauce can and an amount of Weezy (Louisiana) hot sauce and parmesan. You're basically re-born as the Energizer bunny.

Modest Mouse:
Some kids have Modest Mouse playing exactly 10 open parking spots away. I have a nearly complete discography on my pod (iPod), and I matched tracks and increased the volume. (It was the song about the parking lot... very ironic!!) If they noticed that the same song was blaring 10 spots away, they didn't show it... maybe next time. Now my speakers are pumping out Less Than Jake at a lower and infinitely manageable volume.

What'd I do earlier? I made some resumes at the library and printed them out. I used a fantastic looking Google docs template. It looked much less impressive as it squirted out of a B&W printer on strangely gaunt and dseased paper. You can believe that the Google-born PDF was a fine work of art; its big orange circles highlighting all of my best attributes. You can believe my wording was crisp and beautiful, like a reassuring hand placed on the shoulder of a needy employer. Chris Harne will save you. (The wording was also appropriately dumbed down to explain the simple basics of how and why I am so crushingly hireable). The completed resume fell short of breathtaking. It looks gray and pixelated; printed on shiny rice paper. I punched the printouts into the faces of several potential employers. (I used my professional speaking voice, and handed in the resume with an enthusiastic smile.) So, now I have some well worded "I'm actually trying" resumes. I'm trying! (to survive in a convoluted minimalist setting).

Here's some good news. Every single business in the town of Ashland will be hiring in the next few weeks to month! Every single one is expecting to hire people soon! My application/resume is on file at numerous locations! I have marketable skills, and I am not a dirty mess blocking the street! Never before has the pungent odor of success burned so strongly in both of my nostrils!

I watched another movie. This theater kind of redeemed itself. "Up the Yangtze" is one of the better documentaries I've seen. The film focuses on the effects of the Chinese government's decision to dam the Yangtze River and flood the banks. It shows the hopelessness and frustration of the poor and the common man in China who are forced to move. It specifically shows how a few certain people and families were effected. A young girl from an incredibly humble situation goes to work on a luxury cruise ship that navigates the now-bloated river while her family is displaced because they were living in the flood zone. I didn't draw many conclusions, aside from the fact that shit is very difficult for some humans and it can pretty much break your heart. This documentary was well filmed and edited. Facial expressions were caught, and used to relay feelings more clearly than words. I doubt it's easy to summarize a situation so well. It wasn't all "boo hoo, fuck the man" - it showed different angles and situations, and painted a clear picture of the facts. I'd say it's worth going a little out of your way to see this if you like movies at all anyway.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cookin'

These days are starting to run together. My watch beeped right as I got back to the van for some cookin'. I cleared off my chair, and pulled out my camping stove. I sat down, tucked my book into my book cabinet, and screwed the stove top onto the propane cylinder. Zatarin's black beans and rice.

There's a dude named Chris who sits around trying to get people's change with witty signs - he hangs out with the group of others doing the same. He smoked me up, and gave me some for later. "Welcome to Ashland - you have friends here." Wow. That's something else.

I went to the movies again. "Mirrors" is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Fortunately, it had several very hilarious (serious) moments. It seems like this theater shows the best and the bullshit all in one place. This was a big step down from Jellyfish, which I probably give too much credit because I think French movies are somehow automatically smart. That's another thought. I maintain that "Mirrors" was classic malarkey.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Reading a different book

I have no doubt that I'm rambling on about rambling on. I have little doubt that my words often make less sense than I'd like. I have little doubt that I often make things out to seem other than exactly how they truly are.

Here's exactly how one thing was. At 7:21, I was reading 'For Whom the Bell Tolls.'* I'm parked in a little lot just above a small dam that is responsible for a popular swimming hole. I discovered the swimming hole about an hour ago, and now I consider myself reasonably clean again. I'm sitting with my doors open. I'm relaxing in my chair with an incredible slouchiness. This book explodes with memorable wording. The day is still hot, my shirt is off with a vengance, and my turtle is sweating into the book where the pages are resting. My stomach tattoo is very popular with amazable children who don't know how to express awe outside of earshot: "Daddy! Did you SEE that TURTLE!" I sincerely swear to you: this will never get old. My stomach is a source of infinite joy.

I was going to go to the movies, but I couldn't finish my $2 40oz of Steel Reserve fast enough. I remained seated on a secluded bench until the sun truly disappeared and left me with nothing but an empty bottle in the dark. Then I was starving. I cyclo-raced up the mountain a piece to where my van still was. I ate boxed bullshit, and went to bed.

I looked for employment in an excessively half-assed manner, and didn't take care of my mind or body very well. My soul is a different matter. My soul operates independently, and often shoots from the hip. My worries are few and far between for my soul.

My mom thinks that maybe Bike Friday didn't hire me because someone there read my blog. My response was "fuck'em, then." The possibility crossed my mind too. And why not? It isn't hard to find me from Google, and who wants to hire a kid who speaks unverifiable silliness about the personification of a soul? (Or whatever else I've been saying). To worry about not getting employed due to my words here seems excessively paranoid. But the possibility can't be denied. I'm not shutting up - I'll just keep on spilling everything I have to be spilled until I get fed up and delete this whole mess with a grunt.

*you might remember that I thought I lost this book in NYC. Matt Klopp had it in his van, and he returned it. My spectacles - my lost glasses - were sitting next to the DVD player in my folks's house. My new spectacles trump'em anyway. There's a host of yellow, and they're sporty looking & good for cycling.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reading a book

I'm sitting in the nicest park in the world. I'm sitting on a bench by Ashland Creek which is gurgling pleasantly. It's a scene of perfection. Someone with an expensive microphone should be here recording the creek for use in a movie that needs the sound of a creek gurgling perfectly. I've been thinking about sitting down in the creek on and off for about an hour. Right now, my head is resting on my right hand. The heel of my hand is pressed deep into my cheek, and I'm engrossed in a book. My watch screamed right in my ear and made me jump. I'm guessing that this is the first time at 7:21 that I've had the heel of my hand so mushed into my face skin. I don't remember my watch ever startling me like that.

It's not normal yet. Far from. Somehow I forgot that things remain less than normal for a long time after moving to a new place. I could have relied on myself to tell myself this. I could have reviewed my own heavily self-documented past. Today I remembered a moment in Key West when I was talking to Eddie, and things were still surreal, and I was still a cowboy. He found me while I was drinking a slew of beers by the ocean. I was just beginning to get used to existing on the island - it was already a great and nearly magical place in my mind, but I was only then starting to feel comfortable. That was after almost two months. Trying to locate a link to that post, I found a topical one from another forgotten moment. New years day 2008. HA! Well, here I am! I'm obviously going to be insane for the remainder of my life. I don't say that as a call for help. Nay! I say that as and excuse to say "Nay!" I will continue further with other related thoughts: I've been going crazy for awhile now. I still believe I'm better off feeling crazy while seeing new things than feeling crazy and trapped. If you're going to be out of your mind and question everything until your thoughts become splinters and then dust: you might as well do it while running around. You might as well flop around smiling and trying to get some laughs. You might as well eat sandwiches and look at mountains rather than eating sandwiches and looking at sandwiches because your house has begun to look boring.

You might wonder: or I might wonder if you wonder: or I might wonder who is wondering anything about any of this: but for clarity: this following fact does not escape my attention: I know I'm only 25, and nothing matters at all, and life is easy, and I have plenty of time (ALL of it) to figure out what I'm doing next, and in all likelihood everything will end up supernaturally normal for me, and all in good time. What are the odds that life won't ever get normal again? Dismal odds. My money's on future normality. Everything is bound to end up incredibly normal. When all the dust settles, I just hope I'm satisfied. While the dust is still settling I'm going to be wrapping myself up in an enormous fluffy blanket. Before I get there, I'm probably going to be wide awake for a long chunk of time.

What are the odds that winter won't chase me out of Ashland (if I remain here that long)? I only have a slight passing interest in that thought. That is a question for Later.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ashland > Eugene

The title here reads "Ashland is greater than Eugene." My first time in Ashland was when I took a bicycle framebuilding class here a few winters ago. I loved it. I wanted to move to Ashland right away. It didn't turn out that way. At that time I had a girlfriend who I was planning to marry, and other things like that. I moved to Philadelphia instead. I never forgot how bizarrely friendly Ashland was, or how much I liked it.

The bicycle job didn't work out. The job opening was at Bike Friday - a manufacturer of what are probably the world's best folding bicycles. (Bromptons are very classy and awesome, and they fold quickly into a sturdy little bundle - but my vote for the best folder is with Bike Friday, because the component options are virtually unlimited, and they make tandems and recumbents. They ride very much like a typical big-wheeled bicycle).

Well - I didn't get the job. I have mixed feelings about this, and I'm not taking it as a negative thing. I dodged a bullet of responsibility. The worst part about it is that I won't get to make myself a free Bike Friday. No big loss. Also: I think they probably made the right move. I worry that I came across as weird, flaky and confusing. I might just be thinking too much, but sometimes I see myself as weird, flaky and confusing and assume that others get this impression as well. I don't know what to think about myself or what I'm doing here. I don't have these things figured out yet.

After I got swatted down at Bike Friday, I sat in my coffee shop and went on the internet. The place is called "The Hub" in homage to a local bicycle shop, Revolution Cycles, which was formerly located here. The Hub became a sort of home base for me in Eugene. A hub, you could say. The owner, Zach, is 28 and he appears to be a very mellow person with things figured out a little bit. We talked about how I didn't get the job, other possible jobs, life goals, stuff like that. I felt better. I drove to Ashland immediately.

I got here a few minutes before five. I'll say that I feel weird driving past hitchhikers. After hitchhiking myself, I should feel more compelled to stop and give rides. I drove past two very reasonable looking candidates, and felt guilty as hell. I picked up the third guy, but probably could have done just as well without him. He was going to Ashland, and I was only 15 miles away by then anyway.

Ashland is beautiful, and it is every bit as bizarre-friendly as it was before. It is wildly pedestrian-friendly here. Cars stop for you even if it looks like you might just be considering crossing the street some day. This is barely an exaggeration. Everyone here is grinning. This town is way smaller than Eugene, and the vibe is completely different. The vibe is fantastic. I feel invited and welcome. The streets to the west side of Main Street spiderweb up the side of a mountain. Steep windy residential streets eventually turn into a gravel road that twists up the mountain and brings you to a cluster of trail heads for mountain bicycling and hiking. It's fucking close to magic. I got elite parking on a reasonably flat stretch of windy residential street a piece up the mountain.

I swooped into town for coffee and wifi, and I got a delicious hot spinachy vegetable square from the co-op. I cannot underscore enough how friendly and happy everyone is here.

At 7:21pm I was walking into the long park along Ashland Creek. This must be one of the nicest parks I've seen. A mulch-covered path winds up along the creek, which is as clean and clear as anyone could want. There are big green lawns, playground equipment, and clean public restrooms.

After sundown, I set to the task of drinking at a bar. When I'm sitting alone at a bar, I have difficulty being as social as I want to be. Instead of looking for conversation, I tend to put off stressed out vibes. I've been told this. I've been told that I look very unhappy. I like the drinking part though. There was a girl at the bar who I should have talked to a lot sooner than I did. Part of my reluctance to start conversation is that I don't want to be a dude who goes around hitting on girls and making them feel uncomfortable. I don't do that, and I want it to be very clear which side of the fold I'm on. To be certain which side it is, I keep silent. Well this girl had no trouble talking, and we had a good time. Another dude later had no trouble smoking a joint outside. I had a little trouble finding my van.