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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RV’s, Vandwelling and Hobos

It was a long day.  I worked from 8am – 7:21pm again.  It’s 7:21pm.  I’m sitting in Mike’s Jeep, relieved to have taken the weight off of my feet.  The sun is going down now, illuminating the long rows of wind-blown clouds from below.  Cooking the clouds from the bottom like fluffy strips of bacon.  I’m hungry, and the clouds are bacon.  My feet are ham.  My life is a salad.  By life, I am referring specifically to my mind, my body, my living situation, and all of my possessions that I have ever owned or will ever own.  It’s a salad, so I might as well eat it.
But back to salads.  Back to the fluffy, cooked clouds.  Back to who Mike is.  Mike is one of the RVers who is staying in the same campground.  He is one of the older RV set that I mentioned having carpooled with.  Mike gave me a ride today, because we worked the same surprise extra shift, which was offered to us yesterday.  We talked on the twenty-or-so minute ride back to headquarters after work.  We talked about modern-day hobos and Roth IRAs.  We had a good discussion, including personal experiences, opposite opinions, and agreement on superficial matters.  I think that a dreadlocked hitchhiker sitting on a guitar case is a safe turkey to stuff into a passenger seat.  This concept raises Mike’s eyebrows, in spite of the fact that he has hitchhiked, and enjoys gravy.  We talked, and the conversation was good.  I’m as comfortable talking to Mike as I am talking to the wildcats who are sitting around the hobo trashcan fire in the other corner of the campground.  I’m equally comfortable with either type of person: retired RV guy, and wildcat who flips the bird to society using overall appearance as a finger.  I look my part well enough to fit with either crowd.  I can squish in with either group, but the squish isn’t nearly a mesh.  I don’t have big ears and an NRA hat, and I haven’t gotten “FIST FUCK” tattooed on my knuckles yet.  I can somewhat fit in with both – but also neither.
I thought about all of this while I was eating a few sandwiches.  It was then that the symbolism hidden in the arrangement of this campground appeared to me.  I am parked equidistant from the RV’s with their slideouts, and the dirty fuck-yous making a circus in the corner.  Is my van not a kind of small RV?  Is a vandweller not so often portrayed as a bum with one last worthwhile possession?  Here I sit.  I talk to everybody here, but at the end of the day I just sit inside my van and type.  And type, and type, and type.
I look forward to future times when I can scare people into eating couscous and watching movies.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Minnesota Sugar Beet Harvest

It’s twenty one minutes past seven, and I am standing around the time clock in the scale house.  I’m at the sugar beet piling facility where I will be working a massive number of hours in the coming weeks.  I’m milling around with the older RV traveling set who are staying in the same campground as I am in Hillsboro. Just across the state line.  I was invited to carpool with everyone else, and we got here at 7:45 this morning.  It’s been a long day.  The work is very easy, but the long hours and wind can take a toll.  My feet aren’t used to standing in their own sweat for so long.  Money is being made.
The work consists of pushing buttons, waving trucks in the right direction, and some light shoveling.  It’s easy.  If you’ve never seen a sugar beet, it looks like a cross between something you pull out of the ground in Super Mario 2, and horse turds.  They grow in thick soil that is more clay than dirt.  The dirt is all over the place.  You can pick up a clump and mold it like Play-doh. It sticks to the soles of your shoes, and demands constant scraping on the side of the piler.
The goal of the team of people I am working with is to pile sugar beets.  There is a large piece of machinery called a piler, and trucks pull up on either side and dump their load of sugar beets into a hatch.  The beets get converyor-belted, some of the dirt is knocked off in the process, then there is another section of conveyor belt, called a ‘boom,’ which drops the beets on a pile that is twenty feet high.  The boom swings very slowly in a large arc, dispensing the beets evenly and forming a massive pile.  We work on a huge slab of concrete that resembles a tarmac.  The piler inches back every so often, as load after load of beets gets dropped continuously.  I take some samples, direct some trucks, shovel some dirt, and watch this pile keep getting bigger.  The aerial photographs from years past are remarkable.  The end.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Can I say cunt?

I’m considering leaving van life. I love the freedom that I’ve found in my van. I love the feeling that a new adventure is as easy as putting the key in the ignition. Vehicle living helped me make a difficult and beautiful transition in my life when everything fell apart and I felt trapped. I was re-born as a stronger and better person, and I hesitate to change the living situation which allowed this to happen. But now a cheap rent option showed up with good people in Philadelphia. Visions of a small pink room, a bathroom, and a refrigerator have begun to swarm in my head. The decision has proven extremely difficult. It would mean being in Philadelphia, a city I love – but probably not spending the winter in Key West, a warm tropical island that I love. I’m planning to make another attempt at the used bicycle business. It would mean not working for anybody, but it would also mean a commitment to Philadelphia.
The ultimate situation would be to have a safe parking spot with an electrical cord running to my van. That would be my preference. I’m not living out a winter in a van in Philly with no heater. I’m just not. Rent for parking would be as much or more than a room. The room is the obvious choice.
I don’t want to tie myself down, but the apartment situation seems too good. Monthly costs would be about the same as with vandwelling, considering shared groceries, more cooking and zero gasoline.  The city can be tackled with a bicycle and a little bit of public transportation.  My room would be in a great area, easily accessible to everything I could ever want. Part of me wants to settle down there and try to carve out something easy and manageable.  Part of me realizes that I will possibly feel restless when I do.
Key West would be great. I’ve got some friends down there, the weather is amazing, and I could make a ton of money. Being a bicycle mechanic is an easy job – but I would still be working for someone else. I want to work for myself. I’m a bum.  I suck at working. I can do it, but it sucks out my soul, even if I like the people I’m working for. Working for myself is great – except for my lack of motivation. Building my own business with a team – which is what I will be attempting in Philadelphia – could be the answer. It could be rewarding, profitable, and easy.
I don’t know if my bicycle business will work out. I don’t know if living in a house will suck out my soul through a straw. But I’m going to give both a shot.  I’ll have my little pink room, and the makings of a traditional living setup. If it’s good: great!  If not – I guess I can just retreat to the van and disappear again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lonely and insecure.

I write what’s going on every day. I’m sitting in my van watching youtube clips.
I’d really like to fast forward to a point where I’m having a great time. I’m not happy. I don’t know exactly what I can do to fix my mood. I don’t know what goals I can set to make my life 1) have meaning, or 2) not require any meaning for happiness.
The sky is gray, the air is chilly, and I’m having a slow heart attack that feels like it’s going to take 70 years to mean business. I want to drink booze and smoke weed – but I know it’s just a distraction. No. What I want more is a happy reality. Sometimes the sky is gray and the air is chilly. I should be happy because I feel lucky for what I have – but I’m not happy. Sometimes I can’t reason away the fact that brain chemicals are boiling and frothing away. Or maybe I’m not trying enough – but the result is the same.
Where are the people who I can look in the eye and tell them that I love them, and I’m lucky just to know them? Or the people with whom it’s just understood? When will I meet new people who I can completely respect and relate to; those who I don’t need to hide evidence from? Good people only show up when you forget to look.
I’m done with this shit. I’m ready to pack up right now. The only thing keeping me is this nearly $2k I’m supposed to make – with stoopid-easy work, I hear. I wish I could spend it on cool shit, but it’s really just going to go to debt. I’m thinking hard about bankruptcy. I don’t like the idea of screwing people over – but who am I screwing over here, aside from myself? Insurance companies? Am I going to fuck up the already fucked up system? I’m not sure if I care, or if I even should care. Financially, I’m walking a tightrope trying to do the right thing; afraid that with a false move, I’m going to harm unseen but presumably contemptible corporations. Maybe I just need a salad.
This is a damnably boring rant, the likes of which I’ve heard whined about a thousand times. Maybe I should have saved the sandwich factory announcement for today to obscure the fact that I feel lonely and completely insecure about my life on multiple levels.

Secure and satisfied.

See, look? The title up there. I don’t like having titles like my previous one hanging around very long. Today was beautiful, and now it’s getting chilly. It’s 721, and I’m listening to Jack Johnson speak a little bit of French on that track on “In Between Dreams.” I’m reading Sheldon Brown‘s page about touring in Quebec. My laptop is on my lap, and I’m watching the light disappear from the sky with my van doors open.
Last night I went out for a burger, and ended up with a ton of beer as well. It was a relief. It took a long time, but I managed to drink 10. I was talking to Shawn for over two hours, and I reached into the box and found only two left. I talked to Shelly and managed to admit that I’m still in love with her. It doesn’t seem to change anything. It wasn’t easy to say.
These kids at this camp are some interesting folks. We’ve got flamboyantly gay, shoplifting crazies. There’s a trashcan fire, wooden crates for benches, dumpstered refuse, and a few scattered tents. It’s a good setup. It’s a huge step from sleeping under the bridge. They found a microwave and a boombox in the trash down in Fargo, and they stole some tapes from somewhere. It can’t get too much more ludicrous that this. They were playing a Purple Rain tape, and my flamboyant friend from under the bridge was getting pretty fancy trying on various fur garments and sequined bandannas. Yes, ludicrous is the word.
My friends who I dropped off at the hobo festival on my way out to Oregon are camped about 20 miles north. Their camp is off the hook. They’re the only ones anywhere around. They’re flying signs (holding cardboard signs that ask for money) in Grand Forks, and they’re getting rich. Everyone is getting over $100 per day. I heard figures of $160 and $180. I’m still not breaking out the markers and cardboard, but I got a glimpse of how that can really work out. They have huge fires and they’re cooking up plenty of food. I spent a night up there two nights ago. I had dinner when I got there and breakfast in the morning. It’s a big scenery change up there – we’ve got RVs with multiple slide-outs down here – and they have no neighbors at all.
Today I’ve just been eating sandwiches and playing on the computer. I’m not accomplishing much. I’m considering moving in with Nat when I get back to Philly. Rent is cheap, and I picture it being a good time for awhile. It’s one thing of many that I’m considering, and I’m considering it thoroughly. In my mind I’m almost moved in, and my walls are already almost painted bright pink. In my mind I almost feel like I have a home over there. I think Rob is moving in there too. I don’t know him very well, but I get the impression that he’s good to have around.
Life is good. Life is stupid. Life is easy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Doing battle.

It’s 721 oak-lock. I’m doing battle with flies. There are 75 flies in my van, and they are all trying to land on my eyeballs and teeth. I’m trying to “rat tail” them with a t-shirt, and my success has been limited. Swatting at flies has given me a much needed respite from my busy day spent eating two sandwiches, and planning my future. I’ve made a decision. I’m going to start a sandwich factory.
I’ve always wanted to start my own company. I figure that with my experience eating sandwiches, and my two years of college business classes, I am as prepared as I will ever want to be. I’m excited about this plan. I’ve been working out the details in my head, and I’m positive that this is a gold mine. The business model is simple. The factory cranks out sandwiches, which are loaded up on a fleet of small pickup trucks with banners on the side advertising $1 sandwiches. The pickups drive around honking their horns and ignoring traffic laws to get attention. It works like a less “silly” version of an ice cream truck.
I figure I can build the factory with scrap wood from construction sites, and fill in all the holes with mud. The only expense would be nails, because I don’t think I can find enough nails for free. I already have a hammer, so I figure I can just use that to pound in all the nails.
Most factories have smoke stacks, and I haven’t figured out where I’m going to get something suitable to make those, or what I’m going to burn to make the pollution. Since pollution isn’t absolutely necessary to make tasty sandwiches, I figure I can operate for a few months with just a bare roof. After I get some revenue from the sandwiches, maybe I can hire a smoke stack firm to help with those logistics. I considered running the factory without smoke stacks, but I think they’re actually necessary if I want to be taken seriously.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ride your bicycle.

It’s 721pm, and I’m talking to my parents. I’m in the paid campground promised by the beet harvest honchos. My van is plugged into electricity with my long orange extension cord. I have wifi of a unique and wild strength. There are showers, bathrooms, washers and dryers. Tomorrow, I plan to eat sandwiches. I ate one sandwich today.
I see that everything is fine. I see that any battles which I need to fight can be won even if my only weapon is the same time that sometimes seems so endless. Ride your bicycle.
I dismissed this town almost upon arrival. It seemed ripe for dismissal, but I don’t want to step into that role. I don’t like those shoes. I want to be one who dismisses geographic locations with at least a basic understanding of them. I saw kids in the school band learning how to march. I’ve seen that this is a town where you can catch a freight train like SEPTA. The grocery store is Dale’s. Both gas stations also rent movies. The streets are at least twice as wide as I would ever expect. It might not be worth an entire damn, but I have yet to declare it with any force.
Two wheels, a meandering pace, and a lot of sideways glances are the keys to open up a door and see a new place in a different light. It’s fall. The calendar didn’t decide this, but clear as anything, this is the first fall day I’ve seen this year. The sun is warm, and the air is cool. The night goes from cool to cold. The storm yesterday dropped a lot of leaves. The air has gone from soup to ice cream.
Ride your bicycle. If you have never experienced the satisfaction of rolling any distance on a bicycle, there can be only one reason. You must need a tune up. Send me pictures, and I’ll send ideas. I got a blanket for a dollar, and it is worth every single bit of a full, uncontested damn. Let’s all get rolling and fall down in the grass.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hillsboro, ND

I’m here in the beet harvest rendezvous town. I met Jim at a trailer that’s set up in a gas station parking lot. The harvest starts on October 1st, but I was told to be here today.  I filled out the paperwork, and watched the training video.  I’ll try to avoid being killed in machinery or sued for harassment.  This town is small and boring, and I don’t mean it lightly.
Here’s what I’m working with:
[Photo lost to time...]

At 721, things were looking up. I was feeling fortunate. I saw some grungy looking kids walking down the street and gawked in their direction a couple of times. I parked at the gas station, and they ended up loitering in about the same place I was planning on standing around. “So… you guys doing the beet harvest?” That got the ball rolling.
We’re all doing the beet harvest. They got here yesterday, and they’re spending the whole fucking week wandering around and sleeping under a bridge next to the park where they get chewed up by mosquitoes. We talked for a good long time. I showed them my van. We sat around inside my house escaping a surprise rain storm and talking about bullshit for a long time. Couple hours. I gave them my phone number and a ride back to the bridge. Now I’m fucking around on the internet for the 1000th time today.
It’s getting pretty strange out here. I was having a lousy lazy drawn-out day. I tried to recoup some of the sleep that I wasn’t able to get last night. There is no way I am going to cave in and drink so soon, but I have got to say that this is a really tough place to quit. I’m wasting a week in a tiny mid-west town. Maybe I’ll head down to Fargo. “The hub of excitement.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Reconnecting with family.

I’m driving east on I-94 and listening to Regina Spektor.  I don’t hate this music, but this is probably the last time I’m going to listen to it.
I put on something more appropriate.  I changed it to the album ‘Harmacy’ by Sebadoh.  I’ve had these songs stuck in my head for almost ten years, and I barely ever listen to this cd.  It’s not very uplifting for me to hear this, but I love this cd and every once in awhile I find that it’s finally the right time to blow the dust off of the mp3s and hit play.  I’m headed to Fargo.
I have an aunt who lives next to Fargo, who I have not seen in many years.  She was married to my mother’s brother, and family ties became brittle after they got divorced.  When I was a tiny little guy, I thought she was the best.  In the interest of not being completely anti-social, and reconnecting with nearly lost family, I called her.  I got her current phone number from my mom.  It’s been such a long time since we’ve spoken that I was actually nervous to make the call.  It took nearly an hour to hit send after keying her number into my phone.  I’m not the quickest at working up nerves, but I usually do manage to work them up in the end.  I left a message on her machine.  When she called back and left me a voice mail, I could see the picture more clearly.  Gee whiz!  Of course, she was so happy and surprised to hear from me!  We met for dinner and talked about most of the stuff that has happened since we last spoke.  My sister got married.  My pop got retired.  I… went to some school… lived in a van.  I couldn’t very easily articulate my purpose in life.  I usually know a lot of words, but somehow I forgot most of them.
I was happy to reconnect with my aunt.  I always thought she was the greatest person, and it made my day much brighter to learn that she is very much the same and that she is happy in life.  Fargo was directly in line with my route to the sugar beet harvest.  After our late dinner, and a promise to return after the harvest, I continued.
Fifty miles north in a small town surrounded by fields of intense vast openness, I parked and had a horrible time trying to get any sleep.  The temperature was in the 60’s with a breeze.  There was a light rain, and my rear sliding windows were open to let in the cool air and the sound of the rain falling softly outside.  Traffic did not exist.  In perfect conditions, I was unable to sleep and I felt a nervous anxiety that had no business haunting me where I was with what I was doing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ruining my life.

I don’t understand why.  It’s 721, and I’m on the prowl for a bottle of whiskey.  I drink half a liter and wake up fuzzy, needing to puke.  What. The. Fuck.  So, I quit again.  I need to quit for long enough to make it stick.  I need to be able to wait it out until things become normal.
When I’m not drinking, all I can see is how every situation warrants getting drunk.  I think ahead to being in Key West where you can walk around with an open beer, and get $1 Yuenlings and free sandwiches.  I think ahead to my birthday. Birthday Boy is drunk. I think ahead to an endless list of situations, all of which call for being drunk.  I think of owning land and sitting in a chair getting drunk every night.  And having a dog.
I don’t sleep well when I don’t drink.  My mood suffers, and time becomes long and slow. I get increasingly self-critical and uneasy.
Well, fuck.  I quit again.  A lucky customer at the Wal-Mart in Bismarck will find the other half of my whiskey by the cart return.  I’ve poured gallons of liquor down sinks and into bushes.
How the fuck did I end up drunk again?  I made a decision, life became easier in a way, and I went well out of my way to fuck it up.  I’m glad I puked a lot.  That really helps put things in perspective.  I just want everything to become sober and normal again.  It’s a can of worms that I wish I’d left shut.  You don’t crave alcohol if you’ve never had it.  I was like that at one point, and happy as all fuck.  Now I just feel fucked.  It’s definitely the God damned wheel.  I’m relieved that I quit again.  We’ll see if it takes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Into North Dakota.

I’m stationed outside a Comfort Inn, getting rays of free wifi through the back window of my van.  I’m sitting in my living room in my life-is-easy chair. I have some chili and macaroni in a pot underneath the chair, and an open Mickey’s 40oz to my left which will get no further comment.
I’m emailing Kevin, who I met on the commuter rail to South Station in Boston during my recent bicycle tour.  I’m planning on watching some shows.
I’ve been parking and sleeping in hotel parking lots, then waking up early enough to eat free breakfasts.  I’ve had hot waffles, yogurt, coffee, and muffins two days in a row.  The parking lots are very quiet, because that’s just the nature of hotel parking lots.  Truck stops are noisy.  For some reason, tons of trucks are always idling.  Doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold… these guys just seem to want to idle.
I feel bad about what I said about Montana needing to get swept up into a little pile.  The further east I got, the more I could appreciate it.  Now I’m in North Dakota.  The badlands are an endless layering of geographic information.  It doesn’t mean much to me, but it’s great to look at.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Butte Montana

I’m driving through the nooks and crannies of a pathetic version of Las Vegas. What is this strange tame silliness covered in opportunities to gamble? I have two thoughts. The first is to figure out how and why Montana is covered in casinos.  The second thought is a process in motion.  I’m scouting for a low key place to smoke.  I’m almost out, so after today I won’t be thinking about it anymore.  I’m planning on smoking it all rather than crumbing it down for a week.  Not much left.  Weed has been serving to make this trip interesting in the completely unnecessary sense.
Sigur Ros made me want to float up and take a large impossible bite from the crest of a mountain. I considered it for at least ten minutes.  If I could open my mouth beyond all limitations of muscle, bone and skin.  Sometimes marijuana becomes like being on the wheel that the character Robert Jodan describes in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.’  Alcohol is definitely like being on the wheel.
People have said nice things about Montana.  I hate to dismiss a state completely, but this state needs to get swept up.  There’s a whole lot of dirt, and it’s taking up too much space.  I got the picture within about thirty miles.  We should take a day to sweep it up into a neat little pile so drivers can get past it to the next big idea.  I like the belly of the United States.  I like the designs better further south.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Smells like grapes.

The sun is going down.  I’m driving.  It’s 7:21pm.  My window is cracked, and something smells like grapes.  The smell is possibly being caused by some grapes.  There used to be grapes growing on a fence bordering the back yard at the house I grew up in.  Concord grapes with pits.  This smells identical to that, and the smell is transporting me back through time.  I’m getting whipped with memories, and I don’t see any grapes.  All I had today was two pancakes and a lot of coffee.  The straight line of my mind is starting to warp a little bit, and why am I on this exit ramp?  What exactly am I accomplishing right now?  What am I going to eat, and where are those pitted Concord grapes?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


It’s 7:21p.m. and I’m sitting here in a big comfortable chair at a Starbucks.  I didn’t buy anything, I’m just sitting around with my laptop plugged into their electricity.  I’m glad I didn’t buy anything, because using the internet here requires a t-mobile account.  I certainly don’t want to buy any coffees if they don’t come with any free internets.
I’m in Idaho or some such state.  I’m working my way over to North Dakota, and trying to stay high.  The part about “staying high” is a huge overstatement, but there’s a definite theme of smoking bud and watching TV on my laptop at an endless stream of Super 8’s and Best Westerns.  Best Western?  Shit, they had a comfy leather couch and I sat around there for awhile on the internet.  I usually stick to the van, but this sofa?  I’m on it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gains me nothing...

It’s my last day washing dishes in Ashland Oregon.
It’s a slow night. If I speed up, I’ll just be standing around. I don’t want to say goodbye to anyone. Nobody cares. Seriously – I state this as a simple fact with no further implications. I like the people here, but I don’t actually know them. It’s just a job. I’m just ghosting through.
I’m excited to be leaving Ashland. As I’ve said, I think this is a special place, but I have met nobody and it’s starting to get authentically lonely. I only have myself to blame for not meeting anyone. I have discovered that I am not adept at being very social these days. I remember being much more social in high school. I seem to remember having a lot of friends then. This makes me consider that maybe my personality has changed, and I’ve become hopelessly aloof. I consider this, and I dismiss it. Other factors help to create this illusion. For most of high school I was part of a Christian group which was basically a huge cult-like gang of friends. A harsh characterization, saturated with undismissable accuracy. I was also a drummer in a band, and I was friends with other people in bands. Many of these are the same close friends I have today. The same friends who are almost all located in Philadelphia, 3000 miles from where I’m at. In high school I was also in a kind of “fuck shit up” phase where I got a lot of leverage out of being a little bit ballsy with my actions. What I’m attempting to say is that everything’s cool. I’m aloof and “a little bit off” by one person’s words, but I’m happy and I’m growing from every new experience. I’m no longer in fuck-shit-up mode, but I could benefit from employing my former ballsiness to let people know that I do, in fact, exist.
I usually know the exact right thing to say, but fail to move my jaw. I hide behind air, and my awkward little smile gains me nothing.
Ashland. As I walked out the front door of the restaurant, into the unseasonably warm night air, I felt the cozy job-free lightness. Blessed be. This is good. Here, I gained something.
If you haven’t been following closely: I live in a van, and I love freedom. Walking up Main Street toward where I parked my van across town, I found a large takeout container of chili. It came from some restaurant, and somebody put it on the edge of the trash instead of throwing it away. This is the action of a good person, and I appreciate this type of subtle benevolence on all levels. To clarify: I don’t eat nasty shit, but if there’s some good clean organized food, I’m not going to act stupid and pretend that it grosses me out. I keep an eye out. I look for takeout containers, but I don’t do much digging around.
I jammed the chili container into my cupholder, and hit the road.  (More accurately, I talked to my friend in Brazil for 41 minutes first.)  I was more than happy to leave familiar territory and begin a new adventure. Around 11pm, I stopped at a KOA off of I-5 and took a very refreshing hot shower. KOA: free secret nightime showers. Take note.
I continued north, pulled off into a rest stop, and filled my van with smoke. It wasn’t very safe from a legal standpoint, but I did manage to get pretty stoned. I certainly enjoy smoking at night and before movies. This was both. I had a rented film from a Redbox location, and I watched it on my laptop.
I’m girly. The movie was what people refer to as a ‘chick flick.’ I didn’t choose it because of that, I chose it because I’ve got slack criteria when picking a DVD from a vending machine. I tend to get emotional during corny dramatic films. Most men won’t admit to this, I don’t think. That can be confusing. Am I extra-feminine, or are other males putting up a strong front and obscuring what is normal? Both. Probably both. In spite of how I act most of the time, I see myself as having more than the average amount of feminine qualities. That’s how I see it. I doubt that’s how others see me, but I’m honestly not sure about that.
I view existence and the ability to think in an abstract way. You can see things the way they are, or you can look at them the way that they can be. The dull-normal Norman Rockwell version is plain for everyone to see from birth. But I never really felt anything from what he painted. What does that guy stand for, anyway? If you look at the possibilities closely, while ignoring the boring foregone realities, you can imagine a wild picture. A wild and possible picture. For now, I want it that way. In a certain controlled way, this turns life and the earth into a pinball game. I’m a silver ball ricocheting around in colorful screaming nonsensical scenery. The worst thing I could do is put in my quarters, and stand idle as I watch every opportunity roll right across the flippers.

Monday, September 15, 2008

At the library.

This library is my living room. I sit here for hours in a comfortable chair, and let all my my electronics charge up.  Each one of the nine comfortable chairs is located near an outlet.  Each comfortable chair is grouped with two other chairs in front of an enormous picture window that looks out over a small mountain with sparse tree coverage.  The window has coverage all the way from floor to tall ceiling.  The large grassy mountain located directly ahead has huge shadows moving slowly across on a day with clouds.  My perch here is unparalleled in excellence. This is, by far, the best public library setup I have ever seen.
I’m sitting here in this chair with my headphones on. I’m watching It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and I’m still slightly feeling the effects of the psychedelic mushrooms that I ate up on the mountain hours ago with ramen noodles and tomato sauce.
I had a good time up on the mountain.  I had a large portion of mushrooms that I had obtained using the barter system.  I gave some traveling kids a large bud of excellent marijuana, and they traded me these shrooms.  We traded our drugs like they were made out of Pokemon cards.  I drank a huge push-button cappuccino and we talked about sugar beets, and my upcoming fortune.  We talked about where we sleep.  I have a palace, they use the park.
My parking spot up on the mountain provided solitude and an excellent view of the valley.  Moss-covered pine trees provided the shade for my private piece of the slope. I didn’t know if it was a good idea to eat all those shrooms. I didn’t know how much was there, so I ate them all, just to be sure. Things were definitely strange, but everything remained under control. In fact, everything seemed pretty normal in a certain slightly twisted way. Things did not get visually strange, beyond a slight shifting of details. I wandered away a little bit, and sat on a huge rock in the sun. I moved between sun and shade, inside the van and out.  I got twisted up in my blankets and the softness of my bed, but I was able to get out again fairly easily. And… I got a little lonely.
This with living in a van and traveling to new places where I don’t know anybody can be a lonely proposition for a guy without a strong yappy personality.  I’ve enjoyed this time very much, and I’ve enjoyed all the solitude.  But now that time has passed, I miss being with people who I know. I’ve barely socialized at all here.  I reflected on this. I was invited to a party happening today. I found out about this yesterday.  It’s a work-related party, and I knew right away that I would not be going.  I thought about this, and laughed out loud.  Never again in all my days am I allowed to complain of feeling lonely if I’m turning down party invitations.  I didn’t want to go to the party though – and I plan to leave town the day after tomorrow.  The time for friends here has passed.  I’m excited for the next mission.
My business on mountain was finished as soon as I realized that it was Monday.  The library is open until 8 o’clock on Mondays.  I’d had enough reflection.  I returned to town, feeling fantastic.  The mountain was cool and breezy, but back in town I had to remove my long sleeves.  The valley holds the heat, and the difference in temperatures was significant and notable. I baked out my van at Safeway before going to the library. I spent some strange time on the computer, feeling great.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

4:17pm, Lithia Park

I’m sitting on the waist-high wall toward the main entrance to Lithia Park. It looks like the wall was built using stones from Ashland Creek. I don’t know. If you are entering the park from the area of the downtown plaza, you can see this wall, curving around two sides of a small grassy yard like a thin arm resting on the back of a fuzzy green sofa. You could fit about six school buses under the arm – and about three between me and the walking path.
To my far right, I hear quiet cello music making it’s way through the trees and bushes behind the wall. A middle-aged man sits on a stool and plays cello about three hundred steps up the walking path. His music is improvised. I wondered about this, but it was somebody else who asked. I overheard the answer. I can’t see him from here. I’m not walking over there today. His case is always open, and he has a beautiful shaded location with a good flow of lazy foot traffic.
Enjoying an afternoon in the grassy yard, in front of the short piece of the wall, and to my nearly immediate right, is a guy with short curly red hair. He’s using chopsticks to eat something. By his slow manner and grace, I surmise that he is eating small bits of sunshine, practically weeping with joy.  This is the portrait of a satisfied customer.
Left of this, in the spectrum of my view, is a young man with long, thoroughly tangled hair and a Crosby mustache. He’s meditating. I can’t tell if he’s homeless or not. He hangs out on the plaza sometimes, and he carries a pack – but the pack is small. He sometimes shouts facts and theories, but it remains unclear whether he’s full of facts, conjecture, or sandwiches. Right now he’s serene and straight-backed. He’s a good guy. I’m not sure why I’m convinced of this, but I truly am.
I move my gaze another notch to the left. This old man with long gray hair is homeless. His pack includes his sleepshit.  He’s laying in the grass with his head on his pack, and he’s tracing something in the air which only he can see.  He’s tracing something very slowly with his finger. A cursive name? Imagined curls of smoke?
To the left – now to the right – to the left again… A frisbee toss.
The next character to the left is a young kid, maybe 15 with black jeans and a white t-shirt. His hair is a cross between early 60’s Beatles and skater kid. He’s asleep, cheek to grass, sprawled out like he fell from the 9th story of a building that is nowhere to be seen.
I turn my head several more degrees to the left, where I can’t help glancing every few minutes anyway. An attractive girl is laying on her stomach; her pants look like they are painted on. Not more than ten feet behind her sits an art critic. This man began a steady regiment of starting, with no other ostensible purpose.  No book, no turning of the head.  Seated in the grass, arms locked around knees, unflinching expression of stone.
About 25 feet behind the staring guy, there’s a man on the wall scribbling in a notebook. Writing a book? Poetry? He’s drinking a huge push-button cappuccino, checking his watch to see if it’s 5 o’clock yet. He’s a dishwasher at a healthy-looking restaurant by the creek. He’s looking forward to tomorrow when he doesn’t have work. He’s going to eat a bunch of shrooms up on the mountain in the National Forest. He has two more work shifts before he leaves Ashland, hoping to find new and refreshing scenery.

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.