Sunday, August 31, 2008


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 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


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.

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


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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NPR, driving

At 7:21 I'm driving through downtown Eugene listening to NPR. I'm headed in the direction of the movies.

For a majority of the day, I sat in my van down by the river and read a book. I went swimming. The water was clean and clear and very cold. Now I'm clean again. I cooked up tortellini - great with just olive oil and a little bit of hot sauce. Roasted pepper olive oil.

It was a pretty bland day, all told.

Monday, August 11, 2008

On the path

I'm on a tiny out-of-the-way bicycle path. I'm sitting in the grass. It's stiff dead grass, and I'm using my backpack as a barrier to keep the backs of my legs from getting poked up too much. I have a beer with me. I'm reading Life of Pi. This is still a really great book. I'm mostly killing time until the sun goes down. I plan to go to the movies later.

Eugene is still lonely for me. Naturally. I forgot what it's like to move to a new place and not know one other person. There's a lot of time to kill. I'm still working on getting The Job. It's like a slow game of chess. You can't just show up and yell "Hire me NOW!" It's slightly excruciating. I "just happened" to be in the area of The Job, and stopped in yesterday to introduce myself. It went reasonably well. I was asked to build a complicated little toy helicopter to make sure I know what bolts are and that I can follow instructions. I do, I can. It was a timed test, and my time wasn't particularly impressive. I had sweaty nervous shaking coffee hands, and I was sitting alone in a conference room. We'll see where that helicopter gets me.

I got drunk and went to the movies. I watched "The Fall." That was an exceptionally good movie. I loved it. I'm very happy to have found a theater right in the downtown area that is similar to my beloved Tropic Cinema of Key West. A place that shows movies other than the big blockbuster hits. This is another place that I can trust for great movies. I bet I'll be seeing French films with subtitles in no time.

Now I just need to meet people. What a slow process. It's just like Key West over again - I don't know anyone and the days feel long and strange.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eugene, brah

You heard me. Brah! - I'm in Eugene.

Eugene is a beautiful town-city with a whole lot of easy van parking. Finding a shady spot is stupid easy. I know if I'm here even slightly longer (like I plan to be) I will almost certainly find VERY elite parking for my van. It's pretty here, and the bicycle culture is as strong as it's supposed to be. There are tons of cycles, and tons of paths.

I found a coffee shop with wifi. Within two hours of being here, I met a guy who likes to ride his bicycle who invited me out for a ride. We rode. He showed me one of his 30-or-so mile loops with lots of paths and a few moderate hill climbs. He slaughtered me on the climbs. We both rode pretty fast. He wore bike shorts and rode a Cannondale. That alone means nothing. But apparently he's competitive, he trains, and he likes assassination attempts. I felt great until the first climb. I shot about halfway up the hill, and then just had to sit the rest out and climb at my own pace. The second real hill was a little worse. On the third I was actually almost fine. I finally caught myself wondering if a lighter bicycle would help. I don't wonder such things often. I'm sure lunch and some more water wouldn't have hurt. I had to really sip with just one bottle for the ride.

I rode my KHS Professional 531 bicycle. I love that bicycle. I'm glad I brought it. That's right - living in a van, and I brought two bicycles along. Well, I don't regret it. This bicycle is smooth, silent, comfortable, and it's a swift joy to ride. I had a good ride, and was happy to have something to do and someone to talk to so quickly after getting here. Nice guy. I'm sure I could call him up when I really need a shower. It was that kind of deal.

7:21 though. I set out on foot to find places and - cosmos willing - people. Obviously a bar is the best place to look. It's at least the easiest. (unless you count Craigslist - but people tend to find it easier to post than actually talk, and it's all very sad sometimes). So I went to a bar. At 7:21 I was finishing up a sandwich and a second beer. There were about 12 other males present, mostly watching synchronized olympic diving and commenting on legs and behinds. All considered, two beers was enough - something I am unfamiliar with. But this time, two beers did it. I was in bed by 9:30, woken up about every 45 minutes by a train horn screaming past about a block away. Somehow I wasn't bothered enough to get up and move. I just went back to sleep. Now I know one place not to park. Now I know one bar to not look for people. Now I killed one day. Now maybe I'm one day closer to a mellow normality. Could this town be home? Could I be HOME?? I'm not sure if I'll ever be home. I think I'll just always have a few places where I can smile and breathe. Eugene isn't one of them yet, but I do believe that this place is SCREAMING with potential.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Getting closer...

I'm under 200 miles from Eugene. I'll be there tomorrow. For now, I'm parked in another rest area with another beautiful panoramic view. I have more clinkers in my cooler, and I'm going to cook up some soup. That can all wait for the sun to go down a little further. I'm reading "Life of Pi." I didn't say so earlier, but that's the book that I borrowed from Ravi during my bicycle trip. It's great. I knew it would be good, because Ravi seemed to know his books pretty well. He had shelves full of elite novels and could give a quick rundown of each one. Out of all of them, he seemed to recommend this one most after we talked for awhile. I'm on it.

I cooked up my soup, and I wrote a review.

Soup Review: Wolfgang Puck's Chicken and Dumplings

When a person buys groceries, what is it that dictates the decided purchases? There are a mist of obvious variables, and then there is an underlying history and a hidden story to be told. There are so many choices for any general item that deciding factors and hidden psychologies naturally exist. A shopper must choose between ten or more types of pickles in a jar with only the most minute differences. Sliced? How thin? Crinkles? Brand name? $.90 more? Elite pickles and $5 more? Why? When you're buying olive oil, how do you pick between 10,000 choices? Price alone is obvious. Otherwise?

I bought some food to stock up my van. I'm not a necessarilly adept food purchaser, but I realize clearly that spending assinine sums on crazy fatty restaurant food and tipping fat sums for assinine sums of restaurant food is not a sustainable option. Soup needs to get bought. I bought soup, olive oil, pasta, pasta sauce, cereal, juice, crackers, and other canned stuff. I'll give you my thoughts on a specific soup that I bought and ate.

Wolfgang Puck is an excellent chef. I know this because his face grinned at me from cans of soup, and he's not that handsome. He's a good chef. He's not selling soup because he looks like Uncle Jesse. Why did I choose this soup? Memories. I bought a can of Wolfgang's chicken and dumplings. I have a specific fond memory of chicken and dumplings. On my bicycle trip thru Quebec ('07), cycling hard and dying of thirst and hunger, Lonnie took me in and let me eat several pounds of chicken and dumplings. I slept in his screen tent about ten feet from the stove that heated that food. Remembering Lonnie fondly, I decided to chance a can born from promised professional pedigree.

Disappointment strikes. Wolfgang: Where did you go wrong (in life)? I have qualms. Your soup is runny and unfilling. I know from the description on your label that you hunted through the woods for 72 hours with a bow and arrow to obtain tiny morsels of the world's most delicious tiny carrot circles - but why so much water? Did I spend three bucks for mostly water? The cooking instructions warn me not to add water, and the reason is obvious when the can is opened and poured into a cooking pot / apparatus. I submit humbly that these same instructions should suggest: Just add 10,000 crackers for sustanence! Wolfgang: your soup is a watery joke. Initially I mistook your smile as a smile of pride. Now I see it differently. Now I know what your grinning face looks like when you've gotten one over on another sentimental customer. I will make this mistake only once. You can take your other flavors and shove them.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Idaho || OREGON!!

Idaho. At 7:21pm, I was driving through Idaho. I wasn't picking my nose, but I was doing the next best thing. I'm driving along and making faces into the plastic cover over my speedometer. I'm puffing out my bottom lip with air and smiling. I'm thinking about quitting for the day. I'm 500 miles from Eugene and I have all weekend to screw around getting there. I want to be there by Monday so I can trot around at this job and try to present myself in some kind of friendly reasonable fashion. Right now my thoughts are with cheap beer and good parking.

This potential job made me take a hateful test. I called up to 'check status' or whatever. You know jobs: you gotta keep calling. That's what they say. That's what I've seen. So I called, and I got to the next level. The online assessment test. It had two parts. The first part was all about physics, mechanics, weights and measures. I did fine. The second part was all about making you trip over your shoelaces and cry. You had to choose whether to "strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree" to 86 questions about your feelings on jobs, co-workers, and work environments. The questions are repeated with different wording throughout the test. You don't want to agree with something, then end up disagreeing with the same thing ten questions later. I'm really good at fucking that up. I get caught up in the specific wording, and try to answer honestly based on specific examples that come to mind. I over think it. I try to locate my true feelings, and I fuck it all up. Years ago, I took a similar test which determined that I am not fit to work at Blockbuster. These tests can be very humbling.

Time zones! At today's second 7:21pm I'm rolling along with three clinking bottles of $.99 22oz Cobra in a plastic bag to my side. I'm in Oregon! I'm in Oregon! This state is beautiful, and I am joyful. I'm rolling through the big, bare, empty mountains along I-84, listening to the Foo Fighters first CD.

I found my parking. I pulled off at a rest area, surrounded by tall heaps of mountain. There were no signs to tell me that I couldn't park overnight. I usually view these rest areas as sketchy, but this one really seemed alright. I got slightly sketched at my first parking choice, so I followed my heart and moved on. Now my heart is telling me to stop, and my heart don't lie. Much. Usually.

I'm loving the return to van life. I pop open my side doors and enjoy excruciatingly beautiful scenery from my life-is-easy chair. I cook up a heap of pasta. I let that sit in my little yellow colander while I finish a couple Cobras. Cobra's drink like dinner. I haven't eaten since banana-lunch, and a Cobra seemed to fill the void. I wait another halfa Cobra, then swiss-army can-opener a Whole Foods chili, and heat it up. I add a couple handfuls of spiral pasta and mix it all in. I eat. I'm hungry after all. I eat the chili-covered pasta until there's enough room in my little cooking pot for another handful of pasta. I clean off the pasta and have a little bit of chili by itself. That's a hell of a cheap and easy van meal. I won't forget that.

I sit and relax. The sunset was beautiful. I curtain up my house and sleep. The sun doesn't get me up for a long time, because it needs to stretch all the way over the mountains before it can sneak down to me. I wake up and read Bicycle Quarterly with the doors open to a gorgeous day. If anyone says that van people are all sad, destitute, homeless or similar: let them know about the Cobras in the mountains. If life was ever sweeter, it happened when I wasn't looking.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I'm driving. Driving, driving, driving. It's 7:21 and I'm 31 miles from Green River Wyoming. I have seen a lot of wide open space on this trip, but Wyoming takes the prize. I have been observing vastness for hours now. I thought it might be cool to get to Eugene some time tomorrow, Friday, but that looks more and more like a fantasy. It's taken a damn long time to go about one centemeter, and there are plenty more centemeters to go.

I'm hoping there's a billboard inviting me to do something hillarious tonight, open 24hrs. I'm ready for an adventure enhancement. I've been staying amused mainly by talking crazy, and getting every possible wacky flavor of push-button cappuccino.

7:21. I was tripping along Wyoming's vastness, listening to Air. How Does It Make You Feel? Chris Harne: "pretty fucking awesome!"

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Colorado || Hi Lydia!

At 7:21pm I was riding my bicycle toward the restaurant that Lydia works at. The plan was to ride downtown, weave through some cars, and see the sights. The main difficulty with rain is seeing. My glasses get all rained up, so I can't see - then I take them off and I have difficulty reading street signs. It'd be fine if I didn't need to read signs and follow directions - my vision really isn't so awful. I decided that nothing much could be gained by cycling around like this. I stopped at Whole Foods to waste as much time as one coffee could allow. I'm a professional time waster; I am the champion of killing time.

I said Lydia, and I'm talking about the Lydia who's blog I have a healthy little crush on. It's linked on the left. After I made my snap decision to move to Oregon, Lydia left me a comment saying I should stop by. An invitation. Great! I'd already decided that I wasn't going to invite myself, so I was glad I didn't have to. I'd probably have skewed my route down into Mexico if Lydia invited me.

Well. Lydia had work. She set me up with a parking spot across the alley, an invitation to make use of her van and stuff, and an invitation to stop by her work later. Perfect.

Lydia's evaporative cooling setup is very effective. Effective enough for me to read a book and zonk out in her guest room while my van was busy being an oven. Then it rained. I thought the rain was done, but shortly after leaving for downtown, I learned otherwise. This was apparently good news for people who live there and haven't seen rain for awhile.

Lydia hooked it up. My food and beers were comped. Including duck. Seriously: duck appetizer special. Then an entree, then a fruit and cheese plate. With figs. It was almost over the top. Very delicious. Thank you.

We went out for a couple drinks. Then back home. Lydia's got a sweet scooter that goes really far on a half-gallon tank of gas. The design is fairly bicycle-y in quite a few respects. I cycled along while she scooted. The altitude had a noticable effect. It felt like my biggest breath got me only three quarters of the usual oxygen. We kept it at an infinitely sustainable medium pace. Cycling along with scooters is a ball.

We chilled in her van, and I had a great time. I never know what to expect from an internet inspired meetup. It's like a blind date, except everyone knows way too many details in advance. I felt lucky that we got a chance to meet in person. It confirmed my suspicions that Lydia is cool. And I met her cat.

We had breakfast at The Breakfast Queen (of freedomvan blog fame). Huevos Rancheros. I got a shower at Terri's house and got a spiffy (by my standards) shirt (in case of job interview). Success on all fronts. Lydia went to yoga. I headed west. I had an awesome time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thru Nebraska || broke mechanic

I split from the hobo zone early. I said my goodbyes to my new friends. I was happy to drive away alone in my empty house. Now I get to take over and make all the little daily choices. Now I can not worry about where anyone will sleep. I can park and sleep almost anywhere. I can take naps or stop to read any time. It's too easy. It's beautiful.

At 7:21pm I'm driving through Nebraska. This is a beautiful and redundant state. Two minutes after my watch was beeping, I answered my phone to a number I didn't want to talk to. CitiBank. They've been calling me very persistently, starting at 7-something A.M. I have a line of credit that I owe $10k on, and I can't even make the minimum payment. I explained my situation. I gave detail, and told him what job I had and which one I was trying to get. The operator was sympathetic. "I have a question for you" he said. I ended up trying to diagnose a sound on his old Bianchi touring bicycle. I provided advice and suggestions. It probably needs a tuneup, and likely a new chain. He wished me luck in Oregon.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Real Hobos

Did I mention the hobo festival? Well, we got there. We got to Britt Iowa for the annual hobo festival. The festival doesn't start officially until the 7th, but people arrive early. We located the local hobo home base, aka: The Hobo Jungle. This is a small public park with a pavilion and bathrooms. It's flat and square with only a few trees, but well-kept grass. There is a box car for display purposes, resting on a short chopped-off section of tracks. The park is adjacent to the real railroad.

This town's heritage is hobos. The police turn a blind eye to reasonable action that would usually get you hassled.

When we found the Jungle and parked, we were greeted right away by two people drinking canned beers in koozies. It was two in the afternoon. They greeted us with hugs and gave us the rundown. You can do this, avoid doing that. But mostly: Welcome! I parked my van in a good spot, overlooking the perpetual fire. Some people had tents set up around the park, others were set up to sleep in the box car or on the ground. There were hobos. Real hobos - the kind that ride the rails and get all fucked up all the time. Old hobos who cuss and get real dirty. Friendly people who don't give a fuck about fitting into society. One of the first things I did was take a power swig out of a plastic bag of wine. It was a red box-wine without the box. A dude squeezed the bag and shot wine straight to my gut until I had to move my mouth and get wine all over myself. It was a riot. The flies loved it.

Me and my temporary crew went to the store for a case of communal beer. We sat back at the fire in the company of a dozen or so hobo folks. I didn't talk much, but I listened and talked when talked to. I was happy and comfortable - counting my beer tabs to keep shit from getting too wacky. We ate communal food that was acquired from various dumpsters. These guys were pretty ballsy about the meat they were willing to eat. There were a lot of sunburns and missing teeth. A cop stopped by to chat. Everyone was all fucked up, and that was fine. He declined a beer. A city employee dropped off wood for the fire. They mayor stopped by to shake hands and talk. I'm being literal. The sun went down and I counted seven tabs. The seventh can had a lively bit of whiskey mixed in. I quit. I went to my house and slept. Killer parking spot, right in the grass.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Time zones || Cops have guns

We drove through a time zone. I reset my watch, and 7:21 occurred again. I'll tell you what happened each time, but I also want to mention what happened earlier, and then what happened later.

My parents and sister and Karl were all headed east on I-80 while I was headed west. I haven't seen them in over a month, and don't know when we'll meet up again. So we phoned, picked an exit, and stopped at a McDonalds for a little while. Strange, but good. We got to see each other.

At the first 7:21, we were kinda all singing a little - throwing in parts to that Montell Jordan song, "This is how we do it." Savannah seems to know that song pretty well.

At the second 7:21 we're listening to music, driving along. Probably Modest Mouse, though I can't remember now.

Later in the evening some cops pulled a gun on Tim and accused me of running from them. I'll explain. It got late, and camping didn't occur, so it was decided that we should sleep in the van. The van is MY house, but somehow I didn't care and just went along with a plan that I probably should have shut down. I definitely should have vetoed the parking spot choice. I know better. We parked by a large gas station convenience store, but it was not a truck stop. It was too small. Me and Tim and Casey drank enough. I was getting tired, and Casey puked twice out the side door. I decided to make some space and relinquish my bed. I took my bivy sack setup to some tall grass and trees beside an adjacent McDonalds. My spot was well hidden, and a pretty good spot. I was a good distance from the parking lot. I was invisible and comfortable. I was almost asleep when I heard cops calling my name and shining lights - they were combing through the grass. I got right up, and was in handcuffs in a jiffy. "Why'd you run from us?" asked the cop who didn't claim to beat people up. This was a confusing question. I didn't run from shit. I kinda jogged through the tall grass to my spot. I jog through tall grass instead of walking slowly. I high-step jog because it's better that way. I figured I couldn't say much to help my case with the police, so I just shut my mouth and didn't say anything. Always a pretty good idea. So they cuffed me and grabbed my stuff (My air mattress was even inflated - the true sign of a comfortable fugitive). They didn't let me put on shoes, because I was a dumbass. That actually turned out ok - nothing sharp. The tough cop said stuff to convince me how tough he was. He seemed like a true violent piece of garbage. They sat me on the curb by my van with the others, right on a pile of ants. They were black ants, and it wasn't quite a swarm. They crawled up my back and feet and bit me up pretty good. It was very uncomfortable. Cops found weed in the van. Mine. Nobody claimed it because it wasn't theirs, and I was still in shut-the-fuck-up mode. There were way too many cops. Several cars. I don't think they wanted much more than to fuck with us. At the time, I was pretty sure I was headed to jail. I didn't think it was a big deal - but I was pretty sure I'd be going. Well. They made Savannah smash my bowl using my multi-tool hammer, and they messed around for awhile longer. Talking and making fun of us. The girl cop told her partner that the weed smelled horrible - she'd never smoke that stuff. She had a point. She knew her weed, and this was not very good stuff. The cops changed their tone when they found out that we were all basically harmless. The cop who pulled a gun on Tim started being extra friendly to him. They let us go.

We slept in Iowa after crossing the Mississippi. I didn't sleep much. I remained sitting in the passenger seat. I'll be happy when I'm back to driving an empty nest, but I really like these guys I'm traveling with a lot. They're good people for sure. Our friendship was sealed with a cop encounter. I would have felt more guilty for having weed if I wasn't sharing it with everyone every night. I only felt a little guilty. And ultimately, very lucky.

I can take care of myself infinitely better when I'm alone. Four people is a crowded van. These guys stick out like a sore thumb with their dirty punk bum style. I like their style, but I wouldn't want to drag myself into a Comfort Inn for a free breakfast looking like I want to raise eyebrows. They weren't comfortable getting free breakfast. It's not very convenient to look different. I chopped off my mohawk before I left. I feel like I can slip under the radar better than ever. I don't look rich, poor, smart or stupid. You can't guess what kind of music I listen to, what I do for work, or where I live. I'm nearly un-stereotypeable. I'll put the mohawk back on soon enough; I do prefer it. And I still get free continental breakfast either way. It's all about keeping your head up and walking slowly with a confident smile. Bagels, hot waffles, coffee, fruit, local news and weather. Eat slowly. Savor the simplicity.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Looking for camping

I'm on the road. I'm traveling with three travelers who I met on Craigslist. They seem pretty awesome, and we're getting along swell. They're headed out to Britt Iowa to go to a hobo festival. They ride trains a little too. And hitchhike and such. They've got some tattoos and dreadlocks between them. They don't change clothes much, and they sleep in a tarp-tent. Your average good people.

I'm sitting shotgun in my van. Savannah is driving. I'm leafing through an Ohio campground guide trying to find a close place so we can have a fire and get situated before the sun goes down. The campground we select has no privacy between the sites, and costs too much. There is a Motel 6 sign illuminating the site between the trees, and the back of a billboard is in clear view. We drink too much beer.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Philly - Meg's Birthday (was yesterday)

I'm standing in Nat's living room and talking on the phone to Dreamane. She called me at 7:21 'cause she knows I'm never busy then. I'm gonna hit the road tomorrow. I'm going to eat some mexican food tonight.