Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Leaving Key West for the year.

My plan was to sleep at my usual spot and cruise away from the island in the morning. The island has been heaven this year. I know the future happens at the rate of time passing, but I have felt enclosed in a safe and comfortable bubble for a month. I feel stronger by far than when I arrived. I am afraid to break the spell. I feel compelled to stand up and march forward. I will burst the bubble and attempt to continue toward the unknown with grace and a semblance of aplomb.

I didn't like my goodbyes. I skipped a couple people, and didn't issue the correct number of hugs. I was glad to get an early phone call from Eddie. He called before I had a chance to disappear.

I returned one last time to the Gypsy Village. One last time for this year. I spoke to the people I wanted to see. I had a final coffee and breakfast. I wished my friends goodbye. We exchanged some information. I received the hugs I was looking for. Between last night and today's well wishes, I feel ready to move on.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Planning to leave the island.

I'm leaving Key West. I'm leaving before I'm completely mentally ready. I've been here for a month, and I have new locations and ideas to explore. I am headed to the suburbs south of Atlanta to meet up with a girl I've been texting with. Then I'm going to New Orleans to see what music sounds like.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Super Frugal Food Plan to be Cheap in Key West

My goal for Key West has been to thrive and improve. I am happy, and that is what matters. That is my number one priority for life. I'm making changes that I believe will help me succeed in the most direct and appropriate ways for myself. I don't like spending money, and I don't want to eat junk. It's difficult to explain or even understand why I was previously doing so much of both.

I wake up most days, and head to the grocery store. This also my bathroom - I go first thing while still waking up. For bonus points, I bring wet wipes in my pocket, because the toilet paper is narrow and harsh. After this, I focus on acquiring staples. I do not have refrigeration, so I shop on most days, and log every purchase on my phone using a spreadsheet.

North to South through Winn Dixie:

What I buy first is eggs if I'm out. I eat three every day, so I buy six or twelve, depending on whether they are eighty cents or more than a dollar - they fluctuate. Eggs do not need to stay cold.

On some days I get a yogurt. I choose Fage Greek plain, because every other option seems to have a percentage or horsebones or horseshit. I bought flax seeds and rolled oats early in the month - those items last and last.

Continuing along the aisles, I get beans if I need them. Seventy cents per can is when I stock up. I get pintos, chickpeas, and sometimes chili beans. I'm on my second bag of dry red lentils. I ran out of quinoa, so now I get rice. I get it for seventy cents per bag of the store brand stuff which cooks in twenty-five minutes. I get corn tortillas in packs of eighteen. That costs a dollar and nineteen cents. These are the items I eat at night.

All of the aisles after this are packed full of bullshit. Unless I need oil or hot sauce, I proceed to the wine. You can get three bottles for ten dollars. Those are the bottles I choose. I switched from white to red for antioxidants and less acidity. But to be self aware, I'm just poisoning myself on cheap booze here - but at least I wait until night.

Next, I move to the produce. My favorite is avocado. I get one for a dollar, or two when they hit sixty cents. I might get a navel orange for a dollar. I've gotten a couple cubes of sprouts since getting here, which has always cost an even two bucks. I buy hummus for the sprouts, and stuff both in a pita. That's two-fifty and one-sixty-nine respectively.

My Parking Spot Near the White Street Pier:

Almost every day, I cook three eggs. I use oil before and after. It makes cleaning easy and adds a measure of heft. Satisfaction lasts at least several hours.

Sometimes I opt for oats and flax seeds on yogurt. I used to use the oats dry, but now I cook them a tiny amount. They mix better, taste better, digest better this way. It takes about one minute to soften them up. I put the oats in a bowl, heap on some flax seeds, and dump yogurt on with a spoon. Portions do not matter. For the next many hours, I feel full.

After one of these breakfasts, I'm on an even keel for any needed number of hours. When I need something more, I eat an avocado or some almonds. Peeling an orange goes well with sunset. After sunset, I most typically will move my van.

A Night at Home, or a Little Adventure:

I re-park at my spot near the center of the island. I open a bottle of wine with a multi-tool corkscrew. I sip a third of it while I cook rice. I add beans toward the end, or lentils instead. I turn off the stove a minute or two before it's done. I pour in more oil to make it more delicious, and also for calories and clean-burning fat. I have one shaker of seasoning that is a mixture of spices, and I use this on literally everything.

On occasion after parking, I will switch to a bicycle, and pedal downtown to happy hour. I get a margarita for three-fifty then switch to beers, and have as many at two bucks as I want. I order wings out of habit, which has proven to be a mistake. Every time I go, they are a little bit worse. Last time they rattled around on the plate. Especially at the cost of five-ninety-five, I begin missing my rice and lentils.

Some nights I get other invitations. I've had stone crab and fish and platters and soup. I consider these a special bonus. I am happy eating simple and cheap. This has been a month where I try to learn how. I have improvements and refinements planned for the future. I am completely satisfied at present.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to be Cheap in Key West

I've been on the island for two days shy of one month. I've eliminated an enormous amount of frivolous spending. I've kept track of each purchase on a spreadsheet. What I used to consider frugal has been cut more than in half. I've gone a hair over $500 in spending. That figure includes all of my food, entertainment, and gas. I am not including business expenses. I am speaking of personal expenses which lifestyle choices control.

I have everything I need. My wants are coming into clear focus. I live in a van, so I don't pay rent. I ride a bicycle, so I only needed one tank of gas. I drank wine out of a jar, and I cooked lots of rice. I loaned my friend twenty bucks, but he paid me back.

I could save more money with access to refrigeration or buying in bulk. I could cook better food if I wasn't slightly stupid. I do not feel concerned about those things. I am happy to improve at the slowest of paces. I am happy and healthy. Awake and alive.

Budgeting this month was a project and a challenge. I loved it, so I'm not going to stop. Living in Key West is universally assumed to cost an arm and a leg - but my low spending even includes some happy hour expenses. It would be simple to cut that out. This is a tropical island, where it is legal to sit down and drink on the sidewalk, or under a canopy of trees. With these stats who needs a bar?

I didn't buy anything wasteful. I considered each dollar carefully before it was spent. I bought two coffees at Starbucks, which was to ensure I'd be welcome to sit inside for twelve hours. The rest of my coffee was french press in the van. I didn't buy a single sandwich or prepared meal. I bought wings at a bar, and they were increasingly lamentable, getting progressively worse every time.

I had fun. I met other people who like to go dirtbagging. Sometimes we cooked and shared food. A gang of us went to a show at the Parrot. I drank wine across the street under a majestic old tree, then reinserted myself into the bar to dance. I ran out of wine, and began to sober up, until Clay played the hero and got everyone high. On nights like these, none of us spent a dollar. We stayed out late and had fun.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The stealthiest vehicle-dwelling setup I've seen.

I met a new vehicle dweller today. He lives in a Jeep. No matter how closely you scrutinize his setup, you simply cannot tell anybody sleeps in there. He built a box behind the passenger seat. If you open a plywood cabinet door, there is a bed inside. Until he actually holds this open to show you the bed, you would only see a Jeep with some tool storage in the back.

This guy is clean cut and young. He wears fresh crisp clothing and a grin. He is invisible.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Loving Bicycles Will Conquer The Planet.

The best bicycle for you depends on your needs. I want the one that I love. It needs to be cheap and amusing. It needs to be comfortable and robust. It needs to have components which are compatible with long-term industry standards. I need a frame which could not be dented with a jackhammer. My going rate is, say, twenty bucks...

When you go to new places, you need to take a bicycle with you. It needs to be easy to fit on any type of rack. It needs to be scratched up, so you never mind locking it - anywhere or to anything.

The best bicycle needs to go fast. It's okay if it takes a little bit longer to gain momentum, because all bicycles are fast once you get them to speed. Wide tires and fenders and storage are mandatory, so the bicycle you love will be heavier than all of the ones that you don't.

My bicycle lives outside. It needs lube on the chain, or technically a new chain, but I am in no sort of hurry for that. The chain is stretched, the cogs are fucked, and there is a bit of rust developing under the top tube. The middle chainring needs to be swapped out again - when you lean into the pedals, the chain seats with an audible click. This is an aspect not a problem. I have thousands of miles before anything slips.

I have a rack with a milk crate, which is held on with hoseclamps. Zip ties hold the fenders together everywhere they've cracked. I have a double thick layer of handlebar tape wrapped on top of some old sticky grips. I have wide pedals, and a ten-year-old Brooks, because I am unwilling to compromise on comfort.

When you see me or my bicycle, you do not feel impressed very much. But we are in love, so leave us alone, as we slowly take over the planet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Always Blazin'

"Do you smoke wax?"

My battery was dead, because I listened to too much music again. I was jumping the starter battery from the house battery bank when a new vehicle dweller introduced himself. He was in his late forties, or maybe early fifties. He had a deep tan, and his skin showed wrinkles consistent more with long term sun exposure than age. He was smoking from a vaporizer.

Wax. I could guess what that meant.

"What's that? Some kind of concentrated shit or something?"

I tested my assumption. My assumption was confirmed. This man had an infectious smile. Everyone on this island seems happy. I have not encountered a single mopey fellow.

I explained that while I do like to smoke pot, I usually do so at night when I do not need to drive or make any decisions. It is for last minute relaxing, or any time I am partying and already parked for the night. Weed makes me feel nervous at most other times.

This man was family. He's been rolling with Rainbow Family since the 1970's. We talked for a long time about how Key West used to be decades ago. We talked about living in vehicles and how Key West is today.

"Well, if you see me, stop by" he told me. "I'm always blazin'" he said with a grin.

He is always blazing, I thought. I loved this statement. I believe it to be exactly true.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Universe Can Confuse Me To Death

I met God by the post office in the year of 2007. She introduced herself as God, and I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. God is a middle-aged Hatian woman. She has wild and distracting hair. Half of her head is a single dreadlock - the rest goes wherever it wants.

At the time I was drinking coke and whisky out of a Wendy’s cup. I was sitting on a low wall underneath a banyan tree. The time of day was late. Late late late. Music and boisterous yammering could be heard clearly from a block away. This spot, however, was quiet. There are no bars or strip clubs near this particular tree.

A few minutes earlier, I was picking up dog food. A heavy bag ripped down the side, and two sleepy travelers spilled a great deal on the sidewalk. The spill concerned and upset them, and I felt a duty to help.

“Look” I showed them, as I sat down on the sidewalk and began to sweep with my hands. “This is not a big deal. It’s easy to clean up, and you won’t lose much.” I lifted the kibble in big scoops, and put it into a grocery bag they had. Within a couple minutes, the food spill was completely contained. We all exchanged smiles, and I wished them luck. Unlike me, they didn’t yet have a place to sleep. Soon after they left, I met God.

God felt like I didn’t believe her. I told her I didn’t know anything. I’m just some guy standing and taking up space. She attempted to explain what she does in her capacity. I listened intently, but it quickly stopped making sense. She got frustrated with me and left. God turned out not to be all-powerful. She was a sczophrenic Hatian woman, I'm almost sure.

I saw God later in the Kmart. I used to use the restrooms there every morning. She would go there, I assume for the air conditioning, and stand perfectly still and transfixed by the wall of TVs. I would see her again in the parking lot. She wears heavy clothing and sits directly in the sun.

Our first conversation was nine years ago. Since she seemed to not like me at all, I respectfully give her space. She sits in the same parking lot. She still sits directly in the sun. Everything she owns is in two cloth shopping bags. Am I supposed to care at all about that, or even notice? The universe can confuse me death.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Meeting some old folks again at the bar.

I met an old couple and their little dog for the second time at the same bar. This is the only bar I go to, and only for happy hour once in awhile. I went and sat down with them, and they seemed surprised that I remembered them and remembered their names. They must be in their eighties or so. They speak slowly and sound classically southern. I can tell that they tried to dress down for the island, but their attire is still almost formal.

I think these two get a hoot out of me. We talked for a long time when we originally met. I was candid about my lifestyle. Take it or leave it, who cares, right? There was scant available seating on this occasion. Their little dog, Jenny, did not need her own seat, so that one was offered to me. Jenny was moved happily to a lap.

It's easy to meet people in Key West. That much is established. I was happy to talk about where I shit and shower. Where I park and sleep. How I make money, and what I believe. In turn they told me about themselves. Everybody shared and listened and drank.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Allowing myself to take control.

As a man, I'm too respectful to women. Being a gentleman is all well and good, but men need to make the first move. To me, this is an unwelcome responsibility. I am always second-guessing myself. I almost feel guilty for showing that I would like to have sex.

I am not good at pickup lines or smooth maneuvers. But I am good at faking confidence. I am good at seeming content. I believe that I tend to seem disinterested in sex. In many past cases, females have assumed that I'm gay. 

I am a good friend. I can be trusted with secrets. I can listen and give advice. 

I have never been sure how to detect the line where friendship meets casual romance. I have failed this many times. I am almost positive that I was supposed to put a hand on her legs. I also could have attempted a kiss. Instead, I remained aloof. I took a deep breath, and I held the moment dear.

I have tried my best to avoid being a predator of any sort. My actions are often an apology for my gender and its norms. But this is going to stop. I am a man, albeit a weird one, and I am allowed to take control.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Spending a day with The Kraken.

First, I arrived ungodly late at The Kraken's home where she was parked. She stays up to all hours, and I was sure she would not be asleep. First I was at happy hour, then at Eddie's boat for many additional beers. Next I arrived making bird noises. Knocking on a person's vehicle is jarring, and bird noises are my standard way to greet.

I was invited in with a smile, and enjoyed ridiculous banter while reinventing better ways to slouch. Everybody is interested in The Kraken. Her admirers are many, which gives me pause. I am also interested in more than just talking. But I will not be around much longer, and I like to repel all manner of complications and drama. I am happy and satisfied no matter what.

We are friends. I care about how she feels, and was genuinely surprised when she revealed she was less than perfectly happy. I felt sure that she owned the world. She does not. She has worries. I have had the same anxieties, but I am a little bit older, and I have considerably calmed my mind.

Today, I heard a light tapping on the side of my van. It was morning, and I opened the door to investigate. She was up late again, and hadn't gotten any sleep. She had stumbled across my van by pure accident, and decided to say hello.

I invited her in and we listened to music. I went about my usual business, while she spent many hours asleep on my bed. She wore a thin dress that would not stay in place. She wore nothing under the dress. I did not take this as a sign of interest. I merely observed this as a matter of fact. As much as I felt drawn to her, I also felt protective of her safety. I am safe, and I was happy she was here.

I kept my hands to myself. I allowed her to be comfortable and sleep. At night we watched a couple movies. I rested my head on her shoulder, and the evening was simple and nice. I did everything correctly. I went to sleep feeling slightly confused, but I wouldn't change a single thing.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bicycles Go Slow in Key West, Except This One.

Bicycles in Key West are a fixture of the landscape. Even when they happen to be moving, they often seem fixed in place. The riding is slow, nobody wears helmets, and the percentage of tricycles is enormous. Trikes gained traction, I presume, because at these speeds, a bicycle will simply fall over. None of this means that bicycles are inadequate transportation. They are incredibly popular here for that use. Coaster brake hubs run bone dry for decades; baskets are a deteriorating matrix of rust. This speaks volumes about the power of bicycles. This has nothing to do with how I ride.

I was cruising down Roosevelt to go check out some music. I had a jar in my milk crate - formerly containing pickled beets - now in the service of red wine. Frugal and friendly, I rolled down the bicycle path, pretending to be slow and local. Then a golf cart passed on the roadway, and I could no longer be contained. So I stood up and pressed on the pedals. I gained momentum and jumped off the curb. I rocked the Hoopty with force as I cranked up the speed. I measured my timing and prepared my approach.

The golf cart contained a vacationing family. Mom and dad were up front, looking like tourists, and two daughters faced backwards behind. They were both in their teens - one younger, one older - and it appeared that they doubted my power.

I maxed out the middle ring, spinning furiously, then I sat down and shifted to big. I pulled my left bar-end shifter straight up to the stop, and lowered my cassette gears about two cogs. I was now in position to win. I was gliding at the pace of the golf cart - they had gained some distance, but their speed was topped out. That's when I stood up to pedal again. I was now gaining speed, and my cadence increased, and I pressed the right shifter down to the stop.

Now in top gear, I threw the Hoopty side to side and leaned out over the handlebars in full sprint. I was happy I thought to pad my jar-wine in a hoodie, because the sprint would have smashed the glass.

I quickly reached a speed that would overtake the golf cart. Now it was time to sit down and lean. I rested my forearms along the northroad handlebars, and gripped the curves gently with my fingertips. I pushed back on the seat and flattened my back. I lowered my head and became a rocket ship.

I was now gaining quickly, so I began to coast, and did not need to pedal for a considerable distance. I tucked in my knees, and became more aerodynamic, before lifting my head to see mildly alarmed girls. I came within fifteen feet of the golf cart, then ten, then five while still coasting. At this point I sat up and began to pedal, keeping pace easily with the dumb little car. I smiled and waved and the girls looked relieved, and waved back with big happy smiles.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gathering stone crabs was today's mission.

“Kill Fish” popped up on my cellphone. My buddy uses texts both simple and direct.

First, I showed him how I sell books. Then I asked him to show me how he gets fish. He seemed to like this idea a lot. He employs several methods for getting food from the ocean and gulf. Spearfishing is his favorite. But I do not have a mask or a gun.

After receiving the message, I rode my bicycle to his boat. The entire operation took 25 minutes, which included cooking my breakfast and eating.

I used a toe strap from my milk crate to secure my Hoopty to the cleat on a piling. I thus secured my rig where the liveaboards are docked, and proceeded, stoned as fuck, to the boat.

This is the season for stone crabs. We would be going to get them. My friend fired up the boat's engines, and pointed us out toward his traps.

The traps look like milk crates with cement on the bottom. There is an opening on the side for the crabs to enter, but crabs are too stupid to find their way out. For bait you use chicken or cat food - for the latter you just poke a hole in the can. The cement keeps the trap on the bottom. The water of the gulf here is shallow - the traps can be seen a few feet below. A line is tied to the trap at one end, and extends to a styrofoam ball on the surface. You pull the boat up alongside the foam marker buoy, and use a hook to grab the line from below. You wrestle the trap from the water, and hope there are stone crabs inside.

One lesson learned is how strong these crabs are. The word on the street is that getting pinched fucking hurts. With this in mind, I was apprehensive about grabbing around in the traps.

If I were left on my own to assume, I'd think the object was to bring the crabs home. Not so. You rip the claws off in situ, and toss the crabs back into the water. That is, of course, if the claws measure 2 3/4 inches or more. There is a handy plastic gauge to help measure. Today we got some whoppers.

The crabs survive fine, and the claws grow back. I wrestled a few off, and that was intense. Big crabs fight hard, but once you're holding the claws, you are determined as hell to not lose your grip. In a couple of years the claw is big enough to be ripped off again, if the crab is unlucky enough to be caught twice. What a life. But the claws are super delicious.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

One Helluva Place to Park.

I didn't sleep more than a couple of hours. I was up late, and I didn't make it home. I crashed in an RV after an incredibly silly evening. I woke up on some cushions all covered in sun.

I rode a bicycle to my home at a high rate of speed. Instead of working, I planned to have fun. Instead of sleeping, I took an increasingly rare Adderall, then I drove to my daytime spot. One friend has taken to calling this the "Gypsy Village." Maybe next year, they can print that on the maps.

At the morning meeting, I made myself coffee. A couple friends joined me where my van meets the world. Perched in a circle while I heated the water, we discussed yesterday and the day ahead. I am going to learn how to fish. First I need to eat eggs. They will resume progress on the usual projects. The weed has already been lit.

The village has many in attendance. The tribe has a little bit of everyone. A couple of people have their setups in pickups, with bed covers and windows obscured. Some clean-cut young couples arrive in spectacular vans - sometimes they stay, and sometimes they run. Some folks here have dreadlocks and beards. Some others look like they just left the office. Some of these setups are makeshift; some began life with a plan from the start. We have a couple of grandpas in ancient RVs. We have a couple of people who curl up in cars. Some people here will talk and play music. Others are reserved and aloof.

I am in the exact center of every aspect here I can think of. I am almost the precise median in this group. I am the second little piggy - and I'll state here for the record, the threats of most wolves are a bluff.

Our bond in this lot is our destination - and choosing shelters which sit above tires. Our bond is autonomy and simplicity - we are all here to follow the sun. Our shared mission performed as individuals is to spend winter away from the north. We park here between 7 and 11. Then we disappear to our individual spots.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Talking to chickens and singing to myself.

I hold a french press in my left hand. I keep the lid in place with my thumb. As I walk, I am almost tap dancing. I am humming two lines from any given song. Occasionally, singing comes out. As I walk toward the bathrooms to borrow a sink, my feet barely touch the ground.

I pass a fine looking rooster standing on the sidewalk. He sports colorful and majestic plumage. This pathway is not paved for feathers and beaks... I stop to see what he's up to.

“Hey!” I begin, to get his attention. He looks at me stoically - unconcerned; unimpressed.

“You are a chicken!” I scold him, then pause...

“That is okay,” I whisper gently in confidence... “secretly, I am a giraffe.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Renting an Apartment vs. Owning a Van

In Philadelphia it was 2015. I still had a wife and a lease. I had a downstairs neighbor who complained about noise, even though I didn’t make much. She would also play music loud, and smoke clouds of reefer, which would enter our apartment through sheer force of will. The air in her apartment would reach critical mass, and weed smoke and music would escape through the vents and the floor.

I never once minded her smoke and her music. I like both of those things very much. What I hated for sure was seeing her face. She was young and stoned and should have been happy - at least once, or better once in awhile. Instead, she wore sweatpants and a scowl. I dreaded coming home or leaving at the same time, because it was always a guaranteed glower.

Being a proper Philadelphian, I should not have cared. It was my job to not give one fuck. The proper reaction would be “fuck that dumb bitch” - but that sentiment is hardly in my vocabulary of feelings. I let this bother me endlessly, as I waited impatiently for the lease to end.

Trapped and tightly wound. Cold and unhappy. Crumbs of joy were spaced far apart.

Now I am back in control in a van. I missed this intensely and for a good reason. This feels like home. I own this and make my own choices. If I don’t like the weather or neighbors, I move. Last night I parked at the top of this tropical island. I parked in my usual place on the street.

High winds howled and rocked the van. I used my multi-tool's corkscrew to pull the cork from a bottle. I love the album that was playing. It was late at night, and I felt inspired. I reached under the curtain, and increased the volume. I took off my shirt, closed my eyes, and I danced. Not a reason on the planet not to enjoy these small moments. Not a person to care or complain.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Enjoying another guy's trip.

This morning I backed into my usual spot. I opened my doors toward the ocean. A storm would arrive later today - it was looming offshore on the radar. The resulting waves were huge for Key West - on par with other reef-less beaches along the east coast. As I got ready for my daily coffee and eggs, my buddy walked toward me with an interesting smile. He opened his mouth as he approached, and he stuck out his tongue to show me. Little squares of paper. "Haha..." I shook my head. "Looks like your plans are made..."

This a young guy. We talk almost every day. He is only nineteen, like The Young Man, who is now somewhere in the Everglades. Compared to me, these are kids. This one is far more in control than TYM, and has his feet planted on Planet Earth. He seems at ease at the helm of his ship. The helm is in the back seat of a Toyota. I'm impressed that he's pulling that off with aplomb.

He’d dropped the acid twenty minutes earlier. It was starting to pretend to kick in. I asked if he’d eaten anything besides paper. I either informed or reminded him that he would soon not be hungry. I offered him breakfast and plenty of water. We sat in the van to chat.

I started making six eggs while we talked. First, I cooked three for him on the camp stove. I know he loved them, because I have mastered this craft. As he ate his, I cooked three for myself, and used the same-and-only bowl once he finished.

I know how LSD and mushrooms can go. There are themes and patterns that emerge. It can go bad in a strange environment. Results can be unexpected... to say the very least. We walked out on a narrow pier with no sides and talked. The surface of the pier is metal slats with gaps down to the ocean. The pillars are concrete, and there are steps down to the water. For me, none of this appeared to be moving. We put our feet over the side, and sat above the waves. Every so often, a bigger wave crashed into the steps and splashed us. We discussed life and norms for a couple of hours. Then I went back to my day.

My instinct was to make sure his ideas were safe - but he didn't need my help or guidance. Instead I felt blessed to have met him. He is a smart and happy young man. He is a kind and curious human.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Arriving long after the set.

I arrived forty minutes after the gig. I had intended to drink wine in a solitary manner, but after cooking dinner, I had energy to burn. I lowered down my Hoopty from my bicycle rack, and pedaled a short distance along the Gulf of Mexico.

I locked up my bicycle, and stepped onto an empty deck, lit by rope lights along the perimeter. I made a few bird sounds to announce my arrival. The Kraken lit up when she saw me. I was pleased to be out and about. It didn't matter that I arrived long after the set, I can catch the act soon on a sidewalk. There were no more patrons by the time I got there. There was no pressure to waste money on beer.

Everywhere here is close to some water. We stood by some boats, and we looked at the moon. I went inside to fill up on water, and I inquired about the owner. We are friends, but haven't talked in some years. I lost his number long ago, but got fresh intelligence for tracking him down.

We took to our bicycles, put the moon behind us, and rode impossibly slowly to the Kraken's RV. I had wine and a cup in my milk crate - exactly as I planned it on the eleventh. We entered her home through the driver-side door, because the passenger side is parked tight against bushes. I sat at the table, and she took the bench, and we discussed matters both silly and serious.

Before long, The Young Man arrived. I enjoy his commentary and presence. He is so very young, nineteen I think, and has mysterious and mixed beliefs about life. Sometimes his actions and words make me question if we exist on the same side of reality's thin cloth.

I saw The Young Man earlier today. We were both at the library book sale. He was reading a book about numerology. I scrambled to buy books to make money. The wine that I brought tonight was red - his preference - so we slouched around and shared what little was left.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fresh as a daisy by the ocean.

When you live in a van, and you don't have a shower, eventually your body gets dirty. Greasy skin and an itchy scalp can both be cured in the ocean.

The island is protected by a reef. The ocean remains shallow far from the beach. I walk far out in the water. I dive under the water and scratch my hair and my scalp vigorously with all of my fingers. I reach to the bottom and grab a handful of fine sand, and rub it into my armpits and beard. I swim a little bit, but mostly I float, which sounds like a metaphor for my life. I let saltwater rinse away most of the sand. Before long, I return to the shore.

The cold ocean water makes the beach shower feel warm. If you use the shower without swimming, you freeze. I rinse myself off, use my little towel like a squeegee, and then I feel fresh as a daisy.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Finishing my first crochet project in years.

I finished my first crochet project in years. So far I can only make rectangles. However, rectangles of crochet, which are joined along the edge, make cylinders which can go around objects. The only trick up my sleeve, while I'm creating these sleeves, is that I know how to change the color of yarn.

Also @vans_books_bicycles on Instagram

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ukuleles at the Green Parrot.

The Kraken called. Ukuleles would be played at the Green Parrot. Wine and a movie had been on my agenda, but I supposed that plan could wait for tomorrow.

After darkness was complete, a misting of rain began. I sipped wine while some quinoa and lentils boiled. When the food pot was complete, I rested tortillas on the supports above the little isobutane burner - one at a time, and flipping them every five seconds. I had tacoesque dinner in my fabulous home, then insinuated myself in my premium spot - my most peaceful spot on the island.

I proceeded by Hoopty bicycle to the Green Parrot. I knew I would get a beer once there. I regretted the effect on my super-low budget. In past times, I might end up buying four or five, but tonight I stopped after two [10.50 with tip]. Maybe next time, I thought, I could keep costs down, and simply order a water. Next time, I could sip wine outside, from a discreet plastic mug kept in the Hoopty's milk crate.

The Kraken was a little bit late. She can play ukulele, among other stringed instruments, ie: dulcimer et. al., so the scene appeared less awkward for her. However, as it turns out, there were more than a dozen ukuleles to borrow, and the chords are often one finger on a string. There were notecards displayed with chord diagrams, so I was only 95% off. I could pretend to play along, and hit a note 5% of the time. In the din of the bar, you could scarcely tell the difference. Some CeeLo Green and some Of Monsters and Men. Bob Marley, and obvious classics were played. George Michael and Michael Jackson were fun.

The Young Man also showed up. We had a great time fake strumming and goofing around. He borrowed a ukulele that looked like a tiny banjo. It was cute as the dickens, I'll tell you. The one I used was transparent green lucite, and would float if you dropped it in the water.

We all joked around for a couple more hours. The Young Man scored us a free beer that we split. But soon it became late, and it was time to ride back to our RVs and vans where we parked them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It was so adorable it floored me...

I can only report on how happy I am. I am increasingly content and peaceful. It was in this mood and mindset that I began working on new crochet. She arrived as my crochet began to look good. My rows were clean and precise, and I was adding the brightest colors. She ambled over from her small RV, and invited me to join her in crossing the street. She had a basil plant waiting for her at the garden. To be perfectly honest, I was zoomed in on my crochet. But it would be ridiculous to turn down any manner of invitation.

After retrieving the small potted basil, we continued to wander about. We watched the sunset, which is what I do every day, because I am parked near a pier with nothing on my schedule. We had many things to discuss, being from the same tribe, and I enjoyed hearing her stories. She has some serious adventure in her past and future, and she seems to be very young. She lived with monkeys in a treehouse in Costa Rica, and she's been here and there on a sailboat. She thought it appropriate and fun to not share her name. More amused than invested, I let it pass. We sat eating some quinoa with a little bit of basil, and I learned more details aside from her name.

Soon after darkness, another friend arrived. It was a young man who she knows who has been sleeping in a car. Sometimes, he takes refuge in the RV. As they caught up, I was content to relax and listen. A Scientologist is trying to poach and hypnotize him. The attempted indoctrination led him to Miami. He had just arrived back on the island. I suggested a Wikipedia search of Scientology, but he thought it better to go to the source. The real information, he claimed, was all on their website. They have answers for everything.

Then the good part began. They compared notes about how on the previous evening, they had both independently rescued different baby birds. I worked to contain my intense enjoyment of the details of this conversation. She had created a bed with a half of a coconut, but had to keep the bird close to her body to give it warmth. If she tried to rest, it would begin to chirp, and she would draw it close again. In his case, the bird was an orphaned baby chicken, and he constructed a bed from a small cardboard box. He made a nest of toilet paper to keep the tiny chick warm, and draped a small piece over it like a blanket. They spoke excitedly about their efforts. They took their tiny birds to the same bird sanctuary. At different times, they'd spoken to the same person there. The extent to which this was adorable floored me.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Adopting an intelligent exercise routine.

All pushups are not created equal. I learned this while researching an improved exercise routine. The pushups which I thought were acceptable are evidently absolute garbage. After learning correct form, I was unable to complete one.

A reader linked me to a recommended routine at Reddit. I generally trust Reddit, so I gave it a whirl. It is a little bit tedious and complicated, but so are many tasks that are worth the effort. If I stick with it, it will become easier in time. I will be doing this routine three days a week. It seems intelligent and complete.

Each part of the routine has "progressions" - or different versions of the exercise which increase the difficulty. So the routine will work as you get stronger. It will work for anybody from novice to superhero. I look forward to being less weak.

Today I did pushups with perfect form. I could only do five at a time, in spite of pushing up from a fairly large log. This made me feel silly, but I could shrug that away. It beats getting wasted and falling asleep in direct sun - and there's plenty of that going around.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Giving advice to an imploding new vandweller.

I parked in my usual spot. I watched the sun change positions in the sky. I was occupied with my minor daily activities. Perfectly at peace; side doors open wide.

A white camper van pulled up behind me, and the driver got out. He left his door open and his engine running, in spite of a twenty foot stretch of empty spots beside me. He approached me quickly and tried to feign being calm. His anxiety was almost an entity. Nervous energy followed him like a cloud.

I knew what he wanted, but I allowed him to ask: "Where do people park on the island?" Obviously, he meant for sleeping at night.

I gathered from the details that he was able to divulge that he'd recently dredged up his life. He broke up a relationship and quit a job, and thought that living in a van would bring peace. Holy smokes. He'd been at it for a week at that point, and I wondered if he'd slept at all.

I shared some advice about parking, and tried to reassure him that he was in good company on the island. Everything would be completely okay. I smiled and spoke to him calmly. It takes time to adjust, I explained. I said he'd feel more comfortable if he got some cheap curtains for privacy. I outlined what I'd do in his case.

He was acting like a cornered animal. I tried to help him too much. I offered to show him a good parking area that would work, but he quickly declined because he "had GPS." So I gave a description of the spot and wished him luck. I offered him my phone number, in case he had more questions, or just wanted to talk to somebody here. All of these gestures only made him more nervous. I'm almost certain that he thought I was nuts.

I was amused by the encounter. I took a deep breath when he left. So much worry and fear! He was out of his element and alone. I could completely relate to his situation, but I'd forgotten that exact feeling until then. I attempted to will positive vibes in his direction. Then I returned to my business of not much.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Listening to Scientist and T-Rex.

"RAIN MY ASS!" a cranky islander shouted. I gave him a nonplussed look and shrugged. The bearded old grump shuffled back the way that he came. "They wish it would rain!" he was heard huffing in muffled tones, as he rolled a torn up suitcase into the distance. He turned a corner, and island life resumed.

I showed up to work early. A book sale was scheduled in the palm garden next to the library. A sign taped to the door announced it was postponed. Storm activity was clearly on the radar, and water is terrible for books. I was amused at the man's outburst. It's been weeks since I've seen anybody upset.

I returned to my van, and prepared to do nothing. For a soundtrack to that, I chose Scientist. Scientist announces that track five is "the curse of the mummy." As the music begins, it sounds like anything but. The entire album is like this. Dub from 1981. I love the entire thing.

Late in the afternoon, the weather began. The temperature dropped fifteen degrees as the wind picked up, and rain smashed down to the pavement. I sat at home facing the ocean, traded my tank top for a T-shirt, and enjoyed the view.

Soon it was time to relocate for the night. I listened to T-Rex as wind rocked the van. I slept like a baby under my thicker blanket.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My current routine.

I feel content to exist far from the flim-flam forced upon my mind by a typical winter in the north. I am settling into a happy routine. In the morning I park with the other vans and vehicles, in the lot by the pier. I face the top of the island if I want sun on my feet while I drink coffee. I face south if I prefer to cook eggs in the shade. I sit and I read and I cook twice a day. I listen to podcasts and I ride my bicycle. I watch the sunset and relax until darkness falls. I move the van to my nighttime spot, where I usually have some wine. Everything is figured out. For the duration of my time here, I do not have a single worry. I am in love with my position on Earth.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Meeting part of the tribe.


I finally made it to the library to do some re-pricing work on my inventory. This is the season where textbook pricing becomes a delicate balance. My aim is to be optimized - get the highest prices I can get, while pushing a ton of inventory out the door.

I'm taking time away from Adderall. I'm moving in a slow and sluggish manner. My brain is more cloud than laser during the transition. However, it makes no difference at all. I remind myself daily that it is acceptable to accomplish almost nothing. It's ok! I do a little bit of work when I can. The world and the universe remain stable regardless. Most of my tasks can wait.

Happy Hour and Budget

I was on the fence about going to Kelly's. Aside from happy hour, I am spending almost nothing. I buy simple food at the grocery store, and that's it. Kelly's, by comparison, is blowing up the budget. $22.76 is a black mark on my spreadsheet. It's throwing off my low-average numbers.

Money-wise, I can afford restaurants and beers for every meal. I could drink better than some $3 wine. But that doesn't fit with two parts of my Master Plan -- saving money and eating better. I am examining my happy hour habits, and deciding if there is room to improve. Once the numbers are in at the end of this month, I will have a better idea of what to budget. My aim right now is to set a baseline as close to the floor as I can manage, while still feeling fulfilled as a happy human being.

Meeting Part of My Tribe

Happy hour today was excellent. I sat at the bar with a couple who moved to the island eight years ago. They are positive folks who are in touch with the universe. They have been together for many years. They are clearly in love - it is evident by the way they look at each other and interact.

We talked much longer than we might have, because the subject of excellent books came up. We have all read some of the same books, and our interests have tons of overlap. They were excited to talk about Ernest Shackleton. I swear it wasn't me who brought him up. We talked about other books of adventure, and we talked about selling shit online. They make money that way too. We talked about vans which are built to live in. They have one of those too. They have traveled extensively, but they now have a house.

The more we talked, the more connections we made. They say they hate society as if being in Key West makes that obvious - and you don't need to pull back many layers of the onion to recognize that's a major component of what's going on down here. They're for the people, and against everything else, and that's also roughly where I stand. They subscribe to the idea of finding a tribe, and if I were choosing today, I would have them in mine.

By the time we said goodbye, we were at firm hug status. A handshake would have been out of the question. Where else but Key West could I so easily find my people? Many of our type have historically escaped here for the same exact weather and reasons.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Final Time We Spoke

The man lacked proper boundaries. I would later learn that. He lived in a small beat up RV. The year was 2007. I arrived on the island via big old box truck. I knew absolutely nobody. Not a soul aside from my own. He was parked on White Street with his door wide open. I glanced in as I passed on the sidewalk. In response to accidental eye contact, I gave him a little wave.

He was up in a flash, and greeted me at the door. We immediately had lots to discuss. I asked about parking on the island. I wanted to know what would fly and what would not. My 22 foot former U-Haul box truck was parked behind him. I showed him my setup, and he showed me his.

He had lots of good technical advice about parking. We both got on our bicycles, and he showed me around. He pointed out areas that would work well for a box truck - some for the daytime, and some good for night. It was valuable advice. Nine years later, I still share it with newcomers who ask.

The next time I saw him, he was cooking some steak. He waved me over with enthusiasm, and added a steak to the pan. I joined him in his RV that smelled of a warm summer armpit, and ate steak and instant potatoes off a flimsy paper plate. I was relieved for the food, because I wasn't eating very well, and frankly I wasn't working with much of a brain.

We talked about parking, and he revealed that he had special privileges. The police all leave him alone. He was woken up, accosted, and ticketed, and he took the matter to court. He prepared an argument, plead his case, and then somehow he won. The judge ruled that he should have the right to sleep in his vehicle. News of the court case made it into the newspaper. He kept a clipping of the story on hand. The paper had yellowed like the whites of his eyes. He had hepatitis C, it turns out.

He didn't seem to have many friends. He was nice enough generally, but some of his commentary led me to believe that he lacked certain people skills. The third time I saw him, he rushed toward me and trapped me in a hug. He lifted me up from the sidewalk, and I was in the air with my arms pinned to my sides. "Oh, Chris! You have such a big dick!" he exclaimed. That was the final time we spoke.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Three goals for the island and beyond.

I have goals in Key West this year. I have lifestyle changes that I am trying make. The island is an ideal platform to get started. When I leave, I want to carry new habits beyond. Here they are:
1) Eat much better
2) Spend much less
3) Exercise all muscle groups

So far, my grocery purchases include zero processed foods. I look at the ingredient list, and I want to see at most two pronounceable words. I eat eggs most every day. Three eggs cook fast on my camp stove. Drop them in a puddle of oil, and the pot is a breeze to clean. Aside from that, I've eaten avocados, almonds, navel oranges, oats, flax seeds, and plain Greek yogurt. I will expand this list with other simple foods. I plan to put lentils on the list - and other staples that belong.

Then there's the booze. For some reason I drink Pinot Grigio now. The heart wants what it wants. Also, there's happy hour at Kelly's, and I am addicted to that shit. They serve three different beers for $2 a glass. Not quite a pint, but probably 12-14 ounces. It's a square deal in my book. Then, of course, they have wings. If I am drinking beer at a bar, I am going to be tempted to order wings. So I do.

Overall, I will grade myself an 8/10. I could improve the booze and chicken wing intake, but my daytime eating habits have been positively off the charts. As evidence, I am feeling great.


It is no secret that I have been inspired by the writings of Mr. Money Mustache. Even in the areas of diet and exercise he has a lot to say. (Also he loves bicycles.) I am considering the advice that I read there, and finding ways that it can improve my life. There are about half a dozen articles there that I refer back to. Simple formulas are explained with math. For example: Do you want to know how much money you need to effectively retire? Figure out what your yearly spending is, and multiply it by 25. If you spend less, the number you need gets smaller.

Nearly all expensive things are stupid. There is a lower cost version of almost everything. (For example, the van that I live in was approximately cheap as fuck.)

I don't know what my average daily spending is. Starting in 2017, I aim to find out. I have a spreadsheet to track every expense. It is easy to maintain, because I do not spend much.

Exercising Muscles:

I could ride a bicycle until I fly off the Earth and smash a hole through the moon. In spirit, that is true. But my arms are noodles, and I'm a little bit flabby. It's only a matter of time until my back gets pulled.

I don't know how to properly work out. It is my mission to get informed. I am starting with pushups and situps. You have to start somewhere. There are easy apps which promise to get me up to speed.

Today I did 59 pushups, with minute-and-a-half rests between smaller digestible sets. It doesn't sound like much, but I struggled and sweated and groaned. "Holy crap!" I exclaimed in my brain... "This should not be!"

Skull Muscle Improvement:

Finally, I have a general desire to properly appreciate the present tense. My brain fills up with thousands of ideas and needs. The days are short, and I am not an adept taskmaster. The worries pop up like weeds. That's no way to live a life, man! You can't do every single thing in one day.

This is by far the area where I will need the most patience and persistence. To simply lay on my back and listen to crickets is at once beautiful, healing, and nearly impossible to maintain. The ideas and screams keep jamming up the airwaves.

But --- "That's ok!" The meditation apps and the people who I've spoken to about this tell me it is ok. I am trying my best to practice meditation. I am abysmal, but that is ok. I am listening to breathing and crickets and distant air conditioners. I am laying down on concrete and looking up at stars. I am laughing and grinning a lot these days. I am doing that because my life at this moment is so unbelievably great.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Parking in Key West.

I am mostly finished with feeling lonely. I am establishing patterns and settling in. I know this island and it feels like home. I am full of love for this place.

This is why I am in Key West:

1) It is a tropical island.
2) You can drive to it.

I need no additional incentive to be here. I am here to find summer when winter is everywhere else. It is merely a bonus that the island is full of weirdness and friendly people. The island could be far shittier and I would still drive here to park.

I drive to my daytime spot. Doors and windows open! Vents and curtains up! I cook a little breakfast and watch cruise ships glide into port. I wear a tank top instead of a t-shirt; sandals instead of shoes.

I drive to my nighttime spot. Bottle and laptop open! Curtains and volume down! I drink $3 Pinot Grigio and text with some friends. A light breeze rustles palm fronds above my open vents.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Feeling predictably alone.

I woke up in a mild state of confusion and disrepair. How much rum was in that punch? It was an amount. Of that is all I am sure. I sat up and drank water. The sun had access to the full surface area of the van. I had work to do - a little bit at least. So between that, and at the insistence of the sun, I decided to start my day.

The creeping feeling of loneliness returned. "Absurd!" I told myself. "I was at a party last night!"

I remember meeting people in years past. I had friends from pedaling pedicab, and from working at the bicycle shop. Another year I met Nick and Lael, who are now busy conquering the globe. We lived together for a spell, and it was wonderful. I've been down here once with a girlfriend and another time with a wife. Well, I suppose to be honest, I don't miss that a whole bunch...

Social instincts kick in when I wander away from home base. Failing instincts, a desire for interaction sets in. Today I felt alone. I took a look at phone apps, since technology can generally fix everything. Alas - the island is small, my friends. The Meetup app and Craigslist are almost useless. Either I'm the goon or they are. And I am even less confident of my luck in the wild.