Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Creating Livable Alternatives to Wage Slavery
Pirated from whywork.org

Are we "anti-work"? No, it's not that simple. We are pro-leisure, and we think leisure has gotten a bad rap in societies driven by the Protestant/Puritan work ethic...but the best answer to the question of whether we are anti-work depends on how you define the word "work".

Paraphrasing Tony Gibson, we can define work simply as the expenditure of energy in a productive process, and leisure as the expenditure of energy without productive result. We're not saying one is good and the other bad - they're just two ways of being. We are not against being productive and we recognize the satisfaction that can result from being engaged in productive activity of one's own choosing. (Hey, we put together this Web site, didn't we?) So we aren't anti-work in this sense.

But we are critical of the mindset (supported, as it were, by social norms, government policies and collective fears of poverty) that results in people working against their will, and believing there is no other way to "survive". This results in taking jobs out of joyless obligation, need for money, coercion, or a desire to "get ahead" in some sort of competitive social status or consumer game, for example. We think such a mindset is at the root of many, many otherwise solvable social, economic, and environmental problems.

But many people today don't use the kind of simple, non-judgmental definition above. Many of us think of work not just as effort expended in a productive process, but as a "necessary evil" - in other words, work is what we have to do so we can support ourselves. If your concept of work is drudgery, if you think of your job as something you'd rather not do if it weren't for the money, if you simply can't wait to retire so you can "enjoy life" - that kind of thinking is what we define as wage slavery, and we seek to abolish it.
Poetry by the Hobopoet Lewis Jones

Look at the Moon
We've thrown away all our troubles
for a journey that has no end.
And when its over I hope well look back
and know in our hearts we made some friends.

[Chorus]
Because weve been traveling down this highway,
Dont care if we get there soon.
If theres questions we need answered,
All we have to do is look at the moon.

When we wake to see the sunrise,
And all the love that God has to give.
It reaffirms just why weve done this,
I cant think of any other way to live.

[Chorus]

Late at night your mind gets weary.
Dont know if your spirits done.
That lonely road it keeps unwinding,
Well steer Champagne into the setting sun

Do we meet in the stars
Do we meet in the stars
and is it possible for eons to repeat?
How many times have brothers been brothers?
I walk a path I have certainly tried
to take before- were you with me then too?
If this is common ground, please let me find
the mistakes from the last time.
I have my brothers.
I have my tribe.
I have my destiny.
Rivers run downstream with a life
all their own.
Life unstoppable to a destination-
uncertain but inescapable.
Will I join the river?
Of course.
Married to an Indian Woman
by Matt Salleh

Red bindis cling quietly
to the sterile
apartment-square mirror
in the bathroom next
to our toothbrushes.

Curry stains linger
under my nails
sometimes for days.

I own a veshti, jippa and two woks.

These are things
I could not
have dreamed of
as a boy
eating Spam biscuits and grits
growing up in a double wide
and dreamin of huntin deer
and squirrels.

These days the Malaysian sky hangs heavy
not unlike the humid summer rains
where katydids
and cicadas sing beneath kudzu leaves
dug deep into red Piedmont clay.

And there will always, always
be bindis and veshtis
and deer hunters and squirrels
as long as I can dream.

And sometimes,
only sometimes
even those things
I could not dream
are even better.



Thailand Trip by Matt Salleh

The restaurant by the shore is a step up from the one across the street. They have a few more things on the menu, including french-fries and a damn near perfect Southern fried chicken? Of course they dont called it that, but thats what I compare it to. They also have a bar where I order big beer Chang and deep-fried cashews on Friday afternoons. The beer is 35 bath for damn near a liter. I cant tell exactly how much. Its not labeled. The servers sinewy arms and fingers flex as he brings me beer with the stereotypical Thai smile. I figure he must have been into Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) at some point in his life.

Just offshore is the small T-shaped island Koh Samet. If Ban Phe is known for anything, its known for Koh Samet. A 50 baht, 45 minute ferry ride will get you there. You can get a bungalow for about 400 baht a night and spend the day reclining in hammocks drinking Mekong and Coke or swim in the water. The beach there is much nicer. The sand is clean and the waves are less harsh. When I was there a few weeks back I walked in knee deep water and saw inter-tidal life galore including sea cucumbers, living corals, sea urchins, Technicolor clams, and schools of unidentifiable fish being stalked by a large heron.

When I return from my morning walk I shower and head to class. I usually take about three showers a day. The heat is inescapable. The dust and grime seem to accumulate on me faster than I can wash it off.

Geetha and I are here getting our certification in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The school where I work didnt have any science positions so they hired me contingent upon me becoming certified to teach ESL (English as a Second Language). So I researched the Internet and discovered this training center in eastern Thailand.

During the day we attend class from 9-4:45. The classes entail methods of teaching, learning theory, and classroom management. We also have a student teaching portion.

Ive just spent the last 6 days in a Thai school teaching English to Mateom 3-6 students (roughly grade 10-12). The school was very resource poor and has recently had Peace Corps volunteers. We rode for 45 minutes in songthaews (truck taxis) and arrived windblown and cranky, ready to teach. My classroom lacked A/C and a fan and I roasted in the stale oven air. The walls were barren and there was no textbook. I had to create all of my materials back at the training center.

The students wore uniforms. The girls wore a blue skirt and a white blouse. The boys wore brown shorts and collared white shirts. They would wai (bow with hands in prayer position) shoeless, as they entered the room as a sign of respect for the teacher. Discipline problems are almost non-existent. They stand up to answer when asked a question. In Thailand teachers rank just below the King and Buddhist monks in social status. A far cry from my teaching days in gangs ridden Riverside County, California!

I completed my student teaching on Tuesday. Geetha started hers today. Now all I have left is phonology and grammar. Stuff I havent thought about since grade school. If I even thought about it then. Its intensive.

In the evenings we go for walks, read books, prepare our lessons and go to the restaurants. Every Monday there is a night market where you can get cheap wares and prepared foods. The mango sticky rice is the best. The fruit is unbelievable! You can purchase rambutan, durian, custard apple, longan, mango, pomelo, dragon fruit, coconut, watermelon, papaya, and of course, bananas.

In December, Geetha and I hope to go to London and visit some of her family. While weve in the area I figure we might as well head over to Dublin and partake of the nectar of the gods, Guinness made in its homeland.

As a result, I had a mission to fulfill and walked to the night market last night. I walked in and one of the vendors offered me a shot of his whiskey. Again, I declined because I had something to accomplish. I bought a pair of jeans and a hat. Not just an ordinary hat, but the kind you always see James Joyce wearing as he smokes his pipe and ponders whatever he ponders. Itll be perfect for wearing while I sip on the black stuff.

While I was there I spotted a food stall selling something I had been looking for. Deep-fried insects! Two gorgeous Thai girls were standing in line. They were wearing tight short shorts and standing in their cocked Thai girl stance ordering a bag load of grasshoppers. I couldnt help but think of the farangs that come here to rent those kinds of girls for the night. I wondered how they would feel if they saw their fate munching on a deep fried cricket. Or how they would react if they discovered a small bit of grasshopper leg lodged in their lovers teeth! It was irony come to life. I lined up behind them. The stall was offering crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, and grubs. The grubs seemed to be most popular. I ordered a bag. They set me back 10 baht. The Thai girls smiled at me, a few more gathered around to see the farang buying grubs. I was a 10-minute celebrity.

My friend Callan and I have a deal between us that well eat something weird whenever we go to a new place. Last time it was birds nest drink, made from the nests of swallows, in Singapore. My friend Seth, whom I met here in class, also has the same philosophy. Seth had already tried grasshoppers.

I bit into one and swallowed. It tasted nutty. I tried another one. Not bad. But Ive had enough. I tossed the rest out. At least Ive given them a try. I washed them down with a salty drink that I couldnt identify. It tasted like tamarind or something. I bought a sweet pastry filled with coconut and sugar and walked the 3km back to school.

100 cc motor scooters, like the kind I wanted as a kid, whiz by carrying 3 and 4 passengers at a time. They pass by and scream Hello! and try to practice their English. Its a daily occurrence.

I just finished my work for the day. We learned about the phonemic alphabet, rhythm, stress and intonation when speaking. We started working on transcribing a tape into phonemic representation.

Tomorrow well head to Chantaburi, a small town on the Cambodian border. Its supposed to have an interesting mix of Thai, French, and Vietnamese influence left over from various occupations and immigrations. Well catch a songthaew into the nearest city, Rayong, and from there get a bus.

Right now Im tired of thinking about diphthongs and bilabial plosives. Im about to head to the beach and drink a couple of beer Chang with my friend Seth. Like me, hes always up for a beer. Especially when the sun is setting, especially on the beach.

For Jessica
by AJ
I cried and wailed for you--- bit my lips, shook my head, crouched and tied myself into fetal knots, but nothingóabsolutely nothingócan soothe this loss. I struggle for words but all mine end in platitudes. Im devastated but that word means nothing compared to this experience.

I looked around your funeral and saw a horde of diminished lives. so much suffering. so many regrets. so many doubts. They cried about things they said or things left unsaid. I saw confusion? people gibbering on the edge of madness asking, Why, why, why, why, why?? I saw people whove remained close to you-- people who drifted away. I saw, and felt, pain.

I saw people just like me trying because your light is gone from our lives. This cant be real the horror of your death is impossible to understand. Of all people, why you? And why your sweet Heather (who had your irresistible eyes and irrepressible spirit) ?and why Benjamin (who had such a divine sweetness). This cannot be real because my mind can make no sense of it.

I cannot comprehend the finality of these events and cannot bear its consequences. I still hope to call you on the phone and tell you about my travels?and hear the latest about your children, Jon, and our old friends. I want to do this, but I cant.

Thicht Nhat Hahn wrote, ?A wave on the ocean has a beginning and an end, a birth and a death. But the wave is full of water. If a wave only sees its form, with its beginning and end, it will be afraid of birth and death. But if the wave sees that it is water, identifies itself with water, then it will be free. Each wave is born and is going to die, but the water is free from birth and death. So too are we? I hope this is true.

But you are gone now and I have no hope. I donít believe that healing is possible. I donít believe your death can be accepted.

I have no hope?and yet I search for it. I feel that healing is doomed and yet I pray for healing. I want to sink into despair and surrender but I fight for meaning instead; because I donít have to guess what you would say to usóI know what you would say because your life shouted it with thunderous clarity?you would tell us to live with the pain and live with the doubt, but live nonetheless. You would tell us to live with joy, with love. Youíd tell us to never surrender to despair. You would not equivocate in the face of tragedy. You never did.

I remember that you never gave into despair, never turned to cynicism, never embraced pessimism, never used pain as an excuse to harden. Your life leaves no ambiguity. We know how you lived, and we know what you would say.

I remember that your joy could not be suppressed and a thousand sorrows could not diminish it. You had a manic energy that buoyed everyone in your vicinityónone could resist or oppose you.

I remember you throwing water balloons from rooftops and grinning like an angel.
I remember you dancing like a dervish in a blue dress-- your green eyes flashing, your dress hem spinning wildly.
I remember your sunflower hat and rainbow high tops.
I remember you shooting a crossbow and dancing a jig when you hit your target.
I remember you holding snakes, feeding owls, rescuing possum.
I remember you hanging upside-down from a rappelling rope, laughing and grinning and scaring me witless.
I remember parties at Gilís when youíd crank Led Zeppelin and shake your golden hair as you bounced and shook the floorboards.
I remember the awe struck look in Charles?eyes whenever he looked at you.
I remember the sadness you disguised with laughter.
I remember the sweetness of your smile whenever you discussed Jonathan.
I remember my own dark lurking presence?your sad patience with my jealous rantingsóthe resignation in your voice, the frustration in your eyes.
I remember your late night sewing sessions at the villa?talking manically?listening with wide eyes.
I remember your irresistible energy. I remember your fierce hip checks during toli games?and the time you drug down Scott Ennis during a football match (he smiled sheepishly as we laughed).
I remember you screaming your lungs out at Rush concerts.
I remember that you grew wild gardens full of herbs.
I remember that you saw?you touched?and you listened.
I remember that you were honest (though some called you ìtactless?. You were forgiving (though some called you ìfoolish?. You were kind (though some called you ìsoft?. And you were optimistic (though some called you ìromantic?. You ignored the cynics.

I remember that you were never guarded, never smug, never cool. Your moves were not studied, your words were not rehearsed, your love was not demanding. You never tried to impress and thus you impressed everyone you encountered. In your presence we all became romantics. You made people better. You made me better.

You are gone now, but we are all thinking of you.
When I think of you my first thought is of sunflowers. You used to have a green floppy hat with a yellow sunflower on the front. You had a sunflower heart tooóbright, open, vibrant.

Maybe we should have filled the funeral home with sunflowers. For me it was nearly unbearable- the pain was too much. Yet my eyes continued to drift to the back corner?to the cluster of bright balloons. I smiled despite the pain.

In our shock and horror we had to wail and cry and moan and weíll continue to do so for a long time. But maybe someday we can gather again- when we are able- and truly celebrate your life. Perhaps weíll wade in sunflowers and fill the room with balloons and wear floppy hats. Weíll let our dogs and children run and weíll let the sun shine on our hair?and weíll think of you and your beautiful smile. And weíll smile too.

I canít do that now, but I want to because I know itís what you would do. Maybe on that day weíll forgive the people who have wronged us. Maybe weíll be honest instead of tactful and warm instead of cool. Maybe weíll give without expectation. Maybe weíll love without trying to love and be good without trying to be good; and for that day weíll remember the child-like sweetness that most of us have forgotten. Weíll forget cynicism and abandon guile.

We will be like youófeisty and alive?and weíll forget how weíre supposed to act and act as we always should.

I hope weíll give you the memorial that you truly deserveóthe one that, in our pain, we cannot give now. I hope weíll forget ourselves and be more like you, because your life is the only memorial that is good enough.

On that day, in the future, weíll remember you and forget our loss. And by remembering you we will also remember that our jobs donít matter, that our egos are a burden, that there are no rules and no commandments, and that there is no religion and no philosophy but love.

I hope weíll play games on that day and dance, because youíd like that too.

You are gone now, but I know that this is not goodbye. We will meet again; until then Iíll continue to think of sunflowers-- and remember you.
Manila--Arrival
by Callan Bentley

In June and July of 2001, I traveled to the Philippine islands, of Southeast Asia. This was my first summer of being a teacher, and this trip was the main thing I was doing with my summer off. I live in the District of Columbia, and do not own a car. I took the subway to the airport. Everyone else on the Metro train that day was a commuter, on their way to Thursday at the office. I stepped aboard with a tiny backpack, on my way to a jungled archipelago, on my way to the Philippine Islands. The backpack wasnt actually that tiny, it was a decent-sized daypack, but it seemed tiny in my mind because I knew that that one small pack alone was the sum total of my luggage. Gone for a month to Southeast Asia, and all I took would fit in a small pillowcase. I had never packed this light before, and I hoped that it would be enough. The Metro took me to National, where I took a Northwest flight, through their hub in Detroit, and then up and over the frozen territories of Canada. Looking out the window of the plane, I saw glaciers spreading out from a Yukon mountaintop like tentacles from an immense icy octopus. There were two wizened Japanese women who also wanted to look out the window. We had to share a window; all the other passengers had obeyed the flight attendants?edict to draw down the window blinds (so that the crappy in-flight movie would be more visible to everyone). We were stuck like junkies, taking visual hits off the small half-open porthole in the rear emergency exit door, pitiful addicts of the landscape below. These ancient Japanese women and I were not actually talking, but gesturing and repeating the few words we had in common that could describe the scene we were seeing below. Snow, one of them kept saying to me. She had wrinkles that stretched back from the corners of her eyes into her graying hair. Snow. Her companion asked me Where? I ventured to guess, Alaska, maybe. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled. The first one smiled back and said to me again, Snow.

There was a layover in Nagoya, Japan, and I strained to see Mount Fuji as we landed and took off again. The sun set again after we left Japan, and the plane landed in Manila well into the night. Stepping off the plane after a long flight is a terrific relief. Entering the airport (named after Filipino patriot Ninoy Aquino, who was assassinated on its own very runway), I began taking in the new country, began making impressions. I was amused to notice industrial-sized bug zappers in the departure lounge for international flights. My flight arrived at 11pm, and no one else was waiting in the area. The blue glow surged and crackled as it electrocuted mosquitoes. There was a prominent sign that welcomed back Filipino nationals who had been working abroad. Apparently this is a prominent source of income for the country. They have a robust national program to match up eligible workers with employment outside the Philippines. I cleared customs without a hitch, and turned over the form that declared in red ink, WARNING DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER PHILIPPINE LAW. A dire threat, it seemed to me, even though all I was guilty of ìtrafficking?were cassette tapes and a pair of binoculars. I changed a little money, and then stepped outside to find Noah.

Background about Noah
The man I was going to visit was my friend Noah Jackson, a compadre from my days of working in California as an outdoor educator. Noah was the sterling example of a workhorse on our staff. His roots in New Hampshire and Maine have imbued him with a sturdy dose of the Puritan work ethic. On more than one occasion, he inspired us all by continuing to do his job even when sick and laryngitic. Noah takes his moral sense of duty and ecological responsibility to new lengths. He works incredibly hard, putting lazier naturalists on my staff to shame. Noah was our collective exemplar of generosity and creativity. He had a blossoming romance with another staffer, Kara, at the same time that I was falling for another, Scarlett. I remember, the four of us went to Death Valley one weekend, and had a terrific adventure among the arid wastes, the canyons, Badwater, and the empty streambeds. We dipped our arms into a hypersaline pool in the Devils Golf Course, and came away with crystals of salt studded from fingertips to elbows. Another weekend, we drove to Big Sur. I had been training for months to run the Big Sur Marathon, a tortuous and beautiful 26-mile run along Californias Route 1. Noah joined me with a few days notice, signed up for the race when we arrived, and ended up winning his age category for the entire race! He beat my arduously-trained-for time by a good 45 minutes. This is not your average human being. This is Superman.

Manila
There was a mild thunderstorm in Manila when I stepped out of the airport. Noah was there, precisely where he said he would be. We walked out of the airport parking lot in the drizzle, and hailed a cab. The ride was lengthy due to intense traffic on Roxas Boulevard, the main road north along Manila Bay.

We arrived at the Pension Natividad, a great lodging that would become my home away from home in Manila. The Pension is situated a block away from the Bay, in the shadow of an immense high rise, the Diamond Hotel. On the other side is a raucous karaoke bar. It is situated on the boundary between the neighborhoods of Ermita and Malate, both relatively well off and directed towards tourism and merchandise. Out in front of its cement wall, the Pension advertises Clean Guest Rooms for Individuals, Married Couples, and Families. It is made of concrete and stucco, with bars over the windows. It was at the Pension that I was first shown what a Catholic culture prevails in the Philippines. Tile portraits of Jesus and the Virgin Mary beamed benevolently at Pension guests. Each of the religious figures were fitted with a Sacred Heart which was startlingly anatomically accurate, and spouting flame like a Zippo, to boot.
The damp Philippine air penetrates most buildings, as they lack the climate control that pervades Western architecture. The rain imbued everything with a wet smell, including the concrete walls of our room. Still, it was a room, and not Seat 13C.

Upon arrival, I showered and reclaimed my sense of hygiene. I was in a zone between jet lag and exhilaration at being in a new country, and was ready to go out and experience something. Noah recommended that out first stop be the Hobbit House, a bar not far from our lodging. We passed another Peace Corps Volunteer in the lobby of the Pension, and Noah introduced us. When he mentioned that we were on our way to the Hobbit House, a look of intense amusement came over the womans face. Noah refused to explain, telling me that I would understand soon enough. I realized the source of her bemusement as soon as we ducked into the bar: the Hobbit House is staffed entirely by dwarves and midgets. I am no Wilt Chamberlain, and I measure a modest 6 feet in height. As such, it was surreal to enter a place where everyone else was less than four feet tall. The set-up for a bar like this seems incredibly un-P.C. Im sure it would never fly in the United States, but I guess it works for what it is here in the seedy capital of the Philippines. We ordered San Miguel, the Filipino version of Budweiser.

Not everyone was a midget; a talented band of ordinary-sized Filipino men was playing covers of American pop tunes. An attractive Filipina ascended to the stage and sang Korn in perfect imitation while gyrating her bare stomach and showing off the top several inches of her thong underwear. Though we were enjoying the (ahem) unique vibe offered by the Hobbit House, it was too loud to talk. Since Noah and I had been years without seeing each other in person, we decided that catching up was going to take priority over bopping with the little people.

Outside, the sewage smell was rank and fetid and distinctly third world. We wandered through alleys, and along a maze of dripping streets, taking shelter where possible under awnings. Many of them were so low that I was forced to duck, lest I stay dry only at the expense of knocking myself cold. We searched out another place, helped along by Noah asking directions in Tagalog, and the restaurant delivery boys looking amused to see a white man talking their language. It turns out that Noah speaks Kinaraya, the dialect of the central Phillipine island group known as the Visayas. He was using his rural accent here in the height of Philippine urbanity. To these locals, it must have seemed comical. A comparable situation might be found as New Yorkers deal with a Japanese man asking for directions in a pronounced Creole drawl.
The Cafe Adriatico: We found a small table by a rain-streaked window overlooking the street. When our beers came, the waiter brandished a small towel and wiped clean the lip of the bottles. This was new to me: why would he do that? Noah explained that in the Philippines, a glass bottle is a commodity not to be wasted. Each bottle would be reused again and again. Indeed, I inspected the bottle and found two parallel rings of scratches around the outsides, and a faint rim of rust around the lip, where liquid beer had oxidized the metal bottle-cap. This rust was the offensive material wiped off by the waiters towel.

Noah conducted a ranging monologue about his life in the Philippines, his village, his girlfriend, his work life. I was listening and drinking beer, gazing out the second story window into the rain, lit by a string of bulbs burning above Adriatico Street. We stayed up late into the night, sitting and talking at that table.

I had not seen Noah in over two years, and though I had kept in touch with him by means of e-mail and writing letters, there was one aspect of his physical presence that I had forgotten. I refer to his laugh, which is a braying guffaw. In fact, it stretches the limits of the definition, to merely refer to his noise as laughter. Noah expresses mirth with a gasping honk, like an asthmatic donkey. It had not been my fortune to hear this laugh for 2 years, and judging from the reactions of the other patrons in the restaurant, no one there had ever heard anything like this before. Heads turned. I sipped some more from my bottle of beer, smiling at the scene.
Back to pension, sleep on dampish sheets in a dampish room. I woke up early in spite of only 3 hours sleep and whatever jet lag I was harboring. As Noah slept in, I engaged myself with a novel and by attempting to bird-watch from the barred window of the room. There was mystery out there in the morning Manila air, I thought. As I listened to sounds, I hypothesized what strange feathered creature might be making them.

We went jogging that first morning. If you care for your lungs, do not attempt to go for a run on your first morning in Manila. We loped across town, breathing gross air, dodging holes in sidewalks, and in places where there werent any sidewalks, we shared the street with jeepneys.

A jeepney is a vehicle unique to the Philippines. Mechanically, they are a cross between a bus and a jeep, but then decorated in hallucinogenic garishness. Images and slogans are plastered over every available surface, including the windshield. They proclaim the drivers sexual prowess to the same significant extent that they exhort God to bless their trip. Each jeepney has a name, emblazoned in letters so extravagantly ornamented that they strain legibility. As we ran, I read the jeepneys:
Gift of God, Scorpio Boy, Virgin Snow, Fine Lover, May God Grant Us A Safe Journey. Images of astrological signs, the Virgin Mary, and plagiarized commercial logos predominated, all rendered in the most eye-popping glossy colors known to science.

There were numerous big hotels in the area, located there for the good view west over Manila Bay. As I ran, I wanted to look in a thousand directions at once: at the street-side spectacle around me, at the skyscrapers overhead, the whirring colors of the umpteen jeepneys, and even occasionally at the pocked street itself, so as to avoid tripping.

We jogged through the mile-long Rizal Park, where practioners of tai chi and homeless men and women could be seen in equal measure. At the end of the park, a large square pool featured a model of the archipelago. Little chunky islands like paiper-mach?demonstrated the diverse sizes and shapes of the 7107 bits of land that are designated as the Filipino nation. My love of maps was excited by this encounter with an acre-sized topography. I stopped my run and studied it for a few minutes. Large cone-like volcanoes rose from several of the islands, painted as if they were snowcapped, which they are certainly not. The islands of Luzon (where Manila is located) and Mindanao are the largest landmasses by a wide margin. Together, they comprise over 65% of the land area. A thousand of the smallest islands do not measure even one square kilometer; a further 2500 even lack names!

When we got back to the Pension, I was raging hungry, and the food was slow to arrive. I had several cups of coffee and a pile of fruit. The mangos and bananas came with a nice local yogurt.

This was to be our day of chores in Manila before venturing out the following morning to Noahs site.For readers not familiar with Peace Corps, each volunteer is assigned for a two-year assignment at a particular job, in a particular town. The combination of address and job description is referred to as the volunteers site. After breakfast, Noah and I went to the Peace Corps offices on Roxas Boulevard. I checked my e-mail, and sent out notification to friends and relatives of my status. I mentioned the Hobbit House. I also amused myself by turning down an electronic party invitation with the unusual excuse that I was in Southeast Asia, sorry, cant make it.
We arranged a flight for the next day.

The next task was to pick up Noahs camera lenses, which had been dropped off for a cleaning several weeks previously. For this, we had to travel to a different part of Manila, the district of Cubao. A train ride was necessary to get to Cubao, some miles from the waterfront.

The presence of terrorist cells in the Philippines have led to bag checks as a fact of life whenever entering a shopping mall, bank, or system of transport. I unpacked my bag to guards?observation hundreds of times in the next month, resenting it every time. Of course, the events of September 11th have softened my resistance to security precautions. This was back in June and July, before the attacks in the US, but after the beheading of an American tourist on the Philippine island of Palawan.

In Cubao, we navigated through a maze of shopping malls inside and out, and found that Noahs camera lenses were not yet cleaned. I was frustrated with the lack of good customer service, not realizing that the behaviors that I deem good service to my American view are not necessarily the same qualities that Filipinos look for in their commercial establishments. Noah handled the poor service with remarkable restraint and aplomb. I felt like hitting the snotty brat who was working behind the counter. Noah negotiated a better deal, and then we adjourned for lunch.

We dined with a fascinating character. Noah knew of this odd place, and led the way past a stagnant lake with large lumpy sculptures of Disney characters rising in the middle. (It is worth noting that all of the water around Manila is hopelessly polluted. Eight rivers run through the city, and Noah informed me grimly that all eight were classified as biologically dead. Past the lake we came to another enormous shopping mall. I had not expected malls and pop commerce itself to be such a prominent part of life in urban regions of the Philippines, but malls proved to be the mainstay of my experiences while in Manila.

This was a half empty mall, where the odd restaurant was located. The Cod Building, as it was called, was partially occupied by active retail, but we had to hike up through several empty floors of space before finding the EartHaven cafe Now if I was surprised to find a culture of materialism and shopping in Manila, then I was truly floored to find an organic cafe in the midst of it. Noah knew the owner, Edgard, and he introduced us. We all sat down at a rustic table and had a delicious lunch of pasta and lemongrass tea and little wheat-germ candy bars. Edgard was intense and opinionated. Talking to him, I got the send that he had been forced to explain his beliefs and politics many times before, and he rose to the task with a practiced air and (it seemed to me) a standard and well-worn series of phrases.

Some might think that an Environmentalist Filipino would be an oxymoronic description, but Edgard fit the bill. Besides running this strange little haven of hippie foodstuffs in Manila, he also owned and ran a Geo Farm in the Sierra Madre of north Luzon. His environmental beliefs meshed with my own, but he also had a lot of the so-called New Age influencing his mindset. He mentioned auras, and how he could see them. He waved his hand at the area around my head, as if to indicate like this one here.
Digesting my lunch was just the opportunity that latent jet lag had been awaiting. It overwhelmed me. Back at the Pension, I fell asleep for several hours, and only woke because we had to go run some more time-essential chores. I needed caffeine.

We got it at, of all places, a Starbucks franchise, one of ten in Metro Manila. It was just like an American Starbucks, decorated in that well-designed but canned style that may be found so many places in DC and in America. There were differences: the security guard at the door, searching my bag for bombs, the prices in pesos, and the clientele: no Dupont Circle yuppies here! I ordered in English, but all the conversation around us was in Tagalog. Noah lamented his ability to speak well in the national dialect, and assured me that he would be in command linguistically to a greater degree when we got to Panay the next day.
Noahs friend Carmela and her sister Sophia met us at the coffeehouse. They were cute and animated to me in a phenomenon unique to Asian women and puppies: the smaller they are, the cuter they appear to me, and the more energy they seem to possess.

We talked mostly about disgusting foods, a subject that evidently fascinated us all. They detailed some Filipino dishes for me: dinuguan or chocolate meat,for instance, a dish of cooked offal and blood, and bulalo, a sort of kneecap soup. Most repulsive was balut, an embryonic duck egg, cooked just before it is ready to hatch! Balut adventurers from the Western world (Noah included) can distinguish the beak, feathers, and legs of the developed birds as they crunch them down. I decided then and there not to try it, though in most cases I pride myself on the breadth of foods I consume. I have sampled widely among the species, but Ill leave balut to the macho Filipino men who believe that it jacks up their virility better than Viagra or Spanish Fly.

We also discussed Noahs remarkable propensity for hurting himself. He listed off a terrific series of ailments that have befallen him in this country, and Carmela, Sophia, and I listened in awe. Noah was attacked by a colony of stinging ants while dangling on a rope 40 feet above ground in the rainforest. He writhed in pain on his tether, unable to descend, unable to escape. Another time, he groped his way to an outhouse in the midnight darkness, only to put his hand directly atop a scorpion. A month previously, Noah had been guiding a photographer from National Geographic through the rainforest in search of hornbills. A branch smacked Noah in the face, carrying with it a small leech. Hours later, they noticed that the leech had attached itself to Noahs eyeball. He told us, as he was pulling it off, there was a tremendous pressure. I wasnt sure which was going to go first, the leech, or my eye! Then he got roundworms. Then he fell down a cliff. Then he was in a motorcycle sidecar when the motorcycle flipped over and crashed. All these stories he told in a jocular way, as if it was all happening to someone else in a movie. He grew somber when he related a final tale, of how he became trapped underwater when a bamboo bridge collapsed on top of him. Pinned by its lattice structure, he nearly drowned, and escaped just as he was on the verge of blacking out. He has not told his mother about that one, he told us, which we knew to mean that it really shook him up, and counted as being truly dangerous.

We four went to dinner at a restaurant called Shwarma, which served Indian food. Shwarma was smarmy. We were seated in their lone upstairs room, with a wide low table surrounded by flat cushions. A stray cat had skinnied through a broken windowpane and had deposited a stringy turd on one of the cushions. To my utter shock, the waitress left it there after I pointed it out to her. We ate there anyways; I was hungry. I had eggplant dip and pita bread, which was tasty, though I worried about its level of contaminants.[For the remainder of the story, check out the following website:
Callan's Gypsy Journal]
Day of gray
by Todd Huey

Damped mood, mellow, less
Dramatic- calm as the trees
on a gray motionless morning.

The clouds themselves seem lazy
no place to go, no one to see.
Legs up, sandals off, knees to chest.
my outgoingness now introverted. Deep
peaceful breaths fill my lungs.

My brain is not craving the many
half read books.

Daydreaming is a part of who
I am on this day of gray as the
unique clouds are to the sky.

Staring off into nothing

The meditation of a daydream
The mind stops leaving something deep
inside to take over.
The true meditation
Natural in its form

No special place you need to be

At an instant everything goes quiet and still

The picture in my head is as the framed
art hanging on the wall.

Seeing my surroundings only with
eyes.

Mind blank as the pages of my journal
Sitting motionless, mime-like

An instinctual need to put my arms
around myself to embrace myself.

Comfort in a day of gray as my
hands rest on my shoulders and
mind opens to nothing and everything all
at once.

Immediatism Excerpt
Pirated from Hakim Bey

Immediatism means to enhance individuals by providing a matrix of friendship, not to belittle them by sacrificing their `ownness` to group-thinkÖ What must be overcome is not individuality per se, but rather the addiction to bitter loneliness which characterizes consciousness in the 20th [and 21st] century.

Capitalism only supports certain kinds of groups, the nuclear family for example, or `the people I know at my job,` because such groups are already self-alienated and hooked into the Work/Consume/Die structure. Other kinds of groups may be allowed, but will lack all support from societal structure, and thus find themselves facing grotesque challenges & difficulties which appear under the guise of `bad luck`.

The first & most innocent-seeming obstacle to any Immediatist project will be the `busyness` or `need to make a living` faced by each of its associates. However there is no real innocence here- only our profound ignorance of the ways in which Capitalism itself is organized to prevent all genuine conviviality.

No sooner have a group of friends begun to visualize immediate goals realizable only thru solidarity & cooperation, when suddenly one of them will be offered a `good` job in Cincinnati or teaching English in Taiwan [or Japan!]óor else they`ll lose the `good` job they already have and be reduced to a state of misery which precludes their very enjoyment of the group`s project or goals (ie. They`ll become `depressed`). At the most mundane-seeming level, the group will fail to agree on a day of the week for meetings because everyone is `busy`. But this is not mundane. It`s sheer cosmic evil. We whip ourselves into froths of indignation over `oppression` & `unjust laws` when in fact these abstractions have little impact on our daily livesówhile that which really makes us miserable goes unnoticed, written off to `busyness` or `distraction` or even to the nature of reality itself (`Well, I can`t live without a job`).

Yes, perhaps it`s true we can`t `live` without a jobóalthough I hope we`re grown-up enough to know the difference between LIFE & the accumulation of a bunch of fucking GADGETS. Still, we must constantly remind ourselves (since our culture won`t do it for us) that this monster called WORK remains the precise & exact target of our rebellious wrath, the one single most oppressive reality we face.


Oil Drinking
by Chris Moses
(from draft Walden III: An Approach to Disciplined Hedonism)


One practice that can be employed to lower daily food costs is oil drinking. When I was living next to the housing projects in downtown Syracuse in 1993-1994, I used oil for one meal a day- experimenting with both oil breakfasts and oil lunches. I found generic vegetable oil (made of soy or soya oil) to be the best combination of taste and low cost. It was easiest for me to consume the oil as one would consume a quick shot of liqueur and chase it with a full glass of water. I would drink about a º to a 1/3rd cup of oil for a meal- this was about the most oil my body would tolerate. More than this and I would feel or actually become sick to my stomach.1/4 cup vegetable oil contains xxxxx calories, xxxxx grams of saturated fat, xxxxx grams of monosaturated fat, and xxxxx grams of unsaturated fat.

I cannot empirically say whether oil drinking is or is not a physically healthy and sound practice. On the face of it and from my personal experience it was at worst a neutral practice and it would likely compare favorably to the harmful and expensive practice of consuming an equal amount of calories from animal sources (dairy and meat). Overall, I believe oil drinking may be an appropriate part of a diet for the disciplined hedonist who is living on a very low income.

I was a regular oil drinker for about 8 months and only during the weekdays, not he weekends. During this time I saved ~ $200.00 or a bit over $1.00 a day. I plan to avoid a return to this way of getting calories, but should I find myself in the position of having little to no income I may return to it. In 1993/94 I was spending $300.00-$400.00 per month in repairs on my 1986 Ford Escort. This is a seemingly outrageous amount when I think about it now and remember that I was making ~$14k/year (pre-tax) at my full-time group home job. Had I not been required to have a car as a prerequisite for my job, I would have gotten rid of it and done away with oil drinking altogether!















The Library

Libraries are the great givers of life and much that is good in life to the disciplined hedonist. Entertainment and knowledge for your mind, heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer for your body. Homeless folks realize the bounty to be had and many of the brightest can be found surfing the internet or sending email at the library. Surely this is no coincidence.

How many books, videos, albums can be taken out over a lifetime? What is the value, monetary or otherwise, of such a resource? How much more pleasant it is to check out a classic movie such as Citizen Kane from the library than to pay to rent Dumb and Dumber from the Video-Mart. And then after discovering that Dumb and Dumber is a movie that really lives up to itís name, I have the privilege of making sure that I donít forget to rush it right back the next day. This pattern of behavior that so many take part in is difficult to understand. Although some libraries lend videos for just three days, many lend for a full week- a policy that solidly fosters the hedonistic lifestyle.

Libraries allow the hedonistic practitioner to have access to the classics, reference, and current periodicals without the burden of buying, storing, maintaining, and hauling these resources about. There exist few protocols that hold the virtue of the interlibrary loan in either the secular or non-secular domains. Rarely rivaled in poetic justice or beauty, it should be used sparingly due to the moderate cost for the library that makes the request.
Poetry by the Hobopoet Todd Huey

Soulwork
My love comes from a spiritual awakening.
Why then does my percussion of love pain me so?
This trance dance groove that I hold so dear vibrates
whole new waves of painful evolution.
My belief system now has no charts where love lies.
So now I hate my melodies. Abolish this instrumental heart
from my imposed limits.
I accept this unusual loveless dream-like journey.
Where there is no creation of love resides.
Torture of the heart, no beauty in a flower, nor in a sunset,
Nor in God himself. I damn my love. I damn my soul owned love.
There is no sword that afflicts such sorrow as the distant shore of love.
Oh, distinctive voice let me love so;
As this hypnotic journey of love you possessed me with.
For all my pores bleed of love found. The gentile book of love,
The exploration of love gives me the light of day.
New sweets. My love is blinding light,
My hands, my fingers, my tongue, my body and soul
are tools for giving an electrifying celebration of life.
Wandering peacemakers- this aural traveler of deep space awakens
from the spellbinding life plan.
For the awaking of fireflies and moonlit nights.

My vibratingÖ.
My vibrating windowís to my head--
resonates my sound to you.
My fingers skipping over wind holes of wood and soul.
This compassion being-instrument will give you a
vibrating dance.
The ear to the universe is now open.
Dust trails light years long and lifetimes thick;
The fireball which is us,
which is one ,
which is forever.
Seeing beyond past, present, and future.
My music will unveil this picture to you.
Dance, dance, dance fingers and tell her my message of love.

How I Contribute
My pain is the blanket I cling to when
I am alone in the darks of my mind.
This colored mist hides many shadows of self.
The irony is my light source is ëselfí.
This choice Iíve made will lighten my spiritÖ
So to remember again.



My Transformation
My transformation is flooding with confusing
ripples of choices.
The riverís soul is now boundlessÖ..
and running rapidly lost. Cascadeís turbulence
is my consciousness. Feeling dazed as I am
draining down the side of the mountain.
Losing my breath.
Open to the driving desire.
White water with tiny dancing bubbles.
Peering in hopes to spot lifeís eddies.
It is not my lungs that burn, it is my heart.
My soul being recirculated.
The river has changed level once
again and now it is as if I have
never held a rudder. Find the will.
The voice speaks,
The life lifts to higher places.




Creative Clusters
Pirated from Julia Cameron

As artists {Hobopoets}, we belong to an ancient and holy tribe. We are the carriers of the truth that spirit moves through us all. When we deal with one another, we are dealing not merely with our human personalities but also with the unseen but ever-present throng of ideas, visions, stories, poems, songs, sculptures, art-as-facts that crowd the temple of consciousness waiting their turn to be born.

We are meant to midwife dreams for one another. We cannot labor in place of one another, but we can support the labor that each must undertake to birth his or her art and foster it to maturityÖ

Success occurs in clusters. Drawing a Sacred Circle {of artists} creates a sphere of safety and a center of attraction for our good. By filling this form faithfully, we draw to us the best. We draw the people we need. We attract the gifts we could best employ. The Sacred Circle is built on respect and trust.

What we are talking about here is the power of breaking isolation. As artists we can consciously build what I call Creative Clustersóa Sacred Circle of believing mirrors to potentiate each otherís growth, to mirror a `yes` to each otherís creativity. In my experience we can benefit greatly from the support of others who share our dreams of living a fuller life. Often someone elseís breakthrough insight can trigger one of our own.

Success occurs in clusters. As artists, we must find those who believe in us, and in whom we can believe, and band together for support, encouragement, and protection.. rapid and sustained creative gains can be madeóespecially if people are willing to band together in clusters. As creative people , we are meant to encourage one another.

Let us form constellations of believing mirrorsÖ creativity grows among friends.
Chris Moses
Originally published in Hobopoets Zine

CHAPTER TWO:
The point and the goal

Answer a fool according to his folly.
-Proverbs, 26:5

The man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.
-Henry David Thoreau

There is no knowable point to life, so let's make one up. The imaginary point to life is satisfaction. The imaginary point to life is procreation. The imaginary point to life is salvation in the everlasting hereafter. The imaginary point is a combination of the above. The imaginary point is the conspicuous acquisition and consumption of goods and services at a rate above the average bloke in general and, specifically, at a rate above you immediate neighbors.

Push polls indicate, in that least common denominator kind of way, that the correct imaginary point to life is conspicuous acquisition and consumption. Thus and so our life goal is to outspend our neighbors, to put more cash into our houses, cars, and green lawns. We are status sensitive creatures; we like tangible evidence of our success. The square footage of our dwelling, the purr of our sports car's engine, the color saturation of our lawn- all are solid, empirical indicators of our personal worth. Let's call this outlook and practice the status-driven orientation.

To understand our personal value we can use these indicators just like rulers. To discover your intrinsic worth stack your indicators up against the indicators of your neighbors. But perhaps your neighbors have acquired and consumed certain things of which you are unaware. How should you account for this? The answer is do not make any attempt to estimate this unknown. It is practically unverifiable and represents the primary reason why the conspicuous component of consumption is so important. Please remember that it's not your fault if your neighbor fails to maximize his indicators. He or she probably just needs a little peer pressure to stay on track.

Once you have stacked your indicators against those of your various neighbors, you should calculate two things to get the clearest picture of your human worth. First create a ranked list with the person/family with the highest indicator in first place. These are the most successful neighbors; it's fair and reasonable to call them "the best." Fill in all the people in the middle through to the lowest place. The neighbors in last place are termed "the worst" and may deserve your scorn. But try also to pity them by remembering that each neighbor has an important social function and role within the group's hierarchy. For example, the disgrace of those at the bottom helps maintain the upward pressure, which is essential to the validity of the ranking process.
Second, calculate the average of your neighborhood's indicators and stack against your own indicators. Create a standard deviation curve and rate the first, second, and third deviations with the letter grades A, B, C, D, F. If your indicator value falls within the first deviation consider your value as a human to be average. Use your grade in combination with your rank from the ranking list to discover whether you are a success, a failure, or just lie somewhere in between.
picture of standard deviation curve

Perhaps the status-driven orientation appeals to you. If so, I imagine you might be able to learn more about how to pursue it from books with names like How to Win Friends and Influence People or How to Marry the Rich Man You Deserve. However, at this point you may alternatively feel like you've been beaten with a bag of oranges. If so, let's examine another imaginary point to life. (Actually you have been beaten with a bag of large-ish lemons.)

The imaginary point to life is procreation. We can call this view the blue genes orientation. The best we've got lies right below our belt buckle. Basically, we serve the interests of our genetic material and are rewarded with things like orgasms and children. Unfortunately, we are also rewarded with things like sexually transmitted diseases and children prepared paternity-suit style.
image of man and woman in silhouette

The Gnostics are likely interested in the point to life option that focuses on the hereafter. As I understand the Judeo-Christian tradition, the point to life can crudely be reduced to this: the Gnostic exchanges 60 or 70 years of life on earth for an infinite period of peace, happiness, and wisdom. This approach takes some patience, but the returns sound far far better than those Peter Lynch could ever get. To continue with the attractively vulgar monetary comparison, it takes big risks to achieve big rewards in investing. Conservative investments yield modest returns; speculative investments yield proportionately more for the level of risk you assume. Interestingly, this risk to reward ratio is liner only over a limited range.
graph of risk to reward efficiency frontier
(For a comprehensive and readable analysis of the relationship between risk and reward in investing read A Random Walk Down WallStreet by XXXXXXXX.)

When you invest everything you've got, namely your entire life, for everything that you could ever want, namely eternal peace and satisfaction, you're placing a big bet, namely the biggest bet you could possibly make. If you win, you win in all. If you lose, you lose it all. It's risky for sure and the lack of empirical evidence for the integrity of the investment may be cause for some concern.
Perhaps the moderate, risk-adverse Judeo-Christians will wish to hedge their bets a bit. Using Modern Portsoulio Theory sophisticated Jews and Gentiles can allocate certain percentages of their time to specific behavioral categories. For example, one could invest 60% of his behavior in following the Ten Commandments, helping the less fortunate, and attending services/ praying every day. This would be the bread and butter allocation for your soul- nothing to radical, just good solid J-C behavior. Another 15% of the pie could be dedicated to aggressive Judeo-Christianity such as orthodox kosher practices or self-mortification. Perhaps liberal doses of Jonathan Edwards. The last 15% could be allocated to J-C neutral activities such as golf or mildly questionable activities such as very occasional non-procreative sex between husband and wife and always in the missionary position.

Atheists (heathen communists), agnostics (heathen biologists), and perhaps some pagans (heathen idolatrists, get a job!) may need to look elsewhere for the point to life. Some may opt for short-term hedonism- the 4 D's- drinking, drugging, dancing, and doing it ASAP. These folks are living in the present and if philosophically driven, understand that there are no guarantees of a new brighter tomorrow. Essentially behavior is directed toward the goal of physical pleasure and avoidance of mental discomfort.
If boneheads tend to opt for the 4 D's (honestly, how many folks of this type are philosophically driven?) then eggheads tend to opt for long term hedonism of the slightly acetic type- avoidance of physical pleasure and pursuit of intellectual challenge.
Adapted from Walden III, unpublished text
Taxi Trip by Matt Salleh
Originally published in Hobopoets Issue #1
I got into a taxi the other day. I was on my way to get a physical examination for a job prospect so I was headed to the hospital. I figured a hospital would be a pretty easy place to find. I thought anyone that lived in this town would know where it was. I also figured any taxi driver could find it. Not so. Bad assumptions.

The guy that responded to my wavering hand was a Chinamen. Not that Chinamen are anymore incompetent than any of the rest of taxi drivers in this city. Not that he could have been anymore incompetent than an Indian taxi driver or driver of any nationality. Its just that his China-men-ness accentuated the conversation.

He was very exuberant about getting me in his cab. For some reason, mat sallehs are preferred customers. Probably because we usually dont know where were going and were funny to look at.

He was expressive about his lack of knowledge of any place I wanted to get to.

"Ampang Puteri Hospital Please". I requested.

"You know where is"?

"No. Youre the taxi driver. Youre supposed to know where things are and how to get to them." I didnt really say this I just thought it. Instead, I just looked dumb, a look us Americans have cultivated and turned into a science in order to get what we want.

"You don know? I dont know." He said to me, along with a couple of other things for which I cannot find symbols on my keyboard to represent. He threw up his hands and waived them around and said some more of those things that are not represented well enough in the alphabet I know.

I showed him a slip of paper that had the words AMPANG PUTERI HOSPITAL written on them. He kept driving so I figured he finally knew where I was talking about. But then, suddenly, as if frozen in his tracks by the prospect of an instant meal of kueh teow or dim sum, he stopped in the middle of the road. From his gunung berapi spewed forth yet another eruption of words, which both dismayed and mystified me. I think it might have been one word that took a total of 10 minutes to say all at once, or maybe a string of mutterings that should not be repeated in front of those not used to hanging out with construction workers or taxi drivers. At any rate, we were again having a "cultural moment" and were at the crossroads of our language barrier.

Finally, I said "H-o-s-p-i-t-a-l" in a loud clear voice. We Americans tend to do that when we want to communicate with someone with another language. Our theory is that if we say it loud enough and slow enough then it wont matter that they dont speak English. Theyll figure it out anyway. I mean, after all, English is the only language anyone needs to know nowadays. And again, I showed him the scrap of paper with the words AMPANG PUTERI HOSPITAL scribbled across them.

He erupted into a fit of laughter.

"Oh, hospiterhl. H-O-S-P-I-T-ERHL" he screamed back to me in a state of delerium. He kept laughing. So much so that I thought I might have unwittingly stumbled upon some inside national joke that amuses everyone in the country. The kind of joke you just dont get when youre an outsider. I was almost proud of myself, pretending that I could relate to his humor while shaking my head up and down and laughing too.

"Hospital" I replied as if it were the funniest thing I had ever heard.

And again he let into another set of symbolic gestures and words that I took to mean "Why didnt you say so in the first place you jack-ass?" and then drove off towards the hospital.

Once in a while I could here him mumble "hospiterhl" and giggle to himself up in the front seat.

Im glad he was amused.

Im glad we made it to the hospital.

At least I learned to add a little "erhl" to the end of my words that end in L.


Sunday, April 27, 2003

Simplify Your Life-- How to Start
The challenge of simplifying one's life is essentially a mental/spiritual task. Its not so much a matter of getting rid of stuff as of getting rid of fears and irrational cravings. Once these INTERNAL complexities are dealt with, one's outward life automatically becomes easier and simpler.

My first recommendation is to get rid of your TV. TV is the greatest source of distraction and conditioning in most of our lives. Through it we are fed a steady diet of craving and insecurity. Advertisements pound away at us... its always the same message-- "this product will make you happy". We withdraw from our very real lives and begin to live in the virtual reality of television. We focus our energies on the 'News" instead of what is happening directly to us. We tune out and avoid the hard questions. We distract ourselves from the gnawing sense of boredom, depression, and loneliness which shadows every quiet moment. We fail to ask, "Just why is it so hard for me to sit quietly alone? Why must I always be distracted by the TV, the radio, the newspaper?"

Facing these questions is the most vital step one can make towards freedom. When I went off to college my TV could not pick up any reception. I decided not to pay for cable. I've now been 14 years without television. I would not have achieved the level of freedom I now enjoy if I had not made this crucial step.

So my advice is to destroy the TV... or at least cut off cable and cut off the antennae (leaving yourself the option of renting movies.... which are generally a notch above TV shows and do not have commercials). Start living your "free time" instead of wasting it in passive lethargy. Join clubs, go to the gym, take classes, read spiritual/philosophical books, walk in the woods, meditate, draw, write poetry, go to museums, people watch in cafes, visit friends, host dinner parties, do yoga, play disc golf, write letters, start a website of your own,... live! Or in Hakim Bey's words: "Dance before you calcify"!

"And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter,--- we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all NEWS, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea."-- Henry David Thoreau
Communications & Car Living
During my first car living experiment, I used a beeper and a calling card to stay in touch with friends and family. This was very unsatisfactory, and expensive too. It was often difficult to find a working pay phone when I needed one. I now have a cell phone with a cheap monthly rate and am very happy with it. It made job searching very easy, comes with voicemail and long distance, and is actually less expensive than the beeper/card option. I recharge it in the gym or in coffee shops.

Free internet access is also easy to come by, as nearly all libraries now have computers for their customers. I use the internet to stay in touch with far-flung friends (several are overseas) and to do this web page.

Mail is a more difficult problem. You need a legitimate address in order to get a driver's license, tag, and title. The best solution is to use a friend's or relative's address. You can also rent a PO Box from various companies such as Mailboxes, etc. Such a box may work when applying for a driver's license, though it may not. Otherwise, a PO Box will satisfy most mail needs. If you are working, you may be able to use your job's address.
Food & Car Living
I admit it... I hate to cook. Also, I love the sublime pleasure of lazily loafing in a cafe.... munch some food... people watch.... write.... read.... observe. At this point in the hobovan experiment, food is my biggest expense. I could eat MUCH more cheaply if I chose... as I proved in the winter when I was broke and hungry. So the following is not necessarily what I am doing now... more "do as I say and not as I do" sort of advice:

When I was dead broke I had to make every food penny count. My mainstays were dried apricots and almonds. In addition, I worked out a barter arrangement to get free coffee/tea at a local coffee shop.... I added plenty of milk to boost protein intake. I also bought protein shakes or bars when I could afford them. For basic calories/carbs, I ate ramen noodles. This was not an ideal diet, but I survived on it. When barely getting by, I highly recommend taking (at least) a good multi-vitamin. Its hard to get all the nutrients you need when you are dead broke... so a little supplementation is a good investment.

Far better is to buy fresh produce daily. I have a double-cooler for food storage... a small cooler nestled inside a larger one. I rarely use it however, as its easier to buy fruit & veggies when I need them and eat them that same day. In general, I find that raw foods are more convenient, and healthier, than anything I can cook. When I do cook, I use a camping stove and my camping cookpot. I typically cook rice, couscous, or noodles.... to which I add veggies, soy sauce, various spices, etc... Cooking is much healthier and much cheaper than eating out. Never cook inside your vehicle, as the Carbon Monoxide will probably kill you... I go to a park and use a picnic table.

Finally, getting a part-time job at a restaurant is a great way to make money while reducing expenses.... I work the lunch shift at a sandwich shop and thus get all my lunches free (on weekdays). This saves me a considerable amount of money.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Overnight Parking While Car Living
A stealth car and a good parking space are the essential ingredients to pleasant car living. I have already covered the essentials of stealth vehicles.

So where should you park at night? My first instinct was that a remote and/or concealed area would be best. During the Nissan Sentra experiment, I started by parking in an abandoned lot- concealed by trees. This worked for a few days and then the police found me. The Athens police have always been quite nice.... it was very obvious that I was living in my car (this was in my "pre-stealth days) but they didnt hassle me. They did tell me that I couldnt park on the lot. I was brash and asked them where I could park without them bothering me. They suggested any public parking space in the downtown area... especially if it didnt have a meter. I thanked them and found just such an area-- only 100 feet from the lot I had been in.

The best parking spaces are, in fact, in populated areas... where your car will be one of many. Ideally, this should be in a multi-use area... a place with several different types of establishments. For example, my favorite area (where I have NEVER been bothered) is near a nightclub, an apartment building, a convention center, and office buildings. As a result, cars come and go at all hours. I could conceivably be at any one of these places, so no one pays attention.

Other multi-use areas might include: a 24 hour grocery, apartments, a 24-hour gym, a motel, a late night restaurant, a bar, etc...
But these aren't always easy to find,... especially in the suburbs.

In the burbs, I usually park in large apartment complexes. I choose a spot that is caddy-corner to busy entrances or balconies. I arrive and leave at off-peak times. Also, I rotate between 5-6 complexes... going to a different one each night. I did this for the last four months in Georgia and have never been discovered. Busy motels, truck stops, state parks, campgrounds, and the like are decent for one-night, occaisonal stops... but not great for extended periods of time.

Of course, the ideal place is the driveway of a sympathetic friend. I had this option last summer and it was perfect.

A note about very bad places to park (other than empty lots): 1. Never park near a police station, as they are very observant of their immediate surroundings. 2. Never park in housing developments or upscale apartment buildings... again, these people tend to be paranoid and hyper-vigilant. 3. Never park where there are alot of children (in a school zone or daycare area, for example), as you may be mistaken for a stalker. 4. Don't park near banks or other high security areas, as again, these people are hyper-paranoid. 5. In general, don't tell friends or others about the locations you park in.
Safety and Police Encounters When Car Living
I was a bit scared when I started to live in my car. I imagined all sorts of dangerous scenarios.... no doubt fed by the stereotypes of being "homeless". None of these things have come to pass. I now feel safe and secure in my van and do not worry about crime.

Much of this is due to the stealth characteristics of my vehicle. People simply do not bother what they don't know is there. Also, I park in populated areas that are not "high-crime". Once I'm parked, I never exit my vehicle. If I must get out (to walk the dog, for example), I drive to another area and do this. I keep my profile as low as possible whenever I'm parked for the night.

Besides creating a "stealth vehicle", I suggest a few other precautions. One is to hide a spare set of keys on the outside of your car. Getting locked out is considerably more annoying when you are also living in your car! Magnetic storage boxes are available at any auto parts store.

For personal defense I keep a small canister of pepper spray within quick reach of my bed. This is mostly for peace of mind as I have never felt threatened (except when encountering police :). Also, I live with my dog, so her bark is enough to deter most folks. Finally, I have a cell phone.

Concerning police encounters: Here are the key points: 1. NEVER admit to sleeping or living in your car..NEVER! When its obvious I have been asleep, I say that I was driving home, got tired and decided to "rest" before I drove home (have a friend's address to give the police if asked... but don't volunteer this info). I emphasize that I did this for safety reasons, "I didnt want to fall asleep at the wheel". 2. Stay calm, get dressed, and then smile as you exit the living area of the vehicle. Get out of the car unless instructed not to do so. Be as relaxed as you can (given the situation). Keep your hands in view. Have your driver's license ready. 3. Don't volunteer any info and don't launch into any long stories. Answer their questions, smile, and shut up!

Another safety point-- store your things in opaque containers (if they can't see it, they won't bother it). Keep the curtain/partition (that separates the drivers area from the living area) closed. In police encounters, casually slide this closed as you exit. They may ask you to slide it open... but do so only if commanded to. If they notice your bed and ask about it, use the following excuse: "I go camping alot and sometimes stay in RV campgrounds". They may know that you are living in your car... but never admit it (as its "illegal" in most places).
Storage for Car Living
The first lesson I learned when I began to live in my car was the importance of organization. Its easy for such a small space to become overwhelmingly cluttered. This soon becomes frustrating, as you have to sift through a pile of junk to find anything you want.

I now use several containers and organizers in the van. I have three large rubbermaid containers which I store under my bed. These contain my clothes, books, records (birth certificate, etc...). I have another container for tools, and vehicle-related stuff (brake fluid, battery cables, etc..) and this also goes under the bed. Large ziploc freezer bags can be used to store/separate clothes and other items inside the larger containers.

I store water in a 2.5 gallon gasoline container... which works great. Its much more stable than the typical gallon jugs you get at grocery stores. It is stored under my bed.

I store food in a double cooler (two coolers--- a smaller one nestled inside a bigger one). This is an idea I got from "10 Years of Living in Cars".. it works well, though to be honest, I mostly use it for vitamins and various dry goods... preferring to buy produce, juice, and the like on a day to day basis.

I store my backpack in the front passenger area... in front of the seat. I stuff it full of off-season clothes, as well as camping gear and my cook-stove. There is still enough room for someone to sit in the seat, though their legs are a little cramped.

I have two "car organizers" which hang from the back of the front seats... I bought them at a mega-Mart. These hold a Road Atlas, my battery charger, my headlamp, a pocket knife, pepper spray, my fans, my electric shaver, my cell phone, shampoo/conditioner, and my toiletries (which are stored together in a small travel baggy).

I keep disposable rubber gloves, paper towels, rain-x, power steering fluid, and other knick-nacks in the glove box.

I also have a sun-shade organizer for the driver's side sun shade. It contains my insurance info, a tire pressure guage, and car repair receipts.
Lighting for Car Living
The easiest way to light your vehicle at night is to use a headlamp. I recommend an LED lamp, as these have a much longer battery life. Such lamps can be found in outfitter stores, on the campmor website, and in the camping section of the mega-Marts.

These lamps draw very little power, put out a good deal of light, and leave your hands free. They are ideal for reading or any other in-vehicle tasks for homeless (car living) folks.

Final note-- I use re-chargeable batteries in my lamp.... I have a battery re-charger that plugs into any 110 outlet.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Power for Car Living
I bought a 12Volt, deep cycle, Marine battery for my van. Its main use is to power two fans--- which keep me cool during summers in the South. The fans are ~4.5 inch brushless fans... the kind used in computers... and can be bought at Radio Shack. I wired them (in series) to the extra battery. At night, I put the fans in opposite windows (one in the back right, one in the front left)... one is used for intake, the other blows out warm air. These fans draw very little power... but even in July- in Georgia -they quickly cool the sleeping area (took one hour at most).

In stealth conditions, I wedge the fans between the front seats and the car body... and crack the front windows several inches. The fans are pointed to the openings... and though not directly in the window, they still cool the car rapidly. As a result, my car is far more comfortable than many of the airless guesthouses I have stayed in - in both India and Thailand. Also, the fans provide "white noise" that drowns out external sounds.

Another possible use for the battery is to power a 12V electric blanket (or heater) in the winter. Georgia winters are mild so I never investigated this option.. though I plan to when I move to Vermont!!

Beyond such basic necessities, the auxillary battery (or batteries!) could be used for a whole host of appliances. Check out the link to "Chagnon's Power Essentials" for the full range of possibilities. Though I'm essentially a minimalist, I admit that blending fresh smoothies in my van has a certain decadent appeal (Chagnon's carries 12v blenders)!

Last summer I re-charged the Marine Battery using a battery charger. This is the type that plugs into a normal 110 outlet. I was parking at a friends house at the time so that worked great. However, I plan to wire the battery to my car this summer so I can re-charge it while I drive. It's quite easy to do (thanks Chris for the wiring instructions).

Simply wire the deep-cycle battery to your car battery in parallel (+) to (+) and (-) to (-). You can put an off/on switch in the (+) to (+) line in order to disconnect the extra battery once its charged. Use large guage wire (jumper cable type wire would be great) for these connections if possible. Try to keep the Marine battery fully charged, as leaving it in a partially discharged state will decrease its life considerably. I recommend good ventilation when charging batteries, as they can give off hydrogen gas when overcharged (crack the windows and charge the batteries while driving around).

Also, it is important that the Marine battery be dis-connected from the car battery/electrical system WHENEVER THE CAR IS NOT RUNNING.... otherwise you may reduce the life of your car battery. Installing an on/off switch is the easiest way to control this.

Also note that if you connect two or more Marine batteries in parallel, they should be of the same type and in similiar condition (both new, for example).

Finally, when using auxillary batteries, a multi-meter is recommended (volt/ohm/amp)... you can use it to test your batteries and to test the power draw of various appliances.
Sleeping While Car Living
The floor of a car can be a very uncomfortable place. In the summer, it heats up and stays hot for a long time. In the winter, it sucks heat. It's a good idea to insulate the entire rear-living area of your vehicle, but if nothing else, its essential to have a good barrier between your body and the floor when sleeping. Air is the best barrier and thus I highly recommend an elevated cot or bed. I built a bed from dumpster-dived plywood and two by fours (an abandoned shelf). I now have a 14 inch gap between the bottom of the bed and the van floor. I slide my plastic storage bins under the bed. I nailed a camping pad (closed cell foam) to the plywood... and stapled another layer of foam bedding (open celled foam) on top of that. I put a sheet over the whole thing and now I have a comfortable (and firm) bed. I'm protected from the temperature extremes of the car's flooring.

In his carliving bible (10 Years of Living in Cars), Craig Roberts suggests wrapping the floor, side walls, back wall, and ceiling in 6-12 inches of upholstery foam. I price checked this stuff and it was WAY too expensive for me. Plus, I live in the south so such insulation was never necessary. However, I may be moving to Vermont this Fall and will need alot more insulation to survive the Winter.

For cold weather, a good sleeping bag with a low temperature rating is highly recommended. In addition, you can buy fleece sleeping bags which are cheap and can slide inside a regular bag... thus lowering its effective temperature rating even more. And finally, wearing warm clothes to bed is another way to increase warmth. During a week of 7-15 degree weather this winter, I used the fleece bag inside my sleeping bag, wore thermal underwear and wool sox, and wore a wool hat. I cinched the hood on the sleeping bag. With this combination of methods I stayed perfectly warm while sleeping. In even colder weather, you can sleep ON TOP OF a 12volt electric blanket.

Note: Cheap cots can be bought at K-Mart or Wal-Mart. If sleeping in a compact car, where space is a premium, I still advise building a raised platform.. even just a few inches... to keep your body off the car floor. I built a bunk in my Nissan Sentra (hobo experiment 1) that ran from the back window-sill, over the passenger seat (which was lowered back), to the front dash. I had only a few inches of nose room but it worked. In retrospect, I should have removed the back seats and utilized the combined trunk-rear area as a living space (possibly should have removed the front passenger seat as well). Oh well, live and learn.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Appalachian Field Trip
This past weekend I went on a nice field trip to view some geological outcrops in northern Virginia and central Pennsylvania.
I'm a graduate student in geology, and this, I thought, was what geologists do. They go to the field. They whack on rocks with their hammers. They gain insights into the history of the Earth. That's why I got into geology as an undergraduate: The geology department had more field trips than the biology department!
But grad school has been different -- it's all lab work and computer modelling and reading dense papers.
It's not as much fun to learn the nitty gritty of modern geology as it was to get the "big picture" ten years ago when I first started learning about this stuff. Furthermore, since I started grad school in August of last year, I haven't gone on any "learning" field trips at all! What a disappointment! I have gone on a few trips with the undergraduate geology students that I teach -- some photos (and other junk) available on-line at my geology site: http://www.geol.umd.edu/~cbentley/.
So it was a big delight to me to get to join Julio Friedmann's sedimentology and stratigraphy class trip this weekend.
I don't know how it is with the other users of this site, how it is with other readers of HOBOPOET, but I hate being so tied down to my job (even though my job is to learn). It's rough to have sipped from the cup of Vagabond, and then be denied the freedom to wander. My trip this weekend was grand. I spent it exactly how I like to spend my weekends: rolling about the country, looking at rocks, collecting fossils, watching birds, staying up late drinking gin around the campfire, hanging out with interesting people. It was a breath of fresh air, this trip: I felt great; I felt like "This is how I want to spend my time." The reality is that I returned worn out from the 600 miles of road, the strain of hauling a 60 pound sample of fossilized mudcracks down off an outcrop at Horseshoe Bend (near Altoona), and the lack of sleep and high alcohol consumption of the weekend. And then I had to start another week of The Grind, when I all I wanted was to rest.
AJ's goal of working as little as possible is a damn good one. (Though as far as his bathroom techniques, I'll not comment.)
Happy Roaming.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Elimination While Car Living
One of the first questions Im asked, after someone learns that I'm living in my van, is "Where do you go to the bathroom?". There are quite a few options. My first preference is to use a restaurant or coffee shop.. which I typically do during the day. Also, I belong to a 24 hour gym, so I can drive there if I've really gotta go!

Still, that's not feasible in the middle of the night or in the morning, so I have in-van options as well. I use two gatorade bottles to store urine. Peeing into the large mouth openings is quite easy (for a man... a woman would need a funnel), and the bottles seal completely... so no leakage or odor. Later in the day, I discreetly dump the urine at a park (or other grassy area). Shitting is not as easy. I usually take care of this during the day or evening-- when Im in public places... or I'll dash over to the gym if necessary. However, there have been a couple of occaisons when "I had to go" and had to go fast! For such emergencies I keep a box of ziploc freezer bags. I open a bag, hold it to my bottom, squat, and defecate. It's not comfortable or particularly pleasant, but it works. I put used toilet paper in the bag and then seal it closed ( I wear disposable rubber gloves during this process... and they go into the bag too... prior to sealing it). I then seal that bag inside another bag... and both of them inside a third bag. Once I've got it triple sealed -- no odor leaks out. I can then dump the bag whenever I get the opportunity.

Finally, I use a smaller gatorade bottle when brushing my teeth at night. I use it to collect the spit... seal it... and dump it when I dump urine. This one actually gets nastier than the urine bottles- and so it's good to keep it rinsed out regularly.
Clothes (Material)
When living in one's car you want to have clothes that are versatile, easy to clean, and quick drying. Synthetic materials (like nylon, coolmax) and wool are superior to cotton. Cotton absorbs and holds moisture... its cold in the winter and hard to dry during humid summers. Most synthetics, and wool, continue to keep you warm even when wet.

I prefer clothes that are geared for hiking, fishing, and hunting, as they are designed to take abuse and to keep you cool in summer and warm in the winter. I choose styles that are versatile-- usually collared shirts that can pass for casual or semi-dressy... something I can wear to work or in the woods. Campmor is a great source for these types of things, but I only buy from their "hot deals" or "clearance" items... otherwise they are overpriced. One of my favorite finds is a fishing shirt that has a collar and can be worn with long or short sleeves. Utility pants are also useful-- the kind that zip/unzip between shorts and trousers. The synthetic materials of these items resist dirt better than cotton and they dry very quickly after washing. When travelling in Thailand, I washed my clothes in the sink and hung them to dry.... my cotton shirt never seemed to dry out... while the above-mentioned fishing shirt dried in a few hours.



The Importance of Stealth When Car Living
Average suburbanites (and the police who serve them) are a pretty nervous and fearful bunch. They are easily scared by anything which is strange or different to them. Homelessness certainly falls into this category-- be it voluntary or involuntary. Therefore, it is very important to create a "stealth" vehicle for car living.

The first step in this process is to choose a model that does not stand out. I love VW vans as much as anyone... but to a cop they scream "hippy" (and therefore, harassment). I chose a Toyota Van for my most recent hobovehicle (dubbed "The Mystery Machine" by my cousin), but even it is a little too uncommon. I recommend a "soccer-Mom" mini-van, a plain work van, or any run of the mill sedan or compact. You should remove all bumper stickers and other distinguishing marks. You want it to be as non-descript as possible.

Once you have a vehicle, pull out all rear seats.... this will create your living space. Next, block out all rear windows with black tinting (or use black spraypaint on the insides of the window). I sealed some insulation board to the windows after tinting them... in order to block out light (and drafts).

The last step is to create a partition to hide the rear area from the driving area. I use a shower curtain rod that runs just behind the front seats. I hang a dark blue sheet from it (doubled) and can slide it open or closed quite easily. At night when I sleep, I slide the curtain closed. From outside, especially when its dark, you can't tell there's a curtain... it just looks like the rear area is in shadow.

In summer, I'll usually put a sunshade on the front windshield, to provide an extra bit of concealment.

With these modifications, I can park in populated areas and no one suspects that someone is living in the van (although choosing good parking areas is vital... a topic I'll cover at another time). In this sense, the suburban lack of imagination works to your advantage. It would never occur to most people that someone would choose to live in their car,.. therefore, with a bit of modification its quite easy to blend in.... even with a quasi-hippy van like mine.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

About the Links:

Andy's site is chock full of information on NLP, psychology, neurology, mental processes, etc... Very good stuff, check it out. Kenny and Callan each have gypsy journals... a collection of their writings about various travels. Hakim Bey is an "Ontological Anarchist"... and you'll just have to read his stuff to find out what that is. Erowid is the most informative site I know of concerning drugs-- including a great deal of information about their spiritual use(entheogens). The Homeless guy inspired the shift from zine to website.... and is a fascinating hobopoet in his own right. Disc golf is the ultimate sport for the voluntary homeless & other simplicity seekers... most courses are free, you need only one $9 dollar disc to get started... and you get all the fun, challenge, and cameraderie of golf, without the blue-blood snobs! Vipassana is a meditation technique (means "insight") which is taught in 10 day retreats at centers all over the world... its completely free (post-course donations are accepted but not required). Car Living is a site that gives very basic information about living in a vehicle. You can also buy the book, though I can't recommend it as I haven't read it. I can recommend "Ten Years of Living In Cars and Loving It" by Craig S. Roberts. Its an extremely thorough book and is available through Amazon.com.
Beware the ides of March
by JC Torry

I attended the anti war protest on March 15 in Washington D.C. It was a great gathering of reasonably like-minded people. I have no idea how many people were there, but there were a lot of us. It was so gratifying to be around hoards of concerned, compassionate and well-informed folks. Every age group and ethnicity was represented, from infants in prams to the elderly, from Caucasian to Japanese and Middle Eastern. Many religious groups were also present; Muslim, Pagan, Christian and god only knows what else. We were all united in the effort to send a clear anti war message to the international warmongers.

Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, °∞ I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.°± Well, I did not feel all that courageous, but I did and do feel like nothing can stop this military action. I want to be very, very clear within and without myself, that I knew it is/was wrong, and I did not do nothing, even if marching around with signs and singing songs and shouting lame slogans is much of anything. This is the kind of action that allows me to live with myself, as I reap the rather dubious rewards of living in a country that flourishes at the material, physical and emotional expense of so many millions of others.

I am a warm body, for now anyway, against the war that will ultimately reveal the true face of the capitalist, imperial, multinational corporate greed and exploitation conglomerate we so fondly call America and fund with the hard earned money of our excruciatingly overburdened, rapidly shrinking, middle class. Yes, there is nothing unpatriotic about peace, but there is a great deal unpatriotic about this war for dominion over oil that will benefit so few, so much. It is a human shame, and an international tragedy. Civil rights must be fought for, as they are only granted grudgingly and under great mass social pressure. Let us do that, because after all, we are expendable, and there is nothing sacred about life in a global economic system concerned only with profit.
WHAT A TREASURE IS
by Juan-Pablo

A treasure is space.
It's the ambiguous space between an i and a u;
it's the closed vowels, the open sentences, the words waiting in line.

A treasure is time.
it's a minute with you,
with the promise of another minute just like it, right behind.

A treasure is thought.
it's your smile, finding mine.
A meeting of minds, and the clouds of steam
over your tea.

A treasure is motion.
not the pendullum,the ellipse.
it's you doing the dishes.
It's breathing, and living through this.

A treasure is fate..
It's paying to see. It's finding out how days
lay their eggs every night,
and letting it be.

A treasure is you,
dreamed by me.

JP
Quick thoughts on the Hobovan Life:
I have proved to myself that I can live ultra cheap, and can endure hunger for an extended period of time. I guess I needed to prove this to myself and now know that I can do it. However, my ultimate goal is to build a sustainable life that is very simple and enjoyable... to find that point of "enough" in my life.

The Van. Living in the van is "enough". I have enough possessions (still too much, in fact). Bundling up in winter, fan cooling in the summer (with a marine battery) is enough. The current job combo of 20 hours a week is enough... as is the money. They gym supplies me with hot showers, a toilet, sink & a mirror, electricity to re-charge the phone, and a means of staying fit-- it is enough. A different model of van would probably be more stealthy (more "invisible" to police). Despite keeping mine (a 1986 Toyota Van) as simple as possible, and tinting/blocking the rear-area windows, it still looks too "hippy-like". Im thinking a "soccer mom" mini-van would be ideal.

Parking. I engaged in stealth parking for the last 4+ months and certainly proved it is possible... even in a conservative southern town like Gainesville, GA. However, I never quite banished the stress and worry of being "discovered" by cops. Ive been woken up by cops a couple of times and its no fun. Although my police encounters have been fairly friendly thus far (kudos to the Athens, GA & UGA police), I am still shaken by them and wish to avoid them completely. Recently I began parking in front of a friend's house (Jen's) and this is much more satisfactory. I have no worries about police and since its in the country, no worries about nosey and uptight suburbanites (Thank You Jen!). Clearly, this sort of parking situation is ideal (I continue to stealth park in Athens on the weekends... and avoid police now that I know where its safe and where its not).

Budget. Everyone's monetary needs are different. For me, I can live large on $7-800 dollars a month... which includes plenty of eating out (my primary vice)... weekend roadtrips to Athens.... occaisonal movies... and the ability to save about $200 dollars a month-- which is necessary in order to fund future travel and to guard against unexpected emergencies (car repairs, etc...). At $600 a month I can live comfortably but not extravagently. $400 a month, for me, is uncomfortable... while less becomes increasingly grueling. My cheapest month so far was $200 a month... which was no damned fun at all. [Note- A central principle of the hobopoet experiments is self-reliance... and thus no reliance on panhandling, begging, credit cards, etc...].

Clothes. In winter-- two pair of medium weight long underwear, 3 pair of wool sox, a wool sweater, a fleece pullover, a trench coat, scarf, gloves, and a wool hat got me through quite comfortably (plus a sleeping bag). I had a thick pair of wool pants (bought super cheap at an Army Surplus store in Greenville, SC... and only needed them for about three days... when the temperature dropped to 7 degrees). Also had a pair of jeans and a pair of army pants and 4 long sleeve shirts. In summer-- 2 pair of shorts, one pair of running shorts, 3 utility shirts (with collars, can be casual or semi-respectable), teva sandals, a hat, and a few pair of sox.

Misc. Cell phone has worked great and is a tremendous improvement over the previous method (beeper & calling card)... its more convenient, more reliable, and cheaper. Its been quite easy to re-charge it in coffee shops and at the gym. A car charger would add yet another option.