Sunday, December 17, 2006

Return To The Tropics

by Skald

Well, the stint here in San Francisco has been interesting. There have been good points and bad points.

The initial months were EXTREMELY stressful-- mostly because of money. But lately, I've settled into a comfortable routine. My teaching job is fine. Money is all right, not abundant, but enough to get by. My friends are here. And I'm enjoying the city.

Certainly, this is the only city in America I could live in and tolerate. I love the progressive-liberal political scene. I love the diversity.

But, to be honest, I've missed Asia and all its energy. While I've generally been content in San Francisco, I've never quite connected with the place. Unfortunately, for all its charm, SF is still a part of America. And America, quite frankly, bores me to tears.

I've always known I'd move on, but just wasn't sure where or when.

Well, the where and the when is getting clearer.

An opportunity has arisen. My friend came to SF a few months ago from Thailand. He started selling jewelry here and is doing amazingly well. In fact, his business is booming and he has already saved a lot of money.

He and his girlfriend "Gypsy" have decided to use that money to buy land on an island in Thailand. Wat wants to build a small resort with bungalows. "Gypsy" wants to run a small spa as part of the resort. And here's the interesting part for me-- they want me to run an English school there.

In the past, I've often told them about my idea for a perfect English school-- it would be an "English Resort"-- somewhere near a beach. Students would come from abroad for an educational vacation. We'd teach a few hours of English in the morning. But most of the day would be spent actively learning outdoors. We'd learn about the local flora, fauna, and ecology. We'd go on hikes, boat rides, and snorkeling trips. We'd visit local artists and farmers. All of the learning and communication would take place in English-- but there would be none of the boring textbooks and activities found in normal English schools.

Well, Wat and "Gypsy" like the idea and want to incorporate it into their "resort". Wat will be going to Thailand next February or March to buy the land. At the end of next year, we will all go to the island.. camp and live like Hobopoets... and start building the central lodge and the bungalows.

What makes this even more fun is that another of our Hobopoet clan, "Sky", is also buying land on the same island. His wife is Thai and they likewise want to have some bungalows. "Sky" also wants to open a bar on the beach.

So the Hobopoet clan will be migrating once again-- all of us moving from San Francisco to south Thailand.

Though its still a year or more away... I can already feel the wanderlust growing inside. I can already smell the spices of Thai food. I can already picture the blue-green water.

My time in San Francisco has not been bad... but Thailand is calling us back.

Update on the Project

by Skald

I haven't checked in in quite a while, mostly because my life has been dominated by a pretty boring daily routine. That is set to change sometime next year.. but more on that later.

First, an update on the micropreneur project. Its going slowly, but well. My English teaching website now has 40 paying members. The site is now producing an income of about $100 a month. That's not enough for me to comfortably live on yet, but its something.

Hopefully, that little amount will gradually grow over the course of a few years.

My first hoped for milestone is for the site to make enough to support me in an inexpensive country like Thailand. I can live quite well there for about $4-500 a month. So my little project really doesn't have a lot farther to go.

Thats one of the great things about living a simpler hobopoet life, since your economic desires are reduced, its much easier to succeed as a freelancer or micropreneur. Our break even points and our sustainability points are much lower than most peoples.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Micropreneur

by Skald

The micropreneur (or "hobopreneur ;) project is going decently. I've launched my website and am developing and improving it week by week.

When I launched the site almost a month ago, I opened it for free one month trial memberships. I ended up getting about 50 trial members. Soon they will be deciding whether to stick around or leave. At the moment, I have 7 paying members in addition to the free ones.

The site is called Effortless English. Its designed to help internationals and immigrants learn to communicate in English with native speakers.

True to my Hobopoet principles, I'm also hoping it will undermine the authority-based English school system that dominates in much of the world today. The site is set up as a club and has four core principles:

1. Independent Learning

2. Respect, support and encouragement

3. Equality- everyone a learner and a teacher

4. Hospitality

I envision the site as a hub for a learning community-- a community that will help each other learn, without the authoritarian crap you find in almost every school. I see my role primarily as a content provider-- I create audio articles and text and learning guides (that explain difficult vocabulary). I also schedule occasional discussions on the internet, using Skype.

I'm charging a modest fee- basically enough to cover the time it takes me to create the audio, transcripts, and guides.

The idea is to stay small and intimate-- but to grow enough to end my reliance on employment. That's still a ways off, but its a doable goal.

The important part of any project like this is to get started. Just do something, and then you've got something to work with-- something to tweak, improve, modify, play with. The problem most of us have is that we plan and think and worry too much.

Whether its a big trip, a micropreneur project, or any other dream-- the best way to proceed is to launch it as fast as possible... before doubt has a chance to poison everything. That's why I advocate buying an airplane ticket as soon as possible after deciding on a trip. Make the commitment real.

And so too with the commitment to free yourself from wage slavery. I waited far too long to do this and can't for the life of me figure out why.. other than I was worried I'd fail.

But the beauty of being a micropreneur is that you can't really fail. Regular business people are all about borrowing money and writing business plans and scheming to become ultra rich. But as a micropreneur, you don't need to worry about any of that. No need to borrow any money, or write a plan, or become rich. Instead, just take a small idea, launch it now, and see what happens. If it flops, modify it and try again. Repeat until it becomes successful.

That's essentially the process my friend Wat followed to build his micro jewelry business. And he's been free from wage slavey for years!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Escape From Wage Slavery

by Skald

The Corporate system that currently dominates the world is set up to make most of us wage slaves. This form of authority and control is usually far worse than the political repression we compain so much about. With the exception of the "Drug War", most of us are repressed far more at our jobs than anywhere else.

Employment (and prior to that, school) is what degrades us, what regulates our lives, what squashes our passions, what sucks out our souls.

Escape from this slave-system has been my overwhelming obsessions for many years.

I've had some success. I've lived in a car, and later, in a van. I've travelled a fair amount abroad. I've had long stints without any work whatsoever... living happy and free.

But always the money runs out, and I go slinking back to an employer-- hand outstretched, dignity in tatters. I'm well and truly sick of that.

I used to think that maximizing the work to free time ratio was the best approach. I hoped to work less and less while having more and more of my own time.

But that's not enough. I don't want partial freedom, I don't want just part of my life-- I want it all.

So what are the options? There are a few.

One can be seen on the sidewalks outside my apartment-- full time homelessness- begging on the streets. Of course, many of those folks did not choose homelessness- and their lives are truly wretched.

Others did choose homelessness, or they chose drug/alcohol addiction which locks them into homelessness. Some appear to get by. There might even be a few that remain fairly clean and healthy. But they live by begging, and that, to my mind, is a horribly wretched way to live-- especially if your mind and body are capable of something else.

Freedom without self-reliance is not very free.

Another choice, perhaps, would be to join some kind of commune. That's never appealed to me either. Such places tend to be filled with new age nuts, social retards, or the outright mentally ill. Plus, these places invariably are rife with rules, regulations, power struggles, and other bullshit. You replace the corporate master for a communal one. No thanks.

After much thought, I think the best answer, given the current circumstances, is Gandhi's. Gandhi envisioned an economy based on "cottage industries". In other words, every household would be its own little "business"-- its own little "industry".

The cottage industry (or freelancer) idea is promising, and the possibilities are endless. A simple example are the people you see at musical festivals and rennaisance fairs. These folks make art, or jewelry, or food... drive around to festivals... and sell it to the people attending. They are small scale, doing what they love, and making a living from it. No bosses. No regulations. And usually, no taxes. Another key distinction-- these people rarely think like corporate businessmen-- they are almost always participants in the festivals as well-- part of the community.

This seems to me a much nobler way of life than either begging or employment. What's more, it offers an economic model of freedom that is doable for most people. You've just got to find your niche, your passion, your bliss--- and go with it. None of these people are going to get rich-- but thats not what they want. Freedom, and an economically sustainable way of life, is what they're after.

So this is the path I've decided to pursue. What's my passion? My bliss? My niche?

For me- its travel, engagement with other cultures, meeting people from other countries, and languages.

And so I've finally developed my cottage industry plan. I am starting a website for English language learners. In the recent past, I was focusing on getting private students and teaching them in my apartment. But this approach had several weaknesses for me:

For one, it could not sustain my nomadic lifestyle. What happens when I leave San Francisco? All those students, and contacts, would vanish. I'd have to start from scratch every time I moved (and I move a lot)!

Second, it was wearing me out. To be economically sustainable, I had to teach a lot of private students. Too many, in fact, for my tastes. Even when I'm doing "work" that I love, I prefer not to do it more than 20 hours a week.

Third, private tutoring imposed a rigid schedule on me. I had to make appointments and keep them. It felt like a time cage.

The website is a much better approach for me. I can manage it from (almost) anywhere in the world. I can move anytime, to anywhere, and still keep my students. I can work on the website at any time of the day or night-- whatever suits my whim or energy level.

Its an ideal solution for me.

Next week, I will launch the "Beta" version of the site.

After that, I'll start checking in at Hobopoet more often. I think this is a genuinely useful experiment in self-reliance, freedom, and nomadism.

I intend to share the challenges, strategies, and triumphs-- with the intention of helping other hobopoets develop their own, individual, sustainable cottage industries-- and live a life free from wage slavery.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Transition Blues

by Skald

Its been a long time, and so, and update:

My quest for economic self-reliance is going quite well. My freelance teaching program is suddenly taking off. I'm having a great time with my students, I'm teaching in the relaxed environment of my own apartment, and I'm making good money.

But I've hit a very difficult transition period. I'm doing so well that I'm now stressed out and overworked-- because I'm still working my job. I feel caught in a Catch-22. At the moment, I don't have enough students to support myself completly as a freelancer. However, I already have too many to fit in with my school teaching job.

I've lived a relaxed hobopoet life for a long time, so all this work is driving me crazy. I almost decided to cut most of my private students in order to return to a relaxed schedule.

But then I thought about my long term goals. I realized that I'd only increase my dependence on jobs by cutting freelance clients. What I need to do is cut the job. To do that, I need to save a "cache" that can see me through a few months of reduced income. I also need to keep adding private students in order to reach the self-sufficient point.

In other words, I've decided that some short term pain-- in the form of FAR too much work-- is the best strategy. But to keep my sanity, I've made a deadline: I will quit my job by the end of the year. Beginnning in 2007, I will be a full time freelancer.

That means no bosses. That means no office. That means 4 hours a day of teaching-- with only students I enjoy working with.. and who likewise enjoy working with me.

It means, FINALLY taking complete responsibility for my life.

Right now I'm stuck in the transition blues. But I see the promised land-- just over the next hill.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Not Sexy

by Skald

One thing I've thought of writing about is my current experiment with building a freelance income. At the moment, I'm engaged in an effort to create my own freelance teaching income. My goal is to totally free myself from bosses, schools, and administrators.

Part of this strategy is to build both a face-to-face clientele and an online one. A solid base of online students would give me a highly flexible income. It would allow me to travel and/or move about the world while maintaining a steady money supply-- independently.

This is where my energies are currently focused. I know, its not terribly sexy. I'm not exploring a new country, or testing the far limits of simple living, or other "at the edge" endeavors.

But this project is very important. However much I enjoyed traveling, I have always had the specter of employment hanging over me. Eventually the money ran out and I was forced, like some sad beggar, to beg for work (ie. "apply for a job"). This has always nagged at me, despite success at reducing the hours and days I needed to be a wage slave.

Economic freedom is vital. It really doesn't matter what form this takes. It might be a standard business (though this is far too anchored for my tastes). It might be a very simple cottage industry, such as fashioning beaded jewelry and selling it at festivals. Ambitious or modest, settled or nomadic, to live free it is absolutely essential to be one's own economic master.

And so, I am currently engaged in the less-than-sexy, but vitally important experiment of building a freelance teaching income.

Since this constitutes the bulk of my current thoughts and experiments, I'll start sharing my ups, downs, strategies, and ideas on this topic here on Hobopoet.

I'll also look forward to future nomadic adventures- which will be independently funded!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Pause

by Skald

As many readers have noticed, I've been taking an extended break from Hobopoet. My life is generally going well, and I've got a few interesting projects going on. Mostly these relate to my efforts to learn a language (Spanish) and teach one (English). These activities may (or may not) be interesting-- but I feel they don't really relate to the purpose and spirit of Hobopoet.

Likewise, while I continue to live cheaply in a small one room apartment in San Francisco.. and indulge in the usual Hobopoet experiments and activities.. I have already covered these ideas many many times. No use repeating them yet again.

I do not intend to quit Hobopoet altogether. However, I need some time to determine a new direction. After a while, my posts had become little more than rants, complaints, and emotional venting. That was nice for me psychologically, allowing me to release some stress-- but didn't fit the spirit of Hobopoet either.

And so I'll be taking some time to figure out where to go from here. While I do that, I hope that Matt and other contributors will take up the slack and continue with their excellent (but far too infrequent :) posts!

As our beloved CA governor say, "I'll be back"!

(And if the oh so fascinating world of foreign language learning excites you, come on over and check out Effortless Language Acquisition, a significantly less radical blog!)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Lunch time on the Gallatin

One of the beautiful things about being a teacher is all the time off you get... heres an essay I recently wrote while visiting MT, USA...

As much as I LOVE my job... and dont consider teaching kids work at all....I never have moments of inspirtation like this while inside the confines of the four walls of a classroom.... thus, the value of slacker time, time off, time outdoors, 'unproductive' time in general...

----------------------------------------
I chucked my pad on the ground next to the Gallatin River and plonked a slab of egg salad on some wheat bread. A spectacular day of fishing and standing knee deep in icy water in my shorts and sandals had drained my energies. What was left in its place was the hollowed out-full feeling I get when I spend a day outdoors immersed in beautiful scenery surrounded by wildness, especially in a natural body of water. Whenever I bathe outdoors or swim in a wild lake or river my spirit is lifted to an ethereal plane that is all together lofty, airy and hollow while stridently and fully rooted to the Earth. It is a feeling of contradiction I cannot put in plain words. In short, its magic.

The day had loosened my worries and stresses and cast them aside like a fly rod in high wind. I spied river otters goofing around downstream. From the rock where I was sitting it looked like the otters didnt live their life, but instead they played it as if it were an instrument both novel and familiar. Their lighthearted antics demonstrated intense skill in swimming and diving while exuding a joy like that of a toddler experimenting with their newly discovered anatomy.

As I admired the otters, ecological affairs as old as the river unfolded around me. I snagged a few spears of pickled asparagus while aquatic insects swaggered in an esoteric kamikaze voodoo dance- their River Rumba simultaneously perpetuating life and propelling them towards death. They hardly seemed air worthy as they struggled with lumbering wings to lift their bodies a few feet into the air only to seem exasperated by their inefficient efforts and then plummet strait back down. Once in a while, a brave soul would hit the water to successfully deposit eggs and climb to finish the scene in the one act play of their ephemeral existence. More often, a rainbow trout would rise to the surface to gulp a mouthful of unfamiliar air, water and clumsy insects.

I sipped on my Sam Smith India Pale ale and the river gargled a great big mouthful of snow melt. The exoskeletons of a thousand Salmon Flies clung to the riparian shrubs as testimony to their recent exodus from a watery womb. Conifers conversed with the sun in esoteric light language converting electromagnetic rays and chlorophyll into the many carboned sugars vital to the making of the egg salad, pickled asparagus and pale ale I had recently ingested. Lichen frosted stones stand stoic and resistant but I know they will eventually crumble under the soft and persistent coaxing of their permanent Baptism. They cant be blamed. Its hard not to concede to the supple flow of both time and water.

Caddisflies lie cuddled and strewn under every stone in their gravelly sleeping bags. A few unwisely had chosen to set up camp too near the bank. When the flow of snow melt receded they desiccated, confirming that Nature isnt necessarily perfect but shes a damn good statistician. She gambles that even if the majority of a hundred thousand nymphs perish before they mature there will surely be sufficient numbers to populate the river with her six legged lovers.

I opened the casing of one of the unwise. The dusty instar of a dried up caddisfly locked in arrested development fell into by beer. Like a hunter that drinks the blood of his first kill to become one with the animal spirit, I gulped the carcass with trout like precision to become part of the river.

When I finished my meal I raked up my belongings. A garter snake basked in the sun nearby on an exposed rock. I had the urge to grab it and inspect it up close but then noticed the tail of some unlucky reptile protruding from its mouth. Better to let it rest and digest. I left it unmolested. The snake and I shared a brief yet sated moment and stared into each others eyes. I lit my Backwoods cigar and breathed in the landscape.

Shortly, I rambled up the small embankment back to the car and recounted the day. The trout fed on the rising hatch. The snake fed on its reptilian cousin. I fed on egg salad and beer. If nothing else, life is a feeding. It is up to us to decide our diet. Some of us feed on negativity. Some of us feed on others. All of us feed on life itself.

As I drove off, I looked around to catch one last glance of the beauty that engulfed me and realized there was something larger that I was witnessing. There’s a presence that cannot be captured or expressed and simple beauty falls flat on her face. She is too shy to poke her head out here. She knows shes outclassed. The river embodies this and flows unimpeded by these distinctions while I feel like a newborn struggling inexpertly to classify my experience and the life around me. Finally, I relax and decide that the best I can do is take silent notice and feed my soul.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"GYPSY"

(homage to Motorcycle Nomad Gypsies legacy)

A teenage kid pumping gas at his dad's independent shop on outskirts of a little town looked up as sound of a motorcycle zapped him,and a lone rider on a big black Harley chopper bent into wind ''''rain, left an impression on him that would haunt him even when he'd got his own bike and chopped it in expressioin of his own individuality, as he'd do in the future.
The Biker was solely obsessed with finding a cheap motel,like,real goddam quick, as he was cold,wet,and dangerously numb and tired from eight hard hours rollin' down twisty,screwed up backroads.
He spotted a neon motel sign,turned in 'n' dismounted in front of the office. His eyes scouted out the place quickly,appreciatin' funkiness of the cabins,apparent scarcity of customers.
The proprietor,a guy in his thirties,stared at the bedraggled Biker as he came into the office,shook his head,said,"From the looks of you,you been havin' a tough go of it on that motorcycle of yours in that there shitty weather?"
"Y'got that right,mister. It's miserable out there! I'm beat 'n' cold,wet 'n' in serious need o' a hot shower 'n' a bed. Do be hopin' y'can help me out?"
"That's my business. Where y'comin' from?"
"Been doin' some house paintin' up in West Virginia…"
"Headin' somewhere particular or just goin'?"
"Jes goin'…"
"You with one of them outlaw clubs?"
"No sir,not me. Jes me 'n' m'machine…Ah,how much y'get for a night? Like I said,
I'm bone weary 'n'…"
"Aw,sure,sure,sorry t'be talkin' at you and bugging you with all these questions.It's just kind of lonely around here…"
"Hey,I understand, Ain't n'problem."
"$25.00'll do her."
"That's fine. Anywhere nearby I could get some chow?"
"Yup, about two miles down the road there's a honky tonk,they got burgers 'n'
ribs and all that kind of thing."
"Sounds perfect."
He walked into the cabin,threw down his gearbag,pulled off his old scarred
leather jacket 'n' cutoff made into his own personal colors,yanked off his boots,
fired up a cig,turned on the tube and slumped down on the bed,feeling the road weariness beginning to seep out of his pores.
He stripped,took a long,hot,euphoric shower,shaved,brushed his teeth,came
back into the room naked and stared at his hard,scarred,tattooed 48 year old body

In the mirror. His arms thick from years of hard work,be it wrenching on bikes,construction,house painting,welding,he'd done it all at one time or another.
His gallery of tattoos,all of his own design,although not full sleeves,were many and blended together to reflect his highly individualistic personal style and
perspective. His thick mahogany-colored hair hung down to his waist. His Face ruggedly handsome,burnt by wind and sun to a dark leathery swarthiness.
His Zapata mustache,unlike his hair,laced with silvery-gray.
He pulled out his other pair of Levis and a clean T-shirt. He'd hit a laund-
ramat in the morning and clean up the jeans,T-shirt and flannel shirt he'd been wearing.
He looked outside and dug that it was raining even harder,said,"Fuck it!"
He figured he'd cop a hearty breakfast in the morning. It wasn't as if he'd never gone hungry before. Over the twenty-four years he'd been a motorcycle nomad,there'd been many a time he'd gone hungry for one reason or another. Been many a night when he'd ended up sleeping like a wild dog in the bush or a ditch on side of the road for lack of anything else. That was part of the dues you paid in the life.
Wandering had always been integral to his experience. His granddad had given his dad an Indian Scout motorcycle for his sixteenth birthday. When WW II came his dad joined the Army,went to Airborne,and eventually worked for Military Intelligence
and usually got around on a Harley servi-car trike. At war's end,he bought a '45 Harley Knuckle and became a Motorcycle Gypsy just as his father had been,riding all over the American continent,drinking hard,fighting hard,blowing weed,making a living by any means. He was epitome of kind of Hipster Marlon Brando had wanted to depict in the legendary original Biker film "The Wild One". While cruising through
El Paso,he'd met Juanita Castananza; she'd climbed on his iron horse,after riding his bones,without a second thought and they roared off into the unknown future together.
He'd been born while his dad was doing a stint as a construction worker in Alburquerque. He'd grown up digging beBop and rock 'n' roll,weed,chicks,and his outraegeously Hip parents.
They'd live in a place for about 6 months,renting a po' trash trailer or shack, then they'd up and move on,his dad on his bike,his mom and him and his sister In their woody station wagon.
Like many of his generation and that of his mom and dad,after seeing Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin in "The Wild One",and mostly being his dad was a genuine Motorcycle Gypsy,as were all his closest friends,he was obsessed with motorcycles and Biker Mystique. At 14,he had a dirt bike that he rode into the ground. At 16.his dad gave him a Triumph and helped him chop it to his own personal taste.

He got drafted,did a tour in 'nam,came back irrevocably convinced the world was hopelessly fucked up and his only hope was to be in the wind,on a chopped hog,going his own individualistic way,avoiding and evading as much as possible all the ludicrous laws,greedy Robopathic people,that whole goddam sick societus,and carrying on the motorcycle Gypsy legacy that his dad had brought him up to love and respect as their own unique other culture.
He eventually sold his Triumph and copped a '69 XLCH Harley Sportster. He stretched the front downtubes of the frame 3 1/2",put a 10" over Springer front end with a 21" wheel;added a King Sportster gas tank;high chopper pullback handlebars mounted on 3" dogbone risers;a rolled aluminum oil tank;a solo saddle;and a 22" sissybar.
He'd work awhile,not very long,just enough to save a stash to get in the wind once again. Touring from Laconia to Daytona,to New Orleans,Seattle,Old
Orchard beach,coast to coast,north to south,making it as best he could,he lived and worked to maintain his machine and his motorcycle Gypsy lifestyle.Many of the friends he'd meet,fellow Bikers,shop owners and wrenches,remained friends for life,therefore,he never lacked places to go and folks to see.
He'd sort of tried settling down once. Passing through Tucson,he'd stopped in a saloon to down to down a few cold ones,and before long was rapping to a
very beautiful Apache Indian girl who lived on a commune. He gave her a ride there,checked out the scene and dug it,so ended up staying for two years.
They had a kid together,but drifted apart eventually.
He rented a trailer on the outskirts of Tucson,worrking at this and that.
Morning Star and their son T-Bird came down for awhile and they tried to get it together again but it just didn't work out.Wasn't like he didn't love the
woman and child,he did in his own peculiar way. Nor did he abuse them in any way. If he was rowdy and needed to get out his aggression,there were all
too many lowlife asshole men he could seek out and stomp. Bottom line was, his only real loyalty was to his machine and his motorcycle Gypsy lifestyle.
Actually,he probably wasn't really all that different from those first motorcycle Gypsies at the beginning of the century when they were riding
Harleys,Indians,Excelciors,Hendersons and other innovations on the emerging art of what is a motorcycle:a sculpture of iron that a person can mount and
ride everywhere in the world if so inclined.Like them,he was an adventurous and and restless man in what still remains the "Wild West".The motorcycle Gypsies, like their brothers the Hoboes,were a unique subculture bred of American soil,a nomadic subculture as profound in its folklore and lifeways as the Romany Gypsies and the nomadic Native American tribes,as well as the other nomadic cultures throughout the world.Being the kind of creative and intelligent individual he was,he was thoroughly aware of this.He felt he was part of and a participant in this continuing tradition,living it every moment.
Eventually he cut out of Tucson and headed south of the border into Mexico.
He loved Mexico.He ate plenty of chow,drank too much Mescal,smoked primo weed constantly,ate Teo Noncaital Sacred Mushrooms,geezed plenty of crystal, made the love with many fine brownskinned women.
He lived in San Felipe Pueblo in Oaxaca for awhile,then wandered over to Yucatan,up to Veracruz,and then further up through Texas,Oklahoma,Missouri,and then on East.
He ended up working as a wrench in a bike shop with an outlaw bro,Danny,in Connecticut.He'd go on runs with the clubs,but wouldn't join any even though he was more than welcome to.He'd make it with a chick for awhile,but it never lasted.It was as if he were cursed with the enigmatic brand of the lobo solo:
the lone wolf.
Then one night Danny went over the high side and died when his chopper went out of control on a rain slick I-95.He got in the wind once again.
His last period of downtime,which is what he considered those times when he was sedentary for awhile,had been in Misty Creek,in West Virginia.He'd gotten a gig as a house painter and had rented a dilapidated derelict house,amidst broken cars,washing machines,refrigerators,mutilated furniture,weeds growing densely, on the outskirts of town.
His decision to leave all that behind and be in the wind once again had started one dismal day,rain pounding down in torrents,howling banshee winds shrieking, whipping telephone lines,clothes hanging on backyard rigs.
His newest bike,a Knuckle chopper he and Danny had built,gleamed on the porch.
Inside the house,illuminated by kerosene lamps and huge candles,he'd been sitting in the remnants of a once stuffed chair,reading Lee Gutkind's "Bike Fever", a book that had become for him like a sacred text.It was especially on stormy days like that one,he'd read yet again the chapter on the history of motorcycle Gypsies,and it'd reaffirm his personal vision of how he and his life must be.
He'd taken a long hit on the thick joint,drawing the sweet pungent smoke deep into his lungs,down into his abdomen:the center of human willpower,digging it no end as it permeated his genitals and began to arouse the Kundalini Serpent which began to mystically writhe up his spinal column seeking release through the Magikal door of his crown chakra at the top of his skull,in other words,he was getting loaded,like,crazy!
He laid the book down,gazed out the window,his intense brown eyes piercing the veils of rain,the dark fog,experiencing visions of the Four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse riding past,only they looked like out of "Road Warrior" on their fierce sleek Harley choppers.
He slid a Warlock tape into the GB,giggling to "Kiss of Death" as he twisted another stick of weed.
He crashed for awhile,waking up hungry,horny amd restless.The rain still pounded down so he jumped in his pick up,cut into town to the Office Saloon,a
hard core Biker bar.He gulped down a shot of Corvaissier cognac and a bottle of Bud,wolfed down two bowls of Mama lee's chili.Another shot of cognac and a Bud and then he was into a game of pool with one of his bros,Johnny,from the Biker owned and operated house painting/construction business he worked for.
He punched Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" on the jukebox and slouched like Brando in "The Wild One",a Camel hanging from his lips,his eyes hooded and dreamy.He dropped the 8 ball,downed the shot and beer Johnny bought him.
"Wanna blow some weed,Gypsy,man?" Johnny asked.
"Sure thing,bro,"Gypsy answered in his rough muted nuances with a slight
Chicano accent.
They cut out back,squatted on the riverbank neath the shelter of a huge old weeping willow tree,passing a joint.
"S'what's the happenings wi' y',man?"Johnny asked.
"Nada mucho,hombre…I was hangin' in m'pad getting' fucked up 'n' crashed, woke up,had t' cut in here 'n' reassure m'self there be a life outside m'own lonely skin,y'dig?Thinkin' I'm due t' be in the wind again,like,real pronto."
"No shit?You ain't been here that long!"
"I'm never nowhere too long,bro.Dig it,I'm gonna be big 50 years old.I don't know how long I got left 'n' see,I'm feelin' like Jim Morrison laid it down,like,'I
wanna get m'kicks before this whole shithouse goes up in flames!' Thinkin' of cuttin' down to Mardi Gras 'n' maybe West again…maybe even back down to Mexico 'n' points south…I dunno…wanna be ridin' m'scoot all the time,kickback,Jack,thems the facts,y'dig?Time I saw m'folks again too…"
"Y'really are a Gypsy ain't you,man?"
"Y'got that right,bro.It's like,y'know that book I'm always rappin' about."Bike Fever" by this righteous bro Lee Gutkind?Well,man,anyways,in beginning he talks about the history of motorcycle Gypsies,hardcore nomad scooter trash,mostly older cats,who started out back in the '20s 'n' '30s when there was a shitload o' 'em roamin' around on their Harleys 'n' Indians 'n' all them other big ass first bikes,but it wasn't jes depression,dig,cause they'd been doin' it before 'n' after it,'n' they're doin' it now,man,they're the cats who've stayed free 'n' are pioneers o' this whole wild international Biker Subculture.
I relate t' that s'fuckin' much,man!I mean,fact is,I am a fuckin' third generation motorcycle Gypsy for real!It's in m'blood same as any nomad Romany Gypsy anywhere in this world!…That's why I gotta get in the wind again,bro,cause I really need independence 'n' self-respect…'n' like this other primo book"The Complete Motorcycle Nomad" says,like,Bikers are the last o' a breed,in tradition o' Apaches 'n' Sioux 'n' all other nomad Native Americans 'n' Romany Gypsies,Bedouin Arabs,all them tribes…Dig,for me,that's where it lives,'n' that's where I gotta be…"
The decision had been made while he was talking to johnny.The next day he'd sold the pick up to one of the guys he painted with,packed up his gear,and got in the wind.
He crashed and slept deep,and dreamed the interesting dreams he always had.He woke up refreshed and ready for more hard riding.He was ecstatic when he stepped outside and the sun was shining,the sky a deep turquoise blue,the air scented sweet.
He kicked the Knuckle into life and headed down the Road.A couple of hours later,Gypsy geared down and pulled into the parking area of a truckstop café.All eyes were on him as he entered,but he smiled and nodded and as usual with him, the citizens got the vibe that this was a good ol' boy even if he was a longhaired saddle tramp.He slid onto a stool,fluttered his eyes and clutched his heart historonically as the pretty young waitress came over and asked if she could help him.her face lightened up and she laughed as she studied the handsome leather-skinned Biker.
"Where you coming from?"She asked.
"Well,now,sister,do you mean that philosophically or literally?'
"What?"
"Sorry.Right now I'm comin' outta West Virginia."
"Going out West?"
"Yeah,eventually."
"Must be great…well,you want coffee or something?"
"Coffee for sure 'n' a steak dinner."
"Sure thing.What do you want with your steak and how do you want it?"
"Mash potatoes wi' gravy,carrots 'n' peas 'n' hot buttered corn bread…
steak rare."
"Hang in there.I'll tell the cook to fix you up with a trucker's hungry man special,OK?"
"You're a lady 'n' a scholar."
It didn't take Gypsy very long to wolf down the delicious hearty meal,and then he kicked back smoking,drinking coffee,and rapping to Janie,the waitress.
Then reluctantly sort of,he paid,told her he'd make sure he came by that way again sometime in the future,cut out and mounted up.He turned and waved to her before he kicked his ride into life and cut back onto the long black snake of highway.
Janie watched him disappear and felt a restlessness she'd never known before gnawing at her.
Gypsy didn't have the foggiest notion what his destination was.All he really knew was that he was truly of that rare breed,the motorcycle Gypsies.
He had his sunrise in the morning and his Moon at night.He stopped when he felt for it,and set up camp.He stopped when he needed to work as a painter,welder,a Wrench,or one of his various skills,to make enough bread to journey on.He was even putting together a book of photos and his writing,a kind of celebration of the nomad Biker lifestyle. He was a free man in a world progressively more complex and self-destructive and incarceratory.He felt that fantasy and reality had merged finally for him into a lifestyle permeated with legacy.He was like a troupadour during medieval times,bringing the Word to those who'd bend an ear and listen.
Like a weird kind of Johnny Appleseed,only he was planting the seeds of a survivalist nex millennium lifestyle.He was a self-made man who had the courage and conviction to make his stand.
And he was laughing as he screwed it on and raced toward the always elusive horizon…

Anticopywrite:Gypsy James-2003

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Teaching On The Internet

by Skald

A few folks have asked for more information about teaching English on the internet. So here goes:

First of all, realize that this takes time. Its a very slow building process to get students, do a good job with them, build word of mouth, etc. At the moment, Im nowhere near making a living at doing only this. On the other hand, teaching on the internet is a very pleasant, relatively easy, autonomous way to make a bit of extra money. In the future, who knows? I may be able to make most of my income in this way.

For a fairly detailed account of teaching English on the internet, and teaching English in general.. see the blog "Effortless Language Acquisition". In addition to the posts, check out the links.

A good place to start as a tutor is Tutopia. They have excellent internet teaching tools and a good system overall. They take a $10 cut, but I think thats a pretty fair price for what they offer.

Another option is to keep things simple and go with Skype. If you don't know, Skype is an internet phone service. It allows you to make international computer to computer calls for free. The great thing about Skype is that it allows for conference calls. Thus, you can have a group discussion with up to 4 students at one time. This allows you to charge more per hour while each student gets to pay less. Everyone wins. Ive enjoyed doing group discussions... and in many ways they are more interesting and more effective than one on ones.

Whichever tool you decide to use, the next step is finding the students. The best thing to do is register and advertise with online services or boards.

One such service is My Sensei, out of Japan. This is free for teachers. Students peruse the boards, and then must pay to get the contact info of a tutor they like. To be effective, you need to constantly renew your ad, so it stays near the top.

Another place to advertise is Craigslist. This link is to the main Bay Area website, but there are ones for many cities around the world. Some are more popular than others (The Bay Area's Craigslist is incredibly busy). Just post an ad under "classes" every week.

A very slow, longterm strategy... but an ultimately effective one... is to start an English Learning blog. Eventually, such a blog will attract students. The best (most popular and useful for students) are podcast blogs that provide audio and text. The best example is a podcast site called ESL Pod. This one is quite professional, but that's not entirely necessary. See English Conversations for another excellent example.

So that's about it.... a brief starters guide to teaching English on the internet. Be sure to check out my teaching blog (Effortless Acquisition) for more details... and email me (at my teaching blog email) if you have questions.

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Greatest Loss


The Greatest Loss

July 26, 2005
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

There is no shortage of news detailing the loss and destruction of our natural world. Clear cutting this, ozone depletion that, global warming here and there. No doubt it is happening right before our eyes and no doubt Homo sapiens {wise humans) are in large part, if not totally, responsible. There is also no doubt that we could do a better job of reversing these trends if we were so inclined. But that is not what is occupying my mind at this moment.

What is bothering me most is that there is something else we are losing- not just the potential medicines in the rainforests, or our protective ozone, not the climate we have grown pretty attached to in the last few thousand years, not the fisheries we are over exploiting and not even the biodiversity and habitats we are wiping from the Earth before we can catalogue and describe them much less understand their ecology or role in nature.

There is something perhaps more profound and yet altogether more subtle disappearing, quietly slipping away mostly unnoticed from the world we inhabit. That something is solitude. Or rather, a natural place in which to find solitude and escape from the all pervasive human commotion.

With the encroachment of humanity on almost every aspect of the globe it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a place where there are not other people around. It used to be that I could traipse a few hundred meters into my backyard and almost escape the noises of civilization and the screaming sounds of progress and economic growth.

Maybe a few cars would roll by during a full day on the dirt road where I lived in rural Georgia, now and again breaking the silence. But they would soon drive on and silence would boldly stake its claim once they passed. Not true anymore. That road is paved and a huge mall has been built with the accompanying mammoth parking lot full of folks too large and too lazy to park more than 100 meters from the door. Instead they drive around and honk incessantly until somebody pulls out and lets them in. In fact, that mall is the biggest mall in the Southeastern United States I am told.

And its not just there, but everywhere I turn. Everywhere I used to hunt grey squirrel and white tail deer or fish for trout, bream and catfish is now a development of some sort, a strip mall or a subdivision full of cookie cutter houses. Those unfettered places are disappearing rapidly, nearly gone. Nowadays I have to travel farther (in my oil consuming transport) to escape the buzzes and whirls of my fellow human beings.

Well, so what?

I dont think its any coincidence that many of the great prophets and gurus throughout human history have had some sort of epiphany during an episode of solitude in a forest or desert. They essentially went out and sat for a while- quietly alone. They communed in silence. Then they brought back messages and insights so far reaching that we are still living by them today, thousands of years later.

It seems to me that silence and solitude are the key ingredients to reaching a higher self- a self more in tune with the surrounding universe- a life enlightened to the infinite. Im no prophet but I too certainly crave that sort of thing once in a great while.

These days I live in Malaysia, a country on the fast track to development and first world status. As the construction hits full speed ahead, Malaysias wild places are disappearing faster than free ice cream at Wal-Mart on a scorching Sunday afternoon. And there isnt much end in sight. Kuala Lumpurs skyline is dotted with cranes. Along with those implements of construction come the requisite sounds of a country undergoing birth pangs. The jack hammers, drills, tractors, earth movers and Bangladeshi workers start their squealing and squawking in the early morning and wail on into the evening hours. More often than not they drown out the songs of cicadas, tree frogs and jungle crickets I am sometimes privy to hear in my back yard, an increasingly rare undeveloped Malaysian rain forest. The human made noises invade the recesses of my mind and attack my psyche. There is no escape.

Even when I retreat to the backwoods of a national park I still hear the whiz of jets flying overhead burdened with Asians making a sojourn to or from Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta or some other desperately busy location. If I dont hear that then I see a row of pink plastic garbage bags and wooden disposable chopsticks. The human footprint is everywhere. Thats business I reckon. Or at least business in a large scale consumer oriented infinite growth economic model.

Its undeniable; the intrusive stamp of humanity reaches far and wide. As the developments increase and the population grows, solitude seems to spring just out of sight like a white tail buck with his white flag raised high as a warning signal to anyone or anything that cares to take notice.

I, for one, am taking notice and Ive caught a glimpse of what is to come. If these trends continue and the population keeps increasing I know what will happen. Ive seen it. The future I have witnessed is in present day Java. I lived on Java for six months often wondering how a place could be so crowded.

Java is one of 18,000+ islands in the Indonesian archipelago and has the distinction of being the most densely populated island on the planet. With over 800 people per square kilometer Java has roughly 25 times more people per square kilometer than the United States. Not only that, but almost every square inch of the island has been developed.

On Java people live on the side of the road, people scrunch into villages, folks jam in to the angkots and people crowd into the dimly lit streets at night. People are everywhere on Java! Dont get me wrong. The folks there are as friendly as can be and most of the time I ignored the wall to wall human mob. If I had to choose between living in the densely crowded Javan society and the urban nightmare known as Los Angeles Id chose Java in a New York minute. But even though they were friendly once in a while I wanted to escape, except there was nowhere to escape to. Everywhere I wanted to go was inhabited. The few places that werent over crowded were too far away for a quick getaway and required a major expedition. So much for meditating, communing with nature, finding myself or connecting with my spirit, those ideas fluttered out the window. I finally got worn out by all the hullabaloo.

Eventually, I retreated back to a less crowded Kuala Lumpur only to discover that even though there were less people, there was more construction so that more people could live here if they wanted to. Once again, thats business I reckon.

The population has doubled in my lifetime from about 3 billion souls in the 1970s when I was a kid to over 7 billion folks our green globe is sporting around the solar system today. Ive noticed it and felt the effects already. I remember a time a few decades ago when the streets werent so crowded and the malls werent so proliferate. The population explosion is real and measured in real time. I dont think I’m alone in being alarmed at this.

I believe that humans need solitude and quiet as much as food, shelter and even oxygen. In the latter part of the 20th century we began sprinting up the slippery slope of the population J-curve. As that reality sets in and we chop down the remaining 1% of virgin forest on our blue sphere while filling the air with the clamor and chatter of progress, we run the risk of letting those places that offer solitude vanish.

Solitude and silence are quietly slipping away unnoticed, our only consolation being that we are left alone in the world with our own chatter and background noise as our sole companion. With all of this we know that unless we do something fast and wake up to the call of silence silently screaming for our attention the retreat behind constructed walls will continue. No longer will we be able to withdraw to a quiet wild place devoid of human influence. Our ability and quite possibly our desire for introspection and self discovery in a feral landscape filled with quiet will be gone. And that, to me, is the greatest loss of all.

-Matt

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Working From Home

by Skald

Recently Ive begun to teach English over the internet, using Skype. I've talked to students in Japan, Taiwan, Canada, the US, Germany, Sweden, and England. I find it very gratifying to chat with folks from all over the world, and to have a student clientele that is scattered all over the globe.

Even more gratifying is being able to work from home. What decadent luxury! I open the curtains wide, open the window, kick back in a chair, put on my headset... and "work". My headset has a very long cord, so its no problem to move around the (tiny) apartment, get something to drink, lay on the bed, etc. And when Im done teaching, Im done.... no one to answer to.

Nor do I ever have someone looking over my shoulder or monitoring me in any way. What happens is between my student clients and I and thats it. Its a wonderful feeling.

Interestingly, my sister works for a big mega-corporation and yet she too has a work at home arrangement. She's been doing it for years now. The company supplies her with a laptop and high-speed line. She uses that to organize and manage projects, chat with customers, chat with co-workers, etc. They also put in a land line at her house.

So while she still has a "corporate job"... she has an amazing amount of freedom and flexibility. She recently had a baby, and can now work in her home "office" and have the baby right beside her. She can take as many breaks as she wants for needs. She dresses how she wants. Like me, she has no boss looking over her shoulder.. micro managing every minute of her work day.

As corporate jobs go... its not a bad arrangement.

In some ways these situations remind me of Gandhi's praise for cottage industries. Perhaps it is now possible to have a high tech "cottage industry" in your tiny little apartment... or even in your van?

Perhaps its easier to be a "young homeless professional" than every before.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Jessica

Today is Jessica's Birthday. For those of you who knew her, I encourage you to take some time to think of her, and perhaps visit her memorial website :)


JessicaJessica's Memorial Website


I will always feel grateful to have known & loved her.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Waking Up From The Suburban Nightmare

by Skald

You know, this simple housing issue has ramifications that go far beyond our individual lives. The truth is, my father's massive McMansion is not just a personal choice. That house, and the entire suburban lifestyle it represents, comes with tremendous costs... costs that all of society must pay, not just my father. In truth, the suburban nightmare is subsidized by all of us... by force. We are forced to pay local, state, and national taxes. These taxes pay for the suburban infrastructure. They pay for the miles of highways, for the miles of water lines, for the miles of electrical lines. In truth, that McMansion costs a helluva lot more than what the buyer actually pays.

And Im only mentioning the economic costs. The suburban nightmare also carries severe ecological costs. Forests, wetlands, streams, rivers, and farmland are destroyed. Small communities are bulldozed and replaced by sterile boxes.

And the whole damn thing depends completely on the automobile. Suburbs dont have public transportation (certainly not viable public transportation).

As such, this kind of obscenely luxurious living may be endangered, as James Kunstler predicts on his blog-
http://www.kunstler.com/:


" I try to avoid the term "peak oil" because it has cultish overtones, and this is a serious socioeconomic issue, not a belief system. But it seems to me that what we are seeing now in financial and commodity markets, and in the greater economic system itself, is exactly what we ought to expect of peak oil conditions: peak activity.

After all, peak is the point where the world is producing the most oil it will ever produce, even while it is also the inflection point where big trouble is apt to begin. And this massive quantity of oil induces a massive amount of work, land development, industrial activity, commercial production, and motor transport. So we shouldn't be surprised that there is a lot happening, that houses and highways are still being built, that TVs are pouring out of the Chinese factories, commuters are still whizzing around the DC Beltway, that obese children still have plenty of microwavable melted cheese pockets to zap for their exhausting sessions with Grand Theft Auto.

But in the peak oil situation the world is like a banquet just before the tablecloth is pulled out from under it. There is plenty on the table, but it is about to be overturned, spilled, lost, and broken. There's more oil available then ever before, but also so many people at the banquet table clamoring for it that there is barely enough to go around, and the people may knock some things over trying to get it.

A correspondent in Texas writes: "On a four week running average basis, total US petroleum imports (crude + products) have been falling since 2/24/06, until last week, when we finally showed an increase of 1.3 percent, after bidding the price of oil up by about 20 percent. IMO, we bid the price up enough to (temporarily) increase our imports. We will see what subsequent weeks show, but I think that we are in the early stages of a bidding war for remaining net export capacity. The interesting question is what countries may not be importing because they can't afford the oil."

A substantial amount of total house sales are made up of new suburban McHouses built in places at the furthest extreme distance from employment centers -- because that's where the remaining cheap land is after sixty-odd years of suburban development. How many prospective house-buyers will close on those things with gasoline over $3 a gallon? Probably fewer than are required to sell them all. And more McHouses will be coming on the market in any case because they are products of a planning and permitting process that takes years for things to finally get built. Once the house-selling racket, and its associated mortgage racket, stop grinding along, the machinery of the US economy has to seize up. The financial sector, which used to be an appendage of the economy, but has become an end in itself, has to implode when the stream of rebundled securitized mortgage debt stops flowing into it.

When tablecloths are pulled out from under banquet tables, it is hard to say how the platters, bowls, and ewers will tumble and fall, but we can bet that few if any of them will land right-side up, unspilled. One also has to wonder how the other people at the table are going to behave when things come tumbling down. "

Rat Bikes

Rat Bikes Are No-Nonsense.

Motorcycles? Sure - they use less fuel than cars, and motorcycles are easier to maneuver, park etc. But, deep down, the True Secret is: Motorcycles Are Fun. That's it! That's why we ride them, all the rest is just so much rationalizing. And Ratbikes are the ultimate distilled evolution of motorcycling: No Bullsh*t involved. Just do the minimum to keep them healthy and Ride. Let your bike wear it's visual history with pride. No time consuming cleaning, washing, polishing, adding shiny parts that do nothing. None of that, forget about it! Embrace The Pure and Essential Essence of Riding - Ride A Ratbike!

----

If you ask a person on the street what a biker is, he or she will inevitably describe a guy sporting a ZZ Top beard and beer gut, riding a chromed-out Harley chopper. Or this person might offer a portrait of sportbikers, guys on high-performance Japanese bikes with cryptic alphanumeric designations wrapped in cocoons of bright plastic, often wearing shorts and tennies. Somewhere between these two extremes, though, a new urban motorcycle culture has formed, and at its center is the rat bike.

"A rat bike generally means any motorcycle that is in a shitty order of repair but is still being ridden by some broke fuck," says Paul, a biker from San Francisco via England, New York City, Arizona, and parts in between. "It's got to be kind of dirty and old and decrepit. It could be your girlfriend's CB 750, covered in stickers and paint, with mismatching bodywork. It could be your buddy's F2 ex-race bike – 'Only raced once, guv'ner, honest' – with no bodywork and so many scratches and dings on it that [you can tell] he hasn't got loads of money."

"Everybody gets their bikes from some crashed squid motherfucker." Translation: rats are scavengers, living off the superfluity of the wasteful classes, surviving at street level on their wits.

"The whole symbology of the Rats was kind of a religion for me," Slick says. "Here's this life of salvage that we've made. Nothing was good enough for anyone else, but it was always good enough for us to fix, then beat the shit out of until it's gone, so it doesn't last anymore, then step up and get the next good thing, you know?

"All those guys up at the Wall [a meeting spot for racer types in Tilden] had full leathers and bright sportbikes, and all the Harley guys were racist backwards hicks. But all my friends rode motorcycles, and we all had our own style of motorcycles, which was to paint 'em flat black and trick 'em out the way we do. Not putting money into anything to make 'em look fancy, just putting money into souping them up, otherwise letting them go to hell. Always repairing things with JB Weld and duct tape. Baling wire. And from there it just escalated."


But unlike streetfighters, super motards, and standards, a rat isn't pretty. At least not in a conventional way: it has a face only a mother can love, the vehicular equivalent of a droopy-jowled bulldog or clipped-eared pit bull. The true rat was born of economics: if you're a bar back or motorcycle messenger, living in a city with one of the highest rent rates in the world, what can you do to keep your bike on the road? You may not be from the ghetto, white boy, but you live there now, and the bike under your haunches is a testament to urban survival.

(snippets -- full article at Rat Bikes

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Homeless In Vegas

by Skald

Just found a very interesting blog called Homeless In Vegas.

The writer is doing a Masters thesis and, as research, has decided to fly to Las Vegas and live as a homeless person. He will chronicle his experiences on his blog.

His homeless stint begins this Saturday, May 27th. Check in and see how he's doing!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Basic Questions

by Skald

When deciding where to live, I think its important to ask some very basic questions. The most basic of all is.. what, exactly, is the purpose of a house or apartment? As Thoreau noted, we seem to have forgotten.

The most practical answer is that an apartment provides shelter from harsh elements. It keeps us warm and dry. Another purpose is to provide safety and security. Locked doors keep away those who might hassle us while we sleep, swipe our food, etc. I suppose a shelter also provides security for our "stuff"... our clothes and other possessions.

From a practical standpoint, that's about it. To these practical considerations, some might add aesthetic ones.. .such as a place to feel warm, safe, comfortable, and at peace... a gathering place for friends and family.

Whats clear from this list is that all of these requirements can be met by a very modest shelter indeed! My van, in fact, met most of these requirements. It kept me warm and safe and dry. It gave me a decent amount of security and provided a place to keep my "stuff". It was too small for socializing, but I found it easy to use other spaces for that (coffee shops, parks, etc.).

For those not wanting to go that simple, why not just a small one room efficiency? Thats what Im living in now. I live in a one room apartment in downtown San Francisco.. that has a shared bath. It has advantages over the van... Ive got nearby showers, a sink, hot water. Ive got a stove and fridge. I even have a desk, closet, and internet connection. In other words, Ive got all the necessities met and a great deal of comfort and luxury too.

Beyond this kind of arrangement, housing becomes ridiculous. I think of my father, for example. He and his wife live in a GIANT suburban house. Its got three bedrooms. Its got a living room, dining room, huge kitchen (with a dining table), a huge basement (far bigger than my apartment), a "bonus room" and a finished attic.

I dont mean to pick on my Dad... lots of suburbanites live in these sorts of dwellings. The question is, why? Doesnt luxury reach a point of diminishing returns? Just how many rooms does one need? Just how many appliances?

When I judge these houses, I do so not from a sense of puritanical zeal, but from a perspective of selfish practicality. After all, that gargantuan space comes with a gargantuan price tag. People mortgage their lives away to live in luxurious mansion that really dont add much to their lives. Would they really suffer by living in a place half the size? One quarter? I dont think so.

In fact, not only would they not suffer.. they would thrive. Theyd find they had a lot more money to enjoy... money for travel, money for savings, money for golf, money for books, money for whatever. The drastically lower costs of a smaller place would also buy them TIME. They could afford to work less. They could retire earlier. They could take a lower paying job that was far more satisfying.

In other words, they could trade all that extra space for a drastic increase in FREEDOM.

To my mind, that is a very profitable trade.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Impressions

by Skald

Now that Ive recovered from the worst of return culture shock I can think more rationally about what was going on. Many people have asked me.. "what was so difficult about returning to the United States?"

There are many answers, but the simplest one echoes a statement recently made by one of my English students: "I was shocked by how materialistic Americans are". This girl went on to discuss the differences between her country and this one. She noted that in her country, most people emphasized conversation, social time with friends and family, and education. She said it was considered rude to talk about money or consumption. She was therefore shocked when she arrived here and found that the foci of American society are money and consuming.

I had a similar shock, despite having grown up here. Still, after more than two years in Thailand, Id grown accustomed to a more human way of life. Of course Thai people need a certain amount of money too.... and I certainly needed an income while I was there. But money never felt like the focus of life. In fact, it never seemed like much of an issue to me. I always had ENOUGH. Not a lot. Not luxury. But enough.

In Thailand I had plenty of time too. My life revolved around reading, relaxing in coffee shops, eating at sidewalk food stalls, and seeing friends.

Upon arrival in America, money immediately became my number one concern. I was hyper stressed the first few months I was here. I had modest savings.. but had to find more to pay for all the expenses of getting set up here-- the fees, the deposits, the rent, etc...

Worse still, it seemed that most of the Americans I encountered also focused on money. TV and movies were full of vulgar commercials and other displays of materialism. Friends, family, relaxation, learning, contemplation, art,... all seemed to take a back seat to the all important gods of money and consumption.

Of course, this has not changed about American society. But Ive managed to find a simple place to live and a pleasant income source. Ive relearned my hobopoet survival strategies for living pleasantly in America. Once again, I find I have ENOUGH. Once again, I can focus my life where I want it focused-- on friends, family, learning, contemplation, etc...

As Ive relaxed and eased back into my preferred lifestyle, Ive begun to meet others who share my values. Thats one very positive thing about San Francisco. There is incredible diversity here, not only in terms of nationality.. but also in terms of lifestyle and thought.

Finally, I have been joined by more friends. One by one, they are moving here. That too makes a huge difference. Ive always felt that community is far more important than cash.

And so, while I still find much of mainstream American culture to be vulgar... I have found a very nice niche here in San Francisco.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Tiny Step Towards Autonomy

by Skald

This week I finally got hooked up to teach English over the internet. Ive got one student. She lives in Korea.

At the moment, of course, Im still very much dependent on my regular job. But Im hopeful that slowly, over time, I can build the number of online students I have. Eventually, I hope to completely replace my standard job at the school with a private tutoring practice (mostly online, though possibly with face-to-face students too).

This has been a long time coming. And while full autonomy is probably a ways away, it feels great to finally take a tiny step in that direction. By "that direction" I mean a step away from having a boss.

Whatever form it takes, Im convinced that true freedom and autonomy require owning your own "business"... whether it be busking on the street, vending on the sidewalk, tutoring on the internet, or launching a software company. As long as we have a "boss", we are essentially wage slaves.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Expensive" San Francisco

by Skald

"San Francisco is a great place but its so expensive, I could never live there". I cant count how many times people have said that to me.

In terms of rent/housing, its absolutely true. And yet, it is possible to live here and pay reasonable rent. By reasonable I mean 400-500 dollars a month (utilities included). With the minimum wage at $8/hour... thats doable. The problem is you get a very small and simple place for that kind of rent. Thats no problem for me or most of my friends. My best friend G. will be splitting that rent with her partner.

While from a hobopoet perspective thats still a lot of money,... compared to most cities in America its not much more. You'd pay about the same thing to live in downtown Atlanta, for example. The only difference is that in Atlanta you'd get a bigger place for that. But then again, you'd be stuck in Atlanta, surrounded by conservative right wing Republicans (albeit with a few pockets of mild liberalism).

Ive got a smaller place here but the city is so much richer in terms of diversity, thought, tolerance, geography, language, culture, art, music, literature, etc....

I guess my point is this-- we often use money as an excuse for not doing what we want to do or not going where we want to go. But if we are prepared to live simply, we can in fact do most of those things.

Dont let money, or the need for extraneous luxuries, prevent you from living the life you want to live.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happily Homeless

Check out this blog.. titled Happily Homeless. What a great name!

From The Perfect Vehicle

By Melissa Holbrook Pierson

All things considered there are only two kinds of men in the world: those that stay at home and those that do not.

—Rudyard Kipling

There are only two kinds of bikers: those that have been down and those that are going to go down.

—Biker saying

At precisely this moment someone, somewhere, is getting ready to ride. The motorcycle stands in the cool, dark garage, its air expectant with gas and grease. The rider approaches from outside; the door opens with a whir and a bang. The light goes on. A flame, everlasting, seems to rise on a piece of chrome.

As the rider advances, leather sleeves are zipped down tight on the forearms, and the helmet briefly obliterates everything as it is pulled on, the chin strap buckled. This muffled weight with its own faint but permanent scent triggers recollection of the hours and days spent within it. Soft leather gloves with studded palms, insurance against the reflex of a falling body to put its hands out in midair, go on last.

The key is slipped into the ignition at the top of the steering head. Then the rider swings a leg over the seat and sits but keeps the weight on the balls of the feet. With a push from the thighs the rider rocks the bike forward once, again, picking up momentum until it starts to fall forward and down from the centerstand. At this moment the rider pulls a lever with the first finger of the right hand, and the brake pads close like a vise on the front wheel's iron rotor. At the almost instantaneous release of the brake, the bike rises slightly from the forks, which had telescoped under the heft. Now the 450 pounds of metal, fluid, and plastic rests in tenuous balance between the rider's legs; if it started to lean too much to one side, the weight that had lain low in a state of grace would suddenly assert itself in a manic bid to meet the concrete with a crash. Inherently unstable at a standstill, the bike is waiting for the human to help it become its true self. Out there running, it can seem as solid as stone.

The key turns; the idiot lights glow. The green is for neutral gear, the red for the battery, another red for oil pressure. The starter button on the right handlebar, pressed, begins a whirring below. A simultaneous twist of the right grip pulls the throttle cables and the engine bleats, then gulps, then roars. There is contained fire within inches of the rider's knees. As the plugs in the two cylinders, posed in a 90-degree V, take their inestimably quick turns in sparking a volatile cocktail of fuel and compressed oxygen, the expanding gases forcing back the pistons, the machine vibrates subtly from side to side.

A flip of the headlight switch on the handlebar throws the garage walls to either side into theatrical relief. (The rider knows to run through all the lights—turn signals, taillight, brake lights tripped by hand and foot—to make sure they work, but is sometimes guilty of neglecting this step.) The rider pulls in the left-hand lever, then presses down with the left foot. There's a solid chunk as first gear engages.

In the neat dance that accomplishes many operations on a motorcycle—one movement to countered by another fro, an equilibrium of give and take—the squeezed clutch lever is slowly let out while the other hand turns the throttle grip down. The bike moves out into a brighter world where the sun startles the rider's eyes for a moment and washes everything in a continual pour.

Out in the early-morning street there is little traffic, for which the rider sends up thanks: on a bike, cars are irksome, their slow-motion ways infuriating. Pulling out of the drive, the rider shifts into second, this time with the boot toe under the lever to push it up. The small jolt of increased speed from the rear wheel is experienced in the seat, just as in the elastic pause when a horse gathers strength in its haunches before springing into a canter from a trot.

To warm up the tires, the rider shifts so slightly in the seat it is hardly noticeable except to the bike, which dips left. Then quickly right again, then left, then right, until the machine is drawing a sinuous S down the road. They could dance like this all day, partnered closely and each anticipating the next step so surely it is not at all clear who is who.

As they reach the exurban limits and turn onto a narrow road that ascends among trees and infrequent stone houses set back in the shadows, other riders are accelerating up highway ramps; riding gingerly in first gear between two lanes of traffic jammed on a city bridge; hitting the dirt front-wheel-first after being launched from the top of a hillock in a field; trying to pass a motor home making its all-too-gradual way into a national park; feeling a charge move from stomach to chest as the bike straightens up from the deepest lean it's yet entered; following three friends also on bikes into the parking lot of a diner for coffee; slowing down, cursing, to the shoulder because the clutch cable broke.

Today, on the way to a particular, longed-for destination, while joy taken in the wheels' consuming revolutions conflates with the desire to arrive, the journey becomes one of combined anticipation of its end and pleasure in its duration. Riding is an occupation defined by duplicities.

Take the numbers: seven million who ride stacked against 225 million who don't. (To get an idea of the minority status this number confirms, consider the fact that some twenty million Americans call themselves dedicated birdwatchers.) Those who ride are both alone and held tight in the fold of the elect. They draw together for protective warmth and take strange relish in needing to do so at all. The glue between these relative few can be tenacious: a rider traveling through a small town, spotted by a rider who lives there, is—because of this simple fact—invited home and given food and advice. A rider stopped by the roadside, even for a cigarette, prompts another biker to stop and ask if help is needed. At the very least, barring the occasional internecine feud that can make motorcyclists embody a sort of nationalism on wheels, they wave as they pass one another. It's as if they all came from the same small burg where street greetings are as obligatory as wearing clothes.

The road, constantly turning, constantly offers up the possibility of something unexpected around the bend—gravel in a tumult across the road, a car drifting over the yellow line, a dog maddened by the din from the pipes. The rider processes data from the road and its environs with a certain detachment, translating them nearly as quickly into physical response: eat or be eaten. There is no room in the brain for idle thought (except on the highway, when idle thoughts appear and float and reconfigure in endless array), and a biker can go for miles and miles without waking up to any sudden realization, including the one that nothing at all has been thought for miles and miles. The faster you ride, the more closed the circuit becomes, deleting everything but this second and the next, which are hurriedly merging. Having no past to regret and no future to await, the rider feels free. Looked at from this tight world, the other one with its gore and stickiness seems well polished and contained at last.

This peculiar physiological effect, common to all high-concentration pursuits, may be why one finds among motorcyclists a large number of people who always feel as if there were a fire lit under them when they are sitting still. When they're out riding, the wind disperses the flame so they don't feel the terrible heat. The duration of the ride starts to be the only time they know happiness, so they go on longer and longer or for more and more rides, while their families become more and more unhappy. For a few, those who become racers, relief is to be had only at 160 mph down a straightaway. They simultaneously embrace and deny the risk, the worst outcome of which is confined to accidents, that which is outside the norm. But the norm stands for much less here than it does elsewhere, and the realm of accident is much larger. Instead of admitting to insanity to want to live in such a place, they imagine their way out of it: Well, if I fall, I'll land on the tires or hay bales or grass berm. Then I'll pick up the bike and if it's not too badly damaged I'll finish the race. That's what they're prepared to allow. Their once colorful leathers are scuffed gray and held together with duct tape.

Every rider of a motorcycle lives with a little of the same denial, which is after all healthy and spares us from living in a world made entirely of dread. It is also the price of admission to a day like this. If the rider wants, the throttle can be cracked open so suddenly the handlebars yank the arms, threatening to run away with that paltry creature on back now reduced to hanging on and enjoying the ride.

The roar left to ring under the trees as the machine passes is like the laser arc of red drawn by a taillight in a long-exposure photograph at night. It is the ghost remnant of how the bike cleaved the air, and what the rider felt as gravity battled flight against the rider's body. The curves play games with the rider, and the rider is lost in the concentration it takes to match wits with an impressive opponent. How fast to enter this turn? The fact that you can be sadly mistaken is what gives the right choice its sweet taste.

But the rider has never known a fear quite like the one when riding just ahead is the object of deep affection. Flying along in tandem, an invisible wire stretched between them to connect the distance through a moving world, the one looks to the other like an insect clinging to the frenzied body of its prey. The rider, behind, watches this transformed human and sees right through the leathers to the tender skin as it looked while sleep was upon it. In one flash the rider sees how laughably easy it would be for something to happen. It is that pernicious distance between them that does the trick: a few yards that is an unbridgeable gap. Perhaps it's all projection—that the rider, looking toward the other, at once feels how vulnerable the self truly is. But isn't that what love is anyway? In hoping for the other, you realize how much you hope for yourself?

When things conspire—the traffic is thick and wild, the sun is leaving moment by moment, rain slicks the surface of the road—the rider best understands what can otherwise remain hidden: that a motorcyclist is both the happy passenger on an amusement park ride and its earnest operator. The rider splits into two, navigating between vacation and dire responsibility.

As the road leaves home farther and farther behind, it makes its own friendly advances to keep the rider happy: See, this is where you stopped your bike once and ate an apple from the tank bag and took off your boots to feel the damp grass beneath your socks; this is the place your beloved bought you a handful of fireballs when you stopped for gas. And there is always the chance that the unexpected around the bend may turn out not to be a danger to avoid, but a sight or smell that appears suddenly like a check in the mail.

Now, with a hundred miles on the clock, the going has taken on a life of its own. The rider has nearly forgotten what it means to sit anywhere but on this seat; the eyes are swinging back and forth in unchanging rhythm like sonar. Brake; slow; lean; heat up. Brake; slow; lean; heat up. Again and again until it's a rocking chair, a hundred freestyle laps, a hand absently stroking the skin.

The road's painted line, a vanishing point in reverse, is eaten up under the wheels, like a video game where the landscape flashes past while the vehicle stays put. The wind is a steady reassurance on the chest. The rider now becomes susceptible to white-line fever, which feels not so much like a need to continue on forever but as if all options for anything else have been removed. It is simple: the power to go, the power to stop, are as reduced as a metaphor and made to fit in one small hand. The rider, naturally, fears this state. And, keen on the perversity that always hides deep in pleasure, the rider, who is me, wants nothing more.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Welfare

by Skald

I have failed, thus far, to discuss one popular Hobopoet living strategy: government welfare. In truth, some hobopoets consider this to be a fantastic strategy. Ive got one friend who has all his basic expenses covered by government checks. While right-wing Republicans and various other good citizens might condemn him,... I dont. These folks should be much more concerned about the BILLIONS of dollars doled out for corporate welfare and war.

That said, Ive never considered welfare to be a viable option. Its not that I have a moral objection to milking the government. My objections are more practical... welfare comes with a price: loss of autonomy. To get a welfare check, you must meet with government social workers, attend government classes, send in regular reports... and generally accept a high degree of interference in your life. That sort of goes against the whole point of hobopoet living, in my view.

Also, you can get dependent on that government check.... and dependence is pretty much the opposite of self-reliance.

And so, I dont recommend the option of welfare except as a short term, emergency option. If you are in danger of hunger, or involuntary homelessness, by all means get what you can get.

But as a long term solution, its far better to establish some sort of independent or tolerable income.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hyper Reality

by Skald

Hyper reality. Every form seems carved from the same plasticine substance. Each blade of grass. Each crystal water bottle encased in sunlight. The vibrating weave of my blue jeans.... the dust that drifts on the air.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Beauty of Loss

by Skald

Ours is an age of acquisition. GETTING is the religion of our time... ever grasping, ever clutching for more more more.

Its a sickness. A rotting mental disease. A disease that infects in a thousand ways, with a millions symptoms.

By contrast, loss is abhored in our culture. We deny not only death, but aging. We are terrified of losing our money, our property.

More to the point, we are terrified of losing our strength, our dignity, our respect.

Most of all, we are terrified of losing control.

And yet.

Loss has beauty. Loss is the birthspring of compassion. Loss is our first, best teacher. Loss teaches us that all is impermanent,.. that ultimately, we control absolutely nothing.

If we are sensitive, and careful, loss teaches us the incomparable lesson of letting go. Of pain. Of wealth. Of all we thought we knew, believed, wanted.

This is the inevitable path we must all follow.

There is no escape.

Only surrender.

Tribe Re-established

by Skald

Tribe. Clan. The building blocks of ancient human social structures. Today,... all but gone.

We live in an atomized world. Today, in fact, even the 1950s "nuclear family" is a relic.

And community? Forget it. What community? The average American is an isolated soul.

But it doesnt have to be that way. Its possible to reconstruct the archaic social forms.. in new and novel ways. Today, we no longer need to (nor usually want to) limit our tribe to blood relatives.

My own modern tribe consists of my closest friends, and their significant others. Im blessed to have such a tribe and very happy that we are now, once again, in the same place. We've migrated from South Carolina, to Georgia, to Thailand, and now to San Francisco together.

Truth be told, I feel lonely and depressed when cut off from them (as Ive been for the past 6 months). But slowly, one by one, we've migrated here.

Its hard to underestimate the power of a self-created community. Such a group counters many of the social ills that modern capitalist life inflicts upon us. A tribe is the foundation for a life lived outside the work-consume herd. The tribe makes such a life enjoyable, meaningful, interesting... fun.

And so I recommend to every Hobopoet and would-be hobopoet-- set about finding each other. Create your own community. Dare to resist the bitter isolation that modern life inflicts on so many.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Storm Has Passed

by Skald

As many no doubt noticed, I was recently hit by a powerful wave of reverse culture shock. The transition back to San Francisco has generally been easier than past returns to the States (to Georgia). San Francisco is an international city with a very large Asian population, so in many respects I didnt feel like I was completely in America.

However, all sorts of American cultural encounters have slowly built up... and about a month ago... Wham! I found myself in a REALLY foul mood. Two months of incessant rain didnt help matters. Nor does the news I pick up about Iraq, try as I might to avoid too much of it. Add the stress of moving to a new city... and well, the results werent pretty.

Im happy to say the worst seems to have passed. The sun is once more shining in San Francisco, my best friend is moving here today, the teaching gig is going amazingly well (not withstanding the usual bullshit that goes with all jobs), and Im slowly adjusting to some aspects of American culture again.

Of course Ill never adjust to the vulgarity or runaway capitalism, nor do I want to. But this city seems to have its fair share of folks who dont buy into all that... I finally connected with some last night at an art showing (a very trippy & interesting experience... for another time).

And finally, today, I got an internet connection in my apartment.. .which will open opportunities for teaching English over the internet (as a freelancer).

Its funny. When I talk to most travelers... especially first time travelers.. they always worry about the culture shock they'll experience in the new country they are visiting. That has never been a problem for me.

For me, its always the return that is brutal. But the worst seems to be over.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

World's Fastest Indian

by Stefan

Watch the movie "The Words Fastest Indian". It's a fantastic movie about travel
on a shoe-string budget, and motorcycles. It's based on the true story of a man
from New Zealand who travels half-way around the world to race his home-made
bike on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

At some point in the movie, an old Indian asks our hero:

"What you wanna ride that contraption for?"

He answers, "I suppose the reward is in the act of doing it itself."

Later he drops one of the best quotes in the movie:

"You live more in five minutes on a bike like this than most people
live in a lifetime."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Trust Yourself

by Skald

"Trust yourself to react appropriately when catastrophe happens. Failure of nerve is really failure to trust yourself."
--Alan Watts

I didnt go abroad for the first time until I was 27. Id often thought about it, but never did it. Finally, I met a guy whod traveled to India. He filled me with tales of crowded markets, wandering sadhus, spices, chaos, colors. India seemed to me the mirror image of America... a place full of energy and color.

Somewhat hesitantly, I decided Id go to India. I had no money. Id never traveled. I knew nothing about India other than his stories. No matter.

When I got my student loan check, I promptly bought a ticket to Bombay. I lived off ramen noodles for the rest of the semester but I was thrilled. Next I bought a guidebook. I spent my impoverished days reading through it.. growing more excited each day.

But there were fears too. I had all the first-time-abroad worries. I worried about getting sick. I worried about not bringing something I would need.

More than that, I worried I wasnt up to the task. Would I be overwhelmed? Could I manage everything by myself? What if something bad happened and I was all alone.

Turned out that one of these fears did materialize. Two weeks after arrival in India, I became deathly sick. I eventually collapsed outside a fort in Jodhpur.... dehydrated and exhausted. A kind fellow-traveler got me into a rickshaw and told the driver to take me to the nearest hospital.

He took me to a hospital that had never had a foreign patient. My first challenge was to negotiate with the attendant. Though I could barely sit upright, he insisted that the doctor was not available and would not be for a long time. Panicked.. trying to stay conscious, I begged him. He said, "You must pay extra". In other words, I had to bribe him to call the doctor.

I was diagnosed with dysentery and stayed in the hospital for four days. The doctor spoke English and was very good..
It wasnt a pleasant experience. It wasnt "comfortable".

But everything worked out fine, as these things usually do. More to the point, I learned that I could indeed handle such a situation. I learned that my fears were mostly phantoms.

Nowadays, I dont usually bother with a guidebook... and I dont worry too much about "what might happen". In fact, the unexpected is the very best part of travel... why try to eliminate it.

The point is this- bad things might indeed happen should you take a big (or small) risk.

The thing is, you will handle it.

Alan Watts is right, failure of nerve is really failure to trust yourself.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

FREEDOM

FREEDOM

Freedom rained down on my head
It mustve been about 3 am
Thats what theyre callin it … freedom
Unless youre on the receiving end


Freedom
Freedom. Where are they when you need em?
Freedom
Freedom. Youre human rights? You dont need em!


He went to war for the government
He came back with disfigurement
Now he needs some kind of treatment
They cut the VA check and his benefits?


Freedom
Freedom. He went to war for their freedom
Freedom
Freedom. Are they there when you need em?


We ask the men sitting on the hill?
They say its necessary to maim and kill
Theyre willing to send anyone
Except, of course, not their son

Freedom
Freedom. We believed in their freedom
Freedom
Freedom. Hmm. At what price freedom?

From the upcoming CD by the BENCHMARX

BENCHMARX are:

Joy Donut--Buzz--Herr Direktor--Monster--Tick

A local Kuala Lumpur band.... with a message-- and supported by Hobopoets, Freaks, Miscreants, Experimenters, And those generally unhappy with the state of things...

We play for food, beer, a good time, and to ruffle the feathers of those who need to be ruffled...

To be a BENCHMARXIST... send an e-mail to:

benchmarx@gmail.com

mention Hobopoets....

Check us out at:

www.myspace.com/thebenchmarx

YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR YOU ARE AGAINST US!

p.s. I hope this is OK SKALD... I felt the lyrics were appropriate... as well as the unabashed, shameless self promotion!


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Freedom

by Skald

Some of the freest people Ive met are the street vendors and micro-entrepreneurs of Thailand. What wonderful people. What a wonderful lifestyle.

These are folks who "work for themselves" in the very best sense of that phrase.

People without a boss. Without timesheets. Who work when they want to; and dont when they dont. These are people who are not in a rush.... who are generally happy to share a drink and chat with their customers; who seem not to distinguish between work, play, and socializing.

Its not uncommon to find a vendor sitting on a blanket with a group of friends-- sharing a beer, food sprawled next to the goods for sale. Contrast this with America, where wage-slave employees are punished for talking to friends "on the clock"... where "efficiency" is God.

There is humanity in the Thai street vendors way of life... none in the American employee's. For the Thai, "work" is as much about camaraderie as profit. "Efficiency" is not a word one hears often in Thailand... on the street or in the office.

The same is true in India. Indian micro-entrepreneurs LOVE to chat. In fact, I often sensed they were disappointed with the "show me the money" mindset of their western customers. They seemed to delight in the process as much as the exchange of money... The invitation to the shop, sharing tea and shooting the shit, the long and elaborate display of goods, the humorous drama of haggling, the thanks and congratulations once the deal is concluded.

This is the kind of ease... the kind of humanity.. you find only among the free. No wage slave institution can reproduce it (nor do they want to). As an employee, work is a faceless, vulgar, dehumanizing affair.

But not so on the streets of many countries. In these places we gain a glimpse of another way... a small-scale, autonomous, pleasant means of "making a living".

Monday, April 17, 2006

Natural Happiness

by Stefan

Man, over the last couple hundred of thousand of years, has been conditioned by evolution to require certain outside parameters to experience a happy life: access to fresh air, beautiful nature (why do you think simply looking at it lifts the spirit), close and nourishing relationships with other people, a fair measure of physical exercise, etc.

The modern world, however, forces people into the most un-natural surroundings and forces them to live in ways not in tune with their ancient history: living, cut off from their peers and their natural habitat, in tiny boxes in concrete jungles, sitting still for eight hours a day doing work largely inconsistent with the much more physical "work" of their ancestors. The family structures that lent them stability have largely been disbanded over a false notion of freedom and women's lib, spread out over vast geographical areas or simply abandoned in pursuit of the false gods of money and success.

It is no surprise this makes people unhappy. The sad thing is most people are unable to realize even why they are unhappy and make the right changes to their life style.

The marketing machine jumps in on cue and exploits the unhappiness: hey are you unhappy? Buy this monstrous car, it will make you feel safer. It will make you feel better. Eat these psychopharmaceuticals. Or just eat, eat eat our salty sugary comfort food. Watch these bullshit shows. Buy buy buy buy buy. And all the while the true root of the problem lies unadressed, providing fertile soil for the bullshit marketing system for ever.

Will people ever wake up and start living again in a way consistent with their history, and experience true happiness?