Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Limitations of Blogging

by Skald

Blogging, Im afraid, has made my writing worse. As I review the writing Ive done during the last year, I see a steady decline in quality. After much reflection, I attribute much of the decline to increased blogging. The more I blog, the worse I seem to write.

Its not a conclusion I wanted to make... I enjoy blogging. Blogging has many benefits. I like its interactivity... the quick feedback. I like the exchange of ideas. I like the immediacy. Blogging is a great way to develop and refine IDEAS.

But thats the problem. Increasingly, I write about ideas. Ideas divorced from immediate experience. Im commenting on comments. Im blogging about a comment about a post on another blog. Blogging has increased the mediation of my writing experience. As a result, the PROCESS of writing, for me, has lost much of its magic.

I used to sit in cafes with a pen and notebook, just watching. I watched people going by. I watched the trees sway. Mind quieted. Often, I sank into a meditative reverie..... lost in immediate perceptions.

Nowadays, I sit in coffee shops with a laptop... connected through wireless. My eyes are stuck to the screen. No observation. No reverie. Just agitated excitement...

Not unlike watching TV, in fact.

Im beginning to realize that for all its power of connectivity, the internet, and blogging... is still a very powerful form of mediation. A machine that cuts us off from immediate experience. Its easy to get lost in the internet's virtual world of abstract ideas. Its easy to believe the debates and abstractions are "real". Much like TV, the internet/blogging experience can become an addictive escape.

And so Im changing my writing routine. While Ill continue blogging, I plan to do so much less.... and (hopefully) more thoughtfully.

Beware ALL forms of mediation,... including (especially) this one.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


by Skald

Woke up this morning, threw on jeans, and headed to breakfast with my friend Sky. Clouds covered the city, and as we walked, a light rain fell. We loped along slowly... heading to a small diner. As we did, irritation popped forth.. like a ripe seed sending out shoots. Throughout breakfast, I snarled, pouted, and ate silently.

Once finished, I headed back to the apartment. I relaxed a few minutes, then grabbed the laptop... time for the daily pilgrimage to a coffee shop. This time, I noticed my mood lifting as I walked. A smile cracked my face. Energy surged. A bit curious, I wondered why the sudden change in mood. Then I looked up and noticed the sun. Clouds were breaking up, the rain was gone.

We've had a miserable month in San Francisco... drab, chilly, and rainy. For the last month, Ive been grumpy and bored. A coincidence?

Hardly. Perhaps I inherited sunlight sensitivity from my Nordic ancestors? I dont know. What I do know is that lack of sunlight quickly sends me into depression. Id almost forgotten this phenomenon, after living in tropical Thailand for two years. In Thailand, its always hot and sunny... even the rainy days are bright (compared to North America).

All this got me to thinking about the "Snow Bird" lifestyle. Snow Birds are retirees who migrate according to the season. In the summer, when the South is unbearable... they load into their RVS and vans and head north. They may spend the summer in Michigan, or New York, or the northwest. But when the cold air and dark days come... they head south... to ride out the winter in Florida, Georgia, Southern California, or even Mexico.

This strikes me as very sensible. Birds migrate. Many herd animals migrate. In the ancient past, human tribes migrated too. They followed the animals, or the sun.

While we CAN live in cold/harsh climates, clearly humans are designed for mild or tropical weather.

And so Im starting to think of creating a migratory life for myself... to move according to the seasons. Mainly, this would involve escaping North America (and other cold climates) for at least half the year. I plan to open my own school(s) one day... and have decided to do so with migration in mind. In other words, Id like to have a school in a warm climate and one in a cooler one (say, San Francisco). Id share time between them, according to the seasons.

There are simpler ways to do this. Surf/Ski bums often follow a migratory approach. In the winter they head to the mountains.. where they work in resorts as instructors or service staff. When the snow melts, they head for the beach and the waves... or elsewhere for seasonal work... or they go to a cheap warm place (like Thailand) and ride out the summer. Its sort of a Snow Bird life in reverse.

There are many possibilities. While I deplore traditional teaching environments, they do have one advantage... schedule! Summers off. Thats a damn good perk. While the ratio isnt great (only 2 months off)... the schedule beats the hell out of other traditional jobs. Many teachers (especially in the UK, it seems) spend their summers traveling. They spend two plus months wandering foreign countries... taking vacations... and generally having a great time. NOT a bad lifestyle, and it probably makes them more interesting teachers too.

So here's a thought: consider your ancient roots. Consider a migratory lifestyle. Follow the birds. Follow the sun.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Do Nothing

by Skald

"Perhaps to just sit quiet and take deep breathing exercises would be better than popping one another off with slugs of dynamite. Because the strange thing is that just doing nothing, just taking it easy, loafing, meditating, things tend to right themselves. "

--Henry Miller

What a wonderfully Taoist statement by Henry Miller. And how very true. Ours is a society driven by action. For every problem, every irritation, every disagreement.. we believe we must take action. Action, Action, Action. "Dont just sit there, do something!"

Doing nothing, however, is often the wisest course. Things do indeed have a way of working themselves out if we stop fucking with them. Oftentimes, our actions produce unexpected reactions... reactions that can be far worse than the original problem (witness the current mess in Iraq, among other things).

The more we do, the worse it gets.

The same notion applies to personal situations. Relatives of alcoholics are notorious for taking action. The spouse may, for example, beg, plead, threaten, and cajole. They may hide the liquor bottles. They bail the poor bastard out of jail. They try to force them into treatment.

But the simplest and most effective approach is to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Dont lift a pinky to help the drinker. No money. No threats. No help. Nothing. If the drinker lands in jail, leave them there. Whatever consequences they suffer, do nothing.

The funny thing about doing nothing is that it tends to produce trust. When people think you are out to change them, they resist. They become suspicious. They fight. But when they sense you accept them completely as they are they, quite surprisingly, become more open to your suggestions.

At a political level, doing nothing is perhaps the most powerful action of all. Gandhi called it "non-cooperation". No need to fight against evil, he suggested, simply refuse to cooperate with it. Dont give your money (ie. taxes) to evil organizations. Dont lend your effort (ie. work) to evil groups. Dont obey evil laws. Dont contribute to evil systems (ie. driving a gas guzzler). Doing nothing, it turns out, is far more powerful than shouting, protesting, and writing letters to congressmen. Nazi Germany was made possible by all those "good Germans" who paid taxes, fought in the army, and generally obeyed the law.. whatever they thought of it. The American occupation of Iraq is similarly made possible by all those "good Americans" who dutifully pay taxes, drive cars, and work for defense contractors.

Here then is my simple message: chill out. Do less. Try less... in fact, dont "try" at all (simply "Do or do not", as Yoda said :)

Relax. Most of your problems will resolve themselves of their own accord. As for others, stop trying to control them. Dont even try to influence them. Be who you are,.. with "no shame for the dignity of your own experience". Do as you will, and let go.

Doing nothing is the most effective action of all.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


by Skald

"Worries about one's love life, health, investments, family, and job are always hovering at the periphery of attention, waiting until there is nothing pressing that demands concentration. As soon as the mind is ready to relax, ZAP!, the potential problems that were waiting in the wings take over.

It is for this reason that television proves such a boon to so many people. Although watching TV is far from being a positive experience-- generally people report feeling passive, weak, rather irritable, and sad when doing it-- at least the flickering screen brings a certain amount of order to consciousness. While interacting with television, the mind is protected from personal worries"

--Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

America, aka TV Nation, is an entire society hooked on the above cycle. Indeed, what keeps the average wage slave enslaved is precisely this avoidance of personal worries. The average person NEVER seriously considers his/her state in life. They never spend much time contemplating big questions about meaning, mortality, awareness, perception, thought, emotion. In fact, in America, such questions are considered farcical and childish... while trivialities are esteemed as "serious and important".

The key to freedom lies in the opposite direction... a repeated and direct confrontation with one's insecurities. This, in a nutshell, is meditation. The first step is to become aware of just how petty, chaotic, and frazzled one's mind is. Youve got to learn to recognize those programmed agitations before you can address them. That requires long moments of quiet and solitude... perhaps using a meditative technique, perhaps not.

Know your mind. Stop trying to escape it. Own your worries. Own your doubts. Become intimate with them. Banish your fear of them. They are only powerful when feared and avoided. Focus total attention on them, and you will find they lose most of their power.

TV is evil. More than any other media, it keeps people enslaved. While distracting them from their problems, it also makes them feel "passive, weak, and sad". TV creates weak people. The more you watch it, the weaker you become.

Banish TV from your life. Stop paying that cable/satellite bill. Stop running from the agitation in your mind. Dive into it. Know it. Embrace it.

Reclaim your mind, reclaim your power, reclaim your life.

Live again.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


by Skald

"People have enough to live, but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning."

--Robert Fogel

There's America in a nutshell. Weve got enough. 99% of us. Weve got enough food. Weve got enough clothes. Weve got adequate shelter. Our physical & economic needs are met.

What drives the capitalist system is not need... its obsessive desires. Almost every mystical-religious tradition in history recognizes that the reduction of craving is key to happiness. They recognize the essential benefits of simplicity. They stress awareness, direct engagement.

In other words, business thrives by thwarting the spiritual. Businesspeople are anti-Buddhists... their goal is to increase craving. And if Buddhists/Hindus/Mystics are right, their goal is therefore to increase suffering. Is modern business evil?

Wanting more, more, more is a one way ticket to misery. Buddhists call such people "hungry ghosts"... whose appetites can never be satisfied. These are people in a perpetual state of scarcity.

Most Americans fit this description. Despite being the wealthiest nation on Earth, they want more. Despite having an unchallengable military, they feel insecure. Despite a million "time saving" devices, they feel rushed. Despite cutting edge communication technology, they feel lonely and isolated. The more they collect, the more vulnerable they feel. The more they own, the more they are imprisoned by their possessions. The more they eat, the more sickly they become.

Sadly (and somewhat humorously), Americans try to fill their spiritual void with yet more things. They try to spend their way to happiness, meaning, connection. I find this comical... because the solution is so damned simple.

Work less. Talk to people. Read. Write. Create. Feel. Love. Observe silently. Meditate. Reflect. Listen. Travel. Explore.

None of this requires much money. None of it requires expensive gadgets. Anyone can do these things.

Break the spell of marketing and life becomes so much EASIER. No need to struggle.

Life can be a marvelous pastime. And a wonderful journey.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Social Networks

by Skald

Involuntary homelessness is a complex problem. As some have noted, a central factor for many of these people is addiction. Its not that they lack a hobopoets insight or intelligence. The problem,... what keeps them in such a mean and horrid state... is their addiction to alcohol (or, sometimes, opiates/amphetamines,...). The drug addiction takes over and becomes the overriding force in their life. It might destroy their autonomy and send them into homelessness. Or, perhaps, they may turn to alcohol (or addictive drugs) to mentally escape the suffering caused by involuntary homelessness.

Whatever the reason, once someone is in the full grips of addiction, theres not much you can do for them. They have entered the mental wilderness alone and really, only they can get themselves out again.

As a social worker, I had jobs working with addicts. Ill be blunt... I found them to be horrible clients. Many folks "in treatment" do not, in fact, have any desire to break their addiction. Rather, many (most?) are under some kind of coercion: from family, bosses, or the law. After a few years of working with them, I realized I had nothing to offer them.. and no answers for them.

Leaving addicts aside... what is the other central cause of involuntary homelessness? In my opinion, its the lack of a social network. In other words, the lack of a tribe. Any one of us could find ourselves on the verge of homelessness. It only takes losing your job. Or suffering a car accident. Or a debilitating disease. Or another emergency situation that suddenly depletes finances.

Most of us, however, are not in danger of becoming involuntarily homeless.. because we have family and/or friends who would help us in such situations. I, for example, could always stay with my sister, or my mother, or my best friends. Theyd never let me be tossed onto the street. Likewise, Id never let them suffer that fate.

Some folks lack this support network. For whatever reason, they dont have a supportive family (or one at all). And they dont have reliable friends. So, when a financial disaster strikes.. they are alone. No where to turn. No one to help. Our modern capitalist society seems to be increasing the number of such isolated people.

Thus, I believe its an imperative for every hobopoet (or part-time hobopoet) to create their own tribe. Your tribe might include your biological family... or it might not. It will probably include a few close, dependable, loyal, like-minded friends... your adopted family.

Im blessed to have such a tribe. A tribe that not only supports me... but travels with me (and I with them). Our little nomadic group has lived in South Carolina, Georgia, Thailand... and now San Francisco together. One member helped me settle in this expensive city... and soon I will help another (by offering a free place to live till they get a reliable income, apartment, etc.).

I believe in self-reliance. Im stubbornly independent. But even I recognize the power... and the human (physical, emotional) NECESSITY.. of belonging to a tribe.

As the esteemed Hakim Bey says, "End your addiction to bitter loneliness".

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Success, Power, and Respect

by Skald

"When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you."
--The Tao Te Ching

The above line provides a clue to my recent "success" at work. In fact, since becoming a hobopoet... Ive noticed I get much more respect from bosses and co-workers.. when I must work. I also seem to "get" more freedom and autonomy on the job. More independence. Less annoyance and bullshit.

At first glance this might seem strange. Why would living in my car produce benefits at work? Why would drastically simplifying, following my whims, and travelling the world translate to more power when I choose to work?

Perhaps "conventional wisdom" is wrong. The conventional view is that respect & "success" come from lofty goals, hard work, and loyalty to the company. We are supposed to be driven, type-A personalities in order to succeed. To earn more respect/money... we are told to kiss ass, and slave away.

But that, really, is a slaves way of thinking. And if you think like a slave, you will most likely act like one... and thus be treated like one. But if you are free, if you are autonomous... if you dont need a job.. you tend to project a detached kind of power. People sense it and respect it. They know they cant fuck with you too much.

My sister, who lives a very conventional life... nevertheless reports a similar phenomenon. She works for IBM and thinks "IBM is bullshit". She has a fiery personality,... quick to tell her boss to piss off. She reports, "The more independent and defiant I am, the more they keep giving me raises".

Success is not money. Its not a big car or an obnoxiously large house. Success is self-reliance.. autonomy, freedom.. living the life that makes you happiest. Success is the will and the power to follow your bliss.

Do that, and you just might find that monetary success happens too... as a byproduct!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Weird Byproducts

by Skald

Prior to choosing a hobopoet life, I thought "more money" was the key to freedom. Stuck in the mainstream mindset, I thought if I could just make & save enough.. Id be able to "retire early" and finally escape wage slavery.

Time and again I tried to find schemes for making more money. I kept hoping for a "good job". I imagined starting my own business in order to "be free and get rich". But there were problems. For one, every entrepreneur I knew seemed overworked and miserable.. more slaves to work than when they were employees. Second, I had no passion for business.

I finally realized I lacked the greed necessary for getting rich. I turned my attentions to the other side of the equation-- drastically reducing my needs. This proved a much more successful approach.... (and continues to be).

However. Something strange has happened. The simpler I live.. the freer I become.. the better my "career" seems to go. No longer terrified of being fired.. Im now bolder when I teach. I pretty much do what I want, how I want. I work where I want.. quickly abandoning (or getting fired from) places that bore or disrespect me.

As a result, Im actually having fun. I love teaching foreign students.. love being in the class.. love being creative. That love breeds passion.

The end result of this freedom, passion, and boldness is that Im earning more money... despite having no goal to do so. They gave me a raise today. And talked to me about an upcoming "academic director" position they are considering... and want me to take.

I dont think Im alone. Its a phenomenon often observed... the byproduct of a taoist "no effort" mindset. When you struggle. When you "need" more. When you strive, fret, worry... you naturally create resistance. People sense your desperation. Perhaps the universe does too. (This is a common dating phenomenon, for example. The more you "need" a girl/guy, the less they seem attracted to you).

Whatever the reason, the easiest way to get more is often by letting go. As the "Tao of Steve" puts it:

Be desireless. Be excellent.

(And if the bastards screw you)... Be gone.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Small Houses

by Skald

"What if small were fashionable? Is it just me, or have we hit some sort of consumer zenith? Our meals, houses and automobiles are supersized, but the sheer number of things we own, or are told we must own, has also grown exponentially in the past few years. All this stuff cannot help but add to the high stress levels Americans report in their lives.

What if small were to become fashionable? What if we were to decide, as a community, that quality mattered more than quantity? What if we had to move into spaces half the size we now occupy? Besides solving not a few local housing problems, how liberating would that be?"

--Lynette Evans (San Francisco Chronicle)

The above quote is from a column in a mainstream newspaper. Could it be that hobopoet principles are seeping into more mainstream channels? Could it be that a few good citizens are finally tiring of the stress associated with insatiable consumption?

Whether this is the case or not, what's clear is that the current lifestyle is not sustainable. It will come crashing down. As the world's population expands, as China/India and others approximate the American lifestyle... huge strains will occur. We are already hearing warnings about "the end of oil". Climatologists are warning that global warming may, in fact, be occurring much faster than theyd originally thought. Fresh water supplies are already under strain in many countries.. particularly in Asia.

Can the world support American-lifestyles in China? India? Brazil? Thailand? Indeed, can the American economy support these lifestyles much longer? As debt and oil prices rise, something must eventually give.

These ideas are no longer considered radical. They are popping up in mainstream papers throughout the world.. not in large numbers.. but still, you can sense a slow realization.

Remember this: As hobopoets, we are in the vanguard. For personal and public reasons, we've realized the benefits of simplicity. While we may feel isolated and misunderstood, our lifestyle will increasingly make sense to ever-larger numbers of people.

By necessity, the hobopoet way is the way of the future.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cheap Food

by Skald

Soba is one of my staples. Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles. Cheap. SUPER easy to make. They are even simpler than spaghetti... no need to heat up a big batch of sauce. The best complement to soba noodles is dashi.. a kind of mild soy sauce.

In the past, I shunned cooking because it seemed too complicated, messy, and time consuming. But Im finding that food can be simplified, just like other areas of my life. No need for complex recipes. No need for time-consuming preparation.

Raw foods are the simplest, of course. An apple requires no prep whatsoever. Noodles, especially wholewheat, buckwheat, and the like.. are also very quick and easy.

With a tiny investment, you can buy a cheapo rice cooker and greatly expand the possibilities. When I cook rice, I usually add a package of tofu to the pot... and maybe veggies & soy sauce too. Hit the "on" button, and in thirty minutes you've got a meal...

This kind of cooking is far healthier than using over-processed microwavable crap. That shit is loaded with salt, sugar, and/or fat. Same goes for fast food restaurants.

Also, cooking like this is far cheaper. You pay a big price for processing. While organic whole foods may be a bit pricier than their pesticide-laden counterparts.. they are much cheaper than the packaged/processed stuff most people now eat.

Eat simply. Live simply. Be healthy.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Insurance, Hobopoet Style

by Skald

Good citizens in the US spend outrageous amounts of money on insurance. This is particularly true as one moves up the income ladder. Once folks acquire a bunch of shit... they become increasingly terrified of losing it. We've got renters insurance, fire insurance, house insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance...... Thus, our possessions continue to drain away financial resources, even after they are "bought and paid for" (to say nothing of the mental energy they drain).

But money cannot buy security. True security comes from trusting yourself.. from knowing you will act appropriately should disaster strike. Security does not come from fearing change.. but from confidently responding to it.

Van living gave me a great deal of security.. which I still enjoy today. By living as a voluntary "homeless person", I learned that I could survive on very very little. I learned I could survive, COMFORTABLY, without an apartment... and without stacks of possessions. Having learned that, I now have less fear of unemployment. I dont fear being fired either.. its not a coincidence that I was never fired prior to my hobopoet experiments.. but since that first car living stint.. have been fired twice.

This is my idea of insurance: A quality backpack stuffed with survival essentials (see previous post).... and a "cache" of six months survival living expenses (maybe 2000 dollars at minimum). A van, outfitted for living, would drastically increase the level of "coverage". As would a larger cache.

Thats it. Thats all the insurance I need... should financial disaster strike... Im suddenly fired, for example... I take comfort knowing I could always shoulder the pack and head to a camp on the beach. Or maybe a financial emergency hits.. Im forced out of my apartment. I could continue to work my PT job while living "homeless"... until I saved enough money to get back to a more comfortable shelter.

For this reason, if no other.. I highly recommend that every would-be hobopoet give voluntary homelessness a try... even if just for a summer. Prove to yourself that you can survive it in relative comfort. Prove to yourself that you need, in fact, very little. Whether you are a millionaire or broke artist.. give it a try for a short time.. just enough to establish certainty in your mind.

Once thats in place, youll experience a huge boost in confidence. Others (especially "bosses") wont be able to control you.

Ultimately, fear is what keeps us enslaved. Fear of loss. Fear of deprivation and poverty. Confront that fear head-on...

Vanquish it. Claim your personal power!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Homeless In SF

by Skald

SF's homeless problem weighs on my mind. There are so many people on the streets here.. and this week has been cold, windy, and rainy. Miserable weather for them. Two questions cross my mind. First, how might this problem be "solved"? Second, if I were in their shoes, how could I lessen the misery?

I addressed the first question in a previous post (build MadHouser huts!).

Now for the second. Is it possible to live a relatively healthy and comfortable life as a homeless person in SF? I think it is.

The first issue is, of course, shelter from rain, wind, and cold... especially for sleeping. During the day, the library offers warmth if no other options present themselves. Night is the true challenge.

Bare minimum, Id need some warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag.. perhaps a 3/4 bag that could be stuffed in a small pack. If this proved too expensive, a thick (but compact) fleece blanket might suffice. Clothes would need to be of insulating synthetics such as polypropylene (or wool)... including long underwear, pants, a long sleeve shirt, sox, a pullover fleece and a hat. A scarf would be nice too. Id need a pack to carry all this in.

For shelter, a plastic tarp would do the trick. This is what I use when I camp... a 6ft x 4ft sheet of plastic painters "dropcloth" plus some rope. In cold and windy weather, a tarp can be set up flush with the ground on three sides. Ive used this arrangement during intense storms, hiking the Appalachians, and it always kept me warm and dry. The plastic is very light and can be compressed very tightly for packing.

A few toiletries would enable me to stay clean-- toothbrush, hand towel (or camp towel), deodorant stone, liquid soap.

At first glance, this seems like an impossible list for many homeless. And for those already on the sidewalk.. completely broke.. it probably is. But for someone with a little money... soon to be, but not yet, homeless... its a doable list. In fact, I notice that many of the city's homeless already have most of these things. Some have even more.. and push their belongings around in shopping carts (an unwise strategy, in my view).

SF is well stocked with thrift shops. With persistence, most of the above clothes could be found for very little money. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the shops here. The one run by a SF AIDS foundation ("Out of the Closet") has a particularly good selection of clothes.. including synthetic fleece pullovers and other good-quality stuff. Most sell for $2-5 dollars. Ive seen sleeping bags, occasionally, as well. Of course, painters plastic costs almost nothing. Same with rope. Stakes can be scrounged from sticks.

Once supplied, the next issue is WHERE to camp. This is where most of the city's homeless, in my opinion, make a huge mistake. Most choose sidewalks downtown. Usually you seem them stretched out in doorways late at night and early in the morning. They look miserable. And no wonder. Concrete is a horrible surface.. sucks the warmth like a magnet. Also, a downtown sidewalk is perhaps the least safe place to sleep in the city. You are totally exposed to every drunk asshole or thug who walks by.

You're exposed to the weather too. An awning and doorway do little to protect from the wind and rain.

Id stay away from downtown at night. Instead.. Id head out to The Sunset &/or The Richmond. These are quiet residential areas that stretch all the way to oceanside beach. THAT's where Id camp... behind the dunes on the beach. Id ride the streetcar to the end of the line.. walk to the beach.. then head north or south for about 30 minutes or more to find good cover and solitude. Here, Id set up my tarp for protection from wind and rain. I would use grass, leaves, or cardboard under the sleeping bag.. to prevent heat loss to the ground.

In the mornings, Id pack everything and walk back to the MUNI streetcar. I would ride for free... back into town. The drivers never check for tickets. Ive heard that officials occasionally get on and check for tickets... but even if fined, how in the hell can they collect from a homeless person living on the beach? Most likely, with a bit of pleading ("be kind man, Im homeless") you could get out of a ticket anyway.

Id try to keep myself clean. When van living, I sometimes sponge-bathed in public bathrooms (always careful to clean them thoroughly after use). Another option would be to bathe in the ocean... then sponge off with a bit of fresh water and a hand towel. I probably wouldnt bother with shaving, but would use a small set of scissors to keep my beard trim/neat. Id wash clothes in the sink of public bathrooms... stuff them in a plastic bag.. dry them at night on the beach.

Finally, there is the issue of food. The simplest solution: foodstamps. Foodstamps provide about $160 dollars a month. Thats not a lot. But, through careful shopping.. buying only generics and on-sale items.. its possible to eat off that. A bit of part-time work (legal or "grey") could supplement this meager amount.

During the day, Id spend lots of time at the library: reading books, blogging, watching movies, emailing. Id try to keep fit through walking... and yoga on the beach in the AM.

It would not, necessarily, be fun. But it would be far more healthy, far more enjoyable, far more humane, than the way most SF homeless people live.