Saturday, January 31, 2009

Elephant Riders

I have had a series of very interesting personal encounters lately, so while the naval jelly is working it's chemical magic on the rust I thought I would write about them...

A few days ago I went to the grocery store to buy cat food and beer (which, aside from materials for the van constitute the bulk of my consumerism). At the checkout line there was a retarded white girl of about 8 years attended by a middle age black lady.

As soon as I put my cat food on the belt, the girl said "Want a hug?"

"Sure! I'll have a hug!" I hugged her.

"Kitty?" she said, pointing at the cat food.

"Yes. Three kitties."

At this point the black lady had completed her transaction and was trying to leave.

"Want a hug?" the girl said again.

"OK, one more hug, then you have to go."

"OK." I hugged her again, and they left.

I found myself feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, and envying this retarded girl for living such a simple, pure life. She reminded me of what I was, once. Innocent. Loving. Happy to just BE.

I'm so glad for her that she is oblivious to all the dark in this world.

A day or two later, I found myself in the local bar. Just a burger and perhaps a couple pints.

A slick looking middle aged man came in with a younger chick who was obviously a stripper. They were completely loaded, and hadn't slept for 24hrs (fucking coke heads.) We had an interesting discussion about cutting grass, loving the smell, and the satisfaction of a freshly cut lawn. The stripper loved cutting grass, and knew how to clean fish. A girl after my own heart. The man, who turned out to be the owner of the strip club, would never bother to do ANYTHING he could pay somebody else to do. He could not understand the gratification of cutting grass. He had never caught or cleaned a fish, despite being raised in Bayou country.

They were so far removed from my worldview, all I could do was laugh at them.

Yesterday, a customer called to order soil. We got to talking about organic gardening, how our food system is fucked, how the economy is tanked and other such gloom and doom. We talked for about 45 minutes. Wow, an honest to god fellow survivalist. He was moving to Texas to start a homestead/organic farm. Lots of people seem to be going to Texas. I didn't really like Texas when I went through there, but I was still a naive, pacifist hippie who thought guns were BAD. Times have changed. I find myself relating better to many of the so called 'psycho' gun toting folk than to pacifist hippies or "normal" people.

That is the second customer in a week who has talked frankly to me about getting OUT.

It's a sign.

OK, back to killing rust.

"Elephant riders to the north bring news of battle.." -Clutch

Friday, January 30, 2009

Everything in it's Own Time

These words were given to me by the Indigo Girls, they are far too beautiful to call my own;
"Remember everything I told you
Keep it in your heart like a stone.
And when the winds have blown things 'round and back again
What was once your pain will be your home.

All around the table, the white haired men have gathered
Spilling their sons' blood like table wine.
Remember everything I told you
Everything in its own time.
The music whispers you in urgency
Hold fast to the language of connection...

Boys around the table are mapping out their strategies.
Kings all of mountains one day dust.
A lesson learned, a loving God, and things in their own time
In nothing more do I trust.

We own nothing, nothing is ours
Not even love so fierce it burns like baby stars.
But this Poverty is our greatest gift.
The Weightlessness of us as things around begin to shift....

Remember everything I told you
Keep it in your Heart like a stone
And when the winds have blown things round and back again
What was once your pain will be your home...."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Rust speaks

I've been treating the rust as bad. It is eating my van. But it also has a story to tell, like anything else.

Rust is the memory of water. Where there is rust there was water, and likely will be again. Water is the stuff of life. Oxidation (rust) is vital to life processes.

This rust is telling me that if I pay attention, I might thank it later.

My van has a pattern of rust around the roof that is familiar to anyone who owns an older van. The two back corners are the worst, at the lowest points where the little van gutter encourages water to sit and work its oxidizing magic.

I'm sure it isn't coincidence that I have been reading about the desert (thanks rube!) and water catchment and cisterns. If I want my van to be as self sufficient as possible, why not include catching water? Obviously plenty of water takes a certain path across my van.

So instead of hating the rust, I let it inspire me. My van will have a sort of 'spoiler' across the back that prevents most water from going off the back. It will be diverted to the rust spots about a foot forward of the corners, where it will be released into pipes running into water tanks. I still need to work out the details. This idea has just hatched.

The water may not be drinkable, but as long as the van is clean and not in a polluted area I don't see why it wouldn't be.
Brilliant! Thanks rust!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

There is a hum to the city that I can never really tune out. It is a very low frequency. It is freight trains rumbling along the tracks, pressing the mud just a little further below sea level. It is traffic buzzing along the roads. It is the blinding light pollution that never lets me see any but the brightest stars. It is dogs barking and machines running and the endless chaotic psychic confusion of all the poor lost souls that surround us.

For some some people the noise is welcome. It drowns out the inner voice that screams of something deeply wrong.

For those of us who chose to listen to that voice, the city becomes intolerable noise. I feel bombarded by swirling energies on many frequencies. Oh, for the quiet of the country.

I fear that I have, once again, hurt someone I care about very much. But when the choice is between my own sanity and happiness or playing a game to avoid hurting someone, my choice is clear. I wonder why I get involved in the first place? I want to hope. I want to love. I want to feel safe. But every time I try it falls apart. I think I just change too fast.

Now I need to try to talk to someone who is an even worse communicator than I am. At least I have writing. Whenever I have these talks, I invariably wind up saying something that is true, but sounds extremely insensitive. I'm just not good at talking.

I don't know. The "city boy" with "country girl" relationship probably has an very finite lifespan anyway. If I can't live in his world, and he can't live in mine then......where is the future?

The irony is he doesn't even make time to enjoy all the things he loves about the city. Live music, great culture, fantastic food, what good is it if you are too busy working to ever get out and enjoy it?

And if you are too busy working to contribute time to your relationship than what good is that either? Why should it be a surprise that I am building my van to leave? What is there to stay for?

I have already accepted the loss. But my heart is heavy tonight because I know now that he feels it too.

Epoxy is awesome

After being served a notice of seizure way too early in the morning, yesturday continued to get even weirder. Suffice it to say that the Universe lit a fire under my ass. Events conspired to point me in one direction; get ready to get outta Dodge, fast. I figure I have about 1 month. My deadline is technically March 25th, but the sooner the better.

So today I am working with fiberglass. I was going to learn to weld, but that requires time to learn, expenses for materials and tools, and I already know how to work with fiberglass since I lived on a boat for two years.

I prefer West Systems epoxy resin. It has several important advantages over polyester resin; It has nifty measuring pumps, so you don't have to measure hardener and possibly get a batch that doesn't cure, it is technically stronger and more moisture resistant than polyester, and it doesn't smell anywhere near as nasty. Naturally it is also more expensive, but I already had some.

With any sort of finish or repair, surface preparation is 90% of success. So I ground the paint down to bare metal, cleaned the entire area with acetone, and filled the deep cracks by the wheel wells with Great Stuff expandy foam. The cracks were then filled with epoxy thickened with colloidal silica and shaped to a smooth surface.

I brushed unthickened epoxy on the areas to be fixed, and started applying fiberglass. It is a good idea to have fiberglass pieces cut to the size of the hole BEFORE you mix the epoxy. It has a limited working time before it starts to cure. After each pice of fiberglass is applied, you add more resin to "wet out" the fiberglass, thoroughly saturating it with resin. There are rollers available to squish out air bubbles and extra resin, but I prefer to massage it, squishing it around with my hand. It's more fun, cheaper, and works just as well. Of course I wear gloves. Epoxy is extremely sticky, and permanently attaches to anything it touches; metal, wood, hair or skin.

I used both fiberglass cloth and glass mat in repairing this hole. Cloth is more flexible than mat, but the more directions the glass fibers are going, the stronger the repair. Mat is good for quick build up of indented areas. I always use cloth for the final layer as it gives a nicer finished surface. It is kind of like paper mache', only permanent and waterproof.

So the holy hippie veggie van has one less hole today. And I'm off to grind more rust.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Profits of Doom

Six thirty AM is awfully early for a subpoena, don't you think? A forceful pounding on the door in conjunction with the barking of our extremely tough guard dog jolted me awake and sent me scrambling for a robe to cover my nakedness. An officer of the law is definitely not a fun thing to wake up to.

They have finally gotten around to reposessing my house. I haven't made a payment since 09/07. I guess Countrywide had too much else to worry about to take my ramshackle trailer on the bayou...until now.
Yes, I am one of the pins that popped the housing bubble. If they had just cooperated with me when I tried to refinance, they could still be bleeding me dry.

So fine, take it. I don't want it. I perused this official looking document, and can understand Legalese about as well as I can understand Japanese, which isn't well. The part that worries me is they seem to think they are entitled to court costs, maintenance costs, and a bunch of other random costs that I am responsible for paying if they can't get around $90K at auction for the house.

Over my dead body.

If this additional cost thing is not vanquished by waving Bankruptcy papers at it, they can kiss my ass goodbye. They are just making this thing worse. Now I'm gonna have to close my bank accounts to protect the small amount of (soon to be worthless) dollars contained therein. I was considering doing that anyway. I think I will invest it in brass >:D.

If they garnish my wages I will quit my job and hit the road. Can we say economic meltdown?
Somewhere, a poor destitute bank executive has been forced to sell his luxury yacht. Awwww.
It's gonna get worse before it gets better. Possibly MUCH worse. I wonder if our bank exec knows how to clean a squirrel? I do.

"Bury your treasure/ burn your crops/ blackwater rising and it ain't gonna stop..."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Get your evolution on

Everywhere, people are beginning to wake up. I see a little of it every day, even in this armpit of unenlightenedness that is The South.

It gives me so much hope.

I am thankful I have the opportunity to teach my community about small scale, sustainable growing of food. I work for an organic garden center, and volunteer at a community garden in "the ghetto". It may not be much, but it is something.

Even here, where the intestine of the USA terminates and takes a big, poison laden crap into the Ocean, awareness is growing. Although I guess when you have a dead zone the size of a not so little state off your coast, it might be hard to ignore for long. Mother Nature is starting to cry 'uncle' a little louder. With each hurricane that washes ashore more land is lost to the ocean, and a few more people start to wake up. Steps toward sustainability in the South take the form of buying a keg cooler instead of bottle beer since no one recycles here, but at least it is a step.

I still don't think it will be enough, fast enough. I worry about what lies ahead.
Nature always keeps a balance, and we are way past the tipping point.

My goal is to have The Holy Hippie Veggie Van ready to liveaboard by June 1st, the start of hurricane season. Whenever it feels right, I will spin a compass north by northwest and hit the road.

I don't miss the cold, but my heart longs for the Northwest. I want to go back and see all my wild plant friends. I know them so intimately there, because they spoke to me before my schizophrenic downfall into the mold of "culture".

I miss my mom and my brother. I am blessed with a family whose goals and dreams are in line with my own. Maybe together we can find our tribe, and a patch of earth to call home.
Maybe other wanderers who are seeking the same will find us. And just maybe, our Mother will smile upon us even as she removes those who are out of balance and harming her.

"I know we came here to get our good times on/hold the whole world in our hands/and greet the dawn with open arms" -Clutch, Never be Moved.
So get your evolution on!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


This weekend I'm killing rust. It's about time I actually wrote about my van.

My van is a 1985 Ford Econoline E-350. Diesel engine, dual tanks, 6.9 litre, 420 cu. in. with a C-6 transmission, 3 speed automatic. 144,000 miles.

I paid $700.00 for this van. She may be ugly on the outside, but she is beautiful mechanically.

I can reasonably expect to get another 300,000 miles out of this engine, and closer to 500,000 if I treat her right.

I chose this van over a newer model for several reasons. Before 1985 vehicles had no computer chips. Basically this means I can fix it myself. Fords are abundant, parts are relatively cheap, and that was when Ford still manufactured vehicles using good ole' American metals. Things were built heavy, and built to last.

People say vans are difficult to work on. I have not found that to be the case. Anytime I work on this van, I am impressed by the simplicity and by the quality of materials that went into it. Granted I haven't done any serious engine work, but so far, so good. I have replaced the water pump, coolant hoses, accessory drive belts, thermostat, power steering gearbox, and done all the regular maintenance. The transmission fluid looked like a carmel milkshake.

My poor baby, I think she may have been a Katrina victim. Patterns of corrosion indicate she has been sitting for a long time, lonely and neglected. I'm not sure if she flooded and was just too stubborn to give up, or if she was just neglected.

After my minimal maintenance work, she runs like a dream. Gets between 20-24 mpg, which isn't bad for a van this size. Hopefully mpg will improve when I start running WVO/diesel blend.

But now, rust is the biggest issue. You don't really find vehicles 20+ years old that don't have rust issues. So I started grinding.

The process goes something like this; use variable speed sander/buffer with 5" wheel and 24 grit resin wheel. I started with my 12V drill and 3m abrasive bad, but it took forever, was tiring, and hard on my drill. The sander/grinder is a vast improvement, yeilding better results in less time. Vacuum dust with shop vac, apply naval jelly/rust stopper. Wait for it to work (2hrs) then scrub it with clean water and steel wool. Give it a sponge bath to rinse away residual crap/naval jelly/paint or rust flakes then dry thoroghly with a paper towel.

After air dry time, coat prepped surface with rust inhibiting zinc primer. This stuff stinks. I highly recommend a respirator, unless you really like killing brain cells. At the end of the day, I had pretty nice results.
My strategy is a unilateral attack against all rust, eliminating the weakest first. The areas of larger rust will be attacted individually later on.
I also installed my nifty, Ipod ready radio today, which involved much cutting and pounding and filing to make the bracket fit a foreign radio. But hey, you gotta have music. I work a lot harder if I can rock out to Clutch while grinding....
"Doctor or lawer, I'll never be. Life of a drifter, that's the life for me." -'Electric worry'/Clutch
Clutch rocks. Check them out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I have so much hope now.
Once, all I could feel was despair.
The first time I saw a tree cut down, I ran to my mother in tears.
"How could they DO that??" I wailed.
"That tree was so old, and so beautiful. How could they just destroy it in a matter of minutes?"
Trees were my friends. They embraced me with their branches. Held me swaying, aloft, so that I might gain a larger perspective on my surroundings. They gave me shelter when it rained. They gave me fruit to eat, and air to breathe.
I couldn't understand why anyone would want to kill one.
Soon I found out that LOTS of trees were being killed. I realized most people didn't care about the natural beauty that surrounds us. Nor did they care about the ocean, or the sky, or the earth, or the animals, or each other.
This was the beginning of a very dark period in my life.
After a while, I learned to be numb. I didn't care either. I couldn't, or it would destroy me.
So I played the game I was told to play. I did well in school. I went to college. I got married. I got a good job. I bought a house. I had lots of nice things. I forgot about that tree.

But I always felt like something was missing. There was an empty spot inside me. I tried to fill it with things, or lovers, or beer, or cigarettes, or chocolate. It might retreat for a little while, but it always came back. Then things started to go bad. I left my marriage. I lost my pets. My father killed himself. My house was damaged by a major hurricane. I was working so much to pay for all my crap that my health began to deteriorate.

One day, I snapped. Arguing with clients, arguing with the mortgage company, arguing with the car dealership. I had enough. I flipped out and left work. As I passed the car dealership I wanted nothing more than to drive through the plate glass windows and open fire with my 12 gauge shotgun.

That I should want to do such a thing shocked the hell out of me. I realized that something was really, REALLY wrong that I would even think that.

I went home and got drunk. The next day, I didn't go to work. I sat down and thought about what I really wanted out of life. The answers crept in like frightened children.
I want to live in the country. I want to grow and raise my own food. I want to be part of a community of people that love and respect each other and the earth. I want to go outside and watch the sun rise through the mist and feel love and gratitude for every second of my life. I want to be a part of the SOLUTION.

"There will come a point in your life when you feel like everything is ending. That will be the beginning"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The other day I was talking to a friend. She said, "You are so free, I envy you."
I had to laugh.
I'd been reading a few blogs, and thinking, "She is so free, I envy her."
So I guess freedom comes in varying degrees. Or perhaps varying states of mind.
I am more free than many people I know. I no longer have a house. I no longer have any debt. I have no children or spouse to take care of. So yes, I am free.

But my soul yearns for the open road. In my endless pursuit of freedom I bought a van. If I live in a van, then I will truly be free. I will be able to break the cycle of oppression that involves working my ass off to pay for someplace to live and a bunch of crap I don't need.

Naturally everyone thinks I'm crazy for wanting to live in a van. But after some internet snooping I find out that there are others like me out there. And lots of them are excellent writers! Who knew?

Not only are they excellent writers, they write about the things that matter. The simple beauty of ice, or the moon. The ability to enjoy times with friends, or festivals, or drum circles. The quiet whispers of your soul or the universe that you can only hear when you slow down enough to listen.
And perhaps most importantly to me, right now, how to set up you van so you can live comfortably in it.

This is all very exciting.
It inspires me to try to tell my story, and maybe help others with van dwelling through my mistakes or triumphs. I will write when I can. I don't live in my van yet, so I have to keep quiet enough that the thought police don't kick me out before I have the van ready.
Safe travels y'all.